Excerpts from: CA Prison Hunger Strikers Propose ‘10 Core Demands’ for Occupy Wall Street
Turning the Tide, antiracist.org
by Heshima Denham, Zaharibu Dorrough and Kambui Robinson http://sfbayview.com/2011/california-prison-hunger-strikers-propose-10-core-demands-for-the-national-occupy-wall-street-movement/
“The Constitution illustrates the complexity of this American system: it serves the interests of a wealthy elite, but also does enough for small property owners, for middle-income mechanics and farmers to build a broad base of support. The slightly prosperous people who make up this base of support are buffers against the Blacks, the Natives, the very poor Whites. They enable the elite to keep control with a minimum of coercion, a maximum of law – all made palatable by this fanfare of patriotism and unity.” – Howard Zinn
Greetings, Brothers and Sisters:
A firm, warm and solid embrace of revolutionary love is extended to you all. These words by Brother Howard Zinn are particularly relevant to the survival of the evolving Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Most of you are familiar with the NARN Collective Think Tank (NCTT) from the programs and ideas that have come out of this body from both Pelican Bay SHU and here in Corcoran SHU, most recently our work in the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition. Like the Arab Spring, and our own struggle to abolish indefinite confinement in sensory deprivation SHU torture units, the Occupy Wall Street Movement expresses a fundamental rule of materialist dialectics, the transformation of quantity into quality, expressed eloquently by the Honorable Comrade George Lester Jackson some 40 years ago: “(C)onsciousness is directly proportional to oppression.”
The ruling 1% will never concede anything without struggle, which requires unity of purpose, broad-based organization, fluid strategy and effective tactics. Progressive movements in this nation have succeeded or failed based on how effectively they understood this reality. Following the Civil War, Reconstruction gains were repealed and Jim Crow was introduced. The Civil Rights Movement taught us the necessity of broad-based organization and accurate agreement of the opposition’s center of gravity: their point of weakness. We learned not to underestimate the power of the ruling 1% and its state tools, when the Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) dismantled the Black Liberation Movement, and ushered in the world of greed, corruption, inequality and mass incarceration you have inherited.
As we watched the Day of Action unfold, witnessing the predictable brutal response of the tools of the 1%, with great effort we detached from our rage and analyzed the comments and responses of various pundits, common people, agents of the state and protestors. As you read this analysis, consider where the men who wrote it live: Here, in Corcoran State Prison, labeled the “worst of the worst,” they’ve survived decades in solitary confinement in the SHU (security housing unit), one of the worst hell holes on earth. Out of despair and unimaginable cruelty and brutality, they forge hope for the beloved community. These men were leaders in the hunger strikes [last] summer and fall that involved over 12,000 California prisoners.
Three things immediately became obvious from that analysis: 1) The mass media and pundits were counting on the national Occupy movements to peter out and fizzle. Those who own the mass media want that message to be disseminated to undermine support for the movement.
2) Though most in this nation not involved directly in the occupations agree with our opposition to corporate greed and institutional inequality, there were no clearly articulated demands around which the movement could organize the broader masses.
3) This lack of clear demands and coherent strategic and tactical organization by the national Occupy Movement was undermining its intent, diluting its potential, and degrading its motive force.
The first step in defeating an enemy as powerful and organized as the ruling 1% is understanding the basis of their power. When you analyze opponents, you must see beyond the superficial to the point of vulnerability on which their power is based. Striking this point will inflict disproportionate damage.
It must be understood that radical social change is no different than warfare, and warfare is a form of power. Power systems share the same basic structures. The most visible thing about them is their appearance, what is seen and felt. The outward display of repressive power is a deceptive fabrication, a manifestation of insecurity, since power dares not expose its weaknesses. The key lies in determining what their point of vulnerability is, and to do so you must understand the structure of the power system and the culture in which it operates. We began this discussion with a concise analysis of just this point by Howard Zinn.
The real point of vulnerability in American democracy is the social and political support of its citizens. The key factor thus far in failing to harness mass support is the lack of broad-based demands around which people who may support our message but not our movement can be educated, organized and mobilized to join the movement and transform not only the nature and structure of U.S. society, but the WORLD.
To that end the NCTT Corcoran SHU has made a comprehensive analysis of statements from participants of all the national Occupy movements and some of those abroad and compiled these ideas into 10 core demands of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. We call on you to disseminate these 10 core demands to all the Occupy movements across the nation and the world. We call on all the Occupy movements to convene a national forum – online or at a national convention – to discuss the adoption of these 10 core demands as the definitive goals and organizing points around which the movement is based and the next level of our struggle is to be waged. These 10 core demands can be augmented or amended to take into account the broadest cross-section of the 99% possible and the collective will of the movement:
The 10 Core Demands of the Occupy Wall Street Movement National Coalition
1. We want full employment with a living wage for all people who will work. The US Declaration of Independence states in part “that all men … are endowed … with certain inalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men,
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Life is a right and thus the means to live – work, making a living wage – must be equally guaranteed. If corporate business will not provide full employment even as they sit on trillions of dollars fleeced from the surplus value of labor, then the means of production should be taken from them and placed in the community.
2. We want an end to institutional racism and race- and class-based disparities in access to, and quality of, labor, education, health care, criminal defense, political empowerment, technology and healthy food. Structural features of US capitalism prevent broad cooperation between the 99% from various racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. We will no longer allow this divide and rule arrangement to govern our relationships.
3. We want decent and affordable housing for all people. Housing is a fundamental necessity. But government has consistently sided with Wall Street, who are responsible for the single greatest loss of housing in the nation’s history[. F]ederal, state and local officials criminalize homelessness and poverty. The government should mandate a readjustment of home equity debt on all US homes so what people owe reflects what the properties are now worth. Empty Federal Housing Authority properties should be made into co-ops so communities can create decent housing for all.
4. We want affordable, equal access to higher education for all. We need education that teaches the true history of colonialism, chattel slavery, repression of organized labor, police repression and imprisonment as tools of capitalist exploitation, and the perpetuation of imperialism in US power systems and corporate financial markets. Speculative profiteering drives up tuition, leaving most in debt and pricing higher education out of reach for communities of color and the poor. Usurious student debt should be forgiven in full.
5. We want an immediate end to police brutality and the murder of oppressed people in the U.S., particularly in the New Afrikan (Black), “Latino,” immigrant and underclass communities and among those protesting in this nation. We recognize the police and other state paramilitary agencies are, and have always been, the enforcement army of the ruling 1%. We recognize such brutal and unwarranted treatment is the daily existence of New Afrikan (Black), Latino, immigrant and underclass communities and people in this nation. Self-defense is a human right. Community organized oversight and self-defense forces should be organized to monitor and record police and defend the people. We will suffer no more attacks like those at UC Davis, no more Scott Olsens or Oscar Grants to be injured or killed by the tools of the 1%.
6. We want an end to the prison industrial complex as a profit base – from our tax dollars – for the disposal of surplus labor and the poor. We want an end to indefinite solitary confinement torture units in the US. Mass incarceration of people of color and the poor will no longer be tolerated. The prison population in the U.S. has exploded 600% since 1981. The continued indefinite confinement of human beings in SHUs and other supermax torture units must be abolished. True rehabilitation, such as vocational programs, access to higher education and community-based parole boards must become the new order of the day.
7. We want an end to all corporate and financial influences in the political process in the U.S. The nature of U.S. society has been of the rich, for the rich and by the rich[. This] marginaliz[es] the people. The U.S. will finally become a nation of the people, for the people and by the people, where only individual citizens have influence in the democratic process. Ban all lobbyists, donors and special interest groups from local, state and federal electoral and legislative processes.
8. We want an end to imperialist wars of aggression and sending our youth off to kill and die to enforce the economic interests of big oil and other corporate concerns and as an impetus to keep from addressing domestic ills.
9. We want a bottoms-up approach to economic development and labor-capital relations in the US. The state has aligned itself so intimately for so long with the interest of the ruling 1% that it has become enamored exclusively to a top-down approach. This has resulted in a 281% increase in the growth of wealth in the top 1% of this nation, while the bottom 90% have seen their incomes flat over 20 years. We must now uplift the quality of life from the bottom rung up – empowering the disenfranchised, and directing bailouts and subsidies to the people, not banks and billionaires.
10. We want a more equitable distribution of wealth, justice and opportunity at every level of society. There is enough food that no one need be hungry. There are enough unoccupied structures that no one need be homeless. We have enough educators, institutions, knowledge and technology that no one need be without a degree or skilled trade. There’s enough work to be done that no one needs to be without a job. Only the stranglehold of the super-rich 1% on every institution and apparatus of this nation’s infrastructure ensures that their opulence and privilege are maintained at the expense of the 99%.
Please send this proposal to each Occupy Movement. In addition, we call on each individual Occupy Movement to begin organizing in and with the underclass communities in your city or town. We call for all my brothers and sisters in the ghettos, projects, barrios and trailer parks across this nation to begin organizing with Occupy around collective programs that can serve to begin realizing these 10 core demands by our unity and contributions alone. The NCTT, both here in Corcoran SHU and Pelican Bay SHU are committed to making meaningful contributions to the development of such community action programs, which we will outline in our next communication.
There are some 47 million people in Amerika living below the poverty line, another 150 million or so barely getting by – almost two thirds of this nation’s population, all of them part of the 99%. It is here that we will find our most lasting support, and thus it is here that you must begin forging meaningful ties. These are overwhelmingly New Afrikan (Black), Latino, immigrant and poor communities.
You champion us all with your ideas and the courage of your convictions, just as we continue to support you with our sacrifices and insight. It is now time to take the movement to its next evolution and ultimately to its inevitable conclusion: victorious revolutionary change.
Your greatest power lies in your unity and cooperation and ultimately your organizational ability. The power of the people far surpasses all the repressive violence attacking you/us, surpasses the wealth of the 1%, who will stop at nothing to silence us all.
This is a protracted struggle; there will be no 90-day revolution here. Victory will require sacrifice, tenacity and competent strategic insight. The question you must ask is: Are you prepared to do what is necessary to win this struggle? If you answer in the affirmative, commit to victory and accept no other alternative. The people, as we are, are with you. Until we win, our love and solidarity to all those who love freedom and fear only failures.