I'm checking in from RJ Donovan Correctional Facility in California, where the conditions of confinement are getting harder and harder to tolerate. Here there are a few comrades in the administrative segregation unit (ASU) from both sides of the prison system, mainline as well as Special Needs Yards (SNY), studying and struggling together to overcome the oppression of being punished for submitting inmate appeals.
The pigs that run this unit are giving the prisoners who stand up for their rights half issues of already substandard meals. They also move us from cell to cell at least five or six times a month, and always into a cell with someone who is mentally challenged and disruptive. Some cells are painted with human defecation and urine, and the staff doesn't bother to clean them or provide any cleaning supplies. Some comrades have been physically attacked and have had their personal property passed out to the rats and snitches.
While these are not infrequent unconstitutional violations here, most of the prisoners are afraid to speak up. The theory and actions these officers display is truly terroristic in nature, and the officials allow them to act with impunity.
So I have made it my mission to lead as well as organize and participate in a campaign to stop these abuses here and wherever my feet touch behind these walls. These abuses range from stealing our personal property to creating false charges against us, from denying pens and forms to withholding our mail and yard time, while they sit in the dayroom and eat the state issue items missing from our lunches and dinners.
On a better note, our study group is up to ten in just one week as the brothers of all races and both sides hear us dialogue about the commonality of our situation. Like the brother in ULK 33, I too am SNY and I know there are good strong comrades over here on this side. What people don't understand is that a lot of youngsters have a theory that older brothers "are like leaves on trees" meaning the older ones have to be knocked off so new leaves can grow. This is wrong thinking and a self-defeating tactic.
It's hard for me to understand how some people are fighting to end oppression and hate, knowing the role that the media plays in it all, and then they allow a designation of SNY by the statesman architect of hate and repression to separate us because we'd rather leave our organization and have a chance at parole than stay and end up taking a young brother's life.
I spent 15 years in the prison system of the 80s and 90s. I've done my dirt, put in my work. I'm not an animal who just follows his base instincts. I'm a leader and I'm standing for all these brothers who put their faith in my leadership. A true leader will never send one of his warriors to do battle while he stays behind. Further I stand on the ten point program established by the Black Panther Party and we hold the principles of Under Lock & Key to be of the utmost import.
I truly believe in what the Black Panther Party said when they stated that the power of the people is greater than man's technology. But the people's power has to be organized. As the Vietnamese people, who began their war for liberation with only bows and arrows, we must begin ours with pen and paper. And just as they defeated the most powerful military on earth, with determination, internationalist politics and organization by all oppressed people inside and outside these walls we'll be victorious as well.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We have published a number of articles on the debate over SNY prisoners and we stand with this comrade in arguing that solid anti-imperialist comrades can be found on SNY yards. We look at someone's history of political work and political line rather than the label that the administration gives them. This comrade's call for unity is in line with the United Front for Peace in Prisons which brings together individuals and groups behind bars to build peace and unity against the common enemy of the criminal injustice system.
With the ongoing fighting in the occupied territory of Palestine (Gaza) the death toll rises on both sides. However, there's a savage lopsidedness to it as the Palestinians take the toll of death. Even more savagely is its children and civilians taking the carnage of indiscriminate bombs being dropped by Israel.
In the face of this fighting, U.$. Secretary of State John Kerry gave a press conference in which he more or less stated that, "there can be no meaningful peace without the disarmament of Hamas." Not only is this hypocritical but who in their right mind will lay down what arms they have when faced with an enemy that not only has a standing army but an air force, navy, special forces and drones which lend an uneven hand to the fighting. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) have stated that they will not stop until all of Hamas's underground tunnels are destroyed.
More to this unevenness and inequality is the rhetoric spewing from I$raeli and Amerikan media that Hamas is terrorist and is causing the suffering of the Palestinian people. As if Hamas was the one dropping hundreds of bombs from helicopters and jets. Israel is a settler nation and therefore will stop at nothing to see the destruction of Palestine and the ceasing of resistance from the people.
The resistance of the Palestinian people is not without precedent. History has shown what nations that occupy a territory will do: slaughter and genocide of the occupied nation. All media pundits say that I$rael has the right to defend itself, however what about Palestine?
MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade that oppressed nations have the right to defend themselves against imperialist agressors. Though we would go even further and say that those oppressed nations don't stand a chance at independence until we can take on the imperialists themselves. The imperialists will not allow individual nations self-determination and independence, even if those nations try to exist without threatening imperialism. Cuba provides a good example of this. But imperialism is building its own demise by putting the majority of the world's people in the camp of oppressed and exploited, with a material interest in overthrowing imperialism. One at a time nations will gain independence, and united these nations will take on imperialism globally.
Although the World Cup has been over for some time I feel compelled to comment on Mexico's national team.
When Mexico beat Croatia to make it to the round of 16 there were "disturbances" in Los Angeles. As Los Angeles has a high concentration of people who see themselves as Mexicans and not Amerikans, this goes to show that there is a separate, oppressed nation in the United $tates.
But this disturbance alone doesn't prove this. As J. Stalin said, "A nation is formed only as a result of lengthy and systematic intercourse, as a result of the fact that people live together from generation to generation. But people cannot live together for lengthy periods unless they have a common territory."
Mexicans in the United $tates, and especially in California, are distinct from Amerikans as well as from their relatives in Mexico. As Latinos are becoming the largest population in the United $tates it's even more important that a national party be formed to better serve the Latino nation, as the United $tates is incapable and incompetent to serve the needs of the Latino people in North America.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade that there is a separate nation within U.$. borders that is comprised of the primarily indigenous people of what was northern Mexico, and includes many descended from immigrants from Latin America as well. Though it is far more complicated than just some World Cup festivities, this comrade is correct that we can see evidence of the separate nation in many areas of culture. We have come to call this nation the [email protected] nation, and this is the subject of a book that is scheduled to be released at the end of 2014: Chicano Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. Write to us to get on the list for a copy of this important book.
I read over the letter from our Polunsky comrades. This is what I recommend. Often it helps to attach an I-60 with your Step 1 grievance and ask the Grievance Officer for the processing number of your grievance. If you have this number you will have a direct reference to track a grievance. This helps discourage grievances being "misplaced." It's also handy when you write Administration Review & Risk Management (ARRM) about the unit not addressing that particular grievance. For important and serious grievances it is useful to start them like this:
I file this grievance to exhaust all administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act to bring forth action under section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code.
It basically says: I'm going to sue you! It's not a guarantee but such an intro may make the grievance officer take it more seriously.
In regards to the officers who confiscate personal property and then destroy them, I'd like to direct our comrades to the Texas Grievance Guide, in particular the part concerning filing criminal charges against officers. If an officer takes a prisoner's property without giving a confiscation form stating the reason for confiscation, then that is legally theft. It is also a violation of your civil right to due process (which is also a criminal offense). Of course you will need some kind of proof that the item existed and was taken. Get prisoners to write affidavits and reference any camera numbers (if there are any). The criminal charges may not stick because pigs don't eat pork, but it may give them a wake up call and make them think twice.
I agree that our grievance petitions are having no effect with the people we are currently sending them to. I feel it more beneficial to send them to ACLU Texas or the DOJ. Our grievances and complaints are systematically neglected and denied. It is an Orwellian system, a labyrinth of closed loops, a facade. We need to push for the TDCJ Independent Oversight Committee which will place our grievances before an unaffiliated organization with the ability to monitor TDCJ to ensure that it abides by statutory law and its own policy.
We shouldn't hope sending the grievance petition alone to the DOJ or ACLU is enough. We must promote and campaign this proposed bill to our freeworld friends and family. I see no other way to break these closed loops.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Write to us for a copy of the Texas Grievance Guide. While we agree with this comrade that a TDCJ Independent Oversight Committee would bring progress for Texas prisoners in their fight against abuse and injustice, this too is not enough. We must learn from history that reforms like this one are followed by DOJ tricks and adjustments to work around the new policies and continue the same old abuse and repression. While we should still fight for these reforms, and use the battle to educate and unite people both behind the bars and on the streets, we must do this in the context of the broader struggle against the criminal injustice system. We should never mislead people to think that one reform or one house bill will make the change we need to see to create a true system of justice.
In today's world we're seeing the courts and media minimize the fact that U.S. prisons are run by criminals worse than the so-called worst confined within them. They have attempted, and have succeeded to a degree, in demonizing the prisoners being tortured and thereby desensitized the general public on that subject.
This is why it also seems the jury in the court of public opinion is still out regarding what process is due, and how the experimental implementation of political censorship known by its official misnomer "Obscene Materials Regulations" is already in progress on San Quentin State Prison's (SQ) four death row Security Housing Units (SHUs). The normalization of censorship in all its forms continues right before our eyes in SQ and beyond.
Consider how an invasion force imposes their will upon their victims preserved alive. One of the first things it does is knock out all means of communication. After installing a puppet governing body it then promotes its own agenda through the mass media. The San Quentin Antenna Cable System (SQACS) can be described as a one-sided propaganda bomb with a signal jamming warhead. It is a weapon of mass corruption in the hands of terrorists embedded in the Calincarceration Corrupted Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) and other affiliates using the CDCR as their puppet to lord it over in the micro-societies of prison. Their fee for this is deducted from your paycheck, education, and social services for the disabled and elderly.
The SQACS (AKA SQTV) consists of expensive technology similar to that used by cable providers. Most cable companies receive their programming via satellite and then rebroadcast it on frequencies that boxes atop your television can receive. SQTV also consists of 14 converter boxes and several DVD players. As you may know, these devices require your TV be on channel 3 or 4 to operate. However, the SQACS rebroadcasts each on a different frequency. It even rebroadcasts free over-the-air digital signals on different frequencies in QAM (cable mode) and the UHF band.
Not only are the 14 now obsolete converters a huge waste of electricity (they've been on 24/7 nearly 5 years!) they also block free over-the-air broadcasts on the VHF channels they're rebroadcasted on. Contrary to popular belief prisons don't make money for the state. Only those working at prisons make the money and since the SQACS wastes YOUR money and not theirs, they don't care - especially when it can be used to give them job security.
Public broadcast stations KQED and KMTP are just two stations multicasting from Sutro Tower that are currently being blocked/restricted by the SQ administration under the guise of technical difficulties. I argue it is actually intentional because these provide programs such as World News, Democracy Now, and even documentaries denouncing the horrific practice of long term torture by indefinite solitary confinement in California prisons.
San Quentin is by no means the only California prison using this technology to censor over-the-air broadcasts that don't fit their oligarchy's agenda. Radio stations received via these systems at various SHUs have reportedly cut out as the hunger strikers were being commended for their peaceful protest. The broadcast was then turned back on when the CDCR representative began demonizing it.
As stated in the essay "Free your mind; reversing the effects of prison censorship" by S. Muhammad Hyland, "The bottom line is simple. The institutional restrictions on revolutionary political material are in place for a reason: to keep us from learning how to go about securing our freedom, and destroying the system responsible for our lack of success in Amerika."
MIM(Prisons) adds: Unlike most U.$. prisons found in rural areas, San Quentin is right in the Bay Area where, as this comrade points out, there are many sources of progressive information on television and radio. It is quite damning that the state finds it necessary to censor these channels, which anyone just outside of the San Quentin compound can watch and listen to just fine. It speaks to the truth that prisons are all about social control. And it underscores the importance of not just having control of our own independent media, but also fighting for our First Amendment rights to distribute and share that media. Distribution networks are constantly threatened by bourgeois interests, from eliminating public bulletin boards, to the attempts to prioritize corporate website traffic on the internet, to blocking television and radio stations within prisons. Under Lock & Key is perhaps the most censored news source in the Amerikan Criminal Injustice System, and we are always engagedin ongoing battles in many states. We need more jailhouse lawyers and legal help on the streets to help with this fight.
"It shows that circumstances make men just as much as men make circumstances." - Karl Marx in the German ideology
Can we say that a new phenomenon is brewing behind these walls? We can all see the new level of political consciousness in California prisons, where prisoners are resisting the repressive policies of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in a more collective manner. Change has been slow, but progress is evident. The root of this is us prisoners with a little political and legal education to enlighten others and at the same time inspire others to participate in progressive action.
The California hunger strikes weren't spontaneous demonstrations against injust human rights violations in the Security Housing Units (SHUs), but rather carefully laid out plans to get outside attention and assistance. It was years of suppression that brought a few together to gather many in a common purpose that serves all of our interests. Some men are mentally broken while others carry on in these SHU conditions.
This is but a simple dialectic; or two sides of a contradiction forming a unity. On one hand we have those who deteriorate under these conditions and seek any way out, while on the other hand we have those prisoners who adapt and at the same time find ways to better themselves by educating themselves in law, reading good books, or picking up hobbies to keep themselves occupied. It is through these individuals who know the conditions in the SHU who are capable of creating campaigns for abolishing its policies, especially the gang validation policies that so many prisoners fall victim to.
Exposure and propaganda play a vital role on our behalf. This is where USW comrades come in, not just as advocates for human rights, but as advocates of an overall anti-imperialist campaign, as everything is connected to the imperialist system. The SHUs within CDCR are an aspect of imperialism, utilized for social control. And the oppressive conditions within are nothing more but to assert more social control behind prisons. It is through current events that this new phenomenon is manifesting a wave of politically conscious prisoners creating new circumstances. More validated prisoners are leaving the SHUs but more are taking their place. It is possible that one day through a collective effort the gang validation will be dismantled entirely and a SHU cap may be part of our future. I think it is.
After taking some time off from writing insightful editorials from a first worldist perspective for Turning the Tide, A Journal of Inter-communal Solidarity, Michael Novick once again assumes the mantle of vociferous defender of the Amerikan labor aristocracy as revolutionary vehicle pre-eminent in his review of Divided World, Divided Class by Dr. Zak Cope. While we can appreciate his endorsement of this valuable text as "required reading for would-be revolutionaries," our differences are unfortunately as vast as the property-less petty-bourgeoisie is corrupt. The MIM camp recommends this book for its global class analsyis, based in Marxist economics, that explains the class divide between the First World core and the Third World periphery.
Interestingly, it has been noted that Turning The Tide has taken on something of a Third Worldist veneer ever since some searing criticisms of Novick and his assessment of the Maoist Internationalist Movement by a USW comrade last year.(2) Despite TTT's recent focus on the New Afrikan nation and their expressed support for the struggles of the oppressed worldwide, it is the underlying political line of Novick and company that we must really examine to see where we have unity. We understand that to the untrained eye, as well as to those new to revolutionary politics, the difference between the Maoist Internationalist Movement and the Amerikan left are less than apparent, so we will draw them out here for educational purposes as well as to defend against opportunists and social chauvinists of varying stripes; as without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.
Novick calls on fans of egalitarian politics to take up critical thinking when it comes to the topic of global political economy and the stratification of labor under capitalism. However, he attacks and undermines Marxist political-economic analysis, the most critical and on point analysis of capitalism itself, without proposing anything in its place. He does this in the first few paragraphs of his article when he states that Dr. Cope comes to his conclusion that the First World labor aristocracy is bought off via "underlying Marxist assumptions of the labor theory of value"(1) and "through sometimes hypothetical formulations of what the value and price of that value 'should' be..."(1) He then states that Cope says, "the only workers who are 'exploited' are those who directly produce 'surplus value' in agricultural and industrial production of commodities."(1) These lines imply a critique of Cope's (and Marx's) methods, but he does not say so outright or offer an alternative framework for such an analysis.(2) This is nihilism, and leads to subjectivism. Without an objective analysis as our guide we just let the masses do what feels right. We agree with Novick that to lame apologists of First World workers "Cope's book is a very difficult read..."(1), but not because of the so-called "long sections of abstract mathematical calculations"(1) as Mr. Novick puts it, rather because bitter pills are always hard to swallow.
For those who are unaware, Novick claims to use dialectical materialism as a tool to analyze social phenomenon, yet this has not led him to the conclusion that the principal contradiction in the United $tates, or the world for that matter, is imperialism vs. the oppressed nations. Instead, Novick believes that capitalism never developed past its competitive phase, therefore it is his assessment that the principal contradiction on a world scale is still that of the bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat, or rather one between the so-called 1% and supposed 99% — itself a non-sensical and anti-scientific assessment. As such, Novick doesn't believe that there are any oppressing or oppressed nations, only oppressed and oppressing classes; yet he denounces our "petrified defense of the principal contradiction."(3)
Michael Novick also complains that "Cope essentially liquidates or obliterates class contradictions within both core and peripheral states"(1), but what Cope really obliterates is the First World's romanticization of the labor aristocracy as anything but revolutionary with his scathing class analysis of First World workers. Novick also makes an empiricist error when he asserts that Dr. Cope's analysis is no good to us in the United $tates because "his orientation and experience is primarily European"(1) hence his "understanding of settler colonialism and the existence of oppressed and colonized peoples within so-called 'core' countries as the US, Canada, etc. is limited."(1) It is quite odd that Novick complains that Cope does not give us a complete class analysis of who are our friends and who are our enemies within the United $tates. Despite the fact that this book is about global imperialism, and written by a non-Amerikan, it spends a good amount of time explaining class and nation and the development of racism within the context of U.$. society, as it is today the heart of imperialism. Novick does not address the points made by Cope, only complains that it is too general. In addressing the discrimination and oppression faced by the disadvantaged in First World countries, Cope states that "economic betterment for people in the rich countries is today intrinsically dependent on imperialism."(4) And that's the rub right there. Whatever contradictions exist within imperialist society, apologists for the labor aristocracy like Novick must come to terms with that reality, or risk fanning the flames of militarism and even fascism.
A little further down Novick states that "classes and class relationships are based on material reality..."(1). This much is true, however, Novick takes us deeper into the jungle of idealism when he writes, "... but these are social phenomenon based on the element of consciousness and practice as well,"(1) emphasis on the element of consciousness. However, Marxist philosophy teaches us that in general it is social being that determines social consciousness, and not the other way around as Novick implies. He has a hard time reconciling the existence of revolutionaries in the United $tates and an analysis that labels the U.$. an exploiter country. For a dialectical materialist, this is no mystery. A more succinct explanation to the phenomenon and structure of class is given by Cope below:
"The term 'class' does not only refer to a social group's relation to the means of production - that is, to property ownership or it's absence and nor does it simply refer to any category relating purely to the technical division of labor at the societal or workplace level. Rather, class denotes a dynamic social relationship corresponding to the system of ownership, the organization of labour and the distribution of material wealth as mediated by ideological, cultural and political institutions and practices. Above all, class is the product of political practices, with the relationship between the state and class struggle revolving around the issue of class domination."(4)
Not surprisingly it is always the ideological that is principal in matters of revolution when it comes to Amerikan "left" circles. And with that Novick ends his weak attempt to disprove the scientifically proven correctness of Zak Cope's book. What then proceeds in his review is more existentialist questioning of both nation and class contradictions in the United $tates and the world when the answers are already readily apparent. Novick offers his persynal musings as proof positive to his readers that the class contradiction in the world is more important than the one of nation. But in order to deliver the people's consciousness you can't just answer the tough questions with more questions. Rather, you must deliver the people's consciousness with revolutionary practice summed up in rational knowledge; as without revolutionary practice theory is meaningless. As such, Novick inadvertently proves the principal contradiction correct with his confused explanation of class contradictions in Amerika.
Something else that was disappointing in his review of Divided World was the complete omission of Cope's thesis on how the First World petty-bourgeoisie, the labor aristocracy in particular, is a huge reservoir and potential breeding ground for fascism drawing from within the dispossessed petty-bourgeois class an army to smash the national liberation and socialist movements. This is odd since the majority of Anti-Racist Action's work has previously been fighting the various neo-Nazi organizations currently attempting to re-organize on a massive scale. Perhaps we can surmise that Novick saw something else in Cope's book that is damning and detrimental to First World "revolutionary and socialist" movements? Perhaps another bitter pill to swallow?
We highly recommend Divided World, Divided Class to up and coming revolutionaries and communist youth looking to get a firm grasp of First World labor and it's dialectical relation to the real proletariat centered in the periphery.(5) Divided World, Divided Class does an excellent job of explaining the parasitic nature, as well as the fascist tendencies of the First World labor aristocracy.
On Monday, 19 May 2014, 7 prisoners at Polk Correctional on the H-Con Unit began a hunger strike due to inhumane conditions, and finally some getting fed up with the mistreatment. It is day 4 and 8 comrades refused their breakfast this morning. Some of the demands are:
need brooms to sweep cells
need nail clippers to exercise proper hygiene
need outside recreation
need new trays, ones now are cracked, split, peeling causing us to find plastic in our food
staff need to wear hair nets/change gloves for food preparation and serving
need headphones sold separately in canteen so we don't have to buy a whole new radio
stop taking mattress and religious property as punishment for up to 3 days
special housing cells need to be cleaned daily - currently have blood, bodily fluids in them and comrades are placed in them naked on suicide watch, only given 4 sheets of toilet paper, no hygiene, forced to eat with dirty hands
need a law library
stop use of nutraloaf as punishment
stop keeping us on H-Con 18-24 months before letting us off even without getting write ups
stop using restraints as punishment
These are just some of the most important of 33 demands. I am asking other comrades to join in support and fast or to write to:
Frank L. Perry, Secretary Division of Prisons 4201 Mail Service Center Raleigh, NC 27699-4201
U.S. Dept. of Justice, Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington DC 20530
or other forms of protest that do not cause you to receive an infraction. Also, pump them fists as we got a victory in the Central Prison Unit 1 case. They have to use a hand-held camera during all use of force, specifically after the use of force or during/until you are put back in your cell and no longer in contact with corrections staff. So hear it, can I get a hell yeah from all my comrades!