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.
Respect: Abolish the antagonisms that exist between us. We must develop and possess a willingness 2 respect one another regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, street-level affiliation or sexual-orientation.
Solidarity: The U.$. prison population is held in kaptivity by greedy prisoncrats that subject us 2 systematic abuse and brutalization. Since we are all under the yoke of the same oppressor we should stand in solidarity 2 build a united front 2 end all forms of injustice.
Unity: Discord is counter-revolutionary. 2 build a solid movement for social-revolutionary change all freedom loving individuals must be in a state of accord.
Agitation: Knowledge is power. We should strive to become politically astute so that we can go about the business of raising the political consciousness of the prison population at large.
Autonomy: We acknowledge and exercise our inherent right 2 self-governance. No one is coming 2 our rescue. We must organize the formation of our own independent groups, associations, and fraternities now 2 become saviors of ourselves.
The concept for Operation S.A.F.E. was born out of a desperate need 2:
Raise the political consciousness of the Florida prison population.
Introduce them 2 progressive revolutionary ideals.
Foster unity and respect among all kaptives held within their confines of FL DOC regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, street-level affiliation or sexual orientation.
Educate the prison population on how to peaceably organize against the various forms of physical and psychological injustices that we are subjected 2 on a daily basis.
Wherever oppression exists, there can be no peace and there can be no peace without organized struggle - we invite and encourage all freedom-loving individuals 2 stand in solidarity with us 2 assist in organizing a movement for social-revolutionary change. May the benevolent forces of the universe imbibe us all with a spirit of a love and revolutionary unity!
Educate, Agitate, Unify and Revolutionize
The co-ordinating body of Operation S.A.F.E. does not encourage acts of violence against FL DOC staff. Instead we strongly encourage political education/dialogue and non-violent organizing/struggle. We call on all kaptives held in FL DOC 2 institute a moratorium on all spontaneous acts of violence, unless faced with a do-or-die dilemma.
Knowledge is power - start a study group. Request materials from:
MIM(Prisons), PO Box 40799, San Francisco, CA 94140
Anthony Rayson, C/O So. Chicago ABC Zine Distro, PO Box 721, Homewood, IL 60430
Request materials written by: Sean Swain, El Coyote, Maroon Zolo, Rashid and A. Rayson.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This statement from Operation S.A.F.E. is another good demonstration of local organizations applying the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) organizing principles. Their five progressive precepts line up well with the five UFPP organizing principles: Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism and Independence. And their focus on education underscores a critical task for all revolutionaries today. We echo their call for people to write to us to start a study group and request materials from us to support this group. We can provide revolutionary literature to study, study questions, and we will respond to comments or questions you send us about the reading that come up in your study group. In this way we can build together for the day when revolutionary forces can take power from the oppressors and put an end to this capitalist system of oppression.
Where Operation S.A.F.E. is against all discord, we know that all of existence is full of contradictions, even within a United Front for Peace in Prisons. In order to understand how to change any phenomena to our advantage, it is imperative to understand how contradictions work and how history is shaped. We'd recommend a thorough study of dialectical materialism and historical materialism, starting with material by Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. We see contradictions between competing theories of how to achieve liberation, and in fact MIM(Prisons) has published some debates with Rashid (a recommended author above by Operation SAFE) over significant disagreements on the question of defining who are our friends and who are our enemies. These debates should not be ignored in an attempt to create a false sense of unity as we have a duty to the oppressed of the world to find the best and fastest path towards liberation and to avoid false promises that only lead to further oppression for the world's majority.
Almost 5% of our comrade time in 2015 was put into maintaining the technical aspects of our online presence, mostly our website www.prisoncensorship.info. While that might seem like a small percentage, an increase in our capacity of 5% would allow us to see some significant improvements in our work.
In the past we had estimated that our online readers were about equal in number, if not quality, to our print readers in prison. In recent years we've seen a doubling of our readership inside prisons. In the past year we've seen a significant drop in our online readership, though this is probably completely due to technical difficulties and not a decrease in interest.
Recently, prisoners have donated about 5% of the cost of distributing ULK (this includes some regular contributions from USW members on the outside). During the same period, comrades in prison have contributed an equal amount of money to pay for books and study materials from the Ministry. The rest of our funding comes from members of MIM(Prisons). While we might make a few bucks here and there at public events, it is irregular. This summer we set the achievable goal of funding 10% of ULK through prisoner donations. None of our funding comes from online readers. In other words, online readers cover 0% of the cost to fund the website, despite the fact that it is much cheaper than the newsletter and our online readers have much greater access to money than our imprisoned readers.
Most of the writing and almost all of the art in ULK is contributed by prisoner subscribers. Almost none of it comes from our online readers. (Just before publishing this article we did get some article submissions via web contribution.)
In recent years we've had a couple of allies who have contributed to our work in a consistent way, and we have some volunteers come and go that help us with typing, editing and other tasks. But when all is said and done, we are losing more comrade time to maintaining the website than we are gaining from it.
Now, we try to keep in mind that our principal task is building public opinion and not building our organization. Yet, we are approaching a crisis where our comrade time on the streets cannot keep up with the interest from prisoners. Really it never could, but even to the standard we are used to we are losing ground. So the question starts to look like: do we spend more resources building public opinion behind bars or on the streets (and by streets, we mean online)?
Alternatively, our online readers could step up to the plate. Five percent of our annual comrade time is no small beans. But it is easily achievable by a few regular contributors. It could be achieved by one dedicated comrade who steps up and starts putting in work. But how do we inspire someone to act over the internet like we do through the mail?
The worldwide web has always been an important tool in the MIM agitational toolbox. Prisoncensorship.info is approaching its 10 year anniversary of going strong and we host the archive of the MIM etext site dating back another 15+ years. We might foresee situations where not having it could really hamper our work in the future. So there are other points to consider here.
But the question remains, is it time to let www.prisoncensorship.info die in order to focus all our efforts on supporting the organizing efforts of the imprisoned masses?
“Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This cannot be insisted upon too strongly at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism combined with absorption in the narrowest forms of practical activity.” - V. I. Lenin
Often times the first half of this quote is misrepresented by people not really knowing the context. Well-meaning comrades will repeat this political axiom when calling for others to pick up their theoretical game (grasp of revolutionary science), for reasons having to do with the obvious need for revolutionary theory to influence and propagate our revolutionary practice. Yet it was in the process of struggle and heated political debate that Lenin first made this now famous statement. These struggles and other political debates were recalled by Lenin in eir book What is to be Done?; a book about communist organization and discipline. More to my point, in this book, Lenin addressed the importance that revolutionary theory should play in informing the revolutionary movement, in part for the purpose of combating various erroneous tendencies.
The main tendency which Lenin devoted the better part of this book to was the problem of opportunism. Opportunism can be defined as the conscious or unconscious watering down of political line in order to garner more sympathy for your cause or movement. It can also be said that opportunism can be described as the glossing over of contradictions within the revolutionary movement so as to not offend or turn away your social base. A perfect example of opportunism would be to tell Amerikans that they are the revolutionary vehicle which we call the proletariat instead of telling them the truth: that they are by and large the objective enemies of the international proletariat – parasites which we call the labor aristocracy.
One example of how opportunism can work its way into the revolutionary prison movement is thru a philosophical belief called pragmatism. To be a pragmatist means to worship the tactics of whatever works at the present time. While there may be occasions in which we must do what is most effective at that particular instance/moment, we must do so in a way that doesn’t have us sacrificing our political principles or political line, all for the sake of practical results. Pragmatism as a strategic orientation is a danger to revolutionary movements because it can cause us to shift focus from our strategic goals in favor of the immediacy of tactical results. While tactical wins are a good thing for the oppressed, we will be in error if we confuse a tactical gain for strategic victory. A real world example of the negative effects of pragmatism is how many prisoners who participated in the California hunger strikes first initiated in 2011 abandoned the struggle for humyn rights in favor of material concessions and a more comfortable oppression.
Other more nuanced examples of how opportunism has come to dominate political organizing behind prison walls come in the form of “friendship groups” and “elites.” Both are hazards to the prison movement because of the seemingly casual nature of the two and the Liberalism that underlies them.
Friendship groups are the more obvious of the two. Friendship groups can be defined as: “A group of friends who also happen to participate in the same political activities. Most of these groups’ members participate within the group because they like the people in them and not because they have the correct political line.”
Elites can be defined as: “A small group of people who have power over a larger group of which they are a part of, usually without a direct responsibility to that larger group and often without their knowledge or consent.”
Friendship groups function on an external level and so many prisoners will surely recognize one when they see them, as most LOs have these types of groups functioning in one capacity or another. Elites on the other hand, while being dialectically related to the friendship group are the opposite and function on an internal level. One thing which both these groups share in common is their popularization and use of false logic as a method of accomplishing their objectives. This false logic can be best understood as sophism; a method of argument that fake philosophers use to fool the masses by exploiting to their own advantage any situation they encounter or create. One such method of the professional sophist is the ad hominem attack. Ad hominen attacks are marked by appeals to feelings or prejudices rather than to intellect. For example, if one persyn doesn’t like another persyn’s politics, but can’t correctly argue against eir political line, the aggressor might use an ad hominem attack instead. The ad hominem attack might be accusing the persyn of violating an established taboo, such as stealing from another persyn.
Opportunism will find its way into revolutionary movements and organizations if both the masses and the leadership do not have a strong grasp or even an elementary understanding of revolutionary theory. This can allow for various dishonest and incorrect elements to find their way into our structures, which as a result can cause our movements to falter and perish. This is why as revolutionaries we put such a high premium on the study of revolutionary science not only amongst the prison leadership but the prison masses. Furthermore, in making this point we cannot over-emphasize the dialectical relation between study and practice, as a correct grasp of one will inevitably lead to a correct grasp of the other.
To re-iterate, preventative measures are essential in order to safe-guard our movements from taking up opportunism and watering down their revolutionary agendas. We must strongly advocate and fight for the study and production of both revolutionary theory and practice not only to effectively meet the demands and goals of revolutionary organizing, but to navigate our movements thru the sea and fog of bourgeois Liberalism. Our practice will grope in the dark unless its path is illuminated by the most advanced revolutionary theory.
Last, but certainly not least, i would like to speak to other challenges of revolutionary organizing behind prison walls. When working with the lumpen and attempting to organize for our collective liberation it is only natural that we will run into a variety of problems that may end with us in frustration. However, we should not blithely dismiss the prison masses as incapable of listening to our message because they are supposedly too “ignorant”, “backward” or “apolitical” to understand what the so-called “revolutionary” might regard as “complex,” as this has more to do with the revolutionary’s own ignorance, inability and incapability to either understand the masses or effectively communicate to them the correct political line. More likely than not, when any movement, strike or action fails to materialize or develop it is not due to the low level of consciousness of the masses, but to the revolutionaries’ own lack of profundity and insight into the movement of the masses which they often claim some sort of near spiritual connection to.
We must continue to find better ways to correct our approach and understanding of the masses, correct our shortcomings, and stop blaming the masses. Likewise, neither should we fear the masses or their criticism, as the acceptance of criticism and self-criticism is integral to establishing the correct revolutionary line. Do not fear the masses because they are the way forward, and do not fear their criticism because often times they prove to be correct, if even just a bit, for whosoever fears the criticism of the masses only proves that what they really fear is revolution. Above all, always remember that revolutionaries are not above the masses in any way, shape or form. We are but the advanced detachment of the prison movement, nothing more, nothing less. Whoever does not believe this is not a Maoist.
In writing this missive a relevant story comes to mind. When the masses in socialist China were struggling for control of their country against the capitalist roaders during the period of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, many so-called “revolutionaries” felt that the masses were out of control, and that they weren’t yet ready to share state power with the communist party. Many of these revolutionaries advocated an end to this “anarchy,” accusing the masses of being too backward to run the country. To this Mao Zedong and Lin Biao responded:
“The assumption of power by ideological means is absolutely necessary if consolidation of the working class’s power and hegemony is the goal… To accomplish the decisive political leap, the leading role must revert to the masses; this has nothing to do as it is generally believed in the West to do with any form of spontaneity. The role of the party in destroying ‘spontaneous’ illusions lies in the quality of leadership which consists in transforming dispersed rebel movements into a revolutionary current capable of overcoming contradictions. Lin Biao says that the mass revolutionary movement is naturally correct; for among the masses, right and left-wing deviationist groups may exist, but the main current of the mass movement always corresponds to the development of that society involved and is always correct. Revolution is the resolution of contradictions.”(1)
The Soldiers of Bondage (S.O.B.) is a revolutionary communist organization with its members consisting of political prisoners within the Illinois Department of Corrections. The party was founded on 2 July 2011 in Pontiac Correctional Center Segregation. Current membership is very small, but, with the publishing of this study guide, it is hoped that the party will grow nationally in both numbers and resources. A Manifesto of S.O.B. will be completed soon and it will hopefully be made available to prisoners across Amerika.
The "Communist Manifesto" is the most important piece of political literature to the communist. However, due to the many oppressive conditions that plague the lumpen proletariat within the United $tates, many prisoners have problems with comprehending the "Communist Manifesto." For this reason S.O.B. felt it necessary to create a study guide that would assist prisoners in obtaining as much information as possible from the "Communist Manifesto." This study guide contains 184 questions as well as answers from the text.
After creating the study guide the next question to be answered was how to make the study guide easily available to prisoners. After some debate it was decided that the only real option was to go through MIM(Prisons). We are not sure if MIM(Prisons) will just send this out to prisoners who request it or if they will make it one of their official study group programs. Either way it will assist prisoners in the development of their political consciousness.
Remember that the only way to combat the oppressive conditions we are subjugated to is to become aware of the cause and solution of our oppression. It is the hope of S.O.B. that this study guide will help many become aware of these elements. As Karl Marx and Frederick Engels articulated within the "Communist Manifesto," the proletariat must emancipate itself. Amerika does not have a proletariat. However, Marx and Engels's edict is just as true for the lumpen proletariat: the lumpen proletariat must emancipate itself. You must liberate yourself from the oppression you suffer. Begin your journey to become the New Man by educating yourself. Education is power. Resist! Rebel! Defy!
In strength and solidarity,
Cadre (on behalf of S.O.B.)
MIM(Prisons) responds: First we want to commend this group for their hard work focusing on communist education amongst the lumpen. The extensive study guide they created took a lot of work. And their decision to undertake a project that is focused on bringing up the level of theoretical understanding of the lumpen suggests that we have a lot of unity around our principal tasks at this time. MIM(Prisons) knows little about the S.O.B. organization so we cannot comment on our relative level of theoretical unity, and until they publish a manifesto we can only say that the "Communist Manifesto" questions suggest we agree on the bought-off nature of the vast majority of the imperialist-country workers who now constitute a petty-bourgeoisie. This is particularly important as we read a book like the "Communist Manifesto," which was written so many years ago when the labor aristocracy was just a very small segment of the working class, and the workers in First World countries were still a part of the proletariat.
We look forward to work and political discussion with S.O.B. We hope these comrades in Illinois serve as an example for other USW study groups across the country. If you want this study pack, write in to MIM(Prisons). Tell us if you already have the "Communist Manifesto" or if you need a copy