Phone Zap Tomorrow to Support NC Strikers!
Boycott Juneteenth: End Mass Incarceration and Solitary
The Florida mailroom staff who seized the pamphlet checked two reasons for impounding it:
“(15)(i)is dangerously inflammatory in that it advocates or encourages riot, insurrection, rebellion, organized prison protest, disruption of the institution, or the violation of the federal law, state law or Department Rules”
“(15)(p)otherwise presents a threat to the security, order, or rehabilitative objectives of the correctional system or the safety of any person.”
Since the pamphlet is actively preventing harm to the safety of any person and actively training people to stop breaking the law or engaging in destructive behavior, we must wonder what are the “rehabilitative objectives” of the Florida Department of Corrections.
MIM(Prisons) appealed this.
Texas on the other hand did not give MIM(Prisons) the opportunity to appeal, as required by Federal law, and only notified us of the censorship after the review committee’s final decision, which, like Florida, cited the “Entire publication contain security concerns.”
The reason they cited:
“Publication contains material that a reasonable person would construe as written solely for the purpose of communicating information designed to achieve a breakdown of prisons through offender disruption such as strikes, riots or security threat group activity.”
Literally no reasonable person would think this.
But as we’ve been reporting on, the TDCJ is openly trafficking drugs to sell to the people they imprison. So it is not surprising that they find our efforts to combat addiction to be a disruption to their operations.
It’s also no secret that the oppressor prefers us to be drunk and high, rather than thinking clearly and doing good for ourselves and our people.
Prisoners can help by getting our Censorship Guide and appealing any censorship as the comrade in Texas did. People on the outside can help by volunteering to help us appeal and hold these state agencies accountable. Legal expertise with these issues is also something you can contribute.
With just a month remaining before the first series of actions around the Juneteenth Freedom Initiative, we have received reports of repression of activists by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice(TDCJ).
One of the hearts of this campaign comes out of the brutal Allred Restrictive Housing Unit(RHU) where people have spent decades in isolation. We’ve recently learned that one organizer at Allred hasn’t received half a dozen letters we’ve sent em over the last few months. Eir outgoing mail is also delayed or gone missing. This mail tampering is illegal. We wrote the warden of Allred to stop this censorship.. If he doesn’t stop it, we know this political repression is intentional from the top of the TDCJ to suppress our boycotting of Juneteenth.
We are asking others to join our letter writing and postcard campaign in support of the rights of MIM Distributors and these activists in Allred to freely communicate. The pdf below can be downloaded, printed on card stock and cut into four postcards. Then you can ask people to sign them, put a postcard stamp ($0.40) on them, and drop them in a mail box. Over the next couple months we want to show TDCJ that people outside are paying attention and supporting the Juneteenth Freedom Initiative. This is one way to do that. You can also call Warden Jimmy Smith @ (940) 855-7477 (**069).
Stevenson Unit in Texas has also stepped up censorship related to materials about the Juneteenth boycott. The TX Team One Primer was censored for the reason:
“Page(s) 4 contains information advocating prison disruption.”
Prisoners are very limited in what they can do when their grievances are ignored. Most actions will lead to repression. A boycott is the most passive action. There are no calls to violence nor do the plans threaten security in any way. Just a peaceful demonstration of solidarity, demanding some basic humyn rights be applied in Texas prisons. Yet this is being outlawed by the state.
Even worse, in eir most recent update, one comrade in Stevenson reported that:
“last night I was placed in handcuffs and marched off to solitary confinement, the place from where I currently write. I woke this morning to find I’m being charged with 2 new rules violations: 1) Attempt/threat to assault a correctional officer and 2) Assault of a correctional officer.”
There was no assault. In fact this comrade is not even supposed to be housed on the second floor because of eir health conditions. Ey believes this is retaliation for the appeals ey filed against the censorship of literature sent by MIM Distributors. Meanwhile, MIM Distributors was not given the opportunity to appeal, and only received the final decision from TDCJ.
As our comrade in Stevenson Unit so eloquently concluded,
“They will never succeed in snuffing out my flame and their attempts to silence the truth only causes it to roar even louder! They cloak themselves in legitimacy and the trappings of power because deep down they know they are weak and the system is crumbling – to be swept aside along with all the silly liberal reformers and we build a better world over their ruins, a new society based on equality and respect and compassion and truth and justice and”love" – a human society fit for fully involved and determined human beings at peace with themselves, each other, and the world around us."
Organizing is spreading around the Dillard v. Davis, et al. Civil Action No. 7:19-cv-0081-M-BP lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s use of long-term solitary confinement. Prisoners held in Allred Unit, ground zero for the Restrictive Housing Unit, and Michael Unit have filed motions to join the class action suit.
A comrade in Stevenson Unit wrote to say that there are only 12 restrictive housing cells there and they are only used very short-term. But ey is sharing the motion and other campaign materials with contacts inside and outside to support those in RHU fighting for their humyn rights.
Shutting down long-term solitary confinement is one of the key campaign demands of the Juneteenth Freedom Initiative, calling for a boycott of Juneteenth until real freedom is attained in this country. The lawsuit points to the irreparable harm on mental health caused by long-term solitary.
Anyone who is in a Restricted Housing Unit in Texas can use the linked example motion to join this lawsuit. The motion should be sent to all three addresses listed at the end of the attached PDF. Please download and distribute to those you know in Texas torture chambers!
28 May 2022 UPDATE from Tx TEAM ONE member - Telford Unit: I have submitted my interest in becoming a co-plaintiff to all inhumane conditions in all Ad-Seg/RHU buildings, especially on this unit, and the inhumane/treatment and living conditions endured by all alleged STG prisoners. Because for almost forty (40) years, those of Us that are considered STG’s have been in these living conditions.
I have already written to the Eastern and Northern Districts, United States District Courts. And I have also written to the United States Department of Justice…
Following up on some recent warnings and reports from comrades on Subxone(buprenorphine), we conducted an updated survey on drugs in U.$. prisons this past winter.(1) We received survey responses from NC, PA, VA, WV, MI, CA and TX.(2) While we heard from Michigan in ULK 75 all of the other states were represented in our original survey, which was distributed more widely and received more responses.
So has anything changed in the last 5 years? In 2017, Suboxone use was reported to be common in many states in the northeast and midwest United $tates. Specifically comrades in NY, KS, WV, TN, CT, WI, and especially PA reported Suboxone use being popular. We do not have info on whether the Suboxone was obtained from the prison or not in that data set. In 2022, we can add California, Virginia, North Carolina and Michigan to the list of states where Suboxone is abused in prisons. Of those four, only Michigan was not represented in our 2017 survey, meaning Suboxone seems to have become popular in the other 3 in the last five years. Texas is the only state we got responses from this year that reported Suboxone still not being available at all.
Our comrade in Michigan reported this new drug appeared on the scene in 2012, and had become the most common drug abused in the MDOC, with perhaps 5 in 10 prisoners using it. (until recently when K2 took over)
We have updated info from Pennsylvania affirming that it is prescribed there and that people can stay on it for as long as they are held in prison. About 1 in 7 people are using Suboxone at SCI-Dallas.
In North Carolina, Suboxone is very popular, though less popular than K2, which has been increasing in use. Suboxone may be more popular with white prisoners there.
Our Virginia respondent is in a “big mental health/drug rehab” unit, where ey says “we can’t order self-help programs nor books.” Imagine that! Yet you can get a Suboxone subscription with no indication that there are any classes to go along with it. Some are continuing their Suboxone subs from the streets.
Michigan and West Virginia do not prescribe Suboxone according to our survey respondents. Yet it still gets into the prisons there and is quite popular.
The biggest shift we learned from our second round of surveys was the new introduction of Suboxone, which Ehecatl already reported in ULK 76 started in 2020. A recent study reported a sharp increase in buprenorphine consumption in prisons from 2020-2021. The number of incarcerated people consuming it rose an estimated 250,000 from January 2015 to May 2021. With only 115,000 prisoners total, CDCR may have been a good chunk of that growth, but clearly was only part of it.
That said, one comrade in California reported that they now “give anyone and everyone Suboxone. I know a bunch of people who never have used drugs and went to see the doctor and got put on Suboxone.” The price of Suboxone on the black market has decrease from $100 to only $2-4 as a result. This comrade continued,
“I’ve been in solitary confinement for over 4 years so I signed up to get put on Suboxone and I got put on it a week after seeing the doctor. I’ve been a drug addict my whole life, but was still surprised how easy it is and was to get put on Subxone.”
We’ve always held that solitary confinement is used as a tool of social control in the U.$. injustice system. We also see Suboxone being used in the same way. Here they are being used in conjunction as a way to help people adjust to the torture of solitary confinement. When used outside solitary, most prisoners reported its use leading to people retreating from socializing and not engaging in any kind of group organizing.
Another CA comrade had put in a request in December 2019 after the CDCR publicized a new drug to help with addiction. By March or April 2020 ey was approved for Suboxone. Doses there range from 8mg to 20mg. As for counseling, this comrade did report that, “while I was receiving it we were seeing a C.O. Healy and ex-drug user facilitator bringing us 5 days of work on Monday and coming back on Monday to pick up the homework.” It is not clear why ey stopped receiving Suboxone.
“Buprenorphine use in jails and prisons increased by 224-fold, from a daily mean of 44 individuals in June 2016 to 9841 individuals in May 2021 (Figure). Most of this increase occurred from 2020 to 2021. Nationwide, across all retail and nonretail settings, buprenorphine use increased by 53.9% from a daily mean of 466,781 individuals in January 2015 to 718,591 individuals in May 2021. By May 2021, correctional settings accounted for approximately 1.5% of all buprenorphine use nationwide. An estimated 3.6% of the 270,000 incarcerated individuals with [Opioid Use Disorder] in the US received buprenorphine.”(3)
These numbers are likely underestimated as they are based on retail sales numbers from one source. But the sharp increase in prescribed Suboxone starting in late 2019 is certainly something of note.
We received the most responses to our second survey from Texas, and things seem to have not changed much there. Everyone agreed that Suboxone was not available in Texas. K2 appeared there around 2013 or 2014 according to our respondents, and has been on the increase ever since. Many people report tiers filled with the smoke being a common occurrence in the TDCJ. K2 use rates reported in TX this time around estimated 10%, 20%, 30% and in the RHU up to 75% of people.
Our correspondent from Allred’s RHU reports that back in 2013-2016 “drugs were virtually non-existent… 1/2 that time there were no cameras, yet there still was no drugs, no cell phones, no contraband at all really. Since i’ve been back here there has been at least a 70% increase in contraband” (2017 to present). This comrade points to a huge cultural shift among staff leading to the change.
Ey goes on to explain the social effects of this influx of drugs and how it serves as a tool of social control:
“We had a good thing going here after working to bring all New Afrikan lumpen groups and people together, but clashes over drug debts have undermined the unity… We were able to organize 1/3 of the RHU population against their confinement. With the drugs one year later, barely 50 people!”
As far as effective efforts to combat drugs, we once again got a resounding “no” answer to that question form all states. One TX comrade reported, “the Christians and Muslims are the only social groups openly condemning drug use, simultaneously, some of their”coordinators" are getting officially charged with possessing it!"
Another comrade who struggled with prescription psych meds as well as illicit drugs explained, “One of the worst parts of my own ‘addiction’ was the shame and guilt that came from using these ‘illegal drugs.’” This is just one reason why the approach to drug addiction in this country is ineffective. We encourage comrades to try our new Revolutionary 12 Step Program, which will walk you through addressing these feelings of shame.
A couple of respondents reiterated a preference for “natural” drugs rather than ones that are synthesized by multi-national corporations. But we’d point out the reason we can’t trust modern technology is because of capitalism. It is not the fact that humyns made it that makes it unsafe, but rather the profit motives that cause humyns to hide and overlook any safety issues that come up. There are lots of things that grow naturally that can kill you. In a system that operates in the interests of the people, we wouldn’t be making things to add to that list like the capitalists do.
1. [see the results of our first survey on drugs in prison in Under Lock & Key 59]
2. The response size for this survey was much smaller and only included the following number of responses by state: NC-1, PA-1, VA-1, WV-1, MI-1, CA-2, TX-5
3. Ashish P. Thakrar, MD1; G. Caleb Alexander, MD, MS; Brendan Saloner, PhD; Trends in Buprenorphine Use in US Jails and Prisons From 2016 to 2021. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(12):e2138807. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.38807.
As imperialist crisis deepens, national liberation grows. The right for national self-determination is gaining mainstream discussion with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The imperialists are boycotting Russia to support Ukraine, when they punished those boycotting I$rael for denying the self-determination of Palestine. Meanwhile, here in occupied Aztlán comrades are engaging the [email protected] movement on this topic, which has forced the largest reformist parties to discuss national liberation in the current political climate.
Before the next issue of Under Lock & Key comes out we have two events that we are asking you to support. One is our second annual Fourth of You-Lie fund drive. Thanks to all who donated already this year, we are off to a good start rivaling last year’s steady increase in donations. If you haven’t donated yet this year, we’re asking every reader to send us 7 stamps or more by July 4th. We just received notice that, like most things, printing costs will be increasing this summer.
And more importantly, June 19th marks the boycott Juneteenth Freedom Initiative. The campaign is centered in Texas, where comrades are organizing a general strike in prisons across the state. Different custody levels will be organizing different forms of action leading up to and continuing after June 19th. We will be sending updates to USW comrades in Texas over the next month. Campaign demands include:
End Solitary Confinement!
End Restrictive Housing Units!
End Mass Incarceration!
Transform the prisons to cadre schools!
Transform ourselves into New People!
Speaking of transforming ourselves, we released the Revolutionary 12 Step program this winter as promised. USW leaders should have that in their hands already. The Power to New Afrika pamphlet is almost done, and should be out shortly after this ULK. The new The Fundamental Political Line of the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons however, is not on schedule and we do not know when we will be able to complete that. For now our introductory study program will continue using the old version. We are also very behind on responding to comrades in the intro study program. As always, we need more outside supporters to help with basic tasks like transcribing, editing, lay out, and promoting prisoner-led campaigns. We just don’t have enough comrades out here to keep up with everything comrades need in there. Thank you to our newest supporters who helped with this issue, we hope to have a long and revolutionary relationship!
For many years, MIM Distributors has been providing legal resources to prisoners in Texas, including the Texas Department of Criminal Justice(TDCJ)’s own Grievance Operations Manual. In 2010, USW launched the grievance campaign in Texas, developing petitions to notify regulatory bodies when the TDCJ was violating its own grievance process. Four years later a comrade reported that on 30 September 2014 the TDCJ removed the Grievance Operations Manual, which lays out the TDCJ’s relevant code and policies, from all prison libraries(1) where it used to be available for prisoners to reference. Soon after, MIM Distributors began offering this document to comrades who were trying to fight grievances they had against the TDCJ.
In May 2019, we received a report from a comrade that the copy of the Grievance Operations Manual we sent em had been confiscated by a Correctional Officer(C.O.) in the law library!(2)
Turns out, they have continued to step things up a notch to keep this public information out of the hands of prisoners. On 12 January 2022, MIM Distributors was notified by the staff that the TDCJ Grievance Operation Manual was censored at McConnell Unit on 10 December 2021 for the following reason:
“in contradiction with BP-03.91, Uniform Offender Correspondence Rules”
That was all the detail given. And we have not determined any portion of BP-03.91 that could possibly be applied to TDCJ’s own public policies. These types of cases should be easy wins for us. Unfortunately, we do not have the support we used to have to deal with prison administrators and hold them accountable. Outside supporters, get in touch to help us rebuild our capacity to fight these blatant injustices. Comrades inside that are falling victim to this repression, keep filing paperwork and provide us with all the info you can on what is going on.
notes: 1. A Texas Prisoner, November 2014, Texas Hides Grievance Manual from Prisoners, Under Lock & Key 42.
2. A Texas Prisoner, May 2019, Texas Confiscating Offender’s Grievance Operations Manual.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, MIM(Prisons) has not published any analysis of the war, nor have we participated in any organizing around the war. Our position is that our movement should be looking to counter and prevent Amerikan war-mongering against Russia, or any other country.
Unfortunately, most opposition to the Russian invasion in the United $tates is being led by the State Department and is fanning Amerikan support for war with Russia and promoting the overthrow of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As we go to press, things have continued to heat up and the threat of inter-imperialist war seems greater than it’s been in decades.
Imperialists are stealing from other imperialists. The U.$. Treasury Department has already seized $1 billion worth of boats and planes and hundreds of millions of dollars in bank accounts. The House of Representatives passed a bill to liquidate these assets and use them to rebuild Ukraine. In addition, the U.$. imperialist bloc has frozen $600 billion of Russia’s central bank foreign reserve fund, which they are also considering using to rebuild Ukraine.(1) They are taking the stolen wealth of other imperialists and using it to rebuild Ukraine to serve U.$. imperialism instead of Russia. This greatly adds to the original military threat Russia had felt from NATO encircling them, making the escalation to all-out inter-imperialist war more likely.
The U.$/IMF/World Bank will of course sink their teeth deeper into Ukraine through loans, which have already begun during the war period. As they do to oppressed nations around the world, these loans become means by which they control their policies and structure their economies as neo-colonies. Perhaps they will even use assets stolen from Russia to loan to Ukraine.
As this issue of Under Lock & Key reaches ours subscribers, we will be approaching the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany (May 8-9). In the Russian-allied Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics they are restoring statues of V.I. Lenin and hanging red flags as they prepare to celebrate, while the Azov neo-Nazis threatened to attack victory parades.(2) The memories of World War II run deep. While there is no socialist camp engaged in the current war, we can see how the crisis is pushing people to look for answers. In addition to being morally abhorrent, the fascists cannot address the contradictions of capitalism that are playing out today. It is only a new economy that is driven by universal humyn need and not profit that can solve the problems of war, environmental destruction and economic booms and busts that capitalism brings.
Russia was banned from SWIFT, a component of the global payments processing system. Many other sanctions have been placed on the Russian economy, including obstacles to outside investment and bans on the sale of anything that could conceivably have a military use (which is a lot of stuff). Oil and gas, as of this writing, are still being bought from Russia by most European countries, but this might change soon even though Europe has no other reliable supply of natural gas to rely on currently. Germany, for example, ships weapons to Ukraine that are used against Russian troops and pays Russia for its natural gas at the same time.
The effects of the sanctions aren’t clear yet. If Russia loses access to the European market for its oil and gas its export earnings will collapse. China cannot replace the lost demand, and sanctions will play havoc on Russian industry’s supply chains.
One of the major battles, around the town of Mariupol in the southeast, is unfolding in Azovstal, an enormous Soviet-era steel mill. The complex has mostly been destroyed. This serves as a symbol of what the rest of Ukraine will look like once all this is over. Following the war there are likely to be fewer and worse jobs, a large refugee population abroad, environmental devastation and a radical polarization of Ukrainian society. There is talk of forgiving some of Ukraine’s foreign debt, and maybe there will be aid for reconstruction, but the rest of the world’s charity is not likely to make up for what’s being lost now, and its also likely to come with strings attached.
Yes. The Azov battalion, which is based in southeast Ukraine and has been fighting Russian separatists in the Donbass region since 2014, is a far-right military formation with white supremacist leadership and ideals. They’re responsible for numerous attacks on Roma encampments, LGBT people and leftists in Ukraine since their founding, as well as attacks on civilians and war crimes during the battles against separatists in the east. Many of their leaders, including founder Andriy Biletsky, used to openly promote race war against “untermenschen”[define?] and Jewish people, but have dialed back such talk in public in recent years.
Their logo features the Wolfsangel and the Sonnenrad, both indisputable Nazi SS symbols, and the constant appearance of these logos in sympathetic coverage of the Ukrainian military has been a PR headache for the government. The Azov battalion is just one part of a larger fascist Azov movement coming from the Western part of Ukraine. U.$. news media has helpfully downplayed the significance of an openly fascist, highly armed and well-organized formation at the heart of Ukrainian politics by claiming that the symbols and years of fascist rhetoric and actions either don’t mean anything or are in the organization’s past. The limited presence of explicit far-right figures in the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, belies their ability to organize outside parliament and the impunity with which they do so.
The popularity of Stepan Bandera is another aspect of fascism in Ukraine. Bandera was the head of the Organization of Ukranian Nationalists, and worked with the Nazis during their occupation of Ukraine, including participating in the Holocaust and in ethnic cleansing in southeastern Poland. He is admired by the far right and those influenced by them, but not by the rest of the country – the Rada refused to award him the title of Hero of Ukraine when this was proposed in 2019. So it’s wrong to say that Ukraine is a Neo-Nazi dictatorship, just as it’s wrong to say that fascists have no influence and are not a serious issue in Ukranian society. Of course, Putin has his own fascists and couldn’t care less about Nazi rhetoric among his own forces, so he can’t use that as a pretext for an invasion.
The biggest war crime is starting one, so Russia is undoubtedly guilty on that score. In addition, indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in Ukraine by Russia has led to probably thousands of casualties so far, though confirmed counts are much lower. During early April, when Russian forces retreated from the area surrounding Kiev, Ukranian forces reoccupying the town of Bucha found hundreds of bodies of civilians on the streets. The brutality of the invading forces is clear.
The Ukranian side has also engaged in war crimes, like the kneecapping of prisoners of war. That happened on video, so who knows what’s going on when phones aren’t pulled out. War is hell.
Ukraine and Russia started talking almost immediately, and the demands have shifted with the battle. When it looked like Russia was about to capture Kiev immediately in the early days of the war, Russia’s demands were significant. But now that Russia has withdrawn from the area around Kiev and suffered significant casualties, things are different. The discoveries in Bucha as well as the radicalizing effect of war in general, might make negotiations break down completely in the future.
The key issues in the talks are Ukraine’s diplomatic relationship with the EU and NATO, and territory in Ukraine. Russia wants Ukraine to stay out of NATO, and wants its territorial acquisitions, including Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and the Crimean peninsula in the south, to be confirmed.
The Soviet Union was formed on a voluntary basis by independent nations. Most of those who joined the Soviet Union had been part of the Russian Empire in the past. As an imperialist, Putin may be aspiring to something closer to the Russian Empire. However, stated motivations for the invasion of Ukraine are immediate concerns about defending Russia from NATO.
In a recent speech Putin denounced Lenin and the Bolsheviks for the creation of Ukraine, because Lenin recognized the right of all nations to secede. In ULK 36 we wrote about the emblematic image of the toppling of the statue of Lenin in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev in 2013. This was done by supporters of the right-wing populist party of Svodoba.
Both sides of the current war in Ukraine are openly and virulently opposed to Bolshevism and the ideas of Lenin and Stalin.
The sanctions being implemented by the U.$.-led imperialist bloc are not peaceful as they come along with large military support being sent into Ukraine to prolong the war and the fighting.
Sanctions are economic warfare. They can be a softer way to pressure other powers than military conflict, but given time they can also have more damaging effects.
In a few days the U.$. imperialists achieved more than the movement to boycott, sanction and divest from I$rael has achieved in years. The illegal occupation of Palestine and daily oppression of the Palestinian people does not get the support of many of the multinational corporations and organizations that jumped to ban Russia or pull their operations from Russia.
As the sanctioning of Russia happened more quickly and successfully, it is that much more dangerous. The increase in economic boundaries between imperialist camps marks the shift from a stage of relative peace between imperialist powers to one of more violent competition. Tariffs, sanctions, market control, dividing up of the world’s colonies, resources and markets, were what led up to the first and second inter-imperialist wars.
Supporting sanctions on Russia right now is further isolating an imperialist power and increasing the chances of military escalation between the imperialists, which increases the chance of nuclear war. None of this is in the interests of humynity as a whole.
For the last century the United $tates has led the most prosperous path for international finance capital. As a result many of the big names are loyal to the Amerikans. But there are also many exceptions, companies who are not volunteering to stop business in Russia. And others who are looking to capitalize on others leaving. One financial company made a bold statement saying that if they were to ban a country from their services for invading a sovereign people, they’d start with banning the Amerikans.(3)
Different capitalists are going to have different interests, and their interests are going to conflict with those of their competitors. While the big finance capitalists benefit from and support stability, other capitalist interests will fund and fuel escalating conflict between the imperialist camps. Meanwhile, weapons manufacturers always benefit from militarism and are very powerful and influential in imperialist circles of power. The mutual interests that created the military-industrial complex has posed a great threat to the world since WWII.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United $tates of Amerika has been the sole dominant superpower in the world. Before then, countries who opposed U.$. interests could find support from the other imperialist pole of the Soviet Union.
Since WWII, Europe has been subsumed by Amerikan imperialism. If you look at a map of those imposing sanctions on Russia today it is occupied Turtle Island (the United $tates and Klanada), Western Europe, Australia and Japan. This has been the alliance of imperialist powers that has dominated the world, operating under U.$. military and economic leadership, for 70 years.
China left the socialist path in 1976, and has continued to rise as an economic superpower since then. When the Soviet Union took the capitalist path it led to collapse 35 years later as the bourgeoisie was divided, carving out their own fiefdoms from which to extract wealth. China’s new bourgeoisie however has remained united in a plan to exploit its own proletariat, and is now seen as the biggest threat to U.$. dominance almost 50 years after taking the capitalist road. Of course, the people of China and the former Soviet Union were the losers in both cases.
China and Russia remain politically separate from the U.$.-dominated imperialist pole, despite China’s deep integration with the U.$. economy. Their socialist past is one reason for this separation. Together Russia and China control most of the Eurasian land mass, and as neighbors have shared interests in promoting trade in the region. The media has been buzzing about the new Russia/China pole as the geopolitics of the invasion of Ukraine play out. Some dissident media outlets cheer this prospect as a counterbalance to U.$./European imperialism, or what is often referred to as “Western” imperialism.
We look at the invasion of Ukraine with the outlook of “it’s terrible, but it’s fine.” An invasion by an imperialist country is always terrible, with Ukrainians and Russian soldiers dying and 100,000s of Ukrainians being displaced. Communists should never aid an imperialist invasion.
Ultimately, it is imperialist conflict that creates space for the proletariat to organize, and to play the imperialists against each other in order to win victories for the people. In that sense, the increase in disorder in the world “is fine.” It is the inevitable result of the contradictions within the capitalist system. These conflicts will come sooner or later, we cannot prevent them in the short term, but we can seize the opportunities they create to put an end to this system to prevent chaos in the long-term.
Prior to WWI, Britain was the leading imperialist power, and maintained its dominance in part by keeping continental Europe divided. Today the Amerikans play the leading role, but are working with the British to prevent closer relations between Germany and Russia. This has been their strategy since the 1930s when the imperialists feared Germany would join the socialist camp.
In recent years, the United $tates has been threatening sanctions to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would pipe natural gas directly from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea. Germany is already Russia’s biggest gas customer, and Nord Stream 2 would strengthen that relationship. The Amerikans oppose this as they see this tying German and Russian interests closer. In recent negotiations around sanctions against Russia, Germany proved reluctant but ultimately joined the NATO consensus to impose them. Germany even gave in on shipping arms to Ukraine after refusing at first.
Among the imperialists there are disagreements about this. Henry Kissinger famously opposed NATO inclusion of Ukraine, promoting a policy of integrating Russia into the U.$.-led sphere. Kissinger warned of the consequences of trying to break the back of Russia.
Nord Stream 2 provides an alternate route to transport gas to Germany than the other primary route through Ukraine.
Following WWII, the U.$. was the least damaged imperialist power and was booming from the wartime economy. Profits were high, exploitation of the Third World was transferring wealth to the rising U.$. empire that financed the rebuilding of Europe. This allowed Europe to be built in the way the Amerikans saw fit. One thing this allowed for was they positioned the dollar to become the global reserve currency, or the currency that other countries held and conducted international trade in. Oil was set to trade exclusively in exchange for the “petro dollar.”
This arrangement has allowed the U.$. to have a growing trade deficit for decades without the value of their currency dropping. When Third World countries have trouble paying their debts, their currencies can become worthless overnight. A replacement of the U.$. dollar as the global reserve currency makes the United $tates more economically vulnerable.
“According to the IMF, the share of reserves held in U.S. dollars by central banks has dropped by 12 percentage points since the turn of the century, from 71 percent in 1999 to 59 percent in 2021. But this fall has been matched by a rise in the share of what the IMF calls ‘non-traditional reserve currencies’, defined as currencies other than the ‘big four’ of the US dollar, euro, Japanese yen and British pound sterling, namely such as the Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, Chinese renminbi, Korean won, Singapore dollar, and Swedish krona.”(4)
Currently Russia is saying ‘unfriendly countries’ must begin to pay them for gas in Russian rubles. Hungary, which is part of the European Union, but also friendly with Russia has already agreed to pay with rubles. But the European Union(E.U.) has said the deal was to pay in euros and dollars and they would not change. This is an effort by Russia to stabilize their currency using their vast gas trade with Europe to force others to buy rubles. While the value of the ruble initially dropped about 50% after invading Ukraine, it has since recovered close to pre-war levels.
Poland, Germany and Bulgaria have refused to pay Russia for natural gas in rubles instead of euros as they are demanding. On 27 April 2022, Russia halted natural gas flows to Poland and Bulgaria after their deadline for paying in rubles was not met. About 40% of Europe’s gas consumption is supplied by Russia. The region is talking about tightening up its consumption. While good for the planet, this will lead to a further constriction of the economy, applying more pressure to the imperialists who must always expand their markets to circulate more capital. However, it is reported that some undisclosed purchasers are going ahead and buying with rubles, despite it being a violation of EU sanctions.(5)
As we discussed in ULK 36, GDP in Ukraine after the dissolution of the Soviet Union was 1/3 what it was just before. Though the Soviet Union had already been operating a capitalist economy for 35 years at that time, the complete opening up of the region to the West, the complete Liberalization of policies, and the resultant chaos and uncertainty led to a precipitous drop in material wealth in the country.
Leading up to and following the 2014 coup in Ukraine, the GDP fell and had not recovered pre-coup highs before the current war.(6) The coup installed a U.$.-backed, EU/NATO friendly government that introduced International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans to the country, which are used around the world to extract wealth from the exploited countries to the finance capitalists. As we predicted in ULK 37 these IMF loans contributed to decreasing wealth in Ukraine.
Before 2014, the Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine in the East and South were much more productive and prosperous. People in those regions have lost significant income. Meanwhile, the rest of the country that was somewhat ignored by Russian imperialism, has not seen material improvements by cozying up to the West.(7)
To join the E.U. is a logical option for many in Ukraine who see the wealth in those countries and the incomes they can earn migrating to even the eastern E.U.. Yet the spoils of imperialism are limited, and experience in the last 8 years in Ukraine show the limitations of this option.
Ukraine and Russia remain largely proletarian countries, with material interests opposed to imperialism. While there does not appear to be a strong anti-imperialist current in Ukraine at this time, this can change quickly as this crisis has brought much disruption and displacement in the country.
Notes: 1. Fatima Hussein and Michael Balsamo, 29 April 2022, The US Wants to Sell Oligarchs’ Assets to Help Ukraine. It Just Needs This Law First, NBC4 New York.
2. Dmitryi Kovalevich, 27 April 2022, April update: Proxy war in Ukraine is for Western loans
3. “Kraken crypto CEO bashes US, won’t freeze Russian accounts,” NY Post, March 3rd 2022.
4.“The end of dollar dominance?”
5.Huileng Tan, 28 April 2022, The EU warns natural-gas companies not to pay Russia in rubles after the country cut supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, Business Insider.
7. “Class contradictions and the war in Ukraine”
19 February 2022 – K.A.G.E. Universal and Hella Positive hosted an event featuring the voices of New Afrikan elders as part of the campaign to Liberate Our Elders from the cages of the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation(CDCr). As the comrades say, little “r”, because there is no rehabilitation, and rehabilitation must come from within.
At this event MIM(Prisons) shared copies of our new pamphlet, A Revolutionary 12 Step Program, in the spirit of supporting self-transformation via independent institutions of the oppressed. We also joined K.A.G.E. Universal in promoting the United Front for Peace in Prisons, as they work to expand the message of independent peace building behind bars and in local schools in Oakland.
The event brought together many outside activists and organizations and the voices of New Afrikan principal thinkers from the Pelican Bay SHU who are now on the streets as well as some still imprisoned. Speakers included imprisoned elder Sitawa, one of the main reps during the historic California hunger strikes, and Paul Redd who is now released. Louis Powell’s voice was also heard through the reading of his new book, Chronicles of a Prison Dirty War: California Prison Politics.
In the closing of the event, Minister King X pointed out that these elders are “walking dictionaries,” and the state is “trying to eradicate our history.”
Shortly after receiving this issue of Under Lock & Key, a number of USW leaders and other supporters of our work will be receiving the first edition of our Revolutionary 12 Step Program. This has been in the works for over a year now and we are excited to get it into the hands of comrades who are ready to implement the program and provide feedback.
The Revolutionary 12 Step Program is a significant advance for our Serve the People “Re-Lease on Life” Program, which has been in existence in some form from the early years of MIM(Prisons)’s existence.
When most of us think of the 12 steps, we think of Alcoholics Anonymous or a more general Narcotics Anonymous program. However, our program takes an approach similar to a program called Criminals & Gangmembers Anonymous to address the anti-people behavior of the lumpen class in a more general way.
Drugs and alcohol are a big part of the problems the people face. It is estimated that at least 65% of people incarcerated have a “Substance Use Disorder”, while the number goes up to 85% if you include all who were under the influence during the crime they were convicted of.(1) That’s a lot! As recent understandings of the brain tell us, the lack of impulse control that can lead to destructive behaviors is caused by unhealthy social conditions during childhood.(2) Drug abuse will often overlap with violence towards others and other behavior that is deemed criminal by the bourgeoisie and by the people as well. In the long-term, communism can eliminate the causes of these tendencies, but in the meantime we need to address all forms of anti-people behavior to transform ourselves from a lumpen state of being to a revolutionary proletarian one.
Some people in prison are innocent. Some broke a law in a conscious decision – sometimes even for righteous political reasons. But the vast majority of you reading this broke laws through actions you would have preferred to not have taken. The vast majority of people in prison could use this program to avoid regrettable actions in the future.
All of us have rehabilitation that we must go through because we were raised in a sick society. Ultimately, everyone born in this oppressive system could benefit from our Revolutionary 12 Step Program, but many of you need it if you ever want to stay out of prison.
The state, by definition, is run by the oppressors. In our imperialist conditions today the oppressors are the bourgeoisie, the imperialists, the oppressor nations – Euro-Amerika. The institutions of the state will always serve those interests. In the current system you have law enforcement, religious organizations, private prison companies like Geo Group, and more small-time profiteers running reentry programs for the state. None of these serve the interests of the oppressed.
Today, we don’t have the influence to abolish these imperialist institutions, but we do have the influence to build independent proletarian institutions. Not only that, this is part of our central task today as a movement, “create public opinion and the independent institutions of the oppressed to seize power.”(3) We discussed previous independent institutions of the oppressed in ULK 59 on drugs.(4) Since then we’ve been working on developing our own.
One of the lessons we can take from the practice of our Re-Lease on Life Program to date is the need to address the drive to do drugs, engage in dangerous sexual activities, and the temptation of the thrill of the life of crime. We must put in its place the thrill of revolution; of fighting the real enemy; of building something new.
Before MIM(Prisons) had a Re-Lease on Life Program, we had one comrade who was one of our top theoreticians and USW leaders while in the SHU. Ey was released from prison and quickly slipped into alcoholism again. Ey stayed in touch for the first year, and then we stopped hearing from em, and ey never did any political work on the outside. At that time MIM(Prisons) had little to offer this comrade to help em adapt to life on the outside, and we certainly had nothing like a 12 step program to help em with eir alcoholism.
A story that has become too common is USW members who are released and never write us for years. When we finally do hear back from them it’s because they ended up back in prison. One such comrade recently explained:
“something I felt lack of was community. When I left the gates I went straight to a sober living…. During the time there I worked and attended A.A. meetings. I pretty much gave all my attention to my sobriety and recovery. Simultaneously my career was getting started. At this time I am getting myself situated and also enjoying my freedom, it was a really good feeling getting to move around, good food, and women…”
“I got emotionally attached to a girl that did not fulfill my needs or expectations and I became emotionally unbalanced. All it took was one instance of drugs to get high and begin my relapse. All this was in the lapse of a year. The last three months was just a chase for thrills.”
“I felt loneliness because for sobriety I left everything behind, friends, places, everything I’ve ever done, made and been. Also I felt a need for thrills, action; that was my itch for crime. I lost track of it all and I couldn’t find like-minded people.”
From the above testimony we see how sex and romance plays into this as well. We all know how common “crimes of passion” are in our society. Many of us have done time for them. This comrade wanted community and felt lonely, and seemingly tried to find that in a womyn who maybe was not in a good state herself, or maybe just couldn’t fill the large gap in this comrade’s life. The original AA puts god in that gap, a higher power. Our program puts the proletariat, the people. We will all have important individuals in our lives who help us out and other individuals who set us back. But we cannot rely on any one individual to save us, nor to meet all our needs. One of our needs is a spiritual need to be a part of something that gives us meaning. The bourgeois institutions offer you job training and maybe the prospect of a marriage. But as we see with this comrade’s story, you can attain those things and still be lonely, still not be on the path to rehabilitation. That is why we need an independent institution of the oppressed.
Another lesson we can take from this comrade, and from others, is that success will usually mean leaving behind a lot, especially at first. The easiest way to go back to prison is to go back to the same people and places you were around before you got locked up. Ultimately, our aim is not to cut you off from where you came from like a bourgeois program might do. We must stay connected to the people, and your past may offer some such connections. But those connections can only be good ones if you approach them from a new way of thinking and being. There must be a new community that you can rely on that supports your transformation into a new socialist humyn.
Even in the best case scenarios, the bourgeoisie cannot provide the support comrades need to rehabilitate. However, more often you do not end up in the best case scenario in this system as one comrade describes:
"I spent 6 years in the Drug Court program in York, PA, where a predatory judiciary, local bar, probation department (teamsters union) and suck ass ex-junkies prey on the weak and pile them 3 and 4 men to a room in some old crack house and charge them $500 per month rent plus a $500 deposit, which they would lose when they relapsed (95%) and went back to jail.
“Bless his wife-murdering heart. Bob Allen’s (Life’s Beacon House) means well and has the nicest of these houses but we can do better. The”group homes" or “recovery houses” have 3-4 month waiting lists and so do the rehabs, which county dollars are 95% of their $1000/day business. These houses are 501(c)(3) non-profits and if you start a business to employ the guys that live in these houses, it can operate non-profit too."
As we said, the Revolutionary 12 Step Program should address something that our Re-Lease on Life Program has been lacking for so long. But to do so, the program must be actualized. Here are some 3-year goals we have related to actualizing this program:
build a broader network of local contacts across the country so comrades can get more hands-on training and support from other communists
establish a revolutionary 12-step program, run by released comrades, where others can stay and immerse themselves in the program
establish satellite programs in prisons across the country that report to the program on the street, learning from each others’ experience and feeding releasees into the street program
Clearly this will require the participation of many of you to succeed. We need comrades on the outside to volunteer to be support people or sponsors for our comrades who are released. Even if you can’t administer the 12 steps, giving them someone to talk to and organize with on a daily basis will be important.
We need comrades on the inside to begin implementing this program locally. Ideal candidates will have successfully gone through the 12 step program themselves and MIM(Prisons) political study courses. And finally, we need similar people on the outside to run our program for post-release. If you think you can play any of these roles, get in touch so we can start building.
1. Center on Addiction, Behind Bars II: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population, February 2010.
2. Burke-Harris, Nadine, 2018, The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-term Effects of Childhood Adversity, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
3. What is the plan? What concrete actions can I take? What is to be done? What are you doing?
4. Wiawimawo, November 2017, Drugs, Money and Individualism in U.$. Prison Movement, Under Lock & Key No. 59