As imperialist crisis deepens, national liberation grows. The right for national self-determination is gaining mainstream discussion with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The imperialists are boycotting Russia to support Ukraine, when they punished those boycotting I$rael for denying the self-determination of Palestine. Meanwhile, here in occupied Aztlán comrades are engaging the [email protected] movement on this topic, which has forced the largest reformist parties to discuss national liberation in the current political climate.
Before the next issue of Under Lock & Key comes out we have two events that we are asking you to support. One is our second annual Fourth of You-Lie fund drive. Thanks to all who donated already this year, we are off to a good start rivaling last year’s steady increase in donations. If you haven’t donated yet this year, we’re asking every reader to send us 7 stamps or more by July 4th. We just received notice that, like most things, printing costs will be increasing this summer.
And more importantly, June 19th marks the boycott Juneteenth Freedom Initiative. The campaign is centered in Texas, where comrades are organizing a general strike in prisons across the state. Different custody levels will be organizing different forms of action leading up to and continuing after June 19th. We will be sending updates to USW comrades in Texas over the next month. Campaign demands include:
End Solitary Confinement!
End Restrictive Housing Units!
End Mass Incarceration!
Transform the prisons to cadre schools!
Transform ourselves into New People!
Speaking of transforming ourselves, we released the Revolutionary 12 Step program this winter as promised. USW leaders should have that in their hands already. The Power to New Afrika pamphlet is almost done, and should be out shortly after this ULK. The new The Fundamental Political Line of the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons however, is not on schedule and we do not know when we will be able to complete that. For now our introductory study program will continue using the old version. We are also very behind on responding to comrades in the intro study program. As always, we need more outside supporters to help with basic tasks like transcribing, editing, lay out, and promoting prisoner-led campaigns. We just don’t have enough comrades out here to keep up with everything comrades need in there. Thank you to our newest supporters who helped with this issue, we hope to have a long and revolutionary relationship!
For many years, MIM Distributors has been providing legal resources to prisoners in Texas, including the Texas Department of Criminal Justice(TDCJ)’s own Grievance Operations Manual. In 2010, USW launched the grievance campaign in Texas, developing petitions to notify regulatory bodies when the TDCJ was violating its own grievance process. Four years later a comrade reported that on 30 September 2014 the TDCJ removed the Grievance Operations Manual, which lays out the TDCJ’s relevant code and policies, from all prison libraries(1) where it used to be available for prisoners to reference. Soon after, MIM Distributors began offering this document to comrades who were trying to fight grievances they had against the TDCJ.
Turns out, they have continued to step things up a notch to keep this public information out of the hands of prisoners. On 12 January 2022, MIM Distributors was notified by the staff that the TDCJ Grievance Operation Manual was censored at McConnell Unit on 10 December 2021 for the following reason:
“in contradiction with BP-03.91, Uniform Offender Correspondence Rules”
That was all the detail given. And we have not determined any portion of BP-03.91 that could possibly be applied to TDCJ’s own public policies. These types of cases should be easy wins for us. Unfortunately, we do not have the support we used to have to deal with prison administrators and hold them accountable. Outside supporters, get in touch to help us rebuild our capacity to fight these blatant injustices. Comrades inside that are falling victim to this repression, keep filing paperwork and provide us with all the info you can on what is going on.
notes: 1. A Texas Prisoner, November 2014, Texas Hides Grievance Manual from Prisoners, Under Lock & Key 42. 2. A Texas Prisoner, May 2019, Texas Confiscating Offender’s Grievance Operations Manual.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, MIM(Prisons) has not published any analysis of the war, nor have we participated in any organizing around the war. Our position is that our movement should be looking to counter and prevent Amerikan war-mongering against Russia, or any other country.
Unfortunately, most opposition to the Russian invasion in the United $tates is being led by the State Department and is fanning Amerikan support for war with Russia and promoting the overthrow of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As we go to press, things have continued to heat up and the threat of inter-imperialist war seems greater than it’s been in decades.
Imperialists are stealing from other imperialists. The U.$. Treasury Department has already seized $1 billion worth of boats and planes and hundreds of millions of dollars in bank accounts. The House of Representatives passed a bill to liquidate these assets and use them to rebuild Ukraine. In addition, the U.$. imperialist bloc has frozen $600 billion of Russia’s central bank foreign reserve fund, which they are also considering using to rebuild Ukraine.(1) They are taking the stolen wealth of other imperialists and using it to rebuild Ukraine to serve U.$. imperialism instead of Russia. This greatly adds to the original military threat Russia had felt from NATO encircling them, making the escalation to all-out inter-imperialist war more likely.
The U.$/IMF/World Bank will of course sink their teeth deeper into Ukraine through loans, which have already begun during the war period. As they do to oppressed nations around the world, these loans become means by which they control their policies and structure their economies as neo-colonies. Perhaps they will even use assets stolen from Russia to loan to Ukraine.
As this issue of Under Lock & Key reaches ours subscribers, we will be approaching the anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany (May 8-9). In the Russian-allied Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics they are restoring statues of V.I. Lenin and hanging red flags as they prepare to celebrate, while the Azov neo-Nazis threatened to attack victory parades.(2) The memories of World War II run deep. While there is no socialist camp engaged in the current war, we can see how the crisis is pushing people to look for answers. In addition to being morally abhorrent, the fascists cannot address the contradictions of capitalism that are playing out today. It is only a new economy that is driven by universal humyn need and not profit that can solve the problems of war, environmental destruction and economic booms and busts that capitalism brings.
What sort of sanctions is Russia under? What will the effect be?
Russia was banned from SWIFT, a component of the global payments processing system. Many other sanctions have been placed on the Russian economy, including obstacles to outside investment and bans on the sale of anything that could conceivably have a military use (which is a lot of stuff). Oil and gas, as of this writing, are still being bought from Russia by most European countries, but this might change soon even though Europe has no other reliable supply of natural gas to rely on currently. Germany, for example, ships weapons to Ukraine that are used against Russian troops and pays Russia for its natural gas at the same time.
The effects of the sanctions aren’t clear yet. If Russia loses access to the European market for its oil and gas its export earnings will collapse. China cannot replace the lost demand, and sanctions will play havoc on Russian industry’s supply chains.
What will the effects of the war be on the Ukrainian economy?
One of the major battles, around the town of Mariupol in the southeast, is unfolding in Azovstal, an enormous Soviet-era steel mill. The complex has mostly been destroyed. This serves as a symbol of what the rest of Ukraine will look like once all this is over. Following the war there are likely to be fewer and worse jobs, a large refugee population abroad, environmental devastation and a radical polarization of Ukrainian society. There is talk of forgiving some of Ukraine’s foreign debt, and maybe there will be aid for reconstruction, but the rest of the world’s charity is not likely to make up for what’s being lost now, and its also likely to come with strings attached.
Are there Nazis in Ukraine?
Yes. The Azov battalion, which is based in southeast Ukraine and has been fighting Russian separatists in the Donbass region since 2014, is a far-right military formation with white supremacist leadership and ideals. They’re responsible for numerous attacks on Roma encampments, LGBT people and leftists in Ukraine since their founding, as well as attacks on civilians and war crimes during the battles against separatists in the east. Many of their leaders, including founder Andriy Biletsky, used to openly promote race war against “untermenschen”[define?] and Jewish people, but have dialed back such talk in public in recent years.
Their logo features the Wolfsangel and the Sonnenrad, both indisputable Nazi SS symbols, and the constant appearance of these logos in sympathetic coverage of the Ukrainian military has been a PR headache for the government. The Azov battalion is just one part of a larger fascist Azov movement coming from the Western part of Ukraine. U.$. news media has helpfully downplayed the significance of an openly fascist, highly armed and well-organized formation at the heart of Ukrainian politics by claiming that the symbols and years of fascist rhetoric and actions either don’t mean anything or are in the organization’s past. The limited presence of explicit far-right figures in the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, belies their ability to organize outside parliament and the impunity with which they do so.
The popularity of Stepan Bandera is another aspect of fascism in Ukraine. Bandera was the head of the Organization of Ukranian Nationalists, and worked with the Nazis during their occupation of Ukraine, including participating in the Holocaust and in ethnic cleansing in southeastern Poland. He is admired by the far right and those influenced by them, but not by the rest of the country – the Rada refused to award him the title of Hero of Ukraine when this was proposed in 2019. So it’s wrong to say that Ukraine is a Neo-Nazi dictatorship, just as it’s wrong to say that fascists have no influence and are not a serious issue in Ukranian society. Of course, Putin has his own fascists and couldn’t care less about Nazi rhetoric among his own forces, so he can’t use that as a pretext for an invasion.
Are war crimes being committed in Ukraine?
The biggest war crime is starting one, so Russia is undoubtedly guilty on that score. In addition, indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in Ukraine by Russia has led to probably thousands of casualties so far, though confirmed counts are much lower. During early April, when Russian forces retreated from the area surrounding Kiev, Ukranian forces reoccupying the town of Bucha found hundreds of bodies of civilians on the streets. The brutality of the invading forces is clear.
The Ukranian side has also engaged in war crimes, like the kneecapping of prisoners of war. That happened on video, so who knows what’s going on when phones aren’t pulled out. War is hell.
Are there diplomatic efforts to stop the war underway?
Ukraine and Russia started talking almost immediately, and the demands have shifted with the battle. When it looked like Russia was about to capture Kiev immediately in the early days of the war, Russia’s demands were significant. But now that Russia has withdrawn from the area around Kiev and suffered significant casualties, things are different. The discoveries in Bucha as well as the radicalizing effect of war in general, might make negotiations break down completely in the future.
The key issues in the talks are Ukraine’s diplomatic relationship with the EU and NATO, and territory in Ukraine. Russia wants Ukraine to stay out of NATO, and wants its territorial acquisitions, including Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and the Crimean peninsula in the south, to be confirmed.
Does Putin support the Soviet Union and its recreation?
The Soviet Union was formed on a voluntary basis by independent nations. Most of those who joined the Soviet Union had been part of the Russian Empire in the past. As an imperialist, Putin may be aspiring to something closer to the Russian Empire. However, stated motivations for the invasion of Ukraine are immediate concerns about defending Russia from NATO.
Both sides of the current war in Ukraine are openly and virulently opposed to Bolshevism and the ideas of Lenin and Stalin.
Should we support sanctions as a way to peacefully pressure Russia to stop the war?
The sanctions being implemented by the U.$.-led imperialist bloc are not peaceful as they come along with large military support being sent into Ukraine to prolong the war and the fighting.
Sanctions are economic warfare. They can be a softer way to pressure other powers than military conflict, but given time they can also have more damaging effects.
In a few days the U.$. imperialists achieved more than the movement to boycott, sanction and divest from I$rael has achieved in years. The illegal occupation of Palestine and daily oppression of the Palestinian people does not get the support of many of the multinational corporations and organizations that jumped to ban Russia or pull their operations from Russia.
As the sanctioning of Russia happened more quickly and successfully, it is that much more dangerous. The increase in economic boundaries between imperialist camps marks the shift from a stage of relative peace between imperialist powers to one of more violent competition. Tariffs, sanctions, market control, dividing up of the world’s colonies, resources and markets, were what led up to the first and second inter-imperialist wars.
Supporting sanctions on Russia right now is further isolating an imperialist power and increasing the chances of military escalation between the imperialists, which increases the chance of nuclear war. None of this is in the interests of humynity as a whole.
Is siding with the Amerikans and against the Russians the profitable option for the capitalists?
For the last century the United $tates has led the most prosperous path for international finance capital. As a result many of the big names are loyal to the Amerikans. But there are also many exceptions, companies who are not volunteering to stop business in Russia. And others who are looking to capitalize on others leaving. One financial company made a bold statement saying that if they were to ban a country from their services for invading a sovereign people, they’d start with banning the Amerikans.(3)
Different capitalists are going to have different interests, and their interests are going to conflict with those of their competitors. While the big finance capitalists benefit from and support stability, other capitalist interests will fund and fuel escalating conflict between the imperialist camps. Meanwhile, weapons manufacturers always benefit from militarism and are very powerful and influential in imperialist circles of power. The mutual interests that created the military-industrial complex has posed a great threat to the world since WWII.
What is a multipolar world, and is it a good thing?
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United $tates of Amerika has been the sole dominant superpower in the world. Before then, countries who opposed U.$. interests could find support from the other imperialist pole of the Soviet Union.
Since WWII, Europe has been subsumed by Amerikan imperialism. If you look at a map of those imposing sanctions on Russia today it is occupied Turtle Island (the United $tates and Klanada), Western Europe, Australia and Japan. This has been the alliance of imperialist powers that has dominated the world, operating under U.$. military and economic leadership, for 70 years.
China left the socialist path in 1976, and has continued to rise as an economic superpower since then. When the Soviet Union took the capitalist path it led to collapse 35 years later as the bourgeoisie was divided, carving out their own fiefdoms from which to extract wealth. China’s new bourgeoisie however has remained united in a plan to exploit its own proletariat, and is now seen as the biggest threat to U.$. dominance almost 50 years after taking the capitalist road. Of course, the people of China and the former Soviet Union were the losers in both cases.
China and Russia remain politically separate from the U.$.-dominated imperialist pole, despite China’s deep integration with the U.$. economy. Their socialist past is one reason for this separation. Together Russia and China control most of the Eurasian land mass, and as neighbors have shared interests in promoting trade in the region. The media has been buzzing about the new Russia/China pole as the geopolitics of the invasion of Ukraine play out. Some dissident media outlets cheer this prospect as a counterbalance to U.$./European imperialism, or what is often referred to as “Western” imperialism.
We look at the invasion of Ukraine with the outlook of “it’s terrible, but it’s fine.” An invasion by an imperialist country is always terrible, with Ukrainians and Russian soldiers dying and 100,000s of Ukrainians being displaced. Communists should never aid an imperialist invasion.
Ultimately, it is imperialist conflict that creates space for the proletariat to organize, and to play the imperialists against each other in order to win victories for the people. In that sense, the increase in disorder in the world “is fine.” It is the inevitable result of the contradictions within the capitalist system. These conflicts will come sooner or later, we cannot prevent them in the short term, but we can seize the opportunities they create to put an end to this system to prevent chaos in the long-term.
Prior to WWI, Britain was the leading imperialist power, and maintained its dominance in part by keeping continental Europe divided. Today the Amerikans play the leading role, but are working with the British to prevent closer relations between Germany and Russia. This has been their strategy since the 1930s when the imperialists feared Germany would join the socialist camp.
In recent years, the United $tates has been threatening sanctions to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would pipe natural gas directly from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea. Germany is already Russia’s biggest gas customer, and Nord Stream 2 would strengthen that relationship. The Amerikans oppose this as they see this tying German and Russian interests closer. In recent negotiations around sanctions against Russia, Germany proved reluctant but ultimately joined the NATO consensus to impose them. Germany even gave in on shipping arms to Ukraine after refusing at first.
Among the imperialists there are disagreements about this. Henry Kissinger famously opposed NATO inclusion of Ukraine, promoting a policy of integrating Russia into the U.$.-led sphere. Kissinger warned of the consequences of trying to break the back of Russia.
Nord Stream 2 provides an alternate route to transport gas to Germany than the other primary route through Ukraine.
Petro Dollars and Reserve Currencies
Following WWII, the U.$. was the least damaged imperialist power and was booming from the wartime economy. Profits were high, exploitation of the Third World was transferring wealth to the rising U.$. empire that financed the rebuilding of Europe. This allowed Europe to be built in the way the Amerikans saw fit. One thing this allowed for was they positioned the dollar to become the global reserve currency, or the currency that other countries held and conducted international trade in. Oil was set to trade exclusively in exchange for the “petro dollar.”
This arrangement has allowed the U.$. to have a growing trade deficit for decades without the value of their currency dropping. When Third World countries have trouble paying their debts, their currencies can become worthless overnight. A replacement of the U.$. dollar as the global reserve currency makes the United $tates more economically vulnerable.
“According to the IMF, the share of reserves held in U.S. dollars by central banks has dropped by 12 percentage points since the turn of the century, from 71 percent in 1999 to 59 percent in 2021. But this fall has been matched by a rise in the share of what the IMF calls ‘non-traditional reserve currencies’, defined as currencies other than the ‘big four’ of the US dollar, euro, Japanese yen and British pound sterling, namely such as the Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, Chinese renminbi, Korean won, Singapore dollar, and Swedish krona.”(4)
Currently Russia is saying ‘unfriendly countries’ must begin to pay them for gas in Russian rubles. Hungary, which is part of the European Union, but also friendly with Russia has already agreed to pay with rubles. But the European Union(E.U.) has said the deal was to pay in euros and dollars and they would not change. This is an effort by Russia to stabilize their currency using their vast gas trade with Europe to force others to buy rubles. While the value of the ruble initially dropped about 50% after invading Ukraine, it has since recovered close to pre-war levels.
Poland, Germany and Bulgaria have refused to pay Russia for natural gas in rubles instead of euros as they are demanding. On 27 April 2022, Russia halted natural gas flows to Poland and Bulgaria after their deadline for paying in rubles was not met. About 40% of Europe’s gas consumption is supplied by Russia. The region is talking about tightening up its consumption. While good for the planet, this will lead to a further constriction of the economy, applying more pressure to the imperialists who must always expand their markets to circulate more capital. However, it is reported that some undisclosed purchasers are going ahead and buying with rubles, despite it being a violation of EU sanctions.(5)
Would joining the European Union benefit Ukranians economically?
As we discussed in ULK 36, GDP in Ukraine after the dissolution of the Soviet Union was 1/3 what it was just before. Though the Soviet Union had already been operating a capitalist economy for 35 years at that time, the complete opening up of the region to the West, the complete Liberalization of policies, and the resultant chaos and uncertainty led to a precipitous drop in material wealth in the country.
Leading up to and following the 2014 coup in Ukraine, the GDP fell and had not recovered pre-coup highs before the current war.(6) The coup installed a U.$.-backed, EU/NATO friendly government that introduced International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans to the country, which are used around the world to extract wealth from the exploited countries to the finance capitalists. As we predicted in ULK 37 these IMF loans contributed to decreasing wealth in Ukraine.
Before 2014, the Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine in the East and South were much more productive and prosperous. People in those regions have lost significant income. Meanwhile, the rest of the country that was somewhat ignored by Russian imperialism, has not seen material improvements by cozying up to the West.(7)
To join the E.U. is a logical option for many in Ukraine who see the wealth in those countries and the incomes they can earn migrating to even the eastern E.U.. Yet the spoils of imperialism are limited, and experience in the last 8 years in Ukraine show the limitations of this option.
Ukraine and Russia remain largely proletarian countries, with material interests opposed to imperialism. While there does not appear to be a strong anti-imperialist current in Ukraine at this time, this can change quickly as this crisis has brought much disruption and displacement in the country.
19 February 2022 – K.A.G.E. Universal and Hella Positive hosted an event featuring the voices of New Afrikan elders as part of the campaign to Liberate Our Elders from the cages of the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation(CDCr). As the comrades say, little “r”, because there is no rehabilitation, and rehabilitation must come from within.
At this event MIM(Prisons) shared copies of our new pamphlet, A Revolutionary 12 Step Program, in the spirit of supporting self-transformation via independent institutions of the oppressed. We also joined K.A.G.E. Universal in promoting the United Front for Peace in Prisons, as they work to expand the message of independent peace building behind bars and in local schools in Oakland.
The event brought together many outside activists and organizations and the voices of New Afrikan principal thinkers from the Pelican Bay SHU who are now on the streets as well as some still imprisoned. Speakers included imprisoned elder Sitawa, one of the main reps during the historic California hunger strikes, and Paul Redd who is now released. Louis Powell’s voice was also heard through the reading of his new book, Chronicles of a Prison Dirty War: California Prison Politics.
In the closing of the event, Minister King X pointed out that these elders are “walking dictionaries,” and the state is “trying to eradicate our history.”
Shortly after receiving this issue of Under Lock & Key, a number of USW leaders and other supporters of our work will be receiving the first edition of our Revolutionary 12 Step Program. This has been in the works for over a year now and we are excited to get it into the hands of comrades who are ready to implement the program and provide feedback.
The Revolutionary 12 Step Program is a significant advance for our Serve the People “Re-Lease on Life” Program, which has been in existence in some form from the early years of MIM(Prisons)’s existence.
Who is it for?
When most of us think of the 12 steps, we think of Alcoholics Anonymous or a more general Narcotics Anonymous program. However, our program takes an approach similar to a program called Criminals & Gangmembers Anonymous to address the anti-people behavior of the lumpen class in a more general way.
Drugs and alcohol are a big part of the problems the people face. It is estimated that at least 65% of people incarcerated have a “Substance Use Disorder”, while the number goes up to 85% if you include all who were under the influence during the crime they were convicted of.(1) That’s a lot! As recent understandings of the brain tell us, the lack of impulse control that can lead to destructive behaviors is caused by unhealthy social conditions during childhood.(2) Drug abuse will often overlap with violence towards others and other behavior that is deemed criminal by the bourgeoisie and by the people as well. In the long-term, communism can eliminate the causes of these tendencies, but in the meantime we need to address all forms of anti-people behavior to transform ourselves from a lumpen state of being to a revolutionary proletarian one.
Some people in prison are innocent. Some broke a law in a conscious decision – sometimes even for righteous political reasons. But the vast majority of you reading this broke laws through actions you would have preferred to not have taken. The vast majority of people in prison could use this program to avoid regrettable actions in the future.
All of us have rehabilitation that we must go through because we were raised in a sick society. Ultimately, everyone born in this oppressive system could benefit from our Revolutionary 12 Step Program, but many of you need it if you ever want to stay out of prison.
Why do we need it?
The state, by definition, is run by the oppressors. In our imperialist conditions today the oppressors are the bourgeoisie, the imperialists, the oppressor nations – Euro-Amerika. The institutions of the state will always serve those interests. In the current system you have law enforcement, religious organizations, private prison companies like Geo Group, and more small-time profiteers running reentry programs for the state. None of these serve the interests of the oppressed.
Today, we don’t have the influence to abolish these imperialist institutions, but we do have the influence to build independent proletarian institutions. Not only that, this is part of our central task today as a movement, “create public opinion and the independent institutions of the oppressed to seize power.”(3) We discussed previous independent institutions of the oppressed in ULK 59 on drugs.(4) Since then we’ve been working on developing our own.
One of the lessons we can take from the practice of our Re-Lease on Life Program to date is the need to address the drive to do drugs, engage in dangerous sexual activities, and the temptation of the thrill of the life of crime. We must put in its place the thrill of revolution; of fighting the real enemy; of building something new.
Before MIM(Prisons) had a Re-Lease on Life Program, we had one comrade who was one of our top theoreticians and USW leaders while in the SHU. Ey was released from prison and quickly slipped into alcoholism again. Ey stayed in touch for the first year, and then we stopped hearing from em, and ey never did any political work on the outside. At that time MIM(Prisons) had little to offer this comrade to help em adapt to life on the outside, and we certainly had nothing like a 12 step program to help em with eir alcoholism.
A story that has become too common is USW members who are released and never write us for years. When we finally do hear back from them it’s because they ended up back in prison. One such comrade recently explained:
“something I felt lack of was community. When I left the gates I went straight to a sober living…. During the time there I worked and attended A.A. meetings. I pretty much gave all my attention to my sobriety and recovery. Simultaneously my career was getting started. At this time I am getting myself situated and also enjoying my freedom, it was a really good feeling getting to move around, good food, and women…”
“I got emotionally attached to a girl that did not fulfill my needs or expectations and I became emotionally unbalanced. All it took was one instance of drugs to get high and begin my relapse. All this was in the lapse of a year. The last three months was just a chase for thrills.”
“I felt loneliness because for sobriety I left everything behind, friends, places, everything I’ve ever done, made and been. Also I felt a need for thrills, action; that was my itch for crime. I lost track of it all and I couldn’t find like-minded people.”
From the above testimony we see how sex and romance plays into this as well. We all know how common “crimes of passion” are in our society. Many of us have done time for them. This comrade wanted community and felt lonely, and seemingly tried to find that in a womyn who maybe was not in a good state herself, or maybe just couldn’t fill the large gap in this comrade’s life. The original AA puts god in that gap, a higher power. Our program puts the proletariat, the people. We will all have important individuals in our lives who help us out and other individuals who set us back. But we cannot rely on any one individual to save us, nor to meet all our needs. One of our needs is a spiritual need to be a part of something that gives us meaning. The bourgeois institutions offer you job training and maybe the prospect of a marriage. But as we see with this comrade’s story, you can attain those things and still be lonely, still not be on the path to rehabilitation. That is why we need an independent institution of the oppressed.
Another lesson we can take from this comrade, and from others, is that success will usually mean leaving behind a lot, especially at first. The easiest way to go back to prison is to go back to the same people and places you were around before you got locked up. Ultimately, our aim is not to cut you off from where you came from like a bourgeois program might do. We must stay connected to the people, and your past may offer some such connections. But those connections can only be good ones if you approach them from a new way of thinking and being. There must be a new community that you can rely on that supports your transformation into a new socialist humyn.
Even in the best case scenarios, the bourgeoisie cannot provide the support comrades need to rehabilitate. However, more often you do not end up in the best case scenario in this system as one comrade describes:
"I spent 6 years in the Drug Court program in York, PA, where a predatory judiciary, local bar, probation department (teamsters union) and suck ass ex-junkies prey on the weak and pile them 3 and 4 men to a room in some old crack house and charge them $500 per month rent plus a $500 deposit, which they would lose when they relapsed (95%) and went back to jail.
“Bless his wife-murdering heart. Bob Allen’s (Life’s Beacon House) means well and has the nicest of these houses but we can do better. The”group homes" or “recovery houses” have 3-4 month waiting lists and so do the rehabs, which county dollars are 95% of their $1000/day business. These houses are 501(c)(3) non-profits and if you start a business to employ the guys that live in these houses, it can operate non-profit too."
As we said, the Revolutionary 12 Step Program should address something that our Re-Lease on Life Program has been lacking for so long. But to do so, the program must be actualized. Here are some 3-year goals we have related to actualizing this program:
build a broader network of local contacts across the country so comrades can get more hands-on training and support from other communists
establish a revolutionary 12-step program, run by released comrades, where others can stay and immerse themselves in the program
establish satellite programs in prisons across the country that report to the program on the street, learning from each others’ experience and feeding releasees into the street program
Clearly this will require the participation of many of you to succeed. We need comrades on the outside to volunteer to be support people or sponsors for our comrades who are released. Even if you can’t administer the 12 steps, giving them someone to talk to and organize with on a daily basis will be important.
We need comrades on the inside to begin implementing this program locally. Ideal candidates will have successfully gone through the 12 step program themselves and MIM(Prisons) political study courses. And finally, we need similar people on the outside to run our program for post-release. If you think you can play any of these roles, get in touch so we can start building.
This is your newsletter, as evidenced from the vast majority of articles, reports, poetry and artwork coming from prisoners in every issue. In the last year comrades inside really came together to support our fund drive and our distribution drive as well, and we are making steady progress on both. 2021 was a good year for us overall and we hope to build greater things in 2022, some of which are outlined in this issue of ULK.
Our MIM(Prisons) annual review meeting in December was focused on re-prioritizing tasks in order to expand our outside support base, increase subscribers inside and support the growth of a broader Maoist movement. To increase subscribers inside we’ve been slowly increasing our list of ULK distributors who receive extra copies of ULK to distribute to others in their prison. We’ve reached the point where almost 10% of the newspapers we’re sending into prisons are going to distributors, but we want to see that number much higher in 2022. If you’d like to receive extra copies of ULK to distribute let us know how many you can use and send us reports on your distribution efforts each issue.
Because of the decrease in frequency of ULK and the decrease in subscribers, we are sending less than a fifth of the number of newspapers into prisons we were sending in some years ago. The main way we think we can improve our numbers is by increasing ULK back to every other month. However, we will need to recruit much more outside support to make this happen as we are barely pulling this together every 3 months. Issue ULK 76 was almost delayed, and much work was rushed together at the last minute because we don’t have enough steady supporters.
In spring 2021 we announced we would be doing an annual Fourth of You-Lie fundraiser drive among the readers of ULK. We told you that 7 stamps would cover the cost of your 4 issues for the year. Below we’ve graphed the contributions we received from our readers in prison for the whole year. In Q1 and Q2 we removed the contributions of one particularly generous comrade who contributed over $200 in Q1 because ey was skewing our results so much. By excluding em, we see a steady growth in contributions coming in, and more importantly a steady growth of individuals sending contributions. While we welcome our comrades to send in $200 that can, it is by increasing the number of donations that we know our mass base is growing. Looking at our numbers for the last quarter of 2021, we see about 8.5% of the people receiving ULK 75 sent a donation during that quarter. While we didn’t do the math to track this over time, we believe this is probably one of the higher contribution rates we’ve ever had!
The line on the graph above represents the number of people contributing funds over the four quarters of 2021. The bars represent the money coming in as donations or payments. (All numbers include prisoners only.) ‘Payments’ means people sending money for a specific book or document. In some cases the difference is not important. However, if we get 100 people ordering copies of the TX Pack next quarter, that would shoot up our contributions but none of that money would be going to ULK or other projects, it would just pay to print and mail TX Packs. So it’s better to see the donations portion increasing. If we look at just the donations on the graph, prisoners are covering 18% of the cost of printing ULK! This level of support will make it much easier for us to increase the frequency of ULK, but we still need outside comrades to help do the work.
We hope you will be a part of ULK’s success in the coming year by doing any of the following: donating 7 stamps or more, sharing/distributing ULK, sending in conditions reports, writing articles, creating anti-imperialist artwork and promoting MIM(Prisons) work with your contacts outside prison. Of course, ULK exists to serve the anti-imperialist prison movement, and anything you do to build that movement is why we are here.
TX Pack and book orders
For those of you who are sending payments (no checks/money orders) for books or resources, please expect about 2 months between the time you mail out your request and you receive your item. For TX Pack requests, you must pay 7 stamps or $3.50. We do not have anyone working on the TX Pack, so the 2020 edition is all we have.
On 28 December 2021, Hisham Abu Hawash of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine has gained a victory against I$rael’s counter-revolutionary “administrative detention” policy. Hawash’s lawyer, Jawad Boulos, has stated that I$rael pledged for Hawsah’s release on 26 February 2022 and therefore the hunger strike will end.(1)
Hawsah is a 40-year-old father of 5 and a member of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine. He is among several Palestinian revolutionaries waging a hunger strike in protest of I$rael’s unjust policy, which locks up Palestinians without any due trial. He has faced 8 years of time imprisoned with 4 of those years under administrative detention.(2)
The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (PIJ) rightfully threatened counter-attacks if Hawsah ever died in custody.(3)
Palestinians across the occupied land have gone in protests supporting the strikers. One protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on 6 January 2022, included signs which read: “Those starving behind bars feed the universe with dignity” – a slogan we extend to hunger strikers not only in Palestine but across the world.(4)
The Reactionary Policy of Administrative Detention
Administrative detention is a form of arrest or imprisonment done without trial – usually for issues of “terrorism” or rebellion. Many imperialist countries use the tactic of administrative detention to control unruly populations/groups.(5) In the United $tates for example, around 182,869 migrants from the Third World were held in detention centers through this method in 2020.(6) Despite the more advanced and developed contradictions between I$rael and Palestine, compared to oppressed nations in the United $tates and Euro-Amerika the year after, I$rael held a mere 1,595 Palestinians in administrative detentions. Amerika has truly earned the title “Big Satan” in contrast to I$rael’s “Little Satan” status on this front.(7) The administrative detention policy of the I$raelis work through the arrest and detention of Palestinian revolutionaries and activists. The idealists arguing for I$rael will say that administrative detention has been applied to I$raelis as well – notably, against ultra-chauvinist zionist terrorists and unruly settlers. Throughout the years, only 9 I$raelis were held in administrative detention; Palestinians and Arabs number in the thousands.(8) Any sober minded person and materialist will be able to recognize that the exception proves the rule in this case like so many often times.
DOWN WITH ADMINISTRATIVE DETENTION!
THOSE STARVING BEHIND BARS FEED THE WORLD’S DIGNITY
Notes: 1. Joseph Krauss, “Palestinian prisoner ends hunger strike in deal with Israel” Associated Press, January 4th 2022
5. “Israel’s Policy of Administrative Detention,” European Parliament
6. “United States Immigration Detention Profile,” Global Detention Project
7. “Prisoners society: Israel issued 1,595 administrative detention orders against Palestinians in 2021,” Press TV
8. “Stop Administrative Detention,” Prisoner Support Human Rights Association
Congratulations to De’Shawn Drumgo, who just let us know ey won eir lawsuit against Sergeant William Kuschel. In 2014, Sgt. Kuschel groped and squeezed Drumgo’s genitals while being held captive in a Delaware prison.
If anyone has information on how to open a bank account from within prison, without family support, please let us know. We have a couple comrades who have won lawsuits recently who do not want to hand this money over to the prison administration. We are trying to investigate other options.
While lawsuits like this serve as a line of defense for individuals, we also know they change nothing. We get letters from people every week about horrible abuse and brutality they face across Amerikkka’s gulags. To win a case like this is truly rare, and to even be able to file a successful lawsuit is not possible for most. Ending police brutality behind bars requires ending the imperialist injustice system altogether. The people must be in charge of justice.
The state is tightening its control on free communication and association in prisons across the country by imposing digital monitoring systems, and in some cases banning hard copies of mail.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety has begun using a company called TextBehind to handle their mail and push people towards their digital communications platform. This allows the company to extort people to pay whatever prices they want just to send their loved ones a message, while the state gets to monitor every word.
MIM Distributors began sending mail to TextBehind last month only to have it returned unopened. It turns out TextBehind does not process letters from organizations, only from individuals. As an organization we would be required to set up a corporate account with non-public pricing schemes. In other words, as a member of MIM(Prisons) I cannot just put a stamp on an envelope and drop it in the mail for a comrade in NCDPS custody anymore. This is a blatant violation of our First Amendment rights to speech and association. At this time it appears that newsletters and books are still allowed through the prisons, but we will not be able to correspond with you directly, send you study guides or other information persynalized to you if you are being held by NCPDS.
UPDATE: We just had a package of ULKs returned to us from Roanoke River Correctional Institution saying, “This facility DOES NOT accept friend and family mail directly” and that we must send mail to TextBehind. But TextBehind does not accept publications, only letters that can be scanned. So it seems mail to NCDPS is being blocked on all fronts.
Pigs Bring in Drugs, While Prisoners Mail Suffers
related news from a Wisconsin prisoner:
First thing first, I am still in Wisconsin. They are making all of us have our families and comrades send personal letters and photos to the Phoenix, Maryland PO Box (189) to inspect them for drugs such as K2, even though drugs, cell phones and other contraband items come from the fascist pigs that work in these imperialist gulags. Newspapers, books, publications are still to be sent here.
The San Francisco BayView newspaper has outed their former editor Keith Washington as an informant and a manipulator. Previous editor Mary Ratcliff has reasonably posed that this could have been an FBI operation to undermine the BayView. Yet, Washington’s brief stint as editor after being released from prison, followed by relapse into addiction and violence also seems consistent with someone who has jumped from group to group driven by eir own self-interest.
Keith Washington, aka Comrade Malik, was a politically eclectic, self-promoting prison activist. It is for those reasons that his passions often did not overlap with the program of MIM(Prisons), despite being in close contact for many years. During eir time in prison, Washington was a regular reader of ULK, MIM Theory and other literature we distribute on the Black Panthers and Maoism in general. For years ey could not receive ULK because of TDCJ censors, so we had to mail em select articles separately.
We are not saying we did not work with Washington, for we published dozens of articles and reports by em while ey was in prison. Most were reports on conditions in Texas prisons. For a quick minute, ey was even part of the the USW Council, but was quickly removed for openly disagreeing with MIM(Prisons)’s 6 main points. The reason they were even considered for the position was that it was hard to pin down eir political line.
Washington seemed to work tirelessly to expose the corruption and abuses within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice(TDCJ) – though ey often did so from an angle that seemed to believe in the system. This approach conflicted with eir initial focoist tendencies when we first encountered Washington and ey seemed to believe that we were too hesitant to use arms. Later eir politics hinted at patriotism. For much of the time ey worked with USW ey also was working with the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter, ideologically led by Tom Big Warrior and Kevin “Rashid” Johnson at the time. At one point Washington was the Deputy Chairman of NABPP, but ey never was consistent at upholding NABPP line. Ey went back and forth on the labor aristocracy question in an opportunist way that seemed to be attempting to please MIM(Prisons) with one message and Rashid with another. But communication with Rashid was much more difficult than with us, so ey seemed to lean towards us at times; another example of opportunism over political line. This also showed there was no effective democratic centralism within the NABPP. This is why we say you cannot be part of a democratic centralist formation while encapsulated by the state, except perhaps in an organization within a prison where you can freely interact with other members of the formation.
While Washington pledged eir allegiance to MIM and the NABPP, overtime ey branched out into other forums and organizations, always promoting the persona of “Comrade Malik”. Despite all the articles we did print by em, there were many more we did not, or we had to cut down significantly due to the self-promotion.
We must learn to recognize political opportunism. We should not be surprised that someone with such a history would also opportunistically lie to the pigs to earn favors.
At best, political eclecticism is a sign of immaturity; an immaturity that cannot be trusted with leadership. This is not to say we do not work with younger people or people who are still learning, far from it. We just must recognize their role. But when someone has spent a decade or more studying revolutionary literature, and they are still putting forth eclecticism, or just straight reformism, then it is clear they are not a revolutionary, and perhaps they can play a role better somewhere else. If we cannot convince such people to follow our leadership, then we must work harder to prove our effectiveness.
Eclecticism is always connected to forms of subjectivity and idealism. They are thinking about what feels good to them or feels right to them. Combine this with the self-promotion of “Comrade Malik” and you have a risky individual who will probably bounce from one group to another, one line to another to serve eir own self-interests, leaving havoc in eir wake. This is no longer immaturity, but a conscious self-interest.
In our introductory study course we go over the question of how to implement an effective security program for your organization. This example of Washington is a good demonstration of how political line was applied by MIM(Prisons) to keep a potential wrecker from playing a more damaging role. We would say the work Washington contributed to the pages of ULK served the people, as it was done under our leadership. We did not allow Washington’s self-promotion or right opportunism to take away from the mission of ULK or United Struggle from Within. For organizations that look for the charismatic individuals to promote, this is a danger.
We must also recognize that addiction to chemical substances, violence and criminal behavior plagues the lumpen. The transformation of the lumpen into proletarian revolutionaries is an arduous and life-long task. Even those who have seemed to overcome for years while imprisoned, will often relapse with the dramatic changes and pressures of being released to the free world. That is why we have developed a Revolutionary 12 Step Program that takes the proven techniques of the steps, as applied by the lumpen masses in California, and reframes them to include the transformation to the proletarian mentality. It is the constant struggle to submit our self-interest to the interests of the Third World proletariat that can solidify our own transformation from addiction to action that changes society. Imperialism has addicted us all, especially in this consumerist society in the United $tates.
Our leaders must be forged in a disciplined revolutionary organization built on democratic centralism. They must exhibit self-sacrifice and embody the interests of the Third World proletariat. We cannot follow the bourgeois individualist approach to leadership that decides elections and celebrity in this country. We must put politics in command when developing relationships with new comrades and bringing them into our circles. Some people may never exceed a supporter role, and that is okay, we welcome their support. Being around longer, having connections or resources, or being energetic is not enough to qualify comrades to lead. A consistent practice that upholds the correct line is how we must judge who is to be trusted with responsibilities and leadership roles.