Michael Reed Dorrough’s article written in Feb-March of 2019, was published in the SF Bayview newspaper of June 2019:
A discussion on the culture of hate and violence in US society and the rationality of securing New Afrikan communities
by the NCTT: Zaharibu Dorrough, Heshima Denham, Jabari Scott and Kambui Robinson
Published in: SF Bayview, April 26, 2016
“It is well known that the Black race is the most oppressed and most exploited of the human family. It is well known that the spread of capitalism and the discovery of the New World had as an immediate result the rebirth of slavery, which was for centuries … a bitter disgrace on mankind. What everyone does not perhaps know is that after … years of so called “emancipation,” American Negroes still endure atrocious moral and material suffering, of which the most cruel and horrible is the custom of lynching … Imagine a furious horde, fists clenched, eyes bloodshot, mouths foaming, yells, insults, curses … They are armed with sticks, torches, revolvers, ropes, knives, scissors, vitriol, daggers – in a word, with all that can be used to kill or wound … In a wave of hatred and bestiality, the lynchers drag the Black to … a public place … When everyone has had enough, the corpse is brought down … While on the ground stinking of fat and smoke, a black head, mutilated, roasted, deformed, grins horribly and seems to ask the setting sun, ‘Is this civilization?’” – Chairman Ho Chi Minh, 1924
“Instead of trying to avoid conflict or whining about the injustice of it all, consider an option developed over the centuries by … strategists to deal with violent and acquisitive neighbors; reverse intimidation. The art of deterrence rests on three basic facts about war and human nature: First, people are more likely to attack you if they see you are weak and vulnerable; second, they depend on the signs you give out, through your behavior both past and present; third, they are after easy victories, quick and bloodless. That is why they prey on the vulnerable and weak.” – Robert Greene
“The need to not mistake enemies for friends is especially great for us. Part of the reason for us being issue oriented is that we don’t yet see the need to assume responsibility in the development of the strategies affecting our lives. Those who are misgoverned and oppressed merely respond to the oppressive issues and conditions as they arise, and as the suffering triggers our awareness.” – Yaki Sayles
“For two or more centuries, America has marched proudly in the van of human hatred – making bonfires of human flesh and laughing at them hideously, and making the insulting of millions more than a matter of dislike – rather, a great religion, a world war-cry.” – W.E.B. DuBois
Greetings, Sisters and Brothers. Amerikkka is a sick state – its social ills the product of the malignant sickness of ruling class morality. For us to make sense of the relentless, 400-year-long onslaught of racist violence against New Afrikans and other nationally oppressed people in Amerika and the absence of a collective program of comprehensive self-defense and secure communities among the majority of the New Afrikan population in the U.S., it’s important we first grasp the origin of this contradiction, as all other points of contradiction and irrationality flow from it.
There is a direct correlation between the origin of U.S. society, the relationship of New Afrikans in its development, the racist murder of nine women, men and youth in Emanuel A.M.E. Church, the ongoing wave of Euro-Amerikan police slaughtering New Afrikans in their communities, and our failure to develop a national policy of self-defense. To understand that correlation, we must trace its etiology.
The mode of production and appropriation is what determines the composition of a society and which class will rule it. When the Euro-Amerikan bourgeois settlers overthrew colonial British socio-economic organization in North Amerika, it retained for itself the same privileges of usurpation that the aristocracy had so long enjoyed; they simply replaced, through the restructuring of the modes of production and appropriation, the layers of illusion used by the nobility – mysticism of symbols, politico-religious illusions like the divine right of kings, etc. – with naked self-interest, direct exploitation, pseudo-scientific justifications for racialization and inhuman brutality and open, unashamed oppression. Human worth was reduced to mere exchange value, and all of the social life was commoditized for efficient valuation, barter and disposal.
These values made up the basis of “morality” for the U.S. ruling class, and they imposed their values on the whole of society through their enforcement apparatus, “the state.” The institutions of U.S. society were structured to orient the population in these notions of “morality” and “law” as well as their underlying basis: PROFIT AND VIOLENCE.
In doing so, the U.S. ruling class embedded the illusion into the whole of society that the ruling class’s interests and the people’s interests were one and the same, thus developing a slavery of the willing. Hierarchical and authoritarian in nature, the function of these institutions was to reproduce these warped values in society as a whole – based on one’s class, cultural group and resultant social function – as the supreme rules of social life.
This process of assimilation to the ruling class took its own unique form for each culture and class subject to its domination. For New Afrikans, it took the form of Jim Crow apartheid lynch law, COINTELPRO, the deliberate application of poverty, the intentional introduction of narcotics, criminalization, “legal” re-enslavement (in mass incarceration) and “civil death.”
Throughout each of these eras, we saw racist violence and murder being visited upon us at the hands of the state and aspects of its majority Euro-Amerikan population. Though New Afrikan resistance to the assimilation process has been consistent over the course of our 400-year domestic colonization – including organized self-defense at different periods throughout that history – we have yet to develop and implement a consistent and comprehensive secure communities strategy across the New Afrikan collective in Amerika. Our failure to do so has both maintained our vulnerability to racist violence in the U.S. and emboldened those who perpetuate such attacks upon us to continue to do so.
“(W)hile the economic conditions of an ideology give us an insight into its material base, they offer us no immediate knowledge of its irrational core. Subject to the specific economic conditions of a society, man reproduces the historical economic process in his ideology. By forming ideologies, man re-shapes himself; man’s core is to be sought in the process by which he forms ideologies. Thus it is clear that the irrational formation of an ideology also makes man’s structure irrational.” – Wilhelm Reich
We watched along with the world the images of Dylann Storm Roof calmly walking into historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church. He sat in fellowship with nine of our sistas and brothas for an hour, then pulled out a gun and slaughtered them like sheep. Moments later he calmly exited the church, completely unmolested, got in his car, and drove away, leaving Rev. C. Pickney, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. D. Simmons Sr., Uzia Jackson, Tywana Sanders, Myra Thompson, Rev. Sharonda G. Singleton, Rev. Depayne M. Doctor and Ethel Lance dead.
This immediately conjured images of another New Arikan church in another time … of four little New Afrikan girls in an Alabama church murdered by a klansman’s bomb. Our minds moved to Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Omar Abrego, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant and so many more, stretching in an unbroken line of corpses all the way back to the Middle Passage. Actions and organization of the broad masses of New Afrikans seemed to reflect a collective irrationality, which could not analyze the core contradictions accurately, and as a result were incapable of developing viable solutions to these contradictions.
Before we can speak of a genuine anti-racist agenda in the U.S., it must be understood that racism and its underlying basis, reactionary racial violence, are ideologies, and these ideologies are structural components of U.S. society. They cannot be “reformed” away. They are woven into the superstructure and base of capitalist Amerikka and are foundational components of its culture.
Racism itself, an ideological component of the system of global white supremacy, owes its very existence to New World slavery and the genocide of Native Americans during the U.S. ruling class’s primitive accumulation of capital. Racism is a uniquely Amerikan creation, and it is wholly irrational for us to seek to “reform away” the cultural fiber and ideological foundations of society.
It is even more irrational to seek to affect such change through identifying with its state and looking to its institutions – judicial, legislative, academic, socio-economic etc. – for such reform, when it’s the function of the state and these institutions to preserve the Amerikan cultural fiber and defend its ideological foundation – which includes the race-caste system and its underlying basis: racist violence.
It’s as though a large swath of the New Afrikan population has been so thoroughly assimilated to the ruling class that they have lost their capacity for rational thought. It is as though they’re incapable of thinking outside the dominant power system.
Consider the response of a significant number of our people in the immediate aftermath of Dylan Roof’s attack: They clamored for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the South Carolina State Capitol, instead of clamoring to secure our communities and their institutions from further attacks.
We watched the entire proceedings, as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, a longtime and staunch defender of maintaining the Confederate flag “as a symbol of (their) heritage,” shook the hands of the families of those slain as the flag lowering ceremony commenced. We looked upon this sea of humanity outside the South Carolina Capitol begin to cheer as an “honor guard” marched out to respectfully remove this symbol of death, torture, exploitation and hatred of New Afrikans and were amazed at the depth of irrationality in the U.S. mass psychology.
The state’s obsession with pomp and pageantry was clearly designed to deepen the delusion that the removal of this flag had any significance whatsoever in the structural racial hatred and institutional white supremacy imbedded – consciously or unconsciously – in the hearts and minds of millions upon millions of Euro-Amerikans.
We noted, as the flag was removed, New Afrikans were shouting, “USA! USA! USA!” and waving tiny U.S. flags, while only a few yards away, over half the crowd – all Euro-Amerikans, all clearly less than joyful – were hoisting Confederate battle flags in every size, while at the front of their crowd, one fellow was hoisting a large U.S. flag in one hand and the Confederate battle flag in the other. As if mirroring our thoughts, the camera panned back to the mixed half of the crowd still blithely shouting “USA! USA!” as if the contradiction only feet away wasn’t underscoring the irrationality of both their chant and their celebration.
Between 2005 and 2012, according to a study by USA Today, New Afrikans were murdered by Euro-Amerikan police officers at a rate of twice a week. Every one of those officers had a central commonality: Each of them had a U.S. flag sewn to their uniform. It was almost as though we were looking upon a physical manifestation of the U.S. fascist mass psychology.
We often view the ideology of racism as something separate from us, while failing to analyze how our core psychology has been affected by it. At the same time they were removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol, it was being erected in millions of homes across the U.S. Amazon.com reported a 3,260 percent increase in sales of “Old Dixie” the day it was removed.
It would have been more rational to leave that flag right where it was, as a constant reminder of just what type of sick society we live in and our need to organize ourselves for self-defense and social transformation. The Confederate battle flag is just that – a symbol of Amerikan’s willingness to fight to preserve institutional racism as a structural component of U.S. capitalist society … just like the U.S. flag.
Consider this: In response to the massacre at Emanuel A.M.E., “Black Lives Matter” was spraypainted on the statue of a Confederate general. The response of Klansmen to this was to burn down six New Afrikan churches in five states. U.S. mass media mentioned a NAIM formation was holding a rally in South Carolina; the Ku Klux Klan’s response was to hold a march and rally through downtown Charleston, complete with national media coverage and police escorts to ensure their security.
The same way the U.S. government views ISIS or Al Qaeda as terrorist groups bent on the destruction of their nation and interests, the New Afrikan people in Amerikka view the KKK. There is nothing ISIS has done that the KKK hasn’t done to New Afrikans in Amerika – only the Klan carried these atrocities out with much more frequency over a much longer period of time.
However, if ISIS were to march and rally in downtown Charleston, S.C., they would be subject to immediate arrest and imprisonment under the U.S. Freedom Act, National Security Act and other “anti-terrorism” laws. But if the KKK does the same, they’re provided the full protection of the U.S. Constitution – armed police escorts and national media exposure.
Amazingly – or perhaps NOT so amazingly – the local NAACP president asserted, “They have a First Amendment right to do so,” and he supports their right to exercise it. What is the difference between ISIS and the KKK? One is all Euro-Amerikan, Christian, kills New Afrikans and is protected by the U.S. state; the other is primarily Arabic Muslim, targets Amerikans and Europeans, and is summarily killed by the U.S. state.
In the face of such gross contradictions, do you truly believe “Black Lives Matter” to the U.S. state? Racism and racist violence will continue to re-invent itself as long as the ruling class and state in power remain in power.
“Racism will continue to exist so long as the belief in the concept of ‘race’ and the material reality underlying it exists. It’s this belief which allows racism to appear as totally autonomous (independent) of the economic relations it serves: capitalism. Unless and until it is uprooted, its forms will change, and its practices will ebb and flow, following the needs of its base, the political requirements of the oppressive state, and the forms and levels of struggle engaged by the people.
“Must racism be challenged? Yes. Does ‘race’ have a certain kind of ‘reality’? Yes, but, what we fail to focus on is that ‘race’ is only as ‘real’ as our consciousness and our practices will allow it to be.” – Atiba
Understanding the primary purpose of “racism” – to prevent broad class cooperation across cultural lines and to destroy unity amongst oppressed cultural groups with common interests – ensures that we develop strategies which protect our communities from the effects of this psychosis, without compromising our class unity or prospects of social cooperation. “Understanding that racism is a manufactured concept aids us in fighting it from the proper perspective – rationally and scientifically.”
“Combatting racism” is the conscious engagement of a fiction which has been granted material force in the world through its ideological structure. We are struggling against an illusion which only exists in the minds of man and woman. But much like superstition and the supernatural, it imposes itself on reality solely through our belief. Though irrational and unscientific, racism is nevertheless like the ghosts and ghouls that haunt our dreams, very lethal – and as such, it must be defended against … rationally.
Rationality is a hallmark of resistance to fascist assimilation. It is an indication of the peoples’ capacity to see its relationship to the productive system and social life as it actually is – and respond to it accordingly. It is not the existence of racist murder, violent atrocities, state sponsored terror and national indifference to the plight of New Afrikans in Amerika which should shock the conscience – that is all fairly standard in the U.S. It is the suicidal irrationality of our collective response to it which should concern us all.
A cursory analysis of the New Afrikan experience in Amerika from 1619 to the present clearly reveals Amerikans socially control, exploit, contain and kill New Afrikans as a matter of national policy. It is a policy that has evolved to maintain its function through every change in mode of production – from manual labor to industrialization, mechanization and computerization to financialization – pursued invariably through each, ever emerging, ever resilient.
Yet, in the face of tragedy after tragedy, be it racist police murdering us or psychopathic wannabe “Rhodesians” massacring us, we have yet to collectively commit to self-defense and securing our communities.
A primary question asked on tests measuring human intelligence is “If a faucet is running and a sink is overflowing, what do you do first?” (a) Get a mop and clean up the water, or (b) Turn off the faucet”? Of course you secure the faucet first. Otherwise you will be mopping indefinitely.
Similarly, what should we as a people do first? Organize ourselves so that our communities are no longer vulnerable to racist violence, or, continue to plead and organize within the same system that is responsible for the preservation and perpetuation of that racist violence?
The answer would seem obvious – yet it is not reflected in our social practice. Great effort has gone into organizing efforts like The Black Youth Project (BYP100), Dream Defenders, and reorganizing the NAACP, mobilizing hundreds of thousands of our people to hold elected officials accountable, organize rallies and direct action campaigns to raise the peoples’ consciousness, garner media attention, holding voter registration drives, organizing on social networks, and developing legislation in hopes of ending collective oppression. All very good and very important work … the same work that we have been doing since “Reconstruction” … mopping the floor.
It’s important that no one misunderstand our point here: The floor does need to be mopped … just not while the faucet’s still running. Yes, prayer and faith are vital aspects of our culture and solidarity in such times of tribulation – but they are a poor defense against bullets. And a reliance on the benevolence of those citizens who are either responsible for the national oppression or who benefit and have historically benefited from it is simply irrational.
New Afrikans, communities of color and poor people have always been willing to engage in dialogue with the state to create a just and humane society. Because it has always involved protest – the only time the state has ever been willing to engage in any kind of dialogue with us has been as a result of protest – the state’s response has always been exactly what it is now. The state really does hate us.
We overestimate the power of conversation and the benevolence of the state and those who benefit from our oppression, because, on this very basic level, we will not call this what it really is: hate!
We must defend ourselves against their hate. We must secure our communities – now! Any other course is irrational adventurism … just more floor mopping.
Even more irrational is the response of many of the warriors among us. As if to rub salt in the wounds of our own contradictions, the story the news ran immediately following that of the massacre at Emanuel A.M.E. was of the epidemic of New Afrikan on New Afrikan gang violence plaguing Chicago.
As we watch these images of our brothas, sistas and children murdering one another across Chitown, we realized that it could have been Watts, Cleveland, Oakland, Baltimore or Southeast San Diego that they were talking about. In the face of unprecedented racist attacks on our communities from agents of the state, self-styled vigilantes or run of the mill racist psychopaths, our response is to help them out by murdering one other over hood, set, turf or (drug) sack.
We can’t be serious!? Actively participating in our own genocide, in the face of non-stop assault on our humanity, is a classic example of the hate that hate has produced. Our inability to be able to look at each other and see a reflection of ourselves – the absence of a cultural kinship – is a consequence of our being under the influence of white supremacy.
It represents how much under the influence we are of – and how much we have been and continue to be damaged psychologically by – slavery. Indeed, the nation does still suffer from this pathology of hate.
There is nothing fly about wanting to be like forces who are committed to our destruction. The system of slavery is understandably viewed initially as a Black and White master-slave issue: racism. But slavery, the process by which one group or gender is made subordinate to a more powerful, stronger group, involves us all.
We are up against a united and powerful force and system. And the only chance that we have at defeating it is by coming together.
Division and disunity is weakness and vulnerability, but unlike a weak buffalo on a savannah that has become weak through illness, age or injury, ours is a willful weakness, a deliberate vulnerability and, as such, it is reversible.
The solution is to create a qualitative transformation in one social extreme – in this case, disunity-born weakness – by quantitatively increasing its opposite: UNITY.
It should never be easy to harm us – any of us. We must put our collective survival before our petty self-interests.
“When someone attacks you or threatens you, you make it clear that they will suffer in return. He may be able to win battles, but you will make him pay for each victory … You make him understand that every time he bothers you, he can expect damage, even if it is small. The only way to make you stop … is for him to stop attacking you. You are like a wasp on his skin: Most people leave wasps alone.” – Robert Greene
We must protect ourselves and our communities from these attacks by securing our communities. And that includes developing self-defense groups within our communities, safe zones that encompass public spaces for our children and grandchildren to play in, where our mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, wives and lovers, friends and neighbors can engage in other areas of social life without fear of violent death by the hands of those of whose responsibility it is to protect them and our communities. We must also work diligently to overcome the mentality that has us held captive.
It will only be as result of our changing the way that we think – being under the influence of the hate that hate produced – in order to be able to develop strategies and tactics that will make it possible for us to not simply be left alone, but to create and maintain a just and humane society. And we honestly do not have a lot of time left to do so.
Our communities, like much of the planet, have already become giant cemeteries and mental health facilities. Citizens here and abroad are being displaced by wars and deprived of the things that we need to live routinely: water, food, housing, decent wages, employment, education, life!
At some point it is going to become clearer and clearer to more and more people that we are in fact in a fight for our very survival and that we are really dealing with people, an ideology – fascism – and white supremacy that has no interest whatsoever in the creation and maintaining of a just and humane society. And when that happens, people are going to start fighting back. You just cannot expect people to continue to allow themselves to be massacred, stepped on and herded off into prisons. At some point it is going to become clearer and clearer to more and more people that this is happening because we are subordinating ourselves to tyranny.
And tyranny is not a greater good. Fighting against tyranny does, at some point, involve violence. Whether we want it or not, whether we consider it to be acceptable or not, it is a natural response to tyranny.
One of the chief psychological factors which have long undermined a collective policy of self-defense within the New Afrikan community, communities of color and poor communities is the state’s insistence that violence is their sole province. Non-violence and passive acceptance of brutality is popularized in the media, revered in discourse and monuments by the state.
This is not by happenstance.
It is the historic continuation of the deliberate imposition of psychological weakness and submission to white supremacy begun in the “man-breaking, slave-making” process centuries ago. To reverse this process requires struggle – constant, non-stop struggle.
Constant struggle and protest is the only rational response to the non-stop assault on our humanity and the planet that is occurring. We must love freedom, ourselves and the humanity of our fellow citizens.
And that love is what we must subordinate ourselves to. That must be the greater good.
The act of securing our communities and reclaiming our humanity has a dialectically progressive effect on our people and on us all as well.
We begin to shed the capitalist delusions and colonial psychosis which have been imposed on us through the assimilation process. We begin to see the true nature of hate – racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty etc. We see past the shadow, which it is, on to the unequal social and economic relationships of the capitalist system which is actually casting it.
We begin to see our manufactured animosities and sub-culture divisions as aspects of our national oppression and, through this realization, glimpse the prospect of a new form of social life. This is what FUNCTIONAL UNITY looks like.
Functional unity is both a psychological state and social act; it is the conscious determination that one’s subjective animosities or active hostilities within our collective are subordinate to the survival of our people and humanity. It is consciously acting on a daily basis to ensure the welfare and survival of each other.
If our national oppression has taught us anything, it’s that the only “rights” we have are those that we can enforce. Our rights can only be enforced through self-defense.
Attacks upon poor communities, both physical and socio-political, are not abating but increasing. In the months of October, November and December 2015, just around the St. Louis area, seven New Afrikan churches were burned to the ground and, in the previous August, Yogi was assassinated. There is no area of social life in Amerika where New Afrikan mortality is not under threat, no place in this land where New Afrikan life is not undervalued, no other rational conclusion we can reach than we must educate, organize and mobilize our communities and ourselves for self-defense and our own security.
We think it appropriate to end this statement with “Freedom” by Frederick Douglass:
“Those who profess to favor freedom
and yet deprecate agitation,
Are men who want crops without
Plowing the ground;
They want rain without thunder and lightning.
They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
This struggle may be a moral one,
And it may be a physical one,
Or it may be both moral and physical,
But it must be a struggle.
Power concedes nothing without a demand.
It never did and it never will.
Find out just what any people will submit to
and you have found out the exact amount of injustice
and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and
these will continue till they are resisted
with either words or blows, or with both.
The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the
endurance of those whom they oppress.”
– Frederick Douglass, Aug. 4, 1857
Let’s come together! Love, and struggling with you,
NCTT (NARN (New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism) Collective Think Tank):
- Zaharibu Dorrough (s/n Michael Dorrough), D-83611, CSP Solano B7-131L Level III, P.O. Box 4000, Vacaville CA 95696
- Heshima Denham (s/n S. Denham #J38283), KVSP B2-117U, P.O. Box 5102, Delano CA 93216
- Jabari Scott (Aaron Scott), H-30536, CSP Cor 3A-02-143, P.O. Box 3461, Corcoran CA 93212
- Kambui Robinson (Tyrone Robinson), C-82830, HDSP D8-113, P.O. Box 3030, Susanville CA 96127
Editor’s note: This was written when all of the NCTT brothers except Kambui were still in solitary confinement in the Corcoran SHU. Since then, as a result of the hunger strikes, which they all participated in, and the Ashker settlement, all of them have been transferred out of solitary to “general population” yards. Visit NCTT’s new website for more wisdom from the think tank: https://narncollectivethinktank.org/.
From: SF Bay View, Dec. 25, 2014
by Michael Zaharibu Dorrough, J. Heshima Denham and Kambui Robinson, NCTT Corcoran SHU
“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” – George Berkeley
“Slavery is nearly as old as human civilization itself, but … (in) 1698 …the construct of ‘race’ was hardly formulated … This racialization of American slavery was rooted in economic calculation and psychological anxieties … In fact, the human family was carved into modern “racial” pigeonholes – white, black, red, brown, yellow – in order to control, confine, discipline and dishonor … 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.” – Dr. Cornel West
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” – Amendment XIII, U.S. Constitution
Greetings, Sisters and Brothers. There are moments in human history when doors to genuine human freedom are opened. This does not mean we, as a species, always take advantage of the opportunity to walk through those doors – but every once in a while, the true potential for our liberation arises. Often, we fail to take advantage of those opportunities because we genuinely don’t know they exist; in such cases, a lesson in dialectics is learned.
However, more often than not, it’s because there is some social force standing in our way – be it unprogressive attitudes, backwards ideas, old style tendencies, or the very real fear of freedom that’s been deeply imbedded into so many of us. Something acts to bar us from entering that new world of unrealized promise.
On Oct. 10, 2012, the Pelican Bay D-Short Corridor Collective, men from various cultural groups and walks of life, put into effect the historic “Agreement to End Hostilities,” perhaps the single most significant “door to genuine freedom” opened in American society in recent human history. What makes it so significant is not simply its motive force but, more importantly, its true potential for our collective liberation as a society.
On this second anniversary of this historic agreement, we’d like to give you all a glimpse through the door the Agreement to End Hostilities has opened for us all. For us to appreciate the path the Agreement to End Hostilities has paved for our futures, we must look back at the “road” we traveled thus far and understand its interconnections to both those forces which have historically opposed progress and those which foster it.
Owing its origins to the primitive accumulation of capital within the chattel slave system and the extermination of the Native Americans, the very concept of race was manufactured by European colonial slavers and business interests to develop a “legal” and ideological foundation for establishing the socio-economic hierarchy and dehumanization of various cultural groups – an ideology of superiority and inferiority which reflected the European capitalist world view of economic, political and military domination and exploitation of the Earth.
This system of global white supremacy was forged on the dehumanization of the remainder of humanity by embedding the artificial ideology of “racism” in its every institution. The correlation between the chattel slave system and Native American genocide in the “New World,” the development of the “race” ideology and “racial” antagonisms in American society, the slavery provisions of the 13th Amendment for convicted felons, and the years of “race”-based hostilities among U.S. prisoners – and the communities they hail from – cannot be accounted for simply through the macrocosmic-microcosmic reflection of society and prisons.
No. It is much deeper and more disturbing than this, and it is why the Agreement to End Hostilities is so potentially devastating to the pillars of American capitalist exploitation.
“(We) always agree that “race” is invented, but are then required to defer to its embeddedness in the world.” – Paul Gilroy
The system of American capitalism has always used the fictitious construct of race as the central means to maintain the fluid functioning of the class system and in turn the dominance of the ruling class. It is woven into the base and superstructure of American Society.
As James Yaki Sayles observed, race has come to function on the superstructure; it’s become part of our distinct way of life and cultural existence. The interests of race – as a characteristic of the peculiar class and national social relations of capitalist and colonial exploitation – have become part of the group interests that we share and which stand as antagonistic to the interests of other groups of people, classes and nations.
It’s part of the collective consciousness which informs the creation of the organizations and institutions we use in pursuit of our aims. Now all this is really less about race than about class and national formation and consciousness. It’s not about race, since that’s a fiction.
As we’ve observed, racism developed as an ideological concept to sustain slavery and as a justification for the extermination of First Nations people. It was anchored in the economic deliberation, financial interests and the panic of Europeans of the age over their numeric inferiority in relation to the remaining human cultures of the world.
Conveniently, the same socio-economic and political motivations – slavery and population containment – which “codified” racism as an ideology and institution then are the same interests which maintain and maximize them in the prison industry today. These racial antagonisms, like so many other social ills, are magnified and concentrated in the socially hostile microcosm of prison.
The same socio-economic and political motivations – slavery and population containment – which “codified” racism as an ideology and institution then are the same interests which maintain and maximize them in the prison industry today.
This intentional warping of man’s social being – forcing the false construct of “race” to be manifested as a social force in U.S. capitalist economics – has been so thorough that it has allowed dehumanization to not only be codified in the supreme law of land, the slavery provision of the 13th Amendment, but “normalized” it. Now tens of millions of people in America accept dehumanization – disenfranchisement, third and fourth class citizenship, “civil death” and diminished constitutional and human rights – as a natural outgrowth of their economic position in relation to the productive system.
There was a time when questioning a people’s humanity was tantamount to a declaration of war. Yet millions so affected simply accept it – as does American society as a whole. EVERY PRISONER in the U.S., including parolees, regardless of cultural identity, religious or organizational affiliation, is considered by the state to be a slave and is viewed no differently from Afrikans in Amerika in the early 1800s.
“The slave went free, stood a brief moment in the sun, then moved back again towards slavery.” – W.E.B. Du Bois
The chattel slave system in the U.S. required Euro-Amerikans – and not simply those engaged in the slave trade – to dehumanize the subjects of the brutal practice: slaves. They went so far as to develop baseless, pseudo-scientific rationales for phenotypical human variation, a product of human evolutionary adaptation, and to connect these to a stratification of the human species.
Their rationale reflected the irrational world view of the European proto-capitalist: The European male was the only “true” human and the creator of civilization; the rest of humanity was reduced to various retrograde sub-human phenotypes with the Afrikan being the hindmost – a mere “three-fifths of a man.”
When the Prison Industrial Complex erected the “new Jim Crow” on the backs of the poor nationally, the “legal,” ideological and political structures already existed to extend this dehumanization to those who refused to accept the status quo of property relations and the dictates of the ruling elite: the felon, the outlaw, the prisoner.
When we speak of America being a locked, anti-poor society, we are speaking of the conscious dehumanization of the underclass and the lumpen. Just as a quack “science” sought, and failed miserably, to create some scientific justification for “racial” ideology and racist dehumanization so as to legitimize its material force in society, so has modern quack “science” sought to create justifications for criminalization ideology and “criminal” dehumanization to legitimize the disproportionate policing and imprisonment of “citizens” from poor, non-European and underclass communities.
“Doctors” like Stanton Samenow and Dr. Yochelson have produced a body of pseudo-science based on the eugenicist premise that “criminals” are “born bad” and “genetically different from other humans” and the “only solution is to separate them from society.” That every objective sociological, physiological and psychological study refutes such baseless claims as hokum is not what’s relevant.
What’s relevant is authoritarian powers want to believe them and penal institutions across the U.S. have latched on to this tripe and transformed it into a material force, building an entirely new sub-industry of the PIC: cognitive restructuring. Their hope is to brainwash hundreds of thousands of the imprisoned poor to absolve the nature and structure of capitalist society of all culpability in the lack of viable choices available to them and for the existence of social automation technology and instead accept their innate criminality and that they were born social degenerates.
Instead of moving away from the “Bell Curve” [a 1994 book by that name arguing that racial differences in intelligence are genetic and immutable], Samenow, Yochelson and their ilk have simply expanded it to encompass anyone convicted of a crime – almost exclusively non-Europeans, the poor and the underclass – an absurd notion in a nation where the average person violates several “laws” daily that they are unaware even exist. In the case of cognitive restructuring, it’s just the latest way to monetize social control and add an air of “scientific” legitimacy to dehumanization.
“For every system of state and law, and the capitalist system above all, exists in the last analysis because its survival, and the validity of its statutes, are simply accepted (by the colonized) … And these laws retain their validity even when personal motives or the force of circumstances have induced him to violate them.” – George Lukacs
The truly disturbing aspect of all this is so many of us for so long accepted this, even acted in accordance with it – much as slaves did in the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s. The system of slavery was NOT maintained for so long because of the lash, the noose or the guns of the slavers. One can only be a slave master if the subjugated accept their roles as slaves.
No. It lasted so long due to the way slaves were orientated and divided. It was the science of “man breaking and slave making.” They pit the male slave against the female slave, the dark skinned slave against the light skinned slave, the young slave against the old slave, the field slave against the house slave – none would trust the other, yet ironically they all “trusted” the slave master.
Prisoners, parolees and those under other forms of social control are the only remaining “legal” slaves of the day and the new “slave master” is the state. The state is the primary tool and weapon of the ruling class. The state’s interests are the ruling class’s interests, period. It is their chief weapon of dominance over the remainder of society.
There was a time in American history when that weapon was always pointed at the Native American, the Afrikan slave, the unruly Mexican or the European indentured servant. Now that weapon is always aimed at us – the lumpen, the underclass, the convicted felon, the prisoner – because we, like the Native, slave or indentured before us have no interest in upholding and perpetuating a system which declares its imperative to dehumanize and repress us. Again, see the U.S. Constitution’s 13th Amendment.
Prisoners, parolees and those under other forms of social control are the only remaining “legal” slaves of the day and the new “slave master” is the state. The state is the primary tool and weapon of the ruling class. The state’s interests are the ruling class’s interests, period.
There is an entire body of law which articulates the “legitimacy” of the “civil death” of prisoners and the “appropriateness” of the absolute despotism of the state in their lives. We tacitly support it by accepting our dehumanization, though it runs contrary to our interests.
As a wise man once said, “The question I’ve asked myself over the years runs this way: Who has done most of the dying? Most of the work? Most of the time in prison (on max row)? Who is the hindmost in every aspect of social, political and economic life? Who has the least short term interest or no interest at all in the survival of the present state? In this condition, how could we believe in the possibility of a new generation of enlightened fascists who would dismantle the base of their hierarchy?”
The modern Prison Industrial Complex has picked up right where the “Peculiar Institution” [of slavery] left off, only substituting the long standing cultural divisions of “race” ideology for traditional slavery’s labor and social function-based divisions. They intentionally pit the New Afrikan prisoner against the Mexican prisoner, the prisoner from the North against the prisoner from the South, the European prisoner against the New Afrikan prisoner, the young prisoner against the old prisoner, the Kiwe against the Damu, the folks against the people, the European have-nots from one group against the European have-nots from another – and for decades WE ALLOWED them to do this to us.
They used our antagonisms, antagonisms born of this system they created, as a basis to erect torture units – Security Housing Units (SHUs) – and a system of mass incarceration which continues to devastate the working class and the poor. They broadcast our conflicts and contradictions to an uninformed public to secure ever larger portions of the social product (taxes), further enriching themselves, their industry and their labor aristocracy – as we were further dehumanized and despised.
Just like the slaves of the chattel era, many of us helped them out by embracing this fiction, these manufactured categorizations, and fought each other with delusional gusto, as they built a monolith of money and political power in pools of our blood … until the Agreement to End Hostilities was announced; and just like that – hundreds of years of capitalist institutional exploitation was immediately put in jeopardy.
“Only social practice can be the criterion of truth … Marxist philosophy holds that the most important problem does not lie in understanding laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world.” – Mao Tse Tung
Correct ideas come only from social practice. In two short years since the Agreement to End Hostilities was enacted by a relatively small population of prisoners, it has manifested itself into a social force which has accomplished the liberation from SHU of some of the most severely tortured prisoners in the history of modern imprisonment.
There are few among the entire population of prisoners and their family members who, just five years ago, would have believed this possible. That in just two short years of social cooperation which defied the ideology of “race” antagonism and the “civil death” of the prisoner-slave status could produce such a result.
Though this victory, in actuality, simply exposed the fact that the state has housed hundreds of men in torture units who should have never been there, it does not mean the struggle has approached its logical conclusion. On the contrary, the struggle has only begun.
Just like the slaves of the chattel era, many of us helped them out by embracing this fiction, these manufactured categorizations, and fought each other with delusional gusto, as they built a monolith of money and political power in pools of our blood … until the Agreement to End Hostilities was announced; and just like that – hundreds of years of capitalist institutional exploitation was immediately put in jeopardy.
The next logical step is to move to reclaim our humanity and reorganize the social life of ourselves and our communities in such a way that it serves our interests. The Agreement to End Hostilities has provided us with the impetus to organize ourselves to abolish not only indefinite SHU torture, but the “slavery” provision of the 13th Amendment upon which the civil basis of our dehumanization rests.
Doing so would ensure we reclaim our humanity and become self-actualized human beings with the right to influence our world and participate in the social processes of life. To do this we must not only ensure the Agreement to End Hostilities succeeds here in the kamps, but we must extend the Agreement to End Hostilities to the streets.
In just two short years social cooperation defied the ideology of “race” antagonism and the “civil death” of the prisoner-slave status.
It is within our communities where the “school to prison pipeline” opens its maw to consume our youth and subjugate our collective future to the role of slaves, powerless to do little more than poison, pimp and slaughter one another on our way to the concentration kamps of the state. The Agreement to End Hostilities offers our communities the opportunity to confront and overcome our own internal contradictions while forging new areas of social cooperation from which closer and more harmonious relationships many emerge.
We must not only ensure the Agreement to End Hostilities succeeds here in the kamps, but we must extend the Agreement to End Hostilities to the streets.
“This new humanity cannot do otherwise than define a new humanism both for itself and for others. It is prefigured in the objectives and methods of the conflict. A struggle which mobilizes all classes of the people and which expresses their aims and their impatience, which is not afraid to count almost exclusively on the people’s support, will of necessity triumph.” – Frantz Fanon
When social cooperation is strengthened, state power and oppression is always weakened. Our capacity to manufacture and mobilize underclass political power – not to validate the bourgeois political process but to expose its contradictions, truly democratize its mechanisms and reclaim our human right to influence society – will determine if we are collectively capable of conquering our rights. Abolition of the slavery provision of the 13th Amendment means the abolition of prisoner disenfranchisement, instantly transforming the prisoner class into a constituency.
A recent Pew poll showed how new authorization, right-wing backed voter registration and ID laws have reduced voter access to underclass, nationally oppressed and youth voters by 30 percent. Direct access to the political process for the prisoner class would push back against this trend of legislative disenfranchisement.
These “legal” attacks on the people’s democratic rights are designed to further marginalize the underclass into a solely labor and surplus labor role – to work, be chained by debt, submit to exploitation, accept criminalization and not be heard.
Abolition of the slavery provision of the 13th Amendment means the abolition of prisoner disenfranchisement, instantly transforming the prisoner class into a constituency.
Abolition of the slavery provision of the 13th Amendment would mean the end of compulsory and uncompensated prison labor. Involuntary servitude is fundamentally inhumane and only serves to reinforce the essential condition of oppressed man as the laborer whose production is appropriated by his “masters.” It would create new spheres of social cooperation to de-criminalize prison unions and provide the underclass and other affected communities with the political will to defend and expand organized labor unions in their communities.
Abolition of the slavery provision of the 13th Amendment would mean the end of compulsory and uncompensated prison labor.
Abolition of the slavery provision of the 13th Amendment would reinforce our human right to peacefully protest torture and other state sponsored brutality without it being also branded a crime. Brothers and Sisters, do you not see the correlations?
Abolition of the slavery provision of the 13th Amendment would reinforce our human right to peacefully protest torture and other state sponsored brutality without it being also branded a crime.
As Michelle Alexander observed in the section of “The New Jim Crow” titled “The Birth of Mass Incarceration,” “conservatives systematically and strategically linked opposition to civil rights legislation to calls for law and order, arguing that Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of civil disobedience was a leading cause of crime.”
In classic irrational fascist reasoning, it was not the inhumanity of Jim Crow law which was criminal; it was protesting against that inhumanity which was criminalized. Identically, it is not the inhumanity of systematic torture in indefinite SHU confinement which is deemed criminal; it is our protesting against the inhumane practice which is criminalized.
“One function of the entire cultural apparatus at any given period has been to internalize in men of subordinate position the idea of a necessary domination of some men over others, as determined by the course of history… As a result and as a continually renewed condition of this cultural apparatus, the belief in authority is one of the driving forces, sometimes, productive, sometimes obstructive, of human history.” – Max Horkheimer
Restoration of our humanity by abolishing the basis for our dehumanization is the first step in us all reclaiming our rightful voice in social affairs. Intentional underdevelopment in the chattel slave epoch and intentional underdevelopment in the modern Prison Industrial Complex – enforced idleness, all-encompassing dependency, repression of political expression, retardation of socio-economic self-determination etc. – are both social control mechanisms reliant on legalized dehumanization to accomplish that end.
They point to our intra-cultural (“racial”) antagonisms and conflicts as “proof” of our sub-human nature, while simultaneously reinforcing the ideology of racism as a material force in every aspect of human activity – though not for the reasons many of you may believe.
“Race” serves the base by hiding its true nature and core contradictions, such as the contradiction between workers and the relations of production – specifically the trends of ownership of the means of production and the appropriation of labor’s surplus value. The ideology of race antagonisms obscures the origin, the source, of social contradictions and hinders the progressive development of humanity as a whole.
“Race” obscures “class,” so we cannot locate and understand the source of social contradictions or the foundation of social development, which are primarily the province of “class” relations. The Agreement to End Hostilities clears away this “fog” and provides a basis for broad class cooperation. Without the divisional dynamic of racial antagonism, the truth of our human suffering of both its source and our own unwitting participation in it is revealed – allowing us to move against it.
The Agreement to End Hostilities provides a basis for broad class cooperation.
To be sure, already the Agreement to End Hostilities eats away at two of the many pillars of modern solitary confinement: political and cultural isolation. Men whose ideas and ways of life once kept them from even talking to one another are now finding common cause, shared social and political aims, and realizing that they may not be so different after all. A more dangerous portent for the current nature and structure of capitalist society does not exist.
The Agreement to End Hostilities eats away at two of the many pillars of modern solitary confinement: political and cultural isolation. Men whose ideas and ways of life once kept them from even talking to one another are now finding common cause, shared social and political aims, and realizing that they may not be so different after all.
“Instead of the ritual indignation and despair at the cultural condition of ‘the masses,’ it is necessary to break through to the central fact that most of our cultural institutions are in the hands of speculators, interested not in the health and growth of society, but the quick profits that can be made … The real question is whether society can afford to leave its cultural apparatus in such irresponsible hands … We should be much clearer about these cultural questions if we saw them as a consequence of a basically capitalist organization, and I at least know no better reason for capitalism to end.” – Raymond Williams
We, ALL OF US, are under assault at every point of human activity. Even the food we eat is governed by industrial interests that intentionally structured the modes of production to maximize profits, minimize food safety, increase the intake of unhealthy corn based, genetically modified, sugary, sodium packed processed foods by the underclass – while ensuring healthy and/or organic produce is cost prohibitive. This in turn ensures a steady influx of chronically ill, low income patients whose health care costs and debt will ensure the profiteering of the pharmaceutical, health care and debt based industries.
All of these industries in turn legally bribe your “elected” officials by lobbying them into maintaining these modes of production. Meanwhile, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and ever increasing incidences of e coli contamination disproportionately ravage the underclass and threaten the entire food supply – turning workers not merely into paupers, but sick paupers.
By extending the Agreement to End Hostilities to our communities, we establish the foundation upon which we can build Sustainable Agricultural Communes, Closed Circuit Economic Initiatives, Health Care Co-ops and Community Clinics, Block-Vote Democratic Initiatives and Youth-Community Action Programs [described in “A discussion on strategy for the Occupy Movement from behind enemy lines.”] We can finally begin to re-organize social, political and economic life (transfer culture) so we can actually live and not simply exist.
Every one of you who are reading our words right now, regardless of culture, class or social standing, are by your inaction supporting the maintenance of slavery and dehumanization in America. All of us subject to social control institutions, by our failure to support the extension of the Agreement to End Hostilities to the streets, are actually supporting our own slavery and dehumanization and enriching the very class which has organized and structured the apparatus of our collective human misery: the bourgeois authorization, the capitalist, the ruling class.
From Ferguson to destabilizing imperialist adventurism in the Middle East, from the e coli factories of the U.S. beef industry to the maintenance of the U.S. domestic torture program in supermax prisons across the U.S., the greed, hate and hypocrisy of the ruling class has demonstrated in every area of human activity – particularly in the codification of dehumanization for prisoners and the poor – that it is unfit to dictate social life.
All of us subject to social control institutions, by our failure to support the extension of the Agreement to End Hostilities to the streets, are actually supporting our own slavery and dehumanization and enriching the ruling class.
At almost this same time of year in 1847, Karl Marx and Frederick Engles observed: “The modern laborer … becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an over-riding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie; in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society.”
“At the end of this massive collective struggle, we will uncover our new man (woman), the unpredictable culmination of the revolutionary process. He (She) will be better equipped to wage the real struggle, the permanent struggle after the revolution – the one for new relationships between men (women).” – A Wise Man
Finally it is here in this observation as relevant and accurate today as it was in 1847 wherein lies the great significance of the Agreement to End Hostilities. It has the potential to topple the Ruling Class by transforming the nature and structure of the human relationships upon which the capitalist system is based. The “race” caste system and economic class systems are interconnected and mutually reinforcing.
Without cultural antagonisms – especially within the underclasses of society – the system cannot function as designed. To end hostilities among cultural groups, to engage in social cooperation which serves our collective interests – in both society and prison – erodes the very purpose of the race caste system. It ceases to perform its function to bar broad class cooperation and uphold European male dominance. Thus the core contradictions, the “face(s)” of our true enemy, are revealed and together we have moved and can continue to move against it – until we win or don’t lose.
Our futures – and the future of humanity itself – is in our hands. Will we be equal to the demands of history, or will we buckle under the weight of our collective contradictions and descend once again into the miasma of the mass psychology of fascism?
Our confidence is as ever with YOU, the people. We would like to thank the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement for giving us all the opportunity the Agreement to End Hostilities represents.
We would like to thank the Pelican Bay Short Corridor Collective Human Rights Movement for giving us all the opportunity the Agreement to End Hostilities represents.
We would like to encourage you all to support the Agreement to End Hostilities in YOUR communities. Support the New Afrikan Prisoners Rights Coalition Movement and, most importantly, support one another. Our love and solidarity are with you all always. Until we win or don’t lose.
NCTT Corcoran SHU
For more information on the NCTT or its work product, go to NCTTCORSHU.org or contact:
- Michael Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, CSP Cor SHU 4B1L-22, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212
- J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, CSP Cor SHU 4B1L-39, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212
- Kambui Robinson, C-82830, CSP Cor SHU 4B1L-28, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212
NCTT mailed this to Kendra Castaneda Perez. She is a writer, a prisoner human rights advocate, and the wife of Raymond “Chavo” Perez, who is one of the 12 representatives responsible for the historic Agreement to End Hostilities and who spent 18 years in Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor until January 2014, when he was transferred to Sacramento State Prison (New Folsom) general population into Step 5 of the Step Down Program.
“We all agree that ‘race’ is invented, but are then required to defer to its embeddedness in the world.”-Paul Gilroy
“ ‘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.
To be ‘anti-racist’ is, first of all, not to hold the false belief in an alleged plurality of ‘races,’ to be ‘against racism’ is to combat all beliefs and practices that facilitate the exploitation of peoples, particularly when such exploitation is supported by the social construction of ‘race.’
Any attempt to destroy ‘racism’ without an explicit link to the struggle against capitalism ultimately serves only to reinforce ‘racist’ ideology and to shield capitalism from attack. On the other hand, an attempt to combat capitalism without an explicit link to anti-racist discourse and struggle allows capitalism to use belief in ‘race’ held by oppressed peoples, and appeal to the ‘racism’ of citizens of the oppressive state, thus undermining all revolutionary initiative.” – James Yaki Sayles (Meditations on Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings by James Yaki Sayles)
The events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri present us with yet another opportunity to address the inhumanity of racism. But the country will again not take advantage of it because we will continue to treat this act of inhumanity as though it is an isolated incident, and not an act that flows from the very structure of the nation.
Edited by NCTT webmaster. Posted here on SF Bay View, Oct. 25th, 2014
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Sept 8th, 2014
By the NCTT-Cor-SHU
Published on: SF Bay View
“Free discussion of the problems of society is a cardinal principal of Americanism … Censorship is utterly foreign to our way of life; it smacks of dictatorship.” – U.S. Supreme Court in Fortune Society v. McGinnis, 319 F.Supp. 901 (1970)
“Prestige bars any serious attack on power. Do people attack a thing they consider with awe, with a sense of its legitimacy? In the process of things, the prestige of power emerges roughly in the period when power does not have to exercise its underlying basis – violence. Having proved and established itself, it drifts, secure from any serious challenge. Its automatic defense-attack instincts remain alert; small threats are either ignored away, laughed away or, in the cases that may build into something dangerous, slapped away … Prestige wanes if the first attacks on its power base find it wanting. Prestige dies when it cannot prevent further attacks upon itself.” – a wise man
Greetings, Sisters and Brothers. Often when citizens of this nation think of “state repression,” images of Egypt, North Korea, Apartheid Palestine or Nazi Germany immediately spring to mind. U.S. state controlled media has become practiced at flooding our airwaves and attitudes with images of violent retaliation and systematic repression of dissent in other nations as a means to obfuscate the U.S. state’s engagement in identical activity in its own society.
When individual instances of blatant usurpations by the U.S. state are reported on, they are characterized as “isolated incidents,” mere aberrations in the fabric of American social life, and not the structural mechanisms of reactionary U.S. fascism which they truly are. This manipulation of your perception of reality serves a functional purpose in the U.S. capitalist arrangement: It re-enforces the illusion that such things do not happen in America, and in comparison to other nations the U.S. must be a paragon of human rights and dignity – while in reality, quite the opposite is true.
Recently, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in condemning the revelations of Edward Snowden, accused him of “hiding in an authoritarian state” (Russia), while in the next breath seeking to justify the U.S. government spying on every man, woman and child in America – and the rest of the world. Though the shear hypocrisy of the state seems lost on most, it does not negate the reality of its authoritarian character.
Those whose actions or ideas are so resonant or potentially revolutionary that they disturb the current social order or oppose the advancement of fascism in a particular area of social life are ruthlessly assaulted, criminalized or vilified in retaliation for daring to expose the contradictions responsible for the social ills and rampant human misery which influences so many of our lives. State retaliation and repression manifest themselves, in one form or another, in every area of human activity in the U.S. – including prisons.
Because prison is a socially hostile microcosm of society itself, state repression need not mask its intent nor temper its irrationality behind the walls. In prison, the state can allow its deviant predilection to impose its will on a captive populace to run wild and bring its most extreme resources to bear on the subjects of its ire.
This truth was born out here at Corcoran SHU on May 12, 2014, when CDCr administrators canceled all programs in SHU and mobilized some 50-plus correctional officers, outside law enforcement from local sheriffs, police departments, and Departmental Gang Unit (DGU) agents, including five separate K-9 units, in a massive raid on the 4B-1L-C section short corridor – and eventually the entire yard.
At approximately 7:30 a.m., the water was shut off in the section and scores of officers poured through the section door ordering us to strip out and exit the cell in only boxers, T-shirts and shower shoes. They placed us in plastic flexi-cuffs and marched us through a gauntlet of hand-held metal detector sergeants and other administrators. As we exited the section, an IGI (Institutional Gang Investigations) officer, surreptitiously holding a digital camera by his side, tilted upward, was snapping photos of guys as they walked past, exiting the section. When we passed into the rotunda area, several ISU (Investigative Services Unit) officers were setting up a portable x-ray machine to run our mattresses through.
As we exited Block 5, separate K-9 units from local law enforcement, inter-departmental task force and DGU were arrayed in a neat row behind their police and sheriff’s cruisers. As we passed, the dogs barked at us and their handlers made a show of holding some of them back.
This theater was almost comical in nature, but its psychological intent was clear. We were marched in a line to the visiting room and walked through the full-body metal detectors, then placed in the yard cages on the far side of the green wall that separates 4B-1L from every other block on 4B facility. We were left out there until 4 p.m. that evening.
The next watch had long come on by this time, and as they began to strip search us yet again and escort us back to our cells we got our first glimpse at the full scope of the destruction: Four large laundry carts full of personal property items were pushed against the side of the building.
When we were placed back in our cells, they were unrecognizable. It was difficult for some of us to even enter our cells because our personal property, court documents, books, canteen items and clothing were strewn over every conceivable surface.
Dog hair and paw prints were evident all over the cell. Personal photos, canteen package items, TV cables, typewriter ribbons, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, magazines, books and documents were thrown away or destroyed with what appeared to be random indifference. Some radio antennas were snatched down, while others were left intact. It was destruction without rhyme or reason – or was it?
According to the same administrators who authorized the raid, Corcoran SHU is the only prison not participating in the step-down program. They have irrationally and incorrectly placed blame for this at the doors of prisoners in the short corridor here, as though the rest of the population is incapable of taking principled positions on their own – which they ARE.
On at least two separate occasions, administrators have expressed their desire to one NCTT coordinator that we stop writing statements critical of CDCr policies or “write something positive.” That the relentless pursuit of CDCr to maintain their torture program and the accompanying judicial collusion and all around corruption-based political apathy of the state is the catalyst for principled criticism underscores the irrationality of the authoritarian psychosis.
The standard the state courts employ to establish if retaliation has occurred dictates: A party must show that 1) His or her speech or conduct at issue was protected under the Constitution; 2) The state took an adverse action against the party; and 3) There was a causal link between the protected conduct and the adverse action.
As we have articulated ad nauseam, the CDCr validation-indeterminate-SHU-debriefing policy constitutes the single largest domestic torture program in the U.S.; and the U.S. is maintaining the single largest domestic torture program on planet Earth. The U.N. reiterated the U.S.’ failure to live up to its international obligations to abolish the practice only months ago in its “Concluding Observations on the Fourth Report of the United States of America,” dated March 28, 2014.
In point 12, the U.N. Human Rights Committee observed: “(T)he Committee is concerned about the lack of comprehensive legislation criminalizing all forms of torture, including mental torture, committed within the territory of the State party. The Committee is also concerned about the inability of torture victims to claim compensation from the State party and its officials due to the application of broad doctrines of legal privilege and immunity.”
In point 20, the committee wrote: “The Committee is concerned about the continued practice of holding persons deprived of their liberty … in prolonged solitary confinement.” And in point 12, it concludes, “The State party should enact legislation to explicitly prohibit torture, including mental torture, wherever committed and ensure the law provides for penalties commensurate with the gravity of such acts.”
The California Legislature had an opportunity to adhere to its international obligations in AB 1652 and SB 892, but, bowing to the pressure from CCPOA and other industrial and corporate stakeholders, decided instead to kill AB 1652 on the Assembly floor and use SB 892 as a vehicle to codify the maintenance of torture units into state law. There is simply so much money involved in maintaining these supermax-style prisons, their tendrils have insinuated themselves into so many aspects of the state’s economy, there is simply no will to alter the dynamic, while there are thousands, sometimes millions, in it for politicians to keep the torture up.
The CDCr validation-indeterminate-SHU-debriefing policy constitutes the single largest domestic torture program in the U.S.; and the U.S. is maintaining the single largest domestic torture program on planet Earth.
The latest legislative gambit is at the national level with Congress’ HR 4618, a piece of legislation yet to undergo the scalpel of lobbying special interests; but it does reveal the range of concern for its social relevance in relation to the state’s prestige. The exposure of torture units in its domestic prison system is embarrassing to the state.
Though the form and scope of the anti-torture protests in California prisons – and elsewhere – is unprecedented, and thus outside the experience of current case law, the U.S. courts themselves have ruled that nothing in the First Amendment itself suggests that the right to petition the state for redress of grievances only attaches when “petitioning” takes a specific form.
There is simply so much money involved in maintaining these supermax-style prisons, their tendrils have insinuated themselves into so many aspects of the state’s economy, there is simply no will to alter the dynamic, while there are thousands, sometimes millions, in it for politicians to keep the torture up.
Federal courts have, on paper, long recognized a prisoner’s right to seek remedy to his conditions of confinement when those conditions assail his civil or human rights. Indefinite torture is a clear assault on one’s civil and human rights, and criticizing a law enforcement or corrections agency is also protected speech.
The First Amendment protects criticism and challenges directed at law enforcement officials unless the speech is “shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest” (Justice William O. Douglas in Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1 (1949)).
The U.S. Constitution does not allow speech challenging state actions, such as maintaining a torture unit, to be made a crime. The freedom of individuals to oppose or challenge departmental action without thereby risking state sanction is one of the principle characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state (paraphrased from City of Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451 (1987)).
The exposure of torture units in its domestic prison system is embarrassing to the state.
Organized political discourse critical of prison conditions in SHU torture units – conditions that affect all prisoners similarly situated – are matters of public concern and as such remain protected speech. However, the courts have stated, certain types of “petitioning” and speech would be inconsistent with imprisonment, and those are curtailed based only on “legitimate penological interests.” There exists no legitimate penological interest in torture, and thus it cannot be invoked as a basis upon which to suppress protected speech.
To be sure, prisoners find themselves, as a class, in a unique political, civil and historic position – though not an unprecedented one. Like SHU torture units today, those subject to chattel slavery as well as those in opposition to the practice often found that the law and the state supported the maintenance of the very inhumane conditions that they were struggling against and sought to crush such criticism through retaliatory sanctions.
The Department of Corrections continues to assert that SHU torture is not torture, the courts continue to support the maintenance of SHU torture units, and state legislatures continue to capitulate to pro-torture industrial and corporate interests much the same way these same institutions did in the chattel slave epoch prior to the conclusion of the Civil War.
The courts positions in Dorrough v. Ruff and In Re Griffin is no different – and no more correct – than its position in Dred Scott v. U.S., namely: Blacks “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect”; in this case their position is “an indeterminate SHU prisoner has no rights the state is bound to respect.”
There exists no legitimate penological interest in torture, and thus it cannot be invoked as a basis upon which to suppress protected speech.
Under such a socio-political circumstance, where the state itself is in violation of core constitutional values and human rights standards, the U.S. Constitution First Amendment remains informative: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom … to petition the Government for the redress of grievances.”
When all legal means of protest have been exhausted, the only recourse remaining to the people is protest, and in this instance, peaceful protest which took the form of three historic hunger strikes, mass social organization of activist citizens in society, and a concerted effort by advanced elements to criticize these social ills in political discourse, while giving a new vision of social relationships based in shared interests, ideas and the prosperity of peace.
It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” It is this act of working for peace, for a society where the opportunity for freedom, justice, equality and human rights is available and actively pursued by all, which is the catalyst for this broad spectrum retaliation.
Yet revolutionary social science calls not simply for analysis but, even more vitally, it calls for making interconnections between disparate social phenomena in order for us to understand and transform them. Just as prison is an especially hostile microcosm of society, so too do the state’s retaliatory sanctions manifest themselves both microcosmically and macrocosmically.
The hammer of repression in this case has fallen on the free and bond alike. Here in Corcoran SHU, we are subjected not only to bogus rules violation reports, repeated destructive raids, loss of yard, cold and under-portioned food, arbitrary and capricious regulations that criminalize matter and activity which is not criminal in retaliation for our petitioning the state and our principled political criticism.
But the state wishes to take this one step further and extend their persecution to citizens, activists and abolitionists in the macrocosm of society via new punitive regulations erroneously attached to “obscenity” standards in CCR §3378 (c)(8)(C)-(D). [Laura Magnani of the American Friends Service Committee reported Aug. 28 that CDCr Director of Adult Institutions Michael Stainer told the Mediation Team that the censorship regulations are “on hold for now” due to the large outpouring of comments. But stay tuned and don’t let your guard down.]
They seek to criminalize the First Amendment itself. The regulation intends to disallow publications or written material “that indicate association with groups that are oppositional to authority and society.” They are actually stating in the regulation itself that it’s a retaliatory sanction to freeze protected speech for criticism of their domestic torture program in indeterminate SHU units. This is illegal.
Principled opposition to state authority and social criticism is central to the maintenance of a free and diverse society and was at the center of congressional intent when the First Amendment was framed. “It was the intent of Congress to encourage ‘free inquiry and expression’ and to insure that ‘conformity for its own sake is not to be encouraged’” (Finley v. NEA, 795 F. Supp. 1457 (1992)) when the very ideal of freedom of speech was codified.
A regulation that suppresses a substantial amount of constitutionally protected expression must be rejected as unlawful unless it is constructed so narrowly that it only targets unprotected speech. This regulation seeks to suppress any speech that is offensive to CDCr, the state and their right-wing authoritarian view of society.
They seek to criminalize the First Amendment itself.
It is well established law that certain speech which is thought by government to be highly offensive because it espouses political, religious, racial or socioeconomic doctrines which are critical, even damning, of the state does not constitute a ground upon which our speech can be abridged.
To be sure, the very concept of speech which is “oppositional to authority and society” is contentless in the context of American society – even in prison – as seen through the prism of the U.S. Constitution: The very nature of a pluralistic society is that there is an infinite number of values and beliefs and, correlatively, there may be no blanket ban on publications which, in the state’s opinion, are “oppositional to authority and society.”
How is one to determine what is “oppositional” to an open, diverse and pluralistic society such as the U.S. has proclaimed itself to be? The Constitution is a document which is purported to be deeply committed to safeguarding freedom of speech, expression and association, which is of transcendent value to all who are governed by its dictates, not merely the authoritarian institutions of the state.
If this is true, and we concede these freedoms are a special concern of the First Amendment, then its dictates cannot tolerate regulations that cast a pall of orthodoxy over our political discourse. The future of this planet is dependent on people who are exposed to the robust exchange of ideas which discovers truth through a multitude of perspectives, rather than through any kind of authoritarian selection. This rules change is unconstitutional on its face as it must of necessity rely on subjective interpretations, value judgments, guesses at its meaning and variation in its application.
The Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause requires that “a statute be sufficiently clearly defined so as not to cause persons of common intelligence to guess at its meaning and to differ as to its application.” The Constitutional three-prong test for this standard was laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Grayned v. City of Rockford (408 U.S. 104, 108-09 (1972)).
This rules change gives rise to each of the three evils identified. In Grayned: 1) It creates a trap for unwary publishers or imprisoned authors who may engage in expression she or he believes comports with the standard, only to learn upon confiscation or denial of his/her work or publication that it is in violation of the regulation because it has offended some prison official’s subjective understanding of the standard; 2) Prison officials are given no detailed guidance in administering the standard, each apparently expected to draw on her or his own personal views of what is “oppositional to authority and society”; 3) It necessarily causes the imposition of self-censorship wider than the scope of the regulation itself, because its “scope” is in effect imperceptible and subject to the whimsy of CDCr officials.
This rules change is unconstitutional on its face as it must of necessity rely on subjective interpretations, value judgments, guesses at its meaning and variation in its application.
None of these retaliatory sanctions – be it the deplorable conditions, wanton destruction of our property, criminalization of non-criminal matter in their STG disciplinary matrix, or the unconstitutional assault on the First Amendment itself inherent in their director’s rules change of CCR §3378(c)(8)(C)-(D) – existed prior to our seeking redress from the state for their domestic torture program or our criticism thereof, thus establishing an indisputable causal link between the protected conduct and these adverse retaliatory actions by the state.
In the face of all these contradictions and the reality of the state retaliating against segments of the population for exercising their rights on the one hand and suppressing those same rights on the other, we begin to understand what we mean by saying the U.S. Constitution is a meaningless document in the context of contemporary America. The question facing us in this society is, if you believe your Constitution should be upheld, how do we do so when it is “the law” itself who has it under attack?
The answer lies in understanding the reactionary view that “the state reigns supreme over society.” The very idea of “the state” leads in a straight line to fascism when it is embodied in an authoritarian form. In previous NCTT statements we have demonstrated how the U.S. is a patriarchal authoritarian state, and what this means is a state dominated by irrational socio-political reaction. With this understood, it is a voyage into futility to struggle against an irrational socio-political institution without first determining how, in spite of its irrationality, it is capable of perpetuating itself and even appearing to be necessary?
However, before we engage in that analysis, it is important to have a functional understanding of U.S. fascism. When the Comrade said that “fascism is already here” over 40 years ago, most didn’t understand what he was talking about, and that is still the case today. Because U.S. fascism looks different in form when compared to Spanish, Italian or German fascism in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, many progressives – even some claiming the mantle of “revolutionary” – have asserted fascism does not exist in America. THIS IS INCORRECT.
The first thing that must be understood is U.S. fascism is a mass psychology; it is not something that’s imposed on the people, but something reproduced in and supported by the people. U.S. fascism is a psychosis rooted in the character structure of the majority of the nation’s population and, though uniquely “American” in its manifestation (how it looks externally), it is structurally no different from fascism anywhere else in the world, and in fact the U.S. has been the chief exporter of fascism over the last 50 years – to Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Iran under the Shah etc., etc.
Fascism is the product of the warping of men’s and women’s character structure and core psychology over the course of millennia. Fascism is not unique to Chile (under Pinoche), Italy (under Mussolini), Spain (under Franco) or Germany (under Hitler).
As the matriarchal structuring of societies was replaced by the patriarchal structuring of societies, the repression of natural human biological drives and free social expression was a key tool employed to warp humanity’s character structure so we would adopt, and subordinate ourselves to, the authoritarian model of society itself. This process occurred over the course of thousands of years, embedding this irrational character structure deep within man’s core psychology, reproducing itself in generation after generation, re-enforced by every institution of the state and social life. The authoritarian psychosis is developed via socio-economic activities and this warped character structure anchors and perpetuates these activities.
Man’s character structure in contemporary America – and throughout most of the capitalist world – is the crystallization of thousands of years of the authoritarian process. The cleavage between natural biological and social drives and the artificial moralistic rigidity of authoritarian dictates manifests itself as a contradiction between an intense longing for freedom and a dreaded fear of freedom.
Political reaction exists and functions in the character structure, thinking and behavior of oppressed man in the form of irrational rigidity, fear of responsibility, subordination of natural biological drives to religious fundamentalism and artificial “moralism” and a lack of capacity to be free. It is implanted in the home of the authoritarian family, re-enforced in school, and nourished in the church, temple and mosque.
True freedom does not mean you are relieved of your social responsibility; it means you are burdened with it. The reactionary tendencies in large segments of the population reveal themselves as a fundamental fear of responsibility and freedom.
This process has gotten so advanced in fascist America, people in the U.S. can’t even assume responsibility for simple choices like drinking soda, TV programing or eating too much fast food. Instead they seek – no, demand – state intervention to “stop them from aggressively marketing these foods, drinks and provocative TV programs.”
These are not value judgments on restrictive “morality.” This fear is thoroughly ingrained in the psychological and physiological constitution of modern man and woman.
This Constitution is neither natural or rational, yet every social process is determined by this same artificially warped character structure in masses of people. To be sure, even now some of you reading these words find yourselves becoming uncomfortable at the prospect of long held beliefs and cherished ideals being exposed as the chains they truly are.
This, the mass psychology of fascism in America, is how authoritarian institutions in the U.S. can confidently assert they are the defenders of fundamental human freedoms and the preservation of pluralistic society, HAVE YOU BELIEVE THIS FICTION, while simultaneously retaliating against progressive political activism and criminalizing those freedoms which have served to both expose their contradictions and educate the people to the reality of their own oppression.
So to the question, how is it possible that despite its irrationality, these institutions are capable of surviving and appearing legitimate, the answer is clear: IT IS THE IRRATIONAL CHARACTER STRUCTURE OF MASSES OF PEOPLE THAT CREATES LEGITIMACY FOR THE AUTHORITARIAN STATE AND ENSURES ITS SURVIVAL.
Only through grasping these hard and dangerous truths can we understand political reaction, and this is the only way we can uproot it from our lives. Recognizing and accepting the existence of the irrationality hidden in the vast majority of our minds provides us with a social and political basis from which to conquer this psychosis objectively and scientifically – and eventually the authoritarian order itself.
This particular aspect of the struggle began with progressive forces struggling against the social evil of domestic torture: indefinite solitary confinement. The authoritarian state has responded to this by making cosmetic changes to this social evil while intensifying its intent to break men and women in keeping with the moralistic authoritarian procedure of dealing with adverse issues superficially.
It never seeks to eliminate the social evil, merely suppress its existence or obfuscate it from public discourse, only ensuring it will explode more intensely the next time consciousness breaks the bonds of the authoritarian psychosis. In the mind of the authoritarian official, the appropriate way to deal with the language of “torture” in its domestic prisons is to toy with semantics, rebrand indefinite SHU as “the step-down program,” introduce coercive psychological reconditioning components, and claim that torture no longer exists, when in truth it’s worse than ever.
Conversely, the revolutionary partisan’s mind (read “rationale mind”) strikes at the heart of the matter and not only asks, “How can we eliminate torture units altogether,” but provides viable alternatives based on humane principles of social life. Just as Morpheus from the film “The Matrix” weakened the Machine Order by awakening people from the Matrix, eliminating social evils is one of the primary means of causing the authoritarian state to wilt away.
Accomplishing this end requires us to awaken the people to the state’s contradictions. THIS is why they must retaliate; THIS is why they must seek to completely repress progressive political speech and crush social cooperation.
When social cooperation is destroyed, the state is always made more powerful. Such a view explains how the state’s Legislature went from swearing decisive action to end torture units amidst the largest hunger strike in U.S. history in September 2013 to killing AB 1562 on the Assembly floor in June 2014 following a racist and classist rant by Tea Party Republican Assemblypersons Brian Jones, R-Santee, and Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinor, vice chair of the Public Safety Committee.
In the mind of the authoritarian official, the appropriate way to deal with the language of “torture” in its domestic prisons is to toy with semantics, rebrand indefinite SHU as “the step-down program,” introduce coercive psychological reconditioning components, and claim that torture no longer exists, when in truth it’s worse than ever.
Not only did 13 “Democrats” join the Tea Party caucus in maintaining the status quo of California’s SHU torture units but, exhibiting all the political courage of frightened mice, 18 “Democrats” abstained from voting on the bill at all. Their 18 votes would have carried the bill to passage.
Were it not so characteristic of U.S. political institutions, it would be shameful. But even more shameful is we keep putting our trust in such institutions when their composition is so clearly reflective of the very authoritarian psychosis responsible for establishing these torture units in the first place. Is this not the height of irrationality?
The same warped character structure which calmly rationalizes the inhumanity of confining other humans to a concrete tomb forever, not for what they’ve done but for their ideas and associations, is the same warped character structure responsible for confining hundreds of Latino children in tiny immigration cells for months, even years on end, and claiming the only solution is to build more detention cells to hold them before shipping them back to the same dysfunctional and violence-ridden nations whose social conditions were created by U.S. imperialism in the 1970s and ‘80s.
The same misogynistic psychosis responsible for the gang rape and lynching of those young sisters in India is the same psychosis responsible for a white highway patrolmen beating down a New Afrikan woman in broad daylight in the median of a busy freeway here in the U.S.
The same twisted U.S. courts responsible for upholding gang injunctions against New Afrikan, Latino and Asian youth wearing certain colors or clothing and characterizing them as “domestic terrorists” are the same twisted U.S. courts responsible for upholding the rights of the Ku Klux Klan, a well documented domestic terrorist group, to drape themselves in white sheets, burn crosses and associate freely and publicly wherever they like.
There is no difference between Boka Haram kidnapping hundreds of girls in Nigeria and CDCr sterilizing hundreds of women in CCWF. There is no difference in fascist Italy confiscating and burning thousands of books at Mussolini’s direction and CDCr’s new censorship gambit to ban any written material which in their view is “oppositional to authority and society” at the direction of Jeffery Beard.
The only difference between the Nazi German secret police spying on its own citizens in the 1940s and the NSA spying on ALL of your telephone and electronic communications right now is the Nazis came nowhere close to the scope of domestic surveillance you all live under each and every day. Fascism in America has expanded as far as it can go without evolving the contradiction of its existence into absolute despotism. Do you truly believe they will stop with us?
Revolution truly is a series of illuminations, a process of waking up from the fugue state of the authoritarian mass psychology. Unfortunately, as a society, most of the people have yet to develop to that point. Nevertheless, if all we are willing to do is participate in the bourgeois political process, to go to the poles, then at the minimum we must ensure those we put in political office, and the policies which govern our lives, actively serve to uproot these authoritarian dictates from our social and political institutions – and thus the minds of our children and future generations. This is within our power to do.
The very stratification of society into competing economic classes works against the advocates of an authoritarian America. The USA is a locked, anti-poor society that, in every area of human activity, favors affluent white males and the propertied class(es) – the capitalist ruling class, upper class, upper middle class – while penalizing the lower classes for the offense of being poor.
The upper classes maintain their social hegemony on the backs of oceans of the oppressed, most often by making significant segments of this ocean of people believe their interests and the interests of the ruling class are one and the same, when nothing could be further from the truth. This is one of the chief functions of the authoritarian mass psychology.
However, the simple truth is, numerically speaking, the “have nots” far outnumber the “haves and in a bourgeois democracy if the “have nots” were politically organized, if they put forward policy initiatives which served their true interests, if we all voted with one voice, we could restructure this society to more closely reflect the humane, rational and free society so many of us truly long for, though we’ve been conditioned to fear its coming into being.
The NCTT has put forward a platform for just this type of organized social cooperation: the Block-Vote Democratic Initiative. A copy is available to anyone online at NCTTCorSHU.org, but we’d like for a moment to address our Sisters and Brothers of all cultural groups in the hoods, barrios and behind these walls:
YOU, each and every one of you, have the potential to act in your own interests right now. The two primary reasons the state, federal and even local legislatures don’t consider us and our communities a constituency are 1) Many of us don’t vote. It’s understandable on the one hand, because even when we have in the past, nothing has changed in the material conditions of our lives. This is not to validate the bourgeois political process, but much of that can be attributed to the fact that we were not an organized electorate, just political pawns being manipulated by an industry of political advertisement and super-PACs. (You can thank the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United for the expansion of this manipulation.); and 2) Those authoritarian and corporate interests who are actually determining the “laws” which dictate how you live your daily lives are backed by powerful lobbies who are throwing millions of dollars at the politicians who are supposed to be acting in your interests.
The unfortunate truth is they’re working against your interests and, as long as there is no political counterpoint to hold them accountable when they place campaign finance and special interests before the interests of the people, they will continue to do so. Lobbying is nothing more than legal corruption, another manifestation of the capitalist arrangement in the political process.
Yet our political will and numerical superiority can overcome both these disparities if only we would commit to the course and resolve to carry the “Agreement to End Hostilities” to its logical conclusion: political empowerment of the underclass.
How many of you have homeboys and homegirls who aren’t on parole? How many of us or our loved ones who are on parole have sisters, brothers, cousins, moms, dads, uncles, aunties, spouses or significant others who are eligible to vote?
YOU, each and every one of you, have the potential to act in your own interests right now.
The first thing we should all commit to doing is this census in our hoods, barrios, communities, prison yards and cell blocks. The next step is to register EVERYONE who can vote, to vote. Those among that number who are skeptical about the political process or simply apolitical can rest comfortably in the knowledge that their vote and their voice will serve to aid their homies and loved ones, both free and bond, as well as their communities and themselves.
Next, human rights activists, the PHSS coalition, activist prisoners and our political action committees – when and if they’re developed – in concert with our communities can develop ballot initiatives which we can not only ensure get on the ballot with more than enough signatures, but by voting as a single block we can pass them outright. Instead of depending on the political courage and moral backbone of spineless politicians beholden to lobbyists, labor aristocracies and their own innate authoritarian psychosis, we can depend on our own political infrastructure – one truly of us, for us and by us.
Such a reality will be dependent on us all resolving to maintain and extend the “Agreement to End Hostilities” to our communities. This alone is a monumental undertaking requiring a degree of maturity and view toward our long-term mutual interests which the state believes we are simply incapable of. Recent events at Calipatria State Prison prove repressive state interests will take every opportunity to provoke antagonisms, foment discord and encourage conflict amongst the prisoner class – antagonisms that unfortunately all too often young Brothers and Sisters bring with them from the streets. This too is within our power; we need only exercise it.
In the final analysis, if we are to forge a world where this oppression of men and women by men and women is no longer an inevitable fact of life, where sexual violence, racism, religious intolerance, classism, structural inequality, xenophobia and the many varied forms of hate upon which capitalism and white male supremacy bases its global hegemony, we must begin to uproot its manifestations within ourselves and restructure our institutions to reflect this rational intent.
We rarely, if ever, recognize how these varied forms of hate have affected our own world view, influenced our own biases and reproduced this hate in our own thinking. To do so requires ruthless honesty and iron courage.
But if we are to be free, truly free, it must be done. It is within our power to do; we need only translate this rational intent into social practice. Social practice is the one criterion of truth, so to yourselves – and one another – be true.
Our love and solidarity are with you all. Until we win or don’t lose.
For more information on the NCTT-Cor-SHU or its work product, contact
Michael Zaharibu Dorrough, D-83611, CSP-COR-SHU 4B lL-22, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
Kambui Robinson, C-82830, CSP-COR-SHU 4B lL-49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, CSP-COR-SHU 4BlL-22, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
Jabari Scott, H-30536,
CSP-COR-SHU 4B 1L-63, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212Jabari was moved on Sept. 2nd 2014 in an “emergency special transfer” to CCI, Tehachapi.
Join the Facebook Page against censorship here.
May 23rd 2014
by Michael R. Dorrough, J. Heshima Denham, Kambui Robinson and Jabari Scott
Dear Assemblyman Ammiano,
We write out of concern for the manner in which certain aspects of CDCR’s Step-Down Program (SDP) are being implemented.
The specific area of concern has to do with the self-directed journals and cognitive behavior therapy, which are two components of the SDP. Because the aim of these components is to change and restructure the subject’s thought processes – psychological reprograming – it is a mental health issue, which requires the involvement of mental health professionals in its implementation and oversight.
These aspects of the SDP require that an evaluation and diagnosis of each prisoner be made and a treatment plan be developed based on that evaluation and diagnosis. No such evaluations have occurred. In spite of this, a treatment plan has been developed and is being aggressively pursued.
The person who is entrusted with the responsibility for the implementation and oversight of the self-directed journals and cognitive behavioral therapy program is a “facilitator.” He has no legal certification or license to act in the role of a mental health professional.
Because cognitive behavior therapy is a mental health issue, a certified psychologist and/or psychiatrist should conduct the required evaluations, make the appropriate diagnosis and develop any treatment plan for those prisoners who warrant such treatment.
Under this circumstance, any information shared with clinicians is privileged and protected by patient confidentiality.
As it currently stands, there are no mental health professionals involved in these aspects of the SDP. Pursuant to §700.2, “Step-Down components,” the CDCR has developed a “treatment plan” – the self-directed journals and cognitive behavior therapy – which is a one size fits all approach to psychotherapeutic reconditioning.
This is the best proof that CDCR custody staff are neither legally nor professionally qualified and certified to act in the capacity of psychiatric professionals. As it stands, any information provided under this circumstance is not protected by doctor-patient confidentiality and can be used in any manner CDCR deems fit – and this is illegal.
To compound the illegality of the policy, we are being compelled to submit to psychotherapeutic reprogramming by CDCR custody staff through naked coercion.
We are writing in the hope that legislators will affirmatively act to prohibit CDCR from continuing to violate the law. This practice, left unchecked, will only result in further legitimate criticism from human rights activists and the continued diminishment of the state’s human rights record in the eyes of the world.
At the minimum, we believe that participation in the self-directed journals and cognitive behavior therapy program should be discretionary – voluntary – as opposed to mandatory – involuntary – and placed firmly under the auspices of certified mental health professionals.
In closing, we would like to thank you for your understanding, courage and leadership demonstrated on this issue thus far.
Sincerely and respectfully,
Michael R. Dorrough, D-83611
J. Heshima Denham, J-38283
Kambui Robinson, C-82830
Jabari Scott, H-30536
The writers can all be reached at P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212. This letter was written May 6.
Open letter to Sen. Loni Hancock from prisoners in solitary confinement in Corcoran State Prison
May 23, 2014
From: SF Bay View
by Michael R. Dorrough, J. Heshima Denham, Kambui Robinson and Jabari Scott
Dear Sen. Hancock,
We write out of concern for the manner in which certain aspects of the step-down program (SDP) are being implemented by the CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation).
Specifically, our concern has to do with the self-directed journals and cognitive behavior therapy, which are two components of the SDP.
Because these components have to do with changing and restructuring the thought processes – psychological reprogramming – of people, they involve mental health issues and require the involvement of mental health professionals in their implementation and oversight.
These aspects of the SDP require that an evaluation of each prisoner be made and a treatment plan be developed based on that evaluation.
No such evaluations have occurred, and no such treatment plans have been developed.
The person who is entrusted with the responsibility for the implementation and oversight of the self-directed journals and cognitive behavior program is a facilitator. He has no legal certification to carry out the role of a mental health professional. Because cognitive behavior therapy is a mental health issue, a psychologist or psychiatrist should be conducting the required evaluations and developing any treatment plan for those prisoners who warrant such treatment.
Under this circumstance, any information that is shared is privileged information, protected by confidentiality. Yet there are no mental health professionals involved in these aspects.
Pursuant to §700.2, Step-down program components, the CDCR has developed a treatment plan, the self-directed journals and cognitive behavior therapy, which is a one size fits all approach to psychotherapy. This is the best proof that CDCR custody staff are neither legally nor professionally qualified or certified to carry out the role of psychiatric professionals.
Any information provided under this circumstance is not protected by doctor-patient confidentiality and can be used in any manner the CDCR deems fit.
This is illegal. To compound the illegality, we are being compelled to submit to psychotherapeutic reprogramming by CDCR custody staff.
We are writing in the hope that the legislators will affirmatively act to prohibit the CDCR from continuing to violate the law.
This practice, gone unchecked, will only result in further legitimate criticism from human rights activists, and the continued diminishment of the states human rights record in the eyes of the world.
At minimum, we believe that participation in the self-directed journals and cognitive behavior therapy program should be voluntary and not mandatory and that it should be done under the auspices of certified mental health professionals.
In closing, we would like to thank you for your understanding and for the courage and leadership that you have demonstrated on this matter.
Sincerely and respectfully,
Michael R. Dorrough, D-83611
J. Heshima Denham, J-38283
Kambui Robinson, C-82830
Jabari Scott, H-30536
The writers can all be reached at P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran CA 93212. This letter was written May 6.
“Revolutionary activity in every area of human existence will come about by itself when the contradictions in every new process are comprehended; it will consist of an identification with those forces that are moving in the direction of genuine progress. To be radical.. .means “getting to the root of things.” If one gets to the root of things, if one grasps their contradictory operations, then the overcoming of political reaction is assured… hence, a critique can only be significant and have a practical value if it can show the contradictions of social reality were overlooked.”
– Wilhelm Reich, Ideology as a Material Force
“California (STG’s) are routinely and consistently connected to major criminal activities in communities, including such crimes as homicides, drug trafficking, prostitution, human trafficking, and extortion…(STG’s) are largely responsible for criminal activities within institutions, to include the trafficking of narcotics, committing and/or directing violence.. and directing criminal activity…”
“Each step provides progams and privileges and, it is the responsibility of the affiliate to demonstrate they can be released to a less restrictive environment while abstaining from STG behaviors If the offender chooses not to progress through any step of the program the offender may be returned, by ICC, to one of the previous steps until they demonstrate appropriate behavior for movement into the next step. Any time the inmate wishes to begin participating in the SDP, they may notify their assigned counselor…”
“The dilemma is this: Without the power to put them into practice, truths are of no use. They remain academic. Power, no matter what kind of power it is, without a foundation in truth, is a dictatorship, more or less and in one way or another, for it is always based on man’s fear of the social responsibility and personal burden that “freedom” entails. Dictatorial power and truth do not go together. They are mutually exclusive… “power” always means the subjugation of others.”
“The chief function of the disciplinary power is to ‘train’… It ‘trains’ the moving, confused, useless multitudes of bodies and forces them into a multiplicity of individual elements – small, separate cells … combinatory segments.
“Discipline ‘makes’ individuals; it is the specific technique of a power that regards individuals both as objects and as instruments of its exercise … The exercise of discipline presupposes a mechanism that coerces by means of observation: an apparatus in which the techniques that make it possible to see [the] induce[d] effects of power, and in which, conversely, the means of coercion make those on whom they are applied clearly visible.” – Michel Foucault: “Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison”* (1977)
Salutations, Brothers and Sisters,
Our need to have this discussion comes on the heels of a number of people who were taken before the Departmental Review Board (DRB) here at California State Prison-Corcoran SHU (Security Housing Unit) on Nov. 12, 13 and 14, 2013, pursuant to the new SDP (Step Down Program) pilot program.
Comrade Zaharibu Dorrough also attended the DRB on Nov. 13, 2013, and was placed in Step 2 of the SDP with an understanding that, if accepted and completed, Zah would be transferred to Tehachapi SHU and placed in Step 3, where, according to Section 3334 (k) (Page 153), contact visits are allowed.
Contradictory positions are being taken by administration officials as to whether or not participating in the self-directed journals portion of the CDCR’s cognitive restructuring program (brainwashing), as described in Section 700.2 of the pilot program, is mandatory. [SFBayView.com, at http://sfbayview.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/CDCR%E2%80%99s-Oct.-11-2012-Security-Threat-Group-Pilot-Program.pdf, is the only place online where the SDP can be found.]
But since implicit in making it a requirement that people participate in those programs available in each step and that any failure to do so will result in a person being moved back to Step 1 until that person agrees to subordinate him/herself to the dictates of Section 700.2, the cognitive restructuring/brainwashing program is, clearly, mandatory.
It has also been established that a facility has been opened at Pelican Bay in Del Norte County for those prisoners who have medical and mental health problems.
If prisoners choose not to participate in the Step Down Program or any aspect of it, retaliation follows, ranging from a person being put back in Step 1 to a person being transferred to Pelican Bay.
There is absolutely nothing at all that distinguishes the DRB and STG (Security Threat Group) Committee from any other committee. And while the new policies will result in some prisoners being released to general population, these new policies do not represent a pathway to general population or even a less restrictive housing environment, as the CDCR is quick to claim for certain prisoners.
Specifically though, it is the CDCR’s attempt to brainwash us all through their behavior modification program. And that is exactly what the cognitive restructuring program is.We have had the opportunity to see and read the self-directed journals. They are insidious.
The NCTT-Cor-SHU (New Afrikan Revolutionary Nationalism (NARN) Collective Think Tank Corcoran SHU) has articulated in previous statements** how the self-directed journals, their themes, and the additional “integrated, cognitive behavior change program” are a systematic and progressive brainwashing initiative designed to emulate in those subjected to it the same personality restructuring as the debriefing process – i.e., character invalidation, Skinnerian operant conditioning (learned helplessness) etc. – introduction of state-approved new attitudes through “thought reformation,” criminalization of cultural mores, disorganization of group standards, prohibition of group activities not consistent with brainwashing objectives, encounter group sensitivity sessions, Synanon Attack Therapy etc.
It is our assessment that politically mature and ideologically advanced men and women could be subjected to such brainwashing techniques and suffer no deleterious effects, save the insult towards one’s dignity that the state would dare attempt to use such transparent and futile techniques against us.
However, that is not the case for younger and/or less developed prisoners. Many of these young men and women may view the themes of some of these journals and have no experiential basis from which to even understand their meaning, let alone the processes attendant to them, thus leaving them all vulnerable to these brainwashing techniques.
In order to successfully complete this aspect of the Step Down Program, you must be willing to accept and believe all of the absolute worst things that the state has said about us all and continues to say – and invalidate yourself completely.
Prison is not conducive to the maturation process, and the less developed we are, the easier it is, even in the face of resistance, for us to be turned into whatever the state wants us to be. That is why study is so very important.
Taking certain people before the DRB and placing them in certain steps is an effort by the CDCR to try and exploit the perception of influence of principled people and to try and legitimize the Step Down Program itself and the brainwashing components thereof.
It is the CDCR’s hope that they will be able to use as leverage the decades of sensory deprivation confinement of many of us. The prospect of our having access to our families and loved ones will persuade us to comply, and they will use what they perceive as our influence to herd untold numbers of underdeveloped and impressionable men and women into a process we know full well will result in them being transformed into broken people, a submissive and subservient population of prisoners who will make the misappropriation of tax dollars a more orderly enterprise.
There is no set of circumstances in which any principled person would agree to aid the state in carrying out such an insidious, vile and patently evil process.
The Step Down Program and Cognitive Restructuring Program that the CDCR is attempting to implement seems to have been first introduced in the New Mexico Penitentiary after the riot there in 1980. In a book titled “The Hate Factory” by G. Hirliman, there is a discussion about the efforts to implement the Cognitive Restructuring Program as part of a “behaviorally based step program,” as well as efforts to defeat it – by prisoners, their families and prison reform advocates, as well as a lawsuit filed by the ACLU to stop its use. From Hirliman’s book (Pages viii-ix; see Google Books for a digital version of these pages):
“The genius who shaped the Cognitive Restructuring program for prisons is Dr. Stanton Samenow. He believes that people are born criminals. It’s not the environment or anything else that makes a criminal: it’s in his genes, he’s predisposed. Therefore, there’s only one cure: reprogramming. … Doctor Samenow began applying this process to the treatment of criminals during a study he conducted with criminally insane inmates at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. …
“He did not prove the rehabilitative success of Cognitive Restructuring during his six-year study at St. Elizabeth’s, however.”
In spite of this, and it should come as no surprise, Dr. Samenow is popular within law enforcement, corrections and the political establishment. The American Community Corrections Institute or ACCI, for instance, uses cognitive restructuring.
There is no marked difference between asking us to endorse – via our participation – a state-sponsored brainwashing program like this and asking us to convince the women in Valley State, CIW and CCWF prisons to submit to sterilization!
That we are having a conversation about behavior modification, forced female sterilization and human experimentation in the modern California Department of Corrections should arouse this entire nation to arms against such structural fascism in its midst.
Despite the historic and heroic efforts of numerous activists and principled journalists across this state, nation and globe in raising public awareness of U.S. domestic torture units in supermax prisons across America, this particular issue, the active pursuit of brainwashing prisoners against their will, and now the revelation that hundreds of women were sterilized by the state – on American soil or anywhere else on this planet for that matter – has simply not garnered the degree of public discourse that it warrants.
Consider for a moment: The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and Justice Now found that the CDCR conducted 116 illegal sterilizations for purposes of “birth control” during caesarian section without the consent of their victims, though this is prohibited under federal, state and common law. This was not only common practice in CDCR facilities for women but, like mass incarceration itself, medical staff disproportionately targeted New Afrikan (Black) and Latino women.
With this in mind, this same agency seeks to instruct and alter the values, moral compasses and thought processes of prisoners via thematic journals with themes such as “Social values,” “Thinking errors” and “Values” – the latter which proposes to “guide inmates through an evaluation of the criminal values that have influenced their lives and help them weigh the consequences of living a life based on criminal values versus responsible values”!
The sheer mengalesque authoritarian hypocrisy of this department is breathtakingly horrifying.
The CDCR is presiding over the largest domestic torture program in the U.S. engaged in forced sterilization and advocating the mandatory brainwashing of scores of SHU prisoners – and they want to instruct us in “social values,” “thinking errors” and what is and is not “criminal”? Seriously?!
Where is the Legislature, the Congress, Department of Justice while this resurgence of Nazi-era pseudo-science is being codified into CDCR policy with taxpayer funding? Where is the Sacramento Bee, CBS, Oakland Tribune, NBC, LA Times, ABC, San Diego Union Tribune, Fox News or the Associated Press while horrors prohibited by the Nuremberg Code are given new life in contemporary penal best practices?
Has this society truly decayed so thoroughly that our culture, our communities – all of us: free and bond, rich and poor, all cultures and religions – will tolerate public officials engaging in such repugnant assaults on the very fabric of humanity without the most vocal and vigorous organized outrage?!
What must be understood is that these are not assaults on prisoners but on the very nature of human civilization. We ask you all, have we truly sunk so low into the quagmire of individualistic pursuits and sidewalk escapism indicative of the capitalist arrangement that we cannot even be roused to mass resistance against state-sponsored torture, sterilization and brainwashing? The NCTT, indeed all of us simply refuse to believe this. The past two and a half years in particular give credence to the dynamic influence of people power and its transformative potential.
If the CDCR were genuinely sincere that the SDP is a legitimate path out of the torture unit for prisoners – as opposed to another venue to break men’s and women’s minds, Section 700.2 of the STG Pilot Program would be discretionary, not mandatory. Under such circumstances, perhaps, prisoners confined to these torture units might be amenable to at least giving the program a try. Unfortunately, that’s simply not their position. And that is the best proof of the program’s actual intent.
We should all consider that while to some, including some of us in prison, these may simply be compelling words on paper, in truth this really is about human lives and minds – some of who will, consciously or unconsciously, spread these techniques to those communities that they will go back to.
This alone should move us all to action.
“Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.” – Mahatma Mohandas S. Gandhi
Long live the spirit of the beloved Herman Wallace – love and with you always.
Send our brothers of the NCTT-Cor-SHU some love and light:
- Michael (Zaharibu) Dorrough, D-83611, 4B-1L-43, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
- J. Heshima Denham, J-38283, 4B-1L-43, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
- Kambui Robinson, C-82830, 4B-1L-49, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
- Jabari Scott, H-30536, 4B-1L-63, P.O. Box 3481, Corcoran, CA 93212
*Google Books description of Michel Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison”: “In this brilliant work, the most influential philosopher since Sartre suggests that such vaunted reforms as the abolition of torture and the emergence of the modern penitentiary have merely shifted the focus of punishment from the prisoner’s body to his soul.”
**Earlier articles by NCTT-Cor-SHU on brainwashing of California prisoners are “Creating broken men?” “Creating broken men, Part 2” and “Legislative alert: CDCR’s Step-Down Pilot Program is in fact systematic, mandatory brainwashing.” [or on this site]
“Changing your criminal behavior is a tough job… in order to begin making positive changes to the way you think and act, you must first break through your con game. This journal will help you recognize your faulty beliefs and encourage you to change your behavior. .. Be careful! Answer honestly. Don’t be a victim of your own con game.”
“ Myth: Criminals are the victims of society. They are products of dysfunctional families, abusive childhoods, bad neighborhoods, poor schools, and an unfair economic system. “My criminal behavior isn’t my fault. I just learned to survive the best way I knew how.” Truth: Each person is responsible for his or her own thinking and behavior. Many people grow up in difficult circumstances and lead responsible, crime-free lives. Task: Explain how you have practiced this myth in the past.”
“If you want to make lasting, positive life changes, you will want to carefully cultivate your thoughts and behaviors. The first step is to recognize those negative or criminal traits… If you don’t make a strong and consistent effort to change these beliefs and behaviors they will continue to lead you towards … criminal activities.”
“Go over your answers you have given in this section, now use the space below to describe those areas you are willing to change today to drop the con game.”
– You are good at convincing people of your point of view
– Are you good at coming up with things people want to hear most?
– Are you successful at getting people to trust what you say when you are lying?
“A chameleon is a reptile that can change its color so as to blend in with its surroundings. How has your past behavior been similar to the actions of a chameleon? Explain.”
“Feelings of fear and doubt are part of being human. As you begin to make positive changes, these feelings will appear from time to time… It will be helpful if you fully accept who you are today… you have an opportunity to continue along the path toward responsible thinking and behavior. Maintaining positive change requires you to concentrate on continually challenging your beliefs and actions. All the work you are doing will allow you to reach a point of inner peace. Accept the real you, not the “con” you.”
|A covered -up trademark “process”|