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[Ukraine] [U.S. Imperialism] [Militarism] [ULK Issue 38]
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U.$. Meddling Behind Bloodshed in Ukraine

America Don't Kill People - Ukraine protest
Amerikans must condemn their government's meddling in Russia's backyard. Backing fascist political parties with nuclear ambitions on the border of Russia is a recipe for death and disaster.(1) Bloodshed has already increased as a result of imperialism's maneuvers as dozens have died in clashes between protestors/opposition forces and Ukrainian security forces controlled by the parties that came to power in the February coup d'etat (the second U.$.-backed coup in Ukraine in 10 years). Interestingly, we have not heard John Kerry call for sanctions against the new Ukraine government as we did last fall when the previous government roughed up protestors, once again exposing his hypocrisy (not to apologize for the now deposed Yanukovic regime, which later killed dozens of protestors in the streets of Kiev). Europeans should be even more worried about the violence being fomented in Ukraine. While the EU hopes to benefit from U.$. militarism in the form of trade relations with Ukraine, that same militarism could bring war to their region.

While statements from president Vladimir Putin on 7 May 2014 indicated a cooling off of Russian rhetoric in the conflict, talk of Ukraine joining NATO is a major threat to Russian security. Amerikan foreign policy experts, including Henry Kissinger, have condemned the idea of pulling Ukraine into NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed at the end of WWII as a military pact between countries opposed to the then communist Soviet Union. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, NATO has been creeping into Eastern Europe, towards Russia.

The calming words from Putin indicate that the very limited Western sanctions succeeded in not fanning the flames of inter-imperialist rivalry too high. By targetting individuals, the United $tates and Germany avoided the types of trade barriers that led to open wars between the imperialist countries in the early 20th century. And while Russian financial markets have declined in the face of this threat, the hit remains moderate.

Another reason to worry is that the U.$.-backed regime has significant participation from far right fascist parties. It is ironic that fascism finds some of its broadest support today in the very peoples who destroyed fascism in the Soviet Union's great patriotic war against Germany in the 1940s. But our understanding of fascism explains why this is so. Fascism is led by an imperialist class that feels its existence is threatened and/or aspires to surge ahead of other imperialist powers, and its mass support is among the labor aristocracy who wants their nation to rise and reap more superprofits at the expense of other countries (see our fascism study pack). Russia remains an imperialist power at odds with the West that cannot provide the same benefits to its people as countries like the United $tates and those in Western Europe. While Ukraine is not an imperialist country, there is a small class of finance capitalists backing the fascist upsurge within the current regime. The fascists are mobilizing within the national guard and are behind the recent murders of local police and civilians in the east where opposition to the new regime is strong.

With all the aid and loans being offered to Ukraine from the West, we know that large chunks of money given in the past has gone to various political parties, "election reform," and media outlets(2); something worth keeping in mind when trying to parse out what is going on during political turmoil in client states. USAID, often marketed by the government as a humanitarian agency, is behind much of this political funding and campaigning. The United $tates and Germany are adament that the planned presidential election must go ahead on May 25 as they work behind the scenes to ensure its results.

U.$. militarism, which is defined by the Amerikan economy being dependent on war and military production, must be put to an end to stop the unneccessary killings such as those in Ukraine recently and in so many other parts of the world. USAID must be exposed and opposed as a tool opposing the self-determination of other peoples around the world. The anti-Russian sentiments rising among Amerikans and the support that Putin is getting in Russia do not bode well for preventing further conflict if the imperialists decide to step it up a notch. This is a warning for us to strengthen the movement against U.$. militarism.

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[Campaigns] [Texas] [ULK Issue 38]
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Texas Indigent Mail Battle Victories and Set Backs

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The Texa$ Board of Criminal (in)Justice implemented new prisoner Correspondence Rules on 1 October 2013 restricting indigent prisoners to 5 one-ounce domestic letters per month. The previous policy allowed 5 letters per week. This is a clear attack on prisoners' access to the outside world, and in particular impacts politically active prisoners who use the mail to expose the brutality and abuse going on behind bars in Texas. In response to this new policy United Struggle from Within initiated a grievance campaign, organizing prisoners to appeal this restriction. Below are several new updates to the campaign:

Successful Grievance Against Limits on Legal Mail

From Hughes Unit: "I won my grievance due to interference from the department law library which deals with offenders who are indigent. They were saying five letters a month for everything and they were trying to stop my legal mail from going out to the courts. There is no limit on legal mail! They were also trying only to give us supplies like 25 sheets of paper, one pen, five envelopes a month. But an indigent offender who is doing legal work can have this once a week, and mail out as much legal work he or she wants."

One prisoner from Allred wrote Step 1 and Step 2 grievances requesting additional stamps. Because of his need to use his 5 indigent mail stamps to pursue legal research this prisoner was unable to write to family and friends and so requested additional stamps from the Warden. The first request prior to the grievances stated "I need to mail 5 more letters this month using indigent [mail]. ... This unit law library is giving me the run around having me write and ask everybody under the sun. They don't know about the 83rd Legislature House Bill 634 by Farias of Texas. It's the holidays, I need extra 5 letters this month." The response from the Warden: "That doesn't meet any legal requirement and I don't have the authority to allow you extra postage for that." Responses to his grievances following up on the Warden's denial included denying the Step 1 for "excessive attachments." The attachments were copies of his initial attempts to resolve the issue without filing a grievance.

Based on the victory from the prisoner in Hughes Unit, we encourage prisoners to appeal their access to stamps for legal mail separately from the restriction on personal mail.

Restrictions on Receipt of Stationary

A comrade in Eastham Unit reported: "Each year the big wigs running Texas prisons decide on what to take from the prisoners next. This year it involves indigent mail and stationary sent in from the outside. Prisoners who have no money on their trust fund account are able to receive supplies (paper, pen, envelopes) and send out letters through the indigent mail. Before this March prisoners could send out five letters a week, now it's just five letters a month... What's worse is that we're charged for indigent mail services. Whenever we get money on our account, the cost for every letter mailed and each supply is deducted.

"Prior to March our friends and family could have stationary from an outside store sent to us. This was eliminated, and now our only option is purchasing stationary from commissary, and paying their prices. Like any oppressor, TDCJ enjoys coming up with new ideas and ways to make life more difficult for their captors. There's strength in numbers. The more of us who write grievances, send letters to state politicians, and get the word out to our family and friends, the better chance we have of telling our oppressors that we're not going to take this lying down."

This comrade is right on about the strength in numbers. We have a number of prisoners across the state working on this campaign to end the restrictions on correspondence in Texas, and we've come up with a few key steps for prisoners and supporters to take.

Some jailhouse lawyers have created guides to fighting this injustice as well as a broader grievance guide for Texas, and we are seeing an influx of prisoners requesting these resources. We look forward to the results of this growing activism in this state with the largest prison population and one of the highest incarceration rates in the country.

For this indigent mail campaign in particular, we have a sample step 1 grievance for prisoners to use as well as a sample step 2 grievance for those whose step 1 is rejected. Write to us for a copy of the indigent mail campaign guide.

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[Education] [National Oppression]
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Supreme Court Upholds National Oppression in Education

April 22 - The U.$. Supreme Court upheld a Michigan ban on affirmative action in admission decisions to public universities, a final decision that reinforces national oppression in education from grade school through college. The majority opinion of the court upheld the state law that was enacted by Michigan voters in 2006. In addition to Michigan, seven other states have enacted similar bans: California, Florida, Washington, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma and New Hampshire.(1)

The Supreme Court couched their ruling in arguments about upholding democracy: “It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds,” justice Kennedy explained in the majority decision.(1) This faith in the capability of the voters in Amerika is only correct if we seek to reinforce white supremacy. 76% of Michigan's population is white, and Amerikan capitalism promotes individualism and self-interest, so we should expect this population to vote in their own persynal interests, which rest on national oppression. "Decent and rational grounds" cannot be found as the basis for banning a practice of affirmative action that attempts to address the unequal access to educational opportunities offered oppressed nation youth in the United $tates.

As we explained in 2012 when a lower court ruling was issued on this case, bans on affirmative action are fundamentally reactionary in that they preserve white privilege, but overall affirmative action itself has failed oppressed nation youth. Affirmative action does not address the fundamental inequalities faced by oppressed nations within U.$. borders, it's just an attempt to deal with the effects of these inequalities in young adults. As we wrote in that article: "The achievement gap between Black and white children went down between the Brown v Board of Education ruling and the late 1980s. But it started to grow again in the early 1990s. By 2005, in about half the high schools (those with the largest concentration of Blacks and Latinos) in the 100 largest districts in the country less than half the students entering the schools in ninth grade were graduating high school. Between 1993 and 2002 the number of high schools with this problem increased by 75%. These numbers, not surprisingly, coincide with a drop in Black and Latino enrollment in public universities."(1)

The affirmative action debate highlights the ongoing existence of national oppression within U.$. borders. And it underscores the intersection of class and nation, keeping a sizable portion of New Afrikans and Latinos without a high school diploma and unable to take advantage of affirmative action in college admission even where it still exists. This goes back to the way that public education is funded in the United $tates, through property taxes, ensuring that poor neighborhoods will have lower quality education and denying kids from those neighborhoods the opportunities availabile to kids from wealthier neighborhoods. This economic segregation is tied to national segregation, creating a cycle of poverty that reinforces national oppression within this wealthy imperialist country.

The debate over affirmative action at the college level gets at the core of what equality is. Those who demand "blind" admissions practices have to pretend that everyone applying for college admissions had equal opportunities up to the point of college application. And this gives us a chance to challenge people on what many like to call a "color-blind" society. Even looking at the privileged Blacks and Latinos who went to schools good enough to qualify them to apply for college admission, pretending equality is only possible if we ignore all the aspects of oppression that these groups face in the U.$., from overt racial hatred to subtle cultural messages of inferiority. Society sets oppressed nation youth up for failure from birth, with TV and movies portraying criminals as Black and Latino and successful corporate employees as white. These youth are stopped by cops on the streets for the offense of skin color alone, looked at suspiciously in stores, and presumed to be less intelligent in school.

But the real problem is not the privileged Black and Latino students qualified to apply for college admission. These individual students from oppressed nations who are able to achieve enough to apply to colleges that have admissions requirements are a part of the petty bourgeoisie. The reality is very different for the other half of the oppressed nation youth who are tracked right out of college from first grade (or before) and have no chance of even attending a college that has admissions requirements beyond a high school diploma.

Among the students who entered high school in ninth grade, 63% of Latinos, 59% of Blacks and 53% of First Nations graduated high school in 2009. This is compared to 81% of Asians and 79% of whites. Overall the Black-white and Latino-white graduation rate gap narrowed between 1999 and 2009 but is still very large.(2)

This recent court ruling reinforces our belief that we cannot expect Amerika to reform away national oppression, even within U.$. borders where some formerly oppressed nations have been integrated into the oppressor majority. At this point in history, imperialism vs. the oppressed nations is the principal contradiction both globally and within u.s. borders. The dramatic differences in educational access and achievement are just one example of the oppressed/oppressor nation differentials. MIM(Prisons) fights on the side of oppressed nations everywhere for the revolution that will overthrow imperialism end national oppression.

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[Environmentalism] [Philippines] [Civil Liberties] [ULK Issue 39]
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Hundreds of Environmental Activists Murdered

Global Witness killings of environmental activists
A new report from Global Witness documents over 900 assassinations of people protecting the environment and rights to land in the last decade.(1) And this is just the ones they could find information on, meaning the real number is higher. Of course, none of those killed were from the First World. The big countries in the report were Brazil (448), Honduras (109), Philippines (67), Peru (58) and Colombia (52). The killers have been prosecuted in only 6 of the 908 cases. The report also suggests that this is a growing phenomenon, which seems plausible given the heightening contradictions between the demands of capitalist production and the capacity of the natural world to maintain the balance of systems that are necessary to sustain life as we know it.

In the past, some have painted environmentalism as a concern of the First World. However, this has never really been true, as it is the most oppressed people who have suffered and struggled against the most extreme man-made disasters. And the threat that their struggles pose to the capitalists' interests is highlighted by this list of assassinations; people who were mostly killed in cold blood, a fate those in the oppressor nations know nothing about.

There is a concentration of murders in the tropical countries, where vast rain forests with some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet are making what could be their final stand. Long a source of natural resources, in recent decades these forests have been leveled at an increasing rate that cannot be sustained. In such cases there is a clear connection between protecting the ecological functioning of a region and the national liberation struggle tied to land. These "untamed" lands are often the homes of peoples who have not fully been assimilated into the global capitalist economy. Often private property and land deeds do not exist in these areas, attracting the brutality of the exploiters. The people struggling to exist on these lands have a completely different perspective on what land ownership and stewardship mean.

Many of the reports of these assassinations can be discouraging, when we see vocal leaders of small indigenous groups gunned down by paid assassins of the capitalists and no one is held accountable. But this war does have two sides. In many of the hotspots in this report there are strong organizations that have mobilized indigenous people to defend their lands. One of those examples has made some headlines recently in the Philippines. The revolutionary forces in the Philippines have called for a ban on logging because it has impoverished the indigenous people and peasantry, making them susceptible to environmental disasters as we saw last November with typhoon Yolanda. The New People's Army (NPA) is exerting dual power in putting this ban into effect by engaging in gun battles and arresting members of the military of the U.$. puppet regime that defend the logging companies.(2) In a separate campaign the NPA recently stormed Apex Mining Company, torching their equipment.(3) This is one of many mining companies they have targeted due to the destruction they wreak on indigenous lands and humyn health. This connection between the struggles of the indigenous people and peasantry, the environment and land is nothing new for the Communist Party of the Philippines as was documented in the decades old film Green Guerrillas.

While most pronounced in the Third World, ecological destruction threatens all humyn life and continues to be a growing rallying point for progressive forces in the First World as well. Maoists must tie this work to a realistic class analysis and link the struggle to protect our environment to the struggle for national liberation of the oppressed. A true revolutionary ecology must engage the workings of a system that has assassinated well over 900 innocent people for trying to protect the world that we all live in.

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[Medical Care] [ULK Issue 38]
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Affordable Care Act Underscores Need for Global Health Coverage

healthcare
While capitalism advances technology and produces consumables at high rates, most people lack decent health care
April 1 - The deadline for enrollment in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed last night, and there are now 4.4 million people in the United $tates newly enrolled in Medicaid health insurance plans sponsored by the federal government, and another 8 million people newly enrolled in government-regulated private insurance plans.(1) Those who do not enroll in any insurance and are not covered by a plan through their family, work or school will face fines. For people with incomes less than 400% of the federal "poverty line," the plans are subsidized by the government, and those with less than 138% of this cut off will receive free health care via Medicaid. In the end, for at least the lumpen class the penalty will actually cost them more than having health insurance would cost.

This new healthcare system in the United $tates, often called "Obamacare," is far from socialist, but it does serve as a good reminder of the failures of capitalism to care for some of the basic needs of imperialist country citizens. The United $tates has had government-run healthcare for military service people and their families since the 1800s, and for the relatively poor, disabled and elderly since the 1960s with the creation of Medicare and Medicaid. But these programs serve a minority of Amerikans, leaving the rest to seek health care through insurance provided by their work or through privately purchased plans or by paying directly for services. This means that people out of work or in jobs that don't provide insurance coverage are often left without any health insurance. The ACA attempts to address this problem by providing a government-run program to help insure citizens without coverage.

We're not going to take on the critics who say that health care quality would go down if run by the Amerikan government. These same people would abolish free universal education, privatize water distribution, and eliminate the fire department. This is a debate between different factions of the bourgeoisie, and not worth the time of communists, except to point out that we have fundamentally different values. We have no need to defend the ability of a capitalist government to run these programs well because we don't support capitalist governments. And we know that the profit motive does not make for greater "efficiency", as capitalists like to claim. We see this clearly in the United $tates where food is dumped rather than distributed to people going hungry, and the tremendous waste of money on advertising rather than meeting basic needs.

Communists think about health care the same way we think about education, food, clean water and other basic necessities. These are things we seek to provide to all people indiscriminately. We prioritize basic humyn needs over luxury items like boats, fancy cars, big houses, TVs, etc. Capitalism, on the other hand, functions on the concept that profitable luxury items are a priority over basic humyn needs. While in a matter of years capitalism has gotten hand-held computers into the hands of anyone with a little disposable income, the decades-long struggle against easily preventable diseases in the Third World continues. Millions of children under five years old die each year in southern Asia and Africa south of the Sahara as a result. We believe that the Affordable Care Act should offer these people free health care services as well. While the ACA has proven once again that small reforms in capitalism can be achieved when they serve the interests of imperialist country citizens, capitalism will never allow reforms to improve the lot of the rest of the world. In fact, even within U.$. borders non-citizens are not eligible for insurance under the ACA. Those most in need, working the hardest and most dangerous jobs for the least money, are still denied basic health care.

While it's easy for Amerikans to ignore what goes on outside of their borders, it should be an embarrassment for Amerikan imperialism that the individualism of its citizens is so strong that until now they had refused health care to even their own relatively well-off citizens. Even now, many across the country continue to fight and resist this new law. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, Amerikans who wanted to buy health insurance on their own were often rejected by the health plans for "pre-existing conditions." This means the health plans were picking only the healthiest individuals for insurance, leaving those with even minor history of health problems with no recourse because most insurance plans in the United $tates are privately run for a profit. Now most insurance in this country is still run for profit, but the federal and state governments provide minimum standards of care that must be provided with every policy, and sell these approved insurance plans on a marketplace, in hopes that the market competition inherent in capitalism will increase quality and transparency while reducing cost.

Abolishing the profit motive behind health care will be a priority for communists when we take control of a government. We want to make preventive care and treatment available to all people. The new ACA law in the United $tates does not eliminate private insurance or remove the profit from health care, and it's a fundamentally timid step towards universal coverage for Amerikans. But it does enable people to get health insurance regardless of income or health status. For Amerikan citizens this is progress. And for most it is part of the ongoing bribery of these citizens by the imperialists, ensuring their allegiance to the imperialist system. However, a large number of the uninsured in the United $tates come from the oppressed nation lumpen class, and the ACA is a positive step for the survival and healthy living of this group which has a relatively high material interest in revolution.(3) Overall we see the ACA as a progressive step towards universal health care for everyone in the world, if only because it demonstrates the concept of health care as a basic right.

We will continue to fight for health care for the world's exploited and oppressed, who are mostly found in the Third World, where even basic medical services are difficult to obtain. 801,000 children under age 5 die from diarrhea each year, most of which are caused by lack of access to clean water and sanitation. More than 3 million people die from vaccine-preventable diseases each year. 86% of deaths among children under age 5 are preventable and due to communicable, treatable disease, birth issues and lack of nutrition. These abysmal numbers would cost very little to rectify. Truly universal health care is a priority for communists, and the statistics above are just a few reasons why the overthrow of capitalism is literally a life or death issue for the majority of the world's people.

Notes:
1. "317 Million Reasons to Love Obamacare", CNN, 31 March 2014
2. United Nations, Millennium Development Goals Report, 2013.
3. Ignoring nationality, about half of the 48 million nonelderly uninsured U.$. citizens are below the new cutoff for Medicaid according to the Kaiser Family Foundation

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 38]
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Movie Review: The Lego Movie


The Lego Movie
2014


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This computer animated story could have been a feature length ad for the popular children's toy, funded by Lego itself, but it's not hard to read a not-too-subtle communist message into this movie. From the main plot it appears that Marx's conclusions are logical to anyone thinking about organized work and struggle against those dominating the world for persynal gain. What is particularly refreshing about this movie is the strong theme that heroes are not people with special talent but rather the masses are all heroes when we unleash their creativity.

The movie starts off in Lego world with regular ordinary construction worker Emmet, as he follows the instruction booklet for life, produced by the Octan Corporation, which details how he should dress, what music to listen to, the expensive coffee to drink, what brainless TV to watch, and how to do his job working with lots of other people building things that are without purpose and will be torn down to be built again another day. These workers are uncreative, but very cooperative in their work.

When it comes time to fight back against President Business, the CEO of Octan Corp., who is trying to dominate the world, it is Emmet who realizes that the collective organization of the workers is indispensable to building the resistance against Octan. In fact, the Lego heros (batman, spaceman, superman, NBA players, etc.) find their heroic individualism an impediment in their attempts to fight back as an organized group.

These are themes of Marxism, which sees that the organized labor of the industrial proletariat will make up the leadership of the communist revolution because of their unique position exposed directly to the contradiction of collective labor being deployed for individual profit. But there is another layer to this Marxist theme because the workers are not actually proletarian in the Lego land. There is no profit in the construction work which appears to just be happening to keep everyone busy. The workers are paid a high salary, judging from Emmet's living conditions. In reality these workers are a labor aristocracy just like we have in the imperialist countries today, where workers are bought off with the superprofits from exploitation of unseen workers in the Third World. The complete lack of productivity of the Lego workers underscores the impossibility that they are the ones creating the profits. No longer a part of the proletariat in the real world, these workers will defend imperialism against revolutionary forces to maintain their elevated standard of living. So we wouldn't actually expect them to lead the revolution that is serving the interests of the global proletariat.

However, at some point a contradiction may arise that is such a threat to the labor aristocracy that they will be compelled to join the forces of revolution. This threat will likely be life threatening, like Lord Business's plot to kill everyone. But until that contradiction arises, we should expect the labor aristocracy to join in the chorus of the Lego theme song "Everything is Awesome," and continue their unproductive labor, enjoying their capitalist-created entertainment.

In the beginning of the movie Vitruvius, the white-haired god-like leader of the forces of good, prophesies that there will be an individual who will rise up to lead the resistance and foil the ultimate plot of Lord Business. These strong religious overtones are nicely dispelled later when Vitruvius confesses that he made up the prophesy because he thought it would help average people believe in themselves, and in fact he knows that the creativity of the masterbuilders (heroes) exists within everyone.

In the end Emmet is able to convince Lord Business that he doesn't have to be evil and so the communist theme is undermined by the pacifist view that we can convince those with money and power to give up exploiting and oppressing the people of the world. Communists know that this fairytale ending is far from the reality that will require violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie, and ongoing military force to keep them from reclaiming power until we can transform society and create a culture that does not nurture individualism and profit over people.

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[Prison Labor] [Economics] [Theory] [ULK Issue 37]
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ULK37: Using Our Money Wisely

flower of socialism crushes money
In the richest country in the world, access to wealth and material goods can be a relative strength we have compared to most of the rest of the world, namely the global proletariat we aim to represent. We must consider what the best tactics are to leverage wealth to support our goals. Yet, we must not fetishize money or technology as panaceas to all our problems. We know people are decisive in social change. How we get money is mostly a tactical question. How we use it or campaign around financial issues is generally a strategic one.

We have at least one USW comrade in California who has been pushing the prison movement in that state to take up a boycott tactic to push the demands to end torture and group punishment. Prisoners in Virginia report of money taken from their accounts, decreased wages and have launched a fast to protest the extortion of Keefe Commissary. Also in this issue, Loco1 offers an alternative tactic on how to relate to commissary. And one comrade in Texas offers up a different sort of [url=https://www.prisoncensorship.info/article/fighting-the-system-appealing-the-100-medical-co-pay-in-texa/boycott tactic around medical co-pays that could help focus our resources.(see p.X)

We say these questions are tactical, meaning they will vary from time to time or place to place. One tactic may work well in one prison, or under certain conditions, which won't work well in another circumstance. There are strategic considerations which serve as general guidelines for all of us and can help us make our tactical decisions. One stratetic orientation we hold is to not fetishize money, and remember that the people must change the system. An example of how this strategic orientation helps us choose tactics is in deciding whether we should spend more time and energy raising money, or writing letters to prisoners and developing study groups. If we believed money were decisive, we would spend more time fundraising or working at bourgeois jobs to pad our "revolutionary" bank account.

The concept of the "almighty dollar" leads the consumer class that dominates this country to see consuming as their means of expressing their political beliefs, and their main tool for promoting the world they want to see. Consumer politics are very popular in our bourgeois society, and these boil down to individual/lifestyle politics. Vegans may feel better about themselves because they know their nutritional sustenance doesn't rely on the abuse and murder of any non-humyn animal. But veganism itself doesn't challenge the capitalist system that makes factory farming profitable in the first place. Capitalists don't care what industry their money is in so long as they are drawing a profit. And no matter how many "fair trade", "local" or "ethical" products one purchases, capitalism relies on humyn exploitation to function. We can't buy our way out of imperialism itself.

Boycotts can easily fall into the realm of individual/lifestyle politics. Without a strong political movement with clear demands at the head of a boycott (i.e. the campaign to divest from Israel), our consumption habits will do nothing to change the structural problems of imperialism. Boycotting the commissary as an individual is just like choosing veganism. It may make you feel better about the role you are directly playing, but it doesn't actually have an impact on the prison system. This is partially because your individual $40 per month is a drop in the bucket of the prison budget, and also because, like the capitalists, it's only a matter of policy change to ensure prisons are extorting the balance they desire from prisoners. If they can't get it from you via commissary, then they'll instill an exorbitant medical co-pay, or financial penalties for disciplinary infractions. If you keep your bank account empty to avoid these fees, they limit indigent envelopes and postage to limit your contact to the outside world.

That doesn't mean you should pour your money down the drain or that there is no use for money in our revolutionary movement. But we have to be realistic about the impact our money is making. Spending $40 on mail-order fiction books rather than at commissary has no real political impact. But sending $40 to MIM(Prisons) allows us to send ULK to forty subscribers. This money allows us to send study group mail to eighty participants! That's enough to cover an entire level 1 study group! Send us $40 twice and you can cover the printing and postage of a whole introductory study group, both levels. This is a good demonstration of the political impact money can have on our ability to build up people's political understanding, without worshiping money as the be all and end all of our political work.

Any reader of ULK should be familiar with our line on the inflated minimum wage in imperialist countries. In line with our criticism of lifestyle politics above, we don't say Amerikans should refuse to be paid more than $2.50 per hour as an act of solidarity with Third World workers. Instead we say revolutionary comrades should funnel as much money as they can into the anti-imperialist movement. Get raises and make bigger donations, but don't waste all your time in your bourgeois job!

Prisoners and migrant workers differ from the rest of this country in that there is a progressive aspect to their struggles for higher wages. The proletarians currently on hunger strike in an ICE detention center in Washington have pushed internationalist demands to the front of their struggle. While they ask for higher wages and better conditions in the private prison they are being held, their primary demand is an end to deportations from the United $tates. Facing deportation themselves, these prisoners have a different class perspective than the vast majority in this country.

In an article titled "Sending a Donation is Contraband" from ULK 25, a comrade relates being prevented from sending MIM(Prisons) a donation to the overall political repression and censorship by the prisoncrats. In a bizarre interpretation of California's mail policies, CDCR effectively and illegally prevented this subscriber from exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. Similarly, in the last issue of ULK, another comrade in California explains the direct connection between a stamp drive for the SF BayView, a New Afrikan nationalist newspaper, and the pigs' mass disallowing of stamps and increased terrorist activities in San Quentin State Prison. The state has an interest in preventing any growth of the anti-imperialist movement, no matter how small.

Naturally it is among the most oppressed that we find the greatest support for anti-imperialism. Thus, campaigns for a few more $0.49 stamps for indigent prisoners in Texas are of vital importance. Such a concern is unfathomable to the vast majority in the imperialist countries. Cutting postage stamps and radio service are not only tactics to further deteriorate the mental health of prisoners, but are also attempts at political repression under the thinly veiled guise of budget cuts. Here we see the oppressor using economic tactics to reach their political goals. While the material basis of what we're fighting for is in the people, we must be smart about finance and other material resources to end hunger, war and oppression as soon as possible.

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[New Afrika] [Elections] [ULK Issue 37]
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Mayor Chokwe Lumumba Dead - Demand An Autopsy!

8 March 2014, Jackson, MS — Today hundreds attended the funeral service for Mayor Chokwe Lumumba who died after just eight months in office. His son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, eulogized his father. He has also announced his plans to run in an April 8 election to replace his father as Mayor of Jackson.

Days before his death Chokwe was sick with a cold. On 25 February, he was pronounced dead of "natural causes," with local officials claiming it was heart failure. But family requests for an autopsy were denied. His family is working with the National Caucus of Black Lawyers to fund an independent autopsy. Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam has offered to put up the money for the autopsy.(1)

Chokwe Lumumba was a leading figure in the struggle for the liberation of New Afrika since the founding of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika in 1968. He went on to launch and work with organizations such as the New Afrikan Peoples' Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. As a lawyer he fought many historic cases for New Afrikan humyn rights in the United $tates. He represented Assata Shakur, Tupac Shakur and the Scott sisters, to name a few.

Many close to Lumumba are questioning his sudden death, following his election in a state with a long history of murdering New Afrikans. In our report on his election, we questioned his ability to build dual power in Mississippi in line with the New Afrikan Liberation Movement from within the city government. We pointed out that true dual power must have an independent base of force from which to defend itself. Only an independent autopsy can tell whether this was a case of political assassination, brutally proving that very point. Whatever the cause of death, it was quite untimely for such a leading national liberation figure who just won a major election. We will continue to watch the developments in Jackson where young New Afrikans must prove themselves as determined as Lumumba and so many others of his generation who fought for socialism and national independence for New Afrika.

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[Security] [MIM(Prisons)]
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Lavabit Court Case Over FBI Right to Demand Encryption Keys

While news of online spying by the U.$. government is growing, a court case may provide even broader access for government agencies. This case involves Lavabit, the former email provider for MIM(Prisons). On January 28, the owner of Lavabit went to court to appeal the contempt of court ruling against the company for failing to hand over encryption keys to his email service. The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals has not yet rendered a verdict, but it will have significant implications on what the government can demand of email providers in the future. This case revolves around the Lavabit SSL keys. These keys were used to decrypt incoming traffic from Lavabit users accessing via an encrypted connection. If Lavabit had given up the keys before shutting down their operation, the government could capture every users password next time they logged in and have full access to their email.

Last June Lavabit was ordered to give the government a live feed of email activity for a specific account. People generally assume this was Edward Snowden's account based on court filing information that refers to his violations of the Espionage Act and theft of government property. Lavabit founder Lader Levison offered to transmit the information requested after 60 days, claiming he needed time to reprogram his system to collect the information. We can't be sure what Levison would have ultimately handed over, but this is further evidence that users can not rely on their email providers for security. In fact, in court Lavabit's attorney claims that Levison had complied with at least one similar court order in the past.(1)

In July, after Levison's delay, the FBI served Levison with a search warrant demanding the private SSL keys that would enable them to decrypt all traffic to and from the site. The government promised to only use the keys for the individual targeted and said they would not spy on the other 410,000 Lavabit users.(2)

The FBI had already begun collecting encrypted data from Lavabit's upstream provider in anticipation of getting the key to decrypt it, and they still have this data.(2) If the government has the SSL keys, all emails for an unknown period of time for all users on the Lavabit email system are in the hands of the government.

After an August 1 court order upholding the government's demand for the Lavabit SSL keys, Levison did turn them over, but as an 11 page printout in 4-point type.(1) This was clearly an attempt to comply in form without making the key usable, or at least delaying its usability. But in spite of the paper form, the government now has the Lavabit SSL keys, all they need to do is manually enter the 2,560 characters. While tedious, this is certainly doable and we think it likely that they quickly completed this work.

The government responded to the printout by demanding an electronic format and on August 6 began fining Levison $5,000 per day until he complied with the FBI's order. Levison shut down Lavabit altogether on August 8.(2)

Although the government and the appellate court Judge hearing the case both claim the SSL keys could not be used for anything other than the individual target in question, the search warrant and sanctions order both place no restrictions on what can be done with the key.(2) Not that we think the government complies with these sorts of formalities anyway.

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[Russia] [U.S. Imperialism] [Europe] [Ukraine] [ULK Issue 37]
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Russia Seizes Crimea in Inter-Imperialist Battle

ukraine crimea black sea region
In November 2013, the elected government of Ukraine caused a stir for rejecting a deal with the European Union citing the overly burdensome terms of the aid package offered by the U.$.-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF). Since we last reported on Ukraine (see ULK 36), opposition forces with Western support have implemented a regime change, ousting president Viktor Yanukovich from the country. This put a deal with the IMF back on the table. Ukrainians once again face the prospect of more wealth being sucked from their country via imperialist loans and imposed economic policies.

While opposition to the oligarchy that has ruled Ukraine has united the Western imperialists with Ukrainian fascist parties, austerity measures imposed by the IMF will threaten this alliance shortly. The new offer from the IMF will require hiking energy prices that have been subsidized by the state, one of the deal breakers cited by Yanukovich in November.

The regime change was a loss for Russian economic interests. In response, on 27 February 2014, Russian forces seized control of the Crimean peninsula, a majority Russian region of the current Ukraine state. On 6 March 2014 Crimea's regional assembly voted to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. The next day leaders of the Russian Parliament said they would support this move. The decision calls for a referendum for the people of Crimea to vote on this, scheduled for 16 March.(1)

The New York Times has made much of the battle over the right to self-determination in recent strife between the United $tates and the Russian Federation. Struggles in the Black Sea region in recent decades have been primarily inter-imperialist battles, and there is no principle behind the imperialists' actions except for their economic interests to have access to more markets, natural resources and people to exploit. Meanwhile, the proletariat's interest is defined by putting an end to this exploitation. Therefore we support the side that most threatens the control and penetration of the imperialists over the oppressed nations.

The Amerikans are saying the Russian invasion of Crimea is totally different from their meddling in Libya, Venezuela, Syria, Iran... just to name a few. But this is all posturing and a question of tactics, and the United $tates often is able to use more subtle tactics because of its greater power. In all cases it is the continuation of imperialist war to maintain profits.

While the situation in Crimea is still unresolved and potentially volatile as we write this, Russian officials have been quoted recognizing Kiev has gone pro-West. At the same time, Russia is talking with the IMF to get in on the Ukraine bail out.(2)

The IMF was part of the Bretton Woods project, which was organized by the imperialist countries after World War II in an attempt to prevent the protectionism and trade barriers that led to the economic crisis in the capitalist core, and drove them to war in both WWI and WWII. Many sanctions and trade barriers are being threatened in the current conflict. But, if Russia is allowed to export some finance capital to Ukraine as part of the imperialist plan for the country, and Russia gets to keep Crimea under its sphere of influence, then a hot war between Russia and the West will likely be averted.

The IMF is basically run by the United $tates, which has 16.75% of the votes. Meanwhile the U.$.-led imperialist camp (U.$., Japan, Germany, France, U.K., Italy and Canada) has 43.74% of votes. Russia has only 2.39%.(3) In addition to the IMF loans, the United $tates has talked of unilateral aid, as long as Ukraine "takes the reforms it needs."(4) So Russia will see a significant loss in its economic interests in the Ukraine overall, but will likely see a small piece of the pie as serving its interests better than an all out war with the United $tates.

The framework developed at Bretton Woods has been a relatively effective solution to one of the inherent contradictions of the imperialist economic system. However, it does not eliminate inter-imperialist rivalry, it just manages it. While a war on North Amerikan or Western European soils is being avoided at all costs, it is not out of the question. It will certainly come before socialism can reach those lands. War is inherent to imperialism. And it is our position that World War III has been an ongoing low-intensity war against the Third World by the imperialists since the end of WWII.(5) In recent decades this war has been primarily waged by the United $tates. While inter-imperialist war has been secondary in this period, the struggle between different imperialist interests is an antagonistic contradiction that cannot be resolved without ending imperialism. As such conflicts heat up, those in the imperialist countries will be reminded that imperialism does not serve their interests when it comes to the threat of annhilation in war. These conflicts also create breathing room for the oppressed nations to develop their own political interests independent of imperialism. The key to the survival of the humyn species is to develop such movements before the imperialists kill us all.

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