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Under Lock & Key

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[Campaigns] [Abuse] [Polunsky Unit] [Texas] [ULK Issue 39]
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Texas Petitions Fall on Deaf Ears, Need to Shift Campaign Target

We here on Polunsky Unit are receiving the ULK and copies of the grievance petition. We are engaged in the fight on a very small scale. Hundreds of petitions have been sent to the central grievance office, Administrative Review and Risk Management Division (ARRM), Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), and recently TDCJ Board Chairman Oliver Bell, but to no avail. Grievances are not submitted and grievance investigators claim to not have received them. Those that do get processed/submitted are not properly investigated and receive the standard response of "insufficient evidence to substantiate your allegation."

The KKKlantation Warden Gary Hunter is in collusion with grievance staff to trash/destroy any grievance/appeal that may get action if we proceed to the Step 2 level, that is if the Step 2 does not land in the hands of Regional Director Richard Alford who has been Assistant Warden and Head Warden on this KKKlantation within the 12 years that I've been here.

There is another struggle against Helen Sheffield (Sgt. of Safe Prison/Extortion). She confiscates personal property of offenders accused of extortion, running gambling businesses, stores, inappropriate relationships with female guards, etc., and destroys property if the offender refuses to snitch for her. This is all done under the watchful eye of Senior Warden Hunter and Assistant Warden Kenneth Hutto.

If any comrades in Texas can assist us in our fight against Sgt. Sheffield and her theft and unlawful destruction of offender property, please feel free to engage in this struggle.

To all comrades of USW in Texas, we must come up with a new direction to take this grievance campaign (new addresses, etc.) to send grievance petitions to because all the former names/addresses have failed us. My suggestion is the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or ACLU Texas. We comrades on the Polunsky KKKlantation have chosen to forward our petitions to the DOJ.

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[Control Units] [Campaigns] [California] [ULK Issue 39]
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California SHU Battle Part of Anti-Imperialist Struggle

"It shows that circumstances make men just as much as men make circumstances." - Karl Marx in the German ideology

Can we say that a new phenomenon is brewing behind these walls? We can all see the new level of political consciousness in California prisons, where prisoners are resisting the repressive policies of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) in a more collective manner. Change has been slow, but progress is evident. The root of this is us prisoners with a little political and legal education to enlighten others and at the same time inspire others to participate in progressive action.

The California hunger strikes weren't spontaneous demonstrations against injust human rights violations in the Security Housing Units (SHUs), but rather carefully laid out plans to get outside attention and assistance. It was years of suppression that brought a few together to gather many in a common purpose that serves all of our interests. Some men are mentally broken while others carry on in these SHU conditions.

This is but a simple dialectic; or two sides of a contradiction forming a unity. On one hand we have those who deteriorate under these conditions and seek any way out, while on the other hand we have those prisoners who adapt and at the same time find ways to better themselves by educating themselves in law, reading good books, or picking up hobbies to keep themselves occupied. It is through these individuals who know the conditions in the SHU who are capable of creating campaigns for abolishing its policies, especially the gang validation policies that so many prisoners fall victim to.

Exposure and propaganda play a vital role on our behalf. This is where USW comrades come in, not just as advocates for human rights, but as advocates of an overall anti-imperialist campaign, as everything is connected to the imperialist system. The SHUs within CDCR are an aspect of imperialism, utilized for social control. And the oppressive conditions within are nothing more but to assert more social control behind prisons. It is through current events that this new phenomenon is manifesting a wave of politically conscious prisoners creating new circumstances. More validated prisoners are leaving the SHUs but more are taking their place. It is possible that one day through a collective effort the gang validation will be dismantled entirely and a SHU cap may be part of our future. I think it is.

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[Abuse] [Polk Youth Institution] [North Carolina]
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HCON Abuses Fall on Deaf Ears, NC Prisoners Demand Grievances Addressed

[The following is text from a grievance submitted 18 September 2013 to the North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services that was accepted and then rejected without explanation. NCPLS is under contract with the NC Department of Public Safety to meet the legal requirement of access to legal resources for prisoners. As a result NC prisoners are not provided with law libraries. Meanwhile NCPLS repeatedly denies help to our comrades who have been writing them for years about the abuses like those described below. Combined with the obstructionism of the department staff handling grievances, North Carolina prisoners have become frustrated with the injustice and responded with hunger strikes and a campaign to demand that grievances are addressed in the state prison system. We have edited the text from the original grievance for clarity. - MIM(Prisons)]

Dear Prisoner Legal Services,

I have been housed in High Security Maximum Control(HCON) North Carolina State Prison. HCON is long-term isolation with single cells including blocks A,B,C and D, housing 96 prisoners total.

I been here over over 9 months in 23/24 hours locked down and face years here. What follows is a brief summary of the problems prisoners (WE) have here. Us prisoners always try to address our problems with the officers. They ignore inmates on our daily needs when we have a concern to be addressed for whatever matter.

We have to beat on our cell doors and windows to get officers attention because the call button of all cells was removed from the rooms. Then some officers most of the time take up to 45 or so minutes to appear in our window. An extremely loud noise beating on cells windows for a day long and night on the daily basis does disturb the peace of other prisoners as well as staff members also.

The high official Mr. Muns, Polk Correctional Institution Superintendent, and Mr. Ryan Irvin Assistant Superintendent of HCON fail to address officers behavior to have them do what their job requires them to do.

Prisoners throw human waste (shit mixed with piss) at staff members or prisoners set cells on fire to get things done by staff, which results in the prisoner being indicted on street charges.

It's not right all this happens on the daily basis and the matters are still not handled. All that happening in special house building is out of order. It makes an unsafe housing situation for prisoners and state staff.

The prisoners' behavior causes lack of medical attention we're suffering in special housing. Medical staff denied us medical emergency when declared most of the times. For example, nurse Mr. Berry, on September 15, 2013 denied me medical emergency I declared for high blood pressure and chest pain.

When we do get a nurse to respond to a medical emergency they are all being performed inside the prisoners' cells, which is also incorrect because cells are unhygienic and contaminated. It's unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, prisoners who submitted sick calls forms are facing months delays to be screened or be seen by doctor Lightsey Joseph. It take up 2 or 3 months without any concerns been fixed still. Most of the time prisoners sick calls are addressed outside the prisoner patient presence by doctor Lightsey Joseph. Mr. Mitchell Lawson nurse supervisor fails to properly train nurses personnel and he is liable.

On occasions staff members abuse their authority in many ways by messing up prisoners' meals or playing our emotional sense. Our food trays serve poor amounts of food. We starve. Mr. Carl Miller food service manager is in charge.

All prisoners clothes we use are damaged clothing. So bad they cause itching, are uncomfortable and unhygienic clothes and we are being force to use them.

For special house prisoners all outgoing or incoming mail are being obstructed by Ms. Jacqueline Maxey S.T.G. Sergeant, including reading all family or friends mail. Prisoners sometimes can't reach the North Carolina Department of Public Safety main office in the outside world to put our concerns in head official hands. So they're dirty ways can always be hidden, to save their hides. We can't reach our loved one.

Special housing staff intentionally misdeliver prisoner mail to different prisoners for that very purpose to cause harm to the prisoner himself or family members or friends. Or prisoner grieve whatever matter is... our grievances are not addressed or give a joke answer at step one. Grievances soon get dismissal always. Mr. Orlando Brown is also liable for prisoners' mail clothes issues.

Prison official also punish inmates in the prison by feeding us Nutraloaf for a 7 day period. Nutraloaf is a mix of beans, oatmeal, grits, collard greens etc... Which is cruel punishment along with taking all inmate property mattress, clothes, blanket, sheets. Except the clothing we wear for up to a 7 day period.

Us prisoners should not suffer these punishment when charges are filed and served more prison time and visa versa. It is double jeopardy.

All these should not be outside issues. They are institutional matters because Polk Correctional Institution higher official Mr. Muns and Mr. Ryan fail to fixes the special housing problems by first addressing their lower officers' behavior. Instead of giving more hard work to the Court of Justice as also affecting groups of prisoners sentences and making an unsafe and unhygienic housing for both prisoners as well for staff members also.

Just get lower officers lack of doing what they were hired for to do their work.

Finally, Mr. Muns also Mr. Ryan fail to understand, balanced, and excellent neglected to mention the typical hours for lower officer workers is 12 hours a day, 2 to 3 days a week. Staff are overly tired, burned out officers workers will make errors causing harm to prisoners in many ways to neighbors, and to themselves the prison staff is under staffed.

This is how special house crazy is.

North Carolina prisoner legal services could this office put hands on this matters to challenge in court?

I wait for you to hear a trustful and positive respond. Thanks you very much.

Relief sought, to hire the amount staff workers correct by state statute indicate. Fix special housing problems that affects a group of prisoners or close high security maximum control N.C. building. We demand our grievances are addressed. Address all points above in this sorta grievance. Remove Mr. Ryan from office.

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[Theory] [ULK Issue 39]
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On Revolutionary Discipline

A persyn can proceed no further than the knowledge they have will carry them. To advance the revolutionary nationalist struggle for land, independence and socialism, we have to have a knowledge — a scientific understanding of the world around us — and we must study hystory. In order to do this, we must acquire discipline, revolutionary discipline. Revolutionary discipline is not something we are born with, it must be developed.

Discipline implies self-control, a willingness to submit yourself to the rules and code of conduct of an organization that is dedicated to independence. It means doing what is necessary to advance the objectives of the movement and doing what you say.

A unity of will and purpose cannot be accomplished without conscious efforts of all of the members or potential members of a revolutionary organization to strive to achieve maximum strength thru the exercise of maximum discipline and vigilance.

Many organizations have been destroyed because a member or group of members failed to keep their word. Revolutionary work has been retarded because this or that comrade has said they would take on a task and failed to deliver at the proper moment.

When we embrace or join an organization we have pledged to give something of ourselves for a greater unity and we must expect greater unity to exercise some control over our actions. We can no longer just think of ourselves, but of the group, the family and the movement — the nation.

Often times we wanna disregard the revolutionary discipline that we've committed to to pursue some persynal project. This happens because we have not rid ourselves of the disease of individualism. Thus, to build revolutionary discipline and eliminate individualism, we must stress constant study and practice, criticism and self-criticism.

Ultimately, we must purge from our ranks the weak links in our movement if we are to be strong, organized and about our work.

New Afrika's struggle is about land, independence and socialism. BORO is internationalist in our perspective and worldview and supports the struggle of all people to be free of imperialist aggression, patriarchy, gender and all forms of oppression.

Heighten your Discipline to improve yourselves.

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[Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 39]
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Walking Around With Your Eyes Wide Shut


Thinking back on all the times we spent
Running here, running there
Never taking the first step.
Conditioned to what's around you
Living in the puppet show of life

Dancing along, singing their song
Slowly stirring from slumber
All the bright colors often dimmed to their liking
Seeing with new eyes all the wonder
Pulling at the chains as they get tighter

The more you see, things ain't what they seem
The more you learn, things ain't what they should be
The more you know, running from their rules
You're living in their fantasy
It's time to wake up and break the chains!

Walking around with your eyes wide shut
Thinking you're in a land of the free
Seeing it's only the land of deceit
Speaking your mind is an act of terrorism
Breaking the chains piece by piece

Get a new state of mind
Relearning what never should have been forgotten
Bracing yourself for what is yet to come
Praying for strength to carry on
Holding true to your beliefs.

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[Censorship] [Perry Correctional Institution] [South Carolina]
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South Carolina Censors Writing Guide and Other Letters

I just received the latest issue of Under Lock & Key No. 38 May/June 2014, which is a surprise being that recently a copy of the grievance petition and a couple of guides were forwarded to the DOC's Correspondence Review Committee to see if they will allow me to receive them. The mailroom staff considers the material "questionable & inflammatory."

This censorship comes as no shock since the hypocrisy that they label as a "democracy" in Amerikan society censors the mass media and many other forms of disseminating knowledge, due to material being labeled "inflammatory." Although these restrictions clearly are in violation of their own constitutional laws, these imperialistic powers thrive from being able to control & manipulate mass information, therefore they will continue violating laws to maintain and/or advance their position.

Too much trust is placed in the Amerikan government, their structure and system by the Amerikan people/population. Maybe people still believe that Amerika guarantees the "right" to free speech because they don't have anything relevant to say. Whenever someone has something profound to say that the government may consider to be counter-productive to their message or a "threat," the message will be suppressed from being propagated on a mass level. Then some people don't care because they have never felt the need to speak out or say something meaningful, which displays that either they don't stand for anything or they are cowards. Or maybe people believe they have a "right" of free speech because they are supportive of this system, therefore everything they say is conducive to the message the government wishes to convey. In this way, these people never experience this form of censorship or are too blind to recognize it. Controlling or censoring what the media provides to the public is a main component to controlling the public. The Amerikan public is now experiencing martial law in its subtlest form. Too often "state of emergencies" are called for fabricated or manufactured reasons, only to benefit the Amerikan government.

I will notify you of the outcome concerning the study group guide, grievance petition, and guide to writing articles after the Correspondence Review Committee makes their determining decision.

United We Struggle.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This arbitrary censorship by Perry Correctional Institution officials demonstrates the lack of real reason behind their denial of some mail to prisoners. Included in the list of letters censored is MIM(Prison)'s writing tips, which has information on how to write articles for Under Lock & Key, including various grammar and spelling rules. Only if the prison considers education a risk would this denial make sense.

We do not believe that the Amerikan people are pacified entirely because of the control of their media and information. While this is certainly an important part of the Amerikan government's control of the country, there are plenty of Third World countries where governments have similar or even stronger hold on the media, and still the people rise up and organize against their own repression. Important to the Amerikan public's passivity is their material interest in the system. This prisoner gets at this point when s/he accuses Amerikans of having "never felt the need to speak out or say something meaningful", a state of affairs common in imperialist countries today where the vast majority of the population has been bought off and enjoys comfortable lives at the expense of the exploited peoples of the world.

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[Organizing] [Political Repression] [MD Reception, Diagnostic & Classification Center] [Maryland]
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Targetted for Filing Grievances in Maryland

Less than two months from my release date, I was maliciously scapegoated for my actions in reporting a continual, inhumane practice of Central Maryland Correctional Facility (CMCF). CMCF is a supermax camp that houses minimum and pre-release security inmates under Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS, formerly DOC). As you may imagine, there isn't much effort put forth by convicts to struggle (peacefully or otherwise) against administrative injustices, due to short release dates and the strict guidelines of the residential substance abuse program (RSAT), which half of the jail is binded by. For the vast majority of those assigned to RSAT by case management, it is mandatory under DPSCS policy that they complete the program or they receive a notice of infraction (ticket) in which all good days given to you at the beginning of your bid may be taken if found guilty. Needless to say, I'm hoping I can dodge that ticket somehow. But with the aforementioned in mind, you can understand the lack of political involvement at CMCF.

CMCF is a dorm setting and down in the RSAT building the bunk area is separated from everything (bathroom, TV, microwave, etc.). During count time the Correctional Officers (COs) are supposed to keep the doors locked only until they are finished counting the other side and then return to open the doors so prisoners can utilize the bathroom, two at a time. Most prisoners are frustrated by this "supermax-like" procedure of a pre-release camp because they were of the belief that the closer to getting home that you are, the easier your bid got. Getting to the issue, every now and then a CO will leave the doors locked for excessive time, consequently forcing us to hold our bladder and bowels.

When a legitimate situation arose, I felt it was imperative for someone to take up the vanguard so we could do some agitating of our own. This particular instance, the doors were locked for an hour and a half (no exaggeration), leaving some to piss in cups, while the officer bullshitted and remained in the bubble acting oblivious to the kicks on the doors and prisoners pressing the buttons that lets them know that someone needs to get out. A strong Black brother from the FOI (Fruit of Islam), me, and two other conscious brothers struggling to ameliorate the Black man's plight, encouraged our dorm mates to write it up so administration would know that we are sick and tired. Twenty five out of a dorm of 61 people filing grievances for the same reasons is abnormal to say the least, for that jail.

As a result of this protest I have been placed on Administrative Segregation pending adjustment (hearing) for four charges (most serious to least): engaging in a disruptive act, interfering with officer's duties, coercions, and forging documents. They alleged that I forced people to sign some grievances, signed others myself, and intimidated ALL participants with my STG status (I am validated as Blood). They needed what seems like a feasible explanation to dismiss the grievances filed - thus scapegoating the "intimidating, coercing, Blood member who had a vendetta against Officer D. Brown." But this route wasn't taken until after the THIRD attempt to get inmates to withdraw complaints using their usual bribery and manipulative tactics: promises of yard every night in exchange for signing off, saying the grievances wouldn't accomplish anything, etc.

There are lessons to be learned in every situation, this in particular being, not giving administration an easy target, as a conscious brother warned me of just before I got this ticket. For those who wanted to contribute but just didn't know how to write the complaint or were just too lazy, I wrote their grievances for them, all the exact same way that I wrote mine - this was a crucial mistake. I also spoke out more than others when administration came to convince us to withdraw our complaints - another vital mistake, giving them an easy target again. If found guilty of this ticket I face 180 days lockup, 246 days loss of good time, a year loss of visits and my security going to medium. Whatever the outcome, I will be seeking justice!


MIM(Prisons) adds: This story of punishment for filing grievances is echoed across the United $nakes prison system. And it is one of the reasons prisoners have initiated a campaign to demand grievances be addressed in many states. We have petitions that prisoners can use to fight the denial of grievances, though Maryland is one state where we still need someone to customize the petition for use. These campaigns are important for two reasons: first, they give prisoners a way to fight back against unjust denial of grievances and demand the prison respect their rights, and second, they provide an educational opportunity for prison activists. As a common battle faced by all prisoners, the struggle to get grievances heard can be used to unite many for a common battle, while educating all about the limitations of our struggle within the system and the need for an anti-imperialist movement for long-term and systemic changes. Write to MIM(Prisons) for a copy of the grievance petition for your state, or if one does not exist volunteer to customize the petition from another state to be used there.

This article referenced in:
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[Abuse] [Legal] [North Carolina] [ULK Issue 39]
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Originator of NC Anti-Abuse Lawsuit Down for the Cause

It made me smile to see that Under Lock & Key No. 38 had an article on my civil case. The name of the case is Stanley Earl Corbett, Jr., et al v. G.J. Branker et al., case # 5:13-ct-03201-BO. I filed this case pro se back in 2010. For two years I fought the case by myself, and it took me two years to get the judge to appoint me a civil attorney (NCPLS). Upon them being appointed to my case they asked me to let them use my case to add 7 other prisoners who'd been beaten in similar situations to what happened to me. I told them to add them without any hesitation, then I signed a consent form.

My point in speaking about this is because I could of said "f*** these prisoners," and went to trial, or settled out of court, but I didn't. Why? Because I represent the struggle, and I'm all for a major change in a positive way. So to all these selfish "inmates" (not prisoners) that are only concerned with themselves — We aren't nothing alike! I do this for real, and I'm still taking bumps and bruises because I've been receiving numerous forms of retaliation from these pigs for pursuing my rights. But I'ma ride or die for the cause/struggle. I truly appreciate ya'll exposing this injustice.


MIM(Prisons) responds: Another comrade involved in this case has been keeping us abreast of the consistent progress of this lawsuit. And while the outcome is a limited reform, this letter reinforces the greater significance of this work. By working in the context of class struggle we continue to build something bigger than ourselves as individuals. We're glad this comrade found ULK and has pledged to become a contributor to our work. We're also glad to hear that he received Under Lock & Key No. 38, since every issue for over three years has been put on the statewide ban list in North Carolina. Perhaps comrades' efforts on that front are paying off as well. Despite the repression, comrades in North Carolina are working together to stop abuse.

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[U.S. Imperialism] [Brazil] [ULK Issue 39]
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Repression of Brazil's Slums to Prepare for World Cup

protest world cup in Brazil

As Brazil prepares for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, it has been trying to create an image of safety and prosperity for the world to show that Rio de Janeiro is an optimum destination for both events and tourism. However, on closer inspection, what is going on behind the official facade tells an entirely different story; less than half a mile away from the sparkling beachfronts and hotels is one of the biggest shanty towns in South America, filled with filth and squalor, violence and death.(1)

The disparity between a growing number of thousands of impoverished citizens in Rio struggling to find adequate housing, employment, health care and other basic necessities, and the record-setting expenditure of $11 to 13 billion on the World Cup alone triggered huge protests less than a month before the soccer tournament begins. Homeless workers in Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city, formed a group of 2,000 protesters who left their immense squatter camp to demonstrate outside the stadium where the opening World Cup game will be played June 12. Similar protests occurred in Rio, Recife, and elsewhere.(2)

In Rio, violent clashes broke out between police and squatters when authorities dislodged thousands of families from a newly formed favela in a complex of abandoned commercial buildings. Poor workers and their families have increasingly moved into such structures as affordable housing is becoming a rarity and rents skyrocket, yet hundreds of abandoned buildings stand empty.(3) One member of such an occupation movement put it this way: "It is a way to force distribution of income." Rubber bullets and gas were used against the squatters. Elsewhere, police and quasi-military "pacification" squads move into poor neighborhoods and favelas ostensibly to wrest control from drug traffickers. It is an attempt to drive the lumpen organizations away from these communities and restore police authority ahead of the upcoming games. But the program is controversial and has fallen under heavy criticism for using excessive force, at times killing residents. Groups such as Amnesty International say some 2,000 people die every year in Brazil in careless and violent police actions.(4) The mercenary company formerly known as Blackwater is helping provide security training in Brazil, stoking fears that the "pacification" of the slums is akin to an Iraq-style military occupation.(5)

In addition to the increasing use of militant tactics and hardware being used to "pacify" the favelas, thousands of Federal Army troops are being deployed to occupy such areas, including Rio's sprawling Maré complex of favelas. The militias will remain until July 31, after the World Cup concludes.(5) Authorities are also now promising to "secure" the slums using an elite military police squad called BOPE, a shadowy organization of highly trained special forces whose logo is a dagger piercing a skull. Meanwhile clandestine police "body dumps" have been discovered.(1)

The Brazilian government is learning that they can only push people so far who have little to nothing left to lose, culminating in widespread uprisings against state sanctioned brutality and indifference. Military equipment, personnel and tactics are increasingly being unleashed against the residents of slums in the name of increased security for the World Cup/Olympic games, while little to no prior offer of economic or housing aid is offered to the impoverished residents. The solution for the regime in power simply seems to be more repression and violence while it spends millions on stadiums and aesthetics.

The World Cup soccer tournament, like the Olympics, is a bourgeois bread and circus distraction, minus the bread. If the organizations behind these games were at all concerned about social justice or economic equality they would refrain from awarding to nations that conduct violence and economic terrorism on the poorest of their citizens the privilege of hosting their games and subsequent benefits. But history has shown time and again that such organizations are merely bourgeois capitalist lapdogs whose only concerns are self-promotion and profits for their economic masters and investors. This was shown in the blatant corruption of the Olympic committee some years back in Utah and continues unabated to this day. There can be no justice in a world where the fetishization of an officially sponsored diversionist sport occurs at the same time the cost of a single official soccer ball could feed a starving family for a month, who are also being shot at and gassed less than a mile from where such games are to take place!

Further, such militant tactics are being carried out in the name of an official battle against dangerous drug gangs, but if we are to take such justifications seriously then one would need to ignore the fact that it is the decadent culture and corrupt "war on drugs" itself of the imperialist power to the north that is mostly responsible for creating the conditions for such traffickers to exist and thrive. Especially in light of the fact that very few economic alternatives are offered to the youth of the favelas. While the bourgeois population of the United $tates provides the largest customer base for narcotics in the world, its farcical war on drugs, which it also tries to force on other nations such as Brazil, drives the prices of drugs to ridiculous levels. It's no wonder many impoverished and disillusioned people turn to trafficking. Again, the resolution is economic equality, not militant oppression.

The brutal repression of the people in Brazil for the sake of the "security" of the World Cup needs to be exposed and opposed by all who champion the oppressed everywhere. It will only come and go leaving the poor in worse condition for the expenditure of billions on such games instead of desperately needed social/economic programs. Support the peoples struggle in Brazil!

Notes:
1. The Daily Mail
2. Dom Phillips. The Washington Post. Friday, May 16, 2014.
3. Daily News Wire Reports / Al Jazeera Viewfinder 07 April 2014
4. BC News 20 April 2014
5. RT.Com News 29 April 2014

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[Principal Contradiction] [Economics] [China] [ULK Issue 40]
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Bromma's Worker Elite and the Global Class Analysis

MIM(Prisons) First World Class analysis
The above diagram summarizes MIM(Prisons)'s class analysis of the First World with relative flows of wealth and relative sizes of each class.

The Worker Elite: Notes on the "Labor Aristocracy"
by Bromma
Kersplebedeb, 2014

Available for $10 + shipping/handling from:
kersplebedeb
CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne
Montreal, Quebec
Canada
H3W 3H8


As with our previous review of Bromma's writings, we find h new book to be a good read, based in an analysis that is close to our own. Yet, once again we find h putting class as principal and mentioning gender as an important component of class. In contrast, MIM(Prisons) sees the principal contradiction under imperialism as being along the lines of nation, in particular between the imperialist nations that exploit and those nations that are exploited. While all three strands interact with each other, we see gender as its own strand of oppression, distinct from class. While Bromma has much to say on class that is agreeable, one thread that emerges in this text that we take issue with is that of the First World labor aristocracy losing out due to "globalization."

Bromma opens with some definitions and a valid criticism of the term "working class." While using many Marxist terms, h connection to a Marxist framework is not made clear. S/he consciously writes about the "worker elite," while disposing of the term "labor aristocracy" with no explanation. In the opening s/he rhetorically asks whether the "working class" includes all wage earners, or all manual laborers. While dismissing the term "working class" as too general, Bromma does not address these questions in h discussion of the worker elite. Yet, throughout the book s/he addresses various forms of productive labor in h examples of worker elite. S/he says that the worker elite is just one of many groups that make up the so-called "middle class." But it is not clear how Bromma distinguishes the worker elite from the other middle classes, except that they are found in "working class jobs." Halfway through the book it is mentioned that s/he does not consider "professionals, shopkeepers, administrators, small farmers, businesspeople, intellectuals, etc." to be workers.(p.32)

We prefer the term "labor aristocracy" over "worker elite," and we may use it more broadly than Bromma's worker elite in that the type of work is not so important so much as the pay and benefits. Bromma, while putting the worker elite in the "middle class," simultaneously puts it into the "working class" along with the proletariat and the lumpen working class. We put the labor aristocracy in the First World within the petty bourgeoisie, which may be a rough equivalent of what Bromma calls the "middle class." Of course, the petty bourgeoisie has historically been looked at as a wavering force between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Yet, in the case of the oppressor nation labor aristocracy, they have proven to be a solidly pro-imperialist class. This analysis, central to MIM Thought, is particular to the imperialist countries.

Despite these questions and confusions, overall we agree with the global class analysis as it is presented in the beginning of this book in terms of who are our friends and who are our enemies.

One good point made throughout this book is the idea that the "worker elite" is not defined merely by an income cut off. While not denying the central role of income, Bromma defines this class position as a whole package of benefits, material (health care, infrastructure), social (family life, leisure activities) and political (lack of repression, voice in politics). At one point s/he brings up the migrant farm workers in the U.$., who can earn similar amounts to the autoworkers in Mexico who s/he argues make up an established worker elite. In contrast, the migrant farm workers suffer the abuses of the proletariat at the bottom rung of U.$. society, and in reality many make far less than Mexican autoworkers. We agree with Bromma's implication here that the migrant workers make up a proletarian class within the United $tates.

While criticizing previous attempts to set an "exploitation line" in income, Bromma brings in PPP to improve this analysis. The book provides a helpful table of the income levels in Purchasing Power Parities (PPP) for various groups. PPP defines income levels relative to a basket of goods to account for varying prices across countries/regions. Bromma concludes that "a global middle class annual income probably starts somewhere between PPP $10,000 and $15,000", meaning that a single worker (man) could comfortably support a family on this amount. This is similar to the estimates others have done and we have used elsewhere.

One of the key characteristics of this income level is that they have gone beyond covering basic needs and become consumers. Bromma lists one of the three main roles of the worker elite as being a consumer class. This is something we have stressed when people ask incredulously why the capitalists would pay people more than the value that they are producing. Bromma cites a source discussing the Chinese planned capitalist economy and how they have goals for expanding their consumer class as they recognize that their increasing production will soon not be absorbed by consumption abroad. This is typical capitalist logic. Rather than seeing what the Chinese people need, and produce based on those needs as they did under a socialist planned economy, today they first produce a lot of the most profitable goods and then try to find (or create) a market to sell them to.

Where we disagree greatest with this book is that it takes up a line akin to Huey P. Newton's intercommunalism theory, later named globalization theory in Amerikan academia. It claims a trend towards equalization of classes internationally, reducing the national contradictions that defined the 20th century. Bromma provides little evidence of this happening besides anecdotal examples of jobs moving oversees. Yet s/he claims, "Among 'white' workers, real wages are stagnant, unemployment is high, unions are dwindling, and social benefits and protective regulations are evaporating."(p.43) These are all common cries of white nationalists that the MIM camp and others have been debating for decades.(1) The fact that wages are not going up as fast as inflation has little importance to the consumer class who knows that their wealth is far above the world's majority and whose buying power has increased greatly in recent decades.(2) Unemployment in the United $tates averaged 5.9% in April 2014 when this book came out, which means the white unemployment rate was even lower than that.(3) That is on the low side of average over the last 40 years and there is no upward trend in unemployment in the United $tates, so that claim is just factually incorrect. High unemployment rates would be 35% in Afghanistan, or 46% in Nepal. The author implies that unions are smaller because of some kind of violent repression, rather than because of structural changes in the economy and the privileged conditions of the labor aristocracy.

The strongest evidence given for a rise in the worker elite is in China. One report cited claims that China is rivaling the U.$. to have the largest "middle class" soon.(p.38) Yet this middle class is not as wealthy as the Amerikan one, and is currently only 12-15% of the population.(p.32) It's important to distinguish that China is an emerging imperialist power, not just any old Third World country. Another example given is Brazil, which also has a growing finance capital export sector according to this book, a defining characteristic of imperialism. The importance of nation in the imperialist system is therefore demonstrated here in the rise of the labor aristocracy in these countries. And it should be noted that there is a finite amount of labor power to exploit in the world. The surplus value that Chinese and Brazilian finance capital is finding abroad, and using partly to fund their own emerging consumer classes, will eat into the surplus value currently taken in by the First World countries. In this way we see imperialist competition, and of course proletarian revolution, playing bigger roles in threatening the current privileges of the First World, rather than the globalization of finance capital that Bromma points to.

As Zak Cope wrote in a recent paper, "Understanding how the 'labour aristocracy' is formed means understanding imperialism, and conversely."(4) It is not the U.$. imperialists building up the labor aristocracy in China and Brazil. South Korea, another country discussed, is another story, that benefits as a token of U.$. imperialism in a half-century long battle against the Korean peoples' struggle for independence from imperialism and exploitation. While Bromma brings together some interesting information, we don't agree with h conclusion that imperialism is "gradually detaching itself from the model of privileged 'home countries' altogether."(p.40) We would interpret it as evidence of emerging imperialist nations and existing powers imposing strategic influence. Cope, building on Arghiri Emmanuel's work, discusses the dialectical relationship between increasing wages and increasing the productive forces within a nation.(2,5) Applying their theories, for Chinese finance capital to lead China to become a powerful imperialist country, we would expect to see the development of a labor aristocracy there as Bromma indicates is happening. This is a distinct phenomenon from the imperialists buying off sections of workers in other countries to divide the proletariat. That's not to say this does not happen, but we would expect to see this on a more tactical level that would not produce large shifts in the global balance of forces.

Finance capital wants to be free to dominate the whole world. As such it appears to be transnational. Yet, it requires a home base, a state, with strong military might to back it up. How else could it keep accumulating all the wealth around the world as the majority of the people suffer? Chinese finance capital is at a disadvantage, as it must fight much harder than the more established imperialist powers to get what it perceives to be its fair share. And while its development is due in no small part to cooperation with Amerikan finance capital, this is secondary to their competitive relationship. This is why we see Amerika in both China's and Russia's back yards making territorial threats in recent days (in the South China Sea and Ukraine respectively). At first, just getting access to Chinese labor after crushing socialism in 1976 was a great boon to the Amerikan imperialists. But they are not going to stop there. Russia and China encompass a vast segment of the globe where the Amerikans and their partners do not have control. As Lenin said one hundred years ago, imperialism marks the age of a divided world based on monopolies. Those divisions will shift, but throughout this period the whole world will be divided between different imperialist camps (and socialist camps as they emerge). And as Cope stresses, this leads to a divided "international working class."

While there is probably a labor aristocracy in all countries, its role and importance varies greatly. MIM line on the labor aristocracy has been developed for the imperialist countries, where the labor aristocracy encompasses the wage-earning citizens as a whole. While the term may appropriately be used in Third World countries, we would not equate the two groups. The wage earners of the world have been so divided that MIM began referring to those in the First World as so-called "workers." So we do not put the labor aristocracy of the First World within the proletarian class as Bromma does.

We caution against going too far with applying our class definitions and analysis globally. In recent years, we have distinguished the First World lumpen class from that of the lumpen-proletariat of the Third World. In defining the lumpen, Bromma "includes working class people recruited into the repressive apparatus of the state — police, informants, prison guards, career soldiers, mercenaries, etc."(p.5) This statement rings more true in the Third World, yet even there a government job would by definition exclude you from being in the lumpen-proletariat. In the imperialist countries, police, prison guards, military and any other government employee are clearly members of the labor aristocracy. This is a point we will explore in much greater detail in future work.

global wealth flow

The principal contradiction within imperialism is between exploiter and exploited nations. Arghiri Emmanuel wrote about the national interest, criticizing those who still view nationalism as a bourgeois phenomenon as stuck in the past. After WWII the world saw nationalism rise as an anti-colonial force. In Algeria, Emmanuel points out, the national bourgeoisie and Algerian labor aristocracy had nothing to lose in the independence struggle as long as it did not go socialist. In contrast, it was the French settlers in Algeria that violently opposed the liberation struggle as they had everything to lose.(6) In other words there was a qualitative difference between the Algerian labor aristocracy and the French settler labor aristocracy.

It is the responsibility of people on the ground to do a concrete analysis of their own conditions. We've already mentioned our use of the term "First World lumpen" to distinguish it from the lumpen of the Third World, which is a subclass of the proletariat. To an extent, all classes are different between the First and Third World. We rarely talk of the labor aristocracy in the Third World, because globally it is insignificant. It is up to comrades in Third World nations to assess the labor aristocracy in their country, which in many cases will not be made up of net-exploiters. Bromma highlights examples of exploiter workers in Mexico and South Korea. These are interesting exceptions to the rule that should be acknowledged and assessed, but we think Bromma goes too far in generalizing these examples as signs of a shift in the overall global class structure. While we consider Mexico to be a Third World exploited nation, it is a relatively wealthy country that Cope includes on the exploiter side, based on OECD data, in his major calculations.

Everything will not always fit into neat little boxes. But the scientific method is based on applying empirically tested laws, generalizations, percentages and probability. The world is not simple. In order to change it we must understand it the best we can. To understand it we must both base ourselves in the laws proven by those who came before us and assess the changes in our current situation to adjust our analysis accordingly.

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