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[National Oppression] [Economics] [ULK Issue 62]

Book Review: Locked In

Locked In: the true causes of mass incarceration - and how to achieve real reform
by John F. Pfaff
2017 Basic Books

With over 2 million people behind bars, Amerikkka locks up more people per capita than any other nation in the world. But within this system of mass imprisonment there is an even more striking story of national oppression: New Afrikans locked up at 5 times the rate of whites, and [email protected] and First Nations also locked up at disproportionately high rates. We might hope that a book about the true causes of mass incarceration (and how to achieve real reform!) would address this discrepancy. But Pfaff, like all good bourgeois scholars, is focused on how to make capitalism work better. And so ey sweeps this whole issue under the rug in a book that offers some really good science and statistics on imprisonment. Here we will pull out the useful facts and frame them in a revolutionary context.

Overall Locked In does a good job of exposing some important facts and statistics often ignored by prison researchers. Pfaff attacks what ey calls the "Standard Story." This is the name ey gives to the common arguments anti-prison activists make, which ey believes are counter-productive to their (and eir own) goals of prison reform. Ey claims these arguments either over simplify, or are straight up wrong, about why we have so many prisoners in the United $tates, and as a result target the wrong solutions.

The big picture

Pfaff sometimes gets lost in the details and fails to look at the big picture. For instance, ey argues that "we are a nation of either 50 or 3,144 distinct criminal justice systems" talking about the big differences in how each state and even each county deals with prosecution, sentencing and prisons.(p. 16) While it is true there are significant differences, this thinking evades the importance of looking at the big picture that it's no coincidence that so many distinct counties/states have such high rates of imprisonment in this country. It's a good idea to examine state and county level differences, and learn lessons from this. But using this information in the interests of the oppressed requires an understanding of the underlying role of the Amerikkkan criminal injustice system in social control and national oppression, the topic Pfaff studiously avoids.

In one of eir rare references to the role that nation plays in the criminal injustice system in the United $tates, Pfaff bemoans that "Obviously, effecting 'cultural change' is a very difficult task."(p. 228) Ey entirely misses the fundamental national oppression going on in this country. To him it's just about attitudes and cultural change.

Pfaff does raise some good big picture questions that scientific capitalists and communists alike need to consider. Discussing the importance of balancing the cost of crime against the costs of enforcement Pfaff asks "what the optimal level of crime should be." "Why is crime control inherently more important than education or medical research or public health?" "What if a reduction in prison populations would allow 100,000 children with at least one parent in prison to now have both parents at home, but at a cost of a 5 percent rise in aggravated assaults (or even some number of additional murders) – is this a fair tradeoff, even assuming no other criminal justice benefits (like lower future offending rates among these children)?" But Pfaff notes that politicians in the United $tates are not able to talk about these things. Even Bernie Sanders's discussion of investing more in schools and less in prisons was in the context of reducing crime more efficiently. It's just not okay to say education should be prioritized over crime control.(p. 119) And so Pfaff concludes that we must work on reforms that can be implemented within this severely restricted political system. We see this as evidence that the system will never allow significant change.

Another place where Pfaff frames the larger context in useful and scientific ways is around the question of why people commit crimes. While ey dances around the social causes of crime, Pfaff offers some good analysis about how people age out of crime. And this analysis leads to eir position that we shouldn't be calling people "violent offenders" but instead just saying they have committed violent crimes. Data shows that most people commit crimes when young, and as they age they are far less likely to do so again.

Crime rates and imprisonment rates

Pfaff is a professor of law at Fordham University, and like people working within the capitalist system ey accepts the capitalist definitions of crime. This means ey ignores the biggest criminals: those conducting wars of aggression and plunder against other nations in the interests of profit. For the purposes of this review we will use the term crime as Pfaff does in eir book, to refer to bourgeois-defined crime.

Crime rates in the U.$. grew in the 1970s and early 1980s. Pfaff believes that "rising incarceration helped stem the rise in crime."(p. 10) Disappointingly ey doesn't put much work in to proving this thesis. But at least ey concedes that locking up more people may not have been the best response to rising crime.(p. 10) And ey goes on to note that crime rates continued to fall while prison populations also fell in later years: "Between 2010 and 2014, state prison populations dropped by 4 percent while crime rates declined by 10 percent – with crime falling in almost every state that scaled back incarceration."(p. 12) So even if locking up people in the 70s and 80s did curtail some crime, clearly there isn't a direct correlation between imprisonment rates and crime rates.

There was a drop in the number of prisoners in the United $tates between 2010 and 2014 (4%), but this was driven by California which made up 62% of the national decline. Outside of California, total prison populations fell by 1.9% during this same period. But at the same time total admissions rose by 1.1%. Pfaff cites this statistic in particular to point out a failure of prison reform efforts using the metric of total prison population. If the goal is to reduce the prison population overall, looking at the drop in people locked up will miss the fact that the total number of prisoners is actually rising!(p. 69) This is an important point as we know that prison has lasting effects on all who are locked up, as well as on their community, even if they are only serving short sentences.

War on Drugs is not driving prison growth

Disagreeing with the common argument that locking up low-level drug offenders is driving up the prison population, Pfaff points out that "only about 16 percent of state prisoners are serving time on drug charges — and very few of them, perhaps only around 5 or 6 percent of that group, are both low level and nonviolent. At the same time, more than half of all people in state prisons have been convicted of a violent crime."(p. 5) So ey argues that targeting non-violent drug offenders is focusing on too small a population to make a significant impact.

Pfaff offers extensive data analysis to demonstrate that the number of people serving time for drug convictions just aren't enough to be a major driver of state prison growth. Ey does concede that "the single biggest driver of the decline in prison populations since 2010 has been the decrease in the number of people in prison for drug crimes. But focusing on drugs will only work in the short run. That it is working now is certainly something to celebrate. But even setting every drug offender free would cut our prison population by only 16 percent."(p. 35)

From this analysis Pfaff concludes that it is essential that prison reformers not avoid talking about violent crime. "From 1990 to 2009... about 60 percent of all additional inmates had been convicted of a violent offense."(p. 187) "[T]here are almost as many people in prison today just for murder and manslaughter as the total state prison population in 1974: about 188,000 for murder or manslaughter today, versus a total of 196,000 prisoners overall in 1974."(p. 185) And due to length of sentence, "Violent offenders take up a majority of all prison beds, even if they do not represent a majority of all admissions."(p. 188) So those serious about cutting back prisons will need to cut back on locking people up for violent crimes.

Length of sentence

Pfaff concludes that longer sentences are not the cause of rising imprisonment rates. This is the opposite of the common anti-prison activist position: "despite the nearly automatic assumption by so many that prison growth is due to ever-longer sentences, the main driver of growth, at least recently, has been steadily rising admissions for fairly short terms."(p. 74) "[M]ost people serve short stints in prison, on the order of one to three years, and there's not a lot of evidence that the amount of time spent in prison has changed that much — not just over the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s, but quite possibly over almost the entire prison boom."(p. 6)

Pfaff does concede that official sentences, per statutes, have gotten longer, but ey claims time served has changed much less. At most average time served in state prisons increased by 36% between 1990 and 2009, which ey calls a small increase that can’t explain most of the prison growth over that time. (p. 58) Ey argues that tough sentencing laws are all about politics and legislator image, trying to look tough on crime. But they count on prosecutors not actually imposing the maximum punishments.

Private prisons vs public employees

We agree with Pfaff that private prisons don't play a very large role in the current Amerikan criminal injustice system. "Private spending and private lobbying ... are not the real financial and political engines behind prison growth. Public revenue and public-sector union lobbying are far more important."(p. 7) And ey correctly identifies "the real political powers behind prison growth are the public officials who benefit from large prisons: the politicians in districts with prisons, along with the prison guards who staff them and the public-sector unions who represent the guards."(p. 7)

Pfaff makes a compelling point: public prisons will act the same way private prisons act when facing the same contractual incentives. Ey goes on to argue that it might actually be better to expand private prisons but give them incentives for better performance, such as rewarding lack of recidivism.

It is public prison employees who are the strongest opponents of private prisons. This was seen in Florida where an attempt to privatize 27 prisons was killed after the public employees' union got a bunch of congresspeople to vote against the bill.(p. 87)

This strength of public prisons lobbying is also behind the fact that closing public prisons doesn't necessarily result in much savings because the unions will aggressively oppose any lost jobs. In Pennsylvania, the state closed two prisons in 2013 and laid off only three guards. In New York the prison population dropped by 25% since 1999 but they have not closed any prisons.(p. 88)

Pfaff concludes: "In other words, reformers should not really be concerned with the privateness of the PIC. They should worry that as prisons grow, the supporting bureaucracies — private and public alike — will grow as well, and they will fight against anything that jeopardizes their power and pay."(p. 91)

Pfaff is correct that private prisons are not driving incarceration rates. Actually, public employee wages are playing a much larger role. However, there are valid reasons to oppose privatization for reformers, or anyone who subscribes to a sense of humynism. In our bourgeois democracy, the law does provide for greater accountability of public institutions. Therefore, public prisons will generally allow less unnecessary suffering than private ones. Of course, neither privatization, nor the public sector can eliminate the oppression of the capitalist state that is meted out by the police and prisons. Yet, privatization of the state-sanctioned use of force only creates more problems for those working for progressive change.


Pfaff disagrees with the argument that a big driver behind the prison population is recidivism, specifically that lots of people are being sent back to prison for technical violations or small issues. Ey does find that in most states the number of parole conditions has gone up, from an average of 11 in 1982 to an average of 18 in 2008.(p. 62) But digging into recidivism more deeply, Pfaff cites a study that found that only about a third of people admitted to prison end up returning. And ey correctly notes that if the commonly cited Bureau of Justice Statistics claim of a 50% recidivism rate is wrong, this just means that even more people are ending up in prisons at some time in their lives. This is perhaps an even scarier story than the high recidivism rate because it means that even more lives are being ruined by prison.

States vs counties

Pfaff points out that the $50 billion that states spend on prisons is only about 3% of state spending. And as has been seen in examples above, the savings from decarceration are not that great if states can't actually close prisons or lay off guards. Also, releasing individual prisoners doesn't result in much savings because prisons work on an economy of scale. While we can calculate the average cost of incarceration per persyn, we can't translate that directly into savings when one persyn is released, because the entire infrastructure is still in place.(p. 99)

New York City actually did cut its prison population recently, along with a few other urban counties in New York. However, rural counties sent more people to prison so the overall impact was growth, not decreasing numbers of prisoners in New York.(p. 76) Similarly, higher crime rate areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco in California send relatively fewer people to prison compared to more rural counties which tend to be more conservative.(p. 77)

We touched on this urban vs. rural discrepancy in imprisonment rates in a recent article on national oppression in prison, suggesting that this could be the primary driver behind the (temporary?) drop in the discrepancy between incarceration rates of oppressed nations and whites. Since more whites are in the rural counties, statistically that's who is getting locked up if those counties are locking people up at a higher rate. Pfaff's data backs up our theory.

Prosecutors driving imprisonment

Pfaff argues compellingly that the primary driver behind the boom in prisoners in the past few decades is prosecutorial toughness: prosecutors are charging more people with more serious crimes. Prosecutors have a tremendous amount of latitude. They can determine the charges brought against people, which in turn drives the level of seriousness of the crime and potential sentences. They can also decide when to take a plea and what to offer in the plea.

To prove the impact of prosecutors, Pfaff cites data between 1991 and 2014 when crime rates were falling. During this period the arrest rates by police matched crime rates, which means that as violent and property crimes fell so did arrests for those offenses. In states Pfaff examined, arrests fell 10% between 1994 and 2008. But at the same time the number of felony cases rose steeply. Fewer people were entering the criminal injustice system but more were facing felony charges. Pfaff calculated a 40% increase in felony cases. Ey found this was the only thing that changed; felony charges resulted in imprisonment at the same rate as before. So Pfaff concludes: "In short, between 1994 and 2008, the number of people admitted to prison rose by about 40 percent, from 360,000 to 505,000, and almost all of that increase was due to prosecutors bringing more and more felony cases against a diminishing pool of arrestees."(p. 72) The probability that a prosecutor would file felony charges against an arrestee basically doubled during this time period.

Pfaff attributes this prosecutorial aggression to a few things. First, the number of prosecutors trying cases has increased significantly over the past forty years, unrelated to crime rates. Prosecutor discretion is not new, but they seem to be using it more and more aggressively in recent years. And it is the prosecutors who have complete control over which cases get filed and which get dismissed. Prosecutors also have a huge advantage over public defenders, whose budget is significantly less than prosecutors and who don't benefit from free investigative services from law enforcement.(p. 137)

Overall Pfaff finds very little data available on prosecutors and so finds it impossible to come to firm conclusions about why they are so aggressively increasing prosecution rates. Ey spends a lot of the book talking about potential prosecutoral reforms but also concludes that mandatory data collection around prosecution is essential to get a better handle on what's going on.

While this data on the role of prosecutors in driving imprisonment rates in recent years is interesting, revolutionaries have to ask how important this is to our understanding of the system. Whether it's more cops on the streets driving more arrests, or more aggressive prosecutors driving more sentences, the net result is the same. If we're looking to reform the system, Pfaff's data is critical to effectively targeting the most important part of the system. But for revolutionaries this information is most useful in exposing the injustice behind the curtain of the system. We want to know how it works but ultimately we know we need to dismantle the whole system to effect real and lasting change.


Even within eir general belief that prisons are necessary to stop crime, Pfaff makes some good points: "To argue that prison growth contributed to 25 percent of the drop in crime does not mean that it was an efficient use of resources: perhaps we could have achieved an equally large decline in a way that was less fiscally and socially costly."(p. 116) And ey goes on to note that studies suggest rehabilitation programs outside of prison do a much better job reducing crime.

Some of Pfaff's solutions are things we can get behind, like adequately funding public defenders. And most of them, if effective, would result in fewer prisoners and better programs to help prisoners both while locked up and once on the streets. But still these solutions are about relatively small reforms: giving prosecutors more guidance, expanding political oversight, expanding parole and providing more scientific structure to parole decisions, appointing prosecutors rather than electing them, setting up better contracts with private prisons paying based on how prisoners performed upon release.

All of these reforms make sense if you believe the Amerikan prison system has a primary goal of keeping society safe and reforming criminals. This is where we deviate from Pfaff because we can see that prisons are just a tool of a fundamentally corrupt system. And so reforms will only be implemented with sufficient belief from those in charge that the fundamental system won't be threatened. And certainly the Amerikan imperialists aren't looking to "improve" or reform the system; they will only react to significant social pressure, and only as much as they need to to take pressure off.

[Economics] [ULK Issue 60]

MIM(Prisons) on U.$. Prison Economy - 2018 update


The United $tates government, and society in general, spend an enormous amount of money on the criminal injustice system. The primary reason behind this expenditure, from the perspective of the government, is social control of oppressed nations within the United $tates.(see Politics of Mass Incarceration) But there are other beneficiaries, and losers, in this expensive criminal injustice system. In this article we will look at where the money comes from; who is benefiting and who is paying; and how these economic interests play into our strategy to organize against the criminal injustice system.

This is a follow-up to "MIM(Prisons) on U.S. Prison Economy" written in 2009. By periodically looking at these economic facts and trends we can gain insights into how the imperialist system operates and what strategies and tactics will be most effective in our struggle against imperialism.

Direct costs of prisons

Total spending on prisons and jails more than quadrupled over the thirty years between 1980 and 2010, from approximately $17 billion in 1980 to more than $80 billion in 2010. When including expenditures for police, judicial and legal services, the direct costs reached $261 billion.(1)

For comparison, in 2015 the United $tates "defense" budget was $637 billion, up from $379 billion in 1980, a 68% increase.(2,3) In that same period, total government spending on K-12 education more than doubled, going from $271 billion to over $621 billion.(3) So we can see the growth in criminal injustice system spending was dramatically faster than the growth in other government spending.

Hidden costs of prisons

Direct expenditures on prisons are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the economic impact of prisons. One study, conducted in 2016, estimated the total aggregate burden of imprisonment at $1 trillion, with an additional $10 in social costs for every $1 spent on corrections. This means that most of that $1 trillion is being borne by families, community members, and prisoners themselves.(4)

Being locked up in prison comes with a lot of negative consequences beyond the obvious loss of years of one's life spent behind bars. Economically these costs include lost wages, reduced earnings once on the streets, injuries sustained behind bars (from guards and other prisoners), and for some the ultimate price of death from fatal injuries while in prison, or a shorter life expectancy for prisoners. This totals up to annual costs of just under $400 billion dollars per year.

Estimated Costs borne by prisoners:(4)
  • Lost wages while imprisoned ($70.5 billion)
  • Reduced lifetime earnings ($230.0 billion)
  • Nonfatal injuries sustained in prison ($28.0 billion)
  • Higher mortality rates of former prisoners ($62.6 billion)
  • Fatal injuries to prisoners ($1.7 billion)

Beyond the direct costs to prisoners, family members and society in general carry an even larger financial burden. This includes direct costs like traveling for visitation of loved ones and moving costs when families can no longer afford their homes. But also less obvious costs like the impact prison has on family members which has been demonstrated to worsen the health and educational achievement of prisoners' children, leaving some homeless, lead to higher rates of divorce and also reduce the marriage rate in the community. Further there are costs to society from homelessness of released prisoners, and reentry programs and others serving prisoners.

Estimates of Costs Borne by Families, Children, and Communities:(4)
  • Visitation costs ($0.8 billion)
  • Adverse health effects ($10.2 billion)
  • Infant mortality ($1.2 billion)
  • Children's education level and subsequent wages as an adult ($30.0 billion)
  • Children rendered homeless by parental imprisonment ($0.9 billion)
  • Homelessness of former prisoners ($2.2 billion)
  • Decreased property values ($11.0 billion)
  • Divorce ($17.7 billion)
  • Reduced marriage ($9.0 billion)
  • Child welfare ($5.3 billion)

These expenses disproportionately impact oppressed nation communities as the primary target of the criminal injustice system. A majority of prisoners are New Afrikan and [email protected], and this is a form of economic oppression against those nations. Unlike government expenditures which create jobs and fund industries, most of these expenses do not directly financially benefit anyone. This is just economic punishment piled on top of the punishment. The massive United $tates prison system is not just a tool of repression, it is actively worsening the economic conditions of oppressed nations, keeping significant sectors of these nations trapped in precarious conditions.

Prisons Create Jobs

While prisons have a devastating impact on oppressed nation communities in the United $tates, they play a different role for the disproportionately white employees of the criminal injustice system and the mostly rural communities in which these prisons operate.

Of the direct expenditures on prisons and jails, a lot of money goes to jobs for guards and other correctional employees. In 2016 there were 431,600 guards in prisons and jails, earning on average $46,750 per year or $22.48 per hour.(5)

CO employment map

We can see striking examples in states like New York and California where prisons are clustered in rural white communities (upstate New York and in the central valley of California), but they are imprisoning mostly oppressed nation people from urban communities.

In 2012 (the latest data available from the U.$. Bureau of Justice) the total number of criminal injustice system employees across federal, state and local governments was 2,425,011 of which 749,418 were prison staff.(6) About half of the total corrections budget goes to pay salaries for prison staff, which is two orders of magnitude more than the $400 million in profits of private prison companies.(17)

There are other jobs generated more indirectly by prison spending: construction jobs building and maintaining prisons, and jobs in all of the industries that supply the prisons with food, bedding, clothing, and other basics required to support the prison population. While some of these costs are recovered through prisoner labor (we will address this topic in more detail in ULK 62), the vast majority is still paid for by the government. Vendors also make a lot of money through commissary, phone bills, and other costs to prisoners. There are clearly a lot of individuals and corporations with an economic interest in the criminal injustice system.

Most prisons are in rural areas, often in poorer parts of states. Some prison towns are entirely centered around employment at the prison, or support services like hotels for visiting families. Others may have a more diversified economy but the prisons still provide a significant number of jobs for residents. These jobs give workers, and the community their jobs are supporting, a strong interest in seeing prisons stay full or grow bigger.

In reality, many jobs in newly-built prisons go to people from outside of the community where it was built. People with experience are brought in to fill these jobs. Many of these workers commute to the prison rather than relocate to a rural town. And there is some evidence that in the long run prisons are bad for the economy of rural communities. But this is definitely not a popular opinion as many communities lobby aggressively for prison construction. Once a prison is in place in a community, even if it's not working out so well, it's not easy to reverse course and change the economy. As a result some towns end up lobbying for building more prisons to help bolster their economy once they have one in place.(7)

Given the size of the criminal injustice system, and the many people employed in and around it, this is a big incentive to maintain Amerika's crazy high imprisonment rates. It's like a huge public works program where the government gives money to create jobs and subsidize corporations working in and around prisons.

State vs. Federal Funding

Most prison spending is at the state level. In 2010 state governments paid 57% of the direct cash costs, while 10% came from the federal government and 33% from local governments.(1) It's all government money, but this fact is interesting because it means state economic interest is likely more important than federal economic interest in determining criminal injustice system spending.

Looking closer at state spending on prisons we find that imprisonment rates vary dramatically by state (8). Top states by imprisonment rate per 100,000 adults:

  • Louisiana 1370
  • Oklahoma 1340
  • Mississippi 1230
  • Alabama 1140
  • Georgia 1140
  • Texas 1050
  • Arizona 1050
  • Arkansas 1050
  • All other states have rates under 1000 with a few states down in the 300s.

Prison populations are still growing in a few states, but in the top imprisonment rate states listed above only Arizona's population grew between 2014 and 2015 (1.6%). Most of the states with an increase in imprisonment rate between 2014 and 2015 were very small states with smaller prison populations overall.(9)

There is a skewing towards high imprisonment rates in southern states. These are typically poorer states with fewer economic resources. It's possible these states feel a stronger drive to build prisons as an economic growth tool, in spite of the evidence mentioned above now suggesting this isn't necessarily the best path for towns to take. It's an interesting "investment" decision by these poorer southern states that suggests there is more than just economics in play since it is a money-losing operation for already financially strapped states.

Just as the decrease in country-wide imprisonment rates coincided with the peak of the recession in 2008, it's inevitable that economic interests by the states, and by the many employees of the criminal injustice system, are also influencing prison growth and prison shrinkage. In some cases it is a battle between the interests of the prison workers, who want prisons to grow, and the states that want to stop bleeding so much money into the prisons. In each state different conditions will determine who wins.

Economic Crisis and State Responses

In 2009, MIM(Prisons) looked at the potential of the economic crisis to motivate a reduction in prison populations to address state budget shortages. We cited a few examples painting that as an unlikely scenario. The statistics do show that the total imprisoned population has dipped since then. Here we revisit some of the big prison states to see how things have shaken out since 2008.

U.S. prison population growth

If anything, overcrowding continues to be a bigger issue in many states than funding issues. Though overcrowding may reflect a reluctance to build new facilities, which is related to budgets. Ohio just celebrated a modest decrease in their prison population at the end of 2017.(10) At 49,420, the population was a few thousands smaller than projected four years earlier when things weren't looking so good.(11) But overall the numbers have just hovered around 50,000 since before the 2008 economic crisis.

Ohio was looking to the court-ordered prison population reduction in California as an example of what might happen there if they didn't get their numbers under control. The California reduction (or "realignment") was to address overcrowding in response to a lawsuit about conditions, and not budget problems. It was significant, with a reduction of almost 30,000 prisoners in the year following the "realignment." Numbers are even lower today. However, county populations have increased as a result, with an estimated increase of 1 county prisoner for every 3 reduced in the state system. In other words, the county population was up over 10,000 people following the realignment.(12) Still California accounted for a majority of the decrease in prisoners in the United $tates since 2010.

CA Prison Population Reduction

Former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn canceled plans to close Pontiac Correctional Center back in 2009. But current Governor Bruce Rauner has a plan to reduce the population by 25% over the next decade, already having reduced it by thousands over a couple years.(13) The Illinois state system also remains over capacity at this time. However, Governor Rauner primarily cites fiscal concerns as eir motivation for the reforms.(14) Texas also recently reduced its population by 5,000, closing one prison. Both Texas and Illinois did this by putting more money into treatment programs and release resources.(14)

Pennsylvania has also implemented reforms in sentencing and preventing recidivism.(15) After the passing of the 2012 Justice Reinvestment Act, population numbers began to level off and even decrease by hundreds each year. Like Ohio, Pennsylvania's population has been hovering around 50,000, and like many other states these numbers remain over capacity for the state (which is closer to 43,000).(16)

Overall we're still talking about fairly marginal numbers here, and not a systematic transformation. We peaked at 2.3 million prisoners in the United $tates, and now we're closer to 2.1 million. Still by far the highest imprisonment rate in the world. Ultimately, the economic crisis of 2008 did not have a huge impact on Amerikans because of the ability of imperialism to push crisis off on the periphery. But we can conclude from this experience that a serious economic crises is not enough to significantly change the course of the massive Amerikkkan injustice system.


Prisoners, their family and the community pay a heavy price for imprisonment, and this includes a significant financial cost. The impact on oppressed nation communities plays into the ongoing national oppression that is part of imperialism. So we shouldn't be surprised by an imperialist society tolerating and even perpetuating these costs.

But prisons also cost the government a lot of money. And clearly these costs have not deterred the United $tates government from maintaining the highest imprisonment rate in the world. It's a very expensive public works program, if all this money is being spent just to supply jobs to the many workers in and around the criminal injustice system. Although these jobs do provide significant political incentive to sustain prisons at their current level, Amerikan capitalist history provides us with plenty of examples of cheaper and more socially productive programs that create jobs for groups currently employed by the criminal injustice system. It's clearly a political choice to continue with this expenditure and pour money into a costly system of social control.

Some anti-prison activists try to use the high costs of prison to their advantage, organizing around slogans that emphasize that this money could be better spent elsewhere, like on education. The 10-year aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis demonstrates the weakness of this approach. The social forces of change are not coming from state bureaucracy budget offices. The social force for change are the oppressed nations that are still being targeted by the out-of-control injustice system, and the lumpen organizations that come up as a means of self-defense from this oppression.

[Economics] [Alabama] [ULK Issue 60]

Alabama Sheriffs Profit by Starving Prisoners

In Alabama the law offers economic incentives to starve prisoners. Sheriffs get $1.75 per prisoner per day to feed people in jail, and they get to pocket any of that money not spent on food. According to the Southern Center for Human Rights, the sheriff in Etowah County "earned" $250,000 in 2016 by starving prisoners in that county.

At least forty-nine Sheriffs are refusing to report how much food money they are pocketing. Civil rights groups are suing these Sheriffs in an attempt to require them to release this information. But that still leaves the broader problem of the law that many are interpreting to allow Sheriffs to profit by starving prisoners.

As we discussed in the article MIM(Prisons) on U.$. Prison Economy - 2018 Update, criminal injustice system employees in the United $tates are the primary financial beneficiaries of the largest prison system in the world. Good pay and job security are appealing enough to draw many to this profession that exists off the oppression and suffering of others. With a system structured in this way, we shouldn't be surprised that Sheriffs in Alabama feel entitled to pocket money intended to feed people in their jails.

[Economics] [ULK Issue 60]

Political Economy of Mass Incarceration: Got to Pay the Piper

As we live in a world full of icebergs as well as Trump towers, we as a country overcame cheap labor such as cotton picking, tobacco farming, child bearing, sugar caning, to the industrialized warfare, to white flight/red line federal housing (which was a calamity also labeled as the Jim Crow north) to the penal correctional nightmare we live through today. They call it rehabilitation, which takes millions off the streets to feel the reign. Years of disfranchisement, hatred, street wars that last decades, as well as innocent bystanders gunned down, as tears flow from mothers' eyes.

We are investments as soon as we jump off the porch, moving targets for bounty hunters. But they got us focusing on the gang, when the biggest gang is theirs. It has been seen on TV: dumptrucks of guns being delivered to children high on PCP on the streets of Chicago, or the deliverance of cocaine to Rick Ross/Nicky Barnes. But now we got a problem with Mexicans importing a little weed over the border? Get the F out of here! The government is El Chapo, when that same gov benefits/prospers off every play.

They call this justice. Alright, where is the justice in charging $3 a day for being in your jail? Or charging $1 for a 15-cent soup? Or matter of fact $8-15 for a free long distance call. Do you see the incentives? Also you got private institutions that pay for a full prison population (90+%). So why would I not hire more police to put more minorities in here?

If we truly hate white superiority/supremacy, why do we kill our own at a higher rate than the right-wing klan or policemen? When the government owns the whole monopoly board. Every day is the million man/woman march. All we got to do is follow the examples already solidified. Call out our heads or our officials that hold any position. Mumia Abu Jamal said it best, "The state would rather give me an Uzi than a microphone."

MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is right to expose the private industry benefits of the criminal injustice system. And also the hypocrisy of the government's claims that prisons are being used for justice when it is the government that runs the biggest gang, drug dealer, and criminals. But we can't ignore that prisons are a money-losing operation for the government. Sure the private industries that are profiting do lobby for more prisons, and that's a financial interest for sure. But the government itself is losing money.

Social control must be the driving reason behind the enormous money-sucking prison system in the United $tates. The criminal injustice system serves that same purpose of social control of oppressed nations within U.$. borders.

[Economics] [ULK Issue 59]

Book Review: Marx & Engels on Colonies

Marx & Engels on Colonies
Marx & Engels On Colonies, Industrial Monopoly, & The Working Class Movement
originally compiled by the Communist Working Circle, 1972
with a new introduction by Zak Cope & Torkil Lauesen
Kersplebedeb, 2016

Available for $10 + shipping/handling from:
CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne
Montreal, Quebec
H3W 3H8

This book is a reprint of a 1972 study pack by the Communist Working Circle, which contains quotes from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels on the question of the split between workers in the imperialist countries and the colonized nations. The book opens with a foreword by the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement and an extensive introduction by Zak Cope & Torkil Lauesen explaining transfer of wealth from colonies to Britain.

The introduction is really the heart of the small book. It takes the outline laid out by the Marx and Engels quotes and fills it out with a detailed historical treatment of the subject. The authors focus on the periods contemporary to and discussed by Marx and Engels. And they make some important conclusions, including that England was dominated by the labor aristocracy by the 1850s. This is a key point, when all too often the question of the labor aristocracy is treated as an open debate over 150 years later.

One topic that Marx and Engels touch on in many of the selections is England's relationship to Ireland. This was a factor for Marx in eir understanding of the English workers growing allegiance to capitalism. While we often treat settler nations like Amerika and Australia as distinct phenomenon, what we gather from Marx and Engels's descriptions is that the attitudes of the English were/are not very different. The English built a very similar consciousness in relation to Ireland, India and countless other colonized peoples.

MIM(Prisons) recommends this book as part of the still-growing cannon on this important topic. While we consider Zak Cope's Divided World, Divided Class a must-read, this may be a more digestible piece to start with for those shy about thick economic texts. This book is available to prisoners for $6 or work trade from MIM Distributors, and we plan to conduct a study group on it in the near future.

[Economics] [China] [Theory] [FAQ] [ULK Issue 59]

China 2017: Socialist or Imperialist?

Is China an Imperialist Country? considerations and evidence
by N.B. Turner, et al.
Kersplebedeb, 2015

Available for $17 + shipping/handling from:
CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne
Montreal, Quebec
H3W 3H8

is china an imperialist country?

This article began as a book review of Is China an Imperialist Country?. However, I was spurred to complete this review after witnessing a surge in pro-China posts and sentiment on the /r/communism subreddit, an online forum that MIM(Prisons) participates in. It is strange to us that this question is gaining traction in a communist forum. How could anyone be confused between such opposite economic systems? Yet, this is not the first time that this question has been asked about a capitalist country; the Soviet Union being the first.

Mao Zedong warned that China would likely become a social fascist state if the revisionists seized power in their country as they had in the Soviet Union after Stalin's death. While the question of whether the revisionists have seized power in China was settled for Maoists decades ago, other self-proclaimed "communists" still refer to China as socialist, or a "deformed workers' state," even as the imperialists have largely recognized that China has taken up capitalism.

In this book, N.B. Turner does address the revisionists who believe China is still a socialist country in a footnote.(1) Ey notes that most of them base their position on the strength of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in China. This is a common argument we've seen as well. And the obvious refutation is: socialism is not defined as a state-run economy, at least not by Marxists. SOEs in China operate based on a profit motive. China now boasts 319 billionaires, second only to the United $tates, while beggars walk the streets clinging to passerbys. How could it be that a country that had kicked the imperialists out, removed the capitalists and landlords from power, and enacted full employment came to this? And how could these conditions still be on the socialist road to communism?

Recent conditions did not come out of nowhere. By the 1980s, Beijing Review was boasting about the existence of millionaires in China, promoting the concept of wage differentials.(2) There are two bourgeois rights that allow for exploitation: the right to private property and the right to pay according to work. While the defenders of Deng Xiaoping argue that private property does not exist in China today, thus "proving" its socialist nature, they give a nod to Deng's policies on wage differentials; something struggled against strongly during the Mao era.

Turner quotes Lenin from Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism: "If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism."(3) And what are most SOEs but monopolies?

Is China a Socialist Country?

The question of Chinese socialism is a question our movement came to terms with in its very beginning. MIM took up the anti-revisionist line, as stated in the first cardinal principal:

"MIM holds that after the proletariat seizes power in socialist revolution, the potential exists for capitalist restoration under the leadership of a new bourgeoisie within the communist party itself. In the case of the USSR, the bourgeoisie seized power after the death of Stalin in 1953; in China, it was after Mao's death and the overthrow of the 'Gang of Four' in 1976."

We'll get more into why we believe this below. For now we must stress that this is the point where we split from those claiming to be communists who say China is a socialist country. It is also a point where we have great unity with Turner's book.

Who Thinks China is Socialist?

Those who believe China is socialist allude to a conspiracy to paint China as a capitalist country by the Western media and by white people. This is an odd claim, as we have spent most of our time struggling over Chinese history explaining that China is no longer communist, and that what happened during the socialist period of 1949 - 1976 is what we uphold. We see some racist undertones in the condemnations of what happened in that period in China. It seems those holding the above position are taking a valid critique for one period in China and just mechanically applying it to Western commentators who point out the obvious. We think it is instructive that "by 1978, when Deng Xiaoping changed course, the whole Western establishment lined up in support. The experts quickly concluded, over Chinese protests, that the new course represented reform 'capitalist style.'"(4) The imperialists do not support socialism and pretend that it is capitalism, rather they saw Deng's "reforms" for what they were.

TeleSur is one party that takes a position today upholding China as an ally of the oppressed nations. TeleSur is a TV station based in Venezuela, and funded by Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Uruguay and Nicaragua. Venezuela is another state capitalist country that presents itself as "socialist", so it has a self-interest in stroking China's image in this regard. One recent opinion piece described China as "committed to socialism and Marxism." It acknowledges problems of inequality in Chinese society are a product of the "economic reforms." Yet the author relies on citations on economic success and profitability as indications that China is still on the socialist road.(5)

As students of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, we recognize that socialism is defined by class struggle. In fairness, the TeleSur opinion piece acknowledges this and claims that class struggle continues in China today. But the reality that the state sometimes imprisons its billionaires does not change the fact that this once socialist society, which guaranteed basic needs to all, now has billionaires. Billionaires can only exist by exploiting people; a lot! Fifty years ago China had eliminated the influence of open capitalists on the economy, while allowing those who allied with the national interest to continue to earn income from their investments. In other words they were being phased out. Some major changes had to take place to get to where China is today with 319 billionaires.

Fidel Castro is cited as upholding today's President of China, Xi Jinping, as one of the "most capable revolutionary leaders." Castro also alluded to China as a counterbalance to U.$. imperialism for the Third World. China being a counter-balance to the United $tates does not make it socialist or even non-imperialist. China has been upholding its non-interventionist line for decades to gain the trust of the world. But it is outgrowing its ability to do that, as it admits in its own military white papers described by Turner.(6) This is one indication that it is in fact an imperialist country, with a need to export finance capital and dump overproduced commodities in foreign markets.

"The Myth of Chinese Capitalism"

Another oft-cited article by proponents of a socialist China in 2017 is "The Myth of Chinese Capitalism" by Jeff Brown.(7) Curiously, Brown volunteers the information that China's Gini coefficient, a measure of a country's internal inequality between rich and poor, went from 0.16 in 1978 to 0.37 in 2015 (similar to the United $tates' 0.41). Brown offers no explanation as to how this stark increase in inequality could occur in what ey calls a socialist country. In fact, Brown offers little analysis of the political economy of China, preferring to quote Deng Xiaoping and the Chinese Constitution as proof of China's socialist character, followed by stats on the success of Chinese corporations in making profits in the capitalist economic system.

Brown claims that Deng's policies were just re-branded policies of the Mao era. A mere months after the counter-revolutionary coup in China in 1976, the China Study Group wrote,

"The line put forward by the Chinese Communist Party and the Peking Review before the purge and that put forward by the CCP and the Peking Review after the purge are completely different and opposite lines. Superficially they may appear similar because the new leaders use many of the same words and slogans that were used before in order to facilitate the changeover. But they have torn the heart out of the slogans, made them into hollow words and are exposing more clearly with every new issue the true nature of their line."(8)

Yet, 40 years later, fans of China would have us believe that empty rhetoric about "Marxism applied to Chinese conditions" are a reason to take interest in the economic policies of Xi Jinping.

Brown seems to think the debate is whether China is economically successful or not according to bourgeois standards. As such ey offers the following tidbits:

"A number of [SOEs] are selling a portion of their ownership to the public, by listing shares on Chinese stock markets, keeping the vast majority of ownership in government hands, usually up to a 70% government-30% stock split. This sort of shareholder accountability has improved the performance of China's SOEs, which is Baba Beijing's goal."

"[O]ther SOEs are being consolidated to become planet conquering giants"

"How profitable are China's government owned corporations? Last year, China's 12 biggest SOEs on the Global 500 list made a combined total profit of US$201 billion."

So selling stocks, massive profits and giant corporations conquering the world are the "socialist" principles being celebrated by Brown, and those who cite em.

The Coup of 1976

What all these apologists for Chinese capitalism ignore is the fact that there was a coup in China in 1976 that involved a seizure of state apparati, a seizure of the media (as alluded to above) and the imprisonment of high officials in the Maoist camp (the so-called "Gang of Four").(9) People in the resistance were executed for organizing and distributing literature.(10) There were arrests and executions across the country, in seemingly large numbers. Throughout 1977 a mass purge of the party may have removed as many as a third of its members.(11) The armed struggle and repression in 1976 seems to have involved more violence than the Cultural Revolution, but this is swept under the rug by pro-capitalists. In addition, the violence in both cases was largely committed by the capitalist-roaders. While a violent counterrevolution was not necessary to restore capitalism in the Soviet Union, it did occur in China following Mao Zedong's death.

At the time of Mao's death, Deng was the primary target of criticism for not recognizing the bourgeoisie in the Party. Hua Guofeng, who jailed the Gang of Four and seized chairmanship after Mao's death, continued this criticism of Deng at first, only to restore all his powers less than sixteen months after they were removed by the Maoist government.(12)

The Western media regularly demonizes China for its records on humyn rights and free speech. Yet, this is not without reason. By the 1978 Constitution, the so-called CCP had removed the four measures of democracy guaranteed to the people in the 1975 Constitution: "Speaking out freely, airing views fully, holding great debates and writing big character posters are new forms of carrying on socialist revolution created by the masses of the people. The state shall ensure to the masses the right to use these forms."(13)

This anti-democratic trend has continued over the last forty years, from jail sentences for big character posters in the 1980s and the Tianamen Square massacre in 1989 to the imprisonment of bloggers in the 2010s. While supporters of Xi Jinping have celebrated his recent call for more Marxism in schools, The Wall Street Journal reports that this is not in the spirit of Mao:

"Students at Sun Yat-sen University in southern China arrived this year to find new instructions affixed to classroom walls telling them not to criticize party leadership; their professors were advised to do the same... An associate professor at an elite Beijing university said he was told he was rejected for promotion because of social-media posts that were critical of China's political system. 'Now I don't speak much online,' he said."(14)

Scramble for Africa

What about abroad? Is China a friend of the oppressed? Turner points out that China's Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa is significant, though a tiny piece of China's overall FDI. First we must ask, why is China engaged in FDI in the first place? Lenin's third of five points defining imperialism is, "The export of capital, which has become extremely important, as distinguished from the export of commodities."(15) A couple chapters before talking about Africa, Turner shows that China has the fastest growing FDI of any imperialist or "sub-imperialist" country starting around 2005.(16) Even the SOEs are involved in this investment, accounting for 87% of China's FDI in Latin America.(17) This drive to export capital, which repatriates profits to China, is a key characteristic of an imperialist country.

In 2010, China invited South Africa to join the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and now South Africa) of imperialist/aspiring imperialist countries. This was a strategic decision by China, as South Africa was chosen over many larger economies. "In 2007... the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (now the world's largest company) bought a multi-billion-dollar stake in the South African Standard Bank, which has an extensive branch network across the continent." Shoprite is another South African corporation that spans the continent, which China has invested in. In Zambia, almost all the products in Shoprite are Chinese or South African.(18)

The other side of this equation indicating the role of China in Africa is the resistance. "Chinese nationals have become the number one kidnapping target for terrorist and rebel groups in Africa, and Chinese facilities are valuable targets of sabotage." China is also working with the likes of Amerikan mercenary Erik Prince to avoid direct military intervention abroad. "In 2006, a Zambian minister wept when she saw the environment in which workers toiled at the Chinese-owned Collum Coal Mine. Four years later, eleven employees were shot at the site while protesting working conditions."(19) While China's influence is seen as positive by a majority of people in many African countries,(20) this is largely due to historical support given to African nations struggling for self-determination. The examples above demonstrate the irreconcilable contradiction developing within Chinese imperialism with its client nations.

"Market Socialism"

Chinese President Xi Jinping talks often of the importance of "Marxism" to China, of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and of "market socialism." Xi's defenders in communist subreddits cite Lenin and the New Economic Policy (NEP) of the Soviet Union to peg our position as anti-Lenin. There's a reason we call ourselves Maoists, and not Leninists. The battle against the theory of the productive forces, and the form it took in the mass mobilization of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is core to how we define Maoism as a higher stage of revolutionary science than Leninism. The Bolsheviks tended toward upholding the theory of the productive forces, though you can find plenty in Lenin's to oppose it as well. Regardless, Lenin believed in learning from history. We'd say Maoists are the real Leninists.

Lenin's NEP came in the post-war years, a few years after the proletariat seized power in Russia. The argument was that capitalist markets and investment were needed to get the economic ball rolling again. But China in 1978 was in no such situation. It was rising on a quarter century of economic growth and radical reorganization of the economy that unleashed productive forces that were the envy of the rest of the underdeveloped nations. Imposing capitalist market economics on China's socialist economy in 1978 was moving backwards. And while economic growth continued and arguably increased, social indicators like unemployment, the condition of wimmin, mental health and crime all worsened significantly.

The line of the theory of the productive forces is openly embraced by some Dengists defending "market socialism." One of the most in-depth defenses of China as communist appearing on /r/communism reads:

"Deng Xiaoping and his faction had to address the deeper Marxist problem: that the transition from a rural/peasant political economy to modern industrial socialism was difficult, if not impossible, without the intervening stage of industrial capitalism... First, Chinese market socialism is a method of resolving the primary contradiction facing socialist construction in China: backwards productive forces."(21)

So, our self-described communist detractors openly embrace the lines of Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi, thereby rejecting the Maoist line and the Cultural Revolution.

Resilience to Crisis

During the revolution, China was no stranger to economic crisis. From the time the war against Japan began in 1937 to victory in 1949, goods that cost 1 yuan had risen to the price of 8,500,000,000,000 yuan!(22) Controlling inflation was an immediate task of the Chinese Communist Party after seizing state power. "On June 10, 1949 the Stock Exchange — that centre of crime located in downtown Shanghai — was ordered to close down and 238 leading speculators were arrested and indicted."(23) Shanghai Stock Exchange was re-established again in 1990. It is currently the 5th largest exchange, but was 2nd for a brief frenzy prior to the 2008 global crash.(24)

The eclectic U.$.-based Troskyite organization Workers World Party (WW) used the 2008 crisis to argue that China was more socialist than capitalist.(25) The export-dependent economy of China took a strong blow in 2008. WW points to the subsequent investment in construction as being a major offset to unemployment. They conclude that, "The socialist component of the economic foundation is dominant at the present." Yet they see the leadership of Xi Jinping as further opening up China to imperialist manipulation, unlike other groups discussed above.

Chinese Ghost
A Chinese "Ghost City"
Turner addresses the "ghost cities" built in recent years in China as examples of the anarchy of production under capitalism. Sure they were state planned, but they were not planned to meet humyn need, hence they remain largely empty years after construction. To call this socialism, one must call The New Deal in the United $tates socialism.

Marx explained why crisis was inevitable under capitalism, and why it would only get worse with time as accumulation grew, distribution became more uneven, and overproduction occurred more quickly. Socialism eliminates these contradictions, with time. It does so by eliminating the anarchy of production as well as speculation. After closing the Stock Exchange the communists eliminated all other currencies, replacing them with one state-controlled currency, the Renminbi, or the people's currency. Prices for goods as well as foreign currencies were set by the state. They focused on developing and regulating production to keep the balance of goods and money, rather than producing more currency, as the capitalist countries do.(26)

When the value of your stock market triples and then gets cut back to its original price in the span of a few years, you do not have a socialist-run economy.(27) To go further, when you have a stock market, you do not have a socialist economy.

Turner addresses the recent crisis and China's resiliency, pointing out that it recently started from a point of zero debt, internally and externally, thanks to financial policy during the socialist era.(28) China paid off all external debt by 1964.(29) This has allowed China to expand its credit/debt load in recent decades to degrees that the other imperialist countries no longer have the capacity to do. This includes investing in building whole cities that sit empty.(30)

What is Socialism?

So, if socialism isn't increasing profits and growing GDP with state-owned enterprises, what the heck is it? The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) was the pinnacle of socialist achievement; that is another one of MIM's three main points. No one has argued that the Cultural Revolution has continued or was revived post-1976. In fact, the Dengists consistently deny that there are any capitalists in the party to criticize, as they claim "market socialism" denies the capitalists any power over the economy. This is the exact line that got Deng kicked out of the CCP before Mao died. Without class struggle, we do not have socialism, until all classes have been abolished in humyn society. Class struggle is about the transformation of society into new forms of organization that can someday lead us to a communist future.

"A fundamental axiom of Maoist thought is that public ownership is only a technical condition for solving the problems of Chinese society. In a deeper sense, the goal of Chinese socialism involves vast changes in human nature, in the way people relate to each other, to their work, and to society. The struggle to change material conditions, even in the most immediate sense, requires the struggle to change people, just as the struggle to change people depends on the ability to change the conditions under which men live and work. Mao differs from the Russians, and Liu Shao-chi's group, in believing that these changes are simultaneous, not sequential. Concrete goals and human goals are separable only on paper — in practice they are the same. Once the basic essentials of food, clothing, and shelter for all have been achieved, it is not necessary to wait for higher productivity levels to be reached before attempting socialist ways of life." (31)

Yet the Dengists defend the "economic reforms" (read: counter-revolution) after Mao's death as necessary for expanding production, as a prerequisite to building socialism.

"The fact that China is a socialist society makes it necessary to isolate and discuss carefully the processes at work in the three different forms of ownership: state, communal, and cooperative."(32)

The Dengists talk much of state ownership, but what of communes and cooperatives? Well, they were dismantled in the privatization of the 1980s. Dengists cry that there is no private land ownership in China, and that is a sign that the people own the land. It was. In the 1950s land was redistributed to peasants, which they later pooled into cooperatives, unleashing the productive forces of the peasantry. Over time this collective ownership was accepted as public ownership, and with Deng's "reforms" each peasant got a renewable right to use small plots for a limited number of years. The commune was broken up and the immediate effects on agriculture and the environment were negative.(33)

Strategic Implications

Overall Turner does a good job upholding the line on what is socialism and what is not. This book serves as a very accessible report on why China is an imperialist country based in Leninist theory. The one place we take issue with Turner is in a discussion of some of the strategic implications of this in the introduction. Ey makes an argument against those who would support forces fighting U.$. imperialism, even when they are backed by other imperialist powers. One immediately thinks of Russia's support for Syria, which foiled the Amerikan plans for regime change against the Assad government. Turner writes, "Lenin and the Bolshevik Party... argued for 'revolutionary defeatism' toward all imperialist and reactionary powers as the only stance for revolutionaries."(34) But what is this "and reactionary powers" that Turner throws in? In the article, "The Defeat of One's Own Government in the Imperialist War," by "imperialist war" Lenin meant inter-imperialist war, not an imperialist invasion of a country in the periphery.

In that article Lenin praised the line that "During a reactionary war a revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its government." He writes, "that in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government." While Lenin emphasizes all here, in response to Turner, we'd emphasize imperialist. Elsewhere Lenin specifies "belligerent countries" as the target of this line. So while it is clear that Lenin was not referring to Syria being invaded by the United $tates as a time that the proletariat must call for defeat of the government of their country, it seems that Turner is saying this.

We agree with other strategic conclusions of this book. China seems to be moving towards consolidating its sphere of influence, which could lead to consolidation of the world into two blocks once again. While this is a dangerous situation, with the threat of nuclear war, it is also a situation that has proven to create opportunities for the proletariat. Overall, the development and change of the current system works in the favor of the proletariat of the oppressed nations; time is on our side. As China tries to maintain its image as a "socialist" benefactor, the United $tates will feel more pressure to make concessions to the oppressed and hold back its own imperialist arrogance.

In 1986, Henry Park hoped that the CCP would repudiate Marxism soon, writing, "It is far better for the CCP to denounce Marx (and Mao) as a dead dog than for the CCP to discredit socialism with the double-talk required to defend its capitalist social revolution."(35) Still hasn't happened, and it's not just the ignorant Amerikan who is fooled. Those buying into the 40-year Chinese charade contribute to the continued discrediting of socialism, especially as this "socialist" country becomes more aggressive in international affairs.

[We recommend Is China an Imperialist Country? as the best resource we know on this topic. As for the question of Chinese socialism being overthrown, please refer to the references below. We highly recommend The Chinese Road to Socialism for an explanation of what socialism looks like and why the GPCR was the furthest advancement of socialism so far.]

[Economics] [ULK Issue 58]

Inform the Streets


Revolutionary greetings to all kaptives inside the gulags of the United $nakes of A-murderer. As kaptives with lots of time on our hands, knowing firsthand the oppressive state apparatus, we must work to politicize ourselves, then our contacts on the streets. As there are many orgs in existence pushing for exposure of prison conditions, we must do our part; persistently sending them reports on incidents of violence, food and health care neglect, mail tampering, and the overall divisive and mentally debilitating tactics used by the state (and its pig lackeys).

We must teach one another how to analyze these conditions from an anti-imperialist perspective. We then must help to raise the consciousness of those outside the gulag (individuals, orgs, support networks, etc.). We must help them to see the direct cause of our treatment as imperialism; then we can tie in some of their personal struggles as belonging to the lumpen class/oppressed nation as well, hence imperialism as well.

It appears that our path forward is constantly blocked or taken over by enemy, backwards, or conservative elements without our nationalist movements. Hence our nationalist consciousness remains a strong aspect to unify around. And we should study projects such as the Jackson Rising platform, to both amplify our call to national unity as well as develop the tactics and strategies used by them. By showing the link between imperialism and national oppression, we can direct the path forward.

MIM(Prisons) adds: Jackson Rising was a conference in 2014, which launched the Cooperation Jackson project based out of Jackson, Mississippi. Cooperation Jackson is building dual power for colonized New Afrika, and is an outgrowth of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, and the Jackson-Kush plan.

Cooperation Jackson's aim for self-determination for New Afrika is certainly righteous. Yet we want to raise one line question in the project which we believe is extremely important. The economic analysis of Cooperation Jackson seems to deny the petty bourgeois nature of non-lumpen New Afrikans. According to a document titled The Jackson-Kush Plan: The Struggle for Black Self-Determination and Economic Democracy,

"Operation Black Belt is a campaign to organize the oppressed peoples and exploited classes in the South, particularly concentrating on organizing Black workers in the region who form the core of the oppressed Black or New Afrikan nation that has been super-exploited for centuries, into militant, class-conscious and social movement-based worker associations and unions."(p. 13)

While it was reasonable to refer to New Afrikans in the 1960s and earlier as proletarian, or exploited, we believe there is no way that any U.$. citizens could be considered super-exploited today. The struggle for unionization and benefits for citizen-workers today comes largely on the backs of the actually super-exploited people working across the Third World.

While we acknowledge that Cooperation Jackson is one of the only projects we know of which is putting self-determination into action against the United $tates government, we believe that a misstep on the question of the labor aristocracy within the imperialist countries places the struggles of internal semi-colonies in opposition to the proletarian masses in the Third World. How Cooperation Jackson might put this analysis into action in its work is up to New Afrikans working within that project. But we want to push them on clarifying/updating their economic analysis.

Our comrade in Ohio suggests above that our subscribers need to raise their own consciousness, and then reach out to people outside prisons to help raise their consciousness. MIM(Prisons) struggles with other organizations through ULK regularly. Our subscribers struggling with other orgs through the mail, or ULK, is certainly another medium to advance the anti-imperialist movement. You can write in to MIM(Prison) for reading material about the labor aristocracy. Cooperation Jackson can be reached at PO Box 1932, Jackson MS 39215.

[Economics] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 62]

Pennsylvania Spends on Prison, Cuts Other Services

I want to write about my thoughts on prison reform and rehabilitation specifically in the state of Pennsylvania. Prison reform? Criminal "justice" reform? As long as the criminal justice system and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDOC) remain lucrative industries those things will never happen!

To have any type of reform, I believe people should be held accountable for their misconduct (judges, prosecutors, governors, secretary of corrections, correctional officers, etc.) but that's never the case in Pennsylvania. Here in Pennsylvania, these rural areas in particular, the PDOC is a refuge for the unqualified and uneducated, who don't desire anything better for themselves.

Pennsylvania's state budget is crumbling due to the amount of overtime received by COs and to the excess state employees hired in the PDOC. Governor Wolf announced that he wanted to lay off 900 unneeded state employees and close a few jails because of the budget strain. However, Governor Wolf was opposed (almost violently) by the rural population. Their argument wasn't about the "criminals" that could possibly go free; they were concerned about not finding employment anywhere else. Overwhelmed, Wolf decided to only close one prison (which wasn't in a rural area) and retain the state employees (COs).

Instead of doing what he originally saw fit to do, Wolf was forced to cut back on the Meals on Wheels program, raise the state tax, and allow the sale of alcohol on Sundays amongst other things. As you would figure, all of those cutbacks didn't even begin to alleviate the budgetary stress. Why? Because those things weren't issues.

The fact still exist that there are too many state prison officials being hired and Pennsylvania needs to cut back on this senseless hiring, but Gov. Wolf was pretty much bullied out of action. All of this factors into the lack of prison and criminal justice reform, for if there was someone who could educate the tax payers who honestly believe that their "hard earned" dollars are "keeping their community safe" instead of funding a correctional officer's workers' compensation scam, educate them about where their money is actually going and what needs to be done. If a majority of the tax payers knew the truth about their money, about the funding of our oppression, suppression and torture, I believe that they would be more inclined to demand criminal justice and prison reform.

MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer provides a good exposure of the interest that prison guard unions and other prison employees have in maintaining or increasing the number of imprisoned people and the number of prisons in the United $tates. And also the political power these workers can exert when their jobs are threatened.

But we have to put this information in a larger context. Prisons are a very small part of state budgets, so it's not the CO overtime causing the Pennsylvania budget to crumble. In the Pennsylvania 2016-2017 budget, 8% went towards prisons.(1) It is good that the budget crisis in Pennsylvania is leading to considerations of closing prisons, but the response by COs and others benefiting from jobs with the prisons is the same we see across the country. Nonetheless, we need to be honest that shutting down a few prisons won't make much of a dent in the state budget.

While we would also like to think that people faced with information about oppression and torture would oppose it, we don't think the terrible conditions in Amerikan prisons are such a big secret. Many Amerikans are vocal in calling for even worse conditions, arguing that prisoners deserve whatever happens to them. And there is little outrage when stories of corruption among prison guards come out. The financial rewards all Amerikans are getting by living here within this wealthy imperialist country has created a population that supports imperialism and its criminal injustice system. While the oppressed nations within U.$. borders do generally come down against the oppression and corruption, the Amerikkkan nation, especially in rural counties, can be counted on to throw its support behind the system.

Penn Live, July 8, 2016. PA spends more on prisons than colleges, report says.
[Economics] [Spanish] [ULK Issue 58]

La Aristocracia Obrera y el Beneficio del Nacionalismo Blanco de las Prisiones, no de las Corporaciones Privadas

Analizando el sistema de control social en los Estados Unidos, es imprescindible que sigamos la línea correcta. Actualmente, la posición de muchas personas es la de argumentar que el sistema de injusticia está basado en un "Complejo Industrial de Prisiones", que [email protected] en MIM(Prisons) rechazamos. Un nuevo informe, "Following the Money of Mass Incarceration" (Siguiendo el Dinero del Encarcelamiento Masivo) de Peter Wagner y Bernadette Rabuy, proporciona nuevas pruebas para apoyar nuestra posición.

Las prisiones generalmente son una red compleja de campos de concentración para semicolonias oprimidas, más que una industria económicamente rentable. De hecho, existen algunos beneficios que deben hacerse (y [email protected] capitalistas/imperialistas son [email protected] encontrando sus nichos) pero, sobre todo, el propósito del sistema de injusticia hoy en día es el control de la población.

Tal y como Wagner y Rabuy señalan en su artículo: "En este primer informe, el primero de su tipo, descubrimos que el sistema de encarcelamiento masivo cuesta al gobierno y a las familias de las personas involucradas con la justicia al menos 182 mil millones de dólares al año". Estos 182 mil millones de dólares incluyen los $374 millones de dólares en beneficios recibidos por la industria de la prisión privada. Los beneficios de [email protected] accionistas, que en número son [email protected], apenas y representan una empresa que genera beneficios de manera sistemática. De hecho, en el gráfico utilizado como resumen de su investigación, los autores tuvieron que hacer una excepción en el corte, en lo que respecta los sectores importantes del presupuesto para prisiones en los U.$., ¡para poder incluir a las prisiones privadas en éste!

"Esta industria está dominada por dos grandes sociedades de cotización oficial, CoreCivic (que hasta hace poco se llamaba Corrections Corporation of America (CCA – Sociedad Correccional de Estados Unidos) y The GEO Group, así como por una pequeña empresa privada, Management & Training Corp (MTC). Nos hemos basado en los informes públicos anuales de las dos grandes sociedades y en cifras estimadas de MTC utilizando registros de una solicitud de información pública de hace una década" (1). Las corporaciones de la prisión privada tienen muy poco que ganar en el negocio penitenciario, razón por la cual la amplia mayoría (hasta un 95%) son todavía cárceles públicas (2). El Gobierno estadounidense (ej. Los contribuyentes) afronta la factura de los 182 mil millones de dólares. [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] econó[email protected] de la industria penitenciaria son vendedoræs del comisariato, compañías de bonos de fianzas y empresas telefónicas especializadas. Como Wagner y Rabuy demuestran, estas son las industrias multimillonarias. Y estas, por supuesto, se benefician, ¡sean las prisiones privadas o no!

¿Por qué estaría dispuesto el sistema imperialista a gastar casi 200 mil millones de dólares al año en la pérdida de una amplia mano de obra económica y consumidores? Por lo siguiente: "Muchas personas confinadas en rejas no trabajan y los sistemas penitenciarios de cuatro Estados no pagan nada" (1).

Tal y como Wagner señala en un artículo del 7 de octubre del 2015:

"Ahora, por supuesto, la influencia de las prisiones privadas variará de Estado en Estado y, de hecho, han presionado para mantener el encarcelamiento masivo; sin embargo, son mucho más influyentes los beneficios políticos que [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] de ambos partidos han cosechado durante décadas por ser [email protected] con la delincuencia, así como los miles de millones de dólares ganados por [email protected] [email protected] de las prisiones dirigidas por el gobierno y contratistas y vendedoræs [email protected]".

"A [email protected] [email protected] de la generosidad de las prisiones públicas les encanta cuando las prisiones privadas toman toda la atención. Cuánto más centrado está el público en [email protected] [email protected] de las prisiones privadas, menos se cuestiona qué pasaría si el gobierno nacionalizara las prisiones privadas y dirigiera todas las instalaciones por sí mismo: De cualquier manera, aún tendríamos el sistema penitenciario más grande del mundo" (3).

[email protected] capitalistas no sacan beneficios económicos del supuesto "Complejo Industrial de Prisiones", pero [email protected] polí[email protected] se benefician con la obsesión de [email protected] estadounidenses [email protected] con la "delincuencia". Teniendo esto en cuenta, descubrimos la verdad tras la enigmática frase de Wagner y Rabuy: "Para estar seguros, existen razones ideológicas y económicas para el encarcelamiento masivo y la sobrecriminalización" (1).

Ya hemos examinado las razones económicas (grupos de poder como las compañías de bonos de fianzas y los vendedores del comisariato están, obviamente, buscando sacar beneficio). Así que, ¿cuáles son las razones ideológicas?

Si observamos la población de las prisiones (ya sean públicas o privadas), podemos ver dónde gana impulso el encarcelamiento masivo. La gran mayoría de [email protected] [email protected] son [email protected] [email protected], [email protected] y gente de las Primeras Naciones (aunque la mayoría de la población general es euroamericana). La cárcel no es un fraude de ingresos, sino un instrumento de control social. El factor motivador es la dominación, no la explotación.

Aunque si estamos siguiendo el dinero, entonces tenemos que observar cómo se desglosan los gastos. Wagner y Rabuy presentan la división de los costes de esta forma: costes judiciales y legales, costes policiales, decomiso de activos civiles, cargos de fianzas, costes del comisariato, cargos de llamadas telefónicas, "agencias de corrección pública" (como [email protected][email protected] o asistencia médica), costes de construcción, pagos de intereses y costes de comida e instalaciones.

Los autores resumen su metodología para llegar a sus estadísticas y admiten que "existen muchas cosas para las que no hay disponibles estadísticas nacionales ni manera sencilla de desarrollar una cifra nacional a partir de los datos limitados estatales y locales" (1). A pesar de dichas debilidades obvias para obtener datos concretos fiables, sobresale el análisis abrumador.

Wagner y Rabuy hablan sobre la industria de la prisión privada al final de su artículo. Ahí, escriben:

"Para ilustrar tanto la escala de la industria de la prisión privada como el hecho clave de que esta industria funciona bajo contrato para agencias del gobierno (en vez de arrestar, procesar, condenar y encarcelar personas por sí mismas), expusimos a estas compañías como un subconjunto del sistema público penitenciario" (1).

Tal y como se discutió en "MIM(Prisons) sobre la Economía de las Prisiones de EE UU, "si el trabajo penitenciario fuera una mina de oro para especuladoræs [email protected], entonces veríamos corporaciones de todo tipo dirigiendo el camino para más prisiones" (2).

Teniendo esto en cuenta, el gobierno utiliza el sistema de injusticia en Estados Unidos y las prisiones (tanto públicas como privadas) para oprimir a las minorías nacionales. Y [email protected] estadounidenses [email protected], que se alínean en formación con emoción cuando polí[email protected] racistas como Donald Trump continúan siendo "[email protected] con la delincuencia", premian al gobierno con entusiasmo y renovado vigor.

El MIM Thought (Pensamiento de MIM) hace hincapié en el imperialismo, tanto dentro como fuera de Estados "Ofidios" (Unidos). La red de prisiones no es una excepción: en este caso el imperialismo funciona como método de control para [email protected] estadounidenses de las naciones oprimidas. Como las estadísticas de Wagner y Rabuy demuestran claramente, no existe un "Complejo Industrial de Prisiones", existe un intento sistemático de destruir individuos, comunidades y naciones (4).

Notas: 1. Peter Wagner y Bernadette Rabuy, “Following the Money of Mass Incarceration” (Prison Policy Initiative), 25 de enero del 2017. 2. MIM(Prisons) en U.S. Prison Economy, abril de 2009, Under Lock & Key nº 8. 3. Peter Wagner, “Are Private Prisons Driving Mass Incarceration?” (Prison Policy Initiative), 7 de octubre del 2017. 4. “The Myth of the ‘Prison Industrial Complex’”, julio de 2012, Under Lock & Key nº 27.
[Economics] [ULK Issue 55]

Labor Aristocracy and White Nationalism Benefit from Prisons, not Private Corporations

Following the Money of Mass Incarceration

In analyzing the system of social control in the United $tates, it is imperative that we follow the correct line. The position of many today is to argue that the injustice system is based on a "Prison-Industrial Complex" [which we at MIM(Prisons) reject]. A new report, "Following the Money of Mass Incarceration" by Peter Wagner and Bernadette Rabuy, provides additional evidence to back up our position.

Prisons are generally a complex web of concentration camps for oppressed semi-colonies, rather than an economically profitable industry. Indeed, there are some profits to be made (and capitalists/imperialists are good at finding their niches), but overall, the purpose of the injustice system today is population control.

As Wagner and Rabuy point out in their article: "In this first-of-its-kind report, we find that the system of mass incarceration costs the government and families of justice-involved people at least $182 billion every year."(1) This $182 billion includes the $374 million in profits received by the private prison industry. The profits to these numerically few stakeholders hardly represent a systematic profit-generating enterprise. In fact, in the graph summing up their research, the authors had to make an exception to the cut off for significant portions of the U.$. prison budget in order to even include private prisons on it!

"This industry is dominated by two large publicly traded companies — CoreCivic (which until recently was called Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)) and The GEO Group — as well as one small private company, Management & Training Corp (MTC). We relied on the public annual reports of the two large companies, and estimated MTC’s figures using records from a decade-old public record request."(1)

Private prison corporations have very little to gain in the prison business, which is why the vast majority (up to 95%) are still public prisons.(2) The Amerikkkan government (i.e. taxpayers) fronts the bill for the $182 billion. The few economic beneficiaries of the prison industry are commissary vendors, bail bond companies, and specialized telephone companies. As Wagner and Rabuy demonstrate, these are the multi-billion dollar industries. And they, of course, benefit, whether the prisons are private or not!

Why would the imperialist system be willing to spend almost $200 billion a year at the loss of widespread economic labor and consumers? For, as is shown: "Many people confined in jails don’t work, and four state prison systems don’t pay at all."(1)

As Wagner points out in an article from 7 October 2015:

"Now, of course, the influence of private prisons will vary from state to state and they have in fact lobbied to keep mass incarceration going; but far more influential are political benefits that elected officials of both political parties harvested over the decades by being tough on crime as well as the billions of dollars earned by government-run prisons' employees and private contractors and vendors.

"The beneficiaries of public prison largess love it when private prisons get all of the attention. The more the public stays focused on the owners of private prisons, the less the public is questioning what would happen if the government nationalized the private prisons and ran every facility itself: Either way, we’d still have the largest prison system in the world."(3)

The capitalists don't economically gain from the supposed “Prison-Industrial Complex”, but the politicians gain from the white Amerikkkan obsession with “crime”. Taking this into account, we find the truth hiding behind Wagner and Rabuy's cryptic phrase: “To be sure, there are ideological as well as economic reasons for mass incarceration and over-criminalization.”(1)

We've already looked at the economic reasons – power groups like the bail bond companies and commissary vendors are obviously looking to make a profit. So what are the ideological reasons?

When we look at prison populations (whether private or public), we can see where mass incarceration gets its impetus. The vast majority of prisoners are New Afrikans, [email protected], and peoples of the First Nations (even though euro-Amerikkkans are the majority of the U.$. population). The prison is not a revenue racket, but an instrument of social control. The motivating factor is domination, not exploitation.

If we're following the money though, then we need look at how spending breaks down. Wagner and Rabuy present the division of costs as: the judicial and legal costs, policing expenditures, civil asset forfeiture, bail fees, commissary expenditures, telephone call charges, “public correction agencies” (like public employees and health care), construction costs, interest payments, and food and utility costs.

The authors outline their methodology for arriving at their statistics and admit that “[t]here are many items for which there are no national statistics available and no straightforward way to develop a national figure from the limited state and local data.”(1) Despite these obvious weaknesses in obtaining concrete reliable data, the overwhelming analysis stands.

Wagner and Rabuy discuss the private prison industry at the end of the article. Here, they write:

"To illustrate both the scale of the private prison industry and the critical fact that this industry works under contract for government agencies — rather than arresting, prosecuting, convicting and incarcerating people on its own — we displayed these companies as a subset of the public corrections system."(1)

As was argued in "MIM(Prisons) on U.S. Prison Economy", “[i]f prison labor was a gold mine for private profiteers, then we would see corporations of all sorts leading the drive for more prisons."(2)

In light of this, the injustice system in the United $tates and the prisons (both private and public) are used by the government to oppress national minorities. And the government is rewarded with enthusiasm and renewed vigor by white Amerikkkans, who goose-step into formation with ecstasy when racist politicians like Donald Trump go on about being "tough on crime".

MIM Thought stresses the focus on imperialism both inside and outside the United $nakes. The network of prisons is no exception — imperialism here functions as a method of control by Amerikkkans of oppressed nations. As the statistics presented by Wagner and Rabuy clearly demonstrate, there is no "Prison Industrial Complex." There is a systematic attempt to destroy individuals, communities, and nations.(4)