Mail the petition to your loved ones and comrades inside who are experiencing issues with their grievance procedure. Send them extra copies to share! For more info on this campaign, click here. If there is a state-wide petition developed, that one should be used instead of the country-wide petition, because it is more detailed. For a list of state-wide petitions that have already been developed, click here.
Prisoners should send a copy of the signed petition to each of the addresses listed on the petition, and to the MIM(Prisons) address below. Supporters should send letters on behalf of prisoners.
United States Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, PHB Washington, D.C. 20530
Office of Inspector General HOTLINE P.O. Box 9778 Arlington, Virginia 22219
And send MIM(Prisons) copies of any responses you receive!
MIM(Prisons), USW PO Box 40799 San Francisco, CA 94140
Resolutions on Gender Pronouns and Secure Communications
A couple resolutions passed at our 2015 Congress in July. One was focused on clarifying our policy on securing our communications outside of prisons. The full policy remains internal, but it reads in part, "Our policy is that we do not have cell relations over the internet if the other cell will not use PGP or equivalent encryption." This clarifies our existing practice.
The second resolution was proposed to change our use of pronouns to reflect the non-binary reality of biological sex categories. This proposal was taken as a task for further research as comrades were not well enough informed on the topic to put it to a vote at that time. Below is our final resolution on this question, as a result of further research and discussion.
Distinguishing Biology from Gender
As revolutionaries committed to fighting gender oppression, we distinguish between the biology/physiology of sex (male/female), and the socially constructed categories of gender (men/wimmin).
Our definition of gender places it firmly within leisure-time:
"Historically reproductive status was very important to gender, but today the dynamics of leisure-time and humyn biological development are the material basis of gender. For example, children are the oppressed gender regardless of genitalia, as they face the bulk of sexual oppression independent of class and national oppression.
"People of biologically superior health-status are better workers, and that's a class thing, but if they have leisure-time, they are also better sexually privileged. We might think of models or prostitutes, but professional athletes of any kind also walk this fine line. Athletes, models and well-paid prostitutes are not oppressed as 'objects,' but in fact they hold sexual privilege. Older and disabled people as well as the very sick are at a disadvantage, not just at work but in leisure-time. For that matter there are some people with health statuses perfectly suited for work but not for leisure-time."(1)
Our definition of gender has not changed. But with our growing understanding of the artificially binary definition of biological sex, MIM(Prisons) is changing our use of language to better reflect the reality of biology.
A Bit of History on Biology
In the past MIM line has treated the biology of sex as basically binary: males and females. But humyn biology has never been entirely binary with relation to sex characteristics. There are a range of interactions between chromosomes, hormone expressions and sexual organ development. The resulting variation in anatomical and reproductive characteristics include a lot of people who do not fit the standard binary expectation. Studies suggest that as many as 1 in 100 births deviate from the standard physical expectations of sex biology.(2) To this day anything deviating from the "normal" binary of distinct male or female is seen by mainstream society as a disorder to be corrected or covered up. Genital surgeries are conducted on newborn babies causing lifelong pain and suffering just to "correct" a body part that is seen as too large or small, or even just because a baby identified by doctors to be a boy might grow up unable to pee standing up.(3)
People who are born with variations in sex and reproductive organs that don't fit the typical binary are termed intersex. This term encompasses a wide range of biological expressions, including people entirely indistinguishable from society's definition of males and females without a chromosomal test or other invasive physical examination. There are even instances where someone would be identified female by a certain set of criteria (such as an external physical examination) but male by another set (such as a chromosome test).
The Value of Removing Biologically-determined Pronouns
From studying the history of humyn biology we learn that it's not possible to easily identify the biological sex of an individual. In fact, there's nothing wrong with having a spectrum of biological characteristics that we don't have to fit into two neat categories. Further, we do not generally see value in identifying biological sex unless it is the specific topic of discussion. We are committed to fighting gender oppression. And part of this fight involves teaching people not to be concerned with the biology of others, and instead to judge them for their work and the correctness of their political ideas.
Many languages are relatively gender neutral compared to english. Chinese is just one example. These languages do not suffer from confusion about the identity of people, and they are arguably much easier to learn and use in this regard. In Spanish, the transition to a gender neutral language has already begun with the use of @ in place of o/a in gendered words. While English does not offer us a similar gender-neutral option, we have a history of modifying the language to suit our revolutionary purposes. We have changed America to Amerikkka to identify the domination of national oppression in this country. And we have changed woman to womyn to remove the implication that a "woman" is just an appendage to a "man."
Building on MIM's Legacy
For most of MIM's history, it used gender-neutral pronouns of "h" instead of his, her, him, hers; and "s/he" instead of she or he. Ten years ago at MIM's 2005 Congress, a resolution was passed on gender-neutral pronouns, which read:
"MIM hereby extends its policy on anti-patriarchal language (including such spellings as 'womyn,' 'wimmin,' 'persyn,' and 'humyn') to cover the use of gender-neutral third-person singular pronouns. Henceforth feminine pronouns will be used for persyns of unknown sex who are friends of the international proletariat and masculine pronouns will be used for enemies of unknown sex.
"Examples: 'From each according to her abilities, to each according to her needs.' 'A true comrade devotes her life to serving the people.' 'The enemy will not perish of himself.' 'A labor aristocrat derives much of his income from superprofits.'
"This rule applies only to the otherwise ambiguous cases when sex is not stated. Accordingly, George Bu$h is still 'he' and Madeleine Albright is 'she,' although both are enemies. All MCs, HCs, and others close to MIM are 'she' at this time, since their real sex cannot be revealed, for security reasons.
"Traditional patriarchal grammar maintains that 'he' is the only correct 'gender-neutral' pronoun in all of the examples above. MIM's realignment of the pronouns along the lines of 'Who are our friends? Who are our enemies?' is more egalitarian and corresponds fairly well to the facts at this point in history."
While we see great value in the above resolution, in applying it to our practical work we ran into many problems. Regular readers of ULK may recognize that MIM(Prisons) has defaulted to the old MIM practice of using "h" and "s/he" pronouns.
The vast majority of MIM(Prisons)'s subscribers are cis-males, meaning they were classified as male at birth and they self-identify as male today. (Note that these criteria are not material tests of one's sex.) Much of our subscribers' reasons for being imprisoned in the first place is related to this male classification. And they are held in facilities that are "male only." Prison is an environment which heightens all of society's contradictions, and this environment tends to be even more violent in reinforcing social codes of conduct (including "male" and "female" social markers) than the outside world.
In our practice of running a prisoner support organization with our organizing resting heavily on the written word, we have seen it as too confusing to use "she" pronouns for our cis-male comrades. Further, the 2005 resolution is not clear on whether prisoners as a whole, who are of the lumpen class, should be referred to as "she" or "he." Historically the lumpen is a vacillating class, which is in a tug-of-war between bourgeois and proletarian influence. Determining if the lumpen are "friends of the international proletariat" is sometimes unclear. Thus the use of "h" and "s/he" was much more useful in our specific work.
We believe this new writing policy will have a positive impact for our transgender, transexual, and genderqueer subscribers and contributors as well. The preferred pronouns of these groups are often individually self-selected, as is how they present their gender identification. (Note that preferred pronouns and gender identification are not material definitions of one's sex or gender.) Defaulting everyone's pronouns to a singular set of gender-neutral pronouns reduces the subjectivism inherent in this type of identity politics. We hope our new writing policy will draw this movement into a more materialist and internationalist direction.
New Writing Policy
When referring to an individual in the third persyn, we will use either their name or the neutral pronouns of ey, em, and eir to replace s/he and h. Ey, em, and eir are singularized versions of they, them, and their and we believe these more accurately reflect the biological sex of humyns, in that they downplay the inaccurate binary which has developed over thousands of years of patriarchal history. We also think ey/em/eir will have the greatest ease of use, from the wide selection of gender neutral pronoun sets which have been proposed in the past.(5)
We define men and wimmin as those who are oppressors in leisure time and those who are oppressed in leisure time, respectively, and regardless of biological genitalia or reproductive capacity.(4) This is the strand of oppression called gender. When referring to people or individuals when gender is relevant, we will refer to them as men or wimmin and use he or she pronouns. (Similarly, we don't always reference other defining characteristics of our correspondents, but we do refer to someone as "New Afrikan" or "clean-shaven" when relevant.)
A USW comrade asks: Recently I was having a conversation here with someone about the "Third World." This person didn't think all of Africa, Asia & Latin America was still the "Third World." I wasn't totally sure. He also asked exactly what qualifies a country for Third World status. I had no answer, he asked someone outside prison who looked online and stated all Latin America is still Third World but China was now considered "Second World," is this true? Can you send me an article on "Third World" - past, present, and future? Thank you.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The use of the terms First, Second and Third World arose during the Cold War, when the Western imperialist-led block was referred to as the First World, the communist block was the Second World, and the Third World were the so-called non-aligned countries who were also the most exploited and underdeveloped countries by design.
Mao Zedong put forth an alternative assessment of the world using these terms. By this time the Soviet Union had clearly gone back on the capitalist road. So while the West saw the Soviet Union as communist, China saw it correctly as imperialist. Mao therefore labeled the two superpowers, U$A and the Soviet Union, as the First World. He grouped other imperialist countries as the Second World, which he saw as potential allies against the First World. Then the exploited countries he saw as the Third World, including socialist countries like China itself.
Today, the general usage of the term Third World is more consistent and it is closer to the way Mao defined it. It might be used interchangeably with terms like "exploited nations," "oppressed nations," "underdeveloped countries," "periphery" or "global south." In 1974 Mao said, "The third world has a huge population. With the exception of Japan, Asia belongs to the third world. The whole of Africa belongs to the third world and Latin America too."(1) To this day, this is probably the most common view of who is the Third World. But of course it is more nuanced than that.
It is worth mentioning the more recent use of the term Fourth World to refer to indigenous populations that are not really integrated into the capitalist world economy. This points to the reality that the vast populations that we might lump into the category of Third World can vary greatly themselves. The distinction is a more useful point when analyzing conditions within a Third World country than when doing a global analysis.
In the earlier years of the Soviet Union, Stalin summed up Lenin's theory of imperialism and split "the population of the globe into two camps: a handful of 'advanced' capitalist countries which exploit and oppress vast colonies and dependencies, and the huge majority consisting of colonial and dependent countries which are compelled to wage a struggle for liberation from the imperialist yoke."(2) This is how we view the world today, when there is no socialist block with state power. But we also know that historically the socialist USSR and socialist China both saw themselves in the camp of the exploited countries, or the Third World.
In our glossary, we define Third World as, "The portion of the geographic-social world subjected to imperialist exploitation by the First World." If this is our working definition, we might choose to use the term "exploited nations" to be more clear. But this comrade brings up a good question asking about China. And it leads us to the question, is China still an exploited nation?
We will only superficially address this question here, but we think the obvious answer is "yes." It was only recently that the peasantry ceased to be the majority in China. And after the destruction of socialist organizing in the mid-1970s, the conditions of the peasantry quickly deteriorated pushing people to leave their homelands for the cities. While urban wages have seen steady growth in recent years, even that masks a vast and diverse population. The average annual income of $9,000 puts an urban Chinese worker in the neighborhood of earning the value of their labor.(3) But the average is greatly skewed by the wealthy, and most workers actually make far less than $9,000 a year. Combine them with the almost 50% of the population in the rural areas and we've got a majority exploited population.
Another way to think about China as a whole is that it accounts for about 25% of global production.(4) Capitalism cannot function and pay over a quarter of the world's productive labor more than the value they produce. Keeping all the value of your own labor (and more) is an elite benefit only granted to a tiny minority found almost wholly in the First World. There is really no feasible path forward that leads to the vast majority of Chinese people benefiting from imperialism when they make up almost 20% of the world's people. This is a contradiction that Chinese finance capitalists must deal with.
While the modern interpretation of the term Third World tends to be a descriptive term for the conditions of that country alone, the definitions from the Cold War era actually defined Third World countries by how they relate in the global balance of power. To define a country as Third World is more meaningful when it is done to define its interests in relation to others. Can we count on the Chinese to take up anti-imperialism or not? Or, as Mao put it, who are our friends and who are our enemies? That is the important question.
While we see the makings of more and more revolutionary nationalist organizing by other nations against China in the future, we cannot put the Chinese nation in the camp of oppressor nations. It is our position that some 80% of the world are of the oppressed nations that oppose imperialism. Including China as an oppressor nation would push that number down near 60%. But the conditions in China just don't support that categorization.
The bourgeois myth is that the world has been in a period of peace since the end of World War II. The MIM line has always been that World War III is under way, it's just taken the form of the First World vs. the Third World, so First Worlders don't worry about it so much. In recent years that has begun to change as witnessed in thinly veiled conflicts in places like Ukraine and Syria. In recent months we've seen U.$. and Russian military on the same battlefield, not on the same side. And both countries are gearing up to increase their militarys' involvements in that war in Syria. This is the first time that the inter-imperialist contradiction has been so acute since Gorbachev took power in the Soviet Union in 1985 and began the dissolution of the union in partnership with the Western imperialists.
Politically speaking, it would be reasonable to consider countries like Russia, as well as China, to be the Second World today, as they provide a counterbalance to the imperialist interests of the dominant imperialist powers of Europe, Japan and, most importantly, the United $tates. As such, Russia and China can play progressive roles as a side-effect of them pursuing their own non-progressive interests, because they challenge the dominant empire. However, we have not seen the term Second World used in this way, and you don't really hear the term these days. Perhaps the growing inter-imperialist conflict will warrant its comeback.
9 September 2015 marked the fourth annual Day of Peace and Solidarity in prisons throughout the United $tates. This is an opportunity for us to commemorate the anniversary of the Attica uprising and draw attention to abuse of prisoners across the country. The demonstration was initiated in 2012 by an organization participating in United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) and has been taken up as an annual UFPP event, with people committing to participate in prisons across the country. Activities vary, from peaceful resistance and fasting to study groups and educational events. Some observe the event alone due to their confinement conditions and some take this opportunity to organize with others.
This demonstration is focused on the UFPP principles of peace and unity: We organize to end the needless conflicts and violence among prisoners, and we strive to unite with those who have a common interest in fighting the oppression of the criminal injustice system. On this one day we call on all prisoners to take up these principles and cease all prisoner-on-prisoner hostilities, and use the day for solidarity building and education.
While we don't organize for just one day of peace and unity, this day of action expands awareness and broadens our base of support to build for peace and unity year round. In this way we build from smaller campaigns to broader goals and ultimately to a movement that can stand up against the entire criminal injustice system.
We have already received reports from a number of September 9 participants, which are summarized here. Look for more reports in upcoming issues of Under Lock & Key.
Comrades in Arkansas commemorated the day by joining USW and committing to stepping up their work in the coming year:
"Happy Day of Peace and Solidarity! Today my comrades and I celebrated by eating a chili spread and discussing the many ailments that plague prisoners as a result of our confinement. We also discussed the ways we might non-coercively combat the prison establishment from within. That is no easy task because at the first sign of unity the pigs are quick to lock us up and separate us. Not that we have much to lose considering we are being housed on administrative segregation (23 hour lock down).
"We decided to name our study group CRASH or Crazy Revolutionaries Against Social Hierarchy. We thought it fitting to name ourselves on this day to commemorate Attica. We would also like to join USW. We absolutely agree with all 6 points of MIM(Prisons) and would like to join other like-minded individuals and take a more active role in helping unify the oppressed against imperialism. All power to the people and let burn the renewing flames of the communist revolution!"
In Louisiana a new comrade devoted the day to serious study and fasting:
"I am writing to inform you that because of knowledge I received by reading Under Lock & Key I participated in my first commemoration of the September 9 Day of Peace Peace and Solidarity movement. Six months ago I was unaware such a movement even existed, especially since I was first exposed to the tragedy in, or rather at, Attica in the late 90s - the same time I was first introduced to the Souljah George. The organization I was/am a part of already in our protocols recognized Black August. But the September 9 movement was unknown to us.
"Even though I hadn't heard of the movement I still responded to your call to arms. I fasted from solid food the entire day and only had one cup of water after sundown. I also, after each prayer (as I am a conscious and conscientious Muslim), reread articles from ULK and expounded upon them to my neighbor who, incidentally, is the guy who was involved in the failed judicial lynching attempt of Lil Boosie.
"I also revisited The Wretched of the Earth by Fanon with particular emphasis on the preface written by Jean-Paul Sartre. And although it is a scathing denunciation of European imperialism/colonialism and a concise treatise advocating, or rather understanding, the use of violence to uproot that system, I still believe it was appropriate reading for the commemoration of this day. For as we know, the overall goal you wish to achieve and those I am aligned with will not be a peaceful act in the traditional sense of the word. The forces of capitalism will not go quietly into that good night."
In Michigan one organizer is spreading information about this history of Attica and the September 9 Day:
"I've been talking to a lot of prisoners about the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity but a lot of prisoners knew nothing about the Attica uprising by the comrades against the injustice department of corruption of the DOCs across the country. I myself fasted on September 9 for the remembrance of the fallen comrades, but the majority of prisoners in the Michigan DOC played games, watched TV, and talked shit about the 'new private food services trinity.' But they aren't for peace and solidarity."
While this comrade found most prisoners wasting time, the seeds of discontent are there with their discussions about the food service. These seeds can be nurtured with education and organizing to build a core devoted to peace and solidarity.
A comrade at the California Health Care Facility wrote in advance of the date about plans:
"For September 9 this year my comrades and I are organizing a hunger strike to make the pigs start cleaning our unit. We live in a controlled unit that doesn't allow porters, leaving the cleaning up to the pigs or custodians. But they never do it so we are forced to live in filth."
On September 10 we received the following update from this same comrade:
"Update on my September 9 hunger strike. The pigs conceded and cleaned the unit. On top of that I had 15 copies made of the grievance campaign petition and had two comrades join me in flooding the listed offices with them. I provided the postage for them all since they are stingy with the indigent envelopes here. I also led a small group in which we went over the history and importance of September 9 and enlightened a few who were unaware of the struggle. I broke my fast at midnight a few minutes ago so now I'm going to spend some time in contemplation and get some zzz's."
Another California comrade wrote about organizing at California Correctional Institution:
"For September 9 I attempted to raise the level of consciousness amongst the inmates here on a few issues:
"1) I spoke on comrade George L. Jackson's untimely death at San Quentin, and his particular struggle transforming the colonial and criminal mind into a revolutionary mentality. I talked about how he vied to unify the blacks and other groups. But, the reactionary system wasn't having it one bit. So as a result of his struggles in prison he was assassinated.
"2) I also spoke on Hugo Pinell, who was also slain unfortunately during Black August, and what he stood for in terms of solidarity amongst progressive people. I also spoke on Attica's uprising. Mao said, 'one spark can light a prairie fire.' And it definitely did.
"3) I spoke on how it is vitally important to end all hostilities amongst all groups of prisoners and beyond. In spite of the fact that hostilities will be fomented by the reactionary state. We must continue to vie for peace, harmony and love amongst each other no matter what. The enemy will stop at nothing to foil our efforts. It's part of the struggle to continue moving forward until our goals can be realized, and at that we can set more.
"Also, I spoke to them about the importance of maintaining a study group here even after my departure from prison. And that each and every one of them have an inherent obligation to conduct and maintain a study group amongst themselves so that they can continue raising the social and political consciousness of prisoners as a whole.
"I did what I could to commemorate September 9. The discussion was for 2 hours. It turned out pretty well. Most of the participants didn't have a clue about these historical events and about the prison movement in general. And of course, some had questions. About 12 people attended the group. Also, I did a thousand burpees myself to commemorate September 9. It was exhilarating and refreshing at 53 years of age, to continue to push forward in my 34th year incarcerated. Pamoja tutashinda uhuru sasa!"
Also from California at High Desert CF we received a preview of September 9 plans from the organization Abolitionist From Within:
"As the leading member of the Abolitionist From Within (AFW) I do support MIM(Prisons) and embrace as a group the five core principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. While AFW may not agree with every political issue MIM(Prisons) advocates, it is the issues that we both support that bring us together in this revolutionary struggle. AFW recently had our first demonstration at High Desert State Prison (HDSP), bringing together a cohesive front in reflecting, fasting and uniting to honor those nameless and faceless men of Black August and Attica (1971) by coming together in solidarity. We brought up the issues of the day affecting us and we all offered solutions from each individual's perspective. It was a beautiful and righteous energy as we synergized, listening to each other, and offered the best of ourselves during this time. We will meet again on September 9 and try to agree on the best solutions in attacking and combating the issues that are inflicting us today from the first meeting."
These comrades followed up with a report on their September 9 activities:
"It's been a blessing to learn and grow from each comrade who has engaged in a solidarity demonstration with the movement, Abolitionists From Within (AFW). We came together for all the lost comrades and those that continue to struggle and unite to break the chain of injustice.
"We fasted September 8 to September 9 in a show of solidarity. Also we studied together reading books with study questions and we also read material from Under Lock & Key No. 45 and the September 9 Day of Struggle Study Pack. After reading, we came up with questions from the material and off we went back to our cells. We also shared the word with anybody who was willing to listen. Back in our cells i heard the comrades feeling like freedom revolutionary fighters and that's what's up! We stand in solidarity with the comrades who fought and died in the uprising at Attica. Continue to struggle with peace on our tongue.
"Here on 'D yard' there was nothing but peace today in solidarity with the movement and with the Attica freedom fighters. The movement prevented many young men from being swallowed by the prison culture and that's how I feel about the MIM(Prisons) movement helping us comrades who want change, so I say stay struggling and thank for your continued struggle with us prisoners. Revolutionary Greetings!"
In California Pelican Bay also represented this September 9,
"Today was a good day. No one had any canteen or nothing to make food, but we had good conversation about Yogi's death and how it was a benefit to the state. The hunger strike was brought up and I talked about how our hunger strike was a continuation of the struggles of Attica.
"It was hard to speak of peace when we are so close to the tragedy at Folsom, but folks here with me want peace; we have all voiced peace and how it helps us all in our own struggles. Doing the state's bidding by oppressing other prisoners is not coming from anyone housed around me. We know that the real contradiction lies in prisoners vs. the state. Hopefully other circles come to realize this or are weeded out because Attica gave us a concrete example of what us vs. them looks like. So did the San Quentin Six and the California hunger strikes."
This spring we sent out a request to all California USW supporters to give us updates on the status of the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH) at their prison, and to send us a follow up report following the September 9th Day of Solidarity. This status report has been overshadowed by the murder of Hugo "Yogi Bear" Pinell on August 12 at New Folsom Prison. Here is a report on the incident from one comrade:
"Today at around 1:00 p.m., with the help of police provocateur agents a riot ignited on B-Yard with numerous inmates involved and I regret deeply with anger and rage to inform you all that a true Black man by the name of Hugo Pinell was murdered by not only white inmates, but police as well. It was stirring up for weeks before the incident occurred that violence was to take place and Hugo was definitely the target! Due to disrespectful gestures of a white woman during visiting hours in the visitors room, which was supposedly settled verbally.
"No matter how old, Black lives do matter. The prison officials mockingly placed information directly to reporters/media about Hugo's past as far back as the 1970s, and how he dealt with pigs or whatnot. He's a human being who was (unjustly and spinelessly) murdered by agents and their spies. Only two warning shots were fired and while numerous stabbings were taking place no officers were hurt. Despite being attacked, Black inmates have been assassinated for assaultive gestures, not to mention actual violence.
"I know that Babylon and their stool pigeons been waiting to take down someone of Hugo's caliber, so it's not a secret. These cowards murdered this man. We must make our society aware of the fact that as incarcerated warriors of the struggle, we as a people are subjected to every form of torture, rape, mental anguish, murder/assassination at any given moment still to this day."
Another comrade at California State Prison - Sacramento (aka New Folsom) wrote more recently to explain his interpretation of what happened:
"The most profound and logical explanation is the most evaded and overlooked, and that is the whole situation is said to be orchestrated by Correctional Officers in retaliation for the animosity that they (COs) had towards the brother over historical incidents dating back to the days of Convict vs. Tyrant COs. The hostilities are fueled by institutional propaganda, some may claim that after all these years the white "Aryan Brotherhood" finally got revenge. However, that theory is ludicrous, due to the fact that they no longer really have loyal and active subjects. As hard as it is to foster a thought, that the guards are the bad guys amongst the bad guys (civilian thinking about prisoners) it is the actual, logical and only real answer."
The comrade goes on to describe a series of abuses being faced at New Folsom.
A couple weeks before Hugo's assassination, a third comrade at New Folsom told us,
"I see prisoners pass through here for needed medical attention who come from other yards. One of the "primary" signatories to the AEH, one of the primary leaders, has been released from the dungeon some time ago who has been here in the facility, and yet, despite his presence and authority, I have seen a semi-steady flow of camaradas pass through here after having been viciously stabbed. The latest one was both stabbed and sliced up with a box cutter."
This comrade called on politically conscious prisoners to acknowledge that the success of the AEH as it is being portrayed does not correlate with concrete reality, and that we must address this reality.
Despite this reality that there was a series of conflicts leading up to Hugo's murder, the outpouring of calls for both justice and continuing to build unity among all prisoners are coming in from across the state. This is a disciplined response, where the prisoners in California are thinking strategically about how to react to this tragedy. That in itself is no small feat, which should be recognized.
We received a call from a comrade of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter down south, who represented some older brothers there. We also heard back from a comrade we quoted in our last update on the AEH in ULK 42, from January 2015. His story of O.G.s building with youngsters in a bus ride from Pelican Bay caught many people's attention. He wrote on 13 August 2015,
"I had written to you in October 2014 about... how the Agreement to End Hostilities project was going so well, and now this... We have achieved so much with methods of non-violence amongst the prisoner population... The core reps must meet at the round table to find a solution."
A comrade writing from Calipatria had a similar analysis to those above, with a more or less positive spin on the status of the AEH,
"Having been around the system and noting that the same process of targeted assassination via drone strike or other means, people whom correctional staff feel that they can use to try and spark a breakdown in the Agreement to End Hostilities are used and in this case it is only obvious that prisoncrats had involvement in selecting a target of such renown that it was figured that riots would occur all across the state. The idea was kicked around and so far in most cases sobriety of consciousness have been maintained.
"Isolated incidents have occurred that could have blown up into mass conflicts, which it has been becoming obvious to some prisoners in recognition of plots by agent provocateurs who consistently strive to have us going at each other in manufactured proxy wars so that prisoncrats could justifiably perform acts that cannot otherwise be officially sanctioned.
"The significance of the murder of Hugo (Yogi) Pinell is not lost on prisoners of conscious whose main question tends to be: With all the history, how was the plot allowed to be accomplished when there should not have been a single prisoner unaware of his presence and of his significance to all prisoners? Men of consciousness can reflect on the teachings of Sun Tzu relative to knowing the tactics and practices of the enemy...
"Prisoncrats without a doubt recognize that the introduction of non-violent protests by other means have opened the eyes of prisoners who assumed that the only way to obtain results were by violent means. I suspect that “race” is not as viable an instrument of power among the prison population as a result of the AEH, throwing a wrench into the works of the prisoncrats. So we must be aware that they will not limit themselves to one tactic to try to create new conflicts along various divisions."
So while the reaction to Hugo's death could have been a lot worse, there is a lot of work ahead to learn from this, as we address the injustice that occurred and strengthen the prison movement moving forward.
Other than New Folsom, we got reports from several other prisons on the status of the AEH, and we hope comrades keep sending in their reports. From Corcoran, we received:
"I'm here in the COR SHU 1L building, which is considered the short corridor. We New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalists (NARN) have placed our ads in the many news outlets (SF Bayview, Turning the Tide, Prison Focus, The Rock, PHSS Newsletter) informing all that the NARN Collective Think Tank in Corcoran SHU's mission statement is the agreement to end all hostilities, and as far as we know it's being honored everywhere that's received its message. It is our only hope at obtaining our political objectives in this struggle if we all come across the racial lines and bring about a mass united front as we did with the hunger strikes to show our solidarity hasn't changed. On the 4B yard (where I am) we hear that all the building's inmates are programming together, as in exercising on the yard in the cages and looking out for one another with basic necessities, as much as we can do in the SHU."
A newer comrade, from a different building in 4B at Corcoran had just got information about September 9 organizing and jumped into action. However, he laments,
"we are the ones who divide ourselves in this place. In this SHU we are integrated with general population (GP) inmates as well as those in protective custody (PC). By in-house politics, GP inmates are not to communicate or interact with those on PC status and needless to say the limitations of being locked down only limits our conversing with those few in our pods.”
This just demonstrates that even getting the full picture of what's going on at one prison requires more reports from the ground. But it is safe to say that there are still divisions preventing basic communication, which is a barrier to the goals of the AEH. No one expected a declaration of peace to just be verbally accepted and automatically translate into action. Building peace is a process, and the first step is crossing barriers that have no useful basis. Then we can expose the more serious contradictions that require more effort and creativity to really address.
Pelican Bay represented this September 9th,
"Today was a good day. No one had any canteen or nothing to make food, but we had good conversation about Yogi's death and how it was a benefit to the state. The hunger strike was brought up and I talked about how our hunger strike was a continuation of the struggles of Attica.
It was hard to speak of peace when we are so close to the tragedy at Folsom, but folks here with me want peace, we have all voiced peace and how it helps us all in our own struggles. Doing the state's bidding by oppressing other prisoners is not coming from anyone housed around me. We know that the real contradiction lies in prisoners vs. the state. Hopefully other circles come to realize this or are weeded out because Attica gave us a concrete example of what us vs. them looks like, so did the San Quentin Six and the California hunger strikes."
Another comrade there reported on the status to the Agreement to End Hostilities,
"As we're all aware, in order for an end to hostilities to become a reality, all prisoners should promote it or encourage it to other prisoners who are just arriving to the system. In my location (Pelican Bay SHU), all have adhered to 'ending hostilities" even though it's been evident the pigs have tried to crack it by putting certain prisoners in compromising circumstances, such as opening the wrong cell when one comes back from yard. It's done in a manner that's obvious. I've witnessed this happen at least 3 times in a year, but with no incidents as all are adhering to the AEH!
"Although September 9 is a historical day in California prison history, we now have July 8 which we can reflect on to see our efforts transcend expectations.
"To sum up, in my area the AEH is adhered to and a lot of class conscious conversations are constantly being addressed. Everything pertaining to prisoner rights and the abolishment of solitary confinement is a hot topic where ideas are matched, and debates and polemics are welcomed with respect. Our lives are affected by all our actions. It just helps more when we're all on the same page. I cannot say that a grand meeting will be held on September 9 or anything else. We do have class consciousness, but not all are receptive to political/revolutionary discussions. Being that my unit is very small, I will probably be the only one participating in a solidarity fast on September 9. My revolutionary solidarity goes out to all other USW comrades."
Leading up to September 9 we received a joint statement from the United KAGE Brothers and the Prisoners Political Action Committee out of Pelican Bay, which was a pledge to end hostilities on the inside and out.
From California Correctional Institution at Tehachapi, one of the comrades who has spent more than 10 years in SHU reported in July,
"Yes, the Agreement to End Hostilities campaign has been popularized in my area. I'm aware of it based on observation and active participation in our class struggle to abolish solitary confinement, which has me directly engaged with the people involved. Therefore, I'm able to confirm, there hasn't been a single issue of violence on the group yards here at Tehachapi SHU, which have been in effect for over a year now.
"The Agreement to End Hostilities is being reinforced on the issues that we're organizing around and what it will take for our efforts to not only be sustained, but being successful. The understanding of this, is realized by prisoners on several fronts, such as, individuals from various formations exercising together and aiding one another on the political, social and economic contradictions that manifest.
"On a final note, we prisoners at CCI Tehachapi have been boycotting CDCR's 'How to make a slave' step-down program since May 11, 2015. Please be sure to publicize this fact!!"
In Kern Valley State Prison we received reports of active building across different groups in the spirit of the AEH. In particular the Nation of Gods and Earths and the Rastafari groups there have been leading progressive efforts. One God reported on a 30-day event including many lumpen organizations (LOs) called Project Build. He states,
"The People/masses/folks support the Agreement to End Hostilities based on the fact that in this particular facility there are 20 (currently) self-help groups as well as Bakersfield College... As for development of a sort of treaty, that has not been put into effect due to the individualists who will rat to the pigs for an extra phone call or to go out to a 'Regular Day Off' yard. Those who are aware of the need to end hostilities are toeing the line. Those that aren't are socially condemned by those who do not fully comprehend, and slowly re-educated by those who see them for the unconsciousness they give off. Communication is key."
This reinforces the sentiment that lumpen organizations (LOs) are on board for the AEH, and those who violate it are isolated individuals, or individuals with connections to the state. At the same time the LOs are not monolithic organizations and we must not be idealistic about declaring "Peace achieved!" We have much to celebrate as we mark 3 years of ending hostilities in California this October 12. But there is much work to be done to address the existing contradictions that are lurking beneath the surface. As comrades above acknowledge, it is not just agent provocateurs creating trouble, though they are very real, and easily influenced and bribed. To believe that it is just agent provocateurs is to idealistically ignore the contradictions among the people that must be addressed. There are antagonistic contradictions among the imprisoned as well, especially in a situation like California where some LOs have very entrenched economic and power interests. Addressing both types of contradictions must continue in order to see another 3 years of peace and achieve the goals of the prison movement in improving the lives of all prisoners.
The imperialists have created a mess of migration, with hundreds of thousands of people traveling from the Middle East and north Africa to the European Union (EU). Earlier this year there was media attention on the increased migration from Myanmar and Bangladesh to the richer countries of South Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. This is in the context of an unprecedented increase in mass displacement worldwide.
"By end-2014, 59.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations. This is 8.3 million persons more than the year before (51.2 million) and the highest annual increase in a single year."(1)
The conditions that led about 7% of the world's entire population to leave their homes vary widely, and similarly the situations they face when they do leave their homes also vary. Some have absolutely nothing to their name but the rags on their body, while others are carrying smart phones, have high formal education, and are being wired money along their journey for train tickets and smugglers' fees. Some just need to leave where they are, others want to meet up with family who have already immigrated to other countries, and many are doing both. This article does not attempt to provide a comprehensive history of the mass migrations, but it does try to outline some basic principles to keep in mind as the news unfolds.
Open All Borders!
The oppressor countries have concentrated wealth due to the oppression and exploitation they inflict on other nations. In these countries, there is a lot of hubub about whether people are "truly" refugees, and thus worthy of help, or "just" migrants looking for better economic opportunity, and thus not worthy of assistance. They say those deemed to be economic migrants should be sent back to their "safe" countries to build their lives there — a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps of international proportions.
No matter why people are leaving their present location, our position is the same: open all borders! The most progressive economic position under capitalism would be to enable free travel and work across all borders. Wealth would be more equalized and the imperialists would have a material interest in ending harmful policies and practices in other countries, for fear that those populations would leave their homes to venture to the countries where the wealth is being concentrated.
We know opening all borders is not a realisitic solution in our present conditions, so at the very minimum we call on the wealthy countries to allow those who have already fled to make new lives wherever they (want to) land. We then call on these wealthy countries to take a stand against the primary cause for why people flee: U.$. militarism and imperialism.
On the surface it appears Germany has been somewhat favorable to this position. They have been the most welcoming country of the EU (although most recently they are trying to curb the migration rather than welcome it with open arms). We support any EU country's openness to migrants. But it's significant that Germany has an aging population and has been trying to figure out how to maintain its economy with a deficit of working-age people. How fortunate then that so many of the refugees come with professional degrees, skills, and even some savings. The economic situation in Germany makes it possible for the country to play hero. The economic substructure defines the ideological superstructure. If not for the economic problems in Germany, humanitarian efforts would be marginalized.
National Chauvinism is Not Internationalism
In spring 2015, media attention was on Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Australia for refusing to take in Rohingyas and Bangladeshis who were abandoned by their smugglers at sea for weeks and months.(2) The primary position of these countries was "it's not our problem."
In the EU, Hungary has been a main thoroughfare for migrants this summer. In response they are erecting an emergency wall on the borders, and Hungary's government's stance is to discourage migration as much as possible. Denmark, just north of Germany, has been widely advertising that it has greatly reduced assistance for migrants, and that people should not go there. And these are certainly not the only examples of national chauvinism in Europe.
Those who don't grasp the differences between revolutionary nationalism and national chauvinism will use these examples as evidence that all nationalism is bad. One of the more progressive trends that makes this mistake is the anarchists. Nationalism of oppressor nations tends toward fascism, but nationalism of oppressed nations tends towards revolutionary internationalism. Being that the vast majority of anarchist movements are located in the First World, it makes sense that they should oppose the nationalism that they see around them. But a materialist historical analysis shows that nationalism of the oppressed has done the most to advance peoples out of oppression, imperialism's stranglehold, and toward a society where nations and states are no longer necessary. Maoists also want a world without nations and states, but a rejection of the progressive aspects of nationalism won't get us there.
European Union vs. United $tates
Some officials in the EU have criticized United $tates policy and military intervention in the Middle East as the reason for this most recent mass migration. To the EU, most people coming from the Middle East are from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Not surprisingly, the United $tates is also presently engaged in military campaigns in and on these countries.
But the EU only cares what the United $tates does to the degree that it affects the EU. It's good when anyone criticizes the United $tates's meddling in the Middle East. But until words turn into actions (and until EU countries stop their own military campaigns in the region), it's just a lot of hot air. We want to see the EU not only open its borders for all the migrants, but also to recognize that it has interests which differ from those of the United $tates. A united EU should stop all material and verbal support for occupation and war in the Middle East, which would do more to help with their present migrant crisis than building walls and placing newspaper ads.
Rise of Fascism
The recent mass migration has been exposing reactionary nationalist sentiments, and in turn adding fuel to the recent rise of fascism in Europe. More far-right parties are being elected at various levels of government, and there are more demonstrations and attacks on migrants — the people, and the infrastructure to support them. Most notably, fascism has been rising in the last few years in Greece, Germany, Hungary and Sweden.(3)
Communism is the natural antithesis to fascism. Those who see more material interests in maintaining their present economic position will tend toward fascism, whereas those who would benefit more from an equalization of wealth internationally will tend more toward communism. It's the job of the communists to help prevent the rise of fascism in Europe.
It's been over a week since we got the news on the settlement of Ashker v. Brown.(1) For a case that is so central to what we do as an organization we've taken our time to respond. We've read and re-read the legal documents and listened to the celebratory news coverage of the settlement. Yet our reaction remains the same, deep disappointment.
The settlement is a victory for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), and it knocks out one of the three main legs of the campaign to shut down the SHU — the courts (the other two being public opinion and prisoners organized around their own interests). This case had a lot of the known anti-isolation lawyers and some influential long-time SHU prisoners behind it. It was an alliance that will be tough to beat any time soon.
The Maoist Internationalist Movement, along with many other organizations, has spent decades campaigning for the end to long-term isolation in U.$. prisons. We have long countered the public who question us with, "what is your proposed alternative?" with the simple answer, "not torturing people." Ending long-term isolation in U.$. prisons would be a simple reform that unites the lowest common denominator of prison reformers. Almost everyone agrees we should end torture, and that is reflected in the ongoing movement to do so. It is only the fascist-leaning cop-lovers and state bureaucrats that oppose the call. Actually, in many states the state bureaucrats support ending long-term isolation.
Yet through all the years of struggle here in California, somehow the CDCR has succeeded in painting the ending of torture as the extreme option, with the recent settlement as the sensible compromise. But they are wrong: the extreme option is overthrowing the state and replacing it with one run by the oppressed, where the real killers and exploiters are imprisoned and taught how to live collectively with other humyn beings, not thrown in isolation. Ending torture in prisons is the most basic, sweeping reform that would actually improve the conditions in U.$. prisons.
According to the New York Times, prison directors have become more supportive of reducing the use of solitary confinement after a man who spent 8 years in isolation was released in 2013 and went to the house of Colorado's prison chief, Tom Clements, and shot him dead.(2) Yet reducing the number of people in long-term isolation only serves to extend the life of its practice as it affects less people and there is less outrage. This reduction also suggests that some people still deserve to be tortured. That is why MIM(Prisons) has never supported measures to get only certain groups out of long-term isolation.
The Ashker settlement has been heralded as "effectively ending indefinite long-term solitary confinement" and "setting strict limits on the prolonged isolation of inmates." Yet in the actual settlement we read,
"CDCR shall not house any inmate within the SHU at Pelican Bay State Prison for more than 5 continuous years. Inmates housed in the Pelican Bay SHU requiring continued SHU placement beyond this limitation will be transferred from the Pelican Bay SHU to another SHU facility within CDCR, or to a 180-design facility at Pelican Bay. Inmates who have previously been housed in the Pelican Bay SHU for 5 continuous years can only be returned to the Pelican Bay SHU if that return has been specifically approved by the Departmental Review Board and at least 5 years have passed since the inmate was last transferred out of the Pelican Bay SHU."
That's it! That's the extent of the "strict" limitations on long-term isolation in California. So if you're in another SHU, or Ad-Seg or some other unnamed long-term isolation situation, which about 14,000 of the over 15,000 in isolation in California are, there are no limits.(3) If you're in Pelican Bay you must move to another SHU after 5 years. Five years later you can come back. Alternatively, you could spend 4.5 years in Pelican Bay, 2 months out, then go in for another 4.8 years, and on like that for the rest of your life. Does this really address the Eighth Amendment claim by the plaintiffs of cruel and unusual punishment? The length often cited for having serious mental affects on humyns is in the range of 15 to 30 days!
Now with the new Step Down Program prisoners are supposed to have a way to return to "a general population setting within three or four years." So the class of prisoners being represented in this case, those who have been in the SHU for ten or more continuous years, are being addressed adequately according to those who agreed to this settlement. But even moving forward there are exceptions for Administrative SHU Status, allowing people to be held as long as CDCR deems necessary.
There is one progressive concession given in the settlement: "CDCR shall not place inmates into a SHU, Administrative Segregation, or Step Down Program solely on the basis of their validation status." Additionally, "CDCR shall modify its Step Down Program so that it is based on the individual accountability of each inmate for proven STG [security threat group] behavior, and not solely on the inmate's validation status or level of STG affiliation." Finally, as a result of an ending to the indeterminate SHU sentences for prisoners "validated" as members of prison gangs, in the next year "CDCR shall review the cases of all validated inmates who are currently in the SHU as a result of... an indeterminate term that was previously assessed under prior regulations..."
This addresses the Fourteenth Amendment claim that the CDCR was violating due process with the validation system and the use of group punishment, at least somewhat. As we saw a couple years ago, the new STG policy actually opened up STG charges to a wider range of organizations than was covered by the previous validation system. The supposed upside is that the rules require actual STG behavior by the individual to justify placing someone in SHU, not just association. Yet, in the new SHU Term Assessment Chart we see that "Recruiting inmates to become an STG affiliate" is a SHU punishable offense.
As mentioned above, this settlement seems to eliminate the judicial strategy of ending solitary confinement in California for the near future. But it also strikes a huge blow against the strongest leg we have to stand on, the collective organizing of prisoners. Turns out, under the settlement you can expect to spend 12 months in SHU for "Leading a disturbance, riot or strike", and 6 months for "participation in a disturbance, riot or strike" or "Inciting conditions likely to threaten institution security" (for those not aware, the latter was a common charge made against those who peacefully refused food in recent years to protest long-term isolation in California prisons).
They are outlawing peaceful protest, and non-violent, passive resistance for the prison movement. Amerikans criticize other countries that torture people for peacefully protesting the government that is abusing and, well, torturing them. How is it that leaders in the prison movement have signed on to this?
As we have previously reported, the new STG policies still give prisoners points for things like tattoos, greeting cards and talking to certain individuals. So it is not really true that you can no longer be punished for affiliation. Abolishing this practice was part of the 2nd demand of the hunger strikes.
As a result of reviews (which were mostly underway before this settlement anyway) we have a number of comrades who are getting out of the SHU right now, without having to debrief (snitch). This will no doubt be a positive thing, as we expect many of them will stay politically active in their new locations where they will have more opportunities to reach out to others. Yet at the same time we've already seen the next generation of prison leaders going to the SHU. It seems that the youngsters are getting thrown under the bus here.
So this is a wake up call to those not yet in the SHU. In July 2013, 30,000 prisoners stood up against long-term isolation, recognizing their common interests in this demand, even though most of them were not housed in isolation themselves. This was an amazing demonstration that epitomizes the progress made over the last 5 years or so to consolidate the prison movement in California. This continues to be celebrated in the form of the Agreement to End Hostilities and the countless commemorations taking place today, September 9th, in the spirit of peace and solidarity in commemoration of the Attica uprising.
As this settlement was released, public statements from CDCR celebrated it as a continuation of their plan to reform the system after the SHU successfully broke the prison gangs that had taken over. Yeah right. These prison gangs were encouraged by the state who teamed up with white nationalist prisoners to oppress New Afrikans, and later enforced the north/south divide on the [email protected] nation. The continuation of and expansion of united action around the Agreement to End Hostilities is crucial to preventing the CDCR from returning to that status quo.
Leading up to the recent settlement we had one comrade building for a new wave of hunger strikes. As this settlement does not address the most important of the 5 Core Demands, ending conditions of isolation for all prisoners, this call remains valid. And while we've always warned comrades to build outside support for such actions, one lesson we can take from California is that such actions must be organized on the inside. Even California Prison Focus, who has been visiting prisoners in the SHU for decades, and who has lawyers with privileged access to their clients, was in the dark during the hunger strikes until the CDCR decided to pull in outside mediators. As always, MIM(Prisons) is committed to supporting the organization of prisoners and fighting to defend the First Amendment rights of prisoners (and ourselves) of speech and association. The ending of a policy that allows the state to torture people for belonging to certain organizations was a blow against the excessively repressive policies of the CDCR in relation to the First Amendment. With this settlement we find California in a similar situation to most of the rest of the country, where torture continues to be the method of choice for population control of the oppressed who do not walk in step with the oppressor.
And so, the struggle continues. Until solitary confinement is abolished, shutting down control units will be a central campaign for MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within.
On 12 August 2015, Hugo "Yogi Bear" Pinell was murdered on the yard at California State Prison — Sacramento in Represa, also known as New Folsom Prison. Yogi was in solitary confinement a week prior to his murder, having spent 46 years in solitary confinement. Yet somehow someone on the yard had enough beef with him to murder the 71-year-old man in cold blood? Not possible. Yogi's blood is on the hands of the state officials in charge of CSP-Sacramento.
Memorializing Yogi, his comrade David Johnson called him an "educator" and the "spirit of the prison movement."(1) Former Black Panther and long-term friend Kiilu Nyasha said the word that came to her mind was "love."(2) Most of the information in this article comes from Kiilu as well as Yogi's fellow San Quentin 6 comrades David Johnson and Sundiata Tate.(3) All recounted stories of his immense love, his prominent leadership, his indomitable spirit, his dedication to creating and becoming the "new man" and his role in educating others.
The state of California attacked Hugo Pinell for 50 years, from the time of his imprisonment on a phony charge of raping and kidnapping a white womyn, through to his death this week. He was one of a number of comrades involved in an incident on 21 August 1971, in which George Jackson was killed along with three prison guards and two prisoner trustees. Hugo Pinell was charged and convicted with slashing the throats of two prison guards during this incident, though neither was killed. One of these guards was known to have murdered a New Afrikan prisoner in Soledad and had gone unpunished. Those prisoners charged with crimes for the events of 21 August 1971 became known as the San Quentin 6. It was this incident, and the murder of George Jackson in particular, that triggered the takeover of the Attica Correctional Facility in New York by prisoners of all nationalities in response to the oppressive conditions they had faced there for years. Beginning on 9 September 1971, the prisoners controlled the prison for four days, setting up kitchens, medical support, and communications via collective organizing. Prison guards were treated with respect and given proper food and medical care like everyone else. It all ended on 13 September 1971 when the National Guard invaded the yard, killed 29 prisoners and 9 staff, and tortured hundreds after they regained control. It is the collective organizing for positive change that occurred during those four days that we celebrate on the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity in prisons across the United $tates.
The prisoners in Attica acted in the ideals of men like George Jackson and Hugo Pinell who were well-respected leaders of the first wave of the prison movement. Jackson, Pinell and their comrades, many who are still alive and mourning and commemorating Yogi's death(1, 3), always promoted unity and the interests of all prisoners as a group. The Attica brothers took this same philosophy to a more spectacular level, where they flipped the power structure so that the oppressed were in control. Not long afterward, prisoners at Walpole in Massachusetts won control of that facility as a result of the events at Attica. In both cases prisoners worked together collectively to meet the needs of all, peace prevailed, and spirits rose. Like a dictatorship of the proletariat on a smaller scale, these prisoners proved that when the oppressed are in power conditions for all improve. And it is historicaly examples like these that lead us to believe that is the way to end oppression.
Following the incidents of August and September 1971, the Black Panther Party printed a feature article on Hugo Pinell, who they upheld as "a member in good standing of the Black Panther Party." It read in part:
"[Prisoners across the United States] began to realize as Comrade George Jackson would say, that they were all a part of the prisoner class. They began to realize that there was no way to survive that special brand of fascism particular to California prison camps, except by beginning to work and struggle together. Divisions, such as this one, like family feuds, often take time to resolve. The common goal of liberation and the desire for freedom helps to make the division itself disappear, and the reason for its existence become clearer and clearer. The prisoner class, especially in California, began to understand the age-old fascist principle: if you can divide, you can conquer.
"There are two men who were chiefly responsible for bringing this idea to the forefront. They helped other comrade inmates to transform the ideas of self-hatred and division into unity and love common to all people fighting to survive and retain dignity. These two Brothers not only set this example in words, but in practice. Comrade George Jackson and Comrade Hugo Pinell, one Black and one Latino, were the living examples of the unity that can and must exist among the prisoner class. These two men were well-known to other inmates as strong defenders of their people. Everyone knew of their love for the people; a love that astounded especially the prison officials of the State. It astounded them so thoroughly that these pigs had to try and portray them as animals, perverts, madmen and criminals, in order to justify their plans to eventually get rid of such men. For when Comrades George and Hugo walked and talked together, the prisoners began to get the message too well."(4)
Today the prison movement is in another phase of coming together, realizing their common class interests. It is amazing that it is in this new era of coming together that the pigs finally murder Yogi, on the three year anniversary of the announcement of the plans to end all hostilities across the California prisons system to unite for common interests. This timing should be lost on no one.
As a Nicaraguan, Yogi became hated by certain influential Mexicans in the prison system for ignoring their orders not to hang with New Afrikans. While the prison movement over the last half-century has chipped away at such racism, we also know that racism is an idea that is the product of imperialism. Until we eliminate the oppression of nations by other nations, we will not eliminate racism completely. But we work hard to fight it within the oppressed and in particular among prisoners, as Yogi, George and others did 50 years ago.
In the 1950s and 1960s the racism was brutal, with nazis openly working with correctional staff. The state used poor, uneducated whites as the foot soldiers of their brutal system of oppression that is the U.$. injustice system. Tate and Johnson tell stories of being terrorized with the chants of "nigger, nigger, nigger" all night long when they first entered the California prison system as youth.(1, 3) While we don't agree with George Jackson's use of the term "fascist" to describe the United $tates in his day, we do see a kernel of truth in that description in the prison system, and the white prisoners were often lining up on the side of the state. But the efforts of courageous leaders broke down that alliance, and leaders of white lumpen organizations joined with the oppressed nation prisoners for their common interests as prisoners at the height of the prison movement in California.
We recognize the national contradiction, between the historically and predominantly white Amerikan nation and the oppressed internal semi-colonies, to be the principal contradiction in the United $tates today. Yet, this is often dampened and more nuanced in the prison system. Our white readership is proportional to the white population in prisons, and we have many strong white supporters. So while we give particular attention to the struggles of prisoners as it relates to national liberation movements, we support the prison movement as a whole to the extent that it aligns itself with the oppressed people of the world against imperialism.
The biggest complaint among would-be prison organizers is usually the "lack of unity." Any potential unity is deliberately broken down through means of threats, torture and even murder by the state. Control Units exist to keep people like Yogi locked down for four and a half decades. Yet another wave of the prison movement is here. It is embodied in the 30,000 prisoners who acted together on 8 July 2013, and in the 3 years of no hostilities between lumpen organizations in the California prison system. Right now there is nothing more important in California than pushing the continuation of this unity. In the face of threats by individuals to create cracks in that unity, in the face of the murder of an elder of the movement, in order to follow through on the campaign to end the torture of long-term isolation, in order to protect the lives of prisoners throughout the state and end unnecessary killings, there is nothing more important to be doing in California prisons right now than expanding the Agreement to End Hostilities to realize the visions of our elders like Hugo "Yogi Bear" Pinell.