From the January-February 2016 issue of News & Letters
CALIFORNIA PRISONERS BATTLE BARBARIC ‘JUSTICE’ SYSTEM
Urszula Wislanka’s lead article on “California Prisoners battle barbaric U.S. ‘justice’ system” (Nov.-Dec. 2015 N&L) is spot on and it warmed my heart as I read it!
Pelican Bay, Calif.
Wislanka’s article was a powerful statement of what’s happening in California per the Security Housing Units. All 50 states to some degree (and the Feds) have been using the same conditions. It’s unfortunate they don’t have the advocacy to address the situation, or the solidarity of the California prisoners. Segregation is used to break the will of men and women in prison, and families of prisoners are under attack financially. Nearly every state has shares in private prison enterprises, whether in support of corporations like the CCA, or overcharging for phones, canteen items or property. Companies like Access Keefe, Union Supply, J.L. Marcus know they can make a killing off of prisoners and prisoners’ families through backdoor deals that—in a civilized world—would be a criminal enterprise.
One of the things I like about N&L is how articles often will bring in the “universal” aspect. It’s important to note that anti-solitary struggles are also going on in other places besides California.
Wislanka’s article is one of the best leads I have read in N&L. It focuses on prisoners’ voices and actions as a form of theory. We know the “evil people” are “evil.” What needs attention is what the masses are doing about this, and how these actions have the seed of a philosophy of liberation. This lead is clearly the product of a direct interchange with the prisoner movement in California, hearing them, thinking, rethinking. This goes with the excellent “coverage” that N&L has every issue of prisoners speaking for themselves as revolutionary subjects. It is not Wislanka’s “genius” that has come to this conclusion, but the prisoners themselves, in their thoughts and actions against solitary confinement. She has “just” made explicit what was already there.
AGAINST ISIS ATTACKS
Great web statement! (“Against ISIS attacks in Paris and Beirut: Counter-revolution must be defeated everywhere!”) Especially the emphasis on the revolutionary humanist uprisings in Syria and Turkey; their vision of a human-based society instead of capitalistic alienation, war and poverty and how the reaction in the U.S. Congress against the Syrian refugees is a step on the road to fascism. Thanks.
Pray, curse, send good karma, hope, love, whatever you can to our sisters and brothers in Paris and Beirut. It’s not going to change a damn thing, but at the moment, these things are all we’ve got to give. We need a revolution; a revolution in permanence; one that is ongoing in thought and action; one that never stops. Otherwise, it will be us someday who need the prayers, cursing, good karma, hope and love. And it will be too late. We need a new society based on new human relationships and a new relationship with labor. Am I preaching? Too bad. Fascism is creeping in—just look at the Republican Party and what they are saying. We cannot be silent!
There have been different responses to the attacks. The anti-Islamic view conflates the refugees who have escaped the wrath of ISIS, with the very people that forced their migration. The fascists and the far Islamic right share a lot in common—most importantly, the targets of their violence. The second camp insists that Islamophobia causes these attacks, which refuses to accept the complexities of the Muslim community. We, just like you, have our anti-fascists, leftists, liberals, moderate Islamists, libertarian Muslims, free market fundamentalists, feminists, etc. We are not either passive victims of Islamophobia or active militants. For those of us who have had friends and family killed by the far Islamic right, this coddling attitude keeps us alienated. We don’t want sympathy; we want your solidarity in the fight against the closest thing to ever look like fascism. Where Jacobin Magazine says, “Beware of Islamophobia,” a joint coalition of the Free Syrian Army and the Kurdish YPJ/YPG made up of Muslims, Christians, atheists are putting their lives on the line to fight ISIS and their ilk. The third camp is saying “but no one cares about non-white deaths.” Can we not mourn for all? It is true, people of color are expendable, no one mourns for us. This kind of statement is spitting on the dignity of lives, it is reducing the dead to a polemic point about Imperialism.
WOMEN UNDER ATTACK
Obama’s “State of the Union” had so many opportunities to address homegrown domestic terrorism broadly and realistically—specifically the Planned Parenthood attack that preceded San Bernardino by a few days. I was glad he was able to say the San Bernardino attack did not represent Islam in general nor Muslims. Would it have killed him to say the same thing about radicalized Christian fundamentalist ideology, which influenced Robert Dear and countless others? Couldn’t Obama also have noted that like mainstream Muslims and Muslim leaders, Christians like those running our government and running for office have a responsibility to stop fueling terrorism by demonizing abortion, women, doctors, staff and Planned Parenthood in particular?
One day at the clinic where I escort women past anti-abortion fanatics, they argued with the cops for 40 minutes on their right to “freedom of speech” so as to keep standing in front of the clinic door with their big awful signs and their horrible pamphlets. They kept disobeying direct orders from the police to move. Our escort team agreed that had they been African American or Latino, there would have been no arguing, no disobeying, just arrest and probably worse. We also figured that if we used that same line about freedom of speech and protested in front of their churches about child molesters and yelled as people went in while holding signs about child abusers there would probably be no arguing, no disobeying, just our arrests. I tried to pass out condoms by Holy Name Cathedral a few years back. I was threatened with arrest and I was across the street!
SUPPORT MAATI MONJIB
The historian Maâti Monjib, Chair of Freedom Now, the Association for the Defence of Freedoms, lodged a complaint before Morocco’s Public Prosecutor against the Moroccan website “Le360” for defamation following several articles denigrating him and members of his family. Prof. Monjib is being prosecuted for “undermining State Security” because of statements critical of the Moroccan government. Last October, he carried out a 24-day hunger strike to protest the illegal restriction forbidding him from leaving the country and other harassment by the Moroccan political police. The International Committee to Support Maâti Monjib will resume a worldwide campaign asking the Moroccan government to drop the charges against him and his six comrades and to respect its obligations regarding human rights and public freedoms protected by the Moroccan Constitution and international conventions ratified by Morocco. Please sign our petition, share it with your networks and get it published in other media.
The International Committee to Support Maâti Monjib
THE BURMESE WAY
Along with tens of millions, I welcome Aung San Suu Kyi’s and the NLD’s electoral landslide in Burma. Yet the visage of Burmese fundamentalism is raging. The victorious NLD methodically purged Muslim candidates from their party. Back in the 1960s, the slogan of the Burmese regime was “Socialism the Burmese Way.” In 1969, we minorities there experienced that by getting ethnically cleansed. After the 1960s, the junta didn’t even try to maintain the pretense of socialism within their entrenched military dictatorship, they just screwed everybody. Today’s echo from Suu Kyi’s “peaceful coexistence” with the military regime’s “disciplined democracy” has the eerie ring of “Socialism the Burmese Way.” Will Suu Kyi’s compromise with the military junta strangle Burma’s nascent democratic movement victory as well?
S.F. Bay Area
RACE, CLASS & POLITICS
I am alarmed by the Presidential debates, both Democratic and Republican. I was even taken aback by Bernie Sanders. He talks like FDR on domestic policies, but sounds like Warren Harding on foreign policy. He is talking about using Sweden as a model rather than reaching into the American roots of socialism, about which he seems to know little. He seems to have little awareness of racism; he runs on about the “middle class” and rarely refers to workers.
The Chicago police are hardly different from any other racist department of local government—from underfunded schools to inadequate health care facilities. Or, for that matter, from racist segregation in housing or last hired/first fired, or all the mean little techniques of cultural denigration, marginalization and limitation that operate throughout U.S. culture even now—and without which the more obvious vulgarities of a racist demagogue like Donald Trump would be impossible.