Understanding the historical foundations that imperialism rests upon, it's not surprising that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has moved to censor MIM material at United States Prison (High-SMU) Florence, Colorado.
As a New Afrikan, and a native indigenous warrior, I strove to show a qualitative form of unity by creating a social-political educational study class with MIM material. However, in a classic predictable anti-social way the BOP censored our materials. By the will to outlast our captors we remain committed and courageous as we strive to expand our political awareness and sharpen our mental tools.
As we study European expansionism, conquest and imperialism we find that their art of politics easily turns into their art of war. By tracking the footprints of history we find the first thing to be seized, controlled and destroyed by European settlers and conquerors is the cultural, political and educational facilities and institutions of those conquered.
By studying the mechanics of imperialistic conquest, we find that to effectively colonize a people the colonial system must thoroughly entrench itself inside the minds of that subjected people. Thus, the educational system of that people must be replaced, and repressed with an anti-social educational system that reinforces a system of slavocracy.
The masters of the means of production fear a people armed with the social weapon of political education, because true liberation education is the well of hope and power that directs and harnesses the humanism of humanity. Education for the colonized is not static nor does it exist on a one dimensional level that's academic in nature. Political, social and cultural education is forever in motion working in a dialectical relationship with materialism. Education is the catalyst for the process of decolonization.
Our brother Frantz Fanon noted: "Decolonization is the veritable creation of new men. But this creation owes nothing of its legitimacy to any supernatural power, the 'thing' which has been colonized becomes 'man' during the same process it frees itself..." Thru correct political and social education the "things" (i.e. the nigga, the pimp, the social parasite, the whore, the agent of fratricide and natural genocide, the gangster, the dope fiend, dope pusha, and every other reactionary element in our community) become true healers of humanity by finding a new sense of humanity within themselves. This is the powerful potential of education.
In Amerikkka it was a crime in the 1700s and 1800s for a slave to be able to read. We hung like strange fruit from trees for just picking up a book. This pervasive ignorance was a sturdy bolt in maintaining the system of chattel slavery, and we find the same system and pervasive ignorance in place today. So for a system that is bent on maintaining the present order of things it becomes a criminal act to possess and process any material that would induce a neo-colonial slave to bend these bars back, break these chains, challenge our minds, find our humanism and take our freedom. The class enemy understands that in the right hands, in the right minds, education would be a dangerous tool. It would become an anti-imperialist weapon of mass destruction and mass liberation at the same time. It would compel the "thing" to become "man", break the chains and rise up and slit the throat of those who presently pull the levers of control.
Our captors work overtime to repress any tendency of the birth of new age Malcolm Xs and George Jacksons. They understand that these jails and prisons are our universities and finishing schools. They know and understand there is a living contradiction between the ruling class and those of us who wear the chains of neo-colonialism. And the imperialists also know and understand there is a scientific development of opposites that's inherent in everything. Thus the material conditions will force the masses to bear the responsibility of solving the economic, political and social contradictions one day. So they can burn all the books, destroy all the libraries, kill all the wisemen, censor all the material they want, but they can't stop liberation.
In considering the art of warfare and conflict resolution, many miss the significance of how much an effect of one's party winning on the battlefield of propaganda has on that party's victory in the war. Throughout history, effective information distribution has been a major factor in a nation or group gaining/obtaining power. It is essential in the United $tate's retention of its global position today. So one cannot stress enough the importance of the efforts at educating people about injustice.
One of the main ways in which the U.$.government, and the various governments under its jurisdiction, are able to brazenly contradict their stated laws, purpose, and principles, is by ensuring the effectiveness of its personal propaganda machine - the corporate media. For instance, it is well documented and basically established that the CIA is responsible for the introduction of crack cocaine into the streets of South Central Los Angeles, with knowledge and possible complicity from the Executive Branch. Yet in this "war on drugs" none of those mid-to-top level responsible CIA/Executive Branch officials were ever made to face "justice."
On the other side of that, the average Tyrone, in any hood U$A, is given decades to life in prison for selling a minuscule fraction of what the CIA introduced into his community. And by the media, Tyrone is portrayed as the violent dangerous criminal, while George H.W. Bush, and the Clintons are labeled as heroes. It's an irreconcilable contradiction, yet it is accepted as reasonable by the general public, which is mainly due to its well-documented public opinion manipulation tactics.
And with the Amerikan public being so bombarded with pro-establishment garbage, some people don't have any exposure to any info other than what the corporate media presents, and the U.$. establishment's response to the rise of Wikileaks shows that this is by design. Anyone who stands against corruption, repression, oppression, social imbalance, and the other vile things that this nation's ruling class works to promote, must put much focus on a counter-propaganda campaign to show the people precisely what the effects of their support for the antisocial U.$. establishment's policies and actions are in real life circumstances.
This used to be an uphill battle due to the Establishment's exclusive hold on the corporate media, coupled with there being no real alternative means of info distribution. But one of the advantages to this information age is social media, which can give one access to a whole world of people. Now people don't have to rely on the corporate media as their sole means of obtaining info on current events. The establishment has lost its grip on info control and the opportunity for you and most anyone else to be heard is at hand.
And with the daily displays of official lawlessness recently transpiring, and with the corruption adversely affecting more and more people, that's more people with an ear open to your message. Knowledge is power and education is essential to knowledge.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree on the value of alternative news and the need to have media around which to build a movement. This is the reason MIM(Prisons) prioritizes Under Lock & Key, both in print and on the web, as a key responsibility of our organization. However, we do not think, as this writer implies, that the Amerikan people are so mis-educated that they only go along with the government corruption because they don't know otherwise. In reality the Wikileaks exposure has not led to any new uprisings by Amerikan citizens. The government fear about information release is mostly related to international exposure. Within this country they do have to worry about the youth in prisons and universities where there is much broader political consciousness and interest in the real news about what's going on. Amerikans overall are complacent because they are bought off by their government, paid to enjoy a petty bourgeois life at the expense of the international proletariat. And so Amerikans generally are happy to believe the lies fed to them by their government. With Under Lock & Key we hope to reach those at the margins who do not enjoy the Amerikan dream, or who have not yet bought into it. Having a materialist understanding of the social forces in this country will allow us to have a greater impact with our limited resources.
Why does a political newsletter such as Under Lock & Key get denied on a regular basis, but so called urban novels and other related material is allowed in to flood the cell blocks? The answer is simple, political material is dangerous to the established system of injustice. By censoring or abolishing political material the door is open for a replacement and how convenient that the replacement consists of literature conveying tales of drug peddling, murder, deception, racism and other criminal activity. The system uses this replacement as a means to keep ignorant prisoners in a criminal mindset and out of a revolutionary one, because if the lumpen spent the time wasted reading replacement novels with revolutionary research and education, we as a whole would be one stepping stone closer to complete abolishment of the injustice system. Sadly the ignorant prisoner cannot in his mind put down such material because the tales described leap out to him in an enticing manner. This is why the system wins and continues to operate in a full capacity.
The censorship doesn't stop at just political material, education period is under attack. The mail room drones will use any excuse to deny material which they feel would encourage an individual to think for himself and question the tactics of oppression deployed by the injustice system.
I chose this topic because I feel the individuals who fill their minds with system approved propaganda are the ones who suffer most in the long term and need to be reached out to and have the system's hold on their minds broken. I truly hope the many comrades who read this understand my point and will reach out to the ignorant and build them into solid comrades instead of pawns played by the injustice system.
I close this with the following: education is what will deliver the captives from the chains that hold them, but knowledge is not limited to just politics. One must be educated all around in order to attack this oppressive system from all sides and angles, because without education we are everything they want us to be: dumb, ignorant, and harmless. In all reality censorship does encourage recidivism, and as long as the oppressed remain ignorant to the tactics the system has nothing to fear. I encourage all who read this to put down system approved urban novels and pick up an education based book or newsletter, sign up for all political newsletters and educate those around you. Form a study group and become a part of the United Struggle from Within. With unity and solidarity we can abolish the injustice system and we will break these chains of oppression.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As we have documented extensively, prisons across the country regularly censor Under Lock & Key and other political literature and even letters that we send to prisoners. This comrade is right that this is politically motivated. Denying prisoners political education while providing them with trash to read is one way the prisoncrats try to prevent political organizing. We need the help of lawyers on the streets to work with the Prisoner Legal Clinic on the day-to-day battles against censorship.
Systemic and severe violations of international human rights law are an endemic feature of prison conditions in Pennsylvania. This is why the PA Department of Corrections is being investigated by the U.S. Deptartment of Justice and a class action lawsuit has been filed by the Disability Rights Network challenging PA's mental health practices of warehousing prisoners with serious mental illnesses in solitary confinement causing this class of prisoners undue suffering. The treatment amounts to a punishment nightmare where they cannot receive treatment, but receive disciplinary infractions and sanctions for behavior directly related to their mental health issues.
During the past 30 years or more, Pennsylvania has embarked upon a project of race and class based incarceration unlike anything Pennsylvanians have ever seen. In my almost four decades of incarceration, I have witnessed the annual state prison budget increase from under $100 million for the fiscal year 1980, to $2 billion today. Not coincidentally, prison construction and prison population increased with the passage of the law that created the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing in 1982. The prison budget has increased even more because the General Assembly authorized three new prisons and built cells at 17-existing prisons to imprison another 9000 prisoners in the next 3 years. Additionally, PA leads the nation in juveniles serving life sentences, the overwhelming number of them being of African descent.
Pennsylvania is one of many states that are building more jails and prisons at the same time that they are closing schools. While states have an abundance of funds to build jails and prisons, more and more school districts are facing funding and program cuts, furloughs, and hiring freezes. Is it not more sensible to invest in schools than jails and prisons? Schools will help to improve quality of life, education and values; jails and prisons will continue the pipeline to prison and increase the penal population.
Just like I have witnessed the state's annual prison budget increase tremendously, I have witnessed a perversion of the priorities in education that in the long run criminalizes poor blacks and poor people of color in general, institutionally robbing public education to feed the prison industrial complex.
The National Center for Education Statistics affirms that 68 million people read below basic levels, but less money in education is spent. It uses the state of Texas as an example, where they have eliminated close to $4 billion of the budget and also the financing of programs that served 100,000 at-risk children. Other cuts have included the closing of hundreds of schools.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We appreciate this comrade for taking the time to write this article, which concisely points out many of the problems with the current system. While we print it here for its useful content, we disagree with the reformist line of the article. Long-term isolation is torture for all people, whether you are mentally ill or you are a political prisoner. We've watched as reforms around who gets put into control units only justifies using them against some of the greatest leaders of the oppressed. So we do not report on these efforts uncritically.
As proletarian internationalists, spending more money on schools or prisons for Amerikans is a crime as long as people (whose wealth they've stolen) are dying of malnutrition and basic medical care. Segregation in public schools is an ongoing problem in the United $tates. And the educational disparity, which leaves oppressed nations within U.$. borders with far less than adequate education, feeds into prison. Taking money from prisons to put into education will not solve this problem. While we do support cutting prison budgets as a means to discourage the ridiculously high incarceration rate in this country, as long as the imperialists control the budgets, they will find ways to spend money on furthering their goals. Reforms to spending will just move things around a bit, but not make fundamental and lasting change we will need to end the system of imperialism which prioritizes profit over the life of the oppressed.
Upon entering the state of New York's prison system in 1992 I did not have my high school diploma, nor did I possess my GED. I am a high school drop out. Leaving my education behind was one of the biggest errors I committed in my life while coming of age as an irresponsible adult.
My biggest hurdle, besides my own roadblocks, was worrying about how my peers would judge me (in prison) if I was to enroll in the GED class. This prevented me from signing up. In the New York State Prison System (NYSPS) you cannot get a respectable job/program if you lack the credentials of either a high school diploma or GED. The most you can make is $6/bi-weekly. However, if you have this education then you can make as much as $30/bi-weekly. I was hindering myself from earning more money due to an attitude, misinformation, and pride which left me stagnated for many years.
A person incarcerated in NYSPS cannot enroll in any college programs without either a high school diploma or GED. This was another slap in my face when I desired to register in the "free" college program in 1993 while housed at Attica Correctional Facility.(1)
In 1999 the assistant to the leader in the Islamic Chaplain ordered me to enroll in the GED program when he learned I did not have either a diploma or GED. I enrolled in a GED class and after earning it in 1999 I enrolled in the Inmate Program Assistant (IPA) course which I completed with honors allowing me to land a program as a Teacher's Aid.
Through the years from 1992-1999 I witnessed a drop in the GED graduates among the prison population. This was partly due to, in my observation, the lack of concern the civilian teachers(CT) had for the education of Blacks and Latinos in the classroom, deficient supervision from the civilian teachers toward the hired IPAs who'd rather play cards with the student than help them learn, and poor administrative leadership which directly affects almost every student who really does want to learn. Albany administration limited the utilization of IPAs when the civilians failed to compete with the IPAs statistics in turning out more GED grads than the CTs. So a memorandum came down from Albany to reduce some of the IPAs in the classroom.
From 1999-2008 I witnessed a swooping change in the classroom which shocked my conscience. I saw very few IPAs in the classroom who were bilingual (speaking Spanish and English), I rarely saw Spanish-speaking CTs who could relate to the Latino speaking population. This lack of diversity in the State of New York prison system is hindering the chances for Latinos.
My experience at Barehill Correctional Facility will shock your mind, because of the laziness of the CTs who sit in boardroom chairs, leaning back reading the latest James Patterson novel, with no care in the world. As long as the students and IPAs remain quiet, everything is okay! The CTs get paid for sitting in a classroom doing absolutely nothing, just making sure the students don't tear up the classroom or fight one another. I have written Albany to explain the downfall in the classroom only to be dubbed the troublemaker, whistle blower, or snitch amongst the prison administration in NYS.
Right now I am struggling to continue my education in this facility. It is very difficult to pursue higher education in this facility because of the mindset of the administration (prejudice, racist, and bias) toward the Blacks and Latinos who desire superior education, as opposed to working as a porter around the compound. The waiting list for enrolling into school is at least 3-4 months. By that time many of the prisoners are preparing to either go home, see the board of parole, or transfer to another facility. According to some of the prisoners at Adirondack CF, there are only two civilians teachers who serve the population.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Lack of educational opportunities is a major element of national oppression in the United $tates. As we wrote about in an article on Affirmative Action, it is not just in prisons where the schools are inadequate. This is part of the system that prepared Blacks and Latinos for prison. One benefit of an education is jobs that pay higher wages, but the primary reason we focus on education for our comrades behind bars is to raise their political consciousness. Learning basic reading and writing skills is the place to start. We encourage all of our comrades behind bars to take advantage of any prison education programs you can find.
These repressive forces (Michael Unit mail room supervisor and staff) have stopped my study group answers for the On Contradiction assignment and The Universality of Contradiction assignment. This is my first submission of study group answers from this unit and apparently they are misinterpreting and/or deliberately misconstrue the content of my study group answers. Well now they need to be checked and stopped in their tracks before they get to feeling themselves.
Note in the attached censorship notification they wrote: "Correspondence contains information pertaining to unauthorized group or organization." The form I signed off includes a postscript explaining that this office will notify the mail room of this address possibly being used by gang members.
How in the hell do my study group answers on philosophy correlate with information pertaining to unauthorized groups? Obviously they are trying to make a connection to my pseudonym and my official association, which has nothing to do with my participation in the revolutionary study group. They are also intimidated by any language that uses terms that they cannot fully comprehend.
I am never passive in my affairs and had intended to catch up on my study group activity after my recent unit reassignment caused me to fall behind. I do understand the repressive tactics and strategy that these opposition forces are well known for using. Anything to criminalize a real revolutionary.
I will expose them for their incompetence and harassment. I have previous documents that will show that my involvement in study group is long standing and has nothing to do with my official association. I will file a grievance if my appeal is denied.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We run political theory study groups through the mail for prisoners interested in advancing their education. These classes study things like the Mao essay "On Contradiction." The only "group affiliation" in these classes is work with MIM(Prisons), and as of yet we have not been banned as an organization in Texas prisons. We applaud this comrade for his diligent fight against this censorship. Prisoners interested in participating in political study classes can write to us to join the next session.
Every ill-conceived notion and manipulative scheme to sabotage the success of the lumpen under class is embodied within the Texas Education Agency (TEA).
For the past 3 months a common front page headline article in the El Paso Times has been associated with a cheating scandal involving El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) "trustees" and various school officials and administrators. In truth, this scandal and scam has been marinating for years, not months. There is concrete evidence which shows TEA was aware that something was not right in El Paso but for whatever reason whether it be cronyism, nepotism, or a hidden political agenda, the scandal was kept quiet.
However, when the Department of Education and the Department of inJustice, represented by the FBI, got involved, a shocking scheme was revealed. EPISD educators and administrators were trying to game the federal accountability system by "disappearing" certain students who did not perform well academically and didn't score well on certain standardized tests. In some cases, EPISD administrators not only kicked poor performing students out of school, they did not offer them an alternative. Further, it was discovered that these crooked "trustees" would sic ICE agents on the predominantly Latino children, not just kicking them out of school, but deporting them out of the country! This ensured that they would not be around to tell it!
I mentioned that there might be a hidden political agenda at work here and there is. In 2011, during the Texas state legislative session, Texas lawmakers decided to cut $5.8 billion dollars from the public school budget. These budget cuts placed many school districts that serve minorities in dire straits; they just did not have the financial resources to teach the children or pay quality teachers. During this time Governor Rick Perry was eyeing a bid for the Republican Presidential nomination and in his best imperialist oppressor moment, he refused to accept any federal government stimulus money or allow Texas independent school districts to compete for money in a new initiative called Race to the Top. Perry outright lied to the media and said Texas educators don't need any federal money to educate children in Texas. The Federal government changed requirements and regulations for Race to the Top funds and allowed independent school districts to apply themselves for federal money instead of relying on racist, crooked-ass politicians like Governor Rick Perry to represent them. As a result of the rule change, Texas led all states in the United $nakes in applications for federal money geared toward education. Looks like old redneck Rick is out of touch with what his constituents really want and need. Or is he?
While Governor Rick Perry is fully aware of the lumpen's need for a quality education, it is not his intent to provide quality education for the lumpen under class. Better education would derail Texas's pathway-to-prison strategy. Do you really believe that Black and Latino men and wimmin have the market cornered on criminal behavior? Comrades, so many times it is our social and economic conditions that lead us to the penitentiary. MIM theorists have been telling us this for years!
In 1793 political scholar William Godwin criticized the whole idea of a national education system. He states in his inquiry concerning political justice that: "the project of a national education ought uniformly to be discouraged on account of its obvious alliance with national government. Government will not fail to employ it (education) to strengthen its hand and perpetuate its institutions...Their view as instigator of a system of education will not fail to be analogous to their views in their political capacity..."
We have taken a quantum leap here. We are not just talking about the flawed system of mis-education in El Paso or Texas as a whole. I am telling you that there is a serious flaw in the national education system in the United $nakes and this should be enough to convince a comrade to study Maoism seriously.
But I'm not done with redneck Rick yet. I want to reveal a couple more facts about what he has got cooking in Texas. Comrades, with a prison system that is overflowing with Blacks and Latinos, what particular slot is redneck Rick trying to get the poor lumpen underclass to fill? Moreover, what particular slot is this pig's poor education system trying to get them to accept?
Recently, 600 independent school districts in Texas took the State government to court stating they were not being given adequate funding to educate children, and that this neglect by the State amounted to a serious violation of the U.S. Constitution. The court ruled in favor of the school districts! Furthermore, it was found that Texas's inability to provide adequate funding for schools was unconstitutional.
Governor Rick Perry has recently been making trips to California attempting to lure businesses to Texas citing Texas's low tax rates and easy-going regulations for large corporations. Nevertheless, Perry ignores the cries of the lumpen for adequate funding for education. His actions speak volumes: "My allegiance is to the imperialist corporations, I could care less about educating the lumpen under class, they might wake up to my real agenda!" I suspect these are the thoughts of Governor Perry.
Today, February 22, 2013, activists from Houston, TX prepare to travel to Austin, Texas, the state capitol, in order to lobby and protest in reference to the $5.8 billion that was cut from education in 2011. The battle cry for the lumpen in Texas seems to be "If you don't fight for what you want you deserve what you get!" As the great James Brown would say "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud!"
MIM(Prisons) responds: As we reported in an article in Under Lock & Key 30 on national oppression in education, on average, Black and Latino high school seniors perform math and read at the same level as 13-year-old white students. Money available for school districts with a majority of the students from oppressed nations is far less than what is available for white school districts, and segregation is on the rise again in Amerikan schools. So we are not surprised to see this story about Texas denying money and education to oppressed nation children. The court decisions in these cases have gone back and forth, and we can't count on them to rectify the problem.
While the differences in funding between schools based on national composition is damning, this is just a symptom of the problem. The campaign to increase school funding is dominated by the petty bourgeois labor unions who utilize oppressed nation children in their campaign for higher pay. As this prisoner points out, the schools will still be run by the government and deliver the education they want. This will not address the needs of the oppressed or create anti-imperialist change. We need to use the school situation as a tool to educate youth about national oppression and the need to join the fight against imperialism. Just as we run independent study programs for prisoners across the United $tates, the youth need independent education programs that teach them what they need to know to create a better world.
Throughout the few years I have spent reading Under Lock & Key (ULK) it is apparent to me that many people behind these prison walls have come together, either to subscribe to ULK or express their opinions and expose conditions within their specific prisons. But this is just one aspect of the basis of a United Front, and does not constitute a quantum leap in our march towards building a politically conscious class within prison life itself.
Many comrades have expressed a need for sharing education, whether piecemeal or in study groups, and I have always been an advocate of such. But I always viewed other prisoners' lack of interest in holding political discussions as an obstacle for a United Front advancement. That was my subjective view until it finally dawned on me that there might be lack of interest wherever I was housed, but it was abundant in ULK.
Comrades taking the time to pick up an issue of ULK have started educating themselves on the political thoughts of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. In acquainting themselves and reading it they are in a process of studying. Furthermore those comrades who take it a step further to write essays, articles on specific topics, and/or express their opinions on other comrades' articles, can open up debates or collaborations for future tasks to be accomplished. By forming a study group within the lines of ULK by ULK subscribers and finally bringing up the other aspect of educating ourselves from grasping what we study, we acquire knowledge.
But our new-found education must be put into practice. We must apply what we have learned to our current conditions.
"Every study of Marxism shakes up people and the contradiction between the two world outlooks comes to the fore. Marxism gives hammer blows to the non-proletarian outlook and fuels the ideological force, as in every task, three stages each with its own contradiction, present themselves. At the beginning arises the contradiction between starting the study and not starting it. Starting up already constitutes a 50% advance." - Comrade Gonzalo from Peru.
Although I strongly encourage comrades to study the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, one cannot just narrow on that road. Many other topics/subjects are encouraged as well: legal news, winning 602s (grievances), fighting mail censorship, filing a writ of habeas corpus, etc. Any topic that's informative and helpful to our interests is an advanced step in our struggle.
"MIM had come to the conclusion from the degeneration of numerous genuine forces like the Progressive Labor Party in the United States that such especially difficult ideological struggle is a permanent fixture in the imperialist countries where the material basis for degeneration is much greater than in the oppressed countries..."
"Since it is unlikely that imperialism will be able to come up with too many more entirely new tricks, there will come a time in MIM's development where our principal task will be to unite those who can be united around our very confrontational line. Right now we are emerging principally from struggle against revisionism, imperialist economism and pseudo-feminism. When we have finished going into detail on our differences with others on the above questions we will focus on unity as the principal way to advance the overall struggle. We will prepare for a strategic length of time to do battle with imperialist economism, revisionism, pseudo-feminism, Trotskyism, anarchism and so on in a distinctive way. However, even in seeking unity, MIM will find itself in struggle much more often than many parties in communist history for a variety of reasons what MIM has said is rare to non-existent in the imperialist countries. So even as the labor aristocracy thesis becomes clear as day to us and 'old hat' it will seem fresh to many for some time to come." - The Journey Back to Maoism. MIM Theory 5, Diet for a Small Red Planet
So what do these passages mean? We're so bought off it's ridiculous! Worse still, as a result of our being bought off we're that much more susceptible to bourgeois manipulation a la ideological trickery. Therefore we cannot obtain a proletarian mindset without some hard study.
We in the imperialist countries have the distinct strategical advantage of not having to be in armed struggle at this time. And in connection to this fact we have a responsibility not only to the international proletariat but to our own oppressed that when conditions do begin to change and armed struggle actually becomes a possibility we'll be ready to not only lead, but lead right! We have the advantage of learning from and building on all the rational and empirical knowledge left to us by our predecessors, both the good and the bad; especially the bad! We have to learn from past mistakes so that we don't commit future ones, or worse still, repeat the old ones. It's too late in the anti-imperialist game for us to be messing up the way some of our leaders did before us. Have we learned nothing?! What part of "ideological struggle in the imperialist countries is a permanent fixture" are we not understanding? It's almost as if the revolution really is dead.
The fact that more and more of the oppressed nation imprisoned lumpen are beginning to finally wake up to the reality of imperialism is a good thing - a very good thing! However, the fact that most of these new lumpen organizations aren't taking the time to study and learn from the concrete lessons of history and movements passed speaks volumes for the dire need of these new groups to formally hook up with MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within (USW). It indicates the need for individuals to remain within USW much longer to develop theoretically before forming new single-nation revolutionary cells or parties. USW should serve as a place for the most advanced to sharpen their swords together until conditions do change within the prison population in general and within the prison movement in particular, before calling for the building of new organizations.
Comrades behind bars have all the time in the world to study and hence develop themselves and others theoretically. Therefore, those of us who are serious about revolution have no excuse for such low levels of theoretical development within our ranks, especially those of us working directly with MIM(Prisons).
A big part of the problem is the failure of some of us within USW to correctly grasp the philosophy of dialectical materialism, which results in a failure to apply it to the prison movement, and as a result we have paralysis within the prison movement. The need for us to seriously study dialectical materialism is directly linked to our ability to put it to use; without a concrete understanding of dialectical materialism all will be lost. Is this an over-exaggeration? Of course not; it's a hard truth. Within our conditions MIM(Prisons) makes up part of our external causes and therefore is a part of the conditions of change with us being the basis of change. Based on what I'm seeing, or rather not seeing, there hasn't been any real change thus far. Are my words too harsh? If they are, then that's too bad. What is MIM(Prisons) here for if not to help us develop politically?
Related to this point is a prisyner's letter I just read in the revisionist Revolution newspaper of the Crypto-Trotskyists RCP=U$A. This article was filled with the usual, flowery verbiage of "much love to y'all beautiful people at the RCP..." and "Bob Afakean is my daddy" type nonsense, typical of their articles. Half the articles in Revolution don't really say anything, while the other half are filled with imperialist country oppressor nation chauvinist politics. Anyways, there was a California prisyner's letter featured that was speaking on the Pelican Bay Short Corridor new directive. This prisyner was writing in to basically agree that it was about time that the prisyners put a stop to the fighting and come together for change. However, towards the end of the letter this prisyner made a call for the Pelican Bay Short Corridor to separate themselves from the lumpen if they were to really have a shot at victory in their struggle.
Yup, leave it to the RCP=U$A to spread division in the guise of unity to the prison masses at such a critical time. But how, pray tell, is the Short Corridor to achieve its goals in their struggle (which is all our struggle) if they separate themselves from the prison masses? Not only does this prisyner's line attempt to separate the Corridor leaders from the wider prisyn movement, but it essentially makes the petty bourgeois argument that only individual groups of prisyners should be designated as political prisyners, and not the entire U.$. prisyn population. As if the Short Corridor prisyners were on a different plane than the rest of the population, or as if the short corridor weren't lumpen-based themselves. That RCP=U$A article makes it seem as if the mass of California prisyners were holding the movement back. Quite the contrary: without the prisyner masses the Short Corridor prisyners are like generals with no soldiers, or a gun with no bullets. Instead it is the prisyner masses that will push the prisyn movement forward.
My point here is that the RCP=U$A prints this garbage, and lots of prisyners just eat it up. And we at USW know where "new synthesis" (old revisionist hat) leads the movement to: oblivion.
Now assuming that a prisyner actually wrote that letter (and not just another revisionist weed, we all remember agent Quispe and the attempt to derail the Sendero Luminoso: strategical equilibrium) what does that say about the theoretical development of politically-conscious and class-conscious prisyners? And these are the leaders?!
We need real proletarian-based political development if we are to succeed in the years to come, and the only place prisyners are gonna find that is by working directly with MIM(Prisons). Our liberation as oppressed nations and as a class is inextricably bound with Maoism, not "new synthesis" politics. Don't believe me? Go ask the klan in the RCP=U$A where they stand with respect to the liberation of Aztlán, New Afrika, and the various First Nations. Watch how they dance and shuffle, deflect the question, and fake left in order to go right.
Still too busy to study theory seriously? Busier than the New People's Army in 1970? Good question: who or what is the New People's Army? Who was the Tupac Amaru for that matter? And what's the difference between lumpen and lumpen-proletariat? How is this question relevant to our own conditions? And what about Kautsky — who's his contemporary, and why should we care?
The tenet that the revolutionary vanguard be made up of professional revolutionaries is a Leninist tenet. Anything less than putting revolutionary politics in command means watering down correct political line. And correct political lines could only be put forward if there was an organization consisting chiefly of people professionally engaged in revolutionary activity that would devote their entire lives to the movement subsuming the persynal for the good of the cause. We don't need no weekend revolutionaries and we don't need those just in it for the remainder of their imprisonment; we need better than that. "Better, fewer, but better." It's not enough to simply read an article in Under Lock & Key. The bulk of our imprisonment should be spent developing the mind.
Take the sample of the prison artists. How did they get so good? By drawing here and there, or only when there was something in it for them? No, they developed their skills via a passion for the arts, and as a result they're now pretty damn good. We now come to them whenever we need to send something home.
What about the legal-beagles? How did they get so good? They too developed their skills with a passion, a passion to make it back home. And as a result of that, some of them actually make it back home despite having the deck stacked against them. Unfortunately some of them don't make it out. But through the skills they've developed some of them make it their mission in life to file grievances, lawsuits, etc., in the name of the prisyner population. And who do we go to when we need legal advice or something filed?
Just as those people are great examples within their field and are derived directly from the prisyner population, so should USW and our allies aspire to become great examples within the revolutionary prisyn movement so that when the time comes we can be damn well sure we don't lead the prisyn masses into oblivion.
Comrades breaking away from USW in order to prematurely form their own organizations when their revolutionary skills are not yet developed are perfect examples of being ultra-left in matters of "one divides into two" dialectics and a form of adventurism as well.
Once again, are my words too harsh? Hell no! We're not yet in the stage where we should be seeking to unite all who can be united. We're still in the ideological struggle. The fact that I have to write this to say as much should prove it.
Revolutionaries in the prison movement should have a concrete understanding of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and not a fragmentary one. We should be well versed in political economics and revolutionary theory. Indeed, this is our own strategical equilibrium. "Better, fewer, but better." There is no other way.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We have laid out the five principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) to unite all who can be united at the mass level in U.$. prisons. We do this alongside the tasks Ehecatl describes for building ideological unity within USW. And this is a different practice than MIM had when writing the article quoted in the beginning of this letter. We find ourselves in a position similar to the Communist Party of the Philippines at the time (discussed in that article) who were also trying to lead a broad united front and a vanguard party at the same time. We learn from their mistakes and rectification campaign in order to maintain the independence and leadership of the vanguard within the UFPP, and separate party work from united front work.
Comrades in MIM(Prisons) and USW work hard to facilitate study groups for prisoners who are interested in developing ideologically and not just reading ULK. A new introductory course starts every few months, so write us to get on the list. For more on the question of forming new organizations, see MIM(Prisons)'s 2011 Congress resolution on "Building New Groups vs. Working with USW and MIM(Prisons)", published in ULK 21. And if you want to know more about the history of Ehecatl's criticisms of the RCP=U$A, check out our study pack on the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA). If we don't study, we will lose.
by a Massachusetts prisoner January 2013 permalink
Welcome to MCI Shirley Prison where low-level drug dealers are turned into murderers. Where minor felons are instilled with such anger and resentment that they are talking mayhem as they depart through the razor wire gates. Where un-professionalism and abuse are the norm and the seeds of future killings are being sown one thousand at a whack. It is a place where it is hard to distinguish the real criminals. Do they wear gray scrubs? Do they wear paramilitary jump suits and badges, do they wear a shirt and tie, or do they wear Dolce & Gabbana skirts with Prada shoes? It is truly hard to tell.
Young men enter MCI Shirley (or "ShirleyWorld" as it is largely known) thinking they may be able to get an education through college courses or the trades. Those hopes are dashed upon the rocks of guard overtime, administrative nepotism, and complete lack of any semblance of order. The warden is deaf, the deputy is dumb, and the captain is blind. This barrel of monkeys chews upon taxpayer dollars while the young prisoner is further separated from the societal norms the rehabilitative process was meant to instill. You can see the death in their eyes. It is scary.
This vast criminal conspiracy that is the department of corruption is as much a killer as Charles Manson or Adolph Hitler were. They see with perfect vision the folly of their ways but press on with malicious intent: premeditated job security equaling death in the Mattapan Corridor. Drunken guards bring in drugs and cell phones, take out their ire on weaker prisoners and all the while talk about pay raises, time off and pension plans. They are the thieves and murderers!
The prison system spends $517,000,000 per year to diminish the safety of the streets. Criminal guards suck up $360,000,000 of that yearly budget while rehabilitative programs and education are allotted only 2% of that budget. An equation which is designed for failure. It assures repeat customers but that assurance comes at the cost of far too many lives. When will you, the taxpayer, become outraged? When will your ire replace the apathy that belays commonsense? This is a state, a country, and a land that is founded in second chances.
If you were ever afforded the tragic opportunity to tread the pathways of MCI Shirley you would witness first hand the systemic failures. There are guards everywhere — sergeants, lieutenants, captains, and multitudes of line staff — but each and every day some rehabilitative aspect of the prison is shut down due to "under-staffing." It is a lie. The DOC has 5500 employees for about 12,000 prisoners. The guard's union has injected so much propaganda that even Hitler would be proud of their achievements.
The time has come to reorganize the prison budget, to use these vast taxpayer dollars to actually protect the safety of the public. We must terminate the excess of secretaries, deputies, assistants, aides, clerks, etc., and invest that revenue in expansion of the college degree program. Prisoners who earn that degree in prison do not come back: they do not commit any more crimes. The recidivism rate for in-prison Boston University graduates is less than 1%. The statewide recidivism rate has hovered at about 47% for over a decade. Did you know UMass offered to come into the prisons and provide college courses for free? The DOC rejected them. Did you know that Fitchburg State had a free program at ShirleyWorld but the facility failed to support it? The reason for the folly is that there is no money in it for the DOC to have these programs.
Prisoners need real job training. Prisoners need transitional housing in lower security prisons. Such prisons cost only a fraction of what it costs to run the higher security prisons as they need less staff. This is why the guard's union fights this at every turn. Please join forces with those who have a plan for real and effective public safety reform. the time is now for you to get involved.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade does a good job exposing the Massachusetts prison system's lack of interest in rehabilitation and education. It is true that in Massachusetts, and across the country, prisons are providing good jobs to guards who have formed strong unions to lobby effectively for expansion of the system. It is a system whose employees have every interest in expansion and no interest in rehabilitation. The very fact that education has been proven to dramatically reduce recidivism but prisons across the country have cut or eliminated education programs is clear evidence. Further, programs such as MIM(Prisons)'s led study groups are censored as a threat to the safety and security of the prison. It's not the criminal injustice system that cares about safety and security, they care about job security and social control. And prisons conveniently provide both: locking up the oppressed nation lumpen who might organize against imperialism and giving jobs to the labor aristocracy in the prisons.
But we disagree with this prisoner that tax payers are going to become outraged and fight this system. Both the social control and the good jobs are benefiting those tax payers. The labor aristocracy wants to protect it's own jobs: and the prison provides a good number of these. If tax money didn't go to prison jobs it would go to some other labor aristocracy services. And these would not be jobs benefiting the oppressed nation lumpen: that's not something tax payers are going to get behind. On the contrary, prison guard unions successfully campaign for more pay and funding for defending white power, unlike most labor unions.
With that said, we do think there is value in exposing the lack of safety and security in the current prison system. We may gain some allies in certain battles, people who will see that the streets of Amerika are objectively less safe. But we don't want to mislead them by appealing to their persynal interests and pretending that substantive change to the criminal injustice system is going to actually benefit them in the long run. Anti-imperialism is not in the interests of the majority of the Amerikan people, because they benefit financially from this system. And the criminal injustice system is an integral part of Amerikan imperialism.