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.
This memoir by Piper Kerman, describes the experience of a well-off white womyn who served a year in a minimum-security Federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. Kernan was locked up for drug trafficking and money laundering, crimes she committed 10 years before her conviction and self-surrender. This is not a story of the typical imprisonment of disadvantaged men and wimmin, disproportionately poor and from oppressed nations, but rather a memoir of a woman with a solid future who took a brief detour to prison and made a lot of money by writing a book about it. Most prisoners face a life after release haunted by their conviction which makes finding housing and jobs virtually impossible. While others in prison on her charges are labeled drug dealers and face long sentences, Kernan's brief imprisonment is portrayed as the result of a period of reckless experimentation and mistakes of her youth.
Ordinarily a book like this wouldn't hold much interest for MIM(Prisons), but it's become quite a sensation after it was the basis for a popular Netflix TV series by the same name. This reviewer has only seen a few episodes of the TV show, but based on that i can say it's only loosely based on the book. For instance, where the book has virtually no sex at all, the TV show is mostly sex and lots of sensationalism. The reality of boredom and mundane prison life wouldn't make for a very interesting TV show.
On the positive side, Kernan humanizes the wimmin who she meets in prison, and gives their lives voice by pointing out the unjust drug sentences and devastating effects prison has on families. The TV show also provides a human face to its characters, when they aren't having sex or acting in some stereotypical role, but given the general portrayal of prisoners as evil and dangerous this is at least a small improvement. Of course, none of those wimmin get book deals, and for the most part they also don't have jobs lined up, or homes in New York bought by fiancées who visit religiously every week, along with hoards of other people who visit and write throughout their imprisonment. Kernan does admit her volume of mail greatly exceeds everyone else. And she spends a few pages reflecting on the fact that some wimminn she meets face lives on the outside just as difficult as their lives behind bars.
Part of humanizing the wimmin in Danbury's Federal Correctional Institution includes telling stories of their kindness towards fellow prisoners. In this regard the TV show overplays violence and conflict between the prisoners relative to the book. Kernan explains the deep friendships and support the wimmin offer each other in this minimum security prison, and overall she sees their humynity and does not try to portray Amerikan prisons as a place that is offering any rehabilitation or value for prisoners.
Both the book and the TV show condemn the prison guards for their brutality and degradation of the prisoners. The reality of Kernan's experience in the book does describe some guards who clearly enjoy their sadistic power, and overall she maintains a strong anti-pig position even when someone is cutting her a break.
Overall this book doesn't contribute much to those seeking to understand the conditions in prison and fight the criminal injustice system. It advances the finances and career of one well-off white womyn, and if anything we learn that prisons are built to lock up poor people, mostly from oppressed nations, and imprisonment of people like Kernan is a fluke that rarely happens and registers little damage to their lives.
MIM(Prisons) conducted our annual congress in July to sum up our work for the year, learn from our mistakes and build on our successes. We affirmed our strategic direction and came away with some shifts in our tactical work based on experiences over the past year and proposals from our comrades. This report sums up the decisions of interest that can be shared publicly.
Under Lock & Key (ULK) is our primary educational and organizing tool, and the main way that we retain contact with our readers behind bars. We will continue to lead theoretically through this publication with expanded analysis of economic issues and international content. This is important because we understand the value of prison-based reporting and organizing information, but must not lose sight of our role as a Maoist organization. Keeping the internationalist orientation of our work, and providing analysis based in communist theory, is critical to the goal of MIM(Prisons). We are working to develop more writers behind bars who can also contribute at this level, and we still value our field correspondents who report on what's going on in their prison or state.
In our focus to lead theoretically we have set a goal of finishing the upcoming book on the [email protected] nation by the end of this year. [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán is a collaborative writing effort representing several emerging Maoist voices in the [email protected] movement. There is a need for Maoist literature and leadership in the hotly contested struggle of [email protected] and migrants against Amerikan repression, especially in the new context of multiculturalism and widespread wealth throughout the United $tates. We aim to get the ball rolling on that contemporary theory development with the release of this book. Prisoners interested in receiving a copy should write now to request one.
Because we are a prison-focused cell, anti-censorship is a very important battle for MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within (USW). Censorship is a primary and effective tool used by the criminal injustice system to cut prisoners off from the broader anti-imperialist struggle, and it is implemented illegally and arbitrarily against our literature. Censorship can stop folks from receiving important educational materials and in the extreme case it completely shuts down our communication in states where all of our mail is stopped.
Last congress we decided to target certain states for anti-censorship campaigning, and we had success with this tactic, especially in North Carolina, California and Missouri. In the censorship chart you can see what states had victories, bans in particular facilities, and overall statewide bans. The chart may appear misleading in that a ban might only directly impact a handful of subscribers. But still, even those few subscribers could multiply into a movement if given half a chance. On the flip side, there may be no censorship reported in a state that actually does have censorship or a ban; we just don't know about it yet. Facilities where our mail was banned over the past year were Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Elkton, FCI Talladega, U.S. Penitentiary Atwater, Rutledge State Prison in Georgia, Sheridan Correctional Center in Illinois, Ely State Prison in Nevada, Riverview Correctional Facility in New York, State Correctional Institution (SCI) Fayette and SCI Waymart in Pennsylvania, and Central Utah Correctional Facility. This is SCI Waymart's second year banning MIM material, and Central Utah Correctional Facility's third!
This year we made a number of commitments around censorship battles that should improve our ability to respond quickly and resolve them from the outside. We do not have the resources to fight every censorship incident, so we prioritize assisting subscribers who are also engaging in this battle from behind bars. You can request our guide to fighting censorship if you don't have it already. The basic advice is to appeal all censorship, and appeal it to the highest level. Send us copies of censorship notifications and inform us when any mail we've sent has been rejected. Censorship battles are sometimes won on just the first appeal, but others require much paperwork and persistence. Also tell us all the mail you receive from us, whether it was censored initially or not.
We decided to push our anti-censorship work in support of the W.L. Nolen Mentorship Program (WLNMP), based out of Pelican Bay State Prison in California. This mentorship program is committed to providing one-on-one guidance to people on the outside who are interested in New Afrikan liberation and fighting injustice. A comrade in MIM(Prisons) attempted to participate in this program hself, but h participation was squashed at the outset. Pelican Bay officials claim the WLNMP is a Security Threat Group, related to the Black Guerilla Family. Since we're prevented from participating in the mentorship program directly, we've decided to instead help fight censorship of the program. We will continue reporting on the development of this program in ULK and on our website.
United Struggle from Within (USW) is the MIM(Prisons)-led organization for prisoners. This is the group through which we build campaigns and educational programs behind bars. California and Texas are usually heavily represented in USW membership, and this year we had an influx in the Southeast and Midwest United $tates. In the coming year we will expand our focus on states where we have active comrades, and help those comrades build new campaigns relevant to their local conditions. In practice this means that we have identified the most active states and will be focusing our work there to bring together individuals from different prisons with the goal of building unified campaigns and a broader state-wide movement.
In addition to our focus on more active states, MIM(Prisons) is working to improve the ways we engage people to make sure no lone comrades fall through the cracks due to censorship or just from being locked up in a relatively inactive state. We are going to pay special attention to those who stay in touch and do work.
Alongside our commitment to develop prisoner leaders and activists, we recognize the need to continue supporting our comrades once they are released from prison. The MIM(Prisons) Re-Lease on Life program will be focused on this year, in an effort to address some issues our released comrades have struggled with. In the coming year we are going to research the possibility of setting up a more intensive release program. This is something that will take significant time and resources, and we will only be able to offer it to those committed to a life of political activism. As we develop the program we will reach out to eligible individuals to work out a release plan. In the meantime, make sure we know when you have a release date coming up in the next few years so we can start planning now.
We considered a proposal from a USW comrade to use prisoner-created revolutionary art for fundraising, and to spread revolutionary culture in prisons and on the street. We are going to take up parts of the proposal that are within our means at this time. In the coming months we are going to initiate a project to create revolutionary greeting cards for sale on the streets and for use behind bars. The proceeds of this project will be used to fund the creation of a revolutionary prisoner art zine, which we will distribute on the streets. Any profits from that zine will be used to fund a culture project to be selected by the contributing prisoner artists. Anyone can donate art to this project by sending in your submissions to the address on page 1! Even if you aren't an artist yourself, you can help spread and build this cultural project in your facility. Write in for more information.
We are pleased to report that our work has expanded in many ways over the last year, and we expect additional expansion based on the plans and resources we have in place for the coming year. In solidarity with all genuine anti-imperialist forces world-wide, we continue moving forward!
July 1, Murrieta, California - Residents of this southern California town blocked three buses carrying about 140 detained migrants from Central America from entering their town. The buses were diverted to other border patrol facilities for processing and supervised release pending appearance in immigration court. These flag waving Amerikans spouted racist slogans about the destruction of Amerika brought by these "illegal" additions to their precious white community as they attacked the buses. The migrants crossed the border in Texas and were flown to California to relieve the overcrowded processing facilities in Texas by the Department of Homeland Security.
The protests were instigated by Murrieta Mayor Alan Long who called on residents to oppose the federal government's decision to move the migrants to the facility in his city. He wants the federal government to deport these migrants immediately. The Obama administration responded to the outcry by promising to cut back on the "illegal" border crossings, attempting to get $2 billion from Congress and authority to return people home faster.(1)
Already this year Border Patrol agents have detained more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors crossing the U.$. border.(2) But in spite of the media reports, this isn't just about children migrants, and we do not believe that activists should attempt to stir up public sympathy by focusing on the children. The U.$. border is an artificial restriction, put in place to protect imperialist wealth from those people who create the wealth. Migrants cross the U.$. border to escape U.$.-backed militia violence, capitalist-corporate economic devastation, brutal regimes and devastating poverty. These are all conditions that secure cheap labor for exploitation by imperialist corporations which bring the wealth home to Amerika and protect it with militarized borders. The border crossers of all ages deserve access to this wealth more than the well-off residents of Murrieta. Anti-imperialists call for open borders, and support the rights of indigenous people everywhere to enforce immigration restrictions on the imperialists who invade and steal their land and resources.
In early June of this year, MIM Distributors received a letter from Assistant Director Cynthia Bostic of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (NCDPS) upholding the censorship of Under Lock & Key No. 37 (March/April 2014). Bostic censored ULK 37 because it mentions the options legally available to prisoners, to not buy from commissary, not order packages through the prison's vendor, and to file civil action suits. None of these activities are illegal, or even against NCDPS's own policies. Since the newsletter talks about activities which prisoners are legally allowed to engage in, but which give the prisoners a tiny notion of agency and self-determination, it is not permitted in the state.
MIM Distributors has written multiple letters to NCDPS administrators in an effort to defend the rights of prisoners to read our newsletter, and to exercise our right to free speech. One of these letters helped convince Bostic to approve the delivery of Under Lock & Key No. 36 (January/February 2014). According to Section D.0105(d) of NCDPS's Policies and Procedures, upon approval, the Publication Review Committee and Wardens are supposed to work together to deliver the previously censored issues of Under Lock & Key to their intended recipients. In Bostic's letter, she "permits" MIM Distributors to resend ULK 36 at our own expense. We recently checked in with our subscribers in North Carolina to see if this issue was delivered to them via the channels outlined in NCDPS Policies and Procedures. If you were a subscriber in January 2014, you should have received issue 36 from your Warden. Let us know if you haven't!
In our review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), we drew parallels to the Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) from the original series. The final episode (Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)) of the original series takes place hundreds of years after apes have risen to power and gives an interesting take on the dictatorship of the proletariat as apes rule benevolently over humyns and strive for a peaceful society. The latest, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) is more of a Conquest part two in terms of the timeline, but takes on many of the themes of Battle.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place a mere ten years after Rise, featuring many of the same ape characters. In those ten years, humyns had been virtually wiped out by a virus that was a product of testing done on the apes and infighting that resulted from the crisis. In the meantime, the apes that fled to Marin, California have built a home there, and other species have made a miraculous recovery in the absence of humyns.
The theme that Dawn shares with Battle is the apes realizing they are no better than humyns when it comes to war and violence. This is a positive lesson in historical materialism that looks at the social causes of war, conflict and change in general. It makes sense that as apes develop a more advanced society with language, buildings, fire and larger populations, that similar social phenomenon will come into play as we have in humyn society.
In Battle this was a nice lesson as it came after hundreds of years of dictatorship of apes over humyns, at which point one would expect a sense of commonality (internationalism if you will) to have developed. What is less believable in that movie is that after all that time there would be a vengeful element, which is played off as an almost genetic/racial thing particular to the gorillas. In the most recent movie we would expect much desire for vengeance against humyns, as these were the very same apes that were raised in prisons and experimented on by humyns before the revolution in which they freed themselves.
The new series has not yet reached the point of dictatorship of ape over humyn, only separate settlements that are now engaging in war with each other. Both sides have their militarists. The ape is motivated by vengeance from the torture he endured, while the humyn has a sense of purpose in returning humyns to their rightful place as dominant. A looming oppressor consciousness persists among the humyns despite their fall from grace. Though the main material force pushing them into conflict in the first place is the need for the hydro power that is within ape territory. No doubt, the justification of genocide for natural resources is still deep in these Amerikans' way of thinking.
Dawn does offer us some underlying political lessons. Caesar, who led the revolution in the previous movie as the only ape who knew how to speak, is now the established leader. All apes have developed some ability to speak (and at least the younger ones are learning to write), and they are able to communicate even more complex ideas through sign language. The mantra "ape shall not kill ape" is a direct throwback to Battle, that is repeated throughout this latest movie. This format is similar to short sayings from Mao that the Communist Party of China promoted under socialism to imbue the people with a new collective consciousness. It was necessary in a society with very limited literacy. Like Mao, Caesar is reified. At the same time, as Caesar disappears from the scene, it is clear that there is a core of apes who followed Caesar's ideas, and not just him as an individual. And there is a sense that the whole population has some grasp of these ideas, again similar to socialist China. But when a usurper seizes power, the masses follow him with little resistance. Like the Gang of Four in China, those perceived to be loyal to Caesar's ideas are imprisoned.
There is a strong theme of the nuclear family in this movie, at times saying that family is more important than the greater people. While Caesar learns to not idealistically trust all apes, he thankfully does not turn inward to his nuclear family as many do when they feel betrayed by larger organizations or society as a whole. Family is the hideaway of the coward, often the patriarch, who feels they can have greater control there. But revolutionaries strive to transform society by the power of scientific understanding. Like the last movie, the apes show heroic revolutionary sacrifice in their struggle for the greater good for all apes and the society that they have built. While they face internal contradictions based on the harm that oppression has stamped on their psyches, they have done much to build a promising society.
In our review of the previous movie we talked much about the integration struggle, with the apes rejecting that road. The ending of this movie leaves the protagonists from each species hoping for a collaborative effort, but seeing that it is impossible at this time. Caesar in particular seems keen at recognizing the material forces at play and the impossibility of collaboration with the humyns as a whole despite the friends he has among them. Similarly in our world, while there are certainly genuine revolutionary forces among the oppressor nations, we should not be fooled into interpreting that to mean that the oppressor nations as groups are ready for peaceful coexistence.
It is the contradictions that humyns face between their weakened state and their desire to have the material benefits of the past that is the biggest threat to the apes in this movie, and seemingly in the next one to come. We hope that the apes learned valuable lessons from this latest struggle that they can consciously consolidate into their ideology as a society as they move forward in their struggle against oppression and to end war.
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.
The Worker Elite: Notes on the "Labor Aristocracy" by Bromma Kersplebedeb, 2014
Available for $10 + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
As with our previous review of Bromma's writings, we find h new book to be a good read, based in an analysis that is close to our own. Yet, once again we find h putting class as principal and mentioning gender as an important component of class. In contrast, MIM(Prisons) sees the principal contradiction under imperialism as being along the lines of nation, in particular between the imperialist nations that exploit and those nations that are exploited. While all three strands interact with each other, we see gender as its own strand of oppression, distinct from class. While Bromma has much to say on class that is agreeable, one thread that emerges in this text that we take issue with is that of the First World labor aristocracy losing out due to "globalization."
Bromma opens with some definitions and a valid criticism of the term "working class." While using many Marxist terms, h connection to a Marxist framework is not made clear. S/he consciously writes about the "worker elite," while disposing of the term "labor aristocracy" with no explanation. In the opening s/he rhetorically asks whether the "working class" includes all wage earners, or all manual laborers. While dismissing the term "working class" as too general, Bromma does not address these questions in h discussion of the worker elite. Yet, throughout the book s/he addresses various forms of productive labor in h examples of worker elite. S/he says that the worker elite is just one of many groups that make up the so-called "middle class." But it is not clear how Bromma distinguishes the worker elite from the other middle classes, except that they are found in "working class jobs." Halfway through the book it is mentioned that s/he does not consider "professionals, shopkeepers, administrators, small farmers, businesspeople, intellectuals, etc." to be workers.(p.32)
We prefer the term "labor aristocracy" over "worker elite," and we may use it more broadly than Bromma's worker elite in that the type of work is not so important so much as the pay and benefits. Bromma, while putting the worker elite in the "middle class," simultaneously puts it into the "working class" along with the proletariat and the lumpen working class. We put the labor aristocracy in the First World within the petty bourgeoisie, which may be a rough equivalent of what Bromma calls the "middle class." Of course, the petty bourgeoisie has historically been looked at as a wavering force between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Yet, in the case of the oppressor nation labor aristocracy, they have proven to be a solidly pro-imperialist class. This analysis, central to MIM Thought, is particular to the imperialist countries.
Despite these questions and confusions, overall we agree with the global class analysis as it is presented in the beginning of this book in terms of who are our friends and who are our enemies.
One good point made throughout this book is the idea that the "worker elite" is not defined merely by an income cut off. While not denying the central role of income, Bromma defines this class position as a whole package of benefits, material (health care, infrastructure), social (family life, leisure activities) and political (lack of repression, voice in politics). At one point s/he brings up the migrant farm workers in the U.$., who can earn similar amounts to the autoworkers in Mexico who s/he argues make up an established worker elite. In contrast, the migrant farm workers suffer the abuses of the proletariat at the bottom rung of U.$. society, and in reality many make far less than Mexican autoworkers. We agree with Bromma's implication here that the migrant workers make up a proletarian class within the United $tates.
While criticizing previous attempts to set an "exploitation line" in income, Bromma brings in PPP to improve this analysis. The book provides a helpful table of the income levels in Purchasing Power Parities (PPP) for various groups. PPP defines income levels relative to a basket of goods to account for varying prices across countries/regions. Bromma concludes that "a global middle class annual income probably starts somewhere between PPP $10,000 and $15,000", meaning that a single worker (man) could comfortably support a family on this amount. This is similar to the estimates others have done and we have used elsewhere.
One of the key characteristics of this income level is that they have gone beyond covering basic needs and become consumers. Bromma lists one of the three main roles of the worker elite as being a consumer class. This is something we have stressed when people ask incredulously why the capitalists would pay people more than the value that they are producing. Bromma cites a source discussing the Chinese planned capitalist economy and how they have goals for expanding their consumer class as they recognize that their increasing production will soon not be absorbed by consumption abroad. This is typical capitalist logic. Rather than seeing what the Chinese people need, and produce based on those needs as they did under a socialist planned economy, today they first produce a lot of the most profitable goods and then try to find (or create) a market to sell them to.
Where we disagree greatest with this book is that it takes up a line akin to Huey P. Newton's intercommunalism theory, later named globalization theory in Amerikan academia. It claims a trend towards equalization of classes internationally, reducing the national contradictions that defined the 20th century. Bromma provides little evidence of this happening besides anecdotal examples of jobs moving oversees. Yet s/he claims, "Among 'white' workers, real wages are stagnant, unemployment is high, unions are dwindling, and social benefits and protective regulations are evaporating."(p.43) These are all common cries of white nationalists that the MIM camp and others have been debating for decades.(1) The fact that wages are not going up as fast as inflation has little importance to the consumer class who knows that their wealth is far above the world's majority and whose buying power has increased greatly in recent decades.(2) Unemployment in the United $tates averaged 5.9% in April 2014 when this book came out, which means the white unemployment rate was even lower than that.(3) That is on the low side of average over the last 40 years and there is no upward trend in unemployment in the United $tates, so that claim is just factually incorrect. High unemployment rates would be 35% in Afghanistan, or 46% in Nepal. The author implies that unions are smaller because of some kind of violent repression, rather than because of structural changes in the economy and the privileged conditions of the labor aristocracy.
The strongest evidence given for a rise in the worker elite is in China. One report cited claims that China is rivaling the U.$. to have the largest "middle class" soon.(p.38) Yet this middle class is not as wealthy as the Amerikan one, and is currently only 12-15% of the population.(p.32) It's important to distinguish that China is an emerging imperialist power, not just any old Third World country. Another example given is Brazil, which also has a growing finance capital export sector according to this book, a defining characteristic of imperialism. The importance of nation in the imperialist system is therefore demonstrated here in the rise of the labor aristocracy in these countries. And it should be noted that there is a finite amount of labor power to exploit in the world. The surplus value that Chinese and Brazilian finance capital is finding abroad, and using partly to fund their own emerging consumer classes, will eat into the surplus value currently taken in by the First World countries. In this way we see imperialist competition, and of course proletarian revolution, playing bigger roles in threatening the current privileges of the First World, rather than the globalization of finance capital that Bromma points to.
As Zak Cope wrote in a recent paper, "Understanding how the 'labour aristocracy' is formed means understanding imperialism, and conversely."(4) It is not the U.$. imperialists building up the labor aristocracy in China and Brazil. South Korea, another country discussed, is another story, that benefits as a token of U.$. imperialism in a half-century long battle against the Korean peoples' struggle for independence from imperialism and exploitation. While Bromma brings together some interesting information, we don't agree with h conclusion that imperialism is "gradually detaching itself from the model of privileged 'home countries' altogether."(p.40) We would interpret it as evidence of emerging imperialist nations and existing powers imposing strategic influence. Cope, building on Arghiri Emmanuel's work, discusses the dialectical relationship between increasing wages and increasing the productive forces within a nation.(2,5) Applying their theories, for Chinese finance capital to lead China to become a powerful imperialist country, we would expect to see the development of a labor aristocracy there as Bromma indicates is happening. This is a distinct phenomenon from the imperialists buying off sections of workers in other countries to divide the proletariat. That's not to say this does not happen, but we would expect to see this on a more tactical level that would not produce large shifts in the global balance of forces.
Finance capital wants to be free to dominate the whole world. As such it appears to be transnational. Yet, it requires a home base, a state, with strong military might to back it up. How else could it keep accumulating all the wealth around the world as the majority of the people suffer? Chinese finance capital is at a disadvantage, as it must fight much harder than the more established imperialist powers to get what it perceives to be its fair share. And while its development is due in no small part to cooperation with Amerikan finance capital, this is secondary to their competitive relationship. This is why we see Amerika in both China's and Russia's back yards making territorial threats in recent days (in the South China Sea and Ukraine respectively). At first, just getting access to Chinese labor after crushing socialism in 1976 was a great boon to the Amerikan imperialists. But they are not going to stop there. Russia and China encompass a vast segment of the globe where the Amerikans and their partners do not have control. As Lenin said one hundred years ago, imperialism marks the age of a divided world based on monopolies. Those divisions will shift, but throughout this period the whole world will be divided between different imperialist camps (and socialist camps as they emerge). And as Cope stresses, this leads to a divided "international working class."
While there is probably a labor aristocracy in all countries, its role and importance varies greatly. MIM line on the labor aristocracy has been developed for the imperialist countries, where the labor aristocracy encompasses the wage-earning citizens as a whole. While the term may appropriately be used in Third World countries, we would not equate the two groups. The wage earners of the world have been so divided that MIM began referring to those in the First World as so-called "workers." So we do not put the labor aristocracy of the First World within the proletarian class as Bromma does.
We caution against going too far with applying our class definitions and analysis globally. In recent years, we have distinguished the First World lumpen class from that of the lumpen-proletariat of the Third World. In defining the lumpen, Bromma "includes working class people recruited into the repressive apparatus of the state — police, informants, prison guards, career soldiers, mercenaries, etc."(p.5) This statement rings more true in the Third World, yet even there a government job would by definition exclude you from being in the lumpen-proletariat. In the imperialist countries, police, prison guards, military and any other government employee are clearly members of the labor aristocracy. This is a point we will explore in much greater detail in future work.
The principal contradiction within imperialism is between exploiter and exploited nations. Arghiri Emmanuel wrote about the national interest, criticizing those who still view nationalism as a bourgeois phenomenon as stuck in the past. After WWII the world saw nationalism rise as an anti-colonial force. In Algeria, Emmanuel points out, the national bourgeoisie and Algerian labor aristocracy had nothing to lose in the independence struggle as long as it did not go socialist. In contrast, it was the French settlers in Algeria that violently opposed the liberation struggle as they had everything to lose.(6) In other words there was a qualitative difference between the Algerian labor aristocracy and the French settler labor aristocracy.
It is the responsibility of people on the ground to do a concrete analysis of their own conditions. We've already mentioned our use of the term "First World lumpen" to distinguish it from the lumpen of the Third World, which is a subclass of the proletariat. To an extent, all classes are different between the First and Third World. We rarely talk of the labor aristocracy in the Third World, because globally it is insignificant. It is up to comrades in Third World nations to assess the labor aristocracy in their country, which in many cases will not be made up of net-exploiters. Bromma highlights examples of exploiter workers in Mexico and South Korea. These are interesting exceptions to the rule that should be acknowledged and assessed, but we think Bromma goes too far in generalizing these examples as signs of a shift in the overall global class structure. While we consider Mexico to be a Third World exploited nation, it is a relatively wealthy country that Cope includes on the exploiter side, based on OECD data, in his major calculations.
Everything will not always fit into neat little boxes. But the scientific method is based on applying empirically tested laws, generalizations, percentages and probability. The world is not simple. In order to change it we must understand it the best we can. To understand it we must both base ourselves in the laws proven by those who came before us and assess the changes in our current situation to adjust our analysis accordingly.