Theory and Practice in Lockdown
A review of Defying The Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin “Rashid” Johnson Featuring Exchanges with an Outlaw
“Like the scene at my emergence from the womb, I fought like hell, defying the tomb.”
This work collects correspondence and articles by two politicized inmates incarcerated at the time in the Virginia state system, one of whom (Kevin “Rashid” Johnson), remains in Red Onion State Prison under extremely repressive conditions.
Beginning with a enthusiastic and critical introduction by well known Black Liberation Army vet Russell Shoatz, it chronicles the development of political consciousness and organizing efforts in one local corner of the American gulag.
The search for a world view which transcends capitalist-patriarchal culture, the need to move beyond a street criminal mentality and the everyday victories and defeats of agitation in a isolated and repressive environment all find a place in the texts assembled here.
No one should read this book expecting perfect ideological consistency or simple answers. It's a practical process of development recorded in writing, one snapshot of a small group among the exploited seeking to break through the enemy encirclement we all live under.
Again and again we are reminded often quite eloquently that short of grappling with the urgent questions of how to organize a revolutionary resistance, little remains for us but the dim prospect of personal survival in the face of increasing misery and fascism.
Of course it's with the “how” that matters become contentious:
On the one hand many of Rashid's contributions provide a sober and undeniably accurate critique of the disorganization and hobbyism rampant in the insular world of the North American radical Left. On the other hand the solution offered, a vanguard party based in the “science” of “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism,” is to put it charitably less then convincing.
However, even the errors of those experienced in real world resistance and rebellion tend to be more interesting for the reader then the finest moments in the polemics of those whose “correct” perspective remains disappointingly academic.
Whatever our strategy may be this book does its part in making one fundamental truth eminently clear.
In the struggles ahead, nothing less then total commitment will be sufficient.