When young Trayvon Martin was killed, people held candles and prayed to "God." And George Zimmerman walked away free. Then we heard of the young brother in Missouri, unarmed yet gunned down by a pig — an amerikkkan kolonial thug. The people held candles and quoted fables from the book of "God." The pig went free.
Cleveland, Ohio — Black child of twelve. Yes, Black not because of his dark skin color, but Black because of the gaping wound to human dignity because he was gunned down by another enforcer of white amerikkkan privilege. The people wept and prayed while the assassin slithered away quite free.
Then Wisconsin and another brother of African descent. Unarmed yet shot and killed by scum who are sworn to "protect and serve." The killer pig was not even charged with a crime while the people sing and pray and dance and wave candles to their "God." But suddenly — Baltimore.
Freddy Gray killed by pigs. This time people overturn vehicles; break into businesses; loot them; set fires; throw rocks and bottles at pigs. And six pigs are indicted.
Perhaps "God" merely honors large candles of burning buildings and burning cars? Or perhaps white amerikkkans only care about dead people of color when the financial losses come to Whitey? Like when the oppressed say, "Get your pigs under control or we will burn your fucking city to the ground."
Do we want social and economic justice that requires people held accountable? Or do we want merely to whine and pray and bemoan the injustice of the amerikkkan grand jury that failed to indict a pig who killed a brother selling loose cigarettes? Facts reveal observable actions leading to desired outcomes. Fables reveal actions of pointless futility.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This writer is spot on about the failure of prayer and kind requests to change systemic violence. It is only with force that the imperialists will give up their guns. Yet we don't mean to say that we should just take up arms and act without planning and organizing.
The righteous anger of the masses in Baltimore is a power that must be harnessed by a revolutionary vanguard party. The oppressed can coordinate their actions and ensure these actions are taken only when victory is possible through strong and centralized leadership. We are still at the stage of educating and building for revolution. Part of this work involves spreading anti-imperialist theory to all who know from personal oppression and experience that they must fight back, helping them to see the bigger picture and take up leadership in the struggle.
We must remember that in Oakland, California, cars were lit on fire and businesses were looted in response to the murder of 22-year-old New Afrikan Oscar Grant. Grant's murderer, a transit cop, was indicted, charged, and imprisoned. In the end, it was a slap on the wrist for this blatant murder. For a period of time the state will respond to people protesting in the streets. They may go through some motions or formalities to appease people and quell their anger. But ultimately there will just be more names to add to the list of oppressed nation people killed — a list that has been growing for centuries. It should be obvious that we need more fundamental changes to our daily life than body cameras and reliance on our present injustice system.
En realidad, la celebración de Agosto Negro debería ser todo el año. Solo nosotros(as) podemos hacer que esto cambie. Carter G. Woodson es el creador de la semana de historia Afro-Americana (Black history week), y 50 años después tenemos mes de historial Afro-Americana (Black history month). Para los(as) que no tienen conocimiento de Agosto Negro, este mes se celebran a los(as) "luchadores(as) de libertad." El color de la piel es irrelevante. Te amo hermana Marilyn Buck (descansa en poder), Lolita Lebron (descansa en poder), y Silvia Berrideni, entre otras que no eran de color negro. Pero ellas eran negras. Porque para el(a) oprimido(a) de cualquier nacionalidad, negro no es un color.
Negro es un establecimiento creado para proteger los derechos civiles de uno(a). Negro es valentía. Negro es motivación propia para ganar. Negro es visión. Negro es respeto. Negro es amor. Negro es lealtad. Negro es unidad. Negro es orgullo. Negro(a) eres tu! Además y más importante, negra soy yo!
Colectivamente, estas expresiones de cariño negras somos nosotros(as) (por ejemplo, soldados unidos y soldadas unidas). Por esto creo que Agosto Negro, la celebración de luchadores(as) de libertad, debería ser todo el año.
En preparación para esta celebración, estoy llamando a todos los(as) camaradas que escojan a un(a) luchador(a) de libertad de su preferencia y sometan una redacción de 250 palabras de su escogido(a) luchador(a) de libertad, escribe porque lo(a) selecionaste y el impacto que éste(a) luchador(a) de libertad tuvo en tí. En solidaridad con Bajo Llave y Candado (BLC), (Under Lock & Key en inglés) estoy llamando a todos(as) los(as) leyentes de BLC que participen. Aunque cada artículo no sea publicado por limitaciones financieras y por espacio, su participación no será ignorada. Fortalezcamos a la voz de BLC. Porque si somos considerados la voz de BLC y no la fortalecemos, ¿quién lo hará?
La unidad es una herramienta poderosa cuando es aplicada adecuadamente. Unámosnos en vez de destruirnos.
El MIM(Prisiones) añade: Decidimos aceptar la llamada de este camarada para la presentación de redacciones de luchadores(as) de libertad todo el año, anunciandola durante Agosto Negro y siguiendo con la publicación de redacciones sometidas por leyentes de BLC en futuros ejemplares. De importancia particular en esta llamada, es el entendimiento que todos(as) los(as) prisioneros(as) son prisioneros(as) políticos(as) y por eso no solo identificamos a luchadores(as) de libertad como personas que fueron famosas por su activismo político antes de que fueron puestos(as) bajo llave y candado. En cambio, sugerimos que piensen de prisioneros(as) que te han influido en una manera positiva, incluyendo esos(as) que no han escrito libros o recibido atención por la prensa. Celebremos a todos(as) los(as) luchadores(as) de libertad y esforcemosnos en ser luchadores(as) de libertad nosotros(as) mismos(as).
It's a beautiful thing when I read about the struggle for social justice and liberation of the oppressed, especially when it is prisoners who are developing politically or ex-prisoners who are released and get involved in activism of various sorts. The lumpen have a hystory of rising up in struggle against injustice. We see this when reading about Attica, the San Quentin six, and the California hunger strikes, as well as in the many revolutionary groups which developed within prisons. This is great, of course, but our development, actions, and theory should be based in science.
Science keeps us grounded in reality; it helps us proceed and understand the way things are. The opposite of science would be faith, a hunch, or metaphysical concepts in general. As revolutionaries we use the scientific method to make decisions on how we interact with the world we live in. The scientific method relies on observation and experimentation with the world that we live in so that we fully understand it and thus transform it.
Science, then, is a tool which helps us make the proper decisions and enables scientific leadership, focused on truth and reality. Scientific leadership allows for one to percieve truth because one studies hystorical events which have been tested and experimented with. Learning from all of this allows scientific leadership to make real power moves which advance the people, as opposed to decisions based on idealism or lofty visions.
What Does Scientific Leadership Look Like?
How much leadership can accomplish depends on whether it is scientific leadership or not. For example, scientific leadership in a political movement must study the world's hystorical movements to see what in hystory has worked, which social experiments have been successful and which have not.
By studying movements and revolutions one would know better than to invest time and programs on Trotskyism because one would quickly see that it has yet to liberate a people anywhere in the world. Science shows that Maoism was most successful because, among other things, it teaches that even after a nation is liberated class struggle continues — even after socialist revolution. Understanding this will reveal why nations such as Vietnam flip-flopped back to capitalism after liberation; it's because the leadership were not Maoists and did not accept that class struggle continues. In short they did not have scientific leadership.
Within prisons it becomes easy to stray off the path of science because in so many ways our methods for surviving in these dungeons and the ways we cope with an unbearable existence may not be anchored in our best interests. Because we are placed in survival mode by the state the minute we are imprisoned it becomes easy to try to come up at another prisoner's expense, but this method is incorrect and parasitic.
When we study hystory we learn that people around the world did not liberate themselves and their people by preying on other similarly situated or oppressed people. They did so by struggling together for their collective interests. One cannot at the same time exploit their own people and free them. Attempting to advance one's own people in order to better exploit them amounts to bourgeois nationalism. This is not scientific leadership because it means the leadership did not learn from hystorical cases of bourgeois revolutions.
Studying revolutionary nationalism reveals what scientific leadership looked like for oppressed nations. Mao's China gave us the greatest example of this so far. But Mao used science to continuously break ground and lead the social forces out of the woods of ignorance and dead-end politics. As he put it:
"Natural science is one of man's weapons in his fight for freedom. For the purpose of attaining freedom in society, man must use social science to understand and change society and carry out social revolution. For the purpose of attaining freedom in the world of nature man must use natural science to understand, conquer and change nature and thus attain freedom from nature."(1)
As Mao explains above, people seeking to push a movement forward must harness natural science and learn from our reality. Prisoners in our microcosm must do the same. Our "freedom" within U.$. prisons does not translate to seizing state power today, but the beauty of Maoism is that we can apply these teachings to our own environment, even the prison environment. Our freedom in U.$. prisons should be freedom from torture, freedom from abuse and other forms of oppression. We should seek freedom in the realm of ideas where we can read and write without censorship. We should be free to socialize and form study groups and politically educate our fellow prisoners without fear of being brutalized by the state or stuffed in a control unit.
The scientific leadership within U.$. prisons is a minority and is most reflective in the pages of Under Lock & Key. If Maoism is the highest or most scientific ideology today, then Maoist prisoners are the scientific leadership in U.$. prisons, even if we are not yet currently "in power" within U.$. prisons.
A scientific leadership should ensure that its people are a politically educated people. To monopolize on knowledge and hoard education within a chosen few means that should these leaders get slammed down in the hole or control unit the masses become lost. This is why educating the people is something that should be constantly focused on. Building cadre is investing in a movement's future.
Can the People be Led Without Science?
Prison can be a brutal environment. In the old days it was the most brutal who rose to the top of the heap and led, although it may have been down a dead-end road. Without understanding who is oppressing you, the oppressor will not only continue to oppress you, but you'll end up focusing on those who are not oppressing you. You consequently never dig yourself out of the hole that you don't even realize you are in.
Unfortunately the people can be, and in many cases are, led by unscientific leadership. The prison rebellion in Santa Fe, New Mexico was a concrete example of what happens when leadership is not based in the scientific method. Violence and parasitism are promoted rather than steering the people toward liberation. Lumpen organizations (LOs) that are not scientific will more often than not be swayed to lumpen-on-lumpen crime. They are not looking at their social reality from political lenses and instead they will look more to immediate needs and self-gratification. This is the breeding ground for escapism and individualism. This does nothing to combat the oppressor and almost always reinforces national oppression.
Unscientific leadership is not a revolutionary leadership. It is not for the people's real interest and will never get past making a little money here and there and gaining some recognition from those in prisons and other lumpen, while never rebuilding their nation or contributing to freeing their nation.
This means that people will be led, but it will be down a path which leads nowhere productive. If anything, it is a path which helps destroy their own people. Their goals will remain in self-destructive behavior which works alongside the state in many ways. The un-scientific approach ends up being an enabler to the state and one's very own national oppression. One essentially ends up tying the knots for our oppressor which binds us, helpless and vulnerable.
So What is Scientific Leadership For?
Ultimately people are led towards a goal. Scientific leadership is communist and working toward liberating oppressed people. Prisoners within U.$. borders are mostly from the internal semi-colonies, so for us scientific leadership works toward independence from Amerikkka. All of our decisions as a scientific leadership should be with the intent of inching closer to our goal of liberating our nation(s) and obtaining complete independence.
Emancipation will take work, but prisoners can contribute in many ways. Scientific leaders within U.$. prisons should first identify their political hystory and who they are as a nation. This means guiding one's flock to also understand who they are and to become politically educated. Independent institutions need to be created, which includes revolutionary publications. Those who are already politically conscious need to be harnessed so that they can be political instructors for those who do not yet grasp their political reality. Liberation schools need to be created, and better relations with others who are similarly situated and oppressed need to be coordinated.
Outside political institutions also need to be created which help link people outside prison walls with our imprisoned struggles for justice in these concentration camps. We can still hustle in prisons, but our hustles should not oppress others and our hustles should not be for our own come up, but for building our revolutionary movement.
At the end of the day the role of the imprisoned scientific leadership is to transform prisons, to revolutionize the prisons. Our aim is freedom. We cannot shy away from the very real contradictions that exist within the lumpen population. There is a lot of work to do, but things are changing and the imprisoned lumpen are becoming more and more conscious. This is reflected in many things, from more frequent prison uprisings, more imprisoned revolutionary organizations springing up, more prison theoreticians developing ideology, and most importantly more lumpen unity behind prison walls. All of this and more points to the imprisoned lumpen acquiring more scientific leadership. Imprisoned revolutionaries should help accelerate these developments because this is what all LOs originated for in the beginning, for their people to be free from oppression behind prison walls.
The celebration of Black August really should be all year round. Only we can make this change. For those who lack knowledge of Black August, it's considered the "celebration of freedom fighters." Every individual who stands against oppression on any level is a freedom fighter. The color of one's skin is irrelevant. I love you sister Marilyn Buck (rest in power), Lolita Lebron (rest in power), and Silvia Baraldini, among others who weren't the color of black. Yet, they were black. Because, to the oppressed of any nationality, Black isn't a color.
Black is an establishment created to protect one's civil rights. Black is courage. Black is self-motivation to win. Black is vision. Black is respect. Black is love. Black is loyalty. Black is unity. Black is pride. Black is you! Furthermore and more importantly, Black is me!
Collectively, these Black endearments are us (i.e. united souljahs and united souljahettes). This is why I believe Black August, the celebration of freedom fighters, should be year round.
In preparation of such a celebration I am calling on all comrades to pick a freedom fighter of their choice and submit a 250 word essay on your chosen freedom fighter describing why you've made such a selection and the impact this freedom fighter had on you. I am asking in solidarity with Under Lock & Key for all readers of ULK to participate. Although every article may not be printed due to space and financial hurdles, your participation will not be ignored. Let's strengthen the voice of ULK. Because if we're considered the voice of ULK and we don't strengthen it, then who will?
Unity is a powerful device when applied suitably. Let's unify ourselves rather than destroy ourselves.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We decided to take up this comrade's call for submissions about freedom fighters year round by printing it during Black August and then following up by printing submissions from ULK readers in a future issue. Of particular importance in this call is understanding that all prisoners are political prisoners. And so we do not just identify freedom fighters as people who were famous for their political activism before being locked up. Instead we encourage you to think about the prisoners who have affected you in a positive way, including those who haven't written books or received media attention. Let's celebrate all freedom fighters and strive to be freedom fighters ourselves.
The basic logic behind the United Front for Peace in Prisons is simple, but genius. The concept is self-explanatory. How else do circumstances get resolved without the five principles?
Individualism and evasion counters liberation. Regardless, whether we are into politics or not, believe that politics are into us. All aspects of life have an element of control that dictate our lives, and if we don't seek unity and ultimate internationalism, chaos will always follow. Sharing information about ourselves to each other in collective formats is the first step. Guarding ourselves is natural; it is something we do to protect ourselves from opposing forces. However, through self-discipline and some simple confidence and motivation, progress is possible.
Our biological nature is to be selfish. It is primal instinct to seek ultimate survival and power, and without a balance or some consciousness, humyns want to oppress each other. The ones who have blindfolds on have the idea that oppression = peace, and perhaps they have been programmed to think and view life in such a manner. However am I the only one, or does that logic sound irrational to you too?
In my opinion (and I could be wrong) I believe a better approach is to educate as many people as you can to obtain growth and progress. There will always be contradictions, of course (no matter what). But to give up is to give up on your people and yourself.
I like Mao's quote from "Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership":
"[T]ake the ideas of the masses (scattered and unsystematic ideas) and concentrate them (through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas), then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action. Then once again concentrate ideas from the masses and once again go to the masses so that the ideas are persevered in and carried through. And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge."
Educate to liberate!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have a lot of unity with this writer's call to action around the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP). But we do disagree that there is a biologically inherent trait of selfishness in humyns. While there is certainly an instinct to survive in all living things, this does not mean there must be an instinct to take power and oppress other people. We can see that this is what many people do today, but the culture of capitalism teaches us that's how to get ahead, from the time we are born. So how can we separate out instinct from culture in this situation?
As Maoists we believe in the need for a dictatorship of the proletariat after the revolution, where the formerly oppressed majority take control of the government and run it in their own interests while dictating to the minority (who promoted exploitation) how society will be run. During this period of socialism we will need cultural revolutions to challenge the ingrained mentality of capitalism that has taught everyone to look out for themselves first and to get ahead at the expense of others. We know it will take many generations of cultural revolution and re-education of humynity but we do not think the reality of capitalist culture determines what humyns are capable of under communism.
I'm responding to the article "Summing Up September 9 Protests" from ULK 41. I became aware of United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) Day of Peace and Solidarity from my August issue of ULK. I fasted on September 9, but it was done in a custom as Ramadan. This year I will fast according to UFPP custom. Solidarity means working or struggling in a union, and I want to start with those who choose to participate. In solitary confinement here at this prison it is difficult to get the prisoners to partake in the fast because of their political immaturity. Many of them are gang members and they are in the hole for fighting amongst themselves. I try to talk with them about taking life more serious, but peer pressure is what forces many to stay in a state of illusion.
You asked what needs to be done about the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity to broaden its impact. We must continue to promote that day and try to let prisoners see it as a day of unity that represents all prisoners in this racist country. They need to view it as a so-called holiday for prisoners throughout this country. Try to promote to them that this is their day in solidarity with the brothers or comrades at Attica, who lost their lives for better conditions in prisons. Being in captivity since the mid-seventies, I learned that this new generation of prisoners doesn't appreciate the sacrifices those made decades ago. I was labeled as a ring leader and spent over 3.5 years in the hole for being one of the peace makers during the Camp Hill spontaneous uprising.
I understand that not everyone can fast for health reasons, and most individuals can't afford to risk losing their prison jobs because that's the only income they receive. Therefore, you must come up with an alternative so that everyone can still support the cause of September 9 in their own way, because you don’t want anyone to feel as though they can't be part of the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity because of not fasting or needing to work. Hopefully we can have a larger participation this year. I'm looking forward to it and I will definitely spread the word.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer is responding to the article we published summing up the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity 2014, which saw a decrease in reported participation. We asked for input on how we should proceed with that action. We agree with promoting this as a day of solidarity with the comrades in the Attica struggle, and we encourage everyone to participate in building peace, by networking, putting a moratorium on fighting, and educating others on the necessity of peace. This is something that can be done regardless of whether you take up the fasting and work strike, by reaching out to educate others about the Attica struggle and our work today and why we need to build peace between individuals and groups throughout the prisons. If we can have this one day with no conflict between prisoners, that would be a great victory in demonstrating what is possible, and we can use that to build lasting peace. A critical part of this is education: our activists need to be well-educated themselves on the history of this struggle, so that leading up to, and on, September 9 they can in turn educate others. To this end we've put together a study pack for everyone building the United Front for Peace in Prisons, which includes historical information about Attica as well as organizing materials for September 9. Write to us for a copy. Let's make 2015 the most productive Day of Peace and Solidarity yet!
by a South Carolina prisoner January 2015 permalink
While reading what a California prisoner said in ULK 41, I was disappointed to see that the Muslim prisoners failed to meet their obligation in supporting the solidarity movement in support of the oppressed people of Palestine. Therefore, I decided to put together a petition here in hopes that we could at least show our support by signing a piece of paper.
Although I initially drafted the petition for the Muslim community here, there were a couple of non-Muslim brothers who signed it as well. And just as the California brother was met with some opposition, I too encountered quite a few "brothers" who were either afraid to sign or just didn't care about the plight and fight of the Palestinian people.
However, I collected thirty signatures and I do believe that I could have gotten more, but I really don't have access to the yard as some other prisoners do. There are a few of us here that are true and tested soldiers and we are trying to bring forth some political and social awareness, though most of us are learning as we go.
The petition reads:
A Statement of Unity and Solidarity with the Palestinian People, from Muslim Prisoners in South Carolina (Note: Non-Muslims signed as well)
As prisoners of good conscience we reject the genocide and slaughter which has hystorically been imposed on the people of Palestine and which is currently being played out by the Jewish state ever since the creation of I$rael in 1948. And while the Amerikan imperialists and their general citizenry and population have found us guilty of crimes against civil society, we prisoners likewise find them guilty of crimes against humynity for their collusion with the state of I$rael to exterminate the Palestinian nation.
Within these walls we are as yet powerless to tap into the potential of the imprisoned lumpen, but we are not yet powerless to sign a piece of paper to denounce the state of I$rael and their support in the United $tates. Therefore with this declaration we angrily express our indignation with the state of Israel for committing genocide, and the Israeli people for allowing it to happen in the 21st century after vowing "never again."
MIM(Prisons) adds: We had previously reported on the relative success of a campaign to support Palestine led by United Struggle from Within following the latest flurry of attacks by I$rael. Due to timing and mail issues only a small number of USW leaders were notified of the campaign at first. It is good to see that the campaign continues to gain support across the U.$. prison population. This is internationalism in action, recognizing the interconnectedness between all oppressed nations under imperialism.
This comrade wrote that they are "as yet powerless to tap into the potential of the imprisoned lumpen." Yet it is actions just like the Palestine petition which help open the door to develop the potential of our imprisoned comrades. Even having access to a small number of people, as in this author's case, we can start the very first steps toward building a bigger movement against oppression and imperialism. Discussing an international act of imperialist aggression with others, and asking them to take a small step toward making a statement against it, is valuable for laying the foundation for bigger things to come.
In response to the article in Under Lock & Key 41, "Summing Up September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity", I'd like to propose that this solidarity should be recognized 9-13 September annually, not just 9 September. The Attica uprising was initiated on 9 September 1971 and was quelled on 13 September 1971.
Those who aren't knowledgable of what caused the Attica uprising from 9-13 September 1971 should start learning. Our self-discipline to learn is the first step to standing outside these imperialistic boxes. Their box is abnormal and inhuman to the poor of all nationalities. Those in control units/SHU can contribute by conducting study classes on their gates (i.e. bars). Learn why the Attica uprising occurred and what made the courageous comrades make the sacrifices they've made without hesitation.
Comrades, to embrace solidarity, we are obligated to hold hands. Solidarity initiates within the individual. Solidarity cannot be reached globally when it's not achieved at least partially within self. This is a lifelong commitment. Although we may not be around to see the change — so what! We have a new generation that's looking up to us. They're the next generation of revolutionaries. We are to set the tone for them and this is done by revolutionizing our own thought pattern of selfishness. Selfishness and unity will never get along; they're lifelong adversaries.
So to win we want to join hands genuinely and let our adversary know we're unified in solidarity because we have learned what we're fighting for. We know what we're seeking, what sacrifices will be made, and the cause of our fight. We know why sacrifices have to be made.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is writing about the article we published in ULK summing up the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) annual September 9 commemoration of the Attica uprising. The organizers call on activists to take this day to promote the UFPP by building unity with fellow captives, and to demonstrate resistance to the criminal injustice system by fasting, refraining from work, ceasing all prisoner-on-prisoner hostilities, and engaging only in solidarity actions. This past year the demonstration involved fewer actions than in the past and we are asking all United Front activists to consider what we should do differently in 2015. This comrade's call for education is well timed as this is something we need to be spreading now, well before September, if we want to build a movement of supporters and activists. Write in for the UFPP organizaing pack.
Building a united front within prisons is not easy to do. It is a struggle that ebbs and flows. Sometimes one can be in a facility or yard where this work is easy and other times it may seem impossible. Like everything else in life that benefits the people, it is challenging to say the least. But the United Front for Peace in Prisons is a goal that is within our ability to obtain so we must make it happen.
As prisoners of the state we are all imprisoned by the same ruling class, so in that sense we are all on the same oppressed side in the U.S. dungeons. The class oppressors who construct these torture facilities are the real enemies. Amerikkka is what has had us, our parents, grandparents and ancestors colonized for so many years. It is the source of all our oppression. No prisoner should be in the dark when it comes to the true identity of oppressed people around the globe. In the world there are two sides, the enemies and us; everything else is trivial and must be ironed out.
Prisoners are not the only ones who struggle with understanding this elementary factor. Mao advised us of these two sides by saying:
"Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? This is a question of the first importance for the revolution. The basic reason why all previous revolutionary struggles in China achieved so little was their failure to unite with real friends in order to attack real enemies. A revolutionary party is the guide of the masses, and no revolution ever succeeds when the revolutionary party leads them astray. To ensure that we will definitely achieve success in our revolution and will not lead the masses astray, we must pay attention to uniting with our real friends in order to attack our real enemies. To distinguish real friends from real enemies, we must make a general analysis of the economic status of the various classes in Chinese society and of their respective attitudes towards the revolution."(1)
Mao described the conditions surrounding the Chinese revolution, yet like most lessons in Maoism, we can learn and apply them to our situation here in U.S. prisons. Our "revolution" at this time is transforming our environment and oppressive conditions, and bettering our way of life in these dungeons. But in order to do this we need to know our enemies from our friends. In our case, prisoners are our friends and the state is our enemy. The United Front for Peace in Prisons manifests our understanding of our friends and enemies in the material world.
How do we spread peace in prisons?
MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within created the United Front for Peace in Prisons as a basis for spreading peace. Although they provided the framework which later led to the peace accords that have spread within California prisons, they simply presented it to us prisoners with the understanding that it would depend on us to find a way to put this theory into practice. But peace cannot come from words alone. Growing peace in these hot houses will not arrive miraculously, it must be fertilized and fed, cultivated and harvested. That means revolutionary prisoners need to put in work for peace and get our hands dirty, stick them in the dirt and put our back into it.
Many times peace in prison is spread through people-to-people interactions. Creating relations with prisoners outside our nation and outside our circles or collectives helps spread peace. This builds bridges of communication with others. Of course peace should first be created amongst one's own circles, because it's hard to spread peace with other groups if you don't have peace amongst those closest to you.
Ensuring that peace takes root is largely dependent on educating the people. So many do not even know who their real enemy is and this is because political educators are in short supply within prisons. Passing someone a book is not the same as discussing what is in that book after the persyn has read it.
Peace means that people get used to the idea of us having the same captor and facing the same monster. People need to look at the big picture. When we look at the big picture and our young homies are taught to look at the big picture it alleviates many of the petty squabbles that are bound to arise in an intense prison environment.
Building peace really comes down to working together in ways which tackle our horrible conditions. As leaders, we can organize appeal events, spread information and publications on prison struggles, and help others who may need a helping hand whether it's a bar of soap, a stamped envelope or something to eat. Do what you can to help your fellow prisoner. Peace means thinking of other prisoners and extending humynity to one another.
What are the challenges of spreading peace?
We are deprived of peace by internal and external factors, and there are many things that get in our way. Sometimes those who are uneducated act or react in ways which are not conducive to propelling their own struggles forward. These behaviors often result from a colonial mentality which has been embedded in so many minds for so many generations.
So there is a combination of challenges which prevent peace. One main obstacle is of course that the state opposes peace, as a Georgia prisoner said in ULK 36:
"As of now, most of the leaders and the more influential participants are locked down in Ad-Seg and I don't find this a coincidence. The pigs hate the idea of us uniting in peace and not killing each other."(2)
This writer was describing a very real process of repression where those prisoners who are most influential and conscious and who have the ability and sway to enact peace are the very ones locked down in solitary confinement. This is a common tactic of the state. COINTELPRO used the same method, which we can study in books like FBI Files of Malcolm X, War Against the Panthers, and Agents of Repression, to name a few. Those who can electrify the movement or their people are targeted to be neutralized. Neutralizing something or someone means putting it out of commission, which can include death, prison or solitary.
The state creates these obstructions by watching the imprisoned captives, and when leaders arrive to a yard they kidnap them so that peace cannot be realized. They leave knuckleheads to create chaos because chaos between the captives means our captors can keep repressing us. Peace between the captives means the oppressor is in trouble.
Another challenge that we face is concealed in the crypto-Toms. These are the Uncle Toms of all nationalities who secretly work for the state, either in alerting the state when the masses are attempting to struggle against repression or in sabotaging peace efforts by stirring shit up and sparking crimes between prisoners. These inter-oppressed wars help strengthen the state, while setting back prisoner struggles by forcing us to spend years attempting to repair this chaos.
We should learn to identify these crypto-Toms who work for the pigs rather than for their nation. It's not just those who kick off anti-peace bullshit, but also those who partake in Tom language by spreading the ideas of anti-peace who are obstructionists.
Peace in California has been pushed by those who have been doing time for decades. It was not just a spontaneous event; this had been talked about for years. Building a united front for peace against a common enemy is the most logical action between any oppressed peoples anywhere in the world.
How should we proceed?
Peace between prisoners should not just be something that we read about or something prison intellectuals write about. Peace should be something that we live in our everyday lives. Individualism threatens peace the most because individualism keeps us blind to those who threaten peace ("it doesn't affect me, so i don't care"). We can only change our conditions for the better by struggling together.
The first step is in having the ability to think outside of ourselves and to realize what is best for us, our people, and our future homies that will be filling up these cells. Peace does not mean we have the same beliefs, it just means that we have the understanding that people with different beliefs do have shared interests and that the oppression that I face is faced by all U.$. prisoners in various forms by the same captor whose face changes from prison to prison, but whose actions for the most part do not.
I am a prisoner activist within the Colorado Department of Corrections, which sees me as a difficult, dangerous individual, and isolates and represses me in a police-style unit. Within the United States there is a response to prisoner activism of repression by prison administrators. This repression may involve some type of physical clash between prison staff and/or their prisoner stooges, and a prisoner activist. I put this forth as a counter to your point explicitly discouraging prisoners from engaging in any violence, as this position is not based on the reality of prisoner activism in U.$. prisons.
Prisoner activism here typically takes the form of formal institutional advocacy. Yet white supremacy, capitalism, and imperialism have never reformed themselves. And the struggle against these forms of oppression is a struggle for survival and self-defense. The prisoner activist struggle in the United States is a struggle against genocide.
MIM(Prisons) and its publications explicitly oppose the use of armed struggle at this time in the imperialist countries (including the united states). But this is not based on the reality of prisoner activism in this country, where there is an ongoing protracted intractable race and class conflict. I look to Under Lock & Key for guidance in my individual/personal prisoner activism.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer sets a good example of working with us in unity around prison struggles while debating our disagreements on questions of strategy. In this case the disagreement comes down to a question of the stage of struggle. We believe that violence will be necessary to overthrow imperialism, because, as this comrade says, "white supremacy, capitalism and imperialism have never reformed themselves." We will need to dismantle imperialism forcefully; those in power won't just step down peacefully.
But we can also see through many historic examples that revolutionaries who took up armed struggle too soon were quickly repressed, killed and/or imprisoned, and many times the movements lost more ground than they gained. We call this premature armed struggle "focoism," because it generally fails to first gain the support of the masses and build a strong revolutionary party and base. However, it is also possible for communist parties to make strategic errors in taking up armed struggle too soon before conditions are ready.
In prison we aren't really talking about taking up a military battle, but the analogy to violent engagement before conditions are ready is applicable in a general way. We see that prisoners who are quick to engage with their fists/weapons, end up in isolation, beaten, or even killed. These engagements don't generally win anything except possibly the respect of peers with whom the person no longer has contact.
This doesn't mean we tell prisoners to lie down and take abuse. Every situation is different and we can't possibly judge what each individual is facing and how they need to respond to survive. We can say that many people write to MIM(Prisons) talking about how they used to resort to their fists first and now they use their pen and voice and are much more effective with this new approach to fighting repression. It takes patience and discipline to make this change, and it's not easy when faced with both pigs and their lackeys provoking and even attacking.
Rather than debate the appropriate response to each dangerous situation, the broader point is agreement on our strategic stage of struggle, and the reality that we can't win a military/violent battle right now. We just don't have the strength yet. And so we need all of our comrades to stay alive and out of solitary to engage in education and organizing.