Revolution #197, April 4, 2010
The following appeal from the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund appears online at www.prisonersrevolutionaryliteraturefund.org:
Banning Revolution newspaper from Pelican Bay State Prison is inhumane, unconstitutional and immoral—
HELP OVERTURN it now!
Imagine you are in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of a prison that is as far from your family as it can be and still be located in the same state. You are locked in a solitary cell for 23 or more hours a day, every day, year after year. Your window, your lifeline to the world is a newspaper and all of a sudden prison officials decide that you cannot read it anymore. As a prisoner wrote: "I’ve been getting the Revolution paper for about 8 years and can’t imagine being in this dungeon without it."
Welcome to California’s remote supermax Pelican Bay State Prison, just miles from the border with Oregon. Here 1200 of the 3400 inmates are in the most restrictive prison-within-a-prison found anywhere in the U.S. At Pelican Bay is also the single largest block of subscribers to Revolution newspaper in U.S. prisons. The 45+ subscriptions are provided through funds raised by Prisoners’ Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF). And each Revolution reaches many more hands. "I’m in Pelican Bay SHU ... there’s eight people in my section. I share Revolution newspaper with everyone in the section."
In February, 2010, prison officials at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison declared that Revolution newspaper was banned from their institution. It appears that issues of the newspaper dating as far back as October 2009 were confiscated, leading up to the recent outright ban of Revolution. The first issues confiscated last fall announced a special issue, Revolution 183 on prisons and prisoners, "From the Hellholes of Incarceration to a Future of Emancipation." (Available at www.revcom.us or from the PRLF.)
PRLF has received literally hundreds of letters which convey the tremendously educational value of Revolution newspaper for these prisoners. Their subscriptions and other revolutionary literature has enabled them to hone critical thinking; learn about history and debate current events in the world; understand root causes for why so many are in prison in the U.S.; come to appreciate science and atheism; consider radical, revolutionary and Communist alternatives for how the world could be different; examine historical lessons from previous socialist revolutions; examine causes of divisions between the people by nationality and gender.
Many people from all sections of society who have listened to these prisoners’ voices have been struck by the power of their words and their moral vision for transforming society. Now it is up to those on the outside to make sure this lifeline is not cut off and these voices are not muffled or worse silenced.
Our Mission: The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) is an educational literature fund that fills requests from U.S. prisoners for revolutionary literature.(For our full Mission Statement and more information on PRLF, go to our website: www.prisonersrevolutionaryliteraturefund.org)
Here are mere snippets from these prisoners. You can visit PRLF’s website: www.PrisonersRevolutionary LiteratureFund.org, to read substantive excerpts from letters that arrive at the PRLF’s mail box every week:
"Everyone I’ve managed to share issue 183 (special issue on prisons and prisoners) of Revolution newspaper with had positive feedback. You understand this place is a dungeon where we communicate through solid steel doors with plexiglass slits .... everyone’s thrilled to know someone out there has an inkling what we’re forced to go through for years and even decades...and actually cares."
"One main thing which I love about your news–paper—it covers all topics, presents pro and con positions, raw facts for the reader to analyze, one can not help but recognize the details that the mainstream media isn’t telling the public through its corporate machine. Your publication is read by me from cover to cover, although some articles I greatly disagree about. We must be open minded, accept new ideas, be tolerant to accept and understand other opinions and belief system, though they are different from our own."
"For many years, I was bound & chained to the walls of ignorance. However, thanks to the revolutionary leadership of Bob Avakian*... I have since been provided with the tools to shatter these chains from deep within the bowels of the beast. I now enthusiastically accept the responsibility of helping others do the same..." [*FYI: Revolution newspaper is the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, whose leader Avakian is a frequent contributor to its pages.]
"Got the literature you sent... It’s good to have some good study material at hand for the brothers here. I have been trying to get deeper into the theoretical and philosophical questions as regards communist application. I like to study so many different fields of science, all of it basically. I’m just amazed at the whole realm of science, especially how everything is interconnected. I was reading Stephen Hawking..."
"I kind of like the idea that women are equal to me. But I never would have this understanding if it was not for Communism."
"I was reading the [Revolution on prisons and prisoners] and had to stop and reflect on my crime. My victim was female: kicked her several times over a bad drug deal, luckily I didn’t have a gun. But reading your article on the women of society, that is the prison society we belong to. ...I am 27 years old and have been in and out of prison since I was 17, and for the first time in my young life, guilt left a bitter taste in my mouth."
Who really promotes racial violence?
Prison authorities allege that Revolution incites racial violence. Quite a charge when prison authorities in California SHUs have been exposed for instigating fights, including gladiator-style, between prisoners of different nationalities, leading to numerous inmate deaths—sometimes by other inmates, sometimes directly by prison guards.
As one Pelican Bay prisoner replied, "what racial group in particular are they speaking of, in other words to which audience is the paper targeting to incite racial violence when the fact is prison officials are basically the architect of racial disharmony among prisoners?"
The reality is the opposite of what prison authorities have alleged. Prisoners including at Pelican Bay write about how the newspaper has helped forge bonds of unity among prisoners of different nationalities:
"This paper has been a primary vehicle of crossing racial lines and bringing the people together."
"This paper has made a big difference in the relationships that races in here deal with each other. Not as a whole but with some of us. Meaning that prisoners of different races are so caught up on this plan that our captors are pushing that they have nothing but hatred for the next race. But this prisoner of a different race recently seen me passing one of these papers to a neighbor of his... He said he used to read the papers at another prison and we struck up a conversation about how informative the contents of the papers are and how everyone should be reading them and how different prison would be if everyone read the papers."
"I’m African American, and everything I read prior to Bob Avakian was afro centric in thought. ...what he teached changed my perspective on all of that. It’s more than a black and white thing with me now. I see the commonalities that black and white share now..."
"Maybe you could send me an English and Spanish copy of the paper because many of my comrades are Latino."
Banning Revolution newspaper from Pelican Bay State Prison is inhumane, unconstitutional and immoral—HELP OVERTURN it now!
The banning of Revolution is an overt political act of censorship by prison officials and a suppression of prisoners’ most basic rights to have access to the educational opportunity provided by the PRLF when it provides subscriptions to Revolution newspaper as well as other revolutionary literature. As PRLF’s mission statement explains, this literature provides "an educational opportunity for prisoners to engage with world events and key political, cultural, and philosophical questions of the day from a unique revolutionary perspective, including discussions of morality, religion, science, and the arts. Every week prisoners can delve into the urgent and lively news and debate about unfolding political and social struggles and can critically think about and dissect the current state of society as well as search for an alternative."
Anyone concerned about the rights of prisoners including the right to educate and transform themselves while in prison—the right for revolutionary alternatives to be considered—the rights of alternative media—the rights that are supposed to be guaranteed by the First Amendment—should see that this is a precedent that cannot be allowed to stand for these prisoners in California’s hell holes, for its implications throughout the prison system in the US and for the broader society of which they are an integral part.
A determined legal and political struggle needs to be waged to overturn this ban. PRLF is expanding its work through stopping this effort to cripple its work. We together can stop the prison officials from removing the oxygen out of windowless cells.
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