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.
On or around 31 July 2012 there was a small scale race riot on the Estelle Unit which is located in Huntsville, Texas. Sad to say it was Brown on Black and a New Afrikan prisoner was killed. As a member of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party I hate to see two oppressed groups going at each other while the oppressor remains unscathed and ignored.
Nevertheless, the extremely reactionary prisoncrats took this opportunity to show us what they're all about. About one week after the incident we were placed on a special disciplinary lockdown and fed "Johnnies" seven days a week. These weren't any normal "Johnnies," they were concentration camp like rations. An example of one meal that actually sparked a group demonstration across all color and race barriers was: 1 corn dog, a small biscuit with a sliver of peanut butter and jelly and 10 or 12 raisins! I myself wrote a letter to the Assistant Warden, Steven T. Miller, shedding light on the sub-par meals and asking him if the administration was using food (or the lack thereof) as a means to torture prisoners or as a draconian behavior modification tactic.
Once the administration became aware that the focus was now on them they immediately prepared and delivered more food and I have never ever seen that response before. However, I must say the meals being served were way beneath the caloric intake requirements set forth by the ACA (American Corrections Association). This particular incident took place on 15 August 2012 and it was the last meal served that day.
There is an ugly under-current of racism that exists here in Texas prisons. Many white male officers take pleasure in seeing Brown men and Black men attack each other. As conscious people in struggle against prisoncrat imperialists, we must realize we do ourselves a great dis-service by attacking each other. It is not just about white male officers in Texas, it's about all of them that wear these confederate-army-gray uniforms. They beat us, degrade us, dehumanize us, and refuse time and time again to set us free. Who is the real enemy?
Lastly, one of the main keys to maintaining the peace amongst oppressed groups is respect! We can't talk to each other any kind of way, and we can't treat each other any kind of way! Remember that violation of the rules of respect among human beings can be deadly.
Would you believe that one month prior to this race riot and death white male officers were caught encouraging prisoners to make "shanks"?! The New Afrikan prisoner was killed with a homemade shank! These officers in Texas are very wicked.
MIM(Prisons) responds: It is a sad result of the criminal injustice system in Amerika that oppressed nations must demand the right to peace. But as this, and many other stories from behind bars demonstrate, this is the reality we face. And this is why the first principle of the United Front for Peace in Prisons is Peace. The United Front is fighting to unite the oppressed: "We organize to end the needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment. The oppressors use divide and conquer strategies so that we fight each other instead of them. We will stand together and defend ourselves from oppression."
Correction from the author 9/31/2012: The dead prisoner in this report was not New Afrikan, he was Mexican.
Every since my filing of the MIM censorship suit I haven't been able to get a 602 [grievance form] processed, and I was pretty good at filing them and winning them prior to the MIM suit. Since I've been at this prison the only 602 I was able to get acknowledged and processed was one concerning the law library, and only after two months of either having them "screened out" for one reason or another or simply being ignored. It was only because I finally got tired of their b.s., went over their heads and mailed a "retaliation and conspiracy" petition to Sacramento along with a quick letter explaining my situation.
Afterwards I not only got a letter from Sacramento telling me they'd sent it back to appeals court with instructions to properly process, but I got a letter from here basically reprimanding me for going over their heads; but it got the job done.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of perseverance in the face of repression, following in the footsteps of a similar victory in Kern Valley this month.
When one is imprisoned and kept away from society for a rather long period of time, it's not unnatural to feel as if you're beginning to lose your bearings, and it's not unnatural for one to seek help from "medical professionals."
What is considered unnatural however is to speak of the plight of the oppressed. I found this out the hard way when I went to my annual psychiatric review. To be "mentally-ill" or depressed when one is from oppressed nation origin and imprisoned is perfectly normal. However, to be perfectly normal or "sane" under the oppressive conditions of imperialism is certainly abnormal. One cannot be of oppressed nation origin and imprisoned and be content. Depression is a completely appropriate state of mind when oppressed by imperialism; there can be no other reaction.
As stated above I attended my annual psychiatric review and was introduced to the four member committee. I was asked a series of questions. How did I feel? Have I experienced any depression lately? Am I suicidal? I answered their questions as quickly and concisely as possible. I felt I passed their test with flying colors. As I was about to be excused however one of the psychiatrists stopped me from leaving and asked me if we could talk about my revolutionary tattoos. My first instinct was to ask him what my tattoos have to do with my "mental health." However, I felt it might look bad to not cooperate so I agreed to stay.
The psych wanted to know what they meant. I simply stated that they were political symbols and took it no further, but he pressed and wanted to know exactly what they meant. S/he kept pressing and at this point I once again thought, "what the hell do my political beliefs have to do with my mental health?!" I figured I'd play their little game and see exactly what they were trying to get at.
I was asked why I choose to have this artwork on me. I replied that they were simply expressions of my solidarity with the oppressed and exploited of the Third World. But why did I feel the need to show my solidarity? "Because" I stated, "they're oppressed and exploited, they've been oppressed and exploited and they're gonna continue to be oppressed and exploited for the foreseeable future!" "Oh, is that all?" At which point I lost temporary control of my emotions and strongly stated: "Yea, that and the fact that they're currently being massacred across the globe!" The committee then collectively jumped and stared at me as if I was indeed crazy for saying these truths.
The psych then attempted to further bait me and get me to incriminate myself by asking me if I felt the need to show my solidarity in any other way. To which I simply laughed and stared in h judgmental hate-filled eyes and said "of course not, I'm in prison." But what if I wasn't in prison? And of course I laughed and just said no.
S/he then accused me of being a gang member, to which I immediately objected and said "no, I am not a gang member!" But the bald-head, the tattoos and last but not least the fact that I'm from the oppressed nations certainly means that I'm a gang member. S/he then asked me what I'm in prisyn for. I told h the truth and told h that I'm in prison for "gang violence." S/he then repeated that I was a gang member. "No!" I once again corrected h. I explained to h that while I once was a gang member, I no longer am today. However, s/he insisted and asked me if I was in solidarity with the Third World when I was on the streets. I told h of course not. I was in solidarity with myself and my "gang". "So you've changed?!" Of course I changed, everybody changes. To which s/he then looked at me curiously and asked if I'd ever been in an insane asylum. "No" I stated. "Would you like to go to one?" "No" I once again stated. I was quite simply surprised that s/he would threaten me so openly. I was then excused.
The implication is clear. To speak of the plight of the oppressed and exploited Third World masses, one must be "crazy."
My writing will not analyze Black Nationalism per se, rather it aims to address the "national question" itself. My position comes from a Chicano perspective, which I hope adds to the theoretical sauce surrounding the idea of national liberation and the development of the oppressed nations ideologically, whether they be from the Brown, Black or Red Nations here in the United $tates. In the contemporary prisoner, one sees an awakening to truth and meaning amidst a state offensive to deprive millions of humyn dignity and freedom. The roundups, ICE raids and fascist laws (reinforced with putting the data of millions of oppressed across the U.$. into the state intelligence files preparing for future revolt and repression) has added to the swirl of these times for people to become politicized, and prisoners are no exception.
The struggle in the ideological arena is just as vital as that with the rifle, and perhaps more difficult. Out in society — where people have more social influences — ideas, experiences and thought can bring more diverse views into the sphere of theory. Often times the prison environment, in its concentrated form and social makeup, has more limited ideological influences. This is a trap that prisoners should guard against in developing a political line. There will always be ideological "yes people" in prisons, especially amongst one's own circle of friends or comrades. This could also be said of the limited contacts in the outside world that most prisoners have.
The "national question" is one that is not exclusive to the Black Nation; it is something that Raza and others are wrangling with as well. My critiques here are related to the national question in the United $tates in general, and not specific to the Black Belt Thesis (BBT) that Rashid addresses in his article.
In the section titled "The Black Belt Thesis and the New Class Configuration of the New Afrikan Nation," Rashid describes comrade J.V. Stalin on the national question as follows:
The [Black Belt Thesis] was based on comrade J.V. Stalin's analysis of the national question as essentially a peasant question. Unlike the analysis put forward by Lenin, and more fully developed by Mao, Stalin's analysis limited the national question to essentially a peasantry's struggle for the land they labored on geographically defined by their having a common language, history, culture and economic life together. Hence the slogan "Free the Land!" and "Land to the Tiller!"
Just to be clear, J.V. Stalin defined a "nation" as follows:
A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture."(1)
This definition continues to stand as what defines a nation today and to deny this is simply a deviation. Comrade Lenin was not alive to see the development of the anti-colonial struggles and thus in his view oppressed nations could not be victorious on their own accord, but Stalin taught us differently. At the same time Stalin also stated that should a people no longer meet any of these criteria of a nation then they are no longer a nation.
In this section, Rashid refers to a "Great Migration" of Blacks out of the rural south and across the United $tates, which he uses, or seems to use, as justification for not having "need of pursuing a struggle to achieve a New Afrikan nation state, we have achieved the historical results of bourgeois democracy..." Just because a people migrate across the continent does not negate a national territory so long as a large concentration remains in the national territory. For example, if the Mohawk nation continues to reside in the northeast but a significant portion of their population spread out "across America" and become urban dwellers, their nation remains in the Northeast no matter how much they wish to be Oregonians or Alaskans. But what really seemed grating in this section was the last paragraph, which reads:
To complete the liberal democratic revolution and move forward to socialist reconstruction the proletariat must lead the struggle which is stifled by the increasingly anti-democratic, fascistic and reactionary bourgeoisie. The bourgeois are no longer capable of playing a progressive role in history.
First, the proletariat in its original sense for the most part does not exist in the United $tates. In addition, the Trotskyite approach of relying on the Amerikan "working class" is a waste of time. Amerikan workers are not a revolutionary vehicle - they are not exploited when they are amongst the highest paid workers in the world. How can those seeking higher pay for more or bigger plasma TVs and SUVs be relied upon to give all that up for "socialist construction"? And my view does not come unsupported by the ideological framework that Rashid claims to represent. Engels wrote to Marx in 1858:
The English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world this is of course to a certain extent justifiable.(2)
So even back in Marx and Engels's day the English proletariat was already bourgeoisified. Imperialism has developed far more since 1858, further concentrating the wealth disparity between the oppressor and oppressed nations globally.
In the section titled "The Revolutionary Advantages of Our Proletarian National Character," the idea is put forth of "building a multi-ethnic, multi-racial socialist America." Although I am not opposed to multi-ethnic organizing, I also don't negate the usefulness of single-nation parties. One has to analyze the concrete conditions in the United $tates. The historical development of the social forces may not agree with this approach, and just because it may have worked in some countries it may not apply to this country. It obviously didn't apply to South Africa, another settler state. In Azania the Pan Africanist Congress seemed to forward the struggle more than other groups, in particular the integrationist African National Congress that took power and changed little for Azanians. Huey Newton himself understood this, thus the Black Panther Party was a single nationality party, with internationalist politics. Of course, at some point things will change, but the advancement of imperialism and a long lineage of white supremacy and privilege remains a hurdle still too huge for real multi-ethnic organizing advancements at this time in the United $tates.
In the section "Separation, Integration or Revolution," what is put forward for liberation is to overthrow "imperialism and play a leading role in the global proletarian revolution and socialist reconstruction." This, Rashid states, is "our path to liberation." This smacks of First World chauvinism. The International Communist Movement (ICM) will always be led by the Third World proletariat. The ICM is dominated by the Third World and our voice in the First World is just that, a voice, that will help advance the global struggle, not lead. The idea of First World leadership of the ICM is classic Trotskyism.
In the section "Reassessing the National Liberation Question," in speaking of past national liberation struggles, Rashid points to them having an "unattainable" goal. Yet countries like Vietnam, northern Korea, as well as Cuba come to mind as being successful in their national liberation struggles. [China is the prime example of liberating itself from imperialism and capitalism through socialist revolution. Of course, Huey Newton himself eventually dismissed China's achieving of true national liberation in his theory of "intercommunalism" that the NABPP-PC upholds - Editor]
Rashid goes on to say, "Even if we did manage to reconstitute ourselves as a territorial nation in the "Black Belt," we would only join the ranks of imperialist dominated Third World nations — and with the imperialist U.S. right on our border." Here it seems the idealist proposition is being put forward that an oppressed nation could possibly liberate itself to the point of secession while U.$. imperialism is still breathing. So long as U.$. imperialism is still in power, no internal oppressed nation will emancipate itself. So the thought of the imperialists being on one's border will not be a problem as at that point in the struggle for national liberation imperialism will be on no one's border.
In this same section, Rashid quotes Amilcar Cabral, who posed the question of whether national liberation was an imperialist creation in many African countries. Now we should understand that the imperialists will use any country, ideology or leader if allowed (Ghadaffi found this out the hard way most recently) but we should not believe that the people are not smart enough to free themselves when oppressed. The white supremacists put forward a line that Jews are in an international conspiracy creating revolution and communism. These conspiracy theorists look for any reason to suggest that the people cannot come to the conclusion to decolonize themselves.
Later in this section the question is asked if the "proponents of the BBT expect whites in the 'Black Belt' to passively concede the territory and leave?"
I'm not a proponent of the Black Belt Thesis, but speaking in regard to national liberation I can answer this question quite clearly. As this writer alludes to, there may be a "white backlash." But in any national liberation struggle anywhere on the planet there is always a backlash from those whose interests are threatened. When the oppressed nations decide to liberate themselves in the United $tates the objective position of the reactionaries will be to fight to uphold their white privilege. This privilege relies heavily on the state and the culture of white supremacy in Amerika. So their choice will be to support the national liberation struggles, as real white revolutionaries will do, or to side with imperialism. But there will be no sympathy for oppressors in any national liberation struggle.
Asking the question of what do we expect whites to do is akin to asking the revolutionary post-Civil War, when many were cut off from parasitism, "well do you expect the people to stop exploiting 'their' field workers?" Do you expect Amerikan workers to stop being paid high wages gained through the exploitation of the Third World? Do you expect the pimp to stop pimping the prostitute? Do you expect the oppressor nation to give up their national privilege? To all of the above I say if it's what the people decide, then YES!
Real white comrades not only will support the oppressed to obtain liberation in a future revolution, but most do so in their work today, even though they are a small minority compared to the larger Amerikan population. By that time in the distant future hopefully more people will have been educated and converted.
It is the task of conscious prisoners to develop a political line that propels the imprisoned masses forward via concrete analysis, not just of prison conditions, but of conditions outside these concentration camps as well. Oppression in imperialism is a three-legged stool that includes class, nation and gender. Thus we must develop our political line according to these concrete conditions. Our line should be grounded in reality. Our society is still very much segregated along class and national lines, particularly in the fields of housing, education and freedom.
Indeed, over half the people living within two miles of a hazardous waste facility are Brown, Black or First Nations.(3) In many high schools in the inner city Brown and Black youth are forced to share one textbook for 3 or 4 students, while their parents are jailed when they attempt to enroll their children in "better off" schools which unsurprisingly are predominantly white.(4) The prisons are no different, nor the "justice system." Of the 700,000 who were reported to have been stopped and frisked in New York City last year, 87% were Latinos and Blacks even though whites make up 44% of New York City's population.
When we develop a political line we must challenge it on a materialist foundation in order to sharpen things up in a positive way, but it must not be detached from reality. Only in this way will we identify what is palpable in the realm of national liberation.
As Lenin said, "it is fine, it is necessary and important, to dream of another or radically different and better world — while at the same time we must infuse and inform our dreams with the most consistent, systematic and comprehensive scientific outlook and method, communism, and on that basis fight to bring those dreams into reality."
MIM(Prisons) adds: The original article by Rashid is in response to the New Afrikan Maoist Party and cites the Maoist Internationalist Movement as another party promoting the Black Belt Thesis. While MIM certainly never denounced the Black Belt Thesis, they recognized the crumbling material basis for seeing it through in the post-Comintern years that Rashid points to in his article. It is worth noting that more recent statistics show the New Afrikan population since 1990 has increased most in the South, where 55% of New Afrikans live today and that in the Black Belt states a much higher percentage of the population is New Afrikan than in the rest of the country.(5) MIM did publish an interesting discussion of the land question for New Afrika as an example of a two line struggle in 2004. Ultimately the land question must be determined by two conditions which we do not currently have: 1) a Black nation that has liberated itself from imperialism, and 2) a forum for negotiating land division in North America with other internal semi-colonies free from imperialist intervention.
In his article, Rashid responds to our critique of his liquidating the nationalist struggle in the book Defying the Tomb. In doing so he speaks of a Pan-Afrikan Nation, which is an oxymoron completely liquidating the meaning of both terms. Pan-Afrikanism is a recognition of the common interests of the various oppressed nations of Africa, often extended to the African diaspora. You cannot apply the Stalin quote given above to New Afrika and Pan Afrikanism and consistently call both a nation.
But ultimately, as the USW comrade criticizes above, the liquidationism is strongest in the NABPP-PC line on the progressive nature of the Amerikan nation. It is this dividing line that makes it impossible for our camps to see eye-to-eye and carry out a real two line struggle on the question of New Afrikan land.