Response to Turning the Tide's Misrepresentation of MIM
[Below we have excerpted sections from a letter by a USW comrade sent to Turning the Tide. While the comrade does a good job responding to this gross misrepresentation of MIM line, we have added comments in brackets to clarify a few points.]
I was surprised by your latest issue of Turning the Tide (TTT). More specifically, Michael Novick's article entitled "PART's Perspective: On Contradiction and the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People." Quite a brazen title by the way, as the point of the original essay penned by Mao was to point out the correct way for the Chinese Communist Party to help resolve contradictions among the people, and between the party and the people in light of the incidents in Hungary; as well as a critique of Stalin's shortcomings with that matter and to help forge unity with the masses.
I'll just give you a review of the entire article, in which Mr. Novick attempts to illuminate the prisyn masses with regards to the differences between TTT's political line and that of the MIM camp currently represented by MIM(Prisons), United Struggle from Within (a MIM(Prisons)-led anti-imperialist mass organization for prisyners), the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement and the Leading Light Communist Organization.
To begin with, i hold MIM(Prisons) in very high regard, not just because they hold the correct political line on everything politically meaningful under the sun, but because i owe my own political development to them.
My first point of contention with Mr. Novick's article is when he erroneously makes the statement that MIM's position concerning the labor aristocracy is that it is a permanent labor aristocracy. That is a false statement. MIM has never made the statement that the Amerikan labor aristocracy is a permanent labor aristocracy. Not only is that statement metaphysical and anti-dialectical but in complete contradistinction to the hystorical process and MIM line. Yes, the so-called Amerikan "worker" is indeed part of the labor aristocracy, and not proletarian as revisionists of varying stripes would contend. The Amerikan "worker" forms a part of the labor aristocracy; a sub-stratum of the petty bourgeoisie. Whenever they addressed this issue MIM continuously made it a point to say that the imperialist country working classes were (and still are) a pro-imperialist labor aristocracy at this time. Furthermore, the concept of the labor aristocracy goes all the way back to Engels when he described to Marx how the English proletariat was becoming more and more bourgeois. Lenin, as well as other Bolsheviks, also formulated on what basis this labor aristocracy was formed, which is of course super-profits stolen from the colonies. It seems to me however that those who continue to negate the existence of a labor aristocracy, and instead dogmatically cling to the hope of an Amerikan proletariat, do so either out of sheer ignorance or, more dangerously, for the purpose of revisionism. To continue to advocate this false thesis in the imperialist countries is to, as a "logical conclusion," advocate for multi-national/class unity in the fashion of Trotsky and his successors, i.e. the erroneous line that leads one to lean on and wait for the white working class to wake up and come to the oppressed nations' rescue.
Novick is also incorrect in his statement that "MIM sees women and prisoners as elements of US society where there is prospect for revolutionary development." Well, half wrong anyway. The MIM never saw, nor does it today see, First World wimmin as elements of U.$. society in which there is any real group oppression to speak of which would provide a prospect for revolution. The MIM recognizes First World wimmin, primarily white wimmin, as gender-privileged. They are not at all part of the revolutionary vehicle precisely because being privileged economically (among other things) makes them gender privileged in relation to Third World wimmin. Or in MIM's own words: "After looking around MIM came to the conclusion that like First World labor, First World women are mainly oppressors, not oppressed people."
We must also disagree with Mr. Novick's assertion that exploitation exists within the First World outside the realm of commodity production in which waged labor "produces" surplus value. Exploitation is defined as producing something and not being paid for the value of what you produce.
[MIM(Prisons) interjects: MIM line has consistently held that the white nation is not economically exploited. Later this line was expanded to assert that there is no exploitation occurring in the United $tates except within migrant and prisoner populations. To talk about "exploitation" of the planet, as Novick does, is to redefine the term that we use in a Marxist context. He does this in order to falsely imply that we have no concern for ecological destruction, one of many examples where Novick is misleading to dirty our name.
Since our definitions of "exploitation" are so vastly different, it seems pointless to debate who is even exploited. However, what Novick is attacking is the line that the dominance of service workers in the First World is evidence of an exploitative relationship with the Third World. We say this because if you cut off the First World from the colonies they will not be able to produce for themselves what they need to survive, because they're mostly cops, politicians, paper shufflers, sales clerks, bartenders, etc. The opposing thesis is that Amerikan workers are so much more productive than Third World workers that the small productive sector can easily meet the needs of all Amerikans. This productivity also explains the vastly higher wages paid in this country according to this chauvinist view.]
Mr. Novick is further wrong in his contention that we, i.e. the MIM camp, "assume privilege and oppression are absolute phenomona, unchanging and mutually exclusive." Quite the contrary, as dialectical materialists we certainly know that nothing is absolute (except for the struggle of opposites) or unchanging, as motion itself is an expression of change and particular to the law of development. If such an absurdity of which Novick here speaks of were true then MIM(Prisons) wouldn't be taking the time to help develop the imprisyned lumpen of which the rest of society has long since cast off into the abyss.
We furthermore recognize that there is indeed an obvious intersection in nation and class contradictions within the United $tates. In a sense this is what MIM(Prisons)'s work is all about; working with the oppressed nation lumpen, in particular so that we may not only build towards liberating our people, but so that we may liberate our class. This will be our contribution to the International Communist Movement and oppressed people of the world. So, contrary to Novick's statements, we do in fact recognize and acknowledge that the interpenetration of opposites is particular to the law of development. However, there is a dialectical process, and as such a process of stages of which phenomena must go thru before change is complete; a lengthy process at that. Mutually exclusive phenomena do not just magically transcend from one stage to another. If only Mr. Novick would take the time to read MIM literature more carefully then he would know this.
The First and the Third World are currently locked in struggle. This struggle is representative of two mutually exclusive classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This is the fundamental contradiction on a world scale. Furthermore, this contradiction has manifested itself into antagonistic form, which has manifested into the principal contradiction on a world scale, which is oppressor versus the oppressed nations. Now, objectively speaking, what side of this contradiction are we on?
First World "workers" and Third World labor are two exclusive phenomena, not just because the former feeds off the latter, but because both hold two totally different positions with respect to the global relations of production and to the worldwide means of production as well. What Mr. Novick presupposes to explain with his chauvinist use of dialectics is that the First World labor aristocracy and Third World proletariat are essentially the same no matter the imperialist powers and the populations they serve. Mr. Novick says that privilege and oppression exist throughout class society, even among the exploited and oppressed, and that there is no perfectly oppressed class or sector whose hands are clean.
[MIM(Prisons) adds: We should point out that we see the oppressed nation lumpen in the United $tates as a middle force in that it has interests both opposed to and in support of imperialism. Novick seems to want to define everyone in this way, as potentially supporting or opposing imperialism. But we see the vast majority of Amerikans as clearly on the side of imperialism.
As our comrade points out, Novick throws around words like "dialectical" and "contradiction," while denying the very essence of a class analysis that is based in dialectical materialism. He asserts that it is absolutist to state that, overall, the labor aristocracy has a material interest in imperialism while the proletariat has interests opposed to it. This is consistent with the idealist view behind the strategy of groups like Anti-Racist Action who go out and confront the most overt racist elements of society. They attack racism, which is a symptom of national oppression that is at the core of the imperialist system. They focus on the realm of ideas, rather than making a materialist class analysis and getting at the root of the problem.
At the same time Novick is willing to identify enemy classes in the Third World, as in his discussion of South Africa. It seems he is selective in which classes get the benefit of the doubt.]
In addition to the above, Mr. Novick then uses the argument that there is currently a "class fall" being experienced by many in the United $tates and Europe, and that U.$. whites with less than a high school education are experiencing the loss of more than five years life expectancy is proof positive that the labor aristocracy is in all actuality going thru the re-proletarianization process. Funny, Trotsky had similar things to say during the Comintern of 1916 in his defense of Western Europe's newly rising labor aristocracy and his racist refusal that the revolutionary ebb was moving to the east. Unfortunate to say that we're not really surprised to hear such nonsense, as the TTT position on inter-communalism is the theory of Trotsky himself.
[MIM(Prisons) adds: Novick seems to slightly exaggerate a recent study that showed a 5-year decline in life expectancy for white wimmin without a high school diploma, but only a 3-year decline for men in that group. The average decline for all whites without a high school diploma was around 4 years.(2) Certainly a significant and unusual decline. But let's look at this population closer.
The percentage of "non-hispanic whites" without a high school diploma in 2012 was down to 7.5% according to the U.S. Census. In 1990, unfortunately, the census does not have this category. However, the percent of "whites" without a high school diploma was 21%. This percentage decreased to 12% for "whites" by 2012. This "whites" category includes many Latinos, who skew these numbers. We don't know if the paper in question addresses this issue because it is not available to read in the public domain. But any way you cut it, the white population without a high school diploma has shrunk quite a bit since 1990. That is no doubt partially due to that group being disproportionately elderly, as the older someone is the less education whites got when they were young.
As this group shrinks, it becomes more concentrated among the elderly and the very disadvantaged. It does not surprise us that the least educated 7.5% of white Amerikans face conditions that lead them to have declining life spans. The United $tates is a very individualistic society, leading to such great disparities that even in the richest country in the modern world there are whole populations that suffer great disadvantages. And as the article reporting on this study points out, there are epidemics of drug abuse and unhealthy eating in the United $tates that are correlated to low educational achievement.
The question is, are these 7.5% of white Amerikans a potentially revolutionary population? Others have tested this hypothesis, and the evidence seems to point to no. There is much more evidence that poor whites are the mass base for fascism. That's not to say that 7.5% or even 15% of whites couldn't support anti-imperialism. It's just not going to be that 7.5% that Novick refers to as evidence that whites are experiencing a "class fall" in the United $tates.]
Again, what Mr. Novick keeps willingly blinding himself to here is that there is a qualitative difference between the First World and the Third, not just in wage differentials, but living standards and government services, all of which are representative of real life material interests which chain the supposed First World "proletariat" to the imperialist fatherland. This is why a dialectical outlook, as well as a concrete class analysis, is of crucial importance to the revolutionary movement. Only by maintaining the first and conducting the second will we be able to discern real friend from real foe, something Novick and company are apparently unable to do and so have aligned with both nation and class enemies to the internal semi-colonies and Third World proletariat and peasantry.
The next paragraph in question is just so utterly ridiculous that i was initially taken slightly aback when reading it. Seriously, "MIM isolates prisons from the social contradictions they enforce"?! Please, Mr. Novick or any other associate of TTT, if you're gonna go into the "differences" between the MIM camp and yourselves, do us all a favor and inform yourselves properly on that which you seek to criticize. It's just so hard for me to believe that someone as politically educated as Mr. Novick professes to be (or should be, rather) is going about spewing straight up lies.
The Maoist Internationalist Movement and its spin-off organization have long since held that the massive Amerikkkan prisyn system largely developed as a form of social control to maintain in check the superfluous lumpen populations of the Black, Brown and First Nations following the failed national liberation struggles of the 60s and 70s. What Novick is saying is nothing but BS! MIM(Prisons) is the only organization in the United $tates that is actively working to politically develop the oppressed nation lumpen so that we may become the subjective motivating force for the liberation and self-determination of the oppressed internal semi-colonies that are New Afrika, Aztlán, Boriqua and the various First Nations that are corralled onto the reservations! They, and they alone, have been doing this for many years now. And where, pray tell, has the rest of the Amerikan left been in the middle of all this? As Mao taught us, there must be a constant leadership with the masses in an endless spiral of perceptual knowledge to rational knowledge and revolutionary practice, so on and so forth. Or simply put, "from the masses to the masses."
Another outright lie presented by Novick is his statement that MIM's view obscures class and colonial contradictions in the U.$. Likewise, Novick's statement that U.$. society is turning into a carceral state is itself misleading in more than one way. Ironically enough, this sweet one-liner itself obscures class and colonial contradictions by making it sound as if we're all in this together (read, white, Black, Brown etc. "working class" unite!) Trust us, for those of us from barrios and ghettos of Amerika, the prisyn-like methods of daily life are nothing new. Furthermore, they don't represent any "new stage in the basic colonial nature of the state and society" but are instead a part of the foundational building blocks of Amerika and the white settler-state that has made its home here; they are essential to the imperialists and we resent the fact that Mr. Novick wants us to believe that the white settler is somehow now on the receiving end of this oppression.
As if all this wasn't enough, Novick once again shows us his Trotskyist colors when he criticizes "cross-class" alliances, in particular the United Front method of organization. You know, the same method that brought us such victories as the defeat of fascism in WWII and the liberation of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Leave it to the Trotskyists to damn to hell all unholy alliances not deemed morally pure enough for their pie in the sky ideals. Furthermore, Novick makes it appear as if the struggle in South Africa was a People's War waged for national liberation, somehow influenced by MIM. The disaster in South Africa had nothing to do with a communist-vanguard-led United Front, but rather, everything to do with its lack thereof.
[MIM(Prisons) adds: As we wrote in ULK 30: Ironically, MIM was on the front line of the movement in the U.$. in the 1980s supporting the revolutionary forces in South Africa that opposed the neo-colonial solution.]
Please refrain from making such false remarks about MIM, cause they ain't gone nowhere but to the belly of the beast from where they'll help destroy Amerikan imperialism.
Long Live the Legacies of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao!
Long Live MIM!
MIM(Prisons) concludes: Of the sections we left out, there were some accusations that would not be principled to make in a public forum like ULK. But we must agree with the USW comrade that Novick deliberately misrepresented MIM line in this article in order to attack our movement. MIM has never feared criticism, and that has not changed. If Novick had actually addressed something that we wrote or published, rather than these straw men and lies, then we could all learn from such an exchange. Instead Novick has muddied the water. And that does not serve the anti-imperialist movement, whatever your political line.
Years ago we lamented the inability of many of our readers to distinguish our line from those of other "radical" and even reformist organizations of all sorts. This is knowledge that the masses must have at some level before we can build a strong movement. We're glad to hear that someone wrote to Turning the Tide to ask how they differ from MIM, but as we can see, that is not always the most fruitful approach. Comrades should be studying literature from various sources, especially sources that they think sound good to them. You should compare and contrast these sources to better understand their differences. MIM(Prisons) is very clear what our dividing line points are, but most groups aren't so clear. And they can often be deceptive. If you want our perspective on a certain organization, go ahead and ask. We do have reviews of a number of them. One thing that the original MIM published and promoted widely was a pamphlet entitled, "What's Your Line?" which identified the various political lines in the communist movement and what groups fell into what categories. To expand that project to the prison movement and the contemporary organizations that exist today would be a great step in expanding everyone's understanding of politics and where they stand. So we encourage comrades to send in their reviews and struggles like this that they have with other groups so that we can expand these resources in the future.