A modern-day example of New Afrikans building independent institutions and public opinion for socialism is the groups carrying out the Jackson-Kush Plan in Jackson, Mississippi and the surrounding area. There are a number of different organizations involved in, and evolved out of, this Plan, and its roots go back to the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (PGRNA) in the 1960s. It is directly built on the long history of New Afrikan organizing for independence, going on since people were brought to the United $nakes from Africa as slaves. The Plan itself was formulated by the New Afrikan People's Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement between 2004 – 2010. (1, p. 3)
The project has gone through many different phases, all focusing on attaining self-determination for people of African descent in Mississippi and the surrounding region. Sometimes the organizing has been more heavily focused on electoral politics,(2, 3) sometimes more on purchasing land, and currently the Cooperation Jackson project appears to be at the forefront of pushing the Plan forward.
Cooperation Jackson's mission is to develop an intimate network of worker-owned cooperatives, covering all basic humyn needs, and more: food production and distribution, recycling and waste management, energy production, commodity production, housing, etc. The main goals of Cooperation Jackson (C.J.) are to provide sustainable livelihoods for its organizing base, which includes control over land, resources, means of production, and means of distribution. Currently C.J. has a handful of cooperatives in operation, and is building the Community Land Trust to have greater control over its target geography in Jackson. This is just a snapshot of the work of Cooperation Jackson, which is explained in much more detail in the book Jackson Rising.(1)
The Jackson-Kush Plan is being carried out despite big setbacks, repression, harassment, and roadblocks from the government and racist citizens alike, for decades. This is the nature of struggle and the folks working with the Plan are facing it head-on. C.J. and the other organizations involved are doing amazing work to establish what could be dual power in the state of Mississippi.
While the MIM has congruent goals with the Jackson-Kush Plan (at least including the self-determination of New Afrikan people; control over land, economy, and resources; environmental sustainability; an end of capitalism and imperialism), there are some notable differences.(4) We're holding out hope that the Plan is being intentionally discrete in order to build dual power, but the ideological foundations of some of its structure point instead to revisionism of Marxism.
Cooperation Jackson's plan includes working with the government in some capacity. It needs to change laws in order to operate freely and legally. This itself isn't wrong – MIM(Prisons) also works on and supports some reforms that would make our work of building revolution much easier. But because of its relationship to the state, C.J.'s voice is muffled. MIM(Prisons) doesn't have this problem, so we can say what needs to be said and we hope the folks organizing for New Afrikan independence will hear it.
Cooperation Jackson's structural documents paint a picture of a peaceful transition to a socialist society, or a socialist microcosm, built on worker-owned cooperatives and the use of advanced technology. Where it aims to transform the New Afrikan "working class" (more on this below) to become actors in their own lives and struggle for self-determination of their nation, we are for it. So often we hear from ULK readers that people just don't think revolution is possible. Working in a collective and actually having an impact in the world can help people understand their own inherent power as humyn beings. Yet it seems C.J. sees this democratic transformation of the New Afrikan "working class" as an end in itself, which it believes will eventually lead to an end of capitalism.
"In the Jackson context, it is only through the mass self-organization of the working class, the construction of a new democratic culture, and the development of a movement from below to transform the social structures that shape and define our relations, particularly the state (i.e. government), that we can conceive of serving as a counter-hegemonic force with the capacity to democratically transform the economy."(1, p. 7)
This quote also alludes to C.J.'s apparent opposition to the universality of armed struggle in its struggle to transform the economy. In all the attempts that have been made to take power from the bourgeoisie, only people who have acknowledged the need to take that power by force (i.e. armed struggle) have been even remotely successful. We just need to look to the governments in the last century all across the world who have attempted to nationalize resources to see how hard the bourgeois class will fight when it really feels its interests are threatened.
Where C.J. is clearly against Black capitalism and a bourgeois-nationalist revolution that stays in the capitalist economy, we are in agreement. Yet C.J. apparently also rejects the need for a vanguard party, and the need for a party and military to protect the interests and gains of the very people it is organizing.
"As students of history, we have done our best to try and assimilate the hard lessons from the 19th and 20th century national liberation and socialist movements. We are clear that self-determination expressed as national sovereignty is a trap if the nation-state does not dislodge itself from the dictates of the capitalist system. Remaining within the capitalist world-system means that you have to submit to the domination and rule of capital, which will only empower the national bourgeoisie against the rest of the population contained within the nation-state edifice. We are just as clear that trying to impose economic democracy or socialism from above is not only very problematic as an anti-democratic endeavor, but it doesn't dislodge capitalist social relations, it only shifts the issues of labor control and capital accumulation away from the bourgeoisie and places it in the hands of the state or party bureaucrats."(1, p. 8)
As students of history, we assert that C.J. is putting the carriage before the horse here. National liberation struggles have shown the most success toward delinking populations from imperialism and capitalism. Yes, we agree with C.J. that these national liberation struggles also need to contain anti-capitalism, and revolutionary ecology, if they plan to get anywhere close to communism. But C.J. seems to be saying it can dislodge from capitalism before having national independence from imperialism.
The end of this quote also raises valid concerns about who holds the means of production, and the development of a new bourgeoisie among the party bureaucrats. This is one of the huge distinctions between the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin, and China under Mao. In China, the masses of the population participated in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which attacked bureaucrats and revisionists in the party and positions of power. These criticisms were led from the bottom up, and the Cultural Revolution was a huge positive lesson on how we can build a society that is continually moving toward communism, and not getting stuck in state-capitalism.
Another significant difference between the line of the MIM and of Cooperation Jackson is our class analysis. Cooperation Jackson is organizing the "working class" in Jackson, Mississippi, which it defines as "unionized and non-unionized workers, cooperators, and the under and unemployed."(1, p. 30) So far in our exposure to C.J., we haven't yet come across an internationalist class analysis. Some pan-Africanism, yes, but nothing that says a living wage of $11 is more than double what the average wage would be if we had an equal global distribution of wealth.(5, 6) And so far nothing that says New Afrika benefits from its relationship to the United $tates over those who Amerikkka oppresses in the Third World.
We can't say what the next steps for the Jackson-Kush Plan should be. There's still opportunity for people within the project to clarify its line on the labor aristocracy/working class, the necessity of armed struggle to take power from the bourgeoisie, and the significance of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. MIM(Prisons)'s Free Books for Prisoners Program distributes many materials on these topics. Some titles we definitely recommend studying are On Trotskyism by Kostas Mavrakis, The Chinese Road to Socialism by E.L. Wheelwright and Bruce McFarlane, and Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997 by MIM.
by an Indiana prisoner August 2019 permalinkRed-Green Revolution
by Victor Wallis
2018 – Political Animal Press
Red-Green Revolution brings socialist theory into the 21st century. Wallis writes about the ecological crises that we face and very compellingly and comprehensively connects capitalism's drive to expand and exploit to the degradation of the natural world. In doing so he describes how the only way of saving the planet (and us) is for there to be social control of production as well as consumption (socialism). Merging the politics and economics of socialism with the need to preserve the natural environment shouldn't be an issue, but obviously it is. For the most part socialist movements don't always articulate the connection of capitalism to natural destruction, climate change, etc. (this shows in the way "green capitalism" movements seem to dominate the environmental movements, which Wallis discredits.) While environmental movements don't typically equate socialism with the solution to natural crises.
Wallis does an excellent job in joining the two, which should by now be a no-brainer. But it isn't, which is why this book is a necessary read. He begins by describing how the earth is used, subsumed under a system which uses it as a market. Market-driven incentives to exploit, expand, and profit make respect for natural limits minimal to non-existent.
"One can not expect people to be able to honor such limits until they are liberated from these drives." He could've ended the book right there on page 23. However, he continues to help us understand the totality and interconnectedness of the various aspects of ecology and socialism, further marrying the two.
This isn't the typical "appeal to people's conscience" environmental lit. It's got a blend of Marxist interpretation and is theoretical in its own right, as well as scientific and dialectical. Resting entirely on a materialist basis for socialist revolution, as it applies to ecology. Ecosocialism is the joining of the two. This is so very important, because it seems that the environmental movement is continuing to grow and even becoming more mainstream. Unfortunately, the more this happens the more it is kept within the framework of the capitalist system. "If a movement of this kind (ecosocial) is to grow, it must have theoretical underpinnings."(page 72)
Wallis truly does a great job of connecting most everything that has its "single issue" movement to the necessity of socialist revolution. From information/communication/education to agriculture/forests/fisheries to surveillance/repression/military to public health and health care services. Telling of how these things are operated under a capitalist market-oriented format and the subsequent effects allows one to further understand the totality of capitalism's domination of everything.
Regarding technology, the question of should it be democratically controlled or left in the hands of capital has its answer also in ecological concern, as Wallis articulates. He describes the various side effects and by-products that a lot of technologies (of which need for rests on no natural human need, but merely created by capitalism) produce and how they are detrimental to both the environment and human health. Which gives the answer to the above question: "The protection of human beings, not just as consumers but as involuntary recipients of particles with unknown properties, has become very much a collective responsibility. Hence the need for social control over production." (page 86)
In my opinion, one of the best points Wallis makes is in regard to the military actions. Rarely is this talked about how this is connected to environmental issues, but he does a nice job of doing so. Seeing how destruction, mass murder, displacement of populations, radiation caused by nuclear war, etc. all constitute environmental degradation, this should be easier to understand and unite against. He then connects these things to capital. "In the military sphere, the concentration of capitalist power has reached a previously unimagined level, where the agenda of global domination has become an article of consensus within the ruling class of the world's most powerful country" (page 87). Then in tearing down the commonly used pretext of "extending liberty" that capitalist empires (like the u.s.) use to intervene militarily into other nations affairs: "What unites the interventions, rather, is a pair of preoccupations central to the rule of capital, namely, 1) maximizing the sphere of corporate economic operations (now focusing especially on oil) and 2) blocking, punishing, and ultimately, destroying any attempt to chart an independent especially if socialist-development," (page 87) or what we would call "capitalist-imperialism."
There is much more in this only 198 page book, so I will close with encouraging all to read this thought provoking book and appreciate Wallis' contribution to socialist and ecological thought. Bringing the two together is an absolute necessity. Capitalism enjoys (enforces) hegemony in order to continue to exist. Among the people and our movements there must also exist a kind of people's hegemony if we will ever abolish oppression. I think environmental concerns are a great possible unifying theme that can bring more into the broader movement.
Where the book falls short is that Wallis doesn’t commit to a clear political line. He speaks of change but offers no clear line of possible action to achieve it. The book is a good read in that he unifies socialist politics with the environmental movement. This is not always linked within revolutionary theory, and is more important now that climate change is a popular conversation even in mainstream politics. But the book is specific to ecosocialism only, and Wallis doesn’t take a position on important questions like the cultural revolution or the labor aristocracy. His breakdown is useful in bringing environmentalists into the broader movement. His political line though quite cloudy.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We need more communist voices in the environmentalist movement. MIM published a theory journal on the topic of Environment, Society, Revolution back in 1997, in which it put forward a clear political line for Maoism as the path forward to stopping the destruction of the earth by humyns. In this journal MIM argued that "only by putting proletarian politics in command will we be able to address the problems of oppression and the exploitation of the non-human world." Books like this one from Wallis help get people on the correct path fighting imperialism, but we need to get more literature out there about the practical questions of revolutionary organizing today and the best path forward to ending the imperialist destruction of the earth.
As a prisoner I see this slogan almost every day while being housed in prison. It's the slogan stamped onto the inner sole of every pair of PIA shoes. Shoes made ultra-cheap due to the quality control that doesn't even exist. This is yet another way the state is saving a buck on our comfort. When I first came to join the PIA, prison issue were brown hard bottom boot, which they gave every convict coming out of reception. Those boots not only provided PIA workers with a job but also others prisoners with one as shoe shiners.
You might be thinking wow, what a low position. But if so, that's only because you weren't here. The shoe shine, if he mastered the art, got plenty of business and made however much he was willing to commit on working for. His customers were not only convicts, they also were Correction Officers usually of high rank and they paid well. Now PIA, by cutting cost and operating with the use of low grade, no quality materials, have wiped out several in-prison work assignments and legal hustles or trade exchange. Those boots were made out of leather and so there were leather hobby shops where prisoners were taught how to make belts, wallets, medallions, use special machines and recycle the unusable scraps from the boot line. Creating income, gifts for family, and educating prisoners on how to use their resources.
Now we have low-quality, low-top generic canvas shoes that they expect to fall apart within 90 days when you can get a new pair creating only more pollution and waste. No one benefits from these PIA show factories except those who work there, and I'd be willing to bet someone is lining their pocket with tax-payer money through building these contracts with under-the-table industries who supply such low grade materials. Another bad effect is due to the fact positions at these factories are low in volume. It establishes a classism among convicts, with PIA and private contractors being the highest source of income legally in the joint. Their workers became the ruling class as far as prisoners economics are concerned, with them averaging $100 a month compared to the top culinary assignment at $37 monthly, deducting 55% if they owe restitution before they even receive it.
Ask yourselves what is 45% of 9 cents an hour or 45% of 23 cents an hour? Then there's the poor non-employed convict who is the on the bottom when it comes to privileges by grand design of whom when it's time to unite and stand against any form of oppression are usually always down, with nothing to lose. On the other hand the slave class is divided amongst prisoners, the majority of this class talk about doing something to make a change in conditions, pay, treatment, but when it's time to peacefully demonstrate by striking at work they simply won't go that far. A smaller number out of the slave class will, knowing this is the only process towards change that works. The majority of the slave class are youngsters who enjoy the movement their job provides and don't want to rock the boat. Now the PIA working prisoners by no means will write in solidarity with the convicts in any class including their very own but will both encourage a strike for equal pay and treatment in the hopes of moving up, and others will report it directly to their masters the Correctional Authorities in the hopes of building a stronger rapport and gaining favor.
MIM(Prisons) responds:This comrade gives us a glimpse at some of the contradictions facing prison organizers at the PIA prisons in California. While there are some parallels between the prison system and slavery, we have critiqued the use of the term "slavery" to refer to prisoners. This comrade's description talks about how the prisoners are pawns in a system that is becoming ecologically wasteful, and likely benefitting bureacrats. The wages, while minimal, also play a role for the state in helping control and divide the population via petty economic interests. Battles for higher wages in U.$. prisons can be progressive in putting pressure on the economic viability of oppression. But generally, prison unions that represent the interests of all prisoners must focus on more pressing and common problems.
En meses recientes se ha vuelto más común leer cuentos noticieros sobre el hundimiento irreversible de glaciares en Antártica y en otras partes alrededor del mundo, como resultado de temperaturas crecientes en la Tierra. Este degradación de nuestro medioambiente global es accionado por emisiones humanas de gases invernaderos. Mientras la realidad de destrucción humana de sistemas naturales de la Tierra se hace más claro a diario, y científicos proporcionan más claras y alarmantes evidencias que estamos a punto donde los efectos no se podrán anular, vemos un argumento convincente para el comunismo como el único sistema económico que tiene la posibilidad de proveer la supervivencia a largo plazo de humanos.
Maoístas enfocan en combatir la represión y brutalidad de humanos contra humanos, cual es un elemento inherente de capitalismo. Cuando llega la pelea por la supervivencia de los humanos más oprimidos en el mundo, pelear por la vida del planeta en cual todos vivimos llega a ser inextricablemente entrelazado con nuestro humanismo. Sin un medioambiente que puede sustentar vida humana, la pelea contra opresión de grupos de pueblos se vuelve irrelevante. Vemos una fuerte razón para que comunistas apoyen ambientalismo revolucionario, y para unidad entre activistas ambientales y aquellos que pelean la opresión de pueblos. Pero no ganaremos la batalla por el medioambiente sin primero liberar los pueblos oprimidos del mundo y derribar el imperialismo.
Alla en 1997 MIM publicó la revista MIM Teoria titulado "Medioambiente, Sociedad, Revolución." En el escribió, "Nuestra meta fundamental es erradicar la opresión de pueblo sobre pueblo, y esta meta también es la manera más efectivo para liberar el medioambiente de agresión humana. No creemos que socialismo necesariamente lleve a cabo salvación ambiental, pero si argumentamos que solamente por el socialismo tendremos la posibilidad a si."
Históricamente la peor devastación ha sido causado sobre el medioambiente como resultado de opresión entre pueblos: guerras, fabricación usando trabajo explotado, y incautación de tierras por corporativos. En guerra, herbicidas y agentes químicos son usados para deforestar tierra y destruir producción de cosecha, que tiene severas, duraderos impactos no solo sobre la plantas, pero sobre la gente y fauna también. Agente Naranjo, uranio agotado, napalm, y fósforo blanco son ejemplos de este tipo de guerra. Una bomba que pone en blanco un "enemigo" también destruye el medioambiente en la área circundante. Producción capitalista permite prácticamente no regular el tiro de basuras en nuestros ríos y océanos, incluyendo derrames de petróleo. Cuando mercancía no puede ser vendido es literalmente tirada al océano o incinerado, impactando la vida oceánica y contaminación del aire.
Ademas, los imperialistas ponen en blanco al Tercer Mundo con residuos de países imperialistas, colocando industrias sucias ahí y vertiendo desechos tóxicos en patios de otra gente.(1) Y esta claro que los países que contribuyen lo menos a cambios de clima serán impactado lo máximo por el. Tifones golpeando el sureste de Asia y India, sequías en Africa, e islas que pronto desaparecerán a crecientes niveles del mar son todos consecuencias que ya han tomado las vidas de muchas personas y amenazan a destruir todavía más. Donde los países imperialistas podrán reconstruir infraestructura y defender contra los impactos de cambios de clima más fácilmente debido a su riqueza robado, residentes en el Tercer Mundo no tendrán este privilegio. Al mismo tiempo, contaminación y otros efectos de actividad humana han llegado a una escala donde es mas difícil para las naciones opresoras aislarse de estos problemas. Por esta razón, ambientalismo puede probar hacer la mas fuerte fuerza material para construir internacionalismo verdadero.
En los E$tados Unidos los capitalistas están intentando reformas pequeñas para tratar el creciente problema ambiental, pero estos intentos nos enseñan claramente porque capitalismo va fallar en salvar la raza humana. La Organización de Protección del Medio Ambiente recientemente propuso regulación de emisiones de plantas de poder, enfocandose en plantas de carbon existentes. En movimiento lento de capitalismo, la Organización de Protección del Medio Ambiente ultimará su propuesta algún día en 2015, dará un año a estados para descifrar como implementar los nuevos reglamentos, pelear los juicios que estados amenazan, y tal vez ver unos pocos cambios muchos años en el futuro. La Organización de Protección del Medio Ambiente optimistamente predice el propuesto podría reducir emisiones de bióxido de carbon de estas plantas hasta un 30% para 2030.(2) Los medios corporativos ya están quejandose de normas de emisiones siendo "mal para negocios," que bajo capitalismo es mas importante que vidas humanas. Y fiel a la moda capitalista, hay platica de sobornar a las compañías de carbon y compensar a personas quienes tienen buenos trabajos de sindicato con sueldo-alto que serán afectados.(3) Entonces por los capitalistas ricos y los pudientes trabajadores del Primer Mundo, habrá años de dispúta para la posibilidad de hacer algunos pequeños cambios, mientras gente en el Tercer Mundo están muriendo hoy de efectos de cambio de clima que ya están sucediendo.
Mucha gente bienintencionada piensa que pueden tratar problemas ambientales con soluciones individuos. Sugieren que todas necesitamos reciclar y manejar autos eléctricos, o quizás no comer carne. Es cierto que dietas Americanas, cultura de auto y producción despilfarrador tienen que ser cambiados dramáticamente en una sistema ecológico sostenible. Pero tal estilo de vida política están moviendo mas lenta que reformas capitalistas en términos de actualmente reducir los indices de contaminación, agotacion de recursos y destrozos de sistemas naturales. Movimiento social tiene que ser apoyado con organización, cambios estructurales y poder verdadero. Los capitalistas tienen todas estas cosas, pero les falta la motivación para el cambio. Estableciendo instituciones independientes que actualmente cambian nuestros sistemas de producción y consumo para estar en linea con lo demás del mundo natural tiene que ocurrir. Si esto puede ser antes de la toma de poder estatal, es algo que ecologistas revolucionarios tienen que explorar. Si sabemos que la dictadura conjunto del proletariado de las naciones oprimidas será necesario para finalmente hacer cumplir los cambios necesitados a la escala global. Esto es necesario porque una porción considerable de las naciones opresoras no reducirán su consumo por voluntad propia, y mientras haya la potencia para aprovechar por via de practicas ecológicas miopes, habrán personas que tratarán hacerlo. Hoy en los E$tados Unidos los fuerzas que mantienen el status quo son mas organizados que las fuerzas para imponer practicas ecológicas sanas.
Un tercer enfoque común para problemas ambientales es el enfoque de pura tecnología. Mientras la ciencia de ecología ha avanzado en décadas recientes, ha sido limitado por la estructura social forzada por el capitalismo. Primer mundialistas pueden crear carreras alrededor de trabajar con comunidades pequeñas para resolver problemas locales, pero estos curitas no pueden curar la herida cuando la navaja de especuladores capitalistas continua torciendo de un lado a otro. Tales ecologistas académicas pueden contribuir a nuestro conocimiento, pero sus esfuerzos no hacen nada para desafiar el modelo capitalista en si mismo. Es mucho mas eficiente y efectivo hacer cambios necesarios para la supervivencia de la humanidad con un gobierno centralizado actuando con los intereses de la mayoría, a un ONG o sector no lucrativo, o hasta por vía del método de acción directa favorecido por bandas anarquistas. Comunismo suelta la creatividad de todas la masas de una manera que empuja estos proyectos para delante con entusiasmo y anchura sin medida. (Vea nuestro discusión de China: Ciencia Camina Sobre Dos Piernas en nuestra revista de revolutionaryecology.com - only available in English right now). Animamos ecologistas con perspectivas globales ha desarrollar una estrategia que verdaderamente hace uso de su trabajo globalmente, y les recomendamos el comunismo como la mejor manera de cumplir sus metas que valen la pena. Hoy en los E$tados Unidos, tenemos mas estilistas de vida y reformistas en la banda ambientalista. Necesitamos mas revolucionarios.
Socialismo pondrá un fin a métodos "eficientes" capitalistas de hacer ganancias. Y con la tierra en los manos del pueblo, podemos empezar hacer decisiones mas inteligentes sobre uso balanceado para la supervivencia humana sin destrucción ambiental. La mayoría de los pueblos del mundo están interesados en vivir en una planeta saludable, pero los capitalistas con dinero y poder están enfocados en ganancias. Como tienen el poder y armas, ellos no tienen que darle cuentas a la mayoría. Desperdician recursos o hasta los destruyen, si les sirve a sus intereses competitivos. Y no les importa qué o quién muera en el proceso. Bajo el capitalismo vemos como agencias gubernamentales y el gobierno mismo están obligados con los intereses especiales mas ricos, y incapaz de implementar hasta reformas modestas. Solamente derribando a los capitalistas y hacer cumplir pólizas que aseguran la supervivencia de humanos en la tierra tenemos una chanza de hechar atrás la destrucción de el medioambiente.
In recent months it is becoming more common to read news stories about the irreversible collapse of glaciers in Antartica and elsewhere around the world, as a result of the rising temperature on earth. This degradation of our global environment is driven by humyn emissions of greenhouse gasses. As the reality of humyn destruction of Earth's natural systems becomes more apparent daily, and scientists provide more clear and alarming evidence that we are at a point where the effects cannot be reversed, we see a compelling case for communism as the only economic system that has a chance of providing for the long-term survival of humyns.
Maoists focus on combating the repression and brutality of humyns against other humyns, which is an inherent element of capitalism. When it comes to fighting for the survival of the most oppressed humyns in the world, fighting for the life of the planet on which we all live has become inextricably intertwined with our humynism. Without an environment that can sustain humyn life, the fight against oppression of groups of people becomes irrelevant. We see a strong reason for communists to take up revolutionary environmentalism, and for unity between environmental activists and those fighting oppression of people. But we will not win the fight for the environment without first liberating the world's oppressed people and overthrowing imperialism.
Back in 1997 MIM published the MIM Theory magazine entitled "Environment, Society, Revolution." In it they wrote: "Our fundamental goal is eradicating the oppression of people over people, and this goal is also the most effective way to liberate the environment from human aggression. We do not believe that socialism necessarily achieves environmental salvation, but we do argue that only through socialism do we have a chance at it."(1)
Historically the worst devastation has been wreaked on the environment as a result of oppression among people: wars, mass production using exploited labor, and corporate land seizure. In war, herbicides and chemical agents are used to deforest land and destroy crop production, which have severe, longlasting impacts on not only the plants, but the people and wildlife as well. Agent Orange, depleted uranium, napalm, and white phosphorous are examples of this type of warfare. A bomb that targets an "enemy" also destroys the environment in the surrounding area. Capitalist production allows for the practically unregulated dumping of waste into our rivers and oceans, including oil spills. When commodities cannot be sold, they are literally dumped into the ocean or incinerated, impacting ocean life and polluting the air.
Further, the imperialists target the Third World with imperialist-country waste, locating dirty industries there and dumping toxic waste in other people's backyards.(1) And it is clear that the countries that contribute least to climate change will be impacted the most by it. Typhoons hitting Southeast Asia and India, droughts in Africa, and islands that will soon disappear to rising sea levels are all consequences that have already taken the lives of many people and threaten to destroy even more. Where the imperialist countries will be able to rebuild infrastructure and defend against the impacts of climate change more easily due to their stolen wealth, residents in the Third World do not have this privilege. At the same time, pollution and other effects of humyn activities have reached a scale where it is harder for the oppressor nations to isolate themselves from these problems. For this reason, environmentalism may prove to be the most powerful material force for building true internationalism.
In the United $tates the capitalists are attempting small reforms to address the growing environmental problem, but these attempts show us clearly why capitalism will fail to save the humyn race. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed regulation of power plant emissions, focusing on existing coal plants. In slow-moving capitalism, the EPA will finalize their proposal some time in 2015, give states a year to figure out how to implement the new regulations, fight the lawsuits that states are threatening, and maybe see a few small changes many years down the road. The EPA optimistically predicts the proposal could cut carbon dioxide emissions from these plants by up to 30% by 2030.(2) The corporate media is already complaining about emissions standards being "bad for business," which under capitalism is more important than humyn lives. And in true capitalist fashion, there is talk of paying off the coal companies and compensating people who have good high-paying union jobs that will be affected.(3) So for the sake of the rich capitalists and the well-off First World workers, there will be years of fighting over the possibility of making some small changes, while people in the Third World are dying today from climate change effects already happening.
Many well-meaning people think they can address environmental problems with individualist solutions. They suggest that everyone needs to recycle and drive electric cars, or perhaps not eat meat. It is true that Amerikan diets, car culture and wasteful production must all be dramatically changed in an ecologically sustainable system. But such lifestyle politics are moving even slower than capitalist reforms in terms of actually reducing the rates of pollution, resource depletion and natural systems disruption. Social movement must be backed by organization, structural changes and real power. The capitalists have all these things, but lack the motivation for change. Setting up independent institutions that actually change our systems of production and consumption to be in line with the rest of the natural world needs to happen. Whether this can be done prior to the seizure of state power is something for revolutionary ecologists to explore. We do know that the joint dictatorship of the proletariat of the oppressed nations will be necessary to eventually enforce the changes needed at a global scale. This is necessary because a significant portion of the oppressor nations will not willingly reduce their consumption, and as long as there is the potential to profit via short-sighted ecological practices, there will be people who will try to do so. In the United $tates today the forces which maintain the status quo are more organized than the forces to impose sound ecological practices.
A third common approach to environmental problems is the pure technology approach. While the science of ecology has advanced in recent decades, it has been limited by the social structure enforced by capitalism. First Worlders can build careers around working with small communities to solve local problems, but these band-aids cannot heal the wound when the knife of capitalist profiteering continues to twist and turn inside it. Such academic ecologists can contribute to our knowledge, but their efforts do nothing to challenge the capitalist model itself. It is far more efficient and effective to make changes necessary for the survival of humynity with centralized government acting in the interests of the majority, rather than through the NGO or non-profit sector, or even via the direct action method favored by anarchist camps. Communism unleashes the creativity of all the masses in a way that pushes these projects forward with immeasurable enthusiasm and breadth. (see our discussion of China: Science Walks on Two Legs in our review of revolutionaryecology.com) We encourage ecologists with global perspective to develop a strategy that will really make use of their work globally, and we advocate communism as the best way to accomplish their worthwhile goals. In the United $tates today, we have far more lifestylists and reformists in the environmentalist camp. We need more revolutionaries.
Socialism will put an end to "efficient" capitalist methods of making profits. And with the land in the hands of the people, we can start to make smarter decisions about balanced use for humyn survival without environmental destruction. The majority of the world's people do have an interest in living on a healthy planet, but the capitalists with the money and power are focused on profit. Since they have the power and the guns, they do not have to answer to the majority. They waste resources or even destroy them, if it serves their competitive interests. And they do not care who or what dies in the process. Under capitalism we see how government agencies and the government itself are beholden to the wealthiest special interests, and incapable of implementing even modest reforms. Only by overthrowing the capitalists and enforcing policies that ensure the survival of humyns on Earth do we stand a chance of reversing the destruction of the environment.
On May 1, in the northern Alaska village of Tanana, two state troopers were shot to death after being sent to the remote Alaska Native village to arrest a resident for misdemeanor violations including driving without a license and threatening a village public safety officer. The man's son shot the troopers as they entered into a physical altercation to arrest him.
The issue has been sensationalized in the bourgeois press as an extreme tragedy involving the deaths of the officers who were killed "in the line of duty." The young man who fired the shots is being vilified by the media as a murderer and arch-villain guilty of killing two cops who are painted as heroes and outstanding individuals. As droves of white settlers attended the long procession of police cars carrying and escorting the bodies of the troopers from the medical examiner to the airport in Anchorage, hands over hearts and tears in eyes, nary a word is to be heard in lament of the destruction of a young First Nation life and family. Upon further, deeper examination however, a picture emerges which places the emphasis on First Nation repression, police-state tactics, and a long history of neglect by the white ruling class of its oppressed, dependent and dominated rural native population.
It was not native or even just local law enforcement which came to intervene and attempt to take into custody the alleged offender, it was white outsiders who needed to be flown in from a far distant regional hub in the tradition of the imperialist colonial model. These intruders have no personal ties to such communities and they naturally are viewed with resentment and suspicion. This sort of "law enforcement" is seen as arbitrary, external, and illegitimate by many who are forced to recognize its jurisdiction at the barrel of a gun. It is also increasingly being challenged.(1)
At first glance, what would appear to have happened in this particular situation is that a local individual who was transgressing some relatively petty ordinances or laws (which, by the way, are mostly foisted upon the First Nation people by white settlerism from far-off white legislatures and courts) was confronted by what passes for law enforcement in most rural villages - a VPSO, or "village public safety officer." The alleged offender did not want to cooperate with the VPSO and threatened him. The VPSO then contacted state troopers. The troopers were eventually flown in, attempted to arrest said individual and a struggle ensued after the man resisted arrest. The man's son, upon witnessing this altercation, grabbed a firearm and shot the troopers in defense of his father. The media is portraying the son as a "cowardly and selfish" criminal who killed two of Alaska's finest. But let's now dig more below the surface to understand the real elements behind this unfortunate circumstance.
The father and son are connected with a group called the Athabascan Nation (Athabascan being their particular native tribe). This group denies the authority of the state over native lands. They have also questioned and challenged the authority of the VPSOs.(2)
The position of VPSO was created by the state legislature. Instead of allowing First Nation sovereignty, and also even allotting appropriate funding for tribes to create their own, this was the state's way of providing a law enforcement presence in villages.
Most VPSOs are the equivalent of a native "Uncle Tom," a puppet of the "man." Though it is only the equivalent of putting a band aid over a gaping wound, many tribes in the south have been granted a form of limited sovereignty under a set of laws incongruously titled "Indian Country." The Navajo Reservation in New Mexico is an example. However, in Alaska, a clever piece of settler legislation called the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act killed "Indian Country" sovereignty in Alaska and instead regional "corporations" were set up, which in turn were given lucrative contracts on oil and mineral exploitation (most of which is still dominated by Euro-Amerikan multinationals like BP and Exxon anyway). These corporations make considerable amounts of money for a relatively few shareholders while providing limited health care and other services but little else. In other words, it was and is the Euro-Amerikan exploiter class's way of bribing a significant enough portion of Alaska natives to be content with being an otherwise plundered and oppressed colonial, subjected people. This has effectively kept most pacified, while corporations appropriate natural resources, including oil, gas, minerals, timber, fish, etc, worth billions of dollars to the ruling class exploiters.
In order to maintain complete control over these lands, the white plunderer ruling class has even imposed their own arbitrary laws and regulations on the First Nation peoples' way of life — their traditional and time-honored means of subsistence. As an example, state fish and game officers forcefully prevent indigenous peoples from harvesting food resources that they have for thousands of years, in the name of preserving stocks and preventing depletion (so that great white hunters won't run short on sport-hunting). They are then forced onto the rolls of social welfare programs such as food stamps, thereby making them into a totally dependent population. The social evils this has produced are numerous and horrendous, including creating feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness amongst a formerly proud and self-sustaining, independent people and therefore contributing in large part to the extremely high rates of suicide and drug/alcohol dependency and in effect inflicting another indirect genocide on the First Nation peoples.
There is, of course, something patently obscene with a nation who have historically been the biggest polluters and foulers of the earth imaginable telling those engaged in indigenous practices that have proved sustainable over generations what they can and can't do on their land. From over-fishing by commmercial fisheries, mines like Pebble Copper and Usibelli Coal and, of course, fossil fuel extraction, Amerikan dominance of the Alaskan territories has brought ecological disaster. This March was the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound, killing hundreds of thousands of shorebirds. While bird populations are recovering, others have not, including the local Orca populations that have continued to decline since the spill.(3) And that's only beginning to scratch at the surface of the farcical nature of white colonial rule.
Returning to the VPSO issue, it can be seen they are only a quisling representative of white colonial rule and are additionally so powerless that they all are even unarmed, making them completely dependent on state enforcement. Tribal councils themselves are little more than puppet shows. Tribal authorities rarely challenge state rule or push for sovereignty because they are, for the most part, bought-off. They don't want to lose state funding and corporate backing or jeopardize their own salaries and positions. Members of the Athabascan Nation and other similar groups recognize this and fight against their treachery and hypocrisy. Unfortunately, the latest action against the troopers by an over-idealistic and perhaps protective young man amounts to focoism that has destroyed his life, but this has shed a lot more light on the need for natives to assert far more control and autonomy over their own affairs separate from state interference.
Showing their complete disregard for their own and their status as lapdogs of state authority, the tribal council of Tanana moved to banish the man troopers came to arrest as well as another "aggressive" member of the Athabascan Nation, calling them "intolerant." Why not also banish outside, militant and aggressive officers of an oppressive regime bent on stealing and keeping your land? They'd rather banish two of their own? This speaks volumes.
In contrast, even the young man who is accused of shooting the cops seems to have had a better grip on who his real friends and enemies were, as, even though he also drew a bead on the native VPSO who was present, he lowered his gun and declined to harm him. This in itself speaks loudly for the need for tribes to govern and police themselves. It is far harder to harm someone you identify with or know, than it is someone you have had no interaction with and view as a foreign aggressor. It is also interesting that after the shootings, the local VPSO was able to take the young man into custody with the help of a few community members without further incident. So clearly, this was not, contrary to most media reports, a case of an out-of-control, criminally minded and dangerous coward, but a young First Nation man coming to the defense of his father who was being accosted and assaulted without due cause by an aggressive, militant and foreign force he did not recognize and rightfully viewed with hostility and distrust.
Not very surprisingly, even reformist measures such as the concept of "Indian Country" are vehemently opposed by the state government. If enacted, this would take away state authority and create a dual-legal system on the small amount of tribal (vs. corporate) lands that would become "Indian country."(4) In other words, the white settler state might lose its ability to fully plunder and loot the First Nation people and their land, and lose its ability to legally impose its will on the people by force.
We must fight for the national self-determination of First Nations. The imperialists must be forced to end their absolute hegemony and domination over the indigenous populations and the vast wealth of their country. The First Nation people must not be subjected to a cruel, indirect genocide and forced assimilation into white Euro-Amerikan "culture," with all its comparatively decadent values, fetishization of money, and inherent corruption.
The only solution is the revolutionary one - to support and accept nothing less than full First Nation sovereignty for all indigenous peoples.
Revolutionary Ecology (RE) is a new website that appeared in 2014. We welcome its appearance as the Maoist movement is in great need of a dedicated cell to address our current ecological crisis. We promote a cell structure for the Maoist movement in the First World, with cells focused on specific projects or localities. MIM(Prisons) is a cell focused on the U.$. prison system. We need a cell (or cells) that are focused on the struggle against the destruction of our environment just as badly. As the RE comrades point out in many articles, these are problems of dire urgency. They are also problems that threaten First World youth directly, potentially connecting them to the interests of the majority of humynity. This website is a good addition to the arsenal of educational tools for communists working to build a movement to overthrow imperialism.
The organizers of RE describe it as "a collaborative project that seeks to popularize Marxism within the environmentalist and animal liberation movements." They go on to explain: "We are quite literally faced with two options: Communism or annihilation." In the article, "What Would Socialism Mean for the Environment", this is further explained: "Whereas capitalism involves productive relations of exploitation sustained toward the circular end of profit, socialism involves the democratic control over the means of production as part of the rational and increasingly egalitarian satisfaction of people's wants and needs. Implied in such rational and democratic production is the inclusion of ecological regeneration and co-dependence as regulative economic principles." In other words, instead of relying on the almighty invisible hand, socialism is about humynity taking conscious control of our collective destiny and organizing ourselves in a way to best serve the interests of all humynity. As should be obvious by now, these interests overlap greatly with preserving the natural systems that we live in and depend on.
The article "Capitalism's Steady March Towards Irreversible Ecological Tipping Points" describes how capitalism is moving humynity rapidly towards tipping points that will be devastating for the Earth, including the deforestation of the Amazon, while discussing the inability of single issue groups and government regulations to stop this process. Much of the website's content brings Marxist analysis into the ecological discussion, as with the article "Lake Michigan Oil Spill: Capitalism and Nature" which explains the role of commodities and money in the context of humyn's relations with nature. And we are reminded of the importance of internationalism in the revolutionary ecology struggle through articles about South African trade unions and First Nations, among others.
In response to the Deep Ecology platform, one article proposes a Revolutionary Ecology Platform:
The well-being and flourishing of human and non-human life are intimately related. The flourishing of non-human life is generally of direct and indirect utility to humans, and vice versa.
Richness and diversity of non-human life can contribute to utility for humanity at large. Thus, it should be promoted as such.
Real wealth is utility or the ability to satisfy human wants and needs. The source of all wealth is two-fold: nature and human labor. It is in the long-term interest of a majority of humanity to steward biodiversity and ecological well-being (along with other elements of nature).
Alienation from and the subjugation of nature is in the vital interest of a small proportion of humanity: the ruling classes. Increasingly under capitalist-imperialism, less real wealth (i.e., human utility) is produced in proportion to overall economic activity and at greater cost to human and non-human life.
Ecologically unsustainable economic activity is inherent to capitalist-imperialism, whereby economic activity must expand even as much of it is tertiary and adds no real wealth in terms of the satisfying basic wants and needs.[sic] Abolishing such parasitic economic activity and reassigning it to restoring the natural element of wealth would aid in re-establishing the basic link between human and non-human life and provide for the flourishing of both.
The whole structure of society needs to be changed. Only revolution — the seizure of power away from one set of classes by another — can create the necessary conditions for such a transformation. Any such revolution, if it is to be successful, must advance the interests of the most exploited and oppressed sections of humanity, not merely the privileged subjects of neo-colonial imperialism.
A total ideological change of reconnection between human and non-human life will not fully take place until the basic structure of society (i.e. the mode of production) has been transformed into one of democratically producing long-term utility instead of profit. Nonetheless, the ideological sphere and subjective forces are a leading variable component where class struggle is carried out.
Those who adhere to the above points must get organized to make revolution possible.
Point 5 is of particular importance for drawing the logical connections between Maoism and ecology. Many in the First World who are concerned about ecology are disgusted by the over-consumption of their peers. One example of the extremes this takes in rich countries has been circulating on the internet recently, exposing Amerikans in rural areas who are customizing their big diesel trucks to be less fuel efficient and spew out more pollution, while these excessive polluters are explicitly ridiculing and targeting people who drive more fuel efficient cars. While this is one example of the labor aristocracy taking capitalist values to ridiculous extremes, it is not the individual decisions of the consumer class that fuel the destruction of the natural world. Car culture was built by capitalist planners who developed and marketed suburbs and lobbied for state-sponsored roads. The focus on GDP, the stock market, and other economic indicators are an obsession in the First World that the majority have joined in on, with no thought to the fact that consumption must be reduced in First World countries in the creation of an ecologically sustainable system. But it is not the rural truck drivers who are the biggest obstacle to change, it is the very logic of capitalism itself, which requires ever-expanding production, markets and circulation. This system is backed up by the biggest, most ruthless militaries in the world today.
Nikolai Brown touches on over-production within capitalism in h article on e-waste, "Not only does the inherent focus on the realization of surplus value engender 'planned obsolescence,' a global division of labor enables the flow of resources necessary for the propagation of disposable electronics. True to the fashion of capitalism, by producing toxic e-waste on such a widespread basis, its two requisites, labor-power and the natural environment, are increasingly degraded."(1) This article introduces us to the concept of ecological unequal exchange: "the transfer of natural resources to the First World from the Third World, and the return of pollution and waste to Third from the First World." As ecological crises advance, this is a concept that deserves much attention in connection to the economic unequal exchange that occurs under imperialism.
While we don't have any fundamental disagreements with the principles proposed by RE above, we find their discussion of Deep Ecology idealist in its critique of Maoism's (and other socialist countries') environmental history. The article "Deep Green Maoism?" criticizes the history of socialism for its record on "environmental degradation and species destruction" without offering concrete facts on what is being critiqued. No doubt all socialist societies to date, including the Maoist countries, had much room for improvement around environmental protection. But we should not issue blanket critiques from a position of hindsight and idealism. For their day the Maoists advanced the environmental movement further than any previous struggle by overthrowing imperialism and building a society that aimed to put an end to oppression of people. In the process they set the masses free to solve farming sustainability problems creatively, and develop both farming and industry to more efficiently meet the needs of the people. These are critical first steps towards living harmoniously with the environment. And we can assume that as dialectical materialists, these socialists would have continued to improve and build an understanding and practice regarding the importance of environmental preservation, had those societies not been taken over by bourgeois elements from within the party.
One of the first things we try to teach to new comrades is the difference between idealism and materialism, and that materialism means comparing actual practices. When we compare Chinese socialism to the Soviet Union we see improvements in the overall political approach, which translated into better science and ecology. And when we compare both socialist countries to the capitalist countries, the socialists were industrializing in ways that were much friendlier to humyn workers and the rest of the environment. While we cannot make a comprehensive comparison here, we will provide some large-scale examples that indicate the advances of these real world examples of socialism over what was happening in capitalist countries at the time (and even today).
One Amerikan correspondent in the Soviet Union wrote in 1942, "Moscow has also the most scientific garbage disposal in the world. All the waste of this great city of more than 4,000,000 people is first used in 'biothermal processes' which heat large 'greenhouse farms' from underground. When the garbage and sewage is thoroughly rotted in this quite odorless manner, it is then used as a fertilizer for ordinary farming. This amazing development got no advertising whatever. I merely chanced upon it when I visited a farm."(2) Decades later in northern China, "cadres, peasants, workers, and technicians experimented for ten years with utilizing industrial waste waters. Now the city's daily 400,000 tons of sewage is processed to fertilize and irrigate 12,930 hectares of farmland. ... Reciprocally, agricultural wastes such as cottonseed shells, corncobs, sugar-cane residue, and animal viscera become raw materials for developing commune-owned industries. ... Decentralization and multipurpose use of wastes have, besides integrating industry and agriculture, been used to control industrial pollution. Like the relocation of factories, pollution control is generally coordinated on the local level."(3)
Local, self-sufficient agricultural production was a key to successful socialist development in Mao's opinion. This had more to do with class and economics, but reinforced and enabled ecologically sustainable practices. In discussing the balance between the foreign and native and the large, medium and small scale production, Mao wrote, "At the present time we have not proposed chemicalization of agriculture. One reason is that we do not expect to be able to produce much fertilizer in the next however many years. (And the little we have is concentrated on our industrial crops.) Another reason is that if the turn to chemicals is proposed everybody will focus on that and neglect pig breeding. Inorganic fertilizers are also needed but they have to be combined with organic; alone they harden the soil." (4) Aside from pigs, humanure (or "night soil" as they called it) was a major source of organic fertilizer that utilized local resources on hand while simultaneously dealing with the problem of humyn "waste" similar to the Soviet example above. The safe and efficient use of humanure was greatly accelerated under socialism. Under capitalism, in 2014, this resource is disposed of as a waste, and the movement away from synthetic fertilizers and pesticides is still very small.(5)
Guided by the popularization of the scientific method to serve production, the Chinese also developed bacterial fertilizers at the local level. This is something that has gained a lot of attention in India in recent decades as the problems of over-dependence on synthetic fertilizers are becoming more pronounced. A report by Science for the People from 1974 describes the process of culturing the fertilizer, which is "reported to help crops absorb nitrogen, to protect them against more than thirty-two bacterial diseases, and to promote speedier seed germination and a shorter growing period." The report states that, "Such small factories producing microbial products seem now to be common in the Chinese countryside." They report on the process by which this commune studied bacterial fertilizers and has since taught it to about 20 other communes. "Similar processes of face-to-face contact and exchange appear to be exceedingly important in the transmission and popularization of science in China. Because such exchange generates little or no printed material, western observers, who tend to believe that all scientific communication of any note eventually reaches print, are likely to overlook what appears to be a vast network of informal scientific exchange in the Chinese countryside."(6)
An author on revolutionaryecology.com argues that "...the environmental problems associated with the first world-wide wave of socialism were due to a lack of foresight and scientific knowledge about ecology, holdover culture from capitalism and semi-feudalism, and the partial impact of the theory of the productive forces." The socialists of the 1900s had only as much foresight and scientific knowledge as existed at that time, and holding them to the standards of knowledge available today is idealism. Further, we know that the Maoists aggressively attacked the theory of productive forces and undertook the Cultural Revolution to fight capitalist culture. Sure, once these battles were won the revolution in all aspects would advance further, but this is not a basis for a 20/20 hindsight critique of the Maoist environmental practice in the socialist countries of the mid-1900s. We know that some practices in Maoist China would not be undertaken today, with the current state of the environment and the knowledge we have of effects of these practices. But that does not constitute reason for this critique any more than we would criticize China for failing to use computers to advance socialism before computers were available.
The article argues further "...it is this same understanding on the unity between people and nature which was either missing or gravely misapplied during the socialism of the last century." Socialism "neglected to treat nature as part of and necessary to people. That is not to say that socialism treated the natural world and other species in terms other than of humyn utility, but that it did so in an often ill-conceived and short-sighted manner." Here again we ask for concrete examples of socialism's failure in this regard, which should have been corrected based on information available at the time. In farming areas the communes in China were acutely aware of their dependence on nature as essential for survival.
The article goes on to say: "In short, an ecologically informed Maoism offers the chance to build a 'socialism of a new type' for the 21st century which seeks to resolve the contradiction between people and their natural environment as much as the contradictions between people themselves." As humynity's ecological understanding expands, socialism will utilize this knowledge and it will do so without the barriers presented by capitalism. Humyn knowledge and scientific understanding is constantly expanding. We find it misleading to say that "a new type" of socialism is needed to address ecological problems.
Aside from these Revolutionary Ecology Platform issues, we have a few smaller disagreements with the website. First there is a question of setting a bad security example by including a Facebook plugin so that people can "like" the website via their persynal Facebook accounts. This means the website is pushing people to expose themselves publicly as supporting RE. Unfortunately, this is information now available to the state, and individuals who may be new to activism (plus some blissfully ignorant experienced folks) will think they are helping the movement by "liking" the website only to expose themselves as targets for state repression just as they deepen their political line and involvement. Even at the level of random readers, we should always promote good security practices, both as a point of keeping our comrades safe and as an educational point about the repression the so-called democratic state of Amerika will unleash against those who threaten the imperialist system.
RE does not provide much information for readers on how to get involved. They do solicit participation of writers for the website, and the site links to other websites that are generally anti-imperialist and/or Maoist, or have good resources for Maoists (Kersplebedeb), and some of these other websites provide a forum for broader activism. But as a friendly suggestion we'd encourage the organizers of RE to make it easier for newly interested readers to take some anti-imperialist action if they don't want to become writers for the site. Ecology is an appealing topic for white youth, and more must be done to pull those serious about real solutions to environmental destruction into the revolutionary movement. We look forward to more ecologists stepping up to build a powerful and active revolutionary ecology organization.
This movie is a must-see for any left-leaning persyn looking to kick start a revolution or join a movement for the purpose of societal change. The East is about a subversive underground movement which can best be described as a loose collection of anarchist cells focused on giving the heads of corporations that are responsible for ecological destruction a taste of their own medicine. One reference in the movie describes them as radical cells that started with Earth First! They attack big business, who they see as responsible for much of today's problems in the United $tates. Indeed, they see the principal contradiction in the United $tates as between greedy corporations that will stop at nothing to make a quick buck and the life on planet Earth that they threaten. The ideas portrayed in their propaganda videos are hard-hitting in a way that is true to the First World radical ecology movement in real life.
The potential for the radical ecology movement to be a real force for change in the First World is one reason this movie is powerful. The movie is also aesthetically pleasing on many levels (which means it's fun to watch!) and filled with political content. It has a couple big Hollywood names; none more notable than Ellen Page of Juno fame. This movie speaks mainly to the worries of today's white petty-bourgeois youth growing up in the shadows of climate change, oil spills and other mass pollution, toxic food and medicine and a consumerist society that doesn't seem to care. The characters touch on struggles with their wealth, but ultimately use their privilege to attack their enemies. They criticize Amerikans for their complacency, but see the imperialists as the ones deserving severe criticism. Similar to many radical environmental movements in the real world, there is no explicit class analysis in the movie, but The East seems potentially friendly to both a Third Worldist and a First Worldist perspective. The real positive lessons of this movie however come from its emphasis on security and organization, or lack thereof, within supposed revolutionary groups.
The East focuses on an ex-FBI agent named Jane who goes undercover for Hiller-Brood, a fictional "intelligence firm" that specializes in protecting the interests of imperialist corporations thru espionage. Jane's mission is to attempt to infiltrate The East, a so-called eco-terrorist organization that has been a thorn in the side of McCabe-Grey, a fictional corporation that specializes in producing cutting edge pharmaceuticals. Jane's assignment is to go undercover using the name Sarah, to meet and gain the trust of potential East members that Hiller-Brood has been tailing.
After a night of partying and getting to know some counter-culture types who Sarah thinks might know The East, she decides they are relatively harmless and then sneaks away in the early morning hours to pursue other potential targets, but not before snapping all their pictures and sending them back to Hiller-Brood for file building. From here on out Sarah sets out to meet some other potential targets who are older, more mysterious and hence more promising. After meeting the possible East members and train hopping with their friends, Sarah gets her first taste of pig oppression when they are forced off the train by railroad security and subsequently beaten. It is in the midst of the commotion that Sarah sees the persyn she's been following flash a badge at security - the persyn she's been following is a fed! After being left cuffed to a train Sarah makes a narrow escape from police and is rescued by one of the train-hoppers whose van she jumps into. Once inside of the van Sarah recognizes one of the symbols of The East. Convinced she is now on the right track, Sarah slices her wrist in the hopes that this guy whose van she's in will take her to The East. Her plan works, but not before he runs a quick make on her by dialing the number on her phone marked "mom."
After speaking to another Hiller-Brood agent posing as Sarah's mom, he destroys her phone, blindfolds her and takes her to a secret location in the woods; a dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere. As they arrive, Sarah is introduced to "Doc" the group's resident doctor, much to the chagrin of Thumbs the group's only New Afrikan. As she is being treated Sarah discovers that Doc was once a med student. She is then drugged and put to sleep. After waking, Sarah meets Izzy, Ellen Page's character, who views Sarah with a skeptical eye. Izzy gives Sarah a straight-jacket and tells her to wear it if she wants to come down for dinner. Feeling she is now a hostage, and partly out of curiosity, Sarah reluctantly agrees to put on the jacket. Once they enter the dining room, Sarah is surprised to find the rest of the group already assembled at the table and all wearing straight jackets. At the head of the table is Benji, a bearded and eccentric looking man who reveals to Sarah that they know everything about her, her last job as a bank-teller, where she grew up, everything. All aspects of her cover identity unfortunately.
Benji then tells Sarah that she can begin eating whenever she's ready. Not knowing how to eat if she's in a straight jacket Sarah tells Benji that she's a guest and would not feel right if she started before them. To which Benji responds; "You can do what you please, but we prefer to eat after you begin." Confused and uneasy Sarah attempts to eat by slurping the soup directly from the bowl. Everyone stares at Sarah with a look of condemnation. What happens next is a "zen" moment in which everyone takes to eating by having the persyn next to them pick up the spoon with their mouth and feed them. Feeling played, Sarah storms out of the house and into the woods where Benji and company follow her and ask her to come back. Sarah responds, "For what? So you can continue to make fun of me to your followers?" Benji then explains that he doesn't have any followers. He tells her that if she'd only relied on the group, instead of selfishly trying to feed herself then she wouldn't be feeling stupid. Sarah then retorts "Why is it that self-righteousness and resistance movements always go hand in hand?" Yet it is the bourgeois and the Christians who are the most self-righteous of all, imposing their ways on others, forcing the majority to suffer for their own benefit. They criticize the masses with a false sense of superiority, while it is the job of revolutionaries to criticize the oppressor with the basic facts of their oppression. Throughout the movie, it is stressed that everything members of The East do is their own choice, and when they do do things it is organized in collective ways that challenge bourgeois individualism, such as the eating example.
Later that night Sarah is caught spying by Eve, an East member. Sarah is then forced to reveal herself to Eve, but she tells her that she is an active FBI agent, and that The East house is currently under surveillance, and that if she exposes her she'll go to jail. Eve agrees to stay quiet but flees the next day without telling anyone what she knows. The next day The East discovers that Eve has left. This throws the group's next mission into limbo. Sarah explains that she can easily fill Eve's shoes. The group takes a vote and decides to let Sarah in on the "jam" so long as her knowledge of the mission is relegated to her role. Sarah agrees.
The group's mission is to infiltrate a business party hosted by McCabe-Grey. Once inside the party their plan is to slip a supposed anti-malarial drug "Denoxin" into the drinks of some of Amerika's elites who have gathered to celebrate a contract between McCabe-Grey and the U.$. military which will make Denoxin available to Amerikan soldiers serving abroad. Denoxin's side-effects have been linked to various mental and nervous disorders as demonstrated by Doc, who took the drug after his prescription killed his sister. During the celebration the vice president of McCabe-Grey gives a speech in which she touts Denoxin as a miracle drug that will protect men and wimmin in uniform in the mission to protect Third World people from evil dictators and oppressive governments; thereby allowing them to bring "freedom and democracy" to the oppressed masses.
Sarah finds out what The East is up to and attempts to stop it, but it is too late. The East completes their mission and returns to their hideout in the woods. Back at the safe-house Sarah takes to snooping and discovers the real identities of The East members. However, her spying is cut short when they see breaking news that McCabe-Grey's vice president has begun to succumb to Denoxin's side-effects, her life in possible danger. The East panics and decides to disperse and flee back into the relative safety of the city. They all agree that should members decide to continue with the movement they should all return to the safe house in a couple weeks.
Now, back in society, undercover agent Sarah seems uncomfortable in the real world, she is no longer used to the amenities of living in a First World country. She has become accustomed to living in the woods with The East and their communal social values; she is conflicted. Though she feels troubled she returns to Hiller-Brood for debriefing. She gives up the identities of The East and expresses her concerns that another attack will occur. She pleads to have The East house raided before they disappear, but they refuse and send Sarah back for more intelligence gathering.
Sarah re-connects with The East as they are planning the next action. This time around, the mission is to get Hawkstone Energy executives (yet another fictional imperialist corporation) to admit their illegal pollution practices on camera; illegal practices that have contaminated a small town's drinking water. Benji's plan is to rationalize with the bourgeois leaders of Hawkstone into giving up their dangerous exploitation of the earth (kidnapping them and forcing them to listen), but Thumbs disagrees. Thumbs doesn't want to talk with the enemy, he wants action now. He says that these rich types don't ever respond to "intellectual bullshit, they respond to firepower!" After some heated discussion they agree to Benji's original plan where Izzy ends up dead, shot by Hawkstone security.
We cannot afford to make the focoist error of taking up armed struggle when the conditions aren't right, as the character of Thumbs attempts to do. Focoism has a long history of failure, getting good revolutionaries killed or locked up in jail. To think that armed actions will always inspire the masses towards revolutionary activity is an ultra-left and deadly, idealist mistake that has left many anti-imperialists either dead or in prison. In this sense The East has a better strategy in that they are primarily trying to stop the most powerful people from doing the damage their corporations are doing, rather than engaging in focoist actions aimed at convincing Amerikans that the corporations need to be stopped. The East may actually end up stopping some corporations, and the individuals leading them, from some of their more destructive practices. But in the end this strategy, like focoism, lacks the big picture perspective that will enable us to put an end to the environmental destruction that is inherent to capitalism. What their strategy lacks is the building of independent institutions of the oppressed that have the power to implement environmentally-friendly production methods while meeting the people's needs. While the movie shows The East building alternative culture within their collective, we must figure out how to go bigger than that to really counter the powerful corporations that are now calling the shots.
When Izzy dies, The East becomes spooked and are thrown into disarray. One member talks of abandoning the movement and Benji tries to get him to stay. Benji tells him that "a revolution is never easy, but that doesn't make it any less important," to which the deserter states, "I would betray the revolution for Izzy, that's the difference between you and me." This is an inherent weakness in petty bourgeois radical movements. When those they care about are threatened they see the comforts of petty bourgeois life as preferable to struggle. This is why the deserter is able to succumb to such individualist ways of thinking. For the proletariat, oppression is a daily reality, and death of a comrade will tend to justify further what they are doing rather than discourage. What we must fully understand however is that the success or failure of any movement does not hinge on the importance of one individual, one man, one womyn or one child; but on the stated aims of that movement and the completion of that goal, and if we stray from those principles then we are just as guilty of betraying the revolution as the deserter in the movie did.
At this point, this cell of The East splits up yet again. Back at Hiller-Brood Sarah discloses the day's events, she reports Izzy's death and claims that The East is in shambles, a perfect time to move in and arrest them all. Her advice is again ignored. She is ordered to go back. She meets with Benji, but this time pleads with him to give up the movement; partly out of her wish to prevent another attack or death, and partly because she has developed romantic feelings for him. Benji refuses and instead convinces her to take part in one last mission. She agrees because she has feelings for him and because she has now been won over to The East's cause.
On the way to the next mission Benji exposes his hand and tells Sarah that he knows she's a spy. He tells her that if she was ever down with the movement or truly had feelings for him, then she'd complete the mission and run away with him. She agrees to help. The mission is to retrieve a flash drive from the offices of Hiller-Brood that contains the names of fifty agents embedded in underground movements all across the world. Benji convinces Sarah that he only wants the list to spy on the spies; but what he really wants is to expose the agents to their organizations. She carries out the mission but when she finds out Benji's true intention she denies having stolen the flash drive. She tries to convince Benji that if they were to obtain the list it'd be better to talk the agents into giving up their careers as spies for the greater good. She argues if they only knew what they were really doing, they'd all turn just as she had. Benji refuses and they part ways. He, back to the underground, and she onto a one womyn awareness campaign.
The movie ends with clips of her talking to what appear to be other Hiller-Brood agents outside of oil refineries and power plants. The take away? Don't work outside the system in order to change it, work alongside it in order to change minds one persyn at a time.
Now let us examine this film from a Maoist perspective: "In the world today, all culture, all literature and all art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines. There is in fact no such thing as art for art's sake, art that stands above classes, art that is detached or independent of politics." (MIM Theory 13)
This should be our attitude and guiding line when viewing or reviewing art i.e, film, literature, music, etc. Only with this attitude will we be able to see thru the bourgeoisie obfuscation of art. Furthermore; "works of literature and art, as ideological forms are products of the life of a given society." Which means that what we as a society deem to be art can only be pulled from the consciousness of society itself. Art expresses not only individual, but society's wishes, its desires, its anxieties and its perceived problems.
Now we began this review by stating that this movie was aesthetically pleasing and filled with political content. Comrade Mao taught us that the most reactionary art in class society is both high in artistic value and filled with political content. And who's political views was this movie putting forward? The bourgeoisie's of course. But even though it is a bourgeoisie product with bourgeois aims we can still learn something from it that we can apply to our own movement. Hence, we should not totally discard it.
Overall, The East is painted in a very positive light in this film, highlighting the liberatory and egalitarian aspects of the anarchist sub-culture. What we are to take away from this is Sarah benefitted and learned from that experience, but goes on to have her real impact by working among the agents of the imperialists to convince them what they are doing is wrong. The whole premise assumes that people just don't know the destruction that these corporations are doing. While the details are certainly masked from Amerikans, the information is still readily available, and a historical analysis of this country will reveal much deeper roots to reactionary politics of the Amerikan consumer nation. A more damaging storyline that would be justified by this movie, which we see time and time again in real life, is the activist who participates in radical organizing to learn and build cred and then goes on to work within the system as Sarah does when they "grow up." This movie will play well with the radical-curious, who find their life's work in NGOs, non-profits and even government agencies. The good side of this film is that it could lead people to be sympathetic to the cause of radical ecology, despite its praise of reformism. There are also some good practical lessons in this movie.
The first lesson to take away from this film is that any movement that is truly working against the interests of the imperialists will simply not be tolerated. The agents of repression are always looking to smash movements of dissent and are constantly working vigorously to infiltrate and spy on us.
Secondly, we must be cautious of who we decide to work with and who we reveal ourselves to. Simply because we meet people who seem to share our political views does not mean they are comrades and thereby privy to our organization's actions or methods of work. Within sub-cultures, having the right look and lifestyle can lead to people putting their guards down for superficial reasons. Sarah demonstrates this, and there are many real-world Sarahs whose stories have been exposed. This essentially breaks down to "better, fewer, but better." And even good comrades can be turned, which we should keep in mind as well. The bourgeoisie and their spies are highly organized and we should be too. A good way of keeping security tight within our organizations is by keeping politics in command. No one who isn't putting in work should know anything about our organizations other than what is published in the pages of Under Lock & Key and the MIM(Prisons) website. Our work should always be geared along the lines of what will be the most effective and will get us the furthest fastest. As such, security within our movement shouldn't be something we study in addition to theory, but should stem directly from it.
Thirdly, we shouldn't necessarily have to like our comrades on a persynal level. Just because we like certain people or have relative unity with them on certain issues doesn't mean we recruit based on popularity. We recruit based on the correctness of one's political line and the type of work done over a period of time. When they were around, the original Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika was the vanguard of the communist movement in the North American continent exactly because they were composed of the communist elite. They didn't get to those positions overnight due to social networking, but because they put in the correct type of work over a sustained period. This is something else we should remember when building and re-building our movements. Thus, if we are serious about taking the socialist road then we must study and work assiduously to learn Marxist philosophy, scientific socialism and Marxist political economy so that we may integrate it into our work and apply the most correct political lines.
In conclusion, we must take art seriously and not cede the cultural wars to the bourgeoisie but must engage them on that level as well. For the bourgeoisie this movie was a hit due to its successful combination of aesthetics and politics. Therefore we must also seek to fuse the political with the artistic. Under Lock & Key already does this to a certain degree as the ULK writers struggle to make it the trenchant arm of the revolution. Right now however, what ULK lacks in artistic value it makes up in political worth, though there is much room for improvement.
Don't work alongside imperialism to change it one persyn at a time. Rather, work directly against it in order to smash it and revolutionize the world.
A new report from Global Witness documents over 900 assassinations of people protecting the environment and rights to land in the last decade.(1) And this is just the ones they could find information on, meaning the real number is higher. Of course, none of those killed were from the First World. The big countries in the report were Brazil (448), Honduras (109), Philippines (67), Peru (58) and Colombia (52). The killers have been prosecuted in only 6 of the 908 cases. The report also suggests that this is a growing phenomenon, which seems plausible given the heightening contradictions between the demands of capitalist production and the capacity of the natural world to maintain the balance of systems that are necessary to sustain life as we know it.
In the past, some have painted environmentalism as a concern of the First World. However, this has never really been true, as it is the most oppressed people who have suffered and struggled against the most extreme man-made disasters. And the threat that their struggles pose to the capitalists' interests is highlighted by this list of assassinations; people who were mostly killed in cold blood, a fate those in the oppressor nations know nothing about.
There is a concentration of murders in the tropical countries, where vast rain forests with some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet are making what could be their final stand. Long a source of natural resources, in recent decades these forests have been leveled at an increasing rate that cannot be sustained. In such cases there is a clear connection between protecting the ecological functioning of a region and the national liberation struggle tied to land. These "untamed" lands are often the homes of peoples who have not fully been assimilated into the global capitalist economy. Often private property and land deeds do not exist in these areas, attracting the brutality of the exploiters. The people struggling to exist on these lands have a completely different perspective on what land ownership and stewardship mean.
Many of the reports of these assassinations can be discouraging, when we see vocal leaders of small indigenous groups gunned down by paid assassins of the capitalists and no one is held accountable. But this war does have two sides. In many of the hotspots in this report there are strong organizations that have mobilized indigenous people to defend their lands. One of those examples has made some headlines recently in the Philippines. The revolutionary forces in the Philippines have called for a ban on logging because it has impoverished the indigenous people and peasantry, making them susceptible to environmental disasters as we saw last November with typhoon Yolanda. The New People's Army (NPA) is exerting dual power in putting this ban into effect by engaging in gun battles and arresting members of the military of the U.$. puppet regime that defend the logging companies.(2) In a separate campaign the NPA recently stormed Apex Mining Company, torching their equipment.(3) This is one of many mining companies they have targeted due to the destruction they wreak on indigenous lands and humyn health. This connection between the struggles of the indigenous people and peasantry, the environment and land is nothing new for the Communist Party of the Philippines as was documented in the decades old film Green Guerrillas.
While most pronounced in the Third World, ecological destruction threatens all humyn life and continues to be a growing rallying point for progressive forces in the First World as well. Maoists must tie this work to a realistic class analysis and link the struggle to protect our environment to the struggle for national liberation of the oppressed. A true revolutionary ecology must engage the workings of a system that has assassinated well over 900 innocent people for trying to protect the world that we all live in.
Tacloban, the Philippines, an island devastated by a recent typhoon, shows the contrasts between wealth and poverty, and underscores the reality that "natural" disasters are not natural at all. People in First World countries have the infrastructure, resources and response systems in place to save lives that are lost in the Third World when the same disasters hit.
Overall the Philippines is a poor country; in 2012 there were 15 provinces with over 40% of the population below the poverty threshold.(1) While not in one of these 15 provinces, the government reports 32% of people in Leyte (Tacloban's province) are below the poverty line.(2) These people, living below the poverty line, had an income of less than $179/month for a family of five. A third of Tacloban's houses have wooden exterior walls and one in seven have grass roofs.(3) In these conditions, it is no surprise that a typhoon could wreak such havoc in Tacloban.
Bodies of the dead are rotting in the streets as aid fails to reach those devastated by the storm. There is no clean water and little food. Yet the Philippines is a country frequently hit by severe storms, with about 20 typhoons a year, and this storm was identified well in advance. Both these conditions should engender preparedness on the part of the government. However, in the Philippines disaster preparation and relief are delegated to local governors without a strong central leadership. Some services are more effectively delivered on a large scale. This is one area where we can show obviously that communism has a better solution than the individualism of capitalism. Where central control will lead to more efficient solutions, a communist-led government would not hesitate to take that control. But capitalism is not focused on serving the people, it is focused on maximizing profits and power for the few. And these profits result in deaths from malnutrition, military aggression, lack of health care, and "natural" disasters. As long as the imperialists retain their power and wealth, they don't mind tens of millions of preventable deaths a year.
In an interesting historical connection, Imelda Marcos, wife of the former president of the Philippines, is from Tacloban. The family of Imelda Marcos dominated local politics for years; she herself held a congressional seat in the 1990s. Imelda's husband, Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled in the Philippines from 1965-1986 with the support of the U.$. government, embezzled billions of dollars in public funds while in power. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) waged revolutionary armed struggle against the Marcos regime, growing in strength during the Marcos dictatorship. In the end, when Marcos's demise was inevitable, the United $tates stepped in to have a role in the change of government, turning on Marcos and backing Corazon Aquino. Her family legacy lives on today as her son Benigno Aquino holds the President's office. Unfortunately, the popular movement that forced Marcos out did not go further than installing another imperialist puppet. While the communist movement was strong, it was not yet strong enough to lead the people to force the U.$. imperialists out, leaving them to play a dominating role in the country's politics and economics to this day.(4)
This is the backdrop for the reported six warships the Amerikans sent to the Philippines last week, with more than 80 fighter jets and 5,000 navy soldiers.(5) Today the United $tates is taking advantage of the disaster in the Philippines to increase military presence, while playing the hero. As reported in a CPP press release:
"The US government is militarizing disaster response in the Philippines, in much the same way that the US militarized disaster response in Haiti in the 2010 earthquake," said the CPP. The high-handed presence of US armed troops in Haiti has been widely renounced. The US government has since maintained its presence in Haiti...
"What the disaster victims need urgently are food, water and medical attention, not US warships bringing in emergency rations to justifty their armed presence in Philippine sovereign waters," pointed out the CPP. "If the US government were really interested in providing assistance to countries who have suffered from calamities, then it should increase its funds to civilian agencies that deal in disaster response and emergency relief, not in fattening its international military forces and taking advantage of the people's miseries to justify their presence," added the CPP.(5)
Much of the press is quiet about the ongoing war in the Philippines between the U.$. puppet regime and the CPP-led New People's Army (NPA), as well as other liberation forces in different regions of the islands. But it has been brought up in the Filipino press to spread propaganda about NPA soldiers attacking government relief efforts. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) have denounced these lies pointing out that the location of the attack was not in an area where relief efforts were needed. The CPP reiterated that "NPA units in areas ravaged by the recent super typhoon Yolanda are currently engaged in relief and rehabilitation efforts assisting local Party branches and revolutionary mass organizations in mobilizing emergency supply for disaster victims." Shortly thereafter a ceasefire was declared on behalf of the NPA in order to focus on relief efforts.
The liberation struggle has long been connected to the protection of the natural resources of the islands that the imperialist countries continue to extract for great profits off the backs of the Filipino proletariat.
The storm has also received a lot of attention at a climate change summit in Poland where Filipino officials have begun a hunger strike to attempt to force "meaningful" change in relation to energy consumption. Climate change has been predicted to cause more extreme weather conditions, and this recent massive typhoon is just another possible indicator that that is happening. Yet, as international summits continue, little change is made in the over-consumption of the imperialist nations driving this disaster.
As many in the Filipino countryside have already recognized, the only solution to environmental destruction and disasters is an end to capitalism. With a rational system that puts the needs of the people over the goal of profits, we can build infrastructure suited to the environmental conditions, set up emergency response systems that provide fast and effective support, and plan consumption in a way that does not undercut the very natural systems that we live in and depend on.