On October 10 a peace accord went into place across the California prison system to end hostilities between different racial groups. The Pelican Bay State Prison - Security Housing Unit (PBSP-SHU) Short Corridor Hunger Strike Representatives issued a statement in August, and hundreds responded on October 10 with hunger strikes to continue the struggle against so-called gang validation and the SHU. The original statement calls on lumpen organizations to turn to “causes beneficial to all” instead of infighting among the oppressed. Recently leaders in Pelican Bay State Prison reasserted that this applies to all lumpen organizations in CDCR, down to the youth authority.
We share the PBSP-SHU Collective’s view that peace is key to building unity against the criminal injustice system. Prison organizations and individual prisoners across the country have pledged themselves to the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) principles and are building this United Front in their prisons, communities and organizations.
We know this won’t be easy, but there is a basis for this unity and peace. As was written in the original announcement of the UFPP:
“We fully recognize that whether we are conscious of it or not, we are already ‘united’ – in our suffering and our daily repression. We face the same common enemy. We are trapped in the same oppressive conditions. We wear the same prison clothes, we go to the same hellhole box (isolation), we get brutalized by the same racist pigs. We are one people, no matter your hood, set or nationality. We know ‘we need unity’ – but unity of a different type from the unity we have at present. We want to move from a unity in oppression to unity in serving the people and striving toward national independence.”
The ending of hostilities between large lumpen organizations has sweeping implications for the possibilities for prisoner organizing. USW comrades in California should work to seize this opportunity however possible, to translate the peace agreement into meaningful organizing in the interests of all prisoners.
It is with great pleasure that we announce a new release that MIM(Prisons) is adding to the labor aristocracy section of our must-read list. Divided World Divided Class by Zak Cope contributes up-to-date economic analysis and new historical analysis to the MIM line on the labor aristocracy. I actually flipped through the bibliography before reading the book and was instantly intrigued at the works cited, which included all of the classic sources that MIM has discussed in the past as well as newer material MIM(Prisons) has been reviewing for our own work.
The Labor Aristocracy Canon
Before addressing this new book, let me first put it in the context of our existing must-read materials on the labor aristocracy, which has long been the issue that the Maoist Internationalist Movement differentiated itself on. MIM(Prisons) recently assembled an introductory study pack on this topic, featuring material from MIM Theory 1: A White Proletariat? (1992) and Monkey Smashes Heaven #1 (2011). We still recommend this pack as the starting point for most prisoners, as it is both cheaper to acquire and easier to understand than Cope's book and other material on the list.
Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat by J. Sakai is a classic book documenting the history of Amerika as an oppressor nation whose class nature has always been bourgeois. It is for those interested in Amerikan history in more detail, and particularly the history of the national contradiction in the United $tates. While acknowledging Sakai's thesis, Cope actually expands the analysis to a global scale, which leads to a greater focus on Britain in much of the book as the leading imperialist power, later surpassed by Amerika. This complete picture is developed by Cope in a theory-rich analysis, weaving many sources together to present his thesis. HW Edwards's Labor Aristocracy: Mass Base of Social Democracy is a less cohesive attempt at a similar approach that is almost half a century old. Edwards is wishy-washy on the role of First World "workers," where Cope is not. Edwards provides a number of good statistics and examples of his thesis, but it is presented in a more haphazard way. That said, Labor Aristocracy is still on our must-read list and we distribute it with a study guide.
MIM went back to the labor aristocracy question in MIM Theory 10: The Labor Aristocracy. This issue built on MT 1 some, but primarily focuses on an in-depth look at the global class analysis under imperialism by the COMINTERN. The importance of this issue during WWII is often overlooked, and this essay gets deep into the two-line struggle within the communist movement at the time. We have a study pack on this piece as well.
The last work that we include in the canon is Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997(ICS) by MC5 of the Maoist Internationalist Movement. This book is most similar to Cope's work, with Cope seeming to borrow specific ideas and sources without ever acknowledging MC5's work. Since Cope is very generous in acknowledging ideas he got from others, one suspects that there is a political motivation behind ignoring the number one proponent of the position he is trying to defend in his book. We think MC5 would see Cope's work as a compliment and a step forward for the scientific analysis, particularly since Cope does not bring in anything to oppose the MIM line or to confuse the issue. Cope's book is very well researched and put together as an original work, and we have no interest in defending intellectual property.
The major new contribution in Cope's book is the historical analysis of the labor aristocracy in the context of the global system of imperialism. He also does some original calculations to measure superexploitation. His analysis of class, nation and modern events is all found in contemporary Maoism. Cope seems to be walking a line of upholding MIM Thought, while not dirtying his reputation with the MIM name. This is seen in his discussion of nationalism, which is often a dividing line between MIM Thought and the social democrats of academia. Cope gives a very agreeable definition of nation, and even more importantly, an analysis of its role and importance in the imperialist system related to class divisions. Yet, he fails to cite Stalin in doing so, while Maoists are honest about Stalin's contributions on the national question. So what we have is an excellent book on the labor aristocracy that avoids other issues that are difficult for the left-wing white nationalists to handle. In a way, this sanitized version of what is already a very bitter pill for readers in the First World may be useful to make this theory more available in an academic context. But no serious communist can just ignore important questions around Stalin and even the smaller, yet groundbreaking work of MIM itself.
MC5 or Cope?
For the rest of this review I will discuss Divided World in relation to Imperialism and its Class Structure (ICS) as they are parallel works. The above-mentioned sanitizing is evident in the two books' different approaches and definitions. Both attempt to present the basics, before getting into some intense analysis later on. Yet Cope sticks to discussing mostly Marx, with a healthy dose of Lenin's theory of imperialism without too much mention of the Soviet Union, while MC5 cites the practice of Stalin and Mao as leaders of socialist countries, as well as the contemporary pseudo-Maoists. It is a connection to communist practice that makes ICS the better book politically.
Cope's work, by default, has the benefit of having more recent statistics to use in part II for his economic analysis, though his approach is very different from MC5's anyway. Part III, which focuses on debunking the myths promoted by the pseudo-Marxist apologists for high wages in the First World, also has fresh statistics to use. MC5 addresses many ideological opponents throughout h book, but Cope's approach leaves us with a more concise reference in the way it lists the main myths promoted by our opponents and then knocks them down with basic facts.
MC5 spends more time addressing the ideas of specific authors who oppose the MIM thesis, while Cope tends to stick to the general arguments except when addressing authors such as Emmanuel who is an early trail-blazer of MIM Thought, but said some things that Cope correctly criticizes. Overall this provides for a more readable book, as the reader can get lost trying to figure out what position MC5 is arguing against when s/he refers to authors the reader has not read.
The model of imperialism that you get from each book is basically the same. Both address unequal exchange and capital export as mechanisms for transferring wealth to the First World. Both stress the structural basis of these mechanisms in militarized borders, death squads, monopoly and much higher concentrations of capital in the First World due to primitive accumulation and reinforced by the mechanisms of continued superexploitation.
While both authors take us through a series of numbers and calculations to estimate the transfer of value in imperialism, MC5 does so in a way that makes the class structure arguments more clearly. By focusing on the proportions, MC5 leaves the revisionists looking silly trying to explain how greater production per wage dollar in the Third World coexists with supposedly lower rates of exploitation in the Third World. Or how the larger unproductive sector in the First World can make similar wages to the productive sector, while the productive sector in the First World allegedly produces all the value to pay both sectors, and profit rates and capital concentration between sectors remain equal. Or if they acknowledge a great transfer of wealth from the Third World to the First World, and it is not going to 99% of the population as they claim, why is it not showing up in capital accumulation in those countries? As MC5 points out, remembering these structural questions is more important than the numbers.
Cope takes a numbers approach that ends with a transfer of $6.5 trillion from the non-OECD countries to the OECD in 2009 when OECD profits were $6.8 trillion. This leaves a small margin of theoretical exploitation of the First World. He points out that using these numbers gives $500 of profits per year per OECD worker compared to $18,571 per non-OECD worker. So even that is pretty damning. But he goes on to explain why the idea that OECD workers are exploited at all is pretty ridiculous by talking about the percentage of unproductive labor in the First World, an idea that MC5 stresses. Both authors make assumptions in their calculations that are very generous to the First Worldist line, yet come up with numbers showing huge transfers of wealth from the Third World to the First World "workers." Cope even uses OECD membership as the dividing line, leading him to include countries like Mexico on the exploiter side of the calculation. MC5, while a little less orthodox in h calculations, came up with $6.8 trillion in superprofits going to the non-capitalist class in the First World in 1993 (compared to Cope's $0.3 trillion in surplus being exploited from them in 2009). As both authors point out, they make the best of data that is not designed to answer these kinds of questions as they try to tease out hidden transfers of value.
Implications to our Practice
If Cope's book helps bring acceptance to the reality of the labor aristocracy in economic terms, there is still a major battle over what it all means for revolutionaries. In MIM's decades of struggle with the revisionists on this question we have already seen parties move away from a flat out rejection of the labor aristocracy thesis. Cope's conclusions on the labor aristocracy and fascism are well within the lines of MIM Thought. But already Cope's conclusions have been criticized:
As mentioned in an earlier post, this kind of "third worldism" represents the very chauvinism it claims to reject. To accept that there is no point in making revolution at the centres of capitalism, and thus to wait for the peripheries to make revolution for all of us, is to abdicate revolutionary responsibility—it is to demand that people living in the most exploited social contexts (as Cope's theory proves) should do the revolutionary work for the rest of us. (2)
Some see MIM Thought as ultra-leftist, and just plain old depressing for its lack of populism. Practitioners of revolutionary science do not get depressed when reality does not correspond to their wishes, but are inspired by the power of the scientific method to understand and shape phenomenon. But there is truth in this critique of Cope's book due to its disconnection from practice. A seemingly intentional approach to appeal to academia has the result of tending towards defeatism.
When it comes to practice in the United $tates, the question of the internal semi-colonies has always been primary for the revolutionary struggle. Yet today, there is a much greater level of integration. Cope's conclusions have some interesting implications for this question. On the one hand there is no anti-imperialist class struggle here "since economic betterment for people in the rich countries is today intrinsically dependent on imperialism". (Cope, p. 304) Yet assimilation is still prevented by the need for white supremacism to rally Amerikans around defending imperialist oppression of other peoples. Since national oppression will always translate into some relative economic disadvantage, we may be witnessing the closest real world example of national oppression that is independent of class. And Cope argues that this will continue within U.$. borders because you can't educate racism away, you must destroy the social relations that create it. (Cope, p. 6)
While Cope is explicitly non-partisan, MC5 provides a bit more guidance in terms of what this all means for imposing a dictatorship of the proletariat in a majority exploiter country, and how class struggle will be affected after that dictatorship is imposed. MIM also gives the explicit instruction that we do not support inter-imperialist rivalry or protectionism. This becomes a bigger challenge to promote and enforce among our allies in the united front against imperialism. Certainly, promoting these books and other literature on the topic is one part of that battle, but we will need other approaches to reach the masses who are taken in by the social democrats who dominate our political arena as well as their own potential material interests.
As long as would-be anti-imperialists in the First World ignore the labor aristocracy question, they will keep banging their heads against brick walls. It is only by accepting and studying it that we can begin to make breakthroughs, and this is even true, though less immediately so, in the Third World as Cope acknowledges (Cope, p. 214). Despite works dating back over a hundred years discussing this theory of class under imperialism, we are in the early stages of applying it to the polarized conditions of advanced imperialism with the environmental crisis and other contradictions that it brings with it.
A comrade from another trench spoke once on leadership and what it means to h: "The answer is that like it or not, people who collect information, analyze and then make decisions on what is true and not true, are leaders. People who do not are not leaders."(1)
Sensory deprivation in solitary confinement creates an inability to make decisions because information flow is very nearly cut off. Another way this bourgeois imperialist society stops leaders in their tracks is by making one's decisions, after analyzing information, seem off, to seem crazy or "mentally ill."
"Another problem relevant to revolutionaries is they have a more intellectual tendency to describe reality independently of the socially acceptable way of so doing. The individual is one who feels manipulated and controlled by outside forces, and is aware of the limitations of his individuality and room for maneuver... he gives himself importance, and does not care what others think, or at least feels that to care about that won't help him to live. He tends to see himself as good and others as wicked."(2)
Prisoners, prison abolitionists and anti-imperialists of all stripes are familiar with the above mindset. It is a mindset that's a prerequisite to successful prolonged struggle against entrenched anti-people systems. Hegemonic propaganda that pigs use to uphold the superstructure inculcates the majority of citizens to turn on non-mainstream individuals. I'm positive some reading these words will be shocked to hear the above quote is the bourgeois definition of schizophrenia.
Comrade Huey P. Newton, Minister of Defense of the Black Panther Party, was labeled mentally ill by prison administrators, cops and non-revolutionary whites. His leadership ability of disseminating truths gleaned from study posed such a threat to capitalist hegemony that he had to be discredited by the label "crazy." In prison, pigs forced Newton to visit a psychiatrist. He had this to say:
"From the minute I entered his office I made my position clear. I told him that I had no faith or confidence in psychological tests because they were not designed to relate to the culture of poor and oppressed people. I was willing to talk to him, I said, but I would not submit to any testing. As we talked, he started running games on me. For instance, in the midst of our conversation he would try to speak in psychological questions such as 'do you feel people are persecuting you?' Each time he did this I told him I would not submit to any sort of testing, and if he persisted I was going to leave the room. The psychiatrist insisted that I had a bias against psychological testing. He was correct."(3)
Mental illness is just a form of social control. Just the same as "corrections" and "spreading democracy" are forms of social control. I believe the prison system uses mental health jackets, and society in general tags people as "just plain crazy," to break revolutionary's self-esteem, leadership skills and family connections. When something as large as koncentration kamps throws its weight into convincing people's mothers, fathers and sisters that said person is nuts, it's a short walk away from these individuals actually becoming insane with lack of "free-world" support.
Their tactics are to divide and conquer by pasting "schizophrenic," "depressed" and "anti-social" tags on the foreheads of revolutionary genius. They psychotropically castrate and lobotomize mind-washed leaders into their people's own genocide.
I could leave prison by consenting to swallow my own destruction. I could leave solitary if "all I did" was snitch for them. Most of my family's gone because they believe I'm insane. Forty-six letters sit unmailed because I lack postage. After filing two lawsuits, the Prison Litigation Reform Act bleeds 60% of the $25 a month my dear poor grandmother sends. She could have retired this year, but with all her grandsons in chains.
FDR 25 is a kkkontrol unit policy which I have filed suit on. A policy deputy director for administration Mike Haddon states:
"The policy you are requesting is FDR 25, Intensive Management Unit, it states 'mail, other than first class, privileged and/or religious shall not be allowed for inmates on intensive management and includes newspapers, books, magazines, pamphlets, brochures, etc.' This policy's release could reasonably be expected to jeopardize the Utah Department of Corrections hence it is protected. If this information were to be released into the system, inmates could use that information to fight policy. We do not let that chapter out to anyone who isn't in law enforcement. Your request for a copy of the 78 page policy is, therefore, denied."
A policy that prevents people from collecting information, receiving information and analyzing said information, coupled with the unconstitutional fact that the Utah DOC doesn't provide a law library per supreme court ruling Bivens, halts the ability for captives to "describe reality independently" of that policy. Since only pigs can know that policy, we can't fight it.
Even if I could know it and struggle with it and beat it in court I'd just be labelled "mentally ill," more so than I am now. And this is the purpose of sensory deprivation and mental illness: halting revolutionary leadership and maintaining the status quo. Stopping information and throwing dirty jackets on truth.
Who does bourgeois psychiatry serve by destroying oppressed peoples? The oppressor nation. What types of people are being killed off in these concentration camps? The oppressed nations. What population turns a blind eye to this reality, or even worse, that the Third World is parceled up and packaged for First World consumer consumption? The oppressor nation. What nation must be organized to defeat the oppressor nation? And if we wish to succeed shouldn't we discern friend from foe?
"The job of psychiatrist [and those that subscribe to bourgeois psychiatry] must be abolished [and reeducated after repenting oppressive policy, genocidal injustice and terroristic 'spreading of democracy'], if only because it is corrupting to the truth to have a profession of people [or nation] making money by constructing various vague illnesses [vague reasons for war or psychotropics/institutionalization] that people have. Instead, all oppressed people and progressive-minded people must take up the science of controlling their own destinies."(4)
MIM(Prisons) adds: Just as physical violence is used against the oppressed as a means of control and installing fear, so is psychological violence. So when we think about promoting safety in prisons, we cannot do that without addressing psychological violence as well. Often that is the predominate form of violence used against revolutionaries. Our approach to this must be twofold in terms of helping comrades survive the torture they currently face in U.$. gulags, and to put an end to that torture altogether to really ensure people are safe. It is for this reason that we reviewed and distribute portions of the recently revised Survivors Manual from the American Friends Service Committee. Our Serve the People Programs, such as our Free Political Literature for Prisoners Program and University BARS study groups exist for all prisoners, but are especially important for keeping those in isolation engaged, active and sane. All comrades should support these programs with money and labor, while comrades on the inside should keep the issue of long-term isolation at the forefront of the general struggle for prisoner rights.
“The Anti-Exploits of Men Against Sexism” Ed Mead Revolutionary Rumors PRESS [email protected]
This pamphlet is an historical account of the organization Men Against Sexism (MAS). It is written in an informal, story-telling style, from the perspective of Ed Mead, one of MAS’s primary organizers. “Anti-Exploits” spans the development of MAS, from Mead’s first encounter with the near-rape of a fellow prisoner on his tier in the mid-1970s, to the successful height of the organization and the eradication of prisoner rape in Washington State Prison. This success impacted facilities all across the state.
Men Against Sexism was created to bring prisoners together to fight against their common oppression. Mead recognized that homophobia, sexism, rape, and pimping were causing unnecessary divisions within the prisoner population. “Only by rooting out internalized sexism would men treat one another with respect.”(p. 5) He brought together politically-minded prisoners, queers, and even some former sexual predators, to change the culture of what was acceptable and not on the tier.
We should take the example of MAS as inspiration to identify our own collective divisive behaviors on our unit, and attempt to build bridges to overcome these barriers. Mead’s reputation of being a revolutionary, stand-up guy in defense of prisoners’ rights preceded him across the facility, and helped him win allies in unlikely places.
In the mid-1970s, prison conditions were much different than they are today, and organizing MAS seems to have been relatively easy according to the account given. Of course there were challenges amongst the prisoner population itself (for example, MAS defending a convicted pedophile from being gang raped and sold as a sex slave put many people off) but the administration didn’t play a significant role in thwarting the mission of MAS. The primary organizers were allowed to cell together, and several different prisoner organizations were mentioned which had their own meeting spaces.
Today it seems we are lucky if more than two prisoners can get together to do anything besides watch TV. This is a testament to the dialectical relationship between the prisoner movement and the forces of the state. During the time of MAS, the prisoner movement was relatively strong compared to where it’s at today. After the booming prisoner rights movement of the 1970s, the state figured out that to undermine those movements they needed to develop methods to keep prisoners isolated from each other. Not the least significant of which is the proliferation of the control unit, where prisoners are housed for 23 or more hours per day with very little contact with the world outside their cell, let alone their facility.
MAS recognized that there is power in numbers. They collected donations from allies outside prison to purchase access to cells from other prisoners and designated them as “safe cells.” MAS would identify newcomers to the facility who looked vulnerable and offer them protection in these group safe cells. This is in stark contrast to how the state offers so-called protection to victims of prisoner rape, which is generally to isolate them in control units.(1) Bonnie Kerness of the American Friends Service Committee writes of this practice being used with transgender prisoners, and the concept applies to all prisoners who are gender oppressed in prison no matter their gender identity,
"In some cases this can be a safe place to avoid the violence of other prisoners. More often this isolation of transgender prisoners places them at greater risk of violence at the hands of correctional officers…
“Regardless of whether or not it provides some level of protection or safety, isolation is a poor alternative to general population. The physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological impacts of solitary confinement are tantamount to torture for many.”(2)
As late as 2009, data was compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) stating “Approximately 2.1% of prison inmates and 1.5% of jail inmates reported inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, whereas approximately 2.8% of prison inmates and 2.0% of jail inmates reported staff sexual misconduct.”(3) Certainly much of this staff-on-prisoner sexual assault occurs in general population, but isolating victims makes them that much more accessible.
Isolation as the best option for protection is the most obvious example of individualizing struggles of prisoners. What is more individualized than one persyn in a room alone all day? Individualizing prisoners’ struggles is also carried out by the rejection of group grievances in many states. All across the country our comrades meet difficulty when attempting to file grievances on behalf of a group of prisoners. In California, a comrade attempted to simply cite a Director’s Level Appeal Decision stating MIM is not a banned distributor in the state on h censorship appeal, but it was rejected because that Director’s Level Decision “belongs to another inmate.”(4) We must identify the state’s attempts to divide us from our potential comrades in all forms, and actively work against it.
MAS worked to abolish prisoner-on-prisoner sexual slavery and rape, where the pigs were consenting to this gender oppression by noninterference. But the state paid for this hands-off approach when the autonomy of the movement actually united prisoners against oppression.
What about gender oppression in prisons today?
In 2003, under strong pressure from a broad range of activists and lobbyists, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), and in May 2012 the final rules were completed. With the initiation of the PREA, statistics on prison rape are becoming more available. But comprehensive, sweeping data on the frequency of prison rape does not exist and so we can not detect trends from 1975 to the present, or even from 2003 to present. Despite high hopes for the PREA from anti-rape activists, we can’t yet determine if there has been any benefit, and in some cases the rates of prison rape seem to be increasing.
When MAS was picking out newcomers to recruit into their safe cells, they were identifying people who they saw as obviously queer, or in some way likely to be a target. MAS was using their intuition and persynal experience to identify people who are more likely to be victimized. According to the BJS, in their 2009 study, prisoners who are “white or multi-racial, have a college education, have a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, and experienced sexual victimization prior to coming to the facility” … had “significantly higher” rates of inmate-on-inmate victimization.(1) Human Rights Watch similarly reported in 2001,
“Specifically, prisoners fitting any part of the following description are more likely to be targeted: young, small in size, physically weak, white, gay, first offender, possessing ‘feminine’ characteristics such as long hair or a high voice; being unassertive, unaggressive, shy, intellectual, not street-smart, or ‘passive’; or having been convicted of a sexual offense against a minor. Prisoners with any one of these characteristics typically face an increased risk of sexual abuse, while prisoners with several overlapping characteristics are much more likely than other prisoners to be targeted for abuse.”(5)
The descriptions above of who’s more subject to prison rape are bourgeois definitions of what MIM called gender. Bullying, rape, sexual identity, and sexual orientation are phenomena that exist in the realm of leisure-time activity. Oppression that exists in leisure-time can generally be categorized as gender oppression. Gender oppression also rests clearly on health status and physical ability, which, in work-time also affects class status.(6) Since prisoners on the whole spend very little time engaged in productive labor, their time behind bars can be categorized as a twisted form of leisure-time. Prisons are primarily a form of national oppression, and gender is used as a means to this end.
Consider this statistic from BJS, “Significantly, most perpetrators of staff sexual misconduct were female and most victims were male: among male victims of staff sexual misconduct, 69% of prisoners and 64% of jail inmates reported sexual activity with female staff.”(3) An oversimplified analysis of this one statistic says the biologically-female staff are gendered men, and the prisoners are gendered wimmin, no matter their biology. But in the United $tates, where all citizens enjoy gender privilege over the Third World, this oversimplification ignores the international scope of imperialism and the benefits reaped by Amerikans and the internal semi-colonies alike. While there is an argument to be made that the United $tates tortures more people in its prisons than any other country, this is balanced out with a nice juicy carrot (video games, tv, drugs, porn) for many prisoners. This carrot limits the need to use the more obvious forms of repression that are more widespread in the Third World. Some of our most prominent USW leaders determine that conditions where they’re at are too comfortable and prevent people from devoting their lives to revolution, even though these people are actually on the receiving end of much oppression.
On a similar level, MIM(Prisons) advocates for the end of oppression based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But we are not jumping on the bandwagon to legalize gay marriage.(7) We also don’t campaign for sex reassignment surgery and hormones for prisoners.(8) This is because we see these as examples of gender privilege, and any privileges obtained by people in the United $tates inherently come on the backs of the Third World. Whereas in the time Men Against Sexism was formed the gay rights movement was militant and engaging in street wars against police, they are now overall placated by the class privilege they receive as members of the petty-bourgeoisie.
We encourage everyone facing oppression to recognize its true roots – capitalism and imperialism – and use their privileges to undermine the United $tates’ world domination. Without an internationalist perspective, we will inevitably end up on the wrong side of history.
[This article was added to and facts were corrected by the Under Lock & Key Editor]
Recently, Chicago rapper Lil Reese signed a $30 million contract with Def Jam to make music. A day or two later he brutally beat down a woman for verbally disrespecting him. Lil Reese is an affiliate of another Chicago rapper, Chief Keef, who has also been making a name for himself for being at the center of controversy around violence in hip hop. A recent episode of Nightline addressed the fact that at least 419 people have been killed in a dozen neighborhoods in Chicago in 2012, more than the number of U.$. troops killed in Afghanistan where resistance to the occupation continues to grow. The program centered around a sit-down of 38 members of lumpen organizations in Chicago organized by Cease Fire, a group discussed in ULK 25. It also featured a Chief Keef and Lil Reese video to criticize Keef's anti-snitching stance. MTV.com reports that the participants almost unanimously agreed that it would practically take a miracle to stop the violence.
The misogynistic nature of rap music has been analyzed and explored thoroughly. This article is not meant to downplay the senseless violence against a humyn being, but the "powers that be" are using the incident with Lil Reese and programs like Nightline to formulate another sinister plot to target the oppressed nations in Amerika.
Chicago has had one of its most deadly years in terms of urban gun violence, and this has been attributed to Chicago street tribes and lumpen organizations. The Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre perpetrated by a man who claimed to be "The Joker" does not generate the same fear or threat that young Blacks and Latinos in the hood with guns do. Why is that?
Imperialists are not worried about white males in Amerikkka with guns. It is the oppressed nations that pose the most realistic threat to the oppressive imperialistic regime. We have seen the toll that the so-called "war on drugs" has had on our Black and Latino nations. Genocide, social control, and mass incarceration of the lumpen underclass; it's the Amerikan way! During the presidential debates both candidates agreed on keeping gun laws the same.
One of the most brutal social control programs is being formulated as we speak and it will be cloaked in a "war on gun violence." In truth it will be a death blow to urban street tribes and lumpen organizations. President Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder have pushed for one of the highest budgets for federal prisons and detention facilities that we have seen in years. The states are actually reducing their prison budgets because of the dismal economic conditions, but the feds are pumping up the volume! A whopping $9 billion dollars has been allocated for the U.$. Department of Injustice in 2013 for corrections, jails, and detention facilities. Of that, $6.9 billion has been allocated to the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2013, an increase of about 4% in tight fiscal times.
There is a prison in Thomson, Illinois that had been tagged as the location where Guantanamo Bay detainees were supposed to be housed after President Obama closed the barbaric torture chamber in Cuba. However the Amerikan public balked! They said they did not want these "dangerous terrorists" housed on Amerikan soil. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder still wants to purchase the prison in Thomson, Illinois and change it into a Super-Max just like the one in Florence, Colorado. 1,400 Ad-Seg/solitary confinement beds for "the worst of the worst" in Amerikkka. These beds will be for oppressed nations, just like the solitary confinement cells in prisons across the country.
MIM(Prisons) has reported extensively on the use of control units as a tool of social control. These torture units are used to target political organizers and leaders of oppressed nations who are seen as a particular threat to the imperialist system. We have been collecting statistics on these control units for years, because the isolation cells are often hidden within other prisons and no consistent information is kept on this pervasive torture within Amerika. We invite prisoners to write to us for a survey about control units in their state to contribute to this important documentation project.
For those facing violent conditions in Chicago or elsewhere who turn to despair, remember that there are many who come from the streets of that very city, from the Black Panthers to lumpen organizations, who have taken positive paths. If it weren't for the interference of white media and the police, things would be different now. Ultimately solutions to those problems must come from the people involved who don't want to be living like that, no matter how they brag about being tough in a rap. The way out may not be obvious, but things are always in a state of change. And when it comes to humyn society, it is up to humyns what that change looks like. Struggle ain't easy, but it is the only way if you have ideals that contradict with the current society under imperialism.
It seems I have become a target of the oppressors and their trained pigs. On Tuesday, October 2, 2012 the SouthEast Corruption Center, located in Charleston Missouri, conducted a mass lock-up where 72 people (including myself) were locked up for nothing at all. Prior to this, the SouthEast Corruption Center was already on lockdown due to pigs being assaulted. Sadly, there was also a prisoner-on-prisoner assault. All this took place in a two week time frame.
So on the above date, while still on lockdown, around 1pm E-squad went throughout the KKKamp with a list of 72 people's names. These pigs came to my assigned cell, told me to pack my property, then stripped me out, placed me in handcuffs and escorted me to the hole. When I arrived in the segregation unit, I was placed on a bench with another brother who was part of this massive lockup. I was then informed by a pig that they were clearing out the bedspace wing that they have here due to overcrowding and making room for us.
After they cleared out the bedspace wing, me and the other brother on the bench were taken to housing unit two D, the bedspace wing now converted to an Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) wing. And this is when I realized the seriousness of the situation. They locked up 72 people from all walks of life; I do not say this to create barriers or separation. We are all oppressed and victims of this system. So we all have a common enemy.
But out of the 72 people locked up, there were 10 caucasians, one Arab and 61 New Afrikans. The 72 was a variety of Crips, Bloods, GDs, Five Percenters, homosexuals, Moslems, Christians, white pride gangs and revolutionaries. Again, I do not say this to show separation, only to point out those targeted on this massive lock up. We were told we were the shot callers on the yard and had the power and influence. I can assure you I am not a shot caller and have no power and influence on the yard, because if I did, there would never be a prisoner-on-prisoner assault, that's a promise.
We were placed on Ad-Seg, locked down and treated as if we were on disciplinary action. We were denied showers for almost a week, denied recreation for two weeks, denied phone calls for a month and denied medical sick call. When a nurse came in the wing to give people their daily medication, she told us that they were told not to do sick call for that wing.
When our TASC property was brought to us, nobody had paper, envelopes or stamps which was previously in our property. They deliberately made sure we could not reach out to anyone outside. But brothers from the other wings helped out a whole lot and for that, I am forever grateful.
Not one brother out the 72 had broken any rules, or had any violations. So they did not have probable cause to lock us up. Our temporary Ad-Seg confinement form stated: confinement is ordered on the basis of the following criteria: "There is an immediate security risk involved. For the security and good order of the institution." Statement of facts in support of TASC/comments: "inmate represents a threat to institutional safety and security." And then it states why they are a threat. Which were are all things people did in the past, from years ago. This included things like drugs, assaults on pigs, assaults on prisoners, and gang activity.
We saw the Ad-Seg committee on October 9th, 2012 and everybody was given a 30 day review; even though nobody had any violations and they had no rights to lock us up. Half were scheduled to see them on November the 6th and the other half on November the 8th. On Nov 6, 36 people went up to see them, 8 were let go and everyone else received anywhere from a 30 to 90 day review.
But on Nov 7 the Southeast Corruption Center did another mass movement where 50 people were transferred, and it was not even a transfer day. Transfers are done on Tuesdays and Thursdays, this was a Wednesday. Out of the 72 brothers locked up for being a threat to the safety and security of the institution, only 10 were transferred. You would think, if 72 shot callers in one prison (with all the power and influence on the yard) were that much of a threat to the institution, the institution would break them up and spread them out by sending them to different prisons, but this was not the case.
The other 36 brothers (including myself) went up and saw them on Nov 8 and 9 more brothers were released back to the yard. The rest received anywhere from 30 to 90 days review. I myself received 90 days.
They thoroughly inventoried our property. They inventoried it so thoroughly we did not get a copy of the inventory form for 2-3 weeks. Then we were informed that they had confiscated some of our belongings. I myself was missing all my revolutionary material (literature, artwork, books), hot pot, extension cord for my TV, and a lot of my pictures.
This is not their first time attacking me for my political beliefs, and I'm 100% sure it is not their last time. But they cannot break what was not built to be broken.
All the other 72 brothers were placed under Security Threat Group (STG) for their past history in prison. The TASC form says they pose a threat to the institution, gang group activities, drugs, assaults on pigs or assaults on inmates. All mine says is "Inmate represents a threat to institutional safety and security due to creating disturbance." I am the only one down here for representing a threat to the institution due to creating a disturbance. I have not broken any rules, I have not caught any violations and they cannot produce any evidence to show that I need to be in the hole because I'm a threat to the safety and security of the institution.
We've had our family call here and they get the run around and lies. They were told that we were involved in an incident, and even said we all requested PC on the same day.
We have filed Informal Resolution Request Forms (IRA) and some have come up missing, including my celly's and mine. So we have asked for another which we are in the process of filing.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This common story of targeting politically active prisoners for repression is a demonstration of what the injustice system really sees as a threat. Prisoner's with an ability to organize and educate others are the foundation of a successful unity among the lumpen behind bars. These comrades will be the backbone building the United Front for Peace in Prisons.
For the past few decades California has been increasingly using control units in the form of security housing units (SHUs) as a method of control. These deprivation chambers are a major part of the state's war on the Chicano nation. Where prisons are used to enforce a slow genocide on La Raza, to disrupt the family unit and implement an internment camp by "legal" means, within prisons also lies the SHU which is equivalent to the chopping block where rebellious slaves who resisted or escaped would get limbs amputated as 1) punishment for resisting the oppressor nation, 2) preventing the slave from making future attempts, and 3) to inflict a psychological blow terrorizing the larger population to what will happen to them should they choose the same path of resistance. So too are the SHUs used in this manner on revolutionary or rebellious prisoner who resist the state, for this opposition to the state we are met with SHU which restricts our ability to resist and punishes us for our refusal to obey our oppressor thus instilling a grave warning to the prison masses of what will happen to them should they take the path of resistance. This oppression has gone on for decades and has grown to horrific proportions in recent years. Here in Pelican Bay SHU over a thousand are tortured with solitary confinement alone. The living conditions here have gone past punishment to the most vile cruelty depriving us of the most basic human rights, it is a place where sunlight is denied and health care is often used to extort incriminating information from those being tortured in this house of horrors. It is a place where prisoners have faced the most horrendous abuses like being boiled in tubs of scalding water to being stripped down in underwear and locked in an iron cage outside in the freezing raining winter morning. These stories would be unbelievable had they not been documented in court transcripts for all to see.
Chicanos are overwhelmingly the majority of those sent to SHU, it is the identification of this war on Aztlán, this silent offensive that you won't read about in the bourgeois press or see on the corporate news outlets but which we see, live and have analyzed for all to understand.
These developments led to the formation of the Chicano Prisoners Revolutionary Committee (CPRC) in late 2011 here in Pelican Bay SHU. The CPRC was created initially for the efforts taking place surrounding the hunger strikes that swept U.$. prisons in 2011. It was within this effort to analyze and lend a revolutionary perspective to the developments surrounding human rights in prisons that CPRC gave birth to the Brown Berets - prison chapter (BB-PC) on June 1, 2012.
The BB-PC was inspired by the original Brown Berets that arose in the 1960s and led the Chicano movement in harnessing the people in the barrios with their many independent institutions from free health clinics, child care, free food programs, schools, newspapers etc. We draw from this legacy of serving the people and dig deeper in the theoretical realm.
We do not answer to any other chapter nor does any other existing chapter answer to us, we are an autonomous chapter which due to the extreme repression in Amerikkka's history operates underground within U.$. prisons. Currently we are the first and only prison chapter in Amerika but we expect many more chapters to develop in many other prisons and states as [email protected] develop politically. We do not publish the names of the BB-PC cadre; our chapter resides in Pelican Bay State Prison.
The BB-PC is the Chicano cadre in U.$. prisons that works to transform these pintas and our nation from our vantage point. We are taking the concepts of community organizing and applying them to the pinta, thus these concrete conditions we experience are very different than they are for a chapter out in society and although our efforts are mostly prison based and revolve around contradictions prisoners face on a daily basis our main thrust of course lies in the Aztlán liberation movement. Our ten point program guides us in that direction and allows us to remain in active service of Chicano independence.
We welcome all imprisoned Latinos to partake in the Chicano struggle as a liberated Aztlán will be a place where all Latinos are welcome to be free from oppression.
The following is the BB-PC Ten Point Program:
We are Maoists We believe as Mao taught that class struggle continues even under socialism, as a new bourgeoisie develops as happened in the USSR after the death of Stalin in 1953 and after Mao's death in 1976. Mao advanced communism the furthest thus far in world history and it will be through a Maoist program that we liberate Aztlán.
We are an autonomous chapter We are a self governing chapter that practices democratic centralism. We understand that because of state repression we are more efficient as an autonomous chapter and that as new chapters arise in other prisons across Amerika that they too will be autonomous in each individual prison.
We want to build public opinion in prisons At this stage the only struggle in Amerika is in the realm of ideas, we seek to politicize the imprisoned Chicano nation through educating our gente on all aspects of la lucha.
We want Raza unity As the largest Raza population in Amerikan prisons the Chicano nation understands its responsibility to maintain Pan-Latino unity and to educate all Raza on the current repression we face. In the prisons within Aztlán, Raza endure institutional oppression where Raza are overwhelmingly held in SHUs and control units far more than any other of the oppressed. This offensive is meant to neutralize us physically but particularly mentally. We will stand with imprisoned Latinos and resist the oppressor nation as we have done for 500 years and support the Boricua in their march toward independence free from neocolonialism.
We stand in solidarity with all oppressed and Third World prisoners. Today's prisons are meant to dehumanize the people and break our will to resist. The internal semi-colonies that are captured and held in these concentration camps face much of the same repression from the state, we understand that to better our living conditions as prisoners it will depend on a united front of oppressed prisoners for legal battles and other effort to obtain human rights in prisons and we will cultivate this collaboration.
We are revolutionary nationalists We understand that true internationalism is only possible when each nation is fully liberated. We identify oppression in Amerika revolving around nation, class and gender which enables imperialism to uphold power and we combat these forms of oppression in our long march to national liberation.
Close the control units The SHUs and similar models are designed to unleash population regroupment on the imprisoned Chicano nation. It is well known that the most revolutionary elements of the Chicano prison population are plucked from general population prisons and sent to the SHU or other control units in an effort to isolate the revolutionary vanguard from the prison masses, this isolation is then used to torture Chicanos en masse through solitary confinement and other psychological methods for years and decades.
We understand that this is done primarily to prevent the captive Chicano revolutionaries from mobilizing our mass prison base. We see the control units in Amerika as modern day concentration camps as we are sent to those camps not for physical acts but for thought crimes, beliefs or supposed beliefs that oppose the state. We work to overturn the use of control units in every prison in Amerika.
Stop prisoner abuse. We are against oppression in all it's forms within prisons. This includes prisoners preying on prisoners, abuse from the hands of guards, patriarchy or any abuse physically or psychologically. In Amerika prisons are tools of imperialism used to inflict terror on the internal semi-colonies out in society and stifle any resistance to their war on poor people, having experienced and identified the full onslaught of this offensive we take it head on to combat all forms of abuse from the state or otherwise and this includes combatting the state propaganda and tactics of pitting prisoner against prisoner by political education so that prisoners understand who the oppressor is.
Free all political prisoners. We not only see political prisoners as those who were politically conscious out in society and came to prison for acts of the movement, we go past that in our analysis and also see SHU prisoners as overwhelmingly political prisoners who are systematically tortured for their ideas or alleged thoughts. We also see most prisoners in U.$. prisons as political prisoners because living in imperialist amerika many of the "Crimes" and criminal injustice system that we face is nothing more than national oppression that is exercised in order to uphold the capitalist relations of production and we work toward freeing the people.
We want a liberated socialist Aztlán. Our aim is communism but we understand it will take many years for this to become reality. At this stage we are working for Aztlán independence which will only occur after the defeat of imperialism. We work toward a socialist Aztlán where the peoples' needs are met; things like land, bread, education, health care and many more needs will be met and peoples' power will be exercised in order to transform not just society but prisons as well, to a more vibrant and just environment where all will have an opportunity to grasp revolution and promote production. We will transform these prisons ideologically in order to prepare the ground for these developments as we serve the people.
I am writing to follow up on the problems we've been experiencing with our appeals system as it relates to the mass complaint form that at least 85 of us sent to Sacramento. I went a step further and had my sister draft a "citizen's complaint letter" to the Warden of RJ Donvan. He's required by law to investigate and respond to this letter within 30 days. This puts more pressure on the Warden's office due to the time and resources involved to send out responses. So, if your readers have friends and family who can draft and submit the citizen's complaint en masse, I believe it can have a greater impact.
MIM(Prisons) adds: As previously reported, this comrade is making good use of the grievance petition and taking on this battle creatively through the legal and administrative system. Write to us to get involved in this campaign. We can send you a copy of the grievance petition for your state, or a generic version you can customize to create one for states that do not yet have one.
by a North Carolina prisoner November 2012 permalink
In late September of this year, in a fight between a few prisoners, a prisoner was killed and another prisoner was seriously wounded and is still in critical condition. The incident happened at Lanesboro Correctional Institution and we have been on lockdown since it occurred. The administration discontinued visitation for regular population and segregated inmates, cut telephone privileges for everyone, and regular population was limited to ordering only five items, three times a week, and three showers a week. Recreation was taken from regular population indefinitely, which caused them to remain in their rooms for 24 hours a day for days at a time.
The strange thing about this entire event is when Superintendent Parsons was questioned on the Channel 9 news based in Charlotte, North Carolina, about what exactly happened, he responded by saying 148 prisoners had a "brawl" in which a prisoner was killed. The media then debased the prisoner who was killed and devoted the entire segment to discussing how he was shot by police in 1999 in an attempted escape. Nothing was said about why this prisoner-on-prisoner stabbing occurred, or about the dozens of other stabbings that happened throughout this year. Nor did they mention the illegal and inhumane "dry cells" that were mandated by the administration, leaving almost 100 prisoners in rooms with feces covering the entire dorm.
As of now, all of the questionable events are being investigated by the State Bureau Investigation Unit and Laneseboro Correctional Institution may be looking at grave consequences. But why did these events end so brutally? Why did it take a prisoner losing his life for the administration, the Governor, and law enforcement to get involved? First let's take a look at what led up to these times we are in.
At the start of the year, the prison administration promoted the idea that gang violence was the cause of dozens of stabbings occurring statewide which put several close custody camps on lockdown for weeks and even months. Here at Lanesboro, that soon subsided and things were back to "normal." Then early June, the Prison Emergency Response Team (PERT) raided the prison, where nearly 100 prisoners were placed in "dry cells" where we were in our cells 24 hours a day for a week. PERT officers weren't allowing us to flush our toilets, which caused them to become clogged. aIn protest we threw our feces out into the dayroom, leaving the entire dorm in a heap of feces. Prisoners were forced to eat, clean our bodies, and sleep in this stench. Also prisoners were forced to have x-rays to find drugs, cell phones or weapons. This led to many lawsuits being filed.
What happened next indicates how much the Lanesboro administration cares about prison life. A stabbing had occurred in which one prisoner's neck was cut. A prisoner involved was placed in segregation along with the prisoner who had his throat cut. The administration then released the assaulted prisoner into regular population after one week and placed him in the same pod as his enemies. This set off four consecutive stabbings in less than two hours around the prison.
They momentarily locked us down. When we came off, two days later a prisoner was killed. Another strange thing is the prisoners who did the killing didn't live in the dorm where the killing occurred, and neither did the prisoner who was killed. This means the officers had to let these prisoners into a dorm where they didn't live.
So we see the perpetuation of violence by the Lanesboro administration who place known enemies in the same dorm. Obviously they're not trying to stop the violence. This perpetuation of violence results in lockdowns where they take all of the prisoners "privileges" in an attempt to further control us. It's obvious these lockdowns did not halt the violence. In fact, evidence shows that violence in prisons across the country increases after a lock down (see the documentary Unlock the Box). But the puzzling part is when they take away our "privileges," we gladly accept it instead of resisting. There were only a few people filing grievances, filing lawsuits, taking progressive actions against the beast, but there were many complaining.
Why do these violent acts continue to occur? To understand the simple answer you just have to look at conditions here. We have to wait 90 days to receive a job, even unit jobs. They're denying some of us from even enrolling in school or extra-curricular activities. They barely even offer any extra-curricular activities. All we have to occupy our time is TV, yard and gym. Prisoners have no activities to engage in, and so just hang around the dorms. With the state building medium custody facilities right beside the close custody facilities, the administration says all "good" jobs (kitchen workers and other important jobs) will be taken by medium custody prisoners. This will ultimately have more of us in our dorms unable to work, and so prevented from getting gain time and being shipped to a "better" facility. It will destroy morale and cause some to lash out and perpetuate the prisoner-on-prisoner violence.
So why do these events continue to happen? Because the administration wants it to! They perpetuate violence. They don't care about prisoners' lives, and they are never going to solve the true problems. Therefore, it is up to us to remedy our own situations by uniting and never splitting. We need to take the rebellious actions against these oppressors and force them to recognize their policies aren't working. We must come together and get an understanding and peace with one another so they won't have to enforce any policies anyway.
We don't want them to do their jobs because their jobs are to repress, suppress and oppress us, to hinder us from uniting and fighting the true injustice. As superintendent Parsons lied to the public media, they lie to us as well. And we have to show them we won't tolerate it any longer. Unite and resist and our conditions will get better because "We" will make them better!
In the shadow of the recent presidential election, MIM(Prisons) takes this opportunity to explain some of the many reasons we don't participate in elections under capitalism. We reiterate the MIM slogan: Don't Vote, Organize!
Granted, communists might participate in local elections when they find an opportunity to make change that will better facilitate their organizing work and goals, but these instances are few and far between. Consider someone running for City Council proposing to facilitate the distribution of free literature and posters in a city, while their opponent wants to outlaw the distribution of communist literature. We might join this battle on the side of the free speech advocate because it is very important that we have the opportunity to organize and educate people. Because the legal power of a City Council is pretty limited, these battles tend to be clear cut and we can support one candidate without jumping on the imperialist bandwagon.
In contrast, Congress and the President are fundamentally reactionary just by nature of their role in the capitalist system. It is their job to support and promote imperialist policies of global aggression.
Sure, there may be surface differences between imperialist candidates. One might deny the existence of global warming while the other offers platitudes about how we need to help the environment, but neither can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions because doing so threatens the profit system. Or one might advocate shipping all migrants back home, while the other wants to grant green cards to people already in the United $tates. That's something with a real immediate impact on the lives of the oppressed. But the U.$. has a long history of bringing in migrant labor and the kicking them out, particularly from Mexico. And ultimately, both of these candidates will have to support enforcing the imperialist borders, and exploiting cheap Mexican labor.
Even if we try to explain that we are only picking a candidate based on their position on one question, how do we justify giving support to someone who backs the existence of the prison system that locks up the most people per capita in the world? Or someone who supports invading Third World countries to ensure their puppet regimes are friendly to Amerikan capitalist interests?
There is no real choice under imperialism. The majority of the world's people suffer under the rule of Amerikan imperialism, but they don't get a vote in the elections. Amerika has streamlined the elections to just two parties, with very minimal differences between them. And the majority of the Amerikan people, bought off with imperialist superprofits given to them as a birthright, are perfectly fine with these "choices." Both candidates represent the material interests of Amerikan citizens. It is the imperialist system that ensures sufficient superprofits from exploitation of Third World people to keep the First World citizens so well off.
The election of President Obama four years ago should have been the best possible lesson for "anti-war" Amerikans. Many so-called progressives got behind the Obama campaign, excited to finally have a Black man in power, and believing the minimally progressive rhetoric they heard from Obama. But putting a Black face on imperialism didn't change imperialism. Before Obama was elected we wrote about his campaign as a good representative of imperialism in ULK 3. Under Obama, Amerika has continued its role as global oppressor, invading Third World countries to install or support U.$.-friendly governments, enforcing strict imperialist borders at home to keep out the oppressed, and maintaining the largest per capita prison population in the world.
The State of Puerto Rico
While we didn't campaign around any electoral politics this year, nor vote, the results can be interesting to us as the largest scale polling of the Amerikan population and its internal semi-colonies. While the exploited people of the world did not get to vote for the President of the Empire, historically oppressed nations with U.$. citizenship did. As we work to expand our analysis of the internal semi-colonies' relationships to imperialism, we can look at elections as a relative, if not absolute, measure of assimilation. The most explicit example of this came in the 2012 plebiscite on the status of Puerto Rico among Boricua voters.
While inconsistencies in the format of previous plebiscites make it hard to decipher trends with a cursory assessment, it does appear that a majority rejected the current commonwealth status of Puerto Rico for the first time. The government is counting the statehood option as the victor with a 61% majority of those choosing an alternative to the commonwealth status. But really, only 48% of those who voted chose statehood, with 26% of voters choosing sovereign free association and 4% choosing independence.(1) About 22% didn't select a new status. Since 46% voted to remain a commonwealth, it seems that many of them chose a new status as their second choice. Originally the two votes were to occur separately, which would make interpretation of the results easier.
The option of "sovereign free association" was new in this plebiscite, and seems to reflect the more bourgeois nationalist among the neo-colonialists. They want to have their cake and eat it too. They want more freedom to act independent of the U.$. while keeping the financial benefits of U.$. social services that they receive today as a commonwealth.
The 2012 plebiscite did have the largest turnout yet, with 79% participation.(2) This adds a little more weight to the small shift from a plurality favoring commonwealth to a plurality (at least) favoring statehood. At the time of the last plebiscite, in 1998, MIM reported strong assimilationism among the Boricua population due to economic interests tied to accessing the superprofits obtained by the U.$. from the Third World.(3) While MIM never believed that the meager 2-5% vote for independence was genuinely representative of the Boricua people, neither is true self-determination on the immediate horizon despite nationalist rhetoric from many political parties. A survey of the desires of Boricuas for self-determination is not valid until real self-determination is actually an option on the table. Unfortunately real self-determination won't be possible until Boricuas are organized against Amerika and its lackey leadership in their homeland.
Some have hypothesized that the economic downturn helped increase the statehood vote as Boricuas felt the crunch and wanted closer economic integration into the United $tates. This makes economic sense. So it'll take much more extreme crisis before economic demands become revolutionary for the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates.
Chicanos and New Afrikans Vote
Trends in Black voter participation in the last two presidential elections indicate that the neo-colonial effect is real as Blacks have come out at higher rates, with Black youth being the most active voter participants. While Latinos were also brought out by Obama in the last two elections, Latino youth voting and "civic engagement" has lagged behind Black and white youth, yet they were twice as likely to participate in a protest than their counterparts of other nations according to a 2008 report.(4) In 2008, Black voters closed the gap with white voter participation, which averaged around 10% in the previous five presidential elections. This year, Obama brought similar rates of Blacks to the polls. In the same period, Latinos and Asians have diverged from Blacks in their voter participation, who they have historically lagged behind already.(5) For Latinos this divergence corresponds to an increase in the percentage of people who are not citizens, and therefore can't vote. We do not have data showing whether the same is true for Asians. While the non-participation may be enforced, rather than by choice, the Pew Hispanic Center also found in a recent survey that most Latinos identify with their family's country of origin and not as Amerikans.(6) There is little doubt that the vast majority of Blacks identify as Amerikan. The connections that Latinos and Asians have to the Third World are a significant factor in their political consciousness and how they perceive the United $tates, their relationship to it, and their participation in it.
Similar to supporting someone for City Council, discussed above, propositions are another relatively clear-cut realm of elections where we may organize around a particular issue. To look at more concrete examples of how this usually plays out, we turn to two propositions this year that addressed California's prison population: Propositions 34 and 36. Proposition 34 was presented to abolish the death penalty, which sounds great at first. But in this case, death row prisoners actually recognized that the law was opposed to their interests in that it would prevent them from proving their innocence in court. They launched an active campaign to oppose Prop. 34 and it did fail. The weakness of the proposition was inherent to the limitations in the system to address justice in a real way.
Proposition 36 is a reform to the Three Strikes law, and it passed. MIM(Prisons) welcomes the prospect of less people going to prison in California, and supposedly even current prisoners being released earlier. Yet, Three Strikes itself still exists. The reform will right a few egregious wrongs, but leaves Three Strikes, not to mention the whole criminal injustice system, in place. Even abolishing Three Strikes altogether would be merely a quantitative change in the oppression meted out by the injustice system, without changing the substance of it at all. Prop. 36 was promoted by those who want to reduce state spending on prisons, and clearly promoted the use of Three Strikes for the majority of prisoners it has been applied to. To campaign for Prop. 36 was to promote this position or to say that this is the best we can hope for. It did not serve the interests of the prisoner class as a whole, but threw some carrots to a few.
Since there are only so many hours in the day, to spend them on organizing around these small changes means slightly less suffering in the short term, and much more suffering in the long term as imperialism marches on unchallenged. Reforms do play an important role while organizing in our current conditions, but we choose which reforms to support very carefully, weighing how they impact our organizing efforts against imperialism, what class interests they serve, and how they relate to real conditions on the ground.
Electoral Politics and Strategy
Our line is that imperialism cannot be reformed. Our strategy is to build institutions of the oppressed which are separate from imperialism in order to build up our own power, while agitating around issues that highlight the horrors of the imperialist system that exists. At times campaigning around an electoral campaign could be a useful tactic in that strategy. But strategically we are not trying to get elected in a popularity contest, or be on the winning team. We are struggling for liberation and an end to all oppression!
As M-1 of dead prez put it on Block Report Radio the morning after the recent "presidential selection": "I'm not thinking about today. And I'm not thinking about four years from now. And I'm not thinking about smoking marijuana. I'm thinking about 50 years from now being able to be the self-determining people who are raising a nation that's based in stability." Spoken like a true revolutionary, this is the type of thinking that we promote to develop an anti-imperialist political pole within the belly of the beast.
Telling people to vote for one imperialist candidate over another is suggesting that we can make significant change by working within the system. As we already explained, the scale of the election and the scale of the change is key: for a local city election the impact is much lower and our opportunity to actually explain to people why a particular local law is important to communist goals is much greater. But in a national election, telling people to support a candidate who is fundamentally pro-imperialist, both in words and deeds, is misleading.