Hello - Saludos y Respeto to all those in the struggle, the struggle is real. I must weigh in on the events unfolding in Southern Califas. Namely the two lynchings, the first in Palmdale CA, the second in Victorville CA. What do they have in common? Answer: the Sheriff’s Department! Both racist! Both departments have a long history of working together and as a political prisoner held in CDCR these are the same two departments that joined forces to try and silence my voice and bring down the AV Brown Berets.
Both Departments have deputies that are card carrying members of the racist Minute Men, the new KKK. And having shined the spotlight on this fact earned me a life sentence for crimes I did NOT commit.
And in both cases there is no doubt in my mind there is Departmental involvement. And nothing can surprise us coming from these two historically racist departments.
In both cases these were meant to send a message to the BLM movement against police brutality going across this nation right now, and to discourage it! The evil and racist regime in Palmdale has a long history of using these tactics to silence the voice of the PEOPLE. And if they can’t kill you, they will bury you behind the wall. And this will not stop until they are made to understand the world is watching and will hold them responsible and accountable for their actions. But the racism and prejudice is systemic NOT only in the Sheriff’s Dept. but also in City Government in the Antelope Valley and Silver Valley (The Sinister Valleys) to a mind-blowing degree.
My heart goes out to the families, friends, and loved ones of these latest victims of these Evil Regimes. I spent years of my life trying to expose the racist and criminal practices of these two partners-in-crime, it has come at a great cost. My family, my freedom, not to mention all my worldly possessions but I will NOT stop until justice has been done, and the Evil has been exposed; because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the ONE. In the end the TRUTH ALWAYS comes out! We must continue to move forward and not be discouraged!
LA LUCHA SIEGE!!! VIVA LA CAUSA!!!
(Justice for Ro Alvin Harsh)
MIM(Prisons) adds: Six lynchings, 5 of them New Afrikans and one Latino, have been reported on the heels of the recent uprisings against police terrorism.
Robert Fuller, a 24-year-old, New Afrikan man hung from a tree in Palmdale, CA is under investigation
Malcolm Harsch a 38-year-old, New Afrikan man hung from a tree in Victorville, CA has been declared a suicide by police and the family
Dominique Alexander, a 27-year-old New Afrikan man hung in a Manhattan park and was ruled a suicide by the police, who later said an investigation continues
a 17-year-old New Afrikan boy was hung from a tree in Spring, TX was ruled a suicide by police
a Latino man hung in Houston, TX was also ruled a suicide after family stated he was suicidal
Otis ‘Titi’ Gulley, 31, a New Afrikan transgender woman hung in a park in Portland, Oregon was ruled a suicide by police
by Alfredo Mirandé University of Notre Dame Press, 1987, 261 pages
This book analyzes Chican@s under the U.S. criminal injustice system and exposes how the U.S. has used the kourts in order to solidify our national oppression.
This national oppression is traced from the 1800s and shows how the kourts have always been a major part of this oppression. Mirandé correctly notes how the difference between the "Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo" (which was supposed to codify Chican@s' rights to homes and lands which many held for hundreds of years) and treaties between tribal nations and Amerika is that Chican@s never acquired sovereignty as a nation.
Mirandé notes how in the 1800s when Chican@s resisted oppression they were called "bandits" whereas when the oppressor nation resisted they were called "heroes." I would add that today when Chican@s resist we are called "gang member", "prison gang member" or "street terrorist" rather than the correct word: "revolutionary."
I did learn some things, for example the Chican@ revolutionary Juan "Cheno" Cortina who rose up in Texas and occupied Brownsville actually proclaimed it the "Republic of the Rio Grande." The fact that even in the 1800s Chican@s saw the reality of a Chican@ nation is a beautiful thing.
Mirandé talks about the barrioization and how "through isolation Chicanos became almost invisible."(p. 29) Oddly even today some groups like RCP-USA continue this tradition where Chican@s are "invisible." Just take a look at their newspaper, where in the last ten years the word "Chicano" has graced their pages around two times!
Entire chapters discuss the mistreatment of Chican@s by law enforcement, and although Chican@s are targeted by the pigs, solidifying our oppression, this will not be educational nor enlightening to Chican@s who experience it first hand. Perhaps non-Chican@s will get more from reading about it, or maybe Chican@s who have not yet connected this oppression to our existence under a colonizing force will be helped to connect the dots.
There is mention of "Chicano gangs" out in the street and in U.S. prisons which I found interesting, but the best part of this book was on the Chican@ nation as an internal colony. Starting on page 219 Mirandé lists 8 tenets of internal colony theory. I thinktenet 6 is most felt by prisoners. It is as follows: "The subordination of internally colonized groups is not only economic and political but cultural as well. The dominant group seeks to render their culture dependent and to eradicate their language, thereby facilitating control of the colonized group."
The fact that in California prisons we can be validated as "prison gang members" for speaking certain Spanish words shows that prisons are a major tool in the internal colonization process.
Mirandé addresses Marxism, which relies on all the working class or "all workers against the capitalist class." Ey states that Marxists oppose the "internal-colony" thesis. While this is certainly true for pseudo-Marxists and revisionists, Maoists today in the belly of the beast see national liberation as a necessary component in liberating today's Chican@ nation. And even back in 1987, the most advanced Maoists already understood that the vast majority of workers within U.S. borders are not revolutionary. Perhaps Mirandé should check out contemporary Maoists within U.S. borders and see how it's not just possible to uphold national liberation struggles and be communist but it's necessary for today's internal semi-colonies.
Those just learning about Chican@ national oppression will learn from this book and it will be enjoyable to others in making that link of oppression between the kourts and our nation.
The Essential Stalin: Major Theoretical Writings, 1905-52 Edited with an introduction by Bruce Franklin Anchorbooks 1972 511 pages
I finally got to read this priceless gem and it lived up to all my expectations. One of the theoretical weapons in a revolutionary's arsenal should always be this book. Many of us have heard the slanderous claims from many in the "Amerikan left" that attempt to smut up comrade Stalin's legacy, and it's easy to sit back and find fault in someone and snatch rumors out of thin air while confusing many who don't know any better or do not take the time to investigate for oneself what Stalin brought to the international communist movement. This book that displays Stalin's theoretical contributions, from which many new generations of revolutionaries out in society as well as within prisons can continue to glean its political nutrients and replenish the movement today and tomorrow. It is these precious documents which we read from Stalin's own hand and in this way we learn where Stalin stood on the major issues.
In his piece "Marxism and the National Question" we learn of some of the challenges in Stalin's day with nationalism. At the same time he makes clear that Marxists of all stripes must support the self-determination of nations and this includes the right to secede. It is in this piece where Stalin defines what a nation is. Here in United $tates borders we have not only the dominant nation of Amerikkka, but also Aztlán, New Afrika, Boriqua, and several First Nations. Amerikkka, the oppressor nation, does not recognize the above stated oppressed nations on these shores and even deals with those of us who raise the banner of our respective nations by imprisoning us, murdering us and even resorting to torture in prisons to repress our growing resistance. As Stalin points out in his piece "Marxism and the National Question", repressing one's language is a form of national oppression and even after we are imprisoned in Amerika — which in itself is national oppression in today's capitalist society — our languages are repressed, many Spanish words, Mexican indigenous languages like Nahuatl, African Swahilli and other native languages are considered "gang activity" if spoken in many Amerikkkan prisons. Thus our national oppression in Amerika follows us to our grave as even in the most repressive dungeons or torture facilities our national oppression continues!
Stalin's piece "The Foundations of Leninism" defines Leninism but also exposes Trotskyism's shortcomings. As Stalin states in this piece Leninism is the "tactics and strategies of the proletarian revolution" and "the tactics and strategies of the dictatorship of the proletariat" and this is so because Lenin took Marxism and applied Marxist theory to the material world. Marx was unable to see his theories come to fruition so Lenin applied Marxism to Russia and developed more tactics that remain weapons in the arsenal of the people today. Stalin's piece highlights Lenin's contributions to the international communist movement (ICM).
The dictatorship of the proletariat is explained as the bourgeoisie being on the receiving end of suppression while the formerly exploited are now doing the suppression. The Soviets (councils) are explained as well where, like United Struggle from Within (USW), these mass organizations worked to unite different peoples in a forward motion to the path of revolution. "The Foundations of Leninism" has a great depth to it that includes many principles of Leninism among which was Lenin's stance on the national question, particularly Lenin's position on self-determination of the oppressed nations. Stalin gets to the heart of this point when he states:
"Formerly, the principle of self-determination of nations was usually misinterpreted, and not infrequently it was narrowed down to the idea of the right of nations to autonomy. Certain leaders of the second international even went so far as to turn the right to self-determination into the right to cultural autonomy, i.e., the right of oppressed nations to have their own cultural institutions, leaving all political power in the hands of the ruling nation. As a consequence, the idea of self-determination stood in danger of being transformed from an instrument for combating annexations into an instrument for justifying them."(p. 146)
This is powerful and validates what many comrades here have discovered about many "parties" in Amerikkka, who use the idea of self-determination as an instrument for promoting oppression. Groups like the crypto-Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP=U$A) have in fact used self-determination in this exact way. Indeed, if you look at RCP=U$A line, they disagree with the Chican@ nation having a right to self-determination and instead they line up with the Second International and promote the idea of Aztlán being reduced to an "autonomous" region within North America. This, as Stalin reveals, is only a slimy way of RCP-U$A attempting to use the idea of self-determination as an instrument for justifying annexation and oppression.(1)
In "Dialectical and Historical Materialism" comrade Stalin introduces us to Marx and Engels's thought on dialectics and how historical materialism is the application of dialectical materialism in order to study and thus transform society. Dialectical materialism is the process of identifying and then using contradictions to transform our concrete conditions, for example the United $tates government has us locked in these dungeons, in solitary confinement, in slave conditions in order to stifle our advancement mentally, to smother our resistance. When we are locked in these chambers it is to neutralize our ability to rebel, to think, and learn from others while teaching, and to feel the sacred bond of unity! When we turn these torture chambers into revolutionary institutes, where we study the science of revolution, and use prisons as re-education camps, where we learn real history and begin to understand our oppression, this is dialectical materialism in practice! It is using the state's tools of oppression instead to liberate our minds! This is as Stalin describes going from quantitative change into qualitative change or as Engels put it "quantity is transformed into quality."
Contradictions exist in all matter and phenomena, in the United $tates, in the world, in Amerikkka's prisons, in lumpen organizations, in people's ideology and behavior, etc., and in order to advance any matter or phenomenon one first needs to identify the contradictions. "Dialectical and Historical Materialism" teaches us this process and thus helps us advance our struggles. Lenin said dialectics is the "struggle of opposites", and this struggle must occur in order for development to take place. Mao understood this "struggle of opposites" and he said: "We are confronted by two types of social contradictions — those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people themselves. The two are totally different in their nature."(2) This struggle of opposites must take place if the people are to develop. But grasping dialectical and historical materialism is useless if at some point we don't put this understanding to practice!
There are much more documents and lessons to be learned within "The Essential Stalin", so much to be grasped and applied to today's contradictions wherever we may be.
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!
Religion is a very volatile subject for some, even in prison. Looking back on my own prison journey, some of the most heated debates with my fellow prisoners have been in regards to religion. Although the belief in the supernatural is a metaphysical practice, it is one with deep roots in the minds of the internal semi-colonies. It is for this reason that an analysis of religion and its effects is needed.
From where does religion derive?
No matter what religion, they all have one thing in common: they originate from ideas that are outside of reality. Most religions come from ancient peoples attempting to understand the material world in which they lived.
Many of the ancient religions believed that when it rained it was the Gods crying because they were angry or sad. Tornados were thought to be the wind Gods who were angry. The Mexica (Aztecs) believed the Sun would only rise if people were sacrificed, if their hearts were ripped out, and burned. Even in recent years when the earthquake in Haiti occurred religious people said it was God punishing Haitians for practicing Voodoo — another religion.
Today we know when it rains and hails, it is nature at work. Earthquakes are the movement of the Earth's crust. We know that tornados are caused by different air temperatures and humidity. We know all of this because of science, and we can now explain these events without relying on mythology or folklore.
Our scientific development as a society isn't limited to weather; we have developed our collective understanding of the world we inhabit in all realms of science. We don't know everything, but where there is an explanation based in materialism we should move past the outdated concepts offered by religions. And where we don't yet have an explanation we should look to the material world for answers rather than resorting to religious idealism. The old worn out saying that "God works in mysterious ways" is really just another way of saying someone doesn't have an answer. Ultimately the belief in religion is ignorance. But it's not a benevolent ignorance; it is at its core reactionary and goes against true liberation.
Religious Cults in U.$. Prisons
Many people held in U.$. prison kkkamps come to these dungeons extremely demoralized, abused and uncertain. It is very disorienting to be criminalized by an occupier and harmed by an entity you don't even understand. Like our ancient ancestors, many fall back to religion when they don't understand the reality of their imprisonment. Whether it is politics, national oppression or the weather, religion remains a crutch for those without answers to their mysteries.
The formation of religious groups in U.$. prisons represents a contradiction. Religious cults in prison are attempts by the oppressed to deal with their oppression, or attempts by our oppressors to explain our oppression to us in terms that also placate us. We are using religious groups to try to help ourselves, but ultimately we end up stuck in an escapist fantasy.
Among Chican@s and other Raza prisoners, Catholicism is probably the most popular religion. Many Chican@s that I have debated within prisons will defend Catholicism as a part of "our cultura." Catholics in prison do not create groups that are active outside of the chapel. At the same time one will see both those Raza who belong to lumpen organizations (LOs) and those former "gangsters" who have taken up this brainwash ideology all comfortably praying together in the chapel. The colonizer's religion has become so respected that most Chican@ LOs will be okay with its people leaving the LO to dedicate themselves to religion. But as some comrades have brought up, those same Chican@ lumpen groups would not react the same if their people left to take up revolutionary politics.
Amongst New Afrikans, Muslims are most common within prisons. Of all the religious groups in Califas prisons, the Muslims are most organized and operate much like LOs. It is in the Muslim services where one will hear a lecture on concepts like discipline, unity and dedication.
Many Muslims also connect to outside Muslim organizations and work to connect prisoners who are released to the outside Muslim community. This is something that the Catholics or Christian Chaplains/communities do not really do. So in this sense Muslims do more prison outreach.
How Religion Pacifies Prisoners
Most prison administrations are happy to promote religion and make sure Bibles are in abundance. Religious channels on the TV are rapidly approved for the prison viewers and Chaplains/Imams are welcomed to enter even the maximum security prisons and walk the tier. These religious leaders are welcome to distribute their propaganda while revolutionary publications are censored, books on national liberation are used to label one a part of a Security Threat Group, and even visits from activists are denied. This is because one ideology teaches one to get free from the oppressor and the other teaches one to simply pray that the oppressor will stop oppressing you.
Rather than teaching prisoners how to fight oppression religion teaches people to pray for forgiveness from the oppressor. It teaches that some supernatural being has a plan and if we humbly accept our oppression in life we will be rewarded in some afterlife.
Pacifism, or the belief that non-violence will solve oppression, is idealism at best. NEVER in hystory has a people obtained real liberation via religion or pacifism. Liberation has always required revolutionary theory and a strong dose of armed struggle when conditions were ripe.
Malcolm X said: "I'm for anybody who's for justice ... equality, I'm not for anybody who tells me to sit around and wait for mine ... who tells me to turn the other cheek."(2)
I'm all for peace, but not peace while living under an occupation with Amerikkka controlling Aztlán. I'm not for peace while the oppressor nation has me and my people in its prisons and sentenced under its kkkourts when they have no jurisdiction over what my nation does. I won't wait for mine. Instead I'll learn who the oppressor is, teach others to struggle against oppression and work to liberate my nation. Kneeling in the prison chapel or muttering Novena will not advance the people's liberation. Reading political theory, creating study groups, and working with other prisoners to find ways to combat oppression will.
Is opium good for the people?
Marx once said that religion is the opium of the masses. This is because religion has the same effect on the mind as heroin does. It turns people into passive putty. Like a drug, the religious become hooked on a self-destructive activity which dulls their senses to the world we live in, all the while strengthening the oppressor.
Of course there are cases where there are positive aspects to religion. There are the anti-imperialist efforts being carried out in other parts of the world by Muslims. There are Christian churches marching in the streets protesting the police murdering innocent people and against solitary confinement. And in some South and Central American countries there is a history of Liberation Theology advocates joining the revolutionary struggles. These groups rightly see that oppression suffered by mostly Brown and Black people is wrong.
In a future socialist revolution there will be many religious people who will come over to join the revolution. But this does not change the fact that religion as an ideology is an oppressive institution. Any ideology that says wimmin are not equal to men, or that does not rely on the people to liberate themselves, is incorrect. The opium is bad for the people.
There are many freedom fighters who have struggled throughout hystory in so many ways. Some used organizing, others the gun and many have used the power of words. Freedom fighters come from a variety of political ideologies and different nations, but what ties them all together is their decision to serve the people. They do this not just in their lives, but in their legacy and what they have accomplished in their lifetime.
This issue of Under Lock & Key is dedicated to freedom fighters of all types. The inspiration for this issue comes from a comrade who wrote in to suggest that everyone write an essay celebrating one freedom fighter who has influenced them. We are printing some of the responses we got in this ULK.
Who are some Freedom Fighters?
Looking at the Chican@ nation we have freedom fighters like Elizabeth "Betita" Martinez, Corky Gonzalez and other Chican@s who fought for the liberation of Aztlán. They dedicated their lives to the nation and still serve as examples to those of us who struggle today.
The New Afrikan nation has freedom fighters like Malcolm X and Angela Davis and others who have set great examples and continue to do so for the oppressed. New Afrikan struggles continue to build on past struggles.
The First Nations have freedom fighters like Leonard Peltier who struggled against Amerikkka in many ways. Peltier today sits in a prison cell because of being a freedom fighter.
Boriqua has freedom fighters like Lolita Lebron and Oscar Lopez Rivera. Lolita went to prison for struggling against Amerikkka and Oscar still sits in a U.$. prison for his work to free Puerto Rico.
All of these people come from the oppressed internal semi-colonies here within U.$. borders. They have inspired people living under U.$. imperialism for decades. But there are many other freedom fighters around the world who have made an impact on all of our consciousness regardless of their political line. People like Leila Khalid, Che, Fanon, Giap, Zapata, Pancho Villa and so many others have showed us what people's fighters look like.
Are there Imprisoned Freedom Fighters?
For many amongst the oppressed nations these colonizer's kkkamps are where freedom fighters end up. Some imprisoned freedom fighters are prisoners of war (POWs), targeted because of their anti-imperialist work on the streets. These freedom fighters will always be found in U.$. prisons because the oppressed will always struggle in so many ways against the oppressor nation. This will continue as long as U.$. imperialism exists.
Other freedom fighters gained consciousness behind the bars and have risen up to lead the movement from within. Many of the freedom fighters in U.$. prisons today can be found in control units because the state targets imprisoned activists. Freedom fighters within prisons are often those who were amidst or leading such prison rebellions as the hunger/work strikes which swept the dungeons of Califas, Georgia, Ohio, etc. in the last few years like a hurricane of collective rage. These prisoners were craving freedom!
Freedom fighters within prisons are those who do not fear the enemy oppressor nation. They do not fear speaking up for prisoners even when they are being attacked by the state. A freedom fighter is anyone who makes a decision to struggle for a better environment within prisons.
How Do Freedom Fighters Awaken the People?
When we think of freedom fighters and our connection to them many conjure up people in hystory who inspire us to rise up. I know when I began to read up on people like Zapata or Pancho Villa it compelled me to read more about the Mexican Revolution. As a Chican@ it helped instill a national consciousness in me. It helped me to understand that it is good to resist Amerikkka and that colonization is bad, not good, despite the bribes.
But there are freedom fighters in the here and now. I would say that every reader of ULK is a budding freedom fighter, and those who contribute in any way to ULK are freedom fighters. We are freedom fighters because we work to free the people.
Reading the hystory of the Mexican Revolution and the freedom fighters who made it happen put me on the road to where I am today as a Chican@ revolutionary. The first time I was handed MIM literature was in a control unit. A New Afrikan handed me a MIM Notes newspaper and after reading it I was turned up! That persyn who introduced me to MIM was a freedom fighter. This is what freedom fighters do: they work tirelessly to build more freedom fighters.
Being a freedom fighter is not doing it for a come up. The people who become freedom fighters are not getting paid to do so. This is a voluntary act, a way of serving the people, often with everything we have.
The legacy of freedom fighters lives on long after we are no longer alive. We help build consciousness while we are alive through our actions. For future generations our actions, thought and struggles will serve as study material and inspiration. Everything we do should educate the people. This means our fellow prisoners on the tier, those on the yard, and our nations at large. Our lives should help develop as many people as we can, in prison or outside of prisons. Freedom fighters should make a difference in all who come to know them, even our outside supporters.
Why the State Fears Freedom Fighters
We should understand that freedom fighters are enemies of the state. It is the freedom fighter who is trying to get FREE from the state. The oppressor nation is what is preventing us from being free, so they would naturally see us as a threat. It's why they label us "security threat groups" and other such names, because our actions and goals threaten their power.
It is important to understand that our existence with the oppressor is not compatible. As long as we are alive we will continue to experience oppression in so many horrible ways. Many will become demoralized, especially when being a freedom fighter does not put you in the majority. Freedom fighters are a small minority within U.$. prisons and U.$. borders. But this should not discourage any one of you. Truth is grasped by a nucleus, a cadre, and not by the majority at first.
When the Bolsheviks first rose up they had a little over a hundred cadre. The Chinese cadre also started out as a handful. But as Tani and Sera put it: "Only those who refuse to see revolution as it actually is, can fail to see the connection between the breakthrough of world socialism and the rebellion of a very small, oppressed nation."(1) Here it is highlighted that a small oppressed nation has the ability to affect world revolution. A minority can affect the majority. The state understands this and it is for this reason that they fear our freedom fighters.
As I was writing this article on freedom fighters I heard on the radio that Hugo "Yogi" Pinell has been killed! Yogi was a real freedom fighter. Rest in power Yogi.
I first became exposed to revolutionary theory in prison, although I had been a reader my whole life. Prison has become my classroom for revolutionary knowledge, not because the state ensures this, but because I came in contact with politically conscious prisoners who helped instill a consciousness in me. Groups like MIM helped to fuel my early cultivation through liberatory literature and I was able to engage in study groups throughout my prison journey, facility to facility and yard to yard. Study groups were the key to my own development.
It is a fact that U.S. prisons are used for social control of prisoners, who are mostly from the internal semi-colonies. Colonized people have always been subjected to brutal prison conditions but dialectical materialism teaches us that we can transform our environment, including prisons. In order to revolutionize these modern day slave kamps we need to study to revolutionize ourselves.
How Study Groups Help People
People are social beings, and as strong-minded and determined as we think we are, the truth is we learn best through interacting with our environment and especially other people. We learn best by discussion and debate. Asking questions helps us get answers, and when we are having trouble grasping a concept, studying with others allows us to learn. Teaching others also helps the teacher to learn themselves. The study group facilitates all of this.
In my own experience with study groups within U.$. prisons I have found that besides developing one's own political thought, study groups also teach one how to interact with others and what are the best ways to translate or explain our social reality to the people. We should understand that in many ways those of us who study political science and engage in study groups within prisons operate like political organizations out in society that do outreach to the masses, only our fellow prisoners are the masses.
Just as our counterparts outside prison walls constantly attempt to learn from the masses in order to better help the masses, we should do the same with our study groups. As prisoners, those of us who are conscious must revolutionize these dungeons. We have boots on the ground, and study groups within prisons should develop programs which help educate all of the prison masses, not just those involved in a study group. In this sense a study group can serve as the vanguard in their facility.
Study groups have helped me understand my oppression and the oppression of Aztlán, and through them I have become a better persyn. Understanding politics and theory has given me purpose and has helped me to help other prisoners to better their existence. In short I have not just learned about hystory, as when I study alone, but I have learned different methods of using the lessons of hystory to revolutionize the future.
How do study groups operate?
Depending on one's facility, study groups take on various formations. I have experienced many, from formal groups studying political science while on the mainline where one can meet face to face on the yard and discuss different aspects of society, to yelling through an air vent to people I couldn't see.
I was in one spot where every few days someone picked a different country and we discussed all of the uprisings in that country. People would search old magazines, books or newspapers to find anything on that country.
Another study group I participated in was in a facility that was highly restrictive with revolutionary literature. Since none of us was too politically educated we got whatever newspapers or progressive magazines we could, and we would discuss the articles, and attempt to apply them to other aspects of society.
Prison Study Groups in Maoist China
If we look to Mao's China, and specifically to the time of the Cultural Revolution, we will see that every level of society was touched by Maoism, even the prisons. When I read about prisons in Mao's China I learn why it is that Maoism is considered the highest stage that socialism has developed so far.
Though frequently badmouthed in the imperialist media for their re-education practice, these prisons focused on the political education of inmates. Most people behind bars had committed serious crimes against the people (landlords who murdered peasants, people who spied for Amerika, government officials who abused their power), and so this education helped prisoners understand how their actions affected others and why they should want to work towards a society where people do not have the power to oppress and exploit others.(1)
The study groups developed by prisoners during the Cultural Revolution involved thought reform. This means understanding why one has particular thoughts and finding ways of correcting incorrect ideas. This was reforming one's errors on levels that many of us cannot even imagine. It was a process of dialectics where prisoners would study the essence of their actions and behaviors. They would also engage in criticism-self-criticism where they would look into their own errors or the errors of others so that they all learned and evolved as a group.
The prison study groups in Maoist China did not conduct criticism-self-criticisms in order to ridicule or bully people; instead it was done to really point out the error and get the persyn to understand their error. One cannot change a behavior if one does not know or truly believe that they are committing an error in the first place. What we must understand is every prison in Mao's China had these daily study groups, which were fully supported by the people's government. In this way prisoners learned and became better people because of the study groups. They became people who went on to help build the revolution.
In contrast to Mao's China, here in U.$. prisons we are simply warehoused. We are placed in a cell where we are taught nothing, and this is done for years and decades. If we are lucky we are released and come out the same or worse than we went in. We don't learn from the state because under capitalism they don't have any use for us other than filling a cell. And when we try to form study groups we are punished and our studies are falsely labeled as gang activity or security threat activities. This is the difference between a Maoist society and a capitalist society; one heals people, the other destroys people.
All of this was part of the political line of China under Mao which put into practice the theory that people can learn from their mistakes and become productive members of society if they take study and self-criticism seriously. In Amerika's prisons today we find the oppressed rather than the oppressors, but there is still an important role for self-criticism in the anti-people actions of many lumpen. And the study of political theory is especially criticial to the oppressed as we hone our understanding of how to fight back against the oppressors.
When speaking about education Mao stressed: "Our educational policy must enable everyone who receives an education to develop morally, intellectually and physically and become a worker with both socialist consciousness and culture."(2)
Mao reminds us that education is to make us better people. In the above quote he describes education being used to help people become workers. Although we are lumpen, education can help us become lumpen with socialist consciousness and culture.
What are the difficulties?
Forming or participating in study groups is not easy. There are many obstructions we have to deal with. As most know, U.$. prisons unleash political repression in the guise of upholding their laws. They criminalize political organizing and revolutionary activity of the imprisoned captives by labeling it "gang activity" or "security threat group activity."
There were times when I would get a good group of people together and we would have a good study group going and then the prison, out of nowhere, would move people out of the building or section, scrambling the housing population and dismantling the study group. The study group is disrupted, but this only means that we need to start over.
Sometimes I would be somewhere and gather lots of notes on political articles or uprisings and I would use these for groups, only to have my cell searched and all of my notes trashed, with a guard noting "gang notes." Likewise I would acquire a good selection of revolutionary books only to be transferred to another prison and in the process all of my political books would be "lost."
Once I was in a control unit where the prison put me and a New Afrikan next to each other and everyone else in the unit was juiced up on psyche meds kicking their door all day. The prison did this to further isolate us from our nations. So we formed a study group together and discussed ULK and other books. When things get repressive we need to keep studying and educating each other, no matter how hard it is.
Study groups can also be done through the mail. MIM(prisons) facilitates some of the best study groups I have encountered. But this invites censorship and sometimes harassment from the prison staff. We have to understand that learning about our own repression and about communist theory is something the state seeks to prevent. Prisoners learning about revolutionary theory scares the state because it means we will learn and turn theory into practice, against them.
What's it all for?
We should understand that repression will happen regularly. This is why studying is so important, so that when our mail is censored we have books and literature to fuel our study groups. And when our lit and books are "lost" we can remember our lessons and teach others key concepts like dialectical and historical materialism. We can help other prisoners understand why we need a united front or how the oppressed within U.$. borders developed as nations. We will know all of this and what kind of program we will need to liberate the people because of what we learned in our study groups.
What we do today and how we spend our time in these dungeons will determine what the future of these dungeons will look like. At the same time study groups should produce theory and theory should produce practice. We are not studying to be armchair revolutionaries, we are studying in order to ultimately join the oppressed of the world in smashing imperialism.
Many Chican@s understand the concept of Aztlán in a variety of ways, some for its indigenous historical roots and others for its contemporary symbolic meaning of unity and our national territory. Either way, Aztlán draws the line of demarcation between Chican@s and our oppressor and provides an anti-imperialist thrust. To abandon Aztlán ultimately declaws Chican@s and attempts to assimilate the nation into Amerikkka which results in weakening Chican@s and strengthening our oppressor.
When it comes to the U.S. left within U.S. borders, many within the non-Raza strain work hard to attempt to lump together all Brown people, just like Amerikkka did in the days of the old "Greaser Laws" only today it is in the name of "progress." The idea is to better control Brown people and get Raza to assimilate under a mostly white left-wing leadership. These "progressives" work hard to co-opt Raza struggles and are quick to downplay the Chican@ nation and its distinct leadership. Some of them even capture the minds of Raza who unwittingly push their agenda, but real anti-imperialism understands that nationalism of the oppressed is a positive thing.
The truth is Raza have lots in common and will always have that strong bond and close collaboration. Our common histories on this continent ensure this. However the fact remains that we come from distinct nations and for Chican@s our national territory of Aztlán defines the Chican@ nation. Many different Raza have come to identify as Chican@ and thus Aztlán has continued the tradition of being inclusive of many diverse peoples. Raza have arrived from various latin@ nations and moved into Chican@ barrios and made them their home. Acknowledging the concept of Aztlán does not turn anyone away. But what denying Aztlán's existence does do is it denies the existence of the Chican@ nation because without a land base, a national territory, there is no nation. This is what many "progressives" do not explain.
Working against an oppressed nation is done in many ways. One of the more obvious ways is of course implanting the idea that their nation does not exist or that they should attempt to assimilate with Amerikkka. But another more subtle way of doing this is how those pushing the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) political line do it. They attempt to explain mass imprisonment in the United $tates as being profit-driven so that corporations can profit off of free prison labor. On the surface this sounds like a possibility. Even many well-intentioned self-described revolutionaries have bit into this and are running around promoting the PIC concept. But Raza, what this means is if this prison boom is profit-driven it alludes to there being no national oppression and thus no need for national liberation struggles.
The prison boom is about social control and it is a form of national oppression first and foremost. Profit is a secondary result. Mass imprisonment proves that national liberation struggles within U.S. borders are still very much relevant.
As Chican@s our land is occupied as you read this, so why would we ever seek to negate our existence as an oppressed nation? Can one be any more oppressed than having one's land stolen? And should we react by refusing to call our national territory by its historical name? I say no.
We are anti-imperialists because we are against land grabs and exportation of oppression. We are not stuck on just our nation, we know that we are inter-connected to the world's people and we fight oppression everywhere. At the same time we know that we can't free the world's people until we lead our own people both physically and psychologically.
Imperialism is strengthened when people refuse to liberate themselves. It is also strengthened when large swaths of oppressed people are hoodwinked into not taking the right path to free themselves. Attempting to bury the concept of Aztlán not only sets back the Chican@ movement, but it also sets back the anti-imperialist movement. Rather than attempting to smother what may be the most essential social forces in U.S. borders, real progressives need to find ways to support and help unleash them. Such actions would be real anti-imperialism.
1 June 2015 marked the third anniversary of the Brown Berets - Prison Chapter (BB-PC). This was a significant event, one that should be reviewed and put in context for what it means for Chican@s and what other oppressed people can learn from this development. Although Chican@s have been showing a rise in consciousness and political activity, we need to also reach farther and dig deeper in our efforts. The following four points are some of the contributions which this anniversary marks. All Chican@s should understand that we can accomplish much more with more participation and with more prison activism. There are four points that are important ways in which this development has progressed.
* Book project: The BB-PC was happy to participate in the newly released book Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. This is a much needed book based on today's Chican@ nation, and it was time for such a project. The BB-PC saw that there is a shortage of contemporary Chican@ revolutionary literature showing today's gente the way forward. After collaborating with MIM(Prisons) and other Chican@s who were also working to rebuild the nation, the book project was launched. This book marks a new level of consciousness for the nation and it is ground breaking. We believe that this book has signaled the next wind in the Chican@ movement.
* New Chapter: Another development in these three years was the formation of the BB-PC Colorado. The fact that Chican@s in Colorado have been able to rise above their circumstances and contribute to advancing Aztlán is a beautiful thing. When people can look outside of themselves and, despite their own oppression or repressive circumstances, stand up with the nation, it should be applauded. It is no surprise that comrades in Colorado did not waste time in getting involved in today's Chican@ movement because Colorado has always contributed strong cadre to Aztlán. In 1974 Los Seis de Boulder Colorado gave Aztlán the martyrs which fueled Aztlán at that time. But the Colorado chapter also confirms our analysis which can be found in Chican@ Power, and which explains that we suspect imprisoned Chican@s are developing politically at unprecedented rates and as this continues so will more chapters rise throughout the U.S. pintas.
* Release of Chican@s out of the control units: Another development has been in the fact that after years and decades of Chican@s and other oppressed people being held in control units we have now seen many moved back out to the general populations. We believe that this was accomplished by a multitude of actions. The hunger strikes, the heightened education/agitation behind prison walls, and the involvement in more Chican@s speaking out and creating literature and political theory to guide the prison movement, has all helped to push the prison movement for human rights forward while ensuring that the demands within prisons remain progressive and continue to revolutionize. All of these efforts were supported by the imprisoned Chican@ movement and the BB-PC participated in various ways.
* Future efforts: We see the need for more Chican@ study material and the newly released book Chican@ Power was just the first step in this regard. More material is being developed which will add to transforming the hearts and minds of captive Aztlán.
It can be said that in these short three years a contribution has been made to Aztlán. But this is an ongoing long-term project and we have only begun. Thought reform takes time, and undoing the damage that colonialism has done on our nation's minds is hard work. We are freedom-loving people who have tasted freedom through our actions, and our activism will not stop until we are all free.
The coming year will see more leaps forward as more Chican@s are let out of the control units, and as more torture is stopped. The first step in contributing to Aztlán is educating oneself and those around you. Learning Chican@ hystory and discuss how to advance the gente. Nobody will free you if you will not free yourself. We look forward to better days and a re-charged Chican@ movement.
It's a beautiful thing when I read about the struggle for social justice and liberation of the oppressed, especially when it is prisoners who are developing politically or ex-prisoners who are released and get involved in activism of various sorts. The lumpen have a hystory of rising up in struggle against injustice. We see this when reading about Attica, the San Quentin six, and the California hunger strikes, as well as in the many revolutionary groups which developed within prisons. This is great, of course, but our development, actions, and theory should be based in science.
Science keeps us grounded in reality; it helps us proceed and understand the way things are. The opposite of science would be faith, a hunch, or metaphysical concepts in general. As revolutionaries we use the scientific method to make decisions on how we interact with the world we live in. The scientific method relies on observation and experimentation with the world that we live in so that we fully understand it and thus transform it.
Science, then, is a tool which helps us make the proper decisions and enables scientific leadership, focused on truth and reality. Scientific leadership allows for one to percieve truth because one studies hystorical events which have been tested and experimented with. Learning from all of this allows scientific leadership to make real power moves which advance the people, as opposed to decisions based on idealism or lofty visions.
What Does Scientific Leadership Look Like?
How much leadership can accomplish depends on whether it is scientific leadership or not. For example, scientific leadership in a political movement must study the world's hystorical movements to see what in hystory has worked, which social experiments have been successful and which have not.
By studying movements and revolutions one would know better than to invest time and programs on Trotskyism because one would quickly see that it has yet to liberate a people anywhere in the world. Science shows that Maoism was most successful because, among other things, it teaches that even after a nation is liberated class struggle continues — even after socialist revolution. Understanding this will reveal why nations such as Vietnam flip-flopped back to capitalism after liberation; it's because the leadership were not Maoists and did not accept that class struggle continues. In short they did not have scientific leadership.
Within prisons it becomes easy to stray off the path of science because in so many ways our methods for surviving in these dungeons and the ways we cope with an unbearable existence may not be anchored in our best interests. Because we are placed in survival mode by the state the minute we are imprisoned it becomes easy to try to come up at another prisoner's expense, but this method is incorrect and parasitic.
When we study hystory we learn that people around the world did not liberate themselves and their people by preying on other similarly situated or oppressed people. They did so by struggling together for their collective interests. One cannot at the same time exploit their own people and free them. Attempting to advance one's own people in order to better exploit them amounts to bourgeois nationalism. This is not scientific leadership because it means the leadership did not learn from hystorical cases of bourgeois revolutions.
Studying revolutionary nationalism reveals what scientific leadership looked like for oppressed nations. Mao's China gave us the greatest example of this so far. But Mao used science to continuously break ground and lead the social forces out of the woods of ignorance and dead-end politics. As he put it:
"Natural science is one of man's weapons in his fight for freedom. For the purpose of attaining freedom in society, man must use social science to understand and change society and carry out social revolution. For the purpose of attaining freedom in the world of nature man must use natural science to understand, conquer and change nature and thus attain freedom from nature."(1)
As Mao explains above, people seeking to push a movement forward must harness natural science and learn from our reality. Prisoners in our microcosm must do the same. Our "freedom" within U.$. prisons does not translate to seizing state power today, but the beauty of Maoism is that we can apply these teachings to our own environment, even the prison environment. Our freedom in U.$. prisons should be freedom from torture, freedom from abuse and other forms of oppression. We should seek freedom in the realm of ideas where we can read and write without censorship. We should be free to socialize and form study groups and politically educate our fellow prisoners without fear of being brutalized by the state or stuffed in a control unit.
The scientific leadership within U.$. prisons is a minority and is most reflective in the pages of Under Lock & Key. If Maoism is the highest or most scientific ideology today, then Maoist prisoners are the scientific leadership in U.$. prisons, even if we are not yet currently "in power" within U.$. prisons.
A scientific leadership should ensure that its people are a politically educated people. To monopolize on knowledge and hoard education within a chosen few means that should these leaders get slammed down in the hole or control unit the masses become lost. This is why educating the people is something that should be constantly focused on. Building cadre is investing in a movement's future.
Can the People be Led Without Science?
Prison can be a brutal environment. In the old days it was the most brutal who rose to the top of the heap and led, although it may have been down a dead-end road. Without understanding who is oppressing you, the oppressor will not only continue to oppress you, but you'll end up focusing on those who are not oppressing you. You consequently never dig yourself out of the hole that you don't even realize you are in.
Unfortunately the people can be, and in many cases are, led by unscientific leadership. The prison rebellion in Santa Fe, New Mexico was a concrete example of what happens when leadership is not based in the scientific method. Violence and parasitism are promoted rather than steering the people toward liberation. Lumpen organizations (LOs) that are not scientific will more often than not be swayed to lumpen-on-lumpen crime. They are not looking at their social reality from political lenses and instead they will look more to immediate needs and self-gratification. This is the breeding ground for escapism and individualism. This does nothing to combat the oppressor and almost always reinforces national oppression.
Unscientific leadership is not a revolutionary leadership. It is not for the people's real interest and will never get past making a little money here and there and gaining some recognition from those in prisons and other lumpen, while never rebuilding their nation or contributing to freeing their nation.
This means that people will be led, but it will be down a path which leads nowhere productive. If anything, it is a path which helps destroy their own people. Their goals will remain in self-destructive behavior which works alongside the state in many ways. The un-scientific approach ends up being an enabler to the state and one's very own national oppression. One essentially ends up tying the knots for our oppressor which binds us, helpless and vulnerable.
So What is Scientific Leadership For?
Ultimately people are led towards a goal. Scientific leadership is communist and working toward liberating oppressed people. Prisoners within U.$. borders are mostly from the internal semi-colonies, so for us scientific leadership works toward independence from Amerikkka. All of our decisions as a scientific leadership should be with the intent of inching closer to our goal of liberating our nation(s) and obtaining complete independence.
Emancipation will take work, but prisoners can contribute in many ways. Scientific leaders within U.$. prisons should first identify their political hystory and who they are as a nation. This means guiding one's flock to also understand who they are and to become politically educated. Independent institutions need to be created, which includes revolutionary publications. Those who are already politically conscious need to be harnessed so that they can be political instructors for those who do not yet grasp their political reality. Liberation schools need to be created, and better relations with others who are similarly situated and oppressed need to be coordinated.
Outside political institutions also need to be created which help link people outside prison walls with our imprisoned struggles for justice in these concentration camps. We can still hustle in prisons, but our hustles should not oppress others and our hustles should not be for our own come up, but for building our revolutionary movement.
At the end of the day the role of the imprisoned scientific leadership is to transform prisons, to revolutionize the prisons. Our aim is freedom. We cannot shy away from the very real contradictions that exist within the lumpen population. There is a lot of work to do, but things are changing and the imprisoned lumpen are becoming more and more conscious. This is reflected in many things, from more frequent prison uprisings, more imprisoned revolutionary organizations springing up, more prison theoreticians developing ideology, and most importantly more lumpen unity behind prison walls. All of this and more points to the imprisoned lumpen acquiring more scientific leadership. Imprisoned revolutionaries should help accelerate these developments because this is what all LOs originated for in the beginning, for their people to be free from oppression behind prison walls.