As prisoners in this socially oppressive injustice system we tend to be attracted to philosophy to try to get a better understanding of why and how did we end up in a cage like some type of animal. Some choose religion hoping that some omni-present being can answer their questions and fill in the blanks. Others choose a more materialist ideology for a better scientific understanding to the present situation here in the United $tates. The rest just choose to ride it out and hope that the situation changes.
There is no denying that dialectically and hystorically the empire is socially unstable, so much so that the oppressive Amerikan Gestapo are killing us, free of judicial repercussion, in order to protect the bourgeois interests at the expense of the oppressed nations. The state sponsored bourgeois media are quick to suggest that the Amerikan gestapo killings are justified with no scientific facts to support their so-called reporting. The people must look past the bullshit smoke being blown in our faces and understand that shit isn't all lemonade and apple pies.
Religion doesn't tell us scientific facts, but actually dogmatic scriptures about this false paradise where those "chosen" can live free after death. So how can this spiritual being give those materially existing on this earth freedom? It cannot. Religion blinds us to what's really happening here. It is a poison infecting the masses with its dogmatic ideology.
Scientific theory with Maoist philosophy is the only way to freedom. Scientifically it teaches the masses to dissect hystory and to digest what is beneficial to the struggle. It gives us, the lumpen of the oppressed nations, a place in a socialist society where we can take part in the world's struggle for freedom. The former CPUSA called this line petty-bourgeois radicalism, but Maoism teaches that all prisoners are political prisoners. The United $tates has the highest prisoner population in world hystory with most prisoners coming from the barrios and ghettos. Growing up in poverty, the oppressed nations are forced to adapt to their reality. What separates the barrios and ghettos from the Third World? Nothing, we are the Third World. Today we [email protected] and New Afrikans make up most of the prison population. Centuries of oppression on our people has brainwashed us to accept this as our reality.
Fellow prisoners ask me, why do you read about China, or Palestine, etc? Or when I clearly state that I don't believe in God they look at me like I'm crazy. First I state that God is a facade, meant to pacify the masses and mind fuck them into accepting their oppressive reality. World hystory is our hystory, and by examining other nations' struggles we can philosophically advance as a people. The struggle in Palestine is our struggle and our struggle is the Palestinian struggle. Together we are one; the Third World.
Together we stand firm. The victims of the empire deserve justice and only we can bring that about. Oppose the imperialists wars on the Third World, whether they're in Kabul, Juarez, or South Central.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We echo this comrade's internationalism as well as eir dedication to the philosophy of dialectical materialism. However, if we are to make a material analsysis of the conditions in the First World ghettos, barrios, reservations and even prisons, we must disagree with em asserting that "We are the Third World."
Like the Third World, the internal oppressed nations of the United $tates are oppressed by imperialism and have histories connected to other oppressed nations that are in the Third World. However, the distinction between First World and Third World is important because of the material benefits that those living within imperialist borders receive just because of the luck of where they were born. That is why we speak of the First World lumpen as a different class than the lumpen proletariat; First World lumpen are surrounded by the labor aristocracy, and not the proletariat. All U.$. residents benefit from the flow of wealth away from the exploited in the Third World. True solidarity with the exploited must recognize this reality if we hope to liberate ourselves from imperialism, or else we risk falling into positions that put the interests of oppressed in the United $tates over the interests of the oppressed elsewhere.
by a West Virginia prisoner November 2015 permalink
For my essay I chose Frederick Douglass. I admire his inner strength, free spirit, and intelligence. I believe that he could see opportunity in every situation. For example, when his oppressors became so irate of his learning to read and write, he knew that things that are restricted are usually worthy of pursuit.
He overcame so many obstacles with so few resources, and he gives me motivation and inspiration to overcome and succeed, although my difficulties are minor compared to his. He was a great man and an unsung hero of freedom fighting. He must have thought to himself that it was better to risk death and fight for his freedom, than to conform to the wishes of tyrannical beings.
He fought and won. So much was against him and yet his spirit refused to be broken. He knew how powerful words can be. He learned them and mastered them. And once he'd won, he didn't let the realm of success lull him into complacency — a realm where many men venture and are swallowed, ending their reign of greatness. No, Frederick Douglass was a mossless stone; he never stagnated. Douglass continued pressing forward, not only bettering himself, but also bettering those he came in contact with and helping other oppressed individuals.
His written word will echo through the generations, inspiring thousands and perhaps millions. The American education system gives him only a cursory glance, then moves on to lies about founding fathers. Imagine if they lingered longer or more often on Frederick Douglass, and the valuable influence on those impressionable minds he would render. Frequently, I wonder about a stronger, less passive and more spirited generation. Like Frederick Douglass.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Frederick Douglass was born into slavery around 1818 in Maryland. Ey escaped slavery and went on to become a prolific writer, speaker, and newspaper publisher. Eir primary battles were against slavery and for wimmin's right to vote. Douglass had a similar path to radicalization as many readers of ULK, even though ey lived almost two centuries ago.
Douglass was taught the alphabet at around 12 years old from eir slavemaster's wife. Even though ey was discouraged from reading, sometimes with violence, Douglass continued to study and taught many others how to read as well. With the ability to read, Douglass became politicized through reading newspapers, which helped em develop into an internationally-acclaimed writer and speaker against slavery and oppression.
Even in the face of censorship and lack of programming, many U.$. prisoners build themselves and others up in the same way Douglass did. Present-day prisoners are not allowed to come together in a group to study, for "security threat concerns," which parallels Douglass's experience of having eir weekly literacy classes disbanded by the clubs and stones of slave owners. Nowdays, those who try to teach in spite of restrictions are locked in isolation toture cells.
Without good literacy skills, one can't file a lawsuit, or write grievances, or understand the prison handbook, or read Under Lock & Key; get the picture? Various sources state that 60-70% of U.$. prisoners are functionally illiterate.(1) Illiteracy affects the majority of prisoners, and thus hinders the organization of the majority of our subscribers' peers. Passing on an issue of ULK does little good if the recipient can't understand it.
Statistics from the prisoncrats themselves state that prisoners have a 70% chance of recidivism if they get no help with their literacy, whereas prisoners who do receive literacy help have a 16% chance of recidivism.(2) We wonder, why aren't there more programs for teaching reading comprehension and writing skills in prisons? It's clearly a continuation of the same exact national oppression faced by Frederick Douglass's generation.
That we are still having a conversation about building literacy among New Afrikans should give us a clue of the ineffectiveness of reformism and the necessity of complete communist revolution. After gaining state power, one of the first steps of this revolution will be to establish a joint dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations (JDPON), so that the most oppressed people in the world can dictate to those who have been oppressing others for centuries how society will be run. As was done in communist China under Mao, one of the primary functions of this dictatorship of the proletariat will be to build literacy at every single level of society, and especially among those who are furthest removed from the benefits of the economic system. One can't fully participate in society's development without literacy, and we need as many people as possible to participate.
We want to do as much as we can now to speed up the transition from capitalism to communism, and reading and writing are essential to this task. Building literacy also fits well into our immature Re-Lease on Life program, so those who are released can have a better chance of success and hopefully also a better chance of staying engaged in political work when on the outside. Even though MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within are on a much smaller scale than a JDPON, or even a single nation-state, we can still contribute to this goal while we build for a society where advanced literacy is taught to everyone systematically.
Douglass is just one individual example of a larger social phenomenon: when higher education meets a lack of opportunity, it produces radicalization and objection to the status quo. We know there is much more we can do to increase the reading and writing skills of oppressed nation lumpen in U.$. prisons, and to foster this politicization. But since MIM(Prisons) can only reach people with written material, we need our comrades behind bars to do the work on the ground. Anyone who is already teaching others basic literacy skills should get in touch with MIM(Prisons) to help us develop this Serve the People program. If you already have a study group, try to think how you can expand it to teach literacy as well. Tell us what materials we can send you to help you teach reading and writing to others. It is one of the ways we can improve the material conditions of our fellow oppressed peoples, and one way we can uphold the legacy of Frederick Douglass.
by a Pennsylvania prisoner November 2015 permalink
This is a followup letter to notify you fine folks of the outcome of the article in ULK 46 about textbooks being censored by Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC). Any time a prisoner receives a publication it gets screened for any possible reason they might be able to withhold it. This is done by a committee, and these people may consult other prison employees for help in the decision on whether or not to allow a given publication into the prison. If this committee, the Incoming Publication Review Committee (IPRC) deems a publication does not fit the criteria to be possessed by a prisoner, they hold it, and send the prisoner a notification. The prisoner has a certain amount of time to reply before it gets destroyed. The prisoner can request the publication get mailed out, at their expense (only first class postage), or they have the option to appeal IPRC's decision to the superintendent.
I had three computer programming textbooks denied over the course of 5 months and appealed each one in turn. The superintendent here at SCI-Huntingdon responded to me by saying that I wouldn't be getting my books. He told me that IPRC's decision is final, and that he can't approve them. Around that time I wrote to you and got your censorship packet. I appealed the superintendent's decision to central office by writing a letter to the department policy director Dianna Woodside. In the letter I told her that, although the IT department was consulted, they were incorrect in determining that the books were a threat. I demonstrated my preexisting knowledge of the subject, and listed several cases where the prisoners were awarded monetary damages for being denied books, including one that was specifically about programming textbooks. I told the official that I was sincere about trying to pursue a possible career in programming computers, and reiterated my willingness to go to court. I am unsure of why exactly she decided in my favor, but in the end I got all three of my books sitting right here with me. I am sending copies of the decisions along with this letter.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The books this prison initially denied were Java in a Nutshell, Build Your Own Website the Right Way Using HTML & CSS, and Object Oriented Programming. This shows both the random and unfounded basis on which prison administrators decide what literature to censor, and the potential for successful appeal with persistence. It's obvious that prisons in Amerika can not possibly have a rehabilitative goal if the very books required for education into a productive career post-prison are denied for no reason.
We certainly don't win the right to our incoming mail often, but it is well worth the time to appeal every instance of censorship possible. If nothing else, it provides documentation of the denials and lack of reasons, and may pave the way for a future court case. For those facing censorship, write to us for a copy of our censorship packet that will guide you through the appeals process. And be sure to send us any documentation you have on censorship of our materials, your appeals, and administrators' responses to your appeals. We put these documents on our website at www.prisoncensorship.info.
I have an active case in the Federal Courts suing the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) for violation of BP-03.91 Uniform Offender Correspondence Rules, and the corrupt grievance system denying prisoners access to courts. I have filed a lawsuit under 42 USC Section 1983 against TDCJ.
If you would like to help me stop this corruption aimed at Texas prisoners, send any grievances, unsworn declarations, and other process documents you may have that can be used as evidence in the two above mentioned U.$. Constitutional violations to MIM(Prisons). Be sure to write "Dunham v. Wainwright, et al. Case No. 1:15-cv-1018-RP" on the top of each document. Your evidence will help prove deliberate indifference because it shows officials knew of the problems and failed to act. MIM(Prisons) will then forward your documents to the Court Clerk at Clerk Court, United States District Court, c/o Case no. 6:15 cv 869, 300 Willow Street, Suite 104, Beaumont, TX 77701-2217.
The Texas Attorney General handling this case for the defendants is Gloria Chandler, PO Box 12548, Capital Station, Austin, TX 78711. Please feel free to send her ALL of your complaints so that she may realize the wide range and depth of behavior and activities. I doubt she is receiving enough complaints at the present time. MIM(Prisons) will also be forwarding your complaints to the Attorney General, and be sure to again write "Dunham v. Livingston et al. Case No. 1:15-cv-1018-RP" on the top of your complaint.
Since filing this case, state employees' actions under color of law has put me in fear for my life. I need your support so they know I am not in this alone.
I often wonder, that in the land where freedom rings, Why does pain and suffering it also bring? Because the only ringing I hear is a baton against my bars As I stare out the window, beyond the day to its stars. Eyes closed wishing & praying as often as I might, I still must fall asleep, within a cell every night. Hoping when I wake, that it was nothing but a dream, Yet nothing in my life is now as it may seem. Loved ones passing, as I stay locked inside of a cage, Working a job that pays less the 1% of minimum wage, Walking on the yard, as shots ring out from over head, Saying a silent prayer, hoping that no one else is dead. "The joint" is locked down over an argument on the yard. Not a fist was thrown, yet the whole "joint" is scarred. Commissary denial, and visitation is restricted. "On the new," they holler, another man has been convicted. Everyone around me is doing maximum time. Once free & now trapped, like a box & it's mine Silently and desperately, trying to find some way out. While dry tears escape my eyes as I scream silent shouts. So anyone whom claims that Amerika is the land of the free, They don't know a single thing, about the life that surrounds me!
I have chosen comrade Malcolm X as my freedom fighter, may he rest in peace.
Comrade Malcolm X was a man who grew up troubled by family issues. His father was murdered and his mother was slowly starting to deteriorate mentally. The comrade started to steal, and was running numbers, etc. This landed the comrade in prison where he continued to get into trouble, until he met a brother from the Nation of Islam who helped comrade Malcolm X to get himself together.
In time, comrade Malcolm X educated himself on the inside and eradicated all his bad habits. After his release he continued his work as a revolutionary, helping to build the Nation of Islam and fighting for the people. Later on in his life he was working on his own organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity.
Comrade Malcolm X had a major impact on my life. When I came to prison in 2005 I was sent to the supermax in Ohio, and I had the wrong understanding of revolutionary change, and I had a 7th grade education. I met a prisoner who let me read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and when I had finished, my whole life was changed. I started working harder to educate myself and to become more politically conscious and vowed to spend the rest of my life fighting against the oppressor.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade's choice of a freedom fighter underscores the critical importance that education and political literature play in raising the consciousness of our comrades behind bars. While people may have an intuitive grasp of the nature of Amerikan imperialism, the lumpen mainly see the option of violence and theft against the people as a way to respond to the conditions of their lives. This is not revolutionary, and in fact sets the struggle back. But even with limited access to educational material we see people like Malcolm X and this comrade taking up the revolutionary struggle.
For this reason we place a big emphasis on getting our newsletter Under Lock & Key and political books in to prisoners. Most of the money we spend is on these tasks. And we rely on our comrades behind bars to share the lit they receive, and turn others on to the revolutionary mindset to help build new freedom fighters amongst the lumpen.
Everybody screaming west side, east side It doesn't matter, both sides Black men die Tell me why do we die right before our time It was said that every Black man committed crime That's a lie We can change if we put our minds on revolution. Let's unite and together we can rise. In due time thunder storms can produce a flower Through revolution and patience, then the world's ours But too much patience without action then we all cowards. Black power is what I scream right before I die Nightmares of being murdered by the Amerikkkan kind It's a known fact that Amerika has been designed to kill us all. Read your books it's been proven many times. It's hard to cope with the madness that's going on but I'm a soldier and as a soldier I gotta remain strong. Pick up revolutionary books and study them right And when the time comes, we must not be afraid to fight. We gotta fight if we plan to reach the top And Blacks killing Blacks all that gotta stop. It won't be long before Amerika takes a fall. Fuck the government, may death be upon you all. It ain't nothing but capitalists in the white house And Obama sold us out I'm fed up with lies and bullshit Black leaders talking good, but being hypocrites, Claiming they on our side Capitalizing off the Third World by teaching lies. I despise all capitalist because they're evil I'd rather die than let the government kill my people. They say we equal, how is that when we still trapped inside the projects, can't find jobs so we slang crack. Picture that, little kids without their moms and dads They on their own, becoming strong now they toting gas They go to prison, hit the streets screaming "pro Black!" Then you put them under the jail because they teaching facts.
An approximate definition of a freedom fighter is someone who lays down their life in the struggle for freedom and self-determination. The hystory of the Third World is full of misery, disease, war, starvation and exploitation all because of imperialist exploitation of the global south. By growing up in these conditions, many become class conscious at a young age and are ready to stand up against oppression, and some become recognized for their dedication to the international struggle for freedom.
I could dedicate this article to the brave, selfless revolutionaries like Che, who in his adventures from Argentina to Mexico saw firsthand how U.$. imperialism was to blame for Latin America's backwardness. Or to Nelson Mandela who socially revolutionized South Africa and even gave his freedom for a better life for his people. Many have fought to end exploitation.
Really though I want to dedicate this paper to the youth, the future of the revolution. To those who at a young age saw misery and experienced hunger and at a young age dialectically understood that it was because the oil, or minerals in the dirt, were more important than the lives of the people living on that land.
During the Cultural Revolution it was the youth who attacked the power-hungry revisionists in the party. Chairman Mao said that the youth are the future cadres of the revolution and we must protect them and educate them to keep the struggle alive.
These bourgeois politicians talk a good game but do they really want change? According to a recent interview Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recognized that society has betrayed the youth. He told CBS This Morning that statistically the United $tates has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the so-called developed world.(1) Today's culture in Amerika is all about flashy cars and jewelry and social media with the popular #YOLO. The parasitic culture could care less what goes on outside their borders as long as they get theirs.
The biggest refugee crisis since WWII is taking place in the Middle East all because there's a power struggle between the west and the east. It's sad that 25,000 children traveled alone from Syria to Europe, not knowing if there will be a tomorrow.(2) The bourgeois media is quick to water down First World intervention and call the Assad regime the enemy of world peace, but who is bombing whole cities killing dozens of innocent people at a time?
Never in the hystory of the Third World have they experienced long periods of peace. Dialectically dissecting the hystory of the Middle East we see that post-WWII the paper tiger (U.$. dollar) has had its hand in the Middle East supplying guns and aid to fight wars for imperialist interests. How hypocritical is it to call yourselves the true examples of democracy when you're ready to go to war for a couple barrels of petroleum at the expense of innocent lives.
Only through the example of the Cultural Revolution, with the structure and discipline of Mao Zedong thought, can our youth have a chance. It was the policy of Mao's China that the interests of the youth be protected and that they be organized in order to fully participate properly in the social progress of the nation. Education is the key for progress, and the youth are the future of that progress. Oppose imperialism. To protect the future we must first make sure there's a future.
The Syrian civil war, the biggest conflict in the Middle East if not the world, has many wondering what the outcome will be. The United $tates has backed a group in the Kurdish area that has called for the expulsion of Arabs (1) and has armed fundamentalist religious forces that threaten the Syrian government, headed by Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, the government-controlled capital of Syria, Damascus, has been a place where Muslims, Christians, and Jews are allowed to co-exist, united by the same desire to save their nation from the forces that be. The Syrian Constitution is based in the mission of Pan-Arabism and specifically prevents the formation of political parties "on the basis of religious, sectarian, tribal, regional, class-based, professional, or on discrimination based on gender, origin, race or color."(2)
The Assad government opposes becoming a puppet to U.$. imperialism and was never for the creation of I$rael and its occupation of Palestine. As history has shown, with a policy like that comes economic, if not military, aggression. The East and the West are in a tug-of-war over influence in the Middle East and it's only going to get worse. The so-called U.$.-type of "democracy" has proven again and again that it does not work; imperialist pseudo-democracy will not work in Syria just like it hasn't worked in Afghanistan or Iraq.
The pro-West bourgeois media claims Assad rules with an iron fist, but the West has backed the destruction of secularism and political pluralism in the region. Syria is more democratic than Saudi Arabia, a U.$. ally and the biggest dictatorship in the region. If the United $tates is really so concerned about iron fists, maybe the capitalists should look past the petroleum barrels and look at Saudi Arabia, the anti-democratic Sunni dictatorship that is nominally leading a repressive war in Yemen and was involved in the brutal repression of recent revolts in Bahrain.
For centuries Sunni influence has dominated the sectarian Muslim world, but now the table has turned and the Shia militias have taken up more territory than they've had in centuries, which has the Saudis in an ideological war with Iran. Assad is blamed for all the casualties in the war but even the foreign aggressors can't deny that it's their coalition planes dropping the barrel bombs on innocent civilians, threatening the Syrian government with war if they intervene.
The United $tates has spent $5 million on a Pentagon-sponsored training program to arm the Syrian opposition forces, but four years later there is still no success in their campaign. The Pentagon has admitted that the program was a failure. From the beginning of the war the U.$. State Department's policy towards Syria was "Assad must go now." But since it's looking like this is not going to happen any time soon Obama said Assad doesn't have to leave right away, there can be a transition of power. What bureaucratic bullshit.
All this has to do with Russia and Iran's strong presence in Syria and their strong stance on supporting Assad. The Iran-backed Shia militias are doing most of the fighting on Iraq's border with Syria, and they have made it clear that as soon as they've dealt with the Islamic State they're prepared to fight the real enemy: U.$. imperialism. Russia has recently opened up an airbase in western Syria, the biggest Russian base ever built outside the old Soviet territory. Just recently they've started conducting their own airstrikes against the Syrian opposition forces in eastern Syria, far from Islamic State-held territory.(5) Now the United $tates sees how determined Russia and Iran are in making sure the Syrian government doesn't collapse. Both sides are willing to sit down for talks on how to avoid each other on the battlefield but can't decide how the war should end. One thing is for sure: if Assad leaves, the war still won't end.
The real victims of this ideological, semi-colonial war are the innocent people of Syria. Since the beginning of the war, 250,000 people have died and more than 9 million people have left their homes. According to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 3,000 to 6,000 people leave Syria every day. So now because of the war the biggest refugee crisis since WWII is happening with no end in sight.
Other major casualties are happening among the Kurdish people, who have been fighting for freedom since before the war and have suffered much death and destruction because of the war. I'm not talking about the comprador landlord class that sold out to imperialism. I'm talking about the exploited who were suffering way before the war, and do not have interests aligned with imperialism, despite their misleaders.
As anti-imperialists we oppose U.$. aggression in Syria as well as anywhere in the world. Chairman Mao said "political power comes out of the barrel of a gun." So as long as there is exploitation there will always be war. As materialists we must use scientific theory to educate one another on the importance of solidarity with the Third World and opposition to the bourgeois warmongers.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is correct that our principal contribution here should be in making it hard for the United $tates to stay involved in Syria and elsewhere. And while we cannot determine the forces on the ground elsewhere, we can see who is in the anti-imperialist united front and who is with the imperialists. In that light, we have a couple comments related to some popular narratives on this conflict.
First, there is a myth promoted in the Western media that violence in the Middle East is due to centuries-old religious conflict. This myth paints the current war(s) in an ahistorical way; they have always existed, and may continue to exist unless the imperialists can somehow tame and modernize these backwards peoples.
The reality is that these are some of the most religiously diverse countries because they are close to the birthplaces of so many of the world's most popular religions. Countries like Iraq and Syria not only were quite diverse and harmonious, but were relatively well-developed; not the bombed-out desert caves we see in the media.
The narrative that focuses on religion does so to hide the real politics and economics behind the conflict. In particular, hiding imperialist meddling. It also attempts to convince the West, from atheist to Christian, of the barbarity of these "foreign" cultures. It is important to remember that the principal contradiction on the international scale is imperialism vs. the oppressed nations, and not between religions or genders.
Many have used the role of wimmin in the Islamic State in contrast to the Kurdish regions to justify support for the Kurds. As Frantz Fanon noted in his study of the Algerian revolution, the conditions of armed struggle forced the involvement of wimmin in military operations, regardless of cultural beliefs to the contrary. In other words, the national struggle, if genuinely aimed at liberation from imperialism, will force the gender contradiction forward with it. The converse is not true, which is how we know which contradiction should be prioritized. It is true that more wimmin holding guns can be a good sign of the progressiveness of the organization, but even in the Third World this is not always the case.
This leads us to another myth that we want to clarify for our readers, which is that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is a Marxist, or even a Maoist organization. While having Marxist-Leninist roots, the PKK fully capitulated to the Turkish state after the capture of their leader Abdullah Ocalan in a joint U.$.-Turkish operation in 1999. He officially changed the leading ideology of the PKK to a libertarian “Democratic Confederalism” in 2005. But as early as 1998 Ocalan was denouncing communism, and promoting the route of U.$. development for the oppressed nations.(6)
The PKK has its roots in Turkey, which has a long history of Maoist activity that continues to this day. Yet none of the Kurdish-controlled areas are currently run by anti-imperialist organizations. The U.$.-backed Erdogan regime in Turkey does have a complex relationship to the PKK and other Kurdish forces. While they have provided support to Kurds fighting the Islamic State, in recent months, they resumed violent attacks on the PKK within Turkey. For this reason and many others, the current alliance of Kurdish forces with the U.$. empire is not an optimistic choice for the Kurdish people.
A USW comrade asks: Recently I was having a conversation here with someone about the "Third World." This person didn't think all of Africa, Asia & Latin America was still the "Third World." I wasn't totally sure. He also asked exactly what qualifies a country for Third World status. I had no answer, he asked someone outside prison who looked online and stated all Latin America is still Third World but China was now considered "Second World," is this true? Can you send me an article on "Third World" - past, present, and future? Thank you.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The use of the terms First, Second and Third World arose during the Cold War, when the Western imperialist-led block was referred to as the First World, the communist block was the Second World, and the Third World were the so-called non-aligned countries who were also the most exploited and underdeveloped countries by design.
Mao Zedong put forth an alternative assessment of the world using these terms. By this time the Soviet Union had clearly gone back on the capitalist road. So while the West saw the Soviet Union as communist, China saw it correctly as imperialist. Mao therefore labeled the two superpowers, U$A and the Soviet Union, as the First World. He grouped other imperialist countries as the Second World, which he saw as potential allies against the First World. Then the exploited countries he saw as the Third World, including socialist countries like China itself.
Today, the general usage of the term Third World is more consistent and it is closer to the way Mao defined it. It might be used interchangeably with terms like "exploited nations," "oppressed nations," "underdeveloped countries," "periphery" or "global south." In 1974 Mao said, "The third world has a huge population. With the exception of Japan, Asia belongs to the third world. The whole of Africa belongs to the third world and Latin America too."(1) To this day, this is probably the most common view of who is the Third World. But of course it is more nuanced than that.
It is worth mentioning the more recent use of the term Fourth World to refer to indigenous populations that are not really integrated into the capitalist world economy. This points to the reality that the vast populations that we might lump into the category of Third World can vary greatly themselves. The distinction is a more useful point when analyzing conditions within a Third World country than when doing a global analysis.
In the earlier years of the Soviet Union, Stalin summed up Lenin's theory of imperialism and split "the population of the globe into two camps: a handful of 'advanced' capitalist countries which exploit and oppress vast colonies and dependencies, and the huge majority consisting of colonial and dependent countries which are compelled to wage a struggle for liberation from the imperialist yoke."(2) This is how we view the world today, when there is no socialist block with state power. But we also know that historically the socialist USSR and socialist China both saw themselves in the camp of the exploited countries, or the Third World.
In our glossary, we define Third World as, "The portion of the geographic-social world subjected to imperialist exploitation by the First World." If this is our working definition, we might choose to use the term "exploited nations" to be more clear. But this comrade brings up a good question asking about China. And it leads us to the question, is China still an exploited nation?
We will only superficially address this question here, but we think the obvious answer is "yes." It was only recently that the peasantry ceased to be the majority in China. And after the destruction of socialist organizing in the mid-1970s, the conditions of the peasantry quickly deteriorated pushing people to leave their homelands for the cities. While urban wages have seen steady growth in recent years, even that masks a vast and diverse population. The average annual income of $9,000 puts an urban Chinese worker in the neighborhood of earning the value of their labor.(3) But the average is greatly skewed by the wealthy, and most workers actually make far less than $9,000 a year. Combine them with the almost 50% of the population in the rural areas and we've got a majority exploited population.
Another way to think about China as a whole is that it accounts for about 25% of global production.(4) Capitalism cannot function and pay over a quarter of the world's productive labor more than the value they produce. Keeping all the value of your own labor (and more) is an elite benefit only granted to a tiny minority found almost wholly in the First World. There is really no feasible path forward that leads to the vast majority of Chinese people benefiting from imperialism when they make up almost 20% of the world's people. This is a contradiction that Chinese finance capitalists must deal with.
While the modern interpretation of the term Third World tends to be a descriptive term for the conditions of that country alone, the definitions from the Cold War era actually defined Third World countries by how they relate in the global balance of power. To define a country as Third World is more meaningful when it is done to define its interests in relation to others. Can we count on the Chinese to take up anti-imperialism or not? Or, as Mao put it, who are our friends and who are our enemies? That is the important question.
While we see the makings of more and more revolutionary nationalist organizing by other nations against China in the future, we cannot put the Chinese nation in the camp of oppressor nations. It is our position that some 80% of the world are of the oppressed nations that oppose imperialism. Including China as an oppressor nation would push that number down near 60%. But the conditions in China just don't support that categorization.
The bourgeois myth is that the world has been in a period of peace since the end of World War II. The MIM line has always been that World War III is under way, it's just taken the form of the First World vs. the Third World, so First Worlders don't worry about it so much. In recent years that has begun to change as witnessed in thinly veiled conflicts in places like Ukraine and Syria. In recent months we've seen U.$. and Russian military on the same battlefield, not on the same side. And both countries are gearing up to increase their militarys' involvements in that war in Syria. This is the first time that the inter-imperialist contradiction has been so acute since Gorbachev took power in the Soviet Union in 1985 and began the dissolution of the union in partnership with the Western imperialists.
Politically speaking, it would be reasonable to consider countries like Russia, as well as China, to be the Second World today, as they provide a counterbalance to the imperialist interests of the dominant imperialist powers of Europe, Japan and, most importantly, the United $tates. As such, Russia and China can play progressive roles as a side-effect of them pursuing their own non-progressive interests, because they challenge the dominant empire. However, we have not seen the term Second World used in this way, and you don't really hear the term these days. Perhaps the growing inter-imperialist conflict will warrant its comeback.