Under Lock & Key 41 is focused on gang validation and step down programs in U.$. prisons. Gang validation is used as a justification for locking people in long-term isolation cells, commonly known as control units. Most civilians would say that controlling gang violence is a good thing, and that perspective is exactly what the criminal injustice system is relying on for its gang validation programs. The assumption is that all groups classified as gangs are engaged in criminal activity, and anyone in contact with the gang must be a member.
Let's put aside for now the reality that the U.$. military and police force is the biggest gang in world history. If anyone is organized in criminal activity and terrorism, it's them. That any U.$. government agency claims to be against gang activity without being critical of itself is just a joke.
Often, validation is based on secret evidence that the prisoner cannot challenge, and can include things like talking to the wrong persyn in the yard, being in possession of books on history and politics, or even sending someone a birthday card. In some cases validation is based on a prisoner receiving an unsolicited letter mentioning the name of another prisoner, or even just participating in MIM(Prisons) correspondence study groups. A Connecticut writer describes the difficulty fighting "evidence" about security risk group activity:
"In August I was taken to segregation because a prisoner got caught with 4 pages of Security Risk Group (SRG) paperwork and the pigz try to say one of the 4 pages was in my handwriting. Due to this assumption I was given a class A SRG ticket for recruiting, even though this prisoner signed a statement explaining the paperwork is his. I never gave it to him, and I never wrote it. The crazier thing is the prisoner who got caught with these papers was released back into Phase 3 (back into the block) and I sat in segregation for over a month till I was transferred back to Phase 1 in Walker Correctional Institution."
Once validated, it's very difficult to get out of isolation without giving the administration information (snitching) on others; information that many prisoners don't even have because they aren't actually members of the groups the prison has "validated." In the article "(Un)Due Process of Validation and Step Down Programs" cipactli gets into the politics behind these programs.
Some people who are validated are members of lumpen organizations (LOs), and the prisons use the "gang" label to make them out as scary and dangerous groups. But lumpen organizations are a natural response to national oppression, and many of these LOs have the potential to lead their members in anti-imperialist organizing. The unity and organization of LOs scares the imperialists and their lackeys. After all, LOs operate outside of the state-approved capitalist economy and serve a lumpen population whose interests are not tied up in that system, unlike the vast majority of U.$. citizens.
Often validation is used to target and isolate politically active prisoners who speak up and fight the criminal injustice system, whether or not they are part of an LO. Fighting against gang validation is an important part of the fight against prison control units and other methods of social control that target politically active prisoners. These comrades are the leaders of the movement against the criminal injustice system behind bars.
The overwhelming response to our call for information on validation for ULK suggests that a disproportionate number of readers of anti-imperialist literature are a target for gang validation (about half of our readers are in some kind of solitary confinement). This issue of ULK includes a variety of articles describing the false justifications used for validation, the targeting of activists, and the consequences of isolation and torture for those who are validated.
In this issue many writers describe their experiences with validation programs, and we also talk about ways to fight the validation system. Building unity among lumpen organizations in the United Front for Peace in Prisons, campaigning to shut down prison control units, and fighting the legitimacy of so-called step down programs are all ways we are attacking this problem from many sides. Prisons serve the imperialists as a tool of social control, and as is explained in the "(Un)Due Process of Validation and Step Down Programs" article, control units are a vitally important element of this system. We can use the contradictions inherent in the system which raises the political consciousness of those targeted for repression, and often throws together leaders who can join forces to build a broader movement. After all, the recent series of California hunger strikes were led by prisoners locked up in Pelican Bay's notorious control unit.
The U.$ government won't give up their tools of social control willingly. And in the end the criminal injustice system needs to be thoroughly dismantled, something we can't do until we overthrow the imperialists and replace them with a government serving the interests of the world's oppressed. But as a part of the work to build towards communist revolution we battle today to shut down prison control units and end the targeting of prison activists and oppressed nations.
For the past three years, on September 9 prisoners across the country have joined in a solidarity demonstration on this anniversary of the Attica uprising. It was initiated by an organization that was a part of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. That organization is no longer around, but new organizations and individuals have carried forward the struggle.
The organizers call on activists to take this day to promote the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) by building unity with fellow captives, and to demonstrate resistance to the criminal injustice system by fasting, refraining from work, engaging only in solidarity actions, and ceasing all prisoner-on-prisoner hostilities. In some prisons the demonstrations are big and involve many participants, in others just a handful of people join in, and in some places only one persyn stands up. But every action, large or small, contributes to raising awareness and building unity.
This year we received only a handful of reports from comrades about their September 9 organizing work. This is in contrast to the reports from the past two years which showed a growing interest and involvement in this day of protest. It is also in striking contrast to the widespread response and organizing around the Palestine petition by United Struggle from Within (USW) comrades.
We take this opportunity to re-evaluate the September 9 action. The question for all UFPP signatories and USW organizers: Why was organizing for the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity so limited in 2014? Should we do something different in 2015, either to help promote the September 9 action, or by focusing on other campaigns and protests? Send us your thoughts so we can sum up and continue to expand our efforts to cease prisoner-on-prisoner violence in the U.$. criminal injustice system.
On 31 October, after weeks of mass protests in which state media headquarters were stormed and government buildings were torched, the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, was forced to resign and flee to the Ivory Coast, another French colony. The military seized power under Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, who created a committee which appointed Michel Kafando as transitional president. Elections are to be scheduled within 12 months. Kafando was formerly ambassador to the United Nations for Compaoré, among other high posts he held in the government. This change in leadership is nothing more than a shuffling of the neo-colonial compradors who will continue to serve the imperialists while trying to placate the righteously angry Burkinabe (people of Burkina Faso) masses.
The protests that led to this change in government follow long standing unrest and anger about the exploitation and oppression of the people in Burkina Faso. In recent years there has been much civil protest in the country, especially amongst peasants and miners.
Burkina Faso is a small country located in sub-Saharan West Africa. Originally called the Republic of Upper Volta, the country was established as a French neo-colony in 1960. Captain Thomas Sankara became prime minister in 1983 after a military coup, ironically led by Blaise Compaoré and a group of military leaders who considered themselves revolutionary anti-imperialists. While not an uprising of the people, Sankara's politics were more progressive than previous leaders. Sankara implemented many programs to serve the people including nationalizing land and mineral resources, mass-vaccinations, infrastructure improvements, the expansion of wimmin's rights, encouragement of domestic agricultural consumption, and anti-desertification projects. He also changed the country's name to Burkina Faso (land of the upright/honest people). To promote self-reliance and end the poverty of dependency so common in African countries, Sankara called for the cancellation of African debts to Western governments. And setting an example for all Burkinabe, Sankara refused wealth and luxuries for himself and fought against corruption and bribery in the government.
Sankara was a revolutionary nationalist. And while we do not oppose those acting in the interests of the people seizing power from the imperialists through a coup, we know that it is the support of the masses and the political education and activism of the people that will ultimately determine the success or failure of a revolutionary movement.
Burkina Faso provides us with a good lesson on the importance of a cultural revolution. After the communists took power in China in 1949, they soon realized that a new bourgeois class was developing. These individuals may have come from proletarian and peasant backgrounds, but the culture that encourages individualism and self-serving advancement did not disappear with the implementation of socialism. And so some people, once they gained positions of power, abused that power. The Chinese communists realized the road from socialism to communism requires political struggle from all the people, vigilant criticism and self-criticism of and by political leaders and the masses, raising the level of political education, and a long-term campaign to build revolutionary culture. This became the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR). In the end, even with the GPCR, the capitalist interests within the communist party managed to take power after Mao died. This does not negate the need for a GPCR but rather we need to learn how to start sooner and be more effective in this struggle.
Sankara was murdered in 1987 in a coup d'etat that brought Blaise Compaoré to power, a man who once called himself a revolutionary ally and leader alongside Sankara. Before the coup Compaoré held significant power within the government, and his takeover was supported by the French who were eager to return the country to neo-colonial status. Compaoré quickly demonstrated how far he had strayed from his supposedly revolutionary views, reversing nationalization of Burkina Faso's resources, and reentering the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This year, Compaoré attempted to modify the Constitution to extend his 27-year presidency, which led to the protests by Burkinabe last month.
While we support the uprisings and righteous demands of the people of Burkina Faso, we also encourage them to make ceaseless efforts to again increase their general level of political education and organization. Only with deep revolutionary consciousness and leadership can Burkinabe take complete control of their nation from comprador dictatorship, and ensure that it grows with the people's interests at the forefront.
Due to another prisoner's actions who I correspond with regularly, I am being accused of ordering a hit on a prisoner "In an effort to further my position and recruiting purposes in security threat group (STG) activity." In fighting my supermax placement, I was able to get them to admit that the letter they are using as evidence was written in code. So they have no way of understanding what is really talked about in this letter. I went to the extreme of giving them some STG codes to show them that no hit was made on anyone's life and that they are making this out to be something that it isn't. This led to me being given another conduct report for possession of STG related material.
Following the advice from an older prisoner, I started using the grievance process to help fight my case instead of going the way of my past and becoming aggressive. This led to more harassment including cell searches in which conduct reports and grievances that I filled came up missing, making it seem as if I am making all this shit up!
I have been threatened with supermax placement since the day I got off this bus. Last year I was given 3 months in segregation over an incident where I was defending myself against another prisoner who attempted to stab me, and he was given less than a month. I was told that this was due to the fact that I had to have done something to provoke this individual! It's crazy. I used to read about other prisoners complaining of this kind of treatment and I'm ashamed to say that I used to doubt them and think that there had to be more to the story until I found myself facing the same set of circumstances.
Though I am a member of the United Blood Nation (UBN), I am not a gang member. To many that is hard to understand, but to explain it quickly, I feel that gang members rep colors and are more focused on ignorance. I am not concerned with the colors a person wears, the organization to which they belong or any of that. I am a freedom fighter. I stand for a cause. I read, study and follow the ideology of the Black liberation movements of the past. I encourage not only my young komrades but people who I associate and deal with to find knowledge of self and to study, build and to better themselves. I am no angel and don't claim to be. I still have a lot of work to do but I'm moving at a righteous pace and setting the tone and paving the way for the masses to follow in a meaningful and constructive manner.
MIM(Prisons) responds: It is interesting that the very method the prison uses for social control, targeting specific prisoners for segregation and other punishments, results in raising the political consciousness of those targeted. Experiencing this repression firsthand leads some who were entrenched in the lumpen mentality of fighting other prisoners to recognize the criminal injustice system is the common enemy.
This is an example of the dialectical relationship between repression and liberation, and is true in all historical eras and oppressive conditions — oppression breeds resistance. Repression of prisoners in the United $tates is one cog in the imperialist machine that condemns people all over the world for the benefit of the oppressor nations. Even though our struggle can seem overwhelming at times, we can have strategic confidence in our inevitable international victory over capitalism and all its devastating consequences. So long as oppressed people are being politicized and educated on the common enemy, from prisons in the United $tates to the mountains in Nepal, we will overcome our common enemy and finally be allowed to eat and sleep in peace. The more the imperialists oppress people, the more people can be drawn in to revolutionary activism.
We hope others will take an example from this comrade and work as freedom fighters to educate and organize others. How quickly and easily we achieve victory depends on how much political work we do today.
In August 2014, in response to I$rael's renewed attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, United Struggle from Within (USW) drafted and began circulating a petition denouncing the imperialist genocide of the people of Palestine. The petition draws connections to the oppressed nations suffering in the United $tates, and in particular recognized the support Palestinian prisoners gave to the California hunger strikers. While this round of bombing by I$rael was over before most could even return their signed petitions, the damage is still being felt and the imperialist occupation of Palestine continues.
"According to the United Nations, 100,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged, leaving 600,000 Palestinians — nearly one in three of Gaza's population — homeless or in urgent need of humanitarian help. Roads, schools and the electricity plant to power water and sewerage systems are in ruins."(1)
In addition, the Cairo agreement to "rebuild" Gaza after I$rael bombed it to pieces, will be managed by none other than I$rael, who will ensure that all the money goes into the pockets of I$raeli construction companies.(1) The democratically elected government of Palestine, led by Hamas, will be deprived of any oversight of this process, as they are further isolated with Egypt closing off the border with Gaza to the south.
It is not too late to rally in support of the Palestinian struggle! As of the beginning of November, USW comrades have gathered over 60 signatures to this petition in at least seven different prisons. Signatures are still coming in and a number of comrades have reported to still be working on collecting signatures in their latest communications.
While the numbers may not be overly impressive, to date only 17 of those comrades originally sent the petition have even reported receiving it. One Texas comrade who gathered 9 signatures reported doing so despite the prison being on lockdown (no one being able to leave their cells) and the recent cut off of fishing (sending notes between cells by string). At least one comrade could not get any other signatures due to the risk of political repression as a validated "gang member" in the control unit where he is held. It is no coincidence that many of our most active and politically conscious comrades find themselves in such conditions.(2)
This campaign to support the people of Palestine is significant in that it is the first USW-initiated campaign around an issue not related to the immediate conditions of prisoners themselves since MIM(Prisons) has been around. The campaign was launched without a lot of preparation, and despite the inherent limitations imposed on those in prison, we got good participation. As one California comrade recently reported, the petition was a tool for outreach that led to many political dialogues and lessons learned that will contribute to the building of the anti-imperialist movement in U.$. prisons. Their efforts to collect signatures reached beyond just those who signed the petition.
The need for these types of agitational campaigns is one of the lessons that we can take away from this experience. The barriers among much of the prison population to supporting the Palestinians' right to survival are built on a combination of Amerikan patriotism, misinformation and apathy. However, to sum up the reports we have received, we'd say that fear of repression is the number one barrier being faced, which is a problem USW faces with all its campaigns. One comrade reported setbacks due to fears around hysteria surrounding the Islamic State.
A number of comrades reported not being able to get any signatures yet, and one wrote from California:
"My focus thus far has been on the socially conscious Muslim prisoners, whom I guessed would be the most willing out of everyone to sign the petition. But I'm starting to see more and more that the overwhelming majority in Amerikkka just ain't willing to take a stand against these racist imperialist idiots in no way shape or form. Not one of the Muslims, out of the around 25 prisoners I approached, would sign the thing. The excuses ranged from, 'We need to worry about fixing 'home' first...' to just flat out 'The Jews have too much control in this country for me to sign some paper and get on their shit list.' ... so far everybody but me has been too scared to sign it."
A few weeks later this comrade submitted h petition with 25 signatures. This fear of signing is a common problem in prisons where all mail is read and punishment for activism can be severe. A comrade in Colorado wrote:
"I read the last issue of ULK and I want to say that the U.S. policy against Palestine has long been underrepresented and ignored. Amerikkka is telling the people of Gaza and Lebanon that it will allow Israel to murder and justify it in the name of 'peace.' I feel that the greatest threat to world peace is the U.S. foreign policy. As prisoners we all should stand with the people of Gaza and their right to self-defense and self-determination. Progress is being made here as far as the petition goes. Many are in solidarity against amerikkkan imperialism as it stands with Israel yet many are afraid to sign."
One letter from Virginia described the difficulty promoting internationalism:
"I have been having trouble convincing prisoners here to sign the Palestine USW petition. The fear of institutional retaliation keeps a majority of them from involving themselves in any type of radical struggles or demonstrations. Compounding the problem is the fact they cannot grasp the concept of 'internationalism.' The dominant question was, 'what do the Palestinians have to do with me?' I tried as hard as I could to convince them that all struggles against imperialism abroad are a reflection of the non-ruling class struggles here in the Empire. So please do not construe the lack of signatures as an indicator of my lack of organizing skills."
This question of "what the Palestinian struggle has to do with me" is a manifestation of the relative wealth and privilege of Amerikans as a whole. In reality the Palestinian struggle is counter to the material interests of the petty bourgeois majority in the United $tates which enjoys a supply of cheap gas ensured by Amerikan military presence in the Middle East. Like the struggle of oppressed people around the world, the Palestinian people's fight for national liberation threatens Amerikan imperialism and its ability to control and exploit the labor of Third World peoples. Any successful revolt against Amerikan imperialism and its allies/puppets (such as I$rael) will destabilize that power and may inspire others.
But when building public opinion with the lumpen in prison we can at least draw some connections to national oppression within U.$. borders and the national oppression of Palestinians. One researcher has claimed that Palestinians are the most imprisoned people in the world, based on the percentage who have been in prison (the United $tates is still #1 in the number of prisoners it holds at one time). New Afrikans and the original inhabitants on North America are potential rivals for this title. In both places, the dominant nation, with the weapons and wealth, is denying the oppressed nations independence and self-determination. And the cause of the Palestinian people is allied with the cause of oppressed nations everywhere in the world; the common enemy is imperialism.
Another persyn wrote about some more reactionary responses to h attempts to collect signatures.
"I attempt to discuss issues raised by MIM, but I'm completely lacking in knowledge. For example, prisoners here state that the Palestinians deserve the bombing because Hamas fired rockets into Israel. They say the land of Israel is not occupied by foreigners — that it belongs to Jews. They (prisoners here — a large number) say that there has never been a nation called 'Palestine' and that the people who today label themselves 'Palestinians' are simply Arabs mostly from the Trans Jordan area. So what is the correct response?"
These positions raise the important question of how we define a nation. Stalin gave us guidance on this point, describing a nation as a group of people with a common language, culture, territory and economy (which is different than a nation-state). The Palestinian people certainly meet these requirements. Nations can arise and fall over time, as humynity evolves and conditions change. While I$rael has evolved into a nation today, Stalin was correct to argue that there was no Jewish nation in his day. It was only after WWII and a mass migration of Europeans to Palestine, and the genocide that cleared the previous inhabitants of that land, that I$rael began its formation.
As for the question of Hamas firing rockets into I$rael, this certainly has happened. And we uphold the right of people to defend themselves. This is simply a question of incorrect facts. The Palestinian people are righteously defending themselves against a much more powerful oppressor who is constantly threatening their lives and taking over more of their land. A cursory study of history shows who is the agressor in this conflict. Even numbers from the end of July on this recent battle demonstrate this: while I$rael reported 56 deaths (53 soldiers), in the Gaza Strip 1,170 had been killed, many of them civilians in their homes.(3) For those who are serious about studying the history of Palestine and I$rael we can offer reading material, but for those who just want to support the imperialists and accept their lies and propaganda, it's probably best to just move on and look elsewhere for supporters. Let them eat their Thanksgiving turkeys and celebrate the superiority of Europeans over the indigenous people of the lands they occupy and destroy.
The Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) needs more activists focused on gender. MIM had a rich history in work around gender. Today a gender-focused MIM cell could do a lot to advance the struggle in the First World. For the majority of people in the richest countries, class is not an issue that will gain us much traction. But these leisure societies, dominated by gender oppressors, are concerned with the realm of leisure time where there are battles to be fought. Yet almost no one is drawing hard lines in the gender struggle today. Even some who give lip service to the need to divide the oppressor nations maintain a class reductionist line that prevents them from taking up revolutionary positions on gender.
Importance of the Gender Aristocracy
MIM sketched out the gender hierarchy as shown in the diagram below, with biological males above biological females, but with the whole First World far above the whole Third World. The line between men (gender oppressors) and wimmin (gender oppressed) is between Third World biological males (bio-males) and Third World bio-females. In this simplified model, the Third World is majority wimmin and the whole world is majority men.(1)
Near the top we see a small portion of the bio-females in the world are men of relatively high gender privilege. The term gender aristocracy was coined to account for this group of people who are often viewed as part of the gender oppressed, but are actually allied with the patriarchy.
MIM line distinguishes class and gender as class being defined by the relations of production and distribution, and gender defined as relations during leisure time. Largely due to their class position, the petty bourgeoisie, which makes up the vast majority in the First World, have a lot of leisure time and our culture in the United $tates is therefore very leisure oriented. Many of the things that are prominent and important in the lives of the gender aristocracy are not so for the majority of the world.
While MIM got a lot of push back on the labor aristocracy line, this came mostly from the dogmatic white nationalist left. The average Amerikan didn't get upset until MIM criticized their video games and explained how all sex is rape. These are things that are very important to the lives and pleasure of the imperialist country petty bourgeoisie. Knowing this is helpful in our agitational work. Our principal task overall is to create public opinion and independent institutions of the oppressed to seize power. In the First World, dominated by the oppressor nations and oppressor gender, this requires dividing the oppressor in an effort to break off allies. Even if we can't recruit whole segments of the oppressor groups, dividing them over issues of importance to the proletariat is a useful strategy.
While we say First World people are men in the gender hierarchy, unlike economic exploitation, anyone can be the target of gender oppression. Even First World bio-males are raped or killed for reasons related to gender and leisure time. This does not make them of the oppressed gender, but it does make such extreme forms of gender oppression a reality in the lives of the First World. In addition, the exploiter classes can benefit from the labor of others without ever having to use force themselves to extract that value, yet gender relations are something we all experience. As a result, even in the First World some people come to see the negative aspects of the patriarchy, with or without first-hand experience of extreme gender oppression, because of the very persynal and alienating emotional experiences they have.
A small minority in the First World will join the proletarian forces due to their own experiences with gender oppression. So it is important for there to be an alternative to the pro-patriarchy Liberalism of the gender aristocracy as a way to split off sections of the gender-obsessed leisure class. Below we take on one example of the gender aristocracy line in an effort to reassert an alternative.
Comments on the LLCO
We are using an article posted by the Leading Light Communist Organization (LLCO) as an example below. But before getting into the theoretical debate, we feel compelled to address the unprincipled approach of this organization. The article in question demonstrates a pattern of nihilism and bad-mouthing by LLCO that is akin to wrecking work.
LLCO was born in a struggle to separate itself from MIM, which had recently dissolved. Two of the main ways they did this was by bad-mouthing MIM and dividing on gender. The gender divide amounts to nihilism because they tear down the advances MIM made in building a materialist line on gender, but put nothing in its place but the Liberal pseudo-feminism of the past. Humyn knowledge and theory is always advancing; to tear down advanced ideas without replacing them with better ones is reactionary.
In the piece in question one of the logical fallacies they use is ad hominem attacks on people who acknowledge that all sex is rape by using meaningless buzzwords. Even worse, they go on to claim that those that take this position might be crazy and out of touch. This is a common attack used by the imperialists to ostracize radical thinkers. It is not a productive way to engage a developed political line that has been clearly spelled out for over two decades.
"All Sex is Rape" Needs a Comeback
Where LLCO actually engages the theory of whether all sex is rape under the patriarchy, we get a typical critique:
"Setting the bar for what counts as consent impossibly high obliterates the distinction between, for example, a wife initiating sex on her husband's birthday and the case of a masked man with a knife at a girl's throat forcing sex. To set the bar so high is completely at odds with what most people think, including rape victims themselves. Most victims themselves intuitively recognize the difference between consensual sex and rape."(2)
This is completely backwards. We do not have a problem of the masses confusing a womyn being compelled to have sex with a man because the patriarchal society tells her that is her duty on his birthday, and a womyn being compelled to have sex with a man because he is holding a knife to her throat and threatening to kill her. Rather, we have a problem of people not understanding that we need a revolutionary overthrow of patriarchy and a subsequent upheaval and reeducation of current humyn relations in order to end rape in both cases.
Furthermore, it is Liberalism to rely on the subjective "i'll know it when i see it" argument to define rape. This is exactly what MIM argued against when developing their line on gender. When an Amerikan judge hears a case of rape charged against a New Afrikan male by a white female, we can accurately predict the outcome of the judge's "intuition." When the roles are reversed, so is the verdict. And we only pick that as an easy example; we don't have to involve nation at all. It is quite common for Amerikan females to admit to themselves that they had been raped, months or years after the incident. What it takes is a social process, where rape is defined in a way that matches her experience. This social definition changes through time and space. And those who recognize this tend to gravitate towards the MIM line on rape.
The gender aristocracy is very concerned with distinguishing between rape and good sex, because good sex is the premise of their very existence as gender oppressors. For the gender aristocracy the bio-male provides safe/respectful good sex and the bio-female provides good sex in the form of a respectable/chaste partner. "Good sex" helps to distinguish and justify the existence of the gender aristocracy. Good sex is also a central source of pleasure for the gender aristocracy, to which they have very strong emotional attachments.
But the opponents to the MIM line on rape cannot explain away power differentials that are inherent in the patriarchy. They have no appropriate label for the sex that a womyn has with a man because she feels trapped in her marriage and unable to leave because of financial dependence. Or for the sex a womyn has with her girlfriend who is also her professor and in control of her grade at University. Or for the sex that a prisoner has with another prisoner because he needs the protection he knows he will get from someone who is physically stronger and respected. There are clear elements of power in all of these relationships. These are pretty obvious examples, but it's impossible to have a sexual relationship in capitalism under the patriarchy that does not have power differences, whether they be economic, physical, social, work, academic or some other aspect of power. This is not something we can just work around to create perfectly equal relationships, because our relationships don't exist outside of a social context.
One assumption of our critics is that rape cannot be pleasurable to both parties. We disagree with this definition of rape, and believe that power play is very tied up with pleasure in leisure time, to the point that a coercive sex act can be pleasurable to all involved. We expect this is more common among the gender privileged.
Another theme throughout the LLCO piece is the question of how we are going to determine who the "rapists" are that need to be punished if we are all rapists? This is combined with taking offense at being implicitly called a rapist.
The gender aristocracy cares about labeling and punishing rapists, again, because it distinguishes their good sex from others' bad sex. It is an exertion of their gender privilege. That is why most people in prison for rape in the United $tates are bio-males from the oppressed nations, and the dominant discussions about rape in the imperialist media are about places like India, Iraq, Mali or Nigeria.
LLCO accuses our line of discrediting anti-rape activists. MIM has been discrediting pseudo-feminism in the form of rape crisis centers for decades. Amerikan anti-rape activists take up the very line that we are critiquing, so this is almost a tautological critique by LLCO. Even in regards to struggles initiated by Third World wimmin, they are often corralled into a Liberal approach to gender oppression when not in the context of a strong proletarian movement. The imperialist media and those pseudo-feminists pushing an agenda of "international sisterhood" help make sure of this. This is an example of gender oppression and enforcing the patriarchy across borders using the gender aristocracy to sell it to the oppressed.
In general, we are not interested in finding the "real rapists" as we don't believe there is such a thing. Rape is a product of patriarchy — that is the essence of our line that all sex is rape. Imprisoning, beating or killing rapists will not reduce gender oppression in the context of a patriarchal society. Yet this is the only solution that is even vaguely implied in LLCO's critique.
Of course there are those who take the logic of the patriarchy to the extreme, just as there are those who take the logic of capitalism to the extreme. And we agree that under the dictatorship of the proletariat the masses will pick out these unreformable enemies for serious punishment. Yet, the majority of people who took up practices of capitalism or of the patriarchy will be reformed. This does not mean these people never exploited, stole from or sexually coerced another persyn before.
Today is another story. We adamantly oppose the criminal injustice system as a tool for policing sexual practices, just as we oppose it in general as a tool of social control to protect imperialism and the patriarchy. Therefore we find this desire to identify rapists to be a reactionary one.
Pushing for Gender Suicide
The problem with the ideology of the gender aristocracy is that their attachment to "happy sex" and the importance that most of them put on it will put them at odds with revolutionary attacks on the patriarchy. This is the practical side of "all sex is rape" as a tool to defang the gender aristocracy who will side with the imperialists on gender alone. If our critics get sad when we question the consensualness of their sex that is a good thing, because it challenges their attachments to the status quo. Truly radical changes must take place in our sex lives, our gender relations and our leisure time in general. The less resistance there is to this the better.
The Liberal argument is that by policing individual behaviors you can avoid being raped or raping someone else. This is just factually untrue. Yes, we need to transform the way people interact as part of the overthrow of patriarchy, but because gender relations operate at a group level, policing individual behaviors alone is just another form of lifestyle politics.
Just as all Amerikans must come to terms with their status as exploiters, and must view themselves as reforming criminals, gender oppressors must come to terms with the ever-presence of rape in the behaviors that they get much subjective pleasure from. Until they do, they will not be able to take on or genuinely interact with a proletarian line on gender.
Recently a new program was launched to further erode the self-esteem and morale of captives within the bowels of neocolonial Colorado, "the violence reduction program." This program claims to target lumpen-on-lumpen violence by "group punishment." In essence, if violence breaks out between individuals or groups, the prison can punish 5 known associates of those who participated in the violence, even when those 5 had nothing to do with the incident. The administration says this will help ease tension so all "offenders can live in a safe environment and take advantage of what DOC has to offer." Right, that's bullshit.
Because of our tribal, religious, or political affiliations they will hold us as a unit responsible for one another's actions. Wouldn't isolation as a group only promote that much more strength of the group anyway? If we as individuals came in alone and will ultimately go home alone, why are the staff and administration telling us that we are responsible for the actions of people we hang out with?
I know a lot of comrades in Colorado read this, so let's get this rolling. If they will do this to us it won't be long until we all live just like we already do in segregation (Ad-Seg). What more can they take from us at all level IV places, maximum, etc.? We are only allowed two hours out a day for showers and recreation. Two hours! With 22 hours of isolation, we might as well be in Ad-Seg anyway.
I keep thinking of something I once read in MIM literature, that "people will not live under oppression forever." I can't blame my comrades who wish to resort to focoism, but we must remember violence and premature acts of resistance will no doubt set us back. If you really care and want to stop what's happening, it's time to bleed those pens. Unite — fight back.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This practice of punishment of "associates" is not unique to Colorado. In Washington a comrade sent in a copy of a memo about the Group Violence Reduction Strategy policy from Mike Obenland, Superintendent of Clallam Bay Corrections Center dated 22 October 2014. It states, in part,
"If a prohibited violent act occurs, restrictions are imposed on the offender who committed the prohibited violent act (perpetrator) and the offenders who interact with the perpetrator on a regular basis (close associates). Information provided by staff teams is used to identify perpetrators and close associates. This group of offenders is subjected to a cell search and up to six of the following restrictions for 30-days: [list of restrictions]."
This comrade from Colorado raises a good point about the contradictions inherent in the prison system and the repression against prisoners. On the one hand this new policy gives the prison the opportunity to punish and isolate anyone they want just by claiming they are affiliated with someone who engaged in violence, even if they never broke any rules themselves. But on the other hand, this repression will breed greater resistance, both by solidifying the unity of organizations that are punished as a group, and by incurring the righteous indignation of those affected by this arbitrary punishment. We can use this repression to build the revolutionary movement. As this writer says, we need to educate and write about what's going on, and we cannot be pushed into premature actions that bring down more repression.
The good old boys are at it again. These slipper suckers, who feed off other people's misery, are upset about the closing of Tamms Supermax in Illinois a few years ago. Rather than let Tamms sit unoccupied, Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) officials have devised a plan to put pressure on the legislature to open up the 500-bed hell hole again.
Suddenly they claim we have a major gang problem here in Illinois. IDOC officials are rounding up all the Latinos who they can claim are a part of a security threat group (STG) and sticking them in administrative detention (A.D.).
Some guys haven't caught so much as a disciplinary ticket in years and were quietly toiling away in the kitchen or some other form of servitude. Next thing they know they're on a bus and sent to A.D. Some guys, after serving their segregation time for disciplinary tickets, found themselves in Phase 1 of A.D.
The common thread that binds these guys together seems to be that they are alleged members of an STG. It doesn't take much to validate someone as an active member these days. Most guys were members as kids, and their record preceded them to the joint. Some were identified by gang tattoos. And of course there is always that elusive confidential informant (CI), and only the gang intel officers seem to know for certain if the CI even exists. Personally I believe the correctional officers (COs) make up the CIs because the COs know that all they have to do is say the CI's identity is being withheld for the safety and security of the institution, and no one can or will inquire further.
These brothers sit with no recourse in the courts, stuck in limbo waiting in administrative segregation for some sadist to stop using them as a means to obtain a bigger piece of the tax dollar pie so they can re-open Tamms Supermax, and give themselves a pay raise for a job well done while they are at it.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Tamms Supermax opened in 1998. As 2008 approached many who opposed the torture chambers in Illinois formed the Tamms Year Ten campaign to bring attention to it and get it shut down. By January 2013, the unit was completely closed. This campaign was one of a handful demonstrating that the closing of control units is a winnable campaign under imperialism.
That said, almost as soon as Tamms was closed we are getting reports of increasing use of control units in Illinois again. This is why our Shut Down the Control Units campaign uses a specific definition of long-term isolation rather than just counting the prisons officially labeled as "supermaxes" as many bourgeois press do. The above example of pushing false gang validations for more or higher security prisons should not surprise us because prisons are a tool of social control for the imperialists, and that social control includes long-term isolation cells for anyone who challenges the system. The oppressed must organize to build power to change this.
This situation also provides a good example of how we know prisons are not run for profit. The government regularly uses funds to open control unit prisons, which are more expensive to run than lower security prisons. In 1999, MIM Notes reported "Tamms' budget works out to well over $34,000 per year to control each prisoner, not including the $73 million the state reports spending on building the dungeon. Tamms' cost per prisoner is more than three times the $11,006 estimated cost of living for a University of Illinois student at the Urbana-Champaign campus." The employees (COs and other staff) make out with nice high salaries (totaling $17 million at Tamms when it first opened), but these salaries, and everything else in the prison, is funded by the government, with prisoner labor offsetting some of the costs. The imperialists don't mind spending money to sustain their system of social control. It's money they got from the exploitation of workers in the Third World, and they will spend it freely to maintain their way of life and position of power.
At this point Leavenworth Detention Center has no gang validation or step down program. Actually it seems that the administration does very little to address gang violence. This is a detention facility housing mainly pre-trial prisoners but it seems more like a war zone. No effort is made to separate rival gang members or to place people in a safe environment. For example it is common for the pigs to house a white supremacist with a Muslim.
They pit us against each other and sit back and enjoy the show. We must look beyond the tip of our noses and begin to see the bigger picture. United we stand, divided we fall.
Recently we had a major victory! The food here is substandard at best but the meatloaf in particular is undercooked and rancid. White, Black and Latino all stood together and refused to accept trays and refused to lockdown until we were fed. The pigs brought in tear gas canisters to try to intimidate us but we simply refused to go to sleep without food. Finally we were brought sack lunches and they took meatloaf off the menu. If we stick together and stand up for what's right peacefully anything is possible.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This writer reminds us that prisons can play lumpen organizations both ways. On the one side we oppose the validation of people as gang members because this is used to punish and isolate and it is used to target activists and leaders. On the other side we oppose prisons throwing rival organizations together to try to create conflict and violence, which is further used as justification to isolate and lockdown whoever is perceived as a leader, activist or troublemaker. None of these actions are for the purpose of promoting safety or security of the prison population.
It is good to hear about people coming together in spite of the pigs attempts to foment conflict. Winning one change in food is a small battle, but it gives people the chance to see what is possible through unity, and hopefully will lead to greater unity in the future. Those conscious comrades in Leavenworth should take this opportunity to spread political education, and try to unite all against the criminal injustice system. If everyone is on the yard together, this is a good opportunity to start study classes. Write to MIM(Prisons) for help getting a study group started in your prison.
One of the most damaging aspects of U.S. prisons today is the control units. Control units and solitary confinement are the state's biggest guns in their torturous arsenal. Control units are called SHU, SMU, CMU and a variety of other names depending on what state one is in, but they all work to employ torture on the captives held therein.
When we look to the history of the U.S. prison system we find that the oppressed nations held within have always suffered greatly at the hands of Amerikkka. Prisoners in the United $tates have suffered unpaid labor, lynchings, beatings, floggings and assassinations to name a few. Although much of this still continues — at times more concealed and shrouded than in the past — there are other new methods of national oppression which are employed in this new era of United States domination. I suspect that post-Obama (so-called "post-racial Amerikkka") we will continue to see more of these concealed forms of oppression which inflict the same harm, but which slip through under the radar of the average First World citizen. This makes liberals feel warm and cozy and allows them to believe "progress" is obtainable in the imperialist center.
One such method employed on prisoners in dungeons within the United Snakes is the use of the control unit. The control unit is a modern-day torture chamber, but it cannot be advertised as a lethal killer of mostly Brown or Black minds because the liberals might even turn their noses up at such a revelation. Instead the public must be told that control units are only used on incorrigibles, savages, foreigners, gang members or the sensationalized terrorists.
Who is Locked in Control Units?
Like our ancestors who may have been asked what got the shackle around their ankle, what got them branded with their owner's name on their face, or what got that noose wrapped around their necks, our answer, like theirs, is that it is the nature of our oppressor to seek to eliminate all rebels and revolutionaries who oppose the oppressor nation. This is ultimately what places one in a control unit.
Of course we are up against a sophisticated oppressor nation and the placement of prisoners in control units is wrapped in flowery language. We are told it is for "gang activity" or a "threat to the safety and security of the institution." I am sometimes given a chrono stating I'm "actively engaged in a criminal conspiracy that threatens the institution, staff and other prisoners." This to the untrained mind may sound like justification for torture. Not only is this character assassination not true, but nothing justifies torture, absolutely nothing!
It was only after I began to write articles that spoke up for prisoners, and began filing appeals and lawsuits on behalf of all prisoners, that I was targeted for placement in the Secure Housing Unit (SHU). In short, when I began to resist state repression was when I was isolated in solitary confinement. I was allowed by the state to commit minor crimes and fight other prisoners, until I started to become politically conscious. I am not alone.
Most who work to advance and organize their nation, speak up on behalf of others, or engage in jailhouse lawyering will end up in a control unit. This is a common practice in colonized society: those who resist and who are politically influential are imprisoned under a colonial oppressor.
Why Does the State Have a Validation Process?
Our oppressor must devise ways of placing us in control units, and in California it uses the validation process. The validation process attempts to lend a legal aura to torture and national oppression by claiming to undergo a fair and unbiased process to validate someone as a "gang affiliate." This process is about as unbiased as asking the fox to guard the henhouse.
The fact that the validation process continues to use things as ridiculous as a birthday card, an Aztec drawing, or a book written by George Jackson as evidence of gang activity proves that there is nothing unbiased about this validation process. The kourt cases which supposedly stopped the prison from using these items show how much of a joke the injustice system is and how much it really is an extension of an oppressive state. Our victories will never come from massa's kourthouse.
The validation system helps pacify prisoners into thinking that there is a legitimate process they are undergoing to end the torture. That somehow if we are patient and do as we are told that we might get out of the SHU. This of course is ludicrous. We will stay in SHU until our oppressor feels we no longer resist, until they feel we are broken. Sometimes they want to train their agents and attempt to capture all who associate with us out on the mainline, as if we were live bait. But so long as we remain resistant to their oppression, we will not be allowed to freely associate with others. The validation process only works to uphold our national oppression.
The Step Down Program is More Repression
When we go to committee in California SHUs we are given a form called the "CDCR Advisement of Expectations." This form gives a list of supposed STG behavior which includes "participating in STG group exercise, using gestures, handshakes, possession of artwork with STG symbols." Note that we are not informed what STG symbols are.
We basically cannot socialize with anyone, or we might be accused of STG behavior. We are not told who is validated as part of a STG or given any information about STG behavior. We are simply told we better not associate with STGs or engage in their behavior. The state will decide if we are behaving properly and allowed to proceed in the Step Down Program. They claim they are the experts.
I have heard of some being put on this "Step Down" Program, but the state is picking and choosing who they put in the program. In my opinion it is a pacification program and I am not going to participate in it. Participation masks the oppression of the state while also allowing them to attempt to coerce me and any participants of being guilty, of confessing guilt, even if only guilty of what they deem to be incorrect thoughts.
Recent news of a federal class action lawsuit challenging policies and conditions at the Pelican Bay SHU is welcome and something we all should be following. Ashker et al. v. Governor of California et al., No. C 09-05796 claims that being held for more than ten years in SHU is cruel and unusual punishment and that the validation process is a violation of due process.(1) But here's the kicker: if you have joined the Step Down Program you are not included in this class action. So already we see how the new Step Down Program is serving the state by making it more difficult for prisoners to challenge their conditions.
My behavior is no more incorrect today than it was the first day I was captured and housed in the SHU. The state will not be let off the hook and I refuse to step down from resisting oppression. The Step Down Program continues the same oppression that the validation process started: it attempts to justify what the state is doing to the oppressed nations.
What will End the Validation/Step Down Program?
The Step Down Program is not only similar to the validation process, but here in California many prisons are still using both methods, so we need to end them both.
From the beginning I saw the need to struggle for closing the SHU. From the first hunger strike I knew that if we don't close the SHU altogether, the state will just have us fighting the same problem under new names for decades via strikes/lawsuits. This will never accomplish our goal. We need to keep all justifications for the use of solitary confinement in our scope. No matter why someone is held in solitary confinement, it is always torture and it should always be opposed.
At the same time we have made improvements in many prisoners' lives and some have gotten out of SHU, and I am happy for this. However validation and Step Down Programs will keep us locked in the SHUs until we can make resistance to oppression a hip and common thing. When hunger strikes occur more often than once every ten years, and peaceful protests are as frequent as spring cleaning, then maybe we will finally end validation/step down programs.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Most civilians would say that controlling gang violence is a good thing, and that perspective is exactly what the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is relying on for its gang validation and Step Down Programs. The assumption is that all groups classified as gangs are engaged in criminal activity, and anyone in contact with the gang must be a member.
Let's put aside for now the reality that the U.$. military and police force is the biggest gang in world history. If anyone is organized in criminal activity and terrorism, it's them. That any U.$. government agency claims to be against gang activity without being critical of itself is just a joke.
Lumpen organizations that are not necessarily revolutionary are also targeted as gangs, whether or not they break U.$. laws. The real threat is not the activities that the lumpen are engaged in, but that they have any level of unity and organization. STG labels and Step Down Programs criminialize the association, not actual crime.
The U.$. government will do everything it can to protect its international hegemony. Controlling any potentially subversive population within its borders, especially the internal semi-colonies, is a high priority, no matter how much they dress it up with fancy titles and administrative process.
In New York what you call "gang validation" is called "gang intelligence" and every prison has at least one sergeant who works on it full time.
Alleged gang members are very often self-identified by foolish displays of colors, flags, and wacky writings found on cell searches. Sadly, many are not real gang members in any substantive sense, but foolish young wannabes who are horribly manipulated by "gang leaders." In New York, and likely everywhere, nearly all "gang leaders" are really collaborators of the worst, most manipulative kind, and they are nearly all rats. It's pretty easy for the "gang intelligence sergeant" to look good when the leader gives him a written membership list! Which doesn't have to be at all accurate, of course.
The biggest gang intelligence tool is the phones — New York State prisons record 100% of phone calls on digital hard drives. Obviously, there are not enough ears to listen to 80,000+ prisoners all the time, so they just sample or review a particular prisoner's calls. Or they may review calls to a certain phone number by multiple different prisoners. And the authorities are very careful. They rarely make direct use of recorded calls to nail minor offenders. I know about the extent of the monitoring because I double-bunked with a guy whose ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend was beaten up very badly. My bunky was questioned harshly and almost charged based on calls going back two years. Another man, who I worked with, a defrocked politician, got six months in the box, when "they" had it in for him, based on year-old recorded conversations.
A technical note: hard drive voice recording costs about 1 cent per hour once the system is set up. Put another way, it would cost more to have someone periodically erase old recordings than it costs them to keep them indefinitely.
From snippets of phone conversations I've overheard while making my own calls, nearly all prisoners are lulled into complacency and extreme carelessness by the authorities letting little transgressions slip by while they wait for the really useful information.
In New York, men identified as gang affiliates go to the most miserable prisons which have the fewest educational and remedial programs (nearly zero). Young, generally terrified, totally uneducated men get no help. I call them "five centers," just empty recyclable cans. Recidivism is good for job security. Just like a hotel or restaurant, prison employees make real money on repeat customers.
Another method is to record the information on the outside of mail. I happen to know Green Haven Correctional Facility was doing that big time (probably related to Muslim prisoners). Authorities look for multiple prisoners written from or writing to the same address. Same game with phone numbers. It's not likely ten guys have the same wife or grandma.
Regarding the petitions advertised on page 12 of Under Lock & Key, please be very careful. Petitions from prisoners are completely illegal in New York. A clear constitutional violation which has, unfortunately, been allowed by every level of New York and federal courts. Please find another word, at least, and please don't encourage more than one signature on any piece of paper, or multiple letters mailed together. Anything considered a petition in New York is a quick bus ride to a six-month box stay.
I do not mention anything in New York out of admiration. It's the worst and sometimes the best because they spend (waste and steal) the most. The real fixes are real pay, real freedom, not the phony kindness of the dictator. The most distressed prisoners must get the most help, not the least. The gangs exist mostly as a tool of domination and manipulation — in the larger view they are created by and for the system, not combated by the prison system. The only usefulness to my mind of somewhat better practices in New York prisons or elsewhere is that New York's practices may temporarily help men's arguments in other states.
MIM(Prisons) responds: There are people out for themselves in all prisons, who will sell out their fellow prisoners to the guards. But we would not categorize all so-called "gang leaders" as collaborators. No doubt some are, but some are working with lumpen organizations that have a genuine interest in the anti-imperialist fight. We need to judge each individual for their own actions and political line. Similarly we judge each organization in the same way.
This comrade correctly points out the many difficulties prisoners face with secure communications and general security of self-preservation. As we've written in the past, secure communications are a critical part of self-defense at this stage in the struggle. Everyone needs to be conscious of the many ways the imperialist state can monitor our work and communications. The Amerikan public knows that all its communications are being monitored now, and prisoners should be under no illusion about theirs.
Along those lines, comrades in New York should take heed of this warning about petitions. At the same time, we should not be scared into complacency. Petitioning the government is a basic right guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which reads, "the right of the people... to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." So while we should be strategic about using petitions in conditions where they have been used as an excuse for political repression, we must fight these battles for basic civil rights for the imprisoned population in this country. MIM(Prisons) will work with comrades in New York to push this battle further.
"We want an immediate end to police brutality and murder of New Afrikan people. We believe that the police of the colonial government acts as an occupation force to maintain control and order for the benefit of the colonial government. We believe that the motives are in the best interest of the capitalist class who have businesses and own property in the New Afrikan community. We call for the immediate withdrawal of the occupation police-army from Our communities, and for New Afrikans to establish Our Own security system. We also maintain the right of self-defense against racist police repression and brutality, to bear arms and to organize self-defense groups to preserve the security of the New Afrikan community and Nation." - #7 What We Want – What We Believe, Ten-Point Platform & Program, Black Order Revolutionary Organization
Once again, we see the scene playin' out before our very eyes: killer kkkop slays un-armed New Afrikan teen. The violence of the state is not a coincidence or accident. It is a direct result of Our colonization in this country.
The people are outraged and are asking, "Why did this happen? Why does this continue to happen?" The Black Order Revolutionary Organization (BORO) asks, "How soon before it happens again? And when will we take the necessary steps to ensure that it never happens again?"
The violence of the oppressor never ceases until it is stopped with violent force. Am I advocating or promoting random, unorganized violence and looting? No, I am not. I am simply stating an hystorical fact. Never in the hystory of humynkind has an oppressor ever stopped oppressing until those who were being oppressed stopped them, using structured and protracted violence aimed at replacing the powers that be and totally changing the system before them.
If New Afrikan people and all poor and nationally oppressed people want to see an end to police brutality and murder, then we must be disciplined, conscious and organized. We must demand and fight for complete freedom and total liberation. This starts with first controlling the communities that we live in.
The type of organization that we need is not simply to organize a rally to have a killer kkkop fired and arrested. It is the entire system that must be changed. Violence against and murder of our people is as amerikan as apple pie. It is part of the culture of this society.
Organization means commitment to a long, protracted struggle against this system of oppression. As you have learned from your current experience, change won't happen overnight. It will take time and many mistakes will be made. Some of our own will betray us like they did Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner. But we must handle our own.
If you are ready to commit to this struggle, then take up the Ten-Point Platform & Program of the Black Order Revolutionary Organization (BORO), and become a material force capable of changing society and the world.
To the youth in the streets: you are the future of our nation. You are the lifeblood of the movement we are building. You must overstand that at the heart of every great social revolutionary movement is the urgent need to transform people into a new and more advanced humyn being by means of struggle.
The u.s. doesn't want New Afrikan and other oppressed people to recognize that we can count on Ourselves – and Ourselves alone – for solutions to the problems of violence, inadequate housing, inadequate health care, unemployment, etc.
"The police and those that they truly serve and protect, do not want us to glimpse through our youth, the power that lies within each of us. If the Crips and Bloods can bring peace to our communities, and the police can't or won't, then why do we need the police? If the Disciples, Vice Lords, Cobras, Latin Kings and other street organizations can serve and protect Our children and Our elders, and the state demonstrates that it can't or won't, then why should we continue to depend upon it and profess loyalty to it? If the power to end violence exists within our communities, then We should be looking for ways to increase Our power, and We should be looking for ways to exercise it."
Ours is a fight to become masters of Our Own destiny. We struggle so that We can seize the power to freely determine and fully benefit from Our productive capacities, and to shape all productive and social relations in Our Own society.
The onus is on Us if We want to solve any problem in Our communities. It ain't on Our enemy to solve Our problems – even though they created them! So by appealing to the Mayor, Governor, and President with the belief they will satisfy Our needs, We end up hampering the development of the self-confidence of Our people. When We call upon the oppressive state to solve Our problems, We promote the idea that it is not necessary to struggle against it to replace it. However, none of this is to say that demands should not be made upon the state. It is only to say that we should have no illusions, and We should allow none to be cast.
In order to gain the power that We need – we must first respect each other, love each other, educate each other, protect one another and allow no harm to come to any member of our community – whether that harm be from inside or outside of our community.
Be smart. Be strong. But most of all during these intense days of struggle, be safe. Intensify the struggle for self-respect, self-determination and self-defense. This is your brotha and comrade from inside the belly of the Amerikkkan beast.
Unite or Perish!!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade lays out correctly the importance of self-reliance and organizing for independence to liberate the oppressed nations. We cannot rely on the state for salvation; the state is our enemy. We agree with this comrade on the ultimate need for force to take power back from the imperialists who control the state: they will not give up their power peacefully. This is why communists call for armed revolution, and also why we go further and say that after taking power we will need a dictatorship of the proletariat for a period of time. This is a government acting in the interests of the proletariat (the formerly exploited class), and using force to keep the bourgeoisie from returning to power. In the case of the United $tates we recognize the need for a joint dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations over the oppressor Amerikan nation.
The capitalists won't just go away after a revolution, and the culture of capitalism that is deeply ingrained in Amerikans won't disappear overnight either. We have seen in countries where revolutions happened that this government of force, the dictatorship of the proletariat, is an essential tool. Further, we require a revolution in the culture to change the education and indoctrination we have all endured under capitalism, which teaches individualism, greed, racism, sexism and white supremacy. This Cultural Revolution, as they called it in China, will not only re-educate people in a way of thinking that serves the people, but also empower the masses to criticize their leaders and guard against restoration of capitalism.
All this starts with organizing ourselves now, under capitalism, under the banner of a communist movement. BORO, along with MIM(Prisons), is one of many small organizations doing this in the belly of the beast. BORO is also a part of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, working closely with MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within, the MIM(Prisons)-led mass organization. Existing prisoner organizations should join and work within the UFPP, individuals should join USW, and experienced comrades should work to build vanguard organizations in their areas. Get organized!
Things have been pretty rough here at Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP). A prisoncrat-orchestrated racial riot has put me in administrative segregation since July. KVSP's "A" yard (the only general population, non-honor yard) has been, more or less, on a constant lock-down since the beginning of the year. This lock-down is due to racial tensions that have been exacerbated by the prison's state-sponsored security threat group, also known as the goon squad, or simply the gooners.
The best way for the prison oligarchy to remain in power and thwart any organizing or political dissent is to keep us all fighting amongst ourselves. Of course this is nothing new for many of us, but for some reason we all find ourselves locked down time and again, pointing fingers (and unfortunately, knives) at one another instead of using our minds of reason to see that clearly this whole war/mess has been instigated by the very pigs that always have the most to gain. It's extremely frustrating to sit here watching the same pattern of senseless fighting and rioting occur while the pigs laugh, crack jokes, and generally play us against each other for their sick jollies and political agenda.
This madness on "A" yard at KVSP and elsewhere in the state is definitely part of a much bigger political agenda. One of the results of the 2013 general hunger strike is that, slowly but surely, a lot of those guys have been returning to the main lines after spending ten, fifteen, or twenty years back there in the SHU. Well, CDCR can't just let those beds remain empty so we've been seeing the gooners dropping fallacious gang validation packets on people for all kinds of erroneous reasons. And the best way to "prove" gang conspiracy or activity is to run us all into these stupid racial riots. The fucked up thing about it is that it's working. Every time we all go out to the yard and fight each other is another victory for the pigs, and another bus load of "gang members" heading to the SHU torture units and thus, the very "evidence" CDCR points to as justification in keeping those control units open and full.
This white vs. Black violence needs to stop for the benefit and health of both our people. Let's stop and remember that it should always be blue vs. green! It's time for peace on these yards. Don't forget who the real enemy is.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade's call for peace on the yards underscores the importance of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. We need organizations to come together behind bars to stop the pigs and the imperialist system in general. A United Front is comprised of groups with different views and goals, that have a common enemy. It doesn't require everyone to agree on everything, and in the case of the UFPP there are just five key principles around which groups have unity: Peace, Unity, Growth, Internationalism and Independence. If your organization is interested in putting an end to the fighting amongst the oppressed and ready to take a stand against the oppressor get in touch for more information about the UFPP.
For the past 19 months I have been locked down in solitary confinement, all because of a gang validation. In February 2013, I was taken from my cell and locked down in the hole, for nothing. I haven't broken any rules of the prison or given them any reason to punish me. Without a hearing or a proper investigation I was thrown in the hole and labeled "Goodfellas" (G.F.). They put a label on me and several others, and we are "guilty by association." No matter if you are G.F. or not, Smith State Prison will label you G.F. if you are from Atlanta. And the Goodfellas are the only group of people in this prison on lockdown.
Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) started this new program called the "tier program." From my understanding it was designed to treat us as individuals instead of as a group. It's supposedly a 9-month program, and when you complete the program you are supposed to get out of the hole. But that only applies to those who are not validated Goodfellas. If you are validated G.F. then you are stuck in the hole even after you complete the 9 months.
I have the Standard Operating Procedures of the administrative segregation Tier 2, and it states that Tier 2 program is not a punishment measure. Why do I feel that I'm being punished for no reason? All my privileges have been taken away. I can't go to the store for the same things as general population. I can't order a CD player, radio, books, magazines, etc. By being in the hole I have no access to a TV so I'm lost on what's going on in da outside world.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This system of labeling people as members of an organization based on where they are from is well documented in California as well, and we're sure it's going on in other states. While this practice purports to address regional disputes that may turn dangerous behind bars, this practice actually forces people who may not have identified with a lumpen organization to become affiliated for self-defense. It does help promote one goal of the prisons: to fuel disputes between prisoners and expand gang validations to justify locking up more people in long-term isolation, just like this writer explains is happening in Georgia where people labeled Goodfellas aren't let out of the hole in violation of the prison's own rules. We have reports that some G.F.s have been held in isolation for many years.
The United Front for Peace in Prison is taking this validation and turning it against the prisons by calling on all organizations and individuals to come together and fight together against the criminal injustice system. Whether or not you are actually a part of a lumpen organization, if you are put in a unit with others you can use this opportunity to promote peace and unity. And together we can fight to shut down control units, and build a movement that can defeat the imperialist system that needs prisons and long-term isolation units for social control.
I am a POW in the state of Tennessee and in these narratives I am providing exposure about this wicked prison system and Derrick Shofield, who came from Georgia. This dude is constantly applying new rules, with the latest being called tier management – something straight outta Georgia prison system. Of late all of Tennessee prisons are run like Georgia. This is the same Shofield who was instrumental in causing the largest sit down in the state of Georgia. On an I-team investigation on channel 4, Nashville, TN, it was reported that Shofield ordered two former wardens in West Tennessee to alter incident reports on assaults on staff.
As I write they are building security threat group management units at Riverbend Maximum security plantation in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the big sister of tier management. Both are part of the larger policy agenda regarding U.$. prisons. One of the standards that the federal government sets in order for the state to receive construction subsidies is to mandate the building of supermax units, security threat group units, such as the ones at Riverbend: steel and stone sensory deprivation cells.
In Georgia they have this tier 2 program of gang control for long-term lockdown. This same situation is being played out in Tennessee. The prisoners in Tennessee should take a page from Georgia, sit down and do nothing in a silent protest. It's some wicked shit going on in Tennessee, it has to be said that for all the men and women trapped in the wretched crime and punishment morass, especially in the Tennessee system, we have to determine our fate. We got the power.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade gets at the truth of prison control units, and in fact the broader prison system in general: it is a system built for social control. Prisons in general house the oppressed nation lumpen in disproportionate numbers, and for those who speak out, organize or otherwise challenge the system from behind bars, there are long-term isolation cells for even further control. These control units are torture and we must demand they be shut down. Part of this battle is documenting their existence, a project that we need help with from anyone who can complete our control unit survey about prisons in their state.
We offer the example of prisons in China while it was still Communist-led and Mao was alive, in stark contrast to the Amerikan criminal injustice system. In China prisoners participated in education classes with others where they studied politics and discussed the nature of their crimes and why their actions were harmful to the people. Prisoners were allowed to participate in productive activities of work and learned cooperative practices. Many who went into prison for actions like theft or even spying, came out dedicated to serving the people and grateful for a second chance. The example of Adelle and Allyn Rickett, two Amerikans who worked as spies for the United $tates until their imprisonment, wrote an inspiring book Prisoners of Liberation detailing these progressive practices and what they learned from years in prison in China.
I am housed at Suwannee Correctional Close Management Unit, which is the Florida Department of Corruption's equivalent of the SHU or AdSeg. On 4 August 2014, myself and several other political prisoners on my cell block were targeted for repression during a shakedown which was conducted by the pigs. This shakedown was in retaliation for several grievances/complaints being filed about the corrections officers denying us outdoor yard access and indoor day room activities, including access to the phones.
During the shakedown the pigs read some notes I had written down from studying politics, history, and communism. These notes contained some commentary that wasn't very patriotic or friendly toward the Amerikan imperialist regime. When the pigs ordered me to explain the notes I told them that "I like to take notes on politics and current events," and "I like to keep tabs on what's going on in the outside world." The sergeant then held up one of the notes referring to "sovereignty" and said "so you're a sovereign citizen?" To which I replied, "No, I'm just a normal human being." Then he told me to explain why I had notes on weapons. I told him how I was in the U.$. army and developed a fascination for firearms, and he responded by saying, "so now you're a domestic terrorist?" I then told him that the average Amerikan citizen is more likely to be terrorized by their own local law enforcement than by so-called "terrorists."
Myself and three other prisoners were placed in confinement after the shakedown and we were charged with the disciplinary infraction of "Possession of Gang Related Paraphernalia." They tried to validate me as a member of a Security Threat Group (STG) on the basis that in the notes I made a reference to "Popular Sovereignty" and that therefore I was in possession of documents related to the sovereign association, which the imperialist bureaucrats view as a STG because sovereign citizens are not compelled to abide by U.$. laws.
When I went to my disciplinary hearing I told these pigs that the so-called evidence they have against me (the "gang paraphernalia") is merely a bunch of notes I copied from social studies. I explained that "Popular Sovereignty" is (supposed) to be one of the five basic principles of Amerikan government and that anyone who claims to be a patriotic Amerikan citizen should at least know this.
I used this argument to beat this charge and I also presented my own evidence as a defense — part of a social studies assignment on Amerikan government from FDOC's very own educational department which explains (what is supposed to be) the Five Basic Principles of Amerikan Government; 1) Federal System, 2) Popular Sovereignty, 3) Separation of Powers, 4) Checks and Balances, and 5) Limited Government. In real life these "principles" hold no valuable meaning, just as the U.$. constitution is merely a piece of paper.
It seems evident that anyone making an attempt to educate themselves is viewed as a threat by the imperialist bureaucrats and anyone who is against oppression and imperialism is a "domestic terrorist." As revolutionaries, it is imperative that we educate ourselves and our fellow comrades and expose the true terrorists for who they really are: the terrorists in pig clothing, masquerading as those who "protect and serve" and provide "care, custody and control."
We shall prevail in our struggle against imperialist oppression.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We have heard from some comrades that even writing to MIM(Prisons) or participating in our correspondence study groups can be used as evidence for STG validation. We know there is a risk to corresponding and working with MIM(Prisons) but the education and organizing opportunities are great. We hope others will take this comrade's example to fight false validation attempts made against them and stay active in political work and study. For those not yet involved in political study, write to us to join our next introductory study group.
On 5 August, President Obama announced plans to send $12 billion in aid to support an electrification program for six sub-Saharan countries in Africa. This is in addition to U.S. firms investing $14 billion in banking, construction and information technology in Africa.
Are these efforts really about helping the African nations, or is it just to protect the stake certain parties have in the region? I can't help but remind myself of the economic consequences that will befall an already impoverished nation. When it comes to the class divisions, I think this new effort will only push the proletariat into deeper starvation and exploitation. As I've read in MIM Theory 12, investment from an imperialist country like the United $tates usually comes with dire consequences. Funny, not once did I hear the U.$. imperialist president speak of self-determination of all African people. This is either lip service paid to the petty bourgeoisie or when it's all said and done the "pound of flesh" which the United $tates will eventually get will come at a greater cost to those held in oppression.
The puppet governments of southern Africa gained a large victory today, but as we all know, no amount of policy or investment will really benefit the most oppressed people. This is true until all peoples' needs are met, not just profit gained for a few. It looks like more economic imperialism to hold the already poor people in bondage with the illusion of expanding the Amerikan dream. Raise! Fight! Stop U.S. imperialism!
The solution should be what can be done to empower and enable the lower class and proletariat into rising up and controlling their own destinies. Only when this is pursued will conditions improve. People from the proletariat need to understand that they have the power to educate and engage in armed struggle to gain their rights.
Recientemente me encontré con algo que puede ser de interés para usted. Estaba yo hiciendo algo de investigación dentro de esta organización propagandista reaccionaria pro-prisión conocida como Centro de Investigación Nacional de Bandas Criminales (National Gang Crime Research Center NGCRC). Este es dirigido por un inflexible defensor para este sistema, nombrado Dr. George W. Knox. El Dr. Knox y el canalla que trabaja para NGCRC habitualmente conducen encuestas para el sistema gulag para ayudarlos a identificar y neutralizar alguna potencial "amenaza." Yo fui hábil de meter mis manos en uno de estos informes y reportes de resultados preliminares que fueron conducidos dentro de 148 gulags en U$A representando 48 estados y aproximadamente 150,000 prisioneros. Ahora, la parte del informe que yo pensé puede ser de algún interés para MIM(Prisiones)es lo siguiente:
Bajo nivel de contaminación de MIM.
Algunos tipos de grupos políticos extremistas tratan de reclutar internos y prisioneros en America, ellos pueden hacer esto a través del Servicio Postal del EEUU. Estos grupos frecuentemente tienen sofisticados sitios en la web también. El Movimiento Internationalista Maoista (MIM) subsiste para difundir ideología comunista entre internos encarcelados en prisiones y cárceles Americanas. Esto busca radicalizar internos de la prisión y darles un programa para organizar resistencia contra el gobierno Americano. Si tus internos están mantiendo correspondencia con MIM, podrías tener un problema cociendose.
La encuesta incluía la pregunta "¿Tiene alguno de los internos en sus instalaciones correspondencia con el Maoist International Movement (MIM)?" Únicamente 4.6 por ciento de los encuestados indicaron que sus internos han estado en contacto con MIM. Así, esto parecería que MIM no esta efectivamente alcanzando la inmensa mayoría de prisioneros Americanos. Al menos no todavía. Alternativamente, quizá tal contacto con MIM esta yendo bajo el radar de oficiales de la cárcel y de las prisiones.
MIM(Prisiones) responde: Este reporte en "Grupos y Bandas de Amenaza a la Seguridad (Gangs and Security Threat Groups)" no incluye mención de algunos otros grupos comunistas, asi que veríamos nuestra inclusión como una indicación del éxito de MIM(Prisiones) en alcanzando activistas de la nación oprimida y la exactitud de nuestra linea política en amenazando al imperialismo y dominio Americano. En realidad, como la encuesta admite, ellos no pueden realmente juzgar este numero basado en encuestas solo de administradores de prisiones. Nos gustaría alcanzar la inmensa mayoría de prisioneros, pero en la practica estamos enfocados en estos quienes están interesados en políticas anti-imperialistas o de mente abierta buscando aprender. Sin embargo, tomamos esto como una llamada de acción para los lectores de Under Lock & Key; Necesitamos incrementar el porcentaje de personas en contacto con MIM(Prisiones)!
A few years ago, former Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) Director Jeffrey Beard relocated to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Director Beard was known for his tyrannical style of utilizing confinement and isolation for more sadistic than safety purposes, by increasing constantly the number of prisoners placed on the restricted release list (RRL). Once on this list, the only persyn who can finalize your release back to general population is the Governor of Pennsylvania. Beard, after seeing the practice of the California STG program, informed current PA DOC Director, John Wetzel, of these tactics of oppression, suppression and repression. In the summer of 2012 the Pennsylvania security threat group (STG) unit was started.
In Pennsylvania, a security threat group is any group of persyns who continuously ignore the department's administrative rules, i.e. any unauthorized group activity. The word "group" is the concealing factor of the oppressive practices in place in the PA DOC. Members of religious "groups" such as Muslims, Jews, Moors, Nation of Islam, Nation of Gods & Earths, etc., are placed on the list of documented STGs violating the First Amendment right to freedom of religion and freedom of association. Members of political "groups" such as the New Afrikan Communists, New Afrikan Independence Movement, Black Liberation Army, etc. are placed on the list of documented STGs, violating the first amendment right to freedom of political identification and freedom of association.
Of approximately 175 captives brought to the Pennsylvania STG program, 95% (166) are of oppressed nation heritage. Out of this percentage, about 20 were actually told why they were abducted for the program, i.e. why they were labeled STG members, although the reasons were mostly untruthful and unjustifiable. There is no appeal process in place to combat placement in the program. There is no validation/assessment hearing or procedure in place to present your side of the alleged claims or bring forth any evidence or witnesses on your behalf. Those who do attempt to refuse this assignment are placed on RRL. In order to be released from there you have to agree to do the STG program (the same program you refused in the first place!).
The tactics employed here are quite surely the same as any other STG unit. Obstruction of correspondence (incoming and outgoing), no visits (unless earned through advancing in the program), no phone privileges (unless earned through advancing in the program), inadequate legal services and materials (unless earned through advancing in the program), thought police/Orwellian indoctrination and debriefing systems disguised as cognitive restructuring. Those who hold firm the belief this is an injustice are labeled as "in denial and unwilling to give up participation in group activity." Those who express their opinions are titled as "thinking criminally" or using a "gang mentality." The guidelines, procedures and policies governing the programs are restricted to the public. Instead a prisoner supplement handbook is issued to each captive which quite surely differentiates from the restricted policy.
Exercise, food, commissary and restraints are used as an enticement method as well as punishment. For example, you may hear a pig say "if you program, you won't have to wear handcuffs." Or "if you don't complete the assignments you won't be able to order commissary." To increase the allure of these "privileges" they make contrasting practices as hard and uncomfortable as possible. They feed you next to nothing to increase hunger and craving for commissary. They make all movements restrained to add to the uncomfortability. This is all done in hopes of breaking your spirit or to make you "give in to the inevitable," to quote a pig.
These are only a few of the ever-changing, ever-occurring issues here for myself and the komrades. There is a resistance to struggle not only for our liberties but for those who would come after us as an example of unity, komradery and solidarity in struggle.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We are seeing this STG classification used to target activists in Colorado, Maryland, North Carolina, Michigan, as well as California and no doubt many more states. While the development of STG programs is a sign of the strength of the oppressed nation organizations and political activists, it is also a dangerous tool of repression that we must expose and fight. Targetting prisoners for "group" or "gang" activity has long been an excuse to bring down oppression on those with the greatest interest and organization in fighting the criminal injustice system.
I recently came across something that may be of interest to you. I was doing some research into this reactionary pro-prison propagandist organization known as the National Gang Crime Research Center (NGCRC). It's run by an adamant apologist for this pernicious system named Dr. George W. Knox. Dr. Knox and the swine that work for NGCRC routinely conduct surveys for the gulag system to help them identify and neutralize any potential "threats." I was able to get my hands on one of these surveys and preliminary finding reports that was conducted within 148 gulags in the U$A, representing 48 states, and nearly 150,000 prisoners. Now, the part of the survey that I thought may be of some interest to MIM(Prisons) is the following:
Low Level of Contamination from the MIM
Some types of political extremist groups try to recruit inmates and prisoners in America, they can do this through the U.S. Postal Service. These groups often have sophisticated websites as well. The Maoist International Movement (MIM) exists to spread communist ideology among inmates incarcerated in American jails and prisons. It seeks to radicalize prison inmates and give them a platform for organizing resistance against the American government. If your inmates are corresponding with MIM, you might have a problem brewing.
The survey included the question "have any of the inmates in your facility corresponded with the Maoist International Movement (MIM)"? Only 4.6 percent of the respondents indicated that their inmates have been in contact with MIM. Thus, it would appear that MIM is not effectively reaching out to the vast majority of American inmates. Not yet at least. Alternatively, maybe such contact with MIM is going under the radar of prison and jail officials.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This report on "Gangs and Security Threat Groups" does not include mention of any other communist groups, so we could see our inclusion as an indication of MIM(Prisons)'s success in reaching oppressed nation activists and the correctness of our political line in threatening imperialism and Amerikkkan rule. Communism is our goal: a society where no group has power over another group. This threatens the imperialist criminal injustice system for sure. In reality, as the study admits, they cannot really judge our reach based on survey of prison administrators alone. We would love to reach the vast majority of prisoners, but in practice we are focused on those who are interested in anti-imperialist politics and/or open-minded and looking to learn. Nonetheless, we take this as a call to action for Under Lock & Key readers: we need to increase the percentage of people in contact with MIM(Prisons)!
I ask that you embrace the tides of the times We are no longer confined with binds on the mind Once we embrace united front, scientific thought and study for line the long arm of imperialism's law is no longer strong When through theory and practice we arrive at the decision to take up arms which is a must if we are to defeat imperialism's parasitic lust with too much greed for that which we don't need We fail to heed even the most basic of humyn needs As the Third World suffers because of our greed So turn the tides of the times Study for line and overthrow imperialism... Hystory is on our side.