The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 23      June 16, 2014

‘Militant’ wages battle against
censorship at federal prison
(front page)
On May 19, the Militant received a notice from the warden at the U.S. Penitentiary at Florence, Colorado, saying the paper’s Dec. 30 issue was barred from the high security prison. Over the last year the Militant has fought — and won — several battles with prison authorities from Florida to Washington state over the paper’s right to deliver to subscribers behind bars and the right of prisoners to read what they want.

The reason given for censorship of the Militant in the notification dated Feb. 7 was that “this publication is deemed inappropriate for the orderly running of the institution due to it containing articles pertaining to Revolutionary Communist Party in the USA and the need to overthrow the system.” Included with the notice was the issue, apparently confiscated from inmate Jeremy Valerio, 43, a long-term subscriber and one of three subscribers in the prison.

In mid-December, before the issue in question was printed, the Militant received a letter from Valerio saying he had filed administrative appeals against prison authorities’ refusal to deliver a previous issue of the Militant and other political publications. “I’m aware of your ongoing fight [against prison censorship] and wish to inform you that I’m now in it with you all,” he wrote. “In solidarity we stand!!”

“This is the first time we’ve been notified that the Militant has been rejected by a federal prison,” said Doug Nelson, editor of the paper. “We intend to fight this, as we have with other attempts to censor the paper in prisons. Meanwhile, our subscriber base among prisoners continues to grow. More than 20 have signed up over the last two months.

“There is a possibility that prison authorities in Florence have confused the Militant with Revolution, the paper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, which itself has had to fight against prison censorship,” Nelson said. “All working people, whether inside or outside prison walls, have a stake in preventing thought police from denying us the right to read and discuss politics.”

According to U.S. prison regulations, wardens can’t “establish an excluded list of publications.” To impound any specific issue, authorities must state their reasons why it is “detrimental to the security, discipline, or good order of the institution or … might facilitate criminal activity.” And it can’t be based on authorities’ disagreement with a publication’s political views. The regulations specify that a rejection notice “must contain reference to the specific article(s) or material(s) considered objectionable.”

But the stated reason for the most recent effort to ban the Militant reads like the 1940 thought-control Smith Act used to frame up worker militants and others in the 1940s and ’50s, including members of the Socialist Workers Party and the Communist Party.

The Dec. 30 issue features front-page coverage on efforts of working people in Ukraine to defend their national sovereignty, the war being waged against the toilers of Syria by the government of Bashar al-Assad, the fight of workers against a lockout by the Kellogg Company in Memphis, Tenn., commentary on the election of socialists in Seattle and a report on the paper’s successful fall subscription drive. Among the articles inside is a report on decisions by the Coalition of Labor Union Women to back the campaign to free the Cuban Five from U.S. prisons. Antonio Guerrero, one of the Five, was imprisoned for years at the medium-security prison in Florence where he received a Militant subscription every week. Another article is headlined, “‘Militant Scores Another Win Against Censorship in Prisons.”
Related articles:
UK court pulls back from using ‘terrorism’ law to seize home
New documents highlight extensive gov’t spying
‘Working class must organize its own political party’
‘Socialism on Trial’ presents revolutionary program in fight for workers power –
in wartime or ‘peace’

Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home