From the March-April 2018 issue of News & Letters
Most revolutionary-minded elements call for the greater unification of oppressed people if the unification is driven towards freedom. There is no need for unity only for the sake of unity. Unity must be cohesive enough to withstand both internal discord and external attacks, and, at the same time, embody a clear objective.
Those of us confined behind prison walls recognize the pressing need to unify the prison population in the different prisons. First, unity is indispensable to protect the prison population in general and those who rise as spokespersons in particular. Second, prisoner unity can generate outside support that is vital to our struggle for human dignity.
HOW TO APPROACH UNITY
The growth in awareness of prisoners throughout amerika’s prison systems is a good indicator that the ground for building unity is present. The question for us is: What are the specific issues we can build on? The fact that we are scattered throughout different prisons presents a challenge. Applying critical analytic skills will enable us to discover the right issues for our different locations.
Yet many prisoners benefit from others’ sacrifices. Apathy or fear of the monstrous prison industrial complex can be met with a discussion that what seems hopeless is possible. Those who are walking out of prison as a consequence of Proposition 57 are not freed from their historical obligation to contribute to their communities. We should seize every opportunity to agitate, educate, and instigate. The idea is to ensure that our humanity is truly respected by the prisoncrats.
WINNING OVER THE UNCONVINCED
We prisoners cannot afford to be dismissive of others who are not staunch supporters of the abolition of the prison industrial complex. Perhaps that lack of support comes from not having an adequate explanation of what abolition entails.
There is also a failure to transcend the historical barrier to which capital has mentally enslaved them. Nonetheless, we cannot abandon the idea of the annihilation of the punishment industry. Out of those ashes we can create something new that enhances the humanity of the individual.
Prisoners may be won over by issues they see as more practical, for example, establishing better self-development programs, increasing college opportunities, or serving better food. Any of these issues can be the beginning of organizational work that will lead to a durable unity, providing we remember the objective of respecting our humanity.