Revolution #183, November 15, 2009

Ex-prisoner calls for support for PRLF

We greatly appreciate receiving these letters from prisoners and encourage prisoners to keep sending us correspondence. The viewpoints expressed here are those of the writers and not Revolution newspaper.

By the time I was 17-years-old, I was serving a 20 year sentence in an adult maximum security prison. My family faced the difficulties of survival under this capitalist system, and when I was a teenager we ended up homeless because the mortgage was foreclosed on our home. I got involved in a street organization (AKA "gang") and participated in small time drug deals, robbing, and stealing to try to survive on the streets. I had no vision or hope for the future, because I didn't know where I was going to sleep or if I was going to eat that day or the next, or if I was going to get blown away in a confrontation with the pigs or a rival gang.

Once I was locked down behind the walls, I soon started to question what brought me—and all the other people there with me—to prison. And as conditions became more and more repressive, I began to resist—and to develop more of an understanding of the historical forces that led all of us into the horrendous conditions of the hellholes of the American prison system.

I was placed in segregation—solitary confinement—for an indeterminate period of time for resisting an officer, and faced the prospect of languishing in isolation devoid of human contact for numerous years in a concrete tomb. It was in the midst of this—the daily salvos of pepper spray choking the whole cellhouse, the tac team stomping down the gallery to drag someone out of their cell and beat them down, the constant agony of men straining against the solitude crying out for some kind of conversation or contact—that I first read Revolution newspaper.

Revolution began to open my eyes to a whole other way that society could be organized and a whole other way of thinking. Instead of focusing intently on revenge and my own personal oppression or wrongs, I began to see that this capitalist-imperialist system is fundamentally based on the exploitation and oppression of the vast majority of humanity at the hands of the few within the ruling class who own and control the means of production. And that the basis exists to emancipate all of humanity from the oppressive relations of class society, and unleash people to flourish in ways undreamed of under the confines of this capitalist system.

Once I was released from prison, I continued to develop my understanding. Comrades struggled with me to break out of looking at things quite often still from the perspective of my own experience of oppression. The question of the oppression of women is something that really challenged me to rupture with being caught up in that and the broader degrading, patriarchal social relations of capitalism. Think about what its like to be locked up in the repressive conditions of a prison cell for years on end—and then think about what it's like to be a woman in this society, subjected to harassment and sexual objectification while just walking down the street and where one in three women is subjected to sexual abuse. This is bullshit! Why should half of humanity be treated as less than full human beings? The special issue of Revolution, A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity, really inspired me. And seeing the outpouring of women and hearing their stories after the assassination of Dr. Tiller showed me how vital the fight for abortion rights is.

There is a deep desire among prisoners broadly to understand the world. Revolution newspaper is a vital resource that not just allows prisoners to understand the world, but to become part of changing it as they change themselves—to become part of putting revolution and communism back on the map, to popularize the pathbreaking work in reenvisioning communism that Bob Avakian has done, and to bring forward a core of people dedicated to building this revolutionary movement. The prisoner's letters that are published in this issue capture a glimpse of their eloquent struggle to strain against the enforced dehumanization and degradation of their circumstances and rise up to become emancipators of humanity.

We have a responsibility to these men and women—to support them in their struggle, to make sure that they continue to get Revolution newspaper and other revolutionary literature such as that provided by the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund. To make sure that they can continue to further develop a communist understanding and approach—and that while they are still held captive in the dungeons of the belly of the beast of this imperialist system, and even more so when they are released from prison, that they can be actively involved in building this revolutionary movement to liberate humanity.

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