For our own sanity, and for freedom, we must recognize that there are no rights, only power struggles. As the articles in this issue of ULK demonstrate, so-called "rights" on a piece of paper are only a point of reference for debate. Their enforcement will depend on the actions of the different forces, groups, classes involved.
We hope that after reading this issue you are inspired to know that we are all struggling against the same oppressor in very similar ways. Some may use these stories to justify not rocking the boat, but they would be wrong. These are stories of people who are merely trying to educate themselves, or obtain basic respect, and they are attacked. These stories were hand-picked to demonstrate the political motivations of state employees, and to disprove the theory that repression is only used when necessary to prevent crime and control "trouble makers."
While we haven't received any reports directly from the comrades involved, a couple of organized collective struggles have created headlines over the last month in U.$. prisons. The Georgia strike was an historical event that involved thousands of prisoners from four different facilities who were responding to the lack of pay for labor, visiting rights and other abuses. One participant reported:
"On December 9, Georgia state prisoners stuck together and learned what their togetherness could do. They learned that they could get more accomplished being unified than they ever could being separated. For this day, Black, White, Brown, Red and Yellow came together. This day saw the coming together of Muslim and Christian, Protestant and Catholic, Crip and Blood, Gangster Disciple and Vice Lord, Nationalist and Socialist. All came together. All were together. The only antagonistic forces were the Oppressors and the Oppressed."(1)
These peaceful protesters faced lockdown, followed by brutal beatings for many, and dozens remain disappeared to unknown locations.(2) It is struggles like this during the 1960s that led to the rise of the Black Panther Party within the Black nation, and other revolutionary organizations. Prisoners are well organized internally, and working with many on the outside, so they are clear that this battle is not over.
Meanwhile, in the Ohio State Penitentiary Supermax, four comrades protested years of torture by engaging in a hunger strike. These comrades continue to be persecuted for their participation in the famous Lucasville uprising in 1993. As we go to print, we've heard reports that after a two week strike, their demands for semi-contact visits, real rec, access to legal materials, and commissary were granted. In a statement from one of the participants, the message of this issue of Under Lock & Key is echoed:
"If justice as a concept is real, then I could with some justification say, 'Justice delayed is justice denied.' But this has never been about justice, and I finally, finally, finally understand that. For the past 16 years, I (we) have been nothing more than a scapegoat for the state, and convenient excuse that they can point to whenever they need to raise the specter of fear among the public or justify the expenditure of inordinate amounts of money for more locks and chains.
"And not only that, but the main reason behind the double penalty that we have been undergoing is so that we can serve as an example of what happens to those who challenge the power and authority of the state. And like good little pawns, we’re supposed to sit here and wait until they take us to their death chamber, strap us down to a gurney, and pump poison through our veins. Fuck that! I refuse to go out like that: used as a tool by the state to put fear into the hearts of others while legitimizing a system that is bogus and sold to those with money. That’s not my destiny."(3)
Finally, over 150 prisoners , imprisoned for alleged involvement in the Maoist movement, from a number of prisons in India went on hunger strike this week in response to the killing of unarmed villagers.(4) While the imperialists want to demonize the alleged violence of those struggling for basic rights in U.$. prisons, they engage in mass murder across the Third World to ensure the flow of profits to this country.
Today, many oppressed nation men in the United $tates find themselves in situations where even possessing books or affiliating with each other is against the law. This isn't just in prisons, but in oppressed nation communities on the outside as our comrade in Texas describes (see page XXX). As another example, within the struggle for justice for Oscar Grant, gang injunctions were used against young Blacks to declare it illegal to affiliate in any way with the Black Riders Liberation Party. Faced with such obstacles, we continue to learn what struggle is, and what is really necessary to obtain the conditions that all humyn beings deserve.
Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, Featuring Exchanges with an Outlaw by Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, Minister of Defense, New Afrikan Black Panther Party- Prison Chapter December 2010 Kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
also available from: AK Press 674-A 23rd Street Oakland, CA 94612
This book centers around the political dialogue between two revolutionary New Afrikan prisoners. The content is very familiar to MIM(Prisons) and will be to our readers. It is well-written, concise and mostly correct. Therefore it is well worth studying.
Rashid's book is also worth studying alongside this review to better distinguish the revisionist line of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC) with the MIM line. While claiming to represent a dialectal materialist assessment of the world we live in, the camp that includes the NABPP-PC, and Tom Big Warrior's (TBW) Red Heart Warrior Society have dogmatically stuck to positions on the oppression and exploitation of Amerikans that have no basis in reality. We will take some space to address this question at the end, as it has not been thoroughly addressed in public to our knowledge.
Both Rashid and Outlaw preface their letters with their own autobiographies. Rashid's in particular is an impressive, almost idealized story of lumpen turned proletarian revolutionary. The simple principle that guides him through prison life is standing up to the pigs every time they violate a prisoner. At times he has inspired those around him to the point that the pigs can't get away with anything. The problem, he later points out, is the others are inspired by him as an individual. So when he was moved, or sent to a control unit, their unity crumbled.
At first, control units seemed an effective tool to control his resistance. But it is then that he found revolutionary theory. Rather than stay focused on combating minor behavior issues of the COs, he began to learn about societies that didn't have cops and prisons, and societies where the people rose up to transform the whole economic system. It is through ideology that you can build lasting unity that can't be destroyed by transfers and censorship.
Both Rashid and Outlaw conclude their autobiographies saying they have nothing to lose. They are two examples of the extreme repression felt by the lumpen of the oppressed nations. As a result, state terrorism no longer works to intimidate them, leaving them free to serve the people.
Democratically Centralized Organizing
In the foreword, Russell "Maroon" Shoats says his reason for not joining the NABPP-PC was that it claimed to operate under democratic centralism, which he believes is impossible for prisoners. We agree with his assessment, which is why we do not invite prisoners to join MIM(Prisons) even when their work and ideological development would otherwise warrant it. The benefits of having a tight cadre organization are lost when its inner workings are wide open to the pigs. Maroon points out that certain leaders will end up with absolute power (with the pigs determining who leads, we might add), and much resources are wasted just trying to maintain the group.
For the most part, there is nothing a comrade could do within prison as a member of MIM(Prisons) that they can't do as a member of USW. There is much work to be done to develop this mass organization, and we need experienced and ideologically trained comrades to lead it. When the situation develops to the point of having local cadre level organizations within a prison, then we would promote the cell structure, where democratic centralism can occur at a local level, just as we do on the outside.
In the last essay of the book, Rashid finally answers Maroon by saying that the NABPP-PC is a pre-party that will become real (along with its democratic centralism) outside of prisons.
The Original Black Panther Party
The main criticism of the original Black Panther Party (BPP) in Rashid's essay on organizational structure is their failure to distinguish between the vanguard party and the mass organization. Connected to this was a failure to practice democratic centralism. How could they when they were signing up members fresh off the street? These new recruits shouldn't have the same say as Huey Newton, but neither should Huey Newton alone dictate what the party does. We agree with Rashid that the weakness of the BPP came from these internal contradictions, which allowed the FBI to destroy it so quickly.(p. 353)
It's not clear how this assessment relates to an earlier section where he implies that an armed mass base and better counterintelligence would have protected the BPP. Rashid criticizes MIM's line, as he sees it, that a Black revolutionary party cannot operate above ground in the United $tates today.(p. 133) Inexplicably, 15 pages later he seems to agree with MIM by stating that Farrakhan would have to go underground or be killed the next day if he opposed capitalism and promoted real New Afrikan independence.
He also criticizes MIM on armed struggle and their assessment of George Jackson's foco theory. Mao applied Sun Tzu's Art of War to the imperialist countries to say that revolutionaries should not engage in armed struggle until their governments are truly helpless. Rashid says that he agrees with MIM's criticism of the Cuban model that lacked a mass base for revolution. But he supports George Jackson's "variant of urban-based focos, emphasiz[ing] that a principal purpose of revolutionary armed struggle is to not only destroy the enemy's forces, but to protect the political work and workers…"(p.134) He goes on to criticize MIM for a "let's wait" line that ends up promoting a bloodless revolution in his view.
He complains that the U.$. military was already overextended (in 2004) and MIM was "still just talking." But Mao defined the point to switch strategies as when "the bourgeoisie becomes really helpless, [and] the majority of the proletariat are determined to rise in arms and fight…" MIM(Prisons) agrees with Mao's military strategy, and one would have to be in a dream world to imply that either of these conditions have been reached, despite the level of U.$. military involvement abroad. Rashid is saying that we need armed struggle regardless of conditions to defend our political wing. Despite his successes with using force to defend the masses in prison, we do not think this translates to conditions in general society. Guerrilla theory that tells us to only fight battles we know we can win also says not to take up defensive positions around targets that we can't defend.
Another criticism made by Rashid is that the BPP didn't enforce a policy of members committing class suicide, and he seems to criticize their self-identification as a "lumpen" party in 1970 and 1971. Interestingly, he foresees a "working-class-conscious petty bourgeois" leading the New Afrikan liberation struggle.(p.232) He comes down left of the current New Afrikan Maoist Party (NAMP) line by condemning the call for independent Black capitalism as unrealistic, and requiring the petty bourgeoisie to commit class suicide as well.(p.177) Whether the vanguard is more petty bourgeois or lumpen in origin is a minor point, but we mention all this to ask why all the class suicide if all Amerikans are so exploited and oppressed as he claims elsewhere (see below)?
Tom Big Warrior
In contrast to Rashid, except for some superficial mentions of Maoist terminology, we don't have much agreement with Tom Big Warrior (TBW) in his introduction or his afterword to this book. In both, he states that the principal contradiction in the world is internal to the U.$. empire, and it is between its need to consolidate hegemony and the chaos it creates. This implies a theory where imperialism is collapsing internally, and will be taken down by chaos rather than the conscious rising of the oppressed nations as MIM(Prisons) believes. He speaks favorably of intercommunalism, as has Rashid who once wrote that "the old definitions of nationalism no longer apply." We see intercommunalism as an ultra-left line that undermines the approach of national liberation struggles.
Speaking for the NABPP-PC on page 380, TBW states that they want a Comintern to direct revolutionaries around the world. We oppose a new Comintern, following in the footsteps of MIM, Mao and Stalin. In the past, TBW has taken up other erroneous lines of the rcp=u$a such as accusing Third World nations of "Muslim fascism." He also talks out of both sides of his mouth like Bob Avakian about Amerikan workers benefiting from imperialism, but also being victims of it. He has openly attacked the MIM line as being "crazy," while admitting to have never studied it. This is the definition of idealism, when one condemns theories based on what one desires to be the truth.
Wait, Are Whites Revolutionary?
After reading this book, you might ask yourself that question. Comrades have already asked this question of NABPP-PC and TBW in the past and received a clear answer of "yes." This debate is old. The former Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) had it with the so-called "Revolutionary Communist Party (USA)" (rcp=u$a), among others, for decades before denouncing them as a CIA front. Interestingly, Rashid and TBW both like to quote Bob Avakian but fail to provide an assessment or criticism of the rcp=u$a line in this 386 page volume.
Most of these writings predate the formation of the NABPP-PC, but are presented in a book with the NABPP-PC's name on it, so we will take it as representative of their line. The history of struggle with the MIM camp dates back to the original writing of much of the material presented in this book. Comrades in the MIM camp, including United Struggle from Within, the emerging NAMP, and a comrade who went on to help found MIM(Prisons) engaged in debates with all of the leading members of the party, as well as TBW, shortly after their formation.
The point is that not only had at least two of the NABPP-PC's leaders studied MIM line prior to forming their own, but they openly opposed this line following their formation. While not addressed directly, it seems that the only line dividing the NABPP-PC from joining the rcp=u$a is its belief in the need for a separate vanguard for the New Afrikan nation.
Contradictory Class Analyses: Economics
On pages 205-6 Outlaw asks Rashid:
"But from your analysis of these classes who do you consider to be the most revolutionary, considering the majority of workers in empire are complacent to some degree or another, due to the international class relationships of empire to the Third World nations, and the conveniences proletarians, and even lumpen-proletarians, are afforded as a result of that international situation and relationship?"
Rashid responds on pages 208-9 by stating that our class analysis is "mandatory for waging any successful resistance" but that he is only able to give a general analysis due to his lack of access to information. He does say:
"[T]he US is neither a majority peasant nor proletarian society. It is principally petty bourgeoisie. It has an over 80% service-based economy… So the US proletarian class is small and growing increasingly so, while the world proletariat is growing and becoming increasingly multi-ethnic."
On page 122 he also upholds this line that all non-productive workers are petty bourgeois, and not exploited proletarians. On page 232 he expands this analysis to explain the relationship between the imperialist nations, who are predominantly petty bourgeois, and the Third World that is mostly exploited. But in a footnote he takes it all back saying, "modern technological advances have broadened the scope of the working class" and clearly states, "[t]he predominantly service sector US working class is in actuality part of the proletarian class." He justifies this by saying that the income of these service workers is no different than the industrial proletariat. Yet he takes an obviously chauvinist approach of only comparing incomes of Amerikans. The real industrial proletariat is in the Third World and makes a small fraction of what Amerikan so-called "workers" do.
We agree that it is dogmatic to say this persyn is proletariat because she makes the tools and this persyn is not because she cleans the factory. But this is a minor point. The real issue is that whole countries, such as the United $tates, are not self-sustainable, but are living on the labor and resources of other nations. A country that is made up of mostly service workers cannot continue to pay all its people without exploiting wealth from somewhere else, since only the productive labor creates value.
A less disputed line put forth by Rashid and TBW is that U.$. prisoners are exploited. We have put forth our thesis debunking the exploitation myth, and exposing the prison system as an example of the parasitic "service" economy built on the sweat and blood of the Third World.(see ULK 8) More outrageously, in an article on the 13th Amendment, Rashid says that over 1/2 of Amerikans are currently "enslaved" by capitalism. This article contains some unrealistic claims, such as that no one could possibly enjoy working in the imperialist countries, and that these workers do not have freedom of mobility. Over half of Amerikans own homes. Not only are these alleged "slaves" landowners, but in the modern imperialist economy real estate has become more closely related to finance capital in a way that super-profits are gained by owning real estate in the First World. (see ULK 17)
Both Rashid and Outlaw demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between imperialist countries and the Third World, with Rashid going so far to say that reparations to New Afrika outside of a war against imperialism would mean more exploitation of the proletariat. While contradictory, Rashid's economic analysis in the original letters is more correct than not. In his treatment of history we will see more confusion, and perhaps some reasons why he ended up finding the "multi-national working class" to be the necessary vehicle for revolution in the United $tates despite his focus on single-nation organizing.
Contradictory Class Analyses: History
While repeatedly recalling the history of poor whites becoming slave catchers, marking the first consolidation of the white nation, Rashid lists "join[ing] their struggle up with the Israeli working class" as one of the strategies that would have led to greater success for Hamas.(p.50) This schizophrenic approach to the settler nations is present throughout the book. He echoes J. Sakai on Bacon's Rebellion, but then discards the overall lessons of Sakai's book Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat. While Sakai argued that these poor, former indentured servants had joined the oppressor nation in 1676, Rashid argues that modern-day Israelis and Amerikans, most of whom are in the top 10% income bracket globally, are exploited proletarians and allies in the struggle for a communist future.
Later in the book he goes so far as to say that white "right-wing militias, survivalists and military hobbyists" are "potential allies" who "have a serious beef with imperialist monopoly capitalism." This issue came to the forefront with the "anti-globalization" movement in the later 1990s. Both MIM and J. Sakai(1) led the struggle to criticize the anti-imperialist anarchists for following the lead of the white nationalist organizations calling for Amerikan protectionism. These groups are the making of a fascist movement in the United $tates which is why the distinction between exploited and exploiter nations is so important.
In the discussion of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) we gain some insight into Rashid's contradictory lines on who our friends and enemies are. Here he correctly explains that European countries bought off their domestic populations with wealth from the Third World, to turn those working classes against the Third World workers and peasants. But his turn from the MIM line takes place in attempting to address the strategy of the RNA. He sees a strong danger of neo-colonialism in the RNA struggle for national liberation, as happened in the numerous liberation struggles in Africa itself. So he talks about how ultimately we want a world without nations, so let's put class first to solve this problem (and he assumes most white Amerikans are proletariat). This is an ultraleft error of getting ahead of conditions. He goes on to say that the imperialists would easily turn the white population against a minority New Afrikan liberation movement trying to seize the Black Belt South. Here you have a rightist justification for pragmatism.
This is not to dismiss either of those concerns, which are very real. But his solution in both cases is based in a faulty class analysis. This book paraphrases Mao to point out that your class analysis is your starting point, and that your political line determines your success. Liquidating a New Afrikan revolutionary movement into a white class struggle over superprofits will not succeed in achieving his stated goals of a world without oppression. While the original Black Panthers themselves put forth different class analyses of Amerika at various points, they proved in practice that developing strong Black nationalism will bring out those sectors of the white population who are sympathetic. We must not cater to the majority of white people, but to the world's majority of people.
Dangers of Revisionism
The danger of revisionism is that it works to lead good potential recruits away from the revolutionary cause, both setting back the movement and discouraging others. The fact that Rashid sounds like MIM half the time in this book makes it more likely he will attract those with more scientific outlooks. We think those familiar with MIM Theory, or who have at least read this review could find this book both useful and interesting. However, the NABPP-PC and TBW are actively promoting a number of incorrect lines under the Panther banner, to the very people who need the Panthers' correct example of Maoism the most. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and it is far beyond time that we bring these criticisms into the open to advance the ideological understanding of the whole movement.
Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2010)
We have to give props to a kids' movie that can portray an anti-fascist struggle, while downplaying the glamor of war. Soren is a young owl who dreams of meeting his heroes, the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, who are legendary for defending the owls against evil forces. He and his brother Kludd are kidnapped by the fascist owls, "The Pure Ones", who recruit a select few from their species of owls to join their army and enslave all other species of owls. Soren escapes and flees to find the Guardians for help while his brother joins the Nazi owls.
Soren's journey to the Guardians requires him to learn to fly and take a difficult trip with a few fellow travelers who believe in the mission. As the Guardians gather information and prepare for battle with the fascists they learn that one of their leaders is working for the enemy and has betrayed them. This is a good lesson in the need for vigilance against spies and turncoats in the anti-fascist struggle.
Kludd's decision to join the fascists is played as a simplistic need for recognition after a childhood of struggling to achieve next to his brother. But this is not so far off. Fascism appeals to people who are easily convinced that their lack of success can be overcome at the expense of others. In Amerika we have a large labor aristocracy who are paid more than the value of their labor with profits brought home from exploitation of Third World workers; these workers have a material interest in imperialism. Those who are in the lowest stratum of the labor aristocracy look around and see that they are not achieving the same wealth as their peers. This group of people are the most likely to go for fascist rhetoric that blames their failures on immigrants and Third World workers with promises of greater wealth for those who deserve it (i.e. the white nation). There was no labor aristocracy in The Owls of Ga'Hoole but the oppressed nations were represented by the different species of owls who, just by nature of birth, were considered inferior to "The Pure Ones."
When Soren meets the Guardians he gets to know one who is somewhat crazy and a bit of an outcast, only to learn that he was the heroic leader in previous battles. From this owl Soren learns that war is not all glamor and has real consequences. The decision to fight the fascists was taken seriously with this in mind.
For a kids' movie, Legend of the Guardians has a lot to offer, but we'd rather see the oppressed nations (or species in this case), organize to rise up and fight for themselves. The movie makes that impossible by drugging all the slaves and implying that the rest of the owls from other species were completely in the dark about the fascist plot to take over the world. This plot twist might have been possible if they had gone further and The Pure Ones struck out in battle so that other species realized what was happening.
That a group of heroic owls had to save the world and defeat the fascists was made somewhat better by their failure due to turncoat betrayal requiring Soren and his fellow travelers to join the battle and save the day. At least this reinforced that anyone could be a heroic part of the anti-fascist struggle, not just the special heroes of Ga'Hoole.
On November 28, WikiLeaks began releasing U.$. diplomatic cables that have been extremely embarrassing to the U.$. government and its allies. This resulted in increased persecution of the WikiLeaks site and staff, and an international debate about the role of websites like WikiLeaks. This story underscores the failure of mainstream media to do more than serve as a mouthpiece for the imperialists. But it also reveals the lengths to which imperialist governments will go to persecute activists and those causing damage to imperialism.
Humynity benefits from more availability of information about imperialism. As revolutionaries, we welcome the opportunity to expose U.$.-backed atrocities and the imperialists' back room deals. Meanwhile, the attacks on WikiLeaks and its staff present the opportunity to further expose the myth that capitalism = democracy. The basic premises of democracy include transparency of government and freedom of speech. While the communist government in China under Mao encouraged the people to criticize their leaders during the Cultural Revolution and went so far as to provide free paper and space to post big character posters to propagate free speech, the Amerikan government is doing all it can (in collaboration with other governments and capitalist corporations) to shut down the speech of those who are merely exposing facts.
WikiLeaks launched in 2007 to publish documents from anonymous sources that generally expose the actions of imperialist governments and their lackeys. WikiLeaks states that "One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth." On their website WikiLeaks summarizes the major stories they have broken; an impressive list of government and corporate corruption, brutality and war.(1) It has been particularly valuable in exposing U.$. atrocities in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As a result of their work exposing governments, corporations, and churches around the world, Wikileaks has faced significant persecution. According to their website, “Since formation in 2007, WikiLeaks has been victorious over every legal (and illegal) attack, including those from the Pentagon, the Chinese Public Security Bureau, the Former President of Kenya, the Premier of Bermuda, Scientology, the Catholic & Mormon Church, the largest Swiss private bank, and Russian companies.“(1) Julian Assange has taken the role of public spokespersyn and as such has faced dramatic persynal persecution, particularly after the release of the U.$. diplomatic cables.
What's the big deal about the U.$. diplomatic cables?
Before we get into the issues of censorship and political persecution, let's take a look at what these diplomatic cables really contain. The U.$. government employs thousands of foreign service staff posted in embassies and consulates around the world. According to the U.$ Department of State website, these people work in one of 5 general jobs:
Consular: Consular Officers protect Americans abroad and strengthen U.S. border security.
Economic: Economic Officers work on economic partnerships and development, support U.S. businesses abroad, and cover environmental, science, technology, and health issues.
Management: Management Officers run our embassies and make American diplomacy work.
Political: Political Officers analyze political events.
Public Diplomacy: Public Diplomacy Officers explain American values and policies.
In other words, many of these people work in foreign countries acting as spies. But not spies who are working in secret; they are overt spies whose job is to meet with people at various levels in other governments and then write up reports about their meetings and the situation in those countries. This is how the U.$. government collects a lot of its information about what's going on around the world. The foreign service staff don't try to hide what they are doing. It's a political game which foreign diplomats sometimes use to get messages through to the U.$. government without having to make public statements. There is a lot of backroom deal making done this way, without having to make information public.
So when people say that the diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks released are embarrassing, what they really mean is that imperialist governments and their lackeys don't want the truth to be known publicly. As WikiLeaks summarizes, “the cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in 'client states'; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.”(1) So the U.$. government doesn't want people to know these things. They are probably not so much worried about the Amerikan public whose response to this story has been split with many taking the side of their imperialist government, but rather concerned about what people in other countries are going to learn, especially those in the Third World being screwed by the imperialists and the deals they make with their own lackey governments.
Imperialists and censorship on a global scale
There was a quick and coordinated attack against WikiLeaks by the U.$. government and their allies in the international and corporate community. This included a coordinated December 2 attack shutting down their domain via the New Hampshire-based company EveryDNS, and Amazon.com cutting off the infrastructure services they were providing to WikiLeaks. Forced to move to the French internet company OVH, WikiLeaks then faced attacks by the French government looking for ways to ban hosting of the site.
The finance capitalists got in on the game quickly too. On December 3 PayPal cut off the account that was collecting donations for WikiLeaks, claiming that the account violated its "Acceptable Use Policy" by engaging in "activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity." On December 6 MasterCard announced its plan to cut off WikiLeaks from accepting MasterCard payments because "MasterCard rules prohibit customers from directly or indirectly engaging in or facilitating any action that is illegal." Visa took similar action on December 7. On December 8 WikiLeaks released diplomatic papers that revealed lobbying by the Obama administration on behalf of MasterCard and Visa.(2) And finally, the Swedish bank PostFinance froze Julian Assange's persynal bank account on December 6, using the flimsy excuse that he provided an incorrect address on his account.
On December 23 Apple dropped the WikiLeaks app (program for iPhones) from their app store, just 10 days after it was approved for sale. The app gave users access to the WikiLeaks Twitter feed and the ability to access leaked documents. An Apple spokespersyn gave the official excuse: "Apps must comply with all local laws and may not put an individual or group in harm's way."(3) These examples of corporate censorship help demonstrate the complicity between the imperialist government and big corporations. The imperialists make backroom diplomatic deals to give the capitalists financial advantages, and those same corporations look out for the government's interests by denying anti-imperialists access to resources to exercise their free speech.
While diverting resources from WikiLeaks' primary mission, these attacks have also served to expose the imperialists, who only give lip service to freedom of speech when it serves their interest. And this has galvanized a counter attack by defenders of WikiLeaks. This counter offensive includes hackers who have launched denial-of-service attacks to shut down web sites that have cut off WikiLeaks, targeting EveryDNS, Amazon, MasterCard and Visa among others.
In the United $tates, the imperialists are running around with their pants down, unsure how to control the information already released. On December 3 the White House issued a directive that forbids unauthorized Federal employees from accessing the classified documents that are now available on WikiLeaks. Carrying out this order, the Library of Congress blocked access to WikiLeaks from its computers. Government employees, military personnel and employees of some private corporations are prohibited from reading the documents, even from home. Meanwhile, college students are being threatened that if they post info about WikiLeaks online they will not be eligible for government jobs after graduation.(8)
Amerikan public opinion is split between those who think it's right to investigate those in power and those who want to see Assange prosecuted. It might be surprising that so many Amerikans care about freedom of speech when the imperialists so clearly oppose it. This is promising for activists looking for ways to win over people who have a material interest in imperialism, even if only for specific battles against the imperialists.
Political persecution of activists
Julian Assange and others have complained of surveillance and harassment in various countries in the past, but after the release of the diplomatic cables this has stepped up to a level that may lead to death or permanent imprisonment of those associated with the site. While throwing around baseless accusations of "terrorism" against Assange, North Amerikan politicians have openly called for him to be illegally assassinated - the definition of terrorism.(9)
The U.$. Justice Department has been scouring the books searching for something to prosecute Assange on, some way to punish him and stop his work, and they are negotiating with Sweden to get him extradited to the U.$. Assange was taken into custody in Britain after an arrest warrant was issued by Sweden to question him on allegations of sex crimes, and has since been released on bail.
In the United $tates, there has been a strong push to make it illegal to conduct investigative journalism that is not approved by the State. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, argues that Assange's actions violate the Espionage Act, a World War I-era law crafted to punish individuals who spy on the country during wartime. This is despite the fact that WikiLeaks has not released any Top Secret documents and even offered to work with the U.$. government to redact any facts that would endanger individuals in the field (which the U.$. turned down). An initial hearing on WikiLeaks and the Espionage Act was held on December 16 by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. So far no decisions about prosecution have been made. Senator Joseph Lieberman goes further and has urged the administration to consider charges against media outlets that produced news articles based on the leaked documents. These organizations, according to Lieberman, have "committed at least an act of bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime - I think that bears a very intense inquiry by the Justice Department."(4)
In the 1970s a very similar attack against Daniel Ellsberg was carried out after he released the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, exposing the Amerikan government's lies about the Vietnam War. The U.$. government attacked Ellsberg both covertly and overtly in court where they put him on trial for theft and conspiracy under the Espionage Act. Ellsberg explains, "The truth is that every attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time."(5)
If the outcome is more chilling this time around, it will be with the mainstream media cheering for the repression of their own rights to report on facts. They'd rather talk about sex and persynalities anyway.
We talk about sex to stop talking about sex
Pseudofeminists have lined up on two sides of the Julian Assange "rape" debate. One recognizes the obvious truth that this is a political ploy by the imperialists to distract from the facts and attack Wikileaks. The other side says we need to stand by all wimmin who claim that they are raped. The latter are a dream come true for the FBI. The former are on the right track, but falter in their attempts to define "real" rape. This situation was painfully obvious in a series of debates on Democracy Now! this week that degenerated into a pornographic discussion of the details of various sexual encounters.(6) To both defend Assange and uphold that some sex is not rape, Naomi Wolf ended up making some embarrassingly incorrect claims.
If we can just admit that all sex is rape, then we can get on with the original discussion of hundreds of thousands of wimmin (and men of course) dying at the hands of the U.$. military as exposed by WikiLeaks documents. The real feminist here is white male Julian Assange who responded to TV news host Larry King's inquiry about the sex charges with: "It is not right to bring in sensational and, in fact, false claims, a relatively trivial matter compared to the deaths of 109,000 people... CNN should be ashamed of doing that." Assange was referring to a death toll released on WikiLeaks that was recorded by the U.$. military in Iraq who previously claimed to not be tracking Iraqi deaths.
To assure readers that these tactics are nothing new, a parallel story played out within our own movement just 2 years ago. The decades old MIM website at etext.org was shut down by people outside of MIM on January 9, 2009. This occurred as the primary editor of the website was reporting death threats and the circulation of rape charges by multiple white wimmin. He has referred to this as a "lynching," as rape charges have always been a tool of social control of oppressed nation men under the rule of white power. While MIM(Prisons) and at least one other cell made efforts to restore the content of the site, the damage was done as all incoming links were defunct. Traffic to those documents remains at a fraction of what it used to be.
The editor of the etext.org MIM site later explained that he did not restore the site immediately as it could just as quickly be taken down again. WikiLeaks is unique in its resources and high profile status, so it has largely managed to remain online, with its mission receiving a net benefit from the press coverage. But when decades of material are separated from their domain name as happened to MIM, as well as many of the over 80 hip hop websites shut down by Homeland Security last month(7), their access to the rest of the world is seriously challenged. As we have mentioned in the past, independent institutions of the oppressed online are very fragile. Some combination of technology, security tactics and alliances with the national bourgeoisie in anti-imperialist nations will need to provide solutions to this problem as the imperialists increase their repression on the internet.
The need for anti-imperialist media sources
A University of Maryland study titled “Misinformation and the 2010 Election” found that people who are exposed to mainstream news sources are quite misinformed about the facts. For instance, 42% of people surveyed didn't know that Obama was born in the U.$. The survey looked at newspapers and news magazines, network TV news broadcasts, public broadcasting (NPR or PBS), Fox News, MSNBC and CNN. They found “Looking at the frequency of misinformation among the consumers of various news sources, one striking feature is that substantial levels of misinformation were present in the daily consumers of all news sources. Even the daily consumers of news sources with the lowest levels of misinformation still included substantial numbers with misinformation.”(10)
This doesn't mean we should all stop following the news; people with higher levels of exposure to news sources had lower levels of misinformation. This last fact had a few striking exceptions, for instance, Fox News topped the misinformation list with the viewers with the most incorrect information and a trend showing that the more a persyn watches Fox the more misinformed they become. However, consumers of other mainstream media sources were also very mislead on key facts, including NPR and PBS consumers and viewers of other daily TV news.(10) Without a viable daily source of anti-imperialist news, revolutionaries still need to use mainstream media, but we need to look at it with a critical eye and use as many international sources as we can get our hands on.
The clear misinformation being spread by mainstream media, combined with the constant covering up of even the most mundane of facts by the imperialist governments and their allies, mean that the value of alternative media sources can not be overstated. WikiLeaks provides a clear service to anti-imperialists even without any significant political analysis on their website. The politics are clear in the context of the content that comes through WikiLeaks daily exposing imperialism as a system of corruption, brutality and exploitation. News sources like this are crucial to revolutionaries and we must defend their existence.
It is our task to go further and provide context for the facts and help people make connections between all the terrorist acts committed by the U.$. and other imperialist countries and the just revolutionary struggles of the oppressed peoples around the world.
This sequel to the 1982 original Tron movie which was a technical trailblazer for its use of CGI but not a big hit, includes dazzling 3D special effects but not much else. The plot focuses on Sam Flynn, the grown son of Kevin Flynn who was the main character in the original Tron. Kevin, a computer visionary, disappears when Sam is 7, because he got stuck inside The Grid of an alternate computer universe that he created. The grown up Sam gets himself transported into this alternate universe and some dazzling race and fight scenes and trite plot lines ensue.
Tron: Legacy had a lot of potential for some interesting political content. There is the new digital race of people who came into being inside the computer universe. These people were all but completely wiped out by the evil dictator program Clu in his quest to eliminate all imperfection. Clu, the not so subtle fascist dictator, is a program that was created by Kevin Flynn, to help him build the perfect world. So we get a good solid anti-fascist message here. But the alternative, from Kevin, is praise for individualism and it's inherent imperfections, now that he's realized his mistake with Clu.
Rather than have the masses (of program beings) rise up against the fascist dictator, we're just told dismissively that they were all killed (but one). There are a few rumblings of the other programs being unhappy with dictator Clu, but they are incapable of organizing themselves into any resistance and the few we see either die or end up being turncoats serving the fascists. The only signs of useful resistance come from heroic individualist actions by programs who break with their fascist leader but with no explanation or organization.
In the end, the big individualists themselves are the only ones who can defeat the fascist dictator and save both the real world and the digitized alternate universe. This leaves us with three super-heroes who only need to kill off the dictator and all is right in the world.
Fundamentally Tron: Legacy promotes individualism and worship of leaders while dismissing the revolutionary potential of the masses. It suggests that the masses can only be liberated/saved by a leader who is much smarter than them. And so, in spite of it's lip service to anti-fascism, MIM(Prisons) doesn't recommend Tron: Legacy.
As our readers already know, MIM(Prisons) runs political study groups with our comrades behind bars. And as some of you know, and have experienced, the state generally finds our non-violent, non-law breaking, communist study in poor taste. In October 2009, a study group assignment for the pamphlet "What is MIM?," which included other participants' responses to the previous assignment, was mailed to a participant held in Arizona. This study group assignment was censored because allegedly it "may be obscene or a threat to security" generally, and "promotes racism and/or religious oppression" specifically. Yes, this is coming from the state that is fighting the federal government in court to be allowed to use the color of one's skin as probable cause for investigating immigration law violations.
Our comrade imprisoned in Arizona appealed this decision, and MIM(Prisons) wrote to the prison administration to request an explanation as to how this study group assignment could "promote racism and/or religious oppression" without even mentioning races, nationalities, or religions:
"It is truly fascinating that your mailroom staff could find the promotion of racism and/or religious oppression in this document. Nowhere in the letter are the following words even mentioned: religious, religion, christian, muslim, baptist, KKK, white, mexican, latino, asian or arab. The word "black" is written once in the context of a reference to the Black Panther Party's education programs. How can you even talk about religion or race enough to speak against it if you don't use any of the above mentioned words?" - MIM Distributors, Legal Assistant
No attempt has ever been made by Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) administration to address this point. ADC General Counsel Karyn Klausner offered her opinion: "I have reviewed the materials sent by MIM Distributors and find the decision to exclude the publication due to content 'promoting racism and/or religious oppression,' was appropriate." She gave no explanation of how she came to the conclusion that it was an "appropriate" violation of Constitutionally protected rights. In a later letter Ms. Klausner clarified that with this statement she didn't mean she was "upholding" the censorship in her official capacity as General Counsel of the Office of the Director of ADC, just that she agreed with it on a persynal level.
Instead of explaining how the study group mailing in any way promotes racism and/or religious oppression, ADC administrators then began to rely on their policy of violating MIM Distributors' First Amendment right to free speech and association to censor this study group assignment:
"There is nothing in case law that gives rise to a publisher's right to appeal a decision to exclude its material on an administrative appeal level. . . You are not entitled to a forum within the prison system." - ADC Director, Charles Ryan
Director Ryan clearly had not investigated the matter on the prisoner's end either. He claimed that our imprisoned comrade had not appealed the decision to censor, yet s/he had, on multiple levels, and submitted requests for the results of these appeals.
"You claim that MIM Distributors has no rights to appeal the censorship of their mail. While we are not lawyers, and may have put too much weight on the Procunier case, we still uphold that we have First and Fourteenth Amendment rights according to federal law. As employees of the state you may not deny anyone their rights to free speech and association arbitrarily and without due process. In fact, if you read Thornburgh v. Abbot, 490 U.S. 401, which you referred [COLLEAGUE] to, you will see that its procedural protection was provided because the publisher was notified of the censorship and given the right to independent review. A number of U.S. Court of Appeals decisions have upheld the right of the publisher in such instances (Montcalm Publ'g Corp. v. Beck, 80 F.3d 105, 106 (4th Cir.), Trudeau v. Wyrick, 713 F.2d 1360, 1366 (8th Cir.1983), Martin v. Kelley, 803 F.2d 236, 243-44 (6th Cir.1986) )." - MIM Distributors, Legal Assistant
And ADC's response?
"You assert that 'MIM Distributors' First Amendment right to free speech' is not being respected. The Arizona Department of Corrections is obligated to respect, within the confines of legitimate penological interests, an inmate's constitutional rights. It does not follow that ADC is likewise obliged to do the same for an independent distributor such as MIM." - General Counsel, Karyn Klausner
It is apparent that the ADC believes themselves to be exempt from the legal straitjacket of the United $tates Constitution, which they don't see as having an application in the 10th Circuit. This isn't surprising coming from an institution whose administrators believe that one can promote racial and/or religious repression without ever talking about race or religion!
Amerikans like to pretend they hold no political prisoners, yet political repression is an integral part of the U.$. injustice system at every step. In our struggle for a world without oppression, MIM(Prisons) works to build public opinion for national liberation struggles amongst prisoners through our newsletter Under Lock & Key, our free books for prisoners program, and our study groups. Within prisons, there are two primary ways in which the state enacts political repression: through physical torture techniques such as solitary confinement, forced drugging, beatings, starvation and murder; and through the control of the spread of ideas, which also includes solitary confinement as well as the censorship of mail, and outlawing oppressed nation organizations.
In pre-fascist Amerika, we are still promised certain rights under United $tates laws. While we recognize that U.$. law will never lead us to communism (a world without oppression), we still need to fight for more room to organize and educate for revolution. Fighting against the censorship of revolutionary literature is vital to maintaining the connection between the inside and out, which may make the difference between being turned on to communism or not for many people. For those already turned on, we need to fight against censorship so that we can continue to build our revolutionary understanding.
Like a MIM Distributors Legal Assistant mentioned above, we are not lawyers. We do what we can to protect our Constitutional rights from the outside with the resources we have, and we rely on prisoners to fight to maintain their rights from the inside. If there is a lawyer who wants to get involved with this specific incident in Arizona, or with anti-censorship work in general, get in touch!
Determining who to write to regarding a specific issue is a tactical question. One day it may be most important to write to the Director of Corrections, the other it may be the Office of the Inspector General. We make tactical decisions based on our conditions at the time. In this circumstance, participants in the campaign to end the Z-Unit Zoo were bringing this issue to many government bodies, including the Director of Corrections and the Inspector General.
In this response from the office of the Division of Adult Institutions, A. Redding advises the participant to exhaust the appeals process. Clearly in the petition, it says that many grievances have been filed and none have been answered. This response is a good example of how inhumane conditions and abuse can hide behind the bureaucracy of the state under capitalism.
The above letter is a response from a Corrections Counselor II Specialist (CCII) of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to a prisoner in California who submitted to h the grievance for the proper handling of grievances. Even though a CCII is in a position to influence whether grievances are handled in a legal or illegal manner, at least within h institution, in this letter A. Redding advises the prisoner to file a lawsuit or contact the Inspector General on the matter.
In this response to a grievance petition from California sent to the Department of Justice (DOJ), they minimize the widespread scale of corruption of the grievance system in the California state prison system. Instead they are asking for facts and dates related to single incidents or perpetrators.
In "Bad Apples" in the Pig Pen we explained why a focus on targeting individual pigs is incorrect in most cases in our struggle because the problems we address are societal. Although societal problems manifest in individual pigs, focusing all of our energy trying to get one or two pigs fired from our facility doesn't significantly impact society as a whole.
One may argue that the DOJ just needs a place to begin their investigation. However, the petition makes it clear that this problem is widespread throughout the system. Realistically they could interview prisoners at random for details and receive enough information to begin an investigation. Their narrow and sterile approach to "justice" is just a cover for their interests in maintaining the status quo.
Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Oakland to mourn Oscar Grant and express outrage at the light sentence given to his murderer, Johannes Mehserle. Mehserle shot Grant in the back while he lay face down on the ground. For this execution-style murder, he got 2 years in prison with credit for time served on an involuntary manslaughter charge. The judge gave the jury incorrect instructions for how to apply the gun enhancement, and decided to just drop it, thus lowering Mehserle's maximum possible sentence to 4 instead of 14 years, rather than retry the case. According to those inside the courthouse at the time of sentencing, the judge openly blamed Grant and his friends for the murder.
We didn't expect justice from the system, but the whole struggle did bring advances in revolutionary organizing in the region. The November 5 demonstration looked like others from the movement for justice for Oscar Grant, but missing were the non-profits trying to run the show and divide the protesters. It was refreshing to hear consistent messages that encouraged people to get organized, stressed the need for nation-based organizing (while uniting Black and Brown), refused to work with the government and denounced the outside agitator line.
The city-sanctioned demo ended with a live performance of "Operation Verdict (Fuck Dat)" by local artists Unity, Sinista Z, & Ras Ceylon. Here's the last verse:
Revolutionaries speak with clarity and overstand an injury to one affects us all like Oscar Grant. Cuz I am we and we are he So you will see us in the streets Yellin "Fuck da Police!" No justice, no peace these non-profits is weak tryin' to water down the movement and cut off free speech gettin paid by the beast to calm the rage of our seeds that are sick of the oppression that they daily gotta see and live with. You idiot ain't no outside agitators 'cept these murderous pigs with the gun, badge and a taser so see ya later if you tryin to claim that leadership you ain't nothing but a snitch and a politician's bitch Fuck dat! Police out here knockin brothers down Fuck dat! Trying to move the cats to somewhere out of town Fuck dat! You know the state wanna water this shit down Fuck dat!