As previously predicted by myself and various others within the prison movement, the trend around the nation’s prisons towards intrusive digital mail policies has now officially made its way to Texas state prisons, the biggest prison system in the country.
According to a public service announcement released by TDCJ on 7 July 2023, beginning on 17 Jul 2023, units will no longer accept general correspondence. Instead general mail must be sent to the digital processing plant at:
TDCJ [inmates full first and last name] + number P.O. Box 660400 Dallas, TX 75266-0400
The public and official justification for this move towards more intense surveillance of the mail is the current drug epidemic within TDCJ. Each incarcerated persyn reading this and many out in the public have direct experience with the effects of this sad daily occurrence of overdoses, drug induced suicides, the drama daily instigating violence and intimidation amongst people in prison, the walking zombies, the toon attacks. the loss of morals and character to drug addiction. We can not act as if this isn’t occurring, and it is not my intent to justify these occurrences within this writing. However, my intention is to state that the states’ official justification (the drug epidemic) isn’t sincere.
The new policy doesn’t come as a shock to many of us. Frankly, for most of this decade prison departments across the United $tates have been doing the same thing utilizing the same justification (inmates getting drugs through the mail). The courts for their part have upheld these intrusive policies, under the pretext that departments provide alternatives for receiving mail, books, and other functions of prison life.
The sincerity of the state’s justification must be questioned due to their own actions. The daily inattentiveness regarding drug culture exhibited by the staff allows the epidemic to function. Daily, every staff member from wardens to the lowest officer on the totem pole can see, smell, or otherwise experience the elements of the drug epidemic within each TDCJ unit.(1) Most times, officers and staff look the other way for various reasons. For their own safety and security while doing a potentially dangerous job certainly is one of them, and another is certainly that officers and staff, to a very large degree prefer an intoxicated prison population. I’m not speaking about the executive branch of the agency. The people in business suits are not in tune with the attitudes and mindsets of the employees on the ground. If they were, they would know what each inmate does through observation. Prison officials choose the lesser of two evils, feeling that the drugs act as sedatives and will calm tensions within the prison which is somewhat true.(2) They opt for this instead of the contrary largely sober-minded prisoner which is more often than not harder to control.
The policy will allow legal, media, and subscription mails to still come to the unit. All other mails will be received at the warehouse or will be returned to sender. This policy extends the distance between families and their imprisoned loved ones, straining relationships on top of the genocidal sentences a lot of us are serving in TDCJ and around the country. These police-state policies are helping to destroy our families.
And for those of us within the prison movement, how does this policy affect us and those on the outside who support us? I propose that organizations develop communication funds which will go to alternative communication lines. These funds would be invested towards proven cadres who can make their individual work spread amongst the people. These new communication lines would be autonomous and clandestinely utilized to forward serious organizing work.
As the state continues to clamp down on illusionary elements of democracy, we must organize ways around their various intrusive sanctions while developing the capacity to reconstruct the power relations of this society.
The time has come to liberate Our political prisoners. There have been decades of conversation, of litigation, and other passive acts of resistance with little to no results.
GENOCIDE! This policy perfectly depicts how the health and future of Our families and as a result Our peoples is at stake, under attack and reeling.
Courts have thus far upheld similar policies elsewhere. Saying that realistic penological interests are being met, as prisons use the pretext of the current drug epidemic as the reason for this policy, and the courts further assert that prisons are offering a viable alternative (the tablets).
The first units that will experience this policy are: Allred, Coffield, Polunsky, Powledge, Plane, Garza West, Clements, Halbert, Robertson, and East Texas ISF, with more to follow in the following weeks, according to the public service announcement.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As soon as this policy was implemented, the attacks on prisoner communication have started. A prisoner in Stiles Unit in Texas reported on 25 July 2023:
“We were recently given tablets and our e-messaging, phone through the tablet. I’m on Ad-Seg, in Restrictive Housing (RHU). On 10 July 2023, my wifi and e-messaging, as well as my phone were taken from me for no reason. According to TDCJ, all mail will be digital now, since 17 July 2023. But certain people were taken by surprise to wake up with none of our mail or phone. Without any explanation. We have been asking and sending I-60’s grievances about this, but still no one will give us an explanation. What can I do?”
The comrade asks if the censorship rules mentioned on the first page of ULK would apply to this situation. And it’s a good question. These prisoners mail is effectively being censored, so it would seem so. But we are not lawyers. And it is likely that this would need to be tested via the courts.
Some prisons in Texas, like Polunsky and Allred Units, are just returning to sender all mail from MIM Distributors sent to the prison, including media which according to the rules is supposed to be sent there.
Another problem comrades are facing is when we send them forms in the mail, they cannot print them or fill them out, because they are only given to them in a tablet.
“This U.S. Supreme Court ruling and prison policies of surveillance and censorship listed above reveals that the fascist and repressive nature of prisons extend beyond these prison walls and adversely impacts those of you in the community. This should give human and civil rights activists, including our loved ones, additional motivation to work in solidarity with incarcerated freedom fighters to challenge these Constitutional violations via civil litigation.”(4)
Notes: 1. A Texas Prisoner, November 2017, “Epidemic of K2 Overdoses at Estelle, Throughout Texas”, Under Lock & Key 59. 2. A Texas Prisoner, March 2021, “TDCJ: Your Staff are Bringing in the Drugs, and it Must Stop”, Under Lock & Key 73. 3. MIM(Prisons), June 2022, “FL, TX Censor Revolutionary 12 Steps Program”, Under Lock & Key 78. 4. A Virginia Prisoner, January 2022, “A Strategic Objective to Disrupt and Surveil the Communication Between Prisoners and Our Loved Ones”, Under Lock & Key 76.
A USW comrade in New York sent a critique of the claim in Power to New Afrika that Malcolm X was not killed by racism:
“Is it then a coincidence that Blacks who seek Black power are killed/imprisoned by said”corrupt power structure" at a disproportionate rate than any other race… If white people kill/imprison Black people who seek Black power for themselves in order to maintain white power for themselves, what could this pattern be symbolic to other than anything but racism?"
Triumphant of United Struggle from Within responds:
No, it is not a coincidence, but neither is “racism” an exact description of the actual social, political, and economic components of Our national oppression. The State/power is going to kill/imprison, disproportionately, any and all threats or perceived threats, or perceived disposable populations. This is to preserve power, self-preservation of the status quote. In the period you’re speaking on when a large amount of Blacks who were imprisoned were politically active or politicized, the Black colony was the most actively radical populace in the empire. Therefore, its numbers in prison reflected such. In more recent times, and without the guidance of mass social-political movements, this would-be active elements have largely succumbed to criminality and gangsterism, a common thread in colonized population groups around the world. So to answer the second half of your above question, the other thing that the pattern could symbolize is common and routine government oppression, the wielding of power. It is what empire does to any historically oppressed and dynamic social force.
History shows that New Afrikans have been the key to opening social, economic, and political doors that have been shut in various times of Amerikan history. By being suppressed at the bottom of the social ladder, Our advancement, in its various forms, has always led to the advancement of the society as a whole, and due to the law of contradictions those advances that we often take for granted these days, have and will always come at a severe price. It will always come at a sacrifice, of mass struggle, and each time we’ve advanced despite it. It is the power structure’s role to maintain as much power and resources in its hands as possible, only conceding when forced or coerced to do so. That is another explanation of the phenomena you’ve mentioned.
Should oppressive exploitative power be evenly distributed against all and not disproportionately to one group? The power, again, represses those who resist, or threaten its power. This is irregardless of color. Case in point, during the high tide of revolutionary struggle, what made it a high tide? The same thing that has made recent years noteworthy, because all colors have been involved in struggle, one way or another. In the 1960s-70s era, there were a more or less proportionate number of PP/POW to the rate of participation by nationality. There were fewer Amerikan comrades, because Amerikans are the oppressor nation and not oppressed. However, all the groups that were active in the ways that most advanced Black revolutionaries were active were attacked and repressed the same. Many of them were co-defendants of each other.
I’m talking about: Marilyn Buck, Susan Rosenberg, Tim Blunk, Barbara and Jaan Laaman, David Gilbert, Richard Williams, Silvia Baraldini, Carol and Tom Manning, Oscar Lopez-Rivera, Alan Berkman, Jaime Delgado, Raymond Levasseur, Linda Evans, Laura Whitehorn, and many others.
We hurt ourselves by not sharing the full stories of those times. The BPP, BLA, RNA, SNCC, RAM, and others were not attacked and repressed because they were Black organizations. It wasn’t because they were Black political organizations. They were attacked because of the type of Black politics they organized around. The proof of this statement lies in the fact of people they worked with (Black, white, brown, male, female, heterosexual, non-heterosexual). These weren’t racial movements in the strict sense, and their actions show that for those who have eyes to see. Take an incident that gets a lot of hype, like Assata Shakur’s escape. The BLA did not liberate alone. In fact, those alleged to have been involved with it were majority non-Black. And they and their organizations were attacked, imprisoned, along with the Black revolutionaries they were in solidarity with.
My point? When people choose the revolutionary path and act it out, they become targets for repression and extinction, irregardless of color.
…Your notion that “white people imprison/kill Black people at disproportionate rates” is flawed and not in accordance with reality. Why? Because it is not white people who imprison/kill. In most cases it is representatives of the system (police, prosecutors, judges, jurors, C.O.s, etc) and in other cases it isn’t system reps at all. In fact, studies show we lose more Black lives to self-destruction than anything else. And since the early 1970s, colonialism has transitioned into neo-colonialism (mass integration into the social, political,economic and cultural apparatus of USA). So now when we talk about the system, or power structure, and other politicians are helping to invest in police forces in places like New York, Chicago, Houston, and elsewhere. Therefore the old notion of a simplistic black/white; white power/Black power worldview is overly simplistic and keeps us missing the mark in our analysis and in our subsequent practice in our organizing.
…You correctly say, “political power in all societal cases will always be the most efficient first step on a pathway to freedom for any race or people,” and because the power structure knows and agrees with this is why Malcolm and others were killed and/or jailed. And as far as you saying the power structure, despite their intentions “effected racism, by oppressing, exploiting and killing the futures and politics of the predominantly Black supporters he represented.” Now here is why we must really deconstruct “race” as a useful social construct in our spaces, because it confuses us as a people. What we’ve been bred to refer to as races are in actuality nations and nationalities of people who’ve developed organically and historically within the social realities of 400 years in North America. The assassination wasn’t merely to win the war for ideologies as you said, but to win, before it even began in earnest, the full scale actual war (of national liberation). These weren’t acts of racism, but much more! These were acts of national oppression, acts of warfare designed to do as you said, oppress, exploit, and kill the future of our politics. What is that then? Genocide? Colonial suppression/domination? National oppression designed to keep an oppressed and colonized social group in its place. This isn’t racism and calling it that limits our actions in correcting it. This is Warfare, the same war that began Black August 1619. It has always, despite intentions on either side, had the effect of national oppression. They implement the continued political, economic, social, and cultural inability to develop independently, or without being dictated to by the empire. Therefore, national liberation, is to enforce the opposite relationship, to dictate our own affairs. In other words, it isn’t a white/black thing, it’s a power struggle, hence the title, Power to New Afrika.
^Power to New Afrika is available for $3 to prisoners, or work trade through our Free Political Books Program, and free on our website.^
Since Our last update regarding the J.F.I., and its three phase plan to magnify the genocidal practices, policies and procedures ever present within the Amerikan criminal justice system, there has been slight progress in our phase two, or the national phase of this campaign.
Namely, the U.$. DOJ has begun to respond to the hundreds of grievance petitions and testimonials sent to them last year. U.$. DOJ has shown interest in further investigating incidents of excessive use of force, and lack of staff. This is only what has been reported from Texas comrades, and We hope to hear more from others around the country as responses pour in.
Along these same lines, We have recently begun corresponding with a legal aid organization who has reached out to us, interested in representing prisoner’s litigation efforts which are socio-politically motivated in nature. They’ve expressed interest in assisting us in the J.F.I. campaign going forward, as this partnership develops We’ll keep you all informed.
An Update on Legislation Efforts in Texas
Through the last 180 days a lot of time and energy has been refocused in support efforts regarding legislation beneficial to the Texas prisoner class.
We have been focused on the following bills and resolutions:
HB 2834, relating to minimum wage for inmates in certain work programs.
HB 782, gives authority to trial court to modify a defendants sentence.
HB 812, regarding limitation on use of Administrative segregation.
HB 1362, relating to the use of the death penalty and life without parole in capital crimes for people younger than 21 years old.
HB 1736, relating to conspiracy and law of parties and criminal responsibility in capital cases.
House Joint Resolution 63, regarding the explicit outlawing of slavery and servitude.
In Our efforts to abolish Ad-Seg, there was a book released and passed around to current legislators at the beginning of the session in January. The book, Texas Letters Volume 1, is an anthology consisting of prisoners first hand accounts of their experiences in long term solitary confinement in Texas. Despite these and other efforts it seems as though HB 812 will not pass this session.
In Our efforts to magnify HB 1362 and HB 1736, there is a current publication in the works specifically dedicated to telling the stories of those affected by the Law of Parties and the death penalty and life w/o parole at the ages below 21. Surprisingly, this is a bi-partisan effort. Despite this it has not yet been passed. People on the ground are developing different ways to get the information about this issue disseminated more widely to the public.
On Other Efforts in Texas
Seeing that Our efforts in the legislation campaign have not been fruitful, We’ve channeled Our energy toward more cadre building through establishing Authentic In Manhood, Masculinity and Maturity (A.I.M) and its sub section Political Education 101, a series of seminars giving insight into the basic essentials of revolutionary political and social theory. We hope these efforts bear more fruit in the near future.
An Update on the Forever Protecting Our Community Organization
Since the introductory article presenting FPC to the ULK audience, i would like to inform you that the FPC organization has established a local community garden, promoting food sovereignty, and has begun to launch a program designed to combat open air sex and human trafficking in the local area. FPC has also taken part with other organizations in a memorial for people who’ve lost their lives to police terrorism and gang violence, members of the FPC have been active in mentoring youth in anti-drug and anti-gang counseling providing school supplies, and feeding the people. The organization’s political line continues to mature, and we continue to observe this movement closely.
In previous writings we’ve utilized the principle of self-criticism to critique the communications operations that We, Team One, previously had. Therefore, we’re enthused to announce not only new tactical methods of communication, but a new address as well.
Tx Team One PO Box 720597 Houston, TX 77272
Also, in conjunction with the JFI campaign and in partnership with outside supporters, We’re presently soliciting contributors for a book project. This project will be a collection of personal experiences of prisoners who are working or have previously worked an industrial job in Texas prisons (TDCJ).
This work contributes to the portion of the Juneteenth Freedom Initiative that deals with prisoner workers’ lack of payment and the practice of state coercion. Any and all prisoners who would like to contribute their personal experience via written word should write tot he above address. Those considered for publication will receive a reply.
Those committees and individuals who’ve written us in the past, but did not receive a reply, should write to our new address with your contact info.
[UPDATE: In late December we got confirmation that the fees for the suit were paid by a comrade in Anti-Imperialist Prisoner Support. We no longer need people to contact the judge, but are still collecting postcard signatures and can use your help.]
[NOTE: At the end of this article the author asks you, the reader, to contact the Judge about the TDCJ blocking court fees for a prisoner’s lawsuit to fight censorship. This is part of an ongoing campaign. We are also asking people to print and gather signatures on postcards that you can download from the campaign page along with fliers to use in outreach around this campaign to oppose political censorship in Texas.]
When i initiated the Juneteenth Freedom Initiative (JFI), and the fliers for that action began to find their way into every prison in Texas, Allred Unit’s Warden Jimmy Smith commanded the unit mailroom supervisor to place me on a ‘watchlist’ – purportedly to provide a greater level of scrutiny to my outgoing mail.
This measure first began to disrupt communication between cadres and myself throughout the state. The state has policies and courts have upheld bans on such communications under the cloak of a fear of gang organizing.
The watchlist measure intensified and all reading materials were made to go through a months long process of scrutiny. Texas has a part of its Mailroom Operations policy that they need not announce to a prisoner when a publication has arrived at the unit, even when it is subject to further review. This results in reading material being sent and one not knowing of its existence until it is officially denied. At the point of denial, We’re supposed to be allowed to appeal through the grievance procedure. What i’ve experienced , however, is that the unit grievance investigators don’t allow me to grieve a Director’s Review Committee decision. My battle with the UGI subsequently slows up the exhaustion of administrative remedies.
Eventually, the watchlist measure intensified to the point that ANY material from MIM(Prisons) was purportedly denied at the command of the DRC in Huntsville. This political police tactic is what led to the state-wide censorship of the Revolutionary 12 Step Program. The 12 steps is an anti-drug abuse and anti-reactionary program that is definitely needed in the Texas prison system. The state has upheld this censorship with the vague statement, ‘may incite inmate disruption’.
In recent times Texas has made national headlines due to the governor’s reactionary policies that repress social and political narratives that counter dominant narratives and positions. This trend, which tarnishes the First Amendment so-called rights, has made its way into the Texas prison system.
To understand how this has occurred one must have knowledge of connection, the family tree of repression if you will, that connects Jimmy Smith(Allred Warden), Brenda Kelley(Allred mailroom supervisor), Tammy Shelby(Mailroom system coordinator’s panel-chair), and the DRC, to Texas’ highest levels of government.
When a governor is elected in Texas they appoint people to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice. The TBCJ is charged with making Board policies, revising them, and thus make the overreaching rules and regulation that determine the day-to-day lives of over a hundred thousand captives.
The Governor also appoints the Director’s Review Committee (DRC), which is charged with, among other things, determining the content that can/cannot enter or leave prisons. The DRC is the ultimate authority on matters regarding denials of mail, publication, visitation.
We should be asking the questions: where is the transparency, and democratic decision making in the selection of TBCJ and DRC officials? These positions are handed down to careerist politicians who’ve made their living on the backs and misery of the prisoner class and Our families. In the future comrades must organize an outside force to force Texas to remove the veil between these backdoor chambers of power and the common public. We need readily accessible information on these so called public officials and representatives of the people.
So We have a clearly reactionary governor who’s appointed a clearly reactionary Board and review committee. In Texas the only way to overturn a DRC decision is through litigation, and therefore most censorship bans last indefinitely.
While Jimmy Smith and the other prison careerists play prison politics, in an effort to quell dissenters and self-determination of the prisoners, there is a fatal drug wave crushing Allred Unit. As i write this in late October 2022, 7 prisoners have died this month due to overdose.
The Revolutionary 12 Step Program is currently at the point of training cadres to be able to facilitate the program at their locale. The censorship of this program, in conjunction with the indefinite solitary confinement of many cadres, act to circumvent what could otherwise be a highly effective and influential peoples’ initiative. And therein lays the problem, at least from the administrator’s perspective, they seek to circumvent the rise of any influence among the prison population. Instead of differentiating between types of influence, their practices put a blanket on ALL influence and influential people or initiatives among the prisoners, and seeks to disrupt them.
Of course this can’t be done totally, and what results (as what resulted in previous generations of the Prison Movement) is that the mass influence of the prisons and prisoners falls in the hands of the most reactionary prisoner forces. The admin elects to deal with the lesser of two ‘evils’. It has seen that the reactionary forces are easier to contain, to appease, to divide and conquer, in contrast to an awakened, drug free, unified and determined population.
Active political prisoners and prisoners of war are the exemplary prisoners among the masses. They are leaders. Texas’ desire to conserve ideological, and social hegemony over the population has and will continue to cost people their lives.
In the civil case, Owolabi V. TDCJ Allred Unit, et al., 7;22-cv-00094-0, one such political prisoner has challenged political censorship of the Revolutionary 12 Step Program, and other communist, revolutionary nationalist, anarchist, and abolitionist materials.
The sitting Judge, a George W. Bush appointee, for the US District Court of the Northern District of Texas is Reed O’Conner, who has a reputation as a highly conservative Republican reactionary. O’Conner has moved to dismiss the case, not on the basis of the case alone, but due to prison officials withholding and delaying the processing of the check for court fees. Unit prison officials have ignored the plaintiff’s request to have the check processed. The Plaintiff has informed Judge O’Conner of this problem, and filed a motion for extension. The court has yet to respond to the plaintiff’s motion.
We’re asking all those among the public who have an interest in stopping political censorship in Texas, to contact the Court, inform Judge O’Conner and the Clerk of the Court that the Allred Unit is refusing to process the check for court fees.
Contact info for the court is here: https://www.txnd.uscourts.gov/judge/district-judge-reed-oconnor
In yet another act of terrorism, Shareen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-amerikan journalist, was targeted and killed by the illegitimate state of I$rael and its military. The I$raeli state, its occupation of Palestine, and its armed forces are and have been backed by the united state’s ruling class since 1932. On 11 May 2022, while on the job, covering an I$raeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, she was maliciously assassinated.
Shareen Abu Akleh became a thorn in the side of the I$raeli state as a result of her continuous on the spot coverage of daily state repression, human rights violations, and Palestinian genocide. She covered many detentions, home demolitions (which Palestinian homes were targeted in, and demolished to force them to relocate for I$raelis) military raids of schools and universities, and Masjids, and killings of Palestinians. This brave frontline work placed her on I$raeli hit lists.
Shareen Abu Akleh was a journalist for decades and a Palestinian revolutionary-nationalist, who being a trailblazer in her field, inspired many Palestinian and Arab wimmin to serve their people through the work of liberation journalism.
Her funeral brought out tens of thousands of supporters, mostly Palestinian, in Jerusalem. As pallbearers carried sister Shareen, the I$raeli military attacked them, and further disrupted the occasion with malicious zionist violence against Palestinian nationals.
Sadly, the colonization of Palestine, the Apartheid regime of I$rael, and violent and fatal repression of native inhabitants is all apart of the imperialist system. What does imperialism look like? It looks like land theft, it looks like millions of people living without power or plumbing, it looks like bombing and shelling of homes, schools, hospitals and finishing the job by attacking refugee camps. It looks like storming universities, confiscating study materials, it looks like the process of erasing an entire human group, and that’s exactly what’s taking place in Palestine. There will be many who call for justice for Shareen Abu Akleh, but the sad truth is that justice for her and justice for the Palestinian nation can only be achieved with the end of the I$raeli occupation.
FREE THE LAND!!! FREE PALESTINE!!!
The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is a grassroots initiative that began in the early 2000’s to gain international support for the occupied Palestinian nation against I$rael’s continued military suppression, genocide and land theft.
In recent years the BDS movement has indeed gained international support, even in the face of reactionary pro-imperialist backlash from the states who support genocide, land theft and military crimes.
The goal of BDS is to isolate I$rael on the international field by upholding the “simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity”.
Students around the world have been pressuring their schools and universities to join the ‘Academic Boycott’, initiated in 2004 by the Palestinian campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of I$rael (PACBI). As student activism again comes to life here in the United $tates, it is important that students engage in internationalist frameworks. Amerikan student activists should support the academic boycott of I$rael, which is part of the overall BDS movement. Students should do this not as a mere moral cause, but the understanding that over 50% of the U.$. states strongly support the I$raeli military-apartheid-colonization, so much so that 35 states have Anti-BDS laws. They support the frequent military raids of Palestinian universities under the pretext of ‘countering terrorist activities’, the imprisonment and murder of student activists peacefully protesting, closure of schools and the recent I$raeli military move to arbitrarily control what is and isn’t taught in universities. A new government procedure allows the military to restrict visiting professors who teach subjects supposedly ‘not relevant to Palestinians’.
In the United $tates, the free flow of ideas has begun to be brought to an end. Book bans, Don’t Say Gay laws, the backlash against Critical Race Theory, what’s next? Will the same reactionaries rally police/ military force to suppress your student demonstration? The book Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán has been banned in prisons in many parts of occupied Aztlán. Will the reactionaries prevent your free thought? NEWSFLASH THEY ALREADY ARE! Students in North America should pressure their institutions to join the Academic boycott and the wider BDS movement. END ALL COLLABORATION WITH THE ILLEGITIMATE STATE, until Palestine is free.
MIM(Prisons) adds: One of the first essays many students of MIM study is On Contradiction by Mao Zedong. In it Mao explains how change must come from within. The liberation of Palestine depends on an effective national liberation struggle from within Palestine, but it can be assisted by resistance to the funding and arming of the I$raeli state by Amerikans whose government is the primary prop of I$rael. A strong anti-imperialist movement in this country would be able to limit the sale of military goods to I$rael, Ukraine and anywhere else where the empire wants to fight wars against its enemies without sending its own troops.
Notes: (1) ‘Palestinian-american journalist assassinated,’ Monical Hill, FreedomSocialist,vol.43,no.3 (2) ‘Academic fortify boycott of Israel’, Raya Fidel, FreedomSocialist,vol.43,no.3
“We can’t afford rent and we’re sleeping outside. The youths are jobless” -Yaw Barimah, Ghanaian taxidriver
In late June 2022, street protests erupted in Ghana’s capital city, Accra. The above quote matches the general feel and demands of the masses who took to the streets. Most lay persons are aware of the current effects of inflation on the daily lives of the average people. Many of us have not made the necessary connection that such inflation and other tricks capitalists use to increase the amount of surplus value extracted from the populace, are inherently apart of the internal dynamics of capitalism itself. Our failure to understand this brings our protests, and dissent to a screeching halt once the point of economic reformism is reached.
In countries dominated under imperialist neo-colonialism, such as Ghana, the weight of economic exploitation is maximized. As conditions sharpen, the exploited classes of Ghana are beginning to stir. On July 4th four teacher’s unions went on strike in opposition to the neo-colonial government’s refusal to pay ‘cost-of-living allowances’ of at least 20% of their wages.
The government holds the position that due to ‘Annual inflation’ now reaching 27.6% and the accompanied reduction in value of the Cedi(1), they’re unable to pay this allowance. The system of imperialism works in a way that parasitic countries like amerika hold economic hegemony over Third World countries like Ghana. This allows for the U.$. currency, the dollar, to dictate the value of the national currencies of Third World countries. What this means for the Ghanaian and other Third World workers is that because their wages are paid in money, the national currency, the amount of their pay, although the same on paper, is devalued along with national currency.
So the exploitation of the Ghanaian worker has intensified. Their labor is still required to be done at the same rate, same hours labored, same amount of labor, and same wage paid. What has changed is the value of their labor power; with inflation, the amount of cedi it takes to maintain the worker’s needs is greater. Yet wages have not increased, or not increased as much.
To allow the common people to overstand our common interest in overthrowing capitalist dictatorship it is necessary to understand and breakdown plainly, the inner-working of capitalism and how it effects the lives of the people.
In Ghana, as described above, and many other places around the world right now, the mechanism being used by capitalist exploiters is the depression of wages. This generally occurs when the wages of the worker are below the value of their labor power. Labor power here means human work, the sum total of a person’s physical and mental effort.(2) Labor power is the primary factor in society’s production. Uniquely however, only in capitalist society is labor power a commodity.
The process of commodification of labor power manifests itself in two conditions: (1) The worker is ‘free’ in that they can ‘choose’ to sell their labor as a commodity. (2) The worker owns nothing aside from their labor power (what the mind/body can produce). They have no means of productions, or means of living and must sell their labor power to live.
Therefore, what we know as ‘employment’ in the capitalist economy consists of capitalists buying the labor power of the laborer and converting them into hired slaves.
The exploitation of workers is examined by the advent of surplus value. The degree of exploitation is examined by the rate of surplus value. The capitalist devises ways to maximize this rate of surplus value, which brings me back to depression and deduction of wages.
To comprehend wages, we must first overstand that wages are a ‘disguise’. They are a way to fool the people into thinking they’re getting equal value for their labor.
Marx said, “wages are not what they appear to be. They are not the value or price of labor, but a disguised form of the value or price of labor power.”(3) Therefore the capitalists notion that they pay the worker the price of their labor is completely fabricated.
A key in understanding political economy is to comprehend the distinction between labor and labor power. Under capitalism what the worker is selling isn’t labor, but is labor power, which is capable of being commodified, while the former (labor) isn’t.
The next logical question is why? why is labor not a commodity? Commodities exist in their final state prior to being sold, labor doesn’t. Also commodities are exchanged for equal value, according to the law of value. Therefore if labor was a commodity the capitalist should pay the full value created by labor, which would eliminate surplus value (the source of profit), which would eliminate capitalism.
If labor was a commodity, it would have value and that value would be determined by the amount of embodied labor. This can’t happen. How can the value of a phenomenon be determined by the value of itself?
What labor is is the process of labor power. Therefore the wage paid to the laborer is equal to the value of the labor power. In other words, it is the amount required to keep the proletariat as a class alive and working – that is the value of labor power. Whatever extra the worker’s labor power produces above the value of labor power (the wage paid to keep the proletariat alive) is called surplus value and it is what is ‘exploited’ by the capitalist. The wage itself is the chain that binds the exploiter to the exploited. The revolutionary demand must be to abolish the wage system.
The term ‘cost of living allowance’, caused me to think of our need to overstand where the idea of ‘cost of living’ or ‘standard of living’ has its roots.
We begin by concluding that these are two distinctive wages. In the political economy of capitalism, there are nominal wages and there are real wages. Nominal wages are expressed by the wage payment of money.
In our quest to find the ‘cost of living’, we can’t use nominal wages as representation. The cost of living will only be reflected by the amount of means of livelihood which can be bought by the money wage (nominal wage). What the nominal wage can purchase is the cost/standard of living and is called real wages.
What is taking place in Ghana is that there is a contradiction between the nominal and real wages. The nominal wage is being held in place, while the real wage is in a downward trend, a decline.
“When the purchasing power of money declines and the prices of the means of livelihood go up, the same amount of the nominal wage can only be exchanged for a smaller amount of means of livelihood. Then the real wage falls. Sometimes even if the nominal wage goes up a bit, but less than the increase in prices of the means of livelihood, the real wage will still decline.”(4)
This is essentially what we observe playing out in real time in Ghana and elsewhere. As the above quote alludes to, simple economic reforms like increase in wage will not end this phenomenon, the elimination of surplus value is the only solution. The bourgeoisie will always use the tools of inflation, price increases and rent increases to increase the contradiction between the nominal wage (money paid) and the real wage (what can be bought) to increase the rate of surplus value accumulation (the exploitation of the people).
In conclusion, I want to point out that while the protests organized by Arise Ghana and the work strike by the four teacher’s unions are significant struggles for the daily hurdles of life for the Ghanaian people, the people must be made to distinguish between the causes and effects of economic hardship. When a sick person has a cold and a running nose, they don’t merely get a tissue for the nose without curing the cold itself. The people exploited by imperialism must synthesize the economic and political struggles.
Closing with a word from Marx,
“The working class should not forget: in this daily struggle they are only opposing the effect, but not the cause that produces this effect; they are only delaying the downward trend, not changing the direction of the trend; they are only suppressing the symptom, not curing the disease.”(5)
DOWN WITH CAPITALIST-IMPERIALISM!!!
Notes: (1) The Cedi is the national currency of Ghana. (2) Fundamentals of Political Economy, edited by George C. Wang,;Chapt.4,pg.59 (3)K.Marx,Critique of the Gotha Program,selected work of Marx &Engels Vol.3 (4)Fundamentals of Political Economy,chapt.4,pg72 (5)K.Marx, Wages,Prices and Profit, Selected Works of Marx &Engels, Vol.2
Revolutionary greetings to u all! We hope everyone is prepping for the upcoming action(s) of Juneteenth, and otherwise doing well. Comrade FireWater posed a question, “How can i help Tx TeamOne with a class action suit to have Our grievances heard or to get independent oversight of the grievance system?” i’ve decided to share Our answer with all of you as it may be helpful to the Tx lumpen populace at large.
In the past few months, Tx TeamOne’s founding committee has been forming working relations with a few liberal and petty bourgeois groups for progressive improvements within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). These groups include some elected officials, christian sympathizers, lawyers, radio personalities, and policy groups.
One such group is Tx Prison Reform (TPR), with whom one of Our founding committee members was able to conduct an extensive interview, establishing the basis of Our and the prison masses possible working relationship with this group. The interview will be published in their monthly newsletter and We hope to share it with u all as well. TPR is focused on the destruction of Restricted Housing Units (RHU), but is also collecting grievances and other forms of documentation to showcase the foul nature of TDCJ.
Many of u may be familiar with Tx CURE. If so you’ll know the Tx branch has been M.I.A. for awhile, but now has been reorganized by a recently released TDCJ ex-prisoner. This persyn was a leading figure behind the RACK II air conditioning lawsuit. Ey hasn’t established an actual mailing address but we have the help of a family law attorney who’ll send mailings to the head of Tx CURE. Right now, We’re looking for documented complaints regarding major issues in TDCJ. These grievances will be read in front of and by the Tx legislator at the next session. The persyn from Tx CURE will be persynally speaking on behalf of Tx inmates.
The issue of the grievance process is not a new one to us nor the state officials. The grievance system in Tx and in fact many prison systems around the country were the direct result of the Ruiz Litigation (Ruiz v. Johnson, 37 F. Supp. 2d 855 (S.D. Tex. 1999)), and since it was instated the same issues have been present. Accompanied with your grievances you should write an official statement which may also be read for/by the legislators and others. This statement should articulate the need for independent oversight of TDCJ grievance system, and make specific reference to Representative Jarvis Johnson’s 2019 House Bill which called for said oversight but has never been heard by the House. We want the 2019 House Bill 363 heard and approved by the Texas House of Representatives.
For those who don’t know the demographics are slowly but surely shifting. Due to national gentrification, the thriving industries in the state, and no state income tax, among other things, Texas is becoming younger, darker, richer, and slightly more progressive, particularly among youthful citizens. An essential contradiction in Tx is that of the rural vs. urban population and the culture wars, and fight for resources this intensifies. Urban populations tend to be darker, more liberal/progressive (not revolutionary though) and lean left of center on prison issues among others. Bernie Sanders’ organization “Our Revolution” has been pushing campaigns by petty bourgeois, Democratic Socialist elements around the country for the last several years and now this present election cycle they have several candidates who’re challenging the districts of the old guard Democratic Party establishment. These districts are in both rural and urban areas but mostly rural, which if successful will shift state electoral bourgeois politics for the next decade or so.
A key point of emphasis for these so-called New Left Democrats is Prison Reform. This will open organizing doors for revolutionaries within the walls and those who support us.
i share all this because elements from the New Left Democrats and some from a more moderate approach have championed and made possible a new committee to ‘Study Tx Criminal Justice Issues.’ They’re excepting documentary information from now until October on a wide range of issues covering initial interaction with police, to jail policies & conditions, Grand Jury issues, sentencing, and finally prison conditions. Below i will include their addresses along with those of the lawyer, and the groups i mentioned have been establishing working relationships with.
p.s. We’re also happy to announce the present development of a Tx TEAMONE committee in Smith Unit.
Jerney Coe Law Office/423 S. Spring Ave/ Tyler, TX 75702 Tx Prison Reform/ Box #671/ Kaukana, WI 54130 Fairchanges/2407 S. Congress Ave, Ste E-434/ Austin, TX 78704 (send reports on current conditions, at least 3 recommendations for change, deadline 7/4/2022) RealLife Ministries/ Box #328/ Forney, TX 75126 (also does RealLife Radio, write to find out where you can tune in) Dist. 141 - Senfronia Thompson/ 10527 Homestead Rd/ Houston, TX 77016 (Interim Study Committee on Criminal Justice reform ahead of legislation)
i hope this information is useful.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with Triumphant that a shift in demographics and elected officials could create more space for prison organizing. In theory an independent review board could create space for organizing as well. However, there is no historical example of such in the United $tates. Police review boards have never been effective nor independent. How could they be? The point of the criminal injustice system is to leverage the force of the state against those that pose a threat to the bourgeoisie’s and the state’s interests. This is a bourgeois dictatorship afterall, just like the rest of the world today.
Revolutionaries should campaign on the issues. If petty bourgeois reformers are willing to do the work to set up review boards and oversight and change rules, good for them. We should support them in doing so by campaigning on the issues that matter to us. As Triumphant mentioned, censorship and torture units (RHU) are among these issues. If we can campaign on these issues in ways that align with and support the bourgeois reformers that is a good thing. If revolutionaries take up the mantle of electoral politics and bourgeois reform, that is a very bad thing that leads to a never-ending cycle of oppression.
Within the prison movement there is much talk about ‘political education’ and ‘raising consciousness’. Truthfully, even when We reflect on recent and distant episodes in Our collective struggles against the bourgeoisie, many of us often lament upon the fact that a key ingredient that has always been lacking from Our movements, parties, organizations, and the unorganized masses, is the lack of a systemic and organized framework to political education. Assata Shakur expressed her criticism of the Black Panther Party for the same reason. Veterans of the Chican@ movement i’ve spoke with have expressed the same criticisms, stating that had more deliberate, organized approaches been given back in the days it may have progressively altered the cultural nationalist tendencies of the movement towards a revolutionary nationalist praxis. Yet and still, today We’re still stressing, and rightly so, the paramount importance of political education. However, the question has become, must become, what is political education, how do we apply it, and why is it so important?
Political education takes many forms, and phases, and the correct application of it, or what is paramount for a persyn to know is dependent upon the conditions one finds themselves in. Thus i begin with Fanon,
“It is commonly thought with criminal flippancy that to politicize the masses means from time to time haranguing them with a major political speech…But political education means opening up the mind, awakening the mind, and introducing it to the world…To politicize the masses is not and cannot be to make a political speech. It means driving home to the masses that everything depends on them, that if we stagnate the fault is theirs, and that if we progress, they too are responsible, that there is no demiurge, no illustrious man taking responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people and the magic lies in their hands and their hands alone.” (1)
Now as i was saying conditions will determine quite alot. So it is the line of USW, and many others, that amerika is a settler-neo colonial imperialist empire, and as such holds actual nations of people subjugated, meaning their/our self-development is thwarted, within its borders as well as in the Third World.
Hystory indicated that this line is right and exact. When We recall the process of how amerika was established we understand that it (nation of euro amerikan settlers) settled upon this land, removed, and committed genocide against the native nations of people, some of which are still among us today. So those (the indigenous) are just one group of nations within the borders of amerika, which We call the First Nations. Of course We all know about the forced migration of millions of Africans, and We know they underwent slavery at the hands of those same settlers, as did some Natives. What We often fail to analyze is that slavery, is only an economic system, it is a mode of producing social value, however, to describe the plight of the African people in amerika by mere economic lingo alone is highly insufficient. What is the term that would encapsulate the experience of the economic exploitation, social and political repression that the African people in amerika eventually triumphed over? Slavery? No, servitude? No. That one word which encapsulates that struggle is COLONIALISM.
Well, what the heck is colonialism? Quoting from the Black Liberation Army Political Dictionary;
Colonialism - foreign domination of a country or a people, where the economic, political and military structure is controlled and run by the occupying force. (2)
So African people residing in the United $tates are not merely the offspring of enslaved people, but a colonized people, and because of that diametrically opposed nature of a colonized people to its colonizer, the African people residing in amerika developed organically into a nation, that is a people distinct from the settler by its culture, its language, its land, and thus We call this nation today New Afrika, but others call it Black Amerika, or Black nation, or a host of other titles. No matter the title New Afrikan people are deep down aware that they’re distinct and separate, but the reality of a nation within an empire doesn’t register to some, to most, after a substantial time frame of this reality being obscured from the public consciousness.
Having roots in, but eventually developing distinct from the First Nations, there is the Chican@, and Puerto Rican nations/colonies. Overtime all these domestic colonies subjugated by the settler amerikan empire have developed thru struggle, and have reached a new and different phase of colonialism, called neo-colonialism, which can be characterized by the power structure now formally allowing representatives of these oppressed peoples to integrate into the economic, political and military structures, and in many ways act as a buffer between the ruling class and the masses of neo-colonized people.
This brings me back to Our discussion on organizing, and political education. See, depending on what We organizing for, one will require different political understanding. Fanon says,
“A political informed [person in a colonial situation] is someone who knows that a local dispute is not a crucial confrontation between [them] and [the system]”
“It is the repeated demonstrations for their rights and the repeated labor disputes that politicize the masses.” (3)
So basically what Frantz Fanon is saying here is that first one must understand they are indeed colonized, and this understanding disallows them from settling for any ol’ concession that can come from a ‘local dispute’. And here when he says local, We can put it in Our immediate context and understand it to mean, ‘prison struggles’.
What does this mean? It essentially means that We utilize, and in fact manufacture these ‘repeated demonstrations for their/our rights’ as a means to politicize the masses. However, if We are organizing the masses utilizing such demonstration alone We run into a few pitfalls. The one which i’ll deal with here can be understood by the old saying, “Be careful what you ask for you just might get it.” So in Our context, in the prison movement, what happens to the momentum of the masses, of the people as a whole if We as organizers manufacture a or a few demonstrations and the administration actually concedes? If the masses don’t understand the complexity of Our situation, that We’re colonized, dehumanized, an alienated sub-class, the dregs of the society, and that not only must these realities change, We must change within Ourselves, and We must take part in changing these realities, then the masses the people will quit the struggle after what they’ve perceived to be success, and they’ll resume their normal ways of existence. This pattern is counter-productive to the cause of revolution. We must at all times possible keep the masses active, and that activity pertaining to the struggle. Fanon said, “The colonized subject is at constant risk of being disarmed by any sort of concession.”(4)
So an understanding of what Our issues are, colonialism, neo-colonialism or racism, or individual wrong decision making, will determine the strategies and tactics We take moving forward. If We begin Our study of literature proceeding from the perspective that We’re colonized nations of people, We study how anti-colonial struggles have developed, failed and triumphed around the world. Furthermore We realize that unless an action fundamentally eradicates Our colonial existence than it is only a reform and does not solve Our fundamental problem(s) which stem from Our thwarted development under neo-colonialism. Thus We don’t even seek certain reforms, or concessions, and the ones We do are to advance Our strategic goal.
The question now becomes again HOW to maintain the masses attention before, during, and after demonstrations? The answer leads us to ORGANIZATION. Those who have a study level of political vision must take the initiative in forming real organized organizations. Within these organizations leaders should allow for activities to be carried out by the rank & file and must be sure that activities assigned to a comrade are in alignment with the talents, interests, and abilities of said comrade. In this way one keeps the masses involved and engaged. If able weekly or bi-weekly meetings should be established. Minutes should be kept of the meetings, meaning, write down what you’re doing, what you’re talking about, what are the plans going forward, etc. At said meetings each comrade should have a progress report, which entails what they’ve been doing since the previous meeting.
If a comrade can draw, they should be assigned something to draw. If a comrade can write, they should be assigned something to write. If a comrade has a typewrite they should be tasked with typing up the documents of the group. In fact it is good to take up one project that the entire collective can attribute to. Say a pamphlet, of course you need writers, We need art work, and We’ll need a typist, We’ll need some donations of stamps to circulate it to publishers, and in this way every one not only feels involved, but more importantly feels that immeasurable feeling of accomplishment. In understanding the complexities of Our class (lumpen) We must understand a lot of us have not accomplished much of anything in the way of real world accomplishments. A lot of us have been caged, stagnated in a state of arrested development, since Our pre-teen and teen years, and thus are persynally under-developed in many ways. This feeling of accomplishment motivates and inspires one to continue to chase that good feeling, and particularly when the feeling is derived from doing something productive, it overtime alters a persyn internally, and this is what We, as revolutionaries especially within the lumpen class want most.
Organizations in their many varieties are the vehicles of the people and their struggle. Vanguard elements must seek to organize all aspects of the people’s struggle, all aspects of the people’s lives under their leadership and influence. This doesn’t mean everyone has to or will be a member of a particular leading organizational body. What it means is that organization must make itself seen & heard & felt in each aspect of the people’s lives. The musician they listen to should be expressing some theme derived from the organization. The farmer should have the organization’s line on collectivizing agriculture and land. The prisoner and their family should know that the prisoner, if deemed capable can/will have a place of refuge, work, and re-humanization with the organization. The womyn must know she has a group trustworthy and capable to care for her kids collectively, and ensure her access to safe abortion if necessary. Those in the LGBTQ community must feel at one with the organization, enabled and empowered.
In a nutshell the proper organization will galvanize the popular masses of the people, educating and organizing the most capable from every and all sectors, and from there synthesize the aspirations, and ambitions of the people’s struggle with practical and concrete measures to realize these objectives.
With the formation of Texas T.E.A.M.O.N.E., the Texas USW re-branded, We have formed the vehicle for the Texas prisoner’s struggle. We have thus far established multiple wings which can/will be used to activate the stored away genius of the masses. We have the legal wing for those writ-writing jailhouse lawyers, a space for like minded cats to put their heads together to attack certain aspects of the system that can help us better build the movement. We have established, in its early stages, a wimmins & LGBTQ wing, which is again an avenue for certain people to step up and utilize what they already know how to do, in concert with the rest of the organized body to get what We want. We’ve established the Worker’s wing a lane where people around the state can collectively struggle for worker’s rights, and incorporate those struggles with the others and in combination gain bigger gains…We’ve established and/or influenced the establishment of numerous committees with the members therein playing roles in the ‘wings’ mentioned above. In all this We’ve done well in applying lessons learned from MIM(Prisons), and some of Our own experiences, thus synthesizing theory & practice.
It must be said however that We have made many mistakes. We began organizing as Fanon said, around demonstrations. We learned in practice, some of us without ever having read Fanon, that the masses, and Ourselves could easily get complacent after concessions are made. The mistake came by not initially focusing on ideo-theoretical questions. We had to learn that the truth of the matter that prior to any organization the people in question must sit down and individually intake information, after a certain amount of information has been accumulated they must come together and discuss their findings and thoughts, establish their points of unity, modes of organization, and other such matters. Of course this isn’t to say that all organizations come together like this. Many take on a more spontaneous approach to development and this approach is observed in their style of work.
The re-occurring theme will always be political education, the need for it will never cease, and the need to bring all the people to an active level of consciousness, that is a level where they can be/are active in the struggle.
In Our campaign to end RHU, it was selectively chosen for a multitude of reasons. One of which is to show & prove We can shut it down if & when We organize Ourselves and the people correctly. Because of conditions that prevail in long-term isolation, many of the most radical and politically astute people are in or have been in long-term isolation, if We could multiply those types of elements, and then get them out on the pop city We can make conditions more conductive to politicizing more and more prisoners sending more and more of these to the outside. To illustrate the contradiction that despite the various levels of illegality present within the solitary confinement apparatus, it still continues, and yet We’re the so-called criminals. There is of course the fact that if We can eliminate the punitive answer for dissent then We leave the enemy with little recourse once Our collective resistance picks up. In this way We take a tool out of their tool kit. However, the underlying goal is simply to shut seg down, what if they just capitulated and gave us what We wanted? What becomes of the struggle then? IF that was Our actual GOAL and not a MEANS TO AN END, then Our entire struggle would have been defeated, at least temporarily, not by bullets, or bombs, but by sugar-coated bullets, by concessions, by reforms, which weaken the intensity of contradictions rather than increase them. Mastering this delicate balance will determine the successes and failures of Our organizing methods.
“At first disconcerted, they then realize the need to explain and ensure the colonized’s consciousness does not get bogged down. In the meantime the war goes on, the enemy organizes itself, gathers strength and preempts the strategy of the colonized. The struggle for national liberation is not a question of bridging the gap in one giant stride. The epic is played out on a difficult, day-to-day basis and the suffering endured far exceeds that of the colonial period. Down in the towns the colonists have apparently changed. Our people are happier. They are respected. A daily routine sets in, and the colonized engaged in struggle, the people who must continue to give it their support, cannot afford to give in. They must not think the objective has already been achieved. When the actual objectives of the struggle are described, they must not think they are impossible. Once again, clarification is needed and the people have to realize where they are going and how to get there. The war is not one battle but a succession of local struggles, none of which, in fact, is decisive.” (5)
An Ongoing Discussion
We’ve picked this discussion back up, as some of us felt that somethings were still left unsaid or unclear.
We’ve articulated previously that one’s method to organization is logically dependent upon one’s goals, and also one’s circumstances or conditions. It is Our view that the conditions and circumstances being what they currently are in North amerika, the lumpen-prisoner class is a highly dynamic entity. This class, Our class is also a vacillating class, meaning its members can be like see-saws, moving from one side (revolutionary) to another (reactionary) as their emotions and whims take them. However, We assert that the other classes of North amerika have become so bourgeoisified that the social vehicles for social revolution are so slim to none that the last objectively repressed class in amerika, the class that still has little to no stake in the bourgeois democracy, is the lumpen.
We’ve reached this conclusion by analyzing the social forces and classes within North amerikan society. Observing their material benefits of being cozied up to their bourgeoisie. We’ve observed how and why social movements only advance so far, being largely unwilling, or sometimes unable to carry the struggle to higher levels, due to a certain level of comfort in the status quo. And We logically look to Our own class and see that these factors, though still present are vastly diminished. Therefore, arriving at this class analysis We say that it is most conductive to Our goal of social revolution to invest time and resources into the lumpen in order to politicize them, and that investment should be in proportion to the classes potential to lean towards a revolutionary line and practice.
Now We reach the basic question, how do we maximize the dynamic potential of this vacillating lumpen class? How do We ensure that the majority of lumpen are progressive, neutral, or all the way revolutionary and not objective enemies of the people? The answer again points to ORGANIZATION. The only way to maximize the people’s initiative in general and the lumpen in particular is to formulate them into tightly organized units/groups. The lumpen struggle is a class struggle, and thus We must organize the First World Lumpen on a class basis.
What does this mean, what does this look like? What is a class? There is often mention of the prisoner class, or a particular class of prisoners. However, very rarely do comrades utilize class in a Communist framework.
A ‘Class’ 1) shares a common position in their relation to the means of production; common economic conditions, relative to their labor and appropriation of the social surplus; 2) that they must share a separate way of life and cultural existence; 3) that they must share a set of interests which are antagonistic to other classes; 4) that they must share a set of social relations,;i.e. a sense of unity which extends beyond local boundaries, and constitutes a national bond; 5) that they must share a corresponding collective consciousness of themselves as a ‘class’, and; 6) they must create their own political organizations, and pursue their interests as a ‘class’ (6)
We must also clarify that Marx differentiated between a ‘class in itself’ and a ‘class for itself’. The difference between the two can be summarized by saying that a class in itself simply shares a common economic position but lacks the other listed criteria. Whereas a class for itself is an entity fully organized and meeting all listed criteria.
Therefore, what We are saying here is that We must organize in a manner that will bring the lumpen from the level of class in itself, to the elevated level of a class for itself. Our organization should be modeled in a way to obtain the collective mobility, ingenuity, and potential of the lumpen as a whole. We must ‘nationalize’ these structures, meaning expand them state-to-state, with each one developing its own relative strength locally.
The next question is how do We get there? How do we reach this point of mass participation and organization? We’ll quote Fanon here:
“The duty of a leadership is to have the masses on their side. Any commitment, however, presupposes awareness and understanding of the mission to be accomplished, in short a rational analysis, no matter how embryonic.” (7)
Here he stresses the basic conscious political education of the people. We continue:
“The people should not be mesmerized, swayed by emotion or confusion. Only [under-developed people] led by a revolutionary elite emanating from the people can today empower the masses to step out onto the stage of history.” (8)
I’ve put the above in bold to illuminate certain mistakes We often make. We often capitulate to the weaknesses of the masses in Our good intended desire to win them over. One of the weaknesses of this sort is the masses never-ending desire to be entertained. This desire almost always precedes from a desire to escape reality, and when done too much establishes a state of complacency with oppression and exploitation and undermines revolutionary or productive/progressive activity. When We reach out to the masses We often make the mistake of trying to move them into immediate action with a fiery speech, with the showing of the video of the latest police killing, or whatever We believe may move them. Although We have good intentions this method has hystorically proven inadequate for carrying out revolution. Instead, because it relies on emotions, which fluctuate, the activity it renders, if it renders activity at all, is necessarily fluctuating, and vacillating.
We can see this in real time if We observe the ebbs and flows of social movements in North amerika. George Floyd’s taped murder shook people emotionally. It awakened pent up anger and frustration from many sectors. People took that, and nothing else, no political education, no political organization, no political vision, only anger and frustration into their protests, and rebellions, and uprisings. Soon, the only people left in the streets were politicized people. Anarchists, Socialists, Abolitionists, and this sort. The masses however, had long since retreated back into the comforts of their amerikan life of escape, and leisure, isolating what was then allowed to be percieved as extremist/terrorist elements.
This what Fanon calls the ‘weakness of spontaneity’ showed its face. We must learn from this. In the quote above the ‘under-developed people’ are those masses of North amerikans. They reside in the land of excess, material excess, but the land of political sleep-walkers. These are the people Fanon says must be led by a REVOLUTIONARY elite. Now what does he mean by this? Because of the under-developed state of the people’s sociopolitical consciousness, those cadre elements who’ve struggled to grasp the complex concepts of political-economy, and revolutionary theory, although not desiring to be perceived as an elite, meaning above the rest, they actually do represent a higher stage of development, and in that context ONLY are they ‘elite’. The key phrase of the quote is the necessity that these ‘elite’ emanate from the people, meaning they must be one of their own, or perceived as such. The cadre-organizer must take care to balance its level of understanding with the level of the masses. There will be a contradiction between these masses and the politicized persyn, there should be, but this should not be an antagonistic contradiction. The people should be able to look to you for example, not look at you in disdain. As one might do to someone who thinks their shit don’t stink. Now we move to exactly HOW does these cadres, EMPOWER THE MASSES,
“…On the condition that We vigorously and decisively reject the formation of a national bourgeoisie, a caste of privileged individuals. To politicize the masses is to make the nation (or class) in its totality a reality for every citizen. To make the experience of the nation (or class) the experience of every citizen.” (9)
“Only the massive commitment by men and wimmin to judicious and productive tasks gives form and substance to this consciousness.” (10)
“No leader, whatever their worth, can replace the will of the people, and the national government, before concerning itself with international prestige, must first restore dignity to all citizens, furnish their minds, fill their eyes with human things and develop a human landscape for the sake of its enlightened and sovereign inhabitants.” (11)
It is Our intention as USW leaders in Texas, as Tx T.E.A.M.O.N.E. cadre, to have Our organization act as a vehicle to organize and mobilize and educate the masses of lumpen in North amerika. We hope you will be inspired to join us.
1) Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon, pg.138, chapt.3
2) Black Liberation Army Political Dictionary, pg.4
3) Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon, pg.63 chapt.2
4) ibid, pg.90, chapt.2
5) ibid, pg.90, chapt.2
6) see; Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire; also Karl Marx, The Holy Family;also, Meditations On Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, James Yaki Sayles, pg. 286
7) Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon, pg.140, chapt.3
i am taking the time to write this because i would like the readership to know the truth about what’s been going on recently at the TDCJ Allred unit in regards to COVID-19 and targeted repression of socio-political leaders.
Many of you reading this are already aware of the spike in COVID infections related to the emergence of the Omicron variant. Here at Allred, particularly in the restrictive housing unit, which houses some six hundred plus people in conditions internationally recognized as inhumane, there has been a dangerous and life threatening pattern of administrative negligence in regards to the effort (lack thereof) to quell the spread of this aggressive virus.
Back in August of 2021, captive persyns held on the Allred RHU and other units held a hunger-strike protest. One of the issues raised and forwarded to unit, regional, and state level administrators was, ‘#10- follow all CDC COVID-19 protocols’. Even after people have literally starved themselves, the unit administration still has refused, and neglected to implement, and re-implement basic CDC COVID guidelines.
On January 6th, Comrade Ozomatli, co-founder, and key figure of the TX TeamOne organization, was strategically targeted for harassment, by way of an unlawful search and seizure, and purposely exposed to COVID-19. On the above date Ozomatli was taken from his cell and placed in a holding cage in the building’s main hallway for five hours!
i am not too good with math and measurements, but i know the cage in question is absolutely too small to place a full grown human in for that amount of time. There is no where to relieve ones self, not anywhere to comfort ones self. Regardless, Ozomatli remained in this holding cage while a multitude of agents of repression searched his usual abode. i raise the question, what possibly could they be looking for, and not find if it were there, in such a small space, for such an extended period of time?
To even begin to analyze this question We must first point out that the incident on January 6th was the second such incident targeting this same comrade in the last few months. Previously the only thing confiscated were the comrade’s contact information written down on various papers and inside books. On January 6th, the comrade’s entire cache of persynal property was confiscated, and he would remain property-less for a week.
During this ordeal, Ozomatli was placed in danger, recklessly, of catching COVID-19. Agents of repression who escorted him from and returned him to his cell weren’t following proper COVID guidelines. Afterwards, in the matter of days, a new COVID outbreak ensued on the RHU building, and unsurprisingly the outbreak has been largely centered on the pod which Ozomatli inhabits. When other prisoners on other pods show symptoms they’re re-housed on the same pod as Ozomatli. Furthermore, prisoners are being constantly moved around, leaving and being brought to the unit and thus constantly exposing more and spreading more and more COVID. Daily so-called ‘integrity checks’ are still in operation, along with unnecessary cell extractions, and are also inducing the spread of COVID.
Administrators are refusing to test or even symptom check prisoners, as was done in the mid 2020 days of the pandemic. There’s this untrue belief that the pandemic is over, despite the fact that less than 70% of people (prisoners & guards combined) are vaccinated. An untold number of prisoners have mass filed grievances, but of course appealing to the same source of Our predicament has rendered little to no results.
i would be remiss if i didn’t acknowledge the underlying political undertones of Ozomatli’s being harassed, and also pinpoint other similar patterns adhered to by the unit administration sometimes at the behest of the state level agents of repression.
Ozomatli, as i have said, is a leader with the Texas TeamOne Organization. TeamOne is an organization of politicized prisoners dedicated to politicizing prisoners and consolidating those in TX into a class that can actively struggle for its interests, as well as, and more importantly, reinsert people into the larger society as assets to communities which are all too often neglected in the realms of social, political and economic development.
Ozomatli is an abolitionist, a Chican@, and a leader that leads by example. Thus it goes without saying that Ozomatli’s very existence as a Chican@ revolutionary imprisoned in tekkk$a$‘s gulags, is seen as a threat to the enemy-state and the prison administration, and this is the underlying politics of his harassment. Ozomatli has recently been working with other comrades and formations, independent of his work with TeamOne, in mobilizing a Texas prisoners’ political action committee, it is during the time span of this work in that sphere that the administration has targeted him.
The clearly politically motivated repression tactics, in a supposedly ‘free’ country, do not stop there. i myself have been a constant target for similar tactics of intimidation, and retaliation. i have been ‘sentenced’ essentially to LIFE in TDCJ’s RHU. This repression came on the immediate back of Our collective hunger-strike effort in August (thru September 9th). i was seen in absentia by the State Classification Committee four days later. i was denied release to general population, after having been without any disciplinary incident in over four years time. The reasons given for this miscarriage of justice was that i am staff assaultive, and prone to possess weapons, and the main one, written in large bold letters, was the fact that i am currently serving an unjust sentence of Life Without Parole. The third reason was provided as the main reason for my denial of release. The catch is that i can not, on my own accord, alter my sentence therefore this decision summarily acts to confine me in isolation for the remainder of my sentence (life).
Of course the timing and the fact that these issues have never been previously brought up at these hearings, testifies to the fact that the decision is a retaliatory measure being used to quell the momentum being built up among the captives here and around the state. IT WILL NOT WORK!
Other measures of retaliation such as illegal mail tampering/disappearance are common place. Outgoing letters of even a neutral nature take up to two months to even leave the unit, and incoming mail, including books and other packages have the same waiting time. The former mailroom supervisor was made to resign for ‘undisclosed reasons’, yet mailroom negligence, and deliberate tampering continues even under the watchful eyes of one, Major Murdock, whose been made to keep eyes on mailroom staff.
By no means is this all the repressive tactics utilized by administrators, nor is it only TeamOne affiliates, or political prisoners. For the sake of time however We will hold these slights as a small example. it is important i say that none of this is meant to discourage activism and justified rebellion. In fact the contrary is the intent. i assert here that if more of the captive populace took liberatory ideals and practices more seriously We could actually begin to pose a threat, not only to the prison institution, but the established order as We know it. As George said:
“If we can reach each other through all of this, fences, fear, concrete, steel, barbed wire, guns, the hystory will commend us for a great victory won…” - Soledad Brother
As a sign of solidarity, We call on the public to report the administrative negligence surrounding Allred’s handling of COVID-19 to the following; (prisoners should write complaints regarding their own units):
Dept. of Health & Human Services, region6, regional director Marjorie McColl Petty 1301 Young St. ste#1124 Dallas, Tx 75202 or call 214-767-3301
Also, outside supporters should be sure to make a report to the following:
David Blackwell, regional director-region 5 @ 806-296-4500(ext 400)