In Texa$ we have received more reports from prisoners about the worsening conditions overall behind bars. Multiple reports of increased repression regarding food quality, medical care, lack of respite for Ad-Seg and increased censorship. Much of the staff is not following any regulations laid out for it regarding the grievance process. Many writers have reported guards throwing out grievances. One report from Clements Unit mentions 100% denial of grievances.
The reports from Clements show some of the worse conditions prisoners face in Texas, with people in isolation suffering worsening health conditions and mental health. From Choper’s report:
“In protest fires burn daily on each of the Ad-Seg lines. Prisoners burn any and all items that will burn. So many so often they don’t even react or bother to put them out, consequently we have no mattresses. Waiting list over 18 months to get a mattress. We sleep on steel and concrete. There are no radios for sale on commissary.”
There is some unity in action going on, but without intentional organizing efforts to facilitate further education in proletarian ideology and connecting the masses behind bars to the oppressed nations in and out of the United Snakes, it may fizzle out due to lack of organization. Tactics such as setting fires can also bring about more repression from guards while taking away energy and materials for organizing. We will continue to fight the censorship and prepare for increased repression, and continue to grow USW inside Texa$ prisons.
These are confirmed censorships while many are unconfirmed as received at the moment, so rates are likely much higher.
Much of this is in response to increased pushback from the prisoner population regarding the conditions already prevalent across Texa$ and organizing efforts such as the Juneteenth Freedom Initiative which initiated a wave of censorship which has been ongoing since June.
One comrade has been pushing a censorship lawsuit Owolabi v. TDCJ Allred Unit, et al., 7;22-cv-00094-0 which could have massive implication on facilitating further organizing efforts inside Texa$ prisons, however there have been issues with the Courts trying to dismiss the case on payments grounds despite payment being made for legal documents, that has been resolved for now but it goes to show how unwilling the Texas Department of Criminal Injustice is to follow in own procedure if prisoners use it to further progressive interests in making Texas$ prisons into liberation schools.
On December 16, 13 comrades have unified in the Michael Unit to stop eating in response to ignored grievances, which both step 1 and 2’s have been filed, and hazardous conditions inside the isolation cells, where we’ve gotten a report where an entire row got sick due to improper ventilation. As with some other units, chow is being left out for hours at a time before being served, and people aren’t being let out to shower. We stand with these comrades and encourage other prisoners to find unity through these worsening conditions.
North Texas AIPS has been established and will be working in coordination with other groups such as Texas T.E.A.M. O.N.E. to ramp up more outside support and awareness of the struggle behind bars, and spreading MIM line in and outside of prisons in Texa$. We will continue to expand our efforts in order to bring awareness and strategize on combating the increased repression Texa$ prisoners have been facing
One project we will be working with a number of jailhouse lawyers on is updating the Texas Campaign Pack to include anything we can find to update the grievance information as well as information regarding the new independent Ombudsman for Texa$. Please send us your edits and changes for the Texas Pack so we can make the next edition as complete as possible.
The struggle in Texa$ is growing, as is state repression, our goals to establish institutions of the oppressed nation and facilitate the study of Maoism and peoples war is our path forward. Stand up for your right, don’t give up the fight.
In early December of last year a hunger strike was called at Ely State Prison, joined by at least 39 prisoners at the start and fluctuating over the following weeks. A prison advocacy group, Return Strong, represented the prisoners’ demands as follows:
End the continued and extended use of solitary confinement, lockdowns, modified lockdowns, and de facto solitary confinement.
End correctional abuse.
End group punishment and administrative abuse.
Address due process interference and violation in the grievance process.
Provide adequate and nutritious food.
Address health and safety concerns in all Nevada facilities and provide resolution status to them.
In response, the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) ignored several of the demands, calling them “false,” (2) but addressed some of the concerns related to food and administrative handling of punishments. Lower-level sanctions that result in loss of privileges will now run concurrently instead of consecutively, and Aramark, the food vendor, is being questioned about the portion sizes. Even the head of the local prison guards union mentioned that they’d noticed the portions shrinking recently.(1) Aramark has faced repeated legal challenges regarding its poor food from prisons across the country (3), so the fact that it’s now squeezing portion sizes in Nevada doesn’t come as too much of a surprise.
Some of the more serious allegations NDOC ignored include food being stolen from prisoners by staff, the existence of no-camera “beat-up rooms,” collective punishment and indefinite 23-hour lockdowns excused by laying the blame on “staffing issues,” and the de facto suspension of programming for many prisoners.(4)
Prisoners at Ely State Prison voluntarily suspended the strike after four weeks and the adjustment of some of the handling of administrative sanctions were addressed.(5) We didn’t receive any info from inside or outside coordinators about how/why the strike ended, just that it did. If any of our readers can provide insight we’d appreciate it.
Texas prisoners face some of the harshest conditions in the kkkountry mainly due to neglect from prison staff, and disregard for prisoners’ health, safety and rights. For example recently in Estelle High Security we had received a report from one of our readers on dialysis, and a copy of eir grievance,
On 15 August 22 at 5:45PM-7:10PM 11 Dialysis patients were put in a van with NO Rear A/C. We got to the rear gate of high security at 6:10pm our officer driving the van told Lt. Phillips:
“Hey there’s Dialysis in the van and it’s hot for them.”
Lt. Phillips said ,“I don’t give a fuck, I’m crossing my kitchen crew to the main building. They can fucken wait.”
It was about 90 outside. Our officer driving the van told her again, “They just got off dialysis.”
This year has seen an increase in reports (at least 135 recorded by Texas Dept. of Criminal Injustice (TDCJ)) of censorship of mail from MIM(Prisons) across Texas, since the start of the J.F.I. As stated in the last 2 issues of ULK, the J.F.I. is simply organizing for prisoners’ legal rights as stated by the imperialist’s own laws (peacefully advocating for legal rights is not inciting a disturbance). Massive censorship continues in the Allred and Hughes Units, among many others, where conditions are some of the worst in the state. The reason behind this as stated before is to prevent organizing and political education from prisoners, and to limit their knowledge of their legal rights. The state’s interest are of population control, and torture (Restricted housing for decades is unconstitutional torture) along with the many cases of neglect beyond what’s referenced here.
"MIM Distributors and our subscribers within the TDCJ have exhausted all administrative remedies with our appeals, letters and grievances. The TDCJ is not interested in following the law on it’s own accord. Therefore we have begun to step up outside pressure on two fronts.
the legal front by filing a lawsuit
the public opinion front via our postcard campaign"
“A prisoner’s administrative remedies are exhausted when prison officials fail to timely respond to a properly filed grievance.” (Haight v. Thompson 763 F. 3d 554 (6th Cir 2014)) According to this, if they do not respond to our grievances we can go on to a §1983 Civil Action.
Anti-imperialist Prisoner support (AIPS) has been hitting the streets with ULK, J.F.I. Flyers, and postcards to be mailed to TDCJ’s Director’s Review Committee office and Jimmy Smith’s (Warden of Allred) office, collecting donations and educating those on the outside. We can always use more feet on the ground, and legal funds from those on the outside, more support in general.
This short summary of some of the conditions recently faced by Texas prisoners is a call to unite against all oppression, primarily against the United Snakes of Amerikkka, and to unify under the common banner of Anti-imperialism. Don’t let the divide and conquer tactics work as intended, this political oppression cannot and will not go unanswered. We need the people on the outside to support those on the inside in their efforts to further organize, rehabilitate, and educate in the United Struggle from Within in Texas. We need public opinion to shift, so keep on the pressure from both sides. The more they censor and oppress, bigger our fight gets!
Since Monday, 26 September 2022, Alabama has struggled to keep its prisons operating as prisoners across the state have not been performing work in their facilities until their demands for reform of the parole system, sentencing, and oversight are met. Organizing around this campaign began back in June among prisoners and their families, after years of protests and litigation over the escalating brutality of the Alabama Department of Corrections failed to make the state budge.
In the state of Alabama, prisoners manufacture license plates, furniture, clothing, while maintain the prisons themselves by working in the kitchen, laundry, or doing yard and road work. Without this work the prisons are dramatically short-staffed and can barely even keep prisoners fed. Meals being served to prisoners in recent weeks are basically slices of bread and cheese, a powerful indication of the willingness of the state and its employees to run the basic infrastructure prisoners need to survive.
The prisoners’ demands are not centered on overcrowding or the fact that Alabama doesn’t pay its prisoners anything for their labor, or specific acts of brutality by correctional officers, as galling as all of that is. Instead, they are targeted at the parole and sentencing systems, which have led to “more people coming out in body bags than on parole,” in the words of outside organizer Diyawn Caldwell of prisoner advocacy group Both Sides of the Wall.(1) The prisoner’s demands are:
Repeal the Habitual Offender Law immediately.
Make the presumptive sentencing standards retroactive immediately.
Repeal the drive-by shooting statute.
Create a statewide conviction integrity unit.
Mandatory parole criteria that will guarantee parole to all eligible persons who meet the criteria.
Streamlined review process for medical furloughs and review of elderly incarcerated individuals for immediate release.
Reduction of the 30 year maximum for juvenile offenders to no more than 15 years before they are eligible for parole.
Do away with life without parole.(2)
The sentencing and parole systems in Alabama have always been bad and have been getting worse in recent years. In mid-October while prisoners in some facilities were still refusing to work, the Alabama parole board granted two paroles out of 124 cases, a rate barely above one percent. Whether this was conscious retaliation or just the day-to-day brutality of the system is unknown at this time.
An investigation initiated by the Justice Department under the Trump administration identified horrific overcrowding (182% of capacity) and neglect that has led to some of the highest rates of homicide and rape among prisoners in the country.(3) Following this investigation, the Justice Department then took the extraordinary step of suing the state of Alabama over the conditions of its men’s prisons.(4) According to prison organizers, nothing has changed in the almost two years since the lawsuit.
Because of the prisoner participation across the state, the government wasn’t able to ignore it like they normally prefer. Governor Kay Ivey called the demands ‘unreasonable’ while also admitting that the building of two new mens’ prisons (with misappropriated COVID-19 relief funds) would meet the DOJ’s demands to end overcrowding.(5) Regarding parole and the basic fact that the state is putting more and more people inside with longer and longer sentences with no end in sight, she had nothing substantial to say.
The warehousing of predominately oppressed nation men, with no opportunities for rehabilitation or release is why we charge genocide against the U.$. criminal injustice system. Alabama is part of the Black Belt south, with 26% of it’s overall population being Black/New Afrikan. Yet, 54% of prisoners were New Afrikan across the state in 2010!(6) Alabama is in the top 6 states in the United $tates for overall imprisonment rates, with most of those states being in the Black Belt.
Caldwell discussed the despair prisoners in Alabama feel because of the lack of opportunities in Alabama prisons:
They’ve taken all the exit and second chance options away from these men and women in Alabama. There’s no hope for parole because the parole board is practically denying everyone and sending them off [with] five [more] years with no explanation, even though these men and women meet the set criteria that has been established.
They practically have a living death sentence, if they don’t have an EOS date, so all the hope is gone. They have nothing to strive for there, they feel like they’re not worthy of a second chance, they’re not given a second chance. And no one has any type of trust or hope in them to come out and reintegrate into society and be a stand-up citizen.
People incarcerated in Alabama face excessive force from correctional officers, a high risk of death, physical violence and sexual abuse from other prisoners and are forced to live in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, according to the DOJ.
The prison authorities have responded to the work refusal by cancelling all visitation, cutting programming back to nothing, and serving next to no food. The Alabama Department of Corrections is one of many prison systems across the country struggling to function without enough people to run its operations. While prisoners are the primary people to suffer under these conditions, this also indicates a contradiction in the United $tates use of prisons to control large populations that could offer opportunities for change. As Under Lock & Key goes to print, the prisoners have faced the state of Alabama down for three weeks. We will continue monitoring the situation and try to extract lessons for the rest of the country.
UPDATE FOR AUGUST 2022: Now that Juneteenth 2022 has passed, please use this updated flyer and these updated postcards now address the censorship across the state of Texas in recent months. We need your support to keep increasing the pressure to fight this censorship of political speech.
Download and print this flyer to hang or hand out.
We are also asking others to join our letter writing and postcard campaign in support of the rights of MIM Distributors and activists in Allred to freely communicate. There has been a rise in mail censorship as organizing has progressed.
download PDF below
print 2-sided on cardstock
cut into 4
add $0.40 stamp (or more)
go to event or public space and ask people to sign their name, city and state
explain the Junteenth Freedom Initiative to them
hand them a flyer (above) or Under Lock & Key
ask for a donation to pay for postage & printing
drop postcards in mail box (don’t mail them all at once we want a consistent stream of cards coming in)
On the day the Chicago city government released the body camera footage of the way Adam was killed, police abolitionist rallies and protests were gathered in Chicago and other major cities of the United $tates. Primarily, these rallies were calls for abolition and reform of pig forces in the United $tates and were attended by the Mexican and [email protected] masses – mostly the youth. Despite comprador Mayor Lightfoot and the Chicago Pig Department’s fearful cries of imminent social unrest and “riots,” these social rallies were peaceful and non-violent.(1)
During school time, the same youth who might have attended those non-violent rallies mourning Adam’s death and righteously condemning the Chicago Police Department (CPD) would have found a bit more safety than usual due to the lack of pig presence in their schools. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) officials announced on the 23rd of April – a week after the release of the body cam footage – that uniformed pigs won’t be on school campus until the fall semester. This policy however, is only temporary and will not apply to sergeants who patrol the areas around CPS schools. On top of that, officers are still assigned to 55 high schools whose local school councils voted to keep them in.(2)
The murder of a fellow oppressed nation youth has sparked a lot of righteous resentment against the oppressive police system among Chicago’s public school students during that month – the CPS population is comprised of 83% oppressed nation students.(3) Nathaniel Martinez, a sophomore of Roosevelt High School in Albany Park, made the following statements:
“The cops are the ones who are holding the gun. They have the power to choose what will happen, what won’t happen. And what they chose for Adam was death. And when I saw that, when I realized that, it just made me scared. But at the end of the day… am I scared of cops? Yes. Am I scared what one of them will do to me if one of them ends up having a bad day and they just want to do something crazy? Yes, I always am. … But right now we’re trying our best to make a difference.”
“We shouldn’t have students being monitored like criminals by cops in schools,”
Oppressed nation youth like Nathaniel lead movements across the country to get rid of armed pigs monitoring school halls. Many of these youth correctly recognize the disparity of how much harsher and more frequently New Afrikan or [email protected] children would be targeted by school pigs as compared to their Amerikan peers. Other progressive minded people have also recognized how the patrolling of schools and youth (oppressed nation youth in particular) lead to those youths entering the prison injustice system. In this sense, there is strong solidarity that should be built among the prison movement and the youth movement. However, a big weakness, reflecting pre-scientific thinking within these movements, is reformism and dependency on the imperialist system. These are ideas communists should be challenging through political education when deepening their roots into the progressive youth movements.
The Elders Respond
One important voice that has been raised are the ones from the older migrants. While these elders recognize the tragedy of Adam’s death, they also supported more pig presence among the Mexican/[email protected] neighborhoods in fear of violence from lumpen organizations. One Mexican elote (Mexican street food) vendor aged 74, named Santamaria, had this to say:
“We are tired of gang violence; it’s sad what happened with the young boy, but he had a gun with him and his friend had been shooting, so the officer responded to the threat,”(4)
Many of our reader base will know that the oppressed nation lumpen in the urban centers of the United $tates have hostile relationships with their urban petty-bourgeois counterparts. Some of our readers (and also many communists) might be quick to condemn the above attitude claimed by Miss Santamaria as coming from a petty-bourgeois street vendor and a chauvinist attitude against the lumpen class. However, we shouldn’t be too quick to brush off these sentiments and thoroughly combat the anti-people aspect of the lumpen class as well. Ideas stem from material reality after all. The segregated nature of the United $tates will mean that the bread and butter of oppressed nation lumpen will be other oppressed nation people: pigs will care less if a gangbanger steals from a New Afrikan or a [email protected] in the ghettos/barrios than stealing from the Amerikans. As stated in “Who is the Lumpen in the United $tates?” by MIM(Prisons), the First World Lumpen parasitically gets its means of living through other labor aristocrats, or other lumpen. This examination should lead to their surrounding petty-bourgeoisie as well. While it is true that in the United $tates, the First World Lumpen class should be organized to abandon the road of banditry and follow the road of revolution, it is also true that to demand respect and sympathy from poor and lower petty-bourgeois masses while also committing said banditry is idealist and commandist.
One important point that has been brought up by the youth and the intellectuals which led many of the mass rallies and discourse surrounding the murder of Adam was the fact that many of the elders in the Mexican/[email protected] community bring over conservative cultural attitudes of the countryside in mother country Mexico to the cities of the United $tates.(5) Many of these attitudes include the reaction against the violence of the lumpen proletariat drug lords and the Mexican bourgeoisie that fund and cooperate with these enemies of the people. Nine times out of ten, the Mexican drug lord is a gangster and a comprador capitalist at the same time – if not the running dogs of those comprador bourgeoisie. In the oppressed nation areas of the United $tates, most lumpen organizations might just be small-scale collectives of hustlers, pimps, and drug peddlers who claim blocks and corners and can’t afford to have the country’s military under their thumbs; in the Third World, they are war lords who control swaths of land and political power. This difference should stay in the minds of revolutionaries and communists who intend to organize not only the first world lumpen, but also the migrant proletariat who come from the third world oftentimes to escape from war lord tyranny.
The Campaign Against ShotSpotter
Several months after Adam was murdered, his family and activists gathered on the site of his death to protest the ShotSpotter technology used to detect gunshots in areas where lumpen activities heavily occur. On the Thursday of July 29th when that rally was held, activists demanded the cancellation of ShotSpotter’s surveillance presence in their neighborhoods as the contract the company had with the city of Chicago only had one month left.(6)
In response to the protests held by the people, ShotSpotter issued this response:
“All residents who live in communities experiencing persistent gunfire deserve a rapid police response, which gunshot detection enables regardless of race or geographic location. Because cities lack sufficient funds to cover an entire city with gunshot detection technology, they deploy sensors in neighborhoods suffering the highest levels of gun violence.”(7)
In classic Amerikan fashion, ShotSpotter disguised its surveillance and monitoring of the empire’s problem population (the oppressed nation of urban centers) as a gift and a right that the said population “deserves.” Maoists recognize that gunshot detectors in ghettos and barrios aren’t a safety measure. These technologies enable pigs to be deployed faster to occupy these regions in a more efficient and fruitful manner. The company also claimed that the technology detects “gunshots regardless of race or geographic location.” Any sane person should be able to recognize that this claim means nothing since humyn beings (in this case Amerikan corporations profiting off of militarized police occupation) put these technologies in to monitor New Afrikans and Mexicans/[email protected] geographically located in ghettos and barrios. Like Mao Zedong taught us, man is principal over machine and weaponry in warfare.
On August 11th, Adam Toledo’s family spoke about the plan of creating “Adam’s Place”; a non-profit shelter for at risk boys trying to escape inner-city conditions and lumpen violence. The shelter would be built on a 70 acre farm in Potosi, Wisconsin and was chosen by the family’s attorney Joel Hirschorn. The location is 3.5 hours away from Chicago and 2.5 hours away from Milwaukee.(9) The non-profit is claimed to be modeled after the Christian ministry program “Boys’ Farm.” In a town hall meeting in Potosi, Wisconsin, Joel Hirschorn announced that the home will not take in boys already in a lumpen organization. We are not sure how Adam’s Place will define a child to be “in a gang” (whether affiliates or individual hustlers will be classified as belonging to a “gang”); however, we see the fact that Adam Toledo himself would not be allowed in Adam’s Place as a prime example of liberal NGO tactics.(10) We hope for stable and safe path for all children who will enter Adam’s Place, and wish the family members of Adam Toledo for a peace of mind from the nightmare they must be facing. For attacking the problem at the root, and for real rehabilitation of lumpen youth, we point our directions away from NGOism to our readers and towards socialism and revolution.
Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation, and Capitalism’s Final Crisis by John Smith Monthly Review Press 2016
[Editor: The author of this review uses “southern countries” to refer to what we would call the Third World, exploited or neo-colonial countries, and “northern countries” to refer to the imperialist, First World, exploiter countries.]
The dominant trend in capitalism for the last forty or so years has been the relocation of production from northern to southern countries, where the vast majority of the global industrial workforce lives. It’s impossible to ignore the offshore origin of most of the commodities we interact with in the U.S. every day, and equally impossible to ignore the wretched conditions and dramatically lower wages that most of these southern workers deal with. What this means for the present structure and future of the global economy is less clear, and that’s where this book comes in.
There’s a lot in this book I won’t talk about that was nonetheless very interesting – Smith’s discussion of GDP and productivity measurements, his history of Marxist thinking on imperialism, and his in-depth discussion of the production of a wide range of specific commodities.(1) I’ll just focus on his main contribution, the value theory of imperialism, in which he incorporates and expands on Marx’s discussion of surplus value and Lenin’s century-old understanding of imperialism.
Surplus in Marx’s Capital
Smith’s value theory of imperialism begins with value, which is the amount of labor required to produce a given commodity. A capitalist producing t-shirts wants to churn out the largest amount of them in a working day, at the highest possible intensity of work, and with the latest technology. Out of the sale of the t-shirts he buys equipment, raw materials, and pays wages. These wages are the monetary expression of labor power, or what a worker is paid to show up at a specific time and place and put their energies and abilities at the disposal of the capitalist. In return, the worker can use the wage they get to buy a basket of goods to keep themselves alive til the next day. The amount of labor that goes into the production of this basket the worker needs can be called the value of labor-power itself, which under capitalism is a commodity just like clothing, pickups or rifles. The pile of shirts the capitalist gets to sell at the end of the day can be sold for more money than the wages he pays for the labor that produced it. To cut a long story short, Marx investigates this anomaly and discovers that there is a part of the day where workers produce enough commodities to pay for their wages, and a part of the day where the labor they expend creates commodities that just make the capitalist money. The labor that happens in this second part of the day is surplus labor, and the value of the commodities produced at this time is surplus value. This magically free labor is the beating heart of capitalism, and its pursuit and distribution are the core of all capitalist economic phenomena.
Marx discussed two main ways that capitalists in the 19th century would attempt to grab more surplus value.(2) The first he called ‘absolute surplus value,’ and it consists of extending the working day by either making workers work harder for the time they’re at work, or making them work for longer at the same or similar wages. The second path to more surplus is making the value of labor power (or the amount of labor it takes to create enough goods for a worker to survive) less. Marx called this second form ‘relative surplus value’.
Smith takes this basic account and expands it to an era Marx didn’t live to see and couldn’t have predicted – the transformation of the labor-capital relationship into a relationship mostly between northern capital and southern labor.(3)
North-South relations in Lenin’s Imperialism
Lenin’s book Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism describes a world divided into oppressor and oppressed nations, the competition of monopolies, and the trends inherent in capitalist development of this era that lead to ever more destructive bouts of violence. The need for more surplus and more profits drives capitalist firms beyond the confines of their home market, to seize and exploit foreign ones. Competition gives way to centralization and large monopolies, and the increasing integration of these monopolistic interests into the state makes war over colonies and their resources more and more likely. At home, the super-profits obtained in the colonies create a labor aristocracy, the size and influence of which has been debated basically for the entire hundred years since Lenin’s book first appeared.
Smith identifies a weakness in Lenin’s work, mainly that he doesn’t discuss or use value as a concept to explain imperialism.(4) The thing Smith attempts, after several chapters of setting up the data on the existence and persistence of wage differentials and trade relationships between northern firms and southern labor, is a synthesis and update of Marx and Lenin’s contributions.
Smith’s point is that the outsourcing of production has allowed capitalist firms to conduct what he calls ‘labor arbitrage,’ or buying labor power where it is cheap and selling the commodities produced where they can be sold dear. Thanks to innovations in shipping and communications technology, firms can seek out the cheapest labor and the most favorable environmental and labor laws (ideally, they want no environmental or labor laws) to churn out the most surplus value possible. This has driven the wage down below the value of labor power – workers in many countries are not paid enough to survive and have to make a living through wage-labor in capitalist factories plus something else, like subsistence farming or stealing. This is an extreme form of the relative surplus value extraction method that Marx discussed, or what has also been called superexploitation.
Additionally, the relationship between companies like Foxconn (which actually makes the iPhone) and companies like Apple (who first create a design that breaks in three years, then contract the production out and stamp a logo on it for 300% markup), or ‘arms-length outsourcing’(5), hides the exploitation and transfer of value from one country to another behind an apparently innocent market transaction. The vast majority of the profits, taxes and tariffs from offshored production end up not in the country where the commodity was produced, but in the country where the final seller of the commodity is headquartered. This is how Germany, a country that cannot produce coffee, makes dramatically more from its re-export than any country where it is actually grown.(6) Marx hints that this phenomenon, called ‘value capture,’ could exist theoretically, but Smith demonstrates that it is at the core of relationships between countries in today’s economy. There is also a lengthy discussion of ‘value chains’ or sequential input-output relationships conducted between firms that leads to the final commodity. A Zambian copper mine sells to a wire factory, which sells to a company that makes circuit boards, which sells to a car company who uses the circuit board to run an automatic transmission in a hundred thousand dollar pickup. The conditions of work and the selling price dramatically swell along the chain, to the point where the worker watching a robot bolt the circuit board into place makes more in an hour than the copper miner made in a month. But all labor really is equal. It’s not like swinging a pickaxe is an entirely different movement in Zambia or America. And it’s not like the people doing the swinging are any different either.
The Political Economy of Coffee
Smith provides a lot of concrete examples of how these exploitative relations between nations lead to permanent conditions of underdevelopment in southern countries, and vast profits in northern ones. Maybe the most stark of these examples is his discussion of coffee from the early part of the book. Coffee is only grown in southern countries, and it is almost exclusively processed in northern countries, where the markups can exceed four hundred percent. Wages paid in the coffee-processing sector, taxes from this business and tariffs on imports, all contribute to the northern economy in question (Germany, perversely for a country that can never grow coffee except in a greenhouse, is the biggest exporter of processed coffee) and rely on southern countries furnishing the raw material at a reliably low price, a price that ends up being a tiny fraction of the cost of the final product. In this case it’s clear not only how unequal the exchange is, but also how the entire chain of production in the northern country relies on the exploitation of other workers. Another writer on this subject, Zak Cope, estimates that the total transfer owing to this process of hyper-exploitation, markup and re-export, across all commodities, amounts to sixteen percent of GDP in northern countries every year.
What makes these conditions permanent is the persistently low price of the export for the country where the coffee is grown, which will not allow it to develop or move up the ladder to more capital-intensive forms of production that might be safer on the global market. An additional factor is politics, and the careful policing of the ability of southern countries to raise wages, enforce their own labor laws, hold northern firms to account when they commit crimes(7), and raise the price of their exports. In the case of Rwanda (a major coffee producer) in the early 90s, the political destabilization and genocide that occurred in the country was partially the result of the collapse of an international coffee-exporting agreement that attempted to set a (low) floor on the price of the commodity and provide some stability and guaranteed income for countries who rely on its export. Northern countries oppose any agreement that would make their inputs cost more, or make their value-chains dependent on cheap labor any more expensive. They can be more or less effective at ensuring this, in cooperation with the comprador bourgeoisie. A particularly galling example of this, from the textile sector, unfolded in Haiti in 2009 over the raising of the minimum wage of 31 cents an hour, which president Rene Preval eventually backed away from, after opposition from the U.S. Embassy and local factory owners.(8)
Whose fight, and who’s fighting?
What Smith doesn’t do is discuss the immediate political consequences of all this for us. On the last page of the book he says “together with their sisters and brothers in the imperialist countries, [southern] workers have the capacity, the mission and the destiny to dig a grave in which to bury capitalism.”(9) It’s a little too convenient, and maybe in the future he can discuss the history of this elusive internationalism. Whether workers in northern countries fight actively or consciously for this super-exploitation to continue, whether and to what exact extent different groups of workers in northern countries benefit from this arrangement of production, whether workers of the world can unite and what they could accomplish if they could, are all questions Smith doesn’t answer. MIM would argue that workers in northern countries clearly benefit from imperialism, and seek those benefits in an alliance (an alliance that might have some rough spots now and then) with the bourgeoisie of their own countries, and are thus not a mass base for a revolutionary movement but instead a labor aristocracy. Changes to all of these relationships – between northern and southern countries, and between workers and their bosses, north and south – will drive changes in the political economy John Smith’s book goes a long way towards helping us understand.
Notes: 1. pp. 13-34 2. p. 237 3. p. 12 4. pp. 225-230 5. p. 68 6. p. 31 7. It always helps when the law in northern countries maintains a fictitious barrier between a northern firm relying on exploitation and those they exploit. A recent extreme example is the Supreme Court’s ruling that the slave labor of children used in harvesting product for Nestle under conditions the company controlled wasn’t technically the company’s fault. See: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/17/supreme-court-rules-in-favor-of-nestle-in-child-slavery-case.html 8. Dan Coughlin and Kim Ives, 1 June 2011, WikiLeaks Haiti: Let Them Live on $3 a Day, The Nation. 9. p. 315
On 20 April 2021, Ma’Khia Bryant – a 16-year-old New Afrikan girl – was murdered by a pig belonging to the Columbus Division of Police.(1) As the news of a guilty verdict on killer pig Derek Chauvin was barely starting to make news on various media, an Amerikan pig killed another New Afrikan child.(2)
At the time of the murder, Ma’Khia Bryant lived in foster care in the home of Angela Moore – the foster mother. The incident started as a conflict between a Tionna Bonner, 22 year old former foster child of Ms. Moore, and Ma’Khia Bryant and her younger sister Ja’Niah Bryant. The conflict was originally over housework, and how the former foster child Tionna Bonner said the Bryant children were not giving Ms. Moore the respect that was due. The dispute escalated when Ja’Niah called Ms. Moore who said she was too busy to get involved. Ja’Niah called her grandmother while Ms. Bonner called another former foster child by the name of Shai-Onta Craig Watkins. Watkins was 20 years old at this time.(3)
The biological grandmother of the Bryant children arrived who described the conflict. She tried protecting her grandchildren who were being threatened by the older former foster children Ms. Bonner and Ms. Watkins. By this time, Ms. Bonner had pulled out a knife (according to Ja’Niah and her grandmother) and Ma’Khia had grabbed a steak knife from the kitchen. This is when Ja’Niah called 911 to which she claimed “Angie’s grown girls trying to fight us, trying to stab us, trying to put her hands on our grandma.”(4)
The police arrived 12 minutes later. Ms. Watkins has left the house while the Bryant children began to pack up their things. The Bryant children’s father now arrived at the scene as Ms. Watkins returned with two more people. While the two groups crossed paths, Ms. Watkins spat towards the Bryant family. Ja’Niah Bryant later said, “That’s when everything just went left.”
As Ma’Khia Bryant charged, Ms. Watkins fell to the ground in which then Ma’Khia’s father tried to kick Watkins. When Ma’Khia raised her kitchen knife, pig Nicholas Reardon shot Ma’Khia four times. Ma’Khia was dead.
Many activists and people on Twitter oriented towards the discourse of Amerika’s police brutality pointed out on social media how the New Afrikan masses couldn’t get a single second of judicial justice from the United $tates without having another Amerikan pig take the life away from another New Afrikan. This murder was closely dated with the release of the video footage showing the murder of a Mexican lumpen youth Adam Toledo who was 3 years younger than Ma’Khia Bryant. The liberals and left-wing imperialists oriented with the Democratic Party seemed too busy to pat themselves on the back in regards to the guilty verdict on Derek Chauvin that these two murders of oppressed nation youth seemed to not stay in their national headlines.
The Oppressed Nation Youth in the Foster Care System
In 2019, New Afrikan children made up 14% of the total child population in the United $tates – children ranging from ages 1 to 18 – while their euro-Amerikan counterparts made up 50%.(5) Despite their much smaller population size, New Afrikan children made up 23% of the kids in foster care, much higher than not only Amerikans, but also the [email protected], First Nations, and national minorities.(6) The number of New Afrikan foster children however, has been decreasing steadily for the past two decades with the year 2000 starting with a 39% and reaching a stabilization of 23% around 2016 up to 2019.
Throughout the history of the modern imperialist world there have been problems of vulnerable children; whether they be foster kids, orphan beggars, or a gang of youth thieves, crisis which inevitably comes from the capitalist relations of production will strike the youth populations as well. In the United $tates, one of the many major external factors of the oppressed nations’ material conditions in the recent decades have been the drug war. With the turn of the 1980s, the crack epidemic fueled by the alliance between the CIA and the comprador drug lords of Latin America has hit New Afrikan and [email protected] communities like a locust swarm would to a peasant’s rice field. As the drug game became more and more dangerous, the oppressed nation youth lost the little stability and the nuclear family structure that they had in the first place. The associate commissioner of the Children’s Bureau stated that “most children enter the foster care system, not from physical abuse, but from neglect.”(7) From this we can gather that the primary cause of New Afrikan youth entering the foster care system is not physical and emotionally abusive parents per se, but lack of resources the family or the community around them has.
Children growing in those lumpenized households and impoverished labor aristocrat households vulnerable to lumpenization (and most importantly, surrounded by abysmal living conditions) creates a very unstable social element for the Amerikans (and even the oppressed nation masses!). So in that response, the foster system is utilized where petty-bourgeois households (many of them belonging to the oppressed nation themselves!) with the time and resource could take care of children coming from beneath their petty-bourgeois class status. Despite its well-intended individuals, the foster care system is just as unsafe from bureaucratic and profit-driven work methods that is embedded in the capitalist the capitalist superstructure. Abuse, emotional deprivation, and physical neglect reign amongst children in foster care. Just like how the police departments of every major city juke statistics and makes robberies and rapes disappear – and how the school system juke scores and encourage studying tests instead of studying fields of knowledge – foster homes oftentimes make their abuse and neglect disappear as well. Anti-communists claim that no one would work without the profit motive, and that the profit motive is the main source of good work in any society. Then how come foster parents who get paid hundreds by the government every month per child still can’t meet the emotional and physical requirement for vulnerable youth?
With the crack cocaine epidemic rising in the 1980s and 1990s, bourgeois nationalist ideas hardening the family structure of oppressed nations came to popularity. Bourgeois nationalists pointed at the lack of a nuclear family structure amongst oppressed nations, and rested the conditions of New Afrikans and [email protected] upon that point.(8) The absentee father; the drug addicted mother; the so-called “emasculated” gay man; the gangster who’s “too dumb” to use his parasitic gains to transform into a legal capitalist; and the participator of “loose sex” were seen as the reasons why New Afrikan/[email protected] youth were pulled into lumpenization and the foster care system. Maoists understand that the superstructure cannot change the economic base, and the idea of “superstructure first” will be fruitless without the overthrow of capitalism. Shaming single mothers, persecuting LGBT masses, and enabling the capitalist instincts of the lumpen class will not only fail to give us liberation, but will attack the masses even more.
Socialist Handling of Unattended Youth
In the Soviet Union, revolution, counter-revolution, and world war left millions of orphans in Russia commonly referred to as “besprizornye” (literally meaning “unattended”).(9) Most of these orphans worked as beggars while also looking towards odd jobs such as selling flowers and cigarettes or hoping to work in restaurants for scraps. Competition became more fierce, and many of these orphans turned towards prostitution and thievery.(10) Gangs of orphans as large as groups of 30 came to being; alcoholism and drug abuse became a common site; and STDs, physical, and mental illness became common things associated with the unattended children.(11) From this basis came the battle for communist transformation of not only the unattended children but all children under socialism in the USSR. Revolutionary orphanages were formed, children were provided with necessities such as education while expected to help with maintaining those independent institutions and decision making. The primary split between these orphanages under socialism and capitalism was the agency and self-determination given to the orphaned youth and the question of adoption: socialist orphanages didn’t seek to put children in adoption but give them a family through the productive life of the commune. During the latter half of the 1920s, the Soviet Union succeeded in the rehabilitation of the unattended children although the goal of creating revolutionary youth movement for all youth has not been met.(12)
The murder of Ma’Khia Bryant is overlooked unfortunately by both the Liberals and the revolutionaries. As a guilty verdict has been placed on pig Derek Chauvin, liberals are eager to put a book end to the rebellion that spread across the country from 2020-2021. As Mao Zedong taught us that the masses must learn revolution through waging revolution, we emphasize the work on us that must be done in pulling the correct lessons from the period of rebellion from 2020 to 2021. Many radical Liberals are heartbroken by such morbid killing of an oppressed nation youth – a habit Amerikkka is unable to kick – and often times let the bourgeois moralism alongside catharsis get the better of them. We emphasize again the importance of learning the essence of the reality around us and the importance of serving unattended youth while combating tailist and commandist attitudes.
Bibliography 1. Will Wright, 8 May 2021, “Ma’khia Bryant’s Journey Through Foster Care Ended With an Officer’s Bullet,” The New York Times. 2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Kids Count, September 2020, “Child Population by Race in the United States,” Kids Count. 6. Kids Count, June 2021, “Children in foster care by race and Hispanic origin in the United States,” Kids Count. 7. Administration for Children & Families, January 15, 2020 “Child abuse, neglect data released: 29th edition of the Child Maltreatment Report,” Administration for Children & Families. 8. The New York Times, July 31, 1994, “Facing Complaints of Bias, Farrakhan Speaks to Women Only.” 9. Alan M. Ball, 1994, “And Now My Soul Hardened,” University of California Press. 10. Ibid. 11. Ibid. 12. Ibid.
On 29 March 2021 around 3:00AM, a 13-year-old lumpen Mexican youth named Adam Toledo was murdered by the pigs of the Chicago Police Department. Before the murder, around 2:30 AM, the Chicago Police Department’s ShotSpotter technology - a privately owned surveillance system which monitors gunshots primarily in oppressed nation lumpen areas of Chicago(1) – detected a number of gunshots on the West Side of Chicago. Specifically, the shots were said to have come from the predominantly Chicano/Mexican migrant neighborhood of “Little Village.”(2) Alongside the crime scene was Toledo’s associate Roman Ruben, and an Amerikan Chicago pig named Eric Stillman who pulled the trigger at 13 year old Adam.(3) After Adam unarmed himself, the pig immediately shot Adam in the chest – killing him instantly.
The mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, and other bureaucrats of the city government, have played a massive role in covering up this extrajudicial killing of an oppressed nation youth. The recent uprisings in regards to the murder of George Floyd and other murders of New Afrikans by Amerikan pigs seemed to have made quite an impression on the imperialists and the comprador bourgeoisie of the oppressed nations. With the lead up to the release of the body cam footage, every pig in Chicago has had its days off cancelled. The pigs of the CPD has claimed this has been for the “public safety” of Chicago. Us Maoists know that what they really want is security, not “public safety.” It will be the oppressed nation lumpen who will have to take on the responsibilities of creating safety and most importantly, peace among the masses. The New Afrikan comprador Mayor Lightfoot has also stated: “Let us not forget that a mother’s child is dead. Siblings are without their brother. And this community is again grieving.”(4) It’s ironic how the comprador reminds the masses that the masses are grieving! The mayor seems to be saying that political criticisms of oppression and brutality are inappropriate during times of profound tragedies. With regards to this attitude, we tell our readers that tragedies don’t exist isolated from their surroundings, and there are material political-economic reasons as to why these murders of oppressed nation youth by pigs happen in our society.
The Pig’s POV and the Reactionary Apologia
After the deployment of all Chicago pigs – and the cynical concern of comprador Mayor Lightfoot – the body cam video has been released on April 15th after calls to release the footage by the Mexican/Chicano community and the parents of Adam Toledo. The footage shows the pig running towards Adam yelling at him to stop and to show him his hands. As Adam raised his hands, the cop immediately fired his weapon and the bullet hit his chest. Adam drops to the ground and the pigs call for medical back up stating that shots have been fired by police. (5)
The usual discourse and apologia surrounding cop killings started to roll in amongst the Amerikans and their reactionary lapdogs: “the cop was most likely scared”; “the 13 year old had a gun”; and “it’s sad what happened, but the 21-year-old Roman Ruben who manipulated Adam is the real villain.”
What Amerikans and their lapdogs forget to remember is this: Amerika waged war against the oppressed nations. This war might have not been stated by the president as the war against New Afrikans, [email protected], and the oppressed nations in word verbatim but a war has been waged nevertheless. The thin masking of this war by calling it a war against “drugs” or war against “crime” is not the issue. So with that being cleared up, we respond to these apologias with a question: did you expect your enemies of war to fight with sticks and stones? Of course the people you waged war against will have a gun. The assumption that pig Eric Stillman was feeling scared contradicts the claims made against Adam and Roman as criminals deserving of punishment. Adam probably felt scared as well running away from one of the most dangerous pig forces in the United $tates. Adam and Roman surely felt scared growing up in the West Side of Chicago being of oppressed nation origins. Should every wrong doing of Adam and Roman be just swept away then? Us Maoists say that with politicization and rehabilitation, people like Adam and Roman (oppressed nation lumpen youth) are some of the best positioned to become revolutionary and overthrow this system that arises violence and crime in the first place. What historical duties do cops like Eric Hillman serve? To defend and serve the security of imperialism and capitalism.
The ALKQN Strikes Back: Fact or Propaganda?
In the midst of all this, Adam’s affiliation with the Lumpen Organization (L.O.) the Almighty Latin King/Queen Nation(ALKQN) has surfaced. Sources from ALKQN associates and other L.O. affiliates’ social media posts have referred to him as “Bvby Diablo” and “Lil Homicide.”(6) The ALKQN has a long history of revolutionary political organizing, and even working with Maoists.(7) While transforming the entire ALKQN to a revolutionary vanguard has been unsuccessful and ultimately a failure, new projects and dedicated comrades have arose from the campaign of Latin Kings work with MIM such as the Noble Young Lords Party.(8)
Days after Adam was killed, the pigs in Chicago issued an “officer safety alert.” The CPD’s narcotics unit have heard that factions within the ALKQN on the Southwest side of Chicago have issued an order to their members to shoot at unmarked Chicago police vehicles.(9) This has raised another discourse of whether violence is justified, and sparked as ammo for the reactionaries’ justifying pig Eric Stillman’s crime.
This author believes that the ALKQN is completely capable of making these threats, and also completely capable of shooting at unmarked police vehicles. If these threats were made, and the actions carried out, we only condemn the act of making military offenses at the enemy while not being able to defend the masses from retaliation by the pigs. As we stated before, the masses will pay for the adventurist errors of leaders.(10) What we also want to highlight, however, is that it is just as much a possibility this information has been disseminated by the pigs to cause provocation amongst the [email protected]/Mexican L.O.s of Chicago. We advise our readers with a call for discipline during these times when contradictions heighten. Romantic attacks towards the enemy can only do so much, and the consequences of raids and military occupation are not worth the lumpen romance.
Recently, rising Chicago rapper King Von has been shot and killed in an Atlanta nightclub at the age of 26.(1) Born as David Daquan Bennett, King Von was associated with the lumpen organization “Black Disciples” and was close childhood friends with other notable Chicago figures such as rapper Chief Keef and Lil Durk. While there were rumors that he was the grandson of David Barksdale, the founder of the Black Disciplies, there have been no notable proofs confirming this fact.(2) However, he was given the nickname “Grandson” amongst older B.D. members while he was in prison due to his demeanor reminding the older prisoners of David Barksdale.
The shooting happened when King Von and Quando Rondo’s affiliates started to confront each other in the nightclub. Sooner or later, a fistfight occurred which resulted in guns being drawn. There was also two off-duty police officers that were present in the shooting.(3) Alongside King Von, two other men were killed with many others injured.(4)
Due to the news and social media’s coverage of this shooting, both camps – the Georgia L.O.s affiliated with Quando Rondo and the Chicago L.O.s affiliated with King Von – have publicly threatened each other on social media. Quando Rondo – who survived the altercation – has had his concerts canceled while social media gossip has poured fuel into the fire.
What we aim to do with this article isn’t to take sides on which party was in the right or wrong. While our articles like to point out that lumpen organizations have revolutionary potential, we also emphasize the dual nature of the lumpen class and the reactionary side of these organizations. “Gang” conflicts have done immense jobs in sowing divisions among the oppressed. With Hip-Hop music and “Gangster rap” becoming a nationwide phenomena, the music and culture of the oppressed nation lumpen have added fuel to the fire. We encourage our readers to go beyond the diss tracks while also not falling for the trap of individual survival and apathy – ultimately, they will return the oppressed back into chaos.
While serving as fuel of lumpen violence, these expressions also show the righteous resentment to society harbored by the most lowest sections of the oppressed – especially the youth. The fact that the amerikan patriarchs are so adamant that mere music infecting white children into delinquency and drugs shows an interesting trend in youth of all nations in the U.$. expressing their alienation towards capitalism.
Drill Culture in Inner Cities
Hip-Hop as a genre started in the east coast cities in the late 70s and early 80s. It wasn’t just simply a genre of music like the amerikan music critics would like to believe, but a mass expression of oppressed nation lumpen youth who dominated the Hip-Hop Scene. From the clothes, the hairstyles, graffiti, and dance all the way to the rapping has become a form of expressing the fear, anger, and righteousness that the Black/Puerto Rican youth who lived in the police state-like conditions in the inner cities.
What was called “Reality Rap” reflected the early pre-scientific consciousness of these lumpen youth. The bleak portrayal of amerikan cities flipped the idea of the amerikan dream and the bourgeois ubermensch making profit and “getting theirs” on its head. After all, if the “founding fathers” and the “captains of industry” could become the revered mega-rich through criminal acts such as slavery and thuggish exploitation, why can’t the corner boy dealing dope one day become a CEO of a mega corporation one day? Would it be so much more wrong to sell drugs to get a head start compared to selling people?
This also sheds light on how the hip-hop industry is a big way for the lowest section of the masses to become a national bourgeoisie or even a comprador bourgeoisie in the oppressed nations. Former street rappers turned CEO of record labels often end up being the one exploiting the oppressed nation masses in the ghettos and barrios themselves. In some cases, these musicians will end up exploiting the international proletariat in the Third World.(5)
While hip-hop in general has been becoming a bureaucratized multi-million dollar industry for the amerikans, the “drill music” scene has arisen from urban areas – notably Chicago. Lumpen Organizations in the country’s murder capital have often used music videos and rap lyrics to diss their rivals and the dead. The lingo that was used only in certain blocks and neighborhoods of Southside Chicago can now be heard from all major cities in the United $tates from Atlanta to Los Angeles. There is something to be said that social media and the internet has made the culture of Oppressed Nation diaspora – in this case Lumpen “drill” culture – more interconnected. New Afrikan L.O.s in Chicago now have a strong hold in the deep south in cities such as Atlanta and L.O.s who previously have never made contact with each other might start to form beefs.
NGO Tactics VS Building Independent Political Power
Peace treaties, alliances, and betrayals between lumpen organizations have been going on forever. Organizations from the Nation of Islam to the countless Non-Governmental Organizations have attempted to build peace in the ghettos and the barrios. However, building treaties can only go so far unless the root of the problem is attacked and made aware by the masses. The conflict of the L.O.s are bigger than individuals and sets. They are a bloody symptom of amerikan capitalism. Even if every Blood and Crip individual goes through psychological rehabilitation and shake hands with each other, more “gangs” will rise with the next generation. Oftentimes, the “rehabilitated” individuals end up back to the lumpen life within a year due to the political-economical instabilities in these areas; and many “peace treaties” are more so ceasefires to have the dope business in a more stable control.
Despite decades of these peace treaties, we are still in the very early stages of being able to unite the lumpen masses. Leaders within prisons working to push the United Front for Peace in Prisons can speak to this from experience. The story of the state isolating the conscious leader and the masses returning to oppressed-on-oppressed violence is all to common. Others have tried to revolutionize their whole L.O., and failed. While the leadership is there, we have not yet created the conditions that make this a viable path for the masses as a whole. That is the challenge we face as we continue to build revolutionary leadership that has a plan to end capitalism, and find ways to offer incentives for the masses to abandon the current system and risk their lives for a new tomorrow.
Notes: 1. Alex Zidel, November 06, 2020, “King Von Reportedly In Critical Condition After Shoot Out With Quando Rondo’s Crew,” Hot New Hip Hop. 2.Olivia Olphin, December 01, 2020, “Was King Von David Barksdale’s grandson? Rumour explained,” The Focus. 3. Emmanuel Camarillo, November 6, 2020, “Chicago Rapper King Von Killed in Atlanta Shooting,” Chicago Sun Times. 4. Rebekah Riess, November 7, 2020, “Rapper King Von shot and killed outside Atlanta nightclub,” CNN. 5. Sirin Kale, May 17, 2016, “How Much It Sucks to Be a Sri Lankan Worker Making Beyoncé’s New Clothing Line,” Vice.