Fifteen years ago she was in a desperate situation and in an unfortunate set of circumstances. From afar we have watched Comrade Brown show and prove to the world over that consistency, education, solidarity and a set of principles not unlike our own can literally tear down the walls of the oppressive state apparatus.
Most peoples and folks would overlook the struggle of a misled youth in favor of the more traditional political prisoner, but, when we saw that our comrade was free we had to inform the masses of eir struggle. #she2 is Legion.
To be Legion you must have been about that life at one point. To be Legion you must have become the change you wanted to see. You could be a Freed Cyntoia Brown or a captive ME.
She beat the patriarchal system that told her that she would do 51 years for killing a trick who tried to rape her while under capitalism. She was forced into prostitution by a pimp that coerced her into the underground commercial sex economy without any input from her.
While she sat in prison she didn’t waste time. She got her education, she got a degree, she advocated for her freedom turning her cell into her dormitory. She went from the state pen to Penn State.
We hope for the best for Comrade Brown as she begins her life on release. She too knows the struggle the pain of the road less traveled, and we humbly salute her with universal greetings of PEACE!
MIM(Prisons) adds: Cyntoia Brown is an inspiration as to what the oppressed nation lumpen youth can overcome and accomplish. Her case is one where gender, class and national oppression all came into play leading Cyntoia to the traumatic experiences of her early life. These experiences were a consequence of gender oppression on her as not only a biological female, but also a young persyn. The lack of development of youth make them more subject to gender oppression in patriarchal society. Such experiences will often mark and change a persyn’s life. And we celebrate those like Cyntoia who come out of those experiences as a strong, educated organizer for the interests of the oppressed.
Unfortunately, we know countless Cyntoia Browns as Legion implies. And they do not have celebrities working on their freedom campaign. Some of them will spend the rest of their lives in prison. This is the difference between the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, that we live under now, which keeps the leaders of the oppressed locked up; as compared to the dictatorship of the proletariat, that we need, which will recognize those who take up the cause of the oppressed to be reformed contributors to society.
The risk is cases like Brown’s making it look like the U.$. injustice system also recognizes such contributors, as if Brown was released because the government recognized eir value to society, and not simply because of public pressure. Again, there are many Browns who are still languishing in prison because they didn’t get the public support, weren’t “newsy” enough, etc. And there will be many more if we don’t put an end to the patriarchal society that so often leads youth into dangerous situations.
We are grateful Comrade Brown is released and still fighting the good fight, and we have a lot more work to do.
"We find ourselves today forced into a re-examination of the whole nature of black revolutionary consciousness and its relative standing within a class society steeped in a form of racism so sensitized that it extends itself even to the slightest variation in skin tone." - Comrade George (B.I.M.E.)
Almost 50 years after the assassinations of our comrades W. L., George, Khata-Ri, etc, etc. and the enemy has totally disseminated our party and reinforced their system to potentially negate our future revolutionary movements! What do we do now?
Our demand for narcotics to temporarily numb the pain of half life in capitalist U.$. is helping to fuel our distraction. Half of us sell dope and the other half use it!! Killing our unity and revolutionary potential! Now here we are, in capitalist U.$. torture chambers! Many of us are addicts, chasing a high right now! Some of us "claim a set" and from this identity cannot see being cool with the brotha of another "set." Some are lifers, who are weary of sacrificing themselves for the reactionaries to benefit! Some have already fallen too far (i.e. KKKop collaborators), and in turn, work covertly to undermine our movement! Others are poltroons, and out of their fear(s), they knowingly sabotage our progression as a U.$. disfavored minority. Many of us are "armchair revolutionaries" in that our practice(s) never match our stated militant goals. Others see control of the "underground economy" as being revolutionary. I do not have the answers. I am simply a New Afrikan man seeking community input as I continue to stride firmly. My questions are:
1. How is the "revolutionary consciousness" developed in a time of reactionary gangsterism?
2. At what point does this so called "revolutionary theorist" have to put his theories into practice?
3. How can we ever trust a cat who has ever worked as an informant or jail house rat? By his very obvious individualism he has demonstrated his priority is ideal of "me first." Which, to us, says that once the pressure(s) of isolation, pig abuse(s), additional time, etc. comes into play, he will tell again. Setting us back even further!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade and eir questions posed was one of the inspirations for the topic of this issue of ULK. And we hope we have at least begun to provide some answers and guidance for those of us struggling with these questions.
This comrade also mentions a serious side-effect of the current gangster era, which is propped up by the drug economy. This reality serves as a material incentive in the form of profits for the seller and in the form of chemical triggers in the brain of the buyer. We addressed this situation in more depth in ULK 59 where we recognized the challenges in even questioning the drug economy in today's prison environment. It will require progress on other fronts to make a dent on the struggle against the poisoning of oppressed communities.
So what is to be done today?
Build a Revolutionary Culture on the Streets
USW30: Recently I heard of my older brotha/comrade's passing and it has me wondering... how do the brothas/sistas, who've embraced revolutionary consciousness inside, transition to outside struggles? Taking into consideration that the lumpen are in a state of defeatism and quite fratricidal!
I personally exited Federal Bureau Of Prisons after 17 calendars. I jumped right into local progressive politics and organizational volunteer work, serving the lumpen! Yet, seemingly at every outing one was forced to repel some form of gang reactionary threat(s). Most of which, stern chastisements sufficed. However, all B.S. aside, I guess what I'm saying is, without a "progressive culture" in play within the "hood" We are at risk of A) being victimized by our misguided lumpen, conditioned by capitalism to fratricidal violence, B) or we ourselves react to reactionary threats and in turn reinforce the lumpen's perceptions of us, "prison revolutionaries" that return to "gangster" conduct once out.
In truth, the only communities I saw which had requisite support systems; minimal threat of intra-national violence, and universal code of community morality were Islamic. I continually read pieces in ULK, where cats profess to be "materialist dialecticians" and as such, against "spirituality." What I suggest to those living in New Afrikan areas in particular is to analyze the impact of Islam on it. Contrast that with that of the so-called revolutionaries. We must figure out more effective ways to bring unity, as we methodically strive to bring Babylon down. Rather than spit unproductive rhetoric which services interests of the pigs by dividing militants from one another.
Those who are truly analyzing the body of facts (i.e. U.$. history) would have to acknowledge that those of Afrikan ancestry have always held spiritual connections and/or beliefs in a higher power/creator. Upwards of 40% of enslaved Afrikans were Muslim. Leading many slave captors to recommend traffickers firstly "break" them (i.e. torture Islam out of them) prior to bringing these known rebels to the United $tates and England. My point being those who truly work to build revolutionary culture must work with Muslims and in turn find common ground to then gain traction in revolutionary culture building.
Materialists must dialectically look at U.$. history and correspond tactics to today's realities confronting historically oppressed peoples! Teach Christians examples of Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, etc. Teach Muslims about El Hajj Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X), etc. That even though we may come from varying socio-cultural backgrounds, we have the very same oppressors and system. That the Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, Communists, etc. who live within U.$. borders all share the same injustices, inequalities, and pig brutalities on a daily basis. As such, we must cast side the divisive rhetoric and build class unity or die. As a Muslim of New Afrika, I am obligated to fight all oppressors. Personally, I could care less if the askari at my side believes or not. Long as he/she is committed to struggle...to death or death row. Does it matter if I must make Salah, before we run towards our oppressors? Well, that's my take and regardless, I will continue fighting, organizing, and striving! Peace.
MIM(Prisons) responds:We agree with this author’s point that we should be working with the left wing of the Muslim movement, and other religions. We addressed this question in depth in ULK 48. As communists we embrace materialism and encourage scientific thinking about the world. But this does not prevent us from uniting with all who can be rallied against imperialism. And the rabid anti-Muslim sentiments coming from the Amerikan imperialists creates fertile breeding ground for anti-imperialism.
Although we cannot find evidence of such a high percentage of Muslims among enslaved Africans. At the time that slaves were captured from Africa indigenous religions were the most common practice. But traffickers (and slave owners) attempted to break slaves of all their practices that tied them to their homeland, regardless of what religion or other cultural norms.
While we often talk about the imprisoned lumpen as being one of the most revolutionary populations in the United $tates, it is also in a backwards state of affairs. Meanwhile, the last time we saw a strong revolutionary consciousness penetrate the prison population was when there were strong vanguard organizations in the oppressed nations on the streets. We must recognize that part of building a strong revolutionary movement in prisons is building an even stronger one on the outside.
United Struggle from Within serves as a conduit for connecting the two, via prisoners who are released. MIM(Prisons)'s Re-Lease on Life Program attempts to provide support to those who are struggling with these challenges after release. But we have a lot of work to do to build strong revolutionary communities for comrades around the United $tates.
Revolutionary Theorists or Revolutionaries
Within the context of criticism-self-criticism, I am wondering when we as revolutionary theorists on the inside, shall righteously analyze the definition(s) of "revolution"/"revolutionary"? And in turn, be honest with ourselves (within the New Afrikan community) about if we are truly on that path that Col J (RIP), W.L. (RIP) etc. strode. I am questioning myself as well?! As the Kentucky comrade pointed out on p. 8 of ULK 65.(1)
Many of us claim to be revolutionaries, but have yet to truly embrace the reality of revolution! Or, shed the ethos of Gangsta. We create plethora of revolutionary documents in prisons, only to return to society and criminality. Recently a young New Afrikan referred to a fellow rad as "homeless dopefiend!" This made me think back.
The economy of capitalism murders millions daily. We have seemingly been co-opted by enemy cultural tenants! We have comrades embracing drug dealing as acceptable conduct! Poisoning our communities, profiting off of the destruction of our underklass citizenry! Then, returning to prison in turn advocating for addicted rads to be cast aside! We have rads claiming revolutionary authenticity, that have yet to stand against the real enemy, yet take pride in shopping blood of their own! The contradictions are glaring and I believe these are just a few of the things which have a real progressive and revolutionary movement stagnating!
Perhaps a retracing of steps is needed? As in... acknowledgement of enemy's defeat of the revolutionary movement in the 60s! That the "Black Power" of the 70s was a reformist attempt(s) to somehow safeguard some aspect of sociocultural pride, while rejecting the dominant amerikkkan kapitalist culture! Which in turn, led to the 80s crack epidemic and subsequent abandonment of all things revolution. For a "piece of the pie!"
These cats coming into prison today... fratricidal, apolitical, and addicted! Are the effects of our failures as leaders, in our communities! How can he claim Col J (RIP), when our day to day conduct is a reactionary affirmation of "Superfly" and "the Mack?" These youth see the hypocrisies, and this is why we cannot gain their support! To speak about revolution and yet not live a revolutionary example is unacceptable! And fraudulent in the 1st degree! I am no longer going to refer to myself as a revolutionary until I engage in revolution! Nor will I reference Col J(RIP) as my "comrade," until I follow his examples!
I thank the Kentucky comrade for eir critiques in the last two paragraphs, as they struck home for me! We must reform the "gangstas" within our movement... or destroy them! As their overt materialistic individualisms will destroy us... or, turn the progressives back into elements of reaction!
MIM(Prisons) responds: There is a bit of an existential crisis for the revolutionary in non-revolutionary times. We don't take on the term "revolutionary" as if we were superheroes, but merely to describe our political goals and ideology. But, it does bring us back to question 2 above. And we'd say that a revolutionary must always be putting eir theories into practice. And that includes not waging revolutionary war in a non-revolutionary situation. That is a basic principle of the guerilla.
As USW30 says, the youth can detect the phony revolutionaries who just talk the rhetoric while acting out the negative aspects of the gangster role. We can act as revolutionaries, as individuals, in our day-to-day behavior in interacting with, serving, and standing up for the people.
There's a reason we get letters regularly mentioning the comrades who died in the struggle 50 years ago. Their legacy lives on because they stood up as examples. And even if our names don't become legendary, we will inspire the youth and the masses around us through our correct actions.
If we accept MIM(Prisons)'s line and analysis that U.$. prisoners — lumpen prisoners of oppressed nations — have the most objective class-nation interest in anti-imperialism, then of course the validity of this analysis can be tested in practice, whereby objective organizing factors-forces would be evident. MIM(Prisons), to its credit of remarkable theoretical leadership, has already outlined in its article on prison organizing what the principal contradiction is driving the Prison Movement.(1) MIMP also challenged its prison cadre (of prisoner study groups) to do the same for their own specific state prison conditions. While these theoretical tasks are undoubtedly necessary, they don't really instruct us on whether the Prison Movement is actually moving, or better yet whether there is even a Prison Movement to move.
Thus, it is the aim of this article to look deeper into the question of prison organizing, to determine what fundamental factors-forces need to be in evidence for there to be a viable Prison Movement, and above all to give an honest assessment of the U.$. lumpen prisoner's potential to be leaders of any progressive movement, least of all, one of anti-imperialism or national liberation. However, it should be noted that the conclusions reached in this article are specific to Washington state prisons. It is the hope of the author that other cadre across U.$. prisons will pick up the pen and conduct their own serious and sober investigation.
For MIM(Prisons), the principal contradiction determining the development and direction of the Prison Movement is expressed in terms of consciousness, not class or nation. With individualistic (petty bourgeois) attitudes and behavior occupying one pole of the contradiction, the other pole is occupied by more group-oriented (progressive) conduct and concern. And at this time, as it has been for some time, individualistic consciousness is the dominant pole of the principal contradiction. In other words, within a given prison environment, most prisoners view their interests (short-term, medium-term, and even long-term) being realized through individualism (and opportunism). Accordingly, group-oriented thinking and action are rarely seen and therefore have little-to-no impact on the Prison Movement.
Washington state is no different in this regard. In fact, it is exceptional in a level of individualism, opportunism, and soft-shoe parasitism that prevail among its prisoners. Sure, the anti-people behavior of snitching, drug culture, extortion through manipulation, etc. is not exclusive to Washington prisons. Such behavior can be seen in just about any U.$. prison, in settings where violence and viciousness are the only coins with purchasing power. And yet, in Washington prisons, extremely adverse conditions are pretty much nonexistent, and with it a large part of the basis for prison organizing.
To explain further, Washington state has created a new, depoliticized prison environment, one in which traditional prison politics are not tolerated. While prison politics of old were reactionary and self-destructive, depoliticization has anesthetized the Washington state prisoner to the contradictions that come with imprisonment. With the Washington prison of today being somewhat safe, devoid of the ever-present threat of physical and sexual violence, and other forms of overt predatory behavior, the prisoner is no longer forced to question and think critically about the conditions of incarceration. Indeed, today the prisoner is numb to the political dimensions of incarceration.
There are essentially three ways in which Washington has managed to accomplish this. First, it has all but institutionalized snitching, allowing for the systematic abuse/misuse of protective mechanisms (such as PREA and other federally-mandated laws) by prisoners and staff.(2) And because consequences for snitching went out with the old prison politics, this encourages more prisoners to join the growing horde of informants. This results in more and more prisoners seeing their interests protected by the state, when unfortunately, it only reinforces the status quo of their imprisonment.
Conversely, those prisoners who refuse to be pawns of the system isolate themselves within their own close-knit groups and factions. They sit back and lament about how so-and-so is telling or they talk fondly about how things used to be. In reality, these prisoners are only engaging in their own form of individualism by resurrecting old myths or fashioning new ones from their false consciousness. Ultimately, these prisoners are just as bad as the snitches, because they are paralyzed to act or think critically (and scientifically) by the possibility of being told on. At least the snitch snitches, that is to say, "acts."
The second way WA State has sanitized its prisons of organizing conditions is by institutionalizing privileges. WA State has done a phenomenal job in this respect. Prisoners can join culture groups where they have activities and functions. There are a bunch of special jobs as well as the most coveted Correctional Industries job. Programs range from education and vocational to religious and community support. Of course, cable TV, J Pay, food fund raisers, and quarterly food packages contribute to the sanitization of the prison environment. All of these taken together allow the prisoner to carve out eir own specialized niche of doing time, whereby ey becomes a better inmate instead of a better person. More importantly in the eyes of WA State ey becomes reliable because eir behavior is predictable. In other words, WA State doesn't have to worry about "model inmate" given that ey is lost in doing easy time.
Finally, the third and most important way WA State created a depoliticized climate within its prisons was to dismantle and discredit the old guard. The old guard represented a collection of old-school prisoners, who were versed in prison politics of both revolutionary and reactionary iterations. (The term "prison politics” originated during the late 60s and 70s, as a liberation ideology beyond the walls found a home behind the walls. But just as the reactionaries beat back the tide of social change, those revolutionary prisoners under lock and key suffered similar fate. What was left in the walk was the same predations and parasitism we saw in lumpen communities of oppressed nations at that time. Today, most prisoners erroneously believe prison politics to mean prison LO's pushing the line behind telephones and tables or checking in prisoners who's paperwork didn't check out.) Sadly, most of these prisoners have given up on handing down "game" to the younger generations, least of all organizing for better prison conditions. They are either bought off with a special status within prison reserved only for old timers, or become victims/hostages of their own vices. Those who have maintained a militant posture, over time, have their characters impinged in a pig-led campaign to discredit them and their organizing efforts. It is this dearth of political leadership and guidance that is most responsible for the depoliticization within WA State prisons.
But such a situation isn't as discouraging when we look at the WA State penitentiary. The state penitentiary or West Complex is a closed (maximum) facility, housing lots of young lumpen org members looking to wild out. So at the West Complex it is common to have race riots or prison LO rivalries. Fights are an everyday thing creating an atmosphere electric with tension. And at just about any moment staff can be victimized too. Yet, in a seemingly chaotic environment, where WA State has not eradicated "prison politics," that is the West Complex group-oriented action based on principled unity among all the prisoners resulted in concessions from the state. In early 2018, West Complex prisoners got fed up with the poor food (pun intended) they were being served, and as a collective group decided to go on a hunger strike. It became such a big ordeal in the state that the governor, Jay Inslee, visited the facility to speak with a few prisoners who registered the grievances of the population. Of course, the visit by the governor was more show than a show of concern. The point is, such group-oriented action actually resulted in some of the grievances of the prisoners being addressed. Most notably was the addition of a hot breakfast to the menu where previously it was a cold sack.
The point that this example serves isn't that reactionary prison politics work or that violent prisoners are more suited for group-oriented action. No, the point here is that a repressive institution such as a maximum facility creates and nurtures violence; it promotes the continuation of reactionary prison politics. And as violence occurs and politics are pushed, the repressive nature of the institution tightens evermore. Eventually, prisoners are forced to deal with the meager, spartan existence the institution provides them. Some choose the path of more self-destructive behavior, but it is ALL who opts for the path of collective-oriented action when the conditions are ripe.
This isn't exactly a glowing endorsement of the maximum prison. Too much reactionary stuff occurs behind its walls by too many prisoners with reactionary consciousness. Leadership must be in place, the issue to organize around must be important to most if not everyone. And more importantly, there can be no hesitation once the wheels move forward and gains momentum. The organizing effort is too delicate of a process within the WA State prison environment, which is why more often than not conditions are left to rot.
The one definite conclusion reached about organizing in WA State prisons is that the max prison fosters a rebellion among its prisoners that has the greatest potential to serve the Prison Movement. There is a level of seriousness and critical awareness seen in the West Complex that is just nonexistent in other WA State prisons, due to the depoliticization program. This isn't to say that there aren't some enlightened comrades on WA State medium and minimum mainlines sprinkled here and there. It is precisely this "sprinkling here and there" of righteous comrades that the cacophony of "doing easy time" drowns out their leadership, however.
MIMP has already reached the theoretical conclusion that the lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations) will make up the vanguard of the Prison Movement. But here in WA State, unlike most other states, it is the labor aristocratic and petty-bourgeois oppressor nation prisoners who are in the majority on most mainlines. And given this group's inclination toward fascism, it poses an obstacle to organizing in many respects. Those oppressor nation prisoners who do not flirt with fascist politics are generally sex offenders and thus seen as even more taboo to unite with. This is an interesting dynamic for lumpen prisoners' (of oppressed nations) role within the WA State Prison Movement. It must not only overcome oppressor nation fascism but also violate prison norms set by politics.
Granted, prison politics have been eliminated on most WA State mainlines, but they have yet to be eliminated from the hearts and minds of both lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations) and oppressor nation prisoners (fascists). Consequently, the stage of struggle with respect to the WA State Prison Movement is at the level of disunity and distrust. Coupled with the very real fact that the lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations) are fractured into their own constituent prison and street LO's, their leadership in the movement is without a doubt questionable at this point. For lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations), caught in the depoliticized zones of Washington State prisons, the only objective interest for organizing is for their freedom. Everything else for this group is about drug culture, checking for wimmin, and establishing and maintaining a credible prison reputation to take with them to the street. To this point, the potential for the relatively few lumpen prisoners (of oppressed nations) to lead or even support a Prison Movement exists within the WA State closed custody institution, West Complex.
While such a conclusion is discouraging for WA State revolutionary prisoners, the hope lies in defining—maybe redefining—what the aims of the Prison Movement are relative to the specific conditions of the WA State. If, in general, the Prison Movement is about improving prison conditions, agitating and educating the larger population on the systemic injustices of mass incarcerations, or challenging the legitimacy of the prison, then the WA State Prison Movement must focus most of its effort on agitating and educating, challenging the growth of the prisons, etc. The basis for improving prison conditions has become an exclusive endeavor for the typical "legal beagle" in search of a big payday. The average prisoner has it too good to want to organize for better.
In conclusion, it is the overall contention of this article that the WA State Prison Movement exists, but solely in the individual practices of the few righteous comrades throughout the system.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer demonstrates how to study local prison conditions to determine the contradictions and where to best focus our organizing energy. This is something that has to be done from within each state by people who live there and know the conditions. It can't be done from the outside. With this analysis we can compare conditions, learn from best practices in other similar prisons, and build our organizing work in a scientific way. We welcome comrades in other states to follow this example and send in your own analysis of your state or prison conditions. We also hope other WA prisoners will respond to this analysis with your thoughts and observations.
In the February 2019 issue of the SF BayView there was a headline that read, "California Prisoners endangered by forced merger of Snitch Yards." And it dawns on the world, how can a prisoner in the prison state capitol affect change on a national, and international level, if they can not find unity as a population suffering under the exact same conditions of: Police Brutality, Don’t ask Don’t Tell, Code of Silence Policies, Corrupt Administrative Justices, and Counterfeit Social Justice/Prison Reform Advocates. Prisoners in California suffer, as a whole, under these conditions, yet the leaderships of the most politically advanced wrestle over popularity contests between who is "active" and who is non-active, who is with the business and who is not. Just what business is it that defines whether a person in prison is active or not? Is it not the Freedom of All Persons in Prison we struggle for, or is it but a select few?
Aren't we all political prisoners, under these current conditions? Of course, there are those amongst the population of prisoners who are deserving of a bit more popularity than others. Those who carry the publicity of high profile cases as social justice activist, militants and radicals. All in all however, do we not share the similar suffering under this condition called imprisonment?
In California, leaders must really mature themselves and their followers to the level of love and reconciliation, this be prisoners and former prisoners. The time is: N.O.W.
Headlines like this one in the SF BayView, designating all Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) facilities as "snitch yards," are not only mis-leading the public support of the California abolitionist population, but also an abuse of power that promotes dis-unity amongst the prison populations. Prisoner leaderships must be wise in the manner with which we allow for our movement to be represented by members of the public. The most important aspect should be the information that leaders allow to be published on the state of population affairs. It must be accurate information, based on facts, that the leaders use when representing the movement, or its population.
It is a fact, not all prisoners housed at SNY Facilities are snitches. So for the headline, "...Forced Merger of Snitch Yards" to be presented by the SF BayView does a (dis)service, to not only one of the strongest vehicles and stages for the prison abolitionist movement, but it hurts the movement as a whole. What, social justice and prison reform for all but SNY prisoners?
Prisons across North America are faced with a similar issue to the SNY facilities. Those who benefit the most from the all-too-common misnomer that all SNY are snitches, child molesters, sexual deviants, are the law enforcement agencies. This too includes mainstream corporate news reporting agencies. #Fakenews. There are individuals who testified in the event of their commitment offense all over prison, not just SNY. And what is to be said about leaderships within prisons affiliated with drug operations, serving poison to the community, gun violence involving non-combative casualties of peoples, kids, grandparents, relatives? And what about the big homies on the line affiliated with pimping, pandering and prostitution. How many underage homegirls have we condoned being out in the trap after curfew?
Prisoners across the United $tates in the states of TX, OH, LA, AL, NY, PA, FL, VA, NC, and SC have begun concerted efforts to consolidate the various factions of their prison populations, scattered across the board, for the sake of unity. This effort is known as the National Freedom and Justice Movement. If the leaderships, and their followings within California prisons do not cease in their petty quarrels and name-calling skirmishes on both sides, SNY and GP, those who have often been at the center of the global discussions for prison reform and abolitionism might find themselves on the wrong side of history. This is a most sincere call for prisoners in California, whether it be former prisoners, juvenile lifer prisoners, non-violent offender prisoners, level 4, 180 & 270 prisoners.
See, the one thing you all have in common? You’re prisoners. There may be some who hold strictly to the Agreement to End Hostilities while others will develop under the United Front for Peace in Prison. Wherever it be, get in where you fit in and carry love first of all. The movement is larger than all of us, none is without error, thus there must always be room for reconciliation.
I for one beg your mercy
In struggle and strength
MIM(Prisons) comments: The BayView article in question was written by someone, who, despite our disagreements on questions of Marxism, has done a lot to advocate for people in the California Security Housing Unit (SHU) system. The anti-SNY attitude is still the status quo among the lumpen organizations (L.O.s) that were once the main targets of the SHU. And some supporters of those who spent years and decades in those torture cells parrot the disparaging attitudes towards SNY, which peaked at almost one third of the California prison population before the forced integration began.
We stand with the families who are concerned about the safety of their loved ones, and who are exposing the state for using the NDPFs as coercive tools of violence against those who don't just go along with the state's program. Our approach remains one of advocating for and supporting comrades in these NDPFs who are advocating for the principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons(UFPP). While the forced integration currently serves the state, this is only true as long as prisoners stay divided. By building the UFPP in the interests of all imprisoned people, we can turn this tool of oppression into an opportunity to transform decades-long divisions in the California prison system. We have a long way to go, but some day these divisions must fall.
The latest reports from withing the NDPFs are included below.
A California prisoner reports on integration at California Correctional Institution: In CCI-Tehachapi level III, the prisoners who challenge the status quo are quickly transferred out to the so-called Non-Designated Programming Facilities (NDPF). There they will become targets due to our SNY status. This is how CDCR has been rehabilitating California's enslaved population. If we don't jump when they tell us to jump, or crawl on our knees and hands, we are considered program failures.
The same type of racist rehabilitation that George Jackson found in the 1960s, I found it myself in 2018 at CCI-Tehachapi. CDCR is creating monsters, on purpose. This is why many of us come out hating society and would rather die off than return to prison.
A prisoner in California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility reports on 1 May 2019: Here at SATF-D facility these guys' eyes are wired shut. We have been receiving a flux of prisoners from Soledad and New Folsom EOP facility. These individuals are New Afrikan and [email protected], they come from what are known as mainline soft yards, or 50/50 yards. These are facilities where there is very little to zero accountability to the post-George Jackson structure of prison politicking. Where most mainline facilities there will be paperwork checking (investigations into a prisoner's commitment offense by other prisoners to determine the internal social status of prisoners on new arrival), or orchestrating the ostracizing of a persyn who co-operated with the police in their commitment offense. Although 50/50 facilities are considered mainline facilities, they don't engage in much of this sort of behavior. Now they are being introduced to SATF-D facility, which is supposed to be a Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY).
There have been a few fist fights, but overall the masses don't even care where these new arrivals are coming from. The leaderships within the facility are already on the look out for particular type of behavior. We ain't tripping on an individual's paperwork, one's sexual gender, or activity. Even if one transfers in and is a member of an STG, we are not ostracizing people here. Give it enough time, most guys are rolling it up and having admin rehouse them, rather than come with the police tactics. One of the strongest instruments being used is the United Front for Peace in Prisons statement, the Unity Principle.
I have persynally used the works of Larry Hoover and the "Blueprint from Gangsters Disciple to Growth and Development" by Ron Erwin to spread the truth to all G.D.s, and all who have been affiliated, influenced or associated with and by our movement. From Crips of various subsets like the Five Deuce, One-O-Seven and Seven Four Hoovers. To the Bloods of various subsets like the Black P. Stones, Four Deuce Brims, Anthens, these prison politiks, that are spread by gladiator wars, all have a root. At this local level we are spreading awareness of the liberation struggle of freedom fighters like: Leonard Peltier, Mutulu Shakur and Red Fox Falcon, drawing connections between them and the fathers (and mothers) of our movements.
What is a gangster? Simply a word, an idea? No Gangster is a psychology, a mentality.
Six things, in varying degree, regardless of locale, are always present in penal institutions: authorities (the badge), prisoners (captives), oppression, resistance, manipulation and violence. Oppression and manipulation are the badges' primary tools for controlling prisons. Captives have recourse to resistance and violence. The gangster is both target and aspiration for the badge and captives alike; if only for different reasons.
The badge sees gangsterism as a necessary evil. The "convict code" is based on gangsterism. The badge uses this to great effect. For example, misinformation offered by a "friendly" badge. There is no doubt a badge can call any captive a snitch, or worse, and be believed. Many reason that the badge does have access to every captive's file. What possible purpose could they have in lying to a gangster?
The badge's main concern is control. Controlling prisoner populations is most effective when the system can take advantage of pre-existing mechanisms, such as gangsterism or convict code. In such cases oppression seems organic, correct course of action instead of manipulation. More often than not a gangster learns information, suspicions emerge, questions asked, investigations follow. At the very least a captive's credibility is destroyed; at the extreme are ostracization and violence. This is not only true for the badge. Captives also manipulate gangsterism. A gangster's word has merit, more so than the badge's. Here too manipulation appears organic. A gangster's suspicions sway other captives' opinions so that character assassination due to personal enmity is all too familiar. The issue is not the manipulation but rather the lack of resistance.
Gangster is the pillar of lumpen communities. Eir honor, integrity are above reproach. Knowing this the badge whispers in the right ears and later watches captives eating one another like sharks in a small pond. At present, the rules of gangsterism are at the service of the badge. Changing the prevailing culture of captive vs. captive violence and badge collaboration is a serious problem to be resolved in prison today. Does this mean abandoning gangsterism? Gangsterism is tied up in all kinds of capitalist principles: machoism, classism, patriarchy, etc. Yet, it is based in resisting the system: noble seed of revolutions. Understanding the forces at play is necessary for combating corrupted gangsterism, because gangsterism can be a stepping stone to revolutionary mentality.
Every social environment evinces a subjection-manipulation cycle: subjection to rules, norms, expectations, and manipulation through rewards and negative consequences. Prisons are no different, neither is criminal intercourse. Capitalism for general society, gangsterism for captives. To bring gangsterism back to its revolutionary core we can turn to the democratic method – unity, criticism, unity.
Gangsterism is at the badge's service not only because of manipulation disseminated through gangsters but by lumpen divisions. In prison, far more than in society, lumpen become isolationists and separatists. Latinos with Latinos, further segregated by northern or southern affiliations or otherwise. Identical processes follow for all other lumpen. These divisions create barriers to communication, distrust and steady tensions. The badge plays on STG (Security Threat Group, a Homeland Security terrorist categorization term, also found in FBI documents referring to Brown Berets and Black Panther Party members or supporters) affiliations and nation prejudices as much as they do gangsterism and with the same end in view – greater control. Unity is the only real response. The badge is unified against us captives in their efforts. We, on the other hand, are barely unified against each other. First and foremost, gangsterism should be centered on opposition and resistance to the badge. Captive vs. badge.
Gangsters must be extra critical with all information received from the badge. Nine out of ten times the badge doesn't tell you anything for your benefit. Information disseminated in the service of penological interests. Consider how many times the badge has warned you about a major shake down or offered to hold your contraband? They are always engaged in exercising more control. Beginning from a united oppositional front – captives vs. badge – it becomes possible to derail the subjection-manipulation cycle. Criticism is the second stage in this process; one must analyze eir motive, endgame and method of manipulation.
From unity in opposition and criticism of intelligence being gifted us we turn to unity in response. This last stage of the democratic method is determined on a case by case basis. Every prison is distinct in character. Gangsterism is not corrupted everywhere in the exact same degrees. In some facilities badge collaboration is excessive, in others captive vs. captive violence is the commanding concern. In progressing the struggle, captives must be able to unite against the badge. This means moving beyond nation prejudices and STG allegiances. This constitutes the hardest step in our struggle.
19 de Octubre 2018 – Una semana después de las festividades en México del Día de La Raza, una caravana de 3 o 4 mil hombres, mujeres y niños emigrantes (formando parte de lo que se apodó el Éxodo Centroamericano), tomaba por asalto la frontera Mexicana-Guatemalteca en Chiapas, un estado sureño Mexicano, exigía salvoconducto a través de México para llegar a los EE.UU. Los emigrantes habían pasado siete días andando desde Honduras, donde originaba la caravana, hasta Guatemala, donde aumentó a causa de que se unieron los guatemaltecos. Al llegar a la frontera de México-Guatemala, los emigrantes fueron detenidos por las Fuerzas Armadas Mexicanas que llevaban equipo contra disturbios,
vehículos blindados y helicópteros del modelo Black Hawk, provistos por los estadounidenses. El gobierno neo-colonial
Mexicano estuvo actuando bajo órdenes del presidente estadounidense, Donald Trump, quien emitió la amenaza de sanciones económicas contra México, además de advertir que podría enviar tropas a la frontera conjunta de los EUA y México, si México no evitaba que la caravana legase a los EUA. Se dieron órdenes similares a Guatemala y a Honduras,quienes ignoraron las órdenes al principio. Como resultado, el Presidente Trump amenazó con cortar la ayuda económica a los países reacios.(1)
Con hambre, sed y cansancio, la caravana atravesó la reja de la frontera y entró a México en oleadas, donde las Fuerzas Armadas Mexicanas dispararon gas lacrimógeno y tuvieron que usar sus bastones contra los emigrantes a fin de hacer retroceder a la caravana. Mientras algunos emigrantes empezaron a
lanzar rocas contra la policía, el acontecimiento alcanzó un punto principal cuando [email protected] jóvenes empezaron a trepar las puertas del puente, donde los detuvieron, así que empezaron a saltar hacia el río bajo de Suchiate. Después de fallar en disuadir de saltar a la gente, un reportero presente, preguntó ¿Porque saltar? Un emigrante respondió que lo hacía por sus niños, y aunque no quería morir, el riesgo valía la pena si podía alimentar a su familia. Otros respondieron que preferían morir en vez que volver a la
pobreza oprimente y a la violencia pandillera dominante que les aguarda de regreso a casa. “Sólo queremos trabajar”, otros emigrantes dijeron. Cuando todo ya había terminado se reportó que había muerto un niño debido a inhalación del gas lacrimógeno.(2)
Desafortunadamente, los problemas de la caravana no se acabaron allí. 48 horas después de haber sido detenida en el Rio Suchiate, casi la mitad de la caravana fue eventualmente admitida en México, mientras que [email protected] 2 mil optaron por subiese a los buses de regreso a Honduras. El 22 de octubre, los miembros restantes de la caravana se juntaron con con otros refugiados centroamericanos ya en Chiapas, que resultó en el aumento de la caravana de 7 a 8 mil. Esto incluyó a 2 mil niños entre la caravana junto con la organización de los derechos para los emigrantes, Pueblo Sin
Fronteras (People Without Borders). Miembros de la caravana hicieron una petición pública a las Naciones Unidos para que declaren al éxodo centroamericano como una crisis humanitaria.
Le pidieron a las N.U. que intervinieran y enviaran unos emisarios y una escolta militar para que vigilaran el pasaje de la caravana por México, al que se refirieron como el “Corredor de la Muerte.” Representantes de la caravana acusaron al gobierno Mexicano de perpetrar abusos de los derechos humanos contra ellos. Dijeron que las mujeres habían sido violadas y que habían secuestrado menores. Además, contaron sobre niños en la caravana que de pronto viajaban solos porque sus padres habían desaparecido.(3)
Entretanto, más hacia el sur del hemisferio, la actriz Angelina Jolie, quien es una embajadora especial de la Comisión por los Derechos Humanos para refugiados de las N.U., viajó a Perú para llamar la
atención a la “crisis humanitaria” que se está dando en el país vecino de Venezuela, donde la inflación y falta de comida ha conllevado a migraciones en masa hacia Perú, Brasil y Colombia.(4) [email protected] migraciones fuera de Venezuela han sido ampliamente cubiertas por los medios estadounidenses junto con una retórica cada vez más hostil por parte de políticos para derrocar el régimen de Nicolas Maduro, el cuál se ha manifestado en contra del control imperialista del país. En comparación, la petición de la caravana Hondureña apenas ha recibido atención por parte de los medios de difusión de habla inglesa, exceptuando por su influencia en las elecciones intermedias aquí en los E$tados Unidos. ¿Podría esto deberse a que el gobierno Venezolano ha sido una espina en el costado del imperialismo estadounidense por los últimos 20 años, mientras que los gobiernos de México, Guatemala y Honduras han sido sirvientes leales, tal vez reacios, de ese mismo poder imperialista?
Desde 2005, la cifra oficial de refugiados en el mundo aumentó de
8,7 millones a 214,4 millones en 2014.(5) Sin embargo, visto que la
propia definición y criterios para calificar como refugiado están dictados por los propios imperialistas, y por lo tanto, políticamente motivados, estamos seguros de que la cifra real es mucho más alta. Por ejemplo, según a las N.U., Honduras no se considera si quiera como un país de origen para refugiados. Tampoco lo es México, y aún así la mayoría de gente emigrando a los E$tados Unidos viene de México, y ciertamente, la gente de Honduras y Guatemala están huyendo de condiciones bastante peores que la reciente crisis en Venezuela.(6)
Ya en 2014, habían 11,2 millones de emigrantes indocumentados en los EE.UU.; 67% venían de México y Centroamérica. De estos 11,2 millones de emigrantes, el 72% vive en cuatro de los 10 estados con las poblaciones más grandes de indocumentados. De estos 10 estados, 4 son Aztlán, ej., California, Texas, Arizona, y Nevada.(7) Las estáticos también demuestran que los emigrantes centroamericanos de Guatemala, Honduras y El Salvador se incorporarán a Aztlán y sus niños serán asimilados por la nación [email protected](8)
A medida que la contradicción principal del mundo (el imperialismo contra las naciones oprimidas, principalmente el imperialismo estadounidense) sigue desarrollándose y la crisis empeora, podemos anticipar más de estos éxodos en masa en el futuro cercano. Ya hay reportes de otra caravana de al menos 1000 emigrantes saliendo de Honduras. De seguro que para los estadounidenses esto debe parecer una pesadilla hecha realidad, literalmente miles de refugiados del tercer mundo golpeando las puertas de su ciudadela imperialista. Tan trágico como todo esto parece, es tan sólo un vistazo de cómo las masas del Tercer Mundo se levantarán al fin, y en su desesperación, terminarán con el imperialismo una vez por todas. Curiosamente, las fuerzas revolucionarios en México todavía no han aparecido a ayudar a la caravana, mientras que gente normal trabajadora ya ha dado un paso adelante para ayudar. ¿Cómo responderán [email protected][email protected]? Eso está por verse.
El Fondo Nacional de los E$tados Unidos para la Democracia estuvo implicado tanto en el golpe de 2009 para derrocar a Zelaya en Honduras y en el golpe de 2002 para derrocar a Chavez en Venezuela (posteriormente revocado). Hillary Clinton tristemente ayudó también a orquestar el golpe en Honduras. Desde entonces, generales asesinos entrenados por la Escuela Estadounidense de las Amerikkkas han aterrorizado a la población, matando a gente indígena, campesinos y activistas ambientales. Los EUA ha establecido una presencia militar grande en Honduras desde el golpe, apoyando el robo de tierras a campesinos indígenas pobres y a campesinos de descendencia africana.(9)
First and foremost, allow me to debunk an ever-present myth; one that continues obscuring and detracting from debates about prison. Prisons are NOT profitable businesses, at least, not in the manner of the Exxon Mobiles, Sam's Clubs, Wynn Resorts and Carls Jr.'s of the world. While there are "for-profit" prisons in existence, they constitute an extreme minority within what many refer to as the Prison Industrial Complex (a mistaken belief). Reality is that 92-98% of all prisons are state-run entities. This means they are appendages of the state/federal government in whose territory they operate. Prisons are no more for-profit than is the local police department, courthouse, legislature or DMV (although the latter is debatable).
Now we turn to the heart of the matter. If prisons aren't profit-generating behemoths, then why do they proliferate in capitalistic societies like rabbits in heat? The penal institution, as a system, is the direct byproduct of capitalism. I don't mean commodity-centrism in economic terms. Rather, prisons came about to address political fallout consequence of a poli-economic ideology; let's nickname it "Haves and Have Nots Syndrome" (Hahn Syndrome, for short).
It is clearer and clearer, day after day, generation following generation, that Hahn Syndrome is progressively worsening. As the syndrome advances in stages, the Haves become narrower in number. Contrarily, the Have Nots expand. Haves being not only those with wealth sufficient to manage life as they see fit, more or less. Haves are also those with authority over the processes of production, modes of exchange, political/social landscape, those with an appreciable amount of influence, power normally aligned to capitalist interests. Have Nots being not merely those without an over-abundance of wealth, but also those marginalized, disenfranchised and excluded from the political/social landscape. Have Nots are volatile, excluded masses. Of course, these must be attended to in earnest as the minority comprehends the masses' threat. Thus, a complex inter-dependent, self-perpetuating social control mechanism: the penitentiary.
Looking at the global picture of capitalism, we can identify trends: inequality (social, economic, gender), formal systems (justifying abuses, discrimination, prejudice), excluded masses, and above all, penal institutions. No coincidences there. These are all byproducts of capitalistic systems making it all-but-inevitable that such behemoths must be employed. Capitalism has, in "civilized" society, resorted to far more effective measures than good, old fashioned plomo (read: marginalization, isolation, disenfranchisement, invalidation, forfeitures, imprisonment).
What does this do for capitalism? Take an undocumented immigrant. Ey is not a citizen — meaning without rights or validation — which translates to being exploited for labor or political ends. Trumpists push for wall funding on the political side; harvesters, nannies, etc. on the laboral. Exploited for labor when profitable and politics whenever convenient. This is only one example of Hahn Syndrome in action on Have Nots.
First World lumpen can, due to their best interests, be counted among Have Nots; especially considering they are prime targets for prison. Hence, 2-million-plus incarcerated and over 6 million under state management (according to BOP.gov and U.S. Census Bureau statistics). For those who don't become good capitalist contributors, prison is their final or eventual destination.
An ignorant mass is the mob. The mob is easily swayed this or that way. An excluded, disaffected, educated mass means a rebellion, a resistance, a real opponent for capitalism. Something capitalists will do anything to avoid. Why spend ill-gotten gains educating disorganized, excluded masses, turning them into a potential usurper, when you could just lock them up? While penitentiaries do not generate super earnings, they are necessary for any capitalistic ideology and society to function. Such behemoths swallow whole dangerous sections of the mob resulting in its impotency.
The mob's ignorance is bliss for capitalists. Why waste millions, billions, building behemoths to swallow the mob? Why do you avoid giving a gun to somebody who wants to kill you? Self-preservation. And capitalist logic is no different. If the central issue can be distracted from (not discussing capitalism and the role of prisons in perpetuating it) then every effort within the bounds of capitalistic systems will fail. This is why the mass must be educated, because then we'll realize the system is just a game of smoke and mirrors. Reform? The Behemoth keeps devouring.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this author on eir fundamental point that prisons are not for profit, but rather for social control. We want to offer some clarification on the sectors of society discussed above.
First, the definition of Haves and Have Nots might seem obvious, but this is actually a point of much debate among activists. We see many so-called leftists claiming that workers in the United $tates are part of the oppressed group (the Have Nots) but we see that their wages are artificially inflated with the profits of exploitation of the Third World. And so these folks are very much the Haves on a global scale.
In general we look at the oppressed nations within U.$. borders as the groups with the greatest interest in fighting imperialism. But with the class focus that Haves and Have Nots implies, we would define the Have Nots to include undocumented immigrants and the First World lumpen. The lumpen is defined as the class of people in the First World who are excluded from the productive process. By virtue of living in the First World, this class, on average, receives more material benefits from imperialism than the global proletariat. As such their interests are not the same as the exploited classes and we do not include them in the "lumpen-proletariat." But their conditions in many ways parallel those of the lumpen-proletariat, standing in stark contrast to the majority of the First World populations.
MIM(Prisons) published a pamphlet "Who is the Lumpen in the United States" which includes our contemporary class analysis of this group. We do not see evidence to suggest this group is growing. Send in $3 or equivalent work-trade to the address on p. 1 for your copy.
Arguably the hardest aspect of organizing (especially revolutionary organizing) is building consciousness. Not specifically of the subject matter (i.e., anti-capitalist/imperialist, socialism, equality, prisoner struggle) but of their role in the larger picture and its influence on their lives. Such consciousness leads to meaningful action. Due to this, it is the most rewarding of political objectives. It is also the most difficult to cultivate.
In pursuit of building consciousness, revolutionaries face many obstacles. A predominant, recurring obstacle is expanding peoples' perspective beyond their individual material concerns. A person's material interests constitute primary motivation for activism against and contributing to capitalism. In the Third World we see stringent struggles against capitalism. The opposite is equally true within capitalist societies. Material interests/motivations are inextricably welded to an individual's perspective of, and instinct for, self-preservation. This leads to a spectacular (depending on your ideological bent) narrowing down of alternatives, options and ultimately choices. A non-conducive situation for First World revolutionary organizing.
Our natural inclination is to allow self-preservation to impulse our actions once fear or a threat exceeds acceptable levels. People react as basic as scared animals in danger. Due to social evolution, our responses are more complex and advanced, more involved, what one can call a "social" self-preservation instinct. Similar to the brain shutting down because of excessive stress or trauma, emerging consciousness among First Worlders regresses when one's standard of living is threatened. Breaking First World attachment to physical/material comforts (possessions, commodities, thing-centrism) is first imperative to any revolutionary organizing, in particular; and wider political consciousness, in general.
A great amount of time, energy and attention must be given to shattering these real constraints. Class suicide among First World activists is the end result of such efforts. Through a patient, methodical process of expansive efforts (educational of real costs of capitalism/imperialism), diligence in those efforts and demonstrating the feasibility of alternative means (non-capitalistic), an organizer can make a meaningful contribution to supplanting capitalism.
People are selfish and revolutionary anti-imperialists should remind themselves that their target is the personal element, first and foremost. Even the perfect rally/demonstration, regardless of how correct its politics, will have a difficult time penetrating the calloused minds of those long accustomed to, and blinded by, capitalism. Especially when it concerns prisoners and penal systems/institutions. Most First Worlders simply deem it a necessary evil to preserve society.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Those First Worlders this author refers to are right that the prison system and institutions are a necessary evil to preserve the society as it is. That's the main difference between our prison work and that of many prison abolitionists — we know that we can't get rid of prisons in their current form unless we also get rid of capitalism.
This article brings up real challenges in our work. In ULK, we hope to host an ongoing conversation about ways we can be most effective in accomplishing the tasks this author calls out as most imperative: building consciousness, changing value systems, showing alternatives, etc. Send in your experiences and successes so we can continue learning from each other!
One aspect of organizing that is paramount for recruitment and retention of revolutionaries is comprehending the psychology of the oppressed. Oppressed psychology is not meant to insinuate some distinct or identifiable character flaw, or what not, inherent in those oppressed; nor something which destines us (oppressed) to be the whipping boy of the oppressor. Oppressed psychology denotes how the system influences oppressed nations into believing, accepting and living in adherence to a mentality and mode of existence calculated to promote the greatest benefits for both the oppressor classes and capitalism overall. Just contemplate: what allows us to lash out at others who are equally oppressed, but by and large do little to resist or confront our oppressors?
In prison, this wall (oppressed psyche) expresses itself in no uncertain terms: "This is what we are." "It's what we do, all we can do."(1) It's an acceptance of the lot foisted upon our shoulders. I have identified this as a type of Stockholm Syndrome, where we, the oppressed, validate and reinforce an ideology and mentality detrimental to self-determination.
An oppressed psyche is a crippling inhibitor. First, it dissuades us from considering any meaningful steps toward resistance. For instance, "This is the way things are, have always been," or "Any resistance can only worsen an already bad situation." Second, because we accept it as part of who we are, its loss equals our loss of identity. This is expressed in comments such as "There's nothing else for me in life," or "If not a criminal, then what am I?" Third, it promotes half-measures and depreciation of our value as revolutionaries. We may very well feel nobody will care one iota about what we have to say or think. These, and more, are the serious impediments to scaling the oppressed psyche wall. Indeed, these are monumental obstacles but not insurmountable.
As stated elsewhere, the surest method of overcoming walls is demonstrative action. It is the duty of revolutionary leaders to disseminate among the masses the consciousness of their destiny and their task. This duty translates to practice in "Build, Break, Build." Once we, as organizers and leaders have forged an iron weapon of proper foundations — correct political line, appropriate application of dialectical materialism, and understanding of the struggle — it must be launched at oppressed-psyche walls like a spiked hammer, in order to chip away and break them down. After breaking down the walls, it remains to build up a new revolutionary structure.
There are too many variations in peoples' characteristics, backgrounds, and such to lay down any definitive, universal rule, or guidelines to be followed in the Build, Break, Build process. The only general rule I can acknowledge is: after an initial engagement in "breakage dialogue," organizers should chart their next steps depending on the amount of (or lack of) receptivity they encounter. Also, it is important to recognize people generally treat new concepts with ambivalence at best. A key aspect of the oppressed psyche is to cling to what is familiar, and be cautious of the new, or unknown. To be certain, the oppressed psyche is a formidable wall. Breaking it down may require several attempts, going back over old sections of the wall previously chipped away.
Focus the breakage dialogue on hard questions like those asked in "If Black Lives Matter, Don't Integrate Into Amerika."(2) Or the issues highlighted by the AV Brown Berets in "Mobilize Raza for Independence."(3) The building of revolutionary consciousness and purpose is a duty which demands thoroughness.(4) Like an aggressive cancer, at times you must operate in an old area anew. Walls, such as oppressed psyche, are a cancer degrading the revolutionary movement, inhibiting the masses' consciousness of their role and task, complicating recruitment, and all but precluding retention. In organizing we must recognize walls and be prepared for Build, Break, Build.
This statement is written under the full authority of the USW cell known as Loco1, or L1, underneath the instructions of the Countrywide Council for USW, to [members of our cell] for a self-criticism, acknowledging political incorrectness and a public mis-representation of the USW organization as a whole. These council members are involved in the release of a statement published by the Turning the Tide (TTT) news journal titled "United Struggle from Within (USW) 'Building Bridges' Initiative" and "United Front Public Build," and they were out of pocket in many ways. To say the least, this is our apology.
First off, [our cell representative] had already been advised as to releasing statements that can be indicative as representing USW as a whole without clearing said statements with the Countrywide Council. [Our comrade] participated in a Countrywide Council session where it was decided that all members of the USW Double C (Countrywide Council) would get prior approval before releasing statements with other publishing groups. However, a member of eir cadre published a statement without having it cleared with the Council, thus [our comrade] is responsible for said infraction.
The statement is offensive to many groups involved with the upliftment of the oppressed First World Lumpen (FWL), to say the least. Everyone involved in this self-criticism, please understand, Loco1 is not a person, it is an entity. [...]
The particular members involved in the authoring of the statement went so far as to call the very same group that published the statement a ghost group. Alongside of Anti-Racist Action, the statement calls out: Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, IWOC and members of The Committee of the Afrikan Peoples Liberation Tribunal (The Committee) to "...address the conditions which cause FWL to become petty exploiters and oppressors of their own, after suffering under similar [conditions] versus becoming liberators of the self-sufficient conscious collective?" Though these members of USW, L1 may have their heart in the right place, to raise public awareness regarding USW, as a collective USW doesn't act off of the heart, so to say. The authors' actions sowed seeds of dissension, where the goal is to build a united front. By calling out groups in a public forum, no matter how hard it is to get a reply from its members on the private channels, it only goes to deepen the wedge between all parties involved. And USW as a whole suffers.
The greatest damage done by L1 and its members is its violation of security policies established to protect the identity of not only the principal but also all those who engage the principal. The authors of the statement not only published private information about USW but it also took up a particular position of leadership for a sub-committee of the Countrywide Council by the name of the New Afrikan Subcommittee. Comments are made that identify the states that NAS and the Double C is operating in, a mistake that could result in enhanced censorship and targeting from the state. The statement borderline disrespects the Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, labeling him an exploiter of Black people for capitalistic preference. In short, the statements air out the dirty laundry of New Africa while occupying a leadership role of an organization that very well may have members who share citizenship with the Nation of Islam. This is wrong. USW doesn't champion any one Nation, whether it be peoples, folks, Islamic, Jew, Latin, Spanish, Tutsi or Bantu. The statement could be construed as every bit of wrong.[...]
[The councilmember representing our cell] has been suspended from their position at the Countrywide Council because the actions of this said statement came from a cadre that answers directly to [em] as a Councilmember. For the sake of protecting sensitive topics of the Countrywide Council sessions [our representative] has been suspended until the Countrywide Council approves a self-criticism.[...]
It suffers this cadre, the entire cadre, to be disconnected from a body that it played a key role in organizing. But it goes to show, discipline will be enforced by the peer support of USW's Countrywide Council. It is not only for the sake of re-enrollment with USW that this political apology is released, it is because as a Maoist cadre we know that when we are wrong we are wrong. We cannot allow our personal, psycho-egotistic stubbornness to get in the way of progress/success. The publishing of the statement, "United Struggle from Within (USW) Building Bridges Initiative" was driven by a selfish motive to say, "Hey look at us, we are struggling and building." to draw attention. The intentions were right but the actions were wrong. So be it, [our representative] criticizes these members' actions as wrong, and accepts responsibility.
It will be ensured in the future that these members of USW, who rise to the call of USW, that they are correct and exact to not make mention of USW in affiliation with themselves if they have not had their statements approved by MIM(Prisons) and the Countrywide Council. [...] If ever put in the position to approve such a release again, would we? No. This is an action that we recognize as having serious consequences for all parties, if not ironed out in a timely fashion and never repeated. The revolution is not a game.
In closing, let it be understood, though USW is inclusive of all prisoners and born of the minds made accessible by MIM(Prisons) it cannot use MIM(Prisons) as a crutch for its political development of an organization of prisoners controlled by prisoners. [... We] will busy [our] cadre with some much-needed self-assessment test that will involve re-evaluating the actions of this cadre and developing plans for the future that will protect against opportunistic behavior. Until the clock strikes, power to those who deserve it!! But protect the body by all means necessary. The police don't play fair, make no mistake about it.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a slightly redacted version of a self-criticism submitted in early December 2018. We wanted to print this self-criticism in ULK because we know many of our readers also read Turning the Tide and saw these articles. We also want to take the opportunity to re-address questions around who is USW and who represents USW. The Countrywide Council of USW has been discussing this matter and struggling with the comrades of the Loco1 cell since the articles appeared about 6 months ago. In ULK 64, we did briefly criticize one of the articles in question for claiming the IWOC didn't do anything. (1) But had to go through the process, limited by mail correspondence, to come to the point of printing this statement addressing the broader issues with those articles. The self-criticism above accurately addresses the criticisms that were brought to Loco1's attention over a series of back-and-forths in the previous months.
Another comrade from this USW cell, who was involved in submitting the articles in question also submitted a self-criticism more recently. In it, the comrade wrote, "I will not concede to no terms of censorship... I will print for whomever I choose."
Like any publication, the editor of Under Lock & Key decides what to print. We also edit for clarity, brevity and political line. If a writer disagrees with us we will not change eir political line, but respond to it. However, we may change or clarify line in articles by people who are regular contributors to fit the line of Under Lock & Key.
We don't consider this censorship, but normal practice. "Freedom of the Press" applies to us not being censored by the government, even though we are almost every day. It does not guarantee that any publication will print your writings. Now, what this comrade is getting at is that ey will contribute to other publications what ey wants. That is fine, and we encourage contributing to other publications. We do ask that if you send us an article that you submitted to other publications you let us know so that we can properly protect your identity and perhaps coordinate with the other publication to publish the same version of your article. Otherwise, the following rules apply if you wish to write articles as a member of USW in forums that are not led by MIM(Prisons) or the USW Countrywide Council:
USW members cannot openly disagree with MIM(Prisons) 6 main points (see p.2 of ULK). If you do, you are not USW, and if you write articles in the name of USW disagreeing with those points it will be treated as wrecking work.
To clarify, this does not mean that all USW members agree with the 6 main points, or that they accurately uphold them. Just that they do not hold opposing views.
USW members cannot put the struggles of one nation over another, or take stances in support of imperialism. This does not mean that USW members cannot be nationalists, as revolutionary nationalism of the oppressed is applied internationalism. [We use Stalin's definition of nation, and do not consider lumpen organizations or religions to be nations as Loco1 implies above.]
Anyone who agrees to the above points and contributes to MIM(Prisons)/USW projects and/or campaigns is a member of USW, and can speak or write as a member of USW representing eir own beliefs or those of eir local USW cell. If you wish to publish something that you're not sure represents USW's beliefs you can either submit it to the Countrywide Council for review, or just publish it under another name that does not identify you as a USW member. We prefer you submit to the CC for review and feedback, to develop unity through struggle within USW.
The USW Countrywide Council is made up of the advanced cadre of USW, and works to guide USW's work across the country by developing campaigns, positions, study materials, and strategic guidance for the organization overall.
Statements on behalf of the USW CC must be voted on and approved by the CC, or the appropriate subcommittee, and published via MIM(Prisons)'s P.O. Box, email address or, most likely, in the pages of Under Lock & Key where the council can be accountable to the mass membership of USW.
Interested in joining the council? To be recognized as a candidate for CC membership, you should do the following:
Complete the 2 intro study courses offered by MIM(Prisons)
Organize others around USW/MIM(Prisons) projects and campaigns
Submit monthly work reports to the countrywide council addressing any of the following questions that apply:
What types of activities did your cell participate in that contributed to USWs mission?
What campaigns did your cell participate in or promote in the last month?
What Serve the People programs did your cell operate?
What were the responses from the masses and USW recruits to this work?
What questions came up? How did you answer them? Or do you need help answering them?
What lessons did you learn in the last month?
What are the most pressing issues that are of concern to the masses in your location? Are there any new or developing issues of concern to the masses there?
What organizations/services have you recently found useful in your work (include contact info)?
What successes have you achieved in the last month?
MIM(Prisons) will not share revealing information with the Council. Please keep in mind that your outgoing mail is being read and report on your work accordingly.