I'm reaching out to bring awareness to Colorado's state prison system's "off record" policy to keep Chicano inmates in fractional warfare/oppression. Colorado has been plagued with the same brown-on-brown violence and ideology as California's systems for the past 30 years. Only recently has an awakening transformed the "gang banger" mentality of the masses into a revolutionary mental state in the liberation and struggle for Aztlán. This has been met with all levels of repression such as out of state transfers to secret locations, MCC (Colorado’s new politically correct name for SHU/Ad-Seg STG lockdown where inmates can only come out of cell every 72 hours to shower, etc.)
On June 14, Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán was denied by the publication committee for the following reason: "material which poses a potential threat to the safety and security of the offender population or DOC employees, contract workers, and volunteers by advocating facility disruption or non-compliance with prison rules or regulations." The truth of the matter is it was denied because it was coming to me at the specific time period when the Chicano masses in Colorado have decided to stop being the puppets for capitalistic racist oppression of a system which actively has aided and facilitated the destruction of our people by putting our lives in danger in numerous ways. The following are small examples of these conditions.
Putting rival members in pods where they are sure to be assaulted so severely that death or attempted murder are likely scenarios. Opening cell doors of rival STGs while inmates are cuffed and shackled to tables, so that they may be assaulted etc. This has been the norm for years. Now that we have risen above the tribal mentality in an effort to educate and raise awareness to the racist genocide of our people that the system has manipulated us into doing with our own hands we are being slammed in cells, censored, and oppressed even harder. I'll be surprised if you ever receive this letter.
Currently I am in grievance procedures over books. Any material that may help or contacts to further our struggle would be greatly appreciated. Once I finish the grievance process I will send copies of all material on the issue. Thank you for your time. In solidarity with the struggle to end oppression and liberate Aztlán.
On 15 September 2017 I heard of an execution performed on the streets of San Jose, California. A young Chicano named Jacob Dominguez was gunned down by the "pitzo." (Nahuatl for pig)
What we need to realize is that la gente Xicana have been fighting this war for 500 years in various stages via our ancestors. From the Spanish colonialists to today's imperialist, first line of defense (the pitzo). The war on Aztlán has been ongoing. The murder of Jacob Dominguez reminds us of this.
This media is the propaganda arm of the state. It's their public relations outfit, the "ministry of propaganda," they just don't call it that. This is why we never hear the corporate media scream revolution or for gente to rise up after pigs execute someone on camera in cold sangre. They can't call for their own demise, even when it's warranted.
What occurred to Jacob Dominguez screams COINTELPRO. When COINTELPRO was launched against groups in the 60s and 70s like the Brown Berets, Crusade for Justice (of which 5 martyrs were assassinated via bombs), the Panthers, and other groups, the feds initiated a death squad tactic where if they couldn't arrest the person in the crosshairs they would kill 'em.
The fact that Jacob Dominguez fit the rebel profile according to the media, long rap sheet, violent past, alleged "gang member", tattoos on face, pigs, feds or other state agents actively hunting him. They could have easily been describing Pancho Villa 100 years ago or any other revolutionaries from the 21st century. The oppressor nation makes war on those it fears. On the people's leaders.
It's too early to know why Jacob Dominguez was assassinated. Perhaps a later investigation will find he had an FBI file. Those deriving from lumpen organizations (LO) usually do if it's an LO that is bout it because it would threaten the state. We are more powerful than we realize because we organize outside the state's influence and set up forms of dual power in the pintas and the barrios. If we injected political ideology we would be ready to fight for state power setting up our own government; fuck a street corner! We are almost there Raza.
Those of us who ride or die, who have given our lives to the people understand the seriousness. We know that because of our influence amongst the lumpen and our political education and heightened consciousness that we do challenge the state. Because of that we may very well be targets of COINTELPRO. We should do all in our power to avoid this. But it is a reality. One I have come to understand. I know the state is hunting again but I will continue to resist until I cannot do so anymore. Like the brotha Fred Hampton said, "you can kill the revolutionary but you can't kill the revolution."
We need a people's army. The Black Liberation Army showed how to repel the state. I'm not suggesting armed struggle now, but at some point when a people continue to get assassinated they will respond to meet force with force. This is where history must be tapped. We need to learn from the past so that each generation is more prepared and organized than the previous generation. Prepare the people! The war has continued on Aztlán since the colonizer first arrived!
MIM(Prisons) responds: While certainly faced with most difficult conditions here in the belly of the beast, we do not think the BLA demonstrated an effective strategy of repelling the state. In their attempts to deal with the over-bearing pressure of COINTELPRO they were unable to form a real people's army. We must learn from their heroic efforts and their mistakes as we search for a viable path.
Learning the difference between our friends and enemies means we know that other prisoners share more in common with us than not. It also means that within one's own nation the formations within have even more in common than not. For imprisoned Aztlán the divisions were ultimately imperialist-inspired. The advanced wing of imprisoned Aztlán understands that it's time to Re-unify Aztlán.
In Califaztlán, norteno, sureno, Eme, NF, have been walls that separated. At times each formation was necessary for safety, and some formations may be more progressive than others. But these formations still separate imprisoned Aztlán. Separation for a nation is not good under any circumstances.* I believe the goal of all these lumpen organizations (LOs) is to unite at some point, but how could it be possible?
A future glimpse of a United Aztlán
It's a fact that much animosity and/or pride for one LO or the other has developed. At the same time we see the Agreement to End Hostilities has allowed us all to get to know and support one another. It's now OK to assist and be there for each other, which is great. We have gone back to before north/south feuds started, however what is needed now is a leap forward.
The truth is so long as the LOs (i.e. NF, Eme) still have north/south formations there will not be any unification between imprisoned Aztlán. This will take steps. The implementation of programs authorized at the highest levels. One such initial program would be formally dismantling the formations of Sur/Norte. By doing this, Raza will simply be Raza again.
Tattoos of Norte/Sur would have to be banned for the future. This would help alleviate conflict/tension.
A transition period would relax the Raza and then the next stage of the unification of Eme/NF would be necessary even if they maintained separate committees with the new political org. But a new org with a new name is necessary to provide a glimpse of a new future of a unified Aztlán. At some point, imprisoned Aztlán must move on and create a name that all can come to, otherwise no side will ever win over the other side.
Where did I come from you ask?
I came from a great civilization
A people who knew what day it was
While the rest of the world did not.
I come from a people who knew
Where the Earth fit in relation to the universe
While the rest of the world knew not.
I come from a civilization
Of great art and rich culture.
A people advanced in mathematics and building structures
Which were symmetrical to the sun.
I come from a people that fought
For its independence
From three foreign nations
In one century alone!
I continue to survive this bloody annexation
And to this day
I maintain my identity
Against pressure to assimilate.
I come from a civilization
Which has been here since the beginning of time.
I am heir to traditions of Cuauhtemoc,
Benito Juarez, and Emiliano Zapata.
I am indigenous to this land
And now I hear these ignorant voices
Telling me to go back where "I" come from?
"I" am from here!
My civilization was founded on the very earth we stand on!
You and your people go back to where you come from!
In 1492, the European colonization of Turtle Island, which they'd call the Americas, began with the voyage of Christopher Columbus, in command of the Niña, Pinta, and the Santa Maria. This recon expedition arrived in the Caribbean and landed on the island of present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which they named Hispaniola. In 1492, Columbus returned with a second, larger force, comprised of 17 ships and 1,200 soldiers, sailors, and colonists.
By 1535, Spanish conquistadors had launched military operations into Mexico, Central America, and Peru. Using guns, armor, and metal-edged weapons as well as horses, siege catapults, war dogs, and biological warfare, the Spanish left a trail of destruction, massacres, torture and rape. Tens of millions of indigenous peoples were killed within the first century. The Mexica (or Aztec) alone were reduced from 25-million to just 3-million. Everywhere the death rate was between 90-95% of the population.
For all native Americans, the coming of Europeans to the New World marked the beginning of a long, drawn-out disaster. Their cannons and rifles gave them the ultimate power to inflict their will on the indigenous people. Even as they learned from the indigenous people how to survive in their new environment, Europeans saw their own way of life as the only "true" civilization. Indeed, so powerful did the notion of European superiority become that today they celebrate the "Discovery" of the New World by European explorers. Too often, we forget that what happened in 1492 was not the discovery of a New World but the establishment of contact between two worlds, both already old.
Was the European, or "Western" way of life really superior? This question remains a subject of stormy controversy throughout the world. Much of the resentment against Europeans and North Amerikans expressed by people in the Muslim world, for example, is based on the history of invasion, conquest, and domination by Western powers, a subject to which our RAZA and ALL indigenous people in the Western Hemisphere are familiar. European invasion and settlement spelled the doom of indigenous societies.
Amerikkka has always been a hegemony, a term which refers to dominance or undue power or influence. A hegemonic culture is one that dominates other cultures, just as a hegemonic society is one that exerts undue power over another society.(Gramsci, 1992/1965, 1995)
A classic study of the emergence of an ideology was Max Weber's analysis of the link between Protestantism and Capitalism, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1974/1904). Weber noticed that the rise of Protestantism in Europe coincided with the rise of private enterprise, banking, and other aspects of capitalism. Weber hypothesized that their religious values taught them that salvation depended not on good deeds or piety but on how they lived their entire lives and particularly on how well they adhered to the norms of their "callings" (occupations).
The most important norms in Western civilizations are taught as absolutes. The Ten Commandments for example, are absolutes: "Thou shalt not kill," "Thou shalt not steal," and so on. UNFORTUNATELY, people do not always extend those norms to members of another culture. For example, the same "explorers" who swore to bring the values of Western civilization (including the Ten Commandments) to the New World thought nothing of taking Indians' land by force. Queen Elizabeth I of England could authorize agents like Sir Walter Raleigh to seize remote "heathen and barbarous" lands without viewing this act as a violation of the strongest norms of her own society.(Jennings, 1975; Snipp, 1991) Protest by the indigenous people often resulted in violent death. But the murder of indigenous people and the theft of their land were rationalized by the notion that the indigenous people were inferior people who would ultimately benefit from European influence (the same ideology that justifies in their minds the wholesale murder of our Raza throughout the barrios of Aztlán by the police). In the ideology of the conquest and colonial rule, the Ten Commandments DID NOT APPLY (then or now).
So when you hear Trump making statements like, "Make Amerikkka Great Again!", make no mistake about it, what he is in fact saying is, "Make Amerikkka White Again!"
So in commemorating the Plan de San Diego, when asked the question, "What's this gotta do with me?" "Everything you're talking about happened a long time ago." RAZA, it has everything to do with YOU! It's time for the sleeping Giant to WAKE-UP! And say YA-BASTA! We have a rendezvous with destiny!
In this New Katun! This is OUR SIXTH SUN! As Chican@s growing up in occupied Aztlán. This is why Chican@s and Raza are discriminated against, marginalized and imprisoned at higher rates than Amerikkkans.
We must build for the Reunification and Liberation of Aztlán!!!
We have been plagued with this Amerikkkan disease LONG ENOUGH!!!
VIVA LA CAUSA VIVA LA RECONQUISTA!!!
MIM(Prisons) adds: By the time this issue of Under Lock & Key hits the cell blocks across the United $tates, August will be upon us. In addition to the 38th annual Black August, commemorating the New Afrikan prison struggle, this August we mark the beginning of a campaign to commemorate the Plan de San Diego. This Plan called for a united front of oppressed nations living on occupied Turtle Island to take up arms against the settlers and reclaim land for the oppressed. If you haven't already, write to MIM(Prisons) to get Plan de San Diego fliers to distribute. The flier calls on Chican@ comrades to study, build with others, write articles, make art and develop Chican@ consciousness inside prison.
The building of consciousness and unity this August should lead up to the 9th of September when all prisoners are encouraged to mark the United Front for Peace in Prisons Day of Peace and Solidarity. Last year, September 9 was marked with many actions across U.$. prisons to commemorate the Attica uprising. Let's build on that momentum! Keep us updated by sending in your reports on what you achieved during Black August, Commemoration the Plan de San Diego and on the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity.
by a comrade July 2017 permalink [Sorry this video was temporarily unavailable at the youtube link, we’re now hosting it on our server.]
A supporter assembled the above video, adding some visuals to an interview conducted with one of the prisoners in the MIM(Prisons) study group that put together the book Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. We hope that supporters on the outside will find this video useful in events and discussion or study groups around the book. We are encouraging the organizing of such events as part of the campaign to Commemorate the Plan de San Diego this August, initiated by Chican@ prisoners.
by a California prisoner May 2017 permalink Feliz Cinco de Mayo!
Basillo Ramos created the "Plan de San Diego" in 1915 in the State of Texas. This was a call to arms and involved a coalition of Mexicans, Blacks, First Nations and Asians to take up arms against white supremacy. These are some of our freedom fighters who came before us. They fought, sadly, the same struggle we are faced with today.
The Aztlán that so many fought and died for, and many of us have been imprisoned for, continues to glimmer on the horizon. It is the People's will to regain a foothold in our Sacred Land and break the chains that colonize our minds. It is time to rebuild the Revolutionary institutions. Raza Stand Up! Ya Basta! For we are on the quest of Aztlán!!!
Yes, let us not forget freedom fighters like Joaquin Murrieta, who sought supreme justice in California during the Gold Rush and fought the abuse of La Raza. Or David Sanchez and Carlos Montez who founded the Brown Berets in 1967. Or Corky Gonzalez and The Crusade for Justice.
It is right to study and learn from the lessons of the past, and use these lessons to continue to work united towards a common goal. In fact, we always made sure that a portion of time was set aside during all AV Brown Beret meetings for just this: to educate our membership. This was such an important factor that we had as #4 in our 10 Point Program, EDUCATION.
We must rebuild the Movimiento! And it's just as important to build unity across revolutionary organizations.
Viva La Causa
MIM(Prisons) adds: In August and September of 1915, the military operations carried out in southern Texas by units of 25 to 100 men reached their high point. Comrades in United Struggle from Within have been holding discussion over recent months to build its first commemoration of the spirit of the Plan for August 2017.
Comrades on the outside are encouraged to organize book events around Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán for August, and/or study groups to read the book leading up to August. Prisoners can write in to get copies of the Plan de San Diego flier to distribute locally, which includes a list of proposed actions from United Struggle from Within organizers.
I am a Mexican National Citizen raised in the old ways of making business. Our word was always good to our dying last breath. In prison politics and Mexican politics, the word is meaningless. (Tell that to good Tio Colosio, who paid with his life for believing someone else's word.)
Well, after 20 years in a main line or so-called active yards, I made the transition to the SNY yard. Here, I found lots of brothers (i.e. comrades), that made the transition years and even decades ago. Fortunately, I escaped the usual brainwashing that my Chicano counterparts are exposed to in the schools and ghettos. So, I called quits, and came over to the bizarre world. I found that most of my new comrades lacked any type of political consciousness. Time after time they declined my attempt to read some of my literature. It did not escape my mind that I once was like that too. It took me years to awaken to the cruel reality of my imprisonment.
Anyway, my first celly was a white male. And I discovered what I have always known in theory: We are all ignorant, poor, and damned (regardless of skin color, creed, or gang affiliation). For reasons that are not pertinent to this essay my new celly only last me less than 24 hours. Nevertheless, he left a deep impression in my consciousness. He told me that on the line his shot caller actually put a hit on him, over a $50.00 pruno debt. So he had to assume the position and allowed his beloved celly, who was a few months short to go home. And he was stabbed about three times. That is how out of control the prison gangs are.
So that the readers know: The average Mexican National prisoner doesn't belong to cartels, or street and prison gangs. Most Mexicanos are unaware of the avalanche of prison politics coming their way. Without no shame I can say that had my counselor told me about my expected role to serve at the active yard I should have checked out right there and then. It wasn't meant to be, so I was set up, by a failed rehabilitation system. I was immediately classified as a "PAISA" or "BORDER BROTHER." This STG (Security Threat Group) is under the direct order of the Sureños Prison Gang (like to be ordered to do hits and follow gang's rules).
Unbeknownst to the Mexican, all of these violent incidents will be used by the Board of Parole Hearings ("BPH"). God forbid one has a stabbing ten years ago. They literally act the part to be surprised that these kind of thing happen in prison. Even a disciplinary citation over a stolen apple will be used to say that one is a danger to the free community. These pundits actually believe that these gulags are CENTERS of top notch rehabilitation. And that one insists in misbehaving!
My new celly is an elderly Mexican. He is respectful and knows how to do time. He too called it quits when he discovered the winds of change in the air. And before things took a turn for the worst, he made the best decision in his life. He became another "SNY." The environment here is more loose. The gang trip is over. I have not seen any acts of predatory behavior towards those that are too weak to defend themselves. Then, there are those that act out as straight protective custody; they believe that the c/o is their daddy or big carnal. They are loud and wear their pants half way down their butt. Still the talking with staff can also be seen at facility "C", an active yard. They came in to the program office and spend time with them (getting cozy with the enemy i.e. the oppressor).
I found out that if I kept to myself and mind my own business I can fly undetected. This wasn't possible in an active yard, because one is expected to put in work for the prison gang. The new prison gangs at this side, they pretty much keep to themselves. And do their fighting without asking for help. Those who do not want to engage in the new gangs warfare are left alone out of the drama. I have spoken to former Sureños and Norteños (youth and elderly), and many described themselves as "Mexicanos" born on this side. Many have realized that the Mexican National is not their puppet to be used and discarded. They all agreed that becoming "SNY" is the best decision that they ever took. Their new leaders are their families, patria, and raza.
Here, former shotcallers and gang leaders are nothing. They are one more slave among the thousands. Long are gone the days of blood money, glory, cell phones, and God ego trips over life and death. As for my own transition from an enslaved active prisoner to an "SNY" it was easy. I packed my belongings without raising too much suspicion. And at school I told the officer "that I wanted out of the yard." They pressured me to tell what I knew about the big fat sapos and those that are kissing their ass. I had nothing to tell them.
Even if I knew anything I would never tell them nothing. I am too old to become a state snitch. So, not all SNY prisoners become snitches. I have been told that sometimes the officers threaten prisoners by telling them they will be sent back to the main line. But, this wasn't my case. (For your information, the officers will never do that.)
For those that I left behind, stop and think about it, for a long time. Is it really worth it to give up one's life by running a fool's errand? What they are sending you to do to someone else's son they will do to you. The masters of manipulation's lost cause is not worth it to die or kill for. Screw their orders, they are not our parents, tios, or big brothers. They are playing God with your lives and freedom.
They are bloodthirsty sociopaths with our brothers' and sisters' blood on their hands. They are the oppressor's little brother; they help the oppressor to keep us in check. Go ahead and tell them to do the killings themselves. They can't really hold you up accountable for your word; that you gave up as a little kid. You did not know anything about life when they enticed you to join the gang. They never told you that by 15 you would be dead or doing life in the gulags.
They never took you to a funeral and told you: that is you in a few years. They never took you to the gulags to visit those who are buried alive. Have they told you that an early death or lifetime in prison was your future? Odds are that you would have run away ASAP. Thus, at the age of 20, 30, or even 60 years old, one must truly awaken to the reality of our predicament and analyze the contradictions of one's slavery. So that we can shake off the old chains that bind us to a lost cause. One must evolve and think outside the box. It is the 21st Century, our families need us out there.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Lumpen organizations (LOs) in the united $tates are usually organizations of the most economically marginalized of the oppressed in this country. Elsewhere comrades have spoke about the difference between the Neo-Colonial Lumpen Organization (NLO) and the LO. The experience of the above comrade reflects the practice of the NLO. But the LOs in general have both capitalistic and collective/nationalist aspects to them. And those that embrace the collective aspect (usually in a revolutionary nationalist way), can evolve to become Political Mass Organizations (PMOs).(1) So while we struggle with comrades in LOs to move in the direction of becoming a PMO, the above story is a common one in California as SNY has come to represent one third of prisoners in recent years.(2)
This comrade also touches on the national question and national identity in Aztlán. The fact that those of Mexican descent born within U.$. borders are so likely to identify as Mexicanos speaks to the national contradiction between the Amerikan settler and the colonized territory of Aztlán. As this comrade also recognizes we refer to those born north of the U.$.-Mexico border as Chican@s. The recognition of a Chican@ nation deeply connected to, but separate from Mexico, was the outcome of the struggles of revolutionary nationalists and communists in the 1960s organizing Raza in the southwest. For those interested in this topic you should check out Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán by a MIM(Prisons) study group. This book is available to prisoners for $10, or work trade.
We're here today in interview with one of the authors of the recently released book Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. Chican@ Power is primarily authored by Chican@ revolutionaries who are locked up in California's prison system. They wrote this book as part of a study group led by the Maoist revolutionary support organization, MIM(Prisons). The comrade we're interviewing today is one of the imprisoned authors, joining us via telephone straight from the belly of the beast. The book was published in fall 2015 by Kersplebedeb publishers, and is available at leftwingbooks.net or by writing to MIM(Prisons) at PO Box 40799, San Francisco, CA 94140.
We are so glad to have this author with us today to talk about Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, so let's get to the interview.
Comrade, can you start with an overview of the contents of Chican@ Power? Is it appropriate to call it a handbook for making revolution in the United $tates a reality?
I wouldn't say - I don't think it should be used as a handbook for revolution, which might be what some people might look at it as, but more as a educational text with which Raza can begin the struggle toward confirmation from Chican@ gangbangers to Chican@ revolutionaries. And I'm well aware that maybe not everyone will become a revolutionary in the strictest sense, but at least to elevate people's consciousness so that they know that, you know, first of all that there is a Chican@ nation, that it exists, and it needs to be liberated.
Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán as a educational tool will hopefully help Chican@s to not only understand the correct political lines concerning the liberation of Atzlán but will also help them become more aware of their true national identity, which lies outside of the Amerikkkan nation.
Of course the book Chican@ Power also introduces the Chican@ masses to revolutionary science and the revolutionary traditions that were largely responsible for putting that science to use, most notably the Soviet and Chinese experiments in socialism.
The book also goes into critiquing various forms of Chican@ nationalism, which some Chican@s tend to mistake for liberatory ideologies, of cultural and narrow nationalism, that, when put into practice, actually lend themselves to supporting oppressive structures such as Amerikan imperialism.
It features a brief historical synopsis of the Chican@ nation. It also gets into some more contemporary topics such as Chican@s' participation in the democratic process in the United $tates today, as far as speaking on contemporary presidential candidates. There's also some book reviews in there covering a wide variety of aspects of, critiquing the RCP's line on the Chican@ nation and other oppressed nations. Some cultural nationalist reviews in there. Our position on where the Chican@ nation is right now and where it needs to go in the future. I would say that is the brief synopsis of what's in there.
You mentioned the transition from gangbangers to revolutionaries, that you hope this book will inspire. That's a path that you are persynally familiar with. Could you speak on your development from gangbanger to revolutionary to author?
I really began my little journey like every other Chican@ in here, you know. I was oblivious to the fact that there was even a Chican@ nation to begin with. Like most other Chican@s in here, i started off categorizing myself as a Mexican. I came to prison for anti-people activity, gangbanging. The first few years i was just kinda trying to lay low and just stay out of trouble and just — i mean if something came along on my little journey i would do it, as far as if i would be asked to do any kind of negative actions. But i think after a few years i really just became disillusioned with everything. I realized that everything that i knew or that i thought i knew as a youngster, i mean, for the most part everything was a lie.
I would say that's really where my political development probably started in a sense as far as i knew that i didn't want this no more. I knew that this kind of life wasn't leading anywhere and remembering bringing pain to my family, bringing pain to others, and i just didn't want that anymore. At a certain point i decided that, this is when the SNY yards first came into being, in the early 2000s. Even though they were around much longer than that, this is when they really started being used in the prison system in California. SNY yards stands for Sensitive Needs Yards, the modern day equivalent to California of protective custody yards. So for people that can't walk the mainline, they end up over here. Everyone just does their own thing, you don't gotta follow another man's orders, as far as another inmate. I think that was a big part of motivating me to come to this side.
Once on this side, for the first few years, i was all about just doing me. I wasn't worried about anybody. Just trying to do my time, and kinda just take it slow and easy. And i really wasn't political at all. Until i believe it was around the time of the invasion of Iraq by the Amerikan government. And i think that's around that time that's when i started being politicized. And i really just started seeing everything on TV, seeing the bombing, seeing people dying, seeing the suffering going on over there. It wasn't hard to tell why the U.$. was there. And like i said, i wasn't political, but at that point, i could at least see that.
So simultaneously, around the same time, i just happened to have a cellmate who was real real real anti-Amerikan. I wouldn't say he was a communist, i would label him as a fan of Mao, and he claimed a mantle of Mao, and he claimed to be a communist. Up to that point i had never met anyone like that.
And so through discussions on certain topics, world affairs, politics, just through watching the news, slowly but surely i kinda started opening my eyes a little bit more. At some point, he just so happened to share the Maoist Internationalist Movement ten point program. And when i first read it, i thought it was a pretty egalitarian program. And all the stuff on there looked good, you know. I remember reading it and thinking "man, why can't all governments, or all people, be on that same trip?" It seemed like pretty easy stuff to implement. So, why not? And so then i guess i kinda started asking myself, well, why not?
At that point he introduced me to, i believe he shared with me some old MIM Notes as well, this is back when MIM Notes were still being printed out. I liked everything they had to say, i agreed with everything they had to say and I ended up getting my own subscription. And around then i believe i wrote MIM, i asked em for some beginner materials on Marxism. I remember they sent me a pretty complicated book on Marx, an introduction to his philosophy. Even though i understood some of it, i didn't understand a lot of it. And i really struggled a lot with that text. And i had to read it maybe 3, 4 times over the period of a few months just to really start absorbing the essence of what Marx was speaking to.
I was doing that for a minute, i was starting to collect little so-called revolutionary books here and there. At that time, MIM wrote me and they invited me to a study group — "On Contradiction" by Mao Zedong. I kinda just went from there.
I would say the turning point was when i got hooked up with Cipactli, and i was invited to participate in the Aztlán study group. This was another first for me, as i had never met or heard anyone that called themselves a Chican@ revolutionary nationalist. Nor was i aware that there was such a thing. And basically from working with Cipactli and struggling with him, as well as with MIM(Prisons), i slowly but surely came to realize my own mission, which is that of a Chican@ national liberation struggle for self-determination in alliance with the Third World communist movement.
I wouldn't have worked on this project if i thought i'd be doing it a disservice. In other words i had to first feel comfortable you know from my own level of political development to have worked on it. Secondly, and this perhaps a more correct reason for agreeing to work on it was my realization that i was not a Mexican@, but a Chican@. Therefore, i think part of my subjective drive in working on this project came more from a desire of wanting to spread the revolutionary word throughout all Aztlán as well as the fact that only through a completion of national liberation struggles can the socialist project ever succeed. And so i thought i had the tools to contribute to the project, so it's something i really thought i needed to do, in order to just do my part to contribute to the liberation of Aztlán,
The book has been well-received by those who have gotten it, even though it's been censored at various prisons across the United $tates. To prisoners, the book is being sent for free from MIM(Prisons), with study questions, and they're coordinating a study group through the mail, between the readers and the authors. What overall impact do you think Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán and the study group will have on the Chican@ nation?
I think the book and the study group that MIM(Prisons) is doing, I think it will be the jumping off point for Chican@ lumpen in here, in many respects. I know there's probably so many Chican@ masses that subscribe to Under Lock & Key and they're probably not all too politically developed, some are. Some of them are beginning to think about some of the questions and some of the topics that we touch on in Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. I think that group is gonna help them understand what we're really speaking to in the book, which is Chican@ liberation and self-determination, and the only way to accomplish this is under a Maoist flag. I think from there we can expect to see a lot of those same people hopefully continue to study, either through MIM(Prisons) or through their own organizations, or just on their own. But i think that's really where it's gonna start, as far as the book coming out.
As far as the project goes, it's something that's been a long time coming, and that should have been done a long time ago. Thankfully MIM(Prisons) was there to fill that void, where other people were failing. I mean there's a few Chican@ organizations that claim to be revolutionary, or they're internationalists, or so-called internationalist organizations and they really just pay a lot of lip service. They believe writing an article on a certain topic and just making some kind of statement, you know, that they believe all people should be free or something, thinking that's internationalism. But i think MIM(Prisons) really showed us what internationalism is. Which is comrades reaching out to each other and helping each other and assisting each other and helping us build ourselves up. Realizing that many prisoners, even a lot of revolutionary prisoners, are still i think at something of a low level of political development, you know, just because of our own conditions, and I think MIM(Prisons) has done an excellent job of that.
So as far as the book goes, I think it's really gonna uplift Aztlán, it's gonna help educate people, it's gonna help educate the Chican@ masses behind prison walls. Because people in general, especially in prison, are just consumed with bourgeois ideology, you know? It's just all about me doing me, making money, and that's it and fuck everybody else.
There's a lot of people, at least from my experience, who read any kind of revolutionary literature, i think they read it as they read it, they're kind of studying it, they're soaking up ideas, and stuff like that. But i don't really think they take the time and really go in-depth into the text, as with the MIM(Prisons)-run study programs, where comrades have the opportunity to engage with MIM(Prisons) and with other comrades and with each other on a variety of questions, you know, concerning not only prisoners but the international communist movement as well.
You know, i was completely ignorant to a lot of this stuff until i started working with MIM(Prisons) and Cipactli. So i really just think this book is gonna mark a new level of development in Aztlán for the Chican@ masses. I would hope that in the next coming years we really begin to see a upsurge in the Chican@ masses in prisons and really, you know not just getting conscious, but actually building on that consciousness by organizing.
There's so many things that i think that could be done in here and i think as we all know, at least Chican@ prisoners, you know, the key to peace on the streets is peace in the prisons. And i think for us to have peace on the streets and for the Chican@ liberation movement to really begin organizing out there, it has to start in the prisons.
Could you speak more on that relationship, between peace building behind prison walls and peace on the streets, outside of prison?
Well, i can't speak for other nationalities, but as far as for the Chican@ lumpen, for the gangbangers out there, i think a lot of stuff that goes on the streets is controlled by what goes on in prisons. At the flip of a switch the lumpen chiefs right here, they could organize a peace treaty on the streets. I mean they've done it before. When i was out there, you know, everything stopped virtually overnight. From warring and killing and drive-bys to virtually overnight, hey, that's it, we're done, And that's the kind of power they have, and i don't see no reason why Chican@ revolutionaries can't have that same power. Especially when it's power that's gonna help the whole of Aztlán, it's gonna help all Chican@s out there. First by making peace and unity in here, it'll spill out into the streets.
I think we can expect a lot of Chican@ revolutionaries in here to begin organizing as well, and i think right now there's really just small pockets of comrades here and there. You might bump into one person here, you might bump into another person there, you might go to another yard or another prison and there's no one there, you're the only one there. And i think as time goes on we're gonna start seeing a lot more conscious people stepping up to the plate and deciding that they're done with the old ways and they're gonna begin organizing for Chican@ liberation.
It seems like your move to SNY played a big part in your political development. Could you speak more on SNY yards, their role and history?
Concerning the SNY yards, i would say these are for the most part a creation of CDC [California Department of Corrections], who have utilized certain methods of warfare such as divide and conquer tactics against Aztlán, within the prison setting. Initially i believe by both removing prison leaders from the mainline that knew how to provide stability and order to the lumpen organizations. As well as by purposely integrating certain individuals who act in a opposite manner, creating instability and disorder to a previously quote-unquote "stable" environment.
I think most people coming from a mainline end up on SNY due to prison politics. It could be something minor from maybe hanging out with different nationalities a little too much to something maybe a little bit more major as in stepping into the prison political arena and attempting to exert some kind of influence. But i also think a lot of people, and this is also something i'm starting to see more and more, is a lot of people are just coming over here just cuz they're just getting tired of all the things going on over there. I think a lot of people come over due to those main factors right there.
So i think, connected to the SNY yards i believe is also partly connected to the creation of the SHUs [Security Housing Units], because i mean before the SHUs there were no SNY yards, you know? So i think how they're connected is the fact that when CDC started taking certain leadership off of the yards, it created a power vacuum, where you had certain individuals having power struggles and things of that nature. Which, in turn, opened up the door for the SNY yards to be created, for it to be widened. Because i believe it was maybe only one or two in the past and like within the last 15 or 20 years it's becoming the majority within California prisons.
It's pretty amazing that this book was authored by a group of people together through the mail, some of them locked in isolation cells for years. Could you speak on what that whole experience was like, some challenges and interesting aspects of that process?
Well, firstly i think working on Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán was definitely a learning experience, as far as working on a book through the mail. You know it seemed like a monumental task at the time, when i was first invited to participate, but i was also very excited about it. As far as learning about the various steps it took to actually write and publish the book, it was a learning experience in that respect. But more importantly, i think the lessons i learned about were about my own subjective power and ability to reach out to the Chican@ lumpen behind prison walls.
I think it was the very fact that i'm incarcerated, which allowed me to write from the imprisoned Chican@ perspective, which is, after all, our target audience. Therefore i think the fact that i am incarcerated helps the book carry a certain level of legitimacy amongst the oppressed Chican@ prison masses. Not because of some supposed notoriety as a convict or anything like that, but because the Chican@ masses will see that me and the co-authors are writing both from a perspective very similar to their own.
I think the only real challenge was just a lack of access to a variety of research materials. Although MIM(Prisons) did an excellent job of assisting me, i can't help but think what more could I have contributed to this project if I had more access to information, you know, mainly the internet or at least just more books, just more research material. I always thought i was lacking in that regard, especially because i think i was still pretty new to the whole Chican@ national liberation movement. And so a lot of what i contributed was stuff that I learned with MIM(Prisons) and through my interactions with Cipactli. I think that was the only real challenge was a lack of more information.
Finally, what do you see as some of the main challenges to organizing the prison population?
I don't think there's too many Chican@s out there right now that are really tripping on this whole revolutionary politics or socialism or anything like that. A lot of Chican@s in here are caught up in the whole cultural nationalist thing, and they're more worried about keeping traditions alive and following our own culture and not letting our people be absorbed by new Amerikan culture.
From my experience these types of beliefs are most commonly found in the over-30 crowd in the California prison system. Most of these people have spent a majority of the sentences on mainline yards. Something that i have begun to take more note of is that these younger generations of Chican@ prisoners who have begun to enter the system seem to be more Amerikanized. And what i mean by this is that many younger generations seem to not have either the knowledge or the desire to learn about their culture, which is a oppressed nation's culture. Many Chican@s these days seem to identify first and foremost as Amerikans, who, on occasion, will even spit out certain Amerikan chauvinistic beliefs.
They also don't understand a lick of Spanish. I think this is problematic for the Chican@ nation as far as the Spanish language helps many Chican@s to identify or at least find common ground with other Raza.
Last but not least, i think today's Chican@s also seem to be more consumed by capitalistic society, that is also integral to the white Amerikan nation and culture. And what i mean by this is that younger Chican@ prisoners today seem to be more consumed by money than previous generations.
So the comparison would be that while on the mainline there's a very strong sense of unity and cultural identity amongst Chican@s, which functions in a positive way by introducing imprisoned Chican@s to various aspects of a national identity outside of Amerika. Whereas on SNY yard, this function is largely missing. However I think this is where Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán will help to fill some of the voids left by the mainline experience, by introducing or reintroducing for the very first time aspects of Chican@ culture and identity which many Chican@s may have previously been ignorant of. Therefore Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán will I think hopefully help to uplift the Chican@ nation, from a Maoist perspective.
Thank you for speaking with us today. We're so glad to have gotten the chance to do this interview and talk more about this important book. Again, the book is Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, it's written by a MIM(Prisons) study group, and is available at leftwingbooks.net. Prisoners can get the book for free by writing to MIM(Prisons) at PO Box 40799, San Francisco, CA 94140. In Struggle! ¡En Lucha!
I received my copy of the book that you sent entitled Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. I found it quite interesting because of its historical reflections, but it also produced a storm of negative thoughts to disrupt my normal tranquility and this is why. In regards to inclusion of the Agreement to End Hostilities in the Chican@ Power book, for the most part those individuals who reside on a Special Needs Yard (SNY) are not the enemy, but merely opponents with opposite points of view and I believe that to disrespect us merely because we refuse to conform to the ideology of those who believe themselves to be demigods is to go against the five principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. Because not everybody on an SNY are snitches who work for the pigs. Contrary to the propaganda that is preached not everyone has gone through the debriefing process. To be real it's only about 10% who actually had to debrief because they were validated.
I don't understand why you would choose to destroy such an educational book with the propaganda that has been professed to be against "the establishment", but has utilized the worn out but effective tactic of divide and conquer for all these years. If they have learned anything from the treatment that they've been subjected to, for all those years, I would think that they would have learned that when you've got your hands full, that the only way that you will be able to grab on to anything new, is to let go of the past.
Struggle to Unite!
All unity with no struggle is the hallmark of opportunism which leads even those claiming to fight for the oppressed to take up the mantle of oppression as they continuously gloss over contradictions within the broader movement for democratic rights. This is why we must not only unite in order to struggle, but struggle to unite, as only then will the struggle for democratic rights behind prison walls develop to the point that the old prison movement fades away and enters a new stage in its development. This will be the stage in the prison movement in which the prisoner masses finally realize that their oppression is unresolvable under the current system. This will be the stage of the prison movement in which prisoners will give up their illusions of the current system. This will be the revolutionary stage in which millions of prisoners will demand national liberation for the nations oppressed under imperialism.
As dialectical materialists, Maoists are aware that all phenomena develop within the process of stages. The prison movement is no exception. The prison movement is currently in its early, embryonic stage and not yet pregnant with revolution. The Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH) and the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective (PBSCC) are still a long way from advocating for the revolutionary nationalist stage of the prison movement. More importantly neither the objective conditions nor the subjective forces of the revolution have been sufficiently prepared for the prison movement to have entered this stage. This is not so much a judgment of the PBSCC as it is a statement of facts. However, as stated earlier, unity without struggle is the hallmark of opportunism and while we support the AEH, because we recognize and uphold the progressive nature of that document in our present stage, this should in no way mean that we won't criticize where it fails to represent the true interest of the prisoner masses. Before going into this topic further however, some background on the Chican@ Power book is needed in order to clarify any misconceptions people have have about who was behind the book project.
To be clear, Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán was a collaborative effort between revolutionary nationalists from the Chican@ nation and MIM(Prisons). It was written primarily for the imprisoned Chican@ masses in an attempt to not only educate Chican@s on our hystory, but our reality. It was an attempt to produce a comprehensive but concise work that fuses Chican@ liberation with Maoist ideology. The authors of the AEH did not take part in the production of this book. In addition, both Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán and the AEH were mutually exclusive projects carried out by two mutually exclusive groups around roughly the same period. This point is extremely important to grasp because of the scope and significance of these projects, as well as their correlation, because it speaks to the leaps in consciousness amongst both these groups. This goes to show that the revolutionary current has once again begun to surge in both the lumpen class in general and the Chican@ lumpen in particular. Both the AEH and Chican@ Power represent positive steps in the right direction.
So, while we most certainly believe that there is much room for improvement in the AEH and have said so since day one, we also believe in such a thing as United Front organizing. United Front organizing involves the unification of various groups, organizations and individuals around a common program capable of bringing together as many progressive forces in order to defeat the common, stronger enemy. The result is an alliance which, while not always easy or without difficulties, gets the job done. Therefore, what is required during this particular stage of struggle is strategic and not ideological unity. To make ideological unity a pre-requisite for U.F. organizing will undoubtedly amount to defeat after defeat for the prison movement because not everyone is at the same place politically, or of the same mind. Some people participating in the AEH are New Afrikan revolutionaries, some are for Aztlán liberation, while more are still stuck in old gang mentality; Norteño, Sureño, Blood, Crip. Some are even SNY! And while there are many things that these groups don't have in common there is still one thing that binds them together — their common oppression at the hands of a common enemy.
More to the point, our decision to take part in this United Front comes from the Maoist conception of the principal contradiction. The principal contradiction is the highest, most influential contradiction whose existence and development determines the existence and development of other contradictions. Therefore, it is imperative that all California lumpen organizations and individuals unite and uphold the correct aspects of the AEH, all the while building newer, stronger and more correct foundations based upon the revolutionary aspects of the AEH while rejecting its reactionary aspects. Doing this will ensure that the progressive nature of the document will continue to push the movement forward, lest it retrogress, stagnate and die.
The growing phenomenon of Sensitive Needs Yards in California prisons is itself a manifestation of the principal contradiction within the prison movement; and the principal contradiction is itself dialectically related to the dismantling of the old prison movement and the temporary demise of national liberation struggles within U.$. borders. Many have forgotten that it was the revolutionary impetus of groups like the Black Panther Party, the Brown Berets and many others that originally sparked the revolutionary fire within California prisons nearly 50 years ago. And just as the creation of the SNY was dialectically related to the contradictions within the old prison movement, so should the contradictions that led to the need for SNYs be resolved with the success of the new prison movement. If the new prison movement is to live up to its full potential it is essential that the prison masses learn from the mistakes of the past. This requires that the revolutionary masses behind prison walls begin organizing in opposition to the status quo, as only then will the prison movement truly become a movement of the masses and not one of individuals. This requires that the revolutionary masses begin taking the initiative in revolutionary organizing and that the leadership sponsor and provide safe avenues for the prison masses to organize. If the PBSCC is sincere in its fervor then the masses will see this and work hard for the struggle. Likewise, if the PBSCC and other prison leaders are not sincere in their fervor, then the prison masses will also see this.(1)
The present principal contradiction within the prison movement was identified by United Struggle from Within (USW) and MIM(Prisons) comrades as the parasitic/individualist versus self-sufficient/collective material interests of prisoners. Within this contradiction it is the parasitic/individualist aspect that is currently dominant, although the self-sufficient/collective material interest aspect, while currently subordinated, has been steadily gaining prominence. How this contradiction will turn out is wholly dependent on how the prison movement continues to develop. Will it continue to move forward or will it retrogress?
It is true that the AEH does not conform to the United Front for Peace in Prisons. Furthermore, if one reads this document carefully ey will note that the first point clearly states that they are only interested in bringing about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR system in a manner beneficial to all "solid" individuals, who have never been "broken" by "CDCR's torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing..." Indeed, if the PBSCC is being honest then they should acknowledge that it is the powerful lumpen chiefs who bear the brunt of the responsibility in pushing prisoners into becoming state informants in the first place, and not CDCR. [We can look to examples like the siege of Wounded Knee when the FBI and military terrorized and interrogated the whole Oglala Sioux population and no one gave up information to the pigs. - MIM(Prisons)] Admittedly enough, the principal writers who have been contributing to Under Lock & Key since this document came out should be blamed for not practicing one divides into two politics (myself included). If the writers regularly featured in Under Lock & Key and the MIM(Prison) website are supposed to be representing the proletarian pole then it's time we begin pushing the leaders of the PBSCC and their supporters in a more revolutionary direction. If the PBSCC is serious about lessening oppression behind prison walls then they should recognize that they will need the help of SNY prisoners who make up over 30% of the CDCR prison population.(2)