"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.
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 $tates over those who Amerikkka oppresses in the Third World.
We can't say what the next steps for the Jackson-Kush Plan should be. There's still opportunity for people within the project to clarify its line on the labor aristocracy/working class, the necessity of armed struggle to take power from the bourgeoisie, and the significance of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. MIM(Prisons)'s Free Books for Prisoners Program distributes many materials on these topics. Some titles we definitely recommend studying are On Trotskyism by Kostas Mavrakis, The Chinese Road to Socialism by E.L. Wheelwright and Bruce McFarlane, and Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997 by MIM.
The u.$. 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.$. borders.
A Boom in False Consciousness
In the bourgeois media we've seen a recent uptick in pieces examining the growing generational divide. Older commentators bemoan the laziness and entitlement of millennial (born in 1981-1996), while younger commentators decry the indulgence and thoughtlessness of baby boomers (born 1946-1964) who have depleted the Earth's resources and left no economic opportunities for future generations. The former is the typical "kids these days" grousing. Disproving the latter: homeownership among people aged 35 and under has gone from 64.0% in 1994 to 64.4% in 2018.(16) In other words, economic opportunity has actually increased for younger amerikans. Millennial wealth has more than doubled since 2007, with the other generations seeing either a net increase in wealth or a partial recovery in the value of their sizable assets since the
Any discussion of a generational gap in economic opportunity is false consciousness. Nothing could underscore this point further than the fact that any generational disparity in wealth will be rendered moot when the millennial children of bourgeois boomers receive their inheritances. In fact, it will not even take that long. Just as aristocratic scions of yore could remain resident in the family manor, or plantation, and not have to worry about actually working for a living, young "professionals" (i.e. those tasked with administrating the parasitic U.$. 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.
There was a significant increase in white supremacist activism in response to the election of President Obama. And another upswing around the election of President Trump. We see this as a cultural phenomena, as economic conditions for the Amerikan nation are not declining.(see economics article, this issue) These activists are not part of the imperialist government. We want to distinguish between fascism as state power, a terroristic dictatorship of imperialism, and the ideology of white supremacy and extreme national chauvinism. In this article we will look more closely at the latter phenomenon in Amerikan society. As revolutionaries we need to think about what the rise in white supremacy means and what we can do to fight for a scientific understanding of the equality of all nations.
Defining White Supremacy
The white supremacists often look to Nazi Germany as an ideal society, and promote white nationalism. We see these views in a range of right-wing organizations calling themselves neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists, and some even calling themselves revolutionary anti-capitalists. We use the term fascist to identify these organizations as they all espouse the genocide of, or forcible separation of oppressed nations from Amerikan prosperity, as a way of promoting the superiority of white people within Amerika.
The vast majority of politics in the United $tates are white nationalist. We will use the term white supremacist here to refer to those who explicitly believe that white people are a separate race, and this racial category denotes inherent superiority.
White Supremacy Rising
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) monitors what they call "hate groups" and "hate crimes," releasing an annual summary report and keeping public dossiers of organizations and individuals on their website. The SPLC includes oppressed-nation nationalist organizations in this definition, including some revolutionary nationalist groups. In spite of this major ideological error, we can use their data to get a picture of what's going on.
In 2017, a post-Charlottesville Washington Post/ ABC News survey found that 9% of Americans (22 million people) thought it was fine to hold neo-Nazi or white supremacist views. And according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino, hate crimes in the six largest U.S. cities were up 20% from 2016.(1)
In 2017, in the early months of Trump's presidency, there was an upswing in white nationalist activism. Online organizations like the Daily Stormer and Stormfront saw dramatically increased interest (Daily Stormer: 2016 summer 140,000 views per month up to 750,000 in August 2017; Stormfront gained 30,000 new users between January and August 2017). This lines up with the SPLC findings that neo-Nazi groups grew 22% in 2017. At the same time they recorded a 20% increase in Black nationalist groups. The SPLC correctly identifies this as a reaction to rising white supremacy.(1) In 2018 the SPLC again reported an increase in white nationalist groups, up 50% from 2017. The previous all-time high number of "hate groups" identified by the SPLC was in 2011, shortly after Obama took office as President. 2018 marked the fourth year in a row of increased numbers of "hate groups" after a decline over the previous four-year period.(2)
Our observation of white supremacist activism affirms the SPLC statistics on the growing membership and popularity of these organizations. And we conclude that there is in fact a rising sentiment of Amerikan nationalism in this country. The conditions of the petty-bourgeoisie have not worsened, so this is not a response to declining economic status.(See: "Economic Update: Amerikans Prospering in 2019," this issue)
Culture Driving Reactionary Shift
Conditions for oppressed nations have changed over the past few decades. This is seen in laws preventing various forms of overt discrimination, affirmative action in college admission, and growing opportunities for petty bourgeois New Afrikan and [email protected] advancement. Further, culturally overt racism is considered unacceptable by a growing segment of the population. The white population in the United $tates will soon be less than 50% of the total. And Obama was elected president. While not truly impacting their economic situation, the culture created by these changes is seen as a threat by many in the white nation. The rise in white-supremacist sentiments is in part a response to a cultural phenomenon. Trump's campaign slogan has been understood by people on all sides to really mean "Make America White Again."
Along with the material shift in national makeup of the population has come phenomena in the culture that have made many young white males defensive, and wanting to retreat into that identity of being a white male. Bourgeois ideas of race, identity and individualism have shifted the legitimate critique of a white male power structure to one of micro-managing behaviors. The petty-bourgeois obsession with lifestyle politics and its unscientific distortions of the analysis of oppression made by revolutionaries has contributed to the recent popularity of white supremacist ideas, especially in online forums.
In research for eir book Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, Kathleen Belew found that throughout Amerikan history post-war periods corresponded with rises in white power vigilantism and radical violence more than other factors, such as immigration, economics, or political populism. In other words, the experiences of being an occupying force in the Third World brings people over to violent white supremacy. This is a validation of Zak Cope's thesis that white nationalism cannot be abolished within the imperialist system dominated by the United $tates. It may be tempered at home, in times of stability, among those who never think about the brutal slaughter their country is waging against people of the oppressed nations. But those doing that killing must come up with ideological justifications for their actions.
We've discussed previously that identifying as white is to identify as oppressor.(3) To deny this is to deny the structure of imperialism in the world today. It is the task of communists and progressives in European/Euro-settler countries to discourage people from identifying with white pride, and celebrating the genocidal, colonial, and settler behavior of eir respective nations. Currently, there is a growing population of young petty-bourgeois white men who feel persecuted in a racist and determinist way. The fact that the dominant ideology being presented against white supremacy is bourgeois identity politics has led to a heightening of conflict, without any real solutions on the table.
As contradictions heighten, people will pick sides. That is inevitable. But some of the contradictions that are feeding white nationalism in the United $tates should be avoidable. The lack of a scientific, internationalist voice in the mainstream dialogue is pushing this country in dangerous directions.
Labor Aristocracy and White Nationalism
The labor aristocracy, the class of people in imperialist countries who have been bought off with spoils of the exploitation of Third World peoples, is a critical group in our analysis of white supremacy and fascism within the United $tates. We distribute H.W. Edwards' book titled Labor Aristocracy: Mass Base of Social Democracy.(4) Yet, in 2005, MIM passed a resolution titled, "The labor aristocracy is the main force for fascism."(5) How can one class be the mass base for two different systems? Especially a petty-bourgeois class, which Marxism has seen as not having the strength to impose its will on other classes.
Really, social democracy and fascism are just two sides of the same coin. This was seen practically in 1930s Germany, where both forces vehemently opposed the communists. These systems align with both the left and right wings of white nationalism in the United $tates. The left wing struggles with the imperialists for more handouts, while the right struggles against the oppressed nations to extract more wealth, leading to outright theft and other forms of primitive accumulation. The majority petty-bourgeois classes in the imperialist countries may rally to the right for fascism because the falling rate of profit leads the imperialists to share less of the spoils of imperialism with this class. Social democracy is also a push for more sharing from the imperialists, even when conditions are not particularly getting worse. As such, the Amerikans rallying for more pay are reactionary nationalists, even if they disavow overt racism of the fascist type.
Some of the most radical elements of fascist mass organizations present themselves as anti-capitalist in these early stages, so it is not uncommon for people to mistake fascism for a movement of the petty-bourgeoisie to overthrow the bourgeoisie. The ascent of full-blown fascism is dependent on the ability to rally a relatively privileged homecountry working class to the cause of fascism. But fascism is inherently a movement for capitalism. The goal may be to put different people in power, but they are still the bourgeoisie once they take power, because they will have control of the means of production.
And in spite of the aspirations of some, the petty-bourgeoisie is not going to rally enough power to overthrow the imperialist bourgeoisie. At best, they can hope to embolden and support the wing of fascist imperialists in their battle against the democratic imperialists. This is the historic role of the petty bourgeoisie; they are not a decisive class in the capitalist system. This doesn't mean we should ignore them. As an imperialist country edges towards fascism, it is well worth the revolutionary's time to try to push the petty-bourgeoisie away from fascism. But we should do this with our eyes wide open, aware of their class interests and cultural influences.
Fight with Science
We are anti-imperialists first and foremost. Imperialism embodies the principal contradiction that must be resolved to move society forward the fastest. For some, anti-fascism is principal in their lives because white supremacists are actively targeting their bourgeois democratic rights. And in prisons, oppressed people find themselves having to deal with fascists in their daily lives, whether working for the state, as fellow prisoners, or both. As a matter of self-defense, obviously anti-fascism against non-state actors can become primary for some. But for our movement overall, as internationalists in the First World, anti-imperialism must be our priority.
In Germany leading up to Hitler and the Nazi party taking power, conditions for the German workers declined greatly. These workers were already part of the privileged class that we call labor aristocracy. But after World War I the German economy was devastated and the result was this severe decline in economic privileges. In spite of these conditions, the majority of German people did not rally against fascism. There was a relatively strong communist movement in Germany at the time, but even they could not win over the masses to the side of anti-fascism. The German communists made serious mistakes.(6) We must study those mistakes, but we also need to understand that we can't count on the proletarianization of the petty bourgeoisie pushing them to communism.
We need to work now to push the petty bourgeoisie in imperialist countries on the road towards revolutionary thought, even while recognizing that their class interests will keep the majority firmly in the imperialist camp. We are targeting the scientific non-voter: those who might be rallied to the scientific-sounding arguments of white supremacy, and who are pushed towards fascist ideology by all the idealism/metaphysics spouted by people claiming progressive politics.
As a group, the white nation is reactionary because their economic interests are tied up with imperialism, but this does not mean that all white individuals are reactionary, especially youth. And we want to push for accountability among the white nation. With this in mind, we see the need for a mass organization that will focus on targeting oppressor-nation audiences and directly working to prevent the rise of fascist ideology.
As an alternative to white supremacist views, there needs to be a culture of taking responsibility among the imperialist-country populations. We should be working hard to make imperialist-country populations take responsibility for what their nations have done and continue to do to oppressed nations around the world, perhaps in the form of calls for reparations. The goal is to increase scientific thinking, increase persynal responsibility for one's nation's behavior, and push the oppressor nation away from white supremacist views, toward action in the form of nation suicide.
I received your response to my article on the wonderful achievements of the Black Panther Party.(1) In this article, I articulated how fascism has taken possession of this country, and what should be seen as its most advanced form. This is the form that comrade George L. Jackson spoke of in Blood in My Eye, "the third face" in power and secure. I also share this opinion, and it is rooted in my philosophy about the obvious place to start and end the colonial war, which will result in the independence of not only our brothers and sisters in the third world, but also the sleeping giant right here in Amerika.
The fact that Amerika has never entered a revolutionary situation is amazing to say the least. However, it does not mitigate the arrival of fascism. This country is indeed a police state wherein the political ascendancy is tied into and protects the interest of the upper class. It is very much characterized by militarism, imperialism, and racism. By those very definitions it would be silly for intellectuals to continue to ponder on the presence of fascism and its shock troops.
Our new "pigs are beautiful" President Donald Trump is trying to reverse the constitution in order to make Amerikkka an all-white nation as the "Founding Fathers" intended for it to be. But in determining this birthright claim, does this not automatically push out the European colonial master? This would seem to be a true statement, but if we look at fascist predatory culture, it shows that anything of any great value that ever traded hands between the Europeans was taken by a force of arms. History in itself is indeed economically-motivated class struggle. We also have the situation of Mexico being seen as a villain of white Amerikkka to glean from. This is the same stance that the earlier Europeans used to justify the extermination of the Indians and the racist attacks against black brothers and sisters who had already suffered the worst form of slavery in history.
There is much truth in your analysis. However, some truths have been mitigated or omitted to fit your contention. The earlier vanguard party's insistence to only beg for tokens, or to beg for an expansion of the system to include all of us, even after numerous failed attempts, clearly shows their ignorance of the capitalist masters. In a capitalistic society, there must always be an upper, middle, and especially lower class. Asking the government to make certain areas better is the equivalent of making other segments of society a ghetto (poor whites, Asians Amerikans, etc.). This environment is all about winners and losers, which furthers the individualism that destroys trust.
The fact that the vanguard parties rallied around such issues as women's rights, prisoners' rights, etc. should not be ignored. However, those rights are still virtually ignored. Women still do not enjoy the same rights as men (i.e. #MeToo), and the prison industrial complex is still part of the imperialist plan to use our bodies as sources of cheap raw materials to build and expand capital. The 13th Amendment even legalizes slavery in the event that one commits a crime. So yes, Amerika is a fascist country. They use the argument of being "humane imperialists, enlightened fascists." The vanguard parties, instead of pushing for judicial redress which once again failed, should have ushered the populace to go to war against the capitalist masters. Anything less than that is reform.
MIM(Prisons) responds: It's unclear if this author is arguing that the United $tates has been fascist from the start. Or if there is a change we are seeing recently that marks a new fascist government. The former is an interesting argument. This comrade agrees that imperialism and militarism are part of fascism. And from that basis, one could argue that the genocidal foundations of Amerika look at lot like "the open terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital" as Dutt defined fascism. [See intro article]
But we make a distinction between the repression of imperialism against oppressed nations, a feature of the brutality of imperialism, and the terroristic dictatorship of fascist imperialism. This is important because of the strategic implications. If the United $tates has been fascist from foundation, during World War II we would have to argue that the United $tates was not a potential ally in the fight against Hitler's Germany. History does not support this interpretation.
If the author is arguing that there has been some change in the United $tates since World War II, and it is only more recently fascist, then we want to respond to the definitions ey offers more directly. Defining fascism as "militarism, imperialism, and racism" raises the question of how to distinguish that from good 'ole bourgeois democratic imperialism? Imperialism is characterized by militarism and national oppression (and by association, racism). And imperialism is all about protecting the interests of the ruling class. As we discussed in "Fascism, Imperialism, and Amerika in 2019", white nation supremacy is an inherent part of Amerikan imperialism. So that too is not, in and of itself, a good way for us to distinguish fascist imperialism from bourgeois democratic imperialism. In fact, the author is correct that the "founding fathers" of this country intended for it to be a white nation. Unless we want to argue that the United $tates was fascist from the start, throwbacks to previous policies are not inherently signs of a new fascist government.
First and foremost, allow me to debunk an ever-present myth; one that continues obscuring and detracting from debates about prison. Prisons are NOT profitable businesses, at least, not in the manner of the Exxon Mobiles, Sam's Clubs, Wynn Resorts and Carls Jr.'s of the world. While there are "for-profit" prisons in existence, they constitute an extreme minority within what many refer to as the Prison Industrial Complex (a mistaken belief). Reality is that 92-98% of all prisons are state-run entities. This means they are appendages of the state/federal government in whose territory they operate. Prisons are no more for-profit than is the local police department, courthouse, legislature or DMV (although the latter is debatable).
Now we turn to the heart of the matter. If prisons aren't profit-generating behemoths, then why do they proliferate in capitalistic societies like rabbits in heat? The penal institution, as a system, is the direct byproduct of capitalism. I don't mean commodity-centrism in economic terms. Rather, prisons came about to address political fallout consequence of a poli-economic ideology; let's nickname it "Haves and Have Nots Syndrome" (Hahn Syndrome, for short).
It is clearer and clearer, day after day, generation following generation, that Hahn Syndrome is progressively worsening. As the syndrome advances in stages, the Haves become narrower in number. Contrarily, the Have Nots expand. Haves being not only those with wealth sufficient to manage life as they see fit, more or less. Haves are also those with authority over the processes of production, modes of exchange, political/social landscape, those with an appreciable amount of influence, power normally aligned to capitalist interests. Have Nots being not merely those without an over-abundance of wealth, but also those marginalized, disenfranchised and excluded from the political/social landscape. Have Nots are volatile, excluded masses. Of course, these must be attended to in earnest as the minority comprehends the masses' threat. Thus, a complex inter-dependent, self-perpetuating social control mechanism: the penitentiary.
Looking at the global picture of capitalism, we can identify trends: inequality (social, economic, gender), formal systems (justifying abuses, discrimination, prejudice), excluded masses, and above all, penal institutions. No coincidences there. These are all byproducts of capitalistic systems making it all-but-inevitable that such behemoths must be employed. Capitalism has, in "civilized" society, resorted to far more effective measures than good, old fashioned plomo (read: marginalization, isolation, disenfranchisement, invalidation, forfeitures, imprisonment).
What does this do for capitalism? Take an undocumented immigrant. Ey is not a citizen — meaning without rights or validation — which translates to being exploited for labor or political ends. Trumpists push for wall funding on the political side; harvesters, nannies, etc. on the laboral. Exploited for labor when profitable and politics whenever convenient. This is only one example of Hahn Syndrome in action on Have Nots.
First World lumpen can, due to their best interests, be counted among Have Nots; especially considering they are prime targets for prison. Hence, 2-million-plus incarcerated and over 6 million under state management (according to BOP.gov and U.S. Census Bureau statistics). For those who don't become good capitalist contributors, prison is their final or eventual destination.
An ignorant mass is the mob. The mob is easily swayed this or that way. An excluded, disaffected, educated mass means a rebellion, a resistance, a real opponent for capitalism. Something capitalists will do anything to avoid. Why spend ill-gotten gains educating disorganized, excluded masses, turning them into a potential usurper, when you could just lock them up? While penitentiaries do not generate super earnings, they are necessary for any capitalistic ideology and society to function. Such behemoths swallow whole dangerous sections of the mob resulting in its impotency.
The mob's ignorance is bliss for capitalists. Why waste millions, billions, building behemoths to swallow the mob? Why do you avoid giving a gun to somebody who wants to kill you? Self-preservation. And capitalist logic is no different. If the central issue can be distracted from (not discussing capitalism and the role of prisons in perpetuating it) then every effort within the bounds of capitalistic systems will fail. This is why the mass must be educated, because then we'll realize the system is just a game of smoke and mirrors. Reform? The Behemoth keeps devouring.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this author on eir fundamental point that prisons are not for profit, but rather for social control. We want to offer some clarification on the sectors of society discussed above.
First, the definition of Haves and Have Nots might seem obvious, but this is actually a point of much debate among activists. We see many so-called leftists claiming that workers in the United $tates are part of the oppressed group (the Have Nots) but we see that their wages are artificially inflated with the profits of exploitation of the Third World. And so these folks are very much the Haves on a global scale.
In general we look at the oppressed nations within U.$. borders as the groups with the greatest interest in fighting imperialism. But with the class focus that Haves and Have Nots implies, we would define the Have Nots to include undocumented immigrants and the First World lumpen. The lumpen is defined as the class of people in the First World who are excluded from the productive process. By virtue of living in the First World, this class, on average, receives more material benefits from imperialism than the global proletariat. As such their interests are not the same as the exploited classes and we do not include them in the "lumpen-proletariat." But their conditions in many ways parallel those of the lumpen-proletariat, standing in stark contrast to the majority of the First World populations.
MIM(Prisons) published a pamphlet "Who is the Lumpen in the United States" which includes our contemporary class analysis of this group. We do not see evidence to suggest this group is growing. Send in $3 or equivalent work-trade to the address on p. 1 for your copy.
I strongly disagree with the exclusion of whites from the ranks of the lumpen within the United $tates. (see the tenth paragraph of Wiawimawo's article "Sakai's Investigation of the Lumpen in Revolution" in ULK 64) Although most whites in the United $tates. enjoy "white privilege" there are also whole communities of disenfranchised, impoverished whites. These communities are heavily reliant on government support systems to survive (i.e. food stamps, SSI, welfare, section 8 housing, etc.) They are also rife with crime, drugs, and street gangs.
For example, take the lumpen organizations (L.O.s) from Chicago (i.e. the Gaylords and the Simon City Royals). Both of these organizations were started by disenfranchised, impoverished communities consisting of mostly whites. They were originally founded to protect their communities from outside forces.
By stating that only oppressed "minorities" can be considered lumpen, Wiawimawo is engaging in paternalist politics that causes divisions within the movement. The truth is that any people that fit the political, social, and economic profile are lumpen. Disenfranchisement is not unique, nor immune, to any nationality. In solidarity!
Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: We are sending you a copy of "Who is the Lumpen in the United $tates?" so you can better understand our position on this question. First let's look at the quote from my article that you are responding to:
"This is why, in our work on the First World lumpen in the United $tates, we excluded white people from the model by default. We did this despite knowing many white lumpen individuals who are comrades and don't fit the model."
Note i say that we know "many white lumpen individuals who are comrades," meaning we agree with you that there are white lumpen, we just excluded them from the model presented in the paper cited. So why did we do this? Well, it is mostly based in our assessment of the principal contradiction in the United $tates being between the white oppressor nation and the oppressed nations. In the paper we do write:
"White men [who are currently/formerly incarcerated lumpen] number about 1.3 million, but are much more likely to find employment and join the labor aristocracy after release from prison. While in prison white men do fall into the lumpen class but lack the oppressed nation outlook and so often join white supremacist groups rather than supporting revolutionary organizing. This is just one factor contributing to a national outlook that leads us to exclude whites overall when discussing the revolutionary potential of the First World lumpen."
We also point out that historically the settler nation made up of Europeans has always been a petty bourgeois nation, while the oppressed nations have histories that are largely proletarian, but also lumpen-proletarian. History affects our national and class consciousness, so we can't just look at a snapshot in time. But the point of the paper was to show the size of the First World lumpen in the oppressed nations of the United $tates and a snapshot of how their conditions differ significantly from the white nation.
We'd say the examples you provide are exceptions that prove the rule. It takes some digging to come up with them, but certainly they exist. And in the context of the topic of this issue of Under Lock & Key we can certainly agree with you that they should not be ignored.
Most often, in U.$. prisons, when we talk about white L.O.s we are talking about white nationalist groups of some type. In our study, white supremacist organizations that are promoting fascism in this country today are made up of three main groups: former military, members of lumpen organizations/prisoners, and alienated petty bourgeois youth gathering around racist subcultures on the internet. The first two are the more dangerous groups, though the third gives the movement more of a feeling of a mass base of popularity. In our work it is with the second group that we can have the most impact. And we've had a number of former hardcore white supremacists become leaders within United Struggle from Within, and many more have participated in progressive battles for prisoner rights. It is in such alliances with the oppressed nations around the common interests of the imprisoned lumpen that we can really win over potential recruits who were initially drawn to fascism.
We welcome reports on examples of white lumpen organizing in the interests of ending oppression, and further analysis of the white lumpen as a base for progressive organizing.
"Sakai on Lumpen in Revolution" was my favorite piece in ULK 64. I would have liked to see a more in-depth analysis of the subject of the role of lumpen following the review of Sakai's book. I believe the lumpen will play a principal role in revolution here in imperialist United States.
We live in a time very different from Marx's, when the battle was to be waged between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Marx wrote of the growing contradictions between bourgeoisie and proletariat, following from these contradictions, the proletariat revolution abolishing capitalism. This was apparently true then, but the terrain is very different now. After the imperialist wars I and II led to imperialist expansion and consolidation of global capitalism and the global market, new classes with their own contradictions (and inner-contradictions) have been created. And with the transformation of colonialism proper into neocolonialism, the roles of the different classes and the contradictions even among the oppressed classes themselves, has created many non-principal contradictions, clouding the principal ones.
In the imperialist countries, and especially here in the imperialist capital of the world, the U.S., imperialism and neo-colonialism is beneficial to the "proletariat." The working class population is effectively bought off with a better standard of living thanks to global value transfer from Third World nations. This "sharing of the (stolen) pie" gives the appearance that the proletariat and the bourgeoisie share a common interest in imperialism. Of course, the contradiction between the two classes continues to exist, but giving the proletariat some crumbs off of the table of the "all you can eat global buffet" alleviates the contradictions and pacifies revolutionary potential and the raising of working class consciousness.
With the proletariat in the imperialist countries there also exists blind patriotism and national chauvinism, and this is a major hindrance to uniting the proletariat in any truly revolutionary way. Much of the working class has been brainwashed with national pride without any good reason. Participating in bourgeois political games, buying into their effectiveness. Supporting various U.S. aggression toward Third World countries, and the so-called "war on terror."
These are just a few of the reasons why we should consider the possibility of the lumpen playing a principal role in revolution. Lumpen's very existence is much more precarious and unpredictable. They comprise millions of the U.S. population. They are the most cast-off population. People are accepting gays, lesbians, transgenders, etc. The women's movement is again taking off and enjoying widespread support. Racism continues to be addressed and shunned, as well as religious intolerance. But the lumpen population continues to be cast off, ignored, discriminated against for life, killed, and legally enslaved (see the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution).
Proletariats, with the sheer numbers, and the fact that they are the very foundation, the absolute precondition for the existence of capitalism, they hold the potential to abolish oppression. But for that to happen, the proletariat here would have to settle accounts with imperialism, and this may prove more difficult than transforming the lumpen mentality to a revolutionary mentality.
Lumpen have been in rebellion their entire lives against the exploitive system, even if unconsciously. The prestige of U.S. righteousness, justice, and equality, if it ever existed for the lumpen, is constantly being deconstructed. And the lumpen, with their lumpen organizations, are these not already guerrilla armies? Doing guerrilla warfare every day? We need only work to introduce revolutionary principles and raise their consciousness. Their material conditions of existence are more primed for revolutionary action than the proletariat in the U.S. today.
I would really like to see more dialogue on this subject. I hope that I have made some kind of valid point. I am no authority on revolutionary theory. I am only 24 and very new.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have much unity with this analysis of classes in the United $tates. But where it is limited to an analysis of classes within U.$. borders, we think it's crucial to think more broadly about classes globally in this era of imperialism. As this comrade notes, the workers in the United $tates have been bought off with the spoils of imperialism. But this doesn't mean the proletariat on a global scale is bought off. We do look to the proletariat as the foundational class for revolution, but we don't find that proletariat within U.$. borders. Instead we find it in the Third World, where it is actively engaged in a battle for life and death with imperialism. There it is not a big leap for the proletariat to take up revolutionary struggle.
In First World countries like the United $tates, on the other hand, we see the lumpen playing a leading role in the revolutionary movement. This is in large part because the national contradiction is the principal contradiction within U.$. borders. And as this writer points out, the oppressed nation lumpen continue to receive the brunt of this oppression even while living in a country of great wealth and prosperity. The potential for lumpen organizations to become revolutionary organizations is of great interest to us as well. We work with many of these organizations to build peace and unity. But these organizations are generally structured to meet capitalist goals. In the book reviewed, Sakai, addresses the challenges faced in joining forces militarily with such organizations in other times and places. But in those contexts we are talking about a lumpen-proletariat, in proletarian populations. We talk about the First World lumpen, within the exploiter countries, and see even more barriers in wholesale moves to the revolutionary road.
With such a relatively small potentially revolutionary population in the imperialist countries, we don't expect to see revolution start from within the United $tates. At least not without a significant change in conditions. The most likely avenue for revolution comes from the Third World. This doesn't absolve us of responsibility within imperialist countries. We must organize the resistance, support revolutionary movements in the Third World, and build a movement capable of seizing the moment when it arrives.
The year 2019 marks not only a new beginning, but a goal for unification for us all. As of January 2019, Governor Jerry Brown of California steps down, leaving $150 million of debt for the cost of death row, and more than 740 men and women seeking clemency. As well, the state of Georgia, which houses the largest prisoner population in segregation, looks to include another generation to their 5,000 offenders on lockdown.
In order to understand the problem of mass incarceration, and develop a solution, we first have to understand the facts from the myths. First, contrary to popular beliefs, the states actually lose money on the overall cost of prisons. States like Pennsylvania, for example, are undergoing critical budget crises in which it costs more to house you than it costs to send you to college. Almost $1 trillion annually is the cost of incarceration. So if it costs so much to house us, why not just let us go?
Second, releasing offenders from prison will not fix the debt of operating prisons, because prisons operate on a fixed scale, which doesn't really change with the number of residents. It's roughly $21,000 to house a prisoner, but the state doesn't save that if you're released.
Third, incarcerating individuals doesn't reduce crime. Between 2010 and 2014 the total state prisoner population dropped 4%, with California contributing to 62% of the total for the country. This dropped overall crime rate by 1%. However, the now-increasing rate of incarceration has more than doubled the crime rate.
This being known, the United States still incarcerates more people per capita than any other country, at a cost of more than $50 billion. Yet there has been little decline in the total amount of people incarcerated or amount of prisons. If we hope to fix this problem, we must first create a solution. The solution is to stop the incentive of incarceration! Even though the states lose money with prisons, the employees enjoy the financial gain. Many lobbyists are proposing to close prisons, but are opening prisons? Since most debt is subsidized to the state, the prison's main source of revenue is us! By funding the prisons we are keeping ourselves locked up. If we refuse to spend money in the prison, we can expect the prison to change.
This year marks the beginning of "Greatness Nation United" (GNU). We are the voice of the tired, the angry and defeated. I am inviting all youth to join the Greatness Movement, where we refuse to fund the prison's commissary, prison packages, or any JPay service. If you can't go completely without commissary, then once a month spending the lowest possible amount would impact as well. How is it possible we can sacrifice our freedom for imprisonment but won't sacrifice "a few store goods" for your freedom? Change comes in numbers. I challenge all of you to being greater than your circumstances this year. Greater than your situation.
To everyone reading, we are greater than incarceration, only together can we achieve.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer sums up some important facts about the economics of incarceration. The facts about prison expenditures above can be found with background information in our article on the U.$ Prison Economy(1), published last year. And as this writer explains, releasing individual prisoners doesn't have much of an impact on the overall cost of incarceration as long as the entire prison is being maintained. The main cost is the prison itself and the staff running it. And when prisoners are released the number of staff are not generally reduced unless the entire prison is shut down.
This comrade suggests a plan for action that will impact the prison financially. The idea of boycotting prison spending is one of the few areas where prisoners have some potential power. To spend or not to spend is discretionary. Of course the prisons can try to starve people to force them to buy supplemental food for survival. But it is still an area of power for the prisoner.
Given the $1 trillion in overall burden of prison costs, or just the $261 billion in direct criminal injustice system expenses, how much impact can prisoners have with a boycott? Have others found this effective at forcing change in the past? When we organize actions against the criminal injustice system, but it's always good to think critically about our potential impact as we build new and better tactics in this battle.
I am approaching from a background of having been held captive in general prison population where I am aware that at least a few of us subscribe to The BayView and Under Lock & Key and agreed the latter's issue No. 62 is controversial in criticizing a certain labor union.
One reason for focusing on this outstanding view(s) is because some of us are unionized with this entity which is the only one of its class that waves membership dues for prisoners and is also actively involved in the prison abolition movement. Specifically you allude in your article to, "Those organizations don't want low paid prisoners to replace high paid petty bourgeois workers."
Further what I think was more shocking is you attributed to outside support low, selfish motive by claiming, "They would be happy to see prisoners rot in their cells... it's higher pay for their class that the labor aristocracy wants." Indisputably your position is informative and generally supported by historical patterns, including Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow which illustrated how Capitalists successfully divided White and New Afrikan working class through granting pay raises and white skin privileges who in turn collectively advocated us decaying in segregation.
I would like to remain on Under Lock & Key subscription list because by far, it's more advanced than a number of other non-mainstream publications, in that yours boldly challenges general thought trends. One case-in-point is an Elder had cautioned us to be vigilant on what Under Lock & Key also affirmed about those who share sentiments identified as "the mass base behind the prison craze." We see clear signs they are present, active and have self-centered agendas.
But in contrast to what you promoted, I don't think our struggle has yet nor is on the verge of being co-opted by selfish motives — though potentially via "Incarcerated Organizing Committees" — provided our focus don't prioritize amending the 13th Amendment over acquiring human rights and Independence, attacking deceptive parole mechanisms. In this regard, MIM(Prisons) provides a vital source exhorting the prison movement to re-evaluate the ramification of amending the 13th Amendment. Perhaps the pendulum will sway away from giving successive energy to the 13th Amendment when factoring that many prison systems already pay money of account for prisoner labor; but yet, both sides of the spectrum agree mass incarceration is the core problem.
In ULK 62, among other issue numbers, you criticize massive prison work strikes. The perspective MIM(Prisons) is herein asked to ponder upon is the impact of "sustained" general work strikes will have on the bottom lines of private sectors; namely, commissary stork, telephone companies, choicey livestock parts that never reaches our food supply, etc.
MIM(Prisons) responds: First, we must make a disclaimer related to this discussion. We've learned of a recent article in Turning the Tide by a couple of United Struggle from Within comrades that calls out IWOC, among other organizations, as "ghost organizations." This is NOT the position of MIM(Prisons) or ULK. We will likely address this in more detail soon. However, we hope our readers can distinguish our approach here in criticizing the political line of other organizations and the effects of that line, rather than disparaging them for not doing anything just because they aren't working with us. No one can deny that the IWOC has done a lot to successfully publicize recent prison struggles and actions.
Overall it seems we have a lot of agreement with the writer above, but areas of debate are well worth addressing. The main point raised here is whether labor unions are selfishly pushing their own agenda for higher wages for the Amerikan labor aristocracy, or if these labor unions can really be putting the interests of prisoners first in prison labor struggles.
As this writer notes, we have plenty of historical evidence of labor unions in the United $tates promoting the interests of the Amerikkkan nation at the expense of oppressed nations.(1) And this promotion of national oppression includes support for the expansion of prisons to lock up oppressed nations. In fact, those prisons provide well-paying jobs for many labor aristocracy workers. So the contradiction between prison employees and prisoners is amplified, as this incarceration is essential to their livelihood.
Many corporations can't take advantage of cheap prison labor because labor unions have put provisions in their contracts and state laws to force consultation with labor leaders before establishing a contract for prisoner labor. It is clear the cheaper labor available in prisons is a direct threat to the high wages paid to people outside of prisons for work that could be done by prisoners. Many labor unions are quite clear about their position on this point.
But the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is different from other labor unions in that it claims to be international and anti-capitalist. The IWW is the labor union offering free membership to prisoners and actively campaigning on behalf of prisoners. The IWW also actively campaigns for higher wages for Amerikan workers. So they are walking a fine line between progressive work supporting prisoners' struggles, and reactionary pro-labor-aristocracy politics. The history of the IWW includes some clear examples benefiting white workers at the expense of colonial labor, as is documented in J. Sakai's book Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat.(2)
This doesn't mean the IWW is always working against the interests of prisoners. In fact they have waged some progressive battles. But their goal of raising wages for Amerikan workers is still fundamentally reactionary. The Amerikan labor aristocracy is the mass base for fascism, not a base for revolutionary organizing. They continue to come down on the side of imperialism, and are well bought off with the spoils of conquest and exploitation of oppressed nations around the globe.
In all of our prison struggles we need to keep the contradiction between internal oppressed nations (locked up, killed by police, flooded with drugs, denied economic, educational, and work opportunities, etc.) and the oppressor nation at the forefront. Why do we have such a huge prison population in the United $tates? It comes back to national oppression.
Battles around prisoners getting access to education, or getting paid for their labor, can be progressive parts of the struggle against the criminal injustice system. As long as they are framed in the context of the battle for liberation of oppressed nations. Opportunistically tying the prison labor battle to the broader Amerikan labor union struggles will only drag us down into reactionary oppressor-nation politics which builds up the labor aristocracy at the expense of the world's oppressed.(3) The oppressed, around the world and within U.$. borders, are always the losers in Amerikan labor union wage struggles.