By the NCTT-Cor-SHU
Published on: SF Bay View
“Free discussion of the problems of society is a cardinal principal of Americanism … Censorship is utterly foreign to our way of life; it smacks of dictatorship.” – U.S. Supreme Court in Fortune Society v. McGinnis, 319 F.Supp. 901 (1970)
“Prestige bars any serious attack on power. Do people attack a thing they consider with awe, with a sense of its legitimacy? In the process of things, the prestige of power emerges roughly in the period when power does not have to exercise its underlying basis – violence. Having proved and established itself, it drifts, secure from any serious challenge. Its automatic defense-attack instincts remain alert; small threats are either ignored away, laughed away or, in the cases that may build into something dangerous, slapped away … Prestige wanes if the first attacks on its power base find it wanting. Prestige dies when it cannot prevent further attacks upon itself.” – a wise man
Greetings, Sisters and Brothers. Often when citizens of this nation think of “state repression,” images of Egypt, North Korea, Apartheid Palestine or Nazi Germany immediately spring to mind. U.S. state controlled media has become practiced at flooding our airwaves and attitudes with images of violent retaliation and systematic repression of dissent in other nations as a means to obfuscate the U.S. state’s engagement in identical activity in its own society.
When individual instances of blatant usurpations by the U.S. state are reported on, they are characterized as “isolated incidents,” mere aberrations in the fabric of American social life, and not the structural mechanisms of reactionary U.S. fascism which they truly are. This manipulation of your perception of reality serves a functional purpose in the U.S. capitalist arrangement: It re-enforces the illusion that such things do not happen in America, and in comparison to other nations the U.S. must be a paragon of human rights and dignity – while in reality, quite the opposite is true.
Recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in condemning the revelations of Edward Snowden, accused him of “hiding in an authoritarian state” (Russia), while in the next breath seeking to justify the U.S. government spying on every man, woman and child in America – and the rest of the world. Though the shear hypocrisy of the state seems lost on most, it does not negate the reality of its authoritarian character.
Those whose actions or ideas are so resonant or potentially revolutionary that they disturb the current social order or oppose the advancement of fascism in a particular area of social life are ruthlessly assaulted, criminalized or vilified in retaliation for daring to expose the contradictions responsible for the social ills and rampant human misery which influences so many of our lives. State retaliation and repression manifest themselves, in one form or another, in every area of human activity in the U.S. – including prisons.
Because prison is a socially hostile microcosm of society itself, state repression need not mask its intent nor temper its irrationality behind the walls. In prison, the state can allow its deviant predilection to impose its will on a captive populace to run wild and bring its most extreme resources to bear on the subjects of its ire.
This truth was born out here at Corcoran SHU on May 12, 2014, when CDCr administrators canceled all programs in SHU and mobilized some 50-plus correctional officers, outside law enforcement from local sheriffs, police departments, and Departmental Gang Unit (DGU) agents, including five separate K-9 units, in a massive raid on the 4B-1L-C section short corridor – and eventually the entire yard.
At approximately 7:30 a.m., the water was shut off in the section and scores of officers poured through the section door ordering us to strip out and exit the cell in only boxers, T-shirts and shower shoes. They placed us in plastic flexi-cuffs and marched us through a gauntlet of hand-held metal detector sergeants and other administrators. As we exited the section, an IGI (Institutional Gang Investigations) officer, surreptitiously holding a digital camera by his side, tilted upward, was snapping photos of guys as they walked past, exiting the section. When we passed into the rotunda area, several ISU (Investigative Services Unit) officers were setting up a portable x-ray machine to run our mattresses through.
As we exited Block 5, separate K-9 units from local law enforcement, inter-departmental task force and DGU were arrayed in a neat row behind their police and sheriff’s cruisers. As we passed, the dogs barked at us and their handlers made a show of holding some of them back.
This theater was almost comical in nature, but its psychological intent was clear. We were marched in a line to the visiting room and walked through the full-body metal detectors, then placed in the yard cages on the far side of the green wall that separates 4B-1L from every other block on 4B facility. We were left out there until 4 p.m. that evening.
The next watch had long come on by this time, and as they began to strip search us yet again and escort us back to our cells we got our first glimpse at the full scope of the destruction: Four large laundry carts full of personal property items were pushed against the side of the building.
When we were placed back in our cells, they were unrecognizable. It was difficult for some of us to even enter our cells because our personal property, court documents, books, canteen items and clothing were strewn over every conceivable surface.
Dog hair and paw prints were evident all over the cell. Personal photos, canteen package items, TV cables, typewriter ribbons, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, magazines, books and documents were thrown away or destroyed with what appeared to be random indifference. Some radio antennas were snatched down, while others were left intact. It was destruction without rhyme or reason – or was it?
According to the same administrators who authorized the raid, Corcoran SHU is the only prison not participating in the step-down program. They have irrationally and incorrectly placed blame for this at the doors of prisoners in the short corridor here, as though the rest of the population is incapable of taking principled positions on their own – which they ARE.
On at least two separate occasions, administrators have expressed their desire to one NCTT coordinator that we stop writing statements critical of CDCr policies or “write something positive.” That the relentless pursuit of CDCr to maintain their torture program and the accompanying judicial collusion and all around corruption-based political apathy of the state is the catalyst for principled criticism underscores the irrationality of the authoritarian psychosis.
The standard the state courts employ to establish if retaliation has occurred dictates: A party must show that 1) His or her speech or conduct at issue was protected under the Constitution; 2) The state took an adverse action against the party; and 3) There was a causal link between the protected conduct and the adverse action.
As we have articulated ad nauseam, the CDCr validation-indeterminate-SHU-debriefing policy constitutes the single largest domestic torture program in the U.S.; and the U.S. is maintaining the single largest domestic torture program on planet Earth. The U.N. reiterated the U.S.’ failure to live up to its international obligations to abolish the practice only months ago in its “Concluding Observations on the Fourth Report of the United States of America,” dated March 28, 2014.
In point 12, the U.N. Human Rights Committee observed: “(T)he Committee is concerned about the lack of comprehensive legislation criminalizing all forms of torture, including mental torture, committed within the territory of the State party. The Committee is also concerned about the inability of torture victims to claim compensation from the State party and its officials due to the application of broad doctrines of legal privilege and immunity.”
In point 20, the committee wrote: “The Committee is concerned about the continued practice of holding persons deprived of their liberty … in prolonged solitary confinement.” And in point 12, it concludes, “The State party should enact legislation to explicitly prohibit torture, including mental torture, wherever committed and ensure the law provides for penalties commensurate with the gravity of such acts.”
The California Legislature had an opportunity to adhere to its international obligations in AB 1652 and SB 892, but, bowing to the pressure from CCPOA and other industrial and corporate stakeholders, decided instead to kill AB 1652 on the Assembly floor and use SB 892 as a vehicle to codify the maintenance of torture units into state law. There is simply so much money involved in maintaining these supermax-style prisons, their tendrils have insinuated themselves into so many aspects of the state’s economy, there is simply no will to alter the dynamic, while there are thousands, sometimes millions, in it for politicians to keep the torture up.
The CDCr validation-indeterminate-SHU-debriefing policy constitutes the single largest domestic torture program in the U.S.; and the U.S. is maintaining the single largest domestic torture program on planet Earth.
The latest legislative gambit is at the national level with Congress’ HR 4618, a piece of legislation yet to undergo the scalpel of lobbying special interests; but it does reveal the range of concern for its social relevance in relation to the state’s prestige. The exposure of torture units in its domestic prison system is embarrassing to the state.
Though the form and scope of the anti-torture protests in California prisons – and elsewhere – is unprecedented, and thus outside the experience of current case law, the U.S. courts themselves have ruled that nothing in the First Amendment itself suggests that the right to petition the state for redress of grievances only attaches when “petitioning” takes a specific form.
There is simply so much money involved in maintaining these supermax-style prisons, their tendrils have insinuated themselves into so many aspects of the state’s economy, there is simply no will to alter the dynamic, while there are thousands, sometimes millions, in it for politicians to keep the torture up.
Federal courts have, on paper, long recognized a prisoner’s right to seek remedy to his conditions of confinement when those conditions assail his civil or human rights. Indefinite torture is a clear assault on one’s civil and human rights, and criticizing a law enforcement or corrections agency is also protected speech.
The First Amendment protects criticism and challenges directed at law enforcement officials unless the speech is “shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest” (Justice William O. Douglas in Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1 (1949)).
The U.S. Constitution does not allow speech challenging state actions, such as maintaining a torture unit, to be made a crime. The freedom of individuals to oppose or challenge departmental action without thereby risking state sanction is one of the principle characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state (paraphrased from City of Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451 (1987)).
The exposure of torture units in its domestic prison system is embarrassing to the state.
Organized political discourse critical of prison conditions in SHU torture units – conditions that affect all prisoners similarly situated – are matters of public concern and as such remain protected speech. However, the courts have stated, certain types of “petitioning” and speech would be inconsistent with imprisonment, and those are curtailed based only on “legitimate penological interests.” There exists no legitimate penological interest in torture, and thus it cannot be invoked as a basis upon which to suppress protected speech.
To be sure, prisoners find themselves, as a class, in a unique political, civil and historic position – though not an unprecedented one. Like SHU torture units today, those subject to chattel slavery as well as those in opposition to the practice often found that the law and the state supported the maintenance of the very inhumane conditions that they were struggling against and sought to crush such criticism through retaliatory sanctions.
The Department of Corrections continues to assert that SHU torture is not torture, the courts continue to support the maintenance of SHU torture units, and state legislatures continue to capitulate to pro-torture industrial and corporate interests much the same way these same institutions did in the chattel slave epoch prior to the conclusion of the Civil War.
The courts positions in Dorrough v. Ruff and In Re Griffin is no different – and no more correct – than its position in Dred Scott v. U.S., namely: Blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect”; in this case their position is “an indeterminate SHU prisoner has no rights the state is bound to respect.”
There exists no legitimate penological interest in torture, and thus it cannot be invoked as a basis upon which to suppress protected speech.
Under such a socio-political circumstance, where the state itself is in violation of core constitutional values and human rights standards, the U.S. Constitution First Amendment remains informative: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom … to petition the Government for the redress of grievances.”
When all legal means of protest have been exhausted, the only recourse remaining to the people is protest, and in this instance, peaceful protest which took the form of three historic hunger strikes, mass social organization of activist citizens in society, and a concerted effort by advanced elements to criticize these social ills in political discourse, while giving a new vision of social relationships based in shared interests, ideas and the prosperity of peace.
It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” It is this act of working for peace, for a society where the opportunity for freedom, justice, equality and human rights is available and actively pursued by all, which is the catalyst for this broad spectrum retaliation.
Yet revolutionary social science calls not simply for analysis but, even more vitally, it calls for making interconnections between disparate social phenomena in order for us to understand and transform them. Just as prison is an especially hostile microcosm of society, so too do the state’s retaliatory sanctions manifest themselves both microcosmically and macrocosmically.
The hammer of repression in this case has fallen on the free and bond alike. Here in Corcoran SHU, we are subjected not only to bogus rules violation reports, repeated destructive raids, loss of yard, cold and under-portioned food, arbitrary and capricious regulations that criminalize matter and activity which is not criminal in retaliation for our petitioning the state and our principled political criticism.
But the state wishes to take this one step further and extend their persecution to citizens, activists and abolitionists in the macrocosm of society via new punitive regulations erroneously attached to “obscenity” standards in CCR §3378 (c)(8)(C)-(D). [Laura Magnani of the American Friends Service Committee reported Aug. 28 that CDCr Director of Adult Institutions Michael Stainer told the Mediation Team that the censorship regulations are “on hold for now” due to the large outpouring of comments. But stay tuned and don’t let your guard down.]
They seek to criminalize the First Amendment itself. The regulation intends to disallow publications or written material “that indicate association with groups that are oppositional to authority and society.” They are actually stating in the regulation itself that it’s a retaliatory sanction to freeze protected speech for criticism of their domestic torture program in indeterminate SHU units. This is illegal.
Principled opposition to state authority and social criticism is central to the maintenance of a free and diverse society and was at the center of congressional intent when the First Amendment was framed. “It was the intent of Congress to encourage ‘free inquiry and expression’ and to insure that ‘conformity for its own sake is not to be encouraged’” (Finley v. NEA, 795 F. Supp. 1457 (1992)) when the very ideal of freedom of speech was codified.
A regulation that suppresses a substantial amount of constitutionally protected expression must be rejected as unlawful unless it is constructed so narrowly that it only targets unprotected speech. This regulation seeks to suppress any speech that is offensive to CDCr, the state and their right-wing authoritarian view of society.
They seek to criminalize the First Amendment itself.
It is well established law that certain speech which is thought by government to be highly offensive because it espouses political, religious, racial or socioeconomic doctrines which are critical, even damning, of the state does not constitute a ground upon which our speech can be abridged.
To be sure, the very concept of speech which is “oppositional to authority and society” is contentless in the context of American society – even in prison – as seen through the prism of the U.S. Constitution: The very nature of a pluralistic society is that there is an infinite number of values and beliefs and, correlatively, there may be no blanket ban on publications which, in the state’s opinion, are “oppositional to authority and society.”
How is one to determine what is “oppositional” to an open, diverse and pluralistic society such as the U.S. has proclaimed itself to be? The Constitution is a document which is purported to be deeply committed to safeguarding freedom of speech, expression and association, which is of transcendent value to all who are governed by its dictates, not merely the authoritarian institutions of the state.
If this is true, and we concede these freedoms are a special concern of the First Amendment, then its dictates cannot tolerate regulations that cast a pall of orthodoxy over our political discourse. The future of this planet is dependent on people who are exposed to the robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth through a multitude of perspectives, rather than through any kind of authoritarian selection. This rules change is unconstitutional on its face as it must of necessity rely on subjective interpretations, value judgments, guesses at its meaning and variation in its application.
The Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause requires that “a statute be sufficiently clearly defined so as not to cause persons of common intelligence to guess at its meaning and to differ as to its application.” The Constitutional three-prong test for this standard was laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Grayned v. City of Rockford (408 U.S. 104, 108-09 (1972)).
This rules change gives rise to each of the three evils identified. In Grayned: 1) It creates a trap for unwary publishers or imprisoned authors who may engage in expression she or he believes comports with the standard, only to learn upon confiscation or denial of his/her work or publication that it is in violation of the regulation because it has offended some prison official’s subjective understanding of the standard; 2) Prison officials are given no detailed guidance in administering the standard, each apparently expected to draw on her or his own personal views of what is “oppositional to authority and society”; 3) It necessarily causes the imposition of self-censorship wider than the scope of the regulation itself, because its “scope” is in effect imperceptible and subject to the whimsy of CDCr officials.
This rules change is unconstitutional on its face as it must of necessity rely on subjective interpretations, value judgments, guesses at its meaning and variation in its application.
None of these retaliatory sanctions – be it the deplorable conditions, wanton destruction of our property, criminalization of non-criminal matter in their STG disciplinary matrix, or the unconstitutional assault on the First Amendment itself inherent in their director’s rules change of CCR §3378(c)(8)(C)-(D) – existed prior to our seeking redress from the state for their domestic torture program or our criticism thereof, thus establishing an indisputable causal link between the protected conduct and these adverse retaliatory actions by the state.
In the face of all these contradictions and the reality of the state retaliating against segments of the population for exercising their rights on the one hand and suppressing those same rights on the other, we begin to understand what we mean by saying the U.S. Constitution is a meaningless document in the context of contemporary America. The question facing us in this society is, if you believe your Constitution should be upheld, how do we do so when it is “the law” itself who has it under attack?
The answer lies in understanding the reactionary view that “the state reigns supreme over society.” The very idea of “the state” leads in a straight line to fascism when it is embodied in an authoritarian form. In previous NCTT statements we have demonstrated how the U.S. is a patriarchal authoritarian state, and what this means is a state dominated by irrational socio-political reaction. With this understood, it is a voyage into futility to struggle against an irrational socio-political institution without first determining how, in spite of its irrationality, it is capable of perpetuating itself and even appearing to be necessary?
However, before we engage in that analysis, it is important to have a functional understanding of U.S. fascism. When the Comrade said that “fascism is already here” over 40 years ago, most didn’t understand what he was talking about, and that is still the case today. Because U.S. fascism looks different in form when compared to Spanish, Italian or German fascism in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, many progressives – even some claiming the mantle of “revolutionary” – have asserted fascism does not exist in America. THIS IS INCORRECT.
The first thing that must be understood is U.S. fascism is a mass psychology; it is not something that’s imposed on the people, but something reproduced in and supported by the people. U.S. fascism is a psychosis rooted in the character structure of the majority of the nation’s population and, though uniquely “American” in its manifestation (how it looks externally), it is structurally no different from fascism anywhere else in the world, and in fact the U.S. has been the chief exporter of fascism over the last 50 years – to Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Iran under the Shah etc., etc.
Fascism is the product of the warping of men’s and women’s character structure and core psychology over the course of millennia. Fascism is not unique to Chile (under Pinoche), Italy (under Mussolini), Spain (under Franco) or Germany (under Hitler).
As the matriarchal structuring of societies was replaced by the patriarchal structuring of societies, the repression of natural human biological drives and free social expression was a key tool employed to warp humanity’s character structure so we would adopt, and subordinate ourselves to, the authoritarian model of society itself. This process occurred over the course of thousands of years, embedding this irrational character structure deep within man’s core psychology, reproducing itself in generation after generation, re-enforced by every institution of the state and social life. The authoritarian psychosis is developed via socio-economic activities and this warped character structure anchors and perpetuates these activities.
Man’s character structure in contemporary America – and throughout most of the capitalist world – is the crystallization of thousands of years of the authoritarian process. The cleavage between natural biological and social drives and the artificial moralistic rigidity of authoritarian dictates manifests itself as a contradiction between an intense longing for freedom and a dreaded fear of freedom.
Political reaction exists and functions in the character structure, thinking and behavior of oppressed man in the form of irrational rigidity, fear of responsibility, subordination of natural biological drives to religious fundamentalism and artificial “moralism” and a lack of capacity to be free. It is implanted in the home of the authoritarian family, re-enforced in school, and nourished in the church, temple and mosque.
True freedom does not mean you are relieved of your social responsibility; it means you are burdened with it. The reactionary tendencies in large segments of the population reveal themselves as a fundamental fear of responsibility and freedom.
This process has gotten so advanced in fascist America, people in the U.S. can’t even assume responsibility for simple choices like drinking soda, TV programing or eating too much fast food. Instead they seek – no, demand – state intervention to “stop them from aggressively marketing these foods, drinks and provocative TV programs.”
These are not value judgments on restrictive “morality.” This fear is thoroughly ingrained in the psychological and physiological constitution of modern man and woman.
This Constitution is neither natural or rational, yet every social process is determined by this same artificially warped character structure in masses of people. To be sure, even now some of you reading these words find yourselves becoming uncomfortable at the prospect of long held beliefs and cherished ideals being exposed as the chains they truly are.
This, the mass psychology of fascism in America, is how authoritarian institutions in the U.S. can confidently assert they are the defenders of fundamental human freedoms and the preservation of pluralistic society, HAVE YOU BELIEVE THIS FICTION, while simultaneously retaliating against progressive political activism and criminalizing those freedoms which have served to both expose their contradictions and educate the people to the reality of their own oppression.
So to the question, how is it possible that despite its irrationality, these institutions are capable of surviving and appearing legitimate, the answer is clear: IT IS THE IRRATIONAL CHARACTER STRUCTURE OF MASSES OF PEOPLE THAT CREATES LEGITIMACY FOR THE AUTHORITARIAN STATE AND ENSURES ITS SURVIVAL.
Only through grasping these hard and dangerous truths can we understand political reaction, and this is the only way we can uproot it from our lives. Recognizing and accepting the existence of the irrationality hidden in the vast majority of our minds provides us with a social and political basis from which to conquer this psychosis objectively and scientifically – and eventually the authoritarian order itself.
This particular aspect of the struggle began with progressive forces struggling against the social evil of domestic torture: indefinite solitary confinement. The authoritarian state has responded to this by making cosmetic changes to this social evil while intensifying its intent to break men and women in keeping with the moralistic authoritarian procedure of dealing with adverse issues superficially.
It never seeks to eliminate the social evil, merely suppress its existence or obfuscate it from public discourse, only ensuring it will explode more intensely the next time consciousness breaks the bonds of the authoritarian psychosis. In the mind of the authoritarian official, the appropriate way to deal with the language of “torture” in its domestic prisons is to toy with semantics, rebrand indefinite SHU as “the step-down program,” introduce coercive psychological reconditioning components, and claim that torture no longer exists, when in truth it’s worse than ever.
Conversely, the revolutionary partisan’s mind (read “rationale mind”) strikes at the heart of the matter and not only asks, “How can we eliminate torture units altogether,” but provides viable alternatives based on humane principles of social life. Just as Morpheus from the film “The Matrix” weakened the Machine Order by awakening people from the Matrix, eliminating social evils is one of the primary means of causing the authoritarian state to wilt away.
Accomplishing this end requires us to awaken the people to the state’s contradictions. THIS is why they must retaliate; THIS is why they must seek to completely repress progressive political speech and crush social cooperation.
When social cooperation is destroyed, the state is always made more powerful. Such a view explains how the state’s Legislature went from swearing decisive action to end torture units amidst the largest hunger strike in U.S. history in September 2013 to killing AB 1562 on the Assembly floor in June 2014 following a racist and classist rant by Tea Party Republican Assemblypersons Brian Jones, R-Santee, and Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinor, vice chair of the Public Safety Committee.
In the mind of the authoritarian official, the appropriate way to deal with the language of “torture” in its domestic prisons is to toy with semantics, rebrand indefinite SHU as “the step-down program,” introduce coercive psychological reconditioning components, and claim that torture no longer exists, when in truth it’s worse than ever.
Not only did 13 “Democrats” join the Tea Party caucus in maintaining the status quo of California’s SHU torture units but, exhibiting all the political courage of frightened mice, 18 “Democrats” abstained from voting on the bill at all. Their 18 votes would have carried the bill to passage.
Were it not so characteristic of U.S. political institutions, it would be shameful. But even more shameful is we keep putting our trust in such institutions when their composition is so clearly reflective of the very authoritarian psychosis responsible for establishing these torture units in the first place. Is this not the height of irrationality?
The same warped character structure which calmly rationalizes the inhumanity of confining other humans to a concrete tomb forever, not for what they’ve done but for their ideas and associations, is the same warped character structure responsible for confining hundreds of Latino children in tiny immigration cells for months, even years on end, and claiming the only solution is to build more detention cells to hold them before shipping them back to the same dysfunctional and violence-ridden nations whose social conditions were created by U.S. imperialism in the 1970s and ‘80s.
The same misogynistic psychosis responsible for the gang rape and lynching of those young sisters in India is the same psychosis responsible for a white highway patrolmen beating down a New Afrikan woman in broad daylight in the median of a busy freeway here in the U.S.
The same twisted U.S. courts responsible for upholding gang injunctions against New Afrikan, Latino and Asian youth wearing certain colors or clothing and characterizing them as “domestic terrorists” are the same twisted U.S. courts responsible for upholding the rights of the Ku Klux Klan, a well documented domestic terrorist group, to drape themselves in white sheets, burn crosses and associate freely and publicly wherever they like.
There is no difference between Boka Haram kidnapping hundreds of girls in Nigeria and CDCr sterilizing hundreds of women in CCWF. There is no difference in fascist Italy confiscating and burning thousands of books at Mussolini’s direction and CDCr’s new censorship gambit to ban any written material which in their view is “oppositional to authority and society” at the direction of Jeffery Beard.
The only difference between the Nazi German secret police spying on its own citizens in the 1940s and the NSA spying on ALL of your telephone and electronic communications right now is the Nazis came nowhere close to the scope of domestic surveillance you all live under each and every day. Fascism in America has expanded as far as it can go without evolving the contradiction of its existence into absolute despotism. Do you truly believe they will stop with us?
Revolution truly is a series of illuminations, a process of waking up from the fugue state of the authoritarian mass psychology. Unfortunately, as a society, most of the people have yet to develop to that point. Nevertheless, if all we are willing to do is participate in the bourgeois political process, to go to the poles, then at the minimum we must ensure those we put in political office, and the policies which govern our lives, actively serve to uproot these authoritarian dictates from our social and political institutions – and thus the minds of our children and future generations. This is within our power to do.
The very stratification of society into competing economic classes works against the advocates of an authoritarian America. The USA is a locked, anti-poor society that, in every area of human activity, favors affluent white males and the propertied class(es) – the capitalist ruling class, upper class, upper middle class – while penalizing the lower classes for the offense of being poor.
The upper classes maintain their social hegemony on the backs of oceans of the oppressed, most often by making significant segments of this ocean of people believe their interests and the interests of the ruling class are one and the same, when nothing could be further from the truth. This is one of the chief functions of the authoritarian mass psychology.
However, the simple truth is, numerically speaking, the “have nots” far outnumber the “haves and in a bourgeois democracy if the “have nots” were politically organized, if they put forward policy initiatives which served their true interests, if we all voted with one voice, we could restructure this society to more closely reflect the humane, rational and free society so many of us truly long for, though we’ve been conditioned to fear its coming into being.
The NCTT has put forward a platform for just this type of organized social cooperation: the Block-Vote Democratic Initiative. A copy is available to anyone online at NCTTCorSHU.org, but we’d like for a moment to address our Sisters and Brothers of all cultural groups in the hoods, barrios and behind these walls:
YOU, each and every one of you, have the potential to act in your own interests right now. The two primary reasons the state, federal and even local legislatures don’t consider us and our communities a constituency are 1) Many of us don’t vote. It’s understandable on the one hand, because even when we have in the past, nothing has changed in the material conditions of our lives. This is not to validate the bourgeois political process, but much of that can be attributed to the fact that we were not an organized electorate, just political pawns being manipulated by an industry of political advertisement and super-PACs. (You can thank the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United for the expansion of this manipulation.); and 2) Those authoritarian and corporate interests who are actually determining the “laws” which dictate how you live your daily lives are backed by powerful lobbies who are throwing millions of dollars at the politicians who are supposed to be acting in your interests.
The unfortunate truth is they’re working against your interests and, as long as there is no political counterpoint to hold them accountable when they place campaign finance and special interests before the interests of the people, they will continue to do so. Lobbying is nothing more than legal corruption, another manifestation of the capitalist arrangement in the political process.
Yet our political will and numerical superiority can overcome both these disparities if only we would commit to the course and resolve to carry the “Agreement to End Hostilities” to its logical conclusion: political empowerment of the underclass.
How many of you have homeboys and homegirls who aren’t on parole? How many of us or our loved ones who are on parole have sisters, brothers, cousins, moms, dads, uncles, aunties, spouses or significant others who are eligible to vote?
YOU, each and every one of you, have the potential to act in your own interests right now.
The first thing we should all commit to doing is this census in our hoods, barrios, communities, prison yards and cell blocks. The next step is to register EVERYONE who can vote, to vote. Those among that number who are skeptical about the political process or simply apolitical can rest comfortably in the knowledge that their vote and their voice will serve to aid their homies and loved ones, both free and bond, as well as their communities and themselves.
Next, human rights activists, the PHSS coalition, activist prisoners and our political action committees – when and if they’re developed – in concert with our communities can develop ballot initiatives which we can not only ensure get on the ballot with more than enough signatures, but by voting as a single block we can pass them outright. Instead of depending on the political courage and moral backbone of spineless politicians beholden to lobbyists, labor aristocracies and their own innate authoritarian psychosis, we can depend on our own political infrastructure – one truly of us, for us and by us.
Such a reality will be dependent on us all resolving to maintain and extend the “Agreement to End Hostilities” to our communities. This alone is a monumental undertaking requiring a degree of maturity and view toward our long-term mutual interests which the state believes we are simply incapable of. Recent events at Calipatria State Prison prove repressive state interests will take every opportunity to provoke antagonisms, foment discord and encourage conflict amongst the prisoner class – antagonisms that unfortunately all too often young Brothers and Sisters bring with them from the streets. This too is within our power; we need only exercise it.
In the final analysis, if we are to forge a world where this oppression of men and women by men and women is no longer an inevitable fact of life, where sexual violence, racism, religious intolerance, classism, structural inequality, xenophobia and the many varied forms of hate upon which capitalism and white male supremacy bases its global hegemony, we must begin to uproot its manifestations within ourselves and restructure our institutions to reflect this rational intent.
We rarely, if ever, recognize how these varied forms of hate have affected our own world view, influenced our own biases and reproduced this hate in our own thinking. To do so requires ruthless honesty and iron courage.
But if we are to be free, truly free, it must be done. It is within our power to do; we need only translate this rational intent into social practice. Social practice is the one criterion of truth, so to yourselves – and one another – be true.
Our love and solidarity are with you all. Until we win or don’t lose.
For more information on the NCTT-Cor-SHU or its work product, contact
Michael Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, CSP-COR-SHU 4B lL-22, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
Kambui Robinson, C-82830, CSP-COR-SHU 4B lL-49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, CSP-COR-SHU 4BlL-22, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
Jabari Scott, H-30536,