Revolution #201, May 16, 2010

A Prisoner Writes on the Impact of the Ban On Revolution

“This Is A Fight We Must Not Concede…”

We received the following letter from a reader in prison:

To Whom It May Concern:

I’m writing to lend my support to the Pelican Bay prisoners out in California. Being that I have been held hostage in a supermax facility for three years now, I can completely empathize with the comrade in the article that stated: “I have been getting Revolution newspaper for about 8 years now and can’t imagine being in this dungeon without it.”


The Prison Ban on Revolution Newspaper is Inhumane and Unconstitutional

Overturn the Ban!

Imagine you are in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of a prison, locked in a solitary cell for 23 or more hours a day, every day, year after year. 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.” 

In February, 2010, prison officials at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison declared that Revolution newspaper was banned from their institution. The ban must be OVERTURNED. 

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.

From my own personal experience on such units—since first being confined to one in 2000, there’s only two alternatives that ensues from being incarcerated in a cell up to 23 hours a day, without any real meaningful human contact. You either internalize your predicament by allowing your impotence and the correctional officers’ constant repression and dehumanization to turn you into a walking time bomb of anger and bitterness; OR you can decide to search out those elusive answers to this biggest question in life. How did I even get in this predicament in the first place? And why am I even angry with life?—and most of the time have had disdain and contempt for it? Why is the world so fucked?—and will it always be this way? Is this how things will always be, or is there another more meaningful path for my life to take? And why does it seem that God never hears my prayers and appears to be omni-presently indifferent to the plight of “the least of these”? Is there even a God to call upon, or are we the only recourse to our own collective salvation?

Once one chooses this second alternative while on these supermax facilities and actively utilize their time painstakingly attempting to answer these questions and others, then they stand a good chance of maintaining their sanity and possibly even becoming politically conscious revolutionaries, that will one day be integral to the proletarian revolution. But even if one chooses this path, where will one go to find those answers except by coming across individuals and institutions that have already discovered them? In my case, there hasn’t been any other institution out there that has raised my consciousness on a number of levels more than the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). I’m sure that I am not alone in that regard.

Nevertheless, for every person like me, there’s many more who have never been introduced to this second path, and instead, have been consumed by their anger, bitterness, self-hatred, and then leave these circumstances many times worse than they arrived. I’m sure most of those who can be classified in this category—if they haven’t succumbed to psychotropic medication, suicide, or forfeited all ambition—have returned to their communities to commit even more heinous crimes of predation. There’s no statistics to substantiate this claim that I know of, but I think there’s good reason for that. If there were, opponents of supermax facilities would have a good argument against these “domestic Guantanamo Bays.”

Nevertheless, my point is that with every setback, there’s always a dialectical opportunity for advancement and progress. to become its principal manifestation once again. In a particular sense, anybody that finds themselves in a supermax unit or incarcerated period, has the potential and possibility to answer those BIG QUESTIONS of life, and subsequently come to understand the need for communist revolution. Many of us in here have dedicated ourselves to making this particular population our focal point, while down, just like the comrades on the outside focuses primarily on the communities they’re engaged with on a daily basis. In order for us to reach as many as possible, though, we need tools such as the Revolution and other revolutionary literature that the RCP provides for us. Just like in the case of medicine, if one wants to build the strongest immunity against the dog-eat-dog bourgeois mentality that permeates our communities, then we have to inoculate all populations with the most resistant drug of rebelliousness, communist rebelliousness. By changing the particular, the individual who’s incarcerated—we only enhance our chances of prevailing on the universal level, the communist revolution. There is an inseparable dialectical unity in this regard.

To fail to recognize this, or treat it dismissively, we stand to lose many more generations to the bourgeoisie’s prison industrial complex. Like all industries, the prison industrial complex specializes in the production and reproduction of individuals who will leave prison, only to be a hindrance to the proletarian revolution. Therefore, we either allow the bourgeoisie state’s apparatus to continually undermine our ultimate revolutionary aim indirectly, by reproducing cancerous personalities and proclivities within our communities, or we counteract this indirect assault by continually inculcating a proletarian consciousness within a population, which I believe will play an integral part in the communist struggle, movement, and in the final analysis, in us achieving our objective.

In Bob Avakian’s autobiography From Ike To Mao, he included an analysis of Lenin that we should never lose sight of:

Lenin insisted that the economic struggle of the workers is important but not the heart and pivot of work to build a revolutionary movement among the proletariat. In What Is To Be Done? Lenin emphasized the crucial role of genuine, revolutionary class consciousness and how the workers could only develop this consciousness by having their attention centered on all the events going on in society and in the world, among all different classes, strata and groups, and by learning to evaluate these events from a communist standpoint and no other. Lenin emphasized that communists have to expose all the ways in which different issues and events in society affect these different classes and strata, and how in turn these classes and strata respond to them, in a fundamental sense, in accordance with their interests. (Bob Avakian, p. 375)

I think this ban on the Revolution newspaper at Pelican Bay State Prison, presents us with a pivotal opportunity to raise the consciousness of the masses and the prison population to this contradiction of bourgeoisie society, in regards to the emptiness of what we grew up believing about the “freedom of speech” and “the sacredness” of the First Amendment. Obviously, the “freedom of speech” and the First Amendment only seem to apply when that speech doesn’t come with a concrete materialist analysis of the bourgeoisie state, its prison industrial complex, its baseless imperialist wars, its racist and sexist divisions of control, its lies about evolution, atheism, global warming, etc. If this isn’t the true reason why they’re banning the Revolution newspaper at Pelican Bay, then what is that reason? And if it is, as Lenin said, bringing this contradiction of interest out to the people will only raise the consciousness of the people to recognize where their true interest lies—either with the proletarian revolution or with their false bourgeoisie hope of “change that only a fool can believe in.”

Right now, we’re being assaulted by the bourgeoisie state and they’re waiting to see what our response will be. Are we going to capitulate? If so, they’ll end up banning the Revolution not only in California, but in all states, including the prison I reside at now. And if they succeed in doing so, what will be the impact of it upon the proletarian revolution, on our community’s ability to rid itself of criminal mind-sets, or that individual like me, who may never become politically conscious now while incarcerated? This is a fight that we must not concede to the enemy. We must prevail! Our future depends upon it! We must fight this ban on all fronts: in the streets, in the courts, and in the media. As Frantz Fanon once said in The Wretched of the Earth, “Every generation out of relative obscurity must discover its mission—fulfill it or betray it.”

Frederick Engels’ answer to that, still remains true today: “To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of the modern proletariat.” (Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, p. 13) We all know what our generation’s mission is, so now it’s up to us to fulfill it. All tactical battles that we succeed in, will eventually culminate to us being victorious in our proletarian war of global emancipation.

In Solidarity, XXXXX

DONATE TO Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund!


 “I was just about to set up a vacation to New York City for this August when one of your fund raisers called me with some urgent news. It seems you need about fifteen thousand dollars by the end of this month to renew a lot of prisoners’ subscriptions. I can’t give you that much, but I can give you the two thousand dollars I was willing to spend on the vacation. In all good conscience I just couldn’t disregard the call. New York will be there next year and these subscriptions are a lifeline to people to whom the system wants to deny all hope.

Hopefully this size of contribution will inspire others who are able to give generously also. This is important to bring hope and light into a seemingly impossible situation. I urge others to give generously too.”

Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF), which provides revolutionary literature, especially subscriptions to Revolution newspaper, to prisoners across the country, for many their lifeline to the world, is launching a major fund drive, to expand its work in the context of mounting a wide-ranging legal and political struggle to overturn the banning of Revolution newspaper that has just taken place at the Pelican Bay State Prison in California as well as Menard prison and other prisons in Illinois.

Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund needs to raise $15,000 by the end of May. After reaching that goal, we are aiming to double those funds, reaching our goal of over $30,000 by the end of June.

Funds are urgently needed for the following expenses:

  • Legal costs ($2,000 in escrow for legal expenses in IL alone)
  • Seed money for public campaign to overturn the bans (also to cover additional mailing costs to prisoners, expanded book orders during the bans) ($10,000)
  • Renew some of the 800 current Revolution subscriptions, due May 22 ($6,000)
  • Retire the current waiting list for subscriptions to Revolution – over 300 prisoners are without a subscription ($10,500)
  • PRLF’s cost for a 400-hour summer internship ($900)
  • PRLF office – up and running before June 1st ($2500 startup expense)


GIVE A LEAD GIFT! We already have one lead gift of $2,000 and smaller donations that together are 1/2 way to matching it. Let’s finish matching it right away. And this week we need 4 more lead gifts of $1,000 to $2,000 each. Please write Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund with the amount of your lead gift and your reason for giving it, so we can challenge smaller donors to match it.

GIVE A DONATION! When you make any size donation, write 5 friends and tell them why you gave and ask them to match your contribution.

ADOPT A SUBSCRIPTION! Give Revolution newspaper for one year—$35 for each prisoner. If you can do so, adopt a block of subscriptions. There are now 65 California prisoners on the waiting list and 40 in Texas alone. When you adopt a subscription, PRLF will tell you the state and institution where the prisoner receiving the subscription you funded is incarcerated and remind you when it is time for its annual renewal.

All donors will receive the PRLF newsletter.

Your gift can be earmarked for a specific purpose. If you only want your gift to go to fighting the censorship and overturning the ban then please specify on your check or when you make your donation online and we will honor your request.

The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund is in affiliation with International Humanities Center, a nonprofit public charity exempt from federal income tax under Section 501[c](3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Send your checks to Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, 1321 N. Milwaukee, #407, Chicago, IL. 60622

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Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund

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