Life’s purpose works us unmercifully. The first degree is knowledge of self. The repressed anger dangers everyone around. The compound is stilled, lockdown! The wild sounds in between their ears Are quieted by a cell. The hell in the mind tortures through silence The obvious is far fetched till it hits home The zone of protection lies in the hands of another, My brother. Gun in hand, He stands for a heavy hand of justice But homie its just–us. The price of fame is to become lost. To lose myself is to gain. I stand here today for my life’s purpose. The words hurt more than any sword. No guard or judge can protect you from life. No strife or burden can protect you from your heart. From now till your ending, Are you living your life’s purpose?
First a correction. In Under Lock & Key 78 the article Understanding George Jackson repeatedly referred to Hugo “Yogi” Pinell as being Puerto Rican when ey was actually of Nicaraguan descent.
In this issue we tried to tackle some questions of strategy for change. Most of our readers each issue are new to our work. And while everyone we hear from loves ULK, not everyone understands how we’re different, or agrees with our different approach to change. In this issue we distinguish our strategy from those of reformists, those organizing the labor aristocracy into unions, and right and left errors around identity politics and idealism. We also feature the ongoing work around targeted campaigns around strategic issues of censorship, solitary confinement and building a united front within the prison movement in general, with revolutionary leadership.
Since last issue we, have a number of accomplishments to report. We published, printed and distributed the new zine Power to New Afrika! in Black August 2022. We have continued our training program for the Revolutionary 12 Step Program we began earlier this year with comrades inside and outside. We are caught up in mailing out responses to the intro study course, and should be mailing those on a weekly basis moving forward. This means you can expect to get a response in less than 2 months. Hundreds if not thousands of comrades inside mailed petitions to the Department of Justice as part of the Juneteenth Freedom Initiative. And we continue to mail out copies of the petition. Dozens if not hundreds of postcards demanding an end to politically targeted censorship were mailed to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Departmental Review Board. With this, the distribution of Under Lock & Key outside prisons has increased. Comrades inside also continue to sustain our postage stamp needs with their donations.
While the above accomplishments were achieved with the support of some newer comrades, we also lost some support on the outside during this period. This has meant we have struggled to stay up to date on processing and responding to our growing influx of mail. It also has caused us to change how we mail out ULK, which will more than double our postage costs. As printing costs also increase, the annual cost of a subscription will be going up and we will update our readers in our next issue, so that you can donate enough to cover your own ULKs or more.
Related to donations, a comrade in California wrote:
"I’m writing to inform all comrades that I wrote the Khufu Foundation, sent them the requested stamps and within two weeks I received a copy of the lawsuit. I know MIM said that you were unable to vouch for the Khufu Foundation, but I can and I would like to inform all the captive comrades that Khufu Foundation is legit, you will not be disappointed.
“Also in Under Lock & Key 78, I read the MIM(Prisons) update that talks about contributions/donations are needed, especially from the many comrades who are in prison. I’m taking the step to do my part as I enclosed a book of 20 stamps to cover my subscription coast as well as other comrades who are unable to provide the support with stamps. I would like to ask all of the comrades who are able and willing to donate a book of stamps because with a book of stamps we are able to cover our cost but also cover other comrades who are unable to give stamps. I also would like to ask the comrades who are able to try and donate one book of stamps every quarter (that’s 4 books of stamps a year). Let’s try to step up our contributions.”
Requests for Texas Packs and the TDCJ’s Grievance Operations Manual (which is regularly being censored these days) continue to increase. New comrades should read about our Free Political Books to Prisoners Program on p.2 and understand that you must send payments for these 2 items.
As discussed in this issue, many prisons have begun digitizing mail. Our newspaper cannot be processed by these services. So if you don’t tell us what prison you are in when you write us we cannot send you a subscription.
When we first met, it was truly love at first sight. i was a young, wild, Gangster Disciple… and unfortunately i was a parasite. You walked into the room, and… you began to speak. i will never forget your first words: “Dare To Struggle! Dare To Be Free!”
Our eyes were fixated on each others. It was like you were talking directly to me. i was captivated by the things you had to say. i was overwhelmed by your Divine Inner-G! You sent chills throughout my body, but the message i still didn’t quite understand. So you walked over and put your arms around me… and whispered in my ear: “Free The Land.”
The way you walked, and the way you moved, intrigued me. Your pride in being Black was intoxicating for sure. From that moment on i knew that i had to have you… because you were just too much for me to ignore.
So We began to date casually, and… you let me know that if i were really ready to step up and be your man, then i had to let go of my gang-banging mentality. i had to go from Gangster Disciple to Growth and Development. i had to learn what knowledge of the self meant. i had to take time and learn the New Afrikan Creed. i had to learn all about FROLIAN, which you called The Three Phase Theory.
i couldn’t believe how committed to change you were. You told me you had a plan, and i recall smiling at you and asking, so what is this plan? But you had this intense look on your face… the most serious look i had ever seen. Then you took me out west with you to Oakland, and… you introduced me to Comrade Huey P.
I will never forget his words of wisdom. He taught me that to give my life for The People is the greatest honor of all, and that it is better to die on my feet then to live on my knees. He told me that We are at war, and… that the price of freedom ain’t free.
This motivated me, because, all my life i was willing to die over a color or for which way a person wore their hat. i recall asking you why you think i was so willing to do this? And… you replied, “N’dugu, Willy Lynch taught you that.” i was sickened to my stomach, and i couldn’t understand how this could be. So you took me back to The Land–Chicago–and introduced me to The Chairman of the Black Panther Party.
Chairman Fred Hampton was a flame thrower, very charismatic… truly something to behold. i will never forget what he told me: “i am a Revolutionary! i have given my life to The People!”
All the things you were showing me, made me rise in love with you even more. Especially when you taught me about the bravery of 17 year old Comrade Johnathan Jackson, and… when you let me read your personal Prison Letters from Comrade George.
You taught me about Queen-Mother Assata Olugbala Shakur. And… how the Black Liberation Army liberated her from kkkaptivity and got her to Cuba. You taught me about how this racist system tried to murder Comrade Mumia Abu Jamal, even though they KNEW he wasn’t a shooter.
You gave me the lessons of Comrade Geronimo Ji Jaga, who went to prison for 28 years for something he didn’t do. You showed me how this fascist system will do anything to neutralize to the 21st Century Voices Of Total Empowerment… the same way they dropped the bomb on MOVE!
You gave my life purpose and meaning, and for that i will never put anything above you. i honor you on our anniversary, Black August, but every single day i will show you that i love you. i just wanted to write you this letter, my first love: The New Afrikan Liberation Struggle!
FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS 21 Gun Salutes to ALL this Black August
Those who sow discord into unity are our enemies. If we ourselves are guilty of pushing the people from the movement then we are our own enemy while we divide and conquer ourselves.
Prior generations fought for change, but today we fight over change: back-biting our brothers, looking down on the misfortunate, and even supporting the police in their corruption and brutality.
We are familiar with the divide and conquer tactics of our opposition; so when our lines of communications are broken, we must have faith in our comrades and remain loyal or the oppressor will create division by placing contempt and distrust in your heart towards your comrades.
We have a prisoner here in “High Risk Security” lock-up who is unable to operate a tablet. Instead of attempting to show him how to use it, they decided not to feed him.
This prisoner is clearly supposed to be in a mental institution. He is too mentally unstable to qualify for recommendation to be released from High Risk Security stats; and even if they did allow this prisoner to be released to regular population, his mental condition will cause altercations with other prisoners or staff. This is a breach of safety in the department that doesn’t care about mental patients although the department is quick to provide sentences to subjects they failed to place in safe environment.
Comrades, we must put our heads together, shoulder-to-shoulder, and put down the K2. If finding a way to do away with drug test for THC is the alternative, then we must try. We must band together to overcome this addiction. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary when you look around and see our fellow comrades in helmets and 4 point restraints losing their sanity. Do we even know the differences between K2 and phenol paper? And molly is meth. That’s worse than crack. Never get high off your own supply, and don’t inject white substances. I’m not telling you what to do, but we can not operate or function against our opps while walking around like crackheads because we’ll be more loyal to the high than to the movement.
Before I go, I just want you to know, AKs got the floor. We want peace not war. Less we all storm the doors. When it rains, it pours.
T.R.U.C.E. - Team of Revolutionaries Uniting to Combat the Enemy.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is one of a handful of leaders engaged in United Struggle from Within’s Revolutionary 12 Steps training program. We are working to build this program inside and outside prisons around the country and we need more leaders to get trained to do so.
The Free Alabama Movement has declared their recent organizing a success, with over 15,000 prisoners participating and prodding response from the governor during the campaign season.(1) They have announced the next phase of their struggle for reasonable paths to parole and release. It involves the drafting and proposal of a state bill. The Alabama Legislature opens on 3 March 2023, and prisoners have planned to launch a campaign to promote and support the proposed bill at that time.(2)
Following the recent actions, a damning report came out substantiating the prisoners demands:
“July 2022 was the deadliest month on record in Alabama prisons. Thirty-two people died in Alabama prisons in July — the most since at least January 2000, the earliest month for which data is available online. More people died than were granted parole that month.”(3)
The Free Alabama Movement concludes in their recent statement:
"On September 26, over 15,000 people stood up for freedom in the Alabama prison system. That’s 10,000+ new soldiers, warriors and generals to the ranks who had NEVER participated in a shutdown before. Most of them didn’t know they would be challenged by the ADOC at the core of our most basic human need: food. This is a real struggle against a system that is well funded and has been in existence for over 100 years. We gotta act like we want freedom, and move with the understanding that that will be a test of your will and spirit to achieve something great.
"Understand the mission brother and sisters. A call has been made for us to stand again. We cannot miss our assignment and expect change.
A core aspect of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the bond between theory and practice. For instance, there is a theoretical analysis of the labor aristocracy in the imperialist countries and the practical application of that theory is not organizing around labor aristocrat interests. There is a theoretical analysis of building independent institutions among the masses; and the practical application of that theory is building United Struggle Within grievance campaigns, building Maoist prison study groups, building peace between lumpen organizations through the United Front for Peace in Prisons, etc. There is a theoretical analysis of revolution; and the practical application of that theory is boycotting elections, refusing to use armed struggle as a bargain chip and instead see it as a necessity, etc. These are just some broad and simplified examples of the relationship between theory and practice to paint the picture. Incorrect practice and incorrect theories go hand in hand: one strengthens the existence of another.
The main purpose of this article is to start a series of articles akin to the “Ongoing Discussion on Organizing Strategy” series which started among USW comrades.(1) The series has been productive on maintaining a two-line struggle within the USW and the overall prison movement, and delves deep into the many questions raised in organizing behind bars. We hope to bring that energy of discussing strategy and tactics of Maoist organizing behind bars to that of political line both inside and outside U.$. prisons. These bad ideas aren’t dividing line questions (such as the labor aristocracy question or the class nature of the Chinese Communist Party in 2022) that MIM(Prisons) struggle with other communist organizations through polemics. Rather, these are day-to-day bad ideas and attitudes that many people take up within the communist movement (even good comrades). They enforce liberalism during line struggle, and stunt scientific thinking. Let’s begin.
1. Defending Revisionism Through One’s Laurels and Clout
One example of this was when Joma Sison repeatedly refused to acknowledge the national contradiction as principal in the United $tates, and communists refused and still refuse to criticize due to his historically integral role in the People’s War in the Philippines.(2) Communists don’t look at persynal laurels or prestige when it comes to criticism; everything and everyone that partakes in bad practice and bad beliefs is targetable for criticism. If the Sison defenders said “historically and currently, the United $tates’ principal contradiction has always been class and is currently class” then perhaps there will be more legitimacy for line struggle and discussion albeit it still being a chauvinist and revisionist take. However, what does Joma Sison being a historically great revolutionary leader that rectified the errors of the Communist Party of Philippines in the 60s-70s have to do with the fact that the current United $tates’ society has developed around the oppressed nations in a historical materialist manner?
Now if a former neo-nazi prisoner who joined the United Struggle Within brings up how the white workers are the masses, then bringing up his past identity as a neo-nazi would be more relevant in criticizing this individual comrade to the correct line from an incorrect one since his past practice as an Amerikan First World lumpen could influence his current politcs. Ultimately, bringing up his past errors (or victories even) is only a small part of criticizing the comrade, and ultimately it’s the combating of that idea and political practice that will be the final nail in the coffin of getting rid of that bad line from that comrade’s thinking and most importantly the overall movement. A part of this problem contains in identity politics, which leads to the next point.
2. Incorrect Handling of Identity Politics
Identity politics has been a hot topic among communists with some seeing it as non-antagonistic with Marxism and with many joining the conservative reactionary bandwagon of fascists ranting about “woke” culture and post-modernism. The classic Amerikan value of pragmatist empiricism (the idea of the only way to truly know anything is through directly experiencing it) is antithetical to Maoism, and it is our stance that post-modernism and identity politics can be looked at it the same or adjacent manner in terms of philosophy. The Maoist doctrine of cadres learning from practice and the masses learning revolution through waging revolution can become Amerikan pragmatism if we aren’t careful.
Today in 2022, this pragmatist empiricist idea is popular among the oppressed nations represented in popular day-to-day slogans such as “don’t speak over (insert a particular oppressed group)” and “stay in your lane” when a person not belonging to a certain social group (gender, religion, sexuality, nation, etc.) is talking about issues pertaining to said certain group since they don’t directly experience that group’s existence. Some revisionists see no problem with identity politics and post-modernism, and think that identity politics and post-modernism must be a good thing because the fascists are complaining about it and complaining about it must mean one is a fascist. Other revisionists have straight up adopted national chauvinism. When the masses criticize the communists with “a lot of communists are racist and don’t really care about black/brown/indigenous people” these chauvinists resort to taking up fascist talking points and attitudes against identity politics and post-modernism.
It is an important Maoist doctrine that post-modernism and pragmatist-empiricism are both unscientific capitalist garbage that poisons the masses. It is another Maoist doctrine that the masses under oppression will go to the current superstructure of the enemy (capitalist philosophies, capitalist institutions, the capitalist state, etc.) during times of oppression. When communists have failed the masses of the United $tates for 400 years by supporting the white workers and putting the national contradiction beneath white worker interests at best and attacking oppressed nation masses alongside the white workers at worst, then perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when the oppressed nations go to classical Amerikan pragmatism and post-modernism of relying on lived experiences and changing discourse instead of dialectical materialist thinking and revolution. This is especially true for the case where the oppressed nations are majority labor aristocrat as well – the class where this ideology grows the most ferociously amongst.
One interesting thing we see as a Maoist prison cell is that identity politics tend to be less popular among prisoners which perhaps shows that the oppressed nation labor aristocracy might go for identity politics for its liberation far more than the oppressed nation lumpen who might go for conspiracy theories or capitalist boot-strap mentality which we see more popular among prisoners and less with the student activist types that concern themselves more with identity politics. This leads to the third point.
3. Hating the Masses for their Reactionary Ideas under Oppression
Identity politics isn’t the only bourgeois idea that the masses hold from the current capitalist superstructure. There are other ideas such as patriarchy, homophobia, pulling one-self up by the bootstraps, voting for the lesser evil, superstition, conspiracy theories, and religion just for starters. When the masses show these tendencies, many communists throw them into the enemy camp and treat them as if they were enemies. For example, a communist student activist type might walk up to a Black Hebrew Israelite and the topic of anti-semitism could pop up. The communist university student will call the Black Israelite a fascist for his views and say the Black Israelite should stay in his lane about Jewish issues. When Mao said that we want politics in command and political line is principal, he didn’t mean that our friends and enemies are determined by their personal beliefs (whether that be politics, religion, moral principles, cultural traditions, etc.). Mao didn’t say “any Chinese peasant who participates in foot binding should be ostracized from the movement.” And we can argue that foot binding is much more backwards and patriarchal than the common patriarchal/reactionary cultural values held by oppressed nations masses in 2022. In fact, Mao’s method of finding out who our friends and enemies were in China was by looking at a group of people’s relation to the means of production, relation to consumption, and relations to other classes; and through this method he concluded that the Chinese peasantry were friends not enemies despite binding women’s feet so they don’t run away from their husbands being a popular cultural trend among said class.
Let’s look at the New Afrikan labor aristocracy as an example. We can see that the class basically has access to the means of production through its citizen status much like the Amerikan workers in 2022 (dead labor of third world proletarians; higher wages gained through super-exploitation of Africa, Asia, and Latin America; ability to buy and invest in stocks; etc.) We can also look at how it consumes far more than the international proletariat of Africa, Asia, and Latin America; but consistently consume less than its Amerikan counterparts such as how New Afrikan labor aristocrats are disproportionately more likely to live under the country’s poverty line compared to Amerikan labor aristocrats. We can also find out how its relations to the Amerikan labor aristocrat are far more hostile than friendly as the poorer an Amerikan is the more likely they are to hold extreme chauvinsit views (i.e. rednecks).
However, as embourgeoisfication of the New Afrikan workers solidified during the later half of the 20th century, their relation to the migrant proletarians (and migrants in general) of the Third World became more hostile as well: previous contradictions which were relatively non-antagonistic such as that in relation to the Mexican/Nigerian/Caribbean migrants are more antagonistic in our current day. So with these factors in mind, we can argue that this class of people (yes that includes the Black Hebrew Israelite with anti-Semitic tendencies) have interests for revolution against Amerika but might be more reserved when it comes to internationalism and involving the class in it self with other nations’ liberations. This is compared to the Hindi proletariat who will be far less wishy washy as a class in involving themselves with the struggle of the Dravidian proletariat when reaching class consciousness. So in conclusion, with proper political organizing the New Afrikan labor aristocracy would be a friend of the revolution.
Instead of this method of finding out who our friends and enemies are, most communists consider friends as people who have the correct takes on an xyz issue most people don’t even care about and enemies as people who hold reactionary views. One source of this ideology is how Amerikan culture promotes individual thinking and behavior as the mover of history rather than class struggle. With this mindset, racism is a problem started by individual Amerikans thinking and behaving racist and will end when individual Amerikans cease thinking and behaving racist. The Maoist method on the other hand sees that racism is a problem that was brought to inception by remnants of feudal European aristocrats (a class of people) stealing this land at gunpoint and trickery from what would become the modern First Nations, and enslaving what would become modern New Afrikans and militaristically invading the Mexican nation’s land, solidifying what would become modern Chicanos all for the various Amerikan classes’ interests (whether that be the big capitalist class, the small business owning capitalist class, or even the common Amerikan worker).
The Maoist solution is for these national contradictions to be resolved through the oppressed nations overthrowing Amerika through revolution. These historical events of Amerikan land conquest, slavery, and genocide were also crucial in acting as primitive accumulation for global capitalism-imperialism in general not only for Amerika. There is no modern day $outh Korea, Japan, Au$trailia, I$rael, $audi Arabia, Kanada, and so on without Amerikan slavery, Amerikan land conquest, and Amerikan genocide. Therefore proletarian dictatorship must be established to resolve this contradiction as well as overthrow of Amerika. But because of individualist Amerikan culture, national chauvinism is something treated with tone and etiquette led by student youth tired of their parents’ old backwards ways. This leads to the fourth problem.
4. The Sub-Culture Problem
Many newer generation communists have begun their politics through the internet. The original MIM was one of the first communist parties to have a website and put credence in the importance of the internet. It certainly is a politically important tool if it’s a major way youth are becoming interested in Lenin, and how all the imperialist governments partake in it in different ways from the FBI surveilling political internet forums to the Chinese Communist Party banning entire social media outlets. However, what the old MIM didn’t predict is that communist groups on social media aren’t the ones that primarily influence kids to read Mao Zedong and study the Black Panthers. Communist groups are far outshadowed online by memes, twitch streamers, tik tok spheres, instagram pages, internet forums, and the likes when it comes to converting kids to communism than communist organization internet presence. This has given rise to the problem of communism becoming more akin to a sub-culture talked about on social media sites like twitter and reddit than a political movement. Different political stances from Maoism, Trotskyism, all the way to Stirnerite Anarchism cease to become guides to action, but a thing to put on your bio. Various people’s wars and nations at war become more akin to fandoms for TV shows to obsess and argue over rather than a movement to popularize and create awareness for. Political line ceases to become a belief and action that one takes, but a take one has so they can get on the algorithm. Line struggle turn into flame wars with no purpose of uniting with others, but exist only to express one’s individual self for the cathartic feeling of having the correct line.
In day-to-day real life, communism might be becoming less and less pariah’d in the eyes of the average Amerikan; but communism itself is becoming more and more revisionist, more and more toothless, more and more a pop culture joke, and more and more a harmless icon of a once revolutionary movement that became hijacked by the bourgeoisie after its death, as Lenin spoke of. We took 20 steps forward and a million steps back when it comes to fighting against anti-communist culture leftover from the red scare era. Turns out Amerikan individualism was far more of an obstacle in making Maoism popular than the legacy of McCarthyism.
We shouldn’t throw away the internet with the bathwater as it indeed took a certain part in making the oppressor nation Amerikan youth become interested in revolutionary politics, but we should also be acutely aware of the sub-culture problem. A single New Afrikan, [email protected], or Indigenous member of the masses understanding the Maoist concept of reform and revolution and practicing to boycott the elections while not calling themselves communist nor wearing red armbands is 100 times more valuable to us in spreading popular support against imperialism than 300 college students with a Stalin portrait in their dorm rooms who thinks the white worker is a friend.
Many of these problems can only really be solved through the development of our movement as a whole. Even writing and publishing this article in Under Lock & Key can only do so much. Our dedicated prisoner comrades who read this will certainly be influenced, and perhaps they will get more insight as to the problems of the “activist” scene that they will be adjacent with once they get out; but when it comes to student youth abandoning Liberalism or the masses on the street taking up scientific thinking, it is up for the MIM (and not just the prison ministry) to develop and go to the masses as Mao said. For our readers and supporters outside, we challenge them to set up geographical MIM cells or work with MIM(Prisons) to develop the modern MIM. For our readers and supporters inside, we list these problems of the movement to stay sharp and aware once they get released.
Notes: 1. starting in ULK 73, prisoners write in for a copy of the full series 2. MIM, Applied internationalism: The difference between Mao Zedong and Joma Sison. 3. Wiawimawo, January 2016, Islam a Liberation Theology, Under Lock & Key No. 48.
It seems unanimous that 2023 will be a year of recession. A recent report from the United Nations Committee on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) opens up with:
"The world is headed towards a global recession and prolonged stagnation unless we quickly change the current policy course of monetary and fiscal tightening in advanced economies.
“Supply-side shocks, waning consumer and investor confidence and the war in Ukraine have provoked a global slowdown and triggered inflationary pressures.”(1)
Before talking more about the report, let’s start with some basics. Recession is something that is unique to capitalism. It is a product of capitalism’s inherent contradictions. In previous economic systems, problems of getting resources to people were caused by things like plagues, floods, droughts and war. All things that we are still familiar with today. But there is no other economics system where people go hungry because of “market forces” preventing adequate production and distribution. This happens at all times in capitalism, but it will be affecting broader swaths of the population as we go into recession.
While the pandemic was not the cause of current imbalances, it certainly helped exacerbate them. Because we live in a service economy, Amerikans had a hard time spending all their money when things were shut down. They’re used to regular entertainment, movies, costly sporting events and clubs, having people prepare food for them and the infamous getting their hair done which they cried for during the early lockdowns. Having all that cash on hand, they turned to purchasing goods, which were harder to get due to supply chains slowing down. As the U.$. government continued to roll out benefits to Amerikans they wanted to buy more things and there were less things available to buy. Companies selling things increased prices, and the pressure for inflation began.
The ability to keep printing dollars (in the forms of COVID relief money and low interest loans) is backed by the fact that the dollar is the dominant currency for international trade. And this is backed by U.$. dominance of international monetary organizations and U.$. militarism shaping the world economy in its image.
Increasing Dollar Power
In 2022, the U.$. Federal Reserve got serious about addressing inflation as it began to surpass 8% year-over-year (when they’d like it closer to 2%). In recent months, the Fed has continued to increase the interest rates by .75% at each meeting they have every 4 to 6 weeks. They have indicated that they plan to continue to do so to bring down wages and inflation. One of the goals of the Fed here is to increase unemployment and cool down the job market by making it more expensive for companies to borrow money. Recently Amerikans have had their pick of jobs with many opportunities to increase their incomes. Under capitalism, this is somehow a bad thing. Contrast this with the MIM Platform for a socialist dictatorship of the proletariat, which guarantees employment (as well as free day care, medical care, public transport and college education).
The UNCTAD report highlights the even greater negative impacts of raising interest rates in the United $tates on the Third World proletariat. Yet, UNCTAD’s calls for, “Central banks in developed economies to revert course and avoid the temptation to try to bring down prices by relying on ever higher interest rates.” seems to be a pipe dream at this point. As we discussed in our recent article on the war in Ukraine, the U.$. dollar is the reserve currency, which means what the U.$. Fed does has huge implications for money everywhere.(2) And other imperialist countries have filed suit by increasing interest rates to protect their own currencies from more extreme devaluation. The British pound just hit it’s all-time low exchange rate to the dollar, putting them almost at 1-to-1.
While Amerikans complain about oil prices rising from inflation, war and supply chain issues, OPEC has announced it is cutting production, which will increase global oil prices. This is not helping the cause of the Fed and the U.$. government trying to mitigate inflation for Amerikans.
Relatedly, Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries the UNCTAD forecasts to exceed “normal” pre-COVID GDP trends next year. However, President Biden is striking back at Saudi Arabia threatening to cut off arms sales to the country saying their leadership role in OPEC is aiding Russia, who has been engaged in a proxy war with the United $tates for more than half a year now. Again, we are seeing increasing divisions among the global powers. Similar to the divisions that precluded WWI and WWII as discussed by author Richard Krooth.
In our review of Arms & Empire in ULK 78 we quoted Krooth’s explanation of the role of the strong dollar in bringing on the Great Depression:
“…making it the hardest currency in the world, pushing up its value vis-a-vis other currencies, but also making it inaccessible to nations that otherwise would have purchased from America. When other nations could not obtain dollars by exports to the U.S., obviously they could import nothing at all. And so U.S. exports tended to fall and had to be replaced with bilateral trade agreements. Up went U.S. unemployment when markets fell away and bilateral trade could not replace them. Then down came the dollar, the U.S. devaluing in 1933 in an attempt to stimulate the exports again. But, alas, it was too late. The depression was on, production was down, America was spreading crisis to Europe!” (p.119)
While Europe is not quite in the rough shape it was at that time, de-industrialization has been the trend, as Amerikan’s have had more and more say in how their economies are structured. As we discussed in our recent article on Ukraine, the Amerikans have been conspiring to prevent a close relationship between Germany and Russia. Now it seems that the sabotage attack on the Nordstream 2 pipeline that was built to pipe gas from Russia to Germany is a continuation of those efforts by the Amerikans.
Economic Policy and Economic Systems
The UNCTAD report makes a number of recommendations to mitigate the impacts of the coming recession on the exploited Third World nations of the world, who of course will suffer the most. Again, these problems are inherent to capitalism and cannot ultimately be avoided without replacing it with a socialist economy. However, there are economic policies that can improve, or even save, the lives of millions of people today under capitalism. But they would need to be a bit more radical than those suggested by UNCTAD.
The MIM Platform includes two policies to be enforced by international banking authorities under capitalism:
Elimination of international currency exchange rate fixing by governments.
Tying of exchange rates to a standard basket of goods.
The UNCTAD report points out exchange rate depreciation in just six months this year for a number of exploited countries:
In the current system, when the currency in Sri Lanka depreciates by 77.8% that means that day-to-day expenses for the proletariat of Sri Lanka are probably about doubled. If exchange rates were tied to a standard basket of goods, then this would no longer be the case. Prices of things like food and fuel would be stabilized across the globe in local prices. The impact on the imperialist system on the people of Ghana is explained in more depth in our accompanying article.
Importantly, the above two demands by the MIM Platform would affect the ability to pay off foreign debts as well. The UNCTAD report lists the percent of government revenues spent on external debt in a number of countries:
How the heck can a state spend 97% of its revenue on debts to finance capital (or even 25% for that matter) and ever be able to provide for and serve the people of that country? Exchange rates cannot fix these huge problems, which require debt forgiveness. But the current system of exchange rates does make these debt payments increase as exchange rates worsen as is happening now with a strengthening dollar (as most debts are held in dollars). Overall, the percentage of state revenue spent on servicing debts across the Third World has doubled over the last decade according to this UNCTAD report. As surplus value extraction becomes more difficult, interest payments on debt becomes a larger part of the net flow of wealth from the exploited nations to the imperialist countries.
There seems to be no momentum for MIM’s proposed radical changes among the international bourgeoisie at this time, which means the economy will continue to tighten and shrink. And under capitalism that means people will suffer and die. The system is madness. If production of goods ceases to be profitable, production ceases, it does not matter how many people are in need of those goods. But one of the inherent contradictions within capitalism is that the tendency to compete and increase production constantly undercuts the rate of surplus value extraction. As a result profits are always (generally) becoming harder to come by. The introduction of the Chinese proletariat back into the imperialist economy after 1976, but especially in the 1990s, by the capitalists who run that country brought a breath of fresh air to imperialism with a huge, new source of surplus value. By 2008, the rates of profit had once again become harder to maintain, and today those contradictions are playing out in the form of hot wars, trade wars, currency wars and realignments of major powers.
The Maoist Internationalist Movement has always dismissed the strategy of embedding itself in the Amerikan so-called working class and labor unions. The experience of the Revolutionary Union in that kind of work during the 1970s and 1980s was some of the most relevant and interesting to MIM founders, influencing their decision to reject it. Yet, since then, many other self-described “communists” have still advocated and attempted the labor union strategy among Amerikans.
A wave of popular support for labor struggles within the United $tates has been rekindled over the past year. This is primarily due to the successful unionizing efforts of the Starbucks workers in Buffalo, NY on 9 December 2021 and the Amazon workers in Staten Island, NY on 1 April 2022 – both of which set off more union efforts within their companies and have inspired many similar efforts throughout many different industries.
To many so-called “communists”, this recent phenomena serves as a testament to the growing proletarian class consciousness among the U.$. working-class and their increasing revolutionary potential. To these revisionists and white nationalists, the proletarian uprising in the United $tates is just one economic crisis away. Yet most who are swept up in this union organizing populism lack the historical and theoretical background to the Amerikan labor aristocracy. Most are in it for their own self-interest and will be easily pulled towards fascism in a crisis scenario, but others do have real budding proletarian consciousness that can be won over with struggle and study.
In our efforts to investigate labor organizing in our contemporary situation, we found a comrade with a friendly political line who has been involved in actual underground union organizing. What follows is an interview with this comrade, relating eir experience to the history of the labor aristocracy and labor organizing in the United $tates in general.
What things got you interested in doing union organizing?
A few years ago, I began working in an industry whose workforce is primarily made up of the more vulnerable population within U.$. society. For example: ex-cons, immigrants, recovering addicts, etc. This vulnerability was often exploited by management and while it was never explicitly stated, there was an understanding by those in the vulnerable position that the employer had an upper-hand on them and that they had to abide by their requests to avoid any potential complications. This was particularly reflected in a request a coworker of mine (some kid from Central America) made in which ey asked if I would be willing to run if our manager ever called ICE on em in order to focus the agents’ attention on me while ey slipped out and escaped. These coworkers often worked harder than those fortunate enough to have papers and/or a clear record, yet were treated like they were less than humyn. I couldn’t stand that. I couldn’t stand how disposable they were treated because they crossed a border, had a criminal history, or just have a messy past that they are trying to overcome.
During the pandemic, two people I knew from the vulnerable population (deemed “essential workers”), ended up dying from COVID-19 and for what? To maintain a fucking business. To bourgeois society, they were nothing more than cannon fodder. I was angry and I was depressed, and part of me wanted to succumb to my own vices even further, but another part of me felt a deep obligation to all of those I had worked with. To do something about it. I wasn’t an organizer or anything. I had never really done anything like that. But I wanted to do something. So around this time I began taking my political studies more seriously and began to see the bigger picture (i.e. the need for socialist revolution). I wanted to immerse myself deep within the working-class and help build the labor movement as a means to play my role in the struggle for socialism. Eventually, an opportunity to work on an underground union campaign targeting a major corporation presented itself and I dropped everything to be part of that campaign.
And how quickly the front-line workers who died from COVID-19 have been forgotten in order to move the capitalist economy forward. The United $tates, despite its wealth and resources, has had the most people die from COVID-19. It’s at least good to hear that it inspired people like yourself to seek real change. Did you work with one union or many? Were they big/significant unions? Did you get a glimpse of how other union organizing operated, or can you only speak to one organization?
My situation was sort of unique as I worked in a sort of underground cell within the union, but ultimately I worked under two unions. These two are some of the biggest/most significant unions in the United $tates. They operated similarly – very bureaucratically. We did a lot of work with other big and medium-sized unions and they also seemed to reflect that structure. I can’t speak on the more grassroots type unions.
An underground cell? That sounds interesting, how did that work?
I was a union salt, or rather, I was sent into a specific workplace by the union as an undercover organizer to help them organize it. In my case, I was entering one of the most infamous workplaces in the U.$. My goal was to immerse myself with the working-class/the masses and commit myself to the struggle for socialism.
Why do you feel this type of organizing didn’t ultimately match your goals?
I believed that building up worker-power would lead to building up a pillar of support for socialism in the United $tates. My goals were political whereas the union’s were not – this is the fundamental conflict between my interests and theirs.
What kind of things did you end up doing that you felt were not aligned with your goals and politics? Were these tasks/projects unexpected when you first got into union organizing?
I thought I was going into the workplace to build relationships and serve in raising class consciousness, but ended up doing a bunch of non-campaign related tasks/projects, such as phonebanking for random surveys and canvassing for politicians I had never even heard of in neighborhoods nicer than the one I lived in. This was unexpected because I was sold such a militant/radical message by the persyn that recruited me. I had been upfront about my reasons for wanting to work for the union and how it related to my politics and this persyn told me that our goals were similar and that I was in the right place. So it was a surprise to me when I found myself doing a bunch of work that seemed no more radical than working for the Democrats.
Did your political line develop/change during this time? because of the work you were doing? or from external study on your own?
Yes. My political line changed drastically over my time with the union. Partially because of the work, but mostly from deeper study. Like I mentioned earlier, I salted at one of the most infamous workplaces in the U.$. and while the work in itself was difficult, no one there really belonged to the vulnerable population. You needed papers and a clean record for at least five years in order to work there. So I was working with a very different group of people – a group of people I began to understand more and more through my persynal political study. They were not the proletariat and they did not share the same interests with the proletariat. They were labor aristocrats who, despite not being unionized, still benefit from the spoils of global imperialism. I became disillusioned with my work after understanding the reactionary role labor unions and the labor aristocracy have actively played throughout the history of the United $tates and among the global proletariat.
Of course we should not be quick to draw general conclusions from our own limited experiences as that would be an empiricist error. Were you able to connect your experiences to the historic experiences of others?
I definitely do not think my experience can be used to make broad generalizations on how a typical rank-and-file organizer’s experience looks like given its unique form, but I think it does reflect an all too common experience faced by those organizers motivated by a genuine desire to struggle for revolution, but who misdirect their energy into union work, non-profit work or any other form of controlled opposition work that ultimately serves to further legitimize the bourgeois state. There is a bit of naivety that stems from a lack of skepticism towards such organizations and overall lack of experience from such organizers. That is the importance of studying historical experience; to help guide us on what works and what doesn’t work. For example, the experience I often connect (or at least keep in mind the most) was that of the historic IWW because they were an open anti-capitalist union with the goal of organizing all workers. In retrospect, they closely matched my goals and the goals of the other self-proclaimed communists I have worked with. They were relatively successful as a union and were perhaps the best case scenario regarding unions, yet they failed to carry out anything revolutionary and fell short of pushing an anti-imperialist line in fear of the repercussions they would face from the U.$. government. Self-preservation marked higher on the priority list than class struggle to a union of “radicals”; this seems important to keep in mind whenever you find yourself working in an organization full of liberals.
So the people you had worked with previously were also not unionized? but they were lacking in full citizenship rights, whether by birth or as punishment by the injustice system? What are your thoughts on the organizing potential there based on your experience and studies?
No, the people I had previously worked with were not unionized and the industry as a whole is typically non-union (with an exception of the more skilled within said industry that make up a very small portion of the workforce). There seems to be too many complications in trying to organize this workforce into a union, primarily because of how willing another persyn who is lacking full citizenship would be to replace them. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the consequences for this vulnerable population are much more detrimental, which lessens the likelihood of participating in a campaign that can risk their employment. Some people need a job to satisfy the terms of their parole and losing their job puts them at risk of going back to prison. When you’re in a more desperate situation, you’re more willing to put up with shit. With that being said though, I do think there is organizing potential among them – it just so happens not to be in labor. Most of them come from oppressed nationalities and their lack of full citizenship rights demarcates them further from being accepted by oppressor society, demarcating them from an amerikan identity. I believe there is potential to organize this particular population of the U.$. workforce around the national question, but only through practice will we see if this proves to be correct.
What do you see as possible solutions/roads forward for you or anyone who shares your goals? How do they contrast with the practices within the labor organizing movement in this country as you experienced it?
The struggle for better wages, universal healthcare, remote work opportunities , or whatever “communists” and liberals are fighting for (i.e. union work) will not lead to revolution – but rather further pacification – which will ultimately serve imperialism. Communists should aim to wage class struggle, not facilitate social work. If diversifying the beneficiaries of global imperialism sounds productive, then support a union. If not, then recognize the importance of keeping your politics in command. As a communist – the goal is revolution and the role we play is in advancing that goal. But we can’t advance our goal if we cannot admit that we need to re-assess the situation we are working in. This requires deep study. So take a step back and study seriously. We are working in very unique conditions and it is important that we understand these conditions if we are remotely serious in our politics. Fortunately for us, Chairman Mao formulated the fundamental question when it comes to making revolution: Who are our friends? And who are our enemies?
Texas prisoners face some of the harshest conditions in the kkkountry mainly due to neglect from prison staff, and disregard for prisoners’ health, safety and rights. For example recently in Estelle High Security we had received a report from one of our readers on dialysis, and a copy of eir grievance,
On 15 August 22 at 5:45PM-7:10PM 11 Dialysis patients were put in a van with NO Rear A/C. We got to the rear gate of high security at 6:10pm our officer driving the van told Lt. Phillips:
“Hey there’s Dialysis in the van and it’s hot for them.”
Lt. Phillips said ,“I don’t give a fuck, I’m crossing my kitchen crew to the main building. They can fucken wait.”
It was about 90 outside. Our officer driving the van told her again, “They just got off dialysis.”
This year has seen an increase in reports (at least 135 recorded by Texas Dept. of Criminal Injustice (TDCJ)) of censorship of mail from MIM(Prisons) across Texas, since the start of the J.F.I. As stated in the last 2 issues of ULK, the J.F.I. is simply organizing for prisoners’ legal rights as stated by the imperialist’s own laws (peacefully advocating for legal rights is not inciting a disturbance). Massive censorship continues in the Allred and Hughes Units, among many others, where conditions are some of the worst in the state. The reason behind this as stated before is to prevent organizing and political education from prisoners, and to limit their knowledge of their legal rights. The state’s interest are of population control, and torture (Restricted housing for decades is unconstitutional torture) along with the many cases of neglect beyond what’s referenced here.
"MIM Distributors and our subscribers within the TDCJ have exhausted all administrative remedies with our appeals, letters and grievances. The TDCJ is not interested in following the law on it’s own accord. Therefore we have begun to step up outside pressure on two fronts.
the legal front by filing a lawsuit
the public opinion front via our postcard campaign"
“A prisoner’s administrative remedies are exhausted when prison officials fail to timely respond to a properly filed grievance.” (Haight v. Thompson 763 F. 3d 554 (6th Cir 2014)) According to this, if they do not respond to our grievances we can go on to a §1983 Civil Action.
Anti-imperialist Prisoner support (AIPS) has been hitting the streets with ULK, J.F.I. Flyers, and postcards to be mailed to TDCJ’s Director’s Review Committee office and Jimmy Smith’s (Warden of Allred) office, collecting donations and educating those on the outside. We can always use more feet on the ground, and legal funds from those on the outside, more support in general.
This short summary of some of the conditions recently faced by Texas prisoners is a call to unite against all oppression, primarily against the United Snakes of Amerikkka, and to unify under the common banner of Anti-imperialism. Don’t let the divide and conquer tactics work as intended, this political oppression cannot and will not go unanswered. We need the people on the outside to support those on the inside in their efforts to further organize, rehabilitate, and educate in the United Struggle from Within in Texas. We need public opinion to shift, so keep on the pressure from both sides. The more they censor and oppress, bigger our fight gets!
Is it those who learned their lessons, From the oppression? The ones who kill their citizens, At their discretion? The ones who use racism, As a weapon? And got the entire country, Suffering from depression? They use retribution, As the solution. Got us bound by chains, In institutions. Therefore, the slave remains, No constitution, They wanna wash away my complexion, Like an ablution. I learn to rob and kill, From “The Establishment.” Same way they took this country, They were some savage men. They said me and my people, Were less than average men. When they kill my entire race What happens then? When the world turns yellow, How will they segregate? Will they then eradicate, The word miscegenate? When the country gains balance, How Will they legislate? Tell me, what group of people, Will they then confiscate?