Interview With Lesbian Political Prisoners

Arm The Spirit (ats@etext.org)
Thu, 30 Nov 1995 07:04:56 -0500 (EST)


Dykes And Fags Want To Know...

[This interview took place sometime in 1991. - ATS]

A written interview with lesbian political prisoners Linda Evans,
Laura Whitehorn, and Susan Rosenberg. They are three North
American anti-imperialists currently being held in U.S. prisons
because of their political beliefs and activities with the armed
clandestine movements resisting the U.S. government and its
policies.

Susan Rosenberg has been one of the three women political
prisoners imprisoned in the Lexington Small Group Isolation Unit,
the first explicitly political prison in the U.S. She was born on
October 5, 1955 in New York City. She has been an activist all of
her adult life. While still in high school, she worked with and
was greatly influenced by the Young Lords Party and the Black
Panther Party. She was active in the anti-Vietnam war and women's
movements. In 1976 she traveled to Cuba to build a day care
center, as part of the Venceremos Brigade in solidarity with the
Cuban revolution. She worked throughout the 1970s in solidarity
with national liberation struggles - the Puerto Rican
Independence Movement, the Black liberation struggle and other
world-wide movements for liberation. Susan is a Doctor of
Acupuncture who studied with Black acupuncturists at the Black
Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America (BAAANA), a
community health center in Harlem, New York dedicated to fighting
the drug plague and providing health care through acupuncture and
Chinese medicine.

Linda Evans - Born May 11, 1947, in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Revolutionary and anti-imperialist since 1967. SDS regional
organizer against the U.S. war in Vietnam and to support the
Black liberation movement. Participated in 1969 anti-war
delegation to North Vietnam to receive POW's released by the
Vietnamese. Political/cultural worker in guerilla street theatre
troupe, all-women's band, and women's printing/graphics
collective in Texas. Active in the women's liberation movement
and in the lesbian community. Organized support for struggles led
by Black and Chicano/Mexicano grassroots organizations against
the Ku Klux Klan, forced sterilization, and killer cops. Fought
racism, white supremacy, and zionism as a member of the John
Brown Anti-Klan Committee. Built support for Black/New Afrikan,
Puerto Rican, and Native American POW's and political prisoners,
and for the right of these nations to independence and
selfdetermination. Began working to develop clandestine
resistance capable of struggle on every front. Arrested May 11,
1985. Convicted of harboring a fugitive and using a false name to
buy 4 guns; serving a total sentence of 45 years.

Laura Whitehorn - "I grew up during the era of the rise and
victory of national liberation struggles, so my own hatred of
oppression, injustice, racism, and sexism could be channeled into
a productive direction: revolutionary anti-imperialism.
I've been involved in struggles for human rights for a
little more than 20 years - from the Civil Rights Movement to
supporting the Black Panther Party, the Black Power Movement and
the New Afrikan Independence Movement, to fighting the KKK and
organized white supremacy, supporting the struggle for the
independence of Puerto Rico, to struggling for the liberation of
women and full democratic rights for gay people. In Boston, I
helped Black families to defend their homes against racist attack
during the 'anti-busing' offensive, and I helped to found the
Boston/Cambridge women's school. In New York, I worked to expose
illegal FBI counterintelligence (COINTELPRO) and was a member of
the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee and the Madame Binh Graphics
Collective. A visit to Viet Nam in 1975 in an anti-imperialist
women's delegation confirmed my belief that socialist revolution
lays the basis to fulfill human needs and creativity - including
achieving peace and justice.
Over the past 20 years, the intransigence, corruption and
aggression of the u.s. government has made sustained militant
resistance necessary. I've struggled to be part of that, because
justice is worth fighting for and the real terrorism of u.s.
imperialism needs to be defeated. I've been involved in
clandestine resistance because the government uses the full force
of repression to destroy developing opposition.
Since my arrest in 1985, I've experienced this first-hand as
a political prisoner: held in 'preventive detention' without
bail, kept in solitary confinement for much of the time,
classified as a 'special handling' prisoner, because of my
political ideals and because I'm determined to live by them and
fight for them."

Laura, Linda, and Susan (along with codefendants Alan
Berkman, Marilyn Buck and Tim Blunk) were indicted in May 1988
for conspiring to "influence, change, and protest policies and
practices of the United States government." The indictment
alleged that the Resistance Conspiracy defendants were part of a
network of underground groups responsible for a series of
bombings of u.s. government and military targets from 1983 to
1985.
After over 2 years of legal and political resistance, the 6
forced the government to negotiate a deal which dismissed all the
charges against Susan Rosenberg, Tim Blunk and Alan Berkman.
Laura, Linda and Marilyn pleaded guilty to the bombing of the
u.s. capitol in protest of the invasion of Grenada in 1985.
Marilyn Buck was sentenced to an additional 10 years on top of a
70-year sentence. Linda Evans got an additional 5 years. She is
now serving a total of 40 years. Laura was sentenced to 20 years.
Susan Rosenberg and Tim Blunk were already serving 58-year
sentences for earlier charges of possesion of explosives, weapons
and false I.D. Alan Berkman was released in June 1992

Break through the isolation by writing the prisoners, and/or by
putting them on your group's mailing list. Their addresses:

Laura Whitehorn #22432-037
Linda Evans #19973-054
FCI Pleasanton
5701 8th Street, Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568

Susan Rosenberg #03684-016
FCI Danbury, Pembroke Station
Danbury, CT
06811 USA

QUISP: I'm an activist. How come I've never heard of you before?

Laura: I think it's because there's been a long time during which
the "left" and progressive movements haven't really tried to know
who's in prison - including but not limited to political
prisoners and POW's. For instance, how many AIDS activists know
about the many PWA's in prison, and the horrible conditions they
live in? Aside from Mike Riegle at GCN (Gay Community News), how
many writers and media folks in our movements try to reach into
the prisons to support lesbian and gay prisoners, whose lives are
often made pretty rough by the pigs.
In general, this country tries to shut prisoners away and
make people outside forget about us. In the case of political
prisoners, multiply that times X for the simple fact that our
existence is a danger to the smooth, quiet running of the system:
our existence shows that this great demokkkracy is a lie. The
government doesn't want you to know who we are - that's why they
try so hard to label us "terrorists" and "criminals".

Linda: Political prisoners have been purposely "disappeared" by
the u.s. government, whose official position is that "there are
no political prisoners inside the u.s." This is the way that the
government denies both that the motivations for our actions were
political and that the movements we come from are legitimate,
popular movements for social change. The prison system isolates
all prisoners from their communities, but especially harsh
isolation is instituted against political prisoners: restricted
visiting lists, frequent transfers to prisons far away from our
home communities, mail censorship, "maximum security conditions",
long periods of time in solitary confinement.
But our own political movement, too, has ignored the
existence of political prisoners. I think this has largely been a
product of racism - most U.S. political prisoners/POW's are Black
and Puerto Rican comrades who have been locked up for over a
decade. Unfortunately there has never been widespread support
among progressive white people for the Black Liberation struggle,
for Puerto Rican independence, or for Native American sovereignty
struggles - and these are the movements that the Black/Puerto
Rican/Native American political prisoners/POWs come from.
Also, many political activists have actually withheld
support for political prisoners/POWs because of disagreements
with tactics that were employed, or with actions of which the
political prisoners have been accused or convicted. These
disagreements are tactical in nature, and shouldn't be allowed to
obscure the fact that we all have been fighting for justice and
social change. This withdrawal of support leads to false
divisions amongst us, and actually helps the state in its
strategy to isolate political prisoners/POWs from our communities
and political movements.

Susan: The activists/radicals of the late 1980's and 1990's have
to reclaim" the history of resistance that emerged and continued
through the 1970's and 80's. As long as the government and mass
media get to define who and what is important then the real
lessons contained in ours and others experiences will get lost.
People haven't heard of us (except as a vague memory of a
headline - if that) because there is a very serious government
counter-insurgency strategy to bury the revolutionaries who have
been captured in prison. I have been in prison 6 years and over
half of that time was spent in solitary confinement or small-
group isolation 1000's of miles away from my community and
family. My experience is similar to the 100/150 other political
prisoners in the U.S. If the individuals from different movements
(ie., the Black, Puerto Rican, Native American and white
movements who have seen the need for organized resistance to
oppression) are destroyed it is a way to delegitimize the demands
of the movements.

QUISP: Did you do it? Did the goveminent misrepresent what you
did? If so, how?

Laura: Yes, I did it! I did (do) resist racism, sexism,
imperialism with every fiber of my queer being, and I believe we
need to fight for justice. The government's "version" of what
I/we did is a complete lie, though, in that they call resistance
a crime. It's sort of like the way Jesse Helms calls us "sick" -
he's as sick as you can get. On the morality meter he doesn't
even make the needle move. Same way the U.S. government, a
genocidal system, calls acts of revolutionary struggle "terrorist
violence", and their system of law, "justice".

Linda: Yes, I'm proud that I've been part of the struggle to
build an armed clandestine resistance movement that can fight to
support national liberation struggles, and that will fight for
revolution in the U.S. Of course the government misrepresented
what we did first of all by calling us "terrorists" to make
people think we were a danger to the community, as if our purpose
was to terrorize or kill people. Quite the contrary: all the
armed actions of the last 20 years have been planned to minimize
any risk of human life. This, of course, is in stark contrast to
the actions of the terrorist government, which is responsible
world-wide for supporting death squads and mercenary armies like
the contras and Savimbi's UNITA in Angola, which supports the
israeli war of genocide against the Palestinians and the brutal
system of apartheid, and which supports daily police brutality in
Black and Third World communities here, even such acts as the
aerial bombing of MOVE in Philadelphia in 1985, which killed 11
people and created a firestorm that left over 250 people
homeless.

Susan: I have been a revolutionary for much of my life. A
revolutionary in the sense that I believe in the need for
profound social change that goes to the roots of the problem.
Which I believe is systemic. Consequently I have along with
others tried many methods of struggle to enact a strategy to win
liberation and attack the state (government) as representative of
the system. First as a peace activist in the late 60's, then as a
political activist in the 70's, and then in joining the armed
clandestine resistance movement that was developing in the 80's.
I am guilty of revolutionary anti-imperialist resistance.
Of course the government has misrepresented me and all of
us. The main form that has taken is to call us terrorists, which
is something that couldn't be further from the truth. Just like
all opposition to the cold war of the 50's was labelled
communist, the 80's equivalent is terrorist. Now there are all
kinds of terrorists according to the U.S. - all of it bullshit.
I don't mean to beg the question in the specific. I believe
that no revolutionary captured comrade says what they have or
haven't done within their revolutionary work.

QUISP: Audre Lorde says the master's tools (violence) will never
dismantle the master's house (the state). How do you react to
this?

Laura: I don't think "violence" is just one thing, so I don't
think it's necessarily "the master's tool". If revolutionaries
were as vicious and careless of humanity and innocent human lives
as the U.S. government is, then I think we'd be doing wrong. But
when oppressed people fight for freedom, using "violent" means
among others, I think we should support them. Would you have
condemned African slaves in the U.S. for killing their slave
masters, or for using violence in a struggle for freedom? To me,
the issue is how do we fight effectively - and humanely - for
liberation. As we build the struggle, we have to be very self-
critical, very self-conscious about how we struggle as well as
what we struggle for. But I think we also need to fight to win -
and I think that means engaging in a fight for power. For the
past 5+ years, I've witnessed close up the violence - slow,
brutal, heartless of genocide against African American women. To
refuse to fight to change that (and I don't believe we can fight
for power completely "non-violently") would, I think, be to
accept the violence of the state in the name of rejecting the
violence of revolutionary struggle.

Linda: I disagree with posing the question in the way she does
(or how the question does). I don't think the issue is violence,
but rather politics and power. Around the world, imperialism
maintains itself - keeps itself in power - by military power and
the threat of violence wherever people struggle for change.
Liberation movements have the right to use every means available
to defeat the system that is oppressing and killing people. This
means fighting back in self-defense, and it means an offensive
struggle for people's power and self-determination. But reducing
it to a tactical question of "violent means" doesn't recognize
all the aspects of building a revolutionary movement that are
crucial to actually mobilizing people, developing popular
organizations, empowering oppressed groups within the people's
movement like women and indigenous people, developing a
revolutionary program that can really meet people's needs and
that people will fight to make real. A slogan that embodies this
for me comes from the Chinese Revolution: "Without mass struggle,
there can be no revolution. Without armed struggle, there can be
no victory."

Susan: I always took the quote from Audre Lorde to mean the
opposite of what you say. Funny, no? I always interpreted her
saying that to mean the masters' tools being electoral/slow
change. Well - there you go!

QUISP: Why is it important to support political as opposed to
non-political prisoners? Shouldn't we be concerned about all
prisoners?

Laura: I think we should be concerned about all prisoners, and I
don't think it's ever been us political prisoners who have
promoted any irresolvable contradiction between us and the rest
of the prisoners in the U.S. But within that, I think there is a
particular need for progressive movements to defend political
prisoners, because it's a part of fighting for the movements we
come from. If you are fighting racism and homophobia, and there
are people serving long sentences in prison for fighting those
things, I think you advance the goals by supporting the
prisoners. I also think that support for political prisoners
helps expose how repressive and unjust the whole system is. That
can also be an avenue to supporting all prisoners.
Support for political prisoners is a concrete act of
resistance to the control the government keeps over all our
minds: it fights the isolation and silencing of political
prisoners and POWs. It asserts the legitimacy of resistance. And
in my experience it is a major way that people outside become
aware of the purpose and nature of the prison system as a whole.

Linda: Yes - it's important for our movement to be concerned
about all prisoners, and I think it's especially important for
the lesbian and gay movement to concern ourselves with combatting
atacks on lesbian/gay prisoners, and supporting all prisoners
with AIDS. Concerning ourselves with all prisoners, and with the
repressive/warehousing role of prisons in our society is another
way of fighting racism, since the majority of prisoners are from
Third World communities. Prisoners get locked away - out of
sight, out of mind - and the few prisoners' rights that were won
in prison struggles are being undermined and cut back. Human
rights are nearly non-existent in prison, and without community
support and awareness, the government can continue to escalate
its repressive policies, and conditions will just steadily
worsen. This is especially true for prisoners with AIDS, since
the stigma attached to AIDS in society generally is heightened in
prison. Prisoners with AIDS die at an even faster rate than PWAs
on the outside because treatment is so sporadic, limited, and
conditions are so bad.
So I would never say for people to support political
prisoners as opposed to nonpolitical prisoners. Our interests
inside prison are definitely not in opposition to each other. All
the political prisoners/POWs actively fight for prisoners'
rights, and for changes in conditions that will benefit all
prisoners. But it's important to build support specifically for
political prisoners because we represent our movements, and it's
a way for us to protect and defend the political movements we
come from against government repression. For the movement on the
outside to embrace and support political prisoners/POWs makes it
possible for us to continue to participate in and contribute to
the movement we come from and it makes it impossible for the
government to isolate and repress us in their efforts to destroy
our political identities.

Susan: All prisoners are in desperate need of support, and as the
population gets greater (in prison) and the repression gets
heavier the prisons will become a major confrontation within the
society. If the prisons are to become a social front of struggle
then there must be a consciousness developed to fight the
dehumanization and criminalization that prison intends. Political
prisoners are important to support because we are in prison for
explicitly social/political/progressive goals. Our lack of
freedom does affect how free you are. If we can be violated, so
can you. There is no contradiction between political and social
prisoners.

QUISP: How does being a lesbian fit in with your work?

Laura: The same way it fits into my life - it is a basic, crucial
part of my character, my outlook on things, my personality.
Because I'm a lesbian, the fight against homophobia and sexism
take on particular importance. But really I think my lesbianism
helps me care about the oppression of others by the imperialist
system. So I think my lesbianism makes me a better anti-
imperialist - it makes me fight all the harder.
Being a lesbian in prison is often very hard, but being
"out" gives me a lot of strength. I have to say that I am very
proud when I hear or read about the struggles queers are waging
out there.

Linda: Being a lesbian has always been an important part of the
reasons why I'm a revolutionary - even before I was self-
conscious about how important this is to me! I don't separate
"being a lesbian" from any other part of my life, or from my
politics. Because I experience real oppression as a lesbian and
as a woman, I am personally committed from the very core of my
being - to winning liberation for women, lesbians, and all
oppressed people. This makes me more willing to take risks and to
fight, because I have a vision of a society I want to live in,
and to win for future generations, where these forms of
oppression don't exist. I think being a lesbian has also helped
me recognize the importance of mutual solidarity and support
between the struggles of oppressed people, despite the sexism,
heterosexism and racism that often interferes in the process of
building these alliances. I really believe that we have a common
enemy - the imperialist system - and that we have to support each
other in all the forms our struggles against that enemy may take.
These alliances need to be built in a way that respects the
integrity of our various movements.

Susan: Well! Being a lesbian is part of the very fabric of my
being - so the question is not really how it fits into my work
rather how conscious do I make my lesbianism in living in prison
or in the life of resistance I lead. It alternates depending on
what the conditions are. Recently I have "come out" because at
this point I have chosen to be more consciously lesbian-
identified. I have done this because I believe that as gay people
we need more revolutionary visions and strategies if our movement
is to become significant in linking the overturning of sexual
oppression with other forms of oppression. The other reason I
have felt compelled to be out is that my tightest, most important
women in the community we live in are the butches. It is the
butches who suffer most for their choices/existence in prison. In
recognition of Pete, Cowboy, JuJu, Slimie, and all the other
sisters it seems only right. Finally - Laura and Linda have been
out since the RCC6 began and it has been a very important
political and personal experience for them, and for us all. They
have through their struggles created an environment of love and
solidarity that enabled me to subsequently "come out" as well.

QUISP: How have you struggled with sexism and heterosexism in the
groups with which you have worked?

Laura: Mostly by confronting people when I think they are being
sexist or heterosexist, and by fighting for women's liberation
and lesbian and gay liberation to be included not just as words
but as real goals. The saddest times for me have been those times
when I was in groups where we didn't do this. I think it's very
important for people to be able to struggle for a variety of
goals without setting up a hierarchy or exclusive list. I will
continue to join groups whose main program is, for example, anti-
racism or support for Palestine or Puerto Rico, because those
things are just as necessary for my liberation as women's and
lesbian liberation are. And I won't demand that my liberation be
made a part of every agenda. But I won't ever deny my identity,
my right to be respected, and the urgency and legitimacy of
lesbian, gay and women's liberation, either.

Susan: I have become much more of a feminist over the last number
of years - and by that I mean ideologically and politically I
believe we have to examine the position of women, the structures
of the society and how male dominance defines women's position in
all things. I don't think in the past I fought against the
subjugation of women and gay people enough. I substituted my own
independence as a woman with actively struggling against
political and social forms of oppression. For example: in
Nicaragua now, the women militants of the FSLN are reevaluating
their practice of struggling against sexism, and some of them are
self-critical that they subordinated the struggle of women to the
needs of the so-called greater societal good. What it means now
is that abortion and the struggle for reproductive rights under
the new non-revolutionary society are being set back generations,
and the level of consciousness among women is not (at this point)
strong enough to effectively challenge this development. I
believe that to subordinate either women or gay people and our
demands is a big mistake.

QUISP: What is the connection between the primarily white middle
class gay rights movement and the struggles of other oppressed
people? How do we envision a gay movement that encompasses other
struggles?

Laura: I believe that any struggle of "primarily white middle
class" people has the danger of being irrelevant to real social
change unless it allies itself with the struggles of oppressed
people. This country has a great track record for buying off
sectors that have privilege. Once that happens, not only do
things stay the same, they get worse.
But even more than that, I feel that we cannot be full human
beings unless we fight for all the oppressed. Otherwise, our
struggle is just as individualist and racist as the dominant
society. In that case, we'll never win anything worth fighting
for.
I think the queer movement needs to talk to other movements
and communities, in order to work out common strategies and
figure out how to support one another. I think we need to talk to
groups in the national liberation struggles in order to figure
out how to set our agenda and strategy - like what demands can we
raise in the fights about AIDS that can help other communities
fighting AIDS? It's a struggle, not necessarily an easy process,
but it's crucial. It's also true that our movement has already
adopted lessons from other movements - often without even
realizing or recognizing it. We've especially incorporated
strategic concepts developed (at a high cost!) by the Black
Liberation struggle from the Civil Rights movement to the Black
Power and human rights struggle. It's no accident that
Stonewall's leadership was Third World gay men and lesbians. So I
think it's important to recognize that whenever we pose the
question of alliances and coalitions, we don't need to
"encompass" other people, we need to ally with them, learn from,
and struggle side by side with them. We need to support them. And
we need to fight for them as well as for ourselves, because the
second we accept divisions or ignore the urgency of fighting
racism, we lose.

Linda: I don't think that struggles against sexism or homophobia
or racism can be delayed, because these are forms of
discrimination/oppression that actively disempower individuals
and groups of people who can be mobilized to actively participate
in the struggle. Racism, sexism, and heterosexism cannot be
tolerated in our movement or in our alliances because we don't
want to duplicate the oppression that we're fighting against. Of
course the process of building these alliances is difficult and
long-term, because building trust and respect requires building
relationships that are really different from those that exist in
society in general. So I don't think the primarily white middle-
class gay rights movement can, or should, "encompass" other
struggles. White middle class gay men and women cannot set the
agenda for other movements or for other communities. Rather, I
think that this movement should actively support struggles
against other forms of oppression as a way of making our own
movement stronger, more revolutionary, less self-centered, and
more supportive of the goal of liberation and self-determination
for all oppressed people.

Susan: This is a big question and has many aspects to it. I can
only offer a small answer, as I believe that prisoners who have
no social practice in a movement because of being locked up have
a warped or limited understanding of the real dynamics in the
free world movements. The gay movement as it is currently
constituted has reemerged since I have been in prison so I have
not been a part of its development. I don't think the gay
movement can be relevant to other oppressed peoples and their
struggles without an anti-imperialist analysis of the roots of
gay oppression and then correspondingly a practice that
implements that. In other words a movement that is led by white
middle class men - even those oppressed because of their sexual
identification/orientation - without ceding power (within the
movement) to Third World women and men, and dealing with their
agendas will ever be anything but reform-oriented.
To only struggle for gay rights without struggling for the
rights (human and democratic) of all those in need, and
specifically those who are nationally oppressed sets up competing
struggle rather than a cohesive radical opposition to the
government.

QUISP: What was going on in your life that led you to participate
in or support armed struggle?

Laura: I began supporting armed struggle in the late 60's, when I
realized the government would keep on killing Third World people
if left to its own devices. The murder of Fred Hampton (chairman
of the Illinois BPP) by the Chicago pigs and FBI was a turning
point, not only because it was an assassination, not only because
the state tried to cover it up, but also because it made me
understand that the U.S. would never agree to "give" oppressed
nations their human rights. That's why the government had to kill
Fred, and Malcolm X, and so many other leaders.
I'd hated the injustice of this society for years, but it
was in the 60's, when I supported the Vietnamese, Native American
struggles, the Black struggle, Puerto Rico and saw those nations
waging struggles for freedom that included armed struggle - that
I started to see that there could be a struggle to win.
Once I began supporting Third World nations' right to use
armed struggle to win self-determination, it made sense to me
that I should be willing to use many forms of struggle to fight,
too.
Mostly, I think that it's my vision of what a wonderful
thing it would be to live in a just, humane, creative world that
motivates me to embrace armed struggle as one part of what it
takes to fight for a new society.

Linda: When I first became a political activist, I was a
pacifist. I had never experienced real violence in my own life,
and naively hoped that the changes I envisioned could come about
non-violently. Then, I got beat over the head and teargassed by
cops guarding the Pentagon at my first major demonstration. I
came "head-to-head" with the fact that this system maintains its
power through violence on every level - from beating up
protesters, to genocide against internally-colonized nations, to
waging war against nationally-colonized nations, to waging war
against the people of Vietnam.
I became an activist in a time that was defined by the
victories and development of national liberation struggles around
the world and inside the U.S. I was especially inspired by the
Vietnamese and by Black people struggling for civil rights and
then for Black Power/Black Liberation. Vietnamese women fighters
and Black women in the struggle were role models for me - because
they were dedicated to fighting until victory was won. Their
courage and dedication, their willingness to risk everything for
freedom, the fact that women were being empowered by the process
of struggle - all were exemplary.
So by supporting these national liberation struggles I came
to support the right of oppressed people to fight for liberation
by any means necessary. Malcolm X, Che Guevara, and Ho Chi Minh
were important influences in my life and political development.
But I actually became determined to participate in armed struggle
because of the rage I felt after the FBI/police raids on Black
Panther Party offices and homes all over the U.S. and
particularly the murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark by Chicago
police.
The intensity of this police terrorism against the Black
community in so many cities made me realize that whenever a
political movement even begins to threaten the stability of the
status quo, the state will act in whatever ways it must to
destroy it. In order for a revolutionary movement and vision to
prevail, therefore, it's necessary for us to defend ourselves and
our comrades, and to build our own capacities toward a day when
we can seriously challenge the repressive power of the state, so
that state power can be taken out of the hands of those who use
it to oppress, taken over, instead, by the people themselves. I
know this sounds idealistic, yet it is a struggle that has
succeeded in many countries around the world.
I believed then - as I do now - that U.S. imperialism was
the main enemy of the people of the world, and I wanted to fight
on the side of the oppressed to build a better world for all.
This was the era of Che Guevara's call for "2, 3, many Vietnams",
and I recognized that the U.S. government depends on the
"domestic tranquillity" of its population to allow for
imperialist interventions around the world.
This is one reason the Black Liberation struggle was such a
threat, and why white people fighting in solidarity with national
liberation struggles were threatening as well. That's part of the
reason that the repression of the internal liberation movements
was so immediate and devastating, and why there were such efforts
to divide off white struggles from these struggles.

Susan: The war against the Black Liberation movement by the
FBI/U.S. government was most influential for me in seeing the
necessity for armed self-defense. The challenge placed on us who
were in a position of solidarity with revolutionary nationalist
Black organizations was to uphold self-determination and to fight
for it. The other element that most personally propelled me into
armed clandestine resistance was witnessing the genocide of the
chemical war being waged in the South Bronx against Black and
Puerto Rican people. As a doctor of acupuncture and community
health worker I watched us fail to stop the plague.

QUISP: What do you do all day?

My time is divided among: fighting for decent conditions and
against the prison's denial of those things (a daily necessity!),
working on my political and legal work, communicating with people
via letters and phone calls, talking to other prisoners (and
working with them to try to deal with legal issues, health
issues, etc.), meeting with my codefendants, trying to find out
how my comrade Alan is (he's engaged in a hard, life-and-death
battle with cancer, shackled to a bed in the I.C.U. oncology unit
at D.C. General Hospital [Editor's Note: Since this interview
took place, Alan has recovered and was released from prison in
June 1992]). I spend a lot of time talking to women about AIDS -
by one estimate, 40-50% of the women in here are HIV+, yet there
is no program, no education, no counseling provided. Like my
other comrades, I spend a lot of time doing informal counseling
and education on this.

Linda: Work and work out.

Susan: Because I am a doctor of acupuncture and a conscious
person I have become (in addition to a political prisoner) a peer
advocate/AIDS counselor. It is not recognized by the jail but I
spend 75% of my time counseling people - women who are HIV+. The
other time is spent doing my other work, and talking with others.
We spend alot of the day locked down in our cells. Because of the
overcrowding, and lack of programs the administration keeps us
locked down an enormous amount of time.

QUISP: How do you deal with your white privilege in jail?

Laura: I struggle to be aware of it; I fight racism actively and
organize for that fight; I try to make the resources that I have
access to, available to others. Educating people about how to
fight AIDS is another way, because that's information that the
gay and lesbian movement have that women in the D.C. Jail lack -
and it means that women are continuing to contract the HIV every
day. That is a crime.

Linda: I try to use the resources and education I've had access
to as a result of my white privilege to benefit all the prisoners
I live with, and to fight for our interests. This takes many
forms, from struggling as a prisoner for the institution of AIDS
education and counseling programs, to helping individual women
with legal problems or abuses of their rights by the jail. When I
was in jail in Louisiana, we were able to win a jailhouse
lawyer's legal suit forcing the jail to give women glasses and
false teeth (all jail dental care amounts to is pulling teeth,
and few jails replace them). One of the conflicts I confront is
between dealing with immediate needs and crises as an individual
counselor/agitator/jailhouse lawyer, and always pushing the
institution to provide the services and programs that prisoners
should be entitled to as a basic human right - education, medical
care, exercise, mental health and AIDS counseling.

Susan: Well! I struggle against racism in every way I can. I have
learned patience, and how to be quiet, and how to really listen
to who is talking, and what they are saying.

QUISP: What observations or advice do you have for lesbian/gay
and AIDS activists as we start to experience police surveillance,
harassment and abuse?

Laura: Fight it. Don't back away. Develop clandestine ways of
operating so that the state won't know everything that you're
doing. Support one another so that, when anyone is targetted for
state attack, they can resist - that resistance will build us
all. Don't ever give information - even if you think it's "safe"
information - to the state. Don't let the state divide the
movement by calling some groups "legitimate" and others not.
Unity is our strength. Support other movements and people who are
also targets of state attack. When the state calls someone a
"terrorist", or "violent", or "crazy", or anything, think hard
before ever believing it to be true. Resist. Resist. Resist.

Linda: Be cool. Develop a clandestine consciousness. Value your
work enough that you don't talk to the enemy about it (like over
tapped phones). Don't underestimate the power and viciousness of
the state, and don't expect white privilege to make you exempt
from repression. Take the lessons of past repression against
political movements seriously - not to demobilize you or make you
afraid, but to safeguard and defend your work. Remember you're
building for the future, not just for today, and keep struggling
to broaden your vision. Remember that reforms are only temporary
concessions, that they're neither permanent nor do they really
solve fundamental problems.

Susan: Study other movements here and around the world and
examine the state's methods in order to develop tactics that
allow you to keep functioning. Very important, if one self-
consciously is building a movement that knows the state will
destroy it if the movement begins to pose a real or perceived
threat.

QUISP: What is your position on go-go girls in womens' bars?

Laura: Take me to a bar and we'll have a scintillating discussion
of this issue, OK?

Linda: Take me to a bar and I'll let you know!

Susan: I think that anything that objectifies women as sexual
objects (versus sexual beings) is anti-woman. Even in an all-
woman context. Being lesbian is subversive because women loving
women is a crime against the state, and against the bourgeois
patriarchal morality of this society - but being subversive
doesn't necessarily mean it's about liberation. If nothing else I
have learned that liberation and the need for it begins in
oneself - objectification/sexual stereotypes/misogyny not only
destroy us in the world, they corrode our own bearts. I am not
interested in a society that promotes those things. Although I
don't believe that they will be ended until we decide to end them
- they cannot be overturned through the law of this state.

Queers United In Support Of Political Prisoners (QUISP)
380 Bleecker St., #134
New York, NY
10014 USA

Phone: (212) 969 8598

++++ stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal ++++
++++ if you agree copy these lines to your sig ++++
++++ see http://www.xs4all.nl/~tank/spg-l/sigaction.htm ++++

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Arm The Spirit is an autonomist/anti-imperialist collective based
in Toronto, Canada. Our focus includes a wide variety of
material, including political prisoners, national liberation
struggles, armed communist resistance, anti-fascism, the fight
against patriarchy, and more. We regularly publish our writings,
research, and translation materials in our magazine and bulletins
called Arm The Spirit. For more information, contact:

Arm The Spirit
P.O. Box 6326, Stn. A
Toronto, Ontario
M5W 1P7 Canada

E-mail: ats@etext.org
WWW: http://burn.ucsd.edu/~ats
FTP: ftp.etext.org --> /pub/Politics/Arm.The.Spirit
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