The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Got a keyboard? Help type articles, letters and study group discussions from prisoners. help out
[New Afrikan Black Panther Party] [Economics] [Theory] [New Afrika] [ULK Issue 34]
expand

Rashid's Empty Rhetoric on the Labor Aristocracy

The Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) recently stepped in(1) to defend Turning the Tide against our USW comrade's critiques.(2) We can appreciate the greater clarity and honesty in Rashid's piece compared to Michael Novick's, but still cannot forgive him for getting the first question of importance to communists wrong: who are our friends and who are our enemies? Like Jose Maria Sison and Bob Avakian, Rashid has long been exposed to MIM line and writing, and many attempts to struggle with him have been made. It does great damage to the International Communist Movement when these people become icons of "Maoism" in many peoples' eyes, while promoting chauvinistic lines on the role of the oppressor nations under imperialism.

Rashid opens his piece with the most common strawpersyn argument of the revisionists, that the MIM line is wrong because Marx and Lenin never abandoned organizing among Europeans and Amerikans. Rashid needs to be more specific if he's claiming there are groups that are refusing to work with white people or moving to the Third World to organize. While our work mostly targets prisoners, we target prisoners of all nationalities, and similarly our street work is not very nation-specific. The question we would ask instead of "should we organize Amerikans?", is, "what is going to achieve communism faster, organizing rich people around demands for more money, or organizing them around ideas of collective responsibility for equal distribution of humyn needs and ecological sustainability?"

Rashid's third paragraph includes some numbers and math and at first glance i thought it might have some concrete analysis. But alas, the numbers appear just for show as they are a) made up numbers, and b) reflecting the most simple calculation that Marx teaches us to define surplus value. To counter Rashid's empty numbers, let us repeat our most basic math example here. If Amerikans are exploited, then to end exploitation would mean they need to get paid more money. Dividing the global GDP by the number of full-time laborers gives an equitable distribution of income of around $10,000 per persyn per year.(3) To be fair, in Rashid's article he addresses this and quotes Marx to say that we cannot have an equitable distribution of income. In that quote from Wages, Price and Profit Marx was writing about capitalism, which is inherently exploitative. Our goal is communism, or "from each according to her ability, to each according to her need." But we're not there yet, Rashid might argue. OK fine, let's take Rashid's hypothetical McDonald's worker making $58 per 8 hour workday. If we assume 5 days a week and 50 weeks a year we get $14,500 per year. According to the World Bank, half of the world's people make less than $1,225 per year.(4) That report also showed that about 10% of Amerikans are in the world's richest 1% and that almost half of the richest 1% are Amerikans. So Rashid wants to argue that under capitalism it is just that the lowest paid Amerikans earn over 10 times more than half of the world's population because their labor is worth that much more? How is that? What Marx was talking about in Wages, Price and Profit was scientific: a strong persyn might be twice as productive as a weak one, or a specially trained persyn might add more value than an unskilled persyn. So Rashid wants to use this to justify paying anyone who was birthed as a U.$. citizen 10 to 25 times, or more, the average global rate of pay? We have no idea how Rashid justifies this disparity except through crass Amerikan chauvinism.

This empty rhetoric is not Marxism. It is ironic how today people will use this basic formulation for surplus value from Marx to claim people of such vastly different living conditions are in the same class. No one else in the world looks at the conditions in the United $tates and Haiti and thinks, "these countries should really unite to address their common plight." It is only pseudo-Marxists and anarchists who read a little Marx who can come up with such crap.

Rashid later establishes commonality across nations with the definition, "The proletariat simply is one who must sell her labor power to survive, which is as true for the Amerikan worker as it is for one in Haiti." We prefer Marx's definition that the proletariat are those who have nothing to lose but their chains. According to Rashid, we should determine whether someone is exploited based on different measuring sticks depending on what country they live in. Apparently, in the United $tates you must have a $20,000 car, a $200,000 home and hand-held computers for every family member over 5 in order "to survive." Whereas in other countries electricity and clean water are optional. More chauvinism.

Rashid continues discussing class definitions,

"For instance, if there's no [Euro-Amerikan] ('white') proletariat in the US, then there's also no New Afrikan/Black one. If a EA working in McDonalds isn't a proletarian, then neither is one of color. If there's no New Afrikan proletariat, then there's no New Afrikan lumpen proletariat either ("lumpen" literally means "broken"—if they were never of the proletariat, they could not become a 'broken' proletariat)."

Lumpen is usually translated as "rag." Even in the United $tates we have a population of people who live in rags, who have very little to lose. However, we completely agree with Rashid's logic here. And that is why MIM(Prisons) started using the term "First World lumpen" to distinguish from "lumpenproletariat." There is little connection between the lumpen in this country and a real proletariat, with the exceptions being within migrant populations and some second generation youth who form a bridge between Third World proletariat, First World semi-proletariat and First World lumpen classes. Rashid continues,

"Yet the VLA [vulgar labor aristocracy] proponents recognize New Afrikan prisoners as 'lumpen' who are potentially revolutionary. Which begs the question, why aren't they doing work within the oppressed New Afrikan communities where they're less apt to be censored, if indeed they compose a lumpen sector?"

This is directed at us, so we will answer: historical experience and limited resources. As our readers should know, we struggle to do the things we do to support prisoner education programs and organizing work. We do not have the resources right now to do any serious organizing outside of prisons. And we made the conscious decision of how we can best use our resources in no small part due to historical experience of our movement. In other words we go where there is interest in revolutionary politics. The margins, the weakest links in the system, that is where you focus your energy. Within the lumpen class, the imprisoned lumpen have a unique relationship to the system that results in a strong contradiction with that system. The imprisoned population could also be considered 100% lumpen, whereas less than 20% of the New Afrikan nation is lumpen, the rest being among various bourgeois classes, including the labor aristocracy.

"And if the lumpen can be redeemed, why not EA [Euro-Amerikan] workers?"

Again, look at history. Read J. Sakai's Settlers and read about the Black Panther Party. Today, look at the growing prison system and the regular murder of New Afrikan and other oppressed nation youth by the pigs. Look at where the contradictions and oppression are.

We can quote Marx, Engels and Lenin on the labor aristocracy to boost our position as well. But Rashid takes an ahistorical and dogmatic reading of these authors. Engels was on the cutting edge recognizing this question in the late 1800s. Lenin witnessed the rise of the labor aristocracy in the early 1900s, and it was the Comintern under Stalin's leadership that settled the two-line struggle over this class during WWII.(5) Meanwhile, MIM has already addressed the fact that anyone who turns to Mao to determine their class analysis of the United $tates, when Mao never did his own class analysis of the United $tates, doesn't really understand what Mao taught us.(6)

The only really interesting thing about this piece is that Rashid has further drawn a line between the MIM camp and the slew of anarchist and crypto-Trotskyist organizations who are still confused about where wealth comes from. They think people sitting at computers typing keys are exploited, and Rashid accuses our line of requiring "surplus value falling from the sky!" We already told you where the high wages in the imperialist countries came from, Rashid, the Third World proletariat! That is why the average Amerikan makes 25 times the average humyn, and why all Amerikans are in the top 13% in income globally. As the revisionists like to remind us, wealth disparity just keeps getting greater and greater under capitalism. The labor aristocracy today is like nothing that V.I. Lenin ever could have witnessed. We must learn from the methods of Marx and Lenin, not dogmatically repeat their analysis from previous eras to appease Amerikans.

chain
[Control Units] [Hunger Strike] [Abuse] [ULK Issue 34]
expand

Force-Feeding Approved for CA Hunger Strikers

19 August 2013 - Today, a federal court approved the force-feeding of people who are on hunger strike in California prisons to protest torture in the form of long-term isolation and group punishment. The force-feeding itself is considered torture by many, including those who have been on hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay since February and have been suffering through force-feeding for months.

yasiin bey force-fed crying
For those interested in why it is considered torture, Yasiin Bey bravely provided the world with a video of what that is like (click picture).

The decision in California came shortly after we posted a report from a comrade who was denied liquid supplements and collapsed on July 21 in Corcoran State Prison. Many others have collapsed since then, and the state's behavior has made it clear that the health of prisoners has not been a concern of theirs. They apply very strict rules to how they count people as being on "hunger strike," knowing that strikers depend on the state to report their numbers to the public, forcing them to abide by these rules that don't allow for any electrolytes.

The state has consistently used health care as a weapon to manipulate prisoners into submission, rather than act as the custodians of health and safety that they claim to be. Now that strikers are approaching life-threatening conditions, the CDCR is acting to prevent them from exercising one of the strongest forms of protest that they have from within these isolation cells. The attention given to the situation inside California prisons right now is already unprecedented and they fear that if more prisoners die they may lose their power to torture prisoners in the future. The torture is important to them because it is what they believe to be their best tool to prevent the oppressed from fighting their oppression (the injustice system's true purpose). The ongoing hunger strike, decades in the making, has begun to turn the tables on that idea though.

This recent report asserts that 70 of 130 prisoners currently on hunger strike have been going since July 8, 2013. There are a number of groups of prisoners in California who are ready to restart hunger strike in support of the 70 (or more) who are in it for the long haul as the struggle heightens.

In the months leading up to July 8, there was some debate about the return to the hunger strike tactic, particularly as previous attempts were aborted prematurely without any changes from the state. But those first two strikes resonated among the oppressed across the country, and particularly in California where 30,000 prisoners stood up against long-term isolation on July 8, 2013. As we approach 50 days on strike, and repeated assertions from participants that they will not stop for mere promises this time, this struggle is approaching a crucial point. To date, control units have been a fairly effective tool of repression. But if oppression breeds resistance, then even these tools of total control can be overcome. At no other point have we been closer to that goal than we are right now. Those who have and will give their lives for this struggle must not die in vain. Those 30,000 plus prisoners who supported this campaign must take every opportunity over the coming months to build, educate and organize to prepare for the next phase of this struggle. A failure to seize this moment in the prison movement will mean much more suffering for the imprisoned lumpen in the decades to come.

chain
[Security] [Civil Liberties] [ULK Issue 34]
expand

No More Secure Web Business in U.$. - MIM(Prisons) Email Shut Down

mimprisons@lavabit shut down by thought police

The bourgeoisie seems to be losing the battle for free enterprise against the repressive U.$. government. There can no longer be any commercial email service that does not provide direct access to all its users' information to the U.$. intelligence agencies. We discovered this today when our email server, lavabit.com, was no longer accessible and the owner posted a message stating,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations.

The clear implication is that the feds approached him to demand access to the communications on his server. Existing communications were advertised as not accessible to anyone but the user who owns the account. In order to not release any future user info to the feds he shut down the server; a decision surely not taken lightly when people depend on their email for so much of their lives.

Just earlier this week it was revealed that a popular hosting service for Tor hidden services was comprimised and sites on that server were infected with malicious javascript to reveal users' IP addresses (usually hidden by the Tor network) to a server located in Virginia. The obvious implication there was that this operation was related to U.$. intelligence agencies which dominate the region. One of the more popular sites affected by this attack was Tormail, another self-proclaimed secure email service.

All of this comes on the heels of the release of information on the U.$. National Security Agency's (NSA) system of monitoring all electronic communications in the world. Information released makes it clear that all major commercial software companies have provided backdoors to their software and online services to the U.$. government. With the destruction of Lavabit and TorMail, it seems clear that the United $tates has no intention of letting any exceptions to that rule continue. Whistleblower Edward Snowden was known to use lavabit.com for his email, leading many to conclude that Lavabit was a victim of the U.$. hunt for Snowden himself. Others have speculated that the attack on Tor was an attempt to scare people out of the so-called darknet and back into the friendly arms of Google, Microsoft, et al.

While using allegedly secure online services can provide an extra layer of protection, you cannot rely on an unknown party for your security anyway. That is why services with built in PGP encryption, like hushmail.com, are a joke from the get go. Hushmail.com openly works with the Amerikan government already even though they are not a U.$. company. Certainly other nations will attempt to seize the competitive advantage they now have over a business that has long been dominated by U.$. companies. And as we recently said, the positive of all this is a surge in demand and innovation in the realm of computer security.

For now, you cannot email MIM(Prisons); instead, see our contact page. We will be investigating alternative solutions and post them on our announcements and contact page once they are available. If you're still using unencrypted email for political work, get with the times and start studying our security links on our contact page. The last revolutionary generation underestimated the role of COINTELPRO until it was too late. It would be a crime against the people for us to make the same mistake with everything we know today.

chain
[Abuse] [Campaigns] [Control Units] [Hunger Strike] [Medical Care]
expand

Hunger Striker Dies in Corcoran

billy sell rip
Original art by Billy Sell of the torture cell
he died in at Corcoran State Prison.
On Monday, 22 July 2013, 32-year-old Billy "Guero" Sell died in his cell in the Security Housing Unit at Corcoran State Prison. Prisoners near him reported that he had been requesting medical attention while on hunger strike, but his requests were ignored.(1)

MIM(Prisons) has joined the many organizations and individuals who are demanding that the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR) address the medical needs of prisoners throughout the hunger strike. These people are hired as public servants, and yet they allow people to suffer and die by denying basic medical care. We don't know what the cause of Billy Sell's death was, but we know a number of comrades who have known conditions that are not being addressed during the hunger strike. While those on strike are not getting the state-mandated medical checks.

In our years of experience advocating for U.$. prisoners, it has not been uncommon for Amerikans to say "let them rot" or even become belligerent towards us for something as benign as handing out a flier. It is no surprise then, that our comrades are reporting similar attitudes from the staff who are overseeing their well-being in California prisons.

This kind of oppression is exactly what the current prison movement needs to combat. There is a social force opposing the lumpen of the oppressed nations. And the only way to stop this abuse is for the lumpen of the oppressed nations to organize as a counter force, which means organizing in a different way than they have been in recent decades. Ensuring prisoner health requires survival programs organized by the oppressed populations themselves. These are rights that prisoners supposedly have in this country. But as we know, no rights are guaranteed unless you fight for them.

As the strike in California passes the 20-day mark, the tens of thousands of people who have completed their solidarity strikes need to be building more long-term institutions - study groups, health campaigns, legal assistance clinics, etc. These are the first steps towards building independent institutions of the oppressed, which are necessary because the existing institutions of the state will kill us.

chain
[MIM(Prisons)]
expand

ULK Reader Survey Summary

As of the MIM(Prisons) July congress we had received reader surveys back from 5.6% of our subscribers over the last 3 issues. The survey is printed in this issue of ULK and if you have not yet responded, please take the time to do so. It asks for some basic persynal information and also for feedback on the content of ULK. Our goal is to assess who is reading ULK and what we can do to improve the content. So far, the survey respondents overall represent a distribution of prisoners in line with the general prison population, with a few exceptions consistent with the focus of our work. We will be looking at that information in more detail in the future but for this article we want to summarize the feedback on ULK content.

In response to our question about what people like best about ULK, the most popular response (27%) was "all of it!" We appreciate the enthusiasm of our readers. More specific responses that were popular included a lot of support for the unity demonstrated by ULK articles (10%), the stories about other prisoner's work and organizing (9%), and the prisoner participation in writing ULK (4%). There was also a lot of appreciation for state-specific rules, legal information and reporting (6%). Thirteen percent of survey respondents liked best the core mission of ULK (which people described as Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, internationalism, reporting the truth, or just "the mission"). In addition we saw responses in support of book reviews, culture, Spanish, country-wide and world news reporting, and general education.

In response to the question about what our readers would like to see more of in ULK, the most popular response (11%) was requesting state-specific information (every prisoner wants more information on their own state). We can only increase the content about your state if you take action and write about what's going on there. We rely on our readers for all of the state-specific reporting in ULK. So this is a response we hope comes from comrades who are sitting down now to write articles for the next issue.

There were also a lot of requests for resource lists (9%) and legal information (9%). This is not part of our core mission for Under Lock & Key. We do run the Prisoner's Legal Clinic to help fight key legal battles, such as the censorship of political material. But MIM(Prisons) core mission is to build the anti-imperialist prison movement, and so we prioritize communist political organizing. We do not have the labor or funding to provide general resource lists and legal assistance in addition to our core work. We know there are not many groups out there doing this, but resource lists and legal assistance will ultimately only provide band-aids to a fundamentally broken system of imperialism. And anti-imperialist organizing is even more scarce in prisons than legal and resource work.

The only other area of significant interest from a number of prisoners was around historical political theory. We had requests for more information on communist history, Maoist theory, and Black Panther Party history (10% total). Additional suggestions from readers for specific areas of expansion included: art, control units, current events, international news, poetry, practical organizing information, Spanish, U.$. government reporting, and issues faced by the elderly, wimmin and LGBTQ prisoners. Lastly, a general request for more ULK was echoed by several respondents without any specific areas of focus.

A few prisoners responded to some of the survey questions requesting that ULK be "less racial", and "stop generalizing whites as oppressors" while one respondent liked "your hate against white people." These responses represent a fundamental misunderstanding of the MIM(Prisons) political line around nation. We do not hate white people, we hate the imperialist system which kills, tortures and oppresses the majority of the world's people for the wealth and enjoyment of the minority. We are scientists and we see clearly that in the United $tates the white nation is part of the minority of imperialist allies leading global oppression. But we also can see that the majority of the people in Russia before the revolution in 1917 who were oppressed were "white." It is not skin color that determines people's status as oppressor or oppressed. However, because of national oppression in the world today, we do see whole nations of people oppressed as a group by other nations. The white nation in the U.$. is part an oppressor group, and there are many oppressed nations in the Third World. From an economic perspective, the other nations within U.$. borders are also part of the oppressors (New Afrikans, [email protected], etc.), but these groups also face national oppression and so have some interest in anti-imperialism. It's a complex system, that requires careful analysis and cannot be boiled down to race or hate against white people. We hope these readers will engage with us further for study to understand our position.

This article referenced in:
chain
[Organizing] [MIM(Prisons)] [United Struggle from Within] [ULK Issue 33]
expand

MIM(Prisons) 2013 Congress Summary

MIM(Prisons) recently concluded our annual Congress, where our membership came together to realign our strategic orientation to continually improve our productivity and effectiveness supporting the anti-imperialist struggle behind bars. This report is to give our readers a better idea of how MIM(Prisons) supports their struggles, and our plans for the upcoming year.

Correspondence

Although we are not able to respond personally to every letter we receive, we have a lot of mail going out to prisoners including bi-monthly ULK, form letters addressing frequently asked questions, study group and campaign mailings, and books, magazines and study packs. On average we are sending out at least one piece of mail for every letter we receive. In addition to our correspondence through the mail with prisoners, the writings from Under Lock & Key are on our website www.prisoncensorship.info. Traffic to the news on our website has doubled this year!

One way that we track our success in expanding influence inside Amerikan prisons is by counting subscribers to Under Lock & Key. We know that most copies are read by many people, but the number of subscribers is a good indicator of our influence and growth from year to year. We want to see our subscriber list grow so that we can ensure each issue reaches as many people as possible. This is a key tactic to spread revolutionary education and build the anti-imperialist movement.

Since the formation of MIM(Prisons) we have seen a steady increase in our numbers of ULK subscribers, but this year that trend reversed. Between our last annual congress in July 2012 and the congress this year, our readership is down by about 17%. After continuously increasing our number of subscribers for years, we may have finally hit a ceiling. In the last year, MIM(Prisons) volunteers have not made any significant changes to the way we work with prisoners. We write more on how to overcome this challenge below.

United Struggle from Within

A large part of our discussion at Congress was centered around our support for the anti-imperialist mass organization for former and current prisoners, United Struggle from Within (USW). Where MIM(Prisons) can't physically do necessary organizing work, USW is our feet on the ground. This section outlines some of the successes and progress of USW, as well as deficits where there needs to be improvement.

Compared to our USW membership statistics from Congress 2012, USW appears to be getting larger and more stable. This is a huge advance. The struggle to liberate people of the world from capitalism and imperialism can't just be taken up when it sounds fun or exciting, or when you have the spare time. The more comrades inside who understand this, and make a long-term commitment to doing as much as they can to liberate the most oppressed people in the world, the better off we will all be in the long run. We encourage those who have dabbled in USW work to keep up your commitment, and continually check page 12 of Under Lock & Key for ways to plug in. If you've already gotten ten people to send out grievance petitions, why not get ten more, or try to push it to the next level? If you've already got a local study group going, why not send us a report on how you did it so others have a better idea how to start one up in their conditions? To be considered an active USW member, you have to have put in some kind of USW-related work in the last year. This is the most lax yet reasonable requirement possible, and shouldn't be difficult for people to adhere to on a long-term basis as long as they have a genuine interest in ending oppression for everyone worldwide.

Developing Leadership

USW Leaders are those who are not only participating in the campaigns organized by others, but come up with ideas for how to push the struggle forward where they're at, and organize others to do so. Even one individual taking on a leadership role increases the anti-imperialist struggle exponentially in that state or facility. A USW Leader makes incredibly significant contributions to our overall work, and we provide as much support for them as we can. The pages of Under Lock & Key are a good place to look for ideas on what campaigns to push where you're at, but a great USW Leader also analyzes their conditions and shapes campaigns as needed to have the most success among their organizing base.

Increasing Subscribers

For a couple years we have been tracking how new subscribers are referred to us. In a change from past years, this year active recruiting by prisoners has led more people to sign up for Under Lock & Key than ads or MIM(Prisons) work. Even referrals that came from MIM(Prisons) work is catalyzed by someone signing up for our newsletter or engaging with us on some level. Without the efforts of prisoners, we can't get literature into a facility.

While the proportion of referrals from prisoners did increase, our overall level of new subscribers went down. We know that most of our new subscribers find us through other prisoners, either from a copy of ULK that you have passed around or from a recommendation you make personally to them to get in touch with us. This means that you, our readers and supporters, have a big hand in determining how many people get to read Under Lock & Key. We call on you to step up your work in this area. This is an easy but critical way that you can contribute to building the anti-imperialist movement against the criminal injustice system. You should pass your copy of ULK around, leave it in the day room, or put it on the library cart or wherever you can so that others might pick it up. You can write to us for extra copies of ULK if you want to distribute them in your prison. If you send us names of people who tell you they are interested in a subscription, we will add them to the mailing list. Spread the word however you can. After all, the six-month subscription is free to prisoners!

On our end, we have contacted every prisoner resource guide we know of and asked them to tell their subscribers about the work we do. If you know a resource guide or newsletter that we are not listed in, please write to them and ask them to add us! In Pennsylvania a USW comrade gave our information to the Graterfriends newsletter, and we received a major spike in new subscribers from that one plug alone. Now Pennsylvania is getting more access to this important political perspective.

ULK Sustainers

This year as part of our work with United Struggle from Within we initiated a ULK Sustainers group. A ULK Sustainer is someone who recognizes the importance of this newsletter and puts their money where their mouth is. One copy of Under Lock & Key costs about $1 to print and mail. To cover your issue of ULK you could pledge to send in $1 per issue. To cover your issue and one other persyn's, you would send in $2 per issue. If you want to sign up to be a Sustainer, just tell us and we'll send you more info. You can always send us donations without committing to a pledge, but if you want to send checks the easiest way is to become a ULK Sustainer.

The past couple months have been spent developing the structure of the Sustainers arm of USW, and at Congress we were able to establish a concrete financial goal: More ULK! According to the Reader Survey we have been collecting for the past couple issues, there is a high demand for more Under Lock & Key content. From now on, whatever financial contributions we receive that aren't for something else specific (purchasing literature, study group payment, etc.) will go into the Sustainers fund. When we have enough money donated, whether in stamps or checks, we will run 4 extra pages in Under Lock & Key. It should cost about $250 to reach this goal, each issue. We will determine the content of these extra pages based on what people requested in the Reader Surveys, or if you send a donation you can even help determine the content by telling us what you want to see more of.

Campaigns

One big campaign USW has been pushing since 2010 is the Petition for the Proper Handling of Grievances, which is currently available for use in eleven states. Comrades in California and Texas have been pushing this campaign forward into the courts and to those outside the prison walls. We've been reporting on the ongoing successes, challenges, and tactical approaches of these campaigns in the pages of ULK as we learn of them. The states currently participating in this campaign are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Texas.

Another campaign that is taking off with renewed energy this summer is for the end to long-term isolation. This campaign has been one we've focused on since our founding, and look forward to its development in the coming months.

Education Behind Bars

An ongoing goal of USW has been to expand prisoner-coordinated study groups. This year we are aware of more active prisoner-led study groups behind bars than at this time last Congress. Yet we still don't have an idea of how active they are, and our influence on these study groups is minimal.

MIM(Prisons) can't provide all the political education that's needed through our mail-based study groups, and some people can't participate in our study groups due to censorship. Therefore, we are going to be making a more conscious effort to support prisoner-led study groups by sending literature, soliciting reports, and engaging in political dialogue with the groups. If you run or work with a study group inside, let us know and we can plug you in for free study materials and political guidance.

USW comrades will still need to take on the task of finding people to study with and making sure you stay engaged. We recommend you aim to have weekly study group meetings if possible. Our comrades behind bars need to take the leadership here, but we can help.(1)

Advances in Available Literature

For the most part, our glossary of compiled political terms is ready for distribution. Other study packs we have made available in the last year are study questions for Fundamentals of Political Economy by Shanghai Press, Fundamental Political Line of MIM(Prisons), and a study pack made by Rashid of the NABPP-PC, Historical & Dialectical Materialism.

We are also pleased to announce that the salient chapter of our forthcoming book on the lumpen class in the United $tates is out in draft format. It has taken a lot of work and time to get this chapter together, and we look forward to the feedback we receive. Our goal is to print the rest of the book next year.

We have also made progress expanding our library and reducing our costs to reproduce important historical texts for our Free Books to Prisoners Program.

Spanish Development

In 2010 we set a goal of improving our Spanish language material. Our translators and Spanish editors are an invaluable part of that goal and we thank them for every Spanish article in every issue of Under Lock & Key. Within the year we plan to release the book [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, which was primarily authored by comrades of the United Struggle from Within. This book is written in English, but has acute relevance for many of our Spanish-speaking comrades in prison and out. Comrades hope to begin work on a Spanish translation once it is complete.

Since 2010, we have compiled Spanish literature packs, which include Que es el MIM? and Teoría del MIM 1: Los Proletarios Blancos? as well as old copies of the newspaper Notas Rojas.

Recently, USW comrades translated the entire magazine MIM Theory 10: Labor Aristocracy into Spanish, and we will soon have it available on our website for distribution. It is a raw translation, and has not been edited, but we hope someone who is fluent in Spanish and revolutionary theory will clean it up.

Prisoners Legal Clinic

The Prisoners Legal Clinic (PLC) is a legal-resource-compiling group that focuses on legal battles that push forward our overall strategy of building independent institutions to overthrow imperialism in favor of the world's oppressed majority. If you have legal experience and want to contribute to this aspect of our struggle, write us to plug in.

MIM(Prisons) does not have the legal resources or education to generate comprehensive legal information, especially compared to the liberal-"left" organizations such as California Prison Focus or Columbia Human Rights Law Review. But we do attempt to fill in the gaps where we think their help guides are potentially lacking. In the last year we have cleaned up and published online three help guides, which we also distribute to our subscribers behind bars: "Access to Courts." "Isolation in Texas," and "Grievances and Exhaustion."

Besides identifying deficits in existing resources, another area the PLC can grow is where our PLC contributors themselves see areas of the law to exploit for our own purposes. One contributor, from the American Prisoners Association (APA), submitted a pamphlet to us titled "You, Prison Officials, and Contract Law." In this pamphlet, APA outlines their theory on how to use contract law to defend the rights of prisoners, including defending against violations of grievance procedures. We are distributing this pamphlet as part of our Free Books for Prisoners Program, and encourage other PLC contributors to look it over, put it into action if they think it is sound, and tell us how it worked out.

Moving Forward

In the coming year we will focus on finishing a number of large projects that have been in the works. As we do so, we ask USW comrades to continue to expand our work in the ways described above. If we can achieve both sets of goals that we have laid out, we anticipate great success in our movement going forward.

chain
[Control Units] [Campaigns] [Hunger Strike] [California] [ULK Issue 33]
expand

Week 2: Reports from CA Activists on Strike

july 8th hunger strike for humyn rights in CA prisons

The last week has seen unprecedented participation in the campaign to end torture in the form of long-term isolation in U.$. prisons. California is ground zero, where the state has reported at least 30,000 (20% of the prison population) in two-thirds of the state's prisons have participated in the strike and over 12,400 refused 9 consecutive meals. They said 2,300 skipped work or prison classes on July 8.(1) While we don't have much info on actions in other states, solidarity statements have been circulating from prisoners around the country. Meanwhile, street activism in the urban centers of the state have been hard to avoid, as have reports on Pacifica radio. Public officials, religious leaders, Palestinian political prisoners(2), a labor union and many humyn rights groups have championed the cause. To mark week 2, activists are trying to get 30,000 on the outside to call governor Jerry Brown to demand that California prisons abide by international law and stop this brutal treatment of prisoners.

Not everyone is in support of the strike. In typical pig fashion, Amerikkkans are flooding mainstream reporting of the strike with comments condemning the prisoners to suffer and die. One comrade in the Pelican Bay State Prison Short Corridor, where the thrust for recent resistance originated, reported guards saying,

"The bosses are redirecting us because of y'all's hunger strike and work stoppage and making us stay extra hours, so you guys have nothing coming!"(3)

The official word from CDCR is similarly discouraging. In an interview, spokespersyn Terry Thornton asserted that the CDCR does not believe that they are using solitary confinement. This conflicts with our surveys of prisoners, who report over 14,000 being held in conditions of long-term isolation in California. When asked about the debriefing process Thornton dis-ingeniously asserted that "none of these units are used for punishment." The CDCR also feels that "these reforms [the step down program] address every single demand made in 2011."(4) It seems the CDCR is the only entity to believe such nonsense.

Below are some other early reports we've received so far as we are going to print.


From a statement from another Pelican Bay comrade:

...As I prepare for this peaceful protest I know that I am forced to deprive my body of sustenance and endure possible harm, but this is necessary. It is as necessary as someone anywhere in the Third World who steps on the battlefield in order to fight the super parasite. This persyn does this because if this persyn don't do it no one else will. Yes there is support out in society from so many who see our oppression as the oppression of many throughout the world who stand with us, but any sort of change will ultimately come from prisoners ourselves who must raise awareness to the shameful conditions we face...

and more recently,

Today is the third day of the strike and everyone in my pod are participating for various different reasons. The morale and spirts are strong, i feel a little light-headed but i'm as determined asever and will continue. From what we gather we will start getting weighed in the next couple of days and we also expect our property to be inventoried. We hear on the loud speaker about "staff training" so e expect harrassment. Today we were asked, "Do you have food? Are you willing to relinquish it?" and told, "If it's found tomorrow you will not be counted as being on a hunger strike no more."


San Quentin update:

The San Quentin death row SHU (or Adjustment Center) always has it's 102 cells filled and there is always a higher percentage of Blacks and Latinos than whites or other nationalities. At least 25 are on hunger strike. We are filing group appeals. I for one will not be giving in to the pigs no matter what, and thank you for all the help.


from Corcoran State Prison:

I am participating in the ongoing demonstration with full intentions of ending this extreme corrupt treatment that we are constantly subjected to.

There are many around me who plan on making our voices heard. There is word of COs and medical staff who intend to disregard the proper procedure. That and the health of my associates is what I intend on recording step by step, making it public.

This struggle is for just cause and is intended to bring our humanitarian needs up to standard. We all know the system is blind to righteous modernism and will continue to end our lives as quick as it is to step on a bug. We must unite to bring back peace and order.

I submit this with the utmost admiration and respect, we look forward to all input and assistance.


Folsom State Prison:


Everyone who's aware of New and Old Folsom's history would be aware of the fact that there was once a time when the men behind these walls would stand together in solidarity if there was an occasion we were experiencing a common transgression brought on by prison administration. That era in solidarity has been dead for some time at New Folsom, but on July 8, 2013, it was as if that moment finally arrived. All affiliates, and races, once again at New Folsom on every yard, and every building, stood together in solidarity for a common cause! All prisoners at New Folsom once again joined together July 8 of this year to begin the "2013 Hunger/Work strike", all except for the prisoners who never stood for nothing a day in their life. Prisoners everywhere should only hope that this new change will be the beginning of a new era at a once vibrant, political shifting institution, and no matter what, July 8, 2013 will be remembered in history as "The Rise Again of a Once Political Empire."


Day 1 at Pleasant Valley State Prison:

I want to report that over here on A-yard at Pleasant Valley there is only one participant, me. And from what I'm finding out through the channels is that there is a good handful more doing their thing on the other yards. I don't know exact count, but B yard, I'm told, has about 7 or 8.

We are SNY. And I want to express to the comrades that this classification carries no weight or import when it comes to these acts of unity. One sergeant came to my door this morning and asked me why I was participating. After I told him he said "But you're SNY - that's active stuff going on." He even stated that he's going to submit a psych referral because it's odd that out of all 5 housing units, there is only me. I'm not tooting my own horn, I just want it known that although we're few, nevertheless we are here!

I only have one request: that there be direct correspondence with the known participants of this action, updates so that we are constantly aware of any progress or changes or news that is of substance and import to what's happening.

This morning they walked me to the clinic to take my vitals, check my weight, etc. As we know I'll be going every day. Hopefully others will come aboard, especially those I've been "witnessing" to. Hopefully they'll see my example.


Day 4 at Calipatria State Prison:

This is the fourth day of our hunger strike/work stoppage here in Calipatria mainline. Almost the whole yard participated. A couple of prisoners in my building headed off to work to go and do the pigs' bidding and undermine our efforts. However, the show of solidarity between all races is encouraging, especially between Blacks and Mexicans.

As you know there's a long history of conflict between these two groups in California prisons. Only a week after I got to this prison, less than a year ago, there was a racial riot between the two. Now they're standing together in righteous protest.

Before this began, CDCR officials started circulating their threats by way of an "Advisement of Expectations" outlining their latest repressive policies which aim to expand validation, making it extremely easy to target just about any prisoner for long-term isolation. When I read this document it was obvious that this was all an attempt to break our solidarity with prisoners in the SHU.

CDCR hopes to divide prisoners in the SHU by allowing some to escape those torture chambers while making it clear that it has no intention of even considering others for release. They also hoped to paralyze mainline prisoners with fear by letting us know that they can snatch any one of us off the line at any time and throw us in the SHU for the next five years. Needless to say, this hasn't worked. Our level of consciousness and commitment has been growing here in the mainline with every hunger strike.

MIM(Prisons) number one priority in supporting the current actions in California will be to provide regular updates to prisoners as we did in the previous waves of action. Meanwhile we encourage our outside readers and supporters to make phone calls, write letters and spread our articles on this important struggle.

chain
[Culture] [Europe]
expand

Movie Review: Les Misérables

Les Miserable
Les Misérables
2012

This is a movie version of the famous Broadway musical championing the poor in early 19th century France. The plot centers on a prisoner, locked up for stealing some bread to save his sister's son, who served 18 years for this "crime." Jean Valjean is unable to make a life for himself after finally being released from prison, and is persecuted by the specter of parole for the rest of his life. He sometimes seems to be on the path to leading a selfless life, helping others, something he decides to do after divine intervention from the Church. But ultimately we find Valjean pursuing capitalist success due to his individualist beliefs, presumably learned from the Church that helped endow him with faith in life.

The French class struggle against monarchy and feudalism features prominently in the movie, featuring a young man who is inspired to fight for the people, but who is then distracted by his love for a girl he has seen only once. This girl is under the care of the former-prisoner, Valjean, who took her in as an act of charity. The revolutionary youth contemplates abandoning the revolutionary cause for love, but when the girl disappears he decides he has nothing to live for and so may as well fight for revolution. This is not a particularly inspiring message for revolutionaries: we should not be making decisions about devoting our lives to the people only as a last resort when our first choice of romance becomes unobtainable.

Valjean ends up in a position where he decides the fate of his former prison-master, now a policeman, the man who has been pursuing him ever since he broke parole. And he frees the man, in what we take as an act of religious good will. The policeman later catches up with the prisoner and lets him go free in return. This whole series of events, along with the early intervention of the Church in Valjean's decisions create a major subplot in the movie devoted to an individualist debate over morals.

As for the French revolutionaries, they are a caricature of activists, with a fervently devoted leader, a key participant stuck in the debate over politics vs. love, and one young kid who nobly stands up for the people. This is a cruel minimization of the ideals of the class struggle, which was led by the then progressive emerging bourgeois class, but included the masses of workers and peasants in opposing the continued rule of the monarchy following the French Revolution. The young man in love with the former-prisoner's daughter is saved, for love, while other revolutionaries are killed. The saved revolutionary easily leaves the struggle and his fallen comrades behind when given the woman of his dreams.

Ultimately the message of this movie is that loving an individual and having pure Church-supported morals, is the liberation of people. Inspirational visions of the struggle as a success at the end revive all the dead people, as if history can be changed with just a bit of love and individualism.

chain
[Campaigns] [Control Units] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
expand

30,000 Spark California Hunger Strike

9 July 2013 - Yesterday the third in a series of hunger strikes in California prisons began after months of preparation and many more months of attempts to negotiate with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to meet basic humyn rights. According to the CDCR, around 30,000 prisoners refused food on the first day, indicating this will likely be the largest show of unity in action that California prisoners have ever made. That's about 20% of the state prison population and is more than twice the number of people that the CDCR reported participating in the second round of the hunger strike in 2011, demonstrating the success of the last two years of campaigning around the mutual interests of prisoners in demanding humane conditions.

According to the LA Times:

Inmates in two-thirds of the state's 33 prisons, and at all four out-of-state private prisons, refused both breakfast and lunch on Monday, said corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton. In addition, 2,300 prisoners failed to go to work or attend their prison classes, either refusing or in some cases saying they were sick.(1)

We expect the numbers not going to work to increase, as a diversity of tactics was promoted depending on one's situation, with indefinite hunger strike being taken up by the most dedicated and most abused prisoners. While the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective has pledged to strike until their original five core demands are met, the last year has allowed prisoners to adapt the demands to address the most pressing concerns where they are at.

While we have no official reports yet, comrades in other states have also pledged to participate in the demonstration. We will post those reports as they come in.

chain
[Control Units] [Hunger Strike]
expand

Yasiin Bey force-fed like a Guantanamo prisoner

yasiin bey force fed crying
Click the image above to watch/download the video of Yasiin Bey being forcefed.

Today prisoners across California are beginning round 3 of their strike against Security Housing Unit torture. It is fitting that a video has been circulating today featuring Yasiin Bey (rapper and actor formerly known as Mos Def) undergoing the same force-feeding procedure that U.$. prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have been facing for months, and that California prisoners will likely be facing in the near future.

Hats off to Bey for being willing to do this to expose the torture that the United $tates is putting people through every day.

chain