APSP member Nyabinga Dzimbahwe (left) and Union del Barrio member Benjamin Prado embrace at the 2006 Conference to Build the ASI.
The following is a joint statement released by Union del Barrio and the African People’s Socialist Party on February 20, 2006 in response to violence between Africans and Mexicans in prisons throughout California. We felt it important to reprint this statement here in the pages of the Burning Spear Newspaper.
During the first week of February, hundreds of Mexicans and Africans, who are being held captive in prisons and jails throughout California, were injured with one reported death as a consequence of ferocious violence between African and Mexican prisoners that continuously wracks the prison system. The California prison system and other officials have characterized these violent explosions as riots that have their bases in inexplicable assaults initiated by one group of prisoners against the other.
This is a joint statement by Union del Barrio and the African People’s Socialist Party in response to the recent, intensifying violence between African and Mexican prisoners. It is also a call to our two peoples, inside the prisons and jails as well as those outside the prisons who are also trapped by the reality imposed on us by the current relationship we have with the U.S. government and the social system that it represents.
This joint statement should also be seen as a statement of the great respect that each of our two organizations holds for the other. This mutual respect is simply one manifestation of the inherent objective unity we see between our two peoples and the respect that must be attained by each for the other as a condition for our liberation and the destruction of the prison walls that function as tools of our oppression.
Companeras y Companeros; Sisters and Brothers: Look around you. What you will see is that in the state of California, which may be tied with Texas for the second-largest prison system in the world, it is our people — Africans and Mexicans — who fill the prison cells. This is no accident.
While there is a commonly accepted lie that prisons exist to punish criminals prisons are, in fact, an arm of a repressive institution that only exists for the purpose of protecting the status quo and the interests of the rulers.
This repressive institution is called the State. For those to whom the State is not a mystery, it is often referred to as an organ of class rule.
But the State is more than that; it is also an organ of national oppression. The State is a powerful bureaucracy or governing body that has acquired a monopoly of force in society that is used for the benefit of defending and preserving the status quo, the existing social system and the prevailing relations of power.
The institutionalized force that comprises the state includes the military — army, air force, etc. — as well as the police, courts and, yes, even the prisons. It is essential that we understand this public force in the hands of our oppressors and the role it plays in the totality of our lives.
Companeras y Companeros; Sisters and Brothers: the status quo for our peoples is one of poverty and despair. It is a status quo born of the theft of all our resources. In some instances this means the theft of our national homeland from us while in others it means the theft of us from our homeland.
It means the brutal expropriation of value wrenched from our bodies, often scarred and broken due to having the dirtiest, most back-breaking labor imposed on us due to our status as conquered peoples.
The State emerges in society when that society is hopelessly divided between the haves and have-nots, and where the have-nots are lacking as a consequence of what is rightfully theirs being taken from them by those who do have. In order for such a social system to endure and for such a relationship to persist, it is necessary for the introduction of this instrument of repression that we refer to as the State. For it is the State, most often in the form of the police, that stands, weapons at the ready, between our wretched existence and those whose wealth and resources have come at our expense.
This is why we, Africans, Mexicans and other exploited peoples, especially other subject peoples, fill the prisons of the U.S. in such disproportionate numbers. For it would be impossible to hold us in such unfair circumstances without the use of unbridled force such as the police and prisons.
Sisters and Brothers; Companeras y Companeros: The modern State of Europe and the U.S., is a capitalist State. That is to say that it is a State that protects a social system that is based on the means of producing what is necessary for life – food, clothing and shelter – being owned privately by those who do not labor, while production itself is done socially – by laborers who participate jointly while owning nothing.
“the status quo for our peoples is one of poverty and despair. It is a status quo born of the theft of all our resources. In some instances this means the theft of our national homeland from us while in others it means the theft of us from our homeland.”
This problem of social production and private ownership makes the State absolutely necessary to protect the interests of the owners and their system from the ability of the laborers to remedy their situation by overturning this relationship and replacing it with one of social ownership, which would be consistent with social production.
The wealth of Europe and white people globally has come at the expense of the resources of Africa, Asia and what is referred to as Latin America. Capitalism is a product of slavery and colonialism, the process of Europe capturing whole peoples and their lands for the benefit of Europe.
The nation(s) of Europe and the capitalist State are both products of this aggression against the rest of us.
The European nation was born as a capitalist nation and achieved its consciousness and worldview from its role in the theft of our lands, peoples and other resources. This is a national consciousness that came to fruition through being attached to a parasitic relationship with the rest of us. It is a consciousness that expects to realize value for itself through forcible expropriation of value from others.
Our peoples, Africans and Mexicans, are victims of the development of the European nation(s), which is an oppressor nation, and we are kept victims of the European State in the U.S, and elsewhere. Our struggle must be one that is designed to overturn this oppressive relationship to the oppressor nation and its State. It must be one for national liberation and the empowerment of the laboring masses of Africans and others.
It is when we are confused about our own interests and do not have our own worldview, our own explanation of the relations in this world within which we exist, that we are subject to take our explanations from the very same forces that are responsible for our oppression.
Mexicans and Africans are colonial subjects, held in national subjugation by a foreign, hostile State. We must struggle to achieve national liberation, but unlike the Europeans whose nation(s) was born as a consequence of the national oppression of others, we, Mexicans and Africans, must fight against the State of our oppressor nation.
Unlike the Americans or the Europeans we will not consolidate our liberated nations and States as reactionary political relations and institutions, primarily for protecting an exploitative relationship. Our nations and States will emerge as revolutionary relationships and institutions, born of the conscious contest with our oppressor nation status and the oppressive State that protects it.
The courage of our people and our willingness to resist can be seen in the battles that are occurring between our peoples in the prison system. However, it is a misplaced courage and it is not legitimate resistance.
It is an imitation of our oppressors who acquired wealth and national prestige through attacks on others. This statement is an attempt to end the confusion among us about who is the real enemy and to clarify the fact that we cannot be free and prosperous through accepting our explanations for success from our oppressor.
This is a call to all our Sisters and Brothers behind the prison walls, to all the Companeros y Companeras in the squalid streets of the ghettos and barrios:
To be united! Join us in the camp of the struggling peoples of the world who have identified the enemy and are girding for battle!
To be united! Join us in the battle to emancipate our subject and oppressed nations, to allow for the unfettering of our cultures, the flowering of our dignity as free peoples and the reconquest of our dignity!
To be united! Join us in the struggle to liberate our peoples and build new societies where those who labor and create the wealth of society will be the actual leaders of society!
To be united! Join us in the ranks of the revolution! Join Union del Barrio and the African People’s Socialist Party and strike a death blow to our national oppression and the social system upon which it rests.
To be united! To be united!