Approved by the Co-ops Not Cages Assembly on June 12th, 2021.
The Prison-Industrial Complex[*]
- The prison-industrial complex (PIC), which includes external armed forces and courts imposed on communities, are social evils that ravage and endanger our society and must be eradicated by solutions meticulously built by communities animated by the spirit of Self-Determination.
- The primary function of the PIC is profiteering, exploitation, and power over others to the benefit of the ruling classes–not to reduce or prevent real harm among people nor to give consent-based justice to survivors of harm.
- The PIC concept of justice—rooted in Punishment, Degradation, Authority, and Torture—has disastrously failed and will always fail.
- Self-governing communities who engage in transformative and restorative justice, harm prevention, non-violent conflict resolution, consensus and mediation, forgiveness, community rehabilitation, and other unforeseen solutions can and will replace the PIC.
- All prisoners, regardless of their innocence or guilt of crimes against the rulers’ laws or crimes against society, must receive dignity and healing.
- Creating communities of resistance, self-governance, support, love and mutual aid across the razor wire fence are revolutionary acts.
- We who call ourselves abolitionists must attempt to integrate prisoners in our efforts.
THE END OF PRISONS
- We recognize the legitimacy of multiple approaches to abolition, bearing in mind the critical necessity of maintaining peace among abolitionists of different non-State supporting persuasions to avoid giving government and other anti-abolitionist forces easy opportunities to use asymmetrical positions among us to destroy our movements and decrease whatever cooperation and solidarity is possible between us.
- We recognize that the oppressed are always in a legitimate position to resist, even use violence, against the oppressor, even against Legal Crime. We recognize that not every legitimate attack on the oppressor is strategic or tactical and that our resistance can unintentionally strengthen our oppressors, requiring constant discussions among abolitionists for better paths forward to emancipation.
- We agree to the ethics of revolutionary action as well as reforms that actually diminish the torture prisoners face.
- The prisons will be emptied, never to be filled again, as a result of the masses who undergo a social transformation embracing an abolitionist way of life with all the responsibilities this entails and creative solutions to address the difficult challenges we face in the dismantling of a carceral-thinking and -practicing society. EMANCIPATION IS IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT THIS. It is either a societal transformation or a make-believe one. These are not tasks that can be handed to others but constitute the work of abolitionists that define us as abolitionists.
OTHER ABOLITIONIST VALUES
- We are raised in a corrupt world. It is best to assume we are at least sometimes corrupt in our thinking and practices and the simple realization of this does not result in automatic transformation. The world we seek to build is so different than the current. It is a slow- and long-term transformation and will never be automatic. As we judge others we must judge ourselves.
- People do commit harm to others. And communities, including abolitionists, are often baffled about how to address or prevent such harm and give justice to survivors. It is wise for abolitionists to develop solutions within community frameworks to the satisfaction of communities who shall inevitably play key roles in emptying the prisons.
- We are against purity politics and associating only with “perfect” people. While safe spaces and safe associations are indispensable, it is also necessary to go out into the corrupt world in order to have a transformative influence on others whom we think we can change. “Passing the buck” on trying to socialize others into an abolitionist way of life, shaming others who try to do this where you cannot, or enforcing complete segregation away from the “imperfect” and corrupt is part and parcel of carceralism. Of course, there are moments where such attempts can go awry and abolitionists must be “reeled back in”.
- It takes time to build trust with others for collaboration, to see who’s really “pulling” someone’s “strings”, to assess real motives and facts, and to see if others behave as carceralists or government agents. This is made all the more difficult because of the infiltration of the ruling classes’ employees or support base in grassroots organizations. Engaging with any group or person is a risk. But we cannot avoid all risks and must interact with society to reweave it where we can.
- We are open to those who wish to transform us where we can improve as well.
- Carceralism is deeply embedded in our communities, even among self-identifying radicals. Abolition does not mean condoning the behavior of individuals or multitudes who reproduce the foundations of a carceral society.
- Instead of being demagogues and populists, we must focus on carrying out the (often “invisible” and not flashy) molecular work of creating the moral, material, relational, and spiritual conditions needed for a carceral free world.
- Every conquest requires an oppressive “leadership” from the conquered population to “legitimize” such conquest and to assist in extirpating the truly liberatory elements of a conquered people who are struggling to be free. We would never seek to constitute any type of leadership and the destruction of such leadership, including the mentality that enables it, is necessary for emancipation.
- We stand against cults of personality, opportunism, and the fetishization and deification of anyone. No one is above reproach. By giving any member of the oppressed classes power over others, including irreproachability, we reproduce the sociology of carceralism and we end up at square one.
- We will not engage in virtue signalling, “radicaler than thou-ism”, and mindless populist or demagogic rhetoric that often seek to impose values and “correct” standards of behavior on others in alienated frameworks without meaningful attempts at community processes. Such practices are another pillar of carceral society.
- Nothing should be “automatically embraced as constructive and empowering; not everything can be rejected as a pure instrument of coloniality. It is possible, however, to aspire to build a different worldview, project of coexistence, and institutions with the collective set of ideas and practices that we have (from everywhere, including Europe, but not only Europe) and that we can create.”
- We should always be ready to abandon solutions that are not working or that even become new forms of oppression of our own making.
- Revolutionary activity includes, but is not limited to building anti-carceral units of dual power self-government, economies, and consensus-based conflict resolution; creating actual face-to-face community on abolitionist foundations; learning about the historical destruction of our movements and infusing these lessons into our communities; calling in (and if necessary, calling out) “activists” who behave as agents disrupting our movements; practicing forgiveness and redemption; building actual consensus and encounterist safe spaces to connect communities; taking the initiative to stop cycles of harm; and abandoning revenge that would unnecessarily start or perpetuate cycles of harm that must end for our emancipation.
- Other meaningful action is whatever increases our confidence, enthusiasm, autonomy, initiative, participation, solidarity, our egalitarian tendencies and self-activity. Sterile and harmful action is whatever increases our differentiation through hierarchy, alienation, our reliance on others to do things for us that we must do ourselves and the degree to which we are manipulated by others – even by those allegedly acting on our behalf.
- We must end racism, classism, patriarchy, ableism, cis-gendered privilege and ALL other interrelated forms of oppression that the PIC perpetuates, creates, and multiplies.
- We are internationalists and transnationalists.
[*] Much of the language in this document was taken from Prison Abolition Prisoner Support’s “We Believe” statement.