For years, MIM(Prisons) and others have agitated around the point that people are getting indeterminate sentences in torture cells in California based on things like birthday cards. Today, Sacramento Prisoner Support made public some Freedom of Information Act documents from the FBI showing that people on the outside can also be targeted for who they send birthday cards to.
The gang investigation unit in California, IGI, has already made efforts to identify people working with MIM(Prisons), so this is nothing new or surprising. But we point to it to remind people of two lessons. First, security is important at every stage and in everything you do when dealing with the imperialist state because they are watching. Second, when the FBI has to file a report every time comrades get a letter or birthday card, that is resources being taken away from other intelligence work. Some people view efforts developing better security as taking away from "real" political work. But examples like this show that security work in itself is a blow to imperialism by utilizing resources that could be used against the Third World. Of course, anyone who doesn't take security seriously will never accomplish what we really need to do to end oppression anyway.
[Editor's Note: Before the public version of this self-criticism was published, the NAMP comrade mentioned below denied most of the political lines attributed to h herein. Since NAMP has made no official political statements either way on these issues, the question of NAMP's real line is a mystery for now. We hope that they will print documents that clarify their positions for future struggle.]
This self-criticism comes following the rectification of the relations between MIM(Prisons) and the New Afrikan Maoist Party (NAMP) and its associated organizations. After being assigned the role as the primary contact for relations between MIM(Prisons) and other organizations, i failed to correctly apply the Maoist theory of United Front in this position. Here i will outline my mistakes and demonstrate why they should not have happened.
NAMP predates MIM(Prisons), and both organizations came out of circles working closely with the Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika before its disintegration. We were both focused on lumpen organizing within a Maoist framework. Soon after forming, MIM(Prisons) took over "MIM Distributors" and continued this institution by distributing MIM literature through the Free Political Books to Prisoners Program that MIM had led for many years. At the same time that we were developing this transition of responsibilities, our comrades were in dialogue with NAMP to help with the distribution of their journal that had been launched earlier that year.
MIM Distributors became the main source of the NAMP's Party Bulletin. MIM(Prisons) dedicated its own resources to producing and distributing these materials as a fraternal Maoist organization with NAMP. On the whole, we uphold the Party Bulletin as correct and an excellent starting point for a New Afrikan vanguard party. The Party Bulletin even premiered some new political line on the lumpen in the United $tates that MIM(Prisons) and others also uphold to this day.
As NAMP had established itself as a fraternal organization with a correct line and practice, the responsibility of coordinating our work together on behalf of MIM(Prisons) was put into my hands. By the time the last issue of the Party Bulletin (issue 6) was put out, NAMP had already launched a new mass organization called the New Afrikan Ujamaa Dynasty. This organization was explicitly less radical than other groups NAMP had attempted to launch under its umbrella, with a focus on their strategy of developing ujamaa or "cooperative economics." While we had already struggled with NAMP over this strategy in the past, i did not see this difference as a dividing line question.
The Party Bulletin ceased and after a period of "reorganization" NAMP's leadership came back to MIM(Prisons) with the Blueprint for Ujamaa Dynasty asking for help with production and distribution. This was part of a plan to expand and fund the work of NAMP and the New Afrikan Liberation Movement in general. But it was more than a fund-raising tactic, it was a strategic orientation that saw pushing the contradictions between the New Afrikan national bourgeoisie and the imperialists as principal. It is at this point where my practice began to violate the Maoist line on United Front, not to mention our line on the cell structure.
Fundraising: Strategy or Tactics?
Throughout our relationship with NAMP, i expressed disagreements with their strategy based on building New Afrikan-owned businesses, but did not want to impose unrealistic fundraising techniques on a fraternal organization struggling to get going.
In 2002, MIM's PIRAO Chief had already dismissed the strategy of developing bourgeois businesses with proletarian politics, using lumpen and labor aristocrats from the imperialist countries, as being an ultra-left strategy. A counter argument would apply if comrades are unemployable. Having one's own business would be a good way to employ comrades with prison records, for example. Generally though, we should be opportunistic in our fundraising and not get sucked into life projects nor into risky get-rich-with-little-work schemes. The Amerikan dream is an easy resource that we can tap for the movement with minimal work and preparation.
Most New Afrikans are legally employed and are therefore labor aristocracy/petty bourgeoisie. Compared to starting their own businesses, they could do more for the struggle by being part-time cogs in the imperialist country mall economy to raise funds for anti-imperialist work. Ironically, NAMP lost the hypothetical unemployable argument for building businesses when they more recently switched their recruitment focus from the lumpen to the petty bourgeoisie.
Strategy should stem from one's political line. Therefore, when NAMP and i (as representative of MIM(Prisons) ) agreed that we should not split over strategic orientation i should have been pushing some of those disagreements harder. To an extent they were correct to say we should not split on strategy, particularly in a stage when we do not have a centralized party as is currently the case. Different cells and organizations will vary in their tasks and therefore in the strategies to achieve those tasks. So the question should have been, do we agree that the tasks that each other is taking on are worthwhile? Now it is clear that we do not. If we had dug into these issues deeper at the time, we could have avoided the confusion we have now created and the setbacks we have caused both organizations.
Part of this self-criticism is a criticism of the NAMP leader putting forth a liquidationist line. In short, NAMP abandoned their focus on the lumpen in favor of the petty bourgeoisie, who they said had the most revolutionary potential. This was justified by an inappropriate application of aspects of the theory of New Democracy to New Afrika. While Mao used his theory of New Democracy to demonstrate the impotence of the bourgeoisie as a revolutionary force in a semi-feudal exploited country and the need for proletarian and peasant organizing, NAMP used it to justify organizing primarily the petty/national bourgeoisie for their own economic interests as a necessary precursor to a socialist revolution. This is backwards, because even the impotent Chinese bourgeoisie were economically hampered and oppressed to a degree that New Afrika has not seen for at least 50 years, and Mao showed that they could not be depended on as a progressive force due to imperialism's influence.
NAMP's New Democracy line is an example of something that i didn't investigate enough and struggle with thoroughly. Others in MIM(Prisons) have also been self-critical for not thoroughly investigating the line of this material we distributed to the masses, due to laziness. To approve these items for distribution by MIM Distributors, we should have been as thorough as we are with an issue of Under Lock & Key. Ultimately, it is not practical for one of us to serve as the distributor for the other because NAMP and MIM(Prisons) are not in democratic centralism with each other. With the movement decentralized in a cell structure, we must each study and understand each others' work before distributing it. Being forced to do this, and the subsequent learning process for all leaders that will occur, is a benefit of the cell structure in a period where theory is a big focus.
At MIM's 1998 Congress they defined the "No Neo-Colonialism" point of their United Front policy by saying, "Always keep the perspective of the international proletariat and do not use the United Front as an occasion to cut 'a special deal' for one oppressed nation." Siphoning resources from MIM(Prisons) to NAMP effectively cut short the internationalist struggle in favor of one nation's struggle under a leadership that was openly organizing for the economic interests of those benefiting from the super-profits from Third World nations around the world! The open focus on the petty bourgeoisie happened late in the game, but it was the logical conclusion of the "cooperative economics" strategy and "New Democratic" struggle with no proletarian leadership.
The limited size and influence of our organizations makes the claim of neo-colonialism seem a little disproportionate to reality. But that just shows how narrow my view was to take resources for the internationalist struggle and funnel them into this very small operation, on the premise that it represented the New Afrikan struggle for self-determination.
"The most backward masses should be able to see what the difference is between us and our allies, except for fraternal parties on issues that are not the third cardinal [the labor aristocracy question —ed.]." - MIM's 1998 Congress resolution on policy for building the United Front
One thing that NAMP's work demonstrated was the appeal of nation-based organizing. While NAMP was pushing essentially the same political line in the Party Bulletin as MIM had put forth, often printing MIM articles, they attracted recruits that MIM did not. This small confirmation of the correctness of single-nation parties reinforced the importance of building NAMP to me.
It was a combination of attempting non-interference and of trusting a long-time comrade that led me to support Ujamaa as we had supported NAMP. While MIM(Prisons) did not officially run the Ujamaa, it was associated with MIM(Prisons) in a way that i saw as validating our correctness to the masses. Here was another mass organization coming from the lumpen that was part of the MIM camp. Like NAMP, the Ujamaa recruited people who then read MIM literature, which was also a material benefit of keeping the Ujamaa around. This was opportunism, linked to sectarianism, or putting the organization first as opposed to the struggle and the correct line to push the struggle further. As a result we confused the masses about what the best line and practice was.
For a Maoist organization to provide resources for a mass organization that it leads, particularly in its early stages, is completely legitimate according to Maoist theory. For NAMP to fund Ujamaa work is one thing, since NAMP controlled Ujamaa. For MIM(Prisons) to provide labor, supplies and funds to promote the Ujamaa was incorrect.
A correct practice was to print an interview with the Ujamaa in Under Lock & Key, i.e. within the context of our own Maoist newsletter. To co-publish materials with other mass organizations is completely within the realm of United Front work as long as we are able to assert our political line and criticize our comrades when necessary.
Another lesson to take from this is that any material/financial exchange for work should be strictly accounted for between the parties as well as with the central leadership. It is ultra-left to assume relationships under capitalism can exist in an amorphous mutually beneficial way. Acquiring material wealth is THE goal under capitalism, and it will take many generations of socialism before this will cease to be true. That's not to say that people can't act outside their material interests under capitalism, but instead to put a realistic standard on how relationships should be structured at this time to avoid problems.
As NAMP effectively liquidated itself into the Ujamaa, they went as far as to imply that MIM(Prisons) should do the same. But it was only after MIM(Prisons) work continued to expand and a long period of conflict between my efforts to support the Ujamaa and our own work that i seriously considered breaking our relationship with NAMP. Harder bargaining wouldn't have corrected the situation, but it would have reduced the setbacks to MIM(Prisons) work and the false expectations developed within the Ujamaa of our relationship.
It was a liberal approach that led me to continue siphoning MIM(Prisons)'s resources to NAMP/Ujamaa for so long. I saw our relationship as a binding contract, and i saw breaking it as going back on my word. This was an incorrect view of the situation, since MIM Distributors agreed to distribute NAMP material only by virtue of it being fraternal, Maoist literature. Because NAMP was leading the Ujamaa work does not mean that we should honor that relationship; that is a bourgeois approach. This was my biggest error: that i didn't say 'no' to working on the Ujamaa because it is not a Maoist organization.
Another way i looked at it is that NAMP was working hard and in the middle of a lot of things that i could sabotage if i just cut the rug from under them. But again, neither of us should have gotten in this position in the first place. NAMP cannot be an independent organization if MIM(Prisons) has the ability to do that to them. This is important to realize in a time when the movement is made of many small, independent groups who are trying to figure out how we can support each others' work.
When the Blueprint for Ujamaa Dynasty came out, a couple of comrades within MIM(Prisons) brought significant criticisms of the line presented in it and asked why we were distributing it. I justified it by saying it was only a mass organization and need not be held to the same standards. While i was privately criticizing and debating NAMP, i essentially silenced the Maoist critiques of the Ujamaa with my line that these criticisms were too harsh for a mass organization that we were effectively bankrolling.
There is one simple rule that should have prevented my errors and it is not new to me. That rule is that Maoists do not distribute materials that we do not agree with without criticizing it or providing our own line in conjunction with it. Reading MIM Theory 14 on United Front helped me fully realize the mistakes that i made, and i recommend that it be studied thoroughly by all revolutionaries as a crucial component of building an effective anti-imperialist movement. I don't think i will make the same mistake again, but there is no excuse for making it this time, when i had already studied United Front theory.
In the end, both MIM(Prisons) and NAMP have suffered from my mistakes and the mistakes of others in both organizations. The masses have suffered because an organization they look to for leadership has confused things for them. This is not to condemn mass organizations like the Ujamaa, or even the Ujamaa itself, which has taken aim at many of the pressing problems of New Afrikans. But we are seriously criticizing its leadership to the extent that it overlaps with NAMP. For those who see the system for what it is and hold no illusions or attachments to it, we should expect much more than petty bourgeois business development built on super-profits from the Third World. For me to treat work for Ujamaa as equal to work for MIM(Prisons) was a disservice to the pushing forward of the struggle and promoting the most correct line needed to do that. This is the same error that NAMP has made (to a greater degree) by liquidating itself into the Ujamaa.
MIM(Prisons) held our first official congress in July of 2010 to clarify our priorities, renew our common commitment, and push our work forward. We reviewed work in key areas, discussed successes and failures and debated resolutions on new directions for the coming year. For the most part this congress focused on strategic and tactical priorities and the best way to advance our work. But these priorities are based in political line, and discussions of that line and the priorities it requires were a key component of the congress. Proposals related to new political line were also raised and those that were controversial were put on the table for study and debate in future discussions.
The production and distribution of revolutionary materials to a potentially revolutionary class that is systematically denied educational materials is central to our work as a cell. Keeping Under Lock & Key as a regular publication reaching U.$. prisoners and maintaining other correspondence with prisoners topped our list of priorities. We also gave relatively high priority to our website, the second major leg of our distribution work.
Despite a number of small improvements and a consistent publication schedule, our distribution of Under Lock & Key slightly declined over the last year and a half. While the production and quality of ULK falls in our lap, we see its expansion as a responsibility falling largely on United Struggle from Within (USW). We encourage other comrades to make pledges to increase our subscribers behind bars as our comrade in the Black Order Revolutionary Organization has.
In order to reduce costs we have changed our policies so that new subscribers only get our introductory letter and one issue of ULK. To get more than that you must write us again confirming receipt or censorship of those items. Similarly, we are requiring our regular subscribers to tell us exactly what mail they have received, and when, each time they write us. If we can't confirm you are receiving our mail we will stop sending it. By saving costs where we cannot confirm our effectiveness we will be able to expand our distribution to a larger subscriber base.
Over the last couple years we have seen a steady increase in the number of letters we have sent to prisoners. This is indicative of the expansion of our various smaller projects (other than ULK) with prisoners who are active participants in the movement. While readership online may be comparable (based on our limited statistics), the amount of work we see being done per reader from our paper literature is far greater.
Adding the etext.org MIM archive to our website greatly increased our content and eventually led to serious increases in readers. Yet we are still only getting around a sixth as many page views as they were getting in 2002. MIM had the most widely read Amerikan, self-described communist website at that time. This goes to show the damage done by political repression and privatization of the worldwide web.
Original content that MIM(Prisons) has added to the web that attracts the most attention is our censorship work and other services we provide to prisoners and their supporters. Many of our readers are utilizing our information to maintain better communication with their loved ones and to try to get information on what's going on behind closed doors and barbed wire fences.
Items that are in demand that we need to improve are Spanish language material, artwork and cutting edge cultural reviews. We are dedicated to making all three more prominent on our website, but we need help from our comrades to keep producing great anti-imperialist art, to provide insightful reviews of movies and music that our readers might be interested in and to translate and edit materials into Spanish. Online readers will see improvements to the site in coming months.
While many are following the corporate bandwagons of Facebook and Twitter, we are interested in recent battles over net neutrality (the premise that the interests of the powerful can't allow certain online content to get priority access to the public). Some have a theory of putting technology in command and worshipping the oppressors' institutions and petty bourgeois trends, rather than building independent institutions of the oppressed with politics in command. As examples, Facebook, Twitter and Google all have direct relationships with the state department. How could these ever become serious tools for revolution? The real question is, how can we build serious tools for revolution in cyberspace?
Distribution of literature to prisoners comes with the ongoing problem of censorship faced by MIM(Prisons) and our comrades behind bars. Our annual censorship report details the changes and accomplishments of the past year.
Most of the prisoners on the ULK mailing list are not letting us know what mail they receive from us, making censorship very difficult to track. It's possible the mail is not getting through but it's just as likely that these subscribers are just not telling us about what they got. We also have a lot of prisoners write once and then never write again. To better focus where we spend money, and to improve our tracking of censorship, we are changing our policies as described above.
In the first six months of 2010 about a third of our mail came from repeat writers - prisoners who are in relatively regular contact. This is an increase from 2009, and we should push to continue to increase this percentage. While it is great that we get so much interest from new comrades, it is important that we engage our regular contacts in study and work. We recognize that as long as our materials are being read and, even better, shared then we are accomplishing our goal of building public opinion. Yet, while most subscribers may be passive learners at this stage, we see our task as a cell as facilitating the organization of prisoners, including the development of cadre level skills. Several specific congress proposals related to this work were passed and we hope to see increased engagement from our newer comrades behind bars in the coming year.
A key element of raising the level of political understanding and providing study opportunities to our comrades behind bars is the MIM(Prisons)-led introductory study group. This study group gains a lot of interest but for both logistical difficulties (censorship, moving, lack of stamps) as well as loss of political interest, we see a steep decline in participants over the course of each study session. To provide more frequent opportunities for study to new folks, and as a pre-requisite to the more serious introductory study group, MIM(Prisons) will start all new comrades in a shorter introduction study group (Intro Level 1) which will last two sessions and run approximately every 3 months. Successful completion of this study group will be required for admission into the more comprehensive, year-long Intro Level 2 class.
United Struggle from Within (USW)
United Struggle from Within (USW) is a MIM(Prisons)-led mass organization for U.$. prisoners. USW is explicitly anti-imperialist in leading campaigns on behalf of U.$. prisoners in alliance with national liberation struggles in North America and around the world.
This year, MIM(Prisons) opened a separate forum for USW leaders to develop the organization and strategize on campaigns. This was a step forward in the re-establishment of USW as an independent organization (following the dissolution of the Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika). The campaigns leaders develop will be advertised in each issue of ULK for rank-and-file USW comrades to keep abreast of progress and how to get involved. If necessary, MIM(Prisons) will send out notices to affected comrades regarding campaigns that are moving at a pace that is too fast for ULK. Comrades who want to receive such notices need to write to MIM(Prisons) to join USW.
The campaign to get grievances heard in California is one campaign that is resonating loudly, both there and in other states that have adopted similar campaigns. This is a great example of a campaign that was initiated by USW and promoted through regular articles in ULK. We believe that those in charge of prisoners should be held to the highest standards of conduct, as was done in socialist China, because of the extreme amount of power they have over other people. In contrast to socialist prisons and work camps in China, abuse is a daily occurrence in U.$. prisons. Therefore the grievance struggle is strategically correct in that it gives the state a chance to clearly take a position for or against this rampant abuse, which informs the prison masses as to what forms of struggle are necessary to achieve humane conditions.
Also related to USW, there is a ULK writing group, which is open to comrades who have completed the introductory study courses and are involved in writing projects with MIM(Prisons). At the congress we affirmed our commitment that USW should be producing short summary articles for Under Lock & Key reflecting struggles within the ULK writing group. Comrades have already seen the ideas from the study group reflected in the pages of ULK over the last year.
Prisoner Legal Clinic
MIM(Prisons) rarely has access to legal advice from experienced lawyers on the outside. In 2009 the Prisoner Legal Clinic (PLC) was formalized as another facet of USW for prisoners interested or experienced in legal issues. The basic goals of the PLC are to push our anti-censorship and anti-repression work forward, while also offering members a space to discuss specifics of their legal work. Members of the PLC write legal articles for ULK and contributed greatly to the legal strategy issue of ULK, issue 13.
If you are an active member of the PLC, you should expect an updated letter from us two or three times per year detailing our current projects and comrades' questions/suggestions. Members of the PLC should also be contributing legal articles for ULK.
At our congress, MIM(Prisons) reaffirmed our commitment to the Prisoner Re-Lease on Life Program. We recognize that our resources to advance this program are limited, and we have learned some valuable lessons over the past year through our work with released prisoners. We need to work more aggressively with prisoners scheduled to get out within a year, making it clear what resources are available and helping them do the research necessary to hit the streets as safely as possible. Prisoners with upcoming releases should contact our newly appointed release coordinator for more info.
United Front for Peace in Prisons
MIM(Prisons) is working on a United Front for Peace in Prisons with leaders of a number of progressive-minded organizations behind bars. The principal contradiction facing the imprisoned lumpen today is the prisoner-on-prisoner violence and conflicts that prevent any progressive work from happening. The United Front project is developing a statement of unity that groups and individuals can sign to join. This statement has been in progress for a long time, partly because we are trying to develop unity with a number of groups before we finalize it. If you are involved in any kind of peace or unity project where you are, please get in touch so that you can have input on this very important project.
Related work with a number of more advanced organizations will also result in the production of a book on the lumpen within the United $tates. Over the next year MIM(Prisons) will be printing draft chapters of this book to be distributed as pamphlets for comment from lumpen organizations and fraternal groups. The feedback will be incorporated into the final printing of the book which is targeted for 2011.
This book will advance our analysis of the class and national contradictions in the belly of the beast and how we can best utilize them in the interests of the oppressed masses of the world. It will serve as a survival guide for the lumpen, recognizing the necessity of internationalism to overcome the number one enemy of humynity: imperialism.
MIM(Prisons) plans to hold congress annually and we welcome submissions of proposals for new areas of priority as well as new political line from our comrades in United Struggle from Within and other United Front organizations. We also look forward to feedback on our work over the coming year so that we can continually improve and advance the struggle.
United Front is the theory of uniting different groups across class lines for a common goal or interest, while maintaining independence where those groups disagree. The application of united front theory is about recognizing different contradictions in society and utilizing them in the interests of the international proletariat. The primary united front is the Anti-Imperialist United Front, which is made up of the majority of the world's people whose material interests lie in defeating imperialism. This is a strategic united front based on the principal contradiction.
In this article we will address a couple of contemporary issues in the United $tates and analyze their potential for united front work. We'll see that many of the big conflicts in a First World country are between the enemy classes, but that does not always mean we sit on the sidelines. Some forms of united front are tactical and require fast action based on thorough knowledge. To successfully navigate the potential for united front in the First World that serves the interests of the Third World proletariat we must first have a correct analysis of our conditions. The first section of this article provides a quick background to get us started.
Land, Housing and the Settler Nation
One of the arguments made against the labor aristocracy thesis is that corporations have no interest in sacrificing profit to pay First World workers more, and there is no corporate conspiracy to enforce such a policy. This is based in the theory of free market capitalism, or only reading the beginning chapters of Marx's Capital and treating that as an accurate model of reality in all places for all time. As a class, capitalists do depend on the labor aristocracy, not just politically, but economically as consumers and cogs in their growing pyramid scheme of finance capital. And there is at least one place where the U.$. imperialists can exert their will as a class (more and more these days) - it's called the U.$. government. The promotion of home ownership by the feds is one of the biggest examples of the imperialists consciously building a labor aristocracy within the heart of the empire.
Home ownership has been a staple of Amerikan wealth since the settlers stole this land from the First Nations and built their homesteads on it. The net worth of Amerikan families compared to First Nations and those descended from slaves in the U.$. is one legacy of this form of primitive accumulation. While land ownership among the earliest European invaders was 100% (that's why they came to the Americas), by the 1775 War of Independence, land ownership was still at 70% for the Euro-Amerikan nation.(1) Arghiri Emmanuel pointed out that Amerikan wages were able to stay so high in this early period of capitalist development, even as land ownership ceased to be universal, because the abundant "free" land stolen from the First Nations provided a fallback plan for European settlers.(2) This primitive accumulation through genocide was the basis for wealth that the Amerikan labor aristocracy enjoyed as industrialization transformed more of the settlers into wage laborers.
Following the inter-imperialist struggles of WWI, the United $tates became the dominant imperialist power. The influx of wealth that came with this allowed for the integration of southern and eastern European immigrants into the white nation leading up to the Great Depression.(1) From 1900 to 1950, home ownership rates in the United $tates averaged about 45%, with the lowest rates in the Black Belt South and the highest in European dominated northwest states.(3) After the economic recovery that came with the spoils of WWII, the United $tates embarked on the suburbanization of Amerika with numerous incentives from the federal government to bring home ownership above 60% again.
Since 1960, home ownership has stayed above 60% for U.$. citizens as a whole.(4) This rate was above 70% for white Amerikans in recent years, but the census does not have comparable statistics by race going back very far. Blacks and Latinos are just under 50% for rates of home ownership, even though national oppression has ensured that they currently face foreclosure disproportionately.
Emmanuel's theories in Unequal Exchange demonstrate how the significantly higher incomes of people in the First World actually transfer wealth to the imperialist countries from the Third World, reinforcing their economic advantage. Similarly, the oppressor nation has equity and is able to increase wealth in ways that the internal semi-colonies have not been able to do despite access to exploiter level jobs. All of this fits with the general trend of capitalism, which is the accumulation of capital. The more you have, the more you tend to get.
Collapse of the U.$. Housing Market
The left wing of white nationalism (whether self-described anarchists, socialists, Maoists or Democrats) has been saying that the increase in home foreclosures is an indication of the heightening contradictions between the Amerikan proletariat and the capitalists. These people defend the stolen land that was the foundation of wealth for settler Amerika, and the modern home ownership pyramid scheme that is the foundation of the Amerikan dream today.
Not only have millions of people lost their homes to foreclosure in recent years, but fear-mongers point out that the “2008 sub-prime mortgage market resulted in the disappearance of $13 trillion in American household wealth between mid-2007 and March 2009... on average, U.S. households lost one quarter of their wealth in that period."(5) Such alarmists ignore that Amerikans gained $10 trillion from 2006 to 2007 to reach an all-time high, and that net worth of the country's citizens has generally gone up at increasing rates since WWII.(6) The bigger ups and downs in all financial markets are certainly signs of crisis, but to act like Amerikans are being sunk to Third World conditions in 2010 is ludicrous. If only these activists would cry so loud for those who really have had to live in Third World conditions for their whole lives and for generations!
Most, if not all, of the loss in Amerikans' net worth is accounted for by stock portfolios and values of homes (which are bought and sold like stocks these days); in other words losses in finance capital. Traditionally, the petty bourgeoisie in Marxism was not exploited, nor did it significantly exploit others. To claim that those who reap profits from investments of finance capital are anything less than petty bourgeoisie is a rejection of Marxist definitions. With home ownership around 68% in recent years, that is a solid two thirds of people in the United $tates who fall squarely into the category of petty bourgeoisie or higher, including 50% of Blacks and Latinos (minimum). This group is 210 million people, or only 3% of the world's population in 2010, yet they hold more net wealth than the total market capitalization of all publicly traded companies in the world.(7)
Our critics point to the great wealth inequalities within the United $tates as reason to organize Amerikans for revolution. So let's just look at the bottom 80% of Amerikans, who owned 15% (a mere scrap from the table if you will) of the net wealth in the United $tates in 2007 (and this was a 15-year low for them).(8) While their share has decreased a few percentage points since 1983, total net worth in the United $tates has increased by almost 5 times. Therefore the lowest 80% of Amerikans went from about $2.2 trillion in net worth in 1983 to almost $10 trillion in 2007. (Two trillion dollars could eliminate world hunger for the next 66 years, until 2076.(9)) "Middle class" Amerika has assets that are greater than the GDP of China,(10) the world's industrial powerhouse representing about 20% of the world's population. That's comparing just the Amerikan "middle class" and "poor" to the whole nation of China, including its well-developed capitalist class.
Since the proletariat, by definition, has negligible net worth in the form of assets, let's look at their income.(11) Income generally increases proportionately with net worth across the globe.(12) Almost half of the world's population lives on less than $1000 per year. That is 3.14 billion people living on less than $3 trillion in a year.(13) Now before we condemn Amerikans' huge assets, let's make sure that they just aren't better at saving and investing their money than the proletariat. In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifty percent accounted for only 7.2% of consumption.(13) A conservative estimate leaves us with Amerikans, on average, consuming at least 27 times the average persyn in the poorest half of the world.(14) So money management skills cannot explain Amerika's huge net worth.
A just, sustainable humyn society requires the Amerikan labor aristocracy to be brought down to consumer levels much closer to the Third World. But this little exercise demonstrates that this is far from happening, despite the alarmists' cries.
Ultimately, the contradiction we're describing is between the labor aristocracy and the imperialists. The imperialists, in particular finance capital, are a dynamic, opportunist class. In contrast, the labor aristocracy benefits from stability of the status quo. The finance capitalists were able to make quick profits by selling the labor aristocracy short, so Amerikans are pissed. While perhaps pushing the labor aristocracy towards fascism, the finance capitalists are also undercutting the consumerism of Amerikans that their system depends on so much. What we are witnessing is an internal contradiction in the imperialist system playing out. Both groups control trillions of dollars in super-profits from the Third World, and the Anti-Imperialist United Front has no interest in one of them getting more than the other. We need to keep sitting this one out.
Migration to the United $tates
As discussed above, high wages and ballooning housing values reinforce themselves in our current economic system, making the rich richer. However, neither could be maintained without erecting a border outside of which these two things cannot flow. Therefore, keeping wages and housing values high is directly linked to the battle over increasing repression of migrant laborers within U.$. borders. The contradiction in this struggle is between oppressed nations who are trying to gain access to jobs in the United $tates and the oppressor nation that is trying to keep them out. This challenge to imperialist country privilege indicates that the battle for migrant rights is part of the anti-imperialist struggle.
While Third World people and some Amerikan youth faced Amerikan labor aristocrats on the streets, it was the U.$. District Court that put in place an injunction on most of the provisions of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 (SB1070), in light of a lawsuit filed by the U.$. Department of Justice (DOJ) against the state of Arizona. The DOJ held that immigration was under federal jurisdiction, and that they had a plan for the whole country to balance its various interests related to immigration that Arizona would not be allowed to mess up.
The interest of the bourgeois internationalists is in having free access to markets and labor, not to mention international relations. This camp includes the federal government and their finance capitalist backers as well as smaller businesses that only operate in the United $tates, but depend on migrant labor. Their conflict is with other bourgeois interests and the bourgeoisified majority of Amerikans whose position of privilege stems from the elitism of who is allowed to enter their fortress of jewels.
There is effectively a united front between the internationalism of the mass resistance to SB1070 on both sides of the Mexican border and the U.$. government acting on behalf of bourgeois internationalism. And for now, it is the imperialists who are really throwing a wrench in the works for Amerikans, even though the contradiction at its base is between oppressed nations and the oppressor nation.
A majority of Amerikans in a number of polls supported SB1070 or a similar law. The highest percentage listed in one article, 79%, did not agree that "illegal aliens are entitled to the same rights and basic freedoms as U.S. citizens."(15) This is the definition of Amerikan chauvinism. At best, one fifth of U.$. citizens don't think they deserve more than other humyn beings by virtue of being born in the United $tates. This is why we even keep an eye on the imperialists for glimmers of internationalism in the First World.
With Latinos, we can see how quickly this consciousness develops by tracking the percentage of coconuts in the population over time. A Latino Decisions poll found that 12% of second-generation Latino voters in Arizona supported SB1070. By the fourth generation it had increased to 30% supporting the coconut position.(16) Amerikanism is an insidious disease that has claimed significant portions of the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates.
Unite All Who Can Be United
While many dogmatists still criticize Mao for allying the Chinese Communists with the national bourgeoisie, we can take united front theory even further and come up with examples of progressive forces allying with the government of the imperialist superpower of the world against an oppressor nation. This goes to show that we cannot let ultra-left ideas of purity prevent us from allying with those who might help our cause.
The rightist errors in applying united front theory happen when we have incorrect lines elsewhere. Not recognizing a united front as working with an enemy class, or becoming convinced that other contradictions have been resolved, and not just pushed to a secondary position, are the main forms of rightism to guard against. Mao had to fight much rightism from other communists who thought the communists and national bourgeois forces should merge into one, where inevitably the reactionary bourgeoisie would lead because of their relative power. Rightism in the United $tates looks like people getting caught up with legislative battles over migrant rights. Without national liberation, there is no freedom for oppressed nations under imperialism. The imperialists will always oppose that, just as the Nationalists fought the Communists in civil war once the Japanese were forced out.
We do not seek unity for the sake of unity. We seek unity that utilizes all the forces possible to tackle the principal contradiction, or battles that push the principal contradiction forward. When we find strategic unity with others, the united front also provides a basis for unity-criticism-unity, which advances the struggle and deepens the unity of revolutionaries and all oppressed people for a better future.
This Report is an analysis of the censorship experienced by MIM(Prisons) from July 2009 through June 2010. In January 2008, MIM(Prisons) released our first censorship report, documenting what we can and can't get into which prisons. Last year we decided it would be best to analyze our censorship status annually instead of biannually because it often takes months to determine the status of a piece of mail.
To compile this data we rely solely on censored mail that is returned to us by mailroom staff and reports from prisoners themselves. From July 2009 to June 2010, we sent in five digits worth of mail, of which 83% were unconfirmed as received or censored. In the last reporting period, only 80% of the mail was unconfirmed. This trend shows us that even less people are reporting what mail they've gotten from us than last year, which makes drawing conclusions from our records nearly impossible. For example, when reading the state-by-state chart, it is important to remember that "no censorship reported" does not mean that all the mail got in, just that we don't know what happened. Some states with no censorship reported were: Colorado were 96% of the mail was unconfirmed; in Indiana 92%; in Mississippi 93%, and in Nebraska and New Hampshire, 100% of the mail was unreported.
This lack of data continues despite the fact that every issue of Under Lock & Key and many of our letters request that subscribers tell us what they receive from us and when each time they write. At our congress this summer we voted to adjust our policies to require subscribers to notify us of their mail status in order to stay on our mailing list. We have started sending comrades we are in correspondence with Unconfirmed Mail Forms that will list what mail we have sent them that we do not know the status of to encourage reporting. But even if you don't receive one of these forms, you should still let us know what you get from MIM Distributors or MIM(Prisons). In fact, if you tell us what you get from us before we send out the form you'll save us printing and postage costs!
Across the country, it appears that our censorship is gradually decreasing. However, if we aren't facing state repression, then we're probably doing something wrong politically. For this reason, we don't expect to ever be completely free of censorship while the United $tates is still an imperialist state. We attribute these decreases to the hard work our comrades inside have been doing to file appeals when their mail gets censored. Another reason it may appear that our censorship status is decreasing is our incomplete data — there may be censorship in places that we just don't know about.
Prisoners' Legal Clinic
In the last year we started coordinating our legal efforts in a more structured way with comrades inside through the MIM(Prisons)-led Prisoners' Legal Clinic. Members of the PLC have edited and added to the Censorship Guide that we send to prisoners who have had our lit censored; shared info and analysis about important legal issues relating to our anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist work of fighting censorship and political repression; and contributed several articles to the legal strategy issue of ULK issue 13. In this reporting year, we doubled the amount of Censorship Guides we sent out in the previous reporting year, so the help we've gotten on this guide is invaluable. We hope the PLC will eventually expand to offer counseling and preparation assistance to comrades filing anti-censorship lawsuits in the next year.
The PLC is facilitated by MIM(Prisons) but it is only as useful as the comrades who are contributing to it from the inside. Anyone who wants to engage in this important work should hook up with the PLC via MIM(Prisons); no experience necessary.
Grieving Censorship is Crucial
At Menard Correctional Center in Menard, Illinois, Under Lock & Key issue 9 was censored from dozens of comrades because of alleged "STG references and depictions of violence." A prisoner filed a grievance, and Central Review in Springfield approved ULK 9 for entry into Menard CC. We only received confirmation from this one prisoner that he received the newsletter, so it is possible that Central Review only permitted it to him. That is one example of why it is so important to file grievances about censorship.
In November 2009 we reported that the ban of literature from the Maoist Internationalist Movement was lifted in a settlement between Prison Legal News and CDCR. Even after this settlement, High Desert State Prison and Pelican Bay State Prison still returned or trashed all mail from MIM Distributors. Finally, in April 2010, High Desert Warden Mike D. McDonald assured us that ULK would be reviewed on an issue-by-issue basis instead of being automatically rejected based solely on the return address. We recently sent out issue 14 and it got in to at least some prisoners without a hitch. No such luck in Pelican Bay where even a letter saying "Hi, how's it going?" is still illegally returned to sender uninspected. The San Francisco Bay View newspaper and Revolution (by the rcp=u$a) have complained of similar problems with their publications.
Feds Use Censorship to Make Room for Infiltrators
At the United Snakes Penitentiary - MAX in Florence, Colorado, ULK issue 13 was censored because it contains the article "Security in the Prison Movement" that is MIM(Prisons)'s analysis of how we should deal with potential infiltrators, agent provocateurs, and snitches in the movement. Our advice was basically to treat everyone as a potential pig, and only give out information on a need-to-know basis. We also defended our work with prisoners on Sensitive Needs Yards and Protective Custody for similar reasons. While such prisoners are often viewed as working with the state, we pointed out that many comrades have had to leave their LOs for SNY in order to stop working for the state.
The state sees this perspective as a threat to the security of the institution (of white supremacy, no doubt). The reason given by the USP mailroom staff for its censorship is that "p. 6 and 11 discuss what to do with potential infiltrators who join the movement, not suitable for a prison environment." We wonder who they are targeting in our circle in USP Florence, that it would blow their cover to share this advice with them. The answer is probably everyone.
This report was written by our legal coordinator who took over the job shortly before our last yearly report. While building on previous work, s/he is responsible for many of the advances we made this year. Fighting censorship is central to our work with the imprisoned lumpen population in the United $tates and we always have projects for volunteer lawyers and legal assistants. The easiest thing our subscribers can do to help us out is tell us exactly what mail you have received from us and when, each time you write.
Sequel to Toy Story 1 and 2, this movie starts off with Andy, the boy who owns the toys featured in the movie, heading off to college and packing up his stuff. His toys are long forgotten in a trunk and are feeling forlorn about being abandoned. The toys end up being donated to a daycare, but not without much whining about the importance of loyalty to their original owner. Woody, the apparent hero of the movie, is an especially strong advocate of devotion to their one and only owner, even in the face of the logical argument that Andy has grown up and has no need for them any longer and so they should hope to move on to new kids.
We're not looking to liberate the toys of the world, but this movie has some insidious messages for both kids and adults. First there's this theme of loyalty to one owner, a message that is repeated later at the daycare center by the toys that have become evil dictators because they felt abandoned by their owners. This is a good subtle way of encouraging kids not to question the status quo or try to make change independently. Sure it didn't work out for the bad toys, but loyalty paid off for the good toys who end up in a good home in the end, with the blessing of their original owner.
Toy Story 3 does hammer home the point that it's not good to have evil dictators in charge. The Ken doll makes a little speech about how everyone should be treated equally to underscore that message. But this message is so blunt it's hard to see how anyone would really learn anything from it. And although the good toys work together against the evil dictator, they don't do any work among the masses of other oppressed toys to try to rally them to help. It was just a few focoist heroes, out to save themselves, who accidentally overthrew the evil dictator in their attempts to escape a bad situation. So the writers pass up an opportunity to promote organizing the people against the power structure in favor of focoist hero worship.
The one correct message in Toy Story 3 comes when the evil dictator toy and the good toys end up in the trash burning machine and they are all about to die. The good toys try to work with the evil dictator bear to save themselves and him, and he abuses their trust to save just himself. This is a lesson we can apply to the imperialists who will never give up their power peacefully and work with the people for the common good.
The last thing worth commenting on in this movie is the reinforcement of patriarchal gender roles. The two main female characters are Barbie (playing, well, a barbie doll who spends most of her time working on her relationship with Ken) and Jessie, who's a bit of a tom boy who at least gets to go along on adventures with Woody, but who is very much taken in by the romancing of a Spanish-speaking Buzz Lightyear. So basically the focus of the plot involving the two main female characters is romance. There is some mild mocking of gender roles around the Ken doll who has way more outfits than, it is implied, a normal man might have. But the implication seems to be that he's a toy more fit to be played with by a girl than a boy. Nothing very progressive.
Overall MIM(Prisons) would recommend this movie to supporters of the patriarchy and the imperialist system. It would be useful for training their children in some of the norms of the oppressive world that they love.
On July 9 at around 2:30 p.m. the announcement was made that the official verdict on the trial of Johannes Mehserle, the transit pig who shot Oscar Grant in the back and killed him, would be released that day, and immediately people started gathering at the major intersection of 14th and Broadway in downtown Oakland, California. At about 4:15 p.m., the verdict of involuntary manslaughter was released. This is the lowest charge that the jury could have chosen to give Mehserle, and as expected, the people of Oakland were pissed. Our comrades attended the protest, equipped with fliers emphasizing that the movement needs to be elevated from rioting into conscious revolutionary struggle generally, and national liberation struggles specifically, if people want to stop the murders of more Oscar Grants. The flier suggested Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth and Black Panther Party original documents as good starting points for a successful transition into a movement to truly end police brutality.
Government employees in the downtown area were under a mandatory evacuation, and business people were high-tailing it out of there as fast as the freeways could take them. The state and the media had hyped it up to be L.A. in 1992. That was far from the case. Still many large buildings were boarded up 20 feet high for days; others were frantically drilling in plywood as protesters converged. The hype was so extreme that even one discount grocery store located a mile from the epicenter of the protest boarded its windows as soon as the jury went into deliberation - as if a crazed mob would travel so far to loot their expired yogurt.
The City of Oakland set up a sound system in front of Town Hall that was supposed to serve as a speak-out, but was just playing funk for a few casual dancers, sometimes so loud that it seemed like they were attempting to drown out the actual protest. The rest of the 1000 people were gathered around a much smaller sound system in the adjacent intersection, having their own speak-out. The soap box ran from about 5-8 p.m., and the "don't tear up Oakland" position that was emphasized so strongly at past protests seemed to have taken a back seat on the collective agenda of the group. Most messages were that this verdict is bullshit, the system isn't going to give justice for Oscar Grant, and we need to organize. There was also a strong recognition that Black people were the targets of this violence and of the need for Black nationalism.
The typical divisive tactics that we had reported on at previous at Oscar Grant movement events was also present. One man insisted on addressing "just the Oaklanders" and advised the Black youth to not get "pimped" by "outside agitators." The response from the crowd was cold. The next speaker said he was also asked to speak on "outside agitators" and went on to point out that Martin Luther King, Jr. was called an "outside agitator" everywhere he went in the South. He said that no one is "outside" the struggle for justice, and went on to point out that the only people who are coming from outside the movement to cause problems were the pigs. This brother received enthusiastic cheers.
This theme was one that had been playing out for weeks within the organizations preparing for the verdict. Reportedly, non-profit leaders and those working with the City government were spearheading the line that the Black youth of Oakland couldn't rebel without white people from the suburbs telling them what to do. This racist bullshit had already been struggled against for weeks leading up to the verdict. While some in the crowd were dismissive of white speakers, telling them to get down, ultimately it was the content of what was being said that the protesters recognized. While there was a strong contingent of self-proclaimed locals saying "be cool" and using the local slang to attempt to create divisions, their effect seemed minimal.
During the speak out, pigs were lined up several blocks from the protest, controlling foot traffic and warning "unsuspecting" bicyclists of the "danger" ahead. At 8 p.m. the soap box was shut down by the City and everyone was hanging out in the streets, occupying several blocks of Broadway. After about thirty minutes, a trash can was lit on fire but protesters put it out within a minute. Occasional bottles were thrown at the pigs, and when any excuse was given to the pigs to attack, many of the protesters would run like hell. The pigs were surprisingly non-reactive, however, and would just occasionally change positions, pushing the protest north on Broadway. This didn't prevent "Fuck the Police" from being the most popular chant of the night.
A Foot Locker was looted, and many people made out with fresh kicks and jerseys. A group of three to four protesters started guarding the Foot Locker and tried to appeal to the protesters to not loot, which they said would prove that they are just ignorant Black people and would prove "them" right ("them" presumably being the white legislators and City officials who they hope to ask for justice). On the other hand, the guards correctly emphasized that there are Black organizations to get involved in to deal with these issues, and that looting the shoe store won't stop killings. If there was a strong Black vanguard in the area, MIM(Prisons) would have worked with them at this event rather than promoting study and building of new cadre groups. That's not to say there aren't a number of small, semi-underground formations that are worth working with, but none of them wield the power or influence to have led the rebellion.
The Black Panther Party asserted the need for a vanguard to organize and lead the masses down the most effective path to power in The Correct Handling of a Revolution, following the uprisings in 1968 across the country. It states, "There are basically three ways one can learn: through study, through observation, and through actual experience." They go on to say that the Black community generally learns through observation and participation. Unfortunately, the lessons put forth in this article were not observable at the demonstrations this year or last, indicating that study is needed. While the fires, graffiti and smashed windows grab our immediate attention, it is the serious organizing efforts that will allow the Oscar Grant movement to have a lasting effect. While it is hard to quantify these efforts now, the mood of the speakers indicate that despite the lack of a vanguard organization leading the rebellions, many are thinking and moving in this direction.
Over the next few hours the crowd gradually dwindled, smoke bombs and fire crackers were set off, windows broken, over a dozen dumpsters and trash cans lit up, graffiti was sprayed, garbage cans tossed into the transit stations, as the crowd was constantly pushed north, sectioned off, and divided by the pigs. At one point the street lights went out and three gun shots were fired from an unknown source, but apparently nobody was hit. Unlike the usual large demonstrations in the Bay Area, many protesters tonight were armed, but attacks on police were limited to rocks, bottles and, according to police, a few molotov cocktails. By 11 p.m., the protest had reduced to small groups launching hit-and-run tactics on stores. Their movement seemed guided by the police, who vastly outnumbered them. At the end of the day, there were 78 arrests.
Although our comrades were not on the front lines for the whole showdown, a tazer was only heard once, and while there were regular explosions heard, no reports are claiming that they were caused by the kkkops. Overall it seemed like the pigs were on their best behavior (for being stinking fucking pigs, anyway). This was clearly unexpected behavior by most protesters, who were constantly running at the slightest sign of action, only to return a few minutes later when they realized the tear gas and rubber bullets had yet to arrive. Activists were expecting the worst, including the use of the a $675,000 long-range acoustic device (a machine that produces sound waves that can cause permanent damage) that the Oakland Police Department recently purchased. Again, it never showed up.
The pigs outnumbered and outlasted the protesters. When the rebels had been reduced to a couple hundred, the pigs still had reinforcements coming in and surely more on standby. The fact that there was no need to resort to severe repression demonstrated their control over the situation. Evidently, they were willing to sacrifice a few downtown businesses as a pressure release. The next morning, the Oakland police chief was celebratory about their ability to control and contain the rebellions.
Mehserle's sentence is due out in November, and could range from 14 years in prison to probation. We expect the day of sentencing to re-ignite these protests all over the state.
Notes: Prisoners write us for a copy of "Oscar Grant: organization, line and strategy" printed on the anniversary of the initial rebellions following Grant's murder.
Starting with the basics: what is often referred to as the "mind" is a complex collection of biochemical reactions that occur in the humyn brain, a physical object. To take a materialist approach to mental health, we must not talk about the "mind" as a separate entity from the physical body. The belief that there is a mind or spirit separate from the physical being is a concept called dualism and is at the basis of most idealist philosophies in the world today.
Applying a basic concept of probability to genetics and biology we can accept that there are going to be humyns that are born with brains that have physical characteristics that lead them to function different than normal, and in some cases that will mean these individuals are less capable of basic humyn functions. That said, the complex biochemistry of the brain is susceptible to all sorts of outside influences from even before an animal is born. These include chemicals in the form of food, medicine and environmental pollutants, as well as physical conditions that induce biochemical responses within the body, such as stress, isolation, and irregular daylight cycles. Therefore, most discussions of inborn psychological disorders lack a scientific basis, as scientists cannot control the myriad of outside factors that influence the brain throughout an animal's lifespan.
A sociological approach shows that mental health has strong connections to gender oppression. In, Getting Clarity on what Gender Oppression is, MC5 defined gender as being found in leisure-time, related to pleasure. Therefore depression, an extreme lack of pleasure, and the alienation that leads to it is largely shaped in the realm of gender. In MIM Theory 9, there is a focus on the disproportionate mental health struggles of wimmin and youth. As we laid out in more detail in Gender Oppression in U.$. Prisons (ULK 1), lumpen youth are gender oppressed by Amerikan biowimmin, and are some of the most gender oppressed within U.$. borders. We suspect prisoners suffer more from mental health problems than wimmin and youth in the United $tates.
The Scientific Method
The bourgeois approach to conflict and problem solving is individualistic. When problems are dealt with on the individual level, only a few problems are solved and then held up as examples that "anyone" can achieve, but most problems are either not solved in the first place, or recur soon after they are solved. Communists, on the other hand, work in the interests of the vast majority in the world today who are oppressed by the powerful. Our strategy is to solve problems at the group level, and mental health is no exception.
While dialectical materialists often refer to themselves as scientists, this does not mean that all scientific work is for the benefit of the people. A more pointed attack would be asking questions like, "what type of science spends millions of dollars studying the effects of long-term isolation on brain waves?" Maoists abolished isolation as a form of psychological treatment in the 1950s. Prior to that time, psychological work in socialist China was criticized by the people because it consisted largely of scientists in labs doing studies isolated from the real world. For a discipline that is supposedly about the mental state of people, which is very dependent on society, this is a very backwards approach. As a result of criticisms, the Chinese practice evolved to focus on improving people's understanding and engagement with the real world. But today, under imperialism, we are still stuck in these archaic forms of mental health research.(1)
As the 1st Crown of BORO describes in h article on psychology, scientific theories are often wrong and often guided by the interests of the group to which the scientist belongs. The theories that subspecies of humyns existed were developed by nations that were in the process of expanding their domination over other peoples. Prior to the development of genetic testing it was harder to argue that theories about different races or subspecies of humyns were incorrect as we can today. Criminology today is similarly tainted by the interests of the oppressors.
Who is Mentally Ill?
In MIM Theory 9, MCB52's review of psychological practice in revolutionary China gives an excellent overview of the subject.(1) S/he prefaces h article by pointing out that those who are diagnosed with mental health problems are mostly "pissed off people rationally resisting the hegemonic culture one way or another. This especially affects youth and women, and rather than trying to 'cure' it — we celebrate it!" However, many people struggle to function as a result. And therefore, there is a great overlap of people struggling with mental health and interested in communist politics, both inside and outside prisons.
In imperialist prisons, the ambiguity of diagnosing people as mentally ill becomes very pronounced. Part of the problem is that imprisonment causes mental health problems, so people who may not have had symptoms that would lead to a diagnosis often develop them. Yet it is not in the oppressor's interests to recognize this problem, so staff feel that they must draw a line between the truly ill and the "fakers." Rather than seeing the prisons as causing mental illness, they see people acting out for attention in contrast to those who were born with "real" mental illness. Such silly exercises allow them to keep some prisoners sedated while pushing others to suicide.(2)
As with most problems we face, we can find answers to mental health problems through dialectical materialism and in having the correct political line. In the 1950s the Chinese eliminated the more backwards psychological practices in their society and replaced them with ones focused on getting individuals to connect with and help shape the material world through applying dialectical materialism. Mental health care, like much of Chinese society under Mao, emphasized the importance of both self-reliance and collective help, with the understanding that patients can fight their diseases and lead productive lives in the new society. This required the participation of the patient's family, doctors, and revolutionary committee at their place of employment.(3) Unfortunately, today we don't have that kind of support in our society, and prisoners as a group are even worse off. So keeping your political line right to stay sane requires even more effort.
One article in this issue of ULK gives an example of sleep deprivation being used as a means of social control. While some have claimed to have trained themselves over time to require very little sleep, such as George Jackson, medical research has demonstrated the importance of regular sleep. Ultra-leftism leads one to take the weight of the world on one's shoulders, and push the purist and extreme line without recognition of one's conditions of struggle. While we encourage comrades to strive to improve their efficiency, we should also take an approach that promotes our health and longevity, as we have a long struggle ahead of us.
We often get letters from comrades in isolation, who are clearly well-read and want to change the system, but their articles are mostly confused and hard to decipher. These comrades have been lost to the system, and at this point there's not much we can do to bring them back. So we must work together with those who aren't lost, to keep them sane and on point. Ultra-leftism can feed into one's isolation, which can be a very bad combo for someone who is already in a prison cell. Develop routines, set goals, and track your progress. All of these things can help you stay sharp mentally when you are physically isolated. But do not let the lack of control you have over your conditions lead you to take up extreme behaviors that threaten your physical or mental health.
The topic that triggered the call for an issue focused on mental health was suicide, which can be associated with a political line of defeatism. We've been getting a number of responses and stories on the topic after a mention in Ra'd's obituary a few months back. One prison censored Under Lock & Key for talking about suicide. While the motivation was not clear, the numerous stories we receive show that these institutions encourage people who are locked up to commit suicide. Censoring open discussions on preventing suicide is just one more way to do this. Yet, at another prison the psychological services staff are giving out our address as a resource for people with suicidal tendencies. This is good news, but probably not common across the country where prisoners are twice as likely to commit suicide as the general population.(4) Overall, suicide rates are higher in the United $tates than many other countries, and comparisons to socialist China in the 1970s showed suicide and schizophrenia to be hundreds of times more common in the United $tates.(5)
If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, write to MIM(Prisons) to get a copy of our struggle with a comrade printed in ULK 13, as well as the self-criticism by a suicidal comrade printed in MIM Theory 9. These are good starting points for re-evaluating your own life in relation to the struggle.(6) In general, we prescribe study and political work. Come up with ways to contribute more to the struggle, while doing any little things you can to improve your immediate situation such as exercise, eating better, meditating, writing people on the outside, forming local discussion groups and staying away from negative influences.
And remember, the purpose of these prisons is to control certain populations. Getting you to end your own life is the ultimate form of control. Therefore, suicide and mental health are closely linked to other forms of control including beating people into submission, drugging them, denying them due process and sexually assaulting them. Exposing and struggling against these abuses is part of the struggle against suicide in U.$. prisons.
Notes: (1) MCB52. "Psychological Practice in the Chinese Revolution," MIM Theory 9: Psychology and Imperialism, MIM Distributors: 1995. p.34. (2) U.S. Prisons Prove Maddening: review of Terry Kuper's book Prison Madness by MIM (3) Sidel, Victor & Ruth. Serve the People: Observations on Medicine in the People's Republic of China, Beacon Press: 1973. p. 156. (4) Kupers, Terry. Prison Madness: the Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About it, Jossey-Bass Publishers: 1999. p.175. (5) HC116. The Imperialist-Patriarchy's phony Anti-Stigma, 22 April 2005. (6) For more testimonies and strategies from control unit survivors see: Survivors Manual compiled by Bonnie Kerness Coordinator AFSC Prison Watch Program 89 Market Street, 6th Floor Newark, NJ 07102
In this response to the Missouri petition, the Deputy Warden of Potosi Correctional Center (PCC) "argues" that staff at PCC do not violate the First Amendment rights of prisoners held there. When it's a pig's word against a prisoner's, the trend in Amerikan society is to trust their own.
While this administrator likely considers this case to be closed, we instead view his correspondence as another example that there are no rights, only power struggles. To build public opinion in favor of national liberation struggles, we draw out, collect, and expose these flaws in the "justice" system. We also try to push people to change their minds against reformism as an ultimate goal, and to respond to these examples with actions to build a new society. Put in work!
In May 2010, the Sacramento Bee published a series of articles detailing abuses of prisoners in long-term isolation in several CDCR prisons, including at High Desert State Prison (HDSP). (1, 2) On 10 May 2010 they reported on the American Friends Service Committee's attempt to have the brutality claims brought against High Desert investigated by the state Senate, in hopes that an official investigation would lead to restrictions on the use of long-term isolation. (3) We commend the Sacramento Bee for bringing such an important issue to their mainstream audience. (Although judging from the comments left on the article at sacbee.com you would think members of the CCPOA are the only people who read it.)
These articles by the Sacramento Bee reconfirm much of the information published in Under Lock & Key and on www.prisoncensorship.info since January 2008 that staff at HDSP commit a long list of atrocities against prisoners to manipulate them into submission, or for just plain fun. These abuses include, but are not limited to: tampering with mail, privileges, food, and medical care; calling prisoners racist names; tampering with/discarding/ignoring grievances; and the sweeping use of excessive physical force and sexual coercion. (4-6) Recently we received reports of a racist, oppressive lockdown of so-called "northern Hispanics", which further proves that these injustices are still going on today.
As an outside organization sending literature to prisoners inside, the form of repression MIM(Prisons) is most familiar with at HDSP is their strong commitment to keep prisoners isolated by using arbitrary, outdated, and illegal censorship practices. They have consistently returned mail to us unopened. When asked for an explanation, they cited an outdated ban that was overturned in a settlement between Prison Legal News and CDCR in April 2007.
In a letter from HDSP Warden Mike D. McDonald dated April 23, 2010, he uses poor writing skills to ambiguously admit that there is no ban on MIM literature, while still maintaining that all mail from "MIM Publishers" is a threat to security.
"High Desert State Prison has been receiving MIM Publications [sic] from your company which contains information that could pose a threat to the safety of staff and inmates. This publication is in violation of California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 15 and the Department Operations Manual (DOM).
". . . All MIM publications that are sent to this institution will be reviewed on an issue-by-issue basis. If it is found that a publication has violated our policies it will be disallowed and the inmate will receive a CDCR-1819 Notification of Disapproval."
Even though Warden McDonald avoided answering the direct question laid out in the letter he is responding to ("Why was MIM Theory 8: Revolutionary Nationalism returned to us with 'Disallowed Item' stamped on the envelope and no further explanation?"), it is still a step in the right direction for him to allege that lit from MIM(Prisons) will be reviewed on an issue-by-issue basis in the future.
Thanks to the articles in the Sacramento Bee, public pressure on the administration at HDSP is at a high point. We look forward to hearing from prisoners in HDSP regarding their receipt of ULK 14, or those promised 1819s!