I've always been revolutionary-minded, but it's a struggle here in Bill Clements Unit. Here's one example that happened early last month. I work in the laundry. Well all of us are waiting for them to call for chow (lunch), but all of a sudden the C.O.s running chow forget to feed laundry! So the chow C.O.s tell the laundry C.O. that they are going to give us sack lunches. All of a sudden, this is the sad part, a bunch of my fellow coworkers are going back into the laundry. Well a few of us spoke up saying we've been working and are NOT going to accept a sack lunch. Eventually they opened the chow hall for us. Well I guess this is all for now. Again thank you for all you do.
MIM(Prisons) Texas Coordinator responds: Small incidents like this one might seem inconsequential to many people, like those guys who just went back to laundry when told they were gonna get sack lunches. These are small wins that make a huge impact on people's minds, though. Showing people little successes like this whenever we can helps plant seeds in their consciousness about resisting oppression and standing up for themselves. It was a completely fair argument to make, that the C.O.s made a mistake and should fix it. So rather than get hung up on how sad it is that so many people just were going accept the sack lunches, i think it was really great that so many people got to see what having a backbone looks like in real life. Inevitably, this is what inspires people to grow their own backbones and start standing up for themselves. Thanks for this awesome report.
In hopes of getting a back issue of ULK (preferably issue 53 - with Texas reform updates) I shared ULK 59 with a few others. Most had something to say about the drugs in prison. The best way I can summarize most of the conversations is that thinking is hard and people are reluctant to do it.
Most who I talked to fall into two groups: either they do drugs as a way to escape, which I think is a psychological and environmental problem I can't say much about; or they do them to feel like they are "beating the man." These are the ones that will smoke openly in the dayroom, even if it means the whole building will get locked down. Explaining to them that they aren't beating the man when he's getting paid an obscene amount of money to bring it in isn't effective. Not sure where to go from there.
MIM(Prisons) Texas Coordinator responds: Directly contradicting a belief that someone holds strong enough to put a whole facility on lockdown is unlikely to change their mind, like this comrade has experienced. Peer pressure is often one huge motivator for people, and I'm honestly surprised that the rest of the prisoner population isn't shutting down people smoking in the dayroom, for their own persynal interests of not being on lockdown. A group of people telling someone to stop a behavior is much more impactful than one individual.
On an individual level, there are conversational techniques that are more or less effective, depending on the persyn we're struggling with. In this case, there's one technique that stands out to me to try: asking questions. Instead of coming at the persyn's belief head-on, try to show em the contradictions and illogical thinking in eir plan by asking questions and getting a really deep understanding of eir thinking.
So rather than saying "your belief is wrong," we can ask em "how does that work?" and actually try to get em to explain eir reasoning. Building trust by validating what is true about eir perspective ("you're right, we can't just sit around and do nothing") helps open em up to share more. The main goals in this kind of conversation are 1) to underline we're on the same team (us against the pigs), and 2) to try to understand where ey's coming from, and 3) help em come to eir own conclusions about what is wrong about eir thinking, and what ey needs to think about more. This is just one technique to try, and i would love others to write in on what's worked for em in dealing with this kind of problem.
As Venezuela commemorates Hugo Chavez's socialist revolution of 20 years ago, bourgeois reactionary elements from within, with imperialism support, work to sabotage Venezuela's self-determination. Another case of u.s. imperialist aggression, and on a continent most dominated by it: South America.
While the self-declared president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, has been receiving support from the united tates, actual elected President, Nicolas Maduro, has been the target of u.s. imperialism for some time now. Are we truly to believe that Venezuela's recent issues are entirely the fault of the Maduro regime? It should not be overlooked that the problems in Venezuela, declared in the news as a humanitarian crisis, seem to have occurred around the same time economic/trade sanctions were imposed.
The United States and its South American followers, through the Organization of American States(OAS), an organization formed at the behest of the united states over 50 years ago in order to consolidate geo-political influence and quash revolutionary movements and too-far-left regimes that were spreading throughout Latin America at that time) have largely created Venezuela's most pressing issues with their refusals to do fair business in the form of trade and diplomatic cooperation which has left Venezuelans lacking many necessities.
The United States and OAS have been making it very difficult for the Maduro administration to help the people to properly live, let alone develop. So outside looking in, to the unaware, it may seem as if Maduro is "the bad guy" and this Guaidó character is "the good guy" and that u.s. support for him looks righteous, even humanely necessary, to oust this "corrupt socialist dictator" and "rescue the Venezuelan people." But understand that the Venezuelan situation is a product of u.s. imperialism. The same u.s. imperialism that caused the people of Cuba to suffer for over 50 years by the trade embargo and dictation that the OAS cronies turn their backs on Cuba as well or suffer the same fate. This all because Cuba fought to break the chains of neo-colonial dependency.
Helping to frame the narrative of Maduro being a "brutal dictator who refuses to treat the Venezuelan people humanely" is the reactionary propaganda machine: u.s. news media. Daily they broadcast images of shipments of supplies going into, and remaining at the border of, Colombia, where u.s. politicians and reporters give interviews in front of the supplies they call "aid" that "Maduro refuses to allow to enter into Venezuela." Maduro said that he will not accept this "aid" because it is "tainted;" he understands that this "aid" is not aid, it is imperialist bribery of the Venezuelan people.
Now footage of deadly clashes with police at the border, along with reports of Venezuelan police and soldiers defecting, are being shown on a loop, further destroying Maduro's legitimacy and portraying the united states as "the good guys just trying to help while Maduro continues to brutalize the people." If you ruin peoples lives and then offer some handouts, that doesn't make you a hero.
This type of economic imperialism being so effective is a consequence of the interdependency of economies (especially those of the undeveloped/developing nations battling with neo-colonialism) due to the globalization of capitalism and consolidation of a world market. Now an empire like the U.S. can destabilize an entire nation's internal economy, causing mass chaos, without invading and plundering it. Mere trade imbalances (unequal exchange) and economic sanctions can have the imperialist-desired effect of social upheaval, causing the targeted nation to look at the leadership as the cause, and welcome foreign intervention to come and save them from a situation created by imperialist aggression.
We can't know for certain what the reasons for this aggression are, but we can make informed speculation based off of historical analysis. Could it be that Maduro has instituted too many socialist-like policies, like nationalizing much of Venezuela's oil production? Or because Venezuela does too much business with Russia, China, and Cuba? Does the united states want to own oil firms there and is upset that Maduro won't allow that? Past u.s imperialist endeavors point to the latter as the primary motivation for its efforts toward regime change in Venezuela.
These efforts to destabilize and destroy a regime's credibility and ultimately to overthrow it is nothing new, especially in this hemisphere. Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Chile, just to name a few of the more known and overt examples of u.s. imperialism in the Americas. If these actions prove to be successful then a puppet government of the united states, via Juan Guaidó, will most certainly be the outcome. But if these current actions don't produce the desired effect of regime change, then, as per usual, a military invasion seems to be next.
It doesn't help Venezuela's cause that no one seems willing to come out against this aggression and show solidarity with the president elected by the people. It is these times when we most lament the fall of the Socialist Bloc and its global influence and support for oppressed peoples. Cuba, only 90 miles from the united states, was only able to withstand imperialist aggression and resist capitulation to demands because it had socialist solidarity coming from China and the Soviet Union. But who will support Venezuela??
It shouldn't come down to a military invasion (as it did in Iraq and Vietnam) to raise people's consciousness and get them to mobilize to demand an end to imperialist aggression. It should be called out and reacted against now. We must articulate to the people the real forces at play here, because they won't learn it from the news. Support has to be mustered to oppose these types of actions from the united states. The unconsciousness of people in the world, and the united states in particular, that allows these things to go unchecked, is support for imperialism itself. As Fidel Castro put it: "to cease solidarity with the revolutionary movement does not mean to deny a pretext but actually to show solidarity with yankee imperialism and its policy of domination and enslavement of the world."
Venezuela's cause may not be a revolutionary one, but it is a victim of imperialism from an empire incessantly working to consolidate its influence and turn every nation that it can benefit from into a neo-colony, which requires us to raise this truth as a common cause worthy of the most support. Defend Venezuela's self-determination!
Facts: Oil revenue is about 90% of Venezuela's revenue. The United States is the #1 buyer of Venezuelan oil at over 400,000 barrels, per day.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Our recent article on Venezuela very much agrees with this writer's analysis. While Venezuela was never a socialist country in the Marxist sense, Maduro implemented many reforms in the interests of the people, and is staunchly fighting neo-colonialism. This government represents the national bourgeoisie and continues to operate within the capitalist system. It is an ally of the oppressed in this fight against imperialism. The imperialists are the real murderers and destroyers of planet Earth that we must stand against. And we stand with the Venezuelan people and their elected government against the U.$. coup efforts.
I have learned a lot from ULK 63, particularly from an article from a Michigan prisoner on "Challenges and Growth in Recruiting Skills." I myself have always been a passionate orator since my former days as an official of the Moorish Science Temple of America. But as my political consciousness began to rise and I became more of a revolutionary realist, I find that the hellfire and brimstone approach is not always wise.
I have learned that most reasonable men can be persuaded through intellectual dialing based on facts, statistics and logic. Then there are the masses that really don't know what they want but know something must change. I have some good ideas on how to organize some comrades although I must admit my objective is somewhat obscure. I love how this prisoner from Michigan laid out the format of organizing through dialectical materialism, which he later gave a definition of as I would say "a scientific process of trial and error." I love hearing and reading the understandings of others, it raises my own.
Democracy, Hypocrisy, the lies of the ruling class
Savery, bravery, attributes to the oppressed mass
We challenge what we're told
Because going hungry is getting old
They label us terrorists, trying to hold us down
But we communists will continue to gain ground
Every day 'til the trumpets sound
Then the continuous revolution will abound!
Here in Colorado there has been a push for solidarity amongst prisoners, particularly in units at Sterling Correctional Facility and Colorado State Penitentiary. I've been in prison for 5 years here in Colorado and have seen very little of this solidarity until now. Unfortunately, we here still have a long way to go.
Staff, who fear the trend of unity, have begun to sow seeds of unrest amongst certain groups. To do this, staff have resorted to spreading false rumors of sexual harassment, coupled with promises of "packs" and sexual favors for assaults on their intended targets. Staff's goal is to start a race war in place of the quelled tribal wars that have plagued this state for years. Unfortunately some prisoners have bought into this line of thinking, hook, line, and sinker.
In ULK 64 an article touched on this type of "damsel in distress" thinking in Colorado prisons. This type of thinking is grounded solidly in our own informal subculture that ultra aggressive, chauvinistic behaviors promote ones own reputation for toughness and overall appearance of being a convict. The reality is that we as convicts are entirely in control of what standards define "toughness" and "convicts."
While I fully agree that some recourse should be taken against those who commit sexual crimes against children, women, and others in general, I'm not sure that violent action is the best solution in most cases. And taking violent action against another prisoner based upon unsubstantiated allegations of a prison guard (who, rather than use prison disciplinary methods, sought retribution by bribing prisoners) seems entirely anti-convict to me.
Maybe it's time for us as prisoners in Colorado to re-evaluate what it is to be a convict in this state. I know in many states, prisoners who do the pigs' bidding, even the violent or illegal acts, would be considered stool pigeons for the man to control them.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We've heard about this awakening within Colorado prisons from a few folks behind bars, and also of the repression that pigs are using to try to quell that unity.(1) This comrade raises the important point that building unity requires a rethinking of how people interact with one another. We have to start by defining who are our enemies and who are our friends. The C.O.s are not our friends. As this comrade points out, their goal ultimately is to sow division. We also can't trust the state to tell us which prisoners are our friends. We need to look at their actions. Even those claiming to be revolutionaries may not be friends of the revolution if they are acting counter to the unity of the oppressed. Re-evaluating what it is to be a convict in Colorado is building on the budding lumpen unity in that state.
I am a prisoner at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. I'm currently being held in solitary confinement for our May 12 uprising against the oppression and abuse inflicted on us by the administration and guards.
For months, the administration had been keeping us locked in our cells for 23 hours a day, in population! Using excuses of "short on staff," we are only allowed to either shower or call our loved ones for one 30-minute session per day. Our one-hour recs are cut to 45 and 30 minutes consistently. The inmate barber shop is closed. Visits are canceled. Guards are verbally and physically abusive.
Until, on May 12th at dinner chow (2 hours late) at 7:30 pm, 288 prisoners participated in a mass sit-in, in peaceful protest to all of the injustices. Instead of answering requests for talks with white-shirts, all officers fled both chow halls and kitchen, leaving us locked in, and grouped outside the windows and taunted us. The sit-in quickly escalated into the largest "riot" in Missouri history, consisting of a reported $4 million in damages, with the complex being taken over and held for over 7 hours. Inside, only 2 people were attacked before leadership and unity were established.
Countless abuses and injustices followed our return to custody, including: remaining zip-tied for 7-9.5 hours, forced to urinate ourselves, beatings, double-celling prisoners in single-man cells for a week with no mattress or bedding, less than 1000-calorie daily diet instituted for the entire camp for over 70 days, etc.
Through all this, the administration kept up its tricks of sowing hate and dissension amongst prisoners in population by blaming the 3-month lockdown on us by actually naming us to other prisoners in hopes of retaliation). Visits were canceled, no canteen, etc.
However, those of us in confinement know the truth: in 2017, we had a mass race-riot of Browns & Whites vs Blacks, and less than 12 months later those same races, true those same prisoners, come together to fight in unity against oppression! Me and about 20 other comrades came together again in September 2018.
It is coming up on 6 months since our placement in seg and we are likely to receive another 90 days just for good measure, but we are still standing. There are 78 of us from the uprising in seg, and many of us belong to one organization or another. When we are released we will continue to spread and build on this unity that was formed under great oppression. We will carry this momentum to bring all prisoners together to face the true enemy!
We have seen and heard praise for our battle and victory in the struggle throughout other max securities in Missouri. There have been other uprisings that have followed ours at a couple mediums, (one was a race-riot, but with guidance and support those aggressions can be properly re-directed), and the administration is taking notice. The five principles of the United Front are taking hold in Missouri. We will do our part to learn, share, teach and uphold them as we struggle together in our war against oppression. I will do my part in not only spreading the message to mi raza, but others as well. Unity is the key! Viva la gente!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We printed some good discussion about these Missouri protests in ULK 65. This writer highlights what is most important about these sorts of actions: the learning by participants and observers about what prisoners can accomplish with unity. By building the United Front for Peace in Prisons, comrades in Missouri are building strength and unity, setting up the conditions for stronger actions in the future.
In prison, it is considered to be a privilege to be a part of the general population (G.P.). And it is considered a punishment to be placed in a segregated housing unit (SHU). In order to compel prisoners to abide by the rules of the prison, this system of reward and punishment is put into place.
Here are a few key differences between G.P. and a SHU:
In G.P., you may get to come out of your cell for two to three hours a day. You live with a cellmate. You may have access to the gym and library. You may spend any funds you have on canteen items. You may walk to the chow hall, and you may walk to medical and any other program you attend.
In a segregated housing unit, you are in your cell for twenty-three to twenty-four hours a day. You may or may not have a cellmate. You have no access to the gym and the only books you have access to are the ones the librarian sends to segregation. You may only spend funds on legal material, stationary, and hygiene products. You have your food brought to your door as well as your medication, and your opportunity to participate in programs is limited.
Now, I shall elaborate upon this contradiction and give you the views of a politically conscious prisoner. Most prisoners are so uneducated and illiterate that if a topic doesn't show up on television, they know nothing about it. To be placed in segregation away from their "idiot box" would bring them unbearable anguish. They also cannot do without being able to get on the telephone, shake their loved ones down for money, and then spending it all on extremely over-priced canteen items. The young hip-hop generation cannot imagine having to exist without the support of their fellow gang members to boost their courage to oppress another, or trade hedonistic rap songs with one another.
Therefore, being placed in a segregated housing unit is terrifying to most prisoners. So much so, that they will tap-dance, bend over backwards and shine the warden's boots. Quietly suffering verbal abuse and humiliation from corrupt psychotic pigs. And when their frustration builds up, they will direct their anger at another prisoner, never abasing the iron hand oppressor.
Then there are those of us who do not care for rewards and punishments. We simply choose not to participate in the perpetuation of our own dehumanization. We choose not to assimilate into the machinations of the koncentration kamp. We don't care about snack cakes, sodas, and chips; we'd rather not be brainwashed by the Nazi programs; and we can do without the zombifying tel-a-vision. We find peace in the seclusion of solitary confinement where there are fewer distractions. Without having to be herded like cattle to and from to the chow hall and medical, we have more time to reflect, study and work toward our goal of state-less society.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Yes, we should try to take advantage of any opportunity do the best possible political work we can. For those locked in solitary, this means plenty of time to study and write and think. But we know this isolation has some very negative consequences for humyn physical and mental health.
Organizing is necessarily about interacting with other people. So while it's true that we run into lots of folks who are content to just sit in front of the T.V. and do their time, our challenge is finding ways to reach them. Isolating ourselves from the masses inherently makes us disconnected from them, and also isolates us from potential recruits who are mixed in G.P. and ready to jump on board. For those in seg, this comrade's advice about making it a good use of your time is well placed. But for those with contact with others, let's strive to make the best of it in G.P. too by building and growing the movement.
Statement of Unity: I, "Big Real," founder and president of F.A.T., willfully submit this statement of unity because the united front principles relate to our drive for education and our motto (Knowledge Is Power). Also, we use education to destroy negative outputs and increase positive aspects relating to peace and enlightenment.
When it comes to recruiting, the tactics involved to build an organization are not as difficult as one thinks. As we all know, relations based on the same agenda and goals are fundamental in showing a common interest in the struggle. Yet, the key to building an organization takes something more complex but simple.
Light travels at the speed of 186,000 mps. This speed is way faster than the speed of sound. Instead of expressing your feelings on how people should follow, simply lead. Instead of being "heard," be "seen."
Moreover, a key factor is observation and analysis. Knowing when to act, how to act, and who to act around creates the best action. When the destination is desired, the express lane is always open and willing. I use the heat of the moment to build my team. Then observation and analysis will cultivate the positioning.
by a Massachusetts prisoner January 2019 permalink
It must be said with all sincerity that in a true revolution, to which one gives oneself completely, from which one expects no material compensation, the task of the vanguard revolutionary is both magnificent and anguishing. Let me say, with the risk of appearing ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love. It is impossible to think of an authentic revolutionary without this quality. This is perhaps one of the greatest dreams of a leader: he must combine an impassioned spirit with a cold mind and make painful decisions without flinching one muscle. Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize their love for the peoples, for the most sacred kauses, and make it one and indivisible. They can't descend, with small doses of daily affection, to the places where ordinary men put their love into practice.
The leaders of a revolution have children who do not learn to call their father with their first faltering words. They have wives who must be part of the general sacrifice of their lives to carry the revolution to its destiny. Their friends are strictly limited to their komrades in revolution. There is no life outside it. In these conditions, one must have a large dose of humility, a large dose of sense of justice and truth. To avoid falling into extremes, into cold scholasticism, into isolation from the masses.
Every day we must struggle so that this love of living humanity is transformed into concrete facts. Into acts that will serve as an example, as a mobilizing factor. We know that we have sacrifices ahead of us and that we must pay a price for having the right to say that we are the head of the peoples. Each and every one of us punctually pays his quotient of sacrifice, aware of receiving our reward in the satisfaction of fulfilling our duty. Conscious of advancing with everyone toward the new man who is glimpsed on the horizon.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade writes about an important aspect of organizing work which is the dedication and approach of the revolutionary organizer. If we view the people with condescension it will come through in our work. And if this is our perspective we need to examine why we are revolutionaries and why we have this view of the masses.
One thing we want to point out is this comrade writes as though all revolutionaries are men, which is obviously not true. Where we agree about having love for the people in order to be a better revolutionary, we'd add that we also need to challenge our internalized sexism — the idea that wimmin are wives and supporters, but not fighters or leaders themselves. It will come through in our work.
On the author's point about only associating with other revolutionaries and doing only work that contributes to the struggle against oppression, there is certainly something to be said for not engaging with distractions, and staying focused on a primary goal. At this point in the struggle, for many this is unrealistic, especially for those living in imperialist countries surrounded by enemies. We have been raised in a culture that makes this transformation very difficult.
In our present reality, where we are not in a revolutionary scenario, fellow revolutionaries are few and far between. We should cultivate those political relationships, but some people will be the only Maoist in their town or facility. It's unrealistic to expect these folks to not socialize with anyone else. That just leads to burnout from political work, if you're not having your basic humyn needs met.
Even in a revolutionary situation, we see a role for people who do not sacrifice all family and friends, and give up everything in their lives except the revolution. We embrace revolutionaries at whatever level of commitment they can offer, while always pushing ourselves and others to greater commitment and sacrifice.