I am reporting an act of solidarity. First we must remember what the word solidarity means. Solidarity is defined as: A feeling of unity between people who have the same interests, goals, etc. (Merriam Webster's Advanced Learner's Dictionary).
I am currently in the Residential Mental Health Unit (RMHU). It's similar to the SHU. The COs think since we're diagnosed with bi-polar, antisocial, major depression and whatever that they can just oppress us. Well, they learned on 4 September 2017 that we're not just a bunch of crazies.
It's hard to get 10 comrades to stand together as a whole so when a member from the LGBTQ community got jumped on and 30 comrades refused to leave the classrooms I was shocked! I asked a few of them "why did you stand up for one of mine?" Some of them said they were tired of the COs putting their hands on us, and some of them said the COs went too far. I thanked these comrades for standing with me and my LGBTQ family.
So, I'm sharing this because in the July/August ULK (No. 57) a Nevada prisoner weighed in on "Fighting Gender Abuse." As comrades we need to stand together in this way more. You shouldn't care who or what the person is, who cares? If s/he is in the same struggle as you then you need to help him/her. In the long run by you helping them you'll be helping yourself.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a great example of people coming together behind bars. And the writer highlights the important point that we need unity across different groups and individuals. This imperialist system has created some major divisions between groups of people: based on class, nation and gender. And these divisions are found in prisons as well.
In prison, class tends to be less relevant as prisoners are forced together as lumpen, at least while behind bars. But the national oppression that is so fundamental to imperialism's power and wealth creates national divisions. Within the United $tates (and around the world) oppressed nations are encouraged to fight one another and even to form sets within a nation to fight, so that they won't come together against the oppressor nation.
Gender oppression is a bit different behind bars than on the streets, with prisons segregated by designated biological sex. One of the most common manifestations of gender oppression we see is against non-heterosexual prisoners (or those perceived as so). Uniting against this abuse starts with people, like those described above, recognizing that this abuse is wrong, no matter who is targetted. We can take it to the next level by proactively combatting gender oppression among prisoners as well as by the guards. We need to defend our comrades against abuse, and educate our allies about why gender oppression is wrong.
This is in response to an article from ULK 55 titled "Maintain the Trust in the United Front" by a Delaware prisoner. Legion is United Struggle from Within (USW). Legion used to be ranking general in a Damu organization here in California. Then life happened and Legion began to question the line. After consulting his peoples, Legion decided to become once again a NGE 5%er. In doing so, Legion wound up on a Special Needs Yard (SNY). Never ever snitching on any former comrade from the lumpen organization (LO) he was representing.
Legion first began re-educating deaf, dumb and blind members of the Black Nation by giving them the knowledge of themselves, then using United Front for Peace in Prison (UFPP) via ULK and other publications to show and prove to these young Gods the reality of the material conditions we are living in.
In the article mentioned above, a Delaware prisoner is worried about a rapist or a snitch when this comrade is compromised. This comrade is using the state-issued labels to disenfranchise potential comrades. This comrade must not know how to turn base metal into gold. Every persyn we built with has become a valuable asset to the movement.
You can't have a united front without having every class of inmate represented because in California, SNY is a reality not a myth [having grown to one third of the prison population - ULK Editor]. And some counties are requiring gang members to PC up in county jail to get plea bargains without snitching. There are entire Aztlán hoods SNY because they refuse to pay taxes to the mob.
As for the "snitch," I know known snitches who are walking on GP yards and are protected by policy put in place in the 90s by these pigs to "keep the peace on yards." And I know some real revolutionaries, who, because of a Delaware prisoner's line of thinking, had to tap out because of unrealistic politics.
Legion is fed up with PC politics on both sides of the fence. There are so-called leaders who are further dehumanizing victims of U.$. imperialism by not letting people prove why they should be in good standing on the line. Being GP don't make you active! If you were put in a cross this is for you. If you kept quiet and wound up SNY this is for you.
Legion demands a recall of all "leaders" of New Afrikan movements who adopted white supremacist politics instead of self-determination. Hugo "Yogi" Pinell (Rest in Paradise) demanded his right to walk the line head held high because he was innocent of his controlling charge. There are a number of revolutionaries who caught cases and were accused of rape/molestation/murder/trafficking/domestic violence, etc. Yet, some woke up because of such maneuvers and became stalwarts of the movement. It is part of the setup!
Comrades can be re-educated and most take up revolutionary politics because they become aware of the injustice system that pits self against self, fast against slow, wealth against poverty, and male against female. We have to take a real scientific look at the reality of one's incarceration before we discard a 'rad as no good. Let the measuring stick be his/her/its actions now vs. what a greenwall/pig say. We can't limit our resources because a few feel superior over a group of misguided revolutionaries; that's class warfare within the prisoner class, which represents a contradiction in need of resolution.
What if a person was witness to some foul shit and the DA/Judge/PD and public pretender tried to coerce a solid kat to testify on his brother at arms but he stayed silent? Took a deal that even though evidence suggested otherwise, he had to take a deal to secure his release because a jury of 12 would have killed him off. When told on, he stayed solid. When framed — solid. When forced to be SNY — solid. How does that make sense?
California Department of Corrections (CDC) is rolling back archaic policy that says you foul for XYZ. Why? Because real revolutionaries who have been isolated for years are now running the show again. I hope every Afrikan dig deep to figure out if he/she/it/they are active or just want to go home. In the 5 we are told your square is where you live and where you die. So I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees. What I speak is the principal contradiction of convict vs. the system. Class warfare under the most unfavorable conditions.
If you want revolution it's all or none. It takes time, effort and resources to build a revolutionary advocate. Real snitches are free men. Think about that.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Here, Legion echoes what we have been arguing for years about not writing off whole sections of the prison population, such as Special Needs Yards (SNY) in California, which still have a stigma among some comrades. That's not to say that there are not prisoners who have snitched or raped. Both are serious crimes against the people. Snitches, have given us a very good reason not to trust them. But we need to guard against snitch-jacketing, which the enemy will use to divide good comrades. Those who have committed rape and other serious crimes against the people also need to earn our trust and demonstrate an understanding that what they did was wrong. But again we can’t just take the injustice system's labels and convictions at face value.
Society is quick to condemn the oppressed nation lumpen. But being a hot target for the criminal injustice system can lead to making compromises that most Amerikans would never imagine having to make. Organizing the imprisoned lumpen inherently means organizing people who have committed anti-people activities, many very serious. As we say in every issue of ULK, we don't propose letting all prisoners automatically free. Under a future dictatorship of the proletariat all people will be given the opportunity to become productive members of society. We should all see ourselves as reforming criminals in this country. Whether we've been convicted by the imperialists or not, reforming ourselves requires a deep commitment to fighting patriarchy and imperialism.
There is one thing that occurred, that I feel the need to address, because it made a huge impact beyond what I even intended. It deals with my class "Commitment to Change." This is one of those "it's all your fault" classes.
On day one, sitting there with a headache from my desire to stop drinking coffee. I heard an individual in the class ask a question about choice as it relates to culture. I do not remember the exact question.
But the teacher, who is a psychologist, responded by saying that the "ghetto culture, for example is a negative culture, and individuals within the ghetto have a choice to stay and get caught up in this
culture or to leave and better themselves."
Hearing this I attacked his reasoning, showing that his position was not only racist, but extremely inaccurate. I told him that his argument in fact proves to be the exact opposite of reality. I do not remember the whole debate, but he finally stated that he had to stop and end class.
After class a large number of people from this class, and many more who were not in the class, approached me to thank me and to inquire about the USW and MIM(Prisons). For the past week all my old copies of ULK have been passed around through so many people it's not funny.
Most of these people I had attempted to open a discussion with before but they had no interest. I mention this because I think it is a good idea to have an open discussion either via USW, or ULK, where examples like this are shown. Why? Because honestly, I was extremely surprised at the response due simply to me challenging the facilitator of a class. I would love to know in what other ways comrades have instigated mass discussion because we need it bad here at this pivotal point, and if I can follow these comrades' footsteps I will.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is an excellent example of using everyday activities and discussions to inspire political thought and interest. While some folks will be inspired immediately by a generic political speech or a book or newspaper, many others will need to see the political ideas put into practice. This could be in the course of a debate with a teacher or other authority figure, or it could be in a campaign to fight for some basic rights. As this comrade points out, we should think creatively about how to interject politics into everyday prison life to capture the attention and imagination of those who otherwise might show no interest.
We echo this writer's call for other examples and ideas on how to elicit interest in politics. Send us your yard-tested tips and stories.
[These guidelines were compiled by the USW Coordinator of MIM(Prisons) incorporating points made by members of the Countrywide Council of USW.]
The Countrywide Council of USW, or Double C, has been working on a concerted effort to reach out to other organizations as a way to expand organizing with people on the outside, and to build a united front in general. The Double C decided to publish their letter to CURE in ULK as an example of these efforts, and to provide a guide to others. We invite all USW comrades to participate in this outreach campaign, and this article is to provide some guidelines in doing so.
First, many readers may ask, am I a member of United Struggle from Within (USW)? Can I write to other organizations as a member of USW?
Good question. Anyone could send out a letter and sign it "USW", we have no control over that. But we certainly hope you would not do that unless you are pushing USW campaigns and politics accurately. USW has two levels of membership: supporter and leader. Supporters are defined as:
"A USW supporter helps build USW in eir prison/area. This persyn might not initiate projects by eirself, but will readily implement requests from USW leaders and MIM(Prisons). Supporters may contribute in many different areas of work including: writing articles for ULK, producing revolutionary art, translating, sending in donations, running a study group or otherwise educating people and building reading skills, working on a campaign such as the grievance petition, referring new subscribers to ULK, and conducting MIM(Prisons)-directed surveys. This persyn writes to MIM(Prisons) less regularly [than a USW leader] but is responsive to letters and completes work assigned within a reasonable timeframe."
A leader is someone who launches campaigns and efforts to expand USW independent of MIM(Prisons), and/or organizes others under that leadership. Once you've developed a practice of leadership that we can verify over a period of time, you are considered a leader and you become eligible to join the Countrywide Council of USW.
As a mass organization, USW does allow for its members to also be members in other local, lumpen or nation-specific organizations at the same time. Comrades in the Double C should not identify themselves as such. Statements representing the Double C, and USW as a whole, must go through the Double C for approval first. Therefore publicly identifying oneself as a Double C representative gives a false sense of authority, while risking the security of the individual member.
The Double C is currently developing its protocol for conducting official correspondence with other organizations. If you feel comfortable representing USW work and positions, then you can write a letter from "[Your Name], a member of United Struggle from Within." However, since you might not accurately represent certain aspects of USW’s positions because you are new, the Double C will serve to provide official responses from USW to other organizations. You can even mention this in your own letters.
With this guideline, you do not need to be a USW leader to write other organizations about USW campaigns. In fact, if you’ve been reading ULK for a while, perhaps writing such a letter could be your first action taken as a USW supporter. But before you do so, you might ask: What should I write to these organizations about?
The focus should be on USW campaigns, projects and positions, and how they might overlap (and differ) from those of the other organization. A good way to structure your letter is "unity-struggle-unity." Start off talking about some aspect of USW work and how it connects to the work of that organization. If you can identify disagreements with this organization then you might bring those up as a form of struggle next. Or the struggle may just be something like, "hey, I haven’t seen you working on this issue, you should do more on it." Then close with more forward looking unity – try to lay out some practical steps for how they might work together with USW.
You may also write to other publications in response to a specific article or topic to point out a disagreement, or something that they missed. We often print such struggles with readers in ULK. Again, "unity-struggle-unity" is a good approach, and circling back to USW's practical work and analysis is helpful.
Regarding the letter to CURE from the Double C below, we should point out that CURE is a very different organization from ours. CURE believes imperialism can be reformed and it does not stand for the liberation of oppressed nations in this country. But the letter focuses on where we have unity and where we can work together, while pushing CURE to work with us in those areas. That is a good example of building toward a united front, where organizations with different beliefs and missions can find commonality.
We encourage comrades to reach out to other organizations as a USW representative on your own, and in many cases we will have multiple USW members writing the same organization. This will build up USW’s reputation among other organizations, and allow our membership to grow by engaging in these dialogues.
What do I do when they respond to my letter? Once that dialogue reaches a point where you are not sure how to respond or proceed, you will want to hand it over to the Countrywide Council of USW or even to MIM(Prisons), depending on the topic of discussion. We will keep you in the loop on the ongoing discussion.
What is the goal of this campaign? There are multiple goals. First, we hope to popularize the work of USW with those on the outside, demonstrating our scientific work on the ground. This will increase the chances of building support for that work in the future. Second, we hope to build working relationships on campaigns and projects with other organizations. We hope to expand the view of these organizations and publications beyond select popular prisoners to the prison masses as a whole. Third, we hope to increase political unity within the prison movement. And where we can't establish unity, we hope to clarify our differences. This will help everyone in the movement better grasp the issues and the different positions that organizations take.
If you think USW is focused on the right campaigns and issues, and you think others should get on board, then this might be a good project for you to get involved in. Let us know who you're struggling with and over what. Or, if it's not too much trouble, even send us a copy of your letters. We can work with you if you want feedback before you send your first letter.
An Open letter to CURE National
from the Countrywide Council of United Struggle from Within
PO Box 2310
Washington DC 20013
5 September 2017
First and foremost, we would like to give you thanks for the service that you offer to prisoners and the families of prisoners. In these days prisoners find it hard to locate individuals and organizations worthy of praise beyond the worth that most newsletters and papers are printed on. Members of the Countrywide Council of United Struggle from Within have read the latest few issues of CURE National’s Newsletter back to front and front to back. We must say, it checks out, so thank you.
One of the first CURE National Newsletters that we received included a listing of state chapters alongside the new requirements for state and issue chapters, namely that chapters have to meet, maintain a newsletter, and report the names of their members to their office in Washington. Now, we reviewed the list and see California is listed, but has nothing more than: [an individual's name, email and phone number].
One of our Council representatives wrote Colorado-CURE, Iowa-CURE, Nevada-CURE, New Mexico-CURE and Oregon-CURE of the western branches. Two replied in favor to our inquiry to be involved in local struggles, on account that California has no official branch of its own. Dianne Tramutola-Lawson, Chair at Colorado-CURE, suggested our Council representative write to the national office with comments.
The Countrywide Council is a leading body of a prisoner mass organization under the name United Struggle from Within (USW). USW is the brainchild of members and their students within an organization by the name Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons, or MIM(Prisons). Though it is an organization that is political from the vantage point of anti-imperialism and thus is anti-prisons, USW works for any reforms that are scientifically sane with the potential to [contribute to] end[ing] prisons as they stand.
USW has a leadership in prisons across the United $tates and can attest to a strong following in the pages of our bi-monthly newsletter (free to prisoners), published by our mother group, under the title Under Lock & Key. In the state with our strongest source of political activity, California, there isn't even a CURE branch?! We believe CURE is missing out on the greatest opportunity it could have, and this is why the Council is committed to help CURE remedy this.
It is the job of our members to find ways to keep our movement working on issues that have the greatest potential of reducing prison populations and partnering with groups and organizations who share our vision of a world with less to no prisons. We believe that working with CURE National to develop a CURE California, the California Statewide Council of USW can put to use much more of the information and resources available, but only in a more direct way.
Take CURE National’s policy initiative for 2016. USW missed the opportunity to involve itself with the CURE policy initiative for 2016 due to unfamiliarity with CURE and the lack of any direct line of communication with its leadership, which would be needed before we moved for the Council to follow. We commend the democratic process of decision making in regards to what struggles CURE concentrates its resources and power. Particularly, CURE National Policy 924 – prisons. As USW is a group heavily engaged in struggles with nearly every state in the United $tates – addressing "The failure of prison grievance systems", we are sure that we, and our memberships may unite in forces to bring about a uniform grievance system in prisons across the board.
USW, and its supporters, has been working on a national prisoners campaign demanding prison officials address, honor and upkeep prisoners' grievances. Petitions have been developed at prisons in all of the following states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, and Texas. Each state has a petition drawn particularly for its local conditions and regulations. [There is also a more generic petition written for use by prisoners held outside these states.]
USW's most difficult task is finding public support to move forward our campaigns in a peaceful and legal way. CURE National’s policy initiatives 2015 1185 hinted at what it thinks is the root of prisoners' problems: "Introducing a Constitutional Amendment into Congress that would repeal the exception clause in the 13th Amendment. This clause provides that slavery is not abolished for those incarcerated. Prisoners are exploited, and for many groups the exploitation raises to the level of slavery." For the purpose of saving time and space, we will not share our science on the subject, but instead guide supporters of the amerikkkan Constitution to the very First Amendment and protecting it. The salvation of the entire Constitution relies on the sound voice of the civilized people. If it is believed that prisoners are slaves and not citizens then it should be understood slaves are property, not human beings. Slaves are objects of labor, tasked as tools and instruments to build or destroy an ideal society. Slaves have no voice to speak of injustice, but instead masters and lords who represent them as Power of Attorney.
Prisoners have not signed off of the grid (U.$. citizenship). So it is extreme to take up struggles to have the state abolish prison slavery, however it would be totally reasonable to educate the public about the need for public oversight and community advocacy for the First Amendment rights of prisoners to be protected. It is with greater grievance power that prisoners and their supporters may address the injustices of prisons.
Prisoners, their organizations and the support groups behind grassroots crews lead in civil rights battles with the state. The problem is that the massive so-called grassroots base is alienated when it comes to discussions regarding the general body of the massive population (or masses). We believe this comes at the expense of a care-free public. People aren't interested enough in the affairs of prisoners or their families. The general consensus is that prisoners did the crime and must face the time.
Organizations like CURE National are in a position to change the public opinion. Its members, who are of the public, may interact with communities in ways that prisoners cannot; whether it be due to high levels of censorship applied by prison guards disrupting our lines of communication, or interference from a higher power (the U.$. intelligence agencies). Prisoner leadership behind these walls requires greater socialization opportunities if the Prison Movement is to impact upon our state of existence the change that rehabilitates. So here you have it, an open letter calling on you to serve.
Countrywide Council of United Struggle from Within
PO Box 40799
San Francisco, CA 94140
With rhetoric targeting Islamic institutions, and President Trump's policies towards fighting ISIS, today (27 March 2017) on CNN a top military adviser was questioned about these so-called air strikes which have been blamed for the death of civilians. His only answer was, "we're doing an assessment on what happened in Syria and Iraq." Americans who support imperialism, is it right to kill people for profit? Have we forgotten that corporate america has so much investments tied up in Iraq and its natural resources? Are we so truly blind to ignore the genocide of Syrians and Iraqis at the hands of globalist pigs? We need to get away from national struggles and take up international struggles as a
We're so american which is a contradiction in itself. To say you're american and support a system which exploits, murders, enslaves, and justifies bombing innocent people is saying you're not true to what you base your belief in: A belief in freedom and liberty and pursuit of happiness. Is your happiness someone else's death? This system of capitalism has to be abolished and replaced with communism, where no government will have power over other governments or people having control over other people. People need to be the controllers of production. Socialism must be our goal and communism the final chapter where all people can be equal.
We in prison must create a public opinion to change this system of oppression. Those in the streets can learn a lot from us prisoners locked away. We challenge the administrations here in prison and no matter what they do to us, we unify and get things done. If the prisoners can go on massive worker strikes for wages and make some small change I believe the street orgs can do the same. If all the workers was to strike and just have one day of solidarity and unity around all the issues which causes oppression and injustice we might see some change or create a movement which might affect others across the world to do the same. This strike will shake up the elite, and they will realize that the people do have the power, not them. Without the workers, capitalism can't thrive, but there will be a percentage of people who are so addicted to consumerism and the system of capitalism and will sell out. So we must unify the masses, and help one another with food, and the necessities to make sure all are taken care of during the struggle when the system collapses.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer is right on about the contradiction between people who say they believe in freedom and justice while supporting the Amerikan system exploiting, brutalizing and killing people around the world. The Amerika-first
mentality that many people, including prisoners, have is in direct opposition to the value system that Amerikkka claims to uphold. And we applaud the idea of prisoners setting an example for organizers in the street with the unity and struggle being built behind bars.
One point we have to consider when comparing the potential actions of prisoners and those on the streets is where these groups fit in on a global economic analysis. The vast majority of workers in the United $tates are part of the labor aristocracy. They are actually being paid more than the value of their labor, at the expense of workers in the Third World. The profits from Third World workers' labor are propping up the economy of Amerika. This is why it's so easy for Amerikans to support imperialist militarism; it is actually directly in line with their own material interest. So when Amerikan workers go on strike to demand higher wages, it ends up being a demand for even more wealth stolen from the Third World. At best this is a demand that the Amerikan bourgeoisie give the workers a bit more of their large share of this stolen wealth. Either way it's not a progressive demand.
The demands of prisoners' strikes are oftentimes far more progressive because prisoners are not getting paid from the wealth stolen from Third World workers. Also usually prisoner strikes are not focused on wages, and are tied up with issues like brutality, isolation, censorship, and medical care. So while we definitely think organizers on the streets can learn from the solidarity and activism behind bars, we have to be sure to consider differences in conditions between these two situations when applying what is learned.
High Desert State Prison (HDSP), the largest prison in Nevada, housing some 3,500 inmates, has been on total lockdown for 4 days, and will remain so for at least two more weeks. This means that we will receive no yard, tier, phone, canteen, or access to any reading material.
Why is HDSP on lockdown? Because in a single week there was two "staff" assaults, and at least 8 fights.
But the pigs are doing nothing to investigate the cause of the violence. For example, that the temperature of the cells was reaching at least 90 degrees. While we have no cold water to drink, and are forced to be housed with individuals we do not get along with for up to 21 hours a day. And there is nothing for us to do: no programs, work, games, etc. We are literally trapped in cages like animals.
So how does HDSP deal with the violence? They enhance the inhumane and deplorable conditions by locking us down. Most of us do not have televisions, and with no access to any library we sit in a cell and twiddle our thumbs.
Violence and anger can only be expected as a result of such conditions. However, comrades, we must recognize that we do not win when we direct this anger and frustration towards each other.
Our focus must be on targeting the administrative policies which are responsible for our current state of existence. There is already a grievance campaign underway challenging OP516, the level system. And
comrades from the United Struggle from Within in Nevada just started a new grievance campaign in regards to AR801.
AR801 is a programs AR that states that Ad-Seg is to receive a minimum of 3 hours out of their cell, and closed custody inmates are to get a minimum of 5 hours out of their cells per day. This same AR lists a ton of programs which are approved by the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC).
The bottom line comrades, HDSP under Warden Williams has failed to implement any rehabilitative programs. The violence, anger and frustration is his and his administration's fault.
We must heed the USW call for peace and unity and challenge the administration's policies. We need all of you to file grievances challenging these policies. But even more important, we need you to have
your family and friends to call the office of the director and ask why HDSP prisoners are being denied all access to rehabilitative programs, school, and work. Have them call 702-486-9938 and complain.
Until then, comrades, do not allow your anger and frustrations with the pigs to be misdirected toward one another.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The United Struggle from Within comrades in Nevada are doing solid work organizing and educating folks in that state. They have set a good example of initiating targeted campaigns that could improve the lives of many prisoners. This is a good way to get folks participating in the struggle in a concrete way. But we must remember to tie these battles to the broader struggle against the criminal injustice system, and imperialism.
If we don't make these connections, we are misleading people, letting them think that these campaigns alone are all that is needed to change the system. And we know that's not true! We know the injustice system won't be reformed into a system of justice. It is rotten to the core because it is serving imperialism, which exists off the oppression and exploitation of entire nations of people. The wealth and power of the imperialists and even the "middle classes" is not something those folks will give up without a fight.
Let's follow the example of the Nevada USW comrades, and build important campaigns relevant to each prison and state. And always keep our work in the context of the anti-imperialist struggle.
19 August 2017 — Hundreds rallied outside the White House today for the "Millions for Prisoners' Human Rights March." The event was organized by U.$. prisoners and outside groups to focus on the issue of the 13th Amendment, which allows for the slavery of convicted felons in the United $tates. During the march to the White House, the most common signs were: "Abolish Mass Incarceration", "End Racist Prison Slavery" and Industrial Workers of the World membership cards. The latter were hard to read for the casual observer and did not reinforce the message of the march. There was one red, black and green flag, and representatives of the Republic of New Afrika in attendance.
While more than half of the participants were local, people from many states were in attendance, including New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, California and even Alaska. The crowd was a mix of movement elders, formerly incarcerated people, self-described "socialist" organizations and many youth for whom this was their first participation in the prison movement.
Last weekend's neo-nazi march, and murder of a young womyn, in nearby Charlottesville, Virginia was a motivator for a number of people to come out today. Some were there because of prisoners who had told them about the rally and asked them to participate. On the one hand this demonstrates the ability of prisoners to provide leadership to people on the outside. But these people were reachable by prisoners because they were involved in the movement already and the misnamed "Millions" for Prisoners rally proved the goals of the organizers to be a bit loftier than what was achieved.
In contrast to the hundreds in D.C., the so-called "Free Speech" rally in Boston today brought out tens of thousands of counter-demonstrators. Of course, they had the benefit of free advertising from all of the corporate news networks. The sight of hundreds of torch-wielding white men marching, chanting Nazi slogans, last weekend was rightfully jarring to many. Yet, innocent Black and Brown men are much more likely to die at the hands of the police or prison guards at this time than at the hands of a neo-nazi (that isn't employed by the state).
"Prisoner Lives Matter!" was one chant that rang true in D.C. For if there is any group whose lives are at risk, and whose unnecessary deaths receive little attention, in this country more than New Afrikan people in general, it is prisoners.
People at the march reported that some prisons had visiting shut down or were on lockdown today to prevent any group demonstrations on the inside. This is another example of why MIM(Prisons) thinks the First Amendment is a more important battle front than the Thirteenth. Just the idea that prisoners might organize a protest is enough to trigger state repression. Organized prisoners are the lynch-pin to a meaningful prison movement, so the right to organize must be at the forefront.
When this correspondent asked participants what the most important issue in the prison movement was, many weren't sure because they were new to it. Many had a hard time picking just one issue because there are so many things wrong with the U.$. injustice system. But the one response that was more popular than ending slavery in prisons, was the disproportionate arrest, sentencing, imprisonment and mistreatment of oppressed nations. While almost always phrased as "race" or "people of color", it does seem that the national contradiction is at the heart of what people see as wrong with prisons in the United $tates. Even the focus on the 13th Amendment was regularly tied to the history of slavery of New Afrikans by speakers. One speaker called prisons the "new plantation", which is true in that they were both institutions to control the New Afrikan semi-colony. But one was an economic powerhouse fueling global imperialism, while the other is a money pit that the prison movement aims to make a liability to the imperialists.
Perhaps an even bigger distinction was in the answers given by recently imprisoned people. Their focus was on their struggles upon release and the needs of those recently released. One New Afrikan man talked about his mother dying while he was in prison and him not even knowing at first. He got the news in such a callous way he didn't even believe it at first. To this day he has not figured out where his mother's body is. Yet he has been out of prison for two years and is already working for the mayor's office providing release support and doing motivational speaking.
It is a good thing that the state is doing more to provide services to recently-released prisoners. But we still need programs for those who dedicate themselves to changing the system. The state can't provide that. And it can't serve self-determination for the oppressed. There is much work to be done to build bridges to revolutionary political organizing for comrades being released all over the country. And ultimately, as the state knows and demonstrates, the only successful release programs are those that are led and run by releasees themselves.
I'm writing this letter to update you on my efforts and the outcome of the grievance petition. I filed my petition with the Department of Corrections Commissioner, the Alaska Lt. Governor and to the Department of Justice (DOJ). A few days later another captive and I were transferred to administrative segregation at Anchorage Correctional Complex – East, to the same module where captives who have violated DOC rules are housed. We have been told we are not being punished, however we live under the same punitive conditions.
A few days after our transfer I received a notice from the warden (she calls herself a "superintendent" but she is a warden) telling me that the petition I sent to the Lt. Gov. was forwarded to her to address. She denies all of my claims and tells me that if I still have issues that "the grievance procedure has a specific process to follow, including an appeal process, and the right to seek redress in superior court if the department does not rule in your favor." She then states that the Standards Sgt. is backlogged with grievances and asks for my patience. This letter was coincidentally dated the day before our transfer.
During our transfer our property was seized, was deemed excess and was denied issuance of even the most essential hygiene items. I have filed multiple grievances about this, but the tactic now seems to be to ignore all of my grievances. I have unacknowledged grievances that are over 3 months since filed. The DOC policy states it has 15 working days to investigate and respond.
Now they are retaliating even more by seizing my legal mail, reading and mutilating it. They use excessive force when outside cell by over-ratcheting handcuffs and ensuring we are cuffed whenever outside our cells. If our cell is not shaken down daily, it is every other day. We have been strip searched (unwarranted) at least 3 times. When we are given new clothing to change out, a gay guard glowers at our nakedness. Books that have been sent to me by books to prisoners orgs have been denied for absurd reasons like "contains book" or "unknown substance on book." More retaliatory measures than these have been imposed on me, however it has not stopped me. I still write letters to the Commissioner (who forwards them to the warden I am complaining about), the Lt. Governor, the Governor and any other state official that may listen. Including the ACLU. The ACLU has never responded to any of my letters.
Since being transferred to segregation it is difficult to disperse the grievance petition which I am sure was the reason for my transfer. I did however get it out to close to 60 or 70 people and I believe they will pass it on as well. I have also mailed a few copies to people I know in other institutions. These at first were censored. The reason given: "typed." I eventually had an officer mail them out (after several attempts).
I am not sure what else they can to do me at this point but I am not going to stop fighting.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade's story is a good example of why the grievance campaign was initiated. Prisoners across the country face this same problem with the grievance system of getting no response, or bullshit responses, and never getting grievances seriously addressed. The petition, which now exists for many states, is a simple demand that our grievances be addressed.
Of course we don't actually expect this petition will lead to victory over a grievance system that is purposefully set up to deny prisoners' attempts to demand their rights. But people like this writer are using the petition as an organizing tool; getting others involved in the fight and waking them up to their oppression and the importance of their role in fighting back. We have to combine this work with education about the criminal injustice system as a tool of social control under imperialism so that we don't mislead people into thinking petitioning will fix the entire system. In this way we can take on these smaller battles in the context of the larger struggle to build unity against imperialism.
Send us a self-addressed stamped envelope for a copy of the grievance petition for your state, or a generic petition you can customize if one doesn't already exist.
La primera vez que vine a la prisión toda mi percepción de organización en las calles cambio. Un cambio debido a la educación de historia: historia de otros movimientos y su organización en las calles desde la prisión. Yo soy creyente de que los prisioneros pueden tener una gran influencia con los activistas debido a nuestras luchas aquí. Pero como el dicho dice; “La lucha del prisionero hoy sera la lucha de la calle mañana.” El trabajo que se debe realizar desde estas paredes es para ayudar a influenciar otras organizaciones en educación, estrategia, democracia central y unidad sobre todos los trabajadores y personas oprimidas. Pero lo que encuentro en las calles es que todo el mundo quiere escoger que batalla es mas importante para su causa en vez de buscar una solución para todos los retos de las organizaciones.
Aquí en prisión a veces nos quedamos atrapados arrogantemente en pelear un asunto, que sólo satisface los deseos de egoístas de una persona, en vez de retar los asuntos que cambian el sistema de forma completa. Nosotros tenemos que aprender a unirnos bajo un paraguas para atacar los asuntos que enfrentamos.
Mi audiencia objetivo serian los trabajadores porque creo que tienen poder pero no lo saben todavía. La diferencia que contradice el trabajo con los trabajadores es que algunos están tan atrapados por el consumismo que no se organizan, o no quieren perder sus estatus así que no luchan enteramente por un mejor sueldo. También pude ser difícil trabajar con el lumpen por la falta de recursos.
Nosotros tendríamos que construir una opinión publica a través de medios de comunicación, cultura del hip hop, deportistas y revistas. La contradicción del capitalismo tiene que ser expuesta para que la audiencia asignada tenga algo porque luchar. Pero para concluir, los prisioneros también pueden ayudar a los LOs construyendo unidad y sobre entendiendo los asuntos de cada uno, combinando teorías y usando la ciencia para desafiar al sistema imperialista.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Este escritor ha traído un punto importante sobre la necesidad del poder mirar mas allá de nuestros asuntos y deseos personales hacia los problemas más grandes de los oprimidos. Esto es especialmente importante si esperamos unirnos más allá de nuestra distinción local. Y de seguro podemos usar salidas culturales para construir una opinión pública y unidad.
En la pregunta de organizar trabajadores, nosotros hemos escrito mucho
sobre “la compra natural” de la mayoría de los trabajadores dentro de las fronteras de los U.$. y vemos esto como una explicación material para lo que este escritor anota: Ellos están atrapados en el consumo y no quieren pender su status. Estos trabajadores ganan más que el valor de su labor debido a todas las ganancias de la explotación del Tercer Mundo, que se trae de vuelta a este país imperialista. De forma que los trabajadores aquí sí entienden que su estatus es valioso y genera ganancias. Ellos tienen el dinero para gastar lo que les permite quedar atrapados en el consumo. Como resultado nosotros hemos visto a través de la historia de Amerika que estas personas no son una fuerza para el cambio progresivo, y organizarlos para que exijan salarios más elevados no es organizarse contra el imperialismo. Esta es una de las razones por qué nosotros nos enfocamos en la organización de los lumpen como un grupo que probablemente tenga un interés en la revolución.
MIM(Prisons) espouses a valid conviction that here and now is not the proper moment for a popular uprising (armed struggle).(1) Historically speaking, this is correct. Yet, it raises an important question: should those following the MIM-line dissociate themselves from militant-lines?
First, we must acknowledge reality. I don't mean theoretically or philosophically. Capitalists and their contributors will not surrender control/authority, or their social, global and class positions/privileges without mortal combat. Meaning it's not a question of whether violent struggle will be necessary or not, but rather when is the indicative time? Before we (revolutionaries) can make that distinction, another question must be addressed.
How do we succeed in armed confrontation? This isn't a matter to be solved with theory and study alone. Like Marxist theory or development of such it also concerns practice. Theory without practice is Proudhon-like idealism.
Comrade UFO asks, "What good is a gun if you don't know who the enemy truly is?"(2) A reasonable question. UFO then goes on about "the enemy" being "the system" how it "must be changed" and that "guns with no vision or discipline is suicide for the united front." The better question is: what use is vision or discipline if you lack the skills necessary to champion the cause?
A reliance on educating and building correct political perspective among the masses to solve the problem (capitalism-imperialism), is the same as praying to some benevolent deity for salvation,(3) while your house burns down around you. Your prayers may not be heard at all, let alone answered. If you act to put out the flames and call for help, you may find your salvation. I fear too many place study, theory, line and the likes on a throne of divinity. By doing so they become classroom revolutionaries. As important as all of that is, none of it becomes valid without practice. Engels, Fidel, Lenin, Luxemberg, Mao, Marti, Marx and others recognized this. So why do present-day revolutionaries seem opposed to practice?
Our answer turns on the issue of armed revolt. In theory it's an accepted fact: armed, violent conflict will be needed. Still, many justify not engaging in such confrontations, at present, claiming it'll bring disastrous repressions or "might jeopardize the united front." As if "premature" military operations were the only risk to any anti-imperialist movimiento. A belief which many identify with and then shun alliances with militant organizations and/or lines. A big mistake.
These early armed confrontations are as important as educating, creating consciousness and organizing. Many militias and militant lines are conducting the practice needed to actually champion battle. Such actions create theory based on concrete analysis of concrete conditions. Classroom work is necessary but fieldwork will be the deciding factor once revolutionaries are holding their rifles.
Alienation of these groups or lines, even the apparent alienation of them, can provoke a crippling problem for communism – internal angst. One must recognize their work and sacrifice is invaluable. With their efforts running parallel to classroom work; revolutionaries who educated, built popular support, correct political comprehension and such, will not see themselves obligated to struggle to find appropriate battle theory and principles. The foundational work has been done and its results only need application.
Marx said, "to leave error irrefutted is to encourage immorality."(4) As socialists and communists we all must employ and or cherish practice, not demonstrate aversion towards it. Through practice "man, in varying degrees, comes to know the different relations between man and man, not only through his material life but also through his political and cultural life...."(5)
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is arguing that failure to engage in or at least support armed revolts is refusing to engage in practice. But yet ey concedes up front that now is not the time for armed struggle in the United $tates. It is true that historically we have seen revolutionaries gain many lessons from armed struggle that strengthen and solidify their movement. But these examples are in countries where the time for this struggle is ripe. In other countries, particularly in First World countries, where some groups have engaged in armed actions before conditions are such that there is a chance of winning, they have mostly ended up dead or in prison, not building a stronger movement.
The question this writer raises is: what is practice? Ey argue that educating people is not practice, it is theory. And it seems ey only consider armed struggle to be real practice. Further, ey seems to define "militant" practice as armed struggle. We disagree with this position. Theory work is study: reading and writing about that study. Practice is the real world activity of building a movement. This includes educating others. Someone who spends their time on their tier talking to people about conditions and the broader prison system and how it is tied together, building a united movement to fight those conditions, is not doing theory work. This is educational and organizing work. If you haven't learned how to organize people to do something as non-committal as filling out a grievance form, how can you organize them to war? Working with others to fight critical legal battles like censorship, grievance denial, or abuse is practice. That practice needs to include educating people about the theory behind these legal battles and how they aren't going to take down the criminal injustice system. And it should be focused on building unity for the longer term battles. But it's still firmly in the realm of practice. And we do not think armed struggle is necessary for an organization to be militantly and aggressively active in the service of a cause.
In the essay On Practice (referenced by the author above), Mao wrote: "Whoever wants to know a thing has no way of doing so except by coming into contact with it, that is, by living (practicing) in its environment." The point ey was making is that only through interacting with something can we come to fully know it. This essay actually defined practice far more broadly than just political activism: "Man's social practice is not confined to activity in production, but takes many other forms—class struggle, political life, scientific and artistic pursuits; in short, as a social being, man participates in all spheres of the practical life of society." The point being that one must participate in changing a thing to really come to know it: "If you want to know a certain thing or a certain class of things directly, you must personally participate in the practical struggle to change reality, to change that thing or class of things, for only thus can you come into contact with them as phenomena; only through personal participation in the practical struggle to change reality can you uncover the essence of that thing or class of things and comprehend them."
There are many ways that we can engage in practice to change the world. Of course we know that ultimately to overthrow imperialism armed struggle will be necessary. But this is certainly not the only form of practice that is legitimate and necessary political work.