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[Drugs] [Economics] [COVID-19] [Prison Labor] [ULK Issue 73]
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LETTERS: Profits, Taxes, Investing, Fundraising and Weed

Capitalism in Smoke

A Kansas Prisoner: I would like to comment on an article by Wiawimawo (August 2019) concerning Tulsi Gabbard, prison labor, and drug decriminalization.

There is zero question that Kansas is using prisoners for cheap labor and profiting tremendously from multi-year sentencing of first-time drug offenders like myself.

I “earn” sixty cents per day to perform a skilled labor sewing position full time. If I refuse to work I will receive a disciplinary work report resulting in my custody security level to rise.

There is a 30-person crew that works at the Kansas State Fairgrounds year round. These prisoners also receive 60 cents per day. The fairground complex could not operate without prison labor.

These jobs are not maintaining KDOC prisons. They are part of the state prison economy, for the profit of the state.

Also, this prison takes 50% of the earnings of all private industry job income prisoners earn. At the private industry jobs, prisoners make minimum wage ($7.25/hour). Incarcerating probation-eligible offenders to minimum-custody facilities to work is proof that in Kansas, exploiting prison labor is a motivating force for mass incarceration.

In almost every other state I would not have been sentenced to prison for possession of medical cannabis.

I understand the point of the article was to look at medium and long-term goals. As a non-violent, non-victim, first time drug offender I believe cannabis decriminalization is a goal worth pursuing. Thousands of people in Kansas have been incarcerated by a corrupt, prison labor motivated criminal justice system.

Is the author agreeing that non-violent, non-victim, first-time cannabis offenders should be working for 60 cents a day to assist the state economy and provide cheap labor for giant factory farms in Kansas? When I see corrupt judges play in to this state economy, there are no myths in my first-hand facts. If I am misinterpreting Wiawimawo’s writing, please clarify what the author intended.

Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: First, thanks for the details on how prison labor works where you are in Kansas. We regularly publish such reports on our website and use them to keep tabs on the realities of prison labor over time. You are our on the ground reporters for everything going on in U.$. koncentration kamps.

One thing you don’t specify is who you are making clothing for at your job. That is an important factor. Usually people are working on clothing and sheets and now face masks for other prisoners to use. That would be work for the prison system, not for profit. Similarly, running the fairgrounds is for the state. These are parallel to the examples of fire fighters given in my original article.

None of these jobs are making profits for anyone, which you seem to have confused. Multiple times you refer to Kansas as profiting from prisoners. States do not make profits. They have revenue and expenses, and they can run over budget if they want with expenses being greater than revenue by issuing bonds. Now the bourgeois definition of profit is netting more money coming in then you put out in expenditures. But even bourgeois economists do not use this terminology in regards to states. As Marxists, we define exploitation as paying workers less than the value that they produce and then selling the product (or service) to realize the full value. This is the source of wealth accumulation in capitalism.

Now to the prisoner sewing clothes for 60 cents a day, it matters little whether those clothes are to be used for state-issued use or sold in a store. So i can understand where you’re coming from. But if we want to explain how the prison system works in this country this becomes an important distinction. It is not profits for big businesses to accumulate capital that drives the system. It is a combination of financial self-interest of the people who work in these institutions, people who some would have us see as the oppressed proletariat themselves, and the broader interests of the oppressor nation to control the oppressed nations in this country. Through this control of the oppressed nations by Amerikans through criminalization and imprisonment, they can further gentrify the places oppressed nations reside and create further economic control for themselves. This is the heart of our analysis. And it is why we have a very different orientation than the petty bourgeoisie who is opposed to private prisons for profit and favor drug decriminalization as discussed in my original article.

“Is the author agreeing that non-violent, non-victim, first-time cannabis offenders should be working for 60 cents a day to assist the state economy and provide cheap labor for giant factory farms in Kansas?”

No, i do not argue that. We argue for more change, not less. We are not reformists, and we don’t think drug decriminalization in the United $tates will eliminate national oppression nor drug addiction. If done well, it could reduce these problems, and the specific expression of drug problems such as marijuana consumption. Therefore the reform is progressive, but it does not solve the problem of national oppression and the criminal drug economy. We have much better solutions for national oppression and drug addiction, and they certainly don’t include imprisoning people for victimless behavior. They do include eliminating profit motives in all aspects of our lives. In the meantime, we support an international minimum wage that would apply to prisoners.


A California Prisoner: The Covid and imperialism article in ULK 72 sparked my interest because I am already vaccinated and I had to ask myself why I, a prisoner, was vaccinated before tax payers? The answer was pretty simple logic. Prison is huge profit for California and the cash cow has been closed for Covid crisis, the sooner California can reopen the prisons, they can continue to rake in the profits they make from our suffering.

Wiawimawo responds: There was a significant effort in California by lawyers and activists to get prisoners to the top of the vaccination list. And this is at least part of the explanation as to why you got vaccinated early. It made sense from a public health standpoint, but this did not happen across the country because many Amerikans don’t care about prisoners’ lives.

It is not clear why you argue that profits dried up in prisons during the shelter-in-place, so i would need more information on that to respond. But as i explain above, states don’t profit from prisons. Prisons are a huge financial expense and do not create any economic value. Prison labor is one way to slightly reduce some of the expenses in running these prisons.(1)

All that said, i want to address this comrade’s talk about the “tax payers.” The vaccination campaign across the United $tates is being paid by the Federal government. The government has now passed a series of bills in the trillions of dollars to address the fallout from the pandemic. This is not “tax payer money.” They are just printing money, or creating money out of thin air to fund these programs. Since the dollar is the global currency, they can do this with some confidence that other countries and investors will buy up the bonds to cover the expense. It’s all funny money that we benefit from here in the United $tates, even those in prison benefit at times, thanks to our position as the premier imperialist power.

This is in stark contrast to countries like India and Brazil that are now being hit hard by the pandemic and the people are being offered little relief. One reason is that these countries can’t just print $1 trillion worth of their currency without causing massive inflation and damaging the conditions of the people more.

To the extent that it is “tax payers” who are helping to balance the budget deficit in the United $tates, we must also be clear where that money is coming from – the Third World proletariat. The above is just one demonstration of how value can flow from the periphery to the imperialist countries. This is reflected in the incomes of all U.$. citizens, who must give some of those super-profits to the state to keep the imperialist system running.

So let us not shed a tear for the poor “tax payer” in this country because California actually made some efforts to vaccinate people in a way that made sense in terms of promoting public health. There is no shortage of vaccines in the United $tates. In fact, we have far more than we need, while other countries have not even begun vaccinating their populations yet. If we were really working in the interests of public health, we would have a more equitable distribution of vaccines across the globe. We’d be prioritizing hotspots, which the United $tates is. And we’d be sharing the technology needed to make vaccines freely, releasing the intellectual property that is holding back progress in the fight against COVID-19. Failure to do so means that the virus will continue to evolve and likely continue to be a problem.


A New York prisoner: In response to ULK 72 (2021) article “Help Fund MIM(Prisons), Donate Now!”, I would like to offer a suggestion outside of charity from donations which seems to be a necessary form of income for the production, maintenance & shipment of ULK’s. What if MIM took some of its donations and invested them in the stock market? I know that seems pro-capitalist, but as the old adage goes you gotta fight “fire with fire.” Making a few short-term trades could possibly boost revenue for expenses (solely), and make donations a welcomed part of production but not so necessary. This would keep MIM’s line of no foreseeable future in capitalism by not becoming long-term investors in the stock market, but instead looking for quick returns in order to fund revolutionary work (i.e. short selling, which is basically betting against the U.S. market, which is still in some ways inherently communist behavior). I am enclosing an articled dated 11 January 2021, “Jay-Z Fund to Help Minority-owned Cannabis Businesses.” What do you think about this venture? I don’t really believe lumpen have the luxury of investing in non-essential production/consumption as cannabis right now, when they don’t even have land to cultivate on. But financial freedom is nonetheless a form of independence… so keep on keeping on Jay-Z!

Wiawimawo responds: First, we agree with using the oppressors’ tools against them, and have no moral qualms about the stock market. Proletarian morality means we do what will most benefit the liberation of the exploited and oppressed. Whether it is a wise investment is another question. Conventional wisdom is that it is a good long-term bet, but unpredictable in the short-term. As for shorting, well hedge fund Melvin Capital Management lost 53% in January in its infamous shorting of Gamestop.(2) They lost about $6 billion on that bet. That’s what the stock market is, gambling.

Now cannabis businesses, that might be a more sound investment. As the article points out, and as i discussed in my article on Tulsi Gabbard mentioned above, the legalization of weed has been a bonanza for white petty bourgeois interests trying to get small businesses up and running before the large corporations dominate the market. New Afrikans are under-represented in business ownership overall at just 10%, but in the states listed that number was 3-6% for cannabis businesses.(3) Jay-Z, and New York State are correctly recognizing this gap and trying to do something to not let it happen in New York.

What do we think about this? More equal opportunity for the petty bourgeoisie just reinforces imperialism. When it was illegal, oppressed people selling weed were targeted by the state and potential allies to the anti-imperialist movement. People running successful weed businesses aren’t likely to be our allies, regardless of their skin color.

The weed game is in a major transition. It is still in a semi-legal state, where the Feds could crack down on you (and they have). Getting access to loans and bank accounts can be difficult as a result. One group that is proving successful as early pioneers in the trade are former law enforcement. They are less likely to be targeted by the state than a former felon, and they have clout to deal with the pressures from extortion rackets and the lumpen organizations they are competing with. Therefore as revolutionaries, the weed business might be risky.

You suggest that we need to invest in stocks to free us from our reliance on donations. On the contrary, we are trying to become more reliant on donations so that our cadre don’t have to worry so much about funding everything ourselves, which we do by working or investing or whatever. Maybe some of us are investing in the stock market to fund this work, but that is not a reliable source of income. We want to be going strong when the market collapses again. And that is why we want to be reliant on the financial support of the masses. Only by relying on the people is our future secure.

As i said above, legalization of weed will not eliminate national oppression in the forms of cop killings and disproportionate imprisonment rates. It will make pacifying substances more readily available to the masses. And for better or for worse it will undercut the underground economy in favor of public tax revenue. And that is what this is about of course, it is providing tax revenue to maintain government funding at the local and state levels.

Until the import of weed is legalized by the feds, this shift of production to the United $tates will be undercutting a source of profits in the drug trade – the Third World farmer. Historically the farmers who grow and process weed are the ones being exploited in Third World countries. As production shifts to the First World, wages will have to increase to exploiter-level wages, with the possible exception of using migrant labor from the Third World. This means the profits must come from other sectors in the Third World instead, to pay the farmers, marketers, sales people and accountants in the First World running the new weed economy, as well as the state taxes. If the exploited weed farmers are eliminated, then the profits must now be squeezed from the banana farmers or copper miners, and all the other exploited workers of the Third World. This puts more pressure on the already dangerously low international rate of profit.

Finally, we agree with your point about land. Without land there is no power. National liberation means liberating the territory of the oppressed. Owning land as individuals is not it. Oppressed nations must control land as independent nations, and be able to defend that land. This is a central task of the New Democratic movement.

Notes:
1. MIM(Prisons) on U.$. Prison Economy - 2018 Update, Under Lock & Key No. 60.
2. Juliet Chung, 31 January 2021, Melvin Capital lost 53% in January, Hurt by GameStop and Other Bets, The Wall Street Journal.
3. Vial Monga, 21 January 2021, Jay-Z Fund to Help Minority-Owned Cannabis Businesses, The Wall Street Journal.

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[Economics] [Abuse] [COVID-19] [ULK Issue 73]
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Stimulus Checks Are Being Stolen by TDCJ-CID

[MIM(Prisons) are not lawyers. The legal information provided by jailhouse lawyers in ULK is verified to the best of our ability. This particular issue seems like a winnable battle based on the information provided, but winning will take more effort by comrades in Texas.]

Prisoners in Texas are having the money from their stimulus checks taken by the state to pay fees and restitutions. Section 272(d)(2) of the Consolidated Appropriations Act provides that the second round of stimulus checks ‘shall not be transferable or assignable, at law or in equity, and no applicable payment shall be subject to execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process, or the operation of any bankruptcy or insolvency law.’ This means that this round of stimulus checks may not be garnished to cover overdue debts by federal or state prisons.(1)

The stimulus checks have the same protections as the United States Veteran Affairs Administration whom sends millions of checks across the country to incarcerated former military service men and women whom only get 10% of such checks.

People held by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Correction Institutions Division(TDCJ-CID) are having their stimulus checks stolen from their inmate trust funds accounts due to debts owed in the following categories, with the percent of each deposit they will deduct for each category:

  1. federal court costs (20%)
  2. state court costs (10%)
  3. child support assistance (case-by-case)
  4. medical co-payments (50%)
  5. TDCJ-CID indigent supplies and postage (100%)
  6. TDCJ-CID disciplinary destroying prison’s property (100%)
  7. current/prior TDCJ sentences (old or new, no amount specified)

I have written a complaint – a TDCJ Step One Offender Grievance Form No. 2021020837 that said the direction would come form the IRS as to whether those stimulus checks would be exempt from collection. The response was that this “action was out of the control of the unit, no action warranted.”

Thereafter, I appealed that response in another complaint Step Two Offender Grievance Form. I wrote the agents in charge at the IRS Department of the Treasury in Austin, TX but never received any response.

Scholl v. Mnuchin, et al. No.4:20-cv-05309-PJH ND Cal.; Appeal Docket No. 20-16915 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of prisoners getting stimulus checks while incarcerated. The checks in question should not be confused with the most recent $1400 checks under current Presdient Joseph Biden. It was the $1200 and $600 checks under President Donald Trump that were ruled on. These checks should be issued whether one is incarcerated or not because everybody is affected by this global crisis.

According to The Intercept the TDCJ was ironically the only state they spoke to that claimed it was not garnishing stimulus checks to its prisoners. Many, if not all, states have seemingly been breaking the law in doing so.(2)

There is a solution to safe-guard some form of protection to those stimulus checks or other funds.

MIM(Prisons) adds: The author provided names of some companies that used to provide banking services for prisoners. These companies all seem to have closed down. We leave this note here as a suggestion for possible solutions to storing your stimulus money if you can find a similar service that is trusted.

Also note, that according to caresactprisoncase.org, if you have not filed the tax forms for the stimulus checks by 15 April 2021 you may not be able to receive them. At the same time, the official word has gone back and forth on how all this works.

Some comrades have written in to say they are boycotting the stimulus checks. While we agree that these stimulus checks are a means of buying off the population in U.$. borders with wealth stolen from the Third World, as individuals we can still do good things with this money. Like how we view investing in the stock market, we do not take a moralistic view of this money and encourage comrades to get the funds they are legally due and put them to good use in projects serving the people and building independent institutions of the oppressed.

Notes: 1. https://caresactprisoncase.org/incarcerated-people-are-eligible-for-second-round-of-stimulus-payments/
2. Asher Stockler and Daniel Moritz-Rabson, 17 February 2021, Prisons Are Skimming Big Chunks of CARES Act Stimulus Checks, A September court ruling promised incarcerated people their slice of the federal stimulus. Some prisons still took a cut, The Intercept.

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[Economics] [Polemics] [ULK Issue 73]
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A Maoist Rebuttal To Lazy Dogmatism

consumption of Americans poorest 20% compared to third world
image from justfacts.com Calculated with data from: a) Dataset: “Household Final Consumption Expenditure Per Capita (Constant 2010 US$).” World Bank, January 19, 2018. <data.worldbank.org> b) Dataset: “Price Level Ratio of PPP Conversion Factor (GDP) to Market Exchange Rate.” World Bank, January 19, 2018. <data.worldbank.org> c) Dataset: “PPP Conversion Factor, Private Consumption (LCU Per International $).” World Bank, July 10, 2019. Accessed July 24, 2019 at <data.worldbank.org> d) Dataset: “Official Exchange Rate (LCU Per US$, Period Average).” World Bank, July 10, 2019. Accessed July 24, 2019 at <data.worldbank.org> e) Paper: “Integration of Micro and Macro Data on Consumer Income and Expenditures.” By Clinton P. McCully. U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, October 23, 2012. <www.justfacts.com> Page 36: “Table 6. Household Consumption Expenditures by Quintiles” f) Dataset: “The Distribution of Household Income, 2016.” Congressional Budget Office, July 2019. <www.cbo.gov> “Table 1. Demographics, by Income Group, 1979 to 2016 (Millions)” NOTE: An Excel file containing the data and calculations is available upon request.

The following is a response to some topics of debate within the article “Maoist Third Worldism: Responding to Criticism from a Reader” by Mazur of the blog Struggle Sessions. “Maoist” projects in the United States have put forth a number of lines in recent years as worthy of dividing over. In our mind, there is none more important than the class structure of this country. And if anyone wants to attempt a follow up to Mazur’s effort, we request they respond to Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997 by MC5, rather than some ideas in your head about what MIM Thought is.

Value and Price

Struggle Sessions asserts that the proponents of unequal exchange between imperialism and the oppressed nations (i.e.: finished goods and export commodities are unbalanced in such a way that the countries whose wealth is being extracted are given a raw deal) couch their views in part on a belief that the price of a given commodity is set as equal across different countries. To that allegation we reply: in what ‘Third Worldist’ publication has this been written? To my knowledge MIM has not claimed this, nor was this asserted by the earlier contributor. Cite your sources. Do not attempt to employ a selective choice of academics as a stand-in with an eye towards deceiving your online readership by purposefully distorting matters to the benefit of your dogmatic conception of economic affairs and reality. That is why it is easy for you to tear down your chosen academic-as-foil such as in your statement that:

Amin would later adopt this to equalize price levels so that a given use value costs the same in U.S. as it does in Guatemala. Before getting into this this is just not true anyways…

You perceive yourself as rather clever, don’t you. We wonder into what other topics of discussion you have inserted such imperious analysis and judgments which have also resorted to similar rhetorical deceptions and sleights-of-hand. Also, if our stance on unequal exchange was really a “less sophisticated version” as you claim, wouldn’t you just stick to picking apart that easier prey instead? So we see again that you, Mazur, have run into problems, problems concerning deceit and faulty logic in equal measure.

You are at least correct on one thing, and that is your statement that your academic could not stand the test of Marxism. So let’s drop any other “version that is worth using” and stick with Marxian economics. And by Marxian economics, we do not refer merely to its classical conception (it is worth noting that Marx claimed even he was not a Marxist, alluding to the fact that Marxism is a living science, ever changing and developing new insights, not static and impervious to advances in economic complexity over time); we also refer to its continuity within a Leninist framework in the era of imperialism, super-exploitation and the labor aristocracy, which Lenin gave clarity to and which MIM Thought has further expanded upon through materialist analysis.

You allege that in our analysis we deliberately ignore the labor theory of value. So, we will begin with Marx:

What, then, is the value of laboring power? Like that of every other commodity, its value is determined by the quantity of labor necessary to produce it. (1)

‘Value’ in its final form must correspond to the labor power embodied in a given commodity. Yet properly gauging this has become more complex under imperialism. The main way we have typically measured it is through its price, its exchange value. This follows what is termed the law of value, but, when commodities and the labor embodied in them (what is termed ‘dead labor’) are transferred from the developing peripheries to an imperialist nation via multinational corporations, the connection of value to its price is distorted to the point where the product (your banana) is finally placed in the produce section at an American supermarket, so much super-profits have accrued from not paying the Guatemalan workers the value of their labor that upon its sale there is enough excess profit for the United Fruit Co. to in turn bless its American management and warehouse employees with more than the value of their labor, in effect purchasing their allegiance to where they no longer have just their ‘chains’ to lose. They have become invested in the continuation of super-exploitation of the Guatemalan proletariat as have many additional Americans in their role as consumers, fresh off the job in your glorified manufacturing sector, who purchase the produce (yes, despite paying over its market value in Guatemala “and regular distribution and retail costs, the speculative costs of the money market, etc.”) and, being entitled to similar wage privileges, can also afford to have their money manager include shares of United Fruit in their investment portfolio, if they so choose. As for our plantation worker: “In Guatemala, where the minimum wage is roughly $11 a day” and workers “struggle to bring home even $220 a month” (2), they may not have the luxury of being able to afford the very product of their own toil without first considering whether it will cut into other essential purchases or payments owed, despite it selling for close to its actual value. The logic behind these processes are so elementary that all but those who are ‘so intelligent, they are stupid’ cannot fail to comprehend it. This is on display when you surprisingly acknowledge that this wealth transfer happens to the extent we describe, yet simultaneously are unable to understand or remain willfully ignorant of its far-reaching implications. You state:

“Because of capital export it does indeed follow that the U.S. is a net importer of commodities and that there is a stratum of monopoly capitalists who derive their profits solely from interest from their direct foreign investment that melts down to this strata …”

But, not to be deterred, you say that exploitation happens at the point of production and the lazy dogmatist in you resurfaces as you go on to state further:

“… but the U.S. is still the second largest manufacturer in the world, behind only China. This is something the ‘TWist’ does not want to recognize, that the class which has nothing to lose but its chains is concentrated in large numbers in the USA.”

Who is proletarian? Are they a revolutionary vehicle?

We are glad that we can agree that the proletariat is the class that has nothing to lose but its chains. But the relevance of manufacturing statistics we find confusing. Once again, you do not want to recognize the full extent of this wealth transfer, but this time as it plays out in the domestic manufacturing sector:

“They can’t compete with China in terms of labor. An American manufacturing employee makes an average of $26 an hour, while his or her Chinese counterpart makes only $5 an hour, according to the Reshoring Institute.”(3)

American manufacturing operations are still dependent on raw materials and parts with unpaid-for embodied labor within them that is obtained under a system of super-exploitation and shipped across borders for Amerikan workers to tinker with. This results in wages that are at least five times higher and above the value of their labor because there is enough money being made for the capitalists to both turn a profit and purchase their allegiance. When you deny the hidden transfer of value between national economies, perhaps it makes sense to estimate the size of the proletariat based on GDP numbers as Mazur does above. The United States being “the second largest manufacturer” only proves that a lot of value is being realized here, not where that value is coming from.

While, we do not recall anyone ever not recognizing that some Amerikan workers are employed in the manufacturing sector, the one thing we do not equate them with is being a part of the proletariat. Lenin reexamined the meaning of ‘proletarian’ in a more nuanced manner when he said:

“The Roman proletarian lived at the expense of society. Modern society lives at the expense of the modern proletarian. Marx specifically stressed this profound observation of Sismondi. Imperialism somewhat changes the situation.”(4)

The proletariat can most accurately be described as the social group that is the revolutionary vehicle. This does not mean that it is synonymous with the industrial working class for all times and contexts. Mao understood this when he harnessed the immense latent power of the Chinese peasantry, who at the time made up around 95% of the population. They became the revolutionary vehicle while the industrial workers, due in part to their marginal proportions, assumed more of an auxiliary role. Would you also embrace the lazy dogmatism of the Trotskyists who cling to their orthodoxy with a religious fervor and state that, because the peasantry is not the industrial working class, it cannot be capable of being the backbone of a revolution? History showed us otherwise, while you would have been as insistent as Chen Duxiu and got nothing accomplished. No, Mazur, in this matter you are much like the ‘Marxists’ who see Cuba or China as socialist. How so? Because you identify things based on their form rather than their substance. You have lost the ability (if you were ever able) of discerning who is revolutionary and who is not, who are our friends and who are likely to betray us to protect their stake in the system. You see occupations instead of workers economic co-optation within that occupation by way of a reactionary vested interest in their allegiance to empire and its spoils. This makes you no different than the ‘Communists’ of yesteryear who saw workers in hardhats attacking demonstrators protesting U.S. involvement in Vietnam as objectively revolutionary, or the socialist parties who supported their nations’ entrance into imperialist world wars as to the workers’ benefit at the munitions plants:

“Thus, on the outbreak of the imperialist war in 1914 the parties of the social-traitors in all countries, when they supported the bourgeoisie of their ‘own’ countries, always and consistently explained that they were acting in accordance with the will of the working class. But they forgot that, even if that were true, it must be the task of the proletarian party in such a state of affairs to come out against the sentiments of the majority of the workers and, in defiance of them, to represent the historical interests of the proletariat.”(5)

This is why when you say that our line leads one to the inevitable conclusion that the working class in the U.S. and other imperialist countries are the main exploiting class of the people of the world and that “this would make the task of Communists to divide and discourage the just rebellion of the masses,” we would concur, save for the whole bit of rhetorical flourish about it being a ‘just rebellion.’

But you continue harping on that the imperialist working class faces, in your words:

“… exploitation in many forms, with work speed-ups, greater temporary contracts, de-skilling, through greater constant capital being introduced and wage depression.”

Clearly such things applied to even an exploiter working class would still benefit the capitalists. We do not claim that these workers are insulated from unfair working conditions despite benefiting from their relationship with imperialism, as they remain the subordinate partner in this role. But we do not go so far as to label it ‘exploitation,’ because being ‘exploited’ is a very precise Marxist term. We would like to make clear that this does not mean that by extension we believe that no one faces conditions of exploitation within the imperialist centers, nor do we “contend that there is no proletariat to organize in the imperialist countries.” The previous ‘TWist’ contributor also did not claim this. They criticized you for arguing “that the labor aristocracy is not the majority class in the first world” (emphasis ours). MIM(Prisons) has this to say:

“Our claims, however, are far from this. Our claim is that the masses here are a minority force: they are oppressed nation, they are migrants, they are prisoners, etc. We have been saying this for many years, yet [our critics] ignore this line and claim that we do not believe that anyone is oppressed in the First World. We don’t claim that there are no masses here, we claim that the constantly dying imperialist system needs to fall in order for proletarianization of the labor aristocracy to happen.”(6)

We can look to segments of the internal semi-colonies including the over 500 Indigenous nations on the continent, sectors of the Third World diaspora including the so-called ‘illegal’ migrant workers residing within imperialist borders, the revolutionary youth and intellectuals, and the revolutionized lumpen and prison populations as wellsprings for our revolutionary mass base in this country. But you would, again, looking at form rather than substance, likely scoff at this and act like we are just going to accept and network with these groups uncritically as we encounter them and not pursue their further proletarianization. This is not the case. We also express with a higher degree of actual confidence and certainty that the above-mentioned groups have a greater interest in seeing the tables turned in this country, and turned violently, than your bourgeoisified working classes you seek to lose yourselves in.

And note: it is at this point that, having just detailed our position clearly and corrected the record, we will formally ask you to cease claiming that we believe that there are no proletarians or masses within the imperialist centers to practice the mass line with. Quote us correctly. Honesty may not come naturally to you, but those who stumble across this blog page deserve a truthful and accurate representation of views other than your own. You can only deceive the masses for so long before they find out and call you on your bullshit. On a related note, it is amusing (while incorrect) that you paint proponents of the labor aristocracy-maturation line as “largely abstentionists from revolutionary practice” when we can observe the prison ministry of the MIM testing its ideas, struggling with the imprisoned masses and developing theory through practice. Providing this leadership and developing new cadre in the prisons while retaining fidelity to anti-imperialism and the international proletariat is a verifiable practice of theirs. On the other hand, it remains to be seen how you and your lazy dogmatist cohorts will translate such fine rhetoric as “recogniz[ing] the importance of organizing the proletariat [in the manufacturing sectors] as a vital trench, to defeat imperialism’s political influence through the labor aristocracy among the proletariat” into concrete policies and actions.

Role of Consumption in Determining Our Friends

You are quick to dismiss arguments about Amerikan access to wealth by saying that as real Marxists we know that exploitation happens at the point of production,

“We see then that exploitation does not happen at the level of circulation. It happens at production as will be explained further below.”

Yet we do not argue that the proletariat is being exploited at the supermarket. Rather we are saying that surplus value is calculated by the simple arithmetic of subtracting value received by the worker from the value added by the worker. Therefore, increasing value received has the potential of creating a negative value on the right-hand side of that equation; surplus value can be negative. Of course this can only be true for a subset of so-called workers or capital would cease to circulate.

You take another grain of truth from Marx and extrapolate it inappropriately in your sentence:

“For TWists who distort Marxism, the greater amount of use values a wage can command=the lesser degree of exploitation of a waged worker.”

Marx’s model predicts an increase in use values becoming available to the proletariat, and even becoming part of the value of labor (the basic cost of survival). An example of this would be that by 2018, 83% of adults in Third World countries had a cell phone.(7) Banking and other services are often only available in remote regions via cell phone. Therefore, having a cell phone in general would not be a good indicator of the degree of exploitation someone faced in 2018. Whereas in 1990, it was a good indicator that you were not exploited.

You continue,

“Pure and simple, a temp worker at a plastic shop earning 25,000 in the USA doesn’t exploit anyone, while a food production small business owner in Managua who earns less than 25,000 who has employees who earn less than what he does exploits – exploitation requires a position of ownership and control over the means of production.”

While 86% of adults in Kenya have a cell phone (less than half of those have smart phones), the average consumption of the poorest 20% of Amerikans is about 10 times that of the average Kenyan.(8) What economic logic would Struggle Sessions use to justify enjoying use values an order of magnitude greater than those in the Third World, while maintaining that both groups are exploited proletarians with nothing to lose but their chains? Here you argue that an Amerikan making more money than a Nicaraguan has more revolutionary potential. What happened to “nothing to lose but their chains”?

Another metric provided at the website above is the number of Big Mac’s a McDonald’s worker can buy with one hour of wages in 2007. An Amerikan working at McDonald’s at that time could buy 6 times as many Big Macs as an Indian working the same job.(8) Will Struggle Sessions argue that the Amerikan is more productive flipping burgers? Not to mention the fact that most Amerikans are now engaged in service work like this where the possibility for great increases in productivity don’t even exist as they do in manufacturing.

From there we must ask, what systems of militarism, war, borders and financial manipulations must be maintained to keep that differential between the Amerikan McDonald’s worker and the Indian one? And how does Struggle Sessions propose we can organize these Amerikan McDonald’s workers to oppose militarism, war, borders and international finance manipulating the economies of the Third World?

Pray tell, comrade, how are you going to combat the siren song of the labor aristocracy in their workplaces, especially when you fail to even properly recognize who is and isn’t a part of the labor aristocracy? And we ask, are you going to offer less opportunities to fight for ill-gotten spoils of imperialism? No, that won’t do it, no. So not only are you going to 1) hop into the ‘trench’ of worker privilege, valiantly protecting and further fattening the bloated hourly earnings of production workers, their pension plans and paid-vacation leave; but 2) you are going to attempt to convince them that they should want to overthrow the government and corporations which supply their cushy material existence; following that up by 3) asking them to be on board with a future reduction in pay and standard of living to pursue the objective of an equal global distribution of wealth and reparations to the Global South; and 4) all the while being supportive of a proposal for a demilitarized, open border with Mexico so that the working classes of all nations can pursue better employment opportunities?

Mazur, we can’t even say that we wish you luck (and certainly not on the first point); just that it’ll be the workers themselves, not their employers or security, picking you up and throwing you out of the factory floor and onto your ass. But go ahead and falsify our thesis and you will effectively accomplish what no amount of keyboard clattering on your part can do at present. That is essentially what it comes down to. Show us. Moreover, do so without inadvertently activating social-fascism.

Applying Marxism to Our Conditions

In the 100-odd years since the first successful revolution leading to a dictatorship of the proletariat, none have occurred in an imperialist country with the industrial working classes as the revolutionary vehicle. You acknowledge we are right in pointing this out. Yet you still cannot comprehend the full gravity of the labor aristocracy maturation-line to know that the reasons that you cite for this failure (fascism, revisionism) are intrinsically tied up with a failure on the part of Communist organizations to determine the true extent of the rot and subsequently to cease catering to the labor aristocracy’s demands altogether. The problem lies in part with the fact that you believe (as if it were still the second decade of the last century, not the current one) that:

“The reality is such a condition for labor aristocracy is rooted fundamentally in the opportunist political leadership of sections of organized labor, courting favor with U.S. imperialism in competition on a world scale. It was never defined, by Lenin, Mao or any other past revolutionary movement from among the oppressed nations and proletariat, as a strata that encapsulated the entirety of the working class (white or otherwise) of the ‘First World.’”

Lazy dogmatism rears its head once more when you go referencing the classics without taking into account the particular dynamics of our ever deeper progression into the imperialist era and our unique geographic location within it. Chairman Gonzalo had something to say about people doing just that while expounding on the need to better understand Maoism and struggle for its supremacy. In our quest to promote a better understanding of the full implications of the labor aristocracy maturation-line and the necessity to struggle for that line over the ossified views of our erring Maoist fellow travelers, we will quote him at length (we feel that, if nothing else gets their attention perhaps quoting him will be the spark necessary to get the ‘Principally Maoists’ to correct their thinking on the matter):

“In order to better understand Maoism and the necessity to struggle for it, let us remember Lenin. He taught us that as the revolution advanced in the East it expressed specific conditions that, while they did not negate principles or laws, were new situations that Marxism could not ignore, upon the risk of putting the revolution in danger of defeat. Notwithstanding the uproar against what is new by pedantic and bookish intellectuals, who are stuffed with liberalism and false Marxism, the only just and correct thing to do is to apply Marxism to the concrete conditions and to solve the new situations and problems that every revolution necessarily faces. In the face of the horrified and pharisaic ‘defenses of the ideology, the class, and of the people’ that revisionists, opportunists, and renegades proclaim, or the furious attacks against Marxism by brutalized academicians and hacks of the old order who are debased by the rotten bourgeois ideology and blindly defend the old society on which they are parasites. Lenin also said clearly that the revolution in the East would present new and great surprises to the greater amazement of the worshipers of following only the well-trodden paths who are incapable of seeing the new; and, as we all know, he trusted the Eastern comrades to resolve the problems that Marxism had not yet resolved.”(9) (emphasis ours)

We would add to Gonzalo’s statement that Lenin would have also trusted the imperialist nation comrades to resolve the problems that Marxism-Leninism had only begun to address and solve, and to not mechanically parrot their words on the scope and potential solutions to problems which in their time were but saplings compared to the broader trunks and deeper roots which we must now contend with, axe in hand. The labor aristocracy maturation-line, flowing from Lenin’s analysis of the split in the working class movement in the early 20th century with its antecedents in Marx and Engels’ analysis of the English working class in the 19th century, contends that this split has only continued and with minimal interruption for the past 100 years in the imperialist centers, absorbing whole sectors of the working classes, bribed now in a thousand more ways than before. It was impossible for Marx, Engels and Lenin to examine and address these issues as well as we can today, because they were a relatively new development at the time. We, however, now have the extensive benefit of hindsight, history and statistics not available then. Yet Lenin did direct our attention to its creeping progression:

“The longer bourgeois democracy has prevailed in a country, the more complete and well established it is, the more successful have the bourgeoisie of that country been in getting into those leading positions people who are reared in bourgeois democracy, saturated in its attitudes and prejudice, and very frequently bribed by it, whether directly or indirectly.”(10)

Mao also spoke on this subject:

“In the various nations of the West there is a great obstacle to carrying through any revolution and construction movement, i.e., the poisons of the bourgeoisie are so powerful that they have penetrated each and every corner. While our bourgeoisie has had, after all, only three generations, those of England and France have had a 250-300 year history of development, and their ideology and modus operandi have influenced all aspects and strata of their societies. Thus the English working class follows the Labour Party, not the Communist Party.”(11)

Because of this, Mao went on to disagree with Lenin:

“Lenin says, ‘the transition from capitalist to socialism will be more difficult for a country the more backward it is.’ This would seem incorrect today.”(12)

We can no longer point to just ‘the opportunist political leadership of sections of organized labor’ and call them the whole of the labor aristocracy. They now represent a class of workers who have become bourgeois in outlook and have only grown exponentially over time. At what point do you realize and accept that the imperialist nation industrial working classes and service sectors are no longer a viable revolutionary vehicle for Maoism, and that we must focus our organizing in areas separate from these? At what point do things finally begin to click into place for you, or are you allowing your pride and dogmatic rote-learning to blind you to the reality which screams for recognition? If for whatever reason hearing this message from us in particular is just too much to stomach, then we recommend the book Labor Aristocracy: Mass Base of Social Democracy by H.W. Edwards for more detailed analysis. We encourage everyone with an inquiring mind to not just take our word for it – examine our references and arrive at the necessary conclusions on this important subject matter. Do not allow idealism or lazy dogmatism to cloud your judgment any longer to the futility of throwing yourself against the wall of the labor aristocracy in your organizing efforts.

There are two final matters we would like to address. The first is that it is said we have come by our views through and subsequent traffic in “petty-bourgeois empiricism-posing-as-analysis,” to which we reply:

“The lazy dogmatists actually see no real role for science in agitations. In response to Mao’s proof that line is decisive, they accept at face value the revisionist slander that calls Mao idealist. By downplaying science, they pave the way for fascism, which consciously relies on mysticism for victory in people’s hearts. They imagine that being good Maoists means being idealist, not practitioners of the science of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.”(13)

By criticizing our use of statistics, percentages and numbers, you are by extension leveling your criticism at Lenin:

“Lenin used many more such statistics, including Tsarist statistics and criticized those who would not make much use of them.”(14)

Our critics don’t like it when we use basic addition and subtraction to show that their math doesn’t add up.(15) We must remind our readers of this line:

“For TWists who distort Marxism, the greater amount of use values a wage can command=the lesser degree of exploitation of a waged worker.”

Does that mean you believe the inverse? As First Worldists you believe that material wealth can increase infinitely without disqualifying one from being exploited? Must we bring up the old NFL player example and ask if they have nothing to lose but their chains? And to pivot to our final topic, Colin Kaepernick was protesting the murder of young Black men in the streets by the state, not wages or working conditions. Same reason cities burned across the country last year, and the same reason they’ve burned almost every other time in the last 60 years.

Nations

We find your agnosticism on the national question problematic, “In regards to the white nation, we [Struggle Sessions] have not taken a formal position on this.” First we are in the era of imperialism, which is defined by the contradiction between nations. To not be able to address the national question in one’s own country is to fail to address the whole of modern political economy. Second, the question of first importance is who are our friends, and who are our enemies. To not have a line on the nature of the euro-Amerikan nation, while having a very well worked out line on military strategy in the United $tates (a line we know is dear to the hearts of Struggle Sessions authors), is a dangerous example of putting the cart before the horse.

To address the question as you raise it, we will begin by saying that U.S. imperialism is a multinational project in two respects. The first pertains specifically to the makeup of the Euro-Amerikan oppressor nation, and the second in the national-patriotic sense with the inclusion of token elements of the New Afrikan and [email protected] bourgeoisie in leadership positions both in business and government and the participation of their respective labor aristocracies in the plunder of the Global South. But our focus is in addressing the seeming paradox of the Euro-Amerikan Nation, and whether it is myth or fact. You state that:

“In this case they are lumping a bunch of languages, cultures, regions and psychologies into one nation. For instance the psychological makeup of Jews, Slavs, Irish and Anglo Americans are not the same, and their languages are often different, too.”

The Euro-Amerikan Nation (or ‘white’ nation in more simplified terms) has historically assumed the role of dominant oppressing force since the founding of the United States. Being ‘white’ in America is not only so much a matter of genealogy and physiognomy as it is one of hierarchy, both in terms of class and nation. We agree that these people were something else before they were ‘white’ or Euro-Amerikan – Corsican, Welsh, Jewish, German etc. Yet through a common historical bond rooted in violence, rape and looting of labor and land, began a process of washing the disparate tribes white, a belief in being ‘white,’ becoming a unified, melded nation in the patriotic and national sense. In the United States, the separate Irish, Anglo, Polish, etc. immigrant nationalities of old are now mostly forgotten ‘dead nations,’ with forgotten mother tongues, blended beyond recall save in surname or remnant cultural practice seldom exercised in day-to-day existence. They have transformed themselves over the generations into a single unit sharing a common culture, language (English), economy (within the borders of the U.S. excluding most other nations) and territorial cohesion (again, much of North America). Your denial of this could only be justified by some racial theory of bloodline.

For you to say that ‘there is no common economy, there is no common language, there is no geographic territory, and so on’ is an ahistorical delusion that serves no purpose whatsoever. By denying this, it would seem that by extension you would also deny the same ‘nation’ status for the ‘Black’ or New Afrikan Nation, and furthermore any right to their own self-determination because ‘at best’ you see several nations that, through participation in the brutal receiving end of the settler project in the past, were able to achieve uneven status and integration into ‘blackness.’ (Mazur links to a now official paper by Struggle Sessions that addresses the intersection of so-called “race” and class in relation to New Afrika. For now, we will present MIM Theory 7 as a counter to that piece.)

The Great Migration of Black sharecroppers to the industrial north and west in the early to mid 20th century dispersed the population of the Black Belt south throughout the modern colonial borders of the United States. Nonetheless, New Afrikans constitute a nation as a result of the historical (forced) melding of different cultures, languages and psychologies into a new and unique shared culture, language and segments of territory. It is our hope to one day see the will of the New Afrikan Nation expressed in a plebiscite on self-determination. Perhaps Mazur & Co. will be on the right side of history when this occurs.

One final note, we are in agreement with the statement that:

“‘Privilege’ itself, as well as the absence of national oppression, does not in any way actually prevent those with a relative ‘privilege’ from facing oppression and exploitation as well.”

The white youth, intellectuals and revolutionized white lumpen and prisoners have an interest in revolution as traitors to their class and nation. We do not overextend our analysis to exclude these potential allies in our struggle.

Notes:
1. Karl Marx, “Labouring Power,” Value, Price and Profit, Martino Fine Books, 2017 p. 39.
2. Lauren Villagran, “A Desperate Quest for American Dream Denied,” USA Today, December 23, 2020.
3. Michael Braga, “Manufacturers Facing Hurdles in Return to US,” USA Today, December 22, 2020. It should be noted that back in 2018, hourly earnings for production workers were pegged at $22.71 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Thus a steady increase has occurred in 2 years’ time rather than a trend towards wage suppression as our labor-aristocratic Maoists allege.
4. V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism,” Lenin’s Struggle for a Revolutionary International: Documents 1907-1916, John Riddell, ed. New York: Monad Press, 1984 p. 497.
5. Jane Degras, ed. The Communist International: 1919-1943 Documents, London: Frank Cass & Co., 1971 Vol. 1, p. 129 (hereafter Degras)
6. MIM (Prisons), “A Falsifiable Thesis,” Who’s Got Something to Prove, JMP?, August 2020. www.prisoncensorship.info
7. Laura Silver, 5 February 2019, Smartphone Ownership Is Growing Rapidly Around the World, but Not Always Equally, Pew Research Center.
8. https://www.justfacts.com/income_wealth_poverty#international
9. Communist Party of Peru, “Introduction”, Fundamental Documents.
10. Degras, Vol. 1, p. 119.
11. Mao Tsetung, A Critique of Soviet Economics New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977 p. 50.
12. Ibid.
13. MIM Theory Number 10, “Lessons From the Comintern: Continuities in Method and Theory, Changes in Theory and Conditions”, Coming to Grips with the Labor Aristocracy, 1996. p. 22. View PDF at www.prisoncensorship.info
14. Ibid., p. 42. See Lenin’s “Statistics and Sociology,” Collected Works, Vol. 23. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964. p. 271. For Mao talking about dogmatist lazybones, see Mao Tse-Tung, “On Contradiction,” Four Essays on Philosophy. Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1968 p. 37.
15. MC5, 1997, Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997, part C.5..

Responses

MIM(Prisons) submitted this response to Struggle Sessions. While no response has been received yet, we cannot expect from them in days, what took us many months. However, we have already received some astute responses from others that we are including here.

ADDENDUM 1: A comment on ‘Mazur’s’ understanding of unequal exchange

by marlax1g

The theory of unequal exchange of Samir Amin is one thing, the theory of Arghiri Emmanuel is another. I do not know if MIM ever commented on the distinction between the two theories (perhaps for political purposes given the overwhelming First Worldist hysteria surrounding it), but the theory of unequal exchange ‘in the strict sense’ as based on global wage differentials is what MIM (and also Cope’s 2012 book) have always made reference to; ‘Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997’ makes explicit reference to wage differentials in Section A Chapter 5-6 and Section C Chapter 5. This theory does not depend upon either differing organic compositions or differing productivities within the same branch of trade. And Emmanuel’s criticism of the doctrine of comparative advantage does not depend upon a criticism of the quantity theory of money, as he implies in quite literally one of the first paragraphs of the Introduction. The reference to declining terms of trade in Emmanuel has absolutely nothing to do with the distinction between primary and non-primary commodities (explicitly contrary to the Prebisch–Singer hypothesis), but rather with the wages in the two sectors. Let us note one more error on the part of Mazur before we get around to explaining where the error arises.

“If there are the same prices and the wages in the U.S. are higher, and capital goods costs the same, then the cost price of any given commodity would be higher in the U.S. This means (since the price of the finished commodity is the same) that the rate of profit would be lower in the U.S., so no transfer would even take place.”

Let’s start from the basics. Ricardo’s theory of comparative costs represents a “special” case where the labor theory of value is invalidated. The labor theory does not govern prices at an international level, Ricardo states, because profits cannot equalize. Profits may equalize within nations because capital is mobile, but it cannot equalize between nations where capital is immobile as such immobility results in specialization and therewith the governing of comparative as opposed to absolute cost. Wages do not enter into Ricardo’s equation because he operated under the assumption that wages tended towards the subsistence level because of the Malthusian law of population. (In other words, Ricardo takes equal wages as a given.)

Marx overthrew the Malthusian “iron law of wages” and this fact is the starting point for Emmanuel. What Emmanuel emphasizes is a world where capital is mobile, and therefore profits do indeed tend towards an equality, but where the Marxian law of exogenous wages rules. Why does this matter? Because labor is not mobile, and because wages in the First World are in fact higher without being subject to the discipline of equalization, wages are the only ‘independent variable’ governing global prices of production. It is no argument against Emmanuel to claim that he abandons the labor theory of value, because in the real world market prices fluctuate around not values but rather prices of production. Perhaps Mazur missed the publication of Volume Three of Capital, but Emmanuel had not. Hence “factor rewards” (namely wages) are not given by prices, but rather prices are given by “factor rewards” (in neoclassical parlance). Emmanuel therefore inverts the logic of Hecksher-Ohlin-Samuelson: prices do not determine wages, but rather wages prices. This is Emmanuel avec Marx.

The products of industries employing workers at low wages, therefore, have relatively low prices, and those which employ workers at high wages have relatively high prices. This is precisely the point of Emmanuel’s argument — because we are dealing with different commodities being exchanged. Critics of Emmanuel imagine that they are intelligent in coming to the profound conclusion that high wages translate into a lower rate of surplus-value and therefore profit. Emmanuel does not deny this; he instead shows that with an equalizing profit rate the surplus-value of the Third World is transferred to the First World because products of low prices are exchanged for products of high prices. It’s really quite that simple. And to repeat ourselves for the tenth time, the prices are high and low because of differing wages. To believe otherwise is nothing more than marginalism. Emmanuel’s argument is not, in fact, that unequal exchange is preferable to lower wages in the First World from the viewpoint of the capitalist; it is only that the lack of wage equalization partially compensates the drop in the rate of profit.

No child, us Third Worldists do not argue that super-profits originate in circulation (a libel of Bettelheim), but rather in the super-exploitation of the Third World proletariat. If they were not super-exploited, if the rate of surplus-value was not in fact higher, there would not have been enough surplus-value to transfer and either First World wages or capitalism itself would have had to collapse.

Mazur writes that:

“Because the organic composition of capital has allowed much more surplus value to actually be generated, we see then that the rate of exploitation is often higher in spite of wage increases.”

Imagine such crass physicalism coming from an avowed defender of the labor theory. Capital with a higher organic composition does not allow “more surplus-value to actually be generated”. It quite literally implies less variable capital (relative to its size) and therefore less surplus-value because constant capital does not contribute an iota of surplus-value. Mazur wants us to believe that because capital-intensity is usually higher in the First World, this axiomatically makes First World workers more “productive” of surplus-value. First Worldists have never proven labor intensity is higher in the First World, which is what this claim necessitates demonstrating. We have already seen that this does not put a dent into Emmanuel’s theory, and Emmanuel explicitly (and consequently) asserts that, e.g., First World primary producers (Australian coal, Canadian timber, etc.) still benefit from unequal exchange. But this is of course a mirage, and as soon as the parasitism of the labor aristocracy confronts the “Marxist” defender of the labor theory of value, they turn into John Bates Clark and want us to believe that wages are governed by labor’s marginal productivity.

I could continue, and I would like to defend Sakai from the virulence he has been subjected to, but I will leave that to someone perhaps more competent than myself.

ADDENDUM 2: On Appalachia

loop-3: Given that MIM(Prisons) has no materialist analysis of the region, and certainly no experience organizing within it, it is unclear why you now incorrectly say that

“Poor whites in Appalachia… have an interest in revolution as traitors to their class and nation. We do not overextend our analysis to exclude these potential allies in our struggle.”

This is a striking political regression. The actual Maoist Internationalist Movement had a far more correct position on this. According to MC5,

"Often times we Marxists are told that we should go organize the Appalachian poor for their economic demands. Duncan gives us some up-to-date evidence on why that is a silly idea. Between 1980 and 1990, Blackwell county shrunk in population by 12%. That is the real social movement of Appalachia. Yes, there is a shortage of jobs, so people move. That is why there is no class solidarity or class consciousness that arises in Appalachia, no matter how many Marxists bang their heads on the wall there. To the extent that Marxists do influence or awaken anyone, they simply move or succeed in their middle-class ambitions. We do not need Marxism for that and hence we find the subject matter of Duncan’s book boring. It is about how to integrate people into middle-class life. There is no other possibility when poverty is only in isolated pockets and not a generalized economic condition within a country’s borders…

"Even if Appalachia had closed borders, it would only then be equivalent to some of the poorer European countries. At $15,321, central Appalachia’s median income would still be more than 10 times higher than that of the median for the international proletariat. Between 1980 and 1990 meanwhile, Gray Mountain’s income literally doubled.

"Both the Mississippi Delta and central Appalachia are shrinking in population. Already in 1980, the two infamously poor regions combined had only a population of 1.8 million in a country of 226.5 million with open borders internally. In other words, they are less than one percent of the population and it was ridiculous to expect any class formation there. By 1990, the two regions combined shrunk to less than 1.7 million, or less than the number of people in prison today.

“The trillions in super-profits sucked out of the Third World make it possible for whole countries to be rich like the United $tates. Although inequalities continue to exist within the United $tates, they are not nearly as central or as important to Marxists as those on a global scale.”

In addition, MIM Theory 1, in the article “Pittston Strike Shows Depth of White Working Class Alliance,” favorably quotes from this section of J. Sakai’s Settlers on this issue:

"Despite the 60 years of repeated radical organizing drives [in Appalachia] there has been, in fact, zero revolutionary progress among the mining communities. Despite the history of bloody union battles, class consciousness has never moved beyond an embryonic form, at best. There is no indigenous [here, Sakai is referring to regional whites] revolutionary activity - none - or traditions. Loyalty to U.S. imperialism and hatred of the colonial peoples is very intense. We can see a derailment of the connection between simple exploitation and class consciousness…

"This points out the fact that what is poverty-stricken about settlers is their culture.

“The Euro-Amerikan coal miners are just concentrating on ‘getting theirs’ while it lasts. In the settler tradition it’s ‘every man for himself’. They have no class goals or even community goals, just private goals involving private income and private consumerism. Meanwhile, the local N&W land manager says that they do have future plans for Appalachia: ‘We don’t intend to walk off and leave this land to the Indians’. Of that we can be certain.”

MIM(Prisons) respond: We thank loop-3 for pointing this out and include eir well-cited argument here. And we have removed the clause “poor whites in Appalachia” from that sentence as it was misleading as if the class interests of that population somehow make them more likely allies than anyone else in the white nation. We must be cautious and clear when trying to organize Amerikans around their own interests. While virtually everyone has some interests opposed to imperialism, and anyone can end up a victim of the system, white Amerikans must go against their class and nation (and gender) interests to ally with the international proletariat and the communist project, as S. Xanastas correctly pointed out in that paragraph.

White youth have more gender interest in revolution and are less bought into their class and nation. White lumpen arguably have some class interest different than other Amerikans. What is more clear is that white lumpen will more often take an interest in revolutionary politics when they are surrounded by oppressed nations in prison or part of multi-national lumpen organizations. As for the intellectuals mentioned, they do not have different interests so much as a different view of the world. So it is in these groups that we see the greatest percentage of exceptions to the rule – those who are willing to go against their own class and nation interests and side against U.$. imperialism.

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[Fascism] [Economics] [ULK Issue 71]
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What are MIM(Prisons)'s Thoughts on Antifa?

antifa flag

A California prisoner asks: “What are MIM’s thoughts on”Antifa" and what and who are Antifa? Any information you can provide will be helpful, thank you."


MIM(Prisons) responds: Antifa stands for anti-fascist, and it derives from movements in Europe that have a deeper history that we won’t attempt to address here. It’s primary symbol is a black flag and a red flag, symbolizing the unity of anarchists and communists of all stripes in unity against the fascists. “Antifa” is a generic term in the United $tates. There is no central organization, only local collectives. Anti-Racist Action is probably the most active formal group that is akin to Antifa in the United $tates.

The Antifa strategy is one of confronting various stripes of racists, white supremacists, fascists, etc. in the streets and in their communities. When such organizations make a public stand, especially when they organize marches, Antifa will try to make sure there are more counter-demonstrators and will attempt to shut down their actions. The long-time Antifa activists often focus on researching these groups, tracking down their members, doxing them and exposing them.

MIM has never been involved in this type of organizing. Strategically we think it focuses on a fringe element rather than the real enemy – imperialism. Imperialism is murdering people in the streets, locking them away and torturing them, bombing countries, starving whole populations and polluting the world. Fighting nazis in the street does not contribute to ending imperialism at this time. Nor does campaigning against Trump.

That said, if fascism gains traction in this country, then we need to assess when to shift our strategy away from imperialism as the primary enemy and towards the fascists. At that time we will certainly be allying with and relying on some of the knowledge of those that have been following these groups closely for years.

Why is Antifa in the News?

So why is this comrade asking us about Antifa now? Probably because President Trump threatened to declare it a terrorist organization, among other rants against them over the years. So why is Trump talking about Antifa? As the self-proclaimed enemies of all things racist and fascist, the various elements of the alt-right/dissident right/third positionists and racists in online forums have accepted Antifa as their enemy (more on these groups below). Donald Trump rose to popularity in part by following the media outlets associated with these movements and echoing their talking points, one of which is the danger and threat that Antifa poses. Many of these groups use videos of street fights and confrontations between their members and Antifa as recruitment material. (Antifa as such has little to do with the recent uprisings in the United $tates against police murders, though certainly many who work in Antifa groups participated in the protests as well. Trump’s statement falsely implied that Antifa was behind these uprisings.)

The President of the United $tates stated that Antifa is terrorism. In other words, he said opposing fascism should be illegal in the United $tates. Quite a bold statement. One that thankfully received strong rebuke from the majority of the state apparatus at the time. In response to that statement by Trump, MIM(Prisons) joined the calls in the streets that “we are all Antifa.”

Is Fascism on the Rise Due to Crisis?

Since the 2016 presidential campaign we have published a series of articles addressing the question of whether fascism is here, or on its way. An article we published in November 2016, arguing that the crisis that would trigger fascism just wasn’t there yet, ended with, “That being said, based on Trump’s statements and actions, if Amerikan capitalism was truly threatened by the oppressed internal nations, Trump’s open chauvinism would easily transition to far heavier fascist tendencies.”(1) Now in 2020 we had the broadest display of street actions, largely by oppressed nations, seen in most of our lifetimes, if ever in this country. And we have a downward trend in the economy due to declining rates of profit and exacerbated by a global pandemic. So we are in a crisis, and as the threat to Amerikan capitalism becomes more and more real, so does the threat of fascism.

Theoretically, fascism is always on its way in the advanced stages of imperialism. This is because of the inherent contradictions within capitalism that make it harder and harder to extract a profit from the circulation of capital. Without profit, the economy stops under capitalism. That is why the COVID-19 shut downs have been so disastrous. Under socialism, we could cut back production and shelter in place without threatening the future of the economy.

Denying this reality, one of the ideological leaders of the alt-right called on the Trump administration to just shut down the economy for a period and restart again like a long weekend. But capital must circulate, when it does not things begin to collapse like a house of cards. The amount of value being circulated in the realm of finance capital just got a shot of another few trillion dollars by the COVID-19 stimulus bills. This money was created by the Fed from thin air. Most countries would face a decrease in currency value and increase in consumer prices if they did this. The U.$. is depending more and more on international finance capital to come into the country to prop up the dollar and Amerikan consumerism. But if there is no profit to be had, that finance capital stops coming. The reason this hasn’t happened already is that the bourgeoisie is aware that a slowdown in finance capital circulation will lead to a collapse of the system like a house of cards. This is when the all out war option of the fascists becomes the only option.

Parasitism Begets Fascism

Another alt-right ideologue, has recently put out a video denying that fascism is capitalism in decay. Eir thesis is that if there was a crisis in profitability of capital that the system would have to go back to some kind of feudal system and greatly reduce production to restore profits. Since fascism in Germany increased worker incomes and overall production, ey argues this proves fascism was not a response to crisis. This logic sort of makes sense from the revisionist “Marxist” perspective that anyone employed is exploited and that profits don’t cross borders.

The MIM answer to why the capitalism in decay thesis is correct is in parasitism theory. Really, few would deny that Germany’s economic flourishing came from the literal and brutal robbery of land, resources and labor (through enslavement) of other peoples. But similar things occur in all imperialist countries, even if just a bit more “civilized.” We point this out to show how revisionism calling itself Marxism plays itself nicely into the ideas of fascism. And it is through the appeals to a populist class interest of the labor aristocracy that the fascists, social democrats and revisionist “Marxists” all bolster support for imperialism, despite their rhetoric against war or whatever.

Another thing all of these forces have in common is labeling things based on their form rather than their substance. Whether it’s the “Marxists” who see Xi Jinping as leading a socialist country or the fascists saying that Mussolini was opposed to the bourgeoisie, they are putting ideas, words and symbols above substance. They say, “see the leader said this, therefore ey couldn’t support that.” The capitalists, as a class, do not care about the words as long as the economic substructure is still functioning to produce profits. Mussolini (and the King) ensured that it did as does Xi Jinping today. This is the same reason why today every multi-national corporation is tripping over each other to put out statements on and make donations to Black Lives Matter. Yes, there are ideologues within the bourgeoisie, but the class as a whole, in order to continue on as a bourgeoisie, must ensure that profits keep flowing. And if stamping Black Lives Matter all over their website and social media feeds can assist with that, then call Jeff Bezos anti-racist.

Oppose Left and Right White Nationalism

The alt-right is actively extending olive branches to the left wing of white nationalism, specifically those they refer to as “Bernie Bros.” Some in the alt-right claim to have 90% agreement with such social democratic types, specifically in their critiques of capitalism and calls for populist economic reforms and a state that can deal with a global pandemic. Our saving grace right now in the United $tates is in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, as well as the struggles against ICE detention which has also rallied significant support in recent years. The outpouring of support for BLM has been surprisingly strong. Even if the multinationals are just motivated by profits, this is like nothing we’ve seen in our lifetime. Clearly they have recognized where the winds are blowing, and it is not towards the racism of the alt-right.

The fascists argue that they are an alternative to the neoliberal bourgeois order and the Marxist communist order – hence “third positionists.” But Dimitrov critiqued this misconception for the COMINTERN during World War II, stating that “Fascism is the power of finance capital itself.” The fascists argue that finance capital did not and does not support fascism in its rise to power. MIM added to Dimitrov’s thesis in 2005: “It is only the finance-capital dominated petri dish where fascism grows. Today, the labor aristocracy of ONLY the imperialist countries is the”main force" of fascism…“(2) So again, all the groups we mention above, whether”left" or “right” are organizing this class and activating them towards fascism by telling them they are the oppressed and they deserve more.

More on Class and Economic Systems

MIM and the COMINTERN agree on the dialectical nature of class struggle under capitalism as it relates to the phenomenon of fascism – that is that capitalism is identified in the contradiction and interdependence of two economic classes: the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In this view, there are two paths, or two economic systems: capitalism (of the bourgeoisie) or socialism (of the proletariat). Other classes exist and have their own interests. But they will not shape history in their image. Our world today is shaped in the image of the bourgeoisie, and Marx explained why the future lies in the hands of the proletariat, those who have nothing to lose but their chains.

The petty bourgeoisie (including the First World labor aristocracy) doesn’t have an image for the world. Their ideology is that of the bourgeoisie, steeped in individualism. And because of their varying lots in life, their interests are varied, made up of little groups just trying to make capitalism work for them. They can be united in the nation-building project that involves their nation being on top. But even this will not elicit much sacrifice from this class as a whole unless conditions are quite dire.

When we talk about the labor aristocracy of the imperialist countries being the “main force” of fascism, we still agree with Dimitrov that fascism is the power of finance capital. It is finance capital that gives these tendencies real power. This truth can be seen when you investigate the organizations in the fascist realm. The most successful efforts to unite these petty bourgeois forces and use them towards real political goals are led and funded by millionaires, with access to advanced military weaponry and international connections to intelligence agencies. While there are many small, organic groups that are in this realm, the ones that pose a real threat really aren’t so organic.

Our comrades in prison can understand this dynamic, where it is quite common for white nationalist organizations to have “special” relationships with the pigs, to the point of helping to enforce for the state. Some of our comrades who have served in the military have also seen direct coordination between the military and local white nationalist organizations around perceived threats of oppressed nation rebellions. It’s the same in prison.

From the proletariat comes the true guerilla, who starts from nothing, and gains their tools and supplies by taking from the enemy oppressor. The guerilla does not start out with high-end military equipment, the guerilla earns it. And even before we get to the military phase, the true mass character of the communist camp is evident. Even in the bought off imperialist core, you can see genuine organizers popping up in all areas, fighting for similar goals, from a real organic desire for change and humyn progress. In the United $tates this is fed by the oppressed nations and by the youth and by all justice-seeking people.

The proletariat of the world must distinguish itself from the parasitic populism of the First World labor aristocracy. Antifa has not done this. Antifa is open to militant Liberals because they tend to see this as a battle over ideas in peoples’ heads and don’t have an honest class analysis of what is going on.

The alternative that MIM offers is that those of us in the imperialist countries are criminals that must reform our ways. That the rest of the world wants us to reform our ways and welcomes us in joining in building a new world based on internationalism, humynism and solidarity. The oppressed people of the world must guide us towards true internationalism and not make excuses for the backwardness of the bought-off populations. Amerikans still haven’t made right the crimes they committed against the internal semi-colonies of this land. That is being discussed in the mainstream today. But we still aren’t discussing making things right with the majority of the world that we have exploited, polluted and murdered for the comfortable lives we live here. This is what we see as pro-active anti-fascism. And it’s not about taking on some guilty complex for your ancestors, it’s about saying that you will not pass the exploitation on to your descendants. And this must be part of the current struggles of the oppressed nations here today, or else we will just end up with more exploiters with more diverse skin tones.

notes: 1. A contributor, November 2016, What is Fascism? Analyzing Trump Scientifically, Under Lock & Key No. 53.
2. The labor aristocracy is the main force for fascism, MIM 2005 Congress.
3. also see our Fascism and Contemporary Economics study pack

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[Economics] [Campaigns] [COVID-19] [ULK Issue 70]
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Call on G20 to Cancel $1 Trillion in TW Debt Next Week

Recent United Nations estimates of the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic show that half a billion people, or 8% of the population, could be pushed into poverty (using World Bank poverty lines of $1.90 - $3.20 per day). The worst hit areas are projected to be South Asia and East Asia. This will be the first time global poverty has increased since 1990 and this could wipe out all the progress made in reducing poverty in that time.

If the UN’s worst-case projection proves true, it will be a huge blow to the image of capitalism as a force of progress. In recent years, capitalists have been using global income statistics to try to disprove Karl Marx’s theories that the masses are continuously impoverished to more extremes under the pressures for profits under capitalism. Of course we have always countered that the bulk of this reduction can be accounted for by China, whose success is built on the radical land reform and unleashing of the productive forces during its socialist period, which ended by 1976. Still, this propaganda point has been hard to counter in a popularly accepted way.

There is nothing like a crisis to lead people to question capitalism’s ability to meet peoples’ needs. Yet in the short-term, we see the interests of the Third World proletariat in some of the proposals coming from bourgeois internationalists looking to limit the depths of the coming crisis. A newly proposed plan from Oxfam calls for $2.5 trillion, “made up of $1 trillion in debt relief, $1 trillion in additional liquidity mobilized through SDRs [Special Drawing Rights - which is like grant money from the IMF] and $500bn in aid to support developing country health systems.” They offer potential impacts of this plan:

“The immediate cancellation of US$1 trillion worth of developing country debt payments in 2020. Cancelling Ghana’s external debt payments in 2020 would enable the government to give a cash grant of $20 dollars a month to each of the country’s 16 million children, disabled and elderly people for a period of six months.”

Such life-saving amounts are a fraction of the benefits Amerikans are already receiving from pandemic-related funding bills. Oxfam has done the math to back up calls already coming from the Vatican for international finance capital to forgive debt to the Third World. In addition to debt relief, it proposes a $1 trillion fund (called SDRs above) of international reserves that can be drawn on by the indebted countries during the pandemic.

The United $tates has passed laws to extend unemployment to self-employed and informal workers, recognizing the lack of safety net for those people. Oxfam points out that is only 18% of the population in rich nations, while for poor nations 90% of the people are informal workers with no safety net. Oxfam’s report cites the United Nations, saying that half of jobs in Africa could be lost in the coming months. But the latest stimulus plan from the United $tates only offered $1.1 billion to address the crisis in poor countries, a mere 0.05 % of the $2.2 trillion plan.

The Oxfam report hints at an international tax on the most profitable companies or wealthiest individuals as another form of wealth redistribution to provide the needed funding. MIM has long stood for a global maximum income for all of the world’s citizens as a similar form of limiting wealth accumulation and hoarding.

Madonna somberly referred to COVID-19 as the “great equalizer” from a luxurious bath in eir mansion. But the Third World proletariat will not be reporting in on video from a rose petal bath during “stay at home” orders. Coming into this crisis, 46 countries were spending on average four times more money on debts than their public health services, and 113 countries had IMF-required austerity plans in place as conditions for those debts. The people of those countries are starting off far behind us in the imperialist countries. Health care is already seriously inadequate, and people were already living on the bare essentials. They have much less of a cushion than us, despite all our bills and persynal debts. Madonna is correct that this crisis does affect everyone, both threatening their health and economic stability, but it is far from equalizing.

Uniting the globe to fight this pandemic must address the unequal needs and access of the oppressed nations of the world. Onerous debt repayments and the economic restructuring requirements that accompany them, is one of the major causes of the destitution faced by the global proletariat, reaching its highest point at 191% of those countries GDPs in 2018. Now is the time to forgive these debts, release control of economic policies, and grant national self-determination to countries that have effectively been neo-colonies of the United $tates, and international finance capital in general, for decades.

Oxfam is calling on the G20 Finance Ministers at their 15 April 2020 meeting and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank which are meeting 17-19 April 2020, to take on their proposed plan.

Notes: Oxfam International, 9 April 2020, Dignity Not Destitution: An ‘Economic Rescue Plan for All’ to tackle the Coronavirus crisis and rebuild a more equal world.

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[Economics] [Campaigns] [COVID-19] [ULK Issue 70]
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Debt Forgiveness to Third World to Combat Covid-19

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) announced yesterday that the WHO joins the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in supporting debt relief to poorer countries to help them combat the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic fallout.(1) Now is the time for the international community to call for full debt forgiveness for countries in Africa, South Asia and Central and South America.

Religious leaders have renewed the call for a debt jubilee, which in the Bible is a grace period from slavery and debt. It is a period of renewal, for a fresh start. Most notably, in a broadcast to the Philippines, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle asked “Could the coronavirus crisis lead to a jubilee of forgiveness of debt, so that those who are in the tombs of indebtedness could find life – untie them, release them.”(2) The Cardinal went on to say that the wealthy countries have spent too much on weapons when people are dying for lack of ventilators in hospitals across the globe.

News of the spread of coronavirus in the Third World is starting to emerge. Being at the periphery of the economy may have granted many Third World countries a little more time to respond. But as the richest countries in the world prove unable to prevent deaths due to lack of supplies and preparations, the situation in Third World countries will in all likelihood prove more dire. In all countries, the death rate is revealing the ineffectiveness of an economic system guided by the profit motive in meeting humyn needs.

MIM(Prisons) stands in unity with the Cardinal’s call. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have been the institutions that issue and manage the majority of loans, along with accompanying structural adjustment programs, that have sucked wealth from the Third World to the First World since the Bretton Woods Agreeement in 1944. Therefore we must demand absolute forgiveness of these debts, a true jubilee, without the further meddling of these imperialist institutions in the economies of sovereign nations.

If there were ever time for a fresh start, it is now. The economic fallout from the current crisis is only just beginning. Forgiving debt to the poorest countries in the world will free up scarce resources and save countless lives.

Notes:
1. Stephanie Nebehay, 2 April 2020, COVID-19 cases and deaths rising, debt relief needed for poorest nations - WHO, Yahoo! News.
2. COVID-19: Cardinal Tagle urges “forgiveness of debt” of poor countries. 31 March 2020, LaCroix International, Vatican City.

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[Venezuela] [Economics] [Drugs] [Militarism] [COVID-19] [ULK Issue 70]
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Venezuela Becomes First Target of Crisis-Driven Militarism

Peace Dove

On 1 April 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United $tates had doubled military forces engaged in combating drug trafficking in the Pacific Ocean between the United $tates and South America. The primary purpose was stated as being to protect Amerikan lives from dangerous drugs. The secondary purpose was to destabilize the Maduro administration in Venezueala that Trump claims is propped up by drug money. The Maduro administration responded by commending the United $tates for trying to fight drug trafficking for the first time in decades.(1)

While these actions are part of a long history of political warfare in the region, this announcement is also significant in that it is the first show of militarism to stave off the looming economic depression facing the imperialists and the global economy. Finance capital is in crisis.

As Lenin explained, the portion of capital that is finance capital only increases with time. This leads to a very top-heavy economy. One of the primary laws of capitalism is that all capital must circulate. Unlike industrial capital, finance capital is not involved in the actual production of material goods and value. As such it is not limited by humyn consumption, as long as there are profits to be made. The problem is that capitalism, unlike an economic system based on humyn need, cannot adapt to economic slowdowns such as the current one imposed by the health needs of humyns facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the economy is shrinking, while finance capital is always growing, then there are not enough places for that finance capital to circulate into to return a profit. This is reflected in the recent reduction of interest rates by the Federal Reserve to 0%. When profit rates are high, people will borrow at higher rates to invest and return a profit. When banks are struggling to loan money for free, that means there are no profits to be made by finance capital. Stock markets losing close to a third of their value in recent weeks also demonstrate the lack of outlets for finance capital.

The United $tates and other imperialist countries have passed stimulus plans to try to keep their consumer classes afloat. The consumption of luxury goods plays an important role in the circulation of capital, by increasing demands on production. As the skies of urban centers become clear of pollution, and animals take the opportunity to stretch their legs in areas normally dominated by humyns and pollution, finance capital becomes desperately confined when the consumer classes reduce their consumption to necessities. This is true even as Amerikans and Europeans continue to enjoy higher levels of consumption and comfort than the majority of the world.

A third factor limiting the circulation of capital, that is still accelerating, is the closure of borders and, with it, a shift in international trade. Imperialism is by definition an international system, and without massive global trade it cannot extract massive super-profits from the exploited nations of the world and distribute them amongst the imperialist country populations. The drug trade has long been an important part of international trade and finance capital. So this move announced by Trump can likely be seen as an exertion of force by the imperialists on the black market to meet some financial interests.

However, the more troubling driver to all this is imperialist militarism. It was global economic crises and trade wars that led to the first two inter-imperialist wars (with guns). This is because war destroys capital, while stimulating production and consumption in the process. War requires production for war, and production to rebuild after it. It is the final solution for the otherwise unresolvable contradictions of imperialism, specifically that of over-production. This move towards Venezuela is just the first in what we predict to be a coming escalation of militarism. And the most likely targets will be countries that have resisted the U.$. imperialists’ programs as Maduro, and Hugo Chavez before em, have done.

Today, the Maduro administration remains in power over a year after the United $tates attempted a military coup against it, without actually sending in an invading force. The United $tates continues to push Maduro to give up power to a “transitional government” under threat of continued sanctions and International Criminal Court charges co-signed by imperialist lackeys in the region. While rumors of further military action in this war on Venezuela have long been circulating, we predict that the economic downswing will be the push to make that happen. It is the duty of all who love freedom and justice to build an all-out resistance to a rising tide of militarism from the imperialist countries.

Note: 1. From the South, 1 April 2020, TeleSur.

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[Economics]
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It's Just Business

"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prison." - Fyodor Dostoevsky

A lot of people get confused when they think about prison. They get the false impression that it's a system of correction. If you do something that merits your incarceration, you do your time, go home and put your life back together. Oh, if it were only that easy.

Think about this: the United States as a country is only 5% of the world's population. Yet, we have the highest prison population. There are other countries larger than us by far, just as Texas and New York are larger than Rhode Island or Connecticut.

One of two things are usually the most common assumptions. Either the United States has the worst people in the world or something is drastically wrong. You can't have it both ways, can you?

But what if it isn't? What if we don't have the worst people in the world. Well then something has to be drastically wrong there. Nope, try again.

Nothing is wrong because it is designed the way it was supposed to be. It works just as it was designed. It's a business run off of cheap labor and institutionalized workers. It's not designed for corrections. That is a vastly mis-believed fabrication!

Inside, they get paid for every body that fills a bed. Every person who signs an attendance sheet for a class or a program. Being locked down is not an issue because they will bring the sheet around anyway and always get the mindless to sign regardless of actual attendance. Forget teaching you anything, and everyone gets paid.

The arms and the legs of the system are not designed for you to succeed. They want you to come back to this concrete hotel to work in their kitchens and so forth. They're set up for failure to keep these turnstiles moving and rotating the mindless drones back through this system of so-called corrections. All for the almighty dollar, the very root of evil.

Now that's not to say it's impossible to finally escape its treacherous tentacles but rare enough that it’s dreamt about more than it's accomplished. Why is that? One may desire it but working for it is a whole different story. The only thing that is ever going to break you from this business that's not designed to let you escape it's grasp is you. Educate yourselves. Be fully aware of all the why's, the how's, the when’s and the inevitable who's.


MIM(Prisons) responds: It is true that many people are profiting off of the existence of prisons. Most importantly all the people who get paid to work in and around the criminal injustice system. States are subsidizing a huge welfare program for prison workers who can torture and abuse people at work and earn a good salary for it. But we can't ignore the primary intent of the Amerikan criminal injustice system: social control. If not for this goal, it should be easy to convince politicians that the subsidy given to the vast prison system would be better spent on infrastructure work (which would also employ lots of people) or schools (again lots of employees). But prisons are essential to keep the oppressed nations in check.

The disproportionate rate of incarceration of [email protected] and New Afrikans demonstrates the social control function of prisons. We can also see it in the historic rise in imprisonment rate as the Amerikan government attacked the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and tried to figure out how to stop this growing revolutionary movement. This is why we can't take down the criminal injustice system with economic arguments alone.

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[Elections] [National Oppression] [New Afrika] [First World Lumpen] [Environmentalism] [Economics] [ULK Issue 69]
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Jackson-Kush Plan builds Independent Institutions in MS

Cooperation Jackson

A modern-day example of New Afrikans building independent institutions and public opinion for socialism is the groups carrying out the Jackson-Kush Plan in Jackson, Mississippi and the surrounding area. There are a number of different organizations involved in, and evolved out of, this Plan, and its roots go back to the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (PGRNA) in the 1960s. It is directly built on the long history of New Afrikan organizing for independence, going on since people were brought to the United $nakes from Africa as slaves. The Plan itself was formulated by the New Afrikan People's Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement between 2004 – 2010. (1, p. 3)

The project has gone through many different phases, all focusing on attaining self-determination for people of African descent in Mississippi and the surrounding region. Sometimes the organizing has been more heavily focused on electoral politics,(2, 3) sometimes more on purchasing land, and currently the Cooperation Jackson project appears to be at the forefront of pushing the Plan forward.

Cooperation Jackson's mission is to develop an intimate network of worker-owned cooperatives, covering all basic humyn needs, and more: food production and distribution, recycling and waste management, energy production, commodity production, housing, etc. The main goals of Cooperation Jackson (C.J.) are to provide sustainable livelihoods for its organizing base, which includes control over land, resources, means of production, and means of distribution. Currently C.J. has a handful of cooperatives in operation, and is building the Community Land Trust to have greater control over its target geography in Jackson. This is just a snapshot of the work of Cooperation Jackson, which is explained in much more detail in the book Jackson Rising.(1)

The Jackson-Kush Plan is being carried out despite big setbacks, repression, harassment, and roadblocks from the government and racist citizens alike, for decades. This is the nature of struggle and the folks working with the Plan are facing it head-on. C.J. and the other organizations involved are doing amazing work to establish what could be dual power in the state of Mississippi.

While the MIM has congruent goals with the Jackson-Kush Plan (at least including the self-determination of New Afrikan people; control over land, economy, and resources; environmental sustainability; an end of capitalism and imperialism), there are some notable differences.(4) We're holding out hope that the Plan is being intentionally discrete in order to build dual power, but the ideological foundations of some of its structure point instead to revisionism of Marxism.

Cooperation Jackson's plan includes working with the government in some capacity. It needs to change laws in order to operate freely and legally. This itself isn't wrong – MIM(Prisons) also works on and supports some reforms that would make our work of building revolution much easier. But because of its relationship to the state, C.J.'s voice is muffled. MIM(Prisons) doesn't have this problem, so we can say what needs to be said and we hope the folks organizing for New Afrikan independence will hear it.

Cooperation Jackson's structural documents paint a picture of a peaceful transition to a socialist society, or a socialist microcosm, built on worker-owned cooperatives and the use of advanced technology. Where it aims to transform the New Afrikan "working class" (more on this below) to become actors in their own lives and struggle for self-determination of their nation, we are for it. So often we hear from ULK readers that people just don't think revolution is possible. Working in a collective and actually having an impact in the world can help people understand their own inherent power as humyn beings. Yet it seems C.J. sees this democratic transformation of the New Afrikan "working class" as an end in itself, which it believes will eventually lead to an end of capitalism.

"In the Jackson context, it is only through the mass self-organization of the working class, the construction of a new democratic culture, and the development of a movement from below to transform the social structures that shape and define our relations, particularly the state (i.e. government), that we can conceive of serving as a counter-hegemonic force with the capacity to democratically transform the economy."(1, p. 7)

This quote also alludes to C.J.'s apparent opposition to the universality of armed struggle in its struggle to transform the economy. In all the attempts that have been made to take power from the bourgeoisie, only people who have acknowledged the need to take that power by force (i.e. armed struggle) have been even remotely successful. We just need to look to the governments in the last century all across the world who have attempted to nationalize resources to see how hard the bourgeois class will fight when it really feels its interests are threatened.

Where C.J. is clearly against Black capitalism and a bourgeois-nationalist revolution that stays in the capitalist economy, we are in agreement. Yet C.J. apparently also rejects the need for a vanguard party, and the need for a party and military to protect the interests and gains of the very people it is organizing.

"As students of history, we have done our best to try and assimilate the hard lessons from the 19th and 20th century national liberation and socialist movements. We are clear that self-determination expressed as national sovereignty is a trap if the nation-state does not dislodge itself from the dictates of the capitalist system. Remaining within the capitalist world-system means that you have to submit to the domination and rule of capital, which will only empower the national bourgeoisie against the rest of the population contained within the nation-state edifice. We are just as clear that trying to impose economic democracy or socialism from above is not only very problematic as an anti-democratic endeavor, but it doesn't dislodge capitalist social relations, it only shifts the issues of labor control and capital accumulation away from the bourgeoisie and places it in the hands of the state or party bureaucrats."(1, p. 8)

As students of history, we assert that C.J. is putting the carriage before the horse here. National liberation struggles have shown the most success toward delinking populations from imperialism and capitalism. Yes, we agree with C.J. that these national liberation struggles also need to contain anti-capitalism, and revolutionary ecology, if they plan to get anywhere close to communism. But C.J. seems to be saying it can dislodge from capitalism before having national independence from imperialism.

The end of this quote also raises valid concerns about who holds the means of production, and the development of a new bourgeoisie among the party bureaucrats. This is one of the huge distinctions between the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, and China under Mao. In China, the masses of the population participated in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which attacked bureaucrats and revisionists in the party and positions of power. These criticisms were led from the bottom up, and the Cultural Revolution was a huge positive lesson on how we can build a society that is continually moving toward communism, and not getting stuck in state-capitalism.

Another significant difference between the line of the MIM and of Cooperation Jackson is our class analysis. Cooperation Jackson is organizing the "working class" in Jackson, Mississippi, which it defines as "unionized and non-unionized workers, cooperators, and the under and unemployed."(1, p. 30) So far in our exposure to C.J., we haven't yet come across an internationalist class analysis. Some pan-Africanism, yes, but nothing that says a living wage of $11 is more than double what the average wage would be if we had an equal global distribution of wealth.(5, 6) And so far nothing that says New Afrika benefits from its relationship to the United $tates over those who Amerikkka oppresses in the Third World.

We can't say what the next steps for the Jackson-Kush Plan should be. There's still opportunity for people within the project to clarify its line on the labor aristocracy/working class, the necessity of armed struggle to take power from the bourgeoisie, and the significance of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. MIM(Prisons)'s Free Books for Prisoners Program distributes many materials on these topics. Some titles we definitely recommend studying are On Trotskyism by Kostas Mavrakis, The Chinese Road to Socialism by E.L. Wheelwright and Bruce McFarlane, and Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997 by MIM.

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[Economics] [U.S. Imperialism] [ULK Issue 67]
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Economic Update: Amerikkkans Prospering in 2019

The u.$. economy has succeeded in stabilizing itself, at least for the near future. As reported previously (1,2), the majority of amerikans are prospering; their pockets lined with the bribes of imperialism, the labor aristocrats of the united $nakes are unlikely to support genuine socialism any time soon.

In 2007, amerika faced an economic downturn. Excessive lending allowing amerikans to buy overvalued houses, which led banks to the point of collapse when debts could not be repaid. As the effects of the crisis spread, stocks fell, jobs were lost and the economy began to contract. The financial crisis has been rightly recognized as the worst to affect the First World since the Great Depression. However, it has also been rightly recognized as being of lesser severity, earning it the moniker the Great Recession.

And since then? The state of the amerikan economy has been not that of crisis but of recovery. Unemployment peaked in October 2009 at 10.0%. After that, it steadily declined. In early 2019, almost a decade later, unemployment now sits at 4.0%. In fact, by this measure the u.$. economy is doing better than ever. Monthly unemployment figures in 2006, before the crisis, were around 4.5%, 4.4% at the lowest. In 2018, they were around 4.0%, with the highest being 4.1% in the beginning of the year.(3) Labor force participation has decreased 2% since October 2009, but is at an average value over the last 65 years.(4) Another indicator of economic prosperity, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, has grown over the past five years, surpassing 25,000 points and setting 15 all-time record highs in 2018.(5) The bull market does not just enrich a few bourgeoisie: with 55% of amerikans owning stocks, the majority of the u.$. population is petty-bourgeois and benefits from rising stock market. (6)

In 2017, Amerikans spent, on average, more than five hours a day pursuing leisure, a number essentially constant over the preceding decade.(7) Between 2009 and 2018, average wages increased by 23%, faster than the rate of inflation.(8,9) As 2018 drew to a close, the average hourly wage in amerika was $27.53 (median hourly wages have seen similar steady increases to just over $23).

Contrast this state of affairs with China, where the hourly wage in 2016, adjusted for purchasing power parity, was $6.39. Or India where it is $3.10.(10) In China, hourly pay is less than a quarter of that in the u.$. In India, it is less than an eighth. It is clear that this wage disparity can only exist because amerikans benefit from the exploited surplus value of Third World labor.(11) So-called socialist groups in amerika "fight for 15," ignoring both the low wages paid in other parts of the world and the fact that many workers inside u.$. borders are, by virtue of nationalist immigration policies designed to preserve amerikkkan wealth, considered "illegal" and unable to benefit from a higher minimum wage.

Despite the fact that the numbers above have been adjusted for inflation and geographical differences in purchasing power let's entertain the supposition that some aspect of the cost of living has not been accounted for and that amerikan workers are still being exploited. If amerikans were truly being exploited, then they would have little to no property or wealth of their own. However, 64% of amerikans own a home, about the same as in the mid 1990s.(12) This number is fairly stable; since the 1960s, homeownership rates have fluctuated in a fairly narrow range, peaking close to 70% in 2004 and never falling below 62.9% since 1964.(13) In 2018, the average u.$. home had an asking price of over $200,000.(14) Many amerikans own their homes outright, while others may have a mortgage and look forward to outright ownership in the future. An amerikan with a 30-year mortgage, for example, expects that they will pay off their home in 30 years and enjoy a comfortable retirement in it. Ignoring issues of credit, interest and down payment that would automatically exclude Third World workers, a Chinese worker attempting to buy the same house with a quarter of the income would need to spread out payments over 120 years, while an Indian worker would need to labor for literal centuries. The average amerikan dwelling, leaving out furniture, cars and other luxuries, already represents a greater accumulation of wealth than the typical Third World worker could make in eir lifetime.

And it is not a question of a vast economic divide within the U.$. Even among amerikans with an income below the national median, over half owned a home in 2018.(15) The majority of amerikans are therefore in possession of considerable wealth, which they invest in assets and spend on plush accommodations. The typical amerikan acts more like a member of the bourgeoisie than of the proletariat.

There remain significant economic differences between the wealth of whites and the wealth of New Afrikans and [email protected] within U.$. borders. But even with that disparity, the vast majority of U.$. citizens are profiting from the exploitation of the Third World, giving them a solid economic interest in imperialism. In a future article we will provide an update on the economic status of oppressed nations within U.$. borders.

A Boom in False Consciousness

In the bourgeois media we've seen a recent uptick in pieces examining the growing generational divide. Older commentators bemoan the laziness and entitlement of millennial (born in 1981-1996), while younger commentators decry the indulgence and thoughtlessness of baby boomers (born 1946-1964) who have depleted the Earth's resources and left no economic opportunities for future generations. The former is the typical "kids these days" grousing. Disproving the latter: homeownership among people aged 35 and under has gone from 64.0% in 1994 to 64.4% in 2018.(16) In other words, economic opportunity has actually increased for younger amerikans. Millennial wealth has more than doubled since 2007, with the other generations seeing either a net increase in wealth or a partial recovery in the value of their sizable assets since the financial crisis.(17)

Any discussion of a generational gap in economic opportunity is false consciousness. Nothing could underscore this point further than the fact that any generational disparity in wealth will be rendered moot when the millennial children of bourgeois boomers receive their inheritances. In fact, it will not even take that long. Just as aristocratic scions of yore could remain resident in the family manor, or plantation, and not have to worry about actually working for a living, young "professionals" (i.e. those tasked with administrating the parasitic U.$. economy) can buy large homes in expensive metropolitan areas because they receive financial assistance from their parents.(18)

Amerikans, as a whole, enjoy high wages and a comfortable lifestyle not available in the Third World. The majority of amerikans possess considerable wealth in the form of houses and are closer to the petty-bourgeois than the proletariat in their economic position. Because of this economic interest, the Amerikan populace is unlikely to support a genuine communist revolution. Without a solid internationalist perspective, any talk of socialism within amerika will be a phony national "socialism," at best redistributing from one tier of the labor aristocracy to another and at worst heightening the violence inherent to international superexploitation.

Notes:
1. Wiawimawo, "Building United Front, Surrounded by Enemies: Case Study of the U.$. Housing Market Decline," Under Lock & Key 17 (2010).
2. Wiawimawo, "Amerikans Richer Than Ever," Under Lock & Key 42 (2015).
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Seasonally Adjusted Unemployment Rate for Persons 16 and over" (LNS14000000).
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Trading Economics. "United States Labor Force Participation Rate".
5. Closing milestones of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Wikipedia.
6. Gallup. "In Depth: Stock Market".
7. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Average hours per day - leisure and sports" (TUU10101AA01013585).
8. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Average hourly earnings of all employees, total private, seasonally adjusted" (CES0500000003).
9. Coinnews Media Group, CPI data, Inflationcalculator.com.
10. Gordon, L. and Mohiuddin O, "China Still Lucrative for Businesses Despite the Rising Wage Rates." Euromonitor International (2017).
11. MC5, "Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997".
12. U.S. Census Bureau, "Table 14a. Quarterly Seasonally Adjusted Homeownership Rates for the: 1980 to Present."
13. U.S. Census Bureau, "Table 14. Quarterly Homeownership Rates for the U.S. and Regions: 1964 to Present."
14. U.S. Census Bureau, "Table 11A/B. Quarterly Median Asking Rent and Sales Price of the U.S. and Regions: 1988 to Present."
15. U.S. Census Bureau, "Table 17. Quarterly Homeownership Rates by Family Income: 1994 to Present". 16. U.S. Census Bureau, "Table 19. Quarterly Homeownership Rates by Age of Householder: 1994 to Present".
17. R. Fry, "Gen X rebounds as the only generation to recover the wealth lost after the housing crash" (Pew Research Center, 2018).
18. H. Seligson, New York Times "The New 30-Something," 2 March 2019.
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