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Under Lock & Key

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[National Oppression] [Campaigns] [Education] [ULK Issue 47]
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Freedom Fighter: Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass on learning
For my essay I chose Frederick Douglass. I admire his inner strength, free spirit, and intelligence. I believe that he could see opportunity in every situation. For example, when his oppressors became so irate of his learning to read and write, he knew that things that are restricted are usually worthy of pursuit.

He overcame so many obstacles with so few resources, and he gives me motivation and inspiration to overcome and succeed, although my difficulties are minor compared to his. He was a great man and an unsung hero of freedom fighting. He must have thought to himself that it was better to risk death and fight for his freedom, than to conform to the wishes of tyrannical beings.

He fought and won. So much was against him and yet his spirit refused to be broken. He knew how powerful words can be. He learned them and mastered them. And once he'd won, he didn't let the realm of success lull him into complacency — a realm where many men venture and are swallowed, ending their reign of greatness. No, Frederick Douglass was a mossless stone; he never stagnated. Douglass continued pressing forward, not only bettering himself, but also bettering those he came in contact with and helping other oppressed individuals.

His written word will echo through the generations, inspiring thousands and perhaps millions. The American education system gives him only a cursory glance, then moves on to lies about founding fathers. Imagine if they lingered longer or more often on Frederick Douglass, and the valuable influence on those impressionable minds he would render. Frequently, I wonder about a stronger, less passive and more spirited generation. Like Frederick Douglass.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Frederick Douglass was born into slavery around 1818 in Maryland. Ey escaped slavery and went on to become a prolific writer, speaker, and newspaper publisher. Eir primary battles were against slavery and for wimmin's right to vote. Douglass had a similar path to radicalization as many readers of ULK, even though ey lived almost two centuries ago.

Douglass was taught the alphabet at around 12 years old from eir slavemaster's wife. Even though ey was discouraged from reading, sometimes with violence, Douglass continued to study and taught many others how to read as well. With the ability to read, Douglass became politicized through reading newspapers, which helped em develop into an internationally-acclaimed writer and speaker against slavery and oppression.

Even in the face of censorship and lack of programming, many U.$. prisoners build themselves and others up in the same way Douglass did. Present-day prisoners are not allowed to come together in a group to study, for "security threat concerns," which parallels Douglass's experience of having eir weekly literacy classes disbanded by the clubs and stones of slave owners. Nowdays, those who try to teach in spite of restrictions are locked in isolation toture cells.

Without good literacy skills, one can't file a lawsuit, or write grievances, or understand the prison handbook, or read Under Lock & Key; get the picture? Various sources state that 60-70% of U.$. prisoners are functionally illiterate.(1) Illiteracy affects the majority of prisoners, and thus hinders the organization of the majority of our subscribers' peers. Passing on an issue of ULK does little good if the recipient can't understand it.

Statistics from the prisoncrats themselves state that prisoners have a 70% chance of recidivism if they get no help with their literacy, whereas prisoners who do receive literacy help have a 16% chance of recidivism.(2) We wonder, why aren't there more programs for teaching reading comprehension and writing skills in prisons? It's clearly a continuation of the same exact national oppression faced by Frederick Douglass's generation.

That we are still having a conversation about building literacy among New Afrikans should give us a clue of the ineffectiveness of reformism and the necessity of complete communist revolution. After gaining state power, one of the first steps of this revolution will be to establish a joint dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations (JDPON), so that the most oppressed people in the world can dictate to those who have been oppressing others for centuries how society will be run. As was done in communist China under Mao, one of the primary functions of this dictatorship of the proletariat will be to build literacy at every single level of society, and especially among those who are furthest removed from the benefits of the economic system. One can't fully participate in society's development without literacy, and we need as many people as possible to participate.

We want to do as much as we can now to speed up the transition from capitalism to communism, and reading and writing are essential to this task. Building literacy also fits well into our immature Re-Lease on Life program, so those who are released can have a better chance of success and hopefully also a better chance of staying engaged in political work when on the outside. Even though MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within are on a much smaller scale than a JDPON, or even a single nation-state, we can still contribute to this goal while we build for a society where advanced literacy is taught to everyone systematically.

Douglass is just one individual example of a larger social phenomenon: when higher education meets a lack of opportunity, it produces radicalization and objection to the status quo. We know there is much more we can do to increase the reading and writing skills of oppressed nation lumpen in U.$. prisons, and to foster this politicization. But since MIM(Prisons) can only reach people with written material, we need our comrades behind bars to do the work on the ground. Anyone who is already teaching others basic literacy skills should get in touch with MIM(Prisons) to help us develop this Serve the People program. If you already have a study group, try to think how you can expand it to teach literacy as well. Tell us what materials we can send you to help you teach reading and writing to others. It is one of the ways we can improve the material conditions of our fellow oppressed peoples, and one way we can uphold the legacy of Frederick Douglass.

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[Education] [ULK Issue 47]
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Freedom Fighter: Inspired by Malcolm X

MalcolmX
"Don't be in such a hurry to condemn a person because he doesn't do what you do, or think as you do or as fast. There was a time when you didn't know what you know today." - Malcolm X
I have chosen comrade Malcolm X as my freedom fighter, may he rest in peace.

Comrade Malcolm X was a man who grew up troubled by family issues. His father was murdered and his mother was slowly starting to deteriorate mentally. The comrade started to steal, and was running numbers, etc. This landed the comrade in prison where he continued to get into trouble, until he met a brother from the Nation of Islam who helped comrade Malcolm X to get himself together.

In time, comrade Malcolm X educated himself on the inside and eradicated all his bad habits. After his release he continued his work as a revolutionary, helping to build the Nation of Islam and fighting for the people. Later on in his life he was working on his own organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

Comrade Malcolm X had a major impact on my life. When I came to prison in 2005 I was sent to the supermax in Ohio, and I had the wrong understanding of revolutionary change, and I had a 7th grade education. I met a prisoner who let me read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and when I had finished, my whole life was changed. I started working harder to educate myself and to become more politically conscious and vowed to spend the rest of my life fighting against the oppressor.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade's choice of a freedom fighter underscores the critical importance that education and political literature play in raising the consciousness of our comrades behind bars. While people may have an intuitive grasp of the nature of Amerikan imperialism, the lumpen mainly see the option of violence and theft against the people as a way to respond to the conditions of their lives. This is not revolutionary, and in fact sets the struggle back. But even with limited access to educational material we see people like Malcolm X and this comrade taking up the revolutionary struggle.

For this reason we place a big emphasis on getting our newsletter Under Lock & Key and political books in to prisoners. Most of the money we spend is on these tasks. And we rely on our comrades behind bars to share the lit they receive, and turn others on to the revolutionary mindset to help build new freedom fighters amongst the lumpen.

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[Organizing] [Education] [United Struggle from Within] [California] [ULK Issue 46]
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Consolidating USW Leadership thru Organization

United Struggle from Within structure

[At our 2012 Congress MIM(Prisons) decided to begin the process of building statewide councils to develop USW and its leadership. That winter the work began to set up the first council in California. This coincided with a renewed round of strikes in the state involving more than 30,000 prisoners. As activism spread, so did invitations to join the council. In short time, lack of participation cut the membership back down. For about a year and a half now, leading USW cells in California have been participating in the council on a regular basis, struggling over theoretical and practical questions of organizing the prison movement. This article is by one participant in the USW California Council discussing some of the issues the council has tackled.]

The United Struggle from Within (USW) political line is anti-imperialist, as those behind the walls recognize the penal system and its institutions as an extension of imperialism. Therefore our struggles include both domestic and international issues. As a generated organism from the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons, or MIM(Prisons), some within USW have taken up MIM line while others have not yet. USW is an eclectic group of anti-imperialist prisoners working in cells, individually or in a coordinated groups through MIM(Prisons) guidance. Our revolutionary activities can vary according to each cell and location. This makes USW a multi-issue mass organization.

It is important to have USW comrades focus on campaigns that are relevant to their conditions. For instance, field reporting is universally applicable. But those doing indeterminate SHU sentences should focus on getting policies changed or bring up campaigns to shut down control units, while other comrades on mainlines could organize a cell of like-minded comrades, set up study groups, and raise other campaigns. We can all contribute to fighting censorship and other legal actions that can benefit all prisoners if won in court.

Each USW cell works in the framework of bringing the humyn rights of prisoners to the forefront. It is no surprise prisons are swamped with internal semi-colonies, with the long sentences, new detrimental laws that disproportionately affect oppressed nations, and other practices of the criminal injustice system that contribute to the mass incarceration of oppressed nations. This injustice must be brought to the public. Comrades from USW use propaganda as a tool to reach the masses who are sympathetic or will become sympathetic. We utilize Lenin's method of having Iskra as his party's way to get the written word out to the masses by making use of Under Lock & Key to advertise our campaigns, our polemics, our developing theories, or just to expose the negative conditions in prisons. ULK is our voice behind the walls.

USW are we the cadre?

Recently there has been an open polemic in regards to USW. Is it just a mass org without a leadership role or does it have leadership influence, and because of this should it no longer be considered a mass org? Well to apply dialectic materialism to this topic I would say USW is a mass organization formed in part by MIM line. "All correct leadership is necessarily 'from the masses, to the masses.' This means: take the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas) then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action and test the correctness of these ideas in such action. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge."(1)

USW is guided by MIM(Prisons), leading revolutionary work at their location. Accumulating experience and knowledge while engaged in this work, many USW comrades aren't spontaneous in heading into revolutionary activity, as this would probably prove disastrous if a comrade knows very little of what exactly to do. For this reason MIM(Prisons) has study cells welcoming those ready for revolutionary theory education that is Maoist in content. There are even advanced levels for those who wish to continue into the ULK Writers Group, the most advanced Maoist study cell from which stem numerous USW comrades or cadres.

I use the term "cadre" for reasons of revolutionary language because it permits no dual meaning in our propaganda, and I utilize Che Guevara's definition herein:

"What is a cadre? We should state that a cadre is an individual who has achieved sufficient political development to be able to interpret the larger directives emanating from the central authority, make them his own, and convey them as an orientation to the masses: a person who at the same time also perceives the signs manifested by the masses of their own desires and their innermost motivations."(2)

It can be said that any well politicized USW comrade is a cadre behind the walls as we need not receive directives from MIM(Prisons) to know how to organize and commit ourselves to a campaign. Yet revolutionary learning is limitless and anyone wishing to engage in polemics or just learn from other comrades can do so by either writing in to the MIM(Prisons) USW coordinator, joining a study cell run by MIM(Prisons) or reading up on ULK and writing in.

The Statewide Council

The momentum created by USW cells throughout California prisons has brought us our own revolutionary council where pressing topics are discussed, and polemics, strategizing and other matters will be addressed. Through discussion and the democratic process we have passed resolutions to set the standards for USW cells joining the council. Resolutions passed so far include: time frames for when members must respond to council discussions, requirements that each cell vote on each proposal and provide justification for their votes, minimum study requirements before a representative can join the council, and requirements that each USW cell with representation in the council should put in at least 10 to 40 hours a week of revolutionary work. i.e. study, writing articles, making political art, etc. Cells are required to keep track of their work and report it monthly to build discipline.

The California Council has also built a treasury that we have been using to fund bonus pages in ULK. Our council has brought forth double the amount of donations than all other California comrades during a recent 6-month period. We recently finished a California-specific introductory letter for USW that went out to all existing members in June. We have had a slow start but overall we have established a steady pattern of discussion and work.

Amongst our struggles behind the walls, we will often have obstacles such as comrades abandoning a campaign or legal battle, or who just stop checking in with the council, USW or the ULK Writers group to pursue personal agendas and leave behind their revolutionary work. Our California Council and USW are a product of work and effort by politically conscious prisoners having a strategic goal in mind, be it anti-imperialist, shutting down control units, or prisoner humyn rights reform. The point is that our goals, strategic and tactical, are to struggle through the momentum whether it's low or high! Our focus is to work together for change and we hope our efforts, our resolve, inspires others to join our struggle behind the walls. Our struggle for humyn rights is a pressing issue for the comrades suppressed in solitary confinement, so contributing to litigation campaigns are essential but not our only venue! We need to be organized, we need to agitate and utilize propaganda as a tool in order to apply revolutionary practice!

We seek comrades who have a fair grasp on revolutionary theory. No comrade needs to be an expert, we are all still learning from each other, our USW work, and how to concentrate our USW branches through practice within our revolutionary California Council.

So I can say USW Council representatives are our cadres behind the walls, forging revolutionary discipline, education, legal assistance, study groups, etc. If comrades get transferred to another yard or prison we can expect them to do the same at their new location. And we do our work discreetly to not draw unwanted attention, thus maintaining all within USW cell security.


Notes:
1. Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tung Vol III, pg 119.
2. Che Guevara Speaks, "Cadres for a new party."

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[Education] [Abuse] [Bill Clements Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 47]
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Message to Clements Unit: to Continue to Exist We Must Resist

Folks are dropping dead like flies here in Clements Unit. Due to a faulty grievance system and benign inspector general investigations, the whole entire unit staff are literally getting away with murder. It seems like when one pig gets in trouble he/she gets promoted. Take officer (now Sergeant) Garret E. Rockholt for instance. In 2013 he cold cocked a prisoner in the medium custody unit of this prison. Not only was he caught red-handed, this incident gained him praise and eventually got him promoted to a Sergeant in the Ad-Seg building where he walks around with his chest out boasting about his charades as a former Officer.

Next we have Officer (now Sergeant) Desmond Finney. As an officer he had a reputation for beating and slamming handcuffed prisoners. Notably, one ended up with black eyes and another had a tooth knocked out. Not only was he beating our peers but he also denied several the chance to eat whenever he worked the pod. Now this clown has been promoted to Sergeant and the deck for corruption is constantly getting stacked.

These are just a few examples of the rewards for bad behavior that need to stop. But comrades it's going to take more than just words and hope. Unity is key and unity is mandatory with any effort towards changing prison conditions and prison behavior. We can't afford to let differences between one another dictate how pervasive things get and we need to focus on how to liberate one another. As comrade Mao said, "to gain public opinion and seize power."

Since 2013 we've had one peer murdered, one left to die, one found in his cell where he'd already been dead for several hours, one left with a broken arm and another a broken finger. None of these instances were peer-on-peer attacks; they were all due to the intentions and neglect by the very pigs that are supposed to prevent these things from happening. It's obvious that we can't count on them to protect us, so the only obvious alternative is to protect each other collectively and with honor.

Getting involved in study groups and reading, learning, and teaching the works of Marx, Lenin, and Mao is sure to create an understanding of how to lead. So if you haven't begun to study and don't know where to start, if you've read this you just began.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Study groups are an excellent way to build unity and political leadership. Getting people to agree that unity is good is pretty straightforward, but building a long-lasting movement that's strong enough to stand up against all obstacles put in our way requires deep political study. We run correspondence study groups and also support prisoner-led study groups behind bars. Write in to get materials for either of these methods of study.

For prisoners of the Texas Department of Criminal inJustice (TDCJ) there is also an activist pack which has info on the various campaigns United Struggle from Within has running in TDCJ. This activist pack doesn't just contain information to help fight for your rights; it is a great organizing tool to share with others in your facility to get people working together and building tangible unity.

We hope to develop activist packs for other states where comrades are fighting similar struggles. In Texas the campaigns center around the inability to have grievances properly addressed, a $100 medical copay for healthcare, and a limit on indigent envelopes to 5 per month. If you have an idea for a campaign and resource that can be developed in your state, write in to get involved. If you're in Texas, you need to get this Texas activist pack! It's costly to print and mail so if you are able to send us a donation, that would be greatly appreciated.

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[Education] [ULK Issue 45]
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Prisoner-led Study Groups Summary

Prisoner-led Study Group

MIM(Prisons) disagrees with the organizational model of a single ideological leader (or privileged clique) providing all the instructions and theory for its membership, with the masses submitting to this guidance. This is part of why we are an anonymous organization — to help people overcome the cultural tendency of hero worship. We want everyone to take the ideological development of our movement into their own hands. As we've seen countless times throughout history, raising everyone's political consciousness, as the Chinese Communist Party did under Mao, is essential to ensuring that our revolutionary movement is not usurped by our enemies or our mistakes.

To this end, we run correspondence study courses, and we encourage prisoners to run their own study groups where they're at. Malcolm X, George Jackson, Stanley Tookie Williams, and countless other leaders developed their revolutionary analysis using their time behind bars in U.$. prisons. We follow their example and aim to push forward the political development of all U.$. prisoners; supporting prisoner-led study groups (SGs) is one way we do this.

We help support over 30 SGs in 16 states and the Federal system. Since the SGs are prisoner-run and led, we primarily provide support by sending study materials, including books, magazines, newspapers and study packs. Some of the study packs are collections of essays or source material on a particular topic, and others are questions that go with a magazine or book. With this issue of ULK and our letters to SG leaders, we also aim to provide tactical guidance and suggestions.

In February we sent out a questionnaire to get a better sense of how these SGs are run, their scope, their successes, challenges and needs. About one-third of the SGs we support responded, and here we summarize what we learned.

The number of participants ranges between 1 and 25 people, and most groups have less than 10 regular participants. Some groups are single-nation, but most are mixed-nation, with a mixture of lumpen organization (LO) and ex-LO membership. We see SGs as a good place for building the United Front for Peace in Prisons through practice. One respondent told us:

“The three core members have all had gang affiliations in the past. The two brothers were in the Gangster Disciples or Vice Lords, and the Chicano was in the Latin Kings. But behind bars we have found out who the real enemy is: the U.$. racist imperialist oppressor pigs who run this joint. So we have put our racial differences and gang affiliations aside to fight our common enemy.”

The average time an SG has been together is 2 years, with a range of 2.5 months to 6 years. Most go through study material at similar rates: either one ULK per week, a few chapters of a book every two weeks, or a magazine/book per month. The SGs that have been going the longest reported that individual members teach what they are familiar with, or have assigned areas to become expert. Other groups report that one persyn or a core group will lead the entire study.

SGs have a wide range of structure. The structure of your group should be based on the conditions where you're at, but it should be a universal goal to get a variety of participants engaging in leading the group. Raising the leadership skills of the participants is one way to raise their political level. And since people are moved around all the time, a follower in one SG might need to become the leader in a different facility. If they already have some practice generating study questions, acquiring reading material, and recruiting participants, then the new SG is more likely to be successful. In this way we can use a disruption, such as transfers, to our advantage.

The frequency and reliability of meeting to go over study materials also varies widely. For groups who are in different facilities, or who are in isolation, they “meet” by passing lit and sharing essays they write analyzing the reading material. Most groups reported they meet once a week, some 3 or 5 days a week, and one group said they meet daily. Some reported they meet creatively under the guise of religious services or a tutoring program.

Challenges

Of course one huge barrier to SGs and revolutionary development generally is literacy — your ability to read and write. We know that a significant portion of prisoners are illiterate. Most of our SGs reported they do not spend much energy teaching literacy, and most participants have GEDs or higher. One group even reported that a GED is a minimum requirement to participate. With the abhorrent lack of programming in U.$. prisons, the responsibility of teaching literacy rests primarily on prisoners themselves — each one teach one.

Challenges reported include:

  1. Imprisonment problems: infiltration, SHU time, validation
  2. Study material confiscated/censored
  3. Insufficient study material
  4. Lumpen problems: bourgeois politics, punctuality/discipline

“Imprisonment problems” will always affect our SGs just because of the fact that they are running inside prisons. But these issues can be addressed somewhat by having good security practices. At least one SG recruits participants by being blatant and open about its politics, receiving criticism from other prisoners (which they then engage through discussion) but not repression from staff (at least not yet). In our limited experience, this is an uncommon scenario, and definitely varies by facility and state. We are creating a security study pack to add to our list of available study materials, so if you have any recommendations of security practices that have worked for your group, please share them with us.

“Lumpen problems” are those which are prominent among the lumpen class as a whole, which we need to address on a mass scale. We can start working on these problems within our SGs. The institutionalization of the daily routine in prisons leads many to rely on others (their captors) to determine what they do at any given moment. This prevents us from developing the necessary skills of time management and self-discipline. When moved to a less structured environment (e.g, from SHU to general population, or from prison to the outside) it is difficult to stay committed to projects and it can be as if one is just following the wind. Encouraging self-discipline with work reports and planning in advance is one way to tackle this problem.

Study material being censored and confiscated can possibly be dealt with using the appeal and grievance process, but we also need to assume repression will always come from our oppressor whenever we try to educate ourselves. Since you can't rely on having articles or notes to refer back to, try to read the material multiple times before passing it on. Writing a summary or analysis on the material, even if it's just a few sentences reflecting on an article in ULK, will help you remember it better and think about it more critically. And discussing your reflections with another comrade if possible will help you develop your overall political analysis. So even if the material is stomped on and torn up and "lost" forever, you will have done your best to hold on to it and can hopefully teach those principles to others even without the written words to refer to.

If the main problem in your SG is having material to study, you're in luck, because that's probably the easiest problem to solve! Barring complete censorship of our materials, MIM Distributors can send you literature on a wide range of topics. Send us reports on what questions are coming up in your SG, what conclusions you are drawing from the material you are studying, and how those conclusions can be applied to the struggles in your prison, and we'll hook you up. Encourage your SG participants to sign up for ULK and send us work-trades for lit, such as articles, art, or poetry for the newsletter. You can even pool together your financial resources to purchase books outright.

One of our goals coming from our annual congress is to be supporting 50 SGs across the United $nakes by this time next year. Since the initiative of our subscribers (YOU!) is what determines how many SGs we can support, we are trying to up the support on our end by addressing some of the main challenges identified in responses to our questionnaire. Please share experiences with us that others might be able to apply to their own SGs.

We hope with this issue of ULK to spark some inspiration among our readers to take their usual “I read and love this newsletter, and pass it on!” to step up and sit down with their fellow captives to study. It is not only important for our own immediate tasks of building unity and increasing our knowledge, but it is important so that our actions will have the greatest impact on liberating the majority of the world's people.

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[Education] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 45]
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Building Prison Study Groups

Study Groups

I first became exposed to revolutionary theory in prison, although I had been a reader my whole life. Prison has become my classroom for revolutionary knowledge, not because the state ensures this, but because I came in contact with politically conscious prisoners who helped instill a consciousness in me. Groups like MIM helped to fuel my early cultivation through liberatory literature and I was able to engage in study groups throughout my prison journey, facility to facility and yard to yard. Study groups were the key to my own development.

It is a fact that U.S. prisons are used for social control of prisoners, who are mostly from the internal semi-colonies. Colonized people have always been subjected to brutal prison conditions but dialectical materialism teaches us that we can transform our environment, including prisons. In order to revolutionize these modern day slave kamps we need to study to revolutionize ourselves.

How Study Groups Help People

People are social beings, and as strong-minded and determined as we think we are, the truth is we learn best through interacting with our environment and especially other people. We learn best by discussion and debate. Asking questions helps us get answers, and when we are having trouble grasping a concept, studying with others allows us to learn. Teaching others also helps the teacher to learn themselves. The study group facilitates all of this.

In my own experience with study groups within U.$. prisons I have found that besides developing one's own political thought, study groups also teach one how to interact with others and what are the best ways to translate or explain our social reality to the people. We should understand that in many ways those of us who study political science and engage in study groups within prisons operate like political organizations out in society that do outreach to the masses, only our fellow prisoners are the masses.

Just as our counterparts outside prison walls constantly attempt to learn from the masses in order to better help the masses, we should do the same with our study groups. As prisoners, those of us who are conscious must revolutionize these dungeons. We have boots on the ground, and study groups within prisons should develop programs which help educate all of the prison masses, not just those involved in a study group. In this sense a study group can serve as the vanguard in their facility.

Study groups have helped me understand my oppression and the oppression of Aztlán, and through them I have become a better persyn. Understanding politics and theory has given me purpose and has helped me to help other prisoners to better their existence. In short I have not just learned about hystory, as when I study alone, but I have learned different methods of using the lessons of hystory to revolutionize the future.

How do study groups operate?

Depending on one's facility, study groups take on various formations. I have experienced many, from formal groups studying political science while on the mainline where one can meet face to face on the yard and discuss different aspects of society, to yelling through an air vent to people I couldn't see.

I was in one spot where every few days someone picked a different country and we discussed all of the uprisings in that country. People would search old magazines, books or newspapers to find anything on that country.

Another study group I participated in was in a facility that was highly restrictive with revolutionary literature. Since none of us was too politically educated we got whatever newspapers or progressive magazines we could, and we would discuss the articles, and attempt to apply them to other aspects of society.

Prison Study Groups in Maoist China

If we look to Mao's China, and specifically to the time of the Cultural Revolution, we will see that every level of society was touched by Maoism, even the prisons. When I read about prisons in Mao's China I learn why it is that Maoism is considered the highest stage that socialism has developed so far.

Though frequently badmouthed in the imperialist media for their re-education practice, these prisons focused on the political education of inmates. Most people behind bars had committed serious crimes against the people (landlords who murdered peasants, people who spied for Amerika, government officials who abused their power), and so this education helped prisoners understand how their actions affected others and why they should want to work towards a society where people do not have the power to oppress and exploit others.(1)

The study groups developed by prisoners during the Cultural Revolution involved thought reform. This means understanding why one has particular thoughts and finding ways of correcting incorrect ideas. This was reforming one's errors on levels that many of us cannot even imagine. It was a process of dialectics where prisoners would study the essence of their actions and behaviors. They would also engage in criticism-self-criticism where they would look into their own errors or the errors of others so that they all learned and evolved as a group.

The prison study groups in Maoist China did not conduct criticism-self-criticisms in order to ridicule or bully people; instead it was done to really point out the error and get the persyn to understand their error. One cannot change a behavior if one does not know or truly believe that they are committing an error in the first place. What we must understand is every prison in Mao's China had these daily study groups, which were fully supported by the people's government. In this way prisoners learned and became better people because of the study groups. They became people who went on to help build the revolution.

In contrast to Mao's China, here in U.$. prisons we are simply warehoused. We are placed in a cell where we are taught nothing, and this is done for years and decades. If we are lucky we are released and come out the same or worse than we went in. We don't learn from the state because under capitalism they don't have any use for us other than filling a cell. And when we try to form study groups we are punished and our studies are falsely labeled as gang activity or security threat activities. This is the difference between a Maoist society and a capitalist society; one heals people, the other destroys people.

All of this was part of the political line of China under Mao which put into practice the theory that people can learn from their mistakes and become productive members of society if they take study and self-criticism seriously. In Amerika's prisons today we find the oppressed rather than the oppressors, but there is still an important role for self-criticism in the anti-people actions of many lumpen. And the study of political theory is especially criticial to the oppressed as we hone our understanding of how to fight back against the oppressors.

When speaking about education Mao stressed: "Our educational policy must enable everyone who receives an education to develop morally, intellectually and physically and become a worker with both socialist consciousness and culture."(2)

Mao reminds us that education is to make us better people. In the above quote he describes education being used to help people become workers. Although we are lumpen, education can help us become lumpen with socialist consciousness and culture.

What are the difficulties?

Forming or participating in study groups is not easy. There are many obstructions we have to deal with. As most know, U.$. prisons unleash political repression in the guise of upholding their laws. They criminalize political organizing and revolutionary activity of the imprisoned captives by labeling it "gang activity" or "security threat group activity."

There were times when I would get a good group of people together and we would have a good study group going and then the prison, out of nowhere, would move people out of the building or section, scrambling the housing population and dismantling the study group. The study group is disrupted, but this only means that we need to start over.

Sometimes I would be somewhere and gather lots of notes on political articles or uprisings and I would use these for groups, only to have my cell searched and all of my notes trashed, with a guard noting "gang notes." Likewise I would acquire a good selection of revolutionary books only to be transferred to another prison and in the process all of my political books would be "lost."

Once I was in a control unit where the prison put me and a New Afrikan next to each other and everyone else in the unit was juiced up on psyche meds kicking their door all day. The prison did this to further isolate us from our nations. So we formed a study group together and discussed ULK and other books. When things get repressive we need to keep studying and educating each other, no matter how hard it is.

Study groups can also be done through the mail. MIM(prisons) facilitates some of the best study groups I have encountered. But this invites censorship and sometimes harassment from the prison staff. We have to understand that learning about our own repression and about communist theory is something the state seeks to prevent. Prisoners learning about revolutionary theory scares the state because it means we will learn and turn theory into practice, against them.

What's it all for?

We should understand that repression will happen regularly. This is why studying is so important, so that when our mail is censored we have books and literature to fuel our study groups. And when our lit and books are "lost" we can remember our lessons and teach others key concepts like dialectical and historical materialism. We can help other prisoners understand why we need a united front or how the oppressed within U.$. borders developed as nations. We will know all of this and what kind of program we will need to liberate the people because of what we learned in our study groups.

What we do today and how we spend our time in these dungeons will determine what the future of these dungeons will look like. At the same time study groups should produce theory and theory should produce practice. We are not studying to be armchair revolutionaries, we are studying in order to ultimately join the oppressed of the world in smashing imperialism.


Notes:
1. For more on prisons in Maoist China see Prisoners of Liberation: Four Years in Chinese Communist Prison, by Adelle and Allyn Rickett, 1973.
2. Mao Zedong, "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People", 27 February 1957.

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[Organizing] [Education] [Florida] [ULK Issue 45]
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One Method of Organizing a Study Group

The study group that I started and lead is a very small one — only three of us. The most challenging aspect I have encountered thus far is attracting members. In Florida conditions are somewhat different from what I have read about in other states. First, our prisons are highly integrated, but as prisoners we are not, with like nations hanging out with each other. However, there is virtually no gang activity and any activity there is is highly localized and disorganized. Secondly, I am at a "re-entry" camp where 80% of the population has less than five years left to serve and the bourgeois brainwashing is in overdrive. And lastly, I am euro-Amerikan (which necessitates class suicide).

I found that by openly acknowledging that I am a Marxist/Communist, dialogue is opened with others. I have been branded "that godless Marxist bastard," an epithet I wear as a badge of honor. As a White revolutionary I must be especially fearless in this regard. The majority of prisoners that open dialog about Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) with me are so conditioned with misinformation and myth that they eventually give up rather than consider that what they have been told all their life is a distortion or outright wrong. Once they are able to consider what I say and/or the MIM literature I show them, then comes their metaphysical ideology.

In my experience gaining a study group member comes down to a three-step process. I make myself known as a MLMist. Then I must be able to overcome the hystorical myths and mysteries of communism — particularly as they concern Stalin and Chairman Mao. To this end the article "Myths About Maoism" published in Fundamental Political Line of MIM(Prisons) (pp. 20-28) is a good start. If they are willing to consider this different view of hystory then the third step is to move into an understanding of materialist dialectics (Marxism) to counter any metaphysical ideology.

MIM Distributors supplied me with the books Fanshen and Settlers. For my study group a new member reads Fanshen first. This is to give a sense of the meaning and power of political consciousness as opposed to simple "unity," and to further dispel hystorical myths about the role of the Communist Party in China under Mao. Next they read Settlers. This puts Amerikkkan hystory in a materialist dialectical perspective and demonstrates what is meant by a settler nation. It is an extremely powerful text for euro-Amerikans who have come this far in the study group.

Our group meets three times a week to discuss any questions on a topic that a member might have. We like to take current world events and discuss them from a MLM/Third World viewpoint. For us, the ULK Writers Group supplemental reading is very helpful. For example, the rise and gains of Maoism and the People's Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) in India has been a current focus.

If I had to name the major hurdle I face in educating a study group then it would be what MIM has called lumpen metaphysics — that conditioned ideology that continually rears its ugly head in debates, discussions, etc. In leading a study group one must be wary as that is a subtle path that leads to many wrong and irrational conclusions. As a project we are currently working on an essay for the ULK Writers Group on how to identify a lumpen metaphysical argument when it is posed so that its irrationality can be exposed via materialist dialectics. I only hope that all comrades will take an active role and critique it, helping to push its development further.

"Theory without practice ain't shit" and that practice starts with an action. My most fearless action, the action that started my practice of forming a study group, was to proclaim myself a communist and believer in Maoism as a better way of democracy. From that point forward I had joined the Struggle.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Everyone should keep in mind that the tactics used by a comrade in one facility might not be what's appropriate for the conditions where you're at. While it seems useful for this author to be very public about their political views, for many other subscribers to ULK, that same act can easily get them validated as a member of a "security threat group" or otherwise harassed by prison administration.

We appreciate how this author laid out how they structure their initial recruiting, and how they are making use of materials we've sent to them. The "supplemental reading" they refer to is a packet of articles from the web on various news and theory topics, which is sent regularly to participants in our advanced correspondence study group, the ULK Writing Group. In order to join the ULK Writing Group, you must complete both levels of our introductory study group, have a high level of political unity with MIM(Prisons), and be a regular contributor to ULK. We encourage everyone who can't set up a study group wherever they're at to join our introductory study group — or do both!

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[Education] [Control Units] [Oregon]
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Forming Prisoner-led Study Groups in IMU

I was discussing the difficulty of forming a study group in Intensive Management Unit (IMU), which is Oregon's Security Housing Unit (SHU), with a comrade (we are both in IMU) and we have figured that we two can at least do a study group with the two of us. We are hoping that you guys will be able to help with the literature. We are wanting to study "The Communist Manifesto" by Marx. If that is not a possibility we are hoping for "On Contradiction" by Mao. I don't believe my comrade is on the Under Lock & Key (ULK) list, but if you could put him on the mailing list and send us both copies of Marx or Mao or both or whatever is available. His info is enclosed.

We are, of course, willing to do political work for trade. Besides the essay enclosed, I am also working on an essay about "The Chicago Anarchist Trial" of 1886, in which the in-justice system fixed a trial and put four revolutionaries to death. My comrade is also working on a separate essay about revolutionary nationalism. We will send them in when they are completed.

On the invoice it was asked to answer those four questions, so here we go.

1. The most valuable thing I learned was about the "labor aristocracy." I had some prior knowledge, but the concept was expanded greatly in my mind.

2. I can't say that I disagree with the idea of a "white working class" as "labor aristocracy." But I am just trying to assimilate this fact with my previous revolutionary theories.

3. I would like to learn more about dialectical materialism and social sciences in general.

4. What most relates to the day-to-day struggle is to stop seeing the U.$. working class as potential revolutionaries. They are part beneficiaries from imperial exploitation.

As I said before, I am in IMU or SHU and so face different challenges when it comes to group study. I am really hoping ULK 45 will address the special circumstances that are part of the SHU study groups, and how to deal with and get around those challenges. But, if you can help us with the literature we will report back on how our SHU study group works out!

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[Education] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 45]
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Education vs. Propaganda

I am a tutor in the prison's fascist propaganda program, known as GED Preparation. In the classes the prisoners are taught the official U.$. government history line, which they are expected to parrot back when they take the GED tests.

Some of the lies the prisoners are taught are:

  1. The "valiant" Amerikan colonists fought for freedom with the help of many willing Black slaves. Of course, freedom for the slaves was never an issue, only how to secure power and control for the white masters (all male) who wrote the new rules (Bill of Rights, etc.) for the nascent Amerikan government.

  2. Once the British gave up, the new Amerikans immediately headed west to grab as much "vacant" land as possible, and with the accompanying preachers, to convert those filthy, violent heathens to the correct religion, Christianity. The religion that teaches "slaves obey your masters." They don't mention that when those pesky primitives resisted handing over the land, they were attacked, killed if possible, then once subdued, were herded off for re-settlement (to land no whites wanted because it was unlivable badland).

  3. At the end of the Civil War in 1865 Abraham Lincoln and his minions passed the 13th Amendment which, it was claimed, ended slavery. Totally ignored and denied (if questioned) by the teacher was the part saying "... except as punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted..." Then the creation of thousands of "crimes," when conviction of any of them meant to be thrown into slavery. "Put on those shackles and start hoeing that cotton, prisoner!"

I sit in the class with steam coming out of my ears as I listen to the lies. I cannot speak up if I want to keep my job. Frustration! Once out of class though, I talk to receptive people so they get the real history and its impact on the U.$. social/political system.

Comrades who write of the need for prisoners to educate themselves, using their free time for improvement, are absolutely correct. Prisoners reading the MIM publications will find truth and real knowledge. In the prison-created/mandated classes they will find only the official U.$. government line. However, we still can learn truth if we are willing to do our own research, talk to aware comrades, analyze the information, and then come to rational awareness.

In conclusion, if you want to win in your battle against the forces of capitalist fascism, then learn how to educate yourself, and spend your free time doing it. Knowledge does lead to power. Ignorance supports only slavery.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This writer is on point about the underlying themes of capitalist education and the importance of anti-imperialist information. We must take what we can from all sources. If you don't have a high school diploma and your prison offers GED classes, it's well worth enrolling. But we need to take this education, along with the mainstream press, with a critical eye knowing it is representing the capitalists' dishonest version of history and news. We can learn some useful facts but we have to always put them under the anti-imperialist microscope. This is why alternative press like Under Lock & Key is so important. We print the news that no one else will publish. If you are reading this, share it with others and help spread the knowledge and build the power of the oppressed.

If you need access to non-Amerikkkan history books and study materials, you can get them from MIM(Prisons) via our correspondence study courses, Free Books for Prisoners Program, or the United Struggle from Within prisoner-led study group support project. Just write in to get started! And if you're like this comrade and are trying to reach out to interested people to spread revolutionary education, write in to get some anti-imperialist propaganda to share.

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[Education] [Organizing] [Texas]
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Utilize Cyber Space and Social Media to Expose the Corrupt Texas Pigs

Comrades, consider all the murders of people of oppressed nations in Amerika: the Trayvon Martins, Andy Lopezes, Renisha McBrides, and Michael Browns. Now consider the media attention and the fact that even though some attention was given to the racist security guards and police officers who were involved in these heinous acts, was justice rendered?

In Texas, finally we have woken up to the fact that attempting to ask the closed loop fraternity of oppressors to fix this corrupt grievance program is not the proper strategy to fix the problem.

In the mean time, numerous prisoners have been beat and murdered by Texas Department of Criminal inJustice (TDCJ) pigs hiding under the blanket of qualified immunity. The Office of Inspector General has been a willing conspirator in the cover-up of abuses of prisoners and Senator John Whitmire, the Chairman of the Texas State Legislatures Criminal Justice Committee, is the Chief of culpability when it comes to murders being un-investigated and obstruction of justice tactics made the status quo! Senator John Whitmire is a closet racist and cast in the same mold as the Dixiecrats of the South circa 1960 and 1970.

It is true, Texas State Representative Dr. Alma Allen from Houston fought hard to have House Bill 877 (HB877) passed during the 83rd legislative session in 2013. This is the TDCJ Independent Oversight Committee bill which Whitmire wouldn't support stating that “We already have policies and committees in place that do that.” Bull shit Whitmire!

Comrades, we must make a concerted effort to expose TDCJ prison employees and hucksters like Whitmire in the media. Let the public see exactly what is going on up in here and let the public decide whether the system is just or corrupt. What we do is start drafting brief, informative, and concise e-mails and blog postings and ask a family member, friend, or fellow comrade to post or send emails to particular sites and addresses.

For instance, Huntsville, Texas is the home of numerous TDCJ prisons and modern day slave camps and gulags. Huntsville has a newspaper called The Huntsville Item which occasionally reports on issues that take place within TDCJ. I've started to send short news clips and blog blasts to the Huntsville Item detailing abuse that I've witnessed or been victim to: [email protected], attn: news room. Put their ass on blast right in their own back yard!

But there's more!

The Houston Chronicle is the largest most circulated newspaper in the state of Texas. Chronicle staff writers Mike Ward, Anita Hasson, and Dan Schiller all focus on criminal justice issues and have exposed many instances of abuse inside TDCJ but they are or seem to be protectors of the pigs! Nevertheless, they are opportunistic journalists and love a juicy tale of murder, intrigue, and corruption, all salient subjects present inside the Texas Department of Criminal Injustice. I encourage you strongly to have brief but informative packed emails sent to them also! Houston Chronicle staff writer email addresses: [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected]

The Texas Observer is a left leaning “Journal of Free Voices” which publishes a monthly magazine. I've also been developing a rapport with them.

The prison show on KPFT 90.1 FM actually has a Facebook page which I highly recommend you have your friends, family and comrades visit and post short messages that detail abuse and the inadequacy of this important and useless grievance program!


Murders but no accountability

Comrades, too many prisoners are being killed by TDCJ employees and the murders are being justified as necessary use of excessive force by sadistic, brutal, and criminal TDCJ employees. As I said earlier, the Office of Inspector General is condoning and sanctioning these murders of the lumpen, so on top of our media strategy we must start contacting the Texas Rangers and the Public Integrity Unit in Austin, Texas.

The Texas Rangers are one of the oldest most advanced law enforcement agencies in Texas. Outside of the FBI the Rangers are the top pig organization in Texas. When we coordinate our efforts in such a manner as contacting the media and these Rangers, playing it out in the public domain, I promise you we will get some action right out of the chief imperialist pig oppressor Brad Livingston, TDCJ Executive director.

The public integrity unit in Austin investigates corruption of those who hold public office. So all those board of pardon and parole officials who've been taking bribery money from so-called parole lawyers in Texas watch out! All those Texas correction industries employees who have been engaged in deceptive business practices stealing tax payer dollars and promoting the slave plantation system in Texas – watch out!

Comrades, please understand that this info I am giving you has the potential to create a major disturbance in the corrupt practices of TDCJ. The oppressors don't want you to utilize this information but if we can get a significant number of comrades to embrace this strategy it will strengthen our position.

MIM(Prisons) is correct when it says the TDCJ independent oversight committee would bring progress for our fight against abuse and injustice. But remember this is a long protracted struggle that will go on for years. The key is to unify behind this strategy. We need actors not rappers.

Address: The Texas Rangers, PO Box 4087, Austin, Texas 78773-0600
The Public Integrity Unit, PO Box 1748, Austin, Texas 78767


MIM(Prisons) responds: We print this letter because it gives us a chance to address the question of how to build public opinion. We agree with this comrade that it can be useful to send information to various media outlets to expose injustice. Sometimes they will cover our struggles, if not for the reason of actually supporting these struggles. But we do need to be very aware that media is not unbiased. Mainstream media is beholden to advertisers and so very much biased in favor of capitalism and the criminal injustice system. This means that when this media does cover our struggles, it will usually be with a slant or perspective that is counter to ours. Is it useful to have the media cover a prisoner hunger strike over bad conditions by interviewing the warden and letting him have a forum to tell the public how the prisoners are wrong and conditions are good? Of course, getting our side of the story in the hands of this media may get the struggle covered with at least a bit of our perspective. That is a good thing, but we cannot rely on mainstream media. This is why MIM(Prisons) publishes Under Lock & Key. The oppressed need our own media reporting from our perspective. USW88 left out ULK as a place where people should send their stories, but we must always keep this in the front of our minds: any story or news worth sending to the mainstream media should be sent to ULK first. ULK is the most likely place it will get printed!

Ultimately we need to distinguish between our short-term goal of achieving reforms to improve the living conditions of our comrades behind bars, and our long-term goal of eliminating the criminal injustice system. The first goal may sometimes be aided by broad publicity brought to the atrocities going on behind bars. The second goal will only be accomplished with an organized communist movement with solid anti-imperialist principles. We will never get anti-imperialist education printed in mainstream media. And so we can use these avenues tactically for short term battles, but we should not rely on them for anything more. And all of our work needs to be in the context of our long-term goals: even reforms should serve as educational tools for our comrades and potential comrades to explain why we will never be able to reform away imperialism.

As for the strategy of contacting the Texas Rangers, this is a historically very reactionary arm of the law enforcement with roots in the repression and murder of [email protected] We definitely don't expect them to take action on behalf of the oppressed . Exposing the criminal injustice system actions to this criminal “law enforcement” agency is a bit like reporting a corrupt pig to the pigs. Action is almost never taken. And further, those reporting the information to the Texas Rangers have now given over their name and contact info for future repression. Rather than encourage people to put their energy into this tactic, we suggest more work writing articles about what's going on behind bars and in the streets, from the perspective of the anti-imperialist movement.

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