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[Principal Contradiction] [Organizing] [National Liberation] [Economics] [ULK Issue 78]
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FAQs on Class and Nation and What We Will Print

MIM,

Thank you for the book MIM Theory 2/3 on Gender and Revolutionary Feminism – this is exactly the kind of reading material I want and need.

I do want to briefly comment on a recurring phrase I see in some of your theory: “white worker”. Does this mean white collar worker as in labor aristocrat or is this a prejudice that labor aristocrats are white skin color? If you mean privileged as in white collar then why don’t you say collar?

I have not read much of the book yet, just a few pages. However, I can agree that much of the working class in amerika is labor aristocrat, where you lose me is that when I think of labor aristocrat I see a face like Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, who is constantly calling for more police and more oppression.

Here in California we have a lot of Brown faces, perhaps 50% Brown. The point is whenever I talk to a Brown or Black person about socialism the response is mostly the same. Black & Brown people in amerika love their privilege, they enjoy exploiting 3rd world workers, there the labor aristocrat is Brown and Black in the face and white in the collar.

I think MIM Theory agrees with me that First World working class has no use for revolution and is impossible to recruit or even harmful to the movement, as bourgeoisie in any dictatorship of the proletariat is only there to revive capitalism. However, as MIM states the majority of First World working class is labor aristocrat, then I would assume MIM is considering the demographics of the First World as a whole and means “white collar worker” and not merely a racist jab of “white worker.” All of the cops here have Brown faces.

In Solidarity,

a California prisoner


Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: Sounds like we have a high level of unity on the class structure in this country, and the world. The truth is the analysis has evolved since the 1980s, when it was more reasonable to talk about a proletariat in the internal semi-colonies (by which we mean New Afrika, Boricua, Aztlan, and the First Nations). So back then writers like MIM and Sakai would talk about a Black or [email protected] proletariat, while seeing the white workers as an enemy class. And yes, by white we mean white people, though we use it to talk about nation, rather than race, which is a myth. Therefore today we’ll often use Amerikan instead. And many “non-white” people have integrated into Amerika today. Euro-Amerikan is a term for the oppressor nation, but white is still a valid term that is understood by the masses today.

In the introduction to our pamphlet, Who is the Lumpen in the United $tates, we wrote:

“If we fast forward from the time period discussed above to the 1980s we see the formation of the Maoist Internationalist Movement as well as a consolidation of theorists coming out of the legacy of the Black Liberation Army and probably the RYM as well. Both groups spoke widely of a Black or New Afrikan proletariat, which dominated the nation. MIM later moved away from this line and began entertaining Huey P. Newton’s prediction of mass lumpenization, at least in regard to the internal semi-colonies. Today we find ourselves in a position were we must draw a line between ourselves and those who speak of an exploited New Afrikan population. If the U.$. economy only existed within U.$. borders then we would have to conclude that the lower incomes received by the internal semi-colonies overall is the source of all capitalist wealth. But in today’s global economy, employed New Afrikans have incomes that are barely different from those of white Amerikans compared to the world’s majority, putting most in the top 10% by income.”

The above quote is referring to the MIM Congress resolution, On the internal class structures of the internal semi-colonies. Even since that was written we’ve seen the proliferation of what you talk about, [email protected] prison guards being the majority in much of Aztlan, and New Afrikan prison guards being the majority in many parts of the Black Belt. This of course varies by local demographics. Regardless, it makes one question whether there are even internal semi-colonies to speak of, or at what point we should stop speaking of them? The massive prison system in this country is one reason we do still speak of them.

So we agree with you that the term “white worker” has kind of lost its meaning today. However, we still see the principal contradiction in this country as nation. Despite the bourgeoisification and integration of sectors of the oppressed nations, and the subsequent division of those nations, we still see nationalism of the internal semi-colonies, if led by a proletarian line, as the most potent force against imperialism from within U.$. borders.

A couple more minor points. We’d probably say Eric Adams, and high ranking politicians like em, are solidly bourgeois. Whereas the labor aristocracy would be those Brown guards overseeing you. In addition, we do not use labor aristocracy and white collar synonymously either, as white collar work has always been petty bourgeois or at best semi-proletariat by Marxist standards. So the real controversial issue is to say there are “blue collar” workers who are not exploited.


Organizations for Whites

Another comrade wrote saying that ey had no organization to join because ey is white. They had mistakenly thought that we think people should only organize with their own nation. We do not take a hard line on this question. And it is obviously related to the above.

MIM(Prisons), USW and AIPS are all multinational. Yet in our understanding of nation as principal, it seems necessary for there to be nation-specific organizations to play that contradiction out between the oppressed and oppressor nations. We certainly have supported single-nation organizing, and in another resolution we put out, we cite that as one of the handful of legitimate reasons to start a new organization instead of joining MIM(Prisons) or USW.

But there may be situations where multinational organizing in this country is actually more effective. At this stage our numbers are so small that it should be strongly considered just out of necessity to begin building our infrastructure. And when single-nation organizations do exist, the united front exists for them to work with others outside their nation.


Printing Anarchist Content

Finally, we had a discussion with a comrade who submitted an article that was favorable or uncritical of anarchist organizing strategy. The comrade wanted to know why we asked em to change eir article, because we claim we will print articles form anarchist allies.

Just because we will print content from anarchists, even content we might have disagreements with, it doesn’t mean we always will. First, our goal is to win people over to the Maoist line. So if you submit something that disagrees with that, our first response will often be to struggle with you over that line with the goal of gaining a higher level of unity.

Now some comrades are avowed anarchists. For them we do not need to keep having the same debate. Nor do we need to have that debate in ULK. When we say we’ll print material from anarchists we’re talking about material that actually pushes the struggle forward. Not material that is debating issues we think were settled 100 years ago. This is similar to a critic complaining about us not printing eir piece in ULK when we responded, because we weren’t showing both sides of the debate over the labor aristocracy. Again, this is a debate that was settled decades ago.

On top of this there are many comrades and organizations we work with that aren’t in the camp of the international communist movement such as the Nation of Gods and Earths for one example. While many aspects of the Supreme Understanding taught by the NGE certainly goes against the Maoist worldview, we are able to find solidarity in practice and in a united front. We don’t necessarily have to battle out whether the Supreme Understanding or Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is correct in the newsletter. We encourage line struggle on the ground.

In summary, this is a Maoist newsletter, edited to represent the Maoist line. We get to pick and choose when to print stuff that disagrees with Maoism if we think it is useful to advancing the struggle. Sure we find it important for cadres to be able to commit to line struggle scientifically and principally, and communists in general should have the ability to look at sources that challanges their viewpoint and uphold their line while analyzing what’s wrong/correct during line struggle. There is infinite non-Maoist material out there; and we advise our readers and comrades to go to those materials if they want to see what our critics are saying. We certainly won’t expect our critics to use space in their newsletters publishing entire polemics that we wrote against them, nor would we say that’s unfair to us.

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[U.S. Imperialism] [Russia] [USSR] [China] [Principal Contradiction] [Economics] [ULK Issue 78]
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Book Review: Arms & Empire

[Arms & Empire(1980) by Richard Krooth is a MIM must read. MIM(Prisons) just developed a study guide to go along with this book. The below is the intro to the study guide with some key quotes from the book.]

Introduction to the study pack

The Maoist Internationalist Movement (originally named the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement) was founded at a time when inter-imperialist conflict between the camp led by the United $tates and that led by the social-imperialist USSR posed a threat to the world. In one of the founding documents, written in 1983, comrades saw the combination of liberation struggles in the Third World and this inter-imperialist conflict as a hotbed for communist revolutions.(1)

MIM founders saw the success of communist revolution as an absolute necessity to prevent a new inter-imperialist war, that would likely lead to nuclear war. As such, they recognized that a revolutionary situation could arise within the United $tates in a matter of years, despite having a budding skepticism of the interests of most in our country in communist revolution.

For most of MIM’s existence now we have not been in the situation described above. By 1991 the “Cold War” was over with the dissolution of the Soviet imperialist bloc. For a solid 3 decades we lived under a “unipolar world”, where U.$. dominated organizations and alliances ruled the world (NATO, World Bank, IMF, etc).

For many years now (in 2022) China has been the rising imperialist power, mostly independent of the U.$.-dominated institutions, though deeply integrated with the U.$. economically. As the contradictions heighten in the U.$.-China economic system, they also heighten in the capitalist system overall. The post-USSR era brought a sacking of the wealth of the former Soviet states by cleptocratic capitalists. This aligned with the capitalist development of China, and the return of exploitative relations dominating over 1 billion people who became the primary producers for consumers in the United $tates and around the world. These processes of wealth extraction were the life-blood for global capitalism for those 3 decades of inter-imperialist peace. But, capitalism must keep expanding, and there is not much more room to expand. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a series of collapses in the international system of distribution that prioritized profitability over resiliency.

Earlier this year, Russia invaded Ukraine, in what many fear is the first hot war of what will be an escalating inter-imperialist war. Though to date, it has not yet exceeded in scale the U.$./USSR conflicts of the Cold War. It has brought with it massive trade barriers. The Amerikans have rallied the world to isolate Russia with great success, yet differences in interests have also arisen. This will force many realignments in the coming months and years. The battle for markets, using tariffs and embargoes and currency manipulations, will only escalate. This makes Arms & Empire such a relevant read today.

In 1997, MIM passed a resolution stating:

“For MIM’s purposes, World War III began immediately after World War II ended in 1945. World War III continues today. It is a war between the imperialists and the oppressed nations. By defining World War III as post-World War II, MIM does not mean to say that imperialists did not wage war on the oppressed nations prior to 1945, only that the post-1945 period has specific characteristics (such as: 1. the leading roles of the U.S. and, for a time, the USSR and 2. the predominance of neocolonialism) which separate this period from the pre-1945 periods.”(2)

We can say that world war is inherent to imperialism. As Lenin defined it, imperialism is when the world has been completely divided up by competing monopolist powers, making the export of finance capital the dominant aspect of the economy, and finance capitalists become the shapers of the world. This competition translates to economic and military warfare, both of which result in large numbers of unnecessary humyn deaths. Imperialism kills millions. When warfare between the imperialists can be minimized for a period, the warfare is aimed primarily at the oppressed nations who are resisting the imperialists trying to control and exploit them.

On the eve of World War I, the revisionist Kautsky proposed a theory of ultra-imperialism to supercede imperialism, where the imperialists can ban together to manage the world internationally. Today, there are many bad Marxists who unknowingly promote this metaphysical view of world imperialism where the imperialist forces of NATO and the U.$. are an invincible unbreakable force, and that the best thing the communists can hope for is a counter-balance to U.$. hegemony while tailing other independent imperialists such as Russia or China. While also unknowingly parroting neo-Kautskyism, these revisionist Marxists also unite with the bourgeois Liberals on the world view of a post-Soviet world. The bourgeois liberals had their own theories of “the end of history” after the collapse of the Soviet Union that envisioned the current order to have proven itself as the stable state in which we would remain. In this book, Richard Krooth concisely points out why these fantasies can never come true. The internal contradictions of capitalism and imperialism, brilliantly exposed by Marx and Lenin, translate to antagonistic contradictions among the imperialists that cannot be resolved by synthesis but only by one aspect of that contradiction overtaking the other via warfare. This remains true despite brief periods of relative peace between the imperialists that must also coincide with periods of prosperity and great opportunity for the imperialists. And has MIM has pointed out, even in times of prosperity, the different interests of the labor aristocracy can damper the plans of imperialist unity.(3)

Today, the labor aristocracy is talking about their inability to consume products not made by them in their movement to increased wages, decreased worktimes, etc. However, they seem to be able to consume products not made by them pretty well. Cars, phones, food, etc. are mostly produced by the Third World proletariat, and the main gripe comes with things they don’t own rather than things they don’t produce: rent for example.

As we enter a period of heightened inter-imperialist conflict, we echo the sentiments of MIM’s founders. We are not for war, but we recognize that war by the proletariat to overthrow imperialism is necessary to stop war. As military and economic warfare expands among imperialists and between imperialists and the oppressed nations, opportunities for successful revolutions to put the proletariat in state power increases. This is the solution to war. We aim to destroy imperialism, because imperialism is destroying the planet.

Notes:
1. Manifesto on the International Situation and Revolution (first few pages)
2. Resolution on World War III (1997 MIM Congress)
3. Social-democratic gravy train opposes European Union (2005 MIM Congress)
4. also see: “Ukraine: Imperialism in Crisis” in Under Lock & Key 77 for broad discussion of economic and military warfare against Russia in 2022.

Key summary quotes from book

End of the Introduction:

“For we will see that empire was systemic and competitive; that competition and nationalism then powered the changeover from one system of empire to another; that, consequently, the mercantile colonial system was replaced by a system of free trade with the coming of industrialism; that free trade was thereafter replaced by a return to colonial empires with the rise of monopolization in the leading nations; that war between the Powers resolved little in the fight for world domination; and that a new growth of monopolies led to strengthened colonial spheres of influence and renewed warfare.”

Explanation of the Great Depression (top of p.119):

“The U.S. had long since closed down free trade into America, stopping Germany and other European countries from exporting to American shores to pay their debts. This secured the U.S. dollar for a while, making it the hardest currency in the world, pushing up its value vis-a-vis other currencies, but also making it inaccessible to nations that otherwise would have purchased from America. When other nations could not obtain dollars by exports to the U.S., obviously they could import nothing at all. And so U.S. exports tended to fall and had to be replaced with bilateral trade agreements. Up went U.S. unemployment when markets fell away and bilateral trade could not replace them. Then down came the dollar, the U.S. devaluing in 1933 in an attempt to stimulate the exports again. But, alas, it was too late. The depression was on, production was down, America was spreading crisis to Europe!”

Lead up to WWII (p.129-30):

“Within European nations especially, the road to war was laid out in stages – the first for counterrevolution, the second for capitalist resurgence, and the third for crises and the rise of antagonistic governments seeking to take what all others held in trade, investments, colonies and profits. In the first period (1917-23) we can discern how civilian bands of reactionaries had used force and violence against the agrarian or socialist”revolutions“… The reactionaries demanded”law and order," eventually leading to “counter-revolutions.” Yet the incipient fascist movements did not themselves assume government power, for the marketplace was being re-established and did not require a fascistic state.

"The second period (1924-29) had no use for a fascist government either. The powers of capitalist production were expanding, the market fetters were destroyed, and al the important nations save Great Britain were on the economic upgrade. While the United States enjoyed legendary prosperity and the Continent was doing almost as well, Hitler’s putsch was a footnote in political economy. France evacuated the Ruhr, the Reichsmark was restored by U.S. loans, the Dawes Plan took politics out of reparations, Locarno was in the offing for peace, and Germany was initiating seven fat years. The gold standard ruled from Moscow to Lisbon by the close of 1926; buyers could now pay for their imports, restoring the capitalist marketplace to its full capacity.

"Then came the Great Crash of 1929, the market economy turning down, general economic crisis forcing nations to be sellers but not buyers in the world. The continuing deadlock of market dealings demanded changes in the political way in which economic solutions were planned. The Italian trusts chose fascism as a way out of their economic malaise. The German cartels demanded continental markets and colonies, not by marketplace dealings - for they were shut out of the markets and colonies of the other Powers - but by military conquest. Hitler, their puppet, demanded no more than they asked, Germany taking the lead in totalitarianizng Europe. And with Japan in the Asian wing, the Axis Pact aligned fascist power over five continents.

“Thereby the material conditions of society – monopoly ownership, overproduction, market struggle, political bankruptcy, and military occupation – had ended the marketplace system. The monopolists and cartelists needed fascism to build themselves strong for a military confrontation which, they believed, would award them with more raw materials, more markets, more profits and more power. The liberal business interests, then opting for increasing national competitiveness, also blocked any move towards allowing the social means of production to provide for popular need, instead of their private profit. The fascists, combining jingoism and planned speed-ups for the working population, now displayed a tawdry alternative to the free marketplace. And the monopolists then brought them into power in hopes that their accumulation of private gain would continue undiminished. World War II inexorably followed, not only because leaders willed it, but also because the solutions to economic and political crises required it.”

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[Revolutionary History] [Idealism/Religion] [Economics] [ULK Issue 78]
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Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación, Salvador Puig Antich, and The Labor Aristocracy

The Movimiento Ibérico de Liberación (MIL) was an anti-capitalist group consisting of both anarchists and communists that was active between 1971-1973 in the fascist state of Spain under Franco. The group was unique in that, unlike most revolutionary organizations, it was not centralized. MIL did not believe that a centralized group could be revolutionary. They insisted that a centralized group was synonymous with a party and that a party could not achieve social revolution because a party, by necessity, seeks to gain state power and then strengthen its position. The strengthening of state power – any state power – weakens the revolution.

MIL Line and History

MIL was internationalist in scope and honored the memory and history of various class struggles around the globe. Including, but not limited to: the Iberian class struggle, the Revolution of 333 Days in Hungary, the November Revolution in Germany, and the Bavarian Council Republic. They also had ties to anti-capitalist organizations outside of Spain, especially in France. In addition to it’s internationalist practices, they also collaborated extensively with other revolutionary organizations in Spain (most notably the GAC and OLLA).

The main element of MIL’s revolutionary action was the expropriation of funds from the capitalists through armed agitation. They would spread the expropriated money around the anti-capitalist movement to help further other clandestine operations as well as support worker’s struggles, families of prisoners, and victims of the police. A good chunk of these expropriated funds were invested in the library that MIL helped create called the Ediciones Mayo del 37. The purpose of this library was to publish and distribute revolutionary texts that could help raise the political consciousness of the working class.

Another important aspect of MIL was its support of women’s struggles against patriarchy. They claimed that any group that did not support such struggles were not revolutionary, for it was impossible to fight against capitalism and remain blind to the oppression and exploitation of women in capitalist society. Therefore, any organization that did not support women’s struggles were purposely ignoring their plight, and thus, could not be called revolutionary. Furthermore, MIL advocated revolution across all aspects of society: social, cultural, sexual, familial, and political. Revolution is not partial to any part of society; revolution effects society in its entirety. MIL did not consider itself a vanguard of the revolution – in fact, they opposed the very idea of a vanguard. Which is why they engaged in armed agitation rather than armed struggle.

“‘Armed agitation’ is wholly different from the strategy of ‘armed struggle’, in which a specialized group acts as the vanguard of the movement by constituting the nucleus of a future army…serving as the military wing of a clandestine political party…or by carrying out the most spectacular actions and using its position to attempt to influence and direct a mass movement…on the contrary, the groups that carry out armed agitation understand themselves to be simply a part of a bigger movement, increasing that movement’s capacity for communication, self-defense, and self-financing by organizing and funding clandestine printing, attacking the forces of repression, and expropriating money from capitalists…They also seek to generalize their practice rather than centralize it, distributing weapons among the lower classes and encouraging the horizontal proliferation of armed groups.” (1)

The core reason why MIL was opposed to armed struggle and the philosophy of the need for a vanguard was because they believed that nobody but the proletariat could liberate the proletariat. The idea that the proletariat needed an external group to lead or liberate them went against everything that MIL fought for and believed in. The members of MIL did not think of themselves as heroes of the people. They believed that their role in the anti-capitalist struggle was to act in ways that would help the working-class become politicized and then liberate themselves. As mentioned previously, the way that MIL thought best to achieve their purpose was through the expropriation of funds. By the time that MIL dissolved in September 1973, they had expropriated 24 million Pesetas from capitalists.

Ultimately, MIL dissolved itself after it had reached a point where the members could no longer consider their actions as revolutionary. Although MIL opposed specialization they found that they had become an organization that practiced specialization. They had done so inadvertently by continuously engaging in armed agitation without developing a political line that could explain and support their action to the masses. Just as theory – political line – needs to be supported by practice, so too does practice need to be supported by theory. The lack of one diminishes the other.

Initially, a Congress was held by the members of MIL to seek a solution that could save the group. In the end, they decided to dissolve; in part because their actions had failed to inspire the proletariat to engage in open class warfare. They decided that, at that time, the working class was not sufficiently politically conscious and that their main objective should be to politicize the masses through propaganda until the time came when armed agitation was necessary.

Salvador Puig Antich

The most famous member of MIL was, by far, Salvador Puig Antich. Salvador was born on 30 May 1948 in Barcelona. He began rebelling against authority figures in his youth and was once expelled from school for punching a teacher in defense of another student. Although he was involved in the worker’s struggles in his youth, he did not engage in revolutionary actions until he joined MIL during the summer of 1972. He participated in his first bank robbery on October 21st of the same year (acting as the getaway driver), and the action resulted in the expropriation of 990,200 Pesetas from the Laietana Saving Bank. Shortly after that Salvador began to carry a gun and go into banks himself.

He was a committed anti-capitalist who identified as an anarchist. Although he didn’t join MIL until it had been active for a year, he quickly became a prominent figure within the organization. He authored several texts that were circulated among the members of MIL. The purpose of these texts was to formulate discussion about various topics relevant to the organization and the revolution.

On 25 September 1973 Salvador was in a shootout with the police. During the altercation he was shot twice and one officer was killed. After the incident occurred he was taken to the hospital to be treated for his injuries; when he was determined to be in stable condition he was transferred to Modelo prison to await trail. On 9 January 1974 he was given the death penalty.

Although capitalists have attempted to portray Salvador as a degenerate criminal, the truth cannot be denied: he was a true revolutionary. He never denied his actions and always maintained that everything he did, he did in the name of the anti-capitalist struggle. His every action, his every thought, was centered toward the abolition of the state and the state apparatus. He never capitulated. He stayed true to the revolutionary struggle until the bitter end.

On 2 March 1974 Franco’s fascist state executed Salvador Puig Antich via garrot vil [editor: a chair that is used to strangle people to death]. He was 25 years old. Even though MIL did not develop a sufficient political line and dissolved after only two years of revolutionary action, it should by no means be forgotten. Both MIL and Salvador Puig Antich have influenced countless people in Spain to engage in revolutionary struggle. And, importantly, MIL advanced the theory of the Labor Aristocracy in a time when few did. Even today few recognize that in places like the United States of America, the proletarian class has ceased to exist and a new class has risen in its place; a parasitic class that benefits from the exploitation of the working class in the Third World. This parasitic class is the Labor Aristocracy.

MIL on the Labor Aristocracy

The same day that Salvador was executed Oriol Solé wrote the following from Modelo prison:

“In the United States, in Europe, under the rule of the superpowers, the proletariat has disappeared. Society has engendered a new social class that creates surplus, accumulates capital, and at the same time grows bloated on the surplus generated by millions of wage workers in the poor countries. A new class that builds itself a paradise paid for with the blood of the exploited poor of Africa, Asia and Latin America.” (2)

MIL’s line regarding the Labor Aristocracy was spot on, but several of their positions were flawed. For example, MIL viewed a vanguard as synonymous with a party and argued that any party would seize state power and strengthen its position. They held that no party could be revolutionary because the point of revolution is to abolish the state and the state apparatus.

This is an anarchist view and cannot lead to revolution. The anarchist believes that you should abolish the state and its apparatus immediately. While their concern about a new power oppressive power arising is a valid one, the communist recognizes the impracticality of combating strong class enemies without a state power and acknowledges that an intermediary stage between capitalism and communism is necessary – this stage being socialism. The socialist stage gradually diminishes until the state no longer exists. Only then can communism been achieved.

Another flaw is MIL’s view regarding the vanguard. They did not believe one was necessary and actively spoke against the creation of one. However, history has shown us that not only do vanguards work, but they are necessary to carry out a revolution. Three such examples are the centralized vanguards led by Mao, Castro, and Lenin. All of which carried out successful revolutions. Without their vanguards, those revolutions would not have occurred.

Yet, even with obvious flaws in their political theory, the MIL should not be thrown on the ash heap of history. Both MIL and Salvador Puig Antich are famous in Spain for their revolutionary legacy. But they are little known elsewhere. We should remember Salvador for his revolutionary actions, beliefs, and ultimate sacrifice. He lived for the people and he died for the people. Likewise, we should not let the MIL fall through the cracks of history. In the two short years of its existence, its actions shook the foundations of Spain, and surprisingly, it did so without killing. The only death attributed to MIL was that officer killed during the shootout with Salvador. MIL directly contributed to the worker’s struggles and did not seek to control or direct the proletariat for personal gain.

Every anti-capitalist revolutionary should remember Salvador Puig Antich and MIL and celebrate their legacy every March 2nd – the anniversary of Salvador’s death.

  1. Salvador Puig Antich: Collected Writings on Repression and Resistance in Franco’s Spain; by Ricard de Vargas Golarons; translated by Peter Gelderloos; pg.16
  2. ibid; pg.159

MIM(Prisons) adds: The story of MIL becoming specialized when they opposed specialization echoes the lesson of Jo Freeman’s The Tyranny of Structurelessness. This essay is included in our study pack on organizational structure, for those who want to dive deeper into the Maoist line on this topic.

While MIL grasped the economic realities of the imperialist countries at an early stage of history, like many others they failed to answer the question of how to organize for the end of oppression in these conditions. This has been a question that many similar groups in the First World took to similar conclusions, leading to dissolution. MIM attempts to answer these questions by recognizing the fact that armed struggle is not viable against a strong imperialist state, and the need to be a mass-based movement. We cannot expect huge or flashy actions at this stage of the struggle, and we must build the infrastructure and educate the cadre for when conditions change. Time is on our side.

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[Drugs] [Economics] [Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility at Rock Mountain] [California Medical Facility] [California] [ULK Issue 78]
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CA Extorting Money from Prisoners

I was impressed with the research behind the articles about Suboxone in ULK 75 and 76. I first heard of this substance four years ago when individuals showed up on the yard (at Richard J. Donovan) that were using it. Someone I associated with informed me that it was like methadone and that it was highly addictive. I know that guys here at California Medical Facility are using Suboxone whether it’s prescribed to them or not. In fact, illicit drugs of all types are available here, even during the quarantine lockdown when there were no contact visits allowed!

Also, this facility is holding a food sale to “raise money for the Special Olympics.” The offering of a chicken sandwich, potato chips and a cookie for $22.00 doesn’t seem like a good deal to me. Especially considering that only a small percentage would go to the Special Olympics and that 10% goes to the “Inmate Welfare Fund”. Is this a scam or what!?

An article in San Quentin News on a similar fund raiser reads:

“Prisoners spent $63,000 with 10% of the profits going to a charity.”

I see these sales as another scheme to extract money from prisoners and their families and friends and that the real benefactors for these “charities” are the CDCR.

There is another article in the same newspaper on the GTL tablets that are being pushed on us. I’ve read some of the specifications for these tablets and they are of course cheap pieces of crap. They are entirely dedicated to make GTL money pure and simple. How do companies like GTL get away with it? Here is some key points from the article:

"GTL is the phone service provider for all CDCR prisons…. According to Prison Legal News (PLN), GTL has had to pay out millions of dollars to settle lawsuits over the years for alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA).

"In October 2020 a New Jersey judge approved a $25 million settlement agreement between GTL and New Jersey prisoners who paid up to 100 times the actual phone rate between 2006 and 2016, according to PLN.

“The company has also been sued for charging unlawfully inflated prices for collect calls made by incarcerated people throughout the U.S.”


MIM(Prisons) adds: We whole-heartedly agree with this comrade’s assessment of these money-making schemes. We call this extortion, prisoners are forced to pay higher prices for things because there is no other option for them.

The Chik-Fil-A sandwich with waffle chips and a cookie that CDCR was charging $22 for is about $8 on the street. They’re charging prisoners almost 3 times the normal price! If $2.20 is going to charity, where’s the other $12 going?

For more on the topic of tablets, see “A Strategic Objective to Disrupt and Surveil the Communication Between Prisoners and Our Loved Ones” in ULK 76. The article on GTL tablets claims they offer “secure email”, which is a joke because we know GTL and CDCR staff can read anything you send on those things. In other cases, companies have charged prisoners for things like ebooks that are free in the public domain. GTL loves it because they charge prisoners extortion-level subscription fees for very restricted content, and CDCR loves it because it increases the ease of surveillance. The article also promotes the tablets as pacifiers, like suboxone, to keep the prison population docile.

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[Censorship] [Security] [Civil Liberties] [Economics] [Virginia] [ULK Issue 76]
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A Strategic Objective to Disrupt and Surveil the Communication Between Prisoners and Our Loved Ones

When I first came to prison in 1995, there were hardly any for-profit corporations doing business inside Virginia prisons. Almost all services including medical care, dental care and the commissary were provided by the state. This began to change in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the introduction of corporations like Prison Health Services to provide substandard prison health care and keep the commissary filled with high priced commissary items. Prisoners’ communication would also be outsourced to JPay, another for-profit company.

The Virginia Department of Corrections administration implemented a series of policies to manipulate us and our loved ones into accepting JPay as our only method of communication. On 6 August 2013, A. David Robertson, the Chief of Corrections and Operations, issued memorandum #073-2013, advising the prisoner class that effective 1 October 2013, our loved ones can no longer send us money orders through the postal mail and that they can only send us money through JPay, which requires our family to pay exorbitant transaction fees. If money orders were received in the mail after that day they were returned to sender.

On 7 May 2014, Robertson issued another memorandum, #033-214, advising the prisoner class that effective 1 July 2014, we can no longer receive more than 5 photographs through the mail. If a letter arrived at the prison containing more than 5 photographs, the entire letter including the 5 photos were returned to sender. This may seem small, but again this was subtle manipulation for acceptance of what was to come.

Perhaps the Virginia Department of Corrections most draconian policy implementation was detailed in a 13 March 2017 memorandum issued by the then warden of Sussex State Prison. In this memo we were advised that effective 17 April 2017,

“all incoming general correspondence, that is U.S. postal mail, will be photocopied at a maximum of three black and white photocopied pages front and back will be provided to the offender. The original envelope, letter and all enclosed documents will be shredded in the institutional mailroom. The entire correspondence and all enclosed items, including photographs, greeting cards, newspaper articles, etc. that exceed the established photocopy or size limit will be returned to sender.”

What this memo did not mention is that during the process of copying and scanning incoming postal letters from our loved ones, a digital copy of the letter along with the name and address of the person who sent it is uploaded and cataloged in a massive database. This policy was implemented under the guise of preventing the flow of drugs into these prisons, however the real motivation for this policy is reflected in the following one-sentence reminder listed in this memo:

“Individuals will still be permitted to send an offender secure messages, photographs and other attachments through the JPay system as it is currently authorized.”

Many prisoners and our loved ones view the amenity of exchanging emails with our loved ones as incredibly convenient. As a conscious prisoner I recognize that it also makes it easier for prison officials to censor and disrupt our communications and conduct surveillance and intelligence gathering on prisoners and those we communicate with. According to the Virginia Department of Corrections operating procedures 803.1, which governs offender correspondence and JPay emails inside all Virginia prisons, our incoming and outgoing correspondence is not supposed to be withheld for longer than 48 hours. However, our incoming and outgoing JPay emails are routinely withheld for several days or weeks at a time. Sometimes they are held for months at a time.

Operating procedure 803.1 prohibits prison officials from opening and reading our outgoing correspondence absent an approved mail cover from the warden, and reasonable suspicion that the correspondence violates state or federal law, or threatens the safety of the facility. However all incoming and outgoing JPay emails pass through a screening mechanism, whereby the prison’s mailroom staff and intelligence officers sit behind a computer monitor and read the personal and intimate words of prisoners and our loved ones, which, like our photocopied letters, are then cataloged and stored in a massive database.

Operating procedure 803.1 also prohibits the censorship of offender correspondence unless the censorship is based on legitimate facility interests of safety and security. However, JPay makes it easier for mailroom staff and intelligence officers to sit behind a computer monitor and with the click of a mouse block or censor the outgoing emails of prisoners complaining of prison conditions as well as incoming emails of loved ones containing information about the Black Panther Party and other progressive and revolutionary movements from the 1960s and 1970s.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Procunier v. Martinez (1974) ruled that:

“Communications by letter is not accomplished by the act of writing words on paper. Rather it is effected only when the letter is read by the addressee. Both parties to the correspondence have an interest in securing that result. As such, censorship of the communication between them necessarily impinges on the interests of each.”

This U.S. Supreme Court ruling and prison policies of surveillance and censorship listed above reveals that the fascist and repressive nature of prisons extend beyond these prison walls and adversely impacts those of you in the community. This should give human and civil rights activists, including our loved ones, additional motivation to work in solidarity with incarcerated freedom fighters to challenge these Constitutional violations via civil litigation.

Ultimately, what we need to do is develop a collective inside/outside analysis and strategy to dismantle the U.S. imperialist prison system.

All Power to the People!

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[China] [FAQ] [Revolutionary History] [Economics] [ULK Issue 75]
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What China Taught Us About Socialism

From Victory to Defeat: China’s Socialist Road and Capitalist Reversal
by Pao-Yu Ching
Foreign Languages Press
2019

In a recent online debate between two random “Marxist-Leninists” and two fascists, one of the self-described “Marxist-Leninists” stated that every country in the last 100 years has been socialist. The fascists are happy to parade such meaningless dribble as “Marxism” so that they can make Marxism look bad. With Obama’s election, white nationalist fear became expressed in many deragatory words, including “communism” and “Marxism,” with no sense of irony that they were accusing the number one enemy of the world’s people of being a communist.

What is common among “Marxists” in the First World is saying every country is socialist that says it is and has some form of state intervention in the economy. This superficial analysis has also helped muddy the water of what socialism is. And it allows the fascists to say that they share many of the goals and ideals of the self-described Marxists. In particular they both look to China as a positive model of how to run a country and they both think Amerikans and various First World European nations are being victimized by the current world system. The fact that many of these fascists have chauvinist anti-Chinese views and wish war against the social-imperialist CPC is of no matter. For MIM, the question of wether today’s China is socialist or social-imperialist is a dividing line question.

To understand what socialism is, MIM has long recommended The Chinese Road to Socialism by Wheelright and MacFarlane. For the history of the coup that overthrew socialism in China MIM distributed The Capitalist Roaders Are Still on The Capitalist Road. In 1986, MIM cadre Henry Park published “Postrevolutionary China and the Soviet NEP” comparing state capitalism in the early days of the Russian revolution to state capitalism after the coup in China. In 1988, Park published “The Political Economy of Counterrevolution in China: 1976-88”, which tied all of these subjects together through a Maoist framework and analyzes the failures of state capitalism in post-Maoist China.

Pao-Yu Ching’s From Victory to Defeat serves as a more up-to-date introduction to the topic of the differences between socialism and capitalism in the last 100 years of Chinese history. It is written as a sort of FAQ and provides a broad overview, while explaining the key concepts that allow us to differentiate between the two economic systems. As such, MIM(Prisons) recommends Pao-Yu Ching’s work as a solid starting place when exploring this topic. The topic of “What is socialism?” must be fully grasped by all communists.

It seems that Pao-Yu may disagree with the Maoist class analysis. In eir introduction ey states, “Today the living conditions of the working masses in imperialist countries have grown increasingly difficult.”(p.9) Ey then alludes to rising prices, rising debt and precarious work, none of which necessarily reflect worsening objective conditions. Without a recognition that these populations are parasitic on the working classes, this line leads to the politics of the fascists and social-fascist “Marxist-Leninists” mentioned above. It is also relevant to the question of revisionism in the formerly socialist countries who looked to emulate the lifestyles of Amerikans. Since this point is not taken up in the rest of the book we will not dwell on it here, but it remains the biggest problem with this work.

What is Socialism?

Many of our readers and those who are interested in what we have to say in general are still confused as to what socialism is for the reasons mentioned above. Ultimately it is defined differently by different people, and it is used politically rather than scientifically. Pao-Yu outlines what the most advanced example of socialism looked like quite nicely in eir short book, so we will just mention some key points here to help clarify things.

Socializing industry first required that the state took control of the means of production in the form of factories, supply lines, raw materials, etc. This is where many stop with their definition of socialism. Some other key things that Pao-Yu points out is that success was no longer measured in the surplus produced but rather on improvements in the production and overall running of the enterprise.(p.20) This recognizes that some will be more profitable in a capitalist sense, but that the nation benefits more when all enterprises are improving, not just the profitable ones. Another key point is that laborers were guaranteed a job that was paid by the state and a standard rate.(p.28) This eliminated labor as a commodity that you must sell on the open market. Commodities are at the heart of capitalism. Socialism is the the transition away from commodities, starting with the most important commodity of humyn labor.

The above only applied to a minority of the country, as the vast majority of China was a peasant population. It is only in recent years that the peasantry is now less than half the population. It is in the countryside where the capitalist roaders and the Maoists disagreed the most. Pao-Yu walks us through the different phases of the transition to socialism and how the principal contradiction shifted in each phase. Ey explains the contradiction amongst the countryside, where production was not owned collectively by the whole population, and the cities where it was. The disagreement with the capitalist roaders was a disagreement over the principal contradiction at the time, which they thought was the advanced social system (of socialism) with the backward productive forces (of small scale farming by peasants). To resolve this contradiction the capitalist roaders thought they must accelerate production, industrialize agriculture, and feed the industrialized cities with the surplus of that agricultural production. This focus on production is one of the key defining lines of revisionism.

While Marx taught us that the productive forces are the economic base that define humyn history and the superstructure, he also said the contradiction with the relations of production is what leads to revolutionary transformations of society. As Pao-Yu points out, learning from Mao Zedong, during these revolutionary periods is when the relations of production become primary, in order to unleash the productive forces that have become stagnant under the previous mode of production.(p.30) In other words peasants living under semi-feudalism in China pre-liberation were not improving their conditions. They needed to revolutionize how they related to each other, how they were organized, specifically the class relations, in order to move towards a new mode of production (socialism) that could meet their needs much better. Therefore Mao focused on education, theory, class struggle, culture, the people, instead of focusing on production, profitability, surplus, and wage incentives, as the capitalist roaders did. The Maoist path took the Chinese peasants through a gradual process of increasing collectivization through communes, which was quickly dismantled after the coup in 1976.

What is Democracy?

Another question those living in bourgeois democracies often ask is how you can have democracy with only one party, where people are purged for having the wrong political line? Pao-Yu makes the point well by explaining that in established bourgeois democracies you can have many parties and many candidates, because they all represent the same class.(p.48) This is the case because these countries are stable in their mode of production (capitalism). In the transition to a new economic system the political struggle is between two classes. In the case of capitalism thransitioning to socialism, it is between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (and their class allies on each side).

The bourgeoisie by definition is always competing amongst itself, so it cannot have one party represent all of their interests, except in extreme crises when fascism becomes viable. In the United $tates today, the left-wing of the bourgeoisie are represented by the democrats while the right-wing flock to the republicans. Even amongst these parties are different bourgeois factions fighting amongst each other. The proletariat however is united in it’s class interest, so there will be no need for multiple proletarian parties. There are many books that outline the components of socialist democracy where people select their representatives at each level of administration, where free speech and criticism are encouraged, where education is universal and free and where everyone is involved in studying theory and practice to shape the decisions that affect their day-to-day lives. It does not require having multiple political parties to choose from as bourgeois democracies do in their electoral farce.

What is China?

Pao-Yu covered China before, during, and after socialism so that the reader can better understand the differences. As such the book is a good introduction to the explanation of why China has not been on the socialist road since 1976. Ey touches on the loss of the guaranteed job, with the introduction of temporary workers, the ending of the right to strike and free expression among the workers, the ability of managers to start keeping the profits from the enterprises they oversee, the loss of universal medical care, and the focus on production for other nations, while importing the pollution of those consumer nations. Ey briefly documents the struggles of the workers to maintain control of the enterprises they once owned collectively. China is now a capitalist hell hole for the majority objectively and it does not matter wether the CPC has millions of cadre who believe the opposite subjectively.

The Global Economy

One point Pao-Yu makes that we have also stressed as being important, is the role of the proletarianization of the Chinese masses in saving global imperialism from crisis. When the imperialist economies were facing economic crisis in the 1970s, one third of the world’s population was not available to be exploited by the imperialist system. One of the laws of capitalism is its need to always expand. When China went capitalist, it opened up a vast population to exploitation and super-exploitation for the imperialists. This labor was the source of value that the imperialist system thrived off of by the mid 1980s until just recently.

Interestingly, Pao-Yu says that almost 30% of the Chinese population is petty bourgeoisie, owning (often multiple) investment properties and travelling around the world.(p.111) In a previous article we explained that we saw China as a proletarian country still despite its imperialist activities. We referred to Bromma’s research that stated China’s “middle class” was 12-15% of the population some years prior. It is interesting to hear that the Chinese petty bourgeoisie has reached the same size in absolute numbers as the Amerikan one. It would be interesting to compare the wealth of these two groups, we presume the Amerikans remain wealthier. Of course, China is still majority proletariat, while Amerika is almost completely bourgeoisified, so the class interests of these nations overall remain opposed to one another. But we will rarely hear the proletarian voices from China until a new proletarian party rises there.

The housing market is one example of how China has emulated the United $tates. Investing in properties has become an important way for the new petty bourgeoisie in China to accumulate wealth without working. Just last week, the Chinese investment firm Evergrande made headlines when it became public knowledge that they would not be able to pay the billions of dollars they owe. Evergrande has significant backing from Amerikan finance capital, as is true for the Chinese economy in general. Therefore the collapse of the Chinese housing market could have real ripple effects in the global economy.

The fact that real estate investment firms exist in China, and that they are defaulting on hundreds of billions of dollars owed, is really all you need to know to see that the economy is oriented towards profit and not people. Things like inflation and bubbles and stock markets and speculation just didn’t exist during the Maoist era. The reintroduction of these things for the last four decades destroyed the progress in class struggle in China long ago.

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[Prison Labor] [Economics] [ULK Issue 75]
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Juneteenth Didn't Free Slaves in Prison

A few weeks ago lots of Black folks were celebrating Juneteenth, which they claimed was about the banning of slavery in the U.$. Say what? Apparently none of these folks have read the actual 13th Amendment, which only banned plantation slavery, while opening up far more slavery with its Exclusion Section, which basically said “slavery as punishment for a crime is just peachy.”

…how about you get the May 2021 issue of Prison Legal News and read the main article, “The Punishment Economy: Winners and Losers in the Business of Mass Incarceration.”

A fact not mentioned in the article was that businesses (owners) in many foreign countries are making money “servicing” U.$. prisoner needs.

Until just a couple of weeks ago, me at 75 years old, with various health problems, was forced under threat of write-up to work as a kitchen slave. So I get to read the labels on the products used there.

Oranges and mixed vegetables from Mexico. Cut carrots from Spain. Franks (weenies) from Canada. Cucumbers from Mexico. Broccoli from Mexico. Pineapple from Indonesia. Heat sealed plastic gloves from China. White plastic “sporks” from Vietnam.

Do you think the owners of these businesses make donations to U.$. politicians that always vote for more laws, more prisons, and more money to cops?


Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: We share this writer’s concerns about prisoners being used as a source of exploited value by capitalists. When Third World countries begin to delink from the united $tates economically, Amerikans will face serious crisis and imposing fascism on segments of the u.$. population in the form of slavery is a likely outcome as we saw fascist Germany do.

However, we think the concern about foreign companies selling cheap produce to u.$. prisons is misled. In fact, most of the value created in producing that food in the Third World is stolen from those who make the food and realized in the First World (see our recent review of John Smith’s Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century). Even those Amerikans reaping the profits on these food sales to Amerikan prisons are not likely backing prison construction. Food is about $2.1 billion of the $182 billion spent on mass incarceration each year in this country.(1)

But what about this question of prison labor? The persyn above has written us numerous times to challenge our line on prison labor. In 2018 we did a survey of ULK readers to further research this subject. And we have extensive articles on the economics of the U.$. prison system available to those interested. But we are always keeping an eye out for new info, so let’s look at this Prison Legal News article.

As it turns out, this article does not offer much information on prison labor at all, far less than our research does. The article is a thorough documentation of many ways that companies are making money by offering services to the government related to prisons and to families of prisoners; what we might call profiteering or even extortion in the case of fees charged to families.

1 in 8 U.$. jobs rely on prisons - Big if True

Daniel Rosen doesn’t cite the source of this one in eight jobs estimate towards the beginning of eir article. Regular writers for ULK have long called Amerika a pig nation. Then why does Rosen turn around and ask, “are we just producing greater corporate profits at American families’ expense?” It is Amerikan families who are getting payed labor aristocracy wages to work these 1 in 8 jobs that relies on this system of punishment. Meanwhile, the majority of people suffering from the injustice system are members of internal semi-colonies, not Amerikans. And this is the exact contradiction we try to bring to light every time we get into this debate.

After citing the exorbitant amount spent on staffing prisons, Rosen offers a section on how employees are underpaid. In states like California, prison guards start at salaries that most reading this newsletter will never see in their lives. To make eir point sound reasonable, Rosen claims “pay for starting prison guards is usually in the range of $25,000-$35,000.” This range actually represents the lowest 10% of prison guards in the country, with the median actually being at $45,000 per year starting salary.(2) Is this underpaid? As regular readers of our work will already know, employed Amerikans are generally in the top 10% income earners globally, including those that make $25,000 per year. An individual living on $45,000 per year is in the top 2%.(3) And as many of our readers know, overtime and hazard pay are a regular occurrence in that line of work, easily putting annual prison guard salaries into six figures.

Our writer contacted us about prisoner labor, not prison guard labor. The reason this is relevant though is that it represents the economics of those who see prisons as a product of corporate interests. It often comes hand-in-hand with those who see $50k/year pigs as the oppressed and exploited opposed to the corporate interests. Even if they’re in the top 2%, they are still in the bottom 99% that the left wing of white nationalism sees as allies. This idealism wants to see all people come together for a common cause, ignoring the different material interests of different groups in the world today. We focus on prison organizing because there is a greater consciousness in prisons that these pigs are part of the imperialist system and that they serve the enemy because they benefit from that system.

I Pay Your Salary, Buddy

Rosen starts off his article with the message that U.$. taxpayers are paying $80 billion per year to lock people up. While there has been an upsurge of concern about spending on incarceration in the halls of Congress, why is it that the same “fiscal conservative” voters who don’t want social services are quick to yell “lock them up” when it comes to so-called “criminals”? Our explanation is that the system that is trying to control the rebellious oppressed serves them. It serves them with some of the highest incomes in the world, from which they pay taxes. These incomes, and taxes, are superprofits stolen from the international proletariat.

We know many in the prison movement are not Marxists, and therefore may not accept the labor theory of value. With such people we are working from different theoretical models and different terminology. It is not a coincidence that such people are predominately reformists. We need to be debating Marx vs. bourgeois economics. Even many self-described “Marxists” in the imperialist countries think there is an infinite amount of wealth to go around.

Rosen writes, “Recidivists are the primary ‘product’ of the punishment economy and the real source of its profits.” It’s true, unlike the military-industrial complex, there is no real product being made here, just ancillary services like phone calls and food delivery. But are recidivists the source of these companies profits? No, the only source of profits is surplus value from surplus labor time. And as we’ll reiterate here, that is coming from the Third World proletariat.

The Endless Road to Reformism

Of course, most of the concerns about mass incarceration that Rosen mentions in this article are ones we share. One that we’ve been discussing lately is how for-profit communication services are replacing in-persyn visits and mail under the guise of reducing drugs. Yet the drugs magically keep getting into prisons, and now prisoners communications are being digitized for easier monitoring and censorship, while valuable resources and family connections are being cut off. We’ve also helped expose the issue of a second-class system for migrants, the vast majority who haven’t even committed any anti-people crimes, being stuck in poorly run, privately-owned prisons on behalf of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE).

We just don’t agree with Rosen’s economics and where it leads us strategically.

We agree with Rosen that there is a whole slush economy around incarceration, that’s the nature of the United $tates mall economy in general. And in the case of imprisonment, the result is buying people off to support it. There’s too much money, corruption and greed in this system. But this is nothing particular to incarceration, and incarceration is just a tiny drop in the bucket that is this problem. Do we want to make this tiny corner of the imperialist economy a little less gross? Or do we want to end mass incarceration? liberate oppressed nations from imperialism? end exploitation of the proletariat? We are aware that a majority of our incarcerated readers might lean more towards the first option. And while we appreciate our prison reform allies who stand with us in many campaigns, this newsletter is not a forum to promote reformism.

Rosen writes “[t]he most important way that mass incarceration fails prisoners is by all but guaranteeing that they’ll come back.” This is one of the true crimes of the system. Socialist countries like China showed the world how prisons could be used to integrate former oppressors into a new people-focused society. Yet, “corrections” in the u.$. has always taken a much different form, one of punishment. And this is why we prioritize our Re-Lease on Life Program for those released from prison to help comrades continue to reform themselves and integrate back into society as servants of the people, and avoid getting locked back up. Our humble program is a precursor to a system that will serve to rehabilitate the real criminals on this continent in a socialist future.

This country not only institutionalizes disparities between the oppressed nations and Amerikans in the united $tates, it is a tool of genocide in how it affects the productive and reproductive years of a vast segment of oppressed nation men. These problems beg the solution of liberation and independence.

Rosen closes eir article with a number of examples of progress in reforming the ills ey discusses. We agree these are progressive things, and yet they do not address the problem. Which is why you won’t see these campaigns in the pages of ULK. See recent discussions between USW comrades on how to organize prisoners in a way that keeps our eyes on the prize. Sometimes our campaigns will overlap with the reformers. Even then, we must promote the proletarian line and not succumb to coalition politics.

Notes: 1. Peter Wagner and Beradette Rabuy, 5 January 2017, Following the Money of Mass Incarceration.
2. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Prison_Guard/Salary
3.https://howrichami.givingwhatwecan.org

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[Economics] [ULK Issue 74]
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Review: Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century by John Smith

Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation, and Capitalism’s Final Crisis
by John Smith
Monthly Review Press
2016

[Editor: The author of this review uses “southern countries” to refer to what we would call the Third World, exploited or neo-colonial countries, and “northern countries” to refer to the imperialist, First World, exploiter countries.]

The dominant trend in capitalism for the last forty or so years has been the relocation of production from northern to southern countries, where the vast majority of the global industrial workforce lives. It’s impossible to ignore the offshore origin of most of the commodities we interact with in the U.S. every day, and equally impossible to ignore the wretched conditions and dramatically lower wages that most of these southern workers deal with. What this means for the present structure and future of the global economy is less clear, and that’s where this book comes in.

There’s a lot in this book I won’t talk about that was nonetheless very interesting – Smith’s discussion of GDP and productivity measurements, his history of Marxist thinking on imperialism, and his in-depth discussion of the production of a wide range of specific commodities.(1) I’ll just focus on his main contribution, the value theory of imperialism, in which he incorporates and expands on Marx’s discussion of surplus value and Lenin’s century-old understanding of imperialism.

Surplus in Marx’s Capital

Smith’s value theory of imperialism begins with value, which is the amount of labor required to produce a given commodity. A capitalist producing t-shirts wants to churn out the largest amount of them in a working day, at the highest possible intensity of work, and with the latest technology. Out of the sale of the t-shirts he buys equipment, raw materials, and pays wages. These wages are the monetary expression of labor power, or what a worker is paid to show up at a specific time and place and put their energies and abilities at the disposal of the capitalist. In return, the worker can use the wage they get to buy a basket of goods to keep themselves alive til the next day. The amount of labor that goes into the production of this basket the worker needs can be called the value of labor-power itself, which under capitalism is a commodity just like clothing, pickups or rifles. The pile of shirts the capitalist gets to sell at the end of the day can be sold for more money than the wages he pays for the labor that produced it. To cut a long story short, Marx investigates this anomaly and discovers that there is a part of the day where workers produce enough commodities to pay for their wages, and a part of the day where the labor they expend creates commodities that just make the capitalist money. The labor that happens in this second part of the day is surplus labor, and the value of the commodities produced at this time is surplus value. This magically free labor is the beating heart of capitalism, and its pursuit and distribution are the core of all capitalist economic phenomena.

Marx discussed two main ways that capitalists in the 19th century would attempt to grab more surplus value.(2) The first he called ‘absolute surplus value,’ and it consists of extending the working day by either making workers work harder for the time they’re at work, or making them work for longer at the same or similar wages. The second path to more surplus is making the value of labor power (or the amount of labor it takes to create enough goods for a worker to survive) less. Marx called this second form ‘relative surplus value’.

Smith takes this basic account and expands it to an era Marx didn’t live to see and couldn’t have predicted – the transformation of the labor-capital relationship into a relationship mostly between northern capital and southern labor.(3)

North-South relations in Lenin’s Imperialism

Lenin’s book Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism describes a world divided into oppressor and oppressed nations, the competition of monopolies, and the trends inherent in capitalist development of this era that lead to ever more destructive bouts of violence. The need for more surplus and more profits drives capitalist firms beyond the confines of their home market, to seize and exploit foreign ones. Competition gives way to centralization and large monopolies, and the increasing integration of these monopolistic interests into the state makes war over colonies and their resources more and more likely. At home, the super-profits obtained in the colonies create a labor aristocracy, the size and influence of which has been debated basically for the entire hundred years since Lenin’s book first appeared.

Smith identifies a weakness in Lenin’s work, mainly that he doesn’t discuss or use value as a concept to explain imperialism.(4) The thing Smith attempts, after several chapters of setting up the data on the existence and persistence of wage differentials and trade relationships between northern firms and southern labor, is a synthesis and update of Marx and Lenin’s contributions.

Synthesis

Smith’s point is that the outsourcing of production has allowed capitalist firms to conduct what he calls ‘labor arbitrage,’ or buying labor power where it is cheap and selling the commodities produced where they can be sold dear. Thanks to innovations in shipping and communications technology, firms can seek out the cheapest labor and the most favorable environmental and labor laws (ideally, they want no environmental or labor laws) to churn out the most surplus value possible. This has driven the wage down below the value of labor power – workers in many countries are not paid enough to survive and have to make a living through wage-labor in capitalist factories plus something else, like subsistence farming or stealing. This is an extreme form of the relative surplus value extraction method that Marx discussed, or what has also been called superexploitation.

Additionally, the relationship between companies like Foxconn (which actually makes the iPhone) and companies like Apple (who first create a design that breaks in three years, then contract the production out and stamp a logo on it for 300% markup), or ‘arms-length outsourcing’(5), hides the exploitation and transfer of value from one country to another behind an apparently innocent market transaction. The vast majority of the profits, taxes and tariffs from offshored production end up not in the country where the commodity was produced, but in the country where the final seller of the commodity is headquartered. This is how Germany, a country that cannot produce coffee, makes dramatically more from its re-export than any country where it is actually grown.(6) Marx hints that this phenomenon, called ‘value capture,’ could exist theoretically, but Smith demonstrates that it is at the core of relationships between countries in today’s economy. There is also a lengthy discussion of ‘value chains’ or sequential input-output relationships conducted between firms that leads to the final commodity. A Zambian copper mine sells to a wire factory, which sells to a company that makes circuit boards, which sells to a car company who uses the circuit board to run an automatic transmission in a hundred thousand dollar pickup. The conditions of work and the selling price dramatically swell along the chain, to the point where the worker watching a robot bolt the circuit board into place makes more in an hour than the copper miner made in a month. But all labor really is equal. It’s not like swinging a pickaxe is an entirely different movement in Zambia or America. And it’s not like the people doing the swinging are any different either.

The Political Economy of Coffee

Smith provides a lot of concrete examples of how these exploitative relations between nations lead to permanent conditions of underdevelopment in southern countries, and vast profits in northern ones. Maybe the most stark of these examples is his discussion of coffee from the early part of the book. Coffee is only grown in southern countries, and it is almost exclusively processed in northern countries, where the markups can exceed four hundred percent. Wages paid in the coffee-processing sector, taxes from this business and tariffs on imports, all contribute to the northern economy in question (Germany, perversely for a country that can never grow coffee except in a greenhouse, is the biggest exporter of processed coffee) and rely on southern countries furnishing the raw material at a reliably low price, a price that ends up being a tiny fraction of the cost of the final product. In this case it’s clear not only how unequal the exchange is, but also how the entire chain of production in the northern country relies on the exploitation of other workers. Another writer on this subject, Zak Cope, estimates that the total transfer owing to this process of hyper-exploitation, markup and re-export, across all commodities, amounts to sixteen percent of GDP in northern countries every year.

What makes these conditions permanent is the persistently low price of the export for the country where the coffee is grown, which will not allow it to develop or move up the ladder to more capital-intensive forms of production that might be safer on the global market. An additional factor is politics, and the careful policing of the ability of southern countries to raise wages, enforce their own labor laws, hold northern firms to account when they commit crimes(7), and raise the price of their exports. In the case of Rwanda (a major coffee producer) in the early 90s, the political destabilization and genocide that occurred in the country was partially the result of the collapse of an international coffee-exporting agreement that attempted to set a (low) floor on the price of the commodity and provide some stability and guaranteed income for countries who rely on its export. Northern countries oppose any agreement that would make their inputs cost more, or make their value-chains dependent on cheap labor any more expensive. They can be more or less effective at ensuring this, in cooperation with the comprador bourgeoisie. A particularly galling example of this, from the textile sector, unfolded in Haiti in 2009 over the raising of the minimum wage of 31 cents an hour, which president Rene Preval eventually backed away from, after opposition from the U.S. Embassy and local factory owners.(8)

Whose fight, and who’s fighting?

What Smith doesn’t do is discuss the immediate political consequences of all this for us. On the last page of the book he says “together with their sisters and brothers in the imperialist countries, [southern] workers have the capacity, the mission and the destiny to dig a grave in which to bury capitalism.”(9) It’s a little too convenient, and maybe in the future he can discuss the history of this elusive internationalism. Whether workers in northern countries fight actively or consciously for this super-exploitation to continue, whether and to what exact extent different groups of workers in northern countries benefit from this arrangement of production, whether workers of the world can unite and what they could accomplish if they could, are all questions Smith doesn’t answer. MIM would argue that workers in northern countries clearly benefit from imperialism, and seek those benefits in an alliance (an alliance that might have some rough spots now and then) with the bourgeoisie of their own countries, and are thus not a mass base for a revolutionary movement but instead a labor aristocracy. Changes to all of these relationships – between northern and southern countries, and between workers and their bosses, north and south – will drive changes in the political economy John Smith’s book goes a long way towards helping us understand.

See our glossary definition of superexploitation

Notes:
1. pp. 13-34
2. p. 237
3. p. 12
4. pp. 225-230
5. p. 68
6. p. 31
7. It always helps when the law in northern countries maintains a fictitious barrier between a northern firm relying on exploitation and those they exploit. A recent extreme example is the Supreme Court’s ruling that the slave labor of children used in harvesting product for Nestle under conditions the company controlled wasn’t technically the company’s fault. See: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/17/supreme-court-rules-in-favor-of-nestle-in-child-slavery-case.html
8. Dan Coughlin and Kim Ives, 1 June 2011, WikiLeaks Haiti: Let Them Live on $3 a Day, The Nation.
9. p. 315

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[Cuba] [U.S. Imperialism] [COVID-19] [Economics] [ULK Issue 74]
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COVID-19 Reveals Contradictions in Cuba: Stop the U.$. Embargo

At this moment Cuba is entering into a new phase in their struggle which unveils a reality unfavorable to socialist construction. Yet we should keep in mind that Cuba’s fate remains unsealed. History shows that the Cuban people are up to the task of fighting for socialism as they continue to inspire others around the world. They have enormous amounts of creative and practical experience. Here we examine some of the positions in the popular debate around Cuba, as well as the true source of its successes and failures.

Privatization and Pandemic

The current protests in Cuba are the result of growing privatization of sectors in multiple industries. This has been a gradual trend, but in February of 2021 it took on new heights. Tourism in particular, as a private industry, is Cuba’s largest revenue generator making over $3.3 billion for its people in 2018. With the ease of relations under President Obama there was unfortunately even more of a rise in privatization and large growth in tourism. Labour Minister Marta Elena Feito said the list of authorized activities in the private sector had most recently expanded from 127 to more than 2,000. Some of these include barbershops, restaurants, taxi services, domicile and hotel rentals, small shops and cafes. Most of these private sector jobs, which are primarily in major cities such as Havana, are oriented towards the tourist industry.

The last report showed that 600,000 people, around 13% of the workforce, joined the private sector when the opportunity arose. COVID-19 brought problems as the borders were closed to non-residents in order to prevent the pandemic’s spread. About 16,000 private workers asked for their licenses to be suspended, according to the Labor Ministry, which temporarily exempted them from taxes. Shortly after, the amount increased to 119,000, which was roughly 19 percent of the private workforce. This measure allowed for a small section of the private work force to be protected during the pandemic, however other sections, mostly in tourism, were catastrophically hit.

U.S. Economic Warfare

The labor ministry stated that the decline began before COVID-19 as a result of Trump’s new additions to the embargo on Cuba. In December of 2020, Cuban tourism had fallen by 16.5% due to U.S. sanctions that imposed restrictions on travel to Cuba, money transfers, and trade between Cuba and other nations. The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control in 2020 stated the following in regards to the more recent additions, “OFAC is removing the authorization for banking institutions subject to U.S. jurisdiction to process certain funds transfers originating and terminating outside the United States, commonly known as”U-turn" transactions. Banking institutions subject to U.S. jurisdiction will be authorized to reject such transactions, but may no longer process them." The rules also block money sent to Cuban government affiliates, and decreased the limit but still allow for remittances to most families in Cuba.

On 19 October 1960, the U.S. embargo was implemented as policy to undermine the revolutionary government as a response to its nationalization of industries and dealings with countries led by communist parties. Over the coming years tension only increased and the embargo would continually be adjusted to prevent growth of the Cuban economy. As of now the sanctions vary with over 231 entities and subentities like ministries, holding companies, hotels, etc.; meaning the U.S. is trying to control Cuba’s economy. These provisions also extend to international companies like the various shipping companies in 2019 which were sanctioned by the U.S. government for participating in oil trade between Venezuela and Cuba. This was during the same period that the U.S. was accusing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of falsifying the election results that left Juan Guaido to bite the dust. Allegations which later were proven to be false yet nevertheless caused dire consequences for millions.

Economic terrorism continues to be perpetrated by the U.S. against Cuba to prohibit other nations and companies from participating in trade deals. Some ways the U.S. does this is by denying licenses or deals with U.S.-based companies or other nations that have the audacity to ignore the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Year after year the U.N. votes in favor of an end to the embargo with only two nations (the U.S. and Israel) voting in favor of continuing the embargo.

In 2021 former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated Cuba once again as a state sponsor of international terrorism in another futile attempt to further isolate Cuba from potential trading partners. This designation carries with it the implication that any business or state which does business with Cuba participates in sponsoring terrorism. As a result the U.S. will then implement sanctions on those businesses or states or at the very least deny them vital business opportunities that they need to sustain a functional economy in a U.S.-dominated global market. It follows from this that the private sectors in Cuba who were not prepared for the pandemic, were already affected by the ongoing trade embargo for about 60 years, with Trump’s administration amping up attempts to suffocate Cuba’s resilient economy.

Cuban Protests Dwarfed by Uprisings in U.S.

When the protests erupted in Cuba this month, the U.S. wasted no time in opportunistically pushing their agenda. Meanwhile, expatriated Cuban terrorists living in the U.S. sent videos over social media promoting the destruction of public property owned by the Cuban people, looting, assault on peoples security forces etc. These videos, not surprisingly, never found their way into mainstream reports but were exposed by Cuban media. Díaz-Canel even made a point to say that there are revolutionaries who have been misguided by false reports forged by subversive reactionaries, and people with legitimate demands for an end to the embargo and reform of failed policies. This made clear that these demonstrators were not the target of criticism but genuinely concerned, although in some cases misguided, citizens.

In reality only a small capitalist minority from certain private sectors affected by the embargo and COVID-19 have taken to the streets to promote their interests; interests that are antagonistic to that of the Cuban people. President Díaz-Canel proceeded to visit the demonstrations himself and speak with people. On live TV Díaz-Canel called revolutionaries to take to the street and oppose the reactionaries and to stay in the streets as long as necessary in order to defend the revolution. It was correctly stated by Díaz-Canel that the reactionaries with violent intent are of a specific small group who align with U.S. interests. More specifically from his mouth he stated that, “They want to change a system, or a regime they call it, to impose what type of government and what type of regime in Cuba? The privatization of public services. The kind that gives more possibility to the rich minority and not the majority.”

Counter protests proceeded to take place where a greater part of Cuba’s 11 million people came out to demonstrate their support for the revolution and continuance of socialist construction. With such a small minority of protestors being for regime change and only a few dozen arrests we have to ask ourselves why there is such a controversy? It is only explainable by the private interests and imperialist U.S. who wishes to finally deal a deadly blow to Cuba. After decades of failed CIA assassinations, a failed U.S. invasion, and a failed Embargo, the U.S. government is reiterating its fledgling commitment to undermine the people of Cuba.

All the while the Amerikans fail to see the irony that in 2020 the protests in the U.S. were estimated to have between 15 and 26 million participants with over 14,000 arrests documented as related to the protests and a number of deaths associated. These numbers are not even all encompassing in the true magnitude of arrest and torture by the U.S. government on its own citizens. These protests put forward demands guaranteed by the Cuban constitution. Article’s 16, 18, 19, 41, 42, 43, 44 of the Cuban constitution reveal rights and guarantees afforded to Cubans that in the U.S. don’t even exist or are up for debate. A civil war was needed to end slavery only to have it replaced by Jim Crow segregation in this country. Without a doubt a quick look at the Cuban constitution in comparison with the U.S. constitution, one would begin to question the true ethics of the U.S. and why Cuba is portrayed the way it is.

Cuba has made greater advancements than the U.S. in many fields. It achieved a higher literacy rate, lower infant mortality rate, a lung cancer vaccine as well as a COVID-19 vaccine independently developed with a 92% success rate. All this despite the embargo and war crimes of the U.S. The U.S. in their sad attempt to condemn Cuba’s Communist Party declares the people of Cuba to be subjugated, unable to protest, or have free speech. As can clearly be seen, the president of Cuba not only respects the constitutional right to protest and have free speech, but invited millions to take to the streets to do so.

The Will of the People in Cuba

In 2018 a new draft of the Cuban constitution removed reference to communism. This first draft was met with wide-scale protests and a popular demand that reinstated communism as the goal. In 2019 the new Cuban constitution reaffirmed the popular will. Time after time the U.S. is embarrassed by Cuba’s revolutionary people. Which is presumably why the U.S., who routinely overthrows democracies, assassinates world leaders, or suffocates nations with sanctions, takes special interest in torturing Cuba. It is not without effect either, as many Cubans feel this pressure and suffer untold losses in this cruel escapade waged by the United States.

Mind you, Cuba is not without mistake. The continued privatization of industries and reliance on tourism is a massive failure on the part of the Cuban government. Failures to foster the full creative potential of the Cuban masses by putting politics in command has led the Cuban government to become a bureaucratic mess. With a large population of revolutionary masses eager to promote the ideals of socialism and forge ahead on their path of self-determination, it is sad to see the Cuban state fail to remove the fetters on the Cuban people that restrict their ability to take control of power for themselves. This is a result of internal contradictions within the Cuban state.

Over the past few decades the gradual decline of peoples’ power has been witnessed. Today’s events are a result of the pandemic and U.S. embargo. However, the principal issue is not from without Cuba and it certainly is not from the Cuban people. It is in the Cuban state and their failure to remain vigilant against growing opposition forces within the state itself. Forces that undermine the peoples’ will. Forces that cause unnecessary retreats and failures in planning. With all due respect, these are serious errors that must be rectified by campaigns led by the revolutionary Cuban people. Only the Cuban people can determine their destiny.

So our appeal to Cuba should be directed towards the revolutionary masses who represent the socialist majority. We are in solidarity with you and support you. We will continue to fight to bring to an end the U.S. embargo and all interventions. The revolutionaries in Cuba who emulate the ideals as well as principles of socialism with the aim of building communism are a continued inspiration to the freedom fighters all around the world.

Díaz-Canel welcomed revolutionaries to the street to participate in open debate and oppose the reactionaries. This is a step in the correct direction. So long as those revolutionaries are allowed to progress down whatever path they find suitable for themselves to sustain their revolution. So long as they combat the reactionaries as well as the revisionists. All of this on the terms set forth by the revolutionary Cuban masses themselves who are truly world renowned heroes of revolution.

MIM(Prisons) adds:

It is not MIM line that Cuba was ever really on the socialist road. The Cuban revolution was very clearly one of national liberation from imperialism. However, Cuba paralleled the Derg in Ethiopia in taking on “Marxism-Leninism” for geo-political reasons related to using the Soviet Union as a counter-balance to other imperialist interests. That’s not to say there weren’t Marxists in their ranks, most popular movements in the Third World are going to have Marxist influences. But the Marxists had not consolidated a party around the proletarian line before seizing power. They did not follow Mao’s example of building United Fronts with other classes by maintaining proletarian leadership and independence. In a capitalist-imperialist world, coalition governments invariably lead to capitalism.

Cuba stood out for many decades as a symbol of resistance to U.$. imperialism, even after the fall of the Soviet Union. It is also well-known for directing resources in the interests of the Cuban people and the people of the world. In our article on Ethiopia we mention that the Cubans had their differences with the imperialist Soviet Union, and that speaks to the path Cuba took independent of the USSR during and after its existence.

We agree with current President Díaz-Canel that privatization is only bad for the people. However, nationalization only threatens imperialist meddling, it does not address the internal class contradictions of a country. And in the case of Cuba, with the dependence on tourist money and remittances, the Amerikans have significant and increasing control over their economy despite nationalization.

In the United $tates state-run firms (like the post office) are often defined as “socialism.” But Maoists define socialism differently, as an economy that is guided by the proletarian line, always engaging in class struggle, pitting the interests of collectivism, humyn needs and humyn relations above production, efficiency and profit.

As Mowgli writes, the internal contradictions of a capitalist economy in Cuba cannot ultimately be resolved without a popular movement to rectify the current leadership and shift to the socialist road. We would go further in stressing that socialism is class struggle. There is no policy shift that can bring a country to the socialist road, only the militant mobilization of the masses concentrated in a communist party that puts the class struggle at the forefront. Our opposition from within the empire to the embargo serves to help the Cuban people see their dreams come true via continued class struggle.

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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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