Every time I write MIM(Prisons), talking about what I've got going on, or what I'm trying to do, my moves are intercepted, interfered with, or I'm retaliated against. It's not wise to write to y'all and give the enemy the upper hand, or an advantage over me. If a person is in prison, then guess what? You're in the devil's back yard, where the devil says what goes. Common sense and history should obviously tell you that it's the police's jobs to police you. If you're dumb enough to open your mouth about incriminating shit, while you know that the spotlight is beaming on you, then you deserve the consequences. A lot of these people in Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) just don't got it in 'em to zip it. There's a time to talk and there's a time for silence.
Organizing tactics will vary, depending on why you're getting organized and what you're getting organized for. There's no "one size fits all" organizing tactic. You got to be versatile and able to adapt under pressure and constant changes. To be able to roll with the punches, in other words. Keep your eyes open.
Everybody isn't down. Everybody's not a rider, or a soldier. Not everybody cares, or is able to listen and see. You have to be careful who you're talking to, or what you're openly/publicly speaking about, in ADC. Ironically and paradoxically, getting assigned to a one-man cell is one of the only ways to dodge the bogus individuals in ADC, if you know how to do time in a cell. The cell-blocks in ADC are analogous to SHUs [solitary confinement]. The prison culture in ADC is twisted. Got to be ever-mindful of this while organizing in the ADC.
One of the main problems that I personally experience in the ADC is that the prisoners are over-friendly with the police/guards. It's accepted to befriend the police here, to pull them aside and whisper/gossip, or to kick it in the police's offices. The majority of the ADC prisoners don't even understand how to distinguish between a police and a snitch, or how to identify what "snitching" is and isn't. What's really troubling is that these gang affiliates allow police into their "gangs," which contradicts everything that they claim to stand for. They call the high-ranking police their "OGs" here, and they see nothing wrong with this. In my eyes that's an organized snitch-operation, with benefits.
They suck up to the police for scooby snacks. The dope fiend culture here is largely to blame. They believe that it's acceptable to cooperate with police for drugs, highs, money, etc. (That's the same as collaborating with police for time-cuts in my eyes.) They call collaborating with the police here "gangster moves," "OG moves," "shot calls," etc. Technically, the government is a gang, but not in the sense of a street gang, or a lumpen organization (L.O.). They're letting the government into their street gangs and L.O.s, which causes immense problems and struggles for people who are trying to get organized against government corruption, or imperialism.
There's no fixing this type of issue overnight. One individual can't tackle this issue single-handedly. I refuse to associate, in those types of ways, with the police, or snitches who work hand-in-hand with the police. These types of snitches are not concerned about making changes, and one of these undercovers will only put on a front, to infiltrate your organization and stir up chaos and confusion.
Like I said though, it really all depends on the direction that you're trying to go, in terms of organizing and unity. Revolution, or reform? Long-term, or short-term? What types of changes are you aiming at? Do you honestly believe that you can pop off a full-scale "revolution" from inside of one, tiny prison? A prison riot isn't a revolution.
My personal opinion is that if you're trying to reform the prison system with long-term changes, that litigation is the most efficient, or effective method. History shows that the most significant changes in the prison systems in America have come from litigation. Litigation, generally, doesn't work too well when trying to deal with short-term problems, or isolated incidents, mainly because litigation isn't instantaneous, it takes time. And it's doubtful that you can jump-off a revolution by litigating in a government courthouse, or by filing grievances. You have to first troubleshoot the most pressing problems inside of your facility, if you plan on reforming the prison system. And you must be able to think everything through, before you initiate a campaign.
I know from experience that single-handedly bucking on these police with physical force rarely accomplishes very much, except for giving the police a bogus excuse to press their foot down on your neck, or to exercise more control over you.
It's probably a good idea to begin by getting to the least oppressive position before trying to do what needs to be done. Prison is not the place. The odds are stacked too high against prisoners, inside of prison, for prisoners to be able to leave too great of an impact. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that there's nothing positive that can be done. It's just that many prisoners believe that the solution is to try to wage, or talk of waging a real-deal war with America from behind bars, and this is madness — counterproductive non-sense. Your greatest weapon from inside of an American prison is a pen and paper, which typically doesn't involve getting 100% unity of prisoners. Another thing is that you're never going to get all prisoners to agree on every little thing, at all times, which gets in the way of organizing, or unity.
I believe that one of the best things that a person can do is just to focus on themselves first, before trying to build up the next person, which constitutes as "leading by example." Other people will see you doing positive things, or will listen to you speaking positively and they will often emulate, or mirror your actions. In order to change the world, you must begin by changing yourself. You must become the changes that you want to see in the world.
I've gotten good educational convos and occasional study groups going, to help others learn. The problem with that is, every time I get us organized on a positive tip like that, I always experience opposition, hostility, retaliation, interference or resistance from guards and/or prisoners.
One thing that does help me and has taught me a lot is radio talk shows like Ground Zero and Coast-to-Coast, (got to give them credit). Plus, these shows help me to do time easier, while learning. It makes learning fun and interesting. In a way, those talk shows are kinda like study groups. Because people can call in and give feedback. I think that it'd be an excellent idea to model study groups after the structure of these talk shows. To have an individual, with a particular expertise in a specific subject, prepare a speech, in conversation format, and then allow feedback and questions after the selected individual concludes their initial discourse. Then you can rotate new individuals to speak each session. The group can vote, maybe, to decide topics, speakers, etc. You can assign homework and self-study assignments for the down-time in between groups. Not everyone is going to want to be a speaker, which is fine, too. I fear simply speaking about starting a study group, because I already know how it goes. If a hater catches wind of such things, trouble isn't far off.
Another suggestion is, if you're in prison, with access to educational/radio shows, you can organize a group of people to listen to each show, and afterwards you can have civilized group discussions and debates on the show's topics, with feedback and questions. One step further is to get out of prison and start your own radio show for prisoner education. A station for prisoners to tune into, for prison news, discussion, education programs, contests, etc. I haven't done my research into that, but it wouldn't be too hard to do. The good part is that prisoners can listen to radio broadcasts for free. Books and some newsletters/mags can be expensive, or impossible for prisoners to obtain. Also, it'd be kinda hard for people to shut down the study group if it's done over the radio, huh? The prison guards can't "censor" it, because it's the FCC's duty to censor radio broadcasts, not uneducated prison guards. The FCC decides what's appropriate for American citizens to hear over the radio. True enough, radio-show hosts can deal with hostility as well, but at least the radio show isn't trapped inside of a box, while battling sadistic foes.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer starts off with an analysis of conditions in Arkansas that lead to the conclusion that it is impossible to organize in Arkansas, but ends this letter with some excellent and creative ideas about how to run study groups. And so we really hope ey will implement these ideas and report back on how they work.
There are significant barriers to our organizing work here in the belly of the beast where the wealth of imperialism is thrown around to buy off even the lumpen in prison. We need to rise to this challenge and think creatively about how to break people off from the system and channel their energy into fighting the criminal injustice system that is the cause of their misery. Creative study groups are one such approach. We welcome thoughts from others about what this comrade might do based on the conditions ey describes in Arkansas.
Unabashedly, the goal of the Maoist Internationalist Movement is to eliminate capitalism and imperialism. We aim to replace these economic systems with socialism, and then communism, to end all oppression of people by other people. In our study of humyn history we see Maoist China as the most advanced social experience to date toward this goal, and we draw on our study of Maoism (shorthand for Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) to build our strategy. Maoism is a universally-applicable science of social change, which has its effectiveness proven in practice.
Our study of history shows the necessity of armed struggle to take power from the bourgeoisie, to build a world without oppression. Yet we're not presently in a period of social upheaval that we would call a revolutionary scenario, which is why we discourage people from initiating armed struggle at this time. While we prepare for that inevitable reality, the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) works on our dual strategy of 1) building independent institutions of the oppressed to seize state power, and 2) building public opinion against imperialism.
This is all in preparation for when the United $tates's military power becomes sufficiently overextended, and nations oppressed by Amerikkka start striking significant blows against Amerika's domination over their land and livelihoods. When the United $tates enters this period of social upheaval, we will be equipped to draw on the public opinion and independent institutions we're building now. The point is to get started now so we're ready to help a revolution in this country be successful, with results in favor of the most oppressed people in the world. Our institutions in themselves will not cause the transition to socialism, because the bourgeoisie will not allow us to carry out a quiet coup on their power.
Independent institutions of the oppressed are designed to simultaneously meet the peoples' present needs, while organizing against imperialism. When coupled with political education in building public opinion for socialism, these institutions help to advance our movement toward communism. People can see in practice what it would look like (and that it's possible) to meet the social needs that the government is failing on. And people learn how to work collectively.
Maybe this is obvious, but independent institutions don't have ties to the power structure that we are fighting to dismantle. Our goal is the full liberation of ALL people, not just some people, and not just our people. To do that we need to have true independence, so we can say what needs to be said, and do what needs to be done, without one arm tied behind our backs.
Defining who are "the oppressed," who our institutions are in service of, is extremely important. While many institutions are happy to just serve any oppressed group, in the MIM we want to make the transition to communism as swift and efficient as possible. We take instruction on this question from our class analysis, and particularly our class analysis on the labor aristocracy and lumpen.
We recognize that the vast majority of so-called "workers" in the First World are actually a bought-off class of net exploiters. They are relatively comfortable with the existence of imperialism, and our independent institutions don't aim to serve that class's interests. Most people don't want to hear that they are net exploiters, and that actually they are in the top 13% globally.(1) It stops them from crying about being in the "bottom 99%" and self-righteously working for a minimum wage that is three times higher than what it would be in an equal global distribution of wealth.(2) Representing the interests of the international proletariat makes MIM(Prisons) an unpopular organization among the vast majority of the population in the United $tates.
In contrast, in our class analysis we see the oppressed-nation lumpen as the most likely group to favor a proletarian internationalist revolution in this country. When the Maoist Internationalist Party – Amerika disbanded into a cell structure in 2005, MIM(Prisons) was established specifically to organize among the lumpen population. There are many, many areas of life that need Maoist leadership and independent institutions – many that can even be built around the coinciding interests of people in the First World and Third World, like revolutionary ecology — and MIM(Prisons) focuses on the needs and education of the imprisoned oppressed-nation lumpen.
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP) had a prolific set of Serve the People programs and independent institutions. The BPP coincided with the tail-end of the New Afrikan proletariat's existence, and focused its organizing among proletarian and lumpen New Afrikans.
In its independent institutions, the BPP served tens of thousand of kids breakfast across the United $tates, accompanied by political education during the meals. The BPP ran other services such as "clothing distribution, classes on politics and economics, free medical clinics, lessons on self-defense and first aid, transportation for family members to upstate prisons, an emergency-response ambulance program, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and testing for sickle-cell disease."(3)
In addition to providing necessary services for New Afrikans, the BPP's Serve the People programs also built public opinion for socialism by showing what a world could be like with people working together to meet humyn needs. We often hear myths about humyn nature, that people are "too selfish" or "too greedy" or "don't care enough" to ever have a socialist economy, let alone participate in a single campaign. Yet BPP programs showed that selfishness, greed, and apathy are values of the capitalist-imperialist economic system we live under; not inherent to humyn nature. And the education programs built people's consciousness around how the economic structures of imperialism and capitalism are related to the seemingly-insurmountable problems in their lives. Coupling that with Maoist theory and practice, the BPP provided an ideology for how to overcome these economic systems, further building public opinion in favor of a transition to socialism.
The Black Panther Party did all this without government funding. Yet they did accept hefty donations from white leftists, especially during the Free Huey campaign to get Huey Newton released from jail in 1967-70. This lack of self-reliance had a big negative impact on the organization when the white leftists stopped donating.(4) The experience of the BPP shows extensive positive examples of how oppressed-nation organizations can build institutions to contribute to the liberation of one's people. It teaches another lesson on independence, which is to never rely on your oppressor-nation allies to fund your liberation.
Other Outside Orgs
Whenever we connect with an organization that does work that's related to ours, that gets government funding or is linked to a bigger organization like a university, they say the same thing. They are really excited about our work, because they know how important our line is, and they have seen first-hand the limitations in their own work. When we ask why they can't say or do something similar to what we say, it goes back to a funding source or an authority they're operating under.
These institutions of the oppressed aren't wrong for organizing this way. They are doing great work and reaching audiences we can't reach in our current capacity. Yet they aren't reaching them with the stuff that's going to bring an end of oppression in the grand scheme of things.
MIM(Prisons) chooses to do the most effective thing, which in our case requires total independence. If everyone who saw the importance of our line actually worked to promote it, it would inevitably increase our capacity to also reach the people these dependent organizations are currently reaching, and with a program to transform the deep-rooted causes of the problems they're working to change.
An example of limitations imposed by funding sources was explained in a 2012 interview MIM(Prisons) did with a comrade in United Playaz (UP). UP is a "San Francisco-based violence prevention and youth development organization," staffed and run by many former prisoners. It is work that is desperately needed, and UP has a huge positive impact on the lives of the people it works with.
"If it's up to us, we're gonna go hard, and really fight for peace. But because we're fund[ed] by DCYF [San Francisco's Department of Children, Youth, & Their Families], they limit our movement. We can't even participate, or like rally. If there's a Occupy rally right now, we can't go, cuz our organization are prevented from doing things like that. And I think that's important, that we're out there with the rest of the people that are trying to fight for change. Every year we do a Silence the Violence Peace March. That's okay, you know, Martin Luther King, marches like that, we're okay to do that. But when it's like budgets, and crime, and about prison, you know, rally to try to bring those those things down, we can't really participate. ...
"What's going on outside the youth can affect them in the future if things don't change. And why wait til those kids get old and take em to expose them to march and fight for your rights? You know I love to take these young adults to a movement like that, cuz that gives em knowledge of life, that there's more than just hanging out on the street. But unfortunately we're not allowed to participate in that kind of movement."(5)
Under Lock & Key (and the new newsletter that’s coming January 2020)(6) is a media institution of the oppressed, with a mission to serve two classes: 1) the oppressed-nation lumpen in the First World, which our class analysis says is the most likely class in imperialist society to be favorable to the long hard struggle to communism; and 2) the Third World proletariat, which is the revolutionary class with the least to lose in imperialist society. All the articles and line in ULK revolve around this mission.
The pages of ULK, and behind the scenes in MIM(Prisons)'s work, have developed many other institutions of the oppressed. Regular readers of ULK will be familiar with the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) and the accompanying 5 Points of Unity.(7, 8) The UFPP can't in any way be canceled by prison admin or stopped because of budget cuts. In fact, the impetus for the UFPP being formed was because prison staff were actively creating disunity among the prisoner population. We had to create our own independent networks and agreements for creating peace, because peace efforts were being actively thwarted by staff. We have to build "Unity From the Inside Out."
United Struggle from Within (USW) is the MIM(Prisons)-led mass organization for prisoners and former prisoners, and another example of an institution that has developed and organizes within the pages of Under Lock & Key. USW is a way people can plug into anti-imperialist organizing from behind bars, leading campaigns, handing out fliers, putting out art, participating in petitions and struggles. USW cells have independent institutions locally, including study groups, libraries, food and hygiene pools, jailhouse lawyer services, and other forms of support. Through ULK, USW can share experiences and knowledge to further build the anti-imperialist movement behind bars.
USW and UFPP organizing comes with its own set of challenges. Organizers are moved and isolated all the time. Repressive attacks and false disciplinary cases are also carried out by prison staff on our comrades. Censorship of mail impacts our ability to organize, with some states or institutions fully banning ULK or mail from MIM(Prisons). It means we hold no illusions that anyone else can or will do this work for us, and we take that on, with all the sacrifices and challenges that come with it.
Some comrades choose to work within larger organizations, or with prison staff, to get a bigger platform for their organizing. Like any alliance, a big consideration is if one can actually do the work that needs to be done within that alliance, because most likely these alliances will require you to water down your political line. Everyone will assess their own conditions to see what they can do to be most effective in the facility where they're held. The method we use to do this in MIM(Prisons) projects is analyzing the principal contradiction in a situation, and upholding MIM(Prisons)'s 6 main points.(9)
Other Prisoner-led Projects
Within ULK we also regularly report on independent institutions that didn’t originate in our circles, which serve the interests of the oppressed-nation lumpen in the First World. There are many hardships that prisoners can organize around inside, to build independent institutions (communication channels, organizational connections) and public opinion in favor of socialism.
One example is the organization Men Against Sexism (MAS), which existed in the Washington state prison system in the 1970s. Men Against Sexism worked to protect new, and otherwise vulnerable, prisoners from sexual assault and other forms of gender oppression that prisoners were doing to each other. It was a different time back then, and these guys were celling together so they could organize better, and collecting donations from outside to purchase cells from other prisoners to house people who needed protection from the typical prison bullshit. MAS eliminated sexual assault in the Washington state system.(10) Imagine if you came together with other people in your facility to enact your own prisoner rape elimination campaign. What difference would that make for you and the people around you?
"Like prison groups today LADS focused on combating oppression and providing education for the imprisoned [email protected], and LADS also left us with some good examples to learn from. They created several serve the people programs in the pinta, for one they created a committee that worked with new prisoners, what we may call 'first termers' here in pintas in Califas. This was important because a new prisoner or 'fish' may be easy prey for some predator in prison. In this way youngsters were given revolutionary clecha once they entered the pinta by LADS 'O.G.'s.' LADS was comprised of prison vets who were politicized. Within LADS were many sub-committees such as the Committee to Assist Young People (CAYP), as well as a security committee called the Zapatistas. The LADS were anti-dope and combated drug use or sales in the pinta. They were not trying to poison the imprisoned Raza, rather they were trying to build the Raza."(11)
Protecting newcomers, sexual assault, and drugs are only some of the issues that prisoners have to take care of themselves. There are no petitions we can send you, and there's no one to appeal to to resolve these problems. Like our comrade at Telford Unit in Texas reported in ULK 59,
"My brothers in here have fallen victim to K2, which is highly addictive. They don't even care about the struggle. The only thing on their minds is getting high and that sas. I mean this K2 shit is like crack but worse. You have guys selling all their commissary, radios, fans, etc. just to get high. And all these pigs do is sit back and watch; this shit is crazy. But for the few of us who are K2-free I'm trying to get together a group to help me with the struggle."(12)
Nowadays conditions are a lot different in prisons than they were in the 1960s and 70s. Still, it's possible to build independent institutions to meet prisoners' needs. Bigger organizing happens in even worse conditions than the United $tates. There's no perfect set of conditions that need to be present in order to make a difference. It's a matter of choosing to do it ourselves. We want to report on and support these prisoner-led serve the people programs in ULK. So get to work, and send us your updates!
Educational Institutions and Public Opinion
ULK is a big part of how we build public opinion in favor of socialism, and in studying different movements and organizations, we saw that many failures are based in a lack of education and empowerment among the masses in society, or the organization's membership. Depth of political consciousness (and, related, correctness of political line) is arguably the number one reason why movements fail. Depth of analysis isn't about flashcards and pop quizzes. It's about "How to think, not what to think."
We've taken this to heart in our emphasis on educational programs. We run a number of different correspondence study groups, including a University of Maoist Thought for our advanced comrades. We run a Free Political Books for Prisoners Program, which isn't just about books, it's about books in service of our mission of liberating everyone, including the Third World proletariat, from imperialism. We don't do general book distribution because we want to liberate more than just individuals' minds. With our comrades' help, we develop study packs and distribute literature and study packs to prisoner-led study groups on the inside. We are really offering every format of political education we can through the mail, because this is such an important task in our work.
Besides the written word, there are many other channels for building public opinion. POOR Magazine and the Poor News Network (PNN) are independent institutions using events, rallies, and street theater in combination with the internet, radio, and videos to build public opinion in favor of oppressed-nation and lumpen struggles in the United $nakes. POOR Magazine runs a liberation school for children, and many, many other programs. POOR Magazine is funded independently from its own participants, events, and a donation program for individuals via Community Reparations. PNN goes hard on its line against capitalism, imperialism, and settlerism even with some funding from "reparators," which is the real measurement of independence.(13)
One radio program on the Poor News Network that especially builds public opinion for national liberation struggles and socialist revolution is Free Aztlán. Free Aztlán airs weekly and covers current issues concerning Raza and [email protected] communities. It has interviews, poetry, music, and even readings from the book [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán for people who don't or can't have a physical copy to reference. That PNN is willing to air a program like Free Aztlán says a lot about PNN, and we look forward to this program being a staple in our independent education institutions moving forward!(14)
Building public opinion isn't just about sharing information and exposing people to ideas. Applying our study to our conditions, we can help educate others in developing their own desire for socialism. It's an exercise in "Each One, Teach One." This was explained in our book review of Condemned by Bomani Shakur:
"The first theme addressed in 'Condemned' is the author's ideological transformation. MIM(Prisons)'s primary task at this point in the struggle is building public opinion and institutions of the oppressed for socialist revolution, so affecting others' political consciousness is something we work on a lot. On the first day of the [Lucasville] uprising, Bomani was hoping the state would come in to end the chaos. But 'standing there as dead bodies were dumped onto the yard (while those in authority stood back and did nothing), and then experience the shock of witnessing Dennis' death [another prisoner who was murdered in the same cell as the author], awakened something in me.' Bomani's persynal experiences, plus politicization on the pod and thru books, are what led em to pick up the struggle against injustice."(15)
We can't predict exactly what events, what books, or what conversations will spark the revolutionary fire in people. Everyone has their own unique journey into this work. Building independent institutions is one huge way we nourish and support that spark: empowering ourselves and others to do things to change our actual present conditions, while we build toward a socialist future.
by a South Carolina prisoner September 2019 permalink
I'm glad I haven't sealed this scroll yet because I have something to bring to the table that I keep hearing and it is driving me nuts! We as "revolutionaries" are supposed to know and understand that one of the basic stratagems of the oppressor is the divide-and-conquer tactic. They highlight our differences and want us to think that we are all different. While differences do exist among people, those of us locked behind walls and convicted of felonies have only superficial differences. We are all under the foot of the downpressors, the destroy powers, the divine evils!
The "divide" can be so subtle and simple in its application that we sometimes fail to recognize it. If we listen to our speech and take note of how often we use the words "they" and "them" when referring to other prisoners we might be shocked.
Here in South Carolina, the administration will withhold a necessity and then make/force/coerce us to fight over it. For example, on Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU) there are supposed to be 2 roll-around phones, yet "y'all" can't get the phone upstairs because "y'all" broke it last time. Or on the yard, each wing is supposed to have a basketball, but of course we get only one and now the confusion begins.
A lot of times this so-called "other" may be one of your religious or organizational or ideological brothers. Even more, if we are looking to recruit, aren't "they, them, and y'all" potential comrades? We are beating ourselves. They divide us in a million different ways and we defeat ourselves because we know all conflict back here is a potential disaster.
Remember, before you became aware, enlightened, educated, reformed, etc. or whatever designation you choose to put yourself in, you too were once unaware, ignorant, deaf, dumb, blind, and a savage in pursuit of happiness. You were the "other." If there are any brothers in South Carolina reading this I ask that you live up to the principles you proclaim.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade calls for exactly the unity we need to build the prison movement. And so we ask the logical next question: how can we build this unity in practice? Calling on others to see the importance of unity is one way. Are there campaigns we can wage that will bring people together? Study classes to hold? Cultural events to host? We look for ideas from others behind bars. What has worked for you to build unity?
I hope these words surmount the many communicational barriers that have been put in place to suppress my voice. I'm currently being held at North Carolina's supermax facility. I came across issue 66 of ULK and I read where the prisoners of Pender razor-wire plantation are being exploited and seeking guidance and assistance in redressing this issue.(1)
North Carolina is home to 32 Correctional Enterprise plantations that exploit prisoners for their labor in the name of rehabilitation. As the komrade mentioned, these plantations are profitable enterprises that range from producing janitorial products to a metal plant in Polkton, North Carolina that makes industrial sinks for schools and contraband lockers for the police. Each of these 32 plantations produces goods to be sold to tax-supported entities such as municipal and county governments. So yes it's a fact that prisoners are being exploited and you seek guidance on how you and others can organize to redress this issue.
First and foremost, you must purge the fear you admitted to having, komrade. As the beloved komrade George Jackson stated, "Don't fear the specter of repression, for we are already repressed." The fear of reprisals is what keeps us in bondage. Yes we're held captive by concrete and razor-wire barriers, but it isn't the physical chains that keep us oppressed and exploited. It is the mental chains of ignorance and fear that impede us from liberating ourselves from under the rule of the enemy. Fear is our greatest hindrance. We have been conditioned to believe that the enemy's retaliation will be so brutal that any thoughts of standing up are neutralized by this fear. Nelson Mandela said it best: "In prison, no improvement happens without a reason."
However, you are correct that you must have assistance. You cannot fight this Hydra alone. North Carolina isn't known for its progressive political activity within these razor-wire plantations, nor are there any notable revolutionaries or political prisoners. Being the deputy minister of defense for the White Panther organization, which is an arm of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter, under the umbrella of the United Panther Movement, we have been on the front lines and working diligently to transform these slave pens of oppression into schools of liberation.
There are outside supporters here that are very loyal to the prisoners of North Carolina. They provide us with a local newsletter, FloodGates, to serve as a platform for us to network with others and express ourselves. They also organize outside protests and mass call-ins. As of now, we are focused on redressing the new JPay restrictions. You can receive the FloodGates newsletter by writing:
PO Box 15401
Durham, NC 27704
MIM(Prisons) responds: In ULK 66 we asked for input from other folks in response to the writer from North Carolina who asked what they can do to fight back against the extortion of money, both through their labor and petty fees. This writer offers some good thoughts about building a network both behind bars and on the streets. We work for Under Lock & Key to also serve as a resource to help with this organizing.
As we've discussed in our recent updated "Survey of U.S Prisoners on Prison Labor" in ULK 62, prisoners are mostly working for the state.(2) The examples given by this writer confirm that this is the case in North Carolina as well. This labor is subsidizing the state budget, but it falls far short of covering the cost of imprisonment. So we don't describe prison labor with the term "exploitation" which, in Marxism, means transforming labor power into goods to be sold for a profit. The goods being produced are for state institutions, and just offset the costs to run these institutions. There's no profit involved.
Instead, we say the prisons are extorting this labor. Basically the prisons are stealing it from prisoners, not giving them a choice about work, and paying only a pittance. Still, there's no profit.
Prisons are about social control and national oppression, not profits. The prison movement needs to focus on the anti-colonial battle, and the struggle against prison labor can be a part of this. We support the struggles many of our comrades are fighting against prison labor, because we are against extortion and imprisonment of the lumpen class and oppressed-nation peoples. This is one of many ways to weaken the criminal injustice system.
First and foremost, we would like to thank ULK for being a platform to spread the message of prisoner united fronts and solidarity within these dungeons. ULK has been a big part of helping in reeducation and enlightenment. To us revolutionaries, who are the tip of the spear here in Colorado, ULK is a great tool. We hope this brief update gives encouragement to all of us conscious of our battle against capitalism, its social-control mechanism – mass incarceration – and use of prisons as modern day slave camps.
Here in Colorado, with hard work and much determination, many different groups have come to the realization of subversive tactics the state and badge engage in to divide and conquer. Exploiting gang rivalries, perpetuating violence by manufactured conflicts through "set-ups" of STG members, and at times, nation unrest. After years of watching the badge laugh it up, get pumped off the live action, replaying videos of their puppet mastery, enjoying their own pithy commentary for amusement, pursuing judicial redress (criminal convictions) for violence they made possible and encouraged, freely and gleefully using chemical warfare, tazers and non-lethal weaponry (for some reason these always seem to be headshots, although this is strictly against written policy!) — with the help of many different group leaders, violence between rivals, L.O.s has stopped, almost state-wide.
For us at the spear's tip, some critics recriminate and admonish – we've gone down in flames, being removed from population to areas sufficiently isolated; all our privileges (telephone, canteen, TV, visits, etc.) removed, subject to out-of-state transfer. The badge resort to textbook "cointelpro" tactics: spreading misinformation, rumors, delaying or stopping mail. Worker pigs, "porkers," trying to revitalize dessicated STG-conflicts to take the spotlight off of them. Any means necessary to escape the repercussions. But, out of the ashes has risen a mighty phoenix, one that has sent a cold chill down our oppressor's back.
We've demonstrated that real leadership is based in action, not handicapping our people, but rather in providing the knowledge, tools and freedoms to act. Setting examples of sacrifice, tenacity and hard work. Understanding that the struggle to change minds is hard even with the truth staring some in the face; some would rather desperately clutch at what's most familiar and be a stubborn hindrance to those of us conscious and progressing the movement. That is human nature, it will take patience. No matter how many obstacles, as long as you keep the big picture in your mind nothing else matters. Those of us answering the call must cherish that we will never know the comforts of the meek. It is a long, hard road, but we can be proud we are doing our part and did not look away. If we are not willing to risk the usual, we will have to settle for the ordinary. This would very much please capitalists and their contributors, were we to become subjugated.
Self-determination is our only path. Take up one cause (i.e. removing capitalism), make that one cause your life, think of it, dream of it, live on that cause, let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that cause, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success. Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. One or many defeats in battles do not constitute loss of the war; remember the big picture. Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people. Of the latter there are two kinds who will tell you that you can not make a difference: 1) those who are afraid to try; and 2) those who fear you will succeed where they can not. (1)
We suggest, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong stumble, or where and how a doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marked by dust, sweat, blood; who strives valiantly, who knows the great enthusiasms, the greater devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least, fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be among those cold, sententious, timid souls who have never known victory nor defeat.
To those who, like us revolutionaries here in Colorado, understand and struggle for a united prisoner movement: We tip our hats to you all. The fight is hard, and well worth the effort, sweat, blood, deprivations and temporary setbacks. Change is happening, change is coming.(2)
In the past several weeks propaganda actions have been carried out by revolutionaries in several cities as a response to massive immigrant round-ups and abuses against both interned migrants and prisoners by the imperialist u.$. state.
Several weeks ago in Atlanta, GA, local Maoists associated with the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM) attended a march in solidarity with prisoners at the Dekalb County Jail facing extreme abuse. Prisoners were being denied proper food, beaten and tortured by guards, and barred from communicating with those outside to prevent a leak of information on abuses. The event was called by the Anarchist Black Cross after the public circulation of an image of an inmate holding a plate with the message "Please help, we dying, need food" written on it, along with complaints from the mother of an inmate at the jail. Due to anarchist leadership, the march was poorly organized and vulnerable to police violence, but demonstrators persisted and the marchers made it to the prison in spite of police pressure. Maoists distributed issues of Under Lock and Key to demonstrators and discussed the capitalist-imperialist roots of prison conditions. Once at the jail, demonstrators were attacked by police while burning an amerikan flag and attempting to communicate with prisoners in the jail. One prisoner broke a window and attempted to throw an object with a message written on it to protesters, but it was seized by guards. Police acted swiftly to disperse protesters with batons and excessive violence, arresting 4 demonstrators.
More recently in Atlanta, comrades attended another demonstration in support of immigrants harassed by ICE in a new sustained campaign of raids and deportations launched by the imperialist Trump administration. Specifically, the protests were sparked by the plans to build a new ICE detention facility in the city, and demonstrations had been planned to take place for several weeks to prevent it. Maoists distributed agitational materials in both english and spanish that summarized recent events from a Maoist perspective, and urging opposition to reject liberal so-called progressives such as those in various NGOs and the Democratic Party, proven enemies of the people, for their treacherous and pro-imperialist politics. Comrades also carried signs that read End to Ice, Power to the People, Hasta La Victoria Siempre! Other protesters held signs that read No one is illegal on stolen land! and Ice Freezes out Humanity!
In Binghamton, NY, Maoists attended a demonstration at the Broome County Jail, where prison officials were denying medical care to prisoners resulting in the deaths of at least 10 individuals since 2011. Comrades spoke with fellow demonstrators about jail conditions and distributed issues of Under Lock and Key, most of whom responded positively and were excited to see content written by and for revolutionary prisoners. Additionally, comrades discussed the plans to utilize the jail as a detention facility for migrants on their way to larger ICE facilities.
Later, comrades in Binghamton distributed issues of the Progressive Anti-War Bulletin around the local campus and elsewhere in the city, which covered u.$. imperialist aggression abroad as well as the war on immigrants and network of concentration camps currently run by ICE. At the university many showed interest in the content of the bulletin, but one "radical" liberal student group dismissed its content in a focused anti-communist campaign, demonstrating the liberal contempt for peace and support for imperialism. Off-campus, another bulletin was vandalized, but generally its message was well received, especially when delivered directly.
In Springfield, MA, Maoists agitated against ICE raids and the network of spies that assisted them. Flyers criticized liberal capitulationism and pro-imperialism, while pointing out Maoism as the only conceivable path to liberation for the masses held at gunpoint by ICE and the neo-fascist thugs that aid them. Flyers detailing amerikan abuses in Puerto Rico were also distributed, criticizing both u.$. imperialism and their lackeys on the island and in Puerto Rican communities on the mainland. The flyers, as well as the comrades who had distributed them, were mentioned on the local radio station on two separate occasions, including in a discussion with a man from the Sheriff's office, who chided Maoist propaganda as "misguided youth" that will "soon come to understand how the world works" and presumably give up their task. In spite of reactionary sentiments aired on the radio, none are willing to give up their task to agitate for revolution, for they already know "how the world works" and it is precisely this which motivates them to continue.
by a North Carolina prisoner August 2019 permalink
In 2018, North Carolina prisoners answered South Carolina prisoners' call out coordinating amongst each other in multiple states alongside outside supporters, agitators and Anarchist Black Cross by organizing their POW movement (prisoners of the world).
Three prisoners [names removed] staged a peaceful protest with the support of over 300 prisoners and outside public supporters. They even hung signs on the prison fence made out of sheets. Meanwhile nearly 100 public protesters piled out of dozens of cars, vans, and SUVs, armed with bullhorns, signs, and drums in solidarity with the prisoners while perimeter guards trained loaded firearms at the prisoners and the supporters. Then prisoners submitted a list of demands:
Establish parole for lifers who demonstrate rehabilitation
End life sentences
End all 85% mandatory minimum sentences
End long-term solitary confinement
Abolish article 1, section 17 of the constitution of NC which permits slavery to those convicted of crime through the 13th amendment of the U.$. constitution
End $10 administrative fees for the guilty disposition of a write up or rule violation
Better food with real beef
Better health and dental care
Allow prisoners to purchase JP4 players/notebooks
End security threat group policies that restrict contact visits with their wives, children and fiances
Fair wages for our slave labor
End exaggerated censorship policies
More meaningful rehabilitation and educational opportunities
The following day, on 21 August 2018, prisoners at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Raleigh went on strike, refusing to eat our work, followed by prisoners at Craggy Correctional Center. Then reports began flooding mainstream media that thousands of prisoners across the U.$. were joining the international prison strike in solidarity with the POW movement.
The organizers were then each transferred to separate super maximum security prisons and charged for inciting a riot with the exception of [name removed] who was sent to Butner, NC to a prison that is so violent and popular for 5-on-1 fascist beatings that prisoners call it "baby Guantanamo Bay." After 8 months of cruel and harsh treatment with reports of fascists putting glass in food and feces in another, prisoners [two names removed], with the help of public support, organized their national grievance day calling on all NC prisoners and any similarly situated prisoner in other states who are affected by this oppressive rule to join them and file grievances against their director in their state to end the oppressive rule that prohibits anyone in the public from sending a prisoner money unless that person is an approved visitor on the prisoner's visit list.
As a result of this new restrictive discriminating policy, many prisoners whose families are poor and of color, who don't have identification or transportation to visit a particular prisoner to show em support, now cannot send the prisoner any money. This has resulted in a scarcity of funds to go around resulting in an uptick of gang violence and rule violations. For example, prisoners who can't hustle for money due to no artistic skills or other lacking reasons and whose family can't send them any money for hygiene, food, stamps or phone time now are forced to have their families send money gram, western union, square cash app or greendots to pay inside drug dealers for K-2, CBD, marijuana, suboxone, heroine, or other drugs that they can easily sell in order just to survive.
So in response to this intrusive rule, on 21 May 2019 both men and women prisoners stood together in solidarity and sent in more than 15,000 administrative grievances against the NC prison director. Then on 1 June 2019 North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) reported receiving more than 100,000 phone calls and emails from angry families and supporters internationally backing up email servers and phone lines nearly causing their site to crash, urging the director to repeal his 5 February 2019 Jpay rule. One outside organizer spoke with the public affairs office and reported that "there was an ongoing investigation and the director will be looking into it."
Outside activists and supporters are reporting good feedback from the NCDPS, and folks behind bars. Also an art gallery in New York contacted organizers from itsgoingdown.org and is asking for NC-specific art around this extension of our POW movement and wants to get behind NC prisoners to support them.
With the 21 May 2019 national grievance day, in addition, prisoners are beginning to coordinate amongst each other in multiple states, and working with outside supporters; word of the coordinated action has now spread all over the country.
Supreme Court shut down Prisoner Organizing
For nearly 40 years, prisoners in North Carolina have avoided the political arena surrounding prisoner rights ever since the United $tates Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in Jones v. NC prisoners labor union, inc. 433 u.s. 119, 129 97 S.ct 2532, 53 L.Ed 26, 629 (1977), preventing NC prisoners from unionizing, meetings and solicitation of membership.
The union formed in late 1974 with a stated goal of "the promotion of charitable labor union purposes" and the formation of a "prisoners labor union at every prison and jail in NC to seek through collective bargaining... to improve... working... conditions..." It also proposed to work towards the alteration or elimination of practices and policies of the Department of Corrections (DOC) which it did not approve of and to serve as a vehicle for the presentation and resolution of prisoner grievances. By early 1975 the union had attracted some 2000 prisoner members in 40 different prison units throughout NC.
The state of NC, unhappy with these developments, set out to prevent prisoners from forming or operating a union. While the state tolerated individual "membership," or belief, in the union, it sought to prohibit prisoner solicitation of other prisoners, meetings between members or the union, and bulk mailings concerning the union from outside sources. So on 26 March 1975 the DOC (now North Carolina Department of Public Safety - NCDPS) prohibited that activity.
Since prisoners were on notice of the proscription prior to its enactment, they filed suit in the U.$. Federal District Court for the Eastern District of NC. That was on 18 March 1975, approximately a week before the date upon which the regulation was to take effect. The union claimed that its rights of its members to engage in protected free speech association and assembly activities were being infringed by the no-solicitation and no-meeting rules.
The district court felt that since the defendants countenanced the bare foot of union membership, it had to allow the solicitation activity, whether by prisoners or by outsiders and held "we are unable to perceive why it is necessary or essential to security and order in the prisons to forbid solicitation of membership in a union permitted by the authorities. This is not a case of a riot. There is not one scintilla of evidence to suggest that the union has been utilized to disrupt the operation of the penal institution." The warden appealed to the fourth circuit who also agreed with prisoners. The warden appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States who reversed the 4th circuit's decision.
The court deferred to the warden's conclusions that the presence and objectives of a prisoners' labor union would be detrimental to order and security in the prisons. The court held those conclusions had not been conclusively shown to be wrong in this view, and that when weighed against the First Amendment rights asserted, these institutional reasons are sufficiently weighty to prevail. In sum, the court's decision established that the institutional interest of the prison outweighs a prisoner's constitutional rights. The rulings in Jones, in hindsight, defined prisoners' status as "prisoners" and eliminated prisoners' rights to free association and essentially paved the future for correctional czars to place iron curtains between the First Amendment and prisoners with impunity.
Punished for writing a letter to organizers
Update: On 12 June 2019 and still claiming actual innocence as to why ey's in prison. Prisoner [name removed] was in eir cell writing organizers when a sergeant and two prison guards entered eir cell for a search. During the search one of the prison guards picked up the letter and began reading it. The prisoner was handcuffed and charged for inciting a riot for simply stating in his letter to outside supporters and organizers "thank you for helping put NC prisoners on the map and for giving prisoners a voice on May 21, 2019 and June 1, 2019 as we continue to bring our collective struggles to the battlefront. I look forward to the 2020 strike calling on all us prisoners to stand in solidarity to demand an end to slavery in prisons and to restore our freedoms."
At this time, this prisoner was scheduled to receive eir first visit in 11 years from eir sister who has no criminal record and who had been unapproved for no reason and was finally approved. Unfortunately, eir sister drove over 8 hours to visit and took vacation time plus a portion of eir husband's disability money to cover the expenses. What's worse is that eir son was just accepted at university which puts an even worse financial strain on the family. Meanwhile this prisoner remains in administrative segregation and faces another 8 month long-term lock up. While in lock up ey accused prison guards of putting feces in eir tea and poisoning eir food. Ey reported having diarrhea, vomiting blood, inability to hold down food, weakness, shakes, hallucinations, hot-cold sweats, stomach pain and dry heaving. Ey has since recovered after two weeks on a self-induced diet of milk.
MIM(Prisons) responds: There are some important lessons in this report from North Carolina. First, the restriction on organizing and even just basic free speech of prisoners is pervasive. It takes the format of transferring or charging with crimes prisoners who initiate protests or even complaints against conditions behind bars. But it is also codified by the courts in rulings like the prohibition of union organizing. These laws and actions amount to telling prisoners that they must accept any and all oppressive conditions, that the so-called "rights" of U.$. citizenship do not apply to them.
We can take inspiration from this oppression. While the threats and retaliation will scare some out of taking action, revolutionaries will understand that our actions must be effective if we have frightened the prison and legal system into enacting rules and policies to stop our organizing work. And so we must continue! These organizers in North Carolina are continuing in the face of serious repression, and providing an example of determination and perseverance for others.
Whether your work is focused on educating others, or directly taking on repressive actions by the administration, it can all contribute to building the United Front for Peace in Prisons. This United Front challenges the criminal injustice system through the unity of the oppressed behind bars. We need more stories like this one about the battles being waged. And for those looking to get involved, write to us for resources, educational materials, and support for your struggles.
Today a lieutenant pig walked to the cell next door and the prisoner explained to the pig that ey was in Ad-Seg for assaulting another prisoner. The high ranking pig said "as long as you don't assault staff we're cool." And then ey walked away. I had to use much mental discipline to overcome emotion; understanding that this same misguided emotion has kept me and my comrades in these Missouri Department of Corrections (MODOC) Ad-Seg torture chambers for years.
Our kites are ignored, we have practically no access to grievances and it is only those strong in self-discipline who abstain from physical retaliation. Tactics I have often used to no avail.
There is a strong revolutionary presence in this Jefferson City Correctional Center Koncentration Kamp. Young comrades who, like myself, are gang affiliated yet well-studied and ready to stand up for a change. All we lack is an effective strategy that can truly unite us all. All I lack is the knowledge to properly form a United Struggle Within.
I am open to corrections, ideas and strategies from comrades and political prisoners more experienced and advanced than myself.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is providing an example for all, by contributing regular work writing and producing revolutionary art. We have sent em lots of letters and other material, but it appears to be largely censored. So, much respect for staying active in spite of this censorship. We print this letter to encourage others to speak on this topic. By sending in regular reports on your organizing you can contribute to United Struggle from Within's knowledge of conditions on the ground and strategizing efforts. There is much to learn through practice in action.
On our side of the bars, MIM(Prisons) offers revolutionary education classes (study groups), political literature, and resources to help form study groups behind bars, and other organizing guides. But this support isn't that helpful if we can't get it past the censors. This underscores the importance of our battles against censorship.
"We find ourselves today forced into a re-examination of the whole nature of black revolutionary consciousness and its relative standing within a class society steeped in a form of racism so sensitized that it extends itself even to the slightest variation in skin tone." - Comrade George (B.I.M.E.)
Almost 50 years after the assassinations of our comrades W. L., George, Khata-Ri, etc, etc. and the enemy has totally disseminated our party and reinforced their system to potentially negate our future revolutionary movements! What do we do now?
Our demand for narcotics to temporarily numb the pain of half life in capitalist U.$. is helping to fuel our distraction. Half of us sell dope and the other half use it!! Killing our unity and revolutionary potential! Now here we are, in capitalist U.$. torture chambers! Many of us are addicts, chasing a high right now! Some of us "claim a set" and from this identity cannot see being cool with the brotha of another "set." Some are lifers, who are weary of sacrificing themselves for the reactionaries to benefit! Some have already fallen too far (i.e. KKKop collaborators), and in turn, work covertly to undermine our movement! Others are poltroons, and out of their fear(s), they knowingly sabotage our progression as a U.$. disfavored minority. Many of us are "armchair revolutionaries" in that our practice(s) never match our stated militant goals. Others see control of the "underground economy" as being revolutionary. I do not have the answers. I am simply a New Afrikan man seeking community input as I continue to stride firmly. My questions are:
1. How is the "revolutionary consciousness" developed in a time of reactionary gangsterism?
2. At what point does this so called "revolutionary theorist" have to put his theories into practice?
3. How can we ever trust a cat who has ever worked as an informant or jail house rat? By his very obvious individualism he has demonstrated his priority is ideal of "me first." Which, to us, says that once the pressure(s) of isolation, pig abuse(s), additional time, etc. comes into play, he will tell again. Setting us back even further!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade and eir questions posed was one of the inspirations for the topic of this issue of ULK. And we hope we have at least begun to provide some answers and guidance for those of us struggling with these questions.
This comrade also mentions a serious side-effect of the current gangster era, which is propped up by the drug economy. This reality serves as a material incentive in the form of profits for the seller and in the form of chemical triggers in the brain of the buyer. We addressed this situation in more depth in ULK 59 where we recognized the challenges in even questioning the drug economy in today's prison environment. It will require progress on other fronts to make a dent on the struggle against the poisoning of oppressed communities.
So what is to be done today?
Build a Revolutionary Culture on the Streets
USW30: Recently I heard of my older brotha/comrade's passing and it has me wondering... how do the brothas/sistas, who've embraced revolutionary consciousness inside, transition to outside struggles? Taking into consideration that the lumpen are in a state of defeatism and quite fratricidal!
I personally exited Federal Bureau Of Prisons after 17 calendars. I jumped right into local progressive politics and organizational volunteer work, serving the lumpen! Yet, seemingly at every outing one was forced to repel some form of gang reactionary threat(s). Most of which, stern chastisements sufficed. However, all B.S. aside, I guess what I'm saying is, without a "progressive culture" in play within the "hood" We are at risk of A) being victimized by our misguided lumpen, conditioned by capitalism to fratricidal violence, B) or we ourselves react to reactionary threats and in turn reinforce the lumpen's perceptions of us, "prison revolutionaries" that return to "gangster" conduct once out.
In truth, the only communities I saw which had requisite support systems; minimal threat of intra-national violence, and universal code of community morality were Islamic. I continually read pieces in ULK, where cats profess to be "materialist dialecticians" and as such, against "spirituality." What I suggest to those living in New Afrikan areas in particular is to analyze the impact of Islam on it. Contrast that with that of the so-called revolutionaries. We must figure out more effective ways to bring unity, as we methodically strive to bring Babylon down. Rather than spit unproductive rhetoric which services interests of the pigs by dividing militants from one another.
Those who are truly analyzing the body of facts (i.e. U.$. history) would have to acknowledge that those of Afrikan ancestry have always held spiritual connections and/or beliefs in a higher power/creator. Upwards of 40% of enslaved Afrikans were Muslim. Leading many slave captors to recommend traffickers firstly "break" them (i.e. torture Islam out of them) prior to bringing these known rebels to the United $tates and England. My point being those who truly work to build revolutionary culture must work with Muslims and in turn find common ground to then gain traction in revolutionary culture building.
Materialists must dialectically look at U.$. history and correspond tactics to today's realities confronting historically oppressed peoples! Teach Christians examples of Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, etc. Teach Muslims about El Hajj Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X), etc. That even though we may come from varying socio-cultural backgrounds, we have the very same oppressors and system. That the Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, Communists, etc. who live within U.$. borders all share the same injustices, inequalities, and pig brutalities on a daily basis. As such, we must cast side the divisive rhetoric and build class unity or die. As a Muslim of New Afrika, I am obligated to fight all oppressors. Personally, I could care less if the askari at my side believes or not. Long as he/she is committed to struggle...to death or death row. Does it matter if I must make Salah, before we run towards our oppressors? Well, that's my take and regardless, I will continue fighting, organizing, and striving! Peace.
MIM(Prisons) responds:We agree with this author’s point that we should be working with the left wing of the Muslim movement, and other religions. We addressed this question in depth in ULK 48. As communists we embrace materialism and encourage scientific thinking about the world. But this does not prevent us from uniting with all who can be rallied against imperialism. And the rabid anti-Muslim sentiments coming from the Amerikan imperialists creates fertile breeding ground for anti-imperialism.
Although we cannot find evidence of such a high percentage of Muslims among enslaved Africans. At the time that slaves were captured from Africa indigenous religions were the most common practice. But traffickers (and slave owners) attempted to break slaves of all their practices that tied them to their homeland, regardless of what religion or other cultural norms.
While we often talk about the imprisoned lumpen as being one of the most revolutionary populations in the United $tates, it is also in a backwards state of affairs. Meanwhile, the last time we saw a strong revolutionary consciousness penetrate the prison population was when there were strong vanguard organizations in the oppressed nations on the streets. We must recognize that part of building a strong revolutionary movement in prisons is building an even stronger one on the outside.
United Struggle from Within serves as a conduit for connecting the two, via prisoners who are released. MIM(Prisons)'s Re-Lease on Life Program attempts to provide support to those who are struggling with these challenges after release. But we have a lot of work to do to build strong revolutionary communities for comrades around the United $tates.
Revolutionary Theorists or Revolutionaries
Within the context of criticism-self-criticism, I am wondering when we as revolutionary theorists on the inside, shall righteously analyze the definition(s) of "revolution"/"revolutionary"? And in turn, be honest with ourselves (within the New Afrikan community) about if we are truly on that path that Col J (RIP), W.L. (RIP) etc. strode. I am questioning myself as well?! As the Kentucky comrade pointed out on p. 8 of ULK 65.(1)
Many of us claim to be revolutionaries, but have yet to truly embrace the reality of revolution! Or, shed the ethos of Gangsta. We create plethora of revolutionary documents in prisons, only to return to society and criminality. Recently a young New Afrikan referred to a fellow rad as "homeless dopefiend!" This made me think back.
The economy of capitalism murders millions daily. We have seemingly been co-opted by enemy cultural tenants! We have comrades embracing drug dealing as acceptable conduct! Poisoning our communities, profiting off of the destruction of our underklass citizenry! Then, returning to prison in turn advocating for addicted rads to be cast aside! We have rads claiming revolutionary authenticity, that have yet to stand against the real enemy, yet take pride in shopping blood of their own! The contradictions are glaring and I believe these are just a few of the things which have a real progressive and revolutionary movement stagnating!
Perhaps a retracing of steps is needed? As in... acknowledgement of enemy's defeat of the revolutionary movement in the 60s! That the "Black Power" of the 70s was a reformist attempt(s) to somehow safeguard some aspect of sociocultural pride, while rejecting the dominant amerikkkan kapitalist culture! Which in turn, led to the 80s crack epidemic and subsequent abandonment of all things revolution. For a "piece of the pie!"
These cats coming into prison today... fratricidal, apolitical, and addicted! Are the effects of our failures as leaders, in our communities! How can he claim Col J (RIP), when our day to day conduct is a reactionary affirmation of "Superfly" and "the Mack?" These youth see the hypocrisies, and this is why we cannot gain their support! To speak about revolution and yet not live a revolutionary example is unacceptable! And fraudulent in the 1st degree! I am no longer going to refer to myself as a revolutionary until I engage in revolution! Nor will I reference Col J(RIP) as my "comrade," until I follow his examples!
I thank the Kentucky comrade for eir critiques in the last two paragraphs, as they struck home for me! We must reform the "gangstas" within our movement... or destroy them! As their overt materialistic individualisms will destroy us... or, turn the progressives back into elements of reaction!
MIM(Prisons) responds: There is a bit of an existential crisis for the revolutionary in non-revolutionary times. We don't take on the term "revolutionary" as if we were superheroes, but merely to describe our political goals and ideology. But, it does bring us back to question 2 above. And we'd say that a revolutionary must always be putting eir theories into practice. And that includes not waging revolutionary war in a non-revolutionary situation. That is a basic principle of the guerilla.
As USW30 says, the youth can detect the phony revolutionaries who just talk the rhetoric while acting out the negative aspects of the gangster role. We can act as revolutionaries, as individuals, in our day-to-day behavior in interacting with, serving, and standing up for the people.
There's a reason we get letters regularly mentioning the comrades who died in the struggle 50 years ago. Their legacy lives on because they stood up as examples. And even if our names don't become legendary, we will inspire the youth and the masses around us through our correct actions.
Transforming the gangster mentality into a revolutionary one is possible because they are two sides of a coin. As an intermediary class the lumpen can act out both bourgeois ethics (in the form of gangsterism) or proletarian ethics (as revolutionaries).
The lumpen implementation of bourgeois ethics is the gangster. The gangster in many ways imitates the most ruthless aspects of bourgeois behavior, allowing them to be potential tools of the imperialists. Yet there are aspects of the collective identity, the discipline, and perhaps most importantly the connection to an oppressed nation, that you see in both the gangster and the revolutionary. This is what distinguishes the lumpen organization (L.O.) from the criminal gangs made up of correctional officers and police departments.
The lumpen implementation of proletarian ethics is the revolutionary. The lumpen revolutionary may be more adventurous and tend more towards left errors than the proletariat. Regardless, choosing the proletarian road, means reforming oneself to take on proletarian morality. The collective action and rebelliousness of the lumpen organization must mature into pure dedication to the people and a strategic approach to protracted peoples' war against imperialism.
We discussed these two roads in our review of J. Sakai's "The Dangerous Class and Revolutionary Theory".(1) As we said then, there are two roads today, the communist and the capitalist. The capitalist is the old road, the decaying road.
So when comrades keep bringing up this question of "how do we overcome the gangster mentality," it is essentially a question of how do we move the lumpen off the old capitalist road and into building the new communist one.
Our critics might counter, "wait a minute, plenty of people give up a violent gang life without becoming proletarian revolutionaries." And they are correct. But this also has not put a dent in the presence of the gangster mentality in our society, has it? Individuals aging out of gangs and integrating into bourgeois society does nothing to combat gangsterism because the motivation, the causes are still there. Even those who reach out to dissuade youth from taking the same path only provide a band-aid. A class of people, excluded from the means of production and distribution, living in an economic system driven by profit, will keep reproducing the gangster mentality. Until we can replace capitalism with a system where everyone has a productive role to play and peoples' needs drive our society, instead of profit, only then can we truly overcome the gangster mentality.
A few years back, in ULK 51 a comrade summed up some discussion around this topic among USW comrades:
"Today's youth show the same apathy, indifference and nihilism as the youth of 1955. It was the civil rights movement that awoke the youth of that era. USW comrades struggled over what today can take the place of the civil rights movement. War, environment and imperialist expansion were three good starting points to organize around. We lumpen youth have more stake in the future environment and it is us who fight the wars. It helps to understand that those starving to death and suffering/dying from preventable diseases are our people. We must fulfill our destiny or betray it. All this nitpicking and betrayal between sets/sides contributes to humankind suffering. We must overcome this flaw.
"The principal enemy we must defeat is the glamorization of gangsterism. A revolutionary or a gangster? What are we? Can the two coexist in a persyn and still be progressive? Gangsterism plants fear by oppression, and revolutionaries are in struggle against oppression. This internecine violence we perpetrate between sets is what the pigs want us to do. They sold us this shit in Scarface and we've built on to it and made it our own. Overcoming the glamorization of gangsterism will take proletarian morality, conscious rap, exposing the downsides and ills of gangsterism, the glamorization of revolution, revolutionary culture, and possibly to redefine the word gangsta. Gangsters are parasites and revolutionaries are humankind's hope. It's as simple as that. We need to leave the lumpen mentality for a proletarian one. Many true revolutionaries were once gangsters. Gangsterism is a stage, basically.
"Self-respect, self-defense and self-determination define transitional qualities of a revolutionary. Bunchy Carter, Mutulu Shakur and Tupac all transcended the hood and grew into progressives. What we are seeking as USW is opening up the spaces for gangsters of all walks of life to enter the realm of anti-imperialism and begin a transformation of mind, actions and habits to develop into the model of a revolutionary gangsta with the capability of forwarding the cause of the people. We must understand our potential. It is us, we reading these ULKs, that hold imperialism in our fists. A real gangsta is one who has gone revolutionary and has kicked off all the strings of social control - mental illness, drugs, fantasy, despair, escapism, etc."(2)
A program for overcoming the gangster mentality involves a multi-pronged approach. We must expand and develop the membership of the vanguard cadre organizations. Simultaneously we must organize the lumpen masses around a minimal program of unity. As K.G. Supreme of USW stressed in an article on this topic, it is revolutionary nationalism and anti-imperialism that provides a viable group identity and movement to rival that of the current L.O.s that dominate the terrain.
"Cultural Freedom is the best weapon for defeating the gangster mentality. Cultural freedom that is geared in nationalist liberation of oppressed nations, and exploiter nation suicide for members of the euro-amerikan oppressor nation. As Marcus M. Garvey of the African nationalist organization, UNIAACL said, 'Power is the only argument that satisfies man.'"
And as Pilli discusses in "Love Your Varrio by Liberating Your People," we must embrace the oppressed people, communities and organizations. And we must encourage growth within them. Communists are not here to attack the gangsters or the addicts, that is what the bourgeois state does. We are here to guide others down the same path of education and growth that we have found.
United Struggle from Within has long put forth the slogan, "Unity from the inside out." This embodies the dialectical process of developing unity within one's own thinking so that one can better build unity with others; that an organization must struggle within its membership to build unity before it can unite with others in the nation; and that a nation must build unity before it can properly unite in its own interests with other oppressed nations.
"Unity-struggle-unity" is a related slogan that depicts how we should approach building unity among the people, addressing contradictions amongst the people. We can't be all unity, we must challenge, question and struggle. But we start and end with unity, so that we can grow in that direction.
"Each one, teach one" is a slogan that stresses the role of education, especially in these early stages. It also embodies the truth that we all have things to learn from each other. Education and learning are a central part of our program for building the cadre and the masses.
These slogans, and others, should be actively built around. Comrades should study and popularize the 5 points of the United Front for Peace. We should organize events and study programs around Black August, the Commemoration of the Plan de San Diego and the September 9th Day of Peace and Solidarity. MIM(Prisons)'s Free Books to Prisoners Program offers study materials around all of these topics. We also offer correspondence study courses, which all comrades wishing to work with USW should join. We offer a wide array of revolutionary literature for your own independent study and for prison-based study groups.
While uniting around study groups and education is important for building cadre, most people will only be able to unite with us around concrete battles. It is up to comrades on the ground to determine what winnable battles exist where you are. What are the masses' righteous demands and how can we mobilize them to achieve them? How can we build Serve the People programs locally by pooling resources and helping others out? It is in these concrete battles that we gain mass support, and we learn to organize, lead and challenge injustice.
We believe we have the correct theoretical basis and the framework of a program for this stage of the prison movement. But there is much to be done to experiment and learn from. As K.G. Supreme stresses, the lumpen masses must get deep into the gangster mentality, understand it so as to transform it.
"It is important, in defeating the gangster mentality, that those serious about raising the consciousness of the subjects of gangsterism, first come to terms with the mentality as a lifestyle from the vantage point of inside the mind of a first world gangster. Approaching the subject from any other angle would be an inferior method promised to fail in producing any significant impact in the social behavior of those that are the target. The investigation into this gangster mentality should be led by those who are infected with the mentality. This isn't to say petit bourgeoisie nationalist groups cannot support the leaderships of those struggling against the gangster mentality. It is to say that the petit bourgeoisie nationalist must not seek to dictate the leaderships that struggle to defeat the gangster mentality, as to not contaminate the nationalist liberation objective, spreading culture indifferent to the destructive culture, spread by the bourgeoisie.
"...As more and more ground level leaderships disconnect themselves with the lifestyles that encourages behavior motivated by the gangster mentality, there becomes a need to replace the un-natural behavior with disciplines motivated by reconnection with natural lifestyles that are in harmony with the growth and development of a parasite outkaste of society, matured into a productive component of the internationalist objective to end national oppression by the exploiting nations in independent nations. Only culture that promotes national liberation struggles, applying political methods in interest of the oppressed can be relied on to replace the mentality of gangsterism... Emotions do not dictate the course of action in gradual transformation from unconscious behavior to conscious population. Instead the culture of educating against defeatist mentality, borns the scientific approach of the analytical prisoner, who in turn of reversing the gangsterism pop culture for a popular culture of upliftment in nationalist liberation objectives that free the available remedies of exploited and nationally disadvantaged, free themselves. The key to defeating the gangster mentality is investments in engineering techniques that make anti-imperialist culture popular."