by a Pennsylvania prisoner December 2015 permalink
As I watch how imperialism, capitalism, and religion are destroying people's lives all over the world, it makes me think twice about supporting a cause which has no merit. I was once a supporter of the petty bourgeoisie, and a firm believer in religion and capitalism. Then I was thrown into the belly of oppression and I noticed how religion divided all those under the spell of supporting a system which brings death and destruction.
Religion is even now being used as a decoy to what's really going on. You have an imperialist holy war going on now, Islam vs. Christianity. But it's not really a holy war, it's a war for land and raw materials. I believe the Saudi's and United States care less about Islam and Christianity, it's more about oppression and exploitation of oppressed nations all over. The imperialists use the media as a tool to spread propaganda, calling anti-imperialists terrorist.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is right that religion is used as a decoy to distract people from their oppression and from the truth about imperialism. Religion has been an effective tool of capitalism, and before capitalism it served the feudal oppressors and the slave owners. Oppressed people are told to accept their suffering and pray for redemption in an afterlife rather than fighting back against their oppressors. Over time the form of the god or gods to worship has changed, but the substance has never been there. We can not afford to wait for a mystical being to punish the oppressors and liberate the oppressed. And we certainly should not be taken in by religious propaganda that fosters hate of one religion (i.e. Islam) because it is more popular among the oppressed, as a justification for imperialist military excursions.
In 2001, reporters at the Boston Globe newspaper exposed widespread sexual abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church and the long-running coverup of this abuse by Church leadership. Priests who were known to have molested children were moved to new parishes where they repeated the abuse, with full knowledge of Church leadership. The Globe printed a series of stories that led to the resignation of Cardinal Law and great embarrassment for the Church. Spotlight dramatizes the work done by the reporting team at the Globe to uncover the facts in this case, and the resistance they faced in a city dominated by the Catholic Church.
Overall Spotlight does a good job demonstrating the tremendous harm that the institution of the Catholic Church did to thousands (likely tens of thousands) of youth, and the pervasive influence and power of the Church in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. No attempt is made to justify the actions of the Church leadership who covered for the abusive priests, nor does the movie suggest that anything was changed by the newspaper stories, instead concluding with a list of hundreds of cities around the world where similar abuse scandals were uncovered.
It is outrageous and enraging to see the stories of abused children, the lucky ones who made it to adulthood, and hear about Church authorities who, upon learning about these cases, moved to silence the abused, promising it would never happen again, even while they knew the priests had a history of exactly this same abuse against other children. It is an interesting contrast that, while quick to believe that all Muslims are terrorists when a small minority of them fight back against imperialism, Amerikans presented with so much evidence would never consider calling all Catholics child molesters. Even non-Catholics in the United $tates are well indoctrinated to believe that the churches are forces for good and Christianity is a religion of good people.
In the end the movie lets the Catholic Church off the hook. By focusing on just this sex abuse scandal, Spotlight portrays the rest of the Church activities as generally benevolent. Further, it implies that the abusive priests are just psychologically impaired in some way, and so this has allowed the Catholic Church to say they've solved the problem by introducing psychological screening for those wanting to enter priesthood. We believe it is the very institution of the Catholic Church, along with the patriarchy that it so ardently supports, that leads priests to be indoctrinated into eroticizing power over helpless young kids. It's not a flaw in the individual, but rather the system itself that is flawed, and not in a way that can be fixed by psychological screenings. Religion has a long history of supporting the patriarchal dominance of male power and reinforcing gender inequality.
One problem with focusing on the serious harm the Catholic Church does to Amerikkkans is the omission of the even greater harm the Church has done globally. Consistently a force for reaction, the Church at best has pretended neutrality while watching dictators murder, plunder, and oppress entire nations of people. Just as Spotlight shows the power and influence of the Catholic Church in all levels of Boston's city politics, in many cases there is documentation of this Church's support for and work with reactionary governments around the world.
As a strong centralized religious institution with a long history, the Catholic Church is an easy target for people looking to document the reactionary role of religious institutions. But they are just one example of the harm religious institutions have on society. After overthrowing the imperialists and putting a government in power that serves the interests of the oppressed (a dictatorship of the proletariat), the people will have the power to ban reactionary institutions. When we see the tremendous harm that the Catholic Church did to so many children over so many years, it should be obvious that this institution should be outlawed. And those who perpetuated and covered up the molestation should face the people's courts. There is no justification for allowing such dangerous institutions to continue.
Yet, we don't need to outlaw religion as a belief under the dictatorship of the proletariat. As Mao explained about their policy in China under socialism:
"The Communist Party has adopted a policy of protecting religions. Believers and non-believers, believers of one religion or another, are all similarly protected, and their faiths are respected. Today, we have adopted this policy of protecting religions, and in future we will still maintain this policy of protection." (Talk with Tibetan Delegates, October 8, 1952)
It is not that we want to force people to change their beliefs. Rather we think that once we eliminate reactionary culture and institutions and teach all people how to reason with dialectical materialist methodology they will give up old ideas and beliefs that are not based in science. Just as Confucianism was discarded by most Chinese so too will other religions be discarded by humynity as we advance towards a world without the oppression of groups of people.
by a Pennsylvania prisoner December 2015 permalink
We, captives in the dungeon of the United Snakes of Amerikkka, have to realize that imperialism and religion were some of the main reasons many oppressed nations stay oppressed. I say this because religion instills false hope and cannot be trusted to bring an individual truth. Truth is within us. It's not some dogma that's external. A lot of us look for happiness in goods, money, fame, etc. But those things are illusions. What's real is our consciousness and attaining a higher realm of consciousness.
Imperialists use religions as a way to divide and conquer. Religion is also used to create racism and slavery. I am talking about mental enslavement. Militaries are built to protect the imperialist religions so that they can keep you in a daze and exploit you and control you. When the Europeans sailed to Africa they used religion as a tool to pacify. And in turn the Africans were turned into consumer goods used to work the lands taken from the First Nations. So we can see how religion is good and bad. But man must know thyself. And all superstitions should be thrown away.
Revolution will defeat imperialism before religion does. And not because of turning the other cheek. But realizing that this school of thought does nothing but enslave minds to support a corrupt system to oppress nations all over the world. So I conclude to say revolution will bring heaven here on this earth. But religion will bring hell and divide us all. Unite and fight imperialism.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have a lot of unity with this comrade's comments on religion as a tool of national oppression. However, we do not agree that "What's real is our consciousness and attaining a higher realm of consciousness." Lenin wrote the book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism to refute the ideology of subjective idealism which remains popular to this day among those who want people to focus on raising their own consciousness while ignoring the external material world, as if self-improvement is a revolutionary act in and of itself. As Lenin explained, "the fundamental premise of materialism is the recognition of the external world, of the existence of things outside and independent of our mind..." Ey makes it clear that we must look at matter and not just consciousness as a part of the materialist method: "Matter is primary, and thought, consciousness, sensation are products of a very high development. Such is the materialist theory of knowledge, to which natural science instinctively subscribes." This is important because if we focus only on our own consciousness we will never be compelled to act to create material change in the world. This is essentially what religions tells people, but religion focuses the consciousness-raising on knowing a god or higher power. Both approaches will leave the suffering in the real world untouched.
Let's talk about religion. Specifically, let's address the question of whether religion is or is not useful in the struggle against prisons and against imperialism.
Many of today's prison groups and lumpen organizations (LOs) are well rooted in religious ideas, theories and practices. For example, the Nation of Gods and Earths and the Rastafarians are both very influential among New Afrikan LOs. The LOs in prison have had experience in the areas of adopting certain religious values for the sake of defending themselves against total annihilation. Whether using religion, spirituality or faith as a conventional method to serve this goal for prisoners will bring about liberation faster than any other method will be determined by prisoners and prisoner-led efforts. [History has already proven dialectical materialism as an ideology to be far more effective at bringing about liberation than religion and faith, but we agree with testing it as a tactic in certain conditions as discussed below. - ULK Editor]
Prisons are a political effect of the bourgeois imperialist oppressive structure, which is determined to take more of the world's wealth and riches than it gives. Therefore prisons are political and produce political prisoners, as MIM(Prisons) holds: "...all prisoners are political prisoners because under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, all imprisonment is substantively political."
Prisoners begin to develop a consciousness of their environment by evaluating the material conditions they are in. Through a process of unity-criticism-unity they often transform themselves into the change they wish to see. This transformation often begins to manifest in individual decision-making skills. One begins to evaluate the pros and cons of indirect and direct action, to spread solutions to fellow prisoners' conflicts, and eventually one becomes sought out by the masses as a leader.
While the reality is that all prisoners are political, as we begin to develop our political consciousness we find that we are prohibited from being directly involved in the politics that we are subject to. When U.$. prisoners take that conscious state of mind to the level of organizing, campaigning and agitating, they become victims of laws criminalizing politicking in prisons. Many prisoners and LOs are well aware of this weapon of the snakes. Prisoners have little to no legal standing in the U.$. bourgeois injustice system to defend against the assaults on their humyn right to politically advocate and demonstrate their class interest as lumpen in the United $tates.
By law, according to the U.$. Constitutional standard, prisoners have a right to grieve conditions relative to the prison environment. They have the right to correspond with members of society, including the press. But when those of the prison population begin organizing the locals into group actions, they are labeled as security threat group leaders. Prisoners are incapable of putting forth a defense to these charges because by state standards their groups are un-sanctioned. Without a license we are prohibited from driving forward the people to a state of consciousness from where they may liberate themselves.
LOs don't register their groups with the state, they don't report their activities to the state, and the majority of LOs don't pay taxes on any income of the organization; all behaviors criminalized by the state. Essentially, prisoners being involved in a public manner in/with prison politics are whooped from the jump start.
It is therefore no coincidence that religious/spirituality groups that focus on the lumpen have become quite popular within U.$. prisons. They provide a more free outlet for expression and camaraderie. Of course, this has been a role played by religious organizations since the days of the Roman empire, when the church recruited the labor of those who had no legal warrant to sell their labor. This can lead to these religious bodies being a voice in service of the oppressed or to the religious body suppressing the desires of the oppressed to the benefit of the oppressor.
At different times religion has played different roles ideologically and politically. Many New Afrikan lumpen read in Dr. Suzar's Blacked Out Through Whitewash that:
"'Jesus, was the Panther? An original name for Jesus was... son of the Panther!' (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine).
"Even the Bible refers to him as 'the Lion of the tribe Juda.' (Rv. 5:5) 'Jesus in fact, was a Black nationalist freedom fighter... whose goals were to free the Black people of that day from the oppressive... White Roman power structure... and to build a Black nation.' (I Barashango)
"Schoenfield reports in The Passover Plot p 194: 'Galilee, were[sic] Jesus had lived... which was home of the Jewish resistance movement, suffered particularly. The Romans never ceased night and day to devastate... pillage [and kill].'
"In the Black Messiah p91, Rev. A.B. Cleage Jr. writes that Jesus was a revolutionary 'who was leading a [Black] nation into conflict against a [white] oppressor... It was necessary that he be crucified because he taught revolution.' Jesus stated, 'I have not come to send peace, but a sword.' (The Holy Bible - Mathew 101.34 - King James Version)"(1)
Depending on the leadership of the religious institutions and the cleverness of the lumpen, religion and politics can go hand-in-hand with one another. Devout members of the left will disagree and dogmatic rightists will call for a lynch mob. But at the end of the discussion the outcome is to be decided by those directly related to and at the source of the phenomenon.
It is the position held by MIM(Prisons) that i admire most:
"In some ways communism is the best way for religious people to uphold their beliefs and put an end to the evils of murder, rape, hunger and other miseries of humyns. Some argue that Jesus Christ must have been a communist because he gave to the poor."(2)
Many prisoners utilize liberation theology as a means to merge their political strengths with the legal warrant of the First Amendment right to freedom of religious exercise as the defense against political attacks from the police state.
The lumpen's religion is the exception to the world's norm of religion as representing the status quo. There are many prisoners who fall into the wash of all faiths, but there is a powerful source of prisoner liberation theologists at the forefront of the anti-imperialist prison movement too. It is possible that this very source is the face of the prison struggle for the age we are entering. Working smarter is working harder within the belly of the beast.
Prisoners should struggle to have their political interest respected by the state, but they should not concentrate more on convincing the police state that prisons are inappropriate, and the greatest crimes are being committed by themselves. They know this good and well already. LOs must concentrate on tactics that will forge united fronts capable of pushing the forces of history forward faster.
We conclude with a quote from Russian leader V.I. Lenin:
"We must not only admit workers who preserve their belief in God into the Social-Democratic Party, but must deliberately set out to recruit them; we are absolutely opposed to giving the slightest offense to their religious convictions, but we recruit in order to educate them in the spirit of our programme, and not in order to permit an active struggle against it."(3)
As prisoners in this socially oppressive injustice system we tend to be attracted to philosophy to try to get a better understanding of why and how did we end up in a cage like some type of animal. Some choose religion hoping that some omni-present being can answer their questions and fill in the blanks. Others choose a more materialist ideology for a better scientific understanding to the present situation here in the United $tates. The rest just choose to ride it out and hope that the situation changes.
There is no denying that dialectically and hystorically the empire is socially unstable, so much so that the oppressive Amerikan Gestapo are killing us, free of judicial repercussion, in order to protect the bourgeois interests at the expense of the oppressed nations. The state sponsored bourgeois media are quick to suggest that the Amerikan gestapo killings are justified with no scientific facts to support their so-called reporting. The people must look past the bullshit smoke being blown in our faces and understand that shit isn't all lemonade and apple pies.
Religion doesn't tell us scientific facts, but actually dogmatic scriptures about this false paradise where those "chosen" can live free after death. So how can this spiritual being give those materially existing on this earth freedom? It cannot. Religion blinds us to what's really happening here. It is a poison infecting the masses with its dogmatic ideology.
Scientific theory with Maoist philosophy is the only way to freedom. Scientifically it teaches the masses to dissect hystory and to digest what is beneficial to the struggle. It gives us, the lumpen of the oppressed nations, a place in a socialist society where we can take part in the world's struggle for freedom. The former CPUSA called this line petty-bourgeois radicalism, but Maoism teaches that all prisoners are political prisoners. The United $tates has the highest prisoner population in world hystory with most prisoners coming from the barrios and ghettos. Growing up in poverty, the oppressed nations are forced to adapt to their reality. What separates the barrios and ghettos from the Third World? Nothing, we are the Third World. Today we [email protected] and New Afrikans make up most of the prison population. Centuries of oppression on our people has brainwashed us to accept this as our reality.
Fellow prisoners ask me, why do you read about China, or Palestine, etc? Or when I clearly state that I don't believe in God they look at me like I'm crazy. First I state that God is a facade, meant to pacify the masses and mind fuck them into accepting their oppressive reality. World hystory is our hystory, and by examining other nations' struggles we can philosophically advance as a people. The struggle in Palestine is our struggle and our struggle is the Palestinian struggle. Together we are one; the Third World.
Together we stand firm. The victims of the empire deserve justice and only we can bring that about. Oppose the imperialists wars on the Third World, whether they're in Kabul, Juarez, or South Central.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We echo this comrade's internationalism as well as eir dedication to the philosophy of dialectical materialism. However, if we are to make a material analsysis of the conditions in the First World ghettos, barrios, reservations and even prisons, we must disagree with em asserting that "We are the Third World."
Like the Third World, the internal oppressed nations of the United $tates are oppressed by imperialism and have histories connected to other oppressed nations that are in the Third World. However, the distinction between First World and Third World is important because of the material benefits that those living within imperialist borders receive just because of the luck of where they were born. That is why we speak of the First World lumpen as a different class than the lumpen proletariat; First World lumpen are surrounded by the labor aristocracy, and not the proletariat. All U.$. residents benefit from the flow of wealth away from the exploited in the Third World. True solidarity with the exploited must recognize this reality if we hope to liberate ourselves from imperialism, or else we risk falling into positions that put the interests of oppressed in the United $tates over the interests of the oppressed elsewhere.
by a Mississippi prisoner September 2015 permalink
Religion: "Something one believes in devotedly"
My religion is Kingism which gives me faith in myself, a national self-respect, and power to educate the poor and relieve the misery around us. By putting to practice the true essence of Kingism as described in our Kings Manifesto and Constitution (K M/C), I've learned from one stage to the next of nation life the importance of understanding the social factors surrounding each stage.
When I was a kid I did things without giving them the serious thought that they demanded. I spent a lot of my younger years being immature and acting on impulses that led me astray (by my own choosing). But I didn't end my life by believing that all was lost. As I grew older and was being guided by our nation's literature and mentors of our older leadership, I was being molded and shaped to becoming a better man and king.
Most importantly I always had faith! Faith in myself, faith in my nation, and faith in our creator. I always believed I could overcome any obstacle that was put before me, but like all Kings and Queens, we all need guidance in our lives and courage to withstand the trials of time, to lead us on this golden path of righteousness. A brother showed me from the holy bible 1st Samuel, that looks can be what allures us to failure as men and kings. Following someone who may look like they have it all is not necessarily the path chosen to walk. Listening and responding are vital in our growth as men and leaders. Our creator wants obedience from the heart which derives from love and respect. That's how one can tell if there is authenticity to the actions and motives behind our family's behavior. That's how God knew David was after his own heart. Although he messed up numerous times he didn't make the same mistakes several times, he had faith, and was loyal in his guidance.
Truth should be the light and source that guides our loyalties. Loyalty is one of the strongest aspects of courage! In essence the summary of 1st Samuel that I've learned from should be leadership, obedience and understanding that no government or set of laws can substitute for the rule of our creator. If we possess that fiber we can and will become great kings and the true leaders we were intended to be. We can demonstrate effective leadership under our creator by showing the personal qualities that pleases him and reveal to our nation and people that one person can make a difference.
It takes courage and strength to stand firm in your convictions and even to confront wrongdoing in the face of opposition. But as men and kings we must stand firmly in our position and quest for righteousness. Greatness is often inspired by the quality and character of our leadership. The ultimate greatness that we should desire is to love others as God loves us. Then you'll achieve greatness.
Sometimes we have to tear down and rebuild our lives. We must understand that once a king becomes critical or too educated, deconstructionism will come naturally for us. But deconstruction is rather useless without reconstruction — without a positive vision. It is the easiest thing in the world to point out what is wrong, who is wrong, and to stand on a pedestal of superiority without doing anything positive or becoming a positive answer to dilemmas as such. After one deconstructs we can find out what you are actually for! An awful lot of activists and reactionaries have no positive vision, nothing they truly believe in and finally no one to love. They get entangled and overwhelmed with what's wrong and think by eliminating what's wrong, the so-called contaminated element, that the nation will be pure and right again. This I believe is a major illusion. In this way we are merely in the politics of expulsion. How then can we as a body transform and integrate one that has begun to deconstruct back into the mainline of our K M/C?!
What is true justice and peace? Problem-solving in my opinion by punishing and shunning will not itself create our new vision. Can we conform to our creator's words and become a solution instead of using one to scapegoat an issue? We must not be hasty about accepting someone's condemnations of another person, especially when the accuser may profit from the downfall. Hope and meaning give us purpose; let's find out his/hers and help their transformation. If one does not deconstruct for reconstructing transformation then the element of hope is gone, and love is not intrinsic, then the finality is shunning. Prison sees this phase more than any reality! Remember anything lasting is transformation, not change! We should all allow the ongoing transforming ways of Kingism to be the vaccine that continues to cure the desolate halls of hate, envy, greed, and ego. May the blessings of the ancients and the wisdom of the ages be our guide in all things we do. Peace in Black and Gold yesterday, today, tomorrow, always and forever. Amor de Rey!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This commentary about religion demonstrates well some of the useful qualities of religion while hinting at the significant pitfalls of faith in a creator. This comrade starts off talking about faith in self, and national self-respect. These are important qualities, and applying these to the belief and power to educate the poor and relieve misery around us is a correct way to approach serving the people. The ALKQN has done some very positive work around revolutionary nationalism and organizing.
This comrade also derives some very good values from eir faith in a higher power: the importance of leadership and of loving the people. Ey also stress that "truth should be the light and source that guides our loyalties." The problem comes in when faith in a "creator" is used as the source of truth. We do not get truth from some higher being; we get truth from study and practice. There are many things in the bible that are clearly not factual and even contradictory to other parts of the bible. This is not a good source of truth either. If we use religion as a basis for truth we will all too often find ourselves on the wrong side of the oppressed vs. oppressor struggle. This is especially true if people think about their work as having the goal of pleasing a god instead of the goal of serving the people.
Groups like the ALKQN tend to pick and choose things from religions that work for them in an eclectic way, rather than accepting the doctrine of any one religion as a whole. This is closer to the materialist method, but it is disguised in religious language, which is misleading.
We disagree with the definition of religion given at the beginning of this comrade's essay. While it has often been stated by revolutionaries that "the people are my religion," this is just an analogy. Maoism is an ideology, and dialectical materialism is a philosophy. And as Engels stressed, all philosophy can be divided into two main camps — idealist and materialist — with all religions falling in the idealist camp and Maoism falling in the materialist.
ALKQN though not a religion is essentially religious, most of its struggle and goals are of a sacred nature, much of it is woven into the structure of Christianity.(1)
If ALKQN is not a religion, what is it? It is a mass organization of the First World lumpen class, in particular those of the Boricua and [email protected] nations; peoples whose history has included extreme oppression at the hands of the Catholic Church and who largely took on Catholicism and other forms of Christianity as part of their modern culture. The history of the ALKQN under King Tone's leadership in New York was a period of strong Catholic influence. ALKQN also incorporates Santería and makes references to Islam and Buddhism at times. This taking of ideas from various cultures represents the eclecticism of the ALKQN. Eclecticism is common in a mass organization, because they, by definition, include people with varying ideas and beliefs. And while religion has been a significant piece of their eclecticism, it is not the defining characteristic of the organization, so we would tend to agree that the ALKQN is not a religion.
The ALKQN is an interesting organization that parallels the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) in some ways. The NGE has historically had an anarchist view towards structure and leadership. While the ALKQN does have a structure and hierarchy, like NGE it has strong democratic traditions, in particular around questions of religion, allowing for and even defending a diversity of views. This reflects the United Front for Peace in Prisons principle of Growth. Both organizations have had prayer as part of their cultures, but without a specific belief system around the role of prayer or who they were praying to. The NGE, of course, does not believe in any God outside of humyn beings, indicating a progression of spirituality towards materialism. ALKQN fits more into the traditional definition of a liberation theology with its explicit religious ideas, while urging "members to reflect on their 'realidad humana' through rituals and ceremonies which highlight the daily experiences of poverty, unemployment, police brutality, and racism."(2) More specifically, anti-imperialism from a Third World proletarian perspective has been a strong influence on the ALKQN ideology dating back to the 1960s.(3)
It is eclecticism that allows mass organizations like ALKQN to adapt and survive over long periods of time, unlike the Young Lords Party and the Black Panther Party, which were both crushed by state repression and a lack of conditions to support their specific mission as Maoist vanguards. Kingism is an ideology of the oppressed that promotes fighting the oppressor and it holds back the oppressed by promoting mysticism rather than science.
Religion is a very volatile subject for some, even in prison. Looking back on my own prison journey, some of the most heated debates with my fellow prisoners have been in regards to religion. Although the belief in the supernatural is a metaphysical practice, it is one with deep roots in the minds of the internal semi-colonies. It is for this reason that an analysis of religion and its effects is needed.
From where does religion derive?
No matter what religion, they all have one thing in common: they originate from ideas that are outside of reality. Most religions come from ancient peoples attempting to understand the material world in which they lived.
Many of the ancient religions believed that when it rained it was the Gods crying because they were angry or sad. Tornados were thought to be the wind Gods who were angry. The Mexica (Aztecs) believed the Sun would only rise if people were sacrificed, if their hearts were ripped out, and burned. Even in recent years when the earthquake in Haiti occurred religious people said it was God punishing Haitians for practicing Voodoo — another religion.
Today we know when it rains and hails, it is nature at work. Earthquakes are the movement of the Earth's crust. We know that tornados are caused by different air temperatures and humidity. We know all of this because of science, and we can now explain these events without relying on mythology or folklore.
Our scientific development as a society isn't limited to weather; we have developed our collective understanding of the world we inhabit in all realms of science. We don't know everything, but where there is an explanation based in materialism we should move past the outdated concepts offered by religions. And where we don't yet have an explanation we should look to the material world for answers rather than resorting to religious idealism. The old worn out saying that "God works in mysterious ways" is really just another way of saying someone doesn't have an answer. Ultimately the belief in religion is ignorance. But it's not a benevolent ignorance; it is at its core reactionary and goes against true liberation.
Religious Cults in U.$. Prisons
Many people held in U.$. prison kkkamps come to these dungeons extremely demoralized, abused and uncertain. It is very disorienting to be criminalized by an occupier and harmed by an entity you don't even understand. Like our ancient ancestors, many fall back to religion when they don't understand the reality of their imprisonment. Whether it is politics, national oppression or the weather, religion remains a crutch for those without answers to their mysteries.
The formation of religious groups in U.$. prisons represents a contradiction. Religious cults in prison are attempts by the oppressed to deal with their oppression, or attempts by our oppressors to explain our oppression to us in terms that also placate us. We are using religious groups to try to help ourselves, but ultimately we end up stuck in an escapist fantasy.
Among [email protected] and other Raza prisoners, Catholicism is probably the most popular religion. Many [email protected] that I have debated within prisons will defend Catholicism as a part of "our cultura." Catholics in prison do not create groups that are active outside of the chapel. At the same time one will see both those Raza who belong to lumpen organizations (LOs) and those former "gangsters" who have taken up this brainwash ideology all comfortably praying together in the chapel. The colonizer's religion has become so respected that most [email protected] LOs will be okay with its people leaving the LO to dedicate themselves to religion. But as some comrades have brought up, those same [email protected] lumpen groups would not react the same if their people left to take up revolutionary politics.
Amongst New Afrikans, Muslims are most common within prisons. Of all the religious groups in Califas prisons, the Muslims are most organized and operate much like LOs. It is in the Muslim services where one will hear a lecture on concepts like discipline, unity and dedication.
Many Muslims also connect to outside Muslim organizations and work to connect prisoners who are released to the outside Muslim community. This is something that the Catholics or Christian Chaplains/communities do not really do. So in this sense Muslims do more prison outreach.
How Religion Pacifies Prisoners
Most prison administrations are happy to promote religion and make sure Bibles are in abundance. Religious channels on the TV are rapidly approved for the prison viewers and Chaplains/Imams are welcomed to enter even the maximum security prisons and walk the tier. These religious leaders are welcome to distribute their propaganda while revolutionary publications are censored, books on national liberation are used to label one a part of a Security Threat Group, and even visits from activists are denied. This is because one ideology teaches one to get free from the oppressor and the other teaches one to simply pray that the oppressor will stop oppressing you.
Rather than teaching prisoners how to fight oppression religion teaches people to pray for forgiveness from the oppressor. It teaches that some supernatural being has a plan and if we humbly accept our oppression in life we will be rewarded in some afterlife.
Pacifism, or the belief that non-violence will solve oppression, is idealism at best. NEVER in hystory has a people obtained real liberation via religion or pacifism. Liberation has always required revolutionary theory and a strong dose of armed struggle when conditions were ripe.
Malcolm X said: "I'm for anybody who's for justice ... equality, I'm not for anybody who tells me to sit around and wait for mine ... who tells me to turn the other cheek."(2)
I'm all for peace, but not peace while living under an occupation with Amerikkka controlling Aztlán. I'm not for peace while the oppressor nation has me and my people in its prisons and sentenced under its kkkourts when they have no jurisdiction over what my nation does. I won't wait for mine. Instead I'll learn who the oppressor is, teach others to struggle against oppression and work to liberate my nation. Kneeling in the prison chapel or muttering Novena will not advance the people's liberation. Reading political theory, creating study groups, and working with other prisoners to find ways to combat oppression will.
Is opium good for the people?
Marx once said that religion is the opium of the masses. This is because religion has the same effect on the mind as heroin does. It turns people into passive putty. Like a drug, the religious become hooked on a self-destructive activity which dulls their senses to the world we live in, all the while strengthening the oppressor.
Of course there are cases where there are positive aspects to religion. There are the anti-imperialist efforts being carried out in other parts of the world by Muslims. There are Christian churches marching in the streets protesting the police murdering innocent people and against solitary confinement. And in some South and Central American countries there is a history of Liberation Theology advocates joining the revolutionary struggles. These groups rightly see that oppression suffered by mostly Brown and Black people is wrong.
In a future socialist revolution there will be many religious people who will come over to join the revolution. But this does not change the fact that religion as an ideology is an oppressive institution. Any ideology that says wimmin are not equal to men, or that does not rely on the people to liberate themselves, is incorrect. The opium is bad for the people.
How can we unify the common interest of the prison population at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) when you have those who understand the needs of the masses and address them accordingly in direct opposition of those who place their own personal agendas as well as status above the needs of the people. President John F. Kennedy once said "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."(1) This statement transcends class, ethnic, political and economic spheres. In 1964, Clarence 13X (2) did something for his people that was at times hidden from even the initiated parties in the NOI/FOI umbrella (Nation of Islam), he liberated the people through the development and synthesis of the supreme mathematics and supreme alphabets.(3) He exposed the true nature of the Black man (Blackman is jet black, brown, red, yellow peoples) to the masses.(4) When coupled with the Supreme Wisdom lessons given to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad the result is the 120 degree Book of Life; a tool used to promote mental, physical and spiritual growth, through diligent study of the social science of life.
An experiment was conducted to evaluate the principal contradiction of prisoner vs. selfish individuals from a Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) perspective. Father Allah (formerly Clarence 13X) stated "I'm not pro Black, no am I anti white, I'm pro righteousness and anti devilishment."(5) The 33 degree of the I-40 defines a devil as any man which is made weak and wicked or any grafted, live germ from original is a devil.(6) The I-40 defines the 5% on the poor part of the planet earth as poor righteous teachers who are all-wise and righteous.(7) So the God Body put into practice a blueprint established in Message to the Blackman in America.(8) To see who in fact would make a concession for the sake of the whole (prisoners) or plot scheme and manipulate for parasitic status, personal wealth and physical lust (selfish individuals). The entire range of programs can be found in Message to the Blackman in America. The core of these programs are in direct line with United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) principles of peace, unity, growth, internationalism, independence, written in language specific to oppressed youth (those without knowledge of self).
The first task was to free the God Body from the open-ended oppression of the privileged entitled hierarchy of Islam. That happened 9 October 2014, when 25 independent parts came together and collectively established a Universal Parliament(U.P.) and began building during cipher Saturdays. The U.P. was offered every other Thursday for a "trial" period. Because of the KVSP operational procedures, the God Body does not have the luxury of everyday contact, so Thursdays and Saturdays became show and prove days. The results were complex in nature. The main principal contradiction of prisoner vs prison came into play. The administration, short of Security Threat Group profiling us, made going to the chapel a hassle, made getting the God Body out on ducats to U.P. an uphill battle. The God Body was informed beforehand also of the possible delay tactics and threat assessments. Certain free staff, whom due to fear of the unknown, began to spread chaos and confusion among ill-informed followers. This resulted in hostile posturing on their part. Yet the truth had revealed a sense of security was lost when "all of the wise people walked off."
The next task, was to provide the God Body with study material to engage in informed conscious development. Collectively the God Body pooled all resources together so that no one was lacking. Then certain elements began to replace sound science with political slander for sympathy (an act that would eventually lead to a divided front). The pooling of resources was a show of growth, certain elements viewed this growth as a chance for a power grab for personal gain, such as establishing credit with parasites. Allying with capitalist movements that even Mao himself would wish to execute. The movement isn't about short-term "runs." The movement is constant, generational, so, in order to preserve the integrity of the God Body resources were issued as needed to prevent selfish deeds. Resulting in mysterious bed moves occurring at odd hours of the night.
The next task was to apply peace (9) towards the population. Peace happens to be the final goal of what we will achieve.(11) So rules of A-yo you immediately placed the God Body as a threat to the status quo. This shed light on those that had intentions of using the God Body for selfish interests. Elements began to poke and pry into affairs, blowing any and every situation into all out war, when in reality, those elements were upset that the God Body demonstrated peace and harmony instead of the usual chaos and confusion. An extra insight was gleaned also, when a proletariat has no major opposition or when elements feel the enemy has come and gone it may eat itself because peace may be seen as weakness. Prisoners vs. prisons, as a personal opinion, ensures opposition larger than a divided yard. The demonstration resulted in a pruning effect. The selfish individuals cut themselves off from the God Body, actually returning to an oppressed state.
The next task, was extending support to other righteous people who adhere to the absolute truth. In motion as we speak, is the movement to secure close ties between the Black man's nation. At this point I would like to address the notion that there are no white god bodies. Azreal and Azreal Wisdom are both well known poor righteous teachers deeply rooted in the movement. This movement allows for the entire NGE to thrive as one strong nation. To criticize one of your own for developing and implementing applied science to build up, not tear down, the nation shows a clear lack of study of the supreme sciences involved in the use and practical application of the 120 degree Book of Life. Those selfish individuals would voice the rhetoric of racial infiltration. The reality is, the God Body is not a circle within a circle. It is 3 dimensional and metaphysical. Able to assert its chemistry and algebra across all aspects of life. If elements reach out to parasites for support you can't honestly say you God Body.
The next task was and still is liberating the Black man. How can we make free a nation with plantation psychosis? Wanting to be free and actually being free is the principal contradiction. Those that preach and teach freedom yet don't know freedom should take notes on how struggles are pushed. You can’t be free and married to the master outside of self. I-self-lord-and-master(12) is how to be free! Drugs, yard sex, debt, drama, is house nigga politics. Freedom, liberation, and independence comes from struggle, hard work dedication, blood, sweat and tears. Re-education and active development promote independence. Each one teach one according to h own knowledge. (13)
After synthesis of accumulated findings the God Body can survive if and only if the selfish individuals remain outside of the body. During the qualitative experiment the selfish individuals main objective was to establish a parasitic egg inside of the God Body to bring the movement to a stand still. One selfish individual after another removed themselves from the body citing the fast of Ramadan as the reason for removal. Yet, through efforts of the prisoners working to liberate the God Body Ramadan is a non-issue. The question I pose to the world is how long will it take for selfish individuals to stop pretending and start presenting?
MIM(Prisons) responds: We salute the comrades of the Nation of Gods and Earths and other organizations at Kern Valley doing this important work as part of the struggle to build a United Front for Peace in Prisons. It sounds like they are really putting in the work with the right attitude of protracted struggle. While we have some criticisms of the NGE ideology related to Supreme Mathematics and Supreme Alphabet and their tendencies towards idealism and metaphysics that we've addressed in more depth elsewhere(14), this comrade demonstrates the dialectical materialist method in eir practice above. And it is that kind of experimentation in the laboratory of U.$. prisons that will allow USW to learn and grow into an effective organization.
In this analysis the comrade mentions a few principal contradictions, all of which are important to discuss. However, it is important to note the context of each one, as each thing has a principal contradiction that defines that thing at a given moment in time. For instance, the contradiction of prisoner vs. selfish individuals is one that we might reframe as the necessity for the lumpen to come together as a class to survive and its tendency to resort to selfish individualism following the capitalist model, which allows for short-term gains for some. This is an important contradiction that we think defines the First World lumpen class, and is therefore principal. The contradiction that defines the internal semi-colonies in the United $tates we think is that between assimilation and liberation, which is related to the contradiction discussed of wanting to be free and actually being free. And finally, there is the contradiction between prisoners and the state, which is the principal contradiction defining the prison system. Those interested in an in-depth discussion of the principal contradiction in the prison movement can write us for an essay we have on that topic for USW comrades.
"Religion is what keeps the poor from killing the rich." - Napoleon Bonaparte
It seems Napoleon had a firm understanding of the opiate of the masses. Imperialism has been using religion as a tool of oppression for hundreds of years. It isn't any less apparent today inside the U.S. prison systems. In some cases, units offer 2-3 times as many religious classes as educational courses.
Most religions, especially Judeo-Christian ones, champion punishment, often unjustly, under the reasoning of "because I say so." There's no objective investigating, and nothing is circumstantial. This propaganda is flooded into the prison system to create the mindset that prisoners are bad people and do not belong in society. This also helps the people in the free world who do not see us as deserving of human rights. So they allow the imperialistic oppression to continue. Criminals shouldn't be punished, they should be rehabilitated.
They claim Jesus once said to "turn the other cheek." Pacifists rarely enact change. Religions for the most part promise a better afterlife which gets people to overlook and ignore what's going on here and now. They preach that if you sit on your hands and keep your mouth shut, it will be better after you are gone. I'm sure the imperialist pigs have no qualms about expediting your departure. Amerika loves this "shut up and take it" mentality; it's what the country was founded on. Every day, I see prisoners take verbal and physical abuse from the institution and do nothing because they are "trying to be good Christians."
The lumpen need to take off the blindfolds placed on their eyes by the church, synagogue, or mosque and realize materialism is the vehicle to a better life of freedom. Meaning true freedom from oppression in this current life they're living, not down the road after they're dead.
The sovereign citizens movement has become among the top domestic terrorist groups on the FBI's list in the United $tates for refusing to cooperate with the government. People of this movement assume an artificial independence as a nation and refuse to file taxes, carry any type of license or hold a social security card. Question is, where does the anti-imperialist movement stand with these individuals and how does their approach to liberation compare to that of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
It is reported that more than 300,000 people are self-declared sovereign citizens in the United $tates, and it is predicted to be one of the fastest growing movements in U.$. history.(1) So it is a reasonable question to ask whether these people are on to something or not.
It appears that the sovereign citizens movement is currently one of a mixture of oppressed nation lumpen, bourgeois nationalists and petty bourgeois organizations across the United $tates. For example, among those claiming to be sovereign citizen organizations are the New Afrikan groups like the Moorish Nation, the Mawshakh Nation of Nuurs and the Washitaw Nation, both Islamic and Hebrewic. Then there are the white nationalists responsible for publications and broadcasting programs for the movement: From the Embassy of Heaven, The Aware Group, the Republic of Texas, Rightway LAW, Freedom Bound International and Amen-Ra BTO, Inc.; and personalities like David W. Miller, Charles Weisman, Alfred Adask, George Gordon and Brent Johnson.
Lumpen class in search of answers
The talk of sovereign citizens in prison was first heard by the author in 2009, promoted by a variety of lumpen prisoners professing to be card-holding members of the jailhouse lawyers National Lawyers Guild. They claimed to possess the mysterious knowledge, which utilized in U.$. courts could result in riches from financial settlements, as well as the potential of an early release for prisoners who have learned the craft of cracking the code described as redemption.
Lumpen in the United $tates, in general, are always looking for a come up, but they rarely consider at what cost will they come up. They, in general, believe that if they can just grow their underground economy they can free themselves. This viewpoint is a product of the lumpen's relationship to capitalism as belonging to internal semi-colonies. Lumpen are excluded from the prosperous imperialist economy overall, yet given tastes of that wealth via these underground economies that also provide an illusion of acting outside of the system. It seems that the popularity of the sovereign citizens movement in prisons can be explained this way, the difference being that it actually claims to be based in law.
With its promises of wealth, stature, independence and self-control, lumpen prisoners are not blamed for lining up to receive what they've been conditioned to know as being freedom. However, they are cautioned that everything that glitters isn't gold. What we see at play is the principal contradiction that defines the lumpen class in our society: the individualist tendencies to come up at the expense of others that are required of an excluded class in a capitalist economy, and the need for collective action to overcome those conditions and attain true freedom. We even see the New Afrikan organizations promoting the ideas of sovereign citizenship have borrowed from the ideas of national liberation movements as well. But rather than fight for national liberation of New Afrika, they define their nation in opportunistic ways as if a nation is something that any group of people can just create out of thin air. We recognize nations as scientific phenomena, that exist in the real world and are defined as a group of people with a common culture, territory, language and economy.
It is important that lumpen prisoners begin to pick out the right things, that which they have persynally tested, inspected, researched and referenced to reality in the method of dialectical materialism. Lumpen prisoners have a problem in the areas of these last four key words: tested, inspected, researched and referenced. This failure is the main cause of the material circumstances leading to the divisions between the individualist lumpen prisoners vs. the self-sufficient collective of prisoners struggling for liberation within the movement towards national independence.
Too often lumpen prisoners get something, or hear of something from another inmate and they just run with it, spreading something that they are unfamiliar with and misinforming others. The sovereign citizens movement has benefited from this tendency.
What is sovereign citizens about?
Lumpen prisoners of white oppressor nation origins probably can describe a more definitive history of this movement beginning somewhere in the 1960s to challenge the legitimacy of U.$. tax laws and the U.$. government itself. It is doubted whether most oppressed nation prisoners can describe the founding groups, from Oregon and California, like the Posse Comitatus, which is based in extreme, unrealistic white supremacy.
The philosophy of the sovereign citizens movement is based in the theory that the U.$. government is operating as a fraud commercial entity that is bankrupted and indebted to foreign nations. Many sovereign citizens movement groups subscribe to this idea in that the original U.$. government was that of colonial Amerika based in British common law as a de jure government. After the civil war there supposedly developed a secondary government de facto of its previous state-based governments of settlers.
When they say de jure, they mean legal and therefore legitimate. In contrast, de facto means that it exists but it is not official. It is common to refer to a de facto government after a civil war to imply that things have not been settled and brought back to order. What that order is, is of course a political question in itself. The dictatorship over the capitalists in the south by the capitalists of the northern states after the civil war was a progressive one that marked the end of slavery and forced integration on the white settlers, though much of the progress on integration was later turned back by reactionary forces and proved an overall failure. Therefore, to question the legitimacy of the post-civil war government in the United $tates has a clear connection to this ongoing reactionary movement for white supremacy in North America. While these forces see independence and state's rights as a means of maintaining their national privilege, the internal semi-colonies are attracted to national liberation struggles (and therefore other politics of local control) as means of ending the national oppression that is the other side of the dialectical coin. To have an oppressor nation, you must have at least one oppressed nation.
Many sovereign proponents, like the Whitten Printers, have broken down the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.$. Constitution to the least common denominator. They argue that it was created by the de facto government in order to nationalize Black slaves and afford free Black slaves with comparable rights of the unalienable Constitutional rights of white settler state citizens, leading us to question whether they are reading from the same history books as the rest of us struggling for self-determination.
These sovereign citizens hold that they are not subject to the nationalization process to become federal citizens under the Fourteenth Amendment de facto government because they weren't slaves, they aren't colored, and they never signed into any contract agreements with the de facto government. Basically, they are royal citizens holding on to the good ol' days of the British colonies. Ain't that cute.
Critics of the sovereign citizens theory assert that it fails to sufficiently examine the context of the case law from which they cite and ignore adverse evidence, such as The Federalist No. 15, where Alexander Hamilton expressed the view that the Constitution placed everyone persynally under federal authority. And as the Fourteenth Amendment itself reads, in part:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”(2)
“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”(3)
All oppressed nation prisoners must be aware of these facts before they allow themselves to be rallied into support for a movement like the sovereign citizens. The sovereign citizens movement is a white oppressor nation movement whose interest is directly in conflict with yours. They want to preserve imperialism at the cost of your independence and self-determination. National liberation from the imperialist states is in the interest of all lumpen prisoners, and the best way to effect this objective is for all the semi-colonies of the United $tates to support national liberation struggles of the oppressed.
We must also remind comrades that the fascist movement in Italy and the Nazi movement in Germany were appealing to a primarily dissatisfied petty bourgeoisie as well as lumpen and proletarian elements with rhetoric against the state, the bankers and big businesses at the time with some nonsensical religious ideas mixed in and lots of chauvinism. In the event of further imperialist crisis, if the imperialists are pushed to take a fascist approach to managing the people and economy, the sovereign citizens and similar movements will be the ready made mass movements that provide the footsoldiers for such a project. The oppressed peoples of the world must combat this with proletarian internationalism and dialectical materialism and break free of the ignorance that allows us to be suckered by the false claims of such groups.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We want to give Loco1 props for working on this review of the sovereign citizens movement. S/he was one of a number of comrades who have written us about it. And as a very active leader in USW we asked h to write a critique of the ideology behind the movement. Loco1 was hesitant at first for lack of information and knowing where to start.
While limiting access to information helps prevent ideological unity across the imprisoned lumpen, this article goes to show the greater importance of method. Loco1 was able to spearhead this critique with limited resources at h fingertips, but using an analytic approach.
Some of the appeal of the sovereign citizens and similar right-wing anti-government movements is based in an appeal to authority, where they cite a bunch of case law in an effort to convince you that they know what they are talking about. But this reliance on caselaw itself is idealism. It is similar to those who search for answers in ancient religions, as if there is a secret out there that just needs to be found and it will solve all our problems. This is appealing, it is a theme that sells many movies and books, but it is not reality. A real way to solve problems is to understand reality, the contradictions that make it up, and how things are moving so that we can transform reality. No one has been liberated by sovereign citizen paperwork, because it is just words on paper, and words on paper cannot magically liberate you from a real system that is made up of millions of people.