Draft Theses on Prisons and Prison Slavery

The following was written on September 9th, 2016, in recognition of the nation-wide prisoner strike organized by the IWW’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. I intended to publish it at that time, but was delayed and eventually forgot about the piece. It is one of several unpublished pieces from the past few months which I intend to post here.

  1. Prison is a powerful tool of bourgeois terror because it is everything alienating about normal society, but taken to its furthest extreme.

  1. Prison is simultaneously the denial of prisoners’ individuality and the destruction of their social lives, which together encompass their whole humanity.

  1. It follows that the labor which takes place in prisons takes its most alienated form, i.e. slavery. This is not just because the market demands the cheap labor which prisoners can be forced to do, but also because the bourgeoisie needs to construct a most-exploited section of the proletariat to cultivate the submission of others, and does so with prisoners.

  1. In the United States, it is no coincidence that a disproportionate number of prisoners are Black, Latinx, and Native American. These are the most exploited groups of workers in the free labor market, and the bourgeoisie uses prisons as a means to ensure that this system of racial exploitation continues.

  1. In order to legitimize the continuation of the slave economy, the bourgeoisie must create a system of values which sees the brutal form of labor performed by prisoners as morally and psychologically beneficial to them. They use the language of debt and debt bondage to accomplish this, asserting that prisoners are paying moral “debt”.

  1. This same system of thought also legitimizes the labor which occurs outside of prisons.

  1. Furthermore, the conditions of prison slavery, and in prisons generally, constitute a threat which keeps the proletariat at the mercy of the employing class.

  1. The violence and disorder which exists in prisons in the United States, whether committed by inmates or guards, is intentional on the part of the bourgeois state. The greater the violence, the more justification for keeping and enslaving prisoners, and the more terror inflicted on all proletarians.

  1. The prevalence of rape in prisons is a form of sexual terror. The bourgeoisie facilitates prison rape to assault the most personal and vulnerable aspect of prisoners’ personal and social identities. It is also a method of dividing and neutralizing prisoners, turning them against each other so that they cannot organize and revolt. The proletariat outside of prisons is kept in submission by its terror at this situation.

  1. All prisons which hold proletarians for crimes against private property, no matter where they exist or how humane they might appear, are instruments of bourgeois terror. The same is true of those which hold revolutionary socialists and anarchists as political prisoners.

  1. The structure and condition of the most humane prison on earth is still profoundly alienating for the whole society.

  1. The movement which abolishes prison is that which liberates all of humanity, the revolution for a free communist society.
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