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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 55]

Debating Theory, Building Unity for September 9 Protests

Recently we learned that one of our readers and a long-time activist, Zero, had a letter published on the Anarchist Black Cross Portland (ABC PDX) website and in the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) newsletter responding to an article in Under Lock & Key No. 50 (May/June 2016) about the September 9 work stoppage. Zero invited us to respond publicly and so we have done our best here to distill this debate down to what we see as the most important points.

With IWOC, ABC, and Zero, we have a common enemy in the criminal injustice system and imperialism more broadly. We are writing this response with the goal of building unity, not division, between organizations and individuals that are working hard to fight this unjust system.

Anarchism vs. Communism

Fundamentally we have a disagreement over anarchism vs. communism, but we believe that both camps are fighting for the same thing at root: an end to oppression of groups of people by other groups of people. We just think that communists have a more scientific plan for how to get there than anarchists, based on our study of how these same efforts have been attempted, succeeded, and failed in the past. The oppressed people of the world deserve the best and fastest route to liberation. Communists hope to discover what that route is through not only our study but also our practice.

This disagreement over the importance of science to revolutionary struggle is highlighted in a lot of what Zero wrote. Ey accuses MIM(Prisons) of being intellectuals whose "theory is based in theory." Zero also claims to have no interest in political line in the development of the September 9 work stoppage: "I don't care what your line is, nor does anyone else I work closely with on this project. Beyond small friendly jabs at each other, nothing I've seen or read, or heard from anyone in this campaign suggests anyone cares much about line."

Yet it's a discredit to the hunger strike organizers to say that they don't care much about line. It is precisely political line and theoretical analysis that drives the concept that "prisoner labor is slavery and this mass work stoppage is a good plan to shut down prisons." Without unity on this analysis, the organizers might have decided (as an example) the best approach is for everyone to fast because the Amerikkkan farms depend on prisons to buy agricultural goods and so this boycott would shut down the farms and hence force prison reform. IWOC and ABC aren't suggesting this, and that's probably because of their correct theoretical understanding of agriculture in this country. In forming their alliance on this campaign, Zero, IWOC, and ABC at least agree on this political line, even if they don't talk about it. After all, they are all anarchists (or anarchist-led), so they have much unity on line already.

Zero finds "contradictory statements" in our original article that help demonstrate where we depart from the anarchists because our strategy differs from theirs. Zero wrote:

"In paragraph #5 you say: 'we do see power in the ability of prisoners to shut down facilities by not doing the work to keep them running for a potentially longer period'. But then in paragraph #10 you say 'the organizers of the anti-slavery protest are misleading people into believing that shutting down prison work will shut down prisons'.

If masses of prisoners stopped working, forever, some facilities may close. This would likely be because of where they're located geographically, the layout and security level of the facility, and how easy or difficult it is to staff the prisons to accommodate for the loss of labor. But would that close all prisons in the United $tates? We doubt it. Does that mean we think prisoners should all just keep working? No! Short of overthrowing capitalist Amerikkka's power altogether, we will still have prisons in this country based on national oppression. But making that oppression more difficult is always a good thing.

Our point is that Amerikkka is willing to spend a lot of time, money and resources on imprisoning a staggering number of people, all at a financial loss. So we do not see evidence that if prisoners stop working and it suddenly becomes more expensive to imprison people that that will shut down the prison system. It most certainly is a form of resistance that heightens the contradictions between the oppressed and the oppressor, and even within the oppressor camp. Such an act would certainly have great influence on the ever-changing realities within the U.$. criminal injustice system, as would any sustained, mass prisoner mobilization.


Zero criticizes MIM(Prisons), "You spell united front with capital 'U' and 'F' which is what MIM calls one of its programs, short for UFPP, and as [UFPP] makes specific ideological demands for any entity it is willing to work with, I'm led to believe that what you truly mean by 'work with' is to 'co-opt'." We do capitalize the name of the organization United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP), which has a specific program (the 5 Principles of the UFPP: Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism, and Independence). Organizations that agree with those principles but disagree with us on many other things have joined this United Front and there is no attempt to co-opt those groups. We do not capitalize "united front" when not talking about this specific organization (if we have in print it was a mistake, not a political point). This is not a problem of elitisim, it is simply grammar. We welcome the development of a united front against prisons, and even better a united front against imperialism, outside of the UFPP and not bound by its 5 principles. But we do believe that united fronts need to have clear points of unity so that there isn't a question of organizations being forced to change their political line or give up their independence to participate. In other words, we are actively trying to organize in a way to prevent the co-opting of organizations that Zero accuses us of attempting.

Zero goes on to say that MIM(Prisons) "... refuse[s] to even mention the names of these other revolutionary organizations so that your readers can reach out and seek information on their own. Another display of elitist hegemonization of line." Yet this comment is in the context of criticizing an article that specifically named the IWOC and included a link directly to its publication, so we're confused about where we failed to mention the other organizers' names. On this point, however, we did fail to convert the web address to a print address in our print version of ULK, which of course makes it harder for subscribers to reach out directly to IWOC, and we are correcting that mistake in our footnote to this article and our general practice. We actually print many articles debating theory and practice, including some that explicitely disagree with us. To be clear though, the purpose of ULK is to educate and inform people on what we see as the most correct political line and practice and so we always offer our response to those points of disagreement and allow our readers (and history) to decide who is correct.

On this same point, we also highlight the correct practice of our predecessors in the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) who distributed a pamphlet "What's Your Line?" with the names, addresses and political positions of a wide spectrum of political organizations. We haven't put the time or money into compiling a similar up-to-date list because our resources are sadly limited, but we still support this practice. Perhaps an innocent oversight, but neither the ABC nor the IWOC bothered to link to our website or print contact information for MIM(Prisons) alongside Zero's long and scathing critique of our organization.

Nihilism or Subjectivism

In eir argument against political theory Zero writes: "I'm an anarchist. More, a nihilist. ... In the words of Bakunin, the true revolutionist is concerned with the science of destruction. Let the other sciences be the work of future generations. ... And as Bakunin said, sometimes we just have to throw theory into the fire, for it only stalls life." It's great to have faith that humynity can work out the problems of the future, but the problems of today also require scientific analysis. The oppressed don't have the luxury of banging their heads against the wall for years failing to make progress. If historical revolutions have failed in the same way repeatedly, we need to learn from those mistakes. And if revolutions have succeeded with certain practices, we should learn from those. This is what theory is all about: learning from history and applying those lessons to our practice today. Then looking at our own practice, drawing conclusions, and adapting our approach.

Citing Webster's dictionary and, without acknowledging the class interests that those resources represent, and saying "that's good enough for me" is simply subjectivism. Denying the importance of theory to our practice is to make us slaves (pun intended) to our emotions and subjectivism, which are very thoroughly conditioned by our residence in an imperialist country. We cannot expect to overcome subjectivism 100%, but through applying dialectical and historical materialsm we hope to make the fewest errors in our revolutionary work as possible.

Zero gives a good example of theoretical analysis in eir criticism:

"In closing, let me clarify that dialectical soundness can often depend on interpretation. You all use orthodox marxist definitions of 'slavery' even though we live in a post-modern, post-fordist time and place. The dynamics of our current reality are different. And so we must also re-assess our definitions. Besides, though personally I use marxist formulas I'm ultimately a nihilist, un-beholden to an particular ideological parameters. In other words. My definition of 'slavery' is reflected by our material conditions, not political agenda."

Zero is correctly stating here that we must adapt our theory to current conditions. What held true in Marx's day may not be true today. We can't just get stuck in what Marx wrote and ignore changes in conditions. We agree with that. But we ask Zero, what is it but theory that allows us to discuss who is or isn't a slave? If this discussion isn't based in theory, then it's just subjectivism.

For example, here is an instance where MIM(Prisons)'s analysis has adapted to changing conditions since Marx's day. We see that while the vast majority of workers of all countries were exploited in the past, and made up the proletariat class that Marx wrote about so thoroughly, today imperialism has advanced to the point where workers in imperialist countries are mostly petty-bourgeois. This is a point where we tend to disagree with groups who organize people in the First World around their economic interests (as opposed to national interests).

Finally, demonstrating the difficulty in remaining anti-theory while discussing political theory, Zero critiqued our point that work strikes will not in-and-of-themselves bring down the Amerikan criminal injustice system: "I’d ask on what dialectical evidence you base your theory that america would 'figure out' how to keep us locked up." This is a good example of the importance of theory. If we're wrong, then we should focus our efforts into organizing work stoppages. And Zero is right, it is dialectical materialist analysis that will help us figure that out here. The article that Zero responded to actually went into a lot of depth on this very point, explaining that prisons are primarily tools to control society, not make profit, which aid in the oppressive force of the bourgeoisie by keeping lumpen and anyone deemed dangerous to their power locked away. We know that prisons are not reliant on the money made from prisoner labor, because there is public information showing that prisons are money-losing operations.

Political debate is not the same as political opposition

To clarify our position, in the original article about the September 9 protests we talked about the similarities and differencess between the five-year history of the United Front for Peace in Prisons September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity, and this newer call for prisoner activism on September 9: "First we want to say that we are always happy to see people taking up organizing and trying to build unity behind bars. There are some very good points taken in this call to action... we would hope to work with these folks to broaden our movement." We followed this up with multiple articles reporting on the work stoppage and praising the widespread protests.

But Zero seems to think that by publically criticizing an incorrect point of political theory from the organizers we are opposing the protests. Ey wrote

"What we have here is a huge social base, across prison walls, that is extremely pissed off. And we have an opportunity to harness that anger and point it at our enemy on September 9th, thats all the analysis I need. and I say that if you oppose this in any way, you’re nothing but a house slave ready to defend your master. your complicit and should be among the first to be taken to task."

If we won't just blindly agree and follow eir leadership, apparently we are written off as complicit with the enemy. Isn't this the squelching of political debate that anarchists so vehemently oppose? To be clear, we support the September 9th protests, both those organized by members of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, and those promoted by the IWOC. Our criticism is directed toward statements that participating in these protests will shut down the prisons because prisons are dependent on prisoner slave labor. If we did not make this clear in our articles about September 9, we will take this criticism to help us approach the struggle with a clearer focus on unity.

Finally, Zero wrote that we should have known about this work strike sooner. It looks like there was some censorship of our mail from em so letters from Zero about this didn't get to us. We did reach out to IWOC and others about working together on September 9 organizing once we learned about the work strike (which we did hear about from a number of ULK subscribers). We never got a response from the organizers. We hope that going forward we can collaborate in the fight against the criminal injustice system to build a stronger movement. This doesn't mean we will give up our communist position, nor does it mean that Zero, ABC, or IWW need to give up their anarchism, and in fact we would argue that continuing this debate publicly is good for everyone. In practice we hope to collaborate on the September 9 protest in 2017.

For more information on the IWOC organized September 9 work stoppage, contact them at: IWOC, PO Box 414304, Kansas City, MO 64141
ABC PDX can be contacted at 109 SE Alder st. unit #0717, Portland Oregon 97214
[Organizing] [ULK Issue 56]

Response to Coffee House Revolutionaries

As to the comrade in Ohio and MIM(Prisons)'s response on "Coffee House Revolutionaries or Real Militants?" in ULK 54 I don't think the comrade in Ohio knows or realizes what MIM(Prisons) does or does not have in the organization's caches or whether or not MIM is or isn't physically or militarily preparing for the perfect time to do what that comrade is expressing in this letter. Also MIM follows Mao's line on war strategy. MIM(Prisons) is not a street gang, or a criminal org. If you want to, and feel the time is perfect to take on the imperialist U.$. army, you're sadly mistaken. In your commentary, I understood where you're coming from because I am not much of a politician. I'm a soldier, and fighter as well. I, comrade in Ohio, agree with you that violence is a necessary means to achieve one's goals in our type of struggle, and little by little, on a small scale the snowball has begun to roll. Trump is helping us push that ball forward, with his political ignorance. He's threatening to dismantle people like us, who have outside organizations — other than MIM(Prisons) — whom we have direct third world connections to.

Now, where I am in disagreement with MIM(Prisons) is that they, or we, should not be reluctant to put a cache of weapons in bunkers or safe-houses just because of what MIM(Prisons) says "recent history" in the United $tates reveals about the murder or imprisonment of revolutionary groups that have attempted to do that. There does not have to be a set time to get weapons ready. That can be done clandestinely. I will not elaborate on that any more at this time. I will say that I do respect how MIM(Prisons) responded to the comrade in the Ohio prison. You, MIM(Prisons), stated at the end of your response that you "look forward to learning and building with this comrade and eir organization for many years to come." The organization I'll be working for out there are ex-military, ex-cops, and from ex-intelligence of 3rd world military groups from all over the world, and of whom they, as well as all other organizations like them, can't be too happy about the hard line President Trump is taking.

[Organizing] [Gender] [ULK Issue 56]

Subjetivismo al reclutar: Peligro o táctica

...Estoy pensando acercar a la chica con la que estoy quedando a la política. La empezaré a tantear por primera vez sobre este tema mañana. Ella tiene 24 años y yo 31, así que creo que puedo moldearla. Además, es inocente y confiada. Intentaré enseñarla cuando la haya tanteado. Agradecería que me respondierais y me dijerais lo que pensáis de este caso particular.

MIM(Prisons) responde: Normalmente, desaconsejamos que se reclute a alguien con quien se está saliendo, sobre todo si dicha persona no ha mostrado estar interesada por sí sola en el antiimperialismo. No obstante, coincidimos con tu aparente actitud prudente de "tantearla" primero. Es una táctica de seguridad prudente no poner todas las cartas sobre la mesa respecto a tu actividad política con alguien que no estás segur@ de si lo va a tolerar.

Otra cosa que has comentado es que es más joven, inocente y confiada, e insinúas que te aprovecharás de eso. Es así como creas resentimiento y, cuando una persona está resentida con otra asociada con el movimiento, se pone en peligro dicho movimiento. Esto es más probable cuando está involucrado el amor. Esa es la primera razón por la que no mezclar las relaciones con el reclutamiento: La gente confunde las motivaciones. Reclutar a amig@s es algo menos arriesgado, pero también tiene este problema. Por otro lado, es cierto que l@s jóvenes están más abiert@s a políticas revolucionarias, lo que puede llevarnos a emprender tácticas como repartir folletos en las escuelas. Nuestra actitud no debe ir dirigida a aprovecharnos de l@s jóvenes o de las mujeres en general, usando características derivadas de la opresión de género a la que se enfrentan. Más bien, debemos acceder al resentimiento justificado que pueden tener por esa opresión para que dejen de lado las características negativas que las ha animado y volverse revolucionarias.

En situaciones más avanzadas, esto puede producirse de otra manera en la que l@s camaradas comiencen a preguntar si alguien ha empezado a juntarse porque está saliendo con un@ camarada o porque cree por sí mism@ en la lucha. Por ello, tanto para ella individu@ como para el colectivo es mejor ser clar@ y científic@ sobre cuál es la posición de cada un@.

Reclutar siempre debe hacerse basándose en una explicación científica de la línea política. Naturalmente, la subjetividad entra en juego y no hay nada de malo en adornar las cosas de manera que sean más atractivas para las masas (ej. Forma/ lenguaje). Sin embargo, no está bien manipular a la gente basándose en su subjetividad para que hagan política por otras razones distintas a su apoyo a dichas políticas, ya que esto conlleva a confusión, tanto políticamente como interpersonalmente. Esta es una cuestión realmente estratégica cuando decimos no usar el sexo, el coqueteo o la amistad para reclutar gente. Nuestro objetivo es enseñar a la gente a pensar científicamente y crear organizaciones científicas fuertes.

Esto no quiere decir que la mayoría de la gente en los movimientos de masas sean pensadoræs científic@s convencid@s por motivaciones puramente objetivas. Así que existen cuestiones tácticas sobre qué lenguaje e imágenes utilizar para presentar nuestro mensaje a las masas de manera que puedan identificarse con él. Llevar uniformes, asociar buena música con nuestro movimiento o que personas famosas recomienden nuestro trabajo son todo tácticas que atraen al subjetivismo de la gente sin manipular al individu@ y, por tanto, sin poner en peligro el movimiento.

Como mínimo, la mitad de nuestr@s lectoræs están en prisión e, incluso en la universidad o en cualquier comunidad más pequeña, verás a menudo que gente con la que ya tenías amistad está comenzando a interesarse por la política. Entonces, se trata de tener la habilidad de separar el trabajo del placer. Los desacuerdos políticos no deben decidir las amistades y viceversa. Una táctica útil para esta situación, si sientes que podría haber un conflicto de intereses o confusión, es pasar un@ amig@ a otr@ camarada para que estæ sea su contacto principal y reclutador@. Esto da más independencia a dicho amig@ para explorar la política en sus propios términos con menos presión por las implicaciones de que este acuerdo político contigo sea un requisito para dicha amistad.

Un@ nuev@ camarada al que le ha convencido nuestra causa informó cómo otr@ prisioner@ le lanzó una publicación de ULK a su regazo de camino a una audiencia y dijo: "mira, esto te va a gustar." Much@s de nuestr@s suscriptoræs afirmaron haber descubierto ULK en las zonas comunes. Ambos son ejemplos del “dejar caer”, una técnica para difundir nuestras ideas tanto como sea posible para garantizar que tod@s l@s interesad@s tienen la oportunidad de estar expuest@s a ellas.

Encontrar el equilibrio correcto entre lanzar una amplia red, como la técnica de “dejar caer”, y desarrollar un nuevo cuadro uno a uno es una cuestión táctica complicada. MIM siempre ha errado en el lanzamiento de una amplia red. Esto se basa en la decisión estratégica de que, en nuestras condiciones, es más importante crear opinión pública contra el imperialismo que crear organizaciones de cuadros. No obstante, necesitamos que la gente haga más que leer ULK y nuestro sitio web. No importa si están apoyando o no los proyectos de MIM(Prisons), nosotr@s necesitamos que la gente dé un paso adelante por el antiimperialismo para amplificar esa voz antiimperialista y construir instituciones independientes de l@s oprimid@s. L@s oprimid@s nos contactan todos los días en busca de ayuda. Necesitamos que más camaradas den un paso adelante y creen el poder necesario para proporcionar soluciones reales a sus problemas.

[United Front] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 55]

United Front Alliances with White Nationalists

"Is there ever a time when we should unite with reactionary oppressor nation lumpen orgs in a United Front for Peace in Prisons?" Absolutely! You want to win, don't you? For anyone to refuse to work with a potentially valuable ally against this Juggernaut Force that both groups are up against, due to a few minor differences in excess views and opinions just sounds like folly. Wars are won by alliances, not the practice of alienation.

History is full of these kinds of examples. The German Nazis were undisputed white nationalist, white supremacy, white racist and everything else white group that there has ever been. The Japanese were anything but Aryan or white, yet despite that obvious fact, the two groups were able to put those differences aside long enough in order to wage war against the rest of the world.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Now that's sound logic! If you decide not to join forces with what you refer to as "white nationals," either because they are "white" or maybe even a little too proud of it, then wouldn't that sort of put you in the same boat as them, guilty of the same things? Are you perhaps then a little bit racist too?

Are there so many of you that you can afford to be so picky about the skin color, or differences in ideologies of those that we allow to align themselves with you in this fight? Black communist and white nationalist alike, neither can afford to turn away the aid of the other at a time like this — especially in prison.

White nationalists are seasoned and often times expert resistance fighters that come complete with a deep-seated hatred of our most potent enemy, that any group in this fight would be lucky to have on their side, once the real fighting starts. The Federal Government fears them and has always feared them for those very reasons. These members of the White Resistance Movement would bring their own unique skill sets to the struggle, that you might otherwise be lacking in, such as military strategy, connections — in parts of the underground that you've never had access to before — military tactics and weapons knowledge, etc.

Now I'm only suggesting cooperation with certain white nationalists and/or separatist individuals here and there, that might want to help, not necessarily white nationalist "groups" per say. This is because these types of groups attract a lot of attention from all the current law enforcement agencies and especially the Federal Government and because of that, each group is already heavily infiltrated by under cover agents. So by uniting with such groups and organizations, you would just be inviting those same numerous agents into the folds of your own group.

There are lots of single disenfranchised ex-members of these groups though, who are solid soldiers and have a lot to offer their next group and I think that it would be a mistake to let them get away, if they are willing to help.

MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer raises some good points about uniting with all who oppose the same enemy, but perhaps goes too far with the pragmatism of allying for the sake of size and skills. We believe there needs to be some clear political unity in order to build a united front. We don't all have to agree that we want a communist system in the end, but we must have at least one concrete goal that we can unite around in practice. And we also need to agree that political independence is acceptable, as we will not give up our principles just for the sake of convincing someone who disagrees with us to work with us anyway.

Under a bourgeois democracy, militant white nationalists are both tools of and enemies of the state. As imperialism moves closer to fascism the government's fear lessens as they begin to utilize these groups more directly. We're not sure if we can say this is happening unter Trump yet though, although ey as already been giving these groups many passes.

Lastly, we want to comment on the idea that it is racist to refuse to unite with white nationalists. It would be incorrect to turn away white allies just for the color of their skin, but it is not incorrect to identify groups of people's political and economic interests and to identify potential allies based on this. If someone is promoting white nationalism, that is fundamentally opposed to the liberation of oppressed nations: white nationalism is, by definition, a belief in the superiority of the white nation which already has the power and wealth. This sort of nationalism is reactionary and opposing it is not the same thing as being racist. We can unite with these people on specific tasks, while also struggling with them over their line on white nationalism.

[United Front] [Organizing] [Russia] [ULK Issue 55]

The Enemy of my Enemy

Regarding the question of united front alliances with white nationalist groups, there are pros and cons to working with other groups. I have been writing to MIM(Prisons) for a few years now and enjoy reading ULK. I am pretty much my own one-man army. I do not ask others to do things I will not do myself.

I am in a Federal Penitentiary in Tuscon, Arizona. This is a sex offender, gang drop out, Protective Custody yard. I am not here by choice. I am a registered sex offender for indecent exposure in a bar. Even though charges were dropped I was forced to register and now I am still fighting that case in the state. I am in Federal prison for charges that were unrelated to the state charge. This yard does not have politics that other yards have. We still have politics, but not to the extreme. The chow hall is racially segregated but a man can sit wherever he wants. The point I'm trying to get at is I could leave this yard and go back to an active yard most likely and get killed for being a registered sex offender even though the charges were dropped. That's politics. Now there is a lot of sex offenders and homosexuals, rats, and dropouts. Everyone is here for a reason. I have been on active yards and a lot of times, in fact most of the time, a person is putting his life on the line for someone who is just a piece of shit or a dope fiend. I no longer use dope and do not use dope in prison.

I grew up in the west from Montana to Arizona in the heart of the Aryan nation, an enforcer for the Aryan Brotherhood with the old saying if it ain't white it ain't right. I was a blind kid but a good soldier. At 41 years old I am now my own man. I have never left my brothers but I no longer fight that fight of hatred. There are pros and cons to working with other groups.

I have a question: are there no Maoists who are sex offenders or snitches? Do the Maoists choose to work with other groups or try to convert other groups to Maoism? It is one thing to work with a different group to achieve the same goal. I am an individual in a group and my goals as an individual are not always the same goals as the group. My goal is freedom from an oppressive corrupt government and it does not matter whether it is the USA or Russia, oppression is oppression, corruptness is corruptness and this should be stopped. We all belong to different groups, even the groups that feel the need to oppress others.

The enemy of my enemy is my ally. United Front for Peace!

This is no longer about politics or what group a person belongs to. I am an independent Aryan Brother and I support the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons and the struggle of incarcerated people. (I do not like to use the word inmate or convict or any other word for prisoner that is used to take a person's personal power. These words make people feel powerless, hopeless, and this is not true.) We are people, humans. We have families, friends, just like everyone else.

MIM(Prisons) responds: This is an interesting letter about united fronts because it comes from someone representing two of the groups that we are often told to never ally with, and ey raises questions from the other side. First on the question of sex offenders, this writer demonstrates why trusting the state's label of "sex offender" is as bad as trusting the state's label of "criminal." We must decide for ourselves which individuals are allies and which are enemies.

On the question of white nationalists and allies, this writer still runs with eir group but apparently has significant disagreements with them if ey also supports ULK and MIM(Prisons). This is an excellent example of uniting all who can be united against the criminal injustice system. We know that the Aryan Brotherhood is fundamentally opposed to the liberation of oppressed nations. Just as the Communist Party of China knew that the Kuomindang was fundamentally opposed to communism. But in China before the revolution was successful, there was an opportunity to build an alliance against Japanese imperialism, the principal contradiction at the time. And we have a similar opportunity to build an alliance against the criminal injustice system within prisons. While certainly a smaller scale than the united front in China, our common enemy in prisons offers the opportunity for alliances with groups that will, in other battles, be our enemy. And it's also possible we will win over some folks from these groups who, like this writer, believe that "oppression is oppression...and this should be stopped."

This comrade mentions Russia, perhaps as a random example. But talking about Russia and oppression is becoming a hot-button topic in the United $tates today. This anti-Russia fervor is, as always, tied up with Amerikan nationalism. It is being used to attack the current Trump regime in a way that threatens the world with inter-imperialist and even nuclear war. Russia was once part of the Soviet Union, which under Lenin and Stalin was socialist. But after Stalin died in 1952 the country moved quickly to take up state capitalism. And capitalism is a system that thrives on oppression and corruption. But the anti-Russia revival in the United $tates should not be mistaken for anti-imperialism, rather it is nationalist rallying for the biggest most dangerous imperialist power in the world — the United $nakes.

[Organizing] [ULK Issue 55]

Use Under Lock & Key to Educate and Motivate

The work of MIM(Prisons) through Under Lock & Key is invaluable to those of us searching for tools, methods and means for motivating the stagnant prison masses or even segments of the prison population. Because the work is informative and an avenue of outside support it is inspirational. Many of these individuals share very little mutual interests that motivate their actions except for their greed. Thus, to be able to spread a common literature throughout the cells and blocks is a basic unifying instructive instrument. The same way as prisoners are brought together to socialize by pop-culture media, I've seen that Under Lock & Key has the same potential.

Talking to egotistical and materialistic people is less effective than giving them material to absorb themselves without being defensive and having the need to assert themselves. But what adds to the effectiveness of the material is if it is wide spread it becomes more of a persuasive cultural influence. Because in a disorganized and dysfunctional state like Indiana basic buddy-cliques are dominant, the most effective way to stir the population as a whole is to infuse these buddy-cliques with the seeds they can use to grow. The material can be used to inject enthusiasm, but that enthusiastic fervor will subside and when it does individuals' adolescent tendencies will re-emerge because the ideas were never owned by the individuals. However, by quietly distributing the material and leaving individuals to ponder the ideas alone, they'll begin to own the ideas and the adolescent displays of rebelliousness for public demonstration are never given the chance to receive the reward of public attention; things will be based on substance.

Here I simply note the power of media and the need to use it to create and influence cultural ideas within cell blocks and prisons. There is a single source where the vast numbers of prisoners receive their ideas about society and what punishment should be. That source is drawn from the well of those who punish them. If we can use Under Lock & Key and MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle From Within efforts to become a source of pop-culture throughout cell blocks and create a new culture in prison that replaces the disorganization and dysfunction we'll be on the way to influencing the larger society.

[Organizing] [Denver Women's Correctional Facility] [Colorado] [ULK Issue 55]

Victory in Colorado Womyn's Prison Fight for Rec

I would like to update you on my lawsuit I was preparing against Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) due to one egotistical officer in recreation: Lieutenant Ross.

I think MIM(Prisons) printed my story, but due to Denver Women's Correctional Facility (DWCF) not allowing us ULK anymore I can't be sure, but I did get feedback from several readers.(1) And now DWCF allows us to go outside and walk during any weather like the men do.

So thank you for printing my fight and thank your readers for writing and supporting me. I have not had to put forward the lawsuit, but I am thankful for the MIM(Prisons) grievance petition. I sent it to the Executive Director. So thank you for the form, it really helps putting the fight against CDOC in better written terms than I would have been able to do on my own.

MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade provides an excellent example to others. From eir work fighting injustice and consistency in providing updates about the progress in this battle, to staying in touch in spite of the censorship of ULK going on at DWCF. While a victory to get all-season and all-gender access to rec is just a small battle in the overall fight against imperialism, it will allow activists in DWCF more opportunity to talk and study with others and to stay healthy. We hope everyone there will take advantage of this opportunity to build for the next battle, which may need to be a fight against censorship so we can get revolutionary materials in to our comrades at this institution.

1. a Colorado prisoner, "Why Won't Wimmin Fight for Their Rights?", July 2016, ULK 52.
[United Front] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 55]

Left-Leaning Unity with Radicals and Reformers

You encourage all groups in prison to set aside their differences and come together (collective action). As always in my letters to you, I believe the socialist effort will not be successful unless it makes contact with most or all of the radical/reform groups and encourages collective actions between them.

Think about it. If you could start a dialogue with other groups then you would gain the chance to educate them about how mass imprisonment is a standard feature of any capitalist government. Imprisonment is the favored control method for the masses. As long as people are propagandized to believe capitalism is good, you will have thousands of laws to control the lumpen and minorities -– hence, prisons.

Per the September 2016 newsletter of the Coalition for Prisoners' Rights (P.O. Box 1911, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504-1911), it was reported that the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted Peoples Movement (FICPM) had a conference on September 9 in which over 500 people attended, of which people from over 30 states were in attendance. The FICPM wants to organize the 65 million people who have been screwed over by the U.$. system as a political voting block. This group has the possibility of actual success.

MIM(Prisons) responds: There are two separate points we want to address in this letter. First the question of what will be necessary for the socialist effort to be successful. This comrade believes that we can succeed by bringing together the radical/reform groups (presumably within the United $tates). Where this author says we would be able to educate these groups on a deeper understanding of the relationship between capitalism and prisons, we agree that doing this on an individual basis is possible and has been proven with success on the ground. Some people enter the reform groups because that's all that they're aware of at the time. When they seek a more thorough way to address the world's problems, they may decide to switch to revolutionary organizing instead. We aim to be available for these people, ready to work with them when they're ready to switch.

But as far as winning over whole groups, this hasn't worked out successfully when tried in the past. And we understand this phenomenon in the context of our class analysis, because the vast majority of people within imperialist countries are bought off and actually support their imperialist government. They may protest a few policies, but they are very much opposed to revolutionary change in the interests of the world's majority because that would have a negative impact on their persynal financial situation in the short term.

Because of this, we see socialist revolution coming from the oppressed nations, both internationally and within U.$. borders. For the most part we anticipate it will need to be imposed on imperialist countries (like the United $tates) from the outside, but there is an important role for revolutionaries living within the belly of the beast. We must do all we can to weaken the government and also support the revolutionary struggles of oppressed nations globally. We can break off as many allies for the struggle as possible. But we shouldn't be unrealistic in our expectations of what we can achieve behind enemy lines.

With that said, we do agree that building unity with progressive organizations on the streets is a good goal. We set a baseline goal for this unity around either a political action or a political line. For instance, we work to build unity around battles against the criminal injustice system with all who will support these battles, regardless of their political positions on other issues. For the anti-imperialist struggle we build unity with all who truly oppose imperialism.

But coming back to our first point, we do not think that groups that, for instance, promote recycling, are actually opposing imperialism. They are just helping to put a pretty pseudo-ecological face on capitalism (also termed "green washing"). So when someone tells us to unite with all "radical/reform groups" to achieve our goals of building socialism and opposing imperialism, we have to call this out as a request that we sacrifice revolutionary politics in the name of false unity. We don't actually have unity in the fight against imperialism with those reform groups that are trying to make imperialism a bit kinder, but whose strategy keeps the overall system in place. It's important that we define our political principles and understand who are truly fighting on the side of the oppressed people of the world.

[Organizing] [Hunger Strike] [Ohio State Penitentiary] [Ohio] [ULK Issue 54]

Tactical Lessons from Historical Lucasville Struggles

lucasville uprising

Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
Second Edition
Staughton Lynd
2011, PM Press

Keith LaMar (Bomani Hondo Shakur)

In April 1993 there was an 11-day occupation of Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, starting on Easter Sunday when the maximum security prisoners overpowered correctional officers (COs) while returning from recreation. During the occupation, eight COs were held as hostages; one was killed and the rest were released. Nine prisoners were also killed through the course of this uprising, all by other prisoners. The 407 prisoners surrendered when the administration committed to a 21-point agreement. After the uprising, five prisoners were sentenced to death for the murders, and they are the only people held on Ohio's death row.

Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising and Condemned are good books to read together, and give two thorough accounts of the events of the SOCF uprising, and even more thorough detail of what happened afterward. Lucasville is written by Staughton Lynd, a lawyer who plays a significant role in Condemned, which was written by Keith LaMar (Bomani), one of the people condemned to death for the events during the uprising. The content in these books overlaps a lot, but not too much as to be redundant. What content is repeated through the two books just underlines lessons learned, and clarifies the authors' political orientations, some of which MIM(Prisons) does not agree with. Rather than write a point-by-point criticism of these books which most of our readers will never have the opportunity to read anyway, below we summarize some of the lessons on prison organizing we gleaned from studying them.

Condemned recounts Bomani's first-hand experience before, during, and after the uprising, especially focusing on the struggle of the five prisoners who were scapegoated for the uprising (known as the Lucasville 5). Condemned is a good case study on many common aspects of prison organizing. Lynd's book describes all the work it took, and all the obstacles the state put in place, to support the Lucasville 5's struggle from the outside.

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 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.

At an event where Bomani was publicizing eir case and experience, a MIM(Prisons) comrade was able to ask em what go-to books ey recommend for new comrades who are just getting turned on to the struggle. Bomani suggested Black Boy by Richard Wright, and also refers to Wright in Condemned. MIM(Prisons) would second this recommendation. Black Boy is an excellent study of New Afrikan life under Jim Crow in the South, with many aspects of that struggle still continuing in this country today.

In eir own book, Bomani also recounts acts of prisoner unity against the administration shortly following the uprising, and how politicization of fellow prisoners played out in real life. The prisoners made a pact to trash the range each day, and not clean it up. The guards cleaned the range themselves for a few days, but then brought in a prisoner to clean it up. Simultaneously, the "old heads" on the pod were leading speeches nightly about the need for unity and the relationship between the prisoners and the administration, politicizing everyone within earshot.

"Every night there was a variation of this same speech, and I listened to it over and over again until something took root in me. I became openly critical of the mistreatment we had all undergone and, for a few months at least, was serious in my determination to persuade others not to join the administration in the efforts to further divide and conquer us."(Condemned, p. 33)

A tactic that was mentioned in passing in Condemned was how the prisoner who was cleaning the range for the pigs was dealt with. Ey was struggled with for a period of time, and asked to not clean the range, but ey came back day after day. Eventually this prisoner was stabbed by the protesters for continuously undermining the action. Bomani doesn't mention how this act impacted the unity demo, whether it helped or not. We aim to minimize physical violence as much as possible, although sometimes it may be necessary. It is up to those who are on the ground to make the call in their particular conditions, and this tactic should not at all be taken lightly. If much physical force is necessary to maintain a peace demo, then we should ask ourselves if the masses we're organizing are ready for that type of demo. Political education is always our focus at this stage in the struggle.

Both books address how a protest with solid participants can fail or succeed depending on the protest's outside support. Several hunger strikes were launched, and ended, without progress made on the demands. It wasn't until connections were made with outside advocates and media that prison officials took any steps toward fixing them. Especially in an instance where a lawyer met with the regional director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation, which led to some property restrictions being lifted.

Recalling a victory from a 12-day hunger strike which had a lot of outside support,

"When the administration refused to follow their own rules, we complained (verbally and informally) and then asked a district judge to intervene on our behalf, all to no avail. It never occurred to us that we were wasting our time by appealing to the very people who had placed us in this predicament we were in.

"Indeed, the whole process of redressing our grievances was nothing more than an exercise in futility designed to drain off our vital energy and make us feel as though we had done all that we could do.

"It was only when we began to write and reach out to 'the people' that things began to change. First, there was Staughton's book and accompanying play; then we began holding 'talks' around the state on various college campuses, as well as writing articles in various periodicals. In this way, we were able to generate some much-needed support."(Condemned, p. 179)

To combat the psychological warfare of the prison staff, Bomani strongly recommends daily meditation and yoga as a method to protect oneself. "By learning how to watch my thoughts [meditate using simple breathing exercises], I was able to rise above the vicious cycle of cause and effect, and thereby avoid the tricks and traps of my environment."(Condemned, p. 133)

MIM(Prisons) receives regular requests for information on sovereign citizenship. While we've written against this tactic at length elsewhere, Lucasville underlines it with an anecdote about three prisoners who cut off their fingers and mailed them to the United Nations to show how serious they were in in their claim of sovereign citizenship. The request was still denied.

A final lesson from these books, especially recounted in Lucasville, is that in any attempt at solidarity and justice for the oppressed, prison officials and other oppressors will do everything they can to undermine it. Everything. We should never expect that our enemies will act in good faith toward respecting us and our needs. We should always expect pushback and always expect that they will attempt to derail us at every step of the way. Studying past struggles for clues on how we can protect our movement will only make our job easier. The state is taking notes on our shortcomings and we need to do the same of both our shortcomings and our strengths.

[Work Strike] [Abuse] [Organizing] [Campaigns] [California State Prison, Sacramento] [California] [ULK Issue 55]

Labor Strike Against Daily Body Searches

Today we Raza and Natives/others kicked off the new year by exercising unity here in C Yard by not going to work or education at work center (head quarters) of this yard. Other factions decided not to participate because they care too much about the 5-10¢ paying job they currently have (Lumpen Aristocracy?).

This campaign we currently put into motion is to stop the form of harassment these pigs use thru daily body searches, i.e. x-ray body scan, strip search, etc. before we go to school/work and before we leave. We know that we can stop at least the x-ray scan from taking place for we will continue to refuse the x-ray scan and therefore work/education. This is the recent flow here.

Persynally I believe that we should shut down all movement but still go to Yard, programs and accept our food. Just make the pigs do all the work. That is the only way to make these pigs fly. Even then, these forms of campaigns are at a beginner step and might not be fully successful. We should still engage and get a feel of the opposition. The only way we know how to deal with an opposition is thru the motion of our resistance. It is then that we'll know what we're up against and to what extent they'll go. Not only this but we learn on how to combat the beast. New views and forms of tactics come from this. It is what we call the dialectical-materialist theory of the unity of knowing and doing.