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.
I've recently been engaged in an ideological struggle with a fellow Chicano and potential anti-imperialist ally concerning the current state of captivity of the Chicano nation by the imperialist United $tates, it's liberation, the oppressive and exploitative reality that Third World people are subjected to on a daily basis, and of the unique place the lumpen of the internal semi-colonies exist in all of this. Needless to say, we've been discussing some highly political and philosophical questions and topics not necessarily confined to the existentialist school of thought, but rather questions and topics more closely tied to the very existence of Third World people in an imperialist dominated world. We've also touched on the psychological baggage better known as alienation which imperialism itself ties to the individual, whether in the First World or the Third. These discussions have been had not within the context of mere conversational purposes, but for the explicit purpose of waking up a potential ally not just to the reality of our own oppression as Chicanos, or of putting the reality of our oppression into complete context for him; but so as to wake him up to his own productive power as a revolutionary force within the belly of the beast.
After struggling with this individual on a molecular level and trying my hardest to consistently put the correct political line forward; then banging my head on the ideological bourgeois brick wall which this individual vehemently represented every time he opened his mouth, I understandably felt frustrated and decided to terminate any and all further political struggle with this persyn, being that he didn't really seem to want to struggle with objective answers and analysis from a revolutionary nationalist perspective; but rather seemed content blindly defending those cherished Amerikan values or "sugar coated bullets" which we've all been spoon fed from birth.
After some time however and his insistence that I read one of his bourgeois science books (college edition) for meaningless mental exercise, aka intellectualism, I begrudgingly agreed on one condition. If I was to read his bourgeois science book then he was to read and study my Marx; he agreed.
After a couple weeks and after answering the occasional philosophical question from him this persyn surprised me by revealing that he'd been grappling not just with the Marx book I'd sent him, but with the topics we'd previous discussed. Discussions which began with evolution and religion but which quickly spiraled into heated philosophical and political debates ranging in everything from the origins of the humyn species and society, to super-profits and everything in between. And it was during this time that I suddenly realized something I'd obviously lost sight of.
It wasn't that he necessarily disagreed with my political beliefs because of some inherent class bias as a First Worlder. Rather he disagreed with the proletarian worldview exactly because of a First World ideological bias that defined his worldview. And one does not change one's worldview easily.
It's therefore important for revolutionaries that are new to the anti-imperialist game to keep in mind that anytime we engage in political discussion with the philistine, we're going up against 500 plus years of colonization, not just in the material world, but in the ideological field as well; as social consciousness is both consciously and unconsciously bourgeois in the era of imperialism. We must fully understand that none of us are born with the slightest inkling of the communal/communist/proletarian worldview, rather, it must be cultivated. What's more, political struggle in the ideological realm just like struggle in any other realm is essentially a matter for dialectics to resolve in which battles are won one at a time until one factor or another gains dominance and emerges victorious.
Therefore, it's equally important to remember that whenever we're speaking politics we're in essence engaging in a struggle over political line between the oppressed which we represent, and the national and class enemies whose mouthpieces are not always readily apparent, but inconspicuous, especially in a First World society such as ours where we have not just open and closet Trotskyists who are peddling revisionism on the prison masses in the guise of "revolution", but honest comrades who inadvertently and thru no fault of their own push an incorrect line due to a low level of political development and understanding. Therefore, we must ensure that this polemical struggle isn't simply narrowed down to and carried out through out the confines of the open national and class enemies of the oppressed nations, but continuously carried out throughout the class conscious in keeping with Mao's dictum of continuous revolution. Continuous revolution, or continuous struggle, being the only method available to defeat not only old and reactionary ideas which are at the service of the bourgeoisie, but new age and mystical ideas as well, which aren't really "new or mystical at all, but simply repackaged bootlegs of the bourgeoisie and status quo who seek to entrench themselves and the enemy line in the revolution in order to ruin it from within.
Revolutionary thought during this stage of the struggle must have a shock and awe type value characteristic of the new defeating the old in which every spectrum of life is held up to the light of revolutionary science, declare it's rationale, or surrender it's right to existence. If so-called revolutionary thoughts and synthesis don't offer or illuminate the best path forward then they too must cease their right to exist and clear the way for something new, or rather something tried and true, i.e. Maoism. Thus it is no surprise that Maoism serves as a two pronged "-ism" (philosophical and political) which leaves the bourgeois-minded agape and in existential doubt as to the state of reality and their place in it. Now, this may simply be old hat to the battle tested revolutionary, but twas not for me, as I myself found this point made ever so clear through polemical practice. Indeed, just as communist parties that are engaged in armed struggle are more politically developed than those that are not, so is the individual engaged in polemics.
Simply reading one Marxist book doesn't make one a Marxist, and simply winning one individual battle doesn't win the war. It was foolish of me to expect the potential ally mentioned in the beginning of this report to be won over to the side of the oppressed simply because he himself is objectively oppressed. My overestimation of the revolutionization process with respect to this individual was itself a failure on my part to properly utilize the dialectical method; as nothing in this world develops evenly.
Bourgeois ideology was and remains the dominant ideology within said individual, and my initial failure to fully grasp this point is proof positive that in all aspects of life there is always a struggle between two classes, two lines, and two roads, and thus will be the case until the end of property relations. My initial failure to win him over to the side of the oppressed is objectively a victory for the bourgeoisie and further drives home the point that education cannot be separated from transformation; but some seeds have been sown and the revolutionary sprout is slowly beginning to break free from over 500 years of colonization. It seems this persyn is slowly beginning to take up an interest in revolutionary politics; a direct result of our interaction. A small political win, in a small political battle for a correct political line, which on a world scale is perhaps equal to the rising forces of the oppressed and repressed revolutionary forces which have begun to seriously re-develop within u.$. borders.
It is the politics of the oppressors that have put us in here and thrown away the key, and it will be the politics of the oppressed that will set us free. If there is anywhere in the United $tates where politics should take center stage, it is in the prisons and jails; concrete proof in the most literal sense that there is an ideological struggle actively going on between the oppressors and the oppressed, in which the oppressor nation obviously has the upper hand.
On November 15, 2012 Michigan's ban on affirmative action in college admissions was declared unconstitutional in federal appeals court. This strikes down a 2006 constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of race as a factor to determine which students to admit to college. While bans on affirmative action are fundamentally reactionary in preserving white privilege, this was a weak legal victory for school integration. The justices did not cite the need for equal access to education for all people in their reasoning, but rather struck down the ban because it presents a burden to opponents who must fight it through the ballot box, because this is a costly and time consuming activity. This "undermines the Equal Protection Clause's guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change," according to the majority opinion of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The courts determined they would rather leave this debate over affirmative action to the governing boards of the public universities.(1)
A similar law in California was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving conflicting legal rulings for different parts of the country. It is likely that these cases will move to the Supreme Court. Six states besides Michigan have banned affirmative action in school admissions: Washington, Nebraska, Arizona, New Hampshire, California and Florida.
Debates over affirmative action in Amerika provide revolutionaries with an opportunity to talk about the history of national oppression and the reality of ongoing oppression today. But we need to be careful not to get caught up in the details of affirmative action alone. Based on college admissions information and population statistics, in recent years oppressed nations are actually attending college at rates that are approaching those of their white counterparts. But the story missing here is what's happening to the rest of the Blacks and Latinos who don't attend college, as well as which colleges each nation is attending. Affirmative action would impact the latter problem, but has no affect on the close to 50% of Black and Latino students who don't make it to high school graduation.
From 1976 to 2010, the percentage of Latino college students rose from 3 percent to 13 percent, and the percentage of Black college students rose from 9 percent to 14 percent. During the same period, the percentage of white college students fell from 83 percent to 61 percent. As the table below shows, the percent of Blacks and Latinos in the college student body overall in the U.$. is approaching their representation in the population.(2)
1976 % of student body
2010 % of student body
2010 % of population (age 18-24)
Another relevant measure of college education equality is the percentage of 18-24-year-olds enrolled in college. For 2008 the rates by nationality were(3):
2008 % w/college education(age 18-24)
Clearly there are still wide disparities in educational access as well as the degrees that oppressed nation students are achieving relative to their white counterparts. And a long history of differential college education leads to population statistics that reflect the overall lower educational achievement of oppressed nations. The table below shows the percent of the population with each degree by nationality.(3) The total percentages of each nation with a college degree should get closer together if oppressed nation enrollment continues to approach the population distribution. But that won't necessarily result in the same levels of education achieved.
The debate over affirmative action at the college level gets at the core of what equality is. Those who demand "blind" admissions practices have to pretend that everyone applying for college admissions had equal opportunities up to the point of college application. And this gives us a chance to challenge people on what many like to call a "color-blind" society. Even looking at the privileged Blacks and Latinos who went to schools good enough to qualify them to apply for college admission, pretending equality is only possible if we ignore all the aspects of oppression that these groups face in the U.$., from overt racial hatred to subtle cultural messages of inferiority. Society sets oppressed nation youth up for failure from birth, with TV and movies portraying criminals as Black and Latino and successful corporate employees as white. These youth are stopped by cops on the streets for the offense of skin color alone, looked at suspiciously in stores, and presumed to be less intelligent in school.
But the real problem is not the privileged Black and Latino students qualified to apply for college admission. These individual students from oppressed nations who are able to achieve enough to apply to colleges that have admissions requirements are a part of the petty bourgeoisie. The reality is very different for the other half of the oppressed nation youth who are tracked right out of college from first grade (or before) and have no chance of even attending a college that has admissions requirements beyond a high school diploma.
Among the students who entered high school in ninth grade, 63% of Latinos, 59% of Blacks and 53% of First Nations graduated high school in 2009. This is compared to 81% of Asians and 79% of whites. Overall the Black-white and Latino-white graduation rate gap narrowed between 1999 and 2009 but is still very large.(4)
Few statistics are gathered on drop out rates between first grade and ninth grade, but state-based information suggests that middle school drop out rates are high. These no doubt reflect the differentials by nationality, leading to an even higher overall drop out rate for oppressed nations. It is almost certain that fewer than half of Blacks and Latinos who enter grade school complete 12th grade with a diploma. And the students who do graduate come away with an education so inferior that many are not qualified for college. On average, Black and Latino high school seniors perform math and read at the same level as 13-year-old white students.(5) This is not preparation sufficient for competitive college applications.
History of Amerikan School Segregation
The history of segregation in Amerikan schools mirrors the history of segregation and national oppression in the country as a whole. Access to education is a core value that Amerikans claim to embrace. While harshly criticizing the idea of free health care or other government-sponsored services, eliminating free education is a concept only a small group of Amerikans openly advocate. But equal access to K-12 education is an idea that has never been reality for the oppressed nations within the United $nakes. And the differentials in education are so stark that it is virtually impossible for those attending the segregated and inferior schools reserved for Amerika's oppressed nations to overcome these years of training and lack of good schooling to participate and compete as adults in the workforce.
In the late 1950s, after the landmark Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, Amerikan public schools took significant steps towards desegregation. Through the late 1980s, with the use of bussing and other policies, the proportion of Black and Latino students in majority white schools increased and opportunities for education opened up to many oppressed nation youth. But during the 1990s this progress began to reverse and the trend has continued so that today segregation in public schools is worse than it was in the 1960s.
This re-segregation is the result of government rollbacks in federal programs, Supreme Court limitations on desegregation, and active dismantling of integration programs. Essentially, the government determined that desegregation requirements could be ignored. This was partly due to shifting political winds, but MIM(Prisons) looks at the timeline for this re-segregation and finds no surprise that the timing coincides with the crushing of the national liberation movements within U.$. borders in the 1970s. As the public outcry against national oppression receded, with leaders either dead or locked up, and guns and drugs circulating widely to distract the lumpen, the re-segregation of schools was a logical result. And this segregation of schools is among the most obvious aspects of the ongoing national segregation within U.$. borders.
Jonathan Kozol, in his book Segregation in Education: The Shame of the Nation, cites school after school, across the country, with atrocious facilities, in dangerous and unhealthy buildings, insufficient space, non-functioning utilities, and lack of educational materials, serving almost exclusively Black and Latino students. Many of these youth drop out of school before graduating high school. White families flee the school districts or send their kids to private schools. School "choice" has enabled greater segregation by offering options to these white kids that the oppressed nation students can't take advantage of. While "choice" is theoretically open to everyone, it is the wealthy white families who learn about the opportunities for the best schools from their neighbors, friends and co-workers, and who know how to navigate the complexities of the application process. And often knowing someone within the school helps to get their kids admitted to the schools with particularly high demand.(6)
The government reaction to the falling skills and education of segregated schools has been to implement "standards" and "tests" and "discipline" that they pretend will make these schools separate but equal. Yet no progress is seen, and the conditions in these schools continues to worsen. The changes in requirements for underfunded and predominantly Black and Latino schools has resulted in two very different education systems: one for whites which includes cultural classes in art, drama and music, time for recess, and classes that allow for student creativity; and another for oppressed nationalities that includes strict military-like discipline, long school days with no recess, rigid curriculum that teaches to very limited standards, elimination of "fluff" classes like art and music, all taught in severely limited facilities with enormous class sizes. This divergence between the school districts reinforces segregation as white parents can see clearly what their kids miss out on (and are forced to participate in) when they don't attend "white" schools.
According to Kozol, "Thirty-five out of 48 states spend less on students in school districts with the highest numbers of minority children than on students in the districts with the fewest children of minorities. Nationwide, the average differential is about $1,100 for each child. In some states — New York, Texas, Illinois, and Kansas for example — the differential is considerably larger. In New York... it is close to $2,200 for each child." If these numbers are multiplied out to the classroom level, typical classroom funding for low income schools is on the magnitude of $30k to $60k less than for high income classes. At a school level these financial differences are staggering: a 400 student elementary school in New York "receives more than $1 million less per year than schools of the same size in districts with the fewest numbers of poor children."(7) There is an even greater differential when low income oppressed nation districts are separated from low income white districts. There are a few low income white districts but they get more funding than low income oppressed nation districts and so pull up the average funding of low income districts overall.
The achievement gap between Black and white children went down between the Brown v Board of Education ruling and the late 1980s. But it started to grow again in the early 1990s. By 2005, in about half the high schools (those with the largest concentration of Blacks and Latinos) in the 100 largest districts in the country less than half the students entering the schools in ninth grade were graduating high school. Between 1993 and 2002 the number of high schools with this problem increased by 75%. These numbers, not surprisingly, coincide with a drop in Black and Latino enrollment in public universities.(8)
Kozol ties the history of re-segregation back to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on March 21, 1973, (Edgewood Independent School District v. Kirby) when the Court overruled a Texas district court finding that inequalities in districts' abilities to finance education are unconstitutional. This was a key class action law suit, in which a very poor non-white neighborhood argued that their high property taxes were insufficient to provide their kids with adequate education while a neighboring rich white district with lower property taxes was able to spend more than twice the amount on students. In the Supreme Court decision Justice Lewis Powell wrote "The argument here is not that the children in districts having relatively low assessable property values are receiving no public education; rather, it is that they are receiving a poorer quality education than available to children in districts having more assessable wealth." And so he argued that "the Equal Protection Clause does not require absolute equality."(9) This means states are not required to provide funds to help equalize the educational access of poorer people. And because of the tremendous segregation in schools, these poorer students are generally Black and Latino.
Ongoing Reality of School Segregation Today
The Civil Rights Project at UCLA does a lot of research on segregation in education in the United $tates. In a September 19, 2012 report they provide some statistics that underscore the growing segregation in public schools.(10) This segregation is particularly dramatic in the border states and the south, and segregation is especially severe in the largest metropolitan areas. They note that desegregation efforts between the 1960s to the late 1980s led to significant achievements in addressing both segregation itself and racial achievement gaps, but the trend reversed after a 1991 Supreme Court ruling (Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell) that made it easier to abandon desegregation efforts.(11)
Key facts from the Civil Rights Project 2012 report include:
"In the early 1990s, the average Latino and black student attended a school where roughly a third of students were low income (as measured by free and reduced price lunch eligibility), but now attend schools where low income students account for nearly two-thirds of their classmates."
"There is a very strong relationship between the percent of Latino students in a school and the percent of low income students. On a scale in which 1.0 would be a perfect relationship, the correlation is a high .71. The same figure is lower, but still high, for black students (.53). Many minority-segregated schools serve both black and Latino students. The correlation between the combined percentages of these underserved two groups and the percent of poor children is a dismaying .85."
In spite of the suburbanization of nonwhite families, 80% of Latino students and 74% of Black students attend majority nonwhite schools (50-100% oppressed nations). Out of those attending these nonwhite schools, 43% of Latinos and 38% of Blacks attend intensely segregated schools (those with only 0-10% of whites students). And another segment of these segregated students, 15% of Black students, and 14% of Latino students, attend "apartheid schools", where whites make up 0 to 1% of the enrollment.
"Latino students in nearly every region have experienced steadily rising levels of concentration in intensely segregated minority settings. In the West, the share of Latino students in such settings has increased fourfold, from 12% in 1968 to 43% in 2009... Exposure to white students for the average Latino student has decreased dramatically over the years for every Western state, particularly in California, where the average Latino student had 54.5% white peers in 1970 but only 16.5% in 2009."
"Though whites make up just over half of the [U.S. school] enrollment, the typical white student attends a school where three-quarters of their peers are white."
The overwhelming evidence that school segregation continues and even grows without concerted efforts around integration provides evidence of the ongoing segregation between nations overall within the United $tates. Even with residential patterns shifting and neighborhoods integrating different nationalities, families still find ways to segregate their children in schools.
The dramatic school segregation in the United $tates points to both a national and class division in this country. First there is the obvious national division that is reinforced by school segregation, which places whites in a position of dramatic privilege relative to Blacks and Latinos. This privilege extends to poorer whites, underscoring the overall position of the oppressor nation. But there is also a class division within the oppressed nations in the United $tates. The education statistics put about half of oppressed nation youth tracked into the lower class, while the other half can expect to join the petit bourgeoisie which constitutes the vast majority of the Amerikan population. Our class analysis of Amerikan society clearly demonstrates that even the lower class Blacks and Latinos are not a part of the proletariat. But a portion of these undereducated youth are forced into the lumpen class, a group defined by their exclusion from participation in the capitalist system. Future articles will explore the size and role of this lumpen class.