Destruction of the Environment, Nightmare of Mass Incarceration, and the Need to Sweep This Illegitimate System from the Pages of History

October 9, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |



Editors' Note: The following is a letter from prison by Gregory Koger. At the time he wrote the letter, the hunger strike by prisoners in California to demand an end to solitary confinement and torture was still underway. The strike has since been suspended (see "California Prisoners Hunger Strike Suspended—Struggle to End Torture Continues").


I recently received a letter from a brother who recounted to me a story of a fish rights activist who compared the conditions of a fish being raised in a fish farm to the conditions of prisoners. He asked if I could write something regarding the conditions that prisoners are subjected to here in the United States’ world-leading system of mass incarceration in response.

As a prefatory matter, I should explain that I am currently a political prisoner being held in the Cook County Jail in Chicago. My “crime”? Recording a political statement opposing censorship on an iPhone at a public meeting of the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago four years ago. Further details of my case are available at my defense committee’s website:

I want to begin by uniting with the sentiments of people—like the fish activist—who find the commodification of animals and nature by this capitalist-imperialist system a travesty. Factory farming undeniably causes undue suffering and wanton cruelty to animals and our planet teeters on the precipice of ecological disaster from the despoliation and defiling of the globe due to the driving demands of capitalist production. I would point people to the special issue of Revolution newspaper on the environmental emergency, especially the section on principles for a socialist sustainable economy [“State of EMERGENCY! The Plunder of Our Planet, The Environmental Catastrophe & The Real Revolutionary Solution,” #199, April 19, 2010), as well as the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.  Both provide a very concrete yet broadly sweeping vision of how we could collectively begin to address and reverse the scars to the global environment inflicted by capitalism through the course of the struggle to bring into being a radically different world.

I know personally the living nightmare of spending many years—including over six years straight in solitary confinement—locked down in the hellholes of America’s historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration. The U.S. has a rate of incarceration for Black males that is five times higher than apartheid South Africa. More women are imprisoned in the US than anywhere else in the world—and women are one of the fastest growing segments of the prison population. Entire families of immigrants are held in immigration prisons. Children in juvenile prisons face mind-numbing conditions of solitary confinement and high rates of sexual assault and abuse at the hands of prison guards.

The United States leads the world in torturing its own people under long-term solitary confinement—a policy of torture afflicting at least 80,000 men, women and children and categorically condemned by the United Nations and international law.

On July 8, 2013, 30,000 prisoners in California began a hunger strike and work stoppage to demand an end to the conditions of long-term solitary confinement. I spent my first two weeks as a political prisoner here in Cook County Jail on hunger strike in solidarity with the courageous and heroic prisoners in California. Many of those brothers remain on hunger strike approaching 60 days and are entering a critical period where they are facing long-term health damage and imminent death. All people of conscience must step forward now to stand with the prisoners and demand that officials end the systematic practices of torture and refuse to allow long-term harm or deaths to occur. The Five Core Demands of the brothers in California must be met immediately.

The human suffering inflicted by the rulers of this system upon millions and millions of its own people here in prisons is reason alone to sweep this illegitimate, oppressive system from the pages of history. Yet this is but one example of the crimes of this system! Women are treated as less than full human beings, with access to abortion and reproductive health care under assault; massive programs of surveillance and spying on the entire population of the world go forward; activists and whistleblowers who expose the crimes of this system are imprisoned while the rulers of the system that perpetuated the crimes they expose continue to rain terror down on the people of the world; and the entire planet faces ecological disaster.

Not only does the world not have to be this way, we can end these crimes and bring into being a radically different world. This is going to take revolution—nothing less, based on a serious, scientific understanding and strategy. The RCP has such a strategy for revolution, based on the path-breaking new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian—who has dedicated his life to analyzing the historical experience of previous socialist revolutions and societies and is leading the Party to build a movement for revolution. And let me say from personal experience: BA deeply respects those this system counts as nothing and believes in our potential to transform the world.

Both the despoliation of nature and the untold suffering and oppression inflicted upon humanity can and must be ended. Those this system treats as worthless have the tremendous potential to step forward—along with people from more privileged backgrounds who refuse to live in comfortable complicity—to fight the crimes of this system, to transform themselves and the world through building a movement to end these crimes once and for all. This will not be easy—people will face repression from the rulers of this system. But those with nothing to lose but our chains must realize that potential and struggle together for the emancipation of all humanity from thousands of years of class divisions, exploitation and oppression.

A world where everyone contributes what they can and gets back what they need to lead lives worthy of human beings, where truth is struggled for by everyone, where everyone has the ability to participate in intellectual, artistic and cultural pursuits and the people are unleashed in ways undreamed of is possible—a communist world. Get with the movement for revolution to be part of bringing this world into reality.

Love and struggle

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