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[Civil Liberties] [Security]
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Birthday Cards to Prisoners Tie Up FBI

For years, MIM(Prisons) and others have agitated around the point that people are getting indeterminate sentences in torture cells in California based on things like birthday cards. Today, Sacramento Prisoner Support made public some Freedom of Information Act documents from the FBI showing that people on the outside can also be targeted for who they send birthday cards to.

The gang investigation unit in California, IGI, has already made efforts to identify people working with MIM(Prisons), so this is nothing new or surprising. But we point to it to remind people of two lessons. First, security is important at every stage and in everything you do when dealing with the imperialist state because they are watching. Second, when the FBI has to file a report every time comrades get a letter or birthday card, that is resources being taken away from other intelligence work. Some people view efforts developing better security as taking away from "real" political work. But examples like this show that security work in itself is a blow to imperialism by utilizing resources that could be used against the Third World. Of course, anyone who doesn't take security seriously will never accomplish what we really need to do to end oppression anyway.

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[Organizing] [Security] [California]
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Special Needs Yard debate continues

Response to SNY critic article published in the July/August 2010 ULK, #15, p.5

As is typical, I have ruffled some feathers on the SNY yard when I pointed out my personal sentiments regarding the SNY/general population issue. I criticized both SNY/GP as a matter of fact and the SNY cat asked what have I personally done. He would have to look up this history of John Q. Convict, an aka I have written under in various publications and prison news letters. I have blisters on my fingers from doing others' legal work and appeals as well as writing about what I experience and see. I am again on my way back to the SHU till I am paroled since I am not nor have I ever been one to be a passive submissive sheep nor am I in competition with anyone, I just keep it real.

It's ironic but I have had five CDCR numbers and I have experienced a lot. Maybe I am crazy to rather go to the SHU than exist on an SNY yard but I started doing time in the 70s and prisoners were a lot different then. The misconception I see in the term "active" as that is a prisoncrat designation of gang members (prison/street). Read the regulations of the CDCR and you know. I have never been one to tell on myself yet I see prisoners do it all the time enhancing CDCR/California Department of Justice investigatorial files that exist, yet we will never access, as one can other confidential files via court order.

Do not get me mixed up, I am not "active," I am "General Population" and I have seen how the California prisoner culture has succumbed to the tyranny of the prisoncrats with a whisper. Yes some get frightened and are keen to become SNY and bow to a perceived necessity in what I believe to be a misguided belief that such necessity forces conformity and that conformity allows for stability in which some can enjoy the "privileges" of visiting, canteen, telephones, packages. They are not rights that are guaranteed by the constitution. I elect to not conform in this prison environment.

I am a dissident who stands out and I am easily branded and locked back down but they always got to let me back out. I do not get visits or have money sent to me by choice, it's so I do not subject my family to the harassment that visiting presents, and the CDCR does not collect 55% of every dollar my family sends to me. I tried to point out that we prisoners are all victims of picklesuit tyranny, and yes I feel like those who volunteer to go to SNY have abandoned the struggle to a certain extent. I see the victims of the picklesuits assume the face of the tyrants, be they GP/SNY self-righteous and intransigent, while assisting the picklesuits instigate conflicts.

There is not a lockdown situation in the state of California that I have not experienced, and I do not confuse unity with conformity. I have always believed that prisoners should unite around principals. I have recently been labeled a "terrorist" I am an activist and it is frustrating as hell to try and pull the coats of those in these prisons who have submitted knowingly and unknowingly.

I see that there is the need for the mending of broken spirits on both sides of the California prison divide which is no easy task since it will require the prison population to reshape itself and refuse the gratuitous gifts and reject the privileges used to co-op prisoners as well as the elimination of it being all about self. Prisons use prisoners working in the kitchen or selling out for a fix/hit of dope, utilizing that instinctual will to survive. I do not believe in leaders as they become the focus of compulsive collaboration with the opposition once they are identified, and they are not infallible and such leads to eventual disaster. Yet I have known that principled individuals avoid the natural vices such as greed, betrayal, and the misguided notion that one has to compete without exception as if it's a healthy attribute. Such is and always has been, in my mind, a sad path to self-esteem, an illusion built upon putting ones foot on the neck of another which is what the pickesuits do, and it's not lasting since when they fail to physically and emotionally break my will they become fearful and envious because I have endured what they themselves know they could not. Yes I have on several occasions learned to make due with nothing, making myself mentally and emotionally strong and I survive.

Kudos to any successful SNY litigator. I read Prison Legal News (PLN) each month for the past six years, noting all the successes published there, rarely seeing an instance in which a California prisoner received millions. Even though the state has deep pockets, that 12.2 million eludes my perusal. You should send the decision to PLN so they can publish it as your work.

I also want to point out a simple truth even though our comrades at MIM(Prisons) disagree. In my years of doing time, always General Population, I have learned to read people and I am rarely in error. I can and do note agent provocateurs and quislings as well as those who think they are well hidden and can not be spotted. It's the nature of such individuals to expose themselves. I have never gone to the hole for harming another prisoner over the years I have served. It has always been an issue with the real enemy who has hoodwinked and bamboozled, coerced, pressured or otherwise manipulated the greedy and the weak; of which I am neither.

My view is that SNY prisoners who volunteered to go that route are their own worst enemy and the stigma attached is something that they will have to deal with, as those who dropped out, originally dropped in, when it was fashionable for you, and you were on the hooligan end claiming to be a gang member, telling the pig that you are a gang member, proud to be a gang member till the pack turns on you and then you don't want to be a member any more or you find yourself in a position in which you are facing time and you choose to purchase leniency by telling on your sworn homeboys. But wait, not all SNYs have been snitches, but many have "debriefed" so I must say that the percentages speak for themselves in terms of those who allowed themselves to be used and manipulated to self-detriment. There are still some in GP hiding in the wings.

I was brought up believing that it takes a lot of balls to stand up to adversity and not compromise one's principals. I am constantly educating myself in a variety of subjects. Yet I do not tell others who, what or how they should believe, we all make choices and some ultimately lead to some becoming SNY. I want to be quite clear that I am not any better or worse than any other human being on this earth. We all have faults yet the struggle has never died, it has been altered and manipulated towards personal gain. I am presenting my personal perspective from my years of experience. Though it is true I've never lived on an SNY/PC yard, they do put SNYs on the tier with GP in the ASU/SHU, to my dismay. I am an equal opportunity criticizer since while some focused on SNY, I spoke of both sides of the fence.

I noted years ago that the most illuminating and dangerous place in the prison was the law library as knowledge was power. Yet the time of spending 8 hours a day in the law library has been effectively reduced to one hour and thirty minutes a week if you are lucky and are PLU. I am not here to brag on myself but there are people on the streets thanks to me and new life was breathed into others whose cases were on the ropes.

So since I was asked what I have done, well helping others and standing up to abusive prison staff and officials has resulted in my doing 100% of my term due to my concern for the similarly situated prisoner. Ethnicity never mattered, all came to me. Yet when I think about it I wonder if my sacrifices have been all for naught, as those who instilled the fortitude, stubborn tenacity, and courage to fight back in the 60s and 70s are flip-flopping in their graves about the conditions and backwards steps in California prisons. The ladies put up better fights and they as a result still get stuff that we don't. Some of the prison population put privileges before rights so you enjoy your privileges while they keep chipping away your rights.

MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter is part of an ongoing discussion, started in ULK13, of the controversial issue of the potential for prisoners in Special Needs Yards (SNY) to participate in the anti-imperialist struggle. It is MIM(Prisons)' position that prisoners in all situations can be induced to sell out and serve the needs of the system. And while we recognize the harm done by prisoners debriefing, going to SNY can sometimes involve less cooperation with the pigs than staying in an LO. We can't condemn people for mistakes they made as youth trying to find a place. We need to unite with all who demonstrate, in practice, that they are on the side of the anti-imperialist struggle.

This comrade says he can read people, and is rarely in error. And to an extent we agree. We "read" people by applying work and line standards to our potential comrades. By judging how one completes their work and upholds their line we can judge them as a comrade. The error comes in when you think you know when someone is a cop or snitch or not. You trust people you shouldn't and attack your friends. Even if these errors are rare, they tend to be the most serious. This is why general policies are superior ways to "read" people than looking at individual cases.

This comrade comments that s/he does not "believe in leaders." We agree that security and hero worship are weaknesses of having leaders, and we should work to minimize both of them. However, we also must be materialists and recognize that leaders, including the writer, exist and that leadership is important. A leaderless movement ends up without clear direction and can waste the resources and energy of the masses. Leaderless movements (also known as anarchist) generally end up with de facto leaders - people who are not formally put in positions of leadership but who just take up the lead because of experience or line or a desire for power. These de facto leaders are far more dangerous than elected leaders because there is no mechanism to remove them from power. And this also limits the people's input into the direction of a movement. For these reasons we affirm the communist principle of clear and formal leadership of the revolutionary movement and its organizations, while we work towards a society where no groups of people have power over others.

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[Theory] [Organizing] [Security] [ULK Issue 13]
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Security in the prison movement

In a system where the threat of torture by long-term isolation and other forms of repression constantly hangs above the heads of those who hold political views different from their captors, security is a vital question. Of course, the threat is different when working outside anonymously with MIM(Prisons) than working inside, face-to-face. Repression inside prisons is much more imminent than it is for our comrades on the streets. In prison, conditions are different and freedoms are limited, leaving comrades with much different tactics to choose from.

Strategically, however, the question of security behind bars is more the same than it is different from on the streets. Semi-underground organizing is an example of a universal strategy for operating behind enemy lines. The practice of semi-underground organizing recognizes that just because you didn't break any laws doesn't mean you will not face repression for your actions or beliefs, and there is more cost than benefit of putting all your cards on the table. On the organizational scale, semi-underground can be applied by layering your organization with different levels of openness. This makes it harder for the pigs to pinpoint leaders and isolate an organization.

Another strategical question is, how do we deal with potential infiltrators who join our ranks in order to gather information and create disruption, or bad-jacket the organization? Many comrades have provided suggestions for how to address this issue. There is a bourgeois approach to security and there is a proletarian approach. The difference between the two is still generally applicable even in different organizing conditions, and is discussed below.

A key issue that is being raised in California is, why work with prisoners who are on Special Needs Yards (SNY)? This is a good question since a lot of potential comrades, as well as comrades already in the struggle, have contempt for individuals who collaborate with the state. It is important that we understand that not everyone on SNY is there because they debriefed or snitched. Some people are on SNY because they are victimized on mainline, or don't want to participate in the typical bullshit that comes with mainline for whatever reason. So not everyone on SNY is there because of piggish behavior, but the rest of this article is a discussion of those comrades who are.

MIM(Prisons) is a prison ministry that seeks to organize and educate prisoners not just to see the inhumane conditions that they find themselves in, but also to see the bigger picture of imperialism. When you read what MIM has put out regarding our security practices then one should be able to gain a perspective as to why MIM(Prisons) operates the way it does. What good would it do for MIM(Prisons) to only work with people based on the fact that they haven't snitched yet? Everyone is a possible cop or agent working for the imperialists. In fact, in this country, someone is more likely to be a cop or spy than to be a revolutionary of some sort. Even within the communist movement itself there exists a capitalist arm in the form of cops, agents, snitches, and collaborators with the imperialists.

We see this as a line struggle. Anyone can pretend to be USW inside, just like anyone can pretend to represent MIM(Prisons) or Maoism. If they uphold the line set forth by the vanguard organization and/or movement, then they're out there working to advance the struggle. If they are upholding a bourgeois line, and people cling to it, then the people didn't understand the vanguard line in the first place. We should work with a comrade because they have the correct line, not because they are on mainline.

Why should they be barred from being a communist if they have snitched in the past? Why should anyone not have the right to see the liberation of their people, nation, the oppressed? What matters most is what one does after they have discovered themselves as a communist revolutionary. It's not just the lumpen who are reforming criminals, they mostly did small-time stuff. All amerikans are reforming criminals who have robbed from and victimized the majority of the world. If we are recruiting in the united $tates, we are attempting to reform criminals into communists, and this is the revolutionizing of humyns that must take place in conjunction with the revolutionizing of the economy and all the institutions that serve it.

The other side of this is that even if one is a cop, gathering info, there's really not that much they will find if information is given out on an as-needed basis. When the movement is organized into isolated cells, they may be able to take down one or two people, but the struggle goes on. In the meantime, the cop had to put in a lot of genuine work in order to get the little information they got. Particularly where communists are the minority, the cop ends up doing more work for us than against us. This structure is part of what being a semi-underground organization means.

Of course, the fact that the state has taken the time to infiltrate and try to eliminate a group says a lot about the group's politics. As Marxist-Leninist-Maoists, we put forth revolutionary science, or dialectical materialism. A concrete historical analysis shows that it is not WE but THEY, the imperialists, who are on the wrong side of history. They will lose eventually. Our struggle is a protracted (scientific) one, to put forth the correct line, so even if MIM(Prisons) goes down there will still be others with the tools to continue forward.

With regards to the prison movement, it's understandable that these criticisms arise due to the fact that SHU placement falls on those who organize for better or for worse. So why does MIM(Prisons) support prisoners who walk away from their lumpen organizations? The lumpen class, by definition, is a parasitic class. Both the lumpen and the imperialists are capitalists whose material wealth comes from others' work. One has the power to exploit by making the laws, while the other makes money outside the law in an underground economy with a law unto itself. Saying, “I understand the LOs need work, but why work with those who walk away?” is just like the bourgeoisie saying “I know we need work, but why give opportunities to prisoners or criminals to help out, they broke our law?” Just like people who walked away and are now on SNY, they too broke the law.

Divide and conquer is a tactic used by the administration to bring down revolutionary groups and to keep revolutionary groups from forming. Evidence suggests that LOs are purposefully put up against each other in order to bring each other down. This basically means that if you're in an LO that's victimizing other oppressed people, then you are unwittingly an agent of the state's oppressive apparatus. Even if you say “fuck the k9s” or “fuck the administration,” your actions are counter-revolutionary.

A serious revolutionary will not determine to not work with someone who's never had revolutionary politics or training just because when that person was in a LO they engaged in the debriefing process. A “revolutionary” that snitches is very different from someone who is put between a rock and a hard place of working with one of two organizations that are both engaged in anti-people activity. Plus, you never know who could be dropping kites on you. Just because someone exposes themselves to you doesn't mean they're the only threat on the mainline.

For the LOs to put an end to snitching among their membership, they will have to stop engaging in activities that might cause someone with love for their people to break ranks. When your practice does not coincide with the line you put out, discipline will fail, no matter how brutal it might be. The vanguard cannot water down its politics just to let everyone know we're cool. Watering down politics is engaging in opportunism and will ultimately destroy the vanguard.

Another suggestion that has come up is that we look at people's histories, where they've been locked up and why they were sent there, as part of our intelligence gathering. This amounts to trusting the lumpen as long as the imperialists (or their petty-bourgeois bureaucrats) can vouch for them. This is a backwards and dangerous approach to security. The bourgeois approach to security is based on intelligence gathering and psychologizing individuals, while the proletariat must look to political line and consistent practice.


Notes:
see MIM's 2005 Congress: Resolutions on Cell Organization for more discussion of the cell structure, why persynal histories are irrelevant and security theory in general.

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