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Under Lock & Key

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[Texas T.E.A.M. O.N.E.] [United Struggle from Within] [Abuse] [Censorship] [Campaigns] [Organizing] [Allred Unit] [Texas]
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TDCJ's Repression of it's Political Prisoners Leads to Devastating Effects Among the Wider Prison Population

[NOTE: At the end of this article the author asks you, the reader, to contact the Judge about the TDCJ blocking court fees for a prisoner’s lawsuit to fight censorship. This is part of an ongoing campaign. We are also asking people to print and gather signatures on postcards that you can download from the campaign page along with fliers to use in outreach around this campaign to oppose political censorship in Texas.]

When i initiated the Juneteenth Freedom Initiative, and the fliers for that action began to find their way into every prison in Texas, Allred Unit’s Warden Jimmy Smith commanded the unit mailroom supervisor to place me on a ‘Watch List’, purportedly to provide a greater level of scrutiny to my outgoing mail.

This measure first began to circumvent communication between cadres and myself throughout the state. The state has policies and courts have upheld bans on such communications under the cloak of a fear of gang organizing.

The Watch List measure began to intensify as all reading material was made to go through a months long process of scrutiny. Texas has a part of its Mailroom Operations policy, that they need not announce to a prisoner when a publication has arrived at the unit, even when it is subject to further review. This results in reading material being sent and one not knowing of its existence until it is officially denied. At the point of denial, We’re supposed to be allowed to appeal through the grievance procedure. What i’ve experienced however is that the unit grievance investigators don’t allow me to grieve a Director’s Review Committee decision. My battle with the UGI subsequently slows up the exhaustion of administrative remedies.

Eventually, the Watch list measure intensified to the point that ANY material from MIM(Prisons) was purportedly denied at the command of the DRC in Huntsville. This political police tactic is what led to the state-wide censorship of the Revolutionary 12 Step Program. The 12 steps are anti-drug abuse and anti-reactionary program that is definitely needed in the Texas prison system. The state has upheld this censorship with the bland statement, ‘may incite inmate disruption’.

In recent times Texas has made national headlines due to the governor’s reactionary policies that repress social and political narratives that counter dominant narratives and positions. That trend at the tarnishing of First Amendment so-called rights has made its way into the Texas prison system.

To understand how this has occurred one must have knowledge of connection, the family tree of repression if you will, that connects Jimmy Smith(Allred Warden), Brenda Kelley(Allred mailroom supervisor), Tammy Shelby(Mailroom system coordinator’s panel-chair), and the DRC, to Texas’ highest levels of government.

When a governor is elected in Texas they appoint people to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice. The TBCJ is charged with making Board policies, revising them, and thus make the overreaching rules and regulation that determine the day-to-day lives of over a hundred thousand captives.

The Governor also appoints the Director’s Review Committee (DRC), which is charged with, among other things, determining the content that can/cannot enter or leave prisons. The DRC is the ultimate authority on matters of denials of mail, publication, visitation.

We should be asking the questions: Where is the transparency, and democratic decision making in the selection of TBCJ and DRC officials? These positions are handed down to careerist politicians who’ve made their living on the backs and misery of the prisoner class and Our families. In the future comrades must organize an outside force to force Texas to remove the veil between these backdoor chambers of power and the common public. We need readily accessible information on these so called public officials and representatives of the people.

So We have a clearly reactionary governor whose appointed a clearly reactionary Board and review committee. In Texas the only way to overturn a DRC decision is through litigation, and therefore most censorship bans last indefinitely.

While Jimmy Smith and the other prison careerists play prison politics, in an effort to quell dissenters and self-determination and self-activity of the prisoners, there is a fatal drug wave crushing Allred Unit. As i write this in late October 2022, 7 prisoners have died this month due to overdose.

The Revolutionary 12 Step Program is currently at the point of training cadres to be able to facilitate the program at their locale. The censorship of this program, in conjunction with the indefinite solitary confinement of many cadres, act to circumvent what could otherwise be a highly effective and influential peoples initiative. And therein lays the problem, at least from the administrator’s perspective, they seek to circumvent the rise of any influence among the prison population. Instead of differentiating between types of influence, their practices put a blanket on ALL influence and influential people or initiatives among the prisoners, and seeks to disrupt them.

Of course this cant be done totally, and what results, as what resulted in previous generations of the Prison Movement, is that the mass influence of the prisons and prisoners falls in the hands of the most reactionary prisoner forces. The ad-min elects to deal with the lesser of two ‘evils’. It has seen that the reactionary forces are easier to contain, to appease, to divide and conquer, in contrast to an awakened, drug free, unified and determined population.

Active political prisoners and prisoners of war are the exemplary prisoners among the masses. They are leaders. Texas’ desire to conserve ideological, and social hegemony over the population has and will continue to cost people their lives.

In the civil case, Owolabi V. TDCJ Allred Unit, et al., 7;22-cv-00094-0, one such political prisoner has challenged political censorship of the Revolutionary 12 Step Program, and other communist, revolutionary nationalist, anarchist, and abolitionist materials.

The sitting Judge, a George W. Bush appointee, for the US District Court of the Northern District of Texas is Reed O’Conner, who has a reputation as a highly conservative Republican reactionary. O’Conner has moved to dismiss the case, not on the basis of the case alone, but due to prison officials withholding and delaying the processing of the check for court fees. Unit prison officials have ignored the plaintiff’s request to have the check processed. The Plaintiff has informed the Judge O’Conner of this problem, and filed a motion for extension, the court has yet to respond to the plaintiff’s motion.

We’re asking all those among the public who have an interest in stopping political censorship in Texas, to contact the Court, inform Judge O’Conner and the Clerk of the Court that the Allred Unit is refusing to process the check for court fees.

Contact info for the court is here: https://www.txnd.uscourts.gov/judge/district-judge-reed-oconnor

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[Organizing] [Struggle] [United Front] [ULK Issue 79]
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Wanna Start a Non-Profit? Publish a Book? Read This.

I’m currently in the process of trying to start a non-profit organization to shed some light on the corruption that’s currently taking place in the Florida Department of Corrections and I was hoping that you guys can connect me with some people or provide me with some material to assist me with laying the foundation of this non-profit organization that is guaranteed to last for generations to come. I’m actually currently writing a book that goes into depths about some of the things prison officials have been doing to prisoners in Security Housing Units and I’m planning on using the book as the face of the non-profit. It’s just hard finding people to assist me with this organization, which is why I’m reaching out to you guys in hopes that you guys can assist me with this matter, because it’s time the people of society become aware of what’s currently taking place in the Florida Department of Corrections.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We want to express solidarity with this comrade’s mission to expose oppression in prison, that is one of the goals of the independent institutions Under Lock & Key and prisoncensorship.info, that have been consistently exposing this abuse across the country since 2007. We also agree with the focus on what is going on in the SHU/Ad-Seg/solitary confinement torture units that our movement has campaigned to end for decades.

We want to respond to this comrade publicly though to discuss some points of how to effectively expose these atrocities, and more importantly how to effectively stop them.

We also want to address everyone who has written us for help with or just plans for starting a new non-profit, and everyone who has written to us about their new book they want help promoting. We’ve received countless letters of both types in recent months. So we want to make a couple things clear.

If you wrote a book and you haven’t been doing it as part of your study with us over the years, we’re not going to publish it, we only publish Maoist literature. Similarly, we aren’t going to promote the book you already put out, we only promote Maoist literature.

If you’re trying to start a new organization, first we will refer you to our congress resolution from 2011, that reads in part:

"We only work to build two organizations at this time: MIM(Prisons) and USW. The only organizing group we run for prisoners is the USW leaders group, and even that is mostly done through Under Lock & Key for efficiency and to reach the masses with info on USW work.

“There are only a few conditions that would merit launching a new prison-based organization: [in short, you disagree with MIM(Prisons) cardinal principles, you are migrating an existing lumpen org to become a revolutionary org, or you are building a single nation org]”(1)

This resolution is targeted more towards independent revolutionary organizations. The comrade above, and many others, write to us about starting non-profits. In short, and in general, non-profits use institutional money to fund jobs for people to do reformism who might otherwise fight for real change. Now, we will admit some non-profits do good work. You will see us cite the work of groups like the Prison Policy Initiative and the Human Rights Defense Center/Prison Legal News over the years. In fact, HRDC does a lot to expose the Florida DOC, so we must ask our comrade from Florida, why not just work with HRDC? Why waste all that effort to create a new group that has the same goal when it’s so hard to find supporters? It could be that your strongest supporters already have an org.

Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in the the mid-1800s, commented on how Amerikans create a new organization for everything. Probably something about our crass individualism in this country. This is being amplified today with the internet, where individuals can create online persynalities that feign to be projects or organizations. In these cases they often rely on the cult of persynality, and sometimes become actual cults.

We must question the motivations of people sometimes. Do you want to end oppression, or do you want to create a project that is yours? If you want to end oppression, what do you think the thousands of other organizations out there all got wrong that you need to form a new one?

The only way we will be effective in real change is to unite more forces, not by dividing into more and more little cliques and narrowly-focused non-profits. And while we can ally with and find useful the work of some non-profits today, we must grow the Maoist movement to be able to do the things they do under Maoist leadership to have a greater impact.

We know most of our readers just want to reform the prison system. If that’s where you’re at politically, by all means, join a non-profit. And we are happy to ally with you in battles against things like censorship and solitary confinement. But we know, based on our study of history, that only by completely overthrowing imperialism and building socialism through constant class struggle can we ever hope to end the oppression that certain populations face today in Amerikan prisons. We do not promote books or build organizations that hide this fact. And we work to win over reformists to the revolutionary road through struggle against the state and demonstrating the limitations of efforts that do not actually seek to build power to overcome imperialism.

Notes: 1.MIM(Prisons) 2011 Congress Summary and Resolutions

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[Campaigns] [Black Lives Matter] [Parole] [Work Strike] [Organizing] [Alabama]
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Free Alabama Phase 2

rally at AL capitol to free prisoners
About 100 supporters rallied outside the Alabama Capitol on 14 October 2022

The Free Alabama Movement has declared their recent organizing a success, with over 15,000 prisoners participating and prodding response from the governor during the campaign season.(1) They have announced the next phase of their struggle for reasonable paths to parole and release. It involves the drafting and proposal of a state bill. The Alabama Legislature opens on 3 March 2023, and prisoners have planned to launch a campaign to promote and support the proposed bill at that time.(2)

Following the recent actions, a damning report came out substantiating the prisoners demands:

“July 2022 was the deadliest month on record in Alabama prisons. Thirty-two people died in Alabama prisons in July — the most since at least January 2000, the earliest month for which data is available online. More people died than were granted parole that month.”(3)

The Free Alabama Movement concludes in their recent statement:

"On September 26, over 15,000 people stood up for freedom in the Alabama prison system. That’s 10,000+ new soldiers, warriors and generals to the ranks who had NEVER participated in a shutdown before. Most of them didn’t know they would be challenged by the ADOC at the core of our most basic human need: food. This is a real struggle against a system that is well funded and has been in existence for over 100 years. We gotta act like we want freedom, and move with the understanding that that will be a test of your will and spirit to achieve something great.

"Understand the mission brother and sisters. A call has been made for us to stand again. We cannot miss our assignment and expect change.

“Dare to struggle, dare to win.”

Notes:
1. Free Alabama Movement, 23 October 2022, “Fifteen Thousand Stood Up on September 26, 2022”.
2. Free Alabama Movement, 24 October 2022, “A Path to Freedom”.
3. Evan Mealins, 18 October 2022, “July was the deadliest month on record in Alabama prisons. Here’s what we know”, Montgomery Advertiser.

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[Economics] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 79]
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Interview with Union Organizer on the Labor Aristocracy

masked workers

The Maoist Internationalist Movement has always dismissed the strategy of embedding itself in the Amerikan so-called working class and labor unions. The experience of the Revolutionary Union in that kind of work during the 1970s and 1980s was some of the most relevant and interesting to MIM founders, influencing their decision to reject it. Yet, since then, many other self-described “communists” have still advocated and attempted the labor union strategy among Amerikans.

A wave of popular support for labor struggles within the United $tates has been rekindled over the past year. This is primarily due to the successful unionizing efforts of the Starbucks workers in Buffalo, NY on 9 December 2021 and the Amazon workers in Staten Island, NY on 1 April 2022 – both of which set off more union efforts within their companies and have inspired many similar efforts throughout many different industries.

To many so-called “communists”, this recent phenomena serves as a testament to the growing proletarian class consciousness among the U.$. working-class and their increasing revolutionary potential. To these revisionists and white nationalists, the proletarian uprising in the United $tates is just one economic crisis away. Yet most who are swept up in this union organizing populism lack the historical and theoretical background to the Amerikan labor aristocracy. Most are in it for their own self-interest and will be easily pulled towards fascism in a crisis scenario, but others do have real budding proletarian consciousness that can be won over with struggle and study.

In our efforts to investigate labor organizing in our contemporary situation, we found a comrade with a friendly political line who has been involved in actual underground union organizing. What follows is an interview with this comrade, relating eir experience to the history of the labor aristocracy and labor organizing in the United $tates in general.


What things got you interested in doing union organizing?

A few years ago, I began working in an industry whose workforce is primarily made up of the more vulnerable population within U.$. society. For example: ex-cons, immigrants, recovering addicts, etc. This vulnerability was often exploited by management and while it was never explicitly stated, there was an understanding by those in the vulnerable position that the employer had an upper-hand on them and that they had to abide by their requests to avoid any potential complications. This was particularly reflected in a request a coworker of mine (some kid from Central America) made in which ey asked if I would be willing to run if our manager ever called ICE on em in order to focus the agents’ attention on me while ey slipped out and escaped. These coworkers often worked harder than those fortunate enough to have papers and/or a clear record, yet were treated like they were less than humyn. I couldn’t stand that. I couldn’t stand how disposable they were treated because they crossed a border, had a criminal history, or just have a messy past that they are trying to overcome.

During the pandemic, two people I knew from the vulnerable population (deemed “essential workers”), ended up dying from COVID-19 and for what? To maintain a fucking business. To bourgeois society, they were nothing more than cannon fodder. I was angry and I was depressed, and part of me wanted to succumb to my own vices even further, but another part of me felt a deep obligation to all of those I had worked with. To do something about it. I wasn’t an organizer or anything. I had never really done anything like that. But I wanted to do something. So around this time I began taking my political studies more seriously and began to see the bigger picture (i.e. the need for socialist revolution). I wanted to immerse myself deep within the working-class and help build the labor movement as a means to play my role in the struggle for socialism. Eventually, an opportunity to work on an underground union campaign targeting a major corporation presented itself and I dropped everything to be part of that campaign.

And how quickly the front-line workers who died from COVID-19 have been forgotten in order to move the capitalist economy forward. The United $tates, despite its wealth and resources, has had the most people die from COVID-19. It’s at least good to hear that it inspired people like yourself to seek real change. Did you work with one union or many? Were they big/significant unions? Did you get a glimpse of how other union organizing operated, or can you only speak to one organization?

My situation was sort of unique as I worked in a sort of underground cell within the union, but ultimately I worked under two unions. These two are some of the biggest/most significant unions in the United $tates. They operated similarly – very bureaucratically. We did a lot of work with other big and medium-sized unions and they also seemed to reflect that structure. I can’t speak on the more grassroots type unions.

An underground cell? That sounds interesting, how did that work?

I was a union salt, or rather, I was sent into a specific workplace by the union as an undercover organizer to help them organize it. In my case, I was entering one of the most infamous workplaces in the U.$. My goal was to immerse myself with the working-class/the masses and commit myself to the struggle for socialism.

Why do you feel this type of organizing didn’t ultimately match your goals?

I believed that building up worker-power would lead to building up a pillar of support for socialism in the United $tates. My goals were political whereas the union’s were not – this is the fundamental conflict between my interests and theirs.

What kind of things did you end up doing that you felt were not aligned with your goals and politics? Were these tasks/projects unexpected when you first got into union organizing?

I thought I was going into the workplace to build relationships and serve in raising class consciousness, but ended up doing a bunch of non-campaign related tasks/projects, such as phonebanking for random surveys and canvassing for politicians I had never even heard of in neighborhoods nicer than the one I lived in. This was unexpected because I was sold such a militant/radical message by the persyn that recruited me. I had been upfront about my reasons for wanting to work for the union and how it related to my politics and this persyn told me that our goals were similar and that I was in the right place. So it was a surprise to me when I found myself doing a bunch of work that seemed no more radical than working for the Democrats.

Did your political line develop/change during this time? because of the work you were doing? or from external study on your own?

Yes. My political line changed drastically over my time with the union. Partially because of the work, but mostly from deeper study. Like I mentioned earlier, I salted at one of the most infamous workplaces in the U.$. and while the work in itself was difficult, no one there really belonged to the vulnerable population. You needed papers and a clean record for at least five years in order to work there. So I was working with a very different group of people – a group of people I began to understand more and more through my persynal political study. They were not the proletariat and they did not share the same interests with the proletariat. They were labor aristocrats who, despite not being unionized, still benefit from the spoils of global imperialism. I became disillusioned with my work after understanding the reactionary role labor unions and the labor aristocracy have actively played throughout the history of the United $tates and among the global proletariat.

Of course we should not be quick to draw general conclusions from our own limited experiences as that would be an empiricist error. Were you able to connect your experiences to the historic experiences of others?

I definitely do not think my experience can be used to make broad generalizations on how a typical rank-and-file organizer’s experience looks like given its unique form, but I think it does reflect an all too common experience faced by those organizers motivated by a genuine desire to struggle for revolution, but who misdirect their energy into union work, non-profit work or any other form of controlled opposition work that ultimately serves to further legitimize the bourgeois state. There is a bit of naivety that stems from a lack of skepticism towards such organizations and overall lack of experience from such organizers. That is the importance of studying historical experience; to help guide us on what works and what doesn’t work. For example, the experience I often connect (or at least keep in mind the most) was that of the historic IWW because they were an open anti-capitalist union with the goal of organizing all workers. In retrospect, they closely matched my goals and the goals of the other self-proclaimed communists I have worked with. They were relatively successful as a union and were perhaps the best case scenario regarding unions, yet they failed to carry out anything revolutionary and fell short of pushing an anti-imperialist line in fear of the repercussions they would face from the U.$. government. Self-preservation marked higher on the priority list than class struggle to a union of “radicals”; this seems important to keep in mind whenever you find yourself working in an organization full of liberals.

So the people you had worked with previously were also not unionized? but they were lacking in full citizenship rights, whether by birth or as punishment by the injustice system? What are your thoughts on the organizing potential there based on your experience and studies?

No, the people I had previously worked with were not unionized and the industry as a whole is typically non-union (with an exception of the more skilled within said industry that make up a very small portion of the workforce). There seems to be too many complications in trying to organize this workforce into a union, primarily because of how willing another persyn who is lacking full citizenship would be to replace them. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the consequences for this vulnerable population are much more detrimental, which lessens the likelihood of participating in a campaign that can risk their employment. Some people need a job to satisfy the terms of their parole and losing their job puts them at risk of going back to prison. When you’re in a more desperate situation, you’re more willing to put up with shit. With that being said though, I do think there is organizing potential among them – it just so happens not to be in labor. Most of them come from oppressed nationalities and their lack of full citizenship rights demarcates them further from being accepted by oppressor society, demarcating them from an amerikan identity. I believe there is potential to organize this particular population of the U.$. workforce around the national question, but only through practice will we see if this proves to be correct.

What do you see as possible solutions/roads forward for you or anyone who shares your goals? How do they contrast with the practices within the labor organizing movement in this country as you experienced it?

The struggle for better wages, universal healthcare, remote work opportunities , or whatever “communists” and liberals are fighting for (i.e. union work) will not lead to revolution – but rather further pacification – which will ultimately serve imperialism. Communists should aim to wage class struggle, not facilitate social work. If diversifying the beneficiaries of global imperialism sounds productive, then support a union. If not, then recognize the importance of keeping your politics in command. As a communist – the goal is revolution and the role we play is in advancing that goal. But we can’t advance our goal if we cannot admit that we need to re-assess the situation we are working in. This requires deep study. So take a step back and study seriously. We are working in very unique conditions and it is important that we understand these conditions if we are remotely serious in our politics. Fortunately for us, Chairman Mao formulated the fundamental question when it comes to making revolution: Who are our friends? And who are our enemies?

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[Work Strike] [Organizing] [Parole] [Alabama] [ULK Issue 79]
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Alabama Prisoners Demand Freedom

Rally support Alabama work strike 2022

Since Monday, 26 September 2022, Alabama has struggled to keep its prisons operating as prisoners across the state have not been performing work in their facilities until their demands for reform of the parole system, sentencing, and oversight are met. Organizing around this campaign began back in June among prisoners and their families, after years of protests and litigation over the escalating brutality of the Alabama Department of Corrections failed to make the state budge.

In the state of Alabama, prisoners manufacture license plates, furniture, clothing, while maintain the prisons themselves by working in the kitchen, laundry, or doing yard and road work. Without this work the prisons are dramatically short-staffed and can barely even keep prisoners fed. Meals being served to prisoners in recent weeks are basically slices of bread and cheese, a powerful indication of the willingness of the state and its employees to run the basic infrastructure prisoners need to survive.

The prisoners’ demands are not centered on overcrowding or the fact that Alabama doesn’t pay its prisoners anything for their labor, or specific acts of brutality by correctional officers, as galling as all of that is. Instead, they are targeted at the parole and sentencing systems, which have led to “more people coming out in body bags than on parole,” in the words of outside organizer Diyawn Caldwell of prisoner advocacy group Both Sides of the Wall.(1) The prisoner’s demands are:

  • Repeal the Habitual Offender Law immediately.
  • Make the presumptive sentencing standards retroactive immediately.
  • Repeal the drive-by shooting statute.
  • Create a statewide conviction integrity unit.
  • Mandatory parole criteria that will guarantee parole to all eligible persons who meet the criteria.
  • Streamlined review process for medical furloughs and review of elderly incarcerated individuals for immediate release.
  • Reduction of the 30 year maximum for juvenile offenders to no more than 15 years before they are eligible for parole.
  • Do away with life without parole.(2)

The sentencing and parole systems in Alabama have always been bad and have been getting worse in recent years. In mid-October while prisoners in some facilities were still refusing to work, the Alabama parole board granted two paroles out of 124 cases, a rate barely above one percent. Whether this was conscious retaliation or just the day-to-day brutality of the system is unknown at this time.

supporters of Alabama prisoners on strike outside capitol
Supporters Rally outside Capitol

An investigation initiated by the Justice Department under the Trump administration identified horrific overcrowding (182% of capacity) and neglect that has led to some of the highest rates of homicide and rape among prisoners in the country.(3) Following this investigation, the Justice Department then took the extraordinary step of suing the state of Alabama over the conditions of its men’s prisons.(4) According to prison organizers, nothing has changed in the almost two years since the lawsuit.

Because of the prisoner participation across the state, the government wasn’t able to ignore it like they normally prefer. Governor Kay Ivey called the demands ‘unreasonable’ while also admitting that the building of two new mens’ prisons (with misappropriated COVID-19 relief funds) would meet the DOJ’s demands to end overcrowding.(5) Regarding parole and the basic fact that the state is putting more and more people inside with longer and longer sentences with no end in sight, she had nothing substantial to say.

The warehousing of predominately oppressed nation men, with no opportunities for rehabilitation or release is why we charge genocide against the U.$. criminal injustice system. Alabama is part of the Black Belt south, with 26% of it’s overall population being Black/New Afrikan. Yet, 54% of prisoners were New Afrikan across the state in 2010!(6) Alabama is in the top 6 states in the United $tates for overall imprisonment rates, with most of those states being in the Black Belt.

Caldwell discussed the despair prisoners in Alabama feel because of the lack of opportunities in Alabama prisons:

They’ve taken all the exit and second chance options away from these men and women in Alabama. There’s no hope for parole because the parole board is practically denying everyone and sending them off [with] five [more] years with no explanation, even though these men and women meet the set criteria that has been established.

They practically have a living death sentence, if they don’t have an EOS date, so all the hope is gone. They have nothing to strive for there, they feel like they’re not worthy of a second chance, they’re not given a second chance. And no one has any type of trust or hope in them to come out and reintegrate into society and be a stand-up citizen.

People incarcerated in Alabama face excessive force from correctional officers, a high risk of death, physical violence and sexual abuse from other prisoners and are forced to live in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, according to the DOJ.

The prison authorities have responded to the work refusal by cancelling all visitation, cutting programming back to nothing, and serving next to no food. The Alabama Department of Corrections is one of many prison systems across the country struggling to function without enough people to run its operations. While prisoners are the primary people to suffer under these conditions, this also indicates a contradiction in the United $tates use of prisons to control large populations that could offer opportunities for change. As Under Lock & Key goes to print, the prisoners have faced the state of Alabama down for three weeks. We will continue monitoring the situation and try to extract lessons for the rest of the country.

Notes:
1. Jessica Schulberg, “Alabama Prison Strike Organizer: ‘They’re At War For Their Life And Freedom’”
2. Julia Conley, 28 September 2022, “Demanding Broad Reforms, Thousands of Inmate Workers on Strike at Alabama Prisons”, Common Dreams.
3. Katie Benner and Shaila Dewan, 3 April 2019, “Alabama’s Gruesome Prisons: Report Finds Rape and Murder at All Hours”, The New York Times.
4. Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, “Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against the State of Alabama for Unconstitutional Conditions in State’s Prisons for Men”
5. Howard Koplowitz, September 2022, “Striking Alabama inmate workers’ demands ‘unreasonable,’ Ivey says”.
6. Alabama Profile, 2010, Prison Policy Initiative.

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[United Front] [Struggle] [Organizing] [Special Needs Yard] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [ULK Issue 79]
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Show Proof to Build Unity Against CDCR Divisions

Revolutionary Greeting comrades,

Many young soldiers have heard of comrade George, a Black Panther leader, revolutionary prison writer, and organizer who was assassinated in August 1971 in a California Penitentiary in San Quentin.

It’s time! Wake up comrades! The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is a tool of racist repression for Black & Brown people in the U.$. prison system. CDCR has made serious mistakes in splitting the prisoner populations (50/50 yards/EOP/GPline/SNY/GP) political and social prisoners. CDCR has realized their mistake and in the process of trying to correct it at whose expense? you and I. So CDCR will once again go back to their reactionary tactics oppressing the masses.

Comrade George gave us a strategy to combat CDCR false ideology: “When I am denied or corrected, I always understand, but rage on, all on the principle that the ideal must be flung about, that the oppressed mentality must first escape the myth, the hoax, that repression is the natural reaction to a collective consciousness of the commune.” And just know that ideals cannot be killed with violence, racism has always been employed as a pressure release for the psychopathic destructiveness evinced by a people historically processed to fear.

The revolutionary is outlawed!

You can’t understand my pain but me. I’ve used every tool in the kit to stay sane over these last 11 years in prison. I am alive and learning for real. The only way CDCR can maintain its power is to create differences on these yards and cause a diseased mind and feed it drugs. Comrade wake-up. What’s the problem? If you not a disruptor or agent provocateur, show proof and let’s start building this collective unity. That’s the only way we can combat CDCR tactics of repression.

AFW on the move.


A California comrade provides more background info: California has been phasing out its protective custody (P.C.) yards for the last few years. CA prisons started eliminating the P.C. yards on the lower levels and due to the high rate of violence this caused, it is taking longer than expected to phase out the higher levels (lifers).

CDCR is well aware of the common practice of separating sex offenders from general population prisoners. The cruelty sex offenders face in prison is the very reason CA opened the P.C. yards 2 decades ago. Sex offenders are regularly beaten, murdered, and as hypocritical as it is, raped in prison.

However, over the years a lot of general population(G.P.) prisoners have requested protective custody and once on the P.C. yards, these G.P. prisoners continue their abuse of sex offenders. The result is that according to CDCR, P.C. yards are more violent than G.P. yards (if anyone believes that) and so CDCR is now requiring sex offenders to house with the gang members that everyone knows, especially CDCR knows, sex offenders need protection from.

I think CDCR is intentionally creating a violent environment for whatever reason. CDCR is not ignorant that this new policy will and already has resulted in the murder of a lot of sex offenders. Since the policy began 3 years ago, the gangs have murdered sex offenders on every yard the prison has forced them to house on and yet CDCR continues to push for the complete elimination of protective custody. This is obviously a deliberate action to increase violence.

Dozens of lawsuits have already been filed, but few if any will bear fruit due to the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which basically is legislation designed to erase a prisoners constitutional right to sue the prison. Furthermore, most prisoners have no legal skills whatsoever and are forced to litigate against professional lawyers. So the chance of any of the lawsuits asking the court for a right to safe housing of winning that right is very small.

I will eventually litigate the issue and I will win.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We’ve printed a number of articles in the last couple years about this integration plan creating violence. It’s not just about sex offenders, many have gone to Special Needs Yards in recent years for a number of reasons, including political ones.

While most seem to agree that the CDCR is creating more violence, injuries and deaths among prisoners, few have tried to explain why. One thing that has been happening on the SNY, and now the integrated yards, is the creation of new prison gangs, many of which have been fostered by CDCR police gangs and work hand-in-hand. This seems to be part of a larger strategy to displace the big four lumpen orgs that have historically dominated the G.P. yards and at least some of which have been staunch in their refusal to work with the pigs. These four lumpen orgs were behind the largest prison hunger strikes in history to protest the torture happening in CDCR’s Security Housing Units.

As we’ve always said, “We Want Peace, They Want Security.” And most often the two are at odds, where the state uses violence and chaos as a form of social control and securing it’s power over the prison masses. That said, the integration offers an opportunity for the prison population in CA to unite along once deep divisions, and we call on comrades to build the United Front for Peace in Prisons based on the 5 principles.

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[Control Units] [Censorship] [Organizing] [Campaigns] [Allred Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 78]
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Juneteenth Freedom Initiative Phase 2

Texas and Cali prisoners unite

On 19 June 2022, prisoners across Texas abstained from celebrating the federal Juneteenth holiday until real freedom is attained by the oppressed in this country. Instead they organized, studied and made their voices heard for the demands of the Juneteenth Freedom Initiative, including:

  • End Solitary Confinement! End Restrictive Housing Units(RHU)!
  • End Mass Incarceration!
  • Stop Mail Censorship!
  • Transform the prisons to cadre schools! Transform ourselves into NEW PEOPLE!

Updates Since Juneteenth

The response from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice(TDCJ) was swift and coordinated. MIM(Prisons) sent hundreds of update letters to comrades in Texas during the month of June, and almost all of them appear to have been censored.

Prisons where our letters were censored for “inciting a disturbance” or “riot” include:

  • Allred Unit
  • Beto I Unit
  • Boyd Unit
  • Christina Melton Crain Unit
  • Estelle High Security Unit
  • Estelle 2
  • Ferguson Unit
  • Gist
  • Hughes Unit
  • McConnell Unit
  • Mountain View Unit
  • Stevenson Unit
  • Telford Unit
  • Terrell Unit
  • Wallace Unit
  • Wynne Unit

We are still receiving and compiling censorship notices from June. Needless to say, there was a coordinated effort to block our letters across the state, and they were really worried about the Juneteenth boycott. Of course, there was nothing about organizing a riot in our letters. But the imperialists will consider a boycott a “disturbance” worthy of violating Constitutional rights. Biden said we must celebrate Juneteenth, so now we face the consequences of his goons in the TDCJ.

The censorship at Allred Unit had been going on for months prior. This is the worst RHU in the state, where a lot of the JFI organizing began. Therefore we began a postcard campaign to protest the political targeting of mail and of certain prisoners at Allred. One comrade there received 22 mail denial notices in one day in May! Another comrade in Allred wrote:

“I been denied 2 newsletters & 1 letter that ya’ll sent my way. [everything we’ve sent this comrade] I highly appreciate ya’ll. I’ve sent them home. This only confirms that Texas don’t want us to know. Your news letters were denied for tha reason of ‘inciting a disturbance’.”

“I asked the mail room lady if anything sent from this address will be denied and she said, ‘Yes.’ Just like that, freedom of speech denied.”

This campaign is ongoing, as the censorship continues, and we ask outside supporters to get involved. Mail from prisoners in Allred is often delayed a month or more, so updates on the launch of the JFI have not yet come in from some of the organizers.

Outreach during June included flyering and postcards on the streets, hundreds of update letters sent to TX prisoners and radio interviews in Texas and on Free Aztlán on 96.1 KEXU in Oakland.

One Texas comrade reported:

“The Juneteenth Freedom Initiative flyer was displayed for several weeks here. On Juneteenth, no movement due to low staff and no special holiday meal. The officers dining room had ribs, BBQ chicken and brisquet with all the fixins, and these were supposed to be delivered to each officer on duty. However, most were stolen en route. The warden and kitchen captain were pissed.”

The JFI was initiated by TX T.E.A.M. O.N.E who has continued to lead organizing efforts inside. Others, including Prison Lives Matter, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee Local 613 #1, the Texas Liberation Collective, and United Struggle from Within cells, have joined the call. On the outside, MIM(Prisons), Anti-Imperialist Prisoner Support, and the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement have been providing support.

Phase 2

Per the plan below, laid out by TX T.E.A.M. O.N.E. the next phase of the Juneteenth Freedom Initiative for prisoners is to file petitions with the Department of Justice. If you need a sample petition, write us to get a copy. This petition is not specific to Texas.

Prisoners in long-term solitary confinement in Texas can also join the Dillard lawsuit against the TDCJ. If you need a copy of the motion to join, write us.

Outside supporters can best assist organizers inside by joining our campaign against censorship. We want to continue to let the TDCJ know that people outside are paying attention and not willing to accept this political repression. We will be following up with a lawsuit on behalf of an affected party in Allred and MIM Distributors. You can help in the following ways:

  • calling or writing letters to the TDCJ, and to Allred Unit in particular
  • getting others to sign postcards protesting the censorship
  • contribute to the legal fund to fight censorship

For more information go to: prisoncensorship.info and go to the Campaigns page and Boycott Juneteenth. For info on how to donate click the “Do Something” link.

Background on JFI

As you may know, Juneteenth has now been made a federal holiday in amerika. On this day many will sing the praises of Our oppressors or otherwise negate the reality of the lumpen (economically alienated class), that according to amerika’s 13th amendment We are STILL SLAVES. While We do not wish to nullify the intensity of the exploitation and oppression that New Afrikan people held in chattel slavery faced, We must pinpoint to the general public, those upcoming generations of youngsters looking to follow Our footsteps, that to be held in captivity by the state or feds is not only to be frowned upon but is part and parcel with the intentions of this amerikan government, and its capitalist-imperialist rulers. We say NO CELEBRATING JUNETEENTH until the relation of people holding others in captivity is fully abolished!!

Comrades have been organizing around the Juneteenth Freedom Initiative(JFI) for almost a year now, and we just completed phase 1. Prisoners in Texas and North Carolina took up the campaign. Instead of celebrating Juneteenth, boycotters worked to get out the voice of the incarcerated in TX and NC.

Previous campaign materials include more demands and more details. Add your own demands that speak to your local conditions and make the JFI demands heard by the masses and the oppressors. Don’t just boycott, organize.

The Boycott is just the first phase and launch of this campaign by and for all Texas prisoners.

  1. Juneteenth boycott and voice demands starting 19 June 2022
  2. present petition to the Department of Justice Special Litigation division (write in to get a copy if you still need one) – everyone should mail copies of their own signed petition to the DOJ following Juneteenth 2022
  3. if (2) fails to bring proper response, we will petition the United Nations – date To Be Determined – watch for announcement in Under Lock & Key, we will be requesting testimonials and collecting statistics to back up our arguments on each campaign position and submit them as evidence to bolster the recent guilty verdict of the We Still Charge Genocide, International Tribunal 2021 where mass incarceration and solitary confinement were ruled to be vital tools in the U.S. campaign of genocide for centuries against Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples of this continent.
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[Principal Contradiction] [Organizing] [National Liberation] [Economics] [ULK Issue 78]
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FAQs on Class and Nation and What We Will Print

MIM,

Thank you for the book MIM Theory 2/3 on Gender and Revolutionary Feminism – this is exactly the kind of reading material I want and need.

I do want to briefly comment on a recurring phrase I see in some of your theory: “white worker”. Does this mean white collar worker as in labor aristocrat or is this a prejudice that labor aristocrats are white skin color? If you mean privileged as in white collar then why don’t you say collar?

I have not read much of the book yet, just a few pages. However, I can agree that much of the working class in amerika is labor aristocrat, where you lose me is that when I think of labor aristocrat I see a face like Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, who is constantly calling for more police and more oppression.

Here in California we have a lot of Brown faces, perhaps 50% Brown. The point is whenever I talk to a Brown or Black person about socialism the response is mostly the same. Black & Brown people in amerika love their privilege, they enjoy exploiting 3rd world workers, there the labor aristocrat is Brown and Black in the face and white in the collar.

I think MIM Theory agrees with me that First World working class has no use for revolution and is impossible to recruit or even harmful to the movement, as bourgeoisie in any dictatorship of the proletariat is only there to revive capitalism. However, as MIM states the majority of First World working class is labor aristocrat, then I would assume MIM is considering the demographics of the First World as a whole and means “white collar worker” and not merely a racist jab of “white worker.” All of the cops here have Brown faces.

In Solidarity,

a California prisoner


Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: Sounds like we have a high level of unity on the class structure in this country, and the world. The truth is the analysis has evolved since the 1980s, when it was more reasonable to talk about a proletariat in the internal semi-colonies (by which we mean New Afrika, Boricua, Aztlan, and the First Nations). So back then writers like MIM and Sakai would talk about a Black or [email protected] proletariat, while seeing the white workers as an enemy class. And yes, by white we mean white people, though we use it to talk about nation, rather than race, which is a myth. Therefore today we’ll often use Amerikan instead. And many “non-white” people have integrated into Amerika today. Euro-Amerikan is a term for the oppressor nation, but white is still a valid term that is understood by the masses today.

In the introduction to our pamphlet, Who is the Lumpen in the United $tates, we wrote:

“If we fast forward from the time period discussed above to the 1980s we see the formation of the Maoist Internationalist Movement as well as a consolidation of theorists coming out of the legacy of the Black Liberation Army and probably the RYM as well. Both groups spoke widely of a Black or New Afrikan proletariat, which dominated the nation. MIM later moved away from this line and began entertaining Huey P. Newton’s prediction of mass lumpenization, at least in regard to the internal semi-colonies. Today we find ourselves in a position were we must draw a line between ourselves and those who speak of an exploited New Afrikan population. If the U.$. economy only existed within U.$. borders then we would have to conclude that the lower incomes received by the internal semi-colonies overall is the source of all capitalist wealth. But in today’s global economy, employed New Afrikans have incomes that are barely different from those of white Amerikans compared to the world’s majority, putting most in the top 10% by income.”

The above quote is referring to the MIM Congress resolution, On the internal class structures of the internal semi-colonies. Even since that was written we’ve seen the proliferation of what you talk about, [email protected] prison guards being the majority in much of Aztlan, and New Afrikan prison guards being the majority in many parts of the Black Belt. This of course varies by local demographics. Regardless, it makes one question whether there are even internal semi-colonies to speak of, or at what point we should stop speaking of them? The massive prison system in this country is one reason we do still speak of them.

So we agree with you that the term “white worker” has kind of lost its meaning today. However, we still see the principal contradiction in this country as nation. Despite the bourgeoisification and integration of sectors of the oppressed nations, and the subsequent division of those nations, we still see nationalism of the internal semi-colonies, if led by a proletarian line, as the most potent force against imperialism from within U.$. borders.

A couple more minor points. We’d probably say Eric Adams, and high ranking politicians like em, are solidly bourgeois. Whereas the labor aristocracy would be those Brown guards overseeing you. In addition, we do not use labor aristocracy and white collar synonymously either, as white collar work has always been petty bourgeois or at best semi-proletariat by Marxist standards. So the real controversial issue is to say there are “blue collar” workers who are not exploited.


Organizations for Whites

Another comrade wrote saying that ey had no organization to join because ey is white. They had mistakenly thought that we think people should only organize with their own nation. We do not take a hard line on this question. And it is obviously related to the above.

MIM(Prisons), USW and AIPS are all multinational. Yet in our understanding of nation as principal, it seems necessary for there to be nation-specific organizations to play that contradiction out between the oppressed and oppressor nations. We certainly have supported single-nation organizing, and in another resolution we put out, we cite that as one of the handful of legitimate reasons to start a new organization instead of joining MIM(Prisons) or USW.

But there may be situations where multinational organizing in this country is actually more effective. At this stage our numbers are so small that it should be strongly considered just out of necessity to begin building our infrastructure. And when single-nation organizations do exist, the united front exists for them to work with others outside their nation.


Printing Anarchist Content

Finally, we had a discussion with a comrade who submitted an article that was favorable or uncritical of anarchist organizing strategy. The comrade wanted to know why we asked em to change eir article, because we claim we will print articles form anarchist allies.

Just because we will print content from anarchists, even content we might have disagreements with, it doesn’t mean we always will. First, our goal is to win people over to the Maoist line. So if you submit something that disagrees with that, our first response will often be to struggle with you over that line with the goal of gaining a higher level of unity.

Now some comrades are avowed anarchists. For them we do not need to keep having the same debate. Nor do we need to have that debate in ULK. When we say we’ll print material from anarchists we’re talking about material that actually pushes the struggle forward. Not material that is debating issues we think were settled 100 years ago. This is similar to a critic complaining about us not printing eir piece in ULK when we responded, because we weren’t showing both sides of the debate over the labor aristocracy. Again, this is a debate that was settled decades ago.

On top of this there are many comrades and organizations we work with that aren’t in the camp of the international communist movement such as the Nation of Gods and Earths for one example. While many aspects of the Supreme Understanding taught by the NGE certainly goes against the Maoist worldview, we are able to find solidarity in practice and in a united front. We don’t necessarily have to battle out whether the Supreme Understanding or Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is correct in the newsletter. We encourage line struggle on the ground.

In summary, this is a Maoist newsletter, edited to represent the Maoist line. We get to pick and choose when to print stuff that disagrees with Maoism if we think it is useful to advancing the struggle. Sure we find it important for cadres to be able to commit to line struggle scientifically and principally, and communists in general should have the ability to look at sources that challanges their viewpoint and uphold their line while analyzing what’s wrong/correct during line struggle. There is infinite non-Maoist material out there; and we advise our readers and comrades to go to those materials if they want to see what our critics are saying. We certainly won’t expect our critics to use space in their newsletters publishing entire polemics that we wrote against them, nor would we say that’s unfair to us.

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[United Front] [Organizing] [Federal Correctional Institution Memphis] [Federal] [ULK Issue 78]
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Comrades in TN Observing their First Black August

“When prisoners come together around an issue that does not directly reflect their own narrow self-interests, then that is when there will be a real prisoners movement again. Until prisoners understand that simple lesson they are doomed to live with an increasingly heavy boot on their neck…” - Ed Mead

Greetings Comrades,

I had to write to you all to let you know that Under Lock & Key has taken root & blossomed in an area or shall I say a plantation here in Memphis, TN.

When I first arrived here there were five conscious souls here. However, after sharing and expounding on the five principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, with emphasis on Unity, the members of different street organizations have now agreed to observe Black August, including the Spanish brothers.

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[United Front] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 78]
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Capitalism Spawns Betrayal

Betrayal of one’s comrades: what in prison is called “snitching”, is an aspect of capitalism. Capitalism creates the myth of an isolated individual. “Snitches” and “informants” are people who are convinced that they are acting in their own best interest at the cost of breaking their social ties. “Prison create snitches” not only because they want information to use against others, but because it is a proven method of “breaking” people.

Denmark Vessey, who was betrayed before an 1822 slave uprising, warned against trusting a slave who accepts gifts from a master. These gifts represent attaching values to “things” and not one’s bond with other human beings. They reflect the “fetish” of commodities; putting values into possessions at the cost of your human relations is cruel & deadly. Prisons found that snitches become a lot more violent, animalistic, & don’t care who they hurt – just to survive for the moment. Prisons had to create special yards just for them, which even according to their own data, were most violent, where new gangs were created as the snitches attempted to create some semblance of self-respect.

The Pelican Bay hunger strikers overcame the idea the system perpetuated. It re-established human solidarity across gang & racial lines. As opposed to the snitches the system used to keep people in perpetual solitary confinement. The idea of solidarity caught on with tens of thousands of state & federal prisoners, and many times more out on the streets nation-wide…(wake up) we can no longer allow the imperialists to use us against each other for their benefit!!!

Collectively we are an empowered force. The People’s Commission, consisting of: the Almighty Black-P-Stone Nation El Rukn Tribe, the Almighty Latin King Nation, & the Almighty Vice Lords Nation have been united in solidarity & nation building for 75 years. We call upon all street organizations in the American western hemisphere to do the same.

-All Is Truly Well-

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