This article is to announce the short-term success of our recent campaign to keep our website alive. After proposing that our limited comrade time might be better spent on pushing forward our prisoner support work, we launched a campaign to engage our online readers. With minimal effort, we have received a substantive response indicating that we were incorrect to hypothesize that we could not mobilize our online readers to contribute to this project as our prison-based readers have from the beginning.
In just five months we've seen our volunteer base and collaborative work grow enough to convince us that web development is a good use of our limited comrade time. But as we pointed out in that article, regular contributions are much more useful than sporadic ones, so we must keep up this trend. We have gained at least one regular financial contributor, which more than covers the cost of keeping our website online. We encourage our other volunteers to stick to it.
A note to potential financial contributors, we had been soliciting postage stamps, however we are approaching our limits on how many we can use, especially since this is the main way that prisoners send donations. So new contributors should consider sending cash, blank money orders or bitcoin.
Those watching our website may have noticed us taking down some requests for help as volunteers have stepped up. While not all have proven themselves yet, we have received responses to diverse needs. By offering up more specific tasks, we've inspired our readers into action, proving they are more than just web traffic statistics. This also proved that lack of focused leadership on our part was part of the problem.
It was not just online readers who responded to our call. One United Struggle from Within leader put forth a proposal to our annual congress to up the enrollment fees for our correspondence study groups and to only provide hard-to-find books to those who pay for them. Another USW comrade proposed that we remove people from the ULK mailing list faster to cut costs. We adopted new policies incorporating both proposals, which should help on the postage side of things. One comrade even spoke of the impact the website had on em from prison, demonstrating that the website directly contributes to our prison-based work.
In addition to the new contributors we've gained in recent months, we've seen an increase in comradely projects putting out good material. This can help us directly by providing material for our newsletter and study groups. But it also helps the movement in general. Supporting MIM(Prisons) is a great way to contribute as we have a proven track record. But we need more projects than the Prison Ministry. So don't let the scope of our work limit you if you can contribute in bigger and better ways.
While things will roll out slowly as usual, we will be continuing to improve and add content to our website in coming months. We also want to put a call out there for supporters who want to contribute as part of a cyber promotion campaign. This is something that you can easily do on your own, and there is no limit to how many can help promote our work and MIM line in whatever forums you are active. Or get in touch for ideas of outlets for promotion.
There is no doubt that setting up secure, reliable institutions on the internet is a needed task. While platforms owned by transnational corporations may have tactical use for promotion, with proper precautions in place, they cannot be our base of operations. Prisoncensorship.info has contributed in this regard and with your support we will continue to work to strengthen it as an independent institution of the oppressed.
It has been some time since we connected, 7 or 8 years I'd say. I was a regular subscriber and poetry/prose contributor over the years I was a fedz prisoner.
As I'm sure the question looms, "how does one find himself back inside?" Especially after having done 17 years fedz? Well, while one exited within a progressive state of mind; obtaining an AA in 15 months; doing 40 hours a week volunteering at a program benefiting those with felony backgrounds; rebuilding broken ties to my three adult children; getting into Junior University even!
What I did not get enough of was mental health treatment! All of those yard riots, overt violence and isolation took a toll it seems! After an all-out melee while attending a birthday party, i began suffering flashbacks, nightmares, and chronic insomnia. A professional diagnosed me with PTSD and recommended medication for sleep and anxiety. I refused out of ignorance, erroneously thinking it'd tamper with my brain. Shortly thereafter, an infrequent sexual partner spit on me. My response was to hit her repeatedly. An act i am ashamed of and totally out of character. While there were no bodily injuries (serious), i was convicted at a farce of a trial of multiple charges including burglary 1, assault 2, assault 4 x2, etc.
And given what is called "dangerous offender" enhancement "45 years"! More time than a murderer. My attorney deliberately aided state in suppressing my mental health files and permitted my past organizational ties/prison B.S. to be used as fear inciter. Thankfully, they were in such a rush to get the so-called "gang leader" they made a multitude of errors! Any one of which could/should get one a new trial. Picture a trial where three separate jurors have a connection to the DA or testifying witnesses. Or a defendant with documented PTSD being purposely misdiagnosed (via reading past fedz writeups) as having "personality disorder" so as to justify and legitimize the dangerous offender enhancement. The struggle continues.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We print this letter because it's a good example of what happens to comrades once they hit the streets. Even those with the best of intentions and solid connections and infrastructure on the outside can struggle to stay out of trouble after years of torture and abuse behind bars. This is something we are interested in hearing more about from released and re-admitted comrades alike: what can be done to address mental health issues, both before release and on the streets, to help people stay out of prison?
We understand this comrade's hesitation in participating with mental health programs even after eir diagnosis of PTSD. There is a long, long history of unethical medical experimentation on oppressed peoples, even those considered U.$. citizens. And the medical and psychology industries in the United $tates are so closely tied up with capitalist ventures, it's difficult to know if you're getting accurate or truthful information about treatment or drugs being prescribed.
This anecdote also paints a portrait of how prisons are used for social control even beyond the prison walls. Violent prison conditions lead to psychological traumas, there's no treatment, and then those psychological traumas carry on post-release and infect interpersynal relationships, ultimately landing people back in jail.
In general, bourgeois psychological treatment focuses on helping people adapt to the fucked up conditions of imperialism. If you are depressed about how unfair and disgusting humyn societies are, that's a valid and natural response. Bourgeois psychology would try to put you on anti-depressants and convince you it's your problem you're depressed — something wrong with your brain. MIM(Prisons) would highlight that this is a social problem, that your brain is in perfect working order, and try to rally you to channel that depression and frustration into working to change these conditions. 9 times out of 10 working on a political project you really believe in will help relieve psychological symptoms caused by the alienation of capitalism.
However, in some cases simply acting doesn't break one out of a mental health crisis. As much as we try to overcome it on our own, sometimes addressing the psychological challenge head-on is an important accompaniment to, or sometimes precursor of, political activism. We're not saying to just go along with whatever treatment plan some quack doctor recommends. But it's important to smartly tap into these resources in order to further one's ability to do political work on an as-needed basis. For example, if this comrade got treatment for their PTSD, ey may have been better able to control eir anger, and thus may have avoided catching another bid.
Eventually we aim to run our own Serve the People medical programs, like the Black Panther Party was doing in their heyday, combining much-needed services with political education against imperialism. Until then we just try to use the few helpful resources available to us to better our ability to do political work, while we build toward that future.
A former prisoner of the state of North Carolina has filed suit against the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) for regularly censoring eir subscription to Under Lock & Key (ULK) without due cause. In December 2015, U.S. Marshals were ordered by the U.S. District Court to serve Cynthia Bostic and Fay Lassiter with the complaints. Lassiter was the Chair of the Publication Review Committee, who would send MIM Distributors a "letter to publisher" every two months stating that the latest issue of ULK was disapproved for delivery. Usually the reason given was "D Code" or "encourages insurrection and disorder."
Cynthia Bostic was the Assistant Section Chief of Support Services, who was in charge of reviewing these decisions. Every two months a volunteer legal assistant would write Bostic to appeal the censorship and she would respond upholding the decision. This went on for 3 years straight with every issue being censored, every appeal being denied, and no specific justifications being given for the censorship.
In an attempt to investigate the so-called "review process" our volunteer filed a public information request with the state and began shopping the case to some civil rights lawyers in North Carolina. It was around this time that our appeal was granted for ULK Issue 36. Yet, none of the copies sent to prisoners in North Carolina were subsequently delivered. Presumably the state just threw our mail away. So we went ahead and sent new copies of ULK 36 with copies of the letter from Bostic saying that this issue was approved. These too were censored! As most prisoners know, but some readers on the street may not, it can be a real battle just to get these people to follow their own rules and decisions. Like the comrade filing the suit stated in a recent interview, "there are no rights, only power struggles."
We want to commend this comrade for taking up this battle after eir release from prison. This is a shining example of carrying on the struggle for those ey left behind. And it shows leadership and self-reliance to come out and wage what will likely be an uphill battle against the state for basic rights. At the same time, the battle will be so much easier from the outside where one does not have to worry about constant harassment, mail being thrown out and being denied access to law books (North Carolina does not have law libraries in its prisons). The local report on eir lawsuit states that ey will be doing a fundraising campaign, and we encourage people to support em.
This battle is ongoing, as North Carolina continues to ban almost every issue of ULK statewide, despite the fact that Lassiter and Bostic are no longer involved in these decisions. Perhaps not surprising for a state that was recently told by a Federal court that its voting laws were illegal for disenfranchising New Afrikans. A lawsuit like this is needed to take the censorship struggle in NC to the next level. Bourgeois democracy will never guarantee the rights of the oppressed. But we can use lawsuits tactically to win battles when we are clearly in the right according to their own rules and principles.
Desde el año 2001, Mohamedou Ould Slahi ha estado [email protected] en centros secretos de detención por orden del gobierno amerikano. Primero en Mauritania (el país donde nació), después en Jordania, y finalmente en 2002 fue encarcelado en la Bahía de Guantánamo, donde todavía está. En septiembre 29, 2001, Slahi se entregó voluntariamente a la policía Mauritania; estaba [email protected] de que iba a ser [email protected] ya que era inocente de cualquier crimen. Pero en lugar de ser [email protected], sufrió años de tortura. Al inicio mantuvo su inocencia hasta que se dio cuenta de que no iba a ser [email protected] y hasta que no pudo soportar más el sufrimiento. Desde ese momento, Slahi empezó a confesar cualquier cosa que sus captores querían que dijera. Ocasionalmente, Slahi les decía la verdad cuando le preguntaban directamente y también cuando sabía que sus cuentos no eran consistentes ni podían ser ratificados porque sus ‘confesiones’ fueron totalmente fabricadas. Pero fue después de empezar a dar
confesiones falsas e implicar falsamente a otros que a Slahi se le permitió
dormir y comer e incluso paró el extremo maltrato físico. Los detalles de su
tortura harán que los lectores se pregunten: ¿Cómo pudo durar tanto tiempo?
En 2005, Slahi empezó a escribir sobre sus experiencias (después de que le dieron papel y bolígrafo) y finalmente, después de muchos años de batallas jurídicas, su manuscrito, que fue fuertemente censurado, fue liberado por el gobierno americano. Este libro es una versión editada de la historia de Slahi y contiene las redacciones originales. El editor, Larry Seims, incluye algunas especulaciones de las razones de dichas redacciones y documenta información desclasificada que confirma lo que Slahi escribió. A pesar de la censura excesiva, el manuscrito incluye detalles sorprendentes sobre las experiencias de Slahi, por ejemplo: los años de tortura que sufrió, evidencia incuestionable de su inocencia, y el deseo del gobierno americano de una confesión falsa. El libro está escrito en inglés, el cuarto idioma de Slahi, uno que aprendió en la cárcel para poder comunicarse mejor con sus captores y para poder entender lo que sucedía a su alrededor. Durante seis años y medio, Slahi no pudo tener contacto con el mundo exterior. Incluso, fue ocultado
del ‘International Committee of the Red Cross’ (el Comité Internacional de la
Cruz Roja – CICR) que tiene un mandato bajo los Convenios de Ginebra de visitar a los prisioneros de guerra y a las personas que fueron detenidas en
situaciones similares a Slahi, para asegurarse de que son tratados humanamente. Durante el primer año de su encarcelamiento, la familia de
Slahi ni siquiera sabía dónde estaba y solo lo descubrieron cuando uno de sus
hermanos vio un artículo en un periódico alemán. En 2008, Slahi finalmente se le concedidó el ‘privilegio’ de poder llamar a su familia dos veces al año. En
2010, la petición de habeas corpus, que ordenaba su liberación, fue concedida
por el ‘DC Circuit Court of Appeals’ (Corte de Apelaciones de Estados Unidos
para el Circuito del Distrito de Columbia). Pero la administración de Obama presentó una apelación y Slahi permanece aun en custodía.
La dominación global del imperialismo Amerikano
Las tantas personas que fueron detenidas y secuestradas de sus países nativos, y que fueron mandadas a la Bahía de Guantánamo, enfatizan el estado neo-colonial de esos países. Como Slahi explica, “El 28 de noviembre es el día de la independencia de Mauritania; simboliza el evento cuando la república islámica de Mauritania supuestamente declaró independencia de los colonizadores franceses en 1960. Irónicamente, en ese mismo día en 2001, la independiente y soberana república de Mauritania entregó uno de sus propios ciudadanos en una premisa. Además de su deshonra eterna, el gobierno de Mauritania no solo rompió la constitución, que prohíbe la extradición
de los criminales Mauritanos a otros países, sino que también extraditó a un
ciudadano inocente, exponiéndole a la impredecible justicia amerikana.”
Cuando el CICR por fin consiguió ver a Slahi, el último detenido que
tuvieron permiso para ver, intentaron [email protected] hablar del abuso que sufrió.
“Siempre escondí los maltratos cuando me lo preguntaba el CICR porque tenía
miedo de la represalia. Eso y el hecho de que el CICR no tiene ningún poder
real sobre el gobierno amerikano; el CICR intentó, pero el gobierno amerikano
no cambió de ruta, ni siquiera una pulgada. Si dejaban al CICR ver a un
detenido, significaba que la operación contra ese detenido se había terminado.” (p348)
Este libro enfatiza el poder del imperialismo amerikano y el hecho de que
puede hacer lo que quiere en este mundo. No hay ningún gobierno ni organización que pueda luchar contra este poder. Muchos amerikanos se enorgullecen de esto, pero esto es el poder de una gente que quiere dominar el mundo para ganancias económicas. Cuando los oprimidos contraatacan, el poder es desplegado para aplastar a la resistencia por cualquier medio necesario. Por supuesto hay una contradicción inherente en este poder: la dominación del imperialismo amerikano engendra resistencia de los oprimidos en todo el mundo. Los llamados ataques terroristas dirigidos a los E$tado Unido$ (EE.UU) son reacciones al terrorismo amerikano en todo el mundo. Como Slahi escribió cuando estaba viendo la película ‘Black Hawk Down’ (La caída del halcón negro): “Los guardias se volvieron locos emocionalmente porque vieron a muchos amerikanos asesinados a balazos. Pero no se dieron cuenta de que el número de víctimas amerikanas es insignificante comparado con los somalís que fueron atacados en sus propias casas. Me quede pensando cómo la gente puede tener la mente tan cerrada. Cuando la gente ve algo desde solo una perspectiva, fracasan en ver el escenario total, y esa es la razón principal de la mayoría de los malentendidos que a veces resultan en
confrontaciones sangrientas.” (p320)
No estamos de acuerdo de que solamente son estos malentendidos que resultan
en estas confrontaciones sangrientas. Pero, más bien es el hambre de sangre de
la agresión imperialista que continuamente busca nuevas fuentes de riqueza
explotada y riqueza robada que inevitablemente resulta en las confrontaciones
Aunque Slahi está lejos de ser radical políticamente, sus experiencias le educaron sobre la realidad de la injusticia y la definición del crimen por los
que están en poder. Escribiendo sobre su arresto y encarcelamiento inicial en Mauritania: “¿Por qué tenía tanto miedo? Porque la delincuencia es algo relativo; es algo que el gobierno define y redefine cuando le da la gana.” (p92)
La guerra contra el Islam
El objetivo de la agresión de los EE.UU cambia dependiendo de donde este la
mayor resistencia al imperialismo. A mitad del siglo XX la agresión fue
concentrada en los países comunistas, esto luego cambió a finales del siglo XX a la guerra contra las drogas en Latinoamérica, y después al mundo árabe al principio del siglo XXI. Slahi está fuertemente consciente de esta reciente ola de agresión por [email protected] imperialistas [email protected] dirigida al Islam y la hipocresía de este ataque:
“…[email protected][email protected] suelen ampliar el círculo de los que están involucrados para
poder atrapar el mayor número de musulmanes posible. Siempre hablan de una gran conspiración en contra de los EE.UU. Yo personalmente fui [email protected] sobre la gente que solamente practican lo básico de la religión y que simpatizan con los movimientos islámicos; me preguntaron sobre cada detalle de los movimientos islámicos, sin importar que tan moderadodos fueran. Es sorprendente que en un país como los EE.UU, donde organizaciones terroristas cristianas como los nazis y los defensores de la supremacía de la raza blanca tienen la libertad de expresarse y reclutar gente públicamente sin repercusiones. Sin embargo, si eres musulmán y si simpatizas con las opiniones políticas de una organización islámica, tendrás grandes problemas. Incluso asistir a la misma mezquita que un sospechoso resultaría en apuros serios. Esto es evidente para todos [email protected] que entienden los componentes de la política amerikana hacia el supuesto terrorismo islámico.” (p260-61)
Slahi también documenta la denegación de las prácticas religiosas en los campos de detención:
“Pero en los campos secretos, la guerra contra la religión islámica era más obvia. No solo no había señales hacia Meca, sino las oraciones rituales también fueron prohibidas. Recitar el Corán fue prohibido. Ayunar fue prohibido. Poseer el Corán fue prohibido. Prácticamente cualquier cosa relacionado con islam fue estrictamente prohibido. No estoy hablando de rumores; estoy hablando de mis experiencias personales. No creo que el estadounidense común esté pagando impuestos para librar una guerra contra el islam, pero sí creo que haya gente en el gobierno que tiene un problema grande con la religión islámica.”(p265)
Slahi no se da cuenta de que este chovinismo no es un problema que [email protected][email protected] tienen con la religión islámica, sino que es un problema con las personas oprimidas que se alzaran contra el imperialismo amerikano. El Islam es solo uno de los tantos blancos porque es una religión de [email protected][email protected] El gobierno amerikano (y su gente) no tenía ningún problema con islam cuando Al Quaeda fue un aliado en la lucha contra el comunismo. De hecho, el mismo Slahi entrenó con Al Quaeda durante seis meses en Afganistán, pero esto fue durante el tiempo cuando el grupo fue apoyado por el gobierno amerikano y cuando luchaban contra el gobierno sostenido por los soviéticos en dicho país. Esta acción era legal para los ciudadanos en Mauritania e incluso
fue animada por el gobierno amerikano. No obstante, este hecho se convirtió en
uno de los factores más importantes que influyó la insistencia del gobierno
amerikano de que Slahi estaba detras de los ataques del Centro de Comercio
Mundial, entre otras cosas.
Después de años de tortura e injusto encarcelamiento a manos del gobierno amerikano, las opiniones de Slahi sobre el país y sus habitantes permanecen relativamente moderadas. Ve el bien en todos, una opinión que compartida por los comunistas. Pero es una opinión que no le deja ver los intereses económicos de la mayoría de los amerikanos que hace que apoyen la tortura en Guantánamo, incluso después de que reportajes como este sean publicadas. “¿Qué pensaría un amerikano muerto común si podría ver lo que su gobierno está haciendo a alguien que no ha cometido ningún crimen contra nadie? Por más que me apenaba por los compañeros árabes, sabía que no representaban el árabe común. La gente árabe está entre los mejores en el planeta; son sensibles, emocionales, amorosos, generosos, se sacrifican, son religiosos, caritativos y amables… El odio contra los EE.UU seria regado si la gente en el mundo árabe supiera lo que sucede aquí. Incluso la acusación de que los EE.UU está ayudando y trabajando con los dictadores en nuestros países seria dimentada.” (p257) La realidad es que la mayoría de la gente en el mundo árabe esta consciente de la injusticia amerikana. De hecho, cuando Slahi preguntó porqué le estaban extraditando cuando pensaban que ya había probado su inocencia, la policía en Mauritania le dijo “los Estado Unidos es un país que está basado en la injusticia.” (p134) Es este conocimiento que resulta en que la gente empiece a luchar contra el imperialismo amerikano. Al mismo tiempo, la mayoría de [email protected][email protected]s ahora saben sobre la tortura de los detenidos en la Bahía de Guantánamo y la opinión del público está lejos de furia a conocer estas acciones. Mucha gente de la población se reúne para dar apoyo a figuras políticas como Donald Trump cuando exige más tortura. A través de todo esto, vemos más evidencia que apoya la posibilidad de que Islam pueda ser una Teología de liberación para los que luchan contra el imperialismo amerikano. Así como las masas en Latinoamérica fueron atraidas a la Teología de liberación católica como una reacción contra la opresión e injusticia en esa región, es probable que segmentos de cualquier religión adapten sentimientos similares. La Teología de liberación fue una aliada valiosa para los revolucionarios en Latinoamérica.
Sea como sea que se desarrolle esta lucha de liberacióon, sabemos que la gente oprimida de este mundo no puede esperar a que los americanos abran los ojos y paren la tortura ellos mismos. Ahora, después de un año de que el libro de Slahi fuera publicado (e incluso fue entre los libros más vendidos), todavía no cambia su situación. Las masas deben liberarse a sí mismos; sus captores nunca rendirán su poder voluntariamente. Los amerikanos están disfrutando de los botines de los captores, entonces la mayoría de [email protected][email protected] están contentos con la tortura mundial imperialista.
I see MIM is going to do a wimmin's issue. I really don't know what can get women interested and have some courage to do anything other than complain. Women seem to think if they smile, be happy, flip their hair and talk with a baby voice it will get them things. Even though we keep getting things taken from us, women will not speak up and stand up.
I read in Prison Action News (by ABC) about a work stoppage they are trying to encourage in September 2016. But all the responses I get from women is they will not participate, they are scared of being locked down, retaliation, blah, blah, blah.
Here is what I am currently going through with the grievance process concerning outdoor yard time: Lieutenant Gayle Ross posted a Posted Operational Rule (POR) changing small yard time. First of all, it was not signed until 1 June 2016, but supposedly went into effect a month before posting on 1 May 2016. PORs must give prisoners a two week notice before a change goes into effect.
Female prisoners are no longer allowed to go out to the small yard at the same time as dog program participants, with/without their dogs, for fear that we may get hurt. Even though dog program participants and their dogs are not separated in the units with non-dog program prisoners. Apparently it's only a safety/security issue for use of the small yard.
Next, Lt. Gayle Ross has spread her safety/security issue to other areas. Apparently wimmin prisoners are too fragile to go outside when it is wet out, puddles on the ground or snow on the ground. Supposedly we are childish and will jump in puddles, and too fragile so we might fall. This reasoning has allowed us to be denied small yard for entire seasons: fall heading into winter, winter, and most of spring, which by definition is rainy. Even though recreation can clear off puddles by sweeping off the water, the recreation staff lets the water sit until it dries naturally, of course closing the small yard for days. Apparently wimmin are dangerous enough to imprison but too fragile to go outside.
There are three steps to our grievance process. I have grieved all the way to a step three, therefore exhausting the grievance process. I am the only one grieving. Women complain, complain, complain but do nothing else. So I am preparing a 1983 [lawsuit].
I have used the grievance petition from MIM(Prisons). None of my three grievances were provided timely responses according to Colorado's AR 850-04 time limit for Step 1, 2 and 3 grievances. I sent this petition to Rick Raemisch, executive director of Colorado Department of Corrections, the United States Department of Justice and the Office of Inspector General. The United States Department of Justice basically said they only considered class action cases. Due to the letter to Rick Raemisch, Captain Bowers met with me and Lt. Gayle Ross about the issue. The situation has not changed for the better.
Now more gym time and small yard time has been taken away. If we don't attend a specific aerobic program called Insanity/cize (which is a videotape), we cannot use the rest of the gym or small yard. We cannot use the other exercise equipment or do our own workout program. We must only workout to the DVD (unless we are ADA). Women are complaining but they are doing nothing else.
I am still working on my case with the help of reading material like Battling the Administration by David Meister and Prisoners' Self-Help Litigation Manual by Daniel Manville, that I bought from Prison Legal News.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade raises some important questions about how females are taught to act in order to get ahead in patriarchal society. The idea that flipping hair, smiling and talking with a baby voice will get stuff for wimmin has been reinforced with very real financial and social incentives based on looks and gendered behavior. While society teaches males that being aggressive and self-sufficient is sexy and also the right way to get ahead at work, that same system teaches females that aggressiveness is unattractive and it's best to be weak and dependent on a man.
We can even see this double standard in the way people talk about Hillary Clinton's Presidential candidacy. She's just another imperialist mouthpiece, but she has won the wrath of so many for things that are seen as normal or even praised in male candidates. When Clinton is loud she is called out for "shouting" or "shrieking", while male candidates are praised for their strength for a similar style. Critics are calling Clinton a bitch and a lesbian. When she shows emotion she is too feminine and when she doesn't show emotion she is too masculine. There are endless examples of this sort of attention paid to Clinton's gender rather than her qualifications.
There are many strong wimmin standing up for their rights and the rights of others, like this comrade. And we need to train other wimmin that being strong and self-sufficient is the only way to really get ahead and really win battles. Many men in prison also sit around complaining without doing anything, but it is leaders like this writer who, over time, can develop other activists by setting an example of strength and resolve in practice, combined with a correct political line.
MIM(Prisons) began to draft a book on the lumpen class a few years ago. We found a gap in the theoretical material on this subject and realized that our observations about this class are a unique contribution to Marxist theory. A lot of research was done, particularly on defining the lumpen class within U.$. borders, but due to competing projects and limited time, the book was put on hold. We began distributing the chapter with our research in draft form, but are not yet close to completing the book, nor do we currently have the funds or resources to print another book. As a result, we are turning to the pages of Under Lock & Key to sum up some of our key findings and further develop and apply our theory of the First World lumpen. This article is just a summary of the more extensive draft chapter on the lumpen class which is available from MIM(Prisons) upon request for, $5 or equivalent work trade.
U Can't Sell Dope Forever
"Power is the ability to define a phenomenon and make it act in a desired manner." - Huey P. Newton
Marxist socialism is based in the idea that humyns, as a group, can take charge of the natural and economic laws that determine their ability to meet their material needs. Taking charge does not mean that they can decide these laws, but that they can utilize them. In doing so they develop a scientific understanding of the world around them.
Under capitalism, the anarchy of production is the general rule. This is because capitalists only concern themselves with profit, while production and consumption of humyn needs is at the whim of the economic laws of capitalism. As a result people starve, wars are fought and the environment is degraded in ways that make humyn life more difficult or even impossible. Another result is that whole groups of people are excluded from the production system. Whereas in pre-class societies, a group of humyns could produce the basic food and shelter that they needed to survive, capitalism is unique in keeping large groups of people from doing so.
In the industrialized countries like the United $tates, the culture and structure of society has eliminated opportunities and knowledge to be self-sufficient. Production is done socially instead. Simplistically this might look like: one company produces bread, another produces shoes, and everyone working for each company gets paid and uses their pay to buy things from the other companies. Everyone gets what they need by being a productive member of the larger society.
The problem is that there are not enough jobs. At first this might seem like a good thing. We are so advanced that we can get all the work done for the whole group with only a portion of those people having to work. But under capitalism, if you're not in an exploiter class, not working means you do not get a share of the collective product. So when whole groups are not able to get jobs, they must find other ways of getting the goods that they need to survive. And we all know various ways that people do this.
So first capitalism has separated people from their need to provide everything for themselves. In doing so the capitalists alienate the worker from eir product, because it becomes the property of the capitalist. But those without jobs are also alienated from the whole production process. People often turn to the illegal service economy of selling drugs or sexual favors, or robbing and fencing stolen goods. Many also turn to the state for social services to get a distribution of the social product, without participating in production.
All of these solutions are even more alienating than working for the capitalists. Being a shoemaker or a baker are productive tasks that people can find pleasure in, even if they do not have a say in how the product of their labor is then distributed. Given the option, people generally don't want to poison their community, deal with the threat of violence every day, sell their body, steal from people or even take handouts without being able to participate in producing. All of these endeavors require the individual to justify actions that they know are wrong, to dehumanize other people and themselves, and to just live under a lot of stress.
These activities, and the justifications that come with them, contribute to what then becomes the consciousness of this group of people excluded from the economy. Marx wrote about the alienation of the proletariat resulting from them not having a say in how the product of their labor is utilized. But there is a deeper level of alienation among the lumpen in that they must alienate themselves from other humyn beings, even those who are in similar situations to themselves. Capitalism promotes a dog-eat-dog mentality that is alienating for all people because we are encouraged to look out for ourselves and not trust others. But this is most pronounced for the lumpen, who are in turn demonized for their disregard for other people.
The demonization that the lumpen faces by the rest of society is one reason that none of these endeavors have futures. You can't sell dope forever. You certainly can't be a prostitute forever. Robbing and scamming is dangerous to say the least. And there are strong policies today to keep people from being on public assistance for too long. So there is a strong interest among the lumpen class to choose another path, one that addresses the alienation and lack of control they have over their own lives, including a limited ability to meet their own needs.
While we recognize that the leading force for revolution is the proletariat, our analysis clearly shows that the proletariat is virtually non-existent within U.$. borders, limited primarily to the small migrant worker population. The predominance of the labor aristocracy within imperialist countries today makes the lumpen a more important element than in times and places where the proletariat is the overwhelming majority. Just as Mao had to apply Marx's analysis to Chinese conditions and understand the key role the peasantry plays in revolution in countries where that group is large, we must apply dialectical materialist analysis to the world today to understand the role that will be played by each significant class in Amerikan society.
The lumpen are a more important class in imperialist society today than in the past, and as a result we must identify those who fall in this group and analyze whether they are friends or enemies of the revolution. This essay attempts to identify the lumpen in the United $tates by looking at several potential indicators of economic and social position in society.
First World vs. Third World lumpen
The lumpen is defined as being excluded from the capitalist system; excluded from production and consumption. Of course, everyone must consume to survive, and the lumpen lives on as a class. But their consumption is outside the realm of capitalist relations. The lumpen must take from others what it needs to survive. And in an exploited country the lumpen takes from working people, the petty bourgeoisie and other lumpen who surround them. It is much harder and therefore more rare to take from the bourgeoisie, so the bourgeoisie doesn't much care that the lumpen exist. The lumpen in the Third World is a parasite class, but primarily a parasite on the masses of the oppressed nations.
In the United $tates, we have no significant proletariat, so the lumpen class must be a parasite on the petty bourgeoisie. Historically that petty bourgeoisie has been white, while the lumpen have been concentrated in the New Afrikan ghettos, the reservations of First Nations, and the inner city oppressed communities in general. The national contradiction meant that the lumpen posed a threat to the stability of the country.
The history of social services in the United $tates comes from the Great Depression of the 1930s. As socialism and fascism were expanding to address the problems created by the anarchy of production, U.$. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to take drastic measures to preserve bourgeois democracy. The New Deal recovery program was that measure. It brought a system of social safety nets that live on to this day, though they were reformed and reduced starting in the 1980s with the Reagan administration.
This system allowed the emerging lumpen class to participate in the system of distribution and consumption without participating in production. They could do so in a way that was less precarious, less dangerous and better paying than their counterparts in the Third World. In addition to the federal government's services, there is infrastructure in the First World to provide clean water and sanitation to people of all classes. There is rampant overconsumption and waste that makes acquiring basic needs like food and clothing a snap, and there is enough wealth in the country that many non-governmental organizations can fund their own programs to provide food and other materials and services to those in need. For all these reasons, the First World lumpen are a qualitatively different class than the Third World lumpen proletariat in that they do benefit from living in an imperialist country.
Some claiming Marxism tell us that those we call lumpen are really part of the proletariat; they are just part of the reserve army of labor that Marx talked about being necessary to keep wages down among the workers that were employed via competition. But as has been demonstrated, there is no significant proletariat in the United $tates (request our Labor Aristocracy study pack for more on this topic). And while there is a contradiction between employers and employees over wages, this has not been an antagonistic contradiction in post-WWII U.$.A.
To the extent that there is a proletariat in this country, they are migrant workers. And therefore the reserve army of labor is found south of the Rio Grande and elsewhere in the Third World.
The First World lumpen are the remnants of a long history of national oppression. The question that they face is whether the oppressor nation is willing and able to continue to integrate them into the Amerikan petty bourgeoisie, or if racism and economic crisis will lead to an increased lumpenization of the internal semi-colonies as Amerika pushes its problems off on them.
The white nation in North America has always been a predominately petty bourgeois nation. Therefore petty bourgeois class consciousness is overwhelmingly dominant among white people of all classes. Where there is potential for revolutionary white lumpen, it will be more common when in close proximity or integrated with oppressed nation lumpen. And these will be the exception to the rule. It is for this reason that we say the principal contradiction is nation in the United $tates, while spending much time discussing and addressing the lumpen class.
Therefore, in the analysis that follows, we will be defining the First World lumpen as a distinct class that is only evident in the United $tates within the oppressed nations.
Contemporary Class Analysis
In the last few decades we can already point to an expanding prison population, and the cutting of welfare roles, without an increase in employment, as some evidence to support lumpenization at the margins. As expected, this lumpenization has been disproportionately suffered by the oppressed nations. To the extent that whites have lost (or will lose) their class status, this concerns us as a likely trigger for growing fascist currents in Amerikkka, due to their historical consciousness as a settler nation and more recently as the most powerful nation on the planet. As we get into the numbers below, we'll see that the white "lumpen" population could arguably outnumber that in the internal semi-colonies. But percentage-wise they are a smaller minority within their nation, and their national identity pulls them much more strongly towards fascism. For this reason, we will disregard poor whites in most of the analysis below. Of course there are exceptions to every rule. And in particular, among youth and where poor whites are more influenced by oppressed nation culture there could certainly be some splits in the white nation.
While we have not seen a massive de-linking of the exploited populations, the internal contradictions of imperialism have brought significant economic downturns in recent years. In 2009 there was a steep rise in the percent of long-term unemployed (greater than 26 weeks), which has not yet declined significantly. It has hovered around 40 and 45% of all unemployed people; this is about double other high points dating back to 1960. [As of June 2016, over the 3 years since the original writing, this figure has declined to around 25%, which is still higher than the 17-18% rates that were normal before 2008.] While this could be a sign of a growing de-classed population, the U.$. economy is so rich that this unemployment has only resulted in modest increases in poverty rates.
Yet, even in the recent recession, government-defined poverty rates have not yet reached the levels they were at prior to 1965 when they were around 20%, give or take. In 2011 the poverty rate was recorded as 15%. Even this rate is inflated since assistance in the form of tax credits and food stamps is not counted as taxable income. If this income was included in their calculations it would pull 9.6 million people above the poverty line and bring the percent below the poverty rate to less than 12%.(1) So it is only a small group at the margins that may be seeing a shift in their material conditions such that they could arguably be seen as not largely benefiting from imperialism.
In order to paint a clearer picture of who is in the First World lumpen class, the following sections look at the empirical evidence both historically and today to figure out where to draw the line between lumpen and petty bourgeoisie within the United $tates. Above we defined the lumpen class as those who are excluded from the production and distribution of goods under capitalism. If you translate this into U.$. census statistics, this group would fall into those who are not participants in the civilian labor force.
Lumpen Defined by Employment Status
Employment is counted as working at least 1 hour of paid time, 15 hours of unpaid time in a family business, or being off of work (such as vacation or maternity leave) during the week referenced. The civilian labor force includes everyone defined as employed or unemployed (looking for work). Therefore the lumpen would be found in the group that is outside the civilian labor force. In the following graph we can see that this excluded group has grown in size only slightly since 1960, whereas the labor force has grown much more.
Not everyone in the middle group in this figure is part of what we would consider the lumpen. We have subtracted out housewives, students, and the elderly (detailed calculations for this subtraction are included in the full draft lumpen book).
In this graph we see the biggest changes being the increase in the lumpen (from 1.5% in 1960 to 10.6% in 2010) and the decrease in the housewives category. While this is completely feasible, the direct relationship between these two groups in the way we did the calculation leaves us cautious in making any conclusions from this method alone. In order to confirm that our big picture estimate of the lumpen here is in the ball park we will look at this a couple of other ways, including trying to break down the lumpen via its constituent parts to see how they add up.
Also, keep in mind that we are concerned with the oppressed nation lumpen as a progressive force for national liberation struggles. The above method does not differentiate between nations, and we can assume that somewhere around half of that 10.6% is white Amerikans.
Gaps in employment rates between New Afrikan males and white males are quite large, and they have increased over the period of 1970-2010. Further, the unemployment rate does not include those in prison or those on public assistance programs. So when "unemployment" rates are reported as being twice as big as for New Afrikans compared to whites, this is an understatement because those rates are only calculated on the civilian labor force who is looking for work. Austan Goolsbee, former economic advisor to U.$. President Barack Obama has stated that since the mid-1980s "the government has cooked the books" on unemployment rates "because government programs, especially Social Security disability, have effectively been buying people off the unemployment rolls and reclassifying them as not 'in the labor force.'"(3) This is a prime example of what we call the First World lumpen.
From this analysis of employment status we conclude that the 10.6% of the population that is unemployed and not housewives, students or elderly is principally lumpen. Conservatively we can assume that whites as 65% of the population are that same portion of the lumpen. This means that the oppressed nation lumpen defined by employment status constitutes about 10% of the oppressed nation population.
Lumpen Defined by Income
One thing that jumps out when looking at income data is the difference between individual income levels and household incomes. Some 39% of households had two or more income earners in 2010, so that over 20% of households made six figure incomes, while only 6.61% of individuals did.
Because individuals do tend to live in small group households, we will mostly look at that data below. Another thing that such an approach captures is the difficulties faced by many single-parent households. Single-parent households are the exception in that they do not benefit financially from having many members in their house because one earner must provide for many people. While this is very doable on a labor aristocracy wage, the demands of child-care and also keeping a job make it difficult for many single mothers who end up on public assistance. As a result there is a strong gendered component of the poor and lumpen that we will look at more below.
Before jumping into the numbers, let's look at the definition of employed. While some in the unemployed group (defined as those who have been looking for work) may fall into the lumpen class, probably even more in the employed group do, seeing that you only have to get paid for one hour of labor per week to be considered employed. Those who are marginally employed, but are dependent on public assistance or the criminal underground to meet their needs, might reasonably be considered part of the First World lumpen class, especially in the context of the oppressed nation ghettos, barrios and reservations.
Here are some numbers to keep in mind as we look at income levels. A persyn working full-time for minimum wage will make at least $14,000 per year, depending on the state they work in. An estimate of average value produced per hour is between $3 and $5 based on global GDP and global workforce.(4) At that rate, working 40 hours a week year-round, one would produce almost $10,000 per year, which may be a good cut off point for saying whether a full-time worker is making more or less than the value of their labor.
From this we can assume that a person earning $14k or more is participating full time or nearly full time in the labor force. They are, therefore, not a candidate for the lumpen. Since wages for Amerikan citizens are all above the global average wage, any legally employed worker will be making more than the value of their labor. Those making less than $14,000 per year will be in 3 main categories: part-time employed youth, migrants making proletarian or semi-proletarian wages, or marginally employed people who depend on public assistance and other sources of income.
Around 30% of those with an income, and over age 15, were under the $15,000 per year mark in 2010, while 15% were under $10,000 per year.(5) This excludes people with no income, especially youth under working age who are a special case. But it includes people who are part of households with others who also have incomes. For example, a housewife who works one day a week for extra income and has a husband who makes $50,000 a year could be in this group. But this 15% gives us one more reference point to think about when estimating the First World lumpen.
Almost 50% of those earning at or below minimum wage are 16 to 24 years old, and 23% are just 16 to 19 years old.(6) This is a case where we would not necessarily see income defining class status. Most of these youth know that they are likely to make more money when they get older by looking at the adults around them. To eliminate the effect of these temporarily low-paid youth, who are still making more than the value of their labor, we will now look at household income and break it down by nationality.
Quintiles break up a population into five different equal-sized groups defined by a range, such as income level. Looking at the lowest quintiles of the population in terms of income is one way to tease out the size and composition of the lumpen. The average income of the lowest quintile is dramatically different between whites and New Afrikans/[email protected] with the poorest whites earning more than double the poorest New Afrikans/[email protected]
Income for lowest quintile of earners in the U.$, 2011
Upper limit of lowest quintile
Avg income, lowest quintile
The upper limit of income for the lowest quintile shows further these differences by nation, but also suggests that quintiles alone are not sufficient to define the lumpen as the upper limit of the lowest 20% of New Afrikans (the lowest earning of the nations) is still $16k per year, a solid labor aristocracy income at an $8/hr full time job.
One problem with just looking at income in defining lumpen is that it may be a temporary state of someone being in a low income group. Youth definitely fall in this category. Some older folks who are retired, who are clearly not lumpen, also fall in this category. Among the 20-55 age group there are good reasons why some people have temporarily lower income but still are part of the labor aristocracy, such as short-term unemployment.
Family Income by Race
Numbers in 1000s
$2,500 to $4,999
$5,000 to $7,499
$7,500 to $9,999
$10,000 to $12,499
$12,500 to $14,999
This table shows that a relatively small percent of families are earning less than $10k annually: 3.4% of whites, 11.3% of New Afrikans and 8.8% of [email protected] This table includes those not participating in the workforce since it is at the family level and so should be counting non-working spouses and children among others.
Clearly there are significant differences between single individuals earning $10,000 per year and a head of household with 4 children earning that same income. Looking at income by size of household gives us more detail on the total economic situation of a family. And we can use this data to calculate the maximum possible income per persyn for each group. This underscores the dramatic difference in financial situations faced by families based on the number of kids they have. We might use this data to create cut-offs for families whose kids are falling in the lumpen. While parents earning minimum wage and working close to full time are not part of the lumpen by definition, their income puts their kids basically outside of traditional economic financial participation and likely on the streets hustling for extra cash.
Again, the First World lumpen are not dying of starvation or water-born diseases that the Third World masses face. But they do suffer malnutrition, temporary states of lacking housing, water or electrical service, and exposure to environmental pollutants that most Amerikans do not have to deal with. And youth growing up in a family with a total income of less than $20,000 provides a standard of living relatively outside of the economic participation of the majority of Amerikans. An average of $5k per persyn per year in a family of 4 may provide for survival needs but nothing beyond that. In this country, youth who can not find a job to supplement their family's income are likely to end up on the streets working outside of the traditional labor force, as a part of the lumpen. This data suggests that children of the lowest 15-20% of oppressed nation workers are good candidates for lumpen who may work their way out into the labor aristocracy as they get older.
Included in the calculations above are individuals making minimum wage or above at a full-time job, so we discard the two highest income categories for single people and, just to be conservative, the highest income level for 2 people. Using the rest of the categories to define either lumpen or migrant proletarian households, we get the following summary table.
Lumpen or Migrant Proletarian Families Defined by Income Categories
We do an additional calculation for only families making less than $10k per year, since one full-time worker making $10k would be making above our value of labor estimate. While at both levels, there are more white families than other nations, the rates are obviously higher for New Afrikans and [email protected] The migrant proletariat population is of course much larger in the [email protected] category. So we could say that the New Afrikan lumpen defined by income is around 20% of the population, even though the maximum for the lowest quintile was given as $16,000/ year above. One report puts the migrant workers earning less than minimum wage in 2002 at 2 million people.(10) With some 80% of immigrants in the U.$. coming from Latin America and just 2.5 million [email protected] families in these low-wage categories above, it would seem that the [email protected] poor were dominated by working immigrant families and not lumpen. If true, this is one reason nation-specific parties are needed to lead the revolutionary movements in the different oppressed nations. The class content and interests of the lowest quintile of [email protected] and New Afrikans may look similar based on income level, but have very different relations to the means of production and to other nations.
Summing up the income data for defining the lumpen population, we can conservatively use the cut off of $10k/year for family income to say that 16% of New Afrikan families are lumpen and 10% of [email protected] families are lumpen or migrant proletarian. Further, youth in families earning less than $5k per persyn fall in the lumpen even though their parents are still working full time and are not part of the lumpen. That is the children of the lowest 10-15% of oppressed nation workers. So conservatively we can say between 15-20% of New Afrikan families are lumpen and between 10-15% of Raza are lumpen or migrant proletarian.
Lumpen defined by education level
There is a strong connection between educational background and what people end up earning financially later in life. There is a clear linear association between higher degrees attained and higher earnings. We do not care so much about the distinction between college graduates and those with advanced degrees, as this is the difference between levels of labor aristocracy, petty bourgeois and bourgeois income (all enemy classes). What is potentially interesting to a study of the lumpen in the United $tates is the population not even graduating from high school. Those without a high school degree earn significantly less than people who complete high school or college, and this group includes a much higher proportion of people who earn little to no money from legal employment. Therefore we look to educational attainment as a good candidate for a proxy to measure socioeconomic status in the United $tates.
Looking at educational achievement by nationality, we see that youth not getting a high school degree are disproportionately New Afrikan and Raza. Further, looking at unemployment rates for those without a high school diploma by nationality reveals interesting differences. New Afrikans who did not complete high school had a 22.5% unemployment rate compared with whites at 13.9% and Raza at 13.2%. The rate of employment among Raza probably reflects the large migrant population working low paying jobs such as farm workers, who are fully employed but earning very little.
As discussed above, while the unemployed may be part of the lumpen, this population includes some who are temporarily out of work but are actually participating in the workforce overall as part of the petty bourgeoisie. In addition, these statistics are only collected on people who are considered to be part of the labor force.
Combining income with education level reveals significant differences between whites and oppressed nations. However, the mean earnings for those without a high school diploma are not so low that we can lump everyone without a high school degree into the lumpen, even among oppressed nations.
Mean income for people without a High School degree
These numbers reinforce the theory that lack of a high school diploma in and of itself does not define the lumpen. There are plenty of people entering the ranks of the labor aristocracy without much education, pulling the average income for this group up into the labor aristocracy range. It appears that there is a split among high school dropouts where some are able to join the labor aristocracy and others are pulled down into the lumpen.
MIM has argued that youth are the most revolutionary group among the white nation because of their special status outside of the class to which they were born and because of the way that capitalist society puts youth in a position of disempowerment. A key to the labor aristocracy's attitude as a class is the fact that individuals who may not be making much money at the moment can look around at their peers and see that they should anticipate improving their position. This is especially true for whites. Oppressed nation youth without a high school diploma, on the other hand, receive a mixed message. They look at their peers of their age group and see that they truly can not expect to get a job any time soon. On the other hand they can look at older folks around them and see a large percent having joined the labor aristocracy. This may result in a split in the oppressed nations by age where youth are part of the lumpen class for a period of time but eventually are pulled into the labor aristocracy by the wealth and decadence of imperialist society, even if they exist at the low end of the labor aristocracy. [See "Age as Gender: The Third Strand Shaping the Oppressed Nation Lumpen" in the draft lumpen book for more on this.]
The education analysis doesn't give us a definitive calculation of the lumpen but we can conclude that a sizable portion of the group with no GED or high school degree is part of the lumpen, and this group is 15% of New Afrikans and 35.7% of Raza. These numbers will overlap with unemployment and family income numbers as many people will fall into all three groups.
What About First Nations?
The First Nation populations within the United $tates remain decimated from the history of settler genocide and continued oppression. As a result, the native people of this land, not including [email protected], is less than 1% of the total population. An estimated one third of them live on reservations, totaling about 700,000 people.
Despite their decimation, First Nations tend to have a greater consciousness as nations separate from Amerika with rights to their own land, compared to the oppressed nations in the United $tates as a whole. And there remain concentrations of the indigenous population in certain regions that provide a base for significant resistance. On a number of these larger reservations, the percentage of families with incomes less than $3000 per persyn ranges between 15 and 25%. For New Afrikans as a whole that figure was 10%, though in regions such as south central Los Angeles it may be similar to First Nations.
Similarly, labor force participation rates on many of the larger reservations are lower than the average for other nations in the United $tates by as much as 23%. In San Carlos Indian Reservation 31% of people were receiving cash assistance in 2000, about 15 times the average for the country. About 34% received food stamps. Five of the ten largest reservations had almost a third of the population on food stamps and six had at least 15% receiving cash assistance.
One disadvantage that First Nations face on reservations is the lack of infrastructure benefits that virtually everyone else in the United $tates enjoys, which factors into our class position and perspective in this country. On reservations 14% of homes lack electricity, 18% lack adequate sewage, 18% lack complete kitchen facilities, and 20% lack indoor plumbing. These are unique conditions that First Nation vanguards must address that will not be of concern for the general U.$. population.
We present these numbers separately because the First Nation population is so much smaller than the other nations we focus on here, and because data on people living on reservations overall is not very complete.(12)
Groups within the Lumpen
Above we looked at employment status, education level and income to estimate the size of the lumpen class in the United $tates. A third approach is to look at the individual groups that make up the lumpen class as a whole. The main categories of people we will discuss below are the population that is imprisoned and under correctional supervision, the homeless, those dependent on public assistance and those involved in the underground economy.
1) Lumpen in prison and under correctional supervision
The imprisoned population is one segment of the lumpen that is excluded from the methods previously discussed since they are part of the "institutionalized population" in the U.S. Census data. For that reason, we might think that the above calculation underestimates the size, as well as the growth, of the lumpen class in the United $tates.
In 2011, there were 6.98 million adults under the supervision of the state via imprisonment, probation or parole, in the United $tates. This was 2.9% of the overall population, with just those in prison being slightly less than 1%. The overall percentage increased at a decreasing rate between 1980 and 2008.(13).
Focusing on the oppressed nations, over 3% of New Afrikan men are in prison. That number is about 1.3% for [email protected], and less than 0.5% for whites. Rates for First Nations were not given in this report, but tend to be even higher than those for New Afrikans. If we extrapolate imprisonment statistics to all adults under supervision, we get about 8.7% of New Afrikan men and 3.8% of Raza men under some form of state supervision. With recidivism rates as high as they are, we are comfortable saying that those 1 million Raza men and 1.6 million New Afrikan men are part of the lumpen class. The same calculations put around 56,000 Raza wimmin and 73,000 New Afrikan wimmin in this group, plus a significant, but uncertain number of First Nation and Asian lumpen under state supervision. As a result, we suggest that 2.5 million is a safe estimate of those who'd fall in the group of imprisoned/formerly imprisoned lumpen, excluding whites. This would add less than one percentage point of the overall U.$. population to our total, but would include another 4.5% of New Afrikans and another 4% of Raza. Note that these numbers can't be added to the totals from the unemployed or income-based lumpen groups above because those out of prison will overlap greatly with this group.
White men in this group number about 1.3 million, but are much more likely to find employment and join the labor aristocracy after release from prison. While in prison white men do fall into the lumpen class but lack the oppressed nation outlook and so often join white supremacist groups rather than supporting revolutionary organizing. This is just one factor contributing to a national outlook that leads us to exclude whites overall when discussing the revolutionary potential of the First World lumpen.
On any given day, nearly 23 percent of all young New Afrikan men ages 16 to 24 who have dropped out of high school are in jail, prison, or a juvenile justice institution in the United $tates.(14) So there is a significant overlap between those without a high school diploma and the prison population. This reinforces the lack of a high school degree as an indicator of the lumpen, but as we showed above, it's not sufficient alone to identify the lumpen as plenty of labor aristocracy people come from this group as well.
2) Underground Economy
The underground economy parallels the legal economy, and has a parallel class structure. While the economy is capitalist and therefore dominated by bourgeois ideology, the majority of the people in this economy could be considered part of the First World lumpen in that they live at the margins, often with a parasitic relationship to the greater economy. While all communities have people who work "off the books," just as they all have drug dealers, there is a qualitative difference between communities where that is the exception and where that is the rule.
We divide the underground economy into the following categories:
illegal national bourgeoisie in drugs
illegal labor aristocracy
parasitic hustlers (thieves, scammers, pimps)
illegal service workers (prostitutes, corner boys)
small-time service workers (food prep, car repair, reselling)
Mao saw the national bourgeoisie as a class that can be an ally in the anti-imperialist war, but cannot liberate the nation itself. Due to the parasitic class nature of the internal semi-colonies in the United $tates today, we do not see the traditional Black and Brown bourgeoisie playing this role. Instead they are some hybrid of petty bourgeoisie and comprador bourgeoisie economically benefitting from the empire. Where we see a parallel to the national bourgeoisie of the exploited nations is among the marginally employed and illegally employed lumpen who rise within the illegal economy. Just as Mao's national bourgeoisie was disadvantaged by imperialist control of their nation, it is the lumpen alone that is excluded from participating in the spoils of empire as the majority of oppressed nationals within U.$. borders do today. And when they do tap into those spoils through illegal enterprises, they remain in a precarious position.
The underground economy includes many small-time service workers who provide food preparation, car repair, vendor and small maintenance services in oppressed communities. The work performed is no different than any other service worker in the legal economy, but their work is usually irregular in such a way that they are part of an underclass that we consider close to the lumpen as they are excluded from the legal economy.
The illegal economy can be looked at separately from the service workers providing legal services off the books. The illegal economy is where we find those traditionally considered the lumpen. It would include the obviously-parasitic hustlers who rob, scam, fence and pimp. But the biggest sector of the illegal economy, and one of the most important sectors of the global economy, is the drug trade. The drug trade, while largely in the realm of the lumpen class, is successful enough to support a well-defined class structure of its own including a full-on bourgeoisie, a stable group earning what would be the equivalent of labor aristocracy wages, and a workforce that receives a more marginal income. The small-time drug dealers in oppressed communities could be grouped with the, largely female, sex workers as a group of illegal service workers who make incomes that are marginal in terms of global wage distribution.
Much of the illegal drug economy in the oppressed communities is carried out by lumpen organizations (LOs). These organizations historically were more dependent on extortion, and this still plays a large role in the economics of LOs. Extortion would be another example of clear parasitic relations of the lumpen with the rest of the community.
LOs are often formed along national lines, bringing with them a legacy or ideology of nationalism. Where these organizations are successful enough to create a bourgeoisie, or even an aspiring bourgeoisie, we see the basis for a national bourgeoisie in the internal semi-colonies.
3) Public Assistance Dependents
While 8% of the U.$. population receives some form of assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 1.7% of the population receives more than half of their income that way. That translates to about 5.34 million people we could say are dependent on public assistance. Of those, about 3.25 million (61%) are not white and 2.13 million (40%) are New Afrikan.
Approximately 90% of U.$. citizens receiving cash assistance benefits are single mothers.(15) Just as the imprisoned lumpen is mostly men, the population on certain forms of public assistance is largely made up of wimmin with children, most of whom are actually white.(16)
Up to 3.5 million people are homeless in the United $tates, about 1% of the population each year.
First Nations are overrepresented in the homeless population by a factor of 4, while New Afrikans are by a factor of 3.25. Youth under 18 are overrepresented by a factor of 1.65. Whites and Asians are underrepresented in the homeless population.
We would put the homeless squarely into the lumpen category, although some of these people are only homeless temporarily and have a support structure that will enable them to move back into the labor aristocracy relatively quickly. Further, many of the homeless will also be on some form of public assistance and are unemployed, therefore groups can not be summed up without double counting a lot of people.
The table below sums up the conservative estimates we have made with regard to who constitutes the lumpen within U.$. borders. Our best total estimate for New Afrikans and Raza comes from the sum of the people identified based on family income and those actively in prison or jail. First Nations are calculated separately. All other methods of calculation are going to double count people we identified by family income and so can not be added to our totals.
We conclude that conservatively we can count 20-25% of the New Afrikan nation as part of the lumpen. Among Raza we calculate between 15-20% as part of the lumpen or migrant proletarian.
To separate out the lumpen from the migrant proletariat among Raza we need to look at the number of migrant Raza in the United $tates. A Pew Hispanic Center 2005 report estimated 11.5 to 12 million total "illegal immigrants," 56% from Mexico, and 22% from other Latin American countries. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2009 estimated 10.7 million "illegal immigrants," 62% from Mexico, and at least 15% from other Latin American countries. These numbers give us an estimate of between 8 and 9 million Latin American migrants in the United $tates. If the census accurately counts Latin American migrants, 17% of this population (based on 8,500,000 migrants) is not in the U.$. legally and most of that group would be migrant proletariat. That leaves a rather small group of lumpen. We can probably assume, however, that the census undercounts migrant workers because of both the transitory nature of the population and the fear around filling out government paperwork. Based on this reasonable assumption, we can perhaps estimate that the lumpen population among Raza is between 5-10% of the total population.
Given the volatility of the people who are still young and are excluded from the system economically and along national lines, the imperialists have no interest in an expanding lumpen class. And the only internal contradiction that would force an expanding lumpen class in the imperialist countries is extreme economic crisis.
As a baseline we can say conservatively that around 2010 the lumpen class represented about 20% of New Afrika, 5% of Raza and 30% of First Nations. This population represents about 4% of the overall population of the United $tates, and there is no strong evidence of the First World lumpen increasing in a significant way in recent years.
One example MIM had cited in support of the Panther theory of an expanding lumpen due to mechanization was the skyrocketing prison population centered around the 1990s, but spanning the time between the demise of the Panthers and today. While the numbers are staggering, this is still a tiny proportion of the oppressed nations. And rather than being the product of shifting economic conditions, we argue that they are primally a product of the open conflict between the white nation and oppressed nations in the United $tates via the white power structure of the state.
The police and prisons were the white nation's stick and the economic opportunities and integration were the carrot presented to the oppressed immediately following the strong liberation movements of the 1960s/70s. Therefore, if we see oppressed nation prison populations shift into a downward trend, that would support the idea that the carrot is increasing in effectiveness in integrating them into Amerika.
The flip side of that is as long as oppressed nation prisoners keep increasing, we have strong evidence of an antagonistic contradiction along the lines of nation in the United $tates. Of course we have seen the trend level off a bit in recent years, ironically, largely in response to economic crisis. But it is too soon to say what that means.
A month ago we sent out a batch of mail to participants in the MIM(Prisons) introductory study group. It was the first mailing of the new session and included a reading assignment and some study questions. We got a lot of denials of this mail from Florida prisons, in particular at Hamilton Correctional Institution where all new participants had their mail returned with an Unauthorized Mail Return Receipt citing reasons that included: “Threat to security, order or rehab objectives, or to safety of any person. Depicts, describes or encourages activities which may lead to the use of physical violence or group disruption. Encourages commission of criminal acts.” In fact one of these people was also sent an Unconfirmed Mail Form that just listed the letters we had sent em recently, and this letter was also sent back to us, citing these same reasons! Clearly the mail room at Hamilton CI isn't even bothering to read the letters from MIM(Prisons) before returning them to us.
In response to this censorship we sent all these folks a copy of our six page guide to fighting censorship. This document contains legal and administrative tips for appealing unjust denial of mail. Immediately 17 envelopes were returned to us (we anticipate the remainder will be returned soon), with another “Unauthorized Mail Return Receipt” from the mailroom staff indicating this letter was denied because:
"Otherwise presents a threat to the security, order, or rehabilitative objectives of the Correctional system, or to the safety of any person"
"Depicts, describes or encourages activities which may lead to the use of physical violence or group disruption"
"Encourages or instructs in the commission of criminal activity"
The letter in question contains legal citations and administrative policy appeal guidelines. This subject matter is clearly not related to violence, security or safety of a prison. There is nothing in this letter that could remotely be construed to depict or encourage violence or group disruption. And it certainly has nothing encouraging or instructing commission of crimes. We have sent an appeal to the Warden of Hamilton but aren't optimistic as similar incidents in Florida have just run into brick walls of silence or denials of our claims without reason.
We need a lawyer to help take on this fight in Florida, but so far no law firms have been willing to take up this important case. We do have some comrades who are very savvy with the law fighting this censorship, but it's very difficult to coordinate our work when none of our mail can even get in to these activists.
Cases like this should outrage even those who believe in Amerika as a just society. It is obvious that there is no justice in the denial of educational material and legal resources to prisoners. And this sort of action exposes clearly the lie of rehabilitation that the system pretends to support. People with access to the internet can browse these and other censorship cases on our website at www.prisoncensorship.info/data
Every day we study the 5 principles, but we lack materials which is one of the reasons I'm writing, in hopes of getting what we need. As of now we are a very young group of men who have come together and are spreading peace, unity and internationalism. Here in prison we have brought two rival gangs to peace: the Sur 13 and Norteños 14 have now made a treaty with each other and have stopped killing each other. We are now speaking with some of the Muslims who may be willing to join "Black Hawk" so we are practicing growth and peace.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer provides an excellent example of building peace through a United Front organization that focuses on education. Rival organizations that fight each other behind bars or on the streets are serving the purposes of the oppressive system which seeks to keep us distracted and fighting each other rather than focusing our energy on the real oppressors. With this peace treaty we anticipate a growing powerful movement in Colorado against the criminal injustice system.
I write you to yall to thank you for your letters of support on our” ”hunger strike” to protest long term “solidarity confinement”. Thank you!
I’m still on strike but now I’m being force fed. This is (ex)tremely humiliating, painful, and unnecessary... But it is what it is. I’ll continue to refuse food and water until they place a one year cap on the use of Administrative Confinement….under this status the D.O.C. can currently keep you in solitary confinement indefinitely.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Read this article for a more detailed update on the Wisconsin prisoners' hunger strike to fight long term isolation and other abuse.
"The educational and professional training systems are very elaborate filters."
This statement comes from the book titled, Understanding Power: The indispensable Chomsky, by Noam Chomsky. In chapter four, he discusses the safeguards and controls put in place by and to protect the capitalist system. His analysis is apt: control and manipulation began with the educational institutions.
In the United States those who control the information are those who hold power. Which is why the U.S. government is the largest and most efficient collector and disseminator of information. More importantly it is the most effective filtration system of information. Why is that? It is elementary, as Sherlock Holmes would say. If your opponent (read the proletariat) lacks the knowledge (read information and education), then your opponent is unable to employ it to your disadvantage. When I say 'your opponent' I mean the opponent of the u.s. government and capitalism.
This is accomplished through 1) popular control and, 2) the media effective popular control isolates citizens and dissidents. When a person is isolated, it is a simple matter to control their reality and manipulate their actions to conform to your specific aims and objectives. On the other hand is the media. The media does much more than simply providing an outlet for the dissemination of information. It helps to, and actually is a main tool for, indoctrination and marginalization. Or the subjection-manipulation cycle as I have termed it, is continued in perpetuity. The formation of this specific control ('control', meaning measures and policies used to prevent substantive changes to and for the preservation of a system) is meant to create a sheepish or gullible populace. One easily manipulated and maneuvered.
In public life, the effectiveness of this control lies in the fact that, those who aren't indoctrinated, or, at least, able to behave as if they are, soon learn that they have no voice, no vote and lack the consideration of others. Even find that they may be shunned (socially ostracized) as if they had a contagious, fatal disease. The un-indoctrinated are thus isolated and made 'seemingly' impotent. This system has been adopted by the u.s. prison system and is strictly adhered to.
The subjection-manipulation cycle has been adapted to and by prisons because it provides a reliable and justifiable method of repressing subversive, disruptive, or 'negative' attitudes, behaviors and/or activities. Prisons present a sampling of society's range of individuals. Some prisoners become well-indoctrinated and follow prisons' policies and regulations. Other less indoctrinated follow some or most. And finally those who are self-determinants (prisoners who refuse to relinquish their freedom to determine their actions and conduct). It is these last that suffer the reprisals of the subjection-manipulation cycle.
Self-determinants are generally punished. While their counterparts, what I termed subjugated, they are rewarded. The reward/reprisal structure is even clearer in the prison adaptation of the subjection-manipulation cycle. As in public life, where dissidence earns social stigmatization. In prison, self-determinants are shunned and given a wide berth. In this way the system filters the population, in order to isolate self-determinants. Holding them up as examples of unacceptable behavior to the subjugated. Punishment in public is normally being unemployable, negative to one's status in society, or being labeled a liability. This ends with a dissident's social ostracization and impotency. The parallel found in prisons is self-determinants are housed in segregation, isolation units, their privileges curbed or stripped completely. Their associates treated harshly or harassed for continuing any association with the self-determinant. The picture is clear as in public, in prison the self-determinant is isolated, repressed in the hopes that they will become impotent.
The subjection - manipulation cycle is not only a system of rewards and reprisals. It also contains the essential element: information control. Prison authorities screen, examine and filter the information made available to prisoners. This is paralleled in the U.S. schooling system and structure. The only information allowed is that which concurs with the system agenda. By promoting, or discouraging (if not prohibiting), certain information the prisons, as schools in public life, can encourage and manipulate modes of thought and revolutionary, anti-imperialist, or anti-capitalist movement. Why else have overly complicated grievance procedures create obstacles and have banned/prohibited literature lists? Education leads to organization.
The goal is to create an unbearable reality for self-determinants. With the intention of creating a subjugated instead of self-determinant, through the psychological effects of isolation and ostracization As long as prisons can reinforce this cycle, the results will mirror those found in public life. Stigmatized, isolated and labeled an outcast among outcasts, society's outcasts. This is a particularly dire forecast for self-determinants. It presents a massive obstacle, but not insurmountable. The solution begins with knowledge, followed by discipline and unity.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer offers some astute commentary on the role of information, education and media in social control under imperialism. And this underscores the importance of independent media of the oppressed as well as independent institutions for organizing and educating revolutionaries. The "self-determinants" as this author calls them, are people willing to think for themselves and perhaps take up organizing in the interests of the world's oppressed. These anti-imperialists need an organization to support them in the face of the challenges outlined by this author. This is why, behind bars, it is important to build United Struggle from Within, as a structure that can unify and support our prison comrades. Ultimately the independent media of the oppressed, along with our independent organizations, will unite those willing to think for themselves into a revolutionary force that can challenge the imperialist structures and fight for a future where self-determination is not repressed.