Recently prisoners in California received the "new" instructional memorandum for the "pilot program for security threat group identification, prevention and management plan."
This is basically the "new" step down program that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has put together. According to the memo the term "security threat group" (STG) will "replace the terms prison gang, disruptive group, and/or street gang within the CDCR." On page 3 it states "CDCR manages the most violent and sophisticated security threat group members and associates in the nation." This is bullshit and propaganda, as we know from history the FBI once called the Black Panther Party the highest threat to the national security of Amerika, when in reality the BPP helped Black people the most in this country.
According to the memo, 3,150 people are currently validated prison gang members and associates and, as a result, are in the hole in California. Meanwhile, 850 prisoners are reviewed for validation each year in California.
According to this "new" program, STG members will, once validated, go to a Security Housing Unit (SHU). STG associates will remain in general population unless staff feel they are involved in STG behavior — which we know will be abused like the current validation process. It's the same old unfettered repression regurgitated. They can still use all the "violations" as before, even saying "hi" or "good morning" can still be used as evidence of associating with a STG. Only its now called "staff information" and is described as getting you 4 points toward STG and would be considered "STG activity" instead of the old "gang activity." So it's all about semantics here.
Section 400.2, validation procedure, on page 9 states in part that once someone is validated "CDCR staff shall track their movement, monitor their conduct, and take interdiction action, as necessary." Interdiction action is code talk for getting someone off the mainline by any means necessary — the set up! They can even still use a birthday card a prisoner gave you as "STG activity."
The step down program calls for 5 steps that we are told can lead us to general population. So-called "self help" classes must be attended, with names like "victims awareness" which point at oneself as being wrong. This is classic brainwashing that must occur if you want to go back to general population, so we were tortured for years and decades in some cases but now we are told by our torturers we must attend their brainwash camps and learn that we are responsible and guilty for bringing our torture upon ourselves. Our oppression is brought on by the state and no classes will change this reality.
We are also told in the memo that we will be given a course on the book Purpose Driven Life, which is a religious book. So the state is coupling their self-help brainwash with religion to cover up repression that the internal semi-colonies face from Amerika. What we are seeing is a re-shuffling of the same deck of cards where state officials are given way too much power over prisoners, with threadbare oversight, and a sadistic history of abuse. This of course is not a positive thing for those of us held in these dungeons, it is a continuance of a long rusted chain of oppression. The reality is we have way more power than we even know. We must remember that it was our action here in these torture chambers that forced the director of corrections and other high level officials to fly out here and beg those they call the "worst of the worst" into stopping the strike. As a result of our protests they have made superficial changes to our "privileges." Many times when dealing with the imperialists people become demoralized, whether they are dealing with imperialists at a higher level or via its many apparatuses on a lower level i.e. with the courts or prisons. But Mao put it very well when he said: "all reactionaries are paper tigers. In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality they are not so powerful. From a long-term point of view, it is not the reactionaries but the people who are really powerful."(1)
As in the case with our efforts of 2011 when thousands of prisoners across the United Snakes went on hunger strikes we found that Mao was correct that they are paper tigers. The state capitulated, but quickly devised a way to temporarily slow down our momentum via deception like lying about what changes would come. Although they stopped the strike they did not erase the reality that we saw the state as the paper tiger it really is. Like Mao said they are not so powerful and in the long term it is the people or in our case the prisoners that are really powerful. One only needs to look at the last couple of years of prisoner struggles that the new prison movement has produced, where most strikes have resulted in better conditions for prisoners across the United Snakes.
The recent changes to the state's torturing of prisoners does not change the torture that me and the other fourteen thousand plus people in California are still held. Many will continue in this way for many more years, and some for the rest of their lives. But the people will have many more victories in the years to come as prisoners begin to really grasp the oppression we face and discover different paths out of this oppression.
The author Michelle Alexander said "The 'whites only' sign may be gone, but new signs have gone up - notice placed in job applications, rental agreements, loan applications, forms for welfare benefits, school applications, and petitions for licenses, informing the general public that 'felons' are not wanted here."(2)
What Alexander leaves out is that there is also a new sign that says Brown, Black and Red people are to be swept up and tortured en masse across the United Snakes of Amerika in order to attempt to break the back of resistance in our respective nations. And now a newer sign is going up in the SHUs, saying that after we are tortured for years and decades that we will also be tortured or brainwashed into believing that our torture was our own fault. Those who refuse the brainwashing will remain in these torture chambers for years or decades more.
Once prisoners decide that not only won't we accept the torture but that we will resist until we actually see prisoners walking out of the SHU, not falling for the state's lies and pacification program, only then will we be victorious in our efforts wherever our torture chamber is in this country.
Humyn rights should be afforded to everyone, even prisoners. Some believe the state's propaganda and begin to think we deserve this treatment or it is normal. But this is unacceptable, and it's only normal in a capitalist country where those who do not contribute to the capitalist system are introduced to genocidal treatment. At some point people realize that change will only come from our own efforts and if we wait for our oppressor to bring change we will be waiting the rest of our lives.
Harry E. Vanden and Mark Becker editors and translators José Carlos Mariátegui: an Anthology (Monthly Review Press, 2011), 480 pgs, $29.95 paperback
The recent growth spurt among the various Latin@ nations here in the United $tates has begun to turn the spotlight on the various peoples and movements within these nations. Although the Chican@ nation has long resisted Amerikan occupation in various ways, the left wing of white nationalism has, until recently, pretty much neglected any acknowledgement of the Chican@ nation. Recently, with the help of an upsurge in the war on Chican@s, with the state of Arizona spearheading this war, some in the Amerikan left circles have begun to rediscover the communist theory and struggles that have been coming out of Latin America for about a hundred years. The new book José Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology adds to this budding interest in revolutionary Latin@s. This book is a compilation of Mariátegui's writings.
José Carlos Mariátegui's Life
Mariátegui was a Peruvian communist who upheld revolutionary nationalism within the context of Marxist theory, but not in a mechanical way. He developed a line based on the material conditions of Peru, and thus Latin America, as most of Latin America was feudal or semi-feudal and developing at roughly the same pace. And like Mao would later come to say, Mariátegui believed Marxist thought should be undogmatic. In fact, Mao was known to have read Mariátegui as well.
In a time when Marxists believed the peasantry to be a potential revolutionary force, before Mao proved this theory to be true, Mariátegui developed a groundbreaking theory of the role of peasants in the revolution.
Mariátegui was born in the small town of Moguera, Peru on 14 July 1894. Born in poverty and crippled as a child, Mariátegui began life in an uphill battle. Like most people in Latin America, school was a luxury Mariátegui could not afford and so he had to work with an elementary school education in order to help contribute financially to his family. At 15 he began work at La Prensa newspaper. He advanced from copy boy to writing and editing. He soon learned to make a living as a journalist while at the same time using this journalistic talent for propaganda work.
Starting as a teenager, Mariátegui began to develop socialist ideas and began writing about student rights and labor struggles. He and a friend even founded two short-lived newspapers as teenagers, one called Nuestra Epoca (Our Epoch) and La Razón (The Fault). Although at this time Mariátegui had not developed the deep Marxist theory he was later known for, it does show his early consciousness and the beginning of his revolutionary thought in his articles. So much so that in his early 20s he was sent in exile to Europe by the Peruvian government and charged by the Peruvian dictator Agusto B. Luguia as an "information agent." This reminded me of how, in the United $tates, once prisoners begin to develop and define their revolutionary thought, they too are placed in "exile" — Security Housing Units.
It was while Mariátegui was in Europe that his study and thought deepened and became socialist. His four years in Italy and France were spent amidst the different communist groups active there at the time. This was where he met many people who helped shape his growth. By the time he returned to Peru in 1923 he had developed his political line significantly.
One of the things that stands out about Mariátegui in reading his anthology is that although he had a formal education only up to 8th grade, he developed into a self-educated intellectual, but an intellectual in sync with the most oppressed, an intellectual for the people in contradiction to the bourgeois intellectuals. I thought this was similar to many prisoners who, like Mariátegui, are often without a "formal" education. I myself have never attended a high school and instead educated myself in prison as an adult, seeing the importance of education, especially in the realm of advancing my nation, as well as the international communist movement more broadly. So I found this small but significant aspect of Mariátegui really inspiring and I think other prisoners will as well.
Mariátegui was confined to a wheelchair most of his adult life due to illness. This "disability" was a hinderance to his goals of making socialist revolution in Peru, but he endured; he overcame this burden and found ways to continue onward. This too relates to the conditions of the prisoner, as many may see being in prison as a hinderance to those seeking to transform their nation, to advancing society. In a way it is, however we must find ways to continue onward despite our challenges.
Back in Peru, Mariátegui launched the theoretical journal Amauta. He then founded the biweekly periodical Labor which sought to politicize the Peruvian working class, but was shut down within a year by the Peruvian government. He also published two books in his life and published numerous articles in many Peruvian periodicals. One book, La Escena Contemporánea (The Contemporary Scene), was a collection of articles he wrote for two Peruvian magazines. These articles dealt with racism, socialism and events in Peru. While in his second book, Siete Ensayos de Interpretación (Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality), he applied a Marxist analysis to the social reality of Peru and thus Latin America.
Mariátegui's theory and quantitative development soon turned to qualitative development and practice and in 1928 he formed the Peruvian Socialist Party (PSP), which was the forerunner of the Peruvian Communist Party (PCP), which led a heroic people's war in the 1980s and 1990s. Mariátegui was the first Secretary General of the PSP, which would form a Marxist trade union and would participate in Communist International-sponsored meetings. But Mariátegui's above ground party building actions were not exclusive to 'legal organizing,' he was also involved in the Peruvian underground movement. Indeed he was a sharp thorn in the side of the Peruvian government, having organized communist cells throughout Peru. The government labeled him "subversive" and threw him in prison many times — often with no charges though each time they eventually released him. He faced political repression most of his political life; surveilled and harassed by the state.
Much of his later organizing was in opposition to the U.$.-owned copper mine at "Cerro de Pasco" where he often agitated strikes around working conditions. Mariátegui died at age thirty six due to poor health.
Mariátegui's Political Line
In Mariátegui's piece "The Land Problem," he gets at something that is essential to any struggle, which is getting to the heart of a struggle, to the kernel of contradiction. He states, in part in reference to the contradictions surrounding Peru's indigenous peoples:
"We are not content with demanding the Indian's right to education, culture, progress, love and heaven. We start by categorically demanding their rights to land."(pg 69)
This demand for land cuts to the heart of a people's right. This is what separates those seeking a "reformist approach" from those seeking a more revolutionary approach. The same lesson can be gleaned by prisoners who, in many parts of the United $tates, come to this crossroad where in any struggle for prisoners' rights those actively pushing the prison movement forward MUST choose between reforms or real revolutionary demands. In Mariátegui's case he chose the more revolutionary approach — the struggle to free the land.
This demand continues in all parts of the world in contradiction to the capitalist practices of private ownership, monopolizing the land and outright stealing of land from oppressed nations. To the people of the world it is being established that Amerika's right to colonize and oppress has expired! The iron hold of capitalist tradition has been broken in the minds of many of the oppressed and time is running out for the imperialists!
In "The Land Problem," Mariátegui describes the error that most people fell into in analyzing Peru in his time. Most mechanically attempted to apply methods used in a capitalist society to Peru's semi-feudal economy. As he describes, Peru during this time was a "gamonalism" society, which was a share cropper society where the indigenous of Peru would work the land of a large land owner in return for a portion of the harvest. But due to the abuse of the colonizers, the Incan peoples saw gamonalism as a punishment, and so methods of building the infrastructure were also seen as forms of gamonalism even though pre-colonial Incans always have collectively worked on building roads or waterways. This was once a duty, simply a part of life, but under the semi-feudal existence these projects were seen by the Incan people as more abuse brought on by gamonalism and this goes to the heart of Mariátegui's line on how Peruvians cannot mechanically apply the Marxist analysis that paved the way in Europe to Peru or Latin America for that matter, as social conditions were much different and so a Marxist analysis had to be created that was specific to Latin America.(pg 115)
Peru experienced the destruction of social forms through the colonization process. But this colonialism fertilized the birth of a nation. The development of the new economic relation breathed new life into the people's resistance. This new development was behind Peru's independence revolution with Spain, it was a natural development that can be seen worldwide. It simply validates the laws of contradiction.
Mariátegui saw the distinct concrete conditions in Latin America but he understood that the peoples victory in Latin America was but a step toward a bigger picture. He wrote:
"In this America of small revolutions, the same word, revolution, frequently lends itself to misunderstanding. We have to reclaim it rigorously and intransigently. We have to restore its strict and exact meaning. The Latin American revolution will be nothing more and nothing less than a stage, a phase of the world revolution. It will simply and clearly be a socialist revolution. Add all the adjectives you want to this word according to a particular case: 'anti-imperialist', 'agrarian', 'national-revolutionary,' socialism supposes, precedes and includes all of them."(pg 128)
And so although Mariátegui fought for and developed a line for his nation he still kept the broader movement for world revolution as his compass. This is very important for those of us of the internal semi-colonies to understand that it is not just ok but necessary for us to struggle for and develop a political line for our distinct conditions living here in the belly of the beast and under the heel of the super-parasite. But at the same time we must keep the bigger picture in mind, the world movement as a compass, and grasp that liberating our nations is only the first stage in what we are ultimately struggling for.
On nationalism Mariátegui writes:
"The nationalism of the European nations ... is reactionary and anti-socialist. But the nationalism of the colonial peoples — yes, economically colonial, although they boast of their political autonomy — has a totally different origin and impulse. In these people, nationalism is revolutionary and therefore ends in socialism."(pg 175)
Mariátegui wrote these words in 1927 so this was even before Mao wrote, "thus in wars of national liberation patriotism is applied internationalism"(1) in 1938. And just like Mao, Mariátegui believed that nationalism from the oppressed nations was revolutionary and true internationalism. But the Amerikan crypto-Trotskyites today disagree with Mao and Mariátegui on this, mainly because agreeing with them on this would undermine the white privilege enjoyed by them and their allies.
Mariátegui was in fact not just aware but correctly analyzed what was taking place around the world during this time, particularly in China. Indeed, he criticized the Chinese Kuomingtang and upheld "Chinese socialism" during this time, which was the budding movement that Mao was involved with. In a polemic on China he wrote:
"And I will be content with advising him that he direct his gaze to China where the nationalist movement of the Kuomingtang gets its most vigorous impulse from Chinese socialism."(pg 175)
It is refreshing to see Mariátegui, from the Third World and under intense state repression, was able to grasp the concrete conditions and political development taking place internationally, especially in China when he had already seen Mao's camp as the correct line even before Mao's line was victorious in liberating China.
Disagreements with Mariátegui
One problem of line is what Mariátegui calls "Inca socialism." In his analysis the ancient Incas lived in what he describes as Inca socialism. There are many things wrong with this. For one, the Incas, like the other pre-Columbian societies of what is referred to as "Latin America," such as the more widely known societies like the Aztecs and Mayans, lived in communal societies. But these societies had many facets of privilege and even caste-like systems with everything from kings, priests, priestesses, laborers and slaves. Indeed, most of these larger societies like the Aztec, Mayan and Inca's operated on tribute systems where essentially the surrounding tribes that were dominated by these larger groups basically payed rent to these groups, they were taxed or they were slaughtered. So this was in no way "socialism." Sprinkled throughout his writings Mariátegui refers to a pre-Columbian "Inca Socialism" and even declares its previous existence in the Peruvian Socialist Party's 9 point programs — which he himself drafted. Point 6 states:
"Socialism finds the same elements of a solution to the land question in the livelihoods of communities, as it does in large agricultural enterprises. In areas where the presence of the yanaconazco(2) sharecropping system or small landholdings require keeping individual management, the solution will be the exploitation of land by small farmers, while at the same time moving toward the collective management of agriculture in areas where this type of exploitation prevails. But this, like the stimulation that freely provides for the resurgence of indigenous peoples, the creative manifestation of its forces and native spirit does not mean at all a romantic and anti-historical trend of reconstructing or resurrecting Inca socialism which corresponded to historical conditions completely by passed, and which remains only as a favorable factor in a perfectly scientific production technique, that is the habits of cooperation and socialism of indigenous peasants. Socialism presupposes the technique, the science, the capitalist stage. It cannot permit any setbacks in the realization of the achievements of modern civilization but on the contrary it must methodically accelerate the incorporation of these achievements into national life."
We must be grounded in materialism and approach reality how it is, not how we wish it to be. To refer to pre-Columbian societies in Latin America as "socialist" is an ultra-left deviation and thus our line becomes contaminated along with our potential for victory. The fact that Mariátegui wrote this in his party's program reveals how much he believed this to be true, and so there was some error in his line.
Furthermore, Mariátegui attempts to weld events in Europe with events in the Americas and says in a university lecture: "A period of revolution in Europe will be a period of revolution in the Americas."(pg 297) Of course world events spark arousal in the international communist movement, but to assume or claim revolution will mirror Europe or anywhere else despite material conditions is to succumb to pragmatism.
Anyone interested in the birth of Marxism in Latin America will find this book fulfilling. It takes you from Peru's indigenous anti-colonial uprisings to an analysis of indigenous peoples in Peru, to early proletarian organizing, the Peruvian pre-party, propaganda work, the creation of the first socialist party, and the creation of workers federations. It gives a complete picture of the ideas of Mariátegui, who declared himself a Marxist-Leninist, and had he lived to see the advances of Maoism would no doubt have raised its banner in Peru as well.
Let's face it, most people coming to prison don't arrive with people's safety at the top of their priority list. Most come to prison with their homies' or comrades' safety in mind, but that is about it. Most come from an existence where, if you are not sharp-witted, treacherous or a cold hustler, you don't eat or you don't survive.
Being raised in this mind frame is not easily forgotten, so the economic hurdle is key in a prisoner's mindset. Many grew up in an environment where other nationalities are frowned upon or there are open hostilities between different nations. Then there are the mentally ill prisoners who may kick off some shit over nonsense and others follow suit. There are so many factors that make prisons unsafe that one can write a book on them rather easily. Each factor has many ways in which to approach it and combat it as well. But at the end of the day safe prisons anywhere in Amerika will only come from the hands of prisoners ourselves.
In a capitalist society prisons are not created to rehabilitate prisoners or teach us, they are designed to warehouse and neutralize us. So the first step in attempting to create safer prisons is understanding this. There is one key that unlocks the door to getting safer prisons and that key is education! I am not talking about Amerikan education, I am talking about revolutionary education. Rev Ed transforms people and betters people in all areas, including interacting with one's fellow prisoners. Take away Rev Ed and one is left with backwards thinking, reactionary behavior, abuse, set tripping, predatory behavior, religious nonsense, drug and alcohol addiction — all the tore up tradition that has self-destructed entire generations.
Ignorance of who you are will always bring out the worst in you. Knowing where one comes from, the deep tradition of resistance and legacy of struggle will always propel one in a positive path, a peaceful path, because when we learn who the real oppressor is we no longer look at another prisoner as the bad guy. Rev Ed teaches us that prisoners in general are an oppressed class and when we really grasp this there's no way can we walk around trying to pick fights with our fellow prisoners. Even the thought of this becomes absurd. Instead we are walking around trying to share revolutionary ideas and exchange revolutionary literature in our quest to revolutionize these hell holes. This must be our focus if we want to have the greatest impact that we can to make prisons safer.
I won't sugar coat it: this is hard work. When I read about shit popping off in what amounts to lumpen-on-lumpen crime I feel your pain because I been there and I still experience bullshit that clings to many of those who continue to hold on to nonsense or reactionary views. So I know how it is when violence ensues around you, especially if you have been working to educate people for a period of time.
These challenges don't change the fact that if you want a safe environment in prison you need to educate your fellow prisoners. The best way to do this is to start with yourself and your cellmate if you have one. I have always had long exchanges of ideas with a cellie. Whatever revolutionary publication I had I would read it, or my cellie would, and we would discuss what we agreed with or disagreed with. Once me and my cellmate were on the same page we would begin to educate our neighbors on either side regardless of who it was, passing publications and eventually books, and eventually involving the whole tier or pod. Many times this process would begin by just passing a publication to someone or telling one persyn to read it and pass it down the line. After a while the questions will begin. This is one way I have experienced creating more educated prisoners and thus safer conditions.
I have also found prisoners who could not read or write, and the state usually does not have material or classes for these people, so I would tell these prisoners I'll spend the time and effort to teach them to read on the condition that they must in turn teach someone else once they are able. One time I taught a prisoner to read out on the mainline and when I saw he had not found someone to tutor I went around and found someone for him. I would go to the law library when I was on the mainline and see someone trying to maneuver in the law and I'd reach out to help this persyn. These people were all different nationalities but in order to create "peaceful prisons" I have learned that you can't limit yourself to your own nation; someone has to build that bridge of relations. If I get to a yard where there is no bridge, I will fill the vacuum because someone has to.
What I have experienced in doing time (and I have spent more time of my life incarcerated than out in society) is that the majority of violence that occurs is over a business deal gone bad, either drugs or gambling debts. So if we have enough discipline to cut this out of the picture would reduce a lot of the violence. The next issue is predatory behavior which is just one persyn or group oppressing or attempting to oppress another, either because of ones nationality or what geographic location one grew up in. If you refrain from this behavior safer prisons become even more of a reality.
In California, prisoners in Pelican Bay recently issued a statement to end hostilities between all nationalities in California prisons, county jails and streets. This is unprecedented in California where lumpen-on-lumpen crime has gone on with deadly consequences for many years. This is only a step, but it is a necessary step in building any type of serious change or any transformation in each nation. The days when the state would pit prisoners on prisoners in California and use us as gladiators for their amusement are over. Prisoners have finally identified the real problem we face, i.e. the real oppressor. And if California can do this and if those in Pelican Bay SHU, who the state claims control all California "gangs," can do this then there is no reason why every prison in Amerika can't do the same and call for an end to all hostilities in all prisons, jails and streets! This is a necessary step if prisoners ever hope to create real safe zones in prisons.
We are seeing history play out in California where our future is in our own hands. If we want to have prisons where we can really rehabilitate ourselves then we must make it happen and the only way for this to happen is if we do so collectively and by ending the hostilities between all nationalities. This knocks down barricades that would otherwise slow down this process. This is not saying we don't have differences, there are many differences, but once you identify your oppressor you realize that lumpen-on-lumpen crime is not helping to reduce our oppression. It's very simple and all groups of all nationalities here in Pelican Bay SHU have agreed to this agreement. If we can do it so can you!
The real safe prisons will come when prisoners can exercise forms of people's power in these concentration camps. People's power exists when contradictions are resolved without having to rely on the state. Like the example I gave of helping my fellow prisoners to read and write or do legal work. Most prisons do not have programs for this, so rather than sit around and complain about it I started my own program on the mainline.
People's power can also be solving problems and preventing violence through mediation which does not involve the state. In Pelican Bay SHU there is the "Short Corridor Collective" which is a representative from each group Chicano, Black, white and sub groups, which seeks peaceful mutual resolutions to problems affecting prisoners. They even have come out with certain demands to the state. If Pelican Bay SHU can do it why can't other prisons across the United $tates form collectives that seek peaceful resolutions to issues affecting prisoners? The answer is they can, and they must, if real peace and progress are to be achieved within prisons.
Political education is the key. Once someone learns real history and understands the class contradictions in the United $tates, and how our oppression can actually be traced directly to capitalism, there is no way they will want to waste time on nonsense. Instead of sitting around gossiping about other poor people who are locked up and plotting on how to hurt other poor people, these educated people will instead study, educate others, form study groups, share progressive literature and books, and create independent institutions behind prison walls in order to advance the prison movement as well as the movement, for humyn rights more broadly.
The only thing I see in the way of us not having safer prisons is us not making these prisons safer!
For the past few decades California has been increasingly using control units in the form of security housing units (SHUs) as a method of control. These deprivation chambers are a major part of the state's war on the Chicano nation. Where prisons are used to enforce a slow genocide on La Raza, to disrupt the family unit and implement an internment camp by "legal" means, within prisons also lies the SHU which is equivalent to the chopping block where rebellious slaves who resisted or escaped would get limbs amputated as 1) punishment for resisting the oppressor nation, 2) preventing the slave from making future attempts, and 3) to inflict a psychological blow terrorizing the larger population to what will happen to them should they choose the same path of resistance. So too are the SHUs used in this manner on revolutionary or rebellious prisoner who resist the state, for this opposition to the state we are met with SHU which restricts our ability to resist and punishes us for our refusal to obey our oppressor thus instilling a grave warning to the prison masses of what will happen to them should they take the path of resistance. This oppression has gone on for decades and has grown to horrific proportions in recent years. Here in Pelican Bay SHU over a thousand are tortured with solitary confinement alone. The living conditions here have gone past punishment to the most vile cruelty depriving us of the most basic human rights, it is a place where sunlight is denied and health care is often used to extort incriminating information from those being tortured in this house of horrors. It is a place where prisoners have faced the most horrendous abuses like being boiled in tubs of scalding water to being stripped down in underwear and locked in an iron cage outside in the freezing raining winter morning. These stories would be unbelievable had they not been documented in court transcripts for all to see.
Chicanos are overwhelmingly the majority of those sent to SHU, it is the identification of this war on Aztlán, this silent offensive that you won't read about in the bourgeois press or see on the corporate news outlets but which we see, live and have analyzed for all to understand.
These developments led to the formation of the Chicano Prisoners Revolutionary Committee (CPRC) in late 2011 here in Pelican Bay SHU. The CPRC was created initially for the efforts taking place surrounding the hunger strikes that swept U.$. prisons in 2011. It was within this effort to analyze and lend a revolutionary perspective to the developments surrounding human rights in prisons that CPRC gave birth to the Brown Berets - prison chapter (BB-PC) on June 1, 2012.
The BB-PC was inspired by the original Brown Berets that arose in the 1960s and led the Chicano movement in harnessing the people in the barrios with their many independent institutions from free health clinics, child care, free food programs, schools, newspapers etc. We draw from this legacy of serving the people and dig deeper in the theoretical realm.
We do not answer to any other chapter nor does any other existing chapter answer to us, we are an autonomous chapter which due to the extreme repression in Amerikkka's history operates underground within U.$. prisons. Currently we are the first and only prison chapter in Amerika but we expect many more chapters to develop in many other prisons and states as Chican@s develop politically. We do not publish the names of the BB-PC cadre; our chapter resides in Pelican Bay State Prison.
The BB-PC is the Chicano cadre in U.$. prisons that works to transform these pintas and our nation from our vantage point. We are taking the concepts of community organizing and applying them to the pinta, thus these concrete conditions we experience are very different than they are for a chapter out in society and although our efforts are mostly prison based and revolve around contradictions prisoners face on a daily basis our main thrust of course lies in the Aztlán liberation movement. Our ten point program guides us in that direction and allows us to remain in active service of Chicano independence.
We welcome all imprisoned Latinos to partake in the Chicano struggle as a liberated Aztlán will be a place where all Latinos are welcome to be free from oppression.
The following is the BB-PC Ten Point Program:
We are Maoists We believe as Mao taught that class struggle continues even under socialism, as a new bourgeoisie develops as happened in the USSR after the death of Stalin in 1953 and after Mao's death in 1976. Mao advanced communism the furthest thus far in world history and it will be through a Maoist program that we liberate Aztlán.
We are an autonomous chapter We are a self governing chapter that practices democratic centralism. We understand that because of state repression we are more efficient as an autonomous chapter and that as new chapters arise in other prisons across Amerika that they too will be autonomous in each individual prison.
We want to build public opinion in prisons At this stage the only struggle in Amerika is in the realm of ideas, we seek to politicize the imprisoned Chicano nation through educating our gente on all aspects of la lucha.
We want Raza unity As the largest Raza population in Amerikan prisons the Chicano nation understands its responsibility to maintain Pan-Latino unity and to educate all Raza on the current repression we face. In the prisons within Aztlán, Raza endure institutional oppression where Raza are overwhelmingly held in SHUs and control units far more than any other of the oppressed. This offensive is meant to neutralize us physically but particularly mentally. We will stand with imprisoned Latinos and resist the oppressor nation as we have done for 500 years and support the Boricua in their march toward independence free from neocolonialism.
We stand in solidarity with all oppressed and Third World prisoners. Today's prisons are meant to dehumanize the people and break our will to resist. The internal semi-colonies that are captured and held in these concentration camps face much of the same repression from the state, we understand that to better our living conditions as prisoners it will depend on a united front of oppressed prisoners for legal battles and other effort to obtain human rights in prisons and we will cultivate this collaboration.
We are revolutionary nationalists We understand that true internationalism is only possible when each nation is fully liberated. We identify oppression in Amerika revolving around nation, class and gender which enables imperialism to uphold power and we combat these forms of oppression in our long march to national liberation.
Close the control units The SHUs and similar models are designed to unleash population regroupment on the imprisoned Chicano nation. It is well known that the most revolutionary elements of the Chicano prison population are plucked from general population prisons and sent to the SHU or other control units in an effort to isolate the revolutionary vanguard from the prison masses, this isolation is then used to torture Chicanos en masse through solitary confinement and other psychological methods for years and decades.
We understand that this is done primarily to prevent the captive Chicano revolutionaries from mobilizing our mass prison base. We see the control units in Amerika as modern day concentration camps as we are sent to those camps not for physical acts but for thought crimes, beliefs or supposed beliefs that oppose the state. We work to overturn the use of control units in every prison in Amerika.
Stop prisoner abuse. We are against oppression in all it's forms within prisons. This includes prisoners preying on prisoners, abuse from the hands of guards, patriarchy or any abuse physically or psychologically. In Amerika prisons are tools of imperialism used to inflict terror on the internal semi-colonies out in society and stifle any resistance to their war on poor people, having experienced and identified the full onslaught of this offensive we take it head on to combat all forms of abuse from the state or otherwise and this includes combatting the state propaganda and tactics of pitting prisoner against prisoner by political education so that prisoners understand who the oppressor is.
Free all political prisoners. We not only see political prisoners as those who were politically conscious out in society and came to prison for acts of the movement, we go past that in our analysis and also see SHU prisoners as overwhelmingly political prisoners who are systematically tortured for their ideas or alleged thoughts. We also see most prisoners in U.$. prisons as political prisoners because living in imperialist amerika many of the "Crimes" and criminal injustice system that we face is nothing more than national oppression that is exercised in order to uphold the capitalist relations of production and we work toward freeing the people.
We want a liberated socialist Aztlán. Our aim is communism but we understand it will take many years for this to become reality. At this stage we are working for Aztlán independence which will only occur after the defeat of imperialism. We work toward a socialist Aztlán where the peoples' needs are met; things like land, bread, education, health care and many more needs will be met and peoples' power will be exercised in order to transform not just society but prisons as well, to a more vibrant and just environment where all will have an opportunity to grasp revolution and promote production. We will transform these prisons ideologically in order to prepare the ground for these developments as we serve the people.
Occupied America: A History of Chicanos 7th Edition by Rodolfo F Acuña
A well read book in its 7th edition, "Occupied America" is a history book for the Chican@ nation. This book has been a leading text for Chican@ studies for decades. It is an in depth analysis of Chican@ history. It is also important to note that Occupied America was one of the books banned in 2012 in Arizona and has since been a hot item for the libro trafficantes (book traffickers) who have been defying Arizona and smuggling this book back into Arizona and into the hands of Chican@ youth.
It's clear uncut content about Amerika's treatment of Chican@s along with accurate history of Chican@s rising up in resistance has Amerika scrambling to censor this work.
Occupied America was first published in 1972, emerging from a peak in national liberation struggles in the United $tates. In 1981 the second edition was released and Acuña wrote in the preface:
The first edition of Occupied America followed the current of the times, adopting the internal colonial model that was popular during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The works of Frantz Fanon greatly influenced the tone and direction of the book. Since then, just like the Chicano movement itself, I have undergone dramatic changes. I have reevaluated the internal colonial model and set it aside as a useful paradigm relevant to the nineteenth century but not to the twentieth. ...I decided to return to the basics and collect historical data.
This quote would lead us to believe that we would have more unity with the political line put forth in the first edition. Though more recent editions will have more updated information, and would likely be more valuable references for that reason. It seems that the changes between editions 2 through 7 are mostly in factual content, with an attempt to avoid polemics.
So what gets the white supremacists so disturbed about Occupied America? I chose to find out and decided to read it again.
Acuña starts the 7th edition of his book in the pre-Columbian times when civilization first started on this continent going back 50,000 years. One learns of the Aztecs, Olmecs, Zapotecs, Mayans, Incas and other natives. This naturally leads to the European invaders and the beginnings of the forging of the Mexican and then the Chican@ nation.
With the Spanish occupation and genocide that soon followed their arrival in North America, Acuña takes you through the social relations of the natives at the hands of the church.
The quest for more gold and silver and thus the mines soon led to a decimation of the native population and with this process came the resistance. But there was development as well in the economic arena. In the states that comprised "northern New Spain" at the time, like California, the Spaniards had Mestizos and natives working and so these oppressed peoples were, as Acuña explains on pg 33, the "vaqueros, soap makers, tanners, shoemakers, carpenters, blacksmiths, bakers, cooks, servants, pages, fishermen, farmers as well as a host of other occupations."
And so on the one hand the people were worked sometimes to death but on the other hand they developed economically across the region, which is a precursor to nationhood.
Acuña takes us into the Mexican revolution of 1810 when Mexico won its independence from Spain which was a great event but didn't bring socialism to Mexican@s and so the exploitation would soon return. Acuña explains the theft of Texas which was spearheaded by the white supremacist Stephen Austin starting in the 1820s. This is where the 2nd edition of the book opens up, leaving out the history above.
The myth of the Alamo is cleared up by Acuña on pg 41 where he states: "Probably the most widely circulated story was that of the last stand of the aging Davy Crocket, who fell 'fighting like a tiger' killing Mexicans with his bare hands. The truth: seven of the defenders surrendered, and Crockett was among them. The Mexican force executed them, and, one man, Louis Rose, escaped."
This book explains the myth of the oppressor nation propaganda that consumes the "history books" we read in public schools.
The U.$. war on Mexico of 1848 is explained very well and one sees the birth of the Chican@ nation in these pages. Along with this birth the layers of state propaganda are peeled back and Acuña highlights the resistance in the Chican@ nation, people like Juan "Cheno" Cantina, Francisco "Chico" Barela and Gregorio Cortez are discussed and one sees how they rose up in militias as revolutionary groups to fight yankee imperialism.
Groups like Las Gorras Blancas (the white caps) came together to defend the people with arms from white supremacy and oppression. In Occupied America we read of the early Chican@ proletariat and the militant Chican@-Mexican@ labor struggles. The 'Plan of San Diego' is discussed which was the basis of a revolutionary group that fought the U.$. government in Texas around 1915 with the goal of establishing an independent Chican@ nation, Black nation and First Nations upon victory.
We also learn of how the Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo was signed and Amerika stole what is now called the "Southwest." We learn that "the depression" for Amerika was normal program for Chican@-Mexican@s. Our conditions did not change and when the "New Deal" came post-depression and Amerikans were put to work on public work projects, because Chican@-Mexican@s were not allowed to participate in the "New Deal." At the time of the New Deal, the Communist International was criticizing social democracy in Europe as social fascism for appealing to the labor aristocracy interests in line with the rising fascist powers. In North America the fascist forces were not well developed, but social democracy still served to benefit the labor aristocracy to the exclusion of the oppressed nations.
The book explains the 1960s and the eruption of a new generation of Chican@s that brought the Chican@ movement on the scene. All the Chican@ groups are discussed: Masa, Mecha, Brown Berets, Black Berets, Mayo, Umas, Alianza, Crusade for Justice and many more. These fiery groups along with the many Chican@ publications that are mentioned show the times of this period and the heightened political consciousness in Aztlan.
The "teatro campesino," plays and improvised theater by and for farmworkers out in the fields, showed that Chican@-Mexican@s taking on agribusiness added to the times and Chican@ culture.
Although he provides tons of data and information on the entire history of Chican@s, the colonization process, the early development of Chican@s as a nation, and Chican@s resistance, where Acuña falls short is in this book is in failing to point out a correct path forward on how Chican@s should liberate ourselves. Oddly he only provides a short paragraph on communism and only to discuss how the state blamed communists for Chican@ activism. And so Acuña leads Chican@s to the edge of the cliff but does not tell the people how to proceed and what will liberate us.
Aztlan will only be liberated in a socialist society, when socialist revolution arrives we will finally taste freedoms. Any struggles short of this will only lead to a bourgeois revolution and a continuation of oppression, only under a new management, as happened to Mexico after the Mexican revolution.
Learning one's history is a necessary step towards liberation but once we are conscious we must then grasp how to move forward and Occupied America leaves this most important element out of the book.
Occupied America has been required reading in Chicano studies college courses in many schools across the United $tates for many decades and will continue in most schools for some time, it has a wealth of information that will continue to awaken and educate Chican@ youth and as a Chican@ historian Acuña has helped the nation in learning our history. Anyone else who wants to learn about the development of Chican@s will also enjoy this book. It is clear why the oppressor nation is so scared of this book - because it's truth!
On September 4, 2012 the Democratic convention was held, almost every TV channel was broadcasting this. Like the Republican convention, the Democrats had speakers come out to make a short speech on why you should vote for their candidate. These conventions are a classic 'good cop, bad cop' game meant to hoodwink the oppressed.
This year's democratic keynote speaker at the convention was Julian Castro the mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Castro is running for congress and is seen as an up and coming Democrat. Although he merely adds to the rest of the numerous defenders of imperialism, what is different and thus dangerous about someone like Castro is that he is a Chicano bourgeois politician who is now being propped up to fool the Brown masses, just as Obama was used against the Black masses.
Castro's background is similar to many Chicanos today. His grandmother migrated to the United $tates in the first wave of migration after the Mexican Revolution in 1920. His mother was born in Texas and was actively a part of the Chicano movement of the 60s and 70s. As a first generation college student she joined the Raza Unida Party (RUP) and became one of its leaders.
La Raza Unida Party came about from the leadership of Crusade for Justice another Chicano organization of that time. It was in 1970 that Corky Gonzalez announced the formation of RUP. The Crusade for Justice was actively leading many Chicano struggles of this time period. At one point as Acuña described, "The Crusade for Justice leadership also wanted to form the 'Congress de Aztlan', which would build a Chicano nation."(1) The RUP meant to uplift the Raza's consciousness, take community control of social services in the Barrios, taking control of schools and development (building homes, parks, etc.) which all seems cool and "progressive." But without completely breaking with the oppressors politics these efforts were simply spinning wheels, like trying to ride a bike with no chain; you can turn the pedals all you want but the bike stays in the same spot.
The RUP had a left wing and a right wing, like all phenomenon there were internal contradictions that pulled this group in different directions, and without a clear path for liberation RUP was doomed from the beginning. The biggest error in RUP's program was in attempting to work within the framework of Amerikan bourgeois politics. RUP naively thought Amerika would stand by and allow a historically oppressed people, an internal semi-colony, to build a political party in the barrios, even though it attempted to do so within Amerika's political system. The state would not allow this, as organizing the oppressed for any progressive political activity poses a real potential threat. Once organized and educated this force can easily make a leap from working within the current system to working against the system. This is why people like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were assassinated even though they were not calling for socialism and pretty much worked within the confines of the Amerikan laws. They still had influence and the potential was too much, the threat assessment told the state what must be done.
RUP was heavily surveilled by the CIA (1) and so all the Cointelpro tactics were used to destroy this party. And ultimately RUP suffered from believing Chicanos could be liberated via Amerika's bourgeois politics or through reforms. The fault also lies in those more revolutionary elements within RUP for not steering RUP on a more revolutionary approach that sought the liberation of the Chicano nation by building for a socialist revolution on these shores.
So this is where Julian Castro comes from and thus this bourgeois nationalism is what shaped his ideas and lead him down the road to Brown capitalism or outright defender of imperialism. His assimilationist stance shined forth in his speech with statements like "[we need to] do our part as one community, as one United States of Amerika." This is typical language of a comprador who's job is to bring the other oppressed into the fold of the oppressor. His/her job is always to quell or smother the burning embers of resistance in a people and keep things as they are. The slave of old who lived in the massa's house would go out to the slave shacks and talk about how good the massa is, how good the slaves got it, maybe even given them a piece of bacon or the good meat with a promise for more so long as they hang on and be content or say some prayers. This is the approach Castro took in his speech, his focus - like the rest of the Democrats was on the "middle class," and at one point his petit bourgeois colors intensified as he yelled: "The middle class the engine of our economic growth!" The Brown bourgeoisie must have soiled themselves with excitement at hearing this parasite babble on.
Castro's interests are stripped of the more progressive aspects of 1970s political line of his mother, Rosie Castro, which he branded as outdated in an interview on Pacifica Radio. As misguided as the RUP may have been in their approach, they never spoke of leaving Raza behind, nor were they reduced to telling Raza to 'Pull themselves up by the bootstraps.' Rather they sought to include even the poorest Raza living in shacks and fought to better their conditions while Julian Castro has aligned with imperialism as he stated: "we know in our free market economy some people will prosper more than others." The idea that in a society there will be the haves and the have nots is not something we can accept. But Castro sends the message to the ruling class that he is okay with this and thus is not intending to threaten or challenge this status quo. This buys his seat in the imperialist shuttle of Amerikan politics.
The use of Julian Castro is just the latest attempt to get Chicanos and other Raza to become part of Amerika. But many Raza still remember the oppression we have faced, it is still too much for many to side with the enemy. According to the 2010 U.S. Census about 2.3 million businesses are owned by Latinos. Yet when it comes to voting in bourgeois elections only 60 percent of adult Latino citizens vote compared to 70 percent of Black adults who vote and 74 percent of whites who vote. At the same time approximately 500,000 Latino youth will turn 18 every year for the next 20 years. So I believe Julian Castro is the tip of the iceberg where Amerika will begin courting Latinos much more than they ever have in history, and not just any Latinos but preferably those with family history of activism as Julian Castro and his mother in an attempt to paint these parasites as "legitimate" in the eyes of the Chicano nation. But these Brown faces in high places will never be legitimate so long as they support the super parasites. Those who we see as legitimate are those working to liberate our nation, those working to neutralize the super parasite.
We see Amerika's open repression reaching fascist proportions in Aztlán, especially in prisons and on the "border." Most recently we saw along the Texas/Mexico "border" the U.$. instillation of a "mini navy" (4) where speed boats with high powered weapons are guarding the Rio Bravo and have recently baptized these new boats in Mexicano blood when they shot and killed a Mexican citizen on the Mexican side who was barbecuing in a picnic area with his family right on the river. Footage on the Amerikan corporate media this week shows families and children as the border patrol speeds off while cries erupt in this park. This open war on Raza comes without a peep from bourgeois politicians like Julian Castro, who, rather than condemn this repression in his speech, instead declares "Amerika will prevail" in his speech to massa.
We must also learn from the lessons of the past. We are not free to create our own political parties that struggle for our nations, look at what happened to the RUP and Panthers and others. In Amerika although parties of the internal semi-colonies are not publicly banned, they are certainly banned behind closed doors in Langly, in Washington DC, and their other hideaways. We know this is true when we learn about Cointelpro and other operations to infiltrate and disrupt peoples parties or groups. And so we refuse to be fed snake oil from the imperialists or their allies and hasten the day when Aztlán and the other internal semi-colonies can be liberated from attacks by Amerika!
Recently, prisoners have begun to rediscover their voice and power power in some of the most vile dungeons in Amerika. On May 22, 2012, the latest development has come from Red Onion State Prion in Virginia where prisoners rose up and defied the oppressor. This refusal to be passive in the face of brutality seems to occur more and more often these days. Red Onion shares the same oppression as Pelican Bay SHU prisoners and others across Amerika who face many of the same forms of abuse, cruelty and neglect.
There are over 90 thousand people in Amerika being held in solitary or segregation of some sort. Most of these 90 thousand are Latino or Black, making this mass imprisonment also a manifestation of national oppression.(1) But national oppression is also tied to the economic relations as today's developments with the world economies and social unrest point to the exhaustion of capitalism. This exhaustion coupled with the changing demographic where more than half of all babies born in the U.$. are non-white(2) is unleashing a mass imprisonment of Latinos and New Afrikans in unprecedented numbers. These are basically internment camps for the internal semi-colonies.
This rise in oppression is not simply in imprisonment; there has also been an economic offensive to go with it. Indeed, states comprising Aztlán and New Afrika have seen a more than 20% rise in poverty between 2007 and 2010.(3) We should see that it's not simply a case of a couple crooked cops, or some faulty prison administrators that cause us to be held in miserable conditions. It is much bigger and much deeper than that. What we experience is a long legacy of oppression unleashed on the people since the first settler stepped foot on this continent. This legacy can now be traced up to the highest levels of the ruling class, and sometimes reveals itself. But for the most part, the oppression we face is drenched in secrecy and washed in legalese to the point that laymen cannot grasp it even when experiencing it directly.
At the same time many prisoners are beginning to break through the shell of settler propaganda to see our oppression for what it is. We can see that when corporate media says prisoners are "gang members" they are simply attempting to cover up our brutal treatment. When it reports on a "riot" it is really an uprising. But prisoners, whether in California, Virginia or even the secret prisons, are all being oppressed with the same intent by the state: to break our resistance! This was revealed most recently on a news program where a self-described CIA operative Jorge Rodriguez described torturing suspected-Al Qaeda prisoners. It was in this interview where he described psychological torture inflicted to "instill a sense of hopelessness."(4)
Such was the intent of the solitary confinement: leaving prisoners naked, physical abuse, and the use of what he called "dietary manipulation," which is starving a prisoner with skimpy trays or rotten uncooked food — sound familiar? This was all done intentionally to instill this sense of hopelessness in order to force the prisoner to cooperate with the state. These methods are not materialized spontaneously but are designed from years of study in military and intelligence schools for psy-warfare. What we are experiencing in Amerika's superman prisons is a long legacy that is drenched in blood. Yet we are not victims, but survivors of capitalism. Our survival baffles the oppressor who cannot grasp that the people don't need profit to propel us, to motivate us on our path to freedom. Our drive is mysterious to the oppressor whose only action is brought on by profit.
Prisons will continue to have uprisings as more and more are now conscious and aware that things don't have to be the way they are, and torture does not have to be tolerated. Marx summed it up when he said "mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely it will always be found that the task itself only arises when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation. At the same time the productive forces developing in the womb of bourgeois society create the material conditions for the solution of that antagonism."(5) What this is basically saying is once the productive forces develop to a point, they will naturally enter the next stage in social evolution. I think prisoners are at the stage in social evolution across Amerika and this is reflected in the uprisings we are seeing develop as never before.
The folks in Red Onion are a link in a long chain that reaches from concentration camp to concentration camp and the Brown Berets - Prison Chapter stands in solidarity with them in our common march towards human rights!
A clenched fist goes up for the New Afrikan youth Trayvon Martin who was murdered in Sanford, Florida on February 26 2012.
Here we are in this endless cycle of genocide inflicted on the internal semi-colonies. Hunting season is never over in Amerika; it is merely covered up with different words to describe it. But those of us in prisons across Amerikkka understand what is taking place.
It has taken almost two full months for the arrest of George Zimmerman to be finally carried out. That's sad, when a Black 17-year-old is executed in cold blood and the killer is allowed to roam free, but we are arrested for reckless driving and given a life sentence. U.$. soldiers slaughter villages, cut off ears, take photos of themselves urinating on the bodies, without being charged; and when they are charged they walk free. Migrants are shot and killed by white supremacist militia groups, and not only does the corporate media not report it, but bills are currently being pushed through that call for militia groups to formally work in concert with border patrol.
The truth is the state operates in a way that allows many loopholes and leeway for white supremacists to survive and continue their terror. This is seen in the treatment these groups are given from Amerika. If you look closely at this phenomenon it shows us what kind of a rotten system we really live under. The problem is we have been born and raised in this imbalanced existence so we now believe many things are "normal" or "okay" when in fact they are very wrong.
Case in point: the existence of white supremacist militia groups. If we were to have a handful of Chicanos with guns in any house we would be labeled "gang members" and the SWAT team would come in and crush our existence. If a handful of New Afrikans were at a house with guns and a flagpole flying their banner, they would be labeled terrorists and crushed. Yet there are entire compounds of white supremacists with guns and websites proclaiming their objectives, and for the most part Amerika leaves them untouched. Why is this? Well because these neo-Nazi or other white supremacists actually complement the imperialists' agenda here in Amerika in many ways.
In one way they help to keep the mass attention off the state itself, but they also make room for the state to step in and appear as some savior. As in the Trayvon Martin murder, they allow this vigilante psychotic maggot to run amok, allowing the people's anger to boil, and then step in to arrest him. This way many will think "they did the right thing" or "the law works."
These tired old bait-and-switch tactics don't fool nobody. We know Amerika is Zimmerman! Zimmerman is only a physical manifestation of imperialism. Imperialism, like Zimmerman, travels the world stalking Third World nations and then attacking the oppressed nation, latching on and sucking the blood, the resources, leaving a lifeless corpse in its place. They can call Amerika a "colorblind" society; they can allow the public to be "intermingled"; they can nominate Obama as president; but any way you slice it there is no justice to be found here for Brown or Black folks. Our justice will only come from our own hands through struggle.
Racism is generally understood by revolutionaries first and foremost as an outgrowth of the ruling class, which nurtures these white supremacists into fascist foot soldiers. They are imperialism's reserve army and are intertwined with the state apparatus. They have a mutual interest in keeping things "the way they are."
The most we've gotten out of Obama concerning this modern day lynching was him saying "if I had a son he would look like Trayvon." Really? He couldn't even make a speech denouncing the attack on Black people, the problem of white supremacy, or the new caste-like system that encourages these modern day lynchings lest he offend the oppressor nation. But saying nothing at all would offend the Black nation. His "middle ground" was "if I had a son he would look like Trayvon."
These bourgeois politicians serve the ruling class, they serve capital, they serve Wall Street. Our justice may not come tomorrow but it will surely come, and until then let us prepare the people for the cold reality in Amerika.
The recent assault raining down on Brown people in the state of Arizona smacks of the rise of the Third Reich in Nazi Germany when Hitler's Brown shirts began burning books that may have contradicted fascist ideology. This was not a phenomenon exclusive to Germany, rather the occupier always attacks an oppressed nation's culture, history and language in order to sap a people's ability to struggle.
What better way to prevent a people from wanting to struggle than to take away their history of struggle and oppression and brainwash them with the oppressor's views and version of history. An act that was outright "land theft" quickly becomes "an honest purchase" or "genocidal acts" become an almost spiritual or supernatural concept called "manifest destiny." In this way ideas are shaped and a people are pacified.
The state of Arizona has dismantled Chicano studies which was obtained in the first place by courageous struggle. Most remember the 1990s when UCLA finally obtained their Chicano studies courses via a hunger strike in 1993. Many schools had to protest and struggle to be able to learn about our history. For too long we have been told a version of history from the oppressor nation's view, twisting real history in an attempt to brainwash our youth. This is a serious attack on the Chicano nation and this comes at a time when an increase in repression is unleashed on migrants by ICE and other government agencies. This is no coincidence when it is viewed with the criminalization of Raza and the southwest states' use of control units to capture Chicanos at a higher rate than any other nationality. Even those "law abiding" youth who are doing nothing wrong but attending Amerikan schools thinking that if they commit no crime and get an "education" they will have a good life are facing attacks from the imperialists — preying on the most vulnerable — our youth!
The banning of books was thought to have been a thing of the past, a fascist way of controlling a people's thoughts and yet we are experiencing it in 2012. The book Occupied America: A history of Chicanos by Dr. Rodolfo F. Acuna was recently one of the books banned in Arizona. This book along with others was boxed up in classrooms in front of Chicano students, as if their history is bad, as if Chicanos are bad, a forbidden people. It has been reported that when this occurred some Chicano youth were crying in class not understanding or comprehending the vile white supremacist monster they are up against living as an internal semi-colony in the United $tates.
Occupied America is a book that has been required reading in Chicano studies courses all over the United $tates for decades! It is a book of the history of the Chicanos and uncovers U.$. imperialism's treatment and oppression of our nation. It does not promote violence or speak of revenge or retribution, this book merely tells the story of imperialism's activity on this continent over the centuries. But as the Chicano scholar Dr. Carlos Muñoz recently put it in regards to the banning of these books and studies "They are afraid of the truth. You know, the truth hurts." I think that's a real simple way to put it the truth does hurt these parasites, their vileness hurts to know or to be reminded of how they treated human beings.
This recent attack is going to backfire on the oppressor nation. Due to this and all the other attacks on the Chicano nation it is going to spark an arousal in Aztlan, a second wind in the Chicano movement is going to kick in where the youth who have since the 60s begun to get lax and not appreciate the sacrifices that went into allowing us to gain things like Chicano studies, all this taking things for granted is now coming to an end and Raza are awakening and our youth are once more being politicized and our barrios are once more being revolutionized. Chicano revolutionaries are organizing and developing new ideology, even prisons are seeing Chican@s becoming conscious and revolutionary and we will use the experience of the Chicano movement of decades past to make a leap in our struggles and push our nation farther than previous efforts. More youth are wanting answers of why they are suffering state oppression and jumping into the mix, many want to know why Occupied America is banned and going out and purchasing the book to see what all the fuss is about if they have not already read it, I myself am going to order it to share with others and all Raza should do the same and purchase this book to learn why the state is targeting this book and to support our Chicano historians who stand in the line of fire by imperialism and its apparatus. Purchase it before it is banned even for purchase!
When we see these developments occur to our gente we should understand that the 2010 U.$. census shows the dramatic growth in the Raza population, when all other folks are decreasing in population Raza are increasing. Raza will soon be the majority and I have written about this before, this "majority" in population that we will be in the future is not being taken lightly by the state, they have think tanks who sit around thinking of ways to stifle and assimilate Raza and how to break the Chicano nation's back via our youth. We must see the seriousness in the banning of Chicano books, this is a low intensity war on the Chicano nation, they are using deportations, prisons, three strikes laws and now schools to force their program onto our nation and so we need to educate Raza in the barrios and the pintas before it is too late.
When the Spaniards came to the valley of Mexico they burned the Mexica's books (codices) and destroyed their written history or most of it along with other traces of their legacy and filled the void with what they wanted future generations to know and when we read what they have written we do not read of genocide and rape because they conveniently left that out. All oppressors have used this tactic of re-writing history. Do not stand by and allow Chicano book burning to occur in 2012. Let us make our voice heard in Arizona and support Raza in that repressive atmosphere who are up against the same world oppressor we are! This madness in Arizona will not be solved by changing Arizona because it is U.$. imperialism which unleashes these fascist laws on our nation so it is with imperialism where the problem lies and so long as imperialism exists book banning will exist, today it is the Chicano nation being attacked via its history books and tomorrow the Black nation's history books will be banned in schools and then others as well so let us stand in solidarity against this coming fascist storm and prepare the people wherever you may be!
The recent article in ULK23 titled Hunger strike strategy: tactical retreat or advance? raised some good ideas on how to move forward in the struggle for human rights in Amerikan prisons. We need to propose ideas and theory on the situation with the strike movement now more than ever. We need to develop a clear path on how to better strengthen our efforts. This development needs not just California prisoner's attention but all prisoners across the United $tates to lend their voice to this debate no matter where their cage is at as oppression can be found in every gulag from sea to shining sea.
When prisoners participate in this discussion, many are able to take from this debate, learn and hopefully add to it in a real way. Some may use the ideas for their own battles or modify other ideas to work in their efforts. In this way ULK will serve as a message board or chat room for the captive masses. All this is of course good and healthy for any movement to grow, and I look forward to read up on new theory and add to the mix as well. It is expanding on thought for all and a "win win" for the people.
One of the things that came out of the article "Tactical Retreat or Advance" was calling on certain people or LOs to provoke their participation. Had ULK been a strictly internal document that only prisoners read then I would think 'yea right on.' The problem is that ULKs are read and heavily scrutinized by prison officials and law enforcement agencies, thus what may mean to be simple criticism becomes a serious breach. In California prisons - and I suspect it is the same everywhere - if prison officials find letters, prison kites, etc., with prisoners names and affiliations this can be used as "confidential information," "proving" what they will call gang association. This will go into one's file to be used as a point toward validation. By naming aliases along with the name of a LO, all investigators need to do is punch in the alias and the database will list those suspected of affiliating with a certain LO and connect the dots. So listing names and LOs of people other than oneself is feeding intel to law enforcement which will be used to later put people in SHUs for decades or life. To name names and LOs is harmful being that ULKs go through kops hands before reaching prisoners. We should find ways to criticize our fellow prisoners while protecting their identity, it's not hard to do so.
Someone who may be new to ULK may read the naming names and wonder, is this writer sabotaging these prisoners ability to remain on the mainline? Is he trying to get them snatched up? So we don't want to give mixed messages to people picking up a ULK of what we're about.
I know many people who were validated because their last point was someone else wrote something about them, that they were affiliated with this or that group, and so I was surprised this was allowed to take place.
I read awhile back in a MIM Theory about a comrade who was at a rally or event, and this comrade spoke about how someone walked up and said something like "hey you're from MIM, I knew the founder so and so." Well this comrade and MIM wrote something about security and how we shouldn't name comrades as this information gets in the hands of agents. Of course I know the difference between a LO and MIM, yet a LO faces repression in prison in the form of SHU.
If there is a "pig question," I think it begs the question of can there be a "pig statement"? It's something we need to look at and see if there really is a breach in naming prisoners without their knowledge in ULK. What is the damage that can come out of this? And should MIM(Prisons) allow it or partake in the same? I don't think so. I remember another article a while back where someone did the same and called out people and identified their LO but I believe it was in NY. I'm not sure how prisons in NY deal with intel such as this but I am certain of how California prisons deal with it and I am sitting in SHU for stuff like that.
I think MIM(Prisons) has an excellent policy of not putting peoples real names in its publications. MIM(Prisons) says rightly it does not do so to protect prisoners from more repression by the state. I believe this should also pertain to prisoners writing about other prisoners as well.
I think there is a way to call out LOs without naming prisoners, and it is right to call on certain folks to encourage participation, but naming names is just too harmful. When we write we must always keep in mind it is being read by not just guards but the larger state as well. I myself would not want someone to write about me by name if they are putting an LO beside my name. This is why MIM(Prisons) does not print real names. It's a matter of security. The pigs get a lot of intelligence on prisoners from their snitches who help them out, they shouldn't get more help from prison revolutionaries nor revolutionaries out in society.
I think criticism is a good thing for all prisoners and this includes LOs who are a huge part in what occurs in many prisons. Revolutionary prisoners need to develop ways to criticize without doing damage. Writing is not just succumbing to subjectivism no matter how stressful it becomes. I fully understand the frustration that arises when people are right at the ledge and all they need to do is make that leap to freedom and here we are the prison revolutionary nudging and showing the path and yet it moves at a snails pace and so we put pen to paper to jump start what seems like a stalled engine. I get this and see where we need to go but still we must remember ULK is not an internal cable, it is literally on the world wide web. Let us move forward in our efforts while staying alert in all areas. People's Power!
Editor of MIM(Prisons) responds: We thank comrade Cipactli for calling out this error in Under Lock & Key, and as editor i fully accept the criticism made. While any potential damage in that instance has been done, we are printing this publicly to correct any bad impressions it may have given people and remind all comrades of the importance of these issues. This was an opportunist error on my part that risked pushing away people that we hope to ally with, who never asked to have their names in ULK.
MIM(Prisons) agrees that it is dangerous practice for ULK to include people's LO name and affiliation and we will edit articles in the future to remove this information. While we have never printed people's real names, as Cipactli points out, this doesn't matter if the prisoncrats can make the connection between a prisoner and their LO name. We don't need to be helping the state with their repression, and feeding them information can have a real impact even when we are printing common knowledge.
This doesn't mean people should stop calling out LOs or writing about them, but ULK writers need to be careful to never use a name that can be associated with an individual. We can talk about groups without connecting them to specific names, and we can address lines and practice without naming groups. As we build the United Front for Peace in Prisons this is particularly important: we must build unity, not divisions, amongst the Lumpen Organizations.