The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Can you do layout? Help out by laying out pamphlets and study packs to mail to prisoners. help out
[Organizing] [Prison Labor] [Oregon]
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DOC: Dealing Oppression Conspicuously

There are an unbelievable number of people incarcerated in prisons throughout Oregon who are either fearfully unwilling or shamefully disinterested in rocking the boat when it comes to initiating unnecessary change within the wall of their respective institutions. But quite often it is a requisite for beneficial change to capsize the boat and force the crew to flounder. As our diminishing rights become even more chewed up by the ravenous jaws of the imperialist piranhas, sitting idly by and watching the grim reality show that is our subjugation, results only in the further detriment and disenfranchisement of the socially ostracized. Unity brings potency to a revolution; solidarity releases an energy capable of crippling the most obstinate oppressor.

The State makes the prisoner an indentured servant to the correctional machine. we are forced to work for paltry earnings under the explicit fiat of Oregon law; punished if we refuse to forfeit our independence. In order to retain special privileges and certain material possessions, it is mandatory that we work our brittle fingers to the bone for the State. One could easily make the argument that it should be criminal to penalize a person for his or her refusal to be a state-sanctioned slave.

As someone doing a life term in prison, the last thing I want is to be a labor horse for the same imperialists who've taken an ax to my liberties. Whatever pittance I procure from my coerced labors must inevitably return to its original source, as I cannot avoid frequenting the commissary to purchase the bare necessities for maintaining personal hygiene and a vital connection to the outside world. The money must revert back to the State; it is a fiendish circle. Moreover, as the demand for their commodities increases, those in charge of operations within the commissary business raise the prices. Meanwhile, the monetary reward handed out to the sweating and bleeding prisoners remains invariably insufficient. But if I want to survive comfortably I must tow the line. However, perhaps it is when we grow too comfortable with our dire situations that we become reticent to speak out against our oppressors.

Those who lord over the lumpen are not to be confided in, nor are they to be greeted as yokefellows. They do not sympathize with our plight. How can they? They receive exorbitant amounts of money to imprison us, to keep us downtrodden and mentally enervated. To them we are the dregs of society, the mischief-makers whose drumbeat is not synchronous with theirs. Which is why it boggles my mind that there are prisoners who shower the corrections officers with warm cordiality as if these licensed oppressors are on equal terms with the incarcerated. I witness them in deep conversations with the officers on a daily basis, sharing information about themselves, as well as information about others. Prisoners joke around with the guards like everyone is best friends and not two socially separated classes - the oppressed and oppressor. What the oppressed prisoners seem woefully unreceptive to is the fact that these potentates of the penal system are in charge of keeping us stripped of our individuality, and hold the power to make our lives downright miserable. They raid our cells - essentially our homes - and confiscate anything that worries them or shows signs of our burgeoning dissatisfaction with our confinement. Anything we manufacture to amuse ourselves is stolen from us and tossed away like refuse. They intercept grievances, deliberately lose or discard our ail, and tell us when to wake up and when to eat. This is not a relationship of reciprocal treatment. It is a relationship where we are forced under threat of punishment to bow to authority, to respect authority, and they in turn deprive us of the same respect. They see us a dollar signs, not as friends.

The amelioration of our confinement will only see fruition when the lumpen unite as one solid and formidable engine and drive our oppressors into the ground like railroad spikes. We must learn to be smarter than them, to dodge their attacks, and to gain support not just from those in likewise wretched situations but from allies outside of the walls. We must face the challenges as bravely and indefatigably as possible. For it is not the steel bars that make the prison, but those who are unwilling to fight to break the chains.

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[Organizing] [Southeast Correctional Center] [Missouri]
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Continuing the Struggle from Inside Ad-Seg

Today I find myself really motivated to again try to inform my fellow convicts, no, I mean offenders. For we know the days of the "convict" are long gone, especially in lame-ass Missouri, where even guys with "all-day & without" don't even want to make a stand in fear of receiving a damn CDV. Like it's gonna make a difference one way or another to their case.

I'm housed here at Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston Missouri where offenders are subjected to outright violations of any retirement what-so-ever. They use tactics such as grabbing offenders off the yard and placing them on bogus investigation without telling them what for, keeping their mail from them, manipulating the offender's law clerks to keep CDC policies from offenders. Say "this or that policy no longer exists" when in fact there's no way that can be true when policy's supposed to govern Rules and Regulations. When an offender tried to file on an issue it's denied solely based on another staff's statement.

To make matter worse, that staff starts issuing you bogus conduct violations to further keep you in Ad-Seg. As I try to explain this to my fellow offenders they be so broken down from being locked down in the hole that no matter what they just want to get out and once they do it's "so what" until the next time.

At times I become so livid about just how badly we're treated that it almost turns me into a monster, wanting only to hurt them like they're hurting me. But then I receive your newsletter and read the articles and see it's all over this so called "great country" called the USA. This leads me to believe that it truly starts at the very top, meaning our government. I don't think the public has any real idea as to the conduct that's being put upon the mass of people locked up. Really, for one to come to work just to do these type of actions, it makes me think who the real criminals the public should be worried about, the ones locked up or the ones who go home from these places at the end of their hateful 8 hours!

I'm proud to say that this is one convict who will never give up the fight and I will continue to do my part in this struggle. I will support MIM to the best of my ability.

MIM(Prisons) responds: Developing a class consciousness of prisoners, and the lumpen in general, is the purpose of sharing all the stories from around the country in Under Lock & Key. We're always glad when a new comrade comes to grasp the big picture. S/he gets it exactly right. Prisons serve a purpose for the state, which is an institution of class oppression. Currently the exploiter classes are in power, including the labor aristocracy pigs who are well aware of the conditions in the prisons they run and their families pay for through taxes.

This is why we refer to "prisoners" and not "convicts" or "offenders." All people incarcerated in the united $tates are prisoners of the imperialist state to serve its exploitative interests. Many did not even do anything to "offend" another humyn being. And even the many that did aren't the big criminals, as this writer points out, who are responsible for mass murder, torture and ecological destruction.

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[Organizing] [California] [ULK Issue 15]
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Response to my critic in SNY debate

During the past 25 1/2 months I've been physically, verbally and emotionally assaulted, degraded, etc. I've fought several successful legal battles during this time also. Some have been denied all the way up to the State Supreme Court. Either way, I have shown full support to our comrades in arms and ink, unlike some of MIM(Prisons)'s correspondents, specifically one who replied to a previous article I wrote on unity. This particular comrade's response to me was published in ULK 14 (May/June 2010).

In my article, I stated that all comrades must put aside our petty politics of Special Needs Yard (SNY) vs. mainline crap. I am on SNY and have not had a bunch of other prisoners forcing me to do things just because they say it's to be done. I no longer have to fear reprisals for being my own man, or going to groups, religious services or law libraries to help with legal work.

Each person is their own person on SNY, free to do and be what they choose, not through fear, but choice.

The comrade who rips into my article claims it's SNY prisoners that further the Green Wall in prisons. That's pure speculation. It's a fact that mainline and SNY don't really affect that Green Wall either way. Sure, SNY yards aren't perfect. Yes, a lot of creeps run around also. But there is greater freedom and unity on SNY. A forceful riot with violence under threat of punishment on the mainline yards due to active prisoner politics is not even close to a voluntary sit down/riot/strike/protest/etc. by SNY prisoners, nor will it achieve the same results.

I was an active skinhead for well over 7 years in prison. I participated in no fewer than 6 riots/protests under duress. What was accomplished was barely worth my time. It continued the racist segregation, deprived prisoners of even the barest necessities, programs, visits, access to legal libraries, educational and rehabilitative services, and more. This in turn made guard's jobs easier, and allowed them to do less work for the same pay. No great accomplishments.

Not that it's all great on SNY, but I've witnessed greater accomplishments out of an SNY protest. As an SNY prisoner I've been a part of 3 nonviolent protests and 2 riots, each on a voluntary level. The lack of fear helped unite prisoners longer. The camaraderie was more intact, the benefits more noticeable. During one of the nonviolent sit-downs, we accomplished higher wages for the workers in all the Prison Industry Authority factories here, though still not fair wages compared to those of general society.

In another case, a violent riot involving SNY prisoners against guards at Lancaster prison, due to being unfairly denied program and visits for petty crap like "lack of staff to run prisons," a riot involving weapons, was a small success in itself. One guard and 3 prisoners were hospitalized. However, our program was returned to normal, our visits returned, store returned.

To hear this comrade talk shit about how he'd rather be in Administrative Segregation at all times rather than have to go to SNY is not showing unity. If this comrade wishes to do that as his own form of protest, fine. That's on him. If he wants to be confined to a cell 23 1/2 hours a day, lose his privileges, visits, family visits, usual store, and program, fine. I personally think it's nuts, but I will never tell him he's wrong.

He automatically labels a SNY prisoner "his own worst enemy." He says SNYs are full of cowards who afraid of programing. This is false. I tried to stay active when I first attempted to get out of the skinhead gangs, but when the other prisoners attempted to jump me daily, label me a "snitch" when I never told a soul a name other than mine, when I was threatened with being stabbed with a knife due to defending myself from racist politics to further benefit my life, it's a common sense issue to do what I did to survive and get back to my family, the people who I know truly care for me.

I am no coward. In fact, it takes a lot of balls to do what I did, to go against the grain, and to better myself. Since then I have educated myself in several areas: basic education, philosophy, religion, politics, and legal issues to give myself a better chance to succeed in life.

I'm not knocking the comrade that criticized my previous article, but it is my personal opinion that s/he isn't informed well enough to speak on the subject of SNY with any authority. I am. I spent a long chunk of time on active yards as a skinhead, as well as on SNY yards, not out of cowardice as this other comrade implies, but as a drop-out skinhead who wished to succeed in life so as to 1) be able to lower the recidivism rates of CDCR, 2) be able to better assist other comrades who aren't as fortunate as I am and 3) return to my friends and family as they need me there with them far more than they need or want me subjected to slave and torture conditions in prison.

Instead of offering up viable options, this critic ostracizes prisoners and comrades, who a lot of the time just want away from situations that are not useful to any reasonable objective. Actives primarily only want gangs, drugs, racism and politics. They claim to be better than SNY. They preach racism and fighting between prisoners and do nothing that thwarts the Green Wall's efforts at instigating those same tensions. At least on the SNY side, these racist, gang and political differences are virtually non-existent, which requires the Green Wall pigs come up with other ways to instigate things.

I spent nearly a decade on active yards, and I've seen no more than 3 guard stabbings by prisoners. In 4-5 years on the SNY side, I've documented 7+ that I've actually seen. Prisoner assaults on guards are up also, not that it was the best way, it just occurred.

So if this criticizing comrade honestly wishes to help the overall goals of other comrades, maybe he should man up and spread the word instead of wasting his breath on things he doesn't know about well enough. Stop hindering comrades trying to do real helpful things. I may be on SNY but I help both actives & SNY. I'm literally responsible for 4 successful legal suits resulting in the state and CDCR paying out over $12.2 million dollars with over 3 of it going to active prisoners who were abused, including 2 illegal use of force and 1 wrongful death due to negligence.

I ask this other comrade "what have you done for the cause?" I still am in process of 3 other suits, 2 with fair possibilities of victory. Put your money where your mouth is comrade. One day you just may get called upon, one way or another. Both sides of the fence have their issues. But it's not really a problem unless comrades allow it to be, as this other comrade does.

MIM(Prisons) adds: For years, leaders in the lumpen organizations (LOs) in the California Prison system attempted to organize peace summits. These meetings were sabotaged by CDCR intelligence higher-ups, the leaders were further isolated in Security Housing Units, and many hand-picked leaders were given free reign in the mainline. Like we've said before, staying true to your LO does not necessarily mean staying independent of the K9s (the state). It is often the exact opposite. But it is also the case that the LOs are in such a sad state of affairs because of state intervention and manipulation. The LOs do have more potential than most are currently demonstrating, but they have already lost many of their best youngsters who have seen the current errors of their ways as this comrade has.

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[Organizing] [Montana] [ULK Issue 15]
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Boycotting work is unrealistic

In the May/June 2010 issue of ULK a Pennsylvania prisoner stated that he thinks everyone should stop working so the prison systems would look at our complaints. While I think my comrade has a great idea, I must conclude that it is a very unrealistic one. There simply aren't enough people willing to stand up for this cause. S/he was right in saying people care more about television than their rights. I ask MIM(Prisons) and my fellow brethren to give me, as well as everyone, some ideas on how we can make other prisoners come together to make our Pennsylvania brother's dream come true.

MIM(Prisons) responds: We did briefly address this point in the article "Our unity vs. their crisis" in the same issue of ULK. What many people are recognizing here is that we need to proceed in steps, and we must continually assess our conditions to see how fast we can move. Also, keep in mind that development is not equal across the board. So, while our Montana comrade is correct in general, this might not be true everywhere (see "Back to the basics"). But where it is not true the key is to start with things that can be done with smaller groups, such as lawsuits and study groups, or actions that require less commitment like petitions or fund drives. All of these things can help develop unity. We welcome ideas from others, but specifically ideas that you have tried and worked. Or if they didn't work tell us why. Ideas without testing in practice are a dime a dozen.

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[Theory] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 14]
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On strategy: breaking thru defenses

[In ULK 13, we printed some definitions that came from studying MIM Theory 5: Diet for a Small Red Planet, which focuses on line, strategy and tactics. In this article, we summarize some of the ways we applied those concepts to real world examples while discussing the rest of the articles in MIM Theory 5.]

There are basically two ways we can make errors in our political work. We can make rightist errors or ultra-left errors. How we avoid these errors depends on our ability to assess our material conditions, because what is left and what is right changes as conditions change. For example, we spent time discussing focoism and opposing it as ultra-leftist because it calls for armed struggle in the First World. Yet, we recognize that armed struggle is a necessity to overthrow imperialism when we reach that stage.

Looking left

While focoism was the main example, we tried to define ultra-leftism in a more broad sense. Ultra-leftism in general means giving the appearance of being to the left of the political spectrum to the point of moral purity. In practice, however, it's really so far to the left that it's useless to real revolutionaries because it makes us seek unrealistic goals. Ultra-leftism denies our material reality and replaces it with idealism. A second example of ultra-leftism might be spending all one's time attacking other revolutionaries for not being perfect.

Ultra-leftists hurt the Third World because every time a comrade has to pull one of these cats over and pull their coats, they take away time, energy and resources that can be used for the development of the Third World nations. Take the approach that one prisoner wrote in to ULK on commissary for example. S/he writes that instead of everybody buying store and keeping our stomachs from touching our backs when our oppressors are feeding us like we're children, we should send all our money home. Not to our brothas and sistas in the Third World, or the institutions established by comradz in the U.$. that truthfully provide for them. But send all the money home. And then what?

This is an example of ultra-leftism because, to some, this may seem revolutionary and rebellious but in reality it is irrational thinking. The idea is based in purity rather than a strategy with the objective goal of overthrowing imperialism. You can tell that the motivation is purity because the question is how do we not contribute to the system rather than how do we contribute to something that will change or end the system. This ignores material reality because you can't take the food from prisoners; then we'll really underdevelop our situation.

Looking right

When looking at rightism, the main problem we face is "revolutionaries" that want to organize the majority of the people in the United $tates. By catering to the majority in a First World country a party's politics are inevitably watered down - because the majority (in a First World country) are not oppressed. They put out a right opportunist line and get just whoever comes along. Basically, if you're an organization in the First World and have a large following you stand for bourgeois ideals. Once a person understands this you can pretty much place your bets on the small underdog movement for the correct line/vanguard status.

While we must defend against right opportunism within our ranks, we might ally with those who are openly reformist and therefore to the right of us. Revolutionaries work on reforms because some do improve the lives of people on a small scale, but ultimately we do it to show the people that reforms do not work in the end and what they really need is full-scale revolution. Trying to get some resources that will help advance the revolutionary's goals is a winnable battle worth fighting.

An example of a reform that can help a small percentage of the oppressed and could be used as a tactic in a larger strategy is limiting the number of people going into these torturous control units. Doing that work exposes the United $tates' cruelty, disregard for international law, brutality, etc. Hence it may help to work on SMUs, IMU, MCC, Ad-MAX, etc. struggles and inhumanities because as Mao said about public opinion. "The task of communists is to expose the fallacies of the reactionaries. . . and so accelerate the transformation of things and achieve the goal of revolution."

While we may unite with and lead reformist battles, revolutionaries should not join liberal mass organizations because they will eventually be forced to water down their politics for the sake of the single issue organization or risk alienation. Also, by working within a single issue organization, revolutionaries may inadvertently be holding it back by disempowering potential recruits, thereby disempowering the group. One way they do this is by alienating potential new recruits with their more worked out politics, leaving the potential recruits feeling as if they have nothing to offer.

Mass organizations and single issue work are good ways for the middle class to contribute to the anti-imperialist cause. We need to be looking to build alliances with them when it genuinely serves the international proletariat. In addition, we need to pay close attention to mass organizations because a lot of people are brought into politics through them. And we need to be there to challenge them to struggle for the real solution of humyn beings, communism.

Find the opening

In addition to reading MIM Theory 5, we studied two articles from the Black Panther newspaper entitled "In Defense of Self-Defense" and "The Correct Handling of a Revolution." In the latter article, Huey P. Newton wrote that, "the party must engage in activities that will teach the people." In our discussion of how to do this, one comrade discussed what s/he coined "MIM(Prisons) University of Thought," which includes the various study and discussion groups MIM(Prisons) facilitates. Through this institution, individuals have the opportunity to learn through study: the Party, its line and its history. Individuals can study the organization of movements through out our struggle for communist leadership by the proletariat and learn not only its victories and successes, but also its stagnation and failures.

Another related activity would be a campaign for the creation of giving (books, postal stamps, money, art, music, etc) by comrades that have to give. And everyone has something to give. An institution should be established that allows prisoners to send donated books to the cause, as well as funds. MIM(Prisons) has the lit project to distribute literature. This same institution can be used for prisoners who either have to send their books home due to excessiveness, or going to a control unit, or who want to just contribute to the cause. Some might wonder why not recycle them on the yards? But only at small levels can this be effective activity in educating the prison mass. If we want to become internationally unified, we must then think internationally.

Such a project not only progresses our efforts to receive the favor of the masses, but it also gives us an institution to counter the bourgeois-imperialist propaganda that is spread throughout this U.$. capitalist imperialist society.

Part of Huey's point was to teach through action. So not only are people learning from the books, but they are learning from the sharing and coordinating of materials as a collective group outside of a for-profit/business structure. Even an illiterate comrade could learn from the example of the program. Other activities mentioned that can teach the people were breakfast programs, community rehab on parks and other resources and lawsuits to fight censorship.

In addition to this summary, our study and discussions are reflected in a number of articles composed by comrades that appear in this issue and will appear in the future. We also added to and further developed the study guide for this topic (Strategy & Tactics), which we encourage all serious comrades to study when they get the chance.

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[Organizing] [Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility at Rock Mountain] [California] [ULK Issue 15]
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SNY prisoner: How to stop snitching

I'm sad to say that the CDCR is winning the struggle so far. They have managed to keep us too paranoid to trust the next man. But every time a guard walks down the tier talking about one of us, spreading propaganda, the majority of the prisoners will believe what that guard said. It can be completely fabricated.

The guards also have other strategies to spread false propaganda. They'll walk to the loudmouth on the tier and for extra food he'll put out on the tier whatever the guard wants him to say. The loudmouth doesn't understand that whatever the guard wants him to broadcast is because the guards want to direct a message at certain individuals.

I'm a SNY prisoner. Over the years the SNY yards and population have grown a lot, especially with the level IV. The bottom line is we're all prisoners suffering the same oppression from guards. There's no such thing as I'm better than so and so, because I'm this and you're that. That's all propaganda from guards telling the mainline.

If someone snitches on you, that's your fault for exposing your hand to individuals you didn't trust or know. Any sensitive issue should never be told to anyone, anyways.

After being in Calipatria for 10 years and going through several problems with staff, I decided to get on the CCCMS program and make a quick exit out of that joint. The CCCMS is a mental program and once you get in the program and you take some type of depression medication the prison has 30 days to transfer you because it's so hot and any type of psych meds can't be taken in that climate. Well I got away from a bad dream only to go into a nightmare!

Since 70 or 80% of the population here in RJD prison are on some type of psych meds, we're considered "J-Kats." The 602 inmate appeals process is non-existent. Any serious grievance you filed gets thrown away: a violation of our constitutional due process!

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[Organizing] [California] [ULK Issue 14]
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Regarding security in prisons

I want to comment on something I read in the March/April 2010 ULK 13. I note that the SNYs [Special Needs Yards prisoners] are complaining about how the picklesuits are doing an excellent job of keeping prisoners in California at each others' throats. I doubt that there is a prisoner in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) that hates/resists petty over-authoritated power as much as I do. But so many prisoners at the drop of a hat go SNY/PC(Protective Custody) that it created a mad rush for police defense for not just those who may need it for the few real reasons that may exist.

I'm in general population (GP) and I would stay in the hole before I would allow the pig to twist me up into that SNY/PC nonsense. I heard people in Administrative Segregation (Ad-seg) and the Security Housing Units (SHU) when I was there be proud to say in front of the pig that they are active this or that which is in effect volunteering intelligence to the pig. Then you got those seeking to gather intelligence to provide the pig and that is both in and out of SNY. While SNY may outnumber general population 3 to 1 it is clear to me that one's condition in prison will not in reality become much (if any) better. Seeking the easy way out creates a moral quandary in that the reality of prison in California has not changed and the exodus to SNY has provided the pigs with more leverage to abuse and play nationalities against each other to the detriment of the whole.

I do not sympathize with SNY conditions nor do I sympathize with the conditions of GP. The fact that so many have to run to SNY has made the Green Wall stronger, since you in SNY have run away from your responsibilities. There are some very sorry so-called men in these prisons nowadays and I personally can do my time on the line or in the SHU as I will never allow the pig to turn me into a passive submissive subjugated sheep.

Sun Tzu's Art of War emphasized knowing one's enemy and I believe that a SNY's own worst enemy is one's self. There's still a lot of so-called hard core gang members on the line that say "I don't want to go here or there cause I got enemies." What ever happened to dealing with an issue on sight or leaving the matter alone? Particularly when there is no real substance to the basis in which one claims enemies. I do not have any prisoner enemies; this is silly and to claim such to a pig is sheer stupidity as it is to tell the pig you are a gang member. However, this seems to have become the custom. Wherever you are, grow up and be a man and take responsibility for your actions and quit depending on others to fight your battles. Simply educate yourself on how to use real strategies and tactics in order to learn how to be brave, fortuitous enough to gravitate to those who have a selfless desire to make a difference for all of our brothers. Bias and prejudice exuded by those around you only works against you in the long run. Until one learns to unite for the true cause and quit telling on self or others, the nonsense will continue. It's easy to spot agent provocateurs and quislings, and observation will expose the creeps for who they are. Prisoners are an open book and if you use your brain you can find out accurate facts and there is an old navy saying that "loose lips sink ships." It's a fact, people who think, do not follow, they cooperate for mutual benefit.

MIM(Prisons) responds: The snitching discussion has brought a lot of interest from readers and is integral to a discussion of organizing strategy. Another important question for those under state supervision is creating space for organizing. The purpose of control units is to elminate the space within the prison system where study and agitation can occur.

We warn against an ultra-left stance that leads one to accept years in a torture cell with no access to other people and limited access to mail and literature just so you can toughly say, "I never submitted." Comrades in control units have a hard time doing work, which is the whole reason the SHU was invented. Comrades also suffer mentally and physically in ways that can affect their ability to be productive even after release. So telling people to take SHU should not be done lightly and SHU should not be taken as one's "duty" to the cause when you are really just setting the struggle back.

Certainly, this writer makes correct points about working with the state and how that plays into the overall oppression of oppressed nations. And certainly, there are cases where submitting to torture in a control unit is the best thing for the struggle. But as we pointed out in ULK 13, many are finding themselves in a situation where those who promised to serve their people are doing the state's dirty work themselves. As this comrade recognizes, conditions in GP in California aren't more commendable than what's going on in SNY. It was the lumpen organizations following CDCR leadership that made SNY possible by what they did in GP. They pushed people so far that they were willing to snitch on something they were once willing to die for. This is the reality of the situation now that we must deal with. And in that reality, we find comrades on both sides of the SNY/GP wall. If we do it right this time and eliminate all this fighting between the oppressed then we will start to deal with the problem of snitching in a material way. This comrade gets it right when he says it is silly for prisoners to claim they are enemies for no reason.

Finally, we disagree with the claim that agent provocateurs and quislings are easy to spot. It may seem that way when you are surrounded by lazy, self-interested people, but that is not always true, and the most dangerous agents are hardest to spot.

For more on the morality of snitching, see our accompanying article discussing "The situational ethics of snitching."

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[Organizing] [Texas] [ULK Issue 14]
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Snitch strategy backfires

When will prisoners stop repeating the same errors? I'm referring to the different examples where prisoners declare and promise to be the ones to contribute to change prisoners violations, inhumane conditions or prison problems? Then you realize that everything was only a trap. You burn your brain out trying to figure out how you became an oppressor, an enemy of prison change, or prison progress. That bunch of idiots who you thought were down/hard core prison reformers or revolutionaries, as always turn out to be only real cowards, or snitches. Functioning under lie after lie, to control you somehow.

Under the prison system, prisoners are turned into oppressors. A recent example is a group of prisoners devoted to snitching. They keep their Laundry List, as it is called, of targets for repression. They operate under sentencing guidelines 5K1.1 that has been ruled by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional. Under this guideline, they receive preferential treatment in exchange for snitch info. Prison informants usually turn in false information to the prison administration so they can get away with disciplinary infractions or other kinds of illegal actions.

Other city homeboys and I decided to infiltrate the snitch group that claimed they were against prison gangs, even though the group itself was acting as an undercover snitch prison gang that wanted prison protection in exchange for snitch info. They took it to another level: they turned in false info to the administration to lock up gang members or any prison group they feared, violent or not. If you didn't want to be a snitch you would end up in Ad-Seg, on lockdown, usually under false info. So now many sit in Ad-Seg, misclassified to prison gangs they never belonged to. The only way to get out of Ad-Seg in Texas is to denounce a gang. How do you denounce a gang you never belonged to?

Let's recall some of the Texas prison struggles. In 1974 the Texas prison system had no prison gangs, but officials had "Building Tenders" (BTs) carrying out all kinds of violence against other Texas prisoners. The BTs acted as prison guards dressed in white prisoners uniforms. They were allowed to get away with anything, even killings.

In 1976 the first Texas prison gang popped up, promising to go against the BTs, in an act of retribution that would present a better challenge for prisoner rights. The honorable United States Judge William Wayne Justice decided to abolish the BTs system, under a federal court ruling. With the BT system dead, other prisoners in Texas formed themselves into hostile prison gangs.

At the same time racist riots popped off across the Texas prison system because each cultural group was against each others' strategies to defend prisoners' rights. A "we got the better strategies for prison reform" mentality blossom up because "my" race or city is always better than "yours."

Today in the 2000s this group is the New Building Tenders. Yet their snitch, or rather false info, tactics against other prisoners has now backfired in their face because the ex-gang members continue to grow and have become a group that can't be placed in Ad-Seg unless they return back to their old gangs.

Once a Laundry List is turned in with all kinds of prisoners' names, 99.5% of the time they are placed in Ad-Seg. So the snitches proclaim to be doing a great job against Texas gangs. The prison system refuses to classify them as a gang so they cann't be placed in Ad-Seg as long as they stay in line.

Under the sentencing guidelines 5K1.1 methods, it allows the government (in this case the prison security threat office) to recommend a downward departure from the guidelines. In this case disciplinary reports given to prison informants, in exchange for substantial assistance provided to the government by a prison informant in the prosecution of others.

The availability of a benefit by cooperation with the government (prison administration) can create a strong incentive for a criminal defendant (prison informant) to exaggerate or even fabricate false info against another prisoner, which is usually acted upon without real facts or evidence.

MIM(Prisons) responds: Most lumpen organizations(LOs) have their origins in youth from a certain group banding together in self-defense. Originally, it was always self-defense from the oppressor nation who terrorized them to keep them outside of the labor market. Once the prison boom launched off the backs of the oppressed nations, then the need for self-defense from constant state harassment and brutality was needed. But the broader the organizations of the oppressed were, the more they were targeted for repression and destruction, leaving only the small, narrow-focused groups who were more easily turned against each other, especially after crack cocaine was thrown in the mix to create real economic competition between the groups.

Amerikkka has always repressed LOs because they represent a power of the oppressed that is independent of the state. When mere membership in an organization triggers the state to throw you in a torture cell, you must realize that something serious is going on.

Many people on all sides recognize that the struggle and strife between LOs got out of control a long time ago. Many among the lumpen have been critical of their current and former affiliations. As we said to the LOs in the last issue of ULK, the best way to stop snitching is to run an organization that the oppressed can respect, especially if you are recruiting people by claiming to represent the struggles of the oppressed in some way. Criminal organizations will never have a shortage of snitches, especially when the state is much more powerful than them.

Another issue brought up in this letter is the emergence of "anti-gang" organizations, which is not an uncommon thing. The writer asks how we can stop repeating the same errors and getting fooled into following false leaders. Well, the answer is by studying and establishing principles based on your studies that you always follow. One key principle of the anti-imperialist, or anyone hoping to serve the oppressed, is not to collaborate with the oppressor's state. That principle would prevent anyone with genuine intentions from joining a snitch group like the one discussed here.

Traditionally, Marxism considers the lumpen to be a fickle ally. They are often at the forefront of conflict, but have served many different class interests. Their lifestyle and conditions promote an individualism that is easily translated to snitch behavior. Note that the unnamed group discussed here is reportedly large and diverse and this story does not necessarily represent all groups going by that name, which is indicative of this individualist, fickle nature. As this comrade also points out though, among the oppressed, the snitches are the minority. So with good organization and correct principles, the interests of the oppressed will win out.

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[Organizing] [Oklahoma] [ULK Issue 14]
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The situational ethics of snitching

An issue that was addressed in ULK that deserves a bit more comment is the involvement or non-involvement of so-called "snitches" or Special Needs Yard (SNY) prisoners in any political movement and/or prison reform activities.

The philosophy of the snitch is contradictory. I've been in prison for over 16 years. I have done time in three states and I have seen the hundreds of ways people have been labeled "snitches." For example, here in Oklahoma a prisoner is labeled a "snitch" if he files a grievance, even on obstruction of mail. It's seen as "snitching on staff." Prison administrators will utilize that to try and get other prisoners to ostracize a person and/or otherwise abuse, distrust or spread rumors about a person.

This is especially true when it comes to prison officials who harm or abuse prisoners. If you report the abuse, you're labeled a "snitch." Of course, when the shoe is on the other foot and a guard is harmed they run to the "snitches" for information. It's contradictory and it is also what is called "situational ethics."

Situational ethics is when a person uses a particular situation and action to justify their immediate needs, be they financial, safety, etc. If they do not like a person, for example, they'll label him a "snitch." But if they have a friend who has done the same deed they will justify his actions. It is purely situational.

The psychology of it all is baffling. But in the political sphere it has no place. As a prisoner in ULK no. 13 noted, violence on SNY is much, much less, and there is more unity on SNY. I can't attest to that myself because I've never been on a SNY, however, I do believe it to be true. I've heard that same story over and over about so-called "soft yards."

Information gathering is a valuable tactic in the political sphere as well. This is true whether it is the oppressed or oppressor. Information can be used to protect or harm. How you utilize your sources can be beneficial. If you know someone is a "snitch" or you have reasonable suspicions, then feeding that person false or beneficial information can help you and others. For example, if you know someone will run to the cops and report you then the information you tell them should only benefit, not harm you. They become an unwitting agent of good.

Lastly, prison reform will never come if you constantly look to others to motivate you. Just do what you have to do, and when you come across like-minded people - or even people who may not support your beliefs but support your efforts - you can add them to your album of associates.

MIM(Prisons) responds: What this comrade calls "situation ethics" we would also call "subjectivity." Like s/he said, subjectivity has no place in politics. We need to have a set of ethics that serve the most oppressed people in the world. We cannot let our criticism be swayed by whether we're cool with whoever did the action. This is true in all actions, not just sharing info with the pigs.

On the group or political level we define our ethics by our class perspective. It makes sense for the COs to both persecute snitches and utilize snitches depending on who they are snitching on, as this writer describes. Similarly, we want COs to expose other COs for abusing prisoners. In general, opposing snitching is progressive, because it is a source of conflict and repression as people are opportunistically spreading information to benefit themselves in the short-term. But to take an absolute moral stance on snitching ignores the fact that we need to expose the oppressor to the people.

The only point we disagree with this comrade on is that they say we should only control the information we share with known snitches or people we suspect to be snitches. We would push this one degree further and say that we should only share information on a need-to-know basis, and assume everyone is a possible informant. We went much more in depth on this topic in ULK 13.

This article referenced in:
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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 14]
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Reflections on organization, strategy, and unity

In order for us to succeed in any of our objectives and goals, we must have organization. This is an incontrovertible fact. We cannot even begin to visualize the thought of abolishing this injustice system (as it now exists), until we raise the level of consciousness of the masses of the people and obtain power. In order to obtain the power to destroy national oppression, exploitation and capitalist-imperialism, we must acquire the use of the weapon/instrument of organization.

"Such organization demands that we be conscious, skilled, disciplined and united in thought and action. It demands fundamental change in our thought and in our practice, it demands acquisition of a sense of confidence, a belief in our ability to struggle to win, to break the chains (physical and mental) and so on to build and control a new way of life for ourselves.

"Just as organization is the weapon/instrument that we must have in the struggle to obtain the power we need to effect revolutionary change, correct ideology/philosophy, theory and practice are required weapons/instruments we need in order to ensure effective organization. . .

"The chains that bind us are mental as well as physical. We cannot organize sleeping people around specific goals until awareness and understanding of the need to fight has been achieved, until the will to fight has been inspired, until the belief that we can win has been acquired.

"These mental/psychological chains obscure, mask and misdescribe the way the real world works. Incorrect philosophical approaches prevent awareness and understanding of real social, political and economic relations. Backward philosophy stifles the growth and development of genuine revolutionary consciousness, causes repeated confusion and frustration, apathy and disillusionment, conceals the need that we have to fight, dulls the will to fight, erodes our confidence and impedes effective organization for revolutionary national liberation struggle."(1)

We are oppressed together, let's stand up together

If we don't take the initiative to fight and struggle, how do we realistically expect people on the outside to go all out for us? There is a real war being waged against us and thus far our response to it collectively has been pitiful. In his seminal work The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon made mention of the natives' fear of the oppressor and that he strikes out against a fellow native instead of his real enemy, out of fear. Similarly, we are afraid of the pigs for fear of losing whatever, but will hurt each other at the drop of a hat.

So not only do we have to deal with the superiority complex of the racist correctional officer, we have to work with and struggle against the inferiority complex of the prisoners.

There are over 2.3 million men and wimmin in U.$. prisons and jails. Of those, 35,000 are in the state of misery (Missouri). What's really fucked up is that I know thousands of these men and wimmin and can't name 50 who are committed to the anti-imperialist struggle thru their actions and not just words.

However, one thing that you will see quickly are the great divisions amongst us on all levels and schools of thought - NOI, orthodox muslim, moors, kansas city, st. louis, northside, eastside, southside, westside, blood, crip, disciple, vicelord, bullshit, meaningless divisions. We are however, united in our pain, misery, suffering and oppression. We all get maced, denied parole, eat the same shitty food, go to the hole for the same bullshit violations and have to deal with the same overpaid, barely passed the GED-ass pigs!

For many years now, I've been labeled an "agitator" and "gang-leader" by the prisonkrats and have suffered much. But what they don't know is how many stabbings my comrades and I have stopped from occurring, how many staff assaults we've curtailed, and we're not looking for pats on the back.

It is said that if you are doing nothing but sitting on your ass, then you really have no right to complain about your oppression. Missouri and all prisoners stand up. You ain't gotta stand tall, but at least stand up! Unite and organize!!

Is violence correct?

During the course of my kkkaptivity I have experienced first-hand and witnessed many incidents of physical and psychological torture of many prisoners. I have seen with my own two eyes a couple of prisoners savagely murdered by sadistic corrections staff. I've heard of cases that make the abuses at Abu Ghraib child's play. Imagine being in a shower and having corrections staff throwing oranges at you until your brown body is battered and bruised. Saw it with my own eyes!

Conversely, from subscribing to and reading many of the prisoner newsletters that are in circulation, it has become patently clear that the physical and psychological terror and abuse in U.$. prisons is a part of the standard operating procedure for the imperialists and their repressive apparatus. They are not merely "isolated" incidents of abuse of power. The question is, how do we combat effectively this problem without exacerbating an already explosive, deadly situation and environment?

We do not, nor do the various prisoners' rights organizations, such as MIM(Prisons), promote the use of violence against corrections staff as the proper response to their inhumane treatment of us. Of course, we also understand the principle of self-defense. And it is a historical fact that violence has been necessary to end violence.

In the environment of the correctional facility, when a prisoner or group of prisoners, move with violence in response to ill treatment and abusive conditions, the prison administrators and politicians blame the victim (prisoners) and use whatever actions taken by us to further legitimize their repression, add more abusive laws to the books and to give these righteous souljaz additional time. We can't win this way no matter how righteous the act is when a no-good pig falls on something sharp. Imperialism is the enemy.(2)

Respect your supporters

While trying to build a support group and a united front against imperialism from behind electrified fences and stone walls, I have personally encountered a situation that must be seriously addressed amongst U.$. prisoners. Some years ago, I met a beautiful comrade and righteous sista in St. Louis who had just started a prisoners' rights magazine. Her husband was a political prisoner in Michigan so she understood our struggle well. This sista would respond to all letters sent to her, but all of a sudden brothaz lost discipline and started writing her pornographic (freak) letters - that shit wasn't cool. As a result of this, among other things, the sista directed that brothaz write to her husband (which is against some states' mail policies). In the end, the brothaz ran a righteous project off with some bullshit!

I hope that this is not a problem we have with a lot of you souljaz. Of course, we all want to have someone to share our most intimate thoughts with, but this was not the time nor place. In this struggle we have to be conscious as well as disciplined and show respect to those who support us, because they are few and far between. Our resources are few as individuals, but our numbers are great and we can contribute much to support those who support us. Unite and organize!

notes:
(1) "On Agitation, Education and Organization," Atiba Shanna, new African POW Journal, Book One, Spear and Shield publications
(2) To read more about peace in prison, get ULK issue 7

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