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.
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.
[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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
by a California prisoner March 2016 permalink[In January 2016, MIM(Prisons) received a report from a comrade in Kern Valley State Prison stating that the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH) had been broken there. The incident included an attack by one group, and retaliation by another group against others not necessarily involved in the original attack. The original attackers reportedly ran to the state for protection. The prospects for peaceful resolution were not great. In response to this report, a comrade now working as part of the Free Speech Society sent us this update on efforts to reconcile the conflict in line with the AEH.]
All power to the people who do not fear real freedom!!!
In the aftermath of two small-scale race-based "isolated" incidents that occurred on B-facility in January of 2016 at Kern Valley State Prison, the Free Speech Society was able to successfully initiate a conflict resolution committee as a part of the inmate advisory council (IAC) that has been established at this prison.
The conflict resolution committee ensures the de-escalation of potential conflicts between various groups/formations on B-facility. As it constitutes a body of like-minded individuals that is both representative of the totality of the various groups/formations on B-facility, but also capable of resolving potential or actual conflicts in a responsible, positive, and expeditious fashion. In the past, Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) administrators, which is inclusive of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) headquarters in Sacramento, California have made errors in one form or another, by failing to ensure the engagement of the primary stakeholders that are representative of those groups/formations actually engaged in a conflict, nor has there been a body of "like-minded" individuals specifically tasked with resolving potential conflicts before they mature into actual hostile-based conflicts, whereby unnecessary disturbances become manifest, which jeopardize the safety and security of both prisoners and staff.
Per Departmental Operations Manual (DOM) 53120.5.3 (viz. "Special Concern Sub-Committee") the KVSP B-facility Men's Advisory Council will enact the Conflict Resolution Committee (CRC). The CRC is convened for the sole purpose of resolving potential and actual conflicts on B-facility whenever and wherever they occur, and effectively articulating these resolutions to the entire prisoner population, with special attention given to the groups/formations in conjunction with the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH).
Because appropriate representation is essential to the resolution of conflicts in an effective and responsible manner, the composition of the CRC will reflect prisoner representation from each specific group/formation who will in turn be responsible for engaging and positively resolving any subdivisions in these groups.
A basic outline of the CRC representative body will consist of a representative from each of the following groups/formations:
Bay area Blacks
Because of the sensitive nature of this special concern sub-committee, the CRC must have access to the units on B-facility, per approval of the facility captain. The daily activities of the CRC are designed to increase dialogue across cultural lines of every formation/group to promote a stronger foundation upon which issues can be put forward and resolved in a constructive manner. Communication and timing are essential components to preventing conflicts before they mature into hostile-based conflict. Therefore, CRC members must be able to talk to who they need to, when they need to. Our objective is to be proactive in resolving potential and/or actual conflicts within the general population. All prisoners are encouraged to relay any and all potential conflicts to the CRC so they can be resolved in an expeditious manner. The function and activities of this committee shall be to ensure equal and effective representation of the entire general population in the resolution of potential and actual conflicts on B-facility. The entire CRC body will abide by the by-laws of the Inmate Advisory Council (IAC).
MIM(Prisons) responds: What started as a report on the breaking of the AEH at one of the largest California state prisons, has been turned around to a testament of the practical work of the AEH. The release of comrades from SHU is at play here in ensuring that the AEH is upheld by the prison masses in a way that addresses the needs of the masses.
In short order, comrades at KVSP have put to work the tools at hand to address the contradictions among the people there in a practical way. This is an example that should be followed and repeated throughout the state and the country. All that said, in the long run we must caution against depending on institutions of the state to meet the needs of the oppressed. Conflict is not the natural state of the oppressed, it is created. And the history of CDCR is one of utilizing, encouraging and even creating divisions among the prison masses for its own interests.
When the Short Corridor Collective asked the CDCR to distribute the statement calling for an Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH), that was a correct tactical approach to working with the state. When the CDCR refused, it still strengthened the cause of peace and unity among the oppressed. In a recent essay a USW comrade lays out the history and current reality of the MAC/IACs in California prisons.(1) While their formation was based in the strength of the prison movement, they have since been used to undermine the movement, as the comrade argues, as a sort of neo-colonial force akin to U.$. foreign policy abroad. Meanwhile, another comrade in Pelican Bay who has been struggling to build peace reports that attempts to work within the MAC and within an approved Inmate Leisure Time Activity Group have both resulted in increased harrassment by staff who see unity as a threat.
Again, we commend the comrades at KVSP who have utilized the tools available to them to address a very dangerous situation, and we offer our support in those continued efforts. But we recommend that all those attempting to build peace in prisons study the 5 principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. Independence is one of those principles, because without independence the masses do not have the ability to make decisions for themselves and provide real solutions.
i grew up in the ghetto. The area in which i was raised isn't that much different than any other ghetto, barrio or First Nation reservation in this country. The youth in my 'hood saw the hustler's, players, gangstas and dope pushers as role models. Why? In simple terms, they were feeding the people. They were providing people with a way out of poverty, misery and suffering that was all around them.
Although from a scientific and political perspective, these people would be called social parasites and predators on their own people, one rule of humynity was in full effect — survival. Dialectically speaking, they were also the reason why many people were addicted to drugs, wimmin/boys selling their bodies, etc.
But we were born into this society, its system and culture. We didn't make it the way it is. The conditions of abject poverty, drug/alcohol addiction, prostitution, etc, were already here before we got here. So it is the cyst'm (system), the social, political, economic and cultural institutions that are controlled by this government and the people who really profit from our misery who are at fault for the problems that we see in our society.
The system of political economy that we and most people in the world today live under is called capitalism/imperialism. Malcolm X once stated, "you can't operate a capitalist system unless you are vulturistic; you have to have someone else's blood to suck to be a capitalist. You show me a capitalist and I'll show you a bloodsucker."
I want to quote extensively for a minute some things from the Draft Chapter of the Lumpen Handbook that MIM(Prisons), BORO, USW and some other groups are working on as part of a larger project.
"Power is the ability to define a phenomenon and make it act in a desired manner." - Huey P. Newton
"Marxist socialism is based in the idea that humyns, as a group, can take charge of the natural and economic laws that determine their ability to meet their material needs. Taking charge does not mean that they can decide these laws, but that they can utilize them. In doing so they develop a scientific understanding of the world around them.
"Under capitalism, the anarchy of production is the general rule. This is because capitalists only concern themselves with profit, while production and consumption of humyn needs is at the whim of the economic laws of capitalism. As a result people starve, wars are fought and the environment is degraded in ways that make humyn life more difficult or even impossible. Another result is that whole groups of people are excluded from the production system. Whereas in the past anyone could go out and produce the basic food and shelter that they needed to survive, capitalism is unique in keeping large groups of people from doing so.
"In the industrialized countries like the United States, the culture and structure of society has eliminated opportunities and knowledge to be self-sufficient as people were in the past. Production is done socially instead. Simplistically this might look like: one company produces bread, another produces shoes, and everyone working for each company gets paid and uses their pay to buy things from the other companies. Everyone gets what they need by being a productive member of the larger society.
"The problem is that there are not enough jobs. At first this might seem like a good thing; we are so advanced that we can get all the work done for the whole group with only a portion of us having to work. But under capitalism, not working means you do not get a share of the collective product. So when whole groups are not able to get jobs, they must find other ways of getting the goods that they need to survive. And we all know various ways that people do this.
"Some argue that the problem isn't too few jobs, the problem is too many people. But anyone can look around and see that there are enough incomplete tasks to keep humyns busy (repairing roads, providing medical care, maintenance of public space, etc.). There could be jobs for everyone, if we could get paid to do them. This is one of the inherent flaws in capitalism: humyns are only paid for tasks that create or actualize wealth and profit.
"So first capitalism has separated people from their need to provide everything for themselves. In doing so they alienate the worker from eir product, because it becomes the property of the capitalist. But those without jobs are also alienated from the whole production process. People often turn to the illegal service economy of selling drugs or sexual favors, or robbing and fencing stolen goods. Many also turn to the state for social services to get a distribution of the social product, without participating in production.
"All of these solutions are even more alienating than working for the capitalists. Being a shoemaker or a baker are productive tasks that people can find pleasure in, even if they do not have a say in how the product of their labor is then distributed. No one wants to poison their community, deal with the threat of violence every day, sell their body, steal from people or even take handouts without being able to participate in producing. All of these endeavors require the individual to justify actions that they know are wrong, to dehumanize other people and themselves, and to just live under a lot of stress.
"These activities, and the justifications that come with them, contribute to what then becomes the consciousness of this group of people excluded from the economy. Marx wrote about the alienation of the proletariat resulting from them not having a say in how the product of their labor is utilized. But there is a deeper level of alienation among the lumpen in that they must alienate themselves from other humyn beings, even those who are in similar situations to themselves. Capitalism promotes a dog-eat-dog mentality for all people because we are encouraged to look out for ourselves and not trust others. But this is most pronounced for the lumpen, who are in turn demonized for their disregard for other people.
"The demonization that the lumpen faces by the rest of society is one reason that none of these endeavors have futures. You can't sell dope forever. You certainly can't be a prostitute forever. Robbing and scamming is dangerous to say the least. And there are strong policies today to keep people form being on public assistance for too long unless one is disabled or elderly. So there is a strong interest among the lumpen class to choose another path, one that addresses the alienation and lack of control they have over their lives, including a limited ability to meet their needs.
"The Marxist solution to the anarchy of production provided a way out of this by overthrowing the bourgeoisie in power, and replacing them with rule by those who have nothing, and an economic system structured on public ownership and meeting humyn needs. Rather than letting the market determine production and consumption, the people themselves would decide what to produce, how much, what techniques to use and how to distribute the product.
"This was immediately seen as a threat by the bourgeoisie, who developed two possible alternatives to the Marxist solution that would allow them to remain in power and to keep exploiting the masses of the world. Similar to socialism, both alternatives required humyns to do more to consciously determine the economy they live in. The first was Keynesian economics, which is essentially a large-scale effort to tweak the capitalist economic system when it gets out of whack. The second was fascism, which was the openly terroristic dictatorship by finance capitalists, where the ideas of bourgeois democracy and free market economics were pushed out of the way. Neither addresses the inherent contradictions in the capitalist production system identified by Marx. This book is part of developing the analysis behind our solution to the problems of capitalism — the communist solution.
"The communist solution involves the organizing of the oppressed to carry out the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. A key element of revolutionary organizing is identifying who are our friends and who are our enemies. At a general level this must be about objective interests of groups of people. When Marx conducted an analysis of classes, fundamentally he was identifying the classes with an interest in the existing unequal structure (slavery, feudalism or capitalism) and those with an interest in overthrowing the unequal structure."(1)
I said all of this to say that those of us at the bottom are victims of a viscous system that must be overturned. We are not alone in this in that 50% of the world's people are living on $2 a day or less, and 80% of the world's people own only 5% of the world's wealth. In fact, it is those brothers and sisters in the Third World whom we must give more support to because it is they who are suffering the most at this time.
Capitalism/imperialism is a system and culture that produces junkies, whores, dope pushers and social predators of all sorts. Without the necessary tools for survival, people are pushed into lives that they would not normally choose for themselves.
The trick that they're playin' on us is that we're somehow responsible for all of the bullshit that goes down in society. Your choices were not wholly yours no matter what you think because you were never given the full context of the information and knowledge to otherwise be in control of your own destiny. And only a criminal can come up with complex "criminal codes" (laws) to socially control millions of people by force of arms — police, armies, courts.
Did you know that the United $tates locks up more people for drug crimes than the European Union does for all crimes and the European Union has 200 million more people? This shit ain't by accident, coincidence or happenstance! It is by design and plan!!
The solution to these problems can be found in a concrete analysis of concrete conditions. While we may not have created the fucked-up conditions, we are dedicating ourselves to solving them. This piece is meant to spark conversation around these issues and more. For anyone with any questions or who'd like to polemicize with regard to what is offered here or other pressing social or political issues, write to MIM(Prisons), PO Box 40799, San Francisco, CA 94140 and we'll get back at you at our earliest convenience. MIM(Prisons) also offers free books to prisoners and runs several study groups. Write to them if these things are of interest to you.
You are now responsible, because you know better. You an either be part of the problem or part of the solution. Be a catalyst for progressive development in your community.
by ULK Writers Study Group January 2016 permalinkMIM(Prisons) upholds nation as the principal contradiction in the United $tates at this time. In that contradiction we see the oppressed nations as the primary motive force for change. And within the oppressed nations in the United $tates we see the lumpen class as the greatest vehicle for revolution. In exploring this last point, we are interested in studying class contradictions and especially the class make-up and loyalties of the oppressed internal semi-colonies. In addition, in our prisoner support work we come across lumpen organizations that do not fall within a certain national alignment, leaving class as the common demoninator of those organizations.
This essay was written for the book on the lumpen class that MIM(Prisons) has been working on for a few years. We took a break to focus on putting out [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, and now that that book is published and distributed we are refocusing on our analysis of the lumpen class in the United $tates. We have already completed a draft of a chapter of the book, based on our economic research about the size and composition of the lumpen class. We are distributing this draft chapter as a pamphlet for feedback.
While analyzing economic statistics is a vital part of understanding the lumpen class, the next step is understanding how to influence the class, and hence the class consciousness.
We are publishing this essay in Under Lock & Key to spark discussion and ask for feedback. We want to know how you've seen individuals and groups develop lumpen class consciousness. We are especially interested in how lumpen organizations (parasitic or proletarian-minded) develop class consciousness amongst their membership. How does that class consciousness overlap, interact or even conflict with national consciousness? Please send your reports to Under Lock & Key so we can all learn and grow from your practice!
What is class consciousness?
Simply stated, consciousness is being aware and knowing what it is you are observing. When you eat you may be conscious of the chewing and swallowing. Many people eat without being aware of the act of eating – this is parallel to most people acting in a class's interests without being conscious of doing so; they just do what is good for them at the time. Consciousness of chewing does not automatically come with eating, and neither does consciousness of class position automatically come with belonging to a particular class.
The Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM) defines class consciousness as "The understanding by members of particular classes that they represent a certain class, that their class interests may intersect or oppose those of other classes, and of their agency when collectively organized for class struggle. Typically, class consciousness is used to describe the most broad, clearest perspective of either the proletariat, the bourgeoisie or their sub-classes."
Why do we study class consciousness among the lumpen?
We study class consciousness in an effort to shape the lumpen into an alliance with the international proletariat. Without class consciousness, the lumpen act in ways which strengthen the position of the bourgeoisie: by upholding bourgeois cultural propaganda (e.g. radio rap), participating in self-destruction of oppressed nations (e.g. by selling drugs or fomenting gang divisions), allying with Amerikkkans against the international proletariat for "patriotic" reasons, and the list goes on.
National oppression already leaves a persisting impression upon the consciousness of the lumpen of oppressed nations. All of the features of lumpen existence in the United $tates – police brutality, urban decay, limited job and education opportunities, mass incarceration, etc. – are features of national oppression. The elements of national oppression that lead the lumpen to the prison doors in the first place are then exaggerated once behind the razor wire. We would be in error to not appreciate that the lumpen has some intuitive grasp of their place in U.$. society. On some level people of the lumpen class realize they are disadvantaged.
Karl Marx said in 1847:
"Economic conditions had first transformed the mass of the people of the country into workers. The combination of capital has created for this mass a common situation, common interests. This mass is thus already a class as against capital, but not yet for itself. In the struggle, of which we have noted only a few phases, this mass becomes united, and constitutes itself as a class for itself. The interests it defends become class interests. But the struggle of class against class is a political struggle."(1)
In order for a lasting development to be realized in the lumpen, we need to do as Marx said and become a class "for itself" rather than a class blindly working for the bourgeoisie. Our work presently is in studying the contradictions today in our neighborhoods and cellblocks, and employing dialectical materialism to create short-range programs in order to push the people in the prisons, barrios, hoods and reservations forward to reach our long-term goals. We need cadre organizations, liberation schools, youth brigades and our own press. We need to develop alternative forms of power which rely on the people's independence outside of imperialism's sphere of influence. Time has proven that imperialism and the basic exploitative character of capitalism cannot be reformed nor can it be made to serve the interests of the people. It can only continue to engender war, poverty and untold strife at the expense of those neatly tucked away in the periphery.
In search of a better way, and in rejection of the comforts of imperialism and its blood money, we must choose which side of the struggle we are truly on. At any particular time lumpen, like all people, are either acting in the interests of the international proletariat or in the interests of imperialism. Most lumpen have no apparent probability of status advancement, so allying with the international proletariat is in the lumpen's class interests. But if socioeconomic factors were to change and the lumpen now see opportunity for status advancement, then being allied with the international proletariat becomes class suicide.
One socioeconomic factor to take into account is the national question, which is directly related to national oppression and not necessarily economic status. For instance, there are New Afrikan and [email protected] labor aristocrats whose economic interests are with imperialism. And white lumpen are generally allied with imperialism and the Amerikkkan nation, even though they are imprisoned or their communities are poisoned by mining refuse due to capitalism. Thus, one may be an oppressed New Afrikan labor aristocrat and while aligning with the international proletariat may be viewed in an economic sense as class suicide, in a social sense this alliance would actually improve the probability of status advancement overall and not necessarily be class suicide.
Lumpen unity and class consciousness in the U.$.
Speaking on the proletariat of his day, Marx pointed out that a common situation existed for the proletarians to unite under common interests. The same could be said about the Brown Berets and Black Panther Party during the 1960s and 70s. There existed a sharp level of oppression and police brutality within [email protected] communities, which inspired the Brown Berets to serve as protectors of their communities as well as reach out to those from other barrios, mainly lumpen, to join ranks with them by being productive forces for their people rather than common "gangsters."
The Black Panther Party (BPP) did a remarkable job building and developing class consciousness among the masses of the New Afrikan nation. The BPP was able to tie much-needed community programs to the stark material reality of New Afrika. Not only were the Panthers feeding the youth through the Free Breakfast Program, they educated the masses on their class position through this altruistic act. In one stroke they were able to secure the trust and gratitude of the people and illustrate the failures of the semi-colonial relationship in which the New Afrikan nation is ensnared.
There are glimmers of class consciousness in prison at times, but these episodes ebb and flow due to the bourgeois mindset of much of the prison population. Being raised in a First World country, we are influenced by its culture although it is not our own. As Mao said in eir essay "On Practice," "in class society everyone is a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with a brand of class." The assumption of inevitable imprisonment or death; the glorification of drug and pimp culture; hustling for individual gain while harming our kin; and nihilism are examples of lumpen culture under the influence of the bourgeoisie.
At times we may see prison uprisings, strikes, or other prison organizing across national lines, but these events don't usually remain intact for very long. This is because class consciousness does not develop spontaneously, rather it must be cultivated and spread through education and agitation. Only through the help of an educated cadre — both inside and outside prison walls — can class consciousness develop.
Present-day examples of class consciousness development in prison
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels said of class struggle for the workers, "The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the workers."(2) Marx and Engels understood that class struggle would continue so long as classes exist. They saw the union of the proletariat as the prize, not what concessions were gained from the ruling class per se.
Something similar was experienced with the California prison hunger/work strikes in recent years. The words of Marx and Engels were seen manifested, not in a "union of the workers" but in a union of the imprisoned lumpen. This union of lumpen produced the Agreement to End Hostilities. The real victory is in getting lumpen to see and experience that it is really us versus the pigs, and that a concrete force exists which oppresses ALL lumpen prisoners in some way. These are acts which cultivate an environment where class consciousness can grow; it creates a fertile ground for this process.
Within the environment of prison, lumpen organizations (LOs) are by far more structured and disciplined than they are on the streets. Despite the negative activity and values of parasitic LOs, there is reason to believe that they can operate to achieve revolutionary ends. Pick up any Under Lock & Key newsletter and one will find evidence of LOs working in prison to contribute to the anti-imperialist movement. So it isn't a far-fetched idea to use LOs as revolutionary vehicles in building consciousness among imprisoned lumpen.
Lumpen organizations already bring out a form of consciousness within their membership, meaning they instill pride within their own people. LOs in prison are often organized by "ethnicity," and in that sense they develop their national pride, identity and culture. Their consciousness as a subgroup is raised. This is not class consciousness, and most times not even national consciousness, but it's a start, and more it's a platform which can be used and highlighted. Most LOs already have an ideological indoctrination process in place for new recruits; adding class consciousness to this structured education shouldn't be much of a stretch.
Class consciousness will only develop so much within a LO just like a crocodile will only grow so much when confined to a small fish tank. If the LO is engaged in anti-people activities, it is prevented from advancing politically. The parasitic nature of a profit-driven LO will never allow true unbridled class consciousness to develop because to do so would change the fundamental purpose of that LO. This is why Growth is one of the 5 principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. Comrades must not be discouraged from growing from a parasitic lumpen actor to a class-conscious revolutionary lumpen actor.
Lumpen organizations and other subgroups can come together to become a whole and thus unite as a class, as did the proletariat in Marx and Engels's day, as did the Russian proletariat unite with the peasantry (uniting two classes) and how Mao Zedong united the peasantry in China upon common interests with the proletariat. When conditions in prison reach an intolerable level of suppression that affects all prisoners as a whole, we will begin to see each other as sharing the same interests of ending oppression behind the walls. Unfortunately this will not automatically make all prisoners come together in unity. Prison conditions alone aren't a sufficient factor to promote class consciousness amongst imprisoned lumpen.
Practical experience shows that the more repressive the situation people find themselves in, the more likely they are to challenge the situation and find ways to combat it. In some facilities, a wide range of reading material is permitted to be possessed by prisoners, and the pigs aren't readily looking for politically conscious leaders to repress and harass. At first glance it seems the freedom of movement and association would be a good environment to run political study groups and organize with each other. However, the flip side of having little repression is that many choose to spend more time chasing and idolizing bourgeois lifestyles; instead of picking up some political lit to read, they choose to discuss Nikki Minaj's ass on the VMAs.
How to organize
Class-conscious lumpen must lead
The job of class conscious prisoners is to not just understand that change and development is good and inevitable, but we need to find ways to translate this understanding to the broader lumpen masses, and as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is on the lumpen to look beyond the interests of our own to achieve a higher level of political consciousness, and it is on politically conscious prisoners to point out the cause of our problems as well as what's stopping all from uniting.
Organize around local experiences/conditions
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to awakening the imprisoned lumpen class. There are many different types of individuals and different backgrounds/histories and beliefs. And we organizers all have different strengths and operate in varying conditions. But in general, open lines of communication, dialogue, re-education, and finding common-ground causes to fight for helps the process.
What should be stressed as a development to higher consciousness is the injustices experienced in common. With this sense of having a common injustice done against us, we will be more susceptible to change. If there isn't a lot of immediate suffering to organize around, we can call on our common experiences prior to imprisonment. Even in relatively comfortable prison conditions, we can start by exploring how we came to imprisonment in the first place. The poor quality of teachers in our schools and mis-education given to us by the imperialists is by design.
We can then use these direct experiences to organize with others on practical projects – campaigns to improve our collective conditions of confinement, collective legal actions, appeals, literacy, etc. — and work to add to the preconditions of class consciousness in prisons. Attempts to integrate politics with a prison struggle will bring a higher level of class consciousness only if we can explain to others how it's not just an isolated struggle within prison we're all confronted with, but the infrastructure behind the prison industry itself, its society, the socio-economic relations, its effects on our interpersynal relationships and culture, and the world. When imprisoned lumpen begin to unite for common interests, then politically conscious prisoners should advocate for continued struggle. Once any concessions are granted, many tend to think "well, that's all we're going to get", or they see a tiny concession as a huge victory, and step back from organizing. This is a sign of a lack of class consciousness, and a lack of internationalism, that must be addressed by the prison movement leaders head on.
Build study groups
We can lead study groups on deeper topics, or open debates on anything as simple as a news report. Although this may be harder in isolation, it is usually still possible to share material with others in your pod or initiate discussions on the tier. Sharing your views and hearing others' can bring many together if a common objective is trying to be reached. It helps to build public opinion in opposition to the bourgeois media outlets. When there are one or two lumpen within every group agitating in this way, along with strong communication in other circles, sharing reading material and legal work, it all works to push their studying into actual work, and go from being spectators to actors in the process of transforming these dungeons and the imperialist system generally.
There are many topics to study to give a thorough understanding of our class position, including the works of Marx, Mao, Lenin, Engels and other communist revolutionaries before us. Political economy unlocks the mysteries of the origins and results of class struggle. The bourgeoisie (the owners of the means of production) and the proletariat (those who had nothing so must sell labor power) make up the principal contradiction in the realm of political economy. Understanding these classes, and all their sub-classes, requires one to perform a class analysis so that one understands where people stand on the economic totem pole, and determine where the social forces stand. Part of class consciousness is understanding who's on our side and who's trying to imprison, kill, and dismantle us.
If we were to utilize the tables out on the yards for educational-neutral grounds instead of real estate or casinos, a lot more will be susceptible to change their patterns. One table could be strictly legal work (grievances, lawsuits, etc.); one for help with reading, college and GED; one for addressing the daily issues so that nothing arises to blindside folks; one for political education, etc. These tables would be neutral ground for all nations, LOs, etc. to gain knowledge and put it to use. They would function simultaneously as Serve the People programs and political education meetings, building unity and transforming the lumpen into a class "for itself."
by a North Carolina prisoner November 2015 permalink
I am writing to inform you of the work that I have been doing here at Tabor Correctional Institution in Tabor City, North Carolina. I am currently housed on Intensive Control (ICON) and I've been spreading the word to a few people in my block. One of the brothers in my block was the real confrontational type who would try to start arguments with different guys simply because the block was too quiet. Usually I would ignore his antics because I understood his cry for attention and fear of having to look in that proverbial mirror, i.e. being alone with his own thoughts. One day after hearing him verbally attack another comrade as well as just cursing out officers without cause I reached to him by calling him on his childish and misguided ways. At this time he told me he never got involved in the conversations that myself and a few others often had because he didn't know anything about it. I then told him the easiest way to learn about it was to ask questions, which led to me sending him two issues of Under Lock & Key. Now this same young brother is a part of these conversations about the various degrees of prison struggle. He is also a member of the Soldiers of Revolution (SOR).
I founded the Soldiers of Revolution (SOR) while housed on ICON. I did so after witnessing the relentless ongoing cycle of gang violence within the North Carolina prison population. I became a member of the Bloods organization in 1998 and in 2015 I renounced my position as a member of that organization to found the Soldiers of Revolution.
I founded this organization because of the gang violence but also because of the constant oppression the prison population endures with no one to teach them how to go about overcoming the oppression. I saw that while many gang members claimed to battle oppression they failed to do so because they were perpetuating it. I understood that they didn't know how to begin the fight against oppression because they were never educated on the many levels of oppression. So SOR was created to educate the masses as well as to be the voice and vanguard of the politically ignorant prison population in North Carolina.
SOR is a political organization founded on the principles of mass political education of all oppressed nations, the battle to end oppression, and peace within the prison population to end gang violence. We stand united in the face of oppression and fully understand that the first step to breaking the cycle is to initiate proper political education. Since we understand the importance of political education in regards to the struggle to liberate the oppressed nations, we have study groups and issue class assignments to further the desire to be politically conscious and active.
SOR is not a gang nor gang-affiliated, though some members are former gang members. As we are primarily a non-violent organization we do not condone or support gang bangin' in any fashion. We do not wish to perpetuate the lifestyles and stereotypes that plague many oppressed nations. We do not adhere to the doctrine of oppressing others to further our own cause. We will offer our assistance and stand united with other political organizations of the oppressed nations but we will not be ruled or governed by anyone but SOR.
MIM(Prisons) responds: SOR is doing important work pushing forward the political education and unity of oppressed nations, and underscores a point that is important for activists: oppression and violence are learned behaviors and we need to work hard to help humynity unlearn these terrible habits. We can't expect this change to happen overnight. In fact we know from the experience in China and the USSR that even after a socialist revolution a new group of people (many of whom were oppressed before the revolution) will attempt to take power for personal gain. This is not surprising since the individualist elements of the culture of capitalism will not be wiped out overnight.
The Chinese initiated a mass fight against the ongoing idological holdovers of feudalism, which they called the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, as they worked to create a culture of socialism. Everyone was encouraged to study politics and freely criticize their leaders. This vigilance is the only way we will eventually eliminate the culture of oppression and violence which permeates every aspect of society and pulls the lumpen into anti-people activities like bangin'.
Each individual who belongs to a lumpen organization needs to assess your own situation to decide whether it is best to stay in that organization and struggle from within to build the anti-imperialist movement, or if you need to leave your organization to push forward your revolutionary organizing. There is a place for all of these organizations in the United Front for Peace in Prisons, where we can all come together to oppose prisoner-on-prisoner violence and build unity among lumpen organizations.