I received the information on the study group/cells which I go over several times a night, then engage my neighbor here in Ad-Seg/SHU in good conversation. At times others quit talking, and conversation don't resume until directly after I am forced to sit down after standing on cold hard concrete a few hours. I have severe nerve damage from diabetes as well as this cement box environment. But I do hit the door at least 4 times a day to continue or expand the topics I read in past issues of ULK I have, or the more recent materials you have sent like "The Tyranny of Structurelessness" and "Commitment is the Key." I have got two young men reading many of my past issues of ULK that I have received from you and inherited from others over the years.
Forming an actual study cell on this 14-man section of the pod is hit and miss. The Security Threat Group Office has a very broad but vague description of who and what constitutes an STG member/group. And this being a highly militarized zone in central texa$ with Ft. Hood and an Air Force base nearby; many who discharged or were drummed out come to work here, with severe cases of hate toward prisoners in general. A few target anyone deemed anti-american or anti-capitalist.
What I see are quite a few who support the xenophobic racist Trump, even a few people one would not expect such as several black and mexican officers! I do not capitalize their race/color or call them New Afrikans or Chican@ because they are not to me, supporting a vile individual like Trump. I have attempted to find out why they support him. It's the rhetoric he spews that they believe in. More jobs, make america great, stronger military presence overseas, etc. Because of my reaction and comments I have lost meal trays come slop time, or been "forgotten" for medical lay in, rec or even shower time. Even my mail gets misplaced for days or given to the wrong person on another section!
Oh, an update on medical co-payment in texa$ and University of Texas Medical Board (UTMB) Healthcare. As of 1 February 2016 TDC prisoners are not charged medical copay for the dentist UNLESS it is for teeth cleaning. So texas comrades let it be known on your facilities. This came directly out of the mouth of UTMB Dentist of the Year for 2016 quoting the director of texas healthcare in TDC and the director of TDC dentistry.
As of April 2016, I am currently battling a new TDC move on medical copay. If you do win your initial grievance Step 1 or Step 2, they now go back on your records previous 24 months and look for things to charge for that were overlooked the first time. I have a grievance filed specifically countering that. When I hear a response I will inform all my comrades at MIM(Prisons).
MIM(Prisons) responds: We appreciate this comrade updating us on the medical copay campaign, and we are not surprised that TDCJ is going back thru medical records to see what they can charge for. It's just another example of the eternal dead end of reformism. As revolutionaries, we work on reforms presently so we can lay the groundwork for our more broad political organizing. We recognize the need for a complete change in the system that capitalizes off of humyn suffering, and we are always striving toward this goal.
Subscribers should keep sending us updates on the several campaigns we are supporting all across the United $nakes.
by a California prisoner March 2016 permalink[In January 2016, MIM(Prisons) received a report from a comrade in Kern Valley State Prison stating that the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH) had been broken there. The incident included an attack by one group, and retaliation by another group against others not necessarily involved in the original attack. The original attackers reportedly ran to the state for protection. The prospects for peaceful resolution were not great. In response to this report, a comrade now working as part of the Free Speech Society sent us this update on efforts to reconcile the conflict in line with the AEH.]
All power to the people who do not fear real freedom!!!
In the aftermath of two small-scale race-based "isolated" incidents that occurred on B-facility in January of 2016 at Kern Valley State Prison, the Free Speech Society was able to successfully initiate a conflict resolution committee as a part of the inmate advisory council (IAC) that has been established at this prison.
The conflict resolution committee ensures the de-escalation of potential conflicts between various groups/formations on B-facility. As it constitutes a body of like-minded individuals that is both representative of the totality of the various groups/formations on B-facility, but also capable of resolving potential or actual conflicts in a responsible, positive, and expeditious fashion. In the past, Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP) administrators, which is inclusive of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) headquarters in Sacramento, California have made errors in one form or another, by failing to ensure the engagement of the primary stakeholders that are representative of those groups/formations actually engaged in a conflict, nor has there been a body of "like-minded" individuals specifically tasked with resolving potential conflicts before they mature into actual hostile-based conflicts, whereby unnecessary disturbances become manifest, which jeopardize the safety and security of both prisoners and staff.
Per Departmental Operations Manual (DOM) 53120.5.3 (viz. "Special Concern Sub-Committee") the KVSP B-facility Men's Advisory Council will enact the Conflict Resolution Committee (CRC). The CRC is convened for the sole purpose of resolving potential and actual conflicts on B-facility whenever and wherever they occur, and effectively articulating these resolutions to the entire prisoner population, with special attention given to the groups/formations in conjunction with the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH).
Because appropriate representation is essential to the resolution of conflicts in an effective and responsible manner, the composition of the CRC will reflect prisoner representation from each specific group/formation who will in turn be responsible for engaging and positively resolving any subdivisions in these groups.
A basic outline of the CRC representative body will consist of a representative from each of the following groups/formations:
Bay area Blacks
Because of the sensitive nature of this special concern sub-committee, the CRC must have access to the units on B-facility, per approval of the facility captain. The daily activities of the CRC are designed to increase dialogue across cultural lines of every formation/group to promote a stronger foundation upon which issues can be put forward and resolved in a constructive manner. Communication and timing are essential components to preventing conflicts before they mature into hostile-based conflict. Therefore, CRC members must be able to talk to who they need to, when they need to. Our objective is to be proactive in resolving potential and/or actual conflicts within the general population. All prisoners are encouraged to relay any and all potential conflicts to the CRC so they can be resolved in an expeditious manner. The function and activities of this committee shall be to ensure equal and effective representation of the entire general population in the resolution of potential and actual conflicts on B-facility. The entire CRC body will abide by the by-laws of the Inmate Advisory Council (IAC).
MIM(Prisons) responds: What started as a report on the breaking of the AEH at one of the largest California state prisons, has been turned around to a testament of the practical work of the AEH. The release of comrades from SHU is at play here in ensuring that the AEH is upheld by the prison masses in a way that addresses the needs of the masses.
In short order, comrades at KVSP have put to work the tools at hand to address the contradictions among the people there in a practical way. This is an example that should be followed and repeated throughout the state and the country. All that said, in the long run we must caution against depending on institutions of the state to meet the needs of the oppressed. Conflict is not the natural state of the oppressed, it is created. And the history of CDCR is one of utilizing, encouraging and even creating divisions among the prison masses for its own interests.
When the Short Corridor Collective asked the CDCR to distribute the statement calling for an Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH), that was a correct tactical approach to working with the state. When the CDCR refused, it still strengthened the cause of peace and unity among the oppressed. In a recent essay a USW comrade lays out the history and current reality of the MAC/IACs in California prisons.(1) While their formation was based in the strength of the prison movement, they have since been used to undermine the movement, as the comrade argues, as a sort of neo-colonial force akin to U.$. foreign policy abroad. Meanwhile, another comrade in Pelican Bay who has been struggling to build peace reports that attempts to work within the MAC and within an approved Inmate Leisure Time Activity Group have both resulted in increased harrassment by staff who see unity as a threat.
Again, we commend the comrades at KVSP who have utilized the tools available to them to address a very dangerous situation, and we offer our support in those continued efforts. But we recommend that all those attempting to build peace in prisons study the 5 principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. Independence is one of those principles, because without independence the masses do not have the ability to make decisions for themselves and provide real solutions.
The name of our study group is Royal Descendant People Politically Intelligent Revolutionary Units. We encourage Peace and try to be problem solvers when it comes to New Afrikan on New Afrikan violence. We encourage people to think instead of just reacting. We get leaders to talk before violence starts.
We encourage Unity among different New Afrikan organizations. We will work with other organizations not New Afrikan for a common kause like going against Pork Khops (correctional officers) and their pig counterparts, the agents of the oppressive and exploitative state security and information gathering system. Our first duty is to campaign which is to spread our ancestors' and leaders' revolutionary kulture. We are democratic socialist chanting down capitalism and imperialism. When it's time to go against the real enemy we will unite with those who share a common enemy. We are working on bettering our communication system. People write but we have a hard time finding someone to print our zines and books. That's why I am reaching out networking to get support. Beside our education program we have a military training program which consists of eating right and exercise. We work mind and body.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We are always happy to hear from groups building unity and independent institutions of the oppressed behind bars. And this comrade demonstrates an important aspect of these groups: study. This organization seems to be well aligned with the United Front for Peace in Prisons's points of unity, peace, growth, internationalism and independence. We look forward to studying and building with them in the future. Others who have groups, even just a few folks studying together, should get in touch with MIM(Prisons) so we can provide materials to support your studies. And get plugged in to the United Front for Peace in Prison.
MIM(Prisons) compiles and distributes study materials through our Free Books for Prisoners Program. We are open to printing pamphlets made by our subscribers so long as they fit into a revolutionary Maoist agenda.
We facilitate Maoist and anti-imperialist prisoner organizing through United Struggle from Within, and help writers develop their skills and politital line through our correspondence study courses. Our advanced study group, the ULK Writers Group, is where the vanguard of the Maoist anti-imperialist prison movement gathers to write articles, pamphlets, and even books. Work through these organizations to ensure your work is the most effective at fighting oppression.
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 Chican@ 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 Chican@ 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 Chican@ 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.