Summertime mid-July 2017 — Oklahoma's worst prison in the country Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing, Oklahoma. I got the chance to be moved off a security threat group unit (STG) where four gang members was killed in one single day all stabbed to death on one unit in one single incident in 2015. I got to move to the honor dorm where you are required to have a job either on the unit or on the yard, somewhere like the kitchen, laundry, or the library. All of the jobs was said to be full, but this facility had just lost its contract for its maximum security units. Most of the max inmates was moved to other max facilities and some put back in population on this facility, and after the max was empty it needed painting. I was chosen to help, I had experience in painting.
To move unit to unit you are subject to be pat-searched or strip-searched. These searches are routine by any officer, and are documented supposedly. On arriving to the entrance of the units that was to be painted my group of about 8 prisoners was stopped and told to line up for a strip-search. We formed a line and went one by one in a tiny bathroom where one officer had I thought one of the worst jobs that day seeing other men's nuts and butts, but I guess I was wrong.
When it was my turn I was already reluctant because a few of the guys came out the bathroom complaining about how weird it was. I get in the bathroom everybody knows the routine, take off all your clothes hand them to the officer he hand searches them and puts them to the side or holds them in his hands. You are to lift your nuts, turn around bend over squat and cough at the same time. I did all of those things but the officer had this lustful look on his face. He told me to let him see my dick again he then bends at the waist where he is very close to my piece and told me to pull back on it. I was beyond horrified.
You know how your back goes straight when you're either scared or mad? I asked him what type of shit he was on and told him I don't get down with that shit give me my fuckin clothes back. He smiled and handed me back my clothes. I dressed so fast I forgot to put on a sock.
The following day I thought surely the same officer would not be doing searches. WRONG. He was waiting on us by the bathroom with one hand on the wall the other hand on his hip tappin his foot. Once again when it was my turn I was somewhat scared and regretful for going back. Scared because I can act out of control sometimes, but I was somewhat confused and caught off guard. When I entered the bathroom I told the officer I'm not strippin out he could send me back if I have to. He said OK put your hands on the wall and starts a pat-down search he gets to my dick and grabs it and holds it and ask what it was. I yank away and tell him my dick weirdo let me out of here and push past him.
I was embarrassed and afraid to tell anyone at the time but when I did, what I thought was going to happen did. He denied it, the facility heads believed him and not me the prisoner and to this day I'm being retaliated against, threatened and punished by this facility's staff.
MIM(Prisons) responds: As this writer knows, it can be embarrassing, upsetting, and terrifying to come forward and talk about sexual harassment and assault. And it's an added challenge when it's not the gender norm that we're comfortable with, like when male guards molest male prisoners. This comrade is exposing something that goes on regularly behind bars. And the idea that reporting to the prison this, or any other type of abuse, will help the individual's situation is largely a myth. Congress even passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act to supposedly address this problem. But even that is just resulting in retaliation for many. Gender oppression and sexual assault of male prisoners is a big problem that is all too often ignored. It doesn't matter if the harasser is male or female, it's an abuse of power.
I wanna talk about an upcoming topic of “sex offenders” and their role in the struggle. A primary question is, I think, do they have a role in the struggle? It boils down to our moral outlook on sex offenders who were convicted by the imperialist justice system. How many wrongfully-convicted comrades are there in prison? I mean those who are not sex offenders. Are we wrong when we say that the U.$. imperialist justice system is broken and biased and oppressive and due to its historical implementation is invalid? No. I think most agree that this is the case.
And if that is the case, we cannot make exceptions to certain crimes and convictions. Or can we?
That leaves us to draw on what we ourselves as communists consider unlawful under socialism. Sex crimes, like all other physical assault, are unlawful. But how do we filter the sex offenders convicted by imperialists into the category with the rest of the convicted so-called “criminals” who fight within our ranks?
We know on the prison yards that we rely on what we call “paperwork” which is any police report or transcripts from the preliminary hearing or trial transcripts or even just mention or allegation that indicates someone’s involvement of the crime or “snitching” for a dude to be blacklisted as “no good” on the yard. But that goes back to relying on an imperialist’s rule of thumb when determining guilt.
Under our own law we would need to measure someone’s guilt by our own standards and come up with ways of determining how to do so.
But what about the sex offenders who actually are guilty of sex crimes? Are they banned for life? Is there no “get-back” for them ever? Becuz of their crime can they provide no contribution to revolution or to society under a socialist state?
I think they can make a contribution to revolution. And under a socialist state, after being appropriately punished (not oppressed) and taught the lesson to be learned against crimes of humanity rehabilitation can be achieved.
Note that I’m not an advocate for sex offenders, so if I must set aside emotion and personal disgust for correct political analysis and conclusion to further the movement on this question, then we all must.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We want to use this contributor’s perspective as an opportunity to go deeper into looking at the current balance of forces and our weakness relative to the imperialists. Our difficulties in measuring guilt, and helping rehabilitate people who want to recover from their patriarchal conditioning, are extremely cumbersome.(1)
The imperialists are currently the principal aspect in the contradiction between capitalism and communism. The imperialists have plenty of resources to set social standards (i.e. laws), conduct and fabricate “investigations,” hold trial to “determine guilt,” mete out punishment to those convicted, and even often find those who attempt to evade the process.
We hope by now our readers have accepted this contributor’s perspective that we can’t let the state tell us who has committed sex-crimes by our standards. The next step would be for us to figure out how to deal with people who are accused of anti-people sex-crimes in the interim, while we are working to gain state power. We can set our own social standards, attempt to conduct investigations to a degree, establish tribunals to determine guilt, and in our socialist morality, either mete punishment, or, even more importantly assist rehabilitation when we have power and resources to do so.
How much of this we can do in our present conditions is open for debate. How much someone can actually be rehabilitated by our limited resources while living under patriarchal capitalism is debatable. How relevant it is to put resources into this type of activity depends on how important it is to the people involved in the organization or movement.(1) How much resources we put into any one of these “investigations” depends on conducting a serious cost-benefit analysis.
For example, if someone contributes a lot to our work, and is accused of a behavior that is very offensive and irreconcilable to others who work with em, then that makes developing this process sooner than later a higher priority. At this stage in our struggle, low-level offenses should only be addressed by our movement to the degree that they build an internal culture that combats chauvinism and prevents other higher-level offenses from arising. Of course there is a ton of middle ground between these two examples. But what we might be able to address when we have state power (or even dual power) at this time may just need to be dealt with using expulsions and distance.
There are very few labels more stigmatizing than "sex offender" in prison. While sex crime encompasses a wide variety of "criminal" behavior ranging from urinating in public to actual sexual depredation, once labeled a sex offender (SO) any individual is automatically persona non grata; black-listed.
Many, myself included, view SOs as the scourge of society, far below cowards, and even below informants (snitches). As such prisoners generally do not debate SOs other than in a negative light. For the prisoner-activist/revolutionary, who is politically aware and class conscious, the SO debate takes on an interesting color. In particular, when we contemplate how a movement can best confront the problem of real sexual depredations. What possible solutions can be put into practice? Isolation? Ostracization? Extermination? Or is there some way in which the democratic method — unity/criticism/unity — can make a difference?
Excluding all non-sexual depredations (public urination and such), SOs constitute a dangerous element; more so than murderers because SOs often have more victims, and many of those victims later become sexual predators, creating one long line of victimization. What is a revolutionary movement to do to stop this terrible cycle? In prisons, at present, the only resolutions being practiced are ostracization and further exploitation. SOs are deliberately excluded from most, if not all, social interactions outside of being extorted, coerced, threatened and or beaten. While prisoners may find approval for these actions of victimization, these actions do nothing at all to solve the problem.
In a discussion with participants in an extension study group (debating topics from MIM(Prisons) study group) it was advanced that all SOs should be put on an island away from society or summarily executed. First, such drastic measures ignore the problem just as current solutions do. In the former (an SO's island) case it creates a subsociety, a subculture, dominated by sexual depredation and its approval. As a member of our group quickly concluded "this would definitely be a bad thing." In the latter case all you do is commit senseless murders.
Any possible solution with the real probability of success must be found in the democratic method. In order to eradicate the senseless cycle of sexual victimization revolutionaries must engage in a re-education campaign. Beginning in unity of purpose: a society based on equality without exploitation, class struggle and antagonism. To achieve this all elements in society must work in concert and be healthy. Following this is the critique phase, where the process of re-education becomes important. Interacting with SOs, demonstrating why, how and where they went wrong. From there one would begin inculcating an SO with proper respect for their fellow humyn and all the rights of individuals, along with a new comprehension of acceptable behavior. For the imprisoned revolutionary the most important aspect is their role in engaging the SO and initiating the re-education. This in itself is a revolutionary step requiring fortitude and stoicism considering current prison norms and expectations.
At any rate, assuming an SO can be brought to understand the incorrectness of their thought and action, they will cease to be a detriment to society. As revolutionaries, of course, this opportunity would extend to a political education as well. In the end one can reasonably hope to not only have reformed an SO, but to have built a new, dedicated revolutionary. The hardest step toward any goal is always the first one, but it must always be made.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Certainly it is correct to oppose sexually violent behavior. But we're still not entirely sure why "sex offenders" are more pariahs than murderers in the prison environment. We lay out a theory for why prisoners are so obsessed with vilifying "sex offenders" in our article Sex Offenders vs. Anti-People Sex Crimes, and we welcome others introspection on the topic.
This author presents an interesting argument, although we're not sure the logic is sound. When someone is murdered in lumpen-criminal violence, often there is retaliatory murder, and subsequent prison time. Lumpen-criminal violence (created and encouraged by selective intervention and neglect by the state) is one of the reasons why 1 in 3 New Afrikan men will go to prison at some point in their lifetime. That represents a long line of victimization.
Rates of sexual assault and intimate partner violence are also staggering. We are not trying to weigh sexual violence against murder and try to determine which is worse. Instead we highlight these arguments made by our contributors to question why they hold the perspectives that they hold, to encourage more scientific thinking.
We disagree this contributor where ey says that revolutionaries in prison should make it a priority to try to rehabilitate people who have committed sex-crimes. As we've explained elsewhere in this issue, we have a limited ability to do that, and this challenge is exacerbated by the fact that we still live in a capitalist patriarchal society. It would make more sense to focus this rehabilitation effort on people who are otherwise contributing to building toward socialist revolution and an end to capitalism. But reforming people who have committed sex-crimes for its own sake is putting the carriage before the horse. At this time, our first priority is to kill capitalism and the patriarchy.
by a Virginia prisoner April 2018 permalink[This writer enclosed a People Magazine article: Sexually Harassed by Prison Inmates, January 1, 2018. About two female COs who work at Florida's Coleman prison. They won a class action lawsuit regarding sexual harassment on the job, against the Department of Justice last February, with a $20 million settlement.]
I have an article that I got from somebody that I would like to share about a six-year battle against sexually-harassed women staff at FCC Coleman outside Orlando, Florida. For me, women that work in correctional centers should know what they're getting themselves into working in all-male facilities.
I know that some guys can't control themselves when they see women COs. Some do perverted shit that I can't even approve of because that's not who I am as a brother who is trying to end my criminal way of thinking. But I can say that women who sign up for the job know that they did not apply at Disney World or Six Flags, so they should be prepared for the torment that they know this job is capable of doing.
Even though I don't agree with some prisoners who pull out on the women COs, I just feel bad for what this system of injustice has done to my fellow brother's mental state. Because there are some brothers who are never going home at all and some who got a significant sentence, and they feel like they're a long way from home. So this situation is a double-edge sword because you have to look at some of these guys' mental state and situation, because some are not going home at all, which can influence other brothers' behaviors.
And I cannot put all the blame on my fellow prisoners, because I have seen for myself women COs let prisoners whip out on them and they wait or show some skin till that brother has finished. And there has been COs, men and women, turning tricks with prisoners. So I've seen both parties at fault in these circumstances.
That is why I said this is a double-edge sword situation, but the sword is sharper on our side because of lawsuits like this, which open the doors for more corporal punishment and stricter rules in a place where we barely have any say so. This case has showed me the oppressor is coming up with new ways to keep my fellow prisoners in solitary confinement, and to take advantage of some brothers' fragile mind state. Because to me these women knew when they applied for this kind of job, being so-called law enforcers of the worst humans in confinement, that we are labeled as what should they expect. So that is how I feel about this article.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We share this writer's view that prisoners are put in shitty situations that can lead them to mental health problems and behavior that they would not have considered on the streets. It's also unacceptable that people working in prisons toy with prisoners, using their position for their own sexual pleasure.
We have little sympathy for people who choose to take jobs in prisons, as these institutions are just tools of oppression. We do recognize that many prisons are deliberately located in destitute rural white areas, and so many times job options are slim. But we do still have free will, and a lack of available does not excuse people from taking jobs that pay them to carry out oppression and abuse daily.
That said, we don't think there is any situation in which anyone should just expect to be sexually harassed. Even in prisons or the military, institutions that are fundamentally corrupt and serving imperialism, there is no need for wimmin to suffer sexual harassment. This is the same argument made of actresses in Harvey Weinstein movies, beauty pageant contestants, and people wearing short skirts: "you know the consequences and you're choosing to get sexually harassed." No, these people are choosing what clothes to wear and what careers to pursue, and those choices shouldn't include sexual harassment.
The degradation of wimmin is a part of the system of patriarchal oppression that is intimately tied up with capitalism. As is the degradation of prisoners who are acting out against these COs due to their damaged mental state. These are things we won't be able to eliminate while capitalism exists, but that doesn't mean we should pretend people just need to accept it. We are building towards a society where all people are equal and no group of people has power over another group. This includes eliminating all forms of harassment and oppression.
The U$A uses the sex offender label to put folks in certain stages, legally. So the KKK uses that against you to not give you a job. So your life will be messed up. Being a captive we get hit with it every day. If you look at the United $tates of Amerika, some of everybody is a sex offender. Our own president is 1 of the biggest sex offenders of all. Once that label be upon you everything is hard. You can't be around your kids or some jobs. They use this control to keep the oppressed in line. You can get locked up, catch a charge. Then the next thing you know you are a sex offender. I hate to see somebody else's life messed up.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The ability to buy and sell people and sex, inherent in a capitalist economic system, leads many to behave in ways that are extremely anti-social. Those who have been subjected to the worst of the gender conditioning our society has to offer are much more likely to commit sex-crimes which perpetuate the harm caused by male chauvinism and capitalism.
It really says something that the best response the state has for dealing with the people who have submitted to its patriarchal conditioning is to slap a label on them and just ruin their lives. It's the same with the "felon" label, and even more extreme.
We need to address the root causes of anti-social behavior (which stem from society itself), as well as rehabilitate those who have committed anti-people crimes. Without state power, both of these tasks are extremely difficult if not impossible. For our perspective on how to address this problem in the immediate term, see our article [LEAD ARTICLE FOR 61].
I am listed as a sex offender,
a few friends and I caught a charge in ninety six.
We did time and got released,
but can a sex offender be fixed?
Currently I'm doing life for a 2006 armed robbery
I have never violated any disciplinary measure for masturbation
on female prison staff or any sexually related issues
but I'm still listed as a sex offender
Can a sex offender become a revolutionary?
Can a sex offender become a genuine feminist?
Or an anti-patriarch misogynist?
Can a sex offender have been a victim of misogyny?
Or sexism like his victim?
For a sex offender, where does the healing and fixing begin?
Can a sex offender be considered or seen as equal?
Can he ever be considered or seen as a member of the people?
Does a sex offender still have human rights?
Is he even still human?
Can he ever be forgiven or forgotten for his crime against the people?
Aren't almost all crimes against the people?
Can a sex offender be genuinely healed or rehabilitated?
Do we throw away the key and keep all sex offenders gated?
Is the justice system just or genuine?
We all agree that poverty is the mother of crime,
So then affluence must be its father by grand design.
Can a sex offender be a victim of sexual double standard
Can a rich sex offender be subject to the same prosecution,
incarceration, condemnation or even oppression as a
poor sex offender in this nation?
Do poor sex offenders receive systematic indulgence?
How long has the #MeToo movement been in existence?
Suddenly, the #MeToo movement has after so long, gained overdue prominence.
Will the real sex offender please stand up?
Let your money do your talking, prove the law is corrupt.
Rich sex offenders versus poor sex offenders?
White sex offenders versus Black, Brown, Yellow
and Red sex offenders?
Ghetto, hood sex offenders versus hillbilly sex offenders.
President sex offenders, PIG (pro imperial goon) sex offenders,
evangelical sex offenders, papacy sex offenders?
Thomas Jefferson was a sex offender? Still your hero and founding father?
Because his victim was a wombman of color?
Sally Hemmings, daughter of momma Afrika
Columbus was a sex offender,
still got his own day, for us to remember
"Grab them by their pussy" that's what Trump say.
I don't see anybody throwing their keys away.
A poor sex offender can't point the finger, can't scream "foul play?"
rich sex offenders could be healed, poor ones can't?
Can't compare apples with grapes? Naw.
Aren't they all fruits? Yes, but naw.
Ain't we all been living the misogynist culture?
Won't we still keep doing it till so-called society
fixes its mental stature and structure?
Separate the sex poorfenders from the sex richfenders
Can a sex offender practice genuine self criticism?
Can a sex offender be a guerilla for egalitarianism?
This issue of ULK is refocusing on an ongoing debate we've held in these pages of the role "sex offenders" can, or can't, play in our revolutionary organizing. Many of our subscribers see "sex offenders" as pariahs just by definition of their conviction, yet we also receive letters from "sex offenders" with plenty of interest in revolutionary organizing. How/can we reconcile this contradiction? This is what this issue of ULK explores.
As you read through subscribers' article submissions and our responses on this topic, you'll see some common themes, some of which have been summarized below. This article also is an attempt to provide a snapshot of where we are now on this question, and suggest some aspects of our organizing that need to be developed more deeply.
The "Sex Offender" Label
There are three groups that are discussed throughout this issue that need to be distinguished.
People who have committed crimes by proletarian standards, but have not been convicted of them (i.e. Donald Trump, people whose sexual assaults go unreported, prisoner bullies, etc.). These people are not called "sex offenders" according to the state's definition.
People convicted of being "sex offenders" who didn't commit a crime by proletarian standards (i.e. people labeled as "sex offenders" for pissing in public).
People who are convicted as "sex offenders" by the state, for behaviors that would also be considered crimes by proletarian standards (i.e. physical assault, pimping, etc.).
Throughout this issue the term "sex offender" is used to mean any one of those categories, or all three. It's muddled, and we should be more clear on our terminology moving forward. By the state's definition, the term does include some benign behaviors such as pissing in public (group 2); crimes which are convicted in a targeted manner disproportionately against members of oppressed nations. So we put the term "sex offender" in quotes because it is the official term that the state uses, and it includes people who have not committed anti-people (anti-proletarian) sex-crimes. Under a system of revolutionary justice, people in group 2 would need no more rehabilitation than your average persyn on the street.
We cannot trust the state to tell us what "crimes" someone has committed, and this is true for sex offenses as much as anything else. This country has a long history of locking up oppressed-nation men on the false accusation of raping white wimmin, generally to put these men "in their place." We have printed many letters from people locked up for "sex offenses" but who have not committed terrible acts against people.
Interestingly, most of our subscribers know there are many falsely-convicted prisoners in all other categories of crime, and they readily believe that many are innocent. But when the state labels someone a "sex offender" that persyn becomes a pariah without question. This is an important thing for us to challenge as it represents, to us, a patriarchal way of thinking in prison culture. Usually it is paired with rhetoric about the need to protect helpless wimmin and children and is just a different expression of patriarchal norms: in this case the non-"sex offender" playing protector-man by attacking anyone labeled "sex offender."
Why don't we see this with people with murder convictions? Isn't killing someone also a horrifying act that should not be tolerated? And why is sexual physical assault in prison allowed to proliferate? In the 1970s, Men Against Sexism was a group organizing in Washington state against prison rape, and they effectively ended prison rape in that state.(1) Statistics show that people "convicted of a sexual offense against a minor"(2) are more likely to be sexually assaulted in prison. Are the people who are "delivering justice" to these "sex offenders" then cast out as pariahs? Why is the state's label, and not people's actual behavior, given so much validity? These are questions United Struggle from Within comrades need to dig into much deeper.
Anti-people crimes include many different behaviors, from complacency with capitalism and imperialism, to extreme and deliberate acts of reactionary violence. Anti-people crimes include manufacturing and selling pornography, illegal drugs, and even alcohol and cigarettes, much of which is legal or at least permissible in our Liberal capitalist society. And it includes all sadistic physical assault, which would include all forms of sexual assault.
From our perspective, this discussion has raised more clearly for us the importance of not glorifying or fostering positive images of any types of anti-people violence among prisoners. Sometimes folks from lumpen organizations hold up their history of reactionary violence as a badge of honor and we need to criticize that, just like we need to be critical of any positive or even neutral discussion of sexual violence. But we still can't take the labels from the criminal injustice system as the reason for this criticism. Those locked up on protective custody yards for sexual assault convictions don't merit this criticism merely for their PC status. That gets into the realm of "no investigation, no right to speak" because we can't take the injustice system's labels as sufficient evidence.
Anti-people behavior of all kinds is unacceptable both within and around the revolutionary movement. Our challenge is in the fact that we are not currently in a position to investigate individuals' crimes. In truth the change needed from all of us is impossibly difficult without a revolutionary government and culture to back it up. As revolutionaries, we all do the best we can to fight external influences and keep our lives on a positive track so we can be contributing revolutionaries. But there is a difference between people with class/nation/gender backgrounds that will lead to counter-revolutionary thoughts and actions, and those who commit anti-people crimes. Where to draw the line between what we can deal with today and what we put off until after we have a revolutionary government in power is not a clear and easy question to answer.
In our current conditions, we have to ask ourselves, for instance, what about the persyn who commits violence as a part of eir job (say selling drugs) but then spends eir spare time building the revolutionary movement? There's a clear contradiction between these two practices. Do we dismiss eir revolutionary work entirely as a result, or do we consider em an ally while we struggle against eir reactionary violence? The answer to this will come from the masses, and not from abstract revolutionary principle.
In the real world, perhaps we don't need to make this comparison. If someone in a revolutionary organization engaged in some sort of non-sexual extreme anti-people violence the organization would need to address this directly. The intervention would at least include independent investigation and calls for self-criticism, and if an individual doesn't recognize their error and take serious steps to correct their line and practice they could be ejected from the organization. It could also include other interventions, based on the organization's needs, skills, and resources.
Any anti-people violence is going to harm the movement, and of course the people it is directed against, and so perpetrators of these actions should not be a part of our revolutionary organizations. We will still struggle with those who have class and/or national interests aligned with the revolutionary movement but who are acting out extreme anti-people violence. But until they understand why what they did/do is wrong and demonstrate change in their practice, they should not be admitted into revolutionary organizations.
Sex-Crimes vs. Other Crimes
One argument for why sexual violence should be distinguished from non-sexual violence could be that gender is the principal contradiction within any revolutionary movement that admits people of all genders, and we need to deal with it differently within our organizations. For example, we have contemplated the value of separate-gender organizations because of this contradiction, though to date we have not advocated this solution.
Another argument could be that victims of sexual violence in imperialist countries are more likely to take up revolutionary politics, fueled by their experience of gender oppression. And because of the pervasiveness of sexual assault in imperialist countries, we will end up with a lot of
revolutionaries, mostly bio-females, who have experienced sexual violence.
This could again raise gender to a principal contradiction within imperialist-country movements because of the traumatic background of so many members. It becomes a contradiction the movement has to deal with (when any patriarchal violence arises within the movement), and one of the greatest propellants forward on gender questions.
Neither of these principal contradiction arguments make a case for a significant distinction between sexual and non-sexual anti-people violence in the abstract. Rather they are relevant in terms of of how our organizations need to deal with the problems. And in both cases it has to do with the people within the movement's perception of these types of violence.
Applying this same concept to organizing in the hyper-masculine prison environment, it may make sense to exclude "sex offenders" from our projects because of the pervasive anti-"sex offender" attitude among prisoners. However, we already discussed above that we're not using the state's definitions of crime. If revolutionary prisoners determine a need to exclude people who have specifically committed sexually violent anti-people crimes from their organization, to maintain organizational strength, they should do this. But of course this is different from excluding "sex offenders." (group 2)
In dealing with sex-crimes accusations, the primary difference between organizing people on the streets and organizing in prisons is the presence of an accuser. With prisoners, we don’t generally interact with an accuser, we just have a label from the criminal injustice system. Though certainly prison-based organizations will have to deal with accusers in the case of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults. This prison-based situation is more similar to the situation in organizations on the streets where a member brings up an accusation against another member.
And in the case of prisoners, like the Central Park 5, some "sex offenders" did not even have an accuser on the street. The survivor of the assault had no recollection of the event. The state picked out these 5 young New Afrikan men to target, to set an example and vilify New Afrikans in the media. They were later all acquitted.
Whereas on the streets, or when organizing inside with non-"sex offender" prisoners who have survived sexual violence, we are almost always going to be directly interfacing with the survivors.
While we are here minimizing the state's definition of "sex offender," we in no way mean to minimize the accusations of victims of sexual violence. In general society, false accusations are statistically rare, and the best practice is to put substantial weight on the validity of accusations of sex-crimes.(3)
Anecdotally, we've seen a high prevalence of sexual violence survivors attracted to revolutionary work. It's easy to see why people who have experienced the ugliest gender oppression in our society would be drawn to revolutionary organizing. Suffering often breeds resistance.
Within revolutionary movements, the rate of false accusations is in all likelihood more common than in the general population. This is because the state will use any method imaginable to tear us down, especially from the inside out. Many comrades have been taken down from false sex-crime accusations from the state or agent provocateurs. We need to build structures in to our organizations that protect against state attacks, and simultaneously hold the claims of victims in high regard, not just of sex-crimes but of any anti-people behavior that could come up internally. This process will vary organization-to-organization, but our internal strength comes in preparation. Not only by creating a process to follow in case something does come up, but also in creating a culture, and even including membership policies, that prevent it from even happening in the first place.
These principles and processes need development and input from organizations that already have them in place and have used them. This is definitely not a new concept to revolutionary organizations and radical circles, and even with all that practice under our belt there are still many unanswered questions. Some basic practices might include: un-muddling the relationships between comrades (i.e. no dating within the org) and establishing and practicing communication methods and skills to create cultural norms for preventing chauvinistic behaviors and addressing these behaviors when they do arise.
How we handle this process now in our cell structure will be different if a cell has 2 members versus 2,000 members. The process will need to be adapted for different stages of the struggle as well, such as when we have dual power, and then again when the Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations has power. And on and on, adapting our methods into a stateless communism.
Even with policies in place, we have limited means of combating chauvinism, assault allegations and other unforeseen organizational problems endemic to the left. Rather than wave off these contradictions, or put them out of sight (or cover them up, like so many First World-based parties and organizations have done), we need to build institutions that protect those who are oppressed by gender violence.
Potential for Punishment
We do not yet have the means at our disposal to deal with crimes against the people as thoroughly as we would like. To do that, we would indeed need institutions tantamount to state power. If found guilty, the most we can do is issue expulsions, orders of isolation, and disseminate warnings privately to anyone in the movement who might be endangered by the offender. The principle of these measures is the isolation and (hopefully) separation from the anti-imperialist movement of personalities that not only put comrades in physical danger, but through their violent and narcissistic habits (seeking validation, circumventing investigations, denying rectification) leave the movement open to plants and pigs who have never passed up the opportunity to use such unstable personalities as entry points. The individuals we are most interested in excluding are those who have not only committed anti-people acts, but who continue to pose active physical risks to the movement and individual comrades. In all cases which can be addressed without expulsion, we certainly encourage thorough and continual self-criticism and rectification.
Regardless of the crime though, there is almost no way MIM(Prisons) could investigate any of the crimes committed by people behind bars. We have had subscribers write to us to tell us another of our subscribers is a rat or sexual predator, and we've had people write to us who do say their conviction is true. One could make an argument that we need to ask prisoners to make a self-criticism that demonstrates that they now understand what they did was wrong, and we should do more to encourage this. But if someone doesn't admit to the crime ey is accused of, then we are at a loss.
In organizing through the mail, the most we can do is note an accusation as something to potentially be aware of for the future. If we saw this manifest in the accused subscriber's actions interacting with MIM(Prisons), or other prisoners, then we would consider cutting off contact or taking other measures to exclude em from our organizing work. The amount of resources required, and the risk of state meddling, to conduct an investigation on guilt and enforce punishment, brings us back to our line that practice must be principal in our recruiting. Comrades demonstrate in practice their commitment to the movement and their political line, and that is the best thing we have to judge them on from the outside.
Potential for Rehabilitation
How should we handle people who have committed sex-crimes by proletarian standards when they do want to continue to participate in revolutionary organizing? Should they be banned from organizing with us (which is basically how "sex offenders" are treated in prisons now)? Or relegated to the role of "supporter" only, and not member? Should we avoid organizing with them altogether, or can we work with them in united front work? Or are people who have committed sex-crimes an exception to our work building a United Front for Peace in Prisons?
Defining what we need to trust people to do (or not do) is a decent starting point. Assessing whether these tasks can be trusted to someone with a particular behavioral history is then possible. This would be true of any crime. For example, if someone had laundered money from a people's support organization in the past, it would be difficult to trust em as the treasurer of a revolutionary org. Many checks would need to be built into place in order for this persyn to be trusted to do bookkeeping, and probably it's a better use of our limited time and resources to just not have them doing the bookkeeping at all.
Whether we can actually build in these checks and balances for any crime will depend a lot on the crime itself. For example, we organize with a lot of former-gangbangers, who have a history of committing sexual violence in the context of their lumpen-criminal activities. If this was the only context in which someone engaged in sexual violence, and they have very thoroughly engaged in a self-criticism process about eir time banging, then it's reasonable to expect that if ey's not banging that ey is most likely not committing sexual violence. On the other hand, if someone committed sexual violence in the context of molesting people simply because they are weaker than em, for sadistic pleasure or eir twisted perspective of "love", we may not have resources or expertise at this time to reform these people before we destroy our current patriarchal capitalist society.
In discussing rehabilitation of people who have committed anti-people sex-crimes, we also find it useful to examine the social causes of why people commit sex-crimes in the first place. MIM(Prisons)'s analysis is that people commit these horrible acts because they are raised in our horrible patriarchal, militaristic, power-hungry, individualistic, capitalist society. Part of our challenge is we can't remove people from this society without first destroying the society. So can we expect someone who is so deeply affected by our fucked up society to also deeply heal to the point where we can trust em with whatever is needed for our struggle? Any sadistic anti-people activity will require extreme rehabilitation, which we may just not be in a position to assist with at this time. We can and should encourage self-criticism for past errors from those serious about revolution. But from a distance (through mail) our ability to help and foster this self-criticism is greatly limited.
In a recent MIM(Prisons) Re-Lease on Life newsletter there was an article on what it is like to be a communist and on probation. In September 2016 in a ULK there was an article about sex offenders and status within the prison. This article will complement both, talking about what my experience has been like over two years as a communist post-probation.
The current revolutionary communist party versus the party branch I have been loyal to and committed to during my 10 years on probation, jail, prison was reluctant of taking me back. The reason why I only was allowed as supporter/sympathizer status was a defense mechanism from the COINTELPRO and now 9/11 days, where the ruling class or reactionaries could use my case if they found out to discredit the party.
The idea of another "other" somehow possibly discrediting the party makes sense. Especially if it was front line news that a socialist party, that has already been attacked throughout its history for all sorts of untrue accusations, was now "exposed" as harboring sex deviants. This would possibly make other party members uncomfortable. And it would appear to other groups that the party was not being a radical feminist communist party.
But my situation became a non-issue, probably due to members forgetting. I joined the same branch I was part of in the past. For a year I jumped into environmental work, anti-war work, feminist work, and helping with a homeless bill of rights. I also jumped into the leadership of an ex-prisoners' organization, as well as with Samizdat Socialist Prisoners Project. Also working on a memoir of my thoughts as a thought-criminal.
When activists and revolutionaries of all stripes found out about me having a background, or of my crime, I did not shy away from acknowledging it. I told them I did not have a victim, that it was a sting by local cops. I am doing what I think communist sex deviants should do: work towards eliminating the capitalist state that creates schizophrenic and contradictory mores and norms in the first place. I was the guy that did prisoner liberation work in my area.
After a year, someone calling themselves a feminist found out what I had done and lambasted me on Facebook. As a white, male, sex offender, atheist, and communist I had to refrain from attacking a female feminist to avoid seeming like a white sexist and chauvinist. So I left the feminist group along with other feminist groups I was a part of.
But it did not stop there. There was nothing I could say to defend my actions or defuse the situation especially on social media. Only two or three people, who were hardly activists, were attacking me, questioning why someone like me should be in a feminist group. They found a paper I wrote about being in college as a sex offender, and did not interpret it correctly as I am no longer entitled, deviant, and uber-sexualized.
Throughout a week of turmoil, many comrades and friends defended me saying that I have never hid what I have done, and no opponent of me reached out to me to defend myself. My comrades pretty much asked if a sex offender's best place is in a feminist group attacking the chauvinism, sexism in the days of Trump, Weinstein, and Brock Turner. Currently after two months, I still have not participated in any feminist-related event.
These opponent feminists are a possible example of carceral feminism. The carceral feminists are people who believe the best punishment is a thrown-away prison key. They have allied with conservatives on this issue. If I had my chance to defend myself, I would say I am more committed than any of the carceral feminist armchair activists. I would tell them how most of my close female friends, sexual partners, and even my girlfriend have experienced rape, sexual assault, etc. and they accept me. The one to two years off of probation, jail, and prison have been very rocky and it is hard to figure out my voice and place in the revolutionary struggle. I hope many of the released do not return to a life imposed on them by the bourgeoisie, but partake in liberating a prison world.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade's experience speaks to the universal struggle of former prisoners, and more specifically to the question of how revolutionaries should work (or not work) with people convicted of sex offenses. To clarify, ey is working with some organizations that we have significant disagreements with, but that doesn't change the relevance of what ey writes.
This is a case where someone who was convicted of a sex offense is not disputing the accusation. Instead, ey comes to the conclusion that the right thing for someone who committed gender crimes to do is to fight to end the system that creates a culture of gender oppression. This we very much agree with.
We did not see the social media debates with and against this persyn so we can't comment directly on what people said when arguing that ey should not be allowed into feminist organizations. But there are several problems we see with this incident. First, attacking someone on social media rather than taking criticisms directly to em and eir organization does not do justice to the seriousness of this political debate. Also, pushing someone out of an organization before hearing eir side and investigating the issue thoroughly just does the work of the government by dividing the movement.
As Maoists we believe that people are capable of change, and so when we learn about errors people have made we ask for self-criticism and an analysis of why those actions were taken. Those who not only make sincere self-criticism but also demonstrate through their actions that they have changed should be given the opportunity to contribute to the revolutionary movement.
Sex offenders are generally pariahs, both on the streets and behind bars. All people with a criminal record face extra scrutiny, criticism, and ostracization when they hit the streets. It's important that revolutionary organizations don't play into this. We shouldn't dismiss former captives who want to be activists. Instead we should set up structures to help them get involved and support their work. And for those who have committed crimes against the people in the past, we can help them better understand not only why these actions were wrong, but also to transform their thinking to best avoid hurting others in the future and how to build a society that doesn't foster those crimes in the first place.
In recent months we've seen a huge number of people come forward with accusations of sexual harassment or assault against men in the entertainment industry, in politics, and well-known business leaders. And in many cases the exposures have encouraged more people to come forward, and the ending of careers. This has been integrated with a #MeToo movement of wimmin stepping forward to say that these highly publicized cases are not just isolated incidents. The point of #MeToo is to show all wimmin experience unwanted sexual attention at some point in their lives, often repeatedly. This movement has progressive aspects, and here we will try to take readers to the logical conclusion of all this exposure of sexual assault.
The Aziz Ansari sexual assault allegations perhaps most clearly illustrate where the #MeToo movement must go if it is to really address the root of these problems. Ansari is a famous actor, comedian and filmmaker. In January, a womyn came forward anonymously with a detailed account of her sexual encounter with Ansari. The womyn "Grace" described a very awkward and unpleasant evening in which Ansari repeatedly made sexual advances while "Grace" attempted to indicate her discomfort with what she called "clear nonverbal cues." When she finally said "no" to one of his sexual propositions, Ansari backed off and suggested they dress and just hang out.
Ansari claims he thought the encounter was entirely consensual. Grace claims Ansari ignored all her attempts to put a stop to the sex. This case has led to a useful debate over where to draw the line in terms of what we call sexual assault. This case has led some (Grace supporters and Grace opponents) to point out that calling her experience sexual assault means we've all been sexually assaulted. Or maybe not everyone, but most wimmin at the very least. Because most wimmin can point to a situation where they were uncomfortable or unhappy but pressured by a man to proceed with sex.
Ansari was oblivious to Grace's lack of enjoyment, and her inability to clearly verbally express this points to a power inequality. In a truly equal relationship between two people, each would feel totally comfortable walking away at any point. And each would be carefully listening to what the other said (verbally and non-verbally). Whatever it is that stopped Grace from walking away, whether it's Ansari's fame or wealth, or just her training as a womyn to do what a man asks, it's undeniable that she was not able to just walk away.
This is the crux of the problem with attempting to reform away sexual assault while we live in a patriarchal society. Rape is non-consensual sex. And, as the Ansari case demonstrates, there are many situations in which wimmin aren't giving consent even though men think the encounter is totally consensual. We call this non-consensual sex what it is: rape.
When there is a power difference in a relationship, the persyn with less power is limited in their ability to consent. You can't freely consent when someone is holding a gun to your head. And similarly you can't freely consent when you fear economic consequences. Those are obvious inequalities. Someone who says "yes, please" in those situations simply can't be freely consenting. The Ansari case gets at more subtle inequalities, but ones that have a very real impact on people's ability to consent. In a society where inequality is inherent in every interaction, we can't expect people to have sexual relationships that are equal and consensual. The problem isn't that Ansari raped Grace. The problem is that all sex under the patriarchy is non-consensual. Grace just wrote about one of the more subtle cases of non-consensual sex.
All this sexual assault in Amerikan society isn't the fault of the men who are being called out. It's the fault of the patriarchal society. Grace proponents point out that it shouldn't be wimmin's responsibility to help men learn how to read their discomfort. Grace opponents complain that wimmin need to empower themselves and speak up and demand that their consent (or lack of consent) be respected. This is a good debate, and we actually agree with both sides. But it's the wrong debate to be having, because neither side can achieve their goal under patriarchy. A lifetime of training to respect power (the power of men, the power of money, the power of fame, the power of a teacher, the power of looks, the power of skill) can't be overcome with an assertiveness training class. And educating people to ask for consent at every step of the way won't help when someone feels they have to say "yes" to their teacher/priest/benefactor/mentor/idol.
Some might hope that other changes in Amerikan society will move us towards abolishing the patriarchy. People fighting gender oppression argue that having a womyn president who speaks out against sexual harassment, and getting in judges who will prosecute people aggressively, and the broad education and exposure of the #MeToo campaign will eventually break down the gender power differential in this society. But even this level of reform won't change a fundamental system that is based on power differentials. We don't believe the patriarchy can be abolished under a system that is set up to help the rich profit off the exploitation of the Third World peoples.
The #MeToo movement is trying to show people how pervasive sexual assault is. That's important. We need to take that further and show the link between power differentials in relationships and sexual assault. And we must be clear that these power differences will always exist under a capitalist patriarchy. We can't reform our way to pure and equal sex. Just as many wimmin are now dramatically calling out #MeToo, we dramatically call out #AllSexIsRape. Sexual assault is everywhere; revolutionary change is needed.
by a Pennsylvania prisoner February 2018 permalink
I have noticed that the New Afrikan people (NAP) have been crying out for justice for their people against oppression for ages. As an advocate and activist to end all oppression I stand beside them 100%. Oppression is an ugly thing and needs to be totally eradicated. However, I have also noticed that large numbers of NAPs and Latin@s oppress another "minority" group, namely the LGBTQIA community on a continuous basis. The same reasoning and ideology used by white supremacists to oppress others, especially NAP and Latin@s, is being used by NAP and Latin@s to oppress the LGBTQIA community. I feel that if people want to be free from oppression, they should in turn refrain from willingly and consciously oppressing other humyns and humyn groups. Justice and equality should be collective, not subjective and for certain people only. Does anyone else see this hypocrisy? I'm open to critique and feedback.
MIM(Prisons) responds: As communists, we struggle for an end to all forms of oppression. It's a constant struggle to educate ourselves and others, and consciously struggle against biases that have been ingrained over years of living in this corrupt system. But while we live in a society built on class, nation and gender oppression we can expect to see forms of all of these within progressive movements.
There are a few principles we apply here. One is recognizing the principal contradiction and focusing on pushing that forward. Another is unity-struggle-unity. So as we unite with all anti-imperialist forces to resolve the principal contradiction (the oppression of Third World nations by the U.$.-led imperialist block) we will struggle over questions such as these in an attempt to build greater unity with revolutionary nationalists who may retain reactionary ideas around gender.