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Under Lock & Key

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[Black Panther Party] [Drugs] [Organizing] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [ULK Issue 59]
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Drugs, Money and Individualism in U.$. Prison Movement

For this issue of Under Lock & Key we took on the task of investigating the impacts of drugs and the drug trade on the prison movement. We ran a survey in the Jan/Feb 2017 and March/April 2017 issues of Under Lock & Key. We received 62 completed surveys from our readers in U.$. prisons. We have incorporated the more interesting results in a series of articles in this issue. This article looks at the central question of the role of the drug trade inside and outside prisons and how to effectively organize among the lumpen in that context. In other articles we look more closely at the recent plague of K2 in U.$. prisons, and the latest rise in opioid addiction and what socialism and capitalism have to offer us as solutions.

survey respondents map
Distribution of survey respondents by state

Bourgeois society blames the individual

Bourgeois society takes an individualistic view of the world. When it comes to drugs, the focus is on the individual: we talk about how they failed and succumbed to drugs because of their weakness or mistakes as an individual. While individuals must ultimately take responsibility for their actions, it is only by understanding society at a group level, using dialectical materialism to study the political economy of our world, that we can address problems on a scale that will make a real impact. Even at the individual level, it's more effective to help people make connections to the root causes of their problems (not supposed persynality flaws) and empower them to fight those causes if we want lasting change.

Much of our criminal injustice system is built on punishment and shaming of those who have been convicted. A proletarian approach to justice uses self-criticism to take accountability for one's actions, while studying political economy to understand why that path was even an option in the first place, and an attractive one at that.

In the essay "Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide", Cetewayo, a Black Panther leader, provides a good example of overcoming the conditions one is born into. Ey was addicted to heroin from age 13 to 18, before joining the Black Panther Party. Eir example stresses the importance of providing alternative outlets for oppressed nation youth. In some cases the mere existence of that alternative can change lives.

Drugs and the Principal Contradiction in Prison

MIM(Prisons) and leaders in the Countrywide Council of United Struggle from Within (Double C) have had many conversations about what the principal contradiction is within the prison population. MIM(Prisons) has put forth that the parasitic/individualistic versus self-sufficient/collective material interests of the lumpen class is the principal contradiction within the prison movement in the United $tates today. The drug problem in prisons relates directly to this contradiction. Those pursuing drugs and/or dealing are focused on their persynal interests, at the expense of others. The drug trade is inherently parasitic as it requires an addicted population to be profitable, and users are escaping the world for an individual high, rather than working to make the world better for themselves and others.

A Double C comrade from Arkansas explains this contradiction:

"Things have been slow motion here due to lockdown. Reason being too much violence across the prison. Some of this violence is due to the underground economy. Being submerged in a culture of consumerism which is not only an obstacle to our emancipation (mentally and physically) this self-destructive method of oppression is a big problem consuming the population. I've been in prisons where the market is not packed or heavily packed with drugz. It is in those yards that unity and productive lines are greatly practiced. The minute drugz become the leading item of consumption, shit breaks down, individualism sets in and all of the fucked up tendencies follow suit.

"I say 75% of the population in this yard is a consumer. About 5% have no self control, it's usually this percentage that ends up a 'debt' victim (since you owe $ you owe a clean up). Aggressor or not, consumerism is a plague that victimizes everyone one way or another. This consumerism only aids the pigz, rats, infiltrators, and oppressors in continuing with a banking concept of 'education/rehabilitation' and therefore domesticating the population.

"I mean the consequences and outcomes are not hidden, it is a constant display of what it is when you can't pay the IRS, so it is not as if people don't know. I've seen people slow down or stopped some old habits after experiencing/witnessing these beheadings. Shit, I just hit the yard because pigz were all inside the block searching and homeboy's puddles of blood were still on the yard."

High Drug Prices in Prison

drug prices in prison

We looked at the minimum and maximum prices each prisoner mentioned (which probably correspond to a "dose", depending on the drug). The minimum had a median of $10 and the maximum had a median of $80.

Some respondents mentioned the amount drugs cost compared to outside. The median markup was 800% (so, drugs cost eight times as much in prisons, on average). The min was 200% and the max was 3000%, with an interquartile range of 375%-1167%. So, prisoners are highly likely to pay a hefty markup. The economics of the black market create strong interests of keeping it intact.

Drugs and Violence

It is no secret that drugs and violence often go hand-in-hand. As the above comrade alludes to, this is often related to debts. But one of the things we learned from our recent survey of ULK readers is that in most prisons there is an inherent threat of violence towards people who might take up effective organizing against drugs.

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organizing against drugs in prison
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A California comrade wrote,

"No one in prison is going to put their safety and security on the line over drugs. You have to understand that life has little value in prison. If you do anything to jeopardize an individual's ability to earn a living, it will cost you your life."

Another California comrade was more explicit,

"If you say anything about the drugs, cell phones, extortions, etc., whether if you're in the general population, or now, worse yet in 2017, SNY/Level IV, the correctional officers inform the key gang members that you're running your mouth. You either get hit immediately, or at the next prison. Although my safety is now at stake, by prisoners, it's being orchestrated by corrections higher-ups concocting the story."

This was in response to our survey question "Have you seen effective efforts by prisoners to organize against drug use and its effects? If so, please describe them." Not only were the responses largely adamant "no"s, the vast majority said it would be dangerous to do so. This was despite the fact that we did not ask whether it would be dangerous to do so. Therefore, we assume that more than 73% might say so if asked.

Some readers questioned what to do about staff involvement bringing drugs into the prisons. One writer from Pennsylvania said:

"It's hardly ever dry in Fayette and this institution is a big problem why. A lot of the staff bring it in. Then when someone goes in debt or does something they wouldn't normally do, they don't want to help you, if you ask for help. There's no unity anymore. Nobody fights or stands up for nothing. Everybody rather fight each other than the pigs. It would take a lot to make a change in the drug situation. Is it wrong to put the pigs out there for what they're doing? Would I be considered a snitch? I know there would be retaliation on me, maybe even a ass whoopin. I'm curious on your input on this."

If we look at the involvement of staff in bringing drugs into prisons, and the violence associated with the drug trade, we have to call bullshit when these very same institutions censor Under Lock & Key on the claim that it might incite violence. The system is complicit, and many staff actively participate, in the plague of drugs that is destroying the minds and bodies of the oppressed nation men and wimmin, while promoting individualistic money-seeking behavior that leads to brutal violence between the oppressed themselves.

Organizing in Prisons

While the reports responding to that question were mostly negative, and the situation seems dire, we do want to report on the positive things we heard. We heard about successful efforts by New Afrikans getting out of the SHU in California, some Muslim communities and the Nation of Gods and Earths. Some have been at this for over a decade. All of these programs seemed to be of limited scope, but it is good to know there are organizations providing an alternative.

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anti-drug organizing in prisons

In Arkansas, a comrade reports,

"For the mass majority of drug users and prisoners I have not seen any positive efforts to stop drug use and its effects. But for my affiliation, the ALKN, we have put the product of K2/deuce in law with heroin and its byproducts where no member should be in use of or make attempts to sell for profit or gain. If you do you will receive the consequences of the body who governs this affiliation and organization for lack of discipline and obedience to pollute your self/body and those around you who are the future and leaders of tomorrow's nations."

While practice varies among the many individuals at different stages in the organization, the Latin Kings/ALKQN has historically opposed the use of hard drugs amongst its members. Many in New York in the 1990s attributed their recovery from drug addiction to their participation in the organization.(1)

There are some good examples of lumpen organizations engaging in what we might call policies of harm reduction. One comrade mentioned the 16 Laws and Policies of Chairman Larry Hoover as an example of effective organizing against drugs in eir prison. Lumpen leaders like Jeff Fort and Larry Hoover are where we see a national bourgeoisie with independent power in the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates. The proletarian organizations of the oppressed nations should work to unite with such forces before the imperialists corrupt them or force them into submission. In fact, the Black Panthers did just that, but failed to build long-term unity with the Black P. Stone Rangers largely due to state interference and repression.

On the other hand, in some states comrades reported that lumpen organizations are among the biggest benefactors from the drug trade. Some of the same names that are mentioned doing positive work are mentioned as being the problem elsewhere. This is partly explained by the largely unaffiliated franchise system that some of these names operate under. But it is also a demonstration of the principal contradiction mentioned above, which is present in the First World lumpen outside of prisons, too. There is a strong individualist/parasitic tendency combating with the reality that self-sufficiency and collective action best serve the oppressed nations. Too often these organizations are doing significant harm to individuals and the broader movement against the criminal injustice system, and can not be part of any progressive united front until they pull out of these anti-people activities.

The more economically entrenched an organization is in the drug trade, the more they are siding with the imperialists and against the people. But on the whole, the First World lumpen, particularly oppressed nation youth, have the self-interest and therefore the potential to side with their people and with the proletariat of the world.

As one Texas comrade commented:

"I must say that the survey opened a door on the issue about drugs within prison. After doing the survey I brought this up with a couple of people to see if we could organize a program to help people with a drug habit. I'm an ex-drug dealer with a life sentence. I can admit I was caught up with the corruption of the U.S. chasing the almighty dollar, not caring about anyone not even family. Coming to prison made me open my eyes. With the help of MIM and Under Lock & Key I've been learning the principles of the United Front and put them in my everyday speech and walk within this prison. The enemy understands that the pen is a powerful tool. Comrades don't trip on me like other organizations done when I let them know I'm a black Muslim who studied a lot of Mao Zedong.

Building Independent Institutions of the Oppressed

At least one respondent mentioned "prisoners giving up sources" (to the pigs to shut down people who are dealing) in response to the question about effective anti-drug organizing. From the responses shown below, it is clear that the state is not interested in effective anti-drug programming in prisons. This is an example of why we need independent institutions of the oppressed. We cannot expect the existing power structure to meet the health needs of the oppressed nation people suffering from an epidemic of drug abuse in U.$. prisons.

staff bringing drugs into prisons

The Black Panthers faced similar conditions in the 1960s in the Black ghettos of the United $tates. As they wrote in Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide,
"It is also the practice of pig-police, especially narcotics agents, to seize a quantity of drugs from one dealer, arrest him, but only turn in a portion of the confiscated drugs for evidence. The rest is given to another dealer who sells it and gives a percentage of the profits to the narcotics agents. The pig-police also utilize informers who are dealers. In return for information, they receive immunity from arrest. The police cannot solve the problem, for they are a part of the problem."

Our survey showed significant abuse of Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. In the 1970s Methadone clinics, backed by the Rockefeller Program, became big in New York. The state even linked welfare benefits to these services. Yet, Mutulu Shakur says, "In New York City, 60 percent of the illegal drugs on the street during the early '70s was methadone. So we could not blame drug addiction at that time on Turkey or Afghanistan or the rest of that triangle."(2) Revolutionaries began to see this drug that was being used as treatment as breaking up the revolutionary movement and the community. Mitulu Shakur and others in the Lincoln Detox Center used acupuncture as a treatment for drug addiction. Lincoln Detox is an example of an independent institution developed by communists to combat drug addiction in the United $tates.

"[O]n November 10, 1970, a group of the Young Lords, a South Bronx anti-drug coalition, and members of the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement (a mass organization of health workers) with the support of the Lincoln Collective took over the Nurses' Residence building of Lincoln Hospital and established a drug treatment program called The People's Drug Program, which became known as Lincoln Detox Center."(3) Lincoln Detox was a program that was subsequently run by the Young Lords Party, Black Panthers that had survived the Panther 21 raid, the Republic of New Afrika, and White Lightning, a radical organization of white former drug addicts, until 1979 when a police raid forced the communists out of the hospital, removing the political content of the program.(4)

Young Lord Vicente "Panama" Alba was there from day one, and tells eir story of breaking free of addiction cold turkey to take up the call of the revolution. After sitting on the stoop watching NYPD officers selling heroin in eir neighborhood, and a few days after attending a Young Lords demonstration, Panama said, "Because of the way I felt that day, I told myself I couldn't continue to be a drug user. I couldn't be a heroin addict and a revolutionary, and I wanted to be a revolutionary. I made a decision to kick a dope habit."(3) This experience echoes that of millions of addicted Chinese who went cold turkey to take up building socialism in their country after 1949.

Mutulu Shakur describes how the Lincoln Detox Center took a political approach similar to the Chinese in combatting addiction, "This became a center for revolutionary, political change in the methodology and treatment modality of drug addiction because the method was not only medical but it was also political." Shakur was one of the clinic's members who visited socialist China in the 1970s to learn acupuncture techniques for treating addiction. He goes on to describe the program:

"So the Lincoln Detox became not only recognized by the community as a political formation but its work in developing and saving men and women of the third world inside of the oppressed communities, resuscitating these brothers and sisters and putting them into some form of healing process within the community we became a threat to the city of New York and consequently with the development of the barefoot doctor acupuncture cadre, we began to move around the country and educate various other communities instead of schools and orientations around acupuncture drug withdrawal and the strategy of methadone and the teaching the brothers and sisters the fundamentals of acupuncture to serious acupuncture, how it was used in the revolutionary context in China and in Vietnam and how we were able to use it in the South Bronx and our success."(2)

Dealing with the Dealers

Panther 21

Though the Black Panthers had organized the workers at Lincoln Hospital leading up to the takeover, by that time the New York chapter was already in decline due to repression and legal battles. While many BPP branches had to engage with drug cartels, the New York chapter stood out in their launching of heavily-armed raids on local dealers and dumping all of their heroin into the gutters. The New York Panthers faced unique circumstances in a city that contained half of the heroin addicts in the country, which was being supplied by la Cosa Nostra with help from the CIA. While there was mass support for the actions of the Panthers at first, state repression pushed the New York Panthers down an ultra-left path. The Panther 21 trial was a huge setback to their mass organizing, with 21 prominent Panthers being jailed and tried on trumped up terrorism charges. After they were all exonerated, the New York Panthers, siding ideologically with Eldridge Cleaver who was pushing an ultra-left line from exile in Algeria, made the transition to the underground. If they were going to be accused of bombings and shootings anyway, then they might as well actually do some, right?

These were the conditions under which the Black Liberation Army was formed. Though there was overlap between the BLA and those who led community projects like Lincoln Detox, the path of the underground guerrillas generally meant giving up the mass organizing in the community. Instead, raiding local drug dealers became a staple of theirs as a means of obtaining money. Money that essentially belonged to the NYPD, which was enabling those dealers and benefiting them financially. The former-Panthers-turned-BLA continued to destroy the dope they found, and punished the dealers they raided.

Again, we are confronted with this dual nature of the lumpen class. It would certainly be ultra-left to view all drug dealers as enemies to be attacked. It is also certainly clear that the CIA/Mafia/NYPD heroin trade in New York was an enemy that needed to be addressed. But how does the revolutionary movement interact with the criminal-minded LOs today? In its revolutionary transformation, China also had to deal with powerful criminal organizations. The Green Gang, which united the Shanghai Triads, significantly funded the Guomindang's rise to power, primarily through profits from opium sales. In the late 1940s they opened up negotiations with the Communist Party as the fate of China was becoming obvious. However, no agreement was reached, and the criminal organizations were quickly eliminated in mainland China after 1949. They took refuge in capitalist outposts like Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Chinatowns elsewhere in Asia and Europe. While heroin has returned to China, the gangs have not yet.(5)

While the contradiction between the communists and the drug gangs did come to a head, it was after defeating Japanese imperialism and after defeating the reactionary Guomindang government. And even then, most drug dealers were reformed and joined the building of a socialist society.

In eir article, Pilli clearly explains why slangin' can't be revolutionary. And a comrade from West Virginia gives an example where the shot-callers are explicitly working against the interest of the prison movement to further their economic goals. We must address the question of how the prison movement should engage with those who are slangin'. The answer to that is beyond the scope of our drug survey, and needs to be found in practice by the revolutionary cells within prisons taking up this organizing work.

Building Socialism to Serve the People

Many respondents to our survey sounded almost hopeless when it came to imagining a prison system without rampant drug addiction. But this hopelessness is not completely unfounded. As "Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide", reads:

"The government is totally incapable of addressing itself to the true causes of drug addiction, for to do so would necessitate effecting a radical transformation of this society. The social consciousness of this society, the values, mores and traditions would have to be altered. And this would be impossible without totally changing the way in which the means of producing social wealth is owned and distributed. Only a revolution can eliminate the plague."

To back up what the Panthers were saying here, we can look at socialist China and how they eliminated opium addiction in a few years, while heroin spread in the capitalist United $tates. The Chinese proved that this is a social issue and not primarily a biological/medical one. The communist approach differed greatly from the Guomindang in that addicts were not blamed or punished for their addiction. They were considered victims of foreign governments and other enemies of the people. Even many former dealers were reformed.(6) Although we don't have the state power now to implement broad policies like the Chinese Communist Party, we can help drug users focus on understanding the cause and consequences of their use in a social context. We need people to see how dope is harming not only themselves, but more generally their people, both inside and outside of prison. People start doing drugs because of problems in their lives that come from problems in capitalist society. Being in prison sucks, and dope helps people escape, even if it's fleeting. But this escape is counter productive. As so many writers in this issue of ULK have explained, it just serves the interests of the criminal injustice system. We can help people overcome addictions by giving them something else to focus on: the fight against the system that wants to keep them passive and addicted.

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[Organizing] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [ULK Issue 59]
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Poisoning the Well: The imprisoned dope trade and its impact on the movement

Imprisoned Drugs

Prisons, for the last 100 years at least, have been consumed with some type of dope. We know that vice of all flavors has found prisons to be hot houses. Slangin' dope has been institutionalized in U.S. prisons; everyone from the 18 year-old fish to the ranking guard has been caught slangin'.

Some may see it as a means to survive. It is surviving, in a parasitic kind of way. For the prison movement, to engage in the dope trade is to poison the very well you and the people drink from. It's suicide.

The Drug Trade and LOs

It's no secret that in prison the drug trade translates to power, in a bourgeois kinda way for the lumpen organization (LO). The LO that controls the drug trade in a particular prison wields power in that prison. Of course the drug trade brings currency to the LO which in turn brings weapons, material goods, investments and respect. But more importantly than 12-packs of soda, LOs use dope as a manipulation tool. The LO which has the dope has all the other prisoners kissing its ass.

LOs are able to "feed the troops" but at what cost? This is where the contradictions arise between the prison movement and prisoners who are more counter-revolutionary.

The dope trade simply feeds the bourgeois-minded sector of the prison population. It allows this sector to expand its parasitic grip on the prison population. The wannabe capitalist sector drools at the idea of getting in more dope to sell to fellow prisoners; to poison the sisters and brothers for profit, for blood money.

Is Slangin' Revolutionary?

I have spoken to some who have raised the idea that slangin' can raise funds quick for revolutionary programs. Someone even pointed to the FARC [a self-described Marxist group in Colombia] as "proof" of this. The fact that FARC has recently disarmed shows that their judgment on a lot of things is flawed.

My question is, how could poisoning the very population you are trying to win over to revolution be a good thing? There are too many other ways to raise money than to poison our people with imperialist dope.

Being revolutionary is about transforming yourself and others, not inflicting harm on oneself or others. Being in prison is hard enough, we shouldn't create burdens like addictions or debts which will prevent our fellow prisoners from becoming new people and contributing. Slangin' dope is anti-revolutionary.

Slangin' in the prison movement?

If I were to hear that those within the prison movement were employing a tactic to slang dope I would say the movement had committed suicide. The prison movement is unable to mobilize the people partly because of the interference of dope. Dope impedes our progress. It creates the conditions where the state stays in power without a challenge to its seat.

The fact that often it's the state agents themselves who flood the prisons with dope is proof enough that the dope trade is actually a weapon of the state. Just as the state floods the ghettos and barrios with dope. The dope dealers are simply pawns used by the imperialists. The flooding of ghettos with crack cocaine is the biggest, starkest example of this.

Overcoming the oppressive nature of U.S. prisons is hard enough. The slim pool of prison writers and intellectuals reflects this fact. It is difficult to survive prison and be able to raise your consciousness at the same time. Those few who do wake up have a hard time waking others, insert dope and your chances are zero.

The only thing the dope trade does to LOs is pull them more to the right. It feeds their bourgeois ideology as a log feeds a roaring fire. Our goal is to have the LOs rebuild the house of the prison movement, not burn it down.

What can be done?

This is a difficult chore for the revolutionaries. LOs have become accustomed to having their luxuries squeezed out of the drug trade so to stop that would of course disturb them. But the drug trade is poison.

The Black Panthers at one point sought to actively eradicate all dope dealers from their communities. In prisons we do not promote violence, rather education will have to do. Start by educating the user, start with your cell mate then move on to your neighbor and folks on the tier. Change the culture so that drug usage is frowned upon. If folks can stop using dope on the street they can stop in prisons. Re-education should be used by the more conscious people.

The prison movement will be destroyed by the dope trade, just as the movement outside prison walls was hurt by some influential people taking up dope. The state was able to relax and sit back while dope wore people down and prevented any real mobilization. The same applies to prison. It would not matter if the prison gates flew open if the dragon was high or if it had sacks of dope in its claws.

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[Aztlan/Chicano] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [ULK Issue 58]
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Re-Unify Aztlan!

USA divides oppressed North and South

Learning the difference between our friends and enemies means we know that other prisoners share more in common with us than not. It also means that within one's own nation the formations within have even more in common than not. For imprisoned Aztlán the divisions were ultimately imperialist-inspired. The advanced wing of imprisoned Aztlán understands that it's time to Re-unify Aztlán.

In Califaztlán, norteno, sureno, Eme, NF, have been walls that separated. At times each formation was necessary for safety, and some formations may be more progressive than others. But these formations still separate imprisoned Aztlán. Separation for a nation is not good under any circumstances.* I believe the goal of all these lumpen organizations (LOs) is to unite at some point, but how could it be possible?

A future glimpse of a United Aztlán

It's a fact that much animosity and/or pride for one LO or the other has developed. At the same time we see the Agreement to End Hostilities has allowed us all to get to know and support one another. It's now OK to assist and be there for each other, which is great. We have gone back to before north/south feuds started, however what is needed now is a leap forward.

The truth is so long as the LOs (i.e. NF, Eme) still have north/south formations there will not be any unification between imprisoned Aztlán. This will take steps. The implementation of programs authorized at the highest levels. One such initial program would be formally dismantling the formations of Sur/Norte. By doing this, Raza will simply be Raza again.

Tattoos of Norte/Sur would have to be banned for the future. This would help alleviate conflict/tension.

A transition period would relax the Raza and then the next stage of the unification of Eme/NF would be necessary even if they maintained separate committees with the new political org. But a new org with a new name is necessary to provide a glimpse of a new future of a unified Aztlán. At some point, imprisoned Aztlán must move on and create a name that all can come to, otherwise no side will ever win over the other side.

* While divisions are a weakness for any nation, this is not bad in relation to the oppressor nations, which MIM(Prisons) actively tries to divide as part of an anti-imperialist strategy. - editor
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[Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs]
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A Letter to a Young Gangster

Peace Black brother,

I hope this letter finds you strong and defiant in mind, body, and spirit. I really enjoyed the few times we exchanged ideas about the new Black liberation struggle. I was a little surprised when you told me that you consider yourself a Black revolutionary because most young brothers who gang bang don’t identify themselves as such, and that’s because being one requires opposing and resisting racism and oppression which is a huge burden and responsibility. Others simply don’t understand the concept of a Revolutionary.

To put it simply, a Revolutionary is someone who fights and struggles to change the conditions of oppressed people. A counter-revolutionary is someone who-consciously or unconsciously–fights and struggles against change so as to exacerbate and perpetuate the conditions of oppressed people. A Revolutionary is someone who strives to transform the criminal mentality into a Revolutionary mentality. A counter-revolutionary is someone who maintains, values, and takes delight in the criminal mentality. A Revolutionary seeks to become a part of the solution to what’s plaguing the Black and oppressed communities. A counter-revolutionary seeks to remain a part of the problem of what’s plaguing the Black and oppressed communities. A Revolutionary is someone who utilizes all of his/her strength and energy in trying to liberate Black and oppressed people. A counter-revolutionary is someone who utilizes all of his/her strength and energy in trying to oppress and exploit those already oppressed and exploited by this white supremacist, capitalistic system. A Revolutionary is someone who opposes the Gestapo police who are daily murdering and brutalizing Black and oppressed people. A counter-revolutionary is someone who murders and brutalizes Black and oppressed people who are already being murdered and brutalized by the Gestapo police.

So, young brother, upon examining yourself, and taking the above examples of a Revolutionary into consideration, which category do you truly fall into: a Revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary? Most gang bangers, unfortunately, fall into the category of a counter-revolutionary.

As with most–if not all–Black street gangs, which I prefer to call social clubs, they started out as Revolutionary because the social, political and economic conditions that Black people were subjected to in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and even today, necessitated that they come together and organize to try and resist and change those conditions. But during the ’80s when the CIA began flooding poor Black communities with crack cocaine and guns to finance its illegal counter-revolutionary war against the democratically-elected Sandinista government in Nicaragua, and to further destabilize the poor Black communities making them more susceptible to subjugation and genocide, these social clubs and the oppressed communities they existed in became fractured and divided. Consequently, these social clubs became counter-revolutionary in that they lost sight of their original purpose and began to prey on the very people and neighborhoods they originally organized to defend, protect, and liberate.

One of the best examples of a social club becoming Revolutionary as the result of a radical transformation in the mentality of its membership is the 5,000-strong Slauson gang under the leadership of Alprentice “Bunchy” Carter. During the early ’60s, Bunchy was successful in uniting all of the various social clubs in Los Angeles under his leadership. According to Elder Freeman, a close comrade of Buchy’s, this was the first and only time in history that there was only one unified social club in Los Angeles. To build off of that success and momentum, Bunchy then spearheaded the formation of the Los Angeles Black Panther Party in 1967 which recruited heavily from the ranks of the Slauson gang. Because Bunchy was such a dynamic organizer and a charismatic leader who inspired other "street" brothers and sisters to become Revolutionaries, then FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, had Bunchy and his Black Panther comrade, John Huggins, killed in a COINTELPRO created beef between the Los Angeles Black Panther Party and Ron Karenga’s United Slaves Organization on January 17, 1968. ...


MIM(Prisons) adds: The above is an excerpt from an article written by a comrade who goes on to promote an organization that we reviewed in ULK 50.(1) In that article we describe the numerous serious political errors in that organization's line. But we agree with the general strategy that we need to "unify rival social clubs and redirect their aggression and rage away from each other and towards changing and improving the conditions of Black and oppressed people." There are many examples of comrades doing this that have appeared in the pages of Under Lock & Key over the years. Yet as this issue addresses, the problem is far from resolved.

The Black Panthers of the late 1960s still offer the most successful examples of transforming gangsters into revolutionaries. What that indicates is that building a strong vanguard party, with the correct political line, in dialectical relationship to the lumpen masses is the way to repeat their success. Without that, efforts at L.O. unity will be short-lived or will be siphoned off into bourgeois reformism.

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[Organizing] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [Mt Olive Correctional Complex] [West Virginia] [ULK Issue 59]
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Drugs Hold Back West Virginia Organizing

I completed the drug survey from ULK 56. As the days passed I could not stop reflecting on the article "Drugs a Barrier to Organizing in Many Prisons." Here in West Virginia dope is God and those who supply them are Messiahs. I decided to put pen to paper and add my thoughts to the discourse.

I am currently incarcerated at Mount Olive, which is West Virginia's highest security prison. Recently the administration severely restricted our yard time. This was done to punish us for the rash of recent murders. Some of the more militant brothers started organizing a peaceful sitdown to protest. The shot-callers immediately vetoed the sitdown.

I was shocked. Then I decided to follow the money, or in this case dope. The gang leaders did not want to antagonize the prison administration out of fear that they would restrict the flow of dope. Drugs were more important than our outdoor recreation privileges.

This is not the only power that drugs have given the administration over us. To curtail the flow of K-2 into the prison we no longer receive our actual mail. We get poor quality photocopies of our mail. There is still K-2 on the compound, but the price has doubled. If prisoners cannot get K-2 through the mail how does it get in? Simple, our captors bring it in. Not only are we enriching our captors, we are increasing their control over us.

Drugs drain all the money off the compound. When prisoners are broke and dope sick they not only rob and extort weaker prisoners, they are grimey with their brothers. This increases the violence on the yard. Instead of working together to improve our situation we make it worse. No unity.

As an old head I lead by example. I abstain from all drugs and alcohol. I do my best to educate the young bloods. No, I do not have much success. As soon as I turn my back they chase the dopeman. I hate to paint such a dark picture, but the truth is not always bright. I look forward to reading the other discourses on this subject.

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[Aztlan/Chicano] [National Oppression] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [California] [ULK Issue 57]
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My Experience as an SNY prisoner

I am a Mexican National Citizen raised in the old ways of making business. Our word was always good to our dying last breath. In prison politics and Mexican politics, the word is meaningless. (Tell that to good Tio Colosio, who paid with his life for believing someone else's word.)

Well, after 20 years in a main line or so-called active yards, I made the transition to the SNY yard. Here, I found lots of brothers (i.e. comrades), that made the transition years and even decades ago. Fortunately, I escaped the usual brainwashing that my Chicano counterparts are exposed to in the schools and ghettos. So, I called quits, and came over to the bizarre world. I found that most of my new comrades lacked any type of political consciousness. Time after time they declined my attempt to read some of my literature. It did not escape my mind that I once was like that too. It took me years to awaken to the cruel reality of my imprisonment.

Anyway, my first celly was a white male. And I discovered what I have always known in theory: We are all ignorant, poor, and damned (regardless of skin color, creed, or gang affiliation). For reasons that are not pertinent to this essay my new celly only last me less than 24 hours. Nevertheless, he left a deep impression in my consciousness. He told me that on the line his shot caller actually put a hit on him, over a $50.00 pruno debt. So he had to assume the position and allowed his beloved celly, who was a few months short to go home. And he was stabbed about three times. That is how out of control the prison gangs are.

So that the readers know: The average Mexican National prisoner doesn't belong to cartels, or street and prison gangs. Most Mexicanos are unaware of the avalanche of prison politics coming their way. Without no shame I can say that had my counselor told me about my expected role to serve at the active yard I should have checked out right there and then. It wasn't meant to be, so I was set up, by a failed rehabilitation system. I was immediately classified as a "PAISA" or "BORDER BROTHER." This STG (Security Threat Group) is under the direct order of the Sureños Prison Gang (like to be ordered to do hits and follow gang's rules).

Unbeknownst to the Mexican, all of these violent incidents will be used by the Board of Parole Hearings ("BPH"). God forbid one has a stabbing ten years ago. They literally act the part to be surprised that these kind of thing happen in prison. Even a disciplinary citation over a stolen apple will be used to say that one is a danger to the free community. These pundits actually believe that these gulags are CENTERS of top notch rehabilitation. And that one insists in misbehaving!

My new celly is an elderly Mexican. He is respectful and knows how to do time. He too called it quits when he discovered the winds of change in the air. And before things took a turn for the worst, he made the best decision in his life. He became another "SNY." The environment here is more loose. The gang trip is over. I have not seen any acts of predatory behavior towards those that are too weak to defend themselves. Then, there are those that act out as straight protective custody; they believe that the c/o is their daddy or big carnal. They are loud and wear their pants half way down their butt. Still the talking with staff can also be seen at facility "C", an active yard. They came in to the program office and spend time with them (getting cozy with the enemy i.e. the oppressor).

I found out that if I kept to myself and mind my own business I can fly undetected. This wasn't possible in an active yard, because one is expected to put in work for the prison gang. The new prison gangs at this side, they pretty much keep to themselves. And do their fighting without asking for help. Those who do not want to engage in the new gangs warfare are left alone out of the drama. I have spoken to former Sureños and Norteños (youth and elderly), and many described themselves as "Mexicanos" born on this side. Many have realized that the Mexican National is not their puppet to be used and discarded. They all agreed that becoming "SNY" is the best decision that they ever took. Their new leaders are their families, patria, and raza.

Here, former shotcallers and gang leaders are nothing. They are one more slave among the thousands. Long are gone the days of blood money, glory, cell phones, and God ego trips over life and death. As for my own transition from an enslaved active prisoner to an "SNY" it was easy. I packed my belongings without raising too much suspicion. And at school I told the officer "that I wanted out of the yard." They pressured me to tell what I knew about the big fat sapos and those that are kissing their ass. I had nothing to tell them.

Even if I knew anything I would never tell them nothing. I am too old to become a state snitch. So, not all SNY prisoners become snitches. I have been told that sometimes the officers threaten prisoners by telling them they will be sent back to the main line. But, this wasn't my case. (For your information, the officers will never do that.)

For those that I left behind, stop and think about it, for a long time. Is it really worth it to give up one's life by running a fool's errand? What they are sending you to do to someone else's son they will do to you. The masters of manipulation's lost cause is not worth it to die or kill for. Screw their orders, they are not our parents, tios, or big brothers. They are playing God with your lives and freedom.

They are bloodthirsty sociopaths with our brothers' and sisters' blood on their hands. They are the oppressor's little brother; they help the oppressor to keep us in check. Go ahead and tell them to do the killings themselves. They can't really hold you up accountable for your word; that you gave up as a little kid. You did not know anything about life when they enticed you to join the gang. They never told you that by 15 you would be dead or doing life in the gulags.

They never took you to a funeral and told you: that is you in a few years. They never took you to the gulags to visit those who are buried alive. Have they told you that an early death or lifetime in prison was your future? Odds are that you would have run away ASAP. Thus, at the age of 20, 30, or even 60 years old, one must truly awaken to the reality of our predicament and analyze the contradictions of one's slavery. So that we can shake off the old chains that bind us to a lost cause. One must evolve and think outside the box. It is the 21st Century, our families need us out there.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Lumpen organizations (LOs) in the united $tates are usually organizations of the most economically marginalized of the oppressed in this country. Elsewhere comrades have spoke about the difference between the Neo-Colonial Lumpen Organization (NLO) and the LO. The experience of the above comrade reflects the practice of the NLO. But the LOs in general have both capitalistic and collective/nationalist aspects to them. And those that embrace the collective aspect (usually in a revolutionary nationalist way), can evolve to become Political Mass Organizations (PMOs).(1) So while we struggle with comrades in LOs to move in the direction of becoming a PMO, the above story is a common one in California as SNY has come to represent one third of prisoners in recent years.(2)

This comrade also touches on the national question and national identity in Aztlán. The fact that those of Mexican descent born within U.$. borders are so likely to identify as Mexicanos speaks to the national contradiction between the Amerikan settler and the colonized territory of Aztlán. As this comrade also recognizes we refer to those born north of the U.$.-Mexico border as [email protected] The recognition of a [email protected] nation deeply connected to, but separate from Mexico, was the outcome of the struggles of revolutionary nationalists and communists in the 1960s organizing Raza in the southwest. For those interested in this topic you should check out [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán by a MIM(Prisons) study group. This book is available to prisoners for $10, or work trade.

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[Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [Black Panther Party] [ULK Issue 51]
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Fighting Apathy Among the Lumpen

Lumpen Study

[In 2012 a comrade summed up an ongoing discussion about organizing the lumpen class, which is below. The summary gets at how we should approach organizing the lumpen. This is a critical question if we are to apply our theoretical understanding of this class to the anti-imperialist movement in a practical way. We aren't looking to just write essays to expand our brains; we focus on political theory in order to inform revolutionary practice. - ULK Editor]

USW comrades have been discussing money and material trappings as being synonymous with respect and dignity in lumpen organization youth. The struggle for money, like the dope game, for example, can be less a status seeking activity, and more of the people just exercising their survival rights. Comrades made sure to differentiate between money/survival and material trapping (i.e. gold chains, cars, rims, etc.). Amerikkkanism and consumerism promote hardcore parasitism in lumpen youth, causing extreme alienation and fetishization of money.

Today's youth show the same apathy, indifference and nihilism as the youth of 1955. It was the civil rights movement that awoke the youth of that era. Comrades struggled over what today can take the place of the civil rights movement. War, environment and imperialist expansion were three good starting points to organize around. We lumpen youth have more stake in the future environment and it is us who fight the wars. It helps to understand that those starving to death and suffering/dying from preventable diseases are our people. We must fulfill our destiny or betray it. All this nitpicking and betrayal between sets/sides contributes to humankind suffering. We must overcome this flaw.

The principal enemy we must defeat is the glamorization of gangsterism. A revolutionary or a gangster? What are we? Can the two coexist in a persyn and still be progressive? Gangsterism plants fear by oppression, and revolutionaries are in struggle against oppression. This internecine violence we perpetrate between sets is what the pigs want us to do. They sold us this shit in Scarface and we've built on to it and made it our own. Overcoming the glamorization of gangsterism will take proletarian morality, conscious rap, exposing the downsides and ills of gangsterism, the glamorization of revolution, revolutionary culture, and possibly to redefine the word gangsta. Gangsters are parasites and revolutionaries are humankind's hope. It's as simple as that. We need to leave the lumpen mentality for a proletarian one. Many true revolutionaries were once gangsters. Gangsterism is a stage, basically.

Self-respect, self-defense and self-determination define transitional qualities of a revolutionary. Bunchy Carter, Mutulu Shakur and Tupac all transcended the hood and grew into progressives. What we are seeking as USW is opening up the spaces for gangsters of all walks of life to enter the realm of anti-imperialism and begin a transformation of mind, actions and habits to develop into the model of a revolutionary gangsta with the capability of forwarding the cause of the people. We must understand our potential. It is us, we reading these ULKs, that hold imperialism in our fists. A real gangsta is one who has gone revolutionary and has kicked off all the strings of social control - mental illness, drugs, fantasy, despair, escapism, etc.

Mainstream gangsta rap is the enemy of our people and the struggle. We have to create more revolutionary music, art and literature. Fergie, Fifty, Eminem, Kanye, all push watered down, flimsy lyrics. Mainstream rap is psychological warfare and just as harmful as crack or heroin. Imperialism allows the urban drug trade just like it allows Eminem. It keeps us down. It is a form of genocide and wholly harmful to the revolutionary struggle. The only positive we even entertained in the discussion is that drugs and pop culture rap are a form of rebellion that begins a revolutionary on the path of revolution. The benefits to imperialism outweigh the negatives and the opposite is true for the lumpen. Drugs have us punked, dig?

Raw fear and discouragement are the pistols on the hips of the oppressor. To be demonized as a terrorist, have mail messed with, loss of good time, pig abuses, all contribute to lumpen becoming despondent and not standing up for their rights. People have a responsibility to act and fight for the type of society that they want to live in, or they really have no right to complain about oppression. We face pepper spray, tazers, isolation and a bullet in the back face down. The Nazis used the infamous concentration camps to instill fear. And the united snakes has the largest prison system in the world for the very same reason: social control and intimidation. Meth, cocaine and psychotropics act as targets for the raw fear pistol. Increasing it. Making it more deadly. To be uneducated or out of shape physically assures a mortal wound when the bullets fly. We must outsmart and out stick and move. Knowing 1500 children starve to death per hour, and the fact that 3.5 billion people survive on less than $2 per day, you suit yourself in bullet proof kevlar. What's a lost letter and a few extra years in prison without good time compared to that?

Nothing comes to a sleeper but a dream. Only through aggressive challenge and exposure of the life-threatening contradictions of upholding the present status quo will we awaken and overcome. Passivity cowers before the eyes of the slave master. We must educate the people into the understanding that raw fear will remain so long as the imperialist system is in existence. It is us, comrades, built exclusively for its utter destruction. This is a call from USW to unite and rise up, in struggle.


Related Articles:
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[Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs]
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Building Unity Among the Lumpen

Prison organizations today have the tendency to bang on other orgs more than they do on the pigs, Corrections Officers (COs) and the system. Raw fear is so deep in us and we've placed the oppressors on such a pedestal, thinking the pigs are "godly," invincible and "in-the-right," that we've become stuck. Shaking in our boots or peeking out the blinds shuddering. The pigs want us believing we are degenerates or mentally ill rejects and to trust boldly that the pigs are only trying to help us. One comrade voiced concern over seeing ruthlessness so deep between lumpen orgs in his gulag that captives cheer suicides and mental breakdowns in fellow captives but want to know how "snouty sir's" vacation went. It's a sad situation.

"Earning stripes" and "putting it down for the cause" is telling when it is fellow captives being lifeflighted and body-bagged as the man with the keys giggles. Putting it down for whom? MIM(Prisons) and USW don't promote violence. But there are lesser and higher levels of incorrectness when the man pushes us in the corner in the use of self-defense. Viciousness and brutality against our own is unforgivable. Period.

Watered-down versions of the various struggles that came before are served up steaming before our hungry, bloodshot eyes. Organizing our people to realize our destiny takes theory and analysis of past and present conditions. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the meat we must partake of. Throw that watered down soup kitchen fare into snouty's face. The actual methods on how to organize and take control of our destiny is what's for dinner, comrades. Educating, agitating, theorizing, study groups, unity and books challenge bullshit and backward ideas. Knowledge of history and our present reality is what we lack. We must recoup from the losses we've experienced after all these years. Muscle has memory, believe that! We are only doomed to that failure if we remain asleep. Will we?

Independent nationhood isn't in the forefront of most lumpen minds when Seinfield sitcoms and chick-o-sticks occupy our perception. Progressives of all stripes must rip the amerikkkan flags out of our faces and walk over the motherfucker. Parasites In Gangsters clothing, CIA. Sheep infiltrating LOs mainstream gangster rap or pig induced crap? Occupy wall street or spitting on Third World's feet? Stand in our fork in the road. We are at the historical juncture where the hustling game [dope, pimpin etc.] as our only "come up" must be shot to shit as the game plan. The dope game's insanity. There is a more practical revolutionary way to control our destinies and obtain independence. Getting ourselves out the imperialist crosshairs must be our goal. Not protecting street corners and crack, meth or herb market shares. Just look at the Mexican cartels doing it big time as their people in the base areas remain hungry, shoeless and without basic necessities. The sad aspect is we leave our families in the same boat. We must overcome this.

We must remember, though, that the oppressor will always let one or two big shots come up. Some cartels' base areas in Mexico do gain better living conditions to pacify unrest and garner support from the people. Is drug dealing, guns and stickups too entrenched in the lumpen's economic life that survival, even survival at such low levels, would be impossible without them? This is the ideological crossroads we stand at.

What is preventing oppressed nation people from coming together and bucking this system? If the drug trade doesn't act as a sleeping gas, in that we benefit from it, but as a poison which hurts us, then why do we continue in it? Drug culture and popular culture seem to contribute to this deviation. The use and sale of drugs is addictive. But so is the culture that comes with it. The street/dope world envelops an individual in non-political thinking. Like a cancer, few survive. Some do manage to feed their children and make ends meet slanging but only so long. And at a high price (prison, death, addicted sons and daughters, brain damage, disease etc.).

The media mind washes us into believing the oppressor pigs are "all mighty" and McDonald's workers are slow and slimy. This puts us in the trap of spending our whole lives trying to prove to each other we aren't slow and slimy. But why don't we prove this to the oppressor? Consumerism, amerikkkanism and patriotism stand toe to toe with mass revolutionary politics. And we ain't getting nowhere until the referee drags out the bleeding corpse of "grams, hundreds and eight balls" lying at our feet. Drug culture down. Revolutionary culture up. Drug culture is used as a sort of net to catch rebels before they truly do turn revolutionary. And by the time the drugs spit us out on the cement floor of a solitary cell, collapsed vein and hollow brain, psychotropic culture steps in with a great big smile. Know your enemy.

Most people in the U.$. have an idealistic philosophical view of socioeconomic and political structure so that they support reformist political movements before they do revolutionary movements. Spending time voting for the richest man or writing your governor are almost laughable when one discerns 98% of amerikkka is enemy. Class consciousness in the labor aristocracy and bourgeoisie is high while in the lumpen it is low. Privileges, false-consciousness and "the amerikkkan dream" got us hook, line and sinker chasing the carrot. The pigs, the imperialists, keep us out of legal employment with the opportunity of upward mobility being impossible. So we chase the illusion of the amerikkkan dream in the drug game. To chase ideals taught in elementary and high school right into our caskets. It is this juvenile ass scenario preventing our peoples from unity and throwing off this system like a bad habit.

When the drug trade ceases, and excuses for policing and imprisonment have no grounds to stand on, the government would have to backpedal the drug war into their garage. Most of us don't realize that the more violence we contribute to, in and out of prison, the more excuses for SHUs and SWAT team type scenarios pop up. Can you imagine the power in directing the crack fiend's intelligence, cunning and commitment into politics?! Imperialism fears such scenarios. This is why they keep the drug trade on and popping. Prison guards, street cops, prison administrators, food-telephone-parole-commisary, etc., services would be jobless if we put down the pipe, the drug war's an illusion and smokescreen hiding the wizard of oz behind its fancy tapestry.

Mexican cartels make billions off the drug trade. This money they funnel into amerikkkan banks. The $20 dope fiend gets one to fifteen yeas as the 2 billion dollar dealers get free checking. The sad part in all this is the money in these banks, made from Latino cartels, goes to oppose revolutions in Nicaragua, Paraguay, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. The more Third World countries Amerikkka has under its thumb the more goods oppressor nation labor aristocrats can siphon. Third World countries like Mexico act as prime markets for amerikkkan products and prime hot spots for factories that employ oppressed wimmin and children on 60 times less money than amerikkkans make.

These Mexican cartels are not the principal enemy. But even though they are fighting against the oppressed nations' interest worldwide, they are still oppressed nation national bourgeois and minority compradors. We take Mao's example in China when he united with Chaing Kai Shek, an oppressor, to defeat Japanese imperialism, the bigger oppressor. Mao's tactic worked. We must employ such means, when necessary, if we want to succeed in bringing imperialism to its knees. One divides into two and some of these cartels will side with revolution and some with imperialism. To label all as enemy would in effect shoot ourselves in the feet. Some of the money cartels make goes to the revolution, here and abroad, that's almost assured. So the drug trade is internationalist in some of its practice. We must avoid the trap of big nation chauvinism and see that 80% of the world is Third World.

Most lumpen orgs will not transform into revolutionary orgs as long as they can benefit materially from working in cahoots with the imperialists, i.e. pushing dope and other hustles. Most youth these days haven't even heard of their set's infancy. Lumpen orgs were originally created to fight oppression in the hood. But the pigs infiltrated these orgs and turned them into oppressive groups. Like a vampire. What better way for a vampire oppressor to sleep easy than making sure everyone from sea to shining sea are themselves vampire oppressors!? Just lock up behind razor wire those whose necks they can get at and it's sweet dreams for dracula.

Today's youth's mission is realizing protracted struggle is necessary in smashing oppression. We must understand that a concerted effort, that may take many years, is ahead of us. But it's also winnable. China and Russia succeeded in defeating backwards systems. We can too. Most comrades get discouraged after so many years of struggling. To struggle isn't easy but it's capable of giving extreme satisfaction when one looks back at the progression one accomplishes over the years. WE have been misled and under-educated by design. All in an effort at halting our progression and the resolution of the imperialist contradiction. Our Humanity has been stolen. We have no empathy for war or starvation. How sick is that?

Back in the day Jim Crow laws made people rise up against oppression. Then it fizzled out until the Vietnam War made people revolt. Nowadays mass incarceration, the new Jim Crow, and Afghanistan are our hot spots of agitation. But the sad part is most lumpen embrace prison and war. Most of us believe we belong in chains and the Middle East is full of "terrorists." It's a mind wash. It is amerikkka who is terrorist. And the Middle East are our people. We know deep down that shit's not right. One comrade in the study group spoke about the suicide rate, and even his very own suicidal tendencies before politics, as being exponential. USW wants to begin to show how change is possible. We will attempt to provide the roadmap but it is on you to start your cars. Let's discover our humanity and start questioning things around us. War and starvation are a preventable. Let us challenge each other to grow and create a better way for ourselves and the future.

Mainstream hip hop and drugs are killing us. Oppressed nation lumpen eat that shit up like rat poison. "The amerikan dream" a.k.a. "rat poison." If the amerikkkan dream is to starve and create war so I can have an x-box and cheap gasoline it's not worth it. Not to USW. You? Dirtying the names of groups like the Black Panther Party, MIM(Prisons) and USW is a tactic used to revise history and throw a wrench in the revolution. People seem to either embrace us or spit on us, and from what we've experienced there's seldom middle ground. But it says more about the spitter than anything else. We must learn to uphold the standards we promote and avoid straddling the fence or deviating from issues. Practice is principal. Is our work focused on anti-community or pro-community work? The people will recognize which pole we are on, that's assured. We must rest easy in the knowledge that the pigs' truth ain't ours. There is no truth in common between the oppressor and the oppressed. Because the aims, efforts and goals we push are seen as a threat to their wealth and leisure time privileges. USW looks up to the Panther legacy for these reasons above, and many others. We invite thorough study of the rich revolutionary heritage of our forebearers with the black berets. Power to all oppressed people.

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[Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [Roxburry Correctional Institution] [Maryland] [ULK Issue 53]
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ULK is a Wake Up Call

Today I read ULK 50 and I must say you've piqued my interest. I am part of an organization that has come to be viewed as a gang by society in its own right. Meaning the majority of us conduct ourselves as such. We are said to be forged out of concepts of the Black Panther Party, Black Liberation Army, and Black Vanguards (a movement within the prison system headed by George Jackson). Many of us, including myself, were turned on to this way of life under the impression that we will liberate our communities from drugs, end black-on-black violence, stop the prison cycle, create economic stability, promote a political consciousness, establish a strong unity, etc. But on a daily basis we do the opposite. The attempt to change our criminal mindset to a revolutionary mindset has failed expeditiously here in Maryland. I'm from Baltimore City where there is little or no unity at all amongst any of the organizations or gangs that will be the forefront of the fight!

I often find it hard to change one's comfort zone. Here, if a man is comfortable in his everyday life, my trying to change his/her way of living will be looked at as a threat. No matter if I'm right or not.

I'm currently being housed at Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, Maryland. Since I've been locked up I've been in senseless fights, and involved in meaningless disruptions. Our biggest problem here is drug use! I'm not a drug user but I often assist those who do. Many of us use the profits to take care of our loved ones on the street, or ourselves in here. The police know these things because, how do you think it gets here. I don't knock anybody's hustle. But I recognize how it gets us off our true purpose, which is freedom.

In population there are only 4 phones on the tier. These 4 phones are dictated by those with influence in general population. We subject ourselves to more oppression than does the oppressor himself. I'm looking for ways to begin to change my environment. I'm on lockup right now and reading ULK has given me a wake up call on who I should truly be. As of right now I have about 4 more years until I'm released. With that said I would ask that MIM(Prisions) begin to educate me on what it truly means to be a revolutionary by first sending me basic Maoist, Marxist, and Leninist literature.

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[Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [Aztlan/Chicano] [Control Units] [California] [ULK Issue 50]
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Chicano Power Book Tainted by AEH Statement

I received my copy of the book that you sent entitled [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. I found it quite interesting because of its historical reflections, but it also produced a storm of negative thoughts to disrupt my normal tranquility and this is why. In regards to inclusion of the Agreement to End Hostilities in the [email protected] Power book, for the most part those individuals who reside on a Special Needs Yard (SNY) are not the enemy, but merely opponents with opposite points of view and I believe that to disrespect us merely because we refuse to conform to the ideology of those who believe themselves to be demigods is to go against the five principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. Because not everybody on an SNY are snitches who work for the pigs. Contrary to the propaganda that is preached not everyone has gone through the debriefing process. To be real it's only about 10% who actually had to debrief because they were validated.

I don't understand why you would choose to destroy such an educational book with the propaganda that has been professed to be against "the establishment", but has utilized the worn out but effective tactic of divide and conquer for all these years. If they have learned anything from the treatment that they've been subjected to, for all those years, I would think that they would have learned that when you've got your hands full, that the only way that you will be able to grab on to anything new, is to let go of the past.


Ehecatl responds:

Struggle to Unite!

All unity with no struggle is the hallmark of opportunism which leads even those claiming to fight for the oppressed to take up the mantle of oppression as they continuously gloss over contradictions within the broader movement for democratic rights. This is why we must not only unite in order to struggle, but struggle to unite, as only then will the struggle for democratic rights behind prison walls develop to the point that the old prison movement fades away and enters a new stage in its development. This will be the stage in the prison movement in which the prisoner masses finally realize that their oppression is unresolvable under the current system. This will be the stage of the prison movement in which prisoners will give up their illusions of the current system. This will be the revolutionary stage in which millions of prisoners will demand national liberation for the nations oppressed under imperialism.

As dialectical materialists, Maoists are aware that all phenomena develop within the process of stages. The prison movement is no exception. The prison movement is currently in its early, embryonic stage and not yet pregnant with revolution. The Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH) and the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective (PBSCC) are still a long way from advocating for the revolutionary nationalist stage of the prison movement. More importantly neither the objective conditions nor the subjective forces of the revolution have been sufficiently prepared for the prison movement to have entered this stage. This is not so much a judgment of the PBSCC as it is a statement of facts. However, as stated earlier, unity without struggle is the hallmark of opportunism and while we support the AEH, because we recognize and uphold the progressive nature of that document in our present stage, this should in no way mean that we won't criticize where it fails to represent the true interest of the prisoner masses. Before going into this topic further however, some background on the [email protected] Power book is needed in order to clarify any misconceptions people have have about who was behind the book project.

To be clear, [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán was a collaborative effort between revolutionary nationalists from the [email protected] nation and MIM(Prisons). It was written primarily for the imprisoned [email protected] masses in an attempt to not only educate [email protected] on our hystory, but our reality. It was an attempt to produce a comprehensive but concise work that fuses [email protected] liberation with Maoist ideology. The authors of the AEH did not take part in the production of this book. In addition, both [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán and the AEH were mutually exclusive projects carried out by two mutually exclusive groups around roughly the same period. This point is extremely important to grasp because of the scope and significance of these projects, as well as their correlation, because it speaks to the leaps in consciousness amongst both these groups. This goes to show that the revolutionary current has once again begun to surge in both the lumpen class in general and the [email protected] lumpen in particular. Both the AEH and [email protected] Power represent positive steps in the right direction.

So, while we most certainly believe that there is much room for improvement in the AEH and have said so since day one, we also believe in such a thing as United Front organizing. United Front organizing involves the unification of various groups, organizations and individuals around a common program capable of bringing together as many progressive forces in order to defeat the common, stronger enemy. The result is an alliance which, while not always easy or without difficulties, gets the job done. Therefore, what is required during this particular stage of struggle is strategic and not ideological unity. To make ideological unity a pre-requisite for U.F. organizing will undoubtedly amount to defeat after defeat for the prison movement because not everyone is at the same place politically, or of the same mind. Some people participating in the AEH are New Afrikan revolutionaries, some are for Aztlán liberation, while more are still stuck in old gang mentality; Norteño, Sureño, Blood, Crip. Some are even SNY! And while there are many things that these groups don't have in common there is still one thing that binds them together — their common oppression at the hands of a common enemy.

More to the point, our decision to take part in this United Front comes from the Maoist conception of the principal contradiction. The principal contradiction is the highest, most influential contradiction whose existence and development determines the existence and development of other contradictions. Therefore, it is imperative that all California lumpen organizations and individuals unite and uphold the correct aspects of the AEH, all the while building newer, stronger and more correct foundations based upon the revolutionary aspects of the AEH while rejecting its reactionary aspects. Doing this will ensure that the progressive nature of the document will continue to push the movement forward, lest it retrogress, stagnate and die.

The growing phenomenon of Sensitive Needs Yards in California prisons is itself a manifestation of the principal contradiction within the prison movement; and the principal contradiction is itself dialectically related to the dismantling of the old prison movement and the temporary demise of national liberation struggles within U.$. borders. Many have forgotten that it was the revolutionary impetus of groups like the Black Panther Party, the Brown Berets and many others that originally sparked the revolutionary fire within California prisons nearly 50 years ago. And just as the creation of the SNY was dialectically related to the contradictions within the old prison movement, so should the contradictions that led to the need for SNYs be resolved with the success of the new prison movement. If the new prison movement is to live up to its full potential it is essential that the prison masses learn from the mistakes of the past. This requires that the revolutionary masses behind prison walls begin organizing in opposition to the status quo, as only then will the prison movement truly become a movement of the masses and not one of individuals. This requires that the revolutionary masses begin taking the initiative in revolutionary organizing and that the leadership sponsor and provide safe avenues for the prison masses to organize. If the PBSCC is sincere in its fervor then the masses will see this and work hard for the struggle. Likewise, if the PBSCC and other prison leaders are not sincere in their fervor, then the prison masses will also see this.(1)

The present principal contradiction within the prison movement was identified by United Struggle from Within (USW) and MIM(Prisons) comrades as the parasitic/individualist versus self-sufficient/collective material interests of prisoners. Within this contradiction it is the parasitic/individualist aspect that is currently dominant, although the self-sufficient/collective material interest aspect, while currently subordinated, has been steadily gaining prominence. How this contradiction will turn out is wholly dependent on how the prison movement continues to develop. Will it continue to move forward or will it retrogress?

It is true that the AEH does not conform to the United Front for Peace in Prisons. Furthermore, if one reads this document carefully ey will note that the first point clearly states that they are only interested in bringing about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR system in a manner beneficial to all "solid" individuals, who have never been "broken" by "CDCR's torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing..." Indeed, if the PBSCC is being honest then they should acknowledge that it is the powerful lumpen chiefs who bear the brunt of the responsibility in pushing prisoners into becoming state informants in the first place, and not CDCR. [We can look to examples like the siege of Wounded Knee when the FBI and military terrorized and interrogated the whole Oglala Sioux population and no one gave up information to the pigs. - MIM(Prisons)] Admittedly enough, the principal writers who have been contributing to Under Lock & Key since this document came out should be blamed for not practicing one divides into two politics (myself included). If the writers regularly featured in Under Lock & Key and the MIM(Prison) website are supposed to be representing the proletarian pole then it's time we begin pushing the leaders of the PBSCC and their supporters in a more revolutionary direction. If the PBSCC is serious about lessening oppression behind prison walls then they should recognize that they will need the help of SNY prisoners who make up over 30% of the CDCR prison population.(2)

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