Humyn health is perhaps the most basic measure of oppression that we have. More than economic exploitation, humyn health measures the degree to which the basic survival needs of people are being met. Looking at the conditions of health in U.$. prisons, as well as reservations, barrios and ghettos across the United $tates, does not paint a favorable picture of imperialism and its ability to provide for humyn needs, not to mention even worse conditions across the Third World. Given this, health becomes an issue that we can rally the oppressed around to both serve the people and oppose imperialism.
We've been pushing this very issue in United Struggle from Within (USW) circles in California for some months, in some cases leading to state repression. With the recently suspended mass hunger strike in that state, a rash of deaths in Texas and the usual array of abuses across U.$. prisons, we thought this was an opportune time to focus an issue of ULK on health struggles.
Health was a central theme in the California hunger strike where prisoners began to pass out from lack of food and other complications. Bill "Guero" Sell died after a approximately two weeks on hunger strike. The state says it was suicide, but however he died, the SHU was the cause of death. One San Quentin prisoner's kidneys shut down, and many complained of the lack of medical monitoring and the aloofness of medical staff. We have been sending regular updates to comrades in California about what has been going on over the last two months. For those who want to see more reporting in ULK, send in your donations to help reach the goal of $250 to add 4 pages to a future issue.
In at least two Texas prisons we have comrades organizing around the murders of prisoners by staff abuse and neglect, the most basic health campaign. In Texas we also have positive examples of organizing sports as a way to bring people together and improve health. Meanwhile comrades in more restrictive conditions in one California prison were punished for organizing group exercise, calling it "Security Threat Group activity."
The manipulation of people through chemical substances is another common health theme. Many comrades are being denied medications they depend on and facing life-threatening conditions. At the same time oppressed communities fight the use of recreational drugs to oppress their people as seen in the struggle of the Oglala Lakotah. The exposure of this form of low-intensity chemical warfare right here in North America is particularly relevant at a time when the blood-thirsty imperialists have been ramping up for an invasion of Syria based on unsubstantiated claims of chemical weapons use by the government there.
From rotten potatoes in Massachussetts, to inadequate servings in Nevada and people forced to rely on vending machines in Florida, basic nutrition is denied to people in a country where 40% of food is wasted. Recently, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that greenhouse gases from global food waste is more than the emissions of any single country except China or the United $tates.(1) Water, another vital resource, is also used to produce all this wasted food. From U.$. prisoners, to the global countryside where malnutrition leads to thousands of deaths daily, to the environmental services that all of humynity depend on, the capitalist profit system has failed to serve humyn need.
We can look to the barefoot doctors in revolutionary China, or the mobile health units of the Black Panther Party or the Young Lords Party as examples of serving the people's basic health needs in a revolutionary context. The Chinese also took a completely different approach to mental illness, which bourgeois society does more to cause than to remedy. Materially, the capitalist economic system can produce enough for everyone, but cannot provide it to them. It's a system that uses the denial of basic health as a form of social control, because if it did not the system would be overthrown. Rather than begging the oppressor for a little relief, let's implement real solutions to these problems.
For the annual day of peace we pulled together approximately 70 prisoners scattered around the institution. We avoided the cafeteria at all costs and kept our contact with the pigs at a minimum. We had a lot of cats who faked or simply broke weak because of their watered down hearts, but as a whole we are proud to say that you can add Arkansas/Varner unit to the list of participants.
Next year we're going to expand with a stated goal of at least a thousand participants crossing all lines toward producing unity among the poor and oppressed is a struggle that we must take step-by-step, making small gains with each step until we've achieved our goal.
As a mail-based prisoner support organization, the ability to get our mail in to our comrades and subscribers is an essential part of our ability to organize. If we can't get mail in, we can't help lead the anti-imperialist struggle behind bars. We are under no illusion that we'll ever be free from censorship; if our enemy hates us, we're probably doing something right! But the U.$. Constitution and our humynist morality support our insistence on fighting censorship as much as possible so that we can have as big of an impact on the international revolutionary movement as we can.
Often times our subscribers don't even know how much censorship they persynally are experiencing, let alone what's going on around the country. Our annual censorship report gives our subscribers an idea of how much political repression we're facing overall.
This year we started recording our mail in more detail, and removed a lot of flaws in how the data is aggregated (although it's not perfect!). At the bottom of the chart, "% Unconfirmed" tells you how accurate the snapshot is for that reporting year; the lower number the better, because a lower percent of unconfirmed mail means we actually know what happened to more of the mail we've sent in. Unconfirmed mail not only covers up censorship in cases where the prisoner never got the mail but we haven't been made aware of it; it also may exaggerate the level of censorship we're actually facing in a particular facility or state where our mail is actually getting in to some people but they haven't told us. Of course we know the content of our literature is not held in high regard by most prison staff, so assuming we're being censored when we aren't sure what is going on is probably more accurate than not.
A facility is considered to be banning our literature for that reporting year if they have censored two or more items, and no items have been confirmed as received. An entire state is considered to be banning our literature if they have censored any mail, and no mail has been reported as received. Another note on the chart: it is only a snapshot of what is going on with our mail. A facility might be banning us in the same state where we also had victories, or a complete statewide ban may only actually affect a few subscribers (plus the potential new subscribers we might gain if our lit wasn't censored).
To improve our data on the level of censorship we're experiencing, you may receive a list from us of mail we've sent you, asking you to confirm receipt or censorship of each item. This list is called an Unconfirmed Mail Form (UMF). We recommend everyone keep a log of all your mail, incoming and outgoing, with dates received/sent, from/to who, and contents. That way if your mail with us, or anyone, is tampered with, you are one step ahead of the game. And if you get a UMF, you will be able to fill it out accurately rather than guessing. But do not wait to receive a UMF to tell us what you've gotten! When you write to us, you should always tell us what you've gotten from us since the last time you wrote. That will save time and money so we can send in more books and literature.
Facilities banning all our mail in the last reporting year:
Colorado - Arkansas Valley State Prison
Connecticut - Northern Correctional Institution and Northern Supermax this is the second consecutive year in Northern Supermax
Florida - Suwanee Annex
Illinois - Menard Correctional Center (two years in a row)
Michigan - Gus Harrison Correctional Facility
South Carolina - Leiber Correctional Institution
Utah - Central Utah Correctional Facility
Virginia - Hampton Roads Regional Jail (two years in a row)
Wisconsin - Green Bay Correctional Institution and Kettle Moraine Correctional Institution
Facilities banning ULK in the last reporting year:
Connecticut - MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution Reason: "Rejected publication per the Media Review Board"
Florida - Franklin Correctional Institution Reason: MIM investigated as Security Threat Group
Florida - Jackson Correctional Institution No reason given
Illinois - Menard Correctional Center Reasons: "Threat to safety and security"
Michigan - G Robert Correctional Facility No reason given
New York - Riverview Correctional Facility Reasons: "Incites disobedience, describes gang activity"
North Carolina - Marion Correctional Institution Reasons: "MIM Distributors on disapproved publication list," "encourages insurrection"
North Carolina - Warren Correctional Institution Reason: "On ban list"
Pennsylvania - State Correctional Institution Waymart Reasons: "Unauthorized enclosure" and no reason given
Wisconsin - Wisconsin Secure Program Facility No reason given
Florida is also attempting to classify Under Lock & Key as a "Security Threat Group," which would likely make all mail from MIM Distributors banned as gang-related, and subject anyone in possession of mail from us to disciplinary action. We have not received an update on this process since April. We do know that for a couple years Florida was a booming United Struggle from Within state, and some of our more active comrades have recently asked to be removed from our mailing list for fear of repression. We aren't sure whether the administration is threatening parole eligibility or physical abuse, or other forms of torture such as solitary confinement; or if they've already gone ahead and beaten the shit out of these comrades to get them to stop talking to us. Yet we've seen this enough times to know that something like that is going on. It's incredible the lengths Amerikans will go to to keep someone who's already locked up in prison from doing something as innocuous as reading a newsletter, participating in a study group, and talking to other humyn beings.
A popular reason for citing censorship in Nevada has been "Per AR 750... Address labels are unauthorized." Our guess is that this policy of the Nevada Department of Corrections would not hold up in court as being reasonably related to penological interests and the safety of the institution. A subscriber in Nevada who has been missing mail due to this rule should take on this struggle in a lawsuit! Another comrade in that state reported that prison officials have admitted ULK is not banned, but now they are resorting to "unofficial censorship" by simply throwing out incoming and outgoing mail. This is another reason why it's important to track your correspondence.
Victories and Struggles
Appealing censorship and filing grievances can lead to small but significant victories. The victories in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and on the Federal level are attributed solely to prisoners filing appeals of the censorship, without any supporting letters from MIM Distributors. Of course not all appeals will be granted, and we don't expect to ever be completely free of censorship from the state. But we encourage everyone to at least attempt to appeal all censorship of their mail. Send us copies of your documents and we can publicize and track them on our website www.prisoncensorship.info.
In the last year we've focused much energy on fighting censorship in Missouri and North Carolina. In Missouri we've met some success with letter writing, but in North Carolina it has been a different story. After a surge in USW activity in North Carolina, every issue of Under Lock & Key has been placed on their ban list for over 3 years straight. Upon appeal, not only do North Carolina prisoncrats tend to simply uphold the decision of the lower level with no explanation, but when asked to explain how their "independent" review process works, we are given no response. When we filed a public records request with the state, the only documents they had to demonstrate that the independent review process existed was a stack of the original censorship notifications, further putting into question the existence of the "review process." We have comrades working on this case in North Carolina who could benefit greatly from some additional legal assistance.
Multiple subscribers in Illinois have volunteered to assist MIM(Prisons) in fighting censorship in that state, and one has two lawsuits pending on this issue. While ULK is not getting in at all in some facilities in the state, some of our subscriber-volunteers are able to receive ULK and copies of the censor documentation. Also they are intimately familiar with the mail rules and appeal procedures in their state. Although it is a slower process for volunteers on theinside working via mail, this has been a very beneficial campaign, and one that anyone with legal knowledge can contribute to in their own state. MIM(Prisons) facilitates a Prisoners' Legal Clinic (PLC) to help jailhouse lawyers plug into projects that will push forward the collective legal knowledge and experience of the anti-imperialist movement behind bars. Write in to get involved! Any lawyer or law student who is interested in helping prisoners push forward these anti-censorship lawsuits should contact us.
In late August 2013, in an unprecedented move, the head of the Texas Prison Guard Union, Mr. Lance Lowry, joined a lawsuit filed against TDCJ by Scott Medlock of the Texas Civil Rights project. Mr. Medlock has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Brad Livingston, the Executive Director of TDCJ on behalf of the families of 14 prisoners who died because of neglect and the oppressive extreme heat in Texas prison facilities.
This announcement comes on the cusp of many revelations that TDCJ continues to engage in behavior which shows a blatant disregard for the health and safety not just of prisoners housed in their facilities, but a blatant lack of care or respect for their employees also. However, my focus is on the prisoner because I am a prisoner. I stand in solidarity with the prisoners housed on the Connally Unit in Kennedy, Texas whose water supply was taken from them by a Warden who has ignored the basic human needs of the prisoners in her care.
Prisoners at Connally Unit are on water rations, they are being denied showers, and they can't flush their toilets! They are being forced to live in the heat and the filth because TDCJ decided to give the water well that serviced the prison to the residents of Kennedy!
In August we learned that Brad Livingston approved the spending of $750,000 on 5 climate controlled buildings for pigs! Literally, the Agency of TDCJ has spent three quarters of a million dollars on pigs which prisoners raise for consumption in TDCJ. Prisoners are dying down here Brad, what the hell are you doing?
But it gets better comrades. The American Correctional Association (ACA) has even made Brad Livingston the current chair of the organization that makes policies for all Amerikan prisons and jails across the United $tates. When the subject of heat-related safety precautions came across his desk, Mr. Livingston decided no heat standards were needed! So as we clearly see ACA is a sham and a fraud!
The fact that the head of the Prison Guard Union in Texas joined the lawsuit against TDCJ is a sign that prison officials like Brad Livingston have been passing misinformation and disinformation about the conditions in TDCJ for years. Soon a murder cover-up will be exposed with Brad Livingston being a chief culprit.
If you were thinking about joining USW and are housed in one of Texas's many gulags where inhumane treatment is the status quo and norm, now's the time. As Bobby used to say, we must Seize the Time! I don't know who got first down, but we got next!
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of the oppressed taking advantage of contradictions among the oppressors. It is rare that we can unite with part of the criminal injustice system against another part, but in the case of this lawsuit, if we can play some prisoncrats off against others, we can work this to the favor of the oppressed. Even better, and rarer, is when oppressors see the injustice and side with the oppressed, actively biting the hand that feeds them.
These preventable deaths from heat are a sad but clear example of the waste of humyn life under imperialism. A system that values profit over people, imperialism will never fix the problems with the criminal injustice system. But we can win some small reforms, and prevent some deaths, while exposing the system and building a movement that can take it down and put a system of people's justice in its place.
"Once again we are presented with a campaign to end third world poverty and oppression that is incapable of confronting the roots of this oppression because it is bound up in the cycle it pretends to critique."(1)
I couldn't of put it better myself as those are the exact same sentiments/thoughts that went through my head as I watched Girl Rising, the highly touted new documentary film that is concerned with drawing attention to, and putting a stop to the oppression of young girls in the "developing world."
Now, being that this special aired on the info-tainment CNN television station I decided to watch to see just how exactly cable TV would handle this topic. Predictably enough, CNN and their NGO partners (Non Governmental Organizations) show us what most anti-imperialists are already aware of: that most wimmin and girls in the Third World suffer at exponentially higher rates than their First World counterparts. Beyond that however, the film didn't really make any poignant statements relative to the emancipation of wimmin, neither did they explain to us how these girls are supposed to rise, despite the film's name. Instead, the film-makers, the so-called NGOs, and the corporate sponsors they are both in bed with, used the children depicted in the film as a way to launch yet another offensive at the supposedly backwards culture of the oppressed. The take away? "Just look at how miserable these girls in the Third World are, look at how they suffer." The reason? Backwards, internal development, lack of First World ingenuity and innovation, and the reactionary culture of the global south. And the answer? Immediate imperialist intervention whether by bullion or by bullet.
Girl Rising is a movie centered around the life experiences of five Third World girls whose stories are told to us in order to garner much-needed attention to the endemic problem of gross patriarchal oppression in the periphery. Yet the patriarchy is never even referred to. Furthermore, the film leaves one with a rather pessimistic outlook for girls in the impoverished zones absent a western-style bourgeois democracy. And indeed, it would seem then that this documentary was designed just to induce such feelings. Conveniently enough this film fails to mention just how the oppressor of wimmin and girls in these countries is not mere happenstance, but systematic and directly linked to the uneven development of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Nor does it mention that the systematic oppression of young children in these societies (as the ones featured in Girl Rising) are a permanent fixture and of complete necessity for the ongoing parasitic privilege of beneficiary populations such as the United $tates. The perpetuation of capitalism in these countries, and the finance capital that is sent there and dressed in the veneer of "aid," is part and parcel of keeping these nations from developing self-sufficient economies independent of the global status quo.
Almost every other commercial during this two hour presentation is from some imperialist multi-national bragging about what they do for Third World wimmin and girls, when in reality all they are doing is commodifying these girls' oppression. Capital One, BNY Wealth Management and Intel all had their greedy hands in the cookie jar. Here's a perfect example: During an Intel commercial that aired during the movie, a narrative states: "A girl is not defined by what society sees, but how she sees herself." Now, besides the obvious commercialization of its product, Intel is just flat out wrong because, while that sweet philosophical statement holds some truth here in the United $tates where wimmin have "rights" (privileges) and know how to have them enforced, it is a completely different story in the Third World where the gender roles are not the same and are directly dependent on capital.
Amerika maintains the image that they are the gold standard when it comes to gender relations, just as they maintain the gold standard when it comes to how they treat their workers. Point in fact, the very first commercial during the film is brought to us by a feminine hygiene product maker depicting their version of how they see girls rising in the periphery. They show us how they make an African girl's dream come true by giving her the chance to direct a commercial for the day. Surely this dream is not reflective of the billions of Third World girls currently toiling under the weight of comprador regimes, death squads, sexual slavery, feudalistic landlords, and assembly line sweatshops. No, from the looks of this girl it is the dream of a privileged sector child whose parents might very well be a part of the technocratic petty-bourgeois intelligentsia of this much hyped "developing world." A far cry from the realities of the lives depicted in the film.
From little Wadley in disease ridden and underdeveloped Haiti, whose dream is to be able to attend school with her mates, but who is unfortunately unable to because her mother just doesn't have the money. Or Zuma in Nepal who was sold into slavery as a child, was liberated from her abusive masters by a teacher and now as a young adult organizes other girls to liberate those still held in captivity. Yazmin in Egypt who is no more than nine but is raped by some scumbag and then refused help from the police because the chance of prosecution is little to none. Azmera in Eritrea who narrowly escapes a life in bondage, and Senna in Peru whose life seems doomed to mining for scraps of gold. All these lives and their portrayal in Girl Rising are but glimpses into the real yoke of imperialist oppression.
We are constantly told that the mode of production called capitalism is the best humynity has to offer, and that a capitalist economy has already been proven superior to socialism, yet whenever the mode of production has been revolutionized and a socialist economy has been put into effect the people of those societies have seen a tremendous growth in the overall well being of their populations. This is most notably true for wimmin who've been immediately pulled out of their traditional roles as housewives and mothers and thrown directly into the production process, in which they help their nation create not only sustainability but wealth (in particular see socialist China and the USSR). The conditions created by wimmin's participation in the production process likewise creates the condition for participation in the political process where they assume power utilizing revolutionary politics to push people out of the middle and dark ages and into the New Democratic period in which the people truly hold power.
Certainly wherever socialism has triumphed it has been only as a direct result of wimmin's role and participation as guerrilla warriors, battalion captains and proletarian-feminist leaders in liberating her nation from not only the imperialists but the patriarchy; as only by defeating the one can she defeat the other.
The liberation of wimmin is not accomplished via equal pay for equal work nor by the granting of "abortion on demand" as these are really only privileges given to the gender aristocracy for their allegiance to empire. Instead of advocating for more privileges that are contingent on the backs of their Third World "sisters," the NGOs and the First World pseudo-feminists at the helm of such propaganda like Girl Rising and the "Because I am a Girl" campaign(1) should all aim their guns at the imperialist rape and plunder of the periphery that makes it possible for the First World pseudo-feminists to have "abortion on demand" and equal pay for equal work! Real feminist leadership can only come from the proletarian perspective and not from First World wimmin who are really just globally gendered males who have a real material interest in holding up the global system of oppression and exploitation.(2)
"If this campaign actually wants to change 'the plight' of girls then it should endorse wimmin's militias and factory takeovers on the part of women and girls. Such a revolutionary agenda, though, would put it at odds with its corporate sponsors and so, like every NGO, it will remain caught within an imperialist framework."(1)
Liberation of the neo-colonies from the patriarchal grips of the imperialists will set wimmin free in the global countryside; not charity from the imperialist centers.
According to the Collective's statement, they have suspended their strike in response to a pledge by state legislators Tom Ammiano, Loni Hancock and Tom Hayden to hold a legislative hearing into conditions in the Security Housing Units (SHU) and the debriefing process. MIM(Prisons) is not optimistic of the outcome of such hearings. Ammiano held a hearing in August 2011 in response to the first of three mass hunger strikes around this struggle, and nothing changed, leading to the second hunger strike that October. Back in 2003, our comrades as part of the United Front to Abolish the SHU attended a legislative hearing on the conditions in the California SHU and the validation process. They published an article entitled, "CA senate hearings on the SHU: we can't reform torture." Ten years later, little has changed. These hearings keep happening, but they are little more than pacifying talks by those in power. The facts have been out there, the state has known what is going on in these torture cells. So what is the difference now? And how can we actually change things?
CDCR Done Addressing Problems
Before we look at how we can change things, let's further dispel any illusions that the CDCR or the state of California is going to be the source of this change. In the latest iteration of the strike, an additional 40 demands were drafted around smaller issues and widely circulated to supplement the 5 core demands. On 26 August 2013, the CDCR released a point-by-point response to the demands of those who have been on hunger strike since July 8. The announcement by the CDCR cites a 5 June 2013 memo that allegedly addresses many of these supplemental demands. Others are listed as being non-issues or non-negotiable.
This CDCR announcement implies that we should not have hopes for negotiations or actions towards real change from CDCR. The Criminal Injustice System will not reform itself; we must force this change.
The Struggle Against Torture Continues
At first glance, the fact that this struggle has been waging for decades with little headway (especially in California) can be discouraging. However, our assessment of conditions in the imperialist countries teaches us that right now struggle against oppression must take the form of long legal battles, despite claims by the censors that we promote lawlessness. Sporadic rebellions with lots of energy, but little planning or longevity, do not usually create change and the conditions for armed struggle do not exist in the United $tates. We are therefore in strategic unity with the leaders who have emerged to sue the state, while unleashing wave after wave of peaceful demonstrations of ever increasing intensity. All of us involved have focused on agitation to shape public opinion and promote peace and unity among prisoners, and then using those successes to apply pressure to the representatives of the state. These are all examples of legal forms of struggle that can be applied within a revolutionary framework. Lawyers and reformists who can apply constant pressure in state-run forums play a helpful role. But make no mistake, prisoners play the decisive role, as the strikes are demonstrating.
Control units came to be and rose to prominence in the same period that incarceration boomed in this country. As a result, in the last few decades the imprisoned lumpen have been a rising force in the United $tates. Within the class we call the First World lumpen, it is in prisons where we see the most stark evidence of this emerging and growing class, as well as the most brutal responses from Amerikans and the state to oppose that class.
In California prisons in the last three years we've seen that with each successive hunger strike, participation has more than doubled. Just think what the next phase will look like when the CDCR fails to end torture once again! And as a product of this rising force in prisons, support on the outside has rallied bigger each time as well. As we said, this outside support is important, but secondary to the rising imprisoned lumpen.
Over 30,000 prisoners, one-fifth of the population in California, participated in this latest demonstration against torture. Many who didn't strike the whole time wrote to us that they, and those with them, were on stand-by to start up again. These grouplets standing by should be the basis for developing cadre. The 30,000 plus prisoners should be the mass base, and should expand with further struggle and education.
If you're reading this and still wondering, "what is it that MIM(Prisons) thinks we should do exactly?" — it's the same things we've been promoting for years. Focus on educating and organizing, while taking on winnable battles against the injustice system. Fighting to shut down the control units is important, but it is only one battle in a much larger struggle that requires a strong and organized anti-imperialist movement. We run our own study programs and support prisoner-run study groups on the inside. We provide Under Lock & Key as a forum for agitating and organizing among the imprisoned lumpen country-wide. We have study materials on building cadre organizations, concepts of line, strategy and tactics and the basics of historical and dialectical materialism. Each of these topics are key for leaders to understand.
Organizing means working and studying every day. In addition to the topics above, you can study more practical skills that can be used to serve the people such as legal skills, healthy living skills and how to better communicate through writing and the spoken word. Prisoners are surrounded by potential comrades who can't even read! We need Serve the People literacy programs. Combining these practical trainings with the political study and trainings promoted above will allow leaders to both attract new people with things they can relate to, while providing guidance that illuminates the reality of our greater society.
Principled organizing builds trust and dedication, which are two thing that comrades often report being in short supply in U.$. prisons. Principled organizing is how we can overcome these shortcomings. It is not an easy, nor a quick solution. The opponent we face is strong, so only by studying it closely and battling strategically will we be able to overcome it.
Whatever other tactics comrades on the inside decide to take to continue this struggle against torture, the need for building, organizing, and educating is constant and at the strategic level. Without that the movement does not strengthen or advance. If you're taking up this work, we want to hear from you and we want to support you in your efforts.
I was confined to Ad-Seg in Harris County Jail while my case was under trial. Texas law requires the jail to give prisoners at least one hour a day for exercise and meaningful recreation. I stayed in segregation for nine months. Not once was I allowed out of cell exercise. I filed grievances, which were denied. I then filed a Section 1983 lawsuit for violation of my 14th amendment right to due process. The litigation is ongoing, however the jail refuses to stop this barbaric and inhumane treatment of 24 hour lockdown. The "justice" system is failing to protect the incarcerated individual. Again.
I traded several of my meals to other prisoners for a few stamps. I was only able to gather 5 stamps. I know it's not much, but I hope it helps some. I have been spreading the MIM(Prisons) campaigns, and have put together a small group of other prisoners to remember the Attica uprising. We have planned a fast for September 9, 2013.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is organizing others to participate in the country-wide demonstration September 9. Calling attention to the treatment of prisoners, this demonstration coincides with the anniversary of the Attica uprising.
Regarding the dietary petition you sent to my friend, we had those 10 filled out immediately, well 9. I sent one to the law library to get 10 copies made. From these 10, I had 9 more signed within a day. I tried to send it to the law library to have copies made again. I was informed that I would not receive copies because the law library would not copy blank forms. The form was returned ripped, with my cell # written on it in permanent marker. Of course this was a lie. Ely State Prison does copy blank forms, they just don't want me copying the petition and/or distributing it.
However I erased my name etc. from the form, sent it out to a comrade of mine in San Diego, and I asked for 30 copies so I could distribute them. This comrade sent me 100 copies. I did receive these copies, and have been passing them around, and have received many more signed copies. I and another are also attempting to send copies to individuals in other institutions. However, my mail is now being read and I have been informed that if I continue to distribute and push the petition I will be written up and my transfer request denied.
I have been housed at Ely State Prison (ESP) since 2002. ESP is a supermax where we are locked down 24 hours a day. I have spent 8 years trying to get a transfer. I was finally approved last month, and this threat to keep me here is their way of trying to force me to stop passing around the petition. I am not going to stop with my effort to have these petitions signed. If it costs me my transfer so be it, I've been here almost 11 years, I can handle more!
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is just one more example of how Amerika uses long-term isolation as a form of social control against those trying to organize for better conditions, even small reforms around basic needs. This comrade's determination to continue the fight against food deprivation, even with the threat of ongoing long-term solitary confinement, is an example for prisoners everywhere. This campaign has gained support among prisoners in Nevada because it is a clear problem for all prisoners, and one that we can reasonably expect to win. We do need to be clear when spreading campaigns such as this one that this is just a small battle that must be part of a broader effort to educate and organize prisoners against the criminal injustice system. Only an anti-imperialist movement with the long-term goal of a system where no group of people oppresses another group has a chance of putting an end to the criminal injustice of imperialism. The oppressed, united under this goal, must build a new state that applies proletarian justice, making depriving people of basic food and medical care a crime that is punished and eliminated.
I've been through quite a lot in the six months or so since I've become involved in the anti-imperialist movement. Starting out in a state prison here in Massachusetts, I began by trying to devour as much literature as I could on our collective struggle. In order to digest the principles upon which our rebellion is based, I have tried to discuss the ideas with other prisoners. However, I found it incredibly perverse that so many other prisoners would posture and pay lip service to the principles yet when it comes down to forming any kind of movement they were cowed by the mere thought of the oppressor.
For example, I attempted to initiate a grievance campaign. There were actually people willing to get involved but I had to write up each individual grievance myself. Although this took up much of my personal time I gladly did it, and actually saw some results. The prison was serving rotten potatoes for about four years. Changed. Open shower drain in one shower with the possibility of serious injury. Fixed. Broken law library computer in the cell block. Fixed. Broken law library computer in segregation. Fixed. I suppose the grievances weren't all for nothing.
A couple of months ago I was transferred from state prison to a county jail to serve a separate sentence. Now I'm getting ready to file my first civil suits against this jail regarding the disciplinary process. Hopefully the changes that I seek will stop the current disciplinary staff from smoking everyone on their misconduct reports. Indeed, there is a lot of shady stuff going on in the disciplinary board office, especially the use of duplicate offenses to rack up extra segregation time as a tool of oppression and complete non-compliance with the jail's own policy and procedures regarding disciplinary hearings.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We get many letters from activists behind bars who are frustrated with the lack of interest and support from their fellow prisoners. There are several important things to keep in mind when thinking about why we can't quickly and easily unite all (or most) prisoners behind the anti-imperialist cause. First, prisoners come from the same wealthy society that, on the streets, keeps the vast majority of Amerikans supporting imperialism. While the class status of lumpen prisoners makes them more likely to take up anti-imperialism, they are not immune to the wealth and culture of Amerika.
Second, even where class and nation interests might put someone on the side of the anti-imperialist movement, we have some serious educational work to do to counter all the reactionary education they got for most of their life. While some will instinctively join the revolution, drawing correct conclusions from their own life and education, others will need patient education and observation of our practice. This is true in all revolutionary movements, and it is the job of our leaders, people who already see the importance of the anti-imperialist struggle, to approach people where they are at, and patiently provide them information and examples as we work to win them over. If we look at socialism in China in the 1960s, we see that even after seizing state power and all of their great achievements, they still had to wage a vigorous Cultural Revolution to combat bourgeois ideas all the way up to the Party's central committee. So we should not be surprised, nor get frustrated, by the resistance we face in the United $tates today.
It is victories like those grievance battles won, combined with education to give people the broader context for our struggle, that will help us to win supporters and turn them into new activists. Always keep in mind that you were not born an anti-imperialist. Someone had to provide you with education, information and/or examples. Now it is your turn to do the same for others.
I'm writing to give you an update on the protest back in June. The protest in June was just the start. The real protest will jump off in October. The one in June went on for six days, not two. It was on for two days before the south and north compounds took part. We really wanted to go off with the July 8 one, but things here were getting so bad the prisoners just couldn't hold back any longer. By October all should be ready. If not, those that are prepared will be ready to share the understanding of what is going on so all the population will be on the same page. And everyone understands this is a peaceful protest, too much is just not right. I'm not the one doing the talking but I'm surely a part.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As another comrade from New Jersey reported: "Although nothing has changed as of the writing of this report, it is important to highlight that the level of unity achieved across nations and groups, the effective organization of the protest, and the fearful response by the state demonstrate the power of non-violent resistance in a corrections environment." We agree this unity is critical. We are seeing unity in resistance in prisons across the country. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to educate and build. As this prisoner points out, those who are ready for October in New Jersey will share information so that all the population will understand. We call on anti-imperialist comrades in prison to expand this education and take this opportunity to educate others about the nature of the injustice system and its role in imperialism in general. Protests to improve conditions are important, but they are just the start.
I was discussing the issue of declining membership with a well known organizational leader with tens of thousands of followers. He stated that you only want to write if it is behind your philosophy, and that you criticize anyone who does not agree with your strategy. He specifically mentioned the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. So your criticism, well intended or not, is doing more dividing than uniting.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter is responding to the article in ULK 33summarizing our annual congress which reported that our number of subscribers has dropped in the past year. First, we want to be clear that subscribers are not the same thing as members. We reported in the same article that the number of active United Struggle from Within members has increased over the past year. But still, we want to see an increase in ULK readers as well and so this is a bad trend.
It is true that MIM(Prisons) is critical of other organizations. This is because we see political struggle and education as fundamental to building an effective revolutionary movement. The MXGM is a good example of an organization that we have reported favorably about in the past. But we need to be honest about where we see faults in the political lines or strategies of other organizations. We hope others will do the same for us. We cannot build real unity if we just ignore significant disagreements over political line and strategy.
Further, we work towards a United Front with all organizations who can unite with us on basic goals. This is an important Maoist strategy that allows different organizations to come together for common goals without sacrificing their independence or brushing real political differences under the rug.
We see these practices as principled. It may lead some individuals to dismiss MIM(Prisons) as too divisive, but we see the real divisiveness in those groups that refuse to publicly acknowledge political differences while privately gossiping or positioning themselves into power. We are willing to lose a few supporters who can't take open political discussion and disagreements to maintain clarity of political line.
It seems as if all chaos has been released on this unit, as now the security officers and administration officers are denying prisoners here their prescribed medication. Medical wants to close evening pill dispensing at 5.30pm whether all prisoners get their medication or not, to avoid overtime. The unit is relatively small and if run by security staff properly, it could run pill window for all prisoners by 5:30pm. But the prison creates conditions that make this impossible, delaying count, shutting down prisoner movement, etc.
Because of a lack of proper medication several prisoners have had violent epileptic seizures. Other prisoners have gone days at a time without their medication. A building missed their medication three days straight.
It is obvious that the wheels have fallen off when the medical department blames security for such denials of a person's medication, and security blames medical by stating they "have no control over medical decisions."
Four days out of ten last month I myself missed medication, and I was placed in protected custody twice for speaking out against such blatant violation of our rights. Because of this, trouble is brewing that presents an environment that is hostile and unsafe for both officers and prisoners, a violation of our right to a safe and secure place to do our time.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Medical neglect is all too common in Amerikan prisons. This should be no surprise as capitalism puts profits before health, and in the case of prisons it puts social control before health. This is a clear example of the criminal injustice system punishing prisoners just for the sake of punishment. There is no possible rehabilitative purpose to denying prisoners their medicine. It is a way to put lives in danger. They might claim to save a few dollars on staff overtime in the short run, but the long-term financial cost of treating seriously ill prisoners will far exceed these savings as many prisoners are on medication critical to control serious conditions.
The abysmal health care in Amerikan prisons mirrors the situation on the streets in this country that spends more money per persyn on health care than any other in the world, but yet has far poorer health than most First World countries and even some Third World countries. Ironically this poor health hits the wealthy in Amerika too. These are some ways in which communism will serve all the world's people, not just the poor. Although the wealthy will be brought down to the same economic level as everyone else in the world, improvements in healthcare, an end to environmental destruction, and opportunities to lead productive lives are all important enhancements in life that all will enjoy when capitalism is overthrown.
The Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) recently stepped in(1) to defend Turning the Tide against our USW comrade's critiques.(2) We can appreciate the greater clarity and honesty in Rashid's piece compared to Michael Novick's, but still cannot forgive him for getting the first question of importance to communists wrong: who are our friends and who are our enemies? Like Jose Maria Sison and Bob Avakian, Rashid has long been exposed to MIM line and writing, and many attempts to struggle with him have been made. It does great damage to the International Communist Movement when these people become icons of "Maoism" in many peoples' eyes, while promoting chauvinistic lines on the role of the oppressor nations under imperialism.
Rashid opens his piece with the most common strawpersyn argument of the revisionists, that the MIM line is wrong because Marx and Lenin never abandoned organizing among Europeans and Amerikans. Rashid needs to be more specific if he's claiming there are groups that are refusing to work with white people or moving to the Third World to organize. While our work mostly targets prisoners, we target prisoners of all nationalities, and similarly our street work is not very nation-specific. The question we would ask instead of "should we organize Amerikans?", is, "what is going to achieve communism faster, organizing rich people around demands for more money, or organizing them around ideas of collective responsibility for equal distribution of humyn needs and ecological sustainability?"
Rashid's third paragraph includes some numbers and math and at first glance i thought it might have some concrete analysis. But alas, the numbers appear just for show as they are a) made up numbers, and b) reflecting the most simple calculation that Marx teaches us to define surplus value. To counter Rashid's empty numbers, let us repeat our most basic math example here. If Amerikans are exploited, then to end exploitation would mean they need to get paid more money. Dividing the global GDP by the number of full-time laborers gives an equitable distribution of income of around $10,000 per persyn per year.(3) To be fair, in Rashid's article he addresses this and quotes Marx to say that we cannot have an equitable distribution of income. In that quote from Wages, Price and Profit Marx was writing about capitalism, which is inherently exploitative. Our goal is communism, or "from each according to her ability, to each according to her need." But we're not there yet, Rashid might argue. OK fine, let's take Rashid's hypothetical McDonald's worker making $58 per 8 hour workday. If we assume 5 days a week and 50 weeks a year we get $14,500 per year. According to the World Bank, half of the world's people make less than $1,225 per year.(4) That report also showed that about 10% of Amerikans are in the world's richest 1% and that almost half of the richest 1% are Amerikans. So Rashid wants to argue that under capitalism it is just that the lowest paid Amerikans earn over 10 times more than half of the world's population because their labor is worth that much more? How is that? What Marx was talking about in Wages, Price and Profit was scientific: a strong persyn might be twice as productive as a weak one, or a specially trained persyn might add more value than an unskilled persyn. So Rashid wants to use this to justify paying anyone who was birthed as a U.$. citizen 10 to 25 times, or more, the average global rate of pay? We have no idea how Rashid justifies this disparity except through crass Amerikan chauvinism.
This empty rhetoric is not Marxism. It is ironic how today people will use this basic formulation for surplus value from Marx to claim people of such vastly different living conditions are in the same class. No one else in the world looks at the conditions in the United $tates and Haiti and thinks, "these countries should really unite to address their common plight." It is only pseudo-Marxists and anarchists who read a little Marx who can come up with such crap.
Rashid later establishes commonality across nations with the definition, "The proletariat simply is one who must sell her labor power to survive, which is as true for the Amerikan worker as it is for one in Haiti." We prefer Marx's definition that the proletariat are those who have nothing to lose but their chains. According to Rashid, we should determine whether someone is exploited based on different measuring sticks depending on what country they live in. Apparently, in the United $tates you must have a $20,000 car, a $200,000 home and hand-held computers for every family member over 5 in order "to survive." Whereas in other countries electricity and clean water are optional. More chauvinism.
Rashid continues discussing class definitions,
"For instance, if there's no [Euro-Amerikan] ('white') proletariat in the US, then there's also no New Afrikan/Black one. If a EA working in McDonalds isn't a proletarian, then neither is one of color. If there's no New Afrikan proletariat, then there's no New Afrikan lumpen proletariat either ("lumpen" literally means "broken"—if they were never of the proletariat, they could not become a 'broken' proletariat)."
Lumpen is usually translated as "rag." Even in the United $tates we have a population of people who live in rags, who have very little to lose. However, we completely agree with Rashid's logic here. And that is why MIM(Prisons) started using the term "First World lumpen" to distinguish from "lumpenproletariat." There is little connection between the lumpen in this country and a real proletariat, with the exceptions being within migrant populations and some second generation youth who form a bridge between Third World proletariat, First World semi-proletariat and First World lumpen classes. Rashid continues,
"Yet the VLA [vulgar labor aristocracy] proponents recognize New Afrikan prisoners as 'lumpen' who are potentially revolutionary. Which begs the question, why aren't they doing work within the oppressed New Afrikan communities where they're less apt to be censored, if indeed they compose a lumpen sector?"
This is directed at us, so we will answer: historical experience and limited resources. As our readers should know, we struggle to do the things we do to support prisoner education programs and organizing work. We do not have the resources right now to do any serious organizing outside of prisons. And we made the conscious decision of how we can best use our resources in no small part due to historical experience of our movement. In other words we go where there is interest in revolutionary politics. The margins, the weakest links in the system, that is where you focus your energy. Within the lumpen class, the imprisoned lumpen have a unique relationship to the system that results in a strong contradiction with that system. The imprisoned population could also be considered 100% lumpen, whereas less than 20% of the New Afrikan nation is lumpen, the rest being among various bourgeois classes, including the labor aristocracy.
"And if the lumpen can be redeemed, why not EA [Euro-Amerikan] workers?"
Again, look at history. Read J. Sakai's Settlers and read about the Black Panther Party. Today, look at the growing prison system and the regular murder of New Afrikan and other oppressed nation youth by the pigs. Look at where the contradictions and oppression are.
The only really interesting thing about this piece is that Rashid has further drawn a line between the MIM camp and the slew of anarchist and crypto-Trotskyist organizations who are still confused about where wealth comes from. They think people sitting at computers typing keys are exploited, and Rashid accuses our line of requiring "surplus value falling from the sky!" We already told you where the high wages in the imperialist countries came from, Rashid, the Third World proletariat! That is why the average Amerikan makes 25 times the average humyn, and why all Amerikans are in the top 13% in income globally. As the revisionists like to remind us, wealth disparity just keeps getting greater and greater under capitalism. The labor aristocracy today is like nothing that V.I. Lenin ever could have witnessed. We must learn from the methods of Marx and Lenin, not dogmatically repeat their analysis from previous eras to appease Amerikans.
In 2001 at the Lynaugh Unit in Fort Stockton while at medical out in the cage "outside waiting" a man came out of medical and turned around and hit the door, then fell out. The guard kicked the man and told him to go to his cell. Then the guard kicked him once more and told him once more to go to his cell. The man was dead! He had gone to medical to complain about chest pain. The doctor and nurse checked him out and told him that nothing was wrong. This is due to the lack of real medical attention given in prison.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Medical neglect is a serious problem in Amerikan prisons. While the government reports deaths in custody, they do not report how many of those were avoidable. Under Lock & Key reports many deaths as well as cases of medical neglect that do not immediately lead to death, but we only cover a small number of the incidents. Exposing this abuse is a critical element in our fight against the criminal injustice system. We need to share this information both with other prisoners and with people on the streets, and urge them to think about why we have a prison system that wants to let people die of neglect. This is not a system trying to rehabilitate people, it is a system of social control, serving imperialism.
19 August 2013 - Today, a federal court approved the force-feeding of people who are on hunger strike in California prisons to protest torture in the form of long-term isolation and group punishment. The force-feeding itself is considered torture by many, including those who have been on hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay since February and have been suffering through force-feeding for months.
The decision in California came shortly after we posted a report from a comrade who was denied liquid supplements and collapsed on July 21 in Corcoran State Prison. Many others have collapsed since then, and the state's behavior has made it clear that the health of prisoners has not been a concern of theirs. They apply very strict rules to how they count people as being on "hunger strike," knowing that strikers depend on the state to report their numbers to the public, forcing them to abide by these rules that don't allow for any electrolytes.
The state has consistently used health care as a weapon to manipulate prisoners into submission, rather than act as the custodians of health and safety that they claim to be. Now that strikers are approaching life-threatening conditions, the CDCR is acting to prevent them from exercising one of the strongest forms of protest that they have from within these isolation cells. The attention given to the situation inside California prisons right now is already unprecedented and they fear that if more prisoners die they may lose their power to torture prisoners in the future. The torture is important to them because it is what they believe to be their best tool to prevent the oppressed from fighting their oppression (the injustice system's true purpose). The ongoing hunger strike, decades in the making, has begun to turn the tables on that idea though.
This recent report asserts that 70 of 130 prisoners currently on hunger strike have been going since July 8, 2013. There are a number of groups of prisoners in California who are ready to restart hunger strike in support of the 70 (or more) who are in it for the long haul as the struggle heightens.
In the months leading up to July 8, there was some debate about the return to the hunger strike tactic, particularly as previous attempts were aborted prematurely without any changes from the state. But those first two strikes resonated among the oppressed across the country, and particularly in California where 30,000 prisoners stood up against long-term isolation on July 8, 2013. As we approach 50 days on strike, and repeated assertions from participants that they will not stop for mere promises this time, this struggle is approaching a crucial point. To date, control units have been a fairly effective tool of repression. But if oppression breeds resistance, then even these tools of total control can be overcome. At no other point have we been closer to that goal than we are right now. Those who have and will give their lives for this struggle must not die in vain. Those 30,000 plus prisoners who supported this campaign must take every opportunity over the coming months to build, educate and organize to prepare for the next phase of this struggle. A failure to seize this moment in the prison movement will mean much more suffering for the imprisoned lumpen in the decades to come.
I will be fasting this September 9. I've been on lockup since 2011 but I will refuse my trays from midnight to midnight Sept 9, 2013 to pay homage to the fallen brothers of the cause in Attica and everywhere else! And I will encourage other brothers to do so as well.
The pigs decided to give us showers today. They are walking each cell to the shower individually. Three pigs for one inmate, one of which is holding an assault rifle looking gun that shoots paintballs of mace. Cowards!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend this comrade for stepping up to the United Front for Peace in Prisons call for a solidarity demonstration on September 9th after reading only one issue of Under Lock & Key. We would not call the pigs cowards for their vast outnumbering and assault weapon use with prisoners: this is realistic fear of the power of the oppressed. Right now we don't have the level of unity in the prisons to present more than sporadic points of resistance, but the very event this comrade mentions, the Attica uprising, demonstrates the potential power of prisoners when acting in unity. This unity is built through struggle and discussion, something that is much easier when prisoners have contact with one another. And for this reason, this active prisoner, and tens of thousands of others, are on lockup in isolation cells, being kept from contact with others so that they can not spread the dangerous ideology of unity and peace among prisoners.
We have received word from another comrade in Maryland that others are participating in this 24 hour fast on September 9th to commemorate the Attica brothers unity and organization.
[In response to the article MIM(Prisons) printed about the Martinez hunger strike demands, calling on prisoners there not to isolate the "mental health" prisoners from the "non-mental health" prisoners, we received the following update and clarification.]
Maybe we were not clear on the housing of mental health prisoners here in Ad-Seg. Our point is that there is an entire module for mental health prisoners where they can get help for their issues with trained staff. There is no mental health staff stationed in Ad-Seg, and no groups or therapy for prisoners. Bottom line is, mental health prisoners should not be housed in Ad-Seg on the whims of classification unit. Yes these guys are a headache to have in Ad-Seg, but more importantly they receive no help and deteriorate further by being warehoused in Ad-Seg. We are not trying to cause division in the prison population.
There are 53 inmates housed in Ad-Seg here. 13 prisoners did a 24 hour support strike while 5 of us continued for 6 to 12 days. We continue to support all those still on strike. Our strike is suspended, not stopped. If we do not continue to move forward in our demands or we come to a place in time when it is warranted, then we will continue our strike.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter addresses our criticism of the demand by MDF prisoners to "immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of improperly housing inmates with mental health issues among the non-mental-health-status Ad-Seg detainees" as unnecessarily divisive. The original demand complained of the disruptive behaviors from the mental health prisoners but did not mention the lack of treatment options for these individuals. If conditions are better in the mental health module, it would be an improvement for these individuals to escape Ad-Seg and be placed there. However, the "treatment" for people with mental health problems in the United $tates is, at best, a targeting of the symptoms, and at worst leaves people either physically or medically restrained in a drug-induced stupor.
Mental illness in prisoners can often be linked to the conditions in which they are housed, especially long-term isolation. So we are naturally skeptical of any treatment offered by those same captors who insist on locking people up in conditions that induce the health problems in the first place. But we appreciate the additional explanation that the MDF prisoners did not intend the demand for mental health prisoners to be divisive but rather targeted treatment for these individuals. We hope they will consider carefully the wording of such demands in the future.
In the short term, we know that capitalism will continue to produce new cases of mental illness which can not be successfully treated until we address the problems of a society that generates these illnesses. We look to China under Mao for an example of successful treatment of mental health conditions by addressing both the immediate problems and the systemic roots of these conditions.
Meanwhile, the comrades in Martinez are not the only ones on suspended hunger strike. A number of comrades have reported a willingness to restart in support of the five core demands as the struggle heightens.
The bourgeoisie seems to be losing the battle for free enterprise against the repressive U.$. government. There can no longer be any commercial email service that does not provide direct access to all its users' information to the U.$. intelligence agencies. We discovered this today when our email server, lavabit.com, was no longer accessible and the owner posted a message stating,
I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations.
The clear implication is that the feds approached him to demand access to the communications on his server. Existing communications were advertised as not accessible to anyone but the user who owns the account. In order to not release any future user info to the feds he shut down the server; a decision surely not taken lightly when people depend on their email for so much of their lives.
All of this comes on the heels of the release of information on the U.$. National Security Agency's (NSA) system of monitoring all electronic communications in the world. Information released makes it clear that all major commercial software companies have provided backdoors to their software and online services to the U.$. government. With the destruction of Lavabit and TorMail, it seems clear that the United $tates has no intention of letting any exceptions to that rule continue. Whistleblower Edward Snowden was known to use lavabit.com for his email, leading many to conclude that Lavabit was a victim of the U.$. hunt for Snowden himself. Others have speculated that the attack on Tor was an attempt to scare people out of the so-called darknet and back into the friendly arms of Google, Microsoft, et al.
While using allegedly secure online services can provide an extra layer of protection, you cannot rely on an unknown party for your security anyway. That is why services with built in PGP encryption, like hushmail.com, are a joke from the get go. Hushmail.com openly works with the Amerikan government already even though they are not a U.$. company. Certainly other nations will attempt to seize the competitive advantage they now have over a business that has long been dominated by U.$. companies. And as we recently said, the positive of all this is a surge in demand and innovation in the realm of computer security.
For now, you cannot email MIM(Prisons); instead, see our contact page. We will be investigating alternative solutions and post them on our announcements and contact page once they are available. If you're still using unencrypted email for political work, get with the times and start studying our security links on our contact page. The last revolutionary generation underestimated the role of COINTELPRO until it was too late. It would be a crime against the people for us to make the same mistake with everything we know today.
16 July 2013 - I would like the brothers in the struggle to be aware that their movement is being felt all the way on the east coast. As you are aware I was last at Auburn Korrectional Facility. I was put in the box and given a 180 day sentence for rallying 22 other komrades on this end to go on a food strike in support of our brothers out west. It got so bad that 8 of us were held in the kamp's hospital and a court order was given to force feed us. I just got out of the hospital yesterday and I have restarted my strike along with the other 7 brothers I spoke of.
The pigs have violated our property and they have destroyed our books, including my Afrikana, Assata, and my Black's laws dictionary that my dad bought for me before he died. To make things even worse they destroyed my pictures, including a lot of my parents who are both in the essence now. I don't have any family outside these walls, so my komrads (and a deep seeded hatred of how these pink pigs treat us) are all I have.
I wanted you to print this in your next issue because I know how them brothers are struggling and they may think that they are in it by themselves. But I want them to know that they have some real militant brothers who have lost a lot now to join them in their struggle. There are only 7 others with me out of the 22 of us who put this thing into effect over here. The rest of my komrades have been scattered in other koncentration kamps. New York State has about 65 prisons from maximum security, which we are in, to minimums. What I do know is that we are on watch and soon will be whisked away where these pigs will fill us up intravenously so they can say they care. But we will continue our movement on y'all behalf until we hear or read that y'all have received the basic necessities in which you are fighting for.
MIM(Prisons) adds: While they are no doubt facing significant repression and conditions that merit struggle in New York, these comrades have stepped up to fight on behalf of the hunger striking prisoners in California. This prisoner and his comrades demonstrate the important principals of unity and self-sacrifice that are so critical to building the communist movement. While we frequently appeal to prisoners' self-interest in calling them to action, when this self-interest in aligned with the interests of the anti-imperialist movement, ultimately communists will act without regard for self-interest, in the service of the oppressed.
On 07-19-2013 all MDF hunger strikers suspended their hunger strike. Below are the demands that were met by MDF command staff:
DEMAND #1 was granted in full. Classification shall tell you in writing what you are being held in Ad-Seg for as well as program expectations to be released from Ad-Seg.
DEMAND #2 Command staff is working to come up with a free time schedule that follows title 15 standards. One part of this that is granted in full is that all detainees will be given an opportunity to empty their trash can EVERYDAY.
DEMAND #3 had 3 parts. Two parts were granted in full. MDF medical/mental health staff shall no longer conduct ANY type of appointment on the intercom system nor at detainees’ cell door where private medical issues are heard by others in violation of medical privacy laws (HIPPA). The third part of allowing Ad-Seg detainees’ to reach medical triage on the phone systems, as all other modules do, is still being worked on with command staff.
DEMAND #4 Command staff informed classification to ONLY house mentally ill inmates on D-module as a last resort.
DEMAND #5 was granted in full. ALL MDF detainees’ will be allowed to purchase ink pen fillers from canteen. Also necessary photo copies will be made for detainees’ filing court documents. These will be implemented in a reasonable time frame.
It is in good faith that we suspend our hunger strike and that MDF command staff will continue to implement our 5 Core Demands. MDF command staff has been very open to our ideas. With the exception of DR. DENNIS MCBRIDE who tried to guide detainees’ into refusing water as well as food. We hope all other hunger strikers can get some much needed relief on their demands. If this does not occur we will resume our hunger strike. Special thank you to our loved ones on the streets, all organizations and media outlets who covered our struggle, as well as Sarah Shroud, Shane Bauer- Welcome home & Dan Horowitz, Nicole, Lesli and Mikes sister.
MIM(Prisons) responds: See the original article announcing the Martinez demands where we address the shortcomings of their demands, which included segregating mentally ill prisoners. The victories here are small reforms riding on the coat tails of the central struggle here, which is to shut down long-term isolation. Control units were originally created to separate leaders from the general population. But this division has been two-fold in that now the interests of those in control units are not felt as dearly by those in general population. Even so, the last few weeks have shown a great level of consciousness among the whole prison population about the inhumane conditions those comrades in SHU and Ad-Seg face. We hope those who stood up in Martinez continue to support that struggle, which is really central to the prison movement itself. Without a prison movement, prisoners have no real means of addressing abuse, which can be so common in prison.
To: Sheriff David O. Livingston, Under Sheriff Michael V. Casten and All Martinez Detention Facility Command Staff, Deputies and Officials
From: Pretrial Detainees, Inmates, Prisoners and Civil Commitments housed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) in D-Module at Martinez Detention Facility
PLEASE TAKE NOTICE: On Monday 8 July 2013, detainees housed in Ad-Seg will actively be taking part in the hunger strike being implemented statewide by prisoners, inmates, detainees (etc.) confined under unconstitutional conditions in California state prisons and jails.
Martinez Detention Facility (MDF) Ad-Seg detainees support the core and supplemental demands of our partners in Pelican Bay Prison Ad-Seg/SHU programs and we join them in opposition of their, and ALL, unconstitutional conditions of confinement in all California state prisons and jails.
MDF Ad-Seg detainees hereby also provide notice of our own 5 Core Demands to stop unconstitutional conditions of confinement blatantly enforced here at MDF.
CORE DEMAND 1
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice, and unofficial policy of placing detainees in Ad-Seg without any due process. Some detainees have been held in Ad-Seg indefinitely (over 5 years) without any notice, hearing or due process required by Constitutional Law. If a detainee submits a request or grievance on the issue, they receive a response from classification only stating "you are housed appropriately."
CORE DEMAND 2
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of locking detainees in filthy cells with no windows or light controls for 48 hours (or more) before being allowed out of our cell for 1 hour to shower, groom, use phone, exercise and inadequately attempt to clean our cells.
Detainees request that they be allowed out of their cells for at least 1 hour daily in the morning, afternoon or evening and also be allowed to shave daily as state regulations require.
Incorporated within this demand, detainees also seek a provision for a daily opportunity to clean their cells. Currently detainees are only allowed (every 48 hours or longer) a broom, dust pan, and a mop. They are not provided with disinfectant, toilet bowl cleaner, rags, or any other cleaning supplies to adequately clean cells. Detainees must also keep trash (from 6 meals) in their cells for 48 hours or more.
CORE DEMAND 3
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of daily holding medical and mental health appointments at the detainees' cell doors which allows all other detainees to hear the confidential medical/mental health issues. This is in violation of the "Medical Act and Privacy Rights." Detainees also seek the equal protection of a "TRIAGE" phone line as other MDF detainees on other modules are provided.
CORE DEMAND 4
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of improperly housing inmates with mental health issues among the non-mental-health-status Ad-Seg detainees. Currently all Ad-Seg detainees are subject to the behaviors, problems, actions and disorders of the mental health status Ad-Seg inmates which include:
Loud yelling/banging all night, keeping detainees awake.
Getting feces and urine thrown under detainees doors.
Delusional actions/comments against or towards detainees.
Spitting through detainee doors or on glass.
Feces, urine, debris etc. in shower, hot water pot, on floor
Breaking and/or destroying hair clippers/shavers, preventing other detainees from using for court, visits, etc.
CORE DEMAND 5
MDF Ad-Seg detainees demand Sheriff/Jail officials immediately cease and desist the unconstitutional custom, practice and unofficial policy of denying all MDF detainees access to pens to submit legal work to the courts, nor copying provisions for our writs and other valid legal documents to the court. Also, there is no readily continuous access to a pencil sharpener which is often broken, preventing detainees from writing legal documents and/or sending letters to family and friends for weeks.
There are many more unconstitutional conditions of confinement here at MDF. Those are 5 of the most egregious which we present as issues. Detainees will be hunger striking to correct, beginning Monday 8 July 2013.
Detainees peacefully and respectfully request that Contra Costa County Sheriff Office engage in swift and prompt actions to correct these unconstitutional conditions of confinement.
- MDF Hunger Strike Representative
MIM(Prisons) responds: While we support the hunger strike going on in Martinez Detention Facility, we would like to warn against creating unnecessary divisions between prisoners. We have reported in the past that mental health status is greatly exacerbated by the conditions of imprisonment generally, and especially of long-term isolation. Often times these prisoners are put in isolation (or even imprisoned in the first place) because of their disruptive behavior stemming from their mental illness, which does nothing to improve their condition.
Not only does imprisonment worsen the condition of those who already suffer from mental illness, but it can, and does, induce mental illness in people who would otherwise not suffer from delusions, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, sensitivity to light, noise, and touch, suicidal thoughts, etc. It is well documented,(1) and MIM(Prisons) has witnessed first hand, that the state uses long-term isolation as a tactic to specifically wreck the mental health of prisoners who are engaged in political work and organizing.
While we understand the impact that this disruptive behavior has on this contributor's ability to sleep and focus, we worry that a demand to send mentally ill prisoners "away" would lead to further isolation and deterioration.
Mental illness isn't caused by inadequacies within individuals, but is instead a symptom of all the irreconcilable contradictions in our society. Mental illness has systemic roots. Therefore, all short-term solutions to help people with mental illness in this country are just bandaids on gaping wounds. Reported in Serve the People: Observations on Medicine in the People's Republic of China, a book by Victor and Ruth Sidel, all mental health conditions in communist China under Mao were cured except for some extreme cases of schizophrenia, and those who had previously been suffering became productive members of society. Reasons for this turnaround include not only relief from stressors which had previously led people to mental illness — severe gender oppression, inability to survive or thrive, etc. — but also a flood of resources dedicated to mental health research and application which hadn't been possible before when society was organized based on the profit motive.
Around 1971, the Sidels wrote,
The methods currently being used to treat mental illness are collective help, self-reliance, drug therapy, acupuncture, "heart-to-heart talks," follow-up care, community ethos, productive labor, the teachings of Mao Tse-tung, and "revolutionary optimism."
They go on to explain in detail what each of these methods consists of.
Similar to how feudalism in pre-liberation China led many wimmin to suicide, it is clear that most mental illness is a direct result of our capitalist and imperialist society. The most stark example of this being the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by at least 20% of U.$. veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars.(2) Hearing any account from a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, you can see that a large contributing factor to the PTSD is the unjust nature of these wars; killing for no reason. In People's War, the cause is just (self-defense) and the aim isn't to murder and intimidate, but to liberate the most oppressed and create a better world for everyone. That is quite a contrast.
We know it is difficult to organize in Ad-Seg, and we know it is especially difficult to organize with people who are in the middle of full-blown mental illness. But we still encourage our comrades to look for ways for prisoners to come together against their common enemy and to fight on behalf of the common good of all prisoners and oppressed people generally. A more progressive demand than number 4 above would be an end to solitary confinement for all prisoners. For more on our perspective on mental health, see Under Lock & Key 15 or MIM Theory 9: Psychology & Imperialism.
We've had a recent death here due to use of excessive force. We've been dealing with that, getting outside sources to reach out to and filing complaints on the inside. I've had only one response from outside: the Houston Police Department's internal affairs. They've told us that our complaint has been sent to the state Inspector General's office. I was told yesterday that 20 or so men who filed complaints have been given some sort of case for filing. I have to look into that.
Our close comrades have been busy coordinating weightlifting and basketball events. These events allow us to increase our profile and spread our message of unitary conduct. This also encourages others to adopt the principles which make us comrades. So, maintaining that as a sustained front has been a priority. This is how we are able to locate minds who are receptive to USW literature and who are prepared to come into greater degrees of organizing. We're finishing up our basketball season this week. We are signing up rosters for a soccer tournament which will begin next week. And we are beginning to coordinate our 3rd annual unit-wide collective fellowship meal, which has always been a powerful way of advocating for unity across ethnic and racial boundaries.
So, in addition to writing to you and four other outside groups united in our struggle, I need to, today, brief 5 other comrades who want to coordinate functions of their own under our banner. I mentor a young development of 2 others who are new to our collective. And I need to get at least 10 others some recent commentary to keep them in the loop. I absolutely need to delegate more. But even that is a process in itself in this environment.
While all of this is going on, I've had to mediate a situation where a young comrade had a conflict with a white guy. Because the white guy was so much bigger and older, Black families were upset. Because Blacks got involved and the white guy used to be associated, white families are upset. So, you try to keep the peace while pride and ego come into play. The whole time understanding the stakes involved, the potential for escalation, and knowing that the Mexicans are watching Triple C closely right now, judging how I conduct myself in the affair.
I realize always that lives are on the line. I do the work so that these men and their children can gain more power to determine their economic, political, and social condition. So much of that work involves meeting cats where they are at, and working to provide solutions to immediate needs; doing that while communicating one big picture, and while demonstrating methods of achieving evolved conditions of living.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of the day-to-day ground work that revolutionaries engage in to build the movement against imperialism. While exercise, in and of itself, may appear unrelated to anti-imperialism, this is something that can be turned into a solidarity activity, especially in prison where even such basic activities are greatly restricted. We have reported on similar organizing in California prisons. This comrade is part of an organization that is in the United Front for Peace in Prisons which is focused on building peace and unity within the prison population. Wherever we can break down divisions between groups and build unity to fight our common oppressor we will contribute to a stronger anti-imperialist movement overall.
1 de Mayo, 2013 — El llamado movimiento obrero en los países imperialistas ha tenido un respaldo social e influencia muy limitados desde hace mucho tiempo debido a las condiciones increíblemente privilegiadas en las que la mayoría de los primermundistas viven. Así, en un intento de parecer relevantes, y tal vez para ocultar su nacionalismo blanco, éstos proclaman su "solidaridad" con las luchas de los trabajadores alrededor del mundo. En el peor de los casos, esta "solidaridad" se utiliza de forma activa para dirigir erróneamente la lucha del proletariado hacia el economismo y el seguimiento del modelo de desarrollo del primer mundo. Pero incluso cuando esa "solidaridad" se queda en palabras, se utiliza para defender el privilegio de las poblaciones explotadoras del primer mundo. En este Primero de Mayo, la entrevista principal del programa Democracy Now! (¡Democracia Ahora!) resumió esta tendencia.(1)
Charlie Kernaghan del Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (Instituto para el Trabajo Global y los Derechos Humanos) fue entrevistado en un segmento sobre la reciente tragedia en Bangladesh y la lucha obrera en general. Kernaghan nos informó que 421 personas han sido confirmadas muertas y otras 1,000 están aún desaparecidas, queriendo decir que probablemente han muerto bajo los escombras de la fábrica que se derrumbó. Explicó que los trabajadores no sólo fueron amenazados con no pagarles el mes, lo que significaría pasar hambre, sino que también se enfrentaban a la amenaza inmediata de matones con garrotes. Como nos enseñó la reciente explosión de fertilizantes en Texas, la búsqueda de los beneficios en el capitalismo pone en riesgo la vida de todos. Aún así, hoy una diferencia cuantitativa entre ser forzado a base de golpes a volver a una situación peligrosa, y el no ser consciente de que esa situación peligrosa existe. El riesgo relativo al que se enfrentan los trabajadores en el tercer mundo es más alto.
Como MIM y otros han mostrado en numerosas ocasiones, hay una diferencia cualitativa entre el salario que ganan los primermundistas y los proletarios explotados; el salario de los primeros está por encima del valor que generan, lo que los convierte en explotadores de los segundos(2). La conversación acerca de la tragedia en Bangladesh degeneró en nacionalismo blanco cuando la entrevistadora Amy Goodman comenzó a preguntarse sobre lo que deberíamos hacer. Después de defender la protección de los salarios Amerikanos, el invitado comenzó a pedir aranceles comerciales para las mercancías provenientes de países como Bangladesh hasta que puedan cumplir con ciertos estándares laborales similares a los de los Estados Unidos. Tal oposición al libre comercio organiza a los explotadores a costa de los explotados.
El tema tabú se hizo más difícil de ignorar cuando el invitado comenzó a hablar de trabajadores ganando 21 centavos a la vez que hablaba de la inmiseración de los trabajadores Amerikanos. Cuando Goodman empezó a danzar alrededor del tema de los salarios el invitado respondió: "Bueno, como dije con la legislación, no es nuestro trabajo el establecer salarios alrededor del mundo. Esto depende de los habitantes de cada país. Lo que si podemos hacer es exigir que si quieres traer productos a los Estados Unidos, debes dar a los trabajadores que los producen derechos legales."
¿Cómo es que podemos obligarles a aplicar leyes sobre trabajo infantil, pero en lo que se refiere a sus salarios el tercer mundo se las tiene que arreglar por su cuenta? ¿Cómo puedes hablar de "solidaridad internacional obrera" sin hablar de un salario mínimo internacional? La idea es ridícula y la única razón por la que esto sucede es porque los líderes obreros Amerikanos saben que el salario medio en el mundo está por debajo de lo que ellos ganan. Quieren seguir ganando más de lo que les corresponde y al mismo tiempo poner aranceles comerciales a los productos fabricados con mano de obra explotada.
Suponemos que las personas del Sur de Asia no confundirán a aquellos que ganan 20,000 dólares al año, o mucho más, como miembros del proletariado. Pero conforme nos acercamos al corazón del imperio la perspectiva de clase proletaria distorsiona más y más. No hay mejor ejemplo de ello hoy en día que el de Aztlán, donde trabajadores inmigrantes observan la enorme riqueza que les rodea y la posibilidad de obtener parte de ella. Después de que las naciones oprimidas tomaron el control del Primero de Mayo en los Estados Unidos hace siete años, el ala izquierda del nacionalismo blanco trabaja horas extra para infundir a este nuevo movimiento proletario en el corazón de la bestia con la linea política de la aristocracia obrera.
Hoy, conforme el gobierno federal declara estar cerca de promulgar una "reforma de inmigración" que equivaldrá a más excepcionalismo y favoritismo Amerikano, nosotros preferimos un enfoque basado en la reunificación de las familias que algunos ya defendieron en este Primero de Mayo en Los Ángeles. Este es un asunto que enlaza perfectamente con la cuestión nacional y no con las peticiones economicistas para un mayor acceso a salarios propios de los explotadores. La reunificación desafía la frontera represiva que mantiene a familias separadas, y mantiene a naciones completas alienadas de las riquezas que producen. Al igual que la integración dentro de los Estados Unidos ha avanzado, el desafio a la frontera y la lucha contra el nacionalismo blanco, o mejor dicho contra el primermundismo, necesita estar en el centro de un movimiento proletario progresivo en Aztlán. Estos son los problemas que realmente movilizaron a las masas en las manifestaciones del Primero de Mayo en 2006 en respuesta a la Amerika pro-Minutemen(3). Este es el espíritu con el que celebramos este Primero de Mayo.
Logic & Last Resort featuring Maverick Sabre, Akala & Big Frizzle from the album True Talk (2012)
[Logic] Let me start with the basic structures of a Western country Imperialism, it's all about the money While we moan and complain when it's not sunny Little kids hustle foods, tryna fill their tummy's And, every kid's seen a gun, when you go to places like Iraq and Afghanistan While kids over here think that shooting's fun Kids over there shoot to protect their mums And, over here, we can't claim real hardship Trust me, we don't really know what hard is A hard life, where your family is starving A hard life, where your family is killed by the army A life where you're seen as a target A life that you wish never started But, they got big hearts, big smiles and energy to make a change I make music for them to play
[Hook: Big Frizzle] I said we'll never know Because the places we've grown Ain't nothing like what they know Cause we'll never know
[Maverick Sabre] Whoa little lad, I know you're feeling sad Trust me there'll be better days you never had The pain you face will never last Try and say we ain't the same, walkin' to different paths Why must I hate? Turn on the TV and just sit and laugh But, that child'll never smile, he's lost his dad Seein' foreign flags fly above his mother land He's hearin' gunshots like shots from your block When he bleeds, do we not bleed the same blood? There's no lovin' growin' up as cold thugs Imagine growin' up where every sip of water makes you throw up Where soldiers patrol every road, throwin' stones To protect your home, all alone, when there's no-one else So they say we ain't relatives, cause the difference in our melanin As hell as being relevant, fuck it all, to hell with it This evil has been spreading it And, even if my death comes quick I'll be fighting 'til the end of it
[Sample] We live in a period where our world has both the resources, The technology and the know-how to end world poverty. But, unfortunately we also live in a point in time When at no other point in history has there been so much suffering
[Hook: Big Frizzle] Cause we'll never know
[Akala] Okay, let me make clear my position I know your estate feels like shit to live in And, watching mummy graft to stop bailiffs from ringing Is enough to make you wanna hit the block and start slingin' I've been there, no gas, no electric to the kitchen Fridge cuts off, defrosts and starts stinkin' Whether Gorbals in Glasgow, Mumbai or Brixton May not be the same shit but it is the same system But, this is Britain. As hard as some of us have it We're still far better off than ninety-percent of the planet And, that is what you learn, when you get to start travelling Unravelling the bullshit that they are babbling So, this is for the nameless, faceless Millions that die everyday, but don't even get a funeral And, we tell ourselves because where they were born They are less worth, less intelligent or beautiful Well, I don't agree, they are you and me And we are them, but we're too blind to see While some have everything, they ain't got shit And, we tell ourselves, well that's just how it is There ain't enough to go around, on this abundant planet Of course there is, it's just that some of us are ganits And, the habits we developed That are so far divorced from the source We don't even stop to pause, at the destruction everyday Of counts of this human family, it's just normal insanity
[Hook: Big Frizzle] I said we'll never know (We'll never know, never know) Because the places we've grown (Places we've grown) Ain't nothing like what they know (Ain't nothing like ohh-oh) Cause we'll never know (We'll never know, never know, never know)
I said we'll never know (We'll never know, never know, never know) Because the places we've grown (Places we've grown) Ain't nothing like what they know (Ain't nothing like they know, ain't nothing like) Cause we'll never know