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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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[Theory] [Organizing]
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Maoism Around Us

We chose the title above, because this is not meant to be a comprehensive analysis of Maoism around the world today. Rather it is Maoism from the limited perspective of a small organization with a fairly limited scope of work, located in perhaps the least likely part of the world for Maoism to arise, or at least to take hold.

If MIM(Prisons) had more time, we would have put out statements on the question of the state of the Maoist movement and fraternal organizations sooner. Yet, if we had more time we could do much more in our specific role as a Maoist prison organization in the united $tates, so this is not something we can promise to update often. We are going to lump a bunch of topics into this paper and make it available to the minority of our readership that has been asking these questions for some time. As things develop, we need to be accountable in the work that we do and who we do it with. The decision to work on this also followed the public disclosure of information around individuals in the Maoist movement. We will address this question first.

Old MIM, New MIM

After a couple years of intense struggle between some long-time members of the Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika and various state agents, one founding member has come forward publicly. MIM has always promoted anonymity for both security and to disarm tendencies towards identity politics and cults of persynality among pre-scientific thinkers. Therefore, the state's success in forcing this persyn to go public was a significant task and evidently a significant set back to the movement.

In the last couple years, many comrades have moved away from those under attack. Part of this was an intentional response by the movement to protect our various forces from being pulled into further attacks. But some got frustrated with the state of the etext.org website, which had been a beacon for revolutionaries in the First World for decades, but had become a battle ground focused on discussions that most could make no sense of. This was an unfortunate setback, as those who ran the etext.org site acknowledged on many occasions.

Eventually, some who had distanced themselves from etext.org claimed to have made an open break with MIM as a whole. This paper, in part, will attempt to question that break.

First, let us define some terms as we see them. We define MIM as MIM defined itself:

The Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) is the collection of existing or emerging Maoist internationalist parties in the English-speaking imperialist countries and their English-speaking internal semi-colonies, as well as the existing or emerging Maoist Internationalist parties in Belgium, France and Quebec and the existing or emerging Spanish-speaking Maoist Internationalist parties of Aztlán, Puerto Rico and other territories of the U.$. Empire. MIM Notes is the newspaper of MIM. Notas Rojas is the newspaper of the Spanish-speaking parties or emerging parties of MIM.

MIM upholds the revolutionary communist ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and is an internationalist organization that works from the vantage point of the Third World proletariat.

MIM struggles to end the oppression of all groups over other groups; classes, genders, nations. MIM knows this is only possible by building public opinion to seize power through armed struggle.

Revolution is a reality for the United States as the military becomes over-extended in the government's attempts to maintain world hegemony.

This is from the 1999 Congress where "About MIM" was revised to define MIM as "a collection of existing or emerging Maoist internationalist parties." MIM had always defined the scope of its work to be within the First World. As the movement evolved, that vision took shape and the Maoist Internationalist Party -Amerika was no longer synonymous with MIM, even though some still identify themselves as "MIM" to this day. The only part of the above definition that is no longer true is that MIM was an organization with centralized party organs called MIM Notes and Notas Rojas. MIM is now a "movement" without a central organizational structure. Therefore its members are defined ideologically and fluidly, and not by a membership roll or card.

The 2005 MIM Congress resolutions on cell organizing (1) stressed the importance of organizing and documenting the development of our political line, specifically using the worldwide web. Hence the importance of keeping the work that was hosted by etext.org online, especially in a period where our movement is so decentralized. MIM(Prisons) has a particular interest in playing this role in that we may be more true to the etext MIM-line than any other organization with an online presence. We also use these materials regularly in our education work offline.

The cell resolutions set up a division of labor that left the original MC cell as a sort of center. The current complete decentralization seems to be the logical outcome of the cell resolutions, and MIM(Prisons) holds that there is no center of the MIM today.

Those resolutions also put forth an outline for recognizing fraternal cells, stating that the MC cell would renounce such status if line changes deemed it necessary. In many instances, it is better to just talk about line and take positions in struggles within the movement without naming names. Timeless documents on these struggles will be more useful in the long run. Favoring in depth anonymous analysis over short, substanceless denunciations or lists discourages cheerleading and meddling by those who are not engaged in line struggles but want to have something to say anyway. Therefore this document is structured as an in-depth discussion and not a list of who's hot and who's not.

We do however, see the importance in addressing specific organizations here by name. In MIM's original proposal they had specific projects that they were recognizing as fraternal that they were then recommending others be involved with as a form of division of labor. As long as the movement discourages the centralized party structure, we will by necessity have such a division of labor. Therefore, if one cell does not offer something, it is beneficial to be able to point to that something from another cell. This is the simplest example of cells working together. Any such work together requires accountability, especially if there are any differences in lines between the cells. Having such accountability is one of the main purposes of this paper.

Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons

MIM(Prisons) has built itself on the legacy of the MIM Prison Ministry, benefitting greatly from their work. We have improved on some aspects of the work of the Maoist prison ministry, but it has taken us some time to update all of the materials passed on to us. We have recently put out a revised version of "What is MIM(Prisons)?" which should be compared to the "What is MIM?" statement above:

In September 2007, the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons or MIM(Prisons) was formed as an independent Maoist cell. In 2007, the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) took some security hits and changed its organizing strategy as a result. One of the significant changes relates to cell-based organizing as opposed to having a centralized party. MIM(Prisons) upholds the MIM cardinal questions and uses the overall political line put forth in MIM Notes, MIM Theory and on the former website as our starting point to develop our own line and practice. We distribute MIM Theory and serve an archive of the old MIM web site, which we also use as a regular source for prison-based educational work. The MIM legacy in fighting the criminal injustice system is strong and we carry that legacy forward in our own work.

The Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) is the collection of existing or emerging Maoist internationalist parties in the English-speaking imperialist countries and their English-speaking internal semi-colonies, as well as the existing or emerging Maoist Internationalist parties in Belgium, France and Quebec and the existing or emerging Spanish-speaking Maoist Internationalist parties of Aztlán, Puerto Rico and other territories of the U.$. Empire.

MIM(Prisons) upholds the revolutionary communist ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and is an internationalist organization that works from the vantage point of the Third World proletariat.

MIM(Prisons) struggles to end the oppression of all groups over other groups; classes, genders, nations. Our current battles in the United States are legal ones. We encourage prisoners to join these battles while explicitly discouraging them from engaging in any violence or illegal acts. MIM(Prisons) and its publications explicitly oppose the use of armed struggle at this time in the imperialist countries (including the United States). We do recognize that history has demonstrated that armed struggle is a necessary step to bring the oppressed to power to determine their own destinies. Revolution will become a reality within the United States as the military becomes over-extended in the government’s attempts to maintain world hegemony.

Fighting the injustice system is just one part of the anti-imperialist struggle, and it is important that organizers on the outside and prisoners not lose sight of the connections to this larger battle. For this reason, in addition to news about prisons and prison struggles, we will also publish more general news articles from both organizers and prisoners, as well as some general theoretical writings from prisoners. We welcome support and collaboration from those who are focused only on the prison struggle, but we also challenge them to see the bigger picture of imperialism and the importance of carrying out their work as a part of a larger anti-imperialist strategy.

The differences in our statement and the old MIM statement stem from the fact that we are not a centralized party, but a project with a specific role to play. As such, the question of armed struggle is not one that we must engage directly as an organization. While MIP-amerika had aspired to play a vanguard role in armed struggle some day in the future, MIM(Prisons) will never play this role. Our role is in supporting the development of other organizations and projects, whether initiated by MIM(Prisons) or our allies. We cannot give up this role in order to take on these new projects as our own as some have asked us to do. Our principal task is to maintain the prison ministry as a source of educational and agitational material and as a central coordinating body for the anti-imperialist prison movement.

To an extent, the change in wording regarding armed struggle is tactical in our efforts to reach agreements with various departments of corrections regarding our literature. But it is also strategic in relation to organizational strategy. It is not just a change of semantics, MIM(Prisons) does not now nor ever will be an organization for carrying out armed struggle. Our theory on the topic, however, does not differ from the Maoist line in any way. We recognize the need for armed struggle to achieve true independence. As long as the oppressor has a gun to the head of the oppressed, they cannot be free. Peaceful transitions to so-called "independence" have only resulted in neo-colonialism, a 0% success rate in liberating a people from poverty and oppression. Armed struggles have also ended in neo-colonialism, but armed struggle increases the chances of independence to much greater than zero. By studying history we can continue to increase the success rate by learning from past mistakes.

As mentioned, one of MIM(Prisons) primary tasks in the division of labor is as a distributor of revolutionary, particularly Maoist, materials among prisoners in the united $tates. There is always a major problem among the masses and the general public of not being able to distinguish between political lines. Many newsletters for prisoners pick and choose articles from all over the place and send them in together. While lacking in leadership, this is a fine service for a prisoner support group that is not claiming to represent a particular line to provide to those who would otherwise have no access to the information that anyone on the outside can obtain on their own. However, there have been other newsletters that claim to be produced by, or under the leadership of a Maoist organization that practice this form of distribution, muddying the waters of revisionism. This same problem is seen online, where comrades have criticized such practices already.

Currently, Under Lock & Key (ULK) is under the complete editorial control of MIM(Prisons). In ULK, most of the writing is by prisoners, but we add commentary and analysis where necessary to push the most advanced line. Most of the prisoners that write us are not Maoists themselves. Most cannot distinguish us from revisionist organizations. Many don't understand why we are separate from liberal bourgeois organizations.

When MIM(Prisons) reprints material from other organizations we will specify our differences with the material. While we recognize that many of our readers don't see a difference between MIM(Prisons) and reformist or single issue groups, we will not do a full review of every such organization that we work with. That is United Front work. Fraternal work is another story. Organizations that claim Maoism as their ideology (in full or in part) must be assessed in the spirit of combating revisionism and staying on the road to liberation.

In the future, ULK may expand to include materials from more sectors of the Maoist movement. At this time, MIM(Prisons) occasionally distributes materials from other Maoist cells, where those materials correctly answer questions that we have not publicly provided analysis of ourselves or otherwise play a role that we cannot. This use of the division of labor allows MIM(Prisons) to serve more prisoners, without taking on the burden of a full Maoist Party that writes its own theory journal and has an up-to-date analysis on various international questions, among other tasks that the movement must tackle.

Organizational Strategy

Some very experienced comrades have fallen into the habit of, "if you can't google it, it doesn't exist." Many of the organizations we mention below are primarily or strongly online entities. We focus on them because they inherently have a broader audience and serve as potential information sources for our comrades. The division of labor puts certain cells in more prominent roles of developing political line (or muddling it as the case may be with revisionist organizations claiming Maoism). Some groups are going to get more attention, but just like number of members is not a meaningful measure of success in itself, neither is number of readers. Building public opinion does have something to do with the number of eyes and ears we can get a succinct revolutionary message to, but taking full advantage of a cell structure requires the movement to promote and embrace organizational obscurity.

There is a role for more widely read and more prominent online entities, which should in turn inspire more obscure and behind the scenes organizers. The traditional practices of announcing new chapters and describing on the ground organizing strategies are not generally a good idea. While the oppressed nation lumpen may find organization building type work to come with more ease than the petty bourgeoisie, this is still best done in relative obscurity. To the extent that the lumpen are on the periphery of amerikan society, we should use that to our advantage. Roads of outreach that are more closed and specific to the lumpen provide greater security and room for independent growth. There are already enough snitches in our ranks, we do not need to advertise to the cops and the cop-loving amerikan public. The Panthers inspired many lumpen with their audacity. Our challenge is to create the same inspiration without bringing the same attention and repression from the state.

As a cell that spans the country and is not internet only, MIM(Prisons) is unique, facing unique challenges. We support the 2005 MIM Congress cell resolution that stressed the benefits of localized cells that only work with people they know as well as internet cells that are completely anonymous. We are neither of these. We also support the resolution's arguments for why a centralized Party is not an appropriate strategy at this time. But we are clear that democratic centralism is an essential tenant of communist organizing and that a successful revolutionary movement needs the leadership of a Leninist party.

Discussion of other groups

Since we distribute materials from a few different cells in our own work, work with other cells directly and criticize other formations, we want to be a little more accountable about where we stand. The organizations discussed below are not meant to define the MIM at this time. These are merely the organizations that we come across in our day-to-day work that also claim to uphold Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. There are others claiming Maoism that may be doing great work for the movement (or may be revisionist). In many cases that may require that we don't know about their work, in other cases we might just not be paying attention. Either way, this document is not meant to disparage the work of those not discussed here. In addition, there are many groups that we work with, and many others that we are in United Front with through practice, that we do not mention here. Some are mentioned elsewhere on our website. But the point here is not to assess the prison movement, but the Maoist movement. Some not discussed below have contacted us expressing interest in "working together." There is nothing to say over email to such newcomers that is not already on our website.

Notes on the International Communist Movement

In addition to being a part of the u$ prison movement and the Maoist Internationalist Movement, MIM(Prisons) plays an additional role in the International Communist Movement (ICM). The ICM is different from MIM in that it includes, and in fact is dominated by, the Third World. Our focus as an organization is not on resolving issues within the ICM or between the MIM and others in the ICM. As a Maoist organization with a public practice we will be a voice in the ICM. And our practice, both public and not contributes to the advancement of the ICM.

While we are letting people know where we stand, we did want to mention the ICM, which is merely shorthand for the global struggle to end all oppression of groups of people over others. For without such a global perspective, our movement looses our main source of strategic confidence: the Third World. A few points that Maoists are united on include: 1) there is no Maoist (read: communist) party in state power today. 2) parties denying that imperialist nations are exploiters and oppressors are not leading the people towards a communist future, but a future based on the false hope of the theory of productive forces; thoroughly criticized during the Cultural Revolution in China. 3) the idea that there is a third choice in the principal contradiction between oppressed and oppressor nations is petty bourgeois vacillation.

The etext cell did good work in its last few years in exposing the problems within the ICM. Readers should be aware that older documents in the etext archive represent an earlier stage in MIM's international work and so contradict these more recent developments and do not represent that current state of affairs. Other cells continue to do excellent work to push these points as well. We also have great hope for our comrades in the Third World that seem to still be on the Maoist road, and those who have yet to take it up. The internet may skew things to appear that the strongest positions in the ICM are coming from the First World. While the loudest voices claiming Maoism from the Third World are steeped in revisionism, without strong leadership from the Third World there is no ICM to speak of; that is inherent in the global class analysis of Maoism. A genuine ICM led from the First World is a Trotskyist fantasy.

Those Relating to the original MC-cell

Some have made it clear that they see splitting with the cell based around the etext.org website as a dividing line question. MIM(Prisons) still fails to see the line divisions between these groups, which we will address further below. But this does bring up an interesting question of cell structure, fraternal status and revisionism. At some point, harboring revisionism puts a cell in the revisionist camp, and it is the duty of communists to address this. But our disagreements with the critics are with their analysis, or lack thereof.

The online journal, Monkey Smashes Heaven(MSH), says this of MIM in one of their primary documents "In the past year or so, MIM degenerated into a freak-show wrecking-ball organization whose main activity is to discredit Maoism and sabotage revolutionary work." This is about the extent of their analysis of why everyone needed to denounce the cell around etext.org before it was completely destroyed by the oppressors. We complained about this kind of substanceless bad-mouthing in April 2008, but MSH continued with such off-the-cuff "criticisms."

Until recently, the only announcement where they attempt to explain their position was in November 2007, where they refuse to get "into the minutiae." As we are preparing to release this draft of Maoism Around Us, MSH put out a statement on 4/25/2009 that addresses the issue in less flippant language, but still don't get into any details. Well, MIM(Prisons) is compelled to address the few minutiae we can cull from the MSH position in order to defend our own. The main way that MSH is able to cover for its denouncing of etext.org is by tying them to the alleged Art Minister of MIM. This was truly a perplexing ordeal, and it continues to damage us. Some may argue that abandoning the MIM name is important to distance ourselves from the "Art Ministry", who had successfully positioned itself as the primary online entity using the MIM name with etext.org's demise. We favor the counter argument that over 2 decades of history that represent a legacy that all of us are building on should not be handed over to the pigs who have been trying to bad-jacket Maoists as wackos for just as long. With the regrowth of the genuine Maoist movement online, our position that our legacy is too strong to be hijacked like that is proving true. While etext.org once claimed the "Art Ministry" was bringing internet traffic to the MIM site, it is pretty clear to us that on the contrary the Art Ministry blog would have no readership without the MIM legacy in its name.

With recent public documents and one comrade going public as an individual, some of the gaps have been filled and the story alluded to on etext.org over those last tumultuous years has become more real. The problem is that people need to acknowledge the reality of bourgeois repression and meddling without having to out someone. The pigs have gotten exactly what they wanted. They destroyed what was left of the original MC-cell and got at least one underground organizer to come above ground.

Until its demise, etext.org continued to produce theoretically sound material. Even though the majority of the "security" related posts are meaningless to most, the posts that drew general lessons from these experiences were correct, and provide material well worth studying. With the pigs conducting a strong counterintelligence and disinformation campaign it is inevitable that some statements posted at etext.org contained incorrect information about others. MIM never claimed to be right 100% of the time. And in a fight against the state, not all actions are going to make sense to everyone all the time. But the fact that some will raise up a perceived mistake or two over MIM's willingness to engage in scientific analysis and fight state repression head on suggests that these people are not up to the depth of commitment and struggle necessary for revolutionary politics. We cannot explain every statement made on etext.org, nor would we want to share that with the state, but can only look at the big picture and say that the political line stayed good and the security struggle was real.

Back to the so-called "Art Ministry." The "Art Ministry" is allegedly run by a persynality that has had a long history of working with MIM. Therefore, to those paying close attention, it seemed that the "Art Ministry" was officially sanctioned by the MC-cell as was clearly implied at least once on etext.org. However, at no point did etext.org link to the blog or any of the video sites run by the "Art Ministry" or endorse them specifically. The last comments from etext.org on the subject was that others should watch the "Art Ministry" closely. There was a reason the MC's felt they couldn't say anything on the subject and there was implied acknowledgement that what was going on in that self-proclaimed cell was bad.

In response to the November 7, 2007 MSH policy on linking, MIM(Prisons) will no longer link to etext.org as it no longer exists.(2) We now host the most complete archive of the site on our own server which we can link to and encourage others to update their links to. With etext.org's recent demise, we can speak more definitively of it than we can of other cells that are living, evolving organizations. If we had to review the etext.org archive we would say that it is our starting point, that no other collection of writing of comparable size is close to it in correctness, and we have no major splits with the line there, though it certainly evolved over the years (an evolution that represented advances in the line through study and practice).

We will also point out that while MIM(Prisons) still looks to the work of the original Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika as its legacy and theoretical basis, timely questions like relations with other parties should not be transferred to us. We do not have an international ministry. As for fraternal parties in the united $tates, one that always seemed a bit eclectic in its inspirations has allegedly appeared online as an organization deep in mysticism, while still claiming Mao. Another party seems to have degenerated in favor of mass work within lumpen organizations. MIM(Prisons) upholds the MIM-line on not joining mass organizations. (6) We also can point to the New Afrikan Maoist Party (NAMP) as an example of a much more correct approach to deal with the same question of organizing the lumpen that those comrades faced, without liquidating the vanguard party.

It is lamentable that the activities that pushed MIM to a cell structure seemed to destroy most of the work coming out of the party itself. MIM talked about degeneration in its discussions of these struggles, and the apparent lack of follow up by comrades around the MIP-Amerika seems to confirm that. The current generation of MIM in a very different form has already provided great leadership in pushing the movement forward. While our movement is weak, our power comes from our correct political line. And while we are far from the masses for the most part, there is much work to be done at the margins in the imperialist countries, while we work in a United Front with the world's majority who oppose oppression and exploitation.

Crypto-Trotskyists

The crypto-Trotskyists (those claiming Maoism, but putting forth revisionist lines that come from Trotskyist tendencies) have been thoroughly criticized by those at etext.org as well as others who have followed the MIM line. Rather than repeating that analysis we want to comment on the (not so) recent split in the crypto-Trot camp, mainly because in many circles these are the people who represent Maoism in the united $tates. Namely the rcp=u$a and now the kkkasama project (led by former rcper Mike Ely). In many ways, kkkasama project is a natural progression of the liberalism and white nationalism of the rcp=u$a. They still promote Conquer the World, and are working to out do Afakean's populism.

Overall, what we have is kkkasama project taking typical liberal pot-shots at Maoism, while rcp=u$a tries to make its revisionist drivel look good by standing up to them. Kkkasama's attacks on rcp=u$a try to paint it as dogmatic and authoritarian, while the rcp=u$a criticizes the Cultural Revolution with its liberal democratic line popular among RIM affiliated parties. You could argue that at least Kkkasama isn't claiming to be a Maoist vanguard, and is more openly playing the role of Mao sympathizers. But both groups are doing continued damage to a movement that they falsely represent.

It's interesting how quick and thorough rcp=u$a is to reply to their liberal defectors, when after 2 decades they were never able to respond to MIM criticisms in a principled way. Of course it's harder to ignore defectors from your own party. But it's also convenient that the rcp=u$a can appear to be fighting revisionism by battling a liberal foe (though they do claim that the Ely camp is not even fighting for the same thing and might therefore be considered degeneration and not revisionism).

Kkkasama wants to tear down Afakean with identity politics by making some broad generalizations about revolutionary leaders developing their ideas through struggle. While the importance of leaders developing their ideas through struggle is not incorrect, it is also not incorrect for a First World communist with lots of leisure time and access to research material and sparse revolutionary masses nearby to take up the task of studying. Such crude anti-intellectualism has no place in a group claiming to be putting forth the scientific method.

Ely points out in the "Nine Letters to Our Comrades," the rcp=u$a has raised the appreciation of Avakian to cardinal question for those in the united $tates. They take Lenin's theory on leadership to a cultish extreme with a psychological approach that was never intended or useful to the oppressed.

Ely's best criticisms are of the cult of persynality and the crisis analysis. But even these are fairly superficial compared to criticisms being made by Maoists for decades, mainly issues where Ely still agrees with the rcp=u$a.

In classes that MIM(Prisons) leads, comrades study On Contradiction and are asked to develop their own examples to demonstrate that internal contradictions determine the nature of a thing, while external conditions are secondary and can effect the development of those internal contradictions. This is a principal of Dialectical Materialism. Afakean would have answered that question wrong with his New Synthesis that "the class struggle in any particular country was more determined on the international plane than by the unfolding of contradictions within a given country somehow outside of, or divorced from, that context."(3) It would logically follow from this understanding that the rcp=u$a is so caught up on hyping up the next crisis that is gonna bring amerikkkan imperialism toppling down, which Ely is critical of. This stems from a Trotskyist desire for global revolution, led by the imperialist country so-called "working class."

Maoists take a dialectical approach and see that not only did WWI create opportunities for the Bolsheviks, but more importantly, the conditions for revolution evolved because of the unique conditions in Russia as the weak link in the imperialist world. And it was the oppressed classes within Russia and its neighboring states that made the revolution happen. Despite a more globally integrated economy 90 years later, the differences in internal conditions between different countries have only become more extreme.

The rcp=u$a's strong opposition to nationalism of the oppressed nations also follows from their "international" understanding of the world. Why focus on narrow nationalist goals, when imperialism isn't going to fall until there is a global crisis to bring it down? This is also borrowed directly from Trotsky. Today, Maoists continue to look for the weak links in the imperialist system as openings for revolution, rather than beating our head against a brick wall waiting for imperialist crisis when "our people" can become revolutionary - that is the narrow nationalism of amerikans not internationalism.

On religion, Ely tries to play the middle ground liberal. Afakean is wrong for being militantly atheist, and MIM is wrong for supporting radical Islam's jihad against the imperialist invader. "Can't we not be racist and oppose Islam at the same time?" the good liberal asks himself. Nope, rcp=u$a already tried it, and they get more internationalist points for pointing out to Ely that yes, silence is complicity.

Rcp=u$a wants to flirt with MIM Thought to silence the detractors, yet they still muddle the issue. Kkkasama is clear in their attacks on what they see as Afakean's dismissal of the amerikkkan mAsses, thereby completely distancing themselves from the labor aristocracy line. Rcp=u$a brags about refocusing on the oppressed nations and lumpen in recent years; following MIM's practice without the theory to back it up. In "Reinvisioning Communism and Revolution," they refer to so-called "African-Americans" as "wage-slaves." As usual, they can spit populist rhetoric while misapplying terms and hoping to avoid giving critics a clear class analysis to critique.

The most hilarious claim of the article defining the Avakian's "New Synthesis" reads: "Avakian upheld and deepened Lenin's understanding that the division of the world between imperialist powers and oppressed nations had given rise within the imperialist powers to a section of the working class, and an even bigger section of the middle class, that not only benefitted materially from the parasitism and plunder of imperialism, but came to politically identify with their imperialist masters."(3) It was Engels who said that whole nations were being bought off. And it was MIM who quoted Engels and Lenin to refute rcp=u$a white populism for decades. Now they want to take it and twist it into the Trotskyist line that "some workers are bought off" or "some of the imperialist country middle class is bought off," as if there were separate "working" and "middle" classes within the imperialist countries. Come on, can we use terms with real definitions? Can we say who is exploited and who is exploiter? The rcp=u$a avoids it at all costs.

Soon after in that essay the rcp=u$a upholds the need to "listen to criticisms" from "every quarter." Yeah, they listened, and they stayed silent and after a long wait they responded by twisting the critics line to hide their own revisionism. Tell us rcp=u$a, have you taken up the MIM line or not? No honest communist, claiming to be combatting revisionism can put stuff like this out and be silent on the most thorough criticisms made of your organization on this very question.

This whole split and debate is useful to the enemies of Maoism in two ways. On the one hand, it may help the rcp appear to be combatting revisionism and upholding Maoist principles in its replies to kkkasama. (More recently, the government of Nepal has proven to be no more worthy an adversary to rcp=u$a's anti-revisionist campaigning). In some individual statements the rcp criticisms are correct, but their overall orientation is the same old crap. A similar eclectic picking and choosing from Maoism on the part of kkkasama creates another revisionist alternative for the petty bourgeoisie who was never really too hot on the whole dictatorship of the proletariat thing anyway. So Kkkasama mostly helps reinforce the typical anarcho-liberal anti-Maoism. For these reasons, we've probably said more than we should on this "split" already, because the whole thing is nothing but an attack on Maoism. If you haven't yet read the documents behind the discussion in this section, our recommendation is not to bother. Even the article cited below that actually explains what the "New Synthesis" is, is typical rcp=u$a doublespeak: take every position so that you can agree with everyone.

A 4th Stage? - on Thoughts and isms

Now that we've discussed the recent split in the crypto-Trot camp it is logical for us to tackle the question of the stage of development of revolutionary science. Both the above parties and others internationally have used the perceived need for a new stage for the 21st century to leave behind the universal aspects of Maoism, i.e. take the revisionist road, or rather continue down it.

Kkkasama project describes 3 "packages" of MLM that currently exist in the International Communist Movement, yet strangely leave out MIM Thought and Maoism-Third Worldism. This isn't too surprising since rcp=u$a's official line for decades was to ignore MIM Thought and hope no one notices. And since Kkkasama does not agree with MIM's principle differences with the rcp=u$a, they will follow the same path so as not to reveal the revisionist swamp that the ICM is currently sinking in. We take the opposite approach, and believe that by shedding light on the errors of others we can best combat those errors. As Afakeanites argue so strongly in their response to Ely, there is only one truth and it is in the interests of the people.

To ring in the New Year in 2008, a few groups including Monkey Smashes Heaven released "Sunrise in the East," declaring a new stage of revolutionary science they named "Maoism Third Worldism."(5) The Maoist Information Web Site (MIWS) then put out the most complete analysis of the question of a fourth stage of communist theoretical development we've seen in response.(4) We have strong agreement with the work of MIWS, and have distributed their economic works in the past. The main criticism they put forth of the Sunrise statement is that "a new stage of Marxism should not be defined in relation to the counterrevolutionary ideas of fakes, zombies and clowns calling themselves 'Maoists.'" The Sunrise statement says it is "naming a new stage of revolutionary science" in order to get past the debates over "Maoism" dating back to at least the Cultural Revolution. While we can't deny that an arena where contenders include Avakian's "New Synthesis" and "Prachanda Path" is not a very worthy one, we agree with MIWS that this does not denote the emergence of a new stage, but rather an ebb in revolutionary science that must be combated.

The reason we do not see MTW as a new stage of Marxism is that the 8 "breakthroughs" are mostly found in Maoism and completely found in MIM Thought. What these 8 points are is some important dividing lines between Maoism and fake "Maoists." They clearly did not come out of thin air, but from a careful study of the dividing line questions of the day. But as MIWS pointed out, leaving the term "Maoism" as outdated further allows the fakes to lay claim to our revolutionary legacy, as if their ideology even represented a correct "Maoist" line for the last generation.

It is new in the last decade to claim the first point of the MSH statement (that there is no significant exploited population in the First World) is a universal point that communists must agree on. In its early years, MIM only held First World parties to this cardinal principle. We agree with the evolution of the MIM line that this must be upheld by anyone claiming communism anywhere, as it is a well-developed aspect (a principal aspect) of the global class analysis. But a honing of our political economy during the ebb in revolutionary activity does not represent a new stage as such.

The idea that Maoism has entered a new stage because Mao did not uphold the Maoist line of 2009 is also too simplistic.

Maoism-Third Worldism

MIM(Prisons) agrees with the 8 "breakthroughs" of Maoism-Third Worldism (MTW) listed in the Sunrise statement.(5) Those identifying as MTW have made particular contributions on a number of fronts. One is research on China and in particular the Cultural Revolution and the line struggles within the party during it. They have made important connections between the struggle against the Theory of Productive Forces and relating it to a Maoist class analysis. This is the main argument behind the position that the cardinal principle on the labor aristocracy is not something we can let slide in the Third World. To do so opens the door to revisionism after the seizure of state power.

The MTW groups have also done a worthy job of commenting on the International Communist Movement. In particular, we support their criticisms of those claiming Maoism while promoting revisionism. We have distributed some of these documents to answer questions about the struggles in other countries that we have not covered ourselves.

If there is a difference between MIM Thought and MTW, it would be that MTW is national reductionist. However, we must acknowledge that the founders of MTW have a well-documented and worked out class analysis to go along with their analysis of nation (one that comes primarily from MIM Thought). Therefore, we cannot put them in the camp with bourgeois nationalist formations such as the African People's Socialist Party (APSP), which puts nation as primary but then follows the white nationalist class analysis. Such a class analysis would threaten their line of the New Afrikan "proletariat" as the vanguard of the world revolution. MTW comes from a much clearer internationalist position than that. The problem is when comrades at the Maoist Third-Worldist site Monkey Smashes Heaven (MSH) try to deal with gender and just wrap it into nation wholesale. How many strands of oppression does MTW claim exist? MIM Thought claims 3.

In writing about MIM, the main ideological struggle MSH has taken up has been the gender question. We whole-heartedly agree with the MIM gender line and disagree with MSH. Our limited work on gender relations within the prison environment and application of MIM's gender line to other recent political issues demonstrates this position. MSH's gender line accepts some important aspects of MIM Thought, while tossing out the truly new work that MIM did on gender. The idea that gender is a social construct in the first world is less and less a revolutionary position that Maoists need to stress, though we still favor using language that exposes this truth. The MTW groups have taken the important gender battle of the day and pushed it to the forefront. But the MIM gender line predicted the current attacks on the Muslim world via gender a long time ago. Failure to grasp the theory behind these positions will lead to failures in positioning the movement correctly for the next attacks by the imperialists. To accuse MIM of sneaking First Worldism into Maoism via gender is a joke when MIM consistently critiqued white pseudo-feminism for decades and usually stood alone. They use incomplete MIM Thought to attack the coherent theory behind MIM line, and then act as if they have exposed MIM's revisionism.

To be able to criticize homophobia and biological determinism in gender is not revolutionary. Branches of the Democratic Party beat the rcp=u$a in the realm of gay rights. Social democratic Kkkasama project criticizes rcp=u$a homophobia and their lack of transparency and self-criticism with a liberal line on sex. Anarchist-communists supporting the MIM-Sakai line on nation/class picked up this same article uncritically. Unless MSH really wants to throw out gender as a strand of oppression, they leave us with no alternative but this sexual liberalism by denouncing the MIM gender line without replacing it.

MSH says First Worldism is the modern incarnate of revisionism and we agree, but this is nothing new. Trotskyists have been putting forth the First Worldist line of the Theory of Productive Forces since the time Mao was still alive.

Single Nation Parties

MIM(Prisons) upholds the MIM-line on nationalism and single-nation parties.(7) While MIM Thought seemed to rely on the experience of the previous generation as the main evidence of the usefulness of single-nation formations, we believe more recent developments confirm that this is still the case. Though we also have no disagreements with those who focus on cross-national organization, even of the lumpen class where national divisions are much more pronounced. In some ways this approach is superior in promoting a humynism based on the commonalities of the lumpen situation, rather than slipping into pork-chop nationalism that attempts to capture and romanticize a culture of the past based on one's ancestry. For example, Hip Hop culture is a more promising battle ground for the oppressed today than Egyptology or even Kwanzaa.

There are two kinds of nationalism, revolutionary nationalism and reactionary nationalism. Revolutionary nationalism is first dependent upon a people's revolution with the end goal being the people in power. Therefore to be a revolutionary nationalist you would by necessity have to be a socialist. It you are a reactionary nationalist you are not a socialist and your end goal is the oppression of the people.

Cultural nationalism, or pork chop nationalism, as I sometimes call it, is basically a problem of having the wrong political perspective. It seems to be a reaction instead of responding to political oppression. The cultural nationalists are concerned with returning to the old African culture and thereby regaining their identity and freedom. In other words, they feel that the African culture will automatically bring political freedom. Many times cultural nationalists fall into line as reactionary nationalists. — Huey P. Newton, 1968 (8)

There are a number of groups upholding "Pantherism" and "Intercommunalism" that do not claim to be Maoists or even communists of any sort. While MIM(Prisons) sees the Black Panther Party developed by Huey P. Newton as the Maoist vanguard of the united $tates in the late 1960's, the Panther legacy took on such a mass character that Pantherism and Maoism are often not treated as the same thing. The BPP's own former Chief of Staff uses "intercommunalism" as a cover for the Panthers' communist ideology.(9) Meanwhile, the Panther legacy is so strong that people use it to this day as a cover while doing work for the state.

But just as we don't abandon Maoism to the revisionists, we do not leave the Panthers to them either. We uphold the Panther legacy and learn from their lessons. Two other organizations that we have distributed materials from and worked with also explicitly claim the Panther legacy while claiming Maoism. They are the New Afrikan Maoist Party (NAMP) and the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP), the latter we maintain to be revisionist. The MIM has had a long-standing policy of not working with revisionist organizations so as not to confuse the people. This is not a universal principal, but one that the party correctly applied for decades. In most cases we have also taken on this practice, but have made an exception with the NABPP who has had a long history of work with MIM. The nature of this work has been in the interests of u$ prisoners, fighting against abuses such as torture, censorship and ongoing COINTELPRO campaigns by the state.

It is to our dismay that the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (NABPP) has developed the political line that it has, despite some members having had a long history of exposure to MIM line. Regardless, we have continued to work with their members on specific projects and even distributed particular writings. When doing so we have specified our disagreements with NABPP. We continue to see this practice as correct in the interests of the oppressed. [For the record, there is no validity to rumors that created bad feelings between some close to the NABPP and the MIM. All we can say on that is emails can be forged just as easy as letters.]

The NABPP, formerly known as the New Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter, evolved from within u$ prisons and continues to have a significant overlap with our own work. Therefore it is of great importance that comrades understand the differences between us, even if we can admit that the NABPP has done some good work. A while back there was a discussion of publishing the debates between NABPP and those in the MIM camp. Until that happens, this will have to serve as the best public documentation of those differences.

Actually, there is not much in the debate that has not already been addressed by MIM in its debates with other Trotskyist and crypto-Trotskyist groups. The NABPP calls for working class unity within the united $tates and refers to the New Afrikan nation as an almost wholly "proletarian slave nation." (see ULK 8 for MIM(Prisons)'s analysis of prison labor) They decry outsourcing for reducing the ranks of the labor aristocracy in the united $tates, claim that people wouldn't be employed if they weren't being exploited and deny the history of white nationalism spelled out in J. Sakai's Settlers: the Mythology of the White Proletariat.

In the debates with NABPP, comrades in the New Afrikan Collectivist Association, a precursor to the New Afrikan Maoist Party (NAMP), criticized NABPP on its line on the New Afrikan proletariat as well as its line on a Pan-Afrikan nation. The latter question which NABPP addresses theoretically has been taken on in practice by the African People's Socialist Party (APSP), whom our comrades have also allied with in the past. (The APSP does not claim Maoism but does claim the legacy of the late BPP.) In recent years they have combined their line that Africans (including New Afrikans in the united $tates) are the vanguard of the revolution with an apparent inability to build mass support for revolution within u$ borders to come to a position of forming the African Socialist International, being led by the APSP. We see this as being much closer to the rcp=u$a's Trotskyism in building the u$-based Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, than to Pan-Afrikanism, and caution our revolutionary comrades in the Third World to be wary of any such First World-led organizations. In the earliest history of Pan-Afrikanism, the different conditions faced by New Afrikans compared to most of Africa were quickly realized by many, resulting in separate efforts. And as stated above, a correct global class analysis would lead one to conclude that there is no need for First World leadership to create a revolutionary pole in an international arena.

Internationalism will come in many forms among the internal semi-colonies. Those with links to the Third World will tend to develop special relations along those lines. But any group based in the imperialist countries that is attempting to build internationalist ties on the basis of mutual class interests is falling into Trotskyism. NAMP's line that the New Afrikan nation is primarily a petty bourgeois nation, and that they do not form chapters in the Third World in respect of local comrades who can do a much better analysis of their conditions are key positions for any First World based communist organization or party.

NAMP sees single-nation party organizing as a logical high-priority given the principal contradiction as being between the oppressed nations and imperialism. MIM(Prisons) does not see this as a dividing line question, but would encourage all to take seriously the considerations put forth in the 2005 MIM cell resolution, particularly in reference to maintaining the security and longevity of the movement as a whole. Last we heard, NAMP was holding its first congress to tighten up its line and practice, so we have not seen any recent theoretical works. But we look forward to the outcome of that congress, and continue to be encouraged by developments within the New Afrikan Liberation Movement.

While we do not have a list of fraternal organizations to publish at this time, this paper should give a good outline on where we stand, particularly in relation to those that we work with. If you see us distributing materials by a self-proclaimed Maoist group or working with them in any other way, you can assume that we see them as part of the MIM unless we explicitly state otherwise.


NOTES:
(1) MIM. Resolutions on Cell Structure. MIM Congress 2005, Session II.
https://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/wim/cong/cells2005.html
(2) MSH. Policy on linking Maoist groupings and Etext. November 7, 2007.
http://monkeysmashesheaven.wordpress.com/2007/11/07/policy-on-linking-maoist-groupings-and-etext/
(3) Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: What is Bob Avakian's New Synthesis. Part III.
(4) MIWS. On whether there is a fourth stage of Marxism. March 2008.
http://maoist.ws/theory/fourthstage.html
(5) MSH. Sunrise in the East. January 1, 2008.
http://monkeysmashesheaven.wordpress.com/sunrise-in-the-east/
(6) see Pitfalls of Single Issue Organizing by MC5 and MC17 in What is MIM? or on our website in the etext archive FAQ.
(7) see MIM Theory 7: Proletarian Feminist Revolutionary Nationalism
(8) Foner, Philip S. The Black Panthers Speak. Huey Newton Talks to the Movement... p. 50.
(9) while we do not address all of the new "Panther" groups here you can read an article on the prominent NOI-linked "New Black Panther Party" and an interview on former BPP Chief of Staff David Hilliard's work in our archive of the etext.org website:
https://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/bpp/defendlegacy.html https://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/bpp/hilliardclass.html

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[Middle East] [Economics] [ULK Issue 8]
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The Privatization of War: Imperialism Gasps its Last Breaths

profit recruiting
Halliburton, KBR and Blackwater (recently rebranded as "Xe") have all become household names in recent years, and generally with negative connotations. There is much to be said about their corruption that is detailed in the books cited below, and we will draw some parallels to the Prison Industrial Complex in this and other articles. But the bigger question for anti-imperialists is what this signifies for the development and maintenance of imperialism.

The books reviewed for this article describe the two sides of the modern imperialist military of the united $tates. On the one hand you have the state-run military that is buying off amerikan youth with the mall culture they are accustomed to, run by cheap Third World labor. On the other, you have armed contractors, often used for more elite operations, increasing salaries of u$ soldiers by 100% and probably moreso for mercenaries from the Third World. All combined, contractors came to outnumber u$ military personnel on the ground in Iraq. (Chatterjee, p. xvi) The stories of Halliburton/KBR and Blackwater spell out a clear trend: it is costing more than ever for imperialism to keep the personnel levels it needs to maintain global hegemony.

A microcosm of global economy

In Halliburton's Army, Pratap Chatterjee reports that wages for contractors in Iraq are tied explicitly to nationality. This picture is very telling for those who claim that amerikans deserve higher wages because they are more productive. Here you have people coming from all over the world to work on the same site and the pay rates are comparable to what they'd get in their home countries (usually they make more in Iraq). This rule still rang true in the common cases where the Third World persyn had more skills or knowledge than the First Worlder. Contractors from the united $tates who were unemployed and desperate for work started at $80,000 a year plus living expenses to supervise Filipinos who made $200- $1000 per month. One amerikan reported making $130,000 a year to work only 1 day per week. In Bagram, Afghan trash collectors were paid $10 for a 12 hour day, while Indians made $600 a month plus room and board working in fast food restaurants on the base. Filipinos who built the prisons in Guantanamo were kept in horrible prisons themselves, and paid $2.50 an hour for dangerous 12 hour days with no safety equipment. Abuses by contractors got so notorious that India, Nepal and the Philippines all made it illegal for their citizens to work in Iraq. (Chatterjee)

With 35,000 of 47,000 Halliburton employees in Iraq coming from the Third World (Chatterjee, p.142), and comparable wages being paid by nationality, you see a replica of the global economy that most First Worlders defend, even many so-called "Marxists." About 25% of the employees were making exploiter level wages, while the rest were Third World (mostly migrant) workers doing all the hard and dangerous work, for wages below the average value of labor. According to the oppressor nation left, Halliburton wouldn't employ the amerikans at $80,000 plus expenses if they weren't exploiting them. These pseudo-marxists think that an amerikan signing a check produces 10 times more value than a Filipino doing construction work or food preparation. On the global scale there are borders and oceans that somehow make this very same situation even more palatable to the oppressor nation.

The Prison Connection

While Halliburton's and Blackwater's ties to the federal government have long been in question, the government's 39th largest contractor is its very own Federal Prisons Industries (FPI) or UNICOR. (Wright, p. 111) Like the Third World labor behind Halliburton/KBR, author Ian Urbina asserts that the u$ military could not do what it does without the vast amount and diversity of products that FPI provides with prison labor that is paid $0.23 to $1.15 an hour (amounting to $400 million in sales to the Department of Defense in 2002). Franklin D. Roosevelt set up the company using legislation that forced the Department of Defense to purchase from FPI, even when their prices were not the lowest. (Wright, p.113) This move by FDR kept money circulating within the state to further fund its repressive aims, rather than allowing tax money to return to private hands in the form of profit.

This validates the overall patterns that MIM(Prisons) has seen; even the biggest prison labor-powered industry in the country is a subsidy for state repression, not a source of private profit. However we do recognize that the U$ military is not saving money by buying products from FPI - private industries can offer products for as cheap or cheaper. And so we don't agree with Urbina's implication that prison labor is essential to military operations.

Another interesting relationship between the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex is found in Blackwater owner Erik Prince's $500,000-plus in contributions to the Prison Fellowship Ministries(PFM). PFM is an evangelical Christian organization that sends more than 50,000 volunteers into u$ prisons. (Wright, p.130) While MIM(Prisons) is kept from sending mail to prisoners all over the u$ for saying that revolution is necessary to end the plight of the oppressed, Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson has cited Thomas Jefferson to imply that Christian revolution is necessary in the united $tates. (Scahill, p. 95) Over 1800 facilities have granted PFM access to run programs inside the prisons that have enrolled over 20,000 people. Once again, we demonstrate that censorship of Maoist literature is about politics and not security.

Wannabe amerikans

Blackwater is busy recruiting former CIA operatives around the world as mercenaries, bribing them with u$-level paychecks. The outcome of this should help demonstrate to our critics the importance of the buying off of a whole nation. Amerikan nationalism provides a much stronger defense for imperialism than a mercenary army. Even if most of these mercenaries are steeped in fascist ideology that is conducive to imperialist militarism, the chances of conflicts of interests developing are significantly greater.

The globalization of the imperialist army is a sign of weakness, not of growing strength. Soon there will be absolutely no way for their army to grow (except with robots).

21st Century Amerikan soldiers

From the Civil War to the Cold War, the u$ national military was not recruited through profit motives. However, while amerikan nationalism provided a strong base for imperialist militarism, the continued increase in demands of the parasitic nation eventually undercut their willingness to fight and die for their nation. They could hire Mexicans to do their housework and manual labor, while hiring East Asians to do their industrial production, couldn't they just hire someone to handle the dirty work of fighting their wars for imperialist plunder? Or to paraphrase Chatterjee, amerikan soldiers went from peeling their own potatoes in tents that they set up themselves to having Third World workers serve them all you can eat dinner buffets. You know, to make it feel more like home.

U$ military public relations explains the need to provide such creature comforts as necessary to maintain an all volunteer army in the 21st century. (Chatterjee, p. 10) But the question of why a draft is not viable is the same question of amerikans not being willing to give up their cush lifestyles, which brings the threat of a draft resistance movement that feeds into anti-imperialism.

One soldier reported,

"It is no exaggeration that I live a higher lifestyle here on a base in Iraq than [I would] in the United States. We have free laundry, apartment-like housing with unlimited, free A/C and electricity, hot water, various American fast-food outlets, lounges, free Internet, coffee shops, and a large PX... Baskin Robbins ice cream... once a week we get steak and lobster... karaoke night, all kinds of sports teams..."

And he goes on to conclude,

"Yet just a few hundred meteres outside the fence, little kids are begging for anything: food, bottled water... The reality is very, very, very shocking. We are truly a pampered and spoiled culture." (Chatterjee, p. 11)

This is not a unique realization for spoiled amerikans to make when sent to war in the Third World. But as this soldier also points out, many are there for the very reason that they get better material conditions in Iraq. So they aren't exactly converting to internationalism in droves, despite the dose of reality.

Far from peeling potatoes indeed, Chatterjee describes the typical dining area with ice cream, waffle bars, lobster tails and elaborate holiday dinners, all free to soldiers. Other facilities on big u$ bases include a "mini mall" with stores like Burger King, KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Green Beans Coffee. He goes on to describe the "Scorpions Den": "one is greeted by almost pitch darkness, the background music from a one-hundred-seater open theater, the soft glow of laptops, and the flickering lights of video games... There are also free popcorn, boxes and boxes of bottled water... and a Dipping Dots ice cream machine." Then there is the "Sandbox" where "Dozens of soldiers sit slumped into fake leather armchairs, playing war games or programs like Guitar Hero and watching a Star Trek movie." (Chatterjee, p.6-7)

We see this as a new stage in the history of military recruitment by the oppressor nations. The brutal occupation forces of colonial powers in the Third World more than a century ago acted in their own direct interest. They were similar to the Conquistadors and settlers of North America centuries earlier, when amerikans stole the land they now occupy. The national unity they subsequently built on their stolen land and wealth, provided for over a hundred years of relatively successful forced military drafts. Today, however, amerikans like to pretend that their prosperity is not built on genocide and slavery. Combined with their very comfortable lives, the idea of going to war often seems not just unappealing, but unnecessary. In other words, historical amnesia may help undercut the oppressor nation as some don't understand what it takes to maintain their positions of privilege.

In the beginning of the 21st century, Halliburton had to double people's salaries to get them to go to Iraq as civilian contractors, not soldiers. But even then, is it worth risking your life when life at home is so comfortable? Amerikans allegiance to u$ imperialism is demonstrated in their politics, but when it comes to going to war, their actions will fall a bit short until they really start to see their material wealth start to diminish, which will happen once the Third World begins shutting of the paths of exploitation as it has in the past.

The military industrial complex will not be stopped by amerikan taxpayers. It is being stopped by resistance fighters who have ensured that only those who really need to be there are going to Iraq. Unfortunately, that includes many Third World nationals, some of whom are being held as prisoners while being forced to work for little to no pay under the most horrible conditions. More and more will learn the folly of trying to work for the imperialists. There is no future for the Third World nations within the imperialist system, only in resistance to it.

The debates about sending more troops or streamlining the u$ military are debates about optimizing u$ imperialism. The interesting part to us is that the struggle appears to be so acute as neither plan is proving viable.

In our criticisms of the prison economy and the labor aristocracy in general, we point to overpaid bureaucrats as a significant part of the problem. But MIM(Prisons) is not Libertarian. If anything, experience seems to show a greater degree of misappropriation of funds when services are contracted out. The cause of corruption is the profit motive, whether ownership is private or public. This is why nationalizing industries or banks does not stop exploitation, nor does it signal a move towards socialism.

notes:
(1) Chatterjee, Pratap. Halliburton's Army. Nation Books, 2009.
(2) Scahill, Jeremy. Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Nation Books, 2008.
(3) Wright, Paul and Tara Herivel. Prison Profiteers: Who makes money from mass incarceration. New Press, 2007.

This article referenced in:
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[Prison Labor] [ULK Issue 8]
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Direct Appropriation of Labor by Staff

Although the economic exploitation of prisoners may be insignificant on the scale of the greater imperialist economy, it is very real on the scale of the individual prisoners and CO's involved in this abuse.

One prisoner in New York sent us a copy of a claim he made, which read in part:

The complaint/grievance was the result of the claimant's having been enslaved by Mr. Snye, the horticulture instructor of Riverview. The claimant was forced to choose between completing a web-site for one of Mr. Snye's personal business ventures or punitive physical measures (being forced to shift enormous stones and to engage in other extremely demanding physical labor) and, if the claimant continued to refuse, expulsion from the program. Threats of bogus charges and accompanying disciplinary measures were consatntly looming, along with vague, yet clear indications that there would by SHU time, if anyone found out. (1)

Even in California where CO's made an average of $62,230/yr in 2007, with some exceeding $130,000/yr, these amerikans still aren't satisfied. (2) In a couple of recent cases CDCR employees have received additional pay when they were not supposed to. In one case 9 office technicians got raises of $16,530 for 3 years prior to being caught, that they were not entitled to. In another, 2 CDCR doctors scammed an additional $108,000. (3) And as a comrade reported in ULK 6, nurses within CDCR make up to $582 a day for about 2 hours of work. (4) With all that money from the state, you'd think exploitation of prisoners would be the last thing on their mind. Yet, again so-called "vocational" programs are tools of exploitation where prisoners being taught auto body and paint work on the pigs' BMWs, Porsches and Corvettes for free. (5)

How can we expect prisoners to benefit from these programs in any way when they are run for the benefit of amerikan jail keepers?

(1) Slavery and Racism justify SHU time in NY
(2) Bureau of Labor Statistics
(3) Sacramento Bee, October 3, 2008.
(4) Prison workers paid overtime for 2 hours labor
(5) Jobs and rehab in California prisons

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[Prison Labor] [ULK Issue 8]
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MIM(Prisons) on U.S. Prison Economy

[edited for language and spelling - 12 January 2018]

over seer

Issue 8 of Under Lock and Key takes on the topic of Amerikan prison economics and prisoner labor. Prisons in the United $tates are funded by the states and the federal government, and they are quite expensive. The United $tates spends about $60 billion a year to house over 2.3 million prisoners and yet, as readers of Under Lock and Key well know, these expenditures result in no reduction in crime rates. Instead this is the high price tag for the most elaborate prison system of social control in the world.

Prisoners are useful as workers because they can be paid very low wages or none at all, they are always available and can be employed when needed without the difficulty of having to lay off workers in downturns, and they are literally a captive workforce who can be punished if they refuse to work. In many respects prisoners are similar to migrant workers who take the jobs that Amerikan citizens don't want except that migrant workers are at least free to move on or go home at night or pick between jobs.

There are many aspects to the topic of prison economics and prisoner labor, but they all tie back to the question of who is making money off all the prisoners who work for free or for very little money, and the bigger question of whether there is profit to be made off prisons in general. The main position that we challenged in ULK 2 was that the prison boom is motivated by a system of modern day slavery that is exploiting the masses through forced labor. In this issue we will further demonstrate that exploitation in prisons is not a source of private profit and discuss how profiteering on mass incarceration really evolved.

Profiteering Follows Policy

The importance of our point that prisoners are not generally exploited for economic profit is in understanding the real motive force behind the U.$. prison boom. Fundamentally, prisons are a money losing operation. It costs more money to run prisons than is generated from prisoner labor or any other aspect of the "industry." If prison labor was a gold mine for private profiteers, then we would see corporations of all sorts leading the drive for more prisons. On the contrary, though the fifth largest prison system in the United $tates is the private Corrections Corporation of America (CCA),(1) the government still runs over 95% of the prisons overall.(2) So if Amerikans didn't build the largest prison system in the history of humynkind for slave labor profits, then why did they do it?

As a parallel example, consider the war-profiteering of Halliburton and KBR through the military industrial complex; it was the government who started wars, and then the contractors appeared. In fact, the stories of most of these contractors start with people with political connections, not with any particular interest or knowledge of the product or service in demand.(3) War was created for the overall economic benefit of the imperialist system, but not by the companies that most directly profited. Once the profits start flowing, the intertwining of interests between politicians and their private benefactors creates conflicts between the imperialist interests abroad and those who are just trying to make a quick buck. Hence, we see some backlash against Halliburton and, their former subsidiary, KBR's corruption within the White House and the Senate (including the Senate hearing on May 4, 2009).

Similarly, the prison boom originated in government policy, and then new companies formed to profiteer, or in the case of telephone and commissary, old companies adapted their product to a specific opportunity. Prisons serve U.$. imperialism in controlling the local population, while placating the demands of the oppressor nation as a whole. Only now, with the emergence of mass incarceration, the demands of Amerikans for more prisons are more economically oriented, rather than just social. And most of that economic interest is among state employees and unions, not private corporations.

In Ohio, the Department of Corrections had to go to the state Supreme Court in order to close prisons over the protests of the guard union.(4) The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, notorious for being the strongest in the country, has applied similar pressures preventing the state from cutting anything from the CDCR budget except for education programs in recent years.

Private industries are making lots of money off prisons. From AT&T charging outrageous rates for prisoners to talk to their families, to the food companies that supply cheap (often inedible) food to prisons, to the private prison companies themselves, there is clearly a lot of money to be made. But these companies' profits are coming from the States' tax money, a mere shuffling of funds within the imperialist economy. Some companies like AT&T or some of the prison package services are selling goods or services directly to prisoners at drastically increased prices from what you'd get on the street. But even then, they are not exploiting the prisoners' labor, they are merely extorting their money. The private prisons are the only example where prison labor that is used to run the prisons may come into play in determining corporate profits.

Some activists see opportunity in the current capitalist crisis; perhaps states will be forced to listen to arguments claiming that prisons are a money pit for tax funds. However, Governor Quinn of Illinois responded to the crisis in his state last month by canceling plans of the previous governor to close Pontiac Correctional Center, citing "fiscal responsibility" and the protection of 600 local jobs and $55.4 million in local revenue.(5) Pennsylvania is continuing down its path of prison expansion with plans for 8,000 more beds in the next 4 years for the same reasons.(6)

These governments could generate jobs and revenue in countless ways. The reason that prison guards are generally funded over teachers is initially a question of the government's goals and priorities. While there is much public pressure to fund schools over jails, this battle is one for the labor aristocracy's unions to fight out. Revolutionaries have no significant role to play in such debates. We can combat national oppression with institutions of the oppressed, not by more jobs for Amerikans in one government sector or the other.

Meanwhile, the capitalist will invest in operations based on where the funding goes, so it is not really the evil corporations that are directly to blame for the U.$. prison boom. The government decides whether prisons are built. The U.$. government serves the overall interests of the imperialist class first and then must answer to its Amerikan constituency. It is the combination of these two interests that have led to the largest mass-incarceration in history. Currently, the strategy to dismantle this massive humyn experiment must recognize these two forces as the opposition, and then mobilize forces that have an interest in countering both imperialism and Amerikanism.

Prisoner Labor

After publishing an article entitled Amerikans: Oppressing for a Living, we received some criticisms from comrades of our position that corporations are not profiting from prison labor in a significant way. We then made a call to our correspondents on the ground across the United $tates to research this issue further. Not only did we receive much data to back up our position, but many wrote in to say that our analysis was right on.

In this issue of Under Lock & Key we are printing data on the prison labor going on in New York, Texas, California, Florida, Colorado, Oregon, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Washington, Utah and the Federal system. These systems represent over half of the U.$. prison population, so we feel confident that our conclusions are fairly accurate for the system as a whole. We still welcome reports from correspondents in other states and prisons for future research.

In summary, all states have industries that produce goods for sale. Most if not all of those products are sold back to other state agencies, mostly within the Department of Corrections itself. Workers in these industries usually make more than those doing maintenance and clerical work, with a max of a little over a dollar an hour. While we don't have solid numbers, these are generally a small minority of the population and not available at most prisons.

Maintenance workers are also universal across all prison systems. Even most supermax prisons have lower security prisons adjacent to them, providing a labor source for running it. In many places such work is not called a job, but "programming." In some states, like New York, your programming can be pseudo-educational or rehabilitative programs instead of labor. Programming is often required. When it is paid it is usually less than fifty cents an hour.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has one of the largest prison industries selling goods outside of the prison system, but it is selling mostly to the Department of Defense — another government agency.(7)

The UNICOR annual report boasts the benefits of prisoner labor: "With an estimated annual incarceration cost of $30,000 per inmate, FPI's programmatic benefits represent significant taxpayer savings, while restoring former inmates to a useful role in society." They claim "a 24% lower recidivism rate among FPI participants."(8) There is no information on how this number is calculated but we suspect that it is flawed because the selection of UNICOR workers from the general prison population is not random. On the other hand, we do know that there are few opportunities for prisoners to acquire any useful skills prior to release. If UNICOR training truly reduces recidivism, this should be an obvious and compelling argument that prisons need more such programming. It does not have to be tied to low pay and forced labor.

Jobs related to running the prisons (cleaning, library, administrative roles, etc.) help reduce the costs of running prisons but clearly don't create any new wealth. UNICOR and its parallel industries in the state systems merely allow the Departments of Corrections to obtain money from other state agencies that they were going to spend anyway, or directly benefit the DOC by providing it with supplies. Even with requirements that state agencies purchase from such programs, they do not come close to covering prison expenses.

It is a dangerous proposition to tie financial benefits to prisons as this gives those who profit an interest in growing the prison population. However, at this point in time only a small minority of prisoners are actually employed, so prisoner labor does not appear to be a major drive behind the ongoing rapid growth of the U.$. prison population.

Modern day slavery or exploitation?

Many prisoners raise the question of whether forcing prisoners to work for no pay violates the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery. The 13th amendment abolished slavery "except as a punishment for crime." The article by some New York prisoners in this issue of Under Lock & Key does a good job of explaining the history behind this exception.

Slavery is a system characterized by the capture or purchase of humyns for the purpose of exploiting their labor. As Marx explained "As a slave, the worker has exchange value, a value; as a free wage-worker he has no value; it is rather his power of disposing of his labour, effected by exchange with him, which has value." Marx is clarifying the distinction that slaves, as objects to be purchased, have exchange value. While capitalist workers are not purchased, they are selling their labour instead.(9) While prison labor is similar to slavery in that it involves workers who are receiving virtually no pay for their labor but are being provided with housing and other basic necessities, there are a few factors in prison labor that distinguish it from slavery as we use that term to define a system of exploitation. First, states have to pay other states to take their prisoners, implying they have no exchange value. Prisons are used as a tool of social control, with the use of prisoners' labor only as an after thought to try to offset some of the operating costs. Which leads to our second point: there is no net profit made off the labor of prisoners - because of the cost of incarceration, the state is only able to offset a portion of the cost of providing for a prisoner by using his/her labor. Because of these features of prisoner labor, we do not call it slavery.

Even if prisoner labor is not slavery in the economic sense of that term, it is still possible that prisoners are exploited. Exploitation means that someone is extracting surplus value from the labor of someone else. The profit or surplus-value arises when workers do more labor than is necessary to pay the cost of hiring their labor-power. This is the way that capitalists make a profit — they pay people less than their labor is worth and then sell products for their full value. The difference is the profit.

In the United $tates, the imperialists are paying workers more than the value of their labor. They can do this because of the tremendous superprofits stolen from exploiting the Third World workers. And they want to do this because it maintains a complicit population at home which has a material interest in imperialism and keeps capital circulating with its excessive consumption. Amerikans support their imperialist government because they benefit from it. They may not all earn the same as the big capitalists, but even in a recession they can look to the Third World and see that they don't want to share the wealth around the world evenly because that would mean a step down for First World workers.

There are some notable exceptions within U.$. borders: non-citizens are often forced into jobs that pay far below minimum wage (or often don't pay them at all) as they are in a shady sector of the economy. Many migrants in the United $tates are exploited, but they make up a very small portion of workers in this country.

Using the term exploitation to describe prisoner labor is complicated. Prisoners certainly earn very little for their labor, but we also have to include the cost of providing prisoners all of their necessities (although with very poor quality that leads to many unnecessary deaths). Of course much of what is being provided "for" prisoners is not part of their cost of living but rather part of the cost of keeping them captive and providing a high standard of living for their captors.

It is fair to say that prisons are stealing the labor power of prisoners. They have made it impossible for prisoners to refuse to work and the actual pay prisoners receive is far less than the value of their labor. By stealing labor power, the U.$. prison system also prevents the self-determination of the Black Nation and First Nations whose people are vastly over-represented in the system.

To the extent that the states can't continue to run prisons on tax money they don't have, prisoner labor is a valued part of the money going to the many labor aristocrats working in the prison system. An offset to the cost of running prisons is useful, even if that offset does not come close to covering even the cost of those prisoners doing the work. But it's important to remember that this labor is only useful because expensive prisons existed first.

Solutions

A number of articles in this issue include calls from prisoners to take actions against the prison industries that are making money off prisoners, and to boycott jobs to demand higher wages. All of these actions are aimed at hitting the prisons, and private industries profiting off relationships with prisons, in their pocketbook. This is a good way for our comrades behind bars to think about peaceful protests they can take up to make demands for improved conditions while we organize to fundamentally change the criminal injustice system.

State-by-State Info

Florida

Prisoners are employed by the DOC, and most do maintenance and clerical work. No Florida DOC inmates are paid for work, with the exception of inmates assigned to work in the inmate canteens(making $65 a month) or the few locations in the state where they have PRIDE factories, which are manufacturing-type businesses run by DOC to make goods for correctional use (clothing, cleaning supplies, etc). Even these inmates are paid a few cents an hour.

Colorado

Denver Women’s Correctional Facility has a capacity of 900. Everyone is assigned for work unless they have medical excuses. Those not assigned to a job make 25 cents a day, 7 days a week. Those assigned to standard prison work make 60 cents a day, 5 days a week. Prison Industries jobs are a sewing factory, print shop, and dog training program. These jobs may pay up to $40 per month. All salaries are automatically docked 20% if restitution, court costs, or child support is owed.

Pennsylvania

SCI Fayette has about 1800 to 2100 prisoners, of those 1200 to 1400 work for the DOC doing various work assignments. Jobs are related to running of the facility, such as maintenance, commissary, grounds crews, schooling, laundry, barber shop, library and janitors. Some also work for "Correctional Industries." The pay scale is as follows in $/hour:

Step AStep BStep CStep D
Class 10.190.200.210.23
Class 20.240.250.270.29
Class 30.330.350.380.42

People usually work from 120 to 160 hours per month, so top pay would be $50.40 to $67.20. Correctional Industries (CI) makes 51 cents or about $81.60 a month. Like similar programs that exist in all 50 states, Pennsylvania Correctional Industries produces things such as furniture, clothing and personal care products primarily for purchase by state agencies.

Washington

Washington State Penitentiary holds about 2240 people. Of those around 250 work for correctional industries . Most of those sew clothes for inmates, the rest do welding of furniture for cells and make license plates. They pay up to $1.10/hr.

"Inmate duties" pay from $35 to $55 a month, and include cooking, cleaning, serving food and washing clothes.

Connecticut

In MacDougall-Walker CI only about 25% of prisoners have jobs here. Some pay rates here are:

job$/2 weeks
dishwasher$10.50
barbers, laundry, cooks$17.50
school$7.50
small engine repair$25
making uniforms/clothes$25

Oregon

Industry jobs pay between $100 to $175 a month and all the rest pay between $25 to $75 a month.
see Prison Labor at Oregon State Pen

Texas

In Texas, every general population prisoner is required to work. They either work in the service of prison upkeep (i.e. maintenance, food service, field labor, support service inmate, etc.) or they work in one of the various factories owned by TCI (Texas Correctional Industries). There is no pay for work.

Texas prisoner forced to work for no pay
Prison labor stats in Texas
Work, money and good time in Texas


New York

New York has programming that varies from educational/rehabilitative programs, to maintenance work to CorCraft industries.

Grade 116¢ per hour
Grade 225¢ per hour
Grade 332¢ per hour
Grade 438¢ per hour
Grade 542¢ per hour

Each facility is limited to a small number of people being paid grade five, so in all actuality Grade 4 is top pay.

see New York Prisoners report on Labor and Economics

California

For wages between 8¢ and 34¢ an hour prisoners do normal maintenance work as well as produce clothing, food, bedding, cleaning products, tables, chairs, modular offices, license plates and the tags that go on them for the state.

see Remove the profit motive
Prison labor and economics in California: who really profits?

Wisconsin

Wisconsin pays for programming including educational programs, prison maintenance and Badger State Industry jobs. The pay ranges for non-industry work are: 12 cents ($9.60 every 2 weeks) to 42 cents ($33.60). At Green Bay CI, with about 1050 prisoners, about 300 work maintenance and only 18 prisoners work industry, which makes from 79 cents to a dollar an hour. They make clothing for outside vendors and to sell to prisoners around the state.

Utah

Utah pays $7 a month and has thrown out a lot of work positions that use to be available. The prison does manufacture houses in their carpentry program, and UCI commisary has convicts making sweats and shorts down in Gunnison, then selling these products back to the U.$ and community.

Federal

In Coleman II, 90% of prisoners work, most of them do facility maintenance for $12 a month to work 8 hour, 5 day workweeks. A minority get to work for UNICOR.

The private industries run by UNICOR employ 21,836 prisoners across the country, with pay ranging from 23 cents to $1.15 per hour. In 2007 UNICOR showed profits of over $45 Million, with most of their products being military supplies for the Department of Defense.


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[Political Repression] [Organizing] [ULK Issue 7]
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Peace in the Streets

street orgs in revolutionary unityFor our Peace Issue, MIM(Prisons) had solicited a number of allies who are doing work for peace among the lumpen on the streets. Though the Peace Issue is done, our pages remain open to those who are doing such work, as we want to build as many connections as we can between what is going on in the streets and behind prison walls. This article will make some of those connections in a mostly historical way. Similar stories can be told about the largest street organizations based in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and beyond. And as we'll see, the use of prisons to isolate the peace makers is having a very real impact on efforts in oppressed communities.

Chicago

The Chicago story could start in the late 1960's with Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party, who was shot in his sleep by the FBI for attempting to unite street and youth organizations under a revolutionary banner of the original "rainbow coalition." While some legacies of that work remain, COINTELPRO was quite effective in preventing thousands of lumpen youth from joining the anti-imperialist United Front. During the same period, other street organizations were joining a coalition with city and business leaders in Chicago. The Conservative Vice Lords (CVL) were one of these groups who became a significant force for building Black businesses and serving the lumpen youth of the community. Despite their turn from petty crime and street fighting to a positive community organization, their attempts to work with the pigs and the business establishment failed again and again. Eventually their leaders were targeted for frame ups and put in prison like the revolutionary Panthers, despite a program that never attempted anything but integration into mainstream capitalist society. Their differences with the Panthers seemed to be based on misunderstandings of the Panther strategy (1), which others have suggested were a result of COINTELPRO misinformation campaigns.

In the end the CVL leadership saw that the next generation was coming up looking to undo everything they had built. And sure enough the streets of Chicago succumbed to more violence and chemical warfare following the destruction of the Panthers and efforts like those of CVL. The next generation produced Larry Hoover who also came around from the criminal mentality to create institutions like "Save the Children," support legal Black business development and register thousands of people to vote. After being imprisoned, Hoover's Gangster Disciples (GDs) hosted perhaps the largest peace summit in u$ lumpen history in Chicago in 1993. After his 13th parole denial Hoover released a statement in which he said things such as:

Drugs are our enemy, destroying many of us with the lure of profit, more of us with addiction, and still more with the crime that results; we must join our voices with those across the land, of whites and blacks, churchgoers and convicts, gays and straights - all who share the purpose of taking the profit out of drugs and ending the slaughter made easy by guns. (2)

And this was not just talk, as the GD's had demonstrated their ability to achieve such goals. The biggest immediate threat to the imperialist establishment that the lumpen can make is to end the meaningless destruction of oppressed youth life while destroying the profits from chemical warfare thru imperialist-run drug cartels. The state responded by sending Hoover to the federal supermax prison ADX in Colorado for conspiracy charges to deal drugs.

New York

In New York City the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation is a well-documented (if not always accurately) example of the modern repression of progressive mass organizations of lumpen youth. With constant targeting by police, most of the local leadership ended up in prison. The main architect behind the Nation's growth in New York, King Blood, has spent 12 years in complete isolation. King Tone, who was the popular spokespersyn for the Nation in NYC during their politicization in the mid-1990's has also been in prison since those tumultuous years. Their pro-Puerto Rican community organizing made them greater targets than they had been as a street gang engaged in criminal activities. Statements like,

"We are not AMERICAN, we are one of 22 million Puerto Ricans who are victims of Americanism... We are Revolutionary Nationalists but we are remembered as proletarian internationalists, heroic fighters in the struggle against oppression and imperialism." (3)

led one pig to state,

There's no way we're gonna let a bunch of gang-bangers think they're the Panthers or the Young Lords.

As more Kings & Queens went to prison, they took their goals with them and began to build educational programs and promote peace within the new gang units that were popping up at the time. MIM's Free Books to Prisoners Program helped comrades in New Jersey build a library of thousands of books where Kings were not just teaching other Kings, but also members of the United Blood Nation and others to read. UBN, like the New York ALKQN, was formed within the New York prison system. And like King Blood, one of UBN's co-founders, is in a control unit for his organizing, just recently getting his sentence there extended to 2021 by the NYSDOCS; greatly limiting his contact with the outside world. He reports that extensive COINTELPRO tactics were used against them in conjunction with the ALKQN.

Today the ALKQN is clear that none of its senior leadership is involved in any illegal activities and the leadership continues to define it as an organization for the betterment of the community and the self-determination of oppressed nations. As with all of the mass organizations discussed here, whose popularity has exploded, often beyond the influence of its founders, there are many who claim the flags that play into government efforts to dirty their names.

Los Angeles

Perhaps the most well-known peace effort came in Los Angeles around the time of the Rodney King verdicts and the uprising that followed. The state responded swiftly when Bloods & Crips came together in the streets. Not to mention that the unity in action also included a majority of Mexicans and a significant proportion of white participants.

As discussed in the article We Want Peace! They want Security. the unity of the oppressed is a response to the unity of the oppressor against them. Therefore, when the Panthers were destroyed, the Crips came up from a history of Black street organizations that formed to protect themselves from white violence. Eventually, other Black groups united under the Blood flag to protect themselves from the Crips.

When these groups came together for peace in the early '90's, once again we saw the targeting of leaders of the oppressed by the state. Just to mention some of the most high profile attacks, Crip leader Sanyika Shakur (aka Monster) who had taken up Black Nationalism was sent to a Security Housing Unit (SHU). Imprisoned Black Liberation fighter Mutulu Shakur had worked from a distance to develop the Thug Life code promoted at the peace meetings by his step-son Tupac. Federal Bureau of Prisons papers document that Mutulu Shakur was moved to the original control unit in Marion because he was effectively organizing young Black prisoners. The warden of Lewisburg, in recommending his transfer, wrote the following: "I firmly believe Shakur needs the controls of Marion, as he appears to manipulate the entire system. This shrewd behavior coupled with his outside contacts and influence over the younger Black element will have adverse affects on the mission." (4) Mutulu continues to be isolated in the newer federal supermax prison, ADX, while Tupac was assassinated following his work around the peace treaty.

Over a decade later, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent Tookie Williams to be executed because he had dedicated his books to leaders in the Black Liberation struggle. A Crip co-founder, Tookie spent many years in prison writing children's books to counter the anti-people activities of street organizations, while drafting up peace protocol for those who were involved in the gang wars. He was a shining example of rehabilitation (no thanks to the state), which the CDCR added to its name and allegedly to its mission around the same time.

The state's success led to the bloodiest years the California ghettos, barrios and prisons have seen. Those who could do something to stop all the violence were part of the first large scale experimentation in long-term isolated captivity of humyn beings (or were dead). In this context, the leadership became more concentrated within the prison system, where the state had already begun dividing the system up along the lines of Blacks, whites, northern and southern Mexicans. These became the battle lines for the years of "race wars" that continue to this day.

One of the most violent battles took place in Pelican Bay State Prison in 2001. Prisoners responded by calling on leaders representing each group, who were being held in SHU, to negotiate a truce. (5) This truce seemed to be on the road to success when the CDCR's Institutional Gang Investigation unit intervened, along with others in the department, to carry out a negative propaganda campaign, similar to what has happened every time prisoners have tried to come together in peace. (see We Want Peace! They want Security.)

As one prisoner explained what happened,

I have yet to hear of any of this, however, I did hear about the 2001 attempted peace treaty. Which of course was purposely sabotaged by CDC. The very last thing these bastards (CDC) wants is peace amongst the races here in prison. It is not in the material interest of the white middle class who work for CDC to have this violence come to an end. Any time an institution goes on lock down, prison officials automatically get what's called "Hazard Pay" which doubles their pay. So for every violent incident they (CDC) can provoke, they stand to profit from it.

And it's not only the CDC that stands to profit. Other outside organizations are also profiting from what the CDC has created. Organizations such as the Sheriffs department and other police agencies, which of course are staffed with middle class white amerikans. Every time an incident from in here spills out into our occupied communities, it is these organizations that come in and lock up everyone in sight, not to mention harass, beat and even murder us.

According to those involved in the 2001 peace talks, the failure stemmed from a lack of community support. This allowed the pigs to spread the rumors and squash the organizing efforts. This is why it is crucial to develop links between the peace efforts on the street and behind bars.

Only with growing mass support, inside and outside prisons, will the CDCR agree to allow for a peace process. That is why MIM(Prisons) is promoting the petition initiated in 2006 to restart the process. (6) As one veteran leader of the California prison movement said in an interview regarding the Pelican Bay Peace Summit,

A peace accord, or a peace summit itself. If that's real. Then I wanna bet it's real in a sense that both your politically motivated SHU prisoners and your regular gang member- motivated prisoners have both come to the realization that they are both doomed to hell! No matter how many differences exist between them, that they are united in the fact that they are doomed prisoners. And that's the only way that they're going to get that condemnation off of them, is if they join forces to change the policies that allows them to live in the naked abyss. And that means that they would have to work together. And in order to work together they would first have to arrange a successful peace summit. So that they could combine forces. Now I kinda think that that's a natural course of events. That they would come to that conclusion, whether they wanted to or not, the conditions are gonna force them to come to those conclusions.

...I know that a peace summit has to be a prelude to something more significant. And that something more significant has to be what we always fought for, you know what I'm saying, the humyn rights of all prisoners in general, regardless of what clique or what race they're from.

The story we see over and over again is that state attacks on lumpen organizations are superficial as long as the organization is engaged in activities murdering and poisoning their own people. It is only when these groups begin to help their communities that they are crushed by the state.

COINTELPRO continues its misinformation campaigns against lumpen organizations today and historically through the mainstream media like National Geographic and BET who have jumped on the sensationalized gang life bandwagon. They pretend to investigate both sides of the story while painting all of these organizations as evil. Part of this is a continued campaign against the Black Panthers almost four decades after they were effectively neutralized. Organizers today need to be prepared for the attacks by representatives of the State who claim they want peace, but in reality only want peaceful submission to imperialist profit.

notes:
(1) Dawley, David. A Nation of Lords: The Autobiography of the Vice Lords. Waveland Press, 1993. 2nd edition (orig. 1973).
On p.112, the Vice Lords claim that the Panthers tried to convince all of the street organizations to go on a rampage burning the city down. This would have been contrary to the consistent line and strategy of Fred Hampton and Huey Newton. The Vice Lords do admit to breaking up underground organizing in response to the assassination of MLK as part of their partnership with Chicago business interests. Yet, still the establishment never came thru with their end of the deal of providing loans and other business development support.
(2) Hayden, Tom. Street Wars. The New Press, 2004. p. 284.
(3) Brotherton, David C. & Luis Barrios. The Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation. Columbia University Press, 2004. p. 298.
(4) http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~kastor/walking-steel-95/ws-florence.html
(5) Support Pelican Bay Peace Process
(6) for more info on this campaign and petition click here

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