A couple weeks ago National Public Radio (NPR) aired a series called "guilty and charged" that talked about the way states are charging defendants and even criminalizing them for not paying court fees.
The series followed and interviewed different people who were caught in this cycle of repetitive imprisonment. A couple of facts are worth mentioning, particularly that in New Jersey 4,000 people surrendered themselves to pay for fines. That is, they got arrested for a misdemeanor and can't pay court fees so they get issued a warrant for their arrest. These charges can be settled with a reduced payment or a couple months in jail.
In essence the poor are being not only criminalized and imprisoned for being poor but punished by an injustice system that is not blind! Forty-one states now charge room and board for people in county jails, forty-three states charge a defendant for a public defender. In a supposed democracy where everyone is equal before the law, this is not only a complete farce but a system put in place to check oppressed nations, and more so poor people of oppressed nations. Although mention was given how in 40 years the prison population has boomed 400% and the rise can be attributed to Richard Nixon in the 70s for his "war on drugs," there was not much content on how there is a political context to this high incarceration of oppressed nations.
It's no secret that the poor and marginalized will have a harder time paying court fees, and as mentioned earlier, oppressed Blacks and Latinos are most likely to end up incarcerated, furthering a system of criminalization.
Most oppressed nations know first hand the injustice system in the United $tates. As there is no profit from imprisonment to U.$. imperialism, the rise of imprisonment is not for profits but for political reasons. The high cost of imprisonment is taking its toll on the department of justice, county jails and tax payers. It's likely that defendants will be charged more and penalized even more for not being able to pay these charges.
While agitation, protest and attention should be given to combat this issue along with a long list of other "wrongs," a reformist attitude wil only go so far. People should get into a movement to overthrow this imperialist system and install a more just society in a socialist manner.
The Worker Elite: Notes on the "Labor Aristocracy" by Bromma Kersplebedeb, 2014
Available for $10 + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
As with our previous review of Bromma's writings, we find h new book to be a good read, based in an analysis that is close to our own. Yet, once again we find h putting class as principal and mentioning gender as an important component of class. In contrast, MIM(Prisons) sees the principal contradiction under imperialism as being along the lines of nation, in particular between the imperialist nations that exploit and those nations that are exploited. While all three strands interact with each other, we see gender as its own strand of oppression, distinct from class. While Bromma has much to say on class that is agreeable, one thread that emerges in this text that we take issue with is that of the First World labor aristocracy losing out due to "globalization."
Bromma opens with some definitions and a valid criticism of the term "working class." While using many Marxist terms, h connection to a Marxist framework is not made clear. S/he consciously writes about the "worker elite," while disposing of the term "labor aristocracy" with no explanation. In the opening s/he rhetorically asks whether the "working class" includes all wage earners, or all manual laborers. While dismissing the term "working class" as too general, Bromma does not address these questions in h discussion of the worker elite. Yet, throughout the book s/he addresses various forms of productive labor in h examples of worker elite. S/he says that the worker elite is just one of many groups that make up the so-called "middle class." But it is not clear how Bromma distinguishes the worker elite from the other middle classes, except that they are found in "working class jobs." Halfway through the book it is mentioned that s/he does not consider "professionals, shopkeepers, administrators, small farmers, businesspeople, intellectuals, etc." to be workers.(p.32)
We prefer the term "labor aristocracy" over "worker elite," and we may use it more broadly than Bromma's worker elite in that the type of work is not so important so much as the pay and benefits. Bromma, while putting the worker elite in the "middle class," simultaneously puts it into the "working class" along with the proletariat and the lumpen working class. We put the labor aristocracy in the First World within the petty bourgeoisie, which may be a rough equivalent of what Bromma calls the "middle class." Of course, the petty bourgeoisie has historically been looked at as a wavering force between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Yet, in the case of the oppressor nation labor aristocracy, they have proven to be a solidly pro-imperialist class. This analysis, central to MIM Thought, is particular to the imperialist countries.
Despite these questions and confusions, overall we agree with the global class analysis as it is presented in the beginning of this book in terms of who are our friends and who are our enemies.
One good point made throughout this book is the idea that the "worker elite" is not defined merely by an income cut off. While not denying the central role of income, Bromma defines this class position as a whole package of benefits, material (health care, infrastructure), social (family life, leisure activities) and political (lack of repression, voice in politics). At one point s/he brings up the migrant farm workers in the U.$., who can earn similar amounts to the autoworkers in Mexico who s/he argues make up an established worker elite. In contrast, the migrant farm workers suffer the abuses of the proletariat at the bottom rung of U.$. society, and in reality many make far less than Mexican autoworkers. We agree with Bromma's implication here that the migrant workers make up a proletarian class within the United $tates.
While criticizing previous attempts to set an "exploitation line" in income, Bromma brings in PPP to improve this analysis. The book provides a helpful table of the income levels in Purchasing Power Parities (PPP) for various groups. PPP defines income levels relative to a basket of goods to account for varying prices across countries/regions. Bromma concludes that "a global middle class annual income probably starts somewhere between PPP $10,000 and $15,000", meaning that a single worker (man) could comfortably support a family on this amount. This is similar to the estimates others have done and we have used elsewhere.
One of the key characteristics of this income level is that they have gone beyond covering basic needs and become consumers. Bromma lists one of the three main roles of the worker elite as being a consumer class. This is something we have stressed when people ask incredulously why the capitalists would pay people more than the value that they are producing. Bromma cites a source discussing the Chinese planned capitalist economy and how they have goals for expanding their consumer class as they recognize that their increasing production will soon not be absorbed by consumption abroad. This is typical capitalist logic. Rather than seeing what the Chinese people need, and produce based on those needs as they did under a socialist planned economy, today they first produce a lot of the most profitable goods and then try to find (or create) a market to sell them to.
Where we disagree greatest with this book is that it takes up a line akin to Huey P. Newton's intercommunalism theory, later named globalization theory in Amerikan academia. It claims a trend towards equalization of classes internationally, reducing the national contradictions that defined the 20th century. Bromma provides little evidence of this happening besides anecdotal examples of jobs moving oversees. Yet s/he claims, "Among 'white' workers, real wages are stagnant, unemployment is high, unions are dwindling, and social benefits and protective regulations are evaporating."(p.43) These are all common cries of white nationalists that the MIM camp and others have been debating for decades.(1) The fact that wages are not going up as fast as inflation has little importance to the consumer class who knows that their wealth is far above the world's majority and whose buying power has increased greatly in recent decades.(2) Unemployment in the United $tates averaged 5.9% in April 2014 when this book came out, which means the white unemployment rate was even lower than that.(3) That is on the low side of average over the last 40 years and there is no upward trend in unemployment in the United $tates, so that claim is just factually incorrect. High unemployment rates would be 35% in Afghanistan, or 46% in Nepal. The author implies that unions are smaller because of some kind of violent repression, rather than because of structural changes in the economy and the privileged conditions of the labor aristocracy.
The strongest evidence given for a rise in the worker elite is in China. One report cited claims that China is rivaling the U.$. to have the largest "middle class" soon.(p.38) Yet this middle class is not as wealthy as the Amerikan one, and is currently only 12-15% of the population.(p.32) It's important to distinguish that China is an emerging imperialist power, not just any old Third World country. Another example given is Brazil, which also has a growing finance capital export sector according to this book, a defining characteristic of imperialism. The importance of nation in the imperialist system is therefore demonstrated here in the rise of the labor aristocracy in these countries. And it should be noted that there is a finite amount of labor power to exploit in the world. The surplus value that Chinese and Brazilian finance capital is finding abroad, and using partly to fund their own emerging consumer classes, will eat into the surplus value currently taken in by the First World countries. In this way we see imperialist competition, and of course proletarian revolution, playing bigger roles in threatening the current privileges of the First World, rather than the globalization of finance capital that Bromma points to.
As Zak Cope wrote in a recent paper, "Understanding how the 'labour aristocracy' is formed means understanding imperialism, and conversely."(4) It is not the U.$. imperialists building up the labor aristocracy in China and Brazil. South Korea, another country discussed, is another story, that benefits as a token of U.$. imperialism in a half-century long battle against the Korean peoples' struggle for independence from imperialism and exploitation. While Bromma brings together some interesting information, we don't agree with h conclusion that imperialism is "gradually detaching itself from the model of privileged 'home countries' altogether."(p.40) We would interpret it as evidence of emerging imperialist nations and existing powers imposing strategic influence. Cope, building on Arghiri Emmanuel's work, discusses the dialectical relationship between increasing wages and increasing the productive forces within a nation.(2,5) Applying their theories, for Chinese finance capital to lead China to become a powerful imperialist country, we would expect to see the development of a labor aristocracy there as Bromma indicates is happening. This is a distinct phenomenon from the imperialists buying off sections of workers in other countries to divide the proletariat. That's not to say this does not happen, but we would expect to see this on a more tactical level that would not produce large shifts in the global balance of forces.
Finance capital wants to be free to dominate the whole world. As such it appears to be transnational. Yet, it requires a home base, a state, with strong military might to back it up. How else could it keep accumulating all the wealth around the world as the majority of the people suffer? Chinese finance capital is at a disadvantage, as it must fight much harder than the more established imperialist powers to get what it perceives to be its fair share. And while its development is due in no small part to cooperation with Amerikan finance capital, this is secondary to their competitive relationship. This is why we see Amerika in both China's and Russia's back yards making territorial threats in recent days (in the South China Sea and Ukraine respectively). At first, just getting access to Chinese labor after crushing socialism in 1976 was a great boon to the Amerikan imperialists. But they are not going to stop there. Russia and China encompass a vast segment of the globe where the Amerikans and their partners do not have control. As Lenin said one hundred years ago, imperialism marks the age of a divided world based on monopolies. Those divisions will shift, but throughout this period the whole world will be divided between different imperialist camps (and socialist camps as they emerge). And as Cope stresses, this leads to a divided "international working class."
While there is probably a labor aristocracy in all countries, its role and importance varies greatly. MIM line on the labor aristocracy has been developed for the imperialist countries, where the labor aristocracy encompasses the wage-earning citizens as a whole. While the term may appropriately be used in Third World countries, we would not equate the two groups. The wage earners of the world have been so divided that MIM began referring to those in the First World as so-called "workers." So we do not put the labor aristocracy of the First World within the proletarian class as Bromma does.
We caution against going too far with applying our class definitions and analysis globally. In recent years, we have distinguished the First World lumpen class from that of the lumpen-proletariat of the Third World. In defining the lumpen, Bromma "includes working class people recruited into the repressive apparatus of the state — police, informants, prison guards, career soldiers, mercenaries, etc."(p.5) This statement rings more true in the Third World, yet even there a government job would by definition exclude you from being in the lumpen-proletariat. In the imperialist countries, police, prison guards, military and any other government employee are clearly members of the labor aristocracy. This is a point we will explore in much greater detail in future work.
The principal contradiction within imperialism is between exploiter and exploited nations. Arghiri Emmanuel wrote about the national interest, criticizing those who still view nationalism as a bourgeois phenomenon as stuck in the past. After WWII the world saw nationalism rise as an anti-colonial force. In Algeria, Emmanuel points out, the national bourgeoisie and Algerian labor aristocracy had nothing to lose in the independence struggle as long as it did not go socialist. In contrast, it was the French settlers in Algeria that violently opposed the liberation struggle as they had everything to lose.(6) In other words there was a qualitative difference between the Algerian labor aristocracy and the French settler labor aristocracy.
It is the responsibility of people on the ground to do a concrete analysis of their own conditions. We've already mentioned our use of the term "First World lumpen" to distinguish it from the lumpen of the Third World, which is a subclass of the proletariat. To an extent, all classes are different between the First and Third World. We rarely talk of the labor aristocracy in the Third World, because globally it is insignificant. It is up to comrades in Third World nations to assess the labor aristocracy in their country, which in many cases will not be made up of net-exploiters. Bromma highlights examples of exploiter workers in Mexico and South Korea. These are interesting exceptions to the rule that should be acknowledged and assessed, but we think Bromma goes too far in generalizing these examples as signs of a shift in the overall global class structure. While we consider Mexico to be a Third World exploited nation, it is a relatively wealthy country that Cope includes on the exploiter side, based on OECD data, in his major calculations.
Everything will not always fit into neat little boxes. But the scientific method is based on applying empirically tested laws, generalizations, percentages and probability. The world is not simple. In order to change it we must understand it the best we can. To understand it we must both base ourselves in the laws proven by those who came before us and assess the changes in our current situation to adjust our analysis accordingly.
After taking some time off from writing insightful editorials from a first worldist perspective for Turning the Tide, A Journal of Inter-communal Solidarity, Michael Novick once again assumes the mantle of vociferous defender of the Amerikan labor aristocracy as revolutionary vehicle pre-eminent in his review of Divided World, Divided Class by Dr. Zak Cope. While we can appreciate his endorsement of this valuable text as "required reading for would-be revolutionaries," our differences are unfortunately as vast as the property-less petty-bourgeoisie is corrupt. The MIM camp recommends this book for its global class analsyis, based in Marxist economics, that explains the class divide between the First World core and the Third World periphery.
Interestingly, it has been noted that Turning The Tide has taken on something of a Third Worldist veneer ever since some searing criticisms of Novick and his assessment of the Maoist Internationalist Movement by a USW comrade last year.(2) Despite TTT's recent focus on the New Afrikan nation and their expressed support for the struggles of the oppressed worldwide, it is the underlying political line of Novick and company that we must really examine to see where we have unity. We understand that to the untrained eye, as well as to those new to revolutionary politics, the difference between the Maoist Internationalist Movement and the Amerikan left are less than apparent, so we will draw them out here for educational purposes as well as to defend against opportunists and social chauvinists of varying stripes; as without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.
Novick calls on fans of egalitarian politics to take up critical thinking when it comes to the topic of global political economy and the stratification of labor under capitalism. However, he attacks and undermines Marxist political-economic analysis, the most critical and on point analysis of capitalism itself, without proposing anything in its place. He does this in the first few paragraphs of his article when he states that Dr. Cope comes to his conclusion that the First World labor aristocracy is bought off via "underlying Marxist assumptions of the labor theory of value"(1) and "through sometimes hypothetical formulations of what the value and price of that value 'should' be..."(1) He then states that Cope says, "the only workers who are 'exploited' are those who directly produce 'surplus value' in agricultural and industrial production of commodities."(1) These lines imply a critique of Cope's (and Marx's) methods, but he does not say so outright or offer an alternative framework for such an analysis.(2) This is nihilism, and leads to subjectivism. Without an objective analysis as our guide we just let the masses do what feels right. We agree with Novick that to lame apologists of First World workers "Cope's book is a very difficult read..."(1), but not because of the so-called "long sections of abstract mathematical calculations"(1) as Mr. Novick puts it, rather because bitter pills are always hard to swallow.
For those who are unaware, Novick claims to use dialectical materialism as a tool to analyze social phenomenon, yet this has not led him to the conclusion that the principal contradiction in the United $tates, or the world for that matter, is imperialism vs. the oppressed nations. Instead, Novick believes that capitalism never developed past its competitive phase, therefore it is his assessment that the principal contradiction on a world scale is still that of the bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat, or rather one between the so-called 1% and supposed 99% — itself a non-sensical and anti-scientific assessment. As such, Novick doesn't believe that there are any oppressing or oppressed nations, only oppressed and oppressing classes; yet he denounces our "petrified defense of the principal contradiction."(3)
Michael Novick also complains that "Cope essentially liquidates or obliterates class contradictions within both core and peripheral states"(1), but what Cope really obliterates is the First World's romanticization of the labor aristocracy as anything but revolutionary with his scathing class analysis of First World workers. Novick also makes an empiricist error when he asserts that Dr. Cope's analysis is no good to us in the United $tates because "his orientation and experience is primarily European"(1) hence his "understanding of settler colonialism and the existence of oppressed and colonized peoples within so-called 'core' countries as the US, Canada, etc. is limited."(1) It is quite odd that Novick complains that Cope does not give us a complete class analysis of who are our friends and who are our enemies within the United $tates. Despite the fact that this book is about global imperialism, and written by a non-Amerikan, it spends a good amount of time explaining class and nation and the development of racism within the context of U.$. society, as it is today the heart of imperialism. Novick does not address the points made by Cope, only complains that it is too general. In addressing the discrimination and oppression faced by the disadvantaged in First World countries, Cope states that "economic betterment for people in the rich countries is today intrinsically dependent on imperialism."(4) And that's the rub right there. Whatever contradictions exist within imperialist society, apologists for the labor aristocracy like Novick must come to terms with that reality, or risk fanning the flames of militarism and even fascism.
A little further down Novick states that "classes and class relationships are based on material reality..."(1). This much is true, however, Novick takes us deeper into the jungle of idealism when he writes, "... but these are social phenomenon based on the element of consciousness and practice as well,"(1) emphasis on the element of consciousness. However, Marxist philosophy teaches us that in general it is social being that determines social consciousness, and not the other way around as Novick implies. He has a hard time reconciling the existence of revolutionaries in the United $tates and an analysis that labels the U.$. an exploiter country. For a dialectical materialist, this is no mystery. A more succinct explanation to the phenomenon and structure of class is given by Cope below:
"The term 'class' does not only refer to a social group's relation to the means of production - that is, to property ownership or it's absence and nor does it simply refer to any category relating purely to the technical division of labor at the societal or workplace level. Rather, class denotes a dynamic social relationship corresponding to the system of ownership, the organization of labour and the distribution of material wealth as mediated by ideological, cultural and political institutions and practices. Above all, class is the product of political practices, with the relationship between the state and class struggle revolving around the issue of class domination."(4)
Not surprisingly it is always the ideological that is principal in matters of revolution when it comes to Amerikan "left" circles. And with that Novick ends his weak attempt to disprove the scientifically proven correctness of Zak Cope's book. What then proceeds in his review is more existentialist questioning of both nation and class contradictions in the United $tates and the world when the answers are already readily apparent. Novick offers his persynal musings as proof positive to his readers that the class contradiction in the world is more important than the one of nation. But in order to deliver the people's consciousness you can't just answer the tough questions with more questions. Rather, you must deliver the people's consciousness with revolutionary practice summed up in rational knowledge; as without revolutionary practice theory is meaningless. As such, Novick inadvertently proves the principal contradiction correct with his confused explanation of class contradictions in Amerika.
Something else that was disappointing in his review of Divided World was the complete omission of Cope's thesis on how the First World petty-bourgeoisie, the labor aristocracy in particular, is a huge reservoir and potential breeding ground for fascism drawing from within the dispossessed petty-bourgeois class an army to smash the national liberation and socialist movements. This is odd since the majority of Anti-Racist Action's work has previously been fighting the various neo-Nazi organizations currently attempting to re-organize on a massive scale. Perhaps we can surmise that Novick saw something else in Cope's book that is damning and detrimental to First World "revolutionary and socialist" movements? Perhaps another bitter pill to swallow?
We highly recommend Divided World, Divided Class to up and coming revolutionaries and communist youth looking to get a firm grasp of First World labor and it's dialectical relation to the real proletariat centered in the periphery.(5) Divided World, Divided Class does an excellent job of explaining the parasitic nature, as well as the fascist tendencies of the First World labor aristocracy.
Here in the Psychiatric Services Unit (PSU, the psych version of SHU), the inmate-patients are somewhat pacified. In exchange for participating in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) re-education program through "group therapy," inmate-patients, if indigent, are given a loaner TV or radio once they reach the highest level (IV) of program participation. After 12 months at this level, we are eligible to have the remainder of our SHU term suspended.
But, of course, it is blackmail in its baldest form. If you refuse very many groups, they take the TV or radio, refuse to issue your annual package, and you certainly will not be having your SHU term suspended early.
To address something MIM(Prisons) said in the March/April newsletter, it is remarkable to me, at times, exactly how important and influential the american dollar has become in all aspects of global life. I grew up in a conservative Christian and Republican household. Obviously a very capitalist one as well. I've had to re-educate myself politically and economically.
It's true that whether you're talking about CDCR or the state department, the government uses the american dollar and the resultant economy that it creates for the purposes of what I call its "Blackmail propaganda." That is, the using of the dollar and the global american economy to coerce First and Third World nations into behaving as closely in line with the american political, military and economic agendas as they can get away with, particularly when it comes to the military industrial complex.
To bring this closer to home, the prison industrial complex attempts to use commissary, vendor packages, and prison wages as a means to control the behavior of the prison population much the same as the centralized government does with the oppressed majority of the world.
The continued expansion of the exploitative capitalist system requires an ideological prop for the ideology that supports such a system in the superstructure. Our weapon? Our own ideology. How to spread it from here? Work the bourgeois job. Just don't get too attached to it. Take a percentage of the funds that remain after your needs have been met and combat the capitalist and imperialist monster through education. First educate yourself, then through your donations to MIM(Prisons), educate your comrades.
It's easy to rant and rave and call "the man" the pig that he is. But let's not forget who the real pig is: that bloated capitalist machine that goes by the name of "The United States Government." The only way to slaughter that particular pig is through education. Educate the proletariat closest to you. In this situation, your fellow comrades are first. Then your family, friends, and their neighbors.
Comrades, we must be patient. Even the Bolshevik revolution took time.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is right on about the importance of taking money from our bourgeois work and turning it to good use for the revolution. Even prisoners have access to some funds, or can acquire stamps or other resources. And with the opportunity to directly fund expanded education through four additional pages of ULK, the impact of even a small amount of money can be quite significant.
One small point on this letter: we have written previously about why we do not use the term "Prison Industrial Complex" as it implies a financial profit to the prison system that does not exist. Prisons exist as a tool for social control, and are not a key pillar of the decadent U.$. economy, as military production has been for many decades.
I was recently convicted of a major category offense: participating/encouraging others in a work stoppage/group demonstration. My confinement in segregation for 30 days and a loss of 30 days good time was based on a finding that I encouraged a "stoppage of buying commissary."
It is not against the rules to refuse to buy commissary, but I was convicted of encouraging people to not buy commissary. In other words I was convicted of encouraging prisoners to do something that is permitted by the rules.
In the past three years I've been convicted of only one other charge, also a major category offense. I was convicted for refusing to pay $21.50 to obtain a copy of my birth certificate.
The pigs wanted a copy of my birth certificate to put in a file. I was told I could neither see the birth certificate nor have a copy of it. I told the pigs I would give them permission to get a copy at their expense since it was for their files. The pigs refused and demanded I sign a paper granting them permission to take $21.50 from my account. I refused and I was convicted of refusing to comply with programming.
The connection to these two offenses and convictions is the only subject dear to the soul of a kkkapitalist: profit. $21.50 for a photocopy of a sheet of paper is a hefty profit when multiplied by 30,000 prisoners. And multi-million-dollar commissary sales at hugely inflated prices are orgasmic to these pigs. Destroying the swine is the only option.
Soldiers, the only course is to replace the thug and the U.$. go-vermin-ent with an authentic proletarian state. The united snakes kongress and injustice system is kkkorrupted beyond salvation because of imperialist ideals. Like cancer, imperialism has caused every limb and fiber to rot. The truth of kkkapitalist greed is found even in the tiny crevices.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We are seeing growing activism in Virginia prisons this year, which is no doubt leading them to invent these new "offenses" and charge perceived leaders with them. While we agree with this comrade that the prisons are eager to extort money from prisoners whenever possible, there isn't any profit coming directly from prisons themselves. The U.$. prison economy is a money-losing operation, subsidized by profits exploited from the international proletariat. Any money taken from prisoners just helps to offset this loss. This point is important because it underscores the true purpose of the Amerikan prison system: social control.
In the richest country in the world, access to wealth and material goods can be a relative strength we have compared to most of the rest of the world, namely the global proletariat we aim to represent. We must consider what the best tactics are to leverage wealth to support our goals. Yet, we must not fetishize money or technology as panaceas to all our problems. We know people are decisive in social change. How we get money is mostly a tactical question. How we use it or campaign around financial issues is generally a strategic one.
We have at least one USW comrade in California who has been pushing the prison movement in that state to take up a boycott tactic to push the demands to end torture and group punishment. Prisoners in Virginia report of money taken from their accounts, decreased wages and have launched a fast to protest the extortion of Keefe Commissary. Also in this issue, Loco1 offers an alternative tactic on how to relate to commissary. And one comrade in Texas offers up a different sort of [url=https://www.prisoncensorship.info/article/fighting-the-system-appealing-the-100-medical-co-pay-in-texa/boycott tactic around medical co-pays that could help focus our resources.(see p.X)
We say these questions are tactical, meaning they will vary from time to time or place to place. One tactic may work well in one prison, or under certain conditions, which won't work well in another circumstance. There are strategic considerations which serve as general guidelines for all of us and can help us make our tactical decisions. One stratetic orientation we hold is to not fetishize money, and remember that the people must change the system. An example of how this strategic orientation helps us choose tactics is in deciding whether we should spend more time and energy raising money, or writing letters to prisoners and developing study groups. If we believed money were decisive, we would spend more time fundraising or working at bourgeois jobs to pad our "revolutionary" bank account.
The concept of the "almighty dollar" leads the consumer class that dominates this country to see consuming as their means of expressing their political beliefs, and their main tool for promoting the world they want to see. Consumer politics are very popular in our bourgeois society, and these boil down to individual/lifestyle politics. Vegans may feel better about themselves because they know their nutritional sustenance doesn't rely on the abuse and murder of any non-humyn animal. But veganism itself doesn't challenge the capitalist system that makes factory farming profitable in the first place. Capitalists don't care what industry their money is in so long as they are drawing a profit. And no matter how many "fair trade", "local" or "ethical" products one purchases, capitalism relies on humyn exploitation to function. We can't buy our way out of imperialism itself.
Boycotts can easily fall into the realm of individual/lifestyle politics. Without a strong political movement with clear demands at the head of a boycott (i.e. the campaign to divest from Israel), our consumption habits will do nothing to change the structural problems of imperialism. Boycotting the commissary as an individual is just like choosing veganism. It may make you feel better about the role you are directly playing, but it doesn't actually have an impact on the prison system. This is partially because your individual $40 per month is a drop in the bucket of the prison budget, and also because, like the capitalists, it's only a matter of policy change to ensure prisons are extorting the balance they desire from prisoners. If they can't get it from you via commissary, then they'll instill an exorbitant medical co-pay, or financial penalties for disciplinary infractions. If you keep your bank account empty to avoid these fees, they limit indigent envelopes and postage to limit your contact to the outside world.
That doesn't mean you should pour your money down the drain or that there is no use for money in our revolutionary movement. But we have to be realistic about the impact our money is making. Spending $40 on mail-order fiction books rather than at commissary has no real political impact. But sending $40 to MIM(Prisons) allows us to send ULK to forty subscribers. This money allows us to send study group mail to eighty participants! That's enough to cover an entire level 1 study group! Send us $40 twice and you can cover the printing and postage of a whole introductory study group, both levels. This is a good demonstration of the political impact money can have on our ability to build up people's political understanding, without worshiping money as the be all and end all of our political work.
Any reader of ULK should be familiar with our line on the inflated minimum wage in imperialist countries. In line with our criticism of lifestyle politics above, we don't say Amerikans should refuse to be paid more than $2.50 per hour as an act of solidarity with Third World workers. Instead we say revolutionary comrades should funnel as much money as they can into the anti-imperialist movement. Get raises and make bigger donations, but don't waste all your time in your bourgeois job!
Prisoners and migrant workers differ from the rest of this country in that there is a progressive aspect to their struggles for higher wages. The proletarians currently on hunger strike in an ICE detention center in Washington have pushed internationalist demands to the front of their struggle. While they ask for higher wages and better conditions in the private prison they are being held, their primary demand is an end to deportations from the United $tates. Facing deportation themselves, these prisoners have a different class perspective than the vast majority in this country.
In an article titled "Sending a Donation is Contraband" from ULK 25, a comrade relates being prevented from sending MIM(Prisons) a donation to the overall political repression and censorship by the prisoncrats. In a bizarre interpretation of California's mail policies, CDCR effectively and illegally prevented this subscriber from exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. Similarly, in the last issue of ULK, another comrade in California explains the direct connection between a stamp drive for the SF BayView, a New Afrikan nationalist newspaper, and the pigs' mass disallowing of stamps and increased terrorist activities in San Quentin State Prison. The state has an interest in preventing any growth of the anti-imperialist movement, no matter how small.
Naturally it is among the most oppressed that we find the greatest support for anti-imperialism. Thus, campaigns for a few more $0.49 stamps for indigent prisoners in Texas are of vital importance. Such a concern is unfathomable to the vast majority in the imperialist countries. Cutting postage stamps and radio service are not only tactics to further deteriorate the mental health of prisoners, but are also attempts at political repression under the thinly veiled guise of budget cuts. Here we see the oppressor using economic tactics to reach their political goals. While the material basis of what we're fighting for is in the people, we must be smart about finance and other material resources to end hunger, war and oppression as soon as possible.
In addition to minimum wage studies, what about maximum wages? I think when we raise the minimum wage in the U.S., we are really just inflating. Unless we cap each and every person in the top six-digit-plus earning categories, there will be no end to the misery. I won't go so far to say we cap every salary at $25,000, but I would cap at $98,000. And maybe put a Texas prison in Cambodia and Bangladesh, and send prisoners there who are caught saying "I'm bored" more than twice. "Sure you are!"
MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer is responding to the article in Under Lock & Key 36"Raise the Minimum Wage to $2.50". In that article we point out that "The proposed minimum wage of $10 per hour would ... put the lowest paid Amerikans at 50 times the pay of the lowest paid Bangladeshi if we account for cost of living." And so our call for a global minimum wage is not in the material interests of the vast majority of people in First World countries. But it is strongly in the interests of the majority in the Third World.
A maximum wage is an important component to implementing a global minimum wage. We are fighting to close the dramatic difference in wealth between exploiters and exploited. Starting with a cap of $98,000 per person per year is quite generous to the exploiters. As we have explained previously, Amerikans are already in the richest 13% of the world. So if we re-distribute the wealth equally to all people of the world, we won't see anyone left with salaries of $98,000. But it's certainly a start to place any cap on maximum wages.
As for putting prisoners of the United $tates into Third World prisons, we strive to draw connections between U.$. prisoners and the Third World masses because of the extreme oppression they face. We do not wish to worsen those conditions. And while many come into prison with spoiled Amerikan perspectives, prisoners in the United $tates have legitimate complaints that must be prioritized strategically. It is critical that we keep an internationalist perspective in all of our work. When we fight to improve conditions for individuals in prison, we need to keep the privileged status of Amerikans in mind and always ask ourselves if the reforms we demand will harm others in order to benefit ourselves. Getting video games for prisoners, which are made from materials mined by brutalized proletarians in the Congo would be an obvious example.
Internationalism is fundamental to everything we do, and the economics of global imperialism is just one aspect of the global inequality of imperialism.
Aun usando el PPP para ajustar salarios mínimos, todos los países en esta gráfica excepto México tienen salarios mínimos que están por lo menos un orden de magnitud más alto que esos en los países más pobres.
Recientemente la pequeña ciudad de SeaTac, Washington, pasó un voto de medida para aumentar el salario mínimo a $15 por hora. A lo ancho de Estados Unidos la Union de Trabajadores SEIU ha encabezado un esfuerzo para exigir $15 por hora para todos los trabajadores en restaurantes de comida rápida. En la huelga del 28 de Noviembre, 2013, organizadores dijeron que hubo demostraciones en más de 100 ciudades.(1)
En 2014 el salario mínimo aumentará en muchos estados. El liderato en el camino lo lleva Washington ($9.32) y Oregon ($9.10), con Nueva York dando el brinco más alto a $8.00 por hora. La ciudad de Nueva York fue el centro de los recientes protestantes que trabajan en comida rápida. Mientras tanto, los Demócratas en el Congreso tienen planes para un proyecto de ley este año que aumentará el salario mínimo federal de $7.25 a $10.10 por hora.(2)
Otro lugar donde luchas por un salario mínimo hicieron mucho ruido en 2013 fue la industria de prendas en Bangladesh. Como lo mencionamos en el último numero de Under Lock & Key, esos trabajadores tenían una victoria reciente en el salario mínimo que elevado de $38 a $68 por mes. En Camboya (Cambodia) a trabajadores de prendas se les ha prometido un aumento en el salario mínimo de $80 a $95 por mes. Insatisfechos, los trabajadores se han unido a recientes protestas en contra del régimen actual para exigir $160 por mes.(3)
Con semanas de 48 horas de trabajo, los trabajadores de prendas están ganando alrededor de $0.35 por hora en Bangladesh, y $0.42 en Camboya. Aun que no lo crea, estos son los trabajadores privilegiados quienes tienen protecciones especiales por trabajan para industrias exportadoras importantes. El Bangladesí común tiene un salario mínimo de $19 mensuales, lo cual es menos de 10 centavos por hora.
El propuesto salario mínimo de $10 por hora en Estados Unidos pondría a los amerikanos de paga mínima CIEN VECES más alto al ingreso de los trabajadores de paga mínima en Bangladesh. Por esto es que en el día de Mayo hicimos el llamado al movimiento de trabajadores blancos chauvinistas por evadir el asunto de un salario mínimo global.
Ahora, el primer chillido de nuestros críticos chauvinistas será "el costo de vivienda, se les olvido el costo de vivienda." Nuestra propuesta para un salario mínimo global altaría este salario a una canasta de mercadería. Significa que trabajadores en Estados Unidos y Bangladesh tendrían los recursos para estilos de vida comparables con su paga. Tal vez el amerikano agarra trigo donde el Bangladesí agarra arroz, por ejemplo. Pero el amerikano no agarra una SUV con gasolina ilimitada mientras que el Bangladesí agarra el autobús al y del trabajo. Para mantener este tipo de desigualdad el Bangladesí estaría subsidiando un nivel más alto de vida para el amerikano.
Passa que el Banco Mundial se ha llevado una apuñalada a esta calculación con su Poder de Compra Equivalente. Usando esta calculación, el salario mínimo en Bangladesh, el cual aparenta ser de $0.09 por hora es realmente un enorme $0.19 por hora.(4) Así que, debemos disculparnos con nuestros críticos. El propuesto salario mínimo de $10 por hora solo pondría al amerikano de paga mínima a 50 veces más que al de paga mínima en Bangladesh si consideramos el costo de vivienda.
Recientemente el New Afrikan Black Panther Party (prison chapter) (Partido Nuevo Afrikano Pantera Negra (División de la Prisión)), acusó nuestro movimiento de descartar la posibilidad de una organización revolucionaria en los Estados Unidos por que reconocimos los datos de arriba. Solo porque luchas por salarios más altos, y otras demandas económicas, son generalmente pro-imperialistas en este país no significa que no podamos organizarnos aquí. Pero el organizarse revolucionarimente no debe reunir a la burguesía menor por más dinero a expensas del proletariado global. Además, aun en los tempranos días del proletariado Ruso Lenin tuvo críticas de luchas que buscaban salarios más altos.
Mientras que expresamos dudas acerca de la estrategia electoral de Chokwe Lumumba en Jackson, Mississippi (ve ULK 33 en ingles), permanecemos optimista acerca del New Afrikan Liberation Movement (Movimiento de Liberación Nuevo Afrikano) y sus esfuerzos para movilizar a la multitud allí. El organizarse para economías cooperativas y auto-suficiencia es un acercamiento más neutral para movilizar los segmentos bajos de Nueva Afrika que el clamor del SEIU por más salarios por servicio improductivo de trabajo. Mientras que nuestras preocupaciones reposaban en sus habilidades para organizarse de una manera que fuera realmente independiente de los sistemas existentes, creando un poder doble, el SEIU mendigando por más botines de los imperialistas ni siquiera ofrece tal posibilidad. Para realmente dirigir los desigualdades en el mundo entonces, debemos últimamente llegar a entrar en conflicto con el sistema capitalista que crea y requiere esas desigualdades.
Un punto agitacional de los protestas de comida rápida ha sido que 52 por-ciento de las familias de los trabajadores de comida rápida de linea delantera necesitan apoyarse en programas de asistencia publica(1). Una de las razones de que esto es verdad es que la mayoría de los trabajadores de comida rápida no llegan a trabajar 48 o aun que sea 40 horas a la semana. Si le ponemos niños y otros dependientes en la mezcla y tenemos una pequeña, pero significante, clase baja en los Estados Unidos que lucha con cosas como comida, renta y cuentas de utilidad. La mayoría son padres solteros, mayormente madres solteras. Viviendas colectivas y estructuras económicas podrían (y lo hacen) servir a esta clase y pueden ofrecer un medio de movilización política. Los programas sirve a la gente y casas negras (viviendas colectivas) de las Panteras Negras son un modelo para este tipo de organización. Pero programas patrocinados-por-el-estado y el incremento general en riquezas desde los 1960s hace el distinguir este tipo de trabajo y el de trabajar con el imperialismo una tarea mas intimidante.
La campaña para un salario mínimo global tiene poca tracción entre los trabajadores de paga baja en los Estados Unidos, porque ellos no se benefician de esto. Esta es una campaña que tiene que ser liderado por el Tercer Mundo y empujada por medio de cuerpos internacionales como la Organización de Comercio Mundial (World Trade Organization). La apoyamos por razones agitaciones, pero no esperamos un apoyo masivo en este país. Nos permite pintar una linea entre esos que son verdaderos internacionalistas y aquellos que no lo son.(5)
Cualquier campaña que trabaje para los intereses económicos de la gente en los países imperialistas va a ser problemática porque el mejor trato económico será el unirse con los imperialistas, por lo menos en el futuro inmediato.
Recently the small town of SeaTac, Washington passed a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Across the United $tates the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) labor union has led an effort to demand $15 per hour for all fast food workers. For a 28 November 2013 strike, organizers said that there were demonstrations in over 100 cities.(1)
In 2014 the minimum wage will be going up in many states. Leading the way are Washington($9.32) and Oregon($9.10), with New York making the biggest jump to $8.00 per hour. New York City was center to the recent fast food strikes. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress have plans for a bill this year that would raise the federal minimum from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.(2)
Another place that minimum wage struggles made a lot of noise in 2013 was the garment industry in Bangladesh. As we mentioned in the last issue of Under Lock & Key, those workers had a recent victory in the minimum wage being raised from $38 to $68 per month. In Cambodia, garment workers have been promised a raise in the minimum wage from $80 to $95 per month. Unsatisfied, the workers have joined recent protests against the current regime to demand $160 per month.(3)
With 48-hour work weeks, garment workers are making around $0.35 per hour in Bangladesh, and $0.42 in Cambodia. Believe it or not, these are the privileged workers who have special protections because they are in important export industries. The common Bangladeshi has a minimum wage of $19 per month, which is less than 10 cents an hour.
Now, the first cry of our chauvinist critics will be "cost of living, you forgot about cost of living." Our proposal for a global minimum wage would tie this wage to a basket of goods. That means the worker in the United $tates and the worker in Bangladesh can afford comparable lifestyles with their pay. Maybe the Amerikan gets wheat where the Bangladeshi gets rice, for example. But the Amerikan does not get a persynal SUV with unlimited gasoline, while the Bangladeshi gets bus fare to and from work. To maintain such inequality the Bangladeshi is subsidizing a higher standard of living for the Amerikan.
It happens that the World Bank has taken a stab at this calculation with their Purchasing Power Parity. Using this calculation, the minimum wage in Bangladesh, which appears to be $0.09 per hour, is really a whopping $0.19 per hour.(4) So, we must apologize to our critics. The proposed minimum wage of $10 per hour would only put the lowest paid Amerikans at 50 times the pay of the lowest paid Bangladeshi if we account for cost of living.
Recently the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) accused our movement of dismissing the possibility of revolutionary organzing in the United $tates because we acknowledge the facts above. Just because struggles for higher wages, and other economic demands, are generally pro-imperialist in this country does not mean that we cannot organize here. But revolutionary organizing must not rally the petty bourgeoisie for more money at the expense of the global proletariat. Besides, even in the earliest days of the Russian proletariat Lenin had criticisms of struggles for higher wages.
While we expressed doubts about Chokwe Lumumba's electoral strategy in Jackson, Mississippi, we remain optimistic about the New Afrikan Liberation Movement's efforts to mobilize the masses there. Organizing for cooperative economics and self-sufficiency is a more neutral approach to mobilizing the lower segments of New Afrika than the SEIU clamoring for more wages for unproductive service work. While our concerns rested in their ability to organize in a way that was really independent of the existing system, creating dual power, the SEIU's begging for more spoils from the imperialists does not even offer such a possibility. To really address the inequalities in the world though, we must ultimately come into conflict with the capitalist system that creates and requires those inequalities.
One agitational point of the fast food protests has been that 52 percent of the families of front-line fast food workers need to rely on public assistance programs.(1) One reason this is true is that most fast food workers do not get to work 48 or even 40 hours a week. Throw children and other dependents in the mix and you have a small, but significant, underclass in the United $tates that struggles with things like food, rent and utility bills. Most are single parents, mostly single mothers. Collective living and economic structures could (and do) serve this class and can offer a means of political mobilization. The Black Panthers' Serve the People programs and Black houses (collective living) are one model for such organizing. But state-sponsored programs and the general increase in wealth since the 1960s makes distinguishing such work from working with imperialism a more daunting task.
The campaign for a global minimum wage has little traction among the lower paid workers in the United $tates, because they do not stand to benefit from this. This is a campaign to be led by the Third World and pushed through international bodies such as the World Trade Organization. We support it for agitational reasons, but don't expect mass support in this country. It allows us to draw a line between those who are true internationalists and those who are not.(5)
Any campaign working for economic interests of people in the imperialist countries is going to be problematic because the best economic deal for them will require teaming up with the imperialists, at least for the forseeable future.
Images of a statue of communist leader V.I. Lenin being torn down in Kiev have been celebrated in the Western press, as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets to protest the current regime headed by president Viktor Yanukovych.
Much of the coverage of the recent protests in Ukraine condemn government corruption as the common complaint of the protestors, linking it to Ukraine's Soviet past. The association is that this is the legacy of communist rule. In contrast, we would argue that this corruption was the result of economic Liberalism taking hold in the former Soviet Union where bourgeois democracy was lacking. Today's protests are largely inspired by a desire for bourgeois democracy, and the perceived economic benefits it would provide over the current rule by a parasitic bourgeoisie with little interest in the national economy.
The rise of Kruschev to lead the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) after Stalin's death marked the victory of the capitalist roaders within the Communist Party, and the beginning of the era of social-imperialism for the Soviet Union. This lasted from 1956 until the dissolution of the Union in 1991, when Ukraine became an independent republic. The period was marked by moving away from a socialist economy structured around humyn need and towards a market economy guided by profit. This transformation was reflected in the ideology of the people who more and more looked towards the imperialist countries and their crass consumerism as something to aspire to. It also led those in power to have more interest in their local regions than in the prosperity of the Union as a whole.
Even under capitalism, the Soviet Union was more prosperous and more stable than after its dissolution. In 1991, an estimated three quarters of the Soviet people supported maintaining the Union, but the leadership had no motivation to do so.(1) A move towards strengthening the Union would awaken the proletarian interests, which were opposed to the interests of the leadership that was now a new bourgeoisie. Ukraine played a key role in initiating the dissolution of the USSR. And it was no coincidence that in Ukraine, in particular, the dissolution was an economic disaster as the former Soviet nations were tossed to the wolves of economic Liberalism. A small emerging capitalist class took advantage of fixed prices that were a legacy of the Soviet economy and sold cheaply obtained raw materials at market rates to other countries. They turned around and invested that capital outside in international markets while tightening monopolies on trade at home. This was one of the most drastic transfers of wealth from the hands of the producers to the hands of capitalists in recent decades.(2)
Ten years after the October Revolution of 1917, Stalin wrote, "the resultant dropping out of a vast country from the world system of capitalism could not but accelerate [the process of the decay and the dying of capitalism]".(3) The inverse of this is also true, to a degree: the reentry of many countries into the world system breathed life back into it. While this brought great change at the hands of the newly empowered national bourgeoisie in those countries, it did not change the fact that imperialism had already made capitalism an economically regressive system. Hence they did not develop the wealth of their nations as the rising bourgeoisie of centuries past had done by improving production and developing trade. Today's rising bourgeoisie restricts markets via monopolies, and heads straight for high-margin business like drugs, weapons and financial markets. What happened in the ex-Soviet countries is a good demonstration of why Libertarian ideals are not relevant in today's economy.
The underground economy had been growing for decades before 1991, and this new freedom to compete was a boon to the criminal organizations that existed. These mafias were on the ground with direct access to the resources of the people before the imperialists had time to fight over these newly opened economies. With rising nationalism in the republics, Russian imperialism had to keep its distance, while other imperialist countries had no base in the region to get established. The inter-imperialist rivalry over the region is playing out today.
In the early years of independence, the Ukrainian state merged with that criminal class that was taking advantage of the political and economic turmoil in the country.(4) As a result the GDP dropped to a mere third of what it was just before the Union dissolved.(5) This came after decades of declining economic growth after the initial shift away from socialist economics. The mafias in the former Soviet countries saw an opportunity to seize local power and wealth in their respective republics as the super power crumbled. Some were further enticed by Amerikan bribes, such as Russian President Boris Yeltsin's family who received billions of dollars.(6) For a time there was hope that these changes would improve economic conditions as the bourgeois Liberal mythology led the former Soviet peoples to believe that they could follow the advice (and political donations) of the United $tates.
This mess, which the region is still struggling with, was the ultimate result of what Mao Zedong said about the rise of a new bourgeoisie within the communist party after the seizure of state power due to their inherent privilege as directors of the state. A successful socialist project must combat these bourgeois tendencies at every turn in order to prevent the proletariat from suffering at the hands of a new bourgeois exploiting class. At the core of the Cultural Revolution was combating the theory of productive forces, which Mao had previously criticized the Soviet Union for implementing. The turn to the western imperialist countries as economic models was the logical conclusion of the theory of productive forces in the Soviet Union.
One of the messages underpinning today's protests in Ukraine is the desire to move closer to the European Union (EU), as opposed to the Russian sphere of influence. It seems that looking to the west for hope has only increased in Ukraine over the last couple decades. But there is no obvious advantage to becoming a client of imperialist Western Europe over imperialist Russia except for the higher concentration of super-profits in the EU. And as other newcomers to the EU can attest, the imperialist nations in Europe will oppose any perceived distribution of their super-profits to the east. Similar nationalism is fueling the Ukrainian protestors who oppose the perceived transfer of wealth from their country to Russia. In general, increased trade will help a country economically. But in this battle Russia and the EU are fighting to cut each other off from trading with Ukraine. As always, capitalism tends towards monopolies and imperialism depends on monopsonies.
It is little wonder that the masses would be unsatisfied living under the rule of corrupt autocrats. Yet, it was just 2004 when the U.$.-funded so-called "Orange Revolution" threw out a previous mafia boss named Leonid Kuchma.(7) This regime change gained support from those making similar demands to today's protestors, but it did not change the nature of the system as these protests demonstrate. And that orchestrated movement was no revolution. It was a mass protest, followed by a coup d'etat; something that the imperialists have been funding quite regularly in central Eurasia these days. A revolution involves the overthrow of a system and transformation to a new system, specifically a change in the economic system or what Marxists call the mode of production. We don't see any movement in this direction in Ukraine from where we are, as nationalism is being used as a carrier for bourgeois ideologies among the exploited people of Ukraine, just as Stalin warned against.
Rather than a revolutionary anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist movement, the criminal corruption in Ukraine has led to right-wing populism in recent years. This was marked by the surge of the Svoboda party into the parliament. The men who toppled the statue of Lenin and smashed it with sledge hammers waved Svodoba flags as they did so, indicating that they represented not just a vague anti-Russia sentiment, but a clear anti-socialist one.
Svodoba's populism challenges the current ruling bourgeois mafia, while their nationalism serves to divide the proletariat by inflaming various grudges in the region. This is in strong contrast to the revolutionary nationalism supported by Lenin and Stalin and by Maoists today. In a criticism of the provisional government prior to the October Revolution in 1917, Lenin wrote on Ukraine:
"We do not favour the existence of small states. We stand for the closest union of the workers of the world against 'their own' capitalists and those of all other countries. But for this union to be voluntary, the Russian worker, who does not for a moment trust the Russian or the Ukrainian bourgeoisie in anything, now stands for the right of the Ukrainians to secede, without imposing his friendship upon them, but striving to win their friendship by treating them as an equal, as an ally and brother in the struggle for socialism."(8)
This is a concise summary of the Bolshevik line on nationalism.
A Note on Class and Criminality
Without doing an in-depth class analysis of Ukraine, we can still generalize that it is a proletarian nation. Only 5.1% of households had incomes of more than US$15,000 in the year 2011.(9) That mark is close to the dividing line we'd use for exploiters vs. exploited internationally. Therefore we'd say that 95% of people in Ukraine have objective interests in ending imperialism. This serves as a reminder to our readers that we say the white nation in North Amerika is an oppressor nation, not the white race, which does not exist.
While official unemployment rates in Ukraine have been a modest 7 to 8% in recent years, the CIA Factbook reports that there are a large number of unregistered and underemployed workers not included in that calculation. That unquantified group is likely some combination of underground economy workers and lumpen proletariat. In 2011, the Ukrainian Prime Minister said that 40% of the domestic market was illegal,(10) that's about double the rate for the world overall.(11) On top of that, another 31% of the Ukrainian market was operating under limited taxes and regulations implemented in March 2005, which were put in place to reduce the massive black market. In other words, the underground economy was probably much bigger than 40% before these tax exemptions were put in place.
One way we have distinguished the lumpen is as a class that would benefit, whether they think so or not, from regular employment. This is true both for the lumpen-proletariat typical of today's Third World mega-slums, and the First World lumpen, even though "regular employment" means very different things in different countries. While there is a portion of the lumpen that could accurately be called the "criminal" lumpen because they make their living taking from others, we do not define the lumpen as those who engage in crime. Of course not, as the biggest criminals in the world are the imperialists, robbing and murdering millions globally.
For the lumpen, the path of crime is only one option; for the imperialists it defines their relationship to the rest of humynity. Crime happens to be the option most promoted for the lumpen by the corporate culture in the United $tates through music and television. And in chaotic situations like the former Soviet republics faced it may be the most immediately appealing option for many. But it is not the option that solves the problems faced by the lumpen as a class. Ukraine is a stark example of where that model might take us. As the lumpen proletariat grows in the Third World, and the First World lumpen threatens to follow suit in conditions of imperialist crisis, we push to unite the interests of those classes with the national liberation struggles of the oppressed nations that they come from. Only by liberating themselves from imperialism can those nations build economies that do not exclude people.
Among the bourgeoisie, there are few who are innocent of breaking the laws of their own class. But there are those who operate legitimate businesses and there are those who operate in the underground market. This legality has little bearing on their class interests. All national bourgeoisies support the capitalist system that they benefit from, though they will fight against the imperialist if their interests collide.
So there is no such thing as "the criminal class" because we define class by the group's relationship to production and distribution, and not to the legality of their livelihoods. And we should combat the influence of the bourgeois criminals on the lumpen who, on the whole, would be better served by an end to imperialism than by trying to follow in their footsteps.
While the Ukrainian people push for something more stable and beneficial to them, the Russian imperialists face off with the EU. The EU is backed by the United $tates who has publicly discussed sanctions against Ukraine justified by hypocritical condemnation of the Ukrainian government using police to attack peaceful protests. Hey John Kerry, the world still remembers the images of police brutality on Occupy Wall Street encampments.
The real story here may be in the inter-imperialist rivalry being fought out in the Ukrainian streets and parliament. While the Ukraine nation has an interest in ending imperialism, the dominant politics in that country do not reflect that interest. And one reason for that is the lasting effects of mistakes from the past, which still lead to subjective rejection of communism for many Ukrainians in the 21st century. This only further reiterates the importance of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the need to always put politics in command in building a socialist economy to prevent the future exploitation and suffering of the peoples of the world. This is likely a precursor to much more violent conflict over the rights to markets in the former Soviet republics. Violence can be prevented in the future by keeping the exploited masses organized on the road to socialism.