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.
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.$. militarism.
The Texa$ 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.
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.
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.
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.