The theme of this issue of Under Lock & Key was inspired by recent essays and interviews by Orisanmi Burton, previewing material from eir upcoming book: Tip of the Spear: Black Radicalism, Prison Repression, and the Long Attica Revolt. Comrades in MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within (USW) have been studying Burton’s work. Though we have not had the opportunity to read the book yet, which comes out end of October 2023, we like a lot of the ideas ey has presented so far and the overall thesis that prisons are war.
As we go to press the genocidal war on Palestine is heating up. We have reports inside on Congo, El Salvador, Ukraine and Niger; and we don’t even touch on Guatemala or Haiti. History has shown that as war heightens internationally, war often heightens against the oppressed nations within the empire as well.
In this issue we have reports of political repression as war in U.$. prisons. We also feature articles from comrades who organized around, and reflected on the Attica rebellion and Black August. This is the history that Burton analyzes in eir work, exposing the state’s efforts to suppress the prison movement and how both sides were operating on a war footing. For over a decade readers of ULK have commemorated the beginning of Attica on September 9th with a Day of Peace and Solidarity, as part of the campaign to build the United Front for Peace in Prisons. But how do we get to peace when we find ourselves the targets of the oppressor’s war?
Burton pushes back against some Liberal/reformist lines that have been advanced onto the prison movement to oppose the line of liberation. Burton’s ideas harken back to V.I. Lenin, recognizing prisons as a repressive arm of the state, and the state being a tool of oppression and warfare by one class over another. War is one form of political struggle, and a very important one at that.
It is this framework that we have used to push back against “abolitionism.” Our organization emerged from the struggle to abolish control units, a form of prisons that is torture and inhumane. We see the abolition of control units as a winnable, if difficult, battle under bourgeois rule. In a socialist state, where the proletariat rules over the former bourgeoisie, we certainly won’t have such torture cells anymore; but the abolition of prisons altogether is a vision for the distant future. We find it questionable that Burton frames revolutionary communist martyrs like George Jackson as an “abolitionist”.
Where we have more unity is when Burton takes issue with building the prison movement around the legalist struggle to amend the 13th Amendment of the U.$. Constitution that abolishes slavery except for the convicted felon. Burton points out the history of Liberal thought in justifying enslavement of those captured in just wars. As most in this country see the United $tates as a valid project, it could follow logically that it is just to enslave the conquered indigenous and New Afrikan nations, as well as nations outside the United $tates borders. We see how settlers in Amerika and I$rael are now justifying all sorts of genocidal atrocities against Palestine.
The challenge we have repeatedly made to the campaign to amend the 13th Ammendment is how this contributes to liberating oppressed people? How does it build power for oppressed people?
In one essay Burton draws connections to how the state was handling the war against the Vietnamese people at the same time as the war against New Afrika at home.(1) We have a draft paper out on the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement that discusses the counter-insurgency in Peru, and how the fascist U.$.-Fujimori regime locked communist leader Comrade Gonzalo in an underground isolation cell and then used confusion around political line to crush the People’s War in that country. In Under Lock & Key 47, we reprinted an in-depth analysis of the use of long-term solitary confinement against the revolutionary movement in Turkey and the use of hunger strikes to struggle against it from 2000-2007. All of these historical examples, including to some extent New Afrika in the 1970s, involved an armed conflict on both sides. Today, in the United $tates, we do not have those conditions. However, we can look to the national liberation struggle in Palestine, and the connection to the prison movement there as a modern-day example.
Burton spends time exposing the politics of the federal counter-insurgency program PRISACTS. And one of the things we learn is that PRISACTS is officially short-lived as the counter-insurgency intelligence role is taught to and passed on to the state institutions. We see this today, especially in the handling of censorship of letters and reading materials we send to and receive from prisoners. We see the intentional targeting of these materials for their political content, and not for any promotion of violence or illegal activity. Our comrades inside face more serious consequences of brutality, isolation and torture in retaliation for attempts to organize others for basic issues of living conditions and law violations.
The arrest of Duane “Keffe D” Davis for involvement in the murder of Tupac Shakur has also been in the news this month. Keffe D is a known informant who confessed to driving his nephew to murder Tupac years ago in exchange for the dropping of a life sentence for an unrelated charge. Author John Potash notes that there were many attempted assassinations of Tupac prior to his death, at least one that involved the NYPD Street Crimes Unit. This unit was launched following the supposed “end” of COINTELPRO.(2) This directly parallels what we see with the “end” of PRISACTS and the passing of intelligence operations on to state pigs.
As we’ve discussed in drawing lessons from the repression of Stop Cop City, we need to take serious strategic precautions in how we organize. We must recognize the war being waged on us. If we treat this as something that can be fixed once people see what’s going on, or once we get the right courts or authorities to get involved, we will never accomplish anything. And as always we must put politics in command. There is an active intelligence counter-insurgency being waged against USW and the prison movement in general, and the best weapon we have is grasping, implementing and judging political line.
Prison is War is not just a topic for ULK, it is a political line and analysis. We welcome your future reports, articles and artwork exposing the ways this war is happening in prisons today.
Notes: 1. Burton, Orisanmi (2023).“Targeting Revolutionaries: The Birth of the Carceral Warfare Project, 1970-1978.” Radical History Review. Vol. 146. 2. John Potash on I Mix What I Like, 16 October 2023. (author of “The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders”)
Every sista & brotha ain’t really a sister & brotha, because some who pose as a comrade are really under cover police!!! “Loyalty is a life style.”
A prisoner of war, is a revolutionary who has engaged in acts of armed struggle, who has been captured by government agents in armed struggle against an oppressive state. A political prisoner, is an individual who has been jailed for eir beliefs, eir speech, or for eir political ideas & concepts.
Prisons have perfected their use of psychological warfare techniques by the use of divide and conquer! S.N.Y./P.C. yards serve as a mechanism for the entire prison system, a penal cesspool where other institutions discard their waste matter. They work to remove the supports to the old life style and attitudes, by proving to em that those whom ey respects aren’t worthy of it and should be actively mistrusted. Their tactics include: use of compromised and cooperative inmates as leaders, exploitation of rats, snitches, and informants, treating those who are willing to “collaborate,” in far more lenient ways than those who are not, rewarding of total submission and subserviency to the guards & administration. The administration is known for collecting large amounts of information on prisoners. As the loud speakers are also receivers, and pick up loose talk & conversations in the day rooms, hallways, & cells. Sometimes a prisoner is confronted with the information in order to create distrust about the people ey has talked with. At other times the information is kept a secret among officials and “traps” are set.
Most sacred of all is a man’s ideas: and there is a standing rule with convicts to never let the enemy know what you are thinking!
There is an elite group of “inmate slaves,” that is looked upon by the guards with great favor because they share the same basic ideals with the administration.
The prisons exploit the weaknesses, especially those weaknesses produced by an alienating society. Their weakness is transmuted into “submission and subserviency,” the type of behavior conducive to guards goal of total control and manipulation.
The “inmate slave,” will not resist or complain, nor will ey go on a strike to support a political prisoners grievances. They are totally alienated from their environment, and their psychological and emotional inter-dependency with the guards welds and insulates them into a crippled world of the weak preying upon the weak. All is truly well.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with the overall picture painted by this comrade. However, as we’ve covered in much depth before, SNY in California is now a large portion of the imprisoned lumpen who suffer the same oppressive conditions. We cannot just treat anyone who is in SNY as an “inmate slave.” If only it were so easy that the state told us who is working with them! Their methods are much more advanced, making us second-guess our own comrades.
Second, we also say all prisoners are political. War is politics and prisons are war. While some enter prison politicized, many more are politicized inside in our current conditions. So drawing common interests among the imprisoned lumpen is the approach we must take.
Comrade Ruchell Magee was one of two survivors from the Marin County Courthouse massacre that took General Johnathan Jackson’s life on August 7, 1970 (peace be upon him). Comrade Ruchell Magee is now 84 years old. Ruchell Magee was born in 1939 in Louisiana. He would go on to spend 67 years of his life in unjust captivity, starting the year after the murder of Emmett Till. In 1956, Ruchell Magee (like Emmett Till) was framed in a similar fashion of unfounded accusations of rape, where the victim originally did not identify Ruchell Magee. Nevertheless, he was convicted in a one day trial by an all white jury. After serving 7 years on a 12 year sentence he was released on parole in 1962. Comrade Magee then moved to Los Angeles.
After a 10 dollar quarrel over marijuana ending in a kidnapping charge, Magee was convicted (with little evidence) after a two day trial and sentenced to serve seven years to life on kidnapping charges that legally only carried a penalty of up to the maximum of five years. In 1965 he appealed the charges and was denied. While housed at San Quentin Magee became a jailhouse lawyer. There he met Comrade George who was also serving a Cali-type sentence of one year to life. They were routinely denied by the parole boards. Ruchell was also a major participant in the movement for prisoners’ rights and never stopped fighting for his release.
The Marin County Courthouse Massacre
Around the young age of 15-years old, Johnathan Jackson became politically active witnessing the injustice done to his brother George by the legal system. Johnathan was a very smart student, scoring at the top of his classes.
George Jackson later had Johnathan move in with Angela Davis to keep her safe. There he learned weapons training and dated Angela’s girlfriend who was white. He would later impregnate her before his demise, with a son his mother would deny. A son that would grow into a polar opposite of George Jackson.
The day before the Marin County Courthouse Massacre, Johnathan Jackson sat in the courtroom in a trench with a bag for the trial of James McClain. The next day he visited George Jackson. They spoke, embraced, then left.
A few hours later a Sheriff spotted Johnathan in the courthouse with the same trench coat and bag on from the day before. The suspicious Sheriff approached Comrade Johnathan and asked him: “What’s in the bag?” Johnathan replied:
“Alright gentlemen, freeze. Nobody move. We’ll take over from here.”
After equipping his comrades with artillery the armed defendant James McClain and the witnesses called there for a prison murder, William Christmas and Ruchell Magee, left with the prosecutor, judge, and three jurors as hostages, demanding the release of Comrade George and the guarantee of safety for themselves.
James McClain walked the judge (with a shotgun barrel roped around his neck) to the van with the hostages. As they where leaving the parking lot hundreds of officers took aim on the custom made bullet proof van. A lot of the officials were from San Quentin. As Johnathan was leaving the parking lot holding a handgun out the window he was shot in the hand while holding it out the window.
The rest of the officers opened fire on the van, the shotgun goes off, and the prosecutor snatches the gun off Johnathan’s hand as he brings his hand back in the window with the gun. The prosecutor would then murder Comrade Johnathan, James McClain, and William Christmas. As the Sheriff and state officials continue to shoot the van they eventually shot the prosecutor in the back, paralyzing him. Ruchell Magee was later found unconscious.
Ruchell Magee was charged with murder and kidnapping, along with Angela Davis who allegedly provided Mr. Jackson the guns. In a separate trial Angela was acquitted, but in 1973 Mr. Ruchell Magee was convicted of simple kidnapping and voted 11 to 1 to acquit him of the murder charge.
Even though an autopsy of the judge who had been killed proved Ruchell did not kill him, and no evidence proved Ruchell knew anything about Johnathan Jackson’s plan to liberate the prisoners from the Marin County Courtroom, on 23 January 1973, Magee was sentenced to life in prison.
After the conviction he was denied parole 16 times and housed at high security prisons like Folsom and Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit, while he became one of the most consistent and successful jailhouse lawyers and advocates for prisoners.
Earlier in his bid, Ruchell took the name Cinque from the African leader Sengbe Pieh of the 1839 La Amistad slave ship rebellion, insisting that Africans have the right to resist “unlawful” slavery. Ruchell maintains that Black people in the U.$. have the right to resist this new form of slavery which is part of the colonial control of Black people in the country.
“My fight is to expose the entire system, judicial and prison system, a system of slavery. This will cause benefit not just to myself but to all those who at this time are being criminally oppressed or enslaved by this system.”
Ruchell has now been released on a new bill passed in California that allows incarcerated medical leave for those who are at fatal health risks.
Welcome home the G, AKA General Magee
Sources: The Road to Hell, by Paul Liberatore Ruchell Magee released after 67 years in prison!, by Claude Marks of Freedom Archives
The October 7th attack that was launched by Palestine in the war for national liberation is but a response to their colonization from the hands of the settler colonialist Israel. For decades the Palestinians have maintained a consistent push for freedom to live without the threat of genocide at their doorstep. The Chicano nation overstands the need to struggle under the brute heel of colonization, our occupied territories – like the Palestinians – will not be free until the oppressor nation is overthrown point blank period! For this reason Aztlán stands with the Palestinian people in their freedom struggle.
According to the Gaza Health Ministry since 7 October 2023, 2,670 Palestinians have been killed [as we go to press that number has doubled] and Israel has continued to spread its disinformation in regards to the cause of the savagery unleashed by Israel. The truth is the Israeli war on Palestine has the full backing by Chief Colonizer in the World – the United Snakes. The U.$. completely ignores the decades of war crimes Israel has unleashed on Palestine, from white phosphorous cluster bombs to terrorizing generations of Palestinians with death and psychological warfare.
Today the U.$. propaganda “news outlets” snivel about 20 alleged U.$. citizens being supposedly held in Gaza. [By the time this article went live, Hamas had released two elderly prisoners who reported being handled “gently” and seemingly treated better than many prisoners who read Under Lock & Key in the United $tates.] Once again the people here in these occupied territories are being fed snake oil in preparation for U.$. Special Ops to enter Gaza and provide full technical and logistical support for its settler brethren. For this reason we hear a lot about allegations of violence from groups within Palestine. But how about the Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah who was murdered on Friday the 13th of October 2023 after Israel unleashed a brutal shelling on Palestine?
The Chicano nation stands with Palestine and welcomes the wrath of resistance that oppression harvests.
If the wallz of prison life could talk I wonder what they’d say. From overseer to officer, from predator to prey. Solitary confinement, oppressive and inhuman, involuntary servitude Psychologically still in chains - Prison Boom! when it rains it pours. Price gouging and extortion, bleeding our families with inmate store. A revolving door, crippled from the lack of education Under Lock & Key, agitated and pacing, hoping and waiting, Political devil in disguise. Drug-infested prisons, breeds chemical suicide Pleading for a way out of this bottomless pit, Another murder covered up. Prison guard orchestrated the hit. Violent prison stabbings, dry tazed to death Poor ventilation, heat exhaustion, claimed his last breath. The ultimate test is to stand firm and bear witness, Because these wallz are speaking volumes, and if you’re wise, Listen…..
Introduction: Current Existing Ideas Around Snitching
As Marxist-Leninist-Maoists it is important to apply the dialectical materialist method when it comes to handling the contradictions among the masses. In the prison context where most of our organizing revolves around, the contradictions between various prisoner individuals, national groups, and lumpen organizations can become antagonistic and it is our job to transform this antagonistic contradiction into a non-antagonistic one and resolve it from there out.
One example of idealism is around the “stop snitching” slogan and campaign. Is “stop snitching” a correct slogan? Only an idealist could answer this question without more information. The materialist method of finding out what would constitute “snitching” would be to analyze the material conditions of how this “stop snitching” idea came about, the purposes it was for, which classes were promoting it, and going from there. What we must not do is treat it like a general platitude where it can be abused for anti-people purposes and exploited by the pigs to get the masses to fight amongst themselves.
To assume the most righteous origins of the “stop snitching” slogan, we can think of various lumpen organizations, who might be in competition and rivalry with each other at times. Yet these organizations all come to agree that they have a common interest in not sending the oppressor’s cops against each other. Perhaps there is a consciousness as oppressed people uniting these L.O.s to come to this conclusion. But certainly there is a material interest in staying alive and out of prison by reducing the amount of police involvement in their lives.
The “stop snitching” campaign was a success. So much so that today, in many prisons, it has been taken up as an idealistic and dogmatic truth rather than a materialist principle to apply in differing conditions. To many this slogan is true for all times and all places. In fact, it is so absolutely true that they apply it to the police themselves! We’ve received reports from many parts of the country that comrades can’t get others to file grievances against abuse and inhumane conditions against the system because fellow prisoners don’t want to “snitch”.
Now in reality, those fellow prisoners are probably just scared of what prison staff will do to them, so they use the “stop snitching” slogan as an excuse to do nothing and live quietly under the boot of oppression which the stop snitching principle was brought up to fight against in the first place.
However, those who stand up for themselves recognize the role of grievances. We live in a bourgeois democracy. The image of the rule of law is important to the enemy even if things become lawless in the corners of society, like in prisons. There is a grievance system and the bourgeois/imperialist state says they will follow that system. That means this is a tool that can and should be used to improve conditions for comrades organizing within the belly of the beast and fight for the political rights to build independent institutions. To call that snitching is to say that something is true because it’s true; not because of any actual evidence or material basis. To call this snitching is to lack any analysis of class, nation, gender or who are our friends and who are our enemies.
And as we discussed in the last issue of ULK, we must learn to think in percentages to build the United Front for Peace in Prisons. Thinking in absolutes, allows the enemy to keep us divided.
Case Scenario: Inmate Collaborators and Pigs Using Anti-Snitching Sentiment to Repress Prisoners in CDCR
In one of many reports like this, a comrade in California recently wrote us:
Dear MIM Distributors,
I am a disabled person under the Armstrong v. Newsom injunction where I continue to be targeted by officers who specialize in pitting prisoners against each other to discourage and deter use of the grievance process at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD), and in retaliation for the same.
On the morning of 25 August 2023, while exiting my cell quarters to be issued my breakfast and lunch Kosher meal, one of the inmate porter workers (infamous for not only disruptions, violence, and fighting other prisoners on the unit; but also carrying out retaliatory terrorism for officers against prisoners who use the RJD grievance process to report misconduct) began to ridicule me without provocation.
Subsequent to returning to my cell and at commencement of A.M. medication, officer G. Sellano supervised pill line near my cell as the same prisoner porter worker came to my cell door and began hostile provocation calling me a “snitch” for pending grievances (Attached as Exhibit A). Both of which involve this very same inmate porter worker and officer G. Sellano.
This inmate porter worker then stood outside my cell door on a rant to provoke me by yelling “snitch, you a bitch, you wrote a buz on me and Sellano.” The whole time officer G. Sellano stood listening, watching as the inmate porter worker then openly blasted how he is able to “do what I want all around here, I can fight anybody I want and nothing will happen. I won’t even get a 115.” Challenging me to fight as officer G. Sellano stood listening and watching while supervising the A.M. medication line next to my assigned cell.
Said inmate porter worker then began yelling to the tower officer to open my cell door in order to attack me while officer G. Sellano continued to fail to intervene, act, or quell the growing disorder.
The inmate porter worker in question is allowed to volunteer work for officer G. Sellano where the inmate receives detailed information on pending grievances filed against officer G. Sellano – then uses that personal knowledge of grievance information to confront, intimidate, and provoke some violent incident with the grievant: all while officers on the unit watch.
Facility Captain Lewis has turned a blind eye to not only this particular inmate porter worker’s ongoing propensity for violence and daily disruptions on the housing unit, but also the fact that this particular inmate porter worker is and has been for months now, used as a torpedo for housing officers like G. Sellano to be programmed to target prisoners like me who use the grievance process here at RJD while Warden James Hill has been unable to prevent officers like G. Sellano from using working knowledge of department operations to gather information for the purposes of endangering the safety and the welfare of those confined therein.
Inmates vs Prisoners
Inmates are the categorical definition used by the U.$. law to white wash their crimes. It is no different politically than to call the torture of Iraqi POWs “enhanced interrogation.” Inmate also implies a more collaborative relationship between captive and captor, which is an appropriate term to use for the inmate porter described above. A politically appropriate term for the vast majority of the imprisoned lumpen in this country would be prisoners or captives. We do not live in a time where wars are officially declared or sanctioned by governments through formalized documents. Wars are declared through invasions (such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine), bombings (such as Al-Qaeda’s destruction of the twin towers), etc. The U$A has waged war against the oppressed nations inside their borders through mass imprisonment and police occupation – thinly disguised as “war on crime” or “war on drugs.” During this mass imprisonment and lumpenization of the oppressed nation masses through the criminal inju$tice system, inmates are those who collaborate with the pigs behind bars – a consciousness of a lumpen class in itself. A lumpen class for itself, as Marx used the term, would recognize the political importance of the two distinctions.
As stated earlier, the stop snitching slogan can be utilized as principled solidarity as fellow oppressed nationals within the constant anti-people activities of the lumpen class. Through popular support, such as hip-hop culture, this stop snitching principle would even extend beyond street life into the youth where telling on adults or school teachers would even be considered snitching. The principle of a specific lumpen life now become a general platitude and empty virtue. We ask our imprisoned lumpen readers, can snitching really be stopped without independent power from the oppressor? What would it mean to be loyal to “your people” or “your folks”? Can the principle of anti-snitching be applied to the enemy who it is designed to protect fellow oppressed nations or lumpen from in the first place?
We hope to move the discussion a step forward for our readers who seek to transform the anti-people gangster mentality to the pro-people revolutionary path. Using the few rights that the oppressed are given against the oppressor to build power among the masses is not snitching. Perhaps this over-emphasis on snitching on fellow criminals (as the government are criminals oftentimes in lawless corners of society such as prisons) shows the class in itself level consciousness that many of our readers might be susceptible to.
On 6 September 2023 the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison system mandated a statewide Lockdown due to the number of deaths related to drugs: a total of 16. They think that will stop the flow of drugs, but you and I know that it will not. You and I know that as long as you have officers that are willing, it will continue.
…Most here are having to do all of their sentence, and some have said fuck it, I will continue to get high. They don’t have to worry about going to jail, cause they are already in jail. But it seems to be that the only ones making parole are the ones that consistently stay high. Do you think that if more were making parole that would cut down on some of the drugs being used?
Choper reports from Bill Clements on the same day: The Bill Clements Unit has been continually operating at 20% to 30% short of staff for three straight years now. In Ad-Seg I have had my 1 hour out of cell 4 times in 2 years. We have had spaghetti sauce and beans 2x per day every day for 90+ days. Commissary always has an excuse why they don’t run and library runs roughly 6x per year instead of weekly.
The wardens and majors and rank walk through and focus on taking down pictures and string lines. Micromanaging the small shit instead of handling real issues like starvation and excessive suicide. There is no medical provider on staff here so don’t run medical. No mental health. Prescriptions run out long ago and nobody to refill.
Today we are on lockdown because they can’t control contraband: this itself is an admission of failure by staff. I mean you can’t manage 20-30% staff? WTF would they do with 100% staff? Their incompetence is killing, literally killing us. As in deaths. A lot of them.
A Connally Unit prisoner wrote on 25 September 2023: I am currently G5 custody level being held at Connally Unit in Kennedy, Texas at a Texas State Prison (TDCJ). We are currently on lockdown. I believe all TDCJ is under lockdown. Apparently they are cracking down on narcotics and any other form of contraband. We have been on lockdown since Wednesday, 6 September 2023. Correction, that was an annual lockdown. We had a restriction lockdown on 24 August 2023, and we have been on lockdown ever since.
Our last commissary day, the last time we actually hit, was on August 21st. I believe we are supposed to go every 30 days or so, at least a hygiene store and we haven’t had any of that! The first restriction lockdown was placed (not formally but rumor goes) because someone snitched gave TDCJ staff heads up about some contraband and people involved. Who and what I am not sure. I am not allowed out of the cell except for showers! Up until recently they was not running showers regularly.
We received tablets (all G5 custody) on Tuesday, 19 September 2023. Since then things have gotten way better! Showers run more regularly, food comes at reasonable times. We get cold water runs! The food portions are better than before. The fires have stopped! You know, I am not sure if visitation is now open. The terrors have since stopped though! What a relief. Ok, so the terrors began on the 1st day of restriction lockdown (8/24) I couldn’t see much and didn’t know what was going on but they raided (shookdown) a couple people’s cells in 8 Building L pod 3 section. We was never informed that we was placed on restriction lockdown or why. I found out gossip from another inmate.
Since day one, no showers, no cold water runs, no heat respite, (I don’t believe G5’s get any respite) small food portions and they would run late. It is extremely hot in Connally. It is even hotter back here. Connally Unit is a down south Texas max security unit. There have been multiple times I have passed out due to the heat, woken up with major headaches, bloodshot eyes, and chapped lips!
…They shook us down on September 9th, Saturday. They didn’t finish the whole building til 15th or 16th, which is about when we got our dearly beloved SSI’s back!!! The suffering ends, partially… When they shook us down – cell search – they took the whole section out cell by cell in cuffs, and placed half the section in one side multi-purpose room and the other half in another multi-purpose room.
We came back to a Great Mess! Haha, I don’t mind the mess, I had to re-organize my belongings anyways. I wonder why they would ask us to place our things, all of our property, neatly on our own bunks, mattress like this and that, come back to our things mixed up?! Comical! One dude went hysterical, yelling at the laws and complaining about coffee spilled on all his property! Clothes, sheets, family pictures, etc. Then, here come the fires! Multiple inmates was angry, each with their own complaints. By this time the guards had given up on putting out the fires. Which is unpleasant, adding heat literally to the already hot building and smoke. Many times I had to cover up not to breath the toxic carbon monoxide! The section gets so full of smoke it’s completely black. I figured the best thing to do was place one fan by the door blowing outwards and a fan by the window blowing hot air in. I would have to place a wet towel on the door to keep smoke from coming in. Every day was something new, every day an issue appeared! Every day a fire was made, some two, some three at a time, two or three times a day… The last fire was put out by an officer, a sergeant.
Both Russia and Ukraine have problems of fascism in their society expressed through the most reactionary elements of the Wagner Group of Russia and the infamous Azov Battalion of Ukraine. Both sides are vehement anti-communists despite the sensationalist portrayals of Putin as a USSR-esque tyrant in mainstream media political cartoons. Ukrainian reactionaries will topple down Soviet era statues while for the Russian imperialists, Ukraine itself is a giant Soviet era statue that must be toppled down and engulfed into Russia. Ukraine would have never gotten its independence in the first place without the world’s first proletarian dictatorship of the USSR.
Unlike the United $tates, Japan, Western Europe, and etc., Russian imperialism does not have a majority labor aristocrat population (despite a very significant one) and the class interests of the Russian proletariat lines up with the class interests of the Ukrainian proletariat against Russian and NATO imperialism.(0)
At best, Soviet nostalgia expressed in Russia longs for social-imperialist era command economy coupled with resentment of the political-economic crises caused by the complete opening up of Soviet markets. It is an unscientific frustration of the general masses in Russia. At worst, it is a rallying tool for current Russian imperialism’s moral justification akin to how concepts like democracy, freedom, and women’s rights were rallying tools of U.$. imperialism’s military invasions in the Middle East. We wish to practice revolutionary optimism in regards for the anti-revisionist communists in Russia and Ukraine who could take this popular sentiment away from the hands of the imperialists and into the hands of the broad masses.
One significant development this summer was an attempted coup by the Wagner Group against the government of Russia. For our readers who might not know, the Wagner group is a private military mercenary group of the Russian Federation formed through the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea.(1) While its origins are unclear, the group has been claimed to have been founded by both Dmitry Utkin and Yevgeny Prigozhin with the the former having been the field military commander and the latter being the financier and military programmer.(2) Utikin, being a veteran of the Chechen Wars, was said to have had great admiration of Nazi Germany and his nickname in the battlefield was given by eir fellow imperialist soldiers as “Wagner” named after the German composer whose music was popularly used by Hitler and eir fascist goons as rallying songs during marches.(3) Due to the Nazi ideologies which were part of the Wagner Group’s political DNA from the start, fascist slogans and graffiti by the group’s presence in Ukraine has been known to have surfaced.(4)
On 20 May 2023 Prigozhin, at the time the top commander of the Wagner Group, took the city of Bakhmut, Ukraine.(5) Ey criticized top Russian officials of the military, the defense minister, and the chief of general staff withholding artillery ammunition from the Wagner Group and accused them of “high treason.”(6) Defense minister Sergei Shoigu announced that all members of “volunteer units” must be required to sign contracts with the ministry by July 1st in order to get Wagner and similar mercenary groups under a tighter leash. Despite Prigozhin’s close loyalty to Putin, the latter has chosen to back the defense minister’s decision.(7)
On the midnight of 24 June 2023, Prigozhin while denying to sign the contract and have eir fascist mercenary goons under Russian imperialist control announced a “march for justice” leaving Ukraine and having the first column enter Russia’s Southern Military District. Prigozhin demanded that Shoigu and Gerasimov be brought to him and held a blockade of the city. On the city of Voronezh, the group shot down Russian military helicopters and a command aircraft killing at least a dozen soldiers marking the start of the rebellion.(8) With Putin’s condemnation and the labeling of Prigozhin’s act as treason, the rebellion came to a quick end. On the Sunday of 24 August 2023, Russian authorities have confirmed that Prigozhin has died in a plane crash.(9)
The rhetoric that Russia is an anti-fascist or anti-colonial force in the global imperialist system is a bold-faced lie of Russian imperialism. Acknowledging this fact is in no way supporting Ukraine’s own fascism ridden government. It is the instinct of petty-bourgeois moralism to see armed conflicts as a side of the good guys and the bad guys. This war itself is an inter-imperialist battle where Russian imperialism seeks to gain global hegemony against U.$./NATO aligned forces and where the nation of Ukraine is caught in the middle of this geo-political tug-of-war. The fact that the fascists of Ukraine’s Azov Battalion and the fascists of Russia’s Wagner Group are fighting each other is just another telltale sign how fascism is an incoherent nihilistic political trend that must be stomped out.
Russia Sympathies Among the Masses
Many prisoner comrades have written to us since the previous article was published where they expressed some sympathies for Russian imperialism. Many arguments had to do with the fact that Russian imperialism was defending itself against the NATO/U.$. led powers.
A California prisoner commented:
”I hear too many well proclaimed communists taking sides with Ukraine. “Putin is a fascist,” “Putin is imperialist,” etc…
As a prisoner I have learned to be very cautious about taking sides, I see all kinds of evil up here everyday: a lot of schemes, manipulations, scam artists. I see all of them here in prison.
So why? Why is the United $nakes so interested in Ukraine winning? Why is it worth trillions of dollars to the U.$. for Ukraine to win? We, the common people like myself, does not understand things like the stock market, and the grain exchange. I understand that grain is sold for money. What I don’t understand is how a whole completely separate market created out of thin air, selling absolutely nothing but grain calling itself the grain exchange that is something only the capitalists who run the world understand.
If I had to guess with my simple mind, I would say that Ukraine sells its grain to the west at a premium as a means to launder dirty drug money. But that’s just my simple mind. It probably has more to do with the grain exchange, capitalism itself.“
One sentiment we can agree with this prisoner comrade is that the job of communists and revolutionaries in the U.$. would be to see U.$. imperialism as their principal enemy. Many communists can so far agree with this line, the problem comes in deeper with regards to the analysis of other major imperialist countries – especially ones that spout anti-imperialist rhetoric in words such as while in practice commit imperialism that rivals the traditional NATO imperialist powers..
We would like to iterate to this comrade that their mind isn’t so simple as ey might let off. We appreciate the humbleness that revolutionaries should have that this comrade has shown, but in the end the contrite and popular phrase that the imperialist governments are the real criminals is true. Sure, we wouldn’t boil down world imperialism to money laundering; but theft and murder are important objectionable aspects of imperialism. We see many imprisoned comrades who project the anti-people crimes they struggle to overcome onto the criminal ways of the imperialists, and for a starting point these oversimplifications might not be the worst thing as a step towards revolutionary thinking.
With that said we would disagree that Russia is doing self-defense with regards to their invasion of Ukraine. As the above points laid out, we should avoid choosing sides in inter-imperialist conflict even though the U.$. and NATO imperialist forces didn’t have direct boots in Ukraine (which the comrade has also expressed as well).
The real question comes in as how Lenin’s theses on “The Defeat of One’s Own Government in the Imperialist War” would mean in practice in our current material conditions where the revolutionary forces are much weaker and arguably much more revisionist and opportunist than even the revisionist European and imperialist country communist movements which Lenin was writing polemics against.(10) One point that we can start from is this: the war that we should be focusing on is the war waged by Amerika against its internal semi-colonies of the Black, Chican@, and Indigenous Nations through mass imprisonment and police occupation. With this issue’s Under Lock & Key covering the topic of how “Prisons Are War,” we would like to further expand on how prisons play this role of low-intensity genocide against the masses.
Rhetorical Rhetoric composed in a symphony of tactical swears of Infamy, Musik filling idle Hands of youthful Revolutionaries, inducing Rebellion and Civil disobedience, against the Systematic Repression of Authorities, as we’re defiantly resisting political ploys of distraction targeting us in silent wars, with Ruses of Fake News, as the media glorifies Police as Heroes while they Kill the innocent without consequence or Justice, they’re the Evil we strive against, with every ounce of our beings, they’re straw dogs and paper tigers, a gang costumed behind authority we don’t recognize, for the only authority is God, the only one to Judge us, Enemies of the POLICE State, who demand allegiance to Arbitrary capricious laws by Riflepoint for Farcical Freedom that Does Not Exist in Enslaved Minds of Ignorance, Miss Me with the pitch of Nationalistic Propaganda for WE THE PEOPLE exist to Resist control tactics with self-determination and Freewill, A Resistance Refusing conformity to mainstream idealisms of a Government that does not represent us, or our constitutional Rights, we Are P.O.W’s, Prisoner’s of War, waged with law, which we must wield as Arms we Bear; fighting for freedom in these Modern-Day Concentration Camps, for if we Are ignorant of our Rights and laws that govern us we are powerless and Dead to rights, Authorities rather distract us, with devices of our own destruction perpetuating intolerance and fueling fires of prejudice that weaken our resolve of unity to Rise against their system of control, generating Revenue to keep the cell full in their Monopoly of Incarceration, while we complacently standby as their Human degradation oppresses our generations stealing our time, let Rebellion enter our Mind STATE, since we Are left Dead to Rights without any Alternatives, we Must beat the Drum of Anarchy, or we will never see freedom, nor will our children, one word wielded as war weapons at a time, Empowering the Mind’s of Masses united by common grievances that call us to fight side by side, putting aside differences, for the enemy of my enemy is my friend, sedition charismatically spoken by a leader inspires our Movement, one of counter-culture Activists cutting strings of delusion attached to our souls, by belief systems that no longer serve our interests, No longer will we obey as puppets dancing for malevolent puppeteers of Governments we no longer recognize; ones who rendered us Enemies of The STATE, with usurpation of our inalienable constitutional Rights, so there’s Nothing left but determined defiance, using their own plots, ploys, contrived Artifice and stratagem tactics as our own against them, in suits of Individual Capacity to Levy their Assets since their Immunity is an illusion, one we must mercilessly exploit, battling the system systemically, making us all wealthy, taking back what’s ours, they illegality makes them easy targets in the court, with Civil Rights suits, we hunt the Leviathan of the Prison Industry, that made us slaves and commodities on the market of Incarceration, with warrior Minds we can pry open the blinded eyes of injustice; Lex Talionis, Eye for an Eye, the solution of Revolution Kids, as Partisans of propaganda by deeds, “Gazavat” our sacred struggle, against State Entities of Oppression in the color of Law, we are Freedom Fighters, patriots, Guerrillas in concrete jungles refreshing the Tree of Liberty with our Blood.
MIM(Prisons) notes: We thought these lyrics fit well with the theme of Under Lock & Key 83. However, we of course measure our correctness through action with the international proletariat as the ultimate judges of how we performed.
In 1970 few of Attica’s captives made more than 6 cents a day and the state’s food budget was a meager 63 cents per day per prisoner, causing able-bodied men to go to bed hungry in, of all places, the United $tates of America! These same men were also only allowed 1 shower per week & spent 15-24 hours everyday locked in tiny cages as if they were some type of exotic bird. For prisoners from the New York City area it would cost loved ones over $100 in travel expenses to visit and 24 hours of time away from work, school, etc., leaving no realistic way for those struggling to provide help to their loved ones in the future if they did in fact decide to visit.
With money being a known issue for these poor Black and Brown prisoners, doctors at Attica Correctional Facility would offer these men money to be “volunteers” as subjects for exposure to a test virus.(1) Albeit, these men were made to sign informed consent agreements being denied access to real vocational & educational training opportunities and/or drug programs. How “informed” were they really? Only 1.6% of Attica’s operating budget was allotted to academic & vocational training. That is 1.6% out of 100%! So, malnourished, ignored, & hindered from life skills, “They’d need to fight the invisibility that comes with being poor… They would have to work just to learn!” (quoting imperialist Michelle Obama) And “a riot is the language of the unheard.” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)
What was falling on deaf ears were a list of 15 “practical proposals” by these oppressed prisoners, which could’ve been easily agreed to putting an end to this uprising. Question: Why not “allow all inmates at their own expense to communicate with anyone they please”? (Request #5) Why not “when an inmate reaches conditional release, give him a full release without parole”? (Request #6) Why not “institute realistic rehabilitation programs for all inmates according to their offense & personal needs”? (Request #8) Why not “educate all Correctional Officers to the needs of the inmates, i.e. understanding rather than punishment,” (Request #9) & so on & so forth.(2)
Instead government would rather send in armed troopers, policemen, Correctional Officers, Conservation Corps helicopters that would drop C.S. gas [orthochlorobenzylidene] that would hang suspended in the air causing tearing, nausea, & retching in anyone that inhales it. Instead, Governor Rockefeller via Executive Order No. 51, even after all inside were immobilized by the gas, would give the command: “Tell all your units to move in!” Cosigning the murder of hostages and prisoners alike. “Trooper Gerard Smith … saw a trooper approach a prisoner who was lying still on the pavement and shoot him in the head.”(3) “It was very painful to see all these old & crippled guys getting shot … They were in D yard because they had no place else to go.”(4) “Another prisoner who had been shot in the abdomen & in the leg was ordered to get up and walk, which he was unable to do. ‘The trooper then shot him in the head with a handgun.’”(5) “Guard Robert Curtiss also felt the fear of imminent death when a trooper kept knocking him over every time he tried to sit up. He shouted… that he was an officer, but still had to beg the trooper not to shoot him.”(6) “Ultimately … 128 men were shot – some … multiple times … 9 hostages were dead & … 29 prisoners had been fatally shot.”(7) Another hostage in critical condition would later die, pushing the total to 10 hostages killed. “The most tragic thing about the bloody riot & massacre … is that it could have been avoided. If the state had listened to warnings from correctional officers, if administration had shown a modicum of sensitivity in providing for the inmates – if the state had just listened, the revolt might never have occurred!”(8)
For this carnage, escalated by the state to a protest for civil rights and basic liberties, you must blame someone and so you charge 63 prisoner survivors with 1,289 crimes, and not 1 single trooper or guard was indicted. However, some of these survivors continued to fight & share their little light on the hidden truth(s) and via civil rights litigation would win their lawsuit against one man, Attica’s deputy superintendent Karl Pfeil. But, “if any defendant was found liable, the state was liable, and this was no small thing.”(9)
On 5 June 1997, they awarded one of the survivors “Big Black” $4 million in damages. The state would recoup for these losses by underhandedly paying hostage survivors and surviving family members from the workman’s compensation fund, knowing that these people could no longer sue under NYS law because they had elected a remedy the moment they cashed these much needed checks. This is after 2,349 - 3,132 lethal pellets from shotguns were fired indiscriminately in Attica’s D yard; 8 rounds from a .357 caliber; 27 rounds from a .38 caliber & 68 rounds from a .270 caliber, [not to include C.O.’s and other members of law enforcement] fully aware that not 1 prisoner or hostage had a single firearm.
You don’t show a modicum of remorse & pay everyone their just due, but instead you con and scam the dead in the name of budgeting. “40 years after the uprising of 1971, conditions at Attica were worse than they had ever been … by 2001 the Department of Correctional Services had cut over 1200 programs providing services to inmates that were there in 1991.”(10) I wonder how much more money they’d save if they cut out prison & kept the programs? There will be more Attica’s until Federal and State governments and the American people accept their responsibility to establish minimum standards of decency & respect for human rights in our prisons. We cannot afford to wait for new explosions." (Senator Jacob Javits) Instead of waiting for “new explosions” why not get rid of the powdered keg altogether… prisons!
In remembrance of Sept. 9, 1971 REST IN POWER
MIM(Prisons) adds: This issue of ULK is inspired by recent scholarship by Orisanmi Burton, that centers around Attica. One of the points made by Burton is about the revolutionary vision of leaders in Attica and other contemporary organizing efforts, some of which included the same people. These were people who were members of or worked closely with formations like the Black Panther Party, Young Lords Party, Republic of New Afrika, the Puerto Rican Nationalist movement, etc.
One of the conclusions drawn from this is that the reformist demands listed by the comrade above were merely a campaign, with obvious and reasonable demands, that would appeal to the broadest sectors in this country. These reformist demands were not the be all end all goals for many of the leaders involved in these movements. They were winnable demands within a broader strategy for total liberation from oppression.
Notes: 1. Dr. Michael Brandriss, Interview Transcript, Aug. 18, 2012, Criminal Injustice: Death & Politics at Attica, (Blue Sky Project 2012). 2. Richard X Clark, Testimony, Akil Al-Jundi et al. v. The Estate of Nelson A. Rockefeller et al., October 25, 1991, 131;133. 3. Heather Ann Thompson, Blood in the Water p. 183 (Vintage Books)(2016). 4. Ibid. @ p. 184 5. Ibid. @ p. 185 6. Ibid @ p. 186 7. Ibid @ p. 187 8. Ibid. @ p. 260 9. Ibid. @ p. 477 10. Ibid. @ p. 567
Yesterday, National Public Radio (NPR) aired an interview with a former prisoner in Iran to discuss the recent release of 5 Amerikan citizens from an Iranian prison. The focus was on the horrible effects of solitary confinement and how to adapt to being back in society.
In our 2008 survey of long-term solitary confinement in the United $tates, we found that there were over 90,000 people suffering in those conditions. It is strange for the NPR story to not have mentioned this problem at home as well, or how the oppressed people in this country fair after years in torture cells. The NPR report spoke of “death chambers” in the Iranian prison, yet the United $tates has electric and now injection chairs with viewing areas and what they call “death row” in prisons across this country (though only about a dozen states are actively murdering prisoners in recent years).
The United $tates has long had the highest imprisonment rate across the world. They even boasted a higher imprisonment rate of Black people than the internationally condemned apartheid regime in South Africa.
The one-sided depiction of prisons and solitary confinement in Iran on NPR revealed a strong bias in their reporting. Yet what was most shocking to learn was that these people coming out of Iranian prisons were being offered what sounded like a fully immersive program through the U.$. military for dealing with the mental anguish of being in long-term solitary confinement.
Really? Yet every year we have comrades who are released from the same conditions in this country with nothing but a parole officer watching over them, often sabotaging their efforts to maintain a job and build a new life. Tens of thousands of people every year are released from long-term solitary in the United $tates, either into general population prisons or to the streets, with no concern for their mental well-being from the state. Who the U.$. imperialists offer mental health services to is a political decision, and it is our politics that guide us to offer help to those the imperialists will not.
As of last week, the California Mandela Act (AB 280) passed a supermajority in the state house and senate, heading next to the desk of Governor Newsom. Newsom vetoed the Mandela Act just one year ago. An aspiring presidential candidate, Newsom is likely to reject the calls from the state legislator to stop this torture again. This is over a decade after the historic California hunger strikes that called for an end to long-term solitary confinement, leading to the 2015 Ashker vs. CDCR settlement where those sacrifices led only to individuals being released from the SHU, leaving the institution in place. [UPDATE: The bill has been stalled to negotiate with the Governor and will not be passed in 2023.]
For comrades currently suffering in torture cells in U.$. prisons, you can write to us for back issues of Under Lock & Key on solitary and materials from the American Friends Service Committee on dealing with isolation. For comrades who are getting out, who have spent long periods in solitary, our Re-Lease on Life Program attempts to offer mentoring, guidance and political engagement to ease the transition back into society. Meanwhile, we encourage everyone to get involved in the struggle to abolish long-term solitary confinement in this country completely.
Because over 100,000 people face torture in solitary in the United $tates every year with no imperialist Army programs for rehabilitation offered afterwards, we must develop independent institutions of the oppressed to address this material need among the oppressed masses in this country.
On 26 July 2023, Niger’s Presidential Guard arrested President Bazoum and declared the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CNSP). On 27 July the military joined the coup in support of the new government. The coup has been denounced by the U.$., France, European Union, ECOWAS, and others. ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, is an organization of the comprador-bourgeoisie of 15 West-African states including Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and southern border of Niger. ECOWAS has threatened to invade Niger and restore the former government. Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and others have voiced support for the coup. Burkina Faso has declared that they would view an invasion of Niger as an act of war on themselves. What is to explain this web of contradictions and interests?
Since Niger’s independence in 1960 there have been a total of 4 coups. This has been viewed by bourgeois media as the inability of Niger to create a stable democracy on their own without the “aid” of the imperialist masters. This line coming from France is especially hypocritical as the one party system in Niger during 1960-1974 was in large part France’s doing, with the banning of parties such as the Mouvement Socialiste Africain-Sawaba (MSA). In reality, the independence Niger gained in 1960 is wildly exaggerated. Niger’s status as a French colony since 1922 has led many to believe that their liberation from this status represents a complete independence, as is enjoyed by the likes of France and Amerika. On the contrary, France and Amerika combined have over 2,500 troops stationed within Niger’s borders with billions invested in the construction and maintenance of military and drone bases. This is because Niger contains vast uranium reserves which are vital particularly in France’s energy supply. “Areva” was, before 2016, a state-owned French company operating in nuclear energy. Through a series of acquisitions, Areva became a major player in Niger’s uranium industry.
“AREVA’s two subsidiaries in Niger, Somaïr and Cominak, benefit from a number of tax advantages: exemptions from duties, VAT and even fuel taxes, which they use in massive amounts. A ‘provision for the reconstruction of mines’ also lets them set aside 20% of their profits which are therefore excluded from corporate taxes. In 2010, the two subsidiaries extracted a total of 114,346 metric tonnes of uranium in Niger, representing an export value of 2.3 trillion CFA francs (over 3.5 billion euros). From that sum, Niger was only paid 300 billion CFA francs (approximately 459 million euros), or 13% of the exported value.” (1)
On top of this, Niger uses the West African CFA franc which allows France significant control over the economy. This exploitation has produced revolutionary views among the people that the new government is seeking to pander to. The CNSP government gave an order for the French diplomats to leave the country and has echoed the anti-French sentiment in popular protests. We uphold the revolutionary anti-French sentiment of the people of Niger while also recognizing that this is a common tactic and method of the bourgeoisie in order to adopt and assimilate national liberation movements.
The purely economic exploitation of Niger is the form which imperialism takes that distinguishes it from colonialism. Because the market says that this trade is fair, and the market is ingrained in people’s minds as eternal, people assume that this is just the way it is and Niger will need to find some way to operate more successfully in the market. In reality, the terms of this trade benefit France at the expense of Niger; but Niger has no political-economic power to assert its own interests. The imperialist exploitation of their land and resources combined with the devastating health effects of uranium mining has produced a strong anti-imperialist movement which Amerika and France are attempting to deal with. Niger is a majority peasant country, which means that its anti-imperialist movement is of the new democratic type involving the national bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie, peasantry, and proletariat, with the peasantry as the major reserve. The event of 26 July, as a coup led by pre-established powers, was a movement with the national bourgeoisie at the spearhead. If Niger is going to see liberation, the national bourgeoisie must be replaced by the proletariat at the vanguard.
The 4th Republic of France (1944-1958) retained its colonial rule over Niger. The contradictions of this rule collapsed the 4th Republic and forced colonialism into advanced imperialism. Rather than direct political rule, the 5th French Republic had to cede independence to its colonies and retain only economic control. The so-called independence of Niger is a facade. The instability in Niger and the consequently frequent shifting of power from one faction to another is the unfolding of the contradiction among the national bourgeoisie and the comprador bourgeoisie (and oftentimes factions within the two class forces as well). It will only reach its next qualitative stage through revolution: not power struggles of one section of the comprador regime by another. This is only possible through a dictatorship led by the proletariat of Niger in a new democratic united front alongside the peasantry, the progressive national-bourgeoisie, the petty-bourgeoisie, and lumpen-proletarians who have decided to join the revolution.
China and Russia have made statements regarding the situation that have led some to believe they are allies of Niger, or at least not explicitly opposed to the coup. “Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia called for all sides in Niger to show restraint, and for the fastest possible return to legal order.”(2) Aljazeera reported on a supposed Wagner Group statement that was explicit in support for Niger: “What happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonizers.”(3) “The Chinese government intends to provide good offices, play a mediating role so that a political resolution to the crisis in Niger could be found with full respect to countries in the region,” the ambassador said at a meeting with Niger’s rebel-appointed prime minister, Ali Lamine Zeine. (4)
Can Niger throw off Amerika and France by allying with China and Russia? Certainly the hystory of the struggle of the oppressed shows that the tactical utility of the contradictions between the oppressors is indispensable to the revolutionary struggle. But without scientific leadership these complex contradictions cannot be managed and alliance with one or another imperialist will result in a change of oppressor and not the overthrow of all oppression. We believe in the strength of the people of Niger, and the CNSP government may succeed in cutting french monopoly in the interests of the nation. This will heighten the contradiction, leading to the preconditions for war and contributing to the world conditions for another Great Inter-Imperialist World War as Niger struggles for allies. Imperialism, rotting alive for more than 100 years, is in a dubious position to survive such an event.
by a North Carolina prisoner September 2023 permalink
The No. 80, Winter 2023 edition of Under Lock & Key hosted an article titled “Sacrifice Behind Bars”, wherein a comrade expressed very heavy sentiments that I intend to magnify and address from a revolutionary perspective. The details of his mention were strikingly consistent with the circumstances and characters of the North Carolina prison system enabling an apparent conclusion that our obstacles as lumpen are, indeed, collective. To that extent I consider it necessary to re-evaluate our responsibilities as revolutionaries from within; as they are comparable to our revolutionary history as Marxist-Leninist-Maoists.
The central theme of the comrade’s message can be boiled down to one question he posed: “what are you willing to sacrifice?” The comrade illustrated his legacy of sacrifice to which he is honored and should know he’s not alone in that identical regard. However, for the new-coming comrade who may not understand his conviction yet and is attracted to his energy and posture; for the seasoned comrade who may be becoming burned out; for the growing comrade who may be struggling with understanding this political line; and for the critic, we must unify on the collective understanding of why sacrifice is necessary and how to measure the particular type of sacrifice to be offered for our revolutionary objective.
The author of that article asks the question of sacrifice to comrades on the streets and comrades within alike. Demonstrating his willingness to actualize guerrilla tactics amidst similarly situated individuals who have been compromised in exchange for goods supplied by the opposition makes it apparent that a revolutionary united front is diminished in that environment, to say the least. Essential to being compromised is the viewing that an individual – or a class – is not only without, but is desperate, moralless and to whatever degree, gullible. With respect to comrade’s mention of such individuals, we should not haste into judgment nor spring into belligerence without careful and scientific observation of our own perspective. It is not sound to conclude that it is an immaculate practice of social science for the opposition to infiltrate a mind that has never operated outside of its conditioning by that opposition. “Boy they got you good” etc. is not technically true if that person is underdeveloped morally, politically, and intellectually. Even if that person is from where you are from and have been through similar experiences. If you are a conscious revolutionary – conscious in the sense that you are aware of and intuit the frame of thinking employed by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong – then you are unique: especially coming from capitalist-imperialist Amerikkka. That’s nothing to pride yourself on in arrogance nor egoism, its to empower your desire to fulfill your responsibilities to those unconscious. Therefore, to be ‘revolutionary’ in its most rudimentary expression is to redirect the impulses to be inhuman as you usher in humanism.
If one is morally sound, intellectually competent, and has a desire for general welfare of others, then from those perspectives that one is enriched, if he/she/they have not sequestered the abstract and subtle impetus of the capitalist-imperialist nature of his/her/their cultural (and political-economic) domicile then even with the above virtues, in those contexts, what will be is a repeat of what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels called in The Communist Manifesto ‘reactionary socialism’; the remnants of feudal socialism. This is to the extent and in the regard of issuing counter-narratives in sole order to arouse sympathy in those who aren’t as ‘enriched’ as you to behave in a way that secures your sense of comfort. The motivations are not comparable in that example and the circumstances are as night and day by juxtapose. However, by principle and mentality its enough to say that one could be more creative from a revolutionary vantage point.
Sacrifice of any sort is rooted in the intention for a net-positive future occurrence. Therefore, the theoretical objectification of that sacrificial act bears no weight on the immediate circumstances one experiences. To add on to the comrade’s thoughts, what you are willing to sacrifice depends on your measure of awareness of what is to come of it. The knowledge of the accuracy of what is to come is based on your ability to identify with the material circumstances – emphasis on the conditions that define them – of that situation as it relates to your theory, essentially, of the world. From a revolutionary perspective ‘the world’ includes others, so when we speak of practice, i.e., sacrifice, it is necessarily unbalanced without theory.
If the masses, even in the prison setting, are viewed to be slumbering it is not for the revolutionary to wake them with a cacophony of political rhetoric, especially if their slumber is characterized by the fanaticals of capitalist production. So, we do place a high emphasis on practice. It is that practice must be guided by theory. Lenin stated:
“Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.” (V.I. Lenin, What is to be done?)
In his Selected Works Mao Zedong stated:
“Theoretical knowledge is acquired through practice and must then return to practice.” (Mao, On Practice: The Relation Between Knowledge and Practice, 1937)
Mao did not differ with Lenin in this regard, he magnified the principle of Lenin’s point. In real time this means to structure revolutionary practice in a manner that conveys the core principles at work in an action bound language that is interpretable to and for the observer all while being disciplined enough not to exaggerate your behavior as to make the demonstration unrealistic. The standard by which one can scale his/her/their proposed action is in one’s ability to become one with the reality of the situation; being cautious of personal biases and having rational and isolated conclusions about each component of the embodying manifest circumstance. The sum of this process is the base from which to determine what means of action to deploy. To that extent, we in prison have to be realistic without compromising our theory (i.e. political line), some of us have immense anger issues and if that is true for the proposed actor in a revolutionary demonstration then if the action to be had does require a use of force we must consider if that one is sufficient or not for the action. Use of force does not always mean complete annihilation or insurrection. Whatever is decided upon, the objective is to be clear and decisive. The actualizer must be disciplined enough to actualize the task without going too far and thereby jeopardizing the precision of the demonstration. Lenin and Mao actually had a revolution, so this frame of thinking is sound, its relevance here and now depends on our willingness to truly get with the program, i.e., Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
The answer to the comrade’s question to the world of sacrifice, should be proportional to the details of your circumstance and the individuals and lives it would effect; from a revolutionary perspective. Only a matter of intelligence compels the conclusion that revolution is sustained by an environment prepared for it. The blaze does not come before strenuous economic, political, financial, social, cultural, and theoretical preparation. Let us take the time we DO have and align ourselves with the correct theoretical knowledge.
North Carolina IS in the building. We have recently birthed a movement – S.W.A.P. (Serving With A Purpose) – which I am proud and honored to be a founding member of. S.W.A.P. is a N.C. prisoner-led organizational base empowered by the literary guidance of MLM and in unity with the United Front for Peace in Prisons; a United Struggle from Within initiative. Our halls of learning are open for all sisters, brothers, and non-binary comrades to partake in our programs and we are dedicated to organizing with comrades abroad on the basis of theory and practice – being MLM distinguished. We currently do provide a bi-monthly newsletter called Voice of the Lumpen, by which comrades may submit articles to be published, we host a penpal mentorship program with at risk youth both in facilities and those on the streets, we provide a jailhouse lawyer legal program called “Blue Skies Legal Initiative” where comrades can learn how to utilize legal provisions in a manner that furthers our political line, and are developing more programs as time progresses.
In the last month we have seen the state of Georgia bring RICO Act charges against Rudy Giuliani and others who worked with Donald Trump to steal the 2020 U.$. presidential election, as well as activists who were doing things as simple as handing out fliers opposing the construction of Cop City in Atlanta.
The Federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was enacted in 1970 as a tool to charge people with crimes when they were having other people do their dirty work for them. Each crime charged under RICO can add years to ones prison sentence. The Georgia RICO Act of 1980 covers more crimes than the federal version. The Georgia Act makes Racketeering a felony in the state.(1) Historically, we have had multiple readers who were victims of RICO Act charges brought during the Giuliani years in New York City, and more recently in the Atlanta area, for their leadership roles in lumpen organizations, the more typical target of RICO.
Rudy Giuliani earned fame as a federal prosecutor for getting Mafia bosses in New York City convicted on RICO Act charges. He then used his reputation to become a “tough-on-crime” mayor of New York City known for “cleaning up” the city. It was during Giuliani’s time as Mayor of NYC that the infamous case was brought against King Blood (aka Luis Felipe) under the RICO Act. King Blood was charged for murders committed while ey was already in prison and received the inhumane and unprecedented sentence of life in solitary confinement. All of King Blood’s First Amendment rights to communication were denied, allowing only communication with eir lawyer and immediate family. This was not typically something a judge could sentence, but was justified via the racketeering statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3582(d).(2) Decades later, King Blood still sits in a torture cage in ADX Florence, isolated from the world. While the RICO charges against Giuliani may provide some cathartic humor, the 79-year-old will not be facing anything like King Blood is doing.
Weeks following the Georgia RICO Act charges against Trump, Giuliani, et al., another set of RICO Act charges (and domestic terrorism charges) were made against 61 activists involved in opposing the construction of Cop City in Atlanta. This is a continuation of the state’s warfare against Stop Cop City, including the ludicrous money laundering charges brought against bail support fundraisers we reported on in the last issue of ULK.(3) In the recent RICO indictment, the date of the murder of George Floyd (25 May 2020) is cited as the beginning of the investigations around the so-called “racketeering.” In other words, the state was trumping up these charges against activists before there was a Stop Cop City movement. This is not about stopping any criminal conspiracy, it is about repressing any opposition to the use of lethal police force against New Afrika and oppressed people in general. It is a defense of the state’s right to wage violent war against New Afrika.
In a recent article, a comrade laid out the political nature of the law, debunking the myth that laws were developed as a way to impose morality or address inherent problems in society.(4) Rather law stemmed from the need to manage the division of humyns into classes. With Trump/Giuliani, we see the RICO Act law being used by the bourgeoisie to discipline other bourgeoisie who are threatening the image of bourgeois democracy. And in the case of the 61 activists they are using the same law to discipline youth and oppressed nations who are opposing more violent forms of state discipline.
When we go up against the courts, the police, or even the politicians, we must be prepared for war. The cops murdering us in cold blood is war. The courts and prisons putting us in torture cells for years is war. City governments in Atlanta and San Pablo, California funding cop cities where pigs can play war games is war. These more obvious forms of war, are part of political struggle. There are no rights, only power struggles. To engage in power struggles, requires giving the war two sides.
^*Notes: 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_RICO_(Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations)_Act 2. Prison Legal News, 15 March 1999, Judicial Sentence of Life in Solitary Upheld. 3. A comrade, July 2023, “Law and the Courts of Late”, Under Lock & Key No. 82. 4. A comrade of Anti-Imperialist Prisoner Support, July 2023 “Atlanta Criminalizes Protest Against Cop City”, Under Lock & Key No. 82.*^
I am continuing the fight in the struggle. I am recently lied on by the oppressors’ corrupt gang unit here saying I was organizing an unauthorized group activity and that I’m a leader of the White Panther Movement. They also said that I was trying to organize a riot and take over the prison from the guards because I try to unite and educate. They don’t like it. So I am in solitary awaiting to be placed in SHU here in the corrupt Ohio Concentration Camps.
I am filing grievances against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Corrections, because while in SHU we cannot order no books – not even legal books. Then last time I was placed in solitary they lost my legal book “self help litigation manual” and now they won’t allow me to re-order it at my own cost.
So the inspector has put fake tickets saying I threatened him, false. So know I am truly at war here.
Now in solitary they won’t allow no porter to my door to pass me a reading book or nothing. The library lady won’t bring me nothing either. So I’m in it.
I received the September 9th Organizing Pack and I am humbly and proud to say that with my broken English and strong Boricua accent I spoke (mostly yelled) from behind the door to the whole unit. Out of 85 prisoners in the SHU-CM1, at least half of the unit denied all three food trays that were put on the slots. Even though I was yelled at by guards to shut the fuck up and that i was disrupting their unit, I made my point.
At lunch time the guards had called the captain cuz they didn’t know what the hell was going on and that prisoners were refusing their trays. When the Captain asked me I informed him that it was out of respect for all those brothers that became martyrs in the Attica uprising and all those who have sacrificed their lives for the struggle against oppression. After, I was called a “radical freak.” He told the guards in the unit to not disturb us on that day. Later I found out that the Captain was from NY and has a blood brother doing time at Clinton Correctional Facility in NY.
“I hold that it is bad as far as we are concerned if a person, a political party, an army, or a school is not attacked by the enemy, for in that case it would definitely mean that we have sunk to the level of the enemy. It is good if we are attacked by the enemy, since it proves that we have drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves. It is still better if the enemy attacks us wildly and paints us as utterly black and without a single virtue; it demonstrates that we have not only drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves but achieved a great deal in our work.”
-Mao Tse-tung (1)
Behind the walls of Amerika’s gulags there will come a time when every serious revolutionary (whether ey are organized in a cell or party structure, or in a small collective or political study group with eir comrades) will draw the eyes of the pig surveillance apparatus for eir political activity and organizing. Some, those that are well read and practiced in security and counter-surveillance, will no doubt last longer than others without scrutiny; but with all simple channels of communication under heavy surveillance – from audio equipped security cameras, to monitored, recorded, and archived phone calls, to mail room pigs sticking their hideous snouts into your mail (not to mention those dealing with smart communications/TextBehind/etc.) – the pig administration and rank and file can and will monitor, censor, obstruct, and otherwise engage in their reactionary low intensity warfare against political agitation and those that would dare to educate and unite the oppressed masses against Our common enemy: the state, its lackeys, and all they stand for. So, in a very real sense the gulags of the United $nakes are exactly that: WAR.
As the contradictions between the oppressor class and the oppressed are inherently antagonistic in nature, and playing out in a myriad of ways upon this particular front. This is not to say, however, that these antagonistic contradictions with the enemy are solely resolved in isolation from the larger struggle against imperialism and U.$. hegemony and capitalistic exploitation. Indeed, these struggles are one and the same; inter-related with each other.
Thus, Our efforts to educate, organize, and mobilize the masses toward socialist revolution are viciously repressed by the imperialists and their lackeys. Though, as Mao stated in the above quote, it would be bad if the enemy weren’t making a concerted effort to attack Us. The simple fact that they are engaged in the assault against Us means they are worried if not downright fearful, that We may succeed in realizing Our and Our countless fallen comrades’ lifelong goal and dream that We’ve all been struggling and striving for: the destruction of patriarchal capitalist-imperialist empire through social revolution and the ushering in of communism throughout the world.
And yet, as Mao correctly warned Us,
“The imperialists and domestic reactionaries will certainly not take their defeat lying down and they will struggle to the last ditch.”(2)
In so doing, they will utilize all available tactics to sabotage Us and Our efforts. Within the gulags in Amerika, the oppressor has a wide range of tactics to quash dissent. Indeed, the U.$. gulag archipelago is itself a tool used currently and hystorically against communists, anarchists, and all those the oppressor sees as a threat to the status quo. Other familiar tactics used against the politically active range from blatant assassination (George Jackson, San Quentin Aug. 21, 1971), assassination by pig proxy (The Aug. 12, 2015 assassination of Hugo “Yogi” Pinell by white supremacist prisoners Jayson Weaver and Waylon Pitchford at New Folsom Prison (3)), (in)definite solitary confinement, snitch-jacketing, targeted mail surveillance and censorship, etcetera, etcetera ad nauseam.
However, these tactics cease being their main focus once they understand (and they obviously do) a key fact; as Steven Biko so succinctly put it, “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” The pigs are fully aware, as are the imperialists, that a docile, unquestioning mass of sheeple is easier to control than an angry, educated, politically-conscious mass of revolutionary militants. To that end, they do everything within their power to reproduce these brainless sheeple in mass quantities: pigs engaging in widespread chemical warfare upon the imprisoned lumpen by introducing and pushing mass quantities of drugs while simultaneously banning publications like MIM(Prisons)’s “Revolutionary 12 Step Program”(4); amassing huge lists of banned books, often for ridiculous reasons, and more often as an extension of political repression; small, if any portions of gulag facility budgets spent on books for the library (and nearly all mind-numbing selections at that); the introduction of tablets for use, along with TV’s, to zone out on and isolate, ignoring the world and the problems around you in sheer ambivalence; and finally (though not conclusively) the lack of truly helpful classes/programs offered, while offering Eurocentric, status-quo affirming programs to get those foolish enough to take them “all ready to head back to ‘minimum security’ (the so-called ‘free world’) to re-acclimate to the oppression and exploitation ey had sadly been content with living under anyway.”
Much to the dismay of the imperialists and their pig lackeys, there are those of Us that see through their attempts to incapacitate Us, Our movements, and Our struggle for a better world. And we are multiplying, regardless of what they throw in Our way, and no matter how many times they try to divide Us. No matter what the oppressor tries, they will be out maneuvered again and again by Our overflowing revolutionary love for the People. All because the oppressor cannot grasp a simple truth that was reiterated again and again by Our beloved comrade Fred Hampton before he was assassinated by Chicago pigs and the FBI on December 1969, that still proves true to this day: “You can kill a revolutionary, but you can never kill the revolution.”
Notes: 1. Mao Tse-tung, “To Be Attacked by the Enemy Is Not a Bad Thing but a Good Thing” (May 26, 1939), First Pocket Edition, pg. 2. 2. Mao Tse-tung, “Opening Address at the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference” (September 21, 1949). 3. Nate Gartrell, 14 September 2023, “Aryan Brotherhood pair charged in fatal stabbing”, San Jose Mercury News. 4. See: Triumphant, November 2022, “TDCJ’s Repression of its Political Prisoners Leads to Devastating Effects Among the Wider Prison Population,” ULK No. 80. and Texas Prisoner, March 2021, “TDCJ: Your Staff are Bringing in the Drugs, and it Must Stop,” ULK No. 73.
Greetings, To all the “Warriors”, “Soldiers”, and “Comrades”, a new day is at hand. Those that have been subjected to “colonial rule” are rising up and ousting the “puppet regimes” installed by the enemy.
The brothers and sisters over in Afrika are saying “enough is enough!”. Those Afrikans over in France are also rising up! It’s only a matter of time before the Black, Brown, Red. and Yellow souljahs here on these shores say “Down with the imperialists and their flunkies!”.
We must unite and stand with those who wish to overthrow the puppets and install a government for the people and by the people.
Religion was part of the impetus that went into the creation of modern prisons in the United $tates of Amerika. With the opening of the Eastern State Penitentiary in 1829 in Philadelphia, the experiment of molding human behavior with confinement and a bible, the idea was isolation and self-reflection would lead to penitence and a corollary eradication of sin, or criminality. However, the seeding of religion within such a volatile atmosphere never took root as designed, but has nevertheless served a persisting role behind the walls, bars and fences of condemnation and incapacitation, with positive and negative consequences. This short article visits the phenomenon of Black religion as it occurs from a materialist perspective within the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC), and its implications relative to Black life inside and outside the walls.
Social organization within the MDOC is controlled by Black men from the enclaves of cities hosting large segments of Black denizens. Power dynamics on the prison yards were determined by crews and cliques from these enclaves, with the inhabitants of Detroit overwhelmingly determining the direction and atmosphere of the prison yard; but the power of crews and cliques would start to diminish as a result of the Black power movements of the 1960s and 70s which had serious implications on how social (power) dynamics would be reformed. This reshaped the inner prison structure within the MDOC.
The prison system witnessed an exodus of Blacks from Christianity into the bosom of Black Muslimhood (Islam) for many Black cons – often infused with a radicalism endemic of the times. As prisoners from the cross-section of Michigan cities with the largest Black neighborhoods adopted membership into religious organizations like the Moorish Science Temple of America (MSTA), Orthodox Islam, the Nation of Islam (NOI), and lastly the Melanic Palace (and Islamic Palace) of the Rising Sun (MPRS/MIPRS), the diversity of the crews/cliques coagulated into unions of these religious folds. The yard was now structured, for the most part, by these four religious blocs who set the rules of compliance and how prisoners related to the powers that be: prison guards and administrators.
These Black religions served multiple functions from individual protection and a greater collective security in the face of growing quantitative and qualitative changes characterized by violence; a sense of belonging; quasi-familyhood and a material support system, however loose; an avenue to educate oneself and engage in character edification for self-betterment; an alternative power base to offset, counter and resist the state agency of the MDOC and its forms of repression, oppression, and aggression typical of a white political body utilized to isolate, control and dominate potential Black rebels, societal dropouts, and the politicized elements capable of organizing and fomenting direct opposition to white racism and anti-Black hate and containment.
During the onset of the 1980s, the Melanic Islamic Palace of the Rising Sun caught fire with its inductee membership [soaring] to rival other Black religious groups. But what set the Melanic Islamic Palace apart was their willingness to inflict violence on prison guards and staff. This, too, would prove to have both positive and negative consequences. Positive in that energy was invested in degrees of political education and the building of a requisite consciousness steeped in Black nationalist rhetoric, which spilled over and was consumed primarily by the NOI, and to lesser degrees the MSTA and Orthodox Muslims. Negative in that the State, like any serious sociopolitical entity, started focusing attention on these groups which would later bloom into a tsunami of backlash and repression that would blast the political and radical elements out of MDOC religious groups, pushing them to take up a near exclusive God-centric and moralistic brand of religious practice.
The Melanics would eventually be repressed, banned from group service, and branded a security threat group which is tantamount to free society’s terrorist designation. The ripple effects of this move would fuel the aftershocks for decades to come to this very day. Political content and its verbiage are now nearly obsolete among the Black religious groups for fear of repression and possible banishment of group worship. Radical activism has not only largely died out, but can also be frowned upon by Black religious adherents. The yard structure and its rules based compliance has all but evaporated with exception of a few prisons. And with those older prisoners from the 1970s and 80s having returned to society, become frail seniors in prison or having died off, a leadership vacuum was opened to be filled by the incoming street gangs of the younger generation who would steer asunder the remaining residue of rule by structure. A by-product of this alteration in yard power has been that the Black religious groups have become old in age relative to its membership, have become socially and politically ineffective, and have reverted to existing as mere prison social groups who sometimes operate as prison yard gangs.
In the midst of the expiring decades in prison from the 1970s to the 2020s, the move towards Black Muslim-ism in prison has had some serious uninttended consequences, mainly, a lost and/or move away from Afrikanism (consciously and unconsciously). Plagued by anti-Afrikan bias as a result of post-slavery cultural, spiritual and mental colonialism (mentacide), with the exception of few, the Black Muslim groups argued instead for an Asiatic and/or Arab identity that didn’t require them to identify with the savage, barbarian, backward, uncivilized Africans who had no history and remained primitive, as their white masters had intentionally misinformed them during the breaking process of Afrikans to Niggas. And when/where a colonial based Blackness was expressed, unbeknownst to its propounders, it was delivered from a religious package that actually vitiated Blackness as it grew out of a Eurocentric conceptuality birthed during the Hellenistic epoch.
This contradictory pro-Black western (Eurocentric) religious conceptuality carries itself from behind the walls into open society as one of the nails in the coffin to serious liberation struggle advanced by Black people inside the imperialist center of North Amerika. Unfortunately, Black has proven to be ineffective as a sole basis for unity in this country as its nuanced nature cultures fragmentation, and Black western conceptualized religion only fuels the fractures of Blackness into an extreme polylithic substance that rejects a collective Black consciousness that’s bound for, or even focused on liberation.
But does there exist any light to dispel this dark period of irrelevant prison-religion utility? With the 2022 revision to the MDOC religious policy permitting the group service of the indigenous Afrikan Ifa spirituality, and the often radical Hebrew Israelite religion, one might argue the cusp of change is potentially present, and a new day may be dawning. However, I am not convinced. The perpetual distortion of indigenous Afrikan spirituality with western conceptuality spells doom to prospects of Black religion being utilized for liberation purposes. And like education, if a subject is not used for liberation, despite whatever radical nature it may acquire, and pro-Black or anti-white rhetoric it protest, its final product will prove to be a pro-Amerikan assimilationist one.
So the problem with Black religion in prison, speaking in the context of Blackness, no different than Black religious experience in the free world, is it’s devoid of power politics, is Eurocentric (laden with western [Hellenistic] concepts), and is reformist-integrationist-assimilationist (pro-Amerika). These three elements fight against the ability of the Black body to develop a monolithic character (collective consciousness), at least as it concerns Black unity as necessary for our capacity to adequately struggle for liberation or an activist model and mentality that is capable of loosening the screws and weakening the bricks of the prison complex structure.
Prison religion, or Black religion in general has made Karl Marx into a prophet where they serve to actualize his quote: “religion is the opium of the people.” And while I am certain over time many brothers within the MDOC will be exposed to Ifa and even grow to appreciate and practice it, no different than those brothers who have acquired knowledge about Kemeta, it will yet remain tethered to western monotheistic conceptuality through which brothers will be taught to practice it. In this way, it’ll be of little consequence as the receiving receptacles will fail to decolonize their minds of western conceptuality. Instead, the example of the Haitian revolutionaries must be followed by marrying our spirituality to struggle for power. Otherwise, Ifa will function as a mere symbol of Afrikanism, and brothers will be lying to themselves about being Afrikan-centered while actually promoting an inconsequential cultural nationalism that does absolutely nothing to foment a consciousness that could serve as models to alter prison conditions to their benefit. Ifa will be a mere badge of knowledge; a gold chain or Rolex shown off as a fetish, and will soon be denigrated to the margins of irrelevancy on par with the rest of black prison religions within the MDOC.
In my final analysis, drawing from more than two decades inside the cage, I conclude Black religion in the MDOC has been regressive. And contrary to some external beliefs outside the walls, Black prison-religion is not progressing towards Afrikan-based religious affiliation. Black Islamism is still the preferred go-to as it has successfully positioned itself as the popular vehicle for black intellectualism, freedom and expression of Black pride. In the end, however, Black religion in the MDOC is failing Black convicts and has betrayed and continues to betray authentic Black activism and struggle.
It’s uncanny how books fall into your hands at times. Recently my circle has been discussing the subject of prisoners of war (POW’s) in the United $nakes and, what do you know, a comrade slides me this book on a POW who died imprisoned, the Chiricahua Apache Chief Geronimo.
Going into the book I treaded lightly as biography type books are quite biased. Many of the tomes written on leaders of the oppressed within the empire tend to be heavily biased slander that amounts to imperialist propaganda. This book was written as an “Interview” by Barret while Geronimo was a POW at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I went into the book bracing myself for a book that would attempt to tell Geronimo’s story while promoting Amerikkkan ideals if even unconsciously. I was not wrong.
The subtitle of the book itself is an error: “The True Story of America’s Most Ferocious Warrior.” Geronimo was a First Nations warrior. America is the name of the white nation who stole the land it now occupies. The subtitle thus describes Geronimo as a member of this white settler nation which is ridiculous, as he fought against Amerikkka.
The first part of the book focuses on general Apache life with an emphasis on the mythology of the Apache creation story of origin. Steeped in the metaphysical ideas of a “God” and how a talking dragon would visit early ancestors. Sadly many of the world’s societies have such creation myths that are passed down. It highlights the need for a materialist approach to all we do and gives a glimpse of how the world would think if we were without dialectical materialism.
Part two, “The Mexicans”, answered a lot of questions I had. Here it describes how at one point Geronimo and his tribe traveled into “old Mexico” – as he calls it – and while the warrior went to trade in the town they returned to a massacre where it was reported that Mexican troops had killed everyone including Geronimo’s aging mother, wife, and three children.
I had often heard of Geronimo’s anti-Mexican sentiment, now I know why. Contradictions among the people continue today where oppressed nations fight for crumbs and leave devastation on either side. It’s disappointing to hear, knowing Geronimo’s passion for fighting Amerika it would have been beneficial for the oppressed to join forces and fight Amerika as this was in 1858, ten years after the U.$. war on Mexico and the birth of the Chican@ nation. Surely there was much resistance sparking and embers of resistance still burning.
I can’t stop to wonder had a united front of oppressed nations come together and resisted the U.$. how it would have resulted, add Black folks in the mix and it would be even better.
The first half of the book seemed to exalt Geronimo’s raids and murder of Mexican people. The first half has almost no mention of his war on the white nation, on which much of his reputation is built on.
Part three titled “The White Men” depicts various attacks and treachery when U.$. troops would call “peace” only to meet up and murder the Apache forces. At one point the Apache Chief Manigus-Colorado was called by the U.$. military for peace talks and assassinated. Geronimo seemed to be the only one who did not trust the U.$. troops or “white men” and thus never attended peace talks during that time period and lived through the treachery.
Chapter 16 titled “In Prison And On The War Path” was chilling to read. Here Geronimo contemplates war on Amerikkka and death. This portion of the book struck me more than any other of the passages. I feel his words and taste them internally. To me it’s as raw as it gets for those of us who are prisoners of war.
"In the summer of 1883 a rumor was current that the officers were again planning to imprison our leaders. This rumor served to revive the memory of all our past wrongs, the massacre in the tent at Apache Pass the fate of Mangus-Colorado, and my own unjust imprisonment, which might easily have been death to me.
“We thought it more manly to die on the war path than to be killed in prison.”
So much to unpack here. The mention of the leaders being imprisoned brought back memories of Pelican Bay SHU. The SHU was where leaders of the imprisoned oppressed nations in Califas were kidnapped and “imprisoned”. Taking leaders is a common practice of the oppressor nation. For Geronimo it triggered the Apache when they heard that their leaders would be kidnapped again. That’s a very traumatizing experience. I feel it. For those who have never been captured, tortured or kidnapped I can only say that the closest example I can give of Geronimo’s words here is that of a child who was kidnapped by a stranger, taken from their family and returned as an adult and then one day this persyn was either snatched again or told that another person would be kidnapped. Imagine the trauma this persyn would feel: the memories of being taken. The trauma likely became unbearable to the point that resistance, even resulting in death, must have seemed welcoming.
It seemed that every few pages Geronimo or his tribe would sign another treaty with Amerikkka. A lack of political investigation resulted in decisions based on subjectivity. As materialists we know that the oppressor will not relinquish power willingly, hystory has taught us that. Had Geronimo been a dialectical materialist he would have come to that realization much sooner.
Reading how the U.$. Army General Miles told Geronimo he would build Geronimo a house and give him access to cattle and provisions if he would simply stay in his place on the reservation was really revealing. Geronimo was a prisoner of war and knew it. Today many Chican@s and other oppressed don’t even know that we too are prisoners of war, for the U.$. war on Aztlan continues. We too are in a reservation called the United Snakes.
A low intensity war continues on the Chican@ nation. The U.$. government has always maintained an offensive on the colonies since the invasion was first launched, the offensive simply changes names, vehicle, and nationality, but its vision and operation remains fully intact. On April 20th, 1886 U.$. troops stationed in Arizona and New Mexico were issued this order by the U.$. War Department:
“The Chief object of the troops will be to capture or destroy any band of hostile Apache Indians found in this section of country and to this end the most vigorous and persistent efforts will be required of all officers and soldiers until the object is accomplished.”
If one were to substitute the word “Chican@s” instead of “Apache Indians” this statement could have been written last night. Insert the dreaded “gang member” which the colonizers love to use to vilify oppressed nations youth survival groups and the statement may be even more authentic to today’s mission. The pigs are tasked with accomplishing this mission in their war on the poor. Political groups or parties claiming to work in the interest of the oppressed here in the Snakes who do not move in ways that acknowledge this program of protracted soft war on the oppressed while conducting their work in the field in the so called interest of the colonized reduce their efforts to crass concerns of proletarian morality.
Today the state is resuming its offensive to “capture or destroy” hostile indigenous people (Chican@s, not First Nations in this context) and as the statement says they are obligated to do so “until the object is accomplished.” “Their vigorous and persistent” efforts today amount to the KKKourts, three strikes, “gang” enhancements, hyper-policing, and of course murder and assassination to none but a few.
It is not that Chican@ people are dimwitted and without comprehension to grasp that we are being attacked and targeted. What muddies the water is to see Chican@ or Black pigs carry out this program of “capture or destroy.” This works in the state’s interest to disguise the ONGOING onslaught on our people, that has not stopped since 1848 and before. As one long chain of oppression the state may employ Chican@ Toms and Black Uncle Toms as actors, but it is a state operation, that is: a program of white supremacy to maintain white power.
At the end of this book it’s a shame to read about Geronimo converting to Christianity to which he describes associating with Christians will “improve my character”. A warrior reduced to surrendering to the oppressor. Metaphysical thought like Christianity has not “improved” the character of the oppressed, rather, it has worked to subdue and pacify even one of the “ferocious” warriors like Geronimo. There’s even a picture of Geronimo in his Sunday best with the caption “ready for church” at the end of this book.
This was an interesting book that teaches one of the injustices committed by Amerikkka against indigenous peoples; but there are also lessons of how a warrior can (through the brute heel of the oppressor) become broken and surrender, and in doing so lead much of eir people into the abyss of plantation-minded Amerikan apologia. I needed to read this book at a time of extreme repression in my own life to re-energize and I think you need to read it as well. To die on the war-path for liberation . . .
The minimum security prisons out there afford some freedom of movement. To the 85%er this freedom of movement, no matter how limited, is interpreted to the 85% as freedom in its totality. This is partly due to the knowledge that he doesn’t have a free-dome. So let’s now focus on freeing the dumb by giving them the correct knowledge. So far the one who isn’t “free” mentally, we’ll now explain the difference between freedom and the illusion of freedom.
True freedom means liberation. The illusion means reforms. Liberation is an exodus or a migration from the system that it springs from – slavery. Reform is an adaptation to the slave system that makes it seem that since you received a trinket, you have received freedom. The difference is based on the truth vs the illusion. The world over, there are still struggles that stem from a lack of freedom. This lack of freedom is different for those who aren’t free, I’ll explain.
You see physical freedom does not preclude mental freedom. But mental freedom can only come from a free-dome. Ask yourself this, will the person who enslaved you free you? If you look at the history, the role between captor and the captured only changes when those who were captured unchain themselves. So the question answers itself. In Amerika a so-called war for the emancipation of Blacks was fought. However, we know that Ol Abe Lincoln only freed the slaves because ey had to not because ey wanted to. In fact Texas celebrates Juneteenth because they were the last state, 2 years after everyone else, to free their slaves. The North, who wanted to industrialize Amerika, saw that the South if it had the manufacturing industries like cotton gin etc. that they could take over Amerika because of its free slave labor. So they fed on the moral factor of the slave as an incentive to fight for the cracker. But what happened after the war?
Well let’s see, vagrancy in Amerika was illegal because you couldn’t pay taxes, so whitey invented black codes and then came up with convict leasing camps for anyone who couldn’t pay taxes. Brothers were right back where they left and convict leasing led to the legislation of the 13th Amendment that put us back into slavery in the penitentiary. So are we free or were we ever free? The answer must be no.
Yesterday marked the 52nd year anniversary of the assassination of comrade George L. Jackson. George bravely gave his life to the revolution. Let’s not let his legacy die. In the spirit of George and all our other beautiful comrades, let us usher in the true freedom, not the illusion but the true freedom. First acquire knowledge of self so that you can mentally be free and then once we acquire mental freedom we can physically take back what is ours. If we don’t know what to fight for we’ll keep ending up in prison well the maximum security prison. To change that we must transform our communities from minimum security prisons to people’s collectives. Get the devil out & destroy him.
Power to the People
MIM(Prisons) responds: Peace, Comrade. We thank this comrade for covering the importance of the subjective forces with regards to the liberation of the oppressed.
We would like to comment shortly with regards to the Civil War. This comrade states that the Civil War was fought between the North and the South due to the former’s rivalry to the South and its fear that the South’s industrialization would beat the North quickly due to the latter’s chattel slavery. However, we would say that the chattel-slavery mode of production of the U.$. bourgeois dictatorship in the South was an impeding factor for the development of the productive forces (what is often called industrialization) and that the U.$. empire found out that this backward relations of productions far out-lived its usefulness and need. Not only did it keep the South in a backwards agricultural economy, it also bred the new Black nation inside the U.$. borders which would to this day remain an intense problem population for Settler-Amerika.
There are many discussions today in U.$. society of what the Civil War was over. The neo-confederate fascists obscure the line and muddy the waters by saying that the Civil War was a war over “state’s rights.” The bourgeois Liberals say that the Civil War was a war where Amerika’s democratic values were restored to the fullest and united the empire. As Marxists, we see the class forces behind these conflicts rather than the psychological state/goals of individuals participating in it. The truth is, that the chattel-slavery relations of production was more bad than good for the U.$. empire by the time the war erupted. The class forces that wanted to keep it in the South such as the landed aristocracy (i.e. family bloodline plantation owners) and the agricultural bourgeoisie (i.e. modern capitalists who operated in cotton and other various industries of agriculture) were in antagonistic contradiction against the industrial bourgeoisie of the north who was leading the development of the productive forces in the country. We tell the fascists that if there was no slavery, then there would have been no Civil War. We tell the liberals that enslaving oppressed nations for parasitic superprofits is as Amerikan as apple pie. The Civil War helped release the New Afrikan masses to become a true proletariat, selling its labor power on the market.
And as the author above alludes to, the empire continues its war against the internal semi-colonies within the United $tates as well as the oppressed nations around the world, and the only solution to this contradiction is liberation.
Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” is an overnight viral hit, accumulating millions of listens and ranking as the most streamed song on iTunes in Amerika and right now 28 million views on Youtube plus over a million likes. With that catchy southern twang, and a message speaking to workers directly, it is clearly resonating with a lot of people – but what does this mean?
Let’s look first at the lyrics to get a sense of what this song is all about. There’s two main parts of the song that i think really get to the root of what Anthony’s trying to convey. Ey points out:
“Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat And the obese milkin’ welfare Well, God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds Young men are puttin’ themselves six feet in the ground ‘Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin’ them down.”
So there’s two matters here: one is the issue of fat people milking welfare, and the other is the plight of the Amerikan workers. Welfare is no doubt a gift of imperialist parasitism paid with super-profits, and MIM pointed out a long time ago how Amerikan minds and bodies are rotting on imperialist parasitism, highlighting the contrast between affluent imperialist countries and the poor exploited countries.
MIM said basically that overcoming imperialism is the only way to reshape food production and consumption, to address the disparity in obesity rates with an equitable distribution of resources to effectively tackle the issue. But so long as imperialism remains, so does parasitism which always fattens up the unproductive of the empire and feeds on the hard working poor of the world. So now here’s the other issue, that question of the plight of the Amerikan workers. Factually, the U.$. government safeguards its labor aristocracy (most of whom are unproductive workers in the service industry) through a multifaceted approach, utilizing OSHA guidelines, mandating minimum wage laws, regulating maximum working hours, and ensuring collective bargaining rights. This is all ensured with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Department of Labor (DOL), and so on.
In terms of safety, the U.$ is among the safer of countries for workers as it pertains to workplace fatality – still far from perfect. Our most dangerous industry is agriculture, forestry, and fishing with a fatal injury rate at 20 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. Migrants from south of the U.$./Mexico border make up around 75% of U.$. farm workers so it is no surprise that the most dangerous industry affects Amerikans the least.
But back to the song. The refrain goes:
“These rich men north of Richmond Lord knows they all just wanna have total control Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do And they don’t think you know, but I know that you do ’Cause your dollar ain’t shit and it’s taxed to no end ’Cause of rich men north of Richmond.”
These are your typical Amerikan’s grievances with the system: the government is too big, and the feds won’t keep their greedy hands off your money. Considering Biden’s new plan for 87,000 new IRS agents and his incessant drive to intervene in the affairs of crypto currency companies and his promotion of a new IRS rule to require anyone who earned over $600 on payment apps (like Paypal, Venmo, etc.) to file a 1099-K form to ensure taxation is being paid by lower classes – yeah, maybe this resentment is understandable. But really, Amerika is ranked 32nd out of 38 OECD countries in terms of the tax-to-GDP ratio.(1) Belgium (42.8%), Germany (39.9%), Denmark (38.9%), etc. pay higher taxes, and also receive better social programs. Even the tax rate in Hungary (35%) is higher than in the United $tates (16.4%), which is just above i$rael (15.5%). Since the top 25% of earners pay 89% of all income taxes, and since virtually all Amerikans make more than 90% of the rest of the world in income, is the dollar really worth shit, are Amerikans really taxed to no end, as Anthony claims? [editor note: Not to mention U.$. dollar values being propped up by interest rate hikes that are decimating the value of currencies in exploited countries that must pay debts in U$D.]
No, so what are Amerikans complaining about? Taxes in the U.$. contribute to funding programs such as education, healthcare, social security, unemployment benefits, housing assistance, food assistance, veterans’ services, infrastructure projects, environmental protection, and public transportation; Amerikans have access to clean water, electricity, smartphones, cars, internet connectivity, modern healthcare, education, reliable infrastructure, well-stocked supermarkets, and recreational facilities, which are often unavailable to many in the third world.
So again, what are Amerikans complaining about? Typical Amerikkkan tears over the incompetence of their imperialist leaders who are unable to share the super-profits from the neo-colonies effectively. This is why we rely on science, not frog-in-the-well subjectivism, to inform us about the world.
In recent years the labor aristocracy has been shook. The 2016 and 2020 elections show deep-going upset in different segments of the population, which is leading to strange ideological currents among the youth (including a return to religious dogma on the one end and a clinging to nihilism on the other). Some people have just given up on society, so a kind of Kaczynskian primitivism is also making a come-back.
We’re seeing some class problems blow up too, with unions taking more action across the board (with the rail workers, the baristas, and now the script writers and actors in recent months). The crypto-Trotskyite “left” is capitalizing on these grievances to pick up speed and organize, especially among students and younger workers who want a bigger piece of the Amerikan-bloodsuckin’ pie.
Inflation has driven up prices and this month it was revealed how Amerikans have racked up more than $1 trillion of credit card debt.(2) While high credit card debt in general is an indicator of high access to consumption, the recent increases seem to be linked to higher prices. The student debt crisis is also haunting the Amerikan consumption rate, because Amerikans own $1.77 trillion in federal and private student loan debt as of the second quarter of 2023. That’s serious, and students have gotten to the point of just saying “hell no, we ain’t paying that.”
The government, or at least some forces in it, are responsive to that, with the Biden regime talking about “student loan forgiveness.” But it hasn’t been successful. The first time, the Supreme Court ruled that the Secretary of Education did not have the power to waive student loans under the HEROES Act. So Biden is now trying the Higher Education Act of 1965 to justify it, and ey just recently was able to perform an IDR Account Adjustment for 800,000 borrowers. This still doesn’t make the youth all that happy, and a large percentage of the older generations opposed the attempt at debt forgiveness.
Aside from class issues, there’s still heat picking up with the abortion issue and the question of censorship, and other things regarding your typical sex and drug issues. There’s a clear polarization between the youth and the old when it comes to how they approach this and see the world, the former seemingly liberal and the latter seemingly conservative. Generational disputes are all too common a sight now, each generation blaming the other for all the problems we face in the world today.
There is clearly a LOT of frustration, a LOT of unease and anger too – but is that really enough for a revolution? We will have to see the historical forces that the youth (especially the oppressor nation youth movement in the 1960s) and how to discipline this force for non-adventurist and scientific forms of resistance than individualist hedonism.
The proletariat’s more than the working-class, it’s defined by a more precise relationship to the ownership of the means of production, consumption, and relations to other classes. It’s the class that is not only dispossessed (without private property), it’s the class with nothing to lose but its chains. Do Amerikans now got nothing to lose but their chains?
Let us look at it from the standpoint of material comfort. Homes built in the last 6 years are 74% larger than those built in the 1910s, an increase of a little over 1,000 square feet – the average new home in the United $tates now spreads over 2,430 square feet.(3) The Biden regime is claiming that the bourgeoisie added 236,000 jobs in March(4) and a solid 187,000 jobs in July(5), and that the unemployment rate has fallen to just 3.5%, matching the lowest level in half a century. They’re claiming also that wages are rising faster than inflation. These claims would indicate that the situation for Amerikans isn’t really all that bad.
In 2019, MIM(Prisons) explained in “Economic Update: Amerikkkans Prospering in 2019” that amerikans are prospering with a stable economy and low unemployment, increased average wages and leisure time, more homeownership and accumulated wealth, etc., all kinds of indications of economic prosperity. There were some issues in 2020-2021 because of the pandemic and surely an economic crisis of big proportions is bound to crop up, but right now the tides seem to have stemmed – at least temporarily.
There is really no sign of proletarianization on the horizon. Maybe it will happen soon, but Comrade Mao said “Marxists are not fortune-tellers.”(6) To speak of lumpenization is perhaps more accurate than predicting proletarianization, i think both are possibilities with the decline of Amerikan capitalism.
While the contradictions described in MIM(Prisons)’s article on the expected recession in 2023 have not been resolved, the crisis has still not hit here in the heart of empire. The self-destructive nature of capitalism-imperialism will lead to wars and other man-made tragedies where these parasitic economic privileges we have will eventually end. Some examples of “fortune-telling” by Mao would be what time, date, and year a recession starts or an imperialist-war breaks out. Maoists do not concern ourselves with this type of prophecy – it is actually the labor aristocrat and petty-bourgeoisie movements of fascism that loves conspiracies and finding prophecies (such as the fascist nonsense promoted in the Elders of the Protocols of Zion and the reactionary QAnon Movement that seems to love Anthony’s song).
In Amerika, the left of capital and the right of capital divide themselves on the issues of culture war but functionally have the same vested political interests in maintaining the status quo of capitalism-imperialism. Occasionally some of these people on the left wing of parasitism present themselves as radicals, anarchists, even sometimes Maoists, but the truth of it is that these are not communists.
The digital landscape’s been churning out a lot of these personalities in recent years. MIM(Prisons) has commented on some of these trends in Some Discussions on Bad Ideas (ULK 79), with attention to how
“communist groups are far outshadowed online by memes, twitch streamers, tik tok spheres, instagram pages, internet forums, and the likes when it comes to converting kids to communism than communist organization internet presence. This has given rise to the problem of communism becoming more akin to a sub-culture talked about on social media sites like twitter and reddit than a political movement. Different political stances from Maoism, Trotskyism, all the way to Stirnerite Anarchism cease to become guides to action, but a thing to put on your bio. Various people’s wars and nations at war become more akin to fandoms for TV shows to obsess and argue over rather than a movement to popularize and create awareness for. Political line ceases to become a belief and action that one takes, but a take one has so they can get on the algorithm. Line struggle turn into flame wars with no purpose of uniting with others, but exist only to express one’s individual self for the cathartic feeling of having the correct line.”
One of these recent digital trends has been known as “MAGA Communism,” with notable support from the likes of people named Haz Al-Din and Jackson Hinkle. This camp has positioned itself against the left and the right, opposing liberalism but also conservatism, taking bits from both sides. [MIM(Prisons) previously referred to Haz in the intro to our review of Pao-Yu Ching’s *From Victory to Defeat for eir meaningless definition of socialism, saying that every country in the last 100 years has been socialist.]
When it comes to songs like this one, it is seen as a message of class struggle by this camp. Haz claims “this song about class struggle by @aintgottadollar, a working class Virginian has gone viral overnight with millions of views from ordinary Americans. The masses are far ahead of the current right wing and leftist grifter ideologists who benefit from dividing the people!”(7)
Similar sentiment from a like-minded camp, calling itself “Patriotic Socialism,” is echoing much the same; you will find this view all over social media, especially the cesspool of Twitter where these ideological currents permeate. Opportunistically, they’re all invoking class struggle.
Well yes, the song is about class struggle but what kind of class struggle? Comrade Mao pointed out “this question of `for whom?’ is fundamental; it is a question of principle.”(8) i don’t see any real concern for the international proletariat in this song, i don’t see any mention of how this dying empire treats the rest of the world with diseases, bombs, sanctions, subversion, and other ways to bring death and destruction to fatten up the Amerikan ticks. So who does this song serve?
Comrade Mao said “all literature and art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines.” That’s why when analyzing literature and art, ey said, “the first problem is: literature and art for whom?”(9) This song is serving the interests of the labor aristocracy, albeit a disaffected branch of the labor aristocracy that has elements of both the right and left-wing of white nationalism.
Anthony eyself has said that “both sides serve the same master – and that master is not someone of any good to the people of this country.” This is conveniently being ignored by the MAGA right, who have taken Anthony as their savior and prophet. For example, here is what the right is saying:
“Rich Men North of Richmond is a key example of the populist-nationalist vs establishment paradigm. The anti-establishment message is gaining traction right now, and explains the dynamic we see in the GOP primary where career politicians are struggling against outsiders.” – Jack Posobiec (10)
“You might notice a theme there… [speaking of both Oliver Anthony’s “Rich Men North of Richmond” & Jason Aldean’s “Try that in a Small Town”] People are starved for music that speaks to them about today’s problems.” – Rogan O’Handley (11)
“Oliver Anthony is a star […] inside of the hearts of the people […] millions of us, with whom he has touched with his music, as somebody who is just desperately searching for a better world in a place that has been strip mined by our elites, and we are angry about it.” – Benny Johnson (12)
Ben Shapiro also praised the song, calling it “the cry of a lot of people in the United States” who feel “there are too many people who have their hand in their pocket, particularly elites in the federal government.”(13) So why ain’t the mainstream left vibing with it? Well a main reason is the song’s attack on the fat people (which they’re calling “fatphobic”) and Anthony’s denunciations of the “welfare state,” but i also think a contributing role is the general anti-southern chauvinism that is characteristic of the liberal-subjectivists in our country. Anthony is from the rural Appalachians, specifically North Carolina.
MIM(Prisons) notes that “there are various groups of people in the United States who share the physical misery of these rural masses – American Indians, Chicano farm laborers, Black tenant farmers in the South, the dispossessed whites of Appalachia. But most of these groups are scattered and weak, living on the fringes of capitalist society, away from its vital centers.”(14)
While the urban petty bourgeoisie’s reaction to Oliver Anthony is partly based in a disdain for southerners, the question is, how do we transform the thinking of those with gripes against the system? How do we get them to drop their vested material interests in parasitism, militarism, and conservatism? That requires more investigation, more practice. To speak of Anthony as this enlightening Buddha of the century is not scientific, his thinking is still backwards and merely reflects some tussles between the labor aristocracy and the imperialist bourgeoisie, but it is not great enough a leap to really consider this some kind of revitalization of Joe Hill or Woody Gutherie.
I think the most important thing to grasp in light of this song is that imperialism is basically in crisis and there’s a lot of discontent at home, and this is fueling contradictions of all kinds. Comrade Mao made it extremely clear that “there is nothing that does not contain contradiction; without contradiction nothing would exist.”(16) The question we need to deal with is how to tackle and wrangle with these contradictions.
The key to contradictions and their resolution is practice. Comrade Mao conceived of it in this way: Practice, knowledge, again practice, and again knowledge. Stepping up practice is a big leap along the way of figuring out problems and having our thinking correspond to really-existing laws that govern society. As fascism and social-fascism step up to the plate and imperialism crashes into deeper peril, advancing our work as Maoists is key to ensuring our survival and our ability to meet the challenges that come ahead.
The challenges ahead are gonna be difficult but we are taught not to fear hardships or sacrifices, not even death. Focusing on ideological unity, strengthening our organizational bond, digging deeper, and keeping at it, more answers will reveal themselves about the nature of what’s going on and what we need to do. More practice is what we need. That lofty criterion of practice is our compass to success and our life-blood.
With practice, we gain insight, we gain consciousness, we gain unity, and we gain struggle and pain too. It ain’t supposed to be easy. We are up against a big ass labor aristocracy serving a strong imperial empire and its representative drones in the White House. But they won’t win. That’s what strategic confidence is all about. This is all a paper tiger, and practice proves that empire ain’t all that.
So long as the proletariat of the Third World is revolutionizing, and the empire is dying, the situation is excellent in my eyes. Our day is coming, don’t let the grifters, tricksters and swindlers fool ‘ya.
The blackest pupils you’ve ever seen Es mi hermano A man who wore his emotions on his sleeve Angu ndugu i’ve only touched his finger tips & even that violated the policy of no human contact But it’s mi hermano … i’ve never seen a grown man cry That’s how I remember those blackest eyes i literally sob at the feet of the giant his mattress rolled up at the front of the cage & me sitting cross-legged on the tier it’s how I spent my hour, every hour I was ever allowed to be out my cell. Had to beg the officer, almost like saying yesa massah At least that’s how I felt it to me But at that moment there’s no place in the world i’d rather be than with mi hermano His enemies think they got the last laugh & you should’ve seen how the badges danced … The captive told the captor that’s a captive that’s better off dead But it’s mi hermano & this is something i never will forgive!
27 January 2023: At about 5:30-6:00 PM the nation watched the horrific video of 5 policemen who beat a man literally to death weeks prior. The man, Tyre Nichols, was handcuffed and had no way to defend himself as 5 large officers beat the man far beyond what anyone could call humane. Dogs don’t get beat this bad.
I saw this in my dorm from USP Tucson, in the day room. Of the seven televisions in the dorm, four was on the CNN broadcast of the vicious beating. At least half the dorm of over 100 prisoners in here watched in horror and shock, witnessing the same thing the rest of the United $tates (and the world) was viewing. I have never seen such interest in a television event outside a sports event.
I sent an email to the Warden of the prison, challenging him if he approved such methods. This could be seen as an insult, but what we see on the streets of America is simply a reflection of what commonly happens in the prisons of the United $tates. For decades staff brutality has been common, and often overlooked in prisons, because many may believe that the victim probably deserved it, or the prison staff will lie and cover up the act.
I have to believe that what happened to Tyre Nichols that horrible night, which resulted in his death a couple of days later, could have happened in part here at USP Tucson… multiple times, and happens in many jails and prisons in our country.
I believe this likely happened to a prisoner here back in November of 2022, shortly after an incident in a nearby camp, where a prisoner managed to acquire a gun. He would have likely shot and killed an officer were it not for the fact that the bullets did not match the gun. We at USP Tucson went on a lockdown for 3 days, although we had absolutely nothing to do with that incident. That was a different facility, yet we were punished anyway, which led to a second incident.
A few days later, on November 18th, we went on a month long lockdown because we heard there was a “staff assault.” If this was the case then the usual protocol for prison staff is to beat that prisoner physically, then throw him in the SHU until the wounds heal… it is what they do.
How bad did they beat the prisoner here? Did they cuff him, and like cowards, beat that man with sticks, tase him, kick him and slam him on the walls? It’s pretty easy to beat a man if you outnumber him 5 to 1, and cuff his hands behind his back.
We have to compare what happens in prisons to what happens in the streets. We seem amazed that what happens to George Floyd, Rodney King or now Tyre Nichols, is so unusual. This is very common in the prisons, and you have to ask the staff here at USP Tucson if this is the method they approve of.
It must be, if it continues to happen.
Why would law enforcement treat humyn beings so horribly? And to be stupid enough to do it with a BODY CAM on? Did they not know that this would be viewable to anyone in time? Why would you beat a man to death, with the cameras on?
This is an idea that prisons fear greatly; they fear that if society knew what happens in prisons, coupled with how law enforcement is clearly losing the ethical training they have, there would be such a cry for justice that the country may not be able to contain it.
But consider: some don’t sympathize with prisoners being brutally beaten because in some way, they think that the sentence of prison comes with the brutality of abuse. Yet the Constitution clearly disagrees. No human being deserves to be treated like that, to be beaten by another officer. No officer working in the United $tates is given a green light by the government to beat prisoners. Yet, it happens, and many excuse it because maybe we believe that deep down, the prisoner must have deserved it.
So reflect back to Tyre Nichols, why would those cowardly officers beat a man to death? Could it be that maybe they felt that Tyre “deserved” to be beaten… but if so, why?
Here’s one idea, one I have seen from the prison point of view: In prisons, where there is a disturbance, they call it “hitting the deuces.” When this happens, for example from a fight, officers come running from everywhere. In seconds, you can see up to 50 officers on the scene.
But note, when this happens, these officers get into a different frame of mind. The adrenaline rush puts many of these officers in an almost rage. Once that rage sets in, that officer is looking for a reason to release it. They are almost HOPING for a physical altercation, so that they can release that rage that is created because the situation could be a violent riot where a life may be lost.
The problem here is that once an officer gets into that adrenaline they don’t know how to come down, and so they are looking for a release. This happens very often in prisons, and no doubt, it happens in society. The problem is that these officers are not taught to TALK down to de-escalation, rather they are looking to make demands and argue.
Prisons prove this happens all the time, and many prison officers are not trained to de-escalate a situation; they are left to act on their anger and rage, which results often in physical violence, most times on defenseless prisoners.
So, I asked the Warden, does he approve of the methods we saw in Memphis… based on how staff treats prisoners, I think we know the answer. Their advantage: they don’t wear body cams, so they can get away with murder, literally. All they have to do is blame it on the prisoner, lose the footage and lock everyone down for a few weeks, so they can clean up the mess.
The Warden, as of August 10th, never responded.
UPDATE: On 12 September 2023 the five pigs were indicted on federal civil rights charges in addition to the state charges of second-degree murder they are already being tried for. The four-count indictment charges each of them with deprivation of rights under the color of law through excessive force and failure to intervene, and through deliberate indifference; conspiracy to witness tampering, and obstruction of justice through witness tampering.
My Black and Brown brothers know this prison system entrapment Huey said die for the people like Fred Hampton So many comrades left oppression in the Angola Slave Plantation Box Long live the spirit of a freedom fighter “Albert Woodfox.”
My eyes see the systemic racism of the U.$. capitalist We will never let them break our spirits and sanity The power’s in the Black fist.
We believe our cause is noble throughout the 44 years of solitary My people have spent decades in the dungeons but still stand in solidarity They have deliberately tortured us in torment but our hearts is still barbarity We have rose above the muck and the mire of the real clarity.
Never should we forget the “Angola 3” It’s political blood shed for you and me We fought for freedom for Mutulu Shakur and Ruchell Magee
This a dedication to the black liberation We have inspired our spirits of resilience We strive to free the land for equitable liberty and cease violence.
My brother’s legacy is revolutionary some are still alive and some in the cemetery I thank NAPO and MXGM the pillars of strength from the torch we carry
As previously predicted by myself and various others within the prison movement, the trend around the nation’s prisons towards intrusive digital mail policies has now officially made its way to Texas state prisons, the biggest prison system in the country.
According to a public service announcement released by TDCJ on 7 July 2023, beginning on 17 Jul 2023, units will no longer accept general correspondence. Instead general mail must be sent to the digital processing plant at:
TDCJ [inmates full first and last name] + number P.O. Box 660400 Dallas, TX 75266-0400
The public and official justification for this move towards more intense surveillance of the mail is the current drug epidemic within TDCJ. Each incarcerated persyn reading this and many out in the public have direct experience with the effects of this sad daily occurrence of overdoses, drug induced suicides, the drama daily instigating violence and intimidation amongst people in prison, the walking zombies, the toon attacks. the loss of morals and character to drug addiction. We can not act as if this isn’t occurring, and it is not my intent to justify these occurrences within this writing. However, my intention is to state that the states’ official justification (the drug epidemic) isn’t sincere.
The new policy doesn’t come as a shock to many of us. Frankly, for most of this decade prison departments across the United $tates have been doing the same thing utilizing the same justification (inmates getting drugs through the mail). The courts for their part have upheld these intrusive policies, under the pretext that departments provide alternatives for receiving mail, books, and other functions of prison life.
The sincerity of the state’s justification must be questioned due to their own actions. The daily inattentiveness regarding drug culture exhibited by the staff allows the epidemic to function. Daily, every staff member from wardens to the lowest officer on the totem pole can see, smell, or otherwise experience the elements of the drug epidemic within each TDCJ unit.(1) Most times, officers and staff look the other way for various reasons. For their own safety and security while doing a potentially dangerous job certainly is one of them, and another is certainly that officers and staff, to a very large degree prefer an intoxicated prison population. I’m not speaking about the executive branch of the agency. The people in business suits are not in tune with the attitudes and mindsets of the employees on the ground. If they were, they would know what each inmate does through observation. Prison officials choose the lesser of two evils, feeling that the drugs act as sedatives and will calm tensions within the prison which is somewhat true.(2) They opt for this instead of the contrary largely sober-minded prisoner which is more often than not harder to control.
The policy will allow legal, media, and subscription mails to still come to the unit. All other mails will be received at the warehouse or will be returned to sender. This policy extends the distance between families and their imprisoned loved ones, straining relationships on top of the genocidal sentences a lot of us are serving in TDCJ and around the country. These police-state policies are helping to destroy our families.
And for those of us within the prison movement, how does this policy affect us and those on the outside who support us? I propose that organizations develop communication funds which will go to alternative communication lines. These funds would be invested towards proven cadres who can make their individual work spread amongst the people. These new communication lines would be autonomous and clandestinely utilized to forward serious organizing work.
As the state continues to clamp down on illusionary elements of democracy, we must organize ways around their various intrusive sanctions while developing the capacity to reconstruct the power relations of this society.
The time has come to liberate Our political prisoners. There have been decades of conversation, of litigation, and other passive acts of resistance with little to no results.
GENOCIDE! This policy perfectly depicts how the health and future of Our families and as a result Our peoples is at stake, under attack and reeling.
Courts have thus far upheld similar policies elsewhere. Saying that realistic penological interests are being met, as prisons use the pretext of the current drug epidemic as the reason for this policy, and the courts further assert that prisons are offering a viable alternative (the tablets).
The first units that will experience this policy are: Allred, Coffield, Polunsky, Powledge, Plane, Garza West, Clements, Halbert, Robertson, and East Texas ISF, with more to follow in the following weeks, according to the public service announcement.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As soon as this policy was implemented, the attacks on prisoner communication have started. A prisoner in Stiles Unit in Texas reported on 25 July 2023:
“We were recently given tablets and our e-messaging, phone through the tablet. I’m on Ad-Seg, in Restrictive Housing (RHU). On 10 July 2023, my wifi and e-messaging, as well as my phone were taken from me for no reason. According to TDCJ, all mail will be digital now, since 17 July 2023. But certain people were taken by surprise to wake up with none of our mail or phone. Without any explanation. We have been asking and sending I-60’s grievances about this, but still no one will give us an explanation. What can I do?”
The comrade asks if the censorship rules mentioned on the first page of ULK would apply to this situation. And it’s a good question. These prisoners mail is effectively being censored, so it would seem so. But we are not lawyers. And it is likely that this would need to be tested via the courts.
Some prisons in Texas, like Polunsky and Allred Units, are just returning to sender all mail from MIM Distributors sent to the prison, including media which according to the rules is supposed to be sent there.
Another problem comrades are facing is when we send them forms in the mail, they cannot print them or fill them out, because they are only given to them in a tablet.
“This U.S. Supreme Court ruling and prison policies of surveillance and censorship listed above reveals that the fascist and repressive nature of prisons extend beyond these prison walls and adversely impacts those of you in the community. This should give human and civil rights activists, including our loved ones, additional motivation to work in solidarity with incarcerated freedom fighters to challenge these Constitutional violations via civil litigation.”(4)
Notes: 1. A Texas Prisoner, November 2017, “Epidemic of K2 Overdoses at Estelle, Throughout Texas”, Under Lock & Key 59. 2. A Texas Prisoner, March 2021, “TDCJ: Your Staff are Bringing in the Drugs, and it Must Stop”, Under Lock & Key 73. 3. MIM(Prisons), June 2022, “FL, TX Censor Revolutionary 12 Steps Program”, Under Lock & Key 78. 4. A Virginia Prisoner, January 2022, “A Strategic Objective to Disrupt and Surveil the Communication Between Prisoners and Our Loved Ones”, Under Lock & Key 76.
I have written and spoken extensively over the last couple years about the impact that recent heat waves have had on incarcerated people housed in non-air-conditioned prisons in Virginia and in the Criminal Injustice System in general. I even drafted and disseminated a proposal for the creation of a state-wide, coalition-based movement to shut these prisons down. As of the date of this writing, none of the so-called prison justice and prison abolitionist organizations I sent it to in Virginia responded or expressed interest in it.
A comrade of mine then created an online petition in 2022 to raise public awareness about this issue and build momentum for shutting these prisons (i.e., death traps) down. Last checked, the petition had 560 signatures. Buckingham Correctional Center alone houses 1,091 people, so there should be more signatures on this petition.
Since I began writing/speaking about this issue, the dissemination of my proposal and the creation of the online petition, historic heat waves have increased exponentially, both in frequency and in record high temperatures. And with these increases must be increased pressure and organizing to shut these non-air-conditioned prisons down.
Since the beginning of summer, the U.$. and most of the rest of the world have been gripped by deadly and historic heat waves. Science and medical experts the world over have warned that deaths caused by extreme heat will only increase each summer without some sort of action to mitigate climate change. They say that elderly people, obese people, and those with diabetes, heart disease and other serious health related issues are the ones most at risk. Time and time again, people confined to prisons, jails and detention centers with poor ventilation, substandard medical care and partial or no air conditioning are left out of the category of those most at risk during these record heat waves.
I just read that in Texas, which incarcerates more people than any other state in the country, the temperature inside its prisons regularly exceeds 120 degrees during the summer and as result, hundreds of incarcerated people have died there from extreme heat exposure in the last few years. Predictably, Texas prison officials have denied the number of deaths and the deaths they have acknowledged they falsely claimed were not caused by extreme heat but by other causes. So, on July 8, loved ones of incarcerated people and other community members attended a rally inside the Texas state capital demanding an emergency session be held to address the issue and for funding to be allocated to install AC units inside all Texas’ prisons. We need similar rallies to take place here in Virginia every summer when it is the hottest and not later in the year or the beginning of the year when the temperature and the issue of extreme heat inside non-air-conditioned prisons both starts to cool down.
SOME ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE NOW:
Sign and share the following petition to close three main non-air-conditioned prisons in Virginia at: https://chng.it/T5hzhPsJXM
Call/email Virginia’s Governor, Secretary of Public Safety, and Director of the Department of Correction at the contact information below demanding these prisons be shut down due to the extreme heat suffered by the people incarcerated there and that housing people at the named facilities under those conditions constitutes torture and cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Glenn Youngkin, Governor of Virginia Tel: 804-786-2211 Email: governor.virginia.gov/constituent-services/communicating-with-the-governors-office
Robert “Bob” Mosie, Secretary of Public Safety of Virginia Tel: 804-786-5351 Email: [email protected]
Harold Clarke, Director of Virginia Department of Corrections Tel: 804-674-3000 Email: [email protected]
Help build a statewide, coalition-based movement specifically to shut these non-air-conditioned prisons down. The proposal for the creation of such a movement can be found on my blog at https://consciousprisoner.wordpress.com/2022/10/01/preliminary-proposal-for-a-statewide-campaign-to-close-shut-down-non-air-conditioned-prisons-in-virginia/.
Please reach out, get involved and help build this movement before incarcerated people in Virginia start dying on a level like they are in prisons in Texas.