Rogue One trata de la historia desconocida detrás del primer episodio que
se produjo de Star Wars (que ahora, cronológicamente, es ahora el IV en la
inacabable y productiva saga de películas de Star Wars). En esta película
descubriremos cómo se las arregla la Alianza Rebelde para conseguir una
copia de los planos de la Estrella de la Muerte, una pieza fundamental de información utilizada para destruir esa arma. Esta película es un sorprendente ejemplo de cómo algunos instrumentos de la cultura capitalista bien financiados pueden gastar millones de dólares para obtener beneficios del entretenimiento. El presupuesto estimado fue de 200 000 000 $; imaginen lo que se podría haber hecho con esos recursos en un sistema que se guiase por las necesidades de la gente en vez de por los beneficios.
Por ese dinero obtenemos una historia que tiene algunos elementos progresistas pero también muchos mensajes discutibles y reaccionarios. Rogue One trata sobre la lucha de la Alianza Rebelde contra el Imperio, lo que puede ser una excelente analogía anti-imperialista. Y hay algunas temáticas sólidas de sacrificio revolucionario y de la unión de [email protected][email protected] para luchar contra [email protected][email protected] común en un frente unido. Sin embargo, al final gana el individualismo ya que, por supuesto, eso hace la historia más emocionante en nuestra cultura.
Este episodio supone un esfuerzo bastante satisfactorio de unir los episodios III y IV y nos explica mejor por qué la Estrella de la Muerte podría destruirse por completo la Estrella de la Muerte con un disparo certero. El saboteador detrás de ésta debilidad nos da uno de los muchos ejemplos de sacrificio revolucionario de esta película. Asimismo, ejemplifica cómo es posible que alguien se resista aun estando [email protected] a permanecer en una
situación en la que no parece haber resistencia. A pesar de que se describe
a este personaje como alguien con capacidades únicas, su forma de actuar
sirve de buen ejemplo del axioma existencialista de que siempre hay
elección. Esto puede servir de inspiración para [email protected] en los países
imperialistas que están [email protected] por [email protected] de clase, o para [email protected] en
celdas de aislamiento que no tienen más contacto con el mundo exterior que
Aunque el sacrificio revolucionario es un tema fuerte con muchos personajes
en la Rebelión, no es un mensaje propiamente anti-imperialista, como
probablemente reafirmen [email protected] que luchan por el imperio de EE UU y que
creen que lo que están haciendo está bien. En la película, el Imperio, más
que ser un ejemplo de los males del imperialismo, sigue pareciendo una
caricatura de lo que Estados Unidos piensa del comunismo. [email protected] van [email protected]
con el mismo uniforme y están [email protected] a trabajar para conseguir el
dominio militar del mundo bajo el liderazgo de [email protected] líder egoísta. No
obstante, para [email protected] con una mentalidad revolucionaria, podemos
simular que quería representar al imperio imperialista, apoyar a la
Rebelión y honrar sus sacrificios.
Aparece un grupo que se asemeja a [email protected] rebeldes árabes que
han emprendido el foquismo contra el Imperio, y con [email protected] que la Alianza
Rebelde quiere trabajar a regañadientes. Esta visión es, en cierto modo,
mejor que la representación que se suele hacer de [email protected] árabes en las
películas de Hollywood, en las que a menudo son solo terroristas. Pero en este caso aparecen como si no fueran lo suficientemente inteligentes para participar en una batalla unida, haciendo solo lo que ordena el líder y en ataques foquistas aleatorios. Aún así es una imagen bastante estereotipada.
La misma Alianza parece ser un frente unido de varias especies de todo el
universo que trabajan juntas para derrotar al Imperio. Esto podría verse
como un paralelismo con el frente unido de las naciones oprimidas que será
necesario para derribar el imperialismo estadounidense. En la historia
humana tenemos grandes ejemplos de frentes unidos entre naciones, como
China. Sin Embargo, pero tenemos poca experiencia del frente unido multinacional y de la dictadura colectiva del proletariado que, probablemente, será necesaria tras derribar al imperialismo estadounidense. La Rainbow Coalition (Coalición del Arco Iris) de Fred Hampton en Chicago fue una forma temprana de dicho frente unido pero se reprimió antes de que pudiera surgir una guerra anti-imperialista.
La película utiliza este frente unido para promover actos de desesperación
ultraizquierdistas e individualistas. Cuando se estancan en la lucha sobre
si deben o no emprender acciones militares o huir y esconderse, un pequeño
grupo de combatientes emprenden acciones independientes porque lo único que
conocen es la guerra. [email protected] son [email protected] valientes héroes y heroínas de la
película. La principal discrepancia dentro del frente unido era sobre si
era posible o no ganar en una lucha contra la Estrella de la Muerte. Este
debate acerca de las tácticas podría haber sido una buena lección de lucha
y unidad, una posibilidad de reunir más información y de ensayar varias
tácticas para aprender de la práctica. En vez de eso, se produjo una
pequeña discusión verbal y, después, se tomó la decisión de no actuar
debido a todas las discrepancias, representando al frente unido como inútil.
En Rogue One aparecen más personajes femeninos de los que suelen aparecer
en una película de Hollywood, pero los personajes principales nacieron en
sus papeles, en vez de alzarse para tomar posiciones por convicción y
trabajo duro, mientras que los personajes principales masculinos superaron
grandes dificultades o luchan contra circunstancias personales para
rebelarse. A pesar de todo, la gran mayoría de los personajes de la
película son masculinos, un hecho extraño para una sociedad de un futuro
tan lejano. Sin duda, el patriarcado sigue dominando en Star Wars.
En todas las películas de Star Wars aparecen referencias a “la Fuerza” en
mayor o menor grado. En este argumento, la Fuerza se convierte básicamente
en una religión, practicada únicamente por un hombre asiático que protege
ciegamente el templo (literalmente, es ciego). La fe ciega de este hombre
(no es muy sutil) se convierte en una parte importante de la lucha rebelde.
Y, en un momento determinado, dicha fe salva la situación, promoviendo de nuevo, un tipo de ultraizquierdismo.
Con todos estos fallos, MIM(Prisons) no puede recomendar Rogue One más que
para realizar análisis críticos.
Rogue One is the backstory behind the very first episode of Star Wars ever produced (which is now chronologically number 4 in the unendingly profitable Star Wars series of movies). In this movie we learn how the rebel alliance managed to get a copy of the blueprints for the Death Star, a critical piece of information used to destroy that weapon. This movie is an impressive example of how well-funded elements of capitalist culture can spend millions of dollars in order to make a profit off of entertainment: the estimated budget was $200,000,000. Imagine what could have been done with those resources in a system guided by peoples' need instead of profit.
For this money we get a story that has some progressive elements but also many questionable and reactionary messages. Rogue One is about the rebel alliance's fight against the Empire. This could be a great anti-imperialist analogy. And there are some solid themes of revolutionary sacrifice and the oppressed coming together to fight a common enemy in a united front. But in the end it is individualism that wins, as of course that makes for a more exciting story in our culture.
This episode is a fairly satisfactory effort to stitch together episode 3 and episode 4, and provides us with a better explanation for why the Death Star could be completely destroyed with one good shot. The saboteur behind this weakness gives us one of the many examples of revolutionary sacrifice in this movie. It also offers an example of how resistance is possible from someone who is forced into a situation where there seems to be no resistance. While this character is depicted as having unique skills, eir course of action serves as a good example of the existentialist axiom that we always have a choice. This may serve as inspiration for those in the imperialist countries surrounded by class enemies, or those in isolation cells with no contact with the outside world but occasional letters.
While revolutionary sacrifice is a strong theme with many characters in the Rebellion, this message is not inherently anti-imperialist as it will likely reinforce those fighting for U.$. empire who believe what they are doing is good. The Empire in the movie, rather than being an example of the evils of imperialism, continues to come across as a caricature of what Amerika thinks of communism. Everyone wears the same uniform and is forced to work for the military dominance of the world under the leadership of one egotistical leader. But for those with a revolutionary mindset, we can pretend this was meant to represent the imperialist empire, and root for the Rebellion and honor their sacrifices.
There is a group that resembles Arab militants who have taken up focoism against the Empire, and who the Rebel Alliance grudgingly wants to work with. In some ways this is better than the average portrayal of Arab peoples in Hollywood movies, where they are often just the terrorists. But in this case they come across as not smart enough to participate in a united battle, just doing what their leader directs, in random focoist attacks. Still a rather stereotypical picture.
The Alliance itself appears to be a united front of various species from around the universe who are working together to defeat the Empire. This could be seen to parallel the united front of oppressed nations that will be necessary to take down U.$. imperialism. In humyn history we have strong examples of united fronts within nations, such as China. But the multinational united front and the joint dictatorship of the proletariat that will likely be necessary after defeating U.$. imperialism are things that we have little experience with. Fred Hampton's Rainbow Coalition in Chicago was an early form of such a united front, but it was repressed before an anti-imperialist war could emerge.
The movie uses this united front to promote ultra-leftism and individualist acts of desperation. When they get bogged down in fighting over whether or not they should take military action or run and hide, a small group of fighters take independent action because they don't know anything but war. These are the brave heroes of the movie. The main disagreement within the united front was over whether or not it was possible to win in a fight against the Death Star. This debate over tactics could have been a good lesson in struggle and unity, perhaps greater gathering of information and a testing of various tactics to learn from practice. Instead there was a short verbal fight and then a decision that no action could be taken because of all the disagreement, portraying the united front as futile.
Rogue One did feature more female characters than the average Hollywood movie, but the main characters were born into their roles, rather than rising up to take positions out of conviction and hard work. While the lead male characters overcame great hardship, or fought against persynal circumstances, to take up the rebel struggle. And still the vast majority of the characters seen in the movie are male, an odd feature for a society so far in the future. Clearly the patriarchy still dominates in Star Wars.
Star Wars movies all feature reference to "The Force" to greater or lesser degrees. In this storyline The Force is basically turned into a religion, practiced only by one Asian man who blindly guards the temple (literally, he is blind). This man's blind faith (it's not very subtle) becomes an important part of the rebel fight. And at one point this faith saves the day, again promoting a sort of ultra-leftism.
With all of these failings, MIM(Prisons) can't recommend Rogue One for anything more than critical analysis.
Lumpen: The Autobiography of Ed Mead
Available for $20 + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb
CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne
As anti-imperialists and prison activists, we can recommend Ed Mead's recent autobiography as a useful read. There are a couple inconsistencies with the form and the line promoted in the book, however. While Mead critiques anarchism and reformism in the book, at the end is a list of a number of organizations that struggle for prisoners' rights, and they are all reformist/mass organizations with a couple anarchist groups thrown in. Mead stresses that he does not believe communists should hide their beliefs. Yet it is odd that he finds no communist prison support groups to be worthy of mention. Moreso, it seems that for much of Mead's life ey couldn't find a communist organization to be a part of and support.
We also must question the form of an autobiography. Our culture promotes the idea of writing one's own story. While this author has been told to write an autobiography multiple times, having lived much less of my life than Ed Mead, i don't plan to ever do so. I hope that if i do live as long as Mead i'm too busy fulfilling my tasks in a communist cadre org (or hopefully state by then) to spend a bunch of time writing about myself. Certainly there is some value in terms of the building of humyn knowledge of documenting the conditions of the time and places that Mead experienced. But it does not seem a high priority for communists. It was probably for this reason that i found the first chapters of the book tiring to read. I didn't really need to know all about Mead's family growing up to learn some lessons about how to organize with prisoners effectively. But perhaps that was my own problem as that was never a stated purpose of this book.
The foremost stated purpose of the book by Mead is to "extend an invitation to sections of the lumpenproletariat to join the international working class." While not a bad goal, it does hint at differences we have with Mead and other communists within California Prison Focus (CPF) regarding whether nation or class is the principal contradiction. This has led to divisions in our work to shut down Security Housing Units in California. In the 2000s, MIM was part of the United Front to Abolish the SHU, which was dominated by parties and organizations struggling for national liberation. While CPF was nominally a member, their difference on this issue led to a lack of working together. This was despite the fact that the United Front explicitly allowed for organizational independence in terms of political line outside of our agreement on shutting down the SHU. In the 2010s, CPF was part of the leadership that created the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition. Mead was perhaps the only one who tried to include MIM(Prisons) in that effort. But the coalition structure forced us to the outside this time as MIM(Prisons) refused to subsume our politics to the coalition.
While recognizing whites as obviously having advantages over others, Mead does believe there is a significant white nation working class in this country. While citing Mao favorably multiple times, Mead points out Mao's failure to put class first as a point of disagreement.(p. 164) Mead's line is also reflected in an off-hand comment saying Stalin was wrong to condemn the German social-democrats as social-fascists. We think Stalin and the Comintern correctly saw the class nature and interest of the social democrats as being labor aristocracy and petty bourgeois, who wavered towards fascism, paving its way to power.(1)
Mead talks about "white skin privilege" and uses it as an agitational point to push people to join the class war while discussing eir participation in the militant George Jackson Brigade. Mead admits that eir decision to use revolutionary violence was a direct result of the lack of mass support for abused prisoners.(p. 181) At the same time ey mentions other groups at the time doing similar things and believing that small bands carrying out armed struggle would spread across the country. Mead does not conclude anywhere in the book that it was a mistake to take up this line even though comrades died, while the rest spent the prime of their lives in prison. As we discussed in a recent article on the Black Panthers, it was both common and understandable to conclude that armed struggle would become a reality in the United $tates at that time.(2) Yet, not only are conditions less advanced today, history also proved that armed struggle in the United $tates was premature in the conditions of 1966-72.
From what we know about Mead in real life and from reading the book, it is clear that ey was good at and focused on uniting all who could be united. And while we say it is better for communists to work within cadre organizations than mass organizations, as Mead did much of eir life, ey certainly did so in a principled way according to the book. And most of those principles are ones that we too support.
As mentioned, i came to this book in search of some lessons on anti-imperialist organizing in prisons. And while some of the stories are very abbreviated, the book is not short on examples of Mead's efforts, pitfalls and successes. Mead talks about the importance of determining the principal contradiction at each prison ey organized in. While in most cases ey sait it was related to nation, ey said it was related to sexism in Walla Walla, which led to the formation of Men Against Sexism.(3) Interestingly, Mead takes the position that while nation is principal inside prisons, it does not make sense to build a Black-only prison movement (at least on a large scale).(p. 280) We are sympathetic to this view and spend a lot of time calling for unity between nationalities in prison, while promoting national liberation as a strategy for the oppressed nations overall. A couple of good lessons are well-put in Mead's own words:
"...if the immediate demands address prisoners' rights and living conditions, then the backwards elements will either be won over or neutralized by the growing consciousness of the rest of the population."(p. 305) This was one of the most inspiring parts of Mead's story. In a situation where the prison system was dominated by one lumpen organization (LO) that was guided by self-interest, Mead had the revolutionary fearlessness to organize those victimized by the LO to build a mass movement that the whole population came to identify with.
"An organization that depends upon one person for direction is doomed to fail; each level of cadre should be able to take the place of a fallen or transferred comrade, even if that person occupies a leadership position."(p. 306) Mead learned this from experience, both in situations where ey was that sole leader and others where ey was surrounded by a dedicated cadre. Inspiring stories include the first strike ever at McNeil Island, which had 100% participation.(p. 139) While many of the challenges of prison organizing are still the same decades later, you'll find many other inspiring stories in this book as well. It demonstrates both the importance of the prison movement as part of the overall movement for liberation and against imperialism, while showing the limitations of a prison movement that is not complemented by strong movements on the outside. As the current struggle focused on police murders continues to ferment, we work to build a prison movement, and they will feed each other as we move towards the next revolutionary period in history.
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.