Prisoner Writes on the "Agreement to End Hostilities" Among California Prisoners

October 28, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper |


In July 2011, prisoners in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) in California went on a hunger strike. The list of demands included an end to long-term solitary confinement. At one point, nearly 12,000 prisoners joined this hunger strike in more than 11 prisons throughout the state. The hunger strike ended, but this fight has continued as prison authorities still refuse to meet the prisoners' demands.

Now, as part of building their unity and pushing this struggle forward, a group of prisoners that identifies itself as the SHU Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives, have issued a call for an "end to hostilities" among prisoners of different nationalities within California's prisons and jails to begin October 10. In "Agreement to End Hostilities," dated August 12, 2012, they state they are speaking "on behalf of all racial groups here in the PBSP-SHU Corridor" and begin by saying: "If we really want to bring about substantive meaningful changes to the CDCR [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] system in a manner beneficial to all solid individuals, who have never been broken by CDCR's torture tactics intended to coerce one to become a state informant via debriefing, that now is the time for us to collectively seize this moment in time, and put an end to more than 20-30 years of hostilities between our racial groups." Their call goes on to address the "manipulative divide and conquer tactics" used against them and says that, "all racial group hostilities need to be at an end... and if personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues!!" and that people need to refuse to allow "informers, snitches, rats, and obstructionists" to "create chaos and reignite hostilities amongst our racial groups." (See Revolution #282, October 7, 2012, for full text of the call.)

The following letter to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund is from a prisoner in the Midwest who offers his thoughts on the significance and meaning of the call. We feel the letter is an important contribution to the discussion about how to deal with contradictions among the people.

October 12th, Friday, 2012

To whom it may concern,

I want to first start this off by applauding those brothas out in California in proactively taking steps to agree to end all hostilities between the different races. That's big! I've been watching attentively the progress that's been made out there ever since they launched that historic hunger strike last year. Since then, their call to officially turn a new leaf October 10th, 2012, will definitely usher in a new phase within their move to increase their solidarity amongst each other, which will further enable them the opportunity to start consciously challenging not only their immediate conditions, but also the 21st century prison system of "control movement" and everything related to its perpetuation. So again, I want to first start this off by congratulating all of your brothas for achieving that level of solidarity.

Being that I'm on a supermax unit myself and been down almost a decade and a half now, I understand how much the degree of solidarity or lack thereof achieved will significantly determine the success or failure of something. Believe me, I know.

With that said, I would like to share a few thoughts of mine, that I hope will be of some value to this emerging solidarity. Before I immediately dive in, though, I would like to take an indirect route to my main point first.

This morning I watched a re-run of T.J. Holmes' new talk panel show called Don't Sleep. The original episode came on last night at 11 p.m. Eastern time, but since I missed it, I had to check it out when it re-aired again the following morning at 8. Well, the topic they were discussing was about the racist NYPD's policy of "stop and frisk." Now... I've known about this racist policy and practice for quite some time now, due to reading the Revolution newspaper all the time. So, I already knew Carl Dix and Cornel West were the main actors who really initiated this mass movement against "Stop and Frisk"; however, not only weren't any one of those brothas a part of T.J. Holmes' panel, but they didn't even mention any one of their names. Instead, on the panel they had  immediately to T.J.'s right the actor Malik Yoba. Normally, the first person who sits to T.J.'s right is either a right-wing Black Republican (or as I like to term them "the classical house nigga") or some type of an apologist for the system; and Malik Yoba definitely lived up to the latter. The other two on the panel were Anthony Hamilton, the R&B singer, and the New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow. Usually, the other two panelist are either pro-Democratic Barack Obama supporters or liberal intellectuals, entertainers, or activists.

Of all the panelists, Charles M. Blow was the most correct in his arguments against "Stop and Frisk" as being a systematic problem that goes beyond just "the individual bad apples." He persuasively made many good points against it, but never once did he ever scientifically tie it to the true source of the problem, which is the capitalist-imperialist system generally, and the New Jim Crow phenomenon of mass incarceration particularly. Again, even though he was partly correct, every regular reader of the Revolution newspaper knows, by him failing to comprehensively tie it to the New Jim Crow phenomenon of mass incarceration, and most importantly, to the capitalist-imperialist system as a whole, the audience who tuned in that day had been robbed of a chance to understand that policy within its larger context. Instead, the people who had watched that program today walked away ultimately seeing REFORM as being the only solution to those types of circumstances. If Carl Dix and Cornel West would've been those panelists, though, best believe they would've walked away ruminating on "Stop and Frisk" in an entirely different context and came to an entirely different alternative; and that's the real reason why they weren't on there too. Think about it!

One thing I've come to realize about the bourgeois media is that they like to get ahead of potential cracks in their system which has the potential to expose them for what they really are and really stand for. And one way they do so, they try to hijack issues which others have actually did all the hard work to expose; and once they successfully do that, they set the limits of the narrative behind it, while picking those whom they want to speak out about it which they believe will best keep it within the bourgeois framework of acceptable solutions. After listening to Malik Yoba, one would've thought all the community had to do was partnership with the police department in NYC or become a police officer themselves to change "police culture," as if "police culture" just needs reforming. I tell you what Carl Dix would've said about the police and their culture, if he had been on there though. He would've said [quoting Bob Avakian]:

"The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness." (BAsics 1:24)

This brings me to my main point which I want to convey to those brothas out in California. As we dialectical materialist say, everything "divides into two" and it's that internal contradiction which will determine the nature development, and potential qualitative leaps in any phenomenon, be it something social, natural, or relating to one's level of consciousness. Despite the fact that Carl Dix and Cornel West had been the main activists behind Stop "Stop and Frisk" and had established this movement on a Revolutionary footing, now Stop "Stop and Fisk" has divided into two. Those on T.J. Holmes' talk panel represents the emerging bourgeois line of reform against Stop "Stop and Frisk." While Carl Dix and Cornel West represents a revolutionary line against it since theirs is framed within BAsics 3:1 still.

My point to you brothas out in California, though, is that the same will occur to you too. This movement of Solidarity that you're trying to create is not going to be some classless form of solidarity in some classical social democracy sense. It will be divided into two. In the end, either a Revolutionary line will come to define this Solidarity or a reformist one will. Now... I know movements in prisons are generally more circumscribed around improving conditions all around the board, but I believe we as prisoners need to set our sights even higher than that. I think we should view the solidarity created amongst us as being independent, yet interdependent to an even larger solidarity and movement. Our ultimate goal should include more than just improving our slavery; it should be about abolishing all forms of slavery period (READ: The 13th Amendment), especially the capitalist-imperialist slavery which is ultimately responsible for the poverty and economic hardships that drove us to commit the acts which sent us to prison.

If we are going to target our real enemies from now on, then let's look even beyond these prison walls too. In the last analysis, it's the class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie which these wardens and commissioners are only the repressive representatives of.

From now on, prisons should become the universities we are unfortunate to be sent to, yet leave away with a revolutionary communist degree in resistance upon our release. There's no doubt in my mind that many of these leaders of this generation will come from these very dungeons around the country. I have no doubt about that whatsoever.

Now, as a dialectical and historical materialist myself, I understand achieving the type of revolutionary solidarity that's needed, is easier said than done. It definitely involves a lot of arduous struggle. That's why we dialectical materialists say all true solidarity must involve "unity-struggle-unity." Even though most might not be on the same revolutionary page, one must continue to unite with those taking different political stances, while also struggling with them and trying to win them over to the only solution which they really have: revolutionary communism. The advantage that you brothas taking up this line already have, is that y'all have BAsics, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), the RCP, and BA as important resources to study. So take advantage of all that! Start building a "solid core with a lot of elasticity" amongst y'all now. Y'all are still in the preliminary stages of this new found solidarity, but y'all may lose y'all's advantage to those pushing lumpen positions, if y'all don't take proactive step upon these lines now. Because believe me, those lumpens who you are now uniting with—who don't truly want to see too many fundamental changes in the system—will see this solidarity as a way to better regulate the black market just like any CEO of a corporation or a mega-bank would do. These "illegitimate" capitalist motivations will be one of the strongest reformist lines y'all will be competing against, if not the main one. If I had to predict, it will also be the way the prison regime will try to undermine every gain y'all do make. So pay attention, so this side of your flank is not left unattended.

Again, I applaud you brothas though. Now, that y'all will be taking the lead in this struggle, I will be watching y'all even more attentively. I encourage those who want to respond to what I've said to write to the paper. I definitely think it will strengthen not only this solidarity being created in California, it will provide us with an opportunity to create a growing solidarity across the state borders between us.

I'll close now with something Frederick Douglass had said many years ago about what all struggles are about:

"This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and 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 quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure 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."

In solidarity, Prisoner in Midwest

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.