I always express how important it is to salute the comrades to the young prisoners and the unconscious prisoners. For them to always assist in some way in the struggle. Here in [the facility where I am] it's a whole different world. It's like the twilight zone, you have to see it to believe it. But it's our duty to still push to get the fire burning and to keep the fire burning.
These oppressors, the pigs, have domesticated and brainwashed so many of these prisoners, to where they think that comradism is nutty. So I give my all to try to enlighten the ones whose ears I can catch. Explain to them that if it wasn't for this comradism, some of these small opportunities that we do have as rights (to see your lawyers, phone calls, rec time, keeping your legal work, law library), some of these battles have been won on the back of some hell of men. Even cost some of them their lives, and they was willing to die for something. We must be grateful and love these warriors.
I try to make an example about how much these oppressors fear and hate these warriors. I try to tell them to look at yourself and some of the other brothers that we say put work in. These prisoners can stab another prisoner numerous times and get one year or six months hole time. But the warriors don't have to touch a soul and be in the hole, for ten, twenty, thirty years, and never put a knife or nothing else in another prisoner. I tell them that they're more afraid of the knowledge they possess, they know who the true enemy is. So these warriors is some of the most feared prisoners and go through a lot of torture, for the cause that all prisoners benefit from. So I salute the comrades - THANKS AND KEEP THE FIRE BURNING.
As a California prisoner, constantly under attack by this oppressive regime, I'm glad to have found a forum to voice our collective pain and discuss attempts at real liberation. Over the years, discussing aspects of this struggle with various people, I come to notice a consistent pattern. Since I myself was victim to this philosophical perspective, I find it necessary to enlighten the new, young, freedom-fighter in order to equip them with the proper tools to effect real change.
As a young revolutionist, there was a time that when faced with oppression, my initial reaction was to grab the closet weapon, rush my oppressor, swing away and let the chips fall where they may. In retrospect, however, I came to realize that this reaction was, unusually, emotionally, charged and lacked any strategic depth. (Make no mistake, the Young convict in me still, occasionally, smiles at those actions, having delivered the oppressor a "fierce" blow). Usually, it wasn't until I was in Ad-Seg, afforded the benefit of hindsight, would I realize that, while I did enjoy the temporary high from my actions, (a) I hadn't effected any real change; and (b) if anything, my actions had caused the oppressors to double down on their tactics.
With the passage of time, the acquiring of more experience and a diligent study of various successful social movements, I've realized that a cool head, and a strategic plan is the most effective prerequisite to a successful revolution. Vanguards like Martin Luther King, Jr. and the SCLC, Thurgood Marshal and the legal wing of the NAACP or Gandhi and those leaders all preceded every move with a thorough round table discussion, during which effective formulas were instituted to meet a specific end result; and while subsequent generations have criticized Dr. King for what they considered his pacifist ways, they could only wish to accomplish a fraction of what he did. From the Montgomery bus-boycott, the Voting Rights Act, to the abolishment of Jim Crow laws, each success was preceded with a cool, calm and collective strategic aim.
So, in conclusion, what I'm saying is that while an emotional reaction is natural and shouldn't be suppressed, perhaps between the offense and the reaction we should insert some time during which we harness that energy and direct it in the most effective way towards the real aim we're after. Thank you brothers, keep fighting!
MIM(Prisons) responds: For a deeper look at line, strategy and tactics, check out our Organizational Structure study pack. This comrade gets at the first step towards a strategic approach, but we must go further to assess our conditions to determine a strategic orientation for our time and place. While there is no doubt that Dr. King's success reflected his ability to do just that, there is also a question of line that precludes determining our strategy. Towards the end of his life King commented that he feared they were attempting to integrate into a burning house. In contrast, MIM(Prisons) promotes the goal of self-determination and national liberation, which leads us to strategize differently than King did.
I received a letter from you with a petition addressing complaints with these police retaliating and conspiring to violate prisoner First Amendment rights when exhausting administrative remedies. Well, as soon as I got it I filled it out and sent it in to get copies so I can send it to the Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC), Director, Department of Justice, and Inspector General. But today I received a confiscation form for the petition and a write up for unauthorized organization for attempting to file a petition without ODOC function unit manager approval. I had no idea that if I file a petition addressing a complaint that I could be written up for it without warning but I ain't sweating it.
In fact, in order to prevent other comrades from being a victim to this corrupt process I have a couple suggestions. First, the back page of the petition at the bottom the last word says “petition.” I believe that not only should that word be replaced with “complaint” but that within this petition it should have a section which states that it is a complaint. Even though a complaint/petition are similar and requests the same conclusions, ODOC and maybe other DOC facilities are playing the word game. Until this is addressed in Federal court, Oregon prisoners, if not prisoners in other states, will be subjected to unnecessary obstacles in addressing their concerns through the current petition format you have. So please re-word it to be a “complaint” and disassociate it as a petition and then resend it to me.
The misconduct report this comrade received reads:
"4.46 Unauthorized Organization II: An inmate commits Unauthorized Organization II if, except as specified by Department of Corrections rule on Group Activities (inmate) (OAR 291 145)
(B) 4.46.02 Engages in a petition drive without specific authorization from the Functional Unit Manager
Form was generated from https://www.prisoncensorship.info/, on 4/5/16 I was working in SHU Library, received a kyte from above AIC requesting copies of the petition, I approved one copy due to not being able to identify this form and it was addressed to the Director of the Oregon Dept. of Corrections, due to the question at hand I elected to error on AIC's behalf and allowed one copy. On 4/15/16 AIC is again requesting copies of the petition. This petition or authorization for envelopes has not been approved for circulation or approved envelopes through out SRCI and other Institutions in accordance with:
(1) Those inmates and/or community persons who have not been able to resolve problems through other available channels (i.e., the Ombudsman, Department of Corrections staff, or grievance procedure), may request approval to circulate a petition. Petitions may be circulated with the approval of the functional unit manager as directed in this rule. Circulation of a petition is a process through which inmates can show support for community endeavors. Any inmate or other person desiring to circulate a petition will present the petition to the functional unit manager adding any supporting information that would justify its approval. Permission to circulate petitions within a Department of Corrections facility will be approved if..."
MIM(Prisons) adds: The Oregon Department of Corrections has a policy denying prisoners the right to peacefully appeal denial of their rights. It is ridiculous to expect that the prison administrators would approve prisoners circulating a petition that is criticizing the DOC. What is interesting is that this comrade didn't even try to circulate the petition, ey merely tried to get copies made for eir peryonal use. Yet another example of the injustice system at work and why we can't expect any serious progress on questions of humyn rights within the criminal injustice system that serves imperialism.
Let us know if you need a copy of this petition rewritten as a complaint.
This is a question which all communists must ask themselves at one point or another of their revolutionary careers. Furthermore, it is a question which has essentially dominated the International Communist Movement (ICM) ever since that movement became a real contender on the world stage. Suffice to say that there has never in essence been a more important question to ask and correctly answer within the ICM itself other than patriotism or internationalism? That said, the concepts of patriotism and internationalism are not mutually exclusive phenomena forever separated by the same great impassable divide of ideological difference, rather, patriotism and internationalism as properly understood by communists are dialectically interconnected concepts that we must struggle to unite.
Sometimes general, sometimes particular, but always of universal importance, the concepts of patriotism and internationalism represent different aspects of the subjective forces whose task it is to carry out revolution both at home and abroad. Focus too much on one and you run the danger of making an ultra-left mistake. Focus too much on the other and you will not only be committing a tactical mistake, but will be guilty of committing a right opportunist error. What comrades must understand however is that pushing the revolutionary vehicle towards a bright communist future isn't necessarily about making the decision of patriotism or internationalism. It's about both. This is the topic which the following essay will attempt to explain. Thus in wars of national liberation patriotism is applied internationalism — but are there other ways for us to apply internationalism within nation-specific projects?
Contrary to how this quote has been narrowed down by some comrades, applied internationalism isn't only about each nation fighting their own battles and hoping that anti-imperialists from other nations will be astute enough to recognize the tactical opportunities of our fight and hence get in where they fit in. Internationalism is about extending our hands and providing assistance to our comrades whenever we can and offering lesser but equally important means of support when other avenues of help have been closed off to us.
Point in fact, MIM(Prisons) can't physically and persynally reach out to every prisoner on a one-on-one level. But it has a bi-monthly newsletter that goes out to the prison masses as well as a Free Books to Prisoner Program, a website created in part to help facilitate the needs of prisoners across the United $tates and document abuse. It runs study groups and most recently help put out [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, a book that will help to build public opinion for revolution in North America by agitating in favor of the [email protected] masses. Not to mention the other nation-specific and internationalist projects which it has been responsible for spawning.
Another excellent but largely forgotten and ignored example of applied internationalism being practiced outside of a nation's own borders is how the Cuban masses under the leadership of Fidel Castro volunteered to cross the Atlantic to fight alongside the Angolan people in their struggle of national liberation against Portuguese and Amerikan imperialism. This act took place for a variety of reasons, but perhaps none more important than the sheer anger, disgust and solidarity which Cubans felt at the sight of imperialist bombs falling on Angolan heads. It could then be said that this sacrifice on behalf of the Cuban people marked a development as well as a leap in the revolutionary consciousness of the Cuban nation, both because they were willing to give up their lives in the service of another oppressed nation and because with their sacrifice they helped land such a strong and decisive blow against colonialism, while simultaneously helping to detach Angola from the imperialist framework. It could therefore be said that this action on behalf of the Cuban masses was equally, if not more significant than the Cuban revolution itself. This is just another reason why Cuba holds such a special place in the revolutionary hearts of oppressed people everywhere.
This now brings us to a recent debate initiated within the California Council concerning USW's potential contribution to a certain nationalist project, and a certain comrade's apprehensions/objections about the role of USW vis-a-vis the national liberation struggles of the oppressed internal nations, as well as the exertion of influence on USW by revolutionary nationalists operating within that organization. In eir argument the comrade in question took the position that no one nation should be forced to take part in another nation's struggles, citing that this would be tantamount to one nation co-opting others to do its job for them. That said, no nation should be allowed to control another nation's destiny or make decisions for other nations that are integral to the liberation of the latter as this would in effect mark the beginnings of a neo-colonial relation on a certain level. Furthermore, the comrade also made the statement that "USW is not one nation united, it's multi-national." Now this may be true, but the correct definition for USW is the following:
"USW is explicitly anti-imperialist in leading campaigns on behalf of prisoners in alliance with national liberation struggles in the United $tates and around the world. USW won't champion struggles which are not in the interests of the international proletariat. USW will also not choose one nation's struggles over other oppressed nations struggles."
And from the pamphlet The Fundamental Political Line of the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons:
"Rebuilding the anti-imperialist prison movement means uniting all who can be united around the common interests of the U.$. prison population in solidarity with the oppressed people of the Third World..."
So while we should definitely be in agreement that no nation should be forced to participate in another nation's struggles and that no one nation should be allowed to come up at the expense of another, this does not in any way mean that USW, or the California Council in particular, should be disallowed from initiating proposals and passing resolutions that will support and lend assistance to nations or nation-specific organizations represented within or outside of USW. The nation in question can either accept the assistance or not. This method of action and participation will ensure that USW retains its United Front mass organization character by preserving the unity and independence of all USW comrades and affiliated organizations. Indeed, USW, like all other organizations, has a dual character. Unlike most other organizations however USW's duality is complementary and it is not an antagonistic contradiction. While it is true that USW is a mass organization created to represent and fight for the common interests of all prisoners as a distinct social group, it is also a launch pad for the national liberation struggles of the oppressed internal nations in which comrades can cut their teeth thru revolutionary organizing, and from where they can then go on to initiate and lead national liberation struggles on behalf of their own respective nations.
This is what USW, as an anti-imperialist prisoner organization, should be about: the internationalism of prisoners breeding revolutionary nationalism, and revolutionary nationalist projects breeding internationalism amongst the prison masses. This requires more than each nation blindly going its own separate way. It requires unity of action and unity of discipline. As such, it would seem then that what we have here with the comrade in question may be a problem of perspective. What some might see as internationalism others might perceive as a contradiction. What some regard as mutual assistance others will call co-optation. For those of us having this problem of "perception" however, we would be wise to be cautious not to let our own love for our nations blind us to the plight of others, as sometimes what this fear of "co-optation" really translates to is our own fear or refusal to participate in another nation's struggles. Thus, we should be aware of how our own nation's struggles, as well as our failure to act on behalf of other nations, can affect the ICM, lest we degenerate to the level of narrow nationalism.
Since this question of whether or not USW should participate in a variety of nation-specific struggles seems to be one rooted in perception, let us take a closer look at the supposed pimping of nations that would take place if USW were to decide to work in the interests of a distinct national project. As has been the current practice thus far, nowhere at all has this resulted in one nation's struggle being taken up to the detriment of another. But let's just suppose that this is the case, then maybe ULK should just stop featuring articles that promote the struggle of one nation or another so that we may ensure that no comrades from any nation feel as if they're being pushed into the background, or that their nation-specific article is forced to share space on the pages of an internationalist forum that also represents one nation or another, lest these comrades begin to feel "co-opted."
Just because Mao Zedong said that in wars of national liberation the nationalism of the oppressed nations is applied internationalism, it does not justify our lack of adherence to other internationalist principles. This is a guiding line of real communism and should likewise be seen as a line of demarcation for all revolutionary nationalists claiming the mantles of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. Applied internationalism is about more than just fighting your own nation's struggles and we should never forget that. To give an additional hystorical example, when Amerikan imperialism attacked Vietnam the People's Republic of China aided the Vietnamese by providing all types of supplies including food, money and intelligence. Most activists of the time believed this was not enough and that the Chinese should've provided troops as well. We wonder what the previously mentioned comrade would think about this? Perhaps ey would say it was too much and that the Chinese were already guilty of co-opting Vietnam's national liberation struggle and how dare anyone suggest that the Chinese become more involved? Of course, in a possible revolutionary future we can even envision a myriad of situations in which the internal semi-colonies will be forced to coordinate and work shoulder-to-shoulder to oust Amerikan imperialism from their territories. Or would this too be a case of one semi-colony co-opting the struggle of another?
The Palestinian campaign initiated by USW last year is yet another internationalist project that is now shadowed by question marks, at least according to that one comrade's perspective. Perhaps this was simply incorrect practice and "a waste of USW's time"? As previously stated, while we agree that no nation should be forced to contribute to another nation's struggles, we also believe that no comrade should feel as if they're being "forced" to participate in another nation's struggles. As such, maybe these type of people aren't so much for internationalism as they sometimes claim to be? Because Mao accomplished and wrote so much on the national liberation struggle of China many have erroneously come to believe that ey was a nationalist first and a Marxist-Leninist second; but this view is wrong. Mao loved eir nation but ey was a Marxist-Leninist first and foremost who recognized the liberation of China as only a small component in the global struggle for communism.
Choosing and deciding what internationalist struggles one can participate in besides those that are explicitly national liberationist exclusive to one's own is both a tactical and strategical question that is dictated by the struggles and conditions of the time. Lacking a clear and coherent reason why not to participate is indicative of a national chauvinist political line in command. The USW Palestine campaign was a fairly easy campaign to initiate due to the current stage of the struggle and most USW comrades' material conditions. Other struggles will take more time and consideration to implement, while some might be outright out of the question. Excluding the labor aristocracy, there is a reason why revolutionaries from Marx to Mao championed the slogan: "workers of all countries unite!"
We struggle for the liberation of all oppressed people or we don't struggle at all.
I've accomplished one of my short-term goals with the help of MIM(Prisons). I received your censorship pack on the situation that these pigs was holding my mail, from y'all and some of my family. Once I read the censorship pack I immediately put it in effect with grievances stating S.O.P. (Standard Operating Procedures) and case laws. Once the administration received my paperwork with the "example of proof and service," that next day I received a bulk of mail from October and also Under Lock & Key issues.
Once that was successful, I gave my fellow comrades the game. Now I'm willing to see what else we can accomplish on this Tier II in order to make our time a little better. As I tell my fellow comrades, we need to educate ourselves to overcome our situation. With the structure of the United Front; principles of peace, UNITY, growth, internationalism, and independence. I'm still trying to learn so I will be able to lead correctly.
With this letter is a donation of 10 stamps. If I had more I'd give more, because I salute what MIM(Prisons) stands for. With that said our strive will continue. And the oppressor will not be able to mentally destroy any more.
P.S. Salute to the Black Panther Party 50 year commemoration. They paved the way!!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is providing an excellent example and leadership organizing against abuse and censorship in the Georgia Tier program. The state is trying to alienate people from each other, cause extreme psychological damage, and use it as a tool to repress any upliftment and organizing. But we do not have to lie down and just take it. As this comrade demonstrates, we can still come together to fight specific injustices, and use that work to build with others. We look forward to seeing this comrade's work grow and contribute to the United Front for Peace in Prisons.
September 9, 2016 will be the fifth annual Day of Peace and Solidarity demonstration in prisons across the United $tates. This is an opportunity for prisoners to commemorate the anniversary of the Attica uprising and draw attention to abuse of prisoners across the country through a 24-hour day of education and building peace, where some units will exercise a work stoppage and fast. The annual demonstration was initiated in 2012 by an organization in the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP), and has been taken up as an annual UFPP event, with people participating all across the country.
This demonstration aligns with the UFPP principle to build unity among prisoners who have a common interest in fighting the oppression of the criminal injustice system. Prisoners are taking the 24 hours to engage in solidarity building and education, ceasing all prisoner-on-prisoner hostilities. This is a small, but meaningful step in building a United Front among prisoner organizations and individuals committed to the anti-imperialist movement. It is an opportunity to come together, publicize the UFPP and assess our progress. To stand in a united front, we do not need to agree on every political issue, but we must come together united around core principles to build and stand as one. The unity building starts well before September 9 for those who are engaging others to participate in the action. It is a long slow process of education and organizing to build the anti-imperialist movement.
We recently learned about another call to action for 9 September 2016, a "Call to Action Against Slavery in America".(1) The people who issued this call wrote: "On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves." This call for a country-wide work stoppage in prisons coincides with the UFPP solidarity demonstration and so we take this opportunity to comment on the similarities and differences.
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, particularly in the recognition of the growing protests in prisons across the country and the importance of this resistance. With our focus on building a United Front among prisoners we would hope to work with these folks to broaden our movement. We are not sure if the organizers were unaware of the work the UFPP has been doing on a September 9 protest for five years, or if they purposely decided to initiate a separate action due to disagreements with the UFPP. Our attempts to reach out to organizers have so far been unanswered.
Tactically, we are both promoting a commemoration of the Attica uprising, and a work strike might be included in some prisoners' plans for the Day of Peace and Solidarity. While a one-day strike is more symbolic than anything, 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. However, the organizers behind this more recent call are taking the work strike to the level of a line question, which we have strong disagreements with. They focus on a work strike because they are focused on abolishing what they see as "slavery" in U.$. prisons. However, for Marxists, slavery is a specific economic system that involves the ownership of people in order to exploit their labor. Slaves have exchange value, just like other objects that are bought and sold. This exchange value for people is the basis of a horrible system that involves the capture and purchase of humyns. People confuse prison labor with slavery because there are some significant similarities: prison labor does involve workers receiving very little or no pay, and like slaves prisoners are given housing, food and other basic necessities while held in captivity. But we can see clearly that there is no exchange value to prisoners because states must pay other states to take their prisoners. This is the opposite of slavery where people pay to buy slaves.
Further, in order to call prisoner labor slavery there must be exploitation. We can see that this exploitation (prisons actually profiting from prisoner labor) only exists for a tiny portion of U.$. prisoners.(2)
States like Texas and Louisiana do have significant productive industries reminiscent of the slave days. But for most, this is not the reality. Prisons require huge infusions of federal and state funds in order to operate. If they were making a profit off of prisoners' labor this drain on public funds would not be required. Instead prisoner labor is only offsetting a small portion of the operating cost.
Some people tell us this is just semantics, arguing about the definition of a term rather than talking about the very real problem of prisons torturing humyn beings while allowing the real criminals to run the government and capitalist corporations. But this recent call for protest against prison slavery underscores why these definitions are so important. The organizers of the September 9 protest against slavery wrote: "When we abolish slavery, they'll lose much of their incentive to lock up our children, they’ll stop building traps to pull back those who they’ve released. When we remove the economic motive and grease of our forced labor from the US prison system, the entire structure of courts and police, of control and slave-catching must shift to accommodate us as humans, rather than slaves." This statement is not true, and it ignores the economic reality of prisons which receive over $60 billion a year in state and federal funds to cover operating costs. Why would the government run a money losing business? Certainly not for economic gain!
The economic motive of slavery is not the driving force behind prisons. And even if we don't call it slavery, economics are not the reason we have prisons. While it is true that lots of people get very high salaries, and many companies make buckets of money by serving the prison system, this is just a redistribution of profits taken from exploitation of Third World workers. That's why it has to come from the government allocated to the prisons. And that $60 billion could be funneled into any other project that provides jobs for the Amerikan labor aristocracy just as easily and all those guards and other prison workers would be just as happy. Prisons are a convenient way to redistribute imperialist superprofits to the labor aristocracy within U.$. borders, but they are definitely not the best option if economics were the sole consideration.
It is critical that activists and revolutionaries understand that Amerika has built an enormous criminal injustice system as a tool of social control. Prisons are used to lock up oppressed nations and activists. The history of prisons in this country clearly demonstrates this. We saw a huge rise in incarceration starting in 1974 after the revolutionary movements of that time were targeted by the government. Until that time there was a relatively low and stable rate of imprisonment in this country. Then the lockup rate of First Nations, New Afrikans and [email protected] rose to vastly disproportionate numbers relative to whites starting in the 1970s. These historical events and economic facts make it clear that Amerikkkan prisons are used for social control, not for profits.
The organizers of the anti-slavery protest are misleading people into believing that shutting down prison work will shut down prisons. It will cause difficulties, and is a very valid tactic for exerting power as a group. But prisoner labor itself is not the principal contradiction in prison. We guarantee that if we were to reach the unity to wage an extended work strike across U.$. prisons, that Amerika would figure out how to keep the oppressed locked up.
We call this a failure to recognize the principal contradiction. In this case we are talking about the thing that will best push forward the prisoners' fight against oppression. Fighting against something that doesn't exist (slavery) is certainly not the best way forward. But even if we don't call it slavery, fighting against prisoner labor as if the end to prisoner work will put an end to prisons is also incorrect, and will lead to a dead end. We see the need for unity among prisoner groups and individuals as critical to building a solid anti-imperialist prison movement. We think this addresses the real principal contradiction that the prison movement faces between the collective interests of the imprisoned lumpen and the individualist tendencies currently dominant among that class. This is why we organize on September 9 to build a Day of Peace and Solidarity. Get involved! Write to us for the September 9 Organizing Pack and get started building in your prison.
I write to deliver an update as promised concerning the recent hunger strike which took place the 23 March 2016.
Currently as of today the final two hunger strikers are relieved of their duties with a victory in hand!! As I was told, "it was a rough fight," and "a long long 16 days!" Not all, but the majority claimed victory along the fight. A lot fell off before the battle began. But a victory for one is a victory for all! We will continue to stay unified and fight each unjust act with every and all remedies we can muster up.
As far as my knowledge, Dr. Fiscal, who was working for the administration and refusing to send anyone out to receive outside medical treatment, was walked off and fired. A hunger striker demand! Religious accommodations are now being reviewed. But the food is still short. The discrimination has slowed down but I'm sure it will be back once the heat dies down.
In the beginning I would conduct a phone call to each brother's families (the ones provided) and provide them with all the phone #s they would need to call and apply pressure, including the Deputy Warden, Warden, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) Director, Ohio State Patrol, and any news station willing to listen and investigate. The prison would lie to the family and Ohio State Patrol until we started recording all conversations. Then things changed! For the most part everybody was persistent and in the end it all paid off.
Thank you for your support. I depart as I came.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We are not as optimistic as this comrade that this struggle has ended in a victory. It's unclear from this report, but we hope that the strikers who were seeking medical attention received more than just a firing of the facility's doctor. Adequate medical care would certainly be a victory. But the other loose demands of religious accommodations, adequate food, and national oppression (discrimination of "minority groups") are far from resolved. The oppressors have been showing us for centuries that expecting them to act in good faith is a losing strategy. There are no rights, only power struggles, and unless the oppressed are making clear demands and enforcing their rights, we expect no improvements.
On the up side, this is a good exercise in how to conduct a campaign. It was advantageous to designate a point-persyn to keep the public informed of the progress of the strike. It sounds like the unity of the participants in the strike remains intact, and they can draw on this unity for future campaigns. So there were certainly victories in this battle, but more related to prisoners organizing, and getting their outside supporters involved, rather than getting the administration to concede to the demands of the captives.
[In December 2014 MIM(Prisons) received this petition against the Tier II program from two different comrades, with almost thirty signatures. Considering these prisoners are organizing in extreme conditions of isolation and sensory deprivation, that number of signatures is impressive. We publicize this petition as part of our overall struggle to shut down Control Units in prisons across the country.
The conditions outlined below are common to Control Units in the United $tates. An end to the Tier II program in Georgia would certainly be a step in the right direction. But we know it is only a tiny piece of a much larger problem: capitalism, imperialism, and national oppression. While prisons in general are a tool of social control for the imperialists, control units are used by the imperialists to further control prisoners targeting activists in prison who are fighting for their rights and the rights of others. We organize to tackle these broader problems with our society, and shutting down Control Units is a battle in that process.]
We the People petition
We the people (jointly and severally) come together to petition the government for a redress of grievance, pursuant to the Bill of Rights, "Amendment I" of the Constitution for the United States of America. Furthermore, we the people assert the rights set forth in "the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (UDHR), adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948. More specifically, we assert the rights set forth at Article 1-8, 18-22, 26 and 28 of the UDHR.
We the people now move to set forth the factual basis for this petition. Fact, on December 7, 2014, at approximately 10:45pm, a man [inmate] "died" inside of the J-1 dormitory (cell #124) at Smith State Prison. It is stated that the man/individual committed suicide. The examiner and/or coroner pronounced the man officially dead between 11:30pm and 1am.
We the people believe (with strong conviction) that the Tier II Program (behavior modification program) is the root and cause of the death. During our examination it has been determined that there are numerous "factors" that must be evaluated, and has been evaluated in reaching our conclusion that the tier II program is the "root and cause" of the "death."
Factor #1: The Tier II program is a mind and behavior control program for prisoners, via long term deprivational isolation and segregation, which is a form of psychological, mental and emotional torture/suffering.
Factor #2: The Tier II program is intellectually, mentally and creatively stagnating. People/human-beings [prisoners] are prohibited from receiving any and all books, magazines, newspapers, novels, articles, etc. We are forbidden to read any and all books, magazines, newspapers, novels, articles, and all other forms of reading material [the only exception being a bible or Qur'an; either or, but not both; we may choose one or the other]. This prohibition on reading causes "stagnation" of the mind, which in turn, turns man back into what men were before civilization [barbarians, cavemen, and savages]. To not want people/human beings to read and or have access to divers reading materials is self evident that the goal of this program is not progressive and rehabilitating, but instead, by design it is regressive and debilitating. Reading is fundamental [fundamental to growth, improvement, learning, success and life itself, etc.] No one can put forth a logical explanation for prohibiting reading and forbidding reading. No one can provide evidence that prohibiting reading serves some good cause or rehabilitation. All evidence is contrary to that thesis/theory.
Factor #3: The Tier II program isolates and separates us from our families and loved ones. Most individuals/people placed on the program cannot receive visitation because of the way the program is designed. Most people cannot use the telephone because of how the program operates. For a vast majority of us, the "only way" to contact and or connect with our families or loved ones is the letters. We must write letters; we correspond through the mail back and forth. Mail correspondence is the only form of communication for the majority of us.
Factor #4: The Tier II program is a health hazard. The conditions of confinement are a violation of the 8th amendment (cruel and unusual punishment clause) of the Constitution for the United States of America. The food that is served is nutritionally inadequate. Everyone (all of us/all the people) that are on the Tier II program has and/or is losing weight. Some of us have lost a lot of weight, while other have only lost 10-15 pounds (since being on/in the Tier II program). But all of us are losing weight, and have lost weight. Also, the food that is served is often unclean and thus unhealthy. The milks are often spoiled. The "meat" is often raw or old (spoiled). The food in general is old (half of the time). The trays that the food is on are always filthy/nasty, as if they have not been washed. The filthy ways contaminate the food that is placed on them. We have no choice but to eat it or starve. (On phase 1 and 2 of the program we cannot purchase any food items from the commissary/store.) No clean water is passed out or given to us. We are forced to drink out of old, nasty sinks, with rusty spicket/faucet.
Sanitation: The showers are always filthy and disgusting. When I/we enter into the showers, often there is hair (shavings), urine, semen, (sometimes) blood, feces and other bodily filth. Cells have bugs, rats, roaches, ants, spiders, and other unknown species of insects or bugs. In the summer time the flies and gnats are overwhelming. We are only allowed to clean out the cells 1 time a week and sometimes 1 time a month. (But according to GDOC standard operating procedure cells are supposed to be clean at all times.)
Exercise (yard call/outdoor recreation): We are denied and or deprived the opportunity to go to outdoor recreation and exercise (which is a judicial-constitutional guarantee - for prisoners; see Spain v. Procunier, 600 F. 2d 1490 (9th Cir. 1984) and a plethora of other federal cases). Yet and still they deprive us of outside recreation/exercise for months and months at a time (case to case basis). Some of us are deprived for days, and some for months and/or years. The bottom line is, they deprive us of exercise. On phase 1 (of the Tier II program) we are not allowed to buy any hygiene from the commissary. We are prohibited form buying hygiene for months at a time. Yet, they take all our hygiene items. The list on conditions of confinement goes on and on, so for time sake we must proceed.
Factor #5: Many of us are put on the Tier II program without due process of law (procedural due process of law, as set forth by the Supreme Court on Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 563-655 (1974)). We were put on the Tier program without receiving written notice; we were not given a constitutional hearing; we were not allowed to call witnesses; we were not provided an opportunity to present documentary evidence or any other form of evidence; we were not provided an opportunity to be heard/to speak; we were not provided an "advocate" to assist us, or to put up a defense (of any kind) or to investigate (into the alleged matter); thus, no due process of law.
Factor #6: When we were put on the Tier II program, all of our property was confiscated illegally (confiscated without due process). Property that was taken include: all our CDs, CD players, headphones, earphones, all pictures and/or photos, all books, magazines, novels, articles, newspapers, and all other reading materials (except a bible or Qur’an), lotion, deodorant, soap, toothpaste, grease, toothbrush, hairbrush, nail clippers, comb, dental floss, soap dish, photo album, free world clothes (tshirts, socks), pajamas, wave cups, thermals, etc. All food items purchased from commissary, be it soups, honeybuns, buddy bars, chips, drinks, etc. The property/items they took/confiscated include the above mentioned things, but are not limited to those things/items. Other personal property was taken that is not on this list.
Factor #7: Some people are on the Tier II program for an indefinite period of time which could last many years. Others will remain on the Tier II program within the time line specified in the SOP (ITB09-0003), which is 9 months - 2 years.
Factor #8: Whenever we are taken out of the cells, we are mechanically restrained (handcuffed and/or shackled and/or waist chained) and escorted by two or more guards.
Factor #9: If there is an emergency, such as death in the family (or something of that nature), we are not allowed to attend the funeral or memorial services, because of the Tier II program.
Factor #10: Because of the Tier II program, we can not look at TV or listen to the radio. For some of us it has been over 22 months since we last seen TV, seen a movie, or even seen a commercial, or heard the radio.
Factor #11: Some of us, they will not let out the hole (segregation/isolation) even when we may have earned and received a certificate (and or receipt) stating "successfully completed the Tier II program.
Factor #12: We are deprived of almost any environmental or sensory stimuli and of almost all human contact.
Factor #13: The conditions of confinement are an "atypical and significant hardship" upon us.
Factor #14: The above mentioned deaths, is not the 1st death this year, that was caused by the Tier II program. Earlier this year (on or around February 12, 2014) in J-2 dormitory, cell #240. On 2/12/14, another man dead on the Tier II program. This man was killed by his roommate. Currently his real name is unknown but he was known as Sa-Brown. Sa-Brown was murdered, stabbed to death by his cell mate. We believe and/or it is believed that the Tier II program drove the man crazy/insane, then he murdered Sa-Brown.
According to the Georgia Department of Corrections Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) II B09-0003, Section I, Policy (page 1) states: "This program is an offender management process and [supposedly] is not a punishment measure... The Tier II program is a behavior modification program." The truth is - this offender management process/behavior modification program induces death (whether directly or indirectly). And we believe those that are responsible for the deaths are the creators, maintainer(s), operator(s), and manager(s) of the Tier II program; that would be: Brian Owens (GDOC commissioner) and Randy Tillman - the authors/creators; and Stanley Williams (Warden of Smith State Prison) and Eric Smokes (the unit manager of the Tier II program). These individuals (Owens, Tillman, Williams and Smokes) are responsible for the Tier II program and are responsible for the deaths (whether directly or indirectly).
The above mentioned factors are not the only relevant factors to be examined and evaluated in determining our conclusion. The above mentioned factors are included (in the examination and evaluation process), but are not limited to those factors (mentioned above). But for time sake, we will cease to elaborate on the numerous factors.
The Declaration of Independence (in relevant part)
We the people inhabiting the North American continent, freemen, "...hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..." having been granted by our creator dominion over all the earth, reserve our right to restore the blessing of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, under necessity, that I/we declare, "that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..." and as declared in many states constitutions; "we declare that all men, when they form a social compact are equal in right: that all power is inherent in the people" ... and "that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."
Therein, the greatest rights of the people is the right to abolish 'destructive' government, those administrating as trustee, or those institutions that have become destructive and/or corrupted.
We the people call for an end to the Tier II program!
Our struggle against imperialism and toward communism is a long, protracted struggle. It is carried out over decades and even centuries, with long-term (strategic) planning and lifetime commitment. Many who fight for communism give up their lives, not just through martyrdom but also through a lifetime of dedication. In such a long-term project, it is dangerous to lose sight of the larger context of our struggle.
Our enemies, the imperialists and anyone who's with them, will do everything they can to wear us down. They will drag us through the mud as much as possible, in the hopes that we'll get frustrated and give up, or frustrated and sacrifice ourselves on the focoist cross.
A typical reader of Under Lock & Key has committed some "crime" (as defined by the imperialists), and is imprisoned. The social conditions that lead to imprisonment are an essential part of the imperialists' protracted struggle to maintain power. As a means of keeping the internal semi-colonies under their boot, our enemies set up any number of false pretenses for putting as many of our potential comrades behind bars as possible.
Once turned on to ULK, a subscriber might start participating in United Struggle from Within campaigns. Or ey might start learning more about Maoism: the most effective threat to imperialism shown in humyn history to date.
While participating in the anti-imperialist struggle definitely makes one's efforts at social change worthwhile, it does nothing to help a comrade make parole. It doesn't help you fly under the pigs' radar. It doesn't keep you out of the hole. Naturally, identifying with the struggle against the United $nakes government makes one a target for that government's boldest repression. Our comrades are constantly denied parole, are constantly having their cells tossed, and are targeted for forced psychotropic druggings and other methods of mental deterioration. Their food is tampered with, they are beaten, and any tactic that may wear down and frustrate our comrades is employed.
In these social circumstances, we need to consider how are we going sustain our movement. How are we to make the most of the repressed and limited time and energy we do have? How can we protect ourselves from attacks on our physical and mental health, while locked in a tiny room with complete sensory control? How can we build ourselves up, not just for the day-to-day struggle, but for the long haul?
This issue of Under Lock & Key is on the topic of survival and stamina, focusing on some things subscribers can do to better their chances of survival, both mentally and physically, and make it possible to do their most for the anti-imperialist struggle. There is much important political work to be done, and a healthy body and mind is important for long-term sustainability of our contributions to the revolutionary struggle.
On survival, there are fights we must engage in for basic rights behind bars: the fight for medical care and other needs often denied through a corrupt grievance system, the struggle for access to education, and the battle against classification in mentally and physically dangerous long-term control units. Many campaign updates in this issue provide practical tactics for these battles as a part of our overall strategy.
Survival behind bars also requires the struggles for peace and unity among prisoners to build a situation of mutual respect, aid and cooperation. Several articles remind readers that this fight against repression requires united action. Building unity will help us win victories to improve our organizing conditions while we build the longer-term struggle. California prisoners write about the struggle to maintain the Agreement to End Hostilities, while the essay on lumpen class consciousness points to broader strategies we need to employ to unite lumpen organizations (LOs) for both survival and advancement.
There is also work that individuals can do to improve their outlook, education and use of time while behind bars. This is addressed in articles on how to be disciplined in your day-to-day life, focusing on study and organizing rather than watching TV, educating yourself, and fighting alienation and individualism. Education in particular is critical to survival in prison as it opens eyes and minds to the reality of prison conditions and the broader struggle that can unite and give purpose and direction to prisoners' lives. As a Pennsylvania comrade wrote: "The pigs try to stop real education in the gulags, because they know that when we have a true education and know the truth about the way things really are, they are defeated."
A life of survival without political struggle is just survival of the status quo. The most basic survival and stamina tactic is always understanding the connection between our lives, as anti-imperialists, with the lives of oppressed people all over the world. Our struggle is made of many actions over a long period of time, and every contribution has value. If we can maximize these contributions by taking care of ourselves and each other as best we can, our internationalist struggle will be all the better for it.
I write this piece as a result of a conversation I had with a brother, who I consider, an intellectual equal and new friend. The conversation was about action, or should I say the lack of action, in a movement to curtail the imperialist society of capitalism, slavery and oppression. Now, just to clarify the brother I'm referring to is not only an active participant in the political revolutionary movement, he also supplied me with priceless literature on the cause. However, he choose to play the role of devils advocate in order to spark my creative mind.
In general, the conversation was based on a full-scale, non-violent movement against the financial interest of the oppressor, and called for all fellow POWs to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with one common goal: Victory! However, throughout our conversation I realized that there are several issues still holding a complete unification for this type of movement, at a stand still. I personally believe it's possible, and honestly I think it's the only way to effect change and bear the fruit of the movement. So I write this piece to bring these issues to the surface, and inject them into like minded conversation in pursuit of overcoming these sub-conscious inhibitors.
The simplest issue to address is the defeatist attitude carried by some, not all, of my fellow brothers behind enemy lines. One must understand that a pessimistic attitude deeper than just thinking negatively. It's allowing that negative thought to impact your ability and actions, in the cause for change. What I mean, and I'm sure some of you have experienced this, is the person who says, "Don't put your name on that petition, you'll only cause problems for yourself" or "I would join the movement but..." or "The officers don't bother me." These are all sorry excuses for tolerating the abuse and oppression from these barbaric animals who claim to uphold the law. Now, I understand that some of my fellow POWs have Stockholm Syndrome and attempt to identify with their captors as a form of survival. However, it is the actions of our captors that isolate us from our families, enslave us and oppress us, until we die or submit to their capitalist ways. If you don't or won't stand up it will never change! Dr. Martin L. King Jr., Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez all initiated a movement with the knowledge and understanding that the road would be tough. However, they all focused on the destination not the trip itself. There's a Buddhist saying that says, "no one drop of water wants to be the cause of the flood," and that's exactly what we're faced with when fellow POWs carry this defeatist attitude.
The next issue that needs to be addressed is our inability to move as one! As I read ULK, the Bayview and all other literature geared towards the movement, I see from the many different groups listed in the literature that sub-consciously we are unable to combine and move under one front or one flag. To divide and conquer has to be one of the oldest military and war tactics known to man, and has a cumulative effect on any movement or political power. Furthermore, it's so effective that it's still being taught at Westpoint military academy as I write this. One must understand what it's doing to the success of the movement. First, strength is in numbers and if you're oblivious to the fact that POWs have the numbers then here's the facts. There's currently 31,000 correctional officers in the state of California (according to MIM(Prisons) December 2007 ULK2) and 110,000 to 120,000 men and women incarcerated in the state of California (per federal population cap issued in 2013). With that being said it is common knowledge that it's easier to control several small groups then a large one. Furthermore, if those smaller groups are fighting amongst themselves for the illusion of ownership of objects that will never truly belong to them (i.e., phones, pull-up bars, tablets, etc.), that only makes it easier to oppress, control and enslave. We as a group must break all seemingly innocuous forms of segregation and unite as one! All racial and ethnic barriers must be broken, followed by all of the small pockets of revolutionary soldiers flying one flag. Symbolizing the unification of one movement, sharing the same political and ideological views. We allow capitalist oppressors to dictate where we draw the lines in the sand and divide us into controllable groups. We have the power, and the time is now. It's time to follow the example of Hugo "Yogi Bear" Pinell and George Jackson.
To the main issue of this piece and the most important. Is the lack of effective action. When I say effective action I mean a non-violent protest not only done by POWs, but also by the family and friends who support us in our cause. As of now all I see is a massive amount of information being passed around with no action. Information is knowledge, knowledge is power, now that we have the power we don't utilize it. Now, I understand that moving prematurely will only work against the desired effect. However, the same is to be said for not moving and allowing the enemy time to prepare a counter. Most importantly our movement lacks a figurehead. For example, without putting any emphasis on what he stood for, yet highlighting his ability to lead, Adolf Hitler is a prime example, or Alexander the Great, or Malcolm X, or Dr. M.L. King Jr., or Cesar Chavez, or Huey P. Newton just to name a few. However, I want ot reiterate it's not what they stood for its their impact and motivation of their particular movement. In my opinion, that's what all the brothers and sisters enslaved behind enemy lines are missing to propel this movement into national spotlight and over the hump. So I, as an enslaved prisoner of war, surface these issues not only to my fellow enslaved brothers and sisters, but to all those who support our cause form the other side of the razor wire. Let's stop being that one drop of water, and become a wave!
MIM(Prisons) responds: It is true that charismatic leaders can inspire people to overcome defeatism. That is why the J. Edgar Hoover gave the FBI the mission of preventing the rise of a "Black Messiah." The problem was, they were successful. While some "messiahs" rose to the occasion they were shot down, imprisoned or otherwise neutralized.
It is a contradiction we face of how to motivate the disempowered to feel empowered. Many peoples' have faced this situation before. And while we all want action sooner, rather than later. It is the careful study and education of the masses that builds a truly powerful movement where we are not dependent on charismatic or well-studied leaders. Especially in the prison environment, where conditions are closer to fascist repression, it is too easy to isolate our leaders. So we must keep up the slow and steady work of building unity through struggle and education. Just as this comrade experienced with eir new friend above.