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[Prison Labor] [Economics] [Theory] [ULK Issue 37]

ULK37: Using Our Money Wisely

flower of socialism crushes money
In the richest country in the world, access to wealth and material goods can be a relative strength we have compared to most of the rest of the world, namely the global proletariat we aim to represent. We must consider what the best tactics are to leverage wealth to support our goals. Yet, we must not fetishize money or technology as panaceas to all our problems. We know people are decisive in social change. How we get money is mostly a tactical question. How we use it or campaign around financial issues is generally a strategic one.

We have at least one USW comrade in California who has been pushing the prison movement in that state to take up a boycott tactic to push the demands to end torture and group punishment. Prisoners in Virginia report of money taken from their accounts, decreased wages and have launched a fast to protest the extortion of Keefe Commissary. Also in this issue, Loco1 offers an alternative tactic on how to relate to commissary. And one comrade in Texas offers up a different sort of [url= tactic around medical co-pays that could help focus our resources.(see p.X)

We say these questions are tactical, meaning they will vary from time to time or place to place. One tactic may work well in one prison, or under certain conditions, which won't work well in another circumstance. There are strategic considerations which serve as general guidelines for all of us and can help us make our tactical decisions. One stratetic orientation we hold is to not fetishize money, and remember that the people must change the system. An example of how this strategic orientation helps us choose tactics is in deciding whether we should spend more time and energy raising money, or writing letters to prisoners and developing study groups. If we believed money were decisive, we would spend more time fundraising or working at bourgeois jobs to pad our "revolutionary" bank account.

The concept of the "almighty dollar" leads the consumer class that dominates this country to see consuming as their means of expressing their political beliefs, and their main tool for promoting the world they want to see. Consumer politics are very popular in our bourgeois society, and these boil down to individual/lifestyle politics. Vegans may feel better about themselves because they know their nutritional sustenance doesn't rely on the abuse and murder of any non-humyn animal. But veganism itself doesn't challenge the capitalist system that makes factory farming profitable in the first place. Capitalists don't care what industry their money is in so long as they are drawing a profit. And no matter how many "fair trade", "local" or "ethical" products one purchases, capitalism relies on humyn exploitation to function. We can't buy our way out of imperialism itself.

Boycotts can easily fall into the realm of individual/lifestyle politics. Without a strong political movement with clear demands at the head of a boycott (i.e. the campaign to divest from Israel), our consumption habits will do nothing to change the structural problems of imperialism. Boycotting the commissary as an individual is just like choosing veganism. It may make you feel better about the role you are directly playing, but it doesn't actually have an impact on the prison system. This is partially because your individual $40 per month is a drop in the bucket of the prison budget, and also because, like the capitalists, it's only a matter of policy change to ensure prisons are extorting the balance they desire from prisoners. If they can't get it from you via commissary, then they'll instill an exorbitant medical co-pay, or financial penalties for disciplinary infractions. If you keep your bank account empty to avoid these fees, they limit indigent envelopes and postage to limit your contact to the outside world.

That doesn't mean you should pour your money down the drain or that there is no use for money in our revolutionary movement. But we have to be realistic about the impact our money is making. Spending $40 on mail-order fiction books rather than at commissary has no real political impact. But sending $40 to MIM(Prisons) allows us to send ULK to forty subscribers. This money allows us to send study group mail to eighty participants! That's enough to cover an entire level 1 study group! Send us $40 twice and you can cover the printing and postage of a whole introductory study group, both levels. This is a good demonstration of the political impact money can have on our ability to build up people's political understanding, without worshiping money as the be all and end all of our political work.

Any reader of ULK should be familiar with our line on the inflated minimum wage in imperialist countries. In line with our criticism of lifestyle politics above, we don't say Amerikans should refuse to be paid more than $2.50 per hour as an act of solidarity with Third World workers. Instead we say revolutionary comrades should funnel as much money as they can into the anti-imperialist movement. Get raises and make bigger donations, but don't waste all your time in your bourgeois job!

Prisoners and migrant workers differ from the rest of this country in that there is a progressive aspect to their struggles for higher wages. The proletarians currently on hunger strike in an ICE detention center in Washington have pushed internationalist demands to the front of their struggle. While they ask for higher wages and better conditions in the private prison they are being held, their primary demand is an end to deportations from the United $tates. Facing deportation themselves, these prisoners have a different class perspective than the vast majority in this country.

In an article titled "Sending a Donation is Contraband" from ULK 25, a comrade relates being prevented from sending MIM(Prisons) a donation to the overall political repression and censorship by the prisoncrats. In a bizarre interpretation of California's mail policies, CDCR effectively and illegally prevented this subscriber from exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. Similarly, in the last issue of ULK, another comrade in California explains the direct connection between a stamp drive for the SF BayView, a New Afrikan nationalist newspaper, and the pigs' mass disallowing of stamps and increased terrorist activities in San Quentin State Prison. The state has an interest in preventing any growth of the anti-imperialist movement, no matter how small.

Naturally it is among the most oppressed that we find the greatest support for anti-imperialism. Thus, campaigns for a few more $0.49 stamps for indigent prisoners in Texas are of vital importance. Such a concern is unfathomable to the vast majority in the imperialist countries. Cutting postage stamps and radio service are not only tactics to further deteriorate the mental health of prisoners, but are also attempts at political repression under the thinly veiled guise of budget cuts. Here we see the oppressor using economic tactics to reach their political goals. While the material basis of what we're fighting for is in the people, we must be smart about finance and other material resources to end hunger, war and oppression as soon as possible.

[Economics] [ULK Issue 37]

Cap the Maximum Wage in the United $tates

In addition to minimum wage studies, what about maximum wages? I think when we raise the minimum wage in the U.S., we are really just inflating. Unless we cap each and every person in the top six-digit-plus earning categories, there will be no end to the misery. I won't go so far to say we cap every salary at $25,000, but I would cap at $98,000. And maybe put a Texas prison in Cambodia and Bangladesh, and send prisoners there who are caught saying "I'm bored" more than twice. "Sure you are!"

MIM(Prisons) responds: This writer is responding to the article in Under Lock & Key 36 "Raise the Minimum Wage to $2.50". In that article we point out that "The proposed minimum wage of $10 per hour would ... put the lowest paid Amerikans at 50 times the pay of the lowest paid Bangladeshi if we account for cost of living." And so our call for a global minimum wage is not in the material interests of the vast majority of people in First World countries. But it is strongly in the interests of the majority in the Third World.

A maximum wage is an important component to implementing a global minimum wage. We are fighting to close the dramatic difference in wealth between exploiters and exploited. Starting with a cap of $98,000 per person per year is quite generous to the exploiters. As we have explained previously, Amerikans are already in the richest 13% of the world. So if we re-distribute the wealth equally to all people of the world, we won't see anyone left with salaries of $98,000. But it's certainly a start to place any cap on maximum wages.

As for putting prisoners of the United $tates into Third World prisons, we strive to draw connections between U.$. prisoners and the Third World masses because of the extreme oppression they face. We do not wish to worsen those conditions. And while many come into prison with spoiled Amerikan perspectives, prisoners in the United $tates have legitimate complaints that must be prioritized strategically. It is critical that we keep an internationalist perspective in all of our work. When we fight to improve conditions for individuals in prison, we need to keep the privileged status of Amerikans in mind and always ask ourselves if the reforms we demand will harm others in order to benefit ourselves. Getting video games for prisoners, which are made from materials mined by brutalized proletarians in the Congo would be an obvious example.

Internationalism is fundamental to everything we do, and the economics of global imperialism is just one aspect of the global inequality of imperialism.

[Spanish] [Economics] [ULK Issue 37]

Aumentar el salario Mínimo a $2.50

Aun usando el PPP para ajustar salarios mínimos, todos los países en esta gráfica excepto México tienen salarios mínimos que están por lo menos un orden de magnitud más alto que esos en los países más pobres.

Recientemente la pequeña ciudad de SeaTac, Washington, pasó un voto de medida para aumentar el salario mínimo a $15 por hora. A lo ancho de Estados Unidos la Union de Trabajadores SEIU ha encabezado un esfuerzo para exigir $15 por hora para todos los trabajadores en restaurantes de comida rápida. En la huelga del 28 de Noviembre, 2013, organizadores dijeron que hubo demostraciones en más de 100 ciudades.(1)

En 2014 el salario mínimo aumentará en muchos estados. El liderato en el camino lo lleva Washington ($9.32) y Oregon ($9.10), con Nueva York dando el brinco más alto a $8.00 por hora. La ciudad de Nueva York fue el centro de los recientes protestantes que trabajan en comida rápida. Mientras tanto, los Demócratas en el Congreso tienen planes para un proyecto de ley este año que aumentará el salario mínimo federal de $7.25 a $10.10 por hora.(2)

Otro lugar donde luchas por un salario mínimo hicieron mucho ruido en 2013 fue la industria de prendas en Bangladesh. Como lo mencionamos en el último numero de Under Lock & Key, esos trabajadores tenían una victoria reciente en el salario mínimo que elevado de $38 a $68 por mes. En Camboya (Cambodia) a trabajadores de prendas se les ha prometido un aumento en el salario mínimo de $80 a $95 por mes. Insatisfechos, los trabajadores se han unido a recientes protestas en contra del régimen actual para exigir $160 por mes.(3)

Con semanas de 48 horas de trabajo, los trabajadores de prendas están ganando alrededor de $0.35 por hora en Bangladesh, y $0.42 en Camboya. Aun que no lo crea, estos son los trabajadores privilegiados quienes tienen protecciones especiales por trabajan para industrias exportadoras importantes. El Bangladesí común tiene un salario mínimo de $19 mensuales, lo cual es menos de 10 centavos por hora.

El propuesto salario mínimo de $10 por hora en Estados Unidos pondría a los amerikanos de paga mínima CIEN VECES más alto al ingreso de los trabajadores de paga mínima en Bangladesh. Por esto es que en el día de Mayo hicimos el llamado al movimiento de trabajadores blancos chauvinistas por evadir el asunto de un salario mínimo global.

Ahora, el primer chillido de nuestros críticos chauvinistas será "el costo de vivienda, se les olvido el costo de vivienda." Nuestra propuesta para un salario mínimo global altaría este salario a una canasta de mercadería. Significa que trabajadores en Estados Unidos y Bangladesh tendrían los recursos para estilos de vida comparables con su paga. Tal vez el amerikano agarra trigo donde el Bangladesí agarra arroz, por ejemplo. Pero el amerikano no agarra una SUV con gasolina ilimitada mientras que el Bangladesí agarra el autobús al y del trabajo. Para mantener este tipo de desigualdad el Bangladesí estaría subsidiando un nivel más alto de vida para el amerikano.

Passa que el Banco Mundial se ha llevado una apuñalada a esta calculación con su Poder de Compra Equivalente. Usando esta calculación, el salario mínimo en Bangladesh, el cual aparenta ser de $0.09 por hora es realmente un enorme $0.19 por hora.(4) Así que, debemos disculparnos con nuestros críticos. El propuesto salario mínimo de $10 por hora solo pondría al amerikano de paga mínima a 50 veces más que al de paga mínima en Bangladesh si consideramos el costo de vivienda.

Recientemente el New Afrikan Black Panther Party (prison chapter) (Partido Nuevo Afrikano Pantera Negra (División de la Prisión)), acusó nuestro movimiento de descartar la posibilidad de una organización revolucionaria en los Estados Unidos por que reconocimos los datos de arriba. Solo porque luchas por salarios más altos, y otras demandas económicas, son generalmente pro-imperialistas en este país no significa que no podamos organizarnos aquí. Pero el organizarse revolucionarimente no debe reunir a la burguesía menor por más dinero a expensas del proletariado global. Además, aun en los tempranos días del proletariado Ruso Lenin tuvo críticas de luchas que buscaban salarios más altos.

Mientras que expresamos dudas acerca de la estrategia electoral de Chokwe Lumumba en Jackson, Mississippi (ve ULK 33 en ingles), permanecemos optimista acerca del New Afrikan Liberation Movement (Movimiento de Liberación Nuevo Afrikano) y sus esfuerzos para movilizar a la multitud allí. El organizarse para economías cooperativas y auto-suficiencia es un acercamiento más neutral para movilizar los segmentos bajos de Nueva Afrika que el clamor del SEIU por más salarios por servicio improductivo de trabajo. Mientras que nuestras preocupaciones reposaban en sus habilidades para organizarse de una manera que fuera realmente independiente de los sistemas existentes, creando un poder doble, el SEIU mendigando por más botines de los imperialistas ni siquiera ofrece tal posibilidad. Para realmente dirigir los desigualdades en el mundo entonces, debemos últimamente llegar a entrar en conflicto con el sistema capitalista que crea y requiere esas desigualdades.

Un punto agitacional de los protestas de comida rápida ha sido que 52 por-ciento de las familias de los trabajadores de comida rápida de linea delantera necesitan apoyarse en programas de asistencia publica(1). Una de las razones de que esto es verdad es que la mayoría de los trabajadores de comida rápida no llegan a trabajar 48 o aun que sea 40 horas a la semana. Si le ponemos niños y otros dependientes en la mezcla y tenemos una pequeña, pero significante, clase baja en los Estados Unidos que lucha con cosas como comida, renta y cuentas de utilidad. La mayoría son padres solteros, mayormente madres solteras. Viviendas colectivas y estructuras económicas podrían (y lo hacen) servir a esta clase y pueden ofrecer un medio de movilización política. Los programas sirve a la gente y casas negras (viviendas colectivas) de las Panteras Negras son un modelo para este tipo de organización. Pero programas patrocinados-por-el-estado y el incremento general en riquezas desde los 1960s hace el distinguir este tipo de trabajo y el de trabajar con el imperialismo una tarea mas intimidante.

La campaña para un salario mínimo global tiene poca tracción entre los trabajadores de paga baja en los Estados Unidos, porque ellos no se benefician de esto. Esta es una campaña que tiene que ser liderado por el Tercer Mundo y empujada por medio de cuerpos internacionales como la Organización de Comercio Mundial (World Trade Organization). La apoyamos por razones agitaciones, pero no esperamos un apoyo masivo en este país. Nos permite pintar una linea entre esos que son verdaderos internacionalistas y aquellos que no lo son.(5)

Cualquier campaña que trabaje para los intereses económicos de la gente en los países imperialistas va a ser problemática porque el mejor trato económico será el unirse con los imperialistas, por lo menos en el futuro inmediato.

1. Jonathan Nack, Protest Rocks Oakland McDonalds - parte del día de acciones a lo largo de la nación. 5 de Diciembre, 2013.
2. Brian Tumulty, NY, otra docena que aumentan el salario mínimo en el 2014, 28 de Diciembre 2013.
3. 30,000 Camboyanos, trabajadores de prendas de vestir, se unen a las protestas anti-gubernamentales, 26 de Diciembre 2013.
4. Wikipedia
5. ¿Porqué $2.50? Algunas calculaciones rústicas hechas por compañeros han enseñado que una distribución igual de la riqueza pondría el salario alrededor de $5 por hora. Como estamos hablando de una reforma bajo el capitalismo no podemos tener una distribución igual completa o el motivo de la ganancia se iría y la economía dejaría de funcionar. Esta no es una reforma realista para exigir bajo el capitalismo. Ajustando el salario mínimo a $2.50 por hora le dejaría a los capitalistas del mundo la mitad del dinero (después de considerar la reinversión, infraestructura, etc.) para usarse como motivación económica. Por supuesto, después que derroquemos el imperialismo, bajo el socialismo tendremos la capacidad de igualar verdaderamente el salario globalmente conforme eliminamos la ganancia capitalista.

[Economics] [South Asia] [U.S. Imperialism] [New Afrika] [ULK Issue 36]

Raise the Minimum Wage to $2.50

minimum wages PPP in rich countries

Even using PPP to adjust minimum wages, all countries in this graphic
except for Mexico have minimum wages that are at least an order of
magnitude higher than those in the poorest countries.
Recently the small town of SeaTac, Washington passed a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Across the United $tates the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) labor union has led an effort to demand $15 per hour for all fast food workers. For a 28 November 2013 strike, organizers said that there were demonstrations in over 100 cities.(1)

In 2014 the minimum wage will be going up in many states. Leading the way are Washington($9.32) and Oregon($9.10), with New York making the biggest jump to $8.00 per hour. New York City was center to the recent fast food strikes. Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress have plans for a bill this year that would raise the federal minimum from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour.(2)

Another place that minimum wage struggles made a lot of noise in 2013 was the garment industry in Bangladesh. As we mentioned in the last issue of Under Lock & Key, those workers had a recent victory in the minimum wage being raised from $38 to $68 per month. In Cambodia, garment workers have been promised a raise in the minimum wage from $80 to $95 per month. Unsatisfied, the workers have joined recent protests against the current regime to demand $160 per month.(3)

With 48-hour work weeks, garment workers are making around $0.35 per hour in Bangladesh, and $0.42 in Cambodia. Believe it or not, these are the privileged workers who have special protections because they are in important export industries. The common Bangladeshi has a minimum wage of $19 per month, which is less than 10 cents an hour.

The proposed $10 per hour minimum in the United $tates would put the lowest paid Amerikans at ONE HUNDRED times the income of the lowest paid workers in Bangladesh. This is why on May Day we called out the chauvinist white worker movement for skirting the issue of a global minimum wage.

Now, the first cry of our chauvinist critics will be "cost of living, you forgot about cost of living." Our proposal for a global minimum wage would tie this wage to a basket of goods. That means the worker in the United $tates and the worker in Bangladesh can afford comparable lifestyles with their pay. Maybe the Amerikan gets wheat where the Bangladeshi gets rice, for example. But the Amerikan does not get a persynal SUV with unlimited gasoline, while the Bangladeshi gets bus fare to and from work. To maintain such inequality the Bangladeshi is subsidizing a higher standard of living for the Amerikan.

It happens that the World Bank has taken a stab at this calculation with their Purchasing Power Parity. Using this calculation, the minimum wage in Bangladesh, which appears to be $0.09 per hour, is really a whopping $0.19 per hour.(4) So, we must apologize to our critics. The proposed minimum wage of $10 per hour would only put the lowest paid Amerikans at 50 times the pay of the lowest paid Bangladeshi if we account for cost of living.

Recently the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) accused our movement of dismissing the possibility of revolutionary organzing in the United $tates because we acknowledge the facts above. Just because struggles for higher wages, and other economic demands, are generally pro-imperialist in this country does not mean that we cannot organize here. But revolutionary organizing must not rally the petty bourgeoisie for more money at the expense of the global proletariat. Besides, even in the earliest days of the Russian proletariat Lenin had criticisms of struggles for higher wages.

While we expressed doubts about Chokwe Lumumba's electoral strategy in Jackson, Mississippi, we remain optimistic about the New Afrikan Liberation Movement's efforts to mobilize the masses there. Organizing for cooperative economics and self-sufficiency is a more neutral approach to mobilizing the lower segments of New Afrika than the SEIU clamoring for more wages for unproductive service work. While our concerns rested in their ability to organize in a way that was really independent of the existing system, creating dual power, the SEIU's begging for more spoils from the imperialists does not even offer such a possibility. To really address the inequalities in the world though, we must ultimately come into conflict with the capitalist system that creates and requires those inequalities.

One agitational point of the fast food protests has been that 52 percent of the families of front-line fast food workers need to rely on public assistance programs.(1) One reason this is true is that most fast food workers do not get to work 48 or even 40 hours a week. Throw children and other dependents in the mix and you have a small, but significant, underclass in the United $tates that struggles with things like food, rent and utility bills. Most are single parents, mostly single mothers. Collective living and economic structures could (and do) serve this class and can offer a means of political mobilization. The Black Panthers' Serve the People programs and Black houses (collective living) are one model for such organizing. But state-sponsored programs and the general increase in wealth since the 1960s makes distinguishing such work from working with imperialism a more daunting task.

The campaign for a global minimum wage has little traction among the lower paid workers in the United $tates, because they do not stand to benefit from this. This is a campaign to be led by the Third World and pushed through international bodies such as the World Trade Organization. We support it for agitational reasons, but don't expect mass support in this country. It allows us to draw a line between those who are true internationalists and those who are not.(5)

Any campaign working for economic interests of people in the imperialist countries is going to be problematic because the best economic deal for them will require teaming up with the imperialists, at least for the forseeable future.

[USSR] [Europe] [Economics] [Ukraine] [ULK Issue 36]

Lenin Statue Toppled in Power Struggle in Ukraine

Ukranians smash Lenin statue in Kiev

Images of a statue of communist leader V.I. Lenin being torn down in Kiev have been celebrated in the Western press, as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians took to the streets to protest the current regime headed by president Viktor Yanukovych.

Much of the coverage of the recent protests in Ukraine condemn government corruption as the common complaint of the protestors, linking it to Ukraine's Soviet past. The association is that this is the legacy of communist rule. In contrast, we would argue that this corruption was the result of economic Liberalism taking hold in the former Soviet Union where bourgeois democracy was lacking. Today's protests are largely inspired by a desire for bourgeois democracy, and the perceived economic benefits it would provide over the current rule by a parasitic bourgeoisie with little interest in the national economy.

The rise of Kruschev to lead the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) after Stalin's death marked the victory of the capitalist roaders within the Communist Party, and the beginning of the era of social-imperialism for the Soviet Union. This lasted from 1956 until the dissolution of the Union in 1991, when Ukraine became an independent republic. The period was marked by moving away from a socialist economy structured around humyn need and towards a market economy guided by profit. This transformation was reflected in the ideology of the people who more and more looked towards the imperialist countries and their crass consumerism as something to aspire to. It also led those in power to have more interest in their local regions than in the prosperity of the Union as a whole.

Even under capitalism, the Soviet Union was more prosperous and more stable than after its dissolution. In 1991, an estimated three quarters of the Soviet people supported maintaining the Union, but the leadership had no motivation to do so.(1) A move towards strengthening the Union would awaken the proletarian interests, which were opposed to the interests of the leadership that was now a new bourgeoisie. Ukraine played a key role in initiating the dissolution of the USSR. And it was no coincidence that in Ukraine, in particular, the dissolution was an economic disaster as the former Soviet nations were tossed to the wolves of economic Liberalism. A small emerging capitalist class took advantage of fixed prices that were a legacy of the Soviet economy and sold cheaply obtained raw materials at market rates to other countries. They turned around and invested that capital outside in international markets while tightening monopolies on trade at home. This was one of the most drastic transfers of wealth from the hands of the producers to the hands of capitalists in recent decades.(2)

Ten years after the October Revolution of 1917, Stalin wrote, "the resultant dropping out of a vast country from the world system of capitalism could not but accelerate [the process of the decay and the dying of capitalism]".(3) The inverse of this is also true, to a degree: the reentry of many countries into the world system breathed life back into it. While this brought great change at the hands of the newly empowered national bourgeoisie in those countries, it did not change the fact that imperialism had already made capitalism an economically regressive system. Hence they did not develop the wealth of their nations as the rising bourgeoisie of centuries past had done by improving production and developing trade. Today's rising bourgeoisie restricts markets via monopolies, and heads straight for high-margin business like drugs, weapons and financial markets. What happened in the ex-Soviet countries is a good demonstration of why Libertarian ideals are not relevant in today's economy.

The underground economy had been growing for decades before 1991, and this new freedom to compete was a boon to the criminal organizations that existed. These mafias were on the ground with direct access to the resources of the people before the imperialists had time to fight over these newly opened economies. With rising nationalism in the republics, Russian imperialism had to keep its distance, while other imperialist countries had no base in the region to get established. The inter-imperialist rivalry over the region is playing out today.

In the early years of independence, the Ukrainian state merged with that criminal class that was taking advantage of the political and economic turmoil in the country.(4) As a result the GDP dropped to a mere third of what it was just before the Union dissolved.(5) This came after decades of declining economic growth after the initial shift away from socialist economics. The mafias in the former Soviet countries saw an opportunity to seize local power and wealth in their respective republics as the super power crumbled. Some were further enticed by Amerikan bribes, such as Russian President Boris Yeltsin's family who received billions of dollars.(6) For a time there was hope that these changes would improve economic conditions as the bourgeois Liberal mythology led the former Soviet peoples to believe that they could follow the advice (and political donations) of the United $tates.

This mess, which the region is still struggling with, was the ultimate result of what Mao Zedong said about the rise of a new bourgeoisie within the communist party after the seizure of state power due to their inherent privilege as directors of the state. A successful socialist project must combat these bourgeois tendencies at every turn in order to prevent the proletariat from suffering at the hands of a new bourgeois exploiting class. At the core of the Cultural Revolution was combating the theory of productive forces, which Mao had previously criticized the Soviet Union for implementing. The turn to the western imperialist countries as economic models was the logical conclusion of the theory of productive forces in the Soviet Union.

One of the messages underpinning today's protests in Ukraine is the desire to move closer to the European Union (EU), as opposed to the Russian sphere of influence. It seems that looking to the west for hope has only increased in Ukraine over the last couple decades. But there is no obvious advantage to becoming a client of imperialist Western Europe over imperialist Russia except for the higher concentration of super-profits in the EU. And as other newcomers to the EU can attest, the imperialist nations in Europe will oppose any perceived distribution of their super-profits to the east. Similar nationalism is fueling the Ukrainian protestors who oppose the perceived transfer of wealth from their country to Russia. In general, increased trade will help a country economically. But in this battle Russia and the EU are fighting to cut each other off from trading with Ukraine. As always, capitalism tends towards monopolies and imperialism depends on monopsonies.

It is little wonder that the masses would be unsatisfied living under the rule of corrupt autocrats. Yet, it was just 2004 when the U.$.-funded so-called "Orange Revolution" threw out a previous mafia boss named Leonid Kuchma.(7) This regime change gained support from those making similar demands to today's protestors, but it did not change the nature of the system as these protests demonstrate. And that orchestrated movement was no revolution. It was a mass protest, followed by a coup d'etat; something that the imperialists have been funding quite regularly in central Eurasia these days. A revolution involves the overthrow of a system and transformation to a new system, specifically a change in the economic system or what Marxists call the mode of production. We don't see any movement in this direction in Ukraine from where we are, as nationalism is being used as a carrier for bourgeois ideologies among the exploited people of Ukraine, just as Stalin warned against.

Rather than a revolutionary anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist movement, the criminal corruption in Ukraine has led to right-wing populism in recent years. This was marked by the surge of the Svoboda party into the parliament. The men who toppled the statue of Lenin and smashed it with sledge hammers waved Svodoba flags as they did so, indicating that they represented not just a vague anti-Russia sentiment, but a clear anti-socialist one.

Svodoba's populism challenges the current ruling bourgeois mafia, while their nationalism serves to divide the proletariat by inflaming various grudges in the region. This is in strong contrast to the revolutionary nationalism supported by Lenin and Stalin and by Maoists today. In a criticism of the provisional government prior to the October Revolution in 1917, Lenin wrote on Ukraine:

"We do not favour the existence of small states. We stand for the closest union of the workers of the world against 'their own' capitalists and those of all other countries. But for this union to be voluntary, the Russian worker, who does not for a moment trust the Russian or the Ukrainian bourgeoisie in anything, now stands for the right of the Ukrainians to secede, without imposing his friendship upon them, but striving to win their friendship by treating them as an equal, as an ally and brother in the struggle for socialism."(8)

This is a concise summary of the Bolshevik line on nationalism.

A Note on Class and Criminality

Without doing an in-depth class analysis of Ukraine, we can still generalize that it is a proletarian nation. Only 5.1% of households had incomes of more than US$15,000 in the year 2011.(9) That mark is close to the dividing line we'd use for exploiters vs. exploited internationally. Therefore we'd say that 95% of people in Ukraine have objective interests in ending imperialism. This serves as a reminder to our readers that we say the white nation in North Amerika is an oppressor nation, not the white race, which does not exist.

While official unemployment rates in Ukraine have been a modest 7 to 8% in recent years, the CIA Factbook reports that there are a large number of unregistered and underemployed workers not included in that calculation. That unquantified group is likely some combination of underground economy workers and lumpen proletariat. In 2011, the Ukrainian Prime Minister said that 40% of the domestic market was illegal,(10) that's about double the rate for the world overall.(11) On top of that, another 31% of the Ukrainian market was operating under limited taxes and regulations implemented in March 2005, which were put in place to reduce the massive black market. In other words, the underground economy was probably much bigger than 40% before these tax exemptions were put in place.

One way we have distinguished the lumpen is as a class that would benefit, whether they think so or not, from regular employment. This is true both for the lumpen-proletariat typical of today's Third World mega-slums, and the First World lumpen, even though "regular employment" means very different things in different countries. While there is a portion of the lumpen that could accurately be called the "criminal" lumpen because they make their living taking from others, we do not define the lumpen as those who engage in crime. Of course not, as the biggest criminals in the world are the imperialists, robbing and murdering millions globally.

For the lumpen, the path of crime is only one option; for the imperialists it defines their relationship to the rest of humynity. Crime happens to be the option most promoted for the lumpen by the corporate culture in the United $tates through music and television. And in chaotic situations like the former Soviet republics faced it may be the most immediately appealing option for many. But it is not the option that solves the problems faced by the lumpen as a class. Ukraine is a stark example of where that model might take us. As the lumpen proletariat grows in the Third World, and the First World lumpen threatens to follow suit in conditions of imperialist crisis, we push to unite the interests of those classes with the national liberation struggles of the oppressed nations that they come from. Only by liberating themselves from imperialism can those nations build economies that do not exclude people.

Among the bourgeoisie, there are few who are innocent of breaking the laws of their own class. But there are those who operate legitimate businesses and there are those who operate in the underground market. This legality has little bearing on their class interests. All national bourgeoisies support the capitalist system that they benefit from, though they will fight against the imperialist if their interests collide.

So there is no such thing as "the criminal class" because we define class by the group's relationship to production and distribution, and not to the legality of their livelihoods. And we should combat the influence of the bourgeois criminals on the lumpen who, on the whole, would be better served by an end to imperialism than by trying to follow in their footsteps.

While the Ukrainian people push for something more stable and beneficial to them, the Russian imperialists face off with the EU. The EU is backed by the United $tates who has publicly discussed sanctions against Ukraine justified by hypocritical condemnation of the Ukrainian government using police to attack peaceful protests. Hey John Kerry, the world still remembers the images of police brutality on Occupy Wall Street encampments.

The real story here may be in the inter-imperialist rivalry being fought out in the Ukrainian streets and parliament. While the Ukraine nation has an interest in ending imperialism, the dominant politics in that country do not reflect that interest. And one reason for that is the lasting effects of mistakes from the past, which still lead to subjective rejection of communism for many Ukrainians in the 21st century. This only further reiterates the importance of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the need to always put politics in command in building a socialist economy to prevent the future exploitation and suffering of the peoples of the world. This is likely a precursor to much more violent conflict over the rights to markets in the former Soviet republics. Violence can be prevented in the future by keeping the exploited masses organized on the road to socialism.

[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