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Book Review: The Communist Necessity

communist necessity
The Communist Necessity
by J. Moufawad-Paul
Kersplebedeb 2014
Available for $10 from AK Press, 674-A 23rd St, Oakland CA 94612

This new book from J. Moufawad-Paul provides a good argument against reactionary trends in the First World activist movement over the past few decades, specifically tearing down the misleading ideologies that have moved away from communism and promote instead a mishmash of liberal theories claiming to offer new improved solutions to oppression. It comes mainly from an academic perspective, and as such takes on many minor trends in political theory that are likely unknown to many activist readers. But the main thrust, against what Moufawad-Paul calls movementism, is correct and a valuable addition to the summary of the recent past of political organizing and discussion of the way forward. Unfortunately, in illuminating the need for communist theory and scientific analysis Moufawad-Paul misses a crucial theoretical point on the petty bourgeois status of the First World. As such, his conclusions about the correct tasks for communists to take up are misleading.

Incorrect Line on the Labor Aristocracy

Moufawad-Paul does point out errors of those who have tried to take up communist organizing within unions: "Instead, those of us who have attempted to find our communist way within union spaces.... Bogged down by collective agreements so that our activism becomes the management of union survival; fighting for a union leadership that is only marginally left in essence..."(p136) But then he goes on to uphold the demands of unions without distinguishing between those representing the proletarian workers and those representing the petty bourgeoisie: "Immediate economic demands, of course, are not insignificant. We have to put food on the table and pay the bills,; we want job security and benefits. Solidarity amongst workers is laudable, and it would be a mistake to oppose unions and union drives because they are not as revolutionary as a communist party."(p137) Readers of MIM(Prisons) literature know that we have many books and articles detailing the calculations demonstrating First World workers income putting them squarely in the group of non-exploited owners of wealth who we call the petty bourgeoisie.

Moufawad-Paul concludes: "To reject economism, to recognize that trade-unions, particularly at the centres of capitalism, may not be our primary spaces of organization should not produce a knee-jerk anti-unionism, no different in practice than the conservative hatred of unions; rather, it should cause us to recognize the necessity of focusing our organizational energies elsewhere."(p137) This is a rather unscientific and wishy washy conclusion from an author who otherwise upholds revolutionary science to tear down many other incorrect theories. In fact it is only in the last pages of the book, in the "Coda" that Moufawad-Paul even attempts to take on this question of a "working class" in the First World and distinguish it from workers in the Third World:


"From its very emergence, capitalism has waged war upon humanity and the earth. The communist necessity radiates from this eternal war: capitalism's intrinsic brutality produces an understanding that its limits must be transgressed, just as it produces its own grave-diggers. How can we be its grave-diggers, though, when we refuse to recognize the necessity of making communism concretely, deferring its arrival to the distant future? One answer to this problem is that those of us at the centres of capitalism are no longer the primary grave-diggers.

"The permanent war capitalism wages upon entire populations is a war that is viscerally experienced by those who live at the global peripheries. Lenin once argued that revolutions tend to erupt at the 'weakest links,' those over-exploited regions where the contradictions of capitalism are clear. Thus, it should be no surprise that communism remains a necessity in these spaces — it is at the peripheries we discover people's wars. Conversely, opportunism festers at the global centres, these imperialist metropoles where large sections of the working-class have been pacified, muting contradictions and preventing entire populations from understanding the necessity of communism. Capitalism is not as much of a nightmare, here; it is a delirium, a fever dream."(p158)


But even while recognizing the pacification of "large sections of the working-class" in imperialist countries, Moufawad-Paul fails to undertake any scientific analysis of how large these sections are, or what exactly it means to be pacified. It sounds as though they still need to be woken from their "fever dream" to fight for communism. But these workers will be ardent anti-communists if we appeal to their economic interests. They have not just been pacified, they have been bought off with wealth stolen from the Third World, and as with the fascist workers in Germany under Hitler, they will fight to the death to defend their wealth and power over oppressed nations.

It is trade unions of these people benefiting from exploitation who Moufawad-Paul extols the readers not to reject with "a knee-jerk anti-unionism, no different in practice than the conservative hatred of unions." But in fact if he studied the economics of wealth with the same scientific passion he brings to the topic of communist theory overall, Moufawad-Paul would see that workers in imperialist countries have been bought over to the petty bourgeois class, and opposing their unionism is not knee-jerk at all.

Movementism and Fear of Communism

The bulk of this book is devoted to a critique of movementism: "the assumption that specific social movements, sometimes divided along lines of identity or interest, could reach a critical mass and together, without any of that Leninist nonsense, end capitalism."(p9)

This movementism is seen in protests that have been held up throughout the First World activist circles as the way to defeat capitalism: "Before this farce, the coordinating committee of the 2010 demonstrations would absurdly maintain, on multiple email list-serves, that we were winning, and yet it could never explain what it meant by 'we' nor did its claim about 'winning' make very much sense when it was patently clear that a victory against the G20 would have to be more than a weekend of protests. Had we truly reached a point where victory was nothing more than a successful demonstration, where we simply succeeded in defending the liberal right to assembly?"(p9-10)

Further, the movementists, and other similar self-proclaimed leftists of the recent past demonstrate an aversion to communism, though sometimes shrouding themselves in communist rhetoric: "All of this new talk about communism that avoids the necessity of actually bringing communism into being demonstrates a fear of the very name communism."(p29) He points out that this is manifested in practice: "The Arab Spring, Occupy, the next uprising: why do we look to these examples as expressions of communism instead of looking to those movements organized militantly under a communist ideology, that are making more coherent and revolutionary demands?"(p30)

Moufawad-Paul correctly analyzes the roots of the support for "insurrections" in the Third World rather than the actual communist revolutions. Real revolutions can have setbacks and fail to seize state power: "The lingering fascination with the EZLN, for example, is telling: There is a reason that the Zapatistas have received sainthood while the Sendero Luminoso has not. The latter's aborted people's war placed it firmly in the realm of failure; the former, in refusing to attempt a seizure of state power."(p46)

In another correct critique of these activists that MIM has made for years, Moufawad-Paul points out the problem with communists joining non-communist organizations and attempting to take over leadership: "...Occupied Wallstreet Journal refuses to communicate anything openly communist and yet is being edited by known communists..."(p50) Essentially these communists have to water down their own politics for the sake of the group, and they are doing nothing to promote the correct line more broadly.

Ultimately Moufawad-Paul sums up the anti-commnunism: "Even before this collapse it was often the hallmark of supposedly 'critical' marxism in the first world, perhaps due to the influence of trotskyism, to denounce every real world socialism as stalinist, authoritarian, totalitarian. Since the reification of anti-communist triumphalism this denunciation has achieved hegemony; it is the position to which would-be marxist academics gravitate and accept as common sense, an unquestioned dogma. Hence, we are presented with a constellation of attempts to reboot communism by calling it something different, by making its past either taboo or meaningless..."(p69)

And he cautions us that while some are now returning to communism in name, they are still lacking a materialist analysis of communist practice that is needed to bring about revolution: "Despite the return to the name of communism, this new utopianism, due to its emergence in the heart of left-wing academia and petty-bourgeois student movements, has absorbed the post-modern fear of those who speak of a communist necessity — the fear of that which is totalizing and thus totalitarian. The failure to develop any concrete strategy of overthrowing capitalism, instead of being treated as a serious deficiency, is apprehended as a strength: the movement can be all things for all people, everything for everyone, everywhere and nowhere..."(p151)

Moufawad-Paul correctly notes that for many academics and other petty bourgeois advocates of these new theories, the fear of communism is actually based in a fear of their own material position being challenged: "Here is a terrible notion, one that we avoid whenever we embrace those theories that justify our class privilege: we will more than likely be sent down to the countryside, whatever this figurative 'countryside' happens to be; we too will have to be reeducated. Most of us are terrified by this possibility, disgusted by the necessity of rectification, of being dragged down."(p96)

Sectarianism vs. Principled Differences

Moufawad-Paul includes some good discussion of the failure of movementist doctrine around so-called anti-sectarianism: "But the charge of sectarianism is leveled at every and any organization that dares to question the fundamental movementist doctrine."(p53) As he explains, "But principled political difference by itself does not amount to sectarianism, though it is often treated as such by those who would judge any moment of principled difference as sectarian heresy....Maintaining a principled political difference is itself a necessity, part of developing a movement capable of drawing demarcating lines, and even those who would endorse movementism have to do so if they are to also maintain their anti-capitalism."(p55)

The failure of coalition politics is summed up well: "When a variety of organizations with competing ideologies and strategies are gathered together under one banner, the only theoretical unity that can be achieved is the most vague anti-capitalism. Since revolutionary strategy is derived from revolutionary unity, the vagueness of theory produces a vagueness in practice: tailism, neo-reformism, nebulous movementism."(p129) This underscores why MIM(Prisons) promotes the United Front over coalition politics. In the United Front we have clear proletarian leadership but we do not ask organizations to compromise their own political line for that of the UF. A principled UF comes together around clear and concise points of unity while maintaining their independence in other areas. A good example of this is the United Front for Peace in Prisons.

The Need for Communism

Moufawad-Paul includes a good discussion of the need for real communist ideology, rooted in historical materialism and focused on what we need to do today rather than just building academic careers by talking about theories. "If anything, these movements, whatever their short-comings, should remind us of the importance of communism and its necessity; we should not hide from these failures, attempt to side-step them by a vague rearticulation of the terminology, or refuse to grasp that they were also successes. If we are to learn from the past through the lens of the necessity of making revolution, then we need to do so with an honesty that treats the practice of making communism as an historical argument."(p29)

He encourages the readers: "To speak of communism as a necessity, then, is to focus on the concrete world and ask what steps are necessary to make it a reality."(p31) And the way to figure out what steps are necessary is revolutionary science:


"Why then is historical materialism a revolutionary science? Because the historical/social explanation of historical/social phenomena is the very mechanism of class struggle, of revolution. And this scientific hypothesis is that which is capable of demystifying the whole of history and myriad societies, a way in which to gauge any and every social struggle capable of producing historical change.

"Hence, without a scientific understanding of social struggle we are incapable of recognizing when and where failed theories manifest. The physicist has no problem banning Newtonian speculation to the past where it belongs; s/he possesses a method of assessment based on the development of a specific scientific terrain. If we resist a similar scientific engagement with social struggle we have no method of making sense of the ways in which revolutionary hypotheses have been dis-proven in the historical crucible due to historical 'experiments' of class struggle."(p43)

Overall The Communist Necessity adds some much needed revolutionary scientific analysis to "leftist" activism and theories of the recent past. It is unfortunate that Moufawad-Paul did not apply this same scientific rigor to his analysis of classes. Only with both elements firmly understood will we be prepared to do our part to support the communist struggles of the oppressed world wide.

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[Lopez State Jail] [Texas]
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Texas Heat Continues to Kill

It is true the heat here is unbearable. In July of this year we had a prisoner die from the heat, shortly after coming from recreation. The guards said it was because he was old but everyone knew it was because of the heat. Sometimes temperatures reach 107 degrees inside. To punish us if we don't rack up or if we're talking shit or maybe if we don't got our shirts on, the guards turn off the fans in the dayroom and they don't unlock the igloos so we can put water in them, just so they can hit us where it hurts.

We file grievances on them and nothing is ever done. As of right now we still don't have normal recreation since summer just because someone died, but that still doesn't stop people from falling out inside the dorm. I alone have seen at least three people hospitalized because of the heat, who knows how many in total here at Lopez.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We've been hearing from across the state of Texas that the heat is killing and injuring prisoners and the prisons are doing nothing to address the danger. We can expect relief from the heat as the weather moves towards winter, but this will only provide a temporary change to new problems, and the heat will come back next summer. For those fighting these and other dangerous conditions in Texas, write to request our grievance pack to help demand that our grievances be addressed.

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[Middle East] [U.S. Imperialism]
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Support the Palestine Petition

I write this in support and in reply to the couple articles regarding Support for the People of Palestine I recently read within ULK's September/October 2014 issue #40.

A little over a month ago, I awoke to a PBS early morning segment concerning the struggle of the Palestinian people to liberate themselves and their land from Israeli occupation and oppression. In this documentary I witnessed personnel of the Israeli military serve eviction notices to Palestinian people in Palestinian housing on Palestinian land, claiming to be taking control of the housing under the authority of the state of Israel. I also witnessed the recently built Israeli settlements being moved into by Israeli civilians as flustered Palestinian fathers, seemingly not 100 yards away on the opposite side of some sort of security fencing, had to attempt to explain to their children how it was no longer their (Palestinian) land, one even pointing to where his store used to be. Imagine trying to explain imperialism to a child who is barely old enough to tie his own shoes.

The United States and Israel, the Middle East's neighborhood bullies, seem to think it acceptable to propose 'peace' and 'tolerance' while they exploit a people and their land. They seem to think the victims should 'get over' the loss of their lands and the heartless slaughter and oppression of their people. When the victims wage armed struggle the oppressors scream "foul/self-defense" as if to say "why do you hate us so?" And in keeping with the bully analogy, of course, when a bully has historically, and is continuously oppressing a people, the bully always has to worry about retaliation. Israel has no moral ground in this scenario, at all. You stole their land and oppress their people, therefore the Palestinian people reserve the moral right to liberate themselves when and how they see fit. Trip off of this: while the U.S. feeds Israel arms as Israel takes Palestinian land, the U.S. condemns Russia for absorbing Crimea. On behalf of New Afrikans, I declare solidarity with the righteous Palestinian people!

And, of course, some Zionist Jews shall read this and cry "anti-Semitic," because to them such a claim trumps truth. Well, let me remind them ahead of them proclaiming such a factoid, the Palestinians are semites too! The definition of semite is "a member of any group of peoples (as the Hebrews or Arabs) of Southwestern Asia."

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[Religious Repression] [Arkansas]
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Director of Arkansas Department of Prisons Lies Under Oath to U.S. Courts

The hard line confederacy (Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia) attack on prisoner's religious rights to hair and beards while incarcerated has led to a blatant case of perjury in the State of Arkansas, in an attempt to justify this religious repression.

In an effort to deny a prisoner his right to a beard as a Muslim, magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe, U.S. District Court, ruled that while a prisoner has a right to his religious practices under the Religious Land Use/Institutionalized Person Act (R.L.U.I.P.A., 42 U.S. Code § 2000cc) the prison could overwhelm his constitutional rights if there was a credible, reasonable 'security penological necessity' to trample those rights.

In quick order, the District Judge rubber stamped this, once Ray Hobbs, the director of the State of Arkansas Department of Prisons, stated in a sworn deposition that he personally was aware of one single example of one type of dangerous contraband being smuggled, concealed in a prisoner's beard. (A long laundry list of horrors, which the state claimed 'may' be hidden in a quarter inch beard but not, presumably, elsewhere on the body, included cell phone SIM cards, knives, drugs, and homemade darts).

The U.S. Supreme Court will now take up this case. Last term, this court ruled (by the five right wingers) that corporations have religious rights that trump women's civil rights. ("Hobby lobby" case). Now, the same lawyers who argued for the corporation in that case, to create civil rights for non-living corporations, will press the prison's case to deny religious rights. The lawyers are specially appointed by the court that will hear the case. No one dares complain, after all, since to do so would be to attack the judges you hope will rule in your favor, as "biased."

In a bizarre twist discovered after the lower courts ruled based upon the sole example of a dangerous, and in this example deadly, razor blade smuggled in a prisoner's beard, perjury most foul was exposed. And it was dripping off the lips of none other than director Roy Hobbs, top good ol' boy in the Arkansas department of corruption.

Roy Hobbs swore that a prisoner named Steven Oldham smuggled a razor blade within his beard, and when the opportunity arose, he proceeded to commit suicide with that very razor blade. My goodness. How simply awful, and of course, how clear it is that beards are a deadly threat to security.

The magistrate, district and circuit judges all agreed.

Let's peek behind the perjury veil.

As was well known to Roy Hobbs, prior to and during his part in the conspiracy to defraud the courts, the razor that dealt the lethal wound was a bright orange plastic single blade item purchased by Arkansas Dept. of Corruption. This molded plastic unit with a steel blade encased within it was not ever suspected of being smuggled, hidden, or illicitly possessed. It was handed to the prisoner by prison staff, with orders to shave off his beard.

The lying director, desperate to manufacture even one tiny example of any kind of 'beard smuggling' to justify his blatantly racist attack on the religious rights of persons who, in the southern states, face a lot of this special treatment in prisons, had knowingly concocted this 'boogie man'. It worked. Only if the razor had been used against a guard would the fantasy incident have carried more weight with the tsk tsking judges all the way to the country's supreme court.

Roy Hobbs did the usual finger-pointing maneuver when caught red handed committing perjury, he blames everyone in the world for misleading him into stating he knows for a fact that which any cursory investigation reveals as false. In California, where I reside on death row, penal code §125 declares that when a person states under oath that which he does not know to be a fact, that is identical to knowingly lying. Even if the 'fact' happens to be true. That means, in this state at least, Roy Hobbs was guilty of perjury for stating as fact this 'razorblade in the beard' lie, even had it been true. Which of course, it was obviously not.

The country's highest court is now reviewing whether the 'security claim' by the prison director is sufficient to overcome a prisoner's religious rights. Even when the single faked security claim was blazingly criminal perjury. This should be an opportunity for the high court to write the rules about what level of proof of flat out corruption prisoners may use to destroy the court's own rule about how prison officials get deference when they shriek "security!"

Let's see what pretzeled logic and tortured theories the rat pack at the supreme court come out with. The only evidence of any security risk was conspired criminal perjury. Roy Hobbs keeps directing Arkansas' prisons, rather than occupying a cell in a federal penitentiary.


MIM(Prisons) adds: The entire criminal injustice system, from police to prisons, is set up to serve the interests of the imperialists running the government. So it's no surprise that false evidence is sufficient to deny prisoner's rights. This case is unique in that the perjury was actually exposed. Unfortunately, the courts don't serve up justice, and so we can expect little from them in defending the rights of the oppressed. The imperialist courts will never lead to liberation for the oppressed. We must continue to expose these cases to educate people about the systematic nature of injustice as we build an anti-imperialist movement that can overthrow the system that relies on injustice for its very survival.

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[Security] [Organizing] [California]
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Unity with SNY Threatens Credibility

This is a comment on the United in California article from ULK40. It is crucial MIM(Prisons) recognizes SNYs work or have worked with the prison administration against other prisoners. While as Maoists we know no oppression is overcome until all oppression is overcome, we can't possibly ask anyone affected by their actions to turn around and work with them. Would Mao have worked with Deng Xiaoping? I don't know Saif [the author] but the idea that there are "some good strong comrades" on SNY is not a convincing argument to administer against the overwhelming evidence of SNYs helping pigs at every opportunity. Even if it's by his exposing himself as a "leader." You're a man not a "leaf" if you can't hold on to the branch and fall, I can accept that, but we'll keep climbing without you.

While I don't promote violence against SNYs and in fact wish them well in any anti-imperialist work. I would strongly advise anyone against incorporating any SNY inmate into any work that may lead to repression from any government entity.

SNYs should keep using MIM(Prisons) as a guide in their work. But in promoting unification of SNY and "mainline" convicts in general terms MIM(prisons) blurs a crucial line. SNYs can challenge their SNY status administratively. I am a General Population inmate. Do you have "sensitive needs?" I don't. I can be housed around anyone, accept people who don't want to be around me, i.e. people with "sensitive needs."

Being scientific in our assessments of individuals involves being honest. SNYs work to reinforce the stigma that all GP convicts are inherently violent by allowing the administration to use them to say "if this inmate is housed on a GP line it may jeopardize institutional security." This stigma in turn imposes harsher restrictions on GP inmates and SNY inmates reap the benefits of the distinction....jobs, rehab programs, vocation, education, conjugal visits, etc. are given priority on SNYs, especially on the level IV yards.

MIM(Prisons) should analyze the SNY/mainline distinction in the same manner as oppressed nations within the U.$. It is my personal assessment that SNYs chose to work with the administration against other prisoners. They get to the SN Yards and realize that "no, the administration is not your friend" and then want to whine about it. Their issues are distinct from ours and while there are issues with the administration that are shared on both sides, I would not risk my standing with other GP prisoners by helping someone who is likely to have hurt them.

SNY/GP unity is not possible. The promotion of this idea undermines MIM(Prisons) credibility on GP yards. UFPP doesn't rely on this theory because SNYs chose to not be housed with us. So theoretically they can continue to uphold the principals on those yards, while we do ours.


MIM(Prisons) responds: For those new to ULK, we have explained our line on SNY in the movement in more depth elsewhere. We completely understand the reactions that many have to our position on working with those in SNY after the torture that so many people in California have gone through at the hands of the state prison system, with the complicity of many who went to SNY. Yet, practice seems to be proving our line correct both in terms of the contributions that SNY comrades make to building USW, and the direction that the CA prisons system is going overall. We do not take this question lightly, nor does working with SNY comrades mean we take security lightly. If this issue is important to you, please write to us to get a more extensive discussion of this topic.

The above comrade's contribution to this long-stading debate over the role of SNY status in the pages of Under Lock & Key is a unique perspective because unlike most anti-SNY writers, s/he advocates that SNY prisoners can do good anti-imperialist work, as long as they do it separately. The argument that SNY prisoners cannot be trusted or united with is based in the idea that all SNY prisoners have debriefed and sold out comrades on GP. But we know that debriefing is not required to get SNY status. This writer is correct that the administration plays SNY against GP, but we can't let them dictate who we work with. We must make that decision ourselves based on each individual's work and political line.

The author asks if Mao would have worked with Deng Xiaoping, as an example of working with enemies. And Mao already answered this question: yes. Deng was kicked out of the Communist Party of China and readmitted under Mao's watch. Communist China's prison system was focused on re-education, not punishment and ostracization. People who betrayed the revolution or took actions that harmed others were locked up to study and learn from their mistakes. This is a revolutionary model that we should emulate, even while we don't hold power.

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[Religious Repression] [Political Repression] [Northwest Florida Reception Center] [Florida]
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In Isolation for Influence as Muslim Leader

After being transferred here to Northwest Florida Reception Center - Annex, I have been faced with a number of confinement injustices. First of all I have written a number of grievance to the warden about food service. We have received breakfast trays with roaches crawling in them. If you report it to these pigs they don't do anything about it. In confinement with no food items we are left with no choice but to eat the three trays that they give us even if they are infested with roaches. That's just one small example of the conditions here.

And recently we had a peaceful sit down. No one posed a threat to security, and no one was injured. It happened after Ramadan, a month of fasting for the Muslims. It all started when we were going to the chow hall to eat lunch. The pig called out one brother for talking in line. That’s when all the brothers were getting disruptive, and as Imam (Islamic leader) my job is to calm them down. So, as I was calming them down, the pig called me out of line for talking. Once I stepped out of line 22 other comrades set out of line, along with me, which led to the situation I am in confinement for. The pig saw the other 22 comrades join me and he panicked. They saw that I had influence where comrades move on my move. And they don't like that.

Previously I had to speak to the Assistant Warden, because someone snitched to the pigs about my leadership. And he told me that "no inmate runs this prison", and that if my name came up again he was "going to get rid of us" referring to the Muslims. And that's exactly what happened. I am going to close management with no prior disciplinary reports. The prison administration says that I don't deserve to be in general population because I am disruptive to security.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Control units are often used to isolate leaders in prison, even when those leaders are involved in keeping the peace. This is because the prisoncrats don't actually want peace. The prisoncrats frequently encourage violence between prisoners, because that provides an excuse to lock more prisoners on higher security units, and because it prevents leaders from organizing unity against the criminal injustice system. So when they see an Imam with influence the prison moves to isolate him. This use of close management in Florida mirrors the use of control units for social control throughout the Amerikan prison system. Our best weapon is our unity. We need many leaders so that the isolation of one will not cut off our work.

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[Spanish] [ULK Issue 42]
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Amerikanos se Alegran Mientras el Militarismo de U.$ Amenaza Vidas Amerikanas

La propaganda de conflicto esta a niveles altos en los Estados Unidos, aparentemente no se ha tomado ninguna lección positiva del 11 Septiembre 2001. Se tomó por lo menos una década para que los Amerikanos perdieran interés en la Ocupación de Afganistán e Iraq por el EE UU Esto contribuyo a que casi dos-tercios de Amerikanos estuvieran opuestos al empuje de Obama para invadir Siria hace menos de un año. Ahora, por lo menos dos-tercios de la población esta de acuerdo con Obama en controlar el gobierno de Siria más bien que las Cabezas de periodistas Amerikanos se mantengan pegadas a sus cuerpos.

El militarismo se conduce con un sistema económico que esta construido alrededor de la producción de armas y requiere guerra para mantener su demanda. Embarques de armas han incrementado recientemente para I$rael, Ucrania, Siria, e Iraq en donde EE UU ha reasumido campañas de bombardeo que están destruyendo cientos de millones de dolares en valor de equipo militar Amerikano ahora en las manos del Estado Islámico. Cada golpe que se hace de cualquier lado en esa guerra es un dar para negocios Amerikanos.

Entretanto, Russia ha sido muy claro que no va a permitir que Ucrania se una a la Organización del Tratado del Atlántico Norte (OTAN - North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO). Los Estados Unidos y Russia son los poderes nucleares mas grandes del mundo. Aún así Obama esta empujando a Ucrania para que se una a la NATO, y el sentimiento Amerikano anti-Russo esta aumentando apoyándolo. Conflicto abierto con Russia solo incrementaría enormemente el ya inaceptablemente riesgo de un catástrofe nuclear debido al militarismo.

Los últimos 15 años han probado que el militarismo del EE UU no se puede parar con el movimiento Amerikano anti-guerra. Mejor dicho, revolucionarios en los Estados Unidos se deberían de enfocar en empujar la lucha por la liberación nacional de las semi-colonias internas en solidaridad con el Tercer Mundo. Campañas como la que apoya a Palestina por prisioneros de California son positivo para construir anti-militarismo en los Estados Unidos.

Actualmente los medios y políticos del Occidente promueven la linea de que el Estado Islámico es la amenaza más grande hacia la paz mundial. Están lejos de la marca. Ese papel siempre se ha mantenido en las manos de los Estados Unidos y su industria militar.

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[Gang Validation] [Control Units] [Pontiac Correctional Center] [Tamms Supermax] [Illinois] [ULK Issue 41]
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STG Validations to Justify Reopening of Tamms Supermax

The good old boys are at it again. These slipper suckers, who feed off other people's misery, are upset about the closing of Tamms Supermax in Illinois a few years ago. Rather than let Tamms sit unoccupied, Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) officials have devised a plan to put pressure on the legislature to open up the 500-bed hell hole again.

Suddenly they claim we have a major gang problem here in Illinois. IDOC officials are rounding up all the Latinos who they can claim are a part of a security threat group (STG) and sticking them in administrative detention (A.D.).

Some guys haven't caught so much as a disciplinary ticket in years and were quietly toiling away in the kitchen or some other form of servitude. Next thing they know they're on a bus and sent to A.D. Some guys, after serving their segregation time for disciplinary tickets, found themselves in Phase 1 of A.D.

The common thread that binds these guys together seems to be that they are alleged members of an STG. It doesn't take much to validate someone as an active member these days. Most guys were members as kids, and their record preceded them to the joint. Some were identified by gang tattoos. And of course there is always that elusive confidential informant (CI), and only the gang intel officers seem to know for certain if the CI even exists. Personally I believe the correctional officers (COs) make up the CIs because the COs know that all they have to do is say the CI's identity is being withheld for the safety and security of the institution, and no one can or will inquire further.

These brothers sit with no recourse in the courts, stuck in limbo waiting in administrative segregation for some sadist to stop using them as a means to obtain a bigger piece of the tax dollar pie so they can re-open Tamms Supermax, and give themselves a pay raise for a job well done while they are at it.


MIM(Prisons) adds: Tamms Supermax opened in 1998. As 2008 approached many who opposed the torture chambers in Illinois formed the Tamms Year Ten campaign to bring attention to it and get it shut down. By January 2013, the unit was completely closed. This campaign was one of a handful demonstrating that the closing of control units is a winnable campaign under imperialism.

That said, almost as soon as Tamms was closed we are getting reports of increasing use of control units in Illinois again. This is why our Shut Down the Control Units campaign uses a specific definition of long-term isolation rather than just counting the prisons officially labeled as "supermaxes" as many bourgeois press do. The above example of pushing false gang validations for more or higher security prisons should not surprise us because prisons are a tool of social control for the imperialists, and that social control includes long-term isolation cells for anyone who challenges the system. The oppressed must organize to build power to change this.

This situation also provides a good example of how we know prisons are not run for profit. The government regularly uses funds to open control unit prisons, which are more expensive to run than lower security prisons. In 1999, MIM Notes reported "Tamms' budget works out to well over $34,000 per year to control each prisoner, not including the $73 million the state reports spending on building the dungeon. Tamms' cost per prisoner is more than three times the $11,006 estimated cost of living for a University of Illinois student at the Urbana-Champaign campus." The employees (COs and other staff) make out with nice high salaries (totaling $17 million at Tamms when it first opened), but these salaries, and everything else in the prison, is funded by the government, with prisoner labor offsetting some of the costs. The imperialists don't mind spending money to sustain their system of social control. It's money they got from the exploitation of workers in the Third World, and they will spend it freely to maintain their way of life and position of power.

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[Gang Validation] [Organizing] [Leavenworth Detention Center] [Federal] [ULK Issue 41]
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Victory in Unity at Leavenworth

At this point Leavenworth Detention Center has no gang validation or step down program. Actually it seems that the administration does very little to address gang violence. This is a detention facility housing mainly pre-trial prisoners but it seems more like a war zone. No effort is made to separate rival gang members or to place people in a safe environment. For example it is common for the pigs to house a white supremacist with a Muslim.

They pit us against each other and sit back and enjoy the show. We must look beyond the tip of our noses and begin to see the bigger picture. United we stand, divided we fall.

Recently we had a major victory! The food here is substandard at best but the meatloaf in particular is undercooked and rancid. White, Black and Latino all stood together and refused to accept trays and refused to lockdown until we were fed. The pigs brought in tear gas canisters to try to intimidate us but we simply refused to go to sleep without food. Finally we were brought sack lunches and they took meatloaf off the menu. If we stick together and stand up for what's right peacefully anything is possible.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This writer reminds us that prisons can play lumpen organizations both ways. On the one side we oppose the validation of people as gang members because this is used to punish and isolate and it is used to target activists and leaders. On the other side we oppose prisons throwing rival organizations together to try to create conflict and violence, which is further used as justification to isolate and lockdown whoever is perceived as a leader, activist or troublemaker. None of these actions are for the purpose of promoting safety or security of the prison population.

It is good to hear about people coming together in spite of the pigs attempts to foment conflict. Winning one change in food is a small battle, but it gives people the chance to see what is possible through unity, and hopefully will lead to greater unity in the future. Those conscious comrades in Leavenworth should take this opportunity to spread political education, and try to unite all against the criminal injustice system. If everyone is on the yard together, this is a good opportunity to start study classes. Write to MIM(Prisons) for help getting a study group started in your prison.

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[Gender] [Organizing]
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Book Review: Captive Genders

captive genders
Captive Genders
Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex
Eric A. Stanley & Nat Smith, Editors
2011, AK Press
Available for $21.95 from AK Press: 674-A 23rd St, Oakland, CA 94612

This book is a compilation of essays from various transgender individuals, activists, prisoners and researchers. The unifying theme is progressive in that the book is not only devoted to exposing gender oppression faced by transgender people, specifically the criminalization of gender variance in the United $tates, but also to the abolishment of the current United $tates prison system itself. It tackles the often incorrect focus of queer activists who call for expanded laws and punishment, correctly exposing this strategy as reactionary and counterproductive. Unfortunately, although this is a pretty long book, it includes only vague anarchist solutions to the problem, with no coherent strategy to abolish the criminal injustice system.

Before going into detail I will briefly mention that MIM(Prisons) disagrees with the use of the term "prison industrial complex" (PIC) which is found throughout this book. This phrase implies that prisons in the United $tates (and other First World countries when applied there) are part of a money-making industry. In reality prisons are a money-losing enterprise, built and sustained by the state as a means of social control. Anyone making money off of prison contracts are just participating in the shuffling of imperialist wealth stolen from the Third World, not making profits off of prisoner labor. The use of this term in this book is perhaps not a surprise as a failure to grasp the underlying purpose of a system is going to lead to mistaken analysis of how we can fight that system.

We Can't Work Within the Criminal Injustice System

In the introduction, the editors wrote: "Mainstream LGBT organizations, in collaboration with the state, have been working hard to make us believe that hate crimes enhancements are a necessary and useful way to make trans and queer people safer. Hate crimes enhancements are used to add time to a person's sentence if the offense is deemed to target a group of people. However, hate crimes enhancements ignore the roots of harm, do not act as deterrents, and reproduce the farce of the PIC, which produces more, not less harm."(p3) This is an important point for activists of all stripes who fight for expanded laws to protect whichever oppressed group they are working to defend. We cannot look to the state to defend us against the state. And the prison system in particular is a repressive arm of the state; anything we do to expand that arm is inherently reactionary.

In "Transforming Carceral Logics: 101 Reasons to Dismantle the Prison Industrial Complex Through Queer/Trans Analysis and Action," S. Lamble writes:

"Although some people believe that we can train transphobia out of law enforcement agents or eliminate homophobic discrimination by hiring more LGBT prison guards, police, and immigration officials, such perspectives wrongly assume that discrimination is a 'flaw' in the system, rather than intrinsic to the system itself. Efforts to make prison and the police institutions more 'gay-friendly' perpetuate the myth that such systems are in place to protect us."(p. 239)

This author goes on to write: "The pervasiveness of state violence against queer and transgender people is reason enough to fight the prison industrial complex. But it is important to include anti-prison work as part of antiviolence struggles more broadly. Too often mainstream antiviolence work around hate crimes, sexual violence, child, and partner abuse excludes or remains disconnected from struggles against state violence."(p245) We agree with the connections made by Lamble here. It is important that people recognize that state-perpetrated violence is far broader and more deadly than any individual violence. It is laughable that some turn to our violent state to protect them. The state will only protect those whose interest it serves. In the case of the Amerikan government, that includes the vast majority of the white oppressor nation, but often excludes oppressed groups of like trans people.

Lamble concludes:

"Unfortunately, many LGBT organizations in Canada, Britain, and the United States — particularly white-dominated and class-privileged ones — are increasingly complicit in the forces of prison expansion: calling for increased penalties under hate crimes laws; participating in police, military, and prison officer recruitment campaigns....LGBT groups nonetheless helped to legitimize imprisonment and channel further resources into locking people up — despite a lack of evidence that such measures reduce hate-motivated violence."(p. 249-250)

In "Identities Under Siege: Violence Against Transpersons of Color[", Lori A. Saffin bolsters this point: "Arguing for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in state hate crimes laws will ultimately end in limited social reform because 'equality' within the existing social system only accounts for and remedies the most blatant forms of injustice."(p155) And she concludes:

"By not taking into consideration the ways in which the criminal justice system regulates, pursues, controls, and punishes the poor and communities of color, LGBT hate crimes initiatives reproduce harm and do not end it. Calling for an increased role of the criminal justice system in enforcing hate crimes legislation is insular in that it assumes a white, gay, wealthy subject while also soliciting victims of hate-motivated violence to report into a penal system without regard for the fact that people of color and the poor are disproportionately punished. By ignoring racism and economic inequality in their arguments for hate crimes statutes, national gay rights organizations assume an assimilationist stance that reinforces the status quo at the expense of communities of color and the poor."(p156)

Queer and Trans People in the Criminal Injustice System

Captive Genders has some good data on the incarceration of queer and trans people in Amerika who are disproportionately targeted by the criminal injustice system and face additional dangers and abuse within prison. In "Rounding Up the Homosexuals: The Impact of Juvenile Court on Queer and Trans/Gender-Non-Conforming Youth" Wesley Ware writes:

"Further, the data tell us that queer and trans youth in detention are equally distributed across race and ethnicity, and comprise 15 percent of youth in detention centers.... Since queer and trans youth are overrepresented in nearly all popular feeders into the juvenile justice system — homelessness, difficulty in school, substance abuse, and difficulty with mental health — the same societal ills, which disproportionately affect youth of color — it should not be surprising that they may be overrepresented in youth prisons and jails as well."

In "Maroon Abolitionists: Black Gender-Oppressed Activists in the Anti-Prison Movement in the US and Canada," Julia Sudbury writes about the gender binary in the prison system and the risks for transsexual prisoners who have not had gender reassignment surgery. They are assigned to a prison based on one part of their body, denied medical care, and put in extreme physical danger.

Many trans wimmin are forced to take a prison "husband" by the guards who think this will diffuse tension and make the prisons calmer. In "No One Enters Like Them: Health, Gender Variance, and the PIC," blake nemec interviews Kim Love about her experience in the men's prisons in California. Kim describes entering the prison, when the Correctional Officer (CO) assigned her to a cell and she objected to the placement, and "They told me that's gonna be your husband, and that's where you're going to be and you're going to love him."(p. 222) She goes on to explain why no one tries to take the COs to court: "We've had so many transgenders that have been raped in CDC [California Department of Corrections] and had proof. One of them even had the towel the CO wiped his semen on. Today I haven't heard of one case that a transgender won against a law officer, against CDC."(p. 222)

In "Out of Compliance: Masculine-Identified People in Women's Prisons" Lori Girshick writes about women "aggressives" in prison. These people, most of whom identify as lesbians or trans men, are often treated more harshly than feminine prisoners because they are breaking the social and cultural norms the prisons seek to enforce. "Legislation is being considered in California to segregate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) prisoners who self-identify at receiving."(p. 203) The author explains that this gives staff even greater access to harass and abuse them.

How to Organize for Change

In the essay "Building an Abolitionist Trans and Queer Movement with Everything We've Got", the authors, Morgan Bassichis, Alexander Lee and Dean Spade, tackle the critical question of how to organize. But they completely miss several important points. First, they consider the Amerikan workers to be on the side of the oppressed: "The US government and its ally nations and institutions in the Global North helped pass laws and policies that made it harder for workers to organize into unions..."(p20)

Second, they push reformist organizing without a clear goal of eliminating imperialism, as if we could abolish the criminal injustice system within imperialism. They do however, correctly identify that violence and discrimination aren't just individual bad behaviors:

"Discrimination laws and hate crimes laws encourage us to understand oppression as something that happens when individuals use bias to deny someone a job because of race or sex or some other characteristic, or beat up or kill someone because of such a characteristic. This way of thinking, sometimes called the 'perpetrator perspective,' makes people thing about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism in terms of individual behaviors and bad intentions rather than wide-scale structural oppression that often operates without some obvious individual actor aimed at denying an individual person an opportunity. The violence of imprisoning millions of poor people and people of color, for example, can't be adequately explained by finding one nasty racist individual, but instead requires looking at a whole web of institutions, policies, and practices that make it 'normal' and 'necessary' to warehouse, displace, discard, and annihilate poor people and people of color. Thinking about violence and oppression as the work of 'a few bad apples' undermines our ability to analyze our conditions systematically and intergenerationally, and to therefore organize for systemic change."(p. 23)

We have a correct analysis here of the need for systemic change. But their ultimate goal is summed up:

"Abolition is not just about closing the doors to violent institutions, but also about building up and recovering institutions and practices and relationships that nurture wholeness, self-determination, and transformation. Abolition is not some distant future but something we create in every moment when we say no to the traps of empire and yes to the nourishing possibilities dreamed of and practiced by our ancestors and friends."(p. 36)
This is an unfortunate dive into individualism and the persynal-is-political anarchist practice. We cannot create a culture that enables better relationships between people and allows the oppressed to have their own institutions until we eliminate the system of imperialism that necessitates the exact opposite. Pretending that our individual practice can get us there is the same mistake these and other authors in Captive Genders correctly criticize when they talk about the fact that one racist individual isn't the problem but rather it's the whole system. We must dismantle that system first, then we can build a just and equal society.

The essay "Maroon Abolitionists: Black Gender-Oppressed Activists in the Anti-Prison Movement in the US and Canada" also gets the solution wrong:

"Movement-building that creates innovative models of justice that do not pimp prisoners for the success of capitalism are possible. It is time to view the current US economic hardships as an exit opportunity away from dependency on conservative foundations and government funding vehicles that bar groups from work that threatens pharmaceutical industries or gender/sexuality norms. Transformative justice models that empower lovers, friends, and groups of people to be accountable to one another rather than rely on unjust and unsustainable US systems, can work to abolish the prison industrial complex. We can, and are, creating these in forms that facilitate a domino effect of cultural and economic churnings."(p. 230)

Again here we have this idea of "transformative justice" that is anarchist individualism with people just holding each other accountable outside of the United $tates's criminal injustive system. Yet no matter how hard we try, we do not have the liberty to exist outside of the imperialist system. Take a look at the revolutionaries in the Philippines or India who liberated base areas and set up their own independent institutions only to have them attacked by the brutal military (funded and armed by the United $tates). Or look at an example closer to home: the MOVE organization, which attempted to set up its own peaceful self-policing community only to be violently destroyed by the Amerikan injustice system. There is a reason why the Black Panther Party trained its members in self-defense. We are misleading people by pretending that this transformation of the criminal injustice system is possible by just creating some independent structures. The Amerikan government will not just fade away without a fight.

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