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[Culture] [New Afrika] [Police Brutality] [ULK Issue 46]
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Movie Review: Straight Outta Compton

bloods crips gang up in LA rebellion
14 August 2015 — The long-awaited autobiographical story of NWA, Straight Outta Compton (2015), hit theaters tonight. The action-packed movie glorifies the evolution, and quick dispersal of what they billed as "the world's most dangerous group." While this was part of their hype, there was certainly some truth to the image NWA portrayed and the long-term impact that they had on music and culture in the United $tates. Produced by Ice Cube, with help from Dr. Dre and Tomica Woods-Wright (widow of Eazy-E), the film portrays the history of NWA through their eyes. While generally an accurate history, there are artistic liberties taken in the portrayal of certain events and what is left out.

A key theme of the film is the role of police brutality in shaping the experience of New Afrikans in Compton, particularly young males. There are multiple run-ins with police brutality depicted, and attention is given to the infamous beating of Rodney King by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and the subsequent riots in Los Angeles that deeply affected all members of NWA. The strong anti-cop message of the movie will resonate with audiences who have been unable to avoid discussion of police murders of New Afrikans over the last year or so. As such, the movie will have a positive impact of pushing forward the contradiction between oppressed nations and the armed forces that occupy their neighborhoods.

Every New Afrikan rebellion in the past year has been triggered by police murders. Murders and attacks on New Afrikans by whites and their police have always been the most common trigger of rebellions since Black ghettos have existed.(1) This was true in the 1960s when the Black Panthers rose to prominence, it was true in the early 1990s after NWA rose to fame, and it's true today when "Black Lives Matter" is a daily topic on corporate and other media. This national contradiction, and how it is experienced in the ghetto, is portrayed in the film by the fact that there are no positive roles played by white characters.

A secondary theme, that surrounded a number of high-profile groups/rappers of the time, was the question of freedom of speech. NWA was part of a musical trend that brought condemnation from the White House and the birth of the "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" warning sticker. Ice Cube does a good job of portraying his character as righteous and politically astute, though he self-admittedly embellished from how events truly occurred.(2) We see the strong political stances Ice Cube took in his music after he left NWA, yet, only a glimpse. They do a montage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, but don't touch on Cube's extensive commentary before and after the riots through his music.

They also curiously leave out any mention of Dre's public feud with Eazy-E after Dre left Ruthless Records, though they do spend time on Ice Cube's feuds with Ruthless.

The movie concludes by glamorizing Dre's rise to fame and independence, after being screwed by Jerry Heller (and Eazy-E) while with NWA, and then by Suge Knight for The Chronic album. They portray his success in guiding new artists like Eminem and 50 Cent to successful careers and his marketing of Beats headphones, which were purchased by Apple, Inc. Ice Cube's great success as an actor and producer are also featured, as are a memorializing of Eazy-E and updates on DJ Yella and MC Ren.

While this ending is a logical wrap up of the story of these five artists and where they are today, the focus on the individuals leaves out much of their real legacy. NWA was part of a cultural shift. Like all historical events, what they did represented much bigger forces in society. The character of Ice Cube recognizes this in a press interview in the film when he says they didn't start a riot at a Detroit show, they were just representing the feelings of the youth of the day. As was stressed in that interview, and throughout their careers, NWA members were just reporters speaking on what they were experiencing. And it was an experience that until then was unknown to a majority of Amerikans. Today that experience has become popularized. It is both glamorized and feared, but it has become a prominent part of the Amerikan consciousness thanks to voices like NWA.

While reality rap has been used (and misconstrued) to reinforce racism by many, the real transformatative impact it has had is in bringing this reality to the forefront so that it could no longer be ignored by Amerikans. Again, this pushed the national contradiction in the United $tates, by making all people face reality and take positions on it.

One problem with the movie is the way it leaves the rebelliousness of NWA as something from the past, that has evolved into successful business sense. NWA was one of a number of greatly influential artists at the time that shaped the future of hip hop. When gangsta rap was breaking out, you had real voices leading the charge. Since then it has been reeled in, and there is generally a dichotomy between the studio garbage that gets corporate play and the countless popular artists who have taken rap to higher levels both artistically and ideologically. Today there is a greater breadth of politically astute artists who are quite influential, despite lacking access to the corporate outlets. A montage of the countless "fuck da police"-inspired songs that have been produced since NWA would be a better recognition of their legacy today, than the focus on mainstream success and lives of some of the individual members.

While being a longer movie, Straight Outta Compton seemed to end quickly. There are plenty of exciting musical moments to make NWA fans nod their heads, plenty of fight scenes, if you're into that, and many rebellious statements made by members of NWA that should make you smile. We look forward to the even longer director's cut, which promises to get deeper into some points that are only hinted at in the theatrical release.(3)

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[MIM(Prisons)] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 46]
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Growth and Challenges: Summing Up MIM(Prisons) 2015 Congress

MIM(Prisons)'s 2015 congress was marked by some major successes and growth in our work over the past year. We reached our goal from 2013 of doubling Under Lock & Key subscribers; helped write and edit [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán; and we took up the Strugglen Artists Association project and collected and distributed some great art both behind bars and on the streets. We have continued to support and build prisoner education, running both beginner and advanced correspondence study groups, sending in many political magazines and books, and supporting more than 30 prisoner-led study groups. Our focus in the coming year will be in building on these successes: printing and distributing the [email protected] Power book, expanding prisoner-led study groups, and building more United Struggle from Within (USW)-led campaigns.

All of this project-based work remains focused on our primary goal: serving the oppressed in prisons within the United $tates, while working from the vantage point of the Third World proletariat. We recognize that imperialism is the number one enemy of the majority of the world's people, and we are fighting from within the belly of the beast in the advanced stage of imperialism, where the majority of the people living within U.$. borders have been bought off with the spoils of capitalist profits. This petty-bourgeois population does not support our revolutionary organizing, and we cannot rely on them for the finances or labor needed to keep this struggle moving forward. So we focus our public opinion building on prisoners, who have a lot to gain from an end to Amerikkkan imperialism.

Growth and Finances

Over the past year we have seen a 70% growth in our Under Lock & Key (ULK) subscribers. But with this success comes the new challenge of paying for the increased printing and mailing costs. The overall cost to send out ULK is up 60% in July 2015 compared with July 2014. Subscriber funding of ULK increased by 64% over the same period, a very good trend, but all of that money went towards the cost of the 4 extra pages we printed in issues 39, 42, and the forthcoming ULK 46.

While we were able to print three issues of ULK with 4 extra pages of content, thanks to the funding from comrades behind bars, we will no longer be able to use donations for that purpose. Instead we need to focus all donations on the costs of printing and mailing to our greatly expanded distribution list. We want to see ULK expanded to 20 pages every issue, and we know readers are hungry for these additional pages, but first we will need to greatly expand funding for the publication. To answer the immediate need for more reading material, we offer activists behind bars lots of extra revolutionary lit to study in exchange for any sort of work they can contribute to the struggle. Ultimately this shift is necessary to continue to expand the reach of ULK as our subscriber list continues to grow. It was a difficult decision to stop printing the extra content, but we are doing it to prevent cutting down ULK content even more in the long term.

We need your help to keep up with new subscriptions! At the current rate of donations, prisoner funding for ULK covers only 4% of costs (printing a 16 page publication). In addition to spreading the word, sharing your ULK with others, and encouraging everyone to get their own subscription, we need donations of stamps and checks. We are setting a goal of funding 10% of each issue from subscriber donations. This is an aggressive goal based on our history, but we are confident that it is possible. To put it in perspective, we would meet the 10% funding goal if 1 in 5 subscribers sent in just one stamp a year! (Tell us if you want to send a check so we can send you instructions.)

Opportunisitic Internationalism

In 2013 we initiated the Strategic Confidence section in Under Lock & Key. When this section was launched our editor wrote:

"One important piece of our strategic orientation is the strategic confidence we have from our global class analysis. Basically, our analysis says that the vast majority of the world's people, a solid 80%, will benefit materially from an end to imperialism. This is why we believe anti-imperialism is destined for success. Subjectively, this can be important to keep in mind in an environment surrounded by class enemies or by those with bourgeois consciousness. ... One way i plan to expand the international connections we make is to have a section in each issue to print news snippets on events from the Third World that demonstrate determined resistance and a broad class consciousness that is opposed to imperialism. We hope that our readers find inspiration in this information that you probably aren't getting from other news sources."

In the course of writing these articles we realized that including information highlighting struggles in other parts of the world without going into details and analysis of the situation leads us towards opportunism. It is easy to put out information about people taking actions against their government, but if we fail to investigate the underlying situation in those countries we can end up supporting imperialism rather than national liberation. A good example of this is our article on Burkina Faso printed in ULK 41.(1) While we uphold the people's protests against exploitation and oppression, we can't superficially uphold their President's push into exile only to be replaced by a military leader. The situation is too complex to be summed up in a couple sentences, as it was in our Strategic Confidence feature as we prepared to go to print. Fortunately we caught this error and expanded the article before publication.

To correct this error we are re-orienting the international content in ULK to include at least one internationally-focused article in each issue, which includes more depth of analysis about the situation/region. In these international articles we will favor topics that lend themselves to strategic confidence by highlighting resistance struggles against imperialism. It should also be noted that the international content in ULK was of higher quantity and quality over the previous year largely thanks to a number of United Struggle from Within writers. So we call on their continued efforts to help us meet this goal.

United Struggle from Within

This year we saw tremendous growth in our Texas subscribers, many of whom learned about MIM(Prisons) through the Texas Activist Pack that was created by comrades behind bars. The Texas Activist Pack was put together to help prisoners in that state fight a variety of abuses including the medical co-pay, the indigent mail restrictions and the baseless denials of grievances. This shows us that concretely addressing prisoners' day-to-day struggles is an important way to expand our audience while getting vital organizing tools into the hands of folks who need them. People who get in touch for these resources are staying active with MIM(Prisons) at almost the same rate as those who write directly to get ULK or otherwise get involved in our work.

We want to take this lesson from Texas and apply it to other states by working with USW comrades to build activism packs specific to the needs of prisoners in each state. This will require knowledge about the local struggles and challenges, and work to create resources to help address these problems. In some states like Florida this might be focused on censorship as one of the biggest problems we are fighting there, while in Georgia we know the tier system is a problem that overshadows the lives of everyone locked up in that state. However, we want to be careful not to assume that the biggest problem in a state is the one that we can target with activism packs. These should be potentially winnable battles, around which, through education and distribution of resources, we can have a real impact on the lives of our comrades. Get in touch with us if you have ideas about or can help create a campaign for your state.

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[Education] [ULK Issue 45]
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Prisoner-led Study Groups Summary

Prisoner-led Study Group

MIM(Prisons) disagrees with the organizational model of a single ideological leader (or privileged clique) providing all the instructions and theory for its membership, with the masses submitting to this guidance. This is part of why we are an anonymous organization — to help people overcome the cultural tendency of hero worship. We want everyone to take the ideological development of our movement into their own hands. As we've seen countless times throughout history, raising everyone's political consciousness, as the Chinese Communist Party did under Mao, is essential to ensuring that our revolutionary movement is not usurped by our enemies or our mistakes.

To this end, we run correspondence study courses, and we encourage prisoners to run their own study groups where they're at. Malcolm X, George Jackson, Stanley Tookie Williams, and countless other leaders developed their revolutionary analysis using their time behind bars in U.$. prisons. We follow their example and aim to push forward the political development of all U.$. prisoners; supporting prisoner-led study groups (SGs) is one way we do this.

We help support over 30 SGs in 16 states and the Federal system. Since the SGs are prisoner-run and led, we primarily provide support by sending study materials, including books, magazines, newspapers and study packs. Some of the study packs are collections of essays or source material on a particular topic, and others are questions that go with a magazine or book. With this issue of ULK and our letters to SG leaders, we also aim to provide tactical guidance and suggestions.

In February we sent out a questionnaire to get a better sense of how these SGs are run, their scope, their successes, challenges and needs. About one-third of the SGs we support responded, and here we summarize what we learned.

The number of participants ranges between 1 and 25 people, and most groups have less than 10 regular participants. Some groups are single-nation, but most are mixed-nation, with a mixture of lumpen organization (LO) and ex-LO membership. We see SGs as a good place for building the United Front for Peace in Prisons through practice. One respondent told us:

“The three core members have all had gang affiliations in the past. The two brothers were in the Gangster Disciples or Vice Lords, and the Chicano was in the Latin Kings. But behind bars we have found out who the real enemy is: the U.$. racist imperialist oppressor pigs who run this joint. So we have put our racial differences and gang affiliations aside to fight our common enemy.”

The average time an SG has been together is 2 years, with a range of 2.5 months to 6 years. Most go through study material at similar rates: either one ULK per week, a few chapters of a book every two weeks, or a magazine/book per month. The SGs that have been going the longest reported that individual members teach what they are familiar with, or have assigned areas to become expert. Other groups report that one persyn or a core group will lead the entire study.

SGs have a wide range of structure. The structure of your group should be based on the conditions where you're at, but it should be a universal goal to get a variety of participants engaging in leading the group. Raising the leadership skills of the participants is one way to raise their political level. And since people are moved around all the time, a follower in one SG might need to become the leader in a different facility. If they already have some practice generating study questions, acquiring reading material, and recruiting participants, then the new SG is more likely to be successful. In this way we can use a disruption, such as transfers, to our advantage.

The frequency and reliability of meeting to go over study materials also varies widely. For groups who are in different facilities, or who are in isolation, they “meet” by passing lit and sharing essays they write analyzing the reading material. Most groups reported they meet once a week, some 3 or 5 days a week, and one group said they meet daily. Some reported they meet creatively under the guise of religious services or a tutoring program.

Challenges

Of course one huge barrier to SGs and revolutionary development generally is literacy — your ability to read and write. We know that a significant portion of prisoners are illiterate. Most of our SGs reported they do not spend much energy teaching literacy, and most participants have GEDs or higher. One group even reported that a GED is a minimum requirement to participate. With the abhorrent lack of programming in U.$. prisons, the responsibility of teaching literacy rests primarily on prisoners themselves — each one teach one.

Challenges reported include:

  1. Imprisonment problems: infiltration, SHU time, validation
  2. Study material confiscated/censored
  3. Insufficient study material
  4. Lumpen problems: bourgeois politics, punctuality/discipline

“Imprisonment problems” will always affect our SGs just because of the fact that they are running inside prisons. But these issues can be addressed somewhat by having good security practices. At least one SG recruits participants by being blatant and open about its politics, receiving criticism from other prisoners (which they then engage through discussion) but not repression from staff (at least not yet). In our limited experience, this is an uncommon scenario, and definitely varies by facility and state. We are creating a security study pack to add to our list of available study materials, so if you have any recommendations of security practices that have worked for your group, please share them with us.

“Lumpen problems” are those which are prominent among the lumpen class as a whole, which we need to address on a mass scale. We can start working on these problems within our SGs. The institutionalization of the daily routine in prisons leads many to rely on others (their captors) to determine what they do at any given moment. This prevents us from developing the necessary skills of time management and self-discipline. When moved to a less structured environment (e.g, from SHU to general population, or from prison to the outside) it is difficult to stay committed to projects and it can be as if one is just following the wind. Encouraging self-discipline with work reports and planning in advance is one way to tackle this problem.

Study material being censored and confiscated can possibly be dealt with using the appeal and grievance process, but we also need to assume repression will always come from our oppressor whenever we try to educate ourselves. Since you can't rely on having articles or notes to refer back to, try to read the material multiple times before passing it on. Writing a summary or analysis on the material, even if it's just a few sentences reflecting on an article in ULK, will help you remember it better and think about it more critically. And discussing your reflections with another comrade if possible will help you develop your overall political analysis. So even if the material is stomped on and torn up and "lost" forever, you will have done your best to hold on to it and can hopefully teach those principles to others even without the written words to refer to.

If the main problem in your SG is having material to study, you're in luck, because that's probably the easiest problem to solve! Barring complete censorship of our materials, MIM Distributors can send you literature on a wide range of topics. Send us reports on what questions are coming up in your SG, what conclusions you are drawing from the material you are studying, and how those conclusions can be applied to the struggles in your prison, and we'll hook you up. Encourage your SG participants to sign up for ULK and send us work-trades for lit, such as articles, art, or poetry for the newsletter. You can even pool together your financial resources to purchase books outright.

One of our goals coming from our annual congress is to be supporting 50 SGs across the United $nakes by this time next year. Since the initiative of our subscribers (YOU!) is what determines how many SGs we can support, we are trying to up the support on our end by addressing some of the main challenges identified in responses to our questionnaire. Please share experiences with us that others might be able to apply to their own SGs.

We hope with this issue of ULK to spark some inspiration among our readers to take their usual “I read and love this newsletter, and pass it on!” to step up and sit down with their fellow captives to study. It is not only important for our own immediate tasks of building unity and increasing our knowledge, but it is important so that our actions will have the greatest impact on liberating the majority of the world's people.

This article referenced in:
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[Middle East] [Latin America] [U.S. Imperialism] [Yemen] [Honduras] [ULK Issue 45]
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Honduras to Yemen: Puppet Regimes Falter

how to spread democracy
The vast majority of the governments in the world lack popular support because they serve the oppressive interests of U.$./European/Japanese imperialism. Popular elections in Palestine (for Hamas) and Honduras (for Zelaya) have been rejected by the United $tates, who put their chosen leaders in power. Meanwhile, Afghanistan and Iraq are the most hypocritical examples of U.$. "democracy building." A decade of military occupation, with all the murders, secret prisons and torture that entails, and even the imperialists can't claim any victory. Iraq has split into multiple states, all of which are engaged in an ongoing hot war. And a recent U.$. government audit of the $1 billion dollars spent in Afghanistan over 10 years concludes that they have been largely unsuccessful in establishing "the rule of law," not to mention "democracy."(1)

Of course, that's not to say that certain imperialist interests have not been served in these projects. A destabilized Third World nation is certainly better than a unified one, because the inherent interests of the Third World are opposed to those of the imperialist nations. Any successful organization of Third World nations to serve their own interests is a blow against imperialism. And the ongoing wars grease the gears of the military industrial complex.

Looking at the Middle East, West Africa or Central America, we cannot say that the oppressed nations are winning. But the objective conditions for successful resistance are certainly there and developing. Our strategic confidence in the victory of the proletarian nations over the imperialist nations comes from these objective conditions, principally that the proletariat nations far outnumber the imperialist ones.

Honduras: Mass Protests and Collective Farming

10 July 2015 — tens of thousands of Hondurans marched in the capital of Tegucigalpa with torches held high to call for the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.(2) These protests have been going strong for seven weeks, and they are the continuation of a six-year struggle against the forces behind a coup d'etat backed by the United $tates in 2009.

In this same period a movement to seize land by collectives of campesinos has been ongoing. These collectives are highly organized and participate politically in the national assemblies behind the mass protests. In the countryside, these collectives have provided improved housing, education and pay for their members. They are class conscious, and addressing gender contradictions as well. The documentary Resistencia (2015) shows the regular harassment and assassinations these collectives face.(3) One community had all their houses bulldozed while attending a rally in Tegucigalpa, yet they pull together and rebuild, as one campesino says, because they have nowhere else to go. While some collectives seem to have armed guards, generally they depend on non-violent resistence at this time.

The United $tates recently deployed 280 Marines to Central America, with most going to Honduras as part of their ongoing militarization of the country in face of this continued mass resistance.(2) Meanwhile, many of the top military personnel who are allied with the large landowners in Honduras have been trained in the terrorist training camp known as the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.(3) For decades, graduates of this school have carried out the most atrocious and brutal military campaigns in Central America on behalf of U.$. interests. Today, Honduras is considered the murder capital of the world.

Imperialists Slaughter Yemenis in Desperation

The United $tates has been waging low-intensity warfare in Yemen since shortly after 11 September 2001. In that time they have carried out over 100 drone strikes in the country.(4) In mid-May of 2015, U.$. troops and ambassadors were pulled out of the country following a popular insurgency that threw out the U.$. puppet regime of Abdedrabbo Mansour Hadi in late March. Hadi has since remained outside of Yemen with no sign that he will be able to return.

Since the removal of Hadi, an intensified bombing campaign in Yemen has been described as a "Saudi-led" effort, yet U.$. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken is behind the coordination center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and the United $tates expedited weapons deliveries to their ally who they've already provided with a strong, modernized military.

On 6 July 2015 over 30 civilians were killed when invaders shot a missile into a small market in the village of Al Joob. Other recent strikes in the region killed 30 in Hajjah, and 45 just north of Aden.(5) "In addition to some 3,000 Yemenis killed since March, the war has also left 14,000 wounded and displaced more than a million people, according to the [United Nations]."(6) Close to 13 million are lacking food due to the war and the blocking of shipments into Yemen by the imperialist-led coalition. Meanwhile preventable diseases like dengue, malaria and typhoid are spreading.(6)

Like the people of Honduras, these horrific conditions leave the people of Yemen with no choice but to keep fighting. In April, "19 Yemeni political parties and associations rejected the UN Resolution 2216 [an attempt to appease the resistance], stating that it encourages terrorist expansion, intervenes in Yemen's sovereign affairs, violates the right of self-defense by the Yemeni people and emphasized the associations' support of the Yemeni Army."(7) In June, Najran tribes, in a Saudi border region, declared war against the Saudi regime because of the Saudis killing innocent people. This occurred after the House of Saud attempted to bribe tribal leaders to support their war efforts in Yemen.(8)

Yemen's relationship to Saudi Arabia is similar to those of Mexico and Central America to the United $tates. Yemen was once a nominally socialist state after a Marxist-inspired national liberation army took control after British colonialism ended in the region. So like Central America, Yemen is no stranger to socialism and Marxism. Yet, while militarily conditions are more advanced throughout the Middle East, we do not see the class-conscious subjective political forces that exist in places like Honduras.

Yemen risks falling into inter-proletarian conflict as has been ongoing in Syria and Iraq. Yet, reports from the ground indicate a strong recognition that the ultimate blame for their plight falls on the United $tates (this is true in Honduras as well). Chaos does bring opportunity for the objective forces of proletarian class interest to rise to prominence. While conditions are dire in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, they lend themselves to building dual power and ultimately delinking from imperialism, which is what the oppressed nations must do to improve their conditions. While there are multiple competing powers in Syria and Iraq right now, no sustainable dual power can develop that is not built on the class unity of the exploited classes as exists in Honduras. At the same time, dual power must be defended, and the imperialists will always respond to efforts at delinking with military intervention. It is this military power that is lacking in Honduras to make their collectivization efforts sustainable.

These are just some of the hotly contested areas of the world today. The battle is between the imperialists and the exploited majority. While the imperialists are the dominant force today, the exploited majority are the rising aspect of this contradiction. As they rise in more regions of the world, they undercut capitalist profits and imperialist militaries become overextended. That is how the exploited majority will become victors and gain control over their own destiny.

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[Theory] [New Afrikan Black Panther Party] [ULK Issue 44]
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Study Logic, Don't End Up Like Rashid

Recently, Rashid of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC) published a long criticism of MIM(Prisons) titled "MIM or MLM? Confronting the Divergent Politics of the Petty Bourgeois 'Left' On the Labor Aristocracy and Other Burning Issues in Today's Revolutionary Struggle." Rashid poses as an authority on our organization's line, practice and history but it should be readily apparent that he does not even have a base understanding of our organization or even of Maoism. It is an outrageously unscientific attack, a deceitful and slanderous piece.

For those who want Rashid's criticism with our point-by-point response ("100 Reasons Why Rashid Needs to STFU About MIM(Prisons)") and a list of suggested study material on the many topics referenced you can get a copy from us for $4 or work-trade. If you have a hard time distinguishing between MIM(Prisons) and the NABPP-PC, as many do, then you should study this material until the differences are obvious.

It is useful to use this as a teaching moment on how to provide scientific leadership. In particular, we encourage everyone to study logic and logical fallacies as a part of learning to think scientifically. Here are a few basic principles which we found severely lacking in Rashid's polemic:

1. Mao taught us "no investigation, no right to speak." Rashid's long attack on MIM(Prisons) gets many points wrong about our political line. These points are found clearly in the literature we distribute free to prisoners and have readily available on-line. A significant portion of his polemic focuses on the membership requirements for our study groups, for United Struggle from Within (USW) and for MIM(Prisons), sloppily confusing them all, and spreading misinformation in the process.

2. Correctness of ideas must be assessed independent of who says them. Rashid defends his criticism of the labor aristocracy line by accusing MIM(Prisons) comrades of having petty-bourgeois backgrounds. MIM(Prisons) could be Satan, but that doesn't mean there's no labor aristocracy. This approach is a political bullet to the head, and is a fallacy of irrelevance.

3. A lot of Rashid's article is baiting for information about MIM(Prisons). Whether intentional or not, this is pig work. We do not give out any information that the pigs could use to assess or destroy our movement. And anonymity isn't just about security, it's also about teaching people to think scientifically rather than follow the persyn with the right skin tone or haircut. We are against identity politics, which are too easily controlled by the oppressor. People who buy into identity politics also defend Obama just because he's Black.

4. Taking a scientific conclusion about a group and then applying it to individuals or small segments of that group is called an "ecological fallacy" and is a basic statistical error. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Maoists spent much time combatting this tendency, because people were attacking others based on their family's class background. Sociology as a science allows us to predict things with a certain probability. We can say that the petty bourgeoisie as a class has particular interests, and therefore it is very likely that an inidividual from that class will defend that interest. But that likelihood is less than 100%.

Educational Urgency

This criticism from Rashid, as baseless as it is, does highlight the urgency of getting our interactive glossary finally available on-line, and sending it to our readers behind bars. It also underlines the importance of sending literature to our subscribers and conducting study groups, whether led by MIM(Prisons) or by USW comrades.

Like most prisoners, Rashid does not have easy access to our website, and he's only able to access literature from us that the prison mailroom permits him to have. We have no reason to believe Rashid has received or read any of the most fundamental material on our political line, which is perhaps an error on our part. He criticizes our class definitions, and in criticizing them completely misrepresents them. Our class definitions have been made public to prisoners with most clarity in the booklet Fundamental Political Line of the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons. This booklet was published in March 2012 and contains all our class definitions spelled out in paragraph form. Additionally, we send a short list of these definitions to all new subscribers. It would be overkill to expect us to provide a full definition each time we use a word, as Rashid seems to require. Our last response to Rashid was written assuming he had access to definitions of our political line, perhaps another error on our part.

In our newsletter Under Lock & Key, we publish economic analysis, mostly regarding class relationships in the First World. Rashid's most recent criticism of MIM(Prisons) suggest that he does not read ULK. It's unclear to us if Rashid has read any contemporary material on the labor aristocracy; whether by MIM(Prisons), Ehecatl, or Zak Cope. [Update: Rashid has since published a criticism of Zak Cope's book Divided World Divided Class on his website. Similar to his critique of MIM(Prisons), he does not actually engage any of the evidence provided by Cope. For those who are interested in some good material on the labor aristocracy question you'd be better off reading the debate that Zak Cope had with labor-aristocracy denier Charles Post.]

Defining Mass Work

Rashid claims MIM(Prisons) has no mass work to speak of. He thinks the labor aristocracy should be our mass base, and we think they are enemies of the international proletariat, so it makes sense that MIM(Prisons) would not engage in what Rashid would consider mass work.

Assuming for a moment that we do agree on a mass base, how would Rashid even know what MIM(Prisons)'s practice is amongst those masses? Rashid doesn't engage in our study groups, doesn't write articles for ULK, and doesn't participate in United Struggle from Within (USW) campaigns, or any other prisoner-based projects we facilitate. Rashid claims our organizing with prisoners is either (a) nonexistent or (b) taking advantage of a vulnerable population. If by "vulnerable" he means "not completely bought off by the spoils of imperialism" and "having a direct material interest in overthrowing imperialism and destroying Amerikkka," then yeah.

For as much as Rashid is out of touch with our prisoner organizing, he is ten times more out of touch with the organizing we do outside of prisons. As a security-conscious organization, we don't publicize where, when, or how much organizing we do outside of prison. Yet Rashid claims to be an expert on our practice, and claims we have none. This sort of baseless shit-talking is another logical fallacy, as it still does not address the labor aristocracy question. Rashid spends much time trying to make us look bad, while avoiding actually having to make sound arguments against our political line.

Importance of Class Background

True or not, Rashid's petty-bourgeois accusations are not that exciting. Here are some facts which should not surprise anyone: MIM(Prisons) operates in the United $tates. MIM(Prisons) comrades are not in prison. MIM(Prisons) comrades have time to devote to revolutionary study and work. At least some MIM(Prisons) comrades have money to donate to purchasing, publishing and mailing books and newsletters to prisoners for free. At least some MIM(Prisons) comrades are fluent in writing and reading the English language. Considering the vast majority of the U.$. population is petty bourgeois (which includes the labor aristocracy, which Rashid calls the proletariat), it doesn't take a stroke of genius to assume that at least some MIM(Prisons) comrades are likely petty bourgeois.

Class backgrounds certainly play a role in subjective political orientation, and that's where class suicide comes in. Just as we try to encourage members of the lumpen class to abandon their petty-bourgeois tendencies and align themselves (against their immediate material interests) with the international proletariat, we also encourage members of the labor aristocracy, petty bourgeoisie, and bourgeoisie to commit class suicide and work in favor of the international proletariat. In Rashid's studies of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, we're surprised he didn't also pick up the principle that criticizing an individual based on their class background is a textbook error.

The important question is, does our work do more to support the international proletariat, or more to support the First World classes (including the bourgeoisie, petty-bourgeoisie, and labor aristocracy)? Rashid says MIM(Prisons) comrades should commit class suicide. Yet we are the ones actively campaigning to redistribute wealth away from the country we live in, while the NABPP-PC allies with the labor aristocracy oinking for more.

Scientific Approach to Revolutionary Work

Below are a couple excerpts from our annotated response to Rashid's criticism:

Rashid: MIMP admits choosing prisoners because they prove most receptive to its ‘leadership’ which in essence means MIMP has latched onto a particularly vulnerable and desperate social group(1), an isolated group whose severely miserable predicament leaves them desperate(2) for any sympathetic ear and tending to be less critical of those who present themselves as sympathetic. Also prisoners generally lack political awareness and training and access to the voluminous Marxist and relevant works. So they are least suited to critically challenge MIMP’s Maoist representations.(3)

MIM(Prisons): 1. Patronizing. 2. Desperate for change. How is the proletariat better than this? 3. We distribute these materials for free to any prisoner in the United $tates who is genuinely interested. Our work-trade standards are just to help us determine who will make the best use of these resources, so we aren't sending them to people who will just throw them in the trash. Send us work (art, article, organizing report, etc) and engage with us and we'll send you plenty of free study materials with no strings attached. So to say we try to keep prisoners in the dark so that they can't criticize us is just bullshit.(p. 10)

Rashid: Contrary to Stalin’s admonition, MIMP neither has its feet planted within the masses, nor is it willing to "listen to the voices" of its followers, or anyone else for that matter. A point we should look at closer, from a Maoist standpoint.

MIM(Prisons): What is the evidence that we don't listen to our followers? We definitely don't listen to the enemy class, as that is not the masses. We don't aim to organize the labor aristocracy but we are in very close contact with lumpen masses. The only "evidence" Rashid presents in this essay to prove that we don't listen to the lumpen are (a) that we don't accept his "class analysis" of classes in the United $tates, and (b) that we removed someone from our study group because they had clear dividing line differences with us that we were not going to change, see below. These are two people we tried to struggle with at length and determined to have dividing line differences with us. We struggle with the lines represented by these two entities (Rashid and Ruin) continuously in the pages of Under Lock & Key, which is more efficient than one-on-one struggle, especially in this case. And they are more than welcome to keep writing to us and keep receiving ULK for free forever. But no, we're not likely going to reneg on our six main points which define our organization.(p. 12)

Rashid lacks an understanding of the importance of organizational structure and political standards. Liberalism on our 6 main points for membership in our organizations would be the antithesis of providing scientific leadership. This is MIM(Prison) clearly drawing lines around political questions that we think are most important to advancing the revolutionary struggle at this time. To those who oppose this scientific approach to revolutionary organizing, we suggest you may be better off working with another group. There are plenty of organizations out there that will accept anyone as a member, regardless of political line or ability to think critically, and which are happy to debate whether 2+2=4 endlessly. We will provide the doubters plenty of political resources that explain how we know 2+2=4, but we won't waste our time, or limited ULK space, on unscientific people who insist the answer is 3.

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[Principal Contradiction] [National Oppression] [Police Brutality] [ULK Issue 44]
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Baltimore: Contradictions Heightening

bloods and crips unite for justice for Freddie Gray in Baltimore
In recent years we've seen the consolidation of the movement to end long-term isolation in U.$. prisons. This has been an issue the Maoist Internationalist Movement, and others, have focused on for decades because they determined that it was an important contradiction between the oppressors and the oppressed in the United $tates. It's taken some time, but that analysis seems to be proving true as the movement is gaining traction.

Another issue that we have reported on over the years has been that of police brutality, and in particular police killings. In recent years, this too has emerged as a flashpoint issue. After many incidents that provoked local and ongoing responses, Ferguson took it to another level, and now Baltimore has further pushed the issue and begun to draw lines in the sand.

Just as the state attacked the anti-SHU movement for being a bunch of gangbangers just looking out for themselves, the question of oppressed nation unity across lumpen organizations has come to the forefront in Ferguson and Baltimore. In Baltimore, the Nation of Islam held a press conference with members of Blood and Crip organizations that led to a lot of press coverage. During the uprising, those organizations were on the streets protecting New Afrikan-owned businesses and community members. As they attempted to show their ability to do for their community what the police claimed but failed to do, the state tried to paint them as a bunch of cop killers in the media.

A controversial hypothesis that we have put forth is that we should look to the oppressed nation lumpen and lumpen organizations to find a mass base for revolutionary organizing in the United $tates. We see the social forces involved in the struggles against long-term isolation and police killing as providing evidence in support of this hypothesis. We have looked at this question in depth and think there is enough evidence to support this as a valid scientific theory. One source of confirmation we get from this is the support we get from the oppressed nation lumpen. One comrade from Baltimore wrote to us further illuminating the connection between our prison work and the anti-police movement today:

"I am a former eminent member of the 5-Deuce Hoover Crips in the Northeast region of Baltimore city. Currently, I am serving out a long prison sentence in Maryland. I am writing to you in regards to the riots and the looting and the unorganized protest that took place 27 April 2015. I can't say that I'm surprised, nor can I say I seen it coming; but you must know that if the melee on April 27 didn't happen when it did, it still would have taken place somewhere further down the line. Do I condone the actions of misled, poorly-educated youth and mindless adults during the date of Freddie Gray's burial? No, I do not!

"I knew Freddie personally so know his death is agonizing and he'll be missed. It is such a crying shame it took the misplaced anger and rage of Baltimore's youth to get the governor, mayor, city's councilpeople, etc. off their hindparts to 'work actively' with the protestors and conduct an investigation of Freddie Gray's death. Every big shot wants to say how good of a city Baltimore is, yet the justice system is corrupt, and our 'city leaders' are corrupt...

"There is good in Balti but those ghettos around the realm of the city are truculent. Not because there's direct destruction, but because right now it is the blind leading the blind. Those same misled youth who rioted April 27 will soon grow to be adults who will be misleading the next generation. Baltimore city needs help, in its ghettos and its prisons. In short, legislation has to make some changes with its shielding of police who break the law and violate the rights of the civilians."

Certainly there is much to be done in all areas where there is mass opposition to police brutality. And we do not see any possible solution from a state whose interests the police are serving. The struggle to transform spontaneous uprisings into long-term organizing is one that the movement has faced for decades. The increase in frequency and size of such uprisings is the quantitative change in this contradiction between the oppressed nations and the imperialist state. The transformation from spontaneous to organized, concerted movements is the qualitative change that must happen to keep the struggle advancing. And the lumpen organizations themselves must transform in order to play an effective leadership role in that process.

Some in the oppressed nations are frustrated with the slow pace of change. No doubt there have been a lot of peace treaties and calls from lumpen organizations to be forces for the community that have not always panned out to be all that we had hoped for. But just as there were countless uprisings to overthrow slavery before enough quantitative change had occurred in society to be successful, we are now in a stage where we see many efforts to form national unity in New Afrika and to politicize lumpen organizations. These efforts are part of the quantitative change that has not yet made a qualitative leap to a new stage of struggle. This is a process that faces setbacks from state interference, but also responds to state interference with further radicalization and mobilization.

Another sign that the movement is advancing is that lines are being drawn between enemies and friends. It is becoming clear that many who claim to oppose racism and police brutality actually care more about private property and business as usual. So the progressive facade of these forces is being torn off as they come face-to-face with the unrefined reality of mass uprisings. But just as those false friends become alienated from the struggle against police killings, the masses who have a real interest in change will become energized by a movement as it becomes more real and relatable.

Becoming more real requires having an analysis of the situation that is based in materialism; that is real. The more our analysis reflects reality and is able to harness the forces of change that are present, the more support we will gain from those forces of change. Many people are still stuck in metaphysical ways of thinking. They think this is just the way things are and they will never change. Such people conclude that the best thing to do is to try to avoid conflict with the oppressor, keep your head down and just try to get by.

The dominant Amerikan analysis is also metaphysical and misleads the masses who might otherwise be supportive of dialectical materialist analysis. Racism is a metaphysical view of sociology. Using an individualist approach to sociological questions, or replacing psychology for sociology, is also metaphysical. Sociology studies groups of humyns and can be used to predict how they will behave; psychology studies individual humyns and attempts to predict how they will behave. The metaphysical line goes that there are bad cops and there are bad people who go to the protests. These bad people must be rooted out and punished. As sociologists, we disagree, as this does not address the source of the conflict.

The racist version is that these looters are thugs who have nothing to do with Gray. If we look at history, these types of occurrences in similar communities in the United $tates are almost always in the response to the killing of New Afrikans by the U.$. state. This would lead the scientific mind to develop a hypothesis that there is some connection between the two. To test this hypothesis we could search history for incidents when large groups of people loot stores when there wasn't a New Afrikan killed. If we find few-to-no examples of this, and find many examples of the first situation, we might raise our hypothesis to a theory, that can be used as a predictive tool.

In contrast, Amerikans say the people in Baltimore who looted stores are opportunists, using the protests as an excuse to act out their real goals. Like getting some free Doritos is a higher priority for them than getting justice for the countless New Afrikans who have faced abuse and murder under Amerikan occupation. Such a nihilistic view is almost laughable. But let's entertain it a little further. If we are to oppose this position, we should propose a better explanation for the behavior of many of the youth in Baltimore recently. As our comrade wrote, it is a blind leading the blind problem, but why is that? Are New Afrikans just not smart enough to figure out how to respond effectively? He further wrote:

"I am a 25 year old Black man who taught myself how to read while incarcerated. After being sent to prison a third time I learned my true calling. There's so much more to life, I am trying my hardest to be an activist behind the prison walls and when I make it out on the streets. I know first hand how it feels to be those Black children who've been mis-educated and unheard, so the only way to express your emotions is through lashing out because you don't know any other way. The police used to beat and harass me every single day because of my position in the Crips, because I wasn't properly educated, and because they had the power. I'm no saint, but a lot of things I went through and/or other Black children endured with police brutality often times was uncalled for.

"If the shoe was on the other foot and someone killed a police officer, there wouldn't be a waiting period or an investigation to lock the person up. The police might even go as far as persecution (execution style) of the person themselves. The video clips taken during the occurrence of Freddie Gray's death should render enough information for all of those cops involved to be taken into custody (without bail) until a trial date is arranged."

Let's analyze this a little further. We live in a capitalist society, where the primary motivator that keeps things moving is profit. Our country is an imperialist country, that has always used force to kill and steal from people to increase its wealth. When New Afrikans walk around with $ signs hanging from their necks, and big portraits of Benjamin Franklin on the back of their jeans, is there any doubt that they are reflecting the dominant ideology of capitalism? On the other hand, whenever a New Afrikan movement has arisen that promotes socialism, communism, cooperative economics or anything of the sort, they have faced repression. People who led New Afrikan youth against capitalism have been imprisoned and killed. Could these be explanations of why New Afrikan youth today are often caught up in fetishizing money and wealth? Because they've been terrorized into it? The individualist will pretend these things don't matter and that it's up to the individual to make the right decisions, even when the individual does not have all the information or knowledge they would need to do so because that information has been purposely and systematically kept from them. It amounts to blaming the victim.

Of course, a real Amerikan patriot supports the First Amendment, so they will say "I support the protesters, but I oppose the looters." The petty bourgeois class interest is not hard to see in this dominant narrative. People are literally putting more weight on private property than a New Afrikan's life. They might respond, that to put it such a way is a false dichotomy, because it was not a situation where we either break some windows and save Gray's life or let Gray die at the hands of police. But this again is based on their individualist worldview. In their view, each incident is unique and isolated between the individuals involved and must be assessed as such. There is no consideration of the possibility of the mass uprising in Baltimore leading to a surge in organizing, that then contributes to a new revolutionary movement that 30 years from now has put an end to imperialism in this country so that New Afrikans' lives are no longer threatened by police.

The more we look at the big picture, the worse things are for the defenders of capitalism. When we look at the big picture we see things like 80% of the world's people have a material interest opposed to capitalism because their basic needs are not being met. And that capitalism has only been around for a few hundred years, a blip on the timeline of humyn history. And that all systems change, all empires fall. This constant change is a part of the dialectical worldview.

Huey Newton on Power

This is why Mao talked about science being on the side of the oppressed. Injustice is an objective fact. And the solutions to the problems our society faces today are found in a thorough analysis of that society.

We commend our comrade from Baltimore for taking the journey of teaching himself to become an activist to serve the people. But how does one go about learning in an effective way? There is so much information out there, so many books and groups and so little time. Making effective use of the collective knowledge of humynkind requires using the correct scientific methods, and comparing different practices to see which ones have worked. We hope this issue of ULK gives our readers some guidance in this process of judging truth and knowledge. As always, we have study materials that go more deeply into this than we can here in ULK where we try to focus on news and agitation. Issue 45 of ULK will focus on the practical side of how to organize study groups in prison, and the question of how do we teach basic skills like literacy. We hope those of you with experience will contribute to that issue and help build the quantitative change that must come from the oppressed masses themselves for any systematic change to take place.

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[Censorship] [ULK Issue 44]
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PrisonTalk.com Censors MIM(Prisons)

Prison Talk Online censors political posts
For a few years MIM(Prisons) has been participating in the on-line forum Prison Talk (www.prisontalk.com). This website advertises itself as a "prison information and family support community." The forums on Prison Talk are primarily used by family members of prisoners, looking for information and support. From their home page description, Prison Talk (also known as PTO) explains:

"There is no worse feeling than that of being alone and helpless. This applies to the families of those who are incarcerated just as much as it does to those behind the walls. PTO's goal is to bridge the communication barrier that exists in and around the criminal 'justice' system today and bring everyone in the prisoner support community closer together to effect change in policy, prisoner rights, sentencing and so much more."

Occasionally MIM(Prisons) attempts to post information in PTO forums for the benefit of the PTO audience, who may not regularly visit our website for news from Amerikan prisons. For instance, during the statewide hunger strike in California's prisons, we provided several articles and updates on the situation that were appreciated by the California forum users (users can indicate appreciation of a post within the forums by “thanking” the author).

We try to be careful to follow the rules of the forums. For instance, a few years ago Prison Talk staff made some policy changes to bring the forums into compliance with copyright laws. Because the content on our website is not copyrighted, these laws don't apply to posts of content from prisoncensorship.info. But we understand that the Prison Talk staff have decided to apply their policies to all news articles posted on the site rather than research each individual source, and so we modified our participation to include only a small summary of an article and then a link to the full article for those who want to read it, as their policy requires.(1)

In spite of this practice, our posts over the past year were often deleted for "copyright violation" without any indication of how we were violating the policy. Perhaps in recognition that we are not violating the copyright policy, Prison Talk staff recently started making up new reasons to delete our posts. One reason given was "We cannot allow you to link to that site. It asks for donations, and as such is not allowed on PTO." This one is interesting since it took only about 5 minutes of looking through recent posts on PTO to find examples of uncensored posts linking to sites that request donations, such as this one which links to truth-out.org, a site that has a prominently-featured button requesting donations (far more aggressive than prisoncensorship.info). In fact the only sites that are unlikely to request donations are commercial sites, so if this is actually a PTO policy, they are effectively banning links to most non-profit and independent websites.

Another post was deleted with the reason given as "You have been told multiple times you CANNOT post as someone else." This is an odd reason since we have never concealed the identity of the persyn posting on PTO for MIM(Prisons). In fact a few years ago we were asked to take down the link to the MIM(Prisons) website in that persyn's PTO user profile. So on the one hand they want us to disguise who we work with, and on the other hand they accuse us of posting as someone else. And for the record, this was the first time PTO made this accusation, it was not "multiple times."

It seems that the PTO staff want to prevent MIM(Prisons) from participating in the forums, but they don't want to do so openly. They have pursued an ongoing practice of making it as difficult as possible for us to share information about the fight against the criminal injustice system being waged by United Struggle from Within and MIM(Prisons). We have asked the PTO administrators to be honest with us and just tell us to stop participating if they want to kick us off. But they ignore this request and continue to pretend that the problem is our lack of compliance with policies. We do consistently see our posts censored within a few hours of posting, and so given the volume of posts in a day (there were 1885 new posts over one random 12-hour period this month) we assume at least one administrator has set a flag notifying themselves to review every single post we attempt to make.

It is unfortunate that the organizers of this forum serving a population that desperately needs access to information about battles being waged in the prison system are censoring participants in such an underhanded way. This is eerily similar to the games played by prison administrators who throw out prisoners' mail and pretend it just never arrived, or who deny material as "a threat to the security of the institution" when they just don't like the material. Unlike prison staff, PTO is legally allowed to remove material they find politically disagreeable from their website, but they probably know that openly doing so would lose them support from many of their users.

MIM(Prisons) is honest about our selective publication of articles and information in both Under Lock & Key and on our website. We are clear about our political line and the goals of our work. Liberal organizations like PTO, who pretend to be open to all views but in fact secretly promote their own agenda, are harming the fight against injustice.


Notes:
1. The policy reads: "To stay within 'fair use' copyright you are allowed a brief summary and a link back to the site which the article is located...You are also not allowed to edit the summary or paragraph that you are using that came from the copyright holder." Further, the PTO Admin who authored the policy wrote: "The moderators have been instructed from this point forward to edit any copyrighted news article that do not fit the 'fair use' criteria and contact the members who post them." While none of the material posted from MIM(Prisons) violates any copyright laws, we have also complied fully with this policy as requested by Prison Talk staff. In spite of this, our posts are now consistently deleted and frequently the reason given is just that we need to read the copyright policy. There are plenty of other posts that quote news articles that are not censored. For instance, here's a post that quotes an Associated Press story. And we've never been given an explanation for how we are violating the copyright policy.

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[Control Units] [ULK Issue 43]
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Torture Spreading as Tool of Social Control

In this issue of Under Lock & Key we take on the issue of social control in prisons through long-term isolation, commonly known as control units (CUs). CUs are permanently designated prisons or cells in prisons that lock prisoners up in solitary or small group confinement for 22 or more hours a day with no congregate dining, exercise or other services, and virtually no programs. Almost 50% uf ULK subscribers are in CUs, while this is true for less than 5% of the overall prison population in the United $tates.

This topic comes up a lot in ULK because control units are used to punish and isolate prisoners speaking up against the criminal injustice system, those with influence over others, and even those who just won't go along with the programmed repression of everyday prison life. Our prisoner activist comrades, United Struggle from Within members are often found in these long-term isolation cells, still writing for ULK and organizing others in whatever way they can. The real purpose of these control units is exposed in "Control Units: Social Control for Semi-Colonies in the United $tates," and several articles on validation for activism. Control units attack our ability to organize and are yet another way the prisons foment divisions between prisoners.

We know that long-term isolation has serious mental and physical health consequences. The conditions are eloquently exposed in the article on the Delaware Prison System. And the dangerous health effects are discussed in the article "Who's Defining Mental Illness?"

The use of control units is expanding within the Amerikan criminal injustice system and the past and future growth of control units are explored in the review of the book "Out of Control" and our summary of recent results from our own control unit survey.

With all this information on the development and purpose of control units we need to turn to activism and what we should be doing to fight back. Many of the articles listed above offer insights and options. And for the overall development of the movement we call attention to the article on the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity and the lessons for the United Front from the Bandung Conference. By building a United Front for Peace in Prisons we are laying the groundwork of unity and peace to take on important battles like the one to abolish control units.

The fight against prison control units is important for the anti-imperialist movement, but it can only be waged in the context of the broader struggle. We might win some reforms and gain some freedom for our activist comrades behind bars, and better conditions for the general prison population, but until we dismantle the criminal injustice system we won't be able to effect systematic change. And that will only happen with the overthrow of imperialism because, as is clearly exposed in this issue of Under Lock & Key, prisons are a critical tool of social control for the imperialists. There's no way the imperialists will give up that control, and they always look for new ways to spin national oppression to sound tolerable and even necessary to the Amerikkkan public.

Control Unit Survey Responses

MIM(Prisons) has been soliciting for data on control units for the past several issues of ULK. We're forced to do this because there is no central information source on control units in prisons in the United $tates. Even for states that publish data on their population and report on the existence of control units, the counts of prisoners housed there are not always accurate. and there is a trend to downplay and under report on control units. Whether this is by giving them a different name (administrative segregation, super max security, security risk housing, tiers, etc.) or by refusing to talk about these long-term isolation cells altogether, this subterfuge and denial is evidence that the prisons know control units are cruel and unusual punishment.

In response to the frequently heard question of how would we deal with crime differently, first we point out that we do not agree with a definition of crime that allows the biggest murderers and thieves to run the government and military. Once the people have power to control the definition and enforcement of laws to be in the interests of humynity and not profit, we'll be able to thoroughly deal with the real criminals. We hold up the example of prisons in China during the Cultural Revolution to show how communists handle crime and justice. Prisons in China during that time were places of political education and retraining. Landlords, capitalists, and spies were given an opportunity to understand their crimes against the people, to make self-criticism, and to learn new and useful skills so that they could return as productive members of society. This is in direct contrast to the Amerikan criminal injustice system, which builds recidivism and isolates politically active and influential prisoners in control units without even a pretense of education or rehabilitation.

We received 54 responses to the control unit survey over the past year and this article summarizes some of the new findings.

The respondents broke down by state as follows:


StateRespondents
AR, DE, FL, KS, MD, ME, MO, NV, OR, SC, UT1
AZ, CT, IL, PA, TN, WI2
IN4
CA6
TX8
GA13

The high response rate from Georgia, Texas and California is at least in part reflective of the activism going on in those states, as well as the control unit prisons and cell blocks that have proliferated in those states. In many cases we received data on the same prison from multiple sources.

While close to half of the survey respondents did not report on the year the control unit opened (presumably because they didn't know), 12 of the units reported on opened in the past 2 years. That's a lot of new prison control units. This includes prisons in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Maine and California.

Some prisons are control units in their entirety. Modeled after the first long-term isolation prisons in Marion and Lexington, these facilities are entirely dedicated to long-term solitary confinement. But most control units these days are separate sections within an existing prison. This might be a whole yard, several units, or just specific cells. This makes it more challenging to count the number of control unit beds/prisoners accurately, and gives the prisons a way to hide their torture programs within regular prisons.

The reasons given for locking prisoners up in long-term isolation vary, but most come back to some sort of justification based on safety and security, citing a history of violence or fighting, or rule violations. In many prisons there is a policy of locking up "Security Threat Group" members, also known as "gang members," for which validation is arbitrary and punitive, as we discussed extensively in Under Lock & Key 41. As one prisoner explained: "If you are politically conscious and write about such they claim 'gang activity'." Several others described the arbitrary nature of control unit assignment, explaining what gets people into these units in their prisons: "COs will falsify the lock up order and sergeant and lieutenant will go along", "Any and everything. Such as litigator-grievance filer", and "No information in inmate handbook. As far as known, administrative discretion."

Most people were unaware of new control unit prisons being opened or planned for in their state, but 13 people reported on known plans for new control units. This underscores the importance of our work to shut down these torture chambers.

Many survey respondants reported on the conditions in these control units. Below are some of the representative descriptions:


"Subpar treatment of prisoners, small food portions, withholding of property, mail, etc."

"They are all sensory deprivation torture at its best"

"We don't get yard correctly or food in proper proportions"

"Barbaric, human degradation less than dogs receive at the pound"

"We are locked in for 24 hours a day. Shower, sometimes every other day for 30 minutes. We get outside recreation for 5 hours once every 7-10 days"

"Each cell here only gets 30 minutes a day of dayroom and 3 hours of yard a week"

"They lie on us, beat us up, starve us, they don't give proper medical attention"

"While in segregation for almost four years, myself and other prisoners were subjected to the most inhumane and barbarous treatment. There were periods in which we went months without getting showers. In my almost 4 years here, I had recreation/exercise maybe 20 times. Prisoners would be stripped out, completely naked in their cells for days. Prisoners would be gassed/maced with multiple cans of this toxic agent – guys were sprayed so regular and with such large quantities of gas, they many of them had built up physical and psychological resistances to the torture – guys would brag about being able to 'eat' the gas, and the officers were so use to using such large quantities of gas, if they gassed someone with only one can and the person coughed and choked, they'd say things like 'you lil' bitch, you can't even take a full can.' Prisoners would be denied food, prisoners were beaten with restraints on, prisoners were shot with the canisters of tear gas guns, while locked inside of their cell, and on May 7th or 8th of 2012, one mentally ill prisoner was allowed to hang himself, while the officers simply slept the night away. There are so many crimes that have been committed behind these walls by animals that have the audacity to call us (the least of these) criminal."

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[Idealism/Religion] [Migrants] [Europe] [ULK Issue 43]
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France Targets National Minorities on the Streets and in Prisons

national front opposes islamization

After the recent attack on Charlie Hebdo, the French satiric weekly magazine, there has been a lot of focus on the Muslim population in France. Islam is a religion and not a nationality, but because Muslims in France come predominantly from North Africa and the Middle East, anti-Muslim sentiments feed into xenophobia and attacks on national minorities. There are a lot of parallels between the situation for Muslims in France and the oppressed nations (such as New Afrikan, [email protected] and First Nations) within U.$. borders. And recently these contradictions have been exposed in French prisons as well.

French law prohibits asking people their religion and so no official statistics are collected on the size of the Muslim population. Based on a variety of studies it is estimated that about 10% (5 million) of the the people living in France are Muslim. The 3 million foreign-born Muslims in France mostly come from the former North African French colonies of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.(1) Muslims in France face significant economic hardship and generally do not enjoy the spoils of imperialist plunder and exploitation shared with French citizens. Unemployment among youth (15-29 years old) in France in 2002 was at 15% for French citizens and 46% for migrants from North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and Turkey. Even for immigrants with a college degree the rate of unemployment was twice that of natives with a college degree.(2) Similar disparities are seen in educational achievement by Muslims compared with non-Muslims. And a large portion of the recent immigrant population and their descendants are found in housing projects concentrated in and around France's large cities.

As we find in Amerikan prisons, the French imprisoned population is disproportionately from the oppressed nations. Although Muslims make up less than 10% of France's population, they constitute about half of France's 68,000 prisoners. (Overall France has a much smaller prison population than in the United States, with less than 1 per 1,000 residents locked up compared with the Amerikan imprisonment rate of 7 per 1,000.)

One of the Kouachi brothers involved in the Charlie Hebdo attack previously spent 20 months in prison just outside of Paris. Media reports are claiming that he was locked up for petty crimes and turned to radical Islam based on his education and exposure behind bars, and that it was there he met another Muslim convert in prison who helped with the Paris attacks. Detailed background on this man suggests he became involved with Islamic leaders on the streets, but did radicalize in prison. It's hard to say how much of this prison radicalization story is a ruse to justify targeting Muslim leaders behind bars.(3)

The Kouachi brothers, French citizens of Algerian parents, grew up in housing projects in Paris. They were poor and surrounded by others like themselves: national minorities in a country that is moving increasingly towards xenophobia. These national minorities find themselves isolated and disproportionately represented in the First World lumpen class.

A survey conducted in 2014 in France found that 66% of the French believe there are too many foreigners in France. 75% of the factory workers, who are part of that labor aristocracy which enjoys elevated non-exploitation wages and benefits, oppose France embracing globalization. The mass base for fascism is the labor aristocracy in imperialist countries,(4) and these same people are the base for the growth in support for the far-right National Front party which 34% of French people polled see as a credible political alternative.(5)

Kouachi's history in prison is being used to underscore France's concern about the radicalization of prisoners. Prisoners enter the system and learn about Islam from fellow captives. To address this "problem" French authorities are now experimenting with segregating those considered "Muslim radicals" from general population. This sounds a lot like long-term isolation or control units which are used in Amerikan prisons, torturing politically active prisoners. While details are sparse about the experimental units, prisoners subjected to these conditions are protesting the treatment. We can expect that this isolation will be used to target anyone who speaks out against the French government or other imperialist powers.

At the same time France does not appear to be slowing down the imprisonment of Muslims. For instance, in mid-January a 31-year-old Tunisian man was sentenced to 10 months behind bars after a verbal conflict with police in which he said that an officer shot in the recent attacks "deserved it."(6)

The French government is facing the contradictions of a criminal injustice system that we see in all imperialist countries. Using prisons for social control means locking up oppressed groups, those who are most likely to disagree with and disrupt the capitalist system. But targeting oppressed groups for imprisonment creates an opportunity for prisoners to quickly become educated and radicalized against the system that put them behind bars. This is the system itself creating the conditions of its own demise.

While prisoners alone will not bring down imperialism, the lumpen in First World countries are potential allies of the international proletariat. And national polarization and xenophobia will feed the development and political consciousness of this lumpen class.

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[United Front] [Control Units] [California] [ULK Issue 42]
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Agreement to End Hostilities is the Main Struggle in CA

In early December 2014, we received a letter from a comrade who had recently run into a number of revolutionaries who had been held in Pelican Bay SHU since it opened in 1988. He wrote,

I am writing to say thank you for all of your work and all that you do for us convicts, political activists, freedom fighters and all parties of the struggle. The last hunger strike achieved a lot. Many of the political prisoners housed in Pelican Bay have been released, due to the step down program. Some have been released to step 5 — mainline. Others step 3 and 4 at Corcoran I, or Tehachapi SHUs. But they are close to getting out there. I had the pleasure of talking with [a handful of these comrades] on the bus from Pelican Bay. All of the individuals mentioned had been in Pelican Bay since it opened in 1988, and had arrived from Tehachapi.

We spoke candidly about many things and all parties expressed a deep desire to push and maintain the Agreement to End Hostilities. Even the youngsters smiled and saluted the end to the senseless racial violence of old. For we can overcome obstacles and achieve our definite chief aims by understanding the true cause of our racial divides, which were always perpetuated by the administration to bring about our demise.

Our 20 representatives are doing a great job to maintain order and a common goal. By 2017 or 2018 the entire leadership from all sides should be out. Once that happens I would love to see all political and revolutionary parties establish a round table, power house, to jointly and successfully build the most powerful revolutionary structure the United States have ever known.

We are pleased that some of the leaders in Pelican Bay will be gaining relief from decades of solitary confinement soon. But we need to be clear that the Step Down Program being employed will not have an overall positive effect. In the article "(Un)Due Process of Validation and Step Down Programs" from ULK 41, cipactli explained how the Step Down Program to get out of isolation actually legitimizes the validation process, and why they will not be participating in it. And there is still no plan by the state of California to shut down the torture cells altogether, as new prisoners continue to fill the empty spots. Even this comrade notified us of plans for another strike in Corcoran where the state has not upheld its end to the agreement made after the 2012 strikes. Getting some people out of the torture cells may create opportunities, but alone it doesn't change the conditions overall. We must push a campaign of total abolition of the SHU.

All that said, the Agreement to End Hostilities continues strong, and we were glad to receive word of some of these comrades regaining humane conditions on the mainline where their important work can have more impact. Without the end to hostilities between prisoners, there is little hope of ever ending torture in California prisons. Recently, comrades from the New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism (NARN) Collective Think Tank (NCTT) in Corcoran SHU put out a good article reinforcing the strategic importance of the Agreement to End Hostilities as well.(1) Below are some excerpts.

They intentionally pit the New Afrikan prisoner against the Mexican prisoner, the prisoner from the North against the prisoner from the South, the European prisoner against the New Afrikan prisoner, the young prisoner against the old prisoner, the Kiwe against the Damu, the folks against the people, the European have-nots from one group against the European have-nots from another — and for decades WE ALLOWED them to do this to us.

They used our antagonisms, antagonisms born of this system they created, as a basis to erect torture units — Security Housing Units (SHUs) — and a system of mass incarceration which continues to devastate the working class and the poor. They broadcast our conflicts and contradictions to an uninformed public to secure ever larger portions of the social product (taxes), further enriching themselves, their industry and their labor aristocracy — as we were further dehumanized and despised.

Just like the slaves of the chattel era, many of us helped them out by embracing this fiction, these manufactured categorizations, and fought each other with delusional gusto, as they built a monolith of money and political power in pools of our blood... until the Agreement to End Hostilities was announced; and just like that — hundreds of years of capitalist institutional exploitation was immediately put in jeopardy.


"Only social practice can be the criterion of truth ... Marxist philosophy holds that the most important problem does not lie in understanding laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world." — Mao Zedong

Correct ideas come only from social practice. In two short years since the Agreement to End Hostilities was enacted by a relatively small population of prisoners, it has manifested itself into a social force which has accomplished the liberation from SHU of some of the most severely tortured prisoners in the history of modern imprisonment.

...

The Agreement to End Hostilities offers our communities the opportunity to confront and overcome our own internal contradictions while forging new areas of social cooperation from which closer and more harmonious relationships may emerge.

"This new humanity cannot do otherwise than define a new humanism both for itself and for others. It is prefigured in the objectives and methods of the conflict. A struggle which mobilizes all classes of the people and which expresses their aims and their impatience, which is not afraid to count almost exclusively on the people's support, will of necessity triumph." — Frantz Fanon

When social cooperation is strengthened, state power and oppression is always weakened. Our capacity to manufacture and mobilize underclass political power — not to validate the bourgeois political process but to expose its contradictions, truly democratize its mechanisms and reclaim our human right to influence society — will determine if we are collectively capable of conquering our rights. Abolition of the slavery provision of the 13th Amendment means the abolition of prisoner disenfranchisement, instantly transforming the prisoner class into a constituency.

The main thesis of this article by the NCTT comrades is that the Agreement to End Hostilities can be a basis for ending the legal enslavement of prisoners. We have some differences in strategic focus, as we see focusing on the enforcement of the First and Eighth Amendments as more important to building a struggle for a just society than repealing portions of the Thirteenth.(2) Speaking to this point, the article even points out that, "it is not the inhumanity of systematic torture in indefinite SHU confinement which is deemed criminal; it is our protesting against the inhumane practice which is criminalized."

We agree with the overall analysis of the NCTT, which addresses the many ways that the lumpen, migrants, and oppressed nations in general do not have full citizenship rights in the United $tates. As a result they do not have full vested interest in the maintenance of this government and economic system. And from there we conclude the importance of the Agreement to End Hostilities in prisons, and extending that to the lumpen on the streets, as building a motive force for social change.

That is what the Agreement to End Hostilities and the United Front for Peace in Prisons are and always have been about: transforming society. Less fighting amongst prisoners is not our end goal; it is a step towards reaching our goals. These goals that have been kept from the oppressed and concealed through manipulations by the oppressor nation in this country. And that is why independence is one of the five principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. The criminal injustice system exists to prevent us from working together to end the hegemony of the oppressor.


Notes:
1. NCTT-Cor-SHU, "Prisoners’ Agreement to End Hostilities as the basis for the abolition of ‘legal’ slavery," 25 December 2014.
2. 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
8th Amendment - Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
13th Amendment - [1.] Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
[2.] Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

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