The recurrence of police brutality and racial prejudice against U.$. oppressed nation groups that has captured widespread attention has also heightened the national question. More and more, oppressed nation communities and groups are expressing their discontent with a system of oppression that dehumanizes and marginalizes them. Mass protests have taken place, unrest has gripped cities, and organized movements have arisen all in direct response to these injustices. In other words, the demand for change by U.$. oppressed nations is beginning to define the national question.
These events signal a realization among U.$. oppressed nations that the prevailing system does not represent their interests, and that in fact, it functions at a disadvantage to them. While socioeconomic indicators reveal inequalities in communities of oppressed nations, they cannot communicate the dimensions of humyn misery and suffering that result from institutionalized racism and discrimination. Just as class consciousness begins to take root and grow within exploited workers as they question and share their experiences with each other, resulting in organizations and movements expressly designed to overcome their plight, so too does national consciousness follow this process as oppressed nations deal with the reality of national oppression.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is indicative of this process. It is not the recent sanctioned murders of oppressed nation youth alone that is responsible for this renewed activism, but the accumulation of years of national oppression. The quantitative development of the national question as it relates to U.$. imperialist society has reached a critical point. Either U.$. internal semi-colonies and oppressed nations are going to vie for liberation, or seek the path of reform and further integration. Thus, the question becomes how are we, as Maoists, going to nurture this emerging seed of awareness with revolutionary nationalism.
Ultimately national oppression informs the consciousness of oppressed nations within the unique conditions of U.$. imperialist society and there are implications from the BLM movement that are relevant to the larger national liberation movement. It is important to note that the BLM movement is not a revolutionary organization. Yet, BLM is instructive to our cause because it demonstrates the potential among U.$. internal semi-colonies and oppressed nations to be organized around issues of national oppression.
National Oppression and a Nation's Right to Self-Determination
For U.$. internal semi-colonies and oppressed nations the national question should be about realizing their right to self-determination. Oppressed nations are subject to semi-colonialism and thus have no control or power over their destiny. Because white supremacy dominates every aspect of the oppressed nation, their material existence merely functions as an afterthought to the white power structure.
Moreover, the white-setter nation-state has created mechanisms of social control to maintain dominance over oppressed nations. Mass incarceration, family and community dysfunction, the culture of stereotypes and stigmas, etc. are just a few means used to keep oppressed nations in check. To elaborate more on this point, the systematic restriction of access to meaningful education undermines access to meaningful job opportunities. No jobs means poverty and the social ills that accompanies it. In addition, institutionalized racism and discrimination inform attitudes and behavior that further creates a culture of inequality within communities of oppressed nations. As a result, some members of oppressed nations are compelled to pursue criminal lifestyles, opening themselves up to the repressive criminal injustice system.
While the above scenario is not representative of the entire oppressed nation it does speak to the need for national liberation and the exercise of a nation's right to self-determination. Granted, U.$. internal semi-colonies and oppressed nations enjoy living standards and privileges that their Third World counterparts would die for. Nevertheless, the reality of national oppression is no less detrimental to the U.$. oppressed nation. The hurt and pain associated with injustices of semi-colonialism is no less real.
These social experiences of national oppression take a mental toll on oppressed nations. Every day and every instance of national oppression that members of oppressed nations go through makes an impression upon their consciousness. Eventually, they begin to connect the dots and recognize the injustice of their situation in U.$. society.
What is National Consciousness?
Oppressed nations within U.$. borders develop an awareness due to enduring national oppression. This awareness is not revolutionary nor is it substantive. To be clear, any material situation that humyns inhabit conditions a corresponding awareness that reflects their living state. Marx and Engels developed the theory of materialist dialectics, which dictates that consciousness is a product of matter, the exterior world. The prison-house that is U.$. imperialist society is the physical world and the social, political, and economic relations and interactions that comprise it involve actual activity that is outside of our minds.
In this sense, the oppressed nations are subject to this dialectical process as these relations and interactions condition their consciousness. The activity of daily life within U.$. imperialist society makes an impression upon mental capacity. And as shown above, national oppression is a fundamental part of the daily life of these oppressed nations.
Furthermore, national consciousness is similar to class consciousness in that during the grind of daily life people exchange and engage ideas about their material situation, their living conditions. They begin to seek ways to resolve the issues that they face. Intellectuals gather to discuss, theorize, and come up with solutions to common problems. More importantly, institutions and organizations are founded to help push their agendas. All of these actions take place because somewhere down the line people got together after recognizing a problem.
Thus, when Marxists of old talked about building and deepening class consciousness among exploited workers, they were referring to a process in which people began to realize their predicament, but in a revolutionary manner. For us, as Maoists, our job at this hystorical point is to push forward national liberation struggles within oppressed nations with revolutionary nationalism. We must build national consciousness among oppressed nations so that these groups understand that concepts such as race are false and Amerika is not representative of their interests. These groups must come to understand that nations exist and that their respective nation is entitled to exercise its right to self-determination.
Why Black Lives Matter
The BLM movement is no different from the [email protected] movement that demanded repeal of the chauvinist, racist, tough-on-immigrant legislation in Arizona a few years back.
In the [email protected] communities, immigration is an extremely decisive issue. Obama's chauvinist policies have broken families apart, the mistreatment of migrant workers in the workplace has become all too frequent, and in general, under-served and under resourced [email protected] communities continue to suffer from inequalities and poverty. The fact that Arizona was trying to pass - and eventually passed - even more extreme anti-immigrant laws was just the straw that broke the camel's back, mobilizing the [email protected] community.
Similarly, national oppression has wreaked havoc on the New Afrikan community, as the New Afrikan is the face of inequality and injustice in the United $tates. New Afrikans, particularly the youth, are tired of the overt mistreatment. The BLM movement, while it arose in response to police brutality, embodies the anger and angst of the New Afrikan nation at the marginalization and repression they have suffered for years. Movements like these must be used to our advantage as they demonstrate that oppressed people are not just fed up with the system, they are willing to commit themselves to actually changing it.
One key implication that arises from this is the recourse for oppressed nations to overcome national oppression. Will U.$. oppressed nations vie for liberation or will they settle for reform, and by extension, assimilation and partial integration?
Mainstream media provide coverage on these events to control a group that might otherwise threaten the status quo. Therefore, they act as a supervisor rather than objective reporter all in an attempt to shape public opinion and undermine revolutionary organizing. This has serious consequences for the national liberation movement in the United $tates as a whole. This is why the BLM movement is critical, because we cannot allow the same outcome as took place at the end of the radical era of the 1960s.
The impact of national oppression on U.$. internal semi-colonies and oppressed nations has begun to push the national question forward. We are starting to see a realization emerge among oppressed nations that recognizes U.$. imperialist society is rife with inequalities and injustices. Only revolutionary nationalism can nurture and grow this seed of awareness. And if our goal is the liberation of oppressed nations within the United $tates then we must build their national consciousness in preparation. Movements like BLM illustrate the potential and activism that is alive within oppressed nations. The duty falls upon us to revolutionize it.
[This comment was submitted by a California death row prisoner to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in response to a "written public comment period" (closing 22 February 2016) on the topic of instituting death penalty by lethal injection in California. Any response to this letter will be posted here.]
No matter how it's accomplished legalized murder is still murder. Making it seem less cruel so it's not that unusual needs a lot of premeditation. And unfortunately the United $tates keeps drooling to kill people under the guise of "justice" around the globe.
The most sickening thing about the state governments still promoting legal murder within their borders is the warehousing of all those bodies awaiting the genocidal intention of their oppressor. These beast-like governments are scurrying to stack living bodies high in newly designed torture units based on the Pennsylvania model, which was ironically outlawed back in the 1890s then brought back in 1983 starting in Marion (in Illinois) and continues unchecked, merely shrouded in token reform despite the Convention Against Torture ratified by the United $tates in 1994 or the hunger strikes of 2011 and 2013. So who are the real psychopaths?
The general public's ability to research these facts is greater than a prisoner's, and of course this is by design as well. The oppressor is real, and just as it intentionally deprived its slaves from an education to keep them neutralized, submissive, unable to use the most powerful weapon to free themselves - their minds - because knowledge is power; it is still the mind our oppressor is aiming to destroy. Our bodies provide their sustenance. So it's no sign of relief simply because their methods of execution change.
Obama once went on TV saying Assad needs to be ousted for gassing to death his own people. He even talks down to the UN Assembly basically accusing it of having no balls and suggested threats, drones and missiles be launched at Syria as if that would promote mass peace in the region.
Several states, including California have a history of gassing to death their own people too. Some prosecutors rallied to bring back the gas chamber since suppliers of chemicals used by the state to "legally" murder its citizens are not wanting to sell them drugs meant for peaceful purposes — for extending and saving life rather than making a weapon of mass corruption to use against the minority nations.
If it's Obama's solution to oust the Assad regime/government than reason dictates that the Obama regime/government should be ousted for the same. What you are seeing is a chiseling away at human rights which is starting to expose the features of the beast within, not some random shape perceived in a passing cloud of one's overactive imagination. And the current government don't seem to have the balls to admit.
No doubt even throughout the global community many have heard of the infamous "3 Strikes Law." In California if someone gets 3 felony convictions they face a sentence of LIFE in prison. The law has created quite a bit of controversy and there's been a few token reforms to it that mean about as much as calling San Quentin (SQ) a "Correctional Center" instead of a prison.
SQ's Adjustment Center (AC) is also in the midst of controversy and in the process of implementing reactionary token reforms in much the same way. They also implemented what could be called "The 2 Strikes Law." The SQ oligarchy calls their oppressive tool of retaliation Operational Procedure (OP) 608 Section 825 A.4. Here's how it gets implemented:
On 25 December 2015 while en route to group yard Sergeant Rodrigues waved a piece of paper in a prisoner's face, after asking him if he remembered refusing to show his asshole to officer C. Burrise the other day. Rodrigues tells the prisoner he is going to the AC for receiving two serious Rules Violations Reports (RVRs) within 180 days of each other. A death row prisoner receives an indeterminate SHU term for that.
The two RVRs involve the prisoner's refusal to submit to unclothed body search procedures either prohibited by OP 608 Section 765(2) (local prison rules) and state law, or not applicable to East Block (EB) prisoners. In fact, before either of these RVRs were fabricated the prisoner had filed several staff complaints citing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and alleged "sexual harassment under the guise of security." The prisoner also wrote an informal letter to Specialized Housing Division Facility Captain J. Arnold asking him to abolish his "Perversion Enforcement Team Training Project" (PETT Project). That got the prisoner a punitive cell search response resulting in the confiscation of a loaner TV and theft of art supplies valued at $48. So now you know the motive. But let's see what else this means for ALL death row prisoners thinking Seigle & Yee are to the rescue.
Seigel & Yee are the attorneys currently representing the "AC class" regarding the long-term/indeterminate SHU program conditions experienced by death row prisoners in the AC. One prisoner who corresponded with Seigle & Yee attorney Emily Rose Johns in early 2014 from his recently acquired EB (SHUII) cell reports advising her a wave of prisoners formerly doing indeterminate SHU terms in the AC was flowing into EB and being assigned to the "Sun Deprivation Program."(1) This prisoner came over to EB just ahead of that wave. Johns's response to our dilemma was, "We intentionally kept the scope of the case narrow for many reasons, including out of respect for the experience prisoners in the AC had with the Thompson case."
So now it's about time that someone points out that experience prisoners in the AC had with the Thompson case, including not rescinding the 2 Strikes Law, and that OP 608 Sec. 825 A.4. is still being used as a revolving door into the abyss of indeterminate SHU terms. How leaving that door wide open could be hailed as a reform or "respect for the experience of prisoners in the AC had with the [SQ/Seigel & Yee] case" remains to be seen by a lot of prisoners literally LEFT IN THE DARK for years.
This unfolding experience brings to mind an article from a recent issue of Under Lock & Key.(2) It sets the record straight, explaining in detail the "reforms" hailed in the media regarding indeterminate SHU terms with respect to prisoners subject to the cruel and unusual conditions in the Pelican Bay gulag. Just as the so-called reform left the doors wide open to every other SHU in California's gulag system, merely limiting the time spent doing an indeterminate term at Pelican Bay to 2 years. It's nothing, NOTHING different than SQ's 2 Strikes Law being intentionally contested. Torture cannot be reformed. So the practice of long-term isolation must be ABOLISHED. The construction of more SHUs at SQ must stop because it is torture.
Beyonce is the Queen of pop in the United $tates, so this review isn't meant to uphold em as a revolutionary force. Eir ties to Empire and the lack of internationalism in eir recent series of publicity stunts is a reminder of Beyonce's attachment to U.$. institutions. Instead this article is meant to analyze eir performance at Super Bowl 50, and eir recently released song and music video, "Formation", from a revolutionary Maoist perspective.
The "Formation" video is the most interesting thing in pop culture in a long time, and the Super Bowl performance was likely the most interesting thing in all football history. Beyonce's dancers donned afros and berets (yet, not pants), and performed eir new song "Formation." Like Nina Simone, Beyonce is being compelled by the struggle of eir nation to take an explicit political position. Simone correctly stated that "desegregation is a joke" and Beyonce is suggesting that cultural integration is not worthwhile. After Martin Luther King was assassinated, Simone performed a poem which called for violent uprising against "white things", imploring New Afrikans to "kill if necessary" and to "build black things" and "do what you have to do to create life."(1) Simone was a reflection of eir nation at the time. While Beyonce’s twirling of albino alligators is a weak replacement for Simone’s poetic diatribe, we hope today's New Afrikans will keep pushing cultural icons in more militant and separatist directions.
Let's start with what holds this whole phenomena together. The lyrics for "Formation" are not revolutionary.(2) They promote consumerism, making billions, drinking alcohol, being light-skinned, and fucking. They primarily promote cultural nationalism and economic integration with Empire. What comment the lyrics make on the international relationship between New Afrika and the Third World is more promotion of Black capitalism, on the backs of the most oppressed people in the world – those who are slaving over eir Givenchy dress and dying to mine the diamonds in the Roc necklaces ey is rocking.
Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, correctly calls out Beyonce’s bad economic recommendations in this song, “her celebration of capitalism – an economic system that is largely killing black people, even if some black people, like her, achieve success within it – [has] also been a source of important critique.”(3) Although Garza’s comment is tame, it’s an important generalization to be made. Considering Garza’s following, it’s an important persyn to be making it.
On a positive note, the song celebrates New Afrikan culture that is still under so much attack in the United $tates. While we prefer the revolutionary content and gender relations contained in Dead Prez's "The Beauty Within", "Formation" is still an exercise of Black pride. Whether that pride is then mobilized into a revolutionary internationalist direction is up to the New Afrikan masses, who aren’t getting a whole lot of clarity from Beyonce on that tip.
“Formation” calls for New Afrikan unity of the sexes, and of females as a group (not unusual for Beyonce’s typical pseudo-feminist fare). In the lyrics about going to Red Lobster, or going on a flight on eir chopper, or going to the mall to shop up, Beyonce advocates a reward-based system for harmonious sexual relations. Beyonce also brings in gay and trans New Afrikan culture, from the use of the word “slay” over and over, to the voice samples and New Orleans Bounce style of music used for the song.(4) Resolution of gender antagonisms within New Afrika are a good thing. But if the goal is Black capitalism, that’s bad for the international proletariat and just an extension of the gender aristocracy phenomenon into the relatively privileged New Afrikan internal semi-colony.
MIM(Prisons) upholds the line that all sex under patriarchy has elements of coercion(5), and offering perks for enjoyable sex is still an expression of patriarchal gender relations even if Beyonce is not a typical male father figure. Within the predominantly white Amerikkkan nation, rewards for compliance with patriarchy help to unite Amerika against the oppressed nations.(6) But within the oppressed internal semi-colonies, these lyrics are more interesting, especially considering the long tradition of the Amerikkkan-male-dominated recording industry's use of divide-and-conquer tactics in selecting which music to record and promote. Beyonce isn't promoting sexual entitlement or sexual passivity – patriarchal values that do more to divide New Afrika in practice, and which are heavily promoted in mainstream culture. Assuming whoever is fucking Beyonce could still feed emself without relying on that trade, it's not a matter of life and death, and so these lyrics are less of a threat of starvation than a promotion of national unity. When united against a common oppressor, subsuming the gender struggle to the fight for national liberation, gender harmony in the oppressed nations can be a revolutionary force.
The best part about the song is the separatism and militancy. If the song were to get stuck in your head, it could be a mantra for working hard and uniting. It even gets into who the unity is directed against – Beyonce twirls on them haters, albino alligators. Ey twirls them, as in alligator rolls them, as in kills them. The haters are albino alligators, as in they’re white. Ey calls on others to slay these enemies, or get eliminated. In other words, choose a side.
The "Formation" music video, which was released as a surprise the day before the Super Bowl, is a celebration of New Afrikan national culture and a condemnation of oppression of New Afrikans. It is thick with important and unmistakably New Afrikan cultural references. Beyonce sings, poses, raises a Black fist, and drowns on top of a New Orleans Police car, sinking in floodwaters. A little Black kid hypnotizes a line of cops with eir incredible dancing, and the cops raise their hands in surrender. Beyonce raises two middle fingers on a plantation. There are references to the Moorish Science Temple, gay and trans New Afrikan culture, hand signs, a Black church service, and more, more, more...(7) "Stop Shooting Us" is spraypainted in the background. The subjects of the video look directly into the camera, confidently, and say "take what's mine," including Beyonce's kid Blue Ivy, complete with eir baby hair and afro.
This video doesn't clearly distinguish between integration and secession. Should New Afrikans just keep trying to make peace with Amerikkka, but while asserting a Black cultural identity? Should New Afrika honor its culture, and lives, by separating itself from Amerikkka and forming its own nation-state? Should this nation-state be capitalist or communist? Outside of a revolutionary context, much of the cultural markers that are present in this video could be taken as integrationist. Hopefully the militance and anti-white sentiment of the video will push New Afrika to get in formation to study up and push for actual (not just cultural) liberation from the many forms of oppression highlighted in the video.
The Super Bowl Halftime
That Beyonce was permitted to perform with dancers dressed up like the former Black Panther Party members is somewhat of a mystery. Is it because, ignoring any political content, one would still witness a show of tits and ass, so for the average ignoramus watching the biggest football event of the year, it's no different? Maybe it's because this year is the semi-centennial anniversary of the Black Panther Party, so it's gonna come up in mainstream culture sometime, might as well come up with lots of distraction from the political content. Or maybe the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement has made room for this performance to be possible, and perhaps even necessary to quell uprisings by helping New Afrika feel included in such a paragon cultural event. For whatever reason(s), it's obvious this half-time show would not have happened a few years ago. In fact, Beyonce led the entire halftime show in 2013 and while ey avoided any mention of patriorism, ey didn’t reference police brutality or New Afrikan nationlism either. It's a milestone, and one that shows Black pride is definitely resurfacing country-wide.
Not surprisingly, the Super Bowl has a long history of promoting white nationalism.(8) Some overt examples include in 2002 when U2 helped the country mourn 9/11, with Bono wearing a jean jacket lined with an Amerikkkan flag which ey flashed at the audience, with the names of people who died in the "terrorist" attacks projected in the background. In 2004, Kid Rock wore an Amerikan flag as a poncho, and when ey sang "I'm proud to be living in the U.S.A." over and over, two blondes waved Amerikan flags behind em. When necessary, the Super Bowl even has a tradition of promoting integration and "world peace," some of which we explore below. At this year's performance, Coldplay upheld these decidedly white traditions. Where there was one Amerikan flag, it was during Coldplay's portion of the performance. When there was feel-good bouncing and rainbow-colored multiculturalism, Coldplay was leading it. When the audience was told "wherever you are, we're in this together," the singer of Coldplay was saying it. It's not surprising that the white Coldplay frontman would be the one to promote this misguided statement of unity. As explored in the review of Macklemore's "White Privilege II" project, no, we're not in this together. And we don't need white do-gooders playing leadership roles that distract from national divisions, and thus, the potency for national liberation struggles.
At the end of the Coldplay-led halftime show, the stadium audience made a huge sign that said "Believe in Love." On the other hand, some of Beyonce's dancers were off-stage holding a sign that said "Justice 4 Mario Woods" for cameras. One is a call to just have faith that our problems will go away. Another is a call for a change in material reality: an end to murders by police. (Side note: Someone who was allegedly stabbed by Mario Woods just prior to Woods's 20-bullet execution has come out to tell eir story. Whether ey mean to or not, this "revelation" is being wielded in an attempt to discredit Beyonce as a competent political participant, and to lend more justification to the unnecessary police murder of Woods. Whatever Woods did just prior to eir execution, that ey is dead now is wholly unjustified. The demand for "Justice 4 Mario Woods" is correct, and underlines how New Afrikan people are gunned down in the streets without due process, which is supposedly guaranteed by the U.$. Constitution.)
While Beyonce's performance didn't break new ground by bringing up politics or social problems, it was done in a different way than in the past, that may be a marker for how our society has changed. The costume Beyonce wore, which was adorned with many shotgun shells, was a reference to the costume Michael Jackson wore during eir Super Bowl 1993 performance. Where Michael Jackson had banners of a Black hand shaking a white hand, Beyonce had Black Panther dancers, so touchdown for Beyonce. But where Beyonce sings "you might be a Black Bill Gates in the making", Jackson advocated for the children of the world because "no one should have to suffer." Beyonce's individualist capitalism is devoid of any awareness that today's New Afrikan wealth, especially of Gates proportions, is stolen by the United $tates military from exploited nations across the globe. Yet Jackson's multiculturalism invites unity with oppressor nation chauvinism, which historically usurps oppressed nation struggles and drives them into the ground.
In Janet Jackson's performance in 2004 (you know, the one where Justin Timberlake stalked em around the stage and then exposed Jackson's breast to the world), ey performed the song "Rhythm Nation." The video for "Rhythm Nation" features militant outfits, with pants. In the video, Jackson and eir dancers intrigue a few Black people who are wandering around what appears to be the Rhythm Nation's underground headquarters, another reference to the enchanting powers of dance. "Rhythm Nation" is about unity and brotherhood, "break the color lines", but it's not about Blackness.(9) At the Super Bowl, Jackson called out various injustices faced by oppressed nations (prejudice, bigotry, ignorance, and illiteracy) and called out "No!" to each one, but didn't make it about New Afrikan struggle. That Beyonce clearly delineates eir struggle from the struggle of whites with this performance is an advancement off of Jackson's.
On the topic of organizing females and combating New Afrikan female internalized racism, Beyonce’s performance is a step above other performances. A few examples: Nelly and P. Diddy's dancers in 2004 were dark-skinned but were straight-haired compared with Beyonce's backups. In 2004 they also wore straight hair, as in Madonna's performance in 2012 as well. Even though Madonna called on "ladies" like Beyonce does, Madonna called on them to cure their troubles on the dance floor. Beyonce calls on ladies to get organized (in formation). It should be obvious which message MIM(Prisons) prefers.
During Madonna's performance, MIA gave a middle finger to the camera during the lyric "I'ma say this once, yeah, I don't give a shit." But then MIA and Nikki Minaj joined a tribe of dark-skinned, straight-haired cheerleaders revering Madonna as their blonde, white idol. Beyonce's Panther dance-off with Bruno Mars is a step in a better direction. We also prefer Beyonce's dancers forming a letter "X" on the field (likely another New Afrikan reference), as opposed to Madonna's self-aggrandizing "M".
Whether it's dancing at the Super Bowl or dancing in front of a line of pigs, impressive dancing isn't what's going to get the New Afrikan nation out of the scope of Amerikkkan guns. Beyonce is a culture worker, so that's eir most valuable weapon at this time. As long as she keeps shaking her ass, white Amerikkka might stay hypnotized and let Beyonce continue to promote New Afrikan pride. Hopefully many people in New Afrika who watched the Super Bowl will study up on history, as Beyonce hints at, and revolutionary internationalism of the Black Panther Party can be injected tenfold into the growing Black Lives Matter movement.(10)
"White Privilege II"
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, feat. Jamila Woods
Released January 2016
This song calls people out about attending protests and tweeting, or being silent, instead of "actually getting involved" in fighting racism. The song is very introspective and what might sound like Macklemore (Ben Haggerty) dissing other artists is actually about Macklemore and Ryan Lewis themselves. Macklemore criticizes emself along with others for making money off a style that came from Black nation culture and acknowledges that "I've been passive." "It seems like we're more concerned with being called racist than we actually are with racism."(1) Ironically, the free song will make money for someone even if it's just through bringing more traffic to iTunes or YouTube, but that doesn't mean Macklemore isn't saying something correct.
On the plus side, Macklemore doesn't say anything supporting mass surveillance or the expansion or legitimization of the federal government's power ostensibly to protect Blacks. Macklemore doesn't explicitly oppose Black nationalism. Notably, Macklemore says that "white supremacy isn't just a white dude in Idaho" and that it "protects the privilege I hold" — taking issue with the idea that Euro-Amerikan domination and oppression are just about something inside somebody's brain among the white trash, rural people, or Republicans. Macklemore also raises that people's actions — or their inaction — taken so they won't be called "racist" are compatible with doing nothing that contributes to ending racism. As Macklemore might or might not know, in 2016 there is still a huge problem involving post-modernism-influenced efforts that emphasize changes in speech and thought, and perfecting those in increasing detail, over taking concrete action to end repression. Simply participating in a protest or saying some approving words about a well-known movement could become part of maintaining a non-racist or anti-racist identity with which one can be satisfied — a step toward contentment. Without development of knowledge and of the motivation to apply it scientifically, it could also be premature catharsis and a substitute for revolutionary work.
Also on the plus side is Macklemore's passing critique of petty-bourgeois "DIY" (do-it-yourself) culture that sometimes purports to be isolated from exploitation, corporations, finance capital, and imperialist oppression. "The DIY underdog, so independent. But the one thing the American dream fails to mention is I was many steps ahead to begin with."
Macklemore also mentions those who would praise eir song "Same Love" ("If I was gay, I would think hip hop hates me") because of its support for gay people, but disdain Black hip hop and claim "it's your fault if you run" in the context of police shootings. Macklemore implicates emself in the treatment of Blacks as inferior. "If I'm the hero, you know who gets cast as the villain." It is true that many in the United $tates and the West have rejected anti-imperialist ways of advancing gay people's rights, consider Muslim and oppressed nations to be incapable or less capable of change on gender questions without Western intervention, and cannot imagine how Black nationalism, [email protected] nationalism, First Nation nationalism and other oppressed nation nationalism would help with gay and lesbian liberation.
A voice that's not Macklemore's toward the end of the song mentions "a very age-old fight for black liberation." Unfortunately, there is no mention of Black nationalism specifically. There is no mention of the Black Panther Party, which at one time was Maoist.(2) The name "Black Lives Matter" shares an acronym with "Black liberation movement," and there are many around or associated with #BlackLivesMatter who claim to be for Black liberation. There are many, though, who are against even using the term, and there are others who explicitly reject Black nationalism, Black nation self-determination, Black nation independent institutions, and Black nation-building. If Macklemore wanted to be controversial, ey could have at least mentioned Black power, Black nationalism, the BPP, Huey Newton, or Malcolm X, but Macklemore doesn't manage to leave the realm of a kind of political correctness despite asking "Then I'm trying to be politically correct?" if ey stays silent. (Maybe eir verbal support for Black nationalism will come with "White Privilege III." Probably only if Blacks themselves start popularizing present-day nationalist struggles, for white rappers to tag on to.)
This reviewer would suggest to Macklemore that, from the point of the view of the oppressed, sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something when it comes to non-lumpen white Amerikans such as emself who usually would do nothing to upset business as usual, including Democratic Party business. Contentment and apathy are bad things when there is really a potential to help the oppressed, but it is clear that when Amerikans become militant or excited it is normally for the worse. Militant integrationism and militant labor aristocracy politics are not better than nothing from the viewpoint of the international proletariat.
For example, vigorously upholding certain aspects of Martin Luther King while pooping on Huey Newton and even Malcolm X is not better than nothing. Joining the outrageously chauvinistic and labor aristocracy-influenced Progressive Labor Party — which opposed Black nationalism when the BPP was around and still being ferociously repressed — and continuing in 2016 the PLP tradition of criticizing Black and other internal semi-colony nationalism isn't better than nothing. Talking about the Black nation occasionally, but all but rejecting Black nationalism (and supporting it only nominally), and making mealy-mouthed innuendo against Black nationalists as a group, isn't better than nothing. Insinuating that all oppressed-nation nationalism is narrow nationalism, while advocating for U.$. exploiter class/individual unity and economic and political interests, isn't better than nothing. Rejecting Black nationalism in the name of "multiracial" unity for more super-profits in the parasitic United $nakes isn't better than nothing. Talking about white supremacy and then actively denying the existence of Euro-Amerikan national oppression of Black people isn't better than nothing. Talking about oppression of Black people only to hitch people to U.$.-centric social-democracy or a fascist party isn't better than nothing (in other words, voting for Bernie Sanders isn't better than doing nothing). Trying to rile up the labor aristocracy and the U.$. middle class as if they were revolutionary, instead of petty-bourgeois exploiters prone to supporting fascism, isn't better than nothing. Stirring up exploiters to march in the streets to jail some bankers, without giving up their aspirations to control and obtain more benefit from finance capital and imperialist state power, isn't better than nothing. Attacking Third World peoples in various chauvinistic ways while flattering and pandering to the already-chauvinistic and racist labor aristocracy and gender aristocracy, of highly privileged U.$. so-called "workers" and globally privileged Euro-Amerikan females, is not better than nothing.
Amerikkkans who are already going around the United $tates and the world disrupting movements against U.$. imperialism certainly should recognize the privilege they exercise in doing so, instead of, for example, denying that viable alternatives to what they are doing exist. Both white people and non-white people should understand how Euro-Amerikans, including Euro-Amerikan settler nation workers, are privileged as settlers, oppressors, and exploiters.
There is less utility, though, in whites dwelling on their particular privilege as individuals with skin privilege, certain family history, etc., rather than the privilege of their group in very broad social relationships of global national oppression and exploitation. Suggesting listeners also "look at" themselves, Macklemore talks more about emself as an individual, than about Euro-Amerikan labor aristocrats as a group. Focusing on race and variation in individual privilege could draw attention away from national oppression by whites and the labor aristocracy privilege that U.$. citizen workers have in common. Ideas about inequality within U.$. borders have long been used to make the political and strategic consequences of global international inequality seem less important. Ideas about white privilege and individual self-reflection often don't address how the vast majority of U.$. citizens are exploiters of Third World workers. Often these calls to anti-racist activism end up as an exercise in that white privilege on a global scale.
Euro-Amerikan acknowledgment of privilege could be a welcome step toward ideological reform and taking responsibility for police and criminal injustice system violence and other wrongdoing, how whites have benefited economically, nationally and socially from imprisonment and control of non-whites, war, national oppression, exploitation, and their consequences. But this recognition would have to be more than halfway, not partial, or it may end up obscuring and legitimizing the majority of a typical Euro-Amerikan's privilege under the guise of moving toward helping non-whites.
At this point in history, the oppressed generally don't need unscientific leadership or militant do-something impulsive actions. That may not leave Euro-Amerikans much to do if they decline to study their position, and the position of the U.$. population, in an actually comprehensive way. They can be cautious about accepting any prevailing narrative. They can be wary of potentially following any Amerikan leader into fascism and destruction. Labor aristocrats will do what they need to do in anti-war or anti-single-war movements, and other movements, to remind politicians to act in their interests and spend more super-profit tax money on them as allegedly anti-Iraq-War Obama did. We don't want a broad anti-racist call to action to end up inspiring more Amerikkkans to fight for their own global interests.
Macklemore raps about whites protesting and "seeming like you're down" as having an "incentive" to do so, in order to be liked and accepted. Oppressors do have an incentive to co-opt movements or use them for career reasons, but the oppressed have an incentive to fight. There's nothing wrong with incentive itself, contrary to mistaken notions that all activism should be altruistic. The notion that whites should have selfless pure motives in participating in or supporting a movement around killings of Black people could actually be an admission that whites don't have an interest in the movement contrary to ideas about Black people's struggles positively intersecting with white worker, and white petty-bourgeois individual so-called liberation. Either whites have an interest in opposing police and vigilante brutality or they don't, and most don't.
More important than whether somebody has "incentive" or not is whether ey is standing in the way of Black nationalism or not. Macklemore's lyrics suggest a tension between "do something" and "don't do it for you." Labor aristocracy and petty-bourgeois types would add, "Do it, because it's in your own interest." There is an alternative to more-involved labor aristocracy activism or more-energetic integrationist activism, and that is to support anti-Amerikan Black nationalism and movements and institutions that are independent of Democratic Party and white exploiter interests and politics. Short of that, Macklemore's expression of "we are not we" (as opposed to "we are not free") is to be preferred to whites' falsely identifying with Blacks, claiming to be one with them, and derailing their movement via "All Lives Matter" sentiments.
I am currently writing to you from inside the walls of Georgia's Hancock State Prison where I am housed in its Tier II program. I am writing in hopes that I can be one of those who receives Under Lock & Key issues because I have a supreme respect for its message. I really value its information and am in hopes that I can help in spreading its message to the unconscious minds that fill these prison cells to its fullest capacity.
Also I would like to study and learn as much about Maoism, as I have taken his views as mine thus far. Me and three of my comrades have been rotating the few issues available among one another, and have taken to your 6 points and 5 principles as the foundation of our Guerrilla Union. We all come from different sides, but through awareness of the truth taught by you comrades of MIM we've put these titles aside and are now striving to build a strong unity under Maoist teachings and play our part in the struggle towards a socialist/communist society. Whatever must be done will be done on our end. This paper would do a lot for us.
Keep spreading the word cause with us it starts inside but continues when we return to the streets. Please keep me in mind, for I am a sincere comrade, and once again your paper would mean a lot to my strive. Your brother in the struggle, UHURU. Let's get free!!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is on the same track as thousands of other prisoners across the United $tates who have discovered that Maoism isn't just words written by some long-dead persyn from China, but a living philosophy that can be applied to current conditions of oppression around the world. This should be no surprise, even to the imperialists if they are paying attention. Maoism is merely the practice and application of scientific thought, or as communists call it, dialectical materialism. We learn from history and apply those lessons to advance our theoretical understanding.
Prisoners, who are among the most oppressed people within U.$. borders, can see from their everyday experiences that the oppressors aren't giving up their power without a fight. This is just one example of why Maoists understand the need for a dictatorship of the proletariat after the people overthrow the imperialist governments. We need a system that can enforce the power of the people, even when the oppressors try to claw their way back into power.
And once we have established a system of government that is serving the interests of the majority of the world's people rather than the minority, history teaches us that we still can't rest easy. It's not just the old bourgeoisie of capitalism who will present a threat, but the new bourgeoisie that will arise and hope to seize power from within the party and government. This drive for persynal power and wealth is a remnant of capitalist culture that won't disappear overnight after a socialist revolution.
It is these lessons, among others, that prisoners must study to help build an organization that can eventually join the oppressed nations of the world in successfully ending the reign of terror of the imperialists. Thankfully MIM(Prisons) distributes many of these materials and helps run study courses on vital topics. Write to us at the address on p. 1 to get involved!
I am not a murderer
yet i am not free
I am not alone in this struggle
I'm not ever going to putt or give up
Like my blood kin have done
on themselves and me
I'm not racist, but I'm white
but I find no pride in the latter
or excuses in the former
I am not religious
Science has proven evolution
Therefore I'm atheist
What's your excuse?
I am not some scholar or martyr
Just a man skating on the edges of insanity
Because of my country
And its 'cruel world' hypocrisy
I'm the person lifting and dropping this pen
but these words aren't just mine
I am not alone in this emotion
going to accept this system
I'll fight it to my death (I swear!)
I am not you
I am not an Amerikkkan
And I will never ever be
To fight oppression
We advocate secession
Lest we fall, we unite
And stand tall
We heed the call
To revolt, in mass
All or one, one for all
To fight oppressor class
Procrastination long past
Now their reign
It won't last
Oppression we slew
Liberation, in full view
We're made strong
Brings vast improvement
We study in group
We unite in troup
We are cadre
Benevolent, your padre
Heed to call
Together let's stand
Alone, we stumble, then fall
Heed the Call
"We seldom, if ever, think of ourselves as among those petty-bourgeois forces in need of committing 'class suicide' - but We must remember where We are. Here in the seat of empire, even the 'slaves' are 'petty-bourgeois,' and our poverty is not what it would be if We didn't in a thousand ways also benefit from the spoils of the exploitation of peoples throughout the world. Our passivity wouldn't be what it is if not for our thinking that We have something to lose." - James Yaki Sayles, Meditations on Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth, p. 188
I believe this quote may be of some interest to you in your development of the First World Lumpen (FWL). I believe this applies more to the Euro-Amerikkan than to the nationless New Afrikan who falls into the class lumpenproletariat (LP) by default of lacking a class society of its own.
I am aware that the New Afrikan lumpenproletariat (NAL) is more privileged than the Third World lumpenproletariat (TWL). But not privileged enough to make it reactionary. The LP of Amerikkka is majority New Afrikan - or an oppressed nation, which changes the quality of the question. So it is not just a LP, but LP of an oppressed nation. This qualitative leap in the discussion pushes us to do a through theoretical analysis on the LP from all sides of the question.
The contradiction may look like this: First World lumpen and New Afrikan lumpen.
Then it can be stated as this: Euro Amerikan FWL and New Afrikan FWL
Then Euro-Amerikan FWL must be understood to be reactionary as it is majority white nationalist (racist). They consist of oppressor nation background.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have a lot of unity with this comrade on assessing the national contradiction between oppressed and oppressor nation lumpen. As we get into in the Lumpen Class Analysis article in ULK 51, we make a distinction between the lumpenproletariat and the First World lumpen that gets at this comparison between the NAL and TWL the writer points out. We find the lumpenproletariat in countries where there is a sizable proletariat, while the First World lumpen exists in First World countries where there is almost no proletariat to speak of, and this later group benefits from living in an imperialist country.
Further, we agree that there is an important overlap between class and nation when it comes to the lumpen. The national privilege of the oppressor nation makes it unlikely that the lumpen from that nation will be revolutionary, while national oppression puts the lumpen from oppressed nations more likely to be on the side of the world's oppressed. In fact, we believe that the class privilege enjoyed by the oppressor nations extends to encompass any potential white nation lumpen to the extent that they can effectively be considered part of the petty bourgeois class from the perspective of class consciousness. And so when we talk about First World lumpen, we are usually looking at oppressed nation lumpen only.
I am a true soldier for the cause of change and the fight it takes to accomplish it. I have been housed at Pelican Bay State Prison since 2013, after being released for a sticking. My prior dealings with this place dates back to 1996 when I did my first bid. Currently I have chosen to embrace change and growth as well as a United Front for Peace at Pelican Bay State Prison.
I am currently involved in "P.E.A.C.E.", Prisoners Embracing Anti-hostilities and Cultural Evolution. We have been going strong for over 8 months. Our cause is based on embracing anti-hostilities and cultural evolution amongst Africans, Hispanics, Whites, Asians, Islanders, and Native Americans by way of partaking in tournaments of basketball, handball, volleyball and having made a conscious choice for change.
These efforts are not being taken lightly by this prison, and every effort is being made to stomp our push for change. The oppressor has refused to follow any of their own set rules and regulations as far as Inmate Leisure Time Activity Groups (ILTAGs) are concerned and assisting our approved ILTAG from running said tournaments without any hassle or fear of our sponsor being prevented from performing his duties without constant nickel and dime harassment tactics.
Pelican Bay State Prison is not open for change. I have been placed in Ad-Seg due to what staff here refer to as "causing ripples." I did 9 months with no charges or a finding of guilt as to that 115 [Disciplinary Report]. A comrade took on the Men's Advisory Council chairman job and raised many concerns of the general population, only to find their house searched by squad numerous times, and constantly given urine tests, though none of these tactics ended with any findings of guilt.
I have so much to share with you all including the atmosphere on these main lines and the new tactics being used to incite violence, chaos and riots. I am on the front line as are so many other brethren here, but we need that voice and the way shared with us on how to proceed in the correct way.
I wish to further educate the masses here at Pelican Bay State Prison as do others, but we seriously need a support system from the outside. Just like the distance of this place from civilization, this is what it feels like to seek rehabilitation, peace, and change at a place that specializes in oppressing. Prisoners' mail is not going out or coming in, and there is no way to prove either way, the 602 [prisoner grievance] process is in shambles; even when you win in this prison you still lose. Every action causes a reaction and Pelican Bay is notorious for their continued nit picking until they get the reaction they are seeking: chaos, violence, riots and disunity amongst prisoners.
We humbly ask for your assistance in bringing change to Pelican Bay State Prison, and the followers you possess in how to proceed. Please include all information and knowledge needed to proceed. Contact myself, and all will be shared with the men concerned. P.E.A.C.E.