“’Racism’ is used to justify and facilitate the exploitation of peoples, and it’s based on the false belief that humanity is divided into a plurality of ‘races’ that stand in relation to each other as ‘inferior’ or ‘superior’ based on physical and/or cultural differences. There are no ‘races’ – only people(s), groups of people(s), united and distinguished by common history (social development), habits, interests etc. – sometimes we call all of this … ideology.” – James Yaki Sayles
Greetings, brothers and sisters. A firm, warm, and solid embrace is extended to you all. In the past year we have witnessed a succession of murderous assaults against the people from various segments of the bourgeois apparatus reflecting a common character structure: The authoritarian psychology.
In July 2011 a group of racists beat Jason Smith, a young New Afrikan man, to death in Louisiana;
in February 2012 Trayvon Martin was murdered by a racist vigilante in Sanford, Fla.;
that same month Christian Gomez was allowed to die of starvation-related complications by guards while on hunger strike at Corcoran State Prison in California;
in March 2012, 17 people, nine of them children, were slaughtered by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bales in two Afghan villages as they lay down to sleep;
that same month Kendrec McDade was slain by racist police in Pasadena, Calif.;
in April 2012 Gerardo Perez-Ruiz was murdered by border vigilantes in Eloy, Ariz.
Each of these atrocities can be traced back to warped thought processes. The U.S. mass psychosis is the key inhibiting factor of social progress in this nation and the origin of sadistic violence in the modern world. Though all of these atrocities offend the humanity of each of us, we’ll highlight two of the cases to illustrate the etiological correlation of racist, xenophobic, sadistic violence and authorization psychology.
|Trayvon Martin, 17, was murdered by a vigilante in Sanford, Fla., Feb. 26, 2012.|
Imagine if you will, you are walking home one evening from the local convenience store with a can of tea and a bag of skittles for your younger brother. You’re looking forward to the Miami Heat game with your father when some strange man drives up and accosts you: “Hey! What are you doing around here? Come here! You need to explain your presence to my satisfaction.”
You’re a young man, a child really, and you don’t know who this guy is. He could be a kidnapper, pedophile, racist murderer – you don’t know. “I’m going home, man.” And you attempt to continue on your way … but he prevents you.
You’re frightened and confused as your fight or flight response kicks in; an altercation ensues and you scream for help as this strange white man pulls a gun. He aims at your chest and your screams of terror are cut off by the thunderclap of a gunshot, and the shock of pain as the hot bullet rips into your flesh slamming you backwards. You fall to the ground feeling the wet pavement under your cheek. As your life flows out of your body, your young eyes glaze to darkness as you die …
You wake to the familiar ache of hunger in your small cell in Corcoran State Prison ASU. You’ve been on hunger strike, and now something is wrong. Your heartbeat is racing, you can’t get enough breath. You knock on the wall to alert your neighbor to your distress. Soon the rest of the guys on hunger strike begin to kick and bang on the doors.
The prison guards can clearly hear the yells of “Man down” and your cell number as a sharp pain grips your chest and abdomen and you fall to the cold cell floor. The calls of “Man down!” and kicking on cell doors becomes more insistent as if the others can sense the grip of death closing around your body. The guards continue to ignore these calls.
Fear and panic seize you as your body no longer obeys your commands. You’ve not eaten in many days. It was the only way to bring attention to the reality of the U.S. domestic torture program being carried out in ASU (Administrative Segregation Unit) and SHU (Security Housing Unit) torture units in California. That coupled with your illness has weakened your body too much to resist the draw of the veil.
It seems like so much time has passed since those around you began calling for aid to help you and none has come. None will ever come as you realize you are about to die … It hurts so much, perhaps death is not such a bad thing … Your eyes begin to flutter … They open and shut once more … but they see only emptiness … You have passed on …
|Christian Gomez, 27, was allowed to die alone in solitary confinement while on hunger strike in Corcoran Prison, California, Feb. 2, 2012.|
These nightmare imaginings, which were the reality for Trayvon Martin, Christian Gomez and all those victims we named at the outset, all have a common psycho-social correlation in their aggressors: All these instances involved social expressions of the same warped character structure; all these instances involved the murder of people of color by Euro-Americans or repressive forces of the U.S. state consistent with that historic dynamic; all these instances involved, despite mass outcry, at least the attempt at tacit justification or explanation by authoritarian interests in the U.S.
We have included in our previous discussions the pathology that has been created by our failure to deal with the legacy of racism and the capitalist authoritarian psychology that spawned it. It has claimed five more victims here and 17 more in a single night in Afghanistan. Trayvon Martin and Christian Gomez did not have to die. But they did. George Zimmerman and CSP-Corcoran ASU guards both share the identical psychological character structure of authoritarian man, reinforced by their particular stations in the U.S. social arrangement: the dominance of white male privilege and state power.
George Zimmerman, an affluent member of an exclusive gated community, clearly exemplifying the perceived supremacy of his Euro-American parentage and economic station, felt completely justified in pursuing this New Afrikan child that he identified as “Black” to the 911 operator. He then stated, “They always get away,” just before hunting down, accosting and subsequently murdering this poor child.
Much of America does not get that within the New Afrikan community there is still a discussion held between parents and male Afrikan children about the dangers they face in the larger society because of their sable skin. For any that believe this is an exaggeration, the execution of Trayvon, Jason and Kendrec is proof these fears continue to be well grounded in truth and prudence. The fact that Mr. Zimmerman continues to feel justified in executing Trayvon, as evidenced by his self-serving statements to Trayvon’s parents at the bail hearing, should chill all of you reading this. The state released him.
Within the New Afrikan community there is still a discussion held between parents and male Afrikan children about the dangers they face in the larger society because of their sable skin. For any that believe this is an exaggeration, the execution of Trayvon, Jason and Kendrec is proof these fears continue to be well grounded.
The irrational core of such justifications lies in the racial dehumanization of New Afrikans (males in particular) in the U.S. This dehumanizing dynamic is embodied in the historical development of property relations in the U.S.: a wealth surplus cultivated on the backs of Afrikan slaves working stolen Native American lands.
The unique ideological basis of capitalist economic development in the U.S., which incorporates the race-caste system as a vital component of the class structure, created a corresponding character structure that this process reproduces and re-enforces in its citizens. There has never been a conflict between democracy and racial oppression, inequality and exploitation in the mind of authoritarian man in Amerika. The pathological dehumanization of racism is the central component which allowed Zimmerman to not only murder a New Afrikan child for walking “his” neighborhood, but to justify doing so as “self-defense” and have that “justification” echoed by the Sanford Police Department. Such irrational reasoning has an origin.
In “the ignoble parody of modernity,” Cornel West states, “racialized persons and racist practices were systemized and canonized principally owing to the financial interests and psychic needs that sustained the slave trade and New World slavery.” It is this racial component of economic exploitation and conquest which is the developmental foundation of U.S. society still celebrated on Columbus Day. The irrational mentality of George Zimmerman did not fall from the sky. It was developed from the authoritarian mass psychology and national ideology of the U.S.
While a historical analysis of U.S. economic conditions gives us a glimpse into the material basis for racist ideology, it provides little insight into its irrational core – how it got there in this warped form today. Subject to the socio-economic conditions of U.S. capitalist society, Amerikan man reproduces those unique historical economic processes in his ideology.
This is why some three centuries after the “Willie Lynch method” was introduced to increase the productive output and relative safety of enslaving Afrikans in the Amerikas, the same twisted psychic structures that process created continue to be reproduced in both New Afrikans (the slave mentality, inferiority complexes, self-hatred) and Euro-Amerikans (authoritarian white male privilege, superiority complexes, hatred of other human phenotypes) in the U.S. today.
Ideologies reshape man’s being; we discover his material core by analyzing the process by which he forms ideologies. The toxic historical process and development of U.S. patriarchal authoritarianism exemplified by its brutal enslavement of Afrikans, bloody extermination of Native Americans, conquest and annexation of lands and resources, from Northern Mexico to the Philippine Islands, continue to give rise to the psychic certainty of additional atrocities in those who maintain the ideological “traditions” of the “Amerikan way” today.
The toxic historical process and development of U.S. patriarchal authoritarianism exemplified by its brutal enslavement of Afrikans, bloody extermination of Native Americans, conquest and annexation of lands and resources, from Northern Mexico to the Philippine Islands, continue to give rise to the psychic certainty of additional atrocities.
You see, the irrational formation of an ideology also makes man’s character structure irrational. Thus the genesis of the pathologically warped reasoning of Zimmerman; that he, not this frightened child, was “justified” in “defending himself.” Such a position is an indictment of the modern U.S. authoritarian mass psychology itself.
Now that the mainstream media, who shamefully ignored this tragedy initially, have gotten so involved that the mass psychological nature of authoritarian ideology is on display. National media outlets are asking the parents of Trayvon, “Shouldn’t George Zimmerman be given a fair chance?” “Shouldn’t we let the process play itself out?” These are legitimate questions, but they are questions that should not have to be asked. That they felt it necessary to ask questions like this is the best proof that we are going about this all wrong.
For example, Pat Buchanan asked on one news program, “Would Al Sharpton and others have come forward had it been a white male who had been shot by an Afrikan citizen?” We all must see how illegitimate these questions are, but entertaining such irrationality is what the pathology created by the historical legacy of racism has reduced us to.
We actually think that because there is a New Afrikan citizen in the White House – who is shamefully and routinely disrespected by the political establishment – and at the head of the Attorney General’s Office that, somehow, we are not the same nation we were in the not so distant past. Many say and think this, while simultaneously – again – engaged in a conversation about the lynching of Trayvon Martin … and we don’t see the contradiction.
To be sure, for weeks we’ve watched corporate mass media put forward theories of justification which absolve this gun toting, self-appointed “neighborhood-watch commander” of culpability in murdering this child – even going so far as attempting to disparage Trayvon’s character with such descriptions as “He was a troubled youth with behavior problems” in one breath, while dialoging on the analysis and re-analysis of the police video of Zimmerman’s head in the next.
The underlying message of the corporate mass media was given unvarnished clarity only days later in a tweet by a white New Jersey police officer, who said of Trayvon, “Act like a thug; die like a thug.” This simple articulation of the modern dehumanization of New Afrikans in Amerika by the authoritarian apparatus was the guiding ethos of George Zimmerman and the Sanford police.
To those with this twisted mindset, Trayvon was not a “human” child walking home from the store to watch the game with his family; he was “one of them,” “Black,” “they,” a “thug” – something other than and inferior to Zimmerman himself. In his mind he was justified in pursuing Trayvon, justified in accosting him, justified in murdering him because George Zimmerman was an upper-middle class white man “protecting” his community, and Trayvon just some “Black thug” in a hoodie.
This is really the type of sick, twisted rationalization that was proffered by Zimmerman and initially accepted by the Sanford police. Even when it was clear the nexus of protestation had forced the reactionary state to cleave with the authoritarian social imperative and finally arrest Zimmerman, instead of focusing on the self-evident atrocity of Trayvon’s murder and inexcusable delay in the state seeking redress, the authoritarian regime used this moment for law enforcement to sing its own accolades and re-enforce the authoritarian status quo by stressing the position that the national outcry at this one man lynching was not a factor in the state’s decision to prosecute.
They verified it by allowing Zimmerman to deposit $15k with a bail bondsman and just walk out of jail scott free, as though such a warped human hiding behind the “stand your ground” statute does not pose a threat to the safety and lives of others. Just as disturbing , only weeks later, it was discovered Zimmerman was not having such a great economic difficulty as he’d led the court to believe. He had raised some $250k online for his “defense.” The fact that so many Amerikans donated money to Zimmerman in just a few short weeks that he was able to amass a quarter million dollars is definitive proof of the mass psychosis of the authoritarian psychology in Amerika.
The “stand your ground” policy that is the law in Florida does include the Trayvon Martins of this nation; how can it not? With this in mind, how can any rational person entertain, even for a second, the explanation of Zimmerman, who’s admitted to pursuing and confronting this child before slaying him?
We live in a society that has never committed itself to changing the way that it thinks. The same social, political and economic forces that created the mentality that lynched Emmett Till and later James Byrd is the same system that is responsible for what is call racial profiling today. This is the same type of thinking that resulted in the murders of Kendrec McDade and Gerardo Perez-Ruiz earlier this year.
|Jason Smith, 14, was beaten to death by the KKK June 6, 2011. This is an autopsy photo. See the video at the end of the story.|
These are the same forces that created the hate which bombed a church in Birmingham, Alabama, that claimed the lives of four little New Afrikan girls attending Sunday school in 1963; the same hate which killed James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1964; the same hate that murdered Jason Smith in Louisiana in July of 2011.
Trayvon Martin’s black skin is what put him on the radar of Zimmerman and he said as much to the 911 operator. The dispatcher specifically told him not to pursue Trayvon, but Zimmerman hunted Trayvon anyway because he felt he had the authority to do so. The authoritarian mindset had fatal results.
The outrage that has been and continues to be expressed is justified. But it is not enough to demand justice. George Zimmerman is a symptom of a diseased society. We have legalized hate with the legislation of racial profiling and laws such as “stand your ground,” Arizona’s anti-immigrant statues and “gang” injunctions on entire communities of color. It is a crisis of culture, a manifestation of the malignant sickness of bourgeois society.
The core authoritarian psychology that gives social validity to these warped mindsets must itself be eradicated. We will continue experiencing these atrocities until such time as the minds of the masses are transformed, until we realize a victorious revolutionary change in this society.
But this pathology finds its most indifferent expression not in the gated communities of the upper middle class. No, it finds its most indifferent expression in prisons. Over the past 30 years, with tacit state sanction and support, the victims’ rights lobby and prison industrial complex have waged a successful dehumanization campaign on those who’ve abrogated “the law.”
The compulsion of socio-economic desperation, race-class disenfranchisement, and intentional underdevelopment of specific segments of the underclass – overwhelmingly New Afrikan, Latino and Native American – have been irrationally discounted as the origin of “crime,” and the onus for survival activities has been placed solely on the shoulders of the individual offender.
From this artificial social perspective has arisen the myth of the sub-human, predatory, criminal offender. Those consigned to U.S. prisons do not simply lose their physical freedom; they lose their social designation as fellow “humans.” Society views prisoners the same way we view vermin – as something other than human, repugnant and unworthy of compassion. Christian Gomez discovered this with fatal results. Prison, as a tool of social control and race-caste containment, has always been a key component of U.S. capitalism, but the broad based, systematic dehumanization of prisoners has expanded in direct proportion to the economic expansion of the prison industrial complex.
In the 2010 annual report of Corrections Corporation of America the world’s largest private prison purveyor, they state: “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices … For instance, any changes with respect to drugs or controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of people arrested, convicted and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing the demand for correctional facilities to house them.”
Those consigned to U.S. prisons do not simply lose their physical freedom; they lose their social designation as fellow “humans.”
The CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association), GEO Group [the world’s second largest private prison purveyor], and the Fraternal Order of Police have parroted these same lines openly in their lobbying efforts at the state and federal level. Do you not see the inherent contradiction in a public safety apparatus whose speculative profits and salaries are attached to maximizing criminal offenders, not reducing them?
This view they hold of prisoners and potential prisoners as commodities by the various aspects of the prison industry – both public and private – provides a compelling economic motivation for maintaining that social dehumanization in the overall populace.
Seventy percent of all TV programing is crime and punishment content, from “Cops” to “Judge Judy,” from “Law and Order: SVU” to “Blue Bloods” and countless others – all re-enforcing the message of corporate mass media and the labor aristocracy of prison guard unions like the CCPOA that prisoners are not humans but some subspecies of bipedal animal entirely separate from humanity itself. This is particularly pronounced in American paramilitary organizations like police or prison guards and is a manifestation of the mechanization of authoritarian man in the West.
Like the authoritarian process itself, this mechanization of man took centuries and finds its origins in man’s efforts to disassociate himself from the animal as he developed technology.
The best analysis of this is given by Wilhelm Reich in his piece, “The Human Struggle for Freedom,” where he states: “His viciousness, his inability to live peacefully with his own kind, his wars, bear witness to the fact that man is distinguished from other animals only by boundless sadism and the mechanical trinity of an authoritarian view of life, mechanistic science and the machine … Man’s claims are peculiarly contrived to make him forget that he is an animal … Man’s life is dichotomized: One part of his life is determined by biological laws (sexual gratification, consumption of food, relatedness to nature); the other part of his life is determined by the machine civilization (mechanical ideas about his own (self) organization, his superior position in the animal kingdom, his racial or class attitudes toward other human groups, valuations about ownership, science, religion etc.)
“His being an animal and his not being an animal – biological roots on the one hand and technical development on the other hand – cleave man’s life and thought.
There is thus no contradiction in the mind of the prison guard in upholding their oath to the Constitution’s noble humanistic ideals and dehumanizing imprisoned citizens. The warped character structure of the authoritarian psychology to differentiate itself from the “animal” – “the criminal” – makes that dehumanization a simple economic determination for prison staff, an almost reflexive psychological process intimately connected to their economic empowerment, socio-political prestige and influence.
|Kendrec McDade, a 19-year-old unarmed college student, was murdered by police in Pasadena, Calif., March 24, 2012. Here, he kisses his newborn baby brother.|
That New Afrikans and Latinos make up 75 percent of the prison population, but a scant 26 percent of the national population gives a corresponding race-caste “justification” to this dehumanizing dynamic in their minds. So ignoring Christian Gomez’ – and the entire unit’s – pleas for help as he died in agony was no great feat for the prison guards. That the only outcry that has been heard has come from the relatively small community of social progressives reveals the immutable truth of the pervasiveness of the authoritarian mass psychology in the U.S.
Society’s support for this evil in service to power and privilege is exposed by their apathy and silence. Despite his mistakes in life, Christian Gomez was not only human, he was a hero, and those of us who are principled people cannot allow his sacrifice to be forgotten. Much has been said about the medical problems that he had which contributed to his tragic death. However, the question that we must ask is: How dreadful must the conditions under which he and others were housed have been that Christian would commit himself to starving himself given his medical condition?
How sick and twisted must the core psychology of our nation be that so few of us have expressed our horror and outrage at the prison guards who just stood idly by, ignoring screams for help, and let him die in agony? How long will we allow racism and the authoritarian psychology at the core of those guards’ character structures to govern our cultural mores? The same sadism in service to the authoritarian imperative laid waste to the peaceful protest at Attica in 1971; gunned down W.L. Nolen and other freedom fighters in the late ‘60s and let them bleed out on the yard, feeding the melancholy history of Soledad State Prison; assassinated George L. Jackson in San Quentin on August 21, 1971, … and allowed Christian Gomez to die horribly in Corcoran ASU on Feb. 2, 2012.
Much has been said about the medical problems that he had which contributed to his tragic death. However, the question that we must ask is: How dreadful must the conditions under which he and others were housed have been that Christian would commit himself to starving himself given his medical condition?
Only in struggle, in actively educating those who are unconscious, organizing those who are conscious and mobilizing the advanced elements against the authoritarian psychosis will we effect meaningful change in the ideology of hate and sadistic violence which is at the core of authoritarian man’s character. It is incumbent upon all freedom loving people to change the culture in which we live. Institutional racism, by whatever name it is called, must be confronted and destroyed wherever it rears its ugly head.
As we have stated before, you, the 99 percent – the people – are the greatest force on this planet. You have the power to change this society and the world you live in now, to dictate the kind we all live in the future. The power to change the culture that has already taken so much from us … and of us, is in your hands.
The NCTT (NARN (New Afrikan Revolutionary Nation) Collective Think Tank), both here in Corcoran SHU and Pelican Bay SHU, have put forward practical programs and platforms for all of us to build toward a brighter world.
From the 10 core objectives of the occupy movement national coalition and three pilot programs – CCE (Closed Circuit Economic) Initative, Sustainable Community Agricultural Commune; Block-Vote Democratic Initiative – developed here; to the glorious efforts put forward by NCTT Chairman Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa and Abdul Olugbala Shakur, such as The Bunchy Carter Institute for Revolutionary Change in Pelican Bay give us all the tools and institutions capable of forging the transfer culture necessary to turn the tide of history.
By taking up these tools and supporting these efforts, we consciously act to shatter the chains of the authoritarian psychosis, to free the minds of all masses – to free ourselves.
You, the 99 percent – the people – are the greatest force on this planet. You have the power to change this society and the world you live in now, to dictate the kind we all live in the future.
Let us end this discussion with these words echoed down the corridors of history as a basis for a lasting solution to these ills of society: “The commune. The central citywide revolutionary culture. But who will build the commune that will guide the people into a significant challenge to property rights? Carving out a commune in the central city will involve claiming certain rights as our own – out front. Rights that have not been respected to now. Property rights. It will involve building a political, social and economic infrastructure, capable of filling the vacuum that has been left by the establishment ruling class and pushing the occupy forces of the enemy culture from our midst. …
“The revolutionary is outlawed … Revolution is illegal. It’s against the law. It’s prohibited. It will not be allowed. It is clear that the revolutionary is a lawless man (or woman). The outlaw and the lumpen will make the revolution. The people, the workers, will adopt it. This must be the new order of things, after the fact of the modern industrial fascist state. …
“You will find no class or category more aware, more embittered, desperate or dedicated to the ultimate remedy – revolution. The most dedicated, the best of our kind – you’ll find them in the Folsoms, San Quentins and Soledads.” – George L. Jackson
Trayvon, Christian, Kendrec, Gerardo, Jason and those nine children in Afghanistan will never know justice as long as the authoritarian psychology and ideology of hate responsible for murdering them is allowed to persist. There is only one sure cure. You are no longer ignorant to its reality or origin.
Will you continue to stand idly by, content to submit to the bonds of the ruling 1 percent, submitting to conformity, turning a blind eye to the evil pervading the very fabric of society? Or will you stand with us and those who dare to change the nature and structure of capitalist society, dare to change the culture of hate, dare to struggle, dare to win?
Your choice will determine the course of history. History will be kind to those of us who love freedom. The spirits of Trayvon, Christian, Kendrec, Gerardo, Jason and those nine Afghan babies are watching all of us with an interested eye. What will you show them?
In solidarity with the Bunchy Carter Institute for Revolutionary Change. Until we win or don’t lose.
For more information on the NCTT COR-SHU or its work product, contact: Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, CSP-COR-SHU 4BIL-53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212; J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, CSP-COR-SHU 4BIL-46, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212; Kambui Robinson, C-82830, CSP-COR-SHU 4BIL-49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212; and Jabari Scott, H-30536, CSP-COR SHU 4BIL-63, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212.
For more information on other NCTT projects or the Bunchy Carter Institute for Revolutionary Change, contact: NCTT Chairman Sitawa N.J. Dewberry, C-35671, PBSP-SHU D-1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532, or Abdul O.S. Harvey, C-48884, PBSP-SHU D-4-112, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532.
This statement was transcribed by Kendra Castaneda.
The father of Jason Smith, 14, describes his son’s KKK murder on June 6, 2011, and asks for help.
April 26, 2012
by Zaharibu Dorrough, J. Heshima Denham, Kambui Robinson and Jabari Scott of the NCTT Corcoran Security Housing Unit (SHU)
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
|Michael Zaharibu Dorrough and his family are not the sort of patriarchal, authoritarian family that prepares children to confuse the interests of the ruling 1 percent with their own interests and to submit to oppression without protest.|
Steadfast greetings, brothers and sisters. Our love and solidarity to you all. We felt it appropriate to open this statement with Dr. King’s call, which has been applicable to any given period where injustice is rife. We felt compelled to provide some necessary clarity and context to the struggle taking place.
The National Occupy Movement has been magnificent in how it has changed the framework in which the discourse on unequal distribution of wealth must be made. But in order for the movement to develop into the popular movement that it must become to effect permanent and meaningful change, the slogan, “We are the 99 percent,” must become a reality. It is imperative that both Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and Occupy the Hood (OTH) struggle together to form a popular movement.
It is crucial to any lasting progress that we reignite the cultural revolution that was started early in this nation’s history but never fulfilled: John Brown’s revolt, Thomas Dorr’s rebellion, the civil and human rights struggles of the 1950s-‘60s, the armed revolts throughout this nation’s history, including the rebellions in Watts, Oakland (Kambui and Jabari’s hometown), Harlem, Detroit, Cleveland (Zaharibu’s hometown), Chicago (Heshima’s hometown), and Kent State, to name a few.
These struggles laid the foundation for the cultural revolution that the U.S. was in the process of undergoing up until the later 1970s. No society can make the necessary transformation from a capitalist, patriarchal, authoritarian, racist, sexist, homophobic, unjust one to one in which democratic ideals can prevail and fulfilling one’s potential is actually possible and encouraged without undergoing a cultural revolutionary transformation.
We are not talking about what kind of government we want; that can and will occur in time, and you will know when that time comes just as you knew that the time had come to fight this battle. A cultural revolution occurs during the transitional stage in the struggle and consists of people from different cultural – i.e., racial, ethnic, religious – backgrounds and schools of thought varying politically, economically, socially, spiritually, intellectually, educationally and sexually all coming together to realize a vision for the kind of society they want to share and live in. It is quite possibly the crucial step in a society transforming itself. That’s exactly what was underway toward the mid- to late 1970s.
We believe that because of the overall political immaturity of all but a few of the liberation groups at that time, the movement was not able to develop into a cohesive popular movement. As a result, groups were crushed, individuals either went into exile, were assassinated or imprisoned, while a lot of others in the movement were co-opted by the system.
Billions of dollars were spent on social programs during the Johnson administration. Yet most, perhaps all, of these programs no longer exist. The cultural revolution of that time – traditionally called the “social revolution” – was re-characterized as the “sexual revolution” by the ruling class, reduced to a period of time in which citizens engaged in promiscuous sex – nothing more.
It was part of the ruling class’s effort to de-legitimize the efforts made by those brave citizens who dared to struggle! Simultaneously, they were re-enforcing the puritanical component of the authoritarian mass psychology. It was also the intention of the ruling class to re-write the historical record of the period, thus depriving future generations of a historical record to build on.
There is already an understanding of the underlying conditions that are responsible for so much misery, and those conditions have always existed, but what is not as clear is why have so many accepted these conditions for so long? We will try to address that here.
But what must be clear at the outset is change, developing a popular movement, must consist of OWS and OTH forging meaningful coalitions with one another. Coalitions that recognize that this struggle is not a “white” struggle; it is a people’s struggle.
The Occupy Movement is not a “white” struggle; it is a people’s struggle. The middle class must be prepared to take the necessary steps to reach these goals and that includes reaching out to the underclass.
It must be recognized that in order for OWS to mature into a popular movement, the participation of OTH is required. Those citizens within OTH, the leadership, must mobilize with OWS. This is a protracted struggle. The middle class must be prepared to take the necessary steps to reach these goals and that includes reaching out to the underclass and OTH. OTH must see that it is in their interests to reach back and unite in this struggle.
What is a cultural revolution?
But what is it that we are struggling against? Exactly what is a cultural revolution? Why is it necessary, and what does it entail? How can it be waged successfully?
The answer lies in the nature of the struggle of the National Occupy Movement itself, the struggle between the interests of the ruling 1 percent and those of the 99 percent. It is a struggle between ideas that have been imposed on the people as a direct result of the changes in economic modes of production and the people’s unconscious acceptance, support and identification with those ideas and new ideas that reflect these warped artificial psychological structures in favor of those that free them from an exploitive political and economic relationship that serves a wealth elite.
It must be understood that our movement will NOT succeed in effecting a fundamental change in the mass psychological structure which supports this exploitive relationship. This is the core purpose of a cultural revolution, to eradicate unprogressive values, tendencies, sentiments and modes of thought. But before we can expound upon the characteristics of the cultural revolution, we first need to clearly analyze the core impediment to the successful conclusion of attempted cultural revolutions in the past.
The chief obstacle to the realization of progressive social change here has always been the patriarchal authoritarian psychological structure of reactionary men and women in the U.S. These concepts may be complex for those new to them, so we’ll attempt to be as clear and brief as possible.
For most of U.S. capitalist society’s existence, it has brutally exploited the labor, ideas and political will of the vast majority of its population to maintain and expand the wealth, power and privilege of a greedy elite ruling class the movement has identified as the 1 percent. It has been this way for hundreds of years and each time progressive social forces have attempted to cast off this yoke of oppression or move the nation closer to the idealistic sentiments expressed in the Declaration of Independence, those forces have been repressed, not simply by the ruling 1 percent and its tools, but by vast segments of the oppressed masses themselves.
What causes this illogical contradiction? What prevents the socio-economic situation they’re suffering through from reflecting the psychic structure of the masses? Again and again, throughout the history of progressive social movements, we see the economic and ideological situations of the masses in the U.S. not coinciding and in fact being at considerable variance. The socio-economic reality of the people is not directly and immediately translated into political consciousness; if it were, the social revolution would have been realized years ago. The answer lies in the unique historical processes that forged the character structure of the average Amerikan worker.
That process began with the introduction of patriarchy as the dominant force in social ideology in Europe and its impetus toward authoritarian control of every aspect of social life of the remaining members of the family unit, especially as it relates to the negation of natural social and biological processes. In the figure of the “father” the authoritarian ruling class has its representative in every family, so the family unit becomes its most vital instruments of power.
This patriarchal authoritarian process’ chief component is puritanical repression, and this is also the manner in which the ruling 1 percent chains the ideological structure of the lower middle and middle classes to its own interests. Unlike patriarchal authoritarianism, puritanical repression as a tool of mass social control is fairly recent – in the last 300 years.
If we analyze the history of puritanicalism and the etiology of the repression of natural human biological expression, you’ll find its origins aren’t at the beginning of cultural development. No, it was not until the organized establishment of patriarchal authoritarianism and the class system that puritanicalism starts to assert itself and begin to serve the interests of the ruling 1 percent in amassing material profit.
There is a logical reason for all of this when seen from the perspective of the thriving exploitation of human labor and the apparent enthusiasm of the people to accept that exploitation. You see, the ruling 1 percent very rarely need to resort to brute force to maintain control of society, as the owners of the means of production prefer to employ their ideological power over the oppressed as their primary weapon, for it is the ideology of puritanical patriarchal authoritarianism that is the mainstay of the ruling elite.
The ruling 1 percent very rarely need to resort to brute force to maintain control of society, as the owners of the means of production prefer to employ their ideological power over the oppressed as their primary weapon.
It is within the authoritarian family that the merging of the economic arrangement and the puritanical structure of society takes place; religious and other puritanical interests continue this function later. Thus, the authoritarian state has an enormous stake in the authoritarian family; it becomes the factory in which the state’s structure and ideology is molded.
Man’s authoritarian psychology is thus produced by embedding these puritanical inhibitions, guilt feelings and fear of freedom to experience natural forms of human expression. The suppression of one’s economic needs compasses a different psychological reaction than one’s natural human drives.
The suppression of one’s economic needs usually incites resistance, while the repression of natural biological needs removes those desires from the consciousness, embeds them in the subconscious and erects a “moral defense” against them, and in so doing prevents rebellion against both forms of suppression. The result is the inhibition of rebellion itself.
How the 1 percent suppresses the cultural revolution
In the average Amerikan, there is no trace of revolutionary thinking. It is this process that has strengthened political reaction in the U.S. and made far too many victims of economic inequality here passive, indifferent and apolitical. It has succeeded in creating a secondary force in man’s mind, an artificial interest that supports the authoritarian order of the ruling 1 percent.
In the average Amerikan, there is no trace of revolutionary thinking.
Yes, most are truly “trapped in the matrix.” This is observable at every level of this capitalist society. It is the conservative who first suggests reactionary repressive measures or curtailing civil liberties in the face of civil disobedience or broad political dissent. The Occupy Movement continues to experience this firsthand at the hands of national police forces.
The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition here in the Corcoran State Prison SHU and in Pelican Bay continues to experience waves of retaliation from state prison industrialists. This “fear of freedom” is inherent to the authoritarian character structure of conservative man.
The conflict that originally takes place between natural desires and authoritarian suppression of these desires later becomes the conflict between instinct and morality within the person. This, of course, produces a contradiction within the person. Since man is not only the object of the historical processes that created the economic and ideological influences of his social life, but also reproduces them in his activities, his thinking and acting must be just as contradictory as the society from which they arose.
The U.S., for instance, is a society founded on the premises of “equality, freedom and the unalienable rights of man,” yet its formation, history and modern structure contradict this. When we speak of the realization of U.S. “manifest destiny” or the development and maintenance of its global hegemony, we are speaking of the systematic genocide of Native Americans, the organized theft of Native land, the slavery and brutalization of Africans and New Afrikans, the maintenance of institutional racism and sexism, imperialist war mongering, state-sponsored kidnapping, torture and targeted assassinations, suppression of sexual democracy, state imposition of religious moral imperatives that deprive others of their equal rights, the naked exploitation of human labor and suppression of organized labor, and the mass incarceration of the poor and people of color – all while espousing the ideas of “opportunity, fairness and equal protection under the law.”
This is the historical legacy of contradiction in the development and maintenance of U.S. society. These same contradictions are reproduced in the psychic-structures of its people.
Should the middle strata of White Amerika lose these warped concepts of “morality” to the same degree it continues to lose its intermediate position between the average worker and the upper class, this would seriously threaten the interests of the ruling 1 percent. You see, lurking also among this strata of the people, ever ready to break free of its reactionary tendencies, is the inherent revolutionary imperative of their socio-economic situation.
This is why since the start of the 2008 recession the FCC and virtually every segment of public and private enterprise has increased its push for “morality” and “strengthening traditional marriage,” because the authoritarian ideology and family unit forms the link from the wretched social reality of the lower middle class to reactionary ideology and social conservatism: The ideology of the 1 percent.
Where this ideology is uprooted from the compulsive family unit, the authoritarian system is threatened. They sense it on the horizon, and historically this is when the greatest ideological resistance asserts itself.
The socio-economic exploitation of the 99 percent, in its myriad manifestations, would not be possible without the psychological structure of the masses that accepts that status quo.
It is when the economically disenfranchised and dissatisfied classes begin to organize themselves, begin to fight for socio-political improvements and begin raising the cultural level of the broader masses that these authoritarian “moralistic” inhibitions set in. The bottom line here is every social order produces in the masses of its members that structure which it needs to achieve its main aims.
The U.S. is no different. The socio-economic exploitation of the 99 percent, in its myriad manifestations, would not be possible without the psychological structure of the masses that accepts that status quo. There is a direct correlation between the economic structure of capitalist society and the mass psychological structures of its members, not only in the sense that “the ruling ideology is the ideology of the ruling class,” but more essential to the question of a resurgence of the cultural revolution in the U.S. is that the contradictions of the economic structure of society are also embodied in the psychological structure of the subjugated masses.
The role of the cultural revolution
Which brings us to the cultural revolution itself. The role of the cultural revolution is to uproot these old unprogressive ideas and values which have served to keep us shackled to the legacy of oppressive relationships that define the majority of U.S. history and usher in new values which reflect the universal mores of freedom, justice, equality and human rights.
A cultural revolution is a reconstruction of a people’s way of life in order to move them to a given objective; it forms a new historical continuity in which re-evaluation of self, the people and the society compels us to cast aside historical revisionism. It will place the political power back in the hands of the people, rescue democracy from the stranglehold of corrupt political influences and corporate super-PACs.
The role of the cultural revolution is to uproot these old unprogressive ideas and values which have served to keep us shackled to the legacy of oppressive relationships that define the majority of U.S. history and usher in new values which reflect the universal mores of freedom, justice, equality and human rights.
A true cultural revolution entails more than simply chanting slogans, protest actions, hunger strikes or occupations. It’s more than changing our looks or altering our polling strategy to more closely reflect support for those issues dear to the movement. No, it entails changing our core psychology, how you think, changing your conduct and activities, your interactions and methods in order to transform society as a whole.
Cultural values are produced by economic and political systems. As we struggle against the institutional inequalities inherent in the U.S. capitalist arrangement, we will lose the cultural values of that system and will forge more humane values as the basis of new political and economic relationships.
Such a revolution must encompass the common man and woman, illuminating for them the inherent interests in this national transformation of values and how it will positively impact their lives and the lives of their friends and loved ones. This is the reason the National Occupy Movement must organize and grow together.
Cultural values are produced by economic and political systems. As we struggle against the institutional inequalities inherent in the U.S. capitalist arrangement, we will lose the cultural values of that system and will forge more humane values as the basis of new political and economic relationships.
This calls for unity, the conscious development of united fronts and strategic alliances that grow deeper and richer as they experience trials and adversity, pass through ease and danger. Essentially this process IS the cultural revolution.
What must be understood is these different groups represent different class interests, political interests and economic interests and have different ideologies. It is the reality of this dynamic that has been the basis for the divide and rule politic that has governed life in this society and most others since the rise of monopoly capitalism. It is the basis of the primary contradiction now.
We have demonstrated how for the vast majority of this nation’s history, the ruling 1 percent has been successful in convincing desperate segments of society to identify their interests with the ruling 1 percent’s. Playing on “this” economic class interest of the middle strata or “that” religious moral lean of the lower middle strata, all along ensuring that whatever the ultimate outcome, their interests, the interests of the 1 percent elite, will be preserved as the ruling interests.
For the vast majority of this nation’s history, the ruling 1 percent has been successful in convincing desperate segments of society to identify their interests with the ruling 1 percent’s.
They’ve been consistently able to do so despite centuries of material evidence of their duplicity because they’ve been capable of maintaining control of not simply the context of these national discussions, but of the apparatus in which they’ve been held – corporate mass media – and the very cultural values upon which those discussions are based.
There is a relevant maxim which states, “The ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class.” The current struggle we are waging now in the National Occupy Movement, prisoner hunger strike solidarity movement, anti-imperialist movement etc. is a manifestation of the people’s consciousness that their interests and the interests of the ruling elite are not the same interests and in fact are and have always been diametrically opposed.
Winning the cultural revolution
It is for this reason that corporate entities, government officials, their police forces and corporate-owned mass media have made a collective and coordinated effort to downplay, discredit, underreport, dismiss, brutally attack, pass laws against and ultimately crush the movement before it can lead to a true cultural revolution which could force upon them a progressive transformation in the nature and structure of U.S. society.
This has been the historical trend in the U.S.:
Cultural revolutions of these types in the U.S. historically all have a central purpose: to destroy the oppressors’ conditioned mores, attitudes, ways, customs, philosophies and habits that the dominant power base has instilled in us which allow these exploitive and repressive relationships to exist.
A cultural revolution is a revolution of one’s values, and the ruling 1 percent recognizes your values dictate your actions. They also realize where such a transformation in your worldview would lead; it was even noted in the Declaration of Independence: “(A)ll experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security.”
A cultural revolution is a revolution of one’s values, and the ruling 1 percent recognizes your values dictate your actions. As long as the ruling 1 percent can keep you convinced that its values and interests are your own, you will continue to suffer oppression without protest.
As long as they can keep you convinced that the interests of the ruling 1 percent are your own, you will continue to be content to suffer the “evils” that you have without protestation. Thus, at all costs they must ensure you don’t realize that the values that have been instilled in you for generations – those of greed, racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, elitism, naked self-interest, religious intolerance, classism and thinly-veiled hypocrisy – were instilled to ensure you never realize you’ve long since been “reduced under absolute despotism,” and the political and economic choices available to you, no matter what your decisions, favor their interests first, and whatever interests support theirs most effectively secondly.
The entire purpose of socio-economic stratification and institutional racism is to ensure the ruling 1 percent can maintain control with “a minimum of force, a maximum of law, all made palatable by the fanfare of unity and patriotism,” as Howard Zinn wrote in “A People’s History of the United States.”
Brothers and sisters, this will not be easy because the most vital battles will have to be waged within you. But the reassertion of the cultural revolution is necessary if the movement is to realize actual success and not become just another footnote in the crushed movements of American history.
We will stand with you, wage struggle with you, but in the final analysis only you, the people, the 99 percent, can hoist this banner and carry the cultural revolution to its victorious conclusion – and on the other side a new and brighter world for us all. Until we win or don’t lose.
For more information on the NCTT (NARN (New African Revolutionary Nationalism) Collective Think Tank) Corcoran SHU and its work product, contact:
March 26, 2012
by J. Heshima Denham and Zaharibu Dorrough, NCTT Corcoran SHU
This banner led the July 23, 2011, march in Santa Cruz in solidarity with the hunger strikers. – Photo: Bradley, Bradley@risedup.net
Written to Kendra Castaneda on March 16, 2012, postmarked March 19 –
This domestic torture program employs as its key feature the “validation process,” by which innocent “source items” – a tattoo, address, group exercise etc. – which evidence no “overt unlawful acts” in furtherance of a “gang.” And the arbitrary and subjective determinations of a staff gang investigator of these “source items” is the entire basis for consignment to indefinite confinement in these sensory deprivation torture units.
Following unprecedented peaceful, non-violent hunger strikes by tens of thousands of state prisoners and a global social outcry, CDCR has submitted a new “Security Threat Group” management proposal that states its intent to move to a “behavior-based model” that focuses on prevention of actual gang related criminal acts.
We have reviewed the proposal. Unfortunately, in its current form, it fails to meet its stated intent and instead seeks to retain the “arbitrary and subjective determination” standard for gang investigative staff. That standard is the foundation of decades of abuses and the very focus is the prevention of horrible crimes as the basis of moving to a behavior-based model in one breath; yet draft regulatory definitions, language and polices maintain the same status quo of arbitrary and subjective staff determinations that are responsible for perhaps the largest, most well hidden domestic torture program on earth.
Draft regulatory definitions, language and polices maintain the same status quo of arbitrary and subjective staff determinations that are responsible for perhaps the largest, most well hidden domestic torture program on earth.
A truly behavior based “gang” interdiction model, by definition, calls for a complete abolition of arbitrary and subjective determinations as a basis for consigning these men, fellow humans, to eternity in these torture units. By doing so, investigative staff will be free to focus their energy and resources on actually prosecuting overt unlawful acts – i.e., actual criminal conduct – as opposed to punishing men for an address, photograph or their political ideas that have NO relation to the violation of civil or criminal law. Anything short of this calls into question the validity of their stated intent and their dedication to the public good.
For more information on the NCTT Corcoran SHU or to discuss these issues, contact:
J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, CSP-COR-SHU, 4B1L-46, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212, and Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, CSP-COR-SHU, 4B1L-53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212.
This letter transcribed by Kendra Castaneda.
Editor’s note: This comes from the brilliant minds – locked away in one of the most restrictive prisons in the U.S. – who brought you “California prison hunger strikers propose ‘10 core demands’ for the national Occupy Wall Street Movement,” the Bay View’s most read story, with 9,980 pageviews, from Dec. 6, 2011, to Feb. 19, 2012.
by J. Heshima Denham, Zaharibu Dorrough and Kambui Robinson of the NCTT Corcoran Security Housing Unit (SHU)
“But beneath this conventional enthusiasm and amid this ingratiating ritual toward the dominant power, you can easily perceive in the wealthy a deep distaste for the democratic institutions of their country. The people are a power they both fear and despise.” – Alexis De Tocqueville, “Democracy in America”
Greetings, brothers and sisters. A firm, warm and solid embrace of revolutionary love is extended to you all.
As we proceed in this period of evolution in our struggles for substantive social change in the U.S. via the national Occupy Movement, the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Movement, the Anti-Imperialist Movement etc., it is imperative that we not only understand that we are all representative of a single socio-political and historic motive force, but those in opposition to our democratic aspirations are the very same political, social and economic powers that this nation has relied on to ensure the integrity of democracy, social justice and economic equality. This is a contradiction.
This historic contradiction will NOT be resolved via our disparate efforts. Substantive change will only be realized through a comprehensive strategic approach, coordinated and conducted by us all. Simply put, we are a single movement, and for us to have the social impact necessary to compel progress we must proceed with this realization as out guiding ethos. We of the NCTT (New Afrikan Collective Think Tank) in the Corcoran SHU (Security Housing Unit) have a proposal on effective strategic organizing we’d like to share with you here, but before we do so we think it is imperative that you all understand the historic significance of what we are all a part of.
It is our assessment that what is occurring today as it relates to the national protest movement (i.e., Occupy Wall Street, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity etc.) is the unfinished legacy of the struggle for social justice necessary for the U.S. to fulfill its democratic potential. This struggle is part of the rich and courageous legacy of abolitionists, women’s rights activists, organized labor, populists, human and civil rights activists and other democratic struggles of the nation’s past.
|Cincinnati – Photo: J. Cherise McIntosh|
Social revolution has always been imperative to this type of substantive change. This calls for the recognition and coming together of people – citizens from different cultural, economic and ideological backgrounds – realizing the common interest inherent in this truth: that we all inhabit the same planet, breathe the same air, are part of the human family.
The social revolution of the 1960s, once it was contained by the conservative, corporate counter-culture, was reduced to being characterized as a “sexual revolution” in the same disparaging terms that the social revolution we are waging in this nation today is being characterized as a kind of mindless, leaderless rabble who simply dislike the wealthy, or “gang members,” whose only interest is imposing themselves on the larger population. These intentionally dishonest characterizations are not being made by the average reasoning man or woman – but instead by those we’ve vested with the responsibility of governing our political, social or economic institutions.
CDCR spokeswoman Terry Thornton, when asked about the alleged “suicide” death of a “jailhouse lawyer” in Pelican Bay’s ASU (Administrative Segregation Unit), responded, “Why are you concerned about that? … Was the inmate someone important? You know, someone well known like Charles Manson?” This is typical of the wealthy and their tools.
Was it any surprise that former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain described Occupy Movement activists as “stupid” because they opposed the inherent institutional inequality of the capitalist arrangement? Neither were we shocked that CDCR spokeswoman Terry Thornton, when asked about the alleged “suicide” death of a “jailhouse lawyer” in Pelican Bay’s ASU (Administrative Segregation Unit), responded, “Why are you concerned about that? … Was the inmate someone important? You know, someone well known like Charles Manson?” This is typical of the wealthy and their tools.
We began this discussion with a quote from Alexis De Tocqueville to illustrate not only the disdain in which the power structure in this society holds the people’s democratic expression but the fear and resentment they hold towards those who dare challenge this status quo in capitalist Amerika. We represent nothing more to these overseers and shareholders – and that’s just what the politicians, policy makers, prison industrialists and corporate executives are – than billions of dollars in potential profit to be extracted from our human misery.
CDCR and its lobbying body, the CCPOA, has succeeded in extorting budgets in excess of some nations’ gross national product by using us as the centerpiece of their distortion and false propaganda campaign of fear and dehumanization.
For example, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and its lobbying body, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA), has succeeded in extorting budgets in excess of some nations’ gross national product by using us as the centerpiece of their distortion and false propaganda campaign of fear and dehumanization. They’ve duped taxpayers so successfully for so long at the expense of our very humanity that we had no choice but to take up a strategy in which the ultimate sacrifice may yet be necessary.
Following the ending of the last hunger strike in October, most of us, particularly those of us in these short corridors here and in Pelican Bay, were refused any medical treatment though we lost over 20 pounds in the 13-day period the second hunger strike lasted – and we hadn’t yet recovered from the first.
The kind of sacrifices being exemplified by courageous nationalists and activists like you in the Occupy Movement – we love it, we love you and we stand with you.
Our hunger strikes were the only way to effectively resist the nonstop assault on our humanity which is the inevitable consequence of burying us indefinitely in these sensory deprivation torture units. Equally, when working wages or employment itself are so shamelessly inconsistent with the cost of living, resulting in conditions of poverty, there is a corresponding poverty of spirit. The success of the Occupy Movement, like the hunger strikes, requires sacrifice and strategic insight. The kind of sacrifices being exemplified by courageous nationalists and activists like you – we love it, we love you and we stand with you.
Seizing the reins of history
What we all must come to understand is our struggle – like the vision of a new social structure inherent in this movement – must adopt new methods of ensuring its survival and expansion. The shear absurdity of some of the political pandering and positions in this election season, from Newt “Gingrinch’s” espousal of the merits of exploiting child labor in the underclass to discussions of cutting unemployment benefits by Tea Party Republicans in the face of record unemployment and cash-fat corporations refusing to hire, highlights how out of touch these puppets of the 1 percent ruling elite are with the daily challenges of the common man or woman.
Simultaneously, we are being asked to trust these same people who are responsible for creating conditions for, and exploitation of, human misery. We have been doing so for centuries and it has only moved us from one socio-economic crisis to the next.
Only when the people, the 99 percent, seized the reigns of history has the democratic destiny of humanity and its most noble ideas – unity, equality, self-determination, cooperation, freedom, justice and human rights – been advanced to any appreciable degree. Each progressive step forward – from the Suffrage Movement, which seized a woman’s right to vote from an entrenched chauvinistic privilege, to the nonviolent protests of the Civil Rights Movement that repealed segregation, to the empowerment and self-defense tactics of the national liberation movements that followed – was punctuated by a coherent strategic approach whose relative success or failure has been equal to the resonance it found in the nation’s mass psychology.
We cannot expect paths to social change to be laid by the forces of oppression, which means we must pursue self-determination and self-sufficiency, demonstrating the validity of our vision of society through social practice.
No one with a modicum of intelligence would disagree with the validity of our message, the righteousness of the Occupy Movement’s 10 core demands or the correctness of our aspirations. Yet this is not enough to sustain a movement so vocally opposed to the entrenched power structure of the 1 percent and all the tools of repression at their disposal.
|UC Berkeley – Photo: Brian Nguyen|
No, what will be needed is nothing short of the unified might of the 99 percent, most if not all of us speaking with one voice, with one will, animated by this same spirit throughout. We cannot expect paths to social change to be laid by the forces of oppression, which means we must pursue self-determination and self-sufficiency, demonstrating the validity of our vision of society through social practice. We possess all the tools necessary to transform our occupations into practice programs which address some of the core inequities in the capitalist arrangement we currently stand in opposition to by imbedding them in the most underdeveloped and disenfranchised communities of the 99 percent, where the effects of corporate greed and institutional inequality are most visible.
There is another common thread running through the Occupy Movement, Hunger Strike Solidarity Movement and Anti-Imperialist Movement: Most of us engaged in these movements either champion, hail from or have been forced into the underclass of the U.S. socio-economic strata. I want you all to ask yourselves, after a cursory examination of U.S. society, who has done most of the work, most of the dying, most of the time in prison or on the unemployment line? Who has little or no interest in the maintenance of the current status quo, who has been disproportionately affected by the sub-prime loan fiasco and the socio-economic impact of corporate greed and political corruption?
Invariably we must answer it is the underclass communities of this nation, Amerika’s ghettos, hoods, barrios, trailer parks and projects. Their unfortunate position in the capitalist arrangement and desperate historical relationship to the productive system forces this segment of society to the forefront of any revolutionary scheme.
Who has done most of the work, most of the dying, most of the time in prison or on the unemployment line? Who has little or no interest in the maintenance of the current status quo? It is the underclass communities of this nation, Amerika’s ghettos, hoods, barrios, trailer parks and projects.
When the honorable Comrade George Lester Jackson expressed this same analysis some 40 years ago, people did not fully grasp what he meant. Yet here we are still pursuing the victorious conclusion of the same democratic process.
Three pilot programs
What we propose is harnessing the full spectrum potential of the Occupy Movement at every level and lining it with the untapped power and potential of the millions and millions in underclass communities across Amerika via three pilot programs which are complimentary, self-sustaining and socio-economically empowering for all of the 99 percent, while proving definitively that the spirit of cooperation is more socially fulfilling and impactful than the greed and avarice promoted through capitalist competition.
We propose organizing major segments of the movement and those they serve to not only safeguard the survival and forward progress of the cause itself, but open an entirely new front for the struggle. The Occupy Wall Street Movement, Occupy the Hood and the underclass communities, each working in coordination, could prove an unstoppable force if organized and mobilized with unity of purpose. Each segment of this broader organizing force possesses mutually beneficial qualities whose socio-economic and political impact far exceeds the sum of its individual parts.
We of the NCTT Corcoran SHU urge you to distribute this strategic proposal to all the various Occupy Movement groups nationally, all the various chapters of Occupy the Hood – especially its founder, Malik Rhasaan – and that together they bring this proposal to the underclass communities across Amerika. We want to urge all our brothers and sisters in lumpen organizations within these communities, no matter what set you claim, nation you ride – Sureño or Norteño – hood you represent or crew you roll with, to support and defend these brothers and sisters from all aspects of the Occupy Movement as they enter your/our communities, many living in and being from those same or similar communities, to build with us a new dynamic that will enrich us all.
Equally we want to urge all our brothers and sisters in the Occupy Movement to learn from the people as you enter and work with the underclass community so we all may better serve the interests of the 99 percent. For some of you, it will be a new and sobering reality, completely outside of your experience, and should provide an uncensored view of the human misery and socio-economic inequality in Amerika. It is imperative that you all look upon the interests of the movement and those communities as your very own; the survival of the movement and hope for substantive change in the daily dynamic of economic desperation and despair in the underclass communities of the U.S. may well depend on it.
We want to urge all our brothers and sisters in the Occupy Movement to learn from the people as you enter and work with the underclass community so we all may better serve the interests of the 99 percent. Look upon the interests of the movement and those communities as your very own.
The three pilot programs we are proposing are NCTT word-product, either drawn from our archives or uniquely developed to ensure the success of this enterprise. This venture will require some structural organization amongst you. We suggest you adopt a democratic centralist organizational structure which will allow everyone to air their views, opinions and suggestions – be they popular or unpopular, correct or incorrect – in group discussions on policy decisions. Yet those with the greatest knowledge and insight on the specific subject matter being disclosed should have the greatest influence on the policy ultimately adopted.
|Philadelphia – Photo: Larissa Mogano|
Such an approach will encourage the broadest possible participation in the decision making process, while securing the most viable and sagacious ideas and preventing the cropping up of ultra-democratic ideas, where someone has something to say on every little thing and nothing ever gets accomplished, just bourgeois aversion to the collective will.
These programs are intentionally designed to be universally adaptive, modifiable and amendable to work in any community. The success of some aspects of these programs will be benefited by specialized knowledge, insight or skill sets. We are aware that the Occupy Movement in its various permutations, as well as the underclass communities in which these programs will be imbedded, possess intellectuals, professionals and technicians whose knowledge and participation will prove essential, and we urge you all to begin taking stock of these skill sets and maintaining – or creating – a local database of each activist or participant’s skill sets, such as computer engineering, drywall, agricultural expertise, technical engineering, plumbing, visual art etc.
To facilitate the success of these collective work initiatives and as we see success, we expand these efforts into new areas of development.
Our brothers and sisters already doing vital work in the Occupy the Hood chapters, such as the “Feed the Hood” program, we ask you now to expand your relationship with the Occupy Wall Street Movement beyond the confines of the people of color working group and enter a new and broader phase of community development and social organization which will see a true union of all of our social forces in the practical work of building an entirely new basis for relating to the productive system.
|Oakland – Photo: Ben Margot|
Occupy the Hood is the natural bridge between all aspects of the 99 percent, and it is only through a functional union such as this that our movement can be transformed into a true social revolution and perhaps more.
Occupy the Hood is the natural bridge between all aspects of the 99 percent.
To all you brothers and sisters on college campuses or in unemployment lines across this nation, if you don’t have an Occupy Movement chapter established in your city, contact the nearest Occupy Movement chapter to you and establish one of your own. It is in your interest to alter the fundamental dynamic of human relationships and the basis for prosperity in this nation, and what we propose here may well give us the greatest possible chance to do just that.
The three pilot programs we propose are:
1) the closed circuit economic initiative;
2) the sustainable community agricultural commons;
3) the block vote democratic initiative.
We will explain each here in basic terms and should you need detailed program formats or other help, you need only contact us directly. We have done our best to give you all the necessary information needed to start here. Please bear with us. I assure you it’s worth your time.
The Closed Circuit Economic Initiative
The Closed Circuit Economic Initiative (CCE Initiative) is a cooperative economic venture designed to amplify local wealth by re-circulating it in the community in which it originated, while providing collective ownership of the venture to the community and movement, while simultaneously addressing local unemployment in the community in which the venture is based. The CCE Initiative was originally designed to address the flight of wealth from New African communities to more affluent ones that actually owned the businesses in New African (Black) neighborhoods.
We discovered that a single dollar will circulate in the Jewish community for some 35 days, in the Korean community for 28 days, yet a dollar circulates in the New African (Black) community for an average of 70 seconds. Yes, seconds. However, what we also learned through further analysis was this was in fact, to a greater or lesser degree, a universal disparity throughout underclass communities regardless of their racial or national makeup.
The wealth of underclass communities rarely, if ever, went to enriching those same communities. But there is within our power a way to change that.
Similar to the electrical charge fulfillment action of a closed circuit capacitor – where circulating a charge through a catalyst in a closed circuit will ultimately fulfill a storing device’s capacitance with no need to increase the voltage yield of the charges – it is possible to increase the economic capacity of a community by circulating its wealth in that community for a longer period. This capacitance is increased if the community itself controls the economic circuit in which current exchanges flow.
Similar to the electrical charge fulfillment action of a closed circuit capacitor, it is possible to increase the economic capacity of a community by circulating its wealth in that community for a longer period. This capacitance is increased if the community itself controls the economic circuit in which current exchanges flow.
Here is how we will accomplish this: The Occupy Movement will prepare fliers and pamphlets outlining this initiative in clear, easy-to-understand terms, specifically referencing the unique conditions on the ground in the local underclass communities you hope to begin in. The larger the community, the more impactful it will prove.
|Oakland – Photo: David Bacon|
Occupy the Hood activists, organizers and leaders from the community slated for the initiative, along with Occupy Wall Street activists, will canvas the hood together distributing these educational fliers door to door, to churches, mosques, synagogues and temples, pool halls, the street corners, the hood spots and homie hangouts, salons, barbershops and wherever our people congregate, answering questions and promoting the value of the initiative.
Next a survey flier will have to be produced which asks each individual in that community the three top goods and services they most frequently spend their money on – and/or the largest portion of their money on – and/or the largest portion of their money every month. This may vary depending on the community, from groceries to gasoline, from laundrymat services to parking. Once these surveys are collected and their results compiled and we have the top three goods and services that particular community spends their money on, we’ll have the basis for our first economic venture and a business plan to produce based on the No. 1 pick.
For example, let’s say food and home supplies is the area where the most money is spent in Southeast San Diego’s Skyline community. The first venture in this community’s CCE Initiative would be a grocery store, which brings us to our next step: a true community organizing meeting – or several – will have to be held with the entire community and movement activists participating to elect economic trustees for the CCE Fund: one from Occupy the Hood, one from Occupy Wall Street, and two from the community in which the venture is based.
These four will collectively oversee the CCE Fund for that community, allowing those funds raised to be accepted only by those four persons together – no single individual will have access to the fund – and only for the CCE Initiative venture agreed to via the democratic will of all involved. This will ensure checks and balances are maintained and trust is assured.
To fund the grocery store, we will ask each individual in that community to contribute $1 or $2 bi-monthly, along with their names, addresses and phone numbers to the CCE Initiative for a six-month period. Let’s say there are 10,000-15,000 residents in this community, along with those local Occupy Movement activists who wish to contribute. Each individual will receive a CCE certification card for their contribution, no matter how small.
All these funds will be deposited in the CCE Fund’s interest earning account, which would raise an estimated $100,000 in that six-month period. We use the lion’s share of those funds to purchase or build our own grocery store in that community, owned by that community collective who are on the CCE registry; if you contributed, you’re on the registry.
We will then hire only people from that community or from the local Occupy Movement who are unemployed. Those Occupy Wall Street activists with accounting, business, tax, zoning, law, real estate, grocery or other related expertise should provide that expertise to ensure the success of these ventures and receive a CCE certificate for their contributions to the effort’s creation and continued success.
Once established, we need not worry about patronage or marketing because those who own the venture – the community itself – will, of course, shop in their own grocery store and encourage others to also before going elsewhere. All the profits, minus overhead, will go back to the CCE Fund with 60 percent being paid out monthly to all CCE Initiative registrants – those with a CCE certificate of contribution – in the form of a dividend check, the other 40 percent gaining interest in the CCE fund.
We need not worry about patronage or marketing because those who own the venture – the community itself – will, of course, shop in their own grocery store and encourage others to also before going elsewhere.
We will keep contributing and collecting the $1-$2 every two weeks, depositing it in the CCE Fund. Also, in the next six months, we purchase a “sympathetic-support venture,” one that depends on or contributes directly to the initial venture; let’s say a bakery. The grocery store will purchase its baked goods inventory exclusively from the CCE Initiative bakery. Again, the bakery will hire only people from that community or local movement without a job.
Again, we repeat the process. In the next six-month period we purchase a second sympathetic-support venture; let’s say an organic grain and produce farm, again hiring only those from the community and local movement who are unemployed. Grain, flour and product inventories for the bakery and grocery store will be purchased from our farm – all of these ventures buying and selling to one another while servicing the broader community which owns them.
|Miami – Photo: Miami Workers Center|
Again we repeat the process in six months, this time acquiring a small cannery and packaging factory to begin offering our own canned foods and packed goods from both our farm and bakery to our grocer – and on to the broader market. Again, we hire only from that community and local movement’s unemployed.
As this proceeds with each expansion of the CCE Initiative venture, the local unemployment rate drops, the amount of dividend checks paid out to CCE Initiative registrants rises, until eventually that community reaches 100 percent employment, with a second revenue stream directly linked to their own consumer choices. As the prosperity of our collectively-owned businesses grows, we will inevitably reach complete community economic interconnection and social empowerment for the people and the movement.
As the prosperity of our collectively-owned businesses grows, we will inevitably reach complete community economic interconnection and social empowerment for the people and the movement.
The CCE Initiative dividend checks may begin as small as $.30 or $.40, yet in 18 months could be $30-$40. The CCE Fund can then turn its attention to establishing a local credit commons, where the community can invest in its own people’s interests, not to generate profit from usurious interest rates, but to promote community prosperity and meet human needs. Here, people from the community and local movement can get micro-loans, home and auto financing, and standard banking services.
|Cincinnati – Photo: J. Cherise McIntosh|
In this way, the underclass community becomes entirely independent of the standard competitive capitalist economy through simple unity, cooperative economics and collective work, distribution of wealth and ownership. All dividend adjustments will be distributed equally amongst everyone in the CCE Initiative, regardless if you contributed $1 or $2 or your specialized knowledge and insight. So long as you contribute to the CCE Initiative, you’ll receive an equal share of dividends.
By means of the CCE Initiative, we can clearly demonstrate cooperation serves the interests of the 99 percent where competition has clearly been unequal to the task.
Once a full community economic circuit is closed, it can be joined to others in the region or nationally, providing a socio-economic alternative to the yoke of wage slavery offered us all by the 1 percent ruling elite. We need only touch the corporate capitalist economy where our own innovation and enterprises fail to meet the capacity or are simply unable to. But we here of the NCTT are always thinking and, in truth, the only limitation to the CCE Initiative meeting the material needs of the 99 percent is your own imagination; we assure you there are further options.
By means of the CCE Initiative, we can clearly demonstrate cooperation serves the interests of the 99 percent where competition has clearly been unequal to the task. By those means we establish a true transfer culture from which substantive change in the nature and structure of U.S. society can be realized. This CCE Initiative corresponds to Nos. 1, 2, 9 and 10 of the 10 core demands of the national Occupy Movement.
The Sustainable Community Agricultural Commune
Chronic poverty and underemployment – the legacy of corporate greed and political corruption in Amerika – can be directly linked to chronic disease, high obesity rates and the plethora of health problems that accompany them. These types of physical debilities impact underclass communities disproportionately due primarily to anemic access to quality produce, meats, grains and vegetables in our communities.
Of equal concern is the ecological impact of multinational corporate agri-concerns, from the exploitation of Third World brothers and sisters – some 90 percent of the produce consumed in the U.S. is grown in the Third World, while the majority of the rest comes from large corporate farms – to the adverse environmental impact of greenhouse gas emissions from shipping food thousands of miles to reach our tables. Yet it is within our power to change this dynamic by embracing sustainable urban farming as a viable alternative.
Throughout the underclass communities of Amerika, especially in the wake of record foreclosures and the intentional gentrification of our communities, there are vacant lots, open plots and tracts of aimless dirt that we can reclaim and transform into urban gardens that will not only feed the communities healthy and nutritious food, but also provide a valuable and significant source of revenue for them.
Consider that less than 2 percent of the food consumed in metropolitan areas in the U.S. is grown there. Yet urban areas consume billions of dollars worth of food each year, including junk food, sodas, fast food, condiments and processed snacks that, unfortunately, are staples of many poor folks’ diets because the stuff is cheap and filling. But if our food was locally produced, it would not only be healthier and 50 percent cheaper than if you bought it at your supermarket, but also serve as a source of revenue for the community by selling the surplus to local chefs, restaurants and our own farmers markets, while relying on organic and other agricultural advances to increase both quality and yields.
Less than 2 percent of the food consumed in metropolitan areas in the U.S. is grown there. If our food was locally produced, it would not only be healthier and 50 percent cheaper than if you bought it at your supermarket, but also serve as a source of revenue for the community.
I’d like to illustrate what we propose more clearly using Cleveland, Ohio, as an example. According to Entrepreneur Magazine (October 2011), by increasing local urban farming by 5 percent in greater Cleveland it would translate into $750 million more in revenue for local purveyors. When was the last time a $750 million business was relocated to your community, let alone the hood, barrio or trailer park?
Cleveland based business development analyst Michael Shuman did a study on what would happen if northeast Ohio managed to provide 25 percent more of the food it consumed. This report revealed that such a move would create over 27,000 new jobs, increase annual regional output by $4.2 billion and grow tax revenue by more than $125 million.
If northeast Ohio managed to provide 25 percent more of the food it consumed, it would create over 27,000 new jobs, increase annual regional output by $4.2 billion and grow tax revenue by more than $125 million.
In 2007, Cleveland became the first city in the U.S. to zone for community gardens. It now subsidizes farms in the city’s core and the 6-acre farm plot that opened recently in the heart of the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland, only a few blocks from the Riverview Towers projects, not only services surrounding restaurants, but our brothers and sisters from the Riverview projects can buy fresh produce just outside their building, closer than the Safeway, Kroger or fast food joint, and 50 percent cheaper than its regular price. Now imagine if that 6-acre farm was collectively owned and operated by the residents of the Riverview Towers projects. That’s exactly what we are proposing here.
|Orlando – Photo: Beverly Campbell|
We call on our Occupy Movement brothers and sisters – both Occupy Wall Street and Occupy the Hood – to link with local underclass community organizers and pool their assets, expertise and labor to educate, organize and mobilize the community’s residents for the sustainable community agricultural commune (SCA commune).
We call on our Occupy Movement brothers and sisters – both Occupy Wall Street and Occupy the Hood – to link with local underclass community organizers and pool their assets, expertise and labor to educate, organize and mobilize the community’s residents for the sustainable community agricultural commune (SCA commune).
Simultaneously, another survey of that community and the local businesses which use produce and poultry must be conducted to determine which fruits, vegetables, herbs and grains are most widely consumed, popular and commercially valued in that community and area.
Once done this must be compared to which crops among those will grow most effectively and profusely in that unique climate and environment.
In so doing we must also consider new agricultural innovations such as vertical urban gardening, poultry cultivation through modern chicken coops such as those offered by “chicken cribs” (go to Backyardchickens.com) and free range techniques. The diversity of industry and innovative insight based in the Occupy Movement will prove particularly valuable as we seek contacts and assistance from conscious industry proponents, such as Jac Smit of the Urban Agriculture Network, Michael Shuman, author of “Community Food Enterprise,” who is currently a consultant at Cutting Edge Capital in Oakland, California, or Dickson Despommier of the Vertical Farm Project and those amongst movement activists with the same expertise, insight or skill set.
Equally essential at this stage will be our brothers and sisters of Occupy the Hood in organizing movement activists, community organizers and residents into the divisions of labor necessary to initiate the commune. Following the collective ownership format, we go to the people soliciting contributions of $.50-$1 from community residents and movement activists over a 90-day to six-month period, while securing volunteers from across the community and local movement to work the farms on a rotating basis. If one cannot contribute money, they can contribute their labor or both if they like.
Everyone who contributes something to that cycle will be given a commune membership card entitling them to 50 percent in produce and 50 percent in dividends. Therefore 50 percent of the seasonal yield will be set aside to feed the commune and 50 percent will be put on the market for sale. All produce sold to residents of that community will be discounted at our farmers’ markets, while chefs, restaurants and other businesses interested in our locally grown produce will receive it at the going rate.
Sixty percent of all profits (minus overhead) from the SCA commune fund will be divided amongst commune members equally as dividends, while 40 percent will continue to incur interest in the fund as the $.50-$1 that community residents and local activists continue to contribute to the fund to expand our farms and branch out into poultry production and other husbandry. This will provide quality, organic and free range meats for our commune and potential customers in the same percentages and allotments previously discussed.
We encourage the movement to reach out to conscious businesses like Greenaid, a L.A.-based guerilla gardening company that makes clay, compost and seed balls that can be tossed in derelict urban areas to make them green spaces, and Urbio, a San Francisco-based company that makes planters for vertical urban gardening, for donations to this effort of equipment and material. As the commune grows, the SCA fund can turn its attention to funding other sympathetic ventures, such as a mobile slaughterhouse and produce distribution trucks, all employing only people from the communes or that community’s local movement who are unemployed, broadening the scope of our farms and their positive impact on the underclass communities in which they are based.
Our urban farms will provide a safe place of peace and prosperity for our people, our children and our youth to fellowship as they build a brighter future for themselves, their communities and this world, all from the power of their hands, heads and hearts.
The SCA commune will serve to literally root the movement in the community while effecting positive change in the daily lives of the people. By providing these communities with healthy and nutritious food, creating a vital source of collective wealth, reclaiming and breathing life into what would be eyesores or an impetus for fascist tools of the ruling 1 percent – police, sheriffs etc. – to harass poor people in their own communities, we improve the quality of life for those of us most adversely affected by the current social order.
Our urban farms will provide a safe place of peace and prosperity for our people, out children and our youth to fellowship as they build a brighter future for themselves, their communities and this world, all from the power of their hands, heads and hearts. In addition we open an entirely new industry with limitless economic potential in the center of the underclass communities of Amerika, and it’s owned, operated and patronized by those who are its residents, the 99 percent. This program corresponds to No. 2 of the 10 core demands of the national Occupy Movement.
The Block-Vote Democratic Initiative
In our last communique we definitively established that the ruling 1 percent had successfully hijacked the political process in Amerika. If any of you have been watching the partisan insanity playing out in Congress, the tripe being spouted by mental midgets like Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump, the ultra-right wing pandering of Mitt Romney or the fence straddling timidity and status-quo maintenance of the Obama administration, you should have no doubt we speak the unvarnished truth.
We have also articulated the fact that the reason so few people vote in underclass communities is the socio-economic and race-based disparities that are responsible for the human misery in these communities are institutional and systemic to U.S. capitalist economics. No matter who they vote into office, their plight does not change. The problem is not the democratic process, which is as yet unfinished in Amerika. No, the flaw lies in the legalized corruption of politicians at the local, state and national level.
The reason so few people vote in underclass communities is that no matter who they vote into office, their plight does not change.
Similar to the conflict between federalists and republicans during the inception of the U.S. two-party system in the 1700s, once the people elect these pawns of the 1 percent, they feel the people should just sit down and shut up, while their ears turn only to the voices of lobbyists, special interests, and those who can improve their political careers and coffers. But it need not be this way if the incalculable power of the democratic will of the underclass can be awakened.
Before the sleeping giant of underclass democratic power – the poor man and woman’s vote – can be strategically harnessed, there must be some assurance that their interests will be realized. This effort will provide that interest for all the 99 percent.
What we propose in the Block-Vote Democratic Initiative (BVD Initiative) is to do just that by bypassing these corrupt politicians altogether by putting the policies we, the 99 percent, support on the ballots of local, state and national elections via petition with a simultaneous voter registration “block” comprised of Occupy Movement activists and entire underclass communities, so the shear number of affirmative votes passes the policy measures outright.
What we propose is to have Occupy Movement activists – both Occupy the Hood and Occupy Wall Street – prepare informative pamphlets specifically targeted to their local underclass communities and districts containing our 10 core demands and issues of particular interest to that community which the vast majority of the people support. Once we’ve assessed the will of the people, ballot measures and signature petitions should be prepared based directly on those policies most widely supported, with voter registrations drives to register everyone in the community and movement who supports the policy. Each local policy initiative or position on a bill should be organized as a block capable of passing – or defeating – the initiative outright.
On the state level, greater coordination between underclass communities will have to be organized through Occupy Movement activists, and again if possible our “block” should be so overwhelming as to pass the initiative outright. On the national level that will prove even more difficult as the concurrence on the specific policy will lose resonance in direct proportion to the site of the population we seek to serve.
Nevertheless, we should still seek to pass these measures outright. To facilitate this, each measure’s vote should be preceded by at least two weeks of demonstrations corresponding in size to the measure’s social impact – i.e., local measures warrant local demonstrations, state measures should warrant a statewide wave of demonstrations, and national measures should see demonstrations from coast to coast. This will raise awareness and galvanize support in other segments of the social strata ensuring the measures pass.
There are three possible measures reflective of our 10 core demands we are fairly certain would find overwhelming support in underclass communities across Amerika:
1) A total ban on all corporate and financial influences, including lobbyists and “strategic analysts,” from any aspect of the electoral process. Only individuals should be able to influence the polls with their votes and campaign contributions – see No. 7 of the 10 core demands of the national Occupy Movement.
Only individuals should be able to influence the polls with their votes and campaign contributions.
2) Establishment of community based parole boards, with a panel from the community where the offender actually lived and would return, determining when an indeterminate term – such as 25 to life, three strikes etc. – has been sufficiently satisfied and he or she is ready to return home. This contrasts with the current panel of DAs, police and other law enforcement officials that make up parole boards today. Most prisoners hail from underclass communities and it is these communities who should decide when they are sufficiently rehabilitated to return. This corresponds to No. 6 of the 10 core demands of the national Occupy Movement.
Most prisoners hail from underclass communities and it is these communities who should decide when they are sufficiently rehabilitated to return.
3) Establish universal health care for the poor. All individuals making under $25,000 a year and families making under $50,000 a year should be provided access to a comprehensive universal health care system. This corresponds to No. 2 of the 10 core demands of the national Occupy Movement.
Establish universal health care for the poor.
Such measures would pass overwhelmingly in the underclass communities of Amerika, serve to empower those most disenfranchised segments of society, and improve the quality of life for over 100 million people in the U.S., all because we, the 99 percent, via the BVD Initiative, removed corrupt politicians from the policy creation and implementation process. Any force opposing this undiluted expression of the will of the people would be by definition undemocratic.
It is our sincerest hope that you all see the merits of what we propose here and act in accordance with it. In any conflict resolution scenario, the first step that should be made is a strategic analysis of yourself and those forces aligned against you to ascertain your relative strengths and weaknesses. The wise know such assessments, especially in socio-political conflicts, must be constantly studied and reassessed because they are in a state of constant change.
If this is done correctly, we can calculate the prospects of victory or defeat. Conflict resolution and warfare are based on identical principles. Sun-Tzu, in his sage masterwork, “The Art of War,” stated, “If you know your enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the outcome of 100 battles.”
If we analyze the actions and reactions of the tools of the ruling 1 percent, it’s clear they are pursuing a course of encirclement, isolation and marginalization against the national movement, hoping that their control of the mass media and a lack of broad-based organization in the movement will allow them the opportunity to erode support for it over time, isolate it from positive public opinion and ultimately destroy it. It is a posture and strategic approach that has worked for them in the past. This is possible only if we allow it.
The ruling 1 percent are pursuing a course of encirclement, isolation and marginalization against the national movement, hoping that their control of the mass media and a lack of broad-based organization in the movement will allow them the opportunity to erode support for it over time, isolate it from positive public opinion and ultimately destroy it.
The most prudent way to counter such an attempt is to place the movement in a position of invincibility, while simultaneously redefining the nature of the conflict itself. The movement is strong – we’ve shown that on every front, be it on the streets or behind these walls – yet it’s largely unanchored to the material interests of those we represent. A seed in the ground is easily uprooted, a tree with deep roots, however, is a monumental task to remove.
Zhuge Liang, a famous general from ancient China’s “warring states era” (180-234 A.D.), in the chapter, “Discerning Bases,” in his essay, “The Way of the General,” said: “If you attack evils based on social trends, no one can rival you in dignity. If you settle victory based on the power of the people, no one can rival you in achievement. If you can accurately discern those bases of action and add dignity and faith to them, you can take on the most formidable opponent and prevail over the most valiant adversary.” Truly basing the movement in the people ensures no force on earth can prevail against it. It truly becomes invincible.
Conclusion: You can transform the world
For all of you reading these words, we want you to really understand what you are involved in and what’s at stake. You are on the cusp of making history, of quite literally changing the world. Right now you have it within your hands to transform the nature and structure of the most powerful nation on earth, and thus transform the world.
You represent the ongoing struggle for democratic change in the U.S. A historical legacy reaching back hundreds of years is now in your hands. The means for victory are at our collective fingertips; you need only reach out and seize this opportunity. Will it be easy? Of course not. Nothing of value comes without cost or sacrifice. Power concedes nothing without demand.
But what must be understood is that we, the people, the 99 percent, are the most powerful force in this world and our cause is just. Proceeding from this truth with strategic intent we cannot lose. We are on the right side of history. Our ideas are moral; our cause is just.
We, the people, the 99 percent, are the most powerful force in this world and our cause is just.
But understand we cannot assume this is self-evident, nor that it will be enough to win. We must promote and demonstrate the correctness of our view through social practice. Understand we will not win this conflict without public and political support, but people who may agree with us will still not join the movement unless it’s clear our cause is righteous and just.
Yes, the corporate-political power structure is authoritarian, hypocritical and avaricious. Greed and corruption define the very fabric of U.S. institutions and power considerations. You are expressing the frustration and hostility the people already feel. But still this is not enough. There must be a qualitative transformation in that moral outrage.
If we view morality from a historical perspective, it has evolved over time into a system of ethics societies use to create values that serve the public good. If these values cease to fit the vast majority of the people’s interests, the morality of society slowly shifts, evolving new values. The morality of corporate capitalism, where “Gordon Gekko” clones live, the ethos “Greed is good” does not fit the vast majority of the people’s interests; it never has. Yet now, that moral self-realization is inescapable.
The highest form of strategy is to win without fighting. When time is not an option, we must rely on an approach just as good: to win first and fight second. This is what we are proposing here. If you succeed in waking the sleeping giant of socio-political and economic potential lying dormant in the underclass communities of Amerika in pursuit of this equalitarian democratic imperative, we will have already won. Should the 1 percent, or their tools, be fool enough to oppose the inevitable conclusion of such a social revolution, they will reap a fool’s reward.
If you succeed in waking the sleeping giant of socio-political and economic potential lying dormant in the underclass communities of Amerika in pursuit of this equalitarian democratic imperative, we will have already won.
U.S. Army Col. John Boyd, in his analysis of how to suppress guerrilla insurgencies or popular revolutions, stated the only effective countermeasure to our strategic approach: “Undermine the … cause and destroy their cohesion by demonstrating integrity and competence of government to represent and serve the needs of the people rather than exploit and impoverish them for the benefit of a greedy elite. (If you cannot realize such a political program, Boyd noted, you might consider changing sides now to avoid the rush later.) Take political initiative to root out and visibly punish corruption. Select new leaders with recognized competence as well as popular appeal. Ensure that they deliver justice, eliminate major grievances and connect the government with its grass roots.”
In essence, to defeat us they would have to capitulate to our 10 core demands without struggle. Well, brothers and sisters, with the unholy alliance of corporate interests and political patronage that defines the modern political and economic power structure in the U.S., we need not fear such countermeasures anytime soon.
It is our sincerest hope that you all find some value in our counsel and take up these ideas as your own. Our love, loyalty and solidarity to all those who love freedom, justice and equality and fear only failure. Until we win or don’t lose.
|J. Heshima Denham|
For more information on the NCTT Corcoran SHU or details on these programs, contact:
Read these brothers’ previous stories: “Feeling death at our heels: An update from the frontlines of the struggle,” “California prison hunger strikers propose ‘10 core demands’ for the national Occupy Wall Street Movement,” “A brief hunger strike update from the front lines of the struggle: Corcoran-SHU 4B 1L C-section Isolation Unit” (second story in that post), “From the front lines of the struggle,” and “We dare to win: The reality and impact of SHU torture units.”
This story was typed by Adrian McKinney.
by Michael Zaharibu Dorrough
I read once that whereupon meeting a poor man who had been falsely accused, Jesus went with him before the magistrate and, having been granted special permission to appear in his behalf, made this address: “Justice makes a nation great, and the greater a nation the more solicitous will it be to see that injustice shall not befall even its most humble citizen. Woe upon any nation when only those who possess money and influence can secure ready justice before its courts! It is the sacred duty of a magistrate to acquit the innocent as well as to punish the guilty.
“Upon the impartiality, fairness and integrity of its courts the endurance of a nation depends. Civil government is founded on justice, even as true religion is founded on mercy.”
This is my 23rd year in isolation, and regardless of how some might try to define what isolation is, I can assure you that after 23 years and in light of the almost constant, non-stop assault on the senses and your humanity, this is isolation. And at least part of what constitutes isolation must be defined according to what it takes and tries to take from you – the suicides, past and present, the surrender of one’s humanity and integrity, qualities that play a large role in becoming informants. It’s not only that people become like Judas when they do so, they become factors, major factors in the continued efforts at destroying and trying to destroy the humanity of us all.
But like many of those of us who have been buried in isolation for decades, I consider myself to be a student and I love democracy. During the hunger strike of Sept. 26-Oct. 12, I had an opportunity to speak to an officer here who stated that treating the humanity of citizens who are in prison with respect is a liberal idea whose time had passed and the people have spoken. Obviously, he considered “the people” to be those who think just as he does and even those citizens who have remained silent on the issue of democracy and justice.
I was not offended by his thinking. I understood it to be that 500-year-old process in which the elitist minority has convinced much of the middle class and working poor majority that their interests are one and the same. The conversation actually reminded me of conversations that Nelson Mandela had with his captors in a South African prison.
Hate and indifference – and it goes by many names: racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, to name just a few – are powerful tools that the ruling class minority has used to keep the majority competing against one another, from jobs to housing to education, even on how we should love and worship. You can see the pathology that it has created in some basic areas.
Hate and indifference – and it goes by many names: racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, to name just a few – are powerful tools that the ruling class minority has used to keep the majority competing against one another.
If you were to ask 5,000 people if they felt that the criminal justice system is biased, 50 percent or more would probably say yes. If you ask those same people if they believed in the death penalty, that same number of people would say yes. Even if you ask that question as it relates to life without parole, as many now do, you are still talking about a system that is biased.
We actually believe that 1) somehow the system has developed separately from the hate and indifference that the country has developed under and 2) that somehow we can leave our own hate and indifference at the front door and be fair and just in how we treat each other. Nothing could be further from the truth, and the historical record clearly bears this out. Hate and indifference is what has robbed us of our ability to look at each other and see a reflection of ourselves.
The only reason why the nation, at least many of us, have failed to see and understand how we have and continue to be affected by the legacy of hate and indifference and the pathology created by it is because it is who and what we are. Movements are crucial to overcoming this pathology.
Movements consist of citizens from different schools of thought – be it cultural, gender, political, economic, spiritual, educational. The thing that brings us all together is that everyone is being subjected to some form of oppression. The actual and spiritual poverty that results from the unequal distribution of wealth is a form of oppression. Movements are supposed to afford us with that crucial opportunity to relate to one another as fellow citizens.
The actual and spiritual poverty that results from the unequal distribution of wealth is a form of oppression.
Hate and indifference is the greatest threat to democracy. Democracy is and can be tolerant of much, but it cannot be subordinate to anything. It is the greater good. We have historically subordinated democracy to our hate and indifference: the unequal distribution of wealth, maintaining wage systems that are shamefully inconsistent with the standard of living, subjecting citizens to long-term isolation – and for many of us it is as a result of our ideas.
My retention in isolation is based on my allegedly being in possession of gang material and providing that material to other prisoners. That gang material was the following books:
1) “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn,
2) “Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880” by W.E.B. Dubois,
3) “Egypt Revisited” by Ivan Van Sertima,
4) “Democracy in Mexico” by Han La Borz,
5) “Democracy Matters” by Cornel West.
The wrongful incarceration of citizens – and a lot of times this too is politically motivated – and the death penalty are all anti-democratic. And when we subordinate democracy and justice to us, as opposed to subordinating ourselves to democracy and justice, believe me, it stops being democracy and justice and it becomes exactly what it has been. These are forms of totalitarianism.
We mentioned in the previous statement that victory will require sacrifice, tenacity and, most importantly, competent strategic insight. That strategic insight must consist of our not only understanding what hate and indifference is, but also how we, individually and collectively, as well as our institutions, have been and continue to be affected psychologically by the legacy of hate and indifference.
The democratic abolitionist struggle demands it of us, and those of us here and in the Pelican Bay SHU, the NCTT, are committed to contributing to meaningful and lasting change. And this is part of what keeps us amongst the sane. We understand, and always have, that the price that we will pay for this is the efforts to silence us, to isolate and destroy us!
We are committed to contributing to meaningful and lasting change. And this is part of what keeps us amongst the sane. We understand, and always have, that the price that we will pay for this is the efforts to silence us, to isolate and destroy us!
But just as we understand this, we also understand that this struggle will also connect us to the Mary Ratcliffs of the world and the other inspiring and courageous citizens and soldiers that we have had the pleasure of meeting. When the officer said that the people have spoken, he was not talking about the Mary Ratcliffs and Sally Bystroffs, the Gabi Pinars and Nakisah Rices, the Ed Meads and Dorsey Nunns, Marilyn McMahons, Carol Strickmans, Penny Schoners, Critical Resistance and Shaka at-Thinnins, the thousands of citizens who comprise the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the People! You are all proof that beauty does exist and you are most appreciated.
Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing. It never has and never will. Those who want to be free must strike the blow!”
Send our brother some love and light: Michael Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, 4B-IL-53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212. This letter was typed by Adrian McKinney.
from the NCTT Corcoran SHU
“Death is impossible for us to fathom; it is so immense, so frightening that we will do almost anything to keep from thinking about it. Society is organized to make death invisible, to keep it several steps removed. That distance may seem necessary for our comfort, but it comes with a terrible price: the illusion of limitless time, and a consequent lack of seriousness about daily life. As a warrior in life, you must turn this dynamic around: Make the thought of death something not to escape but to embrace.
Your days are numbered. Will you pass them halfhearted or will you live with a sense of urgency? Cruel theaters staged by a czar are unnecessary; death will come to you without them. Imagine it pressing in on you, leaving you no escape, for there is no escape. Feeling death at your heels will make all your actions more certain, more forceful. This could be your last throw of the dice: Make it count.”
– Robert Greene, bestselling author of “The 48 Laws of Power”
Written Jan. 8, postmarked Jan. 18, 2012 – Greetings, brothers and sisters: A firm, warm and solid embrace of revolutionary love and solidarity is extended to each of you from each of us.
Since the last hunger strike ended, we have weathered wave after wave of retaliation from the state’s prison administrators that continues unabated to this day. But before I catalog these manifestations of weakness on the part of state prison administrators, we feel it’s necessary to recount why this struggle began and the nature of our resolve to see the five core demands realized.
We have been consigned to ever more aggressive sensory deprivation torture units for 10, 20, 30 and in some cases 40 years, based on an administrative determination that we are members or associates of a “gang” – a term that encompasses leftist ideologies, political and politicized prisoners, jailhouse lawyers and most anyone who in the opinion of Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI) is not passively accepting his role as a commodity in the prison industrial complex.
“Gang” is a term that encompasses leftist ideologies, political and politicized prisoners, jailhouse lawyers and most anyone who in the opinion of Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI) is not passively accepting his role as a commodity in the prison industrial complex.
These administrative determinations are not due to some overt act of misconduct or pattern of rules violations. No, these “validations” are based most often on the reports, words or accounts of debriefers, rats, informants and other broken men who will say and do ‘most anything their IGI and ISU (Investigative Services Unit) handlers instruct them to, to avoid confinement in the SHU (Security Housing Unit) or carry some other favor from their masters.
After decades of fruitless legal challenges, after years of suffering the deprivations of conditions so inherently evil, inhumane and psychologically torturous that most of you simply cannot comprehend the reality behind these words, most of us came to realize an immutable truth: that the state’s mantra of “the only way out of the SHU is to parole, debrief or die” was something that they not only meant, but was in fact a key feature in developing a subservient and passive pool of prisoner commodities upon which the orderly fleecing of taxpayer dollars could be based.
Thirty years of successful propaganda, of dehumanizing underclass communities and the imprisoned, of lobbying that’s led to the dominance of the CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association) in judicial and political elections and appointments – all to mislead an ill-informed public into submitting greater control of their lives and society to an industrial interest that runs counter to the public safety concerns they were vested to protect. Many of us watched this state of affairs progress unchallenged as our protestations fell on deaf ears, year after year, decade after decade, until advanced age and the decimation of our communities forced us onto “death ground,” where you may survive if you can resist, but you will most surely perish if you do not.
We took up a strategy which would pull back the curtain on the state’s practice of domestic torture which has been so well hidden from the people for so long, a strategy in which some of us may yet die: THE HUNGER STRIKE. We would rather starve ourselves, to risk inevitable death, than to be indefinitely subjected to the deprivations of the torture unit.
We took up a strategy which would pull back the curtain on the state’s practice of domestic torture which has been so well hidden from the people for so long, a strategy in which some of us may yet die: THE HUNGER STRIKE.
What must be understood is that existence here is, in many ways, a fate worse than death; and when advancing age brings that mortality into stark focus, the words of Napoleon Bonaparte, “Death is nothing, but to live defeated is to die every day,” resonate. This simple observation defines our resolve in realizing our five core demands.
To say this is a protracted struggle is an understatement; this is a struggle in which we will win or we will die in the effort. Our actions thus far, and the awareness of this international community of their inherent righteousness, has made this adamantine resolve clear, so why then would CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) officials resort to petty retaliatory actions? The answer lies in the very nature of the tyranny and authoritarian power they represent.
Aggression is deceptive; it inherently hides weakness. Aggressors possess poor emotional control and little patience for challenges to their interests. The first waves of retaliation from these types of aggressors may seem strong to some; this is why so many non-SHU general population prisoners dropped out of the second hunger strike as those waves struck them. But, of course, we were unmoved; and the longer such attacks go on, the clearer their underlying weaknesses and insecurity become. It is an act of irrational desperation, but one they pursue out of sheer rote.
Since the second hunger strike ended, we have experienced perpetual retaliation – some overt, some carefully disguised – all designed to erode the minds and wills of those committed to resist. We were denied any medical treatment for our starvation and when we filed emergency 602s to receive renutrition treatment and hunger strike-related injuries, they were not responded to until some 40 days later.
For example, during the first hunger strike, I (Heshima) passed out due to malnutrition and dehydration; the account was detailed in a previous statement. But simply put, their own guilt and fear caused them to assemble some 26 officers before opening my cell and piling on top of my unconscious form in order to shackle my arms and legs in chains and put me in an ambulance.
Their own guilt and fear caused them to assemble some 26 officers before opening my cell and piling on top of my unconscious form in order to shackle my arms and legs in chains and put me in an ambulance.
Mind you, according to witnesses, they casually, even jokingly, left me lying on my cell floor for 35 minutes before jumping on my body. Since then I’ve had a sharp, constant pain in my right side at the base of my ribcage. Though I’ve filed two medical appeals, as of this writing I have still not been treated or even diagnosed for this.
Zaharibu’s cholesterol, blood oxygen levels and blood pressure are so far outside of normal range he is at chronic risk for stroke, heart attack and diabetes – the nurses routinely “forgetting” to bring or administer his insulin when indicated.
Shortly after the second hunger strike ended, we were told, “One of the two pumps that delivers hot water to the institution is broken and we should have the part to fix it in two days.” That was over 50 days ago and we’ve had hot water for a total of three of those 50-plus days. In that intervening time, “due to the lack of hot water” we’ve been fed on paper trays, which ensures all meals arrive cold and grossly under-portioned. Because all we have to wash or shower with in these freezing cells is cold or lukewarm water, 80 percent of us housed in this 4BIL-C-Section short corridor have contracted a cold, upper respiratory tract infection or flu.
Because all we have to wash or shower with in these freezing cells is cold or lukewarm water, 80 percent of us housed in this 4BIL-C-Section short corridor have contracted a cold, upper respiratory tract infection or flu.
Despite numerous appeals and motions to the court, they have not run law library for any of us since August, making it impossible to access legal research, copying service or verified legal mailing, thus jeopardizing the viability of numerous legal pleadings in the courts.
We have often expounded upon the fundamental unreliability of reforms as nothing more than temporary pacification measures that can be repealed at the whim of administrators, and this analysis was again proven only weeks after the second hunger strike ended. Former Undersecretary of Corrections Scott Kernan made a big to-do about the concessions being made to improve the material conditions in SHU, including giving us action at a single special purchase order to purchase newly approved cold weather items by Dec. 31 – or those items would have to be included in annual packages.
Things like watch caps, thermals, tennis shoes etc. were all “approved” for SHU. Memos trumpeting this and Operational Procedure (OP) update chronos were issued to us all, only to be followed by a memo stating the warden of CSP-Corcoran-SHU was effectively repealing the single special purchase order for cold weather items without explanation. This was soon followed by another memo stating tennis shoes orders to SHU would not be allowed until after “Sacramento” made changes to the property matrix, something that was done by Scott Kernan back in October via emergency memo.
The warden of CSP-Corcoran-SHU was effectively repealing the single special purchase order for cold weather items without explanation.
Rolling power outages have suddenly become routine here. The mailroom suddenly devised new regulations directing any phony orders to be directed to one post office box, while letters go to another, making it more difficult and confusing for those who care to see to the welfare of their loved ones here. Not to be left out, CDCR trust account officials have raised processing fees on electronic trust deposits called “J-Pays,” some 500 percent, from $1 to $5, increasing the financial burden on underclass families while maximizing their own profiteering.
All of those things are designed to fuse with the daily mental struggles of the reality of indefinite sensory deprivation confinement to have the cumulative effect of eroding the psychology of resistance, and if this were a situation where there was some psychological threshold to breach, they may well have found some here who capitulate. But that simply is not the reality.
This is not a situation where multi-spectrum retaliation – or coercive force of any kind – will somehow diminish the resolve of those of us committed to ending the perpetual torture inherent in these indeterminate SHU units. In fact, quite the opposite is true; such actions only serve to crystallize in our minds the simple fact that we cannot lose. The alternative is simply more unpleasant than the relatively quick sacrifice of death by starvation. They can ratchet up the intensity on these petulant retaliation moves a hundredfold and it will have no other effect than increasing our resolve a thousandfold.
This is not a situation where multi-spectrum retaliation – or coercive force of any kind – will somehow diminish the resolve of those of us committed to ending the perpetual torture inherent in these indeterminate SHU units. In fact, quite the opposite is true; such actions only serve to crystallize in our minds the simple fact that we cannot lose.
We must win this struggle not simply because it is morally correct, upholds international standards of humanity, opposes governmental collusion in corporate exploitation of underclass people, and serves the interests – social, political and economic – of society as a whole, but also because it’s necessarily our survival. We are men in earnest; consequences have little meaning in the face of such conditions.
Some of you reading these words are no doubt grappling with the reality behind them, attempting to find some point of relatability, some common experience from which to draw a correlation. Unless you’ve experienced this firsthand, such an attempt is an effort in futility. But for the sake of this discussion, I challenge you to run an experiment: Go to your bathroom and close the door. Imagine that you will never leave that room. Your tub and shower, that’s your bed. Yes, your toilet is only a step or two away from where you lay your head. Your food will be brought to you here twice a day.
Stay there as long as you can. How long do you last? Twenty minutes? An hour? Six hours? Imagine you sit in that bathroom for a year, 10 years, 24 years, 40 years. You will never leave that bathroom unless you are released from prison, agree to be an agent for the same people who stuck you in that bathroom, or you die of old age and infirmity. How long would you last? How strong is your will?
Would you submit to snitchery, kowtow to your torturers and become a tool to condemn others to that same fate? Or would you fight, resist to the bitter end, give your life to expose such evil, greedy, draconian hypocrites for what they really are? Hold the mirror of social reality up to the face of every man and woman in U.S. society and force them to confront the human misery being carried to sicker and more depraved depths every day in their names? What would you do?
Would you submit to snitchery, kowtow to your torturers and become a tool to condemn others to that same fate? Or would you fight, resist to the bitter end, give your life to expose such evil, greedy, draconian hypocrites for what they really are?
Some would characterize our effort as insane, as crazy. In “Hagakure: The door of the Samurai,” Yamamoto Tsunetomo quotes Lord Naoshige as saying the way of the warrior (samurai) is in desperateness. Ten or more cannot kill such a man. Common sense will not accomplish great things. Simply become insane and desperate.
None of us want to die, but all of us are prepared to do so to realize these five core demands. History dictates no less.
So we wait. We have been told the revisions and changes to the status quo in these torture units will be done this month or by February, but the relentless retaliatory blows we are absorbing as the sobering reminder of what we are dealing with: An entrenched labor aristocracy and political patronage of corporate speculators, who’ve grown rich and powerful off extorting billions from hapless taxpayers and criminalizing underclass people and communities, will resist any effort to curtail their wealth, privilege and socio-political status quo.
These vile and greedy people are extracting more of your tax dollars for their exclusive use than many nations’ gross national product by using us as scapegoats to frighten the people – when in fact many of us are servants of the people, political progressives who would willingly lay down our lives to advance the cause of freedom, social justice and economic equality in the nation.
In the case of the NCTT and those of like mind, ironically that’s why we were validated and consigned to these torture units in the first place. A common practice of corrupt political interests is to criminalize dissent and criticism. Who will care? We are prisoners; who will know these truths? They have already succeeded in lobbying to have media access to prisoners banned unless they consent to who will be interviewed. Again, who will care, who will know?
A common practice of corrupt political interests is to criminalize dissent and criticism. Who will care? We are prisoners; who will know these truths?
If you’re reading these words, you now know the only question that remains is: Do you care? Do you care that the very people who you’ve entrusted with ensuring public safety are in fact intentionally working against that interest to maintain a bloated prison industrial complex on your tax dollars and our souls? Do you care that the U.S., which is so vocally condemning other nations, is ignoring its U.N. treaty obligations and maintaining its own expansive domestic torture program in U.S. Supermax SHU prisons across this nation? Do you care that these evils, this blatant hypocrisy is being carried out in your name? Do you care? And if you don’t, exactly what type of society is this we’ve allowed to emerge?
If you are reading these words, you can no longer claim ignorance; to stand idly by now would be complicity. A wise man once said, “All that is necessary for evil men to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” We are under no illusions. The ultimate arbiter of our fate – and this society’s fate – is the people. YOU. YOU must rise up against this injustice and inhumanity. YOU must let the state know that substantive change at every level of society is something the people demand.
The ultimate arbiter of our fate – and this society’s fate – is the people. YOU.
We have supported, and will continue to support, progressive people’s movements, from the Dream Act to the Occupy Movement, because we recognize the inherent unity of purpose in this single political motive force, the reality that we do not represent disparate social interests but a single determined democratic imperative to put an end to the stranglehold that this greedy elite and its tools currently have on every area of people’s activity in the U.S., to put an end to these exploitive relationships that diminish and impoverish the many for the aggrandizement of the few.
To treat us this way is wrong, evil and unsustainable socially. Stand with us. Lend your voices, your labor, and your ideas to this historical work. We can win, but only with you all by our sides. In the final analysis, this is a struggle to determine the nature of humanity itself. We are on the right side of history; we encourage you all to stand on this same side with us. Our love, loyalty and solidarity to all those who cherish freedom, justice and human rights and fear only failure. Until we win or don’t lose.
For more information on the California prison hunger strikes or the NCTT, contact:
Read these brothers’ previous stories: “California prison hunger strikers propose ‘10 core demands’ for the national Occupy Wall Street Movement,” “A brief hunger strike update from the front lines of the struggle: Corcoran-SHU 4B 1L C-section Isolation Unit” (second story in that post), “From the front lines of the struggle,”and “We dare to win: The reality and impact of SHU torture units.” This story was typed by Adrian McKinney.
December 6, 2011
by Heshima Denham, Zaharibu Dorrough and Kambui Robinson
“The Constitution, then, illustrates the complexity of this American system: that it serves the interests of a wealthy elite, but also does enough for small property owners, for middle-income mechanics and farmers to build a broad base of support. The slightly prosperous people who make up this base of support are buffers against the Blacks, the Natives, the very poor Whites. They enable the elite to keep control with a minimum of coercion, a maximum of law – all made palatable by this fanfare of patriotism and unity.” – Howard Zinn
Greetings, Brothers and Sisters. A firm, warm and solid embrace of revolutionary love is extended to you all. These words by Brother Howard Zinn are particularly relevant to the survival of the evolving Occupy Wall Street Movement, as these truths have been integral to the success of populist organizing in the U.S. historically and are central to the proposal we’re putting forward here.
Like the Arab Spring, which is still rocking the Middle East, and our own struggle to abolish indefinite confinement in sensory deprivation SHU torture units (see the five core demands from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity), the Occupy Wall Street Movement expresses a fundamental rule of materialist dialectics as they apply to social development – i.e., the transformation of quantity into quality – expressed eloquently by the Honorable Comrade George Lester Jackson some 40 years ago: “(C)onsciousness is directly proportional to oppression.”
“(C)onsciousness is directly proportional to oppression.” – Honorable Comrade George Lester Jackson
The purpose of the NCTT primarily is to act as a clearinghouse for progressive and meaningful solutions to the ills of society from our unique and scientific perspective. As we have followed and supported the Occupy Wall Street Movement, discussing its great potential, analyzing its character, composition and socio-economic motive force, predicting the inevitable violent reactionary response of the fascist state in defense of its capitalist masters, the ruling 1 percent have never, nor will they ever, concede anything, surely not substantive changes, without struggle which requires unity of purpose, broad-based organization, fluid strategy and effective tactics.
Populist and progressive movements in this nation have succeeded or failed, lived or died, based on how effectively they understood and adapted to this reality. We learned this in the epoch following the Civil War as reconstruction gains were effectively repealed and Jim Crow law was introduced.
The Civil Rights Movement taught us the necessity of broad-based organization and accurate agreement of the opposition’s center of gravity: their point of weakness. Only a few years later we learned not to underestimate the power of the ruling 1 percent and insidiousness of its state tools when the Counter-Intelligence Program (Cointelpro) dismantled the Black Liberation Movement, imprisoned many of us, and ushered in the world of individualistic pursuits, greed, corruption, gross inequality and mass incarceration you all have now inherited.
As we watched the National (International) Day of Action unfold and the days that have followed, witnessing the predictable brutal response of the tools of the 1 percent as they beat young men and women bloody, pepper sprayed and pummeled peaceful youth at UC Davis, destroyed the people’s property across the nation, and even peppersprayed and dragged away 68-year-old women and pregnant ladies alike, with great effort we detached from our rage and analyzed the comments, ideas, and responses of various political pundits, common people on the streets, agents of the state and our protestors themselves.
Three things immediately became obvious from that analysis: 1) The mass media and far too many of the various pundits were in essence counting on the national Occupy movements to just peter out and fizzle away. It was this message that those who own these mass media outlets – the 1 percent – want to be disseminated as broadly as possible to undermine mass support for the movement.
The mass media were counting on the national Occupy movements to just peter out and fizzle away. It was this message that those who own these mass media outlets – the 1 percent – want to be disseminated as broadly as possible to undermine mass support for the movement.
2) We, the 99 percent, have no intention of going anywhere until substantive change is realized, and though most in this nation not involved directly in the occupations themselves agree with our ideas in opposition to corporate greed and institutional inequality, there were no clearly articulated demands or objectives around which the movement could organize the broader masses. 3) This lack of clearly articulated demands/objectives and coherent strategic and tactical organization by the national Occupy Movement was undermining its intent, diluting its potential, and degrading its motive force.
This state of affairs left unaddressed, as in most every similar movement in the U.S. historically, will lead to its isolation. This cannot be allowed. The first step in defeating an enemy as powerful, all-encompassing and organized as the ruling 1 percent is understanding the nature of struggle and the basis of their power. When you analyze opponents, you must see beyond the superficial for the origins of that power, the point of vulnerability upon which it is based. Striking this point of vulnerability will inflict disproportionate damage.
It must be understood that substantive, radical, progressive social change is no different than warfare and warfare is a form of power. Power systems, no matter their myriad manifestations, share the same basic structures. The most visible thing about them is their appearance, what is seen and felt.
Great power systems first try to ignore challenges to them, to dismiss them. When this fails, they opt to crush them. This is exactly what the Occupy Movement has experienced thus far. But all too often this outward display is a deceptive fabrication, a manifestation of insecurity, since power dares not expose its weaknesses.
The key lies in determining what their point of vulnerability is, and to do so you must understand the structure of the power system and the culture in which it operates. I began this discussion with a concise analysis of just this point by Howard Zinn.
The real point of vulnerability in American democracy is the social and political support of its citizens.
Unfortunately, the key apparatus in influencing public opinion is the American mass media – yet, ironically, they are equally vulnerable to the power of the mass support of the people. The key factor thus far in failing to harness this mass support is the lack of broad-based, articulable demands/objectives around which the uncommitted people who may support our message but not our movement can be educated, organized and mobilized to join the movement and transform not only the nature and structure of U.S. society, but the WORLD.
The key factor thus far in failing to harness the mass support of the people is the lack of broad-based, articulable demands/objectives around which the uncommitted people who may support our message but not our movement can be educated, organized and mobilized to join the movement and transform not only the nature and structure of U.S. society, but the WORLD.
To that end the NCTT Corcoran SHU has made a comprehensive analysis of statements from participants of all the national Occupy movements and some of those abroad and compiled these ideas into 10 core Objectives of the Occupy Wall Street Movement national coalition.
We call on you brothers and sisters to disseminate these 10 core objectives to all the Occupy movements across the nation and the world, and we call on all the Occupy movements to convene a national forum – which can take place online or at a national convention – to discuss the adoption of these 10 core Objectives as the definitive goals and organizing points around which the movement is based and the next level of our struggle is to be waged.
These 10 core Objectives can be modified, augmented or amended to take into account the broadest cross-section of the 99 percent possible and the collective will of the movement:
The 10 Core Objectives of the Occupy Wall Street Movement National Coalition
1. We want full employment with a living wage for all people who will work, and for employment to be enforced as the right which it is.
The U.S. Declaration of Independence states in part “that all men … are endowed … with certain inalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” “Life” is thus a right guaranteed by this nation and the means to live – work, making a living wage for all of those who will and can work – must be equally guaranteed as the right which it is – as must a guaranteed income for those who can’t work. This is the responsibility of the federal government.
If the corporate U.S. businessmen will not provide full employment even as they sit on trillions of dollars in cash reserves fleeced from the surplus value of labor, then the means of production should be taken from them and placed in the community so the 99 percent of the people can organize and employ all the people, ensuring a quality standard of life for all.
2. We want an end to institutional racism and race- and class-based disparities in access to, and quality of, labor, education, health care, criminal defense, political empowerment, technology and healthy food.
We recognize institutional racism – the U.S. race caste system – and systemic class disparities in the U.S. capitalist structure as not simply an obstacle to equitable educational opportunities, labor access, wage equality, proportionate rates of chronic disease management, access to quality and preventable health care services, non-predatory community policing, equitable treatment of criminal offenders, access to the political process for all, access to communications technology, the internet and fresh, unprocessed foods but as structural features of U.S. market capitalism primarily designed to prevent broad class cooperation between the 99 percent from various racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
We will no longer allow this divide and rule arrangement to govern the socio-economic relationships upon which the nature and structure of U.S. society is based.
3. We want decent and affordable housing for all people and for it to be enforced as the right which it is.
We recognize that housing, like living wage employment, is a fundamental necessity of life and as such a right that we have invested this government with securing on our behalf. Instead, government has consistently sided with those on Wall Street, who are responsible for the single greatest loss of housing in the nation’s history, while federal, state and local officials have in essence criminalized homelessness and chronic poverty and made a practice of attacking, destroying the property of and displacing the homeless wherever they’ve tried to erect shelters in this locked, anti-poor society.
Since it was corporate greed, government deregulation and financial speculators that led to the creation of exotic financial instruments like credit default swaps and sub-prime loan bundles which fleeced the 99 percent of much of their wealth and home equity, the government should mandate a “cost of living” readjustment to home equity debt on all U.S. homes so what the people owe actually reflects what these properties are now worth.
This would eliminate “underwater” homeowners and bail out the 99 percent of the people for a change. Simultaneously, vacated and empty federal housing authority properties (FHA) should be made into cooperatives so that our communities, with government aid, can create and build decent housing for all.
4. We want affordable and equal access to higher education for all and access to education that teaches the true history of colonialism, chattel slavery, repression of organized labor, the use of police repression and imprisonment as tools of capitalist exploitation, and the perpetuation of imperialism in the development and maintenance of modern U.S. power systems and corporate financial markets.
As current trends in the national unemployment rate indicate – for the 99 percent nationally, the rate is 14 percent for Latinos, 17 percent for New Afrikans (Blacks), yet only 4 percent for those with a college degree – higher education has a direct correlation to socio-economic opportunity and prosperity.
Since equal opportunity is a fundamental right of U.S. citizenship, the 99 percent should have equal access to higher education without speculative corporate profiteering in industries related to higher education driving up tuition costs and student loan interest rates to usurious levels, leaving most in perpetual debt and simply pricing the very prospect of higher education out of reach for those in communities of color and the poor.
5. We want an immediate end to police brutality and the murder of oppressed people in the U.S., particularly in the New Afrikan (Black), Latino, immigrant and underclass communities and among those protesting in this nation.
We recognize the police and other state paramilitary agencies – sheriffs, FBI, correctional guards etc. – are, and have always been, the enforcement army of the ruling 1 percent. This was again proven when these fascist forces moved nationally, en masse, to attack, pepper spray, beat, destroy the property of, arrest and attempt to crush the national Occupy Movement and its supporters at the two-month anniversary of the worldwide action and every day since. We recognize such brutal and unwarranted treatment is the daily existence of New Afrikan (Black), Latino, immigrant and underclass communities and people in this nation now, and historically, all to ensure the 1 percent “keeps us in our place,” the unfortunate victims of the race/class arrangement.
We recognize the police and other state paramilitary agencies – sheriffs, FBI, correctional guards etc. – are, and have always been, the enforcement army of the ruling 1 percent.
Self-defense is a human right and both the action and means are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and state laws (see the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and California Penal Code Section 50).
We believe community organized oversight and self-defense forces should be organized to monitor and record all police interactions with the people and defend them against ruling class directed and racist attacks when necessity dictates.
The hypocrisy of the government and media is exposed as they criticize Syria, China and Iran for attacking peaceful protestors while they do the same across the U.S. daily. We will suffer no more attacks like those at UC Davis, no more Scott Olsens, Fly Benzos or Oscar Grants to be injured or killed at the hands of the tools of the 1 percent.
The hypocrisy of the government and media is exposed as they criticize Syria, China and Iran for attacking peaceful protestors while they do the same across the U.S. daily. We will suffer no more attacks like those at UC Davis, no more Scott Olsens, Fly Benzos or Oscar Grants to be injured or killed at the hands of the tools of the 1 percent.
6. We want an end to the expansion of the prison industrial complex, as a profit base – from our tax dollars – for the disposal of surplus labor and the poor.
We want an end to the use of indefinite solitary confinement torture units in the U.S. as they are inhumane and illegal. The mass incarceration of people of color and the poor will no longer be tolerated as an acceptable alternative to enforcing socio-economic equality in America.
The disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and opportunity in a society is the origin of all crime. The U.S. has one of the greatest disparities between haves and have nots on earth. As a result, the U.S. has the largest prison population on the planet with some 2.7 million of our citizens in prison, 67 percent of them New Afrikans (Black) or Latinos, though they constitute only 26 percent of the nation’s population.
The prison population in the U.S. has exploded some 600 percent since 1981, with state and federal prison budgets in excess of hundreds of billions of our tax dollars a year lining the pockets of corporate interests that build, supply and maintain these prisons, jails, courts and staff, not to mention the labor aristocrats like the CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Association) guards union, who’ve created a socio-economic and political power base that guarantees their job security and ever increasing salaries and benefits, while maintaining a lobbying stranglehold on state politicians.
We recognize, in the face of such a corrupt cabal of government and business, the purpose of imprisonment in the U.S. now has little to do with public safety and rehabilitation and more to do with the development of a self-perpetuating, poverty-fueled, recession-proof industry and an accompanying socio-political accommodating labor aristocracy of prison guards, cops and staff as a support base for the interests of the ruling 1 percent.
Prison is a socially hostile microcosm of society’s contradictions, possessing the same race/class and state/class contradictions that currently define the socio-economic inequality that is capitalist Amerika. Prisons serve as warehouses for surplus labor, the poor and those who have been forced to the bottom rung of society.
It is the systemic race/class disparities, intentional criminalization and underdevelopment of poor communities and social apathy which have forced most offenders into the underground economy as the only viable option to survive.
This is unacceptable and unsustainable, equally repugnant, fundamentally inhumane, and illegal as the continued gross violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture – to which the U.S. is a signatory and we agree is the law of the land – which prohibits long-term solitary confinement for extracting information, political views or as punishment for any reason – which is the very purpose of SHU units – as torture, but it is being practiced in numerous U.S. prisons with government approval.
The continued indefinite confinement of human beings in SHUs, SMUs and other supermax torture units must be abolished in the U.S., as they violate the basic tenets of human rights this nation has sworn to uphold.
The basis of true rehabilitation, such as tech and computer-based vocational programs, access to higher education for prisoners and community-based parole boards must become the new order of the day. This is the only way to guarantee true justice in an unjust social arrangement and see our imprisoned citizens are capable of making a meaningful contribution to our society and prosperity.
The disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and opportunity in a society is the origin of all crime. The U.S. has one of the greatest disparities between haves and have nots on earth.
7. We want an end to all corporate and financial influences in the political process in the U.S.
We recognize, since its inception, the nature and structure of U.S. society has been one of the rich, for the rich and by the rich, in which the 99 percent have served as a source of exploited labor and a consumer market for the goods and services of those who own the means of production.
This pattern of usurpations has evolved into a political process in which public policies and elected officials are more often than not determined by lobbying dollars, manipulation of public opinion by corporate-controlled mass media, and the overwhelming influence of financial markets and industries on policies and policymakers, effectively marginalizing the people, their interests and their will, reducing them to pawns in a game of corporate pandering.
This will stop now. The U.S. will finally become a nation of the people, for the people and by the people, where only individual citizens may have any influence in the nature and structure of the democratic process in the U.S. This means banning all lobbyists, donors, financial market proxies, strategic advisers and special interest groups from local, state and federal electoral and legislative processes in the U.S. We are sick of this “legalized” corruption.
8. We want an end to imperialist wars of aggression and sending our youth off to kill and die to enforce the economic interests of big oil and other corporate concerns seeking new resources to exploit, new markets to open for sale of their goods and services and as an impetus to keep from addressing domestic ills.
We recognize, as Bolton Hall said, “If there is a war, you will furnish the corpses and the taxes and others will get this glory. Speculators will make money out of it, that is, out of you (us).”
Thousands of our young men and women died in Iraq and across the Middle East and caused the deaths, either intentionally or unintentionally, of many thousands more Third World people, all based on the lies of greedy and bloodthirsty politicians with multiple ties to big oil and corporate interests. The current administration has only slightly modified this same imperialist tendency by shifting it to a more palatable target at the cost of billions of our tax dollars and thousands of our youth that could have been contributing to the prosperity of the nation and its people.
We support our young men and women, but we do not support imperialism.
9. We want a bottoms-up approach to economic development and labor-capital relations in the U.S.
This nation is empowered by “we the people,” the 99 percent, to secure our rights to life, liberty, and prosperity; yet we recognize the state has aligned itself so intimately for so long with the exclusive interest of the ruling 1 percent that it has become enamored exclusively to a top-down approach to socio-economic and political solutions which always favors the rich first and everyone else when or if possible. This has resulted in a 281 percent increase in the growth of wealth in the top 1 percent of this nation, while the bottom 90 percent have seen their incomes flat over the past 20 years.
We recognize that this fascist alliance between corporate capital and government has become obstructive to the ends of securing the rights of life and prosperity to the 99 percent of this nation’s people and will now come to an end. Socio-economic and political policy must now uplift the quality of life from the bottom rung up – empowering the disenfranchised, providing opportunities for those with no options and directing bailouts and subsidies to the people, not banks and billionaires.
We recognize the state has thus far been a tool to guarantee the dominance of one class over others, of the 1 percent over the 99 percent, and that arrangement will now come to an end.
Socio-economic and political policy must now uplift the quality of life from the bottom rung up – empowering the disenfranchised, providing opportunities for those with no options and directing bailouts and subsidies to the people, not banks and billionaires.
10. We want a more equitable distribution of wealth, justice and opportunity at every level of society, reflecting the objective reality that it’s the socio-economic, political, intellectual and cultural contributions of the 99 percent upon which this society stands.
We recognize that there is enough food in this nation that no one need be hungry, enough unoccupied structures in this nation that no one need be homeless, enough educators, institutions, knowledge and technology in this nation that no one need be without a degree or skilled trade, enough work to be done that no one needs to be without a job; and it is only due to the insistence of an entrenched, super-rich 1 percent and their stranglehold on every institution and apparatus of this nation’s infrastructure from the government to the mass media that their opulence and privilege be maintained at the expense of the 99 percent.
We recognize that this is not our national reality, the ruling class has mismanaged our society – woefully and criminally mismanaged – and those in power at every level are either unable or unwilling to change the nature and structure of capitalist society. So it falls to us, the 99 percent, to forge a new basis upon which socio-economic relationships will be based, ushering in a new social order in Amerika and around the world, that serves the interests of all the people and not simply the privileged few.
It is our request that all of you please send a copy of this proposal to each individual Occupy Movement coalition, which includes but is not limited to Occupy Wall Street (New York City), Occupy Oakland, Occupy NOLA (New Orleans), Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Boston, Occupy L.A. (Los Angeles), Occupy Seattle, Occupy UC Davis, Occupy Phoenix, Occupy Fresno, Occupy Cleveland, Occupy Chicago et al. Post a copy of this proposal online at as many sites for the Occupy movement as possible. Post it on Facebook, blog sites and wherever social commentary is held.
In addition, we call on each individual Occupy Movement to begin organizing in and with the underclass communities in your city or town and for all my brothers and sisters in the ghettos, projects, barrios and trailer parks across this nation to begin organizing with Occupy Movement coalition reps around collective programs that can serve to begin realizing these 10 core Objectives by our unity and contributions alone. The NCTT, both here in Corcoran SHU and Pelican Bay SHU are committed to making meaningful contributions to the development of such community action programs, which we will outline in our next communication.
We call on each individual Occupy Movement to begin organizing in and with the underclass communities in your city or town and for all my brothers and sisters in the ghettos, projects, barrios and trailer parks across this nation to begin organizing with Occupy Movement coalition reps around collective programs that can serve to begin realizing these 10 core objectives by our unity and contributions alone.
But what must be understood is social movements of this nature are supported only to the degree that their ideas find resonance in the psychological structures of the masses, but even this is not enough. To ensure the realization of any substantive change in the nature and structure of U.S. capitalist society and to prevent this movement from being isolated and neutralized by the forces of repression, it must be firmly embedded in as broad a cross-section of this population as possible.
There are some 47 million people in Amerika living below the poverty line, another 150 million or so barely getting by – two thirds of this nation’s population, all of them part of the 99 percent. It is here that we will find our most lasting support, and thus it is here that you must begin forging meaningful ties. These are overwhelmingly New Afrikan (Black), Latino, immigrant and poor communities.
You champion us all with your ideas and the courage of your convictions, just as we continue to support you with our sacrifices and insight. It is now time to take the movement to its next evolution and ultimately to its inevitable conclusion: victorious revolutionary change.
Your greatest power lies in your unity and cooperation and ultimately your organizational ability. The power of the people far surpasses all the repressive violence of the Babylons attacking you/us or the wealth of the 1 percent, who will stop at nothing to silence us all.
The power of the people far surpasses all the repressive violence of the Babylons attacking you/us or the wealth of the 1 percent, who will stop at nothing to silence us all.
This is a protracted struggle; there will be no 90-day revolution here. Victory will require sacrifice, tenacity and competent strategic insight. The question you must ask is, Are you prepared to do what is necessary to win this struggle? If you answer in the affirmative, commit to victory and accept no other alternative. The people, as we are, are with you. Until we win or don’t lose, our love and solidarity to all those who love freedom and fear only failures.
Send our brothers some love and light:
Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, CSP-COR-SHU 4B1L-53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212;
J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, CSP-COR-SHU 4B1L-46, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212;
and Kambui Robinson, C-83820, CSP-COR-SHU 4B1L-49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212.
And read their previous stories: “A brief hunger strike update from the front lines of the struggle: Corcoran-SHU 4B 1L C-section Isolation Unit” (second story in that post), “From the front lines of the struggle,”and “We dare to win: The reality and impact of SHU torture units.”
This story was typed by Adrian McKinney.
In: SF Bay View, November 11, 2011
Written Oct. 12, 2011 – These sage words by Dr. King are both appropriate to the discussion we’d like to have on indeterminate SHU confinement and cautionary as to who we are and what we allow as a society in these troubled times. This second point is very relevant to this discussion and we hope you’ll stick with us, as the subject matter is both broad and disturbing; it requires us to share some inconvenient truths.
Security Housing Units (SHUs) like those in Pelican Bay, Tehachapi and this one here in Corcoran are torture units. They are used to indefinitely house human beings in solitary confinement based on an administrative determination that they are “gang members” with impetus towards breaking their minds in hopes of eliciting information and coercing them into becoming informants or active agents in the state.
The U.S. and many of its media outlets, such as The New York Times and San Diego Union Tribune, prior to the U.S. War on Terror, routinely criticized China, Turkey, Syria and other nations for holding prisoners in indefinite solitary confinement under conditions of constant illumination, sensory deprivation etc. for expressing contrary political views. They universally condemned the practices as torture, citing the United Nations Human Rights Commission Treaty. Their hypocrisy was of course revealed after the policies of U.S. torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and numerous CIA blacksite prisons was exposed.
Yet what has been America’s dirty little secret is that years before Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, they were boiling men alive at Pelican Bay SHU, they were holding murderous “blood sport” style bouts here at Corcoran SHU and they had been holding people with left-wing political ideologies as “gang members” for decades in sensory deprivation torture units at Pelican Bay, Corcoran and Tehachapi SHUs. Yes, indefinite solitary confinement and constant illumination is being used right now in California SHU units, in conjunction with a program of systematic isolation and experimental behavior modification to torture prisoners every day, without end.
The California and U.S. Supreme Courts, in blatant indifference to international and constitutional law, have repeatedly refused to intervene in most cases on behalf of prisoners in Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHUs who’ve lived in solitary confinement under constant illumination and daily psychological stressors for 10, 20, 30 and even 40 years straight. This is gross hypocrisy wherein your nation is torturing its citizens in your names.
The “United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment” defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
This virtually defines the validation, indeterminate SHU confinement and debriefing processes, which are all interconnected. We are routinely told, quite frankly, at ICC (Institutional Classification Committee) hearings, “You’ll only get out of SHU if you parole, debrief or die”; at parole board hearings the line is no different: The panel of law enforcement officials states, “If you want a parole date, you may want to think about debriefing.”
When, after serving 24 years, most of that in these indeterminate SHU torture units, for a crime where he was simply a 16-year-old bystander and had not had a single rules violation in over a decade, had family and community support and several job offers, Sondai Ellis was told that very thing as he was denied parole again. I was, and continue to be, so furious that it is only through the discipline and adherence to principled conduct instilled in me by brothers like Sondai that I’ve been capable of keeping that fury in check at such bald-faced injustice.
To debrief one must become an informant, an agent of the state, and decades of torture and withholding of freedom are strong state sanctions to compel some of us to make something up or simply parrot what we are told to say to get out of SHU or support a law enforcement agenda. In at least two recent online articles, we see debriefers doing just this: actually advocating the merits of the very torture units that reduced them to broken men and made them thralls of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) and its various units and affiliates. They – the Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI), Investigations Services Unit (ISU), prison guards etc. – are the ones who have an economic and political interest in maintaining the symbolism of these torture units as the final abode of “predatory gang leaders and organized criminals.”
The U.N. Human Rights Commission has stated prolonged solitary confinement for purposes of extracting information is prohibited as torture. SHUs are by definition torture units and specialty, experimental, ultra-supermax isolation units like Pelican Bay SHU’s D-Short Corridor and Corcoran SHU’s 4B1L-C-Section short corridor are specifically engineered to warp reality for purposes of breaking men’s minds.
Torture, no matter the supposed justification, is never an acceptable practice for a humane society. The U.N. Convention Against Torture states, “No exceptionable circumstances whatsoever, whether a state or threat of war or political emergency, may be invoked as a reason for torture.” As it stands, your correctional department, courts, some of your elected officials, and all law enforcement agencies do feel torture is justified as long as it’s applied to those they deem “gang members.”
But there is a much more insidious socio-economic and political motivation for the maintenance and expansion of SHU torture units and indeterminate SHU confinement based on “gang” validation. It is sustained by manipulating your perception of truth and humanity and by controlling your perception of these things. The prison industrialists dictate your actions, reactions and inaction to their impact on your lives and communities.
As you may know, we embarked on a historic 24-day hunger strike in July and at this writing are 17 days into a second hunger strike that began on Sept. 26 in solidarity with the Pelican Bay SHU D-Corridor collective and the five core demands recognizing our human rights. We were joined by some 6,600 other prisoners across the state, 12,000 in this second effort and countless others across the nation, and we garnered the support of principled people all over the world.
On Aug. 23, a hearing was held in response to those issues. I want to take this time to use some of the distortions, misrepresentations of fact and outright lies by CDCR Undersecretary Scott Kernan, a key prison industrialist, to illustrate just what we’re talking about here. There is an articulable basis why state-sanctioned torture units are maintained in California and throughout the U.S. And before we get into Mr. Kernan’s comments, it is necessary for you to have a clear understanding of what they are so you can understand why he would contradict himself and openly lie to a legislative oversight committee.
The purpose of SHU torture units – and “gang” validations resulting in indeterminate SHU confinement – is to ensure your financial and political support for the expansion and maintenance of the prison industrial complex as a viable business model by maximizing your fear and capitalizing on your ignorance. The foundational cornerstone of their success is convincing you that “gang members are depraved, inhuman monsters hell bent on the rape, murder and predation of innocent people,” and only they, the “gang experts,” know who these monsters are and how best to “protect” you from them.
These so-called malevolent, irrationally violent and predatory organized “gangs” are the source of all of society’s ills and the very origins of crime in our communities. By creating these torture units and proclaiming they are the abodes of “the worst of the worst,” they have a symbolic manifestation of the validity of their claims.
No one can refute their accounts or characterizations because transparency is non-existent. Prisoners have no voice. The CCPOA successfully lobbied to ban media interviews with prisoners so the public is left to a unilateral, state-sponsored view of prison conditions and their discontents. This allows them the ability to perpetuate the myth of the inhuman “gang member” unchallenged and, with tacit media support, to dehumanize an ever-growing segment of the underclass.
These terms, “gang” and “gang member,” automatically conjure images of innocent drive-by shooting victims and prison rapes inspired by “Oz” and cinematic visions, divorcing these men and women from the human condition, dehumanizing them. These people, more often than not, were saddled with these characterizations because of the communities they come from and may well have never committed a violent or predatory act in their lives.
But you don’t know that. All you know is what you’ve been told by the TV anchor, police or CDCR spokesman. They know that because they’ve used millions of your tax dollars to engineer it that way.
The truth of the matter is there are no malevolent, irrationally violent predatory gangs roving the streets of your cities or the prison yards of CDCR, only desperate men and women forced to the bottom rung of society through institutional disparities in economic and race-based distribution of educational, employment and empowerment opportunities at virtually every point of human activity in the U.S.
Do gangs exist? Of course, but that’s not the relevant question. Where are they prevalent and why do they exist? This is what is of note. “Gangs” and, more centrally, gang violence are prevalent primarily in underclass – poor – communities.
The national unemployment rate – not counting the underemployed or those who’ve stopped looking – stands at 9.1 percent, yet in the New Afrikan (Black) community, it’s 17 percent and in the Latino community it’s 14.5 percent. Those without a high school diploma stand at 16 percent unemployed while those with a Bachelor’s Degree a mere 1 percent.
New Afrikans and Latinos make up 90 percent of the prison population but a scant 26 percent of the national population. The origin of crime is not gangs. Gangs are a social symptom of that origin. The origin of all crime is the disproportionate distribution of wealth, privilege and opportunity in our society.
This is not by chance or happenstance. It is by design. Wage-based employment and entrepreneurship are the only ways to “legally” create wealth in this society. When social conditions are such that a community contains a large population of surplus labor – either they are unemployed due to their lack of education or marketable skills, or the market simply cannot sustain that population of workers – the only alternative to survive is the underground economy, be that illicit services such as narcotics, the sex trade and gambling or predatory crimes such as extortion, robbery and identity theft.
There is a corresponding sense of socio-political impotence which accompanies the innate insecurity of poverty. Young men and women who have no power, no hope, no impact on their world form community-based organizations to fill that socio-political void in their existence. Those the state calls “gangs” and has decided to wage “war” on them, only furthering the isolation.
One of the reasons so few people vote in underclass communities is these disparities are institutional and systemic to U.S. capitalist economics. No matter who’s in office, their plight doesn’t change. Because these communities are a marginal constituency, public officials extend a corresponding indifference to their plight.
Instead of “protecting and serving” those communities, law enforcement, judicial, legislative and correctional officers all too commonly have a containment, suppression and adversarial relationship with those communities and those who come from them. Yet the bell-curve theories and notions that young men and women want to stand on a street corner selling crack or want to risk their lives and freedom by engaging in unprovoked gang violence are simply untrue.
The California corrections system is an environment designed and maintained by its administrators. Thus, any failures must be attributed to those who have precluded an environment for success. CDCR effectively retards rehabilitation especially among SHU prisoners – those who by the state’s own admission most need rehabilitation – by withdrawing the vital tech-based vocational training and higher educational opportunity needed to compete in today’s high tech world. It was primarily through the successful efforts of the CCPOA that funding through Pell grants for higher education was taken from prisoners.
Of course, what followed this repeal of the inmate bill of rights was an unprecedented boom in prison building and a population expansion by 800 percent in the last 20 years. Racial antagonisms are encouraged so as to preclude broad class cooperation amongst prisoners like the unprecedented unity shown statewide in the recent hunger strike.
Underdevelopment while in prison, coupled with an emphasis on seeking most any impetus for “violation” by parole officers once out of prison, is designed to preclude successful re-integration into society, maximize recidivism rates, and undermine the underclass communities from which those ex-offenders hail – all to maintain the steady social dysfunction and economic desperation in these family units so a consistent flow of bodies is exiting these communities to enter our jails and prisons, court systems and probation departments, ensuring a recession-proof industry of profit and expansion for the prison market and those who depend on your tax dollars to sustain their privilege.
The very structure of CDCR regulations is designed to promote dependency, destroy ingenuity and self-determination and deter unity. They actually have rules which bar prisoners from running a business, which always boggled my mind in an economically depressed recessionary capitalist cycle. If there are prisoners with the insight, talent and entrepreneurial acumen to make a meaningful contribution to this state’s economy and job market, men and women who the courts have determined owe some debt to society, why would you codify a basis for them not doing so?
Outside of the same “potential for impropriety” rhetoric they use to justify accepting unsubstantiated confidential information and mere suspicion as a basis for SHU confinement, there exists no justification for such a regulation. The only basis that follows reason is to prevent independence and promote dependency on the state, thus promoting institutionalization.
If you combine this with the psycho-social decimation of men’s minds resulting from prolonged and, in some cases, endless isolation in conditions such as these, is it any wonder psychologists universally agree this type of torture effectively destroys one’s ability to function in society? Which is the point.
As we’ve stated before, the modern criminal justice system – and correctional departments in particular – are the biggest conflicts of interest in U.S. history. Those entrusted with reducing the number of criminal offenders and protecting public safety have their potential profit margin directly attached to maximizing the number of offenders under their control at any given time.
This is why the CCPOA fought so hard to stop out-of-state transfers of prisoners to reduce overcrowding. The more prisoners under their control, the larger their budgets, the greater their salaries and benefits, and the more overtime hours they can bill to your tax dollars.
But most vitally, the more prisoners held and for ever greater durations, the more ensured they are of their long-term job security no matter the fragility of the economy in this current crisis. To be sure, an economic downturn to the rest of us is an economic upturn for those in the prison industry. It means an inequitable increase in human commodities: prisoners.
According to CDCR, they spend an average $78,000 to house us in these torture unit cells each year. Perhaps a little more due to the added isolation features in 4B1L-C-Section and D-Corridor. We assure you it does not cost $78K to feed us the two small trays and sack lunch we receive each day or to keep this light burning 24 hours or power our small 13-inch TVs.
Besides being escorted in chains to the K-9 style dog cages for yard two to three times a week and five minutes in the shower three times a week, we never leave these cells. So I assure you that money is not being spent on prisoners being housed in the SHU. No, it’s spent on guards – on their salaries, benefits, equipment, training, guns and bullets – NOT US. The guard working the SHU makes the most money and with all the overtime they have action at, they can in essence write their own checks on your buck and at the expense of our minds, our bodies and, sometimes it feels, our very souls.
During the Aug. 23 legislative hearing, the CDCR panel representative, Undersecretary of Operations Scott Kernan, made such baseless, overly simplistic and outright false statements concerning prison life and conditions related to SHU and so-called “gangs” that they MUST be debunked with the truth. He stated “gangs” were responsible for “ordering ‘rapes’” in prison and are the primary threat for such heinous acts. This is not only an outright lie, but in fact quite the opposite is true.
We in the NCTT Cor-SHU collectively have over 100 years of experience existing in the most violent and reactionary prisons in California and can say with definitive confidence that the vast majority of the “8,000 assaults and stabbings the department has each year” has little to do with gangs, as Mr. Kernan states, and everything to do with overcrowded facilities and limited space.
Be it a dispute on the basketball or handball court, an unpaid gambling or dope debt, a cross word said in frustration at overcrowded conditions taken as disrespect, etc., these things have little to do with “gangs.” And in those instances where a gang member may be involved in a personal dispute – and according to CDCR everyone in CDCR runs with some gang – they report or record it as “gang related” when the “gang” in fact has nothing to do with the initial incident.
He went on to state “millions of tax dollars were ‘wasted’ each year, and ‘gangs’ would be identified as the primary problem.” Mr. Kernan has no factual basis for this statement. I can’t even conceive of the rubric by which he would venture this opinion when targeting educational and economic development programs in underclass communities and amongst criminal offenders has proven an effective means by which to reduce both predatory and market-based crime rates and reduce recidivism amongst prisoners, yet funding for such initiatives, due primarily to lobbying efforts by the CCPOA and their political cabal, has been repeatedly diverted to prison budgets under the auspices of public safety, an oxymoronic application of the term if ever there was one.
Mr. Kernan went on to state it’s “only 3,000 validated SHU prisoners in a population of 165,000 – that’s a very small number.” The Marquis de Sade is said to have tortured some 2,000 prisoners out of the 100,000 that passed through Elba – before honing his skills on women – when he was a gaoler (jailer) there. No one in the French aristocracy minded De Sade’s dalliances with prisoners much either. It’s this type of thinking that led to the use of CIA blacksites in Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Egypt and, yes, Libya under Qaddafi to imprison “under special conditions” terror “suspects” and torture them for years, continuing still, in the U.S. “war on terror.”
Three thousand torture victims in a population of 165,000 is 3,000 too many. Mr. Kernan went on to state, “We don’t allow media to talk to individual inmates for fear of their sensationalizing their crimes, like Charles Manson or Scott Peterson” – a patently absurd notion he knows full well was untrue. First of all, it was the media that “sensationalized” Manson and Peterson’s cases, not Manson and Peterson themselves.
The only prisoners in SHU that Mr. Kernan allowed the media access to, and the only prisoners such media outlets as the Sacramento Bee seem to be interested in quoting are debriefers, informants and agents of the state. Mr. Kernan did not allow media access to the D-Short Corridor collective, like Sitawa Dewberry, Todd Ashker or Mutope Crawford, or the 4B1L-C-Section collective because he did not want politically and socially conscious prisoners articulating the true basis of SHU and reason for the hunger strikes and the inescapable deteriorating psychological effects of SHU.
This is simply another example of state controlled media in a society that purports itself to be “free and open,” yet another manifestation of CDCR’s successful gambit to monopolize the conversation. I found it ironic that Mr. Kernan attempted to dismiss and redirect the blatant human rights violations which torture units represent by stating “the violence the gangs perpetuate is the human rights violation,” when the vast majority of the “8,000 assaults and stabbings” occurring in the modern CDCR are occurring on “sensitive needs yards” (SNYs) by the very debriefers and protective custody prisoners IGI has relied on, or broken, to manufacture uncorroborated and unsubstantiated “confidential information chronos” to put, and keep other prisoners in indefinite SHU confinement.
To be sure, the most violent “gang” in CDCR is “2-5” – half of “5-0,” the “prison gang” made up of debriefers and informants who directly work for IGI, ISU, SSU (Special Services Unit) and other law enforcement agencies.
Mr. Kernan was adamant that the courts have upheld the validation process and “though harsh, the SHU is not torture.” We’ve established without doubt this IS torture, so that brooks no comment.
But as to the comments on the courts, that’s not entirely true either. California courts, most judges having been elected with the backing of CCPOA lobbying dollars, rarely uphold the Constitution where prisoners, and especially SHU prisoners, are seeking human rights protection. But there are exceptions. For example, in the Koch v. Lewis case that the Supreme Court took up to address the equally harsh SMU II torture unit in Florence, Arizona, the court found that Koch’s solitary confinement violated his right to due process under the 14th Amendment, which is applicable to states because there was no evidence that Koch had committed any overt act to warrant such torture. The claim that he was an Aryan Brotherhood member was insufficient.
Substantive due process requires that evidence used must bear a logical relation to the specific deprivations.
As Judge Moran stated, “The labeling of plaintiff Koch as a ‘gang member’ does not itself create legal concerns. Rather it is the placement in SMU II as a result of the alleged association that is constitutionally significant.” After hearing evidence of SMU conditions – identical to California SHU conditions – and the psychological harm Koch and all prisoners faced, the court not only found a significant liberty deprivation but also that the very practice of sending inmates to supermax torture units based on status alone, with no charges or evidence of misconduct, violated due process.
The court concluded that there must be some evidence of misconduct, some overt gang-related act, to justify placing Koch in SMU II for an indefinite – and very likely permanent – term. Yet, as Mr. Kernan stated, virtually lifelong supermax detention for alleged “gang members” in U.S. domestic prisons continues to be judged constitutional here in California despite the ruling in the Griffith case. CDCR still has not released him from SHU despite multiple rulings to do so.
It’s not that they, or he, does not know these torture units violate basic tenets of humaneness; they simply have an overriding interest in their maintenance: money and control. Your money, their control. This assertion by Mr. Kernan that these torture units are not torture units is so outrageous and insulting, it recalls Bush era admonitions that waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, and CIA blacksites in foreign countries weren’t torturous either. It is an absurdity, and a dangerous one.
Mr. Kernan’s dogged assertion that “gangs” and more certainly those of us housed in these SHU torture units are the source of perpetual violence in CDCR ignores the inescapable reality of gross overcrowding, intentional underdevelopment and dependency and the structural conditions they’ve created in California prisons, which is the actual origin of prison violence. And until these structural fallacies are addressed, violence in California prisons will continue no matter how many prisoners are consigned to these torture units, and he KNOWS this.
Mr. Kernan stated the process being considered by “all state law enforcement, CCPOA, police, labor unions, national experts and the legislature itself” would allow prisoners to “earn a way out of the system by behavior and require the department to document when we feel it is not the case.” There are four things wrong with this approach:
2) most of us have not had any rules violations reports in decades. What do we need to “earn” through our “behavior” that’s not already been earned through a years-long proven record of disciplinary free conduct? Or must we subject ourselves to the behavior modification experiments developed in the Marion federal torture unit?
3) indeterminate SHU confinement cannot be allowed to continue to be based on what this department does or does not “feel is the case.” The primary issue here is the arbitrary nature of gang validation and subsequent indeterminate SHU confinement;
4) what Mr. Kernan is suggesting here is no different than the sham six-year inactive review that’s already in place.
Mr. Kernan stated the CDCR gang validation policy is “intended to protect inmates we are charged with and staff,” yet anyone who’s on this side of the door knows that’s a flat out lie. The CDCR gang policy is intended to maintain their control of prison budgets, silence prisoner critics, preclude prisoner unity and continue to scapegoat indeterminate SHU prisoners who’ve not had a single instance of documented misconduct in decades as a basis for extorting billions of taxpayer dollars through over-exaggerating the threat posed by prisoners housed indefinitely in SHU on the basis of gang validations.
As I’ve stated previously, if prisoners, staff and public safety were truly CDCR’s motive force, they would have developed a prison environment and programs geared toward true rehabilitation and successful reintegration and performance in society upon release. Such an environment runs contrary to their economic and political interests and unfortunately against a significant number of the peoples’ desire for vengeance against perceived offenders.
Now then, a particularly distressing lie Mr. Kernan relayed to the public safety panel was that “all evidence used to validate is corroborated.” Simply put, this is a flat out lie. There is no corroboration via independent sources of information of confidential informants’ statements or confidential informant chronos known as “1030s.” Why he would utter a lie that is so easily debunked is truly beyond me.
To give you an example of what Mr.Kernan and the IGI deem corroboration, they have little boxes on the 1030 chrono listed a)-f) which state why they consider such a source reliable. In a 2008 1030 used to deny a validated indeterminate SHU prisoner “inactive status,” a debriefer – who was briefly housed with the brother – told IGI the individual spoke of the merits of socialism, the history of political resistance to racism and socio-economic inequality in Amerika, and of the validity of the political and socio-economic views of Frantz Fanon, Ho Chi Minh and George Lester Jackson. The IGI told the debriefer that the prisoner was providing “BGF education,” to which the debriefer quickly agreed and parroted what his IGI handler told him to.
Not only is political speech and expression protected by “the supreme laws of the land” – or is supposed to be – but it boggles the mind how an article in a publication CDCR not only allows into institutions, but the state delivers to our cell doors, can possibly be corroboration of a coerced informant’s scripted lies. This is what passes for corroboration in Mr. Kernan’s CDCR. The fact of the matter is there is no corroboration of evidence and no way to verify it if there was. IGI is the only one who gets to see the evidence used to consign men to these torture units forever.
Mr. Kernan went on to state, “These offenders are in the SHU with mountains of documentation of illegal criminal activities both out on the streets in public and in prison.” And it is just these types of irresponsible, intentionally dishonest statements which have cowed courts and legislators alike into turning a blind eye to wholesale psychological torture for decades in the California prison system.
The truth of the matter is most validated indeterminate SHU prisoners haven’t had a single documented instance of misconduct or rules violation report for ANY criminal act in decades. I assure you if such a “mountain of illegal activities” was documented, you’d have an equally high mountain of rules violation reports, district attorney referrals and indictments. This is a lie specifically designed to put forward a non-existent justification for that which, according to “the rule of law,” is unjustifiable: indefinite psychological torture to coerce men into becoming informants, agent provocateurs and advocates for the same heinous practices which broke their minds and subsumed their wills.
Upon hearing this absurdity, even the assemblyman had to call him on the contradiction. As the hearing wore on and the objective evidence in front of the legislative oversight committee continued to contradict the lies and distortions Mr. Kernan was offering as authority, he stated, “Let’s not lose focus on the real public safety threat perpetuated by gangs in our system.”
And it is this narrow and intentionally ill-informed perspective on public safety which has produced an 800 percent increase in the California prison population, a dysfunctional correctional and nonexistent rehabilitation system, and led to the state’s use and expansion of domestic human experimentation, torture units on the victims of a socio-economic arrangement that has forced us from the bottom rung of society into the bowels of Pelican Bay and Corcoran SHUs.
Mr. Kernan and the rest of the prison industrialists can lay the blame for society’s ills at the feet of “gangs” all they like, and the vicious cycle will only continue ebbing toward the inexorable decline of Western Civilization. Until such time as we all accept the fact that “gangs” are the inevitable outgrowth of capitalist contradictions, of educational and labor underdevelopment in underclass communities and your political and economic leaders’ unwillingness or inability to address the gross disparities between the haves and have nots as the true origin of society’s ills, “gang” violence and systematic criminality will continue to be part of the U.S. social fabric.
The actual public safety threat lies in the underlying socio-economic relationship between poor communities and the prison industry, our society’s indifference to that conflict, and the apparent dogged pursuit of a law enforcement and correctional policy which has been both a dismal inhumane failure and economically unsustainable. The definition of “insanity” is pursuing the same course of action repeatedly and expecting a different result.
I’d like to address one final point Mr. Kernan raised that I believe is pertinent. He stated, “An offender that wants to rehab himself, he can’t because of an inmate telling him to go stab someone or he will be killed.” This is both a misrepresentation of truth and a dangerous exaggeration. There are numerous non-affiliates in the general population of CDCR and Mr. Kernan is well aware of it. Everyone in prison knows lumpen organizations or “gangs” in prison don’t force membership onto non-affiliates, because history has proven such prisoners always become informants, agents or are easily compelled to lie on those they formerly ran with.
But that’s not the core issue here. What is, is Mr. Kernan’s willingness to dispense such tripe as “facts” in hopes of somehow convincing the people that the perpetual torture of over 3,000 human beings is somehow legitimate. This type of thinking and speech MUST be confronted and debunked. Indefinite solitary confinement of humans in California, across the U.S. and throughout the world must be opposed, resisted and abolished.
In the wake of the atrocities of World War II, a document was drafted which stated “The protagonists of this practice of human experimentation justify their views on the basis that such experiments yield results for the good of society that are unprocurable by other methods or means of study. All agree, however, that certain basic principles must be observed in order to satisfy moral, ethical and legal concepts.” That was an excerpt from the Nuremberg Code.
Have we as a society descended so far into the miasma of fear, hatred and dehumanization that we would condone the state-sponsored torture of thousands of humans from our communities, in our name?
I began this discussion with a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to illustrate the slippery slope we are on as a society. Maintenance of these torture units is an injustice; a continuation of the current law enforcement and correctional policy in relation to fundamental socio-economic disparities is inhumane. Injustice anywhere, even here in Corcoran SHU’s 4B1L-C-Section, is a threat to justice everywhere. Today it is us; tomorrow if may be someone you love or, God forbid, you yourself.
It was Fyodor Dostoevsky who said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” How civilized is this society? And to answer that question with another: How civilized are you, the people who make it up?
If this second hunger strike effort has taught us anything, it is that the power to transform an intransigent industrial interest such as CDCR must come from the will of the people, from exercising your limitless power. Prison authorities were fully content to let us die this time and even modified their medical responses to maximize the chance of permanent injury or death to hunger strikers, which makes the broader aspects of this struggle so significant.
This is not over. It is a protracted struggle that does not end, yet simply begins, with the abolition of SHU torture units. It is the intent of the NCTT to ensure not another human is done this way, not another soul lost to such greedy and heartless people.
It is our intent to fight for true rehabilitation and positive empowerment, not merely for current or ex-prisoners, but for the underclass communities we all too often hail from. If we can provide community-based initiatives and programs which address the inherent social inequalities in the class arrangement, this will eliminate the motive for property crimes – which make up 98 percent of all crime in the U.S. – and give us all safer and more prosperous communities, allowing us all to partake of the inalienable rights provided for in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Who dares do the right thing when the Scott Kernans of the world swear it’s wrong? Who dares to struggle? Who dares to win? We do, and we hope you do too.
Join us! This power to shape history and the future of the society is in your hands. We have faith you will uphold the highest standards of humanity. Our love and solidarity to all those who love freedom, justice and equality and fear only failure.
This letter was typed by Adrian McKinney.
Reblogged on: Kersplebedeb, 4StruggleMag, Prison Activist Resource Center, Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle, Summary on Radical Criminology
Posted in the SF Bay View: http://sfbayview.com/2011/from-the-front-lines-of-the-struggle/
by Heshima Denham
Written Oct. 13, 2011 – A firm, warm and solid embrace of eternal revolutionary love and solidarity is extended to you all. Enclosed you will find an update statement from us on this second hunger strike effort, which I am happy to report met a victorious conclusion only hours ago with our five core demands being sufficiently realized to halt the hunger strike at this time.
Nevertheless the struggle is far from over. The abolition of SHU torture units in California and throughout the U.S. and its interconnectedness to the struggle for socio-economic and political freedom, justice and equality for the unjustly suppressed and all underclass people in the U.S. is protracted and ever ongoing. There is much work left to be done and we here at the NARN collective think tank look forward to working with you all to accomplish meaningful change for the people.
We face many challenges. For example, we sent an update statement to the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition media team on the Aug. 23 legislative hearings, which remain necessary to the people’s education and the advancement of our aims. Institutional Gang Investigations (IGI), however, were directed by the warden to intercept and confiscate all mail, legal mail, from hunger strikers in this 4B1L-C Section. Be mindful that IGI shortstops all our mail and, despite legislation, holds it up without our ability to know if and when it got out.
In addition, I am an artist, an exceptional artist, and I’ve had my efforts to use my talent to generate funds for this and other massive work thwarted by two major factors: 1) lack of reliable and trustworthy personnel with whom to work with the basic resources – i.e., internet access, quality copying capability, time and motivation – and 2) IGI interference. The latter can be overcome; the former cannot without help and I want to put a call out for that help, as it is a mutual and collective beneficial call. I cannot stress enough the potential benefit for all concerned from answering this call. My insight, business acumen and artistic talent in conjunction with this body is truly impressive. Please help us.
With that said, on a personal note, many good souls sacrificed greatly in this effort: myself and Brother Zaharibu in particular. When this started I was 223 pounds – I’m 6 feet 2 inches. As of July 1 or 2, I was 178 pounds. When the second effort began, I had not yet recovered physically nor had Zaharibu and others. I was 192 pounds on Sept. 25. Today I weighed in at 168 pounds and I was both prepared for and close to my death.
When this started I was 223 pounds – I’m 6 feet 2 inches. Today I weighed in at 168 pounds and I was both prepared for and close to my death. I want you to stop and think about that. We are warriors, yet we allowed ourselves to brush the veil of the other side, to embrace oblivion peacefully rather than exist in torturous tombs eternally.
I want you to stop and think about that. We are warriors, yet we allowed ourselves to brush the veil of the other side, to embrace oblivion peacefully rather than exist in torturous tombs eternally. That alone should tell you all you need to know about the righteousness of our cause and quality of our character. Now we must re-strengthen our bodies to match our minds and gird our loins for the next battle in this never-ending struggle for freedom, justice and quality in capitalist Amerikkka. I hope we can count on your aid and support. Our love and solidarity are with you all, always. Until we win or don’t lose.
A brief statement from the front lines of the struggle, from the NCTT Corcoran SHU
Written Oct. 9 from the 4B1L-C Section Short Corridor Isolation Unit – It is Day 13 of the second hunger strike in support of our five core demands and the abolition of SHU torture units as a means of manufacturing informants, containing progressive political ideas and maintaining the status quo for the prison industrial complex. At this writing, all New Afrikan and Southern Mexican partisans in this isolation unit (4B1L-C Section) are fully participating in the hunger strike, while our White and Northern Mexican brothers are providing moral support.
We have not eaten since Sept. 25, and the administration here has unleashed an unprecedented wave of retaliation reprisals against us aimed at breaking the hunger strike and provoking violent reaction which would undermine the nonviolent basis of the peaceful effort. They have thus far failed.
In response to this second effort, on Sept. 29, CDCR revised its medical evaluation policy for hunger strikers to minimize the amount of medical evaluation and data, while maximizing the chance of serious injury or death to those on hunger strike. They have ceased taking vital signs – blood pressure, heart rate, temperature – altogether and are weighing us only twice a week unless “it appears you need it.”
It is only because myself and Brother Zaharibu have lost so much weight since this began – over 10 percent of our total body weight from the first weigh in on July 30 – that our vital signs have been taken. Others who’ve requested it or complained of dizziness, weakness, lightheadedness etc. have been told, “Put in a sick call request,” which will cost you $5. Canteen purchases for hunger strikers have been restricted to hygiene and stationary items only – no food or drink.
On or about Oct. 3, they raided 4B1L-C Section and removed all food and drink items – even coffee and salt packs – from the cells of hunger strikers. A short time later the warden and her entourage arrived in our section laughing and joking like it was a day at the fair and ordered sandbags placed in front of each of our cell doors to prevent any fishing so as to ensure non-hunger strikers are not fishing coffee and kool-aid to those on hunger strike.
Human rights attorneys have been banned and we have been denied access to yard and law library. The warden has directed IGI to open and/or confiscate all legal mail for hunger strikers in 4B1L-C Section. RNs have been dismissive and outright verbally disrespectful to some hunger strikers in a blatant attempt to provoke us.
Human rights attorneys have been banned and we have been denied access to yard and law library.
Earlier this week, pursuant to a 1030 confidential information chrono alleging that two of our Southern Mexican brothers here “ordered the hunger strike,” those same two have had their visits taken by the administration for 90 days – an absurd accusation and blatant abuse of power clearly designed to provoke a violent reaction.
This is a peaceful human rights initiative supported across racial lines making it an impossibility for any single group, let alone individual, to “order” anything. We are all participants of our individual free will guided by a collective desire to see an end to the systematic torture and industrial profiteering at our expense.
It is from the same spirit of basic human dignity and thirst for fundamental socio-economic equality and opportunity driving the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street Movement sweeping the nation that our peaceful hunger strike derives its own political motive force. We have stated the undeniable correlation between corporate greed, socio-economic inequality, imprisonment and indeterminate SHU confinement based on “gang” validation in previous statements, most recently in our NCTT statement in response to the Aug. 23 legislative hearings.
There is a corresponding correlation in the bottom-up thrust of social consciousness now shaking the foundations of the unholy union of government and industrial capital. For this reason the NCTT Corcoran SHU wants you all to know our sacrifices here are also in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and we fully support the aims of the protestors to bring about a world where it is the 99 percent of the people who are prospering from the productive system as opposed to the historic motive force of U.S. capitalist greed, which has maintained an unchallenged opulence standard for the 1 percent ruling elite while the rest of us struggle, suffer, barely survive or languish in these concentration camps, the unfortunate victims of the race-class arrangement.
But like all historically oppressed people, like the valiant brothers and sisters from all walks of life currently besieging the halls of power on Wall Street, in Washington, D.C., Sacramento and across this country, we too will no longer accept the status quo or allow corruption, injustice and institutional inequality to dictate the nature and structure of our existence.
Each meal we miss, pound we lose and pain we suffer we dedicate not only to the realization of the five core demands, but the realization of the aims and aspirations of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, as they are one in the same. We ask you all to support each of these initiatives with your voices, your work, your blogs and, yes, your participation.
Each meal we miss, pound we lose and pain we suffer we dedicate not only to the realization of the five core demands, but the realization of the aims and aspirations of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, as they are one in the same.
Some of us here, myself (Heshima) and Brother Zaharibu included, did not fully recover from the first hunger strike, and our bodies, as with others here, are close to failing. Some of us, myself included, may well die in this effort, but we do so, if that is the Creator’s will, in service of a just cause and in support of freedom, justice and equality.
JOIN US! Stand on the right side of history and together we can forge a new world where poverty, homelessness, corporate usury, government corruption and abuses, state-sanctioned torture, criminalization, underdeveloped men and institutional inequalities are the exception, NOT the rule. You, THE PEOPLE, are the most powerful force in this nation. Let us wield that power together and forge a more perfect union. Stand with us! Our love and solidarity to all those who oppose injustice and oppression, and fear only failure.
JOIN US! Stand on the right side of history and together we can forge a new world where poverty, homelessness, corporate usury, government corruption and abuses, state-sanctioned torture, criminalization, underdeveloped men and institutional inequalities are the exception, NOT the rule. You, THE PEOPLE, are the most powerful force in this nation. Let us wield that power together and forge a more perfect union.
For more information on the hunger strike or the NCTT, contact:
Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, CSP-COR-SHU, 4B1L-53, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212; Heshima Denham, J-38283, CSP-COR-SHU, 4B1L-46, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212;
Kambui Robinson, C-82830, CSP-COR-SHU, 4BIL-49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212.
We also urge all those who can to donate $10 or more to the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition at California Prison Focus, www.prisons.org.