I am a true soldier for the cause of change and the fight it takes to accomplish it. I have been housed at Pelican Bay State Prison since 2013, after being released for a sticking. My prior dealings with this place dates back to 1996 when I did my first bid. Currently I have chosen to embrace change and growth as well as a United Front for Peace at Pelican Bay State Prison.
I am currently involved in "P.E.A.C.E.", Prisoners Embracing Anti-hostilities and Cultural Evolution. We have been going strong for over 8 months. Our cause is based on embracing anti-hostilities and cultural evolution amongst Africans, Hispanics, Whites, Asians, Islanders, and Native Americans by way of partaking in tournaments of basketball, handball, volleyball and having made a conscious choice for change.
These efforts are not being taken lightly by this prison, and every effort is being made to stomp our push for change. The oppressor has refused to follow any of their own set rules and regulations as far as Inmate Leisure Time Activity Groups (ILTAGs) are concerned and assisting our approved ILTAG from running said tournaments without any hassle or fear of our sponsor being prevented from performing his duties without constant nickel and dime harassment tactics.
Pelican Bay State Prison is not open for change. I have been placed in Ad-Seg due to what staff here refer to as "causing ripples." I did 9 months with no charges or a finding of guilt as to that 115 [Disciplinary Report]. A comrade took on the Men's Advisory Council chairman job and raised many concerns of the general population, only to find their house searched by squad numerous times, and constantly given urine tests, though none of these tactics ended with any findings of guilt.
I have so much to share with you all including the atmosphere on these main lines and the new tactics being used to incite violence, chaos and riots. I am on the front line as are so many other brethren here, but we need that voice and the way shared with us on how to proceed in the correct way.
I wish to further educate the masses here at Pelican Bay State Prison as do others, but we seriously need a support system from the outside. Just like the distance of this place from civilization, this is what it feels like to seek rehabilitation, peace, and change at a place that specializes in oppressing. Prisoners' mail is not going out or coming in, and there is no way to prove either way, the 602 [prisoner grievance] process is in shambles; even when you win in this prison you still lose. Every action causes a reaction and Pelican Bay is notorious for their continued nit picking until they get the reaction they are seeking: chaos, violence, riots and disunity amongst prisoners.
We humbly ask for your assistance in bringing change to Pelican Bay State Prison, and the followers you possess in how to proceed. Please include all information and knowledge needed to proceed. Contact myself, and all will be shared with the men concerned. P.E.A.C.E.
Survival in this imperial dungeon is a must. Survival is more than looking over ya shoulder wondering when a shank will be placed in your back. Survival in these walls has a broad base.
First, we must be vigilant in what we eat, the reason why is food nourishes the body, mind and soul. There are so many chemicals added to our diet that it kills or destroys us over a period of time. We must change our diet or balance it with more fruits and veggies. What I have done was get on a kosher diet rich in fresh produce, and cut back on a lot of mystery meat. How can we fight with all our strength if what we eat is making us weak?
Another survival method I use is peers. I connect to those held captive in the system of snakes, and politic with them so we can all be on point. Staying away from negative energy which brings chaos. I try to apply "each one teach one" as my everyday survival method, cause once you help your brother-comrade in need it brings a feeling of joy.
But the enemy can come with all kinds of tricks, and once they see you are a fighter for justice, then you're hauled off to a solitary confinement unit. Now that's when you must use all the tools to survive. One method that I currently use now while housed here is reading a lot of material and applying the principles to my everyday life. And spreading literature helps so us comrades can chop it up (conversate) amongst each other and figure out ways to find solutions rather than being a problem. But I keep a simple program so I can survive in this imperial prison. Stocks of peanut butter in case food supply doesn't come. Batteries for fuel, radio to keep up with current events. And learning more about self, so I can be prepared mentally to overcome this injustice.
MIM(Prisons) responds: On the topic of survival in solitary confinement, we distribute excerpts from the "Survivors Guide for Solitary Confinement" pamphlet that was released by the American Friends Service Committee. It is primarily authored by prisoners and gets into many mental health tactics, including meditation, setting a schedule, and regular exercise. These tactics are useful for any comrade who's serious about political organizing, whether locked up or not.
Sometimes our oppressors will put us in a strip cell with no bedding, no warmth, no food, no water, no medical attention. In those moments, there's little we can do as far as relying on peanut butter reserves. But maintaining everyday practices that keep us healthy and strong, and with a strong ideological understanding of the reasons we're facing these horrible conditions, will help us remain strong and make it through this torture. Our survival tactics may be individual at times, but our struggle is vast.
I'm at the most racist prison in Georgia, Hays State Prison. I am currently on lockdown in the Tier 2 program (long-term solitary confinement) and the other day they shook down a prisoner's room and found two knives. Being that this is a lockdown the Unit Manager Reids and the Lieutenant Jones were pissed because we're not supposed to even have a way to get a knife, plus sharpening them. And there are 7 or 8 cameras in the dorm, so they can't hide this like they used to back in the days when there were no cameras.
They have to report this to the Warden and log it in the log book for everyone to see. They were so mad at this prisoner that they took it out on the dorm by keeping the dinner trays outside the dorm for an hour and a half. Other prisoners in the dorm made a statement to the dorm saying that we all should refuse these trays and make them go get us new hot trays instead of those cold ones outside. Everyone agreed and when the officer came in to pass out the trays (a racist officer) everyone started screaming "We don't want those cold trays! Go get more trays." When the Lieutenant came in he threatened to give out a DR (disciplinary report) to any prisoners who refused to take a tray.
The goal is to not take the trays. If one person takes the trays then no one will get new trays, and we refused our tray by choice. But if no one takes the trays then they have to go get new trays. They have to feed us. So things were going good, the first 5 rooms refused, until Lieutenant got to the 6th one. He took his tray, then two more rooms did after that. Others were refusing but like I said when one takes a tray it's pretty much a failed mission.
My Brother in the room with me and my two other Brothers next door said they was going to get their trays since a few took theirs. They didn't want to go unfed on a weekend where we only get fed two times. I told them "Hell naw! Just because the others took theirs that don't mean we give up an fold! If we got to go hungry and starve just to let the white man know we as Blacks and as prisoners won't go for anything then so be it. We have to sacrifice for the greater purpose."
True, my stomach was touching my back. But I was ready to starve just to show the white man he does not rule me mentally. But unfortunately when the trays got to my two Brothers' room they took them. Then they were in front of our door and my roommate grabbed me one and passed it to me. At first I was going to refuse, well I wanted to, but seeing the tray with food I gave in.
While we were eating, the Lieutenant came to our door and said "Good boys. Y'all keep being good." That made me feel so bad and embarrassed. I let the white man win another war. He made me feel so low like I'm a mutt and he told me to sit, I obeyed, and he rewarded me with a bone and said "good boy."
I was mad at myself. I should have refused the tray even if it means I'm the only one refusing. At least I will feel good about myself and what I did for my self-respect. But I didn't. Another Black man falls to the worst side of a white man. Why are we so weak-minded? Why can't we Blacks stick together against oppressors? Why do we fall for their Willie Lynch tactics?
"My Brother is my Brother and I am my Brother's keeper." "2 Black minds are stronger than one, and one strong Black mind is better than none." I guess I needed that extra mind to motivate me to go further with the protest. And when it didn't I folded, because of feeling alone, vulnerable and hungry.
That day I told myself that won't happen again. If I have to starve by myself then I will. Our ancestors went through much more worse than this. I won't fail them again.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade provides us a good example of self-reflection and learning from our mistakes. Even the best revolutionaries won't be perfect all the time, in fact we will make many mistakes. But the key is always keeping an open mind to learning from these errors. And also learning from the successes and mistakes of others. This was essentially what the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was about in China: encouraging people not to blindly accept what their leaders said and instead to be critical of incorrect actions and political line, and to learn from mistakes. During this period in China prisoners were offered an opportunity to learn from their errors, undertake serious self-criticism, and return to society as productive members. Although we don't currently live under a Socialist government which is encouraging and enabling these progressive practices, we can still learn and grow, as this comrade bravely demonstrates.
Here is an example of choosing a small winnable battle by utilizing a United Front theory in practice among prisoners of Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC), organized to overcome the oppressive penal system about the human right to wear facial hair. In January 2015, the U.$. imperialist supreme court ruled that ADC could not prohibit prisoner Gregory Holt from growing facial hair for religious reasons. Prior to this ruling prisoncrats argued that prisoners could hide contraband in their hair or beards. With the above court ruling, prisoners had to apply for a religious accommodation script in order to sport a beard. In the spirit of revolutionary change, the prisoners within Arkansas collectively organized and filed 5,600 applications requesting a religious accommodation. Also there were 607 grievances that protested that all prisoners should be allowed to wear facial hair. Because of the surge of prisoner requests and grievances ADC asked the board to remove the restriction, allowing all ADC prisoners to wear beards. Beginning 14 January 2016 all ADC prisoners were allowed to wear facial hair. It just goes to show the power of a United Front, when prisoners put their differences aside to accomplish a common goal.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a good example of the power of united action, even in prison where the people have so little power. One element of a United Front that is critical to anti-imperialists is revolutionary leadership. While it is possible for people to come together under even reactionary leadership to effect change, it is revolutionary leadership that makes it possible to consolidate the lessons of the organizing work and push forward from a basic unity around one issue to a broader unity to build a movement that can take on the criminal injustice system. This comrade's example of the fight to wear a beard is a very good starting point. It is an issue that unites many, and beard restrictions are generally religious repression covering for national oppression, disguised as a security issue. We can expose how this repression fits into the broader problem of national oppression, which the Amerikan prison system reinforces. As people see their power to come together to effect change, and understand the system behind the individual problems they are fighting, we can gain more supporters and activists in the anti-imperialist struggle.
There is no justice for the Black man in the United $tates. "All black people, wherever they are, whatever their crimes, even crimes against other blacks, are political prisoners because the system has dealt with them differently than with whites." - George Jackson
The only way to receive justice is to fight. The comrades in prison will have to fight from a different position. They would have to build cadres to take on different tasks. All collectives through a mass line will organize the masses around the problems of their particular prison. Every cadre should have different responsibilities.
For example, there should be a cadre responsible for studying the psychological warfare that is implemented by the correctional officers and finding ways to combat it on a peaceful level. Another would study prisoners' rights and be ready to challenge all violations. A cadre would write down all injustices that are manifested by the officers and pass information on to the cadre leaders. A cadre should be in contact with outside sponsors that can help our struggle by bringing to light our problems to the public. All cadres are just components to the machine. These are only examples.
We must continue the fight, especially on these plantations. However, we have to be on point and tighten our security to protect ourselves from agent provocateurs who claim to be on our side but are actually on the side of the oppressor. Be mindful of those who are always showing up at all the religious services, hoping to identify radical prisoners who may speak at these gatherings. These agents are only there to ear hustle so they can report back to their masters (prison administration). You will be able to identify some of them through their actions. They're always preaching about Black history and Blacks uniting, but they are never doing shit to protect the rights of the prisoners. They speak out against those who are true vanguards of the people and try to turn the masses against these warriors by spreading false rumors in hopes to destroy these men's work and characters. Please do not be fooled! They will stop at nothing until their mission for massa is completed. They are not only working against their own people, they are against the entire prison population! You will see them trying to cut in or befriend every group, organization, or nationality to learn what they can about them. Be very mindful comrades.
There have been many strong Black revolutionaries who have died in prison for the chimurenga (struggle) and they must never be forgotten. Comrades like George Jackson, Hugo Pinell, William Christmas, Howard Tole, James McClain, W.L. Nolen, and the many unknown but dedicated warriors who have fought and never gave up until their deaths, should always be loved and remembered. These brothers taught and trained others to carry on the torch so that the struggle will continue behind these walls. And in response many of them have suffered and remain in lock up (SHU) since the 1990s, 80s, and even the 70s because they refuse to denounce George Jackson!
Majority of the comrades are locked down in long-term isolation (SMU, ADX, and Pelican Bay), not because they have incident reports, but because they are carrying the torch and fighting against the injustice of the Federal and State prisons that our fallen Freedom Fighters gave their lives trying to destroy. We are not terrorists! We are revolutionary Freedom Fighters striving to free the people (Black and white) from the bloody claws of the imperialist monster. All committed liberators should join among their own kind and work together in solidarity. Let's use the comrades that paved the way as examples and continue fighting together, united with one clenched fist! Can't stop! Won't stop! Long live the guerrillas!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade provides a good example of how to think about organizing tactics. We start from the assumption that the only way we can get justice is to fight for it, and then we must think about how we can be most effective in this fight. One key element of our organizing should be building unity, as this writer points out. We can build unity with all who oppose the criminal injustice system, but at the same time, we strive to put forward the most advanced political line to help raise consciousness and build a revolutionary movement. The United Front is an integral part of this movement, but not all participants will be revolutionaries themselves. This is ok, as we seek to unite all who can be united in the fight against the criminal injustice system.
by ULK Writers Study Group January 2016 permalinkMIM(Prisons) upholds nation as the principal contradiction in the United $tates at this time. In that contradiction we see the oppressed nations as the primary motive force for change. And within the oppressed nations in the United $tates we see the lumpen class as the greatest vehicle for revolution. In exploring this last point, we are interested in studying class contradictions and especially the class make-up and loyalties of the oppressed internal semi-colonies. In addition, in our prisoner support work we come across lumpen organizations that do not fall within a certain national alignment, leaving class as the common demoninator of those organizations.
This essay was written for the book on the lumpen class that MIM(Prisons) has been working on for a few years. We took a break to focus on putting out [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, and now that that book is published and distributed we are refocusing on our analysis of the lumpen class in the United $tates. We have already completed a draft of a chapter of the book, based on our economic research about the size and composition of the lumpen class. We are distributing this draft chapter as a pamphlet for feedback.
While analyzing economic statistics is a vital part of understanding the lumpen class, the next step is understanding how to influence the class, and hence the class consciousness.
We are publishing this essay in Under Lock & Key to spark discussion and ask for feedback. We want to know how you've seen individuals and groups develop lumpen class consciousness. We are especially interested in how lumpen organizations (parasitic or proletarian-minded) develop class consciousness amongst their membership. How does that class consciousness overlap, interact or even conflict with national consciousness? Please send your reports to Under Lock & Key so we can all learn and grow from your practice!
What is class consciousness?
Simply stated, consciousness is being aware and knowing what it is you are observing. When you eat you may be conscious of the chewing and swallowing. Many people eat without being aware of the act of eating – this is parallel to most people acting in a class's interests without being conscious of doing so; they just do what is good for them at the time. Consciousness of chewing does not automatically come with eating, and neither does consciousness of class position automatically come with belonging to a particular class.
The Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM) defines class consciousness as "The understanding by members of particular classes that they represent a certain class, that their class interests may intersect or oppose those of other classes, and of their agency when collectively organized for class struggle. Typically, class consciousness is used to describe the most broad, clearest perspective of either the proletariat, the bourgeoisie or their sub-classes."
Why do we study class consciousness among the lumpen?
We study class consciousness in an effort to shape the lumpen into an alliance with the international proletariat. Without class consciousness, the lumpen act in ways which strengthen the position of the bourgeoisie: by upholding bourgeois cultural propaganda (e.g. radio rap), participating in self-destruction of oppressed nations (e.g. by selling drugs or fomenting gang divisions), allying with Amerikkkans against the international proletariat for "patriotic" reasons, and the list goes on.
National oppression already leaves a persisting impression upon the consciousness of the lumpen of oppressed nations. All of the features of lumpen existence in the United $tates – police brutality, urban decay, limited job and education opportunities, mass incarceration, etc. – are features of national oppression. The elements of national oppression that lead the lumpen to the prison doors in the first place are then exaggerated once behind the razor wire. We would be in error to not appreciate that the lumpen has some intuitive grasp of their place in U.$. society. On some level people of the lumpen class realize they are disadvantaged.
Karl Marx said in 1847:
"Economic conditions had first transformed the mass of the people of the country into workers. The combination of capital has created for this mass a common situation, common interests. This mass is thus already a class as against capital, but not yet for itself. In the struggle, of which we have noted only a few phases, this mass becomes united, and constitutes itself as a class for itself. The interests it defends become class interests. But the struggle of class against class is a political struggle."(1)
In order for a lasting development to be realized in the lumpen, we need to do as Marx said and become a class "for itself" rather than a class blindly working for the bourgeoisie. Our work presently is in studying the contradictions today in our neighborhoods and cellblocks, and employing dialectical materialism to create short-range programs in order to push the people in the prisons, barrios, hoods and reservations forward to reach our long-term goals. We need cadre organizations, liberation schools, youth brigades and our own press. We need to develop alternative forms of power which rely on the people's independence outside of imperialism's sphere of influence. Time has proven that imperialism and the basic exploitative character of capitalism cannot be reformed nor can it be made to serve the interests of the people. It can only continue to engender war, poverty and untold strife at the expense of those neatly tucked away in the periphery.
In search of a better way, and in rejection of the comforts of imperialism and its blood money, we must choose which side of the struggle we are truly on. At any particular time lumpen, like all people, are either acting in the interests of the international proletariat or in the interests of imperialism. Most lumpen have no apparent probability of status advancement, so allying with the international proletariat is in the lumpen's class interests. But if socioeconomic factors were to change and the lumpen now see opportunity for status advancement, then being allied with the international proletariat becomes class suicide.
One socioeconomic factor to take into account is the national question, which is directly related to national oppression and not necessarily economic status. For instance, there are New Afrikan and [email protected] labor aristocrats whose economic interests are with imperialism. And white lumpen are generally allied with imperialism and the Amerikkkan nation, even though they are imprisoned or their communities are poisoned by mining refuse due to capitalism. Thus, one may be an oppressed New Afrikan labor aristocrat and while aligning with the international proletariat may be viewed in an economic sense as class suicide, in a social sense this alliance would actually improve the probability of status advancement overall and not necessarily be class suicide.
Lumpen unity and class consciousness in the U.$.
Speaking on the proletariat of his day, Marx pointed out that a common situation existed for the proletarians to unite under common interests. The same could be said about the Brown Berets and Black Panther Party during the 1960s and 70s. There existed a sharp level of oppression and police brutality within [email protected] communities, which inspired the Brown Berets to serve as protectors of their communities as well as reach out to those from other barrios, mainly lumpen, to join ranks with them by being productive forces for their people rather than common "gangsters."
The Black Panther Party (BPP) did a remarkable job building and developing class consciousness among the masses of the New Afrikan nation. The BPP was able to tie much-needed community programs to the stark material reality of New Afrika. Not only were the Panthers feeding the youth through the Free Breakfast Program, they educated the masses on their class position through this altruistic act. In one stroke they were able to secure the trust and gratitude of the people and illustrate the failures of the semi-colonial relationship in which the New Afrikan nation is ensnared.
There are glimmers of class consciousness in prison at times, but these episodes ebb and flow due to the bourgeois mindset of much of the prison population. Being raised in a First World country, we are influenced by its culture although it is not our own. As Mao said in eir essay "On Practice," "in class society everyone is a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with a brand of class." The assumption of inevitable imprisonment or death; the glorification of drug and pimp culture; hustling for individual gain while harming our kin; and nihilism are examples of lumpen culture under the influence of the bourgeoisie.
At times we may see prison uprisings, strikes, or other prison organizing across national lines, but these events don't usually remain intact for very long. This is because class consciousness does not develop spontaneously, rather it must be cultivated and spread through education and agitation. Only through the help of an educated cadre — both inside and outside prison walls — can class consciousness develop.
Present-day examples of class consciousness development in prison
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels said of class struggle for the workers, "The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the workers."(2) Marx and Engels understood that class struggle would continue so long as classes exist. They saw the union of the proletariat as the prize, not what concessions were gained from the ruling class per se.
Something similar was experienced with the California prison hunger/work strikes in recent years. The words of Marx and Engels were seen manifested, not in a "union of the workers" but in a union of the imprisoned lumpen. This union of lumpen produced the Agreement to End Hostilities. The real victory is in getting lumpen to see and experience that it is really us versus the pigs, and that a concrete force exists which oppresses ALL lumpen prisoners in some way. These are acts which cultivate an environment where class consciousness can grow; it creates a fertile ground for this process.
Within the environment of prison, lumpen organizations (LOs) are by far more structured and disciplined than they are on the streets. Despite the negative activity and values of parasitic LOs, there is reason to believe that they can operate to achieve revolutionary ends. Pick up any Under Lock & Key newsletter and one will find evidence of LOs working in prison to contribute to the anti-imperialist movement. So it isn't a far-fetched idea to use LOs as revolutionary vehicles in building consciousness among imprisoned lumpen.
Lumpen organizations already bring out a form of consciousness within their membership, meaning they instill pride within their own people. LOs in prison are often organized by "ethnicity," and in that sense they develop their national pride, identity and culture. Their consciousness as a subgroup is raised. This is not class consciousness, and most times not even national consciousness, but it's a start, and more it's a platform which can be used and highlighted. Most LOs already have an ideological indoctrination process in place for new recruits; adding class consciousness to this structured education shouldn't be much of a stretch.
Class consciousness will only develop so much within a LO just like a crocodile will only grow so much when confined to a small fish tank. If the LO is engaged in anti-people activities, it is prevented from advancing politically. The parasitic nature of a profit-driven LO will never allow true unbridled class consciousness to develop because to do so would change the fundamental purpose of that LO. This is why Growth is one of the 5 principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. Comrades must not be discouraged from growing from a parasitic lumpen actor to a class-conscious revolutionary lumpen actor.
Lumpen organizations and other subgroups can come together to become a whole and thus unite as a class, as did the proletariat in Marx and Engels's day, as did the Russian proletariat unite with the peasantry (uniting two classes) and how Mao Zedong united the peasantry in China upon common interests with the proletariat. When conditions in prison reach an intolerable level of suppression that affects all prisoners as a whole, we will begin to see each other as sharing the same interests of ending oppression behind the walls. Unfortunately this will not automatically make all prisoners come together in unity. Prison conditions alone aren't a sufficient factor to promote class consciousness amongst imprisoned lumpen.
Practical experience shows that the more repressive the situation people find themselves in, the more likely they are to challenge the situation and find ways to combat it. In some facilities, a wide range of reading material is permitted to be possessed by prisoners, and the pigs aren't readily looking for politically conscious leaders to repress and harass. At first glance it seems the freedom of movement and association would be a good environment to run political study groups and organize with each other. However, the flip side of having little repression is that many choose to spend more time chasing and idolizing bourgeois lifestyles; instead of picking up some political lit to read, they choose to discuss Nikki Minaj's ass on the VMAs.
How to organize
Class-conscious lumpen must lead
The job of class conscious prisoners is to not just understand that change and development is good and inevitable, but we need to find ways to translate this understanding to the broader lumpen masses, and as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is on the lumpen to look beyond the interests of our own to achieve a higher level of political consciousness, and it is on politically conscious prisoners to point out the cause of our problems as well as what's stopping all from uniting.
Organize around local experiences/conditions
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to awakening the imprisoned lumpen class. There are many different types of individuals and different backgrounds/histories and beliefs. And we organizers all have different strengths and operate in varying conditions. But in general, open lines of communication, dialogue, re-education, and finding common-ground causes to fight for helps the process.
What should be stressed as a development to higher consciousness is the injustices experienced in common. With this sense of having a common injustice done against us, we will be more susceptible to change. If there isn't a lot of immediate suffering to organize around, we can call on our common experiences prior to imprisonment. Even in relatively comfortable prison conditions, we can start by exploring how we came to imprisonment in the first place. The poor quality of teachers in our schools and mis-education given to us by the imperialists is by design.
We can then use these direct experiences to organize with others on practical projects – campaigns to improve our collective conditions of confinement, collective legal actions, appeals, literacy, etc. — and work to add to the preconditions of class consciousness in prisons. Attempts to integrate politics with a prison struggle will bring a higher level of class consciousness only if we can explain to others how it's not just an isolated struggle within prison we're all confronted with, but the infrastructure behind the prison industry itself, its society, the socio-economic relations, its effects on our interpersynal relationships and culture, and the world. When imprisoned lumpen begin to unite for common interests, then politically conscious prisoners should advocate for continued struggle. Once any concessions are granted, many tend to think "well, that's all we're going to get", or they see a tiny concession as a huge victory, and step back from organizing. This is a sign of a lack of class consciousness, and a lack of internationalism, that must be addressed by the prison movement leaders head on.
Build study groups
We can lead study groups on deeper topics, or open debates on anything as simple as a news report. Although this may be harder in isolation, it is usually still possible to share material with others in your pod or initiate discussions on the tier. Sharing your views and hearing others' can bring many together if a common objective is trying to be reached. It helps to build public opinion in opposition to the bourgeois media outlets. When there are one or two lumpen within every group agitating in this way, along with strong communication in other circles, sharing reading material and legal work, it all works to push their studying into actual work, and go from being spectators to actors in the process of transforming these dungeons and the imperialist system generally.
There are many topics to study to give a thorough understanding of our class position, including the works of Marx, Mao, Lenin, Engels and other communist revolutionaries before us. Political economy unlocks the mysteries of the origins and results of class struggle. The bourgeoisie (the owners of the means of production) and the proletariat (those who had nothing so must sell labor power) make up the principal contradiction in the realm of political economy. Understanding these classes, and all their sub-classes, requires one to perform a class analysis so that one understands where people stand on the economic totem pole, and determine where the social forces stand. Part of class consciousness is understanding who's on our side and who's trying to imprison, kill, and dismantle us.
If we were to utilize the tables out on the yards for educational-neutral grounds instead of real estate or casinos, a lot more will be susceptible to change their patterns. One table could be strictly legal work (grievances, lawsuits, etc.); one for help with reading, college and GED; one for addressing the daily issues so that nothing arises to blindside folks; one for political education, etc. These tables would be neutral ground for all nations, LOs, etc. to gain knowledge and put it to use. They would function simultaneously as Serve the People programs and political education meetings, building unity and transforming the lumpen into a class "for itself."
Sitting back and just observing everyone who I have encountered while in prison, I would say one man comes to mind because he truly inspired me. Deauce is a true socialist and freedom fighter. Within the Arkansas Department of Corrections at the East Arkansas Regional Unit, we are housed in open barracks with about 75 prisoners to a barrack. Deuce looks out for everyone and helps anyone that he can assist. Regardless of your race he'll help you out. Whether it's help with writing a grievance, or you just need a radio to listen to the news or a movie, he'll make sure you even have food or coffee if you don't have money to buy commissary. Others call him hustle-man because he's always hustling up stuff for new prisoners or others in general. In my eyes he has demonstrated the true meaning of a freedom fighter. Watching him in action has encouraged me and allowed me to see how others react to a socialist in action.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This essay came in response to our call for people to write about the freedom fighters who have inspired them. And this is a good reminder that our actions every day have a big impact on others. Revolutionaries should strive to serve the people and demonstrate the principles of our ideology in practice. We can take people like Deuce as a good example of our starting point, but we need to go further and tie our work serving the people to our work educating the people about why we do this work, and why they should get involved too. Otherwise we can get bogged down by the charity aspect, leaving the revolutionary purpose behind.
A good example of this is the Black Panther Party's Serve the People Breakfast for Schoolchildren program. The BPP fed many children who otherwise were going to school hungry, a problem that interfered with their ability to learn. And while they were providing this food, the BPP also provided revolutionary education, turning these kids on to a way of thinking they weren't exposed to in public schools. Freedom fighters are found all around us, and we commend this comrade for calling out the value of the everyday work done by Deauce in serving the people.
In 2010 a comrade in California initiated a campaign to demand that grievances be addressed by the California prison system. This comrade created a petition that anyone behind bars could use. The campaign quickly took off in California and spread to other places where customized petitions were created for use in 14 different states.
We have reports from some states that are still actively fighting the corrupt and broken grievance systems using the petitions developed to demand grievances be addressed. But we also have a number of states for which we have petitions, but we haven't gotten an update in a long time. We still get requests for copies of these grievance petitions, but we're not sure if they are being put to use, or if the petition is entirely ineffective.
The goals of the grievance petition campaign are first to build unity amongst prisoners around a common goal, and second to try to resolve grievance problems, in order to help address some brutalities and injustices of the prison environment. An individual sending out one petition won't bring relief, but building with others in your facility around this campaign will help address at least one of these goals.
Here is the list of states for which we need updates on grievance campaign work: Arizona Colorado Kansas Montana North Carolina Nevada Oklahoma Oregon South Carolina
If you are in one of these states, let us know what you did with the grievance petition. Help us update the campaign, even if it's just to say that your work so far hasn't produced success. Tell us what grievances you are trying to fight, how you used the petition, and the participation of your fellow captives.
It is a critical part of the work of any political organization that we learn from our practice, and continue to improve our work. By reporting on your grievance campaign work, you are contributing to the dialectical materialist method of revolutionary struggle. Together we can improve our practice to be even more effective over time.
I would like to let you know of a situation that occurred on 1 December 2015, at Ely State Prison in Nevada. A white corrections officer (CO) was taking a Black prisoner to yard in handcuffs. CO Edwards is a known racist pig, and while taking this prisoner to yard he slammed his face against the sally port door. When the prisoner went to his knees, CO Edwards then slammed his face on the ground. The reason given was that the prisoner "turned his head too fast."
The prisoner was taken to the hole. But it caused us to unite. Nevada has become a highly individualized state. No one wants to get involved with any struggle. But yesterday a comrade and I pushed the issue, and we got a large number of prisoners to file grievances. We filed them as AR340 misconduct complaints against the pig Edwards, which are supposed to be sent to the Inspector General's office.
It was nice to see us united. I will keep you updated on this issue.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is doing the hard work necessary to build an anti-imperialist movement: repeatedly trying to inspire others to come together to fight injustices. Even if the action is small at first, the unity around this one incident helps to build unity around bigger issues. People learn through action, even if that lesson is that the oppressors are far more powerful than us right now. We still have to take the opportunity to offer information about the criminal injustice system, why we take on these battles, and how they fit in to our longer term goal of putting an end to the oppressive system of imperialism.
Let's talk about religion. Specifically, let's address the question of whether religion is or is not useful in the struggle against prisons and against imperialism.
Many of today's prison groups and lumpen organizations (LOs) are well rooted in religious ideas, theories and practices. For example, the Nation of Gods and Earths and the Rastafarians are both very influential among New Afrikan LOs. The LOs in prison have had experience in the areas of adopting certain religious values for the sake of defending themselves against total annihilation. Whether using religion, spirituality or faith as a conventional method to serve this goal for prisoners will bring about liberation faster than any other method will be determined by prisoners and prisoner-led efforts. [History has already proven dialectical materialism as an ideology to be far more effective at bringing about liberation than religion and faith, but we agree with testing it as a tactic in certain conditions as discussed below. - ULK Editor]
Prisons are a political effect of the bourgeois imperialist oppressive structure, which is determined to take more of the world's wealth and riches than it gives. Therefore prisons are political and produce political prisoners, as MIM(Prisons) holds: "...all prisoners are political prisoners because under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, all imprisonment is substantively political."
Prisoners begin to develop a consciousness of their environment by evaluating the material conditions they are in. Through a process of unity-criticism-unity they often transform themselves into the change they wish to see. This transformation often begins to manifest in individual decision-making skills. One begins to evaluate the pros and cons of indirect and direct action, to spread solutions to fellow prisoners' conflicts, and eventually one becomes sought out by the masses as a leader.
While the reality is that all prisoners are political, as we begin to develop our political consciousness we find that we are prohibited from being directly involved in the politics that we are subject to. When U.$. prisoners take that conscious state of mind to the level of organizing, campaigning and agitating, they become victims of laws criminalizing politicking in prisons. Many prisoners and LOs are well aware of this weapon of the snakes. Prisoners have little to no legal standing in the U.$. bourgeois injustice system to defend against the assaults on their humyn right to politically advocate and demonstrate their class interest as lumpen in the United $tates.
By law, according to the U.$. Constitutional standard, prisoners have a right to grieve conditions relative to the prison environment. They have the right to correspond with members of society, including the press. But when those of the prison population begin organizing the locals into group actions, they are labeled as security threat group leaders. Prisoners are incapable of putting forth a defense to these charges because by state standards their groups are un-sanctioned. Without a license we are prohibited from driving forward the people to a state of consciousness from where they may liberate themselves.
LOs don't register their groups with the state, they don't report their activities to the state, and the majority of LOs don't pay taxes on any income of the organization; all behaviors criminalized by the state. Essentially, prisoners being involved in a public manner in/with prison politics are whooped from the jump start.
It is therefore no coincidence that religious/spirituality groups that focus on the lumpen have become quite popular within U.$. prisons. They provide a more free outlet for expression and camaraderie. Of course, this has been a role played by religious organizations since the days of the Roman empire, when the church recruited the labor of those who had no legal warrant to sell their labor. This can lead to these religious bodies being a voice in service of the oppressed or to the religious body suppressing the desires of the oppressed to the benefit of the oppressor.
At different times religion has played different roles ideologically and politically. Many New Afrikan lumpen read in Dr. Suzar's Blacked Out Through Whitewash that:
"'Jesus, was the Panther? An original name for Jesus was... son of the Panther!' (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine).
"Even the Bible refers to him as 'the Lion of the tribe Juda.' (Rv. 5:5) 'Jesus in fact, was a Black nationalist freedom fighter... whose goals were to free the Black people of that day from the oppressive... White Roman power structure... and to build a Black nation.' (I Barashango)
"Schoenfield reports in The Passover Plot p 194: 'Galilee, were[sic] Jesus had lived... which was home of the Jewish resistance movement, suffered particularly. The Romans never ceased night and day to devastate... pillage [and kill].'
"In the Black Messiah p91, Rev. A.B. Cleage Jr. writes that Jesus was a revolutionary 'who was leading a [Black] nation into conflict against a [white] oppressor... It was necessary that he be crucified because he taught revolution.' Jesus stated, 'I have not come to send peace, but a sword.' (The Holy Bible - Mathew 101.34 - King James Version)"(1)
Depending on the leadership of the religious institutions and the cleverness of the lumpen, religion and politics can go hand-in-hand with one another. Devout members of the left will disagree and dogmatic rightists will call for a lynch mob. But at the end of the discussion the outcome is to be decided by those directly related to and at the source of the phenomenon.
It is the position held by MIM(Prisons) that i admire most:
"In some ways communism is the best way for religious people to uphold their beliefs and put an end to the evils of murder, rape, hunger and other miseries of humyns. Some argue that Jesus Christ must have been a communist because he gave to the poor."(2)
Many prisoners utilize liberation theology as a means to merge their political strengths with the legal warrant of the First Amendment right to freedom of religious exercise as the defense against political attacks from the police state.
The lumpen's religion is the exception to the world's norm of religion as representing the status quo. There are many prisoners who fall into the wash of all faiths, but there is a powerful source of prisoner liberation theologists at the forefront of the anti-imperialist prison movement too. It is possible that this very source is the face of the prison struggle for the age we are entering. Working smarter is working harder within the belly of the beast.
Prisoners should struggle to have their political interest respected by the state, but they should not concentrate more on convincing the police state that prisons are inappropriate, and the greatest crimes are being committed by themselves. They know this good and well already. LOs must concentrate on tactics that will forge united fronts capable of pushing the forces of history forward faster.
We conclude with a quote from Russian leader V.I. Lenin:
"We must not only admit workers who preserve their belief in God into the Social-Democratic Party, but must deliberately set out to recruit them; we are absolutely opposed to giving the slightest offense to their religious convictions, but we recruit in order to educate them in the spirit of our programme, and not in order to permit an active struggle against it."(3)