A NEW BEGINNING OR THE BEGINNING OF THE END: A QUESTION TO THE LEADERSHIP

C. Landrum

From Prison Focus Issue 44
Fall 2014

It is said that history repeats itself. There is some truth to
be found within this statement. All existing matter, be it
organic or inorganic, and social phenomenon alike, have
a history of endless development, a process of becoming, being,
and passing away and into something qualitatively new
altogether.

But development does not, nor should it be misunderstood,
as proceeding along a straight line. Linearism is a product of
the human mind, a human construct, that fails to correspond
with the external material world and the laws inherent within
it that govern the direction and development of its endless
transformation.

History, like every other existing thing in this world, develops
not in a straight line, like a recording on a reel that
repeats itself continually, but in a cyclical like ascendancy,
with each cycle repeating itself qualitatively distinct from
the previous one, or as V.I. Lenin described:

“A development that repeats, as it were, stages that
have already been passed, but repeats them in a different
way, on a higher basis (negation of negation), a development,
so to speak, that proceeds in spirals, not in a
straight line.”

At this particular stage in our struggle, we are coming full
circle as history is once again repeating itself. This is a critical
moment, and the life or death of our struggle is being decided
by our response to the Security Threat Group and Step
Down Program [S.T.G. and S.D.P. respectively] that we have
allowed the state to impose upon us.

The fact that we are assisting the state to perpetuate its policy
of social extermination under a new label directly reflects
the deterioration of our collective unity and the resurgence
of the vile individualism that has come to characterize the
prison population of the last two decades.

If we are to take a correct measurement of our current situation
and the trajectory we are now on, we must place the
S.T.G. and S.D.P within its proper historical context, and this
requires that we once again revisit the Castillo case with an
understanding of the 602 process and the function it serves.

The 602 process serves two main simultaneous functions:
First, by seeking relief on an individual basis, it distracts and
divides us from the issues that impact us as a group. Secondly,
the administrative process is dragged out for so long and
the petitioner is required to jump through so many hoops that
eventually most petitioners grow exhausted and abandons all
attempts at seeking relief from the violations committed by
the state.

Embodied with this statement is the age-old strategy of
“divide and conquer”, which the CDC has learned to employ
against us with great efficiency. And every time we utilize
the 602 process individually as the only means of achieving
transformation, like a ju-jitsu fighter we allow the state to
turn our own individualism against ourselves as a means to
deprive us of the unity and momentum necessary for waging
a successful struggle. More important, this strategy is not
limited to the 602 process alone, but is a common feature that
permeates all interactions between the state and ourselves.
This is inevitable being that the state’s apparatus of repression
in all of its various forms—the judicial system, police,
military, intelligence, etc., especially the prison system—is
an inherently oppressive institution by design.

As most of us can recall, the Castillo case was a long, arduous
legal battle that raged in the judiciary arena for some ten
years in a noble effort to eliminate the state’s inhumane practice
of “social extermination”, i.e., keeping us alive as living
and breathing empty vessels without the social intercourse
necessary for one to develop identity (emphasis added by
Ed). For reasons left unexamined we failed to complement
this legal battle with any other forms of direct resistance,
while IGI fascists and the CDC bureaucracy remained
adamantly consistent throughout in its own efforts to keep us
divided. Despite the absence of subjective conditions (a politically
conscious mass of prisoners), the state recognized
that nonetheless the objective conditions were conducive
for large-scale resistance. And once again, remaining true to
form, we allowed them to exploit our own self-interests in a
successful effort to prevent this potential from materializing.
When, as Anthony Artiaga pointed out in his recent article:

The six year “active/inactive gang status review” was
created and implemented. A policy requiring a validated
inmate to remain free of any and all gang related activity
and association “for no period less than six years in
order to reconsider (but rarely granted) general population
release….

All hope for a unified resistance dissipated and “everyman-for-himself”
was now consolidated and set in stone,
with the initial release of a relatively insignificant number
of validated SHU prisoners back into general population,
we cultivated and insured our own further atomization from
each other as we pursued our search for escape on an individual
basis by way of the six year inactive review policy.

Despite the fact that group oppression necessitates group
resistance, the state has learned long ago that we are easily
defeated when we are tossed a bone that appeals to our selfinterest.
The state accomplishes this with little effort, sadly,
when it sold us on a false hope that we could all obtain inactive
status as individuals.

To reiterate, Joseph Dzhucashvili stated that dialectical
and historical materialism teaches us that: “…the process
of development should not be understood as a movement in
a circle, not as a simple repetition of what has already occurred,
but as an onward and upward movement, as a transition
from … the simple to the complex.”

It has been roughly fifteen years since the Castillo case
settled, and the empty promise of the six year inactive review
policy was implemented—and here we are coming
full circle. Like in the Castillo case, the state has initiated
its imposition of the S.T.G. and S.D.P., pacifying potential
resistance with the release of SHU prisoners back into the
general population, although this time around the numbers
have been significantly greater and have included elements
from amongst the “leadership” thus creating an externally
superficial illusion of victory.

Throughout the hunger strikes we paid an extraordinary
amount of lip service to the necessity of collective unity,
and yet when the state employed its own counter-tactics to
create fissures and divisions amongst us once again, we assisted
them in their endeavor. Without any consideration for
long term consequences, or the immediate obvious fact that
our current circumstances, or the immediately obvious fact
that our current circumstances are far more dire now that
when we first initiated our strikes, we could not trip over
each other fast enough to sign release forms acknowledging
guilt of past association, or membership, “post facto” in our
scramble to get out. This fidelity to philosophic pragmatism
and its application will come back to bite us.

Within the last twelve months the state claims to have released
seventy percent of those previously held within the
tombs of the Security Housing Unit (SHU), and yet the number
of those in isolation have remained consistently steady.

Philosophically, idealism is a still a poisonous weed that
continues to distort the mind of many. In spite of those who
are proclaiming victory, reality is not determined by wishful
thinking.

The demand to eliminate collective punishment was not
only not achieved, but true to its fascist inclinations the
CDC retaliated by making it policy and thus giving pseudolegitimization
to its practice, via the new STG with the SDP,
the IGI has extended its reach even further. Anyone having
belonged to any group, or street gang (past or present), or
possessing any political opinions reflecting a class position
other than their own, can be isolated indefinitely without any
connection to a particular prison gang. Our vulnerability has
increased in direct proportion to the increase of state power.

Like the six year inactive review policy, the number of
those now being released under the S.T.G. and S.D.P. will
decrease dramatically and ultimately taper off to a trickle in
correlation to our own struggle losing steam with the waning
of outside support. If we are to inject life back into our struggle,
we must absolutely understand the S.T.G. and S.D.P. for
what it is, i.e., another means to perpetuate indefi nite isolation
under a new label. We have not achieved our goal of
ending social-extermination. This is not a spiteful, nor rhetorical
question, but we must sincerely ask ourselves—“is
this truly a victory, or a failure being sold as a victory by
those reactionary elements amongst us?

With each state in the historical development of our struggle,
changes in policy alone have only amounted to a change
in label, allowing the state to maintain it trajectory without
interruption. If we are to eliminate social-extermination,
“abstract” changes in policy must be facilitated with “concrete”
transformations. We must transform the various Ad
Seg and SHU facilities from within, otherwise indefinite isolation
will continue unabated and the state will manufacture
a new label whenever circumstances necessitate, be in “program
failure”, “validation”, or the latest gem from the CDC’s
book of labels “S.T.G. and S.D.P.”, etc.

If we are to greatly reduce, or eliminate, their ability to
permanently isolate us, we must struggle for the installation
of two 4-man tables in each pod, phones, exercise bars (dip,
pull up, push up combo) designed and fabricated by prisoners,
cellies, Day Room time for social development and
preservation of the individual’s identity. Social intercourse
is a “human right” that needs to be established to facilitate
these changes—both in policy and practice. To accomplish
this, “limited association” must be our primary demand, and
if collective unity is to be more than empty rhetoric, then we
must likewise adjust our demands (which can be done without
compromising the original five) and address the interests
of those in G.P., such as weights, family visits, the question
of prison labor and wages, etc. These are issues that concern
all prisoners, S.N.Y. and solid alike, and therefore we
should be appealing and accepting support from all corners
of the prison system.

If we are to resuscitate life back into our struggle, we must
adjust our tactics to meet the changing conditions. If there
are any amongst the leadership or anyone politically conscious,
who are still dedicated to our original goals, I believe
we can achieve this with a small group of strikers consisting
of 10, 15, maybe 20 “volunteers” willing to fast consecutively
one at a time (or in pairs?) to the end. Each striker could
initiate his fast with a new striker on standby joining in at
20-day intervals. And with leadership guidance and blessing,
this could be complemented with a state with a statewide
prisoner work-stoppage and halt of all movement.

Pre-written and recorded statements, interviews, photo,
etc., of each “volunteer” could be provided to various media
outlets, TV, radio, newspapers, internet, etc., prior to each
striker initiating his fast, preventing the CDC from denying
or sweeping deaths under the rug with minimal publicity.

This may seem drastic but have we not already lost life
with each strike, while not accomplishing anything substantial?
Nonetheless, I know this is a controversial issue with
many sides and aspects to it and a proposal of this magnitude
needs to be put on the table and discussed. And although the
Comrade Ed and I are probably in more or less agreement
with my analysis, we have gone back and forth on the issue
of a smaller strike of dedicated “volunteers.” I believe that
we have both made valid points, but we would encourage
both the leadership and other potential volunteers for their
contribution to this discussion.