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[Culture] [Aztlan/Chicano]
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Politics and Art should have a National Style

"Mao's conviction that Chinese culture was a great perhaps a unique historical achievement strengthened his sentiment of national pride. On the other hand, his explicit aim was to enrich Marxism with ideas and values drawn from the nation's past, and thereby render it more potent as an agent of revolutionary transformation, and ultimately wersternization, not to replace it with some kind of neo-traditionalism in Marxist dress." - Stuart Schram

The sinifaction of Marxism is the adaptation and application of Marxism to Chinese conditions. That was the beginning of Mao Zedong thought, and that was the basis upon which Mao Zedong sought to not only liberate China from feudalist, comprador and imperialist control, but upon which he advanced Marxism-Leninism to the third and most advanced stage of revolutionary science. When traditional Marxists who saw no revolutionary potential past Europe and Amerika regarded Mao as "a mere peasant chief with little knowledge of Marxism", what they were really expressing was their doubt in the Chinese peoples' ability to wage class struggle because they were supposedly "backward" and hence uncivilized, even though Chinese society goes back thousands of years. When Japanese imperialism landed in China, renamed it Manchuria and claimed it as their own, Mao challenged and successfully annihilated that claim. National liberation for self-determination, that is what Mao correctly perceived as his hystoric task to push China forward in the Chinese peoples' struggle for national dignity. That was Mao's hystoric duty as a revolutionary. What will ours be? For revolutionary-nationalists from the Chican@ nation it is the adaptation and application of Maoism to Chican@ conditions.

"In essence, sinifaction involved for Mao three dimensions or aspects: communication, conditions and culture. The first of these is the clearest and least controversial. In calling for a new and vital Chinese style and manner, pleasing to the eye and to the ear of the Chinese common people, Mao was making the valid but previously neglected point, that if Marxism is to be understood and accepted by any non-European country it must be presented in language which is intelligible to them and in terms relevant to their own problems. But how, in Mao's view, was the reception of Marxism in China determined by mentality (or culture), and experience (or concrete circumstances)? Above all, how were both the culture of the Chinese people, and the conditions in which they lived, to be shaped by the new revolutionary power set up in 1949? ... Mao sought to define and follow a Chinese road to socialism. In pursuing this aim, he unquestionably took Marxism as his guide...as well as seeking inspiration, as he had advocated in 1938, from the lessons and the values of Chinese history."

The adaptation and application of Maoism to Chican@ conditions therefore does not at all negate our hystory or reality, rather it affirms it and demands that we are reckoned with. Mao said that Marxism is a general truth with universal application and the science of practice which has now been summed up in hystory proved him right. So now that we know the power of revolutionary science that is Marxism-Leniinism-Maoism works, the question moved from what form of struggle does Chican@ national liberation take, to how do we begin to implement it? How do we adapt and apply Maoism to prison conditions, and then how do we apply this new understanding to the barrio. What does a Chican@ communist vanguard organization look like behind prison walls? What does it look like on the street?

These are all questions that can only be asked and answered by Chican@s in the process of the struggle.

The Chican@ nation is currently at a critical juncture in its extensive hystory. We are beginning to reach a point in which we will either cast our lot with the rest of Latin America, wage our struggle for national liberation and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Third World, or we will perish along with imperialism. As before, so today the choice is ours. Will we continue to send our sons and daughters to die in the periphery for a flag and land that isn't theirs, or will we prime them to fight imperialism and liberate Aztlán? We have the revolutionary imperative. Patria o muerte!

Notes: 'The Thought of Mao Zedong' Stuart Schram, Cambridge University Press, pg198.

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[Theory] [Culture]
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Book Review: The Communist Necessity

communist necessity
The Communist Necessity
by J. Moufawad-Paul
Kersplebedeb 2014
Available for $10 from AK Press, 674-A 23rd St, Oakland CA 94612

This new book from J. Moufawad-Paul provides a good argument against reactionary trends in the First World activist movement over the past few decades, specifically tearing down the misleading ideologies that have moved away from communism and promote instead a mishmash of liberal theories claiming to offer new improved solutions to oppression. It comes mainly from an academic perspective, and as such takes on many minor trends in political theory that are likely unknown to many activist readers. But the main thrust, against what Moufawad-Paul calls movementism, is correct and a valuable addition to the summary of the recent past of political organizing and discussion of the way forward. Unfortunately, in illuminating the need for communist theory and scientific analysis Moufawad-Paul misses a crucial theoretical point on the petty bourgeois status of the First World. As such, his conclusions about the correct tasks for communists to take up are misleading.

Incorrect Line on the Labor Aristocracy

Moufawad-Paul does point out errors of those who have tried to take up communist organizing within unions: "Instead, those of us who have attempted to find our communist way within union spaces.... Bogged down by collective agreements so that our activism becomes the management of union survival; fighting for a union leadership that is only marginally left in essence..."(p136) But then he goes on to uphold the demands of unions without distinguishing between those representing the proletarian workers and those representing the petty bourgeoisie: "Immediate economic demands, of course, are not insignificant. We have to put food on the table and pay the bills,; we want job security and benefits. Solidarity amongst workers is laudable, and it would be a mistake to oppose unions and union drives because they are not as revolutionary as a communist party."(p137) Readers of MIM(Prisons) literature know that we have many books and articles detailing the calculations demonstrating First World workers income putting them squarely in the group of non-exploited owners of wealth who we call the petty bourgeoisie.

Moufawad-Paul concludes: "To reject economism, to recognize that trade-unions, particularly at the centres of capitalism, may not be our primary spaces of organization should not produce a knee-jerk anti-unionism, no different in practice than the conservative hatred of unions; rather, it should cause us to recognize the necessity of focusing our organizational energies elsewhere."(p137) This is a rather unscientific and wishy washy conclusion from an author who otherwise upholds revolutionary science to tear down many other incorrect theories. In fact it is only in the last pages of the book, in the "Coda" that Moufawad-Paul even attempts to take on this question of a "working class" in the First World and distinguish it from workers in the Third World:


"From its very emergence, capitalism has waged war upon humanity and the earth. The communist necessity radiates from this eternal war: capitalism's intrinsic brutality produces an understanding that its limits must be transgressed, just as it produces its own grave-diggers. How can we be its grave-diggers, though, when we refuse to recognize the necessity of making communism concretely, deferring its arrival to the distant future? One answer to this problem is that those of us at the centres of capitalism are no longer the primary grave-diggers.

"The permanent war capitalism wages upon entire populations is a war that is viscerally experienced by those who live at the global peripheries. Lenin once argued that revolutions tend to erupt at the 'weakest links,' those over-exploited regions where the contradictions of capitalism are clear. Thus, it should be no surprise that communism remains a necessity in these spaces — it is at the peripheries we discover people's wars. Conversely, opportunism festers at the global centres, these imperialist metropoles where large sections of the working-class have been pacified, muting contradictions and preventing entire populations from understanding the necessity of communism. Capitalism is not as much of a nightmare, here; it is a delirium, a fever dream."(p158)


But even while recognizing the pacification of "large sections of the working-class" in imperialist countries, Moufawad-Paul fails to undertake any scientific analysis of how large these sections are, or what exactly it means to be pacified. It sounds as though they still need to be woken from their "fever dream" to fight for communism. But these workers will be ardent anti-communists if we appeal to their economic interests. They have not just been pacified, they have been bought off with wealth stolen from the Third World, and as with the fascist workers in Germany under Hitler, they will fight to the death to defend their wealth and power over oppressed nations.

It is trade unions of these people benefiting from exploitation who Moufawad-Paul extols the readers not to reject with "a knee-jerk anti-unionism, no different in practice than the conservative hatred of unions." But in fact if he studied the economics of wealth with the same scientific passion he brings to the topic of communist theory overall, Moufawad-Paul would see that workers in imperialist countries have been bought over to the petty bourgeois class, and opposing their unionism is not knee-jerk at all.

Movementism and Fear of Communism

The bulk of this book is devoted to a critique of movementism: "the assumption that specific social movements, sometimes divided along lines of identity or interest, could reach a critical mass and together, without any of that Leninist nonsense, end capitalism."(p9)

This movementism is seen in protests that have been held up throughout the First World activist circles as the way to defeat capitalism: "Before this farce, the coordinating committee of the 2010 demonstrations would absurdly maintain, on multiple email list-serves, that we were winning, and yet it could never explain what it meant by 'we' nor did its claim about 'winning' make very much sense when it was patently clear that a victory against the G20 would have to be more than a weekend of protests. Had we truly reached a point where victory was nothing more than a successful demonstration, where we simply succeeded in defending the liberal right to assembly?"(p9-10)

Further, the movementists, and other similar self-proclaimed leftists of the recent past demonstrate an aversion to communism, though sometimes shrouding themselves in communist rhetoric: "All of this new talk about communism that avoids the necessity of actually bringing communism into being demonstrates a fear of the very name communism."(p29) He points out that this is manifested in practice: "The Arab Spring, Occupy, the next uprising: why do we look to these examples as expressions of communism instead of looking to those movements organized militantly under a communist ideology, that are making more coherent and revolutionary demands?"(p30)

Moufawad-Paul correctly analyzes the roots of the support for "insurrections" in the Third World rather than the actual communist revolutions. Real revolutions can have setbacks and fail to seize state power: "The lingering fascination with the EZLN, for example, is telling: There is a reason that the Zapatistas have received sainthood while the Sendero Luminoso has not. The latter's aborted people's war placed it firmly in the realm of failure; the former, in refusing to attempt a seizure of state power."(p46)

In another correct critique of these activists that MIM has made for years, Moufawad-Paul points out the problem with communists joining non-communist organizations and attempting to take over leadership: "...Occupied Wallstreet Journal refuses to communicate anything openly communist and yet is being edited by known communists..."(p50) Essentially these communists have to water down their own politics for the sake of the group, and they are doing nothing to promote the correct line more broadly.

Ultimately Moufawad-Paul sums up the anti-commnunism: "Even before this collapse it was often the hallmark of supposedly 'critical' marxism in the first world, perhaps due to the influence of trotskyism, to denounce every real world socialism as stalinist, authoritarian, totalitarian. Since the reification of anti-communist triumphalism this denunciation has achieved hegemony; it is the position to which would-be marxist academics gravitate and accept as common sense, an unquestioned dogma. Hence, we are presented with a constellation of attempts to reboot communism by calling it something different, by making its past either taboo or meaningless..."(p69)

And he cautions us that while some are now returning to communism in name, they are still lacking a materialist analysis of communist practice that is needed to bring about revolution: "Despite the return to the name of communism, this new utopianism, due to its emergence in the heart of left-wing academia and petty-bourgeois student movements, has absorbed the post-modern fear of those who speak of a communist necessity — the fear of that which is totalizing and thus totalitarian. The failure to develop any concrete strategy of overthrowing capitalism, instead of being treated as a serious deficiency, is apprehended as a strength: the movement can be all things for all people, everything for everyone, everywhere and nowhere..."(p151)

Moufawad-Paul correctly notes that for many academics and other petty bourgeois advocates of these new theories, the fear of communism is actually based in a fear of their own material position being challenged: "Here is a terrible notion, one that we avoid whenever we embrace those theories that justify our class privilege: we will more than likely be sent down to the countryside, whatever this figurative 'countryside' happens to be; we too will have to be reeducated. Most of us are terrified by this possibility, disgusted by the necessity of rectification, of being dragged down."(p96)

Sectarianism vs. Principled Differences

Moufawad-Paul includes some good discussion of the failure of movementist doctrine around so-called anti-sectarianism: "But the charge of sectarianism is leveled at every and any organization that dares to question the fundamental movementist doctrine."(p53) As he explains, "But principled political difference by itself does not amount to sectarianism, though it is often treated as such by those who would judge any moment of principled difference as sectarian heresy....Maintaining a principled political difference is itself a necessity, part of developing a movement capable of drawing demarcating lines, and even those who would endorse movementism have to do so if they are to also maintain their anti-capitalism."(p55)

The failure of coalition politics is summed up well: "When a variety of organizations with competing ideologies and strategies are gathered together under one banner, the only theoretical unity that can be achieved is the most vague anti-capitalism. Since revolutionary strategy is derived from revolutionary unity, the vagueness of theory produces a vagueness in practice: tailism, neo-reformism, nebulous movementism."(p129) This underscores why MIM(Prisons) promotes the United Front over coalition politics. In the United Front we have clear proletarian leadership but we do not ask organizations to compromise their own political line for that of the UF. A principled UF comes together around clear and concise points of unity while maintaining their independence in other areas. A good example of this is the United Front for Peace in Prisons.

The Need for Communism

Moufawad-Paul includes a good discussion of the need for real communist ideology, rooted in historical materialism and focused on what we need to do today rather than just building academic careers by talking about theories. "If anything, these movements, whatever their short-comings, should remind us of the importance of communism and its necessity; we should not hide from these failures, attempt to side-step them by a vague rearticulation of the terminology, or refuse to grasp that they were also successes. If we are to learn from the past through the lens of the necessity of making revolution, then we need to do so with an honesty that treats the practice of making communism as an historical argument."(p29)

He encourages the readers: "To speak of communism as a necessity, then, is to focus on the concrete world and ask what steps are necessary to make it a reality."(p31) And the way to figure out what steps are necessary is revolutionary science:


"Why then is historical materialism a revolutionary science? Because the historical/social explanation of historical/social phenomena is the very mechanism of class struggle, of revolution. And this scientific hypothesis is that which is capable of demystifying the whole of history and myriad societies, a way in which to gauge any and every social struggle capable of producing historical change.

"Hence, without a scientific understanding of social struggle we are incapable of recognizing when and where failed theories manifest. The physicist has no problem banning Newtonian speculation to the past where it belongs; s/he possesses a method of assessment based on the development of a specific scientific terrain. If we resist a similar scientific engagement with social struggle we have no method of making sense of the ways in which revolutionary hypotheses have been dis-proven in the historical crucible due to historical 'experiments' of class struggle."(p43)

Overall The Communist Necessity adds some much needed revolutionary scientific analysis to "leftist" activism and theories of the recent past. It is unfortunate that Moufawad-Paul did not apply this same scientific rigor to his analysis of classes. Only with both elements firmly understood will we be prepared to do our part to support the communist struggles of the oppressed world wide.

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[Theory] [China] [Culture] [Organizing]
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Book Review: Fanshen

Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village
William Hinton
University of California Press, 1966

The word "Fanshen" was coined during the Chinese Revolution. It means, literally,

"[T]o turn the body', or "to turn over." To China's hundreds of millions of landless and land-poor peasants it meant to stand up, to throw off the landlord yoke, to gain land, stock, implements, and houses. But it meant much more than this. It meant to throw off superstition and study science ... [to] learn to read, to cease considering women as chattels and establish equality between the sexes, to do away with appointed village magistrates and replace them with elected councils.(1)

And that is precisely what Fanshen chronicles. It is written from the personal experiences and extensive notes gathered by William Hinton himself while in the Liberated Area village of Changchuang (Long Bow), Lucheng County, Shanshi Province, China, during the spring and summer of 1948. Long Bow sat on the edge of an area surrounded but never conquered by the Japanese. It was one of the few villages which the Japanese invaders occupied and fortified. This Japanese occupation (1938-1945) ended when Long Bow was liberated by the Eighth Route Army and the Peoples Militia of Lucheng County on August 14, 1945.

Hinton wend to China as a tractor technician with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and was sent to the communist-led area of South Hopie to supervise a project there. When UNRRA closed down in the fall of 1947, Hinton accepted an invitation from Northern University to teach English in South Shansi. Hinton relates that Northern University was a guerrilla institution in Kao Settlement that moved according to the dictates of war and that life at the University was not much better than village life. As examples he states that the University only served boiled millet (a grass grown for its edible white seeds) and was never warmed by scarce firewood.

Fanshen is foremost about land reform in rural China. To fully appreciate the enormity of this land reform, Hinton provides plenty of background information on the revolutionary upheaval that led up to it, as well as the traditional society which brought on and was transformed by revolution. From the British-imposed First Opium War of 1840 and the Second Opium War of 1856-1860, to the 1899 imperial rescript granting Catholic bishops equal rank with provincial governors which led to the 1900 Boxer Rebellion, to the Amerikan backing of the Nationalist Government of Chiang Kai-shek, Fanshen supplies the reader with plenty of pertinent hystorical dialectic facts. No punches are pulled in the especially provcative documentation of Amerikan interloping. From General Marshall's mission in China to the lend-lease program that gave the Nationalist Government over $600 million between Victory over Japan Day and the end of July, I was left wondering who left the hystory books I had read in school incomplete. There are plenty of footnotes recalling Amerikan troop involvement in China well after the Japanese surrendered. Nuggets such as;

Of numerous attacks in Eastern Shantung the most widely known were the one by U.S. warships on Langnuankou and Hsiali Island, Mouping county, on August 28, 1947, and one by U.S. forces in conjunction with Kumintang troops on Wanglintao Village, north of Chino County, on December 25, 1947.(2)

left me scratching my head and hungry for more. I was not let down. It is interesting to note that this is the time period that Hinton joined Northern University.

Fanshen does not neglect the environmental conditions of so vast a country as China. Without knowing the violence and extremes of the seasons, the living conditions of such an agrarian society could not truly be put into context. Drought followed by famine, followed by peasant-dwelling-destroying monsoons are a way of life for the Chinese peasants, and Hinton documents these ordeals with great clarity, even experiencing a flash flood and violent localized hailstorm first-hand while in Long Bow.

Once the hystorical context is set, Hinton wastes no time in drawing you into the consciousness of Long Bow. He begins this phenomenal feat with the Japanese invasion of Long Bow in the summer of 1938. With great skill he documents what village life was like for the peasants through their own words. He continues this painstaking documentation of events, using thousands of interviews, from the period of liberation when the cadres took over until the arrival of the work teams (1945-1948).

The Draft Agrarian Law was announced to the world on December 28, 1947, three days after the joint U.$./Kuomintang military assault on Wanglintao Village. The Draft Law was to serve as a yardstick by which to measure theand movements, as well as to measure the political position and consciousness of everyone who opted for progress and a new democratic China. Many questions had to be answered, such as: Had the land been equally divided? Had the poor peasants and hired laborers taken control of village affairs? If not, why not? Politically, the main question was, on which side do you stand? I was so drawn in by Hinton's prose that I was just as shocked as the villagers to find that the majority of the cadres carrying out the reforms of the Communist Party, sometimes to extremes, were not even Party members. This was but one of many surprises to come.

So, in 1948 the Communist Party organized work teams made up of local and district cadres and students and intellectuals in all the Liberated Areas sending them to key representative villages throughout their respective regions to check on the status of the land reform movement. These work teams, made up of groups of 10 or 12 people each, then went out to survey the true conditions of the peasant population and carry the land reform through to completion.

It was during the assignment of Northern University students and intellectuals to work teams that Hinton requested of University President Fan Wen-lan to be allowed to "join one of the work teams, at least as an observer, and learn first hand what the land reform is all about." Three days later permission was granted to join the work team in Long Bow. He was assigned a young woman instructor, Ch'i Yun, to act as an interpreter. Long Bow was chosen because it was the nearest to Kao Settlement, approximately one mile to the south. This way Hinton and Ch'i Yun could return to the University each evening. On March 6, 1948, the two set off for the first of many trips into Long Bow to begin documenting the long process of getting to know its people, their hystory, their progress, their mistakes, and the complexity of their current problems. Then, in early May 1948, Northern University moved 300 miles away; however, Hinton and Ch'i Yun stayed in Long Bow to continue their work alongside the other work team cadres.

Fanshen thoroughly documents the individual stepwise movements, e.g., the Anti-Traitor Movement (ending 1945), the Settling Accounts Movement (January 1946 - February 1946), the Hide-the-Grain movement (fall of 1946), and the Wash-the-Face movement (spring 1947) that were necessary for the land reform in Long Bow. The mistakes made by the cadres and peasants alike during these movements are laid bare and analyzed. By doing this the reader gains a richer appreciation of the struggle for a true democracy. One of the largest myths of Maoism is that Chairman Mao, via the Chinese Communist Party, ruled China as a totalitarian. Hinton thoroughly debunks this myth as he documents his first-hand experiences of the true democratic election process in Long Bow.

The writing style of Hinton's Fanshen is transcendental. It puts the reader into the mind, i.e. the political consciousness, of the cadres and peasants themselves. My political consciousness developed right along with theirs. Hinton's documentation of the self- and mutual criticism done during village meetings had me identifying with those being criticized. I found myself connecting with them, at times thinking that I would have done the same in those circumstances. Nothing is held back from the reader during these sessions; the selling of female children, the indifference to starvation during the famine years, the beatings, and the violent oppression. At times I rooted for the peasants as they beat a landlord to death during a Settling-of-Accounts, only to be corrected in this error of thinking by Mao's own words a few chapters later.

Fanshen ends by Hinton summing up the progress as of 1949:


Land reform, by creating basic equality among rural producers, only presented the producers with a choice of roads: private enterprise on the land leading to capitalism, or collective enterprise on the land leading to socialism...

Land reform had broken the patriarchal rigidity of the family by granting property rights to women. With property of their own they [are] able to struggle effectively for equal rights...

One had only to think of such problems as illiteracy, the almost complete absence of medical care, and the primitive methods of cultivation still in use, to realize what a long road lay ahead for the village and its people before they could claim full citizenship in the twentieth century.(3)


This is a fitting ending as it is also a new beginning. Once a people organize and gain a political consciousness they can then unite in struggle to break the chains of oppression and write their own future.

Fanshen is a work of literary genius. Hinton does not just write about events as a passive observer, he vicariously brings the reader into the time and space of rural China, circa 1948, to live them. By the time you finish reading Fanshen your own hystorical views and political consciousness will be impacted. Through the various movements, some correct and some incorrect, you will pick up on the subtleties of how and why communism can work, the mistakes that doom it, and the consciousness of the people needed to support it. I have been greatly moved by Hinton's work and feel the Western world owes Hinton a debt of gratitude for his sacrifice in documenting land reform in Long Bow Village and bringing us his first-hand account.


Notes:
1.p. vii
2. p. 98
3. p. 603

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[Aztlan/Chicano] [Culture]
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World Cup Distinguished Chicanos from Amerikans

Although the World Cup has been over for some time I feel compelled to comment on Mexico's national team.

When Mexico beat Croatia to make it to the round of 16 there were "disturbances" in Los Angeles. As Los Angeles has a high concentration of people who see themselves as Mexicans and not Amerikans, this goes to show that there is a separate, oppressed nation in the United $tates.

But this disturbance alone doesn't prove this. As J. Stalin said, "A nation is formed only as a result of lengthy and systematic intercourse, as a result of the fact that people live together from generation to generation. But people cannot live together for lengthy periods unless they have a common territory."

Mexicans in the United $tates, and especially in California, are distinct from Amerikans as well as from their relatives in Mexico. As Latinos are becoming the largest population in the United $tates it's even more important that a national party be formed to better serve the Latino nation, as the United $tates is incapable and incompetent to serve the needs of the Latino people in North America.

Note: MIM Theory #7, p. 49.


MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade that there is a separate nation within U.$. borders that is comprised of the primarily indigenous people of what was northern Mexico, and includes many descended from immigrants from Latin America as well. Though it is far more complicated than just some World Cup festivities, this comrade is correct that we can see evidence of the separate nation in many areas of culture. We have come to call this nation the Chican@ nation, and this is the subject of a book that is scheduled to be released at the end of 2014: Chicano Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. Write to us to get on the list for a copy of this important book.

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[Gender] [National Oppression] [Culture] [Federal Correctional Institution Danbury] [Federal]
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Book Review: Orange is the New Black, My Year in a Women's Prison

New Afrikan prisoner female


by Piper Kerman
Spiegel & Grau (March 8, 2011)
327 pages

This memoir by Piper Kerman, describes the experience of a well-off white womyn who served a year in a minimum-security Federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. Kernan was locked up for drug trafficking and money laundering, crimes she committed 10 years before her conviction and self-surrender. This is not a story of the typical imprisonment of disadvantaged men and wimmin, disproportionately poor and from oppressed nations, but rather a memoir of a woman with a solid future who took a brief detour to prison and made a lot of money by writing a book about it. Most prisoners face a life after release haunted by their conviction which makes finding housing and jobs virtually impossible. While others in prison on her charges are labeled drug dealers and face long sentences, Kernan's brief imprisonment is portrayed as the result of a period of reckless experimentation and mistakes of her youth.

Ordinarily a book like this wouldn't hold much interest for MIM(Prisons), but it's become quite a sensation after it was the basis for a popular Netflix TV series by the same name. This reviewer has only seen a few episodes of the TV show, but based on that i can say it's only loosely based on the book. For instance, where the book has virtually no sex at all, the TV show is mostly sex and lots of sensationalism. The reality of boredom and mundane prison life wouldn't make for a very interesting TV show.

On the positive side, Kernan humanizes the wimmin who she meets in prison, and gives their lives voice by pointing out the unjust drug sentences and devastating effects prison has on families. The TV show also provides a human face to its characters, when they aren't having sex or acting in some stereotypical role, but given the general portrayal of prisoners as evil and dangerous this is at least a small improvement. Of course, none of those wimmin get book deals, and for the most part they also don't have jobs lined up, or homes in New York bought by fiancées who visit religiously every week, along with hoards of other people who visit and write throughout their imprisonment. Kernan does admit her volume of mail greatly exceeds everyone else. And she spends a few pages reflecting on the fact that some wimminn she meets face lives on the outside just as difficult as their lives behind bars.

Part of humanizing the wimmin in Danbury's Federal Correctional Institution includes telling stories of their kindness towards fellow prisoners. In this regard the TV show overplays violence and conflict between the prisoners relative to the book. Kernan explains the deep friendships and support the wimmin offer each other in this minimum security prison, and overall she sees their humynity and does not try to portray Amerikan prisons as a place that is offering any rehabilitation or value for prisoners.

Both the book and the TV show condemn the prison guards for their brutality and degradation of the prisoners. The reality of Kernan's experience in the book does describe some guards who clearly enjoy their sadistic power, and overall she maintains a strong anti-pig position even when someone is cutting her a break.

Overall this book doesn't contribute much to those seeking to understand the conditions in prison and fight the criminal injustice system. It advances the finances and career of one well-off white womyn, and if anything we learn that prisons are built to lock up poor people, mostly from oppressed nations, and imprisonment of people like Kernan is a fluke that rarely happens and registers little damage to their lives.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 40]
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Maoist Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
July 2014
PG-13

In our review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), we drew parallels to the Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) from the original series. The final episode (Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)) of the original series takes place hundreds of years after apes have risen to power and gives an interesting take on the dictatorship of the proletariat as apes rule benevolently over humyns and strive for a peaceful society. The latest, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) is more of a Conquest part two in terms of the timeline, but takes on many of the themes of Battle.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place a mere ten years after Rise, featuring many of the same ape characters. In those ten years, humyns had been virtually wiped out by a virus that was a product of testing done on the apes and infighting that resulted from the crisis. In the meantime, the apes that fled to Marin, California have built a home there, and other species have made a miraculous recovery in the absence of humyns.

The theme that Dawn shares with Battle is the apes realizing they are no better than humyns when it comes to war and violence. This is a positive lesson in historical materialism that looks at the social causes of war, conflict and change in general. It makes sense that as apes develop a more advanced society with language, buildings, fire and larger populations, that similar social phenomenon will come into play as we have in humyn society.

In Battle this was a nice lesson as it came after hundreds of years of dictatorship of apes over humyns, at which point one would expect a sense of commonality (internationalism if you will) to have developed. What is less believable in that movie is that after all that time there would be a vengeful element, which is played off as an almost genetic/racial thing particular to the gorillas. In the most recent movie we would expect much desire for vengeance against humyns, as these were the very same apes that were raised in prisons and experimented on by humyns before the revolution in which they freed themselves.

The new series has not yet reached the point of dictatorship of ape over humyn, only separate settlements that are now engaging in war with each other. Both sides have their militarists. The ape is motivated by vengeance from the torture he endured, while the humyn has a sense of purpose in returning humyns to their rightful place as dominant. A looming oppressor consciousness persists among the humyns despite their fall from grace. Though the main material force pushing them into conflict in the first place is the need for the hydro power that is within ape territory. No doubt, the justification of genocide for natural resources is still deep in these Amerikans' way of thinking.

Dawn does offer us some underlying political lessons. Caesar, who led the revolution in the previous movie as the only ape who knew how to speak, is now the established leader. All apes have developed some ability to speak (and at least the younger ones are learning to write), and they are able to communicate even more complex ideas through sign language. The mantra "ape shall not kill ape" is a direct throwback to Battle, that is repeated throughout this latest movie. This format is similar to short sayings from Mao that the Communist Party of China promoted under socialism to imbue the people with a new collective consciousness. It was necessary in a society with very limited literacy. Like Mao, Caesar is reified. At the same time, as Caesar disappears from the scene, it is clear that there is a core of apes who followed Caesar's ideas, and not just him as an individual. And there is a sense that the whole population has some grasp of these ideas, again similar to socialist China. But when a usurper seizes power, the masses follow him with little resistance. Like the Gang of Four in China, those perceived to be loyal to Caesar's ideas are imprisoned.

There is a strong theme of the nuclear family in this movie, at times saying that family is more important than the greater people. While Caesar learns to not idealistically trust all apes, he thankfully does not turn inward to his nuclear family as many do when they feel betrayed by larger organizations or society as a whole. Family is the hideaway of the coward, often the patriarch, who feels they can have greater control there. But revolutionaries strive to transform society by the power of scientific understanding. Like the last movie, the apes show heroic revolutionary sacrifice in their struggle for the greater good for all apes and the society that they have built. While they face internal contradictions based on the harm that oppression has stamped on their psyches, they have done much to build a promising society.

In our review of the previous movie we talked much about the integration struggle, with the apes rejecting that road. The ending of this movie leaves the protagonists from each species hoping for a collaborative effort, but seeing that it is impossible at this time. Caesar in particular seems keen at recognizing the material forces at play and the impossibility of collaboration with the humyns as a whole despite the friends he has among them. Similarly in our world, while there are certainly genuine revolutionary forces among the oppressor nations, we should not be fooled into interpreting that to mean that the oppressor nations as groups are ready for peaceful coexistence.

It is the contradictions that humyns face between their weakened state and their desire to have the material benefits of the past that is the biggest threat to the apes in this movie, and seemingly in the next one to come. We hope that the apes learned valuable lessons from this latest struggle that they can consciously consolidate into their ideology as a society as they move forward in their struggle against oppression and to end war.

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[Culture] [Environmentalism] [Security] [ULK Issue 39]
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Movie Review: The East

The East
2013

The East 2013

This movie is a must-see for any left-leaning persyn looking to kick start a revolution or join a movement for the purpose of societal change. The East is about a subversive underground movement which can best be described as a loose collection of anarchist cells focused on giving the heads of corporations that are responsible for ecological destruction a taste of their own medicine. One reference in the movie describes them as radical cells that started with Earth First! They attack big business, who they see as responsible for much of today's problems in the United $tates. Indeed, they see the principal contradiction in the United $tates as between greedy corporations that will stop at nothing to make a quick buck and the life on planet Earth that they threaten. The ideas portrayed in their propaganda videos are hard-hitting in a way that is true to the First World radical ecology movement in real life.

The potential for the radical ecology movement to be a real force for change in the First World is one reason this movie is powerful. The movie is also aesthetically pleasing on many levels (which means it's fun to watch!) and filled with political content. It has a couple big Hollywood names; none more notable than Ellen Page of Juno fame. This movie speaks mainly to the worries of today's white petty-bourgeois youth growing up in the shadows of climate change, oil spills and other mass pollution, toxic food and medicine and a consumerist society that doesn't seem to care. The characters touch on struggles with their wealth, but ultimately use their privilege to attack their enemies. They criticize Amerikans for their complacency, but see the imperialists as the ones deserving severe criticism. Similar to many radical environmental movements in the real world, there is no explicit class analysis in the movie, but The East seems potentially friendly to both a Third Worldist and a First Worldist perspective. The real positive lessons of this movie however come from its emphasis on security and organization, or lack thereof, within supposed revolutionary groups.

The East focuses on an ex-FBI agent named Jane who goes undercover for Hiller-Brood, a fictional "intelligence firm" that specializes in protecting the interests of imperialist corporations thru espionage. Jane's mission is to attempt to infiltrate The East, a so-called eco-terrorist organization that has been a thorn in the side of McCabe-Grey, a fictional corporation that specializes in producing cutting edge pharmaceuticals. Jane's assignment is to go undercover using the name Sarah, to meet and gain the trust of potential East members that Hiller-Brood has been tailing.

[SPOILER ALERT!]

After a night of partying and getting to know some counter-culture types who Sarah thinks might know The East, she decides they are relatively harmless and then sneaks away in the early morning hours to pursue other potential targets, but not before snapping all their pictures and sending them back to Hiller-Brood for file building. From here on out Sarah sets out to meet some other potential targets who are older, more mysterious and hence more promising. After meeting the possible East members and train hopping with their friends, Sarah gets her first taste of pig oppression when they are forced off the train by railroad security and subsequently beaten. It is in the midst of the commotion that Sarah sees the persyn she's been following flash a badge at security - the persyn she's been following is a fed! After being left cuffed to a train Sarah makes a narrow escape from police and is rescued by one of the train-hoppers whose van she jumps into. Once inside of the van Sarah recognizes one of the symbols of The East. Convinced she is now on the right track, Sarah slices her wrist in the hopes that this guy whose van she's in will take her to The East. Her plan works, but not before he runs a quick make on her by dialing the number on her phone marked "mom."

After speaking to another Hiller-Brood agent posing as Sarah's mom, he destroys her phone, blindfolds her and takes her to a secret location in the woods; a dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere. As they arrive, Sarah is introduced to "Doc" the group's resident doctor, much to the chagrin of Thumbs the group's only New Afrikan. As she is being treated Sarah discovers that Doc was once a med student. She is then drugged and put to sleep. After waking, Sarah meets Izzy, Ellen Page's character, who views Sarah with a skeptical eye. Izzy gives Sarah a straight-jacket and tells her to wear it if she wants to come down for dinner. Feeling she is now a hostage, and partly out of curiosity, Sarah reluctantly agrees to put on the jacket. Once they enter the dining room, Sarah is surprised to find the rest of the group already assembled at the table and all wearing straight jackets. At the head of the table is Benji, a bearded and eccentric looking man who reveals to Sarah that they know everything about her, her last job as a bank-teller, where she grew up, everything. All aspects of her cover identity unfortunately.

Benji then tells Sarah that she can begin eating whenever she's ready. Not knowing how to eat if she's in a straight jacket Sarah tells Benji that she's a guest and would not feel right if she started before them. To which Benji responds; "You can do what you please, but we prefer to eat after you begin." Confused and uneasy Sarah attempts to eat by slurping the soup directly from the bowl. Everyone stares at Sarah with a look of condemnation. What happens next is a "zen" moment in which everyone takes to eating by having the persyn next to them pick up the spoon with their mouth and feed them. Feeling played, Sarah storms out of the house and into the woods where Benji and company follow her and ask her to come back. Sarah responds, "For what? So you can continue to make fun of me to your followers?" Benji then explains that he doesn't have any followers. He tells her that if she'd only relied on the group, instead of selfishly trying to feed herself then she wouldn't be feeling stupid. Sarah then retorts "Why is it that self-righteousness and resistance movements always go hand in hand?" Yet it is the bourgeois and the Christians who are the most self-righteous of all, imposing their ways on others, forcing the majority to suffer for their own benefit. They criticize the masses with a false sense of superiority, while it is the job of revolutionaries to criticize the oppressor with the basic facts of their oppression. Throughout the movie, it is stressed that everything members of The East do is their own choice, and when they do do things it is organized in collective ways that challenge bourgeois individualism, such as the eating example.

Later that night Sarah is caught spying by Eve, an East member. Sarah is then forced to reveal herself to Eve, but she tells her that she is an active FBI agent, and that The East house is currently under surveillance, and that if she exposes her she'll go to jail. Eve agrees to stay quiet but flees the next day without telling anyone what she knows. The next day The East discovers that Eve has left. This throws the group's next mission into limbo. Sarah explains that she can easily fill Eve's shoes. The group takes a vote and decides to let Sarah in on the "jam" so long as her knowledge of the mission is relegated to her role. Sarah agrees.

The group's mission is to infiltrate a business party hosted by McCabe-Grey. Once inside the party their plan is to slip a supposed anti-malarial drug "Denoxin" into the drinks of some of Amerika's elites who have gathered to celebrate a contract between McCabe-Grey and the U.$. military which will make Denoxin available to Amerikan soldiers serving abroad. Denoxin's side-effects have been linked to various mental and nervous disorders as demonstrated by Doc, who took the drug after his prescription killed his sister. During the celebration the vice president of McCabe-Grey gives a speech in which she touts Denoxin as a miracle drug that will protect men and wimmin in uniform in the mission to protect Third World people from evil dictators and oppressive governments; thereby allowing them to bring "freedom and democracy" to the oppressed masses.

Sarah finds out what The East is up to and attempts to stop it, but it is too late. The East completes their mission and returns to their hideout in the woods. Back at the safe-house Sarah takes to snooping and discovers the real identities of The East members. However, her spying is cut short when they see breaking news that McCabe-Grey's vice president has begun to succumb to Denoxin's side-effects, her life in possible danger. The East panics and decides to disperse and flee back into the relative safety of the city. They all agree that should members decide to continue with the movement they should all return to the safe house in a couple weeks.

Now, back in society, undercover agent Sarah seems uncomfortable in the real world, she is no longer used to the amenities of living in a First World country. She has become accustomed to living in the woods with The East and their communal social values; she is conflicted. Though she feels troubled she returns to Hiller-Brood for debriefing. She gives up the identities of The East and expresses her concerns that another attack will occur. She pleads to have The East house raided before they disappear, but they refuse and send Sarah back for more intelligence gathering.

Sarah re-connects with The East as they are planning the next action. This time around, the mission is to get Hawkstone Energy executives (yet another fictional imperialist corporation) to admit their illegal pollution practices on camera; illegal practices that have contaminated a small town's drinking water. Benji's plan is to rationalize with the bourgeois leaders of Hawkstone into giving up their dangerous exploitation of the earth (kidnapping them and forcing them to listen), but Thumbs disagrees. Thumbs doesn't want to talk with the enemy, he wants action now. He says that these rich types don't ever respond to "intellectual bullshit, they respond to firepower!" After some heated discussion they agree to Benji's original plan where Izzy ends up dead, shot by Hawkstone security.

We cannot afford to make the focoist error of taking up armed struggle when the conditions aren't right, as the character of Thumbs attempts to do. Focoism has a long history of failure, getting good revolutionaries killed or locked up in jail. To think that armed actions will always inspire the masses towards revolutionary activity is an ultra-left and deadly, idealist mistake that has left many anti-imperialists either dead or in prison. In this sense The East has a better strategy in that they are primarily trying to stop the most powerful people from doing the damage their corporations are doing, rather than engaging in focoist actions aimed at convincing Amerikans that the corporations need to be stopped. The East may actually end up stopping some corporations, and the individuals leading them, from some of their more destructive practices. But in the end this strategy, like focoism, lacks the big picture perspective that will enable us to put an end to the environmental destruction that is inherent to capitalism. What their strategy lacks is the building of independent institutions of the oppressed that have the power to implement environmentally-friendly production methods while meeting the people's needs. While the movie shows The East building alternative culture within their collective, we must figure out how to go bigger than that to really counter the powerful corporations that are now calling the shots.

When Izzy dies, The East becomes spooked and are thrown into disarray. One member talks of abandoning the movement and Benji tries to get him to stay. Benji tells him that "a revolution is never easy, but that doesn't make it any less important," to which the deserter states, "I would betray the revolution for Izzy, that's the difference between you and me." This is an inherent weakness in petty bourgeois radical movements. When those they care about are threatened they see the comforts of petty bourgeois life as preferable to struggle. This is why the deserter is able to succumb to such individualist ways of thinking. For the proletariat, oppression is a daily reality, and death of a comrade will tend to justify further what they are doing rather than discourage. What we must fully understand however is that the success or failure of any movement does not hinge on the importance of one individual, one man, one womyn or one child; but on the stated aims of that movement and the completion of that goal, and if we stray from those principles then we are just as guilty of betraying the revolution as the deserter in the movie did.

At this point, this cell of The East splits up yet again. Back at Hiller-Brood Sarah discloses the day's events, she reports Izzy's death and claims that The East is in shambles, a perfect time to move in and arrest them all. Her advice is again ignored. She is ordered to go back. She meets with Benji, but this time pleads with him to give up the movement; partly out of her wish to prevent another attack or death, and partly because she has developed romantic feelings for him. Benji refuses and instead convinces her to take part in one last mission. She agrees because she has feelings for him and because she has now been won over to The East's cause.

On the way to the next mission Benji exposes his hand and tells Sarah that he knows she's a spy. He tells her that if she was ever down with the movement or truly had feelings for him, then she'd complete the mission and run away with him. She agrees to help. The mission is to retrieve a flash drive from the offices of Hiller-Brood that contains the names of fifty agents embedded in underground movements all across the world. Benji convinces Sarah that he only wants the list to spy on the spies; but what he really wants is to expose the agents to their organizations. She carries out the mission but when she finds out Benji's true intention she denies having stolen the flash drive. She tries to convince Benji that if they were to obtain the list it'd be better to talk the agents into giving up their careers as spies for the greater good. She argues if they only knew what they were really doing, they'd all turn just as she had. Benji refuses and they part ways. He, back to the underground, and she onto a one womyn awareness campaign.

The movie ends with clips of her talking to what appear to be other Hiller-Brood agents outside of oil refineries and power plants. The take away? Don't work outside the system in order to change it, work alongside it in order to change minds one persyn at a time.

Now let us examine this film from a Maoist perspective: "In the world today, all culture, all literature and all art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines. There is in fact no such thing as art for art's sake, art that stands above classes, art that is detached or independent of politics." (MIM Theory 13)

This should be our attitude and guiding line when viewing or reviewing art i.e, film, literature, music, etc. Only with this attitude will we be able to see thru the bourgeoisie obfuscation of art. Furthermore; "works of literature and art, as ideological forms are products of the life of a given society." Which means that what we as a society deem to be art can only be pulled from the consciousness of society itself. Art expresses not only individual, but society's wishes, its desires, its anxieties and its perceived problems.

Now we began this review by stating that this movie was aesthetically pleasing and filled with political content. Comrade Mao taught us that the most reactionary art in class society is both high in artistic value and filled with political content. And who's political views was this movie putting forward? The bourgeoisie's of course. But even though it is a bourgeoisie product with bourgeois aims we can still learn something from it that we can apply to our own movement. Hence, we should not totally discard it.

Overall, The East is painted in a very positive light in this film, highlighting the liberatory and egalitarian aspects of the anarchist sub-culture. What we are to take away from this is Sarah benefitted and learned from that experience, but goes on to have her real impact by working among the agents of the imperialists to convince them what they are doing is wrong. The whole premise assumes that people just don't know the destruction that these corporations are doing. While the details are certainly masked from Amerikans, the information is still readily available, and a historical analysis of this country will reveal much deeper roots to reactionary politics of the Amerikan consumer nation. A more damaging storyline that would be justified by this movie, which we see time and time again in real life, is the activist who participates in radical organizing to learn and build cred and then goes on to work within the system as Sarah does when they "grow up." This movie will play well with the radical-curious, who find their life's work in NGOs, non-profits and even government agencies. The good side of this film is that it could lead people to be sympathetic to the cause of radical ecology, despite its praise of reformism. There are also some good practical lessons in this movie.

The first lesson to take away from this film is that any movement that is truly working against the interests of the imperialists will simply not be tolerated. The agents of repression are always looking to smash movements of dissent and are constantly working vigorously to infiltrate and spy on us.

Secondly, we must be cautious of who we decide to work with and who we reveal ourselves to. Simply because we meet people who seem to share our political views does not mean they are comrades and thereby privy to our organization's actions or methods of work. Within sub-cultures, having the right look and lifestyle can lead to people putting their guards down for superficial reasons. Sarah demonstrates this, and there are many real-world Sarahs whose stories have been exposed. This essentially breaks down to "better, fewer, but better." And even good comrades can be turned, which we should keep in mind as well. The bourgeoisie and their spies are highly organized and we should be too. A good way of keeping security tight within our organizations is by keeping politics in command. No one who isn't putting in work should know anything about our organizations other than what is published in the pages of Under Lock & Key and the MIM(Prisons) website. Our work should always be geared along the lines of what will be the most effective and will get us the furthest fastest. As such, security within our movement shouldn't be something we study in addition to theory, but should stem directly from it.

Thirdly, we shouldn't necessarily have to like our comrades on a persynal level. Just because we like certain people or have relative unity with them on certain issues doesn't mean we recruit based on popularity. We recruit based on the correctness of one's political line and the type of work done over a period of time. When they were around, the original Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika was the vanguard of the communist movement in the North American continent exactly because they were composed of the communist elite. They didn't get to those positions overnight due to social networking, but because they put in the correct type of work over a sustained period. This is something else we should remember when building and re-building our movements. Thus, if we are serious about taking the socialist road then we must study and work assiduously to learn Marxist philosophy, scientific socialism and Marxist political economy so that we may integrate it into our work and apply the most correct political lines.

In conclusion, we must take art seriously and not cede the cultural wars to the bourgeoisie but must engage them on that level as well. For the bourgeoisie this movie was a hit due to its successful combination of aesthetics and politics. Therefore we must also seek to fuse the political with the artistic. Under Lock & Key already does this to a certain degree as the ULK writers struggle to make it the trenchant arm of the revolution. Right now however, what ULK lacks in artistic value it makes up in political worth, though there is much room for improvement.

Don't work alongside imperialism to change it one persyn at a time. Rather, work directly against it in order to smash it and revolutionize the world.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 38]
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Movie Review: The Lego Movie


The Lego Movie
2014


lego

This computer animated story could have been a feature length ad for the popular children's toy, funded by Lego itself, but it's not hard to read a not-too-subtle communist message into this movie. From the main plot it appears that Marx's conclusions are logical to anyone thinking about organized work and struggle against those dominating the world for persynal gain. What is particularly refreshing about this movie is the strong theme that heroes are not people with special talent but rather the masses are all heroes when we unleash their creativity.

The movie starts off in Lego world with regular ordinary construction worker Emmet, as he follows the instruction booklet for life, produced by the Octan Corporation, which details how he should dress, what music to listen to, the expensive coffee to drink, what brainless TV to watch, and how to do his job working with lots of other people building things that are without purpose and will be torn down to be built again another day. These workers are uncreative, but very cooperative in their work.

When it comes time to fight back against President Business, the CEO of Octan Corp., who is trying to dominate the world, it is Emmet who realizes that the collective organization of the workers is indispensable to building the resistance against Octan. In fact, the Lego heros (batman, spaceman, superman, NBA players, etc.) find their heroic individualism an impediment in their attempts to fight back as an organized group.

These are themes of Marxism, which sees that the organized labor of the industrial proletariat will make up the leadership of the communist revolution because of their unique position exposed directly to the contradiction of collective labor being deployed for individual profit. But there is another layer to this Marxist theme because the workers are not actually proletarian in the Lego land. There is no profit in the construction work which appears to just be happening to keep everyone busy. The workers are paid a high salary, judging from Emmet's living conditions. In reality these workers are a labor aristocracy just like we have in the imperialist countries today, where workers are bought off with the superprofits from exploitation of unseen workers in the Third World. The complete lack of productivity of the Lego workers underscores the impossibility that they are the ones creating the profits. No longer a part of the proletariat in the real world, these workers will defend imperialism against revolutionary forces to maintain their elevated standard of living. So we wouldn't actually expect them to lead the revolution that is serving the interests of the global proletariat.

However, at some point a contradiction may arise that is such a threat to the labor aristocracy that they will be compelled to join the forces of revolution. This threat will likely be life threatening, like Lord Business's plot to kill everyone. But until that contradiction arises, we should expect the labor aristocracy to join in the chorus of the Lego theme song "Everything is Awesome," and continue their unproductive labor, enjoying their capitalist-created entertainment.

In the beginning of the movie Vitruvius, the white-haired god-like leader of the forces of good, prophesies that there will be an individual who will rise up to lead the resistance and foil the ultimate plot of Lord Business. These strong religious overtones are nicely dispelled later when Vitruvius confesses that he made up the prophesy because he thought it would help average people believe in themselves, and in fact he knows that the creativity of the masterbuilders (heroes) exists within everyone.

In the end Emmet is able to convince Lord Business that he doesn't have to be evil and so the communist theme is undermined by the pacifist view that we can convince those with money and power to give up exploiting and oppressing the people of the world. Communists know that this fairytale ending is far from the reality that will require violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie, and ongoing military force to keep them from reclaiming power until we can transform society and create a culture that does not nurture individualism and profit over people.

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[Culture] [Rhymes/Poetry]
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No.


No. I do not believe in your government
never have never will
No. I do not support your wars
for your greed i will not kill
No. I will not sit back and shut up
nor play deaf, dumb and blind
No. I will not hear what you say
you can't corrupt my mind
No. I will not teach my children your hate
nor will i teach them your lies
I can see your true colors through your
red, white, and blue disguise
No. I will not go to your church
nor will i read your bible
No. I will not worship your god
fake prophets, a book or an idol

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[Culture] [Gender] [ULK Issue 36]
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Book Review: The Girl who Played with Fire


by Steig Larsson
Vintage books Zoro
Paperback $7.99
724 pages


Girl Who Played with Fire

More Gratuitous Sex and Historical Revisionism

This book is the second in a trilogy by Larsson which started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In it the two main characters, Mikael Blomkvist the journalist and Lisbeth Salander the tech savvy researcher, continue once more in a deadly hunt for truth. This time Blomkvist uncovers a sex trafficking operation and decides to publish a piece exposing these crimes against the people, when folks start getting murdered and his colleague Salander is implicated in some murders. And so once more the pair dive into another job to uncover the truth.

Initially I became interested in this trilogy after learning that the author, Larsson, was an "expert in Nazi organizations" and as a novelist his work would either consciously or unconsciously reflect this "expertise." Propaganda is a powerful medium whether in the literary field or in art and so I thought I would check out Larsson's second book in this trilogy.

This trilogy is drenched in violence and sexual abuse, even torture. I suspect his being immersed in Nazi history and ideology while developing his "expertise" leads to this tendency.

This book starts with the character Salander being on vacation in Grenada and gives a watered down version of Grenada's revolutionary history. Larsson writes: "Some two hundred years later, in 1979 a lawyer called Maurice Bishop started a new revolution, which the guidebook says was inspired by the communist dictatorships in Cuba and Nicaragua. But Salander was given a different picture of things when she met Phillip Cambell, teacher, librarian and Baptist teacher. She had taken a room in his guesthouse for the first few days. The gist of the story was that Bishop was a popular folk leader who had deposed an insane dictator, a UFO nutcase who had devoted part of the meagre national budget to chasing flying saucers. Bishop had lobbied for economic democracy and introduced the country's first legislation for sexual equality. And then in 1983 he was assassinated."(p. 15)

What Larsson doesn't say is Maurice Bishop was assassinated after an Amerikan instigated coup — think Libya most recently. Bishop attempted to free the Grenadian nation from imperialist influence and Amerika began to work toward overthrowing this nation just as it's currently doing to Syria. Larson, who no doubt was aware of this history, failed to be honest with the people about Grenada and the Amerikan invasion of marines once Bishop was assassinated. It would have been good to read the real story woven into this novel but instead Larsson states, in step with imperialism, "The United States invaded the country and set up a democracy."(p. 16) What the united snakes sets up after invasion is neo-colonialism, not democracy. Amerika is a parasite, compelled to exploit Third World nations.

In The Girl who Played with Fire, the character Blomkvist is approached to expose sex trafficking and so the book attempts to examine gender oppression:

"Apart from a handful of women working on their own who profit from the sex trade, there is no other form of criminality in which the sex roles themselves are a precondition for the crime, nor is there any other form of criminality in which social acceptance is so great, for which society does so little to prevent."(p. 113)

I don't totally agree with this last point in Amerika, although I agree that gender oppression is great and society does little about it in Amerika. But there is another form of criminality which is socially acceptable, and that is national oppression. In the United $tates, Brown, Black and Red peoples are overwhelmingly imprisoned, given life sentences and placed on death row or murdered in the streets by the state, and social acceptance is great. Many don't do shit about it, and others think the oppressed nations bring it upon ourselves. Chican@s are living under occupation. Aztlán, the geographical homeland of the Chicano nation (the southwest), was stolen by Amerika via murder and terror. Many Amerikans act as if this is normal. Even so-called "revolutionaries" like the revisionist RCP-U$A are against Aztlán regaining our land that is occupied by the imperialists. So gender oppression is not the "only" socially acceptable crime. Like national oppression, class oppression is also socially acceptable to many but this is something else Larsson leaves out.

The Girl who Played with Fire is filled with sex. At one point Salander, while vacationing in Grenanda, is having sex with a Black male teenager, who the author portrays as being eager but unsure of how to initiate sex with Salander, a white womyn. What the author doesn't reveal is this uncertainty in real life on how to initiate sex may be from centuries of oppression and lynchings of Black males after having sex with white wimmin, even if the womyn initiated sex or was the one who pursued the Black male in the first place. The character Blomkvist is having sex with Harriet, who was in the first book of the series. She is now a board member to the magazine Millenium where Blomkvist works.

Salanders old guardian, B Jurman, who raped her and who as a result she tortured in Dragon Tattoo, is back and in this book he hires some nazi-connected motorcycle club to take out Salander. She finds out and then her guardian turns up dead, along with two more people who are killed by a gun with Salander's fingerprints on the weapon. Salander becomes the prime suspect in these murders and so Blomkvist begins his own investigation to clear his ex-lover Salander's name.

Larsson describes how the character Salander, while being pursued for three murders, is targeted by the bourgeois press, and how all her past is blasted all over the front pages of Swedish newspapers. In one article they describe her as being placed in a psychiatric institution where Salander was placed in a room the doctor described as being "free of stimuli" for being unruly. The author discusses this solitary confinement: "When she grew older she discovered that there was another term for the same thing. Sensory deprivation. According to the Geneva conventions, subjecting prisoners to sensory deprivation was classified as inhumane. It was a commonly used element in experiments with brainwashing conducted by various dictatorial regimes, and there was evidence that the political prisoners who confessed to all sorts of crimes during the Moscow trials in the 1930s had been subjected to such treatment."(p. 450)

Larsson attempts to show how sensory deprivation is inhumane, a fact that those of us housed in SHUs across Amerika can agree with. But Larsson, as a true Amerikan apologist, points the finger at Russia in the 1930s for using such treatment. This is bullshit! Russia in the 1930s was building socialism while encircled by imperialism and fighting off attacks for being the world base for revolution. Russia in the 1930s was gearing up for the war with Nazi Germany, sending Soviet tanks to fight Mussolini's fascists. This was a time when comrade Stalin also fought the Soviet-Japanese war of 1939. There were counter revolutionaries working with the imperialists to uproot socialism, and in Russia during the 1930s those imprisoned were given a trial to see if they would stay in prison or be released or face other penalties. This is in contrast to the thousands in solitary confinement here who do not even get a trial! We can not even face our accusers! We are not placed in solitary for crimes or violence, but for our ideas, our thoughts or supposed beliefs! And we are kept in solitary until those brainwashed confess and implicate others after being subjected to this treatment by the capitalist dictatorial regime of Amerikkka! This is something Larsson refuses to admit in his capitalist propaganda books. It is common knowledge that Amerika imprisons a higher percentage of its people than any other country. Larsson does not even mention Amerika in discussing the use of sensory deprivation. My first "baptism" to a sensory deprivation cell by Amerika was at the ripe age of 12 so I'm well aware of what life is really like in the Amerikan capitalist dictatorial regime.

Salander soon learns that the persyn responsible for the murders she's accused of is an ex-Russian military intelligence man named Zala who she and her co-workers at Millenium magazine find out is also Salander's dad. Salander uncovers documents that track her life since childhood and reveal a coverup that has the Swedish government working with her father and providing him secret exile. The book ends with Salander attempting to take out her abusive father and ends with her father actually shooting and burying Salander, leaving her for dead, only to allow her to awaken in a shallow grave and unsuccessfully attempt to exact revenge on her wrongdoers. This book describes Salander as a lesbian man-hater but she only seems to exact justice on wimmin-abusers and stands up and takes on the most primitive patriarchal male chauvinists in her society.

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