A Prison Diary: Volume 1 Bellmarsh: Hell by Jeffrey Archer 2002 Macmillan
Jeffrey Archer is a well known fiction author and former member of Parliament in Great Britain. He was Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party for a year (1985-86). Archer was still active in government politics as Conservative Party candidate for mayor of London in 1999 when he was convicted of perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and sentenced to four years in prison. Archer kept a daily diary in prison and released it as a series of three books. This review covers the first book, which is about his stay in Bellmarsh, where Archer began his prison sentence.
On the positive side, this book is written for a general audience unfamiliar with prisons, and exposes many of the injustices and failures of the British prison system. These same failures, on a much larger scale, exist in the Amerikan criminal injustice system. For instance, British prisons have drug testing regulations that actually encourage marijuana users to become addicted to heroine. Archer documents his interactions with some very intelligent, resourceful, and humane prisoners in Bellmarsh, a high security prison associated with violent criminals. He repeatedly points out the lack of opportunities for prisoners, and the screwed up system that pushes people locked up for minor offenses into a life of crime.
Archer also does a service to the fight against the imperialist prison system by documenting the failure of day-to-day rules and regulations to serve any purpose but torture and isolation. From the lack of access to edible food and water, to the many long hours locked up isolated in cells with no activity, to the restriction on cleaning supplies, Archer details many failures of the British prison system. These conditions, bad as they are, when compared to the Amerikan prisons, seem almost luxurious. In particular, there are restrictions on prisoner abuse by staff, which seem to be actually respected and followed, at least where Archer is concerned.
Archer, however, is a firm believer in the government. And he repeatedly appeals to the leadership of the British system to pay attention to what he is writing so that appropriate reforms can be implemented. Archer never questions the fundamental basis of the criminal injustice system, and in Britain where the imprisonment rate is 154 per 100,000 (compared to the 716 per 100,000 in the U.$.), there is a less compelling story of prisons as a major tool of social control by the government.(1) However, Blacks in England make up 15% of the prison population and about 2.2% of the general population, a disgraceful discrepancy which Archer only touches on in passing when discussing the good prison jobs going only to white prisoners. Even this discrepancy is small-scale compared to the percent of Black's in prison (40-45%) relative to their population size in the U.$.(12%).(2)
Overall, this book is useful as a contribution to bourgeois literature on prisons because it no doubt was widely read by people who otherwise have little exposure to conditions in prison in England. However, it does not expand or contribute to the revolutionary analysis of prisons in any way, and so it leaves its readers hoping someone in power in the government takes heed of the problems and decides to make some changes. We recommend readers interested in learning more about prisons in the United $tates read the more revolutionary books and magazines distributed by MIM(Prisons). Or at the very least, for a more mainstream but still very useful analysis, The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander, is a good starting place. We are not aware of revolutionary literature on the prisons in England and welcome suggestions from our readers on this subject.
Book Review: The Chinese Civil War 1945-49 by Michael Lynch Osprey Publishing 2010
This is one in a series of "Essential Histories" published by Osprey: "A multi-volume history of war seen from political, strategic, tactical, cultural and individual perspectives." On the positive side, the book includes a lot of excellent revolutionary art and some useful historical facts that demonstrate the political positions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the failures of the Guomindang (GMD). But overall this book is not recommended because its pretended objectivity leads to a lack of valid political analysis. The author goes to great lengths to paint both the CCP and GMD as equal evils fighting for control of China.
Lynch frequently falls back on psychoanalysis of political leaders when the facts are difficult to explain. For instance, several times he claims Stalin feared a communist China and so tried to keep it divided and get Mao to compromise with Nationalists, but no evidence is offered, beyond Stalin's advice to Mao, which Mao did not take when he thought it was inappropriate for the conditions in China.(p76) Further, there is an entire chapter devoted to psychoanalysis of Mao and Chiang Kai-shek. (For a more political, and less psychological, account of Stalin's history we recommend MIM Theory 6: The Stalin Issue.)
There are some valuable facts in this book. Lynch points out that Nazi Germany supplied most of the GMD weapons until 1936. And goes on to offer a good explanation of the reasons behind the CCP alliance with GMD in 1936, which was driven by the CCP to fight the Japanese invasion and end Nazi aid to GMD. This effectively weakened the GMD while also focusing on the principal contradiction in China at the time: the Japanese invasion. Lynch also does a good job explaining the CCP's strategic ties to the United $tates to get their support against Japan. Many purists criticize Mao for meeting with Amerikan leaders and allying with the GMD against Japan, but to Lynch's credit he gives a reasonable account of the strategic value of these actions.
The book describes in detail the strongly peasant-based armies of both the nationalists and communists, and Lynch notes that the nationalists had to coerce participation from the peasants, but he doesn't explain why the communists didn't have to force participation.(p21) This is an important point in the correctness of the CCP political line, and a key to Lynch's failed analysis of the politics of the revolution. In fact, the title of the book, "Chinese Civil War", indicates that the author fundamentally missed the revolutionary nature of the CCP's struggle. Lynch admits that even defeated soldiers joined the CCP to later become dedicated PLA soldiers, but then he claims the People's Liberation Army (PLA) was unscrupulous in recruiting methods without offering evidence to back this up.(p25)
Calling the peasants "helpless victims" of both the communists and nationalists,(p63) Lynch gives extensive examples of nationalist brutality to soldiers and peasants. The one CCP example is of interrogation of CCP soldiers suspected of betraying the movement. The author quotes Mao on the value of informing on your comrades in spite of persynal feelings of friendship.(p68) Lynch seems to find Mao's position distasteful, but communists know that we must always put political line first and not be liberal with comrades just because we have persynal feelings. Further, a staunch supporter of the U$A, Lynch never mentions the use of torture by imperialist countries even when not at war. Interrogation of people suspected of military sabotage can be criticized from Lynch's armchair, but his equation of this with the GMD torture of their soldiers and the general masses is outrageous even by his standards.
Lynch condemns the CCP as being non-humanitarian for their strategic military calculations to abandon some villages they had controlled when threatened with invasion from the GMD.(p28) This is a particularly underhanded criticism when Lynch fails to point out the significantly better conditions in the villages occupied by the CCP. How can it be a humanitarian failure if the CCP wasn't, in the first place, improving the conditions in the village and far superior for the peasants compared with the GMD?
Further in this vein of attacking the CCP's tactics during war, Lynch does not like the CCP's decision to exercise strict control of Harbin once they won that city. But he does concede that in 1947 the CCP successfully stopped an outbreak of bubonic plague, which he admits was a remarkable achievement.(p37)
We do get some very useful facts about the CCP support among the general Chinese masses: "A key factor in the PLA's harassing of the Nationalists was the amount of help they received from local civilians, who destroy telegraph and telephone lines and tore up sections of railway in order to disrupt GMD troop movements."(p36) But Lynch doesn't attempt to explain why the masses spontaneously supported the CCP because this does not fit with his overall theory of both the CCP and GMD coercing the people.
Lynch expresses surprise that Mao gave his commanders free reign to adjust military tactics since he was the "ultimate military authority."(p43) This apparent contradiction is actually a good hint that Mao understood the importance of evaluation of local conditions to determine tactics. For revolutionaries there is a difference between line, strategy and tactics, one that Lynch fails to grasp. Line is set by the communist party and is meant to be carried out by everyone until it is proven incorrect. Strategy is informed by line and dictates general orientation to implement line. Tactics are determined by combining strategy with local conditions. It was correct political line for Mao to allow his commanders to determine military tactics. (See MIM Theory 5: Diet for a Small Red Planet for more on this question.)
Ultimately Lynch attributes the CCP victory to the GMD's failure in military tactics and "morale" with little mention of the political line of the CCP. He does concede that GMD did not live up to expectations as a party of the people as it was originally envisioned by Sun Yat-sen. The GMD under Chiang became a party of the political elite as evidenced by 90% of their money coming from Shanghai.(p84) "It was Chiang's strategic and political and economic failures that [made possible Mao's victory]."(p88) In the end, Lynch doesn't even consider the correctness of the CCP political line, resulting in the support of the broad mass of the Chinese people, as the driving force behind the victory of the revolutionary forces.
Amendment I of the Bill of Rights of the United States:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
After decades of expanding the repression of the U.$. prison system, and despite their effectiveness in misleading and breaking up unity, the control units remain a flashpoint of struggle within U.$. borders. These flashes do take time to develop, due to the excessive restrictions placed on those in these units. So when they do come to light, they emerge from much struggle and are not likely to fizzle out soon.
The struggle against control units is a struggle against torture. It is a struggle against not just the violation of some of the most basic rights that this country was founded on, but also basic humyn needs like sunlight, exercise, mental stimulation and social interaction.
Orders From the Top
As U.$. president, Barack Obama once honored Rosa Parks and the movement of civil disobedience that she symbolized. It was a movement of Black people for basic rights under U.$. imperialism. Yet today the Obama administration gives its explicit approval to the torture and repression going on in a country that imprisons more of its population than any other state in humyn history, and a higher percentage of Blacks than the openly racist Apartheid state of South Africa. U.$. prisons also hold a higher percentage of their prisoners in long-term isolation than any other state that has been documented.
The 2014 federal budget proposed by Obama includes an overall increase in funding for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. More damning, it describes the remodeling of the recently acquired Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois to include an Administrative Maximum Custody (ADX) and Special Management Unit (SMU). ADX "houses the most violent, disruptive, dangerous and escape-prone inmates within the Federal Prison System including those convicted of terrorist activities." "The SMU program is for inmates who have participated in or had a leadership role in geographical group/gang-related activity or those who otherwise present unique security and management concerns." The budget proposal claims that one in six prisoners in maximum security are "gang affiliated." It does not specify how many of the 2100 beds will be SMU or ADX classified.(1) While lawsuits challenge the constitutionality of the treatment people face in these units, and international bodies like the United Nations condemn them as torture, the Obama regime is providing clear leadership to the hundreds of state and local agencies involved in the U.$. prison system on how prisoners are to be treated.
Obama's role is even more clear in Guantanamo Bay, where prisoners are being held as enemy combatants by the military. Prisoners there began another hunger strike on 6 February 2013. Since then the ranks of the strike have grown to over 130 people.(2) Many are being force-fed, and many are skeletal in appearance now.
All this is being done as the United $tates still has the audacity to claim it is promoting freedom around the world, with bombs. As we highlight the connections of the struggle against control units to the struggle against the imperialist system itself, the global importance of this struggle becomes evident. As RAIM pointed out in their recent statement to the international communist movement, failures at building socialism in the past have been connected to a temptation to imitate Amerikan ways. One way the anti-imperialist minority in the First World can strengthen the movements in the Third World is by making it very clear that this is not a model to follow, and that the Amerikan dream is built on torture, genocide, exploitation and injustice.
What to Expect
A Yemeni prisoner held in Guantanamo Bay, who has been on hunger strike since the start had an Op-Ed published in The New York Times, where he wrote,
"I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can't describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn't. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.
"I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I'm sleeping.
"There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren't enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up."(3)
Another prisoner who has since been released from Guantanamo Bay after a 438-day hunger strike reported how the force feeding was brutal and they did not clean the tubes between feeding people. The prisoners asked military personnel why they were doing this:
"They told us, 'We want you to break your hunger strike.' They tell us directly like that. They ask us to break our hunger strike. They said, 'We'll never deal with you as the detainees until you break your hunger strike.'"(2)
Comrades from NCTT-Corcoran-SHU (a New Afrikan think tank) have reported that staff at Corcoran State Prison have been announcing similar plans to prisoners in California, indicating that they will not be providing proper medical care and attention to strikers in their prison in the future. These threats, which violate state policies, will also result in undercounting strikers.(4) It is possible that information will not flow as freely this time around, meaning outside supporters will have little information to go on until the struggle is over. This reinforces the need for strong unity among those inside and the ability to act independent of outside support.
We've also received word of plans to move prisoners and staff around strategically over the next couple months. In particular, Special Needs Yard prisoners are reportedly being moved to other facilities and given work assignments. Prison staff apparently thinks this will dilute the spirit of prisoners. However, depending on the balance of forces, this could go either way. We know there are strong supporters of the prisoners' rights movement in SNY already, and we hope these coming months provide the conditions to further break down the divisions within the imprisoned lumpen class. While we know that staff regularly bribe prisoners to create disruptions among the population, the mass support for the interests of all prisoners will make it hard for these bribed prisoners to create disruptions openly in the coming months, hopefully longer.
There have been positive reports of prisoners being moved to areas they once could not go, as a result of the agreement to end hostilities that has been in place for over 6 months now, which was endorsed by the largest organizations in California prisons. In particular, positive reports have come from Pelican Bay and Corcoran, where two of the main SHUs are located. San Quentin death row has also reached out to share ideas to build their own prisoner rights campaign over the coming months.
We have received some letters about ideas on tactics for advancing the prisoner rights movement in California. We've printed some in ULK and shared others with United Struggle from Within members in California. But in most cases it is impossible for us to have a full understanding of the balance of forces, and thus we are not in a position to determine which tactics are best. In addition, conditions vary so much between facilities. Clearly the comrades in Pelican Bay and Corcoran took the lead in struggling to shut down the SHU and they will likely continue to do so. What we can say for sure is that July 8 will be an opportunity to have your voice amplified by acting in solidarity with all across the state, and many in other states as well. To determine how you can best do this, you must think through and balance the effectiveness of your tactics with the risks involved.
Where we can provide leadership is in our ideological alignment. Some lists of goals that are circulating include things that are not humyn needs. These demands may be subjectively popular among the prison masses, but will greatly damage support from the outside and internationally by trivializing the struggle for basic rights. As we presented in ULK 31, below are the strategic goals that, if attained, we think would represent the establishment of basic humyn rights for prisoners (note a small change to point 1.f.).
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
While many of our readers write to us to express the lack of consciousness and unity in the prisons where they are held, one USW comrade pointed out in ULK 31 h realization that ULK is a venue where conscious prisoners can come together and build, minimizing that isolation. We try to make ULK a tool that helps the development of the growing new prison movement. But primarily it is to be the "voice of the anti-imperialist movement" in U.$. prisons, and it is a Maoist-led project. This not only sets this newsletter apart, but makes for what we believe is a more effective way to address oppression.
Over the years, we've received comments from some USW comrades that ULK is too light on international news and analysis. With all the reader surveys we've gotten back recently, we've had many say they love the content of ULK and like to hear about similar struggles throughout the U.$. prison system. But a few have said they find the prison reporting dry and, more importantly, it does not provide a clear political message to the less ideologically developed comrades. If true this would be a grave error.
Even if we unite the handful of conscious comrades in each prison across the country, we are still only dealing with a small minority of prisoners, not to mention the whole U.$. population. One young comrade recently wrote us, "I write this because I seek advice. At times I feel like giving up trying to fight this fight because it seems like I'm here fighting by myself."
While the day-to-day struggles of USW comrades are primarily focused on the conditions of oppression that the prison masses around them face, a reformist strategy would understandably lead one to defeatism. This is particularly true if you accept our line that Amerikans in general support the current injustice system and have made it what it is today. How could asking them for change ever change anything? That is why we strive to help prisoners build reformist battles in targeted ways that build a movement, while realizing the limitations of such struggles. Campaigns for prison reform are a tactic to push the prison movement to develop.
One important piece of our strategic orientation is the strategic confidence we have from our global class analysis. Basically, our analysis says that the vast majority of the world's people, a solid 80%, will benefit materially from an end to imperialism. This is why we believe anti-imperialism is destined for success. Subjectively, this can be important to keep in mind in an environment surrounded by class enemies or by those with bourgeois consciousness.
Pulling these theoretical points together into our practice, as editor i will continue to push for international content in each issue of Under Lock & Key, as has been our policy. One way i plan to expand the international connections we make is to have a section in each issue to print news snippets on events from the Third World that demonstrate determined resistance and a broad class consciousness that is opposed to imperialism. We hope that our readers find inspiration in this information that you probably aren't getting from other news sources. With no further ado, here are a few recent events that help illustrate why we have strategic confidence in the people's struggle against imperialism.
Paktiya province of Afghanistan, 17 April 2013 - Hundreds of angry residents protested against NATO occupation troops for conducting a night-time raid that killed at least one citizen.(Khaama Press) The sentiments of the people of Afghanistan are so clear that even U.$.-backed President Karzai has continuously called for an end to these raids led by the Amerikan military.
In India it is reported that Maoist forces have established a "Red corridor" allowing troop movement between the two key fronts of the People's War in southern Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, near Gumla. (Hindustan Times, 15 April 2013)
The Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been leading a People's War for decades, has clearly opposed the use of the Philippines to stage a U.$. war in Korea:
"With not even a hint of advocating or forging an independent foreign policy, the Aquino regime declared it an 'obligation' on the part of the Philippines to side with and support US warmongering under the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) of 1951. The Filipino people must take a stand and resist the Aquino regime's puppetry to US imperialism and for dragging the Philippines into intervening in the Korean Peninsula and the Asia-Pacific. Such a policy endangers the Filipino people."(CPP Ang Bayan, 10 April 2013)
Meanwhile, Hezbollah's Nasrallah said in a TV statement, "Syria has real friends in the region and the world that will not let Syria fall in the hands of America, Israel or Takfiri (extreme jihadi) groups."(The Guardian, 30 April 2013) Russia and Iran continue to support the Syrian government, while Obama threatens intervention and Israel has reportedly bombed the capital of Damascus. This over two year "civil war" is an example of why we say World War III is already here, and it is characterized by U.$. hegemony and low-intensity warfare in the Third World involving both local interests and the conflicting interests of the imperialist camps.
In South America, indigenous people have once again interrupted construction of the Belo Monte Dam in Brazil. Hundreds of people including, "Munduruku, Juruna, Kayapo, Xipaya, Kuruaya, Asurini, Parakana, Arara, fishermen and peoples who live in riverine communities" occupied the site releasing a statement that read, in part,
"You invent stories that we are violent and that we want war. Who are the ones killing our relatives? How many white people have died in comparison to how many Indigenous people have died? You are the ones killing us, quickly or slowly. We're dying and with each dam that is built, more of us will die. When we try to talk with you, you bring tanks, helicopters, soldiers, machineguns and stun weapons."(Earth First! News, 2 May 2013)
Finally, in Ecuador, the media has covered the continuing struggle of the Wuaroni and Kichwa people who have pledged to fight to the death to keep oil operations out of their homeland in pristine Amazon rainforest habitat. Both struggles stand strong against formidable opposition of the local state and multinational corporations.
1 May 2013 - The so-called labor movement in the imperialist countries has long been limited in support and influence due to the overwhelmingly privileged conditions that most First Worlders live in. So in an attempt to seem relevant, and to perhaps mask their white nationalism, they proclaim "solidarity" with worker struggles across the world. In the worst cases, this "solidarity" actively works to mislead the struggle of the proletariat towards economism and tailing of First World development models. But even when it is just "solidarity" in words, it is used to defend the privilege of the exploiter populations in the First World. On this May Day, the featured interview on Democracy Now! epitomized this tendency.(1)
Charlie Kernaghan of the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights was interviewed for a segment on the recent tragedy in Bangladesh and the labor struggle in general. Kernaghan informed us that 421 people are confirmed dead and another 1000 are still missing, meaning they are probably dead under the rubble of the factory that collapsed. He explained that the workers were not only threatened with no pay for the month, which would equal going hungry, but they faced the immediate threat of thugs with batons. As the recent fertilizer explosion in Texas showed, the profit motive under capitalism puts everyone's lives at risk. Still, there is a quantitative difference between being forced back into a dangerous situation with batons, and being unaware that it exists. The relative risk faced in the Third World is higher.
As MIM and others have shown elsewhere, there is a qualitative difference between First World wage earners in that they earn more than the value of their labor and are therefore exploiters, in contrast to the exploited proletariat.(2) The conversation around the Bangladesh tragedy degenerated into white nationalism when interviewer Amy Goodman began asking about what is to be done. After cheerleading for more protection of Amerikan wages, the guest began calling for trade barriers to goods from countries like Bangladesh until they can follow certain labor standards enforced by U.$. law. Such opposition to free trade organizes the exploiters at the expense of the exploited.
The elephant in the room became harder to ignore as the guest talked of workers making 21 cents an hour in the same breath as the immiseration of Amerikan workers. Yet, when Goodman began dancing around the wage question the guest responded:
"Well, like I said with the legislation, it's not our job to set wages around the world. That's up to the people in their individual countries. But what we can do is we can demand that if you want to bring the products into the United States, that these workers must have their legal rights."
How is it that we can enforce child labor laws, but when it comes to wages the Third World is suddenly on their own? How can you talk about international "labor solidarity" without talking about an international minimum wage? The idea is ridiculous and the only reason it happens is that the Amerikan labor leaders know that the average wage in the world is well below what they are already making. They want to keep earning more than their fair share, while putting up trade barriers for products produced by exploited labor.
We presume that the people of South Asia will not mistake people making $20k a year, and much more, as being part of the proletariat. But as we come closer to the heart of empire, the proletariat's class view becomes more and more skewed. There is no better example of this than in Aztlán today, where migrant workers see the vast wealth around them and the possibility of getting a piece of it. After the oppressed nations took over May Day in the United $tates seven years ago, the left-wing of white nationalism worked overtime to infuse this new proletarian movement in the belly of the beast with the line of the labor aristocracy.
Today, as the federal government claims to be close to enacting "immigration reform" that will amount to more Amerikan exceptionalism and favoritism, we favor the focus on reunification of families that some in Los Angeles called for on this May Day. This is an issue that ties in well with the national question, rather than economist demands for more access to exploiter-level wages. Reunification challenges the repressive border that keeps families apart, and keeps whole nations of people alienated from the wealth that they produce. As integration in the United $tates has advanced, challenging the border and fighting white nationalism, or better yet First Worldism, needs to be at the center of a progressive proletarian movement in Aztlán. These are the issues that really sparked the massive May Day rallies in 2006 in response to pro-Minutemen Amerika.(3) This is the spirit that we celebrate this May Day.
The recent events around the bombings in Boston has been confusing to internationalists. Last week, we mourned the 3 unnecessary deaths and over 200 injuries that occurred in Boston on 15 April 2013. Today we mourn the over 250 unnecessary deaths (and counting) and over 800 more who remain trapped in the rubble in Bangladesh [10 May 2013 update: the death toll has passed 1000]. Yet we are confused, though not surprised, by expressions of sadness that are so disproportionate among Amerikans surrounding these two events. Both were unnecessary results of imperialism. Reports today from one of the bombers in Boston state that he was motivated by the U.$. 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.