The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

AV tech, streaming experience? We're searching for someone to manage the behind the scenes of an anti-imperialist podcast. help out
[Aztlan/Chicano] [Culture]
expand

Book Review: The Cristal Experiment: A Chicano Struggle for Community Control

The Cristal Experiment: A Chicano Struggle for Community Control
by Armando Navarro
377 pages
University of Wisconsin Press
1998


Cristal Experiment

This book discusses two occasions where [email protected] struggled to control local politics. The first occasion was in 1963 at a time when the "Civil Rights Movement" was in full swing and the second was in 1970 when the slogan "Chicano Power" was popular. The "Cristal Experiment" occurred in Cristal City, Texas. "Cristal" was the Spanish name that [email protected] gave to this city. There were different methods employed in the struggle for community control. What was interesting in the 1963 struggle was that it highlighted the class struggle within Aztlan. When the [email protected] candidates were campaigning, the [email protected] middle class did not take part, or if they did vote they voted for the white politician. So here was a situation where [email protected] from the barrios were for the first time attempting to take community control and control the city council and yet the Chicano petty bourgeoisie sided with the oppressor. This is a lesson for those seeking real transformation that goes deeper than reforms: if the petty bourgeoisie are in a similar future position, many would side with the oppressors because their class interests are firmly in imperialism's pocket.

There was also a distinction in the two "electoral revolts" in that the 1963 struggle was spearheaded by the Chicano leader Juan Cornejo who, with an 8th grade education, mostly used his local popularity. His goals were to get elected and help Raza, but this struggle was limited and reformist at best. The second "electoral revolt" was spearheaded by the politically conscious Jose Angel Guitierrez who, at the time of the 1970 struggle for community control, was studying for his doctoral degree in political science.

Guitierrez displays some of his erroneous ideology when he likens colonialism to communism. Specifically he is quoted by the author as stating: "colonialism is there in South Texas and it's comparable to some of the stable dictatorships of Latin America such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic and pre-Castro Cuba... That's what we're trying to fight because colonialism, like communism, is the control of many by a few."(p. 75)

This comparison highlights the fact that although Gutierrez was an anti-colonialist, in many ways he took on colonial beliefs when it came to external belief systems outside of U.$. academia. He displays the effects of U.S. Anti-communist propaganda where the ridiculous notion is put forward that colonialism and communism are seen as the same. If Guitierrez had done as much studying of communism as he did of Amerikan political science he would have learned that communism is a stage of social development where there is no more "control" of one group over another. Communism has never been reached yet in the world, although there have been socialist governments throughout the years. But his comment defines not only his thought – because he was a leading factor of the struggle for community control in Cristal – but that of La Raza Unida Party (RUP) and what was being pushed in 1970 during this "electoral revolt." It was reformist at heart and did not strive to overthrow U.$. imperialism or capitalism per se. It appeared to be fine with capitalism so long as brown dollars stayed in brown hands. This is bourgeois nationalism; a dead end which merely replaces a white exploiter with a brown one.

There were some positive aspects to [email protected] taking control of Cristal's city politics. One example that was subjectively pleasing was when in 1971 the city's exclusively white country club was shut down by the [email protected] city council citing discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights act. When the white country club members won in court, however the city then exercised eminent domain to confiscate the land of the country club and convert it to public housing among other things. This is something that [email protected] have been dealing with since 1836 in Texas, and 1848 throughout Aztlan, when our nation became occupied by Amerika, only it was [email protected] always struggling against the city. So it was pleasing to see [email protected] acquiring small forms of justice, if only temporarily.

I did enjoy the change in curriculum that occurred as a result of the RUP's "peaceful revolution." Full [email protected] studies were incorporated into the school curriculum, things like history, politics, and art were all [email protected] or taught from the [email protected] experience. Even the music used by the high school band was changed to include corridos and ranchera music. In this way the schools were guiding the youth toward the [email protected] nation, rather than away from the nation as it is today in Amerikan schools. The author describes how the band members would, in formation, use a clenched fist salute. Football players in the high school would also raise a clenched fist whenever they scored a touchdown.(p. 232) The youth were being revolutionized.

The way the author sums up 1980 could be describing 2014 when he said: "The bottom line was that in 1980 Mexicanos still suffered an internal-colonial status dependent on state and federal mechanisms, which were controlled by whites. The Mexicano community essentially was left to fend for itself. People were increasingly alienated, disorganized, and lacking leadership." Although today's conditions still have the [email protected] nation existing as an internal semi-colony and the mechanisms Navarro discusses are controlled by Amerikans, I don't believe simply putting [email protected] in control of U.$. "mechanisms" will solve things. Socialism which puts people before profits will be what helps resolve our situation.

Today Cristal has been left to the capitalist wolves. As of 1990, 40% of the homes in Cristal did not have proper plumbing, almost half of the population was on food stamps, and [email protected] studies was replaced with "American studies."

The author makes clear that [email protected] exist as an internal colony and that we do need to pick up where the past [email protected] movement left off. He says we need a new movement and I agree. Let us begin to rebuild the [email protected] nation in our quest for independence. But this will take more than creating community control within U.$. imperialism; it means smashing capitalism-imperialism and replacing it with socialism. Only then can we be free.

chain
[Asia] [U.S. Imperialism] [Culture] [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] [ULK Issue 42]
expand

Seth Rogen Tries to Capitalize on Imperialist Lies Against DPRK

guardians of peace hack sony
A few months back a damning article was posted on anti-imperialism.com about Western media propaganda. The article written by Alyx Mayer is a materialist dissection of journalistic attacks on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The analysis given in the article debunks the many rumors and other propaganda we're all acquainted with, such as the mass choreographed wailing at Kim Jong Il's funeral out of fear of reprisals, a universal male haircut like that of Kim Jong Un's, or a famous singer being executed by a firing squad, are just a few of many that we have heard broadcast on major media networks.(1)

More recently, the DPRK propaganda campaign has become a top story in the U.$. media as a group called Guardians Of Peace (GOP), who the FBI accused of being from the DPRK, made public a massive amount of data from Sony computers including emails, movie scripts, videos and persynal information. Sony was scheduled to release a comedy by Seth Rogen called The Interview this month that was a blatant anti-DPRK propaganda piece. Some of the emails leaked reveal that the U.$. State Department and the RAND Corporation think tank advised Sony on the content of the film, and appear to endorse the assassination of Kim Jong Un as the best way to enforce the regime change they desire in the northern Korean peninsula.(2) DPRK officials had already declared the movie "an act of war" this summer because it depicts the CIA hiring assassins to kill their head of state, Kim Jong Un. The United $tates has been behind the assassination of heads-of-state in Iraq and Libya, and the overthrow of a handful of other governments in just the last few years. We can't imagine any other interpretation of this movie coming out of the U.$. corporate media. Still, Amerikan patriot Seth Rogen, producer of the movie, said it shows "how crazy North Korea is." Crazy-jacketing has been an unfortunately effective tactic for imperialist propaganda, often utilizing cultural differences to tap into the racist ideologies of the oppressor nations.

A recent GOP statement read,

"We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places 'The Interview' be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to. Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you'd better leave.)

"Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment. All the world will denounce the SONY."(2)

Theaters responded by saying they will not screen the film, leading to Sony temporarily cancelling the release of The Interview. But the backlash has been large, with the majority view in U.$. media, social and corporate, being that Sony punked out. The message is construed as a demand for integrity of artistic expression. But materialists acknowledge that all art has political content, while the bourgeoisie works to obscure this fact. They then use the idea of artistic integrity when it works in their favor, as in this case. The focus on artistic integrity over political content meshes well with the individualism of bourgeois ideology. Overall, this has demonstrated the success of the anti-DPRK propaganda machine among Amerikans' consciousness, despite the utter lack of integrity in claims made against the DPRK as exposed by Alyx's article.

It comes as nothing new that western journalism completely distorts the truth. It deceives its own population by slandering other nations' governments it does not have under its influence. The United $tates does this to serve its own interests, that is to create a favorable image both domestically and internationally.

Hypocrisy is one of the many faces of U.$. imperialism. U.$. laws prohibit the media or journalists from reporting anything that's slanderous (not true), but it seems this is only pertaining to slander against itself. Alyx Mayer explained it clearly:


"As long as you're writing about the DPRK you have a license to print anything. What already frighteningly little journalistic integrity the bourgeois media can be said to possess is nowhere to be found on matters concerning this country. DPRK bashing is assured to drag in the page views and advertising revenue. ... Let this be a case study on the lengths that imperialist media will go to slander its enemies."

The latest drama around The Interview is certainly bringing in the page views and advertising revenue.

While The Interview is given a pass by many because it's supposed to be an outlandish comedy, the anti-DPRK propaganda is connected at all levels of the media. Within the first week of September, PBS network ran an hour-long documentary focusing on images smuggled out of northern Korea porporting to expose what life is "really" like in this isolated region. They show images of homeless children rummaging through garbage looking for food, and stores filled with products (sodas, bras and other clothing) for display only and not for sale. It gives an image of DPRK propaganda controlling their citizens' all around lives without any room for freedom of thought or choice. One can only guess where exactly DPRK citizens do get their livelihood materials if the warehouses they showed weren't selling products. Images of blackmarkets were shown where people can buy foreign DVDs, flashdrives filled with banned movies and TV shows at local flea markets, but is this the only place where the masses shop? An elite circle is said to be living in the nation's capital for which a nicely dressed female in traditional Asian clothing gets into an imported expensive car and even her chauffeur is well dressed but nothing else is said about this elite clique. This documentary is mostly put together by defectors and viewers can see the clear distinction they are trying to portray within DPRK society. A tier system of homeless children starving while an elite wealthy clique drives around in wealthy imported cars while warehouses of abundant drinks and clothing aren't accessible to the population. Now if that is the message they are trying to convey, then why not do a documentary in the United $tates or any other First World country that doesn't have international embargos? Or do one comparing the people who make computers in Asia and those who use them in the United $tates and Europe?

The documentary includes lengthy interviews with defectors from DPRK living in Seoul (the capital of the portion of Korea that has been occupied by U.$. imperialism for over half a century). One defector, a middle aged man, claims to have been held prisoner under suspicion of being a spy. He claims that he was beaten and tortured while captive. He said a wooden stick or plank was placed behind his knees and was forced to sit down, every time they did this to him he would hear his knee caps crack. Now wouldn't this be physically damaging? I would assume that those noises would be indications of broken knee caps and yet this man was without crutches or a cane. He was completely independently mobile. He even said soon after his release from prison (after no evidence of him spying were found) he fled DPRK soon afterwards. Another defector, a female in her early 20s, claimed her father got her whole family out of northern Korea because he wanted a better life for them to grow up without being controlled. She eventually joined a TV show in southern Korea, the content of which is a combination of a talent show and speaking out against DPRK. "All within this show are DPRK defector youth" slandering their former homeland for the benefits of being on TV and joining the ranks of the bourgeoisie, a TV program probably sponsored by the Republic of Korea government in the south. Bourgeois perspectives can only fool other bourgeoisie and those that are ignorant.

We revolutionaries have a weapon to guard against such superficial propaganda, and that is our world outlook. How we read and interpret the world is based on dialectical and historical materialism. Let us take a good analytical look at what is being reported in today's media. Even books that are being put out with a little political content must be compared to facts. The bourgeoisie has the habit of reporting certain international stories without facts on nations they oppose, whether it's DPRK, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela or any Middle Eastern country not in cahoots with U.$. imperialism. But like Marx said in 1867,

"Every opinion based on scientific criticism I welcome. As to prejudices of so-called public opinion, now as aforetime the maxim of great Florentine is mine: Segui il tuo corso, e lascia dir le genti. (Follow your own course, and let people talk)."(3)

Propaganda and criticism have always been bourgeois tools aiming to demonize the proletarian ideology. But as Lenin said,

"The Marxian doctrine is omnipotent because it is true. It is complete and harmonious, and provides men with an integral world conception which is irreconcilable with any form of superstition, reaction or defense of bourgeois oppression."(4)
It is the bourgeois media's purpose to vilify anything that threatens their domination; facts are unimportant with its propaganda. It is a fact that police in the United $tates can murder Black people with impunity, while Black people who defend themselves will be punished severely. Similarly, Amerikans defend their right to threaten the lives of heads of state while simultaneously justifying war because other countries feel threatened by Amerikan posturing. There are objective inequalities in these examples that the bourgeoisie attempts to hide, but that are not lost on the masses. As materialists we must take these reports on DPRK, or anything in general, with a scientific microscope, let us draw distinctions on the bourgeois perspective and our own.
"Draw two lines of distinction. First, between revolution and counter revolution... Secondly, within the revolutionary ranks, it is necessary to make a clear distinction between right and wrong, between achievements and shortcomings... To draw these distinctions well, careful study and analysis are of course necessary. Our attitude towards every person and every matter should be one of analysis and study."(5)

Independent proletarian news outlets are necessary to raise class consciousness in our society but also expose everything corrupt and illegal, of U.$. imperialism, with scientific criticism.

chain
[Aztlan/Chicano] [Gender]
expand

[email protected] Must Fight Gender Oppression

Free Aztlan Sunglasses
As a prisoner who has been studying revolution and theory for some years now I must admit that even for the most politically conscious prisoner, the issue of gender oppression is not as clear as it should be. Part of the problem, at least in my opinion, is that gender issues are largely taboo topics within prisons and this is a reflection of the grip of patriarchal culture and backwardness which plagues these dungeons.

For those of us attempting to de-colonize not just our own minds but also the minds of our fellow prisoners, it is necessary to understand what gender oppression entails. It seems ridiculous to learn about uprisings and liberation struggles without learning who was liberated. Our aim should be to discover how all of society was freed, not just how men were freed, or how a certain gender was freed. Consciousness means we become educated in more than gun battles or our people's history. It means we understand people and the struggles they go through because in one way or another we are part of this struggle.

There should be no part of society that we do not understand. Gender issues are a part of our society so we should understand them fully. But this takes us going outside our comfort zone.

Homosexuals and trans people will continue to exist even if some don't like it or people don't talk about it. Just like biological wimmin will continue to exist, or men for that matter. Not understanding a phenomenon will not make it change or disappear. Rather by not understanding something we usually only react to it in the wrong way, which only helps the oppressor.

Having been born and raised in a colonial-patriarchal-capitalist society, like most other prisoners I have gone about my life unaware of the realities of gender issues. An oppressive society works hard to keep our minds off the tough issues and even shapes the gender roles the way they want people to follow them to reinforce their hold on power. If we don't make an effort to understand our social training, we simply grow up lining up to the role capitalist society has laid out for us; what they say is right.

There are many elements of gender oppression, for example "male chauvinism." There is such a thing as "gender chauvinism" where one gender believes it is above another and as a result it will deny other genders of their rights. Gender oppression has existed since the birth of classes. Males took control of capital ownership from the beginning and the institution of patriarchy has simply been strengthened with heterosexual males at the top ever since. It is a social structure built on oppression just as vile as racism.

As I researched the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 70s I saw two things that were tied to one another. One was how there was a large current within the movements which was stuck in bourgeois nationalism, meaning it was all for the Chicano movement but was not anti-imperialist or even anti-capitalist. This was a shortcoming. But the other thing was many back then were homophobic and male chauvinist, and these two things fed off each other and served as a host for the other to exist and thrive.

The interconnections between gender oppression and class oppression are extensive. They, along with national oppression, are what keeps Amerikkka existing. Today's [email protected] movement learns from the past and we move forward combating gender oppression any way we can. Aztlán will not be freed without all [email protected] being free, including those oppressed because of their gender.

Gender is tied to the social reality in which we exist and I agree with those who argue that to snip the cord between gender and social reality is a metaphysical notion. We cannot expect to transform gender oppression without transforming society.

As prisoners we need to change the perception of male-dominated struggle. Even in the prison movement, which is struggling for prisoners/humyn rights, many believe it is a male prisoner thing. In reality, other genders are untapped and yet to be harnessed and set free to help lead our efforts within U.$. prisons.

If we look to the history of governments we find that nowhere was it possible to combat gender oppression with quicker results than in Mao's China. In 1976 when Mao died wimmin were about 22% of the deputies and about 25% of the standing committee of the National People's Congress which was the highest governmental body at the time in China. After Mao's death these numbers were reduced greatly. This was a period when wimmin in the U.S. Congress were about 1%!

When taking all this into account, with gender oppression existing in the United Snakes, it's important that we also understand that there is also a First World gender privilege which, like the worker elites, benefit just by living within U.S. borders. Wimmin in the First World, of all nationalities, enjoy a privilege that does not exist in the Third World. But of all First World wimmin, white Amerikans still enjoy the most privilege in the First World, just like their white worker counterparts. Complete gender equality will come when we reach communism, and until then we need to make a conscious effort to combat gender oppression within our struggles for liberation.

chain
[United Front] [Oregon] [ULK Issue 42]
expand

EZLN Prison Chapter Joins United Front for Peace in Prisons

My comrades and I of Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) Prison Chapter seek to consolidate with the United Front for Peace in Prisons. We comprehend the importance of growth, unity, and peace within the struggle and are moving to expand political consciousness amongst the oppressed. As of now we are separated and divided within the sensory deprivation chamber and often face blockaded correspondence due to "material that threatens the safety and security" (usually that "material" describes state oppression and advocates peace). However, such restrictions cannot deter our commitment towards the development of political consciousness and ultimately collective liberation.

The war on the oppressed is perhaps at its peak right now. The tyrannical ring leaders have recently unleashed a blitzkrieg of "long-term" isolation on the mass majority of those who are already in isolation. And here in Oregon they're moving to expand their deprivation empire. Only through collective organizing and solidarity can we find peace within.

-Subcomandante Carga

chain
[National Oppression] [Maryland]
expand

Stats Show National Oppression in Maryland Prisons

I'm incarcerated in a Maryland State Prison where 76.2% of prisoners are Black (15,386 of the state's 21,194 prison population). Blacks are 18.9% of the state population according to the 2010 census statistics. The state is dominated and governed by white so-called liberals. The laws are enforced unequally, the courts are inherently racist, and the prison population illustrates the disproportionate number of Blacks locked up. Maryland is another Ferguson, Missouri, especially the city of Baltimore where 72% of the Black prison population comes from.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Prisons within the United $tates are used as a tool of national oppression. It was the revolutionary nationalist movements of the 60s and 70s, most notably the Black Panther Party, which terrified the Amerikan government and led to a dramatic rise in imprisonment rates, focused on oppressed nations. As the book The New Jim Crow documented, from the police to the courts to the prisons and back onto the streets systematic national oppression demonizes oppressed nations as an excuse for this imprisonment. We would not just call the courts "racist" though, because racism is an attitude, and we think this goes much further than just attitudes. National oppression is systemic in the courts, and a fundamental part of imperialist economics in general.

chain
[Spanish] [ULK Issue 44]
expand

Resumiendo las protestas del 9 de Septiembre

Durante los ultimos tres años, en el 9 de Septiembre prisioneros a lo largo del país se han juntado en una demostración de solidaridad en el aniversario de la revuelta en Attica. Fue iniciado por una organización que fue parte del Frente Unido por la Paz en las Prisiones. La organización ya no existe, pero nuevas organizaciones e individuos han seguido la lucha adelante.

Los organizadores llaman a activistas para que tomen este día para promover el Frente Unido por la Paz en Prisiones por construir unidad con compañeros cautivos, y demostrar resistencia a el sistema de injusticia ayunando, abstenerse de trabajo, dedicarse solo a acciones solidarias, y parar la hostilidad entre prisioneros. Las demostraciones en unas prisiones son grandes y hay muchos participantes, en otras solo unos cuantos prisioneros participan, y en otros lugares solo una persona se levanta. Pero cada acción, grande o pequeña, contribuye a criar conciencia para construir unidad.

Este año recibimos solo unos cuantos reportes de camaradas sobre sus trabajos de organizaciones del 9 de Septiembre. Esto es en contraste a los reportes de los pasados dos años que muestra interés que va creciendo y participación en este día de protestas. También es en contraste a la extendida respuesta y la organización alrededor de la petición Palestina por las camaradas de Lucha Unida del Interior (USW por sus siglas en inglés).

Estamos tomando esta oportunidad para re-evaluar la acción del 9 de Septiembre. La pregunta para los firmadores del Frente Unido por la Paz en Prisiones y Lucha Unida del Interior que se organizan: ¿Porqúe la organización del 9 de Septiembre día de paz y solidaridad fue tan limitado en el 2014? ¿Deberíamos hacer algo diferente en el 2015, ayudar a promover las acciones del 9 de Septiembre, o enfocarnos en otras campañas y protestas? Mandanos tus ideas para que podamos sumar y continuar a extender nuestro esfuerzo para parar la violencia entre prisioneros en el sistema de injusticia de los estados unidos.

chain
[Abuse] [Suwanee Correctional Institution] [Florida]
expand

Florida Denies Prisoners Basic Rights

I am writing to report crimes committed by the security personnel employed by the Florida Department of Corruption who are assigned to work at the Suwannee Correctional Institution in Live Oak, Florida.

During the time I have been imprisoned at Suwannee CI, I have witnessed many crimes being committed by corrections officers at this institution's Close Management (CM) Unit. I've witnessed violations of prisyner's basic humyn rights as well as violations to basic rights that are (supposed to be) entitled to ALL U.$. citizens under the united states constitution. These include violations to our First Amendment rights under the u.s. constitution as well as Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Humyn Rights.

Prisoners are being coerced into withdrawing from their participation in the new Religious Diet Program by corrections officers threatening prisoners with ultimatums. Discrimination against religious prisoners by officers denying them recreational privileges or by destroying religious books and materials during cell searches; violations to prisoners' First Amendment right to "petition the government for a redress of grievances," or infringement upon this right because of retaliation against prisoners who file grievances or complaints about injustices occurring at this institution's CM Unit; violations to our Eight Amendment right as well as Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Humyn Rights due to "cruel and unusual punishment" by corrections officers who retaliate against prisoners by excessive use of force and by using chemical weapons "maliciously and sadistically" and for the very purpose of causing harm "with a knowing willingness" that harm would occur. Or by assaulting CM prisoners while the prisoner(s) is/are restrained by waist chains and shackles, with no means of self-defense. Prisoners are served empty trays in retaliation for filing grievances. And corrections officers write falsified disciplinary reports on prisoners frequently, or plant weapons and/or contraband on prisoners during searches.

Another example of violations against prisoners' basic civil and humyn rights is described in the following scenario on Saturday, 8 November 2014 approximately around 8-9 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time), at Suwanne CI in Wing 3 of Golf dormitory. I witnessed a prisoner, who was placed in a shower downstairs in Wing 3, being denied his right to emergency mental health services. He declared a psychological emergency and told the officers on shift at the time (C-shift) in Golf dorm that he was intending to kill himself and that he needed help. The officers then denied him his psychological emergency, told him to "shut the fuck up" and threatened that they would kill him themselves if he didn't and encouraged him to "go ahead" and kill himself, and to "beat (his) face on the tile wall in the shower." Several minutes later the officers engaged the prisoner with an unnecessary use of force against him by using a chemical weapon to gas him while he was in the shower.

The suggested remedy for these injustices and violations of rights and law is that measures be taken to enforce the law upon Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) security personnel and staff at the Suwannee CM Unit and reform and abolish the criminal behavior of FDOC personnel in order to bring an end to the injustices faced by prisoners at the Suwannee CI CM Unit.

"No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment; Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a persyn before the law; All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination." (Articles 5,6,7, Universal Declaration of Humyn Rights.)


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade does a good job exposing the inhumyn treatment prisoners face in Florida. But we don't agree that enforcing the law on the FDOC staff will end their criminal behavior and bring an end to injustices faced by prisoners there. The reality of the criminal injustice system is that those working for the system are above the very law they claim to be upholding. And because prisons serve and important role within the imperialist United $tates as a tool of social control, those in charge will never allow prisons to be "reformed" to eliminate injustices. We can and should fight against these situations of torture, and expose the injustice while demanding the prisons follow the law. But we should not mislead people into thinking that these demands will ever lead to an end to injustices. Only when the people take control of the criminal injustice system and use it to lock up the real criminals (the imperialists) will we start to see true justice.

chain
[Gang Validation] [Baraga Max Correctional Facility] [Michigan]
expand

False Gang Validation in Michigan

I've been designated as an STG II "gang leader" since 13 March 2006. The Michigan prison system does not have a real gang problem, 85% of the gang designations are bogus, and there is a complete lack of insight on culture and religion in the minds of these pigs.

At this facility, Baraga Max Correctional, there are a total of seven level 5 units. Three of the seven are Ad-Seg; "the hole." Each unit has eighty eight prisoners. Of the 264 prisoners housed in Ad-Seg, 85% are Black/Brown. Of that 85% nearly 3 out of 5 prisoners are designated Security Threat Group (STG) prisoners. The prison administration does not issue special clothes, or name tags, or special housing units, or recreation yards for STG inmates. Yet, the prison administration penalizes non-STG inmates for "socializing, working out, and generally being around STG inmates"!

More importantly, as I stated above, these pigs are not truly qualified or educated in gang culture to be given the power and authority to destroy and oppress and label anybody STG. In order to do this they must be well in tune with what is a gang sign, who is a gang member, what particular banner, colors, words, and origin of things and they are not! The truth is, the state, Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), has a financial incentive to put and keep as many Black/Brown prisoners on STG as possible because by doing so, the MDOC can then claim they need more money for more weapons, shock cuffs, taserz, and convince the state legislators that these so-called level 5 facilities need to stay open. These rural prisons employ thousands of pigs, and have brought great economical wealth to the parts of the state where these pigs had no other means of employment. So by keeping the STG numbers sky high, the state makes it look like they have a real gang problem.

Now, for prisoners like myself who are designated the highest stage of STG, which is Step II, and are labeled a leader or enforcer of a gang, the prison considers school to be a privilege not a mandatory aspect of prison. Not even cell study is allowed. Why? Are not gang leaders in need of education? Are we so dangerous in our small concrete graves that we might spark revolution through the contents of math, history, art and science?

For those fortunate enough to have an out date and who are able to see the parole board, policy states that prisoners must have a GED or be in school to make parole. So, where does that leave thousands of prisoners in the MDOC who are designated STG with a parole date, but without a high school diploma or GED. This is called executive oppression.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Prisons across the country are using gang validation as an excuse to fill and expand prison control units. By manufacturing or exaggerating a "gang problem" they are able to justify requests for expanded funds and facilities. At the same time, this "gang problem" can be used to keep prisoners who are considered troublemakers, often the most politically advanced and active behind bars, from access to education and away from others who they might educate and organize. These are all reasons why we must fight to shut down prison control units, while explaining clearly why gang validation is a tool of social control in Amerikan prisons.

chain
[Gang Validation] [ULK Issue 41]
expand

Gang Validation: Justification for Torture and Social Control

Validation in CDCR
Under Lock & Key 41 is focused on gang validation and step down programs in U.$. prisons. Gang validation is used as a justification for locking people in long-term isolation cells, commonly known as control units. Most civilians would say that controlling gang violence is a good thing, and that perspective is exactly what the criminal injustice system is relying on for its gang validation programs. The assumption is that all groups classified as gangs are engaged in criminal activity, and anyone in contact with the gang must be a member.

Let's put aside for now the reality that the U.$. military and police force is the biggest gang in world history. If anyone is organized in criminal activity and terrorism, it's them. That any U.$. government agency claims to be against gang activity without being critical of itself is just a joke.

The entities identified as gangs by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) include correspondence study groups such as the William L. Nolen Mentorship Program. In Texas, Under Lock & Key is cited as a security threat group, despite actually being a newspaper. The National Gang Crime Research Center recently published a report which included the Maoist Internationalist Movement as a potential threat to prison security. It is obvious that the gang label is not used for criminal, but instead political, reasons.

Often, validation is based on secret evidence that the prisoner cannot challenge, and can include things like talking to the wrong persyn in the yard, being in possession of books on history and politics, or even sending someone a birthday card. In some cases validation is based on a prisoner receiving an unsolicited letter mentioning the name of another prisoner, or even just participating in MIM(Prisons) correspondence study groups. A Connecticut writer describes the difficulty fighting "evidence" about security risk group activity:

"In August I was taken to segregation because a prisoner got caught with 4 pages of Security Risk Group (SRG) paperwork and the pigz try to say one of the 4 pages was in my handwriting. Due to this assumption I was given a class A SRG ticket for recruiting, even though this prisoner signed a statement explaining the paperwork is his. I never gave it to him, and I never wrote it. The crazier thing is the prisoner who got caught with these papers was released back into Phase 3 (back into the block) and I sat in segregation for over a month till I was transferred back to Phase 1 in Walker Correctional Institution."

Once validated, it's very difficult to get out of isolation without giving the administration information (snitching) on others; information that many prisoners don't even have because they aren't actually members of the groups the prison has "validated." In the article "(Un)Due Process of Validation and Step Down Programs" cipactli gets into the politics behind these programs.

Some people who are validated are members of lumpen organizations (LOs), and the prisons use the "gang" label to make them out as scary and dangerous groups. But lumpen organizations are a natural response to national oppression, and many of these LOs have the potential to lead their members in anti-imperialist organizing. The unity and organization of LOs scares the imperialists and their lackeys. After all, LOs operate outside of the state-approved capitalist economy and serve a lumpen population whose interests are not tied up in that system, unlike the vast majority of U.$. citizens.

Often validation is used to target and isolate politically active prisoners who speak up and fight the criminal injustice system, whether or not they are part of an LO. Fighting against gang validation is an important part of the fight against prison control units and other methods of social control that target politically active prisoners. These comrades are the leaders of the movement against the criminal injustice system behind bars.

The overwhelming response to our call for information on validation for ULK suggests that a disproportionate number of readers of anti-imperialist literature are a target for gang validation (about half of our readers are in some kind of solitary confinement). This issue of ULK includes a variety of articles describing the false justifications used for validation, the targeting of activists, and the consequences of isolation and torture for those who are validated.

In this issue many writers describe their experiences with validation programs, and we also talk about ways to fight the validation system. Building unity among lumpen organizations in the United Front for Peace in Prisons, campaigning to shut down prison control units, and fighting the legitimacy of so-called step down programs are all ways we are attacking this problem from many sides. Prisons serve the imperialists as a tool of social control, and as is explained in the "(Un)Due Process of Validation and Step Down Programs" article, control units are a vitally important element of this system. We can use the contradictions inherent in the system which raises the political consciousness of those targeted for repression, and often throws together leaders who can join forces to build a broader movement. After all, the recent series of California hunger strikes were led by prisoners locked up in Pelican Bay's notorious control unit.

The U.$ government won't give up their tools of social control willingly. And in the end the criminal injustice system needs to be thoroughly dismantled, something we can't do until we overthrow the imperialists and replace them with a government serving the interests of the world's oppressed. But as a part of the work to build towards communist revolution we battle today to shut down prison control units and end the targeting of prison activists and oppressed nations.

chain
[Culture] [New Afrika] [ULK Issue 42]
expand

"Party People" Problems

Party People
Written by Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, Steven Sapp, and William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja
Directed and Developed by Liesl Tommy
Berkeley Repertory Theater
24 October 2014 - 16 November 2014, extended to 30 November 2014


Party People play Berkeley

"Party People" is a play about the Black Panther Party and Young Lords Party showing this month in Berkeley, California. The play was extended two weeks and has been a destination for many school field trips. Well-patroned, and intellectually accessible via the entertainment medium, "Party People" might well be the number one cultural piece shaping the understanding of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and Young Lords Party (YLP) in the Bay Area today. This is a major problem.

The premise of the play revolves around two young men planning and then actualizing a gallery event to commemorate the legacy of the Black Panther Party and Young Lords Party. Malik (a Panther cub whose father is locked up) and Jimmy (whose uncle was a Young Lord) invite several former party members to their gallery opening, and thus it doubles as a reunion of the rank and file. The play takes you through the day-of preparations for the event, which the party members help with, and through the event itself, which is attended by party members, an FBI informant, and the wife of a dead cop. Dialogue centers around the inter-persynal conflicts between party members and between generations, with conservatively half of the 2 hours and 35 minutes spent yelling and in-fighting between party members, and with their offspring.

The main downfall of revolutionary struggles of the 1960s was a lack of deep political education. Whether at the level of the masses, rank and file, or party leaders, a lack of political education allows political movements to be co-opted, infiltrated, and run into the ground by enemy line. In its heyday, the BPP grew so rapidly that much of the new membership did not have a deep understanding of why they did what they did. The play itself doesn't say that political consciousness needs to be raised, but it is a strong testament to that need. Unfortunately, neither does it contribute to that political education, which is likely due to the exact thing i am criticizing. "Party People" would have you believe the main legacies of the BPP and YLP were in creating exciting memories, and setting models for government programs. In "explaining" the origin of the BPP, the cast breaks into song: all it took to get it off the ground was shotguns, grits, and gravy.

Omar X is one of the more intriguing characters in the play. He operates more on intellect than emotions, and has an air of self-discipline and militancy. Omar enters the play as a self-appointed protector of the Black Panther legacy. He approaches Malik and Jimmy prior to the gallery opening, very skeptical of what they are going to say and how they might twist the history. Finally giving his approval to the art project, Omar by proxy grants legitimacy to the play itself. In real life, former Black Panthers Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins also both gave their seal of approval.(1) The People's Minister of Information JR Valrey, an outspoken member of today's generation of Black media who promotes the Panthers as an example to be followed, was more critical.(2)

The open brutality of pigs on party members is only given cursory examination, primarily through dialogue. Yet there is a graphic scene where Omar is tortured by several fellow Panthers, led by an FBI infiltrator. Recollecting this event in the gallery, 50 years later, Omar's comrades are still telling him "You were so outspoken and critical! Why didn't you just follow orders! We just did what we were told!" with remorse. It is apalling that in 50 years of reflection, these characters haven't figured out that dissent and criticism should be encouraged in the party, and that the real error here was that they themselves were "just" following orders. Again, the problem goes back to political development, whereas the play would have you believe that this brutality was just an unavoidable outcome of this type of organizing work.

Learning directly from the downfall of the Black Panther Party and COINTELPRO operations, rather than quash dissent, we would encourage political organizations to practice democratic centralism. Resolving contradictions through debate is the only way we can grow as political organizations. But instead of airing our dirty laundry for every infiltrator or wannabe cop to take advantage, as was common in the 60s, we take a democratic vote within the organization and then uphold the party line in public, while continuing to debate behind closed doors as needed.

Democratic centralism is also closely related to the mass line. Developing mass line happens when the party refines and promotes the best ideas from the masses, making the party their voice. The masses would include people who are workers in the party-led programs, but who have not yet reached a level of understanding and participation to join the party. One of the contradictions within the Panthers was that they had new people become party members, but then excluded them from the decision-making process. There was not a transparent decision-making process with a defined group of people. This led the rank and file to believe they should just do what Huey or Eldridge said, as was depicted in the play.

Security practices are again thrown out the window in Omar's criticism of Malik and Jimmy's stage names (MK Ultra and Primo, respectively). Omar says they should put their real names on their project, because aren't they proud of their work? Don't they want to be accountable to what potential lies they are about to disseminate? Is this just a game to them? Are they "really" revolutionaries if they are "hiding" behind their stage names? On the other hand, we strongly encourage revolutionaries inside the belly of the beast to protect their identities from the state. We forgive the BPP for making this error at the time, but Omar should have figured it out by now.

Enthusiasm is given to the question of gender and blaming of wimmin for the downfall of the parties. The dialogue states that all the men were on drugs or locked up or dead, so of course wimmin had to lead. But then when the parties dissintegrated, the wimmin were blamed. "Pussy killed the party!" is a sexually-choreographed song performed by the female cast, criticizing the machisimo and male chauvinism in both the BPP and YLP. But little if any mention is given to the female-focused programs of the Young Lords to curb forced sterilization and provide access to abortion for Boriqua wimmin. Selectively applying hindsight, "Party People" disregards the fact that these revolutionary organizations were the vanguard of proletarian feminist organizing in their day.(3)

At the gallery during the reunion, a white womyn demands attention for an emphatic monologue about her husband, a cop who was killed in a shootout with the Panthers. Subjectively i found this monologue to be too damn long and the response to be too damn weak. For the hundreds of times the word "fuck" is thrown around in this play, i half expected the Panther's response to this accusation that he had killed the cop to be "fuck your pig husband." Instead he calmly explains that he did not kill the cop and that he was imprisoned 25 years for a murder he did not commit, washing his persynal hands of the "crime." He then goes and sits down and everyone takes a pause to feel sad. This was a perfect opportunity to educate the audience on casualties of war and group political action. Instead the playwright chose to build empathy for our oppressors.

One of the most glaringly offensive themes in this play is the integrationist line slipped in subtly throughout, and hammered home thoroughly in the final blast of energy. A source of pride for the former party members is that their programs still live on today. No mention is made of the state co-opting these programs, such as free breakfast at school, in an effort to make the party seem obsolete. Feeding kids before school is of almost no cost to Amerikkka, and it's worth it if it convolutes the need for revolutionary independence. While focusing a lot on the free breakfast program, not once is it mentioned that these kids were also receiving a political education while they ate. Lack of political education is cause and consequence of these errors of the play.

The question comes up of what today's [petty-bourgeois] youth should do to push the struggle forward. What role do they have to play? What direction should they take? If I were a high school student watching this play, asking myself the same questions, i would not have left the theater with any better answers than i came in with, and i don't know that i would have gone forward looking to the Panthers or Young Lords for direction. Sadly, these organizations did give us direction, but in "Party People" it is altogether discarded.

On the topic of youth, there are three characters who are representative of the offspring of the parties: Malik, Jimmy, and Clara. Malik spends a lot of time trying to dress and speak like a Panther, but not a lot of time with his nose in books. Clara's parents are both dead, and although her tia tries to explain the importance of her parents' political devotion, Clara resents the YLP for stealing them from her. Clara wants to go to college and get a good job so she can "join the 1%." This "discussion" of the "1%" is the closest the play gets to an examination of class, unlike the BPP and YLP who had thorough, international class analyses.(4)

With all the examination of the contradictions between the different generations, and the time (yet not necessarily depth) given to Fred Hampton's murder by the pigs, Fred Hampton, Jr. is not mentioned one time in the play. Nowhere do they talk about the revolutionary organizing of Chairman Fred, Jr. in Chicago, Illinois with the Prisoners of Conscience Committee. You might not even leave the play knowing that Fred Hampton had a child. Considering the youth are looking for direction, and have all these feelings about their parents and relatives abandoning them for the revolution, why wasn't Fred, Jr. given a primary role in this play? Upholding his political work as an example might have put a lot of anxieties to rest.

Social-media-as-activism is correctly and thoroughly criticized (one of the few positive elements). Instead, a resolution to the youth's dysphoria and lack of direction is offered in a final rap by Primo, which highlights conditions of the oppressed nations inside United $tates borders. But he ephasizes that "I am Amerikan! We are all Amerikan!" over and over and over again, really sucking the audience in on this one. The closing message of the play was decidedly not, "I am Boriqua! You are New Afrikan! Amerikans, commit nation suicide! And let's destroy Amerikkkan imperialism for the benefit of all the world's oppressed peoples!!"

Modern lumpen organizations are mentioned briefly as part of the fallout of the parties. In its lack of direction, "Party People" does not uphold these organizations as holding potential for revolutionary change. Again another great educational opportunity missed. As a supplement, i would recommend the documentary Bastards of the Party (2005). This film details the development of the Bloods and Crips, from self-defense groups, through the Slausons, into the Panthers, and to today. In this film, the Watts Truce in Los Angeles in 1992 is focused on, and serves as an excellent model of the positive impact lumpen organizations can have on reducing in-fighting in oppressed nation communities and building power independent from the oppressor government.

It is evident from "Party People" that the petty bourgeoisie doesn't have much of a role to play in our current revolutionary organizing. Until they give up their attachments to the material spoils of imperialism, they will keep producing confused representations of proletarian struggle. I would advise today's youth, especially those who feel disheartened by this play, to read up on the real history of BPP and Young Lords,(5) and contact us to get involved in political organizing work to end oppression for all the world's people!


Notes:
1. Berkeley Rep, Party People.
2. JR Valrey, "Party People", San Francisco BayView, 31 October 2014.
3. "Maoism and the Black Panther Party" is a pamphlet written by MIM that gets more into the advanced gender line of the BPP, and Palante is a book on the YLP which also gets into this issue. We distribute both through our Free Books for Prisoners Program.
4. For more of our criticism of the 99% movement, see the article "Newsflash: Amerikans are the top 13%" which dispels the myth that 99% of Amerikans are in conflict with the top 1%. Instead we find they are in cahoots with each other against the well-being of the majority of the world's people.
5. For the BPP, see MIM's Black Panther Newspaper Collection. For the YLP, i would again recommend Palante.

chain
Go to Page [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40] [41] [42] [43] [44] [45] [46] [47] [48] [49] [50] [51] [52] [53] [54] [55] [56] [57] [58] [59] [60] [61] [62] [63] [64] [65] [66] [67] [68] [69] [70] [71] [72] [73] [74] [75] [76] [77] [78] [79] [80] [81] [82] [83] [84] [85] [86] [87] [88] [89] [90] [91] [92] [93] [94] [95] 96 [97] [98] [99] [100] [101] [102] [103] [104] [105] [106] [107] [108] [109] [110] [111] [112] [113] [114] [115] [116] [117] [118] [119] [120] [121] [122] [123] [124] [125] [126] [127] [128] [129] [130] [131] [132] [133] [134] [135] [136] [137] [138] [139] [140] [141] [142] [143] [144] [145] [146] [147] [148] [149] [150] [151] [152] [153] [154] [155] [156] [157] [158] [159] [160] [161] [162] [163] [164] [165] [166] [167] [168] [169] [170] [171] [172] [173] [174] [175] [176] [177] [178] [179] [180] [181] [182] [183] [184] [185] [186] [187] [188] [189] [190] [191] [192] [193] [194] [195] [196] [197] [198] [199] [200] [201] [202] [203] [204] [205] [206] [207] [208] [209] [210] [211] [212] [213] [214] [215] [216] [217] [218] [219] [220] [221] [222] [223] [224] [225] [226] [227] [228] [229] [230] [231] [232] [233] [234] [235] [236] [237] [238] [239] [240] [241] [242] [243] [244] [245] [246] [247] [248] [249] [250] [251] [252] [253] [254] [255] [256] [257] [258] [259] [260] [261] [262] [263] [264] [265] [266] [267] [268] [269] [270] [271] [272] [273] [274] [275] [276] [277] [278]
Index of Articles