In the last month we have seen the state of Georgia bring RICO Act charges against Rudy Giuliani and others who worked with Donald Trump to steal the 2020 U.$. presidential election, as well as activists who were doing things as simple as handing out fliers opposing the construction of Cop City in Atlanta.
The Federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was enacted in 1970 as a tool to charge people with crimes when they were having other people do their dirty work for them. Each crime charged under RICO can add years to ones prison sentence. The Georgia RICO Act of 1980 covers more crimes than the federal version. The Georgia Act makes Racketeering a felony in the state.(1) Historically, we have had multiple readers who were victims of RICO Act charges brought during the Giuliani years in New York City, and more recently in the Atlanta area, for their leadership roles in lumpen organizations, the more typical target of RICO.
Rudy Giuliani earned fame as a federal prosecutor for getting Mafia bosses in New York City convicted on RICO Act charges. He then used his reputation to become a “tough-on-crime” mayor of New York City known for “cleaning up” the city. It was during Giuliani’s time as Mayor of NYC that the infamous case was brought against King Blood (aka Luis Felipe) under the RICO Act. King Blood was charged for murders committed while ey was already in prison and received the inhumane and unprecedented sentence of life in solitary confinement. All of King Blood’s First Amendment rights to communication were denied, allowing only communication with eir lawyer and immediate family. This was not typically something a judge could sentence, but was justified via the racketeering statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3582(d).(2) Decades later, King Blood still sits in a torture cage in ADX Florence, isolated from the world. While the RICO charges against Giuliani may provide some cathartic humor, the 79-year-old will not be facing anything like King Blood is doing.
Weeks following the Georgia RICO Act charges against Trump, Giuliani, et al., another set of RICO Act charges (and domestic terrorism charges) were made against 61 activists involved in opposing the construction of Cop City in Atlanta. This is a continuation of the state’s warfare against Stop Cop City, including the ludicrous money laundering charges brought against bail support fundraisers we reported on in the last issue of ULK.(3) In the recent RICO indictment, the date of the murder of George Floyd (25 May 2020) is cited as the beginning of the investigations around the so-called “racketeering.” In other words, the state was trumping up these charges against activists before there was a Stop Cop City movement. This is not about stopping any criminal conspiracy, it is about repressing any opposition to the use of lethal police force against New Afrika and oppressed people in general. It is a defense of the state’s right to wage violent war against New Afrika.
In a recent article, a comrade laid out the political nature of the law, debunking the myth that laws were developed as a way to impose morality or address inherent problems in society.(4) Rather law stemmed from the need to manage the division of humyns into classes. With Trump/Giuliani, we see the RICO Act law being used by the bourgeoisie to discipline other bourgeoisie who are threatening the image of bourgeois democracy. And in the case of the 61 activists they are using the same law to discipline youth and oppressed nations who are opposing more violent forms of state discipline.
When we go up against the courts, the police, or even the politicians, we must be prepared for war. The cops murdering us in cold blood is war. The courts and prisons putting us in torture cells for years is war. City governments in Atlanta and San Pablo, California funding cop cities where pigs can play war games is war. These more obvious forms of war, are part of political struggle. There are no rights, only power struggles. To engage in power struggles, requires giving the war two sides.
^*Notes: 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_RICO_(Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations)_Act 2. Prison Legal News, 15 March 1999, Judicial Sentence of Life in Solitary Upheld. 3. A comrade, July 2023, “Law and the Courts of Late”, Under Lock & Key No. 82. 4. A comrade of Anti-Imperialist Prisoner Support, July 2023 “Atlanta Criminalizes Protest Against Cop City”, Under Lock & Key No. 82.*^
There’s an ongoing debate as to why prisoners must have rights to the First Amendment, the right to free speech. Prisons often suffocate prisoners from speaking about what happens in prisons, as if it is a “security” risk. While there are elements that can pose a prison interest, most times this is not true, but prisons use flimsy excuses to prevent prisoners from telling the world what goes on. Prisons, like USP Tucson, use the Las Vegas mantra, “what happens in prison, stays in prison” (even if it’s illegal).
Let me share with you an example of prisons illegally suffocating a prisoner’s right to tell the public what is going on:
A magazine called Labyrinth published a story about two Black prisoners at a federal facility, Terre Haute, who died of asthma. Apparently, in January of 1975, a prisoner died, then in August at the same prison, another Black prisoner died of asthma.
During that time, the prison (Terre Haute) had only one respirator, which was known to have been inoperative in January when the first prisoner died. It wasn’t working when the second prisoner died either.
That is negligence. The prison’s incompetence cost two Black prisoners their lives.
However, when Labyrinth tried to send their magazines to Marion Federal Penitentiary, the prison blocked it, claiming that the article could be “detrimental to the good order and discipline” of the institution. The courts disagreed, stating that the incidents in Terre Haute, a federal facility, are newsworthy and of “great importance” (Pell v. Procuiner, 417 US. 817, 830, n.7. 94 S. Ct 2800, 2808 n.7, 41 L.Ed 2d 495 (1975)).
In that incident, the necessity to report prison negligence outweighs the prison’s vague idea that anything that happens in prison are not for the public’s ears. The public has a tremendous right to know that prisoners are dying in American prisons, and more so, if those working in prisons are indirectly, or directly, responsible for it.
Prisoners must be allowed to tell society if human beings in American prisons are treated with humane dignity, or like slaves at a plantation, or Jewish prisoners at a Concentration (and Extermination) camp. Left unchecked, this is exactly where prisons will gravitate to.
A few years ago, I personally wrote an essay about a prisoner here at USP Tucson, who was murdered while in the SHU (Special Housing Unit). I wrote that the staff knew that if they put the prisoner in a cell with a certain prisoner, that he would be killed. And so it was.
After getting the essay out, I got a letter from a law firm representing the victim’s wife. They wanted to talk to me, to get information about the staff working at the time of the murder, because USP Tucson refused to release such information. Even though staff was directly responsible for a man’s death, they refused to give the attorney the information, protecting the officers that facilitated the murder.
Sadly, I did not have such intel, because while the prison population all knew what happened, and how, most didn’t know who worked that day. A prisoner who was in the SHU that period of time, however, would have known. This is not about “safety and security” …it’s about murder.
Prisoners must be able to inform the public of what goes on in prisons, because if not, then there is no counter to prison staff brutality. Prisons like USP Tucson can toss every law over their back, and treat prisoners like dogs. They can beat a prisoner, steal their property, rape them, and no one on the outside would ever know. And, if it did get out, the prison would suppress all information and “defend the shield.” The First Amendment allows prisoners the equalizer, to hold prisons responsible for how they treat those under their custody.
Let’s be clear; the prison staff do not have the right to torment or torture prisoners, they prevent society from knowing about it; but unless prisoners get the word out, prisons will almost always violate humane treatment.
Left unchecked, prisons will always gravitate to persecution, torment, or torture. There must be a level of accountability by prisons, otherwise there would be no fear in allowing prisoners to speak.
So, let me share another recent example of why it is critical for prisoners or captives to speak. It is all too easy to prove that if prisons prohibit prisoners from writing, it gives the prison staff a green light to neglect their responsibilities.
On Friday, 18 November 2022, USP Tucson put the entire prison population on an institutional lockdown for an unknown incident. The week prior, on November 13th there was a “code red” because a prisoner at a different facility acquired a gun and would have shot an officer except the gun didn’t fire because the bullets didn’t match the gun.
Now let that marinate for a bit: how the heck did a prisoner at a federal facility acquire a gun, and what pushed such a person to that extreme? Shouldn’t that be an issue that the prison needs to look at, as far as how staff treat prisoners? It is not always just a prisoner’s fault: it takes two to tango. What did the officer do to provoke a man to such an extremity of hate that he had to get a gun? But prisons won’t look at that. There are other essays that could be written on that, but that’s for another time.
After that incident, on Sunday November 18th, another incident involving staff resulted in an immediate and excessive 30-day lockdown. All prisoners were restricted to their cells (the word “all” really needs to be defined as certain situations clearly show that the prison did not go by their own rules) with no outside movement except to the showers every 2-3 days. But, in this, there were numerous violations by the staff at USP Tucson, most with what may be legally called “deliberate intent.”
Earlier, I was attempting to make a compelling argument about the reasons why it is critical for society to hear from prisoners. Most times people think that once a person goes into a prison they lose all of their rights, this is often told to society by people working in prisons.
This is a lie.
Prisoners walk into Amerikan prisons with most of their rights, including the First Amendment, which is the freedom of speech. This is critical in the prison environment because left unchecked it will always result in prison abuse by staff. I might sound extremist when I say all, but history has clearly shown that if prisons are left to do what they want without any check on humane treatment, it always gravitates to neglect and abuse of the prisoners.
So the First Amendment allows prisoners to voice their grievances whether the prison likes it or not, to the people on the outside who have an interest in what goes on in prisons. We did not lose the right to say what is going on in prisons, in fact, who has a greater experience than us. Often times, courts use a “hands off” approach on these issues, usually deferring to the “expertise” of prison officials. I get that, but expertise does not mean these prison officials use humanitarian elements in their decision making.
So, I gave you a real example of a situation that happened here at USP Tucson; we were put on lockdown on Friday November 18th for what was identified as a “staff assault” in a separate dorm. The prison identified the perpetrator, moved him out of general population then it turned to the rest of the prison and punished them severely as if we all had a hand in it. This is called mass punishment and it is frowned on by many countries, yet the United $tates continues to use it.
I mentioned in the first part the numerous violations that USP Tucson may have committed in what is termed “deliberate intent.” This means there was no mistaking the actions the prison took, it was intended to cause harm. Here are some of the violations:
The warden never issued a memo for the official reason the prisoners were on a 30-day lockdown. If a person or people are to be punished, he or they must know why they are being punished so they can challenge it. This may very well be a violation of their due process – another constitutional right.
USP Tucson prevented prisoners from filing a grievance or a “BP.” When prisoners asked for them, the counselor flatly refused. This alone, is illegal.
Unit Team (Unit manager, case manger, counselor) avoided all prisoner questions, except legal calls or when passing out disciplinary charges. Unit team was working the entire time we were on the lockdown, but deliberately refused to do their job, avoiding all prisoners asking for help or assistance.
Unit Team refused to pass out paper, envelopes or writing instruments, prohibiting prisoners from writing. Here is the deathblow to the First Amendment. If a prisoner is refused these elements, there is no way he can communicate to the outside world.
USP Tucson violated their own policy, forcing kitchen workers to work 10-12 hours a day – every day – to prepare and clean the cafeteria. Prisoner medical orderlies, laundry workers, and selected prisoners were forced to work, but the prison refused to allow the dorm orderlies to clean the showers. This implies that the staff deemed certain prisoners “less of a security risk” than others, even though 99% of the prison population had nothing to do with the incident.
And let’s touch on the “incident” of the “staff assault.” Here is what happened, in a nut shell. USP Tucson brought a prisoner that is on a high care level, with clear and documented psychological issues, from a high-level prison. Hh has only been on the prison grounds less than a week, and the prison decided to take away his medication. Why? That makes no sense! He obviously needed it for a reason.
So, when the prisoner was refused his medication, he got angry, and assaulted an officer. This had nothing to do with the rest of the prison population.
USP Tucson never allowed prisoners a clean shower. At the point of this essay, each unit had eight shower runs the last 4 weeks. Each of the ten shower cells were used, on average 80 times and not once did staff allow the dorm orderlies to clean it, and the showers were toxic each time prisoners had to step in there.
USP Tucson prohibited the sale of stamps, nor would distribute stamps, nor would take letters without stamps. This, for 25 days, prevented prisoners from any contact with the outside world. Another deathblow to the First Amendment, and obviously, quite illegal.
This act, the one just mentioned, may be the most malicious because unless you had stamps before November 18th, you had no way to communicate with loved ones, an attorney, a church, the media, or anyone. USP Tucson violated prisoner’s First Amendment for almost a month, and ignored every request and offer to rectify the situation.
Prisoners with no stamps had no way to let loved ones know that they were okay, or alive, or if USP Tucson was beating prisoners, stealing property or doing all sorts of things to them. When families and loved ones called the prison, many were told that we were on a “COVID-19 lockdown”. That was a lie. With no accountability, staff were free to be inhumane, for almost a month. This includes a “shakedown” where the prison took easily tens of thousands of dollars worth of personal and legal property from prisoners and threw them away or took them to their families for Christmas.
When the prisoners lose their First Amendment, when prisons like USP Tucson rob people of this protected right, it immediately opens the door to mistreatment. It always happens. Without fail. It is said in a case law, Thomburg v. Abbot, that
“A prison ban on prisons sending letters that complain of internal conditions in the institution restricted the First Amendment in two ways: one, the prisoner’s right to free speech is curtailed and two, the public’s right to know what is happening within the prison system, a right that can only be fulfilled through an informed press, is restricted.”
For four weeks, I didn’t have the chance to tell people what USP Tucson was doing to us. For 25 days, I could not let my mother know that I was still alive. For 25 days I could not tell society that these federal prison staff officers had denied us humane showers, stole property, and practiced slave labor.
For 25 days we were tortured and nobody knew until now.
This is why prisoners MUST write. And just wait until you read what I share after the four weeks ended, and we were finally able to find out everything that happened around the prison.
Can equal justice really be counted upon, or will it be another Black shot dead on the front lawn?
Police suffocating Blacks with their knees Is the new hanging, All this yelling, marching and burning things down But ain’t nothing changing. The list of Black youth being killed by police grew longer, but the memory of George Floyd in Minneapolis grew stronger.
We need to start recognizing, humanizing, and see the unrequited injustice, never forget the Declaration of Independence ain’t no fate and irony in this, we need to fight for Dred Scott And the dead forgot for emancipation, we should know a universal equality will never get passed in this nation.
A cry from the heart, can’t echo through the cracks, until the litany end what it do to Blacks.
Let’s put an end to the painfully gradual process, If we can shrink the blue foot print, we can make an actual progress.
We know reform isn’t enough We need heart and power in their voices, because only aftermath tears of justice will see rejoices.
Since 2021, the city of Atlanta in conjunction with its police force and local developers and contractors, has been trying to bulldoze a significant part of the remaining forest in the city and construct an urban warfare training center for police officers. The forest, which formerly contained a slave labor camp and then a state farm ran on prisoner labor, has been the site of occupations, sabotage of construction equipment, protests and raids by the police. Recently, the cops murdered an activist staying in the encampment defending the forest, while revolts in downtown Atlanta and confrontations with police at the site of the forest have resulted in arrests and terrorism charges for dozens of activists. The movement has racked up several victories already, including delaying the construction of the training center by several months and driving several contractors off the project entirely. But the struggle continues. At press time, the forest faces clear-cutting for the initial stages of construction.
Atlanta is a rapidly and brutally gentrifying city, with a nominally Black elected leadership but a housing and economic policy that has displaced thousands of lower income New Afrikan residents. Cops have been used to harass New Afrikan tenants out of public housing to facilitate redevelopment, rent has spiked well above the already bloated national average, and the arrival of movie production companies (facilitated by tax breaks and other favors) has been a major motor of gentrification across the city.(1) The elected leadership of the city is in a bind – they have to deliver economic growth and good jobs, and get re-elected by appearing to stand against police brutality and white supremacy, but are constrained by their own commitment to capitalism and inability to confront the real power structure of the city, which, as we will see soon, is mostly unelected.
Like most Amerikan cities, Atlanta saw a weeks-long uprising against the police following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. In Atlanta, also like other Amerikan cities, local cases of police brutality added extra impetus to the protesters and their demands. The murder of Rayshard Brooks in June of 2020 led to a revolt that burned down the Wendys he’d been killed at(2), the resignation of hundreds of police officers and even the trashing of the offices of the state police. Local lumpen organizations saw a temporary truce and occupied the Wendys site with arms against rumors of white militas seeking to march near the site of Rayshard Brooks’ death. In the wake of these and similar events police and correctional forces nationwide are facing difficulties filling their ranks and reeling from their abject failure to contain the disturbances of 2020, when over sixty thousand (3) National Guard troops had to be called out to back them up. The need for Cop City is itself a sign of weakness, paranoia and poor morale of the police force.
The Campaign in the City Council
In 2021, after the rebellion, the Atlanta City Council met in secret to arrange two land deals in the South Forest, the largest expanse of forest remaining in the Metro Atlanta area. One was to give a movie studio CEO, Ryan Milsap, a swathe of public land to bulldoze and build a large movie production studio on. A second was to give another large chunk of land to the Atlanta Police Foundation, a private nonprofit that gathers money from some of the largest businesses in the region and funds policing initiatives. The APF was to construct a mock city out of concrete, similar to U.S. Military urban warfare training sites, to prepare police to prevent another 2020 from happening. (4)
The Atlanta Police Foundation (APF) is interesting all on its own. It’s entirely private, with unclear finances and no accountability to the public. It’s staffed by former national security officers, real estate investors and retired police; and it has enacted several large-scale programs around the city by itself such as building a center for a massive surveillance network across the entire city which allows footage from thousands of cameras the foundation has installed to be reviewed at one location. The APF has also built up a house renovation program that buys cheap real estate in New Afrikan neighborhoods, remodels it and gives it to police recruits to live in. All of this is done with money donated by corporations ranging from Coca Cola (who did drop out of the Foundation after pressure from activists) to Norfolk Southern. To repeat: large capitalist firms are directly funding, with no public oversight, the extension of massive surveillance networks, police colonization of New Afrikan ghettos, and the construction of a training center intended to make cops more proficient at urban warfare.
The APF is best understood not as a slush fund or a shady organization behind the scenes, but as a de facto shadow government that actually runs the city on behalf of a mostly white bourgeoisie.(5)
Activists uncovered the land deals and organized protests and a campaign to persuade the city council to not approve the projects. After months of rallies, lobbying and canvassing, the Atlanta City Council voted in late 2021 to allow the project to proceed. This outcome, which many of the activists involved in the campaign predicted, marked the first defeat for Stop Cop City. The coalition that managed this campaign, DARC (Defund Atlanta Police Department, Refund Communities) dissolved among accusations that the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) had tried to take over the campaign and use it (and its failure which they banked on) as a recruiting tool. The DSA’s plan was to allow the campaign to fail instead of criticizing it openly, with the hope that its failure would radicalize people into their organization. Commenting on this, a local communist wrote “the notion that working class Atlantans, people who live their entire lives in the trenches of the city’s class war, require a civics lesson to be radicalized is self-evidently chauvinistic.” (6)
The Campaign in the Weelaunee Forest
Parallel to the campaign against the city council and continuing after it had been defeated, a growing and mostly anonymous group of people calling themselves “forest defenders” were ramping up their activity. Some engaged in tree-sits in the forest, others established gardens or engaged in mutual aid projects and free concerts, and others routinely sabotaged construction and surveying equipment preparing the forest for the project.(7)
At one point members of the Muscogee (Creek) tribe from Oklahoma, who lived in the South Forest before being expelled during the 1820’s, returned to the forest, conducted a stomp dance ceremony and shared the forest’s pre-colonial name: Weelaunee.
Several times, crews hired by Ryan Milsap to start demolishing the forest ahead of official permitting were driven out after direct confrontation by forest defenders. Outside the forest, protests against contractors, politicians and business-people involved in the project routinely escalated to vandalism and provoked repression from the police. In one case, a protest in East Atlanta Village was attacked by cops as it was ending, but the heavy-handed tactics of the police resulted in all 17 arrests being dismissed and thousands in restitution paid to those targeted. One of the general contractors of the project, Reeves + Young, dropped out after another direct protest at their officers and after several of their vehicles were sabotaged in the forest. It should be noted that not all interactions between construction workers and the forest defenders were hostile – when crews from the local power company showed up to do maintenance on a line in the forest, they worked around a garden that forest defenders had planted instead of destroying it.
Throughout late 2021 and 2022 this back and forth continued, with coordinated Weeks of Action bringing hundreds of people into the forest and a fluctuating smaller body of activists building and defending the forest in the interim.
Raids and the Murder of Tortuguita
Different police agencies routinely entered the forest and raided it repeatedly. Last May, following a Week of Action, cops came into the forest and smashed up a lot of protest infrastructure that was on the ground. Activists retreated to the trees, continued confronting work crews and burning equipment that was left unguarded at night. A statement issued after one of these incidents read “if you build it we will burn it.” In December of last year another raid resulted in the destruction of more shelters and 6 people were arrested and charged with ‘domestic terrorism.’
On 18 January 2023, a final raid into the forest by officers from the Georgia State Highway Patrol and numerous other police agencies attacked the forest with guns drawn. During the raid a forest defender sitting under a tarp refused orders to get up and leave, and the cops shot em several times at close range, claiming self defense. Eir name was Manuel Paez Teran (nicknamed Tortuguita or Tort), an indigenous anarchist from Venezuela, and ey’d been living in the forest for almost a year helping to coordinate its supply and defense. The cop story, that Tort had fired first from under the tarp and wounded an officer, began to unravel quickly. On body camera footage released weeks later an officer can be heard saying ‘you fucked your own officer up?’ after the shots, implying that the officer who was wounded was shot by his own people. Tort’s autopsy showed bullet wounds through the palms of eir hands, a story more consistent with an encounter killing than a firefight.(8)
The movement is mostly evicted from the forest for now, and initial tree clearing has begun. The murder of Tortuguita, however, has dramatically raised the temperature of the struggle. The City council has already started walking back some of their plans for Cop City, and support for the movement and criticism of Mayor Dickens for being involved in it, has swelled. It’s also important to remember that without the resistance the whole forest would be gone and Cop City would be half-built already.
For Rayshard Brooks, for Tortuguita, and for victims of poverty and police violence in Atlanta whose names we know and those we don’t, we say Stop Cop City.
The Free Alabama Movement has declared their recent organizing a success, with over 15,000 prisoners participating and prodding response from the governor during the campaign season.(1) They have announced the next phase of their struggle for reasonable paths to parole and release. It involves the drafting and proposal of a state bill. The Alabama Legislature opens on 3 March 2023, and prisoners have planned to launch a campaign to promote and support the proposed bill at that time.(2)
Following the recent actions, a damning report came out substantiating the prisoners demands:
“July 2022 was the deadliest month on record in Alabama prisons. Thirty-two people died in Alabama prisons in July — the most since at least January 2000, the earliest month for which data is available online. More people died than were granted parole that month.”(3)
The Free Alabama Movement concludes in their recent statement:
"On September 26, over 15,000 people stood up for freedom in the Alabama prison system. That’s 10,000+ new soldiers, warriors and generals to the ranks who had NEVER participated in a shutdown before. Most of them didn’t know they would be challenged by the ADOC at the core of our most basic human need: food. This is a real struggle against a system that is well funded and has been in existence for over 100 years. We gotta act like we want freedom, and move with the understanding that that will be a test of your will and spirit to achieve something great.
"Understand the mission brother and sisters. A call has been made for us to stand again. We cannot miss our assignment and expect change.
Last night i dreamed i was talking to Huey P, told him how tired i was of amerikkka & what it’s doing to me. Got me feeling like every white cop is my enemy, Consumed by hatred & it’s killing me. Wanna pick up my gun & put some pig on my plate, Tell the judge “He tried to kill me!” & see if i can skate. (yeah right) But there’s gotta be a better way & i was hoping you could help me find my Revolutionary State of Mind, So i can become a proud supporter of Revolutionary Suicide! i’d gladly die for my People just to see them on top, Black Lives DO Matter!!! Brothers & Sisters so we can’t stop. Educating our minds, strengthening our bodies & spiritually filling our souls, Storming across amerikkka screamin “Let My People Go!!” The world isn’t ready for a Black Movement such as this, But they’re poking us with bullets & the people are getting pissed. They want us to accept these targets on our backs, But i’m loading up my mind & my clip. (click/clack) Didn’t want violence to begin with but we’re tired of talking it out, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd it’s a damn shame we gotta burn down buildings just to make’em feel what we’re about. All we want is what was promised when Honest Abe said we were free, You know, Protection, Justice, Equality, Might as well be living in France; Cause that shits foreign to me. i want to teach my folk how to rise & stand tall, with All Black Everything there’s no way we’re gonna fall So Mr. Newton will you teach me the Revolutionary facts? He just chuckled & said, “Young Brotha you’re already on track.”
Democracy is an illusion of the mind that misleads the blind. Who are they fooling? What are we doing? What are we actually pursing? They’re talking about equality and we dying in the trenches. Starving on the sidelines. Aches and pains while the rich is completely full, staring out of the skyline. How do we rise above the equation? A broken nation with no vision. Our only dreams is to have bricks of cocaine in the kitchen. Oh, and residue on the dishes. How can this be a democracy and the homeless got bread and water on their wish list? And the rich got the poor on their diss list. And you want me to turn christian so I can be like my ancestors praying for a “white” Christmas? When the symbol of the church represent a white supremacist. A blonde hair and blue eye’d lie… Naw. I’ll take my chances with the Revolution. These hungry kids got thirty round drums and they’re shooting. And Black Lives Matter protest turn into looting? This is not the rise of amerika– We are living in the days of its ruins.
In recent years many have explored the myth of “the West” and “Western Civilization”, connecting them to racist views of humyn society. Often this was in response to right-wing white nationalists rebranding their common cause from the “white race” to “Western civilization.”
Yet, the term “the West” is used every day in a variety of news sources, some claiming to be proletarian news services. It is used by MIM in a number of older documents, and you even see it crept in to the last issue of Under Lock & Key in our discussion of Ukraine.(1)
The West and Militarism
The Russian invasion of Ukraine seems to have brought the term even more to the forefront, which could explain why it ended up in our article on the subject, despite our understanding the problems with the term. “Western unity” today is synonymous with fighting Russia. Ukranian President Volodymor Zelensky has helped make this true in the Amerikan press.
There are reasons to refer to “the West” instead of the more accurate term “NATO.” NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a military pact between countries to defend each other with very clear membership. NATO exists clearly in space and time. It was formed in 1949, as the U.$. and Britain focused their aggression towards the Soviet Union following the defeat of fascism. NATO will not exist forever, with many calling for it to be dissolved now.
The meme of “The West” on the other hand is ahistorical, and even vague in terms of who is included. President Zelensky is making a hard push to put Ukraine in “the West”, when it was very clearly part of the USSR that NATO formed to oppose.
Zelensky has repeatedly called on “the West” to impose sanctions against Russia, to send military aid to Ukraine, and to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine. All of these feed the militarist war machine that imperialism depends on to stay afloat, especially in times of economic crisis. Yet the imperialists are not even willing to do all the things Zelensky calls for because they know the risk of inter-imperialist war it will bring.
We’ve already seen the differing interests in this conflict playing out. The strongest example might be Germany, the dominant imperialist power in continental Europe, and their economic connection to Russia, which has made them much more hesitant to join actions that the United $tates is quick to take against Russia. Meanwhile Germany has moved to significantly increase its military for the first time since WWII, loosening its dependence on the United $tates for military action. In most of our lifetimes, the so-called “Western” countries have been united politically and economically. But this has not and will not always be the case.
The West and the Ancient World
We won’t repeat others summaries of the history of the concept of “the West” here. But it does appear with the wars between Christians and Muslims in the Middle Ages, later being used to distinguish between areas dominated by the Western reformist church and the Eastern orthodox church.
Just as New Afrikans today may take up the study of ancient Egypt to learn about their “roots”, euro-Amerikans may study ancient Greece with the same goal. In reality, ancient Egypt and Greece (in certain periods) were actually connected and learned from each other. They were more similar to each other (and more geographically close to each other) than the actual ancestors of most New Afrikans or euro-Amerikans. Both are caught up in a mythology that links them to an ancient society based on racialized concepts of continents.
The idea of Europe as its own continent is also a myth that stems from this history and the fact that our knowledge in the United $tates is dominated historically by Europeans. And today, U.$.-cultural dominance helps shape the memes that take on global significance.
Europe is a region in actual space, however, unlike “the West”, which often lumps Western Europe with occupied regions of North America and Oceania today. In a sense, “the West” is almost describing something real. Throw in Japan, and you’ve got the advanced imperialist countries of the world.
The West and Freedom
A more modern concept of “the West” starts from the fight against fascism and morphs into the fight against communism. “The West” claims to offer freedom and democracy instead.
On 5 July 2022, a Ukrainian court banned the Communist Party of Ukraine and ordered all its assets seized by the state. This is a party that got 13 percent of the votes in the 2012 general election. This follows the ban of a number of other “socialist” or “left” parties in the country for being “pro-Russian.”(2)
On the Fourth of July, the city of Akron, Ohio issued a 9PM to 6AM curfew preventing people from leaving their homes except for work or emergencies. This was on a night when masses of people stayed out all night partying and lighting fireworks in most cities across the country. The curfew was issued because cops shot unarmed 25-year-old Jayland Walker the night before with 60 bullets. The young Black man died Fourth of July morning.
Through May and June MIM(Prisons) sent hundreds of letters, petitions and legal documents to prisoners across Texas leading up to a planned boycott of the Juneteenth holiday on June 19. The weeks leading up to the Fourth of July our mailbox was full of letters from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and from prisoners in Texas, notifying us that our mail had been censored because it promoted a disturbance or a riot.
Prisoners in Texas are being tortured in long-term isolation, forced to work without pay, and facing all sorts of abusive conditions including lack of food, dangerous temperatures and lack of yard time. Jayland Walker was shot 60 times over a tail light. Yet boycotts and demonstrations have been deemed illegal in Texas and Akron, Ohio in response. In Akron 50 people were arrested after protestors were sprayed with tear gas because police said they “cannot condone property destruction.”(3) This is the behavior of the oppressor, of the imperialists.
The West and Language
The more modern framework of the North versus the South developed as an improvement on the West/East concept. The “North/South” framework is more geographically coherent (with the exception of Australia and New Zealand) and is defined economically. It also avoids the racist exclusion of Japan and the “three tigers.” Though it could play into some theories of geographic determinism, which can mirror racist conceptions of history.
Regardless, North/South terminology was developed to be “valueless” and as such becomes a euphemism for what is really going on: some countries are exploiting other countries. And we have perfectly good terminology for “the West” or “the North” in this context: imperialist countries. As anti-imperialists, we must expose imperialism and its crimes at every turn and not hide it behind euphemisms that reference geography or pseudo-scientific concepts of race over materialist understandings of political-economy.
On the other hand of the dialectic of imperialism we have the oppressed nations, or the exploited countries, or the semi-colonies or neo-colonies, depending on the context. Arguably these terms are also better than the First/Third World language we have often used historically.(4)
As a general principle, our writing guide reminds us not to use euphemisms and not to use passive language. Like “the West” these styles creep into our writing because they are common in the bourgeois press. We should consciously combat this by being clear about the relationships of oppression and exploitation and who is doing what to whom.
Whether it relates to religion, philosophy or democracy, all historical concepts of “the West” are related to justifying invasions or imperialism in different forms.
This month we seen police in Minneapolis break into Amir Locke’s home and murder him. This came after the public was placated by the conviction of former pig Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd.
Most of the protest we seen for ‘defund the police’ ended after the George Floyd incident. It is uncertain if the reason for that is that the public think they won a victory just because the injustice system sacrificed one of their own in convicting Derek Chauvin or if the arrest of John Johnson, the leader of NFAC, played its part in the end of protests.
What is certain is that police can not be reformed because police are the problem in america. More likely than not the evil injustice system will release Derek Chauvin on appeal when everyone has forgot and the spotlight is off. We seen Kim Potter get sentenced for 2 years this week because some of the public pressure is off against the police. While the Kim Potter incident seemed accidental and she showed some remorse for her murder two things were never mentioned.
1st that police murder would have never happened if the pigs were not stopping someone and harassing him in the first place, therefore the police were the problem that led to Kim Potter killing an innocent man.
2nd if anyone of us did this accidental shooting and showed real remorse we would get life in prison and denied any chance of justice in appeals court no matter how competent a defense we receive in trial from our public defender (pretender).
Now the protest in the streets are silent and the evil police are back to their same old tricks. Falsifying crime statistics to scare the public into giving them more money. Money that should be going to schools, and infrastructure, housing, community building rather than to evil pigs that only scare people with false crime needs and incarcerate our fathers, our kids. Police are a plague on society and the ONLY way to fix what is wrong in this country is to defund the police and close our prisons. Such a radical reversal is hard to comprehend, it takes actual work and sacrifice.
We all know disgusting people that we do not want around. It is easy to use police to get rid of disgusting people, thus creating the monster of incarceration that we have now. To build community and healing takes work and sacrifice. To really create lasting change requires independent institutions of, by, and for the proletariat. We must unite together against disgusting people who have lost their way and show them a better way. At all cost the police can not be used as a remedy. The trail blazers of community building most likely will have to operate at a deficit initially until results can be proven, but rest assured any result is better than the ineffectual prisons we have now.
We need to form real community based volunteer groups to patrol our streets and intervene with ill behavior. Punishment is never the answer. We can appropriate public spaces as necessary because public property does NOT belong to the government, it rightfully belongs to the People. To truly fix America we have to defund the police at all cost. Stop being afraid of crime. Solutions to problems will arise naturally. One thing is clear, the government we have now is not for the people, By the people, or of the people. Police have become an elite ruling class they do whatever, whenever they want. That is why reform will never work.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrades conclusion that reform will not work. And echo the need for a strategy of building proletarian-led institutions of the oppressed instead. The “defund” rhetoric seems very closely aligned to this mission, yet in practice seems to have led to more discussions about budgets, i.e. reformism. And of course, President Biden, has just taken it to call for more funding for police.
Sadly far too many people who should know better believe that a sign of “equal justice” would be if Kyle Rittenhouse was housed in the empty cell down the tier from me. Additionally far too many people actually felt and argued that a sign of the system working was the guilty verdict given to the McMichaels for killing Ahmaud Arbery. However i wonder what exactly such people believe happens when these people are in fact placed into prison. Do people believe these people would share the same experiences as someone from the semi-colonies? Do they believe these people will be subjected to the same level of brutality from the state or its representatives? Do they believe this is “rehabilitation”?
i’ve even heard far too many people state that these people should not even be given bourgeois rights while going through the courts. Such people obviously believe in amerikkkan “democracy” and only aim to put and keep their people in power specifically through the Democratic Party where they can use the levers of bourgeois civil society to dominate* the Republican Party. This is vengeance against the Amerikan bourgeoisie’s political party by another - not justice and definitely not revolutionary. We should condemn this at every turn.
2020 was lost because spontaneity dominated instead of actual consciousness. Lenin stated in 1900 that the “spontaneity of the masses demands a high consciousness from us.” Another obvious failure was the failure of analysis of what amerikkka’s capitalism-imperialism is and who her citizens are and their relationship to this specific form of late capitalism-imperialism. Had this been done there would’ve been less talk of trying to stuff a true history lesson down the settler-colonist throats as if this would make them see the light and instead teaching this history to New Afrikans, First Nations, Raza, API and receptive whites with an emphasis on self-determination struggles, self-reliance, anti-imperialism and internationalism. A proper class analysis would’ve concluded there’s no real opposition to capitalism-imperialism (in 2020) and most amerikans benefit from this system. The people protesting, thinking pigs would be or should be neutral, while their system was under attack; that they would not welcome vigilantes and even thank them were foolish. If any one was surprised at all by how that night played out, regardless of the Rittenhouse verdict, they need to go back to the ABC’s of amerikkkan history (maybe Critical Race Theory would’ve helped them).
Not only should we not root for U$A injustice system even against our enemies**, we should denounce bourgeois criminal behavior, not just gangsterism but even in protests. We are not terrorists nor do we believe in focoism or anarchy. We advocate revolutionary consciousness. We do not lead the people to slaughter. We gather forces or at least sympathy for revolution.
What are prisons for? We know all too well about the school-to-prison-pipeline and who this is designed for. We know we are considered surplus-population and prison acts as a social tool to keep idle people idle. We also know that amerikkkans are infatuated with law and order (and punishment). We know amerikkkans rest assured when its carceral system locks people away for 40 or 50 years for whatever crime…we know amerikkka does not bat an eye at such abuses. In fact immediately after Rittenhouse’s GoFundMe page successfully got him acquitted Vice President Harris professed her role as top-cop in California was to make the system more “equitable” and his acquittal means there’s obviously “more work to be done”. Again, but what are prisons for? Rittenhouse should go inside a box (for obviously many, many years), get old and then be judged (by a specific faction of the bourgeois dictatorship - the democrats**) to see if it’s enough years gone by. This is the only purpose prison in bourgeois society serves so what kind of people advocate such a thing?
Even in prison it’s not well known what prison is used for. Not only that, even in prison bourgeois mentality is prevalent and ubiquitous… We sit in cages like animals. We are psychologically tortured, sexually humiliated, manipulated and harassed. We must fight for outside contact, safety, humanity and freedom but a majority of captives sit around in their assigned boxes and literally direct their anger and future violence at other captives. Not just that but rebellion against our circumstances and capture is far too often shunned. Revolution even in hell isn’t automatic. Bourgeois society will go down as the most adaptable. When almost everyone has a price how could it not?
When i hear “lock em up” or that “justice” was served i know for sure i’m in the midst of enemies. i know such people deep down believe i’m exactly where i should be. Revolutionaries cannot parrot Jesse Jackson, Alicia Garza, Amy Goodman or anyone else’s call to “lock em up.” Let’s leave that to Trump and Clinton and all the other enemies of the revolution. Instead let’s learn how to protect each other starting with a proper class analysis. True political consciousness going into 2022 must start from the empire’s utter success in buying off all but a small percent of its population and the knowledge that this demand and lame-ass attempt to take over the bourgeois system “from the inside” with this pro-police imperialism, pro-FBI socialism, anti-revolution revolutionaries is worse than a joke.
Salutes to TX Team One, FPC, Republic of Aztlán, and the entire USW,
NA Struggle RL NAIM CA-MLM
*Obviously if this had the potential to advance anti-imperialism in any way it is to be considered but we will not first exploit internal contradictions between the capitalist then as a response to this build our forces. No, there must first be a revolutionary force to galvanize otherwise it’s just more imperialism and pro-imperialism.
**It would have to be Democrats because Republicans believe this was just.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade’s focus on building our forces, building anti-imperialism, building movements for self-determination. As we say on page 2 of every Under Lock & Key, we have a different solution to the bourgeois prison system and that is proletarian justice. We distribute the book Prisoners of Liberation about Amerikan spies in a Chinese socialist prison that we use as a starting point for how prisons can be used to serve the people and give everyone the resources to reform and contribute positively to society.
But implementing pro-people rehabilitation on a mass scale is a ways off for us in this country. And we agree with our comrade here that these calls for “justice” are the battlefield of bourgeois politicians. If Rittenhouse was given a long prison term, that would only increase the chances of him becoming the Nazi that he has been branded already in the media; an indication of what these bourgeois prisons actually do. There are class enemies, and both sides will use force against their class enemies. But we must first build proletarian institutions, before we can implement proletarian justice.