One of the more hotly anticipated sequels to a classic (or, approaching classic) science fiction film has been the new Independence Day film: “Resurgence”. The film is set in 2016, exactly 20 years after the last film, and is quite vague in discussing the geo-political developments since the events of the first film. What we are given is obscure exposition by the new president of the united $tates on the “great advancements of humynity” since the defeat of the alien invaders. Of course, the united $tates in this arrangement is depicted as the noble defender of humynity and of earth in light of a humyn victory over the aliens 2 decades ago. What is also made clear is that an entirely new and more comprehensive military alliance has been drafted between all of the major imperialist powers and with China playing an increasingly prominent role in this new military coalition labeled the Earth Space Defense (ESD), this will be important later.
What is more immediately puzzling is the talk of the great period ushered in by the humyn victory which has allegedly seen no military conflict and has achieved great leaps in prosperity with the use of alien technology to benefit “all humynity.” These are some pretty big achievements, if they were to hold water. However it seems that like most boasts of amerika, even in this film, are just as hollow as they are in real life. Little is ever shown of the rest of the world outside of amerika (other than bits of Europe later in the film) although we do get to see several glimpses of an obscure destination in Afrika that is visited by the protagonists to meet with a local “warlord” whose people live underneath a large alien ship which had landed there during the first invasion.
What is interesting about their depiction of Afrikan people during this time is not only the direct contradiction with the president’s speech previously celebrating the great peace and prosperity, as well as the fact that this film does little to avoid the western stereotypes of Afrikan people in the media generally. The Afrikan people depicted in the film seem to have gained virtually nothing from the alien technology other than weaponry (consistent with a western worldview of what Afrikan people would find important) as well as the fact that they explicitly state the people in this region have been at near-constant warfare with the remnants of the alien army, and have been ruled by a “cruel warlord” whose aesthetic is meant to closely mirror that of a strong Communist leader, with the red flags and red stars. So much for “peace and prosperity” for all humynity.
This is very revealing about not only the mentalities of those who created the movie, but also of the characters within the film itself. The Afrikan people are summed up by this one vague and unspecified people they encounter who are meant to be the archetypical hyper-violent, probably Communist, and backward peoples. Furthermore, it becomes clear that when the president of amerika says “all humynity” what they mean is “all First World humynity” with an expressed focus on amerikans. These are the humyns they find to be particularly important, and worth talking about when making the generalized statements of peace and prosperity. So while for Communists it would seem contradictory to hear these statement and see the reality of Afrikan peoples at the same time, it is entirely consistent with the worldview of most amerikans and would be therefore uncontroversial to most of them.
Later in the film we are presented with the new alien threat, which is supposed to appear much more challenging than the previous one. Again, amerika champions itself as being the principal world leader as all of the seemingly most important battles are fought in North Amerika and a majority of all scenes address amerikan characters in the aftermath of the second invasion. There is a focus on two euro-amerikan characters who constantly paint themselves as born-of-hardship soldiers who are entirely misunderstood by their non-white superiors, including the Chinese commanding officer. This falls entirely in line with the amerikan perception of being the “unwanted hero” that always must intervene to save the world. They are underappreciated, overdeveloped, and the model for humynity in this film’s depiction.
Though aside from the centrality of amerikan characters in this film, another interesting aspect alluded to previously has is the prominence of China in this. China is not only a major power depicted in the film, but several of the most prominent characters, such as the commander of the lunar military installation, featured in the film and one of the more central protagonists, are Chinese. The film makes several overt attempts to appeal to the potential Chinese audiences. This has less to do with the film’s overall message so much as it has to do with an increasingly popular trend in films overall in the West with regards to China. Despite being anticipated in the united $tates and Europe, Resurgence has not done well so far in the amerikan box office, however its revenue was nearly matched by the Chinese opening. One could easily connect this to the overt attempts to make the film viable in the Chinese box office.
This is not unique to this film, however, with many other recent films now pinning their hopes on a success in both the amerikan and Chinese box offices. Two good examples of this in recent years have been the new Warcraft film which did extremely poorly in the united $tates and yet was a huge success in China, as well as the Red Dawn remake, which had actually undergone enormous changes during production to change the antagonists from Chinese to northern Koreans in order to ensure it could be shown in China. This is a rather strange example of how China is being transformed in its current place in the global markets as a major contender for marketing in the West as the Chinese government primes exclusive parts of the population for integration into the imperialist world economy as a large power.
Overall this film’s release exposes quite a lot about not only the amerikan consciousness, but as well the state of the global markets as they must now recognize China as being a large and viable marketplace for their goods. Films such as this one appeal directly to the ultra-racist and eurocentric worldviews of the audiences in an attempt to portray them as the saviors of the world, who take upon themselves the full burden and prestige for rescuing the planet in its hour of need. It goes to great lengths to demonstrate amerika and the imperialist countries as the rightful leaders of the planet, and to obscure all real social relations behind their prosperity and the misery of Third World peoples.
I have on my cell wall, "Afghan Girl," Steve McCurry's photograph that graced the cover of a 1985 National Geographic. I'm sure MIM is familiar with "Afghan Girl." It's one of my favorite selections of photo journalism/art.
2010, NG again dispatched McCurry to Afghanistan in search of "Afghan Girl" in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the famous photo. McCurry found "Afghan Girl," just as before - still living in the dirt. I would wager McCurry has made tens of thousands, nay, hundreds of thousands of dollars in proceeds from "Afghan Girl." Obviously, McCurry's subject didn't receive squat.
My question to MIM is: Should "Afghan Girl" be compensated for McCurry's photo commensurate to revenue generated, even though said revenue is derived form superprofits? After all, "Afghan Girl" was McCurry's model.
Extrapolating form the above, if prisoners are thrown nickels an dimes by the prisoncrats, are prisoners then feeding at the imperialist trough? I, myself, don't give 2 hoots if Texas prisoners are paid or not. That would just bequeath the man more authoritative leverage to be used against us. I don't give a fuck 'bout commissary, unless you're talking about boycotting or looting it. And the Texas so-called "good-time" scheme is a farcical sham.
MIM(Prisons) responds: There is some value, in a world where the government and its structures are actually serving the interests of the majority of the world's people, to superstructure systems of media and arts that also serve the people. But in the case of a photo exposing conditions of poverty and suffering, these should be used to identify problems and inspire action to change, not to generate wealth for the photographer.
The imperialists have come up with a myriad of ways to make money off the backs of Third World people. It is true that revenue for a photo is just a shifting around of superprofits; obviously there is no actual value or profit created from the taking of a photograph, or from being photographed. But instead this shows how the privileged in the First World share the wealth stolen from the Third World, to First World workers who are mostly engaged in unproductive labor. Rather than ask whether the Afghan girl in the photo should be compensated for the photo, instead we say that the entire situation is wrong and demonstrates how imperialism is more interested in profit than the welfare of human beings. This is just one small example further demonstrating that capitalism is a dead end system and must be replaced with a system that serves the interests of the majority, not the profit of the minority.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
by Stanley Nelson
This film screened in major U.$. cities in the fall of 2015. I was planning to use my notes in an article for our 50th issue on the 50th anniversary of the Black Panther Party. However, in February 2016 the film was shown on PBS with much publicity. Knowing that our readers have now seen the film we wanted to put some commentary out sooner rather than later. But do make sure to check out Under Lock & Key Issue 50 for a more in-depth counter-narrative to this pop culture film.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is an eclectic collection of video and photography, along with contemporary commentary from some who played important roles in the Party. The producer clearly had no deep ideological understanding of the Black Panther Party, as critics on the left and the right have already noted. What ey was good at was picking out some good sound bites and emotionally moving clips. Yet, even still, as someone with extensive knowledge of Panther history, i often found the film boring. Most of the audience seemed to enjoy it based on the loud cheering at the end.
I have not watched Stanley Nelson's other films, but it seems that a film on the Panthers is within the realm of previous documentaries ey has produced (Jonestown, The Black Press, Freedom Riders and Freedom Summer). It is curious that ey takes on these topics, and then does such a shallow portrayal of the Panthers. Nelson says ey was 15 when the Panthers formed and was always fascinated with them, but was not a participant in the movement emself.(1)
In line with the lack of ideological understanding, the treatment of Panther leaders was dismissive. The most in-depth discussion of Huey P. Newton was related to eir downward spiral into drugs and crime after the Panthers had been well on their way to dissolving. Nelson features sound bites from interviews calling Newton a "maniac" and Eldridge Cleaver "insane." Eldridge Cleaver was cast as a misleader from the beginning in this film. While both story lines are based in reality, the story that is missed is the great leadership role that Huey played, both ideologically and in practice, in building the greatest anti-imperialist organization this country has seen. At that time Eldridge too played an important role ideologically and organizationally, even if he was less consistent than Huey. Fred Hampton was given a more favorable portrayal by the film, but he died a martyr just as he was getting started. (And despite the attention given to Hampton's assassination there is no mention of him being drugged beforehand, presumably by an FBI spy.) There is a pattern of character assassination in the film that does nothing to deepen our understanding of what the Panthers were, why they succeeded, and why they failed. It will turn some people off to the Panthers and push people towards an individualist or anarchist approach to struggle.
To get an accurate portrayal of the Panthers one is better off watching archival footage, as today you can find ex-Panthers of all stripes, and very very few who uphold the Maoist ideology of the Panthers at their height. Former chairman, Bobby Seale, who long ago stopped putting politics in command, was barely mentioned in the film, perhaps because he refused to be interviewed.(1) Elaine Brown, who took over the chairpersyn position after the party had already moved away from a Maoist political line, does appear but has written a scathing denunciation of the film and asked to be removed from it.(2)
As other critics have pointed out there is a lack of mention of national liberation, socialism, communism, and the international situation overall at the time. It is ironic for a film titled "Vanguard of the Revolution" to ignore the key ideological foundations of the vanguard. This reflects a clear effort to build a certain image of what the Panthers were that ignores the basis of their very existence. As such, this film contributes to the long effort to revise the history of the BPP, similar to the efforts to revise the history of other influential revolutionary communist movements in history. This only stresses the importance of building independent institutions of the oppressed to counter the institutions of the bourgeoisie in all aspects of life and culture.
As each holiday season reminds us, there are certain tunes sung again and gain for generations. Perhaps a word or two is altered as language changes, but the message is the same.
A man named Carolus Linneaus is honored by most amerikkkans as "one of the greatest scientists of the Western world" for his message back in 1738.(1) While the terms aren't in use in today's language, let's see if we recognize the time.
Modern imperialism was in its nascent stage back then. Powerful and power hungry Europeans were attempting to find a reasoned justification for dominating and destroying other people in order to take their resources. Good ol' Carolus Linneaus - brilliant scientist - had already classified the world into the various families, genus, types, etc. that we learn in biology. But most hystory books don't tell us he also made four classes of humyns:
Homo Europeans: people who are light, lively, inventive, ruled by rites
Homo Americanus: people who are tenacious, contented, free, ruled by custom
Homo Asiaticus: people who are stern, haughty, stingy, ruled by opinion
Homo Africanus: cunning, slow, ruled by caprice
This is a timeless tune, isn't it? I suppose we could add to this "Carolus" the jingle of Donald Kunt, er Trump kkklassifying Latinos as murderers, rapists, and criminals. I mean, if i classify you as not quite humyn then I can freely treat you as other than me. Like it's okay to steal a duck's eggs 'cause ducks don't have rights.
Beyonce is the Queen of pop in the United $tates, so this review isn't meant to uphold em as a revolutionary force. Eir ties to Empire and the lack of internationalism in eir recent series of publicity stunts is a reminder of Beyonce's attachment to U.$. institutions. Instead this article is meant to analyze eir performance at Super Bowl 50, and eir recently released song and music video, "Formation", from a revolutionary Maoist perspective.
The "Formation" video is the most interesting thing in pop culture in a long time, and the Super Bowl performance was likely the most interesting thing in all football history. Beyonce's dancers donned afros and berets (yet, not pants), and performed eir new song "Formation." Like Nina Simone, Beyonce is being compelled by the struggle of eir nation to take an explicit political position. Simone correctly stated that "desegregation is a joke" and Beyonce is suggesting that cultural integration is not worthwhile. After Martin Luther King was assassinated, Simone performed a poem which called for violent uprising against "white things", imploring New Afrikans to "kill if necessary" and to "build black things" and "do what you have to do to create life."(1) Simone was a reflection of eir nation at the time. While Beyonce’s twirling of albino alligators is a weak replacement for Simone’s poetic diatribe, we hope today's New Afrikans will keep pushing cultural icons in more militant and separatist directions.
Let's start with what holds this whole phenomena together. The lyrics for "Formation" are not revolutionary.(2) They promote consumerism, making billions, drinking alcohol, being light-skinned, and fucking. They primarily promote cultural nationalism and economic integration with Empire. What comment the lyrics make on the international relationship between New Afrika and the Third World is more promotion of Black capitalism, on the backs of the most oppressed people in the world – those who are slaving over eir Givenchy dress and dying to mine the diamonds in the Roc necklaces ey is rocking.
Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, correctly calls out Beyonce’s bad economic recommendations in this song, “her celebration of capitalism – an economic system that is largely killing black people, even if some black people, like her, achieve success within it – [has] also been a source of important critique.”(3) Although Garza’s comment is tame, it’s an important generalization to be made. Considering Garza’s following, it’s an important persyn to be making it.
On a positive note, the song celebrates New Afrikan culture that is still under so much attack in the United $tates. While we prefer the revolutionary content and gender relations contained in Dead Prez's "The Beauty Within", "Formation" is still an exercise of Black pride. Whether that pride is then mobilized into a revolutionary internationalist direction is up to the New Afrikan masses, who aren’t getting a whole lot of clarity from Beyonce on that tip.
“Formation” calls for New Afrikan unity of the sexes, and of females as a group (not unusual for Beyonce’s typical pseudo-feminist fare). In the lyrics about going to Red Lobster, or going on a flight on eir chopper, or going to the mall to shop up, Beyonce advocates a reward-based system for harmonious sexual relations. Beyonce also brings in gay and trans New Afrikan culture, from the use of the word “slay” over and over, to the voice samples and New Orleans Bounce style of music used for the song.(4) Resolution of gender antagonisms within New Afrika are a good thing. But if the goal is Black capitalism, that’s bad for the international proletariat and just an extension of the gender aristocracy phenomenon into the relatively privileged New Afrikan internal semi-colony.
MIM(Prisons) upholds the line that all sex under patriarchy has elements of coercion(5), and offering perks for enjoyable sex is still an expression of patriarchal gender relations even if Beyonce is not a typical male father figure. Within the predominantly white Amerikkkan nation, rewards for compliance with patriarchy help to unite Amerika against the oppressed nations.(6) But within the oppressed internal semi-colonies, these lyrics are more interesting, especially considering the long tradition of the Amerikkkan-male-dominated recording industry's use of divide-and-conquer tactics in selecting which music to record and promote. Beyonce isn't promoting sexual entitlement or sexual passivity – patriarchal values that do more to divide New Afrika in practice, and which are heavily promoted in mainstream culture. Assuming whoever is fucking Beyonce could still feed emself without relying on that trade, it's not a matter of life and death, and so these lyrics are less of a threat of starvation than a promotion of national unity. When united against a common oppressor, subsuming the gender struggle to the fight for national liberation, gender harmony in the oppressed nations can be a revolutionary force.
The best part about the song is the separatism and militancy. If the song were to get stuck in your head, it could be a mantra for working hard and uniting. It even gets into who the unity is directed against – Beyonce twirls on them haters, albino alligators. Ey twirls them, as in alligator rolls them, as in kills them. The haters are albino alligators, as in they’re white. Ey calls on others to slay these enemies, or get eliminated. In other words, choose a side.
The "Formation" music video, which was released as a surprise the day before the Super Bowl, is a celebration of New Afrikan national culture and a condemnation of oppression of New Afrikans. It is thick with important and unmistakably New Afrikan cultural references. Beyonce sings, poses, raises a Black fist, and drowns on top of a New Orleans Police car, sinking in floodwaters. A little Black kid hypnotizes a line of cops with eir incredible dancing, and the cops raise their hands in surrender. Beyonce raises two middle fingers on a plantation. There are references to the Moorish Science Temple, gay and trans New Afrikan culture, hand signs, a Black church service, and more, more, more...(7) "Stop Shooting Us" is spraypainted in the background. The subjects of the video look directly into the camera, confidently, and say "take what's mine," including Beyonce's kid Blue Ivy, complete with eir baby hair and afro.
This video doesn't clearly distinguish between integration and secession. Should New Afrikans just keep trying to make peace with Amerikkka, but while asserting a Black cultural identity? Should New Afrika honor its culture, and lives, by separating itself from Amerikkka and forming its own nation-state? Should this nation-state be capitalist or communist? Outside of a revolutionary context, much of the cultural markers that are present in this video could be taken as integrationist. Hopefully the militance and anti-white sentiment of the video will push New Afrika to get in formation to study up and push for actual (not just cultural) liberation from the many forms of oppression highlighted in the video.
The Super Bowl Halftime
That Beyonce was permitted to perform with dancers dressed up like the former Black Panther Party members is somewhat of a mystery. Is it because, ignoring any political content, one would still witness a show of tits and ass, so for the average ignoramus watching the biggest football event of the year, it's no different? Maybe it's because this year is the semi-centennial anniversary of the Black Panther Party, so it's gonna come up in mainstream culture sometime, might as well come up with lots of distraction from the political content. Or maybe the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement has made room for this performance to be possible, and perhaps even necessary to quell uprisings by helping New Afrika feel included in such a paragon cultural event. For whatever reason(s), it's obvious this half-time show would not have happened a few years ago. In fact, Beyonce led the entire halftime show in 2013 and while ey avoided any mention of patriorism, ey didn’t reference police brutality or New Afrikan nationlism either. It's a milestone, and one that shows Black pride is definitely resurfacing country-wide.
Not surprisingly, the Super Bowl has a long history of promoting white nationalism.(8) Some overt examples include in 2002 when U2 helped the country mourn 9/11, with Bono wearing a jean jacket lined with an Amerikkkan flag which ey flashed at the audience, with the names of people who died in the "terrorist" attacks projected in the background. In 2004, Kid Rock wore an Amerikan flag as a poncho, and when ey sang "I'm proud to be living in the U.S.A." over and over, two blondes waved Amerikan flags behind em. When necessary, the Super Bowl even has a tradition of promoting integration and "world peace," some of which we explore below. At this year's performance, Coldplay upheld these decidedly white traditions. Where there was one Amerikan flag, it was during Coldplay's portion of the performance. When there was feel-good bouncing and rainbow-colored multiculturalism, Coldplay was leading it. When the audience was told "wherever you are, we're in this together," the singer of Coldplay was saying it. It's not surprising that the white Coldplay frontman would be the one to promote this misguided statement of unity. As explored in the review of Macklemore's "White Privilege II" project, no, we're not in this together. And we don't need white do-gooders playing leadership roles that distract from national divisions, and thus, the potency for national liberation struggles.
At the end of the Coldplay-led halftime show, the stadium audience made a huge sign that said "Believe in Love." On the other hand, some of Beyonce's dancers were off-stage holding a sign that said "Justice 4 Mario Woods" for cameras. One is a call to just have faith that our problems will go away. Another is a call for a change in material reality: an end to murders by police. (Side note: Someone who was allegedly stabbed by Mario Woods just prior to Woods's 20-bullet execution has come out to tell eir story. Whether ey mean to or not, this "revelation" is being wielded in an attempt to discredit Beyonce as a competent political participant, and to lend more justification to the unnecessary police murder of Woods. Whatever Woods did just prior to eir execution, that ey is dead now is wholly unjustified. The demand for "Justice 4 Mario Woods" is correct, and underlines how New Afrikan people are gunned down in the streets without due process, which is supposedly guaranteed by the U.$. Constitution.)
While Beyonce's performance didn't break new ground by bringing up politics or social problems, it was done in a different way than in the past, that may be a marker for how our society has changed. The costume Beyonce wore, which was adorned with many shotgun shells, was a reference to the costume Michael Jackson wore during eir Super Bowl 1993 performance. Where Michael Jackson had banners of a Black hand shaking a white hand, Beyonce had Black Panther dancers, so touchdown for Beyonce. But where Beyonce sings "you might be a Black Bill Gates in the making", Jackson advocated for the children of the world because "no one should have to suffer." Beyonce's individualist capitalism is devoid of any awareness that today's New Afrikan wealth, especially of Gates proportions, is stolen by the United $tates military from exploited nations across the globe. Yet Jackson's multiculturalism invites unity with oppressor nation chauvinism, which historically usurps oppressed nation struggles and drives them into the ground.
In Janet Jackson's performance in 2004 (you know, the one where Justin Timberlake stalked em around the stage and then exposed Jackson's breast to the world), ey performed the song "Rhythm Nation." The video for "Rhythm Nation" features militant outfits, with pants. In the video, Jackson and eir dancers intrigue a few Black people who are wandering around what appears to be the Rhythm Nation's underground headquarters, another reference to the enchanting powers of dance. "Rhythm Nation" is about unity and brotherhood, "break the color lines", but it's not about Blackness.(9) At the Super Bowl, Jackson called out various injustices faced by oppressed nations (prejudice, bigotry, ignorance, and illiteracy) and called out "No!" to each one, but didn't make it about New Afrikan struggle. That Beyonce clearly delineates eir struggle from the struggle of whites with this performance is an advancement off of Jackson's.
On the topic of organizing females and combating New Afrikan female internalized racism, Beyonce’s performance is a step above other performances. A few examples: Nelly and P. Diddy's dancers in 2004 were dark-skinned but were straight-haired compared with Beyonce's backups. In 2004 they also wore straight hair, as in Madonna's performance in 2012 as well. Even though Madonna called on "ladies" like Beyonce does, Madonna called on them to cure their troubles on the dance floor. Beyonce calls on ladies to get organized (in formation). It should be obvious which message MIM(Prisons) prefers.
During Madonna's performance, MIA gave a middle finger to the camera during the lyric "I'ma say this once, yeah, I don't give a shit." But then MIA and Nikki Minaj joined a tribe of dark-skinned, straight-haired cheerleaders revering Madonna as their blonde, white idol. Beyonce's Panther dance-off with Bruno Mars is a step in a better direction. We also prefer Beyonce's dancers forming a letter "X" on the field (likely another New Afrikan reference), as opposed to Madonna's self-aggrandizing "M".
Whether it's dancing at the Super Bowl or dancing in front of a line of pigs, impressive dancing isn't what's going to get the New Afrikan nation out of the scope of Amerikkkan guns. Beyonce is a culture worker, so that's eir most valuable weapon at this time. As long as she keeps shaking her ass, white Amerikkka might stay hypnotized and let Beyonce continue to promote New Afrikan pride. Hopefully many people in New Afrika who watched the Super Bowl will study up on history, as Beyonce hints at, and revolutionary internationalism of the Black Panther Party can be injected tenfold into the growing Black Lives Matter movement.(10)
"White Privilege II"
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, feat. Jamila Woods
Released January 2016
This song calls people out about attending protests and tweeting, or being silent, instead of "actually getting involved" in fighting racism. The song is very introspective and what might sound like Macklemore (Ben Haggerty) dissing other artists is actually about Macklemore and Ryan Lewis themselves. Macklemore criticizes emself along with others for making money off a style that came from Black nation culture and acknowledges that "I've been passive." "It seems like we're more concerned with being called racist than we actually are with racism."(1) Ironically, the free song will make money for someone even if it's just through bringing more traffic to iTunes or YouTube, but that doesn't mean Macklemore isn't saying something correct.
On the plus side, Macklemore doesn't say anything supporting mass surveillance or the expansion or legitimization of the federal government's power ostensibly to protect Blacks. Macklemore doesn't explicitly oppose Black nationalism. Notably, Macklemore says that "white supremacy isn't just a white dude in Idaho" and that it "protects the privilege I hold" — taking issue with the idea that Euro-Amerikan domination and oppression are just about something inside somebody's brain among the white trash, rural people, or Republicans. Macklemore also raises that people's actions — or their inaction — taken so they won't be called "racist" are compatible with doing nothing that contributes to ending racism. As Macklemore might or might not know, in 2016 there is still a huge problem involving post-modernism-influenced efforts that emphasize changes in speech and thought, and perfecting those in increasing detail, over taking concrete action to end repression. Simply participating in a protest or saying some approving words about a well-known movement could become part of maintaining a non-racist or anti-racist identity with which one can be satisfied — a step toward contentment. Without development of knowledge and of the motivation to apply it scientifically, it could also be premature catharsis and a substitute for revolutionary work.
Also on the plus side is Macklemore's passing critique of petty-bourgeois "DIY" (do-it-yourself) culture that sometimes purports to be isolated from exploitation, corporations, finance capital, and imperialist oppression. "The DIY underdog, so independent. But the one thing the American dream fails to mention is I was many steps ahead to begin with."
Macklemore also mentions those who would praise eir song "Same Love" ("If I was gay, I would think hip hop hates me") because of its support for gay people, but disdain Black hip hop and claim "it's your fault if you run" in the context of police shootings. Macklemore implicates emself in the treatment of Blacks as inferior. "If I'm the hero, you know who gets cast as the villain." It is true that many in the United $tates and the West have rejected anti-imperialist ways of advancing gay people's rights, consider Muslim and oppressed nations to be incapable or less capable of change on gender questions without Western intervention, and cannot imagine how Black nationalism, [email protected] nationalism, First Nation nationalism and other oppressed nation nationalism would help with gay and lesbian liberation.
A voice that's not Macklemore's toward the end of the song mentions "a very age-old fight for black liberation." Unfortunately, there is no mention of Black nationalism specifically. There is no mention of the Black Panther Party, which at one time was Maoist.(2) The name "Black Lives Matter" shares an acronym with "Black liberation movement," and there are many around or associated with #BlackLivesMatter who claim to be for Black liberation. There are many, though, who are against even using the term, and there are others who explicitly reject Black nationalism, Black nation self-determination, Black nation independent institutions, and Black nation-building. If Macklemore wanted to be controversial, ey could have at least mentioned Black power, Black nationalism, the BPP, Huey Newton, or Malcolm X, but Macklemore doesn't manage to leave the realm of a kind of political correctness despite asking "Then I'm trying to be politically correct?" if ey stays silent. (Maybe eir verbal support for Black nationalism will come with "White Privilege III." Probably only if Blacks themselves start popularizing present-day nationalist struggles, for white rappers to tag on to.)
This reviewer would suggest to Macklemore that, from the point of the view of the oppressed, sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something when it comes to non-lumpen white Amerikans such as emself who usually would do nothing to upset business as usual, including Democratic Party business. Contentment and apathy are bad things when there is really a potential to help the oppressed, but it is clear that when Amerikans become militant or excited it is normally for the worse. Militant integrationism and militant labor aristocracy politics are not better than nothing from the viewpoint of the international proletariat.
For example, vigorously upholding certain aspects of Martin Luther King while pooping on Huey Newton and even Malcolm X is not better than nothing. Joining the outrageously chauvinistic and labor aristocracy-influenced Progressive Labor Party — which opposed Black nationalism when the BPP was around and still being ferociously repressed — and continuing in 2016 the PLP tradition of criticizing Black and other internal semi-colony nationalism isn't better than nothing. Talking about the Black nation occasionally, but all but rejecting Black nationalism (and supporting it only nominally), and making mealy-mouthed innuendo against Black nationalists as a group, isn't better than nothing. Insinuating that all oppressed-nation nationalism is narrow nationalism, while advocating for U.$. exploiter class/individual unity and economic and political interests, isn't better than nothing. Rejecting Black nationalism in the name of "multiracial" unity for more super-profits in the parasitic United $nakes isn't better than nothing. Talking about white supremacy and then actively denying the existence of Euro-Amerikan national oppression of Black people isn't better than nothing. Talking about oppression of Black people only to hitch people to U.$.-centric social-democracy or a fascist party isn't better than nothing (in other words, voting for Bernie Sanders isn't better than doing nothing). Trying to rile up the labor aristocracy and the U.$. middle class as if they were revolutionary, instead of petty-bourgeois exploiters prone to supporting fascism, isn't better than nothing. Stirring up exploiters to march in the streets to jail some bankers, without giving up their aspirations to control and obtain more benefit from finance capital and imperialist state power, isn't better than nothing. Attacking Third World peoples in various chauvinistic ways while flattering and pandering to the already-chauvinistic and racist labor aristocracy and gender aristocracy, of highly privileged U.$. so-called "workers" and globally privileged Euro-Amerikan females, is not better than nothing.
Amerikkkans who are already going around the United $tates and the world disrupting movements against U.$. imperialism certainly should recognize the privilege they exercise in doing so, instead of, for example, denying that viable alternatives to what they are doing exist. Both white people and non-white people should understand how Euro-Amerikans, including Euro-Amerikan settler nation workers, are privileged as settlers, oppressors, and exploiters.
There is less utility, though, in whites dwelling on their particular privilege as individuals with skin privilege, certain family history, etc., rather than the privilege of their group in very broad social relationships of global national oppression and exploitation. Suggesting listeners also "look at" themselves, Macklemore talks more about emself as an individual, than about Euro-Amerikan labor aristocrats as a group. Focusing on race and variation in individual privilege could draw attention away from national oppression by whites and the labor aristocracy privilege that U.$. citizen workers have in common. Ideas about inequality within U.$. borders have long been used to make the political and strategic consequences of global international inequality seem less important. Ideas about white privilege and individual self-reflection often don't address how the vast majority of U.$. citizens are exploiters of Third World workers. Often these calls to anti-racist activism end up as an exercise in that white privilege on a global scale.
Euro-Amerikan acknowledgment of privilege could be a welcome step toward ideological reform and taking responsibility for police and criminal injustice system violence and other wrongdoing, how whites have benefited economically, nationally and socially from imprisonment and control of non-whites, war, national oppression, exploitation, and their consequences. But this recognition would have to be more than halfway, not partial, or it may end up obscuring and legitimizing the majority of a typical Euro-Amerikan's privilege under the guise of moving toward helping non-whites.
At this point in history, the oppressed generally don't need unscientific leadership or militant do-something impulsive actions. That may not leave Euro-Amerikans much to do if they decline to study their position, and the position of the U.$. population, in an actually comprehensive way. They can be cautious about accepting any prevailing narrative. They can be wary of potentially following any Amerikan leader into fascism and destruction. Labor aristocrats will do what they need to do in anti-war or anti-single-war movements, and other movements, to remind politicians to act in their interests and spend more super-profit tax money on them as allegedly anti-Iraq-War Obama did. We don't want a broad anti-racist call to action to end up inspiring more Amerikkkans to fight for their own global interests.
Macklemore raps about whites protesting and "seeming like you're down" as having an "incentive" to do so, in order to be liked and accepted. Oppressors do have an incentive to co-opt movements or use them for career reasons, but the oppressed have an incentive to fight. There's nothing wrong with incentive itself, contrary to mistaken notions that all activism should be altruistic. The notion that whites should have selfless pure motives in participating in or supporting a movement around killings of Black people could actually be an admission that whites don't have an interest in the movement contrary to ideas about Black people's struggles positively intersecting with white worker, and white petty-bourgeois individual so-called liberation. Either whites have an interest in opposing police and vigilante brutality or they don't, and most don't.
More important than whether somebody has "incentive" or not is whether ey is standing in the way of Black nationalism or not. Macklemore's lyrics suggest a tension between "do something" and "don't do it for you." Labor aristocracy and petty-bourgeois types would add, "Do it, because it's in your own interest." There is an alternative to more-involved labor aristocracy activism or more-energetic integrationist activism, and that is to support anti-Amerikan Black nationalism and movements and institutions that are independent of Democratic Party and white exploiter interests and politics. Short of that, Macklemore's expression of "we are not we" (as opposed to "we are not free") is to be preferred to whites' falsely identifying with Blacks, claiming to be one with them, and derailing their movement via "All Lives Matter" sentiments.
In 2001, reporters at the Boston Globe newspaper exposed widespread sexual abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church and the long-running coverup of this abuse by Church leadership. Priests who were known to have molested children were moved to new parishes where they repeated the abuse, with full knowledge of Church leadership. The Globe printed a series of stories that led to the resignation of Cardinal Law and great embarrassment for the Church. Spotlight dramatizes the work done by the reporting team at the Globe to uncover the facts in this case, and the resistance they faced in a city dominated by the Catholic Church.
Overall Spotlight does a good job demonstrating the tremendous harm that the institution of the Catholic Church did to thousands (likely tens of thousands) of youth, and the pervasive influence and power of the Church in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. No attempt is made to justify the actions of the Church leadership who covered for the abusive priests, nor does the movie suggest that anything was changed by the newspaper stories, instead concluding with a list of hundreds of cities around the world where similar abuse scandals were uncovered.
It is outrageous and enraging to see the stories of abused children, the lucky ones who made it to adulthood, and hear about Church authorities who, upon learning about these cases, moved to silence the abused, promising it would never happen again, even while they knew the priests had a history of exactly this same abuse against other children. It is an interesting contrast that, while quick to believe that all Muslims are terrorists when a small minority of them fight back against imperialism, Amerikans presented with so much evidence would never consider calling all Catholics child molesters. Even non-Catholics in the United $tates are well indoctrinated to believe that the churches are forces for good and Christianity is a religion of good people.
In the end the movie lets the Catholic Church off the hook. By focusing on just this sex abuse scandal, Spotlight portrays the rest of the Church activities as generally benevolent. Further, it implies that the abusive priests are just psychologically impaired in some way, and so this has allowed the Catholic Church to say they've solved the problem by introducing psychological screening for those wanting to enter priesthood. We believe it is the very institution of the Catholic Church, along with the patriarchy that it so ardently supports, that leads priests to be indoctrinated into eroticizing power over helpless young kids. It's not a flaw in the individual, but rather the system itself that is flawed, and not in a way that can be fixed by psychological screenings. Religion has a long history of supporting the patriarchal dominance of male power and reinforcing gender inequality.
One problem with focusing on the serious harm the Catholic Church does to Amerikkkans is the omission of the even greater harm the Church has done globally. Consistently a force for reaction, the Church at best has pretended neutrality while watching dictators murder, plunder, and oppress entire nations of people. Just as Spotlight shows the power and influence of the Catholic Church in all levels of Boston's city politics, in many cases there is documentation of this Church's support for and work with reactionary governments around the world.
As a strong centralized religious institution with a long history, the Catholic Church is an easy target for people looking to document the reactionary role of religious institutions. But they are just one example of the harm religious institutions have on society. After overthrowing the imperialists and putting a government in power that serves the interests of the oppressed (a dictatorship of the proletariat), the people will have the power to ban reactionary institutions. When we see the tremendous harm that the Catholic Church did to so many children over so many years, it should be obvious that this institution should be outlawed. And those who perpetuated and covered up the molestation should face the people's courts. There is no justification for allowing such dangerous institutions to continue.
Yet, we don't need to outlaw religion as a belief under the dictatorship of the proletariat. As Mao explained about their policy in China under socialism:
"The Communist Party has adopted a policy of protecting religions. Believers and non-believers, believers of one religion or another, are all similarly protected, and their faiths are respected. Today, we have adopted this policy of protecting religions, and in future we will still maintain this policy of protection." (Talk with Tibetan Delegates, October 8, 1952)
It is not that we want to force people to change their beliefs. Rather we think that once we eliminate reactionary culture and institutions and teach all people how to reason with dialectical materialist methodology they will give up old ideas and beliefs that are not based in science. Just as Confucianism was discarded by most Chinese so too will other religions be discarded by humynity as we advance towards a world without the oppression of groups of people.
California prisoners can buy greeting cards from their facility canteen. They cost $1 and come with commercial messages of: birthday (female), birthday (juvenile), birthday (general), I love you, thinking of you, blank, missing you, and the current holiday. Prisoners must have an active trust account of course, and the message rarely varies from capitalist definitions.
As a counter to this messaging, the Strugglen Artists Association (SAA) has emerged as a culture project of United Struggle from Within. Through the SAA prisoners can send out unique messages that reflect the transformation they've made from parasites to productive people and leaders.
I displayed the [email protected] greeting cards at the last dayroom with a few [email protected] prisoners who i read the bible with (illustrating Christ as a socialist :) ). They were impressed and the entire ten cards I laid out are spoken for; just have to collect the stamps!
MIM(Prisons) adds: The above report comes from a Propaganda Worker of the Strugglen Artists Association (SAA). The job of a Propaganda Worker is to spread revolutionary culture amongst those at their locale, and help fundraise for the cultural arm of the SAA. At the time of our July 2015 Congress, the SAA had raised $44 on top of the expenses to run the project! These funds are slotted to be used to expand the SAA.
Building revolutionary culture is an important task for our movement. We know that even after a successful socialist revolution the people won't instantly learn to be selfless and automatically focused on serving the best interests of society. It will take many years to counter the reactionary culture of imperialism even after the economic system has been revolutionized. We saw this in the long struggle of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) in China, which mobilized people to attack leaders who were using positions of power for personal gain. A new bourgeoisie was forming within the party, and the GPCR was an ideological attempt to defeat it. The cultural work we do today is part of the broader cultural revolution that will extend into the construction of socialism.
You don't have to be an artist to help spread revolutionary culture; you can sign up to be a Propaganda Worker. We have blank greeting cards with revolutionary images; bookmarks with themes of spreading peace and overcoming drug addiction and alcoholism; coloring book pages to help reach children and illiterate folks, and to provide a creative outlet for those who do better with color than lines; and small posters to remind us to stay focused on a correct vision.
MIM(Prisons) is not selling these items outright; we are only sending them out in small bulk packages to be used as organizing tools. We know our subscribers have lots of skills for hawking and hustling. So why not put those skills to good use for the communist movement against all oppression? Write in for more info on how to become a Propaganda Worker.
14 August 2015 — The long-awaited autobiographical story of NWA, Straight Outta Compton (2015), hit theaters tonight. The action-packed movie glorifies the evolution, and quick dispersal of what they billed as "the world's most dangerous group." While this was part of their hype, there was certainly some truth to the image NWA portrayed and the long-term impact that they had on music and culture in the United $tates. Produced by Ice Cube, with help from Dr. Dre and Tomica Woods-Wright (widow of Eazy-E), the film portrays the history of NWA through their eyes. While generally an accurate history, there are artistic liberties taken in the portrayal of certain events and what is left out.
A key theme of the film is the role of police brutality in shaping the experience of New Afrikans in Compton, particularly young males. There are multiple run-ins with police brutality depicted, and attention is given to the infamous beating of Rodney King by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and the subsequent riots in Los Angeles that deeply affected all members of NWA. The strong anti-cop message of the movie will resonate with audiences who have been unable to avoid discussion of police murders of New Afrikans over the last year or so. As such, the movie will have a positive impact of pushing forward the contradiction between oppressed nations and the armed forces that occupy their neighborhoods.
Every New Afrikan rebellion in the past year has been triggered by police murders. Murders and attacks on New Afrikans by whites and their police have always been the most common trigger of rebellions since Black ghettos have existed.(1) This was true in the 1960s when the Black Panthers rose to prominence, it was true in the early 1990s after NWA rose to fame, and it's true today when "Black Lives Matter" is a daily topic on corporate and other media. This national contradiction, and how it is experienced in the ghetto, is portrayed in the film by the fact that there are no positive roles played by white characters.
A secondary theme, that surrounded a number of high-profile groups/rappers of the time, was the question of freedom of speech. NWA was part of a musical trend that brought condemnation from the White House and the birth of the "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" warning sticker. Ice Cube does a good job of portraying his character as righteous and politically astute, though he self-admittedly embellished from how events truly occurred.(2) We see the strong political stances Ice Cube took in his music after he left NWA, yet, only a glimpse. They do a montage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, but don't touch on Cube's extensive commentary before and after the riots through his music.
They also curiously leave out any mention of Dre's public feud with Eazy-E after Dre left Ruthless Records, though they do spend time on Ice Cube's feuds with Ruthless.
The movie concludes by glamorizing Dre's rise to fame and independence, after being screwed by Jerry Heller (and Eazy-E) while with NWA, and then by Suge Knight for The Chronic album. They portray his success in guiding new artists like Eminem and 50 Cent to successful careers and his marketing of Beats headphones, which were purchased by Apple, Inc. Ice Cube's great success as an actor and producer are also featured, as are a memorializing of Eazy-E and updates on DJ Yella and MC Ren.
While this ending is a logical wrap up of the story of these five artists and where they are today, the focus on the individuals leaves out much of their real legacy. NWA was part of a cultural shift. Like all historical events, what they did represented much bigger forces in society. The character of Ice Cube recognizes this in a press interview in the film when he says they didn't start a riot at a Detroit show, they were just representing the feelings of the youth of the day. As was stressed in that interview, and throughout their careers, NWA members were just reporters speaking on what they were experiencing. And it was an experience that until then was unknown to a majority of Amerikans. Today that experience has become popularized. It is both glamorized and feared, but it has become a prominent part of the Amerikan consciousness thanks to voices like NWA.
While reality rap has been used (and misconstrued) to reinforce racism by many, the real transformatative impact it has had is in bringing this reality to the forefront so that it could no longer be ignored by Amerikans. Again, this pushed the national contradiction in the United $tates, by making all people face reality and take positions on it.
One problem with the movie is the way it leaves the rebelliousness of NWA as something from the past, that has evolved into successful business sense. NWA was one of a number of greatly influential artists at the time that shaped the future of hip hop. When gangsta rap was breaking out, you had real voices leading the charge. Since then it has been reeled in, and there is generally a dichotomy between the studio garbage that gets corporate play and the countless popular artists who have taken rap to higher levels both artistically and ideologically. Today there is a greater breadth of politically astute artists who are quite influential, despite lacking access to the corporate outlets. A montage of the countless "fuck da police"-inspired songs that have been produced since NWA would be a better recognition of their legacy today, than the focus on mainstream success and lives of some of the individual members.
While being a longer movie, Straight Outta Compton seemed to end quickly. There are plenty of exciting musical moments to make NWA fans nod their heads, plenty of fight scenes, if you're into that, and many rebellious statements made by members of NWA that should make you smile. We look forward to the even longer director's cut, which promises to get deeper into some points that are only hinted at in the theatrical release.(3)