Recent demonstrations in U.$. cities have claimed to represent "the 99%" opposed to the greed of the richest 1%. MIM(Prisons) supports a more equitable distribution of the world's resources. What most Amerikans don't realize is that a true redistribution of wealth would mean less for them as they are all part of the richest 13%.
In 1970 an action similar in form to Occupy Wall Street! (OWS!) occurred in response to the assassination of students at Kent State University. In response, a local union rampaged through the street beating the students and attacking state offices. Reflecting on this event, a radio host implied OWS! was evidence of progress, measured by the union support it has received.
The material conditions of the U.$. invasion of Vietnam forced Amerikan youth at that time to take a more progressive position than today, leading them to come at odds with white nationalist unions. The OWS! actions are even more within the realm of white nationalism than the so-called "Battle in Seattle" in 1999 where anarchists and environmentalists linked arms with unions to oppose the World Trade Organization. Only the likes of MIM and J. Sakai recognized the reactionary white nationalism that anti-WTO sentiments were being focused into within the Amerikan context. Yet, at least the anarchists had a healthy dose of internationalism motivating them back then.
With OWS! the principal cry is "defend the Amerikan middle class." While anarchists are attracted to the form (spokes councils and consensus open to "the people") the content is hopelessly white nationalist. It is the exact type of rhetoric that the social democrats of post-depression Europe spit that led to the rise of fascism in many countries.(1) When the privileged nations of the world feel their privilege is threatened they become uncharacteristically politicized in their demands for more. They attack the ultra-rich in order to create the illusion that they are poor in comparison. But facts are stubborn things, and the interests of Amerikans lead them to cry for the ultra-rich to defend Amerikan jobs and back the massive lines of credit they have taken out. Both demands are incompatible with the struggle for migrant rights, which has been in vogue among the white nationalist left in recent years.
MIM always said if real economic hard times hit the imperialist countries, we would see a rise of fascism more than an interest in Maoism. We say this not to instill fear and arouse emotions but to promote a realistic assessment of conditions. Amerikan youth are the ones who put their bodies on the line in Seattle and now in New York and elsewhere. Because of the decades of life they have ahead of them, young people have more interest than their parents in transforming this world to a more equitable one. But to do so they must see things for what they are and get behind the real forces for progressive change.
A popular story in the bourgeois press this week gave an interesting side-by-side comparison of the lumpen in the United $tates to the Third World proletariat. The story came on the heels of new repressive practices targeting Latinos in the state of Georgia with immigration laws beginning July 1 of this year. For fear of deportation and imprisonment, both of which restrict their ability to work, migrant labor crews made up of Mexicans and Guatemalans are steering clear of Georgia. As a result fruit is rotting in the fields.(1) The story exposes the extreme parasitism of this country that cannot even harvest its own food. Amerikans are so rich and spoiled that the labor market cannot fill jobs paying above minimum wage if the work is too hard. If the labor market were free and open the jobs would fill up instantly, but Amerikans oppose this vehemently as they cannot maintain exploiter-level incomes without closed borders. In these times of economic crisis many of these parasites would have you believe that they are "struggling to put food on the table." As they let food literally rot in the fields, we see that just is not true.
To solve the relative labor shortage, the governor of Georgia turned to the population that sits somewhere between the foreign-born and the Amerikan in terms of citizenship rights — prisoners and the formerly incarcerated. Generally defined as the permanently unemployed, excluded from what Marxism calls the "relations of production," the lumpen class includes most prisoners by definition. There is a degree of continuity between the lumpen on the street and the imprisoned lumpen, but many get out of prison to join the petty bourgeois class that dominates this country.
One article cites the Georgia Department of Corrections as claiming that unemployment for all probationers in the state is only 15%, but the Governor's office reports that it is 25%.(2) While much higher than the overall rate of 10% in Georgia, this is still lower than most estimates for young Black male unemployment, and therefore suspiciously low considering that most job applications in the United $tates require you to declare whether you have been imprisoned or convicted of a felony, and this information is used against the applicant. Just looking at the 25% number might suggest that 75% of Georgia probationers have a greater continuity with the (employed) petty bourgeoisie than with a lumpen underclass. Yet recidivism rates in this country over 50% indicate that many of the alleged 75% with jobs will not be staying in the workforce for long. The majority of parolees will not remain in the workforce, but will cycle in and out of jail, prison, rehab, hustling and short-term employment.
While many former prisoners of the United $tates will never live the Amerikan dream, their ideology reflects that culture more than that of the working people of the world. One farmer in Georgia did a side-by-side comparison with a crew of probationers and a crew of migrant laborers and the migrants picked almost 6 times as many cucumbers.(1) Apparently the probationers didn't even bring gloves, and we assume most had no experience with this type of work, so there was certainly room for improvement. But the whole crew didn't even last a full day before quitting. The reports are vague about how many probationers actually lasted more than one day of work, but it was evidently a minority in this small sample.
In response to recruitment efforts for these jobs among U.$. citizens, one Black womyn in Georgia was reported to say, “The only people that would even think about doing that are people who have nothing else left... An educated black person does not have time for that. They didn’t go to school to work on a farm, and they’re not going to do it.”(3) We call those "who have nothing else left" the proletariat, and those who "[don't] have time [for hard work]" a parasitic class living off the labor of the proletariat. By virtue of living in the United $tates alone, even the lumpen have access to many resources through the highly developed infrastructure in this country: welfare programs, religious and charity organizations, and just living off of the excess and waste of the general population. Overall they are not driven to take the hardest jobs, and U.$. capitalists must look to the Third World for labor, even for production that is tied to U.$. soil and therefore pays exploiter-level wages. (Legally the jobs start at the minimum wage of $7.25, while piecework incentives allow the fastest pickers to make $20 an hour at one cucumber farm.(1) Of course, when only migrants without papers are working and the press isn't around it is common for agricultural work to pay well below the legal minimum wage.)
During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR), in a country where a professor or shop owner was far poorer than the unemployed Amerikan, the Chinese had to actively combat the type of thinking epitomized in the petty-bourgeois womyn quoted above. Millions of petty-bourgeois Chinese went to the countryside to work and be re-educated. Many youth went happily, excited about building a new China, while many cried the whole time and went on to write books about it to explain to Amerikans why the GPCR was so horrible.
There are righteous reasons why a population of unemployed Blacks would be resistant to working at hard, lower-paying jobs while Amerikans around them are making much more for sitting around in air conditioning pushing paper, and we don't expect that to change under capitalism. That is why all U.$ citizens will require re-education to become productive members of society, from the poorest lumpen who despises working for the white man to the richest CEO whose income could support a large village.
On May 23, 2011, the U$ Supreme Court announced its decision issuing an order to the California government to release 48,000 prisoners from various California prisons. The Supreme Court's decision came after a long time demand to alleviate the prison crisis in the state of California. Many in CA maintain that the prisons there are overcrowded, also that taxpayers cannot afford the high cost of housing that many prisoners.
The Supreme Court did not allude to the multiple class action lawsuits, in CA and across the country, the prisoners, their families, and public filed in the Supreme Court as well as in federal courts across the USA, regarding wrongful imprisonments, political imprisonment to activists and whistle-blowers-on-corruption, and regarding over-sentencing on petty charges! In other words, the Supreme Court ignored the urgent need for judicial reform, to fight corruption in the judicial system, and law enforcement reform, to weed out corruption in the police force(s), across the USA.
The decision came about by votes: 5 justices in favor to 4 justices opposed, really as a convenience as CA ran out of money, and the feds too, with a national debt hitting the ceiling of $14.3 trillion! It wasn't to alleviate oppression and free the falsely imprisoned. In fact, neither CA judges nor the US-supreme Court's judges want to admit that there is anyone who is falsely imprisoned, due to retaliations, due to whistle blowing on corruption, or due to a 'trivial' reason. No one among judges, attorneys, or the media ever talks about corruption behind the prison crisis, anywhere across the USA! Judges and the media, across the board, pretend that the system is perfect; they presume that all the judges in the USA and the police officers are completely honest, upright, and perfect!
The US-Supreme Court did not respond to my/our class action lawsuit regarding Bill Richardson (former governor of NM) and his scheme with Joe Williams/GEO to establish the prison industry in NM and demonize the generations to perpetuate his scheme of profiting from prisons, along with GEO! The US Supreme Court did not respond to a more than 50 class action lawsuits, from all across the USA, with more than 200,000 litigants (prisoners, their families and tax payers) who passionately are asking for a judicial reform and law enforcement reform to weed out corruption, bribery, racketeering extortion(s), persecution of minorities, and the treasonous acts of false imprisonments. Instead, the SC acted on its own and announced its decision, to release the 48,000, without any detail as to who are those, who are qualified for the release.(see article on how population reduction is taking place)
For example, in our Class Action lawsuit, Public of the State of New Mexico vs. Bill Richardson, Joe Williams et al, we made it clear to justice John Roberts that our primary interest in the lawsuit is to indict and convict Bill Richardson for his multi-scheme of pay-to-play, or bribery, which includes the prison scheme with Joe Williams/GEO. Judge John Roberts didn't respond even though more than 100,000 litigants from NM passionately asked for the indictment and conviction of Bill Richardson due to his treasonous acts against public of the state of NM, and public of the USA in general. J. Roberts, as we believe, did not want to face any embarrassment before President Obama is shielding and protecting Bill Richardson, for some reason. So it is all about politics, not justice.
Our primary goal, also, in the above referenced class action lawsuit, is to release all the wrongfully imprisoned across the USA, in the following 3 categories: A. We are asking for releasing all the innocents/falsely imprisoned, first (there are hundreds and thousands of them, across the USA, despite the judges' denial of existence of such category of prisoners). B. We are asking for releasing all the political prisoners, who were imprisoned as a retaliation because they blew the whistle on corruption. C. We are asking for releasing all the prisoners whose charges are benign/trivial, then the non-violent offenders.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This prisoner calls out a good point, that the imperialist courts do not call for release of prisoners to address legitimate grievances, but only when finances make it impossible to hold more. However, we go much further than to call for release of prisoners in the three categories described above. We see that all prisoners in the Amerikan criminal injustice system are political prisoners. The entire system from the police to the courts to the prisons is political. And we need to put an end to the overall injustice, not just release a few prisoners.
[Leaders] realize that the success of the struggle presupposes clear objectives, a definite methodology and above all the need for the mass of the people to realize that their unorganized efforts can only be a temporary dynamic. You can hold out for three days — maybe even for three months — on the strength of the admixture of sheer resentment contained in the mass of the people; but you won't win a national war, you'll never overthrow the terrible enemy machine, and you won't change human beings if you forget to raise the standard of consciousness of the rank-and-file. Neither stubborn courage nor fine slogans are enough. - Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth, p. 136, chap. 2, paragraph 57.
Starting in Tunisia on December 17, and spreading across the region in January and February, the people of north Africa and the Middle East are taking to the streets to fight brutal dictatorships in their respective countries. Taken by surprise by the force and longevity of these protest movements, the various imperialist-backed regimes are working hard to come up with changes that will pacify the people without fundamentally changing the system. These just struggles of the people are primarily targeting the figureheads in government, but the real problem lies in the system itself and at this stage we are only seeing some shuffling of the leadership.
Protests are sweeping across the region as the people are emboldened and inspired by the actions and results of those in neighboring countries, even moving further south into other parts of Africa. As this article is being written, there are reports of people's uprisings in Bahrain, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria, Djibouti, Syria, Morocco and Jordan. In other parts of Africa, less visible in the media, popular revolts are also happening in Sudan, Gabon and Ethiopia.(1) Protesters are facing violent repression by the governments in most of these countries.
The response in the United $tates has been strong condemnation of Mubarak and other leaders targeted by protests (among those paying attention). Arabs may falsely look to Amerikans as friends in their current struggles. But where was this Amerikan "support" for the last thirty years as their country bank-rolled Mubarak with billions of dollars? In reality, their reaction is a sick reminder of what went down in Iraq. The same seething opposition to Mubarak was aimed at Saddam Hussein, resulting in the deaths of millions of Iraqis and the destruction of one of the most developed Arab countries. Iraq is just one example to demonstrate how Amerikan racism quickly lends itself to popular support for militarism, the savior of post-WWII U.$. global dominance.
Economics of the People's Struggles
There are many differences between these mostly Arabic-speaking countries, but the one common enemy of the people there is the enemy of the people throughout the world: imperialism. Capitalism is a system that is defined by the ownership of the means of production (factories, farms, etc.) by the wealthy few who we call the bourgeoisie, and who exploit the majority of the people (the workers, also called the proletariat) to generate profit for the owners. Imperialism is the global stage of capitalism where the territories of the world have been divided up and exploited for profit. Under imperialism, the economy in each country no longer operates independently, and what happens in one country has repercussions around the world. Because of this global interdependence, events in the Middle East and north Africa are very significant to the Amerikan and European capitalists, and are related to events in the global economy.
The question of real change hinges on whether the exploited countries that are now mobilizing stay within the U.$.-dominated economic structure, or whether they look to each other and turn their back on the exploiter nations. While militarily and politically controlled by the United $tates, their economic relationship to imperialism is dominated by the European Union who was responsible for 50% of trade for countries in the southern Mediterranean region in 1998. A mere 3% of their trade was with each other that year.(2) In 2009, these percentages had not changed, despite the lofty promises of the Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area to develop trade between Arab countries.(3) Tunisia, where the first spark was lit, had 78% of its exports and 72% of its imports with the European Union. Compare these numbers to the ASEAN and MERCOSUR regional trade groups, also made up of predominately Third World countries, which had about 25% of their trade internally.(4)
The problem with Europe dominating trade in the region is based in the theories of "unequal exchange" that lead trade between imperialist and exploited countries to be inherently exploitative. Part of this is because the north African countries mostly produce agricultural goods and textiles, which they trade for manufactured goods from Europe. The former are more susceptible to manipulations in commodities markets that, of course, are controlled by the imperialist finance capitalists. The latter are priced high enough to pay European wages, resulting in a transfer of surplus value from the north African nations to the European workers.
In order to develop industries for the European market, these countries have been forced to accept Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) from the various world banking systems (World Bank, International Monetary Fund). This has further tied the governments to imperialist interests over the years, as SAPs have many strings attached. The loans themselves, which are larger in this region than for the average Third World country (5), serve to transfer vast amounts of wealth from the debtor nations to the lender nations in the form of interest payments.
Countries in the Middle East and north Africa generally have greater relative wealth compared with Third World countries in the rest of Africa, Asia and Latin America. As a result the people in these countries enjoy higher levels of education, better health and fewer people living in poverty.(see World Bank, World Health Organization and CIA statistics) General trends since WWII are a growing middle class with an emigrant population that expanded and benefited from European reconstruction up to the 1980s. Since then immigration restrictions have increased in the European countries, particularly connected to "security" concerns after 9/11. The north African countries relate to the European Union similar to how Mexico does to the United $tates, but Mexico remains more economically independent by comparison. These uprisings are certainly connected to the growing population and the shrinking job market with slower migration to the EU.
Locally, there are economic differences within the region that are important as well. Other than the stick of oppressive regimes, some governments in the region have been able to use their oil revenues as a carrot to slow proletarian unity. Even so, extreme international debt, increasing unemployment with decreasing migration opportunities and the overall levels of poverty indicate that these countries are part of the global proletariat.
The recent economic crisis demonstrates the tenuous hold the governments of the Middle East and north African countries had on their people. Because imperialism is a global system with money, raw material and consumer goods produced and exchanged on a global market, economic crises happen on a global scale. The economic crisis of the past few years has affected the economy of this region with rising cost of living and increased unemployment rates. In particular food prices have reached unprecedented highs in the past few months.(6) One might think this would help the large agricultural sectors in these countries. However, food prices affect the Third World disproportionately because of the portion of their income spent on food and the form their food is consumed in. On top of this, all of these countries have come to import much of their cereal staples as their economies have been structured to produce for European consumption.
Reliable economic statistics are difficult to find for this region. Estimates of unemployment in any country can range from under 10% up to 40% and even higher, and there is similar variability in estimates of the portion of the population living below the poverty level. But all agree that both unemployment and poverty have been on the rise in the past two years. We suspect this trend dates back further with the decrease in migration opportunities mentioned above.
In Egypt about two-thirds of the population is under age 30 and more than 85% of these youth are unemployed. About 40% of Egypt's population lives on less than $2 a day.(7)
The middle class in these countries, who enjoy some economic advantages, are sliding further into poverty. This group is particularly large in Tunisia and Egypt compared to many other countries in the region.(8) In Egypt the middle class increased from 10% to 30% of the population in the second half of the 20th century, with half of those people being "upper" middle class.(9) This class has been closely linked to the rise of NGOs encouraged by the European-led Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area. They know that it is possible for them to have a better standard of living and enjoy more political freedom without a complete overthrow of the capitalist system. And so we saw many of the leaders and participants in the recent protests demand better conditions for themselves, but generally leave out the demands of the proletariat.
In fact, some middle class leaders, like Wael Ghonim (an Egyptian Google employee who was a vocal leader in the fight against Mubarak), are calling for striking workers to go back to work now that Mubarak has stepped down, effectively opposing the demands and struggles of the Egyptian proletariat. Without the leadership of the proletariat, who have never had significant benefits from imperialism, these protests end up representing middle class demands to shuffle the capitalist deck and put another imperialist-lackey government in place. The result might be a slight improvement in middle class conditions but the proletariat ends up right back where they started.
In Tunisia and Egypt, where the uprisings started, the leadership and many of the activists were from the educated middle class youth.(10) In Tunisia people were inspired to act after the suicide of Mohammed Bouazizi, an impoverished young vegetable street seller supporting an extended family of eight. He set himself on fire in a public place on December 17 after the police confiscated his produce because he would not pay a bribe. Like many youth in Tunisia, Bouazizi was unable to find a job after school. He completed the equivalent of Amerikan high school, but there are many Tunisian youth who graduate from college and are still unable to find work.
The relative calm in the heavy oil producing region that includes Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman and Qatar underscores the key role of economics and class in these events. These countries enjoy a much higher economic level than the rest of the region, as a direct result of the consumerist First World's dependence on their natural resources. Only Libya joins these countries in having a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita above $5000, while all others in the region are below that level.(11) That's compared to a GNI in the U.$ of $46,730.(12)
One economic factor that has not made the news much and which does not seem to be a focus of the protesters so far, is the importing of foreign labor to do the worst jobs in the wealthy oil-producing countries. In the Gulf Cooperation Council (consisting of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and the Sultanate of Oman) there are an estimated 10 million foreign workers and 3 million of their family members living in these countries.(13) This was used as a carrot to the proletariat who were losing opportunities to work in the European Union. Egypt in particular encouraged this emigration of workers.
Revolutions or Unrest?
To belittle the just struggles of people around the world, typical imperialist media is referring to the recent uprisings as "unrest," as if the people just need to be calmed down to bring things back to normal. On the other side, many protesters and their supporters are calling these movements revolutions. For communists, the label "revolution" is used to describe movements fighting for fundamental change in the economic structure. In the world today, that means fighting to overthrow imperialism and for the establishment of socialism so that we can implement a system where the people control the means of production, taking that power and wealth out of the hands of just a few people.
The global system of imperialism puts the nations of the Middle East and north Africa on the side of the oppressed. These nations have comprador leaders running their governments, who get rich by working for imperialist masters. Yet these struggles are very focused on the governments in power in each country without making these broader connections. Until the people make a break with imperialist control, changes in local governments won't lead to liberation of the people.
Further, we have heard much from both organizers and the press about social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) as a tool of the revolution. These tools are celebrated as a replacement for leadership. It is true that the internet is a useful tool for sharing information and organizing, and decentralization makes it harder to repress a movement. But the lack of ideological unity leads to the lowest common denominator, and very few real demands from the people. No doubt "Mubarak out" is not all the Egyptian people can rally around, but without centralized leadership it is hard for the people to come together to generate other demands.
Related to the use of social media, it is worth underscoring the value of information that came from Wikileaks to help galvanize the people to action in these countries; the corruption and opulence of the leaders described in cables leaked at the end of 2010 no doubt helped inspire the struggles.(14)
Egypt provides a good example of why we would not call these protest movements "revolutions." The Egyptian people forced President Mubarak out of the country, but accepted his replacement with the Supreme Council of the Military - essentially one military dictatorship was replaced by another. One of the key members of this Council is Sueliman, the CIA point man in the country and head of the Egyptian general intelligence service. He ran secret prisons for the United $tates and persynally participated in the torturing of those prisoners.
Tunisia is also a good example of the lack of fundamental revolutionary change. Tunisia's president of 23 years, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, stepped down on January 14 and fled to Saudi Arabia. But members of Ben Ali's corrupt party remained in positions of power throughout the government and protests continue.
In State and Revolution Lenin wrote that the revolution must set a goal "not of improving the state machine, but of smashing and destroying it." The protests and peoples' struggles in the Middle East and Africa reinforce the importance of this message as we see the sacrifice of life in so many countries resulting in only cosmetic changes in governments.
What is the United $tates interest?
The United $tates is the biggest imperialist power in the world today; it controls the largest number and most wealth-producing territories in the world. Just as the economic crises of imperialism affect the rest of the world, political uprisings around the world affect the United $tates. The capitalist corporations who have factories and investments in this region have a strong financial interest in stability and a government that will allow them to continue to exploit the resources and labor. And with capitalism's constant need to expand, any shrinking of the imperialist sphere of influence will help trigger future crises faster.
The Amerikan military interest in this region relies on having some strong puppet governments as allies to defend the interests of Amerikan imperialism and hold off the independent aspirations of the regional capitalists. This includes managing the planet's largest oil reserves, which is important for U.$. control of the European Union, and defending their #1 lackey - Israel.
Tunisia is a long-standing ally of the United $tates, cooperating with Amerikan "anti-terrorism" to maintain Amerikan imperialist power in the region. Other imperialist powers also have a strong interest in the dictatorships in Tunisia including France whose government shipped tear gas grenades to Tunis on January 12 to help Ben Ali fight the protesters.(15)
Bahrain is a close U.$. ally, home to the U.$. Navy's Fifth Fleet.(16)
Egypt has been second only to Israel in the amount of U.$. aid it gets since 1979, at about $2 billion a year. The majority of this money, about $1.3 billion a year, goes to the Egyptian military.(17) Further, the United $tates trains the Egyptian military each year in combined military exercises and deployments of U.$. troops to Egypt.(18) So for Amerika, the Supreme Council of the Military taking power in Egypt is a perfectly acceptable "change." To shore up the new regime and its relationship with the United $tates, Secretary of State Clinton announced on February 18 that the United $tates would give $150 million in aid to Egypt to help with economic problems and "ensure an orderly, democratic transition." In exchange, the Council has already pledged to uphold the 1979 peace accords with Israel. Prior to 1979, much of the Arab world was engaged in long periods of wars with the settler state.
United $tates aid to countries in this region is centered around Israel. The countries closest geographically to Israel are the biggest recipients of Amerikan money, a good way to keep control of the area surrounding the biggest Amerikan ally. In addition to Egypt and Israel, Jordan ($843 million) and Lebanon ($238 million) received sizable economic and military aid packages in 2010.(19) Compared to these numbers, "aid" to the rest of the region is significantly smaller with notable recipients including Yemen ($67M), Morocco ($35M), Bahrain ($21M) and Tunisia ($19M). The United $tates gives "aid" in exchange for economic, military and political influence.
Is Wisconsin the Amerikan Tunisia?
The global economic crisis clearly affects imperialist countries like the United $tates just like it does other countries of the world, but we don't see the people in this country rising up to take over Washington, DC and demanding a change in government. Like the Middle East, the youth of Amerika are having a harder time finding jobs after graduation from college. But unlike their counterparts in the Middle East, Amerikan youth and their families do not face starvation when this happens.
Some people are drawing comparisons between the widespread protests by labor unions in Wisconsin and the events in Tunisia and Egypt. These events do give us a good basis for comparison to underscore the differences between imperialist countries and the Third World. Amerikan wealth is so much greater than the rest of the world (U.$. GDP per capita = $46,436); even compared to oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia (GDP = $24,200). GDP does not account for the distribution of wealth, but in the United $tates the median household income in 2008 was $52,029. This number is not inflated by the extreme wealth of a few individuals, it represents the middle point in income for households in this country.
On the surface, unemployment statistics for the United $tates appear similar to some numbers for countries in the Middle East and north Africa. In 2008, 13.2% of the population was unemployed in the United $tates based on the latest census data.(20) However, with income levels so much higher in Amerika, unemployment doesn't mean an immediate plunge into poverty and starvation. For youth in this country, there is the safety net of moving back in with parents if there is no immediate post-college job.
Similarly, U.$. poverty statistics appear quite high, comparable to rates in the Middle East and north Africa, at 14.3% in 2009. But this poverty rate uses chauvinistic standards of poverty for Amerikans. The U.$. census bureau puts the poverty level of a single individual with no dependents at $11,161.(21) Much higher than the statistics that look at the portion of the population living at $2 or $1.25 per day (adjusted for differences in purchasing power). Wisconsin public teachers average salaries of about $48k per year.
The Leading Light Communist Organization produced some clear economic comparisons between Egypt and the U.$.: "The bottom 90% of income earners in Egypt make only half as much (roughly $5,000 USD annually) as the bottom 10% of income earners in the U.$. (roughly [$]10,000), per capita distribution. Depending on the figures used, an egalitarian distribution of the global social product is anywhere between $6,000 and $11,000 per capita annually. This does not even account for other inequalities between an exploiter country and an exploited country, such as infrastructure, housing, productive forces, quality and diversity of consumer goods, etc."(22)
In the United $tates it is possible for the elite to enjoy their millionaire lifestyles while the majority of the workers are kept in relative luxury with salaries that exceed the value of their labor. This is possible because other countries, like those in the Middle East and Africa, are supplying the exploited workforce that generates profits to be brought home and shared with Amerikan workers. Even Amerikan workers who are unemployed and struggling to pay bills are not rallying for an end to the economic system of capitalism. They are just demanding more corporate taxes and less CEO bonuses. In other words they want a bigger piece of the imperialist pie: money that comes at the expense of the Third World workers. These same Amerikan workers rally behind their government in wars of aggression around the world, overwhelmingly supporting the fight against the Al-Qaeda boogeyman in Arab clothing.
Down with Amerikanism, Long Live Pan-Arabism
Whether in Madison or Cairo, signs implying that Wisconsin is the Tunisia of north Amerika are examples of what we call "false internationalism" on both sides of the divide between rich and poor nations. Combating false internationalism, which is inherent in any pro-Amerikanism in the Third World, is part of the fight against revisionism in general.
What no one can deny is the connection between the mass mobilizations across the Arab world. That this represents a reawakening of pan-Arabism is both clear and promising for the anti-imperialist struggle. Even non-Arab groups in north Africa that have felt marginalized will benefit from the greater internationalist consciousness and inherent anti-imperialism with an Arabic-speaking world united against First World exploitation and interference.
Of course, Palestine also stands to benefit from these movements. The colonial dominance of Palestine has long been a lightning rod issue for the Arab world, that only the U.$. puppet regimes (particularly in Egypt) have been able to repress.
Everyone wants to know what's next. While the media can create hype about the "successful revolutions" in Tunisia and Egypt, this is just the beginning if there is to be any real change. Regional unity needs to lead to more economic cooperation and self-sufficiency and to unlink the economies of the Arab countries from U.$. and European imperialism. Without that, the wealth continues to flow out of the region to the First World.
As Frantz Fanon discussed extensively in writing about colonial Algeria, the spontaneous violence of the masses must be transformed into an organized, conscious, national violence to rid the colony of the colonizer. Unfortunately, his vision was not realized in the revolutionary upsurge that he lived through in north Africa and neo-colonialism became the rule across the continent. Today, the masses know that imperialism in Brown/Black face is no better. As fast as the protests spread, they must continue to spread to the masses of the Arab world before we will see an independent and self-determined people.
This is a response to the article "PART's Perspective: The Missing Ingredient" by Michael Novick in the Jan-March 2011 issue of Turning the Tide - Journal of the Anti-Racist Action Research & Education.
The article begins by asking the question, "What is the recipe for a revolutionary transformation of this society?" and then goes on to cite a litany of "evidence" for its need including melting glaciers, massive high school drop out rates, declining housing market and other social-economic problems.
The author then asks, speaking about these obvious problems and oppressive realities faced by the people on a daily basis, "...if the evidence is so clear, why is the population so docile?...what happened, in the US, to the in-the-streets anti-war movement, or the anti-globalization movement before it?"
The answer to these questions is clear when we do a revolutionary analysis of class society: the so-called "working-class" in the United $tates has been bought off by the capitalist class and become a labor aristocracy, especially the white working class. This class has absolutely no material interest in revolution. In fact, before they would join the anti-imperialist movement, we'll see them in fascist revolution. That's what the Tea Party and neo-confederates represent.
Without a doubt or contradiction, since the election of the neo-colonial President Obama, there has been an increase in hate crimes and membership in neo-nazi organizations. However, these must be challenged with counter-forces equal to or stronger than theirs. And, this can't be done by appeals to moralism, focoism or adventurism, but by organizing the people on a realistic basis to confront this problem with strength, intelligence and diligence, lest we fool ourselves: again!
The only people who truly have a material interest in revolutionizing this society are prisoners, undocumented workers and the youth (who'll be called upon in later years to fight, kill and die for imperialism or who will suffer from a fucked up environment.) These forces must unite with the international proletariat in the Third World who face the worst of imperialism on a daily basis. In our current situation the principal political task is organizing of the oppressed around a solid political line in order to build and construct our own independent institutions.
While the overall meaning behind "The Missing Ingredient" is progressive and agitational, it seems to me that the author was trying to moralize to the very social parasites who benefit so greatly from imperialism. Rest assured that they recognize their privileged status in relation to the rest of the world and are not gonna give it up without a bloody fight.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this assessment of Michael Novick's article. Like the revolutionary bourgeois nationalists, Anti-Racist Action has a similar historical assessment of U.$. imperialism to Maoism, leading to a strong criticism of settlers, and privileged white people. And while their recognition of the need for self-determination of internal semi-colonies makes them worthy allies, they too end up dreaming of a Socialist Republic of North America based in bridging the divide of class unity with white workers.
This comrade's warning should not be taken lightly. As imperialist crisis is likely to worsen in the near future, these wavering allies will want more and more to see a revolutionary upsurge in the richest, most reactionary nation on the planet. Instead, we must follow the example of the Third International in World War II, who ditched the "social-fascists" who wavered in the face of war and crisis. Drawing hard lines on who are our friends and who are our enemies is a question of life and death for countless people in the future.
Defying the Tomb: Selected Prison Writings and Art of Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, Featuring Exchanges with an Outlaw by Kevin "Rashid" Johnson, Minister of Defense, New Afrikan Black Panther Party- Prison Chapter December 2010 Kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
also available from: AK Press 674-A 23rd Street Oakland, CA 94612
This book centers around the political dialogue between two revolutionary New Afrikan prisoners. The content is very familiar to MIM(Prisons) and will be to our readers. It is well-written, concise and mostly correct. Therefore it is well worth studying.
Rashid's book is also worth studying alongside this review to better distinguish the revisionist line of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC) with the MIM line. While claiming to represent a dialectal materialist assessment of the world we live in, the camp that includes the NABPP-PC, and Tom Big Warrior's (TBW) Red Heart Warrior Society have dogmatically stuck to positions on the oppression and exploitation of Amerikans that have no basis in reality. We will take some space to address this question at the end, as it has not been thoroughly addressed in public to our knowledge.
Both Rashid and Outlaw preface their letters with their own autobiographies. Rashid's in particular is an impressive, almost idealized story of lumpen turned proletarian revolutionary. The simple principle that guides him through prison life is standing up to the pigs every time they violate a prisoner. At times he has inspired those around him to the point that the pigs can't get away with anything. The problem, he later points out, is the others are inspired by him as an individual. So when he was moved, or sent to a control unit, their unity crumbled.
At first, control units seemed an effective tool to control his resistance. But it is then that he found revolutionary theory. Rather than stay focused on combating minor behavior issues of the COs, he began to learn about societies that didn't have cops and prisons, and societies where the people rose up to transform the whole economic system. It is through ideology that you can build lasting unity that can't be destroyed by transfers and censorship.
Both Rashid and Outlaw conclude their autobiographies saying they have nothing to lose. They are two examples of the extreme repression felt by the lumpen of the oppressed nations. As a result, state terrorism no longer works to intimidate them, leaving them free to serve the people.
Democratically Centralized Organizing
In the foreword, Russell "Maroon" Shoats says his reason for not joining the NABPP-PC was that it claimed to operate under democratic centralism, which he believes is impossible for prisoners. We agree with his assessment, which is why we do not invite prisoners to join MIM(Prisons) even when their work and ideological development would otherwise warrant it. The benefits of having a tight cadre organization are lost when its inner workings are wide open to the pigs. Maroon points out that certain leaders will end up with absolute power (with the pigs determining who leads, we might add), and much resources are wasted just trying to maintain the group.
For the most part, there is nothing a comrade could do within prison as a member of MIM(Prisons) that they can't do as a member of USW. There is much work to be done to develop this mass organization, and we need experienced and ideologically trained comrades to lead it. When the situation develops to the point of having local cadre level organizations within a prison, then we would promote the cell structure, where democratic centralism can occur at a local level, just as we do on the outside.
In the last essay of the book, Rashid finally answers Maroon by saying that the NABPP-PC is a pre-party that will become real (along with its democratic centralism) outside of prisons.
The Original Black Panther Party
The main criticism of the original Black Panther Party (BPP) in Rashid's essay on organizational structure is their failure to distinguish between the vanguard party and the mass organization. Connected to this was a failure to practice democratic centralism. How could they when they were signing up members fresh off the street? These new recruits shouldn't have the same say as Huey Newton, but neither should Huey Newton alone dictate what the party does. We agree with Rashid that the weakness of the BPP came from these internal contradictions, which allowed the FBI to destroy it so quickly.(p. 353)
It's not clear how this assessment relates to an earlier section where he implies that an armed mass base and better counterintelligence would have protected the BPP. Rashid criticizes MIM's line, as he sees it, that a Black revolutionary party cannot operate above ground in the United $tates today.(p. 133) Inexplicably, 15 pages later he seems to agree with MIM by stating that Farrakhan would have to go underground or be killed the next day if he opposed capitalism and promoted real New Afrikan independence.
He also criticizes MIM on armed struggle and their assessment of George Jackson's foco theory. Mao applied Sun Tzu's Art of War to the imperialist countries to say that revolutionaries should not engage in armed struggle until their governments are truly helpless. Rashid says that he agrees with MIM's criticism of the Cuban model that lacked a mass base for revolution. But he supports George Jackson's "variant of urban-based focos, emphasiz[ing] that a principal purpose of revolutionary armed struggle is to not only destroy the enemy's forces, but to protect the political work and workers…"(p.134) He goes on to criticize MIM for a "let's wait" line that ends up promoting a bloodless revolution in his view.
He complains that the U.$. military was already overextended (in 2004) and MIM was "still just talking." But Mao defined the point to switch strategies as when "the bourgeoisie becomes really helpless, [and] the majority of the proletariat are determined to rise in arms and fight…" MIM(Prisons) agrees with Mao's military strategy, and one would have to be in a dream world to imply that either of these conditions have been reached, despite the level of U.$. military involvement abroad. Rashid is saying that we need armed struggle regardless of conditions to defend our political wing. Despite his successes with using force to defend the masses in prison, we do not think this translates to conditions in general society. Guerrilla theory that tells us to only fight battles we know we can win also says not to take up defensive positions around targets that we can't defend.
Another criticism made by Rashid is that the BPP didn't enforce a policy of members committing class suicide, and he seems to criticize their self-identification as a "lumpen" party in 1970 and 1971. Interestingly, he foresees a "working-class-conscious petty bourgeois" leading the New Afrikan liberation struggle.(p.232) He comes down left of the current New Afrikan Maoist Party (NAMP) line by condemning the call for independent Black capitalism as unrealistic, and requiring the petty bourgeoisie to commit class suicide as well.(p.177) Whether the vanguard is more petty bourgeois or lumpen in origin is a minor point, but we mention all this to ask why all the class suicide if all Amerikans are so exploited and oppressed as he claims elsewhere (see below)?
Tom Big Warrior
In contrast to Rashid, except for some superficial mentions of Maoist terminology, we don't have much agreement with Tom Big Warrior (TBW) in his introduction or his afterword to this book. In both, he states that the principal contradiction in the world is internal to the U.$. empire, and it is between its need to consolidate hegemony and the chaos it creates. This implies a theory where imperialism is collapsing internally, and will be taken down by chaos rather than the conscious rising of the oppressed nations as MIM(Prisons) believes. He speaks favorably of intercommunalism, as has Rashid who once wrote that "the old definitions of nationalism no longer apply." We see intercommunalism as an ultra-left line that undermines the approach of national liberation struggles.
Speaking for the NABPP-PC on page 380, TBW states that they want a Comintern to direct revolutionaries around the world. We oppose a new Comintern, following in the footsteps of MIM, Mao and Stalin. In the past, TBW has taken up other erroneous lines of the rcp=u$a such as accusing Third World nations of "Muslim fascism." He also talks out of both sides of his mouth like Bob Avakian about Amerikan workers benefiting from imperialism, but also being victims of it. He has openly attacked the MIM line as being "crazy," while admitting to have never studied it. This is the definition of idealism, when one condemns theories based on what one desires to be the truth.
Wait, Are Whites Revolutionary?
After reading this book, you might ask yourself that question. Comrades have already asked this question of NABPP-PC and TBW in the past and received a clear answer of "yes." This debate is old. The former Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) had it with the so-called "Revolutionary Communist Party (USA)" (rcp=u$a), among others, for decades before denouncing them as a CIA front. Interestingly, Rashid and TBW both like to quote Bob Avakian but fail to provide an assessment or criticism of the rcp=u$a line in this 386 page volume.
Most of these writings predate the formation of the NABPP-PC, but are presented in a book with the NABPP-PC's name on it, so we will take it as representative of their line. The history of struggle with the MIM camp dates back to the original writing of much of the material presented in this book. Comrades in the MIM camp, including United Struggle from Within, the emerging NAMP, and a comrade who went on to help found MIM(Prisons) engaged in debates with all of the leading members of the party, as well as TBW, shortly after their formation.
The point is that not only had at least two of the NABPP-PC's leaders studied MIM line prior to forming their own, but they openly opposed this line following their formation. While not addressed directly, it seems that the only line dividing the NABPP-PC from joining the rcp=u$a is its belief in the need for a separate vanguard for the New Afrikan nation.
Contradictory Class Analyses: Economics
On pages 205-6 Outlaw asks Rashid:
"But from your analysis of these classes who do you consider to be the most revolutionary, considering the majority of workers in empire are complacent to some degree or another, due to the international class relationships of empire to the Third World nations, and the conveniences proletarians, and even lumpen-proletarians, are afforded as a result of that international situation and relationship?"
Rashid responds on pages 208-9 by stating that our class analysis is "mandatory for waging any successful resistance" but that he is only able to give a general analysis due to his lack of access to information. He does say:
"[T]he US is neither a majority peasant nor proletarian society. It is principally petty bourgeoisie. It has an over 80% service-based economy… So the US proletarian class is small and growing increasingly so, while the world proletariat is growing and becoming increasingly multi-ethnic."
On page 122 he also upholds this line that all non-productive workers are petty bourgeois, and not exploited proletarians. On page 232 he expands this analysis to explain the relationship between the imperialist nations, who are predominantly petty bourgeois, and the Third World that is mostly exploited. But in a footnote he takes it all back saying, "modern technological advances have broadened the scope of the working class" and clearly states, "[t]he predominantly service sector US working class is in actuality part of the proletarian class." He justifies this by saying that the income of these service workers is no different than the industrial proletariat. Yet he takes an obviously chauvinist approach of only comparing incomes of Amerikans. The real industrial proletariat is in the Third World and makes a small fraction of what Amerikan so-called "workers" do.
We agree that it is dogmatic to say this persyn is proletariat because she makes the tools and this persyn is not because she cleans the factory. But this is a minor point. The real issue is that whole countries, such as the United $tates, are not self-sustainable, but are living on the labor and resources of other nations. A country that is made up of mostly service workers cannot continue to pay all its people without exploiting wealth from somewhere else, since only the productive labor creates value.
A less disputed line put forth by Rashid and TBW is that U.$. prisoners are exploited. We have put forth our thesis debunking the exploitation myth, and exposing the prison system as an example of the parasitic "service" economy built on the sweat and blood of the Third World.(see ULK 8) More outrageously, in an article on the 13th Amendment, Rashid says that over 1/2 of Amerikans are currently "enslaved" by capitalism. This article contains some unrealistic claims, such as that no one could possibly enjoy working in the imperialist countries, and that these workers do not have freedom of mobility. Over half of Amerikans own homes. Not only are these alleged "slaves" landowners, but in the modern imperialist economy real estate has become more closely related to finance capital in a way that super-profits are gained by owning real estate in the First World. (see ULK 17)
Both Rashid and Outlaw demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between imperialist countries and the Third World, with Rashid going so far to say that reparations to New Afrika outside of a war against imperialism would mean more exploitation of the proletariat. While contradictory, Rashid's economic analysis in the original letters is more correct than not. In his treatment of history we will see more confusion, and perhaps some reasons why he ended up finding the "multi-national working class" to be the necessary vehicle for revolution in the United $tates despite his focus on single-nation organizing.
Contradictory Class Analyses: History
While repeatedly recalling the history of poor whites becoming slave catchers, marking the first consolidation of the white nation, Rashid lists "join[ing] their struggle up with the Israeli working class" as one of the strategies that would have led to greater success for Hamas.(p.50) This schizophrenic approach to the settler nations is present throughout the book. He echoes J. Sakai on Bacon's Rebellion, but then discards the overall lessons of Sakai's book Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat. While Sakai argued that these poor, former indentured servants had joined the oppressor nation in 1676, Rashid argues that modern-day Israelis and Amerikans, most of whom are in the top 10% income bracket globally, are exploited proletarians and allies in the struggle for a communist future.
Later in the book he goes so far as to say that white "right-wing militias, survivalists and military hobbyists" are "potential allies" who "have a serious beef with imperialist monopoly capitalism." This issue came to the forefront with the "anti-globalization" movement in the later 1990s. Both MIM and J. Sakai(1) led the struggle to criticize the anti-imperialist anarchists for following the lead of the white nationalist organizations calling for Amerikan protectionism. These groups are the making of a fascist movement in the United $tates which is why the distinction between exploited and exploiter nations is so important.
In the discussion of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) we gain some insight into Rashid's contradictory lines on who our friends and enemies are. Here he correctly explains that European countries bought off their domestic populations with wealth from the Third World, to turn those working classes against the Third World workers and peasants. But his turn from the MIM line takes place in attempting to address the strategy of the RNA. He sees a strong danger of neo-colonialism in the RNA struggle for national liberation, as happened in the numerous liberation struggles in Africa itself. So he talks about how ultimately we want a world without nations, so let's put class first to solve this problem (and he assumes most white Amerikans are proletariat). This is an ultraleft error of getting ahead of conditions. He goes on to say that the imperialists would easily turn the white population against a minority New Afrikan liberation movement trying to seize the Black Belt South. Here you have a rightist justification for pragmatism.
This is not to dismiss either of those concerns, which are very real. But his solution in both cases is based in a faulty class analysis. This book paraphrases Mao to point out that your class analysis is your starting point, and that your political line determines your success. Liquidating a New Afrikan revolutionary movement into a white class struggle over superprofits will not succeed in achieving his stated goals of a world without oppression. While the original Black Panthers themselves put forth different class analyses of Amerika at various points, they proved in practice that developing strong Black nationalism will bring out those sectors of the white population who are sympathetic. We must not cater to the majority of white people, but to the world's majority of people.
Dangers of Revisionism
The danger of revisionism is that it works to lead good potential recruits away from the revolutionary cause, both setting back the movement and discouraging others. The fact that Rashid sounds like MIM half the time in this book makes it more likely he will attract those with more scientific outlooks. We think those familiar with MIM Theory, or who have at least read this review could find this book both useful and interesting. However, the NABPP-PC and TBW are actively promoting a number of incorrect lines under the Panther banner, to the very people who need the Panthers' correct example of Maoism the most. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and it is far beyond time that we bring these criticisms into the open to advance the ideological understanding of the whole movement.
Recently the Governor of California lowered the excessive and unnecessary amount of money that federal capitalist workers received. I don't know the intimate details, I just know that instead of being payed $20 and $35 an hour, they were paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Outrage and hiss fits all around. You can't do that Governador, how will we overeat, overspend and hoard. Now there's a problem.
I remember a few years back an uneducated, because I'm a guard and you're a prisoner, bourgeois pig was debating me over how he should treat prisoners. His main argument is what they all believe, "you did what you did to get yourself in prison." I wouldn't be in prison if I and people similarly situated like me had opportunities to strive to be my best, instead of being oppressed and repressed and suppressed at every turn and door I (we) enter. The so-called crime or activity which got me in prison, would not be a crime in a socialist society because I would not have to seek other alternatives of financial gain to survive. That would be my counterargument.
Then this defender of capitalist mentality, "dog eat dog," comes with "you should get a job, even if it's at a fast food restaurant." They only pay minimum wage. That's not enough to survive on, to educate myself, to save for my future children's survival. I'm only working to get up to work all over, with nothing to show for what I've done. It's like an artist selling his paintings, her art, her time, skill and energy, his life sweat and blood, just to be able to pay for the supplies that was used to produce the painting, the art. "Working for minimum wage is better than nothing" was his curtain call.
Now a few years later when the shoe is on the other foot, now minimum wage is not better than nothing. Now it's a slap in their face. It's alright for the lower working class, it's enough for the proletariat to be paid and have to survive off of minimum wage, but not the middle class. It's too small, not enough for the bourgeois. That's one of the many faces of capitalism. Rise, rebel, revolt, revolution. All power to the people.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This article correctly points out the dual standards of the petty-bourgeoisie but we do not agree with the author that workers earning minimum wage in Amerika are part of the proletariat. Even minimum wage is more than the value of the labor Amerikan workers expend. We will not deny that jobs like those in fast food restaurants are alienating and they do not provide opportunities to advance. And in a consumerist economy where what you own is who you are, they also make it very hard for Amerikans to compete with the wealthier petty bourgeoisie.
The proposal by Schwarzenegger (which surprise, surprise, never happened) would have taken the average California state worker from the top 0.88% richest people in the world to the top 12.23% richest (ignoring that they would actually be reimbursed the difference later under the proposal). As MIM demonstrated with extensive research and publications like MIM Theory 1 and 10, Amerikan citizens are part of the global petty bourgeoisie and so do not have an economic interest in ending imperialism. Even those working minimum wage jobs might protest and demand more money, but that's because they see that they can expect more because most of their peers in Amerika are getting it.
The basis for unity among lumpen is class. The lumpen are the disenfranchised who derive from the economically depressed areas - the Barrios and ghetto projects - and are for the most part oppressed nations people. The lumpen are known to the oppressor nation as the 'criminal element' which is code word for persyn of color. The lumpen usually come from a lumpen organization that the oppressors call a 'gang,' or survive as some type of parasitic hustler. Although we do make choices, often times in imperialist society our choice to engage in crime is a logical one due to the national oppression we endure.
As communists it is our job to fully understand the laws of social development, and the lumpen are an essential part of these laws today, especially here in the imperialist stronghold. In Marx’s theory of ‘social relations of production’ lies the question of ownership, that is what ‘class’ owns the tools and what ‘class’ uses the tools. In this imperialist society the lumpen neither own nor use the tools. We are excluded from production and live under the heel of capitalist relations of production. The propertied class has monopolized the productive forces. The lumpen play a crucial role in Amerika in the creation of new productive forces that will come into contradiction with the decaying social relations of production. The current economic crisis is helping to streamline this process.
The lumpen is a class, regardless of what nationality one comes from; we all have similar relations to the tools of society and the distribution of society’s wealth. It is a group that experiences the same oppression and is fighting the same imperialist monster.
It is understood that as national oppression exists it is thus only natural for there to also be national liberation struggles to combat the unevenness in this society, and for revolutionary national struggles to work to bring safety to the people who live in a constant police state in areas of the oppressed nations. This is the correct stance in the face of any oppression. But we can't get caught playing the same dog-eat-dog game that the imperialists play on us and our fellow lumpen. We need an Aztlán Liberation Front that is in unity with the lumpen.
The lumpen in Amerika must begin to realize that we are a class and lumpen fighting lumpen does nothing to liberate any oppressed nation. On the contrary, lumpen-on-lumpen crime will only strengthen the imperialist vice grip on our necks! This is why unity amongst the lumpen is the first step to liberation of all oppressed nations in the United $tates. We don't have to agree on everything, but we must have unity and work together with the full realization that we are up against not just the same monster but one that happens to run the world militarily.
It is essential for the lumpen to come together in a united front in order for liberation to ever be a reality on these shores. Without the critical element of the united front, liberation struggles of any kind are simply idle talk and will not produce. The function of the united front for the oppressed nations and ULK should be 1) to practice peoples' power within the prison system and thoroughly politicize the U.$. prison system, and 2) to practice peoples' power within the Barrios and ghetto projects out in society and thoroughly politicize these oppressed nation areas. These functions should be done with the idea of preparing these grounds for future insurrection.
Lumpen Unite with the International Proletariat!
The basis for unity between the lumpen and the international proletariat is again class-based. The lumpen are connected to the international proletariat by their common oppression by the imperialists and their popular resistance to this oppression. What we must keep in mind is the imperialists think and act on a global scale so we must do the same. Just as many have used the saying "don't show up at a gun battle with a knife," we don't want to show up with a "not in my backyard" mentality when the imperialists show up with an international colonization mentality. We must think of the big picture and on a grand scale of things. Of course we must first work in a particular area, as MIM(Prisons) works primarily with the prison population, to start from one area and eventually expand to include larger or multiple fronts of struggle. All our efforts should be with the intention of chipping away at imperialism.
Regardless of one's oppressed nation, it really is the same struggle against the same opponent. Currently this is seen unabashed by the imperialists' mega-prison system housing millions of Brown, Black, Red and Yellow people. It is seen in people of color hunted down in urban communities by the police and shot dead as if there were safaris in the inner cities. It is seen in the unequal treatment that has been festering in Amerika for over 500 years, the lynching of the body and the lynching of the mind. Therefore, it is not just understandable or justified but damn right necessary for these oppressed peoples to struggle for national liberation. Until New Democracy is achieved, as Mao spoke of, and we finally achieve equality for all in all aspects, the oppressed nations should continue to struggle for self-determination.
As communists we should always maintain focus on our goal of international communism rather than degenerating to simply Brown capitalism or Black capitalism, etc. This is why our unity must be with the international proletariat in mind as this will be our moral compass. Some may say or think "If I can liberate my people in this or that country why would I care about countries in another part of the world?" Well, as I've said before, we are all up against the same monster that cannot be defeated by one group of people, and even if one could somehow liberate one group of people, the imperialists worldwide would smash this isolated nation. We saw it happen in Grenada.
When Marx and Engels put together the theory of communism, it was with internationalism in mind as they saw even back then that the bourgeoisie would not sit back and allow the people to begin liberating themselves. We must always work in unity with the international proletariat in order to rise from lumpen to true revolutionary. Only then will we liberate our people.
La Lucha Continua!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade did a good job of stressing the importance of internationalism in the united front, and in particular pointing out that the international proletariat must be our moral compass. The question we need to ask though is to what degree the imperialist country lumpen's interests are united with the international proletariat, and therefore how they fit into the united front as a class. What this comrade wrote about the need to support everyone's national liberation is true for any oppressed nation in the world, but we face particular challenges due to our material conditions.
MIM(Prisons) sees the lumpen in the United $tates as a bourgeoisified lumpen, in that the whole country benefits from imperialism in the form of basic needs like food, clean water, electricity, etc. as well as in the form of cheap consumer goods. The latter allows the lumpen to own small amounts of capital, creating a spectrum of wealth where a minority in the lumpen organizations are at the level of national bourgeoisie due to their relations to production, distribution and ownership. Even for the relatively poor majority of the lumpen class, a combination of state welfare and the drug game have allowed for access to the material benefits of imperialism the proletariat do not have.
We are watching closely the efforts of the white nation to take away welfare and local drug markets from the lumpen, as well as jobs from the undocumented. Even if these trends are successful, we see compradors among the lumpen and a popular desire for and belief in the Amerikan dream. While the lumpen are a class forced into criminality, there is a class consciousness and culture that derives from this criminality that is individualistic and parasitic. As this comrade alludes to, there is a transformation that must occur to replace the lumpen mentality (in particular its capitalistic elements) with a proletarian one. No national liberation struggles can succeed in this country without tackling this great challenge.
In addition, a growing lumpen class due to imperialist crisis will also touch the white nation. As we wrote about in ULK 14, a declassed white population is the makings of fascist foot soldiers. History has shown this to be the case for oppressor nations. So we agree with the author's alternating use of lumpen and oppressed nations in most cases, but disagree when s/he says the lumpen have the same interests regardless of nationality. Only if the oppressor nation lets go of its white privilege would this be true. This is an even stronger reason why a thesis that the lumpen in general in the U.$. are a progressive force does not hold true.
Resolution on Criticisms of NAMP's Line Related to UFD
This resolution is being passed by Our Party to publicly announce what Our line is on a few questions raised by MIM(Prisons) and members of their study group, and to address their criticisms on what they think Our line is. We challenge MIM(Prisons) to print this resolution in their Under Lock & Key newsletter to let the people decide for themselves what Our line really is, instead of blasting Us in a one-sided debate.
UFD is an outgrowth of various affiliated mass organizations Our Party has attempted to jump start. Initially, UFD was a subdivision of the New Afrikan Ujamaa Dynasty, as one will learn from reading the original edition of Blueprint for Ujamaa Dynasty. Since MIM(Prisons) abruptly withdrew their financial and administrative support of Our efforts to jump start UFD as a mass organization, the revised edition of Blueprint for Ujamaa Dynasty was unable to be completed on schedule. So, the public isn't aware that the New Afrikan Ujamaa Dynasty has been absorbed by UFD, which now stands for the Ujamaa Fraternal Dynasty. UFD is now a New Afrikan nationalist fraternity and the vanguard of the Movement for Ujamaa Dynasty, and it's divided into a General Nduguship (primarily for progressive elements of the New Afrikan petty bourgeoisie) and a Field Division (primarily for ex-lumpens who haven't necessarily reached a revolutionary phase in their political development, but have given up their criminal lifestyle).
"Without revolutionary practice, revolutionary theory means shit!" Our Party hasn't liquidated itself at all into UFD, nor have We watered down Our politics. We are Maoists. But We are New Afrikan Maoists. And We uphold the three cardinal questions of MIM(Prisons) [editor's note: NAMP was not aware of MIM(Prisons)'s new cardinal points adopted around the same time as this resolution], going so far as to recognizing that the New Afrikan worker is a labor aristocracy and that most New Afrikans, including the lumpen, are bourgeois. No, Our class analysis hasn't changed either. So, what's all this criticism about over Our line? Well, part of it is Our fault for not being very clear Ourselves to articulate what amounts to a new strategic positioning. We admit, We knew where We wanted to go but didn't really know how to get there. The vision was clear but painting it was murky. We wanted to remain true to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, but the context We are operating in isn't compatible to what We know to be true. We can't force square pegs into round holes. Revolutionaries must make revolution, but We must do so within concrete, objective reality.
Marx provided Us with the theoretical foundation, but he didn't bring about revolution. Does this mean his theoretical work wasn't correct? Absolutely not. He advanced human knowledge in relations to Our theoretical understanding of the development of things, including human history in Our struggle for economic, social, and political freedom. Lenin came along and applied Marxism to formulate even more advanced revolutionary theory according to the concrete conditions he was faced with. So too did Mao. But each were in a unique position. They had Marxism and the lessons of failed revolutionary struggles to work from. And they grew to political maturity during a revolutionary period within their respective countries. So, the concrete conditions gave their theory basis to advance the concrete revolutionary struggle of the time to socialist victory.
What are the concrete conditions We are faced with? There's no question We have available to Us the most advanced theory of revolution paid for in the blood and failure of many hundreds of thousands of Marxist revolutionaries. Our problem is that imperialism is winning worldwide not only in terms of economic and political dominance, but also in the conversation of what is and what is not a valid economic and political paradigm. Currently, Islamic Fundamentalism, in all its warped ideas and distortions is, nevertheless, doing more against imperialism than the Maoist camp worldwide. To that extent, We applaud Islamic Fundamentalists for fighting the imperialist snake that cloaks itself in the rhetoric of democracy and freedom. But We prefer Marxism.
Yet the concrete conditions We face as New Afrikan Maoists in imperialist America — indeed, as Maoists period — gives Our theory very little basis to advance the concrete revolutionary struggle of the proletarian camp. We are surrounded by enemies. Even the lumpen, as MIM(Prisons) admits, are parasites. But they argue that the lumpen "benefit less from imperialism, and more importantly face extreme oppression under imperialism." Well, they would be repressed under socialism too if they refused to give up their criminal ways. Lumpens are outlaws antagonistic to any system. Granted, imperialism is less amicable to reforming the lumpen than socialism would be. Under socialism, the lumpen would be given greater opportunities to reform themselves. But We're not living under socialism but imperialism, so lumpenism, like bourgeois subjectivism among the petty bourgeoisie, will be a great impediment to advancing Maoism in this country. With the lumpen, however, lumpenism plus bourgeois subjectivism are a double wammy.
MIM(Prisons) and its study group members aren't seeing the forest through the trees. Taken as a whole, We must conclude that the lumpen is not only more reactionary than the petty bourgeoisie but are manifestly less able to contribute to concrete revolutionary struggle against real oppression. For one, they're either locked down or under some form of law enforcement supervisions. Most are under-educated and lack discipline, and the prison system under imperialism isn't conducive to their rehabilitation, much less their politicization. This is why 7 out of 10 lumpens released from prison come back, and that not one who is released, in Our experience, stays active in revolutionary work or can be effective doing so. The imperialists are too powerful, and We're trying to fight them through propaganda and theoretical work. Are We serious?!
No, this is NOT to say We can't win against them nor that all lumpens are worthless. Firstly, Our Party was founded by ex-lumpens who MIM helped reach political maturity. Secondly, no enemy is undefeatable when you have the power of truth on your side. But having truth on your side won't guarantee people will recognize it just because you say so.
MIM(Prisons) and its study group members are caught up in ultra-leftism of another brand. Wake up and smell the coffee. This isn't 1917 nor 1949 in underdeveloped countries with weak capitalist governments. This is 2010 and capitalism has reached its highest stage of imperialism, which has strong imperialist governments worldwide. We better do as Lenin and Mao, both of whom were sharply criticized for moving away from what was considered the 'right doctrine' by developing new, practical approaches to apply revolutionary theory to their unique circumstances.
One thing MIM(Prisons) ignores about New Afrikans is that 1) We are an oppressed domestic colony of the United States, and 2) Our benefit from the super-profits flowing into this country is incidental to Our domestic neo-colonial status (the operative word being "domestic"). Just being in this country gives Us incidental access to its stolen wealth. MIM(Prisons) acts like the Catholic Church which tries to make people feel guilty about being human with sexual urges. This may not be the best analogy, but the point is that MIM(Prisons) makes it seem like everything is gravy between white Americans and New Afrikans. This smacks of the mainstream conservative argument that race doesn't matter anymore or isn't such a big deal like before. See, this is an ultra-leftist position trying to fit the square peg of the New Afrikan labor aristocracy into the round hole of the white labor aristocracy. Because MIM(Prisons), in its dogmatic adherence to the now defunct MIM's line on the labor aristocracy as straight up enemies of the international proletariat, can't strategically cope with an oppressed New Afrikan labor aristocracy vis-a-vis a dominant white labor aristocracy. It's easier for MIM(Prisons), the only active Maoist cell We know of coming out of MIM, and which only concerns itself with the prison movement, to write off any possible struggle to mobilize the New Afrikan petty bourgeoisie against U.S. imperialism.
It's really sad MIM(Prisons) would so shamelessly distort the fact that New Afrikan people in this country, from lumpen to national bourgeoisie, as a whole still must contend with white supremacy and racist discrimination, both institutionally and blatantly. Everything from housing, employment, health care, government assistance, mental health, incarceration, education, sports, entertainment, etc. New Afrikan people face white supremacist/ racial discriminatory factors. And We know this. Call this identity politics, if you like, but racism is still very real in this country and will lead, during an economic and political breakdown, to full blown fascism. Just look how Muslims and migrant workers are treated.
We never said the New Afrikan petty bourgeoisie is a revolutionary class within the context of socialist revolution — We're not too sure We can say the lumpen is. What We did say, and repeat here publicly and clearly, We hold the New Afrikan petty bourgeoisie to be the most revolutionary class within the context of the bourgeois nationalist phase of the New Afrikan revolution. And We think this bourgeois nationalist phase strategically will heighten the contradiction between white America and New Afrikans while negating Our bourgeoisification.
Let's be real here. New Afrikans as a whole, due to white supremacy and racist discrimination manifested in neo-colonial practices, are locked out of major control over their own economic wealth by white America — albeit a part of super-profits. The point is, there's no way for white America to increase the New Afrikan share of the "pie" without weakening their own economic and political hegemony. There can be no increased super-exploitation of the Third World to "include" New Afrikans fully into the labor aristocracy elite. For one, other imperialist countries won't allow it. And two, the Third World would hate America more. The inevitable consequence of any New Afrikan bourgeois nationalist revolution would be 1) the heightening of the contradiction between white America and New Afrikans (clearly this is in accord with the principal contradiction in the world today being between oppressor and oppressed nations, unless MIM(Prisons) can conclusively prove how New Afrikans are no longer an oppressed nationality); 2) negate the bourgeoisification of New Afrikans as they become more radicalized as a whole; and 3) give Our Party the concrete basis to advance Our revolutionary line among a more receptive, radicalized nation of New Afrikan people.
We want to make revolution, not sit around doing propaganda and theoretical work until somehow a revolutionary period suddenly occurs. We must realize the imperialists apply their own science in theory and in practice to prevent revolutionary crises and maintain their dominance. We can't counter this through propaganda and theoretical work alone. We must figure out concrete, practical ways to heighten the principal contradiction. In this day and age, the role of the vanguard isn't just to thrash out line questions, do political agitation, and develop cadres, because We're not faced with the same concrete conditions Lenin and Mao, even Marx, were faced with that justified and enhanced their need to do this type of work. Right now We're preaching to the choir. This isn't about pragmatism, right opportunism, nor revisionism. This is about making revolution and not allowing Our bigger enemy to keep dictating the terms of Our fight.
In conclusion, Our Party hasn't forgotten our duty. MIM(Prisons) and its study group members should refrain from ad hominem arguments and demagoguery, and trying to pigeonhole Us by misrepresenting Our position on the questions We've addressed. Our support of UFD has nothing to do with any bourgeois subjectivism. The size of Our cadre or the resources available to Us is only part of the equation. The biggest is whether We can do something like what We're doing with UFD to advance both the concrete and theoretical revolutionary struggle of New Afrikan Maoism without losing Our way. We see no manifest danger that Our Party will degenerate into revisionism, right opportunism, or pragmatism. UFD isn't under Our Party leadership, so We're very much able to promote Our line and to criticize UFD if it deviates from the path of challenging U.S. imperialism via New Afrikan bourgeois nationalist revolution without "scaring" people from it.
And so that it is clear, We encourage Our cadre to join the ranks of UFD on its terms, not to secretly radicalize it. Again, We support its aim and purpose to the extent it challenges U.S. imperialism and can more effectively build independent institutions that serve the oppressed. Being that membership in Our Party is anonymous for security reasons, We see very little conflict in Our cadre joining the ranks of UFD. This is a strategic question, not a line question. There are practical benefits to Our cadre joining UFD as there are in them getting a job working for a bourgeois business. Besides being devoted to advocating New Afrikan nationalism and struggling against gang violence, drugs, sexism, criminality, poor education, unfair criminal justice practices, lack of prison reform, etc., UFD is devoted to building a financial and business network by which 1) business minded members of UFD can receive financial, technical, and marketing support from every other member of UFD who benefit from their investments; and 2) these businesses and investors can partner up, using their collective leveraging power to set up larger, corporate ventures on a distributive and productive scale to compete for hundreds of billions of dollars. Our cadre who are members of UFD will benefit from UFD's economic success, thereby allowing them to contribute more to the work of Our full-time Party workers. Everyone in Our Party has a purpose, and WE all can fulfill Our vanguard role, too.
For the record, We support MIM(Prisons)'s work and believe We were wrong to expect them to neglect their work to support Our strategy. That was right opportunism. And We no longer seek their aid in anything other than debating with Us publicly and privately to help Us further thrash out Our own line. We must develop Our own self-sufficiency, which We are slowly doing. MIM(Prisons)'s withdrawal of their support wasn't necessarily a set back, but rather a needed lesson. You can't hold a child's hand forever and expect them to blossom on their own. We owe MIM(Prisons) much and publicly pledge to repay them. And We encourage Our incarcerated cadre and supporters to participate in MIM(Prisons)'s study groups.
Let this not be Our final word on the matters discussed herein. We invite further criticisms, questions, comments and suggestions. But let Us all be objective here.
NAMP Central Committee September 2010
MIM(Prisons) responds: We welcome the response from NAMP on our criticisms, as we don't like one-sided debates either. As we pointed out, we had no official documents from NAMP to refer to in regard to their political line as it has developed in recent years. The fact that this is the first public document we've seen from NAMP in years we'll leave as evidence of our position that NAMP liquidated the vanguard to develop a petty bourgeois mass organization.
For the most part, this response substantiates the points made in our original self-criticism. While accepting the labor aristocracy thesis, NAMP attacks the lumpen from a petty bourgeois position, then turns around and supports outright organizing on behalf of the economic interests of an exploiter nation. Organizing New Afrika around economic nationalism certainly offers historical advantages to organizing a European nation against U.$. imperialism, as MIM opposed in their opening piece in MIM Theory 14: United Front. Still, we would rather organize New Afrika as an oppressed nation around issues of oppression that are very real, life and death questions for the New Afrikan lumpen, or those facing even worse conditions in Africa.
In their discussion of racism, NAMP argues vehemently that the New Afrikan nation has interests opposed to imperialism because it is oppressed. Yet, when it comes to the lumpen, NAMP gives us the tautology that could be summarized as, "the lumpen can't be effective revolutionaries because they face oppression" such as high recidivism rates, poor educational opportunities, state supervision and prison. Of course, that very oppression is behind our position that the lumpen are potential allies of the proletariat.
To better demonstrate our differences, let's first understand what the lumpen class is. They are an excess population, something that Marx said was unique to the capitalist mode of production. They have no role to play in reproducing society; they are forbidden from playing a productive role in society. To talk about the lumpen as being criminal-minded first, rather than recognizing the origins of their class and therefore their class consciousness is backwards. The lumpen were not born as anti-social individuals, they were attacked first, usually because of national oppression from the white power structure. They turn around and fight the system in self-defense. So it's not just that the lumpen will be given more opportunities under socialism, the lumpen will cease to exist once the mode of production changes to meet humyn need. Those individuals who refuse to reform of course will be repressed.
We agree that the lumpen are bourgeoisified in the United $tates, just like everyone else is. And in China it was the lumpen who were often the hardest to reform, because their whole attitude is based on blatant parasitism — getting something for nothing. It is important to note that the lumpen in imperialist countries are not the same as the lumpen Marx, Lenin and Mao talked about. We can't just mechanically apply definitions about the lumpen, just like we can't mechanically assume that the workers in imperialist countries are the same proletariat they were back in Marx's day. For Marx, the lumpen were living among the proletariat, but were not of the proletariat class. That led to a different consciousness that made them tough allies, and they were a small minority. In the U$ we're talking about whole communities, ghettos, that are lumpen/petty bourgeois. There is a group consciousness there that is tied to national oppression. In imperialist countries there are many other attitudes among the lumpen in addition to parasitism, most importantly among the oppressed nations, that differentiate them from the petty bourgeoisie in progressive ways. We disagree with NAMP's assertion that lumpenism compounds bourgeois subjectivism, and say that in imperialist countries it actually plays a role in combating it.
One result of their exclusion and oppression is that the lumpen exists on the periphery of bourgeois society. It is on the periphery where there is room to move. We see advantages in freedom and security among the lumpen that don't exist among the petty bourgeoisie. Yes, prisoners are under extreme state control, limiting their ability to organize. But so are the proletariat of the Third World. In fact, this argument from NAMP is nothing new. "The oppressed are too uneducated and face too much repression to rise up in arms," has been the petty bourgeois line since Marx's day.
The strength of the state, in a country where spies far outnumber communists, is a daunting barrier that we acknowledge as much as anyone. But the Amerikkkan prison system has laid the ground work for building schools for developing revolutionary theory. The intelligentsia among the lumpen, which is concentrated behind steel and concrete, is one unique aspect of the lumpen in the United $tates that is in our favor. It is this group that is the basis of MIM(Prisons)'s existence and work.
It is curious that NAMP claims we ignore that New Afrikans are an oppressed domestic colony, as we have always pushed that line regarding all internal semi-colonies to the point of being accused of racism by many white prisoners. We counter NAMP's economic organizing strategy, with a strategy of organizing against oppression. On their second point in that paragraph we do think there is a difference in positions. In our minds it is highly debatable to claim that New Afrikans benefit from super-profits only incidentally to their oppression. Our general line is that integration was about 50% successful since the time of the Black Power movement. We hope to refine this analysis in future publications and welcome any contributions to this research from NAMP. We recognize the neo-colonial significance of Barack Obama to New Afrikans, and criticized those who thought this was somehow changing things for oppressed people inside or outside the United $tates.
We have never argued that the New Afrikan petty bourgeoisie cannot be an ally in the anti-imperialist struggle, and here we challenge NAMP for misrepresenting our line. We do make two criticisms of them on this issue, one is regarding what points we should organize New Afrikans around, and the second is the relationship of the proletarian vanguard to other classes in the New Afrikan nationalist movement. NAMP's mistakes lie in organizing the petty bourgeoisie in an imperialist country around their economic interests, and doing so in the name of a supposed proletarian party, or its mass organization.
NAMP praises the anti-imperialism of the national bourgeoisie in the Muslim world, but would do well to compare the situation here to there. New Afrika has no land, nor natural resources, nor influence over currency markets. And despite having over 1 million citizens who are legally slaves, there is little exploitation of New Afrika to fight over. In other words, economically speaking, New Afrika has little to lose and much to gain from imperialism. Imperialism provides the petty bourgeoisie in the United $tates with their current income levels and living standards far above most of the world. We fail to see any bubbling of a revolutionary situation there. And certainly, if there was, it would not be based on economism, but on questions like voting rights, state repression and mass imprisonment.
In the original self-criticism we clarified our position on New Democracy for the internal semi-colonies. When NAMP actually addresses the question of New Afrika as an exploiter nation, the crux of their argument in favor of organizing the petty bourgeoisie is that the United $tates cannot buy off New Afrikans. As was demonstrated in our Case Study on the U.$. Housing Market Decline, more than half of New Afrikans are already bought off (at least materially speaking) with super-profits. What NAMP needs to address to be consistent is how New Afrika went from proletarian to petty bourgeois in recent generations, and their line that now it is impossible for the economic gap between New Afrikan and white Amerika to be closed.
If we assume for a minute that NAMP's economics are correct though, then we ask what application of United Front theory calls for the abandonment of proletarian politics to organize other classes? NAMP wants to claim that they still exist as a vanguard upholding Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and that there is no danger of revisionism in their strategy. They propose that it is okay to secretly join mass organizations and hide one's politics. Yet for all their stress on the importance of practice, where is NAMP's practice as a vanguard? Where is NAMP's practice independent of their organizing of the petty bourgeoisie to build economic independence? How is this not liquidationism?
NAMP's "we're preaching to the choir" line is typical of liquidationists and those who put numbers in command. They think we need to reach as many people as we can and get them on the streets first, then we can work out the details of what it is that we're doing. Reaching new people is great, but as MIM often said, "Revolutionary practice without the right theory is worse than shit." It should be clear to anyone reading this debate that not even the choir is clearly on the side of the preacher in either of our cases and there is much ideological struggle and development to be done before there will be any question of making revolution in the United $tates.
United Front is the theory of uniting different groups across class lines for a common goal or interest, while maintaining independence where those groups disagree. The application of united front theory is about recognizing different contradictions in society and utilizing them in the interests of the international proletariat. The primary united front is the Anti-Imperialist United Front, which is made up of the majority of the world's people whose material interests lie in defeating imperialism. This is a strategic united front based on the principal contradiction.
In this article we will address a couple of contemporary issues in the United $tates and analyze their potential for united front work. We'll see that many of the big conflicts in a First World country are between the enemy classes, but that does not always mean we sit on the sidelines. Some forms of united front are tactical and require fast action based on thorough knowledge. To successfully navigate the potential for united front in the First World that serves the interests of the Third World proletariat we must first have a correct analysis of our conditions. The first section of this article provides a quick background to get us started.
Land, Housing and the Settler Nation
One of the arguments made against the labor aristocracy thesis is that corporations have no interest in sacrificing profit to pay First World workers more, and there is no corporate conspiracy to enforce such a policy. This is based in the theory of free market capitalism, or only reading the beginning chapters of Marx's Capital and treating that as an accurate model of reality in all places for all time. As a class, capitalists do depend on the labor aristocracy, not just politically, but economically as consumers and cogs in their growing pyramid scheme of finance capital. And there is at least one place where the U.$. imperialists can exert their will as a class (more and more these days) - it's called the U.$. government. The promotion of home ownership by the feds is one of the biggest examples of the imperialists consciously building a labor aristocracy within the heart of the empire.
Home ownership has been a staple of Amerikan wealth since the settlers stole this land from the First Nations and built their homesteads on it. The net worth of Amerikan families compared to First Nations and those descended from slaves in the U.$. is one legacy of this form of primitive accumulation. While land ownership among the earliest European invaders was 100% (that's why they came to the Americas), by the 1775 War of Independence, land ownership was still at 70% for the Euro-Amerikan nation.(1) Arghiri Emmanuel pointed out that Amerikan wages were able to stay so high in this early period of capitalist development, even as land ownership ceased to be universal, because the abundant "free" land stolen from the First Nations provided a fallback plan for European settlers.(2) This primitive accumulation through genocide was the basis for wealth that the Amerikan labor aristocracy enjoyed as industrialization transformed more of the settlers into wage laborers.
Following the inter-imperialist struggles of WWI, the United $tates became the dominant imperialist power. The influx of wealth that came with this allowed for the integration of southern and eastern European immigrants into the white nation leading up to the Great Depression.(1) From 1900 to 1950, home ownership rates in the United $tates averaged about 45%, with the lowest rates in the Black Belt South and the highest in European dominated northwest states.(3) After the economic recovery that came with the spoils of WWII, the United $tates embarked on the suburbanization of Amerika with numerous incentives from the federal government to bring home ownership above 60% again.
Since 1960, home ownership has stayed above 60% for U.$. citizens as a whole.(4) This rate was above 70% for white Amerikans in recent years, but the census does not have comparable statistics by race going back very far. Blacks and Latinos are just under 50% for rates of home ownership, even though national oppression has ensured that they currently face foreclosure disproportionately.
Emmanuel's theories in Unequal Exchange demonstrate how the significantly higher incomes of people in the First World actually transfer wealth to the imperialist countries from the Third World, reinforcing their economic advantage. Similarly, the oppressor nation has equity and is able to increase wealth in ways that the internal semi-colonies have not been able to do despite access to exploiter level jobs. All of this fits with the general trend of capitalism, which is the accumulation of capital. The more you have, the more you tend to get.
Collapse of the U.$. Housing Market
The left wing of white nationalism (whether self-described anarchists, socialists, Maoists or Democrats) has been saying that the increase in home foreclosures is an indication of the heightening contradictions between the Amerikan proletariat and the capitalists. These people defend the stolen land that was the foundation of wealth for settler Amerika, and the modern home ownership pyramid scheme that is the foundation of the Amerikan dream today.
Not only have millions of people lost their homes to foreclosure in recent years, but fear-mongers point out that the “2008 sub-prime mortgage market resulted in the disappearance of $13 trillion in American household wealth between mid-2007 and March 2009... on average, U.S. households lost one quarter of their wealth in that period."(5) Such alarmists ignore that Amerikans gained $10 trillion from 2006 to 2007 to reach an all-time high, and that net worth of the country's citizens has generally gone up at increasing rates since WWII.(6) The bigger ups and downs in all financial markets are certainly signs of crisis, but to act like Amerikans are being sunk to Third World conditions in 2010 is ludicrous. If only these activists would cry so loud for those who really have had to live in Third World conditions for their whole lives and for generations!
Most, if not all, of the loss in Amerikans' net worth is accounted for by stock portfolios and values of homes (which are bought and sold like stocks these days); in other words losses in finance capital. Traditionally, the petty bourgeoisie in Marxism was not exploited, nor did it significantly exploit others. To claim that those who reap profits from investments of finance capital are anything less than petty bourgeoisie is a rejection of Marxist definitions. With home ownership around 68% in recent years, that is a solid two thirds of people in the United $tates who fall squarely into the category of petty bourgeoisie or higher, including 50% of Blacks and Latinos (minimum). This group is 210 million people, or only 3% of the world's population in 2010, yet they hold more net wealth than the total market capitalization of all publicly traded companies in the world.(7)
Our critics point to the great wealth inequalities within the United $tates as reason to organize Amerikans for revolution. So let's just look at the bottom 80% of Amerikans, who owned 15% (a mere scrap from the table if you will) of the net wealth in the United $tates in 2007 (and this was a 15-year low for them).(8) While their share has decreased a few percentage points since 1983, total net worth in the United $tates has increased by almost 5 times. Therefore the lowest 80% of Amerikans went from about $2.2 trillion in net worth in 1983 to almost $10 trillion in 2007. (Two trillion dollars could eliminate world hunger for the next 66 years, until 2076.(9)) "Middle class" Amerika has assets that are greater than the GDP of China,(10) the world's industrial powerhouse representing about 20% of the world's population. That's comparing just the Amerikan "middle class" and "poor" to the whole nation of China, including its well-developed capitalist class.
Since the proletariat, by definition, has negligible net worth in the form of assets, let's look at their income.(11) Income generally increases proportionately with net worth across the globe.(12) Almost half of the world's population lives on less than $1000 per year. That is 3.14 billion people living on less than $3 trillion in a year.(13) Now before we condemn Amerikans' huge assets, let's make sure that they just aren't better at saving and investing their money than the proletariat. In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifty percent accounted for only 7.2% of consumption.(13) A conservative estimate leaves us with Amerikans, on average, consuming at least 27 times the average persyn in the poorest half of the world.(14) So money management skills cannot explain Amerika's huge net worth.
A just, sustainable humyn society requires the Amerikan labor aristocracy to be brought down to consumer levels much closer to the Third World. But this little exercise demonstrates that this is far from happening, despite the alarmists' cries.
Ultimately, the contradiction we're describing is between the labor aristocracy and the imperialists. The imperialists, in particular finance capital, are a dynamic, opportunist class. In contrast, the labor aristocracy benefits from stability of the status quo. The finance capitalists were able to make quick profits by selling the labor aristocracy short, so Amerikans are pissed. While perhaps pushing the labor aristocracy towards fascism, the finance capitalists are also undercutting the consumerism of Amerikans that their system depends on so much. What we are witnessing is an internal contradiction in the imperialist system playing out. Both groups control trillions of dollars in super-profits from the Third World, and the Anti-Imperialist United Front has no interest in one of them getting more than the other. We need to keep sitting this one out.
Migration to the United $tates
As discussed above, high wages and ballooning housing values reinforce themselves in our current economic system, making the rich richer. However, neither could be maintained without erecting a border outside of which these two things cannot flow. Therefore, keeping wages and housing values high is directly linked to the battle over increasing repression of migrant laborers within U.$. borders. The contradiction in this struggle is between oppressed nations who are trying to gain access to jobs in the United $tates and the oppressor nation that is trying to keep them out. This challenge to imperialist country privilege indicates that the battle for migrant rights is part of the anti-imperialist struggle.
While Third World people and some Amerikan youth faced Amerikan labor aristocrats on the streets, it was the U.$. District Court that put in place an injunction on most of the provisions of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 (SB1070), in light of a lawsuit filed by the U.$. Department of Justice (DOJ) against the state of Arizona. The DOJ held that immigration was under federal jurisdiction, and that they had a plan for the whole country to balance its various interests related to immigration that Arizona would not be allowed to mess up.
The interest of the bourgeois internationalists is in having free access to markets and labor, not to mention international relations. This camp includes the federal government and their finance capitalist backers as well as smaller businesses that only operate in the United $tates, but depend on migrant labor. Their conflict is with other bourgeois interests and the bourgeoisified majority of Amerikans whose position of privilege stems from the elitism of who is allowed to enter their fortress of jewels.
There is effectively a united front between the internationalism of the mass resistance to SB1070 on both sides of the Mexican border and the U.$. government acting on behalf of bourgeois internationalism. And for now, it is the imperialists who are really throwing a wrench in the works for Amerikans, even though the contradiction at its base is between oppressed nations and the oppressor nation.
A majority of Amerikans in a number of polls supported SB1070 or a similar law. The highest percentage listed in one article, 79%, did not agree that "illegal aliens are entitled to the same rights and basic freedoms as U.S. citizens."(15) This is the definition of Amerikan chauvinism. At best, one fifth of U.$. citizens don't think they deserve more than other humyn beings by virtue of being born in the United $tates. This is why we even keep an eye on the imperialists for glimmers of internationalism in the First World.
With Latinos, we can see how quickly this consciousness develops by tracking the percentage of coconuts in the population over time. A Latino Decisions poll found that 12% of second-generation Latino voters in Arizona supported SB1070. By the fourth generation it had increased to 30% supporting the coconut position.(16) Amerikanism is an insidious disease that has claimed significant portions of the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates.
Unite All Who Can Be United
While many dogmatists still criticize Mao for allying the Chinese Communists with the national bourgeoisie, we can take united front theory even further and come up with examples of progressive forces allying with the government of the imperialist superpower of the world against an oppressor nation. This goes to show that we cannot let ultra-left ideas of purity prevent us from allying with those who might help our cause.
The rightist errors in applying united front theory happen when we have incorrect lines elsewhere. Not recognizing a united front as working with an enemy class, or becoming convinced that other contradictions have been resolved, and not just pushed to a secondary position, are the main forms of rightism to guard against. Mao had to fight much rightism from other communists who thought the communists and national bourgeois forces should merge into one, where inevitably the reactionary bourgeoisie would lead because of their relative power. Rightism in the United $tates looks like people getting caught up with legislative battles over migrant rights. Without national liberation, there is no freedom for oppressed nations under imperialism. The imperialists will always oppose that, just as the Nationalists fought the Communists in civil war once the Japanese were forced out.
We do not seek unity for the sake of unity. We seek unity that utilizes all the forces possible to tackle the principal contradiction, or battles that push the principal contradiction forward. When we find strategic unity with others, the united front also provides a basis for unity-criticism-unity, which advances the struggle and deepens the unity of revolutionaries and all oppressed people for a better future.