Here in California, the Agreement to End Hostilities has ushered in a new era for all of us behind bars and on the streets. Prison yards in California are a laboratory for society at large. If we can do it here then so goes the rest of the country. It's not easy to undo racial antipathy, but we are doing it here in California. Every time we forge a new friendship or business association with those of other races it is one more bridge across what divides all of us.
"The pig system" has tactics to separate us so we are weak without unity. But those of us with an open eye toward the future work to minimize what can be used against us. I myself am nearly 50 years old and have spent over 30 years as a serious hater as part of a well-known street/prison gang. The 21st century will be one of great change for us all. The best advice I can give my fellow humans is to let go of the dogmatic ideology of the 20th century and evolve in a constructive manner. Our fight is not between one another but between the "haves" and "have nots." We are the "have nots," no one will give anything to us; we will have to take what we need for our people.
Educate yourself in history, politics and economics. The United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) Statement of Principles is a good place to start. Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism, Independence is a sound formula for success. If you are reading this it is not by accident. Mankind, in order to survive, will have to reach for the stars at some point. But first we must refine ourselves in the furnace of evolution. If we humans as a species can cooperate with each other, in time we will cross the threshold. It starts with the man in the cell next to you or across the way. Peace.
A reformed Nazi
MIM(Prisons) adds: We print this as a testament to the strength of the AEH, the UFPP, and especially the anti-imperialist prison movement that inspires those who've held all sorts of backwards lumpen mentalities to become arbiters of revolutionary unity and change.
However, it is easier to win over those who have matured and learned the errors of their ways over time. To be successful we need the 20-somethings, the youngsters, the up-and-comers to take the revolutionary road. We must develop tactics to accelerate the education and maturation of the young lumpen leaders and would-be leaders in our midst.
If we accept MIM(Prisons)'s line and analysis that U.$. prisoners — lumpen prisoners of oppressed nations — have the most objective class-nation interest in anti-imperialism, then of course the validity of this analysis can be tested in practice, whereby objective organizing factors-forces would be evident. MIM(Prisons), to its credit of remarkable theoretical leadership, has already outlined in its article on prison organizing what the principal contradiction is driving the Prison Movement.(1) MIMP also challenged its prison cadre (of prisoner study groups) to do the same for their own specific state prison conditions. While these theoretical tasks are undoubtedly necessary, they don't really instruct us on whether the Prison Movement is actually moving, or better yet whether there is even a Prison Movement to move.
Thus, it is the aim of this article to look deeper into the question of prison organizing, to determine what fundamental factors-forces need to be in evidence for there to be a viable Prison Movement, and above all to give an honest assessment of the U.$. lumpen prisoner's potential to be leaders of any progressive movement, least of all, one of anti-imperialism or national liberation. However, it should be noted that the conclusions reached in this article are specific to Washington state prisons. It is the hope of the author that other cadre across U.$. prisons will pick up the pen and conduct their own serious and sober investigation.
For MIM(Prisons), the principal contradiction determining the development and direction of the Prison Movement is expressed in terms of consciousness, not class or nation. With individualistic (petty bourgeois) attitudes and behavior occupying one pole of the contradiction, the other pole is occupied by more group-oriented (progressive) conduct and concern. And at this time, as it has been for some time, individualistic consciousness is the dominant pole of the principal contradiction. In other words, within a given prison environment, most prisoners view their interests (short-term, medium-term, and even long-term) being realized through individualism (and opportunism). Accordingly, group-oriented thinking and action are rarely seen and therefore have little-to-no impact on the Prison Movement.
Washington state is no different in this regard. In fact, it is exceptional in a level of individualism, opportunism, and soft-shoe parasitism that prevail among its prisoners. Sure, the anti-people behavior of snitching, drug culture, extortion through manipulation, etc. is not exclusive to Washington prisons. Such behavior can be seen in just about any U.$. prison, in settings where violence and viciousness are the only coins with purchasing power. And yet, in Washington prisons, extremely adverse conditions are pretty much nonexistent, and with it a large part of the basis for prison organizing.
To explain further, Washington state has created a new, depoliticized prison environment, one in which traditional prison politics are not tolerated. While prison politics of old were reactionary and self-destructive, depoliticization has anesthetized the Washington state prisoner to the contradictions that come with imprisonment. With the Washington prison of today being somewhat safe, devoid of the ever-present threat of physical and sexual violence, and other forms of overt predatory behavior, the prisoner is no longer forced to question and think critically about the conditions of incarceration. Indeed, today the prisoner is numb to the political dimensions of incarceration.
There are essentially three ways in which Washington has managed to accomplish this. First, it has all but institutionalized snitching, allowing for the systematic abuse/misuse of protective mechanisms (such as PREA and other federally-mandated laws) by prisoners and staff.(2) And because consequences for snitching went out with the old prison politics, this encourages more prisoners to join the growing horde of informants. This results in more and more prisoners seeing their interests protected by the state, when unfortunately, it only reinforces the status quo of their imprisonment.
Conversely, those prisoners who refuse to be pawns of the system isolate themselves within their own close-knit groups and factions. They sit back and lament about how so-and-so is telling or they talk fondly about how things used to be. In reality, these prisoners are only engaging in their own form of individualism by resurrecting old myths or fashioning new ones from their false consciousness. Ultimately, these prisoners are just as bad as the snitches, because they are paralyzed to act or think critically (and scientifically) by the possibility of being told on. At least the snitch snitches, that is to say, "acts."
The second way WA State has sanitized its prisons of organizing conditions is by institutionalizing privileges. WA State has done a phenomenal job in this respect. Prisoners can join culture groups where they have activities and functions. There are a bunch of special jobs as well as the most coveted Correctional Industries job. Programs range from education and vocational to religious and community support. Of course, cable TV, J Pay, food fund raisers, and quarterly food packages contribute to the sanitization of the prison environment. All of these taken together allow the prisoner to carve out eir own specialized niche of doing time, whereby ey becomes a better inmate instead of a better person. More importantly in the eyes of WA State ey becomes reliable because eir behavior is predictable. In other words, WA State doesn't have to worry about "model inmate" given that ey is lost in doing easy time.
Finally, the third and most important way WA State created a depoliticized climate within its prisons was to dismantle and discredit the old guard. The old guard represented a collection of old-school prisoners, who were versed in prison politics of both revolutionary and reactionary iterations. (The term "prison politics” originated during the late 60s and 70s, as a liberation ideology beyond the walls found a home behind the walls. But just as the reactionaries beat back the tide of social change, those revolutionary prisoners under lock and key suffered similar fate. What was left in the walk was the same predations and parasitism we saw in lumpen communities of oppressed nations at that time. Today, most prisoners erroneously believe prison politics to mean prison LO's pushing the line behind telephones and tables or checking in prisoners who's paperwork didn't check out.) Sadly, most of these prisoners have given up on handing down "game" to the younger generations, least of all organizing for better prison conditions. They are either bought off with a special status within prison reserved only for old timers, or become victims/hostages of their own vices. Those who have maintained a militant posture, over time, have their characters impinged in a pig-led campaign to discredit them and their organizing efforts. It is this dearth of political leadership and guidance that is most responsible for the depoliticization within WA State prisons.
But such a situation isn't as discouraging when we look at the WA State penitentiary. The state penitentiary or West Complex is a closed (maximum) facility, housing lots of young lumpen org members looking to wild out. So at the West Complex it is common to have race riots or prison LO rivalries. Fights are an everyday thing creating an atmosphere electric with tension. And at just about any moment staff can be victimized too. Yet, in a seemingly chaotic environment, where WA State has not eradicated "prison politics," that is the West Complex group-oriented action based on principled unity among all the prisoners resulted in concessions from the state. In early 2018, West Complex prisoners got fed up with the poor food (pun intended) they were being served, and as a collective group decided to go on a hunger strike. It became such a big ordeal in the state that the governor, Jay Inslee, visited the facility to speak with a few prisoners who registered the grievances of the population. Of course, the visit by the governor was more show than a show of concern. The point is, such group-oriented action actually resulted in some of the grievances of the prisoners being addressed. Most notably was the addition of a hot breakfast to the menu where previously it was a cold sack.
The point that this example serves isn't that reactionary prison politics work or that violent prisoners are more suited for group-oriented action. No, the point here is that a repressive institution such as a maximum facility creates and nurtures violence; it promotes the continuation of reactionary prison politics. And as violence occurs and politics are pushed, the repressive nature of the institution tightens evermore. Eventually, prisoners are forced to deal with the meager, spartan existence the institution provides them. Some choose the path of more self-destructive behavior, but it is ALL who opts for the path of collective-oriented action when the conditions are ripe.
This isn't exactly a glowing endorsement of the maximum prison. Too much reactionary stuff occurs behind its walls by too many prisoners with reactionary consciousness. Leadership must be in place, the issue to organize around must be important to most if not everyone. And more importantly, there can be no hesitation once the wheels move forward and gains momentum. The organizing effort is too delicate of a process within the WA State prison environment, which is why more often than not conditions are left to rot.
The one definite conclusion reached about organizing in WA State prisons is that the max prison fosters a rebellion among its prisoners that has the greatest potential to serve the Prison Movement. There is a level of seriousness and critical awareness seen in the West Complex that is just nonexistent in other WA State prisons, due to the depoliticization program. This isn't to say that there aren't some enlightened comrades on WA State medium and minimum mainlines sprinkled here and there. It is precisely this "sprinkling here and there" of righteous comrades that the cacophony of "doing easy time" drowns out their leadership, however.
MIMP has already reached the theoretical conclusion that the lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations) will make up the vanguard of the Prison Movement. But here in WA State, unlike most other states, it is the labor aristocratic and petty-bourgeois oppressor nation prisoners who are in the majority on most mainlines. And given this group's inclination toward fascism, it poses an obstacle to organizing in many respects. Those oppressor nation prisoners who do not flirt with fascist politics are generally sex offenders and thus seen as even more taboo to unite with. This is an interesting dynamic for lumpen prisoners' (of oppressed nations) role within the WA State Prison Movement. It must not only overcome oppressor nation fascism but also violate prison norms set by politics.
Granted, prison politics have been eliminated on most WA State mainlines, but they have yet to be eliminated from the hearts and minds of both lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations) and oppressor nation prisoners (fascists). Consequently, the stage of struggle with respect to the WA State Prison Movement is at the level of disunity and distrust. Coupled with the very real fact that the lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations) are fractured into their own constituent prison and street LO's, their leadership in the movement is without a doubt questionable at this point. For lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations), caught in the depoliticized zones of Washington State prisons, the only objective interest for organizing is for their freedom. Everything else for this group is about drug culture, checking for wimmin, and establishing and maintaining a credible prison reputation to take with them to the street. To this point, the potential for the relatively few lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations) to lead or even support a Prison Movement exists within the WA State closed custody institution, West Complex.
While such a conclusion is discouraging for WA State revolutionary prisoners, the hope lies in defining—maybe redefining—what the aims of the Prison Movement are relative to the specific conditions of the WA State. If, in general, the Prison Movement is about improving prison conditions, agitating and educating the larger population on the systemic injustices of mass incarcerations, or challenging the legitimacy of the prison, then the WA State Prison Movement must focus most of its effort on agitating and educating, challenging the growth of the prisons, etc. The basis for improving prison conditions has become an exclusive endeavor for the typical "legal beagle" in search of a big payday. The average prisoner has it too good to want to organize for better.
In conclusion, it is the overall contention of this article that the WA State Prison Movement exists, but solely in the individual practices of the few righteous comrades throughout the system.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer demonstrates how to study local prison conditions to determine the contradictions and where to best focus our organizing energy. This is something that has to be done from within each state by people who live there and know the conditions. It can't be done from the outside. With this analysis we can compare conditions, learn from best practices in other similar prisons, and build our organizing work in a scientific way. We welcome comrades in other states to follow this example and send in your own analysis of your state or prison conditions. We also hope other WA prisoners will respond to this analysis with your thoughts and observations.
I am writing on the behalf of the UBN/BBA of North Karolina. The movement is going downhill due to this new wave of beloveds. This new generation of Damus (especially the Emus) are konfused. We are breeding pliable brothers and placing them in strong positions as leaders of the movement. All these new komrades know is violence and gossip because time and patience is not being donated anymore. History is not being properly taught anymore, so they don’t know where we come from as Damus! Everybody want to be leaders nowadays. They say you must stand on your own first before you kan stand with a group. Katz just want to make a name for themselves.
I'm in tune with komrades in society as well as behind these enemy lines. It's getting a little bit better in some prisons in North Karolina but in most kounty jails such as the one I'm housed in the kommunication is shot to hell and it forces others to gossip and spread rumors. With those actions bring acts of violence and the gangster mentality. Which goes back to what I was touching base on at an earlier portion of this where I stated people are "pliable." They want to fit in or feel like they're important.
We need to go back to the original teachings. Go back to mandating the study of our history, our founding fathers, our true purpose, etc. We also need to create a better form of maintaining better communication behind these enemy lines as well as the blakktop. We are weakening our ownselves with all this bullshit we are doing as an entity! We forgetting that Damu is about "Positive over Negative." We are about killing oppression with a positive impression. All this Damu on Damu shit is a double oh banga.
Before we can expect to make a difference behind these enemy lines we must first make a difference within our own movements due to the fact we are who make up the prisons and in unity, we will be the ones to make a difference. We must first unify though! This system don't give a fukk about us beloveds. Fukk the pig$, and stop all of this snitching shit B! WTF is going on? The oppressors know more about us and our shit than we do. Tighten up komrades we gotta do better.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade echoes the USW slogan of "Unity from the inside out." Lumpen organizations must build unity internally first, before solid unity can be built with other organizations. And building this unity inside prisons can also transfer to life outside of prisons. So this is an important call to be made. We look forward to hearing more from this comrade's efforts, successes and failures, and how they can be applied by others facing the same situation.
In the February 2019 issue of the SF BayView there was a headline that read, "California Prisoners endangered by forced merger of Snitch Yards." And it dawns on the world, how can a prisoner in the prison state capitol affect change on a national, and international level, if they can not find unity as a population suffering under the exact same conditions of: Police Brutality, Don’t ask Don’t Tell, Code of Silence Policies, Corrupt Administrative Justices, and Counterfeit Social Justice/Prison Reform Advocates. Prisoners in California suffer, as a whole, under these conditions, yet the leaderships of the most politically advanced wrestle over popularity contests between who is "active" and who is non-active, who is with the business and who is not. Just what business is it that defines whether a person in prison is active or not? Is it not the Freedom of All Persons in Prison we struggle for, or is it but a select few?
Aren't we all political prisoners, under these current conditions? Of course, there are those amongst the population of prisoners who are deserving of a bit more popularity than others. Those who carry the publicity of high profile cases as social justice activist, militants and radicals. All in all however, do we not share the similar suffering under this condition called imprisonment?
In California, leaders must really mature themselves and their followers to the level of love and reconciliation, this be prisoners and former prisoners. The time is: N.O.W.
Headlines like this one in the SF BayView, designating all Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) facilities as "snitch yards," are not only mis-leading the public support of the California abolitionist population, but also an abuse of power that promotes dis-unity amongst the prison populations. Prisoner leaderships must be wise in the manner with which we allow for our movement to be represented by members of the public. The most important aspect should be the information that leaders allow to be published on the state of population affairs. It must be accurate information, based on facts, that the leaders use when representing the movement, or its population.
It is a fact, not all prisoners housed at SNY Facilities are snitches. So for the headline, "...Forced Merger of Snitch Yards" to be presented by the SF BayView does a (dis)service, to not only one of the strongest vehicles and stages for the prison abolitionist movement, but it hurts the movement as a whole. What, social justice and prison reform for all but SNY prisoners?
Prisons across North America are faced with a similar issue to the SNY facilities. Those who benefit the most from the all-too-common misnomer that all SNY are snitches, child molesters, sexual deviants, are the law enforcement agencies. This too includes mainstream corporate news reporting agencies. #Fakenews. There are individuals who testified in the event of their commitment offense all over prison, not just SNY. And what is to be said about leaderships within prisons affiliated with drug operations, serving poison to the community, gun violence involving non-combative casualties of peoples, kids, grandparents, relatives? And what about the big homies on the line affiliated with pimping, pandering and prostitution. How many underage homegirls have we condoned being out in the trap after curfew?
Prisoners across the United $tates in the states of TX, OH, LA, AL, NY, PA, FL, VA, NC, and SC have begun concerted efforts to consolidate the various factions of their prison populations, scattered across the board, for the sake of unity. This effort is known as the National Freedom and Justice Movement. If the leaderships, and their followings within California prisons do not cease in their petty quarrels and name-calling skirmishes on both sides, SNY and GP, those who have often been at the center of the global discussions for prison reform and abolitionism might find themselves on the wrong side of history. This is a most sincere call for prisoners in California, whether it be former prisoners, juvenile lifer prisoners, non-violent offender prisoners, level 4, 180 & 270 prisoners.
See, the one thing you all have in common? You’re prisoners. There may be some who hold strictly to the Agreement to End Hostilities while others will develop under the United Front for Peace in Prison. Wherever it be, get in where you fit in and carry love first of all. The movement is larger than all of us, none is without error, thus there must always be room for reconciliation.
I for one beg your mercy
In struggle and strength
MIM(Prisons) comments: The BayView article in question was written by someone, who, despite our disagreements on questions of Marxism, has done a lot to advocate for people in the California Security Housing Unit (SHU) system. The anti-SNY attitude is still the status quo among the lumpen organizations (L.O.s) that were once the main targets of the SHU. And some supporters of those who spent years and decades in those torture cells parrot the disparaging attitudes towards SNY, which peaked at almost one third of the California prison population before the forced integration began.
We stand with the families who are concerned about the safety of their loved ones, and who are exposing the state for using the NDPFs as coercive tools of violence against those who don't just go along with the state's program. Our approach remains one of advocating for and supporting comrades in these NDPFs who are advocating for the principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons(UFPP). While the forced integration currently serves the state, this is only true as long as prisoners stay divided. By building the UFPP in the interests of all imprisoned people, we can turn this tool of oppression into an opportunity to transform decades-long divisions in the California prison system. We have a long way to go, but some day these divisions must fall.
The latest reports from withing the NDPFs are included below.
A California prisoner reports on integration at California Correctional Institution: In CCI-Tehachapi level III, the prisoners who challenge the status quo are quickly transferred out to the so-called Non-Designated Programming Facilities (NDPF). There they will become targets due to our SNY status. This is how CDCR has been rehabilitating California's enslaved population. If we don't jump when they tell us to jump, or crawl on our knees and hands, we are considered program failures.
The same type of racist rehabilitation that George Jackson found in the 1960s, I found it myself in 2018 at CCI-Tehachapi. CDCR is creating monsters, on purpose. This is why many of us come out hating society and would rather die off than return to prison.
A prisoner in California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility reports on 1 May 2019: Here at SATF-D facility these guys' eyes are wired shut. We have been receiving a flux of prisoners from Soledad and New Folsom EOP facility. These individuals are New Afrikan and [email protected], they come from what are known as mainline soft yards, or 50/50 yards. These are facilities where there is very little to zero accountability to the post-George Jackson structure of prison politicking. Where most mainline facilities there will be paperwork checking (investigations into a prisoner's commitment offense by other prisoners to determine the internal social status of prisoners on new arrival), or orchestrating the ostracizing of a persyn who co-operated with the police in their commitment offense. Although 50/50 facilities are considered mainline facilities, they don't engage in much of this sort of behavior. Now they are being introduced to SATF-D facility, which is supposed to be a Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY).
There have been a few fist fights, but overall the masses don't even care where these new arrivals are coming from. The leaderships within the facility are already on the look out for particular type of behavior. We ain't tripping on an individual's paperwork, one's sexual gender, or activity. Even if one transfers in and is a member of an STG, we are not ostracizing people here. Give it enough time, most guys are rolling it up and having admin rehouse them, rather than come with the police tactics. One of the strongest instruments being used is the United Front for Peace in Prisons statement, the Unity Principle.
I have persynally used the works of Larry Hoover and the "Blueprint from Gangsters Disciple to Growth and Development" by Ron Erwin to spread the truth to all G.D.s, and all who have been affiliated, influenced or associated with and by our movement. From Crips of various subsets like the Five Deuce, One-O-Seven and Seven Four Hoovers. To the Bloods of various subsets like the Black P. Stones, Four Deuce Brims, Anthens, these prison politiks, that are spread by gladiator wars, all have a root. At this local level we are spreading awareness of the liberation struggle of freedom fighters like: Leonard Peltier, Mutulu Shakur and Red Fox Falcon, drawing connections between them and the fathers (and mothers) of our movements.
What is a gangster? Simply a word, an idea? No Gangster is a psychology, a mentality.
Six things, in varying degree, regardless of locale, are always present in penal institutions: authorities (the badge), prisoners (captives), oppression, resistance, manipulation and violence. Oppression and manipulation are the badges' primary tools for controlling prisons. Captives have recourse to resistance and violence. The gangster is both target and aspiration for the badge and captives alike; if only for different reasons.
The badge sees gangsterism as a necessary evil. The "convict code" is based on gangsterism. The badge uses this to great effect. For example, misinformation offered by a "friendly" badge. There is no doubt a badge can call any captive a snitch, or worse, and be believed. Many reason that the badge does have access to every captive's file. What possible purpose could they have in lying to a gangster?
The badge's main concern is control. Controlling prisoner populations is most effective when the system can take advantage of pre-existing mechanisms, such as gangsterism or convict code. In such cases oppression seems organic, correct course of action instead of manipulation. More often than not a gangster learns information, suspicions emerge, questions asked, investigations follow. At the very least a captive's credibility is destroyed; at the extreme are ostracization and violence. This is not only true for the badge. Captives also manipulate gangsterism. A gangster's word has merit, more so than the badge's. Here too manipulation appears organic. A gangster's suspicions sway other captives' opinions so that character assassination due to personal enmity is all too familiar. The issue is not the manipulation but rather the lack of resistance.
Gangster is the pillar of lumpen communities. Eir honor, integrity are above reproach. Knowing this the badge whispers in the right ears and later watches captives eating one another like sharks in a small pond. At present, the rules of gangsterism are at the service of the badge. Changing the prevailing culture of captive vs. captive violence and badge collaboration is a serious problem to be resolved in prison today. Does this mean abandoning gangsterism? Gangsterism is tied up in all kinds of capitalist principles: machoism, classism, patriarchy, etc. Yet, it is based in resisting the system: noble seed of revolutions. Understanding the forces at play is necessary for combating corrupted gangsterism, because gangsterism can be a stepping stone to revolutionary mentality.
Every social environment evinces a subjection-manipulation cycle: subjection to rules, norms, expectations, and manipulation through rewards and negative consequences. Prisons are no different, neither is criminal intercourse. Capitalism for general society, gangsterism for captives. To bring gangsterism back to its revolutionary core we can turn to the democratic method – unity, criticism, unity.
Gangsterism is at the badge's service not only because of manipulation disseminated through gangsters but by lumpen divisions. In prison, far more than in society, lumpen become isolationists and separatists. Latinos with Latinos, further segregated by northern or southern affiliations or otherwise. Identical processes follow for all other lumpen. These divisions create barriers to communication, distrust and steady tensions. The badge plays on STG (Security Threat Group, a Homeland Security terrorist categorization term, also found in FBI documents referring to Brown Berets and Black Panther Party members or supporters) affiliations and nation prejudices as much as they do gangsterism and with the same end in view – greater control. Unity is the only real response. The badge is unified against us captives in their efforts. We, on the other hand, are barely unified against each other. First and foremost, gangsterism should be centered on opposition and resistance to the badge. Captive vs. badge.
Gangsters must be extra critical with all information received from the badge. Nine out of ten times the badge doesn't tell you anything for your benefit. Information disseminated in the service of penological interests. Consider how many times the badge has warned you about a major shake down or offered to hold your contraband? They are always engaged in exercising more control. Beginning from a united oppositional front – captives vs. badge – it becomes possible to derail the subjection-manipulation cycle. Criticism is the second stage in this process; one must analyze eir motive, endgame and method of manipulation.
From unity in opposition and criticism of intelligence being gifted us we turn to unity in response. This last stage of the democratic method is determined on a case by case basis. Every prison is distinct in character. Gangsterism is not corrupted everywhere in the exact same degrees. In some facilities badge collaboration is excessive, in others captive vs. captive violence is the commanding concern. In progressing the struggle, captives must be able to unite against the badge. This means moving beyond nation prejudices and STG allegiances. This constitutes the hardest step in our struggle.
We see now in these times a great number of mass movements springing up and struggling for particular causes. A new generation of activists forming and struggling against ever more specific issues. For almost any social issue affecting anyone in the United $tates today you will find some type of movement underway to combat it. From racism, sexism, religious intolerance, wages, to police brutality, prison reform and sentencing reform, etc.
These kinds of issues have more or less always existed here in the United $tates and mass movements have more or less always accompanied them. However, not much has been accomplished. Every one of these issues and forms of oppression continue to plague society, with some of them becoming even more acute. Of course, to many, much has appeared to have changed; with some reforms made and concessions given, the great tactic of pacification and distraction has been utilized. But after generations of struggle and "victories" (reforms) why is it that these problems continue to exist?
These things are like weeds: you can chop them down and it may appear as if they have been removed or cut so low that they are no longer perceived as problems, but they grow right back because the roots were not ripped out. This leaves one mowing the same patch of weeds week after week.
All social movements that aren't struggling to eliminate the root cause of these forms of oppression are only battling non-principal contradictions. This doesn't mean that these issues aren't important, it just means that they are merely effects of the principal contradictions, not their cause. They are by-products of the system that, like weeds, constantly reproduces itself so long as its base remains intact.
What is the base from which these non-principal contradictions originate? It is the mode of production: capitalism. It is the economic base that created and perpetuates these forms of oppression people continue to fight. What people continue to fight is the superstructure that protrudes from the base. But these types of struggles will be an eternal one if we continue to fight what appears to be the cause of oppression instead of its essence.
Karl Marx's scientific study of history, and sociology in particular, allowed him to demonstrate how our material conditions determine our social relations with each other. Let's hear Marx putting forth this concept:
"Assume a particular state of development in the productive faculties of man and you will get a particular form of commerce and consumption. Assume particular stages of development in production, commerce, and consumption and you will have a corresponding social constitution, a corresponding organization of the family, of orders or of classes, in a word, a corresponding civil society. Assume a particular civil society and you will get particular political conditions which are only the official expression of civil society."
So goes the materialist conception of history. But we don't have to take Marx's word for it. We can analyze history and see for ourselves how each different stage of development of the productive forces and the mode that these forces were subsumed produced its own social relations peculiar to that mode of production. And with that, its own contradictions, whether they be manifested in culture, class, gender, "race," etc. This demonstrates that our material relations have been the basis of our relations.
This is the concept of the base (mode of production) producing the superstructure (social relations, politics, laws, ideology, morality, desires, etc.). We use this concept to show that a lot of the forms of oppression that we struggle against are produced by the nature of the economic foundation that we are dominated by. It has produced and continues to reproduce these contradictions. Now it is systemic. If we are ever going to end racism, sexism, imperialism, mass imprisonment, poverty, hunger, etc., then we have to eliminate the thing that causes them.
Our movements must consolidate their efforts to attack the base. We have the valence, we just need to help the people make these connections. Everything is connected in some way to the economic base, its mode of production and distribution. Capitalism's system of "all against all" has created these contradictions we face. With colonialism, imperialism, and especially now with neo-colonialism, many new contradictions and forms of oppression have sprung up that can cloud our vision. But we can't continue to concentrate great amounts of our energy and resources in fighting the non-principal contradictions that don't target the system directly.
It is of course understood that at certain moments a nation's contradictions that were non-principal before, or perhaps even non-existent, can become principal contradictions. For example, in China before/during Mao's revolution Japanese imperialism was the principal contradiction, but afterward new contradictions became acute due to the ever-expanding nature of global capitalism.
In Vietnam before/during Ho Chi Minh's liberation movement against French colonialism, for the people of Vietnam colonialism was the principal contradiction. Then came the fight against U.$. imperialism which quickly became the principal contradiction. But these were particular contradictions, not general ones.
Imperialism is an appendage of capitalism. When the courageous and determined guerilla fighters of Vietnam defeated U.$. imperialism, they did not end imperialism. They only ended U.$.-Vietnam imperialism.
The point is that while forms of oppression like imperialism can seem like the principal contradiction to certain nations at certain times, it can never truly be the principal contradiction overall. Even when China fought Japanese imperialism, and to them it was the principal contradiction, in the grand scheme of things it was not; it was the interests that caused imperialism.
Imperialism can not truly be defeated until the imperialist nations/empires undergo an internal revolution and the economic interests that drive imperialism cease to be. So long as global capitalism and the capitalist global market persists, imperialism will always exist in some form; it will only be shifted from one nation that defeats imperialism onto another, and that cycle will continue.
To rid all oppressed nations of imperialist aggression we've got to rid the imperialist nations of the mode of production (capitalism) that makes imperialism necessary.
Of course, we must always continue to demonstrate against the by-products of capitalism, the non-principal contradictions. But in doing so we have to consolidate these movements and establish a consensus of consciousness so that while we continue to fight everyday oppression we can also understand that the fight is really much bigger and we have to all know what the cause of these forms of oppression is.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a great explanation of the nature of capitalism and why reformist and even individual anti-imperialist battles don’t result in the immediate end of oppression. To do that, it's important to define the principal contradiction within any struggle. The principal contradiction is the thing that will push forward a struggle the most. It is the highest priority contradiction, the one that revolutionaries must focus their energy on. It is the string we can pull to unravel the whole situation. And so it's the most important contradiction to focus on right now.
As this author points out, in revolutionary war, as with the ones in Vietnam and China, the principal contradiction is between the imperialist occupying force and the oppressed masses. In the world today overall we see the principal contradiction as between the imperialist countries and the nations they oppress and exploit. In prison we can identify the principal contradiction in a particular situation. For instance when there is an ongoing battle between imprisoned lumpen orgs then the principal contradiction in that prison might be between two lumpen organizations. That doesn't mean it will be the principal contradiction forever. If we achieve peace between the warring lumpen groups, the new principal contradiction may be between the lumpen and the state.
We agree with this writer on the fundamental importance of the contradiction of capitalism. We say that the class contradiction, which under capitalism is between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, is the fundamental contradiction. This means it underlies all other contradictions within class society. As this author points out, this is an important guiding principle because it helps us understand why one successful revolution in one country won't lead to the end of all oppression, even within that country. This doesn't, however, mean that class is always the principal contradiction. In fact, as noted above, the principal contradiction in the world today is between imperialist countries and the exploited countries. And even within U.$. borders we see the principal contradiction as between the oppressor and oppressed nations.
By evaluating every situation scientifically we can figure out what is the most important contradiction to focus our energy on. And in this way we can best push forward the revolutionary movement.
If we were to take the key differences as outlined by Willie Lynch such as age, skin tone, gender, etc. and replace them with more viable, up-to-date ones pertaining to the lumpen organization class i.e. nation, tribe, flag color, hood, set, block, race, etc., we get a slightly different blueprint but the exact same end results. Results that Lynch prophesized would be self-generating for generations to come. This blueprint was the same one implemented by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI COINTELPRO which saw the dismantling of our Black Power era vanguard. It is the same blueprint later utilized by law enforcement agencies such as L.A.'s crash unit, gang detail, gang surveillance unit and prison guards: divide and control!
An 11 October 2018 riot at Taylor C.I. saw 15 lumpens, including myself, from different orgs and tribes, beaten, rounded up, beaten some more and emergency shipped to Florida State Prison's (FSP) Control Management Unit. Arriving here and hearing the lumpen-on-lumpen disrespect and set-tripping on the tiers and back-windows was defiling to the sacrifice of blood, sweat and tears that we had made. We had taken one small step against oppression but it was only one small step in one institution. Elsewhere, however, nothing had changed. At Taylor it was Bloods, Crips, Folk, a Stone, a local tribesman and a civilian standing together in solidarity, at FSP it was only business as usual.
Organizing unity at FSP is and has always been a challenge. Although it is not impossible, it hasn't happened much. Some of the main setbacks spawn from accessibility to each other as well as study material due to censorship. Group building is possible but slow as thoughts would have to be put on paper and kited from cell to cell risking being knocked off by C.O.s. Building on the back windows puts you in direct competition with nihilists, agent provocateurs and otherwise anti-revolutionaries, but it also puts you at risk of being placed on strip, written up, or worse for "disorderly conduct" if caught. Censorship is an ongoing problem for many revolutionary publications because it is said to be "inflammatory" and "poses a threat to security." I am not anti-C.O. I believe that C.O.s have a vital role to play in keeping order in a potentially hostile environment. I am anti-oppression. My prophecies arise when certain C.O.s (not all) abuse their authority, overstepping boundaries. Words written on paper do not incite. Oppressive C.O.s incite.
Another setback is leadership. Somebody has to step forward and do what is right. Just because it is right. If nobody starts, then nobody can follow. As leaders it is our duty to guide the hand of young and less experienced brothers, especially when one misstep can weaken our chance of success as a whole. Water has always trickled down-hill so it is the leaders who must unite in solidarity in order to educate the rest of our tribes. Unfortunately, while we never lack those who wish to lead, we do lack those who are qualified to lead leaving room for avarice and chaos where none were meant to exist. Leaders have to step up and step out of their comfort zones and their needs to be liked. If something is wrong, it matters not how many are for it, leaders must stand against it. If a thing is righteous, it matters not how many don't like it, leaders must stand firm in its righteousness. This leads to the biggest setback of all: history.
The Lynch-like mindsets that have been indoctrinated through our histories of tribal genocide is a hard, hot bullet to bite when trying to establish peace with rival tribes with whom we have played live ammunition tag. This is what makes our hatreds towards each other perpetual, spanning generations – loved ones lost. The past is of value only as it aids in understanding the present; and in understanding of the facts of the problem is the first step to its solution. Understanding, as well as communication, can go a long way. Unfortunately, they are luxury not often experienced or allowed in our lifestyles, making way for petty, ignorant issues that often result in violence. We have to start somewhere. The breaking down of our walls and barriers is tantamount to the building up of peace and unity. Even if the peace process begins 1-on-1, 1-by-1, it is a beginning to something bigger than us as individuals, separated, the majority of us were created to override the oppression of our communities and our peoples. But only together can we begin to turn that ideology into a reality.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Transfers and control units are two useful tools of the state to prevent positive movements among the prison population. So we should not blame the masses too much and recognize that we need leaders to step forward as this comrade does. Each one teach one.
While transfers are effective to stifle momentum, we must use them as an opportunity to spread positive ideas to new people. Control units are also effective tools of repression, and we must continue to focus on the campaign to end this torturous practice by the United $nakes.
26 December 2018 — A lot of situations have been happening since my last letter. As you can see my location has changed once again. Reason being is because at the last/previous slave-pen that held me many prisoners, including myself, filed informational complaints and grievances on a situation that occurred with two pig-officers. To make a long story short, these two pigs taunted and encouraged a mentally-ill prisoner to cut his wrist with a razor-blade. While this mentally-ill prisoner is in the shower or even in his cell, he is not allowed to be in possession of a razor. This is a rule laid by River North Correctional Center (RNCC), and of course this incident happened in the Restrictive Housing Unit (segregation). Knowing this prisoner came from the SCORE unit, which is a unit that houses mentally-ill prisoners, these two officers was excited to attempt to get this prisoner to slice his wrist. Well, the prisoner did cut his wrists.
Now, this is where everything begins to hit the fan. These two pig-officers (C.O. Devine and the C.O. Denton) began to panic. The prisoner is bleeding out and now has to be rushed to the medical unit. Both pigs are immediately questioned by their superiors as to how the prisoner got hold of an open razor. They lied and tried to stage the whole incident as a self-motivated suicidal attempt.
Their superior, Sgt. May, tells two things: 1) to search the prisoner's cell and see if they could find anything that could assist their claim, and 2) if they're unsuccessful, find other prisoners on the tier to open as many razor casings as they can to support the pigs' cause. How I know all this? Well for one I'm on the tier it occurred, two, C.O. Devine came and practically begged me to help him get out of that situation. I felt disgusted, angry and disrespected!!!
Right then and there, I began to organize the unit to act in assistance with the mentally-ill prisoner and to expose the corruption and wickedness of RNCC's pig-staff. We filed paperwork, wrote out to ACLU, the DOC, the media, and got our lawyers involved with our family. At this time, the pigs were harassing each prisoner who was in the movement. We continued to push with agitation and exposure. More repression came down. Still we continued and are continuing. Then, the pig-admin started to separate us and transfer us to different prisons but the movement continues!
As of right now, I've been transferred from RNCC to another Maximum Security prison in Virginia. However, the movement is still at full swing. Two other participants have been shipped here along with me. We still remain in contact with the others also.
Well, that's the mini-story of what happened, and the struggle against repression followed us at this site. Mind you, that situation happened on 5 November 2018, I was removed from the prison shortly after, and today I'm just receiving my property. In addition to that, pig-officers here will cut off my commode for long periods so that I'm unable to flush my toilet. When I try to file Emergency Grievance, they either don't take it up or take it and don't give me a receipt. Who knows what they'll do next. I'm up for the fight!
On another note, I am still active in my teaching mode. I have organized political education classes on the tier and one of the two subjects I started with was teaching dialectical materialism and the whole dialectical transformation process. I felt good starting that class because I have enough information regarding dialectical materialism. However, the other class on what New Afrika was and New Afrikan revolutionary nationalism. I struggled because my knowledge of it is low! But I tried given the circumstances.
Nevertheless, my class on dialectical materialism was successful in bringing an understanding of its definition and its operation to my students. I used the information you provided me in the "Introduction to the Materialist method by MIM(Prisons), October 2017" and "Choosing One Ideology over Another: The Materialist Method" by MC5 of the Maoist Internationalist Movement. I explained how dialectical meanings of material things, people, and ideas transform in a struggle for liberation. I explained how the dialectical transformation moves in a perpetual sequence from without to within to without back within, and just keep going on and on. I gave examples on how it works in a way they could better understand, and tried my best at breaking it down and building it back up.
I want to ask you if you can send me anything that I could use in our P.E. classes to help educate us in what New Afrikan revolutionary nationalism is and how did it originate, and just the whole concept of the New Afrikan nation. If I have to pay for it let me know, but it'll be a while before I can purchase it because I'm suffering from economic hardships as of right now but eventually I could scrabble something up. Just let me know.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We are happy to send study materials to people who are running study groups and organizing locally. We have two articles that discuss the concept of New Afrika that were printed in ULK that we can send you. The New Afrikan Subcommittee of the USW Council is interested in commissioning someone to turn the content of these articles into a flier (with art) if that is something your study group (or anyone) is interested in. For more in depth reading on the theory and history of Black/New Afrikan nationalism we have a study pack on the legacy of the BPP($6) and one on revolutionary feminist proletarian nationalism($8). Send in a donation to the address on p. 1, or equivalent work-trade (e.g. a report on the organizing and political education you're doing, like this article!).
We also print this letter as an excellent example of organizing in spite of conditions of repression. This writer is working with others to fight the criminal injustice system from multiple angles. First there is the fight against the pigs who pushed the prisoner to cut eir wrist, and tried to get others to help them cover it up. Then there is the repression that followed, with the transfers and keeping up contact with other activists. And finally there is the study group, pushing forward both learning and practice at the same time.
This comrade is setting an example of perseverance in defending revolutionary principles, and building and maintaining unity with others.
The Amerikkkan government views our power of enlightenment as immeasurably more dangerous than their wars, and will stop at nothing to try and suppress it. Just a point to ponder as I kick off this letter and something most of us already know but can never be overstated enough.
Back in the horrific segregation unit (that I was housed in for almost 6 months) I had the pleasure of witnessing this: I ended the year by composing a 30-page letter to you and also by putting every copy of ULK in my possession into circulation. Overnight the other captives' conversation transformed from mostly useless chatter into inspired pro-active resistance-fueled talk. They would approach my cell door, timidly, in hopes of receiving more. I'll never forget the hungry look in their eyes and the lesson I learned in this.
Perhaps I've overextended my assumption of the-ones-inside's awareness of the inner-workings to the Prison Industrial Complex. It baffles me how blind so many remain to it even while stationed in the very center of it. So I understand better now the need, in most cases, of beginning at square one, then perhaps setting a slower pace than I've practiced in the past in the goal of enlightenment. Although the combined effort of my methods and your printed words did seem to move things along rather quickly.
Maybe you recall how, as I was composing the year-end letter to you, I had the pleasure to overhear prisoners discussing if it's realistic and possible to succeed in fighting back against the system. With 2-against-1 deciding that it is. Then the one who didn't believe so shouting for grievance forms. While the sadistic and beyond-lazy unit manager looked on and listened in with a pained and disappointed look on his face. This was only days after I'd passed ULK 65 along.
After this I quickly distributed everything anti-establishment in my possession. By New Years Day everything I had was passed along. Throwing shit on prisoners by other prisoners was a common and daily occurrence, but by the 3rd a loud-mouthed and worthless nurse was covered and the next day a C.O. While I don't endorse the act of propelling excrement missiles, if it must be done then at least let pigs roll in it!
That same day I received a note from a prisoner terrified he would suffer a seizure and die while in the seg unit due to the criminally inadequate medical staff and the deliberate indifference displayed by the C.O.s. While writing my response to him, a mail clerk delivered to me a brand new Jailhouse Lawyer's Handbook so I sent him my used one along with my response and of course your address. The next morning a prisoner in seg is found dead. A month to the day of my relaunch of medical grievances which had been postponed by my having to document 6 months worth of obvious retaliation from the pigs.
By January 7, previously apathetic prisoners are demanding grievances and statement forms while I'm circulating the grievance petition and the next morning I transfer to my current location. An extremely cushy prison set up which I'm thankful to be at. But at the same time I'm overwhelmed with feelings of survival guilt for the ones left behind there, and all of the fucked up prisons. I am rather stoked about how I'm not completely cut off from current events any longer since I'm free from the sensory deprivation torture chamber and will be able to prepare essays about recent news now. Like this border wall nonsense with the true purpose to provide a physical manifestation for the racial resentment found inside many of those in Trump's base. I'd advise the idiot in chief to remember the humpty dumpty nursery rhyme.
In the lengthy year-end letter I'd written how I planned to share my history with the grievance process to demonstrate how the petition arrived right on time and almost seemed pre-planned. It's definitely a game changer and I can never thank you enough. If you are interested in viewing that, I'll be more than glad to send it in the future. Right now I want to go over my history with ULK so far and also request any extra issues available to learn from and circulate.
This time last year I had the good fortune of coming across ULK 60. I signed up for a subscription and received 61. I got 62 and after fucking up the audit the next day an angered and cowardly unit manager removed it from my back pocket and destroyed it before placing me outdoors until medical had to treat me for dehydration. The next issue was covered in shit thrown by prisoners who were weak-minded enough to be enticed by the pigs in hopes of thwarting the continuation of my 1983 Civil Action claim. Fuck, the interruptions won't stop — it sure is easier to write in seg! I will come up with a way to remain better focused in the next one comrades. In the meantime I will continue on to service to others, defending the oppressed, and self-sacrifice geared towards meeting the goals towards greater good.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Thanks for sharing this great example of the potential impact of sharing political literature with others. Not only was this comrade engaged by coming across Under Lock & Key but then ey went on to engage others by sharing ULK. It's always inspiring when we get to see the positive results of our organizing work. Spreading around ULK is a great way to have an impact. If you want to get extra copies for distribution write in to let us know.
I'm excited for the upcoming issue about successful recruiting techniques. I can contribute 2 ideas concerning this. What's been useful for me is to always make it obvious I don't seek to impose my personal belief or philosophies upon others. I only offer them for examination, evaluation, and possible use! Which is something I've noticed you all practice. Also, since you continually point out how you are open to and accepting of criticism.
The second is more rare, I think, and perhaps not a method to be used by everyone, but I know it does work for some! There's a documentary called "Punks Not Dead" and in it Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day is discussing how everything he knows about politics was learned through punk rock, not boring school teachers. How in order for something to commit to his memory it's better if it's in some kind of offensive fashion. A little twisted or demented, humorous in a "sick" sort of way, and I can relate to that!
MIM(Prisons) responds: Culture, including music from punk to rap and even some country, helps make politics relatable and is a great approach for educating folks. We publish art and poetry in part to reach different groups of people and offer another way for people to pick up revolutionary ideas. And we aspire to include more infographics in ULK, and also eventually run video channels and radio shows. Ideally there should be musicians making revolutionary music, film makers producing revolutionary films, and many other genres of contributors. If you've got skills in these areas, step up and get involved, we need your contributions!