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Under Lock & Key

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[Education] [Latin America] [International Connections] [ULK Issue 27]
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Prisoners Study for Early Release in Brazil

Time is Knowledge
Brazil has instituted a program in its federal prisons to allow prisoners to earn an earlier release by reading certain books and writing reports on them. In a country with a maximum prison sentence of 30 years, they recognize the need to reform people who will be released some day. The program is interesting for us because it's hard to imagine Amerikans accepting such a program, in a country where there is no consideration for what people will do with themselves after a long prison term with no access to educational programs, and prisoners who do achieve higher education get no consideration in parole hearings.

This reform in Brazil seems to be quite limited. Only certain prisoners will be approved to participate, there is a limit to 48 days reduction in your sentence each year, and the list of books is to be determined by the state. Meanwhile, the standards applied for judging the book reports will include grammar, hand-writing and correct punctuation. Which begs the question of what are the prisoners supposed to be learning exactly? Writing skills are useful to succeed in the real world, but being able to use commas correctly is hardly a sign of reform.

In socialist China, before Mao Zedong's death, all prisoners participated in study and it was integral to every prisoner's release. Rather than judging peoples' handwriting, prison workers assessed prisoners' ability to understand why what they did was wrong, and to reform their ways. The Chinese prison system was an anomaly in the history of prisons in its approach to actually reforming people to live lives that did not harm other humyn beings through self-reflection and political study. This type of system will be needed to rehabilitate pro-capitalist Amerikans under the joint dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations. It is very different from the approaches of isolation and brute force that Amerikans currently use on the oppressed nations.

While it would be a miracle to have in the United $tates today, the Brazil program demonstrates the great limitations of bourgeois reforms of the current system. The books are to be literature, philosophy and science that are recognized as valuable to the bourgeois culture. And the standards for judging the prisoners will be mostly about rote learning. The politics that are behind such a program will determine its outcome. Without a truly socialist state as existed in China during Mao's leadership, we can never have a prison system truly focused on reforming people.

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[National Oppression] [Theory] [International Connections] [New Afrikan Black Panther Party] [ULK Issue 26]
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Relevance of Nationalism to the Prison Movement

Oppressed Nations bring death to imperialism
Among those in the United $tates who have consistently upheld the right to self-determination of the internal semi-colonies, there has been some questioning of the MIM line that the principal contradiction within the United $tates is nation. With the degree of integration and buying off of the oppressed nations that has occurred since the Black/Brown/Red Power era some have questioned if the lumpen underclass are the only real revolutionary force left in the internal semi-colonies. Others have pointed to the level of wealth in the United $tates to dismiss the potential for national liberation struggles within U.$. borders without offering a new thesis on the principal contradiction. MIM(Prisons) has entertained the integration question and the possibility of a growing class contradiction across nation and will address both in more detail in an upcoming book.

In this issue of Under Lock & Key we feature a number of articles that demonstrate the dominant role that nationality plays in how our world develops and changes. The history of MIM's work with prisoners comes from its understanding of the principal contradiction in this country being between the oppressor white/Amerikan nation and the oppressed internal semi-colonies (New Afrika, Aztlán, Boricua, countless First Nations, etc.). It is through that work that it became clear that the quickly expanding prison system of the time was the front lines of the national struggle.

USW C-4 gets at this in h review of MIM Theory 11 where s/he discusses the need to launch "the new prison movement in connection with the national liberation struggles which have been repressed and stagnated by the oppressors with mass incarceration." Progress in our struggle against the injustice system is progress towards re-establishing the powerful national liberation struggles that it served to destroy in the first place. Any prison movement not based politically in the right to self-determination of the nations locked up cannot complete the process of ending the oppression that we are combatting in the United $tates.

MIM(Prisons) focuses our mission around the imprisoned lumpen in general whose material interests are united by class, even though the injustice system is primarily about national oppression. Within the imprisoned class, we see the white prison population having more to offer than the white population in general for revolutionary organizing. Even non-revolutionary white prisoners are potential allies in the material struggles that we should be taking up today around issues like censorship, long-term isolation, the right to associate/organize, access to educational programs, a meaningful grievance process and accountability of government employees in charge of over 2 million imprisoned lives. Just as we must be looking to recruit oppressed nation lumpen to the side of the world's people to prevent them from playing the role of the fascist foot soldier, this concern is even greater among the white lumpen and is a question we should take seriously as our comrade in Oregon discusses inside.

In this issue we have the typical reports from both Black and Latino comrades being labelled gang members and validated for their political and cultural beliefs. This is nothing less than institutionalized national oppression, which is at the heart of the proposed changes in the California validation system that are somehow supposed to be a response to the complaints of the thousands of prisoners who have been periodically going on food strike over the last year.

While we support the day-to-day struggles that unite as many prisoners as possible, we are clear that these are only short-term struggles and stepping stones to our greater goals. The most advanced work comrades can be doing is directly supporting and promoting revolutionary nationalism and communism within disciplined organizations based in scientific theory and practice. An example of a more advanced project is a current USW study cell that is developing educational and agitational materials around Chicano national liberation. Meanwhile, the United Front for Peace in Prisons, while focused on mass organizations, is laying the groundwork for the type of cross-nation unity that will be needed to implement the Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations required to truly end imperialist oppression and exploitation (see our 6 Points).

It is no coincidence that the word fascism comes up a number of times in this issue focused on national struggles. In terms of the principal contradiction between imperialist nations and the oppressed nations they exploit, fascism is the imperialist nation's reaction to successful struggles of the oppressed nations; when the oppressed have created a real crisis for imperialism; when Liberalism no longer works. While fascism is defined by imperialism, being guided by imperialist interests, it is the labor aristocracy in the imperialist countries that form the main force for fascism.(1) Again, this breaks down to the national question where oppressor nations and oppressed nations take up opposite sides of the principal contradiction that defines the United $tates as a phenomenon.

Rashid of the NABPP-PC suggests in his book Defying the Tomb, that "right-wing militias, survivalists and military hobbyists" are "potential allies" who "have a serious beef with imperialist monopoly capitalism." In contrast, we recognize that the principal contradiction that defines the imperialist system is between the imperialist nations and the oppressed nations they exploit. Amerikans calling for closed borders to preserve white power are the epitome of what imperialism is about, despite their rhetoric against the "bankers." It is the same rhetoric that was used to rally the struggling petty bourgeoisie around the Nazi party to preserve the German nation. It is the same rhetoric that makes the anti-globalization and "99%" movements potential breeding grounds for a new Amerikan fascism.

Recent events in Greece, France and elsewhere in Europe have shown this to be the case in other imperialist countries, which are also dependent on the exploitation of the Third World. While Greece, where the European crisis is currently centered, cannot be described as an imperialist power on its own, its close ties to Europe have the Greek people convinced that they can regain prosperity without overthrowing imperialism. Social democrats are gaining political power in the face of austerity measures across Europe, while fascist parties are also gaining popular support in those countries. Together they represent two sides of the same coin, struggling to maintain their nation's wealth at the expense of others, which is why the Comintern called the social democrats of their time "social fascists." Austerity measures are the problems of the labor aristocracy, not the proletariat who consistently must live in austere conditions until they throw the yoke of imperialism off of their necks.

The fragility of the European Union along national lines reinforces the truth of Stalin's definition of nation, and supports the thesis that bourgeois internationalism bringing peace to the world is a pipe dream, as MIM has pointed out.(2) On the contrary, the proletariat has an interest in true internationalism. For the oppressed nations in the United $tates bribery by the imperialists, both real and imagined, will create more barriers to unity of the oppressed. So we have our work cut out for us.

Looking to the Third World, the struggle of the Tuareg people in West Africa parallels in some ways the questions we face in the United States around Aztlán, the Black Belt and other national territories, in that their land does not correspond with the boundaries of the nation-state that they find themselves in as a result of their colonization. And the greater context of this struggle and the relation of the Tuareg people to Ghaddafi's Libya demonstrates the potentially progressive nature of the national bourgeoisie, as Ghaddafi was an enemy to U.$. imperialism primarily due to his efforts at supporting Pan-Afrikanism within a capitalist framework.

Nationalism of the oppressed is the antithesis to the imperialist system that depends on the control and exploitation of the oppressed. It is for that reason that nationalism in the Third World, as well as nationalism in the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates, are the primary focus of anti-imperialist organizing. As long as we have imperialism, we will have full prisons and trigger-happy police at home, and bloody wars and brutal exploitation abroad. Countering Amerikan nationalism with nationalism of the oppressed is the difference between entering a new period of fascism and liberating humynity from imperialism.

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[Middle East] [International Connections] [ULK Issue 25]
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Amerikan Occupiers Still Losing


The point of guerrilla war is not to succeed,
it's always been just to make the enemy bleed.
Depriving the soldiers of the peace of mind that they need.
Bullets are hard to telegraph when they bob and they weave.
The only way a guerrilla war can ever be over,
is when the occupation can't afford more soldiers.
Until they have to draft the last of you into the service,
and you refuse because you don't see the purpose.
- Immortal Technique, the Martyr

Afghan protesters stomp out police car in Herat

In just over a week, six Amerikan soldiers have been killed by Afghan patriots within the state military that is supposedly working with the U.$. occupation. Nominally triggered by reports of the U.$. military burning copies of the Koran, these killings bring the number of NATO troops killed by their Afghan "allies" to 36 in the last year. This is a significant increase from previous years and some have suggested no other "native ally" of U.$. imperialism has compared.(1) While tiny in comparison to the loss of life by the occupied population, these incidents support the assessment that the United $tates continues to lose their war on Afghanistan. The deaths of Amerikans, while providing fuel for anti-Afghan propaganda, frightens the Amerikan public away from participating in ground wars. It took a long 9 years to turn Amerikan public opinion towards pulling troops out of Afghanistan, and Afghans are still fighting to get them out.(2)

There are two incorrect bourgeois narratives underlying the reporting on recent events. One attempts to hide the fact that the nation has faced a brutal occupation for over a decade, as if Afghans are just irrationally responding to the minor incident of the burning of some books. The second narrative is that there is an outside radical religious element, which must be distinguished from the greater Afghan nation that wants to work with Amerikans. This narrative was used against the Taliban for years before the invasion by U.$. troops even began. The truth being (however flimsily) covered by both of these narratives is that the Afghan nation has supported a decade-long war of resistance to the imperialist occupation led by Amerika. A parallel might be drawn to the media's portrayal of the prison movement where the outside element is "criminal gangs" and resistance is pinned to issues like wanting TV or better food.

In a recent report on NPR, an official stated that USAID had to hide the fact that they were giving aid to the Afghan people, because no one in the country would be seen with a blanket or food with a U.$. flag on it. This fact is a clear demonstration that either the resistance is the Afghan people, or the "outside radical element" is so prolific as to make distinguishing it from the Afghan people irrelevant. Meanwhile, the funeral of an Afghan air force colonel that killed nine Amerikans was attended by 1500 mourners last year.(3) Since this article was first drafted another bomb struck near Bagram Air Force Base where the Korans were burned on March 5. On March 8 the Taliban infiltrated Afghan police in Oruzgan and killed nine of them, while six British occupiers were killed during an attack on their vehicle in Helmand province. Our strategic confidence comes from examples like this, where whole countries have united to reject and fight imperialism. Comparing these conditions to those in the United $tates demonstrates our line on where guerrilla war is possible and not.

"Time works for the guerrilla both in the field — where it costs the enemy a daily fortune to pursue him — and in the politico-economic arena."(4) The occupation of Afghanistan is estimated to have cost as much as $500 billion(5), with sources reporting costs per Amerikan soldier at $850,000 up to $1.2 million a year.(6) While almost all of this money goes to U.$. corporations and their employees supplying the soldiers, even bourgeois economists have recognized that militarism is not a sustainable way to prop up a capitalist economy. What they fail to acknowledge is that only a socialist economic system that produces for need, not profit, can eliminate the inherent contradictions in production where circulation of capital must always increase in the interest of profit.

"There is no great novelty in [guerrilla tactics], nor can the Marxist-Leninist camp claim any special credit for it. What is new — and Mao is the apostle and the long Chinese revolution the first proving ground — is the application of guerrilla activity, in a conscious and deliberate way, to specific political objectives, without immediate reference to the outcome of battles as such, provided only that the revolutionaries survive."(7)

We are coming out of a period where the universality of Maoism has been dirtied by an association of communism with revisionists and First Worldists. Islam continues to unite the national liberation movement in Afghanistan, while "communism" has an association with foreign invasion. While socialism is necessary to meet the needs of the people of Afghanistan, the movement's ideology so far has kept it isolated from the toxic politics of the First World. This will work in their favor as the people's struggle reaches higher stages.

Here in the United $tates we must continue to find creative ways to help the Afghans' heroic struggle to whittle away at Amerikan support for occupation. And we must learn from the events in Central Asia about who are our friends and enemies, what is possible where, and what it looks like to take on a long struggle with the confidence that you are on the right side of history.

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[Elections] [International Connections]
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Obama's False Promise to Raza

I recently read ULK issue 6 in which a comrade out of California discussed his experiences after the election of Obama. This brought back memories I experienced along the same lines, where at the moment it was announced that Obama was indeed the new president there was a roar of applause almost as if one were in a football stadium and your team just scored a touch down! This was in one of California's security housing units (SHUs) so this jubilation was coming from prisoners who are amongst the most "conscious", the most progressive, who are taken off the mainline for rebellious acts against the state. It was a sad sight to see potentially revolutionary prisoners get sucked into the age-old game of bourgeois politics.

I remember having a long beat with my neighbor at the time over the Obama sham and how Obama is like a Booker T. Washington, only worse. Booker T. Washington was used to pacify the Black masses for the Amerikan government but had no power outside the Black nation, whereas Obama is the Commander in Chief and has much more power than Booker T. Yet, like Booker T., Obama is used to corral the Black nation and many others into the realm of bourgeois politics. On the doorstep of imperialism, Obama's presence in the White House is used to "legitimize" the program of Amerika and the actions of the oppressor nation, and to sweeten the bitter pill of repression for the oppressed nations to swallow more quickly.

The upcoming elections have the imperialists once more dressing up Obama, having him show up for a photo shoot at an all-Black Baptist church, at a press conference for Latino rights, etc. But I'll make this real clear real fast - Obama is an imperialist and does not care about the Black nation. Latinos have learned from Obama being in office. Many Latinos were sucked into bourgeois politics, standing for hours in lines beside Black folks and voting for Obama. Now what do they have to show for it? They have over one million Latinos who had their asses deported! Over one million - that's more Latinos deported with Obama as president than with Bush II as president!

Obama and the Democrats feel Latinos have no choice but to support them because of the Republicans being so outspokenly anti-migrant, but this is wrong! Both are anti-migrant and only tolerate migrants when we are picking their baby spinach and heirloom tomatoes, or when we are cleaning their homes, watching their kids and washing their cars. They tolerate La Raza, the people, when it saves them a dollar. They let us work and then a day before pay day they call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on us as happened in the processing plants in the last couple years. It's an old con game that both the Republicans and Democrats use to bamboozle Raza and save a buck in the process. This is a rerun that the Chicano nation has been battling in Aztlán since 1848 and will continue until we liberate Aztlán.

Our liberation will not come from the Democrats or Republicans; it will not even come from any other party in the Amerikan bourgeois political elections. The imperialists will never permit Aztlán to be liberated. It will fight tooth and nail and sabotage any ballot box initiative even hinting about this and neutralize any leaders who built momentum to build any ballot box initiative in this direction. Our liberation will come from the Chicano movement and its struggles outside of bourgeois politics.

I am beginning to hear the same old tired talk about Obama again since the elections are coming up. I heard one Chicano talking about how he wrote his family and told them to vote for Obama so that the Raza will be better off than they would be with a racist Republican. So I got on the tier and asked him "what the hell has Obama or any Democrat during his term done for Raza?!" He had no answer as I figured so I explained how Raza has even suffered more with the Democrats but that they are in fact one and the same; a double-headed monster, a single beast.

The problem is many prisoners who initially take an interest in political science will watch these imperialist propaganda shows on the corporate TV stations and begin to parrot what they hear and swear up and down its true because they heard it on the "news." What they are not grasping is this "news" is controlled by the imperialists. They will not put out views that work contrary to their program, they will not inform us on revolutionary news and analysis, and they will not educate us to rise up as these news corporations are owned by billionaires who protect their bread and butter like a revolutionary protects his/her people. This is why we did not hear much when, on June 7th 2010, the U.$. border patrol shot and killed a 14-year-old Mexican child named Sergio Hernandez as he played on the Mexican side of a canal. This is why the killing of Oscar Grant didn't get proper coverage. Yet we see the same actions played over and over on TV when it's a country that the U.$. wants a regime change in - like the Middle East.

As author/journalist Juan Gonzalez has pointed out, the birth of the Amerikan newspaper was around the need to share information about the movements and behaviors of indigenous people and to rally the white settlers around their genocide.(1) The idea of objective journalism was a myth created much later in history, but the practice has been consistent.

Just as the news supported the control of indigenous and African people during the birth of this nation, the control of la Raza is at the forefront of TV news today. The mass deportations while Obama has been president are not done randomly. Aztlán is growing rapidly and with it Latinos continue to multiply. Seven of the ten fastest growing cities in the U.$. are in the area currently called the Southwest(2) and of these seven cities all are overwhelmingly Latino states. The future must seem very bleak for the oppressor nation. Thus they use their puppets to attempt to curb this "invasion" and "re-conquest" as conservative mouthpiece Pat Buchanan calls it.

Raza need to see Republicans and Democrats as one and the same. We need to educate Raza so that we become our own liberators; national liberation will never come from the ballot box. We need to educate our families, friends and barrios, this needs to be done house to house and persyn to persyn one letter at a time via snail mail if need be, but it is the only way to ween Raza off of putting faith into bourgeois politics.

We can look today at the many [email protected] elected officials and yet the Barrios continue to be occupied and under siege! We continue to be used as target practice by those claiming to protect and serve. Like our Third World counterparts in Afghanistan who suffer "night raids" we also get our doors kicked down in the middle of the night and the barrel of a gun stuck in the face of our children. When the Afghan villagers hear the helicopters they flee to the caves as they know all too well the predators lurking in those chinooks, just as we rush to avoid the spotlight when we hear the ghetto bird. It is a safari in the barrio and we are the prey. The people of Afghanistan are far more oppressed than anywhere here in Amerika yet we face the same oppressor.

The Great Leap Forward of 1958-59 in China was a special period in China's revolutionary history. The essence of which was to build communes. Today in the imperialist controlled media the Great Leap Forward is distorted as a situation that "killed millions" when in reality it was a socialist economic and social development to enhance people's power in the countryside. Here in Amerika we are nowhere even remotely close to that stage of development as Mao's China. But just as early in the Chinese revolution the peasants formed people's communes, I see a future here in Amerika where the people begin to form revolutionary committees. These mutual aid teams will be anchored mainly in the barrios and ghettos but eventually spread out to all areas where the oppressed nations reside. These committees will work to provide the people with independent outlets outside of the capitalist state in order to get the people to begin exercising people's power.

We of course are not at this juncture yet but it is a goal to work toward in our communities, in our barrios and within our lumpen organizations. We need education. Without learning and developing we will continue hoping the Democrats make things better for us and continue being hoodwinked. Now is the time to rebuild the Chicano movement! The past struggles of our gente are not forgotten nor will our martyrs have gone in vain or laid down only for us to stand in a line to vote for an imperialist!

Long live the Aztlán nation!


Notes:
1. while discussing his new book: Juan Gonzalez & Joseph Torres. News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media. 2011.
2. The New York Times Almanac, 2011. p. 273.

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[National Oppression] [International Connections] [Migrants] [ULK Issue 24]
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Lost in Translation: Obama on Migrant "Problem"

Si Se Puede - Chavez

Si se puede o no se puede? (Yes, we can or no, we can't?) Which one is it Mr. President?

Beginning in 2008 we started hearing from then presidential candidate Barack Obama that if elected he'd take quick action on immigration reform. During this time he also began straying to the left of the bourgeois mainstream opinion by hinting at a distaste for workplace raids of undocumented migrants. Also, he never bothered to mention anything about the many undocumented people who'd committed a "crime" in crossing the Mexico/U.$. border when he gave his speech at the National Council of La Raza.(1)

Indeed, statements and positions such as these on the issue of immigration reform helped popularize the Illinois Senator amongst Latinos which in turn helped him to wrestle the Latino vote away from then NY senator Hillary Clinton.(2) Yet here we are now three years out from the election of the first Black President of the United $tates of Amerika and time has once again shown us that Barack Obomber, like all other Amerikan politicians, has nothing more to offer the oppressed nations but broken promises and more oppression.

One million people have been deported from the U.$. since the taking of office by Obomber in 2009. That's 400,000 deportations a year with the various Latino nations bearing the brunt of it.(3) It's also important to note that this number of deportations is actually up from the previous Bu$h administration and ridiculously higher than the 500,000 people who were literally "railroaded" to Mexico between 1929-39 in what the imperialists called "repatriation drivers." This despite the fact that not everyone who was deported were Mexican nationals.(4)

More recently the U.$. initiated the mass deportations under the guise of the Obomber administration's federally funded program called "Secure Communities" in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, in conjunction with local law enforcement, searched out the undocumented and carried out raids against them all across the country.(3) The raids are conducted under the heading of "fugitive operations."(3)

At first local law enforcement was given the option of joining Secure Communities but many were hesitant foreseeing the potential problems this might pose to their daily functions as occupiers of the internal semi-colonies as well as to the policing of neighborhoods with a high density populace of newly arrived migrants.(3) ICE however was eventually able to sell Secure Communities to the pigs after telling them they'd only be going after the "worst of the worst."(3)

According to government mouthpieces, half the people who've been deported since 2009 were violent offenders, but investigations into the program have revealed that many of the people deported have actually been deported due to minor infractions such as Susana Ramirez who was arrested by local law enforcement for a minor traffic stop, sent to a federal detention center and was subsequently deported to Mexico from Maple Park, Illinois. All this happened in the span of a few days despite the fact that she had no criminal background and was raising U.$. citizen children.(3)

But was Susana Ramirez actually one of the lucky ones considering the circumstances? The answer is yes.

Tent cities, cramped quarters, no right to attorneys, racism, verbal abuse, mental abuse, beatings and sexual assault, this is the stark reality that awaits the undocumented as they are imprisoned and deported at the hands of Amerikans.(3)

Case in point is the Willacy, Texas Federal Immigration Detention Center where a recent investigation by the ACLU determined that there was "widespread sexual abuse of female detainees and a systematically positioned injustice system with no accountability firmly intact."(3) This information was further corroborated by former Willacy guards and a former Willacy psychiatrist who gave eyewitness accounts of the abuse, contrary to a 2009 ICE audit of the prison camp in which the detention center was given a rating of "good."(3)

During the same period ICE also conducted a survey of the prisoners supposedly to encourage grievance filing. Unfortunately, the survey was nothing but a ruse orchestrated and conducted by ICE officials themselves in an effort to pinpoint those attempting to file complaints and dissuade them from following through.(3)

What's to Come?

So what is in store for the migrant population of the U.$.? Well, if current reality and the number of people currently locked up in Amerika's prisons can serve as indicators of what's to come then we should expect the country with the highest percentage of its population behind bars to now become the country with the highest percentage of foreign nationals behind bars as well. This is more proof of how the U.$. oppresses the world's majority. They are political prisoners indeed.

Liberal critics of the Secure Communities program such as the ACLU have pointed out that it is nothing more than the Bush administration's immigration policies juiced up on Obomber steroids.(5) And while we'd have to agree we'd also have to go further. Secure Communities is the utilization of the Amerikan injustice system as a proxy resolution for its superfluous migrant population which the U.$. directly displaced to begin with! Descendents of the original inhabitants of this land migrate to the United $tates to work at jobs that Amerikans won't do, making less than Amerikans make in wages. But there are only so many of these undesirable jobs that need to be filled, and open borders would result in an equalization of Amerikan wages with the rest of the world — the biggest fear of the labor aristocracy. This economic reality, combined with political threats that an expanding oppressed population inside U.$. borders poses, explains why Amerika targets migrants (particularly those coming across the Rio Grande) for strict control.

At an El Paso speech earlier this year President Obomber was once again telling lies and talking out of both sides of his mouth when he stated that there would be no comprehensive immigration reform because of Republican stubbornness.(3) Bottom line, there will be no comprehensive reform and there will continue to be "enforcement on steroids." And no reform means the requirement under Secure Communities to deport 400,000 people a year, according to an ICE internal memo, will continue to be enforced to maintain funding from Congress.(3)

When asked about the toll these numbers would take on migrant families in the U.$., Cecilian Muñoz, an Obomber administration top official with Interior Affairs, answered in typical oppressor nation rhetoric, that "broken families are the result of broken laws." She then went on to state how it was all just part of the immigration problem.(3)

To that coconut we say quite the contrary. There is no immigration problem, but there is an imperialism problem. As a matter of fact it's the number one problem in the world today: principally U.$. imperialism.

In the wake of Susana Ramirez's deportation there was a push to have a Senate Bill voted on and passed to deny ICE any more funding for Secure Communities. The bill was called "Susana's Law," and it was defeated.(3)

This article referenced in:
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[Organizing] [International Connections] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 23]
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Learn from the Hunger Strike and Build

I want to extend a raised fist and reflect on the second round of the hunger strike here in Pelican Bay. As most know, prisoners once again attempted to achieve some sort of sense of humanity, if such a thing is possible in SHU. The demands were not fully met in the original strike, and this combined with the state's propaganda offensive pushed many of us captives into another push of resistance! This is what I attempt to give perspective on in this writing.

We need to review the entire process of any effort in order to learn from it. This is the process of evaluating the action (or inaction) and using these lessons to help us in future life choices. I'm not just speaking of this most recent effort but also anywhere else in Amerika where this same injustice presents itself.

We must remember the torture and abuse suffered and understand that torture will not stop from a peaceful protest. Torture in imperialist Amerika will always exist in one form or another so long as this system of state sanctioned white supremacy exists. So long as the oppressed nations are hunted down like Third World people, just as the Afghani villager flees when s/he hears the sound of helicopters, knowing it is the NATO occupiers, so too do the oppressed Brown and Black peoples understand when the helicopter comes over our neighborhoods, we too are its prey.

The SHUs are but another expression of what the people live with psychologically in the barrios and ghettos across Amerika. We are locked physically in these concentration kamps, told what to read, what to look at, what to listen to and what to think. People out in society are also experiencing this control on a more subtle level, and in our communities we are hunted down lethally. In Amerika our task force 373 (kill squad) is the pigs where as in the Third World it is the U.$. military who go into Third World nations when Third World people raise their objection.

Today the corporate media announced that Gaddafi was killed and as they showed his corpse, and as Obama made a speech about how Gaddafi was a "mad dog" for not respecting the human rights of all Libyans, I sit in solitary confinement with no sunlight, no human contact, and all the oppression that comes with being in SHU. The truth is Amerika doesn't see Brown or Black people as worthy of human rights. This is why millions of us are criminalized; why we are shot dead unarmed in the streets and prisons by the pigs. This is why we are not given work and suffer a new caste system of being branded a felon, and it's why mothers and fathers are ripped apart from children and deported as "illegals." Illegals! Who are the real illegals?!

The second hunger strike erupted September 26 but unlike the previous strike there was no negotiating teams, no attorney visits to work as mediators, no coverage in the corporate media and so many people here did not know a strike was happening until later in the effort. The numbers I got were approximately half the SHU participated in this second effort, which was fewer than last time, but I also heard more participated in prisons across Amerika and even some county jails. This proves my theory that the longer these efforts take place the more they will be supported. Prisoners get used to the idea of struggle. It brings to the forefront the everyday issues that affect every prisoner, particularly the issue of state repression. This of course is the state's worse nightmare.

I continue to believe that an effort prepared well in advance is far more effective and would be more supported and last a longer amount of time. I think the first strike lasted three weeks because it was prepared for properly. To just announce you're going to do something and do so will get many to participate, but if an effort is ill prepared it won't be as lasting and may not be as effective.

I myself was very angry after the first strike because I didn't feel the demands were essential to a mass effort. Things like shut down all SHUs, end the three strikes, end the death penalty, are things I think are worthy of demands. These are issues that affect every prisoner, not just some. I am very proud of the California prison population for its awakening and learning to stand up en mass, yet we should look deeper into our demands and make sure they reflect the true causes of our oppression.

We can see California prisoners are on the move. It took the many years of groups like MIM(Prisons) along with prison revolutionaries working on the inside to raise the consciousness to see this oppression we live with in these dungeons. MIM(Prisons) once said "Lenin always insisted that change does not occur in straight lines, despite our wishes. And like all Marxists, he stressed historical materialism, which means that ideas come from material reality and not vice versa. We can imagine the world we want and wish it into existence, but that will not make it so. What Marxists do is look at the contradictions in humyn society and study the forces that make them up in order to understand how to resolve them."(1)

I think California prisoners are indeed looking at the contradictions we live with and finding ways to resolve them. This by no means is going away. More and more prisoners are taking notice and coming to support the Pelican Bay SHU battles while raising their own demands wherever they reside in Amerika's concentration kamps. Let the demand for human rights for prisoners reach every cage in this imperial empire. Power to the people!

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[Release] [International Connections] [Pennsylvania]
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Pennsylvania Transfers Prisoners Far from Family

Beginning in February 2010 the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections decided to transfer 2000 prisoners out of state due to overcrowding in Pennsylvania prison system. The two states Pennsylvania sent its prisoners to were Michigan and Virginia. I was one of the prisoners they sent to Virginia. We all were just snatched in the middle of the night and transferred out of state. It was almost like being kidnapped, being taken from your family and being sent to a southern prison from a northern prison. Not even having a chance to call your family to let them know about the transfer.

It was said that we would only be transferred for three years, but now all the prisoners transferred to Michigan have been transferred back to Pennsylvania because Pennsylvania now has new prisons and room for its prisoners. My problem with this is that all of the prisoners transferred to Virginia, including myself, are still in Virginia, with no plans for us to be transferred back to Pennsylvania. What about us? Don't we have family in Pennsylvania who love us? Why are we being kept in Virginia, when the other prisoners have been sent back? It's almost like Pennsylvania does not care about us. The Virginia Department of Corrections says there is no plans to move us back to Pennsylvania. And one sad thing is that there was a large number of prisoners who are serving a life sentence who were transferred here to Virginia. I mean men who have been incarcerated for 15, 20 or 30 years just transferred out of state away from their families. It's just not fair.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is just one of many examples of actions taken by prisons demonstrating that the Amerikan criminal injustice system has nothing to do with rehabilitation. It has been shown that ties to family and community are important to the ability of prisoners to stay on the streets once released, but Pennsylvania (and many other states) are more concerned with the economics of running their prison system than the well being of the prisoners. Prisons are a tool of social control in this country, and we should not be surprised by these callous actions by prison administrators. On a bigger scale, the system of imperialism displaces millions of people all around the world. Comrades isolated by out-of-state transfers should feel unity with refugees and migrants all around the world, who share a common interest in tearing down imperialism and rebuilding their communities. There is strength in numbers, and hope in unity and organizing.

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[Prison Labor] [International Connections] [Education] [Federal Correctional Institution Victorville I] [US Penitentiary Victorville] [Federal]
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U.S. Prisoners Build Imperialism thru Military Industries

A friend gave me a little study of yours, Level 1 Study Group in which a participant states that prisoners may be called upon to build bombs and war machines as Amerika's military industry expands. You respond that this is unlikely since "the imperialists will not share their military secrets" and "wouldn't want prisoners building bombs and war machines for security reasons." Well, you are wrong!

Try and take a tour of the Unicor in USP as well as FCI#1 in Victorville, CA by Adelanto. I was there 2007-2009 prior to going to SMU and worked in UNICOR in metal shop. We had a contract on making ammo cans for Humvees and Humvee engines and interiors were also worked on. Also we built little "Iraqi Villages," little pre-engineered huts for the military to put in the High Desert to train troops to raid prior to deployment to the Middle East.

Not just that, but we converted 5 ton and trucks, stripped them down and built them into MRAP prototypes (Mine Resistant Armored Protectant Vehicles), to train troops prior to deployment, with gun turret and everything, since real MRAPs come off the line in some warehouse and are immediately shipped to Afghanistan. We built 15 trainee MRAPs. Also, Humvees came into the shop and if any inmate found a bullet case or shell and turned it over we were rewarded with up to $100 bonus! Go to USP Victorvile and FCI #1 in UNICOR and see for yourself.


MIM(Prisons) responds: First we're happy to hear that prisoners participating in our study groups are sharing the lessons with others. It's a challenge to conduct these classes through the mail as interest grows. In order to expand this educational work more, we rely on our comrades behind bars to share what they are learning through USW-led educational institutions that can be conducted face-to-face.

We're also glad this prisoner took the time to write to us with information about prisoner labor in federal prisons, and to correct our comrade's mistake on the question of letting prisoners work on military construction. The extent of prison labor's involvement in supporting imperialist military repression is something we addressed in the article The Privatization of War: Imperialism Gasps its Last Breaths, printed in ULK 8. Much of our empirical knowledge of the U.$. prison system comes from our many supporters still on the inside, so we always welcome help keeping our facts straight.

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[Asia] [International Connections] [ULK Issue 22]
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Book Review: A Vietcong Memoir


A Vietcong Memoir: An inside account of the Vietnam war and its aftermath
by Truong Nhu Tang
Vintage Books, 340 pgs.

Truong Nhu Tang (Tang) was the ex-minister of justice for the provisional revolutionary government of the Republic of South Vietnam during their war for liberation. Although Tang came from the petit bourgeoisie before taking up the struggle for national liberation he lends a first hand account of the fight against U.$. imperialism during what has come to be known in the west as the "Vietnam War."

In 1978 Tang became disillusioned with the outcome of the Vietnam victory on the political fringe (this started when his brother and other family were jailed for re-education). He went into exile in Paris, which he describes as an escape for the most part.

From much of the literature on the struggle for national liberation in Vietnam we get a view from the higher levels of leadership with books from Ho Chi Minh or Vo Nguyen Giap, which are very educational but lack a ground level approach to digging in to the operations and set backs of lower level struggles. Although Tang claims to never have been a "communist" he does say he was a nationalist revolutionary and held Ho Chi Minh in high esteem.

The book focuses on how north Vietnam and the communists, or "ideologues" as he frequently describes communists, took control of the south post war and were heavy handed in re-educating those who needed re-education. For revolutionaries studying different phases of struggle whether political, military, or the diplomatic front, this book will prove insightful as Tang is very descriptive in his memoir.

Most here in Amerika have seen on TV how many U$ soldiers died in Vietnam, or seen clips of the carpet bombing that the Amerikan B52 bombers did, perhaps the rare few have seen grainy documentaries showing some pile of dead Vietnamese or entire villages being touched and babies crying with their flesh literally hanging off from agent orange. Indeed most of us know the Vietnamese fought like hell barefooted with an AK47 in hand, marching through the jungle and basically wearing out U.$. troops through guerrilla warfare. There was an overwhelming amount of organizing at all levels including youth, students, religious groups, elderly, mass organizations, political groups, shopkeepers, even the intelligentsia. This raising of consciousness had begun decades before and Tang as a participant in much of this low level organizing gets into these efforts and shows the strengths and weaknesses in this process.

Tang traveled to Paris as a young man to study how to be a pharmacist. It was here where he started his political life, initially in the anti-war movement in Paris. He began to seriously study political science and colonialism. While in Paris he mobilized the Vietnamese community and sought to build public opinion around the the French occupation in Vietnam. During this time Tang abandoned his studies in pharmacology and his family cut off his financial allowance. His wife was pregnant and with him in France.

At this juncture Tang's political future was at a crossroad. This happens even here in Amerika where at some point one must make some decision in life about what direction one's life will go, and like Tang, many times one's friends, wife, husband, or family will not understand or agree with one's political beliefs and thus one must make that leap to become a revolutionary or be persuaded to just live one's life. Although Tang doesn't analyze or dig into this, as you read the book you see his predicament and see him leap into the thick of it. When faced with this, he and his wife decide it's best she goes back home to Vietnam to have the child while he goes on surviving any way he can, taking odd jobs while continuing his political agitation. It was here that he met the French Communist Party (FCP) members and intellectuals, and although he didn't quite agree with the FCP on their stance with Vietnam he began to develop his political ideas.

After receiving a master's degree in political science, Tang returned to Vietnam where he describes an environment of revolutionary fervor with almost everyone sympathizing with the Viet Minh. He goes on to hook up with a guerilla unit and went on an ambush of French forces. This taste of struggle for liberation sways Tang to get in on the fight for independence.

Tang describes how they began to form the underground resistance that evolved into the National Liberation Front (NLF). This happens in "Saigon," very much an urban struggle, so it proves to be insightful for anyone interested in organizing in a city in an underground group. Tang discusses his creation of numerous committees, mass organizing and the art of propaganda, and even takes you to the jungles where he had his ministry. He tells of how they would hear the bombs raining down, as the guerrillas scramble for the bunkers. Some succumb to what Tang describes as "internal convulsions" where one urinates or shits oneself involuntarily. Tang was living in a constant state of anxiety or combat fatigue, within this environment of constant harassment from opposition, bombings, and attacks, while still carving out a liberation struggle and tending to affairs within the unit or region, and maintaining his ministry while surviving on a handful of rice twice a day. This sacrifice was really something to read about. Imagine holding a study group on Marx or guerilla warfare while the bombs get you scrambling to a bunker, and all for no financial incentive as would be required by Amerikans, but just to free themselves. This was powerful.

I saw slight similarities (of course on a whole different level) between prisoners within U.$. gulags who may be in a constant state of alert, harassed by guards or even at war with a backwards element of the prison population. And within all the chaos that environment can bring, with storm troopers raiding your cell at 2:00 a.m., or putting you on potty watch, or confiscating all your literature, not allowing literature to enter the prison, going to the hole, maybe getting shot, etc. And within all this madness many prisoners continue their studies and struggle to liberate themselves and their oppressed nation. I think many would also find strength and inspiration in learning how many prisoners also develop under such overwhelming odds within U.$. prisons.

There were times when Tang would be arrested and described how he was tortured with electric shock by the pro-imperialist Vietnamese government. I would have liked to hear more of how the Vietnamese prisoners organized, as it is well known that even under French occupation the Vietnamese prisoners saw prisons as "Schools of Liberation" and had their own culture and living guidelines within prison. They had study groups and developed the masses into revolutionaries. It's too bad Tang didn't go into all this but it seems his prison stays were not very long, the longest being ten days. It appears his connections to the Vietnamese bourgeoisie, having a brother who was a high level air force fighter and another who was a high level banker seemed to get him out of prison very fast.

After the war ended and the last helicopter fled the embassy Tang describes the situation as chaotic. But again he was there struggling to rebuild his homeland. It was during this time that many were told to report for re-education and Tang himself says he drove his brothers down to be re-educated. He even led some of the re-education classes and engaged in criticism-self-criticism. However, once his brothers were taken to a re-education camp for the long term his stance on the post-war situation changed. Tang's two brothers were high level military, one being an officer, and although one of his brothers was released (through his efforts and letters to government leadership) one was kept in camp. It was at this point that Tang withdrew and resigned from politics, eventually moving out to a country farm and later sneaking out into exile in Paris.

It is clear his actions were subjective and he notes that many people were not political but nationalistic in their ideas. He argues that the post war government was too heavy handed. From what I read it did appear the NLF was pushing a more nationalistic line rather than a revolutionary nationalist approach. I think that if the NLF had focused their organizing efforts more on raising the people's political consciousness rather than focusing on a nationalist line they wouldn't have had such a hard time post war.

I would have liked to hear more on China and the Soviet Union at that time as Tang was part of a Vietnamese delegation that toured these countries. But he doesn't weigh in on the Soviet revisionism, rather saying Vietnam stayed neutral on the "Sino-Soviet" dispute as he calls it. He does say Vietnam cozied up first to the Soviets but later alluded to his dislike of Kruschev, especially his anger at being left for two weeks in a Russian hotel when he was supposed to be touring the country.

A reader will find this book insightful for the winding paths that were taken to build a movement full of committees and coalitions, underground parties and guerrilla networks all with the end goal of defeating U.$. imperialism. After reading this book I appreciate more the efforts of MIM(Prisons) and what they do to raise our consciousness.


MIM(Prisons) adds: The Vietnamese struggle was a heroic one that is still at the forefront of the global anti-imperialist legacy. After they defeated the imperialists, the most advanced political thinking of the time did not take hold in Vietnam's leadership, preventing socialism from developing. But as the reviewer discusses, there is still much to learn from this book about the successful struggle and organizing, especially under such horrible repression by U.$. bullets and bombs. We point readers to a book review of Ho Chi Minh: A Life for a more complete picture of the history of the revolution in Vietnam, and the political line of the post-revolution government.

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[Control Units] [International Connections] [National Oppression] [Political Repression] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 21]
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SHU is War on Aztlán


[Editor's note: We want to remind our readers that USW is open to anti-imperialist prisoners of all nationalities, just as the strike is being led by prisoners of all nationalities. MIM(Prisons) agrees with the line put forth here, because it is by building movements for national liberation
from imperialism that we can best conquer the oppressive system we currently live in. And any genuine national liberation movement supports the liberation of all people. We want to be clear about this because there have been reports of the CDCR attempting to fuel divisions among the prisoners on strike along long-standing organizational and national divisions as they always do.]

A people's salute goes out to all who find themselves under lock and key in Amerika! I wanted to write and send a brief update on the conditions here in Pelican Bay coming from one of the participants of the hunger strike (HS) that began two weeks ago, on July 1 of 2011. I figured the historic precedent that the HS has accomplished thus far is worth noting as the cause of the non-violent protest is one in which many people find themselves in across Amerika. The material conditions that have forced prisoners to deny themselves nutrients and sustenance are not exclusively bound to Pelican Bay, California. Whenever imperialist lackeys run a country they will also be expected to round up the most rebellious and potentially revolutionary populations and bury these people alive as these are the ones who pose the highest threat to the ruling class.

The fact that the protest is in regard to torture chambers known as the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in California, a state that has more prisons than any other state in a country that has more prisoners than any other country, should be examined more closely for what it means to oppressed nation prisoners in general but to people of Aztlán in particular. The fact that the state of California, which is geographically in Aztlán, has initiated what amounts to a war on the people of Aztlán by setting up more koncentration kamps (prisons) in Aztlán than anywhere else in Amerika, along with incarcerating more Latinos in California than any other oppressed nations, and the fact that Latinos are now the largest population of captives held in Federal prisons, and the fact that most of the prisoners held in California SHUs are Latinos, all show that oppressed nation are under attack via the injustice system, and that prisoners from the Aztlán Nation are particularly targeted in Aztlán. California is also the state with the largest Latino population in Amerika.(1) Thus the scope of what is taking place should be seen for what it is - the assault on Aztlán is real and should be met as such.

What is occurring here at Pelican Bay is an attempt to break the will and desire to resist state repression plain and simple. The SHU was opened in 1989 and this facility was designed to isolate and deprive people of the most basic "human rights." Things like human contact, a cell mate, the ability to eat salt in one's food, the ability to correspond with friends and family via the mail, the ability to have natural sunlight or even to be able to read political literature have all been stripped from prisoners in the SHU. Brutality here has been documented for decades. Beatings and physical torture have even been brought to the courts to no avail. Recently the U.$. Supreme Court has ruled that California prisons constitute "cruel and unusual punishment." They are telling the state of California to clean up its act.

Medical services are even used as barter. One prisoner was told if he wanted medical treatment then he should "debrief" (snitch on another prisoner). This is the depraved culture that has thrived here in SHU. This is a world where prisoners who are most often poor Brown and Black people are subject to a whole plethora of experimental depravity which in some cases would probably have Mengele raise an eyebrow.

It is well known that solitary confinement causes very real psychological damage even if used for a few weeks, yet here in SHU prisoners have endured solitary for years and even decades in some cases. Human rights groups have condemned solitary confinement, yet the SHU continues this brutal practice. Once here in SHU the only way back to general population is to snitch on others (even if it is false accusations), die, or parole. Keep in mind the vast majority sent to SHU have not committed any crime or physical acts but are labeled a "gang member or associate" and thus locked in this control unit for one's supposed gang affiliation, i.e. one's beliefs. They are locking one in a solitary confinement cell, sometimes for life, for what amounts to thought crimes!

Placement in the "hole" or SHU is frequently due to political affiliation of prisoners who are members or may associate with revolutionary groups or lumpen organizations that the state labels as "gangs." In their play on words, any attempt at oppressed nations to organize in a way that is not state sanctioned, is a gang. Similarly, they call uprisings "riots" in a derogatory way, to hide the real causes behind them. But many times people aren't even members of any organization and are falsely accused by others who are trying to get themselves out of SHU. In either case, prisoners held in SHU conditions overwhelmingly qualify as political prisoners.

The world would gasp should they find out the thought police are goosestepping in lock step here in Pelican Bay, jack boots and all. The Gestapo in Nazi Germany rounded up communists and others and placed them in kamps and jails under "preventative custody." And now the imperialists' first line of defense keeps oppressed nations in neo-kamps (SHUs) under "validation custody." This is what the lumpen face in the United $tates; this is our apple pie in the home of the incarcerated, land of the oppressed.

Yet, prisoners have always defied the lash, because as Mao said, where you find much repression you'll find much resistance. This is the dialectical materialism that manifests itself and blossoms, even within cinderblock gardens, in the form of our united resistance.

The first of the five demands issued for the hunger strike here at Pelican Bay is to end group punishment. This happens frequently where one prisoner breaks a rule and that whole group or ethnicity will be locked down or penalized in some way. We are talking about one person doing something against prison rules and two or three hundred people are then locked down for months over it. This is common practice and is meant to pit prisoners against prisoners.

The second demand is to abolish debriefing and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Debriefing is used to force people held in SHU to give up names and activities of others in order to leave SHU - even if the information provided is false. The accused cannot even present a good defense as the informants are not identified and often times the accusations themselves are considered "confidential." Active/inactive status is when after six years if one has no new activity one may be given "inactive" gang status and released to the general population. But this is rare since anything qualifies as "activity." For example, participating in this hunger strike will be considered new gang activity.

The third demand is that the CDCR complies with recommendations from a 2006 U.S. Commission which called for an end to isolation. The fourth demand is to provide adequate food. The food here would make a racoon's stomach turn. Often we don't know what it is we are eating and we get no salt, so all food is bland. For punishment often times we get boiled beans with no salt, and this has gone on for years. The fifth demand is to expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU prisoners. This means those of us who must stay in SHU will be able to have educational courses, art supplies, and the ability to make a phone call, which some have not done for 30 or more years.

These points are basic things that should be given, especially to people who have not broken any rules to be placed in SHU in the first place! What is happening here in Pelican Bay SHU amounts to crimes against humanity. To have people in solitary confinement in some cases for decades is incredible, and it's incredible that this has gone on so long and that for the most part the public has been silent over this. Well, today the light is shining on these torture chambers and Pelican Bay prisoners will no longer be silent while taking the lash.


Notes:
1. The New York Times Almanac 2011. p. 285.

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