"We seldom, if ever, think of ourselves as among those petty-bourgeois forces in need of committing 'class suicide' - but We must remember where We are. Here in the seat of empire, even the 'slaves' are 'petty-bourgeois,' and our poverty is not what it would be if We didn't in a thousand ways also benefit from the spoils of the exploitation of peoples throughout the world. Our passivity wouldn't be what it is if not for our thinking that We have something to lose." - James Yaki Sayles, Meditations on Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth, p. 188
I believe this quote may be of some interest to you in your development of the First World Lumpen (FWL). I believe this applies more to the Euro-Amerikkan than to the nationless New Afrikan who falls into the class lumpenproletariat (LP) by default of lacking a class society of its own.
I am aware that the New Afrikan lumpenproletariat (NAL) is more privileged than the Third World lumpenproletariat (TWL). But not privileged enough to make it reactionary. The LP of Amerikkka is majority New Afrikan - or an oppressed nation, which changes the quality of the question. So it is not just a LP, but LP of an oppressed nation. This qualitative leap in the discussion pushes us to do a through theoretical analysis on the LP from all sides of the question.
The contradiction may look like this: First World lumpen and New Afrikan lumpen.
Then it can be stated as this: Euro Amerikan FWL and New Afrikan FWL
Then Euro-Amerikan FWL must be understood to be reactionary as it is majority white nationalist (racist). They consist of oppressor nation background.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We have a lot of unity with this comrade on assessing the national contradiction between oppressed and oppressor nation lumpen. As we get into in the Lumpen Class Analysis article in ULK 51, we make a distinction between the lumpenproletariat and the First World lumpen that gets at this comparison between the NAL and TWL the writer points out. We find the lumpenproletariat in countries where there is a sizable proletariat, while the First World lumpen exists in First World countries where there is almost no proletariat to speak of, and this later group benefits from living in an imperialist country.
Further, we agree that there is an important overlap between class and nation when it comes to the lumpen. The national privilege of the oppressor nation makes it unlikely that the lumpen from that nation will be revolutionary, while national oppression puts the lumpen from oppressed nations more likely to be on the side of the world's oppressed. In fact, we believe that the class privilege enjoyed by the oppressor nations extends to encompass any potential white nation lumpen to the extent that they can effectively be considered part of the petty bourgeois class from the perspective of class consciousness. And so when we talk about First World lumpen, we are usually looking at oppressed nation lumpen only.
Within the global imperialist camp, particularly here in the United States, there's a reactionary line being propagated and pursued that the U.S. working class in its entirety is proletarian. Not only is this scientifically incorrect, it's essentially anti-Marxist no matter how well-intentioned its proponents may or may not be.
With an exceptionally small number of predominately oppressed nationalities, U.S. workers are for the most part beneficiaries of imperialism, and as a social class constitute a "labor aristocracy", i.e. a class of privileged workers who receive a portion of the profits that the bourgeoisie extracts from the Third World in the form of high wages, numerous benefits, material goods and services. And this includes the goods, services, and profits, extracted, as well as the billions of dollars that are contributed annually to social security by undocumented proletarians, here in the United States.
Some years ago when monopoly imperialism was still in its infancy, Lenin spoke of this stage of capitalism and correctly observed that imperialism gives the bourgeoisie enough super-profits "to devote a part to bribe their own workers, to create something like an alliance between the workers of a given nation and their capitalists..."
The majority of the working class here in the United States have been bought off and bribed, and are clearly by no means a vehicle for revolution at this time. The labor aristocracy has a concrete material basis, that is, a class interest in the preservation of the existing status quo. This is not a case of having to "wake them up" so to speak. They are very conscious of their privileged position in society and the world as a whole. Their material conditions, i.e. their privileged lifestyle, is translated in their minds through their five senses, giving shape to and molding their reactionary ideas and ways of thinking — all of which is further reinforced and solidified through a corresponding culture and bourgeois-owned media, news, entertainment and advertising industry. And as a class of privileged workers, many are not only willing to join U.S. mercenary forces and die to protect and further their privileges, i.e. their piece of the pie, they also commit mass murder on an unprecedented scale of Third World Latinos, Blacks, and other oppressed peoples, including those oppressed within the U.S. empire itself.
To reach into the ranks of the labor aristocracy and proclaim them proletarian in an attempt to develop revolutionary consciousness, and struggle for their so-called worker rights, is to commit a reactionary and strategic error which in reality only serves to further prop up and legitimize imperialism.
To further grasp the material basis that the labor aristocracy is erected upon and which shapes and molds its corresponding consciousness, a brief glimpse into the capitalist production process is necessary, specifically that aspect pertaining to the creation of surplus value.
It is necessary to understand that, as a species, in order to continue living we must first and foremost engage in production, i.e. through the expenditure of human labor we must transform our environment in order to procreate, feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves before any other aspect of society can be pursued, such as the pursuance of science, education, religion, arts, culture, politics, philosophy, laws, etc. Production is the basis and foundation of all societies, and in fact, all these other aspects of social activities not only grow out of, but are a reflection of, and correspond to a society's particular mode of production. Moreover, it is only through social intercourse and cooperation with one another, in various forms, that these necessities can be realized — hence the source of our social essence.
Today in the current stage of economic development (capitalism-imperialism), the vast majority of the world's people have been separated from their means of production (land, natural resources, intellectual property, technology, factories, communications, etc.) by property rights which the capitalist classes of the world, who predominately reside within First World borders, have laid claim to. And yet this doesn't change the essential needs of the human species. We must still have access to the world's resources and materials so that we may reproduce ourselves in order to survive.
Under these circumstances, the world's masses, who own very little if anything at all, are forced into a situation where they must sell to the capitalist class, i.e. the bourgeoisie, the only thing they do own, so that they may in turn purchase back from the capitalists the necessities of life. And what they are forced to sell to the bourgeoisie is their labor power. In a capitalist economy, production is driven by profits, not the needs of the entire society. Under this mode of production the role of the bourgeoisie is like that of a parasite — an unnecessary appendage that has been allowed to remain inserted within the production process and whose existence relies wholly on the unpaid labor of others.
With the exception of the majority of imperialist country workers, the bourgeoisie purchases the labor power from the majority of the world's masses below its value which is the source of all surplus-value (capital and profit). Capitalist production not only creates racial and social inequalities while perpetuating those inequalities which were already in existence, it is also the source of the same prison system we are now confined to.
To elaborate further, surplus-value is that value which is created through unpaid labor power. For example, if the bourgeois owners of a maquiladora invests $1000 a day for the production of shirts - $200 of which pays for the cost of human labor power (variable capital) and $800 which pays for the cost of electricity, oil, cloth, thread, technology, etc. (constant capital), and if it takes, lets say, 5 hours to produce $1000 worth of shirts — the original amount invested, this 5 hours of expended labor power is the true value of the worker's labor power.
That which is invested in "constant capital" remains constant, that is, it creates no new value but only transfers the value of the electricity, oil, cloth, thread, technology, etc, to the shirts being produced. It is the "variable capital," i.e. the expenditure of human labor power, that transforms these various materials into shirts (or any goods) that augments new value.
Even if the maquiladora workers produce $1000 worth of shirts in 5 hours, being that their labor power has been purchased and therefore is now owned and controlled by the bourgeoisie, the workers are still required to expend their labor power for the remainder of the working day, whether that be 10, 12, 14, or however many hours the capitalists can get away with. And, in fact, it is in search of this cheap source of labor power and natural resources, i.e. profits and cheap goods, that the imperialists and their bribed mercenary armies launch their global crusades, all under the guise of spreading democracy, or combating terrorism. It is where the people are most desperate, that they can be most thoroughly exploited along with their natural resources, that is at the root of capitalism's so-called "economic success."
Lets say 12 hours constitutes a full working day for the maquiladora workers, and if it takes 5 hours to produce $1000 worth of shirts, the workers are still required to expend their labor power for an additional 7 hours, the remainder of the working day. This 7 hours over and beyond the 5 hours is "surplus labor," 7 hours of unpaid labor power that the bourgeoisie is stealing from the workers.
Being that workers are paid in either hourly wages, piecemeal, or by the day, etc., these various forms of payment only serve to camouflage and disguise the unpaid surplus labor, thus creating a false appearance that the workers are being paid for all of their labor power when in essence they are not.
In a nutshell the bourgeoisie pays the workers below the value of their labor power and pockets the difference in the form of profits and capital (surplus value) upon sale of the goods produced or grown by the workers. What does this have to do with us as a prison population? This mode of profit production inevitably creates social inequalities. It also provides a corresponding ideology and culture which not only has a fixation and obsession with the over-consumption of consumer goods, but is a culture where a person's social status is judged and determined according to their material possessions. These two elements, the poverty and social inequalities which create the fertile ground, accompanied with its corresponding culture and individualist ideology, crime flourishes and a vast prison system inevitably takes root as a means of social control.
Prior to the emergence of U.S. imperialism, the ruling classes thoroughly exploited a large section of the population within its own artificial borders. But eventually as a result of capitalism's internal contradictions, i.e., the inherent necessity to expand and the bourgeoisie's greedy frenzy to suck as much profit out of people as it possibly can, the already existing social inequalities and domestic rebellions intensified and began to undergo a qualitative transformation which further threatened the existence of the bourgeoisie and its loyal beneficiaries.
Although through imperialist expansion, the U.S. bourgeoisie has for the time being accomplished two significant goals prolonging its existence. Rather than having to rely on the exploitation of slaves, the indigenous population, and the most newly arrived European immigrants to create its wealth while continuing to run the risk of being overthrown by its own population, the bourgeoisie was able to pacify its own workers by making further concessions beginning on a large scale in the late 19th century with the first of many continuing campaigns of imperialist expansions. And through imperialist expansion it has not only been able to transfer the vast majority of its domestic exploitation abroad, it has been able to extract far more super-profits from Third World exploitation and natural resources than it was ever able to extract from within its own artificial borders. And with these massive amounts of super-profits and cheap goods, it has created a passive and loyal population out of the majority of its own workers, with a privileged material lifestyle, thus transforming them into a flag waving patriotic labor aristocracy, i.e. beneficiaries and accomplices of imperialism.
By way of imperialist expansion and the transferring of exploitation abroad, this has insured the continuation of the bourgeoisie's super profits while simultaneously enabling them to pay the majority of U.S. workers above the value of their labor power. The lifestyle of the majority of U.S. workers is not only sustained by Third World exploitation and natural resources for its privileged existence as a social class, but as a social class of privileged workers, it also creates practically no surplus value. A close examination of the Gross National Product (GNP) and federal labor statistics of any given year will demonstrate that nearly all of the monetary value of goods and services sold in this country is created outside of its borders, and that extremely small amount of surplus value that is created within the U.S. empire itself is created predominately by oppressed nationalities, primarily by undocumented Latinos and a small portion of imprisoned Blacks. It is a fact that never in the history of this country's parasitic existence has it ever fully supported itself from its own labor. Even the very first settlers on these shores used the indigenous peoples as slaves.
Being that the majority of workers in this country form a labor aristocracy, they are therefore by no means proletarian or a material base in which to struggle for in an attempt to develop revolutionary consciousness. To struggle for so-called worker rights of the labor aristocracy amounts to supporting imperialism, i.e. the exploitation and deaths of thousands world wide on a daily basis from preventable diseases, hunger, medical neglect, wars, etc. Struggling for these so-called rights of the labor aristocracy amounts to nothing less than seeking a larger portion of what's already pillaged and plundered from Third World exploitation, and therefore it is anti-Marxist in essence despite the various forms that it comes packaged in.
In reference to the labor aristocracy Lenin said "... no preparation of the proletariat for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie is possible, even in the preliminary sense, unless and immediate, systematic, extensive, and open struggle is waged against this stratum..."
The gist of Lenin's contention is significant here, and that is, the labor aristocracy as a social class is not a vehicle for evolution but a reactionary road block that must be struggled against, not only theoretically but in practice. This does not imply that some portions of the labor aristocracy wouldn't be won over under given objective conditions, but currently in their entirety as a social class, as a result of their concrete material conditions, they are reactionary in consciousness and deed and therefore must be combated — not catered to.
Also of significance, to get to the soul, the motor and driving force of a true people's revolution, i.e. a socialist revolution, we must, to use Lenin's words, "go down lower and deeper, to the real masses ... to the suffering, miseries, and revolutionary sentiments of the ruined and impoverished masses ... particularly those who are least organized and educated, who are most oppressed ..." And these masses that Lenin speaks of reside predominately within the Third World and include those sectors of oppressed nationalities and poor who live at the bottom rungs of imperialist society itself and within the prison systems.
Despite reactionary nationalist and patriotic rhetoric, the concrete material reality is, our struggle is not "us" as a unified country pitted against other countries, as we have been taught and programmed to believe. It is a class struggle that transcends all national borders. Even the existence of this prison system is just one interconnected aspect of this larger class struggle of irreconcilable opposites. We as a prison population must deepen our knowledge and raise our political consciousness. We must transform our incorrect narrow nationalistic views into a scientifically correct internationalist outlook and recognize the concrete material reality that we as a prison population are just one of the numerous side effects of an outdated and insufficient economic system that results in the social inequalities where a prison system becomes necessary to protect the stolen riches and privileges of the bourgeoisie and its bought off supporters — the same imperialist economic system that oppresses and exploits Third World people around the globe. Our interests do not lie in siding with our own domestic ruling classes in the imprisoning of over 2 million of our own people, or in the exploitation of billions of Third World people around the globe. Our interests lie with our own impoverished and Third World people, not only against our own bourgeoisie and its beneficiaries, but against all capitalist ruling classes of the world regardless of national borders.
So long as we live in a society that is divided into social classes, poverty vs. rich and everything in between, the preservation and continued existence of the prison system is guaranteed. And any improvements made, internally or externally, in regards to the prison system, as welcomed as they are, will be purely reformist, i.e. temporary and for show. To be as effective as possible and maintain continuity in struggle, our ultimate goal must be the creation of a classless society.
A USW comrade asks: Recently I was having a conversation here with someone about the "Third World." This person didn't think all of Africa, Asia & Latin America was still the "Third World." I wasn't totally sure. He also asked exactly what qualifies a country for Third World status. I had no answer, he asked someone outside prison who looked online and stated all Latin America is still Third World but China was now considered "Second World," is this true? Can you send me an article on "Third World" - past, present, and future? Thank you.
MIM(Prisons) responds: The use of the terms First, Second and Third World arose during the Cold War, when the Western imperialist-led block was referred to as the First World, the communist block was the Second World, and the Third World were the so-called non-aligned countries who were also the most exploited and underdeveloped countries by design.
Mao Zedong put forth an alternative assessment of the world using these terms. By this time the Soviet Union had clearly gone back on the capitalist road. So while the West saw the Soviet Union as communist, China saw it correctly as imperialist. Mao therefore labeled the two superpowers, U$A and the Soviet Union, as the First World. He grouped other imperialist countries as the Second World, which he saw as potential allies against the First World. Then the exploited countries he saw as the Third World, including socialist countries like China itself.
Today, the general usage of the term Third World is more consistent and it is closer to the way Mao defined it. It might be used interchangeably with terms like "exploited nations," "oppressed nations," "underdeveloped countries," "periphery" or "global south." In 1974 Mao said, "The third world has a huge population. With the exception of Japan, Asia belongs to the third world. The whole of Africa belongs to the third world and Latin America too."(1) To this day, this is probably the most common view of who is the Third World. But of course it is more nuanced than that.
It is worth mentioning the more recent use of the term Fourth World to refer to indigenous populations that are not really integrated into the capitalist world economy. This points to the reality that the vast populations that we might lump into the category of Third World can vary greatly themselves. The distinction is a more useful point when analyzing conditions within a Third World country than when doing a global analysis.
In the earlier years of the Soviet Union, Stalin summed up Lenin's theory of imperialism and split "the population of the globe into two camps: a handful of 'advanced' capitalist countries which exploit and oppress vast colonies and dependencies, and the huge majority consisting of colonial and dependent countries which are compelled to wage a struggle for liberation from the imperialist yoke."(2) This is how we view the world today, when there is no socialist block with state power. But we also know that historically the socialist USSR and socialist China both saw themselves in the camp of the exploited countries, or the Third World.
In our glossary, we define Third World as, "The portion of the geographic-social world subjected to imperialist exploitation by the First World." If this is our working definition, we might choose to use the term "exploited nations" to be more clear. But this comrade brings up a good question asking about China. And it leads us to the question, is China still an exploited nation?
We will only superficially address this question here, but we think the obvious answer is "yes." It was only recently that the peasantry ceased to be the majority in China. And after the destruction of socialist organizing in the mid-1970s, the conditions of the peasantry quickly deteriorated pushing people to leave their homelands for the cities. While urban wages have seen steady growth in recent years, even that masks a vast and diverse population. The average annual income of $9,000 puts an urban Chinese worker in the neighborhood of earning the value of their labor.(3) But the average is greatly skewed by the wealthy, and most workers actually make far less than $9,000 a year. Combine them with the almost 50% of the population in the rural areas and we've got a majority exploited population.
Another way to think about China as a whole is that it accounts for about 25% of global production.(4) Capitalism cannot function and pay over a quarter of the world's productive labor more than the value they produce. Keeping all the value of your own labor (and more) is an elite benefit only granted to a tiny minority found almost wholly in the First World. There is really no feasible path forward that leads to the vast majority of Chinese people benefiting from imperialism when they make up almost 20% of the world's people. This is a contradiction that Chinese finance capitalists must deal with.
While the modern interpretation of the term Third World tends to be a descriptive term for the conditions of that country alone, the definitions from the Cold War era actually defined Third World countries by how they relate in the global balance of power. To define a country as Third World is more meaningful when it is done to define its interests in relation to others. Can we count on the Chinese to take up anti-imperialism or not? Or, as Mao put it, who are our friends and who are our enemies? That is the important question.
While we see the makings of more and more revolutionary nationalist organizing by other nations against China in the future, we cannot put the Chinese nation in the camp of oppressor nations. It is our position that some 80% of the world are of the oppressed nations that oppose imperialism. Including China as an oppressor nation would push that number down near 60%. But the conditions in China just don't support that categorization.
The bourgeois myth is that the world has been in a period of peace since the end of World War II. The MIM line has always been that World War III is under way, it's just taken the form of the First World vs. the Third World, so First Worlders don't worry about it so much. In recent years that has begun to change as witnessed in thinly veiled conflicts in places like Ukraine and Syria. In recent months we've seen U.$. and Russian military on the same battlefield, not on the same side. And both countries are gearing up to increase their militarys' involvements in that war in Syria. This is the first time that the inter-imperialist contradiction has been so acute since Gorbachev took power in the Soviet Union in 1985 and began the dissolution of the union in partnership with the Western imperialists.
Politically speaking, it would be reasonable to consider countries like Russia, as well as China, to be the Second World today, as they provide a counterbalance to the imperialist interests of the dominant imperialist powers of Europe, Japan and, most importantly, the United $tates. As such, Russia and China can play progressive roles as a side-effect of them pursuing their own non-progressive interests, because they challenge the dominant empire. However, we have not seen the term Second World used in this way, and you don't really hear the term these days. Perhaps the growing inter-imperialist conflict will warrant its comeback.
Every article in ULK 44 is on point! "Baltimore: Contradictions Heightening" leaves me hoping there are boots on the ground to guide the demonstrators into an organized resistance. It seems from historical examples that destruction of property and forcible removal of merchandise gets results, e.g. Rodney King, whereas candles and prayer obtain imperialistic praise, e.g. Trayvon Martin in Florida. When a kkkapitalist suffers economic harm, imperialist forces will crush a few of their own thug enforcers to restore the facade of calm. Destroy the property of the bourgeoisie and the killers of oppressed citizens get arrested.
Loco1's article on the sovereign citizen movement does much to dispel myth and urban legend. But often the hope of fallacy is stronger than the cold fist of truth. Recently a rumor has spread that prisoners may file a 42 USC 1983 petition for just $35 if they tell the clerk to "file it in the green file without the protection of admiralty law." Even though I've shown men an order from a magistrate judge, and a letter from the court clerk, both stating $400 is the filing fee ($350 if in forma pauperis is granted), prisoners still insist they only have to pay $35. I even showed them an order denying a prisoner's request to "file his petition for $35."
As for the sovereign citizen rubbish, it is historical fact that even when a legal remedy does provide liberation, the supreme court of the united snakes devises methods to make it inapplicable to the oppressed. Look up Dred Scott. Consider that "a prison inmate ... is not an employee within the meaning of the [Federal Labor Standards Act]."(1) Does anyone honestly believe that an imperialist court of pig justices would uphold the sovereign citizen argument? Even if the argument was rooted in sound legal principles (and your articles shows it is not), the imperialist powers in the court are not going to say the government that empowered them is a fraud and void.
And Rashid is incorrect, especially on the subject of the labor aristocracy. First, MIM's definition can be validated by simply engaging in discussion with prison staff, including teachers. Those people do not identify with the workers in other nations. Recently a teacher told me that his gas prices should be lower because "Iraq owes us their oil in exchange for our blood in liberating them." When I replied that I don't recall any Iraqis ever asking us to invade their country and plunge it into civil war, he said, "You only hear what you want to hear." I was also informed it is fair for a factory worker in India to earn 46 cents an hour because "Amerikkka and England built that country for them." Really? And second, just because members of revolutionary groups are possibly from bourgeois or aristocratic backgrounds, it does NOT mean those groups as a whole will support revolution. But neither does it automatically exclude one from the fight. There were Germans who fought against the nazis. And Americans who fought for the bastards.
Over four years ago I wrote an article looking at the sudden decline in the U.$. housing market.(1) Many Amerikan nationalists were looking at the household wealth numbers at that time and lamenting the steep drop off from 2008 to 2010. I pointed out that 2007 was an all-time high for wealth owned by Amerikan households, and compared their vast wealth to the poverty of the majority of the world's people from various angles. Well, in late 2014 a new report on global wealth was released by Credit Suisse, and guess what? Overall household wealth in the United $tates is back to an all-time high. In fact, it hit an all-time high in 2012 and has continued to increase. Turns out the financial crisis wasn't a crisis for Amerikans after all.
Despite the rhetoric of the social fascists, conditions in the United $tates have remained quite luxurious following the 2008 economic crisis. How is this possible? For one there is a nice cushion of wealth to fall back on in hard times. According to the report by Credit Suisse, about a third of the world's household wealth belongs to Amerikans.(2) So if everyone's wealth was reduced proportionately during crisis, Amerikans would fair better than almost everyone else in the world. But that's only scratching the surface, as it turns out wealth did not go down proportionately.
In a comparison of wealth growth by regions since 2000, Credit Suisse show the data with current as well as constant exchange rates. This demonstrates the impact that exchange rates have on wealth by region. Exchange rates are connected to mechanisms of unequal exchange, where value is transferred in a hidden way in the process of international trade. Exchange rates are also manipulated intentionally by the finance capitalists and their institutions (such as the IMF). In both cases, this can result in great transfers of wealth to the countries that control the markets, which is most often led by the United $tates. What the two data show is that the depreciation of currency in the Third World against the U.$. dollar accounted for much of the decrease in wealth during 2008. In other words, currency exchange rates provided a cushion to the economic crisis centered in the United $tates by pushing much of that crisis to the Third World. Africa is the only region to have not recovered to its pre-2008 wealth levels, but it would have done so if not for currency depreciation. In other words, as bubbles popped in the U.$. financial markets, wealth was being slowly pumped back in from the Third World via changes in currency exchange rates and unequal exchange of goods.
This is why we call for international exchange rates based on a fixed basket of goods, to put an end to this form of wealth transfer under imperialism. This is also why the U.$. imperialists were worried about Saddam Hussein ceasing to use the U.$. dollar as the standard currency for oil sales in Iraq.
While a much smaller factor in all this, it is also worth noting that the internal semi-colonies took on more of the wealth loss (proportionally) than the white nation in the United $tates. From 2007 to 2013, the median New Afrikan and Raza household wealth both decreased by 42%, compared to white household wealth which was only down 26% over that period.(4)
How did we bounce back?
The Credit Suisse report notes that the strong growth in household wealth in the United $tates following the decline in 2008 did not accompany a similar increase in income rates. If Amerikan household wealth bounced back on its own then we'd expect to see people making more income from their increased work and productivity. But this was not the case. So did this wealth just fall from the sky? No, it turns out this Amerikan prosperity comes from the invisible transfer of wealth from the Third World to the First World that MIM's critics have been denying the existence of for decades.
Before the wealth-transfer-deniers stop reading in disgust, let me acknowledge a couple things. The increase in household wealth from 2013 to 2014 was mostly due to "market capitalization" as opposed to housing prices and exchange rates (three important factors affecting short-term shifts in wealth according to Credit Suisse). While a larger number of the U.$. population is active shareholders than most countries, this would still indicate that the increase largely favored the wealthier within the rich countries. Exchange rates affect everyone in a country, and rising housing prices help the home owners (over 64% of people in the United $tates) accumulate wealth without having to work. (Homeownership has dropped significantly since 2005 when it was almost 70%, disproportionately affecting oppressed nations who on average have much less wealth than white Amerikans.(5)) "Market capitalization" benefits those in finance capital (including most retirement investments that are quite common in the United $tates), and would lead us to infer that while wealth in the United $tates has exceeded pre-2008 levels, it is less equally distributed than it was then.
Another indication of this skew in wealth distribution is that the high ratio of wealth to income in the United $tates in recent years is approaching the level of the Great Depression. This, of course, is one of the inherent contradictions of capitalism that Marx described in great detail: wealth tends to accumulate in the hands of the few, but this creates problems for circulation of capital, which the whole system is dependent on. So Amerikans are not in the clear; rather we would expect actual serious economic hardship in the near future.
Looking internationally, Credit Suisse shows median household wealth to be about the same in 2014 as it was in 2008, with peaks in 2007 and 2010. Meanwhile the top 10% has increased its wealth since 2008 and the top 1% even moreso. So the distribution of wealth is getting more uneven. The only problem for the argument of our Amerikan nationalists is that the majority of Amerikans are in that top 10%.
Amerikans Are Rich
One of the basic rules of captitalism, taught to us by Karl Marx, is that capital tends to accumulate. As I discussed in "Building United Front, Surrounded by Enemies", others have also shown how wealth in general tends to accumulate even for wage earners. In other words, the richer you are the faster your wealth grows. So yes, the 1% in the United $tates is getting richer faster than the other 99%. But those 99% of Amerikans (on average) are still getting richer as the majority of the world does not. The current balance of wealth shows that the difference between nations is more meaningful than the difference within nations.
Let us indulge in some more numbers given to us from the Credit Suisse report, which looks at household wealth across the whole world. The net worth per adult has reached a new high of an average of 56,000 U.$. dollars (USD) worldwide. The median wealth per adult in the United $tates and Germany are just below this level at US 54,000 and USD 53,000. The median is, of course, a much better indicator of the typical than the average (which was USD 348,000 in the United $tates). While your typical Amerikan or German has the amount of wealth one would expect if distribution were equal globally, your typical African or South Asian has wealth that is around 2% of that. (USD 679 in Africa, and USD 1,006 in India)
The number of people in this lower group is highlighted by the estimate that having USD 3,650 of wealth puts one in the top 50% of wealth holders worldwide. Again, if we distributed the wealth equally today, that point would be USD 56,000. But there are so many people with wealth below USD 3,650 that that is the level for the typical persyn (or median) in the entire world.
For Europe and North America combined, the best estimate given for the imperialist countries, 64% of adults are in the top 10% by wealth. It should be noted that the richest 10% of adults own 87% of global wealth. In contrast, 70% of the world's people own less than 3% of the world's wealth, averaging less than USD 10,000 per adult.
In the past we've cited numbers based on income that give similar results, and actually put all employed Amerikans in the top 13% richest by income, with the vast majority being in the top 10%. Wealth will always be more concentrated than income, because people can have incomes without ever accumulating wealth. Incomes are generally necessary in capitalist society, while wealth is not. In contrast to people who have nothing to lose but their chains (because they own no wealth), the majority of white Amerikans have wealth that is much greater than their annual income, which is quite high to begin with.
U.$. Internal Semi-Colonies
Of course, there are a number of nations within the United $tates, and New Afrikan and Raza median wealth is far below their median income, which is already less than white Amerikans. Recent numbers from Pew Research Center give median household wealth of white Amerikans at $141,900 in 2013. New Afrikan households, meanwhile, come in at $11,000, with the gap between Raza househoulds has been more consistent, as Raza median household wealth was $13,700 for 2013. One factor for the widening gaps is that white households are much more likely to own stocks (and remember that market capitalization was high from 2013 to 2014). Another factor is that oppressed nation home ownership decreased 6.5%, compared to white ownership, which only fell 2% between 2010 and 2013.(4) Wealth per adult for New Afrikans and Raza in the United $tates was not readily available for a direct comparison to the international figures in the Credit Suisse report. But it is clear that the median wealth per adult would be well above the global median of USD 3,650. In other words, the typical New Afrikan or Raza in the United $tates has more wealth than over 50% of the world's population. And if you look at income, they're doing even better.
Imperialists Power and Wealth
China's increase in millionaires, massive growth in middle income populations, and resilience against currency depreciation depicted by Credit Suisse all point to its emergence as a center of finance capital. Yet, over 90% of the millionaires in the world today are in the traditional imperialist countries, with the United $tates leading the way with 41%. While Japan used to compete in this category, in 2014 the U$A stands far above the rest with more than 4 times the number of millionaires in Japan. Of those with wealth greater than USD 50 million, 49% are U.$. citizens, with China as the very distant second in this category. Later this report predicts China will overtake Japan as second wealthiest economy by 2019.
On balance, global wealth increases. Wealth is a product of labor, and so as more people are born and work, and a certain portion of the value they create is accumulated (as machines, buildings, infrastructure, etc) rather than consumed (as food, clothes, electronics, etc) the total wealth of the world grows. War and other disasters can destroy accumulated wealth. The Credit Suisse report goes back to 2000, and shows total wealth more than doubling since then. An increasing rate of wealth accumulation would be expected as the forces of production advance with a growing population. Potentially more people working and doing so more efficiently would create greater wealth. However, our analysis predicts that the expansion of production under capitalism has already peaked some time ago. Credit Suisse subtracts out the effect of population growth and still comes up with a 77% increase in wealth over that period. Why so much?
Marx described different economic systems as being defined by a contradiction between the forces of production and the relations of production. When a new organization of labor is first introduced it would increase the forces of production (it brings new ways of doing things so that more work can be done with the same number of resources as before). Eventually, under any class system, the relations of production begin to drag down this progress. As class contradictions increase, so does the contradiction between relations of production and forces of production. So, while capitalism brought a great boom in production a hundred years ago, the limits of expansion are being met and contradictions, such as the ones that triggered the crisis of 2008, are limiting its progressive elements. What all the discussion around 2008 brought to light was the elaborate schemes that had evolved within finance capital markets in recent decades to create and circulate wealth. When they "create" wealth it is usually by expanding credit. So this is not real wealth creation, as when people transform their labor into wealth by constructing a building. As wealth in the form of credit expands faster than wealth in the form of real goods, you get problems where the credit can't be paid off. The "bubbles" that are blamed for such crisis are also behind the steep increase in overall wealth since 2000 shown in this report.
In summary, global wealth dropped a lot in 2007 and has bounced back bigger than ever a few years later. Marx predicted higher highs and lower lows in the economy as contradictions heightened. Therefore we expect volatility to increase as finance capital dominates the economy more and more, and for there to be bigger drops in wealth that impact the imperialist countries more because there is not enough cushion next time.
Amerikans get more stuff
In my previous article on U.$. wealth I made sure to discuss the consumption rates of Amerikans as well, to show that this isn't just academic number crunching and to combat those who argue that it's just a higher cost of living here that explains our higher incomes. Actually Amerikans get to consume a lot more stuff than other people, to the detriment of the health of our planet. One more recent example of this was the response to lower gasoline prices for Amerikans thanks to a market working in their favor. In November 2014, four out of the top five selling vehicles were gas guzzling trucks or SUVs. Demand for two of these gas guzzlers was up 9.6% in November, compared to an overall increase of 1.3% in car sales.(6) As the capitalists produce the most inefficient vehicles they can get away with to keep consumption rates up, Amerikans jump right on board as soon as they get a little relief at the gas pump. Who cares about global warming when you can afford to blast your air conditioner all day long anyway? While Amerikans enjoy lifestyles far beyond what most people can dream of, their bourgeois individualism reaks havoc on the balance of ecological systems that all life depends on. This is another major contradiction threatening the stability of the current socio-economic system.
The economic system is tied to social factors like war and the impacts of ecological destruction. All of these factors interact with each other, putting imperialism in an ever more precarious situation. It is the task of the proletariat and their allies to understand these dynamics and harness the social forces at play to address these contradictions by putting an end to the chaotic system of imperialism and building a new socialist world system in the interests of all.
You ever heard that saying "crime doesn't pay"? I'm gonna keep it real with you: that's a bold face lie, or at the very least a misrepresentation of the truth. I guess it can be argued that crime doesn't pay for the person who does the crime, gets caught, and has to serve a lengthy sentence.
I don't necessarily accept that premise because for one, a person can go undetected for a long time, all the while blowing through millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains; ask Bernie Madoff. Is it reasonable to conclude that crime didn't pay ol' Bernie-Bern? And the U.$. government is running a Madoff-like ponzi scheme with some of its entitlement programs; Uncle Sam knows that crime pays.
Another dimension to this is the guy who does the crime, gets caught, gets the court punishment, but has friends in high places who sees that he gets a pardon. Such as the case with "Scooter" Libby or that California state politician's son who Arnold Schwarzenegger granted partial clemency to. Arnold basically admitted that he did it as a favor for his politician friend. Ask "Scooter" if crime pays.
Then there's the people who commit crimes, yet due to their status and position in U.S. society, never get prosecuted. Anybody remember the Iran-Contra affair? Plenty of evidence has surfaced that implicates the CIA with drug smuggling and trafficking during this era. There were reports from agents with un-compromised integrity filed within the CIA during this time and bringing this criminal activity to light within the Agency. Ironically George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and the upper level intelligence/justice officials, claiming ignorance of the crimes, avoided legal accountability for this criminal activity. Ask the Bush politicians if their crimes pay.
The government of Columbia sued the Phillip Morris tobacco company for smuggling Marlboro cigarettes in to that country, readily accepting large amounts of cash from traffickers, then smuggling the cash back into the U.S.(1)
Ironically this criminality didn't receive much focus in the United States, nor did the Phillip Morris decision-makers have to defend their criminal conduct in the U.S. criminal court system. Also RJ Reynolds (Nabisco) has been sued by the entire European Union for large scale smuggling and money laundering.(1) Ask the elite Wall Street collective if crime pays.
We see politicians and government bureaucrats on TV all the time speaking of their commitment to eliminating crime and their sincere desire "to see a crime-free America." I say that they're the grossest liars and flatterers, devoid of integrity and a healthy sense of shame for intentional deception. At best they tell half truths on the issue. Consider this brief excerpt from Crossing the Rubicon:
"Allegations that the CIA and Department of Justice were complicit in the flow of cocaine into South Central LA; that the Clintons were partnered with George H.W. Bush and Oliver North through the offices of the National Security Council in a little Iran-Contra arms and cocaine trafficking operation in Mena, Arkansas; and that Hillary Clinton's law firm was helping launder the local share of the profits through state housing agency securities and investments were never addressed, objectively by the corporate media."
Notice that this flow of cocaine wasn't into Beverly Hills or Orange County. Nevertheless people can speak any number of untrue things with conviction but the proof is always in the pudding, the pudding being the person's actions. The Clintons surely know that their pudding in crime makes for part of a financially filling pie.
Think of crime and how it relates to your local, state, and national economies. And of course in a capitalistic nation, one of the main obligations of a politician is to facilitate the maintenance of a strong and growing economy. I mean there's city, county, state, and federal police; jail and prison staff (guards, probation and parole agents, medical workers, education workers, maintenance workers, food service workers, etc.); court staff (judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, professional witnesses, investigators, clerks, transcribers, bailiffs, legal analysts, etc.); and surely some peripheral elements that I haven't mentioned, such as the various telephone companies who grossly overcharge prisoners for collect calls.
To eliminate crime and create this "crime-free America" would be to eliminate all of these (and more) jobs/money that crime creates. That would be catastrophic to the U.S. economy. In this crime-free environment a very slim minority of the displaced workers could be absorbed into other professions but the vast majority would remain jobless.
That many jobless citizens is unsustainable in this nation, which has a consumption based economy. Also the absence of their tax dollars would certainly diminish, very drastically, government consumption. Which in turn would cause job and service cuts in other areas, and that trend would continue on throughout the entire economy. Now, do you think these politicians really want to eliminate crime, synonymous with destroying the economy? Of course not! And I can assure you that even if everyone stopped committing acts that are currently established as criminal, then acts which are not currently crimes would suddenly be deemed as criminal. The politicians know, probably better than anyone else, that crime pays.
As for the bureaucrats, the lie is much closer to the surface with them. Many of them are employed directly in the criminal justice sector, so basically their livelihoods is directly dependent on the existence of crime. So for us to believe their professing that they want to see crime cease; we are to believe that they want to lose their hundred-thousand-dollar-plus (in many instances) annual salaries, their Cadillac benefit packages, and other job-related perks. This absurdity is almost laughable to any rational being. Even the ones who aren't employed in the criminal justice sector are well aware of the negative effects that an absence of crime would place on the economy. Like politicians, the bureaucrats know the deal: crime pays.
Here's another relevant excerpt from Crossing the Rubicon
"A certain percentage of the prisons in this country are run by private corporations which trade their stock based on how many human beings they 'house.' In pure economic terms, inmates have become inventory. The two largest of these corporations are Wackenhut and Corrections Corporation of America. Both of these corporations, through their boards of directors and executive management have direct ties to U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA.
"All of this means that the corrupt economy makes money by first selling drugs to people and then putting them in prison for using drugs."
The parallels between private, for profit prisons and slave plantations are numerous. Big business are in on the secret, crime pays. So whether we like to admit it or not, this nation generally realizes a benefit from crime. It's always about the dollar here in the United States and crime-related professions combined makes up a substantial portion of the Gross Domestic Economy, largely aiding the efforts to maintain a strong dollar. You can believe those who chant "crime doesn't pay" if you want to. As for me, I know crime may not pay for those who are ground to dust in its machinations (prisoners, parolees, probationers, and drug addicts) but for many others, crime does in fact pay.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This author makes a good point about the economic value of the criminal injustice system to capitalists as a way to employ many labor aristocrats. As we expanded on in our review of the book The New Jim Crow, the system serves primarily as a tool of social control. While there would be economic consequences to dismantling or significantly reducing the reach of the criminal injustice system in Amerika, we can look around the world and see examples of capitalist countries with much smaller injustice systems which manage to keep their population employed and living happily off the super-exploitation of Third World peoples. While in the United $tates a change of this magnitude is unlikely given how entrenched the injustice system is in the economic and social fabric of society, it is the social control aspect that we see as the dominant driving force behind the growth and maintenance of this system.
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.