Under Lock & Key Issue 54 - January 2017

Under Lock & Key

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[Elections] [U.S. Imperialism] [ULK Issue 54]
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Revolutionary Potential of a Trump Presidency

Trump

We have received many letters lately exploring the future of our struggle under a Trump administration. Below we print excerpts from two of those letters and our response on the topic.

From a comrade in Colorado:

"The presidential election has been most interesting. The election of King Trump may be the last chance for the folks that brought us the Cold War, Vietnam, and much of the current world instability, to try to hold on to power (or make a show of power). The racial minorities and poor people in the United $tates are actually in the majority, but they apparently did not get out and vote, so now we get Trump.

"On the possible good side, perhaps the explosion of right wing, world domination capitalism that Trump will be pushing will finally provoke the masses (the proletariat) once they really get screwed by Trump policies, to look for a real solution to improving their status. (I do not mean the U.$. labor aristocracy who are doing very well — lots of toys to keep them occupied. They will get even more under Trump's policies.) By that I mean looking to the philosophy, the understanding of socialism, as the the only viable means to their liberation from the shackles of capitalism."

From a comrade in a Federal facility:

"The election of Donald Trump is a cause to celebrate for revolutionaries. These are revolutionary times. The times where movements are built. Communists are in a position over the next 4 years to put in place a revolutionary front that can be sustained beyond the next election if it should be lost to a so-called democratic contender. No time will be lost to make revolution with these revolutionary times at hand.

"The fact that a so-called 'social democrat' - read 'socialist' - like Bernie Sanders had a chance in an Amerikan election to become president is a sign of the times that 'socialization' of European Amerikans is at a point of maturity in its epoch of imperialism. It is ready for socialism but lacks the world-historical material condition to make it possible. Thus this contradiction (condition) manifests as a 'national socialism' that is the opposite of international socialism and is nationalist or 'nationality exclusive.' That is why white Amerika elected Trump, to make Amerika white ('great') again."


MIM(Prisons) responds: The writers here make interesting points about the election of Trump as an opportunity for revolutionaries. Certainly there are some good reasons to agree with this. Trump's extremely reactionary cabinet appointments seem to be inspiring many Amerikkkans to political activism who previously were content to sit and watch the politics of this country from the sidelines, perhaps going to the polls once every 2 or 4 years. Revolutionaries should seize their initiative and make sure that people have access to information about why electoral politics aren't the answer, if they really are seeking change for the better of the majority of the world's people.

Of the large portion of people who are eligible to vote but don't vote in presidential elections we see a few major groups:

  1. People who don't care who wins because they know the government is serving their interests generally by continuing on with imperialist plunder to keep people in the United $tates rich. For the most part this is the labor aristocracy and is the vast majority of U.$. citizens. Where our comrade in Colorado says poor people are a majority in the United $tates, instead our class analysis says the labor aristocracy is the majority, and if they didn't vote it's because they knew either Clinton, Sanders, or Trump would all be fine to serve their interests.
  2. People who don't care who wins because they know that both candidates support national oppression and will work counter to their interests. This is the oppressed nation lumpen and oppressed nations generally; the "racial minorities" referred to by our Colorado comrade.
  3. People who genuinely oppose imperialism and so can't in good conscience vote for a candidate who will run the imperialist state. This is a small number of revolutionary activists within U.$. borders.

As our comrade in Colorado points out, the U.$. labor aristocracy is comfortable and may even get more comfortable under a Trump administration. As much as the bourgeois liberals are crying about Trump's election, the potential for socialist revolution to be initiated within the United $tates is slim to none. They are upset about LGBTQ rights and Trump's overt racism and sexism and anti-environmentalism, but on the whole don't mind extracting wealth from Third World peoples for their own benefit. The best we can expect from the Amerikan masses' own volition is a push toward social imperialism, which still leaves the Third World out.

Even supporters of Bernie Sanders are not socialist, as much as Sanders tries to claim that's what eir politics are about. Sanders was a candidate with a clear imperialist line on international issues. While ey might have planned to spread around the wealth a bit more to U.$. citizens, ey still falls firmly in the imperialist camp, supporting wars of aggression, and financing terrorist governments like I$rael. In this regard, Trump, Obama and Sanders are more similar than they are different. Our Colorado comrade says Trump will push world domination capitalism, but we've been seeing this for decades and it didn't slow down for a second under Obama. There is no way to reconcile Amerikan imperialism with socialism. No elected candidate will make this change. Only by forcibly overthrowing the government will we be able to implement socialism.

Our comrade in a Federal prison brings up the question of the need for world-historical material conditions to be in place to bring the Euro-Amerikan nation toward socialism. This comrade's claim that Euro-Amerikans are well on their way to supporting a socialist shift is likely overstated. But if the oppressed internal semi-colonies and oppressed Third World nations are enraged by Trump's rhetoric and policies, then we can expect revolutionaries in Amerikkka to grow in strength and number as well. The oppressed nations' response, internally and abroad, to a Trump's presidency is where we see real revolutionary potential.

This writer is correct that socialism (in the short term, and communism in the long term) is the only way to liberate the oppressed from capitalism. But when we recognize that the majority of people in the United $tates are benefiting from capitalism, we can see that most people in this country, voters and non-voters alike, aren't being fooled by mis-information. Rather they correctly understand that if we were to give back all the wealth stolen from Third World countries and stop the plunder of imperialism tomorrow, standards of living in this country would go down dramatically.

Still, there are very good reasons why Amerikans should oppose capitalism, including the destruction of the environment, the deadly culture of patriarchy and violence, and basic humynity towards other human beings around the world. And so we conclude that if Trump's presidency leads some Amerikans to greater global awareness and inspires them to oppose capitalism, it is our job to provide a correct analysis of the system and opportunities for action against the system.

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[Organizing] [Hunger Strike] [Ohio State Penitentiary] [Ohio] [ULK Issue 54]
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Tactical Lessons from Historical Lucasville Struggles

lucasville uprising

Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
Second Edition
Staughton Lynd
2011, PM Press

Condemned
Keith LaMar (Bomani Hondo Shakur)
2014, www.keithlamar.org

In April 1993 there was an 11-day occupation of Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, starting on Easter Sunday when the maximum security prisoners overpowered correctional officers (COs) while returning from recreation. During the occupation, eight COs were held as hostages; one was killed and the rest were released. Nine prisoners were also killed through the course of this uprising, all by other prisoners. The 407 prisoners surrendered when the administration committed to a 21-point agreement. After the uprising, five prisoners were sentenced to death for the murders, and they are the only people held on Ohio's death row.

Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising and Condemned are good books to read together, and give two thorough accounts of the events of the SOCF uprising, and even more thorough detail of what happened afterward. Lucasville is written by Staughton Lynd, a lawyer who plays a significant role in Condemned, which was written by Keith LaMar (Bomani), one of the people condemned to death for the events during the uprising. The content in these books overlaps a lot, but not too much as to be redundant. What content is repeated through the two books just underlines lessons learned, and clarifies the authors' political orientations, some of which MIM(Prisons) does not agree with. Rather than write a point-by-point criticism of these books which most of our readers will never have the opportunity to read anyway, below we summarize some of the lessons on prison organizing we gleaned from studying them.

Condemned recounts Bomani's first-hand experience before, during, and after the uprising, especially focusing on the struggle of the five prisoners who were scapegoated for the uprising (known as the Lucasville 5). Condemned is a good case study on many common aspects of prison organizing. Lynd's book describes all the work it took, and all the obstacles the state put in place, to support the Lucasville 5's struggle from the outside.

The first theme addressed in Condemned is the author's ideological transformation. MIM(Prisons)'s primary task at this point in the struggle is building public opinion and institutions of the oppressed for socialist revolution, so affecting others' political consciousness is something we work on a lot. On the first day of the uprising, Bomani was hoping the state would come in to end the chaos. But "standing there as dead bodies were dumped onto the yard (while those in authority stood back and did nothing), and then experience the shock of witnessing Dennis' death [another prisoner who was murdered in the same cell as the author], awakened something in me." Bomani's persynal experiences, plus politicization on the pod and thru books, are what led em to pick up the struggle against injustice.

At an event where Bomani was publicizing eir case and experience, a MIM(Prisons) comrade was able to ask em what go-to books ey recommend for new comrades who are just getting turned on to the struggle. Bomani suggested Black Boy by Richard Wright, and also refers to Wright in Condemned. MIM(Prisons) would second this recommendation. Black Boy is an excellent study of New Afrikan life under Jim Crow in the South, with many aspects of that struggle still continuing in this country today.

In eir own book, Bomani also recounts acts of prisoner unity against the administration shortly following the uprising, and how politicization of fellow prisoners played out in real life. The prisoners made a pact to trash the range each day, and not clean it up. The guards cleaned the range themselves for a few days, but then brought in a prisoner to clean it up. Simultaneously, the "old heads" on the pod were leading speeches nightly about the need for unity and the relationship between the prisoners and the administration, politicizing everyone within earshot.

"Every night there was a variation of this same speech, and I listened to it over and over again until something took root in me. I became openly critical of the mistreatment we had all undergone and, for a few months at least, was serious in my determination to persuade others not to join the administration in the efforts to further divide and conquer us."(Condemned, p. 33)

A tactic that was mentioned in passing in Condemned was how the prisoner who was cleaning the range for the pigs was dealt with. Ey was struggled with for a period of time, and asked to not clean the range, but ey came back day after day. Eventually this prisoner was stabbed by the protesters for continuously undermining the action. Bomani doesn't mention how this act impacted the unity demo, whether it helped or not. We aim to minimize physical violence as much as possible, although sometimes it may be necessary. It is up to those who are on the ground to make the call in their particular conditions, and this tactic should not at all be taken lightly. If much physical force is necessary to maintain a peace demo, then we should ask ourselves if the masses we're organizing are ready for that type of demo. Political education is always our focus at this stage in the struggle.

Both books address how a protest with solid participants can fail or succeed depending on the protest's outside support. Several hunger strikes were launched, and ended, without progress made on the demands. It wasn't until connections were made with outside advocates and media that prison officials took any steps toward fixing them. Especially in an instance where a lawyer met with the regional director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation, which led to some property restrictions being lifted.

Recalling a victory from a 12-day hunger strike which had a lot of outside support,

"When the administration refused to follow their own rules, we complained (verbally and informally) and then asked a district judge to intervene on our behalf, all to no avail. It never occurred to us that we were wasting our time by appealing to the very people who had placed us in this predicament we were in.

"Indeed, the whole process of redressing our grievances was nothing more than an exercise in futility designed to drain off our vital energy and make us feel as though we had done all that we could do.

"It was only when we began to write and reach out to 'the people' that things began to change. First, there was Staughton's book and accompanying play; then we began holding 'talks' around the state on various college campuses, as well as writing articles in various periodicals. In this way, we were able to generate some much-needed support."(Condemned, p. 179)

To combat the psychological warfare of the prison staff, Bomani strongly recommends daily meditation and yoga as a method to protect oneself. "By learning how to watch my thoughts [meditate using simple breathing exercises], I was able to rise above the vicious cycle of cause and effect, and thereby avoid the tricks and traps of my environment."(Condemned, p. 133)

MIM(Prisons) receives regular requests for information on sovereign citizenship. While we've written against this tactic at length elsewhere, Lucasville underlines it with an anecdote about three prisoners who cut off their fingers and mailed them to the United Nations to show how serious they were in in their claim of sovereign citizenship. The request was still denied.

A final lesson from these books, especially recounted in Lucasville, is that in any attempt at solidarity and justice for the oppressed, prison officials and other oppressors will do everything they can to undermine it. Everything. We should never expect that our enemies will act in good faith toward respecting us and our needs. We should always expect pushback and always expect that they will attempt to derail us at every step of the way. Studying past struggles for clues on how we can protect our movement will only make our job easier. The state is taking notes on our shortcomings and we need to do the same of both our shortcomings and our strengths.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 54]
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Movie Review: Rogue One

Rogue One Death Star
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
2016
[spoilers]

Rogue One is the backstory behind the very first episode of Star Wars ever produced (which is now chronologically number 4 in the unendingly profitable Star Wars series of movies). In this movie we learn how the rebel alliance managed to get a copy of the blueprints for the Death Star, a critical piece of information used to destroy that weapon. This movie is an impressive example of how well-funded elements of capitalist culture can spend millions of dollars in order to make a profit off of entertainment: the estimated budget was $200,000,000. Imagine what could have been done with those resources in a system guided by peoples' need instead of profit.

For this money we get a story that has some progressive elements but also many questionable and reactionary messages. Rogue One is about the rebel alliance's fight against the Empire. This could be a great anti-imperialist analogy. And there are some solid themes of revolutionary sacrifice and the oppressed coming together to fight a common enemy in a united front. But in the end it is individualism that wins, as of course that makes for a more exciting story in our culture.

This episode is a fairly satisfactory effort to stitch together episode 3 and episode 4, and provides us with a better explanation for why the Death Star could be completely destroyed with one good shot. The saboteur behind this weakness gives us one of the many examples of revolutionary sacrifice in this movie. It also offers an example of how resistance is possible from someone who is forced into a situation where there seems to be no resistance. While this character is depicted as having unique skills, eir course of action serves as a good example of the existentialist axiom that we always have a choice. This may serve as inspiration for those in the imperialist countries surrounded by class enemies, or those in isolation cells with no contact with the outside world but occasional letters.

While revolutionary sacrifice is a strong theme with many characters in the Rebellion, this message is not inherently anti-imperialist as it will likely reinforce those fighting for U.$. empire who believe what they are doing is good. The Empire in the movie, rather than being an example of the evils of imperialism, continues to come across as a caricature of what Amerika thinks of communism. Everyone wears the same uniform and is forced to work for the military dominance of the world under the leadership of one egotistical leader. But for those with a revolutionary mindset, we can pretend this was meant to represent the imperialist empire, and root for the Rebellion and honor their sacrifices.

There is a group that resembles Arab militants who have taken up focoism against the Empire, and who the Rebel Alliance grudgingly wants to work with. In some ways this is better than the average portrayal of Arab peoples in Hollywood movies, where they are often just the terrorists. But in this case they come across as not smart enough to participate in a united battle, just doing what their leader directs, in random focoist attacks. Still a rather stereotypical picture.

The Alliance itself appears to be a united front of various species from around the universe who are working together to defeat the Empire. This could be seen to parallel the united front of oppressed nations that will be necessary to take down U.$. imperialism. In humyn history we have strong examples of united fronts within nations, such as China. But the multinational united front and the joint dictatorship of the proletariat that will likely be necessary after defeating U.$. imperialism are things that we have little experience with. Fred Hampton's Rainbow Coalition in Chicago was an early form of such a united front, but it was repressed before an anti-imperialist war could emerge.

The movie uses this united front to promote ultra-leftism and individualist acts of desperation. When they get bogged down in fighting over whether or not they should take military action or run and hide, a small group of fighters take independent action because they don't know anything but war. These are the brave heroes of the movie. The main disagreement within the united front was over whether or not it was possible to win in a fight against the Death Star. This debate over tactics could have been a good lesson in struggle and unity, perhaps greater gathering of information and a testing of various tactics to learn from practice. Instead there was a short verbal fight and then a decision that no action could be taken because of all the disagreement, portraying the united front as futile.

Rogue One did feature more female characters than the average Hollywood movie, but the main characters were born into their roles, rather than rising up to take positions out of conviction and hard work. While the lead male characters overcame great hardship, or fought against persynal circumstances, to take up the rebel struggle. And still the vast majority of the characters seen in the movie are male, an odd feature for a society so far in the future. Clearly the patriarchy still dominates in Star Wars.

Star Wars movies all feature reference to "The Force" to greater or lesser degrees. In this storyline The Force is basically turned into a religion, practiced only by one Asian man who blindly guards the temple (literally, he is blind). This man's blind faith (it's not very subtle) becomes an important part of the rebel fight. And at one point this faith saves the day, again promoting a sort of ultra-leftism.

With all of these failings, MIM(Prisons) can't recommend Rogue One for anything more than critical analysis.

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[MIM(Prisons)] [Congress Resolutions] [Theory] [ULK Issue 54]
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On Cardinal Principles

In the last year there's been some struggle over MIM(Prisons)'s six main points. This is a good thing, as it indicates emerging Maoist cells trying to reconcile what does and should unite us. The focus of issue 54 of Under Lock & Key is tactics. Tactics are not what unite us. Tactics is the realm where we need many cells trying many different things. Tactics are guided by line and strategy, but are much more flexible over shorter time periods and therefore require creativity that is in touch with the masses.

Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, or Maoism for short, is MIM(Prisons)'s political line. Maoism does not tell us whether putting money into one big advertisement or thousands of little fliers will have the greater effect. Maoism also doesn't tell us whether a hunger strike will be more effective than a legal battle. These are tactical questions.

Dividing Lines or Dividing Over Tactics

In the last year, a cell that we considered part of the broader Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) split with MIM(Prisons) over what we saw as a tactical question. Maoists should never split over tactical questions; this is the theoretical importance of distinguishing between line, strategy and tactics.

We pushed this cell to present their split in terms of ideological line in relation to our six main points. The response was that they uphold the six main points but believe there are other issues to split over, such as promoting white supremacy, which they accused MIM(Prisons) of doing. They came to this conclusion after MIM(Prisons) did not print a statement criticizing the actions of prison activists that we have no affiliation with. This cell had a history of working closely with MIM(Prisons) over many years. And despite all the work we have done in that time (work that they admit challenged white supremacy) they were willing to split with us over this one action (or lack of action).

We see this as an error in how one should assess other cells. A cell, just as an individual, should be assessed on the whole. If a cell has acted according to one line for years, but did one thing that you see as violating that line, you probably should not split with that cell. That would be an ultra-left error, because you are expecting others to be perfect. Once it has been established by a pattern of actions that a cell has shifted its line and violated cardinal principles, then it would be correct to stop working with and possibly publicly criticize that cell.

In this particular case, MIM(Prisons) was condemned, not for participating in an event perceived to be white supremacist in nature, but for not condemning it. In contrast, MIM(Prisons) would argue that in most cases even if we had participated in this one event, that would still not be sufficient reason to split. You might publicly condemn the event yourself, but this should not rise to the level of creating splits in the Maoist Internationalist Movement. Willingness to split over non-cardinal issues is a threat to our ability to consolidate our forces in this country where individualism and splitism prevail. (To clarify, division of labor into collaborating cells is not the same as a split.)

If a cell does promote a campaign that caters to white nationalism, then one should criticize that based on our 4th point on the First World labor aristocracy being a force for imperialism, and as a violation of the Maoist line that oppressed nations have a right to self-determination. As anti-imperialists, supporting the labor aristocracy and undermining oppressed-nation self-determination is a no no. And a consistent practice of doing this indicates an underlying incorrect line that is a cause for splitting.

Principles of Line or Strategy?

Another MIM cell recently questioned why MIM(Prisons) put forth 6 points, adding on to the 3 cardinal principles that have historically defined the MIM.(see p. 2 of ULK) While we do present our 6 points in place of the 3 cardinals, it was not necessarily to say that the 3 cardinals were insufficient to define who is a communist. However, we must admit that we created confusion there.

The origin of our 6 main points is twofold. Our first goal with the six main points was to distinguish ourselves in the eyes of our readers. We were frustrated with the countless letters from people telling us to work with other groups, stop criticizing other groups and just unite around our common fight for justice. We wanted to succinctly differentiate ourselves from the countless organizations out there. Point 1 separates us from the Liberals, and in point 2 we split from the anarchists. Neither of those points were necessary in MIM's 3 cardinals, because all those claiming to be communists already agree on those two points. Point 3 separated us from the Trotskyists and neo-Trostkyists whose idealism leads them to unite with the petty-bourgeoisie in the First World while criticizing the bourgeois forces in the Third World even when they are fighting against imperialism. Points 4-6 are essentially the MIM cardinals.

While the 3 cardinals, as MIM came to refer to them, are nice and succinct dividing line points, they originally appeared in a greater context of a piece entitled "Who is a communist?" in the second edition of What is MIM?, which discusses concepts like "the abolition of power of people over people," "a communist party... is necessary," "democratic centralism," and "general unity with all other groups and outbreaks against imperialism."

The second contextual thing to understand about our 6 points is that they were developed in the early years of our organization, when those in the MIM camp were figuring out how to relate to each other as separate cells/organizations. It was also a period of fierce struggle against those promoting a third way in the post-9/11 Middle East, while framing the struggles there as "McWorld vs. Jihad." Therefore, our point 3 became, in the eyes of many organizations at that time, a dividing line question. The original MIM comrades, in fact, pushed this line hard to expose revisionists allying with the U.$. state department. While it is often tied up with the labor aristocracy question, it stands alone as its own point.

Mao's practice on building the united front of classes in oppressed countries, and eir theoretical writings on this topic contributed to our line on the subject and the development of point 3. We can also take lessons from the rectification movement of the Communist Party of the Philippines to find universal line lessons on united front building. However, in practice, who to form united fronts with is really a strategic question, as the answer may change as the strategic stage of struggle changes.

Mao's contribution on united front work was based on the assessment of the principal contradiction being between the oppressed nations and imperialism. Some seventy years later, we can say this is still the situation. But someday it will change. That is what makes our point 3 a strategic question and not a universal line question. From the early days of MIM, differences on the assessment of the principal contradiction have been a primary point of criticism MIM made of revisionist parties. That said, MIM never said the principal contradiction or united front was a cardinal principle.

In our point 2, we point out the need for a Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations (JDPON) in order to implement socialism in the imperialist countries. This is MIM Thought, a logical application of MIM's line on the labor aristocracy to the universal communist principle of the need for a dictatorship of the proletariat. It is also a strategy question, that does not necessarily have universal application.

Who Defines the Cardinals?

"The materialist approach to cardinal principles stresses an examination of actual history, not just our own vivid imaginations of how the world SHOULD BE. We materialists do not take splitting the proletariat and its vanguard party lightly. We form only as many cardinal principles as are necessary to unmask the enemy's attempts to infiltrate us or divert us to a less efficient road to communism." - MC5(1)

The cell structure complicates things further. For with a centralized organization MIM could say that if you agree on these three points and the need for a party then you should join ours. Then you are obligated to accept our other lines until you convince the party to change them. With many small cells there is not democratic centralism on line in this way, and we could see many disagreements on many non-cardinal issues. This could lead to confusion and division in the movement. Therefore we caution all MIM cells to carefully think out their positions before disagreeing with historical MIM line and the lines of other contemporary cells.

At the same time, we must not hold dogmatically to MIM Thought frozen in time of 2006 or earlier. The three cardinals themselves evolved over the years of the original MIM. While MIM formed in 1983, they did not get serious about the third cardinal until 1987.(2) In the MIM Notes archive, which is incomplete for these early years, it is issue 42 from June 1990 when we first see the 3 cardinals presented as such. However, the paper version of issue 42 does not feature the 3 cardinals, so this seems to have been added to the web version after the fact. MIM Notes Issue 50 (March 1991) does have the 3 cardinals listed in the paper version. In 1999, MIM expanded the 3rd cardinal to include reference to Marx, Engels and Lenin, describe the oppressor nation labor aristocracy as a petty bourgeois class and specifically list which countries this line applies to.(3)

In practice, MIM used the 3 cardinal principles to determine fraternal status.(4) This came up most strongly when it decided that the third cardinal applied internationally and not just to First World parties, thus cutting its direct promotion of some who were practicing People's War in the Third World. This began with the "Resolution on defending cardinal principles in international context," 2002, but it was sometime after 2002 when MIM actually stopped any promotion of those parties.

Building MIM Today

MIM(Prisons) was announced as a MIM cell on 8 October 2007. To this day we often refer to "Maoism Around Us," published in May 2009, when discussing these issues. This was one of what could be considered the founding documents of MIM(Prisons). While our ideology was already represented in the expansive work of MIM, in that article we addressed the situation we found ourselves in as the original centralized organization of MIM had ceased to exist. In it we pointed out that the MIM lives on, by the same definition as it always has. We continued to print MIM's 3 cardinal principles in most issues of Under Lock & Key.

It was after our first official congress in July of 2010 that MIM(Prisons) put out our six main points. Since then we have referred to them as our "cardinal points" once or twice, and printed them in every issue of ULK with a similar tagline as we once printed MIM's three cardinals: "MIM(Prisons) distinguishes ourselves from other groups on the six points below."

As we've said before, we need more Maoist Internationalist cells. Topical cells that focus on gender, ecology and the environment, and anti-militarism are all good candidates. And there is an endless need for locality-based cells that focus on local recruitment and building around popular movements in the region that align with the interests of the Third World proletariat. But us saying this does not make them appear out of thin air. As we gain small victories in recruiting comrades outside prisons, we wonder if the MIM needs institutions that can allow those who agree on the 3 cardinals to join up in a meaningful way. A way that provides coordination without sacrificing security, independent initiative and other benefits of the cell structure. Six months ago we set up the subreddit /r/mao_internationalist "to help individuals and groups allied with the Maoist Internationalist Movement support each others' work." Maybe it is time to refocus on the 3 cardinals and push for a regroupment of MIM.

There are United Struggle from Within (USW) cells that might as well be considered MIM cells due to their advanced political practice. And there are prison-based cells that are in the MIM camp that are not USW, which are usually nation-based. We support the nation-based organizing strategy as a reason to form a new organization separate from USW. There is probably no tactical advantage to identifying prison-based cells as MIM cells, because of the repression in the prison environment, although there is obvious theoretical advantage in summarizing a group's line and practice.

Being in prison limits one's ability to coordinate with other cells without relying on MIM(Prison). For our own organization, MIM(Prisons) does not accept prisoners as members because it is not possible to have democratic centralism when all our mail is read by state employees. When coordinating between cells, we need to make similar considerations.

In most contexts that we are aware of, MIM(Prisons) is seen as the foremost cell representing the MIM today. While we are honored by that recognition, it is also a sign of how far we have to go. Discussion of party formation is no more relevant today than it was ten years ago when our organization just formed. If we cannot get more than a handful of cells putting in work at the level that MIM(Prisons) does, how can we build a Maoist Party? And what good would such a party do? There is no question of seizing power in the United $tates today, where MIM(Prisons) is based. But there is much work to do to prepare for that inevitability as the imperialists overextend themselves militarily and the Third World continues to strike blows against them.

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[Censorship] [Campaigns] [Chuckawalla Valley State Prison] [California] [ULK Issue 54]
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Censor Victory in Chuckawalla Brings Pride

I start this letter sending out all my respects to all involved in educating and enlightening those persons such as myself.

These past couple of weeks have been a little hectic. Here at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, we have had difficulties with the administration censoring our mail.

I am most grateful for the letter of support your people wrote to Warden Seibel. It gave me support as to what direction to push my 22 form [Inmate/Parolee Request for Interview, Item, or Service].

With that I am proud to say that they called me back within 24 hours, saying I "will no longer have any problems receiving [my] mail" :)

Finally, yesterday my name was called to pick up Sept/Oct. 2016, No. 52 issue. Honestly I was shocked, empowered to know the feeling of winning these people is such a childish move on their behalf. I sat in the dayroom reading the publication with honor and pride.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This victory came through comrades coming together and filing appeals and paperwork on the inside and the outside. This comrade should be proud for standing up for eir First Amendment rights and following through on the bureaucratic process that is often there to wear you down.

However, this is not the first time Warden Siebel has assured us that the censorship issue has been addressed. So we must remain always vigilant. Our rights only exist to the extent that we struggle for them. And Amerikans will continue to oppress others as long as imperialism remains in place.

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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 54]
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Build a Strong Revolutionary Foundation

First, before we erect or construct anything we must have a strong foundation, a base – so to speak. Otherwise the whole structure will eventually collapse. That said, we must focus most of our energy and efforts on building a base inside prison, then work our way outwards. Once we are well-rooted, it will be easy to branch out by sending our ideology to the streets with serious minded brothas/sistas who will push the movement out there. However, that is not to say that we shouldn't be trying to build out there right now.

Thus, we must advocate for the development of a movement rooted in the revolutionary tradition that looks out for the interests of all oppressed people as a whole, opposes fratricidal violence (black-on-black, brown-on-brown) and work to develop an alliance with other social movements outside prison.

Secondly, we must understand that even small movements, because they include people with different ideas, reveal political debates over next steps, practical objectives, potential allies, and movement tactics. The idea and politics that guide a specific movement have a profound effect on its ultimate direction as well as on the activists involved. But, the guiding politics of social movement don't simply appear out of thin air. Rank-and-file BPP members themselves invented the armed self-defense tactics just as rank-and-file civil rights leaders developed the civil disobedience and non-violent protest strategy, and these members had to win others to these new tactics through a process of political debate and experience. They were leading with their ideas and testing them in practice.

Political leadership is just this: individuals, with the experience of struggle, can advance ideas and tactics that will strengthen the movement and develop to help prepare it for the next stages in struggle — whether economic, political, or ideological.

Huey P. Newton and others recognized the importance of uniting oppressed people into a political party that could act as a unit, providing leadership and an important counter-weight to the overbearing power of the capitalist state.

I'm going to finish with a quote from one of the leaders of the Black Power movement, who said "when a people arises, when it develops awareness, when it is convinced of the righteousness of its actions, there is nothing that can stop it. The people sweep aside all obstacles placed in their path like a whirlwind cleaning out all the dirt in a country."

Now, we have a lot of work to do before we can go around making claims like that. But this idea that we need to be building inside right now is, I think, the only perspective that fits when you understand that we're looking at a war against the system that is being launched from within, and when you understand the scale of resistance that is necessary.

People are receptive to the "idea" of resisting, but they're doing so in a context in which their revolutionary spirit is very weak and needs to be ignited. But, this is the task of our generation, and I think these kinds of ideas we are building on now are all about the process of trying to rebuild that Black revolutionary fighting anti-capitalist regime.


MIM(Prisons) adds: "Unity from the inside out" is a slogan that United Struggle from Within has used in promoting the development of unity among and between lumpen organizations (LOs) in prison. This slogan echoes the strategy promoted above of building a strong prison movement to affect the rest of society. Sloganeering is one of the tactical tasks necessary to build an effective anti-imperialist movement. Good slogans are based in mass line. This means taking correct ideas from the masses and reinforcing them through propaganda. Finding effective slogans and language that connects the mass consciousness to the revolutionary struggle should be a focus of USW. This is part of what it means to provide leadership as the comrade describes above.

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[Organizing] [Washington] [ULK Issue 54]
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Tactics for Dealing with Correctional Officers

Currently on a day to day we are faced with dealing with situations that are not part of our sentence. For me I have to decide what approach or tactics I can use dealing with correctional staff whose behavior has escalated from being rude to disrespectful and retaliative. Here, in Washington, Correctional Officers (COs) try to gain popularity amongst their peers by doing disrespectful things and abusing their authority in order to impress each other. They do things like slam your cuff door, kick your door while you sleep, and put your handcuffs on too tight. I've seen officers tampering with an offender's food. This causes me anxiety. I suffer from panic attacks and my mental stability can't handle the paranoia.

It's like figuring out how to deal with a high school bully. I've completed courses in Non-Violent Communication (NVC) and also dispute resolutions. I've taken classes on human relations and was a very popular person out in the community where I am from. The CO is a new kind of bully. Similar to a bad boss you can choose to submit to their abusive ways, you know, favoritism, laziness, lying to offenders, slacking off, pretending as if their job is hard and stressful. You can become more passive and avoid conflict and simply stay out the way. Take the disrespect with a smile, do your time, and go home. My father told me to do this, to succumb to their oppression, do your time, and come home.

Because I've been sentenced to 126 months to life they have extended my sentence 3 times due to infractions and some made up reason concerning my mental health. I am a convicted sex offender guilty of rape in the 2nd degree domestic violence. A crime I committed against the mother of my child. Having said that, I understand the ideology that a sex offender is a pathetic human being deserving of whatever treatment he or she has coming. However, with crime, and I mean any crime now, there are people who will suffer indirectly. Families and loved ones who care get victimized when an offender is in prison and receives unfair, cruel and unusual punishment, abuse and neglect and these are people living the right way.

For a criminal to just avoid conflict, do his time and get out, is far more damaging because you left that offender in a cycle of behavior that leads to more crime and often someone's death. So no I don't choose to just do my time and go home. I continue to make a difference, that's how I do my time. If god wants me to be in here for 20 more years so be it. I am helping the men in here internalize change. I may have stopped a family member or loved one from harm by providing new perspectives and ideas that change minds and unlock potential.

So these five tactics I've come up with have nothing to do with avoiding. Just providing solutions.

  • Before deciding to deal with any issue check your intentions. Deciding whether the issue is detrimental or not and it has nothing to do with your ego.
  • Learn the 7 habits of highly effective people. Use them, practice them with your comrades. Seek first to understand all angles, give little of your reasoning but get all of theirs. That way you can punch holes in their lies and stories.
  • Push paperwork, write grievances and kites, use them as documentation. Because you never know when it may go to a lawsuit. Of course, that is not the goal, but fairness and equal protection treatment is.
  • Transfer power, officers tend to make a lot of mistakes but be considerate of their intentions. A lot of times it's because they haven't been told something or simply feel discomfort. You can ease the tension by helping them see the bigger perspective simply by asking questions. So that way they can come to their own conclusions.
  • Be reasonable, listen to reason and compromise. In the end it is all about respect. You will have officers who are flat out disrespectful. A lot of them feel they have to operate this way in order to get complacence and respect. So you can't take it personal but you should handle all your issues at the lowest form always.

MIM(Prisons) responds: We want to applaud this comrade's commitment to do more than just do eir time, instead trying to transform the consciousness of others while locked behind bars. There are a few things in here we want to comment on. First, many will criticize us for even printing something written by a sex offender, but we want to push people to consider the ideas rather than judging them based on the background of the people who put out the ideas. 2+2=4 no matter who says it. But even more importantly, someone who previously advocated that 2+2=5 can change and learn why eir previous answer was wrong. We believe the same is true of all people who commit acts against the people with sufficient self-criticism and re-education.

As far as the tactics proposed by this comrade, we agree with the points that promote checking your ego, and filing grievances and maintaining documentation. However, we have some disagreements with this writer's proposals about how to deal with people. First, when dealing with our comrades we should not tell people to "give little of your reasoning but get all of theirs." If this comrade is suggesting we do this with the enemy then that's fine, but with our comrades we should be honest and straightforward about our reasoning as we seek to build unity and respect.

On the other hand we think this writer gives too much credit to officers suggesting that they can be won over through respect and consideration. While it's true that we don't need to start with aggressiveness and should seek to diffuse situations that might work against us, we should not fool ourselves into believing that officers will come around to our side if we just treat them nicely. The prison system is set up to put officers in a position where abuse of prisoners is encouraged. It's not just personalities of individuals or lack of perspective that cause the problems, it's the system itself. We need to be clear on this so that we can stay focused on the system as the enemy.

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[Elections] [Economics] [ULK Issue 54]
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Understanding the Role of Class in Trump Election

I have recently watched a well-planned election and campaign by Donald Trump, soon to be president of the United Snakes of Amerika. But I have to give him credit where credit is due. First, the Democrats for years have used the minority vote to get elected, by making promises of making eir life more better under a democratic capitalistic society.

I do want to question protest. They only focus on revolutionary nationalist struggles aligning their struggle with the left wing national bourgeoisie and with women and men of the left wing nations of the oppressed in Amerika. But we should also remember that not all struggles lead to socialism. The recent protests have cells that are revolutionary nationalism, where the people want the power. We need to study and use strategic methods to overthrow imperialism period. Why protest about issues that are not in line with changing our current economic system?

Now back to my opening on why I give Trump credit. Not to say I support his ideology or policies. I am considering how he managed to get support from the patriarchal labor aristocracy, and the First World lumpens. And some lumpens in the poor rural districts. This explains why Mao asked "who are our enemies, who are our friends?" The white proletariat showed up and it lets us know that they are the majority. And will support a system of imperialism. And the oppression of the Third World peasants. Just as long as the bourgeoisie be fed the illusions that jobs will come back to Amerikkka!


MIM(Prisons) responds: Overall this comrade has a good analysis of the election of Trump and the class that is behind this campaign. However, we want to point out that they are not a white proletariat but rather a white petty bourgeoisie. This distinction is important because the Amerikan workers are not exploited, and this is why they support imperialism: they are benefiting economically from imperialism! It doesn't really matter if a few jobs come back to the United $tates or not. As was proven with the failed attempts to get citizens to work the fields picking crops, there are some jobs that Amerikans really don't want. The petty bourgeois class thinks it is owed cushy jobs at high wages, but has no problem with people in the Third World doing grueling work for pennies. The only jobs the Amerikan workers want back are high paying jobs that don't require much work.

For anyone who believes the myth that white workers in the United $tates are on the decline and getting poorer, we have much in-depth documentation about the level of wealth enjoyed by the vast majority of Amerikan citizens and their well-above-exploitation level wages. This is a question of science, that is all the more important now that it has gained attention not only among false revolutionaries seeking to rally the so-called Amerikan proletariat but also among right-wing politicians gaining center stage in Amerikan politics. As this writer points out, we must be clear about who are our enemies and who are our friends, and at base this question requires a clear analysis of class and nation within U.$. borders. Write to us for a copy of our labor aristocracy study pack to get a more in depth understanding of this important point.

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[Organizing] [National Oppression] [Principal Contradiction] [ULK Issue 54]
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Buying off Revolutionary Nationalists

capitalist clown

In an article titled "Revolutionary Nationalism and the Afro-American Student," published in January 1965, Max Stanford argued that Black students of the "warbaby" generation embodied several contradictions at once – contradictions that could lead them to embrace capitalism and white values, check out altogether, or join the revolutionary movement. What I like about this idea from Max Stanford is many of us Black lumpens scream and protest about oppression and unjustice. But as soon as we're pacified with promises of more jobs and wage growth we tend to get amnesia on how capitalism is creating the oppression and injustices.

Sometimes I question organizations that scream that we need to be free and equal but still want to hold on to petit-bourgeois ideas. I can agree with Max Stanford about the warbaby generation that wants oppression to end but will embrace capitalism as if that system will truly liberate them from oppression. I see this happening today; what we should be protesting about is bringing in a new economic system which can give us control of the means of production. Rather than riot and protest and beg these imperialists for more oppression and injustice in order to satisfy our material desires.

Another point I want to express is the embracing of white values. When we hear the term white values what is Max Stanford getting at? Well he must mean how Blacks will adopt lifestyles and ideology that most capitalist whites have. Now I assume Max Stanford was envisioning a future in which New Afrikans would sell out the revolution for material wealth in supporting a system which creates class divisions in Amerikkka and abroad. A lot of revolutionaries of the past used self-censorship in order to support capitalism and gave up on the struggle for the fear of being isolated targets of the imperialist masters. We have even gone so far as denying self-determination. So I agree with Max Stanford's statement that Black revolutionaries would embrace white values.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer raises a very relevant point about the potential for oppressed nation people to be pacified with material wealth. We have seen a movement towards integration and buying off oppressed nations within U.$. borders, as a part of a dual-pronged strategy from the government since the revolutionary movements of the 60s and 70s: dramatic incarceration rates combined with significant movement towards integration. We still see sufficient national oppression that we continue to have distinct nations within U.$. borders, but as with other nations in the past, Amerika could decide to fully integrate its oppressed nations to focus its energy on the exploitation of the Third World. Already superprofits are being shared with the [email protected] and New Afrikan nations so that even while facing national oppression they are enjoying an economic benefit from their Amerikan citizenship. And this promise of material benefit does lead revolutionaries to give up the struggle, as this author points out.

So we have to ask, what should revolutionaries do with these material conditions? This issue of ULK is about movement tactics, and it is an analysis of our conditions that should lead us to determine what are appropriate tactics and strategy for our organizing work. At this point in time we still believe that the principal contradiction within U.$. borders is between the oppressor nation and oppressed nations. It's even possible we will see this contradiction heighten as the white supremacists gain a stronger foothold in open roles in the government. So for now it is our job to educate and organize the revolutionaries, with a focus on the oppressed nations. But we are not fighting for the economic advancement of oppressed nation workers, who are already benefiting from imperialism. Our message must be clear: we are internationalists, fighting to end all national oppression, not just gain a bigger piece of the pie for internal oppressed nations while the pie is baked with the labor of exploited Third World workers.

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[Gender] [ULK Issue 54]
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Prison Rape Elimination Act: Does more harm than good

The Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was created to help prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment inside U.$. prisons and to hold fully accountable those found guilty of sexual misconduct. But is this really the case? I beg to differ with those who fully support PREA.

As a transgender woman, I am victimized daily in one way or another at the hands of my fellow prisoners and staff. I should feel free to report sexual assault/sexual harassment, but the fact is, I'm afraid to or at least reluctant to do so. The pigs in authority here in this particular gulag have decided to create a stipulation that prevents me from coming out of my cell without being video/audio recorded via hand-held camcorder. I am being told that it is for my safety and that of others. I say bullshit. This is retaliation at its finest, subtle and cloaked.

I am at the fascists' mercy for shower, yard, law library and anything else out of my cell. If my captors decide they don't feel like going through the motions with the camera (which is often) they simply have to claim that the camcorder is unavailable and/or out of service for the time being. Thus my right to shower, yard, law library, etc., is more often than not violated. I've pointed out numerous times that there are video cameras in every area of the prison, and there isn't a spot in this place that I can go that is beyond the view of a camera, but the pigs say that audio is needed for my claims of sexual harassment. When I point out that a majority of my sexual harassment allegations occurred when I was inside my cell, they have nothing more to say, as I've tripped them up in their own game.

It's simple. Things like this are done to discourage anyone from reporting any type of PREA violation whether it happened or not. Fear of retaliation alone is a violation of PREA standards. I wonder just how many others are experiencing this type of issue and what as a whole, we can do about it. Any suggestions, comrades?


MIM(Prisons) responds: Gender oppression is one of many forms of abuse faced by prisoners in the Amerikan criminal injustice system. While the PREA laws appear on the surface to take this problem seriously, we have seen that in practice PREA is more about image than action. And this is not the first report we have received about manipulation of the PREA laws to actually harm those who are experiencing the sexual harassment. We have written previously about PREA and the problems of sexual assault in prisons. Our overall conclusion is that we can not rely on the oppressors to enact policies that will stop oppression. Instead we look to the example of groups like Men Against Sexism, an organization in Washington prisons in the 1970s, to defend against sexual assault and change the culture of what was acceptable among prisoners. Organized action by the oppressed at a group level is necessary to overthrow patriarchy.

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[Organizing] [Abuse] [Political Repression] [Gulf Correctional Institution Annex] [Florida] [ULK Issue 54]
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Brutal Response to September 9 Work Stoppage at Gulf CI Annex

It's been rough these past couple months at Gulf Correctional Institution Annex, that is ever since prisoners attempted to have a non-violent sit down. On 8 September 2016 Administration walked around to every dorm stating "We going to treat a non-violent sit down just like a violent one." When it came to awaken A.M. food service workers to report to work, all prisoners sat on their bunk in silence. At approximately 2:05AM administration gave a final call in L-Dorm for food service workers to report to their assigned post for work. Every prisoner refused to leave the dorm and sat on their bunk.

Once the sun began to rise prisoners became aware of the large number of heavily armed Rapid Response Team (RRT) officers in full body armor marching towards L-Dorm. A sledgehammer came crashing through two open bay windows. Once an opening was cleared, officers armed with 12 gauge shot guns started aiming on those prisoners sitting on their bunks in L-Dorm. Warden Blackwood ordered all prisoners to lay on their bellies with their hands on head. The warden ordered officers to switch to live rounds, safeties off, any prisoner gets off his bunk shoot to kill.

Once the prisoners in K-Dorm and Q-Dorm witnessed how Administration and RRT members was mistreating prisoners in L-Dorm they started standing up against our oppressors. RRT members smashed out a window in K-Dorm and deployed Pepperball Launching System (PLS). RRT members began extracting K-Dorm prisoners, zip tieing them, and emergency shipping those prisoners. While in Q-Dorm prisoners were ordered to go into their cells and close the doors, RRT entered Q-Dorm using Pepperball Launching System (PLS), noise flash distraction devices, and stinger rubberball grenades.

One prisoner was disabled and confined to a wheelchair due to having only one leg. This Muslim disabled prisoner had a stinger rubberball grenade explode under the wheelchair. Officers days later was heard bragging how it launched the prisoner out of his wheelchair and into a cell! While in L-Dorm hours went by laying on bellies, prisoners were denied restroom privileges and forced to urinate into empty powerade bottles or on the floor next to their bunk. Only times prisoners had permission to sit up was when bag lunches arrived during breakfast, lunch and dinner. No drink was provided at any meal to prevent dehydration. Prisoners began to beg for water around evening. Captain Shwarz followed by armed RRT members entered L-2. Captain Schwarz had a 9mm handgun in his hand, walked up to the prisoner who had been requesting water out the window, leveled the handgun on the inmate and threatened to blow his head off if he did not cease his actions. Prisoner was then zip tied and escorted to confinement.

The following day inmates was rounded up and placed in Q-Dorm which became Emergency Confinement. Administration rounded up the majority of prisoners who had ties to one affiliation or another. This was administration's excuse for their excessive force used. The gangs didn't force prisoners to participate in the sitdown but as far as the warden was concern that's who the blame was going to fall on. Prisoners in Emergency Confinement were placed under investigation, given falsified disciplinary reports, unjustly use of force in the form of CS gas, placed in scalding hot showers for decontamination, escorted back to the same cell that had not been decontaminated, forced to sleep on steel + concrete for 63.5 hours, and had suffered a beating from the hands of officers.

All prisoners in Q-Dorm have been shipped after 60 days. Only 18 prisoners remain now, and have been escorted to P-Dorm regular confinement. I am the prisoner who suffered beating from Sergeant Kirk who was escorting me to rec. Captain Schwarz told Sergeant Kirk to "take care that little bitch for me." Once outside and out the view the camera Sergeant Kirk struck me in the back of the head with a closed fist, slammed me viciously to the ground, elbowed me to the back the head, while trying to force my hands above my head in handcuffs. I don't know why out of the hundred some prisoners in Emergency Confinement that I was left behind and not transferred. As of now I've been sentenced to 150 days disciplinary confinement, my DR's consist of "Refuse to Work," "Participating in Minor Disturbance," "Gang Related Activity," and "Disorderly Conduct." My grievances are being trashed and I expect more hands-on retaliation upon my release from confinement. This is all results of September 9th at Gulf Correctional Institution Annex.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We've printed a lot of reports about the protests on September 9, both as part of the United Front for Peace in Prisons Day of Peace and Solidarity, and part of the broader work strike. It is good to hear more details about the unity and struggle put into action on that day. We also want to publicly document that brutal, terroristic and illegal behavior of Florida DOC staff towards the peaceful protesters at Gulf CI Annex. Humyn rights in action in the United $tates of Amerikkka.

It is not surprising that the prison administrators blame lumpen organizations (LOs) for the action. Although LOs in some prisons serve a negative role by pitting prisoners against each other, in many places they have taken a positive role and stepped up to push unity and struggle against the criminal injustice system. The potential for these organizations of oppressed nations, which already have a strong cadre and the ability to quickly mobilize many, is correctly identified as a threat by the administration. And it is our job as revolutionaries to help members push these organizations towards progressive action.

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[Theory] [Cuba] [ULK Issue 54]
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Revolutionaries Must Adapt to Change for Success

Every popular movement is confronted with a common obstacle: change. As life progresses, it evolves in a never-ending forward trajectory. Because of this fact, the current questions, problems and circumstances facing the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist movement will never be the exact same problems in the future as they are today. This is an undeniable fact. As comrade Mao faced different variations of imperialist opposition than those faced by Comrades Stalin, Lenin and Marx, so too does the current struggle and fight for communism face distinctly different obstacles.

Tactics and strategy are the only effective measures against an ever-evolving foe. Every popular movement has set down tactics and strategies for overcoming determined opposition and many have adhered to them uncompromisingly, to the fatal detriment of their movement. Inflexibility, lack of progressive and innovative thinking, an unbending determination to follow a set course and finally stagnation. All cancerous to a movement.

History gives us examples of movements that have failed for lack of adaption and others that have survived by adapting. The Cuban wars for Independence are examples of the latter. Beginning in 1868, the Ten Years War began in earnest, led by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes. As their reality changed so too did their tactics and strategies. There were three major stages to the struggle that lasted over 30 years. La Guerra Chiquita in 1879 (the Small War) was the second, followed by the Spanish -Cuban-American War (1895) which ended in 1889. In each stage there were new leaders; Antonio Maceo, José Martí, Calixto García, Máximo Gomez and others. These revolutionaries never stopped evolving and adapting to the reality of their circumstances.

This Cuban example is one that should be followed as it leads to success. Overwhelming opposition, oppression, and outright violence assailed these revolutionaries. Yet, they prevailed, overthrowing the imperial yoke that burdened them for so long. Those struggling for communism must do the same: adapt and be both reactive and proactive. Tactics and movement strategy are not principles, they can be and should be changed according to the present reality. Only fundamental principles are set in stone and uncompromising. Tactics are meant to confront specific circumstances. Yesterday's tactics will not solve tomorrow's problems. Evaluating circumstances, employing tactics and strategy, re-evaluating and employing new tactics and strategies must be a part of any anti-imperialist/capitalist movement. Without adaptability failure is inevitable.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade's main point that the revolutionary movement must be adaptable to current conditions and obstacles. We have overarching political line that is the theory behind our work, but then we develop strategies from this line which match current conditions in the world. And from those strategies we implement tactics suited to our day-to-day work.

The history of the Cuban revolutionary movement does provide some good examples of adapting to conditions, such as the period highlighted by this writer. Cuba in more recent years also provides us with some examples of strategic mistakes and failure to correctly account for conditions. The Cuban revolutionary strategy led by Castro missed out on some important global conditions that should have impacted their strategy, and thus ultimately failed to learn from history. The end result was a dependence on the social-imperialist Soviet Union that held back the development of Cuba and forced them into some counter-revolutionary actions and policies. Maoism was alive and well in the world at the time of the Cuban revolution but they did not learn from the successes and failures of China's experience. The Soviet Union had already given up on socialism and was building a state capitalist system when Cuba became dependent on trade in a way that mirrored imperialist countries' relationships with their satellite colonies, keeping Cuba from diversifying crops and forcing Cuban troops to fight Moscow's battles in Third World countries.

Notes: For more on the Cuban revolution, send us $5 or equivalent work trade for a copy of MIM Theory #4: A Spiral Trajectory, the failure and success of communist development
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[Abuse] [Organizing] [Eastham Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 54]
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Eastham Unit Water is Poison!

Revolutionary greetings comrades, it has been a while since I reported from behind enemy lines. As Donald Trump enters the oval office I don't see any other choice than to partner with MIM(Prisons) in order to educate and organize the lumpen underclass. My comrades and I are actively engaged in a battle which seeks to abolish prison slavery as well as shed a discerning spotlight on toxic prisons.

I arrived on Eastham Unit located in Lovelady, Texas in November 2016. This was my second transfer since the September 9th national actions. I've been placed in long-term solitary confinement because of my organizing surrounding that and other campaigns.

Eastham Unit is one of the oldest prisons in Texas. The plumbing has deteriorated and corroded in such a way that dirt and sediment from the soil leaks into the water supply producing a foul stench in the water. The offensive smell of the water was the first thing I noticed. Officers here liken the smell to boiled eggs and burnt rubber. ULK 49 (March/April 2016) published an article on contaminated water at Eastham Unit and we know the contaminants to be copper and lead!

My application of historical dialectical materialism has taught me the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) misinforms the public about conditions inside its numerous slave kamps and gulags. But moreover, I have discovered a collusive and conspiratorial relationship between state agencies like the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and TDCJ.(1)

Wallace Pack Unit located in Navasota, Texas is the case in point. The arsenic levels in the water were at least double the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard and the TCEQ knew this for quite some time. But it wasn't until Panagioti Tsolkas of Prison Legal News exposed the contamination that conversations began. However, it took the actual prisoners at Wallace Pack Unit, with representatives from the NABPP-PC to take their destiny into their own hands and file complaints with the federal court.(2)

Already I see a shroud of secrecy and the overt signs of an elaborate cover-up concerning the water at Eastham Unit. Prison officials, who are easily identified as members of the labor aristocracy and bourgeoisie imperialist pig class, do not have a vested interest in the long-term health of prisoners.

Prisoners at Eastham Unit must fight back! The first thing we do is file a Step 1 (I-127) grievance form. Then simultaneously, those that have friends and family must request they file a formal public complaint online with the TDCJ Ombudsman office (e-mail address [email protected]). While these are marinating we start a letter campaign to the Prison Ecology Project, P.O. Box 1151, Lakeworth, Florida 33460.(3)

Behind enemy lines, I will be doing what I can do to attract media attention and free world help but without comrades actively filing grievances about the water I will be on the front line by myself and the oppressor will claim I am just creating lies. A favorite pig tactic.

Even if you've filed on this poison water in the past, please consider filing again. A huge support network is following our work as we combat toxic prisons. I had a discussion with one of the pigs who works here. The subject was the closing down of Eastham because of the poison water. Here is what he said: "You think you can get the state to shut this unit down on account of the water? They don't care about that – what they care about is those 800 acres of corn we got in the ground in them fields!"

Comrades, I couldn't say a damn word! Because it will be the lumpen prisoners who will be picking that damn corn! I must echo the words of the Free Alabama Movement - "Let the crops rot in the field." And what do you think would happen to that corn if the public knew those corn fields were being irrigated with poison water!? Knowledge is power isn't it?

A significant step in this struggle is getting prisoners recognized as environmental justice communities by the EPA, so that prison facilities can be forced into compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.(6) However, the state of Texas has created laws and policies that keep the EPA out of its toxic prisons so we must create a public outcry in order to knock the doors down! Apply Pimp C's "Knockin Doorz Down" as needed! UGK for life!(7)

Dare to struggle, dare to win, all power to the people!

Notes:
1. Keith 'Malik' Washington, "Prison officials, ACA inspectors ignore contaminated water in Texas prisons," San Francisco Bay View (National Black newspaper), October 21, 2015. www.sfbayview.com
2. Panagioti Tsolkas, "Is Texas poisoning prisoners with contaminated water?" September 2015, Prison Legal News.
4. Prisonecology.org
5. Fighttoxicprisons.org
6. TCEQ fax# 936-437-7379. If you file a brief complaint it will help us!
7. Pimp C, "Knockin Doorz Down" music video, https://youtu.be/5sQxFsblruE . Contains themes of building peace and unity among Houston rappers in spite of the FBI's attempts to divide them.

MIM(Prisons) responds: It is great to have clear steps in order for any tactical work to be successful, so we highlight this campaign as one with a clear path broken down into small steps, making it easy to get involved and mark progress. While we struggle on these reformist campaigns, we also know that they are unlikely to be successful. But that is all part of building public opinion for socialist revolution. In a socialist system, as in China under Mao, people's needs were valued above profits and prisoners were not poisoned via their water supply.

People should not be forced to get heavy metal poisoning just because they are in prison (or because they live in an oppressed nation community as what happened in Flint, Michigan). The EPA, one of those bandaid organizations of the United $tates government to give people something to focus on instead of straight up revolution, is unlikely to categorize prisoners as environmental justice communities, and also unlikely to enforce their policies in prisons in Texas. Even if they did, to enforce environmental policies on Texas prisons is a decades-long struggle, while hundreds of thousands of people will be forced to drink poisonous heavy metals in the meantime.

Still, we support this campaign and encourage our readers to get involved. It may win some improvements in water quality that will have a significant impact on the health of Texas prisoner. Even if the campaign fails, it is a good example of how futile petitioning the U.$. government agencies generally is. If the campaign succeeds, it will likely only be with caveats which undermine the overall campaign, which we can point to as an example of the futility of reformism. Either way, Texas prisoners come out better organized and better poised for the only struggle that has shown any success in valuing peoples' well-being, and that's the revolutionary struggle toward socialism and communism.

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[Censorship] [Evans Correctional Institution] [South Carolina] [ULK Issue 54]
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Stop Wasting ULK on Censorship

This letter is to inform you to discontinue sending out the Under Lock & Key newsletter to me here. There is a very repressive regime established at this prison and indeed the entire state. The censorship of our materials goes without challenge. Why? Authorized violation of so-called rights! The grievance procedure is designed to be a stalling mechanism and as it stands now is actually depriving the prisoners here of redress of grievances and access to the courts!

I do not want relevant/useful information appropriated or destroyed by these foolish people so please do not continue to mail any of your publications for now. I am furious at these methods and practices this system is using to block our awareness and consciousness but I am unable to offer a real challenge because these South Carolinians are fast asleep! I grow weary of the incessant thought of the problem. Merely writing or filing actions to the courts who, with every degree of bias/prejudice, turn blind eyes. We need some direct action! Do not let our papers go to waste brothers and sisters! I do not have any reliable sources out there. Yet, but I guarantee I soon will.


MIM(Prisons) responds: It is always sad to hear from comrades hard at work behind bars who want their Under Lock & Key subscription terminated due to censorship problems. We appreciate this comrade's desire to save us the cost of sending in a publication that will only be censored, but we have also noticed that in prisons that are usually censoring our literature, occasionally things will slip through. So if you are in this situation, we are willing to continue to send ULK, in the hopes that it will get to you.

If we look at the last 10 issues of ULK, the rate of copies reported received in censor-heavy states like South Carolina and North Carolina are the same as the average across the country. The reports of censorship in those states are higher, but we still have more people reporting ULKs received. We have also had isolated victories after appealing censorship in both states in the last couple years. Of course, if more subscribers told us which issues they received and which they did not, we would have more information so we could make a more accurate assessment. So please let us know specifically what you have received every time you write us.

Ultimately it is a tactical question of when we want to exclude a facility or state from our mailing list because we think we are just throwing money away. Overall, we know that only a small fraction of the prison population is exposed to Under Lock & Key and we will always face state repression in our efforts to expose them. So we have chosen tactics that increase our chances of exposing the greatest number of people.

This writer is setting a good example by fighting this censorship on all the fronts possible. And trying to organize others as well. Conditions change over time, and organizing is a dialectical process that involves many failures. This letter underscores the need for outside support for our comrades' battles behind bars.

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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 54]
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By Any Means Necessary

My opinion on how we should decide what tactics to use in our present day struggle is simple. First off, we must educate one another about past struggles that have a lot of similarities with our present-day struggles. Then we must find strategic ways in resolving problems with international support throughout the masses. Also we must carry a "by any means necessary" persona at all times, and will not compromise until we've reached an agreement with the oppressor that settles in our favor.

The majority of our people in the struggle work on campaigns that they know isn't going to be successful because they probably look at that certain leadership through one point of view. Like, a so-called leader might bring forth a front that seems to be totally for people of poverty but in all actuality the plan puts even more money in the pockets of exploiters while the people will suffer more after the smoke clears. For example, before 1776 America was a British colony. The British government had certain laws and rules that the colonized Americans rejected as not being in their best interests. In spite of the British conviction that Americans had no right to establish their own laws to promote the general welfare of the people living here in America, the colonized immigrant felt he had no choice but to raise the gun to defend his welfare. Simultaneously, he made certain laws to ensure his protection from external and internal aggressions, from other governments, and his own agencies. One such form of protection was the Declaration of Independence, which states: "...whenever any government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its power in such forms as to them, shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."


MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer is correct that we need to focus our work on uncompromising struggle in the interests of the oppressed. And we should not waste our time on campaigns that have no hope for success. Although we do see value in smaller battles that can be used to educate people about the struggle, even if the chances of success are minimal, such as with the grievance campaign. But this writer is focused on the larger battles, and on that question we firmly agree. In fact this is why we are clear that electoral politics within the corrupt and tyrannical system of imperialism are a waste of time. We will never “reach an agreement” with the oppressor that is in favor of the oppressed. We will only put an end to imperialism through force. Today we are at the stage of building public opinion and growing our organization, but we can't lose sight of the bigger picture and the need for revolution to liberate the oppressed.

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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 54]
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Coffee House Revolutionaries or Real Militants?

In response to a letter from MIM(Prisons) struggling over some apparent points of disagreement, we received this commentary on movement strategy and tactics.

We believe in having a political branch and a military branch. It's nothing wrong with being political, it is needed in the fight against imperialism and capitalism. So you doing public building of opinions and creating independent institutions is good. That's what nonviolent people do who are coffee house revolutionaries. It's nothing wrong with being coffee house revolutionaries. Everybody has a position to maintain. That's why I support you and a few other people we deal with support you. So do your prisoner support work and lumpen organizing. That's a good thing which I support. If me and others did not support it we would not contact you.

To my second point, I and others believe that MIMs and us can learn from each other. It's not about just what MIMs can share or teach us. It's about what we can share and teach MIMs also. It's about real uniting for a common purpose against a common enemy. We call this networking, sharing lines, etc. Not being forced to accept someone's line, but respecting it. We know war is fought using different strategy and tactics. We are not pushing anyone away who is trying to bring about revolution and establish socialism.

That's what I and some others think MIMs do when they criticize people who are socialist or revolutionaries but belong to other orgs. MIMs see their way is the only right way. Not everybody believes that. That's what Christians and Muslims believe and do and look at them, they fight each other over who is right but they have some things in common with slight differences. If you seek unity, stop criticizing other socialist revolutionaries and unite on common grounds. If something is expressed different than what you believe, you can state how you view something then leave it up to the people to decide what strategy and tactics they want to follow.

Everybody is not political, some people are militant and are about militarism. We accept MIMs being political. We want to share militarism spirit or values. For we are truly on the battlefield with weapons. People are dying and getting locked up. We come from the battlefield from street orgs, etc. We risk and sacrifice our lives every day. While some are scared to die or get out on the front lines, that's where we are at on the battlefield or on these plantations. We are not nonviolent, we are violent. We contact MIMs so we can work together not apart. We are about unity for real, not about if you believe as me I unite with you.

There are white nationalist groups called the 3% who believe that 3% of the population went to war and won the revolutionary war in 1776. These white groups form militias and are militarized. They train for war. They building a militarized institution while MIMs are being political. All we're saying is how you claim to be a vanguard and you're not training and educating people to form militarized units instead of just spreading public opinion on socialism. If y'all just going to spread public opinion okay do that. I and others think at least work with those who are working on building militarized units who fight instead of just talk and read. Everybody don't have to do the same thing.

So just so there be no misunderstanding, I and others respect your line and strategy. Keep up the good work. You're just not militant from what we can tell. People who are militant are willing to support you, why don't you support them and show some real unity? Then you can say you're a vanguard and are real revolutionaries. What's the point in being political if you have no military to enforce your laws, beliefs, etc. So that is why I write you to support you. The question is do you support militant revolutionaries or are you just a big study group who act elitist? Are you for the people or just people who are under your line and strategy?


MIM(Prisons) responds: This letter is particularly relevant to this issue of ULK focused on movement tactics. The writer raises some good points about unity that we want to address.

First, to clarify, MIM(Prisons) does not claim to be a vanguard party at this time, which is implied by this comrade saying we need an army to enforce our laws, beliefs, etc. We recognize the need for a vanguard party for the defeat of imperialism by the communists, but the strategic defeats of the movement over the recent decades have led us to conclude that cell organizing is more effective and appropriate to rebuild the movement. However, we would not split with anyone who disagrees on this point, it is a relatively short term strategic question. We do aim to be part of the vanguard movement, with the most advanced and correct line and practice.

With that said, we agree with this writer that it is important to build unity across revolutionary organizations that are working on different anti-imperialist strategies and tactics. The question of when to take up armed struggle, and even when to build an army for that battle, is also a strategic one. This is something that is relatively longer term, i.e. you don't build an army today and disband it tomorrow. But it's definitely not a disagreement over political line: we agree that the only way to overthrow imperialism is through armed struggle. The bourgeoisie won't give up their wealth and power peacefully. We are also not nonviolent. The disagreement is one of strategic timing, not method.

So are we just coffee house revolutionaries afraid of or refusing to see the importance of armed struggle? Our analysis of recent history in the United $tates reveals the murder or imprisonment of revolutionary groups that have attempted any form of armed struggle, or even just the collecting of weapons for self-defense, even when this is done completely within U.$. laws. This study of history has led us to conclude that we are at the stage of building and educating right now. We know this will change, but we can't say when, we just need to be ready and willing to change when conditions require it.

We do not agree that militarism is to be contrasted with being political. Rather than see MIM(Prisons) as political and this comrade's organization as militarist, we call both groups political. We are both focused on fighting imperialism. The decision to militarize today or hold off until conditions are more favorable is a political decision. And it's something we should struggle over, because through political struggle we all learn and grow.

And this brings us to the point of unity. Those who disagree with us on the appropriate timing of militarizing are well within the anti-imperialist united front. And we certainly don't believe that we are the only holders of truth and cannot learn from others. Quite the contrary, we learn from our readers, other organizations that we work with, and even from our enemies. We are regularly publishing in Under Lock & Key articles explaining changes to our political line and/or strategy based on things we have learned through practice. And to be a viable political organization that survives we must always be open to learning more. But that doesn't mean we will just accept what other people tell us without struggling over the facts and interpretations if we believe they are wrong. Political struggle is not about egos, it is about learning. We look forward to learning and building with this comrade and eir organization for many years to come.

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[Censorship] [Union Correctional Institution] [Florida] [ULK Issue 54]
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Florida Prison Ban on MIM Pubs

Please be advised that Florida Department of Corrections has banned all MIM publications. At this time I'm not able to file an informal or formal grievance or appeal as to do so will result in immediate property and mail restriction with a stretch of disciplinary confinement to back it up. Enclosed are the latest rejection slips.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We are seeing many rejections from Florida prisons, although ULK is still getting in to a few folks. We need jailhouse lawyers who are being censored in Florida who can help take up this fight through the grievances and into the courts. Your work will impact many in this state with so many people behind bars. Get in touch with us if you can take up this censorship battle. And for anyone on the streets reading this, we really need lawyers who can support these lawsuits from the outside. Check out our extensive documentation of censorship in Florida (and elsewhere) from our Amerikan Censorship Documentation Project

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 54]
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Always Demand Revolution

Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system
One that has many young brothers and sisters missing
Stuck behind walls gated in a warehouse
Amerikkka's criminal injustice system
full of brothers and sisters they won't let out
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system
Hurry you must hurry you can easily become the next victim
Another nameless soul thrown into the pen turned into a number
All in the goal of breaking you and making your spirit crumble
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system
Revolution we must demand to overthrow these people's trippin
Planting evidence, misconduct, lies all for political motivation
We must band together, Revolutionaries for freedom of our nation
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system
Power to the freedom fighters through means of resistance
Rise up, rise up, it's time to rise up against the system!
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[Education] [Political Repression] [ULK Issue 54]
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The Adaption of Capitalistic Controls

“The educational and professional training systems are very elaborate filters.”

This statement comes from Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, by Noam Chomsky. In chapter four he discusses safeguards and controls put in place by and to protect the capitalist system. His analysis is apt. In the United States those who control information are those who hold the power. Which is why the government is the largest collector and disseminator of information. More importantly it is the most effective filtration system.

This is accomplished through 1) popular control and 2) the media. Effective popular control isolates citizens and dissidents. When someone is isolated it is easy to control their reality and/or manipulate their actions. On the other hand there's the media. The media does much more than provide an outlet for the dissemination of information. It is the main tool, outside of formal schooling, for indoctrinating non-proletariat citizenry. It also validates petty-bourgeois society by marginalizing dissidents and the proletariat. This particular control (a process of measures and procedures to prevent substantive changes and to preserve a system), I've termed the subjection-manipulation cycle. Information control, isolation, indoctrination and marginalization are continued in perpetuity. The purpose of this control is to create a sheepish or gullible populace.

It is effective because the un-indoctrinated are deprived of a voice, a vote, an opinion. Even maybe shunned completely. They are isolated and made seemingly impotent. The subjection-manipulation cycle has been adapted by the U.$. prison system. At present, it provides a reliable method for repressing "subversive", "disruptive", or "threatening" activities, attitudes, or behaviors. Prison has a wide array of people. Some who become indoctrinated, and others who refuse to relinquish their freedom to determine their actions. The first I've termed subjugated, the second self-determinants. Self-determinants find themselves targets of the subjection-manipulation cycle.

Self-determinants are generally punished and repressed, while the subjugated are rewarded. In public life, dissidents are parallel to self-determinants in prisons. By isolating and repressing self-determinants, prison authorities filter and provide examples of "unacceptable" behavior. Self-determinants are segregated, privileges stripped and their associates harassed. This ends with them being socially stigmatized. The parallel in public life is almost identical. Isolation, repression and harassment in the hopes of inducing impotency. The subjection-manipulation cycle is not only a system of reprisals and rewards. It contains the essential element of information dissemination.

Authorities screen, examine, and filter all information available to captives. This way they can promote desired modes of thought and behavior. Why else have banned/prohibited publication lists? Or overly complicated grievance procedures? Or such general lack of access? A lack of information is equivalent to a lack of education. This stymies only pro-proletarian, revolucionario, anti-capitalist, or anti-imperialist movement. Education leads to organization. As long as prisons can reinforce this control, the results will mirror those found in history. It presents a massive obstacle, but not insurmountable. The solution begins with knowledge, followed by discipline, and unity.

First, to gain knowledge one must become educated. Not through the system, but an actual education. Becoming well versed in the rules that govern prison officials, procedures, operations and policies. Making an intensive research into the history of capitalism, its motives, goals and methods. In short, you must learn the enemy: imperialists and exploitative capitalists. Just as important, you must learn and know yourself: strengths, weaknesses, abilities and potential. This is called "self-knowledge." The enemy has full self-knowledge. To be anything more than a minor annoyance to the authorities you must also attain full self-knowledge. Education is the first step to supplanting capitalism and its controls.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer does a good job explaining the importance of education to developing appropriate strategies in our struggle. This education must counter the indoctrination we have all experienced from birth under capitalism. Write to MIM(Prisons) to get involved in our introductory study group, or to get some educational material and tips for your study groups locally.

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[Gender] [Militarism] [Spanish] [ULK Issue 54]
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El Ejército de los E$tados Unido$ acierta golpe fulminante contra las políticas de identidad de género

Esta semana, los oficiales del Ejército de los E$tado$ Unido$ anunciaron que las personas transgénero son bienvenidas para servir abiertamente como guerreros del imperialismo y la dominación mundial Amérikkkana. Hicieron un plan que será puesto en marcha el año que viene, que incluye apoyo financiero para tratamientos médicos como cirugías, terapia y hormonas.

Algunos activistas trans, que reconocen por qué este anuncio es “problemático” para las personas en las naciones oprimidas, afirmarán que “[el Ejército de los E$tados Unido$] nombraría como nuevo miembro cualquier cosa.” Lo cual es cierto, hasta un punto. El gobierno de los E$tado$ Unido$, en todas sus formas, tratará de controlar todos los aspectos de nuestra sociedad que puedan ser controlados. Lo que recalca el punto de que las políticas de identidad de género no amenazan al militarismo e$tadouniden$e y a la dominación del mundo porque pueden ser controladas por la mera aceptación. ¿La lucha por la aceptación de los transgéneros (o cualquier lucha de género), distinta de la organización revolucionaria, debilita al capitalismo mismo? No. Y este anuncio lo prueba.

El gobierno e$tadouniden$e no puede nombrar como nuevo miembro a organización antiimperialista genuina, a pesar de sus intentos con las organizaciones encubiertas y la revisión de la historia. No puede integrar la autodeterminación de las naciones con el colonialismo porque son aspectos opuestos de una contradicción mundial. No pueden terminar con la opresión y desesperación de la gente en el Tercer Mundo porque dependen de esa opresión para su función básica de la explotación para mantener a las personas en los E$tados Unido$ ricas y felices.

Si tu lucha puede ser integrada al Ejército de los E$tado$ Unido$, entonces eso demuestra de qué lado está en realidad. ¿Eres un revolucionario internacionalista? ¿O sólo esperas por una mejor vida aquí en Amérikkka? Todos los que se opongan a la opresión de identidad de género, militarismo y genocidio deberían hacer todo en su poder para organizarse en contra del Ejército de los E$tado$ Unido$, y en contra del capitalismo, dado que esa es la única manera en que llegaremos a un mundo sin opresión de género para todos.

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[Organizing] [Campaigns] [Legal] [Virginia] [ULK Issue 54]
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Prisoners Unite Against Suppression of VA DOC Grievance Procedure

"This operating procedure provides an administrative process for resolving offender issues and complaints through fair, prompt decisions and actions in response to complaints and grievances from offenders incarcerated in Department of Corrections institutions."

These are the clever introductory words of Virginia Department of Corrections (VA DOC) Operating Procedure 866.1 governing "Offender Grievance Procedure." While offenders — captives — suppose to enjoy non-repressive rights to utilize the grievance procedure, captives have experienced for many years repressed rights by the Department's Human Rights Advocates (commonly called Institutional and Regional Ombudsman) and administrative personnel. The VA DOC is at odds over effective administrative application of the captive/offender grievance procedure.

Since my incarceration in 1993, the captive/offender grievance procedure has always been a medium, used by captives, to receive redress for their issues and problems. The Institutional Ombudsman, once upon a time, investigated captives' issues/problems with proper handling, meaning they would speak to both the captive and staff before rendering a decision. Ombudsman would render decisions reasonably, appropriately — even if it was to the neglect of the system. After all, that's the job of the Human Rights Advocate.

Over the years, the captives have grown to understand completion of Offender Grievance Procedure is the first step to satisfying the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA Federal statute). Before the legal court system will entertain captive lawsuits, the first level one must meet is exhausting all available administrative remedies. With this understanding, VA DOC Institutional and Regional Ombudsman began seeing a rise in filed complaints and grievances, and civil lawsuits (42 U.S.C. 1983). A conspiratorial plan was hatched by the department to suppress captives' grievance procedure and opportunities. Something had to be done. VA DOC was being held liable, costing thousands of dollars.

The first step in repressing and suppressing the captive grievance procedure was that many prisons and institutions removed captives' complaint forms and level 1 grievance forms from availability. This means, in order for captives to receive said forms, they must make requests to officer/building sergeants. Captives must divest their issues/problems to authorities. If the officer or sergeant disagrees with your issues or problems, they refuse to give you needed forms. When they do give you forms, it's usually because the issue/problem is not really a threat. Captives are left with suppressed and repressed grievance rights, by the same system that swore to uphold these rights.

Once a captive completes the informal complaint process, an administrative grievance can be filed. With next-level repression, the Ombudsman uses fraudulent claims to deny grievances; such reasons as: time barred, inquiring on behalf of other "captives," not enough information, and in some cases stating "If you're not satisfied with response file to next level — regional ombudsman." (Some complaints/grievances are not returned.) These alleged claims are used by the institutional ombudsman to deny grievances, not logging grievances, or otherwise repress the process. Regional Ombudsman, being the last level of grievance process, usually side with Institutional Ombudsman.

Captives who file complaints/grievances, at times, are faced with reprisals. These reprisals, although forbidden by Operating Procedure 866.1, are usually felt in not receiving jobs, non-favorable housing, denied transfers, and more. Captives face extreme difficulties seeking to prove they are experiencing reprisal, due to filing complaints/grievances. Often times, captives who file these documents are labeled "paper-pushers," and the new term, "paper terrorist.=" (yeah, such a machination by the oppressors).

VA DOC has created a crafty method to suppress, and repress captives' grievance procedure and right. This is reflected in the number of Level 1 and Level 2 grievances "found" versus those "unfounded." Even when the evidence submitted favors the captive's claims, the grievance is still returned "unfounded." The Ombudsman no longer advocates on behalf of the captives, nor upholds the integrity of the grievance policy.

In entertaining plans to file civil litigation (§42 U.S.C. 1883 claims of civil rights violation) one must have satisfied §42 U.S.C. 1997(e)(a) which states "no action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions... by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." With continuous suppression of captives' grievance procedural rights, this satisfaction will prove to be difficult. These measures are used by the oppressive system to derail, suppress, or otherwise hinder captives' ability to satisfy §42 U.S.C. 1997 (e)(a), and PLRA, and have any legal litigation dismissed for not exhausting all available administrative remedies.

In a recent lawsuit (§42 U.S.C 1983) I filed against a VA DOC prison, and its Director Harold Clarke, alleging Civil Rights violations. I was advised by United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, "Plaintiff has no constitutional right to participate in grievance procedure - citing Adam v. Rice §40 F. 3d. 72, 75 (4th Cir. 1994) - because plaintiff enjoys no constitutional right to participate in grievance procedure his allegation that his grievances were improperly processed are legally frivolous - citing Banks v. Nagle. Nos. 3:09 CV419-HEH; 3:09 CV14 (2009) WL1209031, at *3 (E.D.VA. May 1, 2009)." Moreover, simply, "ruling against a prisoner on an administrative complaint does not cause or contribute to the [constitutional] violation, see George v. Smith 507 F. 3d. 605, 609-10 (7th Cir 2007)" I alleged in my First Amendment violation claim: Ombudsman at this prison suppressed, obstructed or otherwise denied me fundamental (and meaningful) access to "offender grievance procedure" due to refusal to properly process and answer said grievances. It was, and remains a continuous practice, within VA DOC, to deny "redress to government," in this case, the prison authorities who are agents of the state.

It appears the U.S. District Court has shifted their views and opinions as to whether captives have a constitutional right to grievance procedure. On one hand, the Federal statute §42 U.S.C. 1997 (e)(a) states we have to satisfy the prongs of the PLRA, which requires the exhaustion of all available administrative remedies, before filing a §42 U.S.C. 1983. But then, restrict such requirement in decisions rendered in Adam v. Rice and Banks v. Nagle, which contradicts mandates of §42 U.S.C. 1997(e)(a).

Without protected due process rights, whether in society or behind these walls of horror, the people are in trouble. Captives have seen a consistent erosion of rights, or a limiting of such rights, over the years; from the Anti-Terrorist and Effective Death Penalty Act, of former President Bill Clinton, to the Patriot Act of George W. Bush. High courts have repeatedly sided with state prison administrators, citing "security takes precedence over certain rights, including infringement upon certain civil rights." This could very well open the door for the pigs to get away with vicious assaults, property damages, and other egregious acts that goes on behind these walls. The highway for "organized crime" is without patrols.

Captives are subjected to a wide range of issues and administrative confrontation, leading to needed remedies. Though, each "department of correction" professes administrative remedy outlets, captives' rights to utilize these administrative outlets continues to be repressed, ineffective, leaving issues unsolved. These create an environment of mistrust, instability and an ethos of disorganization between captives and "the system."

Captives here at this VA DOC prison have organized around the "United Front" and "United Front for Peace in Prison - Statement of Principles." We have organized, mobilized, and deputized. We've organized to the point where we have a ten point agenda, designed to address our oppression and oppressor in an organized and systematic way. We wish to accept full responsibility for our actions, educate ourselves in seeking justice, and assure that we remain at peace, on what we've agreed upon, and united around our collective agenda.

We wish to join on to and with MIM(Prisons)'s campaign "We Demand our Grievances are Addressed." Please send us the petition! ASAP we will work to assure this petition is signed by as many we can from behind these walls. We will continue to educate ourselves towards the process, and our rights under Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.

Let's stop the repression of the grievance procedure within the VA DOC. We stand with MIM(Prisons)!


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade and others in Virginia have been doing some great organizing work, building the United Front for Peace in Prisons, local study groups, and fighting the corrupt grievance process in that state's prisons. We look forward to the progress of this campaign as a part of building a broad base of united prisoners in Virginia fighting the criminal injustice system under anti-imperialist leadership.

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[Migrants] [ULK Issue 54]
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Acknowledging DOJ Report on Private Prisons

There has been a lot of buzz recently about a report on private prisons released by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.$. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the subsequent memo from the Attorney General announcing they will phase out the use of private prisons for federal detention.(1)

The petty-bourgeois anti-corporate capitalists who have been campaigning against private prisons for a long time are seeing this announcement as a result of their organizing work. And it's possible that on some level the announcements are an effort by the DOJ to quell the slew of recent bad publicity.(2) Yet we disagree with these campaigners' idea that capitalism is okay so long as the petty-bourgeoisie is allowed to compete. We disagree with their stance that prisons under capitalism function for the common good so long as the private corporations get out the way. We see more similarities between state-run and privately-operated facilities than we see differences.

The facilities that the DOJ is talking about closing house mostly non-citizens,(3) which raises questions for us as to what is the real intention or cause of this change, and what's coming down the line for the enforcement of U.$. borders. We have no reason to believe this shift from the BOP has anything to do with more freedom or better treatment for non-citizens.

Capitalists follow money. In the 1980s, there was increased imprisonment rates and a need for more housing for prisoners, which state bureaucracy couldn't build fast enough. So capitalists built prison facilities in order to get money from the state. They kept costs as low as possible and tried to keep capacity as full as possible. The cause and effect is basic math. Obviously when putting profits over people there are many inherent problems that will come up. Eventually, as the capitalists are accustomed to, their venture would need to change shape. It appears the time to change shape is imminent.

We don't know what back-room deals broke down or were made that led to the report and memo. Did the DOJ just strike a better deal with a private busing company, to expedite the deportation of these migrants?(4) Was the pressure to change significantly more influential from the corrections officers unions, who are excluded from employment in private facilities?(5) Is it more closely related to a reduction in the federal prison population overall, and private prisons are just being used as a convenient scapegoat? "Increased prosecution of unlawful entry and re-entry" has been touted as a "hallmark of President Obama's enforcement policies," is the Democratic Party just trying to save face leading up to the next presidential election?(6) Is there something else that has yet to be uncovered, that helped expedite the decision? And as we imply above, maybe the capitalists have simply found a more profitable use for their facilities and are welcoming this change.(7) We seriously doubt the DOJ decided to phase out the use of private prisons on moral grounds.

There is something to be said about the difficulties in operating a prison with extremely bad conditions, whether private or publicly run. Oppression breeds resistance. Where we see riots in private prisons literally burn them to the ground and make them uninhabitable, we haven't seen the same level of resistance in public facilities in a long time.(8) Commentators have cited common nationality as helpful in non-citizen prisoners organizing themselves (in contrast to the divided populations of most multi-national prisons in the United $tates). Also, being a migrant with more to gain than lose in resisting, responding to extreme oppression is natural and necessary.

The state has a long-term interest in balancing their ongoing oppression with some rewards for those who play along. We see this constantly in our organizing work: there are many abuses, and grievances are denied without grounds, but if the prisoners have TVs and nudie mags many are happy to go with the flow and not stir up any trouble. The private prison companies either haven't mastered this delicate balance, or don't care because their interests for profit are so short-term and immediate. When the cost-benefit analysis is no longer in their favor, they'll just move on to a different industry where the profit margin is higher. The state's long-term interest of social control of oppressed internal semi-colonies, however, can't afford the same luxury.

Notes:
(1). Announcement from Attorney General that BOP will phase out private prisons: https://www.justice.gov/opa/blog/phasing-out-our-use-private-prisons. Report from OIG on privately-operated federal prisons: https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2016/e1606.pdf. Memo from Attorney General to Bureau of Prisons ordering nonrenewal of private contracts: https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/886311/download.
(2). MIM(Prisons), "Private Prisons Exposed, and Same as Public," ULK 51, July 2016.
(3). OIG DOJ, Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons' Monitoring of Contract Prisons, p. i. "low security,criminal alien adult males with 90 months or less remaining to serve on their sentences."
(4). Private prison busing companies have recently been in the news for their mistreatment of detainees. See: https://www.themarshallproject.org/2016/07/06/inside-the-deadly-world-of-private-prisoner-transport#.TbPYIHGeb and http://www.allgov.com/news/controversies/the-little-known-world-of-private-prison-transport-escapes-rapes-and-death-141006?news=854448. Yet Freddie Gray's death at the hand of the Baltimore Police Department was not caused by a private company. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Freddie_Gray
(5). American Federation of Government Employees, "Federal Correctional Officers Praise DOJ Decision to End Use of Private Prisons," 18 August 2016.
(6). Zoe Carpenter, "A 2-Day Revolt at a Texas Private Prison Reveals Everything That's Wrong with Criminalizing Immigration," The Nation, 24 February 2016.
(7). Joshua Holland, "Private Prison Companies are Embracing Alternatives to Incarceration," The Nation, 23 August 2016. Additionally, vacant prisons have been turning into marijuana growing facilities in Nevada and California. With the change in legality of recreational and medicinal marijuana across the country, profitable options are opening up for these soon-to-be-uncontracted facilities. See: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/city-704094-adelanto-cultivation.html and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3686519/Coalinga-California-prison-marijuana-farm.html
(8). Report, p. i, "In recent years, disturbances in several federal contract prisons resulted in extensive property damage, bodily injury, and the death of a Correctional Officer." See also: https://www.thenation.com/article/2-day-revolt-texas-private-prison-reveals-everything-thats-wrong-criminalizing-immigrati/ and http://www.cbs5az.com/story/29485786/arizona-governor-calls-for-probe-of-private-prison-unrest.
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[Organizing] [Hays State Prison] [Georgia] [ULK Issue 54]
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Failed Protest Solidifies Commitment

I'm at the most racist prison in Georgia, Hays State Prison. I am currently on lockdown in the Tier 2 program (long-term solitary confinement) and the other day they shook down a prisoner's room and found two knives. Being that this is a lockdown the Unit Manager Reids and the Lieutenant Jones were pissed because we're not supposed to even have a way to get a knife, plus sharpening them. And there are 7 or 8 cameras in the dorm, so they can't hide this like they used to back in the days when there were no cameras.

They have to report this to the Warden and log it in the log book for everyone to see. They were so mad at this prisoner that they took it out on the dorm by keeping the dinner trays outside the dorm for an hour and a half. Other prisoners in the dorm made a statement to the dorm saying that we all should refuse these trays and make them go get us new hot trays instead of those cold ones outside. Everyone agreed and when the officer came in to pass out the trays (a racist officer) everyone started screaming "We don't want those cold trays! Go get more trays." When the Lieutenant came in he threatened to give out a DR (disciplinary report) to any prisoners who refused to take a tray.

The goal is to not take the trays. If one person takes the trays then no one will get new trays, and we refused our tray by choice. But if no one takes the trays then they have to go get new trays. They have to feed us. So things were going good, the first 5 rooms refused, until Lieutenant got to the 6th one. He took his tray, then two more rooms did after that. Others were refusing but like I said when one takes a tray it's pretty much a failed mission.

My Brother in the room with me and my two other Brothers next door said they was going to get their trays since a few took theirs. They didn't want to go unfed on a weekend where we only get fed two times. I told them "Hell naw! Just because the others took theirs that don't mean we give up an fold! If we got to go hungry and starve just to let the white man know we as Blacks and as prisoners won't go for anything then so be it. We have to sacrifice for the greater purpose."

True, my stomach was touching my back. But I was ready to starve just to show the white man he does not rule me mentally. But unfortunately when the trays got to my two Brothers' room they took them. Then they were in front of our door and my roommate grabbed me one and passed it to me. At first I was going to refuse, well I wanted to, but seeing the tray with food I gave in.

While we were eating, the Lieutenant came to our door and said "Good boys. Y'all keep being good." That made me feel so bad and embarrassed. I let the white man win another war. He made me feel so low like I'm a mutt and he told me to sit, I obeyed, and he rewarded me with a bone and said "good boy."

I was mad at myself. I should have refused the tray even if it means I'm the only one refusing. At least I will feel good about myself and what I did for my self-respect. But I didn't. Another Black man falls to the worst side of a white man. Why are we so weak-minded? Why can't we Blacks stick together against oppressors? Why do we fall for their Willie Lynch tactics?

"My Brother is my Brother and I am my Brother's keeper." "2 Black minds are stronger than one, and one strong Black mind is better than none." I guess I needed that extra mind to motivate me to go further with the protest. And when it didn't I folded, because of feeling alone, vulnerable and hungry.

That day I told myself that won't happen again. If I have to starve by myself then I will. Our ancestors went through much more worse than this. I won't fail them again.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade provides us a good example of self-reflection and learning from our mistakes. Even the best revolutionaries won't be perfect all the time, in fact we will make many mistakes. But the key is always keeping an open mind to learning from these errors. And also learning from the successes and mistakes of others. This was essentially what the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was about in China: encouraging people not to blindly accept what their leaders said and instead to be critical of incorrect actions and political line, and to learn from mistakes. During this period in China prisoners were offered an opportunity to learn from their errors, undertake serious self-criticism, and return to society as productive members. Although we don't currently live under a Socialist government which is encouraging and enabling these progressive practices, we can still learn and grow, as this comrade bravely demonstrates.

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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 54]
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Build an Organizing Machine

There is no justice for the Black man in the United $tates. "All black people, wherever they are, whatever their crimes, even crimes against other blacks, are political prisoners because the system has dealt with them differently than with whites." - George Jackson

The only way to receive justice is to fight. The comrades in prison will have to fight from a different position. They would have to build cadres to take on different tasks. All collectives through a mass line will organize the masses around the problems of their particular prison. Every cadre should have different responsibilities.

For example, there should be a cadre responsible for studying the psychological warfare that is implemented by the correctional officers and finding ways to combat it on a peaceful level. Another would study prisoners' rights and be ready to challenge all violations. A cadre would write down all injustices that are manifested by the officers and pass information on to the cadre leaders. A cadre should be in contact with outside sponsors that can help our struggle by bringing to light our problems to the public. All cadres are just components to the machine. These are only examples.

We must continue the fight, especially on these plantations. However, we have to be on point and tighten our security to protect ourselves from agent provocateurs who claim to be on our side but are actually on the side of the oppressor. Be mindful of those who are always showing up at all the religious services, hoping to identify radical prisoners who may speak at these gatherings. These agents are only there to ear hustle so they can report back to their masters (prison administration). You will be able to identify some of them through their actions. They're always preaching about Black history and Blacks uniting, but they are never doing shit to protect the rights of the prisoners. They speak out against those who are true vanguards of the people and try to turn the masses against these warriors by spreading false rumors in hopes to destroy these men's work and characters. Please do not be fooled! They will stop at nothing until their mission for massa is completed. They are not only working against their own people, they are against the entire prison population! You will see them trying to cut in or befriend every group, organization, or nationality to learn what they can about them. Be very mindful comrades.

There have been many strong Black revolutionaries who have died in prison for the chimurenga (struggle) and they must never be forgotten. Comrades like George Jackson, Hugo Pinell, William Christmas, Howard Tole, James McClain, W.L. Nolen, and the many unknown but dedicated warriors who have fought and never gave up until their deaths, should always be loved and remembered. These brothers taught and trained others to carry on the torch so that the struggle will continue behind these walls. And in response many of them have suffered and remain in lock up (SHU) since the 1990s, 80s, and even the 70s because they refuse to denounce George Jackson!

Majority of the comrades are locked down in long-term isolation (SMU, ADX, and Pelican Bay), not because they have incident reports, but because they are carrying the torch and fighting against the injustice of the Federal and State prisons that our fallen Freedom Fighters gave their lives trying to destroy. We are not terrorists! We are revolutionary Freedom Fighters striving to free the people (Black and white) from the bloody claws of the imperialist monster. All committed liberators should join among their own kind and work together in solidarity. Let's use the comrades that paved the way as examples and continue fighting together, united with one clenched fist! Can't stop! Won't stop! Long live the guerrillas!


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade provides a good example of how to think about organizing tactics. We start from the assumption that the only way we can get justice is to fight for it, and then we must think about how we can be most effective in this fight. One key element of our organizing should be building unity, as this writer points out. We can build unity with all who oppose the criminal injustice system, but at the same time, we strive to put forward the most advanced political line to help raise consciousness and build a revolutionary movement. The United Front is an integral part of this movement, but not all participants will be revolutionaries themselves. This is ok, as we seek to unite all who can be united in the fight against the criminal injustice system.

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