Under Lock & Key 41 is focused on gang validation and step down programs in U.$. prisons. Gang validation is used as a justification for locking people in long-term isolation cells, commonly known as control units. Most civilians would say that controlling gang violence is a good thing, and that perspective is exactly what the criminal injustice system is relying on for its gang validation programs. The assumption is that all groups classified as gangs are engaged in criminal activity, and anyone in contact with the gang must be a member.
Let's put aside for now the reality that the U.$. military and police force is the biggest gang in world history. If anyone is organized in criminal activity and terrorism, it's them. That any U.$. government agency claims to be against gang activity without being critical of itself is just a joke.
Often, validation is based on secret evidence that the prisoner cannot challenge, and can include things like talking to the wrong persyn in the yard, being in possession of books on history and politics, or even sending someone a birthday card. In some cases validation is based on a prisoner receiving an unsolicited letter mentioning the name of another prisoner, or even just participating in MIM(Prisons) correspondence study groups. A Connecticut writer describes the difficulty fighting "evidence" about security risk group activity:
"In August I was taken to segregation because a prisoner got caught with 4 pages of Security Risk Group (SRG) paperwork and the pigz try to say one of the 4 pages was in my handwriting. Due to this assumption I was given a class A SRG ticket for recruiting, even though this prisoner signed a statement explaining the paperwork is his. I never gave it to him, and I never wrote it. The crazier thing is the prisoner who got caught with these papers was released back into Phase 3 (back into the block) and I sat in segregation for over a month till I was transferred back to Phase 1 in Walker Correctional Institution."
Once validated, it's very difficult to get out of isolation without giving the administration information (snitching) on others; information that many prisoners don't even have because they aren't actually members of the groups the prison has "validated." In the article "(Un)Due Process of Validation and Step Down Programs" cipactli gets into the politics behind these programs.
Some people who are validated are members of lumpen organizations (LOs), and the prisons use the "gang" label to make them out as scary and dangerous groups. But lumpen organizations are a natural response to national oppression, and many of these LOs have the potential to lead their members in anti-imperialist organizing. The unity and organization of LOs scares the imperialists and their lackeys. After all, LOs operate outside of the state-approved capitalist economy and serve a lumpen population whose interests are not tied up in that system, unlike the vast majority of U.$. citizens.
Often validation is used to target and isolate politically active prisoners who speak up and fight the criminal injustice system, whether or not they are part of an LO. Fighting against gang validation is an important part of the fight against prison control units and other methods of social control that target politically active prisoners. These comrades are the leaders of the movement against the criminal injustice system behind bars.
The overwhelming response to our call for information on validation for ULK suggests that a disproportionate number of readers of anti-imperialist literature are a target for gang validation (about half of our readers are in some kind of solitary confinement). This issue of ULK includes a variety of articles describing the false justifications used for validation, the targeting of activists, and the consequences of isolation and torture for those who are validated.
In this issue many writers describe their experiences with validation programs, and we also talk about ways to fight the validation system. Building unity among lumpen organizations in the United Front for Peace in Prisons, campaigning to shut down prison control units, and fighting the legitimacy of so-called step down programs are all ways we are attacking this problem from many sides. Prisons serve the imperialists as a tool of social control, and as is explained in the "(Un)Due Process of Validation and Step Down Programs" article, control units are a vitally important element of this system. We can use the contradictions inherent in the system which raises the political consciousness of those targeted for repression, and often throws together leaders who can join forces to build a broader movement. After all, the recent series of California hunger strikes were led by prisoners locked up in Pelican Bay's notorious control unit.
The U.$ government won't give up their tools of social control willingly. And in the end the criminal injustice system needs to be thoroughly dismantled, something we can't do until we overthrow the imperialists and replace them with a government serving the interests of the world's oppressed. But as a part of the work to build towards communist revolution we battle today to shut down prison control units and end the targeting of prison activists and oppressed nations.
Party People Written by Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, Steven Sapp, and William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja Directed and Developed by Liesl Tommy Berkeley Repertory Theater 24 October 2014 - 16 November 2014, extended to 30 November 2014
"Party People" is a play about the Black Panther Party and Young Lords Party showing this month in Berkeley, California. The play was extended two weeks and has been a destination for many school field trips. Well-patroned, and intellectually accessible via the entertainment medium, "Party People" might well be the number one cultural piece shaping the understanding of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and Young Lords Party (YLP) in the Bay Area today. This is a major problem.
The premise of the play revolves around two young men planning and then actualizing a gallery event to commemorate the legacy of the Black Panther Party and Young Lords Party. Malik (a Panther cub whose father is locked up) and Jimmy (whose uncle was a Young Lord) invite several former party members to their gallery opening, and thus it doubles as a reunion of the rank and file. The play takes you through the day-of preparations for the event, which the party members help with, and through the event itself, which is attended by party members, an FBI informant, and the wife of a dead cop. Dialogue centers around the inter-persynal conflicts between party members and between generations, with conservatively half of the 2 hours and 35 minutes spent yelling and in-fighting between party members, and with their offspring.
The main downfall of revolutionary struggles of the 1960s was a lack of deep political education. Whether at the level of the masses, rank and file, or party leaders, a lack of political education allows political movements to be co-opted, infiltrated, and run into the ground by enemy line. In its heyday, the BPP grew so rapidly that much of the new membership did not have a deep understanding of why they did what they did. The play itself doesn't say that political consciousness needs to be raised, but it is a strong testament to that need. Unfortunately, neither does it contribute to that political education, which is likely due to the exact thing i am criticizing. "Party People" would have you believe the main legacies of the BPP and YLP were in creating exciting memories, and setting models for government programs. In "explaining" the origin of the BPP, the cast breaks into song: all it took to get it off the ground was shotguns, grits, and gravy.
Omar X is one of the more intriguing characters in the play. He operates more on intellect than emotions, and has an air of self-discipline and militancy. Omar enters the play as a self-appointed protector of the Black Panther legacy. He approaches Malik and Jimmy prior to the gallery opening, very skeptical of what they are going to say and how they might twist the history. Finally giving his approval to the art project, Omar by proxy grants legitimacy to the play itself. In real life, former Black Panthers Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins also both gave their seal of approval.(1) The People's Minister of Information JR Valrey, an outspoken member of today's generation of Black media who promotes the Panthers as an example to be followed, was more critical.(2)
The open brutality of pigs on party members is only given cursory examination, primarily through dialogue. Yet there is a graphic scene where Omar is tortured by several fellow Panthers, led by an FBI infiltrator. Recollecting this event in the gallery, 50 years later, Omar's comrades are still telling him "You were so outspoken and critical! Why didn't you just follow orders! We just did what we were told!" with remorse. It is apalling that in 50 years of reflection, these characters haven't figured out that dissent and criticism should be encouraged in the party, and that the real error here was that they themselves were "just" following orders. Again, the problem goes back to political development, whereas the play would have you believe that this brutality was just an unavoidable outcome of this type of organizing work.
Learning directly from the downfall of the Black Panther Party and COINTELPRO operations, rather than quash dissent, we would encourage political organizations to practice democratic centralism. Resolving contradictions through debate is the only way we can grow as political organizations. But instead of airing our dirty laundry for every infiltrator or wannabe cop to take advantage, as was common in the 60s, we take a democratic vote within the organization and then uphold the party line in public, while continuing to debate behind closed doors as needed.
Democratic centralism is also closely related to the mass line. Developing mass line happens when the party refines and promotes the best ideas from the masses, making the party their voice. The masses would include people who are workers in the party-led programs, but who have not yet reached a level of understanding and participation to join the party. One of the contradictions within the Panthers was that they had new people become party members, but then excluded them from the decision-making process. There was not a transparent decision-making process with a defined group of people. This led the rank and file to believe they should just do what Huey or Eldridge said, as was depicted in the play.
Security practices are again thrown out the window in Omar's criticism of Malik and Jimmy's stage names (MK Ultra and Primo, respectively). Omar says they should put their real names on their project, because aren't they proud of their work? Don't they want to be accountable to what potential lies they are about to disseminate? Is this just a game to them? Are they "really" revolutionaries if they are "hiding" behind their stage names? On the other hand, we strongly encourage revolutionaries inside the belly of the beast to protect their identities from the state. We forgive the BPP for making this error at the time, but Omar should have figured it out by now.
Enthusiasm is given to the question of gender and blaming of wimmin for the downfall of the parties. The dialogue states that all the men were on drugs or locked up or dead, so of course wimmin had to lead. But then when the parties dissintegrated, the wimmin were blamed. "Pussy killed the party!" is a sexually-choreographed song performed by the female cast, criticizing the machisimo and male chauvinism in both the BPP and YLP. But little if any mention is given to the female-focused programs of the Young Lords to curb forced sterilization and provide access to abortion for Boriqua wimmin. Selectively applying hindsight, "Party People" disregards the fact that these revolutionary organizations were the vanguard of proletarian feminist organizing in their day.(3)
At the gallery during the reunion, a white womyn demands attention for an emphatic monologue about her husband, a cop who was killed in a shootout with the Panthers. Subjectively i found this monologue to be too damn long and the response to be too damn weak. For the hundreds of times the word "fuck" is thrown around in this play, i half expected the Panther's response to this accusation that he had killed the cop to be "fuck your pig husband." Instead he calmly explains that he did not kill the cop and that he was imprisoned 25 years for a murder he did not commit, washing his persynal hands of the "crime." He then goes and sits down and everyone takes a pause to feel sad. This was a perfect opportunity to educate the audience on casualties of war and group political action. Instead the playwright chose to build empathy for our oppressors.
One of the most glaringly offensive themes in this play is the integrationist line slipped in subtly throughout, and hammered home thoroughly in the final blast of energy. A source of pride for the former party members is that their programs still live on today. No mention is made of the state co-opting these programs, such as free breakfast at school, in an effort to make the party seem obsolete. Feeding kids before school is of almost no cost to Amerikkka, and it's worth it if it convolutes the need for revolutionary independence. While focusing a lot on the free breakfast program, not once is it mentioned that these kids were also receiving a political education while they ate. Lack of political education is cause and consequence of these errors of the play.
The question comes up of what today's [petty-bourgeois] youth should do to push the struggle forward. What role do they have to play? What direction should they take? If I were a high school student watching this play, asking myself the same questions, i would not have left the theater with any better answers than i came in with, and i don't know that i would have gone forward looking to the Panthers or Young Lords for direction. Sadly, these organizations did give us direction, but in "Party People" it is altogether discarded.
On the topic of youth, there are three characters who are representative of the offspring of the parties: Malik, Jimmy, and Clara. Malik spends a lot of time trying to dress and speak like a Panther, but not a lot of time with his nose in books. Clara's parents are both dead, and although her tia tries to explain the importance of her parents' political devotion, Clara resents the YLP for stealing them from her. Clara wants to go to college and get a good job so she can "join the 1%." This "discussion" of the "1%" is the closest the play gets to an examination of class, unlike the BPP and YLP who had thorough, international class analyses.(4)
With all the examination of the contradictions between the different generations, and the time (yet not necessarily depth) given to Fred Hampton's murder by the pigs, Fred Hampton, Jr. is not mentioned one time in the play. Nowhere do they talk about the revolutionary organizing of Chairman Fred, Jr. in Chicago, Illinois with the Prisoners of Conscience Committee. You might not even leave the play knowing that Fred Hampton had a child. Considering the youth are looking for direction, and have all these feelings about their parents and relatives abandoning them for the revolution, why wasn't Fred, Jr. given a primary role in this play? Upholding his political work as an example might have put a lot of anxieties to rest.
Social-media-as-activism is correctly and thoroughly criticized (one of the few positive elements). Instead, a resolution to the youth's dysphoria and lack of direction is offered in a final rap by Primo, which highlights conditions of the oppressed nations inside United $tates borders. But he ephasizes that "I am Amerikan! We are all Amerikan!" over and over and over again, really sucking the audience in on this one. The closing message of the play was decidedly not, "I am Boriqua! You are New Afrikan! Amerikans, commit nation suicide! And let's destroy Amerikkkan imperialism for the benefit of all the world's oppressed peoples!!"
Modern lumpen organizations are mentioned briefly as part of the fallout of the parties. In its lack of direction, "Party People" does not uphold these organizations as holding potential for revolutionary change. Again another great educational opportunity missed. As a supplement, i would recommend the documentary Bastards of the Party (2005). This film details the development of the Bloods and Crips, from self-defense groups, through the Slausons, into the Panthers, and to today. In this film, the Watts Truce in Los Angeles in 1992 is focused on, and serves as an excellent model of the positive impact lumpen organizations can have on reducing in-fighting in oppressed nation communities and building power independent from the oppressor government.
It is evident from "Party People" that the petty bourgeoisie doesn't have much of a role to play in our current revolutionary organizing. Until they give up their attachments to the material spoils of imperialism, they will keep producing confused representations of proletarian struggle. I would advise today's youth, especially those who feel disheartened by this play, to read up on the real history of BPP and Young Lords,(5) and contact us to get involved in political organizing work to end oppression for all the world's people!
The comrade who reported in ULK 40 on a lawsuit around sexual assaults in California prisons(1) wrote back to reiterate that California law prohibits such behavior. "An inmate cannot validly consent to sex with a prison employee", see California Penal Code Section 289.6 and California Code of Regulations Title 15 3401.5. This is actually a good example of a law that tackles Liberalism around the question of rape in one fell swoop by recognizing the systematic relationship between prisoners and state employees that prevents consent.
Despite this law, our comrade documents a history of administrative coverups of sexual abuse of prisoners by staff. Clearly the gender oppressed need more than words on paper to be free of the patriarchy. And for prisoners who "cooperate" with prison administrators, administrative coverups operate in the opposite direction. Our comrade points to Freitag v. Ayers, 463 F.3d 838 (9th Cir.2006), which documents the case of a female correctional officer at Pelican Bay State Prison who was discouraged by her supervisors from filing disciplinary actions against prisoners who would sexually harass her "as a sexual favor to gain [their] cooperation."
In the previous article by this comrade, we pointed out the possibility that New Afrikan bio-males (especially youth) may be considered gender oppressed if one looks at prisons on a statistical level. Yet, we do not deny that bio-male prisoners often play the role of sexual aggressor, both against other male prisoners and female guards. The example of Freitag v. Ayers echoes one of these hypotheticals that our critics threw at us to ask the question, "who is the rapist here?"(2) Yet in this case we see the patriarchy, in the form of the CDCR administration at Pelican Bay, actively enforcing the roles of both the SHU prisoner being held in an isolation cell and the female guard who must endure the prisoner's acting out. The obvious culprit here, and the federal courts agreed, was the patriarchal institution of the CDCR.
Prison is an extreme example, but it helps us see the patriarchy at work. As we said in our previous article on the lawsuit, even when the female guard is the clear aggressor, firing her does not do anything to lesson rape on a group level, though it might help some individuals for a period of time. There are many institutions that serve to enforce the patriarchy throughout our society that serve to undermine the gender oppressed's power over their own bodies. We must build independent institutions that serve the gender oppressed, in order to create a world where sex can be consensual.
A great example of prisoners doing this behind bars is in the organization Men Against Sexism which was in Washington state in the 1970s.(1) Our conditions today are different than those faced by Washington prisoners at the time, but we can still address gender oppression as part of our overall struggle to build unity.
In their response to us, (see "Who has happy sex?"), the Leading Light Communist Organization (LLCO) questioned some accusations we made about their organization contributing to wrecking work aimed at the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM).(1) The author is either unaware of, or being dishonest about, the history of their organization. Prairie Fire was highlighted in a recent interview at llco.org retelling h young adulthood, so certainly s/he can recall what h comrades were printing about MIM a handful of years ago. They participated in a long-standing campaign to paint MIM as crazy wackos as the original MIM comrades suffered the crushing defeat of every aspect of their work. We condemned the Monkey Smashes Heaven (MSH) website for this at the time, but did not call it wrecking work.(2) To accuse us of escaping "the crazy town hotel" because of our critique of the gender aristocracy is not just unprincipled, but once again echoing the imperialists who try to paint radical critiques of the status quo as the work of wackos.(4) And we don't see a reason to give them a pass this time. We're concluding here that this is an ongoing problem within their organization. This should have been obvious from our previous article(3), but we felt we should clarify our point here if LLCO is going to accuse us of spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt in what they refer to as a "phony setup," while their comrade accuses us of trying to deflect criticism. If we were afraid of criticism why did we publish an article linking to LLCO's criticism of our line?
Liberalism is Liberalism
Liberalism puts individual liberty and choice at the forefront. It is not concerned with groups and systems.
Liberalism equates happy sex with consensual sex. MIM Thought does not.
We never said happy sex doesn't exist. Rather, the main point of our article was that the gender aristocracy is very happy with its sex. We go on to argue that the happy sex of the gender aristocracy presents a challenge to our efforts to organize them against imperialism.
We also say that the struggle to have "good sex" is lifestyle politics and that it supports the pseudo-feminists' (read pro-patriarchy) agenda. Rather than "good" or "happy," a more precise criteria to debate would be "consensual sex." And we say there is no such thing under patriarchy. LLCO broadens this assertion to accuse us of saying consensual sex has never existed for all of humyn history. But patriarchy has not existed forever, so we do not agree that our line implies that "consensual, happy sex has never existed." More importantly, the theoretical existence of happy sex is not important to us in the struggle to end oppression.
LLCO doesn't like the examples we listed in our last article, condemning them with their own hypothetical example that is essentially the same, proving our point that power and sex are intimately tied up (pun intended). Rather than measuring individuals' power differentials to determine which one of them is the rapist (and implicitly then which persyn should be ostracized, imprisoned, or we don't now what because LLCO hasn't told us), maybe LLCO can speak to the problem that patriarchal society has conditioned females for centuries to enjoy sex as an oppressed gender as part of the process of producing male pleasure. Such systematic problems of power are not considered by the Liberal who is assured by the individuals involved explicitly saying the word "yes" and having fuzzy feelings inside while doing it.
Since their last post, LLCO stepped up their artwork from "Make Love Not War" to "Keep Calm and Have Good Sex." It's hard to believe they still don't get it when they caricature their own line with such blatant sexual Liberalism. Rather, it seems quite clear that they do intend to promote sexual Liberalism and call it proletarian feminism.
Biological Determinism and the Self
Liberalism, as an ideology, was a progressive force in a certain period of humyn history. Around the turn of the twentieth century theorists discussing sex used animal behavior to argue against the Christian ideas of the "natural order" ordained by God. But today people read too much into Darwin's Theory of Evolution, using it to validate their own experiences of pleasure. The biological imperative to reproduce and feelings of pleasure are not one in the same. So it has little meaning in this debate to say, "Sexuality is normal behavior for any complex species." We would like to see some evidence that, "Most people desire a sexual life even in the context of oppression." For the gender aristocracy, this is apparent, but the gender aristocracy is not most people. More clearly, we'd like to see evidence that most people experience the kind of pleasure from sex that the gender aristocracy does. As an aside, the assertion that "[m]ost people do not desire to be raped" is a tautology when you define rape as something that the average persyn does not desire.(4)
With the advance of the productive forces, widespread leisure societies developed for the first time in history. Members of those societies are much more gender privileged than the rest of the world, and the evolution of pleasure around sex is very tied up with the development of that power differential and an obsession with pornography that came with it. There are many nations that remain resistant to the pornography of the leisure societies, yet the imperialists use it as a tool to divide those nations. MIM saw pornography as any cultural propaganda that props up the leisure lifestyles of the bourgeois classes. LLCO's recent articles on rape and gender oppression can easily be categorized as part of the patriarchal pornography machine.
While our critic refers to biological determinism rather than sociology to explain sexual pleasure, both explanations imply greater forces are at play than the choices of two individuals. Yet, LLCO thinks our line denies humyn agency. Against this, we already said that we cannot go around telling people how to have sex in a way that they can avoid rape. Anyone who does this is being dishonest. That does not mean that proletarian morality has ceased to exist. It just means there is no magic combination of individual actions that can get you out of the patriarchy. While we must operate within the limits of the material reality we find ourselves in, we still get to make a choice of what to do at every moment of our lives. Pretending happy fucking is the same thing as sex without patriarchal influence is ridiculous.
In their discussion of Descartes, LLCO argues that we are idealists for daring to envision a world without oppression, where there would be no coercion in sexual relations. We call that being communists.
Answering some more questions from LLCO
LLCO claims there is another hole in our logic by asking, "How are all these systems of oppression reduced to a single measure whereby we can determined[sic] rapist and victim?" We already stated in our article, we don't care. We are not trying to answer the pornographic questions that they pose in their response, we are trying to convince people that patriarchy needs to be overthrown!
LLCO tells you to "[t]hink about how silly this is for a moment. MIM implies that you cannot both have a plan to eliminate individual cases of rape as part of a broader, revolutionary plan change society fundamentally."(1)
No, we said you should act scientifically. In other words be aware of the outcome of your actions. The LLCO/Liberal line means more Black males in prison and more Amerikans happy with the status quo. Maybe this is their strategy to strengthen the national contradiction in the United $tates. But no, there is no mention of principal contradiction, or overthrowing imperialism or patriarchy in their response. The whole content of the article could have been written by the Democratic Party if one just cut out the words "Leading Light Communism."
We also addressed this in the article they are critiquing when we wrote: "And we agree that under the dictatorship of the proletariat the masses will pick out these unreformable enemies for serious punishment. Yet, the majority of people who took up practices of capitalism or of the patriarchy will be reformed."
"Thus, for MIM, everyone who has ever had sex has been involved, one way or another, in rape. Every great communist leader has been a rapist or a victim of rape, or both. MIM even named their movement after someone who they see as a rapist. Mao was reported to be sexually vigorous. According to MIM, all sexually-active people of Third World and First World are rapists or victims, or both. All children from happy homes, from loving couples, are really products of rape."
Hey, we'll one up you there. Being asexual doesn't eliminate gender power either. The gender power that you hold is inherent in a patriarchal society regardless of who you fuck and how.
Perhaps LLCO should disavow Lin Biao because he did not come from a proletarian or peasant background. Lin was not from the oppressed classes. Neither were plenty of other great communist leaders, and we would assume the same for plenty of LLCO folks who are First World residents. People are a product of their birth circumstances and the society into which they are born. We don't judge individuals for this, we judge them for their political line and practice. Apparently LLCO can stomach this when it comes to class but not when it comes to gender.
Pushing the debate forward
LLCO correctly argued that the slogan "all property is theft" ... "can undermine the people's struggle under certain conditions." They then imply that the same is true for "all sex is rape." Okay, but what are those situations? Because we're saying "all sex is rape" is a powerful anti-Liberal slogan right now in the First World and we don't see it undermining the struggle to liberate the majority of the world's people.
Since we both seem to think the other is talking past us, here are our suggestions for points we'd like to see LLCO address to make this debate worthwhile going forward:
In what actual conditions do you see "all sex is rape" sloganeering as reinforcing bourgeois or patriarchal interests? and how?
Or the other side of that question, where do you see "you can have good, consensual sex" being used to effectively challenge the patriarchy or imperialism or working in the interests of the oppressed masses in general?
Until they can do this, we don't see how their arguments are based in any attempts to overthrow patriarchy (which would be implied by their claim to uphold proletarian feminism). It all comes across as a defense of sex because they know sex makes people happy. While clarity may be lacking on both sides, it is at least clear that we hold opposite views on this issue.
For the past three years, on September 9 prisoners across the country have joined in a solidarity demonstration on this anniversary of the Attica uprising. It was initiated by an organization that was a part of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. That organization is no longer around, but new organizations and individuals have carried forward the struggle.
The organizers call on activists to take this day to promote the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) by building unity with fellow captives, and to demonstrate resistance to the criminal injustice system by fasting, refraining from work, engaging only in solidarity actions, and ceasing all prisoner-on-prisoner hostilities. In some prisons the demonstrations are big and involve many participants, in others just a handful of people join in, and in some places only one persyn stands up. But every action, large or small, contributes to raising awareness and building unity.
This year we received only a handful of reports from comrades about their September 9 organizing work. This is in contrast to the reports from the past two years which showed a growing interest and involvement in this day of protest. It is also in striking contrast to the widespread response and organizing around the Palestine petition by United Struggle from Within (USW) comrades.
We take this opportunity to re-evaluate the September 9 action. The question for all UFPP signatories and USW organizers: Why was organizing for the September 9 Day of Peace and Solidarity so limited in 2014? Should we do something different in 2015, either to help promote the September 9 action, or by focusing on other campaigns and protests? Send us your thoughts so we can sum up and continue to expand our efforts to cease prisoner-on-prisoner violence in the U.$. criminal injustice system.
On 31 October, after weeks of mass protests in which state media headquarters were stormed and government buildings were torched, the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, was forced to resign and flee to the Ivory Coast, another French colony. The military seized power under Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, who created a committee which appointed Michel Kafando as transitional president. Elections are to be scheduled within 12 months. Kafando was formerly ambassador to the United Nations for Compaoré, among other high posts he held in the government. This change in leadership is nothing more than a shuffling of the neo-colonial compradors who will continue to serve the imperialists while trying to placate the righteously angry Burkinabe (people of Burkina Faso) masses.
The protests that led to this change in government follow long standing unrest and anger about the exploitation and oppression of the people in Burkina Faso. In recent years there has been much civil protest in the country, especially amongst peasants and miners.
Burkina Faso is a small country located in sub-Saharan West Africa. Originally called the Republic of Upper Volta, the country was established as a French neo-colony in 1960. Captain Thomas Sankara became prime minister in 1983 after a military coup, ironically led by Blaise Compaoré and a group of military leaders who considered themselves revolutionary anti-imperialists. While not an uprising of the people, Sankara's politics were more progressive than previous leaders. Sankara implemented many programs to serve the people including nationalizing land and mineral resources, mass-vaccinations, infrastructure improvements, the expansion of wimmin's rights, encouragement of domestic agricultural consumption, and anti-desertification projects. He also changed the country's name to Burkina Faso (land of the upright/honest people). To promote self-reliance and end the poverty of dependency so common in African countries, Sankara called for the cancellation of African debts to Western governments. And setting an example for all Burkinabe, Sankara refused wealth and luxuries for himself and fought against corruption and bribery in the government.
Sankara was a revolutionary nationalist. And while we do not oppose those acting in the interests of the people seizing power from the imperialists through a coup, we know that it is the support of the masses and the political education and activism of the people that will ultimately determine the success or failure of a revolutionary movement.
Burkina Faso provides us with a good lesson on the importance of a cultural revolution. After the communists took power in China in 1949, they soon realized that a new bourgeois class was developing. These individuals may have come from proletarian and peasant backgrounds, but the culture that encourages individualism and self-serving advancement did not disappear with the implementation of socialism. And so some people, once they gained positions of power, abused that power. The Chinese communists realized the road from socialism to communism requires political struggle from all the people, vigilant criticism and self-criticism of and by political leaders and the masses, raising the level of political education, and a long-term campaign to build revolutionary culture. This became the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR). In the end, even with the GPCR, the capitalist interests within the communist party managed to take power after Mao died. This does not negate the need for a GPCR but rather we need to learn how to start sooner and be more effective in this struggle.
Sankara was murdered in 1987 in a coup d'etat that brought Blaise Compaoré to power, a man who once called himself a revolutionary ally and leader alongside Sankara. Before the coup Compaoré held significant power within the government, and his takeover was supported by the French who were eager to return the country to neo-colonial status. Compaoré quickly demonstrated how far he had strayed from his supposedly revolutionary views, reversing nationalization of Burkina Faso's resources, and reentering the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This year, Compaoré attempted to modify the Constitution to extend his 27-year presidency, which led to the protests by Burkinabe last month.
While we support the uprisings and righteous demands of the people of Burkina Faso, we also encourage them to make ceaseless efforts to again increase their general level of political education and organization. Only with deep revolutionary consciousness and leadership can Burkinabe take complete control of their nation from comprador dictatorship, and ensure that it grows with the people's interests at the forefront.
In August 2014, in response to I$rael's renewed attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, United Struggle from Within (USW) drafted and began circulating a petition denouncing the imperialist genocide of the people of Palestine. The petition draws connections to the oppressed nations suffering in the United $tates, and in particular recognized the support Palestinian prisoners gave to the California hunger strikers. While this round of bombing by I$rael was over before most could even return their signed petitions, the damage is still being felt and the imperialist occupation of Palestine continues.
"According to the United Nations, 100,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged, leaving 600,000 Palestinians — nearly one in three of Gaza's population — homeless or in urgent need of humanitarian help. Roads, schools and the electricity plant to power water and sewerage systems are in ruins."(1)
In addition, the Cairo agreement to "rebuild" Gaza after I$rael bombed it to pieces, will be managed by none other than I$rael, who will ensure that all the money goes into the pockets of I$raeli construction companies.(1) The democratically elected government of Palestine, led by Hamas, will be deprived of any oversight of this process, as they are further isolated with Egypt closing off the border with Gaza to the south.
It is not too late to rally in support of the Palestinian struggle! As of the beginning of November, USW comrades have gathered over 60 signatures to this petition in at least seven different prisons. Signatures are still coming in and a number of comrades have reported to still be working on collecting signatures in their latest communications.
While the numbers may not be overly impressive, to date only 17 of those comrades originally sent the petition have even reported receiving it. One Texas comrade who gathered 9 signatures reported doing so despite the prison being on lockdown (no one being able to leave their cells) and the recent cut off of fishing (sending notes between cells by string). At least one comrade could not get any other signatures due to the risk of political repression as a validated "gang member" in the control unit where he is held. It is no coincidence that many of our most active and politically conscious comrades find themselves in such conditions.(2)
This campaign to support the people of Palestine is significant in that it is the first USW-initiated campaign around an issue not related to the immediate conditions of prisoners themselves since MIM(Prisons) has been around. The campaign was launched without a lot of preparation, and despite the inherent limitations imposed on those in prison, we got good participation. As one California comrade recently reported, the petition was a tool for outreach that led to many political dialogues and lessons learned that will contribute to the building of the anti-imperialist movement in U.$. prisons. Their efforts to collect signatures reached beyond just those who signed the petition.
The need for these types of agitational campaigns is one of the lessons that we can take away from this experience. The barriers among much of the prison population to supporting the Palestinians' right to survival are built on a combination of Amerikan patriotism, misinformation and apathy. However, to sum up the reports we have received, we'd say that fear of repression is the number one barrier being faced, which is a problem USW faces with all its campaigns. One comrade reported setbacks due to fears around hysteria surrounding the Islamic State.
A number of comrades reported not being able to get any signatures yet, and one wrote from California:
"My focus thus far has been on the socially conscious Muslim prisoners, whom I guessed would be the most willing out of everyone to sign the petition. But I'm starting to see more and more that the overwhelming majority in Amerikkka just ain't willing to take a stand against these racist imperialist idiots in no way shape or form. Not one of the Muslims, out of the around 25 prisoners I approached, would sign the thing. The excuses ranged from, 'We need to worry about fixing 'home' first...' to just flat out 'The Jews have too much control in this country for me to sign some paper and get on their shit list.' ... so far everybody but me has been too scared to sign it."
A few weeks later this comrade submitted h petition with 25 signatures. This fear of signing is a common problem in prisons where all mail is read and punishment for activism can be severe. A comrade in Colorado wrote:
"I read the last issue of ULK and I want to say that the U.S. policy against Palestine has long been underrepresented and ignored. Amerikkka is telling the people of Gaza and Lebanon that it will allow Israel to murder and justify it in the name of 'peace.' I feel that the greatest threat to world peace is the U.S. foreign policy. As prisoners we all should stand with the people of Gaza and their right to self-defense and self-determination. Progress is being made here as far as the petition goes. Many are in solidarity against amerikkkan imperialism as it stands with Israel yet many are afraid to sign."
One letter from Virginia described the difficulty promoting internationalism:
"I have been having trouble convincing prisoners here to sign the Palestine USW petition. The fear of institutional retaliation keeps a majority of them from involving themselves in any type of radical struggles or demonstrations. Compounding the problem is the fact they cannot grasp the concept of 'internationalism.' The dominant question was, 'what do the Palestinians have to do with me?' I tried as hard as I could to convince them that all struggles against imperialism abroad are a reflection of the non-ruling class struggles here in the Empire. So please do not construe the lack of signatures as an indicator of my lack of organizing skills."
This question of "what the Palestinian struggle has to do with me" is a manifestation of the relative wealth and privilege of Amerikans as a whole. In reality the Palestinian struggle is counter to the material interests of the petty bourgeois majority in the United $tates which enjoys a supply of cheap gas ensured by Amerikan military presence in the Middle East. Like the struggle of oppressed people around the world, the Palestinian people's fight for national liberation threatens Amerikan imperialism and its ability to control and exploit the labor of Third World peoples. Any successful revolt against Amerikan imperialism and its allies/puppets (such as I$rael) will destabilize that power and may inspire others.
But when building public opinion with the lumpen in prison we can at least draw some connections to national oppression within U.$. borders and the national oppression of Palestinians. One researcher has claimed that Palestinians are the most imprisoned people in the world, based on the percentage who have been in prison (the United $tates is still #1 in the number of prisoners it holds at one time). New Afrikans and the original inhabitants on North America are potential rivals for this title. In both places, the dominant nation, with the weapons and wealth, is denying the oppressed nations independence and self-determination. And the cause of the Palestinian people is allied with the cause of oppressed nations everywhere in the world; the common enemy is imperialism.
Another persyn wrote about some more reactionary responses to h attempts to collect signatures.
"I attempt to discuss issues raised by MIM, but I'm completely lacking in knowledge. For example, prisoners here state that the Palestinians deserve the bombing because Hamas fired rockets into Israel. They say the land of Israel is not occupied by foreigners — that it belongs to Jews. They (prisoners here — a large number) say that there has never been a nation called 'Palestine' and that the people who today label themselves 'Palestinians' are simply Arabs mostly from the Trans Jordan area. So what is the correct response?"
These positions raise the important question of how we define a nation. Stalin gave us guidance on this point, describing a nation as a group of people with a common language, culture, territory and economy (which is different than a nation-state). The Palestinian people certainly meet these requirements. Nations can arise and fall over time, as humynity evolves and conditions change. While I$rael has evolved into a nation today, Stalin was correct to argue that there was no Jewish nation in his day. It was only after WWII and a mass migration of Europeans to Palestine, and the genocide that cleared the previous inhabitants of that land, that I$rael began its formation.
As for the question of Hamas firing rockets into I$rael, this certainly has happened. And we uphold the right of people to defend themselves. This is simply a question of incorrect facts. The Palestinian people are righteously defending themselves against a much more powerful oppressor who is constantly threatening their lives and taking over more of their land. A cursory study of history shows who is the agressor in this conflict. Even numbers from the end of July on this recent battle demonstrate this: while I$rael reported 56 deaths (53 soldiers), in the Gaza Strip 1,170 had been killed, many of them civilians in their homes.(3) For those who are serious about studying the history of Palestine and I$rael we can offer reading material, but for those who just want to support the imperialists and accept their lies and propaganda, it's probably best to just move on and look elsewhere for supporters. Let them eat their Thanksgiving turkeys and celebrate the superiority of Europeans over the indigenous people of the lands they occupy and destroy.
The Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) needs more activists focused on gender. MIM had a rich history in work around gender. Today a gender-focused MIM cell could do a lot to advance the struggle in the First World. For the majority of people in the richest countries, class is not an issue that will gain us much traction. But these leisure societies, dominated by gender oppressors, are concerned with the realm of leisure time where there are battles to be fought. Yet almost no one is drawing hard lines in the gender struggle today. Even some who give lip service to the need to divide the oppressor nations maintain a class reductionist line that prevents them from taking up revolutionary positions on gender.
Importance of the Gender Aristocracy
MIM sketched out the gender hierarchy as shown in the diagram below, with biological males above biological females, but with the whole First World far above the whole Third World. The line between men (gender oppressors) and wimmin (gender oppressed) is between Third World biological males (bio-males) and Third World bio-females. In this simplified model, the Third World is majority wimmin and the whole world is majority men.(1)
Near the top we see a small portion of the bio-females in the world are men of relatively high gender privilege. The term gender aristocracy was coined to account for this group of people who are often viewed as part of the gender oppressed, but are actually allied with the patriarchy.
MIM line distinguishes class and gender as class being defined by the relations of production and distribution, and gender defined as relations during leisure time. Largely due to their class position, the petty bourgeoisie, which makes up the vast majority in the First World, have a lot of leisure time and our culture in the United $tates is therefore very leisure oriented. Many of the things that are prominent and important in the lives of the gender aristocracy are not so for the majority of the world.
While MIM got a lot of push back on the labor aristocracy line, this came mostly from the dogmatic white nationalist left. The average Amerikan didn't get upset until MIM criticized their video games and explained how all sex is rape. These are things that are very important to the lives and pleasure of the imperialist country petty bourgeoisie. Knowing this is helpful in our agitational work. Our principal task overall is to create public opinion and independent institutions of the oppressed to seize power. In the First World, dominated by the oppressor nations and oppressor gender, this requires dividing the oppressor in an effort to break off allies. Even if we can't recruit whole segments of the oppressor groups, dividing them over issues of importance to the proletariat is a useful strategy.
While we say First World people are men in the gender hierarchy, unlike economic exploitation, anyone can be the target of gender oppression. Even First World bio-males are raped or killed for reasons related to gender and leisure time. This does not make them of the oppressed gender, but it does make such extreme forms of gender oppression a reality in the lives of the First World. In addition, the exploiter classes can benefit from the labor of others without ever having to use force themselves to extract that value, yet gender relations are something we all experience. As a result, even in the First World some people come to see the negative aspects of the patriarchy, with or without first-hand experience of extreme gender oppression, because of the very persynal and alienating emotional experiences they have.
A small minority in the First World will join the proletarian forces due to their own experiences with gender oppression. So it is important for there to be an alternative to the pro-patriarchy Liberalism of the gender aristocracy as a way to split off sections of the gender-obsessed leisure class. Below we take on one example of the gender aristocracy line in an effort to reassert an alternative.
Comments on the LLCO
We are using an article posted by the Leading Light Communist Organization (LLCO) as an example below. But before getting into the theoretical debate, we feel compelled to address the unprincipled approach of this organization. The article in question demonstrates a pattern of nihilism and bad-mouthing by LLCO that is akin to wrecking work.
LLCO was born in a struggle to separate itself from MIM, which had recently dissolved. Two of the main ways they did this was by bad-mouthing MIM and dividing on gender. The gender divide amounts to nihilism because they tear down the advances MIM made in building a materialist line on gender, but put nothing in its place but the Liberal pseudo-feminism of the past. Humyn knowledge and theory is always advancing; to tear down advanced ideas without replacing them with better ones is reactionary.
In the piece in question one of the logical fallacies they use is ad hominem attacks on people who acknowledge that all sex is rape by using meaningless buzzwords. Even worse, they go on to claim that those that take this position might be crazy and out of touch. This is a common attack used by the imperialists to ostracize radical thinkers. It is not a productive way to engage a developed political line that has been clearly spelled out for over two decades.
"All Sex is Rape" Needs a Comeback
Where LLCO actually engages the theory of whether all sex is rape under the patriarchy, we get a typical critique:
"Setting the bar for what counts as consent impossibly high obliterates the distinction between, for example, a wife initiating sex on her husband's birthday and the case of a masked man with a knife at a girl's throat forcing sex. To set the bar so high is completely at odds with what most people think, including rape victims themselves. Most victims themselves intuitively recognize the difference between consensual sex and rape."(2)
This is completely backwards. We do not have a problem of the masses confusing a womyn being compelled to have sex with a man because the patriarchal society tells her that is her duty on his birthday, and a womyn being compelled to have sex with a man because he is holding a knife to her throat and threatening to kill her. Rather, we have a problem of people not understanding that we need a revolutionary overthrow of patriarchy and a subsequent upheaval and reeducation of current humyn relations in order to end rape in both cases.
Furthermore, it is Liberalism to rely on the subjective "i'll know it when i see it" argument to define rape. This is exactly what MIM argued against when developing their line on gender. When an Amerikan judge hears a case of rape charged against a New Afrikan male by a white female, we can accurately predict the outcome of the judge's "intuition." When the roles are reversed, so is the verdict. And we only pick that as an easy example; we don't have to involve nation at all. It is quite common for Amerikan females to admit to themselves that they had been raped, months or years after the incident. What it takes is a social process, where rape is defined in a way that matches her experience. This social definition changes through time and space. And those who recognize this tend to gravitate towards the MIM line on rape.
The gender aristocracy is very concerned with distinguishing between rape and good sex, because good sex is the premise of their very existence as gender oppressors. For the gender aristocracy the bio-male provides safe/respectful good sex and the bio-female provides good sex in the form of a respectable/chaste partner. "Good sex" helps to distinguish and justify the existence of the gender aristocracy. Good sex is also a central source of pleasure for the gender aristocracy, to which they have very strong emotional attachments.
But the opponents to the MIM line on rape cannot explain away power differentials that are inherent in the patriarchy. They have no appropriate label for the sex that a womyn has with a man because she feels trapped in her marriage and unable to leave because of financial dependence. Or for the sex a womyn has with her girlfriend who is also her professor and in control of her grade at University. Or for the sex that a prisoner has with another prisoner because he needs the protection he knows he will get from someone who is physically stronger and respected. There are clear elements of power in all of these relationships. These are pretty obvious examples, but it's impossible to have a sexual relationship in capitalism under the patriarchy that does not have power differences, whether they be economic, physical, social, work, academic or some other aspect of power. This is not something we can just work around to create perfectly equal relationships, because our relationships don't exist outside of a social context.
One assumption of our critics is that rape cannot be pleasurable to both parties. We disagree with this definition of rape, and believe that power play is very tied up with pleasure in leisure time, to the point that a coercive sex act can be pleasurable to all involved. We expect this is more common among the gender privileged.
Another theme throughout the LLCO piece is the question of how we are going to determine who the "rapists" are that need to be punished if we are all rapists? This is combined with taking offense at being implicitly called a rapist.
The gender aristocracy cares about labeling and punishing rapists, again, because it distinguishes their good sex from others' bad sex. It is an exertion of their gender privilege. That is why most people in prison for rape in the United $tates are bio-males from the oppressed nations, and the dominant discussions about rape in the imperialist media are about places like India, Iraq, Mali or Nigeria.
LLCO accuses our line of discrediting anti-rape activists. MIM has been discrediting pseudo-feminism in the form of rape crisis centers for decades. Amerikan anti-rape activists take up the very line that we are critiquing, so this is almost a tautological critique by LLCO. Even in regards to struggles initiated by Third World wimmin, they are often corralled into a Liberal approach to gender oppression when not in the context of a strong proletarian movement. The imperialist media and those pseudo-feminists pushing an agenda of "international sisterhood" help make sure of this. This is an example of gender oppression and enforcing the patriarchy across borders using the gender aristocracy to sell it to the oppressed.
In general, we are not interested in finding the "real rapists" as we don't believe there is such a thing. Rape is a product of patriarchy — that is the essence of our line that all sex is rape. Imprisoning, beating or killing rapists will not reduce gender oppression in the context of a patriarchal society. Yet this is the only solution that is even vaguely implied in LLCO's critique.
Of course there are those who take the logic of the patriarchy to the extreme, just as there are those who take the logic of capitalism to the extreme. And we agree that under the dictatorship of the proletariat the masses will pick out these unreformable enemies for serious punishment. Yet, the majority of people who took up practices of capitalism or of the patriarchy will be reformed. This does not mean these people never exploited, stole from or sexually coerced another persyn before.
Today is another story. We adamantly oppose the criminal injustice system as a tool for policing sexual practices, just as we oppose it in general as a tool of social control to protect imperialism and the patriarchy. Therefore we find this desire to identify rapists to be a reactionary one.
Pushing for Gender Suicide
The problem with the ideology of the gender aristocracy is that their attachment to "happy sex" and the importance that most of them put on it will put them at odds with revolutionary attacks on the patriarchy. This is the practical side of "all sex is rape" as a tool to defang the gender aristocracy who will side with the imperialists on gender alone. If our critics get sad when we question the consensualness of their sex that is a good thing, because it challenges their attachments to the status quo. Truly radical changes must take place in our sex lives, our gender relations and our leisure time in general. The less resistance there is to this the better.
The Liberal argument is that by policing individual behaviors you can avoid being raped or raping someone else. This is just factually untrue. Yes, we need to transform the way people interact as part of the overthrow of patriarchy, but because gender relations operate at a group level, policing individual behaviors alone is just another form of lifestyle politics.
Just as all Amerikans must come to terms with their status as exploiters, and must view themselves as reforming criminals, gender oppressors must come to terms with the ever-presence of rape in the behaviors that they get much subjective pleasure from. Until they do, they will not be able to take on or genuinely interact with a proletarian line on gender.