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[New Afrikan Black Panther Party] [Economics] [Theory] [New Afrika] [ULK Issue 34]

Rashid's Empty Rhetoric on the Labor Aristocracy

The Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) recently stepped in(1) to defend Turning the Tide against our USW comrade's critiques.(2) We can appreciate the greater clarity and honesty in Rashid's piece compared to Michael Novick's, but still cannot forgive him for getting the first question of importance to communists wrong: who are our friends and who are our enemies? Like Jose Maria Sison and Bob Avakian, Rashid has long been exposed to MIM line and writing, and many attempts to struggle with him have been made. It does great damage to the International Communist Movement when these people become icons of "Maoism" in many peoples' eyes, while promoting chauvinistic lines on the role of the oppressor nations under imperialism.

Rashid opens his piece with the most common strawpersyn argument of the revisionists, that the MIM line is wrong because Marx and Lenin never abandoned organizing among Europeans and Amerikans. Rashid needs to be more specific if he's claiming there are groups that are refusing to work with white people or moving to the Third World to organize. While our work mostly targets prisoners, we target prisoners of all nationalities, and similarly our street work is not very nation-specific. The question we would ask instead of "should we organize Amerikans?", is, "what is going to achieve communism faster, organizing rich people around demands for more money, or organizing them around ideas of collective responsibility for equal distribution of humyn needs and ecological sustainability?"

Rashid's third paragraph includes some numbers and math and at first glance i thought it might have some concrete analysis. But alas, the numbers appear just for show as they are a) made up numbers, and b) reflecting the most simple calculation that Marx teaches us to define surplus value. To counter Rashid's empty numbers, let us repeat our most basic math example here. If Amerikans are exploited, then to end exploitation would mean they need to get paid more money. Dividing the global GDP by the number of full-time laborers gives an equitable distribution of income of around $10,000 per persyn per year.(3) To be fair, in Rashid's article he addresses this and quotes Marx to say that we cannot have an equitable distribution of income. In that quote from Wages, Price and Profit Marx was writing about capitalism, which is inherently exploitative. Our goal is communism, or "from each according to her ability, to each according to her need." But we're not there yet, Rashid might argue. OK fine, let's take Rashid's hypothetical McDonald's worker making $58 per 8 hour workday. If we assume 5 days a week and 50 weeks a year we get $14,500 per year. According to the World Bank, half of the world's people make less than $1,225 per year.(4) That report also showed that about 10% of Amerikans are in the world's richest 1% and that almost half of the richest 1% are Amerikans. So Rashid wants to argue that under capitalism it is just that the lowest paid Amerikans earn over 10 times more than half of the world's population because their labor is worth that much more? How is that? What Marx was talking about in Wages, Price and Profit was scientific: a strong persyn might be twice as productive as a weak one, or a specially trained persyn might add more value than an unskilled persyn. So Rashid wants to use this to justify paying anyone who was birthed as a U.$. citizen 10 to 25 times, or more, the average global rate of pay? We have no idea how Rashid justifies this disparity except through crass Amerikan chauvinism.

This empty rhetoric is not Marxism. It is ironic how today people will use this basic formulation for surplus value from Marx to claim people of such vastly different living conditions are in the same class. No one else in the world looks at the conditions in the United $tates and Haiti and thinks, "these countries should really unite to address their common plight." It is only pseudo-Marxists and anarchists who read a little Marx who can come up with such crap.

Rashid later establishes commonality across nations with the definition, "The proletariat simply is one who must sell her labor power to survive, which is as true for the Amerikan worker as it is for one in Haiti." We prefer Marx's definition that the proletariat are those who have nothing to lose but their chains. According to Rashid, we should determine whether someone is exploited based on different measuring sticks depending on what country they live in. Apparently, in the United $tates you must have a $20,000 car, a $200,000 home and hand-held computers for every family member over 5 in order "to survive." Whereas in other countries electricity and clean water are optional. More chauvinism.

Rashid continues discussing class definitions,

"For instance, if there's no [Euro-Amerikan] ('white') proletariat in the US, then there's also no New Afrikan/Black one. If a EA working in McDonalds isn't a proletarian, then neither is one of color. If there's no New Afrikan proletariat, then there's no New Afrikan lumpen proletariat either ("lumpen" literally means "broken"—if they were never of the proletariat, they could not become a 'broken' proletariat)."

Lumpen is usually translated as "rag." Even in the United $tates we have a population of people who live in rags, who have very little to lose. However, we completely agree with Rashid's logic here. And that is why MIM(Prisons) started using the term "First World lumpen" to distinguish from "lumpenproletariat." There is little connection between the lumpen in this country and a real proletariat, with the exceptions being within migrant populations and some second generation youth who form a bridge between Third World proletariat, First World semi-proletariat and First World lumpen classes. Rashid continues,

"Yet the VLA [vulgar labor aristocracy] proponents recognize New Afrikan prisoners as 'lumpen' who are potentially revolutionary. Which begs the question, why aren't they doing work within the oppressed New Afrikan communities where they're less apt to be censored, if indeed they compose a lumpen sector?"

This is directed at us, so we will answer: historical experience and limited resources. As our readers should know, we struggle to do the things we do to support prisoner education programs and organizing work. We do not have the resources right now to do any serious organizing outside of prisons. And we made the conscious decision of how we can best use our resources in no small part due to historical experience of our movement. In other words we go where there is interest in revolutionary politics. The margins, the weakest links in the system, that is where you focus your energy. Within the lumpen class, the imprisoned lumpen have a unique relationship to the system that results in a strong contradiction with that system. The imprisoned population could also be considered 100% lumpen, whereas less than 20% of the New Afrikan nation is lumpen, the rest being among various bourgeois classes, including the labor aristocracy.

"And if the lumpen can be redeemed, why not EA [Euro-Amerikan] workers?"

Again, look at history. Read J. Sakai's Settlers and read about the Black Panther Party. Today, look at the growing prison system and the regular murder of New Afrikan and other oppressed nation youth by the pigs. Look at where the contradictions and oppression are.

We can quote Marx, Engels and Lenin on the labor aristocracy to boost our position as well. But Rashid takes an ahistorical and dogmatic reading of these authors. Engels was on the cutting edge recognizing this question in the late 1800s. Lenin witnessed the rise of the labor aristocracy in the early 1900s, and it was the Comintern under Stalin's leadership that settled the two-line struggle over this class during WWII.(5) Meanwhile, MIM has already addressed the fact that anyone who turns to Mao to determine their class analysis of the United $tates, when Mao never did his own class analysis of the United $tates, doesn't really understand what Mao taught us.(6)

The only really interesting thing about this piece is that Rashid has further drawn a line between the MIM camp and the slew of anarchist and crypto-Trotskyist organizations who are still confused about where wealth comes from. They think people sitting at computers typing keys are exploited, and Rashid accuses our line of requiring "surplus value falling from the sky!" We already told you where the high wages in the imperialist countries came from, Rashid, the Third World proletariat! That is why the average Amerikan makes 25 times the average humyn, and why all Amerikans are in the top 13% in income globally. As the revisionists like to remind us, wealth disparity just keeps getting greater and greater under capitalism. The labor aristocracy today is like nothing that V.I. Lenin ever could have witnessed. We must learn from the methods of Marx and Lenin, not dogmatically repeat their analysis from previous eras to appease Amerikans.

[Spanish] [Economics] [ULK Issue 34]

El Tema del que Nadie Está Hablando en el Diálogo del Primero de Mayo

1 de Mayo, 2013 — El llamado movimiento obrero en los países imperialistas ha tenido un respaldo social e influencia muy limitados desde hace mucho tiempo debido a las condiciones increíblemente privilegiadas en las que la mayoría de los primermundistas viven. Así, en un intento de parecer relevantes, y tal vez para ocultar su nacionalismo blanco, éstos proclaman su "solidaridad" con las luchas de los trabajadores alrededor del mundo. En el peor de los casos, esta "solidaridad" se utiliza de forma activa para dirigir erróneamente la lucha del proletariado hacia el economismo y el seguimiento del modelo de desarrollo del primer mundo. Pero incluso cuando esa "solidaridad" se queda en palabras, se utiliza para defender el privilegio de las poblaciones explotadoras del primer mundo. En este Primero de Mayo, la entrevista principal del programa Democracy Now! (¡Democracia Ahora!) resumió esta tendencia.(1)

Charlie Kernaghan del Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (Instituto para el Trabajo Global y los Derechos Humanos) fue entrevistado en un segmento sobre la reciente tragedia en Bangladesh y la lucha obrera en general. Kernaghan nos informó que 421 personas han sido confirmadas muertas y otras 1,000 están aún desaparecidas, queriendo decir que probablemente han muerto bajo los escombras de la fábrica que se derrumbó. Explicó que los trabajadores no sólo fueron amenazados con no pagarles el mes, lo que significaría pasar hambre, sino que también se enfrentaban a la amenaza inmediata de matones con garrotes. Como nos enseñó la reciente explosión de fertilizantes en Texas, la búsqueda de los beneficios en el capitalismo pone en riesgo la vida de todos. Aún así, hoy una diferencia cuantitativa entre ser forzado a base de golpes a volver a una situación peligrosa, y el no ser consciente de que esa situación peligrosa existe. El riesgo relativo al que se enfrentan los trabajadores en el tercer mundo es más alto.

Como MIM y otros han mostrado en numerosas ocasiones, hay una diferencia cualitativa entre el salario que ganan los primermundistas y los proletarios explotados; el salario de los primeros está por encima del valor que generan, lo que los convierte en explotadores de los segundos(2). La conversación acerca de la tragedia en Bangladesh degeneró en nacionalismo blanco cuando la entrevistadora Amy Goodman comenzó a preguntarse sobre lo que deberíamos hacer. Después de defender la protección de los salarios Amerikanos, el invitado comenzó a pedir aranceles comerciales para las mercancías provenientes de países como Bangladesh hasta que puedan cumplir con ciertos estándares laborales similares a los de los Estados Unidos. Tal oposición al libre comercio organiza a los explotadores a costa de los explotados.

El tema tabú se hizo más difícil de ignorar cuando el invitado comenzó a hablar de trabajadores ganando 21 centavos a la vez que hablaba de la inmiseración de los trabajadores Amerikanos. Cuando Goodman empezó a danzar alrededor del tema de los salarios el invitado respondió: "Bueno, como dije con la legislación, no es nuestro trabajo el establecer salarios alrededor del mundo. Esto depende de los habitantes de cada país. Lo que si podemos hacer es exigir que si quieres traer productos a los Estados Unidos, debes dar a los trabajadores que los producen derechos legales."

¿Cómo es que podemos obligarles a aplicar leyes sobre trabajo infantil, pero en lo que se refiere a sus salarios el tercer mundo se las tiene que arreglar por su cuenta? ¿Cómo puedes hablar de "solidaridad internacional obrera" sin hablar de un salario mínimo internacional? La idea es ridícula y la única razón por la que esto sucede es porque los líderes obreros Amerikanos saben que el salario medio en el mundo está por debajo de lo que ellos ganan. Quieren seguir ganando más de lo que les corresponde y al mismo tiempo poner aranceles comerciales a los productos fabricados con mano de obra explotada.

Suponemos que las personas del Sur de Asia no confundirán a aquellos que ganan 20,000 dólares al año, o mucho más, como miembros del proletariado. Pero conforme nos acercamos al corazón del imperio la perspectiva de clase proletaria distorsiona más y más. No hay mejor ejemplo de ello hoy en día que el de Aztlán, donde trabajadores inmigrantes observan la enorme riqueza que les rodea y la posibilidad de obtener parte de ella. Después de que las naciones oprimidas tomaron el control del Primero de Mayo en los Estados Unidos hace siete años, el ala izquierda del nacionalismo blanco trabaja horas extra para infundir a este nuevo movimiento proletario en el corazón de la bestia con la linea política de la aristocracia obrera.

Hoy, conforme el gobierno federal declara estar cerca de promulgar una "reforma de inmigración" que equivaldrá a más excepcionalismo y favoritismo Amerikano, nosotros preferimos un enfoque basado en la reunificación de las familias que algunos ya defendieron en este Primero de Mayo en Los Ángeles. Este es un asunto que enlaza perfectamente con la cuestión nacional y no con las peticiones economicistas para un mayor acceso a salarios propios de los explotadores. La reunificación desafía la frontera represiva que mantiene a familias separadas, y mantiene a naciones completas alienadas de las riquezas que producen. Al igual que la integración dentro de los Estados Unidos ha avanzado, el desafio a la frontera y la lucha contra el nacionalismo blanco, o mejor dicho contra el primermundismo, necesita estar en el centro de un movimiento proletario progresivo en Aztlán. Estos son los problemas que realmente movilizaron a las masas en las manifestaciones del Primero de Mayo en 2006 en respuesta a la Amerika pro-Minutemen(3). Este es el espíritu con el que celebramos este Primero de Mayo.

1. Democracy Now! 1 May 2013
2. Ver la sección de sobre la aristocracia obrera en nuestra página de materiales básicos.
3. Ver la página de archivos de MIM sobre represión en la frontera de EE.UU./México

[Economics] [Theory]

Opposing Turning the Tide Attacks on MIM(Prisons)

I want to express that Under Lock & Key did well in the response to Turning The Tide's (TTT) improper misrepresentation of MIM(Prisons). TTT has no true political line and those who think differently should debate on this issue.

The petit-bourgeoisie is not only the white nation people. Anyone who posses the ideological and social behaviors or the political views that are influenced by private property interests are in fact part of the petit-bourgeoisie. In Amerikkka those whose ideological principles are on this level are part of the oppressor nation. Many TTT constituents fail under these principles.

And as for the individual claiming to have been dropped by MIM(Prisons), it sounds like that person never was attempting to build. For those who want to attack an organization that has been staunch in true struggle and who's line is correct in many ways, needs to, as the komrade who address this issue said, investigate before hs/she has the right to speak. Komrade Soso did well in the response and TTT should engage in "righteous" criticism not some back door attack on MIM(Prisons).

MIM(Prisons) must keep their energy on educating those who want to learn. Let's not waste energy on fictitious attacks. MIM(Prisons) has been doing revolutionary work for many many years and has proven results. As said, history will tell.

MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade that TTT demonstrates a petit-bourgeois political line, though we must be careful with our definitions of this term. We define the petit-bourgeoisie by their relations to the means of production, as an economic status, not just ideological principles. The fundamental point of debate with TTT is around the MIM(Prisons) scientific analysis of classes in imperialist countries, concluding that the vast majority of people in these countries are part of the petit-bourgeoisie. This is not because they have political views aligning with private property interests, but rather these views stem from their economic interests.

[Culture] [Economics] [First World Lumpen]

Hip Hop Serving the Middle Class

I want to comment on your article "Soulja Boy Dissed by Amerikan Rappers," featured in ULK22. Personally it is a grave disappointment to witness what hip hop has morphed into. We went from "Fuck da Police" and "Don't Believe da Hype" to "A Milli" and "Arab Money." Ironically the vast majority of the people that these modern day braggarts grew up around don't even have U.S. middle-class money, let alone "Arab Money."

Modern day hip hop artists seem unable and/or unwilling to move beyond this brag-about-my-wealth style of rap. Of course there's exceptions to this but in general there's no longer any social consciousness or depth to the lyrics of these mainstream hip hop artists. I'm no hater and I love to see people prosper and enjoy life but an album has to go beyond an artist detailing his or her good fortunes, to really have merit.

But pertaining specifically to the article, is it any real surprise that these artists ostracize an associate for something as simple as speaking his mind? The one main thing that the Black nation has been consistently good at throughout the years is attacking one another and embracing division, internal division.

Additionally all, or most of, the major hip hop artists are personally benefiting from the current system and establishment so naturally they stay in tune with it. They don't care that the overwhelming majority of people who look like them have been systematically discriminated against and oppressed from the very origin of this racist and corrupt country. The Hollywood set of the Black nation, which most of these hip hop artists integrate to, would sell their mothers and sisters for the crumbs their "massa" throws to them.

In part it goes all the way back to their forefather's house, which is Uncle Tom's cabin. A place where anybody who opposes "massa" is the enemy. And these descendants of Uncle Tom are the same today, they will go the extra mile, extra 1,000 miles, to protect their imperialists masters' interests; chiefly because they perceive some sort of shared interests and maybe even camaraderie.

Many people, even some in the underprivileged class, accept and embrace the glaring inconsistencies and contradictions which permeates U.$. society. They willfully embrace the lie that the establishment means good for them and the rest of the world, and when they're being pacified with their "Arab-Money" there's little chance they'll think any different.

MIM(Prisons) responds: While we share this comrade's dismay at the current state of politics from major hip hop artists, we don't see them as quite so isolated in their benefits from the current system. While the New Afrikan nation certainly faces ongoing national oppression within U.$. borders, they also enjoy the wealth of an imperialist country and can see that they are better off than the majority of the world's people. The vast majority of U.$. citizens, regardless of nation, are earning more than the value of their labor and are part of the labor aristocracy. So in a way, hip hop artists who speak about their good fortune, do represent something real to their audience, even if their level of wealth is unattainable for most of their listeners. And the shared interests with the imperialists are real: the wealth of the labor aristocracy is won from the exploitation of the Third World.

[Aztlan/Chicano] [Economics] [Theory] [ULK Issue 33]

Latino Patriot or Fascist?

It should be very disturbing when young Latinos from so-called "War Zones", and Texas urban centers — infested with drugs, gangs, prostitutes, pimps, young men from broken homes, raised by the State, in foster care, or juvenile prisons — can look you in the face and speak with prestige about U.$. political systems and social institutions, giving the impression of "legitimacy" when referring to U.$. democracy, freedom, justice, and "social mobility".

This past week the local news station for the San Antonio area aired a special report about a strengthening Mexican economy. The report talked about Mexican consumption reaching levels unprecedented in history, Mexican buying power, and this consumption being fed by U.$. products and production. It included images of bourgeoisified Mexicans holding up a sign with an image of a U.$. flag that said "Made In The USA". This report aired as President Obama visited Mexico and Centro America. One Latino patriot started singing "I'm proud to be an American, Where at least I know I'm free," sparking heated debate across the viewing area.

Another moment of patriotic sentiment was recently expressed when an article was published in the San Antonio Express Newspaper. Ex-State Representative, and self-proclaimed "Hispanic," Henry Cisneros (D) revealed a "philanthropic and humanitarian aid" initiative for the State of Chiapas in Mexico, backed by U.$. financiers. The article stressed the extreme poverty and economic woes of the region. Mr. Cisneros was quick to exaggerate a connection between his own ethnic roots and the City of San Antonio, Texas, as a backdrop for the plan expected to build "international bridges" and raise the living standards of Mexico's "wretched." These "Mexican-Americans" I'm surrounded by were quick to point out the article as an indicator of U.$. international efforts at "nation building," and how our political system here in the States allowed a "Mexican-American" to become a representative not only for the "raza" in Texas, but all the way in Chiapas. What the article didn't mention, and nobody seemed to notice, is that Chiapas is partly under "rebel control." The EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) and the Mexican Federal Government are engaged in low-intensity warfare for the land, hearts, and loyalty of the citizens of Chiapas and most of Southern Mexico. Could it be that Mr. Cisneros is being used as a Brown face for U.$. imperialism? Could the U.$. humanitarian aid be a cover for undermining the insurgents' efforts to gain legitimacy by building infrastructure inside the barricaded "rebel zones" in Chiapas? Wake up people!!!

The strongest argument these Patriots have is: if our living standards are raised, buying capacity strengthened, and struggles of life eased, what's the problem? If a "Mexican-American" can be elected into office, representing Latinos locally and internationally, what is so wrong with our political and economic systems? They say we need more [email protected] in office, and that we need to exercise our rights to vote, and take advantage of every opportunity available, before we point the finger hollering "oppression!" That's the attitude of these fools.

I owe my political development to MIM(Prisons), but I'm just not advanced enough in my understanding of capitalism and imperialism to effectively challenge these views raised when I criticize U.$. domestic and foreign relations. When i speak about communism as an alternative, the programming is reflected by smart remarks about oppressive regimes that sprang up after communists seized power in countries like Cuba, Korea, and Vietnam. China is referenced as a communist system in their minds. The word communism raises so many fears and scares folks away. I don't know how to raise arguments to fight all the negative stigma surrounding communism. I don't know how to effectively strike at the image of legitimacy and prestige seated deep in the consciousness of these herd-minded sheeple (sheep-people). Lumpen prisoners need to understand where their real long-term interests are at. It's not with the maintenance of the Empire, or replacing the conservative white politician with a liberal [email protected] Please help!

MIM(Prisons) responds: First let us quickly address the title to this comrade's essay, as many throw around the term fascist in their letters to us, but we print it here in line with our very specific definition of the term (see our Fascism and Contemporary Economics study pack for more background info).(1) As we will explore more deeply in our forthcoming book on the First World lumpen class, the combination of wealth in this country and the precariousness of the lumpen class makes for a potentially radical, but potentially pro-capitalist, pro-exploitation political base that would team up with the most brutal imperialists. It is for this reason that we take seriously the task of reconnecting the lower class of the oppressed nations with their radical anti-imperialist histories and interests.

Ultimately communists are educators. Some who read Marx mechanically will say that communism is inevitable, period. However, Marx's theory that communism would replace capitalism was based in the idea that the masses of people would, for the first time in hystory, gain a scientific understanding of society and how to guide it to meet their needs. This requires a conscious effort of people to study, understand and teach others. Without that we remain trapped at the whims of social forces beyond our control, determined by a powerful elite who only teach us to be good consumers.

In the imperialist countries this is not just a question of "waking up" or educating people, as there is an economic interest in maintaining the system that gives us all the material wealth that we enjoy at the expense of the Third World. So we are focused on building minority movements while splitting the unity of those who would oppose a transformation of society to a more just and sustainable mode of production. When we have people sitting in prison so twisted in the head that they are singing patriotic songs about Amerika "where at least I know I'm free," we know we have room to expand our influence.

The question of how to reach these potential allies is of utmost importance to us. One piece to addressing this is training our existing allies theoretically. The forthcoming book, [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, will give comrades an example of how to push Maoism in the context of Aztlán. This will be especially helpful for those narrow nationalists who won't listen to you tell them how great China was under socialism. However, we must also study Chinese socialism, because they accomplished things no other society has to date; Chinese socialism led the way up until 1976. A new bourgeoisie rose to power within the "Communist Party," which remains the name of the capitalist leaders who have led China down a disastrous road for the last 37 years. We have many good books on China and MIM Theory 4: A Spiral Trajectory, which takes a look at some of the other socialist experiments of the past.

Of course, most will not jump right into theoretical study, which is why our education work requires agitational work. It is up to those of us with the theoretical knowledge and understanding to translate the most pressing contradictions in our society into simple, stand-alone ideas that can be repeated over and over to the masses in a way that will resonate, build understanding and support. The mission of Under Lock & Key is to be an agitational tool among the prison masses. This is where we try to put forth our theory in short pieces that will make people think critically and act.

While the majority of the world has a clear interest in ending imperialism, in the United $tates we have to be more creative. We focus on prisons and other state repression that seriously threatens a minority of people in this country. For the oppressed nations we can also draw connections to their people's histories and how imperialism impacts those places as this comrade did with Chiapas. And for the majority of Amerikans who aren't affected by those things, we still have the destruction of the environment and the never-ending threat of war that are inherent contradictions within capitalism, easily remedied by ending the profit motive. As long as we are guided by the correct theory, we can try all sorts of agitational tactics and test them in the real world. It is through this practice, and sharing our experiences with each other, that we can learn what works best.

Note: Fascism is "a movement of mixed elements, dominantly petit-bourgeois, but also slum-proletarian and demoralized working class, financed and directed by finance-capital, by the big industrialists, landlords and financiers, to defeat the working-class revolution and smash the working-class organizations." R. Palme Dutt, Fascism and Social Revolution: How and Why Fascism Came to Power in Europe

[South Asia] [Economics] [Aztlan/Chicano]

Big Fat Elephant in the May Day Dialogue

maoist workers in the field
1 May 2013 - The so-called labor movement in the imperialist countries has long been limited in support and influence due to the overwhelmingly privileged conditions that most First Worlders live in. So in an attempt to seem relevant, and to perhaps mask their white nationalism, they proclaim "solidarity" with worker struggles across the world. In the worst cases, this "solidarity" actively works to mislead the struggle of the proletariat towards economism and tailing of First World development models. But even when it is just "solidarity" in words, it is used to defend the privilege of the exploiter populations in the First World. On this May Day, the featured interview on Democracy Now! epitomized this tendency.(1)

Charlie Kernaghan of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights was interviewed for a segment on the recent tragedy in Bangladesh and the labor struggle in general. Kernaghan informed us that 421 people are confirmed dead and another 1000 are still missing, meaning they are probably dead under the rubble of the factory that collapsed. He explained that the workers were not only threatened with no pay for the month, which would equal going hungry, but they faced the immediate threat of thugs with batons. As the recent fertilizer explosion in Texas showed, the profit motive under capitalism puts everyone's lives at risk. Still, there is a quantitative difference between being forced back into a dangerous situation with batons, and being unaware that it exists. The relative risk faced in the Third World is higher.

As MIM and others have shown elsewhere, there is a qualitative difference between First World wage earners in that they earn more than the value of their labor and are therefore exploiters, in contrast to the exploited proletariat.(2) The conversation around the Bangladesh tragedy degenerated into white nationalism when interviewer Amy Goodman began asking about what is to be done. After cheerleading for more protection of Amerikan wages, the guest began calling for trade barriers to goods from countries like Bangladesh until they can follow certain labor standards enforced by U.$. law. Such opposition to free trade organizes the exploiters at the expense of the exploited.

The elephant in the room became harder to ignore as the guest talked of workers making 21 cents an hour in the same breath as the immiseration of Amerikan workers. Yet, when Goodman began dancing around the wage question the guest responded:

"Well, like I said with the legislation, it's not our job to set wages around the world. That's up to the people in their individual countries. But what we can do is we can demand that if you want to bring the products into the United States, that these workers must have their legal rights."

How is it that we can enforce child labor laws, but when it comes to wages the Third World is suddenly on their own? How can you talk about international "labor solidarity" without talking about an international minimum wage? The idea is ridiculous and the only reason it happens is that the Amerikan labor leaders know that the average wage in the world is well below what they are already making. They want to keep earning more than their fair share, while putting up trade barriers for products produced by exploited labor.

We presume that the people of South Asia will not mistake people making $20k a year, and much more, as being part of the proletariat. But as we come closer to the heart of empire, the proletariat's class view becomes more and more skewed. There is no better example of this than in Aztlán today, where migrant workers see the vast wealth around them and the possibility of getting a piece of it. After the oppressed nations took over May Day in the United $tates seven years ago, the left-wing of white nationalism worked overtime to infuse this new proletarian movement in the belly of the beast with the line of the labor aristocracy.

Today, as the federal government claims to be close to enacting "immigration reform" that will amount to more Amerikan exceptionalism and favoritism, we favor the focus on reunification of families that some in Los Angeles called for on this May Day. This is an issue that ties in well with the national question, rather than economist demands for more access to exploiter-level wages. Reunification challenges the repressive border that keeps families apart, and keeps whole nations of people alienated from the wealth that they produce. As integration in the United $tates has advanced, challenging the border and fighting white nationalism, or better yet First Worldism, needs to be at the center of a progressive proletarian movement in Aztlán. These are the issues that really sparked the massive May Day rallies in 2006 in response to pro-Minutemen Amerika.(3) This is the spirit that we celebrate this May Day.

[Theory] [Economics] [International Communist Movement] [ULK Issue 32]

An Open Letter to Maoist and Revolutionary Organizations

communist unity through struggle
The Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons (MIM(Prisons)), a communist organization in the United $tates which formed out of the legacy of the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM), announces support for and echoes the urgency of the main ideas in the below statement from the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM). In particular, we recognize the importance of fighting First Worldism, which incorrectly identifies the petty bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries as a part of the international proletariat. First Worldism has played an important role in undermining the building of socialism worldwide. A correct class analysis is critical to all successful revolutionary movements.

MIM(Prisons) refrains from being an outright signatory of this statement because of what it leaves out. In this dialogue within the International Communist Movement (ICM), we would add that we do not see the legacy of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) as a positive one. As the original MIM pointed out over the many years since the formation of the RIM, it was always a force for revisionism rather than a force for revolution. Revolutionary parties seeking to re-establish the RIM should take heed of the mistakes that were inherent in the RIM design and political line from the start. There is no value in resurrecting a revisionist organization.

Further, we challenge our comrades in Maoist organizations around the world to examine closely what Mao wrote back in 1943 on the question of dissolving the International. We do not believe that conditions have changed since that time so that a new International will be a positive development. Instead we uphold the original MIM position that "The world's communist parties should compare notes and sign joint declarations, but there are no situations where a party should submit to international discipline through a world party. Where various Maoist parties from different nationalities have the same goal, they will then coordinate their actions in joint struggle. This will occur in the case of the united states when several nationalities come to exert joint dictatorship over it. Of course there will be some form of temporary organizational discipline at international conferences, but such discipline should not extend to what gets done in the various countries by the various Maoist parties."("Resolutions on Vanguard Organizing." 1995 MIM Congress.)

From the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement
[This letter has been co-signed by the Turkish group, İştirakî, and the pan-Indigenous web-project, Onkwehón:we Rising. To co-sign this important international document, email [email protected]]

A Letter to Maoist and Revolutionary Organizations

Recently the Communist Party of Italy (Maoist) called for the convening of an international meeting of Maoist organizations. This call comes some years after the RIM collapsed following the development of evident revisionism within two of its leading organizations, the RCP-USA and the UCPN.

Comrades! Let us carry out and celebrate the firm break with the revisionism emanating from the leadership of the RCP-USA and the UCPN. In doing so, let us reaffirm our defining points of unity based on the experience of class struggle and distilled into Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.

These include:

  1. All of history is the result of the development of the means of production and the struggle between classes over their ownership and use.
  2. Under capitalism, labor is utilized for the sake of profit. Capital is accumulated surplus labor turned against the masses of workers.
  3. That capitalist-imperialism entails the indirect and direct exploitation of the majority of people by dominant monopoly capital and reveals widening contradictions inherent in capitalism.
  4. The only alternative to the continued barbarism of imperialism is the struggle for socialism and communism. Broadly speaking, people's wars and united fronts are the most immediate, reliable means to struggle for communism.
  5. Socialism entails the forceful seizure of power by the proletariat. However, socialism is not the end of the struggle. Under socialism, the conditions exist for the development of a 'new bourgeoisie' which will seek to establish itself as a new ruling class. In order to counter this tendency, class struggle must be waged relentlessly under socialism through the development of communism.

These are points all Maoists can agree on. Yet these do not capture all significant features of today's world.

Comrades! A discourse and struggle over the nature of class under imperialism is sorely needed.

The Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement puts forward a line that includes the understanding that a majority section of the populations of imperialist countries are embourgeoisfied.

This embourgeoification often contours around national oppression cast in the history of colonialism and settler-colonialism. It is most wholly construed, however, as an ongoing global distinction between parasitic workers in imperialist core economies and exploited workers in the vast Third World periphery.

Though understandings of this split in the working class was popularized as the 'labor-aristocracy' by Lenin, the phenomenon itself was first noted by Friedrich Engels in a letter to Karl Marx:

"[T]he English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that the ultimate aim of this most bourgeois of all nations would appear to be the possession, alongside the bourgeoisie, of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat. In the case of a nation which exploits the entire world this is, of course, justified to some extent."

With some exceptions, Marxists have focused and debated primarily on the ideological effects of the controversial 'theory of the labor aristocracy.' Unfortunately, less attention has been paid to the economic dimensions of the 'labor aristocracy.'

Within the imperialist world-economy, First World workers (a minority of workers in the world) receive compensation which exceeds the monetary rate of the full value of labor. In effect, First World workers are a section of the petty-bourgeoisie due to the fact that they consume a greater portion of social labor than they concretely expend. This difference is made up with the super-exploitation of Third World workers. Because prices (including those of labor power) deviate from values, this allows First World firms to obtain profits at equivalent rates while still paying 'their' workers a wage above the full monetary rate of labor value. The First World workers' compensation above the monetary rate of the full labor value is also an investment, i.e., a structural means of by which surplus value is saturated and concentrated in the core at the expense of the periphery.

The structural elevation of First World workers also has strong implications for the struggle for communism.

One of the most dangerous and devastatingly popular misconceptions is that social and political reforms can raise the material standard of living for Third World workers up to the level enjoyed by First World workers.

The illusion that Third World peoples can 'catch up' with imperialist countries through various reforms is objectively aided by the common yet false First Worldist belief that First World workers are exploited as a class.

If, as the First Worldist line states, First Worlder workers have attained high wages through reformist class struggle and advanced technology, then Third World workers should be able to follow a similar route towards a capitalism modeled after 'advanced capitalist countries.' By claiming that a majority of First Worlders are exploited proletarians, First Worldism creates the illusion that all workers could create a similar deal for themselves without overturning capitalism. By obscuring the fundamental relationship between imperialist exploitation of Third World workers and embourgeoisfication of First World workers, First Worldism actually serves to hinder the tide of proletarian revolution internationally.

Another long-term implication of the global division of workers is the ecological consequences of the inflated petty-bourgeois lifestyles enjoyed by the world's richest 15-20%. First World workers currently consume and generate waste at a far greater rate than is ecologically sustainable. The First Worldist line, which effectively states First World workers should have even greater capacity to consume under a future socialism (that is, First Worldists believe First Worlders are entitled to an even greater share of social product than they currently receive), has obvious utopian qualities which can only misguide the proletariat over the long term.

It is safe to say that First Worldism is the root cause of the problems associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party-USA (RCP-USA) and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN).

The RCP-USA, desiring some positive significance to offset its terminal failure to organize what it sees as a U.S. proletariat, chose to intervene in various international issues. This typically occurred to the disservice of the proletarian struggle. Now the RCP-USA heavily promotes Bob Avakian and his 'New Synthesis.' This 'New Synthesis' is better described as an old bag of revisionisms. Today, the RCP-USA, Bob Avakian, and his revisionist 'New Synthesis' is a distraction from many of the important issues facing the international proletariat.

The UCPN has given up the path of global socialism and communism. It has instead sought to conciliate and collude with imperialism in hopes of achieving conditions for class-neutral development. It foolishly assumes monopoly capital will allow it [to] be anything but 'red' compradors or that Nepal will become anything other than a source of super-exploited labor. The UCPN has abrogated the task of constructing an independent economic base and socialist foreign policy. It has instead embarked hand-in-hand with monopoly capital on a path they wrongly believe will lead to progressive capitalist development.

Through the examples set forth by both the RCP-USA and the UCPN, it is evident how First Worldism corrupts even nominal Maoists into becoming promulgators of the most backwards revisionisms. The RCP-USA is deceptive and wrong in its claim that it is organizing a U.S. proletariat. In reality it wrecks the international communist movement for the sake of the U.S. petty-bourgeois masses. The UCPN, whose leadership falsely believes capitalist development will bring positive material effects for the masses of Nepal, has abandoned the struggle for socialism and communism. The RCP-USA claims to represent what it wrongly describes as an exploited U.S. proletariat. The UCPN takes great inspiration in the level of material wealth attained by what it wrongly assumes to be an exploited First World proletariat.

Comrades! Our analysis must start with the questions, "Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?" These questions must be answered foremost in the structural sense (i.e., how do groups fundamentally relate to the process of capital accumulation), secondly in the historical sense (i.e., what can history tell us about such class divisions and their implications for today), and lastly in a political sense, (i.e., given what we know about the complex nature of class structures of modern imperialism, how can we best organize class alliances so as to advance the revolutionary interests of the proletariat at large).

First Worldism is a fatal flaw. It is both a hegemonic narrative within the 'left' and a trademark of reformism, revisionism, and chauvinism. Unfortunately, First Worldism is all-too-common within international Maoism.

Comrades! The consistent struggle against First Worldism is an extension of the communist struggle against both social chauvinism and the theory of the productive forces. As such, it is the duty of all genuine Communists to struggle against First Worldism.

Comrades! First Worldism has already done enough damage to our forces internationally. Now is the time to struggle against First Worldism and decisively break with the errors of the past.

The importance of knowing "who are our enemies" and "who are our friends" never goes away. Instead, those who fail in these understandings are prone to wider deviations. Gone unchecked, First Worldism sets back the struggle for communism.

Comrades! We hope the topics of class under imperialism and the necessity of the struggle against First Worldism come up as specific points of future discussion within and between Maoist organizations. The raising of these questions and the firm refutation of First Worldism will mark a qualitative advance for international communism.

Death to imperialism!

Long live the victories of people's wars!

Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement

(Available in other languages)

[Economics] [Theory] [Principal Contradiction] [ULK Issue 32]

MIM(Prisons) Responds to Turning the Tide Continuing Misrepresentation

In the April 2013 issue of Turning the Tide (TTT), the editor, MN (who we assume is Michael Novick, the author of the original article in question), responded to a letter that a United Struggle from Within comrade wrote criticizing an article in the previous TTT issue which misrepresented the MIM political line in a critique of MIM(Prisons). The editor claims that they are happy that this article provoked quite a few responses and that they want to promote debate because "this is a contradiction among the people." This is a correct attitude, which unfortunately is not backed up by the TTT editor's response, which is embarrassing in its blatant misrepresentation and misinformation about the MIM line. It is very difficult to carry out debate to resolve contradictions among the people, if the people involved are not serious about political study.

The first critique the editor makes of the MIM line this time around is "in its staunch defense of the significance of the contradiction between oppressor and oppressed nations, and its doctrinaire reliance on its version of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, it petrifies all other contradictions and the flow of history." The MIM line in question, which MIM(Prisons) upholds, holds that the oppressor vs. oppressed nations contradiction is principal at this point in history, but not that it will always be so. And further, the MIM line puts much work into illuminating the gender and class contradictions. In fact, it has pushed forward the political understanding of class more than any other contemporary revolutionary organization by noting that the changing class nature of the imperialist country population has resulted in a primarily petty bourgeois population. The TTT editor writes about workers: "we have stakes and ties in the very system that oppresses and exploits us" a line s/he claims comes from Lenin, denying that anything might have changed since Lenin's day. On this point it is actually TTT that is dogmatic in its view of contradictions and the flow of history by refusing to study the true nature of the imperialist country working class.

The TTT editor goes on to misrepresent the MIM line writing " classifying all working people within the US as 'oppressor nation petty-bourgeois labor aristocrats' [MIM] disarms those who have the capacity to break both their chains and their identification with and links to the Empire." This is such a blatant mistake we have to assume TTT has not bothered to read any of the MIM theory on nation. MIM line is very clear that "oppressor nation petty-bourgeois" are just that: white nation people. There is also a sizable oppressed nation petty-bourgeois population within U.$. borders, and we see their class interest as tied with imperialism, but we identify their national interests as anti-imperialist. And this national contradiction is internal to imperialism.

Finally the TTT editor goes into some convolutions to try to explain how the majority of the U.$. population is exploited but maybe just not super-exploited because "no private employer hires a worker unless they're pretty damn sure the work that worker does will make the boss more money than the boss has to pay for the work." By this definition, we can assume that the top layers of management of huge corporations are exploited in their six figure salaries (or even 7 figure salaries!). TTT doesn't even attempt to make a scientific analysis of where to draw the line on who is exploited, and since MIM(Prisons) and MIM before us has done extensive work on this we will not bother to explain it again here. We refer serious readers to our publications on the labor aristocracy.

In the contortions to justify calling the Amerikan population exploited, the TTT editor asks "If the domestic population is totally bribed and benefiting from Empire to the exclusion of any contradiction" then why are gulags necessary? That's a fine straw-persyn argument, but it's not a line that MIM(Prisons) takes. We have written extensively about the role of prisons in the U.$. population as a tool of social control of the oppressed nations, highlighting internal contradictions that include nation among others. Again, it seems TTT has not bothered to read even the single-page description of MIM(Prisons) that we publish in every issue of Under Lock & Key.

The TTT editor concludes by asking a myriad of very good questions about nations and their inter-relations, all of which the MIM line has addressed in a consistent way, and for the most part a way that it seems the TTT editor would agree with, if s/he had bothered to read up on that line. The supposed rigid and dogmatic line of MIM/MIM(Prisons) is all in the heads of the TTT writers and editors who seem to think our line comes from just a few slogans. We agree that "Revolutionary strategy must be based on a concrete analysis of concrete conditions, not arbitrary, fixed categories, to determine friends and enemies." And we challenge TTT to take up this concrete analysis. Read our work on the labor aristocracy and on nations, and tell us specifically where you find our concrete analysis lacking or in error. We welcome such dialogue, but the revolutionary movement doesn't have time for slander and false accusations in the guise of political debate.

The last point we will make here is related to a letter TTT published in this same issue, from a prisoner who goes by "Ruin." Ruin wrote to say that s/he shares the TTT views about MIM(Prisons)'s ideological shortcomings and is upset because s/he was kicked out of our study group. We are happy that Ruin has found an organization with which s/he has unity. In fact in previous letters to h, where we pointed out our theoretical disagreements, we suggested other organizations that might be more closely aligned with h views. We run study groups for prisoners who want to work with MIM(Prisons) in both political study and organizing. We stand by the letter we sent to Ruin (which TTT printed) where we explain that it is not a good use of our time to include people in our advanced study groups who disagree with us on many fundamental issues. Ruin told us the first study group was a waste of h time, and that s/he doesn't agree with us on many things, so we're not even sure why Ruin would take issue with our decision that s/he should not continue into the advanced study group. We did not suggest that we would discontinue Ruin's free subscription to ULK or that we would stop responding to h letters, it was Ruin who chose to sever all ties and discussion with MIM(Prisons) after receiving our letter about the study group.

Criticism is hard to take, but it is something we in the revolutionary movement must handle in a direct manner, without letting persynal feelings get in the way. It is also important to know when two lines have diverged significantly enough that those lines should be in separate organizations. History will tell which political line is correct.

[MIM(Prisons)] [Economics] [ULK Issue 31]

Identifying the U.$. Lumpen Starts with Understanding the First World Petty Bourgeoisie

MIM(Prisons) is working on a book about the lumpen in the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates. The first chapter, which we are circulating in draft form for peer review, focuses on identifying the lumpen and calculating the size of this group within U.$. borders. Part of this identification first requires that we understand the definition of the lumpen as distinct from other classes.

The proletariat is the class exploited by the bourgeoisie, receiving less than the value of their labor, and basically with nothing to lose but their chains. Marxists include in the proletariat many unemployed people who constitute a reserve army of workers, available to replace proletarian workers if they become too slow, get sick, organize strikes, or otherwise displease the bourgeoisie. These unemployed help to keep wages low, and while temporarily unemployed, are still a part of the working class in the long term. The lumpenproletariat is the class of people that is permanently unemployed.

In a recent article, Nikolai Brown got into the calculation of how we define the proletariat in the United $tates. Brown calculated the total value of labor by dividing the number of working hours by the total value produced:

"In 2011, the global GDP was $69,110,000,000,000. The total population was estimated mid-year to be 7,021,836,029. Let us assume that half of people regularly work. In this case, each worker produces about $20,000 per year. This would be the value of labor. Furthermore, if we assume each worker works 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, the value of labor is $10 an hour."(1)

This is very relevant at a time when President Obama is promoting a raise in the federal minimum wage to $9/hour. Brown went on to emphasize the position of the majority of workers in the world: "As it stands, estimates of the global median income float between $1,250 and $1,700/year, $8,750- $8,300/year less than the estimated value of labor."

In a response to this article from ServethePeople, we find an important addition to these calculations:

"Bear in mind that not all of production can be distributed as personal income: much of it goes to the means of production, infrastructure, public works, waste, and other ends. If even half of production (probably a considerable overestimate) is available for distribution as personal income, then the value of labor, by the above calculation, is only $5 per hour. Even the minimum 'wage' in the imperialist countries is greater than that, so every last First World 'worker' is a parasite."

The point about distributing value produced is true whether we are talking about capitalism or socialism. The difference is not that the worker gets all the value they produce in their pocket, but that all the value they produce goes to serve the collective interests and not private profit.

MIM(Prisons) agrees with this calculation, and it informs our determination of who falls into the First World lumpen. We can see from this calculation that there is virtually no proletariat in the United $tates. Our goal is to separate out the very small proletariat and the large group of petty bourgeoisie people from the lumpen class.

[Economics] [Culture]

Book Review: The Economics of Integrity

Economics of Integrity
The Economics of Integrity
By Anna Bernasek
Harper Collins Publishers
NY (2010) 195pp

This book is a perfect example of a culture obsessed with subjectivism and idealist philosophies. The book demonstrates the lack of integrity of people (bankers, stock brokers, etc.), claiming that it was the main reason the economy crashed in 2008.

In the prologue we read: "my father, a native of Czechoslovakia, risked his life to escape from communism in 1949..."(p3) Here we go again with the vilifying of communism well past the "cold war." The author even points to the subjectivism and individualism mentioned above, saying "This book pays tribute to the spirit of this nation, a spirit of optimism and idealism."(p3) And no wonder, a nation that's imperialist would send the message to its parasites that there would be food for all, just wait till we steal it from Third World, poor, semi-colonial nations!

One would expect that with economics in it, some portion of this book would discuss political economy. Not the case here, but with vulgar economics the author separates the political from the economy, when in fact the two are intertwined. Instead we are told "to be true to that spirit [optimism and idealism], my focus isn't on what went wrong. I am not primarily concerned with scandals, fraud and cheating."(p5) Again, "the economy isn't some dirty game where all the players are only out for themselves, trying to make their names and their fortunes."(p5) Wow! A guest commentator on CNN, CNBC spewing this bullshit, shouldn't be a surprise anyway.

The author basically negates the whole point by saying she is not concerned on what went wrong. The problem is that the whole damn game (capitalism) is in for itself. With one company/corporation trying to maximize their profits how can they not be out for themselves? But with such phrases as "...integrity unlocks enormous opportunities for wealth creation..."(p5), and "It is shared assets that make us wealth."(p13), or "for without integrity, the economy would not function"(p13), we shouldn't expect much of an analysis.

The author goes on to propagate the notion that integrity prompts companies to profits, not exploitation. She gives examples like milk production, taking money out of an ATM, Toyota, LL Bean, and banks. Besides some interesting factoids about these corporations (Of the world's official gold holdings (March 2009), Amerika holds 27%, Germany 11%, IMF 11% (p67). The top 3 brands and their wealth is as follows 1) Coca-cola - 66,667 (U$) 2) IMB-59,031(U$) 3) Microsoft -59,007(U$) (2008 brand values (millions)) (p124).), the book is a joke.

What the author fails to realize is that integrity does not create wealth in itself. Surplus value is the source of wealth. Not from First World world workers but from Third World proletarians who are paid less than the value of their labor for their productive work. Hopefully the author can come to grips with classes and national oppression more easily than pseudo vulgarist economy. What this simply amounts to is an apology for the loss the parasites in the U.$. felt during the 2008 meltdown.