No doubt even throughout the global community many have heard of the infamous "3 Strikes Law." In California if someone gets 3 felony convictions they face a sentence of LIFE in prison. The law has created quite a bit of controversy and there's been a few token reforms to it that mean about as much as calling San Quentin (SQ) a "Correctional Center" instead of a prison.
SQ's Adjustment Center (AC) is also in the midst of controversy and in the process of implementing reactionary token reforms in much the same way. They also implemented what could be called "The 2 Strikes Law." The SQ oligarchy calls their oppressive tool of retaliation Operational Procedure (OP) 608 Section 825 A.4. Here's how it gets implemented:
On 25 December 2015 while en route to group yard Sergeant Rodrigues waved a piece of paper in a prisoner's face, after asking him if he remembered refusing to show his asshole to officer C. Burrise the other day. Rodrigues tells the prisoner he is going to the AC for receiving two serious Rules Violations Reports (RVRs) within 180 days of each other. A death row prisoner receives an indeterminate SHU term for that.
The two RVRs involve the prisoner's refusal to submit to unclothed body search procedures either prohibited by OP 608 Section 765(2) (local prison rules) and state law, or not applicable to East Block (EB) prisoners. In fact, before either of these RVRs were fabricated the prisoner had filed several staff complaints citing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and alleged "sexual harassment under the guise of security." The prisoner also wrote an informal letter to Specialized Housing Division Facility Captain J. Arnold asking him to abolish his "Perversion Enforcement Team Training Project" (PETT Project). That got the prisoner a punitive cell search response resulting in the confiscation of a loaner TV and theft of art supplies valued at $48. So now you know the motive. But let's see what else this means for ALL death row prisoners thinking Seigle & Yee are to the rescue.
Seigel & Yee are the attorneys currently representing the "AC class" regarding the long-term/indeterminate SHU program conditions experienced by death row prisoners in the AC. One prisoner who corresponded with Seigle & Yee attorney Emily Rose Johns in early 2014 from his recently acquired EB (SHUII) cell reports advising her a wave of prisoners formerly doing indeterminate SHU terms in the AC was flowing into EB and being assigned to the "Sun Deprivation Program."(1) This prisoner came over to EB just ahead of that wave. Johns's response to our dilemma was, "We intentionally kept the scope of the case narrow for many reasons, including out of respect for the experience prisoners in the AC had with the Thompson case."
So now it's about time that someone points out that experience prisoners in the AC had with the Thompson case, including not rescinding the 2 Strikes Law, and that OP 608 Sec. 825 A.4. is still being used as a revolving door into the abyss of indeterminate SHU terms. How leaving that door wide open could be hailed as a reform or "respect for the experience of prisoners in the AC had with the [SQ/Seigel & Yee] case" remains to be seen by a lot of prisoners literally LEFT IN THE DARK for years.
This unfolding experience brings to mind an article from a recent issue of Under Lock & Key.(2) It sets the record straight, explaining in detail the "reforms" hailed in the media regarding indeterminate SHU terms with respect to prisoners subject to the cruel and unusual conditions in the Pelican Bay gulag. Just as the so-called reform left the doors wide open to every other SHU in California's gulag system, merely limiting the time spent doing an indeterminate term at Pelican Bay to 2 years. It's nothing, NOTHING different than SQ's 2 Strikes Law being intentionally contested. Torture cannot be reformed. So the practice of long-term isolation must be ABOLISHED. The construction of more SHUs at SQ must stop because it is torture.
I am a true soldier for the cause of change and the fight it takes to accomplish it. I have been housed at Pelican Bay State Prison since 2013, after being released for a sticking. My prior dealings with this place dates back to 1996 when I did my first bid. Currently I have chosen to embrace change and growth as well as a United Front for Peace at Pelican Bay State Prison.
I am currently involved in "P.E.A.C.E.", Prisoners Embracing Anti-hostilities and Cultural Evolution. We have been going strong for over 8 months. Our cause is based on embracing anti-hostilities and cultural evolution amongst Africans, Hispanics, Whites, Asians, Islanders, and Native Americans by way of partaking in tournaments of basketball, handball, volleyball and having made a conscious choice for change.
These efforts are not being taken lightly by this prison, and every effort is being made to stomp our push for change. The oppressor has refused to follow any of their own set rules and regulations as far as Inmate Leisure Time Activity Groups (ILTAGs) are concerned and assisting our approved ILTAG from running said tournaments without any hassle or fear of our sponsor being prevented from performing his duties without constant nickel and dime harassment tactics.
Pelican Bay State Prison is not open for change. I have been placed in Ad-Seg due to what staff here refer to as "causing ripples." I did 9 months with no charges or a finding of guilt as to that 115 [Disciplinary Report]. A comrade took on the Men's Advisory Council chairman job and raised many concerns of the general population, only to find their house searched by squad numerous times, and constantly given urine tests, though none of these tactics ended with any findings of guilt.
I have so much to share with you all including the atmosphere on these main lines and the new tactics being used to incite violence, chaos and riots. I am on the front line as are so many other brethren here, but we need that voice and the way shared with us on how to proceed in the correct way.
I wish to further educate the masses here at Pelican Bay State Prison as do others, but we seriously need a support system from the outside. Just like the distance of this place from civilization, this is what it feels like to seek rehabilitation, peace, and change at a place that specializes in oppressing. Prisoners' mail is not going out or coming in, and there is no way to prove either way, the 602 [prisoner grievance] process is in shambles; even when you win in this prison you still lose. Every action causes a reaction and Pelican Bay is notorious for their continued nit picking until they get the reaction they are seeking: chaos, violence, riots and disunity amongst prisoners.
We humbly ask for your assistance in bringing change to Pelican Bay State Prison, and the followers you possess in how to proceed. Please include all information and knowledge needed to proceed. Contact myself, and all will be shared with the men concerned. P.E.A.C.E.
Within the global imperialist camp, particularly here in the United States, there's a reactionary line being propagated and pursued that the U.S. working class in its entirety is proletarian. Not only is this scientifically incorrect, it's essentially anti-Marxist no matter how well-intentioned its proponents may or may not be.
With an exceptionally small number of predominately oppressed nationalities, U.S. workers are for the most part beneficiaries of imperialism, and as a social class constitute a "labor aristocracy", i.e. a class of privileged workers who receive a portion of the profits that the bourgeoisie extracts from the Third World in the form of high wages, numerous benefits, material goods and services. And this includes the goods, services, and profits, extracted, as well as the billions of dollars that are contributed annually to social security by undocumented proletarians, here in the United States.
Some years ago when monopoly imperialism was still in its infancy, Lenin spoke of this stage of capitalism and correctly observed that imperialism gives the bourgeoisie enough super-profits "to devote a part to bribe their own workers, to create something like an alliance between the workers of a given nation and their capitalists..."
The majority of the working class here in the United States have been bought off and bribed, and are clearly by no means a vehicle for revolution at this time. The labor aristocracy has a concrete material basis, that is, a class interest in the preservation of the existing status quo. This is not a case of having to "wake them up" so to speak. They are very conscious of their privileged position in society and the world as a whole. Their material conditions, i.e. their privileged lifestyle, is translated in their minds through their five senses, giving shape to and molding their reactionary ideas and ways of thinking — all of which is further reinforced and solidified through a corresponding culture and bourgeois-owned media, news, entertainment and advertising industry. And as a class of privileged workers, many are not only willing to join U.S. mercenary forces and die to protect and further their privileges, i.e. their piece of the pie, they also commit mass murder on an unprecedented scale of Third World Latinos, Blacks, and other oppressed peoples, including those oppressed within the U.S. empire itself.
To reach into the ranks of the labor aristocracy and proclaim them proletarian in an attempt to develop revolutionary consciousness, and struggle for their so-called worker rights, is to commit a reactionary and strategic error which in reality only serves to further prop up and legitimize imperialism.
To further grasp the material basis that the labor aristocracy is erected upon and which shapes and molds its corresponding consciousness, a brief glimpse into the capitalist production process is necessary, specifically that aspect pertaining to the creation of surplus value.
It is necessary to understand that, as a species, in order to continue living we must first and foremost engage in production, i.e. through the expenditure of human labor we must transform our environment in order to procreate, feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves before any other aspect of society can be pursued, such as the pursuance of science, education, religion, arts, culture, politics, philosophy, laws, etc. Production is the basis and foundation of all societies, and in fact, all these other aspects of social activities not only grow out of, but are a reflection of, and correspond to a society's particular mode of production. Moreover, it is only through social intercourse and cooperation with one another, in various forms, that these necessities can be realized — hence the source of our social essence.
Today in the current stage of economic development (capitalism-imperialism), the vast majority of the world's people have been separated from their means of production (land, natural resources, intellectual property, technology, factories, communications, etc.) by property rights which the capitalist classes of the world, who predominately reside within First World borders, have laid claim to. And yet this doesn't change the essential needs of the human species. We must still have access to the world's resources and materials so that we may reproduce ourselves in order to survive.
Under these circumstances, the world's masses, who own very little if anything at all, are forced into a situation where they must sell to the capitalist class, i.e. the bourgeoisie, the only thing they do own, so that they may in turn purchase back from the capitalists the necessities of life. And what they are forced to sell to the bourgeoisie is their labor power. In a capitalist economy, production is driven by profits, not the needs of the entire society. Under this mode of production the role of the bourgeoisie is like that of a parasite — an unnecessary appendage that has been allowed to remain inserted within the production process and whose existence relies wholly on the unpaid labor of others.
With the exception of the majority of imperialist country workers, the bourgeoisie purchases the labor power from the majority of the world's masses below its value which is the source of all surplus-value (capital and profit). Capitalist production not only creates racial and social inequalities while perpetuating those inequalities which were already in existence, it is also the source of the same prison system we are now confined to.
To elaborate further, surplus-value is that value which is created through unpaid labor power. For example, if the bourgeois owners of a maquiladora invests $1000 a day for the production of shirts - $200 of which pays for the cost of human labor power (variable capital) and $800 which pays for the cost of electricity, oil, cloth, thread, technology, etc. (constant capital), and if it takes, lets say, 5 hours to produce $1000 worth of shirts — the original amount invested, this 5 hours of expended labor power is the true value of the worker's labor power.
That which is invested in "constant capital" remains constant, that is, it creates no new value but only transfers the value of the electricity, oil, cloth, thread, technology, etc, to the shirts being produced. It is the "variable capital," i.e. the expenditure of human labor power, that transforms these various materials into shirts (or any goods) that augments new value.
Even if the maquiladora workers produce $1000 worth of shirts in 5 hours, being that their labor power has been purchased and therefore is now owned and controlled by the bourgeoisie, the workers are still required to expend their labor power for the remainder of the working day, whether that be 10, 12, 14, or however many hours the capitalists can get away with. And, in fact, it is in search of this cheap source of labor power and natural resources, i.e. profits and cheap goods, that the imperialists and their bribed mercenary armies launch their global crusades, all under the guise of spreading democracy, or combating terrorism. It is where the people are most desperate, that they can be most thoroughly exploited along with their natural resources, that is at the root of capitalism's so-called "economic success."
Lets say 12 hours constitutes a full working day for the maquiladora workers, and if it takes 5 hours to produce $1000 worth of shirts, the workers are still required to expend their labor power for an additional 7 hours, the remainder of the working day. This 7 hours over and beyond the 5 hours is "surplus labor," 7 hours of unpaid labor power that the bourgeoisie is stealing from the workers.
Being that workers are paid in either hourly wages, piecemeal, or by the day, etc., these various forms of payment only serve to camouflage and disguise the unpaid surplus labor, thus creating a false appearance that the workers are being paid for all of their labor power when in essence they are not.
In a nutshell the bourgeoisie pays the workers below the value of their labor power and pockets the difference in the form of profits and capital (surplus value) upon sale of the goods produced or grown by the workers. What does this have to do with us as a prison population? This mode of profit production inevitably creates social inequalities. It also provides a corresponding ideology and culture which not only has a fixation and obsession with the over-consumption of consumer goods, but is a culture where a person's social status is judged and determined according to their material possessions. These two elements, the poverty and social inequalities which create the fertile ground, accompanied with its corresponding culture and individualist ideology, crime flourishes and a vast prison system inevitably takes root as a means of social control.
Prior to the emergence of U.S. imperialism, the ruling classes thoroughly exploited a large section of the population within its own artificial borders. But eventually as a result of capitalism's internal contradictions, i.e., the inherent necessity to expand and the bourgeoisie's greedy frenzy to suck as much profit out of people as it possibly can, the already existing social inequalities and domestic rebellions intensified and began to undergo a qualitative transformation which further threatened the existence of the bourgeoisie and its loyal beneficiaries.
Although through imperialist expansion, the U.S. bourgeoisie has for the time being accomplished two significant goals prolonging its existence. Rather than having to rely on the exploitation of slaves, the indigenous population, and the most newly arrived European immigrants to create its wealth while continuing to run the risk of being overthrown by its own population, the bourgeoisie was able to pacify its own workers by making further concessions beginning on a large scale in the late 19th century with the first of many continuing campaigns of imperialist expansions. And through imperialist expansion it has not only been able to transfer the vast majority of its domestic exploitation abroad, it has been able to extract far more super-profits from Third World exploitation and natural resources than it was ever able to extract from within its own artificial borders. And with these massive amounts of super-profits and cheap goods, it has created a passive and loyal population out of the majority of its own workers, with a privileged material lifestyle, thus transforming them into a flag waving patriotic labor aristocracy, i.e. beneficiaries and accomplices of imperialism.
By way of imperialist expansion and the transferring of exploitation abroad, this has insured the continuation of the bourgeoisie's super profits while simultaneously enabling them to pay the majority of U.S. workers above the value of their labor power. The lifestyle of the majority of U.S. workers is not only sustained by Third World exploitation and natural resources for its privileged existence as a social class, but as a social class of privileged workers, it also creates practically no surplus value. A close examination of the Gross National Product (GNP) and federal labor statistics of any given year will demonstrate that nearly all of the monetary value of goods and services sold in this country is created outside of its borders, and that extremely small amount of surplus value that is created within the U.S. empire itself is created predominately by oppressed nationalities, primarily by undocumented Latinos and a small portion of imprisoned Blacks. It is a fact that never in the history of this country's parasitic existence has it ever fully supported itself from its own labor. Even the very first settlers on these shores used the indigenous peoples as slaves.
Being that the majority of workers in this country form a labor aristocracy, they are therefore by no means proletarian or a material base in which to struggle for in an attempt to develop revolutionary consciousness. To struggle for so-called worker rights of the labor aristocracy amounts to supporting imperialism, i.e. the exploitation and deaths of thousands world wide on a daily basis from preventable diseases, hunger, medical neglect, wars, etc. Struggling for these so-called rights of the labor aristocracy amounts to nothing less than seeking a larger portion of what's already pillaged and plundered from Third World exploitation, and therefore it is anti-Marxist in essence despite the various forms that it comes packaged in.
In reference to the labor aristocracy Lenin said "... no preparation of the proletariat for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie is possible, even in the preliminary sense, unless and immediate, systematic, extensive, and open struggle is waged against this stratum..."
The gist of Lenin's contention is significant here, and that is, the labor aristocracy as a social class is not a vehicle for evolution but a reactionary road block that must be struggled against, not only theoretically but in practice. This does not imply that some portions of the labor aristocracy wouldn't be won over under given objective conditions, but currently in their entirety as a social class, as a result of their concrete material conditions, they are reactionary in consciousness and deed and therefore must be combated — not catered to.
Also of significance, to get to the soul, the motor and driving force of a true people's revolution, i.e. a socialist revolution, we must, to use Lenin's words, "go down lower and deeper, to the real masses ... to the suffering, miseries, and revolutionary sentiments of the ruined and impoverished masses ... particularly those who are least organized and educated, who are most oppressed ..." And these masses that Lenin speaks of reside predominately within the Third World and include those sectors of oppressed nationalities and poor who live at the bottom rungs of imperialist society itself and within the prison systems.
Despite reactionary nationalist and patriotic rhetoric, the concrete material reality is, our struggle is not "us" as a unified country pitted against other countries, as we have been taught and programmed to believe. It is a class struggle that transcends all national borders. Even the existence of this prison system is just one interconnected aspect of this larger class struggle of irreconcilable opposites. We as a prison population must deepen our knowledge and raise our political consciousness. We must transform our incorrect narrow nationalistic views into a scientifically correct internationalist outlook and recognize the concrete material reality that we as a prison population are just one of the numerous side effects of an outdated and insufficient economic system that results in the social inequalities where a prison system becomes necessary to protect the stolen riches and privileges of the bourgeoisie and its bought off supporters — the same imperialist economic system that oppresses and exploits Third World people around the globe. Our interests do not lie in siding with our own domestic ruling classes in the imprisoning of over 2 million of our own people, or in the exploitation of billions of Third World people around the globe. Our interests lie with our own impoverished and Third World people, not only against our own bourgeoisie and its beneficiaries, but against all capitalist ruling classes of the world regardless of national borders.
So long as we live in a society that is divided into social classes, poverty vs. rich and everything in between, the preservation and continued existence of the prison system is guaranteed. And any improvements made, internally or externally, in regards to the prison system, as welcomed as they are, will be purely reformist, i.e. temporary and for show. To be as effective as possible and maintain continuity in struggle, our ultimate goal must be the creation of a classless society.
I just wanted to take advantage of this lull in the recent pain I've been struggling with, as much psychologically as physically. It should get better, relatively speaking, and pass. It usually does. The only thing that's truly effective is the pain medication I'm on, but I'm not in any position to request an increase. I've got a good doctor right now and he does what he can, of course within the restrictions imposed upon him that limit his abilities. It's really just so damn frustrating, not being able to identify the root of the pain. I can't help but genuinely wonder if I'd be subjected to this if I were not incarcerated and had good insurance and doctors?
You see, my doctor can only do so much here behind these walls for a number of reasons. Resources are practically non-existent and anything he wants to do, it's first scrutinized and questioned. And if it's okayed then he has to outsource it to an outside specialist and hospital. And quite often the specialists will either "shoot it down" or use it as an opportunity to run up a bill and bill it to the state. That is, they'll admit me for several days, or a week, run a load of expensive but pointless tests that they've run before. So I'm shackled to a bed and they always either discontinue, or significantly reduce my pain management to ineffective dosage.
So my doctor here is very limited in what he can do without ultimately risking his own employment. You push too hard to provide adequate health care to us animals and it won't be long before you're seeking employment elsewhere.
Philosophically, it's really an interesting dilemma. Especially for a Marxist, or one well acquainted with "the unification of opposites." As we know, the prison system as an appendage of the "state apparatus", is in its very essence, that is, by its "nature," an oppressive institution.
All doctors take a Hippocratic oath and although the oath is subjectively interpreted, the practice of medicine is objective, and the practice of medicine in its "essence" (nature) is irreconcilably opposed to the essence of the prison system and its very existence.
So any doctor employed by the state (prison) is in direct opposition to the very essence of its employers. This is an objective phenomenon that exists whether one is conscious of this inter-connection of opposing tendencies, or not.
Ultimately the doctor will either submit and capitulate to the interests, i.e. trajectory, of the state through a slow process of indoctrination that occurs both subtlety and conspicuously, consciously and subconsciously, as well as from their own experience that they will have with those prisoners around them. And this is the greatest influence on them. I have to admit that I have a tremendous amount of respect for those doctors that do last as long as some of them do when I see how some (most) of these "inmates" act. (notice my distinction of inmate vs. convict).
Anyway, my doctor is in a no-win position. He does what he can without jeopardizing his job security. And although you and I would without a second thought, push and fight until we were unemployed, in these circumstances we are in the minority.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is just another example of how the oppressed struggle for day-to-day survival under capitalism, despite some principles like the Hippocratic oath. In every issue of ULK we print a statement discussing a better form of justice that will be implemented under the dictatorship of the proletariat. We often talk about Chinese prisons during the socialist period of 1949- 1976. The most in-depth reports we have of those conditions come from the former emperor and collaborator with the Japanese occupiers who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Chinese people, and two Amerikan students imprisoned for spying for their country.(1) Both stress the fair treatment they received, and being fed adequate food in times when food was not always in adequate supply for the whole population. Meanwhile, in the heart of excess, in the United $tates, we have prisoners suffering from lack of basic needs.
It is obvious that this system has no interest in serving the oppressed. But what might not be so obvious is how prisons can and have been used in states that are of and by the oppressed. While a socialist state will use force to repress those who attempt to restore exploitation and oppression, the goal is to build communism. Therefore everyone is to be included in the benefits of society, and even the former class enemies will be won over by fair and humane treatment while being struggled with politically. That is what it looks like to engage in a project to abolish class differences. The key difference is the class in charge. It is only when the proletariat seizes the state from bourgeois rule that we will see systems that truly serve all people. Until then such claims are just political sloganeering.
[At our 2012 Congress MIM(Prisons) decided to begin the process of building statewide councils to develop USW and its leadership. That winter the work began to set up the first council in California. This coincided with a renewed round of strikes in the state involving more than 30,000 prisoners. As activism spread, so did invitations to join the council. In short time, lack of participation cut the membership back down. For about a year and a half now, leading USW cells in California have been participating in the council on a regular basis, struggling over theoretical and practical questions of organizing the prison movement. This article is by one participant in the USW California Council discussing some of the issues the council has tackled.]
The United Struggle from Within (USW) political line is anti-imperialist, as those behind the walls recognize the penal system and its institutions as an extension of imperialism. Therefore our struggles include both domestic and international issues. As a generated organism from the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons, or MIM(Prisons), some within USW have taken up MIM line while others have not yet. USW is an eclectic group of anti-imperialist prisoners working in cells, individually or in a coordinated groups through MIM(Prisons) guidance. Our revolutionary activities can vary according to each cell and location. This makes USW a multi-issue mass organization.
It is important to have USW comrades focus on campaigns that are relevant to their conditions. For instance, field reporting is universally applicable. But those doing indeterminate SHU sentences should focus on getting policies changed or bring up campaigns to shut down control units, while other comrades on mainlines could organize a cell of like-minded comrades, set up study groups, and raise other campaigns. We can all contribute to fighting censorship and other legal actions that can benefit all prisoners if won in court.
Each USW cell works in the framework of bringing the humyn rights of prisoners to the forefront. It is no surprise prisons are swamped with internal semi-colonies, with the long sentences, new detrimental laws that disproportionately affect oppressed nations, and other practices of the criminal injustice system that contribute to the mass incarceration of oppressed nations. This injustice must be brought to the public. Comrades from USW use propaganda as a tool to reach the masses who are sympathetic or will become sympathetic. We utilize Lenin's method of having Iskra as his party's way to get the written word out to the masses by making use of Under Lock & Key to advertise our campaigns, our polemics, our developing theories, or just to expose the negative conditions in prisons. ULK is our voice behind the walls.
USW are we the cadre?
Recently there has been an open polemic in regards to USW. Is it just a mass org without a leadership role or does it have leadership influence, and because of this should it no longer be considered a mass org? Well to apply dialectic materialism to this topic I would say USW is a mass organization formed in part by MIM line. "All correct leadership is necessarily 'from the masses, to the masses.' This means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas) then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action and test the correctness of these ideas in such action. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge."(1)
USW is guided by MIM(Prisons), leading revolutionary work at their location. Accumulating experience and knowledge while engaged in this work, many USW comrades aren't spontaneous in heading into revolutionary activity, as this would probably prove disastrous if a comrade knows very little of what exactly to do. For this reason MIM(Prisons) has study cells welcoming those ready for revolutionary theory education that is Maoist in content. There are even advanced levels for those who wish to continue into the ULK Writers Group, the most advanced Maoist study cell from which stem numerous USW comrades or cadres.
I use the term "cadre" for reasons of revolutionary language because it permits no dual meaning in our propaganda, and I utilize Che Guevara's definition herein:
"What is a cadre? We should state that a cadre is an individual who has achieved sufficient political development to be able to interpret the larger directives emanating from the central authority, make them his own, and convey them as an orientation to the masses: a person who at the same time also perceives the signs manifested by the masses of their own desires and their innermost motivations."(2)
It can be said that any well politicized USW comrade is a cadre behind the walls as we need not receive directives from MIM(Prisons) to know how to organize and commit ourselves to a campaign. Yet revolutionary learning is limitless and anyone wishing to engage in polemics or just learn from other comrades can do so by either writing in to the MIM(Prisons) USW coordinator, joining a study cell run by MIM(Prisons) or reading up on ULK and writing in.
The Statewide Council
The momentum created by USW cells throughout California prisons has brought us our own revolutionary council where pressing topics are discussed, and polemics, strategizing and other matters will be addressed. Through discussion and the democratic process we have passed resolutions to set the standards for USW cells joining the council. Resolutions passed so far include: time frames for when members must respond to council discussions, requirements that each cell vote on each proposal and provide justification for their votes, minimum study requirements before a representative can join the council, and requirements that each USW cell with representation in the council should put in at least 10 to 40 hours a week of revolutionary work. i.e. study, writing articles, making political art, etc. Cells are required to keep track of their work and report it monthly to build discipline.
The California Council has also built a treasury that we have been using to fund bonus pages in ULK. Our council has brought forth double the amount of donations than all other California comrades during a recent 6-month period. We recently finished a California-specific introductory letter for USW that went out to all existing members in June. We have had a slow start but overall we have established a steady pattern of discussion and work.
Amongst our struggles behind the walls, we will often have obstacles such as comrades abandoning a campaign or legal battle, or who just stop checking in with the council, USW or the ULK Writers group to pursue personal agendas and leave behind their revolutionary work. Our California Council and USW are a product of work and effort by politically conscious prisoners having a strategic goal in mind, be it anti-imperialist, shutting down control units, or prisoner humyn rights reform. The point is that our goals, strategic and tactical, are to struggle through the momentum whether it's low or high! Our focus is to work together for change and we hope our efforts, our resolve, inspires others to join our struggle behind the walls. Our struggle for humyn rights is a pressing issue for the comrades suppressed in solitary confinement, so contributing to litigation campaigns are essential but not our only venue! We need to be organized, we need to agitate and utilize propaganda as a tool in order to apply revolutionary practice!
We seek comrades who have a fair grasp on revolutionary theory. No comrade needs to be an expert, we are all still learning from each other, our USW work, and how to concentrate our USW branches through practice within our revolutionary California Council.
So I can say USW Council representatives are our cadres behind the walls, forging revolutionary discipline, education, legal assistance, study groups, etc. If comrades get transferred to another yard or prison we can expect them to do the same at their new location. And we do our work discreetly to not draw unwanted attention, thus maintaining all within USW cell security.
We've been working hard to express the need to end all hostilities amongst all ethnicities. Us New Afrikans here in the belly of the beast known as the Corcoran SHU have just completed a beautiful BAM (Black August Resistance/Memorial) and we came together to struggle today [September 9th] for the purpose of unity. We exercised in a group that consisted of ourselves, a couple southern Hispanics, and a northern Hispanic. Our study habits still consist of revolutionary literature, economics, politics and some history where our cultural and social interactions are similar without division.
We don't have a short corridor anymore here in this concrete tomb, so with people arriving from the mainline just to do a SHU term we can educate them on the importance of the agreement to end all racial hostilities, and stay on guard because the fascist oppressors will always try to sabotage our collective struggle. A lot of these youngsters who come in here don't have a clue about the Attica uprising or Black August Memorial, and how could they when all the teachers of New Afrikans struggles are still anguishing behind enemy lines. The importance of us getting out of the SHU is to educate our youth about their history.
Today we had a group study session on the importance of revolutionary internationalism, which is the ideological expression of global revolutionary scientific socialism in service to the oppressed underclass of the world. We feel that revolutionary internationalism is the ideological vanguard of global liberation and source of theoretical development in coordinating disparate national revolutions. Also, keeping the permanent struggle of ideological mental warfare going in order to eradicate backwards and unprincipled thinking, or incompatible ideas or activities, and proving the correctness of the revolutionary party's views.
This weapon in which we speak is part of the dialectical processes that are ongoing and endless, until the principle contradictions of the oppressed and the oppressor are eliminated. Once this takes place you will see the transformation of the cultural values, practices and relationships of the people prepare and condition themselves for a revolution against the oppressor state. The outcome is uprooting and destroying the old oppressive rationale and mindset of colonial society and bringing into being new values which move the people outside of the colonial mindset and into that of the emerging revolutionary society. We can accomplish this through the agreement to end all hostilities. So we strive to do so. It's a long out-dated situation that produced no winners, and only losers, and that has also further pushed us into oppression. We realize that now, and since it's not too late to correct it, we struggle collectively to do so.
In war a campaign is a series of actions which lead to an ultimate aim. Campaigns can be thought of as an organized strategy in which certain steps or operations lead to the end goal of victory. Often when people are taking on an adversary, victory will not be accomplished in one shot. When the odds are stacked against you it is necessary to create a plan which, through a series of small steps, one arrives close to the intended goal. This piecemeal advancement is a campaign.
Currently ISIS has a campaign where it is taking ground in the area of what is known as Iraq and Syria. In their campaign they are taking over key areas like airports, oil refineries, major roads or sea ports. By doing so they have obviously decided that each of these areas will lead to lightening their opposition's hold on power and of eventually seizing power in that region of the world. Rather than focusing on overthrowing the Iraqi government outright or flooding Baghdad with troops and attacking the "Green Zone" (the U.S. base) outright, they have developed a campaign to take smaller steps which may lead up to seizing that area.
U.S. imperialism has been waging a campaign for total global influence in which they can act with impunity. They do this by setting up 1000+ bases around the world. And they coerce countries with economic embargoes, assassinations, coups and the installation of puppet governments. Blackmail is used from information that was illegally stolen off the internet or through U.$. spy agencies. Every bit of information they obtain buys them more influence, a step forward in their campaign of destruction.
Prisoners and former prisoners within the United Struggle from Within mass organization have also initiated a variety of campaigns which address our daily struggles. Every struggling people anywhere in the world needs campaigns to address their particular needs, and prisoners are no different. For us struggling prisoners there are certain forms of oppression which prevent us from developing politically or are outright neutralizing us so we must find ways to resist and overcome them, and campaigns ensure this.
Prisoners in California have the Agreement to End Hostilities which is one of our main campaigns at this time. The End to Hostilities is an essential step that needs to continue so that our goal of mobilizing the entire prison system becomes easier. We cannot mobilize people against a common enemy if they are wrapped up in fighting each other. Stopping the violence between prisoners allows us to begin to move forward for our real interests and combat our real threats. This campaign should also spread to other states, and it will. The Agreement to End Hostilities will spread state to state just like lumpen organizations themselves have spread.
A California campaign that is also country-wide is the struggle to abolish control units. Solitary confinement is another small step in a larger process. Control units are designed to destroy our most advanced cadre; it cannot be explained in any other way. So in my opinion the control units are ground zero for the struggles of the prison movement within U.$. borders today. If we cannot save our cadre in U.S. prisons it is a huge defeat. In order to mobilize the prison system for humyn rights struggles it would be a lot easier if most of the politically advanced prisoners were not sealed off in control units.
The grievance campaign is another way that we enable imprisoned people to work toward humyn rights so that they can continue to struggle on that revolutionary path. Things like the struggle for indigent envelopes which the comrades in Texas are raising is a part of our USW campaigns because if we are able to write letters we can struggle and join correspondence study groups and contribute to ULK so we cannot be limited by the state. Just because we may not be in Texas we still support those comrades because it is a USW campaign.
Our campaign in solidarity with Palestine was an exercise in USW flexing its internationalism. When a people are suffering from crimes against humynity, even the most brutal dungeon will not prevent acts of humynity. I think our solidarity with Palestine was also a sign of our anti-imperialism. We have our own struggles in each prison against brutality, solitary, medical care, etc. We have our distinct struggles for national liberation of our respective nations. At the same time we are anti-imperialists and we know that all of our oppression can be tied to U.S. imperialism. Imperialism extends oppression around the world and creates the circumstances where Third World people cannot survive in their home countries. These people often migrate to the metropole in search of sustenance, when not contained within militariazed walls.
Do Campaigns Teach the People?
Campaigns are absolutely educational. We learn from practice. When we partake in a campaign we not only realize what we can accomplish, but we also realize how to better coordinate our efforts.
The campaign does a couple of things, it allows us to battle our oppression while it teaches us different forms of struggle. We often learn new methods to struggle because of this. For example in a previous ULK I read about some comrades who, after struggling on different grievances, decided to create their own legal self-help organization.
From our campaign to raise awareness on the inside and outside the dungeons sprang the Strugglen Artists Association (SAA). The SAA is for artists to create revolutionary cultural works and for Propaganda Workers to bring these cultural contributions to the masses.
From our campaign to close the SHU sprang the statewide California hunger strikes. These actions helped to catch the eye of many within the white left who previously did not support the prison movement like some are starting to do now. From this publicity came various prisoner support groups and media struggles to assist our actions.
From these examples that I have listed came independent institutions. Our campaigns created these institutions of the people. They were created without the assistance of our oppressor enemy. It is hard to see these things develop without our campaigns, so as you can see the campaign creates even more opportunity to struggle and gives us momentum to continue on our road forward.
Take away the campaigns and we are left with nothing but isolated impulsive acts which get us nowhere but unorganized disarray. Campaigns direct our actions toward our greatest potential.
Our Goals in Campaigning
Our goal as anti-imperialists is a socialist revolution. But the more immediate goal of USW within U.$. prisons is to revolutionize the dungeons. This will take a series of actions, or to be specific it will take campaigns.
Prisons are merely one component of the state. But they are one of the most important components because it is within prisons where the most vital social forces are found. Prisons will produce the fiercest fighters in the future revolution.
The campaign is a military concept. In many ways it is a revolutionary war which awaits us because the oppressor will never hand over its power. According to Mao: "The revolutionary war is a war of the masses; it can be waged only by mobilizing the masses and relying on them."(1)
Oppressed people will be victorious, and prisoners, once revolutionized, will ignite and charge the people. We have seen in hystory the power and raw force that ex-prisoners have infused into social justice movements within U.$. borders. The most advanced parties' political organizations and movements of the internal semi-colonies were filled with ex-prisoners and lumpen, so it is this element which must be mobilized. The people must "go deeper," as Lenin taught, to obtain the most revolutionary element which is less influenced by imperialism. Campaigns up! Conflicts down!
It's been over a week since we got the news on the settlement of Ashker v. Brown.(1) For a case that is so central to what we do as an organization we've taken our time to respond. We've read and re-read the legal documents and listened to the celebratory news coverage of the settlement. Yet our reaction remains the same, deep disappointment.
The settlement is a victory for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), and it knocks out one of the three main legs of the campaign to shut down the SHU — the courts (the other two being public opinion and prisoners organized around their own interests). This case had a lot of the known anti-isolation lawyers and some influential long-time SHU prisoners behind it. It was an alliance that will be tough to beat any time soon.
The Maoist Internationalist Movement, along with many other organizations, has spent decades campaigning for the end to long-term isolation in U.$. prisons. We have long countered the public who question us with, "what is your proposed alternative?" with the simple answer, "not torturing people." Ending long-term isolation in U.$. prisons would be a simple reform that unites the lowest common denominator of prison reformers. Almost everyone agrees we should end torture, and that is reflected in the ongoing movement to do so. It is only the fascist-leaning cop-lovers and state bureaucrats that oppose the call. Actually, in many states the state bureaucrats support ending long-term isolation.
Yet through all the years of struggle here in California, somehow the CDCR has succeeded in painting the ending of torture as the extreme option, with the recent settlement as the sensible compromise. But they are wrong: the extreme option is overthrowing the state and replacing it with one run by the oppressed, where the real killers and exploiters are imprisoned and taught how to live collectively with other humyn beings, not thrown in isolation. Ending torture in prisons is the most basic, sweeping reform that would actually improve the conditions in U.$. prisons.
According to the New York Times, prison directors have become more supportive of reducing the use of solitary confinement after a man who spent 8 years in isolation was released in 2013 and went to the house of Colorado's prison chief, Tom Clements, and shot him dead.(2) Yet reducing the number of people in long-term isolation only serves to extend the life of its practice as it affects less people and there is less outrage. This reduction also suggests that some people still deserve to be tortured. That is why MIM(Prisons) has never supported measures to get only certain groups out of long-term isolation.
The Ashker settlement has been heralded as "effectively ending indefinite long-term solitary confinement" and "setting strict limits on the prolonged isolation of inmates." Yet in the actual settlement we read,
"CDCR shall not house any inmate within the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison for more than 5 continuous years. Inmates housed in the Pelican Bay SHU requiring continued SHU placement beyond this limitation will be transferred from the Pelican Bay SHU to another SHU facility within CDCR, or to a 180-design facility at Pelican Bay. Inmates who have previously been housed in the Pelican Bay SHU for 5 continuous years can only be returned to the Pelican Bay SHU if that return has been specifically approved by the Departmental Review Board and at least 5 years have passed since the inmate was last transferred out of the Pelican Bay SHU."
That's it! That's the extent of the "strict" limitations on long-term isolation in California. So if you're in another SHU, or Ad-Seg or some other unnamed long-term isolation situation, which about 14,000 of the over 15,000 in isolation in California are, there are no limits.(3) If you're in Pelican Bay you must move to another SHU after 5 years. Five years later you can come back. Alternatively, you could spend 4.5 years in Pelican Bay, 2 months out, then go in for another 4.8 years, and on like that for the rest of your life. Does this really address the Eighth Amendment claim by the plaintiffs of cruel and unusual punishment? The length often cited for having serious mental affects on humyns is in the range of 15 to 30 days!
Now with the new Step Down Program prisoners are supposed to have a way to return to "a general population setting within three or four years." So the class of prisoners being represented in this case, those who have been in the SHU for ten or more continuous years, are being addressed adequately according to those who agreed to this settlement. But even moving forward there are exceptions for Administrative SHU Status, allowing people to be held as long as CDCR deems necessary.
There is one progressive concession given in the settlement: "CDCR shall not place inmates into a SHU, Administrative Segregation, or Step Down Program solely on the basis of their validation status." Additionally, "CDCR shall modify its Step Down Program so that it is based on the individual accountability of each inmate for proven STG [security threat group] behavior, and not solely on the inmate's validation status or level of STG affiliation." Finally, as a result of an ending to the indeterminate SHU sentences for prisoners "validated" as members of prison gangs, in the next year "CDCR shall review the cases of all validated inmates who are currently in the SHU as a result of... an indeterminate term that was previously assessed under prior regulations..."
This addresses the Fourteenth Amendment claim that the CDCR was violating due process with the validation system and the use of group punishment, at least somewhat. As we saw a couple years ago, the new STG policy actually opened up STG charges to a wider range of organizations than was covered by the previous validation system. The supposed upside is that the rules require actual STG behavior by the individual to justify placing someone in SHU, not just association. Yet, in the new SHU Term Assessment Chart we see that "Recruiting inmates to become an STG affiliate" is a SHU punishable offense.
As mentioned above, this settlement seems to eliminate the judicial strategy of ending solitary confinement in California for the near future. But it also strikes a huge blow against the strongest leg we have to stand on, the collective organizing of prisoners. Turns out, under the settlement you can expect to spend 12 months in SHU for "Leading a disturbance, riot or strike", and 6 months for "participation in a disturbance, riot or strike" or "Inciting conditions likely to threaten institution security" (for those not aware, the latter was a common charge made against those who peacefully refused food in recent years to protest long-term isolation in California prisons).
They are outlawing peaceful protest, and non-violent, passive resistance for the prison movement. Amerikans criticize other countries that torture people for peacefully protesting the government that is abusing and, well, torturing them. How is it that leaders in the prison movement have signed on to this?
As we have previously reported, the new STG policies still give prisoners points for things like tattoos, greeting cards and talking to certain individuals. So it is not really true that you can no longer be punished for affiliation. Abolishing this practice was part of the 2nd demand of the hunger strikes.
As a result of reviews (which were mostly underway before this settlement anyway) we have a number of comrades who are getting out of the SHU right now, without having to debrief (snitch). This will no doubt be a positive thing, as we expect many of them will stay politically active in their new locations where they will have more opportunities to reach out to others. Yet at the same time we've already seen the next generation of prison leaders going to the SHU. It seems that the youngsters are getting thrown under the bus here.
So this is a wake up call to those not yet in the SHU. In July 2013, 30,000 prisoners stood up against long-term isolation, recognizing their common interests in this demand, even though most of them were not housed in isolation themselves. This was an amazing demonstration that epitomizes the progress made over the last 5 years or so to consolidate the prison movement in California. This continues to be celebrated in the form of the Agreement to End Hostilities and the countless commemorations taking place today, September 9th, in the spirit of peace and solidarity in commemoration of the Attica uprising.
As this settlement was released, public statements from CDCR celebrated it as a continuation of their plan to reform the system after the SHU successfully broke the prison gangs that had taken over. Yeah right. These prison gangs were encouraged by the state who teamed up with white nationalist prisoners to oppress New Afrikans, and later enforced the north/south divide on the [email protected] nation. The continuation of and expansion of united action around the Agreement to End Hostilities is crucial to preventing the CDCR from returning to that status quo.
Leading up to the recent settlement we had one comrade building for a new wave of hunger strikes. As this settlement does not address the most important of the 5 Core Demands, ending conditions of isolation for all prisoners, this call remains valid. And while we've always warned comrades to build outside support for such actions, one lesson we can take from California is that such actions must be organized on the inside. Even California Prison Focus, who has been visiting prisoners in the SHU for decades, and who has lawyers with privileged access to their clients, was in the dark during the hunger strikes until the CDCR decided to pull in outside mediators. As always, MIM(Prisons) is committed to supporting the organization of prisoners and fighting to defend the First Amendment rights of prisoners (and ourselves) of speech and association. The ending of a policy that allows the state to torture people for belonging to certain organizations was a blow against the excessively repressive policies of the CDCR in relation to the First Amendment. With this settlement we find California in a similar situation to most of the rest of the country, where torture continues to be the method of choice for population control of the oppressed who do not walk in step with the oppressor.
And so, the struggle continues. Until solitary confinement is abolished, shutting down control units will be a central campaign for MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within.
California prisoners can buy greeting cards from their facility canteen. They cost $1 and come with commercial messages of: birthday (female), birthday (juvenile), birthday (general), I love you, thinking of you, blank, missing you, and the current holiday. Prisoners must have an active trust account of course, and the message rarely varies from capitalist definitions.
As a counter to this messaging, the Strugglen Artists Association (SAA) has emerged as a culture project of United Struggle from Within. Through the SAA prisoners can send out unique messages that reflect the transformation they've made from parasites to productive people and leaders.
I displayed the [email protected] greeting cards at the last dayroom with a few [email protected] prisoners who i read the bible with (illustrating Christ as a socialist :) ). They were impressed and the entire ten cards I laid out are spoken for; just have to collect the stamps!
MIM(Prisons) adds: The above report comes from a Propaganda Worker of the Strugglen Artists Association (SAA). The job of a Propaganda Worker is to spread revolutionary culture amongst those at their locale, and help fundraise for the cultural arm of the SAA. At the time of our July 2015 Congress, the SAA had raised $44 on top of the expenses to run the project! These funds are slotted to be used to expand the SAA.
Building revolutionary culture is an important task for our movement. We know that even after a successful socialist revolution the people won't instantly learn to be selfless and automatically focused on serving the best interests of society. It will take many years to counter the reactionary culture of imperialism even after the economic system has been revolutionized. We saw this in the long struggle of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) in China, which mobilized people to attack leaders who were using positions of power for personal gain. A new bourgeoisie was forming within the party, and the GPCR was an ideological attempt to defeat it. The cultural work we do today is part of the broader cultural revolution that will extend into the construction of socialism.
You don't have to be an artist to help spread revolutionary culture; you can sign up to be a Propaganda Worker. We have blank greeting cards with revolutionary images; bookmarks with themes of spreading peace and overcoming drug addiction and alcoholism; coloring book pages to help reach children and illiterate folks, and to provide a creative outlet for those who do better with color than lines; and small posters to remind us to stay focused on a correct vision.
MIM(Prisons) is not selling these items outright; we are only sending them out in small bulk packages to be used as organizing tools. We know our subscribers have lots of skills for hawking and hustling. So why not put those skills to good use for the communist movement against all oppression? Write in for more info on how to become a Propaganda Worker.
As a loyal comrade who is committed to the struggle I have utmost respect for Under Lock & Key and I appreciate all that they/you contribute to the revolutionary struggle that is taking place today for those inside these concentration camps in the United Snakes. As the leading member of the Abolitionist From Within (AFW) I do support MIM and embrace as a group the five core principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons.
While AFW may not agree with every political issue MIM advocates, it is the issues that we both support that bring us together in this revolutionary struggle. AFW recently had our first demonstration at High Desert State Prison (HDSP), bringing together a cohesive front in reflecting, fasting and uniting to honor those nameless and faceless men of Black August and Attica(1971) by coming together in solidarity. We brought up the issues of the day affecting us and we all offered solutions from each individual's perspective. It was a beautiful and righteous energy as we synergized listening to each other and offering suggestions and the best of ourselves during this time. We will meet again on September 9th and try to agree on the best solutions in attacking and combating the issues that are inflicting us today from the first meeting.