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[Organizing] [California]
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Abolish the SHU, Create Leaders Throughout the Prisons

I never got to read the piece on "strategic retreat" by Loco1 due to heavy censorship here, but wish to respond to the discussion in ULK24 titled Advance the California Hunger Strike through Strategic Unity and Criticism. First, the struggle spear-headed by SHU prisoners is not exclusive to SHU prisoners. This struggle includes all prisoners, not just in California but more broadly throughout Amerikkka. The dehumanizing treatment of prisoners is experienced by all prisoners at some point just as sure as Brown and Black people out in society are both hunted and rounded up, stopped and frisked by the thousands daily and shot and killed unarmed by the imperialist's first line of defense on a regular basis. Prisoners in Amerika are abused, oppressed, repressed, exploited and murdered either outright or by other means, i.e. denying medical treatment, etc. Of course some prisons are more brutal to its prisoners than others but make no mistake about it - we are all brutalized! SHUs by their very nature are torture kamps period.

This environment would thus produce more resistance just as one will find more resistance to imperialism in a Third World country than in say Amerika or England. The oppressed nations are still oppressed regardless if they are in this country or that country even if it is at a different level. So too are all prisoners oppressed whether in SHU or mainline. And I do agree that in the 2011 strike efforts SHU prisoners have been the vanguard in propelling and boldly arousing the thousands of prisoners to the call of action, our efforts were international as prisoners in other countries such as Canada and Australia even joined the strike in solidarity with Pelican Bay prisoners and thus with all prisoners in Amerika. Activists in Canada dropped a banner on the jail proclaiming its prisoners were hunger striking with Pelican Bay and so the banner read 'from Pelican Bay to Collins Bay'. So yes SHU prisoners spearheaded this mass effort but it should not become common for prisoners to rely on the "Pelican Bay vanguard" as this is dangerous.

When a movement is focused on a leader or a certain group... if these leaders are imprisoned, neutralized or corrupted the movement crumbles. One of the strengths of the current 'Occupy Wall Street Movement' is that it is a united front with no 'leader' or cadre group leading the pack. The state hates this and unleashes its propaganda machine to smut the OWS movement up as 'not being sure what they want' or 'not having leaders'. The state wants public 'leaders' to neutralize and take down as they have done for the past hundred years whenever a group rises up in Amerika.

Of course there is a role for leaders as vanguard whether they be in prison or out in society, but it's a dangerous road for the movement when people begin to rely on the "Pelican Bay vanguard" and take on the attitude of "I'm not going to strike or protest this or that because Pelican Bay isn't doing it right now" or if an injustice comes up in a prison in say North Dakota etc, and the prisoners say "well I'll wait until Pelican Bay rises up again." Some may even go so far as beginning to think that say prisoners in Hawaii are striking and they are in Alaska and they may say "well it's not the Pelican Bay prisoners I'm not partaking." This happens even here in California where if an action is not including Pelican Bay prisoners its looked at half-heartedly and many lose interest in 'rising up.' This is a real problem, one that I hope to combat in its infancy as I see the damage this brings to future struggles and it really retards the political development of prisoners into participants rather than individual leaders themselves.

What we must keep in mind is prisons today are much different than what prisons were in the days of Attica or Santa Fe, etc. Today prisoners are more controlled; prison activists are quickly targeted, separated and isolated from the prison mass. More and more control units are designed to house the revolutionary prisoners. Even on a "mainline" of level four prisons in California you only go out to yard with the roughly 200 prisoners in your block, with the other 800 or so in their cells waiting their turn. Some places only half a block goes out so 100 or less are out at a time. The state has begun to implement these methods past Attica and past Santa Fe to tighten their control on the prison population and attempt to smother any future embers of resistance. So as the state attempts to divide and conquer the prison population, prisoners often find themselves alone or with only a handful of conscious prisoners engaged in activism. It is these conscious prisoners that should be as matter - in constant motion constantly doing your thing to push the momentum.

And so although SHU prisoners have been the vanguard thus far I disagree with the writer when s/he says "The SHU prisoners are the vanguard in the struggle and it is up to them if the movement moves forward or dies a humiliating death." I believe this type of thinking is an error and incorrect. SHU prisoners, nor any prisoners who form the united front, consist as a centralized party, nor was this strike movement built with any hierarchy. And although I largely agree that the prison vanguard can be found in SHU, to say whether the movement "moves forward or dies" is up to SHU prisoners kind of reduces the larger prison masses (general population) to bystanders or frees them from responsibility should the movement die "a humiliating death" as the writer put it. SHU prisoners are extremely limited in their ability to operate, we are deprived to the point of it being torture. In some cases no mail period is allowed to or from a prisoner. In other cases any time one leaves a cell in shackles a team of guards with camcorder walk recording ones every step!

What we need to do is emphasize the responsibility of those on the general populations (mainlines) to learn from the international effort that was unleashed and begin to boldly arouse the imprisoned masses to get used to demanding human decency where it does not exist, to become familiar with refusing to be dehumanized, refusing to be exploited and refusing to be abused out on the mainlines. Small efforts and strikes, even when domestic (confined to one's prison) whether victorious or not, work to condition the imprisoned masses to the beautiful concept of resistance. A rally around lockdowns, food or educational/vocational opportunities quickly forages a footprint on the psyche and revolutionary spirit of those who participate in a grievance of some sort and teaches the priceless lesson of practice. Theory goes only so far in any struggle, at some point the baby must stand and take its own steps and this is a truly liberating and transforming experience that works to build on future efforts concerning a united front.

Every gulag in every state of Amerika is capable of injecting the movement with a second wind. It is up to every prisoner to begin to think of themselves as having the potential to move the movement forward or letting it die a humiliating death regardless of what prison or what state you dwell in! What holds any movement back is the will of the people to overcome what seems in our way. Mao said "a single spark can start a prairie fire" which has proven true time and again.

The fact that this effort included all LOs already shows that LOs comprehend the need to come together in a common effort; that hurdle has been completed. It is important that the imprisoned masses understand the concept of protracted struggle: it is a long drawn out effort in which, while practice is performed, the people are constantly studying and sharpening our ideologies. In this way we are wearing out the oppressor while building up the people politically.

I disagree with the proposal of the writer that we should focus on the debriefing process as our primary focus. I think this will work to divide the people. The problem is not all prisoners in SHU are validated for "debriefing" information, as many people's validation did not even use information from debriefing. Besides that we need to come high and see what unfolds. I do believe debriefing should be one of the demands but not the sole focus. In dealing with prison strikes and grievances I have found it more effective to make a list of demands and after its all over you may get one or two granted. I believe the demand to close the SHU needs to be at the forefront and I'm surprised it was not included in the five demands of the strikes.

Whether the state will actually comply or not should never affect our choice in a strike, but the demand to close the SHU should be at the front of our rallying cry as it generates a broader support system, it is a uniting force like no other for prisoners. Every state has a control unit whether it's called a SHU, SMU, etc. Of course we will always have other demands depending on the prison or oppressive circumstances of each facility but the primary demand, the most important should always be "Close down the control units!" Control units equal torture, this has been agreed by even the United Nations. The U.$. Supreme Court recently ruled California prisons in general amount to cruel and unusual punishment so it is a fact, let us now raise public opinion to this fact and in the process we will win "winnable" battles on meals, debriefing etc, and along the way the people will be energized by these winnable battles.

These small victories help keeping our eye, as well as the public's, on the most important aspect of our movement and that is to close the torture chambers known as SHU, SMU, etc. Whether we are victorious in this main demand in one year or twenty years is not what we should gauge our 'victory' with. Rather we should recognize conscious lifting and prison mass that is brought deeper into the struggle in the process - this is a true victory for the people.

It is true that we need to develop a strategic vision and understanding to move the movement forward and build what has already been laid down. This strategy should stem from a court analysis not only of the SHU environment but of the entire Amerikan prison system as this is what kind of movement we should be shooting for. ULK reaches many prisoners who can and will take these nutrients and flourish not just with the theory put for them in ULK but build on this and adapt it to each persyn's specific environment.

In California I see abolishing the 3 strikes law as worthy of a demand. The right to medical care is another. Contact visits for all. Access to direct sunlight. Nutritious food and access to all vitamin supplements, protein powders and other means to stay healthy. The abolishment of the use of solitary confinement. Abolish the debriefing system. Abolish censorship. Get parole dates and stop this denial for subjective reasons. The use of control units in Amerika is frowned upon by many people in society, from religious, activist, even some bourgeois liberals and actors oppose control units. The 2.4 million prisoners and their friends who oppose control units, some may not know they exist but all in all this is where we gain our most traction and support, it is precisely where we should start. I believe it is prison activists best organizing tool given to us complements of imperialism, we should not allow this opportunity to wither away.

There are crucial points that should be addressed in future efforts whether these efforts manifest in Pelican Bay or in a prison in North Dakota. The five demands were good, but as I pointed out above there are certainly more pressing issues that need to surface. The thing is to constantly improve on any effort one is involved in; move forward, not simply reproduce what occurred in Pelican Bay's torture chambers, but produce a stronger and more spectacular effort the next round. The Cultural Revolution was launched to unleash the people and have them not simply follow Mao's lead. It was to have the people themselves lead society to struggle in all different spheres, to push the "vanguard" forward, move society with all the creative energy of the masses and transform society and the vanguard.

This is what the 2011 strike movement should do to prisoners across Amerika, it should unleash the people's will to resist, uncork the desire to cast off oppression in every dungeon and every prison cell across Amerika and to teach not to just do like we do or say what we say but allow your dignity as men and wimmin to rise above your oppression and create two, three Pelican Bay movements for your humanity and become a force that awakens prison activism wherever you are no matter how many stand with you. A single street vendor in Tunisia sparked revolution in different countries! Realize your abilities, they are powerful in a concrete tomb. So take my shackled hand and I'll take yours and let's pull our way to freedom!


MIM(Prisons) responds: As we've expressed elsewhere, we do not abdicate leadership in the prison movement. We have much unity with what cipactli writes here in regards to organizing strategies that are decentralized and that protect their leaders. However, we do recognize the need for political leadership that s/he hints at. We recognize that the scientific endeavor that is revolutionary struggle produces scientific knowledge. And certain individuals and groups will possess and understand this knowledge before others. The Occupy movement is a mass movement that attempts to prevent any small group from taking control of it and defining it's politics. Such an approach can be a great learning experience in a budding mass movement. But such a movement will be very limited in what it can achieve, and just as has happened with the Occupy movement, a leadership will quickly come forth despite the claims to the contrary. That is why the scientific approach is to recognize and utilize leadership, utilizing real accountability and real democracy.

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[Elections] [International Connections]
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Obama's False Promise to Raza

I recently read ULK issue 6 in which a comrade out of California discussed his experiences after the election of Obama. This brought back memories I experienced along the same lines, where at the moment it was announced that Obama was indeed the new president there was a roar of applause almost as if one were in a football stadium and your team just scored a touch down! This was in one of California's security housing units (SHUs) so this jubilation was coming from prisoners who are amongst the most "conscious", the most progressive, who are taken off the mainline for rebellious acts against the state. It was a sad sight to see potentially revolutionary prisoners get sucked into the age-old game of bourgeois politics.

I remember having a long beat with my neighbor at the time over the Obama sham and how Obama is like a Booker T. Washington, only worse. Booker T. Washington was used to pacify the Black masses for the Amerikan government but had no power outside the Black nation, whereas Obama is the Commander in Chief and has much more power than Booker T. Yet, like Booker T., Obama is used to corral the Black nation and many others into the realm of bourgeois politics. On the doorstep of imperialism, Obama's presence in the White House is used to "legitimize" the program of Amerika and the actions of the oppressor nation, and to sweeten the bitter pill of repression for the oppressed nations to swallow more quickly.

The upcoming elections have the imperialists once more dressing up Obama, having him show up for a photo shoot at an all-Black Baptist church, at a press conference for Latino rights, etc. But I'll make this real clear real fast - Obama is an imperialist and does not care about the Black nation. Latinos have learned from Obama being in office. Many Latinos were sucked into bourgeois politics, standing for hours in lines beside Black folks and voting for Obama. Now what do they have to show for it? They have over one million Latinos who had their asses deported! Over one million - that's more Latinos deported with Obama as president than with Bush II as president!

Obama and the Democrats feel Latinos have no choice but to support them because of the Republicans being so outspokenly anti-migrant, but this is wrong! Both are anti-migrant and only tolerate migrants when we are picking their baby spinach and heirloom tomatoes, or when we are cleaning their homes, watching their kids and washing their cars. They tolerate La Raza, the people, when it saves them a dollar. They let us work and then a day before pay day they call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on us as happened in the processing plants in the last couple years. It's an old con game that both the Republicans and Democrats use to bamboozle Raza and save a buck in the process. This is a rerun that the Chicano nation has been battling in Aztlán since 1848 and will continue until we liberate Aztlán.

Our liberation will not come from the Democrats or Republicans; it will not even come from any other party in the Amerikan bourgeois political elections. The imperialists will never permit Aztlán to be liberated. It will fight tooth and nail and sabotage any ballot box initiative even hinting about this and neutralize any leaders who built momentum to build any ballot box initiative in this direction. Our liberation will come from the Chicano movement and its struggles outside of bourgeois politics.

I am beginning to hear the same old tired talk about Obama again since the elections are coming up. I heard one Chicano talking about how he wrote his family and told them to vote for Obama so that the Raza will be better off than they would be with a racist Republican. So I got on the tier and asked him "what the hell has Obama or any Democrat during his term done for Raza?!" He had no answer as I figured so I explained how Raza has even suffered more with the Democrats but that they are in fact one and the same; a double-headed monster, a single beast.

The problem is many prisoners who initially take an interest in political science will watch these imperialist propaganda shows on the corporate TV stations and begin to parrot what they hear and swear up and down its true because they heard it on the "news." What they are not grasping is this "news" is controlled by the imperialists. They will not put out views that work contrary to their program, they will not inform us on revolutionary news and analysis, and they will not educate us to rise up as these news corporations are owned by billionaires who protect their bread and butter like a revolutionary protects his/her people. This is why we did not hear much when, on June 7th 2010, the U.$. border patrol shot and killed a 14-year-old Mexican child named Sergio Hernandez as he played on the Mexican side of a canal. This is why the killing of Oscar Grant didn't get proper coverage. Yet we see the same actions played over and over on TV when it's a country that the U.$. wants a regime change in - like the Middle East.

As author/journalist Juan Gonzalez has pointed out, the birth of the Amerikan newspaper was around the need to share information about the movements and behaviors of indigenous people and to rally the white settlers around their genocide.(1) The idea of objective journalism was a myth created much later in history, but the practice has been consistent.

Just as the news supported the control of indigenous and African people during the birth of this nation, the control of la Raza is at the forefront of TV news today. The mass deportations while Obama has been president are not done randomly. Aztlán is growing rapidly and with it Latinos continue to multiply. Seven of the ten fastest growing cities in the U.$. are in the area currently called the Southwest(2) and of these seven cities all are overwhelmingly Latino states. The future must seem very bleak for the oppressor nation. Thus they use their puppets to attempt to curb this "invasion" and "re-conquest" as conservative mouthpiece Pat Buchanan calls it.

Raza need to see Republicans and Democrats as one and the same. We need to educate Raza so that we become our own liberators; national liberation will never come from the ballot box. We need to educate our families, friends and barrios, this needs to be done house to house and persyn to persyn one letter at a time via snail mail if need be, but it is the only way to ween Raza off of putting faith into bourgeois politics.

We can look today at the many [email protected] elected officials and yet the Barrios continue to be occupied and under siege! We continue to be used as target practice by those claiming to protect and serve. Like our Third World counterparts in Afghanistan who suffer "night raids" we also get our doors kicked down in the middle of the night and the barrel of a gun stuck in the face of our children. When the Afghan villagers hear the helicopters they flee to the caves as they know all too well the predators lurking in those chinooks, just as we rush to avoid the spotlight when we hear the ghetto bird. It is a safari in the barrio and we are the prey. The people of Afghanistan are far more oppressed than anywhere here in Amerika yet we face the same oppressor.

The Great Leap Forward of 1958-59 in China was a special period in China's revolutionary history. The essence of which was to build communes. Today in the imperialist controlled media the Great Leap Forward is distorted as a situation that "killed millions" when in reality it was a socialist economic and social development to enhance people's power in the countryside. Here in Amerika we are nowhere even remotely close to that stage of development as Mao's China. But just as early in the Chinese revolution the peasants formed people's communes, I see a future here in Amerika where the people begin to form revolutionary committees. These mutual aid teams will be anchored mainly in the barrios and ghettos but eventually spread out to all areas where the oppressed nations reside. These committees will work to provide the people with independent outlets outside of the capitalist state in order to get the people to begin exercising people's power.

We of course are not at this juncture yet but it is a goal to work toward in our communities, in our barrios and within our lumpen organizations. We need education. Without learning and developing we will continue hoping the Democrats make things better for us and continue being hoodwinked. Now is the time to rebuild the Chicano movement! The past struggles of our gente are not forgotten nor will our martyrs have gone in vain or laid down only for us to stand in a line to vote for an imperialist!

Long live the Aztlán nation!


Notes:
1. while discussing his new book: Juan Gonzalez & Joseph Torres. News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media. 2011.
2. The New York Times Almanac, 2011. p. 273.

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[Censorship] [Education] [Civil Liberties] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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Expanded Censorship from Hunger Strike

The recent strike has unleashed a new round of censorship here in Pelican Bay. It's crazy that the very issue that CDCR claims to be "working on changing," that is 'Group Punishment,' is the very thing they are still doing by punishing everyone for the strike. Administrators from Sacramento came in their suits to beg prisoners they label falsely as 'worst of the worst' to stop striking and told them that if they stop there will be no retaliation, and yet here we are getting our political literature censored because of participation in the strike!

The state is so sick that it is not enough to keep prisoners locked in solitary confinement for years. It shows the cruelty, the depravity of what we are up against, and so when I think of so called 'constitutional rights' I know in my heart that these so called rights don't apply to me or any other prisoner in Amerika. When I'm denied even the ability to think, this is when I know the intention is to destroy me mentally and psychologically.

This is what the Security Housing Units (SHU) is used for - destruction cut and dried, there is no other reason for the modern day control unit, it's used to break you down by all means necessary. Whatever it is you enjoy is taken. If you like the fresh air we will have lock down, loss of yard privileges, etc. If you like to watch TV the power will go out throughout the week or COs can simply take your TV for 90 days. If you like to read, your books and newspapers will be denied and censored. If you like to write certain people they will stop your mail, return to sender and claim this address is a mail drop, etc. The list goes on and on. This is all done to get people to collaborate with the state in order to get out of SHU.

So as people go about living their life, or even for people incarcerated who have no idea of the active repression many face, I say it's real and be ready for the same repression. I have gone years having my literature from MIM and ULK censored and I have learned not to rely solely on ULK or MIM Distributors but to study on my own or with others. And when I do receive some political science literature, some revolutionary history, I read it over and over and discuss it with others so that I remember it and expand my understanding of it.

What we are experiencing now in the SHU with the new censorship will become common as prisoners in Amerika become more progressive and revolutionary. It is for this reason that people should prepare for this repression just as urgently as one would prepare for a hurricane or earthquake or any other disaster. To disregard this will leave one with nothing, no lifeline to truth, no theoretical nourishment, and most of all no guidance.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade raises an important point about the value of political literature and the need to prepare for censorship. We face censorship across the country in so many prisons it is hard to keep track. But it is never sustained forever, sometimes we can get past the censors after a few months of appeals, sometimes it takes years and a court case, sometimes there is nothing obvious that changes but suddenly literature is allowed back into a prison. Regardless of the reasons for the censorship or the victories against it, it's clear that we need to get as many people as possible on the ULK mailing list to maximize the distribution, and those receiving it and other literature need to share it, create study groups, discuss what they are reading, and spread the word.

With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows indefinite detention without charges or trial, the U.$. population is becoming more aware of the emptiness of "constitutional rights." There are no rights, only power struggles, as this comrade explains.

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[United Front]
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USW Study Cell Signs onto UF for Peace

I have been working for years to help uplift the consciousness of prisoners and your five points for peace serve as a beacon of hope for the imprisoned masses.

I come from a united struggle from within U.$. prisons where prisoners suffer horrendously. So much work is to be done in prisons, and prisoners have much room to improve their understanding of the society that brought them to prison. The first step is identifying the oppressor and for some, being able to grasp what oppression is, is a difficult task. Most in prison have lived their entire life in mental chains so oppression becomes the norm and attempts to free one from this oppression are met with antagonism, sort of like the kidnapped victim who comes to love their captor.

Yet peace is a first step to being new men and wimmin prisoners, and then the imprisoned masses will begin to de-colonize their minds. A united effort is needed to help educate prisoners and your joint peace statement cuts a goat path through the muck we are forced to endure. My study group agrees with your peace statement and so I sign on as a result.

In Struggle.

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[Organizing] [International Connections] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 23]
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Learn from the Hunger Strike and Build

I want to extend a raised fist and reflect on the second round of the hunger strike here in Pelican Bay. As most know, prisoners once again attempted to achieve some sort of sense of humanity, if such a thing is possible in SHU. The demands were not fully met in the original strike, and this combined with the state's propaganda offensive pushed many of us captives into another push of resistance! This is what I attempt to give perspective on in this writing.

We need to review the entire process of any effort in order to learn from it. This is the process of evaluating the action (or inaction) and using these lessons to help us in future life choices. I'm not just speaking of this most recent effort but also anywhere else in Amerika where this same injustice presents itself.

We must remember the torture and abuse suffered and understand that torture will not stop from a peaceful protest. Torture in imperialist Amerika will always exist in one form or another so long as this system of state sanctioned white supremacy exists. So long as the oppressed nations are hunted down like Third World people, just as the Afghani villager flees when s/he hears the sound of helicopters, knowing it is the NATO occupiers, so too do the oppressed Brown and Black peoples understand when the helicopter comes over our neighborhoods, we too are its prey.

The SHUs are but another expression of what the people live with psychologically in the barrios and ghettos across Amerika. We are locked physically in these concentration kamps, told what to read, what to look at, what to listen to and what to think. People out in society are also experiencing this control on a more subtle level, and in our communities we are hunted down lethally. In Amerika our task force 373 (kill squad) is the pigs where as in the Third World it is the U.$. military who go into Third World nations when Third World people raise their objection.

Today the corporate media announced that Gaddafi was killed and as they showed his corpse, and as Obama made a speech about how Gaddafi was a "mad dog" for not respecting the human rights of all Libyans, I sit in solitary confinement with no sunlight, no human contact, and all the oppression that comes with being in SHU. The truth is Amerika doesn't see Brown or Black people as worthy of human rights. This is why millions of us are criminalized; why we are shot dead unarmed in the streets and prisons by the pigs. This is why we are not given work and suffer a new caste system of being branded a felon, and it's why mothers and fathers are ripped apart from children and deported as "illegals." Illegals! Who are the real illegals?!

The second hunger strike erupted September 26 but unlike the previous strike there was no negotiating teams, no attorney visits to work as mediators, no coverage in the corporate media and so many people here did not know a strike was happening until later in the effort. The numbers I got were approximately half the SHU participated in this second effort, which was fewer than last time, but I also heard more participated in prisons across Amerika and even some county jails. This proves my theory that the longer these efforts take place the more they will be supported. Prisoners get used to the idea of struggle. It brings to the forefront the everyday issues that affect every prisoner, particularly the issue of state repression. This of course is the state's worse nightmare.

I continue to believe that an effort prepared well in advance is far more effective and would be more supported and last a longer amount of time. I think the first strike lasted three weeks because it was prepared for properly. To just announce you're going to do something and do so will get many to participate, but if an effort is ill prepared it won't be as lasting and may not be as effective.

I myself was very angry after the first strike because I didn't feel the demands were essential to a mass effort. Things like shut down all SHUs, end the three strikes, end the death penalty, are things I think are worthy of demands. These are issues that affect every prisoner, not just some. I am very proud of the California prison population for its awakening and learning to stand up en mass, yet we should look deeper into our demands and make sure they reflect the true causes of our oppression.

We can see California prisoners are on the move. It took the many years of groups like MIM(Prisons) along with prison revolutionaries working on the inside to raise the consciousness to see this oppression we live with in these dungeons. MIM(Prisons) once said "Lenin always insisted that change does not occur in straight lines, despite our wishes. And like all Marxists, he stressed historical materialism, which means that ideas come from material reality and not vice versa. We can imagine the world we want and wish it into existence, but that will not make it so. What Marxists do is look at the contradictions in humyn society and study the forces that make them up in order to understand how to resolve them."(1)

I think California prisoners are indeed looking at the contradictions we live with and finding ways to resolve them. This by no means is going away. More and more prisoners are taking notice and coming to support the Pelican Bay SHU battles while raising their own demands wherever they reside in Amerika's concentration kamps. Let the demand for human rights for prisoners reach every cage in this imperial empire. Power to the people!

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[Campaigns] [Control Units] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California]
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Strikers Continue until Debriefing Stops

The refusal of this prison to meet all of the five demands has resulted in yet another hunger strike here in Pelican Bay. The demand that was left untouched by prison officials was the debriefing process. This debriefing process has forced people to either snitch on someone or simply make up gangs in order to get out of the torture chamber known as Security Housing Unit (SHU), and this has gone on for decades.

Just think, most people in SHU are here for b.s. and are not even what the prison claims they are, do not really belong to gang xyz, etc. And so when someone can't take the torturous conditions and wants to get out of SHU, officials require them to debrief (inform) on others, yet this person may not even know anything to tell about even if he or she wanted to, so many times this persyn will make up his own random people while at other times this may be the time for personal vengeance like how men are sent to Gitmo often because their neighbor in Pakistan didn't like the loud music he played.

This pathetic way of "weeding out" supposed gang members or security threats is broken and changes nothing, the truth is SHU is a racist operation directed at the oppressed nations. In addition, guards are getting paid higher salaries for working in these units. Of all the people in SHU, none are the rich, the wealthy, no billionaire ever been validated as a gang member, I have yet to meet a millionaire in SHU. We are the poor, those coming from barrios and ghetto projects, those who can't even walk down the street in our hood without getting tracked by a predator pig and slammed against the wall threatened, beaten, or worse we of the oppressed nations are open game in the streets of the united snakes.

Today is the fifth day into the strike and there is no light at the end of the tunnel and most know this. Here in SHU conditions cannot possibly get worse, we are stuffed into solitary confinement boxes, locked into isolation for the rest of our days - what is worse than this existence?

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[Censorship] [Political Repression] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 23]
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Censorship: Epic Battle in PBSP

I have recently been hit with censorship of your mailing sent on 9 September 2011. I did receive prior to that the letter you sent to activists, but then on September 9 I got two 1819 forms indicating disapproval of mail. I have previously won two 602s [grievances] on this very issue, yet they cite the old 2006 memo [a ban on MIM's mail that was overruled years ago].

What happened is the regular Correctional Officer (CO) already been 602'd by me and has seen the 602 granted at the Director level, but he only works five days a week. The other two days a floater works and is not aware of my granted 602. The floater sends it to Institution Gang Investigations (IGI), who says to deny me. I guess the temporary CO is not very fond of MIM. Anyhow, I am sure I'll win the 602 I am submitting, but I know if I do it will take months. If possible, can you send whatever it was again? It seems I'll be having problems getting my mail from MIM Distributors on the regular CO's days off.

I showed my previous 602 that was granted, but was told by the temp "I don't know. They tell us one thing and tell you another. We need to get it straight." This is obviously B.S. because when a 602 is granted, especially at the Director level, it is obviously "straight."

This is a constant barrage of censorship. It's nonstop. I get a 602 granted and then someone comes who don't like MIM literature and then I'm forced to wait months appealing this and missing out on my studies. It is a protracted effort to censor MIM. But nothing MIM(Prisons) says is bad; it's political literature! And why send it to the gang unit when it's political? In Amerika this is how political literature is handled; by labeling it "gang material." This only confirms what MIM(Prisons) says, that there are no rights in Amerika, only power struggles! What happened to the so-called "freedom of the press?"

This prison's population has just gotten done with a three-week hunger strike and now it seems, as one of the participants, I'm now being retaliated on by censoring my political science correspondence course. But I thought the administrators from Sacramento came saying they would work on bettering our conditions if we stopped striking and ate? And now this is the repayment — censoring the ability to think outside this cell, controlling my thoughts, and preventing me from learning anything besides the state's perspective. I can get all the Forbes, Wall Street Journal, National Review, USA Today, etc. that I want, but let me get something that speaks in the interests of poor people and I'm deprived.

This does not surprise me one bit, and I know how to go about the process of appealing. What pisses me off is thinking of all the prisoners across Amerika who also get this Gestapo-like treatment and who won't know how to appeal, or become discouraged and don't try. This is what pisses me off the most. But I know I got to go back to the legal front and go in for another legal battle.

This censorship in prisons is part of the reason prisoners went on hunger strike. This is why people starved; because of the years and decades of not being able to read history books, not being able to take correspondence courses, not being allowed to grapple with ideas. And when prisoners do try to understand critical thought, we are repressed. And when we protest torture, we are repaid with further repression! A society that creates dungeons and employs sadists to unleash all their sick methods on captive poor people, to torture and experiment on with their psychological abuses, is a society that is warped and morally bankrupt.

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[Campaigns] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 22]
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Still Waiting for Promised Changes from Strike

And so we begin a trickle of improvements here in SHU. A couple of weeks ago we received a memorandum stating we can now purchase sweatshirts, sweatpants and shorts starting immediately. Also prisoners go to committee every six months and so on our next committee if we have gone one year without a writeup we can be approved to purchase colored pens, pastels, art paper and be able to take one photo a year. They have also placed a few different items on the canteen list.

These changes may seem trivial, and in a way they are, but I also see the impact they will have on prisoners mentally. I for one am an artist and I sit here thinking of the art I can create, the revolutionary art I can do with colored pens. I also understand what a photo will mean to my loved ones, yet all of this stuff is really superficial.

The demand with the most meat is that of dismantling the debriefing process, which, according to CDCR officials, is still being "looked at." Even if the other four demands are granted, it is not enough, as we would not be asking for art paper and beanies, had it not been for the Gestapo-like policy of debriefing. If the debriefing process were not in existence the majority of prisoners would not be validated as gang members and associates and the SHU would not exist as we currently know it!

The world has seen the unmasked villain and so the state of California got a nudge to make this 'problem' disappear. They look for what they can do to appease the public and the world, pacifying the prison population, while at the same time maintaining the stranglehold on the imprisoned oppressed nations and keeping the revolutionary prisoners sealed off and isolated from the prison masses out in general populations of other prisons. This is seen in their granting of other demands and not touching their sacred cow - the debriefing process.

I don't see prisoners (especially those in SHU) accepting to spend life in SHU with the debriefing process as it is even if the state gives us photos. Many prisoners do not even have any money on our books to buy sweats or pastels! Most don't have anybody to even send a photo to so what good is it to the indigent prisoner? This decision to grant some demands is devious in its agenda. To properly analyze this "development" we need to look at who this will benefit?

There are in prisons the haves and the have nots, we all know both segments. In prison parasitism is magnified a hundred times. There are conscious or more progressive prisoners who look out for the less fortunate prisoner no matter who it is, and there are others who will only talk to those who have things. The state officials understand this and have employed a means of divide and conquer. On the one hand you have prisoners who will benefit from these crumbs and will be satisfied with the crumbs, and then you have the have nots who see no improvement along with the conscious prisoner who understands that conditions of the SHU, i.e. no photos, no color pens, art supplies, etc, are "symptoms" of the problem but the main problem lies in the SHU itself! Because once you take the SHU out of the picture, or even the debriefing process, all the 'symptoms' such as lack of beanies and sunlight go away. The state understands this and after we gained world attention they gave in and gave us these crumbs but did not give in to the most important demand around the debriefing process.

This effort laid a foundation and opened up contacts for many prisoners and showed the power that comes from such resistance. The footprint has been set and so I'm sure that path will not be forgotten, time will tell if all the demands are met or not.

Real change will not come so long as the imperialists continue their rule. Only when socialism reaches these shores will we see SHU conditions abolished. We can protest today for these abuses and tomorrow new repressive shoots will sprout up and we will be protesting those and on and on. Yet these battles are essential as learning experience and uplifting the political consciousness of prisoners, as well as to develop a current of mutual respect and support between prisoners and activists out in public society, while bringing an even stronger United Front for future efforts. To many so-called activists, prisoners are the last people on their mind, and sadly some don't care what happens to prisoners or care that prisoners are tortured by Amerika. Yet when prisoners begin to struggle and show their humynity it brings many to the prisoners' plight who have previously stood on the sidelines when it came to prisoners' struggles. So as of now the most important of the strike demands, the dismantling of the debriefing process, is still up in the air. So prisoners learn from past efforts while grappling about the future, as we have no choice but to keep struggling against this torture.

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[Asia] [International Connections] [ULK Issue 22]
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Book Review: A Vietcong Memoir


A Vietcong Memoir: An inside account of the Vietnam war and its aftermath
by Truong Nhu Tang
Vintage Books, 340 pgs.

Truong Nhu Tang (Tang) was the ex-minister of justice for the provisional revolutionary government of the Republic of South Vietnam during their war for liberation. Although Tang came from the petit bourgeoisie before taking up the struggle for national liberation he lends a first hand account of the fight against U.$. imperialism during what has come to be known in the west as the "Vietnam War."

In 1978 Tang became disillusioned with the outcome of the Vietnam victory on the political fringe (this started when his brother and other family were jailed for re-education). He went into exile in Paris, which he describes as an escape for the most part.

From much of the literature on the struggle for national liberation in Vietnam we get a view from the higher levels of leadership with books from Ho Chi Minh or Vo Nguyen Giap, which are very educational but lack a ground level approach to digging in to the operations and set backs of lower level struggles. Although Tang claims to never have been a "communist" he does say he was a nationalist revolutionary and held Ho Chi Minh in high esteem.

The book focuses on how north Vietnam and the communists, or "ideologues" as he frequently describes communists, took control of the south post war and were heavy handed in re-educating those who needed re-education. For revolutionaries studying different phases of struggle whether political, military, or the diplomatic front, this book will prove insightful as Tang is very descriptive in his memoir.

Most here in Amerika have seen on TV how many U$ soldiers died in Vietnam, or seen clips of the carpet bombing that the Amerikan B52 bombers did, perhaps the rare few have seen grainy documentaries showing some pile of dead Vietnamese or entire villages being touched and babies crying with their flesh literally hanging off from agent orange. Indeed most of us know the Vietnamese fought like hell barefooted with an AK47 in hand, marching through the jungle and basically wearing out U.$. troops through guerrilla warfare. There was an overwhelming amount of organizing at all levels including youth, students, religious groups, elderly, mass organizations, political groups, shopkeepers, even the intelligentsia. This raising of consciousness had begun decades before and Tang as a participant in much of this low level organizing gets into these efforts and shows the strengths and weaknesses in this process.

Tang traveled to Paris as a young man to study how to be a pharmacist. It was here where he started his political life, initially in the anti-war movement in Paris. He began to seriously study political science and colonialism. While in Paris he mobilized the Vietnamese community and sought to build public opinion around the the French occupation in Vietnam. During this time Tang abandoned his studies in pharmacology and his family cut off his financial allowance. His wife was pregnant and with him in France.

At this juncture Tang's political future was at a crossroad. This happens even here in Amerika where at some point one must make some decision in life about what direction one's life will go, and like Tang, many times one's friends, wife, husband, or family will not understand or agree with one's political beliefs and thus one must make that leap to become a revolutionary or be persuaded to just live one's life. Although Tang doesn't analyze or dig into this, as you read the book you see his predicament and see him leap into the thick of it. When faced with this, he and his wife decide it's best she goes back home to Vietnam to have the child while he goes on surviving any way he can, taking odd jobs while continuing his political agitation. It was here that he met the French Communist Party (FCP) members and intellectuals, and although he didn't quite agree with the FCP on their stance with Vietnam he began to develop his political ideas.

After receiving a master's degree in political science, Tang returned to Vietnam where he describes an environment of revolutionary fervor with almost everyone sympathizing with the Viet Minh. He goes on to hook up with a guerilla unit and went on an ambush of French forces. This taste of struggle for liberation sways Tang to get in on the fight for independence.

Tang describes how they began to form the underground resistance that evolved into the National Liberation Front (NLF). This happens in "Saigon," very much an urban struggle, so it proves to be insightful for anyone interested in organizing in a city in an underground group. Tang discusses his creation of numerous committees, mass organizing and the art of propaganda, and even takes you to the jungles where he had his ministry. He tells of how they would hear the bombs raining down, as the guerrillas scramble for the bunkers. Some succumb to what Tang describes as "internal convulsions" where one urinates or shits oneself involuntarily. Tang was living in a constant state of anxiety or combat fatigue, within this environment of constant harassment from opposition, bombings, and attacks, while still carving out a liberation struggle and tending to affairs within the unit or region, and maintaining his ministry while surviving on a handful of rice twice a day. This sacrifice was really something to read about. Imagine holding a study group on Marx or guerilla warfare while the bombs get you scrambling to a bunker, and all for no financial incentive as would be required by Amerikans, but just to free themselves. This was powerful.

I saw slight similarities (of course on a whole different level) between prisoners within U.$. gulags who may be in a constant state of alert, harassed by guards or even at war with a backwards element of the prison population. And within all the chaos that environment can bring, with storm troopers raiding your cell at 2:00 a.m., or putting you on potty watch, or confiscating all your literature, not allowing literature to enter the prison, going to the hole, maybe getting shot, etc. And within all this madness many prisoners continue their studies and struggle to liberate themselves and their oppressed nation. I think many would also find strength and inspiration in learning how many prisoners also develop under such overwhelming odds within U.$. prisons.

There were times when Tang would be arrested and described how he was tortured with electric shock by the pro-imperialist Vietnamese government. I would have liked to hear more of how the Vietnamese prisoners organized, as it is well known that even under French occupation the Vietnamese prisoners saw prisons as "Schools of Liberation" and had their own culture and living guidelines within prison. They had study groups and developed the masses into revolutionaries. It's too bad Tang didn't go into all this but it seems his prison stays were not very long, the longest being ten days. It appears his connections to the Vietnamese bourgeoisie, having a brother who was a high level air force fighter and another who was a high level banker seemed to get him out of prison very fast.

After the war ended and the last helicopter fled the embassy Tang describes the situation as chaotic. But again he was there struggling to rebuild his homeland. It was during this time that many were told to report for re-education and Tang himself says he drove his brothers down to be re-educated. He even led some of the re-education classes and engaged in criticism-self-criticism. However, once his brothers were taken to a re-education camp for the long term his stance on the post-war situation changed. Tang's two brothers were high level military, one being an officer, and although one of his brothers was released (through his efforts and letters to government leadership) one was kept in camp. It was at this point that Tang withdrew and resigned from politics, eventually moving out to a country farm and later sneaking out into exile in Paris.

It is clear his actions were subjective and he notes that many people were not political but nationalistic in their ideas. He argues that the post war government was too heavy handed. From what I read it did appear the NLF was pushing a more nationalistic line rather than a revolutionary nationalist approach. I think that if the NLF had focused their organizing efforts more on raising the people's political consciousness rather than focusing on a nationalist line they wouldn't have had such a hard time post war.

I would have liked to hear more on China and the Soviet Union at that time as Tang was part of a Vietnamese delegation that toured these countries. But he doesn't weigh in on the Soviet revisionism, rather saying Vietnam stayed neutral on the "Sino-Soviet" dispute as he calls it. He does say Vietnam cozied up first to the Soviets but later alluded to his dislike of Kruschev, especially his anger at being left for two weeks in a Russian hotel when he was supposed to be touring the country.

A reader will find this book insightful for the winding paths that were taken to build a movement full of committees and coalitions, underground parties and guerrilla networks all with the end goal of defeating U.$. imperialism. After reading this book I appreciate more the efforts of MIM(Prisons) and what they do to raise our consciousness.


MIM(Prisons) adds: The Vietnamese struggle was a heroic one that is still at the forefront of the global anti-imperialist legacy. After they defeated the imperialists, the most advanced political thinking of the time did not take hold in Vietnam's leadership, preventing socialism from developing. But as the reviewer discusses, there is still much to learn from this book about the successful struggle and organizing, especially under such horrible repression by U.$. bullets and bombs. We point readers to a book review of Ho Chi Minh: A Life for a more complete picture of the history of the revolution in Vietnam, and the political line of the post-revolution government.

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[Control Units] [International Connections] [National Oppression] [Political Repression] [Pelican Bay State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 21]
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SHU is War on Aztlán


[Editor's note: We want to remind our readers that USW is open to anti-imperialist prisoners of all nationalities, just as the strike is being led by prisoners of all nationalities. MIM(Prisons) agrees with the line put forth here, because it is by building movements for national liberation
from imperialism that we can best conquer the oppressive system we currently live in. And any genuine national liberation movement supports the liberation of all people. We want to be clear about this because there have been reports of the CDCR attempting to fuel divisions among the prisoners on strike along long-standing organizational and national divisions as they always do.]

A people's salute goes out to all who find themselves under lock and key in Amerika! I wanted to write and send a brief update on the conditions here in Pelican Bay coming from one of the participants of the hunger strike (HS) that began two weeks ago, on July 1 of 2011. I figured the historic precedent that the HS has accomplished thus far is worth noting as the cause of the non-violent protest is one in which many people find themselves in across Amerika. The material conditions that have forced prisoners to deny themselves nutrients and sustenance are not exclusively bound to Pelican Bay, California. Whenever imperialist lackeys run a country they will also be expected to round up the most rebellious and potentially revolutionary populations and bury these people alive as these are the ones who pose the highest threat to the ruling class.

The fact that the protest is in regard to torture chambers known as the Security Housing Unit (SHU) in California, a state that has more prisons than any other state in a country that has more prisoners than any other country, should be examined more closely for what it means to oppressed nation prisoners in general but to people of Aztlán in particular. The fact that the state of California, which is geographically in Aztlán, has initiated what amounts to a war on the people of Aztlán by setting up more koncentration kamps (prisons) in Aztlán than anywhere else in Amerika, along with incarcerating more Latinos in California than any other oppressed nations, and the fact that Latinos are now the largest population of captives held in Federal prisons, and the fact that most of the prisoners held in California SHUs are Latinos, all show that oppressed nation are under attack via the injustice system, and that prisoners from the Aztlán Nation are particularly targeted in Aztlán. California is also the state with the largest Latino population in Amerika.(1) Thus the scope of what is taking place should be seen for what it is - the assault on Aztlán is real and should be met as such.

What is occurring here at Pelican Bay is an attempt to break the will and desire to resist state repression plain and simple. The SHU was opened in 1989 and this facility was designed to isolate and deprive people of the most basic "human rights." Things like human contact, a cell mate, the ability to eat salt in one's food, the ability to correspond with friends and family via the mail, the ability to have natural sunlight or even to be able to read political literature have all been stripped from prisoners in the SHU. Brutality here has been documented for decades. Beatings and physical torture have even been brought to the courts to no avail. Recently the U.$. Supreme Court has ruled that California prisons constitute "cruel and unusual punishment." They are telling the state of California to clean up its act.

Medical services are even used as barter. One prisoner was told if he wanted medical treatment then he should "debrief" (snitch on another prisoner). This is the depraved culture that has thrived here in SHU. This is a world where prisoners who are most often poor Brown and Black people are subject to a whole plethora of experimental depravity which in some cases would probably have Mengele raise an eyebrow.

It is well known that solitary confinement causes very real psychological damage even if used for a few weeks, yet here in SHU prisoners have endured solitary for years and even decades in some cases. Human rights groups have condemned solitary confinement, yet the SHU continues this brutal practice. Once here in SHU the only way back to general population is to snitch on others (even if it is false accusations), die, or parole. Keep in mind the vast majority sent to SHU have not committed any crime or physical acts but are labeled a "gang member or associate" and thus locked in this control unit for one's supposed gang affiliation, i.e. one's beliefs. They are locking one in a solitary confinement cell, sometimes for life, for what amounts to thought crimes!

Placement in the "hole" or SHU is frequently due to political affiliation of prisoners who are members or may associate with revolutionary groups or lumpen organizations that the state labels as "gangs." In their play on words, any attempt at oppressed nations to organize in a way that is not state sanctioned, is a gang. Similarly, they call uprisings "riots" in a derogatory way, to hide the real causes behind them. But many times people aren't even members of any organization and are falsely accused by others who are trying to get themselves out of SHU. In either case, prisoners held in SHU conditions overwhelmingly qualify as political prisoners.

The world would gasp should they find out the thought police are goosestepping in lock step here in Pelican Bay, jack boots and all. The Gestapo in Nazi Germany rounded up communists and others and placed them in kamps and jails under "preventative custody." And now the imperialists' first line of defense keeps oppressed nations in neo-kamps (SHUs) under "validation custody." This is what the lumpen face in the United $tates; this is our apple pie in the home of the incarcerated, land of the oppressed.

Yet, prisoners have always defied the lash, because as Mao said, where you find much repression you'll find much resistance. This is the dialectical materialism that manifests itself and blossoms, even within cinderblock gardens, in the form of our united resistance.

The first of the five demands issued for the hunger strike here at Pelican Bay is to end group punishment. This happens frequently where one prisoner breaks a rule and that whole group or ethnicity will be locked down or penalized in some way. We are talking about one person doing something against prison rules and two or three hundred people are then locked down for months over it. This is common practice and is meant to pit prisoners against prisoners.

The second demand is to abolish debriefing and modify active/inactive gang status criteria. Debriefing is used to force people held in SHU to give up names and activities of others in order to leave SHU - even if the information provided is false. The accused cannot even present a good defense as the informants are not identified and often times the accusations themselves are considered "confidential." Active/inactive status is when after six years if one has no new activity one may be given "inactive" gang status and released to the general population. But this is rare since anything qualifies as "activity." For example, participating in this hunger strike will be considered new gang activity.

The third demand is that the CDCR complies with recommendations from a 2006 U.S. Commission which called for an end to isolation. The fourth demand is to provide adequate food. The food here would make a racoon's stomach turn. Often we don't know what it is we are eating and we get no salt, so all food is bland. For punishment often times we get boiled beans with no salt, and this has gone on for years. The fifth demand is to expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU prisoners. This means those of us who must stay in SHU will be able to have educational courses, art supplies, and the ability to make a phone call, which some have not done for 30 or more years.

These points are basic things that should be given, especially to people who have not broken any rules to be placed in SHU in the first place! What is happening here in Pelican Bay SHU amounts to crimes against humanity. To have people in solitary confinement in some cases for decades is incredible, and it's incredible that this has gone on so long and that for the most part the public has been silent over this. Well, today the light is shining on these torture chambers and Pelican Bay prisoners will no longer be silent while taking the lash.


Notes:
1. The New York Times Almanac 2011. p. 285.

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