We are caught up in a system of competitiveness that pits one against the other, brother against brother, family against family, people against people, braceros against domestics, ethnic groups against ethnic groups, color against color, class against class, instead of minority or lower class against the ruling class. Competitiveness creates division, distrust, suspicions, and isolation. We have too much to lose to allow ourselves to fall into the same trap over and over again. What is in it for me, for you, for us?
All of our lives, we identify with war heroes, supermen, adventurers, gold seekers, empire builders, and imaginary leaders. We dream of praise and honors and love from other people. We go through life hoping to leave some sign of accomplishment to our children, to posterity, and we end up old, tired, wrinkled, with no vision or no memories, and we leave an inheritance of weakness, boot-licking, indignity, and confusion.
We can make history. It will consist of those who tried, who resisted, who led, who dared to struggle, dared to live free. It will also expose those who are afraid, ashamed, arrogant, selfish, greedy, sellouts, malinches, social prostitutes, Tio Tacos, exploiters, and cowards.
If there is to be a movement, then there must be leaders. Those leaders must be judged by their ability to give, not take. Leadership must convert confidence, not egotism — one who sacrifices, not one who is an opportunist. Leadership is the act of using power to free people, not to control them.
All in all, we have to cleanse ourselves of "inferiority" complex, our peon complex and our immigrant complex. We are not inferior, we are no man's peons, and we are not and never have been immigrants. As complete humans, we cannot only build an organization, start a movement, but create a nation. To take these steps we have to think positively. We have to put aside negative thoughts about each other, and especially about our capacity to succeed.
The masses will make a difference. We are educating young people. Our young people here and across this country are saying, I am leading a "Resistance" against institutional racism, racism or oppression. But when no one stands up with that young person, he commits suicide? You see the reason we have problems is because too many people do not want to get involved. When the guy in the cantina, prison cell or yard, the pool hall or the barber shop tells you, "Man, those movement people are out of their minds. I take care of me." Ask him what he's doing for la causa. Ask him what he's doing for the movement. He's not going to be able to say anything. He is part of the problem because he's not doing anything.
So we look at the problem: the problem is the mass majority of society. It's true. It's true that only 6% of the population of this country controls more than 60% of the wealth of the world. It's true that 2% of this country makes all the decisions. And everybody thinks they are living in a democratic society.
So the problem is on our backs, and the way to get rid of it is to deal with it. Now, we can deal with it by saying we are going to go into an armed Revolution with 4% of the people against maybe 50% of the people?
Long Live The Days of AZTLAN!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We are up against what seems like an insurmountable number of people either actively or passively on the side of imperialism in this country. It's a good point that if we took up armed revolution right now we'd be a tiny minority, up against a lot of resistance. This is because the vast majority of U.$. citizens are benefiting materially from imperialism. It's pretty obvious to most people just how well off they are compared to the rest of the world. That's why so many people want closed borders; don't let poor people in, they might take back some of that wealth we've got protected in the United $tates.
But this writer is talking about organizing the oppressed nations specifically and that's a bit of a different story. While still benefiting from the wealth Amerika has stolen from Third World countries, oppressed nations continue to face restricted opportunities, discrimination, imprisonment, and police brutality (to name just a few elements of national oppression within U.$. borders), all because of their nationality. This makes people from oppressed nations still potentially interested in revolution for their own persynal interests.
So yes, we need to heed this comrade's call to challenge people about what they're doing for la causa. We need to win over everyone we can. But we might not be in a position to take on imperialism until it is weakened from the outside, by revolutions in countries where the majority of the population has an interest in taking down imperialism. Right now we do what we can from within the belly of the beast to support the battles of the oppressed and exploited masses globally and the struggles of the oppressed nations within U.$. borders.
Vita Wa Watu! This is one essay on my tactics to recruit Brothas and Sistas for certain movements. Take the Day of Peace and Solidarity for instance. I sent out letters to those that have a Genuine Love for me and the Struggle and kept it real with them. I informed them that I would be fasting for the 9th day of September because it was a day that meant more to Oppressed and Lumpen than the Sabbath does to the Jews. I told them that that day is a day of Peace in the Prisons around the country and that it commemorated one of the biggest prison uprisings in the states, and also that it was the last day of the now annual prison strike.
Then I informed them that this Glorious Day meant that there would be no beatings, rapes, stabbings, or any violence of the Oppressed against the Oppressor and that it mean a lot to me if they would fast with me. I got a few confirmations and still awaiting others.
Also, I let the Brothers here in Ad-Seg know the meaning of this day. However, only one Soulja fasted with me. Nevertheless, the day was a success here at Northeastern Correctional Center. Stay strong, Comrades. I will join you again next year.
MIM(Prisons) responds: In ULK 64 we printed some early reports of actions on the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity. We're happy to hear about this work going on in Florida.
And this is a good example of sharing your tactics for organizing and recruiting. The next issue of Under Lock & Key is devoted to this topic and we're seeking moreinput from readers about what's worked for you, and also what hasn't worked. We can all learn a lot from our practice and from the practice of others. Sum up your organizing experiences and send them in for ULK. See ULK 63 for our prior deep dive into this topic.
[Editor's note: This review of Grit follows on several articles printed in ULK 63 about the book and lessons we can glean for our organizing. This comrade offers a more in-depth review of some of the practical uses for our work, but also some criticisms of the politics of the book. We encourage readers to check out ULK 63 for more on organizing theory and practice.]
I really like this book, not just because I found lots of useful tactics and strategies for pursuing my own personal goals in life, but because I was able to see that I've already been putting many of the author's suggestions into practice, both in my capacity as a revolutionary and as someone pursuing a particular goal: my freedom. Therefore, in writing this review, I have not only tried to sum up the tactics and strategies I found most useful, but those which others might find use for as well. However, this review is not without criticism.
The author of this book, Angela Duckworth, is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and she wrote this book to make one basic statement: success in any endeavor is dependent on the amount of time, hard work, determination, and effort that someone puts into something.
Now this concept might not seem so special or even new to someone, but to a dialectical materialist, it speaks power to truth in that it demolishes certain idealist and metaphysical notions about what it means to be gifted and blessed in bourgeois society. Of course, as a dialectical materialist, I also understand that this book must be viewed with a critical eye, as it contains both positive and negative aspects.
Professor Duckworth makes it a point to begin eir book by explaining that lofty-minded individuals aren't usually the type of people to accomplish much of anything. Rather, it's those with a "never give up" attitude that will reach a marked level of success. Professor Duckworth also successfully argues against the myth that the only thing that matters is "talent." Instead she says a bigger factor is developed skill, which is the result of consistent and continuous practice. From a Maoist perspective this means that it is people who take a materialist approach to life and who understand the dialectical interplay between people and people, and between people and their surroundings, that will go the furthest the fastest.
In addition, the author puts forward organizational guidelines that are useful to just about anyone, even the imprisoned lumpen. How prisoners decide to exercise the professor's tools is entirely up to them. We would hope however, that USW members and other allies participating in the United Front for Peace in Prisons would use the lessons in Grit to further the anti-imperialist prison movement, as what they essentially amount to is the piecemeal approach to struggle.
So what does it take to develop grit as the author defines it? The following are just some of the book's pointers that I could relate to and I'm sure you can too:
Having direction as well as determination.
Doing more of what you are determined to do and doing it longer equals grit.
Learn from your mistakes.
Grit is more about stamina than intensity ("Grit is not just working incredibly hard, it's loyalty").
Do things better than they have ever been done before.
Goals are essential to strategizing long term, and you must also have lots of short-term goals along the way.
Having goal conflicts can be healthy: what may at one given moment seem contradictory may in fact be complementary.
Don't be intimidated by challenges or being surrounded by people who are more advanced or developed. This can only help you grow.
Overextending yourself is integral toward growth, it's what helps you develop. Also, repetitive diligence cultivates.
Daily discipline as perseverance helps you to zero in on your weaknesses.
Passion is a must!
Go easy on newcomers.
Look for quality over quantity when measuring growth.
What we do has to matter to other people.
Have a top level goal.
Maintain a growth mindset.
Don't be afraid to ask for help!
Following through is the single best predictor of grit.
Getting back up after you've been kicked down is generally reflective of grit. When you don't, your efforts plummet to a zero. As a consequence, your skill stops improving and you stop producing anything with whatever skill you have.
So now that we've looked at tools for overall improvement, growth and development let's look at some specific tips on how to add a little more intensity to our routines and organizational skill set. The author talks about something she calls "deliberate practice." Deliberate practice is a technique or range of techniques that people across different professions use to become masters in their fields. Whether someone is a spelling bee champ, professional basketball player, or computer programmer, all these people have one thing in common: deliberate practice. I include the message here because it can be useful to revolutionaries. Simply put, deliberate practice is all about becoming an expert at something. Deliberate practice is the essence of grit:
Wanting to develop.
Not just more time on task, but better time on task.
Focusing on improving your weaknesses; intentionally seeking out challenges you can't yet meet.
Practicing alone, logging more hours than with others.
Seeking negative feedback for the purposes of improving your craft.
Then focus in on the specific weaknesses and drill them relentlessly.
Don't be afraid to experiment if you find yourself getting stuck or even if you're not. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone even if you're already doing good. Who knows, you might do better.
Now, at the beginning of this review, I said this book was not beyond criticism. So here are some problems I found with Grit.
To begin with, the author caters to the idealist Amerikan ideology of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" and failing to take into account the structural oppression faced by the internal semi-colonies in the United $tates. Furthermore, most of the author's case studies, those who she refers to as "paragons of grit," come from privileged backgrounds and their success in life can be easily linked to the surroundings in which they were allowed to develop their skills to their fullest potentials. Compare this to the experience of the oppressed nations: the lumpen in particular who exist along the margins of society, or the [email protected] semi-proletariat who must struggle in order to meet its basic needs. Therefore, all is not simply a matter of will and determination for the oppressed as we might be led to believe. There are a variety of social factors in place which the oppressed must contend with in the grind of daily life.
Another problem I have with this book is where the author makes the statement that it generally takes up to 10,000 hours or 10 years of practice for someone to become an expert in their field. The author bases this hypothesis on data she's gathered in preparation for eir book. This inherent flaw in the professor's work is exactly the type of problem that comes from applying bourgeois psychology and sociological methods according to bourgeois standards within a narrow strip of bourgeois society. This was something of a turn off to me as I grappled with the concepts from a revolutionary perspective. I can imagine how discouraging it can be for our young comrades or those otherwise new to the struggle to read that it takes 10 years to become an expert in something, especially when they come to us eager to put in work. I wonder if I, myself, would have continued engaging Maoism if I would have heard or read this book when I was a newcomer? I would like to think that I had enough grit to not listen to the naysayers and instead keep on pushing, but I just don't know.
Maoist China also grappled with similar questions during the Great Leap Forward (1959-61) and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Beginning with the Great Leap Forward, there were those in the Communist Party, as well as in the economic sector, who advocated an "expert in command" approach to work and politics. The people pushing this line believed that only those with years of study or practice in China's greatest institutions or in the West's most prestigious universities were qualified to lead the country towards socialism. Most of these people would turn out to be enemies of the revolution and ultimately responsible for putting China back on the capitalist road.
On the other side of the discussion where the Maoists who advocated the slogan "red and expert" to emphasize the importance of revolutionary will and determination over that of expertise. In other words, it was more important to pay attention to the masses motivation of serving the people according to revolutionary principles than to the bourgeois commandist approach of top down leadership and authoritarianism that was the essence of "experts in command." Furthermore, the Maoists understood that to overly emphasize a reliance on the bourgeois methods of organization for the purposes of efficiency and profit was not only to widen the gap between leaders and led, but to return to the status quo prior to the revolution. What's more, those calling for expert in command were also criticized for their stress on theory over practice and adoption of foreign methods of organization over that of self-reliance and independence. As such, the Maoists opted to popularize the slogan "red and expert" as they believed this represented a more balanced approach to political, cultural, economic, and social development. To the Maoists, there was nothing wrong with wanting to become expert so long as the concept wasn't separated from the needs of the people or the causes of the revolution.
Partly as a response to the struggles gripping China during the time, but more so as an attempt to meet Chinese needs, the Communist Party initiated the "sent down educated youth" and "going down to the countryside and settling with the peasants" campaigns in which thousands of high school and university age students were sent on a volunteer basis to China's rural area to help educate peasants. The students lived and toiled with the peasants for months and years so that they would not only learn to empathize with the country's most downtrodden, but so that the revolutionary will and resolve of the privileged urban youth could be strengthened. Part of the students' mission was to build the schools in the countryside and teach the peasants how to read and write as well to help advance the peasants' farming techniques according to what the youth had learned in the cities. While these students may not have been "experts" in the professional sense, they did more to improve the living conditions of the peasants than most professionals did criticizing this program from the sidelines.(1)
The barefoot doctors program is another Maoist success story which even Fidel Castro's Cuba came to emulate. The majority of China's population were peasants and had virtually zero access to modern medical care. To address this problem, peasants were given a few years training in basic medical care, and sent to work in China's rural area. Again, the focus here was not on expertise, but on practice and revolutionary will for the sake of progress not perfection. While those trained certainly were not expert medical doctors, they were of more use to the peasants than the witch doctors and shamans they were accustomed to.
While Grit offers a lot of useful information for comrades with little organizational experience, we should keep in mind that much of what we communists consider correct methods of practice has already been summed up as rational knowledge by the revolutionary movements before us. Bourgeois psychology can be useful, but history and practice are our best teachers. Look to the past and analyze the present to correctly infer the future.
As Mao Zedong Stated: "Marxists hold that man's social practice alone is the criterion of the truth of his knowledge of the external world."(2)
MIM(Prisons) responds: Throughout the book, Duckworth focuses on high-performance bourgeois heroes and institutions, in order to address the question of "what makes them the best at what they do?" In answering this question, the author does briefly acknowledge that access to resources can play a decisive role in one's success in a particular field. That might mean having money to pay for pool access to become a great swimmer. In another way, access to resources might boil down to the semi-random luck of having a decent (or crap) coach in public school sports. Of course there are socio-economic reasons why good coaches are at certain schools and not others, and why some schools have sports at all and others don't — and those are reasons linked to the three strands of oppression.
Duckworth's analysis of how we (as outsiders) can influence someone's internal grit underlined how big of an influence one persyn or experience can have on someone else's passion and perseverence. For example, we don't need material resources to change our attitude and behavior to a "growth mindset." And, while a broader culture of grit is certainly preferable, we can still make a big impact as single organizers — in many of eir examples, the paragons of grit cited one or two key people in their lives who played a major part in their success. And ULK's contributors' persynal histories in "Ongoing Discussion of Recruiting Best Practices" confirms this.
Duckworth's analysis on this topic is outlined in "Part 3: Growing Grit from the Outside In," and MIM(Prisons) has been discussing this section at length to improve our own practices. We have an extremely limited ability to organize and influence people — we are only struggling with our subscribers through the mail, which comes with many unique challenges. Our subscribers have access to very little resources, and we can't buy them the world. But if we can make even our limited contact more effective — through our study, execution, experimentation, and the feedback we receive — we believe we can still make a big impact. Duckworth helped build my confidence that even though i'm only one organizer, and i'm not really that talented at it to begin with, my efforts still matter a lot.
While Duckworth does good to knock down the idols of talent, ey replaces them with the hardworking individual, rather than the knowledge of the collective, and group problem solving. The group is acknowledged as one thing that can help you as an individual become great, in eir discussion of the "culture of grit." The examples from China that Ehecatl brings up emphasizes that our goal is not to be great as individuals, but to serve the people by bringing together different sources of knowledge, to see a problem from all sides, and to engage the masses in conquering it.
In a related point, Ehecatl says that we need to "do things better than they have ever been done before." I'm not sure of the deeper meaning behind this point, and it's one that i think could be read in a discouraging way. We certainly should aim to do things better than we have ever done them. But if we know we can't do them better than everyone ever, then should we give up? No, we should still try, because "effort counts twice" and the more we try, the better we'll get at it.(3) And, even if we're not the best ever, we can still have a huge impact. Like Ehecatl writes above, we don't need to clock 10,000 hours before we can make big contributions.
To deepen your own understanding of the principles in Grit, get a copy to study it yourself. Get Grit from MIM(Prisons) for $10 or equivalent work-trade.
I am currently on close management (secured housing), a euphemism for 24/7 lockdown. My level was recently dropped to II, which means I now have a cellmate. However, since there are more people in this dorm, I have been able to spread some knowledge.
I am currently involved in a struggle against violations of prisoners' rights in confinement. Although I don't know much about civil law, I am very resourceful and have found 2 non-profit law firms willing to help Florida prisoners. I have begun, after being here since May, to draw a lot of attention and have already been threatened with retaliation for my grievances (in order to file lawsuits, "administrative remedies" must be exhausted). However, I expected this, and take it as a signal that I am doing good and hitting the right issues, such as not being allowed to exit the cell for the specified "dayroom" time.
They are trying to keep the addicts addicted. It is easier to reach people through face-to-face group studies or even individual studies. I have been doing what I can to get some of the interested prisoners involved in utilizing dialectical materialism. I have also been passing around info on how to fight against the constant oppression. Oppression is good for the oppressed. It is what motivates, and without it complacency would be the norm.
I will be enclosing some more poetry for use in ULK. Also, the issue of Under Lock & Key sent to me was rejected citing that I already receive too many periodicals or publications. I am looking into if there is indeed a set limit or if this is just a sorry excuse for unwarranted censorship.
I've been sitting in my room and really, truly devoting myself to studying the MIM Theory I received. I find myself aligning with MIM on all of its issues and where they stand. I do have a question. It is quite perplexing to me.
It seems to me that one of the biggest problems Maoists and other forms of communism face all have a root in greed. The average human is not inherently good and/or caring. Rather, their main objective in life is to accumulate wealth to ensure a better life for them and hopefully their immediate family. They do not have any feelings or true empathy for those that do not have. So how do we solve this? I am new to this movement, but am very intrigued by the veracity that is communism. Expectantly awaiting.
MIM(Prisons) responds: In response to this question about greed we ask another question: how do you know humyns are inherently greedy? Sure, this is what we see today in the world around us. But capitalism is built on a culture of greed and selfishness. It's no surprise that humyns raised in this culture, inundated with it from birth through school, entertainment, and adult examples, will learn to be greedy and individualist themselves. Further, capitalism rewards this individualism with material wealth. There is little incentive or opportunity to be selfless or generous.
But do we really have evidence that this is inherent in the humyn species? When we look at the example of communist China during the Cultural Revolution, so many people were engaging in tremendous acts of selfless work while also actively fighting against reactionary culture. We don't have to look that far for examples of humyn selflessness. Even under capitalism there are jobs that require greater sacrifice than they offer reward, jobs that really help other people. Perhaps you could argue that these are the few oddballs who didn't get the "greed gene." But perhaps instead they represent what we all could be without indoctrination in greed.
This writer argues that oppression is good for the oppressed because it is what motivates. While we'd agree that oppression is a motivating force, it's still something we strive to eliminate because we believe humyns can be motivated by striving for improvements for society without facing constant oppression.
13 May 2018 — 208 prisoners of every race, background, group, organization, etc. said enough is enough! We came together and sat down in a peaceful protest. During dinner (chow hall) as usual the pigs not only violated our constitutional rights (First Amendment freedom of speech) but they also attempted to bully us by flex'n and threatening us. That's when our peaceful protest turned uprising. I wish y'all could have seen the way all the guards (C.O.s, Sergeants, Lieutenants, etc.) ran out the kitchen and chow halls. You would have thought they ran track! Who the cowards now?
For the first time in Missouri history we united. The pigs see the end of their control within our unity. In a matter of seconds we gained control of the kitchen, both dining halls, property room, canteen storage, the factory, forklifts, weapons, keys, phones, computers, etc. Well after a few hours the phones start to ring. Guess who's calling? The warden and highway patrol. For the first time they listened to our demands. They respected us. They feared our unity. They was at our mercy.
On our own terms we surrendered 8-9 hours later. After we got our point across.
Note: 90% of guys in our peaceful protest turned uprising have outdates ranging between a few weeks and 15 years. So only imagine if the outcome was the other way around. 90% of us could have been locked to the board (life without?).
Due to us striving so fast and hard we left administration not only confused but also emotionally off balance. Being that this never happened before in Missouri history they acted off impulse and violated every constitutional right you can think of. Which led to KC Freedom Project lawyers starting a class action lawsuit on our behalf against Missouri DOC. The media has been on fire regarding this.
Update? We still on lockdown! We still receiving brown bags (sack lunches). They say it was $3 million worth of damage. They making us do 1 year. We damn near 6 months in.
Administration is still up to their tricky ways. They have attempted to divide and conquer us by destroying all the guys' property that was in the hole and told them we did it. Also telling all the guys in GP it's our fault they are locked down still. So yeah the struggle continues.
By the way, there have been two other uprisings of this kind since we kicked it off. If we can unite here in Missouri where unity has never existed then any state can.
Another Missouri prisoner wrote:
It has been 13 months since the prisoners bonded together, Black, White, Native and brown (Chicano) and kicked off a riot at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri, causing over a million dollars in damage. What did it accomplish?
Prison property got damaged that your families who are tax payers (and you too cause you pay taxes on your canteen items) are going to have to pay for the damages.
You injured one another with violent acts and all it accomplished is enemies, and lockdown of the prison.
Supposedly two housing units are to be cleared out for the creation of SHU units. They are supposed to lock up all the gang leaders and violent soldiers.
As of now, this is all just rumor, but every time Missouri prisoners show acts of violence via riots, the prison gets stricter. For example, the 1985 riot in the old Missouri State Penitentiary caused them to build a supermax housing unit.
When are we gonna learn that we are hurting ourselves more ways than one by these acts of violence? When I was advocating peaceful protests with demonstrations of how to shut the prison system down, nobody in Missouri wanted to participate. But you go off on your own and committed this no nonsense act of violence against your brother, your friends, your families, and jeopardized everyone.
It costs $85 million a year to keep the U.S. prisons up and running. The government is not producing this money to keep the prisons going. So where is the money coming from? Let's see now, in Missouri it's coming from Missouri Vocational Enterprise (MVE), the sign shop, the printing shop, the license plate plant (tag plant), the furniture factory, the chemical plant, information technology (IBM program), the braille program, the laundry, the cooled-chill plant (cold food storage), the shoe factory, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDot work release) and the newly implemented paneling factory.
The above-mentioned factories are multi-million-dollar industries per year. They are paying you pennies. So what a couple of these jobs pay between $150 and $300 per month. If you peacefully protest by refusing to go to work in these factories, either they are going to pay you at least minimum wage where you will be making at least $340 a week, or they are gonna bring in civilians to do the work, in which case the factories are going to have to be uprooted and moved because most civilians are not coming inside the prisons to work. So to shut down a beast like the U.S. prison system is to shut down their economy — that is, the very thing that's bringing them money to keep the prisons open is the very thing that can shut it down.
This just doesn't begin and end with the prisoners. The prisoner has to survive. He has to eat. So the people in the free world are going to have to support the prisoner financially. Family, friends, advocate organizations are all going to have to pitch in and support the prisoner financially. That means to stop working we have to buy food to eat. To stop using the phones and tablets, we need stamps, envelopes, paper and pens to write letters that cost money. So the free world must understand that for us to make these sacrifices, then society is going to have to make sacrifices to assist us.
So Missouri prisoners, society (family, friends, organizations, advocates, etc.), stop going about things the wrong way and do them like they should be done in order to get results.
I go home next year on parole, but I do not leave my fight behind. There is a bigger world out there, which means a lot more opportunities to fight. I am going to find resources and seek out that they join me in my quest to do away with this beast. I will need their support mentally, physically, spiritually and above all, financially. With this, Comrades, I hope to see you on the other side, working with me and supporting me from the inside and outside.
In struggle—In solidarity
Arm raised—clenched black fist
MIM(Prisons) responds: A lot of folks talk about how hard it is to get people to unite behind bars. The prison controls everything from day-to-day comfort to release dates. And that's powerful incentive to conform. Then they introduce drugs and other distractions to pacify the population. They pay off snitches to keep an eye on activists. And they lock organizers down in solitary confinement. Still, faced with all these barriers, prisoners can and do come together to protest. Conditions at Crossroads CC were bad enough to inspire this action. And while the outcome wasn't all positive, the class action lawsuit and attention of the public has forced the Missouri DOC to admit that prisoners are suffering significant restrictions due to short staffing.
The comrade criticizing this action for its lack of focus and random acts of violence and destruction is right that often these sorts of actions lead to more repression. Though peaceful protests are also often met with increased repression. This debate over tactics in prison protests is one that should be happening within all prisons across the country. We hope the comrades at Crossroads will learn from this action and move forward in greater unity towards future actions that will be even more effective.
Focusing on the economics of prisons reveals the ridiculous scale of the criminal injustice system. As the writer above notes, it would be a significant financial loss to the state if they were forced to hire non-prisoners for all the jobs prisoners are doing. And this is financial leverage that prisoner workers can use to their advantage.
But to debate the value of this tactic we need to first be clear about the scope of prisoner labor. The state of Missouri 2018 budget allocated the Department of Corrections over $725 million. About the same as the previous year, which was up $50 million from 2016.(1) The state would have to allocate even more money if no prisoner labor could be used to help run the prisons, or produce products that are sold to generate revenue. But that prisoner labor is still a small part of the total cost of running prisons.
As we showed from data collected from prisons across the United $tates, in general, losing prisoner labor would add about 10% to the cost of running prisons. Prisons are mostly subsidized by states' budgets. The labor from prisoners just doesn't come close to covering that cost. So while there is definitely economic power in those jobs, shutting down prison industries won't shut down prisons.
We don't aim to just improve conditions. In the end we know the criminal injustice system keeps taking away rights, doing what it can to make prisons a place of suffering and complacency. But this protest showed the people involved that they have the power to take collective action. As the original writer notes, the prison can see their downfall in the unity of the prisoners. This lesson of the importance and power of unity is what will hopefully fuel ongoing organizing.
In an effort to make work reports more useful within the Council, the below was passed unanimously, with the majority voting to keep the old method of reporting work hours in addition to the below. We are printing this in ULK to solicit work reports from USW leaders who are not yet Council members. By submitting short monthly reports to the Council, we will better be able to sum up the efforts of USW as a whole, while vetting emerging cells for Council membership.
All USW cells with an active Council representative must submit monthly work reports to remain in the Council.
All USW cells are encouraged to submit monthly work reports to the Council.
Work reports should be one to two paragraphs. They should address the following points as needed to update the Council on your work in the last month:
What types of activities did your cell participate in that contributed to USWs mission?
What campaigns did your cell participate in or promote in the last month?
What Serve the People programs did your cell operate?
What were the responses from the masses and USW recruits to this work?
What questions came up? How did you answer them? Or do you need help answering them?
What lessons did you learn in the last month?
What are the most pressing issues that are of concern to the masses in your location? Are there any new or developing issues of concern to the masses there?
What organizations/services have you recently found useful in your work (include contact info)?
What successes have you achieved in the last month?
MIM(Prisons) will not share revealing information with the Council. Please keep in mind that your outgoing mail is being read and report on your work accordingly.
Ministerio Internacionalista Maoísta de Prisiones (MIM(Prisiones)) ha establecido la ambiciosa meta de hacer de Bajo Llave y Candado (Under Lock & Key - ULK) una publicación mensual para el 2022. ULK satisface una necesidad en la prisión, dando un reporte revolucionario anti-imperialista acerca el subproletariado tras las rejas. Este es un proyecto revolucionario relativamente pequeño centrado en el sistema de injusticia criminal. Pero las prisiones son sólo una parte de la gran maquina imperialista y tomará un movimiento revolucionario mucho más amplio que sólo en las prisiones el derribar el capitalismo. Somos una parte de este movimiento y es nuestro trabajo hacer lo que podamos para empujar hacia adelante este desarrollo.
En esta etapa de la lucha, hay celdas revolucionarias organizadas en varios segmentos dentro del vientre de la bestia. Estamos construyendo un Frente Unido por la Paz en las prisiones para reunir al movimiento detrás de las barras. Y además de eso, queremos un frente unido en contra del imperialismo que incluya tanto a organizaciones penitenciarias como no penitenciarias. Este extenso movimiento necesita una publicación unificada, un periódico que pueda ser usado tanto para difundir información y organizar a las personas.
Lenin escribió: ¿Qué hay que hacer? Acerca de la importancia de una publicación regular de un periódico que organice la revolución en Rusia. Y en las primeras etapas de la organización, antes de que el movimiento gane popularidad y mayores miembros, el líder Bolchevique argumentó la necesidad de los revolucionarios de soñar con una extensa distribución de una publicación regular. El escribió que, con suficientes grupos locales y con un circulo de estudio trabajando activamente:
"Podríamos, en un futuro no tan distante, establecer un periódico semanal para su distribución regular en decenas de miles de copias a lo largo de Rusia. Este periódico se podría convertir en parte de un par enorme del fuelle de Smith que avivarían la chispa de la lucha de clases y la indignación popular dentro del conflicto general. Alrededor de lo que, en sí mismo todavía permanece como un esfuerzo muy inofensivo y muy pequeño, pero regular y común, en el total sentido de la palabra, se reuniría y entrenaría sistemáticamente a un ejército regular de luchadores experimentados. Las escaleras y el andamio de esta estructura organizacional general […] [los revolucionarios] despertarían a todo el pueblo para saldar cuentas con la pena y la maldición de Rusia. ¡Esto es lo que deberíamos soñar!"
¿Por qué imprimir un periódico cuando tenemos internet?
Lenin estaba escribiendo en un tiempo donde no había otra forma de comunicarse entre localidades. Ahora tenemos internet, y algunos debatirán que la agitación en línea es todo lo que necesitamos. Nos podemos comunicar con otras personas alrededor del mundo en pocos segundos por medio de internet. Y esto es, en efecto, una herramienta poderosa de organización. Entonces ¿Por qué publicar un periódico más allá de las prisiones, uno de los pocos lugares en los países de primer
mundo sin acceso al internet? La respuesta a esta pregunta es acceso y organización.
La mayoría de las personas no llegan accidentalmente al sitio web de Maoísta mientras navegan en línea, y con el inminente fin de la neutralidad de la red esto tendría a ser cada vez más cierto. No vamos a obtener publicidad en medios de comunicación de tendencia y no queremos alentar la mala seguridad invitando a las personas a publicar en Facebook o Twitter y exponerlos a la policía. Les podemos dar salida a los periódicos en las cafeterías, librerías, tiendas de libros, refugios para personas de la calle, centros comunitarios, lavanderías y otros lugares donde las personas puedan cruzarse con una perspectiva que no se ve en otra parte. Esto expande el acceso a noticias revolucionarias y la educación.
Podemos usar el internet para compartir rápidamente información sobre las campañas, y reunir personas de muchos lugares para acciones rápidas. Y podemos publicar el contenido en un periódico en línea, expandiendo ampliamente su alcance más allá de los medios impresos. Pero si bien el internet es una herramienta poderosa, no lo podemos usar afuera en las calles organizando personas, hablando con ellos, y construyendo grupos de estudio y organizando comités.
Con una publicación impresa, los organizadores pueden acercarse e involucrar a las personas en una forma que no podemos hacer online. Los periódicos dan a los organizadores herramientas para usar en la organización cara a cara. Hablar con las personas acerca de sus condiciones, y haciendo las conexiones al sistema imperialista. Pedir a alguien leer un artículo y hablar con ellos al respecto. Responder a un discurso en una movilización con un artículo periodístico sobre este tema como un punto de inicio para conversaciones con la gente que ya simpatice con la causa.
Metas políticas en la expansión del periódico.
Recibe actualizaciones de la organización de camaradas en prisión con mayor frecuencia, construyendo la unidad entre el movimiento Maoísta dentro de la frontera de los Estados Unidos.
Distribución más amplia de la información anti-imperialista.
Coordinación más estrecha del trabajo entre varias organizaciones dentro el frente unido en contra del imperialismo. Herramientas de organización para la gente en la calle y detrás de las rejas.
Se necesita expandir ULK
Distribuidores: Sólo podremos lograr nuestro objetivo si podemos expandir rápidamente nuestra red de distribuidores. Aquí es donde tú, nuestros lectores y seguidores intervienen. Queremos enviarles un pequeño paquete de ULK a $50 por un año. Para nuestros compañeros del programa lanzamiento de vida queremos enviarles gratis hasta que puedan pagar. Enviarlos por $1 la pieza es una manera de obtener los fondos para su suscripción. O si tienes el dinero puedes tomar la ruta fácil de entregar unas pocas copias en tiendas locales y espacios públicos que tengan espacio para que las personas recojan publicaciones gratis. Para nuestros lectores en prisión, comuníquense con cualquier individuo o institución del exterior que creas podrían ser capaces de tomar un envió regular de ULK.
Dinero: Costará más dinero imprimir más periódicos y también más gastos de envío a nuestros distribuidores. Estamos pidiendo a nuestros distribuidores cubrir el costo de envío de lo que enviaremos. También necesitamos personas que intensifiquen y ayuden a financiar la impresión y los costos de envió a los presos.
Contenido: Nuestra meta inmediata es incrementar la frecuencia de ULK, para que nuestros compañeros dentro reciban más actualizaciones regulares de la organización. Puesto que esto también expandirá el contenido, esperamos incrementar el alcance de los temas que ULK aborda actualmente, exponiendo diferentes sectores del movimiento al trabajo de cada uno. Estamos trabajando en conjunto con organizaciones fraternales para ayudar a crear contenido para este periódico. También llamamos a individuos a incrementar sus esfuerzos para producir
contenido de calidad y discutir las necesidades de los oprimidos desde una perspectiva del proletariado. ¿Quién debería ser parte de esta expansión?
Organizaciones revolucionarias anti-imperialistas que vean el Maoísmo como la visión a futuro del comunismo hasta la fecha. Este es explícitamente un proyecto revolucionario y no estamos atenuando el Maoísmo como nuestro eje político guía, pero seguiremos publicando artículos de individuos que compartan nuestra agenda anti-imperialista, aunque quizás no sean Maoístas.
Necesitamos expandir nuestra distribución al exterior más allá de los antiguos prisioneros. Expandiendo el contenido en nuestro periódico ayudaremos a atraer más simpatizantes. Pero también necesitamos más partidarios para expandirnos. Así que nuestro reto principal para nuestros compañeros en la calle justo ahora, es el dar un paso adelante y convertirse en un distribuidor regular de ULK. Sin una red de distribución más amplia, no alcanzaremos nuestra meta de duplicar la frecuencia.
Lista de tareas a elaborar para enero de 2022
Comience por distribuir localmente ULK. Regístrate con nosotros enviando $50 a nuestro apartado postal con una dirección para enviar publicaciones de ULK para empezar a explorar formas de distribuir la publicación regularmente. (No cheques a Ministerio Internacionalista Maoísta de Prisiones, haznos saber si quieres enviarnos un cheque).
Comprometerse con una contribución financiera para esta expansión. Idealmente,
un monto mensual con el que podamos contar. Puede empezar donando ahora
para ayudarnos a construir el fondo necesario para este proyecto.
Ofrécete como voluntario para escribir artículos, pide una copia de
nuestra guía para escribir actualizada.
Las organizaciones revolucionarias interesadas en involucrarse en este proyecto, pueden contactarnos para comenzar a ver cómo podemos trabajar juntos.
Within the Bureau of Propaganda here in New York State (NYS) Department of Corruptions I am reaching out to all political prisoners and true difference makers who are deeply rooted in solidarity, liberation, and unity. Reach for your victory.
My goal and aim is to unify NYS prisoners and prisoners nationally while building upon the vehicles necessary to combat the many forms of injustice that each of us are subjected to per a truly controlled environment. The time is now!
On 6 January 2018, Voice of the People Daily News, circulated an article titled "Gov's gotta correct corrections." In this article many valid points were brought to light as to officers stealing from packages, prisoners being afraid to grieve for fear of retaliation, and no respect for our visitors who are our families and loved ones, and the list goes on! This is our reality!
It is my belief that as men and women of a corrupted system built and established for the purpose of breaking the oppressed, we the people of the Incarcerated Nation should be reaching out and communicating to those who stand in solidarity with our struggle. Do not let them win!
In this news article it was stated: "The outside world has no idea about the horrible mind games and abuse that some prisoners are forced to endure." These corruptional officers are very methodical and meticulous when it comes to seeing a male or female disciplined and/or labeled as a security threat.
I have been reaching out for quite some time to bring light to what has been hidden and enraptured in darkness for so long. I have no doubt that many other comrades are reaching out and doing the same as is necessary to defeat the many forms of injustice enacted upon us.
To look into the eyes of a brainwashed pig and see how deeply ensnared in corruption he or she is, is to see the real and actual truth of the war that has silently been waged against our people. We the people must release our voices. The first step is to open your mouth as to the injustices you have been through while animalized and dehumanized within a cage built to break you. Free your mind.
I am also in request of each comrade who lives in, builds up, and opens the doors to solidarity to reach out to MIM(Prisons) and provide a 5 stamp donation so that we can further our national systems of support and releasing knowledge. There are many doors available, you are the key to these doors being opened. To give is to receive!
If you see a weak link in our chain, reach out and truly set your pride and ego aside to strengthen this weak link. This will in time strengthen your support if you only knew.
For United Separation Ministry, know that a comrade is setting aside his pride and ego to reach out to you.
The situation where a group was supporting imprisoned white power by promoting the 23 via events outside prisons was left-opportunism. It was a situation where the activists felt it was necessary to cater to imprisoned white supremacists in order to "move the movement forward."
During World War II Stalin made temporary alliances with Hitler, but this was only because Russia had to build up its military, and millions of lives were at stake. Here, had the activists chose not to promote imprisoned white power the movement and its united front would have survived.
Looking back at the response/decision to split with MIM(Prisons) over them not issuing a statement on the matter, I must now say it was wrong. I believe now that I should have criticized MIM(Prisons) on this, but I should not have supported a split. It was an over-reaction, which I feel was brought on by a combination of things. One being the extreme repression and pressure I was under in the concentration kamp. It did affect me in ways I am still dealing with. I was in a situation where death by the state was perpetual, solitary was a mountain of pressure and white supremacy was the assassin ever-present. I felt at the time, betrayal for those who would not issue a response. This of course was an incorrect response.
Being released from the kkkamps has allowed me to look at my thoughts on this with new eyes. It is true that MIM(Prisons) had served prisoners including myself for many years. I should not have responded as if I just met them. This was a result of many years of solitary, and the psychological turmoil that the state put me through. This kind of turmoil often has prisoners turn on each other, here I turned on comrades politically, comrades who had been my instructors for years. I was wrong for this.
I accept the criticism from MIM(Prisons) and for the historical record I stand in unity with MIM(Prisons).
I hope with this self-criticism that our imprisoned comrades can learn from it. It's important to know that to split with comrades over tactics, whether it is over something you feel you may be correct on, is a very big move. Prisons, and particularly solitary confinement, at times obscures our ability to respond in a materialist way. One way to avoid these challenges from escalating is to take a break when you start to think these thoughts. Write the organization/persyn and let them know that you are taking a break so as not to exacerbate the conflict.
I should note that the tactic of activists to promote the 23 has now been overturned. So in that aspect I was proven correct, it was my response that was incorrect. But this was a very important lesson.
The movement cannot move forward with subjective decisions. I allowed subjectivism to determine my decisions on this issue and that was an error. MIM(Prisons)'s line never changed so my affiliation with them should not have changed either.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We whole-heartedly accept this self-criticism from Pili based on this statement and eir principled work with the Republic of Aztlán.
It is not unusual for us to encounter anger and frustration from our comrades inside. Our relationship is tenuous through the mail. Often comrades will question us because of this. We generally know more about them then they know about us. That is an imbalance that can encourage doubts. This is a good example of the psychological warfare that solitary confinement wages on the oppressed. It is not just about isolating individuals from others, it has broad and lasting impacts on the oppressed's ability to organize effectively.
For all the reasons mentioned by Pili, we try to be patient and understanding when there is the occasional riff with a comrade we have worked closely with for some time. But we always to looking at practice — look at our work, look at what we say. Is it consistent? Is it correct? And we will take the same approach with you. Sometimes comrades/organizations do change their line and practice to a degree that warrants splitting with them.
Advanced comrades should think about what a dividing line question is for them. This can help orientate you, and avoid subjectivism, when you find yourself questioning whether another group is an ally or not. See the article cited by Pili above for a discussion of cardinal principles and what we believe Maoists should and shouldn't divide over.
I just got done reading ULK 61 and I got to say it opened my eyes to a lot of stuff that I did as a gang member of Aryan Brotherhood in Texas to sex offenders coming into the system. When they came in, me and several other dudes would beat them up to "break them" and then would sell them to the butty bandits due to their crime of being labeled a sex offender.
The system would not attempt to protect them either, due to the label they had on them as a sex offender. So we had free reign to punish them as we seen fit. But nowadays I look back on the stuff that I did and can see the big errors of my ways.
I ran into a dude down in the state hospital that was just about dead of AIDS that he got due to the actions of me and some other dudes breaking him. I was going for breaking my hand in a fight and saw the death wagon pull up and unload two AIDS patients, and one dude seen me and called out my name and asked me if I was still breaking in sex offenders and if so to look at him and see what it causes.
I was like "Dude I do not know you or want to know you either." He told me where I beat him up and sold him, and it blew my mind. I had a lot of hate towards sex offenders when I came into this place and it has mellowed out over the last 34 years that I have been in prison. My baby sister was assaulted by her friend's father, so the issue of sex offenders is personal to me.
When I started in the County Jail beating up sex offenders for something to do, the Sheriff would tell the jailers to put anyone that came into the jail on my tan and tell me in front of the dude what he was in the jail for. I look back on it now and I am coming to the realization that they were using me to punish the dudes that were charged with sexual assault.
One dude, I broke his jaw in two places due to his granddaughter saying he touched her in a private spot. Come to find out it was a lie because she was mad at him for grounding her for the weekend.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not attempting to brag about it, just am showing the length of time and intensity that I have been blinded by the system to do their work, and now I'm starting to understand the system. What made me wake up is one of my brothers got charged with sexual assault/harassment for grabbing his croch and telling a chick to suck is dic- as he left school. Since he made a crude gesture towards her she said she felt violated. He was on a ten-year probation so he got violated for the gesture and came to prison for it. And yes he has to register as a level 1 tier offender due to him being mad about getting kicked out of school for a 3-day period.
Each case is different so you got to look at all of the facts. If you go blindly as I did for years upon years you are no better than the ones you are jumping on, due to the fact that you are siding with the oppressors and are holding down your own people. Yes I am fully aware that there are some sexual offenses that are true crimes and they need all that they get and ten fold more heaped on top of it if they are truly guilty of the crime of sexual assault on a woman or child.
But before you lace up the steeltoe boots and put your pistols on gloves to beat up a sex offender, make sure it's a true crime and one that deserve the punishment that you are fixin to hand out. If not you're just working for the system that you are claiming to work against. You cannot pull both ways at once or you go no place at all.
I used to beat up the dudes, now I try to help them with their cases due to the fact that a lot of them are not able to get help in the law library because they have ask a law clerk to help get a case cite and his first question is "what you charged with?" And he will go to the law books and look up your case, and if you do not pass his smell test he will not help you, or he will tell you the case cite you're asking about is not in the law library, or throw your request slip away and say he never got it at all.
Look at it like this, what if you're with a girl and you're going at it and she says "stop"? If you move forward one more time you have just committed sexual assault.
So before you say it will not happen to you, you got to look at it with your eyes open and see the whole picture and not just what the state wants to show you. So think about all the forms that you may have been labeled a sex offender in the past and then you can get over the stink of the name and start to see the person and not the label that the state has put on a person. Most I can work around because I was a dirty dog in the world and could have been charged a few times too. But the main issue is we need to stop letting the state do our thinking for us and take back our minds from the system. You can handcuff my body but I refuse to let you handcuff my mind any longer.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer has learned through practice pretty much everything we've been saying about sex crimes. This is an impressive transformation, and we hope ey has also transformed eir thinking about oppressed nations over many years behind bars.
It's true that a lot of people have committed sex crimes but not been caught. Men are taught to be "dirty dogs" as this writer says. That's why the revolutionary movement will need to do a lot of work reforming thinking and rehabilitating. Not just those with sex charges, but everyone raised in this messed up system. As we discuss in the "Punishment vs. Rehabilitation" article, we can do some of this rehabilitating now, but we will focus our energy and time on those who recognize their mistakes and crimes and want to make a change and committ to serving the people.