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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
by Steig Larsson Vintage books Zoro Paperback $7.99 724 pages
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.
4 ___________ is a failed organizational strategy that enjoys much support among activists in imperialist countries who romanticize the call to arms and quick attacks on the enemy 6 Cultural nationalism was sometimes called ___________ nationalism by Huey P. Newton 10 A ________ party provides the necessary leadership for a revolutionary movement 11 The belief that everything is a matter of opinion 13 The 13th amendment abolished slavery except as a __________ for a crime 17 A system of landlords and serfs 18 Focusing your time on things that give you glory or that you somehow find personal pleasure in is called what? 19 A ____________ is anything available for sale or exchange 23 Was the farthest historical advance towards communism (3 words) 25 The only time it is correct to evaluate a practice in relationship to an idea is within that _____________. 27 ________ Science positively asserts that the earth once existed in such a state that no man or any other creature existed or could have existed on it 28 Where it does impose repression, the ruling class may gain the popular support of the bourgeoisified workers in favor of what? (3 words) 29 A practical matter of fact way of approaching or assessing situations or solving problems 30 Under this the state nominally owns the means of production 32 Organizing societies according to peoples' needs 33 Love of one's country 34 The group that pays others less than the value of their work therefore making a profit off of them 37 The appropriation of surplus labor from workers by capitalists 38 At one time was a state capitalist country 44 They often believe in a kinder, gentler capitalism 47 Before his death Mao said he only wanted to be remembered as a what? 48 A major part of the imperialist state used to prevent self-determination of oppressed nations. (2 words) 49 __________ is a crucial issue for all serious revolutionaries that has recently received popular attention following the release of information by an NSA whistle-blower 50 To believe in ________ is to believe in mysticism. 51 The class of people who own enough property that they would not have to work to make a living 53 The highest stage of capitalism 54 The system under which non-workers control the production of wage workers 55 This class is rarely employed, often living as parasites on other proletarians 56 The dominance of one group over others
1 A pig is a __________ officer 2 Developed the theory that a new bourgeoisie develops within the Party during socialism 3 The knowledge and application of knowledge on how to get from A to B the fastest 5 The most advanced stage of the science of revolution to date 7 Belief in one's own group being superior or of higher priority 8 _______ is a group of people defined by their relations to the means of production and their relationship to other people 9 A made up classification of people into groups to justify oppression through ideas of inferiority 12 Working class that benefits from the imperialist world's super exploitation of the Third World. 14 The Amerikan government has been promoting _______ _____ ________ politics for decades 15 The ____ - ______ refers to people who are exploiters but also must work 16 The belief in, or promotion of, ideas without basis in fact or without depth 20 Once labor is done 21 Marx said capitalism will ___________ solutions to homelessness, hunger, illness, pollution, and war. 22 Rashid wrote the "Don't ______ the Guards" handbook 24 When _______ fails it is the fault of the vanguard party 26 Democratic _______ is a key question of organizational strategy that helps to ensure both the security of the organization and the appropriate application of the scientific method in testing out line and strategy across the organization 29 The majority of the world's ______ have a material interest in revolution. 30 Extra profits derived from workers paid less than what is necessary to reproduce their labor (ie. feed their children) 31 Abolition of power of people over people 35 A concept based in reality that is defined by a group's land, language, culture and economy 36 Who got Russia out of World War I? 39 This type of persyn commonly downplays class struggle and overplays the struggle to increase production and technical progress compared with political views. 40 The ____________ originated in the industrial revolution which took place in England in the last half of the 18th century 41 They are free to sell their labor power (see 40 down) 42 The arrest of this group in China marked the restoration of capitalism. 43 _________ are imprisoned at rates 10 times those of whites for drug charges. 45 The condition of anorexia is a manifestation of gender __________ 46 An ideology based on pre-scientific thinking 52 ___ ____ culture is a more promising battle ground for the oppressed today than Egyptology or even kwanzaa.
The Butler portrays the life of Cecil Gaines, a butler in the White House for 34 years, starting in 1957. The movie is a fictionalized version of the story of Gene Allen's life. MIM(Prisons) sums up this movie as propaganda to quell the just anger of the oppressed nation masses, encouraging them to work within the system for small changes.
The focus of the movie is on the oppression of New Afrikans from the 1950s to the year 2008, dividing its focus between the White House and the successive Presidents, and the activists in the streets. In the streets the movie gives special focus to the Freedom Riders and Martin Luther King Jr. The movie derides the most important political leaders of the time, barely mentioning Malcolm X, and attempting to portray the Black Panther Party (BPP) as a brutally violent movement out to kill whites, just using the community service programs like free breakfast for school children as a cover.
The heroes of the movie include Gaines's son, Louis, who participates in the civil rights and activist movements over the years and eventually "learns" that the best way forward is to push for change from within, and runs for Congress. We see his dedication as a Freedom Rider, and fierce commitment to freedom and justice, as Louis literally puts his life on the line, enduring brutal beatings, repeated imprisonments, and constant threat of death. Louis moves on to work with Martin Luther King Jr. in a highly praised non-violent movement, and then joins the BPP after King is killed. Louis turns from an articulate and brave youth into a kid spouting revolutionary platitudes that he doesn't seem to understand, making the BPP into a mockery of what it really represented.
The other heroes of the movie are the U.$. Presidents. With the exception of Nixon, who is portrayed as a drunk, all the other Presidents are humanized and made to appear appropriately sympathetic with the civil rights movement. While they all are shown saying things clearly offensive, racist, and in favor of national oppression, each President has a moment of redemption. John F. Kennedy tells Gaines that it is Gaines's persynal history and the story of his son's activism that changed his mind on the need for the civil rights movement. Even Ronald Reagan is shown secretly sending cash to people who write to him about their financial problems, and telling Gaines that he's sometimes worried that he's on the wrong side of the civil rights movement. On a positive note, all of the Presidents were shown as reticent to take any positive action towards change until the popular movement forced them to act. This is the reality of any oppressor class.
Gaines does, in the end, come to the realization that real change was not going to come from the White House, and quits his job to join his son in activism in the streets. But this action is played up to be as much an attempt to reconcile his relationship with his son, as a dedication to activism itself. And the activism seems to end with just one protest. In the end, both Cecil and Louis celebrate the "victory" of Obama in the 2008 election as a sign that their battle is finally over.
The Butler does a good job of portraying the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, but only as a minor part of the plot. And it ultimately suggests that New Afrikans should be satisfied with an imperialist lackey in the White House as a representation of their success and equality with whites. It fits into a group of recent movies that Hollywood has produced, such as Lincoln and 12 Years a Slave, to rewrite Amerikan history to quell the contradiction between the oppressor nation and the New Afrikan internal semi-colony.
Much has been said recently about the overtly racist remarks made by one of the contestants on the "Big Brother" reality show. Viewers were shocked at the nerve of some of the show's participants, not only in the fact that they would say such things, but in the contestants' blatantly unapologetic attitude afterwards. After all, this is the 21st century, and according to some, we have moved beyond those inconsistencies in Amerika's past which had previously kept her from fulfilling the promise of its ethos. Most Amerikans (white people in particular) like to believe that although things like slavery and segregation are all a part of our nasty past we should all just forget and move on from this shameful hystory. Surely the United $tates has made great strides when it comes to "race relations," and Amerikans of all colors have never experienced a more collective prosperity than they do today, never mind the previously unthinkable: a Black man in the White House.
So why then does racism continue to exist? More importantly, how do we eradicate it? To properly answer these questions we must take it back to where it all began, and for this we'll have to revisit some ugly truths.
Origins of Racism: Connections to Capitalism
People forget that Amerika is a nation of settlers founded on genocide, slavery and annexation. This oppressive nation-building formula includes the more subtle forms of national oppression and the many different ways they are institutionalized and manifested in our society. One particularly malevolent form of national oppression, which most of us are all too familiar with, is of course racism and the more pernicious racial ideology from which it stems. But racism isn't simply some oppressive philosophical dogma utterly disconnected from the real world. Rather, racism and racial ideologies are direct products of national oppression, which is engendered by society based on property relations and the division of labor produced therein, which in turn has influenced how humyn beings have come to interact with each other in the struggle between the global "haves" and "have nots." In short, racism has not been around forever. As a matter of fact, the very concept of "race" didn't even exist prior to the 16th century. Racism and racial ideologies have only been around so long as capitalism itself has been around. The concept of "race" developed alongside the rise of modern society and not as usually believed as a remnant of the irrational and dark Middle Ages. What's more, the concept of "race" has been directly linked back to the primitive accumulation phase of capitalism, which is itself grounded in the first rape and plunder of Africa and the Americas. This primitive accumulation phase is clearly explained by radical eco-feminist and author Maria Mies when she stated that:
"Before the capitalist mode of production could establish and maintain itself as a process of extended reproduction of capital - driven by the motor of surplus value production - enough capital had to be accumulated to start this process. The capital was largely accumulated in the colonies between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Most of the capital was not accumulated by merchant capitalists but largely by way of brigandage, piracy, forced and slave labor."(1) And furthermore, "One could say that the first phase of the primitive accumulation was that of merchant and commercial capital ruthlessly plundering and exploiting the colonies' human and natural wealth..."(1)
What should be kept in mind here is that as feudalism disintegrated and capitalism came on the scene the common people, the peasants and the soldiers, needed to be reassured that what they were doing to the people of the colonies was not only in the beneficiary population's interest but the interest of the colonized as well. The European masses also needed to be taught that the colonized were less than humyn so as to discourage any feelings of solidarity amongst the oppressed. Hence, the racial ideology was borne, which wasn't just about the innate ignorance and stupidity of the colonized, but of their innate treacherousness and savagery as well.
Examples of Racism in National Oppression, Yesterday and Today
Racism as a building block for the rise of the modern western world was as indispensable for that society as it is to the continuing subjugation of nations and the integrity of the First World today. Testimony to this is the way that the people of Islam have been demonized as "dark" and "backward" by the "civilized" west who sees itself as "exceptional." Thus the role that racism has played in gaining public support for the current wars of conquest is undeniable. One need only examine how Muslims, who were Amerikan citizens, were vilified and attacked by settler violence following the retaliatory attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon under the guise of "Amerikan Patriotism." The conscious connection of these actions to the collective white history of colonialism in Africa is manifested in the term "sand nigger." What this "Amerikan Patriotism" really translates into is a special brand of oppressor nation chauvinism, and a vehicle for white power in the 21st century. It is particularly popular and appealing to Latin@s and New Afrikans who think they can fully integrate into Amerika by becoming agents of imperialism and uniting with the oppressor against the people of the Third World.
Therefore the revolutionary character of militant Islam, seen when it is waging war for the independence of Muslims from U.$. imperialism, should be supported by the oppressed nation lumpen as it is objectively an anti-imperialist struggle despite the reactionary views of those leading the struggles, whether it's Al Qaeda or Bashar al-Assad and their associates, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism. The struggle of the West and their "democratic" running dogs in the region strengthen the victory of imperialism. Real communists know that there are only two sides to a battle, therefore it is our duty to unite all who can be united in the camp of the oppressed and build a United Front against the imperialists and their racist backers! In his day, Stalin had to combat those promoting a "third way" between the socialist camp and the imperialists, pointing out that those who broke away from the Soviet Union inherently joined the imperialist system, becoming victims of it. The lack of a socialist camp today does not change the bankruptcy of the third-way idealists. Revisionists today point to the forces waging war in the Middle East and call them the "Two Outmodeds" and are peddling a third way out for the oppressed. However, this third way out is itself reactionary and anti-revolutionary, and if upheld will in fact reinforce the very same imperialist structure it pretends to be against, by weakening national unity of the oppressed. This is one lesson we take from the theory and practice of United Front in the Chinese war of liberation against Japan.
Racism as Pseudo-Science and Glossing Over of the National Question
Purveyors of racial ideology fancy themselves as being backed by science, and indeed there is a "science" to racism, it's called eugenics and it stresses the genetic makeup of people as determinant of their "natural" abilities and inclinations. Eugenics was developed as justification for the oppression and enslavement of non-white people and outlaws alike. It was, however, thoroughly criticized and debunked by the wider scientific community for, among other things, not being an objective and quantifiable method of analysis of the humyn species. While most people today have hardly heard of eugenics it was certainly popular back when England had stretched the tentacles of the British empire (forerunner to U.$. imperialism) all over the Third World, while here in Amerika the slave owning south was likewise using it for the continuing oppression and enslavement of the New Afrikan nation.
The lack of scientific relationship to biology since there is only the human race.
The creation of categories of inferior and superior based on arbitrary characteristics and definitions.
The creation and perpetuation of a system of oppression of the "inferior" group in all aspects.
The re-enforcement of a relative differential in treatment - and it's ideological justification between those considered inferior and those considered superior.
The use of race as a principal means for social control.
Rendering irrelevant the experience and viewpoint of the subordinated population except and insofar as interpreted by dominant populations. This specifically has been applied to African descendants, Indigenous peoples, Asians, and Latinos, those usually referred to as "people of color."(2)
Author Bill Fletcher, to whom the above is attributed, explains: "Race is, then, not a state of mind, but a socio-political reality. Even though there is no scientific basis for race, it occupies a real space and the institutions of the racial-capitalist society reinforce this reality every day."(2)
We'd also add that the false concept of "race" is a social construct originally based on power struggles between humyns in the pre-capitalist era of slavery, and it has done much to gloss over the fact that the oppressed internal nations of Chican@s and New Afrikans are separate nations from the Amerikan nation (white settler-state), with separate hystories distinctly their own. Therefore we speak of nations and nationalities where most people speak of "race," in order to refer to a group of people who share a common language, culture, territory and economy. The concept of nations is thus more accountable to hystory and is firmly grounded in material reality. (See "Marxism and the National Question" by J.V. Stalin.)
Methods for Resolving the Principal Contradiction
Despite the fact that the concept of race has been repeatedly disproven, proponents of racial ideology and the national oppression it engenders (and vice versa) hold steady to their un-scientific beliefs. And to a certain extent this is fine. They have their beliefs and prejudices, but we have science! We know where they stand and we know that the oppressed people of the world will not sit idly by but will take up armed struggle against the imperialists to impose the will of the people on today's oppressor nations. What isn't fine however are the so-called allies of the oppressed nations within the Amerikan "Left" who mistakenly call themselves communist yet go about espousing the concept of "race." Whether they are speaking about the common cause of all the "races" that are equally oppressed by capitalism-imperialism, or whether they are agitating around the "race issue" here in Amerika, they're of no great help. They are immediately caught in the irrevocable trap of idealism, and that is no attitude for a communist to have. First, these idealists objectively hurt the revolutionary movement within U.$. borders by elevating the problem of "race" to that of principal contradiction when in fact there is no problem of race. There is a problem of imperialism and national oppression. Secondly, they deny that the principal contradiction is imperialism vs. the oppressed nations by emphatically denying that there are any other nations in the United $tates besides Amerika. Some have opportunistically come to acknowledge New Afrika, while denying other nations' existence, not because they are dialectical materialists, but because they're focused on pulling numbers to their side. Lastly, by denying the concept of nations and national liberation and instead focusing on multi-racial unity they deny the theories and practice of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao, as well as the revolutionary movements they spearheaded and the many national liberation movements that followed in their traditions.
Racism in the United $tates or any other place in the world will not be wiped from the earth solely by educating it out of existence, but by getting rid of the many material conditions and relations from which it springs. Racism is a product of national oppression, hence we must focus on uniting the oppressed nations for their own liberation from this jailhouse of nations that is the United $tates. Only then will we seriously be able to talk about combatting racism as a backward idea from another period of history.
by a North Carolina prisoner October 2013 permalink
The imperialists hide their flaws By sewing our mouths shut in a web of their laws Bury the real history by censoring the library As long as we follow we will never be free Kidnap our children and destroy our communities They will never be able to burn all of the books The truth is there for those who look Knowledge is something that no tyrant ever took Follow the signs, read between the lines, uncover their designs That keep our minds in these confines Separate the truth from the lies Remove these blinders from our eyes It's time to wake up Time to get up, to stand up Let us all rise up The sleeping giant to overthrow the tyrants in a spirit of defiance With conviction, separate fact from fiction Spread our wings and bow to no kings Empower the masses to kill the fascists and destroy all classes Together we stand, divided we fall Walk tall because life in a cell is no life at all And I refuse to die inside these walls Duty calls When they say cease and desist We say rise and resist