Friday, September 09, 2016

Solidarity with the American Prisoners

We read that he United States has less than 5% of the world’s population but more than 25% of its prisoners. Every decade it locks away millions of women, men and children in penal institutions ranging from high-security prisons to camps, to halfway houses to immigration facilities, to pre-trial and home detention settings. Millions of others are under daily supervision by probation, parole, or pretrial release officers under unnecessarily stringent and counterproductive requirements that accomplish little but damage already fragile homes and families, destroy employment opportunities and render futures little more than wishful thinking. This September 9th all across the United States prisoners will once again become socially and politically visible and, in so doing, necessarily vulnerable. For those of us on the outside we must ensure that our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and children languishing, but not forgotten, behind the deadly walls of silence saying no to penal slavery and abuse understand that they are not alone.

In that spirit of solidarity this blog re-posts the IWW Incarcerated Workers Organizing announcement of calling for a nationally coordinated prison work stoppage for September 9th, 2016:

“On September 9th of 1971 prisoners took over and shut down Attica, New York State’s most notorious prison. On September 9th of 2016, we will begin an action to shut down prisons all across this country. We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.
In the 1970s the US prison system was crumbling. In Walpole, San Quentin, Soledad, Angola and many other prisons, people were standing up, fighting and taking ownership of their lives and bodies back from the plantation prisons. For the last six years we have remembered and renewed that struggle. In the interim, the prisoner population has ballooned and technologies of control and confinement have developed into the most sophisticated and repressive in world history. The prisons have become more dependent on slavery and torture to maintain their stability.
Prisoners are forced to work for little or no pay. That is slavery. The 13th amendment to the US constitution maintains a legal exception for continued slavery in US prisons. It states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” Overseers watch over our every move, and if we do not perform our appointed tasks to their liking, we are punished. They may have replaced the whip with pepper spray, but many of the other torments remain: isolation, restraint positions, stripping off our clothes and investigating our bodies as though we are animals.
Slavery is alive and well in the prison system, but by the end of this year, it won’t be any more. This is a call to end slavery in America. This call goes directly to the slaves themselves. We are not making demands or requests of our captors, we are calling ourselves to action. To every prisoner in every state and federal institution across this land, we call on you to stop being a slave, to let the crops rot in the plantation fields, to go on strike and cease reproducing the institutions of your confinement.

This is a call for a nation-wide prisoner work stoppage to end prison slavery, starting on September 9th, 2016. They cannot run these facilities without us.”

They justify, in the name of discipline, the incarceration of inarticulate people who express their depend upon our consent for their power.
anger in acts of violence, mentally retarded people who fall foul of the law and can’t be accommodated in overcrowded psychiatric institutions, people found in the possession of cannabis in what is supposed to be a free society. Such offenders are locked up, humiliated and depersonalised for having the audacity to be born into a society which cannot provide for their human needs. Those who advocate law and order really mean violence in the defence of the present order. Their main concern is that the working class should stay in line and produce profits for them; if a few of us step out of line we can expect no sympathy from the mighty rulers who

Prison is part of the entire inhibiting structure of the capitalist system. Prisons exist all over the world, because capitalism prevails worldwide. Where there is capitalism there are two classes: those who own and control the means of producing and distributing wealth and the majority who produce but do not own the wealth. The legal system—laws, police, courts, prisons,—exist to protect the position of the minority against the majority. As long as this system lasts, so will the violence of the state. The only positive political response is for the majority us to gain control of the state machine for the purpose of abolishing the capitalist system. The only response to the crimes of the state is democratic political revolution. The World Socialist Movement stands without compromise for socialist revolution. We want a society without laws, without police, without prisons. We want a society of rational human co-operation. We want a society of common ownership and democratic control of the world around us.

The capitalist system is legalised theft; real crime, through and through. The working class is employed solely to facilitate the profit process. Where profits cannot be realised because of the prevailing phase of the economic cycle, workers are thrown on the scrap heap, goods stockpiled, food destroyed, houses left unbuilt and land uncultivated. As a result, we have massive and ongoing worldwide deprivation, starvation, disease, premature death. It is a common feature of capitalism that those at or near the bottom of the social pyramid are attacked in specific ways by the state and its agencies. In many cases these are the people who are easiest to scapegoat and who find it hardest to resist. And such attacks often happen when capitalism is in some kind of crisis.

Again, when rival groupings of capitalists find themselves in conflict over colonies or raw materials, the working class is mustered to resolve the situation. Murdering or being murdered in your country's cause is perfectly lawful. Unleash a missile or bomb on some defenceless city slaughtering countless thousands of innocents and you'll have a nice shiny medal pinned on your chest. Kill one person, back on Civvy Street, in a momentary act of anger or desperation and they'll lock you up for life. The real enemy, capitalism itself, sits unchallenged, safely clear of the firing line.

The system is almost entirely responsible for statutory crime. In socialist society, common ownership and production solely for use would prevail. There would be no legalised theft; there could not be legalised theft. Likewise, almost all statutory crime would fade away. Theft would not exist. What would there be to steal? Your own property?

Many crimes against the person can be attributed to the everyday stresses and alienations that are part and parcel of our existence in capitalist society. We are conditioned into seeing our fellow workers, with whom, economically, we have everything in common, as rivals; as competitors for jobs and houses. Where those fellow workers also happen to possess characteristics that proclaim the greater diversity of our species, be it skin pigmentation, accent, age, gender, sexual proclivity, disability; whatever then they are all the more readily identifiable as potential targets for abuse or violence. The real enemy, capitalism itself, sits unchallenged, safely clear of the firing line. Reality means that we live in conditions determined by capitalism and it is those conditions that almost without exception create the circumstances in which all forms of crime occur.

Prison is an indictment of the capitalist system. Prison means punishment, generally punishment for the infraction of property laws. In the more exceptional cases of punishment for personal crimes, it results in the further alienation of already psychologically damaged individuals, who need treatment not punishment. Socialism means the abolition, not just of brutal jails, but of all places of punishment.

If the intention of jail is simply to punish the dispossessed for trying to gain a few more material goods, and act as a deterrent to potential offenders, then it could be said to be serving a purpose. However, the deterrent effect is questionable, because common-sense suggests that most criminals don't imagine they will be caught, or they wouldn't commit crimes in the first place. The likelihood of detection would surely be a greater deterrent. If, on the other hand, prisons are intended to rehabilitate offenders and reduce the incidence of crime, evidence shows they clearly do not work. Firstly, statistics reveal that once sent to prison, a person is far more likely to re-offend; and secondly, despite more people being imprisoned than ever before, the crime problem shows no signs of diminishing. Socialists do not excuse all anti-social human actions on grounds of "the system" but the sufferings and misery of men in prisons year in and year out in defence of property interests is no less repugnant to socialists than the actions of violent criminals.

People will, naturally, retain their capacity to discuss, disagree and quarrel. Likewise, romantic creatures that we are, situations will periodically arise where two persons desire the same person or partner; the Eternal Triangle as it's rather prosaically known. Consequently, tempers may flare; fists (and handbags) may be brandished. Inevitably therefore, there will be occasional, recourse to acts of violence and accordingly there will, be a need for procedures to restrain the protagonists and address the causes. Others, too, will suffer from mental illness, brain damage, simply draw an unlucky ticket in the genetic lottery and behave, not criminally, but non-socially. So within socialist society there will, we suggest, be regulation of sorts and maybe even places of detention. But will the inmates find themselves banged up? Surely not. We would think that their very inability to participate appropriately in society would be sufficient reason to extend to them the finest care, compassion and support that we can muster.

The existence of the prison system is a constant reminder to the working class of its subservient role within society. The prison is a weapon for the maintenance of the iniquitous system of social relations of capitalism, in which the majority are denied access to the wealth they themselves have created.

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