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Under Lock & Key

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[Prison Labor] [Organizing] [North Carolina]
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North Carolina Labor Battle Advice

I hope these words surmount the many communicational barriers that have been put in place to suppress my voice. I'm currently being held at North Carolina's supermax facility. I came across issue 66 of ULK and I read where the prisoners of Pender razor-wire plantation are being exploited and seeking guidance and assistance in redressing this issue.(1)

North Carolina is home to 32 Correctional Enterprise plantations that exploit prisoners for their labor in the name of rehabilitation. As the komrade mentioned, these plantations are profitable enterprises that range from producing janitorial products to a metal plant in Polkton, North Carolina that makes industrial sinks for schools and contraband lockers for the police. Each of these 32 plantations produces goods to be sold to tax-supported entities such as municipal and county governments. So yes it's a fact that prisoners are being exploited and you seek guidance on how you and others can organize to redress this issue.

First and foremost, you must purge the fear you admitted to having, komrade. As the beloved komrade George Jackson stated, "Don't fear the specter of repression, for we are already repressed." The fear of reprisals is what keeps us in bondage. Yes we're held captive by concrete and razor-wire barriers, but it isn't the physical chains that keep us oppressed and exploited. It is the mental chains of ignorance and fear that impede us from liberating ourselves from under the rule of the enemy. Fear is our greatest hindrance. We have been conditioned to believe that the enemy's retaliation will be so brutal that any thoughts of standing up are neutralized by this fear. Nelson Mandela said it best: "In prison, no improvement happens without a reason."

However, you are correct that you must have assistance. You cannot fight this Hydra alone. North Carolina isn't known for its progressive political activity within these razor-wire plantations, nor are there any notable revolutionaries or political prisoners. Being the deputy minister of defense for the White Panther organization, which is an arm of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter, under the umbrella of the United Panther Movement, we have been on the front lines and working diligently to transform these slave pens of oppression into schools of liberation.

There are outside supporters here that are very loyal to the prisoners of North Carolina. They provide us with a local newsletter, FloodGates, to serve as a platform for us to network with others and express ourselves. They also organize outside protests and mass call-ins. As of now, we are focused on redressing the new JPay restrictions. You can receive the FloodGates newsletter by writing:

FloodGates Publishing
PO Box 15401
Durham, NC 27704

MIM(Prisons) responds: In ULK 66 we asked for input from other folks in response to the writer from North Carolina who asked what they can do to fight back against the extortion of money, both through their labor and petty fees. This writer offers some good thoughts about building a network both behind bars and on the streets. We work for Under Lock & Key to also serve as a resource to help with this organizing.

As we've discussed in our recent updated "Survey of U.S Prisoners on Prison Labor" in ULK 62, prisoners are mostly working for the state.(2) The examples given by this writer confirm that this is the case in North Carolina as well. This labor is subsidizing the state budget, but it falls far short of covering the cost of imprisonment. So we don't describe prison labor with the term "exploitation" which, in Marxism, means transforming labor power into goods to be sold for a profit. The goods being produced are for state institutions, and just offset the costs to run these institutions. There's no profit involved.

Instead, we say the prisons are extorting this labor. Basically the prisons are stealing it from prisoners, not giving them a choice about work, and paying only a pittance. Still, there's no profit.

Prisons are about social control and national oppression, not profits. The prison movement needs to focus on the anti-colonial battle, and the struggle against prison labor can be a part of this. We support the struggles many of our comrades are fighting against prison labor, because we are against extortion and imprisonment of the lumpen class and oppressed-nation peoples. This is one of many ways to weaken the criminal injustice system.

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[Censorship] [Hunger Strike] [Education] [United Front] [North Carolina] [ULK Issue 52]
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Battle for Literacy Builds Inside and Outside NC Prisons

Revolutionary Greetings,

As this missive leaves me in Revolutionary Spirits and with strong desires for emancipation I hope it reaches you in the same manner. I continue to battle the anti-literacy tactics used by these jackbooted fascist Pigs that use the word censorship as a tool to keep us deaf, dumb, & blind. The administration of these Razor Wire plantations, better known as the overseers, have the dictatorship to keep us from reading certain books and material that will liberate us from the continuing cycle of returning to these slave pens of oppression.

Nothing has changed from the tactics used in the 1900s til now, it's only hidden better. After the Nat Turner Revolt in 1831 legislation prohibiting the education of slaves was strengthened throughout the South. "In the words of one Slave Code... teaching slaves to read and write tends to cause dissatisfaction in their minds, and to produce insurrection and rebellion!" Any publication on the topic of conscious-raising is disapproved under the violation of Division of Prison Policy Section D.0109 (f) which consists of violence, disorder, insurrection or terrorist/gang activities against individuals, group organizations, the government or any of its institutions! We are given the option to appeal the disapproval, it’s then sent to the Publication Review Committee, and 80% of the time they agree with the first disapproval. The recent publications disapproved of mine are the new issue of Under Lock & Key, The Wretched of the Earth, and Huey P. Newton's To Die for the People! The Wretched of the Earth was approved [on appeal]. I’m still waiting on the approval of the other two publications.

The Commune here at this Razor Wire Plantation came together to form a hunger strike due to conditions we are burdened with, such as the high percentage of disapproved publications. We were promised that we would be allowed to receive publications if we agreed to end the hunger strike! I must say that lately books have been coming in that would not have made it past the mail room. Before the hunger strike I brought to the attention of the overseer that decides to allow us to have the books or material sent in, that there were books in the library of this Razor Wire Plantation that encourage racism, the hanging of Blacks, but those books are OK because they are in favor of the "overseer's" ideology. When brought to the attention of this certain overseer I was laughed at when I showed him the pictures out of a library book titled The Red Summer of 1919, where a Black man was being burnt alive while a mob of whites looked on with smiles on their face. I was asked by this overseer why would those pictures bother me so much when I’m not a man of color? What I should do was mind my business and order books other than the ones I been ordering was what I was told!

So I asked myself this question: is it possible for a white man to detest racism, oppression, repression, classism and capitalism as much as I do? Yes Racism is alive and well, but when you are a victim of classism it causes you to detest Racism! In today's time you don’t have certain communities among the proletarian class that's for one race only!(*) No, the poor live with the poor and the bourgeoisies live among the capitalists. The proletarian class and the lumpen are victims of poor education, which as we know is a pipeline to these Razor Wire Plantations. The educational system for the poor is a joke! (Angela Davis said: there is a distinct and qualitative difference between one breaking a law for one's own individual self-interest and violating it in the interest of a class or a people whose oppression is expressed directly or indirectly, though in many cases he/she is a victim). Poor education is another tactic used by the capitalist to be able to exploit the proletarian class! While selling their labor just to keep the lights on and food on the table there is no extra income for higher educational opportunity! So the proletarian class education system is the framework of the capitalist! The bourgeoisie gains their strength and stability from framework of poor education for the proletarian class. With proper education and educational opportunities the proletarian class could liberate themselves from the need to sell their labor to provide their loved ones with life's necessities! The capitalist know if this was to happen then the stronghold they have over the poor would be no longer!

Most of us allow ourselves to be controlled because of fear of losing something. This fear is what the bourgeoisie uses against us to control us. These chains must be broken for emancipation to take place! It starts with the necessities of solidarity.

Being in solidarity among the proletarian class means building strong relationships and strong communities of resistance. We must get back to the foundation of movement building, which is about building relationships and sustainable communities while breaking out of the confines of single issue organizing. Our accountability lies in what we do within our own communities. Focusing on our communities compels us to understand First World privilege (i.e. if you reside here you’ve got privilege). On the contrary privilege is layered by histories of slavery, colonization, patriarchal control, etc. Our solidarity struggles must therefore find ways to address these inequalities within. This involves listening and learning from the struggles of the proletarian masses. This would take the kind of inter-communal solidarity that Huey P. Newton had in mind.

Comrades, it starts with us held captive within the gulags of these Razor Wire Plantations. How, you ask? Turning these Slave pens of oppression into Schools of Liberation! The Science of Revolution must be spread to the masses of the communities! The help of Revolutionary intellectuals is a must because the key to the people’s unity is Revolutionary Consciousness! Instead of wasting time on who is right and who is wrong, instead of not being in solidarity with the next person because of their skin color, we must come together and spread the Science of Revolution to the unconscious. Theory is made to be advanced; nothing can stay the same because the capitalists strategize ideas to continue to control change every day. When one advances the theory of Marx, Lenin, or Mao it is not in disrespect or disregard of these great Revolutionists. Lenin said: "without Revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement." We must focus on our communities. If our own communities are not strong enough to stand up to neoconservatives, then the work of those who promulgate war without end, the dictatorship of the free market, and the stealing of indigenous land will be made all the easier! With no unity among us then we are weak and not a factor! There are many organizations, groups, and cadres with different ideologies but have the same goal in mind! As long as we fight amongst ourselves then we are allowing capitalism to live!

The future of our emancipation lies in our hands people. So as I bring this to an end, I ask that you really think about our own Liberation and the well being of our communities as well as the future of education for the youth. Frantz Fanon said: "Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission and fulfill it or betray it." What’s your mission?


MIM(Prisons) adds: It is timely that comrades are organizing actions to protest censorship of educational materials by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS), as we just learned that a lawsuit will be going to trial on the same issue. Comrades on the inside and outside are making moves that culminate five years of consistent paperwork battles between MIM Distributors volunteers and NC prisoners on one side and NCDPS prisoncrats on the other.

Those locked up in North Carolina recognized those efforts as our subscribership expanded during periods of time when Under Lock & Key was completely banned in the state. But prisoners did receive the protest letters sent by our volunteers and those letters circulated, sparking even more interest in ULK. As efforts build on both sides of the fence, MIM(Prisons) will continue to support and promote this campaign against illegal censorship and political repression. As this comrade argues, this is an important battle because it contributes to our efforts to make revolutionary science accessible to the oppressed masses.

* While we agree with this comrade's points about education and censorship, we do not seem to agree on our analysis of class and nation in the United $tates. In recent analysis, published in part in Under Lock & Key 51 we show that the class make up of different nationalities in the United $tates are different and that segregation of communities is on the increase. We stand in solidarity with the comrades' actions in North Carolina across national lines for their common interests as prisoners. And while this is an example of class preceding nation, we believe that nation overall is the principal contradiction in this country. This is partially because class contradictions are so weak in the richest country in the world. And recent events around police brutality and prison abuse have shown us uprisings that are very homogeneous in their national makeup. And this is where we see the most radical fractures in our society.

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