Kevin Johnson #1007485
Red Onion State Prison
P.O. Box 1900
Pound, VA 24279
Kevin Johnson #1007485
Red Onion State Prison
P.O. Box 1900
Pound, VA 24279
This issue of Propter Nos offers a collection of essays, poetry, artwork, and prose that meditates on the interrelated phenomena of insurgency and exhaustion. We use the term “insurgency” to describe an approach to political struggle that is comprised of individuals, groups, units, and cells working together through decentralized networks, on multiple scales, and across different institutional sites to abolish a society structured in dominance. Some contributors use the term with a more specific meaning, referring to a form of counter-warfare in which clandestine and “above-ground” formations combine their political resources with the principled use of violence to achieve revolutionary strategic objectives. Yet while insurgency is a key thematic framing this issue, many contributors explore exhaustion as an inherent aspect of growing, nurturing, and sustaining opposition to the dominant culture—its state and military, its laws and mode of production, its moral and aesthetic values. What exactly are the long-term consequences of our most cherished approaches to organizing, education, and cultural praxis? Are the leading paradigms, strategies, and tactics of political work at all sustainable? What if we admit that we are burnt out? Stress, fatigue, burnout, war-weariness, and emotional expenditure are all inherent elements of building mass movements against anti-blackness, white supremacy, colonialism, racial capitalism, and cis-heteropatriarchy. As in all aspects of life, without the proper diagnosis, healing, care, and rest, exhaustion weakens our capacity to effectively guard against the forces of counterinsurgency. In a moment when the World has become ever-so politicized, enraged, and emboldened, what would it mean if we made room to consider the effects of exhaustion in the processes of building anti-systemic insurgency? What direction would our struggles take if we troubled the insistence on an ever-approaching future plentitude?
True Leap Press is a radical publishing collective based in Chicago, Illinois. We support the intellectual struggle and advocate for the building of mass-based projects for antiracist, anticapitalist, and antipatriarchal political education. Our collective encourages any-and-all forms of revolt and insurrection against global anti-blackness, white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy. We also aim to facilitate the growth of a progressive political consciousness that is deliberately antipatriotic and against all forms of U.S. nationalism.
In the coming years, we hope to increase our number of publications, establish infrastructure for printing and distribution, and grow our capacity to work across prison walls. Our current (soon to be print) publication is entitled PROPTER NOS. It offers a platform for Black and radical antiracist theoretical and cultural work—such as poetry, short essays, experimental writing, artwork—and will also increasingly serve as a source of commentary and analysis from imprisoned activists and grassroots abolitionist organizations.
Referring to the collective sense of “We” that inspires the mobilization and identity formation of a People, the Latin phrase “Propter Nos” is the title we chose for our first publication. This is because we believe that one of the central tasks of building consciousness amongst colonized, imprisoned, working class, and poor peoples is to build spaces where a core set of political principles can be cultivated amidst the contradictions and antagonisms inherent to revolutionary movement building.
True Leap Press believes that establishing a clearinghouse for the formulation of a vision of mass insurgency among differently situated communities of struggle is a necessary (and urgent) task in the present moment of white nationalist resurgence and patriotic liberal counterrevolution. We therefore obstinately oppose the mythology of U.S. exceptionalism and white manifest destiny, and do not presume that American liberal democracy is an inherent “good.” Instead, we hope PROPTER NOS will serve as a forum for works that invigorate a different sense of common political consciousness, one rooted in the historical experiences of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Queer movements mobilizing against the white capitalist civilization and nation-building project of the United States.
The works included in each volume of PROPTER NOS loosely operate in accordance with the Black Liberation Army’s principle of “unity-criticism-unity.” This concept refers the “process of the members of a group, unit or organization united on a set of principles and objectives to struggle internally, behind closed doors among themselves.” This process is carried out in practice by working together with comrades, “observing and analyzing each other’s errors, and then offering constructive criticism to each other to correct errors and overcome any shortcomings.” The unity-criticism-unity approach is meant to “strengthen each other and thus advance the group, unit or organization” towards its revolutionary objectives. This type of practice also means remaining open to forming larger strategic networks and fronts.
By labeling an insurgent collaboration “strategic,” we simply mean a relationship formed between two or more groups based on a purpose that is contingent on the short- or long-term goals of participant organizations, cells, or even between differing movements. Networks and fronts aligned by shared strategic objectives—if practiced in a principled manner—hold the potential for facilitating the creation of dynamic forms of insurgency that operate simultaneously on different scales, across multiple institutional sites, and amongst a broader formation of insurgent cells working towards their own unique political ends. We also urge differently situated groups, units, organizations, and movements to not only engage in these strategy-driven configurations and joint processes of reflection, but also to approach mass political education and the art of movement building in a way that maintains awareness of how we are all complicit (albeit to varying degrees) in the ritualized and programmatic violences that constitute American social and gendered racial formation. This is a principle developed over the last two decades by the national antiviolence organization INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence.
Our publishing collective is itself aligned by a shared understanding of the U.S. regime of policing and imprisonment as a fundamentally anti-Black regime of physiological, psychic, and cultural violence that is traceable to the epoch of plantation slavery. We are quite deliberate in our efforts to maintain a political line that works critically and reflexively in collaboration with “above-” and “underground” organizations in the movement to abolish domestic warfare and the prison industrial complex. Our intention here is to support intellectual and cultural work that is directly connected to and relevant for the project of abolition. If, as abolitionists have argued for decades, the racial carceral-policing regime is not only a domestic military apparatus but a rigorous cultural production, then our enemy-in-struggle is also the mythologies, norms, and collective sense of “We” that has driven the last five-hundred-years of settler land-ecological conquest, racial chattel slavery, (proto)genocidal warfare, and empire.
For a print copies of PROPTER NOS, please send a request by snail-mail. We try to respond to mail as quickly as possible, but during our editing cycles and around certain deadlines our replies might be slightly delayed. We thank you for your patience in advance and hope to continue facilitate the dissemination of sharp criticism and analysis for the road ahead. To download PN in digital format please follow the link on our site.
Download, print, share and circulate our statement in PDF form HERE
*A version of this communiqué will appear in Issue #28 of The Abolitionist.
The inaugural issue of our journal, Propter Nos.
Download link: Propter Nos Vol 1 Issue 1
The goal of this first publication is to produce a space for commentary and reflection on the last half-decade of an emergent Black protest movement. Forgoing a paternalistic posture or the assumption that a “pure” form of political consciousness is attainable, our publishing collective sees the role of this publication as merely a tool among many other tools. With this publication we only wish to 1.) problematize the discourse that frames and informs the popular movement’s terms of engagement, 2.) generate modes of analysis that demystify the circulation and consumption of images of racial and sexual violence in the media, 3.) revise and revisit the three-pronged cultural project of the Black arts, aesthetics, and studies movements, 4.) provide an outlet in which information from counterintelligence operations for the Black movement against the racist capitalist state can be recorded, accumulated, and disseminated.
When I first arrived in the Florida prison system on June 22, 2017, and was thrown in solitary confinement in the latest of numerous retaliatory interstate transfers for publicizing and resisting prison abuses, I questioned and discussed with numerous other prisoners our being forced to live in sweltering cells without air-conditioning, or fans, or any other protections against the severe Florida heat….
Paperback copies of our periodical publication PROPTER NOS
are NOW AVAILABLE for purchase at the following locations:
You can also order individual copies via snail-mail:
True Leap Publishing Collective, P.O. Box 408197 Chicago IL, 60640.
Please enclose $15.00 per book requested.
We can do bulk orders up to 10 copies, but books must be purchased up front.
Don’t worry, PN is also always available for free download on our website
The below list of materials is abolitionist food-for-thought. Each collective-author pushes the limits of what a mass struggle to abolish white supremacist domestic warfare and the U.S. prison industrial complex could look like. These can be shared electronically, printed out, mailed to friends/comrades, memorized, or otherwise circulated freely.
All items reproduced for educational purposes and are not the creation of True Leap Press
Reading List for January 2018:
> Courtesy of Ill Will Editions
> To learn about Mariame’s work, see: US Prison Culture (blog) or follow her on twitter: @prisonculture
> Learn more about Critical Resistance and follow them on twitter: @C_Resistance
all items reproduced for educational purposes
and are not the creation of True Leap Press
We are avid readers of Hortense J. Spillers and believe this bibliography of her life’s work will be a useful tool for people interested in reading and learning. Two summers ago our collective held a reading group, exchanging our thoughts on Spillers’ collection of essays Black, White, and in Color (2003). Through that experience we became most familiar with her work. Professor Spillers is a Black radical literary and cultural theorist who is oft cited for her essays “Interstices: A Small Drama of Words” (1984) and “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book.” (1987). Yet, her life’s work in papers, essays, speeches, and interview transcript spans over FOUR DECADES, and she is writing and teaching to this present day. Please take some time to get to know and appreciate her philosophical outlook. Below is a list of every work (to our knowledge) that she has published since 1970. We’ve also attached a zip file for ya’ll to download most of the titles listed below. Enjoy.
download link: Spillers Essays, Interviews, and Book Reviews
Hortense J. Spillers
Working Bibliography and Source Book
[last updated 7/3/17]
If there are any missing essays, articles, interviews, or titles that you find, please contact our collective and let us know. We want to make this work accessible as possible.
Cali friends and those who travel there frequently: 34 Trinity Arts and News is a radical newsstand, art space and used bookstore in downtown San Francisco. You can now find the first two volumes of Propter Nos in fancy print form, available for purchase at 34 Trinity!
Please visit: https://www.34trinity.com/
As U.S. politics lurches rapidly to the right, worried residents wonder about getting out. Friends talk among themselves about moving to Canada, Europe, Mexico—anywhere to escape Trumpland. Taking a different angle, some activists propose separating the “blue states” from the “red states,” essentially redrawing the map of North America. One plan calls for the West Coast to secede. Others lobby for California to become an independent country. So far, most radicals don’t seem too serious about these exit strategies. But they do have a serious aspect. For one thing, if things keep getting worse, some of us might be forced to flee. What’s optional now could become a necessity.
But whether that happens or not, U.S. borders are going to be the focus of intense political struggle in the coming period. We already see it happening. The borders are brute physical expressions of the authority of the empire and its state. So naturally they are zones of contention, especially in times of social stress. Principled radicals in North America have always challenged the U.S.’s arrogant territorial claims and its corrupt settler nationalism. Right now, as the lives of hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees are thrown into turmoil by the Trump regime, we’re forcefully reminded that this challenge is no abstraction. It’s a concrete practical obligation.
So it makes sense for us to think creatively (and disloyally) about the borders of the empire we live in. With or without Trump, we should never adopt the oppressors’ borders as our unchangeable destiny. But we need to generate better solutions than hunkering down with Democrats in “blue” California, or searching for a friendlier, more progressive home overseas. Our strategy must be more radical than that.
It won’t last forever
The U.S. isn’t a legitimate nation. It was formed by war criminals and human traffickers who raped and pillaged their way across the continent. It became rich through genocidal land grabs, slavery, white supremacy and colonialism. The U.S.’s imposed imperial borders and its colonial claims are buttressed by white capitalists’ economic dominance and the overwhelming power of their military. But those circumstances won’t last forever.
Every empire falls eventually. And today the U.S. is a declining superpower, wobbling on the edge of economic and social collapse. Its industrial base is hollowed out; its infrastructure and educational systems are crumbling. Imperial rivals are snapping at its heels. Its environment and food supply are compromised. Its corrupt health care “system” is in chaos. Its rulers, in their insatiable hunger for obscene profits, have become addicted to elaborate financial swindles that are more and more vulnerable to global economic shocks. The current US regime’s greedy, blundering imperial foreign policy threatens to ignite major wars, which probably won’t turn out well for them.
The New Deal “social contract” between U.S. capitalists and their white population is being phased out. Capitalists don’t want to pay for it any more. They’re rolling the dice on a meaner and cheaper version of the “American Dream” for the white masses, even though that has already caused greater social instability. They’re counting on naked racism to maintain white loyalty, and on naked force to contain the emerging non-white majority. But reactionary populism, repression and race conflict have volatile side effects; they lead to unexpected consequences.
When empires fall, they can fall fast and fall hard. It wasn’t that long ago that the Soviet Union was a major superpower, rivaling the U.S. in military power and geostrategic influence. Starting in 1985, during a period of economic stagnation and military overextension, Chairman Mikhail Gorbachev and his crew decided to shake things up with a new set of economic, political and foreign policies that they thought would “make the U.S.S.R. great again.” But as it turned out, they had underestimated the underlying weakness of the U.S.S.R.’s economy, and overestimated its social cohesion. Over the course of just six years, the Soviet Union collapsed. Not only was the Soviet Union officially dissolved into more than a dozen sovereign countries, but some of those countries sub-divided further into separate nations along old historical lines. For instance, Yugoslavia broke down initially into Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro; after further secessions there are now seven independent states within its former borders. Czechoslovakia divided into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. On the other hand, East Germany reunited with West Germany. Some former Soviet countries are still allies of the Russian Federation, while others joined NATO. What had seemed like an established order with fixed borders changed almost overnight.
There are lots of differences between the U.S.S.R. and the U.S., of course. But this empire will also fall someday, unable to survive its own centrifugal forces and its own geopolitical overextension. As with the Soviet Union, that fall may happen sooner that we expect. Today’s volatile political and economic turmoil could easily spiral into depression, world war, total fascism or civil war. Fragmentation and division could spike suddenly and gain momentum quickly, like they did in the U.S.S.R.
Not “our” country
Will the collapse of the U.S. as a political entity be good or bad? Well, clearly it could have a variety of outcomes, depending on how it happens, and the strength of all the active social forces. But a disintegrating U.S. certainly offers opportunities for oppressed people and for revolutionaries—if we’re prepared. One thing’s for sure: for activists serious about fighting oppression, the U.S. isn’t “our” country. We don’t pledge allegiance to it. We don’t consider it “one nation under God” or “indivisible.” We don’t celebrate the Euro-settler conquest of North America. The U.S. is a prison-house of nations, held together by white supremacy and imperialism. If it falls apart, that’s no reason to mourn. In fact, we shouldn’t wait to see if the U.S. disintegrates on its own. We should be strategizing right now about breaking it up. We should be trying to make it happen, on our terms.
What will the dismemberment of the U.S. look like? There are lots of theoretical possibilities, with different timelines. But more than likely, a breakup will happen along the deep national fault lines that already exist.
Breaking it down
There’s no unanimous formula for revolutionizing the borders of the U.S. A territorial breakout by one oppressed nationality could set off land struggles by other nationalities. Or a chaotic disruption of the social order might lead to the rise of insurgencies for self-defense and independent community-building. One thing we do know is that the necessary negotiations and decisions about redrawing the map of a dying settler state belong in the hands of oppressed nations and peoples, not the white settler population. The Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika provides one illustration of how conflicting and overlapping land claims might be resolved:
It shall be the policy of the Provisional Government to recognize the just claims of the American Indian nations and other oppressed nations for land in North America. It shall be the policy of the Provisional Government to negotiate with the American Indian Nations the claims which conflict with the claims of the New Afrikan nation and to resolve these claims in the spirit of justice, brotherhood, and mutual revolutionary commitment to the human and natural rights of all oppressed nations in North America.
In the meantime, all radicals, including white radicals, should be struggling to secede—both mentally and physically—from the U.S. Because practically speaking, it’s not just the U.S. ruling elite that we have to overthrow; it’s the settler nation itself.
As activists of conscience, we should reject political schemes that promise to keep the U.S. intact, while somehow turning it into a “progressive” country. These “left” patriotic scenarios aren’t realistic or honest. They’re based on the pretext that the world’s deadliest imperialist settler state can turn into its opposite; that the bulk of the white settler population will surrender its beloved race privileges, its imperial benefits, and its domination of land and resources in order to lift up the oppressed and return what was stolen. There’s no support to be found anywhere in U.S. history for this fantasy.
Instead, we need an entirely different alignment: the oppressed peoples of the U.S. empire fighting for self-determination, plus a rebellious white minority acting in solidarity, committed to tearing down colonialism and white supremacy. It’s within that alignment that we all can contribute to the empire’s revolutionary demolition and find a path to freedom.
Internationalism has always been close to the heart of radical politics. In the long run, we strive to break down arbitrary and unnecessary barriers that divide peoples from each other. Some of us envision a time when nations and borders as we know them are unnecessary. But internationalism doesn’t mean we sweep the U.S. empire’s constant drive to conquer, liquidate or subordinate oppressed nations and nationalities under the rug. For radicals, internationalism is based first of all on the establishment of justice among nations. It’s a voluntary unity of equals—something which can only become a reality if all parties are exercising self-determination.
This is something white radicals in particular must grasp as a matter of principle. Otherwise, we find ourselves utterly compromised: promoting supposedly progressive politics without fundamentally and fully repudiating the ruling class’s own “internationalist” program of genocide, colonialism, forced assimilation and white domination. That’s how some white leftists end up, through twisted and opportunist logic, blaming oppressed peoples for “divisiveness.”
Native and national liberation movements face many challenges as they confront modern imperialism. In some cases they’ve been weakened by neo-colonialism and internal divisions, and struggle to regroup and rebuild. Still, given their deep-rooted tenacity, and their strategic position astride the main contradictions in imperial society, these movements are currently the main forces capable of leading an anti-imperialist breakdown of the U.S.
That breakdown can also be significantly advanced by creating and defending enclaves where people of color, women, gender non-conformists and radicals struggle to create diverse forms of independence and autonomy.
Unfortunately, on a practical level, the radical Right is ahead of us here. Many die-hard fundamentalists and neo-fascists have already started building enclaves of their own. They’ve grasped a harsh reality: that in a chaotic, deteriorating, violent society, a group’s chances of survival increase according to their social unity, self-sufficiency, control of territory, and capability for self-defense.
With or without our intervention, the U.S. will disintegrate eventually. If it happens without us planning it, or even expecting it, we could be disoriented and caught in the crossfire. It’s far better to be prepared and proactive. In coming years, as the empire weakens, many strategies for revolutionary change will be proposed, discussed, and attempted. The breakup of the U.S. must be central to those strategies.
J Sakai, Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat
Victor Sebestyen, Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire
Ward Churchill, I Am Indigenist
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the US
Sanyika Shakur, “Who Are You?”
Butch Lee, The Coming of Black Genocide
Provisional Government, Republic of New Afrika, The Code of Umoja/Black Constitution
Kersplebedeb, “Black Genocide and the Alt-Right”
Rodolfo Acuña, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos
Nelson Denis, War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony
Oscar Lopez Rivera, Between Torture and Resistance
Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, “The United States Makes the Case for Why Puerto Rico is Still its Colony”
Michael Kioni Dudley & Kioni K. Agard, A Call for Hawaiian Sovereignty
J Sakai, Learning From an Unimportant Minority: Race Politics Beyond the White/Black Paradigm
P.O.Box 408197 Chicago, Illinois 60640
Free all U.S.-held political prisoners and prisoners of war!
Center of Excellence
autonomous social center, partisan library & cinema /// centro social autonómo, cine y biblioteca partisana
National Movement Against Mass Incarceration and Prison Slavery
"Et s'il faut commencer par les coups d' pied au cul faudrait pas oublier qu' ça descend dans la rue"
A Publication of Critical Resistance
Join the effort to stop the construction of a $95 million dollar Cop Academy, and fund youth & communities instead.
Journal of an Autonomist Person of Color