by Paul Wright
Welcome to another issue of PLN. This issue is kind of special. It marks the 4th anniversary of PLN, that's right, 48 consecutive issues! Our first issue appeared in May of 1990. For the first couple of issues it was kind of hit and miss as to whether or not we would survive. We've come a long way from the first issues which Ed and I typed in our respective prisons at Monroe and Clallam Bay with the 75 people on the mailing list and the xeroxed copies. In that same period of time we've seen a number of other prison publications come and go. We owe our longevity to the fantastic outside volunteers we've had over the years: Scott who helped with the printing when we needed it, Judy who desktop published us for almost two years, the two Carries who helped with the printing and mailings, Jim who has dutifully helped mail PLN for what seems like ages, Rollin who has handled our mail and banking almost from the start, Sandy who's done a fantastic job with the printing, Janie who helped with the mailings and our database of readers, the two Dan's who've done so much to ensure PLN's successful computerization, Michael, Carol, Ann, Kris and all the other people who have, over the years, volunteered their time and energy to help PLN reach it's intended audience. And of course, we have to thank you, our readers, because without your financial support and encouragement we would not have gotten this far. When we started we had 75 people that we sent PLN to. Our US mailing list is hovering at about the 1,000 mark as I write this. Hopefully we will be able to continue growing and helping people help themselves.
We must also thank the folks at Arm the Spirit in Canada who, since the very beginning, have been able to distribute PLN to our readers in Canada, Latin America and Asia. The comrades at Oxford ABC in England, Durchblich in Germany and now Solidarieta Proletaria have been able to distribute and print PLN for readers in Europe and the Middle East. Without the help from these comrades we simply would be unable to afford to mail PLN outside the US due to the high postage costs. Their help has allowed our message to be read in some 22 different countries, our articles have been translated and reprinted by a number of publications, both in the US and foreign countries. So while our voice is a small one, it gets around.
Everyone who reads the newspapers or watches TV is aware of the vicious campaign underway against prisoners, our families and supporters. All too often we are completely cut out of any debate or discussion on the issues that affect us the most. The mainstream media could care less what we, or poor people in general--in or out of prison--have to say. That is why we believe that it is important for publications like PLN to exist: so progressive prisoners and their supporters will have a voice and a means to exchange information and news. If we're going to be cut out of the mainstream media we need to form our own. You can support this process by telling your friends, family, attorneys, fellow prisoners, etc., about PLN, what we're about, and encouraging them to subscribe.
This issue of PLN has an extra four pages. I thought it would be a nice way to celebrate both our anniversary and the fact that this is Mayday, the international day of the working class. This issue of PLN has a "theme" which revolves around the idea of empowerment. As slaves of the state, prisoners are disenfranchised and not entitled to such basic elements of a true democracy such as the vote and a decent working wage. We have articles covering these issues and how we can give some thought to going about obtaining these fundamental rights. With rare exceptions the people in prison are poor, members of the working class or unemployed. Mayday is a day when we can reflect upon this and what needs to be done to change it. The right to vote and/or a minimum wage are not the solution to any of the many problems experienced by capitalist society. What they are is goals we can struggle for, organize around, build support for basic concepts of fairness and democracy which the current system is unable, and unwilling, to provide. When we can mobilize around these issues we can organize around others.
False optimism that winning these modest demands should be tempered by realizing that if voting could change the system it would be illegal! Pablo Serrano, a Libertarian political prisoner in Spain recently commented in a letter: "As to voting by prisoners, participation in elections legitimizes the system in power, but beyond that it is a mean of establishing social consensus and as such is counter-revolutionary. Above all, given the current state of capitalism with its capacity for absorption and integration. Any electoral game thus, does not serve revolutionary interests because independently of how they set forth their ideas and messages, there is nothing they can do against the mechanism of a system fattening itself for even better domination. It is naive to participate. All struggle is about taking it to terrain which negates the system and in the electoral arena, for example, the task would be to organize sectors into not voting as a conscious act and in a permanent struggle which sets forth alternatives to the delegation of political, municipal and union democracy." Part of the reason we cover prisoners imprisoned as a result of the struggle for political, economic and social justice is because all these issues are linked together. Prison struggle does not sit alone in a vacuum. Prisons are a tool of social policy which are used to keep entire societies in line. Modest reforms here and there will not change this. The articles and content speak for themselves. We hope they will get folks to thinking about issues like economic democracy, real wages for real work and the role of prisons within the dominant economic system.
This issue of PLN also has a first: a paid ad. It was the ad which helped us afford the additional pages. The book advertised is written by a prisoner and is being made available to PLN readers at a discount; mention the fact that you saw the ad in PLN and you not only get a $5.00 discount off the cover price but the publisher will donate $1.00 per copy sold to PLN. Needless to say, please buy the book! A review is in this issue.
Because PLN is now being mailed from the east coast instead of Seattle the delivery dates you can expect to receive PLN has changed. East coasters will get it sooner while west coasters will get it later than they did. Everyone should have their issue of PLN by the end of the month, i.e. you should have received this issue by May 31st. Please don't write us inquiring about missing issues until the month is out. To ensure that you receive PLN in a timely manner please notify us of any address changes as the post office does not forward PLN Check your address label and make sure it is accurate.
We have bulk copies of PLN available for distribution at events, fund raisers, etc., at little more than cost. Contact me for details. Enjoy this issue of PLN and please encourage friends and others to subscribe.
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