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[Culture] [ULK Issue 30]
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Movie Review: Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

battle los angeles
U.$. Militarism saves the day from invading aliens
Here we have a movie (again) of extraterrestrials invading earth and killing its inhabitants. Meteors fall to earth that are actually complex life forms. Once again we see jingoism at its best by showcasing the Marines at the forefront of the fight for freedom and democracy. Scientists are at a loss to explain why the aliens are here until they see the water from the ocean receding. This is one thing the movie gets right when it shows a scientist saying that when a people are colonized for their resources, the colonizers must kill off/exterminate the indigenous population. My, are the chickens coming home to roost? Throughout the movie the director propagates heroism and sacrifice from the Marines, who in reality are at the front lines of genocide.

This movie has no use besides its sound effects. Perhaps an E.T. can come and obliterate the bourgeoisie in Amerika. That'll leave a power vacuum which we communists would be happy to fill. Another self promotion is what this movie is, as if Amerika has the solution to the world's problems. As a pile of shit walking around telling everybody they stink, so too does Amerika ignore the fact that it's the problem.

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[Culture]
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Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

girl with dragon tattoo
by Steig Larsson
Vintage Books 2005

I have been hearing the hoopla about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for a while now; it recently was made into a movie and so I thought I would try to find out a little about it. I learned that the author, Steig Larsson, was a leading expert on right-wing white extremist and Nazi organizations, and so I thought it would be interesting to see how much of his "expertise" spilled over into this "thriller." Larsson died in 2004 but not before completing a trilogy of which The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book.

The story starts off with the character Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who was convicted of libel after he wrote a story accusing a wealthy Swedish finance capitalist of corruption. Within the story one character is explaining the role of a certain investment group to Blomkvist called AIA which, after the Berlin Wall came down, was active in European capitalism and the character says: "Believe me, it was a capitalist's wet dream. Russia and Eastern Europe may be the world's biggest untapped markets after China. Industry had no problem joining hands with the government especially when the companies were required to put up only a token investment."(p26)

Nations that were formerly socialist switched back to a profit-based system and opened up their markets to foreign investment. In the later stages of imperialism, where markets are saturated and there is too much capital to move around, this is in fact a "capitalist's wet dream" and corporate power often merges with the state in a carpool lane down the road of exploitation. This wet dream is one the author seems to understand quite clearly.

The other main character in the book is a bisexual women named Lisbeth Salander who is a 20-something white punk rock type who is a hacker and gifted investigator.

Blomkvist is hired by one of the heads of a Swedish wealthy industrialist family, Vanger, who wants to know who murdered his niece, Harriet, who disappeared decades before. The catch is Blomkvist must live one year on the island from which Harriet disappeared and investigate. In return Blomkvist would not only receive millions of dollars for attempting to solve this mystery but the industrialist would also give Blomkvist information on the finance capitalist which had Blomkvist convicted of libel, thus getting his personal revenge and having the biggest story of the year.

Blomkvist soon learns Vanger's brothers were both active in Swedish politics, one being a Swedish Nazi Party member and the other being a nationalist party member, while Vanger claims to have "no interest in politics." Vanger went on to study economics ironically.

Sprinkled throughout the book is the underlying subjectivism I was looking for in Larsson's writing, any "expert in Nazi extremist" groups would be expected to expose h ideas in a novel one way or another and Larsson does not leave us hanging.

He describes an angry email that Blomkvist received, stating: "I hope you suck cock in the slammer you fucking commie pig" (p190) and which Blomkvist saves in the "intelligent criticism" folder. A character named Lobach is described in Nazi Germany: "And Lobach knew how to land a contract, he was entertaining and good natured. The perfect Nazi." (p197) It is obvious where the author's line lies, for an "expert" on Nazism to describe a Nazi character as good natured in this book attempts to repackage these fascist scumbags as palatable to the reader, it's classic propaganda in the form of a novel.

At one point the young punk rock woman is raped and forced to perform oral sex on her "guardian" who is court appointed to handle her finances. This trustee named Bjurman who rapes her is described as a member of Greenpeace, Amnesty International, and an advocate for political prisoners in the Third World. It's interesting that throughout the book those who advocated progressive social causes are rapists and villains while Nazi's are described as "entertaining and good natured." It was this interweaving of the author's line within a novel in classic propaganda spirit which I knew I would encounter in this book.

The main character Blomkvist serving two months in jail for the libel case but does not describe prison conditions nor relations in prison. His stint in prison was reduced to two pages and was described as mostly playing poker and lifting weights.

[spoiler alert] It turns out that the brother of the old man who initiated this investigation in the first place is a serial killer who has been killing wimmin for decades. And his father was a serial killer before him and taught him how to kill and dispose of bodies. Blomkvist discovers this and confronts the culprit, Martin, who places Blomkvist in a torture chamber in his basement. This reminded me of a Security Housing Unit cell: it had no window, it was cold and spartan and made of stone. It is Salander, The girl with the Dragon Tattoo, who saves Blomkvist from certain death in the torture chamber.

The book is drenched in sexual perversion with a womyn being brutally raped and sodomized by a man, a man brutally raped and sodomized by a womyn, a father raping his son and daughter, and this same father forcing his son to rape his sister. Such a book is common in capitalist society where everyone is sexualized and the consumer culture is fueled by porn and capitalist immorality.

In the end Blomkvist and Salander expose a finance capitalist who had his hand in everything from fraudulent loans to child porn. This billionaire, after being exposed, fled Sweden and was tracked down and murdered in Spain. After this story broke Blomkvist regained his journalist career. And to wrap things up nicely with a fictional bow, the old man Vanger found his niece Harriet living in Australia after running away decades before, fleeing rape.

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[Control Units] [Culture] [National Oppression] [ULK Issue 29]
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Rapper Beef Props Up Prison Spending and Isolation

chief keef
[This article was added to and facts were corrected by the Under Lock & Key Editor]

Recently, Chicago rapper Lil Reese signed a $30 million contract with Def Jam to make music. A day or two later he brutally beat down a woman for verbally disrespecting him. Lil Reese is an affiliate of another Chicago rapper, Chief Keef, who has also been making a name for himself for being at the center of controversy around violence in hip hop. A recent episode of Nightline addressed the fact that at least 419 people have been killed in a dozen neighborhoods in Chicago in 2012, more than the number of U.$. troops killed in Afghanistan where resistance to the occupation continues to grow. The program centered around a sit-down of 38 members of lumpen organizations in Chicago organized by Cease Fire, a group discussed in ULK 25. It also featured a Chief Keef and Lil Reese video to criticize Keef's anti-snitching stance. MTV.com reports that the participants almost unanimously agreed that it would practically take a miracle to stop the violence.

The misogynistic nature of rap music has been analyzed and explored thoroughly. This article is not meant to downplay the senseless violence against a humyn being, but the "powers that be" are using the incident with Lil Reese and programs like Nightline to formulate another sinister plot to target the oppressed nations in Amerika.

Chicago has had one of its most deadly years in terms of urban gun violence, and this has been attributed to Chicago street tribes and lumpen organizations. The Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre perpetrated by a man who claimed to be "The Joker" does not generate the same fear or threat that young Blacks and Latinos in the hood with guns do. Why is that?

Imperialists are not worried about white males in Amerikkka with guns. It is the oppressed nations that pose the most realistic threat to the oppressive imperialistic regime. We have seen the toll that the so-called "war on drugs" has had on our Black and Latino nations. Genocide, social control, and mass incarceration of the lumpen underclass; it's the Amerikan way! During the presidential debates both candidates agreed on keeping gun laws the same.

One of the most brutal social control programs is being formulated as we speak and it will be cloaked in a "war on gun violence." In truth it will be a death blow to urban street tribes and lumpen organizations. President Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder have pushed for one of the highest budgets for federal prisons and detention facilities that we have seen in years. The states are actually reducing their prison budgets because of the dismal economic conditions, but the feds are pumping up the volume! A whopping $9 billion dollars has been allocated for the U.$. Department of Injustice in 2013 for corrections, jails, and detention facilities. Of that, $6.9 billion has been allocated to the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2013, an increase of about 4% in tight fiscal times.

There is a prison in Thomson, Illinois that had been tagged as the location where Guantanamo Bay detainees were supposed to be housed after President Obama closed the barbaric torture chamber in Cuba. However the Amerikan public balked! They said they did not want these "dangerous terrorists" housed on Amerikan soil. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder still wants to purchase the prison in Thomson, Illinois and change it into a Super-Max just like the one in Florence, Colorado. 1,400 Ad-Seg/solitary confinement beds for "the worst of the worst" in Amerikkka. These beds will be for oppressed nations, just like the solitary confinement cells in prisons across the country.

MIM(Prisons) has reported extensively on the use of control units as a tool of social control. These torture units are used to target political organizers and leaders of oppressed nations who are seen as a particular threat to the imperialist system. We have been collecting statistics on these control units for years, because the isolation cells are often hidden within other prisons and no consistent information is kept on this pervasive torture within Amerika. We invite prisoners to write to us for a survey about control units in their state to contribute to this important documentation project.

For those facing violent conditions in Chicago or elsewhere who turn to despair, remember that there are many who come from the streets of that very city, from the Black Panthers to lumpen organizations, who have taken positive paths. If it weren't for the interference of white media and the police, things would be different now. Ultimately solutions to those problems must come from the people involved who don't want to be living like that, no matter how they brag about being tough in a rap. The way out may not be obvious, but things are always in a state of change. And when it comes to humyn society, it is up to humyns what that change looks like. Struggle ain't easy, but it is the only way if you have ideals that contradict with the current society under imperialism.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 28]
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Step Up 4, Revolution or Spectacle

Step Up Revolution protest scene
The Mob gets protest chic in their most controversial performance.

Step Up: Revolution centers around a dance crew called The Mob that is based in a "slum" of Miami, though has recruited members from all over the world. Their "slum" origins are questionable as they all have bodies of professional athletes and dress like models. And while The Mob always has the resources for the most fantastic props for their performances, we never see any signs of poverty or oppressive conditions in their neighborhood, except for almost being displaced by a development project. Like the billboards for this movie suggest, there is a focus on the forbidden love story between Mob co-founder Sean and daughter of the rich developer who threatens to destroy their neighborhood, Emily, throughout the movie.

The story line is mostly a joke as one would expect, since we all came for the crazy dance moves, right? The only semi-interesting line of dialogue in the whole film is when Emily challenges The Mob for not even saying anything in their art. This is particularly interesting juxtaposed to Sean's line throughout the film that The Mob was created so that their voices could be heard in a city where they are "invisible."

On the one hand, Emily's challenge is a valid critique when the leaders of The Mob are clear that they are all about being financially successful through their art from the beginning to the very last line of the film. At the same time, it perpetuates the idea that there is art without a message, which just isn't true.

This critique reflects back on the greater art form that is the film itself. This is apparently a popular genre now, building off the success of TV talent shows like American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance and America's Got Talent. Many of the performers in the movie are recruited from these shows, and are real-world examples of the success that The Mob is working for. The Step Up series of movies is all about providing the audience with an adrenaline rush with ever-more intense dance moves, soundtracks and visual effects.

It seems that they were pushing up on their limits in creating more extreme dance performances, and they stepped into the realm of protest art for a minute to up the ante with this latest edition of Step Up. In this genre there is often a strong element of competition, which can provide a source of drama and maybe a fight or two to add to the excitement. But this version stepped it up by having a dance crew that went up against the system, sort of.

The Mob actually starts out as a highly trained flash mob, rather than protest art. Instead of using performance art to convey a specific message in a more impactful way, the flash mob is a modern phenomenon that focuses on transforming the moment with no long-term goals or message. Building on Guy Debord's theory of the Society of the Spectacle, some think these disruptions of the spectacle that is the status quo is somehow a revolutionary act. Most just think it's neat and fun. And ultimately that is what The Mob is about, despite their short venture into protesting the destruction of their hood.

In the end the movie abruptly brings you back to the main motivation being financial success, which could have been the producers poking a bit of fun at those who came to see the movie looking for a more subversive message. But at the same time it was true-to-life in the way that dance and music are used in advertising to sell an image of rebellion and being extreme to youth with money to spend. This movie is very much part of that. But that phenomenon is much bigger in the way that oppressed nation culture, especially in the form of hip hop, was taken and sold to white youth as a form of rebellion, then sanitized by the white tastes that then shaped the culture and sold it back to Black youth as something that was supposed to represent them.

It is this aspect of culture that is hinted at in the film when The Mob says they "are everyone" and that they represent the culture of the neighborhood that the developers will destroy with their plans. In reality, the culture presented by The Mob is a very globalized and technologically-centered culture that does not represent one place or one people, but does reflect material wealth, large amounts of leisure time and mobility that is inaccessible to the majority of the world's people. The movie tries to pass this big-money pop culture off as a local scene threatened by big bad corporations. The timing and message was perhaps an attempt to play on the hype around the "99%" movement, who would see these rich kids as the poor.

But it would be wrong to say that the art and culture presented in movies like Step Up is "devoid of content," as implied by Emily's critique. There was a lot of sex and romance culture promotion in this movie, and in the dancing itself. There was a promotion of the art of dance as a big party. And there was the ever-present theme, dating back to Dirty Dancing (and probably before), of the need to break the rules to express yourself. But the source of conflict of this expression in Hollywood movies is usually centered around sexuality and romance. In Step Up: Revolution, fighting the redevelopment project becomes a cause that drives the dancers to break the rules. But even then, the message you are left with is that it is good to push the limits to be cutting edge in order to be successful at marketing yourself. The most radical action of The Mob is scarred as representing the low point and temporary breakup of the group, and it was the only time they actually got in trouble with law enforcement (who were unrealistically absent throughout the movie). It's like the successful politician or non-profit organizer who got arrested once in college for the experience and now has some street cred as a result, but never really represented a challenge to the system. While the term "revolution" has been perpetually overused in marketing, in a way to dilute the power of the word, to use the word in reference to this sort of rebellious behavior is even more insidious. Those who feel like they are doing something radical, when in reality they are part of the system that revolution aims to overthrow, are all too common in the belly of the beast.

This movie takes certain elements of flash mobs and overlaps them with political action in a way to make them seem more radical and powerful than they are. Flash mobs as a phenomenon play into people's desires to be a part of something bigger than themselves and are a combination of youthful rebellion and partying. While sometimes used for political messages as The Mob eventually does, they are generally post-modern forms of expression with no coherent goals or message. The Mob at least has the advantage over your standard flash mob for being well-rehearsed and planned out ahead of time by a dedicated organization, which allows them to easily focus their work on fighting the developers. While they had discipline and hard work, their class interests were what kept them focused on their financial success. The more common flash mob that brings together random people to a location for a party is representative of the same class interests. The post-modern art form takes group action, one of the most powerful tools we have, and makes it inherently individualistic and unconsolidated, making it a spectacle itself. It is much easier to mobilize a mass of petty bourgeois youth to create their own spectacle than it is to exert their power to challenge the system.

While we know this movie wasn't trying to enter into serious political dialogue for solving the world's problems, there are many people holding desires for a better world that end up putting their energy and enthusiasm into self-indulgent dead ends. While dance can be revolutionary, the revolution will not be a dance party. If changing the world was all fun and sexy, don't you think it would have happened by now?

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 27]
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Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White in long-term isolation cell

Snow White and the Huntsman is a more in-depth, live-action take on the Disney classic. A variety of themes are explored in this film that were glossed over or undeveloped in the animated version, but the basic plot remains the same.

The story begins with Snow White as a small girl. Her mother falls ill and dies. Shortly thereafter the widower king is drawn into battle with a "dark and mysterious" army, whose warriors are made of obsidian or glass. The army is defeated and a prisoner, a beautiful womyn, is rescued. The king marries the prisoner the very next day, and she quickly is revealed to be an evil witch. The new queen kills the king, locks Snow White in a tower, and destroys the entire kingdom. How Snow White survived her decade of solitary confinement was not addressed in the film, but would have been interesting for us to analyze and likely criticize.

The queen was under a spell that kept her the fairest in the land, so long as she sucks the youth and beauty out of young wimmin to constantly replenish her powers. This beauty enables her to manipulate people who are distracted by her good looks, and to cast spells of her own. The spell can only be broken by "fairest blood," and as Snow White comes of age in her prison tower, she becomes a threat to the queen's powers. The magic mirror on the wall instructs the queen to eat Snow White's heart so that she will become immortal.

The queen's brother goes to retrieve Snow White for a meeting with the queen. Of course Snow White escapes, and through a course of events leads a revolution to take back the kingdom from the evil queen. It is Snow White's "purity" and "innocence" (as well as a blessing from a forest creature straight out of Princess Mononoke) that give her magical powers to overcome the queen's spells and tricks. A classic Jesus story, complete with a resurrection.

When the evil queen first took power, the subjects initially tried to resist her rule. They were defeated each time, and eventually everyone gave up, broke into sects, turned alcoholic, and warred with each other just trying to stay alive. An oracle dwarf identified Snow White as having a "destiny." It was only the power of this destined leader that could bring everyone together and overcome the evil queen.

The take-home lessons from Snow White and the Huntsman are defeatist. "Find a good leader and follow them." "People's struggle isn't winnable." "There's nothing you can do to challenge the all-powerful status quo." These are typical messages to be expected from a mainstream Amerikkkan movie.

The only theme that was remotely interesting was the queen's views on gender and beauty. She has been a victim of beauty for twenty lifetimes and has built up a lot of resentment toward men. This resentment comes up in her murder of the king, because she is distrustful of men, who will just throw her out when she ages. In a later scene, she is assessing two male prisoners who have just been captured, and one is young and handsome. Before killing him with her own fingers, she gives a monologue about how he would have been her ruin, but instead she will be his ruin. This is a good critique of the fetishization of youth and beauty and its contribution to a variety of mental health challenges people in our society must face. Had the queen not been valued by men only for her beauty, she may have been a more benevolent dictator, at least to the handsome young men who cross her path.

Snow White and the Huntsman doesn't get my recommendation. We don't need any more encouragement in our society to drink our sorrows about the status quo away, waiting for our own Snow White. And it's unnecessary to wait, because your Snow White is you!

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 29]
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Movie Review: The Hunger Games

debriefing beating

The Hunger Games
2012

Hunger Games is set in Panem, a society that, it is implied, rose from the postwar ashes of north America, and now consists of The Capitol and the 12 fenced off satellite Districts. Many of these Districts produce wealth for the Capitol while their people live in poverty. There is apparently no national oppression (most people are white), but class contradictions are sharp. The Hunger Games are annual fights to the death by two kids representing each of the Districts. In the wealthier districts, kids train for this and consider being picked a privilege. In the poorer districts families are forced to sell their kids into the hunger games in exchange for food required for bare survival.

Katniss Everdeen is from the mining District 12 where her father, and many other miners, lose their lives producing wealth they will never see. She volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the annual hunger games match.

The Hunger Games are broadcast live as reality programming. The Games are meant to remind the people of the power of the government. This brutal form of reality entertainment serves to keep the people of the districts distracted and obedient. Out of 24 participants, only one child lives.

This movie is part one of a trilogy. The books get much deeper into the politics of oppression, even in the first volume. But as a broad representation of the first book, the movie gets at the general system and has a correct message of resistance. Katniss refuses to play the game the way the Capitol organizers intend, inadvertently earning the support and respect of other Districts and inspiring resistance against the Capitol.

In one scene she pauses to pay tribute to a fallen child from another district who was working with her. In the end [spoiler alert] Katniss commits the ultimate snub against the Games, refusing to play to the death. She manages to outsmart the organizers but all she wins is the right to go home a celebrity of dubious distinction for staying alive.

There are some good lessons from this Hunger Games movie. The importance of unity across oppressed people in the common cause against the oppressors is reinforced both in the individual alliances and the cross-district support of Katniss. The movie also demonstrates the brutality and distraction techniques of the ruling class and their willingness to stop at nothing to retain their power. There is an interesting subplot about the two main characters from District 12 pretending a love interest as a survival technique to get the support of "sponsors": wealthy people who can pay to provide advantages to their favorite players. Using whatever means available for resistance is important for the oppressed, though the actual romance in the movie dilutes this message.

The movie is adapted from the first of a trilogy of books but some of the politics of the books are already quite muted in the movie and it will remain to be seen how well the sequels represent the struggles of the oppressed.

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[Culture]
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In Time: Proletarian Premise with Focoist Mistakes

Set in the year 2161, In Time is a science fiction film portraying a world where people stop aging when they hit 25 years old. At that point they have one year of life in their bank, and living time has become the currency instead of money. When a person’s time runs out they die instantly, and so rich people have lots of time, while poor people live in ghettos, living day to day, barely earning enough to survive another 24 hours. Poor people literally have to rush around to earn enough time to survive, eat and pay their bills, while rich people can waste time relaxing or doing nothing, without fear of death.

This movie has a solid proletarian premise with the few rich bourgeois people living at the expense of the poor masses. “For a few immortals to live many people must die.” The movie’s hero, Will Salas, learns that there is plenty of time for everyone from a wealthy man who is ready to die and transfers all his remaining time to Will in order to commit suicide. Will decides to use this time to seek revenge and end the brutal rule of the time rich.

When Will buys his way into New Greenwich where the rich live entirely separate from the poor masses, he meets a young woman, Sylvia, who suggests that rich people don’t really live because they spend all their time trying to avoid accidental death. This is not a bad point to make: capitalism’s culture is bad for everyone, including the bourgeoisie. But the case of Sylvia is a pretty good example of what happens in real life: only a very few of the bourgeoisie will commit class suicide and join the proletarian cause and the youth are the most likely to do this.

Sylvia and Will set out to steal time from Sylvia’s father’s companies and redistribute the wealth to the poor people. They plan to distribute time in such large quantities so as to bring the entire system down. This is where the politics of the movie fall apart. Capitalism will not be ended with a quick massive redistribution of wealth liberated from the banks by a few focoist fighters.

The In Time world includes police who enforce the system. The Timekeepers work for the wealthy to ensure the poor never escape their oppression. But the Timekeepers seem to have very limited resources and staff so it’s not so difficult for two people to out run and out smart them. And except for one key Timekeeper, the others are happy enough to just give up and stop defending the rich. Under capitalism the ruling class understands the importance of militarism to maintain their position and they won’t trust enforcement to just a few cops.

In another interesting parallel, In Time includes a few characters who play the part of the lumpen, stealing time from the poor. At one point, the leader of this lumpen group explains that the Timekeepers leave them alone because they don’t try to steal from the rich.

History has plenty of examples of a few focoists setting out to take back wealth to help the people and ending up in prison or dead, often bringing more repression down on themselves and the masses. A quick action to liberate money from banks will not put an end to the system of imperialist repression. True and lasting liberation will only come from a protracted struggle organizing the oppressed masses to fight and overthrow the imperialist system.

The other major political flaw of In Time is the complete lack of any parallel to the national oppression that inevitably exists under imperialism. In the movie the oppressed and the wealthy are mostly white. There are a few Blacks and people who might be other nationalities among the oppressed, but they all are oppressed equally. National distinctions have disappeared and class oppression is all that exists. While this is a fine science fiction premise, we fear that the Amerikan petty bourgeois audience will see in this movie false parallels to life in the U.$. where workers actually have more in common with the time rich people than the poor in the movie. The reason for this, found in imperialism and the superexploitation of colonial people, doesn’t exist anywhere in this movie. And with an audience that likes to consider itself part of the 99% oppressed, this movie is going to reinforce this mistake of ignoring the global context of imperialism.

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[Culture] [United Front] [ULK Issue 22]
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Soulja Boy Dissed by Amerikan Rappers

Fuck the Troops Soulja Boy

Millionaire popstar/rapper Soulja Boy stepped out of line in his latest video, and was reprimanded by Amerikan hip hop fans this week for his lack of patriotism. Under pressure he quickly apologized and took up the Demoncratic Party line claiming that he was only criticizing the two long wars, implying that the U.$. economy would somehow be better if the U.$. wasn't exerting control over the economies of the Middle East thru military occupation. This is what he originally said in the song Let's Be Real:

Fuck the FBI and the Army troops
fighting for what?
Bitch, be your own man.

While this was just a couple lines out of tons of bullshit he's spit, they're pretty strong words. Not known for being politically outspoken, there's no doubt his inspiration comes from the countless radical/nationalist MCs who came before him and influenced his thoughts and rhymes. He even outdid his adversary Ice-T who said "fuck the FBI," but never fuck the troops. The troops ain't nothing but the police for oppressed people in other countries; the CIA abroad is the FBI at home. Fuck oppression! Fuck 'em all!

While it was good to hear someone like Soulja Boy put out such strong anti-imperialist words, especially with all the 9/11 talk these days, it was discouraging to see the response and who's responding. There have been multiple diss songs and videos made in response to Soulja Boy, by hip hop artists in the military, at least some of which are from oppressed nations. The response wasn't just strong and swift, it came from his own fans and more generally from fans of hip hop music. In Under Lock & Key issue 10 we questioned whether hip hop was still a culture that represented the oppressed, and when you see these videos you really have to doubt it.

One Black male MC sports a shirt reading "America the Beautiful." His politics echo those of the white militias made up of ex-military people that are very critical of the government, but have much love for the country and respect for the troops and the privileges they fight for us to have. All of the artists seem to find that requisite "hardness," that is so integral to the gangsta rap persona, in their identity as U.$. soldiers. One threatens to waterboard Soulja Boy and pull out his finger nails.

The fact is, the pro-U.$. troops lyrics aren't that far from a typical gangsta rap song. The United $tates is the biggest gangster in the world, so that makes sense. The boys in blue are the biggest gang on U.$. streets. So we see gangsta rap too often reflecting and reinforcing the ideology of the oppressor, rather than challenging it.

In other Soulja Boy news, he is supposedly working on a remake of the film Juice, where he will play the role of Bishop, originally played by Tupac Shakur. On September 13, we commemorate not just the fallen soldiers of the Attica uprising 40 years ago, but it is also the 15th anniversary of the death of self-proclaimed thug and rapper 2pac. Pac was unique in keeping his music both gangsta and for the people; a fine line most can't seem to walk, and perhaps impossible today when gangsta rap is mostly a caricature. Unlike Soulja Boy, Tupac never apologized for shit, and he said some things that got people riled up. There is little doubt that his real connection to oppressed people in Amerikkka lead to his untimely death.(1)

While Soulja Boy's three lines don't compare to Tupac's legacy, in those lines we may have seen him connecting to the oppressive conditions he grew up in — a glimmer of truth. While the U.$. military is disproportionately Black (18% of military vs. 11% of general population), it is also disproportionately middle income.(2) The poorest 20% of the U.$. population was the most under-represented income group in the U.$. military in 1999 and 2003.(3)

Since the Vietnam war, Blacks have increased their over-representation in the U.$. military from a factor of 1.14 to 1.40.(2) This shows the effects of integration without providing Black youth with quite the same opportunities as their white counterparts. The increase in Black military recruits seems to correspond with an overall bourgeoisification of the Black nation. Not only were there fewer Blacks (per capita) in Vietnam than Iraq and Afghanistan, but Black power and linking it to the struggle of the Vietnamese against U.$. imperialism was widespread, and fragging of white officers and even all out fighting between Blacks and whites on bases was not uncommon.

As the Black nation becomes more bourgeois, the pressure to Amerikanize increases for Blacks of all socio-economic standings. To the poor and oppressed who see no hope in U.$. imperialism, we echo Soulja Boy's words, "Bitch, be your own man!"

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 23]
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Prison Themes Central to New Planet of the Apes Story

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the second remake of the original Planet of the Apes movie series. It is an origins story, replacing the Conquest of the Planet of the Apes story which was fourth in the original five part series. Conquest was released in 1972 and depicted a storyline clearly intended to parallel the Black liberation movement that had just peaked in the United $tates at that time, but with an actual successful revolution. Conquest and the final part of the original series, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, presented clearly revolutionary themes. Even the first couple movies of the original series did more to challenge white nationalism than this recent remake. This difference is due to the stage of struggle in the United $tates at the time.

Today, the first movie (released in 1968) is easily dismissed by the oppressor nation as a commentary on the "distant" past of slavery, rather than what were modern social injustices. When that film was redone in 2001, it did not live up to its predecessor's social relevance. Based on that disappointment, we expected a stronger effort to dilute the origins story for another hollywood blockbuster. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised to find that Rise actually maintained the revolutionary origins story, and even linked it to the modern prison struggle in relevant ways.

This movie probably won't be making the rounds in too many prisons due to the blatant themes of prisoners educating themselves and building unity to escape their abusive conditions. But there's nothing to learn from this movie that one couldn't get easily, and of course more usefully, from picking up any issue of Under Lock & Key.

Rise was pretty formulaic in story and form. It contains lots of fast battle scenes and loud music, and followed the predictable story line with flat characters. There were plenty of quotes from the original movie series thrown in as well as recognizable character names.

The good aspects of Rise were also simple, but surprisingly relevant. The strongest positive message we saw in this film was the need for self-determination and the struggle against integrationism. Caesar, a chimpanzee, and the hero of the story, refuses an opportunity given by his former benefactor to leave prison and return to the humyn world. In a few days or weeks Caesar develops an affinity for his fellow imprisoned apes, which trumps his many years living with humyns. He turns his back to Dr. Rodman and stays in prison to continue building and organizing with fellow apes. This is a very relevant point to the imprisoned population, especially in a day when the oppressed nations have reached high levels of integration into Amerika. With people shuffling in and out of prison and jail, it is easy to choose an Amerikan identity over that of the oppressed. We also see many who work tirelessly to get themselves out of prison, without ever joining the larger prison movement. Caesar is clear that alone apes are weak, but together they can be strong. This is a very simple yet relevant refrain to our current situation in the prison movement today.

An orangutan responds to Caesar's comments on unity by saying that apes are dumb, not unlike what many prisoners who write MIM(Prisons) say about their peers. The solution to this in the film, and the material origin of apes taking over humyn society, is in a virus produced by a bioengineering project. This allows ape brains to develop intelligence that they never could before. In real life, the imprisoned and oppressed do not face a material disadvantage in intelligence, but are set back by the oppressor's conditioning through both the carrot and the stick. In real life the ALZ 112 and ALZ 113 viruses from the film are instead Marxism-Leninism-Maoism: the tool that can give the oppressed the intellectual material they need to organize effectively.

As part of his organizing efforts, Caesar allies with a silverback (dominant) chimpanzee and puts him in a position of leading the group in sharing and developing a group consciousness, without the silverback really understanding at first. It was a good lesson in leadership within a United Front and how we might work with those who are recognized as leaders for their dominant roles within the group, but don't yet possess the leadership skills and revolutionary understanding to lead the oppressed down the road of liberation.

Just like in U.$. prisons, the apes educate each other in secret because they know that they will be targeted for special repression if seen. The interactions between the imprisoned apes and humyn captors is crude, accurately reflecting the basic relations in U.$. prisons for humyns today. In this way, Rise could play a small role in building consciousness among viewers that would make them more likely to be sympathetic of prison resistances such as those organized across California and Georgia in recent months. While the majority of the audience will find itself rooting for the apes while watching this film, in real life most will follow their own self-interests in the situation and root for the state in repressing any group that challenges the status quo.

Buck takes down California Highway Patrol helicopter allowing ape rebels to cross the bridge.

The role of Buck the gorilla gives us an important lesson in revolutionary suicide. In the final battle scene that takes place on the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, he takes a bullet for Caesar just before taking down the last humyns left standing who threatened the lives of other apes in the battle. He recognizes the unique capabilities of both himself and of Caesar and puts the interests of the ape liberation struggle above his own life to guide his actions. At this stage in the struggle we are not engaged in protracted war, but revolutionary sacrifice is still relevant to how we decide to spend our time and organize our lives, and even in peaceful struggles lives are sometimes taken by the oppressor. Buck's revolutionary suicide is an example of a sacrifice that had to be made in order for the ape struggle to continue.

In the end of the film, Dr. Rodman again plays the role of liberal integrationist asking Caesar to come back and live with him, saying "this is not the way." Caesar speaks a full phrase for the first time and says "Caesar is home" referring to the population of just-liberated apes taking up residence in the forest. Of course, in real life the consciousness of the oppressed internal semi-colonies leans much more heavily in the direction of integration than Caesar, who has actual biological differences from the humyn species. In the movie, differences between apes and humyns had just begun to weaken, whereas the socially imposed differences between the oppressed and oppressor nations inside the United $tates have eroded over many decades. Even if Caesar tried to integrate, he could never live the lifestyle of a humyn, in contrast to the large proportion of the internal semi-colonies that enjoy the comforts of imperialist exploitation.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 20]
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V: United Front Example on Television

V second generation

United front organizing is never easy, but once established it is the most effective way for various, weaker, sometimes opposing factions to come together and make their weight felt to defeat a stronger, common enemy. The television show "V," which airs Tuesday nights on the ABC network, portrays a somewhat good example of a united front. Of course not everything portrayed within this show is according to the Maoist strategy of United Front, but it does a decent enough job of introducing those who are unfamiliar with the concept to warrant checking out.

The show centers on a seemingly friendly encounter with space aliens who visit planet Earth. The space aliens first arrive bearing gifts of advanced medicine, superior technology and their trademark logo of "we come in peace." The show also focuses on a small, infant underground movement of humyns committed to unmasking the seemingly friendly space aliens for what they really are: hostile space invaders or intergalactic imperialists who have in all reality begun an undercover invasion of planet Earth, which most humyns either don't realize is taking place or are too busy being bought off to admit.

The united front portrayed in this show was started by an FBI agent assigned to the anti-terrorist unit; a liaison to the space alien delegation; a rogue priest; a space alien who's committed species suicide by coming over to the side of the humyns; and a so called "terrorist" who's wanted by the "international community" for supplying Third World liberation movements with weapons and guerrilla warfare training.

As a matter of fact, FBI agent Erica Evans was first tasked with capturing the wanted "terrorist." However, once she finds out what the space aliens are really up to by spying on underground anti-space-alien organizations with methods straight out of COINTELPRO, combined with her own near-death experience with the intergalactic imperialists, she decides that it's time to form an opposition to the invaders. So along with the alien species traitor Ryan Nichols and the rogue priest, they begin to seek out and court the wanted "terrorist." Despite the FBI agent's hate for this "terrorist" she knows that if this anti-space-imperialist movement is gonna be for real, then the humyn species is gonna need all the tactical assistance it can get, even if that means hooking up with her enemies.

This rag-tag band of individuals eventually unites to re-establish the then-defunct Fifth Column, an anti-space-imperialist movement originally founded by empathetic space aliens who committed species suicide in order to protect the prior oppressed species whom the parasitic space imperialists enslaved and wiped out.

In real life, the historical Fifth Column were Nazi infiltrators in several European states such as Poland, France and even the USSR, leading up to and during WWII. Their main objective was to sabotage and wreck government and military institutions for the purpose of softening the ground in preparation for Nazi attacks. The real Fifth Column was most notably brought to light by the Soviet Union's purge trials of 1937-38 which Stalin ordered to smash the fascist traitors. The Fifth Column depicted in the TV series is an anti-space-imperialists movement instead of pro-Nazi.

In the most recent episode the insurgent rogue priest known as Father Jack has become conflicted by the humyn death and collateral damage, so much so that he begins to endanger the movement by refusing to adhere to the Fifth Column's version of democratic centralism when it comes to the group's mission. Instead of kicking him out of the movement, they subject him to a sorry excuse of party criticism and then keep him around based on his laurels.

In countless other episodes the importance of the individual and the individual's needs are stressed to the point that it leaves the impression that if any one of the Fifth Column leaders doesn't get his or her way then the movement will suffer irreparable damage to the point that its very existence will be put in peril. While leaders are certainly important to any movement this show takes the meaning and importance of a leader to a whole different level.

In recent episodes they've also shown how the Fifth Column's small-scale focoist adventures have now inspired many other humyns across the globe to band together and form a larger mass organization of the same name to launch spectacular focoist attacks on the space-imperialists. Little by little however the Fifth Column has begun to land serious blows to the space invaders proving that a united front, though an uneasy and still developing one, does work. While we don't encourage the focoist approach of armed struggle without consideration of the imperialists' strength, the humyns on the show are at a tipping point where the space imperialists' sinister plans would have severe dire consequences if not immediately stopped.

In the original "V" series of the 80s, "V" stood for victory and the mass of humynity eventually came together to launch a protracted guerrilla struggle against the oppressor space imperialists. When that series ended the viewer was left doubting whether the humyns prevailed.

Who knows how this updated version of the series will turn out. In a realistic approach the humyns need to first get their shit right, and instead of launching their spectacular focoist attacks, they need to begin the long arduous task of building public opinion against the invaders to bring the bulk of humynity together for when the real battles begin.

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