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Under Lock & Key

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[Organizing] [United Front] [California] [ULK Issue 23]
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Hunger Strike Strategy: Tactical Retreat or Advance?

So we now have the attention of the state, what is it that we will do with it? We have shown the ability to logically comprehend the repression that we're up against, and the strength to take a stand against the common oppressor, but what's to be done after we're standing?

After we've shot that bow across, or at that battleship, known to some as the CDCR and to others as the oppressive state of California; what is to be done next? Do we continue advancing on the enemy or do we retreat in the face of a failed tactic? This is the true question to be answered by the leaders of our movement.

Recently CDCR put out a memo of what it is they'd like us to do (see September 27 memo "Inmate Programming Expectations Relative to Hunger Strike"); they want us to retreat. And if we don't, "disciplinary action" will be taken against us.

So there you have it. For the arrow that was shot at the state, at a time when we need to be concentrating our energies into resolving the contradictions within the prison population dividing us, CDCR has fired back with its canon to not only discourage participation and leadership in peaceful protest, but has begun to set the stage for punishment for such protest.

They call it a disturbance to the safety and security of "their" established institutional order; our mass actions disrupt the everyday program of the department. Give this a little time to ferment and it will become, for every leader of such activities, disturbing the peace officer and obstructing duties. This is a felony offense that I am being prosecuted for in a state court as I write.

Do we retreat or advance? I personally believe that at this stage comrades should retreat. We should fall back and focus on the divisions that are the primary reason for low participation of prisoners. Most will feel that because we fall back we stop in this struggle, but they are wrong as our struggle is a protracted one.

This was a great shock therapy experiment. Now we must learn from yesterday, live for today and plan for tomorrow. In this war we must pick battles big enough to matter, yet small enough to win.

Let us not forget that although our civil disobedience is one of a peaceful nature it is still disobedience and can result in greater repression and punishment. Yes we are willing to die for a change of the current conditions, but are the masses willing to keep the movement alive after we're dead? Because the masses aren't even yet trained in such civil disobedience, the answer is no, they won't keep the movement alive. We can't expect them to do anything less than die out once their leaders die, and the state has begun its disciplinary actions against them. They have their lights on us for real now, so there isn't much to cloak our activities under. Our leaders will be targeted, so we must prepare others to lead when they fall.

We haven't trained our people in the effective art of hunger striking, how they must drink more water than usual to continue standing strong, how they must develop specific reflex mechanisms to respond in swatting away the urges of all officials, who have only one interest in the matter, which goes against the interest of the strike, and who will be like flies trying to get participants to take a sack lunch, or maybe even have an extra tray convincing them that they will not accomplish anything through striking. Amerikkka doesn't negotiate with terrorists (at least not in public), and they see the leaders of this action as such, no? Shouldn't our participants be trained in these and other methods in order to be more effective?

We leaders are responsible for ensuring that all participants will anticipate the repression that will come as a result of mass action, as well as what shall be done when these repressions take place. Have we done this? No.

It is more correct to re-evaluate our actions now to more progressively advance the demands of the prisoners. In this re-evaluation we shall address the key issues at hand that cause prisoners to be divided. In doing so we will be better fit in establishing the necessary communication with various organizations that can initiate the unity process for prisoners to engage in mass protest demonstrations. We will not be going backwards by doing this. It will actually prove to be forward progress for the prisoner liberation movement.

In ULK 21 BORO called out numerous LOs in their position of where it is that they stand in this struggle. As a USW member/leader I will follow suit in regards to my fellow captives in California: OG Flower and Ronny Brown, where y'all at? Coco where you at? Big Coup what's poppin dawg? Trech and Evil, here it is cuz? Hoover D and Big Owl, where y'all at? Where them NF comrades at? How about them NLRs? We either gonna go hard or go home, cause the state ain't even started yet. Y'all better take a look at Syria, and Libya. We all gone get it, so we all got to get involved.

The above organizations have leaders in the SHU who still fly kites to the line. They still have representatives in other areas. If they can enforce upon their members to engage in this as well as other non-antagonistic activities then I'm sure they can enforce upon their member population to struggle.

As I've said before, this is a good place to begin United Front work, but we must first resolve the contradictions of ourselves before we really begin outright battles with the state. Don't feel that we can't stop now because we've already started the movement, because this assessment of our klass conditions is really a step forward in strategic advance, but a tactical retreat. Remember, you can retreat and lead the enemy into an ambush.


MIM(Prisons) adds: From the time this article left our comrade's pen to when it was published here we have heard from the outside mediators that most in Pelican Bay had stopped their hunger strike, while other prisons followed shortly after. Whether in the midst of the strike or at the end, we think Loco1 brings up important points to consider in terms of moving forward while the issue is at the forefront of the masses minds.

While MIM(Prisons) did not lead or initiate this hunger strike, we do firmly support it and other progressive non-violent protests by prisoners demanding livable conditions in the context of the fight against the criminal injustice system. The strikers were prepared in building support and communications sufficient to execute an action that got the attention of not just the prison administration but people across the state of California and around the world. Actions like this are learning experiences for leaders and participants, while building unity and demonstrating the potential for such movements. However, we do agree with Loco1 on the need to evaluate both the successes and failures of these protests, and build on them for the future.

The hunger strike itself has already served as a uniting force, with thousands of prisoners standing together for a common cause. While Loco1 may be correct that this is a small portion of California prisoners, this demonstration was unprecedented in its size. We did receive some reports of differences in participation along national and organizational lines, and even more of the pigs trying to foment such divisions. With the strength of some of the LOs in California, overcoming these divisions could happen quickly under their leadership. But it requires putting the petty stuff, the things that currently dominate prison culture, aside for bigger goals. The original Five Core Demands of the hunger strike are an example of big goals (see ULK 21). While some argued that these only affected SHU prisoners, any prisoner can become a SHU prisoner in the blink of an eye. So the demands represented a blow against torture for all California prisoners.

We do not want more people in SHU. Control Units exist to control the oppressed nations and anyone the state sees as a threat to their interests. It is one of the most overtly political forms of repression we see in the United $tates today. And we agree with USW leaders who have pushed for a more explicit demand to end long-term isolation altogether.(see 1 or 2)

We agree that successful hunger strikes and similar actions require great unity and discipline, which the masses of California prisoners did not have going into this. But the strikers worked around this problem of unity and communication. The SHU prisoners pledged to fast til the demands were met, and only asked that others showed solidarity in whatever ways they best could. For many, that meant fasting for a determined length of time.

One of the major lessons of this hunger strike is the need for a unifying organizational structure through which action can be coordinated and goals and information can be formulated and shared. The United Front for Peace in Prisons provides this opportunity by bringing together LOs and individuals who understand the importance of unity against the common enemy. As the announcement of the United Front stated:


We fully recognize that whether we are conscious of it or not, we are already "united" — in our suffering and our daily repression. We face the same common enemy. We are trapped in the same oppressive conditions. We wear the same prison clothes, we go to the same hellhole box (isolation), we get brutalized by the same racist pigs. We are one people, no matter your hood, set or nationality. We know "we need unity" — but unity of a different type from the unity we have at present. We want to move from a unity in oppression to unity in serving the people and striving toward national independence.

We look forward to summaries of the successes and failures of the hunger strike in future pages of Under Lock & Key and encourage our comrades to send your stories on how you are building on this movement to greater unity and strength.

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[Organizing] [International Connections] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 23]
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Learn from the Hunger Strike and Build

I want to extend a raised fist and reflect on the second round of the hunger strike here in Pelican Bay. As most know, prisoners once again attempted to achieve some sort of sense of humanity, if such a thing is possible in SHU. The demands were not fully met in the original strike, and this combined with the state's propaganda offensive pushed many of us captives into another push of resistance! This is what I attempt to give perspective on in this writing.

We need to review the entire process of any effort in order to learn from it. This is the process of evaluating the action (or inaction) and using these lessons to help us in future life choices. I'm not just speaking of this most recent effort but also anywhere else in Amerika where this same injustice presents itself.

We must remember the torture and abuse suffered and understand that torture will not stop from a peaceful protest. Torture in imperialist Amerika will always exist in one form or another so long as this system of state sanctioned white supremacy exists. So long as the oppressed nations are hunted down like Third World people, just as the Afghani villager flees when s/he hears the sound of helicopters, knowing it is the NATO occupiers, so too do the oppressed Brown and Black peoples understand when the helicopter comes over our neighborhoods, we too are its prey.

The SHUs are but another expression of what the people live with psychologically in the barrios and ghettos across Amerika. We are locked physically in these concentration kamps, told what to read, what to look at, what to listen to and what to think. People out in society are also experiencing this control on a more subtle level, and in our communities we are hunted down lethally. In Amerika our task force 373 (kill squad) is the pigs where as in the Third World it is the U.$. military who go into Third World nations when Third World people raise their objection.

Today the corporate media announced that Gaddafi was killed and as they showed his corpse, and as Obama made a speech about how Gaddafi was a "mad dog" for not respecting the human rights of all Libyans, I sit in solitary confinement with no sunlight, no human contact, and all the oppression that comes with being in SHU. The truth is Amerika doesn't see Brown or Black people as worthy of human rights. This is why millions of us are criminalized; why we are shot dead unarmed in the streets and prisons by the pigs. This is why we are not given work and suffer a new caste system of being branded a felon, and it's why mothers and fathers are ripped apart from children and deported as "illegals." Illegals! Who are the real illegals?!

The second hunger strike erupted September 26 but unlike the previous strike there was no negotiating teams, no attorney visits to work as mediators, no coverage in the corporate media and so many people here did not know a strike was happening until later in the effort. The numbers I got were approximately half the SHU participated in this second effort, which was fewer than last time, but I also heard more participated in prisons across Amerika and even some county jails. This proves my theory that the longer these efforts take place the more they will be supported. Prisoners get used to the idea of struggle. It brings to the forefront the everyday issues that affect every prisoner, particularly the issue of state repression. This of course is the state's worse nightmare.

I continue to believe that an effort prepared well in advance is far more effective and would be more supported and last a longer amount of time. I think the first strike lasted three weeks because it was prepared for properly. To just announce you're going to do something and do so will get many to participate, but if an effort is ill prepared it won't be as lasting and may not be as effective.

I myself was very angry after the first strike because I didn't feel the demands were essential to a mass effort. Things like shut down all SHUs, end the three strikes, end the death penalty, are things I think are worthy of demands. These are issues that affect every prisoner, not just some. I am very proud of the California prison population for its awakening and learning to stand up en mass, yet we should look deeper into our demands and make sure they reflect the true causes of our oppression.

We can see California prisoners are on the move. It took the many years of groups like MIM(Prisons) along with prison revolutionaries working on the inside to raise the consciousness to see this oppression we live with in these dungeons. MIM(Prisons) once said "Lenin always insisted that change does not occur in straight lines, despite our wishes. And like all Marxists, he stressed historical materialism, which means that ideas come from material reality and not vice versa. We can imagine the world we want and wish it into existence, but that will not make it so. What Marxists do is look at the contradictions in humyn society and study the forces that make them up in order to understand how to resolve them."(1)

I think California prisoners are indeed looking at the contradictions we live with and finding ways to resolve them. This by no means is going away. More and more prisoners are taking notice and coming to support the Pelican Bay SHU battles while raising their own demands wherever they reside in Amerika's concentration kamps. Let the demand for human rights for prisoners reach every cage in this imperial empire. Power to the people!

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[Organizing] [California State Prison, Los Angeles County] [California]
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CDCR Memos Demonstrate Power of Strike, Fear of Prisoncrats

The CDCR just had the accompanying (Sept 27) memos delivered to the prisoner population here at CSP-LAC. With respect to the memo titled "Review of Security Housing Unit and Gang Policies" I have to say that this is obviously a victory for all California prisoners and a victory wholly owed not just to the thousands of CA prisoners who participated in the mass hunger strike and various outside organizations who helped bring publicity and additional weight to bear to the states deplorable actions, but a victory which could never have come about if those courageous prisoners currently held in the SHU hadn't come together with their strong showing of unity of the oppressed. Indeed, we hope to see more of this in the future.

With that being said, I find it odd that the memo states that CDCR has been in the process of reforming its gang validation process since May 2011, well before the strike. Piece of shit Kernan is trying to give the impression that the reforms have been in the works since before the hunger strike, thereby attempting to deny the SHU prisoners their hard fought victory by making it seem that the reform were inevitable. Ha! Kernan fools no one. The capitulation to the prisoners righteous demands only helps prove MIM(Prisons)'s long standing line and materialist interpretation of history that there are no rights only power struggles. All power to the oppressed.

The second memo titled "Inmate Programming Expectations Relative to Hunger Strikes" is nothing more than the Killafornia Department of Corruptions attempt to threaten and discourage future hunger strikers and leaders from such actions as well as their attempt to encourage divisions within for defensive actions, but the CDC's posturing and threatening memos are futile because as long as there is oppression there will be resistance.

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[Campaigns] [Organizing] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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Unity and Organizing Challenges in Pelican Bay Strike

In regards to the hunger strike that resumed on September 26th, well it did in fact resume here in this part of the SHU which is C facility nine and eight blocks. There are around seventy people participating who are going to continue up to the thirtieth of September. As you know, the main setback is the lack of communication, as not everyone is on the same page this time. Some learned of this through their own points of contact but not everyone is fortunate enough to have such means. Also it must be understood that we are dealing with many different oppressed nations so unless one hears about it from their own progressive representatives then they will not simply act upon the word of another prisoner.

That's the world that we live in today and that's why the original hunger strike had such historic undertones because nothing like that had ever been done before in California. And that is why the oppressors fear such unity as well as conscious awakening of the masses. But then again you yourself know this and that's what I like about MIM(Prisons).


MIM(Prisons) adds: In spite of the difficulties in communication and organizing around the hunger strike it has still been a remarkable success in getting so many prisoners across California to come together. This is an important step in the right direction, and underscores the need for the United Front for Peace that will bring together lumpen organizations against the common enemy of imperialism.

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[Release] [Organizing] [Political Repression] [Stateville Correctional Center] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 24]
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Illinois Uprising Parallels California Hunger Strike

I have been a prisoner of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) for more than 11 years and am scheduled to be released within the next 2 years. But with no family left in this world, no place to go, no clothes other than the ones on my back, and no support system established... the odds are stacked up against me way before I am even released back into society and the only thing that the IDOC is going to provide me with before releasing me back into the so-called "free world" is a $10 check.

I am really interested in the July/August 2011 issue of Under Lock and Key because there's an article in there about a prison strike [in California]. A lot of people around the world aren't aware that the prisoners at the Stateville Maximum Correctional Center in Joliet, Illinois had a similar prison uprising in February and March of 2011. It was swept under the rug by then Director Gladys C. Taylor and Governor Patrick J. Quinn. This movement wasn't just a particular gang or a particular race orchestration, we all came together as one mass body (Blacks, Latinos, and whites) to protest the condition that we've been subjected to ever since the Richard Specs video leakage in 1995. In fact, I'm enclosing a copy of my adjustment committee's final summary for your entertainment.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This prisoner gives two examples of how the state will not serve the needs of the oppressed. When prisoners try to work together and quash beefs to do something positive they are targeted for repression (see below). Then, after over a decade in prison, people are sent to the streets with no resources or support. This is why it is only by building institutions independent of the imperialist state that we can begin to address these complaints.

What this comrade describes happening in Illinois is also playing out in California in the second phase of the hunger strike. Both examples show the potential for organizing against oppression when prisoners are united. This is why we are working to build the United Front for Peace in Prisons which unites around the 5 principles of peace, unity, growth, internationalism and independence: "We organize to end the needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment. The oppressors use divide and conquer strategies so that we fight each other instead of them. We will stand together and defend ourselves from oppression."

Final Summary Report
Click to Download PDF


THIS REPORT IS THE RESULT OF AN INVESTIGATION CONDUCTED BY STATEVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER INTELLIGENCE UNIT, INTO A CONSPIRACY TO ORGANIZE AN INMATE DRIVEN PROTEST AT STATEVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER BY OFFENDER XYZ AND OTHERS. DURING THE COURSE OF THE INVESTIGATION APPROXIMATELY 110 INTERVIEWS WERE CONDUCTED AND 30 CELL SEARCHES WERE CONDUCTED BY STATEWIDE INVESTIGATORS. THE INVESTIGATIONS UNIT WAS ABLE TO OBTAIN FIVE COPIES OF THE DETAILED LETTER THAT WAS BEING CIRCULATED IN THE INMATE GENERAL POPULATION REGARDING THE PROTEST PLANNED TO TAKE PLACE BEGINNING MARCH 1, 2011.

THE PROTEST LETTER BEGINS WITH THE FOLLOWING: "THIS MEMO IS FOR THOSE HERE IN STATEVILLE WHO ARE READY, WILLING, AND ENTHUSED WITH ANTICIPATION TO RISE TO THE OCCASION TO LEAD US AND USHER IN A NEW ERA. THUS CEMENT OUR NAMES IN HISTORY..." THE PROTEST LETTER IDENTIFIES SEVERAL ISSUES THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED BY ADMINISTRATION AND LISTS THEM. THE LETTER GOES ON TO SAY AFTER THE PROTEST AND GRIEVANCES HAVE BEEN FILED THEN THE INMATES WILL REQUEST THE WARDEN ISSUE MEMORANDUMS DETAILING THE CORRECTIVE ACTION THAT WILL BE IMPLEMENTED. THERE ARE INSTRUCTIONS FOR ALL INMATES TO STOCK UP ON COMMISSARY BECAUSE BEGINNING MARCH 1 THE INMATES ARE NOT TO SUBMIT ANY COMMISSARY SLIPS IN ORDER TO MAKE THE FOOD TO GO BAD. THE LETTER THEN INSTRUCTS ALL THE INMATES TO BAN THE USAGE OF THE PHONE FOR ONE WEEK, NOT GO TO RECREATION FOR ONE WEEK, AND FILE GRIEVANCES ON ALL ISSUES STARTING MARCH 2011. THE LETTER THEN INSTRUCTS THE INMATES TO HAVE NO CONTACT WITH THE POLICE, IA OR ANY STAFF BECAUSE SILENCE GIVES THEM POWER AND WILL STRIKE FEAR. THE LETTER THEN REQUESTS THE INMATES TO HAVE THEIR PEOPLE ON THE OUTSIDE TO PROTEST WITH PICKET SIGNS IN FRONT OF STATEVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER.

WHILE CONDUCTING A SEARCH OF CELL XXXX INVESTIGATIVE PERSONNEL CONFISCATED HANDWRITTEN DOCUMENTATION IN XYZ's PROPERTY DETAILING EVENTS OF THE PROTEST. THE DOCUMENTATION WAS FIVE PAGES TYPED AND ONE HANDWRITTEN PAGE.

DURING AN INTERVIEW XYZ CLAIMED OWNERSHIP OF SAID DOCUMENTS. XYZ STATED THIS DOCUMENT WAS BEING PASSED ON THE GALLERY AND HE KEPT IT. XYZ ALSO STATED THE PROTEST IS GOING TO HAPPEN AS SCHEDULED FOR MARCH 1, 2011.

ON MARCH 1, 2011 THE INMATES AT STATEVILLE CORRECTIONAL CENTER PROCEEDED WITH THE PROTEST AS INDICATED IN THE PROTEST LETTERS THAT WERE BEING CIRCULATED IN GENERAL POPULATION. STATEVILLE WAS PLACED ON RESTRICTED MOVEMENT DUE TO THE INMATE PROTEST.

OFFENDER XYZ WAS POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED BY INSTITUTIONAL GRAPHICS

...

DISCIPLINARY ACTION

FINAL

1 Year CGrade
1 Year Segregation
Revoke GCC or SGT 1 Year
3 Months Audio/Visual Restriction

This article referenced in:
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[Organizing] [United Front] [ULK Issue 25]
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Build the United Front to Address LO Contradictions

This papyrus is to all United Front (UF) lumpen organizations (LOs) who are plenipotentiary strawboss [this refers to chiefs who claim complete authority over their local group]. And some items will have a unique affinity to those who strive and struggle in a Growth and Development pose. And in that case, I will be specific to whom those items are geared towards.

Some serious questions have been presented to ULK on matters that will either keep or further dissimulate any form of umoja [unity] among the LOs that have expressed an interest in UF.

Umoja over Dissimulation

[Biographical info removed per security policy. In contrast to those who are "plenipotentiary strawbossing," the author claims deep history in a disciplined structure. We will let h credentials speak through what h has to offer in the form of ideas. - Editor]

In a 9 November 1999 column in the Final Call newspaper, my lumpen chief reiterated a previous call for unity and peace among the LOs, specifically in the mid-west. However, in laying out his nationwide peace and unity initiative in book format in 1996, he let it be known that our "vision" for Growth and Development was one for universal unity and peace. Hence, this United Front (UF) project is consistent with my brother's vision.

In the 26 September 2011 letter to United Front members from MIM(Prisons) the proposition set forth was the struggle certain LOs are having in putting their differences to the side. It should be understood that grown women and men have to make tough decisions. Significant among them is the making of personal and collective sacrifices being asked for that don't merely serve you and a few of your homies or comrades. The sacrifice here is for collective LO unity, which will benefit the future of all of our collective kith and kin. This is what it means to become part of a class struggle, the lumpen being a class. In signing on to the UF, you have to join the collective interest.

In ULK 17(November/December 2010), UF was defined for all: "United Front is the theory of uniting different groups across class lines for a common goal or interest, while maintaining independence where those groups disagree. The application of united front theory is about recognizing different contradictions in society and utilizing them in the interests of the international proletariat."(p. 1 "Building United Front Surrounded by Enemies")

In that same issue of ULK, and on the same page, under the title "Lumpen United Front: Its Basis and Development" it stated "The basis for unity among lumpen is class. The lumpen are the disenfranchised who derive from the economically depressed areas — the Barrios and ghetto projects — and are for the most part oppressed nations people. The lumpen are known to the oppressor nation as the 'criminal element' which is code word for persyn of color. The lumpen usually come from a lumpen organization that the oppressors call a 'gang,' or survive as some type of parasitic hustler."

In ULK 22 (September/October 2011) the United Front principles were enunciated and have been reprinted in each issue since. The five principles were direct and extremely clear. LOs started writing to be with it. So no LO should be confused as to what is expected of them and what is required of them based upon their own pledges of unity and peace.

Historically Long and Deep-Rooted Feuds

Those who have or are dealing with this issue should do one of three things:

  1. They can settle their differences among themselves (the two conflicting/feuding LOs) which should be done as expeditiously as practical.
  2. Call upon a congress of six. The congress of six (C-Six or C-Six Session) will be composed by each feuding LO in the conflict picking three LO reps from a neutral LO not involved in the issue, to represent that particular LO's interest. And the other LO in the conflict shall pick three for theirs. That C-Six shall bring a resolution to those LOs' problems and it shall be binding upon both and all its members and factions, based upon umoja, or unity pledge each LO gave upon the second principle of the UF mission and goal statement.
  3. If one, two, or more LOs cannot bring resolution to their beefing and feuding employing any of the former two offerings, a UF congress shall be called by any UF LO reps and all LOs who signed on shall bring a resolution to those two LOs' problems. If the resolution is not embraced by the feuding LOs the UF congress should take exclusion measures or other UF fealty measures.

If we are serious about this, these suggestions shouldn't be a problem. I know from personal experience and universal education and training that many of the LOs already have such conflict resolution policies in play in the streets and behind enemy lines of the oppressor's machine. So this is not utopian in nature.

Ideally these C-Six resolutions should first be attempted in-house and regionally before going multi-state and nationally. Let's not be remiss that the opposition to lumpen cohesion is reading our solutions and resolutions. So it is to be expected that that same dynamic will put all kinds of tools in force and effect to break the chain of unity. Among them, their ease at censorship and suppression. That's why it is imperative LOs must be very judicious in how we are politicking this movement in ULK. For this is a medium we cannot afford nor permit to be short-circuited. So we should refrain, if possible, from placing problems on the national stage if it's possible to be resolved in-house or in-state.

Baseless and petty allegations that cannot be judged and weighed across the nation serve no good other than becoming the ham's fodder to rationalize oppressive-suppressive censorship programs. So it's not good to throw this on MIM(Prisons)'s or ULK's door without proof.

Rebuilding Organizations

Now let's move on to the contradictions within. If we aim to be truly successful with this endeavor, all LOs must do some self-analyzing and self-examination. Every formation, like the communities and families we come from, have bad juju in their midsts. And we know this project is not about transforming the economics of LOs (though we hope that the good eventually have such an effect).

I think I can speak for all and say we wish to keep that kind of debatable aspect of the LOs' habits away from what we are striving to do here. For contamination and cross-transference can happen very easily and it's something that quarter hams are greedily waiting for to not only discredit us, but shut the movement down.

Here I will paraphrase Atiba Shanna from the "Vita Wa Watu" and apply his ideas to our LOs: Each LO must emphasize re-building. We must re-orient and re-organize based upon in-house examinations of our LO and based upon what aspects of their mission need to be improved or omitted. Because the self-destruction LOs engaged in in our previous structures, and the reasons for it, wasn't of a mere quantitative nature. That is, the movement and our organizations didn't suffer defeat (the mass incarceration of each LO's members, loss of lives and material and political gains, schisms etc.) and set backs simply because of the state's repression, but also, primarily, because our "minds" aren't right for a vast majority of LOs and their governing bodies and rank. We are wrong in thinking that we can resolve all our problems by doing counterproductive/counterrevolutionary hustles and resolving all conflicts among ourselves with not only the sword but the hammer and anvil that built sword and spear. Our practice isn't up to par.

And as another of my great teachers taught me: "If one plants an orchard on a chemical dump without first digging it out and replacing it with good soil, it will produce poisonous fruits."

We have two million plus strong, oppressed beings in these county and state psyche incinerators. We have some purchasing power. And we have political power abstractly through the family unit. As field marshal of the struggle, George Jackson stated: "A good deal of this has to do with our ability to communicate to the people on the street. The nature of the function of the piston (system) within the police state has to be continuously explained, elucidated to the people on the street because we can't fight alone in here... We can fight, but if we're isolated, if the state is successful in accomplishing that, the results are usually not constructive in terms of proving our point. We fight and we die, but that's not the point, although it may be admirable from some sort of purely moral point of view. The point is, however, in the face of what we confront, to fight and win. That's the real objective: not just to make statements, no matter how noble, but to destroy that system that oppresses us."(Cages of Steel p. 179)

All scientific knowledge and experiments must evolve. Things that may have or were once working for an LO may not cut it in today's world. Conditions are changing. Just look at the amount of power and force being aimed at the LOs.

We cannot stay stuck in the same old "spear over gun" syndrome/mentality that got Shaka Zulu killed. He and others refused to fight with guns at first, but instead insisted on fighting guns (in the enemies' hands) with Zulu specialized spears in colonial Afrika. Similarly in the dawn of the civil rights movement we saw this approach reintroduced by promoting prayer over protest. Later protest had completed its role, but people still promoted it over "self-defense" and "self-determination" in the late 60s and 70s. Now it's greed over respectable and righteous hustling; the individual over the collective LO; dissimulation over unification.

Most of all the older LOs have some chimera elements in regards to their political philosophies, and those have evolved to the point where capitalism is the end of all means. Even loyalty has a price tag. The nationalism and anti-establishment fight against oppression is relegated to their lit of old and passing stories of the old homies and history books. With "getting money" the ends of all means, no cohesive political line can be drawn. So we must, under the UF banner, agree to some basic principles that we can unite around.

We have witnessed where and what tribalism (in excess) and wars bring. It permits others to oppress and disrespect us more than any LO I ever knew has done to me and my LO. Yet we don't fight the oppressors with the same zeal and hatred we direct towards each other for lesser disrespect and abuse. Therefore, UF should be the highest priority among the vanguard of each lumpen, and the women and men steering said LOs.

We would be fools to believe that designs are not in play to do away with those who are moving to end oppression. According to a news release a week or so ago, the department of just-us claims that the U.$. has 33,000 LOs nationwide with 1.4 million members. It's not known if they are counting those behind concrete and steel or not. Regardless of the truth in the numbers, these figures serve one thing: a notice that they see a problem to be addressed. When you release propaganda or statistics like that, they serve a greater point.

We know they take our existence very serious, united or not. The question to all LOs is whether we are going to take our existence serious or not, and act. There is a saying attributed to Nat Turner and his struggle that "we can either all hang together for fighting or hang separate as comrades who did nothing."

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[Campaigns] [Organizing] [United Front] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 22]
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No Real Change, Hunger Strike Continues

Pelican Bay Food Strike - Isolation Sucks

On September 26, prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison will resume their indefinite hunger strike after 2 months of hiatus, during which they negotiated with the state. The strike began on July 1, sweeping across California, and was put on hold by organizers on July 21, after 3 full weeks of fasting. Multiple prisoner negotiators from Pelican Bay have confirmed that Scott Kernan of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) promised the 5 demands would be met, but that they needed 2 to 3 weeks to comply. That window of time has long since passed, and comrades are gearing up for what promises to be a longer stretch with no food.

In a statement from one strike leader announcing the September 26 restart, he stated:

I appreciate the time and love you all have given to us and you can believe that we will not yield until justice is achieved. We went into this trying to save lives, if possible, but we see now that there will have to be casualties on our side and we all know that power concedes to no one without demands.(1)

On August 23, state legislator Tom Ammiano headed a hearing on conditions in California's SHUs and on the validation process that gets people placed there. It echoed previous hearings that did not stop torture in the SHU. He promised he would push the issue further than it has gone in the past, but like the reforms given by the CDCR, this is too little too late as comrades who have faced decades in these torture cells take this struggle to the next level.

The Truth About the Negotiations

The strike didn't end over some beanies and calendars. Letters that came from the leaders after the message was sent that the strike ended were very clear that they were only giving the state time to meet their demands before they would restart the food strike. Those in D-Corridor and other SHU prisoners aren't done yet.

The initial story that came out of limited communications between the inside and outside negotiation teams was that the strike had ended, period, in return for beanies, calendars, proctored exams and a promise to investigate the major complaints of the strikers. The extreme limits put on the outside negotiation team, who were only granted access to the strikers on a couple brief occasions, allowed the state to control how the negotiations were portrayed. As a result, many across the state were let down by the misleading reports that first came out, because the strikers had pledged to strike until all 5 demands were met.

It has since come to light that Scott Kernan circulated a fake version of the five demands,(2) and that prisoners received notices that they had broken the rules by organizing against the abuse that they face and that they will face "progressive discipline" in the future for similar actions. The latter contradicts CDCR Spokeswoman Terry Thorton who stated on record, "There are no punitive measures for inmates refusing to eat."(3) In typical repressive fashion, the state responds to complaints of torture committed by state employees with outlawing any form of protest by the victims. It just goes to show that their efforts to maintain "security" have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with social control.

It's also important to note that the best public offer coming from the state right now is that they might move away from gang affiliation charges and focus on actual rule violations as justification for throwing someone into a torture chamber. Within U.$. prisons the First Amendment is generally ignored and any form of expression or organizing not sanctioned by the state is considered against the rules. But even this reform has been on the table for a long time with no action. According to the 2004 Castillo court decision, which took 8 years to litigate, the CDCR committed to providing logical justification that evidence used to put someone into SHU was criminal in nature. Yet nothing has changed, as the lead attorney on the case, Charles Carbone, asserted at the August 23 hearing.

As Carbone pointed out, with exasperation, we already went through the whole song and dance of having hearings around the SHU with Senator Gloria Romero and the United Front to Abolish the SHU years ago. Another testifier at this year's hearing made testimony in the 70s and 80s about the detrimental effects of isolation, but they still went on to build Pelican Bay State Prison. It is clear that the state sees the SHU as an important tool of social control and cares nothing for the destruction they cause to oppressed people.

Scott Kernan was very clear at the hearing that the CDCR would continue with the debriefing process, using confidential informants, and that they will not allow prisoners to appeal secret evidence used against them. He also said gang validations will likely continue to bring indeterminate SHU sentences. Kernan did not stick around for the public comments, and remaining CDCR staff were not given an opportunity to respond when a public commenter asked when the 5 demands would be put down in writing, after Kernan promised it would only take 2 to 3 weeks.

Lessons in Organizing

Through this process we are all learning how to organize in our conditions and what limits we face.

One of the successes of the California hunger strike was the demonstration of United Front to the masses, which inspired many to the possibilities of prison-based organizing. We do not know the details of how groups coordinated on the inside around the strike, but we do know that many groups would not be willing to sacrifice their independence to others, and yet they worked together. This example should be followed by those on the outside. We need to recognize the strength that comes in uniting all who can be united at any given time on the most pressing issues that we face. Coalition organizing strategies have held back support by not allowing a diversity of voices to come out in unity in support of the hunger strike.

Having outside pressure during a food strike is crucial to ensuring that the state just does not let prisoners die, as they are more than willing to do if there isn't too much noise about it. Outside organizations also played an important role in spreading word about the hunger strike that was initiated by some of the most isolated people in the whole state. But, ultimately, the state controls our communication with prisoners. Despite all the work put in by the coalition to develop an outside negotiation team, the only role the state allowed them to play was to announce when the strike had ended and ensure that everyone knew to stop. The state realized that a memo from the CDCR was not going to be convincing. Other than this, the negotiation team was not allowed any access to the prisoner negotiators.

In ULK 21, we made it sound like the strike was over for beanies, calendars and proctors and some empty promises of change. This was the information coming from the outside negotiating team and the best information anyone seemed to have. Frustration with the outcome immediately started coming in and we fear that disillusionment may have followed. But this is what the SHU is designed for. This is why SHU inmates can't call people on the outside. This is why the press is not allowed in California prisons. Misinformation would be much harder to spread otherwise. So overcoming these barriers is part of what we need to learn here.

We need to learn to build protracted and sustainable battles. There are no quick fixes, and prisoners can't rely on the mainstream press or outside organizations to come in and rescue them. Recently, Pelican Bay censored MIM(Prisons)'s study pack on organizational structure. They recognize the importance of such information for prisoners to really get organized and exert their rights. As much as they want to label us a "security threat group" for doing it, MIM(Prisons) continues to struggle for our right to support prison-based organizing. For it is the prisoners who have the drive and determination to make the changes that need to be made to end this oppressive system.

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[Organizing] [Political Repression] [ULK Issue 22]
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Lessons from an Imprisoned Panther

Marshall Law Eddie Conway

Marshall Law: The Life & Times of a Baltimore Black Panther
by Marshall "Eddie" Conway and Dominique Stevenson
AK Press, 2011
674-A 23rd Street
Oakland, CA 94612

This short autobiography by political prisoner Marshall (Eddie) Conway is not so much a story about the Baltimore Black Panthers as it is a brief history of prison-based organizing in the state of Maryland. Having spent almost all of his adult life in prison after being framed for killing a cop in 1970, this makes sense.

Panthers, Popularity and the Pigs

Knowing first-hand the extent of repression that was put on the Black Panther Party from a very early stage, the biggest lesson we get from the early years of Conway's political life are about how to recruit and organize in a country that is crawling with pigs. He points out that of the 295 actions that COINTELPRO took against Black Power groups from 1967 to 1971; 233 targeted the Panthers.(p.51) He later points out that while Muhammed Speaks was regularly allowed in prisons, The Black Panther had to be smuggled in.(p.98)

As the state clearly recognized the Maoism of the Black Panthers as much more effective in the fight for Black liberation than other movements at the time, they had agents planted in the organization from day one in Baltimore. One of the founding members in Baltimore, and the highest ranking Panther in the state, was exposed as an agent of the National Security Agency, while others worked for the FBI or local police.(p.48) Conway identifies the Panthers' rapid growth as a prime cause for its rapid demise, both due to infiltration and other contradictions between members that just had not been trained ideologically.(p.54) MIM(Prisons) takes it a step further in promoting an organizational structure where our effectiveness is not determined by the allegiances of our allies, but only by our work and the political line that guides it.

Persynal Life

Despite the seriousness with which he addresses his decades of dedicated organizing work, Conway expresses regret for putting his desire to free his people above his family. There is no doubt that oppression creates contradictions between someone’s ability to support their family directly and the system that prevents them from doing so. MIM(Prisons) is sympathetic with the young Conway, who put fighting the system first. Perhaps the most applicable lesson to take from this is for young comrades to seriously consider family planning and how that fits into one's overall plans as a revolutionary. It is just a reality that having an active/demanding family life is not conducive to changing the system.

Prison Organizing

This account of organizing in Maryland prisons is one example that famous events like the Attica uprising were part of a widespread upsurge in prison-based organizing across the country at the time. In a turning point for the prison movement, in 1971 Maryland prisoners began organizing the uniquely aboveground and legal United Prisoners Labor Union. The union quickly gained much broader support among the population than even the organizers expected.

While Conway notes that the young organizers on the streets often found partying more important than political work, he discusses deeper contradictions within the imprisoned lumpen class. At this time, illegal drugs were becoming a plague that prison activists could not find easy solutions to. While organizing the union, a new youth gang arose whose interest in free enterprise led them to work openly with the administration in "anti-communist" agitation among the population. As many gangs have become more entrenched in the drug economy (and other capitalist ambitions) competition has heightened the drive to conquer markets. The contradiction between the interests of criminal LOs and progressive lumpen organization is heightened today, with the criminal element being the dominant aspect of that contradiction.

Rather than outright repression, the easiest way for the guards to work against the union was to get less disciplined recruits to act out in violence. This point stresses the need for resolving contradictions among the masses before going up against the oppressor in such an open way. Education work among the masses to stress the strategy of organized action over individual fights with guards became an important task for union leaders.

Of course, the state could not allow such peacemaking to continue and the union was soon made illegal; leaders faced isolation and transfers. This eventually led us to where we are today where any form of prisoner organizing is effectively outlawed in most places and labeled Security Threat Group activity, in complete violation of the First Amendment right to association. There's a reason Amerikans allow the labor aristocracy to unionize and not the imprisoned lumpen. A year after the union was crushed, an escape attempt led to a riot in which the full destructive potential of the prison population was unleashed because there was no political leadership to guide the masses. That's exactly what the state wanted.

As a comrade in prison, intrigue is constantly being used against you by the state and you must takes steps to protect yourself. Conway tells a story about how one little act of kindness and his affiliation with the righteous Black Panthers probably saved his life. One major weakness of most LOs today is that they are rarely free of elements engaged in anti-people activity. As long as this is the case it will be easy for the state to set up fights and hits at will. Only through disciplined codes of conduct, that serve the people at all times, can such problems be avoided.

Many of the things Conway and his comrades did in the 1970s would seem impossible in U.$. prisons today. The government began aggressively using prisons as a tool of social control during that period of broad unrest in the United $nakes. Soon the state learned it had to ramp up the level of control it had within its prisons. This informed the history of the U.$. prison system over the last few decades. And with the vast resources of the U.$. empire, high tech repression came with a willing and well-paid army of repressers to run the quickly expanding system.

It is almost amazing to read Conway's story of Black guards, one-by-one, coming over to the side of the prisoners in a standoff with prison guards.(p.81) We don't know of anything like that happening today. As oppressed nationals of the labor aristocracy class have become commonplace in the U.$. injustice bureaucracy, we see national consciousness overcome by integrationism.

Also unlike today, where prisoners usually have to give any money they can scrape together to pay for their own imprisonment (ie. pay guards' salaries), profits from commissary in Maryland actually used to go to a fund to benefit prisoners and the communities they come from. But Conway tells of how the drug mob worked with the administration to eat up those funds, using some of it to sponsor a party for the warden himself!

The prison activists responded to this by setting up their own fund to support programs in Baltimore. That is true independent action, highlighting the importance of the fifth principle of the United Front for Peace. While all drug dealers are in essence working for the U.$. imperialists, this is even more true for those in prison who rely directly on state officials for the smooth operation of their business. Money is not decisive in the struggle for liberation; it is humyn resources: a politically conscious population that decides whether we succeed or we fail.

This review skims some of the main lessons from this book, but we recommend you read it for yourself for a more thorough study. It is both an inspiring and sobering history of U.$. prison organizing in the recent past. It is up to today's prisoners to learn from that past and write the next chapters in this story of struggle that will continue until imperialism is destroyed.

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[Abuse] [Organizing] [Florida State Prison] [Florida] [ULK Issue 23]
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FSP Prisoners Unite for Rec and Against Brutality

On cell block one, prisoners were being denied outdoor exercise. In 2003, prisoners won a class action civil suit (titled Osterback v. Singletary) where the court made the ruling that it was against the 8th Amendment to deny Close Management Unit prisoners outdoor exercise.

Still, we were constantly being denied. The prisoners were griping. Another comrade and I decided the conditions were right to direct the people. Thus we set out on a "grievance campaign," forming a nucleus of seven. We enlisted five other prisoners to each make two copies of exemplary grievances (that me and the other comrade pre-wrote), all with different language. This was necessary because the people themselves would not have spent one minute to place pen to paper.

Altogether a good 25 grievances were written by the core body. They were passed on for the people to sign and date, and for others to copy. A good 30 prisoners participated.

On the next designated day of outside exercise, the pigs went from cell to cell asking if anyone desired outside exercise. It was a small victory (however temporary), but it showed what can be accomplished if conditions are ideal and leaders take initiative to direct a movement.

More recently, during exercise time at the outside dog kennels, a prisoner was pulled from his cage and punched in the mouth while in restraints by a sadistic pig. The prisoner requested that the pig remove the handcuffs. The prisoner was then grabbed in a choke and his head was rammed into the cage, carving a deep gash in his head, and knocking him unconscious.

The pig then plotted with his co-workers that they would say the prisoner tried to slip the cuffs. They said that there is no surveillance cameras, therefore nothing can be proven.

Because of the incident they tried to take us back on the cell block, but we refused, and demanded to see a higher ranking official. When the white shirt came we stated the facts. Further, everyone united together and initiated grievance procedures for the victimized comrade.

Three months earlier this same pig bashed another prisoner's head in the wall twelve times and caved that side of his face in. The prisoner was taken to an outside hospital. This sort of police brutality is an everyday occurrence here at Florida State Prison. It has a history for it.

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[Organizing] [Security]
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SNY or Violence: Making Choices for the Revolution

I would like to comment on the letter written to MIM(Prisons) by Loco1 "Forced into SNY for Political Organizing" that was published in ULK 20.

Most people cannot say or determine how they'll react in any situation unless they've had similar experience under the same pressure and conditions. Most of us can only theorize and examine best options one should take from an objective standpoint and hope to learn valuable lessons from another's mistake, in attempts to prevent oneself from ever having to face the same problem.

One general fact is that the words "snitch" and "rat" are probably the worst and last label anyone would care to have placed in conjunction with their name, especially in prison where one's name and respect is the ultimate factor in dividing and determining a "man" from a "boy." (A "boy" is one step above the label of snitch.) Once labeled a rat, Special Needs Yard (SNY) or Protective Custody (PC) are your only options, because snitching is penitentiary sin number one and the only justice served for this act is punishment upon death - as very painful as possible!

I've noticed that MIM(Prisons) made a good-hearted attempt at bringing forth evidence of credibility by producing past letters that reveal Loco1's anti-SNY sentiments and truth of his commitment to the struggle, but after a complete examination of the full story (never cross-checked), I don't believe snitching to be the issue nor do I think anyone, after investigation, feels that he snitched. His lumpen organization (LO) members were within listening range and heard the pig loudly read the hidden message found in a medicine bottle. They also allowed him to choose an option. Snitches do not receive options. Snitching is an irredeemable violation that cannot be forgiven no matter how many pigs one is willing to "clean up." This verifies that snitching was not the reason for group violation.

My judgement is that a major security breach in communications was initiated due to an irresponsible lack of diligence and, as a result, vital information fell into the hands of the enemy that brought harm to others. My discipline methods may have been different, but regardless, every man is responsible for his actions and must face the repercussions that come along no matter how great or how small. If I was presented with options given in his situation I would've unhesitatingly chosen the choice of cleaning up a pig (in a clandestine manner). Doing battle with a comrade(s) in defense of my life would've never been an option and running from a disciplinary violation would've never entered my mind. George Jackson even made the statement that a coward is no good to the cause.

What makes matters worse is that now he's labeled a snitch and a coward! All benefit of the doubt and creditability was lost when he ran and checked in with the enemy. What's he going to do when the revolution kicks off? If a person's max out date is more important than maintaining his dignity, and trust as a true revolutionary — I say fuck a max out date.

As long as the people remain in chains, there is no personal liberation for me. The struggle doesn't exist in here or out there, it exists in one's heart, mind, and soul. The only max out date is on the day of freedom or death. Some may call Loco1's actions a tactical retreat, but I don't see nothing tactical about completely losing support of allies and comrades. My assessment may seem overly critical but in the war against oppression everything is critical and criticism can never be stressed enough.

There were no excuses for the mistakes Loco1 made. What organization does not teach their members to write and speak in codes especially while operating within enemy territory? It's also common sense to never use real names or known aliases, especially on the same line with incriminating statements. Developing security awareness and communications is the most important aspect of any revolutionary organization. One wrong word in the right ears can cause whole nations to fall. I wish Loco1 the best of luck and hope he finds the road to recovery. Mao said, "a fall in the pits a gain in the wit." He never mentioned anything about diving in head first.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This response to Loco1 is a rational analysis of mistakes made and the importance of security. While many people insist that it is not possible to be classified SNY or PC without ratting someone out, we know that conditions vary between prisons and even more between states, so there is no way one person can make this blanket statement with certainty. We printed Loco1's story as an example that this is not always true. We did not print it to say that one should always choose the route Loco1 did.

Our main disagreement with the above author is in his/her insistence that it's better to opt to clean up a pig than to go SNY. Most likely, given the current balance of forces, that thinking is putting ego above the movement. You cannot be a revolutionary if you are not ready to sacrifice as an individual, but there is a difference between courage and bravado. And we can tell the difference by putting politics in command. Sometimes appearing selfless is better for the individual but hurts the struggle. The streets are where we need our comrades, and temporary setbacks in the name of long term successes are sometime valuable choices to make. We know each situation is different, and sometimes there are no options besides fighting back, but no successful military strategist engages the enemy every time they attack.

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