Ten Men Dead: the story of the 1981 Irish hunger strike
Atlantic Monthly Press 1987
This book chronicles the period and events in Northern Ireland leading up to when nine members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and one member of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) starved to death while on hunger strike inside Northern Ireland's notorious Long Kesh prison. While reading this book one may be tempted to draw parallels between the actions of imprisoned Irish nationalists and the actions carried out by prisoners in California who protested the use of solitary confinement and indeterminate sentences in the state's infamous Security Housing Units (SHU) in 2011 and 2013. However, there were qualitative differences between these two movements. Whereas one was revolutionary nationalist in nature and sought to ultimately eject British imperialism by linking the struggle behind prison walls to that of every oppressed Irish national on the streets, the other was of a reformist character and has lent itself to the preservation of the status quo; AmeriKKKa vs the oppressed nations. [Today, the hunger strikes by Palestinians in I$raeli prisons are similar in nature to the Irish strike. - editor]
While the British first invaded and began to colonize Ireland in the year 1171, the focus of this book is on more contemporary times so we'll start there. Having failed to wipe out Irish nationalism thru sheer military might the British government sought to switch strategy, and in 1972 initiated a new method of oppression called "normalization". Normalization was the policy devised to crush the IRA and other Irish nationalists by criminalizing the struggle for national liberation & self-determination. As such, normalization was also termed "criminalization". Criminalization required a four prong attack on the Irish people:
First local police and British occupation forces would cease to refer to the IRA and other Irish nationalist groups as political organizations with a political mandate. Instead Irish revolutionaries would begin to be labeled as "thugs", "criminals" and "terrorists".
Second, criminalization would entail eliminating juries and diluting the rule of evidence in IRA and INLA trials to make it easier to obtain convictions. As can be expected the number of prisoners sentenced in Northern Ireland spiked from 745 in 1972 to 2,300 in 1979.(pg 19)
Third, criminalization required that Britain begin to pull its troops from Northern Ireland delegating national oppression to local police with special military and counter-intelligence training, thereby giving the public the impression that fighting the IRA was a law and order issue and not a war.
Finally, the linchpin towards normalizing Britain's 800 year oppression of Ireland would be the repealing of Irish political prisoner status known as "special category": special category was granted to captured IRA and INLA members. Prisoners granted special category were given preferential treatment. More importantly, however, from the IRA point of view the fact that special category existed was an admission of sorts that British occupation of Ireland was something to be contested, even by the Brits.
As in any struggle, the 1981 hunger strike didn't simply develop overnight, rather it was the product of a series of protests almost a decade in the making. When Britain announced an end to special category status in 1976, prisoners immediately got to work. For Irish revolutionaries the fact that they had been captured didn't mean the war had ended. Instead prisoners viewed Long Kesh as just another front line in the war for national liberation.
The struggle to re-instate special category was first sparked 16 September 1976, when a fight between guards and a prisoner broke out after the prisoner refused to put on a prison uniform while being admitted into the general population following a conviction on a terrorism charge. Prior to 1 March 1976, there was no such thing as terrorism charges being applied to Irish revolutionaries. Once in prison, IRA and INLA members were segregated from the general population. They were also allowed to wear their own clothes. Soon other IRA & INLA members began to refuse to wear prison uniforms which marked them as criminals. As a reaction to this resistance administration then refused to clothe prisoners who refused to comply leaving them confined naked in their cells 24 hours a day with only blankets to cover themselves.(pg 16) The "blanket" protest had officially begun.
Two years later, the "no wash" protest was initiated when special category prisoners were given one towel to wear around their waist on their visits to the bathroom while being denied a second towel for their faces. Rather than continue to be humiliated in this way prisoners refused going to the bathroom facilities all-together and were given chamber pots for use in their cells. Fights with guards soon followed however when guards refused to empty the chamber pots. These events then led to the "dirty" protest in which prisoners began throwing the contents of the pots out of their cells thru windows and tray slots. After windows and tray slots were covered prisoners began "pouring urine out the cracks and dispensing excrement by smearing it on the wall."(pg 17)
Wimmin also participated in the dirty protest after thirty-two prisoners at a Northern Ireland wimmin's jail were beaten by male and femals guards in a pre-meditated attack after prisoners attempted to defend themselves during a search. The search was for IRA military uniforms which the wimmin had worn in a defiant para-military parade held in violation of jail rules.(pg 20)
Afterwards prisoners began to organize more effectively when IRA leaders began to arrive in Long Kesh. In 1979 efforts by prison administrators to isolate IRA leadership backfired when top IRA figures were transferred to H Block 6. According to the author it was the equivalent of setting up an "officers training academy" inside the prison, as prisoners began to further develop "a philosophical and strategic approach" to Irish national liberation. (pg 18) Nine months later administration became alarmed with how prisoners had taken control of their new social conditions. They soon split up the "academy", but not before prisoners began to discuss hunger striking to protest normalization and an end to special category. However, outside IRA leadership was opposed to a hunger strike by prisoners on the grounds that the IRA's limited resources would be better spent on the military campaign against Britain instead of on building public opinion on behalf of the hunger strikers.(pg 21)
After much discussion the IRA Army Council and Sinn Fein the political wing of the IRA gave the go-ahead for prisoners to begin a ten man hunger strike to the death if their demands weren't met. However, the hunger strikers were prohibited from making any explicit references towards the re-instatement of special category or normalization in order to give the government some room to compromise. Instead the protest would officially be known as the struggle for the "five demands".(pg 27) The five demands the prisoners put forth were: "the right to wear their own clothing; the right to refrain from prison work; the right to have free association with other prisoners (a right implying freedom to separate from other paramilitary groups); the right to organize recreation and leisure activity — with one letter, parcel and visit allowed per week; and the right to have remission lost, as a result of the blanket protest restored. A suggestion that demands for the reform of the Diplock court system — the system of trial without jury and related dilutions of the rule of evidence — be included was vetoed by the external leadership as being too ambitious."(pg 27)
For the government to give in to the prisoners' demands from the IRA point of view would have meant a de-facto re-implementation of special category and a step towards repealing criminalization. Criminalization was turning out to be a very effective public opinion/smear campaign against the IRA and was having a real effect on how Irish Catholics were viewing the IRA:
"The phasing out of special category status in 1975 was an integral part of a new security strategy developed by a high powered government think-tank — which included representatives of the army, police and the counter-intelligence agency MI5 — in an attempt to break the IRA and end the fighting in Ireland. Known as the "criminalization" or "normalization" policy it was essentially an attempt to separate the Republican guerrillas from their host population, the Catholics; depriving the fish of their water to echo Mao Tse-Tung's famous dictum."(pg 15)
Once the decision to hunger strike was made it was decided that only ten of the most dedicated volunteers would be chosen being that they would be hunger striking to the death if the government refused to meet their demands. Leading the strike would be a young revolutionary named Bobby Sands. Sands was one of those "young Turks" deemed to be responsible for the "Marxist strain" that seemed to be spreading in the IRA at the time. At age of 19, Sands was made an officer in the Provisional IRA commanding one of the huts in Cage 11 where he was housed. According to the author, Sands "showed himself to be a prolific as well as a politicized writer: He read voraciously — his favorites including Frantz Fanon, Camilo Torres, Che Guevara, Amilcar Cabral, George Jackson and of Irish writers, Connolly, Pearce and Mellows — keeping a fat growing pile of exercise books full of political analysis, quotations and notes. He was planning to write a book with it all, but they were destroyed in 1974 when the IRA in the compound burnt their huts in a dispute with the administration over rights and privileges."(pg 43)
Sands also contributed articles to the Sinn Fein newspaper Republican News, which he was able to smuggle out of the prison thru the use of couriers.(pg 46) Something else that was relevant about Sands, and which is worth noting here, is that he showed the correct attitude with comrades when it came to discussing revolutionary politics. Sands would push his comrades hard on the topic of political study. Whenever he lent someone a book he'd question them on what they'd learned, and if he didn't think they'd seriously absorbed the material then he'd insist they read it again.
When Sands first arrived in Long Kesh he was sent to a segregated area called the "Cages". The Cages was where IRA, INLA and other nationalists were sent to prior to the 1 March 1976 cut-off date for special category. Because the IRA as a organization never developed or held to one particular ideology that they believed or upheld to liberate Ireland meant that there existed different cliques and factions within the IRA that believed that different roads would lead to Irish liberation. This had a huge impact on the IRA and surely contributed to many of the set-backs and stagnations in the national liberation movement there. One example of this was how the younger prisoners housed in Cage 11 were looked down upon and called "renegades" by the older, more conservative "veterans" of the IRA who were housed in Cage 10 due to Cage 11's belief in a socialist road to liberation. The veterans in Cage 10 despised Marxism so much that they went so far as to stage book burnings of such works as Marx's Capital, The Communist Manifesto and The Thought of Mao Zedong. Cage 10 outranked the younger Cage 11 and considered ordering them to stand down after word spread that the Cage 11 presented a series of lectures called Celtic Communism.(pg 42) No doubt, that prior to these lectures the speakers in Cage 11 studied On the Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State by Freidrich Engels, which is a revolutionary study from a dialectical materialist standpoint of how property relations and the patriarchy influenced and shaped humyn society from the primitive stage of humyn development to civilization.
The struggle for the five demands would rage for six months while the British government publicly refused to negotiate with "criminals" and "terrorists". Behind closed doors however was a different story as the government reluctantly began to give in on the demands after public opinion began to shift in favor of the hunger strikers. International pressure also became a strong factor as one country after another openly condemned the Brits. Also, Guerrilla attacks and bombings on British occupation forces were not only sustained during this period but were stepped up. The five demands were finally met, but not until six months had elapsed and the last of the hunger strikers had died of starvation-related health complications. On 5 May 1981 Bobby Sands was the first to expire, but not before managing to become an elected member of the British Parliament, a seat he won while in prison for an attempted bombing.(pg 39) 30,000 people voted for Sands, thereby dispelling the government lie that the IRA had no support in Northern Ireland.(pg 332)
Conclusions and Analysis
Unfortunately, the author doesn't tell us what happened next, even though six years had elapsed from the time of the hunger strike to when the book was written. A new updated edition of this book would be great to explain how Ireland's national liberation struggle has played out. According to MIM Theory 7: Proletarian Feminist Revolutionary Nationalism, printed in 1995, the Irish struggle had greatly degenerated as IRA leaders began to opt more and more for the ballot over the bullet. The belief that bourgeoisie democracy and/or the imperialists will ever consent to the people coming to power, or give up peacefully thru a vote, the territories they have stolen and occupy is a pipedream. Bobby Sands being put up as a candidate representing South Tyrone Ireland in the British Parliament was only intended as a move to agitate around the five demands and no one ever really thought he'd win, not in the beginning anyways.(pg 72) That said, it seems that Sands' victory spurned on those within the IRA who were already looking to put down the gun in favor of taking up electoral politics. But as MIM Thought has continuously re-iterated: the oppressed nations will never be free to control their destiny so long as the imperialists hold a gun to their heads.
Maoists understand that there can be no peace so long as the imperialists hold power, therefore the only solution for the oppressed nations is to take up armed struggle once the conditions are finally right. Instead of looking to put more people from the oppressed nations into the imperialist power-structure, [email protected], New Afrikans, Boriqua and First Nation people should be working to establish a United Front to liberate their nations and towards the Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations.
Revolutionaries should always strive to push for the best possible deal for the people without selling out the masses or trading out our socialist principles. That is the excellent and heroic thing about what the hunger strikers in Long Kesh did, even when the movement began pressuring them to quit the hunger strike or settle for one or two of the demands instead of the five they refused to budge. In the words of Bobby Sands:
"They wont break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show. It is then we'll see the rising of the moon."(pg 73)
The peddling of multi-culturalism, the temporary success of globalization following the temporary defeats of socialism and revolutionary nationalist movements as well as the election of Obomber have created the notion that the struggle of the oppressed nations are irrelevant. Even back in 1986 the author of this book was pandering this idea when he said that the 1981 hunger strike "belongs more to humanity than to a limited Nationalist cause, no matter how ancient ... "(pg 333)
The reality of national oppression however contradicts the author's idealism, this is why the Black Lives Matter movement is so threatening to AmeriKKKans and why it has slapped post-modernism in its face, because it dredged up a reality they once thought distant and better left repressed — best to pretend like genocide, slavery and annexation never took place. Most importantly, however, because it signals the contradiction coming to a resolution and the smashing of empire. What the oppressed nations need are more national liberation movements, not less.
Another point worth drawing attention to is the false distinction the IRA made between political prisoners and "common criminals". We believe that is a bourgeoisie distinction and one that sets back both the prison movement and national liberation as they are inter-related. MIM Thought has consistently held that all prisoners under this system are political exactly because the system is political. One need only to look at mass incarceration in the United $tates and its many similarities to the criminalization policy that helped derail the IRA at a time when it was at its peak.
When I first came to prison my whole perception of organizing in the streets changed. It changed due to education of history: history of other movements and how to organize the streets from within the prison walls. I do believe that prisoners can have a great influence on activists due to our struggles in here. But as the saying goes, a prisoner struggle today is the street's struggle tomorrow. The work which must be done inside these walls to help influence other organizations is education, strategy, and unity among all workers and oppressed people. But what I find is happening in the streets is that everyone wants to choose what battle is most important to their cause rather than finding a solution to all organizers' challenges.
Here in prison we sometimes get caught up getting a big head for fighting an issue which just caters to a person's selfish desires, rather than challenging issues which change the system as a whole. So we must learn to unify under one umbrella to tackle the issues we face.
My target audience will be the workers 'cause I believe they have power but don't know it yet. But the difference that contradicts working with workers is some are so caught up in consumerism so that they will not organize, or they don't want to lose their status so they will not wholeheartedly strike or fight for better wages. The lumpen can also be tricky to work with, due to a lack of resources.
We will have to build public opinion thru certain media outlets, hip hop culture, sports entertainers, and thru magazines. The contradictions to capitalism must be exposed so the targeted audience will have something to fight for. But to conclude, prisoners can help street LOs by building unity and overstanding each others' issues and combining theory and using science to challenge the system of imperialism.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer raises an important point about needing to be able to look beyond our persynal issues and desires to the broader problems of the oppressed. This is especially important if we hope to unite beyond our local set. And we can certainly use cultural outlets to build public opinion and unity.
On the question of organizing workers, we've written a lot about the bought off nature of the vast majority of workers within U.$. borders and we see this as a material explanation for what this writer notes: they are caught up in consumerism and don't want to lose their status. These workers are earning more than the value of their labor because of all the profits from exploitation in the Third World brought back to this imperialist country. And so the workers here do understand that their status is valuable and profitable. They have the money to spend that allows them to get caught up in consumerism. As a result, we have seen throughout Amerikkkan history that these folks are not a force for progressive change. And organizing them to demand higher wages is not organizing against imperialism. This is one of the reasons we focus on organizing the lumpen as a group more likely to have an interest in revolution.
I usually don't weight in on stuff because most of my time is spent fighting the system, that's what I do. I don't like pigs and I don't like how these wannabe convicts be talking a lot of shit but as soon as these pigs pull out their pens and misbehavior reports they hide under their bunks!
I'm a transgender woman and I'm not scared of these pigs! I was working in the mess hall and the target of the most feared pig here and when I wrote him up all these wannabe convicts started telling me how I shouldn't fuck with him because he will retaliate. I said "fuck him I'm gonna keep doing me." Sure enough he retaliated and so did I. In the New York State Employees manual section 2.12, it states that they can't use abusive, aggressive, vulgar or obscene language, so whenever I heard him violate that rule I'd write his ass up. He retaliated by writing a false ticket on me. I got 7 days keeplock and then went back to work. Two days later I got fired and then I got threatened that if I kept writing grievances that they would set me up by giving me a new charge. I stopped grieving his ass and wrote to the Inspector General's office (ya ya!).
So, my question is this: why the fuck are dudes that have 15, 20, 25 plus years so scared to go at these pigs, but when a comrade owes them $3.24 they're ready to put a shank in the guy's back? Why when a pig disrespects you, you tuck your tail and run, but when a comrade disrespects you, you all of a sudden got a set of balls?
I'll tell you why a lot of these guys might do it. Because they know the pig will beat their ass all the way to the hole. But if they fight a comrade that shit will only last at the most a minute and then it's "get on the fucking ground before I blow your fucking head off!"
I've physically went at these pigs more than 5 times in the last 3 years and I've gotten 2 new bids behind it! I would've been home last year but there's a line that if crossed there should be consequences. I turned 10 years into 20. I'm not proud of that. Not at all. And I don't go around broadcasting it. But sometimes you have to stand up for yourself. If you don't stand for anything you'll fall for anything!
So, to all of my comrades, stand up to these pigs. I'm not telling you to go up against them with your fists, but don't just let them do what they want to you. Attack them by pen, fists, protests, or whatever! In the words of Malcolm X "By Any Means Necessary."
P.S. - "I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear." - Rosa Parks
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade provides us with an important reminder that we can't just sit back passively and allow abuse to happen. And the criticism addressed at those who will fight other prisoners over bullshit but won't take on the pigs is right on. At the same time, everyone has to assess their own conditions and decide what response will work best and bring on the least suffering and retaliation. We need good comrades like this one to get out of prison, not double their time!
The decentralization of the prison population in California has helped make the voices of the oppressed harder to get out, as county jails step up repression in face of growing prisoner populations. At the Martinez Detention Facility in the Bay Area gang enhancements are being trumped up as a form of national oppression against [email protected]:
"We here, at MDF, Contra Costa County Jail, that are of Latin descent and not southsiders, are being held in Ad-Seg status now since 2010. And now even more unjust treatment is being added to us, gang enhancements just for being housed on this module, even if we don't ask to be housed on this module at time of arrest/booking. Classification, Administration and the District Attorney's office is using this module as an apparatus to get harsher sentences from the courts." - April 2017
Meanwhile, resistance has grown down south at Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside. A hunger strike began on 13 April 2017. As we go to press updates are a couple weeks old, but we know that about 30 people participated in the strike and that some passed out and were sent to outside medical facilities. The prisoners list 13 demands, including the end of long-term solitary confinement, restrictions on phones/visits and dayroom access.
Within the CDCR we're still seeing the unfolding of contradictions being created by the release of many from the SHU, who were once influential but are now older and less known, into a population that is younger and often in disarray. The Agreement to End Hostilities came out of the SHU almost five years ago, and it remains in a state of uncertainty. Many are still working hard on it, but it has not been universally upheld in these last five years. As a comrade reported in March:
"There were two recent riots here. One on the 3A yard here at Corcoran, the other at SATF Corcoran, on 3C yard. No one severely hurt, but it's hard to organize with situations like that."
There were contradictions between many of the forces behind the original agreement and sectors of the prison population that still need to be addressed. USW comrades in California are still working on these contradictions to push for a more united peace. This should be a theme as we prepare educational campaigns for Black August and the Commemoration of the Plan de San Diego, which should both feed into this September 9th Day of Peace and Solidarity. Send in your reports on these campaigns and the conditions for peace where you are.
Finally, we're getting a lot of requests for info about Prop 57 from readers in California. One comrade recommends contacting:
PO Box 4962
Oakland, CA 94605
The latest from CDCR is that if you are eligible you will be hearing from your counselor this summer.
I am a Mexican National Citizen raised in the old ways of making business. Our word was always good to our dying last breath. In prison politics and Mexican politics, the word is meaningless. (Tell that to good Tio Colosio, who paid with his life for believing someone else's word.)
Well, after 20 years in a main line or so-called active yards, I made the transition to the SNY yard. Here, I found lots of brothers (i.e. comrades), that made the transition years and even decades ago. Fortunately, I escaped the usual brainwashing that my Chicano counterparts are exposed to in the schools and ghettos. So, I called quits, and came over to the bizarre world. I found that most of my new comrades lacked any type of political consciousness. Time after time they declined my attempt to read some of my literature. It did not escape my mind that I once was like that too. It took me years to awaken to the cruel reality of my imprisonment.
Anyway, my first celly was a white male. And I discovered what I have always known in theory: We are all ignorant, poor, and damned (regardless of skin color, creed, or gang affiliation). For reasons that are not pertinent to this essay my new celly only last me less than 24 hours. Nevertheless, he left a deep impression in my consciousness. He told me that on the line his shot caller actually put a hit on him, over a $50.00 pruno debt. So he had to assume the position and allowed his beloved celly, who was a few months short to go home. And he was stabbed about three times. That is how out of control the prison gangs are.
So that the readers know: The average Mexican National prisoner doesn't belong to cartels, or street and prison gangs. Most Mexicanos are unaware of the avalanche of prison politics coming their way. Without no shame I can say that had my counselor told me about my expected role to serve at the active yard I should have checked out right there and then. It wasn't meant to be, so I was set up, by a failed rehabilitation system. I was immediately classified as a "PAISA" or "BORDER BROTHER." This STG (Security Threat Group) is under the direct order of the Sureños Prison Gang (like to be ordered to do hits and follow gang's rules).
Unbeknownst to the Mexican, all of these violent incidents will be used by the Board of Parole Hearings ("BPH"). God forbid one has a stabbing ten years ago. They literally act the part to be surprised that these kind of thing happen in prison. Even a disciplinary citation over a stolen apple will be used to say that one is a danger to the free community. These pundits actually believe that these gulags are CENTERS of top notch rehabilitation. And that one insists in misbehaving!
My new celly is an elderly Mexican. He is respectful and knows how to do time. He too called it quits when he discovered the winds of change in the air. And before things took a turn for the worst, he made the best decision in his life. He became another "SNY." The environment here is more loose. The gang trip is over. I have not seen any acts of predatory behavior towards those that are too weak to defend themselves. Then, there are those that act out as straight protective custody; they believe that the c/o is their daddy or big carnal. They are loud and wear their pants half way down their butt. Still the talking with staff can also be seen at facility "C", an active yard. They came in to the program office and spend time with them (getting cozy with the enemy i.e. the oppressor).
I found out that if I kept to myself and mind my own business I can fly undetected. This wasn't possible in an active yard, because one is expected to put in work for the prison gang. The new prison gangs at this side, they pretty much keep to themselves. And do their fighting without asking for help. Those who do not want to engage in the new gangs warfare are left alone out of the drama. I have spoken to former Sureños and Norteños (youth and elderly), and many described themselves as "Mexicanos" born on this side. Many have realized that the Mexican National is not their puppet to be used and discarded. They all agreed that becoming "SNY" is the best decision that they ever took. Their new leaders are their families, patria, and raza.
Here, former shotcallers and gang leaders are nothing. They are one more slave among the thousands. Long are gone the days of blood money, glory, cell phones, and God ego trips over life and death. As for my own transition from an enslaved active prisoner to an "SNY" it was easy. I packed my belongings without raising too much suspicion. And at school I told the officer "that I wanted out of the yard." They pressured me to tell what I knew about the big fat sapos and those that are kissing their ass. I had nothing to tell them.
Even if I knew anything I would never tell them nothing. I am too old to become a state snitch. So, not all SNY prisoners become snitches. I have been told that sometimes the officers threaten prisoners by telling them they will be sent back to the main line. But, this wasn't my case. (For your information, the officers will never do that.)
For those that I left behind, stop and think about it, for a long time. Is it really worth it to give up one's life by running a fool's errand? What they are sending you to do to someone else's son they will do to you. The masters of manipulation's lost cause is not worth it to die or kill for. Screw their orders, they are not our parents, tios, or big brothers. They are playing God with your lives and freedom.
They are bloodthirsty sociopaths with our brothers' and sisters' blood on their hands. They are the oppressor's little brother; they help the oppressor to keep us in check. Go ahead and tell them to do the killings themselves. They can't really hold you up accountable for your word; that you gave up as a little kid. You did not know anything about life when they enticed you to join the gang. They never told you that by 15 you would be dead or doing life in the gulags.
They never took you to a funeral and told you: that is you in a few years. They never took you to the gulags to visit those who are buried alive. Have they told you that an early death or lifetime in prison was your future? Odds are that you would have run away ASAP. Thus, at the age of 20, 30, or even 60 years old, one must truly awaken to the reality of our predicament and analyze the contradictions of one's slavery. So that we can shake off the old chains that bind us to a lost cause. One must evolve and think outside the box. It is the 21st Century, our families need us out there.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Lumpen organizations (LOs) in the united $tates are usually organizations of the most economically marginalized of the oppressed in this country. Elsewhere comrades have spoke about the difference between the Neo-Colonial Lumpen Organization (NLO) and the LO. The experience of the above comrade reflects the practice of the NLO. But the LOs in general have both capitalistic and collective/nationalist aspects to them. And those that embrace the collective aspect (usually in a revolutionary nationalist way), can evolve to become Political Mass Organizations (PMOs).(1) So while we struggle with comrades in LOs to move in the direction of becoming a PMO, the above story is a common one in California as SNY has come to represent one third of prisoners in recent years.(2)
This comrade also touches on the national question and national identity in Aztlán. The fact that those of Mexican descent born within U.$. borders are so likely to identify as Mexicanos speaks to the national contradiction between the Amerikan settler and the colonized territory of Aztlán. As this comrade also recognizes we refer to those born north of the U.$.-Mexico border as [email protected] The recognition of a [email protected] nation deeply connected to, but separate from Mexico, was the outcome of the struggles of revolutionary nationalists and communists in the 1960s organizing Raza in the southwest. For those interested in this topic you should check out [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán by a MIM(Prisons) study group. This book is available to prisoners for $10, or work trade.
Californian Correctional Officers' beginning career wages are the highest in the U.S. at a whooping $48,000, with the prospect of earning nearly $80,000 annually when reaching the top pay grade.(1) They receive 640 hours of training, and an 8-month probationary period for each and every new recruit. I don't believe the average citizen who pays taxes would approve of how they don't run the daily prison program on a regular basis. In essence getting paid well for clocking into work just to sit in office areas and do nothing until it's time to clock out.
I'm writing this specifically in relation to practices at California Correctional Institution (CCI). Today is 18 April 2017 and a part of our program has been taken for no given reason 71 times just this year since January, not including a 9-day facility lockdown for the misplacement of one set of tweezers. The tweezers were lost in PIA [job site], which disrupted college courses and furthered this lockdown culture. I've spent 7 years on Level 4s where violence was a regular occurrence and those yards received less lockdown and program cancellations than this peaceful low-to-no violence yard. With a month plus of complete lockdown if one calculates partial lockdown, plus 9 building lockdowns where the rest of the yard is programming yet Building #1 Correctional Officers have decided not to run program without a given explanation. I feel tax payers would like to know how their money is being spent, many of them making far less than these Correctional Officers to do much more.
One has only to think about the mental and physical effects that are rooted in being locked in a 6 by 8 by 9 feet cell with another human for over 16 hours a day for months, even years, at a time under the pretense that the Department of Corrections is using the rehabilitation model, which was initiated in the 1930s and states that it is a model of corrections that emphasizes the need to restore a convicted offender to a constructive place in society through some form of vocational or educational training or therapy. (Cole, Smith & De Jong, "Criminal Justice in America 8th Edition." 2015, pp 328, 362) This is one of my college courses this semester and all previous citing is from the textbook.
Isolationistic practices are shown to have double negative effects on captives in regard to their social skills and behavior. This is due to the unnaturalness of long periods in isolation, captives become more agitated when expecting program i.e. readying themselves to go out of cell for yard, dayroom, school, and self help then without notice they cancel program without saying nothing. This is unique to CCI because at all other prisons the building COs let population know there will be no program. I write this even after talking to Sara L. Smith, Ombudsman, in person and 2nd Watch Sgt. Bart about this ongoing issue. Both responded it would be dealt with, yet two days in a row partial program has been cut with three in-house COs i.e. 2 on the floor plus one in control booth.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Under capitalism, the criminal injustice system is primarily concerned with enforcing the conditions that allow for profit. For colonized nations, this means repression and imprisonment to maintain the colonial relationship. Therefore, reforming people is rarely the focus. And how could it be, when there are no efforts made to address the causes of anti-social behavior in the first place, which include the dog-eat-dog culture of capitalism?
Unfortunately, the settler nations (like Amerika) are so bought into this system of oppression that they have little concern for the $80k a year their tax money might be paying some CO to sit around. That is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the bombs being dropped on Syrians right now. One Tomahawk missile, made by Raytheon Co., costs $1.59 million.(2) In the U.$. attack on a Syrian air field a couple weeks ago (6 April 2017), they used 59 Tomahawk missiles. Yet, according to multiple polls, a majority of Amerikans supported that attack.(3) And they have a long history of supporting huge military spending to kill people around the world. We find it unlikely that they will be moved by the money being spent to keep a large, idle lumpen population in prisons. It is up to those affected by the criminal injustice system to do something to stop this madness creating more madness.
I believe that having alliances with lines that are military minded is somewhat dangerous to the united front. First and foremost, I do believe in armed struggle, but building public opinion on imperialism and moving toward communism as the ultimate goal to end all oppression is key. Some lumpen orgs or nationalists might criticize MIM(Prisons) on their line. But truth be told we must study the history of the Cultural Revolution in China, which gives us the best way to move toward socialism, ending in communism. It also allows us to learn from the mistakes of the past.
Amerikkka targets lumpen orgs, and nationalist groups. So alliance with a militia group might jeopardize the united front. And once the imperialist policies place everyone in one basket who they feel are a threat, they will place them in prisons or worse eliminate them as what happened to many BPP members in the late 1960s. So, I must say comrades, that MIM(Prisons)'s approach with study groups and challenging all comrades to study history and dialectical materialism prepares us to use public opinion to change the minds of the lumpens and all those who are oppressed.
What good is guns if you don't know who the enemy truly is? By enemy I mean, just going up against amerikkka's army is not enough. The enemy is the system which must be changed. Guns with no vision or discipline is suicide to the united front. The best weapon in the struggle is unity, and armed struggle is also important. But each one teach one is the method to awakening the masses on how capitalism destroys lives.
Once the American people become self-reliant and help their fellow man and stop supporting this economic monster (capitalism-imperialism) then hopefully through public opinion and democratic centralism we can achieve the goal we all want which is communism.
As for snitches, there are different levels of snitching. But I will not allow a person in my circle who I know has the tendencies to crack under pressure. I mean those individuals who work for the prison administration, receiving goods in order to cause chaos. They would go so far as telling prison officials that you are sharing revolutionary material and having your books confiscated.
Even on the outside you have to be careful aligning with rats who will jeopardize the united front in order to demoralize and cause dissociation. But as long as those who represent the militant side of fighting oppression can agree that we must use strategy and wait for the right time to strike the imperialist monsters, I'm all for it. But if militants feel as though focoism is their aim, I'm all out. Educate the poor and oppressed first, to show them the real enemy. And there needs to be a change in habits and consciousness so that we will not allow materialistic ideology to control us.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade raises a good point about the risks of allying with those who are engaging in military actions now. We agree with em that focoism is not the right strategy. But the value of a united front is that we can disagree on this point of strategy in terms of the right time for armed struggle, but still unite in our fight against imperialism. We can work with these organizations while struggling with them over these points if such struggle seems fruitful. We do not need to have complete agreement on points of strategy in order to work together in a united front. We would also want to keep these groups at arms' length for the simple fact that advocating armed struggle now is a known tactic cops use to wreck a movement from within.
But beyond the question of uniting without complete theoretical agreement, this writer is arguing that it is too risky to unite with focoists because their premature military action could bring down the whole united front. This is certainly a risk we need to consider. Groups within the UF have the autonomy to act independently of the group, and so some may engage in actions that others disagree with. While we wouldn't automatically exclude focoists from a UF based on their political line, this comrade is correct to warn that we need to stay vigilant about actions that present a risk to our work and to our organization.
At the same time, resistors of all stripes, even those who aren't focoist, bring down repression from the state. Even anti-imperialist academics and people working in electoral politics are harassed, and murdered, by the state when their words are too effective. One could also argue that the frivolous security practices of other groups will jeopardize the UF. We have to find a balance between putting ourselves out there, and getting the work done.
We can't make up easy rules to answer to this contradiction. Instead everyone has to evaluate alliances based on the circumstances and current situation.
This is an open letter to all you advocates and activists who are at war with the prison system. The American Corrections Association (ACA) has done their two-stage, once in a decade, onsite prison review beginning in January 2017 ending in March 2017. They've posted memos to the effect of talking to prisoners and performing audits to better use monies towards treatment and rehabilitational programs. Well at California Correctional Institution (CCI) this is a joke, especially of the level 3 yard where there is no accountability on safety issues.
There are no cameras on yard nor in buildings that would hold Correctional Staff to a higher level of accountability on the lines of brutality waged against prisoners. This brutality is covered up too often by collusion between Correctional Officers in reporting of incidents which comes down to their words against prisoners' with no physical evidence to support because there are no surveillance cameras. This is a black site operation, period. There exists no accountability when it comes to enforcement practices. Correctional employees are given full discretion and are supported fully by a Gestapo Culture with no checks and balances from outside authorities. This is including the ACA, who only talked to 2% of the prison population, and those were selected by this administration, i.e. Correctional Staff.
There is no accountability on the running of programs, which means anything from dayroom, yard, school, vacations, or even jobs. At the same time there is no program and no movement, prisoners walk to medical lines, walk to chow, go to self help groups, etc. No matter what the weather is they are required to walk to and from just to lock themselves back into their living quarters, i.e. cells. The ACA didn't assist prisoners to get assignment cards for going to college classes onsite nor through mail even though they know these participants miss at least 9 hours a week from yard and dayroom, at the same time providing assignment cards to prisoners in GED courses. Though the institution is making money from these new college onsite classes of which I myself am in, earning 6 credits for 2 classes this semester and enrolled in both summer and winter courses. Yet, I am not able to go outside on the weekend to get fresh air so I now get outside rec and fresh air less than my brothers and sisters in the SHU. The American Correctional Association is there for a waste of tax payers' money.
Blame is put on the prisoners for most that continues to occur here to be absolutely honest, because most of them fail to study the rules, are rule breakers and have terrible conduct creating negative attention. Once more I must state in complete truth, that all levels of staff have treated me with respect, I haven't gotten any write up, never assaulted on any level by any level of Correctional Staff. Quite the opposite has happened to me. I've initiated my own services, I've signed up and am currently going to college, I had constructive conversations with all levels of Correctional Staff. At the same time I've read the Title 15 and re-read it several times complying with every law and rule. I've communicated with complete respect at all times with prisoners and prison staff of all levels and walks of life.
This is written for the purpose of exciting advocates to get involved with pro-social programs in person, to let them know that the ACA and many other organizations are rip-offs and monies would effect more positive change if and when it goes directly to the prison and prisoners who are willing to take advantage of all pro-social programming. That those who are doing the work to create better futures by learning in college or vocational skill learning should receive beneficial treatment and be allowed to go to yard on weekends and holidays even days that they are off. We need advocates to sound the bell for us ensuring that we are treated with favorable treatment, so that we are not being punished for attempting to get ahead.
A Socialist and Conscious Comrade
MIM(Prisons) responds: We've been watching the great progress of organizers at CCI with interest and excitement over the last year. But playing by the rules does not generally pan out so well for prisoners across the United $tates engaged in postive organizing along the lines of the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP). In one recent example, the United Kage Brothers have been denied the ability to form an official organization by the CDCR at Pelican Bay State Prison. And this is why the UFPP stresses INDEPENDENCE as one of the 5 principles. If local staff are supportive of your efforts that is great. And there is plenty reason for them to be supportive of a safer work environment. But we also must not build or organizing in a way that is dependent on the whims of the state, which has a general principle of opposing the organizing of the oppressed.
China's Urban Villagers: Changing Life in a Beijing Suburb
by Norman Chance
Thomson Custom Publishing, Second Edition 2002
"Thus it is not surprising that an important theme expressed by the suburban Chinese described in the concluding chapter of this book is resistance — not in direct opposition to socialism per se but against a government and party that in recent times chose to put its own interest ahead of those of the Chinese people. In the early years of the People's Republic, the Communist party was the major force leading the struggle for economic improvement, enhanced social equality, and greater political empowerment of its predominantly peasant population. But the protest movement of May and June 1989, supported by thousands of Chinese from all walks of life demonstrated to everyone that the party and government no longer had a mandate of leadership. What the future holds for China remains to be seen. But the lessons of the recent past, from which much can be learned, are there for all to see." - Norman Chance
China's Urban Villagers is a book about peasants on the edge of modernization. This book discusses in part how peasants made great strides in the construction of socialism, attained a life free from hunger, oppression and exploitation, and then lost it all. In particular this book chronicles the story of Half Moon Village, a small peasant village which used to be located on the outskirts of Beijing on land which prior to liberation was known as a "vast wasteland" but which following socialist revolution was transformed through the peoples collective strength into Red Flag commune, one of China's largest communes.
The author wrote the first edition of this book based on data originally gathered on his third trip to China in 1979. However, the author also references material collected from earlier trips to China in 1972 and 78. He was also assisted in collecting information for the first edition as well as the second edition to this book in 1984 and 1989 by his wife Nancy Chance and by Fred Engst, the son of Joan Hinton, sister of William Hinton. Within the preface to this book Norman Chance explains his decision to publish the second edition (of which this review covers) so as to put into perspective his previous experiences in China, both during and after the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) as well as his time in Red Flag in light of the repression at Tiananmen which followed capitalist restoration.
The preface to Urban Villagers began with the author discussing how he was initially impressed with the Chinese success upon his first visit to China during the GPCR commenting that: "Many people, including myself, were impressed with Mao Zedong's strategy of reducing economic inequalities through the immense collective effort of the people."
Yet he immediately follows up this statement by saying that in retrospect this prior assessment was incorrect due to the fact that he later came to believe that we was never really allowed to actually observe socialist China's failures in agriculture and industrialization, only its successes. This is an erroneous analysis which effectively amounts to a "Potemkin Village" thesis in which the author implied that everything that was good about China was false and everything that was bad about it was instantly authenticated. This is a contradictory stance on behalf of the author, not because he changed his position after leaving China, but because all throughout the book he finds it useful to compare and contrast what he saw and wrote about China in 1972 and 1976 with the changes he observed in 1979, all the while claiming to uphold the conditions of the Chinese people as being qualitatively better in 1972 and 76, while still stating that what he saw in those first two trips wasn't really real after all — either conditions were better in 1972 and 76 or they were not, you can't have it both ways. Indeed, even in Chapter 9, "A Decade of Change", added to this second edition using data from the years 1987-89, the author comes to the conclusion that social conditions had drastically changed in China since 1979. In particular he refers to "class polarization the breaking up of communal peasant land into individual holdings and the rising rate of inflation and exploitation."
Norman Chance was one of the first cultural anthropologists to be allowed into China between the years 1952-1972 as anthropology as a branch of the social sciences was discredited in the Peoples Republic following the socialist stage of the Chinese revolution (1). He was invited to visit China in 1972 as part of an educational delegation during the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution. Professor Chance was asked to give a lecture at the Beijing Institute of Minorities titled "Minority Life in America." No doubt the communist party invited this Western academic not only as part of a mutual exchange of ideas, but so as to expose the Chinese people to reactionary ideologies so that they may learn from them and be better prepared to combat them. Upon reflecting on his visit to China Mr. Chance commented on "how different were our perspectives on the relationship between minority and majority nationalities." (p XV)
It would have been helpful if the author would've spoken more on this last point so that we could've learned about the structural relationship between the majority Han nationality and minority nationalities in China. For example, the contradiction of nation (Amerikkkka vs the oppressed nations) is principal here in the United $tates. How did similar contradictions get resolved in the PRC? In particular how were these contradictions further elaborated and worked on during the GPCR?
"Apart from their other characteristics, the outstanding thing about China's 600 million people is that they are 'poor and blank'. This may seem a bad thing, but in reality it is a good thing. Poverty gives rise to the desire for change, the desire for action and the desire for revolution. On a blank sheet of paper free form any mark, the freshest and most beautiful characters can be written the freshest and most beautiful pictures can be painted." - Mao Zedong, Introducing A Cooperative, 1958
To understand how Red Flag commune and Half Moon Village came to be developed we must first understand China's need to raise the quality of life for its majority peasant population. As in any other society quality of life is first measured by the country's ability to meet it's citizen's basic needs, first among these needs being the government's ability to feed, clothe and house it's citizens. After providing a summary of China's national liberation and socialist revolution struggles the author dives right into some of the major social issues facing the People's Republic in the early 1950s' primarily how does a country of 600 million paupers who are stuck in medieval culture and a feudal economy pull themselves into the 20th century? Chance acknowledges the feat with which China was forced to contend at this critical juncture in its hystory as nearly insurmountable.
Indeed, if China had remained a colony or neo-colony of this or that imperialist empire as say a country like India was at the time and continues as today, then it would have proved insurmountable. As hystory has proven however the Chinese people, with the guidance of Chairman Mao and the Communist Party, were able to lift the mountains of feudalism and imperialism off their backs, and in doing so cleared the way for socialism and communist development to begin.
When learning about socialist experiments of the past it is always common to hear intellectuals and sophists alike speak of the contradiction of a supposed "humyn nature" that will always prevent us from building a society free of poverty, hunger, exploitation and war. And as most academics writing on the subject, Chance does not miss the opportunity of raising the specter of humyn nature. Where Chance departs from this common bourgeois narrative is when he frames the issue of greed and selfishness as originating in the culture prevalent at the time:
"Underlying these conflicts is a fundamental problem in the building of a socialist society — the issue of human nature. If greediness is at the heart of human nature, then the whole idea of socialism is nothing more than a utopia. If on the other hand, human nature involves a dialectical tension between self-interest and social interests, then self-interest can become secondary to the interests of the larger group. Anthropological studies of various societies demonstrate that pure greediness in human behavior is deviant indeed. Rather, individual motivation is strongly shaped by the social and cultural environment. If greed is encouraged and rewarded, it would be considered foolish not to act in a similar fashion. By contrast, if friends and associates strive to act in a helpful, cooperative manner, selfish actions on the part of an individual would likely lead that person to feel ashamed. Even within the competitive, individualistic orientation of Western society, one regularly finds selfless actions by individuals who are willing to risk their personal security for a given cause. Thus in discussing greed and selfishness, the question is not human nature but rather the dominant behavior expected in normal circumstances." (p7-8)
What's more the Chinese masses were able to transform their country from the "sick man of Asia" into a strong socialist power in the span of only twenty years. They were able to accomplish this not by force but by persuasion. Compare this to India which started ahead of China, had a higher life expectancy and had a higher per capita than China. It was also 75% peasant like China. Yet China surpassed India in all these areas within one generation — so much for the comparison between socialism and capitalism.(2)
"Our task is to build islands of socialism in a vast sea of individual farming. We are the ones who will have to show the way for the whole country."(3)
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was able to spearhead the collectivization of agriculture thru their successful mobilization of peasants first into mutual aid teams, then low level elementary agricultural cooperatives.(p4-5) These APC's were comprised of "20 or more households which pooled their labor, land and small tools for the common benefit."(p4) These cooperatives not only helped peasants survive, but begin to spurn on the economy in the countryside. With time and success the APC's began to grow as peasants eagerly joined. According to Chance the only people who hesitated or refused were the "well to do" peasants who saw an end to their standard of living come with the rise of the APCs. At first the government let these rich and middle peasants abstain from joining until of course their abstinence became a hindrance to social development. It was at this time that the communist party under the leadership of Chairman Mao "opted for a acceleration of rural collectivization — a Socialist upsurge in the countryside — in which mutual aid teams and low-level co-operatives were to be combined into larger, more advanced units."(p6) These APCs were but preludes to the Great Leap Forward 1958-1960. The Great Leap Forward was China's attempt to catch up with the West by building up China's ability to produce grain and steel. Experimentation in farming, animal husbandry and other associated activity were in fact the earliest models in innovation from which experience and rationale knowledge were garnered for and summed up for further practice and experimentation in the city environment. Once the Great Leap forward began the APCs quickly ran their course and became outmoded. The APCs then gave way to the commune movement in the countryside in which the most advanced APCs were consolidated into 42,000 communes.(p8)
In it's early developmental stages one of the fundamental political lines in the Chinese countryside was to "rely on the poor peasants, unite with the middle peasants, isolate the rich peasants and overthrow the landlords and wipe out feudalism."(p39) Having put this political line into practice the land was re-distributed "according to the number of persons in the family and the quality of the soil."(p39) Landlords were treated thusly: their house, animals and tools were divided among everyone. As for the rich peasants the policy was to let them keep whatever they were able to work themselves. Because most peasants were not used to having so much land and were accustomed to only working on small individual plots much land and crops went to waste. After having had time to accumulate and process experience and practice from this the peasants of Half Moon were well on their way to conquering this new social environment. Half Moon as so many other villages within Red Flag became responsible for growing rice, wheat, corn and a variety of vegetables, as well as raising chickens and pigs.(p29-30) On the question of forced collectivization, two old peasants known to have lived in the area of Red Flag prior to redistribution had "nothing to say." The author insinuates the peasants were afraid to speak out against land distribution and collectivization for fear of reprisals from the government. However, this insinuation is unfounded due to the fact that (1) the peasants interviewed clearly voiced their support for Red Flag commune and the CCP remembering the "bitter years" before revolution, and (2) this interview was conducted in 1979 at a time that collectivization and other socialist policies originally began under Mao were being dismantled throughout China in favor of for-profit enterprise.
Education in the Peoples Republic
Education in the area of Half Moon Village lept from "fairly small" between the decade of the 1950s to the early 1970s when it then spiked to over 90 percent by 1979.(p91) These are surprising numbers for a Third World country, yet it is only another impressive indicator that only a country under socialist construction is truly serving the people. In visiting some of Half Moon's primary schools Professor Chance found that even in 1979, three years after the capitalist roaders rise to power, certain socialist values were still being upheld in China's education system even as others were being negated. One example of this could be seen in how peasant children were imbued with a sense of proletarian morality by being taken out of school and into the fields on a daily basis so that they could watch their parents and neighbors work. Children would also be put to work alongside the village engaging in light duty. The children's work consisted of "husking small ears of corn left behind by their parents... Such activities not only instilled in the student the value of hard work, but also emphasized the importance of being thrifty with what one produced."(p93)
In another example, the author describes how individualism was still being struggled against at the basic level of education:
"Students continually learned proper behavior from teachers, parents, textbooks, radio, newspapers and television. In all these instances they were encouraged to help each other, care for each other and take each other's happiness as their own. In contrast activities that caused embarrassment or remarks that emphasized a negative attribute were discouraged. Envision for example, a Chinese child's participation in a game like musical chairs. In an American school such a game encourages children to be competitive and to look out for themselves. But to young Chinese, the negative aspect was much more noticeable. That is, losers become objects of attention because they had lost their place — and therefore 'face.' In China, winning was fun too. But it should not be achieved at the expense of causing someone embarrassment. In all kinds of daily activity, including study as well as games, Chinese children were regularly reminded that they must work hard and be sensitive to the needs of others for only through such effort would their own lives become truly meaningful..."(p94)
Even groups like China's Young Pioneers, a group similar to the Boy Scouts, taught their members to engage in pro-social activities such as cleaning streets, assisting the elderly and aiding teachers as opposed to the leisure activities which the Boy Scout movement largely concerns itself within the United $tates.
Of course, not everyone in Half Moon was of the same mind politically. One school administrator spoke ill of education in China during the Great Proletarian Revolution (GPCR):
"Education is improving now... Before (meaning during the decade of the Cultural Revolution) the children had no discipline. They didn't behave properly and couldn't learn anything. Now that is all changed. We have ten rules and regulations for behavior, and they have settled down. Now they are learning very well."(p97)
As previously stated, it is logical that this school administrator would consider educational policies a disaster during the GPCR quite simply because his own power and prestige were challenged and negated by revolutionary students. In addition the author also states:
"Both primary and secondary education had expanded significantly throughout the commune by the early 1970s. Much of this activity, closely linked to the educational policies of the Cultural Revolution, emphasized the importance of utilizing local initiative. And indeed many villages had established new primary (and junior middle) schools by using local people and urban-trained "educated youth" to staff them. Wages for these new teachers were largely paid by the villagers themselves, though brigade-based work points. To obtain additional teachers for the new facilities, villages had reduced the earlier system of six-year primary schools to five years — justification for the step being summed up in the slogan "less but better."
"This dramatic educational effort put forward during the Cultural Revolution brought the benefits of expanded primary and secondary education to many commune youth — a real achievement, given the large increase in population between 1950 and the 1970s. Yet it did so at the expense of improving educational quality. The local primary school director was obviously identifying with the quality side of this equation."(p98)
Indeed, no period in the hystory of revolutionary China is more despised or has been more besmirched by the enemy classes as that of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. During the GPCR the bourgeoisie witnessed how the masses armed with Maoist philosophy opened up a new offensive against traitorous, revisionist and bureaucratic elements within the CCP itself, and attempts at the restoration of capitalism. This new offensive took the form of criticisms of bourgeois morals, values and ideals. Though seemingly innocent from a first worldist perspective such as our own, if left unchallenged within socialist society these morals, values and ideals become like a virus or disease in the body of socialism. When left untreated they will fester and wreak havoc on their socialist host, interrupting normal function with the very real potential to cause death.
Beginning in 1966 all established facets of life were forced to justify their existence within the new society or risk being relegated to the museum of antiquities. No more would an experts in command line be tolerated, in Chinese society whether in enterprise or education. No more would patriarchal rule be considered the natural order of things. Confucianism outside the temple of worship would be forced to contend with scientific method — all reactionary cultural products would be grappled with, criticized and torn asunder. In their place proletarian morality would be erected both as a guide and bulwark to the cause of socialism and the masses.
Later, on pg99 Norman Chance talks about how middle school students began to drop out and how most cases were related in one way or another to economic problems in the countryside. Chance explains that although "80% of all primary school graduates in the commune began middle school less than 30% finished. Of those who did, almost none entered higher education." Both the "failing" grades and new economic downturn can probably be linked to the restoration of capitalism.
Portrait of An Educated Youth
In socialist China education went beyond the enclosure of the classroom, as society as a whole was treated as a laboratory where people could discuss, debate, experiment and learn from others, not just experts in command. An excellent example of this could be seen in the "sent down educated youth" program which started in the mid 1950s but increased from the early 1960s to 1966 and then "dramatically from 1968-1976 before finally being concluded in late 1979" (p101). During the Cultural Revolution in times of intense political struggle in the country school was suspended so that students could struggle over the issues of the day and have a say in which direction China would go. This is more than can be said of the Amerikan public school system where rote memorization is popularized and children are expected to parrot what they heard and read and punished for leaving school to challenge government policies.
In this section we are introduced to Zhang Yanzi, a young tractor driver in Red Flag who chose to speak to Chance about her experience in the "Going to the Countryside and Settling Down with the Peasants" campaign. Zhang Yanzi recounted how after graduating from middle school she volunteered to go live with the peasants working first at a state farm as an agricultural worker then as a primary school teacher. She was only 16 years old when she took up a teaching position. She admitted to having her reservations about teaching because her parents were school teachers in Beijing and had been criticized by the masses during the Cultural Revolution.(p103) After requesting to be transferred from her teaching position, she ended up working with livestock and later attained a position as a cook.(p103) Zhang finally became a tractor driver in 1976 and was transferred to Red Flag in 1977.(p103)
She spoke about how initially there was great unity between the peasants and the sent down educated youth. This unity however soon began to dissolve after what Zhang describes as "political factionalism" began to develop amongst the older cadre in the commune. Another problem Zhang brought up was that there wasn't enough concern given to the educated youths' political development.(p104) It seems that much of what Zhang speaks about was happening in post-Mao China (1977) and it's somewhat hard to decipher what experiences happened when. For instance, on page 104 she speaks about how enthused at first she was about choosing to go work and live with the peasants in 1966. She speaks about how it was all done on a volunteer basis:
"In the beginning, no pressure was put on anyone to go. It was all on a volunteer basis. Each individual had to pass the 'Three OKs.' One was from the actual student, one from the family, and one from the school. If there was any disagreement, then the person wouldn't go. Even if you hesitated just before climbing on the train you could stay. But we didn't do that. We were all very enthusiastic."(p103-104)
In the next two paragraphs however Zhang speaks about how "later the policy was changed" and that families with more than "three educated children had to send two of them to the countryside" and if they didn't then the parents would be forced to attend study groups and if the parents still didn't agree then the "neighborhood committees would come out to the street and beat big gongs, hang up 'big character posters,' and use other propaganda to persuade you to let your children go."
Because the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was exactly that, a revolution in culture, it meant that the masses for the first time anywhere in hystory were given free reign to not only grapple and struggle with ideas but to engage in open debate publicly and at the grassroots level without government interference. This is the true meaning of democracy — and so long as violence wasn't used the masses were left to reach their own conclusions and express themselves freely. It is as Lin Bao correctly stated. "...the mass revolutionary movement is naturally correct; for among the masses, right and left wing deviationist groups may exist, but the main current of the mass movement always corresponds to the development of that society involved and is always correct."(note 4)
Critics of the Cultural Revolution, in particular, intellectuals like to portray the GPCR as some kind of punishment for the petty-bourgeois classes in which they were made to endure mental and physical torture at the hands of the Communist Party and hateful peasants. But Zhang who originally lived in Beijing and whose parents were both teachers, paints a much different picture. Admittedly enough, Zhang has her own disagreements with various CCP policies during and after the Cultural Revolution but commune living was not one of them:
"We all ate together in the public dining halls, with some of the older workers. Even though conditions were bad (speaking of the living conditions of the peasants and the weather) they took pretty good care of us, giving us easier jobs and better housing."(p104)
In that same paragraph Zhang also says that in fact it was the sent down youth who, after a while, began to talk down to and abuse the peasants calling them "country bumpkins," "dirty" and "uncultured." She also says that in "units where there were few educated youth, the work was done better, but where they were the majority, the problems became severe."
The most severe problem to occur at Red Flag during the time Zhang reflects on is an instance in which a corrupt high ranking cadre was discovered to be molesting young girls. This official was said to be virtually untouchable within Red Flag, until the People's Liberation Army caught wind of these abuses, entered the commune, began an investigation, arrested the official and subsequently executed him. Afterward the situation got better. (p104-105)
All in all, Zhang's biggest criticism of the GPCR is that there could've been more mechanization in Red Flag and that because of the lack thereof much of the commune's potential in agriculture went to waste. She thought that the sent down educated youth program was sound because it "enabled them (urban youth) to learn more about the good qualities of the peasants and also some production skills."(p105) Zhang also addresses the bureaucracy. This will however be addressed in the upcoming sections.
In this portion of the book the author focuses on how collectivization and land reform affected the family structure and the patriarchy in Half Moon Village. From control over the fields, tools and animals to wimmin's empowerment both in the home and the local and central government.
According to the author the focus of this attack in Red Flag was on "Feudal backward patriarchal thinking."(p130) Although the GPCR was the most progressive social event in world hystory we should not be mistaken to think that the Cultural Revolution simply went on unimpeded.
From a mother-in-law's perceived rule in the family to the bureaucratic apparatus there were a variety of social forces opposed to true revolutionary change, even in Red Flag.
The Changing Status of Women
Before the start of the GPCR wimmin's existence in rural China was largely devoted to serving the male's side of the family according to what was known as the "three obediences and four virtues." These required a woman to first follow the lead of her father, then her husbands, and on her husband's death, her son, and to be "virtuous in morality, proper speech, modesty and diligent work."(p134)
One peasant womyn recounts her experience to the author explaining how prior to the revolution she was given away as a child bride, beaten, starved and made to engage in forced labor at the hands of her husband and her husband's family. After 1949 however the Communist Party began the arduous task of doing away with the old system thru the enactment of wimmin's rights in a country where wimmin were by and large still considered property according to the old kinship system. Beginning with the Marriage Law of 1950, which required free choice in marriage by both partners, guaranteed monogamy, and establishing the right of women to work, and obtain a divorce without necessarily losing their children. This law when combined with the Land Reform Movement Act, which gave women the right to own land in their own name, did much to challenge the most repressive features of the old family system.(p137)
Social relations in Red Flag during the 1950s, 60s and 70s reveal a complex effort by the CP to simultaneously transform China economically and liberate wimmin. Because capitalism developed under congealed patriarchal social conditions, and ideology arises out of the superstructure, this means that even in a socialist society the ideology of the oppressor does not dissipate overnight. Rather, a cultural revolution must be set into effect so that the masses and society as a whole can learn to struggle against backward, reactionary and oppressive thinking. Therefore it should not be surprising to find out that when wimmin first attempted to assert their rights in the new society there were some who did not approve and attempted to put wimmin "back in their place." To some, especially idealists, this will seem difficult to understand, but revolution is never easy and at root requires scientifically guided struggle at all levels of society. And so to many Western academics and so-called "observers" it would've seemed that wimmin's rights were being subsumed into the wider socialist (and male dominated) framework. But before we get too discouraged with China's inability to meet our idealistic standards, we should remember that revolutionary struggle always requires determining and working to resolve the principal contradiction, to which all other contradictions become temporarily relegated. This is different than subsuming which requires the glossing over of contradictions or cooptation. It would therefore seem that this is also how the Communist Party saw it. Therefore they could enact land reform, marriage laws and divorce laws which recognized wimmin's democratic rights, but they also had to be aware of the fact that land reform, agriculture and industry were of the highest priority during this period. If China was unable to develop its productive forces in conjunction with changing social relations then all would be lost. Yes land reform was enacted, and yes wimmin were finally given democratic and bourgeois liberal rights which in semi-feudalist society were revolutionary. But socialist revolution proceeds in stages and it is ultra-left to believe that the patriarchy would not put up a fight and that some concessions would not have to temporarily be made. Ultimately this is why cultural revolution is necessary, to criticize and build public opinion against the old ruling class in preparation for the following stage of revolution.
Even with such reactionary ideas still being propagated wimmin's conditions were elevated exponentially. Testament to this being the fact that in 1978, 3,037 young wimmin students were enrolled in junior middle school in Red Flag compared to 3,202 males, while 1,035 wimmin were enrolled in senior middle school compared to 859 males in Red Flag.(p101) "In 1977, there had been six women members, out of a village total of fifteen members, of whom one had been the party secretary."(p44) In addition, let us not forget Jiang Qing, great revolutionary leader who helped spark the GPCR, one of the most influential and powerful people in China; neither should we forget the countless other revolutionary wimmin of China who without their participation in revolutionary struggle China's liberation would not have been possible. With the restoration of capitalism however, most of the progress made in the arena of wimmin's rights were reversed or negated with the exception of some democratic rights which mostly the petty-bourgeoisie and the bourgeois classes who reside in the urban centers are still privy to. China's countryside however has seen a resurgence in female slavery since the restoration of capitalism.(5)
Among other reversals in socialism which the author documents is a perversion of China's barefoot doctor's program which the social fascists used to depopulate the masses. Here the author speaks about how barefoot doctors and wimmin's federations "introduced system of material incentives to reduce births, pregnant Half Moon peasant women at that time could receive five yuan in cash and have several days off from work if they agreed to abort their unborn child. Counseling women on such matters was the responsibility of the local women's federation. Technical medical questions were handled by barefoot doctors in consultation with the federation."(p142)
"Becoming Rich is Fine" and A Decade of Change
These are the concluding chapters in China's Urban Villagers and they are very interesting as well as disappointing in the fact that they really document China's about face in building socialism. Perhaps they can be both summed up in Xiao Cai's (a young wimmin in charge of foreign affairs at Red Flag) statement to professor Chance: "you know, it's all right to become rich... I mean that individuals and families can work hard for their own benefit. If they make money at it, that's fine. They won't be criticized any more for being selfish."(p151)
Emphasis on getting rich came thru the "Four Modernizations" campaign which emphasized developing the productive forces while negating production relations in the economy and social relations in society. In popularizing this campaign the revisionists stated that "collective effort must be linked to individual initiative" and that the GPCR "was an appalling disaster."(p152) These criticisms expressed the class outlook of the bourgeoisie in the party and their attempts to convince the broad masses that "the political extremism of the Cultural Revolution" offered a "simplistic notion of capitalism" and "unfairly labeled people as capitalist roaders."(p152) The outcome being "a large decrease in individual and household sideline activities, to the detriment of China's overall economic development."(p152)
In reality however, nothing could be further from the truth. While the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution were not without their mistakes, both the GLF and GPCR marked profound shifts in both the development of socialism as well as the overall development of the humyn social relations not seen since the development of classes themselves. Furthermore, the GLF and GPCR offered the masses insight into the unraveling of contradictions on a hystoric level. Thru participation in the Great Leap the masses learned what it was to engage in industrial production as well as how to innovate traditional farming techniques by utilizing collective effort in combination with proletarian thinking (see note 3). By their participation in the GPCR the revolutionary masses learned what it was to both gain unprecedented insight into the advance towards communism and the unraveling of contradictions prevalent in socialist society. Thru this experimentation the masses contributed not only to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as the science of revolution, but to the development of rational knowledge as well.
Other reversals in socialism in Red Flag were made apparent when officials in Beijing issued an order to China's commune to "de-collectivize" the land and privatize most plots. Opposition to this privatization was fairly strong in Red Flag even though its residents weren't as politically educated as others, they still clung to the memory of the hardships common in the countryside before the revolution. In particular they were well aware that it was only thru collective strength and revolutionary leadership that they were able to overcome such difficulties. Thus, they began to openly fear class polarization as they rightly began to recognize that some peoples "rice bowls" had gotten bigger than others. Especially when it came to party officials.
As time went on, many in Red Flag began to get a new understanding of what Mao spoke about before his death concerning the revisionists and the return to capitalism.
By the mid-1980s exploitation in China had returned full-force and no-one could deny or claim ignorance to what was happening except for perhaps the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie. As a part of the so-called "responsibility system" initiated under the traitor Deng Xiaoping "separate households and even individuals, could contract with production teams and brigades to produce their grain, vegetables, and other agricultural goods on specific plots of brigade land divided up for that purpose."(p161) The inevitable result of all this was that migrant peasant workers began to be sought out to work Half Moon's individually owned plots. The result? Deplorable oppressive conditions for hundreds of thousands of peasants from poorer regions of China who began arriving in Beijing's agricultural suburbs:
"It looks like a prison labor camp to me" commented one visitor on seeing Half Moon's migrant worker dormitories "After spending all day in the fields these poor peasants return to their dorms in the evening only to be doled out a bare minimum of food — lots of grains but not many vegetables. Once the harvest is over, they are paid a small wage by the manager and then head back to Henan, Hebei, or whatever province they came from. It's highly exploitative."(p166)
Due to a return to capitalism by 1985, China was again forced to import grain, something unheard of since the natural catastrophes that occurred towards the end of the Great Leap Forward. During this time corrupt party officials' greed reached new heights as they enriched themselves at the expense of the masses thru their manipulation of the national economy and exploitation of workers and peasants thru their access and control of the means of production. Some of the frustration of the people was captured in an interview of a party member by professor Chance in 1988. Although the quote is much too lengthy to feature here the party member was very critical of the capitalist roaders. This is part of what he had to say:
"Some people feel the nature of the party and the state has changed. The change first appeared in the late 1960s and 1970s when the power and authority, rather than representing the interests of the people came to represent those in power. This process took some time to unfold. But now it is quite clear what Mao meant when he warned us about the danger of capitalist roaders.... You don't know how hard it was for us to figure out what was going on. Mao tried time and time again to weed out the capitalist roaders, but still he failed. Now people don't know what to do.... Since Mao came along many years ago and saved China from the mess it was in, someone else will come along someday and save us from the mess we are in today..."(p173)
In fact, contrary to what this "Communist" Party member has to say, many of the problems with the bourgeoisie in the party first surfaced during the Great Leap forward 1958-1961 and were illuminated for us by Mao and his followers prior to the Cultural Revolution. In fact, during the Great Leap Forward political struggles and factionalism were already taking place in China's factories and industrial centers between those wishing to keep expert-in-command and those wanting the masses to take the lead in production. Furthermore, this party member is in error when he places Mao as a great individual whose responsibility it was to save China. Yes Mao was a great revolutionary leader, but he would've been the first to point out that the masses were responsible for controlling their own destiny. Afterall this is why the GPCR was initiated.
The student movement at Tiananmen Square is also addressed in which the author chronicles the events leading up to the political repression and massacre of the students. The demands of the protesters ranged from a return to socialism to freedom of the press and a desire to turn to Western style capitalism and democracy. The revisionist CCP, fearing an uprising by the masses, ordered the People's Liberation Army to fire on the protesters. On 3 June 1989, 8,000 troops, tanks and armored personnel carriers entered the outskirts of Tienanmen and began firing on protesters and city residents alike. Discussion in Half Moon over the protests and political repression and Tiananmen brought mixed reviews.
"Based on their past knowledge and experience, most villagers found it inconceivable that the PLA would fire on the protesters. Even during the height of the Cultural Revolution, the army had gone unarmed into the colleges and universities, where the worst fighting had occurred. But when several factory workers reported that the army had fired on crowds at street corners, the tenor of the conversation began to change."(p182)
Close enough to Beijing to have participated in the rebellion (and indeed some Red Flag students and other villagers did participate), Half Moon residents were brought under investigation by authorities. Most were eventually cleared.
In short, contradictions in China since the return of capitalism have once again created the conditions for a new revolutionary upsurge. With China's economic emulation of the so-called "economic miracles" of the South-East: Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong (also knowns as the "Four Tigers" or the "Four Dragons") contradictions in China have once again created the conditions for a new revolutionary upsurge. In relation to this point the author ends this book with the following:
"Implicit in this proposal is the assumption that by emphasizing privatization and a market driven economy, China too can achieve a similar prosperity. However, those four nations that were able to break out of Third World poverty were small, were on the Asian periphery, and were the beneficiaries of two large Asian wars financed by America. There is little reason to assume that a market-driven economic system will enable China to repeat the process. Much more probable is a return to a neo-colonial status with small islands of prosperity and corruption on the coasts and with stagnation in the hinterland — a sure formula for future revolutionary upheavals."(p187)
This will be my full account of my evolvement with the organizing of peace between all prisoners, be they independent citizens of this yard or members of lumpen groups or organizations. Many prisoners have been involved in the processes that will be disclosed, to ensure their safety their names won't be mentioned in this report. All circumstances are well known by the prisoner population on this yard (C yard @ Tehachapi) and can therefore be verified easily by asking and requesting anyone who receives ULK on this yard. Before starting I want to give shouts out to United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP), because I hold your principles and am inspired by your scientific methods. As a 5%er I give all due respects to the teachings of the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) for my Free dome and clear sight which allows me to live in a non-fictional reality, being awakened to the True Self which is righteousness without fear. Also I would like to thank ULK and MIM(Prisons) for providing revolutionary education for free, which has taught me how to lead and helped me realize that I am a socialist with a revolutionary conscience. Thank all the prisoners here at California Correctional Institution (CCI) who's assisted me [nicknames omitted], Tha Numbers, Tha Old Black Vanguard and a huge part of the New Afrikans and [email protected]
I arrived here at CCI in mid-2016. Upon my arrival I introduced myself as a member of the NGE. I met several New Afrikans that were very negative about the program here, C.O. culture, prisoner treatment and a myriad of other complexities dealing with conflicts among prisoners. The first persyn I came to know from a non-fictional reality is a member of one of the largest street organizations in North America. Our first conversations would become the foundation and conduit for many actions that followed. His assessment of the yard has proven to be invaluable, though bleak when he spoke of the mental deadness of our people; meaning the Black prison population on the yard. Blind, deaf and dumb with no concept of organization or unity. This comrade is indispensable to the prosperity, growth, and development of this yard's prisoner on just about every level. His advice is most valuable now as ever.
To begin to address these conditions, I initiated the weekly services for everyone on the yard who wants to attend as a place of unity, education and true identity resurrection. From proposal to acceptance it took one month, then from acceptance to being physically scheduled it took three more weeks ending when we had the first NGE service in November 2016.
At the same time this was being developed, most people were saying this will never be accepted by the administration on this yard. Doubters included prisoners, as well as Captains, Chaplains and Correctional Officers. I persynally began circulating my verbal disapproval of two-on-one violence or group violence against one person. Simply stating these actions won't be tolerated when acted out against New Afrikans by other racial groups nor by other New Afrikans on New Afrikan prisoners nor member of other races who are also prisoners regardless of charges and convictions issued by the unlawful court system. By my understanding this position is backed by the BPP's 10 point program demand #8.(1) This has become the new norm through actions I will now describe.
On a day at the ass end of September 2016, at the morning yard for the lower tier, I noticed a dichotomy between a group of Aztlán known as the Number and an elder from the New Afrikans. Three members of the Number appeared to be attempting to jump physically this unknown elderly New Afrikan when his cellie physically assisted him ending the exchange of blows by walking away and descending to the bottom of the yard. All this happened in the direct view of the yard Correction Officers without any response. After my initial investigation of the occurrence turned little to no information I migrated to the bottom of the yard to build and better understand what I had just witnessed. Upon speaking to a New Afrikan soldier who we shall call Ty, me and him decided to get to the bottom of this matter. The elder explained that the Number owed him and upon confrontation about the debt verbally refused to pay. That is when the elderly New Afrikan swung his fist, hitting the debtor in the jaw, causing 3 members of the Number lumpen group to engage him in physical battle. After the knowledge, me and Ty decided to go and confront the Numbers, to issue a formal notice that the jumping of any New Afrikan would no longer be accepted and if we cannot have an agreement we would go to war at that moment. However, due to the magnetic energy all the New Afrikans on the yard mobilized with unity and harmoniously walked as one to the Numbers table at which time the aforementioned decree was stated to the Numbers. They decided peace was best for the yard at that moment and minutes later came assuring the elderly New Afrikan he would receive what he was owed. They apologized for the acts of aggression and the miscommunication.
During this time the Correctional Officers stayed in their yard position but many prisoners reported hearing them radio the tower to shoot Blacks if violence was to occur. Many New Afrikans felt the power of unity that day and began a positive dialogue due to being empowered by the unity of that event. That day also respectful communication between New Afrikans and Numbers were established including beginning dialogue between white nationals of two different lumpen groups in days to follow, which opened up the door for me to begin to share the principles of the UFPP with both major groups. The NGE membership grew to 23 prisoners of a racially diverse demographic, mostly New Afrikan but Aztláns and YT's joined too. I shared white national books out of my collection with the white nation lumpen group member and believed we had strong lines of communication.
Over a month later, in November 2016, an issue was made known to me about an alleged thief of a radio supposedly by a New Afrikan who had a history of mischief named KC. When word got to me I was told the Aztláns were planning to jump the New Afrikan, after sharing this with my comrade it was decided that we would investigate in order to keep the peace. While playing basketball someone had taken the radio off of the sidelines where items had been sat inside owners' shirts. My comrade believed KC to be the culprit, which he denied. Voluntarily, all the New Afrikans stripped down to their boxers proving they didn't have the property in question, lastly and with little fuss KC stripped proving he didn't have it. Then all the Aztláns likewise stripped proving they didn't have it either. The victim still felt like KC was guilty and wanted to fight. KC reluctantly obliged and whipped him and peace was better established stating New Afrikans won't turn down no battle if requested but peace is desired.
Almost a month later a white national, who I believed to be solid used our growing relationship to lure KC away from myself, then attacked him with a huge stone in a pillow case when his back was turned. Needless to say his instant karma manifested, KC was able to thwart this plot against himself and turn the tide with a huge victory over this extreme form of physical oppression and violent aggression. In days to follow white national politics seemed to attempt to establish itself, with whites telling Blacks they could not use pull up bars near their table. On hearing this I spoke with their known leaders and we all decided to end all attempts at making C yard a racialized environment and instead work together on a proposal to help create this yard into an honor yard. Vowing to do away with weapon usage and to better establish open lines of communication in order to solve interracial issues without violence.
There was an issue which touched home that I must share with you now. One of the persyns I most respect was accused of a savage crime against his celly. At the time I was allowing him to use my TV and a few CDs as was two other comrades. Upon his arrest people began circulating rumors of his alleged guilt. Due to his conduct and our developed closeness I persynally went to those prophecizing against him and told them to stop and desist. While he was being investigated a white porter came into blame for what was by then deemed missing property, that the porter had access to and had allegedly stolen. This was based on the fact that neither my TV nor all the CDs and a CD player made it to R&R. He was blamed and pressured to pay for two of the missing CDs by someone of influence. During this time I found out that the Building Officer had on his own taken my TV out of this persyn's property before it even left the building along with the CD player. I was asked to protect the white porter by one of the members of the original Black prisoners vanguard party, which I agreed to. Then the Correctional Officer returned my TV after keepin it almost two weeks, which is not just unfair but it is unlawful and burglary by definition. I didn't know if the white porter was guilty so I didn't charge him for my CDs knowing that the comrade was innocent and would be returning. Under threat and fear the white porter paid a 16oz jar of coffee to the owner of two missing CDs.
Well, I was right about the porter being innocent and the comrade because when he came back the CDs were in his property which he returned to their owners. The porter got his coffee back and all the false prophets learned a valuable lesson and some even apologized for smutting the comrade.
Now I have a monthly unity walk at yard with an all inclusive New Afrikan peaceful unity movement and I will have my first banquet in February 2017, of which all the leaders of the different lumpen organizations have been invited to attend. I will read UFFP principles at that time and speak on United Prisoners (UP) its benefits and how important it is to take the initiative in the Change Movement.