Exodus And Reconstruction: Working-Class Women at the Heart Of Globalization by Bromma Kersplebedeb, 2012
Available for $3 + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
This zine is in the tradition of Night Vision by Butch Lee and Red Rover and other similar works from the same publisher on class, gender and nation. Exodus and Reconstruction: Working-Class Women at the Heart of Globalization is short and by necessity speaks in generalizations, some of which are more evidently true than others. It is definitely a worthwhile read for anyone serious about global class analysis.
The main thesis of the essay is that starting around the 1990s there has been a major upheaval of the countryside in the economic periphery that has particularly affected biological wimmin, pushing them to migrate and join the ranks of the urban proletariat. This reality has major implications for the trajectory of imperialism as well as class struggle. As the author points out, the backwards modes of production in much of the world has provided a ready source of surplus value (s) due to the low capital investment (c) and high labor component (v) of production, the latter of which is the source of all profit. The implication is that while providing a short-term benefit to imperialism by bringing these large populations online in industry, this is undercutting the rate of profit (expressed in the equation s/(c + v) ). Not only that, but the domestic and agricultural labor that often falls on the shoulders of wimmin is important in allowing for super-exploitation of the historically male workers by allowing the capitalists to pay less than they would need to pay single workers to feed, clothe and house themselves. Without the masses living in semi-feudal conditions, continued super-exploitation will threaten the reproduction of the proletariat. In other words, more people will die of starvation and lack of basic needs or wages will need to increase reducing the superprofits enjoyed by people in the First World.
Another component of this phenomenon not mentioned by Bromma is that a large portion of these workers being displaced from their land are from formerly socialist China which had protected its people from capitalist exploitation for decades. So in multiple ways, this is a new influx of surplus value into the global system that prevented larger crisis from the 1980s until recently.
The difference between MIM Thought and the ideology that is presented by Bromma, Lee, Rover and others, is primarily in what strands of oppression we recognize and how they separate out. Their line is a version of class reductionism wrapped in gender. While others in this camp (Sakai, Tani, Sera) focus on nation, they tend to agree with Bromma's ultra-left tendencies of putting class over nation. Their approach stems from a righteous criticism of the neo-colonialism that followed the national liberation struggles of the middle of the twentieth century. But we do not see new conditions that have nullified the Maoist theory of United Front between different class interests. It is true that anti-imperialism cannot succeed in liberating a nation, and will likely fall into old patriarchal ways, if there is not proletarian leadership of this United Front and Maoism has always recognized that. Yet Mao did not criticize Vietnamese revisionism during the U.$. invasion of southeast Asia to preserve the United Front.(1) For anti-imperialists in the militarist countries it is similarly important that we do not cheerlead the Condaleeza Rice/ Hillary Clinton gender line on occupied Afghanistan. This is an explicit application of putting nation as principal above gender. This does not mean that gender is not addressed until after the socialist revolution as the rightest class reductionists would say. Whether rightist or ultra-left, class reductionism divides the united front against imperialism.
While Bromma puts class above nation, h also fails to distinguish between gender and class as separate strands of oppression.(2) Specifically, h definition of what is exploited labor is too broad in that it mixes gender oppression with exploitation, based in class. The whole thesis wants to replace the proletariat with wimmin, and substantiate this through economics. While the "feminization" of work is a real phenomenon with real implications, it does not make class and gender interchangeable. And where this leads Bromma is to being very divisive within the exploited nations along class and gender lines.
MIM Thought recognizes two fundamental contradictions in humyn society, which divide along the lines of labor time (class) and leisure time (gender).(3) We also recognize a third strand of oppression, nation, which evolves from class and the globalization of capitalism. Bromma argues that wimmin provide most of the world's exploited labor, listing sweatshops, agricultural work, birthing and raising children, housework and caring for the sick and elderly. But working does not equal exploitation. Exploitation is where capitalists extract surplus value from the workers performing labor. There is no surplus value in caring for the elderly, for example. In the rich countries this is a service that one pays for but still there is no extraction of surplus value. The distinction between service work and productive work is based on whether surplus value is produced or not, not a moral judgement of whether the work is important. The economic fact is that no surplus value is exploited from a nurse working for a wage in the United $tates, just as it is not exploited from a peasant caring for her family members in the Third World. The Third World service workers are still part of the proletariat, the exploited class, but they serve a supporting role in the realization of surplus value in the service sector.
We think Bromma has reduced a diverse group of activities to exploited labor time. Caring for the sick and elderly has no value to capitalism, so there is no argument to be made for that being exploited labor. A certain amount of housework and child raising must be performed to reproduce the proletariat, so Marx would include this in the value of labor power. The actual birthing of children is something that falls in the realm of biology and not labor time. Economically, this would be something that the capitalist must pay for (i.e. proper nutrition and care for the pregnant womyn) rather than something that the capitalist gains surplus value from. While MIM dismissed much of the biological determinism based in child-birthing capability in gender oppression on the basis of modern technology and society, we would still put this in the gender realm and not class.(3)
In reducing all these activities to exploited labor, Bromma is overstating the importance of housewives as sources of wealth for capitalists. If anything the drive to move Third World wimmin into the industrial proletariat indicates that more value is gained from wimmin by having them play more traditional male roles in production in the short term, ignoring the medium-term problem that this undercuts super-exploitation as mentioned above.
The work of raising food and ensuring children survive are part of the reproduction of the proletariat, which under normal conditions is payed for by the capitalist through wages. When wages aren't high enough to feed a family and the womyn must do labor intensive food production to subsidize the capitalist's low wages, then we see super-exploitation of the proletariat, where the whole family unit is part of that class even if only the men go to the factories to work. So unremunerated labor within the proletariat, even if it is divided up along gender lines, is part of class. In extreme situations we might say that those forced to stay home and do all the housework are slaves if they can't leave. In other situations we might see a whole segment of peasants that are subsidizing a class of proletarian factory workers outside of the family structure. Bromma generally implies that gender is an antagonistic class contradiction. While there are contradictions there, h goes too far in dividing the exploited masses who have the same basic class interests opposing imperialism.
Like Bromma does, we too have addressed the situation we find ourselves in where more reactionary, criminal, religious and patriarchal groups are on the front lines of the anti-imperialist movement. Bromma explains this as a result of class and gender interests of these groups. An analysis that is parallel to our own of the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy. Yet we cannot ignore the brutal repression of communism and the promotion of ideologies like Islamic fundamentalism by the imperialists in shaping our current reality. Egypt is a prime example where brutal U.$. dictatorship repressed any socialist leaning political organizing for decades while allowing for the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood who then end up being the only viable option for a new government when the people decide the old puppet Mubarak needed to get out. The role of U.$. imperialism is principal here in forming the new puppet regime and not the class or gender interests of those who won the lottery of being chosen as the new puppets. You can find a minority in any social group who can be bought off to work against their own group without needing to explain it by class interests. On the other hand you have bin Laden's Al Qaeda, who also received CIA favoritism in opposing social-imperialism and communism, but remained a principled anti-imperialist force when the Amerikans took their stab at controlling the Middle East. The Bromma line would have us lump these groups together in the enemy camp of the bourgeoisie, while Maoists differentiate between the compradors in Egypt and the bourgeois nationalists who take up arms against the occupiers.
No movement is perfect. But Maoism did more to address gender oppression than any other humyn practice since the emergence of the patriarchy. Bromma fails to recognize these advancements in h condemnation of the national liberation struggles that degenerated into neo-colonial and patriarchal states. To fail to emulate and build upon the feminist practice of socialism is a great disservice to the cause of gender liberation.
It is with great pleasure that we announce a new release that MIM(Prisons) is adding to the labor aristocracy section of our must-read list. Divided World Divided Class by Zak Cope contributes up-to-date economic analysis and new historical analysis to the MIM line on the labor aristocracy. I actually flipped through the bibliography before reading the book and was instantly intrigued at the works cited, which included all of the classic sources that MIM has discussed in the past as well as newer material MIM(Prisons) has been reviewing for our own work.
The Labor Aristocracy Canon
Before addressing this new book, let me first put it in the context of our existing must-read materials on the labor aristocracy, which has long been the issue that the Maoist Internationalist Movement differentiated itself on. MIM(Prisons) recently assembled an introductory study pack on this topic, featuring material from MIM Theory 1: A White Proletariat? (1992) and Monkey Smashes Heaven #1 (2011). We still recommend this pack as the starting point for most prisoners, as it is both cheaper to acquire and easier to understand than Cope's book and other material on the list.
Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat by J. Sakai is a classic book documenting the history of Amerika as an oppressor nation whose class nature has always been bourgeois. It is for those interested in Amerikan history in more detail, and particularly the history of the national contradiction in the United $tates. While acknowledging Sakai's thesis, Cope actually expands the analysis to a global scale, which leads to a greater focus on Britain in much of the book as the leading imperialist power, later surpassed by Amerika. This complete picture is developed by Cope in a theory-rich analysis, weaving many sources together to present his thesis. HW Edwards's Labor Aristocracy: Mass Base of Social Democracy is a less cohesive attempt at a similar approach that is almost half a century old. Edwards is wishy-washy on the role of First World "workers," where Cope is not. Edwards provides a number of good statistics and examples of his thesis, but it is presented in a more haphazard way. That said, Labor Aristocracy is still on our must-read list and we distribute it with a study guide.
MIM went back to the labor aristocracy question in MIM Theory 10: The Labor Aristocracy. This issue built on MT 1 some, but primarily focuses on an in-depth look at the global class analysis under imperialism by the COMINTERN. The importance of this issue during WWII is often overlooked, and this essay gets deep into the two-line struggle within the communist movement at the time. We have a study pack on this piece as well.
The last work that we include in the canon is Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997(ICS) by MC5 of the Maoist Internationalist Movement. This book is most similar to Cope's work, with Cope seeming to borrow specific ideas and sources without ever acknowledging MC5's work. Since Cope is very generous in acknowledging ideas he got from others, one suspects that there is a political motivation behind ignoring the number one proponent of the position he is trying to defend in his book. We think MC5 would see Cope's work as a compliment and a step forward for the scientific analysis, particularly since Cope does not bring in anything to oppose the MIM line or to confuse the issue. Cope's book is very well researched and put together as an original work, and we have no interest in defending intellectual property.
The major new contribution in Cope's book is the historical analysis of the labor aristocracy in the context of the global system of imperialism. He also does some original calculations to measure superexploitation. His analysis of class, nation and modern events is all found in contemporary Maoism. Cope seems to be walking a line of upholding MIM Thought, while not dirtying his reputation with the MIM name. This is seen in his discussion of nationalism, which is often a dividing line between MIM Thought and the social democrats of academia. Cope gives a very agreeable definition of nation, and even more importantly, an analysis of its role and importance in the imperialist system related to class divisions. Yet, he fails to cite Stalin in doing so, while Maoists are honest about Stalin's contributions on the national question. So what we have is an excellent book on the labor aristocracy that avoids other issues that are difficult for the left-wing white nationalists to handle. In a way, this sanitized version of what is already a very bitter pill for readers in the First World may be useful to make this theory more available in an academic context. But no serious communist can just ignore important questions around Stalin and even the smaller, yet groundbreaking work of MIM itself.
MC5 or Cope?
For the rest of this review I will discuss Divided World in relation to Imperialism and its Class Structure (ICS) as they are parallel works. The above-mentioned sanitizing is evident in the two books' different approaches and definitions. Both attempt to present the basics, before getting into some intense analysis later on. Yet Cope sticks to discussing mostly Marx, with a healthy dose of Lenin's theory of imperialism without too much mention of the Soviet Union, while MC5 cites the practice of Stalin and Mao as leaders of socialist countries, as well as the contemporary pseudo-Maoists. It is a connection to communist practice that makes ICS the better book politically.
Cope's work, by default, has the benefit of having more recent statistics to use in part II for his economic analysis, though his approach is very different from MC5's anyway. Part III, which focuses on debunking the myths promoted by the pseudo-Marxist apologists for high wages in the First World, also has fresh statistics to use. MC5 addresses many ideological opponents throughout h book, but Cope's approach leaves us with a more concise reference in the way it lists the main myths promoted by our opponents and then knocks them down with basic facts.
MC5 spends more time addressing the ideas of specific authors who oppose the MIM thesis, while Cope tends to stick to the general arguments except when addressing authors such as Emmanuel who is an early trail-blazer of MIM Thought, but said some things that Cope correctly criticizes. Overall this provides for a more readable book, as the reader can get lost trying to figure out what position MC5 is arguing against when s/he refers to authors the reader has not read.
The model of imperialism that you get from each book is basically the same. Both address unequal exchange and capital export as mechanisms for transferring wealth to the First World. Both stress the structural basis of these mechanisms in militarized borders, death squads, monopoly and much higher concentrations of capital in the First World due to primitive accumulation and reinforced by the mechanisms of continued superexploitation.
While both authors take us through a series of numbers and calculations to estimate the transfer of value in imperialism, MC5 does so in a way that makes the class structure arguments more clearly. By focusing on the proportions, MC5 leaves the revisionists looking silly trying to explain how greater production per wage dollar in the Third World coexists with supposedly lower rates of exploitation in the Third World. Or how the larger unproductive sector in the First World can make similar wages to the productive sector, while the productive sector in the First World allegedly produces all the value to pay both sectors, and profit rates and capital concentration between sectors remain equal. Or if they acknowledge a great transfer of wealth from the Third World to the First World, and it is not going to 99% of the population as they claim, why is it not showing up in capital accumulation in those countries? As MC5 points out, remembering these structural questions is more important than the numbers.
Cope takes a numbers approach that ends with a transfer of $6.5 trillion from the non-OECD countries to the OECD in 2009 when OECD profits were $6.8 trillion. This leaves a small margin of theoretical exploitation of the First World. He points out that using these numbers gives $500 of profits per year per OECD worker compared to $18,571 per non-OECD worker. So even that is pretty damning. But he goes on to explain why the idea that OECD workers are exploited at all is pretty ridiculous by talking about the percentage of unproductive labor in the First World, an idea that MC5 stresses. Both authors make assumptions in their calculations that are very generous to the First Worldist line, yet come up with numbers showing huge transfers of wealth from the Third World to the First World "workers." Cope even uses OECD membership as the dividing line, leading him to include countries like Mexico on the exploiter side of the calculation. MC5, while a little less orthodox in h calculations, came up with $6.8 trillion in superprofits going to the non-capitalist class in the First World in 1993 (compared to Cope's $0.3 trillion in surplus being exploited from them in 2009). As both authors point out, they make the best of data that is not designed to answer these kinds of questions as they try to tease out hidden transfers of value.
Implications to our Practice
If Cope's book helps bring acceptance to the reality of the labor aristocracy in economic terms, there is still a major battle over what it all means for revolutionaries. In MIM's decades of struggle with the revisionists on this question we have already seen parties move away from a flat out rejection of the labor aristocracy thesis. Cope's conclusions on the labor aristocracy and fascism are well within the lines of MIM Thought. But already Cope's conclusions have been criticized:
As mentioned in an earlier post, this kind of "third worldism" represents the very chauvinism it claims to reject. To accept that there is no point in making revolution at the centres of capitalism, and thus to wait for the peripheries to make revolution for all of us, is to abdicate revolutionary responsibility—it is to demand that people living in the most exploited social contexts (as Cope's theory proves) should do the revolutionary work for the rest of us. (2)
Some see MIM Thought as ultra-leftist, and just plain old depressing for its lack of populism. Practitioners of revolutionary science do not get depressed when reality does not correspond to their wishes, but are inspired by the power of the scientific method to understand and shape phenomenon. But there is truth in this critique of Cope's book due to its disconnection from practice. A seemingly intentional approach to appeal to academia has the result of tending towards defeatism.
When it comes to practice in the United $tates, the question of the internal semi-colonies has always been primary for the revolutionary struggle. Yet today, there is a much greater level of integration. Cope's conclusions have some interesting implications for this question. On the one hand there is no anti-imperialist class struggle here "since economic betterment for people in the rich countries is today intrinsically dependent on imperialism". (Cope, p. 304) Yet assimilation is still prevented by the need for white supremacism to rally Amerikans around defending imperialist oppression of other peoples. Since national oppression will always translate into some relative economic disadvantage, we may be witnessing the closest real world example of national oppression that is independent of class. And Cope argues that this will continue within U.$. borders because you can't educate racism away, you must destroy the social relations that create it. (Cope, p. 6)
While Cope is explicitly non-partisan, MC5 provides a bit more guidance in terms of what this all means for imposing a dictatorship of the proletariat in a majority exploiter country, and how class struggle will be affected after that dictatorship is imposed. MIM also gives the explicit instruction that we do not support inter-imperialist rivalry or protectionism. This becomes a bigger challenge to promote and enforce among our allies in the united front against imperialism. Certainly, promoting these books and other literature on the topic is one part of that battle, but we will need other approaches to reach the masses who are taken in by the social democrats who dominate our political arena as well as their own potential material interests.
As long as would-be anti-imperialists in the First World ignore the labor aristocracy question, they will keep banging their heads against brick walls. It is only by accepting and studying it that we can begin to make breakthroughs, and this is even true, though less immediately so, in the Third World as Cope acknowledges (Cope, p. 214). Despite works dating back over a hundred years discussing this theory of class under imperialism, we are in the early stages of applying it to the polarized conditions of advanced imperialism with the environmental crisis and other contradictions that it brings with it.
Many people are caught up in the line that millions are enslaved in this country, and that the main motivating factor behind the prison boom of recent decades is to put prisoners to work to make money for corporations or the government. MIM(Prisons) has clearly shown that U.S. prisons are not primarily (or even significantly) used to exploit labor, and that they are a great cost financially to the imperialists, not a source of profit.(1)
"Indeed, at peak use around 2002, fewer than 5,000 inmates were employed by private firms, amounting to one-quarter of one per cent of the carceral population. As for the roughly 8% of convicts who toil for state and federal industries under lock, they are 'employed' at a loss to correctional authorities in spite of massive subsidies, guaranteed sales to a captive market of public administrations, and exceedingly low wages (averaging well under a dollar an hour)."(2)
Instead, we argue that there is a system of population control (including all the elements of the international definition of genocide) that utilizes methods of torture on mostly New Afrikan and Latino men, with a hugely disproportionate representation of First Nation men as well, across this country on a daily basis. As the new prison movement grows and gains attention in the mainstream, it is of utmost importance that we maintain the focus on this truth and not let the white nationalists define what is ultimately a struggle of the oppressed nations.
To analyze why the term "prison industrial complex" ("PIC") is inaccurate and misleading, let's look at some common slogans of the social democrats, who dominate the white nationalist left. First let's address the slogan "Welfare not Warfare." This slogan is a false dichotomy, where the sloganeer lacks an understanding of imperialism and militarism. It is no coincidence that the biggest "welfare states" in the world today are imperialist countries. Imperialism brings home more profits by going to war to steal resources, discipline labor, and force economic policies and business contracts on other nations. And militarism is the cultural and political product of that fact. The "military industrial complex" was created when private industry teamed up with the U.$. government to meet their mutual interests as imperialists. Industry got the contracts from the government, with guaranteed profits built in, and the government got the weapons they needed to keep money flowing into the United $tates by oppressing other nations. This concentration of wealth produces the high wages and advanced infrastructure that the Amerikan people benefit from, not to mention the tax money that is made available for welfare programs. So it is ignorant for activists to claim that they are being impoverished by the imperialists' wars as is implied by the false dichotomy of welfare vs. warfare.
Another slogan of the social democrats which speaks to why they are so eager to condemn the "PIC" is "Schools not Jails." This slogan highlights that there is only so much tax money in a state available to fund either schools, jails, or something else. There is a limited amount of money because extracting more taxes would increase class conflict between the state and the labor aristocracy. This battle is real, and it is a battle between different public service unions of the labor aristocracy. The "Schools not Jails" slogan is the rallying cry of one side of that battle among the labor aristocrats.
Unlike militarism, there is not an imperialist profit interest behind favoring jails over schools. This is precisely why the concept of a "PIC" is a fantasy. While the U.$. economy would likely collapse without the spending that goes into weapons-related industries, Loïc Wacquant points out that the soft drink industry in the United $tates is almost twice as big as prison industries, and prison industries are a mere 0.5% of the gross domestic product.(2) Compared to the military industrial complex, which is 10% of U.$. GDP, the prison system is obviously not a "complex" combining state and private interests that cannot be dismantled without dire consequences to imperialism.(3) And of course, even those pushing the "PIC" line must admit that over 95% of prisons in this country are publicly owned and run.(4)
Federal agencies using the prison system to control social elements that they see as a threat to imperialism is the motivating factor for the injustice system, not an imperialist drive for profits. Yet the system is largely decentralized and built on the interests of the majority of Amerikans at the local level, and not just the labor unions and small businesses that benefit directly from spending on prisons. We would likely not have the imprisonment rates that we have today without pressure from the so-called "middle class."
Some in the white nationalist left at times appears to dissent from other Amerikans on the need for more prisons and more cops. At the root of both sides' line is the belief that the majority of Amerikans are exploited by the system, while the greedy corporations benefit. With this line, it is easy to accept that prisons are about profit, just like everything else, and the prison boom can be blamed on the corporations' greed.
In reality the prison boom is directly related to the demands of the Amerikan people for "tough on crime" politicians. Amerikans have forced the criminal injustice system to become the tool of white hysteria. The imperialists have made great strides in integrating the internal semi-colonies financially, yet the white nation demands that these populations be controlled and excluded from their national heritage. There are many examples of the government trying to shut down prisons and other cost-saving measures that would have shrunk the prison system, where labor unions fought them tooth and nail.(1) It is this continued legacy of national oppression, exposed in great detail in the book The New Jim Crow, that is covered up by the term "Prison Industrial Complex." The cover-up continues no matter how much these pseudo-Marxists lament the great injustices suffered by Black and Brown people at the hands of the "PIC."
This unfortunate term has been popularized in the Amerikan left by a number of pseudo-Marxist theorists who are behind some of the popular prison activist groups on the outside. By explicitly rejecting this term, we are drawing a clear line between us and the organizations these activists are behind, many of whom we've worked with in one way or another. For the most part, the organizations themselves do not claim any Marxist influence or even a particular class analysis, but the leaders of these groups are very aware of where they disagree with MIM Thought. It is important that the masses are aware of this disagreement as well.
It is for these reasons that MIM(Prisons) passed the following policy at our 2012 congress:
The term "Prison Industrial Complex (PIC)" will not generally be used in Under Lock & Key because the term conflicts with MIM(Prisons)'s line on the economic and national make up of the U.$. prison system. It will only be printed in a context where the meaning of the term is stated by the author, and either criticized by them or by us.
On 17 April, 2012 the Associated Press reported on the election of the New United Snakes president of the World Bank.(1) This article demonstrates the control that the U.$. has in the bureaucracy of this agency which serves as an administrator of neo-colonial economic policies within the Third World. Jill Yong Kim, a Korean-born U.$. citizen was elected by the 25 member executive board after he was challenged by the neo-colonial nations, which the author describes as "developing countries." His selection extends the tradition of Amerikans leading the World Bank dating back to the institution's founding in 1944.
The neo-colonial nations contend they need a greater voice in the World Bank.(1) This is evidence that the UN dominated bureaucracy does not take these "Developing" countries interests seriously. Underdeveloped nations struggle for positions of power within these agencies to better influence the policies which are geared to (under)develop their economies. They are bureaucratically smothered by the developed nations (led by the UN) because more developed nations equals less super profits for the imperialists. Hence, the World Bank is founded on the need for underdeveloped countries. In reality, these other countries are only given a voice in the UN to the extent that they can't use it to change the status quo.
The associated press reports: "The World Bank raises money from its member nations and borrows from investors to provide low cost loans to developing countries."(1) This bourgeoisified spin of propaganda purposely hides the fact these loans to the "developing" countries intensify under-development by systematically refusing to fund serious industrialization programs.(2) Instead, these loans are granted for purchase of surplus food from the imperialist nations home markets attached with obligations to pay the money back with interest. If the U.$. controlled World Bank was truly interested in providing "aid" to underdeveloped countries they would grant loans that are geared towards developing agricultural industry which is aimed at consumption needs for the population and to establishing institutions within these countries that produce native modern technicians and engineers who were free to use their expertise within their own respective nations.
Without programs like these, "aid" to a neo-colonized state is merely a revolving credit, paid by the neocolonial master, passing through the neo-colonized state and returning the the neocolonial master in the form of increased profits.(3) Over half the century of the World Bank developmental "aid" to the Third World has accomplished nothing more than creating a comprador class of native exploiters who rely on imperialist agencies and forces to keep the oppressed nations in their place while robbing the national treasuries for their own wealth and privilege. Together the comprador class and imperialists work to exploit the oppressed nations with institutions such as the U.$. run World Bank which in its pure form is an imperialist front to finance oppression in the Third World.
MIM(Prisons) adds: For an example of World Bank economic practices that keep countries under the imperialist thumb, see our article on the Middle East and North Africa.
Recent demonstrations in U.$. 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.