The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Expand ULK. Send us $50 concealed cash with an address and we'll send you a stack of each issue for the next year. help out
[Theory]
expand

What is sectarianism?

https://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/faq/sectarian.html

Sectarianism is a term developed from the ideology of guiding ones practice by what would best promote ones sect, or organization. In other words, putting the organization itself over what the organization is supposed to be about.

In practice this looks like multiple groups all saying they are working for the same thing, but not willing to work with each other on this goal because they don't want to share the spotlight, or they have persynal differences with another group or some other petty issue that has nothing to do with said goal.

One of the purposes of having cardinal principles is to know what things one will split over and not be acting in a sectarian way. These principles, if violated, would deem a party to no longer be working for the same thing as you.

With the dissolution of the MIM into a cell structure in 2005, the potential for sectarianism within the First World Maoist movement increased. There may be a tendency to compete for the new position of vanguard with the demise of the Maoist Internationalist Party (Amerika) around which MIM was centered up until 2007. This doesn't necessarily stem from an inherent competitiveness among comrades, but rather their understanding of what the vanguard is and its importance for those who follow Leninism.

MIM(Prisons) has always promoted the cell structure as advantageous in terms of security as well promoting the theoretical and practical development of a small movement. With a movement made up of independent cells with different functions, we see it as appropriate to deem the movement the vanguard, even as we remain slow to support each other and work together as a coherent movement. We also continue to struggle against incorrect lines we see within the movement, as well as combat revisionism elsewhere. While revisionism can certainly creep up within MIM, the line between the revisionists and those who effectively combat revisionism is what defines who is a part of MIM.

Discerning Enemies In Struggle

While it has always been a major challenge of our movement, combating revisionism is even more challenging when revolutionaries are actively engaging the enemy in struggle. We've seen this with the different approaches to events in Nepal by comrades upholding the Maoist line. We've also seen it recently surrounding the apparent security struggles of original MIM cadre.

Before Geronimo Pratt was put away for 25 to life on a FBI frame up, the pigs regularly accused him of ego-tripping when he talked of the surveillance and harassment he faced. Of course, it was all true. Actually there was much more to it than Pratt even knew at the time.

When the FBI deals with those who are known to be armed and promote armed self-defense, if not offense, it is easy to frame such people for jail time and assassinations. It was easy for the FBI to find an excuse to shoot Luqman Ameen Abdullah after they had surrounded him, pointed their big guns and then sicked an attack dog on him. These tactics are harder to pull off on those who have consistently opposed armed struggle and breaking the law by communists, and live to that standard. These tactics are also used in desperation because they are very damaging to the state that carries out assassinations and kidnappings in plain site of the public.

There are many tactics that are often much more damaging to the targets of COINTELPRO than assassinations. They include destroying one's livelihood, buying one off, seducing one sexually, harassment in many forms and more subtle physical attacks. All of these tactics have been well-documented along with assassinations and frame-ups. Yet, comrades seem to ignore these forms of repression because the facts are not clear or because the difficulties of dealing with them make them uncomfortable. The facts are never clear until it's too late, that's the whole point of counter intelligence.

We know that some comrades are upset that Henry Park talked about them publicly. We cannot explain or defend that. He recently decided to talk about MIM(Prisons). We don't like it either. In fact, we could leave the internet altogether and continue on just as effectively with most of our work. Then those who believe "i can be googled therefore i exist" will pay us no mind.

However, the real wrecking ability is in the unknown number of MC's who left MIM and left the cardinal principles to go on and do who knows what. According to Park, some of them are doing some very bad things. So it is curious that others are spending so much time worrying about the damage being done by someone upholding MIM's original 3 cardinal principles and at least 9 out of 10 of the criteria spelled out by Monkey Smashes Heaven (MSH). The 10th criteria is the only debatable one because it is not a question of line. It is clear that MSH and others believe that Henry Park has violated point 10. [For the record MIM(Prisons) has not proposed a list of cardinal principles that differ from MIM's longstanding 3 cardinals, but we see a lot of value in MSH's list and certainly agree with them on those points.]

Perhaps MIM(Prisons) is the dense party here who doesn't get what is going on. We are not interested in getting into a debate about what is being done at Henry Park's blog. But if there is a principled position out there that would benefit our movement we would like to hear it.

chain
[Culture] [ULK Issue 11]
expand

Thangs-taken

You got a green card?

Back in September, American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier, who's been in prison since 1977, wrote an article responding to his denial for parole entitled, "I am Barak Obama's Political Prisoner now." In it he wrote, "If only the federal government would have respected its own laws, not to mention the treaties that are, under the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of the land, I would never have been convicted nor forced to spend more than half my life in captivity."(1)

In October, in Denver, the birthplace of Kkkolombus Day, activists lead an annual protest of the patriotic parade, which "commemorate(s) the beginnings of America itself." Of this year, they report: "We chanted "Down With Kolumbus Day, Settlers (and Occupiers) Go Away!" To liven up the anti-colonial festivities we brought a piƱata of Uncle Sam. Protesters had whacks at it with a shoe, in honor of Al-Zaidi in Iraq."(2)

As we work to get this issue of Under Lock & Key off to you all in November, amerikans are warming up their kitchens for a cozy Thanksgiving ("Thangs taken" is more accurate) dinner on land stolen from the First Nations, made up of food picked and packaged by exploited Latino migrants, served on dinner plates made by exploited Asians, paid for by stolen wealth from natural resources in the Middle East, while millions of children in Africa starve.


notes:
(1) http://www.counterpunch.org/peltier09112009.html
(2) RAIM Global Digest Issue 6. November 15th, 2009.

chain
[Civil Liberties] [International Connections] [Control Units] [ULK Issue 11]
expand

Third World Muslim Prisoners of Amerika

Shortly after MIM(Prisons) posted an article talking about the use of excess prisons to lock up migrants, CNN reported that the u.$. government is looking to take over another empty state prison, this time for Muslims from the Third World.(1) The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) already secretly opened two control units for Muslim Arabs in recent years at USP Terra Haute and USP Marion (which became the original control unit in 1983, but was later downgraded to medium security). These units hold 94% and 75% Muslims, respectively, are even more isolating than many prisons holding English-speakers and u.$. citizens.(2)

Thomson Correctional Center in Illinois is an unused, high tech, maximum security prison with a capacity of 1600 that still sits virtually empty. The government promises that if Third World Muslims are to be sent there, that it will be made even more secure than the official federal control unit, ADX in Florence, Colorado. According to the CNN article, Thomson is the top contender to take most of those now held in Guantanamo Bay after its planned closure, scheduled for January 2010.

There are only 215 prisoners at Guantanamo, and the BOP already holds 340 people that they say are "linked to international terrorism."(1) While the imprisonment of Latino migrants dwarfs these numbers, one must also consider that there are many u.$. prisons in occupied Iraq and Afghanistan and other secret military locations that hold primarily Muslims from the Middle East.

Governor Quinn is excited at the prospect of bringing these prisoners to Illinois because of the money it will bring to the region. This is consistent with his policies of using prisons to combat recession (3), and he may be on to something. With more and more amerikans being employed to physically oppress other people, importing people who are a threat to the imperialist order to hold in amerikan-run prisons would not be an unlikely form for amerika to take as it turns more fascist in the face of imperialist crisis. As one resident pointed out to Reuters, the local population in rural Illinois would back the mission of the prison (4), unlike people in the Middle East where the u$ currently holds most of its Middle Eastern prisoners. A turn toward fascism would be necessary to prevent non-citizens from gaining access to the bourgeois democratic rights promised to those on u.$. soil. (Those currently held in Guantanamo have never been convicted of a crime.) When convenient for them, the imperialists believe humyn rights begin and end at man-made borders.

Of course bourgeois rights are denied to citizens of the united snakes as well, as the FBI demonstrated by assassinating New Afrikan Imam, Luqman Ameen Abdullah in Detroit. Abdullah was a member of Jamil al-Amin's (formerly Black Panther H. Rap Brown) Muslim network called "Ummah." New Afrikan Muslims are the second largest group in the Marion Communications Management Unit.(2)

notes:
(1) Yellin, Jessica. Illinois prison top contender to house Gitmo detainees, official says. cnn.com. November 14, 2009.
(2) http://www.abolishcontrolunits.org/research/US
Exposing "Little Guantanamo": Inside the CMU by Daniel McGowen reports that 75% in Marion CMU are Muslim, though only 10 of 26 are from the Middle East. In Terra Haute, reportedly 2 of 213 prisoners are not Arab Muslims.
(3) MIM(Prisons) on U.S. Prison Economy. Under Lock & Key Issue 8, May 2009.
(4)http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN16528063

chain
[National Oppression] [International Connections] [ULK Issue 11]
expand

National Oppression as Migrant Detention

Government Assistance for Migrants

As the fastest growing prison population, migrants in detention have helped continue the decades long trend of rising imprisonment rates in the united snakes in recent years, while saving the private prison industry in the process.(1) Despite continued rhetoric about drugs coming into the u.$. through Mexico, the government drastically shifted resources away from drug enforcement to immigration enforcement following 9/11, and the prison population shows it.(2)

As of July 2009, there are 31,000 non-citizens imprisoned at the federal level on any given day in the u.$. This number is up from about 20,000 in 2006 and 6,259 in 1992.(3) There are more than 320,000 migrants detained each year by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and as many as a quarter of them are juveniles. These numbers include only those imprisoned under federal custody, although they may be located all around the country and in state prisons and local jails. These numbers do not include people who may be imprisoned on criminal charges, but are not turned in to federal custody on immigration violations (such as in "sanctuary cities").

The American Civil Liberties Union says that the conditions in which these civil detainees are held are often as bad as or worse than those faced by people imprisoned with criminal convictions. These detention centers are described as "woefully unregulated." The "requirements" that they do have about how to treat people have no legal obligation, reducing them essentially to suggestions.(3) This leads to prisoners without u.$. citizenship being denied access to telephones, legal aide or law libraries, recreation, visitation, mail, medical care, toiletries, and the list goes on. People are kidnapped from their homes in the middle of the night and transferred without notification to their families. On top of that they often have no means of communication, leading people to become completely detached from their support systems and legal counsel. For u.$. prisoners, these conditions are nothing surprising or new. The difference for migrants is that the line between detention and punishment is blurred. Years ago, migrants were detained for 4 or 5 days, and then deported. Now people are being detained for up to 2 years (and possibly more), without ever being charged with a crime, let alone convicted, even by an illegitimate jury in an illegitimate u.$. court.

The Economic Motivations

One reason migrant imprisonment is increasing is because after the prison boom of the 1990s, some prisons are sitting partially empty. The owners and financers of these prisons are begging for more people to lock up, and their solution is migrants. This is part of the parasitic imperialist economy, where filling prisons is seen as an economic stimulus even though it is a completely non-productive suck of resources.

Private prisons house 17% of people in ICE custody. The Correctional Corporation of America, a private prison management company who controls half of the detention facilities run by private companies, spent $3 million lobbying politicians in 2004. They want stricter immigration laws so they can have access to more prisoners, which will bring them more money. In turn, ICE is able to pay 26% less per day to house prisoners in a private versus state-run facility.(4) This is possible because of the lack of public as well as governmental oversight at private facilities, where they reduce costs by getting rid of everything that would help prisoners, including necessary-to-life medical care. One reason state governments shied away from private prisons for their own citizens was the scandals that they quickly became associated with. In the year 1998-99, Wackenhut's private prisons in New Mexico had a death rate 55 times that of the national average for prisons.(5) The migrant population's lack of voice allows these corporations to get away with their cost-cutting abusive conditions when contracted by ICE. This is another good example of how capitalism values profit over humyn life.

Yet, as we described in Amerikkkans: Oppressing for a Living, an increase in imprisonment doesn't serve the interests of just the private prison industry; CO and pig unions also reap major benefits. Since 9/11/2001 the u.$. has increased its border patrol from 8,000 agents to 20,000, 20% of whom are military veterans. Salaries start at $36,000 to $46,000 per year plus full benefits. The whole Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which includes ICE, brags about its budget exceeding $40 billion and providing high paying jobs for 166,234 amerikans.(6) Not only does DHS keep wealth within u.$. borders, it helps distribute it as well.

And similar to the military-industrial complex and prison-industrial complex we discussed in The privatization of war: Imperialism gasps its last breaths, Homeland Security contracts are based on who you know, not what you're selling, as former staff members sell their wares to their old employers.(7) Meanwhile, many of the smaller start-up companies that are cashing in are headed by overly-enthusiastic and openly racist Minuteman types.(8)

Of course, there are real economic benefits to amerikans as a whole by managing the populations trying to come into the u.$. If amerikans really made more money because they are just smarter and harder working, then they wouldn't be afraid to open the borders and allow competition for jobs. Instead, the demand for repression is forcing more and more farmers to employ prison labor for harvests when they used to use migrants. Free amerikan citizens just won't work for proletarian wages, not to mention it being illegal, so the argument that they want their jobs back is pretty weak. Though perhaps this is the perfect solution to keeping food cheap, while keeping foreigners out and the oppressed in prison. Migrant detainees do work in private prisons doing the day-to-day maintenance, and because they are not u.$. citizens DHS enforces a maximum wage of $1 per day.(9) While adequate food and housing are theoretically provided, this amounts to working and living conditions generally below those in their home region. Opposite the reactionary turn to border control, we challenge those who want jobs for everyone to work toward a new economic system instead.

Close the Hatches: Whitey Unites

ICE is not the only law enforcement actor in this scam profiting off humyn life. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act 287(g), local authorities can become authorized to officially enforce federal immigration law, while others are comfortable unofficially using the old vigilante trick of targeting specific people. This culture of oppression in the white nation runs so deep that an increasing number of u.$. citizens are joining in the traditional amerikan hobby of border patrol, volunteering with groups such as the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps. In response to much public outrage, President Obama has addressed the actions of the famous migrant humiliator Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio by limiting him to only determining someone's immigration status when they've been jailed. This weak response of the Obama administration shows their support of such migrant oppression.

The white euro-amerikan nation has been systematically oppressing other peoples for centuries. One way is through exploitation and neocolonialism in Third World countries, where people are trapped as cheap labor by borders and immigration laws. Corporations pay little to no wages there and sell products for super-profits in this country. The dire economic situations cause people to leave their homes and often risk their lives to provide for themselves and their families. From 1995 to 2005 about 2,600 people died trying to come into the united $tates through Mexico.(10) Similarly, people regularly die crossing the ocean in makeshift boats from Haiti where the u.$.-imposed government refuses to meet the needs of the people. It's oppressive in one country so people decide to leave and come here thinking they will find better opportunities. Of course, what really happens is the oppression and exploitation of Third World people continues within the united $tates when people don't have a green card. Things are worse for the oppressed during the recent economic crisis. Many from Latin America are finding that opportunities are now superior back home, even though amerikans continue to live over-consumptive lifestyles in the united $tates.

Migrants Seize Detention Center

Signs of Progress

In the face of all this, there are people working toward solutions. In Pecos, Texas in December 2008 and January 2009, there was a series of migrant prisoner uprisings. They were finally set off by the death of a man with epilepsy, who died completely unnecessarily due to a blatant disregard for his life by refusing to give him medical care.(11) People of many different nationalities came together in rebellion, demanding better conditions. This is not the first or last murder of its kind, as unexplained deaths are common in u.$. prisons, including migrant detention centers.

Some u.$. cities are moving in the progressive direction of being "sanctuaries." Sanctuary cities allow people who may not be u.$. citizens to make money here to send home to circulate in their own countries. This is a roundabout way of moving toward a world without borders. However, with accusations that some mayors are "soft on crime," the sanctuary status may be threatened. Additionally, there's nothing stopping federal agents from going into these cities and enforcing federal immigration law, as they often do.

While we favor these progressive steps toward protections for migrants in the u.$., we acknowledge that they aren't enough to lead to the end of national oppression. They are fragile reforms at best, that can be as easily revoked (or simply ignored). Another solution some have is integration of migrants into the u.$. exploiter nation through exploiter-size wages. This is an effort to reduce their potential as revolutionaries to that of consumers and labor-aristocratic parasites. What we truly need to end national oppression of migrants in the u.$. is to expose the "amerikkkan dream," and revolutionize the workers to support revolutionary movements in the Third World.

notes:
(1) Greene, Judith. Banking on the Prison Boom. August 2006.
(2) Fernandes, Deepa. Targeted: Homeland Security and the Business of Immigration. Seven Stories Press, New York. 2007, p.119.
(3) "Detention Management," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Nov 20, 2008, http://www.ice.gov/pi/news/factsheets/detention_mgmt.htm
(4) Berestein, Leslie. Tougher immigration laws turn the ailing private prison sector into a revenue maker. San Diego Tribune, 5/4/2008.
(5) Fernandes. p. 195.
(6) http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/rewrite/budget/fy2009/homeland.html
(7) Fernandes, p.178.
(8) Ibid., p.185. Border Technologies, Inc. founder believes that "Mexican culture is based on deceit" and "Chicanos and Mexicanos lie as a means of survival."
(9) Ibid., p.197.
(10) Ibid., p.50.
(11) Wilder, Forrest. How a private prison pushed immigrant inmates to the brink. The Texas Observer, October 2, 2009. http://www.texasobserver.org/features/the-pecos-insurrection

chain
[Civil Liberties] [Political Repression] [ULK Issue 10]
expand

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.

chain
[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
expand

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.


Related Articles:
chain
[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
expand

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

chain
[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
expand

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.

chain
[Legal] [ULK Issue 13]
expand

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.

chain
[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
expand

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.

chain