Revolution #275, July 22, 2012
A Prisoner Writes on July 4th: “What BAsics 1:13 ultimately means to me”
The following letter was written by a prisoner in the Midwest, July 4, 2012
To Whom It May Concern,
Even though this is more coincidental than conscious on my part, the fact that today is the 4th of July brings out a certain irony to all my below comments as they relate to the true realities of America and her bourgeois illusions. So, hey…I’m going to let the fireworks begin as I celebrate what this day actually means to me. Cool?
Over the past several months, I’ve been following the BAsics Bus Tour in earnest and watching how the tour has connected with the various communities it has come across as it has traversed the country. One way it’s done so has been by making themes out of certain quotes, such as BAsics 1:13, which says:
“No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to and early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.”
The above quote reminds me of something that George Jackson once said in his book Soledad Brother which has stayed with me since the first time I read and is STILL the ground upon which my own convictions are also rooted in. He said: “When I revolt, slavery dies with me. I refuse to pass it down again. The terms of my existence are founded on that.” (p. 250)
I recently had a conversation with this younger brotha, who’s recently fresh to the joint with over a 100 year prison sentence. When I came down over a decade ago, it was “normal” to see a young 18, 19, or 20 year old brotha to be handed down a 50, 60 or 65 year sentence. I still remember the first time I witnessed a dude come back from court after being sentenced to 50 years in prison. It was surreal to say the least. It was even more surreal when I was handed down a lengthy term myself. Yet even then, only a few guys I knew had ever been given more than 65 years—not like that was a drop in the bucket or anything. You just knew one day you would possible see the streets again. You didn’t have LIFE. Today, though, when I look around at the guys newly arriving to the joint now-a-days, it’s really nothing to learn that your neighbor has 100 years, or even LIFE. Today, that’s really become the “new norm.” And if that wasn’t bad enough, instead of new arrivals having the chance of staying in the general prison population, acquiring a college degree, and a few trades, today warehousing an increasing number of us on supermax units 23 hours a day is also the “new norm,” since there’s no more college in our state and very few programs.
That’s why when me and this particular brotha was talking about my own conversion to becoming a communist and how he was glad that I had eventually found “my passion” in life—although I had to come to prison in order to find it—it really struck a chord with me. In one sense, I saw myself in him because I, too, remember that time in my own life when I really didn’t have any real tangible sense of purpose. Like him, I was also searching for answers to why shit was like it was in books and how life seemed more like a “curse” than some “preordained miracle.” On the other hand, I saw in this brotha and his comments a generation of Black and Latino males whose only real crime was being born into a marginalized group whose chance of socio-economic mobility was already limitedly determined by the fact of where they were born within the overall economic relations of the capitalist system. For this unfortunate sector of the population, prison and death was more than a possibility; it was a necessity of the very working of the system itself.
As I mentioned to this brotha, it wasn’t really so much about me finding “my purpose” in life per se, as if it was just “my thing” and I could’ve easily taken up another purpose; it had more to do with realizing the fact of NECESSITY. In other words, once I realized that the economic and social circumstances which brought me and him to prison, or caused others to seek escape though drugs, or caused some to find the “American Dream” through other means (prostitution, the drug economy, or even through sub-prime “legal” scams), and still others who committed suicide because of their frustration with life itself, ALL socially derived from the dynamics of the capitalist-imperialist system—Once I was able to put a circle around that, I one and the same time realized none of this shit had to be! None of these particular social realities! And it was at that point, that I started to feel like George: “When I revolt, slavery dies with me, I refuse to pass it down again. The terms of my existence are founded on that.”
By the end of our dialogue, I think bro realized, too, that his own circumstances could only be understood by the wider dynamics at work, and to a large extent, his lengthy term in prison was not so much due to his “personal choices” in life per se, as much as it was FIRST determined by the limitedly determined choices we were born into within the framework of the all-encompassing economic relations of capitalist system.
The fact of the matter, is that while neither me or him were “destined” to come to prison in some teleological sense, taken as a whole, numerous sections of the population were “destined” to find themselves in prison, in poverty, or facing all kinds of hardships due to the dictates of the capitalist system. That’s a given! Now…who will actual find themselves in that predicament and statistical category in their lifetime is variable; however, the fact that such a predicament and categories are necessary and integral to functioning of the overall system, is testament to the fact that we all must eventually become passionate about saying “NO MORE OF THAT” as we come to concretely understand the problem and it’s only solution.
BA summed all this up best when he mentioned in What Humanity Needs: Revolution and the New Synthesis of Communism that:
Marx made this point in another work of his, the Grundrisse: Once a system is firmly in place and entrenched, then individuals may be able to change their social position—they may acquire education and become part of the middle class, for example, or in some other way escape from being impoverished, into a more middle class position— but Marx emphasized in a very important point, while individuals may be able to do that, the masses of people cannot escape the conditions of their existence en masse, as the masses of people, except though abolishing those conditions—except, in other words, through revolution…
The misfortune of the masses of people is that, once this system is entrenched and its dynamics are what’s determining the character of things—and the confines and limits of what’s possible, within that system—then the masses of people are chained within conditions. And, to refer once again to Marx’s statement in the Grundrisse, they cannot escape from those conditions, en masse—in this country or that, and ultimately in the world as a whole—without overthrowing, uprooting and completely abolishing that system and replacing it with an emancipating system. (p.78, 79)
For me, that’s what BAsics 1:13 ultimately means to me.
In Solidarity, XXXXXXXXX
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