Below is a new article sent to us from the imprisoned Texas writer Keith “Malik” Washington.

Keith “Malik” Washington is a co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and deputy chairman of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter. Malik has been instrumental in calling for the abolition of legalized slavery in Amerika and is very active in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign. You can view his work at comrademalik.com or you write him at Keith H. Washington, 1487958, McConnell Unit, 3001 S. Emily Drive, Beeville, TX 78102.

Disrupting Oppression and Paving the Road toward Revolution

“When most Americans think about a revolution, all they can think of is a coup d’etat. But people do not make anything as serious as a revolution to rub out a government or a system. The only justification for a revolution is the fact that social, political and economic contradictions have accumulated to the point that the existing government and the existing institutions obviously cannot resolve them. Therefore, it is not so much that the revolution overthrows the government and the system, as that government and the system, as that government and the system, by their failure and their misdeeds, drive the people to rescind their mandate to rule.”

  • James and Grace Lee Boggs, from Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century, p. 260 1)

Revolutionary greetings comrades!

The pendulum swings; left to right, left to right here in the United States of Amerika, but nothing is changing. Donald J Trump has been the best thing to happen to the left in decades. Trump’s overt fascism, white supremacism, misogynistic behavior and open worship of capital has actually reinvigorated and galvanized what was a dying movement.

Allow me to clarify that when I say “the far left”, I don’t mean these fake and transparent neo-liberals who wish to hijack our movement in order to redirect our energy and momentum in such a manner that they totally sabotage what is gradually building – revolution – system change!

Do not be fooled comrades, no matter how eloquent he speaks, Barack Hussein Obama is not a socialist, communist or anarchist; nor is he a Marxist or a Maoist.

Obama, along with Hillary and Bill Clinton, James Clapper, John Brennan, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris are the “foxes” as described so perfectly by the legendary Malcolm X – but make no mistake about it, Trump and every person in his administration are “the wolves”.

So with that in mind, we, the revolutionary elements inside the United Snakes of Amerika are not hoping, nor are we wishing to replace Republicans with Democrats. No! That is not what we want. We want system change and we want it now!

In order to bring that about, there must be a drastic departure from how we have been organizing. I am in full agreement with Professor Valentine M. Moghadam as she states:

“For the feminist world revolution to succeed, however, feminist activists themselves must fully integrate socio-economic and class concerns in their agendas. This is crucial in order to mobilize as broad a female base of support as possible for a new vision and policies that oppose patriarchy, militarism and war.” 2)

Comrades, we must be discriminate where we choose to seek out that cutting-edge analysis which sharpens our steely-eyed vision. I have found that the Journal and Research Group on Socialism and Democracy is one source which provides such analysis, vision, theory and practice, which is absolutely needed in these tumultuous times.

Furthermore, within this context I clearly see Socialist Viewpoint co-editors Bonnie Weinstein and Carole Seligman doing the hard work of producing quality informational and education materials via their bi-monthly magazine. Weinstein and Seligman continue to compile the most diverse anti-imperialist and pro-socialist essays and news articles within the repressive confines of the United States.

In Seattle, Washington, we have boots on the ground organizing and education being done by members of the Freedom Socialist Party. I have studied the background, as well as the campaign platform, of union militant and socialist feminist Steve Hoffman. It is absolutely imperative that we cultivate, nurture, and support more viable socialists who can break this stranglehold these two conspirators have on the political system in Amerika.

We are going to have to take some calculated risks before we make “the big move”. It’s going to have to be a collective effort, which leads me to another quote from Professor Moghadam, as she states:

“In recent years, there have been numerous causes and revolts that could in retrospect make up our world revolution… For observers such as myself, fundamental change in the U.S. seems an almost impossible dream. But could Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers campaign, the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota, the Fight for Fifteen to raise the minimum wage, peace activism and the March for our Lives campaign becomes strategically connected so that these “moments” come to constitute a powerful mass movement for radical social transformation, in the U.S. and beyond?” 3)

Now mull this over in your mind, take time to really focus on what the Professor is placing on the table for discussion. And remember comrades, the recent national prison strike should most certainly be included as one of those “moments” to be calculated into the broader struggle for system change throughout the world.

But for now our focus is on Amerika. My sphere of influence and expertise lies within the structure and framework of the prison abolition movement, and although I just said “our focus is on Amerika”, that is not entirely true.

Mainly because I have observed the oppression of comrades inside jails and prisons in the United Kingdom. Their conditions seem in some respects to be much worse than those of us in Amerika.

So the question I constantly ask myself is “what is the formula which will foment revolution and simultaneously disrupt the oppression which the prisoncrats and oppressors visit upon their charges?”

I’ve found myself trapped between socialism and anarchism, because no matter what my scholarly Marxist comrades may surmise in their essays and polemics, inside these slave kamps and gulags, direct action gets the goods.

However, once again, I put forth the question: what is the formula for revolution?

Trotsky observed: “History does not work in such a way that, first the foundation is laid, then the productive forces grow, the necessary relations between classes develop, the proletariat becomes revolutionary, then all of this is kept in an icebox and preserved while the training of the Communist Party proceeds so that it can get itself ready while “conditions” wait and wait; then when it’s ready it can roll up its sleeves and start fighting. No, history doesn’t work that way.” 4)

A couple months ago, I received a letter from Comrade Kilaika Baruti Shakur, her last words being: “You should put forth an effort to engage in more political education – political education is needed in our communities.” Kilaika was referring to our New Afrikan/Black communities here in Amerika. I thought to myself, “how much more can I do?”

Nevertheless, as a member of this dynamic New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter), our goal and my goal is to serve the people – in order to bring change!

Kelvin “Khaysi” Canada, Jason Walker, and Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, as well as Joe Valentine, have continued to combat the forces of oppression while educating the incarcerated lumpen. Yet we still have not reached relevance inside the barrios and the hoods. I cannot begin to tell anyone the tears I have shed privately as I thought of the innocent black & brown lives lost on the streets of Chicago and beyond.

In Police, Power and the Production of Racial Boundaries, Ana Muñiz says, “We know police brutality is scarring and killing people of color. We know mass incarceration is hurting us. But I want to know how oppression happens. Show me how. Then maybe I will know how to disrupt it in the most effective ways.” 5)

You see comrades, I have mastered the art of disrupting oppression inside these slave kamps and gulags. That is why state officials in Texas have me housed in an isolated environment and have labelled me “high profile”. These are just tactics and ploys to silence my voice. But like Michael Jordan or “the King” Lebron James, the oppressors are finding out: “you cannot stop him, you can only hope to contain him!”

In order to gain traction in “the hood”, we are going to have to confront and acknowledge some hard truths:

#1: It ain’t just racist white cops killing young black males – young black males are murdering each other at alarming rates!

It’s hard to teach revolutionary socialism or communism to people who have embraced a self-destructive path – somehow, some way, we must regain “the love”.

Charlene A. Carruthers, National Director of Black Youth Project 100 has said:

These tumultuous times call for us to go big and ignite our collective imaginations. Our ancestors want more for and from us. Now is the time to build on the traditions of Black radical and revolutionary imaginations that beg the arguments for self-determination and self-love for the sake of our collective liberation. In doing so, we will move closer toward the edge, where our struggles and triumph will be Invisible No More in this lifetime.” 6)

And then, once we have re-instituted and re-established “the love”, then perhaps we can get deadly serious about collective liberation, which includes removing the yoke of imperialism from around our collective necks, and in order to do that, we need a plan! I believe I have one which might work.

For those who are awaiting the details of my plan, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I won’t be revealing that information in this essay. Why would I do that? I am actively engaged in efforts to abolish prisons. I am currently incarcerated, and have been subjected to numerous campaigns of repression, retaliation and torture! I am far from being a fool, and I surely am not a “pain freak”. I am a serious-minded revolutionary who wants to win, not lose. Think about that.

Disrupting Oppression

In my experiences as an imprisoned activist, journalist, litigator and organizer, the best tool or “weapon” I can use in order to stop abuse or disrupt oppression is exposure. Specifically, media exposure. Police, jailers, prosecutors and even corrupt and conniving judges who side with the state cannot stand the bright light of media exposure!

Within these jails and prisons inside the United States and the United Kingdom, it is the free-world anarchists who do most of the “heavy lifting” and “the dirty work” which enables us to fight back.

Mainstream media outlets, and I am talking about the corporate-owned mainstream media outlets, don’t give a damn about prison lives! These outlets and their correspondents serve the state, not the people, let’s get that straight!

Anarchists have developed alternative forms of media like It’s Going Down, the Final Straw Radio Show, Channel Zero Network, and the Hotwire with the Rebel Girl and Riot Dogg. Prisoners like me utilize these alternative forms of media in order to amplify our voices, get the word out about injustice and abuse, with the hope someone in a position of power or authority hears our pleas and takes action in order to right the wrongs.

This expose, which we have achieved with the help of both anarchists and socialists, has also been absolutely necessary in order to disrupt oppression and put the prisoncrats on notice with a message that loudly proclaims “you are being watched and monitored!”

More and more, I am meeting anarchists and socialists who are New Afrikan/Black, Latinx, Arab and Asian. In the past, anarchist and socialist groups have been overwhelmingly European or white. I welcome the growing diversity of these groups.

However, I must admit that there is nothing in the world that gives me more pride and joy than getting media support and mutual aid from humyn beings who look and speak like me!

When Amani Sawari, representing Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, appeared on national television, on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman and told the world about some of the injustices Jason Renard Walker and I had been subjected to in Texas, that was a turning point in our struggle. Why, you may ask? Well, we are finally being given the opportunity to humanize prisoners in the eyes of the public on a much broader scale.

The San Francisco Bay View, National Black Newspaper, has been one of my most ardent supporters. We must understand that the Bay View is the exception, not the norm. The decades of service and work done by Mary Ratcliff and Dr. Willie Ratcliff has thrust the prison abolition struggle, and many of its leaders, into the media spotlight.

The new editor of the Bay View, Amani Sawari, continues to give many individuals and organizations who are active in the movement an opportunity to be seen and heard, on the pages and in the website of the Bay View. Amani has introduced a program of sustainability to the Bay View, and we must support her! This is very necessary.

It is noteworthy to mention that when the Bay View was in dire financial straits, it was the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) and members of the IWW who helped raise funds, along with my comrade Julie in North Carolina, and our comrades at the Final Straw Radio Show! I’ll never forget that.

Nevertheless, the question presents itself: “what happens when abuse, injustice, and oppression are exposed on a national scale, yet they are still not addressed? What then?”

Mentally ill Florida prisoner Darren Rainey was murdered by prison guards who scalded him to death in 2012. 7) Darren Rainey was a black man and a Muslim. Not one of the prison guards were charged or held accountable. We keep ignoring the blatant abuse of discretion of public servants like Katherine Rundle Fernandez, the Miami-Dade State Attorney, who insisted that Rainey did not suffer deadly burns, a claim that was shown to be false when Miami Herald journalist Julie Brown obtained gruesome images of Darren Rainey’s scalded body!

I have said this before and I’ll repeat it now: “Fire Katherine Rundle Fernandez – now!”

Now you would think that the Florida DOC might have learned something from the Rainey murder, but it still does nothing to protect the lives of mentally ill prisoners. Severely mentally ill Florida prisoner Vincent Gaines was found dead in his cell on December 3rd, 2015. 8) Mr. Gaines was suffering from malnutrition, and weighed only 115 lbs! Shocking.

Yet, there was no public outcry, no fanfare, very little media coverage. If not for the Florida-based Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), the family of Vincent Gaines would never be able to seek justice. The executive director of the HRDC summed the situation up perfectly when he said “It is an outrage that, in the 21st century, American prisoners are being starved to death in barbaric conditions by a prison system whose employees enjoy total impunity for their criminal actions.”

And this, I might add, is the status quo throughout the United States of Amerika!

The corruption and racism exists in every facet of the Criminal Justice system in Amerika! From the police who patrol our neighborhoods and lock us up, to the jailer who abuses us, the District Attorney that ignores our due process rights to the hypocritical judge who pompously looks down on us and makes back-room deals to ruin our lives forever!

Three allegations of sexual assault and an FBI investigation did not stop Brett KKKavanaugh from being konfirmed as a US Supreme Court Justice! This is Amerika!

I state clearly that we must thoroughly analyze the report released by the National Archives. If Brett Kavanaugh will lie and be vague and evasive about his involvement in the planning and crafting of Bush-era surveillance rules, then he most certainly will tell bold-faced lies relating to sexual assaults, rapes, and spiking the punch! These systems as a whole, and I’m talking about capitalism, imperialism, and this ultra-corrupt criminal justice system in the US, have lost their legitimacy.

Repression breeds rebellion

Focoism is not going doing to get the job done, especially for the imprisoned lumpen. We need something more organized. I do not think that the oppressors who have a death grip on the reigns of power in Amerika are going to relinquish their grip just because our theories and arguments are superior. No! Violence is inevitable. And the prospect of violence must be factored into our planning.

The rebellions and riots which occurred at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware, and at Lee Correctional Facility in South Carolina are the result of a system based on the heinous neglect and abuse of human beings.

Instead of the State of Delaware owning up to the part it played in creating this tragedy, the state, with its use of coerced testimony from willing snitches and informants, seeks to further ruin the lives of 17 black and brown prisoners. The frustration, desperation, and hopelessness which pushed the prisoners over the edge at Lee and Vaughn is a preview of what we will see across Amerika and the United Kingdom, inside their prisons and out. For prisoners most certainly are not the only cross-section of society that is slowly becoming fed up. I’d like to present to you a quote from Trotsky commenting on “Blanquism”, which I feel drives home a relevant point:

Insurrection is an art, and like all arts it has laws. The rules of Blanqui were the demands of a military revolutionary realism… Conspiracy does not take the place of insurrection. An active minority of the proletariat, no matter how well organised, cannot seize the power regardless of the general conditions of the country. In this point history has condemned Blanquism. But only in this. His affirmative theorem retains all its force. In order to conquer the power, the proletariat needs more than a spontaneous insurrection. It needs a suitable organisation, it needs a plan: it needs a conspiracy.” 9)

Comrades, I respectfully ask you to take your time and review that quote, and place it in the context of not just prisoners, but so-called free people – working people.

I end my essay with a quote from Fellow Incarcerated Worker John Bowden, who, the last I heard, was a resident at HMP Shotts in the UK. Mr Bowden wrote an essay for the Incarcerated Worker newsletter, entitled, America’s Lap Dog: Britain Slavishly Copies American Penal Policy.

Mr Bowden states:

This U.S. cultural influence on the criminal justice system is far greater in the U.K. than anywhere else in Europe, which accounts for the U.K. having the largest prison population and the longest prison sentences in Europe. It is also forever vulnerable to the American-style prison riot when despair and hopelessness overshadow prisoners’ lives completely and there is essentially nothing left to lose. As a model of either justice or retribution, the American criminal justice system is riddled with corruption and failure, and yet Britain slavishly attempts to imitate it—in its quest to achieve absolute social control at a time when the lives of the poor are being made increasingly unendurable, and society continues to fracture and polarise.” 10)

That was published in our 2nd issue in the summer of 2015, and as we proceed into 2019, Mr. Bowden’s words ring loud and clear. Many are wondering what the future holds for the abolition movement. My words are this: it ain’t over! We’ve just begun.

Dare to struggle, dare to win, all power to the people!

Keith “Malik” Washington is a co-founder and chief spokesperson for the End Prison Slavery in Texas Movement, a proud member of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and deputy chairman of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party Prison Chapter. Malik has been instrumental in calling for the abolition of legalized slavery in Amerika and is very active in the Fight Toxic Prisons campaign. You can view his work at comrademalik.com or you write him at Keith H. Washington, 1487958, McConnell Unit, 3001 S. Emily Drive, Beeville, TX 78102.

  1. From James & Grace Lee Boggs, Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century, p. 260

  2. Professor Valentine M. Moghadam, ‘Feminism and the Future of Revolutions’ in Socialism and Democracy, Vol 32 No 1 (March 2018), pg. 47

  3. Ibid, pg. 48

  4. Leon Trotsky, Challenge of the Left Opposition (1923-5), (New York: Pathfinder Press 1975), cited in Doug Enaa Greene, ‘The Historical Memory and Legacy of Louis-Auguste Blanqui‘, Socialism and Democracy, Vol. 32 No 1, pg. 117

  5. Ana Muñiz, Police, Power and the Production of Racial Boundaries, cited in Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color, pg. 233, Beacon Press Boston

  6. Ibid, pg. 245

  7. Human Rights Defense Center Annual Report 2017, pg. 12

  8. Ibid, see also ‘Mentally Ill South Florida Man Starved To Death In Prison, Lawsuit Alleges‘ by Jerry Iannelli, Miami New Times (August 3rd, 2018)

  9. Leon Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, Chapter 43: The Art of Insurrection, cited in Doug Enaa Greene, ‘The Historical Memory and Legacy of Louis-Auguste Blanqui‘, Socialism and Democracy, Vol. 32 No 1, pg. 122

  10. John Bowden, ‘America’s Lap Dog: Britain Slavishly Copies American Penal Policy‘, Incarcerated Worker Issue 2: Summer 2015, pg. 6