The theme of this issue of Under Lock & Key was inspired by recent essays and interviews by Orisanmi Burton, previewing material from eir upcoming book: Tip of the Spear: Black Radicalism, Prison Repression, and the Long Attica Revolt. Comrades in MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within (USW) have been studying Burton’s work. Though we have not had the opportunity to read the book yet, which comes out end of October 2023, we like a lot of the ideas ey has presented so far and the overall thesis that prisons are war.
As we go to press the genocidal war on Palestine is heating up. We have reports inside on Congo, El Salvador, Ukraine and Niger; and we don’t even touch on Guatemala or Haiti. History has shown that as war heightens internationally, war often heightens against the oppressed nations within the empire as well.
In this issue we have reports of political repression as war in U.$. prisons. We also feature articles from comrades who organized around, and reflected on the Attica rebellion and Black August. This is the history that Burton analyzes in eir work, exposing the state’s efforts to suppress the prison movement and how both sides were operating on a war footing. For over a decade readers of ULK have commemorated the beginning of Attica on September 9th with a Day of Peace and Solidarity, as part of the campaign to build the United Front for Peace in Prisons. But how do we get to peace when we find ourselves the targets of the oppressor’s war?
Burton pushes back against some Liberal/reformist lines that have been advanced onto the prison movement to oppose the line of liberation. Burton’s ideas harken back to V.I. Lenin, recognizing prisons as a repressive arm of the state, and the state being a tool of oppression and warfare by one class over another. War is one form of political struggle, and a very important one at that.
It is this framework that we have used to push back against “abolitionism.” Our organization emerged from the struggle to abolish control units, a form of prisons that is torture and inhumane. We see the abolition of control units as a winnable, if difficult, battle under bourgeois rule. In a socialist state, where the proletariat rules over the former bourgeoisie, we certainly won’t have such torture cells anymore; but the abolition of prisons altogether is a vision for the distant future. We find it questionable that Burton frames revolutionary communist martyrs like George Jackson as an “abolitionist”.
Where we have more unity is when Burton takes issue with building the prison movement around the legalist struggle to amend the 13th Amendment of the U.$. Constitution that abolishes slavery except for the convicted felon. Burton points out the history of Liberal thought in justifying enslavement of those captured in just wars. As most in this country see the United $tates as a valid project, it could follow logically that it is just to enslave the conquered indigenous and New Afrikan nations, as well as nations outside the United $tates borders. We see how settlers in Amerika and I$rael are now justifying all sorts of genocidal atrocities against Palestine.
The challenge we have repeatedly made to the campaign to amend the 13th Ammendment is how this contributes to liberating oppressed people? How does it build power for oppressed people?
In one essay Burton draws connections to how the state was handling the war against the Vietnamese people at the same time as the war against New Afrika at home.(1) We have a draft paper out on the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement that discusses the counter-insurgency in Peru, and how the fascist U.$.-Fujimori regime locked communist leader Comrade Gonzalo in an underground isolation cell and then used confusion around political line to crush the People’s War in that country. In Under Lock & Key 47, we reprinted an in-depth analysis of the use of long-term solitary confinement against the revolutionary movement in Turkey and the use of hunger strikes to struggle against it from 2000-2007. All of these historical examples, including to some extent New Afrika in the 1970s, involved an armed conflict on both sides. Today, in the United $tates, we do not have those conditions. However, we can look to the national liberation struggle in Palestine, and the connection to the prison movement there as a modern-day example.
Burton spends time exposing the politics of the federal counter-insurgency program PRISACTS. And one of the things we learn is that PRISACTS is officially short-lived as the counter-insurgency intelligence role is taught to and passed on to the state institutions. We see this today, especially in the handling of censorship of letters and reading materials we send to and receive from prisoners. We see the intentional targeting of these materials for their political content, and not for any promotion of violence or illegal activity. Our comrades inside face more serious consequences of brutality, isolation and torture in retaliation for attempts to organize others for basic issues of living conditions and law violations.
The arrest of Duane “Keffe D” Davis for involvement in the murder of Tupac Shakur has also been in the news this month. Keffe D is a known informant who confessed to driving his nephew to murder Tupac years ago in exchange for the dropping of a life sentence for an unrelated charge. Author John Potash notes that there were many attempted assassinations of Tupac prior to his death, at least one that involved the NYPD Street Crimes Unit. This unit was launched following the supposed “end” of COINTELPRO.(2) This directly parallels what we see with the “end” of PRISACTS and the passing of intelligence operations on to state pigs.
As we’ve discussed in drawing lessons from the repression of Stop Cop City, we need to take serious strategic precautions in how we organize. We must recognize the war being waged on us. If we treat this as something that can be fixed once people see what’s going on, or once we get the right courts or authorities to get involved, we will never accomplish anything. And as always we must put politics in command. There is an active intelligence counter-insurgency being waged against USW and the prison movement in general, and the best weapon we have is grasping, implementing and judging political line.
Prison is War is not just a topic for ULK, it is a political line and analysis. We welcome your future reports, articles and artwork exposing the ways this war is happening in prisons today.
Notes: 1. Burton, Orisanmi (2023).“Targeting Revolutionaries: The Birth of the Carceral Warfare Project, 1970-1978.” Radical History Review. Vol. 146. 2. John Potash on I Mix What I Like, 16 October 2023. (author of “The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders”)
Introduction: Current Existing Ideas Around Snitching
As Marxist-Leninist-Maoists it is important to apply the dialectical materialist method when it comes to handling the contradictions among the masses. In the prison context where most of our organizing revolves around, the contradictions between various prisoner individuals, national groups, and lumpen organizations can become antagonistic and it is our job to transform this antagonistic contradiction into a non-antagonistic one and resolve it from there out.
One example of idealism is around the “stop snitching” slogan and campaign. Is “stop snitching” a correct slogan? Only an idealist could answer this question without more information. The materialist method of finding out what would constitute “snitching” would be to analyze the material conditions of how this “stop snitching” idea came about, the purposes it was for, which classes were promoting it, and going from there. What we must not do is treat it like a general platitude where it can be abused for anti-people purposes and exploited by the pigs to get the masses to fight amongst themselves.
To assume the most righteous origins of the “stop snitching” slogan, we can think of various lumpen organizations, who might be in competition and rivalry with each other at times. Yet these organizations all come to agree that they have a common interest in not sending the oppressor’s cops against each other. Perhaps there is a consciousness as oppressed people uniting these L.O.s to come to this conclusion. But certainly there is a material interest in staying alive and out of prison by reducing the amount of police involvement in their lives.
The “stop snitching” campaign was a success. So much so that today, in many prisons, it has been taken up as an idealistic and dogmatic truth rather than a materialist principle to apply in differing conditions. To many this slogan is true for all times and all places. In fact, it is so absolutely true that they apply it to the police themselves! We’ve received reports from many parts of the country that comrades can’t get others to file grievances against abuse and inhumane conditions against the system because fellow prisoners don’t want to “snitch”.
Now in reality, those fellow prisoners are probably just scared of what prison staff will do to them, so they use the “stop snitching” slogan as an excuse to do nothing and live quietly under the boot of oppression which the stop snitching principle was brought up to fight against in the first place.
However, those who stand up for themselves recognize the role of grievances. We live in a bourgeois democracy. The image of the rule of law is important to the enemy even if things become lawless in the corners of society, like in prisons. There is a grievance system and the bourgeois/imperialist state says they will follow that system. That means this is a tool that can and should be used to improve conditions for comrades organizing within the belly of the beast and fight for the political rights to build independent institutions. To call that snitching is to say that something is true because it’s true; not because of any actual evidence or material basis. To call this snitching is to lack any analysis of class, nation, gender or who are our friends and who are our enemies.
And as we discussed in the last issue of ULK, we must learn to think in percentages to build the United Front for Peace in Prisons. Thinking in absolutes, allows the enemy to keep us divided.
Case Scenario: Inmate Collaborators and Pigs Using Anti-Snitching Sentiment to Repress Prisoners in CDCR
In one of many reports like this, a comrade in California recently wrote us:
Dear MIM Distributors,
I am a disabled person under the Armstrong v. Newsom injunction where I continue to be targeted by officers who specialize in pitting prisoners against each other to discourage and deter use of the grievance process at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD), and in retaliation for the same.
On the morning of 25 August 2023, while exiting my cell quarters to be issued my breakfast and lunch Kosher meal, one of the inmate porter workers (infamous for not only disruptions, violence, and fighting other prisoners on the unit; but also carrying out retaliatory terrorism for officers against prisoners who use the RJD grievance process to report misconduct) began to ridicule me without provocation.
Subsequent to returning to my cell and at commencement of A.M. medication, officer G. Sellano supervised pill line near my cell as the same prisoner porter worker came to my cell door and began hostile provocation calling me a “snitch” for pending grievances (Attached as Exhibit A). Both of which involve this very same inmate porter worker and officer G. Sellano.
This inmate porter worker then stood outside my cell door on a rant to provoke me by yelling “snitch, you a bitch, you wrote a buz on me and Sellano.” The whole time officer G. Sellano stood listening, watching as the inmate porter worker then openly blasted how he is able to “do what I want all around here, I can fight anybody I want and nothing will happen. I won’t even get a 115.” Challenging me to fight as officer G. Sellano stood listening and watching while supervising the A.M. medication line next to my assigned cell.
Said inmate porter worker then began yelling to the tower officer to open my cell door in order to attack me while officer G. Sellano continued to fail to intervene, act, or quell the growing disorder.
The inmate porter worker in question is allowed to volunteer work for officer G. Sellano where the inmate receives detailed information on pending grievances filed against officer G. Sellano – then uses that personal knowledge of grievance information to confront, intimidate, and provoke some violent incident with the grievant: all while officers on the unit watch.
Facility Captain Lewis has turned a blind eye to not only this particular inmate porter worker’s ongoing propensity for violence and daily disruptions on the housing unit, but also the fact that this particular inmate porter worker is and has been for months now, used as a torpedo for housing officers like G. Sellano to be programmed to target prisoners like me who use the grievance process here at RJD while Warden James Hill has been unable to prevent officers like G. Sellano from using working knowledge of department operations to gather information for the purposes of endangering the safety and the welfare of those confined therein.
Inmates vs Prisoners
Inmates are the categorical definition used by the U.$. law to white wash their crimes. It is no different politically than to call the torture of Iraqi POWs “enhanced interrogation.” Inmate also implies a more collaborative relationship between captive and captor, which is an appropriate term to use for the inmate porter described above. A politically appropriate term for the vast majority of the imprisoned lumpen in this country would be prisoners or captives. We do not live in a time where wars are officially declared or sanctioned by governments through formalized documents. Wars are declared through invasions (such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine), bombings (such as Al-Qaeda’s destruction of the twin towers), etc. The U$A has waged war against the oppressed nations inside their borders through mass imprisonment and police occupation – thinly disguised as “war on crime” or “war on drugs.” During this mass imprisonment and lumpenization of the oppressed nation masses through the criminal inju$tice system, inmates are those who collaborate with the pigs behind bars – a consciousness of a lumpen class in itself. A lumpen class for itself, as Marx used the term, would recognize the political importance of the two distinctions.
As stated earlier, the stop snitching slogan can be utilized as principled solidarity as fellow oppressed nationals within the constant anti-people activities of the lumpen class. Through popular support, such as hip-hop culture, this stop snitching principle would even extend beyond street life into the youth where telling on adults or school teachers would even be considered snitching. The principle of a specific lumpen life now become a general platitude and empty virtue. We ask our imprisoned lumpen readers, can snitching really be stopped without independent power from the oppressor? What would it mean to be loyal to “your people” or “your folks”? Can the principle of anti-snitching be applied to the enemy who it is designed to protect fellow oppressed nations or lumpen from in the first place?
We hope to move the discussion a step forward for our readers who seek to transform the anti-people gangster mentality to the pro-people revolutionary path. Using the few rights that the oppressed are given against the oppressor to build power among the masses is not snitching. Perhaps this over-emphasis on snitching on fellow criminals (as the government are criminals oftentimes in lawless corners of society such as prisons) shows the class in itself level consciousness that many of our readers might be susceptible to.
Both Russia and Ukraine have problems of fascism in their society expressed through the most reactionary elements of the Wagner Group of Russia and the infamous Azov Battalion of Ukraine. Both sides are vehement anti-communists despite the sensationalist portrayals of Putin as a USSR-esque tyrant in mainstream media political cartoons. Ukrainian reactionaries will topple down Soviet era statues while for the Russian imperialists, Ukraine itself is a giant Soviet era statue that must be toppled down and engulfed into Russia. Ukraine would have never gotten its independence in the first place without the world’s first proletarian dictatorship of the USSR.
Unlike the United $tates, Japan, Western Europe, and etc., Russian imperialism does not have a majority labor aristocrat population (despite a very significant one) and the class interests of the Russian proletariat lines up with the class interests of the Ukrainian proletariat against Russian and NATO imperialism.(0)
At best, Soviet nostalgia expressed in Russia longs for social-imperialist era command economy coupled with resentment of the political-economic crises caused by the complete opening up of Soviet markets. It is an unscientific frustration of the general masses in Russia. At worst, it is a rallying tool for current Russian imperialism’s moral justification akin to how concepts like democracy, freedom, and women’s rights were rallying tools of U.$. imperialism’s military invasions in the Middle East. We wish to practice revolutionary optimism in regards for the anti-revisionist communists in Russia and Ukraine who could take this popular sentiment away from the hands of the imperialists and into the hands of the broad masses.
One significant development this summer was an attempted coup by the Wagner Group against the government of Russia. For our readers who might not know, the Wagner group is a private military mercenary group of the Russian Federation formed through the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea.(1) While its origins are unclear, the group has been claimed to have been founded by both Dmitry Utkin and Yevgeny Prigozhin with the the former having been the field military commander and the latter being the financier and military programmer.(2) Utikin, being a veteran of the Chechen Wars, was said to have had great admiration of Nazi Germany and his nickname in the battlefield was given by eir fellow imperialist soldiers as “Wagner” named after the German composer whose music was popularly used by Hitler and eir fascist goons as rallying songs during marches.(3) Due to the Nazi ideologies which were part of the Wagner Group’s political DNA from the start, fascist slogans and graffiti by the group’s presence in Ukraine has been known to have surfaced.(4)
On 20 May 2023 Prigozhin, at the time the top commander of the Wagner Group, took the city of Bakhmut, Ukraine.(5) Ey criticized top Russian officials of the military, the defense minister, and the chief of general staff withholding artillery ammunition from the Wagner Group and accused them of “high treason.”(6) Defense minister Sergei Shoigu announced that all members of “volunteer units” must be required to sign contracts with the ministry by July 1st in order to get Wagner and similar mercenary groups under a tighter leash. Despite Prigozhin’s close loyalty to Putin, the latter has chosen to back the defense minister’s decision.(7)
On the midnight of 24 June 2023, Prigozhin while denying to sign the contract and have eir fascist mercenary goons under Russian imperialist control announced a “march for justice” leaving Ukraine and having the first column enter Russia’s Southern Military District. Prigozhin demanded that Shoigu and Gerasimov be brought to him and held a blockade of the city. On the city of Voronezh, the group shot down Russian military helicopters and a command aircraft killing at least a dozen soldiers marking the start of the rebellion.(8) With Putin’s condemnation and the labeling of Prigozhin’s act as treason, the rebellion came to a quick end. On the Sunday of 24 August 2023, Russian authorities have confirmed that Prigozhin has died in a plane crash.(9)
The rhetoric that Russia is an anti-fascist or anti-colonial force in the global imperialist system is a bold-faced lie of Russian imperialism. Acknowledging this fact is in no way supporting Ukraine’s own fascism ridden government. It is the instinct of petty-bourgeois moralism to see armed conflicts as a side of the good guys and the bad guys. This war itself is an inter-imperialist battle where Russian imperialism seeks to gain global hegemony against U.$./NATO aligned forces and where the nation of Ukraine is caught in the middle of this geo-political tug-of-war. The fact that the fascists of Ukraine’s Azov Battalion and the fascists of Russia’s Wagner Group are fighting each other is just another telltale sign how fascism is an incoherent nihilistic political trend that must be stomped out.
Russia Sympathies Among the Masses
Many prisoner comrades have written to us since the previous article was published where they expressed some sympathies for Russian imperialism. Many arguments had to do with the fact that Russian imperialism was defending itself against the NATO/U.$. led powers.
A California prisoner commented:
”I hear too many well proclaimed communists taking sides with Ukraine. “Putin is a fascist,” “Putin is imperialist,” etc…
As a prisoner I have learned to be very cautious about taking sides, I see all kinds of evil up here everyday: a lot of schemes, manipulations, scam artists. I see all of them here in prison.
So why? Why is the United $nakes so interested in Ukraine winning? Why is it worth trillions of dollars to the U.$. for Ukraine to win? We, the common people like myself, does not understand things like the stock market, and the grain exchange. I understand that grain is sold for money. What I don’t understand is how a whole completely separate market created out of thin air, selling absolutely nothing but grain calling itself the grain exchange that is something only the capitalists who run the world understand.
If I had to guess with my simple mind, I would say that Ukraine sells its grain to the west at a premium as a means to launder dirty drug money. But that’s just my simple mind. It probably has more to do with the grain exchange, capitalism itself.“
One sentiment we can agree with this prisoner comrade is that the job of communists and revolutionaries in the U.$. would be to see U.$. imperialism as their principal enemy. Many communists can so far agree with this line, the problem comes in deeper with regards to the analysis of other major imperialist countries – especially ones that spout anti-imperialist rhetoric in words such as while in practice commit imperialism that rivals the traditional NATO imperialist powers..
We would like to iterate to this comrade that their mind isn’t so simple as ey might let off. We appreciate the humbleness that revolutionaries should have that this comrade has shown, but in the end the contrite and popular phrase that the imperialist governments are the real criminals is true. Sure, we wouldn’t boil down world imperialism to money laundering; but theft and murder are important objectionable aspects of imperialism. We see many imprisoned comrades who project the anti-people crimes they struggle to overcome onto the criminal ways of the imperialists, and for a starting point these oversimplifications might not be the worst thing as a step towards revolutionary thinking.
With that said we would disagree that Russia is doing self-defense with regards to their invasion of Ukraine. As the above points laid out, we should avoid choosing sides in inter-imperialist conflict even though the U.$. and NATO imperialist forces didn’t have direct boots in Ukraine (which the comrade has also expressed as well).
The real question comes in as how Lenin’s theses on “The Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War” would mean in practice in our current material conditions where the revolutionary forces are much weaker and arguably much more revisionist and opportunist than even the revisionist European and imperialist country communist movements which Lenin was writing polemics against.(10) One point that we can start from is this: the war that we should be focusing on is the war waged by Amerika against its internal semi-colonies of the Black, Chican@, and Indigenous Nations through mass imprisonment and police occupation. With this issue’s Under Lock & Key covering the topic of how “Prisons Are War,” we would like to further expand on how prisons play this role of low-intensity genocide against the masses.
Yesterday, National Public Radio (NPR) aired an interview with a former prisoner in Iran to discuss the recent release of 5 Amerikan citizens from an Iranian prison. The focus was on the horrible effects of solitary confinement and how to adapt to being back in society.
In our 2008 survey of long-term solitary confinement in the United $tates, we found that there were over 90,000 people suffering in those conditions. It is strange for the NPR story to not have mentioned this problem at home as well, or how the oppressed people in this country fair after years in torture cells. The NPR report spoke of “death chambers” in the Iranian prison, yet the United $tates has electric and now injection chairs with viewing areas and what they call “death row” in prisons across this country (though only about a dozen states are actively murdering prisoners in recent years).
The United $tates has long had the highest imprisonment rate across the world. They even boasted a higher imprisonment rate of Black people than the internationally condemned apartheid regime in South Africa.
The one-sided depiction of prisons and solitary confinement in Iran on NPR revealed a strong bias in their reporting. Yet what was most shocking to learn was that these people coming out of Iranian prisons were being offered what sounded like a fully immersive program through the U.$. military for dealing with the mental anguish of being in long-term solitary confinement.
Really? Yet every year we have comrades who are released from the same conditions in this country with nothing but a parole officer watching over them, often sabotaging their efforts to maintain a job and build a new life. Tens of thousands of people every year are released from long-term solitary in the United $tates, either into general population prisons or to the streets, with no concern for their mental well-being from the state. Who the U.$. imperialists offer mental health services to is a political decision, and it is our politics that guide us to offer help to those the imperialists will not.
As of last week, the California Mandela Act (AB 280) passed a supermajority in the state house and senate, heading next to the desk of Governor Newsom. Newsom vetoed the Mandela Act just one year ago. An aspiring presidential candidate, Newsom is likely to reject the calls from the state legislator to stop this torture again. This is over a decade after the historic California hunger strikes that called for an end to long-term solitary confinement, leading to the 2015 Ashker vs. CDCR settlement where those sacrifices led only to individuals being released from the SHU, leaving the institution in place. [UPDATE: The bill has been stalled to negotiate with the Governor and will not be passed in 2023.]
For comrades currently suffering in torture cells in U.$. prisons, you can write to us for back issues of Under Lock & Key on solitary and materials from the American Friends Service Committee on dealing with isolation. For comrades who are getting out, who have spent long periods in solitary, our Re-Lease on Life Program attempts to offer mentoring, guidance and political engagement to ease the transition back into society. Meanwhile, we encourage everyone to get involved in the struggle to abolish long-term solitary confinement in this country completely.
Because over 100,000 people face torture in solitary in the United $tates every year with no imperialist Army programs for rehabilitation offered afterwards, we must develop independent institutions of the oppressed to address this material need among the oppressed masses in this country.
In the last month we have seen the state of Georgia bring RICO Act charges against Rudy Giuliani and others who worked with Donald Trump to steal the 2020 U.$. presidential election, as well as activists who were doing things as simple as handing out fliers opposing the construction of Cop City in Atlanta.
The Federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was enacted in 1970 as a tool to charge people with crimes when they were having other people do their dirty work for them. Each crime charged under RICO can add years to ones prison sentence. The Georgia RICO Act of 1980 covers more crimes than the federal version. The Georgia Act makes Racketeering a felony in the state.(1) Historically, we have had multiple readers who were victims of RICO Act charges brought during the Giuliani years in New York City, and more recently in the Atlanta area, for their leadership roles in lumpen organizations, the more typical target of RICO.
Rudy Giuliani earned fame as a federal prosecutor for getting Mafia bosses in New York City convicted on RICO Act charges. He then used his reputation to become a “tough-on-crime” mayor of New York City known for “cleaning up” the city. It was during Giuliani’s time as Mayor of NYC that the infamous case was brought against King Blood (aka Luis Felipe) under the RICO Act. King Blood was charged for murders committed while ey was already in prison and received the inhumane and unprecedented sentence of life in solitary confinement. All of King Blood’s First Amendment rights to communication were denied, allowing only communication with eir lawyer and immediate family. This was not typically something a judge could sentence, but was justified via the racketeering statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3582(d).(2) Decades later, King Blood still sits in a torture cage in ADX Florence, isolated from the world. While the RICO charges against Giuliani may provide some cathartic humor, the 79-year-old will not be facing anything like King Blood is doing.
Weeks following the Georgia RICO Act charges against Trump, Giuliani, et al., another set of RICO Act charges (and domestic terrorism charges) were made against 61 activists involved in opposing the construction of Cop City in Atlanta. This is a continuation of the state’s warfare against Stop Cop City, including the ludicrous money laundering charges brought against bail support fundraisers we reported on in the last issue of ULK.(3) In the recent RICO indictment, the date of the murder of George Floyd (25 May 2020) is cited as the beginning of the investigations around the so-called “racketeering.” In other words, the state was trumping up these charges against activists before there was a Stop Cop City movement. This is not about stopping any criminal conspiracy, it is about repressing any opposition to the use of lethal police force against New Afrika and oppressed people in general. It is a defense of the state’s right to wage violent war against New Afrika.
In a recent article, a comrade laid out the political nature of the law, debunking the myth that laws were developed as a way to impose morality or address inherent problems in society.(4) Rather law stemmed from the need to manage the division of humyns into classes. With Trump/Giuliani, we see the RICO Act law being used by the bourgeoisie to discipline other bourgeoisie who are threatening the image of bourgeois democracy. And in the case of the 61 activists they are using the same law to discipline youth and oppressed nations who are opposing more violent forms of state discipline.
When we go up against the courts, the police, or even the politicians, we must be prepared for war. The cops murdering us in cold blood is war. The courts and prisons putting us in torture cells for years is war. City governments in Atlanta and San Pablo, California funding cop cities where pigs can play war games is war. These more obvious forms of war, are part of political struggle. There are no rights, only power struggles. To engage in power struggles, requires giving the war two sides.
^*Notes: 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_RICO_(Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations)_Act 2. Prison Legal News, 15 March 1999, Judicial Sentence of Life in Solitary Upheld. 3. A comrade, July 2023, “Law and the Courts of Late”, Under Lock & Key No. 82. 4. A comrade of Anti-Imperialist Prisoner Support, July 2023 “Atlanta Criminalizes Protest Against Cop City”, Under Lock & Key No. 82.*^
We thank Comrade Slaughter for bringing forth these questions, and as Maoist revolutionaries MIM(Prisons) as a cell has the duty to coordinate this line struggle within the United Struggle Within through unity-criticism-unity. One divides into two: a thing that was in a state of unity will have its contradictions and arrive at a point where the two are split. And through criticism and self-criticism and ridding metaphysics and idealism, the two aspects of the contradiction will find unity where one side will overtake the other.
Before we begin with the following quotes of the responders to Comrade Slaughter, we raise the question Mao Zedong asked when ey and eir comrades were beginning a revolutionary people’s war in semi-colonial and semi-feudal China: who are our friends? who are our enemies?
Comrade Jade responds: In regards to Slaughter’s response I would like to point out a few things you may overlook in regards to sex offenders in general.
First, not everyone convicted of a sex crime is a child molester. Are all white males Aryans? Are all Hispanics Cartel? Are all Black males gang bangers? There will always be diversity in all groups we attempt to label or create. It is a proven fact. We all are individuals who are slightly different even under the exact same conditions.
Next, I believe that you need to truly look at what they did or did not do before ostracizing or mistreating them. Do not just judge them by the label corrupt politics fostered on them.
I agree that those who truly rape/molest and prey on underage children are not likely to be rehabilitated or to further the cause. But, how many of the people convicted of sex crimes are the true predators?
I know from personal experience, as a former psychiatric nurse, that females tend to mature sooner and seek out sex earlier. As puberty shifts from the old 12-15 to 8-11 now due to steroids and worse it makes them even more likely to become sexually active by 14. They will seek out partners where they will, including older more experienced men, who in their opinion can please them or teach them. While I do not advocate for them to be sexually active, especially not with grown men, due to early menstruation and physical development some females 14-17 look like grown adults. Then add to that the over-sexualization of our society, they tend to become aggressive in a sexual nature. As a result, some men may not realize their partner is underage. While this is not an excuse, it does happen.
Then you have men whose adult female partner falsely accuses them in revenge to a variety of things. It is not uncommon in a situation like this for the man to be convicted or pressured into a deal.
This does not mean all sex offenders are able to be rehabilitated, though the ones convicted rarely re-offend according to statistical evidence.
To this end we need a viable alternative to prisons and/or death for all offenders who truly cannot be rehabilitated. None of the current approaches are going to work. It will have to be a new idea.
We also must address the over-sexualization of our society. By making sex less of a pass time, less appealing, less mainstream, we can reduce many sex offenses as well.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Comrade Jade reveals an important aspect of the registered sex offenders status – the moral panic and the scapegoat aspect it represents. How many non-registered sex offenders and non-confirmed sex offenders in prisons (who might perhaps gotten in prison for non-sex related crimes such as murder or drugs) will partake in the ultra-leftist crusade against the confirmed ones? For the readers on the outside, that sentence alone might carry a reactionary and apologist undertones, but that is because petty-bourgeois justice oriented revenge killings is a material reality in prison and much less often outside. The life of a lumpen organization member for example is an oppressive and gritty one, and sexual crimes or sexual relations where consent isn’t prioritized aren’t uncommon; yet most lumpen organization members won’t come to prison on sex related crimes but on drug and homicide related crimes.
Subjectivism, ultra-leftism, and individualist oriented justice is another form of opiate of the masses in prison: take that anger out on the confirmed sex offenders says the pig, but us at MIM(Prisons) know that the pigs are laughing all along as this happens because it’s just that much easier to control a violent lumpen class than a cool and collected one – a class in itself vs a class for itself. Drugs aren’t the only form of individualism that is used to placate the imprisoned lumpen, the imprisoned lumpen’s penchent for ultra-leftist violence will also come in handy as a governing tool.
In a socialist society we will ban things like pornography for profit and misogynistic media and media that is predatory towards children. These things are so common under imperialism and reinforce and encourage sexual abuse.
A Colorado Prisoner Responds: I agree with Wiawimawo. I disagree with Slaughter.
A “sex offense” is whatever a legislature defines as one. It can be anything like actual physical rape to someone who is caught peeing on a dumpster in an alley. In my 14 years in a Corruptarado (as we call this state) prison I have met only a couple of people who were actual “rapists.” The vast majority of sex offenders were people who had younger lovers who chose to be with them. But someone, often a jealous want-to-be lover, found out, ratted the two out, and the older partner was arrested and charged.
Now prosecutors adore sex charges. They require no physical evidence, no witnesses. Only an allegation and a “victim” coached by D.A. investigators to say how they were fooled, manipulated, led astray, by that evil older man (almost always a man). And in states like this one without a time limit for filing, a “victim” can say, “20 years ago he took advantage of me” and the D.A. can file a charge and get a conviction.
Slaughter talks about “children.” A child is whatever the legislator says he is. Anyone under 18 is defined a child. Right now it is 18, which is the “age of consent.” Back in 2009, in Colorado, it was 15. And a female of 12, with parental permission, could marry (official papers) anyone.
In Texas, as in most of the South, the legal age for marriage was 12 when I was there. I don’t know what it is now.
The fact is, the religious right bible-wavers do not like sex, and they do not want these pesky kids having any of it. Thus the law, and the pigs (Amerikkka’s version of the Nazi SA) are used to stop it.
The conclusion of this religious fear will be what was done in the Salem-Keizer school district in Oregon. Reported on broadly, on vice.com, “Teachers Forced to Report All Teens Having Sex in Oregon School District.”
At those schools, since Oregon law only allows sex for those 18 or older, anyone under 18 doing the dirty is a criminal. So any school personnel discovering an under 18 having sex is required to report him or her to the police for prosecution.
Hey, if enough “children under law” would be arrested and thrown into prison then unapproved sex could be stopped. Of course, putting older partners in prison is already being done and that does not stop them from re-offending. So it should work with the children also.
Slaughter (what is in a name) wants those sex offenders (ey calls them pedophiles – a term created by prosecutors to inflame) to be punished, and people protected from them. In Colorado there are about 4000 sex offenders in prison (CDOC). The vast majority have indeterminate sentences, which means most will die in prison. That number is a full 25% of the CDOC population. And as you probably know, the giving of indeterminate sentences is an easy way for prosecutors to get a life sentence for defendants that did not kill anyone. Great for the D.A.’s stats when a performance review comes around.
The issue is of life sentences in Amerikkka. Get the article, “The Only Way We Get Out of There is in a Pine Box” in the April 2022 issue of News Inside published by The Marshall Project. It tells of elderly prisoners, convicted of murder or other violent crimes who will die in prison. At great expense to tax payers for all their medical care.
…Make no mistake about it, if the Christians like Pence, DeSantis, etc. take over, a new inquisition, just like the Spanish one in the 18th Century will be instituted. And right at the top of the list, below LGBTQ people, will be the communists. Off to the concentration camps for all.
MIM(Prisons) Responds: A recent report by the Prison Policy Initiative exposes the arbitrary repression of so-called “civil commitments.” In cases where someone is not given a life sentence, they can be civily committed after fulfilling the sentence given by the courts. Most who go to civil commitment will never see the outside world again. At least 6,000 people, mostly men, across the country are in civil commitment after serving their time for sex offenses. Unlike court, the process to be sentenced to civil commitment is largely arbitrary. The following will make you much more likely to be civilly committed: being gay, being transgender, being Black, being disabled.(3)
Under imperialism, well-meaning laws that sound good on paper such as ones surrounding the age of consent (or the anti-mask laws first intended against the Klan protesting while cowardly hiding eir identities, but now used against progressives and oppressed nation youth protesting against police violence) will be abused for the interests of the imperialist-patriarchy. The truth is, law in itself for any given class society has been simply state enforced rules to govern the overall humyn society in accordance with the respective class dictatorships. This is why legalism (in this case referring to the idea that good laws will create good society and bad laws will create bad society) is in no way shape or form a scientific solution against the tragic cases such as rape, molestation, and grooming of children.
Under the imperialist patriarchy that we live in, children have no rights or agency to consent and the rape culture of our world will always harm the most vulnerable. “Good” laws under an imperialist patriarchy will be designed and used for the purposes of maintaining it (the nuclear family, heteronormitivity, youth oppression, etc.) that has children raped in the first place while a socialist society/proletarian dictatorship will give power to the youth to properly protect themselves and prioritize abolishing oppression above all else and especially against prioritizing profits and maintaining a patriarchal culture.
A California Prisoner Responds: I can see this comrade has done a significant amount of revolutionary education. However to truly be a communist means one has to recognize the humanity of others. It is here this comrade’s own hate is still an obstacle in the way. The ONLY path forward for this comrade is to forgive his abuser. This comrade must also recognize that the Known Sex Offenders (KSO’s) on the yard are NOT his abuser, meaning this comrade does NOT know their circumstance.
This comrade separates sex crimes from all other crimes by stating that “all other crimes are political crimes,” as a result of capitalism I presume. Sex crimes are an “illness.” This comrade (let me say comrades) states he is in for murder and that murder is somehow NOT an anti-human crime but only a “political crime.” Furthermore, Comrade Slaughter states that he is rehabilitated by saying he has “learned to be objective towards KSO’s.” He also states it is only possible for all other criminals to rehabilitate by saying “unification with the KSOs is futile because after the revolution the KSO will still need to be dealt with” meaning presumably rehabilitation for sex addiction is somehow not possible for the KSO.
I would like to start with the motion this murderer is not as rehabilitated as ey claim. The statement “after the revolution the KSO will still need to be dealt with” proves Comrade S. is not as rehabilitated as ey thinks. It also proves that Comrade S endorses the puniluation method used by the Nazis to “deal with” 6 million Jews. Comrade S. is obviously proposing the genocide of a whole group of people (KSOs). I think a lot of Jews, Armenians, and Africans would tell Comrade S. that his crime of murder is not political as he claims, but in fact is an anti-people crime. Moreover, most KSOs are more rehabilitated than this murderer.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We would say that the comparison of Slaughter’s comments to the holocaust of Jewish, Gay, Romani, and politically subversive revolutionaries under Nazi Germany to be a bit of an exaggeration. Yet it is true that the fascists will mobilize people around persecuting scapegoats, and currently it is this fanatical connection between pedophilia, transgender people and gender non-conforming people in general that is mobilizing the reactionary forces in the streets.
As we assemble this issue of ULK, a news story dropped about Larry Nassar being stabbed in prison. Nassar was convicted of molesting hundreds of young girls over decades while serving as the doctor for the U.$. Olympic team. Whether it’s to make themselves feel better about themselves, as the California prisoner above proposed, or to take out some anger, or to earn some stripes, the collaborative effort to punish people like Nassar undermines the principal contradiction in prisons. These attacks are generally a collaborative effort between prisoners and staff. Staff who may overlap with the fascist movements on the streets threatening drag story times. And while we would not argue there is never a time to ally with staff, it is a rare occasion, when they actually side with prisoners against the system. In contrast, this type of “outlaw justice” is really state-sanctioned. And it does reinforce the idea that there is some common interest between the oppressed and the oppressor in punishing these crimes considered most heinous.
If we aren’t organizing collectively to transform systems and transform ourselves, then we aren’t working towards justice. Triumphant mentions an example on the streets of FPC addressing open air sex markets in the community. Without knowing the details, this seems like an approach that could actually mobilize the people in a way that reduces sexual abuse of children and teenagers. Within prisons we can point to the example of Men Against Sexism, which successfully eradicated rape in Washington State Prison.(1) So if people are serious about taking action against sexual assault, there are actual effective ways to do this.
The ability to truly rehabilitate people will increase as communists increase their power and influence over society. We agree with this comrade that the current system can’t properly address those who aren’t being rehabilitated. And we look to socialist China’s model for how they rehabilitated people who committed crimes against the people.
Comrade Slaughter is right to bring up the question of how and what the morality of a revolutionary should be implemented and look like. To that we answer that proletarian morality must be based on whatever is best for the whole of society to be rid of oppression in contrast to bourgeois morality which is based on individualism, Liberalism, and profit. We tell Comrade Slaughter, and to all comrades in the revolutionary struggle (especially the imprisoned lumpen) to protect themselves as revolutionaries from individuals with bad intentions, but also to push themselves beyond the subjective trauma that ey has faced as oppressed people. Use mindfulness and other resources made available by this imperialist system and use it to better oneself as a revolutionary to heal the persynal scars to better transform the world around us. Don’t let the imperialists weaponize mindfulness or therapy to numb and placate one’s self.
All crimes are political. Post-modernism (the narrative of non-narrative) recognizes phenomena such as this and says that the persynal is the political. Maoism goes beyond this to say that the narrative of the oppressed must replace the narrative of the oppressor with revolutionary violence (rhetoric alone will solve nothing). Persynal scars are political scars, and recognizing the contradiction between the individual and the oppressive system is recognizing that one must recognize eir own lived experiences isn’t all there is to the world and is an unscientific way for the oppressed nations/internal semi-colonies of the United $tates to understand the material reality around them.
After printing our long discussion of sex offenders in ULK 81 we thought we might have spent a bit too much space on the topic. But as all the responses came in, we were reminded why we did a whole issue focused on this topic 5 years ago. It is a topic of great interest to the prison masses. It is important for building the United Front for Peace in Prisons. And we learned some stats on the large percentages of prisoners who are convicted of some kind of “sex offense” across the country (25% in Colorado, 21% in California).
Many of our readers feel they have been wronged or mistreated by other prisoners because they are labelled a sex offender. Others who are not convicted of any sex-related crime spoke up on behalf of those who are. And we know there are many with such charges who are reading ULK, reaching out to MIM(Prisons), who want to be part of the anti-imperialist prison movement. And so the question is, should we be excluding 1/5 to 1/4 of the population in any given prison system from the movement based on this label?
As scientists, we must think in terms of percentages. If 25% of people in a given prison system are sex offenders, that means in a wing of 100 people, 25 of them are convicted of some kind of sex crime. Are 100% of these 25 prisoners enemies of the people who cannot be redeemed? Even those who wrote to say that some cannot be reformed, did not include all “sex offenders” in that category. Yet, often, the way it plays out is 100% of those with known sex crime convictions are treated as outcasts. This is dividing the prison population. This is just one of many things dividing prisoners in the United $tates today. But it is one that affects a lot of people.
The possibility that we’ve been working to create since before the founding of the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) in 2012, is a united prison movement that acts in the interests of all oppressed people. People in U.$. prisons are being tortured, starved, denied medical care, denied educations, imposed with mental suffering and being repressed for political activity. A strong, united prison movement is the only way we can overcome these conditions.
The divisions preventing this level of unity is the old way, the way of imperialism. We are fighting for a new way, a revolutionary socialist way. This new way requires changes in how we live and interact. On the level of the individual this means applying the Maoist method of criticism/self-criticism. This is something we all must participate in to be part of the movement to overcome imperialism. It’s not just sex offenders, or drug addicts, or murderers who need to self-criticize and reform ourselves, it’s all of us. All of us have ways of thinking and behaving that are based in the values of imperialism.
We are calling on comrades to lead criticism/self-criticism sessions with the goal of building unity to build for the UFPP’s annual Day of Peace & Solidarity, this September 9th. For years we’ve been promoting the Day of Peace and sharing report backs on events organized by prisoners across the country. What we want to focus on this September 9th is the importance of criticism/self-criticism in the building of unity. We challenge USW leaders to take on the following plan of action:
Every day, ask yourself what is an interaction you could have handled differently to better promote unity among prisoners? This could be a daily meditation question you take on for Black August.
Every week, meet with like-minded people and discuss ways you are working to change yourselves to be better leaders at building unity. Give each other feedback on your shortcomings and progress.
On September 9th, organize others to take the day off from work and school, to fast, and to focus on this question of building unity for common interests on a facility-wide level.
Use the article Criticism & Self-Criticism as a guide and in your discussions in the coming weeks. In addition, last year we released our Revolutionary 12 Step Program. This pamphlet is a guide to self-assessment and self-criticism. It is a framework for transforming yourself along the guidelines of proletarian morality. Get a copy via our Free Political Books to Prisoners Program to help you with the above tasks.
Then send us a report on your successes and failures this September 9th so we can all learn, grow and share in the next issue of Under Lock & Key. Issue 83 will be focused on the theme of “Prisons are War.” We will be printing stories that highlight the political war being waged against oppressed people and politically active people by the U.$. criminal injustice system.
1. PTT, November 2012, Review: The Anti-Exploits of Men Against Sexism, Under Lock & Key 29.
The quote below is from a new reader of Under Lock & Key in a discussion with MIM(Prisons). We will note that this comrade advocated for closing down “pig stations (pig pens)” to build community centers and sees Black people as one with North Korea as both face the imperialists as their enemy. With that we seem to have strong unity on the principal contradiction in this country and internationally.
And we are printing this comrade’s words not to pick on em, but on the contrary because we see em as a comrade and ally in the struggle that we want to build unity with. And we are printing them in ULK because these ideas are not unique to this one persyn, we hear similar things all the time, and too often the correct line is just assumed, but the incorrect lines are never addressed.
"Now as to your question of how I see LGBTQ people. No, I don’t see them as a problem for the oppressed. I see them with love and respect. However, I must be definitive of myself, I choose a female as my mate. That is the natural order of existence, respectfully, the opposite does not hold the continuation of life. The demands of nature are written in the libido, the libido is the driving force of procreation.
“One’s body does not belong to the individual, it is on loan from the ancestors. I will not deny the call of the ancestors. Yet, who am I to judge. I’m just expressing myself as every person should have the right to express themselves fully without contempt. I do believe that the LGBTQ movement is a faction that has a driving force behind it that is bigger than the movement itself. I believe that the imperialists are the driving force behind that movement, just as much as they are the driving force behind militarism, desensitizing, hypersexualism, hate, division. They have controlled the narrative of these characters, they have broadcast, advertised, marketed these characters and now they are doing the same with the LGBTQ community.”
Already on this topic of LGBTQ we see this comrade respects all people and is not approaching this with hatred or desire to oppress others. Again, more basis for unity.
In our response we want to address: 1. the natural order; and, 2. imperialism using LGBTQ movement to forward its own ends.
The Natural Order
We’ve all heard countless times that anything other than straight procreative sex is unnatural because it does not reproduce the species. We’ll put aside for now the fact that most of the sex these people have is not procreative either (presumably these people never even masturbate). There is a certain logic to this thinking from the framework of the individualist culture of the nuclear family.
One thing that is characteristic of humyns is the long period it takes for a newborn humyn to become self-sufficient. The patriarchal family structure in this country was established around the system of slavery, where New Afrikan slaves provided much of the childcare and food for the table for the white settler family. In other nations the grandparents and extended family help fill similar needs.
There are indigenous cultures where it has been documented that people we would call LGBTQ today existed. This counters the argument that such people are a modern invention. And these people had particular roles in the community that were important to sustaining that community even if they did not participate in sexual reproduction. It is our atomized society today that makes it seem natural, or necessary, for everyone to be a sexual reproducing member of society.
The comrade here states that eir body is a gift from the ancestors, but we would add that the African ancestors of New Afrikans (like many pre-colonial cultures) did not adhere to our modern capitalist patriarchy. European colonizers in Africa were troubled when people they perceived as male did not perform the role of a man, and in turn punished such people to impose their gender roles in the name of Christianity. Female to female marriage has been documented in over 40 pre-colonial African societies.(1)
In closely related species, social structures are built around one male who does most of the sexual reproduction for the whole group. Other species mate for life. And many species have sexual activity between animals of the same sex, etc. Certainly, the sex between males and females are crucial for the continuation of species like ours before the development of medical methods of fertilization. But it is not true that non-procreative sexual behavior doesn’t occur in other species, in previous humyn societies, or that it is somehow detrimental to our species.
Another example that adds to this point is that oftentimes the political-economic decadence of oppressor nations (predominantly petty-bourgeois societies such as Japan, $outh Korea, and even modern day Settler-Amerika) sees declining birthrates. The petty-bourgeoisie often point to non-heterosexual romance or miscegenation as the cause of low birth-rate for oppressor nations, but the materialist truth points to decadence and capitalist alienation which is the true detriment to the reproduction of humynity.
Despite our current individualistic society, we remain social creatures. Our behaviors are largely influenced by our society. Sexual behavior has evolved and changed as society has changed. While various parallels of LGBTQ people existed prior to patriarchy, there is also no doubt that the patriarchy impacts peoples’ sexuality. For example, under patriarchy wimmin can become afraid to date men and men can become afraid to express affection towards men. It is also true that national oppression and imprisonment impact peoples’ sexuality.
What we do know is: 1) that gender, and even the sex binary as we recognized in our 2018 congress resolution, are not biological facts, but rather social constructs. 2) to the extent that biology does determine things we call gender and sexuality, that there is always variation in nature.
To be a scientific thinker one must be able to think in terms of probabilities and percentages. Male and female, black and white, good and evil are ways we categorize things. The idealist believes these are pre-existing truths, while the scientist recognizes them as humyn-made categories. For the scientific thinker, what is unnatural is for everything and everyone to fit into two neat little categories.
A more objective view of the world will also recognize that it is myopic to see humyn society as separate from the “natural.” To put it another way, there will never be a humyn society where humyn beings behave by some pre-ordained natural way determined by our biology, where no social factors determine our behavior. On the contrary, it is our aim to revolutionize our society to revolutionize how we interact with each other into ways that have never been done before. There is no “natural” way we are trying to return to as the conservatives imagine. We want to create new and better futures, based on humyn relations without oppression and exploitation. That is the radical, and the only, answer to the “ills” of our society today.
LGBTQ and Imperialism
The comrade quoted above said ey loves and respects LGBTQ people but has issues with their movement being used towards imperialist ends. If the latter is true, then this could be the correct position for revolutionaries to take. So is the LGBTQ movement a weapon of the imperialists?
We have certainly noticed the LGBTQ cause being weaponized against the oppressed nations both inside and outside United $tates borders. One big example of this was during the Bush administration’s imperialist crusade against the Middle East and Central Asia where semi-feudal patriarchal practices of the masses in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq were put in the spotlight as justification for genocidal war. This was a big rallying cry for the “feminist” argument that U.$. invasion of Afghanistan meant freedom and liberation of Afghan womyn and LGBTQ. When the Taliban kicked out the U.$. imperialists in 2021, the fact that public education for Afghan womyn were taken away by the Taliban was put in the spotlight again alongside news of anti-LGBTQ lynchings, etc. So in cases such as these, we can see how even progressive causes such as the freedom for wimmin to have education and for LGBTQ people to express their love can be weaponized by the imperialists whose bombs will murder Afghan womyn and LGBTQ people and take away their freedom to be alive.
On a side note, looking at things in a historical materialist perspective, the brief experience of bourgeois democracy for middle class womyn to gain education and for LGBTQ people to exist without the immediate threat of death has been tasted by the broad Afghan masses (or at least the Afghan petty-bourgeoisie who could have afforded to experience it under the reactionary comprador U.$.-backed warlord regime). This gives the historical duty of the petty-bourgeoisie in Afghanistan to partake in a new democratic revolution alongside the proletariat, the peasantry, and the national bourgeoisie to overthrow the semi-feudal and semi-colonial state and implement those said freedoms under a proletarian dictatorship
But for us inside U.$. borders, what is the significance of this? Anti-imperialists should confront rallies to “defend Afghan wimmin” through U.$. bombs with anti-war, anti-militarist messages. But this has nothing to do with the realities of homosexual romance or people adopting gendered appearances that the patriarchy did not assign to them. More homosexual romance does not inherently bring more bombs dropped on the Third World. As pointed out, these bombs are killing LGTBQ people indiscriminately as well.
For all it’s self-proclaimed enlightened ways, U.$. imperialism continues to uphold the myth of race in everything it does. Enter the Supreme Court with their historic decision to end affirmative action in higher education. While the “race-conscious” policy did benefit (some in the) oppressed nations, the framework of race, created by the oppressor, continues to setback the progress of the oppressed.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority position, “Many universities have for too long… concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin… Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”
We are not in the game of integrating oppressed people into the oppressor nation, but affirmative action based on “race” did prove an effective way to do that. Ending it will mean less oppressed nation people in higher education as recent history in California has shown.(1)
However, the racial statistics used to tout the success of affirmative action can be misleading. Because “race” and not income, or zip code, or cultural background are used in many of these statistics, what looks like perfect representation by skin color may be doing nothing to benefit the New Afrikan masses. Extrapolating from some broad statistics, one author estimates that maybe 7 or 8 of 154 “Black” freshman (5%) at Harvard in 2020 were from families defined in the U.$. as impoverished. Whereas, in the general population, 30% of New Afrikan youth are from impoverished households. This article also cites anecdotes saying the vast majority of black faces at Harvard are from bourgeois African families or had one Euro-Amerikan parent. Again, indicating affirmative action was not really benefiting the New Afrikan nation at Harvard anyway.(2)
The passage of the U.$. Civil Rights Act in 1964, which preceded the “affirmative action” practices we know today, was a comprehensive act to outlaw discrimination in what had been a segregated country. This was not just a result of the organizing of the oppressed within U.$. borders, but the pressure from the Soviet Union (though at that time they’d taken up the capitalist road) and China and the broader national liberation movement taking place across Africa, Asia and Latin America. And while progressive changes took place in the United $tates in the 1960s it did not quell the upsurge of national liberation struggles within U.$. borders because it never addressed the national question like the Soviet Union and China did. Rather it continued to institutionalize the concept of race through the new civil rights laws being passed.
By never addressing the national question, things like affirmative action, or Under Lock & Key can be attacked by the imperialist state as “racist.” To the imperialists the oppressed nations don’t exist, so when we talk about New Afrikans or Chican@s or Euro-Amerikans, they censor our literature for “racism.”
We must identify the principal contradiction to keep our eyes on the prize and not get distracted into dead-end politics. The principal contradiction we see under imperialism is nation, as well within the United $tates we say it is nation. This does not mean everyone from an oppressed nation is an ally. We must think in terms of percentages, not in black and white.
In discussing racism in political repression, Triumphant talks about the neo-colonial era. And we echo this sentiment that “skinfolk ain’t necessarily kinfolk.” That Black bourgeoisie are often playing significant enemy roles, in defense of U.$. imperialism.
However, just because neo-colonialism exists, it does not mean that nation is erased and class is all that matters. Neo-colonialism is still national oppression, it’s just a smarter form.
In reality, not seeing race at all is impossible for us in this racist society. Even when speaking of nations, we use phenotypes to classify people; we are still stuck in this model handed down by the European settlers who created “whiteness.” We must develop a political analysis to guide us that is beyond the myth of race and bloodlines, that instead operates in the material reality of nation, which J.V. Stalin defined as " a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make up manifested in a community of culture."
Comrade USW36 wrote on this topic:
i too, no longer use “Black” and “White” to define people. i’m a “New Afrikan”, Black is “created” by European settlers to enforce their new “white” identity rule. i hope all Rev Nats study Fanon (and Yaki’s “Meditations”), New Afrika, Native Amerika, and New Aztlan can be freed. We can be united and create a true North Amerikan Revolutionary Nationalist United Front to decolonize and delink from this imperialist juggernaut. Black and White identities won’t help us free any of the NA nations (i’d like also to salute New Asian Pacific Islanders).
If Amerika is the “prison house of nations”, if our aim is to weaken it from the inside, if revolutionary nationalism is viable then this isn’t just a path for New Afrikans it’s for us all, even European-settlers if they commit class-suicide. New Afrika isn’t just descendants of Afrika. It’s a scattered and potentially solidified nation with all sorts of “ethnicities”, and too, anyone can be a New Afrikan; shaming people ’cause they’re not “Black” enough or not at all is bourgeois bullshit. Someone like the Euro-Amerikan teacher Rachel Dolezal shouldn’t have been discarded like trash if she lied about her ethnicity; that could be corrected by self-criticism but if she consciously was willing to fight for the liberation of “New Afrika” then she’s a “New Afrikan” it’s that fucken simple. But we all need to wrestle with these contradictions here in the heart of empire.
A better example than Rachel Dolezal is Yuri Kochiyama, who was actually a citizen of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA), joining at its founding in 1968 along with a 17 year-old Mutulu Shakur. Kochiyama was a close comrade of el Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X when they met). As a child of Japanese descent she spent years in a U.$. concentration camp during WWII. The RNA continues to serve as a model for how to address oppression from within the empire. Armed with Maoism, revolutionary nationalism within the belly of the beast can lead us to a world with out racism.
We’ve been a bit strained on support lately. One thing we forgot to do in ULK 81 is promote our annual fund drive for the Fourth of You-Lie (July 4th). The good news is you can donate any time of year! The bad news is, so far we’ve only received a quarter of the amount in donations, and a quarter of the amount in payments for literature from our readers inside U.$. prisons that we received in 2022. But we’re already half way through the year! We have been rebuilding and expanding our reach over the last few years, so there’s a lot of catching up to do to sustain our growth.
Prisoners, the amount we ask you to send is about $4 or 7 stamps to cover a year subscription to Under Lock & Key. We know not everyone has that in prison, so anyone who can send more, all funds go directly to sending materials to prisoners.