From the July-August 2021 issue of News & Letters
COVID-19 IN PRISONS
I was recently released from Alexander MCU medium custody unit. There were three deaths there due to lack of concern by those in charge. Almost every guard I came into contact with told me they had COVID-19. We were tested and not told the results. Finally, two of the three pods were full of sick inmates. While the sick guards were off for two weeks, probably with pay, most of them were hoping to catch COVID so they could have the time off—and yet two people in my pod were sent off to die. In the closed custody unit, a man made the paper when he died. I documented the times and days guards handed items back and forth between the pods without gloves. I had to tell one guard to put his plastic suit and mask on after he just walked in, thinking we either didn’t care or didn’t matter. Most of the guards were Trump supporters and racist. I wish I knew what to do or whom to speak with to take legal action against this institution. I am positive I would not be alone.
I am from Benton Harbor, Mich. I’m white, but growing up I saw so much systemic racism. I’ve experienced financial prejudice from people in the rich white area outside of what was stereotypically nicknamed Benton Harlem by the upper classes. That was in the 1980s and 1990s. Now the hate and overt fascism is blatantly on display everywhere. I have always been a devout anti-fascist.
The institution I’m at is currently inundated with COVID. We had the B-1-1-7 variant, and were on daily 15-minute rapid testing by the National Guard for more than two weeks earlier this year and are being told nothing. We saw it on the news before we were told. Other than your paper, all the media we get is corporate sponsored and does not tell us about the working class and our comrades such as y’all and the true struggle. I’ve studied Bakunin-Kropotkin, and am drawn back to the true genius of Marx and Raya Dunayevskaya. I will continue to try to spread Marx’s message. Sadly, I’m around some very fascist Trump-obsessed people.
LABOR AND CAPITALISM
In the past a lot of musicians drove cabs to supplement their income. No more. Drivers work 12 hours a day (not including travel to work which is lengthy because they can’t afford to live in Manhattan), 6-7 days. What kind of life does that leave you? Cab drivers had a union, not anymore. May Day celebrates the legal shortening of the workday—that’s gone. I’m humbled to read N&L: it brings day-to-day life together with the way the system is. It shows both the Individual and the Universal.
Economic insights have been revealed by the pandemic and the ways capitalism exploits people. Marxist-Humanism connects it all to world capitalist exploitation of labor. Surplus labor is revealed by migrant camps worldwide and detention and incarceration in the U.S. I saw a report about 3-D printed houses. It’s staggering to think of the job loss in construction and material production if houses were primarily produced by 3-D printers.
WEEDS AND FLOWERS
Today it seems like counter-revolution has so many specific forms: proxy militias, fundamentalists—a garden with weeds and one flower. We have to combat it not only externally but within ourselves. People speak well but then there’s a counter-revolutionary idea. What does one do with all of that when you have a concrete need for change in order to survive: as an individual, a species, a tendency? In my building, we are confronting huge security issues by a former tenant leader who is reverting to drug dealing and pimping from the building. A liberal aid organization will not stop paying his rent because they are opposed to evictions.
Why isn’t censorship a major issue for the Left? The idea that I should cheer because those on the right are being censored on Facebook and Twitter does not sit well. Do people learn nothing from the past? When the rights of the “other” are taken, it is only a matter of time before your rights soon follow. We are even being censored as individuals on Google and all of the other high-powered technology that rules our world. When I tried to get information about COVID-19 as well as the vaccines, I was deterred by Google and YouTube. I’ve had better luck on the search engine DuckDuckGo. If the outcry is not stronger against censorship, I fear it will get worse. According to history and oh so many dystopian films, this is only the beginning.
POLITICS OF SNITCHING
Faruq’s “Fred Hampton and the Idea of freedom” (May-June 2021 N&L) is such a powerful antidote to the politics of snitching. It’s great to have in the paper. Faruq never loses sight of a true Marxist-Humanist vision of what human relationships can be in a new society.
VOICES FROM BEHIND BARS
Recently Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed Arkansas Act 1110. It allows the Arkansas Department of Corrections to steal every last penny of stimulus money from those within its care. First the money will be used to pay fines, restitution, etc. If an inmate has none of those, then every penny of his stimulus money will be split between an “inmate welfare” fund and an “inmate custody and care” fund. Inmates see none of those funds. You may ask yourself what the so-called welfare fund pays for. I have yet to figure that out. We pay for all we need, like travel to funerals and the salaries of the guards. Not all can afford to spend $500 or more for such a thing, and welfare funds are never used to enable an “indigent” prisoner to travel to a funeral. The care and custody fund account is used by the ADC to hold money they have stolen in order to “take care of” inmates. Taxpayers already pay for our care, so the fund is just a way to rob prisoners with a pen. In addition to these things, Hutchinson stopped those on unemployment from getting the stimulus funds that were sent by the federal government for that very purpose. A few days ago, he announced that the State of Arkansas has its largest surplus in history, $980 million! Robin Hood was a hero because he stole from the rich and gave to the poor. What do you call those who steal from the poor and give to the rich? I think you know the answer.
P.S. Our prison mailroom has decided that the latest issue of News & Letters “incites violence” and I can’t have it.
Calico Rock, Ark.
It brought me a great deal of joy receiving two editions of N&L today. I’m thrilled the hard copies are being sent out again at all. I would like to go on receiving them if a donor can be found.
TO OUR READERS: Can you donate $5 for a prisoner who cannotp ay for a subscription to N&L? It will be shared with many others. A donation of $8 pays for a subscription plus the Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers pamphlet to be sent to a prisoner. Prisoners are eligible to continue their free subscriptions when they first get released, a time when the system tries to make them forget the struggle.