by a California prisoner August 2018 permalinkby the AV Brown Berets
All matter is in motion and so with this motion we will continue to find new ways to apply the proper response to new ideas, and of course new actions will create new reaction. Each of us has to find the strength and opportunity into any area in our life. In this development we become more capable of helping others with the same issues. Today's Chicano nation is at a crossroad. The Raza population is growing faster than any other. In a couple of decades we will be the largest population in the United $tates. We have to understand, whatever changes we experience holds opportunity. In other words, external events often happen as means to facilitate internal change and consciousness. Once the inner connection is grasped, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions break down before the collapse in practice.
I believe that in the independence of each nation is a unity that will help mobilize broader masses, then we begin to understand the importance of windows of opportunity. Chicano power is not simply being in charge. We don't want to mimic capitalism, but merely exercise socio-political, economic power where socialist relations of production replace capitalism. Without the influence of imperialism, we know that imperialism defines crimes and pushes oppressed nations into committing the crimes. Knowing most minority already have nothing to lose, and are well armed, when revolutionized can serve as the fiercest fighters.
We were not created by the same social and material forces which govern Mexican life, but by the imperialist venture of the annexation of the Americas. Our existence is therefore not defined by the reality of the border, but by social and material forces that have influenced the way we develop since before and after its imposition. Aztlan represents the land which was invaded, occupied and stolen from the Mexican nation. The southwest is home to many Chicanos, and non-Mexican indigenous nations each with the universal right to govern themselves and exist as a sovereign and autonomous people. Thus the era of imperialism is the era of New Democracy where a democratic struggle must be led and waged by the masses of the popular class in a united front where the primary goal is national liberation.
This August we commemorate the Plan de San Diego, which was a plan for New Democracy for the internal semi-colonies of occupied Turtle Island. It is a time to study [email protected] history, and apply internationalism. Write MIM(Prisons) for informational fliers on the campaign and submit your own essays and art.
It was 1995. I was in my late 20s and totally caught up in the tribal death style! For the first year or so, I spent much of my time learning who was who, and how to navigate the very dangerous and reactionary gen pop yards. It should be noted that in the beginning, we rec-ed together in GP yards. (This changed in 2004/05.)
At any rate, when I got to the next unit I met conscious men. Two in particular still stand out in my mind: Kareem and Ray Luc. The former was a student of the Party and member of prominent militant entity created by them, in the Bay Area! The latter was a staunch revolutionary, who walked it like he talked it, to the fullest.
Kareem used his extensive knowledge (learned in CDC) to teach us. We had mandatory "machines" (i.e. collective exercises with cadences) each day! Mandatory study of all progressive literature and mandatory Kiswahili lessons weekly. Kareem was a taskmaster who used his position (within so-called "Calicar") to subtly coerce us towards a souljah's identity.
Ray Luc was our source of revolutionary literature. It was through this brother that we learned of Marx, Lenin, Mao, Fidel, Che, MIM, and other groups and newspapers. Ray Luc used to give us revolutionary education on a daily. Him being Euro-Amerikan and being such a firm revolutionary! And in ADX, where 99% of the European captives aligned with the "Aryan" identity speaks volumes about his strength of character and total commitment to struggle.
Between the two of these brothas, many ADX reactionaries were forever transformed by their revolutionary organizing efforts. Many street tribal members became nationalists. Others (like myself) went on to then embrace New Afrikan Revolutionary ideology. Whatever we each went on to do, it was a direct result of the organizing techniques of comrades like Kareem and Ray Luc. Strategies that I utilize to this day actually.
Kan't stop, won't stop. Will not be stopped. Machine! Power to the people.
I was first introduced to revolutionary politics when I was 16 and from then on it has been a continuous evolutionary process that I have gone through. When first I was blessed to have the blinders lifted from my sleepy eyes, I was going through a battle with the revolutionary politics that I was engaged in. Those politics were reactionary because they were derailing the efforts of the people who sacrificed their minds, sweat, blood and even their bodies to ensure a better future for their posterity. I was going through this phase because I was just learning how to think.
I was born again through Allah’s mathematics and I also saw people such as comrade George as a source of inspiration. Being that in my past life I was a gang member, I encountered a lot of opposition from my once gang homies, but I was determined to follow in the way of Allah and to also become a part of the vanguard that does not fear the death of a thousand cuts. So a brother by the name of comrade Teddy helped to open the eyes of the once sleeping giant.
I had always had a rebellious streak but didn't know why. I now know that it was due to my innate ability to resist and never kowtow. In the wilderness of N. Amerika its hard to relate ideas and ideals of struggle for liberation to even lower disenfranchised segments of the population. It's hard because they have accepted their position as national (and international) scapegoats. So in the belly of the beast in KY where the intellectual level is relatively minute, it's even harder. The beast (pigs) have convinced the inmates against writing grievances! This is as absurd as the Vietnamese liberation fighters not shooting the soldiers who they must kill in order to survive.
But some guys are starting to stir. It can happen overnight, but then they have to learn the arsenal of anti-fascist responses. When I communicate with others I am doing so in hopes to affect change. I help them by getting them to see the reality of their positions and our position as a whole. Since materialism has altered my vocabulary, I come to them in a language that they can understand and try by first helping by bringing formations together. It is a hard job trying to organize a cadre however I am fully committed to the peoples' struggle.
These were very thought provoking question you asked: Do you find it impossible to relate to people in your facility? Do your organizing conversations go nowhere? Do you struggle to get people to see the importance of writing grievances? Well yes, yes and yes.
Many people say it is futile – show them, tell them examples of otherwise. Offer to help if necessary.
I get angry with those who say, and this is quite common, "don't come to prison if you don't like it." I say "so, you must like prison by that logic?" And I point to the relatively small-time offenses here compared to the larger ones perpetrated on us and the other oppressed people. I'll say, look around, see anyone with any money, any rich or much less upper class people up in here? I will appeal to their humanity and ask: is it okay to take parents (mothers in my case, it's a women's facility) away from their children for trying to support themselves? Point out the economic basis of most crime in here.
Drug addicts often say "prison saved my life." I'll ask what else might've helped you even if it was not available to you at the time? What is prison helping you do differently to not use drugs? Do you know the statistics of recidivism to not only drugs (relapse) but re-incarceration? In a group, one can say all 5 of you claim you won't come back but 4 of you will, which ones? Why could this be? And point out the "felon branding," job killing, underclass designation. We don't have realistic options to not be around opportunities to use drugs, sell drugs, etc. And more importantly why do people use the drugs they do? I'll talk about Dr. Gabor Mate's theories of addiction, science of addiction and how drug cases and/or addiction is dealt with in other countries. How capitalism and materialism feed the alienation and psychic (and physical) pain behind some addictions. Is there recreational use? Why is marijuana now legal in 2/3 of states from full recreational to medical yet Feds still criminalize (we have several women here on marijuana charges).
Most importantly, I cultivate good will, openness and friendliness to most inmates. I ask them about their families and comment on family support being such a blessing. I talk to women, joke with them and show my own struggles, vulnerability and wishes. I share pictures and stories of their dogs and my dogs together, boyfriends, and I see people's good characteristics and basic drive to connect.
I redirect all the "positive thinking" into imagining what constitutes actions. From first being thought of as "crazy" now I am considered the fiery, spunky "fighter" in my 60s (I don't look or act like it, they say), and I do not believe I have a single enemy out of 93+ women. A few of the COs do not like me however, because I will challenge them (not needlessly or if I am doing something I could get written up for). For example one telling me I was "disrespectful." Well, this is true, I do not respect lizards who jail people and profit off suffering. However, they cannot punish a feeling, only an action. So, having the correct attitude, but avoiding an action that only hurts yourself and denying the CO "a win" is a win for the cause.
I cannot see the state weakening. It seems ever more powerful everyday especially legally. The Feds especially are punishing small economic and drug crimes with five years and up sentences. The new attorney general is pushing the agenda for prosecutors to go for the high end of guidelines and give out longer sentences for victim-less crimes than murder in most other countries. The decisions by the Supreme Court and Appeals Courts have seldom been in the interest of the people.
The reason gay and lesbian movements are being championed is because they do not challenge the status quo on the capitalistic power structure whatsoever. Think if felons received the same considerations in hiring and for governments benefits. But it is completely legal to be prejudiced and deny any employment or service based on being a felon. The New Jim Crow isn't just for New Africans anymore.
That's my thinking. If I am to be a martyr you will know. I'd like my life or death to have some consequence in the struggle.
MIM(Prisons) responds: In everything we do, we must try to determine what will have the most impact the fastest. Sometimes people are ready to just hear facts and then start doing political work. More often, people hear truth in what we're saying, but also have a lot of resistance and ambivalence. As organizers, we're trying to influence them and push them. So helping them through these roadblocks is our job.
In these types of conversations, there is a natural dialectic that occurs, where when one persyn takes one position, the other persyn naturally argues the opposite position. And the more we argue a position, the more likely we are to internalize that position and behave accordingly.
So often we fall into the trap of trying to tell people what to think, inadvertently entering into a head-on debate. Or we rely on luck that the timing is right for them to grasp on to what we're saying. These are the easy routes of recruiting, because they don't require as much thoughtfulness or introspection on our part. And when people don't grasp it, we can put the blame on them for being lazy, or too caught up in tribalism/capitalism/whatever. And sometimes we get lucky and people do grasp it, which validates our mediocre approach.
But if we want to be the most effective at helping people grow and change, we have to understand where they're coming from, where they're at.
In impersynal recruiting such as sloganeering, public speaking and writing in ULK, understanding our audience might just mean understanding (or defining) their class, nation, and gender intersections, and cultural background. There is always individual variability, but even when trying to reach people on a group level, we can have an understanding of where they're coming from. We aim to speak to and with our audience, not at them.
If we're having 1-on-1 conversations, then helping them break through their roadblocks might also include getting to know what's important to people on a persynal level. Then we can relate the growth back to their persynal goals and show how the two are actually intertwined. This author explains how ey takes this approach to show people that they're on the same team. This is much different than the "you're wrong, if you don't agree with me, fuck you" approach that so many of our comrades take in their recruiting.
When we know someone is interested in doing political work, but is showing resistance or ambivalence, we can choose to dismiss them, or we can go deeper. We can lay blame, or we can take responsibility. Organizing is hard. We can try harder.
This comrade's criticism that some movements are allowed or even promoted because they don't challenge imperialism is on point. Allowing gay people to serve in the military is a good example of this; we won't fight to expand the imperialist military in any way. At the same time allowing discrimination against felons is a way to target oppressed nations while masking it behind a label of "criminal" activity. People convicted of felonies are disproportionately New Afrikan or [email protected]
This is where our understanding of the bigger picture of prisons as a tool of social control is critical. Oppressed nations are targeted for imprisonment even though white people also get caught up in the prison dragnet. This is most definitely a system of national oppression and a way to handle the lumpen population which would otherwise be idle and questioning its lack of economic opportunity — a perfect recipe for politicization. In fact, the prison boom was a direct response to revolutionary activity in the 1960s and 70s!
I'm relaying a conversation I had with the leader of a certain organization and the events that brought it about. About a month ago on Ad-Seg yard the cat in the cage next to me got stabbed up while he was in full restraints behind an argument him and this other dude had the night before. These types of attacks have become really popular the last few years here in Arkansas and coincidentally so have drugs like K2 and ice. The types of attacks I'm talking about are: in gen pop, prisoners getting cracked with locks while they're asleep. Or getting jumped by 5-6 dudes and not just taking an ass whoppin but getting stabbed on top of getting jumped.
Then the Ad-Seg yard has become a death trap. These dudes have learned how to cut through the chainlink fences. While dudes are getting moved it ain't shit for one of those other cats to pop out of his cage and butcher another prisoner that will be handcuffed behind the back and shackled up in full restraints. To me this is a coward move, I can't respect that shit. So I got to thinking what it would take for those dudes to take a second look at their tactics. So I decided to have a conversation with an org leader I've been knowing for about 10 years and I know his word has a lot of weight.
Throughout my experience I've learned a lot of these leaders have ego issues so when you put forth any type of idea that may be enforced you have to put it forth in a way so as it's like it's their idea and play it off what you know are their likes and dislikes. I know he happens to despise cowards so I put forth my argument on these types of attacks being really cowardice along with stupidity, especially for the reasons that they are taking place (words and name calling over the tier). I shot it at this cat how we as prisoners have to govern ourselves through certain rules, just like his org has rules against members stealing from other prisoners.
I was surprised to find out that not only does he not care but he actually condones these attacks! And proceeded to debate with me using as his argument telling me to imagine one of these dudes slandering me, calling me a snitch or whatever. I saw I was going nowhere so I steered the conversation to more neutral matters but later I thought, "I may have been swayed by an argument of what if dude was a snitch himself and there was paperwork and witnesses to corroborate but some dude calling me names?"
Maybe I have a better understanding of the fact that most of these dudes have mental health issues of some sort and compound that with being behind millions of $s worth of concrete and steel, they start feeling invisible and lose touch with reality. I gave up trying to hold people to the same moral standards I hold myself to, but these types of attacks are wrong on so many levels. There needs to be some type of honor amongst prisoners, some type of integrity, some type of standards we hold ourselves and our comrades to. Stop provoking these mental health dudes and instead educate in how to deal with each other. You don't have to become best friends but some shit you just gotta overlook.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We fully support this comrade's efforts to organize for peace in the facility where ey is held. We agree that there should be a minimum standard of behavior amongst prisoners, and we uphold the 5 principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons as our ideal model.(see p. 3)
If a conversation is going nowhere, turning it to neutral territory is a perfectly good tactic. Better to end on neutral ground than with even more discord. And choosing who to have these conversations with (i.e. don't agitate people with mental health challenges) is another sharp lesson from this author.
Often times a conversation will seem like a failure in the moment, because we aren't obviously going from point A to goal Z. But even something as small as beginning a dialogue, planting a seed, or removing the taboo from a topic of conversation, can be victories in themselves. There are many reasons why a conversation might seem unproductive in the moment, but actually have a lasting positive effect.
We can also examine conversations like this to try to figure out exactly what is holding it back. Often it's easier on our own egos to blame failures on others' unwillingness to accept our "correct" position. Rather than looking at what we can improve on our end, we just label the persyn we're arguing with as unreasonable. We might not ever win this person over on this issue, but ultimately we need to take responsibility for our own successes and failures in our organizing efforts, and learn and grow and improve from them.
To become an expert in any field, it takes approximately ten thousand hours over ten years. Think about the amount of effort you are putting into being a great organizer. Are you on track to becoming an expert?
Quantity of effort is not the only important factor to improving our skills. Quality of our practice is just as important. Experts don't just practice more, they practice deliberately.
"This is how experts practice:
"First, they set a stretch goal, zeroing in on just one narrow aspect of their overall performance. Rather than focus on what they already do well, experts strive to improve specific weaknesses. They intentionally seek out challenges they can't yet meet...
"Then, with undivided attention and great effort, experts strive to reach their stretch goal. Interestingly, many choose to do so while nobody's watching. Basketball great Kevin Durant has said, 'I probably spend 70 percent of my time by myself, working on my game, just trying to fine-tune every single piece of my game.' ...
"As soon as possible, experts hungrily seek feedback on how they did. Necessarily, much of that feedback is negative. This means that experts are more interested in what they did wrong — so they can fix it — than what they did right. The active processing of this feedback is as essential as its immediacy. ...
"And after feedback, then what?
"Then experts do it all over again, and again, and again. Until they have finally mastered what they set out to do. Until what was a struggle before is now fluent and flawless. Until conscious incompetence becomes unconscious competence...
"And... then what? What follows mastery of a stretch goal?
"Then experts start all over again with a new stretch goal.
"One by one, these subtle refinements add up to dazzling mastery."(1)
The process of deliberate practice requires us to identify a goal, stay focused on our goal, break it into tiny parts, seek out feedback, be open to criticism, try, try, try, try, try, succeed, and then stretch again. All together this requires a ton of persynal growth and commitment.
If we want to be the best organizers we can be, we can take a lesson from Durant. Treat our organizing skills like ey treats eir basketball career. Write down your goals and failures. Think about them deeply. Read about negotiation and conversation tactics. Get input from others. Consolidate our experience. Try again.
Recently I was transferred here to SCI Chester and was shocked at the difference in the prisoners here compared to my comrades at SCI Greene, SCI Pittsburgh, and SCI Somerset. This facility is very different. A program was incorporated here called welfare to work which allowed many welfare recipients from the surrounding area to be hired at this prison. Now I'm all for giving the underprivileged opportunities but this prison is so "Ratchet" now it's ridiculous. Staff does not do their jobs here. Grievances are ignored, campaigns challenged, and anyone who speaks out is locked down for "inciting a riot" and promptly transferred. With mostly short-term prisoners at this "program prison" prisoners are afraid to fight for their rights out of fear for negative marks on their record for parole.
I've been putting in non-stop paperwork since arriving and all I've accomplished is gaining the ire of my unit manager and other staff. I have even been threatened. I have succeeded in starting an anti-imperialist study group but am persecuted for it. My unit manager lies and makes up reasons to put me on "cell restrictions" so I can't hold group. But I keep pushing and have gotten some other prisoners to start standing up for themselves. But none of our paperwork is being addressed. 90% of the time we receive no response whatsoever.
I have no idea how they get away with it. You would think these staff members who were underprivileged and grew up in the streets like we did would be more sympathetic to our plights but instead they go on power trips and neglect most of their duties. These types of people are why we can't make classless society work. It seems all our efforts here are in vain. We are sending out a call for help; any assistance or advice will be greatly appreciated. Spirits seem broken here at SCI Chester and comrades are dropping out of the struggle and though it is dissuading I will not quit. I will remain constantly a soldier on the front lines of this war. But I'm calling for backup.
MIM(Prisons) responds: While this writer sees the Welfare to Work program at SCI Chester as the cause of repression, many prisons without this program have similar conditions. We can't speak to the effects of this program specifically, but more generally we know that many prisons are built in communities where job opportunities are limited. And that people generally don't take jobs as prison guards out of a desire to help people; just as with most capitalist jobs, people are working for the money.
More generally this writer's letter raises the question of why so many people working in prison perpetuate oppression rather than being kind and helpful to prisoners. There is evidence that oppressing people is not an inherent characteristic of humyns. Instead, this is a result of the economics of capitalism and our capitalist culture. First there is the economic side of things: the vast majority of people in this imperialist country are getting paid more than the value of their labor. They are basically being bought as supporters of imperialism. So when they get paid well to work in an institution that is based in social control and torture of other humyns, they're ok doing it because that's part of supporting capitalism.
Second we have capitalist culture which trains people to be ok with harming others and exerting power over others. There have been studies that show that even random people put in a situation where someone in charge tells them to hurt another persyn, most will do it because they're told to. Most famously in the United $tates there was the Stanford Prison Experiment back in 1971.
But there also has been huge social experiments such as the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s and 70s which showed that even people who formerly were oppressors with great power can be re-educated and become peaceful productive members of society. It's not easy, and we won't win on the re-education front on a mass scale until we have the power to implement a cultural revolution to eradicate a system that values and glorifies power and oppression.
Rather than despair and say that these guards are why we can't make classless society work, we say these guards are exactly why we need socialism and a dictatorship of the proletariat. Clearly we have a lot of work to do to re-train and re-educate people so that they respect all humyns and act kindly towards others. We need a system that is set up to serve the oppressed and forcibly stop those who want power for themselves for persynal gain. The system of socialism will require a long period of cultural revolution, where we transform our culture into one that values humyn life and teaches people to treat others equally rather than valuing power and wealth at any cost to others. It will be a long struggle to reach a society where there is no class, nation or gender oppression. But it is the only path to survival for humynity.
While growing up in Newark, New Jersey, I always heard of the stories about the riots, the grassroot movements, and life in the aftermath of the 1960s and 70s. However, I was a young kid who only cared about getting high, gang banging, and wanting to be recognized as being big and bad. Well I got recognized alright, but for the wrong reasons. In 1999, at the age of 20 years old, I was convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
In the first few years in prison I was still acting a fool, still trying to be recognized as big and bad. But it wasn't til 2005 when that revolutionary spark first ignited in my mind. It all started when I went to solitary confinement for a fight I was involved with. While in solitary confinement I didn't have nothing to read or anything to keep my mind occupied. So I spent hours at a time just standing at the door yelling and cursing out the pigs as they went by for their counts. Anyway, I guess my next door neighbor got tired of listening to me yelling, so he knocked on my wall and ask if I needed a book to read. So I said, "yeah, sure why not." He passed me a book called Assata by Assata Shakur. Before this I never knew who she was or even read the book, but being that I had nothing better to do while in solitary I read it.
While reading the book, flipping through page after page, Assata's story spoke to me. I felt and recognized her struggle. Within two days I finished the book and now it was me knocking on my neighbor's wall, wanting more to read. My neighbor was an older brother, and throughout the year I spend in solitary he kept feeding me books such as Blood in My Eye, Soul on Ice, and other great books. My neighbor was a firm believer in the ideology of the Black Liberation Army and the Black Panthers. Being a Latino myself, he also taught me about people and groups such as Che Guevara and the Young Lords Party. Now, instead of yelling on the gate for hours on end, my neighbor and I would spend hours talking to each other, building and helping me become more conscious of myself. He helped me realize that me wanting to be known as big and bad was just that egotistical force for recognition, which will one day lead me into a brick wall.
After my sanction in solitary confinement was complete, I continued my studies while on mainline. I read up on people such as Mahatma Gandhi, Mao Tse-tung, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Marx and many others. Gang banging wasn't even on my radar. That one spark became a single flame, changing the way I think, the way I talk, and the way I conducted myself. Throughout the years since then, that flame is now a hungry fire inside of me, like the heat of earth on fire. My sole mission is to help educate those oppressed about their political and social conditions that we live under! Because as my neighbor taught me so long ago, "Each one teaches one!" Power to the people!
My celly and myself formed a small coalition between my brothers and his brothers, red, blue, white, even hispanics to speak out against the administration (the real enemy) about their abuse of power and their negligence. We strategically created conversation and before you know it the whole housing unit was in an uproar. We had planted the seed. Now, without organization, we tend to turn our anger and frustrations into violence and destruction, which is a losing battle. So, we pushed that pen, which turned out to be mightier and more effective than the sword. We wrote Administrative Remedy Procedures (ARP), the Inmate Grievance Office (IGO), the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS), commissioners, the Deputy Secretary of Operations, and even the Governor, Larry Hogan, himself.
The issues we raise weren't addressed, so we're still waiting for responses. But regardless if we're denied any relief and we are aware of those possibilities, we created a solid peaceful foundation for unity and realized who the real oppressors are. So as long as we support each other's positive causes we are making forward progress, in the opposite direction of negativity. One step at a time!
Some brothers feel we won't get any relief because the administration do what they want. So I ask them, "if they ain't giving us this and taking that already, how is filing complaints and grievances and them not giving us any relief hurting?" "They doing what they want without so much as an inklet of rebuttal, so how do you lose writing them up?" Then I wait... No response.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Elsewhere in this issue of ULK the point is raised that leading includes showing victories, and not just talking about them.
Committed revolutionaries know that building a movement strong enough to end oppression worldwide is a huge task that takes years and years, and we're going to have lots of small failures along the way. But when building with new recruits, we need to be careful to not lead them down a dead end, in a way that discourages them and undermines unity building. Building initial interest should be energizing. It should inspire people.
At the same time, we can use our organizing defeats as opportunities for education. As this writer is doing, creating a foundation for unity and clarifying who are the real oppressors is a victory in and of itself. But we should be clear with people that there's a good chance we won't win grievances. This doesn't mean the time was wasted, because we've put the administration on notice that we won't take their bullshit lying down. Where we anticipate few victories we need to think creatively about how to inspire people to action and help them understand how this work fits into the larger struggle so that movement building is a victory in and of itself.
In this article we print letters from our imprisoned comrades across the country, which explain their recruiting methods. Our comrades do a great job of learning from their mistakes and turning what could be a negative challenge to our struggle (such as splitting up the study group) into something that makes us even stronger (spreading the fire). We have to expect repression from the pigs, and it will only get worse as we get stronger. We need to roll with it and turn it into an advantage for us.
We trust through your reading of the submissions below that you can pull out lessons for your own organizing. We were warned against sharing this info in ULK because our newsletter passes through the hands of the pigs. But most of the lessons below are about mindset and conversational approach, which the pigs can't touch.
Some comrades give examples of things that haven't worked, and we are sharing these as examples because surely other people are trying the same tactics and facing the same challenges. If it's not working, try something else.
We encourage readers to go through this issue of ULK for ideas, switch up what you're doing, and write in to MIM(Prisons) to tell us how it went.
A Nebraska prisoner: It is surely a challenge to get study groups started when they move us around in seg, but we have found it also helps to spread the spark of that fire that is a need for something better.
Over the years it's been easier to open dialogue with new people and show people the benefit and truth of communism/socialism, even anarchism. Different individuals seem to have different feelings about parties from their various background, and knowing the three are closely related helps find a common foothold when bringing individuals into the fold so to speak, and shine the light about the failure of capitalism.
Knowledge is power in any debate when you're trying to convince someone to reconsider the truths of their ideals, especially when they have failed to really dissect their own ideals and just have been going with the flow. It is interesting indeed.
A Michigan prisoner: An important lesson I've learned from politicking with brothers held captive here with me is that if you speak truth to them, you find that they come over to your side. Because, 9 times out of 10, their direct experiences usually match up with what it is that you're saying. So what I'm saying, what I'm speaking here, is the absolute truth. If organizers are looking for explanations for why their organizing techniques aren't working, they should look in the mirror. In our line of work it's what we do, or don't do, that is decisive. This is true for two reasons. First, we can't simply apply organizing techniques dogmatically to any situation without doing an analysis based in dialectical materialism to try and understand the dynamics of the situation and, therefore, try to employ our techniques in a way which is going to have the most likelihood of success. Second, organizers cannot expect lumpen who are not familiar with political work to automatically engage in struggle if we do not put forth the necessary effort to teach them how to struggle. Our job as organizers is to organize and educate the lumpen in the lessons of political struggle, as well as inspire them to take matters in their own hands and become agents of their own liberation.
I come from, or should I say, I am a lumpen organization (LO) leader myself. That said, I have firsthand knowledge of LO politics and history and I use this knowledge to my advantage when politicking with other LO leaders. For example, most LOs are based on certain fundamental principles that are uplifting. Though not revolutionary by a long shot, some LOs began as a righteous cause. However, the leadership of LOs eventually corrupted and completely distorted the fundamental principles and began wielding their power and influence for destructive ends — thereby compounding the oppression that oppressed nations suffer under imperialist domination in the ghettos of Amerikkka. Usually, when I've pointed this out to other LO leaders and explained to them that, as leaders, they have a duty and responsibility to look out for not only the interests of those they command, but the community and "our people" as a whole, they tighten up somewhat.
As a result of politicking like this, they (LO members) can become more receptive to revolutionary teachings. In fact, some of the brothers I've instructed in Maoist principles are actually taking heed and developing a genuine interest in revolutionary theory. I am pushing them very hard, and they have become more radical. And, together, we are pushing hard to (1) organize our struggle, and (2) take the political position of the United Front for Peace in Prisons.
In Conclusion, dialectical materialism, when grasped firmly, is relatively simple. We study situations, set our tasks, aim for success, inevitably fall short, try to learn from our mistakes, and come back better prepared, more organized, and more determined than ever to win the next time around.
In addition, Maoism in particular teaches us that there are two ways of learning — direct knowledge and indirect knowledge. Direct knowledge involves firsthand experiences through the senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell, whereas indirect knowledge involves looking at, listening to, or reading about someone else's experiences. In other words, we can learn from the experiences of others just as well as we can from our own experiences. So when we gain experience at a certain thing and develop techniques in the midst of struggle, we should share our experiences and techniques in the hope that they will explain, inform, or aid other comrades in their political work.
Above all, organizers should bear in mind that our main task when organizing is to unite all those that can be united. In all the world, whether inside or outside prison, oppressed people know that unity in action is a necessary precondition for waging successful struggle. If you aren't for the unity of action, you aren't for the struggle. However, for those of us who are really for the struggle, we must prove it in action (practice) — in a concrete way.
An Oregon prisoner: I thought I'd share a few thoughts on my own strategies & tactics. Firstly it must be noted that I was literally raised in the feds, and in that system, violence is a social construct propagated by all. As such, men were much more receptive to community-organizing/unity. I personally went from ignorance and tribal identity to New Afrikan. And what I've used as a tool to build consciousness are "group/tribe - specific" literature & exercise regiments.
The first is taking say, a book by & about "Kiwes and Damus" and using it to spark dialogue. What I've found is "most" tribe-aligned men are more receptive to older men they respect & who take interest in learning about them and their tribe! Forging common ground if you will.
The second is using a physical exercise program as a means to build men! Starting with instilling discipline and accompanying self esteem, that follow one's acquiring a fit body. Now, obviously within a prison environment, the "group exercise(s)" (i.e. machine) can be seen by the AmeriKlan guards as "gang related." So I caution men to do so in a proper & compartmentalized manner to negate the erroneous misconception(s)!
I am a fluent Ki Swahili speaker. I have been for over 20 years. Now! What I've also discovered is that even in this ideologically backwards state, many New Afrikans and Chicanos take to learning the language. Which, for the New Afrikan, opens up a dormant sense of long-lost cultural identity. For the Chicanos, it rebuilds bridge(s) to the past. The days of Caesar Chavez, the Party, Unity in Struggle. A time of Klass unity, and our shared socio-political agenda = Power to the People! Enough said!
Clenched fist salutations to all who stand firm on progressive ideals & work diligently to build amidst the reactionaries whom aid our oppressors!
A Nevada prisoner: Between this issue of ULK 60 and the pamphlet Fundamental Political Line of MIM(Prisons) I came up with what I believe to be the biggest problems we face. Many people shy away from revolutionary struggle like trying to convert a Christian to Islam. It's despised like conspiracy theories. So with that said, Problem #1 is appealing to and reaching those best positioned to make changes.
The situation of what prompted me to say this: I study mostly on the tier. Curious people come over to see the unique Fundamental Political Line pamphlet on the table. First thing they ask me is if I'm doing bible study. I smile, then turn to the first page explaining what it is. I truly believe it scares them off because it is intimidating, it's bold, but it's truth. This happened several times.
Noticing this, I tried to come up with a way to better explain what our struggle is about. I found what I will use in ULK 60 p. 7 by USW23. I will say "This is about how to better understand our situation and how to change our conditions."
A Michigan prisoner: As for organizing different conversations. Yes, they do seem to get nowhere unless we're talking about gangs or some other subject that interests them. Very few people want to hear about doing something productive, as in educating their minds or developing some new skill or improving their community when they are released. A lot of these inmates want to continue selling drugs or becoming a rapper, or "what's the new clothing line or style," new phones, things like that — instead of empowering the youth.
Yes, I do struggle with people telling them or asking to write grievances because they don't want to snitch but when it's against these pigs they don't see that unless more complaints or grievances are seen or written, changes will not be made. They would rather deal with it than change it. I understand that if grievances are written on these pigs then in most cases they will be targeted, but as I mentioned, if nothing is said nothing will change! I am not sure what else I can say or do. You can help those whom do want to be helped. I show people the issues and I mention to them that they can be part of the change and movement to write to MIM and start there.
USW27 writes: As a member of the council of USW, September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity is a blessing to us behind enemy lines who are committed to struggle against injustice. This gives us a chance to reflect and learn from history of our struggle from the lumpen viewpoint. And a chance to connect the dots of imperialism and capitalism and the characteristic of every stage of capitalism.
One of my strategies I've been using is talking to one Askari at a time to revolutionize the mind. Trying to change the reactionary into revolutionary. Reactionaries look at situations as war for influence, an ideological struggle to manipulate the situation for their gang. As we push for peace and solidarity there are some reactionary forces that see you as a threat because those same forces are benefiting just the way it is. They see you as a force of change. The question is, do you see yourself as a force of change? As a member of USW, you are an example on the front line. Your characteristic, the way you talk and the way you handle situations, and your attributes and commitment to the struggle. These young dada are looking for role models.
A Texas prisoner: I place one-page legal decisions on the wall to help anyone that may happen to need this information. Besides this information are two other items: a football schedule and the food menu.
My bunk-living area is in the dorm day-room. So, I look and can see directly these three papers. How prisoners act or react by looking at each, is what I call "falling in love with incarceration," or "falling in love with TDCJ."
Why do I say this? Just as a person knows when a person looks at them, from across a room, it is easy to see a person look at — or read — some item. I see them review breakfast, lunch, and dinner; even the next day's breakfast. They go into a long talk: "I ain't gonna to to breakfas' tomorah - it is jess pancakes." Another looks at the menu, then at the football schedule. "Yep! I know Minnesota will be in their own stadium — they can't lose the Super Bowl!" Others, their eyes glance at "Four Tips on Your Habeas Corpus Application." Their eyes, in a moment, move to the menu. "Hey, they got beek sketty tonite. You gonna go? I is."
Rarely have I witnessed, day or night, anyone taking time to look at and review how to get out of prison. I have several precedental case-laws from 1992 until 2016. Yet, all say, "he doesn't know what he's doin."
MIM(Prisons) adds: Finally, the comrade below shows us what recruiting looks like from the other side. The details are different for everyone, but just in case we forgot the small moments that led us into organizing, we are including it as an example here. Even if our one conversation or posting of a document on the wall falls flat in the moment, we are facilitating the repeated exposure of people to political organizing. These "retriggers" are what lead to eventual independent interest.
A West Virginia prisoner: I always knew I was anti-government because the oppression of the government towards my people was clear. Majority of the time my people committed crimes against willing participants in the streets, so I didn't understand why the government was kidnapping my brothers and abusing my sisters. It shocked me to see the police come in the projects and cold killers take off and run. Something I'm not really into no more.
Once I was in prison I was introduced to the Black Guerilla Family by a dude straight outta the District of Columbia. He told me that I'm a revolutionary. I laughed at the word and told him to say it again because it resonated with me, but I didn't know what it meant, so he told me look it up.
It just so happened he led me astray and the next thing I knew we were in a war with the folks. I was sent to a maximum security facility in West Virginia, quality of life program, better known as administrative segregation, locked down 23 hours a day. I decided to get the book Blood in my Eye by George L. Jackson and learned the history of the movement. It opened my eyes!
The September 9th Day of Peace and Solidarity is an opportunity for prisoners to commemorate the anniversary of the Attica uprising and draw attention to abuse of prisoners across the country. This event was initiated in 2012 by a prisoner organization and has been taken up as an annual United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) event, with people participating in prisons across the country.
We can not effectively fight the oppressors if we don't have unity among the oppressed. And that unity behind bars needs to start with peace and solidarity. This is why activists spend the 24 hours on September 9 promoting peace and education. We call for a full halt on all hostilities and engagements, whether between lumpen organizations or individuals. All participants should use the day to educate and build peace. In some places prisoners will observe a 24-hour fast. In others there will be group classes to study and discuss political history and current events. Figure out what you will do and get started organizing people today.
We use September 9 to build on the UFPP principle of Peace: "WE organize to end the needless conflicts and violence within the U.$. prison environment. The oppressors use divide and conquer strategies so that we fight each other instead of them. We will stand together and defend ourselves from oppression." This is a critical step in building a united front among prisoner organizations and individuals committed to the anti-imperialist movement. We do not need to agree on every political question, but we must come together united around core principles to build and succeed together. For those who are engaging others to participate, the unity building starts well before September 9. It is a long process of education and organizing to build the anti-imperialist movement.
This 24 hour action will require a little sacrifice, but should incur no harm, and should lead to a reduction in violence as all prisoner-on-prisoner hostilities cease for the day. We can build greater awareness of the oppression against which we fight, and build the unity that is necessary for that battle, by organizing groups and individuals to participate. Comrades organizing around the solidarity demo are encouraged to send their plans or reports to Under Lock & Key. To be included in ULK 64, your reports must be in our mailbox by Monday September 17.
Being a recent student participant of an on-site college program, I heard about Grit via my psychology professor, who really sold the book as "the best work of its kind" in his lifetime. He was an abnormally straight shooter, and over the spring semester he gained a high level of respect from me and several Gods attending his classes. That being said when I read the title I became ecstatically interested in reading it. To make things 1000% better ULK sent a request that asked me to direct a selected few ideas from the book's chapters, repurpose the information in a way that makes it useful for prisoners and prisoner movements.
Taking Grit to the cipher those last days of Ramadan provided the forum that I used to gain opinions from the Gods here. First it was introduced and the purpose was established as to what I was planning to do within our cipher with regards to the book. It was agreed that we would give light to its reading, our interpretation of the book knowledge as it regards the prisoner movements (meaning unified actions of prisoners between different lumpen orgs, religious orgs, racial groups and at times including sexually non-conformist groups).
Once that was the base of our collective understanding, we read the very first part out loud in its entirety, without stop. This was done in order to gain a clear mental picture of what the author, Dr. Angela Duckworth, wanted us to know: How she defined "grit." Her purpose for writing this book. How this information could be used (individually, as a group, systematically, as a tool of help or to exploit). Lastly we brainstormed on whether the subject was new, unique or reminiscent of other books any of us read.
This was all done on day one. It included reading the preface along with chapters 1-5, checking the dictionary and thesaurus for words we either didn't understand or had different definitions for. This was to ensure we all stayed on the same page until a full grasp of the work was gained (or as we say, the who, what, when, where, how and why). Once that's gained then each God can go back to the cell and reflect on what is being said versus what the author's voice is trying to persuade the reader of. Because of lockdowns we didn't come back together again for some time. In that time I made 6 copies of the book and hand delivered the copies to each member of the cipher. I read ahead because of these time restraints for my response for ULK to be ready for this 63rd issue.
The subjects that I found applicable to the prisoners and prisoners' movement's need to develop grittier comrades on the front lines are from the Part II chapters: Interest, Practice, and Purpose.
Using "the grit test" [a questionnaire measuring someone's passion and perseverence - ULK Editor], we can discriminate in positive ways to create better recruiting methods when it comes to bringing individuals into the inner communal cipher or cadre. This will change the qualities that community leadership uses to identify like-minded soldiers. Though most will have to use interview methods instead of written questionnaires, and questions will have to be asked again and again in different ways before confirmation can be made.
The study habits and increasing interest in each member's confidence in sharing these interpretations of studied materials must become the job of all in leadership, with little to no critique at first and high praises to study habits and being able to communicate ideas in their own voice.
Standing up to injustice must be celebrated. Especially in times they are made to suffer by the authorities for doing the righteous and self-respecting thing — which is the institution's systematic way of pushing said prisoner to believe they are powerless. This is the creation of the passive prisoner who just puts up with all levels of abuse from authority. To fight this mental bullying the leadership must celebrate the comrade's actions openly with high energy. Leadership must show and prove they are willing to suffer some loss if and when making a stand causes such losses — a united front plus true knowledge of where the cadre stands on issues by actions, not just theory or talk-based instruction.
Grit is made of both passion and perseverance, creating and maintaining, stick-wit-it-ness, evolving interest and deep commitment. As opposed to natural skill, know-how or raw talent which may or may not assist in being a success. Comrades, being grittier means overcoming obstacles, learning from defeats and setbacks, and never allowing them to define who you are nor the movement. Remembering effort is worth twice as much as talent.
Example: Recently myself and eleven other political prisoners attempted to establish a self-introspection help program. At the beginning the administration acted positively about allowing the program to have a pilot try, yet once we got a free body volunteer to facilitate our group the administration changed its decision. This forced me to educate myself on group creation, rules of submittal and how to get sponsored state-wide, which I’m currently in the process of doing. The lesson is: don't stop at the first (or second or third...) signs of resistance.
This chapter was organizational gold when clearly understood. Leaders please pay close attention to each comrade's passions within your cadre or cipher, with even more emphasis on possible new members in relation to the struggles the cadre is immersed in. Understand what each person is passionate about, issues they will be more able to persevere through any pushback or reprisal.
Besides that, knowing each person's passions and convictions helps to know what position everyone is good at and areas they need assistance developing, which can be introduced in creative, fun ways, then incentivized through recognition and praise for gradual growth in areas of difficulty.
Example: Say a comrade is uncomfortable communicating their ideas publicly. This problem is amplified when the COs are involved to the point this comrade doesn't assert his legal rights nor is he respected as a man in the righteous way. Leadership must cultivate these skills in members who have difficulties related to these identifiable areas. The "you spoke really well" type or "the way you used those descriptors in the last essay was golden, so please continue to develop those skills" type of recognition and praise. I call it fanning the flames of passion, then directing the flames of progress and confidence among comrades.
Practice is something all gritty people have in common. You've heard the saying "practice builds perfection." Well after reading this chapter I must take it even further. Without practice as a united front executing plans in concert, you don't know how to work as one body. This will create the "big me and little yous," or followers resentment. Learn to practice making decisions together by hearing everyone involved out, allow each person the opportunity to lead in every activity. Practice writing write-ups, working out as a group, being inclusive as much as possible. This will make the cadre able to operate even when separated.
The author's research shows that this kind of practice must be done in association with a positive state of mind related to the balance of quantity and quality of time spent in skill development. We must also seek out new creative ways of practice in direct relation to the top-level goal. Formal repetition and fun activities loosely associated to goals are also useful tools.
Examples: Getting our comrades to rap in the cipher, incorporating subjects, words, ideas related to the group's mission may help them develop a public speaking style, confidence in speaking these opinions, and help them be more connected to positive public communication as a way to handle issues. Another more formal method is reading and discussing essays with the group, both on the yard and in closed room settings.
ULK readers this may be the most important thing to learn about in this whole book with regards to prisoner movements and issues that create the necessity for a more inclusive united front. This author makes the definition of "purpose" more than the passion of the moment. Purpose is also the intention to contribute to the well-being of others. The balance of both is what is needed in these occasions and is found in all the grittiest revolutionaries.
The comrades that feel they were born to live and die for the people are of such destiny-driven molds where this quality is found, manifested and acted out. These people are rare and even when they reach the stage of public awareness they are usually murdered by one of the system's arms of imperial aggression. Purposeful Revolutionaries must be supported by the people and understood by their peers as the magnetic all-inspiring super-motivation-drivers that they are. When unity is necessary these forces of nature will bring organization.
Example: Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the BPP was placed inside prison for a shootout with the police, and he was railroaded the first trial. The whole country polarized over this miscarriage of injustice creating one of the most supported appeals California had ever seen. "Free Huey" was the call, Black Power was the purpose, and the results are revolutionary history and the thing of legends.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Thanks to this comrade for reviewing Grit from the perspective of a revolutionary anti-imperialist prisoner organizer. We also studied the book and found lessons we can draw from it for our own work. We can't summarize them all here, but will respond to some points in the review above and emphasize what we see as the most important points from the book. (Grit is available from MIM(Prisons) for $10 or equivalent work-trade.)
We are hesitant to take any of the studies in Grit as representing humyn nature itself. As with all bourgeois psychology, the studies were conducted under conditions of imperialism. So we don't know if they're absolute representations of how humyns' minds work. But since we're also organizing under imperialist conditions, the studies do apply to our present conditions.
Throughout Grit, the author uses scientific studies and also case studies of "paragons of grit" — people who have reached pinnacles of performance in their jobs. This is one place where Duckworth's bourgeois perspective shines brightly. The book opens with a study of the most elite forces in the U.$. military, and jumps from athletes to musicians to chemists. The only mention of a socialist hero is when Duckworth puts Joseph Stalin's name right next to Adolf Hitler's. Ey admits Stalin had grit, but also that ey was "misguided" and "prove[s] that the idea of purpose can be perverted." In our communist version of Grit we would include case studies of not only Stalin, but also Mao Zedong, George Jackson, Stanley Tookie Williams, Assata Shakur, and the tens of thousands of people who participated in the over-5,000-mile Long March in China in the 1930s.
Regarding the grit test, we caution against using it as a measure of who should be allowed into our movement. It can be a tool for assessing where people need development, and how much we could count on them to follow through in this moment. But Duckworth emphasizes strongly that grit can grow. In fact, Chapter 5 is titled "Grit Grows," Part II is titled "Growing Grit from the Inside Out" and Part III is titled "Growing Grit from the Outside In." There are many interventions we can use to increase the grit of our cadre. And building our own and our comrades' committment and perserverence should be our focus. The grit test may be useful for measuring if we're improving our abilities to build grit in others, but should not be limiting who can participate.
USW7 outlines above the importance of group practice, and we also want to add the importance of individual development for improvement. Elsewhere in this issue of ULK we lay out the guidelines for deliberate practice. The group mentality is important, but we can't rely on it for our development. Kevin Durant summarizes the ratio by saying ey spends 70% of eir time practicing alone. Both are necessary.
Besides our ability to grow grit, one of the most important points Duckworth makes in Grit is that effort counts twice. Duckworth warns us against being distracted by talent, or assuming that one's skills are dictated by talent. Talent plays a part, but without effort, one's talent won't develop into skill. And without effort, one's skill won't develop into achievement. People who have less talent certainly surpass those with more talent in their achievements. They do this with effort. The ability to put in effort even in spite of repression, setbacks, failures... that is grit.
I'm writing because I have received my first issue of ULK, and I am going to tell you about how I became who I am, and what I am. It started in 2010 at South Central Correctional Center with a brother by the name of Supreme. At that time I was 21 years old and didn't want to hear a thing from no one cause I thought, "you can say what you want but it don't mean a thing if you can’t show it." I never used to listen to nothing until he started talking to me and on top of that he was showing it to me. So I can see that it was true.
Once I started to see what he was showing it all came to me and I said to myself "this is a brother I can believe and count on when I'm in need, and need help against the pigs." Because at that time I was having problems with the pigs and they were giving me hell back to back and I didn't know what to do about it. He saw it and started helping me and showing me how to go at it with them. I saw what he was showing me was working, so now I'm a believer. He's an older brother and I respect him a lot for what he did.
I have had a lot of guys tell me things and couldn't show it. They say "look at the message and not the messenger," but sometimes the message don't mean a thing if you can't show it. I had a guy tell me one day, "yeah man we all should write some letters to people outside. I don't think it's gonna work but we can do it anyway." See! That right there told me a lot, that he didn't even believe what the fxxk he was saying, so why should I believe that would work?
Now I listen to the ones that show and tell and I make sure I do the same. I never feed anyone bull because I don't let anyone feed me bull. And I have a lot of brothers that show and tell. One, a political prisoner, does a lot to help all of the brothers that he can. So I give a lot of love to brothers like him and Supreme.
I liked the whole issue of ULK 62 for May/June and I am letting a lot of other brothers read it too. I have read some of your ULKs in the past but I never had a chance to write to you guys and it seemed like noone ever heard of your paper. I realized that there are a lot of guys in prison that are not doing their job, the job of educating other brothers. So now that is why we have a lot of b.s. where everyone is against each other. We see this again and again in all of Missouri prisons. I don't know everything, and I'm still learning, but as I go on I try my best to help all of the other real brothers gain knowledge.
I know just as well as you know that we have a lot of guys that are faking and trying to bring the movement down working with the pigs. I can tell you a lot of dudes don't like me because I tell it like it is and I don't hold nothing back for no one. A lot of these guys are just all talk, they act like they are something they are not, but see they don't like that I'm about all of that and some, I practice what I preach. I want to help all of the brothers that I can and I mean it and I show it too. So guys don't like me because I show and tell for real! I want to thank you at MIM(Prisons) for your time and allowing me the chance to talk with you all and the reading material you all send me to help me more. I'm still growing.
Keep on fighting the fight, never give up. To all the brothers and sisters of the struggle: a warrior never gives up. Freedom is what we make it.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This article is especially interesting to us because it's easy for such a long-term project as ours to sound like what this comrade is criticizing above. "[W]e all should write some letters to people outside. I don't think it's gonna work but we can do it anyway."
We write letters to prison administrators to defend our right to send prisoners our literature, and a lot of the time it doesn't go anywhere. We run the grievance campaign, and often times we're just sent in circles between the Inspector General, Ombudsman, and the warden. But we're not discouraged. We already have strategic confidence in our work, because we've studied enough history to know that what we're doing today will pay off in the long term. Engaging in the endless bureaucracy is tolerable because we already understand how it relates to the big picture.
However, this comrade's skepticism underlines the importance of how we recruit new people. Our strategy ultimately is to build unity and confidence among the oppressed masses. Busy work (sending letters just to send them) does not have this effect. Even if we don't expect an immediate positive response from admin, if people just see us as wasting their time and resources, it's going to discourage them even more and cause them to distrust us.
Part of encouraging people is in picking battles that are winnable. Part of it is in framing these battles as a piece of our larger struggle. Part of it is in showing historical successes and broadening people's vision. And part of that is relating our goals to the perspective and values of the people we're attempting to recruit.
Within prisons we find ourselves confronted with multiple obstacles to organizing efforts. Obstacles spanning from legal and material to psychological and physical. Before we can even engage in political activities we must confront these various road blocks, what I call "walls" (barriers against activism and organizing).
Psychological walls manifest in two primary ways: 1) lack of receptivity in conversations; and 2) perspectives of hopelessness. For prisoner activists these are Goliathan problems. In the first instance you find yourself talking to a brick wall. In the second your points may be acknowledged as valid but still dismissed as useless opposition. A most frustrating situation, because one – your words can not make an impression; and two – your arguments prove valid but produce no effect. In both cases real victories (read demonstrations) proving the validity of arguments and feasibility of proposed actions is the surest method of overcoming such obstacles. In the former, a prisoner sees the validity. In the latter, a prisoner gains motivation. Even a small victory – a granted grievance – is capable of advancing organizational efforts to be heard and considered.
Material walls are next formidable in line. Including almost every privilege extended to a prisoner and their financial security. Following capitalist society, prisons use these privileges and financial control to maintain leverage over prisoners' behavior/thought. Furthermore, as most prisoners are stuck in parasitic thinking in pursuit of a capitalistic existence, such advantage creates a strong disinclination towards jeopardizing them, even if it is in their best interests. As with capitalism in general, there is no convenient nor easy answer that can be applied with certainty. All prisoners' privileges and financial interests intensify identification with classism (antagonistic) and capitalist priorities. Considering this, no general rules of approach can be established as each's interests influence differs. Fortunately, every answer that can be applied can be approached on first, an individual, then, group or demographic level, expanding in concentric circles.
Legal and physical walls are less conspicuous; most prisoners view political activity as futile. Still once activism gains momentum and organizing becomes realistic, these last walls spring up. Within prisons these signify various administrative "conveniences" (e.g., Ad-Seg, SHU, MCU, punitive segregation, out-of-state transfer, and varied movement/privilege/property/financial/communication restrictions or other arbitrary sanctions). Outside of prisons, many courts conspire to create so many legal formalities, exorbitant fees, byzantine procedures and lopsided laws that most trained lawyers are bemused and at a loss. For the prisoner who does survive such a crucible, pride is only the beginning of the prize.
All in all these many walls constitute the primary, secondary and such obstacles to organization behind bars. These difficulties should not be taken as reasons to dissuade political action but rather, as motivation to pursue these endeavors. Why else would there be so many protective measures if activism and organizing were indeed useless? Once the prisoner understands their interests in the matter these insurmountable walls become merely constant annoyances necessary for progress and material dialectical processes. Nothing worthy of having ever comes easy. With greater obstacles comes a greater and more valuable prize. Rise to such challenges, allowing your hunger for real equality to increase along and as much as difficulties faced; if not more so.
This issue of Under Lock & Key is devoted to exploring tactics in organizing behind bars. We often hear how hard it is to get people interested in politics, how so many are just doing their time, or worse, getting high, collaborating with the COs, or promoting division among prisoners. But we also hear from comrades about organizing successes. We can all learn from our own failures and successes and also from other people's failures and successes.
This scientific process of learning from practice, and using those lessons to improve our practice, is key to moving our organizing work forward. Marxism is based in this science that we call dialectics. Often people talk about it in the context of deep political line. But political line is only useful if it can direct a successful political practice. And so, as we spread revolutionary ideas and organize against the criminal injustice system, we need to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, both for us and for others. And then apply these lessons to improving our own work. Without dialectics the revolutionary movement will stagnate; with dialectics we will continue to learn and grow.
In a few articles in this issue we highlight the work of a psychologist, Angela Duckworth, who has conducted and compiled studies of how to engage and inspire people in work and how to build expertise. Although ey writes about this subject from the perspective of mastering bourgeois work or hobbies, we find some of the techniques and information presented to be directly applicable to revolutionary organizing. We learn from scientific studies like those presented by Duckworth, along with our own practice, to grow and improve our work.
Duckworth is an interesting psychologist because eir work focuses on measuring what ey calls "personal qualities" or traits, but eir work also demonstrates that these traits of a persyn can and do change over time. And individuals and society can have an impact on developing desired qualities. We agree with Duckworth on this assessment of the ability of people to change and grow through both their own work and external forces. In eir more recent works, Duckworth clearly agrees with us that these "traits" are more a product of education and training than inherent in one's persynality. Duckworth's writing is instructive as we look for ways to improve our own dedication and effectiveness, and ways to better inspire others.
MIM(Prisons), like MIM before it, has long maintained that the field of psychology under imperialism is generally used to help people adjust to their oppression and adapt to the horrible culture of imperialist patriarchy. It is a counter-revolutionary weapon when used in this way. Further, bourgeois psychology often attributes behaviors to inherent traits instead of material circumstances and conditions, suggesting that humyns can't change. We don't have the ability to run truly scientific experiments on humyn nature, but we have a lot of evidence from revolutionary societies like the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, and Communist China under Mao to suggest that humyns have a tremendous capacity to learn and grow and overcome selfish individualism.
Instead of seeing the selfishness and individualism in capitalist culture as reasons that humynity will "always" have oppression and suffering, we see it as evidence of the importance of a Cultural Revolution under socialism. This concept was executed on a mass scale in China under Mao. The Cultural Revolution recognizes the need for the people to vigilently fight against reactionary culture and capitalist ideas, even after the proletariat controls the government, because capitalist culture and individualism will not disappear overnight.
Of course in the end individualism and self-interest won out in those countries when capitalism was restored. But this doesn't negate the very real changes that so many people made in revolutionary societies. We look to these examples as hopeful evidence, while studying them for improvements needed for better success in the future.
There are people in the fields of psychiatry (medical doctors) and psychology (not medical doctors) who have taken their study of humyns in a revolutionary direction, contributing to the anti-imperialist movement. Frantz Fanon is an excellent example of a revolutionary psychiatrist. Among eir revolutionary work, Fanon's scientific studies contributed greatly to our understanding of the effects of colonial subjugation on the oppressed, and a broader study of the lumpen. Duckworth is not revolutionary, or anti-capitalist, or anti-Amerikan, and ey is still mired in some of the pitfalls of the field of capitalist psychology. But eir research presents some useful concepts and techniques for revolutionary organizing work. In this spirit of scientific learning we touch on Duckworth's work in this issue of ULK.
We take action regardless of whether we will ultimately win or lose. We take action simply because it is in our nature to resist injustice and oppression. It is who we are. And we recognize that not everyone has that same nature. We should not criticize or look down on those who don't have enough strength for this fight against the odds. After all, oppression of the weak and unfortunate is the very thing we are struggling against. So we hold no animosity towards the naysayers as long as they do not directly interfere with our cause, and we are happy when our actions benefit them even though they refused to participate. People cannot help being the way they are. For those of us with the revolutionary spirit the struggle comes as naturally as apathy and passivity comes to those who refuse to participate.
But the truth is that we most definitely can make a difference. The government and the TDCJ administration would like us to believe they are all-powerful and can do whatever they want without concern for any consequences, but that is just propaganda intended to make us give up before we even start. We know this from experience because we have won victories already. We have seen even just a handful of prisoners come together many times and force the administration to improve conditions or follow its own rules.
We know that just because our actions are ignored at first or because we got a rubber stamp response on a grievance doesn't mean it didn't have an effect. Everything has an effect and it all adds up. We recognize that change in any area of life generally requires sustained action over a long period of time. The pigs' first line of defense is to keep us ignorant and keep us discouraged, but we must know better than to fall into those traps.
What we often see is prisoners coming together in a spontaneous uprising when abuses reach a crisis point. The administration will quickly back down and meet their demands. But then when this temporary mobilization of the mass of prisoners falls apart, the administration incrementally begins the same abuses all over again. If they overstep and the prisoners mobilize themselves once more, then the administration just repeats the process of backing down and incrementally reimposing the same abuses. In this way they gradually accustom the prisoners to accept the abuse of their rights and human dignity.
So another reason why we take action is simply to stay mobilized and able to resist the incremental erosion of our rights. We don't fool ourselves about the possibility of keeping the whole mass of prisoners fully mobilized. The majority will always care more about watching TV and playing fantasy football. But there are also at least a few prisoners who see revolutionary work as a way to pass the time that is just as enjoyable and interesting, with the added benefit that it actually gives them some real power over their circumstances. If we can keep this core of dedicated revolutionaries organized and active at all times, then we can put up constant resistance to the erosion of our rights. And we will have an organizational framework and leadership already in place that allows us to quickly mobilize the masses for some larger project whenever it becomes necessary.
We know all this is an uphill battle, but we can take heart when we study the past. In the broad sweep of history the course of events has overwhelmingly been in our favor. The oppressors of the world have been fighting a desperate retreat for the last thousand years, losing battle after battle in the struggle for human rights. It is clear which way the wind is blowing. And the struggle for prisoners' rights fits squarely within that larger struggle.
There will be a day in the not-so-distant future when people look back with horror and shame at our current culture of mass incarceration and the conditions in these prisons. And those who struggled for prisoners' rights and reform of the criminal justice system will be grouped among the heroes who fought to overcome absolutist monarchies, colonialism, slavery, worker exploitation, racism, sexism, and every other form of oppression. We can take action with absolute confidence that we are on the right side of history. In the long run, we are assured of victory.
MIM(Prisons) responds: So much of what this author writes here speaks directly to the value of perseverance in our work. The project of building revolution (or making any great impact on the world) is made up of many, many, many days of mundane tasks. Some days of excitement. And many more days of mundane commitment.
In a debate on whether people are born as, or developed into, revolutionaries, it seems like this author would argue the former. But surely everyone who's turned on to politics can also remember a time in their life when they were apathetic and passive. Whether from an incorrect understanding of how the world works, or a lack of faith in our own ability to change and make change. At some time, probably over a long time, we decided to stand up.
Well, how do people turn from only participating when there's an acute problem, to making that long-term commitment to building a revolution? (Hint: it's not a persynality trait we're born with.)
Author and bourgeois psychologist Angela Duckworth says developing interest and passion for your work (the type of passion that sticks it out through the hard times) is made of "a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening."(1) In the quote below Duckworth talks about "having fun" as part of developing interest. While prisons certainly aren't fun, we can apply this concept to prisoners facing repression, where the "trigger" for interest is repeated exposure to examples and experiences of resistance.
"Before hard work comes play. Before those who've yet to fix on a passion are ready to spend hours a day diligently honing skills, they must goof around, triggering and retriggering interest. Of course, developing an interest requires time and energy, and yes, some discipline and sacrifice. But at this earliest stage, novices aren't obsessed with getting better. They're not thinking years and years into the future. They don't know what their top-level, life-orienting goal will be. More than anything else, they're having fun."
"... [I]nterests are not discovered through introspection. Instead, interests are triggered by interactions with the outside world. The process of interest discovery can be messy, serendipitous, and inefficient. This is because you can't really predict with certainty what will capture your attention and what won't. You can't simply will yourself to like things, either. ..."
"... [W]hat follows the initial discovery of an interest is a much lengthier and increasingly proactive period of interest development. Crucially, the initial triggering of a new interest must be followed by subsequent encounters that retrigger your attention — again and again and again."
Just because someone is initially uninterested in the politics behind the mass action, through repeated exposure and "retriggering interest," we can encourage them to go deeper. And after the initial interest is sparked, Duckworth says deliberate practice, a sense of purpose, and a hopeful attitude, are what enable us to commit and excel. These approaches are what cause us to overcome the adversity that the author describes in the article above, of administrative failures, discouragement from staff, and even our own mistakes.
And Duckworh argues, based on eir decades of study, that these qualities can be nurtured and developed — by individuals themselves, and by people outside of those individuals. As organizers, we need to work to develop interest, practice, purpose, and hope in others. In eir book Grit, Duckworth lays out many methods to do this, some of which we've touched on in other articles throughout this issue of ULK. With this response, we primarily want to highlight that a revolutionary fighting spirit is something that we can cultivate; just because someone doesn't have it now doesn't mean they won't ever have it. And it's the organizer's job to make that process as successful as possible.
14 JUNE 2018 — Uhuru! As of today's mathematics, 14 June 2018, prisoners are being violently pent against one another in a last attempt to interfere with current demands by both the people of California and the federal government to release its ridiculously large prison population.
CDCR, at prisons like the Substance Abuse Tratment Facility (SATF) and Kern Valley State Prison (KVSP), has begun engaging in policy changes that manufacture hostilities between the prison populations. One particular change involves rehousing what is called "mainline" prisoners on yards that are considered Protective Custody (P.C.) yards by force. Now these are not P.C. yards by the standards of the law, Protective Custody. Instead they are Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY). These yards house a combination of offenders/prisoners, including prison gang organization defectors called "drop outs", prisoners with sexual offenses, prison sex victims, victims of exploitation by other prisoners and a wide range of other types.
There are offenders who were/are members of street gangs/organizations whose particular gang has been targeted by the larger gang alliances like the Mexican Mafia. Then there are those individuals who are members of left wing political organizations who struggle against corruption and blow the whistle against crooked cops and politicians in office. Though it has been promoted that all who are housed at SNY facilities are child molesters, police informants, gang traders, etc., this is a lie spread by the police pigs in order to establish the chaos that is being born across California in prisons, CDCR.
Prisons have begun rehousing small numbers of mainline prisoners who are considered the "actives" on facilities that have been established as SNY facilities amongst those who are often mis-construed as "non-active." Because these facilities are not what CDCR claim them to be; an environment with no gang activity and very little criminal violence, these facilities are a melting pot for chaos. There are possibly more STGs on the SNY than on the mainline, as the 2012 Pelican Bay SHU Agreement to End Hostilities was designed to cease gang hostilities and stem criminal behavior for all mainliners. (Mainliners are prisoners who were until recently housed at General Population (G.P.) facilities, but now SNY facilities are considered mainline, as there are more SNY facilities than G.P.)
Let the authorities that be take notice: There are those of us who will not participate in wars against ourselves but instead will bare arms against the agents of oppression, where ever they be. And we know all of you. You who see what is happening but do nothing to protect those of us unable to protect ourselves. Trust that justice will be done on the yard as so in the streets. Your time is no more!
[NOTE: The author is among a group of New Afrikan and [email protected] leaders of the United Struggle from Within (USW). Ey was among 40 prisoners transferred to Kern Valley State Prison D-facility after a riot between SNY gangs united against New Afrikans and [email protected] refusing to endorse gang culture and hostilities amongst prisoners, working the police agenda. The author was transferred from a lower level institution less hostile to growth amongst prisoners, and placed into an environment that would definitely invite conflict between them and corrections officers.]
In January 2018, I was written a case at 9:45pm for creating a disturbance along with six other comrades. The case was read to me at approximately 10:30pm the next day. I had read that they have 24 hours to read you a case after it is written. This was the first in a long list of procedural errors that followed. It did not matter that one elderly lady was heavily medicated after the death of her sister and was asleep on the night in question. It did not matter that we all wrote a statement for her. One lady had an answer to go home, three ladies were waiting to see parole, and I had just requested a special review. We were all found guilty, but not of creating a disturbance. We were all found guilty of a charge they added while we were at court: Disobeying a direct order.
Needless to say I grieved the case, which was a major infraction. I knew the Lt. involved was involved in an alleged beating of another comrade some years ago, so before I sent in my grievance I sent a copy to my mom. Yes! Us women are beaten, raped, sexually harassed and/or assaulted, and placed on chain gang/hoe squads as punishment. I made a carbon copy of the grievance, and my mother sent a copy to the Regional Director's office and the Ombudsmen. Someone from the Regional Director's office visited me to ensure I was not being harassed.
Of course Step 1 was returned claiming "no procedural errors were noted." A blatant lie. I sent in a Step 2 and am awaiting a response. In the wake of these bogus cases one lady’s parole answer was revoked and three others fear the same fate awaits them. I was denied the opportunity to take correspondence courses for a bachelor’s degree. In situations like this I have to remind myself that the worst case I ever caught was the one that put me here. I will not live here in fear.
I do not yet have the TX Pack, but I advise you all to read your rulebook thoroughly, learn your A.D.s (P.D. 22s get kicked back often as unprovable, your word against theirs). A.D.s aren’t so easily denied, and Step 2 EVERYTHING! When necessary Step 3. Also, obtain a list from sub counsel of all the reasons you can successfully appeal a case. Last, keep your nose clean. There are people who tell me they will never write a grievance. They find it insulting when a pig tells them to “grieve it”. “I would NEVER” they say. Then some injustice is done to them and they come to me. I give them a code to go look up. The seed is planted in this way.
Another response I get is “write it for me and I’ll sign it”. Comrades, it seems nearly impossible to gather the troops. However, don’t look at it from that angle. Writing 20 people's grievances is just like doing their homework so they can graduate. They still won’t be able to peep the science nor do the math. When you have 2-3 people who are willing to campaign with you then each of you are known for activism, you’ll have people coming to you. When that time comes, guide them, don’t do their homework. In this way, “less is more, it’s plenty of us”.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is clearly leading by example, and one of the examples ey sets is ey doesn't let small failures upset em: "I will not live here in fear." Success takes sustained effort over a long period of time. COs will discourage us every chance they get. The DOC administration will do everything they can to shut down our protests even when we play by their own rules. This all is part of the battle, to expect it, and keep doing what we're doing in spite of any discouragement. Often our grievances will fail, but that doesn't mean we give up. It just means we need to look at our plan of attack.
The more successful we are, the more people are gonna hate on us. The better we get at filing grievances and lawsuits, the more the state is gonna repress us. Strong comrades like this writer stand up to this repression and continue to demand their rights be respected.
This writer also brings up an important point about leadership. Leaders need to prepare people to do things themselves, how to fight their own battles. The important thing is not filing the grievance itself. The important thing is teaching people how to fight these battles, and helping them build confidence that they can fight back. These lessons will carry over into other parts of their life and political work. We need more leaders to step up and provide this education behind bars. In this issue of ULK there are lots of suggestions for ways to engage people and do organizing work. Find a way that works for you to become a leader in the anti-imperialist movement!
This letter is about how we need to encourage and educate each other while we are all in here. I am in my late 30s and this is my first arrest ever in my life. So the first couple of weeks was rough, until one of the guards made a threat against me and I did a greivance. The other prisoners laughed and said it would do no good. At first I felt they were right. The CO I wrote up was given the grievance and ripped it up in front of me and started to tell the others I was a snitch. I felt helpless.
Then I realized every other prisoner is between 17 and 23 — youngsters. So I decided to educate myself and others. So I got a copy of the grievance policy and exhausted it. Then a copy of the state commission policies and filed with them.
Finally I got a copy of your newsletter and passed it around and — bam! — the fire was lit in 2 people on my rung. They wanted to know how to file grievances so I showed them, walked them thru, and gave the support and explained that it all takes time to get any kind of legal paperwork done. After 2 and a half months, 2 suspensions and termination, I was moved to population. After about 2 hours of talking with the 20 inmates I was going to be housed with, we handed in 19 grievances. So now i am back in seg. The basic message is this: we need to teach these youngsters, educate them. As a common voice we can be heard and make a difference.
Revolutionary greetings of love, dedication and resiliency to all freedom fighters and fearless front line generals, soldiers and warriors who dare to struggle and sacrifice for liberty, freedom and equality from behind the walls, fences and cages of genocide and oppression. As we continue to raise awareness and lift up our voices so that we may be heard on the issues of systematic racism and economic exploitation in the criminal justice system, as well as prison slavery, police killings and brutality. We continue to see an evil and determined enemy dig in its heels in the name of white supremacy.
I am a Missouri prisoner who has been imprisoned for 32 years. I am educated with a paralegal degree. With my credentials, I have a legal clinic of 10 comrades. We have taken it upon ourselves to do separate booklets of individual civil complaints such as: censorship, religion, cruel and unusual punishment (prison conditions) etc. We will be sending those to MIM(Prisons) upon their completion. We have made censorship our first priority, and already sent this one in to MIM(Prisons).
However, we only have an ex-amount of time in the law library, so we have to copy case-law (hundreds of them) and take them back to our cells and work on our booklets. Our resources are limited and we need help! So if any of my comrades know of places that will send "unlimited" printed caselaw to us, please contact MIM to pass the message on.
MIM(Prisons) responds: These comrades are setting an example of how to make your work impact more than just one persyn. Many can benefit from concise information on how to fight specific legal battles. The first guide created by this group, fighting censorship, is a good example of this as it ties directly into a problem that the revolutionary movement behind bars faces regularly — the censorship of our literature. Under Lock & Key and other lit that we send in is often rejected and our only recourse is grievances and legal challenges. Because of the critical role that revolutionary education plays in our organizing work, we prioritize this legal battle. And we distribute a censorship guide to all who have our lit rejected.
We have a few cautionary notes to those working on this legal project and others who are interested in taking up similar legal work. First, there are many guides already out there for prisoners, so anyone putting time into this type of project needs to start by making sure you're not duplicating work.
Second, as with our anti-censorship work, it's important that we tie our legal work to our revolutionary organizing. There are many legal battles that prisoners are fighting, but these can be a distraction from the larger struggle if we don't tie them to the reality that the legal system isn't going to make real or substantive change for us. We might win a few censorship battles, but we'll never effectively stop censorship through the imperialist courts. We use the censorship struggle to highlight the hypocrisy of imperialism and underscore their fear of revolutionary education, while making some room for us to reach people with politics.
We need to be organizing people to use legal battles as a part of the larger campaigns that the movement prioritizes. We can attempt to use the courts to our advantage, but our goal in the long run is to dismantle the imperialist courts and replace them with a system of people's justice.
[The following were submitted to us by a group of New Afrikans in California working with the United K.A.G.E. Brothers. K.A.G.E. stand for Kings Against Genocidal Environments. The United K.A.G.E. Brothers have been pushing this line of peace and unity alongside the United Front for Peace in Prisons for some years now. We stand in solidarity with United K.A.G.E. Brothers in promoting the tenets of New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism for Black August as a way to build for peace and ending hostilities. This can tie into further struggle for peace, unity, growth, internationalism and independence this September 9th. - MIM(Prisons)]
We aim to fast as a show of self-discipline and resistance. From the sunrise until evening meal we will abstain from eating.
We aim to abstain from consuming any type of opioids, or other smokable or liquid intoxicants during the month of August.
We aim to combat liberalism even by limiting our selection of non-frivolous TV shows and educational programs i.e., radio, historic documentaries, journal writings and other creative art exhibits.
During Black August, we emphasize political and cultural evolution studies for those participants who care to assemble with other brothers and sisters rather by way of social media internationally and/or via facilitation within the institution forum.
As an external display, the delegates of Black August will wear a black arm band. Other ways to express our solidarity include: we wear either a black ring (made of thread) or a wrist band in eulogy to all those New Afrikan/Blacks who strove none futily and made an ultimate sacrifice for what they believed in to Live or Die in Black Liberation.
The New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalist recognize Black August as a "revolutionary salute," in formation those nationalist and others who share or stand in arms with our ideology or are serious and consistently moving forward to end in voluntary servitude and other colors of repression, ossifyism, neo-colonialism should participate in solidarity with our aim to cultivate the youth in pinpointing the wrong, acknowledging the wrong, confession of the individual's fault, honest redemption, even understanding the aims of atonement, love for the people — eradicating self-hate via self-realized forgiveness, implicit reconciliation and explicit communal restoration while evolving with a sea of change toward a perfect Brother and Sisters International Union.
From prison to the street we aim to parallel a live concert and other forms of Afro drum struct-entertainment.
Black August bracelets and t-shirts will display our Red, Black and Green to promote our ceremonies and to raise economic support for both institutional establishment and to donate funds to the San Francisco Bay View prisoners' subscription fund.
NOTE: There will be no surprise in seeing a multicultural community, among the New Afrikan/Black youth event; even some rival ex-gang or active members may be seen. We are placing O.G.'s, reputables and other delegates whom are branches of our inside and outside executive body who would be responsible for preparing and sharing the proper attitude and conduct for attending all events correlated to our Black August Inclusive Ceremonies. We aim to attend these events peacefully and to actively engage with deliberative and mature dialogue again to even overstand the importance of atonement.
Reconciliation Periods: During the month of August these "reconciliation periods" will be devoted to events and other inside and out activities, conferences, seminars, summits and community service, which will create solid relations between New Afrikan/Black communities, make our communal a safe haven and develop positive interaction within the community.
[Original statement describes these proposed events and community services.]
"If you are about peace then you are about revolution. You can't be about peace and not be for revolution!" — Fred Hampton
Conclusion and Ratification
In light of the collective prisoner activism seen over the past several years; however, it can similarly be fairly said that we have been making strides to abolish the walls upheld by self hate. As a collective, we believe if we build our foundation on divisiveness and brotherly and sisterly love, our united front will resonate with more results and gain true freedom under the guise of internationalism. "WE" struggle for the liberation and unity of all oppressed people. A prominent empirical indication of this "WEISM" is the historical and life affirming "Agreement to End Hostilities" (AEH), crafted in 2012 by the brave and forward thinking men held in California's solitary confinement units.
These trailblazers' agreement marks a turning point. California prisoners have transcended long-standing racial, geographical and ideological differences to provide a new model of prison to society coexistence, one fundamentally premised on the multilateral accord to end all group hostilities.
Because it is the new cool and it's our time as Kings and Queens of Peace we must fight to build self!! NO MORE GENOCIDE.
by a California prisoner June 2018 permalinkDear ULK,
I'm writing to ask for more info on the California prison system putting SNY (Special Needs Yard) and mainline together in order to show that nothing has changed and the prisons are still very dangerous.
What I do know is that it started a few weeks ago here at Centinela State Prison and we are hearing of widespread violence at every yard they are doing this on — the so-called 50/50 yards or Programming Facilities (P.F.S.). We have only heard rumors at this point. Of course the staff would never tell us outright, but they do give hints. Any help in this matter will be appreciated. A lot of us here at Centinela SNY yard are endorsed to San Quentin PFS yard. We would love to help stop the violence, but it's really mainline shot callers that will decide.
Most of us here on the SNY side want to do our time in peace. That's why we are put on this side. Anyway, thanks for any help on this matter.
A USW comrade reports:
Here at Corcoran they're integrating yards. Now SNY/GP STG I & II are on the same yards, and being forced to program or be labeled program failures.
Legion of USW comments: June 2018 — As predicted the CDCR is doing away with the SNY/GP mainlines in favor of undesignated program yards. Legion did the math on this problem years ago and was made a mad scientist preaching that Black God stuff.
This provides USW a unique opportunity to be at the vanguard of the battle field building bridges instead of barriers. The prols have an opportunity to become the change they want to see. We have to revise and revisit certain debates about what solid looks like. The future is now and we need to adapt our struggle to the new landscape.
Legion is calling all God Bodies into formation! There's no such thing as SNY or GP on the streets. You have factors and non-factors. We are factors; socially, politically and mentally. USW is where it's at. Let's crash the system!
Power to the People!
MIM(Prisons) adds: Early in 2018, the CDCR began transforming Level I, Level II, and, now, some Level III prisons into "non-designated yards", eliminating the divide between SNY and General Population. This began with the healthcare facilities and fire camps. According to CDCR, SNY was created 20 years ago, and now accounts for one third of the California state prison population.(1)
In a video message on the subject, CDCR Director Scott Kernan calls on California prisoners to focus on themselves. He calls for them to disregard "prison politics." While tapping into a real mass sentiment that is sick of some of the "prison politics" that leads to unnecessary beef and violence, this appeal to Amerikan individualism is misleading. The new Programming Facilities require prisoners to participate in the CDCR program. This is not really focusing on self, this is joining a group with strict guidelines. This path is a choice. And CDCR wants to make it the most appealing choice.
All humyns live in society. We cannot focus on self without also being part of a society and playing a role in it. For the oppressed, the support of the group is even more important. So prisoners must ask themselves if the CDCR program is the group that best serves their interests. We await reports from comrades inside as to the full implications of this reorganization. But we can look back to the "Step Down Program" implemented for SHU prisoners in response to the historic hunger strikes in 2012 and 2013, which coerced prisoners into accepting the oppressor's definitions of criminal.(2) The PFS have a similar focus on "programming," promising a more productive and quicker release in return.
We do not have the info to fully answer the comrade's question about what is happening in these non-designated yards right now. But we echo the call from ULK 62 for USW comrades in California, especially those in the 50/50 yards, to work to build unity across different groups in these dynamic conditions.(3) As Legion alludes to above, change is in favor of the oppressed, it is only up to us to seize the opportunities that each change offers. For this September 9th Day of Peace and Solidarity, California USW will focus on this issue of the "non-designated yards", and building peace and unity among these new conglomerates of people. For the next issue of ULK we want to hear about the successes and failures of this organizing, of September 9th, of the 50/50 yards and what it all means for organizing to end oppression on a systemic level.
I'm reaching out to bring awareness to Colorado's state prison system's "off record" policy to keep Chicano inmates in fractional warfare/oppression. Colorado has been plagued with the same brown-on-brown violence and ideology as California's systems for the past 30 years. Only recently has an awakening transformed the "gang banger" mentality of the masses into a revolutionary mental state in the liberation and struggle for Aztlán. This has been met with all levels of repression such as out of state transfers to secret locations, MCC (Colorado’s new politically correct name for SHU/Ad-Seg STG lockdown where inmates can only come out of cell every 72 hours to shower, etc.)
On June 14, [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán was denied by the publication committee for the following reason: "material which poses a potential threat to the safety and security of the offender population or DOC employees, contract workers, and volunteers by advocating facility disruption or non-compliance with prison rules or regulations." The truth of the matter is it was denied because it was coming to me at the specific time period when the Chicano masses in Colorado have decided to stop being the puppets for capitalistic racist oppression of a system which actively has aided and facilitated the destruction of our people by putting our lives in danger in numerous ways. The following are small examples of these conditions.
Putting rival members in pods where they are sure to be assaulted so severely that death or attempted murder are likely scenarios. Opening cell doors of rival STGs while inmates are cuffed and shackled to tables, so that they may be assaulted etc. This has been the norm for years. Now that we have risen above the tribal mentality in an effort to educate and raise awareness to the racist genocide of our people that the system has manipulated us into doing with our own hands we are being slammed in cells, censored, and oppressed even harder. I'll be surprised if you ever receive this letter.
Currently I am in grievance procedures over books. Any material that may help or contacts to further our struggle would be greatly appreciated. Once I finish the grievance process I will send copies of all material on the issue. Thank you for your time. In solidarity with the struggle to end oppression and liberate Aztlán.
Echándole un vistazo al código penal para ver lo que se ha descrito como asalto sexual por el sistema criminal de injusticias, revela una variedad de ofensas, desde varias faltas menores hasta violaciones graves. En los E$tados Unido$, aquellos que cometen dichos actos atroces son considerados como lo más bajo de lo bajo y las prisiones no son diferentes. Este ensayo intenta abordar el tema de los delincuentes sexuales dentro de las sociedades en prisión y su importancia para el movimiento en prisiones.
En el intento de escribir algo con respecto de este asunto, me vi obligado a regresar a dos puntos principales de debate: (1) la contradicción de la unidad vs las separaciones dentro del mismo movimiento en prisión, como la hizo popular el Movimiento Internacionalista Maoísta. La fuerza de mi argumento proviene de ambos puntos. ¿Qué es el Movimiento en Prisión?
Antes de continuar, es necesario para mí explicar lo que alrededor de qué intentamos construir unidad. El movimiento en prisión se define por varios movimientos, organizaciones e individuos que en este momento luchan contra las muchas caras del sistema de injusticia Amerikkkano. Sea que estos movimientos se den en Georgia, California, Texas, Pennsylvania o cualquier otro rincón del imperio de los EE.UU., no es de mucha importancia. Lo que es importante, sin embargo, es el hecho de que aquellas organizaciones e individuos se encuentran actualmente desempeñando un papel progresivo y potencialmente revolucionario al atacar al sistema opresivo en las prisiones amerikkkanas.
En las prisiones o cárceles de un estado la lucha puede tomar la forma de una campaña de reclamo, o de acciones de otro grupo dirigidas a abolir el trabajo forzado de los prisioneros. Estos movimientos tiene que ser dirigidos por una variedad de organizaciones lumpen. Algunas son revolucionarias, otras no. algunas son estrechamente reformistas por naturaleza y no irán más allá del ganar concesiones. Otras permanecen estancadas en la mentalidad burguesa del individualismo, mientras siguen engañosamente usando una retórica revolucionaria para conseguir sus metas.
Sin embargo, a pesar de sus objetivos separados, cada una en su propia forma, están tomando acciones colectivas cuando es posible para desafiar sus condiciones opresoras. Además, estos movimientos, organizaciones e individuos, cuando se toman como un todo, representan el despertar de la consciencia política y revolucionaria de los prisioneros, que no se ha visto desde la ronda más reciente de luchas nacionales de liberación de las semi- colonias internas. Esas son las cualidades progresivas del nuevo movimiento en prisiones.
Los aspectos negativos y reaccionarios del movimiento en prisiones se caracterizan por el hecho de que muchas de estas organizaciones lumpen todavía funcionan dentro de líneas tradicionales. La mayoría sigue participando en una economía parasitaria y llevan a cabo actividades en contra de personas, que afectan a las personas mismas a quienes dicen representar. Con respecto al ensayo, la mayoría de estos movimientos y organizaciones también tienen políticas que excluyen a aquellos a quienes el estado imperialista ha etiquetado como “delincuentes sexuales”. No obstante, ¿pueden estos movimientos y organizaciones realmente adherirse a dichas separaciones iniciadas por el estado? ¿Cuáles son las ramificaciones de todo esto?
De acuerdo con el Centro Nacional para Niños Explotados y Extraviados, el número de delincuentes sexuales registrados en los E$tados Unido$ para el 2012 fue de 747,408, con los números más grandes en California, Texas y Florida.(1) Por consiguiente, también son tres de los estados con prisiones más grandes. ¡Todo sexo es violación!
En 1990s, el Movimiento Internacionalista Maoísta (MIM) se volvió poco popular entre los amerikanos de izquierda por dos razones. La primera fue su análisis de clase, que decía que los trabajadores amerikkkanos no eran explotados, pero que en vez, formaban una aristocracia laboral debido al hecho de que les pagaban más del valor de su trabajo. Los amerikkkanos fueron por lo tanto, considerados como parásitos en el proletariado y campesino del Tercer Mundo, así como enemigos de los movimientos tercermundistas.
La segunda razón fue el sostener la línea política de la pseudo-feminista del Primer Mundo, Catherine MacKinnon, que dijo que no había una verdadera diferencia entre lo que hace el violador acusado y lo que la mayoría de hombres llama sexo, pero que nunca van a la cárcel por ello. MacKinnon expuso la teoría de que bajo un sistema de patriarcado (bajo el cual vivimos), todas las relaciones sexuales giran en torno a relaciones desiguales de poder entre aquellos hombres sexistas y aquellas mujeres sexistas. Así, las personas nunca pueden realmente consentir a tener sexo. De esto, MIM trazó la conclusión lógica: todo sexo es violación.(2)
Esta línea no sólo es radical, sino, revolucionaria por su acusación al patriarcado y a su implicación en el sistema de injusticia. MIM desarrolló aún más la frase de todo sexo es violación, cuando explicó la importancia de las acusaciones de violación provenientes de mujeres amerikkanas contra hombres afroamerikanos y la relación histórica con el linchamiento de afroamerikanos por parte de chusmas amerikkkanas durante Jim Crow. Incluso en la década de los 90, cuando MIM observó las estadísticas para las acusaciones de violación y condenas, pudo deducir que los afroamerikanos aún seguían estando oprimidos a nivel nacional por las mujeres blancas, en alianza con sus hermanos blancos.(3)
Dicho eso, esto no significa que los actos violentos y penetrantes no se comenten contra gente que son oprimidas por su género en nuestra sociedad. En vez de eso, dirijo la atención al hecho de que la sociedad amerikana erotiza las diferenciales de poder, y los medios sexualizan a los niños, no obstante, ambos pretenden abominar ambos. Sin importar quien haya hecho qué, lo que no debemos perder de vista es nuestro enfoque principal: la unión contra el estado imperialista, el enemigo número uno de las naciones oprimidas.
No es secreto que el llamar a alguien “delincuente sexual” en prisión es someter a dicha persona a la violencia y posiblemente muerte. Así mismo, es un hecho histórico que los cerdos han usado las acusaciones de ser delincuente sexual como una forma de desacreditar las voces líderes entre los oprimidos o, simplemente, hacer que los prisioneros tengan en su mira a alguien contra quien ellos tienen un asunto personal. Tenemos que resistir estas tácticas COINTELPRO y seguir uniendo y consolidando nuestras fuerzas, puesto que el participar en estos linchamientos autoinfligidos es sólo otra forma en que los cerdos logran que hagamos su trabajo sucio por ellos.
Mao Zedong dijo, al hacer una auto-crítica, que habían habido demasiadas ejecuciones durante la Revolución Cultural China. En particular, declaró que, aunque podía justificarse el ejecutar a un asesino o a alguien que hace explotar una fábrica, también podía justificarse el no ejecutar a algunas de las mismas personas. Mao sugirió que aquellos que estén dispuestos, deberían ir a hacer algún trabajo productivo, de forma que la sociedad pueda ganar algo positivo y la persona en cuestión, puede ser reformada (4).
Los Maoists creen que los problemas entre la gente se deberían manejar de forma pacífica entre la gente, y por medio de métodos de discusión y debate. La mayoría de prisioneros están encerrados precisamente porque estuvieron involucrados en algún tipo de actividad contra personas, en algún punto u otros de sus vidas. ¿Estas acciones deberían definir a los prisioneros? De acuerdo con el pensamiento de MIM, todos los ciudadanos de los U$ serán vistos como criminales reformistas por parte del movimiento socialista del Tercer Mundo, bajo la Dictadura Conjunta del Proletariado de las Naciones Oprimidas (JDPON). El lumpen del Primer Mundo no será la excepción independientemente del tipo de crimen.
As of March 2018, the North Carolina prison system must recognize humanism as a faith group, allowing its adherents locked within the imperialistic belly of the beast the opportunity to meet and study their beliefs, a federal judge has ruled. The American Humanism Association, and a prisoner with a life sentence, sued state Department of Public Safety officials in 2015. Prison leaders were accused of violating the religious establishment and equal protection clauses of the Constitution by repeatedly denying recognition. U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle (Eastern District NC) wrote that prison officials failed to justify treating humanism differently from those religions already recognized within the walls of oppression. Humanist prisoners have the same Constitutional rights to study and discuss their values as a group — non-theistic.
Since Judge Boyle's ruling, some individuals have reported to Convicts of Righteous, Reform and Liberation (CORRAL), that they are faced with harassment — cell property searches up to eight times a day, water being turned off, mail delayed, and structure issues. One of our board members spoke with the "admpigs", providing a copy of this ruling. And we have been able to establish some middle ground.
CORRAL is a united group that non-violently addresses issues affecting those incarcerated. MIM has been instrumental in our quest, and we are proud to be in association. We developed our study group and board. We have three chapters. "Imperialism must be defeated", so we do our part. Our motto: "Conscience stimulation, comes from education — which propagates liberation!"
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is a progressive victory for prisoners in North Carolina. One of the strategic areas our movement focuses on is defending the Constitutional rights of affiliation and association of prisoners of the United $tates. This is particularly good news in the context of protecting the rights of humanists to come together and discuss their values and beliefs. The first line of the Wikipedia page on humanism reads, "Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition." While there are many forms of humanism and many insightful critiques of it, in general it is a belief in progressive change at the hands of humyns.
Who goes there? Calling on the keepers of the last grey stone. There has never been a time more appropriate for the gathering of the lost tribes of the dark world. However, is it real when we chant out "Black Lives Matter"? New Afrikans are launching the building bridges initiative of United Struggle from Within (USW) with the objective of reviving the Afrikan tradition of 'each one teach one'/'go a mile to reach one'. The most relevant topic that one comrade raises is to question "Does Black Lives Matter (BLM) when it is at the expense of the Afrikan identity?"
This subject will be covered by the New Afrikan anti-imperialist Political Prisoners over a period of time. In short revolutionary tracks, this New Afrikan leader, alongside of all those who support him, will go in on the issues that face the BLM movement and what is to be done in order to paint a more clear picture for New Afrikans. This will be done in using language geared towards reaching prisoners, former prisoners and the righteous supporters of the anti-imperialist prison abolishment movement. We who are most affected by this principal contradiction within the United $tates; Oppressor Nation Integration (ONI) vs. Proletarian Nationalist Independence (PNI).
Jumping off the porch from the perspective of #If Black Lives Matter (#BLM) FREE LARRY HOOVER, FREE SHY C, FREE EUGENIE HARISON, FREE JEFF FORT, etc. FREE THE LUMPEN organizations and their leaders who for far too long bit the bullet for being the cause of the destruction of the inner city semi-colonies of the oppressor nation known as amerikkka. We who are truly the last hired and the first fired, we step to the plate speaking in plain language, asking the right questions. Like, if the CIA is responsible for all the drugs and firearms being circulated in the hood, why are we the ones who sit in prison since Black Lives Matter!?
We read publications, like The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, that goes to describe the racial caste system of imperialist nations as the pit of class divides in the amerikkkas, but we go to the root issue of this class divide misinformation with the question of how could there be a class divide within an exploiter nation?
The whole matter is that really, we just want a bigger slice of the pie, but at whose expense? If Black Lives Matter, why settle for being black? Why not consider oneself to be in solidarity with a nation of its own, separate and unequal to that of its previous slave masters (oppressors), when we in all actuality just want to replace the slave masters only so that we may become them; Police bullies, gossip columnists, fake doctors, tax agents and bill collectors. We ain't doing nothing but reforming the beast (exploiter nation) that we love to hate. So in essence, the same crackers we claim is at the root of our suffering, the same bleach we claim to be destroying our skin, we're putting it on. We have become the beast. So why do Black Lives really Matter? Not until Black Lives become Afrikan, they don't.
This is the objective of this build, to destroy the misinformation spread throughout the prison yards, and the New Afrikan neighborhoods, done so to keep those of us who really suffer as a result of the oppressor nation's strategy to keep them (the so-called criminals, gang members and terrorists) uneducated about national liberation, un-united with those who share a similar national hardship/oppression, and dependent on the bourgeoisie exploitation systems of anti-socialism.
It is most imperative for those who hold most dear to the identity of Black Lives Matter to go to the root of this idea and relay the foundation of the identity of ancestral reality. Fighting over class positions that translate into a bigger slice of the pie, stolen from us in the first place, will get us no closer to the national identity determination and independence we so rightfully hope for. Only, that hope is false if we fall into the trap trick that selling our soul by becoming integrationist with the pig state that we will achieve national liberation. Remember, the pie (the systems like welfare, social security, income taxes) the exploiters created off the backs of we the People and our natural resources. If Black Lives Matter, why is it a crime for Blacks to consider themselves Original People (True/Native Ameriqans) or Asiatic Africans? Moors or Maroons & Caribbs?
Why do those who proclaim leadership or stewardship for the Black empowerment identity find themselves enemies of the state, that their own so-called people work hard with to maintain their Black Wall Street? Since we're on the topic, what happened to Black Wall Street? Did it really disappear, or did it turn up in Chicago with Oprah Winfrey, Louis Farrakhan and the 'Occupy Wall Street Movement'? A lot of groups ain't gonna like how we are connecting the dots to expose those who are most in need of the truth, that is the root reason for voices of the truly oppressed not being heard by the international supporters of anti-imperialism. But, we don't have nothing to lose because we never sold out, so it doesn't matter who don't like us.
We speak the People's & Kinsfolk's language (Block talk) because we are amongst them that are traveling in the murky waters, struggling with an objective solely rooted in delivering the message of Maoist culture in a way the People and Folks will comprehend it.
Knowing that we cannot free our people of their psychological enslavement without first addressing the national identity of WE as a socialist people. USW works from a bottom up vantage. We build from the inside out. Concentrating on the communities around us to develop independent systems of education, communication, economics and control.
by a Michigan prisoner April 2018 permalink"Cast away illusions, prepare for struggle." -Mao Zedong (1893-1976)
I am writing to update you comrades on new developments regarding my censorship battle at this prison. After 2 long and hard-fought battles with these reactionaries and their censors in the mail room, I finally received the latest ULK 60 a couple weeks ago.
Specifically, when I transferred back into this gestapo prison in October 2017, the censors were rejecting all ULK issues and MIM study materials sent to comrades under MDOC policy directive 05.03.118 (NN) (4) and (6), and giving us false pretense or rationale for its rejection, solely because of the political (revolutionary) content of the newsletter, contrary to PD-05.03.118 (D) which clearly states that prison censors are prohibited from rejecting incoming mail "solely because its content is religious, philosophical, political, social, sexual, unpopular, or repugnant."
Their excuse or pretext for rejecting MIM periodicals was because they claimed it advocated or promotes "violence, group disruption, or insurrection." See, "notice of package/mail rejection" and "administrative hearing report," enclosed herein is an example of the totally bogus rationalizations they use for censoring ULK.
The prison censors, particularly mail clerks J. Sanford and M. J. Dollar, had censored every MIM ULK issue sent to me and other comrades since October 2017. Not only were the issues improperly rejected, but the censors failed to conduct mail rejection hearings in a prompt manner as required by PD-05.03.118 (WW). More, I doubt if they were even notifying you (MIM) of the censorship or the reason why the newsletters were rejected, nor an opportunity to an appeal. Per MDOC policy, the prison censors must mail senders/publishers a "notice of rejection" anytime that an issue is rejected, which is a requirement under PD-05.03.118 (VV) so you can exercise your right to appeal the rejection to the warden.
Your right to be notified is a "due process" right, under the Fourteenth Amendment. Just for future references, if the prison censors fail to notify you of the illegal publication ban on your materials, your organization can sue for damages, including, but not limited to: (1) the suppression of your free speech; (2) the impediment of your ability to disseminate your political message; (3) frustration of your non-profit organizational mission; (4) the diversion of your resources; (5) the loss of potential subscribers and MIM supporters; among other violations under the First Amendment's free speech and free press clauses. It's easy money, since these reactionaries are voluntarily bagging it up for you, why not take it and help fund the revolution?!
With this in mind, you must be prepared to struggle with me in combating censorship in the future, just in case the censors get back on bullshit. It's only so much that comrades can do from inside the bowels of the imperialist beast where the terms of the struggle are defined by our oppressors. The facility head (warden) was upholding the improper rejections and subsequent appeals, knowing damn well it's illegal to ban publications solely because of its political content.
What this all boils down to, in the final analysis, is that they don't want us to learn political theory and critically recognize the situation that we find ourselves in, or the root cause of our oppression. They want us "politically dead," so that they can better control us and not have to worry about us transforming the criminal (lumpen) mentality into a revolutionary mentality and ushering forth the "new man" (within ourselves) to succeed the old, as both Malcolm X and Comrade George showed us we could through the process of study and self-reflection. The reactionaries and prisoncrats know that this sudden shift of revolutionary consciousness by the lumpen prisoners would create a "new situation," one that would no doubt threaten their control over us and make it possible for us to unite and move forward en masse against our oppressors, as Huey said, "with implacable fortitude."
My friends, you recognize the fact that the arbitrary censorship of ULK, a critical organizing tool that meets our educational and informational needs, is nothing more than a counter-revolutionary strategy by the prisoncrats to get ahead of the "revolutionary wave" and put down the new radical prison movement that is emerging. But, dialectical materialism teaches us that nothing can prevent this revolutionary process. The new always leap forth to succeed the old. In the words of Fanon: "The repressions, far from calling a halt to the forward rush of national consciousness, urge it on." So, understand the arbitrary censorship and political repression that a lot of us lumpen are facing, or will face in the future, by these reactionaries and their prison censors only expedites matters and moves the struggle forward to its ultimate conclusion. Therefore, cast away illusions and prepare for struggle against the prisoncrats' reactionary agenda to suppress political education among lumpen comrades (prisoners).
No doubt I will continue to battle censorship when it occurs on this end, but this must be a shared responsibility. We have to coordinate from both ends and concentrate our fire on this fascist agenda. There is pressure that can, and sometimes must, be brought to bear on the prison censors. Sometimes political pressure, in the form of telephone or email campaigns, should be exerted on the warden and the director about the censorship, demanding that the issue be corrected immediately or that the current prison censors be removed from their positions in the mail room. I believe we can wage a far more effective struggle against censorship this way. It will, at very least, give us a tactical advantage.
MIM(Prisons) responds: As some of our readers may have noticed, over the past year we've been able to step up the fight against censorship from the MIM(Prisons) side. Wherever our comrades behind bars are taking the initiative to appeal or protest censorship, we are also submitting letters of protest. We will always send you a copy of these letters, which are going to prison administrators and other relevant personnel. We agree with this writer that these censorship battles are most effective when it is a shared responsibility both from behind bars and on the streets.
So if you're fighting censorship of ULK or other mail we've sent, be sure to let us know so that we can support your battle with protests of our own. We won't always win, but we regularly have victories. And the outrageous rejections, as well as our victories, are reported in the "Censors in their own Words" articles we publish periodically in ULK and on our censorship reporting webpage. If you get notification of censorship, either from your prison, or from us, do your part to stop the prisoncrats from removing revolutionary education from the prisons by filing a grievance to protest the censorship. Put them on notice that you will not be silenced!