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[Civil Liberties] [Political Repression] [ULK Issue 10]
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Hip Hop in the Scopes of the State

Show them as scurrilous and depraved... Have members arrested on marijuana charges. Investigate personal conflicts or animosities between them. Send articles to the newspapers showing their depravity. Use narcotics and free sex to entrap... Obtain specimens of their handwriting. Provoke target groups into rivalries that may result in death. - FBI COINTELPRO tactics documented to be used against political musicians(1)

I hold that it is bad as far as we are concerned if a person, a political party, an army or a school is not attacked by the enemy, for in that case it would definitely mean that we have sunk to the level of the enemy. It is good if we are attacked by the enemy, since it proves that we have drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves. - Mao Zedong. To Be Attacked by the Enemy Is Not a Bad Thing but a Good Thing (May 26, 1939)

Public Enemy in the scope

One indication of the revolutionary potential of hip hop is the bourgeois state's reaction to it. Just this summer, police arrested Paradise Gray of X-clan, and the Zulu Nation, which played a big role in shaping hip hop in its earlier years. Gray was arrested while he was filming a demonstration against gentrification. (2) Paralleling some of Tupac's efforts discussed below, Gray is currently working with 1Hood to promote peace among the oppressed nation youth in Pittsburgh, PA. There's nothing the government fears more than for the oppressed to stop killing themselves and each other.

While the popular culture likes to see Reality Rap, now known as Gangsta Rap, as the beginning of the ultimate corruption of hip hop, the truth is that pioneers Ice-T, NWA and Tupac were unabashedly opposed to the state and received a lot of heat for it. Their shows were canceled, their records delayed, their songs were censored and they faced constant surveillance and regular harassment.

While the forms of art that originated in hip hop culture have been greatly co-opted through the corporate media to serve the state itself, the potential threat of a culture that keeps strong roots in the oppressed nations remains. John Potash put out a detailed documentation of the history of the state's use of COINTELPRO against musicians, connecting it to operations against revolutionaries who preceded and often inspired them. He describes how the NYPD formed the first rap unit with COINTELPRO training, and then went on to train other metropolitan cops around the country. His book centers around the life and murder of Tupac Shakur.

Tupac Shakur's step-father was former Black Liberation Army and revolutionary physician, turned prisoner of war, Mutulu Shakur. He was one of a number of influential elders in Tupac's life as he grew up that were part of the Black Power movement. In his meetings with Tupac he says that he pushed Tupac to question and define this Thug Life thing, which they eventually did together in a 26 point code that was accepted by Bloods and Crips (and later others) at the 1992 peace summit in Los Angeles. (3) This led to a major counterintelligence operation targeting those involved, including Mutulu who has been caged in a federal control unit ever since.

Sanyika Shakur, a former Crip leader, was one who was inspired to support these efforts. He was also targeted for isolation in the California prison system where he currently sits (such peacemakers are the so-called "worst of the worst" that fill these torture cells). As he pointed out, the government had reason to be concerned about these efforts to unite Black and Latino youth as the street organizations in South Central were recruiting more young people each year than the four armed forces of the united $tates combined. (4)

John Potash's detailed research into 2pac and other musicians and Black leaders, show clear connections between government black operations and the repression of those who mobilized oppressed people. The primary role that Tupac played in the "East vs. West" feud in the hip hop scene was ironic after his work to unite warring sets in Los Angeles. But Potash paints a picture of state-led manipulation that led Tupac to play into their plans.

Potash traces the use of sex and drugs to manipulate both activists and musicians as described in the FBI document quoted above. The sexual assault charges brought against Tupac were one example of this. (5) Death Row Records, who he paints as an FBI front, kept 2pac swimming in alcohol and weed, like the FBI did to his mother when he was a kid using a drug dealer who got close to her. Death Row even turned Dr. Dre, who once rapped "yo I don't smoke weed or sess cause it's known to give a brother brain damage", into a giant weed ad with his debut solo album, "The Chronic." In the decade that followed, regular marijuana use increased significantly among Black and Latino youth, with greater disabling addiction problems, perhaps do to increased potency of the drug. (6) Today, weed and alcohol are constantly praised by rappers.

In his last days, Pac was sober, reading Mao and talking about uniting Blacks across the country. He was soon killed and no one was charged with the murder even though he was being closely watched by multiple state agencies at the time, just as Biggie was at the time of his death.

A big lesson to take from "The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders" is that the government has a strategy for neutralizing potential leaders that they use over and over. To counter this, activists need to be aware of the strategies and develop strategies to counter them. As an individual Tupac was easily manipulated, but even a disciplined party like the Black Panthers was manipulated into a similar East vs. West coast division that could have been avoided. In both cases, the FBI took advantage of internal contradictions among the people involved. So, while studying FBI tactics is a useful way to defend ourselves, more importantly we must put politics in command to make a movement that is difficult to knock off course.

notes: (1) Potash, John. The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders. Progressive Left Press, Baltimore. 1997. p.56. (available from AK Press)
(2) http://hiphopandpolitics.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/first-wise-intelligent-now-hip-hop-pioneer-paradise-of-x-clan-get-arrested-on-trumped-up-charges/
(3) Potash. p. 63.
(4) Shakur, Sanyika. Monster. Grove Press, New York. 1993.
(5) see Communist Opinion on the Kobe Bryant Case for more on the ridiculousness of such lynching campaigns
(6) Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States. The Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 291 No. 17, May 5, 2004.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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Pulse of the People Sounds Like Revolution

dead prez
Hosted by DJ Green Lantern
Turn Off The Radio Vol. 3: Pulse of the People
June 2009


Almost everyone who wrote in complaining about the state of hip hop cited dead prez as the exception. Taking off where 2pac left off with Thug Life, dead prez has popularized a more consistent and developed code under their slogan of Revolutionary But Gangsta. The RBG mentality comes out on this tape in their refrain, "All the G's I know is part of the revolution." While not quite gaining the popularity of 2pac, the generation of rappers just coming up is full of youth who developed their consciousness listening to dead prez albums. We think that's a good thing for the future of hip hop culture.

MIM has thoroughly reviewed dpz's earlier work, and this mixtape follows in that tradition; strong revolutionary music. The sound of Pulse is a little different than the past, with more of a rock & roll element in a lot of the samples used. This brings us to one of the other elements of hip hop: DJing. The fact that DJ Green Lantern hosted this mixtape added to the anticipation for many.

The MC talks, so it is easy to analyze the content of what they say. Graffiti, while not as popular as rapping, is similarly easy to assess for content. But dancing and making beats are more abstract arts. Some argue that music with no lyrics, dancing and even many visual arts have no political content.

As MIM wrote in MIM Theory 13:

Mao explained that all classes in all class societies have both artistic and political criteria by which they judge art - and all classes put the political criteria first. This the bourgeoisie will never admit, but it is constantly shutting out, censoring and destroying proletarian art no matter how high the artistic merit or quality.(1)

Green Lantern is interesting as a DJ who put out this latest dpz mixtape as well as Immortal Technique's highly recommended record The Third World. Before that he put out the Bin Laden single with Tech and earlier this year released a track on the Oscar Grant shooting and riots. All of these works combined demonstrate that yes, a DJ's work is political. As an artistically superior DJ and producer, who worked with such popular MC's as Eminem, Jay-Z and Nas, Green Lantern adds the artistic quality to the political line, to create a superior revolutionary culture. Without DJ's like Green Lantern the "conscious" music never gains mass appeal.

The DJ has quietly become more and more prominent both alongside and independent from MC's. Green Lantern is a good example of this with his work on video games, which now have their own soundtracks, and his own radio show. While this reviewer isn't familiar with all of these works to speak on Green Lantern's career as a whole, he clearly doesn't work exclusively on revolutionary projects. While Nas's Nigger Tape was a confusing mix of reverence for both the Black Panthers and Barack Obama, Green also worked on a mixtape that was expressly dedicated to getting Obama elected.

On that note, we can say that dead prez is the vanguard here, pushing Green Lantern to do more revolutionary projects. To their credit, dpz has always got the principal contradiction correct, and never wavered. This tape is no exception with lyrics like:

"That's why ain't nothin' patriotic in me
For their system my heart is empty"

and

"I don't represent the red white and blue
I cut the head off the devil and I throw it at you."

The latter line is from Afrika Hot!, which is both the dance hit on this release and also one of the more revolutionary tracks lyrically. The overall message of Pan-Afrikanism and Third World unity in this song is right on. But when groups like the African People's Socialist Party, who Stic Man and M-1 used to work with, go so far as to build an African Socialist International, with leadership based in the united $tates, we think that contradicts the lessons we have learned from previous attempts at communist internationals. Despite their relative oppression, New Afrikans are a separate nation, with a much more privileged class position than the many nations of Africa and should not be guiding struggle on the continent.

For the most part we were ambivalent towards dead prez's dealing with gender and sex in the past, but gave them a much higher rating than the average hip hop artist. In the final track on Pulse, My Dirty Valentine, they get into their fantasies and desires that eroticize power and rape. While MIM(Prisons) opposes sexual liberalism, we also do not try to police people's bedrooms in our efforts to overthrow the patriarchy. But by rapping about these things, dead prez is telling their listeners what is sexy, and art does influence real life.

Overall, dead prez not only provides the critique, but they also provide a method for finding solutions, the dialectical materialist approach to the world. As they mature politically, these themes seem to have become more prominent in their music. The back to back songs Refuse To Lose and Life Goes On are good examples of their inspirational and educational approach, rather than just beating their listeners in the head with rhetoric.

"Many days didn't know what to do/ but we survive/ Every struggle is a test/ a lesson/ You just gotta figure out how to overcome and catch the blessing/ They want us to turn to dope and lose all hope/ spirit broke and confused/ But I refuse to lose/ Through fear/ through pain/ through loss/ I can't stop/ won't stop/ 'til we make it to the tip top/ This is hip hop"

"If you ain't happy make a change then/ If what you're doing ain't working/ it might be time to change plans/ You're looking at a changed man/ from where I used to be/ It's no fear/ I ain't going nowhere/ so get used to me."

"You can make a choice now how you wanna live/ You can be negative/ You can be positive/ But either one is up to you/ It's your prerogative/ It's not what happens to us/ It's how we handle what happens/ The ups and downs in life give us understanding and balance."

And remember, Turn off the Radio! Turn off that Bullshit!

Notes: (1) Chinese Art in Revolution. MIM Theory 13: Culture in Revolution. 1997. p.30.


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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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Eminem = Emeny

Eminem
Hosted by Dr. Dre
Relapse
May 2009

eminiem relapse album cover
Relapse is Eminem's 6th studio album, released May 15, 2009, with the sequel Relapse 2 expected to drop November of this year. It sold over 600,000 copies in the first week of its release.(1) As the title implies, the content of the album is devoted to the many facets of Eminem's struggle with drug addiction. To any fan of Eminem, or anyone who's heard his older stuff, it should come as no surprise that the main objective of Relapse seems to be to perpetuate misogyny, primarily thorough rape fantasies. Although there are two whole entire songs depicting violence against wimmin ('Same Song & Dance' and 'Stay Wide Awake'), that isn't enough to keep Eminem from making references to rape and unwarranted physical contact throughout the entire album. Physical violence isn't just directed toward wimmin; there's violence against gays, graphic depiction of child molestation, and the rare allusion of violence against his peers.

The chorus to 'We Made You' is overly conceited, but with the lyric "Who could really blame you? We're the ones who made you" he is blaming the consumers for his audacity. That is partially true: if amerikans weren't so into individualism and misogyny, then they probably wouldn't be so into Em's shit. But even more true is the role that the corporate record companies have played in pushing it on the people, which you can read about in the title article to this issue of ULK.

There is also a consistent focus on the individual's problems throughout the album, instead of problems of the group. In fact, the only thing Eminem seems to have a group perspective on is that all wimmin are bitches. In the track 'My Mom' he relates all of his drug problems to his mother's addictions, as if she was one womyn separate from society. However, all of us are affected by the culture and society we live in, and drug addiction is one way the people in a fucked up society can adjust to living this way. It's likely that Mathers' mother was the strongest direct influence on him, but she is just a reflection of her culture and society, making that the real problem. In amerikan society it is especially important for us to combat individualism, because oftentimes, ideologically, it is the largest obstacle standing between the oppressed and increased public opinion for their liberation.

In real life, Mathers has been using the 12 step program for his recovery, which he mocks in the skits on Relapse. Twelve step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, may work to keep individual people from using. But on a group scale its goal is to adjust people to function without drugs in a messed up society, instead of addressing the problems of society, which can only be thoroughly dealt with through revolution. Of course, we don't think living under imperialism is easy, and people usually do need support outside of themselves to recover from addiction, and to be useful to the revolution. But we would prefer a 12 step program that's not focused on god and a "higher power" and instead focused on liberating oneself through liberation of the proletariat.

With all this talk about dealing with our problems, Relapse doesn't offer many solutions, even for the individual. 'Deja Vu' is a submission to addiction ("I wanna get away from this place, I do. But I can't, and I won't.") which is followed by the rap ballad and single, 'Beautiful.' 'Beautiful' is about fighting depression, and with a chorus like "Don't let em say you ain't beautiful/ They can all get fucked just stay true to you" it's the most, and only semi-encouraging song on the album. This can serve revolutionaries who are feeling alienated by their political views here in the belly of the beast, where the majority of amerikans are bought off by imperialism and aren't materially interested in revolutionary politics.

Dr. Dre keeps our heads bobbing, but beyond that, Relapse, and Eminem's career in general, is just another example of how imperialism and capitalism prioritize the mental health of the people last. It also is another tired example of how capitalism encourages the recording industry to push fucked up politics into hip-hop culture, and this reviewer expects more of the same from Relapse 2.


notes:

(1) http://www.billboard.biz/bbbiz/content_display/industry/e3i331f30f79c3e3c746847c8d7166631d3

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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Space... The Next Frontier

Uhura kissing Spock
[Spoiler Warning]
Star Trek (2009) begins with a battle in outer space, where the last remaining Romulans have traveled back in time to attack the United Federation of Planets, in hopes that by emotionally scarring Spock in his younger years, they will feel better that their planet, Romulas, is going to be destroyed by their dying sun. The Romulans blame Spock as an individual for this disaster, presumably because he was (or will be) the scientist in charge of protecting Romulas. Both old Spock from the future, and young Spock in the present, are forced to witness the destruction of his home planet, Vulcan, as revenge. It isn't clear what Spock's actual role will be in the destruction of Romulas, and for the sake of this review, we will just look at the information portrayed in this film, not the Star Trek television shows or other movies.

The writers of Star Trek would like to portray Earth in the year 2233 as its own single, united nation of Humans. This is just amerika's beloved Hollywood attempting to teach us how "peaceful" the planet could be if we all just submitted to the white nation and let them run the show. In the Star Trek future, nearly everyone from Earth is white, which not only opposes political science, but genetics and evolution as well. The filmmakers suppose that present amerika and europe will conquer all non-white nations and either destroy them, or keep them marginalized in the fields of military and imperialist science, thus having no role to play in a movie about intergalactic exploration.

The Federation societies shown in Star Trek (2009) aren't very different from amerikan society today. Alcohol abuse is common, wimmin are sexually harassed and assaulted, expensive material objects are idealized, and individualism is widespread. Humans join the military because they have nothing better to do, want persynal glory, and/or to "kick some Romulan ass." All these factors demonstrate Earth as a capitalist country, another misprediction.

The glorification of the individual is so common in this future society, in fact, that Spock, then captain of the Enterprise, abandons the ship as it is being sucked into a black hole. He does this to rescue his parents from the imploding planet of Vulcan. In the eyes of many amerikans this may seem heroic and forgivable, to put the whole crew at risk of imminent death to protect his culture. Of course, thank Hollywood, Enterprise manages to make it out safely, with Spock on board, but it is a completely irresponsible move. Another example of individualism is shown when a minor crew member is having such a grand time skydiving through the Vulcan atmosphere, ready to kill some Romulans, that he intentionally activates his parachute too late, for fun, and dies. In reality we need to combat our own persynal desires for fame, glory, and subjective "fun" in order to create and preserve a strong movement, and, when the time comes, armed struggle.

The film also supports individualism, as well as ideas of genetic supremacism, through the character of Jim Kirk, who is a naturally good captain taking after his father. He is able to come into the academy from a life of drunken recklessness and surpass his fellow students in Star Fleet. His success justifies judging people's qualifications based on their parents. The Enterprise does function as a team with many roles to play, which is superior to Rambo style heroism. Kirk is able to keep the goal of the Federation in focus, making him a good leader. Like the lumpen, his lack of investment in other things allows him to focus on one greater goal once he is able put it ahead of his self-indulgent lifestyle. While a good leader must be willing to challenge the status quo as Kirk does, the movie romanticizes this as a magical skill that he was born with, not one that requires hard work and experience, particularly in partnership with others, to develop.

The Vulcans are a logical and emotionless "race," which is intended to highlight the passion and senselessness of "human nature." This is incorrect western psychological theory, but it also provides for some good advice from Spock's father, if we humyns should take it as our own. "Logic offers us [Vulcans] a serenity humans seldom experience: the control of feelings so that they do not control you... You are fully capable of deciding your own destiny, the question is, which path will you choose? This is something only you can decide." The lesson here is to avoid escapism, and take control of our future.

But what cultural impact does Star Trek(2009) have? All good art has an impact that is more than just logical, so the question is, what is the outcome of that impact? Good art elicits a response by epitomizing a truth faced by the audience. Hollywood-style art, in contrast, attempts to impose emotional responses through generic intensity. This style of film is based strongly in eliciting emotional responses from the audience, and although there are still plenty of cliff hanging scenes (literally) and tragic moments between loved ones, the action scenes are often overdone in a way that can conflict with this goal. In the end of the movie, old Spock confirms to young Spock the importance of following your gut rather than logic, while his father admits to "loving" his mother for the first time. This triumph of emotionalism opens up the audience for a justification of subjectivism in making their decisions.

To focus back on the Romulans, achieving persynal revenge for the future loss of their home is a poor strategy that doesn't serve anyone. A real solution would have been for the Romulans to have gone back in time and advance technology to save their planet in the future. The Romulans' revenge strategy is very different from the oppressed people in our world attacking the oppressor for their own survival, even when their strategies are not successful. The oppressed lash out because they have been pushed to a point where they have no other options. This may be an emotional reaction or a strategic strike. The Romulans, in contrast, are letting their emotions drive them to act in ways that are contrary to their expressed goals, when they have an unusual opportunity to do otherwise.

It is also worth noting that the Romulans are portrayed as anti-social in appearance in ways that parallel certain lumpen groups in the united $tates. Star Trek can appeal to liberal multiculturalism with their Black, Asian, Arab and even a green-skinned humyn-like character all being included in Star Fleet. This is similar to seeing a Black president as being a sign of progress today, while using Islam, drugs and gang-banging as excuses to attack the oppressed nations. That's why we talk about the problem of white nationalism, which allows for exceptions, and not racism.

In reality, there is no way that humyn society could have survived another 225 years without eliminating the contradictions inherent in imperialism that threaten our lives on a daily basis. Thus, if this were a propaganda film from a proletarian perspective, the universe would have been portrayed as cooperative. What might make such a movie interesting is speculating how such a society might be run after eliminating the militarism and gender dynamics of today. In a proletarian version the Romulans would have seized on their opportunity to use their new found scientific advantage to save their people rather than resorting to revenge. Even old Spock, who had lived through this disaster already, could have been engaged in this project. He actually did bring technology from the future to the present, but it was just to benefit the Federation. While the Federation has the potential to serve as an example of greater international (and interspecies) cooperation in the future, like most Hollywood scifi, it serves as a stand-in for the united states or the united nations, justifying imperialist militarism against the oppressed who are vilified as irrationally vengeful monsters.

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[Legal] [ULK Issue 13]
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Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A.

Jailhouse Lawyers book cover
Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A.
Mumia Abu-Jamal
City Lights Books, 2009.

Many prison activists focus their ire on the 14th Amendment, which proclaims slavery to be legal for the convicted felon. While we support economic struggles of u.$. prisoners, we do not see this law as deserving particular focus in the struggle to end the injustice system. A law that might better be a strategic focus for anti-imperialists and other progressive forces is the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), passed much more recently, in 1996, by then-President Bill Clinton.

The PLRA has significantly hampered the ability of prisoners to combat the injustices they face on a daily basis, effectively delegating them as second class citizens in the eyes of the courts. In what he says is the first book on the subject, Mumia Abu Jamal's Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A. accurately places the PLRA in historical context as modern day Black Codes, keeping the oppressed in their place.

This week, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation went so far as to cite the PLRA in claiming that federal orders to decrease the prison population by 40,000 people in California to relieve the current tortuous conditions are illegal.

Class action suits for humyn rights were an integral part of the prison movement of the 1960s and '70s. The PLRA has greatly changed the context for such struggle.

Mumia reinforces how much the state fears legal struggle by citing an interesting study that showed jailhouse lawyers to be the most punished population in u.$. prisons; followed by Blacks, the mentally ill, gang members and political prisoners (in that order). Though we often stress the repression of oppressed nations, politically active and other organized prisoners, we have seen over and over people being punished for filing complaints and lawsuits against their abusers. The Illinois Supermax, Tamms, brags of holding the most litigious prisoners in the state.

Mumia opens Jailhouse Lawyers with a story that paints the clear picture that there are no rights, only power struggles. While being interviewed by Mumia, Delbert Africa describes prisoners spending all their time reading law books, fighting their own cases, and then going literally crazy when they lose. Why? "They go crazy becuz, Mu, they really believe in the System, and this System always betray those that believe in it! That's what drive them out they minds, they cain't handle that."

Mumia minces no words, and is clear that getting a fair hearing by the imperialist system is a joke, particularly for the oppressed nations. For the most part he condemns street lawyers for their failure to effectively defend prisoners and soon-to-be prisoners.

In the conclusion, Mumia points out that jailhouse lawyers can also help prop up the system by providing the illusion of justice to the outside and as a pressure release for those on the inside. As a result, things like the PLRA, and rules forbidding prisoners to help each other serve to heighten the contradiction between the oppressed and the state within the u.$. prison system.

He goes on to quote former political prisoner Ed Mead about the need for organizing to go beyond the very limited scope of legal work. That is why MIM(Prisons) is working to build legal campaigns and a new Serve the People program run by jailhouse lawyers within the context of our greater organizing work. In fact, the right to organize in itself is a legal battle that our movement has been and will continue to be heavily involved in. As Mead says, "It used to be against the law for workers to combine, to organize, to unionize, and workers just went ahead and did it. And that's how they won their rights. And that's the same with prisoners."

Overall, Jailhouse Lawyers is well-researched and an easy read, exemplifying Mumia's journalistic skills. MIM(Prisons) recommends this book, particularly for the analysis of the law provided by Mumia with thorough historical examples. Such an analysis is crucial for anyone who wants to effectively battle the injustice system on its terms.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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The Hate U Gave Lil' Infants Fucks Everyone

THUG LIFE
T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E.
Sankyika Shakur
Grove Press, 2008.

This novel by former Eight Tray Gangsta Crip, current New Afrikan Revolutionary and captive of California's Security Housing Units promotes peace, unity and discipline among the lumpen of the oppressed nations. As such, we rate this book positively as a cultural work. The story weaves the THUG LIFE code promoted by Tupac and Mutulu Shakur throughout. In this reviewer's limited exposure to the collection of fiction branded as "street lit" and marketed mostly to younger New Afrikans, we see this as a superior example. A thorough analysis of this genre might parallel our discussion of hip hop music in a lot of ways.

The bulk of the story is gangster, but lessons and gems are peppered throughout. In the context of the ongoing conflict between the gangs of Los Angeles, the author introduces principles of dialectical development, though he doesn't develop them very extensively. Cultural references to revolutionary music and movies are also dropped in the story in a way that may promote further investigation by readers who are attracted to the overall gangster story. A comrade and obvious admirer of Tupac Shakur, Sanyika seems to take a similar approach in his writing that Pac took in his music.

In one of the tensest moments of the book, Shakur paints a picture of a disciplined unit of gangsters awaiting a raid, "These bangers had grown fed up with police tactics of intimidation, false arrests, no-knock raids, and summary executions that always seemed to accompany their public 'protect and serve' image. They had made a pact to stand and fight when confronted without an escape route."

Following another police raid, this time of the main character Lapeace's apartment, we briefly meet Mrs. Delaney, founder of the Black Scouts Youth Brigade, who gives us a lesson in security: "what I do ain't no secret, it's just nobody's business but my own."

Later, Sekou, Lapeace's road dog, promotes scientific thinking and attacks identity politics, "I could care less who speaks the truth, I want to hear it." This is in reference to the Tupac character named Askari Shakur. Interestingly, characters in the book regularly listen to Tupac songs, while this character, Askari Shakur, is used as a stand in for Tupac in the Las Vegas beef that ends in his fatal shooting.

Throughout the book there is a theme of Lapeace searching for a family legacy of revolutionary resistance that he knows little about. Meeting Askari Shakur really encourages this desire for him, but the relationship is cut short by Askari's assassination. This story line is typical of New Afrikans as a whole who are very ignorant of the struggles lived by their parents just a generation before. In ULK 9, a comrade told a story very similar to Lapeace's. His mother was in the Black Panthers, resulting in their home being raided regularly as a child. But until her death, he thought she was just a criminal gangster.

The THUG LIFE code is a step. Gangsters living by the code aren't gonna get us free. Really, gangsters aren't gonna get us free, period. Not until they start transforming into something other than gangsters. Many lumpen organizations have a parallel analysis of the development of their members that start in the criminal mentality and transition to a more conscious one, in some cases the ultimate stage being promoted is of a revolutionary nationalist nature. To different degrees they promote trading in lumpen individualism for identifying with one's people, or the people. The problem with these programs is that they are usually presented in a way that is limited by individualism itself. As if each member must go thru these stages. If everyone's development is the same then we never advance. How we advance as a group is that each generation takes the lessons of the previous generations and builds on them, not making the same mistakes.

By erasing revolutionary history of the oppressed, the government has done much to set back progress. As the lumpen stand in a state of ignorance and criminality, they can only progress as a group through revolutionary nationalism and proletarian internationalism. The progression from nihilistic gang-banging to a code of conduct like THUG LIFE is just one small step, one that has not yet been taken up by the group.

One of the main roles of culture is to create idealized images that represent something that the people can relate to and emulate. Lapeace seems to be a character that merges the author's past with his present in a way that idealizes the best of the gangster culture. Recognizing the stage we are in is part of a materialist approach to change and to culture. Lapeace is a positive image at this stage of the struggle. And a code of conduct like THUG LIFE is an important stepping stone to where we ultimately need to get.

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[Economics] [Prison Labor] [ULK Issue 10]
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Talk of Early Releases with Economic Crisis

prisoner release
In ULK 8 we focused on the economics of u$ prisons, touching on the likelihood of current economic trends cutting into the bloated government budgets for prisons. While the topic continues to attract a lot of attention, a report on the recently approved budgets for fiscal year 2010 proves to be a bit of a mixed bag.

Since staffing accounts for 75-80% of "corrections" budgets, staff reductions, pay reductions and closing facilities are the most effective and widespread means of cutting costs. But cutting food, health and programming are also widespread in the new budgets.

Overall, spending is going to go down next year, bucking a quarter-century trend. The report had data from 33 states, and 22 of them are reducing their prison budgets. Since then, the biggest prison state, California, has passed a budget cutting $1.2 billion from the department of corrections (one of the largest percentage cuts across the country). (2) California is also in the interesting position of facing legal pressure to reduce its prison population. Building Serve the People programs to support comrades after release from prison is a more pressing task than ever.

However, MIM(Prisons) is not convinced that this trend will continue, significantly cutting the amerikan imprisonment craze, as some think. This is based on our analysis of the u$ prison system being about social control and not about making money. If unemployment goes up, we predict that amerika will continue to push the strategy of paying one sector of society to imprison and rule over another.

As we have explained in ULK9, there are no profits to be made in operating prisons. Like all military and oppressive forces of the state, these are completely non-productive, parasitic operations. Unlike a capitalist industry that tends to minimize labor costs relative to other capital costs, these parasitic operations are set up to distribute fat paychecks to those most loyal to the imperialist system. Hence spending 80% of the budget on staffing.

To put the numbers in some perspective, the $52 billion spent in 2008 on state prisons in the united $tates is equivalent to the the Gross Domestic Product of Afghanistan and Nepal combined, for the same year. (3) That's over 50 million people who must run two whole countries on the same amount of resources provided to the 430,000 amerikans employed in "corrections" to run a population of 2.3 million prisoners. (4)

notes:
(1) Scott-Hayward, Christine S. The Fiscal Crisis in Corrections: Rethinking Policies and Practices. July 2009. http://www.vera.org
(2) Office of the Governor. 7/28/2009
Corrections and Rehabilitation Budget Detail
(3) CIA World Factbook.
(4) Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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[Organizing] [ULK Issue 9]
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Lumpen Organizing and Peace

In this issue we print some responses to the articles in the Peace issue of Under Lock and Key (ULK7) which discussed the need for unity among prisoners to fight for peace and justice because the oppressors actually support violence, even while claiming the opposite. It's important to see the violence in the criminal injustice system for what it is: a tool to keep the oppressed down and intimidate prisoners from organizing.

The prison guards manipulate prisoner organizations to create snitches and to set one group of prisoners against another. This helps maintain divisions among prisoners and keeps the power and violence under the control of the prison pigs. Because of this it is essential that prisoners come together in the struggle for peace and justice.

In this issue several prisoners talk about uniting Lumpen Organizations in this struggle. This is an important step forward and one that the imperialists have resisted both overtly and covertly. We must take these steps in organizing but do all we can to protect ourselves from the repressive injustice system and their agents of violence.

As we wrote in the introduction the Peace issue of Under Lock and Key:

"The people want peace now. Communities that are being occupied, imprisoned and bombed want an immediate end to violence. Huey P. Newton said it is up to the oppressor whether meeting such demands of the oppressed happens in a peaceful way or a violent way. Fanon said violence is part of the development of a humynism and new consciousness among the people. Even if Fanon is right, it takes a lot to push the masses to the point of violence as Huey pointed out. This is obvious by the many more people who have spent many more days in peaceful submission than those who have not. Violent resistance from the people will only arise as it is necessitated by those who monopolize violence through their own power.

"MIM(Prisons) only engages in and promotes legal means of combating injustice. When the prison staff represses every educational and legal outlet for prisoners to redress their complaints then it is clear what kind of strategies they are promoting. In those prisons, we predict there will be violence, and they cannot blame it on us because they have kept us out. This is similar to what we say about all struggles for justice around the world. We believe violence is necessary to end injustice because history has demonstrated that the oppressor never stops oppressing any other way. We do not want or promote violence, we are merely stating our conclusion from reading history. In every case of revolutionary war, it was up to the oppressor to decide whether violence was used or not. History shows that the same has been true in the prison rights movement; the struggle for prisoner rights has only become violent when the state initiated such violence."

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[Middle East] [ULK Issue 9]
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Iran: The Twitter 'Revolution'

Amerika TweetsThe recent election in Iran has become a phenomenon given unusual attention by amerikans who read the news. One must ask why these amerikans are so upset about potential election fraud on the other side of the world? You didn't hear such concern about the recent Mexican election. In that case it was a country bordering the united $tates, and there was actually evidence of widespread fraud. With the treatment of an incident last week where the Honduran president was abducted and flown out of the country in a coup, it is even more evident that the media and its followers are more upset about the fact that their candidate didn't win then that there was any unfairness involved.

The Iranian election warrants particular attention from the Maoist movement because of the campaign against Iran, and the Muslim world in general, that has been carried out by Amerikan imperialism as well as groups calling themselves feminists, and some even calling themselves Maoists. While years of struggle have occurred against these allies of imperialism, many of our readers behind bars will be new to this.

For years now, the so-called “Revolutionary Communist Party (USA)” has been organizing mass demonstrations in cities across the country on International Wimmin’s Day, targeting Iran. At one rally, this writer witnessed middle-aged men in business casual attire carrying massive banners calling for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic of Iran. When asked what group they organized with they claimed to just be a couple guys concerned about the issue. The main topic of the rally was wimmin’s rights.


As one Maoist writer pointed out, the Jerusalem Post (6/23/2009) printed an article entitled, "It's about the women" in response to the post-election protests in Iran, which stated:

“Women are the ones arrested in Iran for having an ankle showing or for wearing lipstick. After three such arrests, women go to prison. At the fourth arrest, they get a public lashing.”

The author correctly comments,

No doubt some Iranian wimmin are indeed afraid of their own Muslim culture. Yet there is no proof that the portion of Iranian wimmin so afraid is higher than the portion of Amerikan wimmin afraid of sexual harassment on the street if they show ankle or wear obvious lipstick. There is also no doubt that large portions of wimmin in both Iran and the united $tates are completely comfortable with the culture they display when walking down the street.(1)

In other words, this is not about wimmin's rights, as much as many try to pretend it is. If it was they would be attacking patriarchy not oppressed nations whose leaders don't succumb to u$ economic interests.

Our readers should know that millions of dollars were sent to anti-government organizations in Iran in the last few years by the U.S. State Department(2), while Seymour Hersh reported that U.S. special operations forces were conducting exercises inside Iran's borders. One can see why the u$-backed candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, might have expected to win the recent presidential election. But a number of polls showed high approval rates of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and showed him winning the election by a similar margin. While anti-Ahmadinejad activists got support from corporations like Facebook and Twitter and their users to get their opinions out, 65% of Iranians don't have access to the internet(4), which likely overlaps greatly with the rural majority who reportedly voted for Ahmadinejad.

In one online discussion of the Iranian elections an apparent anti-imperialist commented, "It’s interesting that some “Western progressives” here are essentially accepting the Western media and government propaganda spin on the Iranian elections–the same Western media and governments they supposedly oppose."(3) It is interesting, in that it exposes the common interests between amerikans and the corporate elite when it comes to issues most important to imperialism.

However, we should not ignore a couple of things that made this embracing of the corporate line a bit smoother. First, many supposedly independent organs have been rallying amerikans against the Islamic Republic of Iran for years. Second you have supposedly independent activists on Twitter reporting from Iran. For amerikans, the individual is the ideal unit for change, far superior to a self-proclaimed revolutionary organization or a corporate news source. Amerikans trust individuals more, even when there is no accountability of who these individuals are. So when CNN says that the elections in Iran were rigged, there is corroborating evidence from "alternative" sources to let one believe it.

Will amerikans support People's War when the proletariat uses Twitter? The obvious answer is no. Twitter serves a certain class with certain interests. The world's exploited majority are not well-represented on the internet. Amerikan liberals would like to think that their little gadgets, paid for with the blood and sweat of the Third World, are increasing democracy and humyn rights. It is only at the fringes that the proletariat is making use of these tools that are still in the hands of the rich. (Rather than a Twitter Revolution, one starts to wonder if this is just one big Twitter advertisement.)

Those who acknowledge that Mousavi does not represent the progressive demands of the masses of Iran are countering that those in the street are who they are supporting. One commentator pointed out:

"Just being in the streets does not make a protester revolutionary. Just as putting down such protests, in itself, does not make one a reactionary. Fascists have had street protests. And, communists have broken up street protests."

It is the most radical of the petty bourgeoisie who fall into this trap of seeing all rebellion as good without considering the greater context or the outcome. These individualists idealize "spontaneous" uprisings, even when they're backed by millions of dollars of u$ funding and years of psychological warfare by the CIA-run media.

As many of the better commentaries have pointed out, this "Green Revolution" being touted in the corporate media is the latest in a long line of "revolutions" that are backed by the the imperialists to replace the governments of mostly former-Eastern Bloc countries with leaders favoring Washington-centered neo-liberalism. While they have all received great praise in the media, none has received such mass response from amerikans in general as Iran. The key difference has been the Islam factor, and the use of gender aristocracy attacks on Iran from a range of amerikans, including the u$ State Department, pseudo-feminist organizations, and phoney Maoist parties.

Gender issues have been used by colonialists and imperialists to attack Islam (ie. the oppressed nations) throughout the last century. There is no reason to believe that such attacks are suddenly progressive.

Amerikans are being rallied around "barbaric" incidents in the Muslim world, while ignoring the fact that u$ imperialism is still the number one imprisoner, torturer and killer in the world. No one else comes close.

notes:
(1) http://mimdown.wordpress.com/2009/06/27/media-standards-for-u-and-iranian-elections/
(2) One request was for $400 million dollars according to Seymour Hersh. Recently, it was reported that U.S. Congress apparently approved $66 million of it.
http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2009-06-25-iran-money_N.htm
(3) http://monkeysmashesheaven.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/ahmadinejad-accuses-west-of-waging-psychological-warfare-against-iran/#comments
(4) Schleifer, Yigal. Why Iran's Twitter revolution is unique. Christian Science Monitor, June 19, 2009.

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[Political Repression] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 9]
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FBI Arrests Peacemaker

Alex Sanchez Homies Unidos
Two issues ago Under Lock & Key released the Peace Issue. Now we are working on an issue on migrants and non-citizens in u$ prisons. The kidnapping of Homies Unidos director Alex Sanchez by the FBI yesterday demonstrates the close relationship between prisons, immigration, repression and peace.

Homies Unidos was started in El Salvador by 20 people who were deported from the united $tates due to Clinton-era immigration legislation after serving prison terms. Alex Sanchez played a key role in founding the Los Angeles chapter 2 years later, building an important link to the source of gang problems here in the belly of the beast.

The targeting and arrest of Alex by the FBI is just one more example to support our argument in issue 7 that the state does not want peace. There are few who can claim to have done more to bring peace to some of the worst affected gang areas in the world, yet the state sees him as a threat.

In the 1980s people across Central America united for a new economic system that served people's needs. The united $tates responded by arming and training death squads to combat these movements. They used terrorism, killing local families in mass genocide, and carrying out similar brutality against supporters from other countries to discourage internationalism. Like most who Homies Unidos works with, Alex himself was a victim of the mass displacement of people across Central America caused by a decade of amerikan intervention. This period of brutality was followed by economic policies that offered one job option for the children of war: running product for the multi-billion dollar amerikan drug economy.

While most travelled to the united $tates looking for jobs, others were brought here via their jobs in the black market drug trade. Either way, these new arrivers are targeted for imprisonment by the u$ injustice system, which helped to consolidate and reinforce the criminal gang life as the only option for mostly male youth. Just like those who came before them, Salvadorans on the streets and in prisons formed groups to defend themselves from a society who feared and attacked new comers.

Alex's arrest is a blatant attack that is part of the same system that has attacked millions coming from the same place he came from. But his targeting has been very specific and ongoing because of his efforts to organize for peace by building alternatives to violent crime as a means of survival. He posed too great of a threat to the system of control of Brown and Black youth in this country through drugs and low intensity warfare, while simultaneously threatening the flow of drugs into the richest market in the world.

Previously, Alex was targeted by the Ramparts CRASH unit leading up to the infamous scandal within the Los Angeles Police Department, where cops worked with the INS to deport drug dealers who wouldn't work with the LAPD. At that time he was threatened with deportation. He responded by attempting to get asylum because of his social position in El Salvador, where members of the main lumpen organization there are targeted for imprisonment and assassination with more impunity than they are in the united $tates. This would have provided a way out for millions of youth stuck in the violent cycle. But the amerikan courts would not go for this argument, and granted him asylum on the basis of his political beliefs instead.

Alex has continuously put himself on the line for the interests of the lumpen class, who on the whole have yet to return the favor. Part of developing the consciousness of the lumpen is organizing the defense (and support) of those who are doing the most to serve the lumpen.

Lesson for the Criminal Minded

There are two possible lessons that members of the unpoliticized lumpen organizations can take from this. There is the message of the FBI, that it is hopeless to work against the u$ imperialists, so you're better off working with government operations to drug and pacify oppressed communities and hope you don't get hit by the violence or addiction yourself. This is the short-term, individualist view.

Then there is the lesson that MIM(Prisons) takes from this. Yes it is true, anyone who does real work to help lumpen youth improve their lives will be targeted by the u$ government. But rather than turning to despair and capitulation we promote a message that encourages people to look at the big picture and drop their fears as individuals. This lesson leads one to recognize the necessity of a number of strategies. One such strategy is shifting the focus of existing lumpen organizations to provide real support for independent organizations that are really helping lumpen youth. But with that comes risks, so another lesson is that the criminality of the lumpen makes it harder for leaders to help the lumpen as a class. In other words, cleaning up your act makes it easier for us to work together.

In response to the recent arrests, many amerikans have already convicted Alex of the accused crimes, because according to bourgeois idealism people are born bad and cannot change. It just so happens that people who are born bad usually have darker skin. Such idealism is only consistent with an ideology of racism.

Like MIM(Prisons), Homies Unidos stressed education of the lumpen to understand why they are where they are, while working to build leaders to change that reality. Those who benefit from the oppression and exploitation of others do not want such change to take place. They will promote individuals who escape criminal life as examples that anyone can succeed in this system (if they try). The lumpen know this is bullshit, but the lumpen need to study to see what real solutions are.

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