National Sections of the L5I:

Solidarity with US prison strike!

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In spite of an almost total mainstream media blackout on the National Prison Strike, along with suppression and repression of any news from the administrations of the various prisons themselves about the strike, the national prison strike has continued to build over the three weeks that it has been on-going.

Originally called as a response to the South Carolina prison strike of earlier this year where 7 inmates died and over 40 were wounded by the neglect of the administration of the Lee Correctional Institute, the strike has built over the last three weeks into a true national action. There have been at least 15 confirmed incidents of strike action in prisons from coast to coast and from the north to south. Prisons in states as divergent as California to Maryland, from Michigan to Florida and all places in between have seen strike actions. In addition there have been support actions within ICE detention centers nationwide and within prisons involving hunger strikes as well as general work stoppages. Outside actions have included demonstrations at prisons in Washington, California, and elsewhere, along with phone calls to the administrations of prisons that have attempted to retaliate against strikers and letters of support for these brave men and women standing up to the most repressive organs of the capitalist state.

Of course, many strikers are justifiably wary of being identified and singled out as "leaders" of the strike for future retaliation for their peaceful and non-violent actions during these three weeks. But they ask that all keep in mind the entire list of demands and not just the one to abolish the institution of prison slavery. Further details can be found at http://www.fifthinternational.org/content/usa-no-prison-slavery

We publish here an open letter to the striking prisoners from a comrade in prison in Saxony, Germany

Dear comrades,

My name is Patrick. I myself am a political prisoner in a German prison. It was with great anger that I learned of the events in South Carolina. However, I was all the more enthusiastic to hear about your nationwide prison strike. I can fully support your ten demands, as can the tens of thousands of prisoners in Germany.

The struggle you are waging concerns every prisoner, every prisoner in the world. The organized deprivation of liberty in the capitalist states serves the economic and political interests of the rulers. While the biggest criminals in the US live in freedom, behind desks in Silicon Valley, on Wall Street, in the White House or the Pentagon, we are forced to do degrading slave labor!

They say we are criminals. We deserved it. And certainly, we are not always proud of what we have done. But most of us didn't do it out of greed like those up there. We did it out of need because we are at the bottom. Most of us prisoners are the sorted out part of the unemployed reserve army of the state. Most of us are drawn from the unemployed – a reserve army of labour – now held to forced labor by the state. The deeds for which we end up in prison are not alien to this society. On the contrary, they are caused by a system based on competition, the foundations of which our exploitation and poverty is build on.

You have every right to organize resistance against the inhumane conditions in prison. But our ultimate goal must not be to make the prison industry more "humane". Our goal must be to put this industry on the garbage heap of history. An industry that is generously supplied daily with our grandchildren, children, fathers and mothers by the state. Many of you may have heard of the Nike "bait truck" incidents that the Chicago police used to lure even more of our impoverished brothers and sisters into prison.

The contempt that the rulers show us when we are at liberty is felt twice as much behind the prison walls. Here in German prisons, even the most basic workers' rights are curtailed. The state wants us to helplessly surrender to its violence. This is certainly even harder in the USA than in Germany. But the principle is the same.

But despite our situation we prisoners are still people who feel and think. In us pulsates the urge to be free. Your strike so far is a great expression of this desire. These struggles against those up there have the potential to bring the real enemy to the fore. They put the solidarity among the prisoners in the foreground. And every gang that refuses to do so only shows on which side their leaders are actually standing. Instead of gang wars among us and on the backs of the poor and oppressed, we need common organizations in which we all fight hand in hand.

We need a strong prisoners’ union - in the USA, in Germany, internationally - which organizes the resistance side by side with the unions and workers' organizations outside the prisons. The experiences in Germany have shown that to organize the prisoners it is necessary to build a structure that acts inside and outside the prison walls. This can break the isolation of the prisoner wage earners from the workers' movement outside the prison walls and organize a common struggle. Building a prisoners’ union, support committees and close links with other unions are first important steps.

But if we want to fundamentally stop the inhuman prison policy, if we want to put a stop to the real criminals, then we also need an answer for the society as a whole. Then we need a political organization that unites the entire working class in the USA and internationally under one banner, one goal, one program for liberation. As long as capitalism does not die, we and our children cannot live in peace and freedom. We will be wage slaves, whether in prison or on the assembly line in "freedom". But if capitalism is to die, then we must not only break our material chains. We must break the ideological chains that bind us to the two capitalist parties in the USA. It needs a revolutionary party that sweeps away all injustice.

The power of the capitalists consists in driving our world to the abyss, destroying the environment, slaughtering one another in wars, flooding our neighborhoods with drugs and making us work in poverty. Workers' power means the exact opposite. Therefore, I send greetings to the comrades of “Workers Power US” who provide me with information about your struggle and translate my letters.

Be brave, be strong and don't let yourselves be divided! Once we organize together as workers and oppressed, we have nothing more to lose but our chains.