As suspected, our appeal to the corrupted grievance system was denied. It has been decided that we continue our punishment here in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), all because we 16 Brothers were observing Black August.
These pigs can stop a revolutionary but they will never stop a revolution, by the words of Brother Fred Hampton. Black August is a peoples' holiday, so why should I be punished for it? It's a proven fact that this administration used my observation to place and keep me in Ad-Seg.
I was recently able to read a new publication which was published by the RCP-USA titled "Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America" (draft proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
I have been at many prisons in California where I came across RCP literature, including its newspaper 'Revolution.' While at first glance this RCP literature may seem "progressive," and a novice revolutionary may even think the RCP is fighting in the best interest of the masses, a closer look into its political line may surprise many prisoners who are developing their political stance.
The society that U.$. prisoners dream of is one that turns the pyramid of power upside down where those on the bottom of today's totem pole are the ones who have a say in running a society based on new democracy as was seen in Mao's China where landless peasants were freed from the chains of oppressive feudalism and colonialism. The prisoner in today's capitalist Amerika understands that such a society will not come easy and we learn this valuable lesson by attempting to change the oppressive environment behind prison walls. We learn 'grass roots' organizing and how hard it is to kick start even simple resistance to injustice on a micro-level.
As we learn these lessons we also begin to see what it will take to change a society, combat the capitalist and build the revolution. One of the key components of transforming society is a vanguard party; this is common sense as we know from the prison experience that issues that are not coordinated often prove disastrous. So on a large scale effort like transforming society we can see how a political party would be needed to lead the masses on the right path to liberation on all fronts. Understanding this we often meet others in prison who seek out political parties and begin the arduous work of studies in all the revolutionary groups' theories, their political line, so that we can determine who is the vanguard party, who has the correct political theory on what it will take to reach liberation here in the belly of the beast.
I began to really study the RCP literature as it is a party that claims to be struggling on behalf of the people. Along my path of really analyzing the literature of the RCP is where I stumbled upon its stance on the oppressed nations' right to self-determination.
The portion of this constitution that is of concern is "Article 11. Regions, localities, and basic institution, Section 3. minority and formerly oppressed nationalities." This section starts off pointing out the crimes and injustices that were perpetrated against oppressed nationalities by the former government of the USA. It explains how in the future socialist state they believe elections and legislature would work, among other new rights, in the interest of the oppressed. Subsection "A. African-Americans" correctly states that under a new socialist state Black people would have the right to self-determination all the way up to the right to secede and form a separate country outside a new socialist republic if Black people so choose. This is correct. The ability for an oppressed nation to govern themselves is a right that all should have under a socialist society.
Under Subsection "B. Mexican-Americans" the guarantee to the right of self-determination up to the right to secede does not exist. Rather in subsection B2 it states:
"Relations with Mexico, and policy with regard to the former southwest region of the imperialist USA, shall, from the time of the founding and in the first few years of the new socialist republic in North America, take into account the nature of the society and government - and the level and character of revolutionary struggle - in Mexico, as well as the actual extent of territory which has been liberated through the revolution which led to the defeat and dismantling of the imperialist state of the USA and the founding of the new socialist republic in North America. At the same time, the necessary consideration shall be given to the situation in the world as a whole, in determining how to proceed with regard to this region. In this over all context and also taking into account the sentiments and aspirations of the people in the region, in particular those of Mexican origin and descent, the question of whether to return at least parts of this region to Mexico, and/or whether there should be established, within parts of this region, a country that is separate from both Mexico and the New Socialist Republic in North America, shall be taken up by the government of the New Socialist Republic in North America."
The above portion of the RCP document is an incorrect line. The fact that RCP feels that once a "socialist republic" is established that the Mexican people would not be entitled to their right to full self-determination but rather their right to secession would be "taken up by the government of the New Socialist Republic in North America" as they put it is simply wrong. All communists should uphold the right to self-determination! The Leninist principle of self-determination is an essential aspect for a socialist party in general and would surely be a requirement for a vanguard party in particular.
The RCP has also stated the same line for the "Native Americans" - that if it took power the RCP itself would decide on the future for "Native Americans" but would allow "autonomous zones" for the "Native Americans" within an RCP socialist republic.
This line will prove to be a grave error for any party that sets its sights on attaining state power. National liberation struggles will not cease to exist until oppressed nations acquire full liberation - regardless of who is in power, denying their freedom. Lenin understood this and thus promoted self-determination as he understood that the basis for revolution is liberty at its core.
What seems to be lost on the RCP is that the oppressed nations, whether Latino, First Nations or any other, are not going to put their lives on the line to transform this society only to allow themselves to be ruled by what the RCP feels is best. Once oppressed nations see a New Socialist government is truly in the interest of the people it is for them to decide to join this republic. The vast majority of the land today is First Nation/Mexican land and for RCP to state they'll decide on who lives where is ludicrous. This position is as ridiculous as if the oppressed East Indians and other Asians living in South Africa were to create a party, gain power and then tell the native "Black" South Africans "we'll decide if you can secede or where you'll live"! This colonization is incorrect and does not represent a righteous revolutionary line.
The liberation of Aztlán (what is currently the southwestern U.$.) under an all Latino socialist government must be the primary objective of all Brown revolutionaries in North America. By showing its true colors, RCP demonstrates once more that many parties claim to fight for all, but in the end don't truly seek liberation for the oppressed nations, as MIM has correctly taught. It is the oppressed nations ourselves who must seek self-determination, this can only be done by using Maoism as the primary vehicle.
We need political parties that guarantee the Leninist principal of self-determination! we need to build Maoist parties led by and for the oppressed nations! Long live the national liberation struggles worldwide.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have not reviewed this rcp=u$a document but this criticism is consistent with our readings of other material by this organization which fakes left but actually opposes the liberation of oppressed nations, instead favoring the struggles of the Amerikan white oppressor nation for a bigger piece of unearned imperialist pie.
Based on this comrade's review, we can condemn the chauvinism of the rcp=u$a that is writing the plans for some utopian white socialist state, while asserting that the future of Aztlán is uncertain. If anyone's future is uncertain it is the hundreds of millions of Amerikans whose nation must be destroyed as part of the anti-imperialist struggle. It is hard for us to imagine how this will happen without the indigenous people of the southwestern U.$. already being well onto the socialist road. If we're going to predict the future, we should be thinking about how the socialist republics of Aztlán, New Afrika and countless First Nation states will determine the form of transition for a large Amerikan population who is generally opposed to the socialist project.
The land question is no more settled for New Afrika than it is for Aztlán, and certainly not more so than for First Nations. We support all nationalism, including struggles for independent territory, that is opposed to imperialism.
The mentality of tyranny is a war of psychology via technology, technically diversified con-fused like a tie-dye'd brain is stained with illusion and lies dispel, rebel, and defy the pail; head like a bucket, it's time to chuck it life on the line - F...K it!
You have an obligation time to stop duckin', time to start buckin' Revolution is bubblin'
Peroxide da line Oxygenate ya mind We have been deprived all of our lives given enough scraps to barely survive I'm feelin a vibe of Free ya mind its in vogue don't be so shallow and the rest will follow led by the dialectical materialist kind
Now lets begin - power up equip to it and stick like Bruce Lee Roy's chop sockie flick a sho' nuff revolutionary kick Word, it's a U-N-I-T-Y hit!
Who did what who called the shot I just don't know all I know is that it shouldn't have been so Malcolm should have lived until he was a thousand years old or even more some say it was the COINTELPRO of that I'm sure but what made negroes gun down our hero and turn around and practice non-violence towards a savage who threatens our very existence while Malcolm was plotting a resistance against the nemesis these imbeciles was plotting against the shining prince they're worse than Judas because Judas had a conscience so he hung himself after his treacherous action but after the treason these Judases are still breathing why don't they just die and make us rejoice with joy non-believers disguised in Black skin sabotaging the struggle that they don't believe in so they use their skin to deceive men
niggas killed Malcolm X and niggas will probably kill me too
You got to be naive to believe you can determine friend from foe just based on skin color alone and not by the content of the character I see the niggas but where my brothers at Bob Marley said that they sold Marcus Garvey for rice Then they ambushed Bob Marley in the night They say the eyes never lie but experience tells me that they don't always tell the truth
niggas killed Malcolm X and niggas will probably kill me too
Huey Newton was still an asset yet slugs put him in his casket while agent provocateurs that deserve death remain in our midst misfits in positions of leadership navigating the lives of the less fortunate the blind leading the blind now we can't find our way out of this maze that got us trapped and strapped with gats that we only aim at Blacks
niggas killed Malcolm X and niggas will probably kill me too
I'm analyzing this self hatred wondering why this Black life of mine ain't considered sacred in a blink of an eye a nigga would lay me dead on the pavement but if my pigment was white a nigga would think twice fifty times before he contemplates homicide I've stared into the eyes of these boys who claim to be real men and I've seen the fear that paralyzes that make them throw away their weapon when the cops hit the intersection we're conditioned for submission so the prisons are full of Blacks who hate Blacks and back stab each other because they're petrified of the real nemesis life sentences and these fools are complacent with just being jail house celebrities all is vanity buy up the commissary and live good in the penitentiary while we're becoming liabilities to our families where's the sanity?
niggas killed Malcolm X and niggas will probably kill me too
West Tennessee State Penitentiary (WTSP) has a lot of house policy issues. For one, their policies are not always legitimate under Tennessee Department of Correction penological justifications. On Feb 1st 2001 WTSP Warden Henry Steward and AWO Tommy Mills put out a memo to the maximum/segregated prisoners about them violating in-house policies. I am a maximum security/segregated prisoner and therefore I can speak about the mistreatment and un-professionalism of the prison officials and administrators.
Max prisoners endure a lot of foul talk and other things that are unprofessional from the correctional officers who run the units/pods. Neither the Tennessee Commissioner or Governor has been notified nor approved of the memo from February. The memo allows the administrators to take away their personal property, such as TVs, commissary, and other articles we bought over the years of our incarceration. This is in clear violation of the 8th and 14th amendments. The 14th amendment protects prisoners against the deprivation of personal property and liberty without due process of law. When state law and regulations substantively limit the discretion of confinement, the state creates an expectation, and the 8th and 14th amendments protects against the intentional, malicious or sadistic acts by prison officials towards prisoners. At the end it's all cruel and unusual punishment.
All the maximum/segregated prisoners have filed a petition on this issue and are waiting to hear back from the commissioner. I believe these prison administrators fail to realize that we as prisoners still have rights. I again thank you for the help in the U.S. prison struggle.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We welcome the news that our comrades in Tennessee are coming together to fight repressive policies. We encourage those in other states to take up their example, and be sure to report on your work in ULK so that we can share these reports and learn from each others struggles.
Beanies/caps have been provided for all prisoners in Administrative Segregation D-yard and Z-unit here. Strip searches will be indoors only (cells and showers) when it's 50 degrees or lower.
Due to the petitions sent to internal affairs and the ombudsman about the violations of the 602 appeal process that were taking place here in High Desert, an investigation was initiated by the main office of CDCR. All those who sent said petitions were interviewed here in Z-unit by an investigator for Internal Affairs and if my memory serves me correctly the secretary of CDCR.
These "suits" asked about the ongoing issues taking place here in Z-unit particularly, and High Desert in general. Some complaints were the need for warming wealth gear, the 602 process, TVs, cleaning supplies, access to the law library, transfers for validated inmates and those going to SHUs and mainlines, unjustified validations, and more.
The results of these interviews as well as the hard work of MIM(Prisons) and all comrades involved has bore fruit. Although we are used to these charlatans giving us better drag than an eloquent speaking pimp the following was granted: instead of having an "informal level," the 602 form goes directly to the appeals coordinator making it harder for him/her to screen us out unjustly. Also a new "Form 22" has been provided so that our requests may be answered in a timely fashion by COs, with a receipt. Now we have a clearer paper trail to use should K9s decide to implement their underground rules. Attached with this letter are the notices the administration passed out to us here in Z-unit.
Beanies were provided but no gloves. And as I write this, shelves and necessary wiring are being installed in one of these sections/tiers here in the zoo. The K9s cleared out one whole section in order to start the renovation on February 7 2011.
Although some requests were granted we should all reflect on this whole situation and take from it an important point that a challenge to this penal system in solidarity should constantly and consistently be pressed in order to receive our rights, while at the same time keeping our sights on abolishing this human warehouse that only benefits this corrupt capitalist system and nothing else.
I entered Washington DOC less than a year ago, but in that time I've experienced and witnessed first hand the "Department of Corruption." We have rights bestowed upon us by our forefathers through the constitution of the united states of america, so why is it we are belittled to such a point that we aren't treated like men, or for that matter prisoners, but animals in a cage?
The COs and Sgts don't care about our rights, they only come here to receive a paycheck. They cuss at us, disrespect us and use excessive force. In turn we file a grievance or grievances on said officers and actions and these "grievance coordinators" throw out our claims. Or if they do respond we get responses like "rewrite" or "not enough info," something just to shake us up and to detour us from what happened. This works to their advantage because most prisoners are too lazy and they just throw in the towel!
Persistence, organization, education and unity as a "whole body" is the key to gaining the upper hand against these punks. We need to rise up, unite and take matters into our own hands because it's apparent that the facilities and the states they're in are stuck on power and control over the individual prisoner. It's us coming together and standing for our rights, fighting the system to be recognized and treated as people and not animals.
I believe wholeheartedly that a neutral outside company or corporation dealing solely with grievances and our claims is the only way that we as prisoners will be treated fairly and with justice. Until that happens we will continue to be treated like animals and file grievances that most likely won't be read and therefore will be forgotten and thrown out, especially if it's in the staff member's best interest.
Is this fair, just or even legal? No it's not, but until we stand up to these people and put our proverbial foot down, things will continue as they are and I guarantee it will only get worse with time.
Comrades, it's about time something was done about these injustices! Until next time, keep on fighting the good fight and one day things will change. Strive for communism!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This is an important issue to organize around. Not only is it something we can unite all prisoners around, it can also be the spark to begin developing independent power. Only a prison population that studies, struggles and works together can protect themselves from abuses by an oppressive captor.
Comrades in United Struggle from Within have already initiated a grievance campaign in many states. Join this coordinated fight to demand our grievances be addressed. Write to us for letters and petitions you can use in your own states.
by a Pennsylvania prisoner February 2011 permalink
The U.$. Government is trying to find a new way to kill people of color. This is suppose to be a country of justice, equality and freedom, yet thirty five states still carry out the death penalty. Each state now seeks a new way to carry out an execution because the drug used in the lethal injection (Sodium Thiopental) is not being produced or exported to the U$ any longer.
The people who sit on death row are mainly Black and Latino. Death Row serves as a modern day lynching house for Blacks and Latinos. The state of Georgia just carried out an execution of Emanuel Hammond with Sodium Thiopental from an unlicensed company operating out of the back of a driving school in London, England [Similar controversy occurred recently in California - ULK editor].
We need to understand what's going on around us and know our struggle is never over. And we need to start letting our voice be heard. Look at what's going on in Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia. These people are standing up to their government, letting their voices be heard.
Let's stand up for our people in Death Row and stop this modern day genocide.
MIM(Prisons) responds: As MIM explained well many times already, the death penalty is good for nothing more than national oppression. It does not affect the crime rate, but it does get applied disproportionately against Blacks and Latinos. We call for an end to the imperialist death penalty, but not because we are pacifists. We know that the death penalty might be needed under socialism to deal with enemies of the people but we would not use this tool widely and we work towards a society where neither police nor prisons are needed.
Thank you for everything you are doing out there to re-educate the oppressed masses of incarcerated brethren through the U.S. of Amerika.
I've been following the events that are taking place in Egypt and their repercussions throughout the Middle East and how that can affect the control and monopoly currently exerted by the U.S. in that strategic part of the world.
I can only laugh at the blatant hypocrisy displayed by the U.S. government under Barack Obama whose cries of "support" for the Egyptian people under its banner of 'Democracy' and freedom of elections. One must not forget that Hosni Mubarak stayed in power for the last 30 years as a "puppeteer-government" subservient to the U.S. And that as a direct result the Egyptian people were repressed, suppressed and suffered greatly under Mubarak's totalitarian regime.
But closer to home it pains me to see how my people: Mexicanos and Latinoamericanos (the Brown-skinned) are being persecuted and deported by the anglo-saxon-racist xenophobic bastards such as Arizona's governor Brewer, and now New Mexico's governor Martinez.
We need to show the masses out there in the streets what is really going on. Teach them their rights. Teach them to speak-up and unite against these invaders and imperialist government. And to fight literally if necessary. It's our land and our universal right as human beings to stand-up and defend our beliefs.
Preach it! Teach it! Paste it on the walls! Put it on the net, web, Facebook, everything. Especially in our barrios, ghettos, hoods. We must stop fighting one another, it is not about red and blue or black and white. It is about brown, yellow, black and other light-skinned raza to reunite, together against our common enemy the US.
[Leaders] realize that the success of the struggle presupposes clear objectives, a definite methodology and above all the need for the mass of the people to realize that their unorganized efforts can only be a temporary dynamic. You can hold out for three days – maybe even for three months – on the strength of the admixture of sheer resentment contained in the mass of the people; but you won’t win a national war, you’ll never overthrow the terrible enemy machine, and you won’t change human beings if you forget to raise the standard of consciousness of the rank-and-file. Neither stubborn courage nor fine slogans are enough. - Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth, p. 136, chap. 2, paragraph 57.
Starting in Tunisia on December 17, and spreading across the region in January and February, the people of north Africa and the Middle East are taking to the streets to fight brutal dictatorships in their respective countries. Taken by surprise by the force and longevity of these protest movements, the various imperialist-backed regimes are working hard to come up with changes that will pacify the people without fundamentally changing the system. These just struggles of the people are primarily targeting the figureheads in government, but the real problem lies in the system itself and at this stage we are only seeing some shuffling of the leadership.
Protests are sweeping across the region as the people are emboldened and inspired by the actions and results of those in neighboring countries, even moving further south into other parts of Africa. As this article is being written, there are reports of people’s uprisings in Bahrain, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria, Djibouti, Syria, Morocco and Jordan. In other parts of Africa, less visible in the media, popular revolts are also happening in Sudan, Gabon and Ethiopia.(1) Protesters are facing violent repression by the governments in most of these countries.
The response in the United $tates has been strong condemnation of Mubarak and other leaders targeted by protests (among those paying attention). Arabs may falsely look to Amerikans as friends in their current struggles. But where was this Amerikan “support” for the last thirty years as their country bank-rolled Mubarak with billions of dollars? In reality, their reaction is a sick reminder of what went down in Iraq. The same seething opposition to Mubarak was aimed at Saddam Hussein, resulting in the deaths of millions of Iraqis and the destruction of one of the most developed Arab countries. Iraq is just one example to demonstrate how Amerikan racism quickly lends itself to popular support for militarism, the savior of post-WWII U.$. global dominance.
Economics of the People’s Struggles
There are many differences between these mostly Arabic-speaking countries, but the one common enemy of the people there is the enemy of the people throughout the world: imperialism. Capitalism is a system that is defined by the ownership of the means of production (factories, farms, etc.) by the wealthy few who we call the bourgeoisie, and who exploit the majority of the people (the workers, also called the proletariat) to generate profit for the owners. Imperialism is the global stage of capitalism where the territories of the world have been divided up and exploited for profit. Under imperialism, the economy in each country no longer operates independently, and what happens in one country has repercussions around the world. Because of this global interdependence, events in the Middle East and north Africa are very significant to the Amerikan and European capitalists, and are related to events in the global economy.
The question of real change hinges on whether the exploited countries that are now mobilizing stay within the U.$.-dominated economic structure, or whether they look to each other and turn their back on the exploiter nations. While militarily and politically controlled by the United $tates, their economic relationship to imperialism is dominated by the European Union who was responsible for 50% of trade for countries in the southern Mediterranean region in 1998. A mere 3% of their trade was with each other that year.(2) In 2009, these percentages had not changed, despite the lofty promises of the Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area to develop trade between Arab countries.(3) Tunisia, where the first spark was lit, had 78% of its exports and 72% of its imports with the European Union. Compare these numbers to the ASEAN and MERCOSUR regional trade groups, also made up of predominately Third World countries, which had about 25% of their trade internally.(4)
The problem with Europe dominating trade in the region is based in the theories of “unequal exchange” that lead trade between imperialist and exploited countries to be inherently exploitative. Part of this is because the north African countries mostly produce agricultural goods and textiles, which they trade for manufactured goods from Europe. The former are more susceptible to manipulations in commodities markets that, of course, are controlled by the imperialist finance capitalists. The latter are priced high enough to pay European wages, resulting in a transfer of surplus value from the north African nations to the European workers.
In order to develop industries for the European market, these countries have been forced to accept Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) from the various world banking systems (World Bank, International Monetary Fund). This has further tied the governments to imperialist interests over the years, as SAPs have many strings attached. The loans themselves, which are larger in this region than for the average Third World country (5), serve to transfer vast amounts of wealth from the debtor nations to the lender nations in the form of interest payments.
Countries in the Middle East and north Africa generally have greater relative wealth compared with Third World countries in the rest of Africa, Asia and Latin America. As a result the people in these countries enjoy higher levels of education, better health and fewer people living in poverty.(see World Bank, World Health Organization and CIA statistics) General trends since WWII are a growing middle class with an emigrant population that expanded and benefited from European reconstruction up to the 1980s. Since then immigration restrictions have increased in the European countries, particularly connected to “security” concerns after 9/11. The north African countries relate to the European Union similar to how Mexico does to the United $tates, but Mexico remains more economically independent by comparison. These uprisings are certainly connected to the growing population and the shrinking job market with slower migration to the EU.
Locally, there are economic differences within the region that are important as well. Other than the stick of oppressive regimes, some governments in the region have been able to use their oil revenues as a carrot to slow proletarian unity. Even so, extreme international debt, increasing unemployment with decreasing migration opportunities and the overall levels of poverty indicate that these countries are part of the global proletariat.
The recent economic crisis demonstrates the tenuous hold the governments of the Middle East and north African countries had on their people. Because imperialism is a global system with money, raw material and consumer goods produced and exchanged on a global market, economic crises happen on a global scale. The economic crisis of the past few years has affected the economy of this region with rising cost of living and increased unemployment rates. In particular food prices have reached unprecedented highs in the past few months.(6) One might think this would help the large agricultural sectors in these countries. However, food prices affect the Third World disproportionately because of the portion of their income spent on food and the form their food is consumed in. On top of this, all of these countries have come to import much of their cereal staples as their economies have been structured to produce for European consumption.
Reliable economic statistics are difficult to find for this region. Estimates of unemployment in any country can range from under 10% up to 40% and even higher, and there is similar variability in estimates of the portion of the population living below the poverty level. But all agree that both unemployment and poverty have been on the rise in the past two years. We suspect this trend dates back further with the decrease in migration opportunities mentioned above.
In Egypt about two-thirds of the population is under age 30 and more than 85% of these youth are unemployed. About 40% of Egypt’s population lives on less than $2 a day.(7)
The middle class in these countries, who enjoy some economic advantages, are sliding further into poverty. This group is particularly large in Tunisia and Egypt compared to many other countries in the region.(8) In Egypt the middle class increased from 10% to 30% of the population in the second half of the 20th century, with half of those people being “upper” middle class.(9) This class has been closely linked to the rise of NGOs encouraged by the European-led Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area. They know that it is possible for them to have a better standard of living and enjoy more political freedom without a complete overthrow of the capitalist system. And so we saw many of the leaders and participants in the recent protests demand better conditions for themselves, but generally leave out the demands of the proletariat.
In fact, some middle class leaders, like Wael Ghonim (an Egyptian Google employee who was a vocal leader in the fight against Mubarak), are calling for striking workers to go back to work now that Mubarak has stepped down, effectively opposing the demands and struggles of the Egyptian proletariat. Without the leadership of the proletariat, who have never had significant benefits from imperialism, these protests end up representing middle class demands to shuffle the capitalist deck and put another imperialist-lackey government in place. The result might be a slight improvement in middle class conditions but the proletariat ends up right back where they started.
In Tunisia and Egypt, where the uprisings started, the leadership and many of the activists were from the educated middle class youth.(10) In Tunisia people were inspired to act after the suicide of Mohammed Bouazizi, an impoverished young vegetable street seller supporting an extended family of eight. He set himself on fire in a public place on December 17 after the police confiscated his produce because he would not pay a bribe. Like many youth in Tunisia, Bouazizi was unable to find a job after school. He completed the equivalent of Amerikan high school, but there are many Tunisian youth who graduate from college and are still unable to find work.
The relative calm in the heavy oil producing region that includes Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman and Qatar underscores the key role of economics and class in these events. These countries enjoy a much higher economic level than the rest of the region, as a direct result of the consumerist First World’s dependence on their natural resources. Only Libya joins these countries in having a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita above $5000, while all others in the region are below that level.(11) That’s compared to a GNI in the U.$ of $46,730.(12)
One economic factor that has not made the news much and which does not seem to be a focus of the protesters so far, is the importing of foreign labor to do the worst jobs in the wealthy oil-producing countries. In the Gulf Cooperation Council (consisting of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and the Sultanate of Oman) there are an estimated 10 million foreign workers and 3 million of their family members living in these countries.(13) This was used as a carrot to the proletariat who were losing opportunities to work in the European Union. Egypt in particular encouraged this emigration of workers.
Revolutions or Unrest?
To belittle the just struggles of people around the world, typical imperialist media is referring to the recent uprisings as “unrest,” as if the people just need to be calmed down to bring things back to normal. On the other side, many protesters and their supporters are calling these movements revolutions. For communists, the label “revolution” is used to describe movements fighting for fundamental change in the economic structure. In the world today, that means fighting to overthrow imperialism and for the establishment of socialism so that we can implement a system where the people control the means of production, taking that power and wealth out of the hands of just a few people.
The global system of imperialism puts the nations of the Middle East and north Africa on the side of the oppressed. These nations have comprador leaders running their governments, who get rich by working for imperialist masters. Yet these struggles are very focused on the governments in power in each country without making these broader connections. Until the people make a break with imperialist control, changes in local governments won’t lead to liberation of the people.
Further, we have heard much from both organizers and the press about social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) as a tool of the revolution. These tools are celebrated as a replacement for leadership. It is true that the internet is a useful tool for sharing information and organizing, and decentralization makes it harder to repress a movement. But the lack of ideological unity leads to the lowest common denominator, and very few real demands from the people. No doubt “Mubarak out” is not all the Egyptian people can rally around, but without centralized leadership it is hard for the people to come together to generate other demands.
Related to the use of social media, it is worth underscoring the value of information that came from Wikileaks to help galvanize the people to action in these countries; the corruption and opulence of the leaders described in cables leaked at the end of 2010 no doubt helped inspire the struggles.(14)
Egypt provides a good example of why we would not call these protest movements “revolutions.” The Egyptian people forced President Mubarak out of the country, but accepted his replacement with the Supreme Council of the Military - essentially one military dictatorship was replaced by another. One of the key members of this Council is Sueliman, the CIA point man in the country and head of the Egyptian general intelligence service. He ran secret prisons for the United $tates and persynally participated in the torturing of those prisoners.
Tunisia is also a good example of the lack of fundamental revolutionary change. Tunisia’s president of 23 years, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, stepped down on January 14 and fled to Saudi Arabia. But members of Ben Ali’s corrupt party remained in positions of power throughout the government and protests continue.
In State and Revolution Lenin wrote that the revolution must set a goal “not of improving the state machine, but of smashing and destroying it.” The protests and peoples’ struggles in the Middle East and Africa reinforce the importance of this message as we see the sacrifice of life in so many countries resulting in only cosmetic changes in governments.
What is the United $tates interest?
The United $tates is the biggest imperialist power in the world today; it controls the largest number and most wealth-producing territories in the world. Just as the economic crises of imperialism affect the rest of the world, political uprisings around the world affect the United $tates. The capitalist corporations who have factories and investments in this region have a strong financial interest in stability and a government that will allow them to continue to exploit the resources and labor. And with capitalism’s constant need to expand, any shrinking of the imperialist sphere of influence will help trigger future crises faster.
The Amerikan military interest in this region relies on having some strong puppet governments as allies to defend the interests of Amerikan imperialism and hold off the independent aspirations of the regional capitalists. This includes managing the planet’s largest oil reserves, which is important for U.$. control of the European Union, and defending their #1 lackey - Israel.
Tunisia is a long-standing ally of the United $tates, cooperating with Amerikan “anti-terrorism” to maintain Amerikan imperialist power in the region. Other imperialist powers also have a strong interest in the dictatorships in Tunisia including France whose government shipped tear gas grenades to Tunis on January 12 to help Ben Ali fight the protesters.(15)
Bahrain is a close U.$. ally, home to the U.$. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.(16)
Egypt has been second only to Israel in the amount of U.$. aid it gets since 1979, at about $2 billion a year. The majority of this money, about $1.3 billion a year, goes to the Egyptian military.(17) Further, the United $tates trains the Egyptian military each year in combined military exercises and deployments of U.$. troops to Egypt.(18) So for Amerika, the Supreme Council of the Military taking power in Egypt is a perfectly acceptable “change.” To shore up the new regime and its relationship with the United $tates, Secretary of State Clinton announced on February 18 that the United $tates would give $150 million in aid to Egypt to help with economic problems and “ensure an orderly, democratic transition.” In exchange, the Council has already pledged to uphold the 1979 peace accords with Israel. Prior to 1979, much of the Arab world was engaged in long periods of wars with the settler state.
United $tates aid to countries in this region is centered around Israel. The countries closest geographically to Israel are the biggest recipients of Amerikan money, a good way to keep control of the area surrounding the biggest Amerikan ally. In addition to Egypt and Israel, Jordan ($843 million) and Lebanon ($238 million) received sizable economic and military aid packages in 2010.(19) Compared to these numbers, “aid” to the rest of the region is significantly smaller with notable recipients including Yemen ($67M), Morocco ($35M), Bahrain ($21M) and Tunisia ($19M). The United $tates gives “aid” in exchange for economic, military and political influence.
Is Wisconsin the Amerikan Tunisia?
The global economic crisis clearly affects imperialist countries like the United $tates just like it does other countries of the world, but we don’t see the people in this country rising up to take over Washington, DC and demanding a change in government. Like the Middle East, the youth of Amerika are having a harder time finding jobs after graduation from college. But unlike their counterparts in the Middle East, Amerikan youth and their families do not face starvation when this happens.
Some people are drawing comparisons between the widespread protests by labor unions in Wisconsin and the events in Tunisia and Egypt. These events do give us a good basis for comparison to underscore the differences between imperialist countries and the Third World. Amerikan wealth is so much greater than the rest of the world (U.$. GDP per capita = $46,436); even compared to oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia (GDP = $24,200). GDP does not account for the distribution of wealth, but in the United $tates the median household income in 2008 was $52,029. This number is not inflated by the extreme wealth of a few individuals, it represents the middle point in income for households in this country.
On the surface, unemployment statistics for the United $tates appear similar to some numbers for countries in the Middle East and north Africa. In 2008, 13.2% of the population was unemployed in the United $tates based on the latest census data.(20) However, with income levels so much higher in Amerika, unemployment doesn’t mean an immediate plunge into poverty and starvation. For youth in this country, there is the safety net of moving back in with parents if there is no immediate post-college job.
Similarly, U.$. poverty statistics appear quite high, comparable to rates in the Middle East and north Africa, at 14.3% in 2009. But this poverty rate uses chauvinistic standards of poverty for Amerikans. The U.$. census bureau puts the poverty level of a single individual with no dependents at $11,161.(21) Much higher than the statistics that look at the portion of the population living at $2 or $1.25 per day (adjusted for differences in purchasing power). Wisconsin public teachers average salaries of about $48k per year.
The Leading Light Communist Organization produced some clear economic comparisons between Egypt and the U.$.: “The bottom 90% of income earners in Egypt make only half as much (roughly $5,000 USD annually) as the bottom 10% of income earners in the U.$. (roughly [$]10,000), per capita distribution. Depending on the figures used, an egalitarian distribution of the global social product is anywhere between $6,000 and $11,000 per capita annually. This does not even account for other inequalities between an exploiter country and an exploited country, such as infrastructure, housing, productive forces, quality and diversity of consumer goods, etc.”(22)
In the United $tates it is possible for the elite to enjoy their millionaire lifestyles while the majority of the workers are kept in relative luxury with salaries that exceed the value of their labor. This is possible because other countries, like those in the Middle East and Africa, are supplying the exploited workforce that generates profits to be brought home and shared with Amerikan workers. Even Amerikan workers who are unemployed and struggling to pay bills are not rallying for an end to the economic system of capitalism. They are just demanding more corporate taxes and less CEO bonuses. In other words they want a bigger piece of the imperialist pie: money that comes at the expense of the Third World workers. These same Amerikan workers rally behind their government in wars of aggression around the world, overwhelmingly supporting the fight against the Al-Qaeda boogeyman in Arab clothing.
Down with Amerikanism, Long Live Pan-Arabism
Whether in Madison or Cairo, signs implying that Wisconsin is the Tunisia of north Amerika are examples of what we call “false internationalism” on both sides of the divide between rich and poor nations. Combating false internationalism, which is inherent in any pro-Amerikanism in the Third World, is part of the fight against revisionism in general.
What no one can deny is the connection between the mass mobilizations across the Arab world. That this represents a reawakening of pan-Arabism is both clear and promising for the anti-imperialist struggle. Even non-Arab groups in north Africa that have felt marginalized will benefit from the greater internationalist consciousness and inherent anti-imperialism with an Arabic-speaking world united against First World exploitation and interference.
Of course, Palestine also stands to benefit from these movements. The colonial dominance of Palestine has long been a lightning rod issue for the Arab world, that only the U.$. puppet regimes (particularly in Egypt) have been able to repress.
Everyone wants to know what’s next. While the media can create hype about the “successful revolutions” in Tunisia and Egypt, this is just the beginning if there is to be any real change. Regional unity needs to lead to more economic cooperation and self-sufficiency and to unlink the economies of the Arab countries from U.$. and European imperialism. Without that, the wealth continues to flow out of the region to the First World.
As Frantz Fanon discussed extensively in writing about colonial Algeria, the spontaneous violence of the masses must be transformed into an organized, conscious, national violence to rid the colony of the colonizer. Unfortunately, his vision was not realized in the revolutionary upsurge that he lived through in north Africa and neo-colonialism became the rule across the continent. Today, the masses know that imperialism in Brown/Black face is no better. As fast as the protests spread, they must continue to spread to the masses of the Arab world before we will see an independent and self-determined people.