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[Economics] [Organizing] [Texas]

Prisons Used as Political Tools in Rural Communities

In the prison system, people upstate in rural areas send applications for prisoners to be sent up to the towns. If you live in a rural area upstate and your economic structure has been wiped out you need to have another industry. Now you have prisons. The benefit is that you get money for every person shipped to your state, but you also gain greater political power and shift the political power from the cities to the rural areas because every prisoner who goes into these rural areas is counted as a citizen in the county in which they are incarcerated. So big cities may lose two assemblymen because you and your crew are in jail upstate.

This is why all these rural areas want these prisons built in their communities. Prisoners are a population that they don't have to deal with and will never be heard, but they count as a part of representation in the government giving rural areas greater political power.

That's why these small hick towns have 3 or 4 penitentiaries where they have a population of Blacks and Latinos in their towns when in fact no Blacks or Latinos live within the town, but within the prison. Like the town of Tennessee Colony in Texas which has 4 units: Coffield, Beto, Gurney, and Michaels Unit. In most of these towns and cities most of the prison workers in the unit are related going back 4 to 5 generations: husbands and wives working together, brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, and so on. With this in mind you can picture the tight knit community in these units where "if you touch my mother or sister, I can do anything to you, and there's nothing you can do about it, because everyone on the unit will cover for me."

What most prisoners don't know is that they hold more power and rights than they know. If every prisoner who is from a big city put in for hardships to be at units close to their home, these hick towns could lose all of their political power. And these hick town units with populations of 5,000 would not have any power in their wardens. But there is a catch, once your application is in for a hardship. They are out to get you, and place loads of bogus cases on you, so you have to remain on the Unit 12 months case free before you can be shipped.

What we as prisoners must do is know our enemy when we go out and battle against them. We must be clean and can't have any contraband in our cells, or on our persons when we file law suits against them. And make sure the cameras get playback when they do search you or your cell to show them planting stuff on you or in your cell.

[Middle East] [Economics] [ULK Issue 8]

The Privatization of War: Imperialism Gasps its Last Breaths

profit recruiting
Halliburton, KBR and Blackwater (recently rebranded as "Xe") have all become household names in recent years, and generally with negative connotations. There is much to be said about their corruption that is detailed in the books cited below, and we will draw some parallels to the Prison Industrial Complex in this and other articles. But the bigger question for anti-imperialists is what this signifies for the development and maintenance of imperialism.

The books reviewed for this article describe the two sides of the modern imperialist military of the united $tates. On the one hand you have the state-run military that is buying off amerikan youth with the mall culture they are accustomed to, run by cheap Third World labor. On the other, you have armed contractors, often used for more elite operations, increasing salaries of u$ soldiers by 100% and probably moreso for mercenaries from the Third World. All combined, contractors came to outnumber u$ military personnel on the ground in Iraq. (Chatterjee, p. xvi) The stories of Halliburton/KBR and Blackwater spell out a clear trend: it is costing more than ever for imperialism to keep the personnel levels it needs to maintain global hegemony.

A microcosm of global economy

In Halliburton's Army, Pratap Chatterjee reports that wages for contractors in Iraq are tied explicitly to nationality. This picture is very telling for those who claim that amerikans deserve higher wages because they are more productive. Here you have people coming from all over the world to work on the same site and the pay rates are comparable to what they'd get in their home countries (usually they make more in Iraq). This rule still rang true in the common cases where the Third World persyn had more skills or knowledge than the First Worlder. Contractors from the united $tates who were unemployed and desperate for work started at $80,000 a year plus living expenses to supervise Filipinos who made $200- $1000 per month. One amerikan reported making $130,000 a year to work only 1 day per week. In Bagram, Afghan trash collectors were paid $10 for a 12 hour day, while Indians made $600 a month plus room and board working in fast food restaurants on the base. Filipinos who built the prisons in Guantanamo were kept in horrible prisons themselves, and paid $2.50 an hour for dangerous 12 hour days with no safety equipment. Abuses by contractors got so notorious that India, Nepal and the Philippines all made it illegal for their citizens to work in Iraq. (Chatterjee)

With 35,000 of 47,000 Halliburton employees in Iraq coming from the Third World (Chatterjee, p.142), and comparable wages being paid by nationality, you see a replica of the global economy that most First Worlders defend, even many so-called "Marxists." About 25% of the employees were making exploiter level wages, while the rest were Third World (mostly migrant) workers doing all the hard and dangerous work, for wages below the average value of labor. According to the oppressor nation left, Halliburton wouldn't employ the amerikans at $80,000 plus expenses if they weren't exploiting them. These pseudo-marxists think that an amerikan signing a check produces 10 times more value than a Filipino doing construction work or food preparation. On the global scale there are borders and oceans that somehow make this very same situation even more palatable to the oppressor nation.

The Prison Connection

While Halliburton's and Blackwater's ties to the federal government have long been in question, the government's 39th largest contractor is its very own Federal Prisons Industries (FPI) or UNICOR. (Wright, p. 111) Like the Third World labor behind Halliburton/KBR, author Ian Urbina asserts that the u$ military could not do what it does without the vast amount and diversity of products that FPI provides with prison labor that is paid $0.23 to $1.15 an hour (amounting to $400 million in sales to the Department of Defense in 2002). Franklin D. Roosevelt set up the company using legislation that forced the Department of Defense to purchase from FPI, even when their prices were not the lowest. (Wright, p.113) This move by FDR kept money circulating within the state to further fund its repressive aims, rather than allowing tax money to return to private hands in the form of profit.

This validates the overall patterns that MIM(Prisons) has seen; even the biggest prison labor-powered industry in the country is a subsidy for state repression, not a source of private profit. However we do recognize that the U$ military is not saving money by buying products from FPI - private industries can offer products for as cheap or cheaper. And so we don't agree with Urbina's implication that prison labor is essential to military operations.

Another interesting relationship between the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex is found in Blackwater owner Erik Prince's $500,000-plus in contributions to the Prison Fellowship Ministries(PFM). PFM is an evangelical Christian organization that sends more than 50,000 volunteers into u$ prisons. (Wright, p.130) While MIM(Prisons) is kept from sending mail to prisoners all over the u$ for saying that revolution is necessary to end the plight of the oppressed, Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson has cited Thomas Jefferson to imply that Christian revolution is necessary in the united $tates. (Scahill, p. 95) Over 1800 facilities have granted PFM access to run programs inside the prisons that have enrolled over 20,000 people. Once again, we demonstrate that censorship of Maoist literature is about politics and not security.

Wannabe amerikans

Blackwater is busy recruiting former CIA operatives around the world as mercenaries, bribing them with u$-level paychecks. The outcome of this should help demonstrate to our critics the importance of the buying off of a whole nation. Amerikan nationalism provides a much stronger defense for imperialism than a mercenary army. Even if most of these mercenaries are steeped in fascist ideology that is conducive to imperialist militarism, the chances of conflicts of interests developing are significantly greater.

The globalization of the imperialist army is a sign of weakness, not of growing strength. Soon there will be absolutely no way for their army to grow (except with robots).

21st Century Amerikan soldiers

From the Civil War to the Cold War, the u$ national military was not recruited through profit motives. However, while amerikan nationalism provided a strong base for imperialist militarism, the continued increase in demands of the parasitic nation eventually undercut their willingness to fight and die for their nation. They could hire Mexicans to do their housework and manual labor, while hiring East Asians to do their industrial production, couldn't they just hire someone to handle the dirty work of fighting their wars for imperialist plunder? Or to paraphrase Chatterjee, amerikan soldiers went from peeling their own potatoes in tents that they set up themselves to having Third World workers serve them all you can eat dinner buffets. You know, to make it feel more like home.

U$ military public relations explains the need to provide such creature comforts as necessary to maintain an all volunteer army in the 21st century. (Chatterjee, p. 10) But the question of why a draft is not viable is the same question of amerikans not being willing to give up their cush lifestyles, which brings the threat of a draft resistance movement that feeds into anti-imperialism.

One soldier reported,

"It is no exaggeration that I live a higher lifestyle here on a base in Iraq than [I would] in the United States. We have free laundry, apartment-like housing with unlimited, free A/C and electricity, hot water, various American fast-food outlets, lounges, free Internet, coffee shops, and a large PX... Baskin Robbins ice cream... once a week we get steak and lobster... karaoke night, all kinds of sports teams..."

And he goes on to conclude,

"Yet just a few hundred meteres outside the fence, little kids are begging for anything: food, bottled water... The reality is very, very, very shocking. We are truly a pampered and spoiled culture." (Chatterjee, p. 11)

This is not a unique realization for spoiled amerikans to make when sent to war in the Third World. But as this soldier also points out, many are there for the very reason that they get better material conditions in Iraq. So they aren't exactly converting to internationalism in droves, despite the dose of reality.

Far from peeling potatoes indeed, Chatterjee describes the typical dining area with ice cream, waffle bars, lobster tails and elaborate holiday dinners, all free to soldiers. Other facilities on big u$ bases include a "mini mall" with stores like Burger King, KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Green Beans Coffee. He goes on to describe the "Scorpions Den": "one is greeted by almost pitch darkness, the background music from a one-hundred-seater open theater, the soft glow of laptops, and the flickering lights of video games... There are also free popcorn, boxes and boxes of bottled water... and a Dipping Dots ice cream machine." Then there is the "Sandbox" where "Dozens of soldiers sit slumped into fake leather armchairs, playing war games or programs like Guitar Hero and watching a Star Trek movie." (Chatterjee, p.6-7)

We see this as a new stage in the history of military recruitment by the oppressor nations. The brutal occupation forces of colonial powers in the Third World more than a century ago acted in their own direct interest. They were similar to the Conquistadors and settlers of North America centuries earlier, when amerikans stole the land they now occupy. The national unity they subsequently built on their stolen land and wealth, provided for over a hundred years of relatively successful forced military drafts. Today, however, amerikans like to pretend that their prosperity is not built on genocide and slavery. Combined with their very comfortable lives, the idea of going to war often seems not just unappealing, but unnecessary. In other words, historical amnesia may help undercut the oppressor nation as some don't understand what it takes to maintain their positions of privilege.

In the beginning of the 21st century, Halliburton had to double people's salaries to get them to go to Iraq as civilian contractors, not soldiers. But even then, is it worth risking your life when life at home is so comfortable? Amerikans allegiance to u$ imperialism is demonstrated in their politics, but when it comes to going to war, their actions will fall a bit short until they really start to see their material wealth start to diminish, which will happen once the Third World begins shutting of the paths of exploitation as it has in the past.

The military industrial complex will not be stopped by amerikan taxpayers. It is being stopped by resistance fighters who have ensured that only those who really need to be there are going to Iraq. Unfortunately, that includes many Third World nationals, some of whom are being held as prisoners while being forced to work for little to no pay under the most horrible conditions. More and more will learn the folly of trying to work for the imperialists. There is no future for the Third World nations within the imperialist system, only in resistance to it.

The debates about sending more troops or streamlining the u$ military are debates about optimizing u$ imperialism. The interesting part to us is that the struggle appears to be so acute as neither plan is proving viable.

In our criticisms of the prison economy and the labor aristocracy in general, we point to overpaid bureaucrats as a significant part of the problem. But MIM(Prisons) is not Libertarian. If anything, experience seems to show a greater degree of misappropriation of funds when services are contracted out. The cause of corruption is the profit motive, whether ownership is private or public. This is why nationalizing industries or banks does not stop exploitation, nor does it signal a move towards socialism.

(1) Chatterjee, Pratap. Halliburton's Army. Nation Books, 2009.
(2) Scahill, Jeremy. Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Nation Books, 2008.
(3) Wright, Paul and Tara Herivel. Prison Profiteers: Who makes money from mass incarceration. New Press, 2007.

This article referenced in:
[Economics] [ULK Issue 5]

Financial Crisis: Capitalism is an irrational economic system

Amerikan financial leaders were taken by surprise with the recent financial meltdown in Amerika and around the world. Even those who predicted the credit crisis did not expect the far reaching consequences. In fact on October 23, former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan told congress he was "shocked" at the situation and admitted that capitalism was not working as well as he thought it would. Greenspan went so far as to say he was "partially wrong" to think the free market could regulate itself. Greenspan was the chair of the Federal Reserve for over 18 years.

In reality the capitalists know perfectly well that the free market does not work. The regulation of financial markets (or any government regulation) contradicts the fundamental principals of free market capitalism, but they are happy to regulate when it works in their financial interests. Some people are complaining that the government is introducing "socialist" practices with this regulation. But the capitalist government of Amerika knows very well what it's doing - it is preserving capitalism, not promoting socialism. The inevitable crises of capitalism expose weaknesses in the system. To preserve that system, the capitalists need to shore up the economy. If that requires regulation, they will have no problem doing it.

Marx taught us a couple musts of a capitalist economy: capital must circulate and capital must accumulate. These two musts conflict with each other. Accumulation led to imperialism and the limits that imperialism put on circulation led to the crises of the 1930s in the capitalist world.

John Keynes represented the path to saving capitalism during the Great Depression. A path that John McCain and Joe the plumber would call socialism today, but a path that was developed by Keynes and implemented by the Roosevelt administration that was explicitly in opposition to socialism, which existed at the time in the Soviet Union.

Marx did predict this crisis - not directly because he could not know our specific conditions today. But to the extent that he correctly predicted that capitalism will always face crises, Marx was once again right about capitalism. In basic terms, Marx said that capitalism is not rational and so the capitalists are going to overproduce as a part of competition because they can not know the exact size of the market, nor can they rationally apportion that market to the producers.

Lenin expanded on Marx's theories explaining that imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism. One of the definitive characteristics of imperialism described by Lenin was the rise of finance capital. Like all capital, finance capital could not just sit still. So markets were created that didn't actually sell material goods but sold money itself or promises of money in various forms. Not only was this the haven for the imperialists with ever-concentrating capital, but increasingly, the oppressor nation became involved in these markets as ways of getting their share of global super-profits, while helping the imperialists manage these massive economic games. 

In the 1930s, there was anti-capitalist pressure from a socialist Soviet Union that was expanding its economy at record rates while the capitalist world crumbled. Meanwhile fascism exerted its own pressures on the future of capitalism in Europe unleashing unbridled violence to advance their own economic prosperity. In response, the idea that government was responsible for a nation's economic welfare and had the right to interfere in economics became prominent among the bourgeoisie for the first time.

The success of the New Deal was built on shattered post-WWII Europe and Japan, which the united $tates could use as an outlet for its own expanding production. Without these consumer nations, an army of people ready to work at home and new access to labor and resources of dozens of former European colonies, the New Deal policies would not have succeeded as they did in bringing a thriving u$-led capitalism to life.

Compared to the New Deal days, the u$ economy may be too top heavy this time. With most amerikans working in finance, law enforcement, state bureaucracies, advertisement/sales and other service industries, we have a country of parasites. There is no surplus value and little surplus population to fall back on. And we'll probably see a fascist revolution in this country before we see large numbers of amerikans taking up public works jobs that they currently force on Mexicans and other oppressed peoples.

Today the united $tates is no longer a rising economy, it is at the top and it is top heavy. With the former socialist countries having been incorporated back into the capitalist economy in the later decades of the 20th century, there are no new markets to break into. And with a large population that does not produce close to enough to sustain itself, being cut off from Third World labor and resources would be disastrous for the u$ economy.

While Keynes held that government intervention was necessary to keep a capitalist economy expanding, he did not recognize the limits on capitalist expansion recognized by Marx and Lenin. These limits make it harder and harder for capitalism to recover with time as accumulation becomes more extreme. Without imperialist war and massive loss of life, this accumulation remained a barrier to recovering from the Great Depression.

The Keynesians, increasingly the majority of capitalists during this economic crisis, say that the only way to stop the irrational banks is regulation - capitalism can not regulate itself because of the drive for profit, and the lack of information about competitors. We must distinguish this system of capitalism from socialism, which is characterized by nationalization of industry and finance, but more importantly, is controlled by a dictatorship of the proletariat working in the interests of the vast majority of the people. Any nationalization done under capitalism is controlled by a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie working in the interests of the few. In China, after Mao died, the bourgeoisie took power and began running the government for the profit of a few. They left industries nationalized and this fooled some people into thinking China was still socialist. But as the recent actions of the Amerikan government demonstrate, nationalization is not synonymous with socialism.

Although we should not confuse capitalist regulation with socialism, it is interesting to note that there are reports of a big upsurge in sales of Karl Marx's book Capital, as well as visits to his grave as people around the world seek an explanation for the financial crisis. While capitalism is making big profits for the imperialists and their labor aristocrats, those people benefiting have little interest in questioning the system. But in a time of crises some people are apparently inspired to think a little harder about what capitalism means. We don't anticipate this leading to a global upsurge in support for communism. Even with the current economic crisis, the workers in imperialist countries are still benefiting from the exploitation of the Third World. And so their economic interests are still tied up with capitalism.

True to the interests of the Amerikan citizens, what is considered progressive radio in the u$ can't stop crying about mortgages, car payments and kids having to go to community college. They completely ignore that most people in the world have never owned a car, a house or had a chance to get a college education. Joe the plumber, McCain's example of anti-Obama working people in Amerika, did a press event where he announced he was scared of Obama trying to take the country to socialism. Joe the plumber is in the richest 3.89% globally, that's why he's scared of wealth redistribution. When things get really bad, Joe the plumber is going to be fighting for national socialism so that at least he doesn't have to share with other nations.

For those labor aristocrats who want a more rational economic system, we encourage them to study communism. But we won't lie to them and tell them that fighting for communism is fighting for their economic interests. This will just foster reactionary nationalism, or fascism. And it is times of economic crisis when we need to be most wary of fascist upsurges in countries where the workers are benefiting from the exploitation of oppressed nations.

In general, times of capitalist crisis are times of opportunity for the international proletariat. While it is clear that it will take a lot more than the latest crisis to move the imperialist country citizens into the ranks of the proletariat and form a mass base for revolution, the revolutionary movements in Third World countries can take advantage of imperialist weaknesses. The relative strength of imperialism at this point in time may pull it through, but certainly the current crisis may allow our comrades in the Third World to gain some ground in the fight for liberation. The imperialists are doing what they can to shore up smaller countries hit hardest by economic collapse by providing IMF loans (Iceland, Hungary, Ukraine). But these loans are provided strategically and will not prevent the suffering and exploitation of Third World people, which existed before this economic crisis and will continue after it until the people rise up and put an end to this system of imperialism.

Notes: See MIM Theory 1 and 10 for further elaboration on why the Amerikan citizens are part of the labor aristocracy and not the proletariat.

This article referenced in:
[Prison Labor] [Economics] [California]

"News and Letters" misses the boat on labor aristocracy

Greetings and respects to all. Thanks you guys for the free newsletter you sent me. I found it to be very interesting and insightful. However I couldn't help but to notice the enormous amount of support you guys give to the various labor unions here in the United States. And also in other First World nations. Do you guys not consider these labor unions part of the 'Labor Aristocracy?" To be a bit more specific on this term, please allow me to directly quote from our comrades Theory Journal #1 "White Proletariat?" By the way, when I say "our comrades" I'm speaking about the Maoist Internationalist Movement. Anyhow, "The labor aristocracy comprises the elite workers in the world who the capitalist class have bribed with profits obtained from other workers. Lenin said that imperialism gives the bourgeoisie enough super-profits to 'devote a part (and not a small one at that!) to bribe their own workers, to create something like an alliance…between the workers of a given nation and capitalists.." "There is the tendency of the bourgeoisie and the opportunists to convert a handful of very rich and privileged nations into 'eternal' parasites on the body of mankind to 'rest on the laurels' of the exploitation of negros, first world nations, etc., keeping them in subjection with the aid of the excellent weapons of extermination provided by modern militarism." "Lenin believed there was a growing labor aristocracy which owed its position to the workers exploited and super-exploited abroad."

A perfect example of one such union that's filled with these parasites is the California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA). This particular "labor union" through the exploitation of minorities in this state has quickly risen to become one of California's largest and most powerful unions around. Through the bribing of government officials they've been able to consolidate power at the very highest levels. That unfortunately has cost us minorities very dearly. Because now they are able to pass even more stringent laws aimed at us. Thus keeping their "cash cow" well fed. And us and our communities oppressed.

Another union that comes to mind is the AFL-CIO. This particular union has a very unsavory past, to say the very least. From Guatemala to Chile, they have helped to oppress our brothers and sisters. Or did they not play a very significant role in bringing down the "Allende Government in Chile!?! Or did they not provide assistance to the United Fruit company in Guatemala when they were trying to smash the indigenous led union!?! Their foreign policy speaks for itself. Of course I could go on and on about these labor unions. But I'll go ahead and stop here. I hope to get some feedback from you guys on this topic. Once again, thanks for the newsletter.

MIM responds: This comrade's analysis of "News and Letters" position on unions is right on. The only point we disagree with is where s/he writes that the CCPOA "through the exploitation of minorities in this state, has quickly risen to become one of California's largest and most powerful unions around." Presumably the minorities in this state referenced are prisoners. The current economics of prisons don't (yet) support this statement. Prisons in California don't yet make a profit off of prisoners; they are still greatly subsidized by the state. And so it is not the CCPOA doing the exploiting, though the use of them as an example remains correct as they are definitely benefiting from exploitation of Third World peoples as those superprofits are brought home and the state of California uses them to build more prisons and pay high wages to CCPOA workers.