The recent events around the bombings in Boston has been confusing to internationalists. Last week, we mourned the 3 unnecessary deaths and over 200 injuries that occurred in Boston on 15 April 2013. Today we mourn the over 250 unnecessary deaths (and counting) and over 800 more who remain trapped in the rubble in Bangladesh [10 May 2013 update: the death toll has passed 1000]. Yet we are confused, though not surprised, by expressions of sadness that are so disproportionate among Amerikans surrounding these two events. Both were unnecessary results of imperialism. Reports today from one of the bombers in Boston state that he was motivated by the U.$. invasions and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan — both imperialist occupations for Third World resources. The deaths in Bangladesh came after a garment manufacturer, who produces goods for the U.$. market, threatened employees with starvation to get them to work in an unsafe building, which then collapsed while they were inside.
People die in bombings everyday in places like Iraq and Afghanistan where there has been heavy U.$. military involvement, and yet we don't see Amerikans respond like they have over the last week. Those who got teary-eyed over the deaths in Boston, while barely registering those in Bangladesh as a blip at the bottom of their TV screen, are emblematic of the problem of national chauvinism in the United $tates. In place of this view we promote a view of collective responsibility. Humyn society is a product of humyn actions that we, as a collective species, determine. For those of us who are citizens of the most powerful country on Earth, our responsibility is that much more grave.
So, the Amerikan reader might ask, should we bow to the demands of anyone who plants a homemade bomb in a crowd? Of course not. What we are saying is that if Amerikans paid as much attention to deaths caused by their nation as they did to deaths inflicted on their nation, then the latter would be less frequent. Of course the latter already pales in comparison to the former, as Amerikans kill far more people of other nations than vice-versa. Taking responsibility for this fact and acting to change it is the single most practical thing one can do to prevent unnecessary deaths of all peoples. Most of the "response" to the bombing in Boston has been political posturing and emotional subjectivism — all show, no substance. For the people of the world who face death on a daily basis, such platitudes are not enough and only real solutions earn respect, not empty words.
A peaceful world is possible. But a peaceful world is precluded by one without exploitation. You cannot maintain wealth inequality and profit motives without the use of force. MIM(Prisons) stands for an end of such use of force, an end to all oppression and exploitation, and an end to the unnecessary deaths that are the result of the system of imperialism in so many forms. We challenge U.$. citizens to join us in taking collective responsibility for the actions of our government and the deaths and destruction that result from it. Taking responsibility means taking action to change those things, while combating the culture of chauvinism that dominates our society.
The Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons (MIM(Prisons)), a communist organization in the United $tates which formed out of the legacy of the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM), announces support for and echoes the urgency of the main ideas in the below statement from the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM). In particular, we recognize the importance of fighting First Worldism, which incorrectly identifies the petty bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries as a part of the international proletariat. First Worldism has played an important role in undermining the building of socialism worldwide. A correct class analysis is critical to all successful revolutionary movements.
MIM(Prisons) refrains from being an outright signatory of this statement because of what it leaves out. In this dialogue within the International Communist Movement (ICM), we would add that we do not see the legacy of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) as a positive one. As the original MIM pointed out over the many years since the formation of the RIM, it was always a force for revisionism rather than a force for revolution. Revolutionary parties seeking to re-establish the RIM should take heed of the mistakes that were inherent in the RIM design and political line from the start. There is no value in resurrecting a revisionist organization.
Further, we challenge our comrades in Maoist organizations around the world to examine closely what Mao wrote back in 1943 on the question of dissolving the International. We do not believe that conditions have changed since that time so that a new International will be a positive development. Instead we uphold the original MIM position that "The world's communist parties should compare notes and sign joint declarations, but there are no situations where a party should submit to international discipline through a world party. Where various Maoist parties from different nationalities have the same goal, they will then coordinate their actions in joint struggle. This will occur in the case of the united states when several nationalities come to exert joint dictatorship over it. Of course there will be some form of temporary organizational discipline at international conferences, but such discipline should not extend to what gets done in the various countries by the various Maoist parties."("Resolutions on Vanguard Organizing." 1995 MIM Congress.)
From the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement [This letter has been co-signed by the Turkish group, İştirakî, and the pan-Indigenous web-project, Onkwehón:we Rising. To co-sign this important international document, email [email protected]]
A Letter to Maoist and Revolutionary Organizations
Recently the Communist Party of Italy (Maoist) called for the convening of an international meeting of Maoist organizations. This call comes some years after the RIM collapsed following the development of evident revisionism within two of its leading organizations, the RCP-USA and the UCPN.
Comrades! Let us carry out and celebrate the firm break with the revisionism emanating from the leadership of the RCP-USA and the UCPN. In doing so, let us reaffirm our defining points of unity based on the experience of class struggle and distilled into Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
All of history is the result of the development of the means of production and the struggle between classes over their ownership and use.
Under capitalism, labor is utilized for the sake of profit. Capital is accumulated surplus labor turned against the masses of workers.
That capitalist-imperialism entails the indirect and direct exploitation of the majority of people by dominant monopoly capital and reveals widening contradictions inherent in capitalism.
The only alternative to the continued barbarism of imperialism is the struggle for socialism and communism. Broadly speaking, people's wars and united fronts are the most immediate, reliable means to struggle for communism.
Socialism entails the forceful seizure of power by the proletariat. However, socialism is not the end of the struggle. Under socialism, the conditions exist for the development of a 'new bourgeoisie' which will seek to establish itself as a new ruling class. In order to counter this tendency, class struggle must be waged relentlessly under socialism through the development of communism.
These are points all Maoists can agree on. Yet these do not capture all significant features of today's world.
Comrades! A discourse and struggle over the nature of class under imperialism is sorely needed.
The Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement puts forward a line that includes the understanding that a majority section of the populations of imperialist countries are embourgeoisfied.
This embourgeoification often contours around national oppression cast in the history of colonialism and settler-colonialism. It is most wholly construed, however, as an ongoing global distinction between parasitic workers in imperialist core economies and exploited workers in the vast Third World periphery.
Though understandings of this split in the working class was popularized as the 'labor-aristocracy' by Lenin, the phenomenon itself was first noted by Friedrich Engels in a letter to Karl Marx:
"[T]he English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that the ultimate aim of this most bourgeois of all nations would appear to be the possession, alongside the bourgeoisie, of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat. In the case of a nation which exploits the entire world this is, of course, justified to some extent."
With some exceptions, Marxists have focused and debated primarily on the ideological effects of the controversial 'theory of the labor aristocracy.' Unfortunately, less attention has been paid to the economic dimensions of the 'labor aristocracy.'
Within the imperialist world-economy, First World workers (a minority of workers in the world) receive compensation which exceeds the monetary rate of the full value of labor. In effect, First World workers are a section of the petty-bourgeoisie due to the fact that they consume a greater portion of social labor than they concretely expend. This difference is made up with the super-exploitation of Third World workers. Because prices (including those of labor power) deviate from values, this allows First World firms to obtain profits at equivalent rates while still paying 'their' workers a wage above the full monetary rate of labor value. The First World workers' compensation above the monetary rate of the full labor value is also an investment, i.e., a structural means of by which surplus value is saturated and concentrated in the core at the expense of the periphery.
The structural elevation of First World workers also has strong implications for the struggle for communism.
One of the most dangerous and devastatingly popular misconceptions is that social and political reforms can raise the material standard of living for Third World workers up to the level enjoyed by First World workers.
The illusion that Third World peoples can 'catch up' with imperialist countries through various reforms is objectively aided by the common yet false First Worldist belief that First World workers are exploited as a class.
If, as the First Worldist line states, First Worlder workers have attained high wages through reformist class struggle and advanced technology, then Third World workers should be able to follow a similar route towards a capitalism modeled after 'advanced capitalist countries.' By claiming that a majority of First Worlders are exploited proletarians, First Worldism creates the illusion that all workers could create a similar deal for themselves without overturning capitalism. By obscuring the fundamental relationship between imperialist exploitation of Third World workers and embourgeoisfication of First World workers, First Worldism actually serves to hinder the tide of proletarian revolution internationally.
Another long-term implication of the global division of workers is the ecological consequences of the inflated petty-bourgeois lifestyles enjoyed by the world's richest 15-20%. First World workers currently consume and generate waste at a far greater rate than is ecologically sustainable. The First Worldist line, which effectively states First World workers should have even greater capacity to consume under a future socialism (that is, First Worldists believe First Worlders are entitled to an even greater share of social product than they currently receive), has obvious utopian qualities which can only misguide the proletariat over the long term.
It is safe to say that First Worldism is the root cause of the problems associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party-USA (RCP-USA) and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN).
The RCP-USA, desiring some positive significance to offset its terminal failure to organize what it sees as a U.S. proletariat, chose to intervene in various international issues. This typically occurred to the disservice of the proletarian struggle. Now the RCP-USA heavily promotes Bob Avakian and his 'New Synthesis.' This 'New Synthesis' is better described as an old bag of revisionisms. Today, the RCP-USA, Bob Avakian, and his revisionist 'New Synthesis' is a distraction from many of the important issues facing the international proletariat.
The UCPN has given up the path of global socialism and communism. It has instead sought to conciliate and collude with imperialism in hopes of achieving conditions for class-neutral development. It foolishly assumes monopoly capital will allow it [to] be anything but 'red' compradors or that Nepal will become anything other than a source of super-exploited labor. The UCPN has abrogated the task of constructing an independent economic base and socialist foreign policy. It has instead embarked hand-in-hand with monopoly capital on a path they wrongly believe will lead to progressive capitalist development.
Through the examples set forth by both the RCP-USA and the UCPN, it is evident how First Worldism corrupts even nominal Maoists into becoming promulgators of the most backwards revisionisms. The RCP-USA is deceptive and wrong in its claim that it is organizing a U.S. proletariat. In reality it wrecks the international communist movement for the sake of the U.S. petty-bourgeois masses. The UCPN, whose leadership falsely believes capitalist development will bring positive material effects for the masses of Nepal, has abandoned the struggle for socialism and communism. The RCP-USA claims to represent what it wrongly describes as an exploited U.S. proletariat. The UCPN takes great inspiration in the level of material wealth attained by what it wrongly assumes to be an exploited First World proletariat.
Comrades! Our analysis must start with the questions, "Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?" These questions must be answered foremost in the structural sense (i.e., how do groups fundamentally relate to the process of capital accumulation), secondly in the historical sense (i.e., what can history tell us about such class divisions and their implications for today), and lastly in a political sense, (i.e., given what we know about the complex nature of class structures of modern imperialism, how can we best organize class alliances so as to advance the revolutionary interests of the proletariat at large).
First Worldism is a fatal flaw. It is both a hegemonic narrative within the 'left' and a trademark of reformism, revisionism, and chauvinism. Unfortunately, First Worldism is all-too-common within international Maoism.
Comrades! The consistent struggle against First Worldism is an extension of the communist struggle against both social chauvinism and the theory of the productive forces. As such, it is the duty of all genuine Communists to struggle against First Worldism.
Comrades! First Worldism has already done enough damage to our forces internationally. Now is the time to struggle against First Worldism and decisively break with the errors of the past.
The importance of knowing "who are our enemies" and "who are our friends" never goes away. Instead, those who fail in these understandings are prone to wider deviations. Gone unchecked, First Worldism sets back the struggle for communism.
Comrades! We hope the topics of class under imperialism and the necessity of the struggle against First Worldism come up as specific points of future discussion within and between Maoist organizations. The raising of these questions and the firm refutation of First Worldism will mark a qualitative advance for international communism.
14 March 2013 - Prisoners in California received a memo advising them of the expectations placed on them by the state in regards to the new expanded "Security Threat Group" policies. When thousands of prisoners across California went on hunger strike to protest torturous conditions in the Security Housing Units, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation(CDCR) asserted that they were already working on the issue. This was what they were working on. Previously they offered "gang validation" to prisoners deemed to be affiliated with one of a handful of "prison gangs" within the system. This new policy expands the gang validation, and therefore long-term isolation torture, to all sorts of organizations that are deemed "criminal" or even just "disruptive." Keep in mind that if prisoners stand up against staff abuses, this is considered "disruptive" behavior and such prisoners face regular retaliation. While none of this is new, it is now official policy.
This new policy marks the continued decline of First Amendment rights for prisoners in this country. The state wants it to be illegal for prisoners to affiliate with each other for any reason. They want to keep them isolated in little cages with no contact with each other or the outside world. While many in this country still defend Amerika as promoting freedom, prisoners and the oppressed nations in general know that this "freedom" does not apply to everyone.
MIM(Prisons) joins in United Front with all prisoners in California who are now actively building resistance to these policies through the courts and through peaceful organizing and actions.
[Memo Passed out to prisoners 3/14/2013]
STATE OF CALIFONRIA(sic) CDCR 2260 (10/12) Attachment E
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION Advisement of Expectations
It is the mission of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to preserve public safety and provide offenders with opportunities to take responsibility for their lives and improve their chances of becoming productive members of the community.
The CDCR maintains a zero tolerance for gang and security threat group activities and behavior. Within the CDCR, prison gangs, street gangs, and disruptive groups are referred to as Security Threat Groups (STG). CDCR maintains a pro-active approach to STG management.
Offenders found guilty of violating criminal or administrative statutes shall be dealt with 'in a manner consistent with department policy. This shall include, but not be limited to, loss of privileges, increase in custody level, loss of work credits, segregation from the general population, and/or referral for criminal prosecution.
It is your responsibility to abstain from activities that assist, promote, or endorse any STG within or outside this facility/institution. Your responsibility includes familiarizing yourself with laws and regulations that govern STG activity including the Security Threat Group Instructional Memorandum, California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 15, Division 3, Sections 3000, 3023, 3314, 3315, 3323, 33,41.5, and 3378, and Department Operations Manual Chapter 5, Article 22. Some of which are outlined below.
CCR (Pilot), Section 3314, Administrative Rule Violations, states in part: (a)(3) Administrative rule violations include but are not limited to; (a)(3)(L) Security Threat Group Contraband: Possessing or displaying any distinctive materials, symbols, clothing, signs, colors, artwork, photographs, or other paraphernalia associated with any Security Threat Group; (a) (3) (M) Security Threat Group Behavior: Demonstrating or exhibiting any unique behaviors clearly associated with a STG that promotes, furthers or assists any Security Threat Group.
Examples of this behavior or activities include: *Active Participation in STG Roll Call; *Participating in STG Group Exercise; *Using hand signs, gestures, handshakes, slogans, distinctive clothing, graffiti which specifically relate to an STG; *In Possession of Artwork (other than self created and not original) clearly depicting recognized STG symbols; *In Possession of Photographs that depict STG Association. Must include STG connotations such as insignia, symbols, or other validated STG affiliates;
CCR (Pilot), Section 3315, Serious Rule Violations, states in part (a)(3) Serious rule violations include but are not limited to: (a) (3) (Y) Security Threat Group Directing or Controlling Behavior. Demonstrating activity, behavior or status as a' recognized member and/or leader of an STG, which jeopardizes the safety of the public, staff, or other inmate(s), and/or the security and order of the institution. (a) (3) (Z) Security Threat Group, Disruptive or Violent Behavior: Demonstrating involvement in activities or an event associated with a STG, which jeopardizes the safety of the public, staff, or other inmate(s), and/or the security and order of the institution,
CCR (Pilot), Section 3323, Disciplinary Credit Forfeiture Schedule, states in part (h) Division "F" offenses; credit forfeiture of 0-30 days. (h)(11) Harassment of another person, group, or entity either directly or indirectly through the use of the mail, telephone., or other means. (h) (12) Security Threat Group Behavior or Activity. (A) Recording/documentation of telephone conversation evidencing active STG behavior; (B) Communication between offenders regarding STG behavior or activities; (C) Directing Active Participation in STG Roll Call; (D) Directing Cadence for STG Group Exercise; (E) Wearing, possessing, using, distributing, displaying, or selling any clothing, jewelry, emblems, badges, symbols, signs, or other items with the intent to intimidate, promote membership, or depict affiliation in a STG; (F) In possession of self-created or original artwork clearly depicting recognized STG symbols; (G) In personal possession of STG related written material including membership or enemy list, constitution, organizational structures, codes, training material, etc.; (H) In personal possession of mail, notes, greeting cards, or other communications including coded messages evidencing active STG behavior.
The CDCR will review all criminal gangs and disruptive groups and assign a Security Threat Group level to each.
STG-I will consist of criminal gangs and/or historically based prison gangs that the CDCR has determined to be the most severe threat to the security of the institutions and communities based on a history and propensity for violence and/or influence over other groups. Based upon their individual threat, clandestine operations, and influence over other STG affiliates, inmates who are validated as STG-I members will be in segregated housing based solely upon their validation. Validated STG-I associates will normally remain housed in general population unless confirmed STG behavior or activities, some of which are described above, are present. If these behaviors or activities are present, the STG-I associate will be considered for segregated housing and placement into a five year step down program.
STG-II will consist of other criminal gangs such as street gangs or disruptive groups comprised of members and associates who may be determined to be in a subservient role to the more dominant STG-I type groups. Validated STG-II members or associates will remain housed in general population unless two or more confirmed STG behavior or activities are present. If these behaviors or activities are present, STG-II member or associate will be considered for segregated housing and placement into a five year step down program.
I have been provided a copy of this document.
Offender Signature CDCR # Date Signed __ | | Inmate Refused to Sign
Printed Staff Name Signature Date
Distribution: Original - Central File; Copy - Inmate
The fiance of a prisoner in Santa Barbara County Jail is leading the call to oppose a new rule banning all letters to prisoners. The Sheriff has restricted incoming mail to postcards only citing "security" reasons, as they always do. They say this, despite the well-established fact that ties to family and the outside world help prisoners rehabilitate and reduces conflicts. This is why we question how prison authorities define "security."
The rights of prisoners are limited in so many ways, making them a vulnerable population facing increased risks of violence, rape, suicide and many health problems. Even after release prisoners face increased rates of poverty and shorter life spans. Education, communication and integration with the outside world are important parts of any effort to rehabilitate those who are rightfully imprisoned.
MIM(Prisons) supports this campaign to allow prisoners in Santa Barbara County Jail to receive letters, just as we combat censorship in prisons across the country. Those facing censorship from Santa Barbara can provide public records to our online Censorship in Amerika Documentation Project.
In the April 2013 issue of Turning the Tide (TTT), the editor, MN (who we assume is Michael Novick, the author of the original article in question), responded to a letter that a United Struggle from Within comrade wrote criticizing an article in the previous TTT issue which misrepresented the MIM political line in a critique of MIM(Prisons). The editor claims that they are happy that this article provoked quite a few responses and that they want to promote debate because "this is a contradiction among the people." This is a correct attitude, which unfortunately is not backed up by the TTT editor's response, which is embarrassing in its blatant misrepresentation and misinformation about the MIM line. It is very difficult to carry out debate to resolve contradictions among the people, if the people involved are not serious about political study.
The first critique the editor makes of the MIM line this time around is "in its staunch defense of the significance of the contradiction between oppressor and oppressed nations, and its doctrinaire reliance on its version of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, it petrifies all other contradictions and the flow of history." The MIM line in question, which MIM(Prisons) upholds, holds that the oppressor vs. oppressed nations contradiction is principal at this point in history, but not that it will always be so. And further, the MIM line puts much work into illuminating the gender and class contradictions. In fact, it has pushed forward the political understanding of class more than any other contemporary revolutionary organization by noting that the changing class nature of the imperialist country population has resulted in a primarily petty bourgeois population. The TTT editor writes about workers: "we have stakes and ties in the very system that oppresses and exploits us" a line s/he claims comes from Lenin, denying that anything might have changed since Lenin's day. On this point it is actually TTT that is dogmatic in its view of contradictions and the flow of history by refusing to study the true nature of the imperialist country working class.
The TTT editor goes on to misrepresent the MIM line writing "...by classifying all working people within the US as 'oppressor nation petty-bourgeois labor aristocrats' [MIM] disarms those who have the capacity to break both their chains and their identification with and links to the Empire." This is such a blatant mistake we have to assume TTT has not bothered to read any of the MIM theory on nation. MIM line is very clear that "oppressor nation petty-bourgeois" are just that: white nation people. There is also a sizable oppressed nation petty-bourgeois population within U.$. borders, and we see their class interest as tied with imperialism, but we identify their national interests as anti-imperialist. And this national contradiction is internal to imperialism.
Finally the TTT editor goes into some convolutions to try to explain how the majority of the U.$. population is exploited but maybe just not super-exploited because "no private employer hires a worker unless they're pretty damn sure the work that worker does will make the boss more money than the boss has to pay for the work." By this definition, we can assume that the top layers of management of huge corporations are exploited in their six figure salaries (or even 7 figure salaries!). TTT doesn't even attempt to make a scientific analysis of where to draw the line on who is exploited, and since MIM(Prisons) and MIM before us has done extensive work on this we will not bother to explain it again here. We refer serious readers to our publications on the labor aristocracy.
In the contortions to justify calling the Amerikan population exploited, the TTT editor asks "If the domestic population is totally bribed and benefiting from Empire to the exclusion of any contradiction" then why are gulags necessary? That's a fine straw-persyn argument, but it's not a line that MIM(Prisons) takes. We have written extensively about the role of prisons in the U.$. population as a tool of social control of the oppressed nations, highlighting internal contradictions that include nation among others. Again, it seems TTT has not bothered to read even the single-page description of MIM(Prisons) that we publish in every issue of Under Lock & Key.
The TTT editor concludes by asking a myriad of very good questions about nations and their inter-relations, all of which the MIM line has addressed in a consistent way, and for the most part a way that it seems the TTT editor would agree with, if s/he had bothered to read up on that line. The supposed rigid and dogmatic line of MIM/MIM(Prisons) is all in the heads of the TTT writers and editors who seem to think our line comes from just a few slogans. We agree that "Revolutionary strategy must be based on a concrete analysis of concrete conditions, not arbitrary, fixed categories, to determine friends and enemies." And we challenge TTT to take up this concrete analysis. Read our work on the labor aristocracy and on nations, and tell us specifically where you find our concrete analysis lacking or in error. We welcome such dialogue, but the revolutionary movement doesn't have time for slander and false accusations in the guise of political debate.
The last point we will make here is related to a letter TTT published in this same issue, from a prisoner who goes by "Ruin." Ruin wrote to say that s/he shares the TTT views about MIM(Prisons)'s ideological shortcomings and is upset because s/he was kicked out of our study group. We are happy that Ruin has found an organization with which s/he has unity. In fact in previous letters to h, where we pointed out our theoretical disagreements, we suggested other organizations that might be more closely aligned with h views. We run study groups for prisoners who want to work with MIM(Prisons) in both political study and organizing. We stand by the letter we sent to Ruin (which TTT printed) where we explain that it is not a good use of our time to include people in our advanced study groups who disagree with us on many fundamental issues. Ruin told us the first study group was a waste of h time, and that s/he doesn't agree with us on many things, so we're not even sure why Ruin would take issue with our decision that s/he should not continue into the advanced study group. We did not suggest that we would discontinue Ruin's free subscription to ULK or that we would stop responding to h letters, it was Ruin who chose to sever all ties and discussion with MIM(Prisons) after receiving our letter about the study group.
Criticism is hard to take, but it is something we in the revolutionary movement must handle in a direct manner, without letting persynal feelings get in the way. It is also important to know when two lines have diverged significantly enough that those lines should be in separate organizations. History will tell which political line is correct.
Proletarian migrants have fed much of the growth in the prison population within U.$. borders in recent years. As a result they are getting a taste of the torture tactics Amerikans use against their own citizens. A recent report showed that U.$. Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds about 300 migrants in solitary confinement in 50 of its largest detention facilities, which account for 85% of their detainees. Half of them are held in solitary for 15 days or more and about 35 of the 300 are held more than 75 days.(1)
While these terms are relatively short compared to what has become normal in the United $tates, the experiences are particularly difficult for migrants who don't speak English and have been the victims of humyn trafficking.
The authors of the article cited above cautiously state that the United $tates uses solitary confinement more "than any other democratic nation in the world." This implies that other countries may use solitary confinement more. One reason they cannot get stats on imprisonment practices in some countries is that they are U.$. puppet regimes purposely run under a veil of secrecy to allow extreme forms of repression of the most oppressed peoples. We have seen no evidence of a mythical nation that is torturing more people in solitary confinement than Amerika.
Amerikans imprison more people than any other nation even if we exclude the people they are holding in prisons in other countries. With at least 100,000 people in long-term isolation within U.S. borders, it seems unlikely that any other country can top that. Further evidence exists by looking at the state of prisons in many Third World countries, which are far more open than even the low security prisons in the United $tates. And the exceptions to this rule are all countries with heavy Amerikan military/intelligence activity, and usually Amerikans themselves are running the prisons.(3)
U.$. citizen Shane Bauer was imprisoned on charges of spying by the government of Iran, which is independent from the United $tates. Bauer offers examples of how his time in solitary confinement differed in both positive and negative ways to those held in Pelican Bay SHU in California. But one stark contrast is the time in solitary, which for him was only four months. In a comparison of the "democratic" U.$. injustice system and that of Iran, Bauer wrote:
"When Josh Fattal and I finally came before the Revolutionary Court in Iran, we had a lawyer present, but weren't allowed to speak to him. In California, an inmate facing the worst punishment our penal system has to offer short of death can't even have a lawyer in the room. He can't gather or present evidence in his defense. He can't call witnesses. Much of the evidence — anything provided by informants — is confidential and thus impossible to refute. That's what Judge Salavati told us after our prosecutor spun his yarn about our role in a vast American-Israeli conspiracy: There were heaps of evidence, but neither we nor our lawyer were allowed to see it."(2)
He later cites a U.$. court ruling:
"the judge ruled that 'a prisoner has no constitutionally guaranteed immunity from being falsely or wrongfully accused of conduct which may result in the deprivation of a protected liberty interest.' In other words, it is not illegal for prison authorities to lie in order to lock somebody away in solitary."(2)
California's notorious Pelican Bay reports an average time spent in the Security Housing Unit there as 7.5 years. Many who fought for national liberation from U.$. imperialism have spent 30 to 40 years in solitary confinement in prisons across the United $tates. MIM(Prisons) has not seen reports of long-term isolation used to this extreme by any other government.
The torture techniques used in Amerikan control units were developed to break the spirits of people and social groups that have challenged the status quo, and in particular U.$. imperialism. Thirty years after their demise, materials from the Black Panther Party still get people in trouble regularly, sometimes even with a "Security Threat Group" charge. That's the Amerikan term for a thought crime.
It could be that these techniques are being expanded into migrant detention centers as a form of discipline of the Mexican proletariat that Amerikans fear as a force of social change. Or it could just be a case of oppressor nation culture spreading its tentacles into other nations. Either way, this is just one of many forms of oppression that serve to undermine the propaganda myth of Amerika as a nation that promotes freedom.
For years, the United $tates has been under criticism by the United Nations as the principal state using torture in the form of long-term isolation. Today, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said, "We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold."(4) This was in a statement addressing the 166 foreign nationals held in Guantanamo Bay Prison for more than a decade, most without charges.
Just as high-tech weaponry could not win the war in Afghanistan for the Amerikans, the sophisticated torture techniques of the modern control unit cannot overcome the widespread outrage of the masses living under imperialist domination. The opportunities for making internationalist connections to the prison movement within U.$. borders only increases as more people from outside those borders get swept up in the system.
The example set by those who went on food strike in California was like Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus. They weren't the first to do it, and they didn't single-handedly change the system, or even significantly reform it. But they did serve as a prime example that continues to inspire those struggling for basic humyn rights behind bars. Since 2011, MIM(Prisons) has been in dialogue with USW leaders in Pelican Bay and across the state about those historic events, and how we can push that struggle forward.
One change that has been proposed by comrades in Pelican Bay this time around is that prisoners develop their own demands locally and hold the CDCR/state to the demands that they think are most pressing. While, ideally we would all unite around one set of demands, we agree with this tactic at this stage. There were many who came out to propose changes to the five core demands for many different reasons. So this approach allows those who had critiques to put their ideas into action.
In practice this means each prison could have their own demands focused on conditions specific to their location, building unity within the prisoner population at that facility. We caution people though that the broader our unity behind core demands the more pressure we can put on the criminal injustice system to make change. As much as possible, prisoners should try to come together around common demands within each prison.
MIM(Prisons) is working to unite United Struggle from Within (USW) in CA around some goals that are strategic for the anti-imperialist prison movement. These are goals that could be won within the realm of bourgeois democracy and will strengthen our cause and more long-term goals.
Please note that neither USW nor the statewide councils are able to operate on the basis of democratic centralism through postal mail. So while this draft incorporates the ideas of the California Council of USW, it is principally authored by MIM(Prisons) and does not/will not necessarily represent a consensus among council members or USW in general. However, the two principal points are points that MIM(Prisons) has long held to be strategically important in expanding the ability of the oppressed to reach the medium-term goals of organizing for self-determination. So we do not believe that they will be very controversial within our circles. We do hope they will push the limits of what is possible more than what has been proposed so far.
If there are already demands in place where you are, we'd encourage you to push for an inclusion of more focus on these goals. If not you may still need to adjust the document below to meet your local conditions for various reasons. But we should all be able to agree on what the major issues are here, and the more we can speak as a united voice with a united mission, the more successful we can be. There is very little in here that is specific to California, so comrades in other states can also use this as a model.
Here are our demands:
An end to torture of all prisoners, including an end to the use of Security Housing Units (SHU) as long-term isolation prisons.
Basic humyn needs are centered around 1) healthy food and water, 2) fresh air and exercise, 3) clothes and shelter from the elements and 4) social interactions and community with other humyns. It is the SHU's failure to provide for these basic needs that have led people around the world to condemn long-term isolation as torture. Therefore we demand that the following minimum standards be met for all prisoners:
no prisoner should be held in Security Housing Units for longer than 30 days. Rehouse all prisoners currently in SHU to mainline facilities.
interaction with other prisoners every day
time spent outdoors with space and basic equipment for exercise every day
healthy food and clean water every day
proper clothing and climate control
an end to the use of and threat of violence by staff against prisoners who have not made any physical threat to others
access to phone calls and contact visits with family at least once a week
timely and proper health care
ability to engage in productive activities, including correspondence courses and hobby crafts
a meaningful way to grieve any abuses or denial of the above basic rights
Freedom of association.
As social beings, people in prison will always develop relationships with other prisoners. We believe positive and productive relationships should be encouraged. Currently the CDCR makes it a crime punishable by torture (SHU) to affiliate with certain individuals or organizations. This is contrary to the judiciary's interpretation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We demand that prisoners of the state of California only be punished for violating the law, and that there be:
no punishment based on what books one reads or has in their possession
no punishment for jailhouse lawyering for oneself or for others, for filing grievances or for any challenges to conditions of confinement through legal means
no punishment for what outside organizations one belongs to or corresponds with
no punishment for communicating with other prisoners if not breaking the law
no punishment for tattoos
no punishment for what individuals of the same race/nation/organizational affiliation do unless you as an individual were involved in violating a rule or the law, i.e. no group punishment
no punishment for affiliation with a gang, security threat group, or other organization - in other words a complete end to the gang validation system that punishes people (currently puts people in the SHU for an indeterminate amount of time) based on their affiliation and/or ideology without having broken any rules or laws
The above goals are very similar to the original five core demands. However, you'll notice that they boil down to two main points, an end to torture of prisoners and freedom of association. Until both of these goals are fully achieved, the struggle continues.
We've heard from comrades in Washington, New Jersey and South Carolina who are organizing their own actions for July 8 or modeled around that struggle. Comrades in North Carolina and Texas have launched peaceful protests of their own in just the last couple months. As we address local conditions and petition institutions at the state level, we build unity around the common demands of the imprisoned lumpen class across the United $tates.
MIM(Prisons) is working on a book about the lumpen in the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates. The first chapter, which we are circulating in draft form for peer review, focuses on identifying the lumpen and calculating the size of this group within U.$. borders. Part of this identification first requires that we understand the definition of the lumpen as distinct from other classes.
The proletariat is the class exploited by the bourgeoisie, receiving less than the value of their labor, and basically with nothing to lose but their chains. Marxists include in the proletariat many unemployed people who constitute a reserve army of workers, available to replace proletarian workers if they become too slow, get sick, organize strikes, or otherwise displease the bourgeoisie. These unemployed help to keep wages low, and while temporarily unemployed, are still a part of the working class in the long term. The lumpenproletariat is the class of people that is permanently unemployed.
In a recent article, Nikolai Brown got into the calculation of how we define the proletariat in the United $tates. Brown calculated the total value of labor by dividing the number of working hours by the total value produced:
"In 2011, the global GDP was $69,110,000,000,000. The total population was estimated mid-year to be 7,021,836,029. Let us assume that half of people regularly work. In this case, each worker produces about $20,000 per year. This would be the value of labor. Furthermore, if we assume each worker works 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, the value of labor is $10 an hour."(1)
This is very relevant at a time when President Obama is promoting a raise in the federal minimum wage to $9/hour. Brown went on to emphasize the position of the majority of workers in the world: "As it stands, estimates of the global median income float between $1,250 and $1,700/year, $8,750- $8,300/year less than the estimated value of labor."
In a response to this article from ServethePeople, we find an important addition to these calculations:
"Bear in mind that not all of production can be distributed as personal income: much of it goes to the means of production, infrastructure, public works, waste, and other ends. If even half of production (probably a considerable overestimate) is available for distribution as personal income, then the value of labor, by the above calculation, is only $5 per hour. Even the minimum 'wage' in the imperialist countries is greater than that, so every last First World 'worker' is a parasite."
The point about distributing value produced is true whether we are talking about capitalism or socialism. The difference is not that the worker gets all the value they produce in their pocket, but that all the value they produce goes to serve the collective interests and not private profit.
MIM(Prisons) agrees with this calculation, and it informs our determination of who falls into the First World lumpen. We can see from this calculation that there is virtually no proletariat in the United $tates. Our goal is to separate out the very small proletariat and the large group of petty bourgeoisie people from the lumpen class.
This movie claims to chronicle the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attack, culminating in his death in May 2011. This is a hollywood film, so we can't expect an accurate documentary. But that doesn't really matter since the movie will represent what Amerikans think of when they picture the CIA's work in the Middle East. And what they get is a propaganda film glorifying Amerikan torture of prisoners, and depicting Pakistani people as violent and generally pretty stupid. From start to finish there is nothing of value in this movie, and a lot of harmful and misleading propaganda. The main message that revolutionaries should take from it revolves around government information gathering. From tracking phones to networks of people watching and following individuals, the government has extensive and sophisticated techniques at their disposal, and even the most cautious will have a very hard time avoiding even a small amount of government surveillance.
The plot focuses almost exclusively on a CIA agent, "Maya," who devoted her career to finding clues to Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. Early in the film there are a lot of graphic scenes of prisoners being tortured to get information, including waterboarding, beatings, cages, and food and sleep deprivation. Maya is bothered by the torture initially, but quickly adapts and joins in the interrogations. The movie is very pro-torture, showing critical information coming from every single tortured prisoner, ignoring the fact that so many prisoners held in Amerikan detention facilities after 9/11 were never charged, committed no crimes, and had no information. Throughout the film there are constant digs against Obama's ban on torture as a method of extracting information in 2009. Ironically, in the movie the CIA still found Osama bin Laden, using no torture after the ban. But we're left understanding that it would have been much easier if the CIA still had free reign with prisoners.
Although Zero Dark Thirty portrays Obama as soft on terror and a hindrance to the CIA's work, we should not be fooled into thinking that the U.$. government has really ended the use of torture. While we have no clear information about what goes on in interrogation cells in other countries, we know that right here in U.$. prisons, torture is used daily. And this domestic torture is usually not even focused on getting information, it's either sadistic entertainment for prison staff or punishment for political organizing. In one example of this, a USW comrade who wrote about Amerikan prison control units died shortly after his article was printed, under suspicious circumstances in Attica Correctional Facility.
Banning certain interrogation techniques, even if that ban is actually enforced in the Third World, is just an attempt to put makeup on the hideous face of imperialism. Even if no Amerikan citizen ever practices torture on Third World peoples (something we know isn't true), the fact is that the United $tates prefers to pay proxies to carry out its dirty work anyway. Torture, military actions, rape, theft, etc., can all be done at a safe distance by paying neo-colonial armies and groups to work on behalf of the Amerikan government.
Whether actions are carried out by Navy SEALs, CIA agents, or proxy armies and individuals, Amerikan imperialism is working hard to keep the majority of the world's people under control and available for exploitation. The death of bin Laden is portrayed as a big victory in Zero Dark Thirty, but for the majority of the world's people this was just one more example of Amerikan militarism, a system that works against the material interests of most people in the world.
7 March 2013 — Today marks the 1-year anniversary of a truce between two rival lumpen organizations (LOs) in El Salvador, Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha-13. The truce has its origins inside Salvadoran prisons, where secret meetings were mediated by members of the Church, and facilitated by the Salvadoran government. The result was a shuffling around of LO members to different prisons, and a reduction of the homicide rate in El Salvador from 14 per day to 5.(1)
Without getting too deep into the origins of Barrio 18 and Mara Salvacrucha-13 (MS-13), it is significant to note that they both originated in Los Angeles, California (Barrio 18 in the 1950s-60s, MS-13 in the 1980s). Barrio 18 was originally made up of Mexican nationals but adapted its recruiting base as Latinos of other backgrounds migrated to southern California. MS-13 emerged from refugees of the civil war in El Salvador who had congregated in Los Angeles. In the 1990s, policy changes in the U.$. government led to the deportation of thousands of LO members back to their home countries, where their respective LOs were not yet established. In El Salvador, both groups took off.
The political climate in the 1990s in El Salvador was marked by an end to the civil war in 1992. Not surprisingly, the local conditions contributed to the ease of recruitment for these LOs. One of the Barrio 18 members who participated in the peace talks, Carlos Mojica, told the Christian Science Monitor "the streets were left filled with weapons, orphaned children, conditions of extreme poverty, disintegrated households."(2) These are ripe conditions for the proliferation of street organizations. When youth have no support and adults have no jobs, they must turn to other means for survival.
Change of Heart
Some cite an incident in June 2011 as a peak in the violence of these two organizations, which was a reality check for many. Barrio 18 has been blamed by the Salvadoran government and many citizens for a bus burning which killed at least 14 people in Mejicanos, San Salvador. This bus burning received media attention worldwide, and was accompanied by a bus shooting the same evening which killed 3 people. All the targets of this violence were reported to be unaffiliated citizens and travelers.
Others cite time and persynal experience as what changed their minds about violence. In the United $tates, many, if not most, LO members age out into the labor aristocracy or petty-bourgeoisie. But this isn't an option in El Salvador which is not an exploiter country with a bought-off labor aristocracy. Members who would otherwise be aging out of the LO if they were U.$. citizens, instead see an imperative need to change the conditions for themselves and younger generations.(2) MS-13 member Dany Mendez told BBC News "I have lost too many friends and relatives in the violence. We don't want another war because we are thinking about our children."(3)
Of course many activists in the United $tates, including MIM(Prisons) and signatories of the United Front for Peace in Prisons, see a need to end lumpen-on-lumpen violence in this country. But it's clear that conditions here are much better than in El Salvador in that a significant portion of people can leave their days of wylin' out in their past and move on to join the oppressor classes. The material conditions which lead to movement of the lumpen class in the United $tates is explored in our forthcoming book. How much these differences in material conditions affects the movement in this country toward peace between lumpen organizations will be determined by those of us working for this peace.
The peace agreement between MS-13 and Barrio 18 has not been touted as an end to the violence forever, but instead is framed as "a break in the violence so the various stakeholders can work out long-term solutions."(4) Since the beginning, the peacemakers have been calling on the Salvadoran government to generate jobs and work with former and current LO members on developing skills that will help them make a living without relying on violence.
Last month, a program was initiated by U.$. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with Salvadoran businesses and non-governmental organizations, in a purported effort to prevent youth from joining LOs in the first place. They claim this program has nothing to do with the truce, and have no intention of helping people who have already chosen or been forced to join a lumpen organization.(5) Considering the long history of U.$. neocolonialism in Central America, it is not surprising that U$AID is putting their 2 cents in. Time will tell the long-term effects of this $42 million investment, but we can safely assume it will amount to manipulation of the Salvadoran people by the United $tates government.(6)
After one solid year, the truce has withstood everyone's doubts and has not been broken. If the government is not going to step up to help prevent the violence, then the LOs will have to organize to do it themselves. One of the principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons is Independence, which is just as important in El Salvador where the United $tates has dominated politics and the economy. We see today where U.$. intervention has gotten them thus far. MS-13 and Barrio 18 members know what their communities need better than U.$. investors do, and they should be supported in their efforts to change. It is our strong suspicion that those looking to change the conditions in which they live in any substantive way will eventually find that an end to capitalism itself is the order of the day.
One such organization which is supporting the peace treaty in El Salvador is Homies Unidos, which has chapters in Los Angeles and El Salvador. Alex Sanchez is the director of Homies Unidos in LA, and in recent history has been targeted by the FBI for harassment and detainment.(7) The bogus charges were finally dropped last month after restricting his ability to work for years. We tried to get in touch with Homies Unidos to gather more information on the real effects of the peace treaty on the ground, and what more is needed to maintain and advance the peace, but unfortunately we have not heard back.