Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA

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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Hunger Strike at Pelican Bay Prison:

The Humanity and Courage of the Prisoners...
And the Moral Responsibility to Support Their Demands

by Li Onesto

Prisoners at the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison have been on a hunger strike since July 1—demanding an end to what amounts to torture and brutally inhumane conditions. The weekend of July 2-3, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) reported that 6,600 prisoners, in 13 different prisons, refused food in solidarity with the strike. And there has been growing support on the outside from people who are demanding that the CDCR meet the prisoners' demands.

The 13th day of the strike, alarming, urgent reports started coming out that the medical condition of some of the prisoners was at a severe crisis. Mediators in contact with prisoners reported that some of the strikers had lost 25-35 pounds. According to a July 13 press release from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, a source with access to the medical condition of the prisoners, who asked to remain anonymous, said the health of the hunger strikers was quickly and severely deteriorating—that some were in renal failure and had been unable to make urine for three days; and some had blood sugars measuring in the 30 range, which can be fatal if not treated. Legal representatives who visited prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU on Tuesday, July 12, reported that many prisoners were experiencing irregular heartbeats and palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath and other respiratory problems; some were suffering from diagnosed cardiac arrhythmia. There were reports that prisoners at Calipatria State Prison and Corcoran, on a hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners at Pelican Bay, were also in a dangerous medical condition.

Now consider this: By the time you read this, it will be at least one week since these reports started coming out. And the CDCR is still refusing to even consider any of the demands of the prisoners.

What are these demands? To be treated like human beings. The prisoners want an end to long-term solitary confinement where they are kept in windowless cells with no human contact for 23 hours a day. They want an end to collective punishment, and the practice of "debriefing," which amounts to forced interrogation on gang affiliation. They are asking for decent food, rehabilitation and education programs, one phone call per week, one photo per year, two packages a year, more visiting time, permission to have wall calendars, and warm clothing. (See "Prisoners at Pelican Bay SHU Announce Hunger Strike," Revolution #237, June 26, 2011, for the prisoners' demands.)

Now think about this: Hundreds of prisoners, right now, are willing to die for these basic and just demands. They are doing everything they can, in the most isolated, inhumane conditions, to refuse to be treated like animals. And because of this, a light is being shined on the torture and inhumanity going on behind these prison walls. We can't say "We didn't know."

So the question is: What are people on the outside going to do? People have the moral responsibility to act in a way commensurate with the justness of the prisoners' demands and the urgency of the situation.

The CDCR does not treat these prisoners like human beings. It argues that these prisoners are the "worst of the worst" and deserve what they are getting. But as human beings, we need to be clear: NOBODY—no matter what they have done—deserves to be tortured. NOBODY deserves to be put in such extreme conditions of isolation where prison guards try to extinguish everything that makes you human, that keeps you physically and mentally alive, that connects you with the world and other people, that gives you a reason to live, to love, to learn and think. And this is not just being done in the SHU at Pelican Bay. There are tens of thousands of people in prisons throughout the U.S. caged up in maximum security units, subjected to this kind of torture.

Many of the prisoners have made it clear they are willing to die if their demands are not met. And what people on the outside do will be a big factor in what happens now, for good... or bad. In this kind of urgent, life and death situation, there can be no excuse for standing to the side. There is no justification for not joining the fight for these demands, for not taking a stand here in the interest of humanity.

Ask yourself this: What would it mean if people on the outside don't stand up and do everything they can to make sure these prisoners don't die, to really fight for these prisoners to be treated like human beings? What would this say about our humanity? But also, what will it mean if hundreds and thousands of people do stand up together, wage a determined struggle for the just demands of these prisoners, and in this way, assert our own humanity?

As a statement from prisoners in Corcoran Prison put it: "It is important for all to know Pelican Bay is not alone in this struggle and the broader the participation and support for this hunger strike and other such efforts, the greater the potential that our sacrifice now will mean a more humane world for us in the future."

NOBODY Deserves To Be Treated Like This

Close your eyes and imagine you're in a cell that's 8 x 10 feet—with no windows, no air, just concrete walls all around you. This tomb includes a slab of cement to sleep on, a toilet and sink. That's it. You're deprived of human contact. Your food is shoved through a slot in the door. You can't take a photo of yourself to send to your family. Maybe once a day, but maybe not, you are let out of this cell for one hour, into a space a little bigger, with a little bit more air. You are denied medical care. And if the guards decide you're not cooperating—for something as minor as not returning a food tray or banging on the door—a team of them, in full riot gear, with batons, handcuffs, will "extract" you from your cell, hogtie you and beat you with no mercy. You have been in this cell, subjected to this torture, for five years, or 10 years, or maybe 30 years, deprived of human contact, never feeling the sun, never seeing the sky or a blade of grass, never hearing a note of music.

This is life—or more accurately, a slow death—for 70,000 men and women who have been put in maximum security units in prisons all over the USA. This kind of solitary confinement stands in violation of international human rights standards, including the UN Convention Against  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This kind of sensory deprivation and lack of human contact is known to create severe psychological disorders, to literally drive people crazy. Putting an END to all this is what the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay State Prison are willing to die for.

Think about how prisoners in these conditions are on a hunger strike. Many of them have no way of even knowing what is happening outside of their cell. They have no way to communicate with each other and no way—or very limited ways—to talk with friends, family and supporters on the outside. Meanwhile prison officials have tried all kinds of ways to sabotage the strike—including lying to prisoners, telling them the strike is over, and trying to create divisions among the prisoners. And still, a hard core of the prisoners on hunger strike have remained strong and even more determined.

On Friday, July 14, Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity issued a press release reporting that the strikers at Pelican Bay had unanimously rejected a CDCR proposal to end the strike. According to PHSS, CDCR responded to the prisoners' five demands by distributing a vaguely worded document stating it would "effect a comprehensive assessment of its existing policy and procedure" about the security housing units—and this document gave no indication if any changes would be made at all. After this settlement document was distributed to all hunger strikers at Pelican Bay, some prisoners who had gone off the strike resumed refusing food.

This System Is the "Worst of the Worst"

This system wants people to believe these prisoners deserve what they are getting and that everyone else is safer because of this. Prison officials say this hunger strike just goes to show that these prisoners should be in the SHU. Terry Thornton, spokesperson for the CDCR, said, "That so many inmates in other prisons throughout the state are involved really demonstrates how these gangs can influence other inmates, which is one of the reasons we have security housing units in the first place." (New York Times, July 7, 2011)

But even the mainstream press has reported on how this hunger strike has united prisoners across different nationalities and others divisions which prison officials have always used to set prisoners against each other. The New York Times reported, "The hunger strike has transcended the gang and geographic affiliations that traditionally divide prisoners, with prisoners of many backgrounds participating."

The SHU at Pelican Bay is a prison within a prison. These supermax prisons were built, prison officials say, for the "worst of the worst." In fact, a huge percentage of prisoners are in the Pelican Bay SHU simply because prison officials have decided to "validate" them as affiliated with a gang. A prisoner can end up in the SHU because he has a certain tattoo or hangs out with someone who guards say is a gang member. A prisoner in the SHU can target another prisoner as a gang member—whether it is true or not—in order to get out of the SHU. A prisoner can end up in the SHU because they are rebellious, because they dare to think. A letter from a hunger striker at Pelican Bay to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) said:

"Just being a rebellious or progressive prisoner gets one targeted and labeled a 'gang member' and sent to Shu. The Shu is made out as a big stick to intimidate the prison population into passivity, (think deportation threats to migrants or the whip shown to the slave). It doesn't mean it's going to be used but the thought of it existing is enough to control a large portion of the prison population so it becomes a tool not used for rehabilitation but for social control... It is these conditions where even reading material such as philosophy or history is censored. Pelican Bay Shu is designed to control, nothing more. We seen even Revolution newspaper being censored and banned from this prison at one time. Take a minute to think of living in a certain zip code or apartment building where city officials notify you that Revolution newspaper is banned and is not allowed in your neighborhood. How would you feel about these city officials? How would you feel about the system that upholds the actions of these city officials?"

In many ways this hunger strike is objectively exposing the complete illegitimacy of this system and the hypocrisy of the USA which goes around the world posing as the "leader of the free world" and the protector of democracy and human rights.

Step back and look at the bigger context of the courageous prisoners on a hunger strike and the conditions they are protesting:

How the system uses police murder and brutality, extreme repression, its laws and courts and prisons to maintain the oppressive economic and social relations in society, to maintain control over a section of the people it fears will rebel against their oppression.

This is a system that fears the potential of the millions of people for whom it has no future.

This is what has been behind the so-called "war on drugs" that, over several decades now, has criminalized generations of youth and led to mass incarceration—to a prison population in the USA of over 2.3 million, mostly Black and Latino men.


The demands of the prisoners are completely just. And an incredibly powerful statement is being sent out from behind the bars at Pelican Bay, joined by many in other prisons throughout the country. These prisoners are demanding to be treated like human beings, asserting their humanity and challenging everyone to respond with their own humanity. There is an urgent need for people from all walks of life to speak up with courage and determination to wage a fight to force the CDCR to meet the prisoners' just demands.


Send us your comments.

Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Statements in Support of Prison Hunger Strikers

Updated October 27, 2011

The following are statements in support of the Prison Hunger Strikers at Pelican Bay State Prison, and other prisons in California and beyond. More statements are urgently needed. Send statements to be added to this list by using the "Send us your comments" link (be sure to include your name for attribution), or forward your statement to Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity is calling on people to call and send statements and letters in support of the prisoners' demands to:

Governor Jerry Brown
State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento , CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841

Secretary Matthew Cate
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
1515 S Street
Sacramento 95814
Phone: (916) 323-6001


ACLU of California
  Southern California

Arin Arbus
David Atwood
Edward Asner
Eleanor J. Bader
Father Luis Barrios
Kathleen Barry
Larry A Barton
Jessica Blank
Fr. Bob Bossie
Rev. Raymond Brown
Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd
Kathleen Chalfant
Henry Chalfant
Michel Chossudovsky
Miriam Cooke
Kia Corthron
Peter Coyote
Carl Dix
Richard Duffee
Nawal El Saadawi
Eve Ensler
Shepard Fairey
Richard Falk
Mike Ferner
Margaret Flowers
George Flynn
reg e. gaines
Annie Laurie Gaylor
Jerome Gold
Frances Goldin
Candace Gorman
Sam Hamill
Peter J. Harris
Wang Hui
John Hutnyk
Ron Jacobs
Mumia Abu Jamal
Derrick Jensen
Dedon Kamathi
Jeffrey Kaye, Ph.D.
Lierre Keith
Robin D. G. Kelley
Fatemeh Keshavarz
Joyce Kozloff
Rev. Rich Lang
Heinz Leitner
Harry Lennix
Dennis Loo
Ray McGovern
Cynthia McKinney
William S. Miller
Shahrzad Mojab
Tom Morello
National Religious Campaign
  Against Torture

The Next Front
Suzanne Oboler
Bertell Ollman
William Parker
44 participants Pedagogy
  and Theatre of the
  Oppressed Conference

Larry Pinkney
Katha Pollitt
Anthony Rayson
Boots Riley
Mark Ruffalo
Susan Sarandon
Susan Sarandon (October 12, 2011)
Saskia Sassen
Pamela Selwyn
Cindy Sheehan
Matthew Shipp
Susan Slotnick
Michael Steven Smith
Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem (October 12, 2011)
David Strathairn
Rose Styron
David Swanson
Ngugi wa Thiong'o
Nancy Vining Van Ness
Ayelet Waldman
Boyce D. Watkins
Jay Wenk
Cornel West
Garrett Wright
Ted Yanow
Kevin Zeese


October 12, 2011

I support the thousands of prisoners who have once again gone on hunger strike in California, risking their health and their very lives to protest the inhuman conditions in these prisons. Their courage, in the face of retaliation by prison authorities, presents us with a responsibility to support them and to call on all people of conscience to step out and stand with them.

—Susan Sarandon


October 12, 2011

The Prison Hunger Strikers of California have renewed their strike, and I renew my support. Like demonstrators from the Arab Spring to Wall Street, they are using the only peaceful means at their disposal to call attention to injustices; in this case, including long term solitary confinement and other punishments that the Red Cross and Red Crescent would object to were they prisoners of war.

—Gloria Steinem


For Immediate Release: July 19, 2011

ACLU of California Statement on California Prison Hunger Strike

The ACLU of California supports the striking prisoners' demands to end cruel and inhumane conditions in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison. These conditions include prolonged, solitary confinement in small, windowless concrete boxes with little to no human interaction and other severe physical deprivations.

Not only are such conditions inhumane and harmful, but they also jeopardize public safety. Solitary confinement causes and exacerbates mental illness, and prisoners who are subjected to such extreme isolation cannot properly reintegrate into society, resulting in higher recidivism rates.

An alarming number of prisoners are released directly from secure housing units into the community. The CDCR must implement policies that enhance safety both within prisons and within our communities. Current practices do not achieve these equally important goals.

The ACLU calls on the State to re-double its efforts to engage in meaningful negotiations with the strikers to bring the hunger strike to a swift and peaceful conclusion. In addition, the ACLU calls on Governor Brown and CDCR Secretary, Matthew Cate, to significantly curtail the use of the SHU at Pelican Bay and other California prisons and to provide all prisoners confined to the SHU items, services, and programs necessary for psychological and physical well-being including warm clothing, out-of-cell time, and participation in rehabilitative programs.


ACLU of Southern California

Friday, July 22, 2011
ACLU/SC Executive Director Hector Villagra delivered the following remarks at a press conference at the KRST Unity Center in South Los Angeles.

It has been said that to measure the degree of civilization in a society, you must enter its prisons. If you enter our supermax prisons, you will conclude we are a barbarous and savage society, one where cruel and inhumane punishment is the norm.

The ACLU of Southern California joins its allies today to condemn a situation that is inhumane—not just arbitrarily cruel—and in the name of law and order ultimately makes every Californian less safe. That's because solitary confinement causes and exacerbates mental illness. Prisoners who are subjected to such extreme isolation cannot properly reintegrate into society, resulting in higher recidivism rates.

The ACLU of Southern California supports the striking prisoners' demands to end cruel and inhumane conditions in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison. These conditions include prolonged, solitary confinement in small, windowless concrete boxes with little to no human interaction and other severe physical deprivations.

Today, 44 states and the federal government have built so-called "supermax" prisons similar to Pelican Bay—housing at least 25-thousand people nationwide. At these institutions, prisoners in solitary confinement face up to 24 hours a day with little human contact or interaction—reduced or no natural light—restriction or denial of reading material, television, radios or other property—severe constraints on visitation—and the inability to participate in group activities, including eating with others. In California prisons, time in solitary confinement can drag on years or even decades.

Prisoners of war or terror hostages say that this type of enforced isolation is as bad as any physical abuse and perhaps leads more directly to permanent psychological damage. According to one study conducted at Pelican Bay itself—prisoners subjected to months or years of complete isolation lose the ability to initiate behavior of any kind. In the most extreme cases—they literally stop behaving at all—and become catatonic.

And that puts public safety at risk. In fact, an alarming number of prisoners are released directly from secure housing units into the community. It's time for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to implement policies that enhance safety both inside and outside prison walls. Current practices do not achieve these equally important goals.

We call on the state to bring the hunger strike to a swift and peaceful conclusion. We call on Governor Brown and CDCR Secretary, Matthew Cate, to significantly curtail the use of the SHU at Pelican Bay and other California prisons and to provide all prisoners confined to the SHU items, services, and programs necessary for psychological and physical well-being including warm clothing, out-of-cell time, and participation in rehabilitative programs.


Arin Arbus, theater director

To paraphrase Dostoevsky - the character of a nation can be measured by the way it treats its prisoners. I stand in solidarity with the prisoners on strike in California. Please, think about this hunger strike. Please, just imagine getting to that point. Imagine making the decision to starve to death rather than accept things as they are. Imagine how bad things would have to be. The current situation in California's prisons is deplorable. The conditions are inhumane. This monumental violation of human rights is senseless and unnecessary. Something must be done.


Edward Asner

America, the Beautiful! What a crock. Ask the over 6,000 prisoners in California who are willing to starve themselves to death to achieve more humane conditions, if not for them, then for those in the future who will be condemned to such vile servitude. The punishment and intolerance meted out to them makes the state more criminal than the prisoners. For God's sake, stop the illegal executions inflicted by the state in its maximum security prisons.


David Atwood, President, Houston Peace and Justice Center


We owe a debt of gratitude to the prisoners at the Pelican Bay State Prison in California who were on a hunger strike for several weeks.  They have raised the issue of inhumane conditions in prisons across the nation, particularly the thousands of prisoners who are held in prolonged solitary confinement which we know can cause long-term psychological damage.

We are well aware that these conditions exist in many Texas prisons.  For example, on Texas death row prisoners are held in solitary confinement for many years until they are executed.  These inhumane conditions cause some prisoners to go crazy, some to commit suicide, and some to give up their appeals because they no longer want to live.

In Texas, solitary confinement normally means that the prisoner held in a tiny 6 X 10 foot cell for 23 hours a day. He cannot participate in group recreation, church services or work programs.   This is not good for the prisoner or for society in general.

There is no doubt in my mind that prolonged solitary confinement is "cruel and unusual punishment" and should be prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.

I am extremely disappointed that we allow these conditions to exist and our politicians are silent on the issue. The U.S. is not the civilized nation that we would like others to think we are.

I call on all citizens to speak out loudly and bring these inhumane conditions to an end.

August 1, 2011


Eleanor J. Bader, freelance writer, Brooklyn, NY:

The torture of prisoners in California is reprehensible. Prisoners are putting their lives at risk to protest the inhumane and degrading conditions they are subjected to. Their hunger strike is an act of desperation and I urge the prison authorities to listen to the demands and take action to end the torture and abuse within the state penal system.


Father Luis Barrios, Ph.D.:

Greetings from the Texas-Mexico border: On my way to cross again to challenge the USA government illegal and immoral blockage to Cuba. I'm very sorry I can't be physically present in this solidarity action on behalf of our brothers who are incarcerated in California and that as a way of resisting injustices, human rights violations and oppression, they organize a hunger strike. This is a statement that I want you to make public.

As a priest, as a community activist and as a scholar in the field of criminal justice, these brothers have my support. What they are denouncing is a matter of human rights and human dignity violations. Tomorrow during mass here in Texas I'm going to address this matter to people in Austin, Texas. I also want to raise my voice and solidarity against the Prison Industrial Complex, the one that is responsible for keeping these men in prison. As a spiritual activist, I'm against this capitalist society that is building a class society that at the end produces this type of human segregation for the purpose of social control; incarceration. We know that in the USA rich people get richer and poor people go to prison. Let's start looking for alternative to incarceration.

In the mean time, we need to support unconditionally our brothers who are in prison in this hunger strike. This type of action in their behalf is only a symptom, let's deal with the real problems: a class society that produce oppression and exclusion.

In solidarity love, the most important sacrament.

(Father Luis Barrios, Ph.D., is Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice-Department of Latin American & Latina/o Studies; Member of Ph.D. faculties in social/personality psychology, Graduate Center-City University of New York; Visiting Professor of Research & Methodology and Criminal Justice; Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Politicas: Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo-UASD and Universidad Iberoamericana-UNIBE, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic


Kathleen Barry, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Penn State University, Author of "Unmaking War, Remaking Men", Santa Rosa, California:

Your refusal to respond to the prisoner hunger strike begun on July 1, 2011 only confirms to the people of California the validity of the prisoners' allegations and demands.  Your violation of prisoners human rights, their right to live free of cruelty and torture not only harms prisoners, threatens the lives of those on hunger strike to regain these rights but are a violation of international, national and state law.  By your actions you debase all Californians and make clear that we live in a barbaric state.

We, the citizens of California, understand that what you are doing to these prisoners and your refusal to respond to the hunger strike violates the public trust we place in you to operate our prisons.  You are neither above the law nor our scrutiny.  We cannot allow you to stay in positions of power and authority if you abuse them and violate the law as well as prisoners human rights.  Therefore we ask that you immediately address the demands of those on hunger strike, see that they receive immediate medical treatment while you promulgate prison policy that is in line with the International Declaration of Human Rights that you are now violating as well as national and state law.


Larry A Barton, IBM Retired; community activist Cape Coral, FL

The conditions within the prison system reveal the attitudes of a society and are reflected in the actions of its agents of authority that execute the policies and practices –written or otherwise. There is a lack of humanity and justice in prisons such as Pelican Bay and others across the nation that have driven a brave few of those incarcerated towards desperation to bring these sub-human conditions, brutal abuses and actual torture to light that are dehumanizing. The questions remain: what will those with the power to effect needed changes do to correct these abuses that border on crimes themselves that go unpunished? How are the lives of these men and women to be "corrected" to allow them to return to society, more specifically, their communities, and make a contribution?

There is a deep injustice and cruelty here that have corrupted the prison system and its "corrective" agencies that have become an industry where the pursuit of its own continuation and expansion is paramount over that of serving the public interests and rehabilitating the lives of the incarcerated. It is time for responsible oversight and a re-making of the US prison system at such sights as Pelican Bay which has gone so far awry that prisoners have taken to a hunger strike in search of reform.

This is a request that you, Governor Brown, exercise you authority and responsibility to ensure human treatment at Pelican Bay and other California sites.


Jessica Blank:

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to express my solidarity with the prisoners striking for humane and decent basic conditions in Supermax prisons in California and elsewhere in the U.S. No human being—in the United States of America or anywhere else—should be subject to conditions (such as long-term solitary confinement, deprivation of basic nourishment, etc.) that have been widely shown to cause long-lasting harm and have been disavowed by human rights organizations around the world. The United States Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment, and it is my opinion—as well as the opinion of many others across our country and the world—that current conditions in American Supermax prisons are clearly in violation of this Constitutional provision. Even if a citizen has been convicted of a heinous crime in the U.S., he or she is still protected by the Constitution and by basic human rights laws. This is a foundational principle of our democracy. As a citizen, I urge you to do something to remedy this patently inhumane and unjust situation.


(Jessica Blank is an actor, playwright, and novelist; she co-authored the play The Exonerated.)


Fr. Bob Bossie, SCJ, 8th Day Center for Justice in Chicago

Dear Governor Brown,

I have been alerted to the indefinite hunger strike of a large number of California prisoners and the perilous state of their health. The conditions of their incarceration have driven them to this desperate action. I call upon you with the greatest urgency to announce to these prisoners that you will heed their five core demands. Your failure to do so places them in even greater risk of bodily harm or death.

I am shocked that these prisoners have been subjected to such conditions. There are absolutely no reasons for this. Even the United Nations has called their imprisonment "inhumane and degrading."

I would write in greater length if not for the urgency of their condition. The whole world is watching.



Rev. Raymond Brown, New Orleans, LA:

I am writing in support of the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay Prison. I encourage all strikers to continue pressing forward, we are supporting you guys one hundred percent. We join you in this difficult time, because freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demand by the oppressed.

Truly yours


Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd, KRST Unity Center Of Afrakan Spiritual Science, Los Angeles

The Struggle Continues, The Struggle Continues, The Struggle Continues .......As long as one single inmate at Pelican Bay or any facility in any state in any nation of the world faces torture and cruel and inhumane treatment.

We have that responsibility, that duty to ourselves and to the generations that follow, as this nation slides on the slippery slope to fascism to fortify its racism and classism. There was reported by the L.A. Times newspaper an extensive article about police officers being increasingly prosecuted. It is a state of the world in which crooked law enforcement officers' criminal actions are excused as being economic crimes; the natural outcomes and result of the their once prosperous middle class lifestyle now threatened by the budget cuts.

According to BJS,1 at the end of 2009, over 7 million people are incarcerated, on probation, or parole in America today. The vast majority are there for un-acknowledged economic crimes; the forces of which were implemented at the very founding of this country with the enslavement of Afrakan people. That continues to this day as the police state solution. The new slave ships, this time also peopled with other folks brown and white, are packed to the brim with unimaginable torture and horrors, treated like vermin for engaging in economic crimes that are the direct result of laws and policies established concretely to create full employment for the purveyors of injustice.

An evil prison industrial complex feeds tens of thousands of upper income folks while denying the basic human rights of millions then treats their mostly economic crimes with extra-judicial punishment including torture. This includes Prosecutors, Judges, Clerks, Defense Attorneys, prison guards, Janitors, communities that vie for prisons in there towns; the whole system being fed off the bodies of economic prisoners.

We salute those brave souls who initiated the Hunger strike and those who continue the struggle for justice for all of us! We must continue to support them by any and all means necessary!

The struggle continues

July 22, 2011

* [U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics]


Kathleen Chalfant, actor
Henry Chalfant, filmmaker and photographer:

We are both appalled by the conditions at Pelican Bay and by the impossibly inhumane treatment given these prisoners in a so-called civilized society—there is simply no excuse. We stand with the inmates in their struggle for decency and justice.


Michel Chossudovsky
Professor of Economics (emeritus), University of Ottawa, Canada
Director/Directeur, Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal, Canada


I the undersigned have taken cognizance of the deplorable conditions prevailing in the California prison system including the hunger strike affecting 13 prisons involving more than 6,000 inmates.

These prevailing conditions constitute a crime against humanity and a violation of fundamental human rights.

The conditions of incarceration and depravation are in blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution.


Miriam Cooke, Professor of Arab Cultures at Duke University and author of "Dissident Syria":

How can the U.S. government tolerate the torture and dehumanization of the inmates in Corcoran State prison, Pelican Bay, and other prisons and at the same time condemn other countries for the same violation of human rights? We live in one world and must all fight to eliminate state-sponsored cruelty, beginning with the prisoners in California 's prisons.


Kia Corthron, New York City, 7/16/11:

Personal Statement Regarding the 2011 California Prison Strikes

When a citizen of the United States is convicted in the criminal court system, the sentence is a number of days, or weeks, or months, or years. This separation from society is the penalty that is the understanding of jurors who reach a verdict to convict a defendant, and is the understanding of the defendant who made personal decisions regarding his or her plea.

Long-term solitary confinement is not a condition understood by the jury nor the defendant. The ill psychological consequences of such treatment have been affirmed by such diverse persons as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Senator John McCain, who spent three of his five-and-a-half POW years in segregation. The acute psychological adverse effects have been affirmed by Human Rights Watch, which has noted "Suicides occur disproportionately more often in segregation units than elsewhere in prison."

The abolishment of such primitive practices is among the demands of the incarcerated currently on hunger strike in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) of California's Pelican Bay prison, as well as of several thousand prisoners throughout the state. Other appeals seem no less reasonable: an end to group punishment, wherein all members of an assumed group are penalized for the actions of one; an end to the debriefing policy—a bribe of better meals or release from SHU to prisoners in exchange for incriminating information against their fellow inmates, which puts innocent and weaker prisoners at risk of being wrongly accused and punished; the provision of food that is adequate and nutritious, and permission for the inmates to purchase out of their own money vitamin supplements; and a handful of small requests that would boost prisoner morale and thus the inmates' conduciveness to rehabilitation, such as a weekly phone call, hobby items (colored pencils, watercolors), and the allowance of the receipt of two packages per year.

In short, the hunger strikers, who have not eaten since July 1st, are living in such inhumane conditions that they are risking death in order to be treated with the smallest and most basic of dignities, a minimum of which are required to maintain sanity. For those of us on the outside who believe that the incarcerated are deserving of such psychological retribution, it must be remembered that these men may have long prison sentences but most are not lifers, and that their resultant compounded fury and madness will one day be unleashed on the greater society when they are released; it is therefore in all our interests to provide prisoners with the opportunity to rehabilitate. And for those of us on the outside who believe that the incarcerated are deserving of basic human dignities, it is appalling and tragic to discover through this uprising that such paltry demands have not been automatic in the 21st Century American prison system—the entity in true need of rehabilitation.

(Kia Corthron is a playwright living in New York City. Her plays have been produced in New York, London and in theatres across the U.S.)


Peter Coyote, actor:

You could hardly tell by reading the news, but there is a to-the-death hunger strike taking place at Pelican Bay prison, where prisoners have finally tapped out at Draconian 23 hour a day isolation, over-crowding, inability to take correspondence courses, and generalized warehousing and arbitrary punishment of detainees. You might have noticed too, that as the economy tanks, and jobs are outsourced, our country is increasingly using an expanded prison population as a source of income for displaced factory workers, building prisons where useful industries once flourished.

The convicts we are relegating to perpetual holding tanks, will eventually get out—angered certainly, and in many cases ill, and in some cases sociopathic. We are treating these people as “other” and consigning them to oblivion, as if the bill for this callousness will never come due. I urge you to look at the situation, and sign on to support their struggle.


Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party, Served 2 years in Fort Leavenworth Military Prison for refusing to go to Vietnam in 1970:

The people on hunger strike in the prisons in California have stood up and declared that they are human beings, not animals, and that they refuse to submit to the torture being enforced by the California Dept of Corrections. 

The hunger strikers have put their lives on the line to fight to achieve their demands, and we must support them.  They are asserting their humanity and thru doing that, they are challenging us to reclaim our own humanity—by refusing to allow torture to be carried out in the prison system in our name.


Richard Duffee

A serious hunger strike takes will power far beyond the ability of the vast majority of us. No group can organize one unless the conditions it protests are truly horrific. For one who has worked in prisons, it is implausible that such conditions are merely negligent. Inside a prison such conditions are much discussed, and are worsened in order to injure inmates the staff believes insufficiently compliant. More damningly, knowledge of foul conditions filters upwards from prisons to other state offices, and to the legislature. A detention center for delinquent inner city youth in Boston where I taught in 1985 spent $36,000 a year per adolescent, which was more than tuition at Harvard at the time, and nearly all of that money was spent making them miserable. Meanwhile, the program with the lowest recidivism rate was an outward-bound type program in which kids built trails in state parks and forests. The Massachusetts legislature cancelled the forest program because they thought it wasn't punitive enough. The mania for punishment increases crime while damaging and alienating everyone it touches. And for this a large network of state officials are responsible. If we tolerate such abuse without comment, we are guilty too.


Nawal El Saadawi, Cairo, Egypt:

I condemn the horrific conditions under which those prisoners live in the USA. We have a common global struggle against all types of class race gender and religious oppressions, including American-European imperialisms and neocolonialisms. We live in one world dominated by the same military police capitalist patriarchal system. We need to fight together. Unity is power globally and locally. Our Egyptian revolution is winning till today because of our unified power of millions (women men and children from all sectors of the society) who are staying in Tahrir Square day and night, and in all streets and squares all over Egypt from Aswan south to Alexandria north, and Suez Canal cities and villages.

In solidarity

(Nawal El Saadawi is a renowned Egyptian novelist, doctor, and feminist activist. She has been involved in the 2011 uprising in Egypt.)


Eve Ensler, Tony Award winning playwright, performer, and activist, author of THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES and founder of V-Day, a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls:

The U.S. prisons are our greatest shame. We must all stand in solidarity with the brave inmates of Pelican Bay who have risked their lives to make visible the abhorrent conditions, injustice, torture and humiliation that is their daily existence. Their struggle is our struggle.


Shepard Fairey, artist:

I believe in human rights in every arena. A moral, civilized, society requires those in authority to set an ethical example even when dealing with individuals, like prison inmates, who may have behaved undesirably. In fact, authorities have a much greater duty to behave morally because their position is only credible if they lead by example. Unfortunately, authorities often do not live up to these important principles. I have been arrested and jailed for short periods, many times, so I know how cruel law enforcement can be to the incarcerated. The inmates, especially those on hunger strike, have my sympathy and support. Everyone deserves to be treated humanely and the demands for which the inmates are hunger striking are not only absolutely reasonable and logical, but essential. Please read more and ask those in charge to fulfill their moral obligations and improve prison conditions.


Richard Falk, Milbank Professor of International Law Emeritus, Princeton University (for ID purposes only)

I support the call in support of the hunger striking prisoners, and you can forward the following statement if you think it is helpful:

"It is sad that it requires a massive hunger strike by prisoners to call attention to the deplorable conditions that have long prevailed in California prisons, and we call upon our elected leaders, citizens, and media to acknowledge the urgency and justice of the appeal, and to take immediate steps to establish prison conditions befitting the inalienable dignity of ALL human beings."


Mike Ferner, Interim Director, Veterans For Peace:

If you've never been locked up, you cannot have a legitimate opinion about what kind of treatment prison inmates deserve. And that goes for everyone who has ever ignorantly said, "We don't owe these people a hotel room, you know."

If you have been locked up, you know that the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers and the inmates joining them in other prisons are the most courageous people in this land. They are facing possible death and certain retribution from a system and from individuals who literally hold the power of life and death over them.

How many times have we driven past one of the rapidly-expanding number of prisons in our country, feeling a small twinge of the despair that smothers everything inside the razor wire? Usually our minds hurry to other concerns in the realm of the free, but now we are given the opportunity to take a moment and stand in support of our fellow human beings when it could really make a difference.

Please join me in writing to California Governor Jerry Brown, someone with a reputation for compassion and Matthew Cate, Secretary of the Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

We owe it to our own souls.


Margaret Flowers, M.D.:

I write to express support for the prisoners of California who are on a hunger strike to protest their inhumane conditions and treatment. A hunger strike is not something that is done lightly. This hunger strike has unified prisoners who are otherwise at odds with each other. It reflects the severity of their circumstances. Long-term solitary confinement causes permanent psychological harm. Abusive punishment, requiring prisoners to spy on each other and false accusation create an atmosphere of fear and distrust. Rather than healing and rehabilitation of the prisoners, these circumstances worsen their condition. I ask the prison authorities to negotiate in good faith with the prisoners. And I hope that the awareness of the situation will spark a broader movement to end the failed drug war and use evidence-based drug policy and to adopt modern prison policies based on rehabilitation and reintegration into society.


George Flynn

I think the statement by the ACLU regarding the hunger strike expresses my own view cogently.  I hope the prison authorities respond to the situation swiftly, in a humane manner.


reg e. gaines, poet and playwright:

If you would just stop and think about the last time you were hungry, truly hungry and could do nothing about it, you would probably have to go back to your childhood. Not a lovely image but a feeling which is easy to disregard once you have reached adulthood and can basically eat whenever you want. As Malcolm said, give a starving man the choice between a naked woman and a steak, the steak wins out every time. Now think about a person choosing to go through the hunger pains, the withering body, the loss of strength, lack of energy, inability to read, think, even sleep. Now imagine this is of your choosing due to conditions and policies which run in direct opposition to acts of decency, humanity, sensitivity. In other words, I would rather starve myself to death then to be made to live under oppressive conditions most human beings would find deplorable if experienced for themselves. To be hungry is perhaps the world's greatest injustice. To bring hunger upon ones self to draw attention to deplorable conditions and even more blatant rules, regulations and policies, is, at the very least, the mark of a true revolutionary. Support the prisoners at Pelican Bay by making your own personal statement of protest. Go a day without a slice of bread, a glass of water, a piece of fruit, a cup of coffee. See the strength it takes to deprive ones self of the BAsics.


Annie Laurie Gaylor, Co-President Freedom From Religion Foundation

Dear Governor and Secretary:

Today's Supermaxes make Alcatraz and the old chain gangs look like resorts.

It is cruel and inhumane to warehouse any person in solitary confinement, much less confine prisoners to the torture of cement box "Supermaxes"—windowless cells devoid of fresh air or sunlight; in which prisoners have no occupation or activities, or any meaningful interaction with others.

Such cruel and inhumane treatment is in flagrant disregard of accepted prison protocol, much less the Geneva Convention.  It is time to put an end to brutality in the name of justice, and to reject the primitive, retributive "old testament" notion of punishment for its own sake.

The hunger-striking prisoners' requests are pathetically modest.  Why shouldn't they be allowed a weekly phone call or a wall calendar or their weekly meal allotments?  Most important is their right as human beings to meaningful contact and activities, and freedom from "extreme physical deprivations that are known to cause lasting harm."

Whatever any particular prisoner may (or may not) have done or been convicted of, does not provide license to the rest of our society to dehumanize and brutalize a whole class of persons.  If, with a light conscience, our society deliberately subjects a captive human being, relentlessly and cruelly, to deplorable living conditions, and physical and mental torture, we rob not only them but ourselves of our humanity.

Close down the disgraceful Supermaxes.


Jerome Gold, author:

Statement about Pelican Bay

Everybody in America knows someone who is in prison or who has been in prison, or knows someone who knows someone in prison or who has been. At any given moment between two and three million people, adults and children, are in a state or federal prison. When you include people who are locked up in county or metropolitan jails, the number of those incarcerated is more than double that statistic. (At the end of 2009, 7,225,800 adults, about one of every 32 adults in the United States, were incarcerated. In 2006, 92,854 children were held in juvenile facilities, and an unknown number in adult facilities.) When you consider that the level of incarceration began its meteoric rise more than a generation ago, and take into account inmate turnover—people are released and other people come in—you realize that tens of millions of people have served time. Even presidents of the United States have known, or do know, people who are in prison, or who have been.

I went to high school with two boys who had been in prison. One became a high school principal; I don't know what became of the other one. When I was a child, a cook in one of my parents' restaurants was a former inmate. One of my closest childhood friends spent a year locked up on a marijuana charge when we were in our early twenties. When I was in the army, a friend went to Leavenworth for several months for having gone AWOL. I ran across him ten years later; he was driving a cross-country bus. There have been others. A mechanic who worked on my car had served time as a juvenile. I met a woman, a state employee, who was locked up when she was a girl, and another woman who had served time in a federal prison for selling drugs. I had a cousin who spent five years in San Quentin, got out and died a few months later from a heroin overdose.

As I write this, I think of still others I have known who had been locked away, though I would not have known had they not told me. Thinking of them, I don't ordinarily think of the fact of their imprisonment, but see them in my mind's eye as have known them: as someone I worked beside, telling jokes between phone calls; as a political activist, speaking with irony and rage about an injustice; as a friend describing the sculpture she was working on; as a collector of antiquarian books. I find it hard to believe that the course of my life has been unusual in placing in the proximity of people who have been in prison. I grew up in the middle class. My father was a manager in one of the aerospace companies. Incidentally, all but one of the people I mentioned in the last paragraph are, or in the case of my cousin, were white.

All of this is by way of saying that inmates at Pelican Bay and everywhere else deserve to be treated as we would like to be treated. They are no less human than we are. In fact, given the rate of incarceration in the United States, we, you and I, may one day find ourselves in their place. Predictably, projecting these same statistics, some of us will indeed find ourselves there, as will some of our children and some of our grandchildren. By speaking out for humane treatment now, we are investing in our own futures and in the future of our children and those who follow them.

(Jerome Gold is the author of the book Paranoia & Heartbreak: Fifteen Years in a Juvenile Facility)


Frances Goldin, literary agent:

The United States does not need another Attica! Our prison system is archaic, racist and inhuman!

The prisoners demands are JUSTIFIED! Respond by granting their demands. Prison Reform is long overdue. Start today with California!


Candace Gorman, Attorney for Guantanamo prisoners

I applaud the men at Pelican Bay for putting their lives on the line in their desperate attempt to show the American people, and the world, the cruel and inhumane conditions in the United States prison system. As Nelson Mandela once said, "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." Isn't it time that we all raise our voice and say "enough?" How many of these men will have to die before action is taken to end the barbarous conditions that these and so many others in this country are held under in our prison system?


Sam Hamill, poet:

I join the inmates of Pelican Bay, Corcoran State and other prisons in their demands for humane treatment of all incarcerated people. I hope the American people will demand the same. The shameful injustice of our horrific treatment of inmates is an ugly stain on our national character.


Peter J. Harris, poet, Artistic Director, Inspiration House, Los Angeles:

I am no expert on the complexities of prisons, corrections, crime and punishment. I do not know the stories of the men convicted and confined to Pelican Bay. I am just a citizen. A citizen who believes in living as humanely as possible, a citizen who demands that his government operate in an ethical, lawful manner. Even within a supermax prison, these are fellow citizens, these are human beings. I do not support confining them indefinitely out of sight, out of mind. I do not support prison officials pimping them for information. I do not support prison officials setting them up for retaliation. I do not support locking human beings in boxes (even those convicted of crimes). I am not naive. I recognize power as the currency of our society. And I embrace my power as an engaged citizen. I join my voice to those of the hunger strikers and their demands. I join my voice to those who support the hunger strikers. I am proud to be among the company of the citizens seeking to create a humane 21st Century America of the people, by the people and for the people.


Wang Hui, Professor, Tsinghua University, Beijing

A political system can be judged by the way it treats society's most unfortunate members, including prisoners. I stand with those who protest this inhumane treatment.


Professor John Hutnyk
Academic Director, Center for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, University of London:

Have circulated this widely and stand... solidarity with hunger strikers in the California prison system, noting this also as a warning for the UK, as the con-dem coalition moves to close, crowd and privatize prisons here. I was appalled to read of the conditions in California, and of course was reminded of all the campaigners that have fought so far, and are fighting still, against the racist, white supremacist, corporate (even when its State) prison-industrial-cultural complex that tortures, on camera or in secret, that abuses and insults, that has no legitimacy, that has no respect, that should be torn down.

Solidarity to all: we cannot be free here when there we are in chains.



July 14, 2011

The International Council for Urban Peace, Justice and Empowerment in Conjunction with The West Coast Coalition




Who: International Council for Urban Peace, Justice and Empowerment in conjunction with the West Coast Coalition.
What: Solidarity with the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers
When: Now!
Where: Pelican Bay Prison and the 13 other prisons who have joined in solidarity
Why: Massive Human Rights Violations and Inhumane treatment

Cleveland, Ohio: As the largest National Network of grassroots, faith and community based organization dedicated to Urban Peace, Justice and Empowerment we are calling on all of our member organizations and like minded human beings to support the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike. ICUPJE serves as an umbrella organization with over 35 affiliates throughout the United States and globally. For over 17 years, the Council has sponsored several National Urban Peace (Street Organization) and Justice Summits. The Council has initiated prevention, intervention and transformation work all over the U.S. and globally to affect change in the lives of youth impacted by racism, poverty, inequality and injustice.

On July 1, 2011, many of the prisoners at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison in California began a hunger strike after all efforts to receive humane treatment fell on deaf ears. These brothers are in the Secure Housing Unit are seeking an end to torture and improved conditions that in their complaint would be increase their privileges to those of the inmates in the Federal Florence Colorado and Ohio Supermax Systems. These brothers have been enduring inadequate medical care, at times being chained down if they ask for medical care, enduring years of isolation and no human contact, inadequate clothing, denial of any chance of taking programs to get their lives on track such as correspondence courses, not being able to have a photograph taken of them to send to relatives-the list of horrors is endless.

One of the most disturbing is the "debriefing" process, which an inmate must do to get transferred out of the SHU or even be given a chance for parole. This process basically demands an inmate become an informant, giving details of gang affiliation and associates of inmates, placing themselves as well as their families at risk for retaliation. Most of the inmates who have been in the SHU for the last 10-35+ years have never been convicted of a single gang-related illegal-act. In some cases this has caused inmates to falsify information on other inmates, causing further restrictions on the inmate.

Inmates cannot hug their wives and children but must see them through a glass, and that is with very limited visitation. Imagine living 20 or 30 years with no human contact or touch. Imagine inadequate medical care, denial of assistive medical devices, imagine horrible food and inadequate clothing. Now imagine that this prisoner of war camp does not exist in Nazi Germany, but in the State of California. Now imagine your son or your brother or your husband or your father was incarcerated there. As human beings, these men are our brothers, fathers, uncles, husbands and grandfathers.


Ron Jacobs, author and journalist:

I strongly support the demands of the hunger strikers in California State Prisons. For too long the living conditions in California's prisons have been inhumane and inexcusable. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with this appraisal. In addition, the use of torture and the isolation of prisoners in the Secure Housing Units of prisons like the one at Pelican Bay constitute a violation of basic human rights. People should not be forced to starve themselves to be treated like humans. There is no honest reason not to grant the striking prisoners' demands. If any of the striking prisoners die, their deaths will be on the State of California's hands. I urge Governor Brown and the appropriate authorities to grant the demands of the hunger strikers and their supporters.


Derrick Jensen, author

I used to teach at Pelican Bay State Prison, and in fact used to teach people who had been housed in the SHU for years. Some had been locked down for decades. By any reasonable definition, holding someone in these conditions of long-term isolation constitutes torture, and as such is immoral.

Before I began teaching at the prison, the person who became my supervisor emphasized the importance of treating those who would be my students with respect. I will never forget what he said to me: "The punishment for their crimes is that they will be removed from society. Their punishment does not include being disrespected by you or by anyone." I would certainly add that likewise, their punishment should not include torture.


Dedon Kamathi, Producer & Host of KPFK's Radio Program Freedom Now

On behalf of our production team we fully support and will continually provide air time to the 5 demands of the Prison Hunger Strikers, an action that follows the rich tradition of prisoners civil rights protests to challenge the prison industrial complex. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation does neither correction nor rehabilitation and it is to be commended that these brave men regardless of race and status and punishment united on a fundamental principle of human rights the right to safe living environment in fact providing direction to the CDCR. We stand in full solidarity.


Jeffrey Kaye, Ph.D.:

As a matter of basic humanity and support for the principles of justice, all Americans should support the protest of the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay and other California prisons. Driven by desperation over the conditions of their incarceration, and double-dealing by the state prison authorities, they are putting their very lives on the line to let the public know about the injurious and inhumane conditions under which they are incarcerated. The solitary confinement and the indefinite terms under which that such isolation is endured is a fact of life in the SHU units. It amounts to torture.

Yet it is not without its diabolical intent, as the psychological coercion of isolation, the weakening of inmate will by providing inadequate food, and the constant and institutional demands to inform on other prisoners, even at the cost of an end to the torture, goes against all domestic and international laws and treaties, and is itself a crime worthy of investigation and prosecution. It is uncomfortably similar to conditions of detention and interrogation implemented at Guantanamo and certain other U.S. Department of Defense and CIA interrogation centers. Such procedures have been a part of the Federal and state Supermax prisons for almost 30 years now. Failure to end such conditions of imprisonment are an affront to humanity, and have ensured the perpetuation of such conditions even to today. It is not clear that one rationale or operation of such prisons has been to research the effects of stress and physical and psychological deprivation upon prisoners. This is something that should be seriously looked into by legislators and judges, as well as the press.

U.S. prison and national security authorities have stepped over the bounds of basic human rights, and should be held accountable. It is most pressing that the demands of the prisoners be met: an end to group punishment of prisoners, an end to the hated "debriefing" system, compliance with the recommendations of the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement, independent monitoring of food and sanitation (to ensure adequate provision of each), and the provision of constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates, including opportunities "to engage in self-help treatment, education, religious and other productive activities."


Lierre Keith, author

Please add my name to the list of supporters for the hunger strike.


Robin D. G. Kelley, Professor of History and American Studies, University of Southern California:

Anyone who believes in human rights, the rule of law, and the sanctity of our Constitution must support the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay State and demand that prison authorities respond to demands immediately. The use of long-term, indefinite solitary confinement in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) is inhumane, a clear violation of the Eighth Amendment, and violates the U.N. Convention Against Torture. The situation is urgent. The hunger strikers cannot hang on much longer, so we must do whatever it takes to bring this crisis to an end. If prison authorities refuse to abide by the law, I hope the Attorney General, Kamala Harris, might intervene and impose the rule of law on the prison in defense of prisoners' basic human rights.

I urge everyone to take action, make statements, bring this horrific situation to the world's attention.


Fatemeh Keshavarz, Iranian academic, writer and literary figure, Professor of Persian Language and Comparative Literature and chair of the department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures at Washington University in St. Louis:

I am an Iranian American academic and activist who has worked for peace and justice all her life. One of my chief concerns has always been the harsh conditions in Iranian prisons particularly for Iranian political prisoners. Yesterday, your website was brought to my attention and the California prisoners who are on hunger strike demanding more humane conditions and freedom from torture (including long periods of solitary confinement).

I am writing to you to express my full support for strikers demand to be treated humanely and kept free from physical and psychological torture.

My prayers for peace in the world and best wishes for you.



Joyce Kozloff, artist:

It's time for the State of California to begin negotiations with the prisoners, whose legitimate demands must be respected.


Rev. Rich Lang, University Temple United Methodist:

What we are doing in our prisons is fundamentally immoral and cruel. As a society we have given up on believing that prison can be a time of rehabilitation goaled towards the re-entry of the prisoner back into society as a productive contributor to the civil order. Rather than this prison has become a place of punishment. It is no longer enough to separate the prisoner from society through restrictions of freedom. Today we, as a society, have created places of damnation where prisoners are left to rot while facing enormous abuses and assaults on their safety, their sanity and the very basic structure of their personality. Prison has become a place for ongoing torture, the torment of the human being until complete passivity and despair become the primary characteristic of the prisoner. From the simple basics of receiving visits from family and friends, to the even simpler basics of receiving communications via phone calls or mail become enormously complex interactions with the Department of Corrections which, evidently, has as its primary role the goal of isolating the prisoner from all outside contact. What does this say about the morality of our nation? It is a basic spiritual given that how we treat the least in our midst will become how we treat each other. Without a moral base of basic trust, an earnest desire to heal the wounded, and to reconcile and restore individuals back into the society from which they have come, without a basic affirmation that human beings can be good, without such a moral foundation society itself collapses into a continual war of domination of the stronger over the weaker. That prisoners are so tormented that they engage in the act of hunger strikes, that such actions spread throughout the prison system, and amongst those who personally know prisoners, speaks with a loud, loud voice that something is fundamentally amiss within these secret chambers away from public accountability. I write in strong protest against the systematic torture at the core of our current immoral prison system. I write in stronger affirmation for the prisoners whose actions will hopefully lead to reform and the restoration of civic morality.


Heinz Leitner

I am a retired official of the Federal Ministry of Labour in Vienna, Austria, and a former representative of this organization in the Austrian Board of Paroles for some time. I am in full solidarity with the inmates in their courageous protest against inhumane conditions in the prisons.

Solidarity Without Borders


Harry Lennix, Actor:

I, too, am in support of the striking California prisoners. As Dostoevsky said: "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." There is no doubt in my mind that the dishonorable, clearly unjust, and viciously inhumane state of our prisons bespeak a kind of artificial intelligence. More plainly, the treatment of fellow human beings who are incarcerated, many of whom are behind bars due to the disparities of our so-called democracy, is due to a lack of opportunity in the outside world. This reinforces the view that our fellow citizens behind bars can be treated as statistics and not as people. The state of California has acknowledged at least this much in the call for the release of 40,000 prisoners due to obviously inhumane conditions that qualify as "cruel and unusual." I stand with all concerned Americans who are demanding reform of our prison system. California is as a likely a place to begin as any other state, for the urgency of redressing this issue has additional purchase of it being the most populous, and therefore the most vulnerable to indoctrinating and repeating, the savage cycle of making criminal behavior habitual as a direct function of the prison industrial complex.

In solidarity,


Dennis Loo, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, Cal Poly Pomona:

I write with alarm at the desperate situation that prisoners at Pelican Bay and elsewhere face today. Some of the prisoners are already in renal failure, yet the prison administrators continue to refuse to even meet with prison representatives to discuss the prisoners' just and humane demands.

A society's level of humanity or inhumanity can be read by looking at how it treats those it incarcerates. By that measure, we as a people and society are in deep trouble. The prisoners who have stood up and said "No more" and I would rather die than see these injustices and this inhumanity continue, are doing what real human beings must do. They deserve our support and solidarity, for they carry the weight of our collective souls on their shoulders.

I am a criminologist and have studied, taught, and written about prisons and jails for many years. It therefore comes as no surprise to me to hear that prisoners are systematically mistreated or that prisons are overcrowded and subjected to the kind of conditions that you would create if you actually wanted to exacerbate the problem of crime and poverty.  What is heartrending and striking, however, is observing the startling parallels between how much more savage prisons have become and the impact of the so-called "war on terror" (WOT) on our society more generally.

There is a general degrading underway of public administration and political leadership that emanates from the very highest levels of the U.S. government, with the willing collusion - or at least silence - of much of the major media. In that degrading of public leadership, the most draconian policies are now becoming the standard operating procedure and rule by lies and terror, and indifference to the fates of people who do not toe the official line, are now the rule.

In the WOT people who the government dislikes, both actual terrorists and those who are merely dissenters engaging in or merely contemplating dissenting speech and/or assembly and/or thought are all being labeled enemies of the state. The repressive powers of the state are being expanded and intensified to pre-emptively repress people from exercising Constitutional rights such as free speech. In prisons the prison administrators likewise label prisoners "gang members" as a form of repression, designating people as gang members whether they are actually gang members or not. 

In the WOT torture and indefinite detention has been and is being used to extract "confessions" from detainees with the net cast exceedingly widely to include mostly entirely innocent individuals. This is not a mistake or an accident. The purpose of torture is not intelligence. The purpose of torture is terror and that is why capricious treatment of innocents is a core component of torture: you are supposed to be terrorized by its use into complying with whatever authority tells you to do and think because you could be the next innocent victim. In prisons torture and long-term isolation are being used to terrorize prisoners. "Debriefings" are being used in an attempt to get prisoners to "name names," much as the House UnAmerican Activities Committee of the McCarthy period did. "Naming names" is seen by those who act as inquisitors as the ultimate act of submission to authority because you are implicating your friends and family.

The WOT is a form of collective punishment and prison administrators are using collective punishment in prisons, with punishment meted out to everyone, not just the individuals who have actually violated rules. 

These parallels are not a coincidence. They are a natural and inevitable consequence of rule by plutocrats. People who see this must find every way to resist and to support those who are resisting. A new day must come, for the darkness grows ever deeper and malignant.



I stand firm with this Hunger Strike and Solidarity for my Loved ones my friends and All who are in this struggle for human respect and a better life. Just a little note on conditions in prisons ( INHUMANE ). I am a X-Convict and what goes on in there is real. C.D.C.R. Don't give a shit all they want is for those on the outside world to think they have everything under control, WRONG nothing is what it seems and as for what these Men and Loved ones of ours are asking for should not be a problem for C.D.C.R. They can pay a correctional officer the big bucks but what good does it do? The inmates still are treated the same and i should know as many times i have been incarcerated in several prison's I know what goes on. So I give my all SUPPORT TO ALL THE MEN AND WOMAN WHO ARE ON THIS HUNGER STRIKE!!!!! I only hope that we can resolve this issue before we lose our Loved One's. "I pray that God gives them the strength to carry out what they are fighting for AMEN"


Ray McGovern

July 22, 2011
Dear Gov. Brown,

I'm thinking that the Jesuits who educated you probably told you, as they did me, that Ignatius of Loyola required all Jesuits, including the highly educated ones, to empty bedpans at local hospitals and prisons on a regular basis. 

The current crisis in California prisons brings this to mind and prompts my appeal to you to remember what you and I learned in high school and college in the Fifties. A huge opportunity has been dropped on your doorstep to bring Justice for those in prison.

Ignatius wanted to ensure that his followers in the Society of Jesus would not forsake the society of ordinary—often marginalized—folks like the ones Jesus of Nazareth hung out with.

Ignatius, you may remember, was all too familiar with the kind of suffering and oppression in hospitals and prisons. The bedpan requirement was his way of warning his followers not to trade Jesus's preferential option for the poor for the allure of ivory towers—or for governors' mansions, for that matter.

Let me fast-forward to one of Ignatius's more recent successors—Hans-Peter Kolvenbach, S.J., who led the Society from 1983 to 2008. Like so many Jesuits Kolvenbach was over-educated in the Academy. By the time he became Superior General, though, he had gotten Jesus's main thrust exactly right, saying this:

"Personal involvement with the injustice others suffer is the catalyst for solidarity. This, then, gives rise to intellectual inquiry and moral reflection."

And so did Ignacio Ellacuria, S.J., get it right. Speaking last November on the 21st anniversary of the murder of his six Jesuit colleagues in San Salvador, their housekeeper and her daughter, Ellacuria warned:

"Cuando la situación histórica se define en términos de injusticia y opresión, no hay amor cristiano sin lucha por la justicia." ["When the historical situation is defined in terms of injustice and oppression, there is no Christian love without a fight for justice."]

Very much in the same tradition is Dean Brackley, S.J., who was a professor at my alma mater, Fordham University, and also a community organizer in my native Bronx. Dean left immediately for El Salvador to replace one of the slain Jesuits, and has been there ever since. Before he left, Dean put his theology in language we Bronxites could readily grasp:

"It all depends on who you think God is, and how God feels when little people get pushed around."

Governor Brown, I believe I know "where you're coming from," as folks say these days. At Fordham Prep and College during the 1950s in the Bronx, I experienced the best of the Ratio Studiorum and the college curricula the Jesuits had to offer. You had a similar, if not identical, experience in high school and college in California.

But nothing is perfect. I've since become aware of one earlier misunderstanding. In Moral Theology we were taught that the basic thing to remember was the mandate to "Do good and avoid evil."

Taking refresher courses in theology at Georgetown several years ago, I learned that this formula is only half-right. We are not called to avoid evil; we are called to confront it — in the prison system, and anywhere else injustice reigns.

Again, I think I know where you're coming from, but I cannot say I know where you're going. It's hard to see you now in the same frame with bedpans — the ones at Pelican Bay, for example.  This may be metaphor, but it is, I would suggest, a telling one. And I would urge you to reflect on it. 

Are you afraid that, if you rise to Kolvenbach's invitation to "personal involvement with the injustice others suffer," this might leave you no option but to act prophetically—and take the political flak? Please don't get tied up in political knots. I'm guessing you still believe that the eventual reward for a prophetic stance will be out of this world, so to speak.

I guess what I am really asking you is to go back to your roots. Pay heed not only to the example of Jesuits like Kolvenbach, Ellacuria and Brackley, but also to Bishop Oscar Romero, who so often repeated to the oppressed Salvadoran people what Jesus repeated with similar frequency: "Don't be afraid." Romero was quite specific in his challenge:

"Hay cristiano hoy en dia significa no temer, no callar por miedo." ["To be a Christian today means not being afraid, not silenced by fear."]

Silence, inaction are not options for followers of Jesus and Ignatius, both of whom mandated preferential concern and care for the marginalized—prisoners, for example.

You are in a unique position to do Justice. Do it, Jerry, ad majorem Dei gloriamAMDG, the emblematic Jesuit motto.

In Truth, Justice, and (then) Peace,

Ray McGovern
Tell the Word
The Ecumenical Church of the Saviour
Washington, DC


Cynthia McKinney, former Georgia Congresswoman and 2008 Green Party Presidential Nominee

The prison-industrial-media-banking complex and the military-industrial-media-banking complex feed on all of us; they both are rooted in lies, injustice, war, and indignity. Today, our policy makers prop up poverty, militarism, and racism with their words and their votes. We, the people, need a revolution of values, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us. You, my brave imprisoned strikers, are at the forefront of that revolution. Your stand is the ultimate stand, representing the dignity of the rest of us in a country whose leadership has gone mad.


William S. Miller

I agree with the prisoner strike. I have a son who is incarcerated, his sentence is natural life. Over the years I have not been able to send him money on a regular basis. He constantly complains about being hungry. It grieves my heart the inhumanity that is carried out in the name of justice.


Shahrzad Mojab, Professor, University of Toronto and the coordinator of the Memory, Memoirs and the Art: Women Political Prisoners of the Middle East project:

I am appalled to hear about the condition of the inmates of Corcoran State prison. I have been studying the condition of women political prisoners in the Middle East for decades. The voices of these courageous women have reached the international community; they have told us about torture, rape, and overall inhumane conditions of imprisonment. However, and most importantly, they have informed us about resisting the violent act of incarceration through hunger strike or raising their voice loud enough to travel beyond the prison walls. Learning about the hunger strike of prisoners in California has evoked the images of suffering and sacrifice, but mostly hope in building solidarity. I stand in solidarity with the prisoners and request an urgent end to their suffering by addressing their demands.


Tom Morello, musician, The Nightwatchman, Rage Against the Machine

On Mandela's bday Support Pelican Bay inmates hunger strike! Calif meet their 5 human rights demands! [tweeted July 18th]


a commentary by
Mumia Abu Jamal
July 15, 2011

Today, at the notorious California super-maximum prison, Pelican Bay, hundreds of prisoners are on a hunger strike. As of July 1, 2011 a number of men ceased eating state meals in protest of horrendously long-term confinement, government repression, lack of programs and the hated gang affiliation rules.

According to California Prison Focus, the health of some the men are dangerously deteriorating. Some have ceased drinking, as well as eating and haven't urinated in days. Some are threatened by renal failure, which can result in death.

Why? The demands of the strikers seem relatively tame, which gives us some insight into the level of repression. The five core demands are:

  1. Individual instead of group responsibility.
  2. Abolition of the "gang-debriefing" policy, which endangers both those who debrief and/or their families.
  3. An end to long-term solitary confinement.
  4. Adequate food, and
  5. Constructive programs, such as art, phone privileges and the like.

A sub-demand is adequate natural sunlight – sunlight. There are few things more torturous than dying by starvation. These men are killing themselves potentially for fresh air and sunlight, and about a third of California prisoners, 11 out of 33 prisons, have joined them.

Contact the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition to find out how to support this effort for human rights. On the web at:

From Death Row, this is Mumia Abu Jamal.


National Religious Campaign Against Torture

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture sent this notice out to its 9,000 members in California.

Dear NRCAT Supporters in CA:

Hunger strikes are the last resort of prisoners protesting inhumane conditions of confinement.  We have seen that happen at Guantánamo, and now it is happening at Pelican Bay State Prison in northern California, where hundreds of prisoners are held in prolonged solitary confinement, a form of torture.

Prisoners across the state launched a hunger strike on July 1, demanding changes for prisoners in long-term solitary confinement in the "Special Housing Unit" (SHU). Conditions are so bad they have preferred to starve themselves to death rather than live another week in such torturous conditions and let future prisoners endure the same conditions.

As people of faith committed to ending torture, we must support this call as a part of our work to end the use of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons.

After two weeks, at least 200 prisoners continue their hunger strike at Pelican Bay, where medical staff reported earlier this week:

"The prisoners are progressing rapidly to the organ damaging consequences of dehydration. They are not drinking water and have decompensated rapidly. A few have tried to sip water but are so sick that they are vomiting it back up. Some are in renal failure and have been unable to make urine for 3 days. Some are having measured blood sugars in the 30 range, which can be fatal if not treated."

Please take action today to prevent these prisoners from dying!
Send an e-mail to Governor Brown
urging that the hunger strike be addressed in a humane and rational way.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has so far refused to negotiate with either the prisoners or their outside mediation team and refused to end even the most egregious injustices or improve conditions. If CDCR continues on this path, prisoners may die in the coming days.

Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity is coordinating the statewide campaign to support the prisoners and providing up-to-date information. You can also read the prisoners' five core demands and their "formal complaint," which lays out the foundation for the demands. Amplify your voice - send a message to your friends.

Thank you for taking action today.


John Humphries
Director for Program Coordination


The following was posted at: The Next Front website:

Solidarity with the Pelican Bay Prisoners

Dated: 21 July,2011

First of all we the revolutionary intellectuals–writers and journalists of Nepal, would like to express our strong Solidarity with the pelican bay hunger strikes, the strikes against inhumanity and brutal injustices. In support of them we are posting a poem of our great martyr, a great poet and a political leader–Krishnasen Ichchhuk.

During the Ten years People's war, the fascist government lead by Nepali Congress declared the period of emergency. During this period a large number of culture activists were shot dead. At that time Krishna Sen, the chairman of All Nepal Peoples Cultural Association and editor of popular daily news paper Janadisha, was captured and murdered brutally in the police custody. Now we have Krishna sen 'Ichchhuk Cultural Academy'.

This is an extract from Krishna sen's popular long poem Chandragiri and Prisoner (2000 AD). Chandragiri is a historic hill in the southward of the Kathmandu valley. He had written this long poem during his long imprisonment.

Dear Chandragiri!

I tried to live full and true life till I lived
in the dual paths of light and dark
I chose the first
amidst the antagonistic milieu
I adopted truth with full devotion
however, life is not perfect
I may have made mistakes
dear comrades!
for my mistakes, forgive me
after a long dark night
the day of hope of liberation
will come once
as the shining light of dawn
from the seeds of our hope
the new plant will sprout one day
flowers of hope must bloom
till human beings are not human
life is not like life
and till this land is not
transformed into charming village
until then
our firm journey of devotion shall persist
with an aim of building a collective world
our dream world of hope
will be materialized into a colorful reality
and this era of twenty-first century
shall be the era of our grand liberation
and this new century
shall be the era of our grand victory.


Suzanne Oboler, Professor and Editor, Latino Studies:

The conditions in US prisons today are appalling—brutal, violent, and thoroughly inhumane. The inmates on hunger strike at Pelican Bay and other prisons are literally putting their lives on the line, fighting for their dignity and for their right to have rights. I fully support the prisoners at Pelican Bay in their courageous struggle to affirm their humanity—and ours!


Professor Bertell Ollman, Dept. of Politics, New York University:

Sometimes it takes the least fortunate and most oppressed members of society to act in ways that force the rest of us to see how human beings should treat other human beings. In this case, it is not only for their sake but for ours as well. Does the lesson come too late? I hope not ... for all of our sakes.


William Parker, Musician:

The general public has no idea of the horrific inhuman conditions that exist within the United States penal system. A system which has been a breeding ground for crime, violence and drugs. Change / Abolishment of the prison system is long over due. Act now!


44 participants of the 17th Annual Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference

Petition To Support The Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers

We, the undersigned participants in the 17th Annual Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference being held in Chicago July 20-23, are motivated in our thinking and actions by the theme of this conference "We Are Each Other's Harvest."  In Gwendolyn Brooks' poem entitled "Paul Robeson," she writes, "[W]e are each other's harvest: we are each other's business: we are each other's magnitude and bond."

In that spirit, we stand with the prisoners who are in the third week of their hunger strike against the inhumane conditions in Pelican Bay SHU and other California prisons. Decades of solitary confinement with no end in sight, no court to appeal to, no human contact, and no sunlight is torture, and we salute the humanity of the prisoners who are taking their fate in their own hands to protest these conditions.  We urge the state officials to meet with the prisoners' negotiating team, accept their reasonable demands, and save these prisoners' lives. And we encourage others to join us in spreading the word of this heroic hunger strike and raising our voices in protest. By acting to uphold the humanity of these prisoners, we have an opportunity to reclaim our own humanity and demonstrate that "We are each other's harvest."  

Signed by 44 participants of the 17th Annual Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference
Chicago, IL


Larry Pinkney, Editorial Board Member & Columnist, THE BLACK COMMENTATOR

I express my strongest solidarity with the hunger strike of these courageous prisoners in California (and elsewhere) who are protesting the outrageous and inhumane treatment, which includes torture in the U.S. prison gulag system. "Justice delayed is justice denied;" and it is the human duty of all people of conscience and good will to support these prisoners.


Katha Pollitt, author and columnist, The Nation magazine:

All prisoners deserve humane conditions, no matter what their crime. If Pelican Bay were in a foreign country, we would be horrified. I support the prisoners on hunger strike, and urge authorities to support their demands.


Anthony Rayson on behalf of South Chicago ABC

Courage is Contagious

We are here today in downtown Chicago, home to the world's largest jail complex—Cook County Jail—to show our support to the brave, conscious and determined brothers who are starting their fourth week of an indefinite hunger strike, out west at the Pelican bay Secured Housing Units.  They are forced to live under Guantanamo Bay-like conditions.

            Their five core demands are:

  1. End administrative abuse and group punishment.
  2. Abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria.
  3. Comply with U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons 2006 recommendations regarding and end to long-term solitary confinement.
  4. Provide adequate food.
  5. Expand and provide constrictive programming and privileges for indefinite SHU status prisoners.

It's not just the Pelican Bay prisoners who are now on strike!  Seven prisons and over seven thousand prisoners have taken their battle stations at their respective Cali gulags.

            One hundred brave brothers started this thing, resolving to strike unto death, if necessary!  This is on the heels of the largest prison strike in American history, up until now, which occurred recently in several prisons in Georgia, which are nothing more than slave plantations, dolled up with legal mumbo jumbo.

            The growing hunger strike movement is already on the level, internationally, of the Irish hunger strikers of the 1980's – ten of whom painfully gave up their young lives for the cause.  Their hearts too were bursting with love for the people.

            This is a significant opportunity to put the prison struggle back on the front burner (where it rightfully belongs) of the generalized struggle against this hideous death machine of a government.

            It only took one man, who pushed a vegetable cart for a living in Tunisia, to set the spark that lit the flame that is now roaring into a social conflagration in the Middle East.  Dictators have been toppled—or are quaking in fear behind the blood-soaked overcoat of Uncle Sam.

            The prisoners at Pelican Bay and in every state, are in there for us, it is our historic task to be out here for real, for them.  This goes for all the other oppressed people in this country, who are oppressed by this system.

            What is it going to take to set off the political prairie fire needed right here in the belly of the beast?

      I've got an idea and it's very simple, it goes like this:


Abolish the Prison Slave System!

Down with Criminals who hide behind black nightgowns, expensive suits, badges, guns, gas, cuffs, clubs and cages!

To hell with their million laws that we never agreed to!

      Why the hell would we agree to allowing them to extort, kidnap and murder us with impunity?

      William Lloyd Garrison had it right!  He called the Constitution "a pact with the Devil?"  And, to this day, "legal" human slavery is still in the linchpin of that vile rag?

      Thank you prisoners for this much needed wake-up call.  Now, it is up to us to stop being afraid of our shadows and do some serious organizing.  The people I n Syria are facing Assad's snipers every time they hit the streets.  Are we gonna shackle our children's futures because of some stupid cameras?

On to the social revolution!
Ona Move!
One Love!
Free the prisoners!
Stop the Wars!
Each One, Teach One!
Unplug ALL governments!

Thank you!


Boots Riley, The Coup, Street Sweeper Social Club

Prisoners locked in isolation in the United States penal system are subjected to torturous conditions, without the ability to redress them. This is a question of human rights. It is a sad day when prisoners locked in the hole have to risk their lives with a hunger strike—not to be set free, not for a major change to the prison system, but for the right to be treated with a modicum of human dignity. To have adequate food, and to have it not tampered with by guards. To see natural sunlight. To not be locked in isolation indefinitely. Some people are locked in the hole for decades. We can not turn a blind eye to this. I stand in solidarity with the demands of the hunger strike and I salute those of you who are striking and supporting this fight.


Mark Ruffalo, actor/director:

Today prisoners of Corcoran prison, Pelican Bay and several others have joined in a large scale hunger strike to end the inhuman treatment they are receiving in Security Housing Units. Many of them are so deep in their strike for fair treatment they are near dying. Ask yourself what it would take for you to do such a thing? What lowness of suffering would you endure to starve yourself for weeks on end? For all of their wrongs they are still people and we are responsible for their humane care and wellbeing. I support their efforts for fair and humane treatment in our prison system and hope that decency on the part of our jailers prevails.


Susan Sarandon:

I support the inmates of Corcoran State prison, pelican bay, and other prisons in their demands to end the inhumane policies of SECURITY HOUSING UNITS.  I recognize their humanity and stand with them. 


Saskia Sassen:

We have long known about the often extreme abuse of prisoners and violations of their most basic rights. Hundreds of prisoners are right now on the 15th day of a hunger strike—they would rather die than continue living with such brutality. We must, we need, we have to support their cause.

(Saskia Sassen is Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology and Co-Chair, Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University, New York City)


Pamela Selwyn

I stand in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike in my home state of California. That we have such a large proportion of our citizens in prison is a mark of shame, and that we treat them so shabbily even more so.


Cindy Sheehan, Peace Activist, mother of Casey Sheehan who lost his life in the Iraq War:

I lend my voice and support to the courageous prisoners on hunger strike against inhumane conditions, cruelty and torture in Pelican Bay, Corcoran, and other prisons throughout California.


Matthew Shipp, musician

"I support the courageous brothers and sisters who are on hunger strike in pelican bay and other prisons. I am scratching my head trying to understand how these inhumane conditions benefit anyone—obviously just adds to a vicious cycle—these conditions are degrading to all of us and all of our humanity not just the prisoners—something must be done.''


Susan Slotnick

We Need To Know

It's summer. Yesterday I swam one mile back and forth, eighteen times, across Lake Mohonk. I was drifting, just floating and breathing—the water rocking me to sleep in the summer heat. It's so easy to forget everything else and just float.

But I remember when life didn't seem so peaceful in summer. I can recall a time when the evening news jolted my entire generation and me from our waking sleep. We were at war then just as we are now. At night we watched, in horrid disbelief, the images of war played out over and over on the television news. Body bags full of kids my age received by screaming parents, all televised, along with their Vietnamese counterparts who were also screaming and crying. If there was a protest, we watched it. If American Indians demanded their rights, we witnessed it. If students all over the nation took over buildings on their campuses in protest of this country's egregious acts of violence, we heard about it. If prisoners were rising up and forcefully asking to be treated humanely, we knew it. We talked about it. We wanted to be part of it. We were part of it.

Although we are at war, we see no carnage. There are no interviews with maimed soldiers. If there are protests to see, to inspire us to act, to join, where are they?

Instead (at this writing on July18) the whole nation watches as a pathetic, dull girl named Casey Anthony is led out of prison at midnight by her lawyer. That's big news. Ultimately this news will not interfere with my desire to swim. I could be swimming right now. Its 95 degrees out today but I am writing this instead.

I know there are many people in New Paltz, both liberal and conservative who care about human decency. I don't know when this will be published or what you will know by the time it is, maybe still nothing.

One would think that a massive hunger strike going on at this moment in thirteen prisons in California by an estimated 6600 prisoners would trump Casey Anthony's short walk last night from the Orange County Jail in Orlando Florida. It did not.

The hunger strike began July 1 at Pelican Bay Prison and it has spread to 13 other prisons across the state. While many of the striking prisoners have resumed eating, there remains a core group of prisoners (reportedly 1700) who have said they are willing to starve to death.

According to the New York Times, the "California prison system has long been riddled with problems." Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court placed the California prison system into federal receivership due to its deplorable health care provisions. Following that decision, this May, the Supreme Court issued a decision ruling the conditions of California's prisons amounted to "cruel and unusual punishment, intolerable with the concept of human dignity," causing "needless suffering and death."

Justice Anthony Kennedy spoke from the bench about the hundreds of suicidal prisoners being held in "telephone booth-sized cages without toilets and others, sick with cancer or in severe pain, who died before being seen by a doctor. As many as 200 prisoners may live in a gymnasium, and as many as 54 may share a single toilet."

Kennedy, whose opinion was joined by his four liberal colleagues, said the state's prisons were built to hold 80,000 inmates, but were crowded with as many 156,000 a few years ago."


They want to stop the practice of being sent into total isolation (security housing units), locked-up 23 hours-a-day, often for decades of enforced idleness and isolation from others without having committed a crime or even an infraction of prison regulations. Sometimes this policy is simply a matter of administrative convenience. It's easier to control them under these conditions.

Psychiatrist and Harvard professor, Stuart Grassian has stated "that the environment in 'the hole' (isolation units) results in hallucinations, paranoia and delusions." In a "60 Minutes" interview, he went so far as to call it "far more egregious than the death penalty." The striking prisoners call it "torture."

Since closing state mental hospitals (also a national shameful human fights failure) many of the mentally ill who should be hospitalized are warehoused in prison. It is often these prisoners who wind-up in solitary confinement since they are difficult to handle.

The prisoners are especially protesting the practice of "debriefing" as a means of getting out of isolation. "Alleged" gang members are asked to name names, snitch on fellow inmates, gang members, and friends in order to be released from the SHU (security housing units) often if they do this, they are in danger of being killed when they return to the general population.

Sometimes a prisoner will lie about his compatriots just to keep from going insane in the SHU. At times a prisoner will have to go into "protective custody" after disclosing information. Protective Custody is merely a euphemism for another form of solitary confinement.

We should feel morally uneasy about this method of attaining information. If you torture someone, give them no view of the outside world from a window, no sunlight, no medical care, few rehabilitative programs, little or no access to family support, and then they give information it is tainted at best and illegally coerced at worse.

All these men can do to address their predicament is to stop eating. They have no other recourse. Allowing them to choose death as a protest against continued inhumane treatment is a travesty of negligence. If you didn't know about this because the media doesn't believe this news will garner as much money as the meaningless and sensational, now you do. If you are still reading, consider this a letter from me to you, personally. There are ways to get involved.

You can:

Email your statement back to me at "" and I will forward it to the right party. Also, send this article to your own list of contacts.

Mail a hard copy of your support for the prisoners to:
– Secretary Matthew Cate, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 1515 S Street, Sacramento, CA 95814 AND Governor Jerry Brown, State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814.

It's a beautiful day. We have so much freedom and so much abundance in our country. It's not necessary to constantly go about beating ourselves up about what is wrong to be effective in taking action to correct it. We can become informed about what is going on and still be happy. Rather than turn a blind eye to injustice we can find more happiness and peace by trying to fix it in small ways. It's only six o'clock. The sun will be up for at least three more hours. There is still time for me to find a place to swim.

July 18, 2011


Michael Steven Smith
Attorney at Law, New York, NY
Co-host Law and Disorder Radio, Board Member, The Center for Constitutional Rights*:

A society can be judged on how it treats the least amongst us. The conditions under which the prisoners at Pelican Bay in California are held under prolonged isolation, which induce the disintegration of the human personality, are plainly torturous and an assault on their humanity and an affront to ours. One Guantánamo was one indecency too many. The demands of the prisoners for humane treatment must be met.

* For identification only


Gloria Steinem, Author and feminist activist:

I support the courage of thousands of California prisoners who are risking their health and lives to call attention to dangerous and de-humanizing prison conditions. We are all human beings who cannot survive in isolation. Now, even before change comes, please know you are being heard. We ask Governor Jerry Brown and all relevant officials to listen and to create prisons that do not bring shame to this country.


David Strathairn, actor:

What does it portend for any citizen, incarcerated or not, if their OWN NATION  is not held accountable for the violation of its OWN laws,  specified in its Own Constitution, that deal with the humane treatment and conditions of incarceration?  To continually allow, deny, ignore, even tacitly accept, these deplorable abuses can only lead to the ultimate breakdown of our justice system and the ascendancy of a society ruled by oppression and repression.  It can only lead us further into a darkness in which no one person will be able to trust that they are equal under any  law.  That laws are only the bastinados of the rich and powerful. If we choose to think of ourselves as a just and humane people setting an example for others to follow, then to NOT speak out against this,  is corrosively hypocritical.  It breeds a communality of cynicism and shame and makes us all prisoners. Simply out of common decency and respect for each other, for the preservation of a fair and just society, the demands of these people must honored. 


Rose Styron, poet and human rights activist

I'm appalled to learn conditions in California prisons are so inhumane that a hunger strike has been launched. Let's hope it does not need a death like Bobby Sands' in Northern Ireland to bring attention and reform. The unconscionable treatment of human beings trapped in certain American prisons has been a concern voiced by Amnesty International for decades. How can caring citizens in a decent society tolerate such brutality? Torture? This mass injustice denigrates our nation and its concept of law. It diminishes each of us. We must support the strikers in any way we can.


Prisoners Have Nothing to Gain By Eating
By David Swanson

Prisoners risking death by refusing food in the Pelican Bay supermax, and those hunger striking in solidarity in prisons around California are a judgment of our sickness. "The degree of civilization in a society," said Dostoyevsky, "can be judged by entering its prisons."

Civilization is something we no longer seem to aspire to. The United States locks up more people and a greater percentage of its people than anyone else. We lock them in training centers for anger and violence. We subject them to rape, assault, humiliation, and isolation. We throw the innocent in with the guilty, the young with the old, the nonviolent with the violent, the hopeful with those who've lost all interest in life.

And we routinely subject large numbers of prisoners to the torture of near-total isolation. We lock human beings in little boxes for 22 or 23 hours per day. When it's done to an accused whistleblower like Bradley Manning, we protest. But what about when it's done to thousands of people, many of them baselessly accused of being members of gangs? Where is the outrage?

We should be refusing to eat. We should be shutting down our government with nonviolent action. We should be risking the lives we have. Instead the burden has fallen to those who have little or no lives to risk. The prisoners themselves are taking action and gaining power from behind bars.

Look at the prisoners' demands. They want an end to group punishment of individual rules violations. That seems like a basic requirement of justice. Bombing a nation because some terrorists spent time there may make sense to our politicians, but it is horribly unjust to the people living and dying under the bombs. Stopping and searching people who look like they might be immigrants may make sense to those whose hatred of immigrants is distorting their thinking, but it is outrageously unjust from the perspective of the innocent people repeatedly harassed. Punishing everyone in a prison for something one person did make sense if the goal is cruelty. But will the innocent prisoners thus abused eventually emerge from prison believing they've been given fair treatment by a justice system with which they should comply? Or will they be released thirsting for vengeance?  Or thirst for vengeance while never being released? And will we be able to keep what we have done to them secret from ourselves?  Will we not continue to grow more ill?

They want an end to the use of completely unreliable criteria for labeling a prisoner a gang member and on that basis subjecting them to the torture of isolation. Should a tattoo or the word of someone offered decent food in exchange for a name really be the test of whether a human being should be placed at risk of severe mental damage? Should anything? Would we stand for another nation treating people this way? Don't tell me it's necessary and responsible. It would cost a lot less money to offer children decent schools and food and guidance than it does to imprison men. This is a luxury. It's a sick indulgence of a wealthy country. We can afford to engage in massive sadistic cruelty. But that shouldn't mean that we have to do it.

They want compliance with the recommendations found in the latest study our government produced to make itself feel better despite ignoring it. They want an end to the long-term solitary confinement that takes people's minds away. They are risking death by starvation to end death by deprivation of human contact. We could risk a lot less to do it for them.
They want adequate food provided to all prisoners and an end to the practice of depriving some and feeding others as a tool for manipulating people like wild beasts. They want basic decency, including the ability to make one phone call per week. They want standards of health and humanity that do not even begin to approach those we are required by international treaty to provide to prisoners of war. For that matter, they want to cease being treated in a manner that would get you locked up with them if you treated a dog or a cat that way.

All the prisoners are asking of us is that we spread the word. But in fact they are not asking this of us. They are offering it to us. They are leading us where we need to go, and doing it from behind bars. We would need to go to this place even if we had no prisons. We are allowing our government to destroy the physical environment. Our children will have no more reason to eat than these prisoners do, if we fail to act. We are allowing our government to murder on a massive scale through what it calls the "Defense" Department, a name as skillfully chosen as that of a "Corrections" Department. We need to do some real defending and correcting. Some of us have plans for October. The least among us are showing us how right now.

(David Swanson is the author of War Is A Lie.)


Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Detained: A Writer's Prison Diary and Wizard of the Crow

We must always remember that prisoners are human beings. The violation of their humanity is a violation of our humanity. We should all constitute a society for the prevention of cruelty and unusual punishment to prisoners or any acts that deny them their humanity.


Nancy Vining Van Ness, Director, American Creative Dance:

This letter is written in support of the prisoners on hunger strike in Pelican Bay and those in other California prisons who are joining in solidarity with them.

Their demands are similar to the recommendations of the bipartisan US Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons, which in 2006 called for substantial reforms to the practice of solitary confinement.  These recommendations have had no effect on California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation policy and practice. 

Solitary confinement treats people who are inherently social beings and must have contact with others to avoid serious mental and physical illness as some other kind of being.  Such treatment dehumanizes prisoners and the guards and officials, including yourselves, who impose it.  It is cruel and inhuman treatment; it is torture.  

The courage of the striking prisoners, some of whom are reported to be nearing death, to refuse food in order to bring attention to their own plight and that of many others is remarkable.  These clearly are human beings in spite of the abuse they receive and the efforts of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to dehumanize them. 

Furthermore, aspects of prisoner treatment in the California system involve extra-judicial punishment, which the striking prisoners are demanding be changed.  I want to point out that this kind of punishment is illegal and must be stopped. 

A statement by a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported in the media that the Department would not be forced to accede to demands because the prisoners have other, appropriate ways to communicate.  What, I ask, can prisoners held over twenty-two hours a day in complete isolation, possibly do to demand redress of just grievances? That they have chosen the hunger strike is a sign that this is the only way left to them to act with human dignity in the barbaric conditions imposed on them. 

I join in their just demands which accord with national policy and I urge that these demands be met immediately before any of these prisoners die. 

Act now and you can avoid the stigma of being a responsible party whose inaction led to the deaths of human beings making just demands, as well as the possible legal consequences of the actions of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.


Ayelet Waldman, novelist and nonfiction writer, currently editing a volume of narratives of women in America 's prisons

As a believer in the protections granted by the United States Constitution, I stand united with the courageous hunger strikers in Pelican Bay, Corcoran and other state prisons. The conditions of prolonged isolation in which many prisoners are kept are violations of basic human rights. We cannot continue to allow these offenses against human dignity to be carried out in our names.


Boyce D. Watkins:

Many Americans believe that the dehumanization of incarcerated individuals has nothing to do with them. But the system affects all of us, as many of our families are devastated by the epidemic of mass incarceration. It helps all Americans to ensure that inmates are given access to education and other tools that will allow them to become productive members of society. Forcing inmates to languish in unspeakable conditions is not only inhumane, it makes America less safe for everyone. The prison system should make people better than they were when they arrived, not worse.

(Boyce D. Watkins, author, economist, political analyst, and social commentator, currently at Syracuse University, has made regular appearances in the media, including CNN, Good Morning America, MSNBC, Fox News, BET, NPR, Essence Magazine, USA Today, The Today Show, ESPN, The Tom Joyner Morning Show and CBS Sports.)


Jay Wenk, Town Councilman, Woodstock, NY:

Those of us who fought in wars for Justice are appalled by the conditions in American prisons. I'm a combat vet of WW2, and I've seen the prison camps of the Third Reich. I've worked in prisons in New York State as a counselor and I've seen goon squads dragging their victims hastily out of sight behind curtains and doors. I don't know what the specific situation is in California, but when I hear that the authorities wont talk with their inmates, I suspect the worst, with good reason. The point is not whether or not these inmates are dangerous criminals, the point is that they are human beings, and must be listened to. This is what our Country is supposed to be about.


Cornel West:

"I am in full solidarity with my brothers in their courageous protest against inhumane conditions in the prisons."


Garrett Wright, Attorney

The five core demands of the thousands of men who have risked their health and very lives in Pelican Bay and over thirty other prisons throughout the California gulag archipelago are demands for the recognition of their fundamental human rights and decency. The hunger strike is a testament to the severity and inhumanity of the conditions inside of supermaximum security prisons and Security Housing Units (SHUs)—these men are willing to risk death to obtain their right to be treated as human beings and not as subhuman objects of control. It is indisputable that the conditions in supermax prisons and SHUs is utterly sadistic and destructive of the bodies and minds of those subjected to its regime - locked up in solitary cells for 23 hours a day, denied physical contact with loved ones during visits that are restricted to once a month, and not provided with adequate food. Other policies that the prisoners demand be altered include an end to collective punishment and "debriefing", wherein prisoners are forced to provide incriminating evidence on other prisoners in exchange for benefits.

There is nothing remotely "rehabilitative" about the supermax prisons and SHUs - prisoners are denied opportunities to access education or job skills training and severed from ties to their families and communities. Many of the prisoners subjected to these conditions are not there for any bad conduct they have displayed inside or outside of prison, but because of their work as organizers for change in the prison system. Some of them are held in isolation because of their status as Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War in their struggles for social change in the U.S. Women prisoners have also been subjected to isolation in supermax prisons and SHUs, particularly women Political Prisoners active in the Black Liberation and Puerto Rican Independista movements. Due to acts of Congress and the courts over the last two decades, these arbitrary and capricious decisions to lock prisoners up in isolation (sometimes for decades) have become more and more insulated from governmental and judicial review and challenge. Regardless of why a prisoner was sent to a supermax or SHU, the bottom line is that ALL prisoners must have their fundamental human rights recognized and respected by U.S. and state governments and the growing number of private corporations that outrageously profit from government contracts, prison labor, and prison consumer markets.

In their courageous struggle for justice, the hunger strikers are not simply highlighting their own specific plight, but also the general plight of the over 2.3 million men, women, and children who are locked away in U.S. prisons. As Michelle Alexander has argued, the U.S. prison system is now the dominant institution for the creation and maintenance of a "New Jim Crow" racial caste system that attempts to subordinate large segments of Black, Latin@, and Asian communities to the ideology and demands of white supremacy. The overwhelming majority of prisoners of color have been incarcerated as a result of the racist, selectively prosecuted "War on Drugs". When these prisoners are finally released, they are subjected during the rest of their lives to "legal" forms of discrimination in employment, housing, government benefits, and voting. All people of conscience must stand in solidarity with the hunger strikers in California and with prisoners everywhere in their fight for their human rights and for the abolition of the prison-industrial complex.

(Garrett Wright is a staff attorney at the Urban Justice Center's Community Development Project. The Project provides legal, technical, and research and policy assistance to grassroots community organizations throughout New York City. He is also a co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Anti-Racism Committee and on the Executive Committee of the National Lawyers Guild-New York City Chapter.)


Ted Yanow

Debs said you judge a country by how it treats its prisoners. We have steadily moved away from any pretense of humane treatment, let alone reasonable support for rehabilitation, to an absolute and relative enlargement of the number of imprisoned, to the point where we rival the most tyrannical regimes on the earth. Support of the rights of prisoners has become a paramount issue and support of their strike on behalf of minimally humane treatment.


Kevin Zeese, It's Our Economy:

Prisoners are standing up for basic humane conditions, now people must stand with them and say prisoner abuse is unacceptable. The abuse these people are suffering is unacceptable and shows that the U.S. prison system needs major re-revaluation. For too long we have allowed prison conditions to deteriorate while prison populations have increased. It is time to reverse both trends—reduce prison poulations and improve conditions—both need dramatic improvement.


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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Voices of Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers and Supporters

The following are brief clips of voices of the prisoners at the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU) and other prisons, as well as supporters on the outside. Go online to for these and other statements and news.

From a Pelican Bay prisoner's letter, sent to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, postmarked July 8, 2011:

The conditions at Pelican Bay may shock the public, the idea that American citizens endure torture daily, yearly and for decades may be a surprise to many, or the fact that many of the conditions for prisoners being held in Guantánamo Bay are really better than Shu prisoners in Pelican Bay is hard to swallow but its true. Shu prisoners here endure 22 1/2 hours locked in their cell every day. Their cell is a windowless concrete tomb that includes a slab of cement for a mattress and a toilet and sink...

This Hegemony and Draconian existence has led to the non violent civil disobedience playing out in the Shu. Mao said where you find much repression you'll find much resistance! This resistance, although non violent is not expected to be met with a smile from prison officials but what other choice is there when you are left in your windowless cell in solitary for years with no recourse from the courts? But the efforts of the Pelican Bay hunger strike is more than the injustice unleashed on Shu prisoners. For vast swaths of the public this situation will call attention to the ills of not just the California Supermax but of the U.S. prison system in general....


From a letter posted on the blog "My Brother's Keeper" from Chad Landrum, one of the prisoners participating in the hunger strike at Pelican Bay State Prison:

As you know, I'm sincerely sick with end stage liver disease (ESLD) and a severe case of related diabetes. I'm going to end up in the hospital almost immediately and will be effectively isolated. Due to my dedication to the struggle I will continue with my strike. I won't know when to stop. If the demands have been met in whole, negotiated part, etc., I will not take the cops' word, for the pigs have proven their word to be hollow. I will need the word of you or your outside support. Likewise, please keep those convicts at the heart of this struggle in D short [corridor] abreast of my circumstances (most know me as 'Ghost' or 'Landale')....


From an email sent out by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture to its supporters in California:

Prisoners across the state launched a hunger strike on July 1, demanding changes for prisoners in long-term solitary confinement in the "Special Housing Unit" (SHU). Conditions are so bad they have preferred to starve themselves to death rather than live another week in such torturous conditions and let future prisoners endure the same conditions.

As people of faith committed to ending torture, we must support this call as a part of our work to end the use of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons...


From a July 9 Revolution interview with Maria, whose two sons are among the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay:

I'm here to support my sons and ALL of the people suffering in Pelican Bay. Everybody as a family, as a friend, we have somebody in Pelican Bay suffering. I want to tell people don't forget your family or your friends because they need us.


Samir Shaheen-Hussain, a pediatrician from Montreal, Quebec, and a signatory to a statement by medical professionals on the Pelican Bay hunger strike, at the July 13 press conference in San Francisco:

We are appalled at the conditions of the prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison and other prisons in the state have to endure. Not only is the physical health of the prisoners being destroyed by the actions of the CDCR with which medical practitioners are complicit but so is the dignity of the prisoners themselves because of the conditions that they have to endure. It is a sign of utmost courage that prisoners are fighting these conditions through this hunger strike and it's lamentable that medical care is either being withheld or not adequately provided by medical professionals. The medical doctors here must step up.


Molly Porzig, a member of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition and a spokesperson for Critical Resistance, and Dorsey Nunn, co-founder of All of Us or None, incarcerated in San Quentin Prison from 1971 to 1982, were interviewed on Democracy Now! July 15. The following quote from that interview is from Molly Porzig:

It's very, very clear that the CDCR is more than willing, if not wanting, people to start dying. They want this to go away quickly and quietly. They pride itself on Pelican Bay being the end of the line, not only for people in California, but to be a model for the United States, and really the world, in terms of how to repress political organizing and resistance and any sort of defiance to any sort of establishment. And I think that, you know, what the challenge is for supporters outside of prison is that we need to be tirelessly working at, in a very urgent way, taking the risks that we can to match the courage of these hunger strikers....

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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Response to Susan Estrich

As the prisoners inside the Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU) entered the 15th day of a hunger strike, prepared to give their lives if necessary to put an end to conditions of long term isolation and sensory deprivation, growing numbers of people were learning about the conditions inside the SHUs at Pelican Bay, Corcoran, and other maximum security prisons.

For a growing number of people outside the prison walls, including people of influence, (and the number needs to continue to grow), the response has been one of outrage. As actress Susan Sarandon succinctly put it, "I support the inmates of Corcoran State prison, pelican bay, and other prisons in their demands to end the inhumane policies of SECURITY HOUSING UNITS. I recognize their humanity and stand with them."

On the other hand, legal commentator Susan Estrich has chosen to use her influence to insist that these prisoners deserve whatever is being done to them.  Estrich is a USC law professor, long-time prominent Democratic Party operative who was the national campaign manager for Dukakis' failed 1988 presidential bid, and legal and political analyst for Fox News. She published a vicious attack on these prisoners and their demands to be treated as human beings in an opinion piece with the misleading title "Our Prison System Needs Radical Changes."

In that piece, Estrich trivializes, misrepresents and literally laughs at the hunger strikers and their demands: "When I heard the news on the radio the other day, driving home from work, I had to struggle not to start laughing.  A hunger strike by prison gang members to get better conditions?  Drinking only water until they get better food?  Could I make this up?" 

Susan Estrich knows that the heart of the prisoners' demands is to put an end to torture.  The SHUs have been designed as long-term torture chambers.  Each prisoner is kept in absolute isolation combined with sensory deprivation, without sunlight, or human touch—indefinitely.  Studies have shown that in a matter of months these conditions begin to cause psychological damage.  And estimates are that 75,000 to 100,000 mainly Black and Latino prisoners in this country are living in these conditions—many for years, and even decades, with no hope of ever getting out. 

Susan Estrich's response?  "I'm sorry, but does anyone care?" 

Estrich's assertion that the Security Housing Unit is "for prisoners who are members of prison gangs or have committed serious crimes in prison" is false. SHUs are a form of generalized terror as well as specific punishment often targeted at those who protest outrages, serve as jailhouse lawyers, or are political opponents of the system (see "Hunger Strike at Pelican Bay Prison: The Humanity and Courage of the Prisoners...").

But let's confront the most basic heart(lessness) and (im)morality of Estrich's argument: that there are some people who, through whatever set of circumstances have been branded "the worst of the worst," who do not deserve to be treated as, or thought of, as human beings.  When this kind of amorality comes out of the mouth of Ann Coulter it is viewed as what it is—an outrage. But coming from Susan Estrich—widely known as a liberal and a feminist—it should be a warning to the many progressive people who are being told that it's alright to abandon your principles when not to do so comes with a price.

By denying the humanity of the vast numbers of overwhelmingly Black and Latino prisoners in these conditions, Estrich urges the public to join her in giving up our own humanity. 

The logic of rounding up and locking away a section of society, who—the populace is told—are not really human, has been the logic behind some of the greatest crimes in history. The smell of burning flesh coming from behind the walls of those "labor camps" in Hitler's Germany? The stories of horrors coming out from behind those walls? For too many "Good Germans" the response was "I'm sorry, but does anyone care?"

History has rendered a verdict on the profound unacceptability of that stand, and has demonstrated where it leads:  Torture plus Silence = Complicity.

*   *   *

At this decisive moment it will make a tremendous difference whether or not people from many different sections of society and walks of life confront the truth and take responsibility for coming to the side of these prisoners. What people do now does matter, and everyone who does care about whether or not these prisoners are treated as human beings must speak out with determination, now.


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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Report from July 18 Sacramento Demo to Support Pelican Bay Hunger Strike:

"Does someone have to die for anyone to listen?"

For the first time since the prisoner hunger strike began on July 1, supporters from across the state of California were able to collectively take the struggle of the prisoners and their five demands to the headquarters of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in Sacramento—directly challenging the authorities running California's hellhole prisons. Chants of "Prisoners are dying; CDC is lying; Support the five demands" echoed outside the windows of top CDCR officials. The demonstration included more than 150 people (some who had driven many hours to come from Los Angeles or Eureka) and lasted more than five hours. It ended with a march to the state capitol where former SHU prisoners and prisoner families met with a representative of Governor Jerry Brown.

The prisoners on hunger strike were also present—by way of a powerful banner made by supporters according to the wishes of prisoners at Pelican Bay. It read "Pelican Bay Human Rights MOVEMENT" across the top to be taken to the rally. On the bottom it stated, "And All Similarly Situated Prisoners." It was signed, in the middle, by Todd Ashker, Danny Troxell, Ron Yandell, Sitawa Jamaa, Lewis Powell, Paul Redd, James Williamson, Arturo Castellanos, Alfred Sandoval, George Franco, and Antonio Guillen.

This first statewide rally was organized and supported by a broad range of groups and individuals supporting the prisoners' hunger strike, many which are part of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition. This included All of Us or None, California Coalition of Women Prisoners, Critical Resistance, Emergency Committee to Support Prisoners' Hunger Strike, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Prison Activist Resource Project, supporters of Revolution newspaper, the Revolution Club-Bay Area, and the Souljah Movement from Pittsburgh, California.

The demonstration was marked by a spirit of defiance, determination and energy. There was strong participation by family members of the prisoners as well as former prisoners, including former members of the Black Panther Party such as Emory Douglas, known for his powerful and creative art. We met two women from El Salvador, both with two kids in prison. One older woman had served 26 years in prison. A number of family members said they were going to organize protests in support of the hunger strike as soon as they got back home.

The demonstration began with a picket line that filled the whole block in front of the CDCR offices. One of the MCs began with the reading of a letter from a prison hunger striker. "In 2003, I was told in no uncertain terms that I was 'a cancer to be cut out' and that I would die here one way or another," the prisoner wrote.

The powerful testimony of the families and former prisoners was filled with outrage and urgency. "My dad is a prisoner in the SHU [the Secure Housing Unit at Pelican Bay]. It would be nice to have a phone call from him—that's something they are asking for, which they don't get now," a young woman told a Revolution reporter. "I would love to just know that he is OK and that he's being treated right. They don't get enough to eat. Every time I see him he's skinny, he's pale, he doesn't get enough time outside... There are horrible conditions. You wouldn't treat an animal like that. But to treat humans like that—it's not right."

"Does someone have to die for anyone to listen?" added the young woman's aunt, the prisoner's sister.

Among the speakers at the rally were two women who each had two sons in the Pelican Bay SHU who are participating in the hunger strike. Irma said that she had last seen her sons on July 9—one had lost 15 pounds and the other nine pounds. She wondered how much weight they had lost nine days later and whether they were among the prisoners who passed out and had to be taken to the prison infirmary. She read from a letter one of her sons recently sent, where he talked about the basic demands of the prisoners such as clothing that will help protect them from the freezing cold, and a place where they can exercise that isn't a "dog run" (that is what it's actually called)—a small area with high concrete walls. Toward the end of the letter, her son wrote that since being sent to the SHU, he felt like he was "thrown in the hole and left to die."

The other woman, Maria, said, "Yesterday I received a letter from one of my children. My children are suffering in such bad conditions. They are losing a lot of weight and are only able to drink a little water. CDCR, you have to sit down and negotiate. They are human beings! They are people! They have hearts, they speak, they have wishes. We have a right to be a human being." Later she told Revolution about how, when she has called the prison to ask about her children, they insulted her and refused to tell her anything because she doesn't speak English perfectly.

Margaret, a former prisoner, told Revolution, "I'm here to support my brothers. I think it's a disgrace that we as a nation are not taking care of the people in prison. Some of these brothers are in the SHU for 20 years." Then she spoke of her own experience: "I can remember what it felt like when I was in SHU housing. When I was young and was first put in a SHU unit. I can remember being handcuffed, in the muumuu and little slippers [that the prison officials make women prisoners wear]. I really felt like I got swallowed into the belly of the beast. You are handcuffed everywhere you go—when you take a shower or go to exercise. Another thing that happens in the SHU is if one person does something they don't like they punish everybody. They take away everybody's yard time or everybody's shower."

Another significant part of the demonstration was the participation of Native Americans, including a mother of prisoners and elders from the Native community, and including members from the Yurok Nation. The tribal elder expressed his support of the hunger strike and brought out that Native people have the highest incarceration rate per capita of any group. He also brought out how Native people's spiritual leaders in prison are suppressed.

Another Indian leader said that the hunger strikers were part of the "warrior nation." He continued, "We have prisoners in there who are fasting, sacrificing perhaps their own lives so that certain conditions can be met. We will continue to support them." Later the rally concluded with the American Indian Movement's Warrior Song.

Disrespect from the CDCR

A delegation of family members, former prisoners and attorneys went into CDCR headquarters to meet with prison officials and deliver petitions supporting the five demands of the prisoners from nearly 7,500 people (posted at as well as statements from prominent people (see

The representatives of the protest were prevented from going up to the offices of the officials. They were kept waiting in the building lobby for more than 30 minutes, while the building manager refused to see if anyone would come down to accept the petitions and hear from the family members. Then a highway patrol officer said that the delegation had "no lawful business" in the building and would have to leave or get arrested. Only when an attorney with the delegation called the office of a State Assembly member did a CDCR representative come down. He claimed that prisoners on hunger strike were not in poor health and that their demands were groundless. He refused to listen to the testimony of the family members or even to invite the delegation to sit down.

This disrespect is a continuation of the CDCR's policy of refusing to grant the prisoners' just demands or even seriously negotiate. This after 18 days of a hunger strike, with some prisoners passing out and in need of serious medical attention.

At Governor Brown's office, a delegation of four—two mothers of prisoners, a former SHU prisoner, and an activist—met with a representative of the governor. (It was significant that Brown's office felt compelled to meet with protesters; to date they have refused all requests to comment on the hunger strike, directing questions to the CDCR.)

The former SHU prisoner, a member of Souljah Movement, from Pittsburg, California, described the meeting with the governor's representative. "I was able to go inside the governor's office today and when we started to talk with the people who I thought would really want to hear what we had to say I was kind of disappointed. When they sent a representative out to speak to us it seemed like he was the youngest guy who was in there. You have to speak from the soul. My purpose was to speak on behalf of each and every nationality that has ever been in prison. I was asked to speak to what it is like to be inside a SHU program. It's nothing nice. I felt for the two ladies who spoke about their sons in the SHU... We have to bring out what's really happening."

He went on to say what it is like to be in a SHU: "It's a different life in there. When you're in the SHU it doesn't matter Black, white, Mexican, Indian, we are all treated bad as an equal... Now we need a voice on the street because a person that's in the SHU program doesn't get to voice his opinion. Many things go on in the SHU that you don't know. There are officers that control everything. They control the lights. They control what's on the food tray. If they're having a bad day toilet paper may not be distributed to your side of the wing. When there is a death in your family they have control to not give you the news or the letter until they want to. So you might hear of a death two weeks or three weeks down the line. We don't have to be treated as less than a man...This has got to be heard."

There was coverage of the protest on KCRA TV Sacramento, which highlighted the five demands of the prisoners, and in the Los Angeles Times.

Revolution supporters distributed the newspaper widely during the protest.

Demonstrators vowed to step up the struggle through outreach and action. Each weekday supporters are rallying from noon to 1 pm in front of the California State Building at Van Ness and McAllister (near Civic Center BART station) in San Francisco to support the hunger strike. As long as the strike goes on, there will be a vigil every Thursday from 5 pm to 7 pm in front of the Alameda County Courthouse (1225 Fallon St., near Lake Merritt BART station in downtown Oakland). A "Bring the Noise" march and rally will be held in downtown San Francisco on Friday, July 22, gathering at 5 pm at UN Plaza. And more support actions are in the works.

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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Torture at Sacramento County Jail

From two Revolution readers

We returned to the Bay Area from three days in Crescent City, meeting with and learning from families and supporters of SHU prisoners at Pelican Bay. The next morning, the two of us drove to Sacramento for the July 18 protest at CDCR headquarters. A couple hours into this very strong street rally, we saw two Black women approaching and went to talk with them. They both were overjoyed to come upon the demonstration. One woman had two cousins recently sentenced to life at the Pelican Bay Supermax prison. Her son was also in the Sacramento County Jail (in Elk Grove) awaiting the resolution of his case. The other woman's son was also in Elk Grove. Neither had heard about this hunger strike.

One of the women conveyed her outrage at treatment her own son and others were getting at the county jail, where many were incarcerated for such long periods of time it amounts to a prison sentence. She was excited to hear about the strike and said that her son had been talking to her that weekend about plans men were making there to go on their own hunger strike against the horrible food. He told her, "Mom, send the news up here: we're eating maggots." She said her son was then punished for refusing his kitchen job. "He didn't want to see the potatoes crawling." She was impressed with the commitment and courage of the Pelican Bay prisoners. "I don't know if my son knows about the Pelican Bay strike, but he will as of today." She began talking with one of us about racism in this country and that whites "like you" were different. She pointed two fingers, first at her own eyes and then at his, saying that we see each other as human beings.

The other woman was quite soft-spoken and weeping when she began explaining that her two cousins had just been sent to Pelican Bay for life and her son was awaiting sentencing. He had been in the county jail in Elk Grove for three years, tried as an adult when a teenager and was now 19 years old: "My son's been downtown for three years. I'm pretty sure he ain't the only one." She said her two cousins had been in county jails for five years. They were now at Pelican Bay, in the SHU. Their sentences? "227 years to life, 110 to life."

When asked how anyone could be sentenced to that many years she ran down a list, "Gang enhancement laws, aiding and abetting, being in a gang, and... basically just being Black."

When we described the conditions of torture at Pelican Bay, she told me torture was also going on in the county jail. She said there was a "black chair" where prisoners are immobilized by restraints for long periods of time. That there had been a scandal in the news about it. That it was so cruel Amnesty International had gotten involved. She choked up when she told us what had happened to her son. "They had this chair, they strapped people down on. My son was put in a chair, they strapped him in. He has hypertension, his heart rate got high, and a nurse came and they got him out of it. But they still use it."

(After we got home, I looked this up and saw that as of 2000, five people had died because of being strapped down in this chair which was used at a number of jails. See

She said her cousins deserved to be treated like human beings. We showed her the back poster of the paper in issue #239 featuring Bob Avakian's "Three Strikes...." quote.

She said she had just finished reading the book The New Jim Crow and was very excited about it. We exchanged quotes and statistics from the book. She and her friend asked us how their sons and cousins could receive Revolution newspaper in jail and prison. We told them about the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund.

Meeting these women drove home the bitter reality of the situation for the oppressed, and especially for Black people today—the pervasiveness of "the new Jim Crow."

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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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The following two items were posted at the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity website on Thursday, July 21:

Press Release:
CDCR's Claims That Strike Is Over Unsubstantiated
For Immediate Release – July 21, 2011

Oakland – The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) prematurely announced an end to the Pelican Bay hunger strike today. The strike is protesting conditions of confinement international human rights groups have called torturous and inhumane. Lawyers and mediators in contact with the strikers, however, have not received confirmation from the hunger strike leaders that the strike is over. "We would like to hear directly from the men at Pelican Bay that they have resumed eating and what demands, if any, have been met," says Carol Strickman, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. "At this point," Strickman continues, "we have not been able to ascertain what concessions may have been granted."

Supporters of the strikers say this issue is not resolved. "The CDCR has used deceptive tactics throughout this strike to try to overcome prisoner resistance," says Taeva Shefler, a member of Prison Activist Resource Center and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity. "In order to break the strike, the CDCR has regularly underestimated strike participation and withheld information regarding the health of striking prisoners. Prisoners not yet in solitary have been placed in Administrative Segregation or Security Housing Units as punishment for protesting. These are the very issues this strike aims to change in the first place."

Information coming from Pelican Bay and other prisons has been sparse at best over the last three weeks, as CDCR has declined to grant media access to the prisoners on strike and letters sent by family members have been returned by the prison. "There's a reason this department is mired in multiple court orders, receiverships, and other monitoring processes," says Molly Porzig of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition, "The lack of reliable communication today simply underscores the core of this crisis."

Supporters continue to urge the public to call Governor Brown's office asking him to exert pressure on the CDCR to meet the prisoner's demands. For updates, please visit


We Keep Fighting: Until the Demands are Won!

The CDCR has prematurely announced that the hunger strike is over and that the prisoners now have "a better understanding" of last week's "offer" to the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay. However, the prisoner-approved mediation team (which the hunger strike leaders have insisted participate in any negotiations) was not involved in this so-called resolution around the strike, and the CDCR has not fully announced what was agreed upon. Clearly the CDCR is more interested in improving their Public Relations image than addressing real issues of torture.

Support for the hunger strike is at a crucial tipping point. One thing is absolutely clear: the five core demands have not been met. Long-term solitary confinement is still being used as torture. Supporters everywhere must amplify the prisoners voices even more fiercely than before. The goal of supporting the hunger strike was not to make sure prisoners continue to starve, rather to support the prisoners in winning their demands to change conditions of imprisonment. This struggle is not over.

We urge everyone to continue to attend and organize events, continue to put pressure on media to cover this struggle, and continue to urge legislators to get involved in winning the hunger strikers 5 demands.

We will not accept the CDCR's word until we have direct confirmation from the hunger strike leaders, and will continue to support the prisoners in winning their demands, until they are won.

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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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From the National Religious Campaign Against Torture:


The following is the text of a notice that the National Religious Campaign Against Torture sent out to its 9,000 members in California.


Dear NRCAT Supporters in CA:

Hunger strikes are the last resort of prisoners protesting inhumane conditions of confinement.  We have seen that happen at Guantánamo, and now it is happening at Pelican Bay State Prison in northern California, where hundreds of prisoners are held in prolonged solitary confinement, a form of torture.

Prisoners across the state launched a hunger strike on July 1, demanding changes for prisoners in long-term solitary confinement in the "Special Housing Unit" (SHU). Conditions are so bad they have preferred to starve themselves to death rather than live another week in such torturous conditions and let future prisoners endure the same conditions.

As people of faith committed to ending torture, we must support this call as a part of our work to end the use of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons.

After two weeks, at least 200 prisoners continue their hunger strike at Pelican Bay, where medical staff reported earlier this week:

"The prisoners are progressing rapidly to the organ damaging consequences of dehydration. They are not drinking water and have decompensated rapidly. A few have tried to sip water but are so sick that they are vomiting it back up. Some are in renal failure and have been unable to make urine for 3 days. Some are having measured blood sugars in the 30 range, which can be fatal if not treated."

Please take action today to prevent these prisoners from dying!
Send an e-mail to Governor Brown
urging that the hunger strike be addressed in a humane and rational way.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has so far refused to negotiate with either the prisoners or their outside mediation team and refused to end even the most egregious injustices or improve conditions. If CDCR continues on this path, prisoners may die in the coming days.

Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity is coordinating the statewide campaign to support the prisoners and providing up-to-date information. You can also read the prisoners' five core demands and their "formal complaint," which lays out the foundation for the demands. Amplify your voice - send a message to your friends.

Thank you for taking action today.


John Humphries
Director for Program Coordination


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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Actions "Outside" Support the Prisoners

Protests, rallies, vigils, encampments, and other actions in support of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers are continuing. A July 15 media advisory from Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity reported, "International solidarity with the striking prisoners also continues to mount with demonstrations and messages emerging from the US, Canada, Turkey and Australia."

Revolution received the following reports of support actions from correspondents in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. As we go to press, there is a call to demonstrate Monday, July 18, outside the CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) headquarters in Sacramento, the state capital.

San Francisco

On July 15 there were two actions in support of the hunger strike. At noon, religious leaders spoke out to bear witness to the courage of these prisoners and to demand that the prisoners' requests for more humane treatment be granted. This was part of a daily weekday vigil and rally at the California State Building to call attention to this hunger strike until the State of California and the CDCR accede to the demands of the prisoners.

Reverend Daniel Buford, Prophetic Justice Minister at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, issued a call to action: "If you believe that enough is enough, blow your horn. If you believe enough is enough stick your head out of the window and shout it loud! Enough is enough with torture in the prison system. Enough is enough with treating people like animals instead of human beings. Enough is enough when it comes to wasting our money in the prison industrial complex. Enough is enough when it comes to spending more money on prisons, on death row, than on education. Enough is enough when it comes to politicians who are more concerned about the right to own a gun than for people to be treated like human beings. Enough is enough when it comes to turning people into animals and then letting them out on the street without giving them jobs or hope..."

Father Louis Vitale, a Franciscan priest with Pace e Bene, who recently served six months in prison for protesting torture training at the School of the Americas, said, "I think that part of being a human being is looking out for other human beings. We worry about cruelty to animals almost more than we worry about cruelty to human beings. Here is this situation in Pelican Bay. The very existence of it is a contradiction in human conduct, to put people away in solid concrete, no sun, no light, no windows for years and years. I had a parishioner here in the city and her husband has been in Pelican Bay for, at that time, something like 30 years and I think he's still there! It was inhuman. The son had never met his father. He was only two years old when he went in..."

"We can't just let it off the hook and say that it's the people running the prison... I'm here to speak for people that I know who have been in prison who are human beings and deserve to be treated as human beings. Our reputation as a human race is at stake in allowing this to go on."

* * *

At 5 pm as people were getting off work, a march to "Bring the Noise! in Support of Hunger Strikers at Pelican Bay and beyond" took off down Market Street through downtown. The call for the march said, "With a loud, visible, and bold march, protesters will let the world know that the prisoners are human beings, and their demands must be met." Initial endorsers included Communities for Peace and Justice, Poor Magazine, the Revolution Club of the Bay Area, World Can't Wait, and Youth Defending Youth. The spirited and youthful march of more than 50 included many wearing orange jumpsuits modeled after the uniform of prisoners.

At points along the way the group stopped and told people of the prisoners' demands and the refusal of the prison authorities to even negotiate. People were excited to see this action and grabbed up fliers. A number of former prisoners and people with family members in prison stepped up to speak. As the march neared Union Square, a line of San Francisco police blocked the route. After a tense standoff the march continued. The demonstration was prominently covered on at least one local TV station that night.

At the Gates of the Pelican Bay Prison

Friday, July 15, three Revolution readers drove up to Pelican Bay State Prison near Crescent City in northern California near the Oregon border to show their support for the prisoners on hunger strike, to learn more about the situation from families and supporters of the prisoners, and to report on the situation for Revolution newspaper. They touched base with Julie Tackett, who has a friend in the prison and has been camping out in support of the hunger strikers. (See correspondence online at On Saturday, the team held an impromptu protest at the front gates. On Sunday, they were joined by a crew from the band Outernational. A number of family members who had been visiting loved ones were very excited to see this show of solidarity and stopped to talk.

Los Angeles

On July 15, supporters of the hunger strike spent four hours in front of the entrance to the Men's Central Jail downtown, reaching out to family members and loved ones of those incarcerated inside, and to others just released. Most of those taking part were family members themselves. Some people, who had traveled an hour and a half to come to this action, reported that they have been organizing protests and other actions in Santa Ana in Orange County, and in other locations. The protesters held signs and passed out informational fliers announcing a strategy session later that night, and an encampment at the KRST Unity Center.

Some of the protesters had attended the emergency meeting held at Revolution Books the night before. People were getting out Revolution newspaper and BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. One just-released prisoner, in his early twenties, leaned against the outside wall of the jail, reading quotations from BAsics. Hearing about the conditions in the SHU at Pelican Bay and elsewhere, this youth described the degrading treatment inside the men's jail. As he left he passed BAsics to another just-released youth, who was soon reading quotes himself.

Later that night, more than 60 people met at the Southern California Library in South Central Los Angeles to make plans to step up the protests in the coming days. Among those taking part were ex-prisoners, family members, and numerous youth, including a group from UC Riverside who've been organizing in San Bernardino, over an hour east of L.A. They made a decision there to build for a major, all-day protest at the California State Building in downtown L.A., beginning first thing Monday morning. Others announced the encampment at KRST Unity Center; and a plan was also made for a protest on the West Side. They also discussed the work they had to carry out over the weekend to spread word of the hunger strike and these emergency protests in the neighborhoods, at churches on Sunday morning, and in the media.

An hour-long interview with revolutionary communist and former prisoner Clyde Young was done by Blase Bonpane for his 10 am Sunday morning radio show World Focus on Pacifica Radio station KPFK. Young has also done two interviews for international TV and one by Glen Ford, for the Black Agenda.

The encampment at the KRST Unity Center of African Spiritual Science in South Central L.A. began on July 16. According to a flyer, "The Encampment is where people come to express support for the prisoners on hunger strike in Pelican Bay SHU and other CA prisons; where prominent voices of conscience make appearances and convey their solidarity; it is a space where people congregate for a 24 hour solidarity hunger strike and fast and take up other forms as well that draw public awareness to this battle. This Encampment is where families of those incarcerated, and everyone, find community and support and where all this amplifies the voices of the SHU prisoners and galvanizes societal-wide mobilization and support for their just demands."

On Wednesday, July 13, as word spread of the deteriorating health of the strikers, an emergency protest took place in front of the California State Building. Participants and speakers included former prisoners; several women whose sons are in prison, including a hunger striker in the Pelican Bay SHU and a prisoner at the Corcoran SHU who is on a hunger strike in solidarity; students from as far away as UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside; and several organizations that have been at the core of the support movement from the start.

New York City

At 12 noon on July 15, about 30 people came together for an emergency speak-out and demonstration at the Javits Federal Building, including some who were moved on the spot to join in standing with the prisoners and stepped up to speak out. Scores of people stopped to listen. Hundreds of fliers spread through the busy lower Manhattan area included a challenge from prisoners at the Corcoran SHU who are also on hunger strike: "Our indefinite isolation here is both inhuman and illegal and the proponents of the prison industrial complex are hoping that their campaign to dehumanize us has succeeded to the degree that you don't care and will allow the torture to continue in your name. It is our belief that they have woefully underestimated the decency, principles and humanity of the people. Join us in opposing this injustice without end. Thank you for your time and support."

Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party described the conditions of torture these prisoners are experiencing and called out NO MORE! People called back in response. He said, "These prisoners are asserting their own humanity, and by doing so, challenging others to reclaim their humanity by standing with the prisoners." Several people stepped forward to speak out, including a young homeless white man who has been on hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners for eight days, and a young Black man who had been in prison.

Some people have been closely following the hunger strike since day one and spreading the word, like a young business office worker and artist who said there needed to be "more people dressed like me out here." There was a sense of hatred for the entire system of mass incarceration.

Stolen Lives Activists

On July 17, 50 participants in a Stolen Lives Induction Ceremony in NYC declared their support for the hunger strikers in the California prisons.

Emergency Meetings at Revolution Books Stores

Emergency meetings on the developing situation with the Pelican Bay hunger strike took place at Revolution Books stores in Berkeley, Los Angeles, and New York City. A reader who attended the July 14 meeting at the New York store said, "The urgency of the situation for the hunger strikers electrified the emergency meeting. As Revolution writer Li Onesto was giving a vivid picture of the situation in Pelican Bay, the phone rang—on the line was a sister of two of the Pelican Bay hunger strikers. The room became tense as she talked to us about the continuing determination of her brothers, whom she had seen a few days before, and the difficulty getting information about the medical condition of the strikers. The two other panelists were Carl Dix, RCP, and King Downing, lawyer from American Friends Service Committee. Then we discussed and came up with different ideas for further support actions: rally next day at City Hall, go to churches, big presence in Harlem, break the silence in the media, get word up on the Web, contact famous people to speak out."


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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Three-Day Fast in Ontario in Support of Pelican Bay Prisoners on Hunger Strike

Revolution reporter Li Onesto received the following email on July 14:


Having read your inspiring article in Revolution (via Countercurrents), I am writing to tell you a little bit about our Solidarity Fast in Haliburton, Ontario. Haliburton County is a rural-to-bush region of a very conservative character located about three hours drive northeast of Toronto. It is very difficult for progressive people here to participate regularly in protest actions taking place in the urban centers to the south. On the whole we have focused on relocalizing transition-town events as our primary form of socio-political organization.

When we received news about the Prisoners Hunger Strike in California, a few of us decided that the best way to express solidarity was to hold a three-day fast. We are just finishing that today. In the interval, with a lot of time freed up by not chasing grub, we have sought to keep our community informed about the on-going events in California. Surprisingly, a local community newspaper, the County Voice ( has picked up the issue and will be running an article on our activities today.

In general I would consider the solidarity fast an effective tactic for raising awareness and rallying progressive people in areas that are remote from the immediate site of resistance. It tends, however, to attract mostly "spiritual people" affiliated with churches and meditation groups, since these folk may already have some experience with fasting. To cut through sanctimoniousness, those of us who employ this tactic have to remain aware that fasting under pleasant domestic circumstances is hardly the same as committing to a hunger strike in a hell-hole.

Our heartfelt thanks for all your work on behalf of oppressed people.

One love

In solidarity,

Douglas Smith

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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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California Prison Officials Respond to Questions

 by Larry Everest & the Bay Area Revolution Writing Group

Journalists have been prevented from visiting California's prisons to independently assess the conditions prisoners face, the state of their hunger strike, and the health of the hunger strikers.  Information is getting out about the situation from prisoners and their families and supporters.  California government authorities are also issuing statements concerning the prisons and the hunger strike.  Revolution interviewed state officials and here is what they said.

Governor Jerry Brown's office, which has overall authority over the prisons, has not issued any statements on the strike or the prisoners' demands (which the prisoners sent to Brown's office).  Both times we called Brown's press office, we were told press spokespeople were too busy to talk to us, but they'd call back. They have yet to do so.  Instead, our message was passed directly to Terry Thornton, the spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) which runs the prisons.

 Revolution spoke at length with Thornton, on July 13.  First, she dismissed the report from the prisoners themselves and their supporters that the "medical conditions for many strikers have deteriorated to critical levels, with fears some prisoners could start to die if immediate action isn't taken," and information in a July 13 press release from Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, that some hunger strikers "are in renal failure and have been unable to make urine for three days.  Some are having measured blood sugars in the 30 range, which can be fatal if not treated."

"The prisoners' health is NOT deteriorating," Thornton stated.  "The accounts going around of inmates' health 'seriously deteriorating' are incorrect—a handful have been treated for dehydration."

When asked about the prisoners' demands, Thornton said the CDCR "reviewed and evaluated the demands last month, before the strike." During our interview we asked Thornton about each specific demand.  Her replies indicated that the CDCR felt all the prisoners' demands were either unwarranted, unnecessary, or impossible to accommodate, with the exception of one part of one demand which was being "reviewed."

When pressed around each of the individual demands of the prisoners, Thornton basically defended the conditions in the SHU and contradicted what many prisoners, human rights groups, and legal observers have reported.

When Revolution asked why prison officials were not negotiating with strikers about their demands, Thornton said the prisoners were coercing prison authorities:  "This is a demonstration and the CDCR will not be manipulated or coerced," she stated.  "This is not the appropriate way to express their concerns. There are many other appropriate avenues to do this."

Revolution asked why prison officials thought prisoners were willing to starve themselves to death.  To this, Thornton said, "Don't think that we are not concerned. We are concerned. We are concerned for the inmates and we are concerned that these inmates are taking away medical resources from other inmates."

More on this interview and responses from other officials will be posted soon on


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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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From a reader:

Spreading the News about the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike at the Prison Bus Lines

Have you ever wondered how you visit a loved one in prison? Here and in most cities the prisons are outside the urban areas, far away from public transportation. Prisoners are often sentenced to a prison very far away from the city they come from. This is done to minimize the visits, and to further isolate the prisoners. In most cases the families have to pay a high price for the transportation, and sometimes pay extra money for lodging arrangements because the round trip is too long to make in one day.

In this city about 10 years ago, a few ex-prisoners got together and raised money to charter buses to drive families to the prisons. The cost the family pays is low. They get picked up in the city on Friday night, travel all night, get to the prisons for Saturday visiting hours and then head back on the bus for a long trip home.

"This government makes it very hard for parents to love their children, or to keep families close," was what an older Puerto Rican man told us, as he explained to us what it took for him and his wife to visit their kids. Because of the cost they take turns. One week they visit his son and the following week they visit her son. Both of their kids are in their middle twenties and have sentences of 10-15 years for possession. They were forced to make a deal or else they were told they would get 20 to life. They were sentenced to two different prisons in opposite sides of the state.

But the cost of the trip is not all...sometimes you have to take a day or two off work to be able to visit. Then when you get there, they make you stand in long lines in the sun or snow. You have to get through metal detectors, searches of your bags, and then you are patted down, while being humiliated and insulted. If you're a woman, you can almost guarantee being molested by a guard during the patting down. After standing in line and sometimes waiting for hours to go through this process, you may be told by the guards that your son/husband/father/brother/daughter is in lockdown and you can't see them. "They never have the decency to at least tell you this before you start the process," he adds, "and of course you are not told if they would be available for next week's visit either."

Volunteers from Revolution Books went out this week with Revolution newspaper to the "prison bus lines" to let people know about, and build support for the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike.

News about the hunger strike had not reached any of the people waiting in line or on the streets. At first when we asked if people knew about the incident in Pelican Bay, most said "yes," that they had seen it on TV. Then we found out they were referring to a "reality" show called "Lockup" that makes all the prisoners seem as savage animals that need to be locked up. But once the families heard about the hunger strike, it gave them so much heart, hope and feeling of encouragement. Everyone said they would tell the person they were visiting that this was happening, that the prisoners were doing this for them, so they would stop feeling so alone. The families wanted to learn more and figure out how they could support it. A lot bought Revolution newspaper and gave us a way to reach them. Many signed a banner we brought saying, "We are Human Beings—uniting as the voice for the thousands of silenced prisoners on hunger strike." Some of the messages written on the banner were:

They also wanted to talk about what happened to their loved ones in prison. We heard many horror stories, like the following:

For many, hearing about the hunger strike gave them heart and opened the doors for other possibilities. One woman said she felt the big problem was this whole system, that we just have to get rid of it, but there was no way we could go up against them, we would just lose, so the best we could do is to try and win some rights back for prisoners, and that we should organize ourselves to do that. One of the volunteers with me agreed with her that we just need some basic human rights. I interrupted and said, we are building a movement for revolution, and we have a strategy on how to make revolution, and the relative said, very matter-of-factly, "Can you e-mail me that, please!" We talked further and I said I can do better, here is BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, who has forged a whole new vision of how society could be and in Chapter 3 you can read all about the strategy for revolution. She bought the book and said she would read it on the bus.

A young couple with a child were dropping off the man's older parents, who were going to visit their son [the man's brother] upstate. The young man told us about how long his brother has been in prison over bullshit, and how every week their parents go visit. How they came back every week more and more saddened by their son's situation. The young man said he has felt hopeless about the situation, not knowing what to do. At times he has blamed his brother for getting in trouble. But knowing about the hunger strike, and knowing he can spread the word, made him feel like we could do something to change this. He bought Revolution newspaper in English and in Spanish so his parents can bring the news to his brother.

There were many other stories of people we could share, but I would like to end by describing the scene at the end of the night at the bus stop. The buses pick people up in the middle of a very upscale area in the city. People line up at 2 corners starting at 9 pm, as people are walking by dressed up, ready to go out to eat, to the theater, a movie, or a bar near by.

It is mostly women, many with children, and some men. People bring a bag of food, clothing, blanket and a pillow for the long ride. They mostly stand in silence. But this night, there was a lot of talking and discussion about the hunger strike, a lot of people had Revolution newspapers in their hands. The owner of a nearby business bought newspapers for the drivers. Some of the excitement made the people walking by stop and learn about the hunger strike. To them we posed the question of "Do you want to live in a society were people are being tortured, in your name?" and most said no. A family member told a person walking by, "they are counting on you not caring about the prisoners, show them that you care." The family member told me later, she had never dared speak to anyone walking by because she had felt so much shame.

Many family members, and some of the people walking by, bent down to sign the banner that will be mailed to California to show the prisoners that they support and care about them!


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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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From the Gates of Pelican Bay State Prison

We received this correspondence:

Friday, July 15

The internet said it was 6½ hours drive but it took us 9 hours to get from SF to Crescent City where Pelican Bay prison is located. We passed beautiful redwood parks where families are camping and exploring the ancient trees. We read the coverage aloud we had printed off the Revolution website that morning. We were missing a protest in SF that evening, but we wanted to go to where this was all happening and get as close as we could get to the brave men who were beginning their third week of the hunger strike. During the last part of the trip we wound up and down a dark highway, listening to Jimi Hendrix and thinking about the families of the prisoners who make this trip when they can. Julie Tackett, who has a friend inside the SHU, met us at a McDonald's. She welcomed us, embraced each one of us and we caravanned to her camp where we pitched a tent next to hers, and talked with her until after midnight. Julie has been at the campsite since June 24.

She told us she supported the hunger strike and that she was here to be with her friend until he died, if it came to that. He and others in the SHU had gone through an extensive process within the prison system to raise complaints about their conditions and the torture they had endured for years, and this was all they could do as their last resort. She had emails to send and calls to answer, mostly from families of prisoners, so we thanked her for getting us settled and said goodnight.

* * * * *

Saturday, July 16

At 7:30 AM, Julie sat down with us and we interviewed her. She also read us "Bryan's" most recent letters, written during the hunger strike. In these, he speaks frankly of his weight loss, the nights of starvation-induced insomnia, and his commitment to go forward until the demands are met. After apologizing for his lack of energy during their last visit, he speaks of gaining inspiration from reading Bobby Sands' prison diary, and his deep appreciation for Julie's support for him and the rest of the men.

After the interview, we followed her out to the prison. The Pelican Bay State Prison gate is at the edge of a beautiful redwood forest; if you are not expecting it, you probably would not even notice it through the trees. Julie drove through the gates to see her friend and we quickly made a banner with the words "We Support The Hunger Strikers and their 5 Demands. CDCR Negotiate Now." We parked in a turnout and walked to a spot on the highway directly across from the prison to display it. Many people passed us in their vehicles, some with boats on trailers, others with bike racks on their cars, on their way to summer recreation. We waved at every car passing and many people gave expressions of support, thumbs up, and some fists. Only one woman was hostile—she stopped her SUV in the middle of the road to yell at us "are you crazy?...They should all starve to death."

Almost immediately after we set up, the guards at the gates noticed us, and we saw them making phone calls. Then they set up a video camera on a tripod and filmed us the whole time we were there. Soon a man who said he was the Public Information Officer came across the highway with a camera, took our picture, and asked us who we were, where we were from and told us that the CHP [California Highway Patrol] had been notified and would soon be there. Since he was the public info officer we asked him about the hunger strike and how many were on strike today and he said "several." The CHP showed up in several cars and after conferring with the guards they came across the street and asked us if we had a permit. They said they would allow us to stay there with our banner, even though we did not have a permit, but that we had to stand in the ditch, because, they said, we were in a bike lane (this is a straight road where you can see about a mile in either direction, so we were not a hazard to bicyclists).

After they left some cyclists did come by on touring bikes. They were from Sweden and stopped to talk with us, expressing their sympathy with the hunger strikers when they found out about them. They were shocked about the facts about conditions in the SHU. They took a flier and a Revolution newspaper and promised to spread the word. A couple hours later the friends and families of the prisoners on D corridor were exiting the prison in their cars after their visits. When they saw us and the banner they waved, honked their horns, and yelled "thank you," "thank you for being here" out their windows. One car stopped and the young women inside told us that their brother was in the SHU and their mom was visiting him. They knew about the hunger strike but wanted the list of the demands which we gave them and told them about the protest on Monday in Sacramento.

We left the prison and are looking forward to meeting with Julie and perhaps some other family members of hunger strikers about what they learned from today's visit with their loved ones on strike. Tomorrow we will return to the prison gates with our banner and will add to it the words "Day 17."

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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Abortion Doctor LeRoy Carhart Is a Hero—Operation Rescue Threatens Him
Why YOU should be in Maryland July 31-August 7

by Sunsara Taylor

A determining focal point in the battle for abortion rights and the lives of women begins July 31 in Germantown, Maryland. One of the most courageous and prominent abortion providers in the country is being targeted by one of the most hateful, fascistic, anti-woman groups in the country. Anyone who cares about the future for women needs to be there or find a way to support those who will be.

Dr. LeRoy Carhart is a hero. He provides abortions. As simple as that may sound—and as simple as that ought to be—this means that every day for more than two decades he has risked his life for the lives of women. He's been threatened. He's been stalked. His family has been harassed—even receiving calls "informing" them of his murder. Once, his farm was burned to the ground.

But that is not all.

Two years ago Dr. George Tiller, a fellow abortion provider, colleague and good friend of Dr. Carhart's, was assassinated while attending church. In the face of this devastating loss, LeRoy Carhart stepped up even more. He expanded his practice. He opened new clinics. He spoke boldly to the national media. He not only performs, but has taken responsibility for training others in performing, some of the most complex and life-saving abortion procedures for women late into troubled pregnancies.

For all this, he has been targeted as "Enemy # 1" by the very forces responsible for Dr. Tiller's death. From July 31 through August 7, Operation Rescue will be bringing anti-abortion fanatics from across the country to hound and endanger Dr. Carhart, his staff, and the women he serves.

Operation Rescue is an organization of woman-hating, evolution-denying, theocratic, Christian fascists. They oppose all abortions.  As in: even in cases of rape, incest or the life of the woman. They oppose all birth control. As in: they not only oppose pre-marital sex, they also oppose marital sex that is not aimed at procreation. And for more than two decades they have systematically targeted, prosecuted, waged character assassination against, and whipped up an atmosphere that has led to the actual assassination of some of the most selfless and heroic abortion providers in the country.

That's right. According to the Washington Post, just months before Dr. David Gunn was assassinated by an anti-abortion fanatic, "an old-fashioned 'wanted' poster of Gunn was distributed at a rally for Operation Rescue leader Randall Terry," complete with a home phone number and photo of Dr. Gunn. In 1992 Operation Rescue targeted the clinic of Dr. Barnett Slepian. Later, Dr. Slepian was assassinated in his own home by a fanatic who had traveled with Operation Rescue for years. In 1991, Operation Rescue declared a "Summer of Mercy" and brought thousands of anti-abortion fanatics to blockade Dr. Tiller's clinic, demonize his person, and create an intimidating anti-woman spectacle in the national media for weeks. Just months after Dr. Tiller was assassinated, Operation Rescue began making efforts to purchase his clinic as the site of their new headquarters!

This is the shameful and murderous history that Operation Rescue is invoking as they gear up for their "Summer of Mercy 2.0" at Dr. Carhart's new clinic in Germantown, Maryland.

Why do they do all this? Not because they give a rat's ass about the so-called "life of the fetus." They do this because they are driven by the biblical mandate that women have babies—lots and lots of babies—and obediently submit to men.

According to the Bible, everything evil that has ever happened is because Eve tempted Adam into eating the "forbidden fruit." Not only that, there was a "special curse" brought down on women. Here it is in 1 Timothy 2:11-15: "Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty."

It is this total submission of women to men that Operation Rescue is dead set on. As Dr. Carhart himself pointed out during an interview I conducted with him earlier this year, "Most women today don't want to be a second class citizen. They want to enjoy all the rights and privileges that the world has to offer. I think the very thrust of the anti-[abortion movement] is to deny women those very rights. Abortion is a vehicle they are using to do much greater damage."

The only "good" thing that can be said about Operation Rescue is that they clarify the issue. The movement against abortion has never been about anything but forcing women to submit to men and have babies against their will. This is true of the Christian fascists in—or seeking—political office, from Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin to Sam Brownback and Tom Coburn. This is true of those who have introduced the largest onslaught of legislative restrictions on the federal and state level in history over just the past few months—from mandatory ultra-sounds, to requiring women to undergo "counseling" at Christian fundamentalist "clinics," to imprisoning women whose newborns do not survive! (Yes, you read that right: several states are currently prosecuting women for the natural deaths of their newborn babies.

And this is a truth that is being lied about or covered over by all those—most significantly prominent Democrats like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but also much of the pro-choice movement leadership—who are refusing to call out this fascist woman-hating for what it is. As the World Can't Wait so aptly put it several years ago, "This whole idea of putting our hopes and energies into 'leaders' who tell us to seek common ground with fascists and religious fanatics is proving every day to be a disaster, and actually serves to demobilize people."

If women are to be free they need the right to decide for themselves when and whether to have children. They need abortion on demand and without apology. They need fully scientific sex-education. They need birth control available without shame or stigma. These things are not "tragic" or "unfortunate." They are tremendously liberating—and they are long overdue!

All of this is essential not only for women, but for humanity as a whole—for how can anyone be free when half of us are enslaved?

The future of abortion rights, the lives of women and of the safety of heroes like Dr. LeRoy Carhart cannot be left to politicians or law enforcement or "someone out there who isn't me." It is time—long past time—for all those who care about women to confront the fact that the future will hinge on what each of us will do.

From July 31 to August 7 World Can't Wait and others are organizing a Summer of Trust to be a strong abortion rights presence countering Operation Rescue and standing up for the lives of women. I add my voice to theirs in calling on you to BE THERE in the streets to show your support. If you cannot be there, reach deep into your bank account and make a donation to this effort commensurate with your concern for the future.

For more information on the Summer of Trust:

Send checks or money orders, payable to "World Can't Wait" (Summer of Trust in the memo) to:

World Can't Wait
305 West Broadway #185
New York, NY 10013

Listen to my interview with Dr. LeRoy Carhart, Carole Joffe (author of Dispatches From the Abortion Wars: The Cost of Fanaticism to Doctors, Patients, and the Rest of Us), Merle Hoffman (President and Founder of Choices Women's Medical Center), and Debra Sweet (National Director, World Can't Wait), here:


Sunsara Taylor writes for Revolution newspaper and sits on the Advisory Board of The World Can't Wait.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Some Questions for Our Readers

In May, we publicized an effort to raise $30,000 in 30 days, and to bring forward 100 new sustainers for this newspaper at the same time. The first goal was basically met. Thanks to those who donated, important new things can be done in publicizing BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. To help spread the lessons from, and build on, this advance we have posted a special online article "Some experiences and lessons of the 30-30+100 fundraising project" at

However, we did not fulfill the goal of 100 new sustainers for this newspaper. We need to understand the reason for this important shortcoming, in order to transform things and overcome it. But we need to figure this out together. So we are asking people who took up this struggle for sustainers to write to us. Over the next two weeks, we would like to get your answers to some of the questions we're posing below. (Either give what you write to the person you regularly get the paper from or, if you don't have a personal connection, write to us at our e-mail or address, taking care to protect the privacy of yourself and others when you do so. If you have trouble writing, ask the person who gives you your papers to help you, or to write down what you say.)

First, let's look at what we did accomplish, and learn from that. In addition to raising over $30,000 in a month, over 30 new sustainers did step forward. So first off, we'd like to hear from you who are newly sustaining, and from those of you who've sustained this paper over the years, especially if you decided to raise the level of your sustainer. Why did you decide to sustain the paper? What does it mean to you that this paper can come out, and grow in its reach and influence? If you are someone who won new people to sustain in this past period, what did you learn from your discussions with these new sustainers? What reasons did people give you for sustaining? And, how many of those who committed to sustain the paper are subscribers, and what impact did that have on their decision?

Then let's try to figure out why we fell short. Let us know how many people you approached to sustain. How many said yes? How many said no? What reasons did people give for sustaining... and for turning us down? And if you are someone reading this paper and were asked to sustain, and decided not to... how come?

So that's one set of questions. Here's a second set. Over the past few months, many new people have gotten acquainted with the movement for revolution and felt drawn to it, even as they may disagree on some important principles and positions of this movement. Did we take this to people who are just getting introduced to the movement for revolution? Did we take it to people whom we've known for a while and who may have some differences, even significant differences? If not, why not?

This leads us to another kind of question: HOW did we take this to people? Bob Avakian has written about the importance of going to people with the orientation that "we ARE BUILDING a movement for revolution and this is what that revolution will look like, and this is how everything we are doing is contributing to this revolution"—and then taking up questions in that context. (See BAsics 3:4, p. 74-75) Did we go over with people the paragraph in "On the Strategy for Revolution" that talks about what this paper is FOR, in the context of actually making revolution? One person suggested doing this, and bringing the last five or six issues of Revolution for people to page through. This would let people see how the paper, as a whole, fulfills this function, giving them a real feel for that... at the same time as it would enable them to see the scope of the paper and make a connection on different levels. So, did you use the statement on strategy? And if you didn't, what did you use?

(It does seem as if the fundraising brochure that was supplied was helpful in meeting the other goals of the drive. Did we use this brochure in seeking sustainers, and if we did, was it helpful? Are there ways it could be better?)

Finally, our last question: having thought about all this, do you see new possibilities to go to people in the next month—before Labor Day—to win them to sustain? And how do you see this whole effort fitting into the campaign to make more broadly known, and to bring to people a much deeper sense, of "the revolution we need... and the leadership we have"?

So to sum up: if you are a new or old sustainer, why do you sustain the paper?

And for those who worked to win others to sustain:

  1. How many people did you ask? How many said yes, how many said no, and what were their reasons?
  2. Did you ask people who were newer to the revolutionary movement and/or people with significant differences, but also unity?
  3. How was sustaining presented to people? In particular, was it connected to what is said in "On the Strategy for Revolution"?
  4. Do you think, upon reflection, that there are new people who could be won to sustain in the next month?

You don't have to answer every question. Nor do your answers have to be long in order for people to learn from them. Mainly, let us hear from you. Once we do, and analyze the results, we'll write about the lessons and use them to provide further direction on filling what is a very crucial need for the revolution.

IMPORTANT: In order to protect people's privacy, please do NOT give us actual names, either of yourself or the sustainers, or unnecessary details. For example, don't say "Professor Jones at Simpson University who teaches biology"; say "a middle-aged biology professor at a large university." Or, instead of "a woman who runs the Head Start at the West Side Projects," say "a woman who runs a community service in a housing project."


Send us your comments.

Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Some experiences and lessons of the 30-30+100 fundraising project

In May Revolution issued a call for $30,000 + 100 new sustainers in 30 days—to bring forward funding for several important projects that will help get BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian out into the world, and for the ongoing work of RCP Publications and Revolution newspaper and the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF). This fund drive was an opportunity to introduce many more people to BAsics and to Bob Avakian. It was an opportunity to involve people in and enable them to contribute at various levels to the movement for revolution. And it was an opportunity to begin to build long-term strategic ties and connections, accumulating forces for revolution.

It's a great thing that the goal of $30,000 was fulfilled and that hundreds of different people—youth, professors, immigrants from many different countries, small business owners, social workers, teachers, housing project residents, and many others—all contributed and enabled this to happen. This puts the movement for revolution in a stronger position because it enables these important projects to go forward, and because it is a step forward in organizing people to concretely support and participate in this movement on a very basic but very important level.

The other key part of this whole effort—the goal of bringing forward 100 new sustainers for Revolution newspaper—has not been met, and there is much that still needs to be learned about why (see "Some Questions for Our Readers"). But there are some important things which can be summed up and built on from the successful efforts which raised the $30,000.

The beautiful full-color brochures which were put out for each of the fundraising projects were key to bringing the fund drive to life for people. Putting these brochures in people's hands gave them a sense of the scope and scale of what we were setting out to do. While many people chose to donate to the drive as a whole, the brochures enabled people to envision what difference each of these projects would make in the world. These, together with BAsics itself and copies of Revolution newspaper, helped to make the revolution real for people.

There was the musician who had been reading the PRLF brochure along with some letters from the special issue of Revolution on prisons and prisoners, who was moved to donate so the prisoners could read BAsics. There was the shop owner who said he's still checking out what this revolution is all about, but he bought a copy of BAsics and donated because he thinks people need to know about the revolution even though he still has big questions about whether it's possible. There was the professor who donated to PRLF because he was inspired by the prisoner's letter quoted in the brochure asking to receive Revolución in Spanish so he can share it with the Spanish-speaking immigrants. This professor is aware of the sharp antagonisms in the prisons between Blacks and Latinos. He is also very concerned about what future youth will have under this system with the current very bad economy and has many questions about the rise of the Tea Party and what can be done about people who are drawn to it.

Where people went out broadly and found ways to connect with many new people, there were important results—both in raising funds and in beginning, or deepening, relationships with people. One small group of revolutionaries went out to 60 people in the course of the month, winning 14 of them to donate, including 3 new sustainers and one person who agreed to double their monthly contribution to PRLF. One of these revolutionaries commented: "I think one of the main things about this fund drive (vs. other times we have tried to go out to raise money) was a more developed understanding of how this drive was a critical part of letting people in to the revolution, as it is put in the article 'Two different views on: Accumulating Forces for Revolution' (issue #237). And this piece was used more consciously to guide our practice in taking out the drive. We learned that people contributing money is one important way people come forward, and asking people for money can't just be something we do when there is a fund drive, but it must be integrated into everything we do and every time we go out."

Another small group of revolutionaries set out to make appointments with professors they knew but had never really sat down and talked deeply with. They had two substantive discussions. Both professors are interested in having more engagement and one agreed to donate $200. "We went through the brochure with him and used quotes from BAsics to speak to questions that came up. Two main questions he had were why is all the initiative with the right wing, why can't you even get people to come forward around more reformist goals or projects [like what he is involved with]...and how did we think there could be a revolution when things looked so bleak even in terms of some of these things. He sees it that people are just really taking way too much and are not taking responsibility for many things they should be—and wondering then why did we think a revolution was possible. There was back and forth over some of these questions. We used the pyramid section in BAsics—at least pointed that out—and then spoke to it, and then read part of the beginning part of 'on the strategy' in terms of how things could change and the importance of building a revolutionary movement right now and what this can change and influence, the dynamic of hastening while awaiting. We also spoke to the need for more resistance and opposition and the need to work together to develop these and to have more exchanges where people are presented with radical solutions from different angles."

In another area, some people at Revolution Books held a successful phone-banking session, getting over $400 in pledges for the 30-30+100 drive in a couple of hours. One first-time donor who had come to some events at the store gave $100 because he doesn't like the system and what the government has done for 150 years. He said about BAsics that Bob Avakian talks about ideals that everyone can relate to and desire. This same bookstore also hosted a discussion about the fund drive in which they walked through the different projects and the brochures, including answering the questions of people who are new to this about how to approach friends, family and co-workers about the fund drive and ask them to donate.

Putting the fund drive before people was a way to open up relationships and enable people to contribute in various ways to the movement for revolution. In some cases even when people didn't agree to donate they offered other forms of assistance: volunteering to help on the film of the April 11th event or offering to help promote subscriptions for the newspaper among the student body at a major university campus. In one city, there was a focused effort to reach out into the jazz scene, meet new people, and introduce them to BAsics and the fund drive, and in particular to the plans for making a film of the April 11th celebration in Harlem. While they summed up that they should have pushed harder to sit down and have focused discussions around the fund drive with more of the people they met, this initiative brought forward a number of real possibilities for future benefit events and has spurred one person to be actively thinking about how to personally help open more doors for the funding of the film. In another city a substantive sit-down discussion with a prominent attorney forged the basis for a more strategic relationship—instead of the pattern of just going to her around the immediate needs of the movement. While she declined to donate at this time, she shared her deep disappointment with the Obama presidency and her doubts about the possibilities of revolution but expressed appreciation for Bob Avakian and the work of the party over more than 30 years. She eagerly bought a copy of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) and promised to share her thoughts on it.

Through all these efforts new ground was broken in terms of bringing BAsics and Bob Avakian's leadership more broadly out into society. Where we boldly put forward the financial needs of the revolution as part of this movement for revolution we are building, we opened up avenues for people to find their relationship to that and to contribute financially and in other ways. There is much to follow up on—getting back with people on a regular basis, exploring other ways they can participate in and contribute to the movement for revolution, and transforming one-time donors into regular contributors and sustainers.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Memo from RCP Publications:

Get BAsics into your Library

The word from librarians is that patrons (people who use the library) asking that a specific book be carried is one of the main ways libraries will buy it for their shelves. Anyone can do this by filling out a simple form. All you need to know is the title of the book and the author. Take a few minutes, go to your local library and tell them you want to request the library get a book for you and then ask for BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian.

Think of all the people who will then be able to check out BAsics. If someone is homeless and hangs in the library, he or she can read it there. Teenagers after school can discover it on the shelves. Anyone who can't afford their own copy can check out a copy at the library. In any neighborhood, you can help make BAsics available to thousands of people as word spreads that "you can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics."

Now is the time to do this. Volunteers on behalf of RCP Publications took BAsics out in a big way at the recent national convention of the American Library Association (ALA) in New Orleans, letting thousands of librarians know about BAsics. This is one way to get BAsics into libraries, but often it is not enough, especially with all the cutbacks—it also takes library users to go into their local branch and request it before the library will seriously consider buying the book. Now many will recognize BAsics given the buzz at the ALA. New Orleans TV coverage of the ALA showed volunteers in BAsics T-shirts as part of their coverage, and important ties were made with librarians from all parts of the country, who work in public libraries, prisons, and university and college libraries.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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End-of-Year Conversation with Black High School Students

Deeply Interested in the World... Acutely Aware This System Has No Future for Them

From a reader

As school was winding down this spring, I had a chance for some long discussions with three young Black men who were about to graduate from an all-Black inner-city high school. I have known them for a number of years and have talked to them at times about a variety of political (and other) things. But this was different. They can't stand the world they live in, are extremely bored with school and extremely anxious about their future. So instead of going to school they came searching for honest talk about why things are this way and what they should do with their lives.

I saw them every day for a week which led to wide-ranging discussions on all kinds of topics, but with a common thread being how fucked up the world is and how urgently it needs to be changed. Here I can't do justice to the breadth and richness of all we talked about or capture all the funny shit that made us laugh. But I did want to convey some things that really have stayed with me.

These young people basically hate most of their life. They describe school as a combination of boring and bullshit. I asked them what percent of their time are they bored. One of them said 50% and another one said 75%. That is why they are constantly playing with their cell phones. At another point they talked about what they are taught in school is so much bullshit. One of them in particular has been reading Revolution online and he was saying how all his history classes teach the youth lies about what the U.S. is really about and they do not teach them the real history of what the U.S. has done. I had pulled out the issue of Revolution on "U.S. #1 Terrorist" (#232, May 15, 2011) and they were looking at the centerfold. He was pointing to the pictures and saying yes this is what the U.S. really does, while the other two were shocked to see the picture of Abu Ghraib and to read about what the police did to Aiyana Stanley-Jones. It was like they knew they were being taught bullshit, but they didn't know it was this bad. I said, yeah, and there is a whole list of countries the U.S. has invaded on a back page (p. 10 of #232). And they were like "a whole list—wow—people need to know this."

Another thread was the frustration they feel trying to talk to other students. A big part of their friendship is based on the fact that they think about things. One watches the Discovery channel and he wants to talk about things he learns. But they all described how, as they have gone through high school, they have found that they just don't have either the patience or interest to engage in what most of the other students talk about—buying clothes, personal gossip, getting wasted or gang-banging. The Revolution reader said that he got so frustrated when he would try to talk to other young people about things like starvation in Africa and they would just shine him on—he said that they were acting like the people in Africa weren't even human beings.

But while school is bad, leaving school is worse. This was one of the most painful things to hear them talk about. They described the constant fear and anxiety of having to be looking over your shoulder all the time to see if someone was going to try and fuck with you. They talked about the gang scene and how it has gotten worse over the period of their lives. One kid talked about his dad saying that when he was coming up, if the gangs were going to have a shootout, they first made sure all the kids were taken inside before things jumped off. Plus a lot of the violence back then was with fists and knives. But now they said things are just crazy. With most of the top gang leaders locked up, there is widespread anarchy among the gangs and any gang-banger or wannabe can try to grab some creds by shooting somebody whenever he wants.

Then the conversation turned to the police and how they are constantly messing with the youth. One of them, who had been shocked at the story about the murder of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, asked "is it true that nothing happened to those police, that nothing ever happens to the police?" The other two immediately said of course it's true. One of them then told about how he has an arrest record for simply walking home from the drugstore with three friends on a snowy night last winter. The cops stopped them and demanded ID. He didn't have any, but he told them they hadn't done anything wrong and were just walking home from the store. So would they just let them continue on their way. The cop did not like being talked to that way and cuffed them all and took them to jail where they were locked up overnight. He hadn't done anything wrong and now he had a criminal record and was on a "gang-affiliated" list—based on there being four of them walking together.

And then they talked about how people are basically trapped inside their homes. Anywhere you try to go to get off the streets costs a ton of money. If you are over 17, it costs $20 to play basketball at the Y. It used to be free to go up to an observation area on a skyscraper downtown. Now it costs $17. You have to go a long way to find a theater and they are extremely expensive. The only place they have found in the whole city where they can go and relax is at some of the big public spaces downtown. So this is where they go whenever they have free time.

And they are acutely aware that this system has no future for them. They talked about going to college and how it seems like a cruel joke to them. You have to pay all this money and go into debt and then there will probably not be a job for you—or at least not one that you would really want. And then all that debt is like a constant chain around your neck. But on the other hand, what other choice is there besides going to college. They know that there are no jobs for young men like them other than minimum wage shit jobs—if they can get one of those. One of them told about going to interview for a retail job in a mall—a job for which he was by far the most qualified—but not getting it because his clothes were not as nice as the other applicants'. He said it is like you "have to get a job in order to get a job"—meaning you had to first get money to dress right before you could even be considered for a job that paid little more than minimum wage. Plus all three of them have talents—one wants to do stuff with video filming—and they would really like to do something with their lives that has value and would make a difference. So this too is extremely painful to them—the realization that they, as human beings, really have no value in this society.

So the need for a revolution to completely change this whole system was a point to which we continually returned. On one hand they are seeing this with growing clarity, but this stand is in opposition in a number of ways to religious ideas that they also hold. One of the richest and recurring themes in our discussions was comparing and contrasting religion and science. It is interesting that all three of them come from a religious background and are themselves wrangling with religion as a framework for explaining the world. One of them is more locked in this framework than the other two, but all of them are open to having their thinking challenged. On one hand this religious framework has been part of what has kept them from getting drawn into "street life" and has provided a focus on "bigger questions" in their lives. And it also helps them get through their lives—even in some funny ways. One of them described how he had recently lost a 30-day bus pass he had just bought. It cost a lot of money and he was just so mad at himself for losing it—he was throwing stuff on the floor. Then he said that he had this flash that this was just the devil testing him, and somehow that helped calm him down and realize that he had to just deal with it and not get totally depressed. We all laughed about it when he told the story, but it reveals something about the draw of religion for people whose lives are constantly teetering right on the edge—and the appeal of a whole variety of "the end of the world" scenarios that have a lot of currency among people they know.

I kept stressing the importance of looking at things from a scientific point of view—because that is what actually explains why things happen. Early on, one of them asked if I believed in god and I said no. But two days later he came back to this and said: "Are you an atheist? I thought when you said you didn't believe in god meant that you were just into a different religion." So it took awhile for it to really sink in where I was coming from. But meantime we had talked about all kinds of examples of scientific vs. religious explanations of things. A big one was evolution. And here is a searing indictment of their education—two of the three of them did not know how evolution worked. So I explained this and we talked about how it was not just "humans descended from monkey" but rather was a whole explanation for how all life has developed on earth. Then we got onto the big bang. They kept raising isn't there still someplace for god in all this—how about before the big bang? So we talked about why would you assume that just because something was unknown this is proof that there is a god.

This was a theme we would pick up from one day to the next. At one point I asked them if they saw a relationship between the pull of religion and the feeling of hopelessness that so many people have about the world they live in. I contrasted that to the scientific method that, in a broad sense, you could describe as hopeful. It is a problem-solving approach to the world—not that all science is immediately based on solving particular problems. But understanding the world does open up new pathways about how it can be changed. Plus science itself is also a source of awe and wonder. This led to a lot more back and forth which they all said that they really liked—even though we didn't agree on everything, we were listening to and respecting each other—with the mutual respect being extremely important to them.

Where the question of religion got sharpest was around how they looked at women. We got off into this because they said that they didn't understand why the movie Precious was such a big deal. They had seen it and said that it just showed shit that they were all quite familiar with. Then one of them said that he didn't get why—according to him—it was more popular with white people than with Black people. I raised the question of whether it was connected to how Black men viewed their relationships with women. One of the three brought up the biblical explanation of original sin in the Garden of Eden and how Eve was responsible for this. It is interesting that while all three knew this biblical reference well, none of them remembered what the apple stood for. And when I reminded them that it was knowledge, this stirred the pot even more because they pride themselves on wanting to know things. And they also know something of what the bible actually says about how women should be treated who do things like have sex out of wedlock—which they don't agree with at all. Then the question of women's right to abortion came up. One argued that "you are destroying a life that could be a great one." I raised "what about the woman's life?" and asked them if they would want their lives turned upside down (which they all understood was what pregnancy meant) just because of some "oops?" The Revolution reader said he upheld the right to abortion and went on to point out that the most likely thing for a child born to a mother who doesn't want it is that the kid's life will be miserable and so will the mother's. So we went around on this for a while—including how all those "unused" sperm and eggs that men and women are continually spinning off also contain the potential for life, so why not allow women to decide when are the times that are best to bring that potential into reality. And by the end of this, the one who argued abortion is "destroying a life" was saying, "I'm hearing what you are saying about abortion."

I made the point here that I thought the question at the root of this whole discussion was whether they as Black men wanted to end a lot of the oppression they face, but when it came to women they just wanted in on being the "head of the household." This made them all stop and think—in part because of the logic of what I was saying, but I also think because they saw that I cared just as deeply about ending the oppression of women as I did about all the other horrors this system rains down on people—including the oppression of Black people that we had talked so much about.

At one point one of them said, well I heard this expert say that the Bible is 70% true and 30% false. So I said, "That's great, how do you know whether you are reading the 70% or the 30%?" And this got us off in a whole discussion of "salad bar" Christianity where you just picked the parts you liked and ignored the rest. What kind of "word of god" is that? But one point I continually came back to was that there are many religious people whose beliefs lead them to fight against injustice and that was a good thing. I said that the yardstick with people should be whether they are fighting to end oppression, and the role of their religious beliefs should be judged on that basis. But I also said that this is a real contradiction because to change the world you have to understand it—and here you ultimately do run into conflict with religion. They all said that they thought this was the right way to look at it—changing the world is the key thing.

One of them said early on in our discussions that he felt like he was from Mars because of the things he cared about were so different from most of the other students. And one theme of our discussions had to do with whether there were any other youth that felt and thought the way they did. On a later day I brought the issue of Revolution with the article about the Cornel West/Carl Dix Dialogue at UCLA. They were amazed—especially that 1,000 people came out to hear it. And then they read the comments by people as they left. Two in particular struck them. First was the one saying that we came to college expecting to hear stuff like this, but that's not what we get—this led to another round of how what they teach in school is such bullshit. And then the quote by the young kid who said that most of the time you go around not knowing if other people think like you do—and then you come here and see so many like minds—and how empowering that is. And this was right to the point we had been talking to—yes, there are others out there like them who are also agonizing over the future. The challenge is to find the ways to bring them together—and this is what the revolutionaries are attempting to do right now.

I showed them the May 1st copy of Revolution that had the quote from BA about why people come to the U.S.—because the U.S. has fucked up the rest of the world worse. The Revolution reader read this out loud and said "Yes! That is so true." There was also an ad for BAsics in the paper and I was explaining what the book was—a lot of quotes like that (and some longer essays) around the key questions involved in making a revolution. This got them all excited about the idea of taking quotes like the one they had read and putting them up around the neighborhood so others would see them and so they could get into discussions with people about this stuff and find out more who was coming from where. One of them had told me awhile back that he really liked the idea of putting up revolutionary posters that told the truth around the community. So at one point after we talked for a while about what a difference doing stuff like this could make, he asked me: "Do you think it would piss people off if we did stuff like this?" I thought a minute and said, "If you did it well, yes it probably would piss off certain powerful people." I was wondering if he was worried about taking chances. But he responded with, "Great, that's what I want to do—piss those people off!" And the other two chimed in with yeah, me too. And in this part of the discussion the Revolution reader, who has been reading Revolution online, said that he has been showing stuff to his dad. And his dad has read it and said that he really likes it because it is telling the truth, and he encouraged his son to "go for it" with this stuff. This whole part of the discussion left me with a deeper appreciation of how these youth see boldly taking out the truth about the world as a key part of fighting to change it.

Finally, all three of them made a point a number of times about how much they valued being able to sit down and have the kind of discussions we were having. And they contrasted it with the world they had to go back into as soon as they left where we were sitting—and how much they hated going back to that other world. I told them that I felt the same way about our discussions and I thought that this was just a small taste of the kind of world a revolution could bring into being.

The kind of society this revolution aims to bring into being has great appeal to them. They all hate the ways races are separated off and all the stupid stereotypes different people have of each other which they are coming to understand are the product of how this system plays people. They see people as human beings first and value knowing people of different races. They also would very much like to see the walls broken down between men and women so they too would basically relate to each other as people, not as sex objects. But this is a tough one in their world. One of them told how he has a number of girls that are his friends, but he can not keep those friendships and have a girlfriend because there was no way the girlfriend would ever believe that he was not sexually involved with the other girls. And this weighed heavily on him.

In here somewhere I told them about how in the 1960s one of the radical new shoots was the tendency for groups of young men and women to become friends and hang out together so people of different genders really got to know each other as people. This totally blew their minds and led to one of them talking about the problem today of when you do develop a relationship with a girl, you really don't know her at first. Getting together is mainly based on physical attraction. So you can be deep into a relationship before you discover that you and your partner think entirely differently on very important questions. This got us into a whole discussion of morality and how important it is for building relationships that can be relied on. We read the quote from BAsics about how principles only mean something when you are up against real challenges. This really resonated with them.

So there is certainly a mood among the three of them that the world is really fucked up and something needs to be done, and in some way they want to and need to be part of this. At the end of our last discussion, I asked them to think about whether they would like to meet some of these revolutionaries because if they did I might be able to help make that happen. They all said that they would definitely think about it—but they also indicated that they would probably say yes.

Determination decides who makes it out of the ghetto—now there is a tired old cliché, at its worst, on every level. This is like looking at millions of people being put through a meatgrinder and instead of focusing on the fact that the great majority are chewed to pieces, concentrating instead on the few who slip through in one piece and then on top of it all, using this to say that "the meatgrinder works"!

Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:11


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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation

OCTOBER 22, 2011:
Join and Build the National Day of Protest

Below is from the Message and Call of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP), "The Revolution We Need...  The Leadership We Have":

"The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be."


According to Department of Justice statistics, 350 people are killed annually by police nationwide. This number does not include other law enforcement agencies or deaths by tasers, pepper spray, beatings, asphyxiation, or other causes at the hands of police.

Deaths at the hands of law enforcement include:

The list goes on...

In New York City, on the day you are reading this, the police will stop almost 2,000 people and subject them to humiliating—and illegal—questioning and searches, for any reason or no reason at all. Those stopped are predominantly Black and Latino and rarely charged with a crime. That's right: almost 2,000 arbitrary stops in one day.

On July 15, 2010, people's lawyer Lynne Stewart—already serving a 28-month prison sentence—was RE-sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for her work representing one of her clients. Stewart is 70 years old and recovering from breast cancer treatments. She has devoted her life to the legal defense of victims of oppression and repression.

Drug offenses alone account for two-thirds of the rise in the federal inmate population and more than half of the rise in state prisoners between 1985 and 2000. Drug arrests have tripled since 1980. More than 31 million people have been arrested for drug offenses since the "war on drugs" began.

Bradley Manning has been accused by the U.S. government of being the source of the video "Collateral Murder" showing U.S. troops in Iraq massacring civilians, including children. From June 2010 to April 2011, Manning was confined to his cell for twenty-three hours a day. He was not allowed to doze off or relax during the day, and was forced to answer the question "Are you OK?" every five minutes.

In the 1950s, when segregation was still legal, African-Americans comprised 30 percent of the prison population. Sixty years later, African-Americans and Latinos make up 70 percent of the incarcerated population—at a time when that population has skyrocketed.


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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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From a reader:

"I am hoping that people who were moved by Alex's life will help meet his challenge"

I was very saddened to hear about the death of Alejandro del Fuego. I know that many of you share this sadness. Words cannot express this loss. Alejandro was somebody who deeply cared and loved the people. In a time when many young people are taught to give up on any dreams or hopes of a better world, Alejandro got into the revolution. He was so young, and revolutionaries, especially revolutionary youth, are so precious. I had the pleasure of meeting Alex and I was moved by his determination to put revolution and Bob Avakian on the map. For a person of his age, he had deep clarity about what was needed and what was possible in the world that we live in. Alex had so much more to give to the world. And we must bring forward many more like him.

As he said, so poignantly expressed in his video in which he challenged people to meet the $200 Challenge for BAsics, "All the teens and 20-somethings who are desperately searching for something more meaningful in their lives than another hazy, chaotic, and forgotten weekend—they need to know about Bob Avakian and the party he leads. The youth in high school—from those who have never been given the opportunity to dream, to those even in the most elite institutions who see the futility and apathy of a school system designed to socialize and confine, rather than educate and liberate their minds—they need to know about Bob Avakian. For those of us in my generation who are already in and around this, it's our responsibility to let them know about BA, the BAsics, and to bring them in to changing the world." (Read his full statement at

It is in this spirit of honoring what Alex's life was about that I am raising money to meet Alex's $200 Challenge. I already pledged to sustain Revolution newspaper but, after hearing of Alex's death and reading his challenge, I have decided to contribute another $20 to BAsics. I do not have enough money to meet the $200 challenge on my own. I am hoping that people who were moved by Alex's life will help meet his challenge. Will you donate whatever you can to help meet this challenge and to help bring forward a radically different world? What could be a more powerful way to remember what Alex's life was about?

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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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From a Prisoner

BAsics Discussion Seminars on the Yard

Greetings P.R.L.F.

I am a CA prisoner and a recent subscriber to your newspaper Revolution, and I have received my copy of BAsics. I would like to express my profound thanks to all of the donors who have made these mailings possible.

Upon receiving BAsics and becoming totally engrossed in the talks and writing of Bob Avakian, my cellmate, a 21-year-old first termer, inquired about the book. After explaining to him my limited expertise about the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, I allowed him to read a chapter for later discussions. This we did until we both completed the book, and now we conduct discussion seminars on the yard for all who are interested. The number of prisoners attending grows steadily and I have even been called into the Captain's office and asked to control the size of the crowds. I now have a waiting list of prisoners waiting to read BAsics and it is very evident that your perspectives and viewpoints convey your messages.

I concur that this is the type of Revolution that we need and gracious thanks to Bob Avakian and the staff at Revolution because it is a job well done and well received.

Spreading the word about Revolution,


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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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No pro-American patriotism at our party!


I'm writing to tell you about our anti-Fourth of July party.  A group of us got together and ate delicious vegan (pure vegetarian) food. I made recipes from "The Cookbook for People who Love Animals," "Tofu Cookery" and "Instead of Chicken, Instead of Turkey"!  When we were finished eating we each read aloud quotes from Bob Avakian's BAsics! A great time was enjoyed by all.  We had cruelty-free food and were inspired by Bob Avakian's words!  No pro-American patriotism at our party!  We remembered the people oppressed by U.S. capitalism-imperialism.  We remembered the animals victimized by human abusers!

Best wishes,

Oklahoma reader

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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Letter to the Hood

This poem was forwarded to Revolution from the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund.


Letter to the Hood

To all the fellas in the hood
Yeah, I'm talking about you, dude
Sittin' around in a bad mood
Walkin' around acting all rude
            If only you had the BAsics
            Then you'd know your actions are without basis
            That they only serve to make the man feel safest
            When he knows he has you at your tamest
Watching as you take it out on each other
Instead of acting like that homeboy's your brother
It's no longer even a wonder
Why we're all still asunder
            Maybe if my generation had a B.A. degree
            Then we'd all be outside and free
            It sounds that simple, don't you agree?
            What are you waiting for then, an RCP decree?
You already know that this place ain't no fun
That there's more important things to be done
It's not like you're a coward choosing to run
Just 'cause you realize life's much brighter under the sun
            And that you'd rather sacrifice for a noble cause
            Than to live out some T.V. fantasy from "Oz"
            So think real hard and take a pause
            'Cause ride or dying in the hood won't get you applause
It'll just turn you into an afterthought in someone's memory
While you waste away in the penitentiary
Adding to the fodder of some reactionary
'Cause you chose to live the life of a criminal than a revolutionary

                        By Prisoner at Pelican Bay
                        June 27, 2011

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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Correspondence from a reader:

Thoughts on the Casey Anthony Trial

If you live in the U.S., you've been barraged with media coverage of the trial, acquittal (on the main charges) and—as I write this—the upcoming release of Casey Anthony. She is the 22-year-old Florida woman who was accused of murdering her daughter Caylee.

But this is not just "tabloid TV" running amok with sensationalism—as bad as that would be! There was something even bigger and worse going on in this case, and to be honest, it seems that a large majority of people have gotten sucked in by it. That is why I am writing this letter—because I think it is important to see how this case and all the really vicious media coverage fits into attacks on women's liberation, reproductive rights, critical thinking, and into the constantly ramped-up repression of the people and our legal rights.

Let me say from the outset that I do not know how Caylee Anthony died, and neither did the prosecution, the police, or the army of demented TV personalities like Nancy Grace,1 who continue to scream for Casey Anthony's blood. But I do know that the jury came to a correct verdict, which was that the prosecution had not proved its case "beyond a reasonable doubt."2

The New York Times, in a July 5 article, "Casey Anthony Not Guilty in Slaying of Daughter," summarized problems with the prosecution case:

"There was no direct evidence tying Ms. Anthony to the death of her daughter. Forensic evidence was tenuous, and no witnesses ever connected her to Caylee's death. Investigators found no traces of Ms. Anthony's DNA or irrefutable signs of chloroform or decomposition inside the trunk of Ms. Anthony's car, where prosecutors said she stashed Caylee before disposing of her body. The prosecution was also hurt by the fact that nobody knows exactly when or how Caylee died...."

Another point of note is that even with all the resources available to the State, the prosecution could present no evidence that Casey was not a loving mother while Caylee was alive—no reports of her being distant or resentful, much less screaming at, hitting or abusing her.

These are not mere "technicalities"—they are gigantic gaping holes in a case. To put it simply, there was no compelling evidence that Caylee Anthony was murdered, much less that Casey did it, much less with premeditation. Even Marcia Clarke (the O. J. Simpson3 prosecutor), who sharply disagreed with the verdict, acknowledged the weaknesses of the prosecution case, and that the trial was fairly conducted by all involved.

And yet when the jury, which had sat through this for six weeks, reached its "not guilty" verdict, what was the reaction? An outpouring of outrage, anger and literal cries for blood, not only against Casey but even against the jurors, coming from Nancy Grace and friends, and spreading feverishly across the Internet.

Talk show host Julie Chen broke into tears when the verdict was announced; Grace, seeming like her head was going to explode, declared, "Somewhere out there, the devil is dancing tonight." Marcia Clarke said that this verdict was even more shocking than the acquittal of O. J. On the Internet and Twitter, people said things like: "They should allow stoning just for this matter" and "I hope she dies in hell."

On the day of sentencing, a protester carried a sign reading: "Jurors 1-12: Guilty of Murder," and one of the jurors has already gone into hiding out of fear of attack; death threats have been received by the Anthony family; and special security plans are being developed for the day Casey is released from jail. TV personalities openly gloat that there will be no place in the U.S. where she could live safely and peacefully, and that her life is effectively "over."

All this is not just confined to cable news and tabloids—the New York Times ran an Op-Ed piece by Frank Bruni titled, "A Sordid Cast Around Casey Anthony," which off-handedly declares that Anthony "in all likelihood bore responsibility" for her daughter's death, and then proceeded to focus his criticism on her attorneys, for such outrages as one of them giving the finger to a bunch of journalists who were following them after the trial, and dredging up another attorney's alleged failure to make child support payments while in law school. Nancy Grace comes in for passing criticism towards the end of Bruni's piece.

Within all this, the upholding of "belief" in opposition to science and critical thinking deserves attention. In one revealing comment, Nancy Grace said, "When you're in a court of law, you're held to a different standard. We are not in a court of law. We are not shrouded from the evidence." (my emphasis) But she pointed to no prosecution evidence that was kept from the jury. What Grace is really saying is that the jury, by being sequestered during the trial, was "shrouded" from the demagogy and hysteria that infected the media coverage and therefore the popular discussion of the case. The jurors were just about the only people in the U.S. who were able to look more or less dispassionately at and scientifically evaluate the actual evidence... and that is the problem, from the standpoint of Nancy Grace, and powerful forces behind her.

Look, the reality is that the rights and protections of the U.S. legal system barely exist for the great majority of people who fall into its clutches. Police and prosecutorial misconduct, judicial prejudice, the high cost of a defense mean that up to 90 percent of cases are settled by "plea bargains," and those who do go to trial face a system stacked against them. But it is also true that if you are able to have a decent attorney, and if you get a jury or judge not thoroughly biased against defendants, then you have at least a chance. And this is viewed as a problem by the rulers of this country, who want the courts to be an even more efficient and reliable tool for locking up large numbers of the masses of people, Black and Latino people in particular, as well as being able to target and suppress "troublemakers" of all kinds.

From this standpoint, such things as the doctrine of "reasonable doubt," and trial on the basis of evidence, are increasingly seen as impediments to the ability of the system to control and regulate society and to punish those who deviate. The media coverage of the Casey Anthony trial has not only been an all-out attack on such protections, but is also a warning to lawyers who take on unpopular or controversial cases, and to jurors whose analysis of the evidence contradicts the demands of media and the state for a conviction. What has already happened on this will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on people like this going forward—this is a very bad development.

Beyond this, the ideological content of the media and prosecution portrayal of Casey Anthony was a vicious effort to reaffirm and reinforce the foundational patriarchal view that women are defined as mothers and wives, not as independent and multi-dimensional human beings. As one example of this, consider the way that Nancy Grace labeled Casey Anthony as "Tot Mom," and virtually refused to use her actual name. This was not only a way of ridiculing and dehumanizing her, it was specifically saying that her existence was defined by being Caylee Anthony's mother.

To get a broader sense of what is at work in this, check out the following commentary on the Casey Anthony case from the Wintery Knight Blog website ("How feminism led to increased child abuse and child neglect"):

"The most important thing to many women who have been influenced by feminism is that they are happy all the time. And they think that they can extend their selfish pursuit of happiness into a lasting relationship—that men and children will somehow celebrate their selfishness. For some women, if the demands of children and men don't make them happy, then they can just abort the children and divorce the men for any reason. What abortion really amounts to in practice is the refusal by women to be selective about who they have sex with, followed by the willingness to kill in order to avoid having their own happiness diminished by having to care for babies. And abortion is supported by many women today....

"Today, many women don't want men who tell her what's right and what's true—especially about religion and morality. Those men are ‘too strict' and ‘too demanding'—they tell her about the moral obligations that women have to husbands and children, and she doesn't want to hear or have to do anything about it."

Now think about how often Casey was referred to contemptuously as a "party girl" in court and in the media. Think about the fact that the prosecution closed its entire case by presenting—not evidence of Casey's involvement in murder, but pictures of her taken at a club after Caylee was dead. The narrative that the prosecution presented—which the media overwhelmingly echoed and reinforced—was that Casey murdered her daughter so she could go to parties, dance and have sex. This narrative was supposed to substitute for actual evidence.

And numerous commentators have expressed outrage that she seemed happy after being acquitted on charges carrying a death sentence, which also meant that she would be released from jail after three years spent mostly in solitary.

This case was never about "Justice for Caylee," as was incessantly proclaimed. The fact is that child abuse is epidemic in the U.S. (the real reason for which has to do with the dominant property relations in which women are viewed and treated as property of men, and children as the property of their parents). In Florida children die from abuse at a rate of almost four per week, yet there and elsewhere the system allots almost no money to social programs aimed at alleviating abuse. They really do not give a damn about the suffering and deaths of thousands of children. But this death offered an opportunity for a national morality play about evil women/bad mothers, and for whipping up hysteria against the fundamentals of due process and justice, and that was in line with the overall atmosphere the system is actively creating right now. And that is why Caylee's death gave rise to the reactionary spectacle that is still unfolding at this moment.

1. Nancy Grace is a former Georgia prosecutor, now an influential HLN [formerly CNN Headline News] legal commentator who led the network to devote practically round-the-clock attention to the Casey Anthony trial, which from the beginning treated Casey as guilty and has continued to do so after her acquittal. This is nothing new—Grace's entire career in both the legal system and on TV has been marked by a vicious and revenge-filled spirit and a complete disregard for the truth, ethics and for the legal process. Grace says she entered law school after her fiancé was murdered with the intention of fighting for "victims' rights," but she has even been caught distorting and exaggerating the facts and circumstances of her fiancé's death so they would better conform to her crusade against what she sees as an impotent, criminal-coddling legal system. (See "Did Nancy Grace, TV Crimebuster, Muddy Her Myth?" The New York Observer, March 5, 2006.)

As a prosecutor she was twice reprimanded by the Georgia Supreme Court; the second time, in overturning a murder conviction, the court declared that "the conduct of the prosecuting attorney in this case demonstrated her disregard of the notions of due process and fairness, and was inexcusable." (See Carr v. State, 267 Ga. 701 (1997).) In another case, the appeals court reviewing one of Grace's cases said that "it is difficult to conclude that Grace did not knowingly use [false] testimony." (See Stephens v. Hall, 407 F.3d 1195, 1206 (11th Cir. 2005).)

As a "journalist," Grace conducted an "interview" with Melinda Duckett, a 21-year-old woman whose son was missing. Grace badgered the mother, banged her fist on the table and demanded she give out details of her last day with her child; when she didn't and instead became confused, Grace switched to her on-air "psychologist" who pronounced, "Her reaction is not the typical reaction of a mother who has a missing child." Duckett committed suicide the next day. Grace's response to this was to say that she must have done it out of "guilt." Duckett's grandfather said, "Nancy Grace... just bashed her to the end." The family sued; Grace settled out of court for $200,000. In another case of abduction, that of Elizabeth Smart, Grace went on Larry King and declared that one suspect, Richard Ricci, "was guilty" and also implicated his girlfriend. Ricci died in police custody; it was later found that neither he nor his girlfriend had any connection to the case. Again Grace was unrepentant, saying Ricci was "a known ex-con, a known felon, and brought suspicion on himself, so who could blame anyone for claiming he was the perpetrator?" [back]

2. According to Black's Law Dictionary, 5th Edition:

"In a criminal case, all the elements of the crime must be proved by the government beyond a reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt which will justify acquittal is doubt based on reason and arising from evidence or lack of evidence, and it is doubt which a reasonable man or woman might entertain, and it is not fanciful doubt, is not imagined doubt, and is not doubt that a juror might conjure up to avoid performing an unpleasant task or duty. Reasonable doubt is such a doubt as would cause prudent people to hesitate before acting in matters of importance to themselves." This is considered one of the most fundamental principles of the U.S. legal system. [back]

3. In 1994, O.J. Simpson, a famous Black ex-athlete and media personality, was charged with the brutal murder of his ex-wife, who was white.  The police investigation was led by a rabid racist who harbored a particular hatred of Black men who went with white women, and there were clear and substantial indications of evidence tampering by the police. The trial was a huge spectacle, with a strong racist subtext built into both the trial and media coverage. The jury found Simpson "not guilty," which was met with virulent outrage mainly among white people. [back]

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Revolution #240, July 24, 2011

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Obama's Speech on Afghanistan:

Problems for the Empire... In an UNJUST War

by Larry Everest

On June 22, President Barack Obama delivered a major address on the war in Afghanistan. He announced that by September 2012, the U.S. would withdraw all 33,000 troops that were sent to Afghanistan as part of the November 2009 "surge." Obama claimed this was the beginning of a major drawing down of U.S. forces in Afghanistan: "After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security."

Obama claimed this was the beginning of the end of the war in Afghanistan: "[T]onight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.... And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end."

The mainstream press highlighted Obama's claim that the war in Afghanistan was finally coming to an end. And some opponents of the war saw his speech as a "step in the right direction."

But neither of these assessments holds up to scrutiny. Look at what Obama actually said, and then do the math. When Obama took office in January 2009 there were 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. By December 2009—when this number had grown to 68,000—Obama announced an "Afghan surge," to add over 30,000 U.S. soldiers. Now Obama plans to withdraw the 33,000 "surge troops," 10,000 by the end of 2011 and the rest by the Summer of 2012. This means by the end of 2012, there will still be 68,000 troops in Afghanistan—twice as many as the 32,000 when Obama took office. And currently there are also 50,000 NATO troops and approximately 100,000 military contractors in Afghanistan, neither of which Obama mentioned.

Obama's promise that there will be no U.S. ground combat operations after 2014 doesn't mean there won't still be thousands of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, or that they won't be involved in various forms of military attacks—whether training and directing Afghan forces, conducting "special operations," or launching drone attacks.

Obama gave the U.S. a big loophole when he stated, "We will have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we have made, while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government." This means the U.S. can decide to slow down or even halt the withdrawal of troops in the name of "keeping gains" and transitioning "responsibility."

A War for Empire

In his speech, Obama claimed, "We stand not for empire, but for self‑determination." But empire is precisely what the U.S. "war on terror" is about, and what the U.S. has been pursuing in Afghanistan.

The U.S. imperialists launched their "war on terror" and invaded and occupied Afghanistan in October 2001 in order to violently impose, including through massive terror, U.S. objectives and overall dominance in Central Asia—a key strategic area in the world. This war's objectives never centered simply on avenging the attacks of 9/11, much less "liberating" the people of Afghanistan or elsewhere. It was aimed at defeating Islamic fundamentalist, jihadist forces that were challenging the U.S. agenda, taking down regimes standing in the U.S.'s way, and radically transforming the entire region from North Africa to Central Asia. This was viewed as critical to strengthening U.S. imperialist dominance. All this was part of a broader agenda of creating unchallenged and unchallengeable global hegemony.

The Problem for the Imperialists...

The problem for the imperialists is that they've run into enormous and potentially enormously destabilizing contradictions in this pursuit, which have sparked very sharp debates within their ranks over how to work their way through them. Obama's drawdown in Afghanistan represents his plan for dealing with these contradictions and continuing to fight to strengthen U.S. global predominance—over which there are no differences among the rulers. Obama's moves are not a response to "public opinion," in any fundamental sense, nor about ending the war or retreating from "empire."

Afghanistan, a largely rural country of some 30 million people, is one of the poorest and most oppressed on the planet. The U.S. is the world's richest and most powerful imperialist superpower. Why has the U.S.—with its high-tech military—been unable to conquer Afghanistan after nearly a decade of war?

These difficulties have grown out of both the unjust, reactionary character of the U.S. war and how it is diametrically against the interests of the Afghan people. U.S. difficulties have also arisen from the complex set of contradictions it is facing across the whole region, now focused very sharply in the current tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan, as well as other major challenges to the U.S. agenda in the region.

The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 grew out of a decade of U.S. planning before 9/11 aimed at seizing greater initiative and hegemony in the Middle East and Central Asia. But the history of U.S. domination in Afghanistan goes back several decades. In 1979, the Soviet Union, then an imperialist rival of the U.S., invaded Afghanistan. And throughout the 1980s, the U.S. funneled more than $3 billion in arms and aid to reactionary Islamic fundamentalists to fight the Soviet occupation. This CIA‑led insurgency is where Osama bin Laden got his start.

After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, the jihadist forces nurtured by the U.S., Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia remained and gained strength in both Pakistan and in Afghanistan, where the Taliban took over the country in 1996. The 2001 invasion was aimed, in part, at crushing these forces. Instead, the war and occupation, like previous imperialist actions, have served to fuel Islamic fundamentalism.

The U.S. achieved a quick victory in 2001, largely because the Taliban withdrew to regroup, rather than fight the invaders head on. But by the time Obama took office, they had regained the initiative, in part because of their relationship with elements in the Pakistani army and intelligence services.

So when Obama took office in 2009, the U.S. was facing defeat, and Obama more than tripled the number of U.S.-led combat forces—from 32,000 to 100,000 U.S. troops, plus another 100,000 or so military contractors and 50,000 NATO troops. The U.S. adopted a counterinsurgency strategy that the world was told was aimed at "winning hearts and minds" of the Afghan population by ousting the Taliban from contested areas, and then holding and rebuilding them to provide stability and a better life for the local population.

But the most essential surge was in violence. As an occupying army fighting for reactionary aims with a fundamentally antagonistic relationship to the Afghan people, the U.S. relies on its technological advantages—including massive firepower and air power. As documented in an article in Rolling Stone earlier this year ("King David's War," February 14, 2011), Obama and Gen. David Petraeus, who headed up the "surge," responded to the danger of defeat with escalating violence on many fronts—including increased bombing, night raids, and unleashing all manner of kill squads and U.S.-backed gangs and militias.

A central goal of the U.S. war in Afghanistan is subduing "by any means necessary" a population in which most don't want to be under foreign domination. Thousands of people in Afghanistan have experienced the brutality and murder of the U.S. troops and they distrust if not hate the American occupiers and the Afghani flunkies the U.S. put in the government. Night raids, special operations, covert assassinations, extrajudicial killings, drone strikes, the use of military contractors, massive detentions and torture, and all‑around terror are embedded in the nature of this imperialist occupation.

A recent UN report concluded that night raids—a critical element of U.S. war-fighting doctrine in Afghanistan—have resulted in "excessive use of force, ill treatment, death and injury to civilians and damage to property." One Afghan legislator said, "People in the villages are more scared of the Americans than of the Taliban because of these raids." (Night Raids Curbing Taliban, but Afghans Cite Civilian Toll," NY Times, 7/8/2011)

Every U.S. bombing of a wedding, every massacre of civilians, only fuels anti‑U.S. sentiment. Tragically, in the context of the current situation where the organized opposition to the U.S. and its NATO allies is reactionary Islamic fundamentalists, every escalation in U.S. violence drives people into the arms of the Jihadist forces.

The problem for the rulers of the U.S. is not that the occupation of Afghanistan is unjust and wreaking terror and death on the people of that country. The problem, from their logic and standpoint, is that this isn't working, and in spite of all the terror and killing they are raining down on Afghanistan, the situation threatens to spiral out of their control.

According to the International Crisis Group—an imperialist think tank—the contradictions the U.S. is facing in the region, especially in Pakistan. have grown more grave. The Crisis Group reports that it is highly unlikely the U.S.-installed Karzai regime can take over security in 2014, and perhaps not even hold on to the capital, Kabul. The report states that "Collusion between insurgents and corrupt government officials...has increased" and that the Afghan economy "is increasingly dominated by a criminal oligarchy of politically connected businessmen." (International Crisis Group, "The Insurgency in Afghanistan's Heartland," June 2011)

This has given rise to the possibility that the U.S. could be mired in a quagmire in Afghanistan and Pakistan from which it cannot emerge with anything close to achieving its objectives.

Such a scenario could lead to the further growth of Islamic fundamentalism across the region, the destabilization of Afghanistan and/or Pakistan, the spread of instability across the entire region, and the global perception that the U.S. is no longer the world's dominant superpower and military guarantor of world order.

The U.S. rulers view this outcome as intolerable.

Adding to U.S. difficulties, the war is taking place in the context of the worst global financial crisis in 80 years, and the enormous costs of the Afghan war, now running at $100 billion a year. (The full cost of the whole "war on terror" may be as high as $3.7 trillion. ["US Cost of War at Least $3.7 Trillion and Counting," Reuters, June 29, 2011])

Incoming Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently said the U.S. faces a "blizzard war" of crises and difficult contradictions across the world, not just in Afghanistan. In his June 9, 2011 confirmation hearing Panetta said: "This is a time of historic change....We are no longer in the Cold War. This is more like the 'blizzard war,' a blizzard of challenges that draws speed and intensity from terrorism, from rapidly developing technologies, and the rising number of powers on the world stage....

"Today we are a nation at war, and job one will be to ensure that we remain the strongest military power in the world, to protect that security that is so important to this country. Yet this is also a time for hard choices. It's about ensuring that we are able to prevail in the conflicts in which we are now engaged, but it's also about being able to be strong and disciplined in applying our nation's limited resources to defending America. None of this will be easy."

... And Bringing Forward the Interests of Humanity

When U.S. ruling class figures like Leon Panetta talk about "defending America," the essence of what they are talking about is defending a world of brutal exploitation—a world of child labor, enslavement of women, environmental catastrophe and endless unjust war.

And when they say "none of this will be easy," they are talking about serious challenges they face in carrying out their agenda.

But that agenda, those challenges, and those interests behind them, are not the interests of the people of the world—including the vast majority of people in the United States.

The U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is the occupation of an oppressed country by an oppressive empire. And every time U.S. troops shoot up an Afghan village, this fuels the growth and spread of reactionary Islamic fundamentalist jihadist movements. And that is particularly so in the absence of a visible, determined anti-war struggle in this country—where people in Afghanistan and around the world could see that the U.S. ruling class does not speak for at least a significant section of the people in this country.

People should not "take comfort" in Obama's lies that "the tide of war is receding," The war is not "receding" for the millions of people in Afghanistan for whom life has been made a living nightmare.

Exposing this war for what it is—a war for empire—and building a movement of broad and determined political resistance within this country against the war is necessary. And such a movement could be part of breaking the world out of the current deadly "alternatives" of imperialism vs. Islamic fundamentalism, and play a vital role in bringing forward a whole other way for the people of the world.

"What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these 'outmodeds,' you end up strengthening both.

"While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these 'historically outmodeds' has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists."

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