Recently we faced two situations that showed short and immediate results, which to a certain extent were good. The first was the united resistance to guards in regards to trying to "handle" the prisoners and deny us our restriction showers. Restriction showers are separate showers for those on restriction from dayroom time, recreation, commissary, etc. We won those participants their showers once the captain was called to settle the dispute.
The second situation was today, 14 December 2012, when 8 cells holding 16 prisoners became flooded with sewer water that was being pushed back out of the drains and into our cells. This triggered a united front from most of those in these cells who represent a mixture of different organizations. This was fruitful because we got maintenance to come and unclog the problem in the drainage system after several on one roll started to flood our cells and push this water out of our cells, causing the dayroom to overflow.
That was one segment to this situation, the next part came when we were allowed to exit to chow minutes after the drains were unclogged. Upon our return from chow we refused to go back into our cells due to the unsanitary milieu that remained. The second shift officer refused to distribute chemicals to clean our cells. This triggered another united resistance until the lieutenant was dispatched to quiet the situation by compensating us with the required chemicals. Every prisoner who participated had a chance to shower afterwards, which was a minor success.
These two situations I speak about not to romanticize but to bring attention to a winnable battle that must be clearly and carefully examined by those who think about doing the same. Not all outcomes garner the same results, so be careful. Remember, they can kill the revolutionary but not the revolution.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good demonstration of the principle of Unity that the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) promotes as its second principle: "WE strive to unite with those facing the same struggles as us for our common interests. To maintain unity we have to keep an open line of networking and communication, and ensure we address any situation with true facts. This is needed because of how the pigs utilize tactics such as rumors, snitches and fake communications to divide and keep division among the oppressed. The pigs see the end of their control within our unity."
"Unity" in itself can be a weak and meaningless term, or even a bad thing depending on who it is that is uniting and why. However, MIM(Prisons) sees unity among prisoners as progressive, because of the oppression prisoners face as a subclass and as (overwhelmingly) representatives of oppressed nations. Without unity of the oppressed we cannot end oppression and create a better world. So we echo this comrade in celebrating these small acts as examples of growing UFPP and setting the stage for greater change.
The Washington State Department of Ecology recently required the Washington State Dept of Corrections to conduct an investigation at Washington State Penitentiary to determine the type and location of contaminants present, and evaluate cleanup options.
They found hazardous waste (lead, gasoline) in the soil and well water system here at the prison. This water is used for drinking, showering, cooking, etc.
On 9 December 2012, local news ran the story regarding toxic waste in the water here at the prison. Two days later, coincidentally, prison staff were handing out printouts regarding the "toxics cleanup program." Are they trying to lead us to believe that they had no prior knowledge of this potentially dangerous problem prior to a couple days ago?
Chemicals (TCE and PCE) were identified in ground water outside the exterior prison fences. Some of these chemicals were used in furniture refinishing and repair, license plate manufacturing, dry cleaning, motor pool maintenance, metal working and welding, photo processing, sign manufacturing, and medical and dental labs.
The report given to prisoners claims that the levels of PCE and TCE in certain groundwater monitoring wells no longer pose a health concern to humans or the environment. However, they do admit that "gasoline and lead in soil exceed state standards at certain locations."
This is something that needs to be looked at by an independent scientist/law firm, so we prisoners know that we have chances of living a healthy life, in and out of prison.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As a prisoner discussed in the article "Environment and Prisons" in Under Lock & Key 7: "The main thing that I learned from this MT 12 was of the overwhelming toxic dump sites in and around oppressed nations areas. . .Yet we hardly hear a murmur from the media when toxic dumps spring up in areas where the oppressed nations swell. Third World countries have become the imperialist dump site. I watched a news program around a month ago about how petty bourgeois here in the U.S. were setting up these scam 'recycle' centers for computers and 'e-trash.' These 'recycle' centers would turn around and ship off this toxic junk to Third World nations and turn a profit, even though there's supposed laws prohibiting this toxic dumping (for Petty Bourgeois and small time entrepreneurs) it is still continued with a nod and a wink. The bourgeois, big business, transnational corporations etc. are a whole different story. They continue to dump toxins on the Third World nations with only encouragement from imperialist economists."
We should not be surprised when toxic waste is found in or around prisons as well. In fact, we have published reports of similar incidents in Connally Unit in Texas and Kern Valley State Prison in California. Those suffering under similar conditions must continue to expose these incidents, and campaign for basic safety for the imprisoned. We then need to take this one step further, as the contributor quoted above does, and put it in the context of imperialist environmental destruction and national oppression so that contaminants aren't just pushed into someone else's backyard.
by a North Carolina prisoner December 2012 permalink
I am being held hostage at Pasquotank Correctional Institution near Virginia Beach in Elizabeth City. In November it got so cold here we could sit our water bottles in the windows and the water turned into slushy ice water. Twelve of my comrades and I wrote grievances on the lack of heating. We also submitted copies of those grievances to the division of prisons in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The director sent those copies back to the administration and suggested an infraction be placed against each of us. The administrators called us to the office and relayed this information to us and offered the threat as suggested or the option to destroy the complaint. Sad to say only three of my former comrades are standing.
We have submitted another grievance citing policy and procedures issued by the Division of Prisons which states "no reprisals shall be taken against any inmate or staff member for a good faith use of or participation in the grievance procedure." Then we recited the clause which states "If more than one inmate files a grievance concerning the application of general policies or practices, or acts arising out of the same incident, these grievances will be processed as a group. Each grievance shall be logged individually; however, the same response will be provided to each grievant."
MIM(Prisons) responds: There is an ongoing problem with grievances in North Carolina in response to which some comrades in North Carolina created a petition specific for that state. This is part of the broader USW campaign to demand the proper handling of grievances in prisons across the country. Write to us for a copy of the petition for your state, or to customize one for your state if it does not yet exist.
Recently prisoners in California received the "new" instructional memorandum for the "pilot program for security threat group identification, prevention and management plan."
This is basically the "new" step down program that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has put together. According to the memo the term "security threat group" (STG) will "replace the terms prison gang, disruptive group, and/or street gang within the CDCR." On page 3 it states "CDCR manages the most violent and sophisticated security threat group members and associates in the nation." This is bullshit and propaganda, as we know from history the FBI once called the Black Panther Party the highest threat to the national security of Amerika, when in reality the BPP helped Black people the most in this country.
According to the memo, 3,150 people are currently validated prison gang members and associates and, as a result, are in the hole in California. Meanwhile, 850 prisoners are reviewed for validation each year in California.
According to this "new" program, STG members will, once validated, go to a Security Housing Unit (SHU). STG associates will remain in general population unless staff feel they are involved in STG behavior — which we know will be abused like the current validation process. It's the same old unfettered repression regurgitated. They can still use all the "violations" as before, even saying "hi" or "good morning" can still be used as evidence of associating with a STG. Only its now called "staff information" and is described as getting you 4 points toward STG and would be considered "STG activity" instead of the old "gang activity." So it's all about semantics here.
Section 400.2, validation procedure, on page 9 states in part that once someone is validated "CDCR staff shall track their movement, monitor their conduct, and take interdiction action, as necessary." Interdiction action is code talk for getting someone off the mainline by any means necessary — the set up! They can even still use a birthday card a prisoner gave you as "STG activity."
The step down program calls for 5 steps that we are told can lead us to general population. So-called "self help" classes must be attended, with names like "victims awareness" which point at oneself as being wrong. This is classic brainwashing that must occur if you want to go back to general population, so we were tortured for years and decades in some cases but now we are told by our torturers we must attend their brainwash camps and learn that we are responsible and guilty for bringing our torture upon ourselves. Our oppression is brought on by the state and no classes will change this reality.
We are also told in the memo that we will be given a course on the book Purpose Driven Life, which is a religious book. So the state is coupling their self-help brainwash with religion to cover up repression that the internal semi-colonies face from Amerika. What we are seeing is a re-shuffling of the same deck of cards where state officials are given way too much power over prisoners, with threadbare oversight, and a sadistic history of abuse. This of course is not a positive thing for those of us held in these dungeons, it is a continuance of a long rusted chain of oppression. The reality is we have way more power than we even know. We must remember that it was our action here in these torture chambers that forced the director of corrections and other high level officials to fly out here and beg those they call the "worst of the worst" into stopping the strike. As a result of our protests they have made superficial changes to our "privileges." Many times when dealing with the imperialists people become demoralized, whether they are dealing with imperialists at a higher level or via its many apparatuses on a lower level i.e. with the courts or prisons. But Mao put it very well when he said: "all reactionaries are paper tigers. In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality they are not so powerful. From a long-term point of view, it is not the reactionaries but the people who are really powerful."(1)
As in the case with our efforts of 2011 when thousands of prisoners across the United Snakes went on hunger strikes we found that Mao was correct that they are paper tigers. The state capitulated, but quickly devised a way to temporarily slow down our momentum via deception like lying about what changes would come. Although they stopped the strike they did not erase the reality that we saw the state as the paper tiger it really is. Like Mao said they are not so powerful and in the long term it is the people or in our case the prisoners that are really powerful. One only needs to look at the last couple of years of prisoner struggles that the new prison movement has produced, where most strikes have resulted in better conditions for prisoners across the United Snakes.
The recent changes to the state's torturing of prisoners does not change the torture that me and the other fourteen thousand plus people in California are still held. Many will continue in this way for many more years, and some for the rest of their lives. But the people will have many more victories in the years to come as prisoners begin to really grasp the oppression we face and discover different paths out of this oppression.
The author Michelle Alexander said "The 'whites only' sign may be gone, but new signs have gone up - notice placed in job applications, rental agreements, loan applications, forms for welfare benefits, school applications, and petitions for licenses, informing the general public that 'felons' are not wanted here."(2)
What Alexander leaves out is that there is also a new sign that says Brown, Black and Red people are to be swept up and tortured en masse across the United Snakes of Amerika in order to attempt to break the back of resistance in our respective nations. And now a newer sign is going up in the SHUs, saying that after we are tortured for years and decades that we will also be tortured or brainwashed into believing that our torture was our own fault. Those who refuse the brainwashing will remain in these torture chambers for years or decades more.
Once prisoners decide that not only won't we accept the torture but that we will resist until we actually see prisoners walking out of the SHU, not falling for the state's lies and pacification program, only then will we be victorious in our efforts wherever our torture chamber is in this country.
Humyn rights should be afforded to everyone, even prisoners. Some believe the state's propaganda and begin to think we deserve this treatment or it is normal. But this is unacceptable, and it's only normal in a capitalist country where those who do not contribute to the capitalist system are introduced to genocidal treatment. At some point people realize that change will only come from our own efforts and if we wait for our oppressor to bring change we will be waiting the rest of our lives.
I've recently been engaged in an ideological struggle with a fellow Chicano and potential anti-imperialist ally concerning the current state of captivity of the Chicano nation by the imperialist United $tates, it's liberation, the oppressive and exploitative reality that Third World people are subjected to on a daily basis, and of the unique place the lumpen of the internal semi-colonies exist in all of this. Needless to say, we've been discussing some highly political and philosophical questions and topics not necessarily confined to the existentialist school of thought, but rather questions and topics more closely tied to the very existence of Third World people in an imperialist dominated world. We've also touched on the psychological baggage better known as alienation which imperialism itself ties to the individual, whether in the First World or the Third. These discussions have been had not within the context of mere conversational purposes, but for the explicit purpose of waking up a potential ally not just to the reality of our own oppression as Chicanos, or of putting the reality of our oppression into complete context for him; but so as to wake him up to his own productive power as a revolutionary force within the belly of the beast.
After struggling with this individual on a molecular level and trying my hardest to consistently put the correct political line forward; then banging my head on the ideological bourgeois brick wall which this individual vehemently represented every time he opened his mouth, I understandably felt frustrated and decided to terminate any and all further political struggle with this persyn, being that he didn't really seem to want to struggle with objective answers and analysis from a revolutionary nationalist perspective; but rather seemed content blindly defending those cherished Amerikan values or "sugar coated bullets" which we've all been spoon fed from birth.
After some time however and his insistence that I read one of his bourgeois science books (college edition) for meaningless mental exercise, aka intellectualism, I begrudgingly agreed on one condition. If I was to read his bourgeois science book then he was to read and study my Marx; he agreed.
After a couple weeks and after answering the occasional philosophical question from him this persyn surprised me by revealing that he'd been grappling not just with the Marx book I'd sent him, but with the topics we'd previous discussed. Discussions which began with evolution and religion but which quickly spiraled into heated philosophical and political debates ranging in everything from the origins of the humyn species and society, to super-profits and everything in between. And it was during this time that I suddenly realized something I'd obviously lost sight of.
It wasn't that he necessarily disagreed with my political beliefs because of some inherent class bias as a First Worlder. Rather he disagreed with the proletarian worldview exactly because of a First World ideological bias that defined his worldview. And one does not change one's worldview easily.
It's therefore important for revolutionaries that are new to the anti-imperialist game to keep in mind that anytime we engage in political discussion with the philistine, we're going up against 500 plus years of colonization, not just in the material world, but in the ideological field as well; as social consciousness is both consciously and unconsciously bourgeois in the era of imperialism. We must fully understand that none of us are born with the slightest inkling of the communal/communist/proletarian worldview, rather, it must be cultivated. What's more, political struggle in the ideological realm just like struggle in any other realm is essentially a matter for dialectics to resolve in which battles are won one at a time until one factor or another gains dominance and emerges victorious.
Therefore, it's equally important to remember that whenever we're speaking politics we're in essence engaging in a struggle over political line between the oppressed which we represent, and the national and class enemies whose mouthpieces are not always readily apparent, but inconspicuous, especially in a First World society such as ours where we have not just open and closet Trotskyists who are peddling revisionism on the prison masses in the guise of "revolution", but honest comrades who inadvertently and thru no fault of their own push an incorrect line due to a low level of political development and understanding. Therefore, we must ensure that this polemical struggle isn't simply narrowed down to and carried out through out the confines of the open national and class enemies of the oppressed nations, but continuously carried out throughout the class conscious in keeping with Mao's dictum of continuous revolution. Continuous revolution, or continuous struggle, being the only method available to defeat not only old and reactionary ideas which are at the service of the bourgeoisie, but new age and mystical ideas as well, which aren't really "new or mystical at all, but simply repackaged bootlegs of the bourgeoisie and status quo who seek to entrench themselves and the enemy line in the revolution in order to ruin it from within.
Revolutionary thought during this stage of the struggle must have a shock and awe type value characteristic of the new defeating the old in which every spectrum of life is held up to the light of revolutionary science, declare it's rationale, or surrender it's right to existence. If so-called revolutionary thoughts and synthesis don't offer or illuminate the best path forward then they too must cease their right to exist and clear the way for something new, or rather something tried and true, i.e. Maoism. Thus it is no surprise that Maoism serves as a two pronged "-ism" (philosophical and political) which leaves the bourgeois-minded agape and in existential doubt as to the state of reality and their place in it. Now, this may simply be old hat to the battle tested revolutionary, but twas not for me, as I myself found this point made ever so clear through polemical practice. Indeed, just as communist parties that are engaged in armed struggle are more politically developed than those that are not, so is the individual engaged in polemics.
Simply reading one Marxist book doesn't make one a Marxist, and simply winning one individual battle doesn't win the war. It was foolish of me to expect the potential ally mentioned in the beginning of this report to be won over to the side of the oppressed simply because he himself is objectively oppressed. My overestimation of the revolutionization process with respect to this individual was itself a failure on my part to properly utilize the dialectical method; as nothing in this world develops evenly.
Bourgeois ideology was and remains the dominant ideology within said individual, and my initial failure to fully grasp this point is proof positive that in all aspects of life there is always a struggle between two classes, two lines, and two roads, and thus will be the case until the end of property relations. My initial failure to win him over to the side of the oppressed is objectively a victory for the bourgeoisie and further drives home the point that education cannot be separated from transformation; but some seeds have been sown and the revolutionary sprout is slowly beginning to break free from over 500 years of colonization. It seems this persyn is slowly beginning to take up an interest in revolutionary politics; a direct result of our interaction. A small political win, in a small political battle for a correct political line, which on a world scale is perhaps equal to the rising forces of the oppressed and repressed revolutionary forces which have begun to seriously re-develop within u.$. borders.
It is the politics of the oppressors that have put us in here and thrown away the key, and it will be the politics of the oppressed that will set us free. If there is anywhere in the United $tates where politics should take center stage, it is in the prisons and jails; concrete proof in the most literal sense that there is an ideological struggle actively going on between the oppressors and the oppressed, in which the oppressor nation obviously has the upper hand.
Exodus And Reconstruction: Working-Class Women at the Heart Of Globalization by Bromma Kersplebedeb, 2012
Available for $3 + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
This zine is in the tradition of Night Vision by Butch Lee and Red Rover and other similar works from the same publisher on class, gender and nation. Exodus and Reconstruction: Working-Class Women at the Heart of Globalization is short and by necessity speaks in generalizations, some of which are more evidently true than others. It is definitely a worthwhile read for anyone serious about global class analysis.
The main thesis of the essay is that starting around the 1990s there has been a major upheaval of the countryside in the economic periphery that has particularly affected biological wimmin, pushing them to migrate and join the ranks of the urban proletariat. This reality has major implications for the trajectory of imperialism as well as class struggle. As the author points out, the backwards modes of production in much of the world has provided a ready source of surplus value (s) due to the low capital investment (c) and high labor component (v) of production, the latter of which is the source of all profit. The implication is that while providing a short-term benefit to imperialism by bringing these large populations online in industry, this is undercutting the rate of profit (expressed in the equation s/(c + v) ). Not only that, but the domestic and agricultural labor that often falls on the shoulders of wimmin is important in allowing for super-exploitation of the historically male workers by allowing the capitalists to pay less than they would need to pay single workers to feed, clothe and house themselves. Without the masses living in semi-feudal conditions, continued super-exploitation will threaten the reproduction of the proletariat. In other words, more people will die of starvation and lack of basic needs or wages will need to increase reducing the superprofits enjoyed by people in the First World.
Another component of this phenomenon not mentioned by Bromma is that a large portion of these workers being displaced from their land are from formerly socialist China which had protected its people from capitalist exploitation for decades. So in multiple ways, this is a new influx of surplus value into the global system that prevented larger crisis from the 1980s until recently.
The difference between MIM Thought and the ideology that is presented by Bromma, Lee, Rover and others, is primarily in what strands of oppression we recognize and how they separate out. Their line is a version of class reductionism wrapped in gender. While others in this camp (Sakai, Tani, Sera) focus on nation, they tend to agree with Bromma's ultra-left tendencies of putting class over nation. Their approach stems from a righteous criticism of the neo-colonialism that followed the national liberation struggles of the middle of the twentieth century. But we do not see new conditions that have nullified the Maoist theory of United Front between different class interests. It is true that anti-imperialism cannot succeed in liberating a nation, and will likely fall into old patriarchal ways, if there is not proletarian leadership of this United Front and Maoism has always recognized that. Yet Mao did not criticize Vietnamese revisionism during the U.$. invasion of southeast Asia to preserve the United Front.(1) For anti-imperialists in the militarist countries it is similarly important that we do not cheerlead the Condaleeza Rice/ Hillary Clinton gender line on occupied Afghanistan. This is an explicit application of putting nation as principal above gender. This does not mean that gender is not addressed until after the socialist revolution as the rightest class reductionists would say. Whether rightist or ultra-left, class reductionism divides the united front against imperialism.
While Bromma puts class above nation, h also fails to distinguish between gender and class as separate strands of oppression.(2) Specifically, h definition of what is exploited labor is too broad in that it mixes gender oppression with exploitation, based in class. The whole thesis wants to replace the proletariat with wimmin, and substantiate this through economics. While the "feminization" of work is a real phenomenon with real implications, it does not make class and gender interchangeable. And where this leads Bromma is to being very divisive within the exploited nations along class and gender lines.
MIM Thought recognizes two fundamental contradictions in humyn society, which divide along the lines of labor time (class) and leisure time (gender).(3) We also recognize a third strand of oppression, nation, which evolves from class and the globalization of capitalism. Bromma argues that wimmin provide most of the world's exploited labor, listing sweatshops, agricultural work, birthing and raising children, housework and caring for the sick and elderly. But working does not equal exploitation. Exploitation is where capitalists extract surplus value from the workers performing labor. There is no surplus value in caring for the elderly, for example. In the rich countries this is a service that one pays for but still there is no extraction of surplus value. The distinction between service work and productive work is based on whether surplus value is produced or not, not a moral judgement of whether the work is important. The economic fact is that no surplus value is exploited from a nurse working for a wage in the United $tates, just as it is not exploited from a peasant caring for her family members in the Third World. The Third World service workers are still part of the proletariat, the exploited class, but they serve a supporting role in the realization of surplus value in the service sector.
We think Bromma has reduced a diverse group of activities to exploited labor time. Caring for the sick and elderly has no value to capitalism, so there is no argument to be made for that being exploited labor. A certain amount of housework and child raising must be performed to reproduce the proletariat, so Marx would include this in the value of labor power. The actual birthing of children is something that falls in the realm of biology and not labor time. Economically, this would be something that the capitalist must pay for (i.e. proper nutrition and care for the pregnant womyn) rather than something that the capitalist gains surplus value from. While MIM dismissed much of the biological determinism based in child-birthing capability in gender oppression on the basis of modern technology and society, we would still put this in the gender realm and not class.(3)
In reducing all these activities to exploited labor, Bromma is overstating the importance of housewives as sources of wealth for capitalists. If anything the drive to move Third World wimmin into the industrial proletariat indicates that more value is gained from wimmin by having them play more traditional male roles in production in the short term, ignoring the medium-term problem that this undercuts super-exploitation as mentioned above.
The work of raising food and ensuring children survive are part of the reproduction of the proletariat, which under normal conditions is payed for by the capitalist through wages. When wages aren't high enough to feed a family and the womyn must do labor intensive food production to subsidize the capitalist's low wages, then we see super-exploitation of the proletariat, where the whole family unit is part of that class even if only the men go to the factories to work. So unremunerated labor within the proletariat, even if it is divided up along gender lines, is part of class. In extreme situations we might say that those forced to stay home and do all the housework are slaves if they can't leave. In other situations we might see a whole segment of peasants that are subsidizing a class of proletarian factory workers outside of the family structure. Bromma generally implies that gender is an antagonistic class contradiction. While there are contradictions there, h goes too far in dividing the exploited masses who have the same basic class interests opposing imperialism.
Like Bromma does, we too have addressed the situation we find ourselves in where more reactionary, criminal, religious and patriarchal groups are on the front lines of the anti-imperialist movement. Bromma explains this as a result of class and gender interests of these groups. An analysis that is parallel to our own of the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy. Yet we cannot ignore the brutal repression of communism and the promotion of ideologies like Islamic fundamentalism by the imperialists in shaping our current reality. Egypt is a prime example where brutal U.$. dictatorship repressed any socialist leaning political organizing for decades while allowing for the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood who then end up being the only viable option for a new government when the people decide the old puppet Mubarak needed to get out. The role of U.$. imperialism is principal here in forming the new puppet regime and not the class or gender interests of those who won the lottery of being chosen as the new puppets. You can find a minority in any social group who can be bought off to work against their own group without needing to explain it by class interests. On the other hand you have bin Laden's Al Qaeda, who also received CIA favoritism in opposing social-imperialism and communism, but remained a principled anti-imperialist force when the Amerikans took their stab at controlling the Middle East. The Bromma line would have us lump these groups together in the enemy camp of the bourgeoisie, while Maoists differentiate between the compradors in Egypt and the bourgeois nationalists who take up arms against the occupiers.
No movement is perfect. But Maoism did more to address gender oppression than any other humyn practice since the emergence of the patriarchy. Bromma fails to recognize these advancements in h condemnation of the national liberation struggles that degenerated into neo-colonial and patriarchal states. To fail to emulate and build upon the feminist practice of socialism is a great disservice to the cause of gender liberation.
"George Jackson and his comrades became living examples and inspiration for organized resistance of prisoners across the country. On August 21, 1971, George Jackson and two other New Afrikan prisoners were killed (along with three prison guards) in a gunfight inside one of California's maximum-security prisons called San Quentin."
This information is not only erroneous but also serves to advance the state/CDC/law enforcement in general, who spun the mysterious manifestation of the 9mm handgun and a wig. There was no gunfight that dreadful day, nor were there three brothers killed either. The only brother lost on August 21st 1971 was mwenzi George.
Harry E. Vanden and Mark Becker editors and translators José Carlos Mariátegui: an Anthology (Monthly Review Press, 2011), 480 pgs, $29.95 paperback
The recent growth spurt among the various [email protected] nations here in the United $tates has begun to turn the spotlight on the various peoples and movements within these nations. Although the [email protected] nation has long resisted Amerikan occupation in various ways, the left wing of white nationalism has, until recently, pretty much neglected any acknowledgement of the [email protected] nation. Recently, with the help of an upsurge in the war on [email protected], with the state of Arizona spearheading this war, some in the Amerikan left circles have begun to rediscover the communist theory and struggles that have been coming out of Latin America for about a hundred years. The new book José Carlos Mariátegui: An Anthology adds to this budding interest in revolutionary [email protected] This book is a compilation of Mariátegui's writings.
José Carlos Mariátegui's Life
Mariátegui was a Peruvian communist who upheld revolutionary nationalism within the context of Marxist theory, but not in a mechanical way. He developed a line based on the material conditions of Peru, and thus Latin America, as most of Latin America was feudal or semi-feudal and developing at roughly the same pace. And like Mao would later come to say, Mariátegui believed Marxist thought should be undogmatic. In fact, Mao was known to have read Mariátegui as well.
In a time when Marxists believed the peasantry to be a potential revolutionary force, before Mao proved this theory to be true, Mariátegui developed a groundbreaking theory of the role of peasants in the revolution.
Mariátegui was born in the small town of Moguera, Peru on 14 July 1894. Born in poverty and crippled as a child, Mariátegui began life in an uphill battle. Like most people in Latin America, school was a luxury Mariátegui could not afford and so he had to work with an elementary school education in order to help contribute financially to his family. At 15 he began work at La Prensa newspaper. He advanced from copy boy to writing and editing. He soon learned to make a living as a journalist while at the same time using this journalistic talent for propaganda work.
Starting as a teenager, Mariátegui began to develop socialist ideas and began writing about student rights and labor struggles. He and a friend even founded two short-lived newspapers as teenagers, one called Nuestra Epoca (Our Epoch) and La Razón (The Fault). Although at this time Mariátegui had not developed the deep Marxist theory he was later known for, it does show his early consciousness and the beginning of his revolutionary thought in his articles. So much so that in his early 20s he was sent in exile to Europe by the Peruvian government and charged by the Peruvian dictator Agusto B. Luguia as an "information agent." This reminded me of how, in the United $tates, once prisoners begin to develop and define their revolutionary thought, they too are placed in "exile" — Security Housing Units.
It was while Mariátegui was in Europe that his study and thought deepened and became socialist. His four years in Italy and France were spent amidst the different communist groups active there at the time. This was where he met many people who helped shape his growth. By the time he returned to Peru in 1923 he had developed his political line significantly.
One of the things that stands out about Mariátegui in reading his anthology is that although he had a formal education only up to 8th grade, he developed into a self-educated intellectual, but an intellectual in sync with the most oppressed, an intellectual for the people in contradiction to the bourgeois intellectuals. I thought this was similar to many prisoners who, like Mariátegui, are often without a "formal" education. I myself have never attended a high school and instead educated myself in prison as an adult, seeing the importance of education, especially in the realm of advancing my nation, as well as the international communist movement more broadly. So I found this small but significant aspect of Mariátegui really inspiring and I think other prisoners will as well.
Mariátegui was confined to a wheelchair most of his adult life due to illness. This "disability" was a hinderance to his goals of making socialist revolution in Peru, but he endured; he overcame this burden and found ways to continue onward. This too relates to the conditions of the prisoner, as many may see being in prison as a hinderance to those seeking to transform their nation, to advancing society. In a way it is, however we must find ways to continue onward despite our challenges.
Back in Peru, Mariátegui launched the theoretical journal Amauta. He then founded the biweekly periodical Labor which sought to politicize the Peruvian working class, but was shut down within a year by the Peruvian government. He also published two books in his life and published numerous articles in many Peruvian periodicals. One book, La Escena Contemporánea (The Contemporary Scene), was a collection of articles he wrote for two Peruvian magazines. These articles dealt with racism, socialism and events in Peru. While in his second book, Siete Ensayos de Interpretación (Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality), he applied a Marxist analysis to the social reality of Peru and thus Latin America.
Mariátegui's theory and quantitative development soon turned to qualitative development and practice and in 1928 he formed the Peruvian Socialist Party (PSP), which was the forerunner of the Peruvian Communist Party (PCP), which led a heroic people's war in the 1980s and 1990s. Mariátegui was the first Secretary General of the PSP, which would form a Marxist trade union and would participate in Communist International-sponsored meetings. But Mariátegui's above ground party building actions were not exclusive to 'legal organizing,' he was also involved in the Peruvian underground movement. Indeed he was a sharp thorn in the side of the Peruvian government, having organized communist cells throughout Peru. The government labeled him "subversive" and threw him in prison many times — often with no charges though each time they eventually released him. He faced political repression most of his political life; surveilled and harassed by the state.
Much of his later organizing was in opposition to the U.$.-owned copper mine at "Cerro de Pasco" where he often agitated strikes around working conditions. Mariátegui died at age thirty six due to poor health.
Mariátegui's Political Line
In Mariátegui's piece "The Land Problem," he gets at something that is essential to any struggle, which is getting to the heart of a struggle, to the kernel of contradiction. He states, in part in reference to the contradictions surrounding Peru's indigenous peoples:
"We are not content with demanding the Indian's right to education, culture, progress, love and heaven. We start by categorically demanding their rights to land."(pg 69)
This demand for land cuts to the heart of a people's right. This is what separates those seeking a "reformist approach" from those seeking a more revolutionary approach. The same lesson can be gleaned by prisoners who, in many parts of the United $tates, come to this crossroad where in any struggle for prisoners' rights those actively pushing the prison movement forward MUST choose between reforms or real revolutionary demands. In Mariátegui's case he chose the more revolutionary approach — the struggle to free the land.
This demand continues in all parts of the world in contradiction to the capitalist practices of private ownership, monopolizing the land and outright stealing of land from oppressed nations. To the people of the world it is being established that Amerika's right to colonize and oppress has expired! The iron hold of capitalist tradition has been broken in the minds of many of the oppressed and time is running out for the imperialists!
In "The Land Problem," Mariátegui describes the error that most people fell into in analyzing Peru in his time. Most mechanically attempted to apply methods used in a capitalist society to Peru's semi-feudal economy. As he describes, Peru during this time was a "gamonalism" society, which was a share cropper society where the indigenous of Peru would work the land of a large land owner in return for a portion of the harvest. But due to the abuse of the colonizers, the Incan peoples saw gamonalism as a punishment, and so methods of building the infrastructure were also seen as forms of gamonalism even though pre-colonial Incans always have collectively worked on building roads or waterways. This was once a duty, simply a part of life, but under the semi-feudal existence these projects were seen by the Incan people as more abuse brought on by gamonalism and this goes to the heart of Mariátegui's line on how Peruvians cannot mechanically apply the Marxist analysis that paved the way in Europe to Peru or Latin America for that matter, as social conditions were much different and so a Marxist analysis had to be created that was specific to Latin America.(pg 115)
Peru experienced the destruction of social forms through the colonization process. But this colonialism fertilized the birth of a nation. The development of the new economic relation breathed new life into the people's resistance. This new development was behind Peru's independence revolution with Spain, it was a natural development that can be seen worldwide. It simply validates the laws of contradiction.
Mariátegui saw the distinct concrete conditions in Latin America but he understood that the peoples victory in Latin America was but a step toward a bigger picture. He wrote:
"In this America of small revolutions, the same word, revolution, frequently lends itself to misunderstanding. We have to reclaim it rigorously and intransigently. We have to restore its strict and exact meaning. The Latin American revolution will be nothing more and nothing less than a stage, a phase of the world revolution. It will simply and clearly be a socialist revolution. Add all the adjectives you want to this word according to a particular case: 'anti-imperialist', 'agrarian', 'national-revolutionary,' socialism supposes, precedes and includes all of them."(pg 128)
And so although Mariátegui fought for and developed a line for his nation he still kept the broader movement for world revolution as his compass. This is very important for those of us of the internal semi-colonies to understand that it is not just ok but necessary for us to struggle for and develop a political line for our distinct conditions living here in the belly of the beast and under the heel of the super-parasite. But at the same time we must keep the bigger picture in mind, the world movement as a compass, and grasp that liberating our nations is only the first stage in what we are ultimately struggling for.
On nationalism Mariátegui writes:
"The nationalism of the European nations ... is reactionary and anti-socialist. But the nationalism of the colonial peoples — yes, economically colonial, although they boast of their political autonomy — has a totally different origin and impulse. In these people, nationalism is revolutionary and therefore ends in socialism."(pg 175)
Mariátegui wrote these words in 1927 so this was even before Mao wrote, "thus in wars of national liberation patriotism is applied internationalism"(1) in 1938. And just like Mao, Mariátegui believed that nationalism from the oppressed nations was revolutionary and true internationalism. But the Amerikan crypto-Trotskyites today disagree with Mao and Mariátegui on this, mainly because agreeing with them on this would undermine the white privilege enjoyed by them and their allies.
Mariátegui was in fact not just aware but correctly analyzed what was taking place around the world during this time, particularly in China. Indeed, he criticized the Chinese Kuomingtang and upheld "Chinese socialism" during this time, which was the budding movement that Mao was involved with. In a polemic on China he wrote:
"And I will be content with advising him that he direct his gaze to China where the nationalist movement of the Kuomingtang gets its most vigorous impulse from Chinese socialism."(pg 175)
It is refreshing to see Mariátegui, from the Third World and under intense state repression, was able to grasp the concrete conditions and political development taking place internationally, especially in China when he had already seen Mao's camp as the correct line even before Mao's line was victorious in liberating China.
Disagreements with Mariátegui
One problem of line is what Mariátegui calls "Inca socialism." In his analysis the ancient Incas lived in what he describes as Inca socialism. There are many things wrong with this. For one, the Incas, like the other pre-Columbian societies of what is referred to as "Latin America," such as the more widely known societies like the Aztecs and Mayans, lived in communal societies. But these societies had many facets of privilege and even caste-like systems with everything from kings, priests, priestesses, laborers and slaves. Indeed, most of these larger societies like the Aztec, Mayan and Inca's operated on tribute systems where essentially the surrounding tribes that were dominated by these larger groups basically payed rent to these groups, they were taxed or they were slaughtered. So this was in no way "socialism." Sprinkled throughout his writings Mariátegui refers to a pre-Columbian "Inca Socialism" and even declares its previous existence in the Peruvian Socialist Party's 9 point programs — which he himself drafted. Point 6 states:
"Socialism finds the same elements of a solution to the land question in the livelihoods of communities, as it does in large agricultural enterprises. In areas where the presence of the yanaconazco(2) sharecropping system or small landholdings require keeping individual management, the solution will be the exploitation of land by small farmers, while at the same time moving toward the collective management of agriculture in areas where this type of exploitation prevails. But this, like the stimulation that freely provides for the resurgence of indigenous peoples, the creative manifestation of its forces and native spirit does not mean at all a romantic and anti-historical trend of reconstructing or resurrecting Inca socialism which corresponded to historical conditions completely by passed, and which remains only as a favorable factor in a perfectly scientific production technique, that is the habits of cooperation and socialism of indigenous peasants. Socialism presupposes the technique, the science, the capitalist stage. It cannot permit any setbacks in the realization of the achievements of modern civilization but on the contrary it must methodically accelerate the incorporation of these achievements into national life."
We must be grounded in materialism and approach reality how it is, not how we wish it to be. To refer to pre-Columbian societies in Latin America as "socialist" is an ultra-left deviation and thus our line becomes contaminated along with our potential for victory. The fact that Mariátegui wrote this in his party's program reveals how much he believed this to be true, and so there was some error in his line.
Furthermore, Mariátegui attempts to weld events in Europe with events in the Americas and says in a university lecture: "A period of revolution in Europe will be a period of revolution in the Americas."(pg 297) Of course world events spark arousal in the international communist movement, but to assume or claim revolution will mirror Europe or anywhere else despite material conditions is to succumb to pragmatism.
Anyone interested in the birth of Marxism in Latin America will find this book fulfilling. It takes you from Peru's indigenous anti-colonial uprisings to an analysis of indigenous peoples in Peru, to early proletarian organizing, the Peruvian pre-party, propaganda work, the creation of the first socialist party, and the creation of workers federations. It gives a complete picture of the ideas of Mariátegui, who declared himself a Marxist-Leninist, and had he lived to see the advances of Maoism would no doubt have raised its banner in Peru as well.
These "people-incorporating-genocidal-slavery" have upped the ante once again. I was targeted by these nefarious boars simply for my political views. On Oct 14, 2012, two ogres searched and seized my property i.e. all my essays, my books, and all my Under Lock & Key dated as far back as 1995. At the biased in-house tribunal two articles from ULK were presented to me: 1) a 1991 Attikkka issue explaining the situation before and after the rebellion of 1971. 2) The July/Aug 2012 issue which calls for "all prisoners to show solidarity and demonstrate a work stoppage from Sept 9-12, 2012." Keep in mind I never passed this publication about nor did I participate in a work stoppage. I have no prison job. Also, the article mentioned above was for Sept 9-12, 2012. I was keep locked pending investigation on Oct 14, 2012. That's 35 days later.
Anyway, I was charged with a Tier III rule violation of 104.12 (demonstration) which reads: "an inmate shall not lead, organize, participate in or urge other inmates to participate in a work stoppage, sit-in, lock-in, or any other action which may be detrimental to the order of the facility."
At the farce hearing I presented the question: "where in the facility was there an actual work stoppage?" The response was: "There was no work stoppage." My second question was: "when did I urge other prisoners to demonstrate and when did the alleged work stoppage, sit-in, lock-in take place?" The response was: "you never participated in nor was there ever a work stoppage, sit-in, lock-in." With no further questions I objected to the entire circus of a hearing only to receive six months SHU time anyway. This whole ordeal is due to me possessing ULK publications, although they can't actually state it at the hearing. Furthermore, the hearing disposition reads: "although no actual act of demonstration occurred I believed you attempted it." Only after a cell search 35 days later, and after an incident that never took place, do I receive such a bogus charge. Go figure.
This isn't the first political witch hunt in which I was erroneously charged with demonstrations and it won't be the last! These ruthless gulags pride themselves on oppressing the free thinkers like me, especially Attikkka! Keep sending me the Under Lock and Key.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have heard from a number of comrades that the article calling for a Day of Solidarity on September 9 led to heightened censorship and punishment of prisoners. We know that there are restrictions on the types of organizing permitted in many prisons and we are looking closely at the language used in these types of articles to make possible the widest distribution of ULK without sacrificing the content of the publication.
A paper published this week challenges the psychological conception of "conformity bias" that evolved from the Stanford Prison Experiment by Zimbardo and the Teacher/Learner experiment by Milgram.(1) The paper makes connections to recent work on the oppression carried out by Nazis in Hitler's Germany, and generally concludes that people's willingness to hurt or oppress others in such situations is "less about people blindly conforming to orders than about getting people to believe in the importance of what they are doing."
In the Stanford Prison Experiment (1971) students were assigned roles as guards and prisoners in a simulation, and soon both groups took on the typical behaviors of those roles, with the guards treating the prisoners so harshly that the experiment was stopped early. MIM(Prisons) has used this as an example that oppression is systematic and that we can't fix things by hiring the right guards, rather we must change the system. In ULK 19, another comrade referred to it in a discussion of how people are conditioned to behave in prisons.(2) The more deterministic conclusion that people take from this is that people will behave badly in order to conform to expectations. The Milgram experiment (1963) involved participants who were the "teacher" being strongly encouraged to apply faked electric shocks to "learners" who answered questions incorrectly. The conclusion here was that humyns will follow orders blindly rather than think for themselves about whether what they are doing is right.
"This may have been the defense they relied upon when seeking to minimize their culpability , but evidence suggests that functionaries like Eichmann had a very good understanding of what they were doing and took pride in the energy and application that they brought to their work.(1)
The analysis in this recent paper is more amenable to a class analysis of society. As the authors point out, it is well-established that Germans, like Adolf Eichmann, enthusiastically participated in the Nazi regime, and it is MIM(Prisons)'s assessment that there is a class and nation perspective that allowed Germans to see what they were doing as good for them and their people.
While our analysis of the Stanford Prison Experiment has lent itself to promoting the need for systematic change, the psychology that came out of it did not. The "conformity bias" concept backs up the great leader theory of history where figures like Hitler and Stalin were all-powerful and all-knowing and the millions of people who supported them were mindless robots. This theory obviously discourages an analysis of conditions and the social forces interacting in and changing those conditions. In contrast, we see the more recent psychological theory in this paper as friendly to a sociological analysis that includes class and nation.
As most of our readers will be quick to recognize, prison guards in real life often do their thing with great enthusiasm. And those guards who don't believe prisoners need to be beaten to create order don't treat them poorly. Clearly the different behaviors are a conscious choice based on the individual's beliefs, as the authors of this paper would likely agree. There is a strong national and class component to who goes to prison and who works in prisons, and this helps justify the more oppressive approach in the minds of prison staff. Despite being superior to the original conclusions made, this recent paper is limited within the realm of psychology itself and therefore fails to provide an explanation for behaviors of groups of people with different standings in society.
We also should not limit our analysis to prison guards and cops who are just the obvious examples of the problem of the oppressor nation. Ward Churchill recalled the name of Eichmann in his infamous piece on the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center to reference those who worked in the twin towers. Like those Amerikans, Adolf Eichmann wasn't an assassin, but a bureaucrat, who was willing to make decisions that led to the deaths of millions of people. Churchill wrote:
"Recourse to 'ignorance' — a derivative, after all, of the word 'ignore' — counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in — and in many cases excelling at — it was because of their absolute refusal to see."(3)
The authors of the recent paper stress that the carrying out of something like the Nazis did in Germany required passionate creativity to excel and to recruit others who believed in what they were doing. It is what we call the subjective factor in social change. Germany was facing objective conditions of economic hardship due to having lost their colonies in WWI, but it took the subjective developments of National Socialism to create the movement that transformed much of the world. That's why our comrade who wrote on psychology and conditioning was correct to stress knowledge to counteract the institutionalized oppression prisoners face.(2) Transforming the subjective factor, the consciousness of humyn beings, is much more complicated than an inherent need to conform or obey orders. Periods of great change in history help demonstrate the dynamic element of group consciousness that is much more flexible than deterministic psychology would have us believe. This is why psychology can never really predict humyn behavior. It is by studying class, nation, gender and other group interests that we can both predict and shift the course of history.