We just got word that the Texas Department of Criminal inJustice (TDCJ) has denied delivery of the TDCJ Offender Grievance Manual to one of our subscribers in Texas. Not just at the unit level (we were not informed of the censorship at the unit level by Polunsky Unit mailroom staff, in direct contradiction to TDCJ's own policies)(1), but the Director's Review Committee even upheld the censorship of the grievance manual. The Director.
Well, what could possibly be the reason given for censoring TDCJ's own manual which was written for "offenders"? Couldn't tell you. All the notice says is it was "received in contradiction with BP-03.91, Uniform Offender Correspondence Rules." Don't forget, BP-03.91 doesn't just say that this item is denied delivery to this particular subscriber. It says that this item is banned in the entire state for all time. Just like [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, our "Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party" study pack, and multiple issues of Under Lock & Key (at least including Nos. 63, 57, 54, 51, 45, 35, 32, 28, and 27).
You might be wondering why MIM Distributors is sending in the grievance manual anyways. It's a TDCJ document, after all. And according to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, the grievance manual ought to be available to prisoners.(2) Well, in September 2014, a memo went out that removed the grievance manual from all TDCJ law libraries.(2) Why would they do this? Don't know, they didn't say. TDCJ's grievance system is notoriously ineffective and deliberately obstructive. And Texas is historically one of the worst states when it comes to brutal national oppression. Seems to be part of those overall patterns.
We did have a "victory," so minor that it's even embarrassing to use that word. The Director's Review Committee Decision Form actually listed the name of the item that they censored! Wow! We didn't have to go hunting around in the list of mail we sent to this subscriber, guessing which item was censored based on the date we mailed it out. This is often a very difficult detail to pin down, considering how much mail we send in and the weeks- and months-long delays in the TDCJ censorship procedures.
So, we've been protesting the ineffective grievance process in Texas for almost ten years. The grievance manual was hidden almost 5 years ago. And now we can't even mail in the grievance manual. We do plan to appeal this censorship to the Director's Review Committee, but often our letters to them go unanswered. In the short term, we need people (and lawyers!) in Texas to put pressure on TDCJ to stop obstructing prisoners' access to the grievance system. Ultimately we need to overthrow this totally bunk injustice system and the economic system it protects.
The downloadable grievance petition for Arizona has been updated to include some more relevant addressees that were submitted by a comrade. Please download it here. Click the link below for more information on this campaign.
The campaign to get the U.$. military operations of AFRICOM out of Africa has been popularized in recent months. The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) initiated a petition drive, which they extended to 4 April 2019, the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Comrades in United Struggle from Within stepped up and made a substantial contribution to this drive from within the U.$. koncentration kamps.
To add to the list(1) of California, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, USW comrades came through with petitions from Oregon, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. California and Texas also produced quite a few more signatures. And some individuals from Maryland and West Virginia sent their signatures in as well. A large number of our subscribers are in long-term isolation and therefore collecting others' signatures is very difficult.
BAP submitted about 3500 signatures to the Congressional Black Congress chairperson and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.(2) With the additional 193 signatures we received since our last report we have submitted 423 signatures to the campaign. That is more than 10% of the total signatures collected! United Struggle from Within made a significant contribution to this campaign.
Of course, that is a small victory in the large task of ending U.$. imperialism in Africa. An anti-imperialist message was brought to sections of Congress, and the streets of Washington D.C., by BAP last week. In solidarity, USW popularized the message behind the bars of U.$. koncentration kamps. When doing campaigns like petition drives, the interactions we have with the masses when collecting the signatures is even more important than the interactions BAP leaders have with Congress. Congress will not and can not end U.$. imperialism, only the oppressed people of the world have the power to do that. And that is why building unity among the oppressed around these issues is of utmost importance to our mission.
The torture and abuse enacted on the oppressed nations within U.$. borders is a product of the same system that is dropping bombs and unleashing brutal violence in African countries from Somalia, to Libya, to Nigeria. That is why MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within are dedicated to the anti-imperialist prison movement in the United $tates. Without anti-imperialism, the prison movement is limited to treating the symptoms and not the disease.
The struggle to get AFRICOM out of Africa continues. If you did not get a campaign pack with info on AFRICOM, write us to get a copy. Discuss what is going on in the Third World with those around you. Relate it to the oppression felt here. Write articles for ULK. Our 423 signatures did not shut down AFRICOM, but the oppressed will shut down AFRICOM some day.
The United $tates has been waging a low-intensity war in Somalia for over a decade, and it's only getting worse. U.$. bombings in Somalia have tripled since Trump took office. These bombings generally go unreported in the Amerikan press, but investigative journalist Amanda Sperber has helped bring what little information there is to light. According to her report, the administration has refused to explain to Congress its reasoning for the increased bombing campaign. The United States's Africa Command (AFRICOM) reports claim only terrorists have been killed in these "targeted attacks," while Sperger has spoken with victims on the ground who list young children and civilians as being killed. This has become the common result of the U.$. drone wars.
In 2017, President Trump issued a directive allowing AFRICOM to assassinate anyone it identified as a member of Al Shabaab. The new president of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, is an Amerikan-trained puppet who has allowed AFRICOM to operate freely within the country. It is little wonder that Al Shabaab garners support with calls for national liberation in a country that has no free will independent of U.$. imperialism.
In addition to AFRICOM, it has been reported that the CIA is also assassinating people in Somalia, and their requirements for transparency are even more limited. While there are reportedly 500 Amerikan troops in Somalia these days, almost all operations, including the CIA, are run from the safety of the "Green Zone." They use drones to do the killing, and then claim that everyone killed was a terrorist.
As this issue of Under Lock & Key goes to print we will be tallying up the final count of petition signatures from our readers. These petitions will be submitted to the Congressional Black Caucus by the Black Alliance for Peace in April.
In 2018, about 1% of our subscribers in U.$. prisons donated money each month. Those comrades supplied about 2% of the funding for printing and mailing Under Lock & Key to prisoners across the country. If you include all money from comrades behind bars, including literature purchases, and MIM(Prisons) full operating budget, those comrades provided about 5.8% of our funds. This is not an insignificant portion of our budget, yet it remains relatively small considering our primary audience is U.$. prisoners.
We are still in the progress of exploring options for how to make ULK a monthly newsletter. While we hope to be more efficient with our resources as part of this campaign, there is little doubt our total costs are going to increase significantly. And the comrades in MIM(Prisons), who fund the vast majority of what we do, will not have the ability to cover such an increase. Therefore this expansion will have to stand on 3 legs: 1) partners who we hope will co-publish the new newsletter, therefore taking on some portion of the funding and distribution; 2) recruiting new distributors on the streets who will also contribute a monthly amount to fund the new newsletter; and 3) our existing subscribers in U.$. prisons.
Many years ago we reported that prisoners funded 4% of Under Lock & Key and set a goal of increasing that to 10%. Since then we've tracked donations separate from payments for literature or other services. Today, we have a ways to go to reach that modest goal of funding 10% of Under Lock & Key from comrades behind bars.
If you are a reader of ULK who thinks that doubling the frequency with which we can send communiques out to prisoners across the country is a needed expansion, please think about how you can organize to contribute to funding that expansion.
Currently, a one-year subscription to Under Lock & Key costs about $10 to fulfill. We don't know what that number will be under the new scenario yet. The goal of funding 10% of ULK could be reached by 10% of prisoners who receive ULK contributing $10 per year. Remember we only have 1% of our subscribers donating right now, covering about 2% of the costs. We need at least ten times more of you to step up to help make this goal attainable. Contact us for info on how to donate by check our MO.
The third goal of the expanded newspaper [from the ULK 64"Make ULK Monthly" article (1)] states, "Broader distribution of anti-imperialist information." Furthermore, in the "who should be part of this expansion?" section of the article MIM(Prisons) states that "we will continue to publish articles from individuals who share our anti-imperialist agenda though perhaps are not Maoists."
I believe that the third goal can be achieved by practicing the above quote. The ULK subscription rate would increase by allowing "outsiders" to publish material within the publication (such as anarchists). This increase in subscribers would also increase the number of art and article submissions to ULK, as well as donations.
Let us remember that Marx agreed with Proudhon and other anarchists in regard to the necessity for the proletariat to abolish the state. It is only by abolishing the state that we can create a class-less society (since the state is the manifestation of class antagonisms). The dividing line between communists and anarchists is not the abolition of the state, but the process in which the state should be abolished. Because there are many similarities between communist and anarchist ideologies both ULK and its readers would benefit greatly from the inclusion of anarchist commentary (besides, MIM(Prisons) can always comment on an anarchist article to correct it if necessary.)
MIM(Prisons) responds: MIM(Prisons) welcomes anarchist writers to submit to ULK. This writer is correct that our areas of disagreement are limited to the strategy to getting to classless society, and we agree on our ultimate goal of society with no groups of people having power over other groups. There is also a lot to agree on in the struggle along the way.
The new newsletter in the works will still be a Maoist newsletter, meaning that all writings will pass through a Maoist editorial staff that will either edit or respond to any writings that disagree with the basic tenets of Maoism depending on the position of the author. We do think our readers benefit from seeing debates, and we want to focus on debates that push our movement and our unity forward. We share this comrade's idea that expanding the contributors to this publication will also expand our distribution. We invite potential contributors to get in touch.
On 13 January 2019, MIM(Prisons) sent 230 signatures on the petition to shut down Africom to the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) who will be presenting them to the Black Congressional Congress after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. This petition calls for the disbanding of Africom (a U.$. imperialist tool to control African militaries), the removal of all U.$. military bases on African soil and the end to U.$. invasions, bombings and other military operations on the continent.
So far we have received petitions from United Struggle from Within (USW) comrades in California, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia. BAP is accepting signatures until April 4 — the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. We encourage people to write to us for petitions ASAP and get your signatures in to us by April 1. And we encourage comrades to continue to spread information on this topic to build public opinion against U.$. imperialism in Africa.
USW comrades faced resistance in carrying out this campaign from staff and some prisoners. One USW cell lost 2 sheets of signatures in an altercation with a racist prisoner who opposed its work. Elsewhere in California, prison staff were ordered to target anti-Africom fliers for removal, and USW comrades were targeted for their leadership which forced signature gathering to end early. We have seen increased mail tampering and censorship with California comrades since this campaign began. If it weren't for repression, we would have had twice the number of signatures to submit before the deadline.
While our numbers weren't as high as the goal set by USW, comrades did a good job of turning this around on relatively short notice. Our slow lines of communication limit our ability to organize swiftly. So this was good experience for us in improving in that realm. One thing we need to do better next time is to have a larger list of USW members to forward campaign materials to. If you are a member of USW and did not get the Africom campaign packet, let us know and keep us updated on your organizing work so that you stay on our list of active USW members.
Below are some reports we received back with the completed petitions.
A USW cell in California: Here are 54 signatures we gathered. I hoped there'd be more but all our volunteers backed out on us at the last minute. At least one volunteer was reluctant to participate due to fear of repression. Besides that however it was a good campaign overall. The fliers with the timeline really came in handy. They helped us explain to people what the petition was about. In many instances me and another volunteer spoke at length to people about the nature of the campaign making it clear that our focus here was the oppressed & exploited people of Africa. In some situations, however, we found ourselves agitating for this campaign by talking about the fact that even Amerikan troops' lives were being needlessly sacrificed so that the U.$. government could secure the free flow of natural resources out of Africa. We did this keeping in mind how the Vietnamese National Liberation Front established relations with just about every and any Amerikan organization that was critical of U.$. involvement in Vietnam. The Vietnamese were smart in the respect that they were able to masterfully exploit every crack and division in the domestic U.$. anti-war movement.
A great many signatories were Mexican nationals and nationals from different Central American countries who didn't have to listen to more than the basics of our line before they signed. When agitating amongst this Spanish-speaking population we also found ourselves linking the plight of the Central American caravan to that of African refugees stranded at sea being denied entry into Europe.
Only three people refused to give us their signatures. Two of these people were skeptical from the gate and requested more information on Africom, which we happily handed over, whereas one refused to believe us and called us liars. All three were "brown proud patriots."
In closing, we'd like to thank the Black Alliance for Peace for letting us be a part of this campaign. While gathering signatures we found that prisoners were empathetic to the plight of Africans at the hands of U.$. imperialism in this new scramble for Africa. Surely the great African masses will successfully resist U.$. oppression, exploitation and domination, eject the colonizers and have a principal role in defeating U.$. imperialism once and for all. We hope we've made a difference. In Struggle!
Earlier these comrades had reported: We made copies of existing fliers and put them up in different buildings beforehand in an effort to build public opinion for the campaign. Unfortunately, we just received word a couple days ago that all the fliers we put up were taken down by officers on the orders of their superiors. When officers were asked why the fliers were removed they said they didn’t know, they just received a call explaining to them what to look for and to remove them. This is highly suspect since our fliers were up along with a variety of other fliers on an informational board with over 30 fliers including religious propaganda. Yet the Africom campaign fliers were singled out and removed. All this follows an odd run-in with security squad about a month ago. We've since put the fliers back up.
A report from another USW cell in California: I have enclosed 1 sheet [30 signatures] for the petition to dissolve the Africom military command. There are two pages of missing signatures that we worked very hard to acquire here. The problems last week started over a rude racist comment about "nigger politics," which was dealt with promptly on the spot. [Two comrades from this USW cell ended up in the hole as a result of this conflict.]
MIM(Prisons) adds: One comrade who did not participate in the petition drive challenged the campaign to shut down Africom, and in particular questioned Ajamu Baraka as a former Vice Presidential candidate with the Green Party. While MIM(Prisons) did not endorse Baraka's electoral campaign, we whole-heartedly support this campaign to get U.$. imperialism out of Africa, and stand with Baraka on revolutionary nationalist positions such as the one ey took in a recent article responding to the Prosper Africa plan:
"Africans in the U.S. must make a choice. Malcolm said you cannot sit at the table and not have any food in front of you and call yourself a diner. Africans in the U.S. have been sitting at the table of U.S. citizenship and calling themselves 'Americans' while our people are murdered, confined to cages in prisons, die giving birth to our children, die disproportionately before the age of five, live in poverty, are disrespected and dehumanized. A choice must be made, do you throw in with this dying system or do you align with the working class and oppressed peoples of the world."(1)
Vita Wa Watu! This is one essay on my tactics to recruit Brothas and Sistas for certain movements. Take the Day of Peace and Solidarity for instance. I sent out letters to those that have a Genuine Love for me and the Struggle and kept it real with them. I informed them that I would be fasting for the 9th day of September because it was a day that meant more to Oppressed and Lumpen than the Sabbath does to the Jews. I told them that that day is a day of Peace in the Prisons around the country and that it commemorated one of the biggest prison uprisings in the states, and also that it was the last day of the now annual prison strike.
Then I informed them that this Glorious Day meant that there would be no beatings, rapes, stabbings, or any violence of the Oppressed against the Oppressor and that it mean a lot to me if they would fast with me. I got a few confirmations and still awaiting others.
Also, I let the Brothers here in Ad-Seg know the meaning of this day. However, only one Soulja fasted with me. Nevertheless, the day was a success here at Northeastern Correctional Center. Stay strong, Comrades. I will join you again next year.
MIM(Prisons) responds: In ULK 64 we printed some early reports of actions on the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity. We're happy to hear about this work going on in Florida.
And this is a good example of sharing your tactics for organizing and recruiting. The next issue of Under Lock & Key is devoted to this topic and we're seeking moreinput from readers about what's worked for you, and also what hasn't worked. We can all learn a lot from our practice and from the practice of others. Sum up your organizing experiences and send them in for ULK. See ULK 63 for our prior deep dive into this topic.
MIM(Prisons) has set the ambitious goal of making Under Lock & Key a monthly publication by 2022. ULK fills a need in prison, providing revolutionary anti-imperialist reporting on and about the lumpen behind bars. This is a relatively small revolutionary project focused on the criminal injustice system. But prisons are just one part of the larger imperialist machine. And it will take a revolutionary movement much broader than just prisons to bring down capitalism. We are a part of that movement, and it is our job to do what we can to push forward its development.
At this stage in the struggle there are revolutionary cells organizing in various segments within the belly of the beast. We're building a United Front for Peace in Prisons to bring together the movement behind bars. And beyond that we want a united front against imperialism that includes both prison and non-prison organizations. This broader movement needs a unifying publication, a newspaper that can be used to both disseminate information and organize people.
Lenin wrote What is to be Done? about the importance of a regular newspaper publication for organizing the revolution in Russia. And in the early stages of organizing, before the movement gained popularity and broader membership, the Bolshevik leader argued that revolutionaries needed to dream of wide distribution of a regular publication. He wrote that, with enough local groups and study circles taking up active work:
"[W]e could, in the not distant future, establish a weekly newspaper for regular distribution in tens of thousands of copies throughout Russia. This newspaper would become part of an enormous pair of smith's bellows that would fan every spark of the class struggle and of popular indignation into a general conflagration. Around what is in itself still a very innocuous and very small, but regular and common, effort, in the full sense of the word, a regular army of tried fighters would systematically gather and receive their training. On the ladders and scaffolding of this general organisational structure [...] [revolutionaries would] rouse the whole people to settle accounts with the shame and the curse of Russia. That is what we should dream of!"
Why print a newspaper when we have the Internet?
Lenin was writing at a time where there was no other way to communicate between localities. We now have the Internet, and some will argue that online agitation is all we need. We can communicate with people around the globe in a few seconds on the Internet. And this is indeed a powerful organizing tool. So why put out a newspaper beyond prisons, one of the few places in First World countries without access to the Internet? The answer to this question is access and organizing.
Most people don't accidentally come across Maoist websites while browsing online, and with the imminent end of net neutrality this will likely become even more true. We're not going to get publicity in mainstream media. And we don't want to encourage bad security by asking people to post on facebook or twitter and expose themselves to the cops. Newspapers can be left for pickup in coffee shops, libraries, book stores, homeless shelters, community centers, laundromats and other places where folks can happen across a perspective they won't see elsewhere. This expands access to revolutionary news and education.
We can use the Internet to quickly share information about campaigns, and rally people from many locations for quick actions. And we can publish the content of a newspaper online, greatly expanding its reach beyond print media. But while the Internet is a powerful tool, it doesn't get us out on the streets organizing people, talking to them, and building study groups and organizing committees.
With a print publication, organizers can walk up and engage people in a way we can not do online. Newspapers give organizers a tool to use in face-to-face organizing. Talking to people about their conditions, and making the connections to the imperialist system. Asking someone to read an article and talk to them about it. Responding to a speech at a rally with a newspaper article on that topic as a starting point for conversation with folks already sympathetic to the cause.
Political goals of the expanded newspaper
Get organizing updates to comrades in prison with greater frequency
Build unity among the Maoist movement within U.$. borders
Broader distribution of anti-imperialist information
Closer coordination of work between various organizations within the united front against imperialism
Organizing tool for folks on the streets and behind bars
What is needed to expand ULK
Distributors: We can only achieve our goal if we can quickly expand
our network of distributors. This is where you, our readers and supporters come in. We will send you a small stack of ULKs every issue for a year for $50. For our Re-Lease on Life Program comrades we will send them for free until you can afford to pay. Selling them for $1 a piece is one way to get the funds to pay for your subscription. Or if you have the money you can take the easier route of dropping off a few copies at local shops and public spaces that have a spot for people to pick up free publications. For our imprisoned readers, reach out to any individuals or institutions on the outside that you think might be able to take on a regular shipment of ULKs.
Money: It will cost more money to print more newspapers, and also more postage to send it out to distributors. We're asking our distributors to cover the mailing costs of what we send them. We also need people to step up and help fund the printing and the costs of mailing in to prisoners.
Content: Our immediate goal is to increase the frequency of ULK, so that comrades inside are getting more regular organizing updates. As this will also expand the content, we hope to increase the breadth of topics that ULK currently tackles, exposing different sectors of the movement to each others' work. We are working on partnerships with fraternal organizations to help create content for this newsletter. We also call on individuals to increase their efforts to produce quality content that addresses the needs of the oppressed from a proletarian perspective.
Who should be part of this expansion?
Revolutionary anti-imperialist organizations that see Maoism as the furthest advance towards communism to date. This is an explicitly revolutionary project. We will not be toning down the Maoism that is our guiding political line. But we will continue to publish articles from individuals who share our anti-imperialist agenda though perhaps are not Maoists.
We need to expand our outside distributors beyond former prisoners. Expanding the content in our newspaper will help attract more supporters. But we also need more supporters to expand. So our number one challenge to comrades on the streets right now is to step up and become a regular distributor of ULK. Without a broader distribution network, we will not reach our goal of doubling the frequency.
Task list to prepare for January 2022
Start by distributing ULK locally. Sign up with us today by sending $50 to our PO Box with an address to send ULKs to, and begin exploring
ways to distribute the publication regularly. (No checks made out to MIM(Prisons), let us know if you want to send a check)
Commit to a financial contribution for this expansion. Ideally a monthly amount we can count on. You can start donating now to help us build up the cash needed for this project.
Volunteer to start writing articles. Ask for a copy of our recently
updated writing guide.
Revolutionary organizations interested in getting involved in this project, get in touch to start talking about how we can work together.