Since early April there have been at least three prisoners shot, all in the head/face, and other shots fired resulting in lockdowns, two institutional lockdowns, and a number of pig assaults on prisoners including one in the seg unit I was released from and two on prisoners in the unit where I am currently housed. Most recently (last week) a Black comrade was assaulted in retaliation for exercising his first amendment right to expose pig misconduct. All of these assaults have been on Black prisoners by white pigs.
Amidst the above the food issue has been revived but has met textbook excuses - all of which boil down to:
A prevailing sense of hopelessness among prisoners here
A prevailing attitude of complacency among prisoners here and
Fear of retaliation against prisoners here
The common factor? The state of mind of prisoners.
The Texas brothers demonstrated that victories are possible even with the grievance system, and history teaches us that: "In all ages and under all circumstances there will always exist abundant reasons not to fight but that will be the only way not to obtain victory." (Fidel Castro)
History teaches us that our victories are always the result of the work of a few against the many. It teaches us that we will never be a majority so we must fight that much harder and with greater determination and not allow few numbers and temporary failures to terminate the struggle. At this moment there are a few of us here fighting for proper food, proper medical treatment, and an end to staff abuse, assaults and retaliation and theft/censorship of mail. We are simultaneously trying to bring unity within the prisoner class. This will not happen today, but there is always tomorrow, as our Texas brothers so accurately noted in ULK 32, we are all fighting for tomorrow.
First I got a response from the third level (Sacramento), J.D. Lozano (chief), saying they received my complaint. I had checked 3 boxes in the petition for: 1) screening out appeals to delay, 2) detaching documents and refusing to process 602 due to missing documents, and 3) using dishonesty to screen out 602s. In fact one 602 filed kept getting sent back for 3 months until I had to water it down!
A while later I was interviewed by a Lt. E. Noyce. Word is he was a former IGI (Institutional Gang Investigation). Well at first he asked me about the grievance petition: where did I get this "form" and did I make it. He had never seen it before so it astounded him that a prisoner could get something like this. After this he went on a tirade saying the people who sent me this are making money and I should have sent this petition to the institution appeal coordinator instead of Internal Affairs, and how I should just ask staff to "solve" the problem. That is the problem, but he's too deep in oppression to care. Finally he told me I am not a lawyer.
When I was returned to my cell I wrote to internal affairs again but this time I put it on an Inmate 22 Request Form. This way I can have a copy of what was said and if they didn't act I could move forward with 'legal' action. Always leave a paper trail!
I wrote internal affairs and told them that Lt E. Noyce had intimidated me, chilled my right to redress or file a grievance and I'd like to talk to someone from internal affairs. Days passed by and I was approached by a Sgt. and asked if I'd like to add anything to my "citizen complaint." I told him that everything's on the paper.
So to wrap this up the petition seems to rattle some piggy nerves. I recommend it to be used when applicable. And at least here in Tehachapi we're getting responses now.
MIM(Prisons) responds: It is interesting that the interview of the prisoner included a criticism of him for not being a lawyer. That's the point of the grievance petition: it makes these battles accessible to prisoners who don't need to know the details of the law. This is a key contribution that jailhouse lawyers participating in the Prisoners Legal Clinic can make to United Struggle from Within organizing work. If there is no petition for your state, write to us to get a sample that you can customize for use there.
We know these individual battles to address grievances will only gain small victories, at best. But the fight to improve conditions for prisoners, especially conditions that impede prisoner's ability to organize and educate themselves and others, is a critical part of building the anti-imperialist movement. Through campaigns like this one we plug new comrades into broader education and ultimately build communist leaders.
Recently a fellow prisoner told me he had heard that Nevada was the only state in which a CO had never been killed. Knowing that I have more than 3 decades in this system, he asked if this was true. I looked back and had to admit despite hundreds of assaults, attacks, hostage situations, takeovers, etc., I could not recall one CO being killed, ever.
Up until Nevada State Prison (NSP) closed (2011-12) it was the oldest prison still in use in the united states. The building in which the first experimental execution with gas occurred (on a cat) still stands as a testament to the gravity of the statements above.
In the early 1980s NSP received attention on "Good Morning America" as the most dangerous prison in the continental united states. This was true for prisoners only (apparently), who've died by the score.
I arrived in 1979 and the two dominating prison-formed organizations were well established, all other groups were extensions of existent street organizations. These two prison-formed orgs were based on racially charged genesis mythologies of defense from other prisoners.
The COs tended to "turn a blind eye" to, or participate in, prisoner-on-prisoner violence out of fear of retaliation or through "negotiation." Prisoners also turned a blind eye to, or participated in, guard-on-prisoner violence/oppression in return for concessions, creating an environment which thrived on the victimization of prisoners facilitated by guard/prisoner cadres. This relationship still exists in Nevada, though less visible.
Many prisoners have been killed, assaulted and raped at the hands and/or instigation of COs, myself included.
The point of this is that, historically, Nevada prisoners organize on one of two opposing platforms: 1) persynal defense/safety 2) profit. Some combine these two and others degenerate from the former to the latter. This approach inevitably results in a contradiction of defense vs. predation with the consequence of a self-perpetuating condition of disunity among prisoners, due to the self-replicating nature of these positions.
In Nevada this is an entrenched proxy of the prison political landscape which must be dismantled.
Alongside the two groups above, there have formed new organizations whose lines continue to define fellow prisoners as enemies or potential victims. In such a climate, racial polarization is inevitable in the defense camp and predatory capitalist expansion is inevitable in the profit camp.
These philosophies embrace, advocate and promote a prisoner vs. prisoner paradigm, a mirror image of the Amerikkkan/prison paradigm used to oppress the masses and to prevent organizing among prisoners. By making prisoners impotent, it facilitates their continued oppression and the violence and exploitation visited upon them, their families, and community by the state.
It was against this background that SAMAEL emerged in defense against the state and it is against this background that Nevada prisoners are oppressed today. It is time for Nevada prisoners to wake up to the reality of our mutual conditions. We reject the prisoner vs. prisoner paradigm out-of-hand and refuse to cooperate, facilitate, or participate in our abuse, oppression and genocide, or that of others. We are calling on all Nevada prisoners to join us in:
Organizing for our mutual defense against our mutual enemy, the state, by opening dialogue and forming alliances with all fellow prisoners to address conditions of confinement as a single body.
Ending all inter-tribal disputes by adopting the agreement to end hostilities as proposed by the PBSP-SHU short corridor collective. This should include all facilities in Nevada and all custody levels in these facilities striving to expand this initiative beyond prison walls and into our respective communities.
Rejecting all racial, gender, sexual, religious and custody divisions as counter-revolutionary distractions. The enemy does not limit its capabilities based on these distinctions and we must stop allowing these distinctions to be an exploitable weapon against us. Our weakness is their strength.
Ending prisoner-on-prisoner predation. While Nevada prisoners are victimizing and exploiting each other, the state is fomenting and capitalizing on this disunity to further abuse and oppress us. Do not assist this process through inaction or abuse and oppression of fellow prisoners.
Breaking silence: when a CO mistreats you, grieve it. Put it on paper and into a public forum. When a CO mistreats a fellow prisoner, step up and back their play. Put it in writing and get it into a public forum. The COs back each others' play without question and we must do the same. We will only be oppressed further by enabling them with silence, and they are exploiting this reluctance to speak up. Every voice counts (see addresses below)
Back up the California comrades. It is not just their struggle — many prisoners in Nevada have been segregated/tortured for decades and their voices are not being heard. We must speak for them because all prisoners are united by captivity, suffering and oppression.
Nevada prisoners must unite against our captors and stop enabling and assisting in our own destruction.
Expose abuses to:
NV-CURE, 540 E. St. Louis Ave, Las Vegas, NV 89104 Jonathan Smith, Chief, Civil Rights Div U.S. Dept of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave N.W., Washington DC 20530
MIM(Prisons) adds: Also send your reports on abuse to MIM(Prisons) for publication in Under Lock and Key!
According to Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (N.P.T.), all signatory member nations possess the "inalienable right" to "develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination."(1) As a signatory nation, the Islamic Republic of Iran is entitled to this most basic right, just like any other nation. However, the United $tates and its allies are seeking to infringe upon and limit Iran's right to produce nuclear energy for civilian purposes, asserting that the Iranian government is using its civilian nuclear program as a smokescreen for an alleged covert nuclear weapons program.(2) These assertions are backed by no credible evidence, just the assurances of the U.$. and Israeli governments respectively. It is further insinuated that once Iran develops nuclear weapons, it will certainly use them to "wipe Israel off the map of nations,"(3) presenting an existential threat to the Jewish people.
Despite the belligerent public tone of the U.$. government, however, its intelligence community has consistently reported to Congress that Iran's military strategy is strictly geared towards "deterrence, asymmetric retaliation, and attrition warfare" (emphasis mine).(4) Even the U.$. National Intelligence Director, James Clapper, recently admitted to Congress that "we do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons" and implicitly confirmed that Iran is not presently seeking to do so because if it were, such activities would certainly be discovered by the "international community."(5) In spite of all this, President Obama maintains that "all options are on the table" to thwart Iran's nuclear program, with a military attack on Iran taking place as early as June 2013.(6) As we shall see, the United $tates is merely using Iran's nuclear program as a pretext to justify further military intervention in the region in a larger effort to redesign the landscape of the Middle East in order to secure the continued global hegemony of the U.$. empire. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United $tates remained standing as the world's lone superpower. In 1991, President Bush declared the establishment of a "New World Order," that is, a unipolar global system completely subjected to the imperial dictates of the United $tates and its junior partners.(7) Foreign policy experts and government policy think tanks immediately began mapping out blueprints for a new century of what can be called trilateral imperialism (the United $tates, Western Europe and Japan).(8)
To this end, the Bush I administration called for "the integration of the leading democracies into a U.$.-led system of collective security, and the prospects of expanding that system, [to] significantly enhance our international position and provide a crucial legacy for future peace."(9) Within this collective framework, the United $tates would act to "preclude any hostile power from dominating a region critical to our interests, and also thereby to strengthen the barriers against the reemergence of a global threat to the interests of the United States and our allies."(10) In other words, the First World should unite under the leadership of the United $tates to dominate and exploit the resources of the Third World (cheap labor, oil, cobalt, etc.), while preventing any other power from emerging which could disrupt this neocolonial relationship.
At the time, Russia was deemed to be the only military power capable of potentially deterring U.$. imperialism. Thus, during the late 1990s Council on Foreign Relations member and Clinton foreign policy advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski advised that Russia "ought to be isolated and picked apart" in order to extend "America's influence in the Caucasus region and Central Asia," both formerly under Russian control.(11) In doing so, the United $tates could secure its domination over Eurasia, long deemed to be the strategic "heartland" of global power.(12) The NATO-led "humanitarian intervention" in the former Yugoslavia during the late 1990s must be understood in this light.
The Middle East has long been assigned a very narrow role within the imperialist world system, being seen as "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history."(13) This is of course only because of the region's massive natural gas and oil reserves, which the United $tates considers to be vital to its national interests. U.$. foreign policy in the Middle East in the post-war period has been geared towards three main objectives: 1) securing and maintaining "an open door" for Western companies to the region's vast oil and gas reserves; 2) maintaining a "closed door" for potential rival powers (i.e., Russia and China) to Middle Eastern oil; and 3) preventing Middle Eastern "radical and nationalist regimes" from coming to power that might use their oil and gas resources for the "immediate improvement in the low living standards of the masses" and development for domestic needs.(14)
In the bipolar world of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was able to counter U.$. ambitions in the Middle East, supporting various secular nationalist regimes relatively hostile towards U.$. imperialism. After the collapse of the USSR and the subsequent isolation of Russia, however, the United $tates was in a position to fundamentally alter the political map of the Middle East so as to "ensure that the enormous profits of the energy system flow primarily to the United States, its British client, and their energy corporations, not to the people of the region" or potential rival powers.(15) It is in this light that we must view the recent wave of "humanitarian interventions" conducted by the United States and NATO in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the current confrontation with Iran.
In 2000, the Project for a New American Century published a report entitled "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century," which was extended and adopted as official national security policy in 2005. Drawing on the themes of the first Bush administration and Brzezinski, the report recommends that U.$. military forces become "strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States."(16) As noted above, there was nothing new in this goal of American hegemony per se, but what was new was the emphasis placed on "transforming" the political landscape of the Middle East. Due to the rise of Islamic terrorism and the stubborn existence of "rogue states," the "stability" of the Middle East, North Africa, and their oil reserves were deemed to be essential objectives of U.$. national security and foreign policy.
Using the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a pretext for this grand imperial project, the Bush administration outlined a list of seven "rogue states" targeted for regime change in order to secure de facto U.S. control over global oil supplies. Those seven countries were Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.(17) Of course, Iraq was invaded, occupied and "democratized" by the United $tates in 2003. The threat of Hezbollah in Lebanon has been satisfactorily neutralized as a result of Israel's 2006 invasion, the Jamahariya government of Libya was utterly destroyed by NATO and Al Qaeda in 2011, the Assad regime of Syria is on the verge of collapse today as it is under attack from NATO and its Islamic mercenary forces, while there are ongoing covert military operations being conducted against Somalia and the Sudan. Only Iran remains intact as a nation-state out of the seven countries targeted by the U.$. imperialists for regime change.
The current U.$. propaganda campaign would have us believe that the United $tates is targeting Iran because it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons with which it will destroy Israel. As we have seen however, U.$. intelligence — that is, the agencies responsible for obtaining such information — does not have strong evidence to prove that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. Further, in its assessment, Iran's military strategy is not geared towards aggression or the offensive, but strictly deterrence and defense. Therefore, there must be some other reasons why the United $tates is gearing up for war against Iran.
In light of U.$. policy objectives to dominate global oil supplies and to subvert or overthrow "nationalist regimes" that seek to use their natural resources to benefit their domestic populations or to promote independent development, it should be fairly obvious that Iran is a target because its oil is nationalized and it pursues a program of independent development. Indeed, when Iran first nationalized its oil in 1953 under Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, the CIA and British MI6 quickly organized a coup d'etat to overthrow Mosaddegh and reprivatize Iranian oil.(18) The oil industry wasn't nationalized again until the 1979 Islamic revolution, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, which quickly set Iran on a path of independent nationalist development.
Also of grave concern to the United $tates is Iran's growing commercial and economic relations with Russia and China. Iran exports 22% of its oil exports to China,(19) while it has cultivated a strong economic relationship with Russia on various fronts, especially in military equipment and nuclear infrastructure.(20) The Iranian regime's independence from Washington has afforded Russia and China a foot in the door of the Middle East, which hinders the ability of the United $tates to completely dominate the region and prevent the rise of potential rival hegemons in the world system, perhaps the greatest threat posed by Iran.
Iran itself is deemed as a threat to U.$. interests in the Middle East, as it is devoted to "countering U.S. influence" and becoming a regional dominator.(21) To this end, Iran has been fostering political, economic and security ties with other actors in the region, appealing to Islamic solidarity and resistance to imperialism. Iran has become influential in both Iraq and Afghanistan, undermining U.$. objectives in those countries, and has maintained its support for the Assad regime in Syria, thwarting NATO's efforts there.(22) All of these factors make Iran a formidable obstacle to U.$. objectives in the Middle East, halting Washington's ability to totally redesign the political landscape of the region.
Iran also gives financial and military support to various politico-military organizations in the region. As the United $tates considers many of these organizations "terrorists," Iran is then a "state sponsor of terrorism." Most of its support is channeled to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Both of these groups are opposed to the Zionist colonization of Palestine and to U.$. imperialism in the region more generally. Through Hezbollah and Hamas, Iran is able to exert its influence in the Middle East, creating political "destabilization" in Lebanon and Palestine.(23) The continued existence of such armed groups is considered a threat to U.$. objectives in the region and is another main reason why the United $tates is seeking to attack Iran.
When we place the current threats towards Iran in their proper geopolitical and historical context, it becomes clear that Iran's nuclear program is not the real reason why the imperialists are gearing up to attack it. In fact, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the alleged threat posed by Iran's nuclear program is merely a propaganda fabrication designed to garner popular support for the immanent invasion of Iran, similar to the lie that Saddam Hussein possessed "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. In truth, Iran was targeted for regime change at least ten years ago, but because of its resistance to the "Washington Consensus," its economic nationalism, its growing commercial and economic ties to Russia and China, its potential to become a regional authority, and its support of politico-military organizations opposed to the United $tates and Israel, not because of its nuclear program.
The drums of war are now beating in the United $tates as Washington prepares to launch the final phase of its grand strategy to remake the Middle East. This plan is merely one component of a much larger plan to maintain the world system of trilateral imperialism. In order to maintain the global supremacy of the West, the United $tates and its junior partners are determined to prevent the rise of Russia and China to hegemonic status. Thus, an attack on Iran will surely be viewed as an indirect attack on both Russia and China. A war on Iran may very well quickly escalate into a global military conflagration, consuming other states in the region, as well as Russia and China. To prevent such a scenario from unfolding, academics and intellectuals must dispel the propaganda about Iran's nuclear program and expose the imperialist ambitions behind the U.$. government's agenda to the Amerikan people.
As all oppressed nations within the U.$. injustice system know there is no such thing as justice or rehabilitation, let alone rights!
In prison is where we see fascism getting out at its harshest.(1) Recently governor Jerry Brown spoke about how prisoners' lawsuits are costing the tax payers (parasites) money.(2) We should know better than this as it's a coverup to implement more restricted measures in prison. Not only is he seeking support to curb lawsuits but now Brown wants to implement policies limiting what prisoners can actually sue about. Like an enemy telling his combatant he can only shoot at the ground. Perhaps the recent events of prisoners waking up has caused prisoncrats to put a gag order on us. If tax payers really want to save money they should realize how much more officers (pigs) get paid for working in the SHU (ASU, PSU) than working in general population.
As a comrade wrote in ULK 30 about a case concerning the suppression of Black Panther literature, (Tani Toston v. Muchael Thurmer et al. no#10 cv 288) "The ruling is a joke and more about suppression and control." Here in California the state apparatus is gearing up for repression and suppression of our so-called "freedom of speech." This time they are attacking our right to redress a grievance. Prisoners should be aware of the consequences this plan can have on our fight against repression. Once this policy is implemented it'll be much more difficult to rectify issues we face. Of course when push comes to shove the state will not hold back to silence the resisters, as the Attica prison rebellion has shown us.
Time should be taken to study and realize the hows and whys. Giving them an inch will only do us harm and further sink us into the hole of doom. Combating the issue of censorship should be one of the top issues we fight right now.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Jerry Brown knows how to rally the Amerikan tax payer against the imprisoned lumpen. Not a difficult task we might add. The federal government already passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act in 1996, which severely restricted prisoners' ability to file lawsuits. Yet Brown claims California still can't afford the lawsuits that make it past these restrictive measures. He claims lawyers are just scouring prisons looking for problems. Well, MIM Distributors was officially banned from sending mail to prisoners locked up by the CDCR for years, a ban that still comes back to haunt us every so often, by bureaucrats who didn't get the memo that it ended in 2008. Yet no lawyers came out of the woodwork to fight for our constitutional right to free speech (Brown claims these constitutional issues are easy money). And we've got a long line of prisoners with serious grievances, of not just censorship but physical abuse and neglect, who would love to talk to these lawyers looking for this supposed easy money. We'd be happy to put them in touch.
My security level was recently lowered and I was immediately assigned as an inmate orderly, to my chagrin. It is like a trustee who works on an assigned cell block, and I know of all the pigs' malicious intent of using certain prisoner orderlies as tools. Tools used to hurt other prisoners.
I got my block assignment and was given the usual lecture about all the things I could not do — basically anything that would ease my fellow prisoners plight/suffering. I politely related to this sergeant, while maintaining every intent to help those confined on this segregated cell block. I was not too long ago confined behind the door, so it was an obvious obligation to do so.
Anyway, that was Wednesday. By Sunday, another shift tried to enlist me as a complicit to starve an individual prisoner, to which I declined. But, the other orderly slaving with me agreed to help. Through intimidation I was able to persuade this orderly to do otherwise.
I warned the target of the pig's intent and, days later, the other prisoner about the plot against them. Well, this orderly informed the pigs that I was alerting all targeted prisoners. So the pigs tried, through aggressive body language, to scare me. The pigs claimed that I wasn't playing with the team, blah, blah. Took all my property and locked me down pending trumped up disciplinary charges.
A few days later, the other punk ass orderly gives another inmate an empty food tray. This prisoner did not take it lightly. The target became disorderly — and rightly so. This led to the individual being administered chemical agents. And he refused to tap out after several rounds of being gassed. Dude forced the pigs to run the cell extraction team, which beat this man stupid. Eight on one.
All because of a stool pigeon. Shit crazy.
Even more crazy, I receive a kite from someone who was my neighbor before classification made me an orderly. The kite informed that the day after I left the cell block, a white shirt and four officers popped up at the cell with a minicam. Long story short, the pigs were coming with the intent to inflict bodily harm. The veracity of the event was confirmed by an affiliate.
They missed me by one day!
My belief is this was planned because I was part of a core group which gave voice to the rampant pig violence towards prisoners.
Well comrades after months of trying to get the grievance department to produce a grievance that they insisted was returned, the truth has come out! In June 2012 I was housed on C-wing on Estelle Unit High Security which is located in Huntsville, Texas. At the time, my cell and many others were infested with roaches, every meal was served cold, and the smell of sewage was extremely pervasive. I and a fellow comrade filed a Step 1 (I-127) grievance.
Unit Grievance Investigator Mr. Allen Hartley lied to me, his co-worker Ms. Monica Nichols, and numerous other TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) employees and insisted that he returned my Step 1 with response on August 22, 2012. However, I never received it. A TDCJ employee told me that Mr. Allen Hartley has a "special relationship" with the prison administration on the High Security Unit in which he has agreed to destroy any offender grievances which may shed a negative light on the High Security administration.
On October 22, 2012 I sent a grievance petition courtesy of USW-MIM(Prisons) to Senator John Whitmire who happens to be the Chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee in the Texas state legislature. I requested that the senator have someone investigate my "mysterious" disappearing grievance. I also addressed the cold-substandard meals served on the entire unit, rampant racism among officers, and administration, as well as the collusive and conspiratorial relationship that exists between unit grievance investigator Mr. Allen Hartley and Assistant Warden Steven T. Miller and Major David M. Forrest (bonfire Klansman extraordinaire). The USW Grievance Petition does an excellent job of articulating the true nature of the problem here in Texas. Our due process rights are being trampled on and we can't get fair and unbiased resolution of our grievances under the current system (period).
Comrades I am glad to report that the food service department at Estelle Unit - High Security has been issued "Hot-Carts" which really keep our food hot/warm! The portions have improved a little and so has the quality. We even get salt and pepper once a week. This may not be fantastic in some prisoners eyes but it is progress. I believe it was a collective effort by a small group of motivated comrades who got tired of being treated like sub-humyns.
In reference to the grievance problem, the central grievance office wrote me and stated that the grievance in question has been "lost." They offered me the opportunity to re-submit the grievance. However, they failed to address the main root of the problem and that is Mr. Allen Hartley's blatant disregard of the U.S. Constitution! This is not the first time that these prisoncrats have played this game. This is an ongoing problem. Their actions have rendered the grievance process ineffective. So with that being said, I have filed a complaint with the Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division - utilizing the grievance petition as my guide.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We currently have grievance petitions for many states. Write to us for a copy and if you are in a state not currently covered by the grievance campaign, we will send you a template for the petitions and you can look up citations and policies specific to your state for reference. If you do this research and send us what needs to be rewritten for your particular state, we will gladly send an edited, accurate copy back to you.
I agree with the broad definition of political prisoners as announced in MIM Theory 11: Amerikan Prisons on Trial (article "Political Prisoners Revisited") precisely because courts are maintained as a tool of political oppression and inseparable from political oppression. Thus the political component is inseparable from those who become further oppressed by imprisonment. The hierarchy of society, cops, courts and state is one of a functioning cadre in this country.
I also understand the distinctions this comrade makes between inmates, convicts and the rest — an inmate is the prison version of the "sleeping masses," but whether or not these people recognize their oppression does not determine whether they are oppressed. And we can't forget that distinctions such as inmate, convict, POW, PPOW, PP, PS, GP are meaningless outside of the prison context, rendering these issues inapplicable to society.
In terms of the bigger fight for prison revolutionaries, these labels are also somewhat moot outside of a strategic context as well; everyone will get the benefits brought about by revolutionary action or they will simply be "washed away when the dam breaks."
What was missed is part of a larger problem (largely analytical). Whether one is or is not a political prisoner speaks directly to the conditions which led to one becoming a member of their class (under the broad definition), but not the class perception and what it means, nor what to do as a member of that class. The political conditions of our confinement being a given, our focus, especially insofar as making revolution is concerned, should not be on whether or not one is a political prisoner, but rather if one, as a prisoner, is political (i.e. moved to political action). If we must distinguish between members of the same class (i.e. prisoners), and to a certain extent we must in order to accurately assess conditions on the ground, then let it be a functional distinction which advances the revolution as a whole.
Subcategories of class must be used in such a way that it produces knowledge, not conjecture. Even an "inmate" can be turned to use. Further, people change and there's no way to know the moment of awakening of political consciousness in others without objective observation. By assigning static labels and categories, we limit our objectivity.
I wholeheartedly agree with this comrade: there are many tactics which can be tailored to circumstance but the labor of these tactics is necessarily dispersed to many people of differing skill sets and levels of political awareness; some are dupes, others are not, some are soldiers, others are tacticians and printers.
Finally, I believe a common mistake we all make as revolutionaries is to become solipsistic. We forget that not everyone wants change or revolution; some are satisfied with their condition. In prison or out, this distinguishes one as counter-revolutionary. This distinction is functional and applies to society without getting bogged down in specific labels. It is part of the equation we must, as revolutionaries, deal with, but in the end, revolution depends on maximizing our resources, exploiting the weaknesses of our enemy and most important, unification of the people.
I recently read about the "agreement to end hostilities" and seen this as an essential step forward for prisoners but a step that will include many more steps in the future if prisoners are to truly take back our humynity not just in California but in prisons across the United $tates. Although I support the original five demands and will continue to do so along with any future demands for justice I felt the need to add to the dialogue and perhaps bring some other ideas to the scene. What I noticed from the five demands and many other proposals being kicked around is the absence of the very core of our oppression - the SHU itself. What we have learned since the initial strike was that many civil rights groups and people around the world see the SHU itself as torture, all or most of what is being asked for i.e. contact visits, phone calls, cellies etc. can be granted were it not for SHU. Even things like validation and debriefing etc. become easier to combat when the SHU is out of the picture so it is the SHU itself that becomes the kernel of our oppression in regards to the prison movement in general and the current struggle we are facing in Pelican Bay. This is why any proposals should have at the forefront the demand to close the SHUs! How can we talk of justice or prisoner rights without calling for an end to housing prisoners for any reason in these concentration camps? It's like saying "you can water board me but can we listen to a better radio station while you do it?" No other country is doing what Amerika does with the SHU on this scale but it is ultimately up to us whether we steer the prison movement on a real path of transformation or limit any changes to what amount to mild reforms.
Many struggles throughout history that dealt with prisoners gained far more than what has currently been proposed in our situation. A couple of situations that quickly come to mind are the Puerto Rican revolutionary group Macheteros who were arrested in the 1960s for acts against Amerika in their quest for independence. Well it came out via Freedom of Information Act years later that the national security advisor was on record saying the Macheteros should be released because of the protests and support and how these protests do not look good for Amerika in the eyes of the world. This is on record and the Macheteros were released. They were released from prison and linked to bombings and other acts against the U.$. Government
Another group of prisoners were the Red Army Faction of Germany who were in prison for acts against the government; bombings, cop killings, murders of politicians, etc. When this group was arrested they were housed in a specially constructed area of the prison - kinda like the short corridor - and were in solitary confinement and not allowed to come in any contact with any other prisoners but through hunger strikes and supporters out in society raising awareness about their treatment they were finally granted yard time with each other and better treatment after a year or two of constant struggle. My main thrust here is that if those who were assassinating government officials, judges etc., in an attempt to overthrow the government were able to overturn the isolation and draconian treatment surely we can as well!
In beginning to grapple with our oppression and find the best method of resistance we must first understand the origins of our oppression. One cannot move forward with a correct game plan without knowing ones opponent. When a boxer is about to fight a formidable opponent what does he/she do? Well they watch the videos of the opponents fights in order to understand the opponents strengths and weaknesses thus preparing oneself for a proper offensive. We must also do our homework on this current anti-SHU struggle, things like where the SHU came from, why is it used so much by Amerika - more so than in other countries, who controls such a system? We must identify our opponent if we want to more forward.
We know the SHU and all prisons are a part of the "state" apparatus, but who controls the state? The ruling class is not including the people (the poor people) it is the rich who run things. These rich, or capitalists, have developed into what Lenin defined as "imperialism" which is simply capitalism on steroids, it is economic exploitation on a global scale. So the state and thus prisons are run according to what is in the interest of this ruling class. Prisoners in general are not profitable to this ruling class as most prisoners derive from what Lenin defined as the "lumpen proletariat" which is basically the underclass or can better be defined in the United $tates as simply the "Lumpen" which are prisoners, the unemployed, those caught up in crime, etc. Most lumpen don't work or pay taxes so to the ruling class the lumpen are just taking up space and not helping the wheels turn in the economy. But more importantly, the lumpen are a potential revolutionary force as this is the natural order of repression inviting resistance. Whenever one is being smothered the natural reaction is to struggle to breathe. Our acts of resistance in the 2011 strikes clearly proved this to be true.
There are many phenomenon that occur that are long held communist principles that may be practiced today by many prisoners without ever knowing their origins. We must use these tools to gain victory in our current situation, one such tool is historical materialism which is used to transform things in the material world. It does this by understanding historical events and processes which created a specific reality. In our current struggle in order to change or transform our torture conditions in SHU we would first have to understand the process of what brought the SHU itself to be created. When we understand it was the state and ultimately the ruling class which created the means to throw away vast swaths of the population and smother any embers of resistance then we'll know we won't change things simply by picketing around a prison or filing a lawsuit because we are up against something more sinister than simply "tough laws." Marxism is a method not dogma and so it is fluid and continues to find new responses in its interactions with the material world, so it will continue to be applied to different phenomenon. Although asking the state for changes is cool and must be done, the more crucial change must come from within one's own approach to our oppression, we are deprived of so much but the most vital opportunities are low hanging fruit, these being opportunities in the theoretical realm. The truth is we can't "change the system" and by system I mean capitalist Amerika which runs prisons and SHUs, it is all in the state apparatus so it is one and the same - in prison lingo it is one "car." We can't change the system we must rip it out by its roots, dismantle it in order for true change to occur. To really believe we can change this system is to take a stance as the democrats who think change comes out of the voting system via reforms.
The task we have ahead of all of us held in U.$. prisons is a real uphill battle that is in sync - even if we don't realize it - with many other struggles aimed at the U.$. empire not just in the United $tates but globally. While our effort is different in many ways, we should face this effort like a guerrilla war. Rather than a passive state, guerrilla warfare is a combination of defense and offense in our pursuit of victory but our initial victory should be to unmask the brutal dictatorship of the state and deny it the ability to operate cloaked in secrecy. Let us strip it bare and display its most grotesque parts to society. In doing this let every dungeon where conditions have peaked to intolerable proportions raise the banner of resistance in regards to material conditions, in this way we will expose the contradictions in "American democracy" while obtaining small gains to our conditions. What occurs in our living conditions is worse than what we even realize. Even though most have grown accustomed to SHU, it is not norma. People are social animals. Our entire existence as people is to interact with others, our senses demand this, it is a dialectic which exists on reacting to people and the environment and when all sensory input is deprived it works against our very being, i.e. it destroys us, dehumanizes us.
Lastly, although I would of course always like to hear editors of publications ramble about what some have referred to as "commie rhetoric" I would much rather hear a prisoner's perspective on communist principles or how they apply to the prison movement in general or the anti-SHU struggle in particular. But one cannot discuss "prisoner rights" without discussing prisoner oppression and thus what is behind prisoner oppression (capitalism). Today's society profit is put ahead of the people as far as education, food, land, etc and thus crime rises then our next natural step is finding an alternative society where prisons and SHUs are not used as concentration camps. The only society that would really truly change the system is a socialist system — to deny this is to deny history.
We can't afford for prisoners to sacrifice their lives because self-appointed vanguards refuse to do a little philosophic/scientific homework and make a few minor adjustments to our current path. We're pursuing what is essentially a tactical issue of reforming the validation process as if it were a strategic resolution to abolishing social-extermination of indefinite isolation. This is not a complex issue to understand, and it requires a minimal amount of study at most to understand that the validation process is secondary and is a policy external to the existence of the isolation facilities. It's not difficult to comprehend that external influences create the conditions for change but real qualitative change comes from within, and to render the validation process, program failure, the new step down program, etc, obsolete, and end indefinite isolation, requires an internal transformation of the isolation facilities (SHU and Ad-Seg) themselves. Otherwise, in practice, social extermination retains continuity under a new external label. Appearance is reformed, hence the suffix "re", while the essential composition (contradictions) is unchanged. Do you fix a bad motor on a car by altering its appearance with a new paint job? It might look nice, but it's still the same motor.
I don't know if these "representatives" are just refusing to consider anything else, if they are making a conscious decision to hear the sound of their own voices only, or if they believe that to acknowledge a need for course adjustments will discredit them. They hold power in here, but it's a power held through threat of force, and most youngsters aspire to this, or those who don't, understandably keep their mouths zipped. Either way, because of this power, they're not used to hearing the truth, but praise form the brown-nosers who tell them what they think they want to hear and tell them what will benefit them. This only hinders the accuracy of their analysis. This refusal to be more receptive and adjust course where necessary based on an application of dialectical materialism is going to cost us lives pursuing an incorrect course. Our victories are superficial and exist more in appearance than anything. They are privileges, rights that we already had coming to us, so what appears as a victory is really implementing our established rights (abstractly anyhow), without actually making essential progress. It's a vehicle to distract us without actually conceding essential transformations. And these are, and will be, reversible.
Although it is dangerous, and all it takes is for the current so-called reps to openly denounce any true vanguard, all others will accept this proclamation, and the true vanguard will be discredited and hit first opportunity. So a true vanguard must tread very carefully to build large scale support with their ideas and education. But what's of greatest importance, it must be done in the interest of all! As we, you and I, know, a vanguard is not someone, a program, philosophic logic, etc, that appoints itself, it is the most advanced line and it must be complemented with a corresponding practice. As Lenin and Joe Steel said, "there can be no theory there can be no movement" Just as a "movement is necessary to develop theory upon." Obviously, I'm paraphrasing but the point is evident.
I'm convinced we need to circulate a few pamphlets that serve an educational purpose, but more importantly, function as an outline. And if necessary, appeal to convict mass to launch our own hunger strike, one or two at a time. Write up our own list of demands - tables in each pod, phones, bars, cellies, dayroom time for social intercourse, demands that can all be achieved by a victorious struggle for "association" based on U.S. constitutional rights and UN Geneva conventions (for publicity). To implement "association" (social intercourse) would necessitate the peripheral demands above and thus qualitatively change the isolation units from within as we currently know them.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Control Units are isolation cells within prisons where people are confined to small cells for long periods of time. Control units are a common tool of repression throughout the Amerikan prison system, frequently used to target prisoners who are actively fighting for their rights. They target Black, Latino and indigenous people who are a disproportionate part of control unit populations.
As a part of our ongoing campaign to shut down the control units, we fight for reforms to give our comrades in indefinite isolation some improved conditions, especially when these reforms are focused on better enabling their political study and organizing. We recognize that some reforms may mean the difference between physical or mental health or serious illness. But we agree with this author that we need to fight the attempts by proponents of the criminal injustice system to paint a happy face on long-term isolation and call that "reform." It is only by ending long term isolation completely will we actually win this battle.