Arguably the hardest aspect of organizing (especially revolutionary organizing) is building consciousness. Not specifically of the subject matter (i.e., anti-capitalist/imperialist, socialism, equality, prisoner struggle) but of their role in the larger picture and its influence on their lives. Such consciousness leads to meaningful action. Due to this, it is the most rewarding of political objectives. It is also the most difficult to cultivate.
In pursuit of building consciousness, revolutionaries face many obstacles. A predominant, recurring obstacle is expanding peoples' perspective beyond their individual material concerns. A person's material interests constitute primary motivation for activism against and contributing to capitalism. In the Third World we see stringent struggles against capitalism. The opposite is equally true within capitalist societies. Material interests/motivations are inextricably welded to an individual's perspective of, and instinct for, self-preservation. This leads to a spectacular (depending on your ideological bent) narrowing down of alternatives, options and ultimately choices. A non-conducive situation for First World revolutionary organizing.
Our natural inclination is to allow self-preservation to impulse our actions once fear or a threat exceeds acceptable levels. People react as basic as scared animals in danger. Due to social evolution, our responses are more complex and advanced, more involved, what one can call a "social" self-preservation instinct. Similar to the brain shutting down because of excessive stress or trauma, emerging consciousness among First Worlders regresses when one's standard of living is threatened. Breaking First World attachment to physical/material comforts (possessions, commodities, thing-centrism) is first imperative to any revolutionary organizing, in particular; and wider political consciousness, in general.
A great amount of time, energy and attention must be given to shattering these real constraints. Class suicide among First World activists is the end result of such efforts. Through a patient, methodical process of expansive efforts (educational of real costs of capitalism/imperialism), diligence in those efforts and demonstrating the feasibility of alternative means (non-capitalistic), an organizer can make a meaningful contribution to supplanting capitalism.
People are selfish and revolutionary anti-imperialists should remind themselves that their target is the personal element, first and foremost. Even the perfect rally/demonstration, regardless of how correct its politics, will have a difficult time penetrating the calloused minds of those long accustomed to, and blinded by, capitalism. Especially when it concerns prisoners and penal systems/institutions. Most First Worlders simply deem it a necessary evil to preserve society.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Those First Worlders this author refers to are right that the prison system and institutions are a necessary evil to preserve the society as it is. That's the main difference between our prison work and that of many prison abolitionists — we know that we can't get rid of prisons in their current form unless we also get rid of capitalism.
This article brings up real challenges in our work. In ULK, we hope to host an ongoing conversation about ways we can be most effective in accomplishing the tasks this author calls out as most imperative: building consciousness, changing value systems, showing alternatives, etc. Send in your experiences and successes so we can continue learning from each other!
by a North Carolina prisoner February 2019 permalink
I have been fighting for better conditions in my current prison since I got here in June 2017. Tell the prison masses they have to write en masse to their unit managers, warden and director of prisons in their state. It's free!! There is no excuse.
The easiest thing to do, which I did, is to write up your declarations and remonstrations using carbon copy paper. Make 2-3 copies for each block/pod in every unit. Pass them out to comrades in those blocks, so they can encourage/force/persuade the masses to take 15 minutes to recopy and post it out. Done.
The first time I initiated these shots the warden called me to his office for a meeting with him, the unit manager, and assistant warden. He stopped the early counts, the 9 p.m. count, and turning off of phones. This sh!t works. On the second salvo he initiated recreation seven days a week. We are still pounding.
MIM(Prisons) responds: More reasonable hours for count, more contact with the outside world, and more recreation are all related to our anti-imperialist struggle, even though they may seem like petty reforms. Better sleep makes us mentally sharper, for writing, self-control, and creativity. Interaction with the outside world can give us motivation and positive social contact. And exercise (especially outdoors) helps with our physical as well as mental health.
We'd love to analyze a little deeper the benefits of running a campaign like the one described, because it's not just good for changing conditions. The people who are copying the letters and seeing results are at a special place in their recruiting. They might not be ready to initiate a campaign like this, and they might not even identify as part of "the struggle." But they have some interest in this work and are putting in some (albeit relatively small) effort.
At this stage, the best thing we can do for them is help set up "easy wins." They probably aren't dedicated enough to remain committed after a big setback. So asking them to put in a ton of effort for no reward is just not realistically going to inspire them to stay engaged. Whenever we can devise campaigns or activities that give this positive feedback to the people participating, with minimal effort, we should jump on those projects. These folks might not have learned the relationship between working hard and reward, so we can help teach that association. "Without directly experiencing the connection between effort and reward, animals, whether they're rats or people, default to laziness."(1)
Also keep in mind that all is not lost on the folks who are not participating, and are watching the campaign from the sidelines. Like we wrote in our response to "Sack the Sack Lunches," this type of campaign can help spark people's interest, just by witnessing and experiencing the results. Let's not condemn these folks for not participating, and instead let's try harder to inspire them with our successes, and then help them with easy wins when they are ready to participate.
In some states like Texas, where even indigent mail is restricted to 5 letters per month, it's not free to write to these administrators to change conditions. There are plenty of excuses (or reasons) why people can't engage in this type of campaign. Still, whenever possible, we agree that we should be pushing campaigns like these. It just means we have to get more creative in developing them.
I feel inspired by the fact that you decided to use my Liberation Theology article in ULK 65. I thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute to our movement. I will continue to submit articles to you in the future.
The feedback you gave on the article was great. Under the MIM(Prisons) responds section, you agreed with me that Liberation Theology can be a useful revolutionary tool, and that it's good to "try to approach people where they are at." However, you also said that "we should be careful not to mislead them into thinking that we endorse their mysticism. The very belief in a higher power discourages people from believing that they can control the development of their own and all of humanity's future." You also warned against neglecting materialism.
I 100% agree. While I did mention that I was an atheist in the article, I failed to mention that materialism truly is the best world view if you're going for revolution. After all, materialism deals with reality in so far as we humyns are capable of comprehending it. And proper theory leads to proper action which leads to better theory.
But I just like how you do feedback in general. You encourage the people to submit their views and if you ever disagree with or wish to qualify a comrade's ideas, you publicize eir views and then explain why you disagree underneath it. Mao would have it no other way. This is why ey encouraged the people and the intellectuals to think for themselves, because ey knew that because eir method is sound, ey would be able to refute errors on logical grounds without having to lie or undermine the people's freedom, which is what the U.$. power-elite does.
Also, I read the book Grit that you sent me. I learned some valuable lessons from it. The main thing I've been able to utilize was the simple chart Duckworth advocates for organizing goals. I've made it a habit to review my own goal chart. My highest goal says "undermine and liberate," which means undermine the imperialists and liberate the oppressed. My low level goals are different throughout the week. Writing this letter to you, comrades, was one of these goals. Every little goal adds up to the top one.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Comrade, you were not the only one glad we printed your piece. Multiple USW comrades wrote us mentioning your article as being useful. We appreciate this comrade's feedback on our feedback, and we're always looking for more info from our subscribers on how we can do our job better. It's a topic we are always reviewing and trying to improve, like any good organizer should! We especially appreciate hearing feedback from people who have contributed to our programs and campaigns.
We all need to be able to learn from constructive criticism, and this ongoing discussion is an example of the criticism/self-criticism process in action. Only by learning from our mistakes (and those of others) will the revolutionaries and the movement continue to grow and move forward. People, and organizations, that dogmatically insist they are always right will quickly stagnate and offer no real hope for the oppressed. And as you can see in the pages of ULK this is a two-way street. It's not just about MIM(Prisons) telling writers where we think they are wrong. It's also about us learning from readers of and writers for ULK. The self-criticism printed in this issue regarding our George Jackson article in ULK 65 is a small example of this.
In the interest of transparency, we want to underline that MIM(Prisons) is the editor of this newspaper. So we choose what letters we respond to, and we often cut parts out of those. We aim to give a platform to the articles that contribute to the ongoing conversations in ULK, and that contribute to anti-imperialist organizing in general. So ULK is not a reflection of what everyone is writing to us about, but it is a reflection of the anti-imperialist organizing going on behind bars.
Editorial power is one reason why we advocate for single-nation organizations to lead their own nations, including having their own ideological platforms such as newspapers. Newspaper editors inherently filter what they think is most important to include and discuss, and our judgement on what is important to all nations could be wrong.
[The following was written about the same time as we were writing Intersecting Strands of Oppression for ULK 65. This author echoes our own discussion of the Brett Kavanaugh hearing while heavily citing MIM Theory 2/3, as we did in our piece. This question of how gender and nation interact, and how revolutionaries should approach these topics in order to push things in the right direction continue to be of utmost importance. - MIM(Prisons)]
On 27 September 2018, in the United States Senate's Judiciary Committee, the nation heard riveting testimony of an attempted sexual assault, and the denial of that assault. A Crime that had occurred 37-years ago with no corroborating witnesses.
In a he-say, she-say trial, who gets the benefit of the doubt? The accused, or the accuser? In this era of #MeToo, is it guilty until you can prove yourself innocent, or innocent until proven guilty? Could due process be sacrificed at the altar of gender politics and why does it matter?
In reviewing my in-cell library on feminist theory, these matters and debates are not new, and the answers to these questions have long been addressed. The first question that has to be asked, "Who speaks for the feminist?" "Who has her girlfriend's back?" The demarcation in the feminist lines can best be exemplified by the research compiled by one feminist researcher, Ealasaid Munro:
"The emergence of 'privilege-checking,' however, reflects the reality that mainstream feminism remains dominated by straight white middle-classes. Parvan Amara interviewed self-identified working class feminists for a piece published on the internet magazine The F Word and noted that many of the women she spoke to found themselves excluded from mainstream feminism both on the internet and 'in real life.' Amara notes that many women tend to encounter feminism at university. Women who do not go on to further education face a barrier when attempting to engage with those academic debates that drive feminism."(1)
So if academia is where the debates that are driving feminist theory are occurring, what does that academic debate look like if she is not white?
"Ignoring the difference of race between women and the implications of those differences presents the most serious threat to the mobilization of women's joint power. Refusing to recognize difference makes it impossible to see the different problems and pitfalls facing us as women. Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you, we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down on the street, and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dying."(2)
Another theorist surmised, "Black women's own views on rape can't help being shaped by the actions of their white sisters. That is to say, that Black people cannot use a white supremacist justice system without perpetuating white supremacy."(3)
These other theorists have long been critical of weaponizing process. This was recently on display in California. There, a recall movement was taking place to remove a judge for imposing a light sentence on a Stanford University student for sexual assault. The most vocal opponents to the recall were Black women. The most visible, former California Supreme Court justice, Janice M. Brown.(4) She argued, that punishing a judge for exercising discretion will only harm defendants of color. Statistics bear this out. Per 100,000 of the Black and Brown population in 2010, 6,000 were imprisoned; while per 100,000 of the white population in 2010, 640 were imprisoned.(5) Black and Brown persons of color are in front of Criminal Court judges far more than whites.
Another theorist called this type of feminism Carceral Feminism, and rails against the federal passage of the 1999 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). "Many of the feminists who had lobbied for the passage of VAWA remained silent about countless other women whose 911 calls resulted in more violence. Often white, well-heeled feminists, their legislative accomplishment did little to stem violence against less affluent, more marginalized women."(6) And a further theorist noted, "If women do not share 'common oppression,' what then can serve as a basis for our coming together?"(7)
These other feminist theorist, the marginalized, had observed that the debate was about rational-feminism versus emotional-feminism. This feminist theorist argues that rational-feminism must prevail over emotional feminism.
"The sisterhood line as currently practiced (but not in the 1960s and early 1970s) is white, bourgeois, sexist propaganda. Women just turn around from seeking approval from men that they never got; to demanding unconditional approval from women. They put each other on a pedestal and imagine each other to be flawless goddesses."(8)
This same theorist argues, the root of emotional feminism is nothing more than a chauvinist plot to keep women marginalized and caught up in their emotions, rather than applying her faculties of reasoning.
"The root of this is the patriarchal socialization of women to restrict themselves to the sphere of feelings, while letting men develop the rational faculties necessary to wield power. Women are taught to read romantic novels, major in English, or maybe psychology, if the women seem like they are getting too many scientific ideas."(9)
Is the rallying cry, "I BELIEVE HER", the death nails to due process? Is process going to be sacrificed at the alter of gender politics? Is the new standard for America's fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons "GUILTY, UNTIL YOU CAN PROVE YOURSELF INNOCENT"?
One theorist's 1992 writings used the 1986 rape convictions of white women by the race of their rapist. 68% of their rapists were white; 22% of their rapists were Black; 5% were Other; and 2% of their rapists were Mixed. The theorist begs feminists to take a serious look at the 22% of white women raped in 1986 who were raped by Black men.
The theorist goes on to state a general proposition that all feminists can generally agree upon, "Three-quarters of all rapes are by acquaintances, and the figures on rape should reflect that women are raped by the type of people they date."
In 1986, 12% of the men available to white women were Black. However, no where near 12% of the sex white women were having were with Black men. Thus the 22% of white women's rapist being Black is disproportionately high. Furthermore, the population of white women was more than six-times the population of Black men. For every [1% of] white women who had a sexual acquaintance with a Black man, it takes [6% of] Black men to be those acquaintances. Out of those acquaintances charged with rape, the 22% figure means a very high proportion of Black men generally are convicted of rape of white women compared to white men.
The theorist takes note, up to this point, the figures have been examined from the perspective of the rape victim. But taken from the Black man's perspective, white women are a large group of the American population, while Black men are a relatively small one. For Black men, 63.3% of their rape accusers were white women. If Black men had 63.3% of their sexual interactions with white women, then the accusations might be fair, but this was far from the case.
The theorist surmised we could get an idea of how skewed the accusations were looking at "interracial dating." The theorist could not give a figure for what percentage of the dates people went on were interracial. Instead, the theorist surmised we could guess that it was similar to the figures for the percentage of people in interracial marriages. Black men married to white women accounted for 0.3% of total marriages in the United States as of 1989. In 1989, less than 4% of Black married men were married to white women, so we estimate that less than 4% of Black men's dating were with white women. Hence, less than 4% of accusations faced by Black men should come from white women. Instead, the figure was 63.3%.(10)
The history of that story is the other side of sexual politics here in America. An America where the LAPD and Oakland-PD have had 100s of convictions overturned, due to incredibly, credible, false testimony of police officers. A land where 15% of the Black population in Tulia, Texas, were incarcerated by the incredibly, credible, testimony of a single racist officer.(11) According to the San Quentin News, 139 prisoners nationwide were exonerated in 2017.(12)
Credible demeanor in testimony has never been foolproof. The National Academy of Sciences, along with the FBI, have noted eyewitness testimony is the most unreliable testimony.(13) While this would obviously be in reference to witnesses testifying against strangers, but the juries which wrongly convinced these defendants were doing so from witnesses who were credible and convincing in their testimony. In 2013, 153 of the 268 exonerations by the Innocence Project were for rape.(14) 72% of all DNA exonerations are people of color. Of the 72%, 61% are African Americans.(15)
Theorists can clearly see, "I BELIEVE HER," with its lock-in-step demands of sisterhood, is classic emotional-feminist theory. What is the emotional-feminist rationale to do away with "INNOCENT, UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY"? Nor could emotional-theorists surmise they are not doing away with this unitedly, American, idea. [...] "I BELIEVE HER" is a presumption-of-guilt, rather than the presumption-of-innocence that the rational feminist are standing for, and for years have been arguing against the emotional-feminist assault on process. While emotional-feminism, with its well-heeled, racial, social, and economic status is having the loudest voice, their marginalized sisters, whose rational-feminist approach, is the only voice of hope for fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons; a hope the other side doesn't win the debate.
Last year statements appeared in another newsletter from a USW leader who spoke in the voice of a subcommittee of the United Struggle from Within Countrywide Council (USW CC). These statements were not first run by, nor approved by the Countrywide Council.
The previous year, the USW CC, established policies for official correspondence with other organizations. We published an article in ULK 58 describing these efforts and giving guidance to all USW members. USW is a mass organization, meaning that people with differing beliefs can be members and might write or state things as USW members that contradict. In the cited article we instructed USW members to pass on communications with other organizations to the USW CC once you are unable to handle the discussion on your own. Meanwhile the USW CC established official policy that any statements from the CC would come through official MIM(Prisons) communication channels:
The statements in question, printed in Turning the Tide, did not go through this process. We cannot expect other publications to know and enforce this. Rather it is the USW leader who broke protocol, and wrote a self-criticism to that effect. But this does go to show that comrades should not take as gospel anything in print that claims to be from USW or even the USW CC. If it appears in Under Lock & Key, then you can be assured that it went through the proper channels of approval.
This incident triggered us to address the question of how to verify communications from MIM(Prisons) and the USW CC in general. Unfortunately the only sure fire way to verify an isolated communication is cryptographically. This makes it hard to verify things in print, coming through the mail, etc.
Every regular reader of our website who has a computer should copy and save our public gpg key from our contact page. Even if you don't know what to do with this key, you could figure it out in the future when needed. The sooner you save the key, perhaps the more sure you can be that the key is legitimately from the original MIM(Prisons). If someone seized control of our website, and slowly started changing the political line on that site, and you waited to copy the key then it might have already have been changed.
While GPG is our primary public way of verifying statements, another tool our comrades have been promoting is a chat tool called Tox, which is available for all common operating systems, including smart phones like android. If you are someone who works with us already and have a device that you can install Tox on, we can exchange Tox IDs to establish encrypted and verifiable communications moving forward. Tox is a chat tool (like texting), and can be easier to set up than email with GPG.
Email without GPG signing, or letters through the mail are easy to fake as one-off communications. So repeated communications back-and-forth should be used to confirm any questionable messages. Our website and Under Lock & Key should be considered more reliable, and harder to fake by our enemies.
Most of our communications with most of our readers are at the level of line and strategy. Therefore, our allies and supporters can and must use a political lens to verify communications. You should study our work and our line so that you can tell when something unusual pops up. And then you should communicate with us about it in the most verifiable and secure line of communication that you have at your disposal. Overall, as a movement, politics in command is the best way for us to defend against falsified, or unofficial communications leading us astray.
by a Pennsylvania prisoner February 2019 permalink
Following a fifteen-day lockdown of all Pennsylvania state prisons, new policies were erected for receiving mail. Publications were halted, and hundreds of book packages from free prison book programs were returned to sender. This occurred because several staff members at various Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) prisons claimed to become deathly ill after handling prisoner mail.
DOC officials assumed it was synthetic marijuana, or K-2, being sent in through the mail. However Dr. Lewis Nelson, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and other prominent medical staff called the DOC on their lies and excuses about the lockdown and new policies and procedures dealing with prisoner mail. Dr. Nelson blew the whistle, so to speak, when he pointed out that one must ingest or inhale synthetic marijuana to have any type of effect on individuals.(1) One cannot be affected by merely touching it, or paper soaked in K-2. Furthermore, he stated that synthetic marijuana simply does not have the type of effects that the individuals were having.
So, one might ask, what the real agenda the DOC had in the change in procedure. The DOC has wanted to control what prisoners read and what type of mail they received for quite some time. It goes to show just how much prisons seek to control others. Needless to say, the DOC is currently under investigation due to its frivolous claims. Mail must be sent to a company in Florida, where it is scanned. It is then forwarded to each respective prisoner at whatever prison he/she is confined. Pennsylvania prisoners receive copies of photos, letters and greeting cards, and the originals are eventually destroyed. Even our legal mail is opened in the presence of each prisoner, handled in a biohazard container, then photocopied. The copies are given to the prisoner, and the originals placed in an "evidence" bag, and eventually destroyed, or so the DOC claims.
We are permitted to receive books, magazines and other publications now, as of very recently. They still must be sent to a secure processing center, where they are searched and then forwarded to each respective prisoner.
This is a reminder that we are all being controlled. Unless we get together and do something about it. How long will we allow prison officials to violate our rights and take away freedoms that are promised to us in the U.$. constitution and its amendments? This is a call to arms, and the need to fight the system instead of tearing down one another. I refuse to allow the U.$. prison system to continue violating my rights, and what few freedoms are afforded to me. I will continue to struggle against the wretched machine that seeks to break me. This is a call for comrades to do the same.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We wrote about this Pennsylvania mail policy in ULK 65 and since that time, a new policy to send books and magazines to yet another separate address was implemented.(2) In response to outcry by prisoners and family, the PA DOC did back down on their policy that books could only be ordered through the PA DOC, from their approved vendors. That is no small victory.
We have instances of letters sent to the Florida processing center being returned to us just stamped "return to sender" after being opened and then taped shut. No reason is given. We think it's safe to assume it's the contents of the letter that inspires this censorship, because not all our mail is being returned, and it is being opened at the processing center. In at least one case, our Guide to Fighting Censorship was the item returned to us.
This is an important censorship battle and we join this comrade's call for everyone in Pennsylvania to take up the fight. This is an easy excuse to selectively censor revolutionary material, or selectively censor prisoners who are politically active. We anticipate an increase in denials of our mail. When you are notified of censorship, appeal it, and also let us know what was censored. If you haven't received mail from us in a while, check in and let us know. We always keep up subscriptions for 6 months after your last letter to us. Also follow this comrade's example and keep us informed about changes to the rules and updates on the fight against them. For our part, we will also be appealing when we have evidence of censorship and working with you to fight from the outside.
by a North Carolina prisoner February 2019 permalink
Myself and two other prisoners currently being held at Pender Correctional in North Carolina have founded a band of like-minded brothers that are fed up with the way the state and prison systems have found a way to excuse slavery. They are preying on people's downfalls, and use them for their own gain. In North Carolina there is a lot of overcrowding and the only way to get on good time is to work, which saves them money, not having to pay prisoners minimum wage. This work also makes income for the prison at their enterprise plants, where prisoners work for 40-55 hours a week for $10.50-$21.30 in pay (for the week). They have the workers making officers' uniforms, chemicals, working farms, making eye wear, and a laundry service that not only cleans prison clothes but also hospital and rest home clothes.
If you are one of the lucky ones that gets to go to a minimum camp and go out on work release to work an outside job, they charge you $150 a week for room and board. Hold on, that's double dipping. They get paid by the federal government to house us. Then they write us up for every petty thing they can, such as too many clothes, disrespect, profanity, etc. and take $10 from us each time. They also invented a way to charge us every time we receive money from our family.
We decided that we won't go for it anymore, but we are limited to what we can do while we're in here, for fear of retaliation. We're already suffering because we refuse to work. We are building steam every day by spreading the word. We need help from someone that knows the best ways to organize and lead. So can you please help us with advice and resource list and materials to pass out? Also we could really use law books to help further some various lawsuits we have filed and need to file. Please help in any way you can. We are a band of your fellow brothers seeking guidance. Thank you for your time!
MIM(Prisons) responds: These comrades organizing against the extortion of their labor are setting an example for others. Getting like-minded people together and coming up with a unified plan of action is an accomplishment in and of itself. We will send some materials, grievance petitions and other resources that may be useful. But we also call on other prisoners to respond with any advice you have for these organizers. What can we do to have the best chances of success? Are there problems these comrades should look out for? This is the dialectical process that revolutionaries use, summing up our practice to learn from successes and failures. And sharing that learning with others makes an even bigger impact. Turn your own organizing failures into successes by learning from them and helping others to avoid the same mistakes.
In hopes of getting a back issue of ULK (preferably issue 53 - with Texas reform updates) I shared ULK 59 with a few others. Most had something to say about the drugs in prison. The best way I can summarize most of the conversations is that thinking is hard and people are reluctant to do it.
Most who I talked to fall into two groups: either they do drugs as a way to escape, which I think is a psychological and environmental problem I can't say much about; or they do them to feel like they are "beating the man." These are the ones that will smoke openly in the dayroom, even if it means the whole building will get locked down. Explaining to them that they aren't beating the man when he's getting paid an obscene amount of money to bring it in isn't effective. Not sure where to go from there.
MIM(Prisons) Texas Coordinator responds: Directly contradicting a belief that someone holds strong enough to put a whole facility on lockdown is unlikely to change their mind, like this comrade has experienced. Peer pressure is often one huge motivator for people, and I'm honestly surprised that the rest of the prisoner population isn't shutting down people smoking in the dayroom, for their own persynal interests of not being on lockdown. A group of people telling someone to stop a behavior is much more impactful than one individual.
On an individual level, there are conversational techniques that are more or less effective, depending on the persyn we're struggling with. In this case, there's one technique that stands out to me to try: asking questions. Instead of coming at the persyn's belief head-on, try to show em the contradictions and illogical thinking in eir plan by asking questions and getting a really deep understanding of eir thinking.
So rather than saying "your belief is wrong," we can ask em "how does that work?" and actually try to get em to explain eir reasoning. Building trust by validating what is true about eir perspective ("you're right, we can't just sit around and do nothing") helps open em up to share more. The main goals in this kind of conversation are 1) to underline we're on the same team (us against the pigs), and 2) to try to understand where ey's coming from, and 3) help em come to eir own conclusions about what is wrong about eir thinking, and what ey needs to think about more. This is just one technique to try, and i would love others to write in on what's worked for em in dealing with this kind of problem.
I've always been revolutionary-minded, but it's a struggle here in Bill Clements Unit. Here's one example that happened early last month. I work in the laundry. Well all of us are waiting for them to call for chow (lunch), but all of a sudden the C.O.s running chow forget to feed laundry! So the chow C.O.s tell the laundry C.O. that they are going to give us sack lunches. All of a sudden, this is the sad part, a bunch of my fellow coworkers are going back into the laundry. Well a few of us spoke up saying we've been working and are NOT going to accept a sack lunch. Eventually they opened the chow hall for us. Well I guess this is all for now. Again thank you for all you do.
MIM(Prisons) Texas Coordinator responds: Small incidents like this one might seem inconsequential to many people, like those guys who just went back to laundry when told they were gonna get sack lunches. These are small wins that make a huge impact on people's minds, though. Showing people little successes like this whenever we can helps plant seeds in their consciousness about resisting oppression and standing up for themselves. It was a completely fair argument to make, that the C.O.s made a mistake and should fix it. So rather than get hung up on how sad it is that so many people just were going accept the sack lunches, i think it was really great that so many people got to see what having a backbone looks like in real life. Inevitably, this is what inspires people to grow their own backbones and start standing up for themselves. Thanks for this awesome report.
I have learned a lot from ULK 63, particularly from an article from a Michigan prisoner on "Challenges and Growth in Recruiting Skills." I myself have always been a passionate orator since my former days as an official of the Moorish Science Temple of America. But as my political consciousness began to rise and I became more of a revolutionary realist, I find that the hellfire and brimstone approach is not always wise.
I have learned that most reasonable men can be persuaded through intellectual dialing based on facts, statistics and logic. Then there are the masses that really don't know what they want but know something must change. I have some good ideas on how to organize some comrades although I must admit my objective is somewhat obscure. I love how this prisoner from Michigan laid out the format of organizing through dialectical materialism, which he later gave a definition of as I would say "a scientific process of trial and error." I love hearing and reading the understandings of others, it raises my own.
One aspect of organizing that is paramount for recruitment and retention of revolutionaries is comprehending the psychology of the oppressed. Oppressed psychology is not meant to insinuate some distinct or identifiable character flaw, or what not, inherent in those oppressed; nor something which destines us (oppressed) to be the whipping boy of the oppressor. Oppressed psychology denotes how the system influences oppressed nations into believing, accepting and living in adherence to a mentality and mode of existence calculated to promote the greatest benefits for both the oppressor classes and capitalism overall. Just contemplate: what allows us to lash out at others who are equally oppressed, but by and large do little to resist or confront our oppressors?
In prison, this wall (oppressed psyche) expresses itself in no uncertain terms: "This is what we are." "It's what we do, all we can do."(1) It's an acceptance of the lot foisted upon our shoulders. I have identified this as a type of Stockholm Syndrome, where we, the oppressed, validate and reinforce an ideology and mentality detrimental to self-determination.
An oppressed psyche is a crippling inhibitor. First, it dissuades us from considering any meaningful steps toward resistance. For instance, "This is the way things are, have always been," or "Any resistance can only worsen an already bad situation." Second, because we accept it as part of who we are, its loss equals our loss of identity. This is expressed in comments such as "There's nothing else for me in life," or "If not a criminal, then what am I?" Third, it promotes half-measures and depreciation of our value as revolutionaries. We may very well feel nobody will care one iota about what we have to say or think. These, and more, are the serious impediments to scaling the oppressed psyche wall. Indeed, these are monumental obstacles but not insurmountable.
As stated elsewhere, the surest method of overcoming walls is demonstrative action. It is the duty of revolutionary leaders to disseminate among the masses the consciousness of their destiny and their task. This duty translates to practice in "Build, Break, Build." Once we, as organizers and leaders have forged an iron weapon of proper foundations — correct political line, appropriate application of dialectical materialism, and understanding of the struggle — it must be launched at oppressed-psyche walls like a spiked hammer, in order to chip away and break them down. After breaking down the walls, it remains to build up a new revolutionary structure.
There are too many variations in peoples' characteristics, backgrounds, and such to lay down any definitive, universal rule, or guidelines to be followed in the Build, Break, Build process. The only general rule I can acknowledge is: after an initial engagement in "breakage dialogue," organizers should chart their next steps depending on the amount of (or lack of) receptivity they encounter. Also, it is important to recognize people generally treat new concepts with ambivalence at best. A key aspect of the oppressed psyche is to cling to what is familiar, and be cautious of the new, or unknown. To be certain, the oppressed psyche is a formidable wall. Breaking it down may require several attempts, going back over old sections of the wall previously chipped away.
Focus the breakage dialogue on hard questions like those asked in "If Black Lives Matter, Don't Integrate Into Amerika."(2) Or the issues highlighted by the AV Brown Berets in "Mobilize Raza for Independence."(3) The building of revolutionary consciousness and purpose is a duty which demands thoroughness.(4) Like an aggressive cancer, at times you must operate in an old area anew. Walls, such as oppressed psyche, are a cancer degrading the revolutionary movement, inhibiting the masses' consciousness of their role and task, complicating recruitment, and all but precluding retention. In organizing we must recognize walls and be prepared for Build, Break, Build.
This statement is written under the full authority of the USW cell known as Loco1, or L1, underneath the instructions of the Countrywide Council for USW, to [members of our cell] for a self-criticism, acknowledging political incorrectness and a public mis-representation of the USW organization as a whole. These council members are involved in the release of a statement published by the Turning the Tide (TTT) news journal titled "United Struggle from Within (USW) 'Building Bridges' Initiative" and "United Front Public Build," and they were out of pocket in many ways. To say the least, this is our apology.
First off, [our cell representative] had already been advised as to releasing statements that can be indicative as representing USW as a whole without clearing said statements with the Countrywide Council. [Our comrade] participated in a Countrywide Council session where it was decided that all members of the USW Double C (Countrywide Council) would get prior approval before releasing statements with other publishing groups. However, a member of eir cadre published a statement without having it cleared with the Council, thus [our comrade] is responsible for said infraction.
The statement is offensive to many groups involved with the upliftment of the oppressed First World Lumpen (FWL), to say the least. Everyone involved in this self-criticism, please understand, Loco1 is not a person, it is an entity. [...]
The particular members involved in the authoring of the statement went so far as to call the very same group that published the statement a ghost group. Alongside of Anti-Racist Action, the statement calls out: Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, IWOC and members of The Committee of the Afrikan Peoples Liberation Tribunal (The Committee) to "...address the conditions which cause FWL to become petty exploiters and oppressors of their own, after suffering under similar [conditions] versus becoming liberators of the self-sufficient conscious collective?" Though these members of USW, L1 may have their heart in the right place, to raise public awareness regarding USW, as a collective USW doesn't act off of the heart, so to say. The authors' actions sowed seeds of dissension, where the goal is to build a united front. By calling out groups in a public forum, no matter how hard it is to get a reply from its members on the private channels, it only goes to deepen the wedge between all parties involved. And USW as a whole suffers.
The greatest damage done by L1 and its members is its violation of security policies established to protect the identity of not only the principal but also all those who engage the principal. The authors of the statement not only published private information about USW but it also took up a particular position of leadership for a sub-committee of the Countrywide Council by the name of the New Afrikan Subcommittee. Comments are made that identify the states that NAS and the Double C is operating in, a mistake that could result in enhanced censorship and targeting from the state. The statement borderline disrespects the Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, labeling him an exploiter of Black people for capitalistic preference. In short, the statements air out the dirty laundry of New Africa while occupying a leadership role of an organization that very well may have members who share citizenship with the Nation of Islam. This is wrong. USW doesn't champion any one Nation, whether it be peoples, folks, Islamic, Jew, Latin, Spanish, Tutsi or Bantu. The statement could be construed as every bit of wrong.[...]
[The councilmember representing our cell] has been suspended from their position at the Countrywide Council because the actions of this said statement came from a cadre that answers directly to [em] as a Councilmember. For the sake of protecting sensitive topics of the Countrywide Council sessions [our representative] has been suspended until the Countrywide Council approves a self-criticism.[...]
It suffers this cadre, the entire cadre, to be disconnected from a body that it played a key role in organizing. But it goes to show, discipline will be enforced by the peer support of USW's Countrywide Council. It is not only for the sake of re-enrollment with USW that this political apology is released, it is because as a Maoist cadre we know that when we are wrong we are wrong. We cannot allow our personal, psycho-egotistic stubbornness to get in the way of progress/success. The publishing of the statement, "United Struggle from Within (USW) Building Bridges Initiative" was driven by a selfish motive to say, "Hey look at us, we are struggling and building." to draw attention. The intentions were right but the actions were wrong. So be it, [our representative] criticizes these members' actions as wrong, and accepts responsibility.
It will be ensured in the future that these members of USW, who rise to the call of USW, that they are correct and exact to not make mention of USW in affiliation with themselves if they have not had their statements approved by MIM(Prisons) and the Countrywide Council. [...] If ever put in the position to approve such a release again, would we? No. This is an action that we recognize as having serious consequences for all parties, if not ironed out in a timely fashion and never repeated. The revolution is not a game.
In closing, let it be understood, though USW is inclusive of all prisoners and born of the minds made accessible by MIM(Prisons) it cannot use MIM(Prisons) as a crutch for its political development of an organization of prisoners controlled by prisoners. [... We] will busy [our] cadre with some much-needed self-assessment test that will involve re-evaluating the actions of this cadre and developing plans for the future that will protect against opportunistic behavior. Until the clock strikes, power to those who deserve it!! But protect the body by all means necessary. The police don't play fair, make no mistake about it.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a slightly redacted version of a self-criticism submitted in early December 2018. We wanted to print this self-criticism in ULK because we know many of our readers also read Turning the Tide and saw these articles. We also want to take the opportunity to re-address questions around who is USW and who represents USW. The Countrywide Council of USW has been discussing this matter and struggling with the comrades of the Loco1 cell since the articles appeared about 6 months ago. In ULK 64, we did briefly criticize one of the articles in question for claiming the IWOC didn't do anything. (1) But had to go through the process, limited by mail correspondence, to come to the point of printing this statement addressing the broader issues with those articles. The self-criticism above accurately addresses the criticisms that were brought to Loco1's attention over a series of back-and-forths in the previous months.
Another comrade from this USW cell, who was involved in submitting the articles in question also submitted a self-criticism more recently. In it, the comrade wrote, "I will not concede to no terms of censorship... I will print for whomever I choose."
Like any publication, the editor of Under Lock & Key decides what to print. We also edit for clarity, brevity and political line. If a writer disagrees with us we will not change eir political line, but respond to it. However, we may change or clarify line in articles by people who are regular contributors to fit the line of Under Lock & Key.
We don't consider this censorship, but normal practice. "Freedom of the Press" applies to us not being censored by the government, even though we are almost every day. It does not guarantee that any publication will print your writings. Now, what this comrade is getting at is that ey will contribute to other publications what ey wants. That is fine, and we encourage contributing to other publications. We do ask that if you send us an article that you submitted to other publications you let us know so that we can properly protect your identity and perhaps coordinate with the other publication to publish the same version of your article. Otherwise, the following rules apply if you wish to write articles as a member of USW in forums that are not led by MIM(Prisons) or the USW Countrywide Council:
USW members cannot openly disagree with MIM(Prisons) 6 main points (see p.2 of ULK). If you do, you are not USW, and if you write articles in the name of USW disagreeing with those points it will be treated as wrecking work.
To clarify, this does not mean that all USW members agree with the 6 main points, or that they accurately uphold them. Just that they do not hold opposing views.
USW members cannot put the struggles of one nation over another, or take stances in support of imperialism. This does not mean that USW members cannot be nationalists, as revolutionary nationalism of the oppressed is applied internationalism. [We use Stalin's definition of nation, and do not consider lumpen organizations or religions to be nations as Loco1 implies above.]
Anyone who agrees to the above points and contributes to MIM(Prisons)/USW projects and/or campaigns is a member of USW, and can speak or write as a member of USW representing eir own beliefs or those of eir local USW cell. If you wish to publish something that you're not sure represents USW's beliefs you can either submit it to the Countrywide Council for review, or just publish it under another name that does not identify you as a USW member. We prefer you submit to the CC for review and feedback, to develop unity through struggle within USW.
The USW Countrywide Council is made up of the advanced cadre of USW, and works to guide USW's work across the country by developing campaigns, positions, study materials, and strategic guidance for the organization overall.
Statements on behalf of the USW CC must be voted on and approved by the CC, or the appropriate subcommittee, and published via MIM(Prisons)'s P.O. Box, email address or, most likely, in the pages of Under Lock & Key where the council can be accountable to the mass membership of USW.
Interested in joining the council? To be recognized as a candidate for CC membership, you should do the following:
Complete the 2 intro study courses offered by MIM(Prisons)
Organize others around USW/MIM(Prisons) projects and campaigns
Submit monthly work reports to the countrywide council addressing any of the following questions that apply:
What types of activities did your cell participate in that contributed to USWs mission?
What campaigns did your cell participate in or promote in the last month?
What Serve the People programs did your cell operate?
What were the responses from the masses and USW recruits to this work?
What questions came up? How did you answer them? Or do you need help answering them?
What lessons did you learn in the last month?
What are the most pressing issues that are of concern to the masses in your location? Are there any new or developing issues of concern to the masses there?
What organizations/services have you recently found useful in your work (include contact info)?
What successes have you achieved in the last month?
MIM(Prisons) will not share revealing information with the Council. Please keep in mind that your outgoing mail is being read and report on your work accordingly.
Anti-imperialists got a little taste of good news from Trump last month when ey announced plans to pull troops out of Syria. Ey later backpedaled saying ey did not set a timeline for such a pull out. But Trump has long made comments indicating that the new focus of U.$. strategy will be to combat China and Russia. In other words, the war on oppressed nations, particularly in the middle east and north Africa, and euphemistically dubbed the "War on Terror," will no longer be the primary focus.
It has always been MIM line that we are in a period of World War III, that is a low intensity war by the imperialists against the oppressed nations. The hegemony of the United $tates allowed for this to be the focus in the decades following World War II. That hegemony is fading, and the emergence of a fourth world war, or a third inter-imperialist war is bubbling to the surface.
Of course, inter-imperialist war does not mean the oppressed nations get a reprieve from the needless brutality of capitalism, as inter-imperialist war is always about carving up the oppressed nations for their resources and markets. Enter "Prosper Africa", the plan announced by U.$. National Security Advisor John Bolton in December. Bolton stated, "America's vision for the region is one of independence, self-reliance and growth, not dependency, domination and debt."(1) This is a hypocritical jab at China, from the country who has done more to make Africa dependent and in debt in the last half-century than any other. At the same time the Trump administration is calling for more "honest" dealings with Africa, that recognize U.$. economic and political interests more openly.
The "Prosper Africa" plan coincides with Pentagon plans to reduce U.$. troops in Africa by 10%. Nothing close to our demands to shut down Africom, rather a subtle adjustment of current U.$. strategy. The immediate focus seems to be drawing hard lines in the sand of the African continent between those compliant with U.$. imperialism and those who are not.
In recent years, China has joined forces with other emerging imperialist or sub-imperialist nations with independent banking capital including Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa (BRICS). As a group, the BRICS countries have greatly increased trade with African countries over the last decade. Increases in trade on the whole is a benefit to the well-being of all peoples involved. While this trade provides outlets and opportunities for capital from countries with growing finance capital, the established imperialist powers (the United $tates and France) face a reduction in their access to markets and in their ability to strong arm the oppressed nations of the world into serving their interests. This threatens to contribute to economic crisis in the advanced imperialist economies, and trigger more militaristic and desperate actions politically.
The Trump administration has hinted at pulling support from United Nations (U.N.) "peacekeeping" missions in Africa. While opposing the U.N. garners support from white nationalists subscribing to isolationalism and Amerikkkan exceptionalism, the real motivation here is likely to reduce Chinese influence in the region. More than 2,500 Chinese troops are stationed in war zones created by U.$. and French imperialism in South Sudan, Liberia and Mali. China accounted for 1/5 of the U.N. troops pledged to operations in Africa in 2015.(2)
China established its first military base outside of China in 2017 at the strategic location of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. This is in line with a shift in Chinese foreign policy over the last decade from non-interference to "protecting our country's over-seas interests."(3) The United $tates, France and Japan are among the countries with existing bases in Djibouti, where the government depends on military leases as an important source of income.
The U.$.-backed coup and murder of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 helped break the continent's resistance to Africom. Up until then Africom had to operate out of Europe. With the pan-Africanist government in Libya out of the way, Africom was able to operate from within Africa for the first time. Now the United $tates has at least 46 military bases in Africa and close military relations with 53 out of the 54 African countries. Many countries have agreements to cede operational command of their militaries to Africom.(4)
While the coup in Libya was a victory for U.$. imperialism, it continues to be a disaster for Libyans, with repercussions for the whole region. The United $tates will have a much harder time stemming the still-expanding Chinese pole that challenges U.$. hegemony in Africa. As this contradiction threatens the world with inter-imperialist war, it offers opportunities for the oppressed to move independently as cracks widen in the imperialist system.
This issue of ULK is a follow-up to issue 63 (July/August 2018), which dove into the question of tactics around engaging people in our movement. We often see in these pages why we need to engage in revolutionary politics, who we should be working with, and what campaigns we need to work on. What is often lacking is how to get people on board. In 2018 we dove deep into this question, and this ULK is part of that ongoing conversation.
Some of our learning about effectively teaching and recruiting others can come from historical practice. We can look at what the Black Panther Party did to attract people through their Serve the People breakfast program which included political lectures during the free meal. And we can learn from the Chinese Maoists who helped people in prison learn from their mistakes through the process of group discussion and re-education. We learn from the Chinese peasants who, after the revolution was won, saw that many poor peasants were still afraid to speak out against religious leaders who had brutalized and exploited them. A few individuals led by example, attacking not the religion but the actions of these leaders, and this inspired others. We take lessons from the Communist Party of Peru in the 1990s who mobilized the indigenous countryside into a structured resistance movement that also provided education and health care services to its communities. There are many revolutionary movements that provide great examples and inspiration for our work today. (If you would like to study these revolutionary movements, send us some work to trade, or ask for a price list of books available.)
Studying revolutionary history, and particularly the practices of those communists, can give us some great ideas that we can apply to our own practice. But we also need to evaluate our own work and look for what is relevant in our current conditions. Doing this together, through the pages of ULK, will help everyone learn and improve their organizing, education and recruiting.
We can start by looking at our own persynal histories and how we ourselves were recruited into revolutionary politics. Below, the comrades in Arkansas and Maryland outline their lifetimes of political development, which are common to many letters we receive from our subscribers.
An Arkansas prisoner: I first started learning about the struggles of being a minority from my mother who raised my siblings and I in a strong Black Power presence household. Throughout my childhood we were homeless a number of times, and the system didn't provide any alternatives for us. Instead, all the so-called programs they provided were to keep us dependent on them, and remain in the revolving door of helplessness. So I learned early that we were living in a broken system.
As I got older, I studied books like The Willie Lynch Letters, The Making of the White Man, and studied the Black Panthers. But I was too young to join the NBPP, so I became affiliated with the Crips. The problem was we were screaming "community restoration in progress," but we were destroying more than we were building. After some years I realized that we were on the wrong path. I then became a Muslim.
I was always taught the Muslims were the pillar for the Black community. However what we lacked was political experience, or basic knowledge of politics. As I became incarcerated I was having a conversation with another brother about "Black Beauty over White Beauty." Somebody overheard our conversation, and pulled me to the side asking if I ever studied Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. I hadn't, and that was the starting point of me being laced up with the knowledge of socialism.
That was two years ago, and I'm proud to say I've came far in my journey on self-development so I may be able one day to greatly assist in community development. I've been able to steer a few brothers on the development of self so they one day will be able to aid our people in our struggles.
A Maryland prisoner: Since I can remember I always had a natural rebellious reflex instinct for injustices dealt to people of the struggle. Growing up in the slums of East Baltimore it's virtually impossible to not have a leftist political perspective once you educate yourself. In inner-city life, especially an inner-city that is mostly populated by Negros, the evidence of oppression is clearly overwhelming.
I was fully turned on to revolutionary politics after Freddie Gray was assassinated by the Baltimore city police department. That incident alone sparked strong emotions in me that I've never felt before. I felt as though Freddie Gray could have been me or any other youth from Baltimore, which I think is true. I was incarcerated when the Freddie Gray assassination took place, then I was released probably about a month later.
At the end of 2015 I was back incarcerated again for a physical altercation with two Baltimore city police officers. Since being incarcerated this time I've sharpened up on my political consciousness. Most of my days are spent on studying my religion, politics and the history of the Negro people. I cannot stand to see people being oppressed by the "power-to-be" and I wish I could somehow extend a helping hand to every political injustice forced upon the people in the struggle.
Another Maryland prisoner adds: I became a Revolutionary Conscious Citizen of the Republic of New Afrika about 2 years ago. It made me totally awake! Each day i stride forth in knowledge, understanding and wisdom of my great Ancestors. I was recruited by a dear friend who watched my character and actions and revealed to me another side of life and how to truly make a difference. He showed me how the universe moves and how colonization, capitalism and imperialism destroyed nations and lives and how neo-colonialism is nothing but us uniting with our oppressor! How patriarchy grasped our minds and interacted in our way of lives in our daily actions!
I can honestly say i came a long way, yet i know that the community is more important than the individual. And as a New Afrikan Communist i overstand that everyone has the chance to change through learning and relearning through a revolutionary education. Yet, comrades, the brothas where i'm at — it saddens me! They walk around like walking zombies high off the K.
Yet i know George Jackson said: The ruling clique approaches its task with a "what to think" program; the vanguard elements have the much more difficult job of promoting "how to think." Thus it's our job of building consciousness to our dumb, deaf and blind Brothas and Sistas! Like Johnathan Jackson said, "Some of us are going to have to take our courage in hand and build a hard revolutionary cadre." We can't give up, continue the struggle! Build to win! Can't stop won't stop!
MIM(Prisons) adds: A lifetime of persynal experience being oppressed in the United $tates naturally leads us toward revolutionary politics. Our dedication doesn't appear overnight with our first exposure. Some incidents, like the murder of Freddie Gray, make a stronger impact than others. But repeated exposure to oppression, and resistance, is what leads us to make the struggle our own. A strong parent or a good mentor can make a huge difference. Working as educators, we can still be very effective even if it's just one of us working with one recruit.
Some people assume that since you were recruited, that you somehow now possess an inherent ability to recruit others. Just because you're interested in a topic and want to contribute doesn't in any way imply that now you have the skills to do so. What to us (the recruit) looked and felt like a normal conversation, to the organizer or recruiter is actually a work of art. It takes time and effort to become an effective organizer, not just agreement with a line.
One way we can become better organizers is to reflect on our own practice. Below are letters from a variety of contributors on this topic.
The first Maryland prisoner continues: In this prison I can relate to most dudes because we've had somewhat a similar journey of hardships growing up. At the same time most dudes understand and can comprehend the very conditions of oppression, but show no signs of resistance to the ill forces of the oppressor. It literally will be a handful of brothers who'll stand up for the whole tier if these pigz blatantly disrespect or mistreat another brother(s). It is peculiar to me that most times the brother(s) that is being disrespected or mistreated will not stand up for himself, but will not hesitate to bring harm to the next brother(s) if he even so happens to think about looking at him wrong.
Each time it's time to take a stand I'm usually right on the front lines, me and a few other brothers. We try each and every time to obtain some type of unity amongst ourselves against these pigz. I slowly but surely engage in political conversations with certain brothers to try to analyze their perspective and teach them a few things based on the same struggle we're in. Some brothers gathered a selfish outlook on the struggle because they've felt as though why should they stand up for other brothers who don't want to stand up for themselves or yet anyone else.
Due to the fact that there's constant tensions brewing between brothers of different gangs, the unity level is at an all-time low. Meanwhile, these pigz set up "smoke screens" to delude brothers of what oppressive techniques they're putting into motion. I try to stress that point over and over again to brothers around here but it's to no avail. By me being the person I am, I can't let certain or every failure in progress to justice for the struggle stop me like other submissive brothers. It is my revolutionary duty to stay positive, encouraging, and consistent.
Now, as far as the outside society, I've put together a blueprint to help the community to be self-sufficient. That's why during their time of me being down I'll continue to educate myself and strategize plans for the struggle ahead. In conclusion, this is my brief elaborate story of "how I was recruited." I greatly appreciate anyone who takes the time to read this piece of material. All Power to the People.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade consistently maintains a positive and encouraging outlook. Any insight on how one goes about doing that is always appreciated, as we all get discouraged sometimes and can use a reminder on how to stay up. As for not understanding people's inconsistencies in what they accept vs. fight over, i have some questions for reflection:
Has there ever been a time in your life when you were like one of those brothers who doesn't stand up for emself against the pigs, but will bring harm to another persyn? What was your own thinking behind that behavior? What were you afraid of? Can answering these questions about our own histories help us have a better understanding of (and more effective conversations with) people we're trying to get on board?
I also have some questions about standing up for people who won't stand up for themselves, which is a common complaint. I'm curious if there's a way to find a middle ground on this. In one way, we are doing the whole prisoner population a service by defending people and not letting the pigs get away with anything. But on the other hand, we are enabling people's inaction because we're doing the hard work for them. How can we enforce some, even minor, participation from the people we're helping?
For example, MIM Distributors has a policy about writing letters to administrators when our mail is censored. If we had more resources, we would protest all censorship of our materials. At this time, we only write letters on behalf of people who are also appealing the denials. Part of it is about our limited resources, and part of it is about not going to bat for people who aren't going to stand up for themselves, or us. Same with our Prisoners' Legal Clinic, Free Books for Prisoners Program, etc. We ask for some kind of participation before putting extra resources into people.
A big benefit of this approach is it helps distribute our limited resources so the people who are putting in work are getting some attention from us. It also functions to hold people to a high, yet reasonable, expectation. We aim to be supportive, and demanding, and we believe this approach will do the most to build participation and leadership.
A Missouri prisoner: In this struggle I recruit by being willing to spot for you on yo bench press, even though my thing is the elliptical machine. I am willing to only listen when you need to do all the talking. I am able to be the one whom doesn't have to be "right" when wrong is of no consequence!
I feed off of the energy that is already in existence! I know gangs, religion, drugs, prison politics, music, nationalists, highways, vehicles, food & find our connections. And the best part of it all is I've recruited a comrade and not divulged a single plan yet!
reddragon of USW: Having different convos here and there it dawned on me that I was able to engage others based upon certain interests, and that in the past my attempts were fruitless based upon my inability to understand that approaching political ideology/ theory from one side only was the reason the convos bore no fruit!
Therefore i conducted a simple personal experiment in which I engaged different persons from different angles based upon their interests. For example, one brother is interested in business administration, another in talking about military strategies/tactics, etc., and another in music and the arts. All of these things have a place in the revolution. After the seizure of power we will no doubt need planners, administrators, as well as many other positions once held by the bourgeoisie and the former oppressors. So by interjecting communist thought into convos about a new society we can create certain sparks. There are those who feel inadequate in certain areas that they feel are too complicated so they shy away. So approaching them from angles of particular interest is something to think about.
Comrades, let us prepare with a sense of haste. As the conditions become ripe, as economic crisis and the threats of war with a major power looks imminent, the time may come sooner than we think.Dare to struggle, dare to win, all power to the people! Victory is ours! In solidarity I remain!
MIM(Prisons) adds: What reddragon and the comrade from Missouri have in common is meeting the potential recruits where they're at, and engaging them on what they are already interested in, while relating it to the revolutionary movement. The California comrade's approach, below, is slightly different. Ey gets into a single tactic, rather than an overall approach, that ey uses in conversations with potential recruits.
A California prisoner wrote: When it comes to people and you're trying to impress upon them a particular concept or an idea, sometimes the direct approach isn't the best tactic. So #1, when having a conversation with them, we utilize the ask-and-answer approach to see how much they know, and how receptive they are to the topic at hand.
Because for the most part, uneducated people are negative and close-minded. They become argumentative and want to express their viewpoint in order to appear right and that they know what is correct. But the truth of the matter is they know absolutely nothing.
So, the question and answer approach, in a sense, will expose them. This will put you in a superior position to teach them without any opposition. And now they know that they can learn a great deal.
However, through this Q&A tactic, you've now piqued their interest in a profound way. Hence, becoming receptive and open-minded to knowledge and understanding about revolutionary change. This is the greater reality for us socialists who doesn't fear the movement of teaching what life is, and that a society without imperialism is possible.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This tactic coming out of California is similar to the Socratic method, which has been used for thousands of years to test our implicit beliefs and present analysis. It helps expose the errors in our thinking so that we can work through them and come to a deeper understanding. If we approach the debate head-on, the dialectics inherent in a conversation will have us arguing our side with the other persyn going even harder arguing eir side. It takes a lot of humility to give up one's argument in this type of conversation, and often leads to a dead-end debate or escalation of tension.
While i agree with this comrade's approach in using questions to help the persyn see the errors in eir thinking, one major thing i would adapt about the approach would be to see these recruits more as friends, rather than adversaries. We have no interest in teaching people "without any opposition," and we certainly don't believe that people who are uneducated "know absolutely nothing." They might not be educated by bourgeois institutions, or even in political philosophy or history. But imprisoned masses have a lifetime of experience in living oppressed in bourgeois society. Rather than knocking people down, to be receptive to our "wisdom," we want to help open people up and get us learning together. Certainly there are occasions to just go at someone who's being loud and ignorant, but we don't want to do it as a general rule.
Another part of recruiting tactics is choosing who to focus on, by identifying who we're likely to have the most success with. There are probably lots of different views on this, and below is one comrade's method. The details of who we aim to recruit are likely to vary depending on our own strengths and weaknesses as an organizer, as well as the conditions where we're at. We've received many letters that contradict some of the principles below, so we don't hold them as hard rules for all organizing.
A Texas prisoner: There goes a lot into recruiting people into Maoism. Once I have overcome the social stigma of communism by instead calling it "Maoism," I have overcome one barrier. Like the word "Islam," it is too taboo a subject.
I treat and focus on each individual differently. I look at variables of my peers. Is my cellmate young or old? Is he poor or rich? Is he antisocial or outgoing? Is he educated or uneducated? Many things go into approaching someone and a good place to start is with my cellmates.
A young cellmate is easy to guide. That is why gangs approach the youth. Instead of older individuals, the young person has not been "burnt out," has not had so many bad experiences in politics, as they are inexperienced. The youth naturally enjoy to rebel. Most young prisoners are here because of the capitalist systems' manipulation in laws. So they yearn for a revolution of change. The older are too mundane or too frightened to rebel. Or they do not wish to get off their butts and demonstrate. Rather than participate in capitalism, they should try Maoism, I teach them.
The poor prisoners think of their oppression with disdain. The poor prisoner understands the struggles of poverty. They already know that capitalism has stacked the laws against them. Most prisoners have or own little property. Though most prisoners have labored, there was never any relief from poverty. I explain to them that under a Maoist system of government all property would belong to the workers/laborers. And that most of the elite are rich because others labor for them. Though participating in the status quo, the laborer is exploited. Maoism would abolish this system, I teach them.
An outgoing prisoner is preferable to the cause because they are out and about. The behavior could be cultivated into political work or demonstrations. An anti-social prisoner is often oppressing other prisoners, while hindering his peers. He is not ideal for the movement. They are difficult to work with and not worth the trouble.
I use the educational material provided in ULK to recruit and teach my people. The most uneducated person with a drive to learn is never a waste of my time. I enjoy taking the time to explain the examples of capitalism and Maoism. There are many questions a curious, young person might have and a outgoing individual should be more than happy to explain. Never the less, patience is a virtue.
And finally I believe that I should start with my cellmates first because they are here and available. I can show what I preach.
My ideal recruit would be a young, poor, uneducated but willing to learn cellmate. As of this writing, I am recruiting my current cellmate. I am not perfect but I am hopeful that my quest is the right path.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We encourage all our readers to go to this level of thoughtfulness about their recruiting methods. Complaining to MIM(Prisons) that "nobody is interested" is partly an admission that you have a lot more work to do to develop into an effective organizer. The effects of bourgeois capitalism on our recruiting base give us real, hard challenges to our efforts. And with centuries of practice, the U.$. criminal injustice system is very skilled at frustrating any movement toward justice, progress, or revolution. It's a tough job, but the more we practice at it, the easier it gets.
We received some criticism for our response to a discussion of George Jackson printed in ULK 65. In this article we described how some of Jackson's writings are anti-wimmin and anti-gay. While we stand by that line, we take a lesson from our critics. Printing this in isolation, without commenting on all the positive contributions Jackson made to the revolutionary movement, was a mistake. George Jackson overall played an important positive role as a revolutionary. While we need to analyze our historical revolutionary movements and leaders and learn from their mistakes, we should not dismiss great leaders who made mistakes or had some political line wrong. George Jackson's mistakes did not outweigh eir positive contributions.
I am a prisoner at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. I'm currently being held in solitary confinement for our May 12 uprising against the oppression and abuse inflicted on us by the administration and guards.
For months, the administration had been keeping us locked in our cells for 23 hours a day, in population! Using excuses of "short on staff," we are only allowed to either shower or call our loved ones for one 30-minute session per day. Our one-hour recs are cut to 45 and 30 minutes consistently. The inmate barber shop is closed. Visits are canceled. Guards are verbally and physically abusive.
Until, on May 12th at dinner chow (2 hours late) at 7:30 pm, 288 prisoners participated in a mass sit-in, in peaceful protest to all of the injustices. Instead of answering requests for talks with white-shirts, all officers fled both chow halls and kitchen, leaving us locked in, and grouped outside the windows and taunted us. The sit-in quickly escalated into the largest "riot" in Missouri history, consisting of a reported $4 million in damages, with the complex being taken over and held for over 7 hours. Inside, only 2 people were attacked before leadership and unity were established.
Countless abuses and injustices followed our return to custody, including: remaining zip-tied for 7-9.5 hours, forced to urinate ourselves, beatings, double-celling prisoners in single-man cells for a week with no mattress or bedding, less than 1000-calorie daily diet instituted for the entire camp for over 70 days, etc.
Through all this, the administration kept up its tricks of sowing hate and dissension amongst prisoners in population by blaming the 3-month lockdown on us by actually naming us to other prisoners in hopes of retaliation). Visits were canceled, no canteen, etc.
However, those of us in confinement know the truth: in 2017, we had a mass race-riot of Browns & Whites vs Blacks, and less than 12 months later those same races, true those same prisoners, come together to fight in unity against oppression! Me and about 20 other comrades came together again in September 2018.
It is coming up on 6 months since our placement in seg and we are likely to receive another 90 days just for good measure, but we are still standing. There are 78 of us from the uprising in seg, and many of us belong to one organization or another. When we are released we will continue to spread and build on this unity that was formed under great oppression. We will carry this momentum to bring all prisoners together to face the true enemy!
We have seen and heard praise for our battle and victory in the struggle throughout other max securities in Missouri. There have been other uprisings that have followed ours at a couple mediums, (one was a race-riot, but with guidance and support those aggressions can be properly re-directed), and the administration is taking notice. The five principles of the United Front are taking hold in Missouri. We will do our part to learn, share, teach and uphold them as we struggle together in our war against oppression. I will do my part in not only spreading the message to mi raza, but others as well. Unity is the key! Viva la gente!
MIM(Prisons) responds: We printed some good discussion about these Missouri protests in ULK 65. This writer highlights what is most important about these sorts of actions: the learning by participants and observers about what prisoners can accomplish with unity. By building the United Front for Peace in Prisons, comrades in Missouri are building strength and unity, setting up the conditions for stronger actions in the future.
On 13 January 2019, MIM(Prisons) sent 230 signatures on the petition to shut down Africom to the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) who will be presenting them to the Black Congressional Congress after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. This petition calls for the disbanding of Africom (a U.$. imperialist tool to control African militaries), the removal of all U.$. military bases on African soil and the end to U.$. invasions, bombings and other military operations on the continent.
So far we have received petitions from United Struggle from Within (USW) comrades in California, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia. BAP is accepting signatures until April 4 — the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. We encourage people to write to us for petitions ASAP and get your signatures in to us by April 1. And we encourage comrades to continue to spread information on this topic to build public opinion against U.$. imperialism in Africa.
USW comrades faced resistance in carrying out this campaign from staff and some prisoners. One USW cell lost 2 sheets of signatures in an altercation with a racist prisoner who opposed its work. Elsewhere in California, prison staff were ordered to target anti-Africom fliers for removal, and USW comrades were targeted for their leadership which forced signature gathering to end early. We have seen increased mail tampering and censorship with California comrades since this campaign began. If it weren't for repression, we would have had twice the number of signatures to submit before the deadline.
While our numbers weren't as high as the goal set by USW, comrades did a good job of turning this around on relatively short notice. Our slow lines of communication limit our ability to organize swiftly. So this was good experience for us in improving in that realm. One thing we need to do better next time is to have a larger list of USW members to forward campaign materials to. If you are a member of USW and did not get the Africom campaign packet, let us know and keep us updated on your organizing work so that you stay on our list of active USW members.
Below are some reports we received back with the completed petitions.
A USW cell in California: Here are 54 signatures we gathered. I hoped there'd be more but all our volunteers backed out on us at the last minute. At least one volunteer was reluctant to participate due to fear of repression. Besides that however it was a good campaign overall. The fliers with the timeline really came in handy. They helped us explain to people what the petition was about. In many instances me and another volunteer spoke at length to people about the nature of the campaign making it clear that our focus here was the oppressed & exploited people of Africa. In some situations, however, we found ourselves agitating for this campaign by talking about the fact that even Amerikan troops' lives were being needlessly sacrificed so that the U.$. government could secure the free flow of natural resources out of Africa. We did this keeping in mind how the Vietnamese National Liberation Front established relations with just about every and any Amerikan organization that was critical of U.$. involvement in Vietnam. The Vietnamese were smart in the respect that they were able to masterfully exploit every crack and division in the domestic U.$. anti-war movement.
A great many signatories were Mexican nationals and nationals from different Central American countries who didn't have to listen to more than the basics of our line before they signed. When agitating amongst this Spanish-speaking population we also found ourselves linking the plight of the Central American caravan to that of African refugees stranded at sea being denied entry into Europe.
Only three people refused to give us their signatures. Two of these people were skeptical from the gate and requested more information on Africom, which we happily handed over, whereas one refused to believe us and called us liars. All three were "brown proud patriots."
In closing, we'd like to thank the Black Alliance for Peace for letting us be a part of this campaign. While gathering signatures we found that prisoners were empathetic to the plight of Africans at the hands of U.$. imperialism in this new scramble for Africa. Surely the great African masses will successfully resist U.$. oppression, exploitation and domination, eject the colonizers and have a principal role in defeating U.$. imperialism once and for all. We hope we've made a difference. In Struggle!
Earlier these comrades had reported: We made copies of existing fliers and put them up in different buildings beforehand in an effort to build public opinion for the campaign. Unfortunately, we just received word a couple days ago that all the fliers we put up were taken down by officers on the orders of their superiors. When officers were asked why the fliers were removed they said they didn’t know, they just received a call explaining to them what to look for and to remove them. This is highly suspect since our fliers were up along with a variety of other fliers on an informational board with over 30 fliers including religious propaganda. Yet the Africom campaign fliers were singled out and removed. All this follows an odd run-in with security squad about a month ago. We've since put the fliers back up.
A report from another USW cell in California: I have enclosed 1 sheet [30 signatures] for the petition to dissolve the Africom military command. There are two pages of missing signatures that we worked very hard to acquire here. The problems last week started over a rude racist comment about "nigger politics," which was dealt with promptly on the spot. [Two comrades from this USW cell ended up in the hole as a result of this conflict.]
MIM(Prisons) adds: One comrade who did not participate in the petition drive challenged the campaign to shut down Africom, and in particular questioned Ajamu Baraka as a former Vice Presidential candidate with the Green Party. While MIM(Prisons) did not endorse Baraka's electoral campaign, we whole-heartedly support this campaign to get U.$. imperialism out of Africa, and stand with Baraka on revolutionary nationalist positions such as the one ey took in a recent article responding to the Prosper Africa plan:
"Africans in the U.S. must make a choice. Malcolm said you cannot sit at the table and not have any food in front of you and call yourself a diner. Africans in the U.S. have been sitting at the table of U.S. citizenship and calling themselves 'Americans' while our people are murdered, confined to cages in prisons, die giving birth to our children, die disproportionately before the age of five, live in poverty, are disrespected and dehumanized. A choice must be made, do you throw in with this dying system or do you align with the working class and oppressed peoples of the world."(1)
Statement of Unity: I, "Big Real," founder and president of F.A.T., willfully submit this statement of unity because the united front principles relate to our drive for education and our motto (Knowledge Is Power). Also, we use education to destroy negative outputs and increase positive aspects relating to peace and enlightenment.
When it comes to recruiting, the tactics involved to build an organization are not as difficult as one thinks. As we all know, relations based on the same agenda and goals are fundamental in showing a common interest in the struggle. Yet, the key to building an organization takes something more complex but simple.
Light travels at the speed of 186,000 mps. This speed is way faster than the speed of sound. Instead of expressing your feelings on how people should follow, simply lead. Instead of being "heard," be "seen."
Moreover, a key factor is observation and analysis. Knowing when to act, how to act, and who to act around creates the best action. When the destination is desired, the express lane is always open and willing. I use the heat of the moment to build my team. Then observation and analysis will cultivate the positioning.
by a Massachusetts prisoner January 2019 permalink
It must be said with all sincerity that in a true revolution, to which one gives oneself completely, from which one expects no material compensation, the task of the vanguard revolutionary is both magnificent and anguishing. Let me say, with the risk of appearing ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love. It is impossible to think of an authentic revolutionary without this quality. This is perhaps one of the greatest dreams of a leader: he must combine an impassioned spirit with a cold mind and make painful decisions without flinching one muscle. Our vanguard revolutionaries must idealize their love for the peoples, for the most sacred kauses, and make it one and indivisible. They can't descend, with small doses of daily affection, to the places where ordinary men put their love into practice.
The leaders of a revolution have children who do not learn to call their father with their first faltering words. They have wives who must be part of the general sacrifice of their lives to carry the revolution to its destiny. Their friends are strictly limited to their komrades in revolution. There is no life outside it. In these conditions, one must have a large dose of humility, a large dose of sense of justice and truth. To avoid falling into extremes, into cold scholasticism, into isolation from the masses.
Every day we must struggle so that this love of living humanity is transformed into concrete facts. Into acts that will serve as an example, as a mobilizing factor. We know that we have sacrifices ahead of us and that we must pay a price for having the right to say that we are the head of the peoples. Each and every one of us punctually pays his quotient of sacrifice, aware of receiving our reward in the satisfaction of fulfilling our duty. Conscious of advancing with everyone toward the new man who is glimpsed on the horizon.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade writes about an important aspect of organizing work which is the dedication and approach of the revolutionary organizer. If we view the people with condescension it will come through in our work. And if this is our perspective we need to examine why we are revolutionaries and why we have this view of the masses.
One thing we want to point out is this comrade writes as though all revolutionaries are men, which is obviously not true. Where we agree about having love for the people in order to be a better revolutionary, we'd add that we also need to challenge our internalized sexism — the idea that wimmin are wives and supporters, but not fighters or leaders themselves. It will come through in our work.
On the author's point about only associating with other revolutionaries and doing only work that contributes to the struggle against oppression, there is certainly something to be said for not engaging with distractions, and staying focused on a primary goal. At this point in the struggle, for many this is unrealistic, especially for those living in imperialist countries surrounded by enemies. We have been raised in a culture that makes this transformation very difficult.
In our present reality, where we are not in a revolutionary scenario, fellow revolutionaries are few and far between. We should cultivate those political relationships, but some people will be the only Maoist in their town or facility. It's unrealistic to expect these folks to not socialize with anyone else. That just leads to burnout from political work, if you're not having your basic humyn needs met.
Even in a revolutionary situation, we see a role for people who do not sacrifice all family and friends, and give up everything in their lives except the revolution. We embrace revolutionaries at whatever level of commitment they can offer, while always pushing ourselves and others to greater commitment and sacrifice.
I want to provide y'all with an attorney's address that is seeking to help Texas prisoners who have been denied dentures, further causing irreversible damages, as well as pain and suffering.
Contact them directly:
511 Broadway St.
Houston, TX 77027
I know he's putting together a class action suit. I don't know if there's a deadline in contacting him or if he's only able to accept so many people, but if y'all can help bring awareness to Texas comrades I'd be very appreciative.
MIM(Prisons) adds: In September 2018 the Houston Chronicle broke a story about TDCJ denying prisoners dentures, and telling them to eat pureed food instead. In December 2018, it was reported that TDCJ will begin using 3D printers to make dentures for prisoners. We're not sure about the status of this class action suit, but we encourage readers who fall in this class to contact Attorney Kallinen directly.
While not directly related to our mission of ending oppression through the complete overthrow of the capitalist economic system, standing up for our humyn dignity in our present moment helps give us more strength to take on such a poweful enemy.
MIM(Prisons) distributes a number of resources for activists in Texas prisons. We ask for donations to cover the cost to print and mail the materials. We can accept donations in stamps or money orders.
Texas Campaign Pack - $3.50
Sworn Complaint Form - SASE or 2 stamps
PD-22 Codes - $5
TDCJ Grievance Manual - $10
(These materials are also available for free online.)
We heard that TDCJ is changing its practice on the grievance manual and will start stocking it in the prison law library. Please send confirmation on this if you know!
"Sakai on Lumpen in Revolution" was my favorite piece in ULK 64. I would have liked to see a more in-depth analysis of the subject of the role of lumpen following the review of Sakai's book. I believe the lumpen will play a principal role in revolution here in imperialist United States.
We live in a time very different from Marx's, when the battle was to be waged between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Marx wrote of the growing contradictions between bourgeoisie and proletariat, following from these contradictions, the proletariat revolution abolishing capitalism. This was apparently true then, but the terrain is very different now. After the imperialist wars I and II led to imperialist expansion and consolidation of global capitalism and the global market, new classes with their own contradictions (and inner-contradictions) have been created. And with the transformation of colonialism proper into neocolonialism, the roles of the different classes and the contradictions even among the oppressed classes themselves, has created many non-principal contradictions, clouding the principal ones.
In the imperialist countries, and especially here in the imperialist capital of the world, the U.S., imperialism and neo-colonialism is beneficial to the "proletariat." The working class population is effectively bought off with a better standard of living thanks to global value transfer from Third World nations. This "sharing of the (stolen) pie" gives the appearance that the proletariat and the bourgeoisie share a common interest in imperialism. Of course, the contradiction between the two classes continues to exist, but giving the proletariat some crumbs off of the table of the "all you can eat global buffet" alleviates the contradictions and pacifies revolutionary potential and the raising of working class consciousness.
With the proletariat in the imperialist countries there also exists blind patriotism and national chauvinism, and this is a major hindrance to uniting the proletariat in any truly revolutionary way. Much of the working class has been brainwashed with national pride without any good reason. Participating in bourgeois political games, buying into their effectiveness. Supporting various U.S. aggression toward Third World countries, and the so-called "war on terror."
These are just a few of the reasons why we should consider the possibility of the lumpen playing a principal role in revolution. Lumpen's very existence is much more precarious and unpredictable. They comprise millions of the U.S. population. They are the most cast-off population. People are accepting gays, lesbians, transgenders, etc. The women's movement is again taking off and enjoying widespread support. Racism continues to be addressed and shunned, as well as religious intolerance. But the lumpen population continues to be cast off, ignored, discriminated against for life, killed, and legally enslaved (see the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution).
Proletariats, with the sheer numbers, and the fact that they are the very foundation, the absolute precondition for the existence of capitalism, they hold the potential to abolish oppression. But for that to happen, the proletariat here would have to settle accounts with imperialism, and this may prove more difficult than transforming the lumpen mentality to a revolutionary mentality.
Lumpen have been in rebellion their entire lives against the exploitive system, even if unconsciously. The prestige of U.S. righteousness, justice, and equality, if it ever existed for the lumpen, is constantly being deconstructed. And the lumpen, with their lumpen organizations, are these not already guerrilla armies? Doing guerrilla warfare every day? We need only work to introduce revolutionary principles and raise their consciousness. Their material conditions of existence are more primed for revolutionary action than the proletariat in the U.S. today.
I would really like to see more dialogue on this subject. I hope that I have made some kind of valid point. I am no authority on revolutionary theory. I am only 24 and very new.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have much unity with this analysis of classes in the United $tates. But where it is limited to an analysis of classes within U.$. borders, we think it's crucial to think more broadly about classes globally in this era of imperialism. As this comrade notes, the workers in the United $tates have been bought off with the spoils of imperialism. But this doesn't mean the proletariat on a global scale is bought off. We do look to the proletariat as the foundational class for revolution, but we don't find that proletariat within U.$. borders. Instead we find it in the Third World, where it is actively engaged in a battle for life and death with imperialism. There it is not a big leap for the proletariat to take up revolutionary struggle.
In First World countries like the United $tates, on the other hand, we see the lumpen playing a leading role in the revolutionary movement. This is in large part because the national contradiction is the principal contradiction within U.$. borders. And as this writer points out, the oppressed nation lumpen continue to receive the brunt of this oppression even while living in a country of great wealth and prosperity. The potential for lumpen organizations to become revolutionary organizations is of great interest to us as well. We work with many of these organizations to build peace and unity. But these organizations are generally structured to meet capitalist goals. In the book reviewed, Sakai, addresses the challenges faced in joining forces militarily with such organizations in other times and places. But in those contexts we are talking about a lumpen-proletariat, in proletarian populations. We talk about the First World lumpen, within the exploiter countries, and see even more barriers in wholesale moves to the revolutionary road.
With such a relatively small potentially revolutionary population in the imperialist countries, we don't expect to see revolution start from within the United $tates. At least not without a significant change in conditions. The most likely avenue for revolution comes from the Third World. This doesn't absolve us of responsibility within imperialist countries. We must organize the resistance, support revolutionary movements in the Third World, and build a movement capable of seizing the moment when it arrives.
[Editor's note: This review of Grit follows on several articles printed in ULK 63 about the book and lessons we can glean for our organizing. This comrade offers a more in-depth review of some of the practical uses for our work, but also some criticisms of the politics of the book. We encourage readers to check out ULK 63 for more on organizing theory and practice.]
I really like this book, not just because I found lots of useful tactics and strategies for pursuing my own personal goals in life, but because I was able to see that I've already been putting many of the author's suggestions into practice, both in my capacity as a revolutionary and as someone pursuing a particular goal: my freedom. Therefore, in writing this review, I have not only tried to sum up the tactics and strategies I found most useful, but those which others might find use for as well. However, this review is not without criticism.
The author of this book, Angela Duckworth, is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and she wrote this book to make one basic statement: success in any endeavor is dependent on the amount of time, hard work, determination, and effort that someone puts into something.
Now this concept might not seem so special or even new to someone, but to a dialectical materialist, it speaks power to truth in that it demolishes certain idealist and metaphysical notions about what it means to be gifted and blessed in bourgeois society. Of course, as a dialectical materialist, I also understand that this book must be viewed with a critical eye, as it contains both positive and negative aspects.
Professor Duckworth makes it a point to begin eir book by explaining that lofty-minded individuals aren't usually the type of people to accomplish much of anything. Rather, it's those with a "never give up" attitude that will reach a marked level of success. Professor Duckworth also successfully argues against the myth that the only thing that matters is "talent." Instead she says a bigger factor is developed skill, which is the result of consistent and continuous practice. From a Maoist perspective this means that it is people who take a materialist approach to life and who understand the dialectical interplay between people and people, and between people and their surroundings, that will go the furthest the fastest.
In addition, the author puts forward organizational guidelines that are useful to just about anyone, even the imprisoned lumpen. How prisoners decide to exercise the professor's tools is entirely up to them. We would hope however, that USW members and other allies participating in the United Front for Peace in Prisons would use the lessons in Grit to further the anti-imperialist prison movement, as what they essentially amount to is the piecemeal approach to struggle.
So what does it take to develop grit as the author defines it? The following are just some of the book's pointers that I could relate to and I'm sure you can too:
Having direction as well as determination.
Doing more of what you are determined to do and doing it longer equals grit.
Learn from your mistakes.
Grit is more about stamina than intensity ("Grit is not just working incredibly hard, it's loyalty").
Do things better than they have ever been done before.
Goals are essential to strategizing long term, and you must also have lots of short-term goals along the way.
Having goal conflicts can be healthy: what may at one given moment seem contradictory may in fact be complementary.
Don't be intimidated by challenges or being surrounded by people who are more advanced or developed. This can only help you grow.
Overextending yourself is integral toward growth, it's what helps you develop. Also, repetitive diligence cultivates.
Daily discipline as perseverance helps you to zero in on your weaknesses.
Passion is a must!
Go easy on newcomers.
Look for quality over quantity when measuring growth.
What we do has to matter to other people.
Have a top level goal.
Maintain a growth mindset.
Don't be afraid to ask for help!
Following through is the single best predictor of grit.
Getting back up after you've been kicked down is generally reflective of grit. When you don't, your efforts plummet to a zero. As a consequence, your skill stops improving and you stop producing anything with whatever skill you have.
So now that we've looked at tools for overall improvement, growth and development let's look at some specific tips on how to add a little more intensity to our routines and organizational skill set. The author talks about something she calls "deliberate practice." Deliberate practice is a technique or range of techniques that people across different professions use to become masters in their fields. Whether someone is a spelling bee champ, professional basketball player, or computer programmer, all these people have one thing in common: deliberate practice. I include the message here because it can be useful to revolutionaries. Simply put, deliberate practice is all about becoming an expert at something. Deliberate practice is the essence of grit:
Wanting to develop.
Not just more time on task, but better time on task.
Focusing on improving your weaknesses; intentionally seeking out challenges you can't yet meet.
Practicing alone, logging more hours than with others.
Seeking negative feedback for the purposes of improving your craft.
Then focus in on the specific weaknesses and drill them relentlessly.
Don't be afraid to experiment if you find yourself getting stuck or even if you're not. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone even if you're already doing good. Who knows, you might do better.
Now, at the beginning of this review, I said this book was not beyond criticism. So here are some problems I found with Grit.
To begin with, the author caters to the idealist Amerikan ideology of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" and failing to take into account the structural oppression faced by the internal semi-colonies in the United $tates. Furthermore, most of the author's case studies, those who she refers to as "paragons of grit," come from privileged backgrounds and their success in life can be easily linked to the surroundings in which they were allowed to develop their skills to their fullest potentials. Compare this to the experience of the oppressed nations: the lumpen in particular who exist along the margins of society, or the [email protected] semi-proletariat who must struggle in order to meet its basic needs. Therefore, all is not simply a matter of will and determination for the oppressed as we might be led to believe. There are a variety of social factors in place which the oppressed must contend with in the grind of daily life.
Another problem I have with this book is where the author makes the statement that it generally takes up to 10,000 hours or 10 years of practice for someone to become an expert in their field. The author bases this hypothesis on data she's gathered in preparation for eir book. This inherent flaw in the professor's work is exactly the type of problem that comes from applying bourgeois psychology and sociological methods according to bourgeois standards within a narrow strip of bourgeois society. This was something of a turn off to me as I grappled with the concepts from a revolutionary perspective. I can imagine how discouraging it can be for our young comrades or those otherwise new to the struggle to read that it takes 10 years to become an expert in something, especially when they come to us eager to put in work. I wonder if I, myself, would have continued engaging Maoism if I would have heard or read this book when I was a newcomer? I would like to think that I had enough grit to not listen to the naysayers and instead keep on pushing, but I just don't know.
Maoist China also grappled with similar questions during the Great Leap Forward (1959-61) and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Beginning with the Great Leap Forward, there were those in the Communist Party, as well as in the economic sector, who advocated an "expert in command" approach to work and politics. The people pushing this line believed that only those with years of study or practice in China's greatest institutions or in the West's most prestigious universities were qualified to lead the country towards socialism. Most of these people would turn out to be enemies of the revolution and ultimately responsible for putting China back on the capitalist road.
On the other side of the discussion where the Maoists who advocated the slogan "red and expert" to emphasize the importance of revolutionary will and determination over that of expertise. In other words, it was more important to pay attention to the masses motivation of serving the people according to revolutionary principles than to the bourgeois commandist approach of top down leadership and authoritarianism that was the essence of "experts in command." Furthermore, the Maoists understood that to overly emphasize a reliance on the bourgeois methods of organization for the purposes of efficiency and profit was not only to widen the gap between leaders and led, but to return to the status quo prior to the revolution. What's more, those calling for expert in command were also criticized for their stress on theory over practice and adoption of foreign methods of organization over that of self-reliance and independence. As such, the Maoists opted to popularize the slogan "red and expert" as they believed this represented a more balanced approach to political, cultural, economic, and social development. To the Maoists, there was nothing wrong with wanting to become expert so long as the concept wasn't separated from the needs of the people or the causes of the revolution.
Partly as a response to the struggles gripping China during the time, but more so as an attempt to meet Chinese needs, the Communist Party initiated the "sent down educated youth" and "going down to the countryside and settling with the peasants" campaigns in which thousands of high school and university age students were sent on a volunteer basis to China's rural area to help educate peasants. The students lived and toiled with the peasants for months and years so that they would not only learn to empathize with the country's most downtrodden, but so that the revolutionary will and resolve of the privileged urban youth could be strengthened. Part of the students' mission was to build the schools in the countryside and teach the peasants how to read and write as well to help advance the peasants' farming techniques according to what the youth had learned in the cities. While these students may not have been "experts" in the professional sense, they did more to improve the living conditions of the peasants than most professionals did criticizing this program from the sidelines.(1)
The barefoot doctors program is another Maoist success story which even Fidel Castro's Cuba came to emulate. The majority of China's population were peasants and had virtually zero access to modern medical care. To address this problem, peasants were given a few years training in basic medical care, and sent to work in China's rural area. Again, the focus here was not on expertise, but on practice and revolutionary will for the sake of progress not perfection. While those trained certainly were not expert medical doctors, they were of more use to the peasants than the witch doctors and shamans they were accustomed to.
While Grit offers a lot of useful information for comrades with little organizational experience, we should keep in mind that much of what we communists consider correct methods of practice has already been summed up as rational knowledge by the revolutionary movements before us. Bourgeois psychology can be useful, but history and practice are our best teachers. Look to the past and analyze the present to correctly infer the future.
As Mao Zedong Stated: "Marxists hold that man's social practice alone is the criterion of the truth of his knowledge of the external world."(2)
MIM(Prisons) responds: Throughout the book, Duckworth focuses on high-performance bourgeois heroes and institutions, in order to address the question of "what makes them the best at what they do?" In answering this question, the author does briefly acknowledge that access to resources can play a decisive role in one's success in a particular field. That might mean having money to pay for pool access to become a great swimmer. In another way, access to resources might boil down to the semi-random luck of having a decent (or crap) coach in public school sports. Of course there are socio-economic reasons why good coaches are at certain schools and not others, and why some schools have sports at all and others don't — and those are reasons linked to the three strands of oppression.
Duckworth's analysis of how we (as outsiders) can influence someone's internal grit underlined how big of an influence one persyn or experience can have on someone else's passion and perseverence. For example, we don't need material resources to change our attitude and behavior to a "growth mindset." And, while a broader culture of grit is certainly preferable, we can still make a big impact as single organizers — in many of eir examples, the paragons of grit cited one or two key people in their lives who played a major part in their success. And ULK's contributors' persynal histories in "Ongoing Discussion of Recruiting Best Practices" confirms this.
Duckworth's analysis on this topic is outlined in "Part 3: Growing Grit from the Outside In," and MIM(Prisons) has been discussing this section at length to improve our own practices. We have an extremely limited ability to organize and influence people — we are only struggling with our subscribers through the mail, which comes with many unique challenges. Our subscribers have access to very little resources, and we can't buy them the world. But if we can make even our limited contact more effective — through our study, execution, experimentation, and the feedback we receive — we believe we can still make a big impact. Duckworth helped build my confidence that even though i'm only one organizer, and i'm not really that talented at it to begin with, my efforts still matter a lot.
While Duckworth does good to knock down the idols of talent, ey replaces them with the hardworking individual, rather than the knowledge of the collective, and group problem solving. The group is acknowledged as one thing that can help you as an individual become great, in eir discussion of the "culture of grit." The examples from China that Ehecatl brings up emphasizes that our goal is not to be great as individuals, but to serve the people by bringing together different sources of knowledge, to see a problem from all sides, and to engage the masses in conquering it.
In a related point, Ehecatl says that we need to "do things better than they have ever been done before." I'm not sure of the deeper meaning behind this point, and it's one that i think could be read in a discouraging way. We certainly should aim to do things better than we have ever done them. But if we know we can't do them better than everyone ever, then should we give up? No, we should still try, because "effort counts twice" and the more we try, the better we'll get at it.(3) And, even if we're not the best ever, we can still have a huge impact. Like Ehecatl writes above, we don't need to clock 10,000 hours before we can make big contributions.
To deepen your own understanding of the principles in Grit, get a copy to study it yourself. Get Grit from MIM(Prisons) for $10 or equivalent work-trade.
Ministerio Internacionalista Maoísta de Prisiones (MIM(Prisiones)) ha establecido la ambiciosa meta de hacer de Bajo Llave y Candado (Under Lock & Key - ULK) una publicación mensual para el 2022. ULK satisface una necesidad en la prisión, dando un reporte revolucionario anti-imperialista acerca el subproletariado tras las rejas. Este es un proyecto revolucionario relativamente pequeño centrado en el sistema de injusticia criminal. Pero las prisiones son sólo una parte de la gran maquina imperialista y tomará un movimiento revolucionario mucho más amplio que sólo en las prisiones el derribar el capitalismo. Somos una parte de este movimiento y es nuestro trabajo hacer lo que podamos para empujar hacia adelante este desarrollo.
En esta etapa de la lucha, hay celdas revolucionarias organizadas en varios segmentos dentro del vientre de la bestia. Estamos construyendo un Frente Unido por la Paz en las prisiones para reunir al movimiento detrás de las barras. Y además de eso, queremos un frente unido en contra del imperialismo que incluya tanto a organizaciones penitenciarias como no penitenciarias. Este extenso movimiento necesita una publicación unificada, un periódico que pueda ser usado tanto para difundir información y organizar a las personas.
Lenin escribió: ¿Qué hay que hacer? Acerca de la importancia de una publicación regular de un periódico que organice la revolución en Rusia. Y en las primeras etapas de la organización, antes de que el movimiento gane popularidad y mayores miembros, el líder Bolchevique argumentó la necesidad de los revolucionarios de soñar con una extensa distribución de una publicación regular. El escribió que, con suficientes grupos locales y con un circulo de estudio trabajando activamente:
"Podríamos, en un futuro no tan distante, establecer un periódico semanal para su distribución regular en decenas de miles de copias a lo largo de Rusia. Este periódico se podría convertir en parte de un par enorme del fuelle de Smith que avivarían la chispa de la lucha de clases y la indignación popular dentro del conflicto general. Alrededor de lo que, en sí mismo todavía permanece como un esfuerzo muy inofensivo y muy pequeño, pero regular y común, en el total sentido de la palabra, se reuniría y entrenaría sistemáticamente a un ejército regular de luchadores experimentados. Las escaleras y el andamio de esta estructura organizacional general […] [los revolucionarios] despertarían a todo el pueblo para saldar cuentas con la pena y la maldición de Rusia. ¡Esto es lo que deberíamos soñar!"
¿Por qué imprimir un periódico cuando tenemos internet?
Lenin estaba escribiendo en un tiempo donde no había otra forma de comunicarse entre localidades. Ahora tenemos internet, y algunos debatirán que la agitación en línea es todo lo que necesitamos. Nos podemos comunicar con otras personas alrededor del mundo en pocos segundos por medio de internet. Y esto es, en efecto, una herramienta poderosa de organización. Entonces ¿Por qué publicar un periódico más allá de las prisiones, uno de los pocos lugares en los países de primer
mundo sin acceso al internet? La respuesta a esta pregunta es acceso y organización.
La mayoría de las personas no llegan accidentalmente al sitio web de Maoísta mientras navegan en línea, y con el inminente fin de la neutralidad de la red esto tendría a ser cada vez más cierto. No vamos a obtener publicidad en medios de comunicación de tendencia y no queremos alentar la mala seguridad invitando a las personas a publicar en Facebook o Twitter y exponerlos a la policía. Les podemos dar salida a los periódicos en las cafeterías, librerías, tiendas de libros, refugios para personas de la calle, centros comunitarios, lavanderías y otros lugares donde las personas puedan cruzarse con una perspectiva que no se ve en otra parte. Esto expande el acceso a noticias revolucionarias y la educación.
Podemos usar el internet para compartir rápidamente información sobre las campañas, y reunir personas de muchos lugares para acciones rápidas. Y podemos publicar el contenido en un periódico en línea, expandiendo ampliamente su alcance más allá de los medios impresos. Pero si bien el internet es una herramienta poderosa, no lo podemos usar afuera en las calles organizando personas, hablando con ellos, y construyendo grupos de estudio y organizando comités.
Con una publicación impresa, los organizadores pueden acercarse e involucrar a las personas en una forma que no podemos hacer online. Los periódicos dan a los organizadores herramientas para usar en la organización cara a cara. Hablar con las personas acerca de sus condiciones, y haciendo las conexiones al sistema imperialista. Pedir a alguien leer un artículo y hablar con ellos al respecto. Responder a un discurso en una movilización con un artículo periodístico sobre este tema como un punto de inicio para conversaciones con la gente que ya simpatice con la causa.
Metas políticas en la expansión del periódico.
Recibe actualizaciones de la organización de camaradas en prisión con mayor frecuencia, construyendo la unidad entre el movimiento Maoísta dentro de la frontera de los Estados Unidos.
Distribución más amplia de la información anti-imperialista.
Coordinación más estrecha del trabajo entre varias organizaciones dentro el frente unido en contra del imperialismo. Herramientas de organización para la gente en la calle y detrás de las rejas.
Se necesita expandir ULK
Distribuidores: Sólo podremos lograr nuestro objetivo si podemos expandir rápidamente nuestra red de distribuidores. Aquí es donde tú, nuestros lectores y seguidores intervienen. Queremos enviarles un pequeño paquete de ULK a $50 por un año. Para nuestros compañeros del programa lanzamiento de vida queremos enviarles gratis hasta que puedan pagar. Enviarlos por $1 la pieza es una manera de obtener los fondos para su suscripción. O si tienes el dinero puedes tomar la ruta fácil de entregar unas pocas copias en tiendas locales y espacios públicos que tengan espacio para que las personas recojan publicaciones gratis. Para nuestros lectores en prisión, comuníquense con cualquier individuo o institución del exterior que creas podrían ser capaces de tomar un envió regular de ULK.
Dinero: Costará más dinero imprimir más periódicos y también más gastos de envío a nuestros distribuidores. Estamos pidiendo a nuestros distribuidores cubrir el costo de envío de lo que enviaremos. También necesitamos personas que intensifiquen y ayuden a financiar la impresión y los costos de envió a los presos.
Contenido: Nuestra meta inmediata es incrementar la frecuencia de ULK, para que nuestros compañeros dentro reciban más actualizaciones regulares de la organización. Puesto que esto también expandirá el contenido, esperamos incrementar el alcance de los temas que ULK aborda actualmente, exponiendo diferentes sectores del movimiento al trabajo de cada uno. Estamos trabajando en conjunto con organizaciones fraternales para ayudar a crear contenido para este periódico. También llamamos a individuos a incrementar sus esfuerzos para producir
contenido de calidad y discutir las necesidades de los oprimidos desde una perspectiva del proletariado. ¿Quién debería ser parte de esta expansión?
Organizaciones revolucionarias anti-imperialistas que vean el Maoísmo como la visión a futuro del comunismo hasta la fecha. Este es explícitamente un proyecto revolucionario y no estamos atenuando el Maoísmo como nuestro eje político guía, pero seguiremos publicando artículos de individuos que compartan nuestra agenda anti-imperialista, aunque quizás no sean Maoístas.
Necesitamos expandir nuestra distribución al exterior más allá de los antiguos prisioneros. Expandiendo el contenido en nuestro periódico ayudaremos a atraer más simpatizantes. Pero también necesitamos más partidarios para expandirnos. Así que nuestro reto principal para nuestros compañeros en la calle justo ahora, es el dar un paso adelante y convertirse en un distribuidor regular de ULK. Sin una red de distribución más amplia, no alcanzaremos nuestra meta de duplicar la frecuencia.
Lista de tareas a elaborar para enero de 2022
Comience por distribuir localmente ULK. Regístrate con nosotros enviando $50 a nuestro apartado postal con una dirección para enviar publicaciones de ULK para empezar a explorar formas de distribuir la publicación regularmente. (No cheques a Ministerio Internacionalista Maoísta de Prisiones, haznos saber si quieres enviarnos un cheque).
Comprometerse con una contribución financiera para esta expansión. Idealmente,
un monto mensual con el que podamos contar. Puede empezar donando ahora
para ayudarnos a construir el fondo necesario para este proyecto.
Ofrécete como voluntario para escribir artículos, pide una copia de
nuestra guía para escribir actualizada.
Las organizaciones revolucionarias interesadas en involucrarse en este proyecto, pueden contactarnos para comenzar a ver cómo podemos trabajar juntos.
Here's an essay on the question of recruiting tactics and methods. When it comes to people and you're trying to impress upon them a particular concept or an idea. Sometimes the direct approach isn't the best tactic. So #1. When having a conversation with them, we utilize the ask and answer approach to see how much they know, and how receptive they are to the topic at hand.
Because for the most part, uneducated people are negative and close-minded. They become argumentative and want to express their viewpoint in order to appear right and that they know what is correct. But the truth of the matter is they know absolutely nothing.
So, the question and answer approach, in a sense, will expose them. So, this will put you in a superior position to teach them without any opposition. And now they know that they can learn a great deal.
However, through this Q&A tactic, you've now piqued their interest in a profound way. Hence, becoming receptive and open-minded to knowledge and understanding about revolutionary change. This is the greater reality for us socialists who doesn't fear the movement of teaching what life is... a society without imperialism is possible.
MIM(Prisons) adds:Under Lock & Key 63 was focused on different methods used by organizers in prisons. Keep sending in your tips and observations from the field, and write in to get ULK 63 if you don't have it.