Recently a report was released by the U.$. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division. The report concerned a survey conducted relating to sexual assaults and abuse taking place in Amerikan prisons and jails. The state of Texas was at the very top in terms of sexual assaults and abuse reported by prisoners. In fact, the Bill Clements unit located in Amarillo, Texas and the Mark Stiles unit located in Beaumont, Texas rated high in prison rape cases as well as sexual assaults. There has been no evidence to suggest the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is overly concerned about the persynal welfare and safety of the humyn beings held captive in their modern day gulags. Recent evidence shows the blatant disregard for humyn life in Texas prisons.
In Kennedy, Texas where the Connally Unit is located. A drought has caused 2 of the 10 water wells servicing the area to dry up. In a sign of extreme stupidity the warden of Connally Unit offered the water wells servicing the prison to the civilian population in Kennedy!
Some viewed this as an admirable gesture of good will. Although no one stopped to think about the prisoners housed at Connally. In Mid-August there have been reports of no-showers, no-toilet flushes, no-water being offered to prisoners on the unit. What the hell was the warden thinking? That's the point comrades, the oppressors down here don't think. A prisoner in Texas is less than humyn, a barn animal, cattle, chattel, dog or cat but far from being viewed as humyn.
This is why political and legal education is so very important for the lumpen underclass housed in Texas state prison. We cannot organize against these oppressors if we don't embrace the stage we are in. Cutting edge revolutionary scientific analysis tells us we are at the stage of A) Educate B) Raise awareness and consciousness and C) Garner public support for our struggle!
If the U.$. Department of Justice knows Texas allows the abuse of prisoners, what do they intend to do about it? A fancy report doesn't do jack to solve the problem. We need tangible realistic solutions. We must lobby hard for these oppressors to be held accountable. This executive director Brad Livingston?! Out! This Prison Rape Elimnation Act Ombudsman Ralph Bales?! Out! This Warden on Connally Unit who has ignored the basic needs of the humyn beings in her/his care? Out! And add some civil rights violations and criminal charges to their resume and perchance they will take their job more seriously.
As always I encourage all comrades in Texas and beyond to join USW in order to learn how to remove the boot of the oppressor from your neck!
I am writing in response to "Debating Trans Rights" in ULK 31. I am a bi-two spirit prisoner who's been active in the struggle since the 70s. I do not agree with everything that revolutionary comrades espouse, but these are not grounds for division, they are expressions of human diversity. The Pennsylvania comrade seems to have misunderstood MIM(Prisons)'s position and taken it somewhat persynally.
Having said as much, I see this comrade's struggle (and indeed the trans struggle generally) as an agitational process and as resistance to imposed norms of identity inseparable from the broader battle against sex-based discrimination and exploitation globally.
Whether a trans persyn can afford sex reassignment surgery (SRS) or hormone therapy speaks only to their economic condition and not to their location. This economic hurdle actually applies to most trans people in the u.s., many of whom seek SRS and treatments via the underground from sources in Mexico and Latin America due to the artificially inflated cost created by the medical establishment in the u.s. and exploitative pharmaceutical monopolies. It was done with Cipro during the anthrax scare and is still being done with HIV/AIDS treatment, which has had an enormously adverse impact in Africa where AIDS and AIDS-related deaths are epidemic.
It should also not go unnoticed that trans people in the u.s. are being raped and murdered as well (especially in prison) due to their identity, as are gays and bis. A 2012 Black & Pink newsletter published 43 photos of trans wimmin murdered by hate criminals. This number represented only a tiny fraction of the total number of murders of trans people as the result of hate in the u.s.
From an international perspective, the u.s. cannot be excluded from the global battlefield. The transitioning comrade in Pennsylvania should note that MIM(Prisons) never said they were against SRS/hormone therapy, nor did they derogate that particular struggle. They simply said it isn't part of their global perspective on anti-imperialist struggle. This is hardly a disparaging or anti-trans position.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We appreciate this comrade expanding on what we wrote in ULK 31. We stand by our point: "In the article this prisoner criticizes, we wrote that we do not fight for sex reassignment surgery in the same way we don't fight for gay marriage, because both amount to further privileges for people already benefiting from imperialism. We could equate these struggles with the fight to get more women in executive positions in companies, or the fight to get a Black man in the white house. They represent steps forward in equality for Blacks, wimmin, gays and trans people in reaping imperialist spoils of war and gender oppression on Third World peoples. These struggles do not help advance the fight against imperialism, to liberate the Third World peoples." And as we explained in ULK 12, the U.$. health care system is not in the best interests of Amerikans, but on the whole they still have access to far superior care than most people in the world. So to struggle to improve U.$. health care strengthens imperialism, while ending AIDS drug monopolies challenges imperialism.
We agree with this writer that we should not ignore those facing particularly brutal gender oppression in the First World. The murder of trans people, and violence against anyone for sexual orientation or gender identity, is objectively reactionary and is a product of patriarchal imperialism. This violence is just one of many reasons why those facing this gender oppression should be on the side of the anti-imperialist struggle, fighting for a world free of gender oppression.
I'm a sick fuck But so are you Been trained like Pavlov's dog Getting off on watching you Suffer Have we had enough Role playing hierarchy Is this really the way you want it Baby Angry and violent Scared and simpering Playing the part like Pavlov's dog Bells and whistles — spittle buckets Nooses, nines, suicides Wiping up our messes I want out your pornography Show me the way out this insanity I'm a sick fuck for wanting you This way Your sick smile Why do we play It's not the way we want it But it's the way we get it Patriarchal sex toys manipulated by playboy Ignorant puppets pushing, pulling Lipsticked lips quivering, smiling Hiding the tears beneath our sweat Mascara, muscle, gritted teeth, fingernails Buried sickness in holy matrimony You done yet
by a Pennsylvania prisoner December 2012 permalink
The sentiment expressed in the Men Against Sexism review in ULK 29 that we should not be fighting for sex reassignment surgery or hormone replacement therapy, is exactly the type of infighting that cuts comrades off from each other. How can a man be against sexism, yet support the oppressor's sexist stance on hormones? This is exactly why resistance is so watered down in Amerikkka. All the so-called resisters make a hobby of petty posturing and holier-than-thou attitudes which is nothing more than sugar-coated (and thinly at that) bourgeois ego games. The sad part is the gay crowd was at one point the outsider like us trans people are now but they are playing pass the shit-stick. How pathetic.
MIM(Prisons) responds: In the article this prisoner criticizes, we wrote that we do not fight for sex reassignment surgery in the same way we don't fight for gay marriage, because both amount to further privileges for people already benefiting from imperialism. We could equate these struggles with the fight to get more women in executive positions in companies, or the fight to get a Black man in the white house. They represent steps forward in equality for Blacks, wimmin, gays and trans people in reaping imperialist spoils of war and gender oppression on Third World peoples. These struggles do not help advance the fight against imperialism, to liberate the Third World peoples.
Most trans people in the Third World don't have the privilege of even thinking about hormone replacement therapy, and Third World gays certainly are not pre-occupied with their right to marriage. These people are focused on day-to-day survival, getting enough to eat, and avoiding getting raped or killed by Amerikan-backed militias. We mislead people when we focus on battles that distribute the imperialist privileges more equally among the already privileged labor aristocracy. We must focus on the real enemy of the majority of the world's people, an enemy that won't stop exploiting and killing through the ballot box. Gay and trans people in Third World countries deserve all of our attention and energy, to help ensure their survival and ultimate liberation.
Exodus And Reconstruction: Working-Class Women at the Heart Of Globalization by Bromma Kersplebedeb, 2012
Available for $3 + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
This zine is in the tradition of Night Vision by Butch Lee and Red Rover and other similar works from the same publisher on class, gender and nation. Exodus and Reconstruction: Working-Class Women at the Heart of Globalization is short and by necessity speaks in generalizations, some of which are more evidently true than others. It is definitely a worthwhile read for anyone serious about global class analysis.
The main thesis of the essay is that starting around the 1990s there has been a major upheaval of the countryside in the economic periphery that has particularly affected biological wimmin, pushing them to migrate and join the ranks of the urban proletariat. This reality has major implications for the trajectory of imperialism as well as class struggle. As the author points out, the backwards modes of production in much of the world has provided a ready source of surplus value (s) due to the low capital investment (c) and high labor component (v) of production, the latter of which is the source of all profit. The implication is that while providing a short-term benefit to imperialism by bringing these large populations online in industry, this is undercutting the rate of profit (expressed in the equation s/(c + v) ). Not only that, but the domestic and agricultural labor that often falls on the shoulders of wimmin is important in allowing for super-exploitation of the historically male workers by allowing the capitalists to pay less than they would need to pay single workers to feed, clothe and house themselves. Without the masses living in semi-feudal conditions, continued super-exploitation will threaten the reproduction of the proletariat. In other words, more people will die of starvation and lack of basic needs or wages will need to increase reducing the superprofits enjoyed by people in the First World.
Another component of this phenomenon not mentioned by Bromma is that a large portion of these workers being displaced from their land are from formerly socialist China which had protected its people from capitalist exploitation for decades. So in multiple ways, this is a new influx of surplus value into the global system that prevented larger crisis from the 1980s until recently.
The difference between MIM Thought and the ideology that is presented by Bromma, Lee, Rover and others, is primarily in what strands of oppression we recognize and how they separate out. Their line is a version of class reductionism wrapped in gender. While others in this camp (Sakai, Tani, Sera) focus on nation, they tend to agree with Bromma's ultra-left tendencies of putting class over nation. Their approach stems from a righteous criticism of the neo-colonialism that followed the national liberation struggles of the middle of the twentieth century. But we do not see new conditions that have nullified the Maoist theory of United Front between different class interests. It is true that anti-imperialism cannot succeed in liberating a nation, and will likely fall into old patriarchal ways, if there is not proletarian leadership of this United Front and Maoism has always recognized that. Yet Mao did not criticize Vietnamese revisionism during the U.$. invasion of southeast Asia to preserve the United Front.(1) For anti-imperialists in the militarist countries it is similarly important that we do not cheerlead the Condaleeza Rice/ Hillary Clinton gender line on occupied Afghanistan. This is an explicit application of putting nation as principal above gender. This does not mean that gender is not addressed until after the socialist revolution as the rightest class reductionists would say. Whether rightist or ultra-left, class reductionism divides the united front against imperialism.
While Bromma puts class above nation, h also fails to distinguish between gender and class as separate strands of oppression.(2) Specifically, h definition of what is exploited labor is too broad in that it mixes gender oppression with exploitation, based in class. The whole thesis wants to replace the proletariat with wimmin, and substantiate this through economics. While the "feminization" of work is a real phenomenon with real implications, it does not make class and gender interchangeable. And where this leads Bromma is to being very divisive within the exploited nations along class and gender lines.
MIM Thought recognizes two fundamental contradictions in humyn society, which divide along the lines of labor time (class) and leisure time (gender).(3) We also recognize a third strand of oppression, nation, which evolves from class and the globalization of capitalism. Bromma argues that wimmin provide most of the world's exploited labor, listing sweatshops, agricultural work, birthing and raising children, housework and caring for the sick and elderly. But working does not equal exploitation. Exploitation is where capitalists extract surplus value from the workers performing labor. There is no surplus value in caring for the elderly, for example. In the rich countries this is a service that one pays for but still there is no extraction of surplus value. The distinction between service work and productive work is based on whether surplus value is produced or not, not a moral judgement of whether the work is important. The economic fact is that no surplus value is exploited from a nurse working for a wage in the United $tates, just as it is not exploited from a peasant caring for her family members in the Third World. The Third World service workers are still part of the proletariat, the exploited class, but they serve a supporting role in the realization of surplus value in the service sector.
We think Bromma has reduced a diverse group of activities to exploited labor time. Caring for the sick and elderly has no value to capitalism, so there is no argument to be made for that being exploited labor. A certain amount of housework and child raising must be performed to reproduce the proletariat, so Marx would include this in the value of labor power. The actual birthing of children is something that falls in the realm of biology and not labor time. Economically, this would be something that the capitalist must pay for (i.e. proper nutrition and care for the pregnant womyn) rather than something that the capitalist gains surplus value from. While MIM dismissed much of the biological determinism based in child-birthing capability in gender oppression on the basis of modern technology and society, we would still put this in the gender realm and not class.(3)
In reducing all these activities to exploited labor, Bromma is overstating the importance of housewives as sources of wealth for capitalists. If anything the drive to move Third World wimmin into the industrial proletariat indicates that more value is gained from wimmin by having them play more traditional male roles in production in the short term, ignoring the medium-term problem that this undercuts super-exploitation as mentioned above.
The work of raising food and ensuring children survive are part of the reproduction of the proletariat, which under normal conditions is payed for by the capitalist through wages. When wages aren't high enough to feed a family and the womyn must do labor intensive food production to subsidize the capitalist's low wages, then we see super-exploitation of the proletariat, where the whole family unit is part of that class even if only the men go to the factories to work. So unremunerated labor within the proletariat, even if it is divided up along gender lines, is part of class. In extreme situations we might say that those forced to stay home and do all the housework are slaves if they can't leave. In other situations we might see a whole segment of peasants that are subsidizing a class of proletarian factory workers outside of the family structure. Bromma generally implies that gender is an antagonistic class contradiction. While there are contradictions there, h goes too far in dividing the exploited masses who have the same basic class interests opposing imperialism.
Like Bromma does, we too have addressed the situation we find ourselves in where more reactionary, criminal, religious and patriarchal groups are on the front lines of the anti-imperialist movement. Bromma explains this as a result of class and gender interests of these groups. An analysis that is parallel to our own of the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy. Yet we cannot ignore the brutal repression of communism and the promotion of ideologies like Islamic fundamentalism by the imperialists in shaping our current reality. Egypt is a prime example where brutal U.$. dictatorship repressed any socialist leaning political organizing for decades while allowing for the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood who then end up being the only viable option for a new government when the people decide the old puppet Mubarak needed to get out. The role of U.$. imperialism is principal here in forming the new puppet regime and not the class or gender interests of those who won the lottery of being chosen as the new puppets. You can find a minority in any social group who can be bought off to work against their own group without needing to explain it by class interests. On the other hand you have bin Laden's Al Qaeda, who also received CIA favoritism in opposing social-imperialism and communism, but remained a principled anti-imperialist force when the Amerikans took their stab at controlling the Middle East. The Bromma line would have us lump these groups together in the enemy camp of the bourgeoisie, while Maoists differentiate between the compradors in Egypt and the bourgeois nationalists who take up arms against the occupiers.
No movement is perfect. But Maoism did more to address gender oppression than any other humyn practice since the emergence of the patriarchy. Bromma fails to recognize these advancements in h condemnation of the national liberation struggles that degenerated into neo-colonial and patriarchal states. To fail to emulate and build upon the feminist practice of socialism is a great disservice to the cause of gender liberation.
"The Anti-Exploits of Men Against Sexism" Ed Mead Revolutionary Rumors PRESS [email protected]
This pamphlet is an historical account of the organization Men Against Sexism (MAS). It is written in an informal, story-telling style, from the perspective of Ed Mead, one of MAS's primary organizers. "Anti-Exploits" spans the development of MAS, from Mead's first encounter with the near-rape of a fellow prisoner on his tier in the mid-1970s, to the successful height of the organization and the eradication of prisoner rape in Washington State Prison. This success impacted facilities all across the state.
Men Against Sexism was created to bring prisoners together to fight against their common oppression. Mead recognized that homophobia, sexism, rape, and pimping were causing unnecessary divisions within the prisoner population. "Only by rooting out internalized sexism would men treat one another with respect."(p. 5) He brought together politically-minded prisoners, queers, and even some former sexual predators, to change the culture of what was acceptable and not on the tier.
We should take the example of MAS as inspiration to identify our own collective divisive behaviors on our unit, and attempt to build bridges to overcome these barriers. Mead's reputation of being a revolutionary, stand-up guy in defense of prisoners' rights preceded him across the facility, and helped him win allies in unlikely places.
In the mid-1970s, prison conditions were much different than they are today, and organizing MAS seems to have been relatively easy according to the account given. Of course there were challenges amongst the prisoner population itself (for example, MAS defending a convicted pedophile from being gang raped and sold as a sex slave put many people off) but the administration didn't play a significant role in thwarting the mission of MAS. The primary organizers were allowed to cell together, and several different prisoner organizations were mentioned which had their own meeting spaces.
Today it seems we are lucky if more than two prisoners can get together to do anything besides watch TV. This is a testament to the dialectical relationship between the prisoner movement and the forces of the state. During the time of MAS, the prisoner movement was relatively strong compared to where it's at today. After the booming prisoner rights movement of the 1970s, the state figured out that to undermine those movements they needed to develop methods to keep prisoners isolated from each other. Not the least significant of which is the proliferation of the control unit, where prisoners are housed for 23 or more hours per day with very little contact with the world outside their cell, let alone their facility.
MAS recognized that there is power in numbers. They collected donations from allies outside prison to purchase access to cells from other prisoners and designated them as "safe cells." MAS would identify newcomers to the facility who looked vulnerable and offer them protection in these group safe cells. This is in stark contrast to how the state offers so-called protection to victims of prisoner rape, which is generally to isolate them in control units.(1) Bonnie Kerness of the American Friends Service Committee writes of this practice being used with transgender prisoners, and the concept applies to all prisoners who are gender oppressed in prison no matter their gender identity,
"In some cases this can be a safe place to avoid the violence of other prisoners. More often this isolation of transgender prisoners places them at greater risk of violence at the hands of correctional officers...
"Regardless of whether or not it provides some level of protection or safety, isolation is a poor alternative to general population. The physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological impacts of solitary confinement are tantamount to torture for many."(2)
As late as 2009, data was compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) stating "Approximately 2.1% of prison inmates and 1.5% of jail inmates reported inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, whereas approximately 2.8% of prison inmates and 2.0% of jail inmates reported staff sexual misconduct."(3) Certainly much of this staff-on-prisoner sexual assault occurs in general population, but isolating victims makes them that much more accessible.
Isolation as the best option for protection is the most obvious example of individualizing struggles of prisoners. What is more individualized than one persyn in a room alone all day? Individualizing prisoners' struggles is also carried out by the rejection of group grievances in many states. All across the country our comrades meet difficulty when attempting to file grievances on behalf of a group of prisoners. In California, a comrade attempted to simply cite a Director's Level Appeal Decision stating MIM is not a banned distributor in the state on h censorship appeal, but it was rejected because that Director's Level Decision "belongs to another inmate."(4) We must identify the state's attempts to divide us from our potential comrades in all forms, and actively work against it.
MAS worked to abolish prisoner-on-prisoner sexual slavery and rape, where the pigs were consenting to this gender oppression by noninterference. But the state paid for this hands-off approach when the autonomy of the movement actually united prisoners against oppression.
What about gender oppression in prisons today?
In 2003, under strong pressure from a broad range of activists and lobbyists, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), and in May 2012 the final rules were completed. With the initiation of the PREA, statistics on prison rape are becoming more available. But comprehensive, sweeping data on the frequency of prison rape does not exist and so we can not detect trends from 1975 to the present, or even from 2003 to present. Despite high hopes for the PREA from anti-rape activists, we can't yet determine if there has been any benefit, and in some cases the rates of prison rape seem to be increasing.
When MAS was picking out newcomers to recruit into their safe cells, they were identifying people who they saw as obviously queer, or in some way likely to be a target. MAS was using their intuition and persynal experience to identify people who are more likely to be victimized. According to the BJS, in their 2009 study, prisoners who are "white or multi-racial, have a college education, have a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, and experienced sexual victimization prior to coming to the facility" ... had "significantly higher" rates of inmate-on-inmate victimization.(1) Human Rights Watch similarly reported in 2001,
"Specifically, prisoners fitting any part of the following description are more likely to be targeted: young, small in size, physically weak, white, gay, first offender, possessing 'feminine' characteristics such as long hair or a high voice; being unassertive, unaggressive, shy, intellectual, not street-smart, or 'passive'; or having been convicted of a sexual offense against a minor. Prisoners with any one of these characteristics typically face an increased risk of sexual abuse, while prisoners with several overlapping characteristics are much more likely than other prisoners to be targeted for abuse."(5)
The descriptions above of who's more subject to prison rape are bourgeois definitions of what MIM called gender. Bullying, rape, sexual identity, and sexual orientation are phenomena that exist in the realm of leisure-time activity. Oppression that exists in leisure-time can generally be categorized as gender oppression. Gender oppression also rests clearly on health status and physical ability, which, in work-time also affects class status.(6) Since prisoners on the whole spend very little time engaged in productive labor, their time behind bars can be categorized as a twisted form of leisure-time. Prisons are primarily a form of national oppression, and gender is used as a means to this end.
Consider this statistic from BJS, "Significantly, most perpetrators of staff sexual misconduct were female and most victims were male: among male victims of staff sexual misconduct, 69% of prisoners and 64% of jail inmates reported sexual activity with female staff."(3) An oversimplified analysis of this one statistic says the biologically-female staff are gendered male, and the prisoners are gendered female, no matter their biology. But in the United $tates, where all citizens enjoy gender privilege over the Third World, this oversimplification ignores the international scope of imperialism and the benefits reaped by Amerikans and the internal semi-colonies alike. While there is an argument to be made that the United $tates tortures more people in its prisons than any other country, this is balanced out with a nice juicy carrot (video games, tv, drugs, porn) for many prisoners. This carrot limits the need to use the more obvious forms of repression that are more widespread in the Third World. Some of our most prominent USW leaders determine that conditions where they're at are too comfortable and prevent people from devoting their lives to revolution, even though these people are actually on the receiving end of much oppression.
On a similar level, MIM(Prisons) advocates for the end of oppression based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But we are not jumping on the bandwagon to legalize gay marriage.(7) We also don't campaign for sex reassignment surgery and hormones for prisoners.(8) This is because we see these as examples of gender privilege, and any privileges obtained by people in the United $tates inherently come on the backs of the Third World. Whereas in the time Men Against Sexism was formed the gay rights movement was militant and engaging in street wars against police, they are now overall placated by the class privilege they receive as members of the petty-bourgeoisie.
We encourage everyone facing oppression to recognize its true roots — capitalism and imperialism — and use their privileges to undermine the United $tates' world domination. Without an internationalist perspective, we will inevitably end up on the wrong side of history.
In making a determination of what organizing strategy and tactical approach will be most effective in achieving the revolutionary goals of a political vanguard, we must first conduct a dialectical analysis of our strategic objectives. Thus, we begin our examination with an overall look at our political line. What are our general positions and our main objectives? Which of these should be given priority? What tactics will best advance the struggle for liberation, justice, and equality?
In the United $tates, the most oppressed groups are prisoners, First Nations, and sexual minorities/wimmin. Therefore, it is these specific groups to which I give priority and focus here. [We have excluded the author's analysis of First Nations to focus this article. - Editor] How can we better organize these groups? What tactics have worked in the past?
The Congress Report 2010 by MIM(Prisons) makes no mention of wimmin or LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual/Transgender, Queer) prisoners, or of issues and projects specifically affecting these groups.(1) As a transgender revolutionary feminist prisoner, and a USW comrade, I feel that the absence or exclusion of these oppressed groups from the discussion is of significant concern. Whenever MIM(Prisons) is confronted on the issue of gender, it merely refers to the old back issue of MIM Theory 2/3: Gender and Revolutionary Feminism. But what is being done now, today, in regards to gender oppression and the advancement of revolutionary feminism within the ranks of MIM(Prisons)?
The concept of principal contradiction comes from dialectical materialism, which says that everything can be divided into opposing forces.(2) The revolutionary feminist struggle against patriarchy is by no means secondary to the principal contradiction in the world today between imperialist countries and the oppressed nations they exploit. Sartre has observed that: "if the feminist struggle maintained its ties with the class struggle, it could shake a society in a way that would completely overturn it."(3)
The struggle for gender equality also includes transgender wimmin and other sexual minorities. The situation of transgender prisoners, particularly, is so vexing to prison administrators that the National Commission on Correctional Health Care has drafted a position statement titled "Transgender Health Care in Correctional Settings," which reads in part: "when determined to be medically necessary for a particular inmate, hormone therapy should be initiated and sex-reassignment surgery considered on a case-by-case basis."(4)
Transgender females, especially in prison, are often discriminated against and sexually abused in much the same way as biological wimmin, but far worse. Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) has introduced a much needed piece of legislation, the Prison Abuse Remedies Act (PARA), which would end the widespread impunity enjoyed by prison officials when inmates are raped on their watch. It would change the worst parts of the PLRA, which makes it virtually impossible for prison rape survivors to seek redress in court.(5) Attorney General Eric Holder and Justice Department officials are dragging their feet on implementation of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission's recommended "Standards for the Prevention, Detection, Response, and Monitoring of Sexual Abuse in Detention," the deadline for which passed in June 2010.(6) In the meantime, more than 100,000 adults and youth continue to be sexually abused each year while imprisoned.(7)
In failing to discuss these issues, MIM(Prisons) has missed a great opportunity to revolutionize these oppressed groups and link their struggle to the overall anti-imperialist movement. This is a strategic and tactical mistake on our part, in my humble opinion.
Wimmin and the LGBTQ community are oppressed groups and potential revolutionary classes nearly on par with oppressed nations, particularly within the criminal "justice" system, and MIM(Prisons) must raise their level of importance on the list of priorities at least to the level of national liberation struggles and prisoners' struggle. This is in line with the Maoist theory of United Front and the expansion of the anti-imperialist struggle among lumpen organizations, as well as internationalist solidarity. Wimmin and Queers of the world, Unite!
PTT of MIM(Prisons) responds: In a discussion of what the principal contradiction is in the world today, and what role feminism plays in that contradiction, let's first clearly define what a "principal contradiction" is:
"There are many contradictions in the process of development of a complex thing, and one of them is necessarily the principal contradiction whose existence and development determine or influence the existence and development of the other contradictions." - Mao, "On Contradiction"
Ending oppression is our goal. The struggle towards this goal in our current society is our "complex thing." It has many contradictions which are interacting with each other throughout the course of its development (we say gender, class and nation are the main three). Determining which contradiction is principal in the world today gives us a guide for how to organize and what issues to organize around. We determine which is the principal contradiction using a materialist (based in material reality) analysis of history. The principal contradiction is principal (and not secondary) because of the way its development will impact the development of other contradictions. We do not choose it, it is shown to us in history.
Establishing a principal contradiction is not a matter of deciding which struggles most affect us on a persynal or subjective basis. The principal contradiction is not the most subjectively important contradiction; it is the one we need to focus on because history has shown that it will bring the best results. As sympathizers with all oppressed peoples in the world, including wimmin and LGBTQ people, we hope to reach communism as fast as possible to minimize humyn suffering. But based on our study and analysis, we say that nation, and not gender, is the principal contradiction at this time in history, and we need to organize to push the national contradiction forward.
For example, and contrary to what Queen Boudicca claims, oppressed nations are far more oppressed by the criminal injustice system than biological wimmin. In 2009, men were 14 times more likely to go to state or federal prison than wimmin, while Black men were 6.5%[this incorrectly read percent] times more likely than white men.(1) The gender gap is bigger than the national gap, but in favor of oppressing biological men. To argue that bio-wimmin are more oppressed you're gonna have to base your argument somewhere else.
Our comrade does present here examples of the unique oppression faced by wimmin and LGBTQ prisoners in the United $tates. Yet, the form of solutions proposed are reformist at best and at worst the demands of the gender privileged. We must not focus on these examples of oppression in isolation, as a replacement for a scientific analysis of how development of the gender contradiction will affect other contradictions (namely nation) and our overall goals, as Queen Boudicca does.
Historically laws against rape have expanded, not combatted, gender privilege. Similarly the development of leisure time related medicine has largely benefited the gender privileged at the expense of the oppressed. The use of drugs related to depression and mood is a means of adapting to an oppressive system, or being forced to submit as is more clear in the prison environment. That said, we would encourage comrades to utilize antidepressants as a last resort if they are unable to put in work without them. The initiation of hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery could play similar roles as psychological aids to cope in an oppressive world. But when we are considering strategic battles on behalf of the oppressed, shutting down control units, for example, will have a much bigger influence on mental health while also developing the anti-imperialist struggle for prisoners as a group.
Under capitalism and imperialism, it is impossible for us to determine whether hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery are objectively medically necessary for all time or just useful as a crutch for people who are justifiably maladjusted to an imperialistic world. Sex has long been defined socially and not biologically for the humyn species. Under communism, when gender oppression is eradicated, and gender ceases to exist, will people still want to change their biology? These are questions we cannot answer until we get there. For now we encourage everyone who has a poor self-image and an unsatisfactory sex life to recognize these as products of capitalism and join the struggle toward world liberation.
There is a thorough analysis of how the gender struggle impacts our struggle for communism, and it is contained in the 208 page magazine titled MIM Theory 2/3: Gender and Revolutionary Feminism. While not new, it has a more updated assessment than Sartre, specifically in regards to the gender aristocracy. Queen Boudicca claims to have read and to uphold MT 2/3, but misses a main point that the struggles of First World wimmin generally lead to more national oppression here and throughout the world. Examples include the lynching of Black men as a trade for more gender privilege for white wimmin; the forced drug testing on Third World wimmin directly leading to an increase in the availability of birth control for First World wimmin; and the failed pseudo-feminist movement which has had no positive impact on the gender struggle for the majority of wimmin. It is true that we recommend MIM Theory 2/3 as the best starting point for why nation trumps gender as the principal contradiction.
Although nation is the principal contradiction in the world today, it still may be possible to organize wimmin and LGBTQ prisoners under the MIM umbrella against their own material interests as Amerikans. We believe that prisoners hold the most revolutionary potential within the United $tates, which is why we organize them. If Queen Boudicca is subjectively inspired to organize wimmin and LGBTQ prisoners specifically, then we would support h organizing these populations around MIM line. There are many roles to play in our struggle toward liberation and communism, and MIM(Prisons) can't fill them all. As a revolutionary feminist organization, MIM(Prisons) aims to end gender oppression as part of our struggle for communism, and we would welcome any group into the united front against imperialism that is willing to accept the political leadership of MIM Thought.
Queen Boudicca accuses MIM(Prisons) of not publishing articles about the issues she raises. Yet we have printed letters from this author in ULK, and dozens of other articles addressing gender issues from a uniquely Maoist perspective. In particular, our article from ULK 1 discusses how imprisonment rates of Black men make them more gender oppressed than white wimmin in the United $tates today. And ULK 6 is focused on gender and tackles everything from gay marriage to pornography to the effect of prisons on the family structure.
Most people are familiar with the patriarchy and exploitation of females in hip hop culture, especially in the music industry. From the days of 2 Live Crew to Snoop Dogg's appearance at the awards show with women who had dog collars and leashes around their necks to Nelly's "Tip Drill" video showing him swiping a credit card between a woman's butt cheeks, and don't forget his marketing of the energy drink "Pimp Juice."
All the above is abhorrent and should be criticized but no one really talks about the pseudo-feminists in the music industry. For example, Debra Antey, the CEO of Mizey Ent. and former CEO of So Icey Ent. and manager of Nicki Minaj, the latest hot female rapperstar and piece of porn for me to jerk off on.
A brotha also studying MT2/3 sent me an article from the Dec/Jan 2010 magazine XXL. We think this article points out the contradictions and bullshit these pseudo-feminists espouse. Antey was asked in this article "How to take Nicki Minaj to new heights?" Antey's answer: "with Nicki you have to know the role that you're about to step into. You're about to open the door for a lot of women, and you can't open it through the sexual stuff. She had to make a more conscious effort about what she was saying, and it's starting from the babies... I'm about empowering women, and Nicki is a product of that."
Anyone who's listened to Nicki's lyrics or seen any photos (promotional) of Nicki can only conclude that she's just the latest in a long line of females being objectified to make money. What's so empowering about Nicki calling herself a "5 star bitch," dressing sexually provocative and talking about men paying her for sex (taking her shopping). How is that empowering women?
"Pornography has no value if it shows women doing empowering, important, and meaningful things. Its value is tied to portraying a bitch ready to be raped." (MT2/3, pg 127)
In street terminology, Antey is a pimp. She enriches herself through the exploitation, pornographic objectification of young black female entertainers, Nicki in this instance. It's all game.
Antey was asked a second question: "On being a 'powerful' woman in a male-dominated business." Her answer: "in the beginning, it was hard. I'd go to the table with a group of men, and nobody was hearing me. But I got a big mouth, so eventually you are gonna hear me, and I'm gonna stand my ground. I'm a strong woman. In the beginning, it was a little nerve-racking, but now it's a beautiful thing." Of course, it's a beautiful thing to Antey. She's getting paid big dollars. She's a pimp and she was able to convince the male-dominated industry that she was not a "threat to the men creating, marketing and profiting from the exploitation and economic coercion of the women who participate in making [pornography]."(MT2/3, pg 128) She assured them that their interest was her interest and that she was male also.
The point is that the pseudo-feminists have been highly successful in deflecting criticism away from themselves. MIM is the only organization that I've seen take them to task and expose them.
Jean Grae rapped in the song "knock": "I rhyme sick but niggas is quick to turn their backs on spitters with clits /.../ they still want chicks with tits and ass out / my respect is worth more than your advance cash out." The Debra Anteys (pseudo-feminists) of the music industry turn their backs also. "They are working to gain themselves more power to join in the oppression, and to profit off the labor and deaths of the poor and nationally oppressed peoples of the world." (MT2/3, pg51)
MIM(Prisons), we have much, much more to say on this and other topics mentioned in MT2/3. Especially, the "all sex is rape" and there's "no good sex" under capitalism.
Thanks for pointing out the socially constructed gender theory. It's right on point.
Wyclef declares, "Haiti is open for business" to finance capitalists
How long shall they kill our prophets, While we stand aside and look? Yes, some say it's just a part of it: We've got to fulfill the book. Won't you have to sing This songs of freedom? - 'Cause all I ever had: Redemption songs -
- Bob Marley, from Redemption Song
Wyclef Jean, the Haitian musician and former member of the hip hop group the Fugees, has announced his candidacy for president of Haiti. He says he was pushed to do so now because of the destruction that followed the earthquake in Haiti in January and claims that he was drafted by the Haitian youth, who he says are over 50% of the nation's population. He seems to be borrowing from the Obama campaign with his main qualification being that he's "new," i.e. "change."(1)
In ULK 10, MIM(Prisons) pointed out how hip hop has become a global culture because of imperialism. It was the "Made in Amerikkka" label that made it so popular around the globe, where Third World people have been brainwashed to see their own cultures as backwards and uncool. Just as the imperialists have used hip hop to recruit oppressed nation youth in the United $tates to kill oppressed nation youth in the Third World, now they are using it to push a new U.$. puppet on the people of Haiti.
What Wyclef is doing with hip hop is what the gender aristocracy has done with its brand of wimmin's liberation in the Middle East. Despite being a forty-year-old man, who pulls in $18 million a year, he is claiming to somehow represent the interests of the Haitian youth because of his role in hip hop.(2) Let's be clear, a slum-dwelling child in Cité Soleil has very different interests than Wyclef Jean, just as a Muslim womyn in the mountains of Afghanistan has very different interests from Paris Hilton.
What the imperialists are hoping for is that hip hop culture will serve to sugar coat this new puppet regime in the eyes of Haitian youth. In a country where children eat mud pies to keep their bellies full and less than 3% of the population voted in puppet elections last year because the popular party Lavalas was banned from participating, a few sweet songs from Wyclef probably won't be enough.(3)
While not forced to eat mud pies to fight hunger pains, many oppressed nation youth in the United $tates were sucked in by the campaign of Barack Obomber. And there is a direct relationship between the first Black U.$. president and Wyclef who performed for a mostly Black audience at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) inauguration party for Obama where he reportedly serenaded Colin Powell with "Redemption Song" by revolutionary Jamaican musician Bob Marley. Colin Powell preceded Obama in putting a Blacker face on the White House, serving as Secretary of State, where he will be remembered most for lying about so-called "weapons of mass destruction" to justify the U.$. invasion of Iraq, which continues to this day. It is sick that Wyclef would use Marley's words to serenade such a killer.
Bob Marley was the target of assassination attempts by right-wing militias linked to the U.$. puppet regime vying for power in Jamaica in 1976. Ultimately, it seems he may have been killed by the CIA itself.(4) Like Haiti, Jamaica is a Caribbean island inhabited by former African slaves dominated by U.$. imperialism. Compare Marley to Haitian musician Wyclef Jean (who likes to cover Bob Marley songs) who got on MTV and supported right-wing militias that fought to oust popular Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, killing many civilians in the way. More clues as to why he would say such things include reports that Jean's uncle has been the ambassador for the U.$. puppet regime in Haiti in the United $tates, and publishes a newspaper that backs the bloody attacks on the Haitian people by the militias.(5)
Following the kidnapping of President Aristide by the United $tates in 2004, Wyclef Jean's charity was reportedly the first group allowed into the central slum Cité Soleil, backed by millions of dollars from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The same USAID that former U.$. President Bill Clinton has used to undermine Haitian sovereignty for years. Jean pressed Haitians to lie down in the face of occupation as U.$.-backed troops from the UN and Haitian militias gunned down the resistance in the Haitian slums.(6)
The imperialists kidnap, imprison and kill the people's leaders and then use their images to mislead. How desperate have they become that their puppets now come wrapped in the images of those they have attacked and even assassinated? They may be desperate, but they're smart.
Originally the voice of oppressed nation youth, hip hop has a strong dual role to play across the world today. But more and more, if it's coming from the United $tates — buyer beware. In recent decades, the increased wealth Amerika grants to Black men has come disproportionately through the entertainment industry. Black men regularly appear on magazine covers with photoshopped bodies, selling you beauty products, a role often considered the domain of white wimmin. This has led to the recent phenomenon of Black men, formerly the main victim of white female gender privilege, becoming a significant portion of what we call the gender aristocracy. Rather than appealing to the gender oppressed as wimmin, hip hop appeals to the gender oppressed youth. The state department has drawn from this once righteous rebellion, often epitomized in hip hop, to build the concept of a global youth culture.
Hip hop is a major front on the modern imposition of imperialist culture on the oppressed. While this doesn't preclude hip hop from playing a progressive role, those who reject Western culture will resist the corrupting influences of empire more easily. With a strong history of resistance to imperialist intervention, we are confident that the Haitian people will give the cold shoulder to this current attempt to install a puppet in hip hop clothing.
Starting with the basics: what is often referred to as the "mind" is a complex collection of biochemical reactions that occur in the humyn brain, a physical object. To take a materialist approach to mental health, we must not talk about the "mind" as a separate entity from the physical body. The belief that there is a mind or spirit separate from the physical being is a concept called dualism and is at the basis of most idealist philosophies in the world today.
Applying a basic concept of probability to genetics and biology we can accept that there are going to be humyns that are born with brains that have physical characteristics that lead them to function different than normal, and in some cases that will mean these individuals are less capable of basic humyn functions. That said, the complex biochemistry of the brain is susceptible to all sorts of outside influences from even before an animal is born. These include chemicals in the form of food, medicine and environmental pollutants, as well as physical conditions that induce biochemical responses within the body, such as stress, isolation, and irregular daylight cycles. Therefore, most discussions of inborn psychological disorders lack a scientific basis, as scientists cannot control the myriad of outside factors that influence the brain throughout an animal's lifespan.
A sociological approach shows that mental health has strong connections to gender oppression. In, Getting Clarity on what Gender Oppression is, MC5 defined gender as being found in leisure-time, related to pleasure. Therefore depression, an extreme lack of pleasure, and the alienation that leads to it is largely shaped in the realm of gender. In MIM Theory 9, there is a focus on the disproportionate mental health struggles of wimmin and youth. As we laid out in more detail in Gender Oppression in U.$. Prisons (ULK 1), lumpen youth are gender oppressed by Amerikan biowimmin, and are some of the most gender oppressed within U.$. borders. We suspect prisoners suffer more from mental health problems than wimmin and youth in the United $tates.
The Scientific Method
The bourgeois approach to conflict and problem solving is individualistic. When problems are dealt with on the individual level, only a few problems are solved and then held up as examples that "anyone" can achieve, but most problems are either not solved in the first place, or recur soon after they are solved. Communists, on the other hand, work in the interests of the vast majority in the world today who are oppressed by the powerful. Our strategy is to solve problems at the group level, and mental health is no exception.
While dialectical materialists often refer to themselves as scientists, this does not mean that all scientific work is for the benefit of the people. A more pointed attack would be asking questions like, "what type of science spends millions of dollars studying the effects of long-term isolation on brain waves?" Maoists abolished isolation as a form of psychological treatment in the 1950s. Prior to that time, psychological work in socialist China was criticized by the people because it consisted largely of scientists in labs doing studies isolated from the real world. For a discipline that is supposedly about the mental state of people, which is very dependent on society, this is a very backwards approach. As a result of criticisms, the Chinese practice evolved to focus on improving people's understanding and engagement with the real world. But today, under imperialism, we are still stuck in these archaic forms of mental health research.(1)
As the 1st Crown of BORO describes in h article on psychology, scientific theories are often wrong and often guided by the interests of the group to which the scientist belongs. The theories that subspecies of humyns existed were developed by nations that were in the process of expanding their domination over other peoples. Prior to the development of genetic testing it was harder to argue that theories about different races or subspecies of humyns were incorrect as we can today. Criminology today is similarly tainted by the interests of the oppressors.
Who is Mentally Ill?
In MIM Theory 9, MCB52's review of psychological practice in revolutionary China gives an excellent overview of the subject.(1) S/he prefaces h article by pointing out that those who are diagnosed with mental health problems are mostly "pissed off people rationally resisting the hegemonic culture one way or another. This especially affects youth and women, and rather than trying to 'cure' it — we celebrate it!" However, many people struggle to function as a result. And therefore, there is a great overlap of people struggling with mental health and interested in communist politics, both inside and outside prisons.
In imperialist prisons, the ambiguity of diagnosing people as mentally ill becomes very pronounced. Part of the problem is that imprisonment causes mental health problems, so people who may not have had symptoms that would lead to a diagnosis often develop them. Yet it is not in the oppressor's interests to recognize this problem, so staff feel that they must draw a line between the truly ill and the "fakers." Rather than seeing the prisons as causing mental illness, they see people acting out for attention in contrast to those who were born with "real" mental illness. Such silly exercises allow them to keep some prisoners sedated while pushing others to suicide.(2)
As with most problems we face, we can find answers to mental health problems through dialectical materialism and in having the correct political line. In the 1950s the Chinese eliminated the more backwards psychological practices in their society and replaced them with ones focused on getting individuals to connect with and help shape the material world through applying dialectical materialism. Mental health care, like much of Chinese society under Mao, emphasized the importance of both self-reliance and collective help, with the understanding that patients can fight their diseases and lead productive lives in the new society. This required the participation of the patient's family, doctors, and revolutionary committee at their place of employment.(3) Unfortunately, today we don't have that kind of support in our society, and prisoners as a group are even worse off. So keeping your political line right to stay sane requires even more effort.
One article in this issue of ULK gives an example of sleep deprivation being used as a means of social control. While some have claimed to have trained themselves over time to require very little sleep, such as George Jackson, medical research has demonstrated the importance of regular sleep. Ultra-leftism leads one to take the weight of the world on one's shoulders, and push the purist and extreme line without recognition of one's conditions of struggle. While we encourage comrades to strive to improve their efficiency, we should also take an approach that promotes our health and longevity, as we have a long struggle ahead of us.
We often get letters from comrades in isolation, who are clearly well-read and want to change the system, but their articles are mostly confused and hard to decipher. These comrades have been lost to the system, and at this point there's not much we can do to bring them back. So we must work together with those who aren't lost, to keep them sane and on point. Ultra-leftism can feed into one's isolation, which can be a very bad combo for someone who is already in a prison cell. Develop routines, set goals, and track your progress. All of these things can help you stay sharp mentally when you are physically isolated. But do not let the lack of control you have over your conditions lead you to take up extreme behaviors that threaten your physical or mental health.
The topic that triggered the call for an issue focused on mental health was suicide, which can be associated with a political line of defeatism. We've been getting a number of responses and stories on the topic after a mention in Ra'd's obituary a few months back. One prison censored Under Lock & Key for talking about suicide. While the motivation was not clear, the numerous stories we receive show that these institutions encourage people who are locked up to commit suicide. Censoring open discussions on preventing suicide is just one more way to do this. Yet, at another prison the psychological services staff are giving out our address as a resource for people with suicidal tendencies. This is good news, but probably not common across the country where prisoners are twice as likely to commit suicide as the general population.(4) Overall, suicide rates are higher in the United $tates than many other countries, and comparisons to socialist China in the 1970s showed suicide and schizophrenia to be hundreds of times more common in the United $tates.(5)
If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, write to MIM(Prisons) to get a copy of our struggle with a comrade printed in ULK 13, as well as the self-criticism by a suicidal comrade printed in MIM Theory 9. These are good starting points for re-evaluating your own life in relation to the struggle.(6) In general, we prescribe study and political work. Come up with ways to contribute more to the struggle, while doing any little things you can to improve your immediate situation such as exercise, eating better, meditating, writing people on the outside, forming local discussion groups and staying away from negative influences.
And remember, the purpose of these prisons is to control certain populations. Getting you to end your own life is the ultimate form of control. Therefore, suicide and mental health are closely linked to other forms of control including beating people into submission, drugging them, denying them due process and sexually assaulting them. Exposing and struggling against these abuses is part of the struggle against suicide in U.$. prisons.
Notes: (1) MCB52. "Psychological Practice in the Chinese Revolution," MIM Theory 9: Psychology and Imperialism, MIM Distributors: 1995. p.34. (2) U.S. Prisons Prove Maddening: review of Terry Kuper's book Prison Madness by MIM (3) Sidel, Victor & Ruth. Serve the People: Observations on Medicine in the People's Republic of China, Beacon Press: 1973. p. 156. (4) Kupers, Terry. Prison Madness: the Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About it, Jossey-Bass Publishers: 1999. p.175. (5) HC116. The Imperialist-Patriarchy's phony Anti-Stigma, 22 April 2005. (6) For more testimonies and strategies from control unit survivors see: Survivors Manual compiled by Bonnie Kerness Coordinator AFSC Prison Watch Program 89 Market Street, 6th Floor Newark, NJ 07102