Ten comrades in Texas’s William G. McConnell Unit signed and submitted a petition to Mrs. Emma Guerra, Investigator II with the Texas Department of Corrections and Justice (TDCJ) on 25 October 2021. The letter does a good job of citing grievances that have not been responded to as well as retaliatory actions by staff for filing said grievances. They also cite the relevant policy from the TDCJ grievance procedures and inmate handbook.
We have not succeeded in organizing a statewide coordinated campaign around the grievance system in Texas, but it remains an important campaign at the local level for pushing back against abuses and organizing others around a common cause as these comrades have done at McConnell. With their well-documented petition, perhaps they have a vision for how to unite others across the state for this common cause.
From Victory to Defeat: China’s Socialist Road and Capitalist Reversal by Pao-Yu Ching Foreign Languages Press 2019
In a recent online debate between two random “Marxist-Leninists” and two fascists, one of the self-described “Marxist-Leninists” stated that every country in the last 100 years has been socialist. The fascists are happy to parade such meaningless dribble as “Marxism” so that they can make Marxism look bad. With Obama’s election, white nationalist fear became expressed in many deragatory words, including “communism” and “Marxism,” with no sense of irony that they were accusing the number one enemy of the world’s people of being a communist.
What is common among “Marxists” in the First World is saying every country is socialist that says it is and has some form of state intervention in the economy. This superficial analysis has also helped muddy the water of what socialism is. And it allows the fascists to say that they share many of the goals and ideals of the self-described Marxists. In particular they both look to China as a positive model of how to run a country and they both think Amerikans and various First World European nations are being victimized by the current world system. The fact that many of these fascists have chauvinist anti-Chinese views and wish war against the social-imperialist CPC is of no matter. For MIM, the question of wether today’s China is socialist or social-imperialist is a dividing line question.
To understand what socialism is, MIM has long recommended The Chinese Road to Socialism by Wheelright and MacFarlane. For the history of the coup that overthrew socialism in China MIM distributed The Capitalist Roaders Are Still on The Capitalist Road. In 1986, MIM cadre Henry Park published “Postrevolutionary China and the Soviet NEP” comparing state capitalism in the early days of the Russian revolution to state capitalism after the coup in China. In 1988, Park published “The Political Economy of Counterrevolution in China: 1976-88”, which tied all of these subjects together through a Maoist framework and analyzes the failures of state capitalism in post-Maoist China.
Pao-Yu Ching’s From Victory to Defeat serves as a more up-to-date introduction to the topic of the differences between socialism and capitalism in the last 100 years of Chinese history. It is written as a sort of FAQ and provides a broad overview, while explaining the key concepts that allow us to differentiate between the two economic systems. As such, MIM(Prisons) recommends Pao-Yu Ching’s work as a solid starting place when exploring this topic. The topic of “What is socialism?” must be fully grasped by all communists.
It seems that Pao-Yu may disagree with the Maoist class analysis. In eir introduction ey states, “Today the living conditions of the working masses in imperialist countries have grown increasingly difficult.”(p.9) Ey then alludes to rising prices, rising debt and precarious work, none of which necessarily reflect worsening objective conditions. Without a recognition that these populations are parasitic on the working classes, this line leads to the politics of the fascists and social-fascist “Marxist-Leninists” mentioned above. It is also relevant to the question of revisionism in the formerly socialist countries who looked to emulate the lifestyles of Amerikans. Since this point is not taken up in the rest of the book we will not dwell on it here, but it remains the biggest problem with this work.
What is Socialism?
Many of our readers and those who are interested in what we have to say in general are still confused as to what socialism is for the reasons mentioned above. Ultimately it is defined differently by different people, and it is used politically rather than scientifically. Pao-Yu outlines what the most advanced example of socialism looked like quite nicely in eir short book, so we will just mention some key points here to help clarify things.
Socializing industry first required that the state took control of the means of production in the form of factories, supply lines, raw materials, etc. This is where many stop with their definition of socialism. Some other key things that Pao-Yu points out is that success was no longer measured in the surplus produced but rather on improvements in the production and overall running of the enterprise.(p.20) This recognizes that some will be more profitable in a capitalist sense, but that the nation benefits more when all enterprises are improving, not just the profitable ones. Another key point is that laborers were guaranteed a job that was paid by the state and a standard rate.(p.28) This eliminated labor as a commodity that you must sell on the open market. Commodities are at the heart of capitalism. Socialism is the the transition away from commodities, starting with the most important commodity of humyn labor.
The above only applied to a minority of the country, as the vast majority of China was a peasant population. It is only in recent years that the peasantry is now less than half the population. It is in the countryside where the capitalist roaders and the Maoists disagreed the most. Pao-Yu walks us through the different phases of the transition to socialism and how the principal contradiction shifted in each phase. Ey explains the contradiction amongst the countryside, where production was not owned collectively by the whole population, and the cities where it was. The disagreement with the capitalist roaders was a disagreement over the principal contradiction at the time, which they thought was the advanced social system (of socialism) with the backward productive forces (of small scale farming by peasants). To resolve this contradiction the capitalist roaders thought they must accelerate production, industrialize agriculture, and feed the industrialized cities with the surplus of that agricultural production. This focus on production is one of the key defining lines of revisionism.
While Marx taught us that the productive forces are the economic base that define humyn history and the superstructure, he also said the contradiction with the relations of production is what leads to revolutionary transformations of society. As Pao-Yu points out, learning from Mao Zedong, during these revolutionary periods is when the relations of production become primary, in order to unleash the productive forces that have become stagnant under the previous mode of production.(p.30) In other words peasants living under semi-feudalism in China pre-liberation were not improving their conditions. They needed to revolutionize how they related to each other, how they were organized, specifically the class relations, in order to move towards a new mode of production (socialism) that could meet their needs much better. Therefore Mao focused on education, theory, class struggle, culture, the people, instead of focusing on production, profitability, surplus, and wage incentives, as the capitalist roaders did. The Maoist path took the Chinese peasants through a gradual process of increasing collectivization through communes, which was quickly dismantled after the coup in 1976.
What is Democracy?
Another question those living in bourgeois democracies often ask is how you can have democracy with only one party, where people are purged for having the wrong political line? Pao-Yu makes the point well by explaining that in established bourgeois democracies you can have many parties and many candidates, because they all represent the same class.(p.48) This is the case because these countries are stable in their mode of production (capitalism). In the transition to a new economic system the political struggle is between two classes. In the case of capitalism thransitioning to socialism, it is between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat (and their class allies on each side).
The bourgeoisie by definition is always competing amongst itself, so it cannot have one party represent all of their interests, except in extreme crises when fascism becomes viable. In the United $tates today, the left-wing of the bourgeoisie are represented by the democrats while the right-wing flock to the republicans. Even amongst these parties are different bourgeois factions fighting amongst each other. The proletariat however is united in it’s class interest, so there will be no need for multiple proletarian parties. There are many books that outline the components of socialist democracy where people select their representatives at each level of administration, where free speech and criticism are encouraged, where education is universal and free and where everyone is involved in studying theory and practice to shape the decisions that affect their day-to-day lives. It does not require having multiple political parties to choose from as bourgeois democracies do in their electoral farce.
What is China?
Pao-Yu covered China before, during, and after socialism so that the reader can better understand the differences. As such the book is a good introduction to the explanation of why China has not been on the socialist road since 1976. Ey touches on the loss of the guaranteed job, with the introduction of temporary workers, the ending of the right to strike and free expression among the workers, the ability of managers to start keeping the profits from the enterprises they oversee, the loss of universal medical care, and the focus on production for other nations, while importing the pollution of those consumer nations. Ey briefly documents the struggles of the workers to maintain control of the enterprises they once owned collectively. China is now a capitalist hell hole for the majority objectively and it does not matter wether the CPC has millions of cadre who believe the opposite subjectively.
The Global Economy
One point Pao-Yu makes that we have also stressed as being important, is the role of the proletarianization of the Chinese masses in saving global imperialism from crisis. When the imperialist economies were facing economic crisis in the 1970s, one third of the world’s population was not available to be exploited by the imperialist system. One of the laws of capitalism is its need to always expand. When China went capitalist, it opened up a vast population to exploitation and super-exploitation for the imperialists. This labor was the source of value that the imperialist system thrived off of by the mid 1980s until just recently.
Interestingly, Pao-Yu says that almost 30% of the Chinese population is petty bourgeoisie, owning (often multiple) investment properties and travelling around the world.(p.111) In a previous article we explained that we saw China as a proletarian country still despite its imperialist activities. We referred to Bromma’s research that stated China’s “middle class” was 12-15% of the population some years prior. It is interesting to hear that the Chinese petty bourgeoisie has reached the same size in absolute numbers as the Amerikan one. It would be interesting to compare the wealth of these two groups, we presume the Amerikans remain wealthier. Of course, China is still majority proletariat, while Amerika is almost completely bourgeoisified, so the class interests of these nations overall remain opposed to one another. But we will rarely hear the proletarian voices from China until a new proletarian party rises there.
The housing market is one example of how China has emulated the United $tates. Investing in properties has become an important way for the new petty bourgeoisie in China to accumulate wealth without working. Just last week, the Chinese investment firm Evergrande made headlines when it became public knowledge that they would not be able to pay the billions of dollars they owe. Evergrande has significant backing from Amerikan finance capital, as is true for the Chinese economy in general. Therefore the collapse of the Chinese housing market could have real ripple effects in the global economy.
The fact that real estate investment firms exist in China, and that they are defaulting on hundreds of billions of dollars owed, is really all you need to know to see that the economy is oriented towards profit and not people. Things like inflation and bubbles and stock markets and speculation just didn’t exist during the Maoist era. The reintroduction of these things for the last four decades destroyed the progress in class struggle in China long ago.
On Thursday, 12 August 2021, CNN reported that Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul would fall into the hands of the Taliban in 30 to 60 days.(1) On Sunday the 15th (only 3 days later!) the Taliban took control of Kabul. One day after that, the chief comprador leader of the Islamic Republic, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country on an airplane.
As thousands stormed the capital’s airport to flee the country from the Taliban takeover, U.$. soldiers escorting Amerikan personnel shot and killed two Afghanis on the tarmac of Kabul International Airport.(2) Video footage captured citizens hanging onto the side of the airplane and falling off mid-departure.
In regards to the humiliating end note of their 20 years war, the National $ecurity Advisor pig Jake Sullivian said the following:
“Despite the fact that we spent 20 years and tens of billions of dollars to give the best equipment, the best training and the best capacity to the Afghan security forces, we could not give them the will and they ultimately decided that they would not fight for Kabul and they would not fight for the country.”(3)
U.$. imperialism and the “democracy” they claim to spread around the world propped up the extremely reactionary government of the now fallen Islamic Republic. Despite wimmin’s rights having been a focal excuse for the imperialists to invade Afghanistan, their puppets in the Islamic Republic had no meaningful difference in wimmin’s rights in Afghanistan.
To the U.$. imperialists, their defeat (while surprising in how quickly Kabul fell) did not come as shock. On Saturday, 29 February 2020, (around a year and half before the fall of Kabul) the United $tates and the Taliban met in a five star hotel in Qatar and signed agreements to end the 20 years war.(4) One of the primary points of the agreements was complete withdrawal of U.$. troops within 14 months.(5) It seems that this is one of the rare agreements in which Amerikans made a promise and actually kept it with an oppressed nation. Other agreements included Taliban’s refusal to “terrorist groups” such as Al-Qaeda to use Afghanistan’s territory as operation grounds, and lifting of U.$. sanctions on the country.
The Sober Taliban?
In the Amerikan press, there were two big talking points around their defeat in Afghanistan. One was the would-be refugees trying to flee Afghanistan into the arms of Amerika, which nicely reinforces the story that Amerikans were the saviors in the country after all. The second was how wimmin would fair when the Taliban took over again. This reinforces the justification for invading Afghanistan to have been to liberate wimmin from gender oppression, a point that continues to serve U.$. militarism even after a failed 20 year war. A point that had nothing to do at all with why the U.$. invaded.
The Taliban is not unaware of these perceptions, leading to their representatives at the peace negotiations to suggest for less backwards treatment of wimmin under their rule.(6) Zabihullah Mujahid has claimed that they will “honor women’s rights,” and the “independence of private media” (journalists, news organizations, etc.).(7)
Mujahid’s comment highlights an important part of the Taliban’s new look (and most importantly, their class character). As rising from the bourgeois nationalist position, they were part of a country-wide Islamic movement to usurp warlord factions which ruled Afghanistan. The warlords themselves rose with western aid to usurp Soviet social-imperialist compradors led by Mohammad Najibullah. Mohammad Najibullah also started out with bourgeois nationalist tendencies usurping monarchist compradors.
After coming to power in the 1990s, the Taliban were overthrown by the U.$. imperialists themselves in the early 2000s after seeking to bite the hand that fed them decades before. Now, in 2021, they have risen to the seat again in Kabul. In order to maintain legitimacy, they must seek acceptability to new potential imperialist sponsors. If that means talking the talk to become the neo-colonial semi-feudal comprador state that the puppet regime beforehand never lived up to, then they must do it out of tactical necessity. Despite this tricky position that they have found themselves in, the United $tates’ do not seem to be the number one contender as Afghanistan’s neo-colonial ruler.
Upon the line of which class interest is at the helm of Afghanistan’s liberation from the United $tates’, we should also emphasize that under the leadership of the national bourgeois there was also the petty-bourgeoisie, the peasantry, and the agricultural proletariat within the Taliban movement. This character of Afghanistan’s national liberation gives time and space for the Afghan masses to breathe and provide necessary conditions for discussions on the country’s past, present, and future: what is to be done? What were the historical conditions that led up to colonial exploitations and humiliation? What does our liberation from the U.$. imperialists mean today? These questions will be further asked during the transformation of subjective and objective forces by revolutionaries.
The Social-Imperialist Road to Afghanistan
China was one of the first major imperialist countries to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as a legitimate country.(8) It is nothing new for social-imperialism (not only in Afghanistan but for the whole world) to hijack bourgeois nationalist movements and turn them into satellite states. The number one tactic of Soviet social-imperialism was through neo-colonial aid, and China seems to be using the same tactic. China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said on September 8th, only a few weeks after the Taliban’s victory, that they will be providing the Taliban government $31 million dollars equivalent in food and aid.(9)
While publicly declaring their $31 million dollar deal with the Taliban, Wang Yi has also expressed calls for the Taliban to combat and remove the Uyghar jihadist movements of Xinjiang province – primarily the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP). Where China borders Afghanistan, the Xinjiang province is where most Uyghars reside (a majority Muslim national minority group of China facing oppression). The Turkestan Islamic Party – which has had historical alliances with the Taliban of Afghanistan – poses a major threat to the stability of capitalist China alongside the general Uyghar minority group. As a group who once declared liberation for the Muslim world, the Taliban will now have to be in a position of being the agents for Chinese social-imperialism against fellow Muslim nations/organizations. This is the limit to Jihadism as an anti-imperialist force (and other bourgeois nationalist anti-imperialisms) and the poisonous consequences of social-imperialism. Without Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, liberated countries will only fall back to colonialism.
Long Live Afghanistan
The United $tates’ defeat in Afghanistan, and the Taliban’s victory is a victory for the Afghan people. For the first time, Afghanistan could have a chance of being an independent nation state in our modern capitalist era. However, foreign meddling by the Amerikans, Chinese and others continue to threaten the development of Afghanistan’s self-determination. It is only by continuing down the road of independence that questions of economics, gender and the urban/rural divide in the country can be adequately addressed. The Taliban has served as a historically important and necessary opponent of foreign occupation, but the Afghan people need more than that to continue to address the contradictions they face as a nation. Revolutionaries here in the United $tates must continue to oppose our government’s interference in that progress.
Long Live Afghanistan!
Down with world imperialism!
1. Barbara Starr, “Intelligence assessments warn Afghan capital could be cut off and collapse in coming months,” CNN, 12 August 2021.
2. Rebecca Klapper, “U.S. Military Fatally Shoots 2 at Kabul Airport as Biden Orders in 1,000 Additional Troops,” Newsweek, 12 August 12, 2021.
4. Saphora Smith, “U.S.-Taliban sign landmark agreement in bid to end America’s longest war,” MSNBC, 29 February 2020.
6. Amanda Thub, “Why the Taliban’s Repression of Women May Be More Tactical Than Ideological,” The New York Times, 4 October 2021.
7. Associated Press, “The Taliban Claim They’ll Respect Women’s Rights — With Their Reading Of Islamic Law,” NPR, August 12, 2021
8. Memri, “During September, China-Taliban Relations Continued To Strengthen,” 5 October 2021.
9. Helen Reagan, “China to provide Afghanistan with $31 million worth of food and Covid vaccines,” CNN, 9 September 2021.
On 12 August 2021, staff member Karber at Ionia Correctional Facility in Michigan censored Under Lock & Key 74 for the reason: “Pages 8 & 9 calling for Prisoners to organize for uprising for an up coming date.” These pages featured our center spread on Black August and the September 9th Day of Peace and Solidarity. It is interesting that the oppressor sees prisoners coming together for peace and unity as an “uprising” and something that is deemed a threat to security (which would be necessary to lawfully censor any reading material in the United $tates).
On 7 September 2021, the staff in the mailroom at SCI Frackville in Pennsylvania disliked the same pages and censored ULK 74 for “Information on Page 8 Calls for Action (September 9).” In Amerikan prisons people do not enjoy the civil rights many Amerikans hold so dear. Their right to grieve or in this case to take an “action” is deemed illegal and punished. Banning peaceful protest and other such actions in prisons leads to violence.
Meanwhile a USW comrade in California reported,
“C.O. Solerio [a white female] emailed a Mental Health/Death Doctor a referral against me for displaying erratic behavior. I was exercising and calling cadence out loud ?? As is my custom, I commemorate Black August by demonstrating physical fitness and oratory skills, loud and proud, wherever I be. This year’s action continues to be opposed by C.O.s obsessed with social control.”
This comrade was in quarantine isolation, where ey could not organize eir normal group activities for Black August.
While the President offers up Juneteenth and Indigenous People’s Day as sanctioned celebrations, the imperialists simultaneously repress those trying to commemorate holidays that represent resistance to oppression. In case anyone was fooled into thinking that we’re all equal now.
14 October 2021 – Fifty five people were arrested for occupying the Bureau of Indian Affairs(BIA) with demands that the Bureau be abolished, that blood quantum be abolished and that the United $tates stop extracting fossil fuels from native land. Siqiñiq Maupin explained the purpose of the action on Democracy Now:
“The BIA was created to erase Indigenous people. It has always been against us. And today, or yesterday, and every day, we demand that it be abolished. We do not need a blood quantum to say how Indigenous we are or to qualify that. We know our Indigenous ways to protect this land, this Earth, this water. And we understand that the Earth is unbalanced. And we do not have time for negotiations, for compromises. We need to take this serious and take action now.”(1)
Indian Country Today reported:
Tobacco ties hung on locked doors. No one could get inside or outside. Everyone outside of the building looked through the windows of the doors to see what was happening inside and could hear demonstrators yelling.
Some security personnel were injured and one officer was taken to a hospital, according to an Interior spokesperson.(2)
In Washington D.C. the week of Indigenous People’s Day has been marked by indigenous-led civil disobedience actions, calling on President Biden to declare a climate emergency and stop approving fossil fuel projects. It began on Monday with the slogan “expect us” being written on the statue of Andrew Jackson in the U.$. capital. Over 530 climate activists have been arrested so far.(1)
This is occurring after President Biden issued the first presidential proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 8th, along with an announcement to preserve lands important to native people.
In 2017, President Trump re-opened up a number of recently created national monuments for resource extraction, cutting the size of the Bears Ears National Monument by 85%. Biden reversed Trump’s move, reestablishing the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments in southern Utah, more than 3.2 million acres – an area nearly the size of Connecticut.(3)
While President Trump declared genocidal Andrew Jackson to be his favorite president, President Biden was the first president to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This symbolizes the conflict within the Amerikan ruling class, and the white nation as well, in how to deal with the oppressed internal semi-colonies today. Biden’s multi-culturalism is friendlier, and even makes real concessions like preserving land important to native people. But as Biden himself said, it was the easiest thing he’s done as president. And it was just as easy for Trump to undo those designations during his tenure, leaving native people at the whims of the white man again.
As communists we strive for the resolution of this national contradiction via the project of liberation for all oppressed nations and their land once and for all, not waiting and hoping for one slightly friendlier sector of the oppressor to win out. The ongoing struggle for First Nation land liberation is tied to the struggle of all oppressed people for liberation. It is not surprising that the nation that ultimately waged a settler war for hundreds of years to seize this land is now the primary force keeping oppressed people down around the world. We have seen the limits of euro-Amerikan peace offerings.
On 6 September 2021, 6 Palestinian prisoners of war have escaped an I$raeli maximum security prison known as Gilboa by digging a tunnel with plates and panhandles.(1) The tunnel was 72 meters long, and the I$raeli Security Agency has suspected that the excavation had started around November of 2020.(2) This incident is being talked of as the most significant prison break in the history of Palestine.
The 6 Palestinian prisoners were members of Palestinian nationalist organizations (The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the al-Quds Brigades) which have resisted the I$raeli occupation.(3) Out of the 6, four of the escaped freedom fighters were serving life sentences.(4)
In response to the prison break, the I$raeli Prison Service (IPS), launched a lockdown on Palestinian prisoners: break time has been cut to one hour a day; prison canteen has been closed; and the number of captives able to walk in the yard has been decreased. 400 prisoners, who have been deemed “Jihadist” and a threat to the security of the prisons, have been separated from one another as well. On top of this, family visits have been completely taken away by the pigs.(5) For our readers on the inside, these tactics by the I$raeli prison pigs to punish all for the actions of some sound similar as the United $tates and I$rael are very similar in character. Both are settler-colonial states, and both trade and exchange tactics/information used to better repress their respective oppressed nations.
The Day of Rage
In response to this crackdown, I$raeli prisons faced strikes and riots. In Katziot prison, seven cells were set on fire by Palestinian prisoners and hunger strikes have been set to begin in Gilboa on Friday, 17 Septemebr 2021.(6) The Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Commission has declared that 1,380 prisoners have joined the hunger strikes.(7)
Outside of the prison walls, the nationalist organization Hamas has declared a “Day of Rage” on the Friday of September 10th.(8) At the al-Aqsa mosque, supporters of the escaped freedom fighters have organized a sit in protest after the end of prayer. The I$raeli forces stormed the mosque in response to the protest and killed one man and arrested another. The man killed was a Palestinian doctor named Hazem al-Jolani.(9)
About a week after the escape, the 6 prisoners were recaptured into imprisonment. One of the freedom fighters, Yaqoub Mahmoud Qadri, was put in solitary confinement with nothing but a blanket and was subjected to physical and psychological torture.(10) All other prisoners involved in the escape were sent to separate high security prisons as well.(11)
Internationalism in the Prison Movement
While studying Engels’ writings on the bourgeois state, Lenin said the following:
“Engels elucidates the concept of the ‘power’ which is called the state, a power which arose from society but places itself above it and alienates itself more and more from it. What does this power mainly consist of? It consists of special bodies of armed men having prisons, etc., at their command.”(12)
As Lenin explains, prisons serve a class purpose in maintaining power in class society. In the world we live in today, the bourgeois class utilizes prisons to control their “unruly” populations under their command. Under socialism and proletarian dictatorship, prisons will exist as well (albeit under principles of rectification and rehabilitation learned from the past socialist experiences rather than punishment for punishment’s sake). For the case of not only the 6 prisoners of war who escaped Gilboa, but also for all prisoners in Palestine and all prisoners in the United $tates, their facilities are a material form of capitalist-imperialist power locking them up in their every move. Here in the United $tates, we have had historic moments of prisoners fighting against the repression and seeking for redemption and liberation through class struggle. The Attica uprising of 9 September 1971 is a prime example of that class struggle. With Attica as the battle cry of the revolutionary prison movement in the United $tates, we hope to reach that cry across the oceans and to Palestine itself.
From Attica 2 Gilboa!
Down with the I$raeli Prison Service! Down with the Department of Corrections!
Bibliography1. Toi Staff, September 14, 2021, “Jailbreak probe said to find 11 Gilboa prisoners started tunnel dig in November.” Times of Israel2. Ibid.3. The Palestine Chronicle, September 6, 2021, “Six Palestinian Prisoners Break out of Gilboa Prison after Digging Tunnel”4. Ibid.5. Middle East Eye, September 10, 2021, “Palestinian killed during ‘day of rage’ solidarity protests for prison escapees”6. Khaled Abu Tomaeh, September 14, 2021, “Palestinian prisoners to begin hunger strike Friday,” The Jerusalem Post.7. Ibid.8. Ibid.9. Ibid.10.Yeni Safak, September 16, 2021, “Palestinian prison escapee to keep fighting for freedom.”11. Middle East Eye, October 1, 2021, “Israel: Recaptured Palestinian jailbreakers transferred to solitary confinement”12. Vladimir Lenin, August 1917, “State and Revolution.”
On 11 September 2021, Chairman Gonzalo has been reported to be dead by the Peruvian prison service and the Peruvian government.(1) The president of Peru, Pedro Castillo, has tweeted in regards to Gonzalo’s death:
“The terrorist ringleader Abimael Guzmán, responsible for the loss of countless lives of our compatriots, has died. Our stance of condemning terrorism is firm and unwavering.”
Born as Abimael Guzmán, Chairman Gonzalo was the leader of the Partido Comunista del Perú(PCP) also known as the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path in English). The PCP initiated People’s War in Peru in 1980, and waged a righteous struggle against the U.$.-backed regimes in Peru until the capture of its leadership in 1992. Arguably the first communist leader to explain Maoism as the next stage of communism, Gonzalo was instrumental in pushing these ideas within the international communist movement.
At age 86, Gonzalo had lived in complete isolation in a Peruvian prison for 29 years. Long-term solitary confinement is a form of torture used around the world to combat political dissent. It is used most extensively within the United $tates, where in recent years over 100,000 people languished in such conditions.
Religious Idealism Barks
Gonzalo was an infamous figure in Peruvian society. The revolutionary violence of the PCP sparked hostile reactions especially from the petty bourgeoisie, the middle-peasants, and the likes within Peru. One outspoken figure which repeated these sentiments condemning Gonzalo on his death day was Archbishop Eguren of the Catholic Church in Peru. During a mass on September 12, a day after Gonzalo’s death, Eguren said this referring to the Maoist ideology and the Maoists of Peru:
“Along with him fell the principal members of his communist, terrorist, genocidal, and murderous gang, which caused the massacres of entire communities of poor inhabitants of our Andes and jungle regions in the 1980s and 1990s.”(2)
The Archbishop continued:
“The day Guzmán was captured was also one year after the start of the campaign ‘Peace in Peru is well worth a Rosary.’ This campaign was conceived and promoted by Bishop Ricardo Durand Flórez S.J., a great Peruvian bishop who, throughout his life and ministry, worked hard for the poor according to the Gospel.”(3)
After condemning Marxism through the usual Christian idealism, Archbishop Eguren replaces the anti-capitalist vacuum with the Catholic church’s historical response to poverty and capitalist ills: distribution of wealth and charity to the poor. We Maoists do not believe in the metaphysical notion that “the poor will always be with us,” nor that walking across a homeless person on the street is a test by god to prove ourselves of our good heart and soul. We believe poverty – and the impoverished proletariat along with the rich bourgeoisie – comes out of material phenomena: rise of capitalism through revolution, class struggle, and change of production relations. Thus, the elimination of poverty and capitalist ills will be done through the proletarian revolution against capitalism, class struggle, and change of production relations as well; not through wealth redistribution nor through charity.
Along with condemning Marxism, Eguren used this chance to call for the elimination of the politicians and bureaucrats of the current Peruvian government who had historical ties to the Maoist movement:
“We Peruvians should not forget, for an instant what this intrinsically perverse ideology embodies, as well as the immense suffering it has caused in the recent history of our country, much less allow it today to be able to seize total power. Therefore: Mr. President, clean up your cabinet!”(4)
Chairman Gonzalo and the PCP’s legacy in Peru is often associated with the “violent left.” So it is appropriate that one of the most popular opportunist and reformist newsletters, Jacobin, condemned Gonzalo by saying that Peru’s left is finally free to “move forward.”(5)
In the article, “The Shining Path’s Abimael Guzmán Helped Keep Peru in the Past,” Jacobin news cited the Lucanamarca massacre and the violence of the PCP against the indigenous masses as one of the main arguments against the PCP. The Communist Party of Peru (PCP) has mentioned in their writings the attacks against the masses by the masses, and how the state security used the differing class levels of the peasantry against itself (poor peasants, middle peasants, rich peasants). These tactics to divide the masses are used against the communists of India as well. In the remote and countryside regions under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (CPI-Maoist), the capitalist lapdogs in India find it much more useful to use local reactionaries against the guerrillas than using the army. If not the local police, it is the paramilitary organizations of rich peasants, middle peasants, lumpen-bourgeoisie, lumpen-proletariat, etc. that is attacking the Maoists. In Peru, the majority of the PCP guerrillas were indigenous themselves as the main population base in the communists’ base areas were indigenous.
When judging the legacy of a People’s War and a revolutionary party, communists should know when to throw away the baby with the bathwater and when to still keep it. Before the capitalist roaders overthrew socialism in the Soviet Union, many of the errors of what would become the capitalist line (commandism and economism) has been planted by Stalin as well and other comrades. This did not cause Mao to throw away Stalin’s legacy. In the same breath, when Fidel Castro liberated Cuba from imperialism and semi-feudalism, his merits were part of a worldwide movement for national liberation of the colonies at the time – it isn’t until Castro’s selling out of the entire island to the Soviet social-imperialists as a sugar factory that Maoists should throw Castro away.
Heavier Than Mount Tai
It is well within the realms of material reality that the PCP’s legacy among the general Peruvian society lies not only in the Peruvian comprador bourgeoisie who propagate the ideas of the PCP as bloodthirsty terrorists, but also within the bad lines and practices of the PCP as well. It is an often repeated idea we hear that if the revolution fails, it is the fault of the revolutionaries. In the same light, it’s the internal characteristics not the external of a communist movement that will ultimately decide its success and failures.
We must draw a clear line between us and those who condemn the PCP because they waged People’s War. Whatever internal contradictions led to the collapse of the Peruvian revolution, it was a shining example in theory by leading the world to the concrete ideas of Maoism and in practice in mobilizing the Peruvian people to control a majority of Peru before their fall.
Communists should learn their lessons from their errors in history. For the enemy to say, “Denounce Gonzalo!” is for them to also say “Don’t learn your lessons! Give up revolution!” Nevertheless, no matter what the Catholic idealists or the writers of Jacobin wish, the PCP and Chairman Gonzalo’s legacy will not go away as easily as they wish.
Long Live Chairman Gonzalo – Death Heavier than Mount Tai.
Notes1. RPP, September 11th, 2021, “Murió Abimael Guzmán, el sanguinario cabecilla del grupo terrorista Sendero Luminoso.”
2. David Ramos, September 13th, 2021, “Archbishop calls on Peruvian president to rid his administration of ties to Shining Path.” Catholic News Agency.
5. Miguel La Serna, September 15, 2021, “The Shining Path’s Abimael Guzmán Helped Keep Peru in the Past.” Jacobin.
As we prepare this issue of Under Lock & Key (ULK) we tallied results of our first annual fundraiser. We have chose the Fourth of You Lie as a time to ask you to donate to this independent media institution of the oppressed. Without prisoners’ support and contributions this newsletter ceases to exist.
Our fundraiser had some successes in that we raised the second most donations in a month from prisoners in years; the highest amount being in March 2021. So we are on the upswing this year. We got an even bigger donation from an anonymous outside supporter, which are much less common. Our goal is to establish regular contributions from more people, both inside and out. Whether you send donations monthly or annually, we want to know we can count on you.
Compared to the previous 2 month period we reported on last time, our donations from prisoners were less than half in amount and also less in the number of people donating. The number of donators these past 2 months was about average for recent years, and far less than years past when we had more subscribers. And once again, the vast majority of the total amount we received from prisoners came from established USW leaders. So we did not see much of a response to the fundraiser from our general subscriber list.
Of course, it’s never too late to donate, and you can still send in your 7 stamps to cover your 2021 subscription to ULK. Or 14 to cover someone who is indigent as well. As always, ULK is available free to U.$. prisoners, and we know that many do not have access to funds. If that’s you, recommend ULK to friends inside and out to build support.
This issue is coming out a little later than planned because of a few setbacks. With more supporters on the outside working on ULK we can make this independent institution a more resilient one. So please get involved if you can.
One thing we heard from those saddened by the police murder of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was that she didn’t get to have a childhood.(1) While nation is most certainly the primary factor that led to the cop, Nicholas Reardon, shooting Bryant, we think gender oppression, and in particular youth oppression, had a lot to do with Bryant ending up where she did on that fateful day.
When people speak of being able to have a childhood, we may think of a time of fun, carefree play, no work, no oppression, etc. Of course most people in the world don’t have much of a childhood in this sense. But in the United $tates many do. So already we see there is some hierarchy involved in this idea of having a childhood, at least under imperialism. We see this hierarchy as the realm of gender because it is a question of leisure time and not labor time, which is the subject of class (see Clarity on What Gender is). But there is also the question of why we must separate our lives into periods of fun and play and periods of work and oppression? And why do we have oppression at all? And how did work become a bad thing?
To answer these question briefly, the relations of production under capitalism are what alienates people from their labor today, so that they feel their labor time is not their time. But as “adults,” most must spend the majority of their waking hours in labor time. While some people want those like Bryant to have the purist, most care-free childhood as possible, we are working towards a whole life that is enjoyable and fulfilling. And we doubt that is possible without a healthy dose of productive labor. The exclusion of children from work for over 100 years in the United $tates has left them with no productive role to play in society, leading to alienation and lack of worth.(2) This alienation and lack of self-worth is reinforced by abuse, and leads to destructive behavior.
As Greyhound points out in eir article on Ma’Khia Bryant, the Soviet Union provided family for orphaned youth through the productive life of the commune. The communes did not work kids to the bone to squeeze out the maximum profits as the capitalists once did in the United $tates, and still do in most of the world. Below we look at some attempts by capitalist Amerika to provide for youth and why they cannot get at the source of youth oppression as well as socialist experiments that have.
Child Credits Pay the Patriarch
With sheltering-in-place during the pandemic and no in-persyn schooling for most children, the question of childcare has received much attention in the United $tates. The answer from the bourgeoisie came in the form of child credits. Amerikan families began receiving these payments in mid-July 2021, for a total of $3000-3600 per family over the next 6 months.
These credits are a market-based attempt to address the problem of adults in the nuclear family spending large sums of money to have their children cared for when they are working or otherwise occupied. These credits put more power in the hands of the adults who get the money over the lives of the children who qualify them for these payments. Money for those who struggle to make ends meet can certainly mean less stressful conditions for their children. The logic makes sense, it is just a backwards, half-ass approach. By the 1960s in socialist China, all children had guaranteed care that was collectively run and offered ways for youth to voice their concerns and avoid abusive situations. This was in a country where a decade or two earlier children were basically sold into slavery. This is the kind of radical change the youth need, that a profit-based system can’t provide.
Punishing Sex Offenders to Save the Family
It is very evident that affection, support and trust in our lives as young people have significant effects on our health throughout our lives.(3) Lack of positive social relationships and experiences has been linked to drug addiction and correlates strongly with imprisonment. Therefore this is a topic very dear to the hearts of many of our readers.
One way we see this manifest in a more reactionary politic of the imprisoned masses is in the strong, often violent attitudes towards sex offenders in prison culture. This sentiment exists outside prison of course, but became part of the prison culture because of the concentration of convicted sex offenders there. As we’ve addressed in the past, this reactionary politic is problematic on the one hand in that it is allowing the state to decide who our enemies are, that in many cases the actions that led to these cases are mild compared to many non-sex-offender charges and in some cases the people are completely innocent.(4) In the United $tates, white males and females, as a group, have treated the Black male as a sexual animal that must be controlled, sometimes by fake rape charges and imprisonment. In other words, some who are convicted as sex offenders are actually the victims of gender oppression, as well as national oppression.
A second reason we say the anti-sex offender politic is reactionary is that it doesn’t offer any real solutions to the problem of the sexual abuse of children. It is an example of why MIM always opposed the slogan “Think global, act local.” If you think globally about this problem of child abuse, and act locally by ostracizing or even attacking those you come in contact with who have (or who you believe have) abused children, you haven’t changed anything if the patriarchy remains. You can confirm this with crime statistics, or just the fact that we live in a society where we know this problem is still prevalent.
Addressing child abuse requires systemic change as the Chinese instituted during their experiment in socialism. Young people need a different system that supports them with things we know people need to grow up healthy; mentally and physically. These things can not be offered on conditions or the whims of one or two adults who control the child’s life. As they say, “it takes a village to raise a child.” And people who are serious about reducing child abuse need to work to build those villages and build them in ways that give young people full access to information, a wide variety of adult support people, including those in power, and access to other youth without the interference of adults. The village should also give repercussions to youth for “bad behavior.” These repercussions should be consistent in order to provide the youth with social guidance and never be used by individual adults to get what they want from children or to take out their frustrations from a bad day. The oversight of a more village-based model must prevent adults from doing such things.
What the bourgeoisie offers in place of the village is more cash to the patriarch. These cash incentives make single-parent homes more viable. But single-parent homes are some of the easiest places for adults to molest and abuse children.
The reactionary approach to child abuse (imprisonment and violence) also reinforces the patriarchy, where strong adult men must protect youth from other adult men by physical assault. One critique of this line points out how it views the rights of children the same as the rights of animals in that they must be granted and enforced from the outside.
“pseudo feminists… [accept a] zoological implication that child abuse is going to go on forever, as if… child abuse were inherent in the humyn species, and at the same time external to humyn social relations, like animals.”(5)
The Maoist counter-point then is that child abuse is a humyn relationship that is found within the patriarchal family structure. It is part of the central problem of oppression of groups of people by other groups that we aim to resolve through ongoing revolutionary struggle under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Rather than punishing sex offenders to save the family and “protect our children”, we must replace the nuclear family with communal child-rearing, and empower young people to criticize others in order to stop those who might try to abuse children.
Putting child care in the public sphere will do a lot to undermine the conditions of child abuse. But it does not eliminate the biases of the adult population, especially those that grew up in the old capitalist ways, from miseducating or mistreating youth as a group. And we know that institutional living like group homes and prisons, where many adults are involved in “care” for the youth, are rife with abuse. For these reasons youth must have ways of coming together as a group and voicing their interests as a group, even enforcing their interests as a group in contradiction to the adults that they depend on. l Ruth Sidel produced an in-depth report on Women and Childcare in China as well as in the Soviet Union and the kibbutz in I$rael. In one Chinese school, when asked what you’d do if you found a sick child on the street, a 6-year-old child responded: “i’d bring them medicine and water.” Sidel was surprised the child would not find an authority figure first.(6) What a striking difference in world views between socialist children and how most of us grew up in this country. These children still spent most of their days singing and playing and doing things that we all did in school. Yet, they were taught differently, taught to act and be self-empowered as soon as they were able to physically complete the tasks that might be demanded of them, like bringing another child water, or possibly organizing resistance to an abusive adult.
Some reading this will find the youth helping other youth not so strange because they raised their siblings at a young age. This is another way that peoples’ “childhoods are lost” in our culture; having to take care of other children as a child. It is not that care for those younger than you is inappropriate to carry out as a child, but that you need the support of a community to do so in a way that is not oppressive to your own life and most supportive to those you help care for.
According to the story from Ma’Khia Bryant’s grandmother, the conflict that had occurred among two groups of foster children was over perceived disrespect to the foster mother due to the lack of chores getting done. Most likely the situation was more complicated. But we see how there can be a disagreement over the labor responsibilities of members of a family that leads to violent conflict. This would be very unlikely when people have clear responsibilities, clear and consistent consequences that are enforced by the group for not meeting those responsibilities, and ways to communicate up front with both adults and youth about the roles and treatment of others.
The Roles of Youth in Society
In discussing Ma’khia Bryant’s childhood, we must address the fact that she was 16 years old when she was murdered by a cop because of this conflict. Other 16-year-olds in the area could have banded together to take revenge on Reardon for shooting her. Most members of the Black Panther Party joined in their teens. Bobby Hutton was murdered by the pigs emself at age 17 while on an armed patrol of the police. Sixteen is much more physically developed than six, and would mostly only be limited by legal restrictions like being able to drive or purchase fire arms.
Fifteen was the age when members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - Ejército del Pueblo(FARC-EP) could engage in armed actions.(7) As the struggle of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front(EPLF) advanced, they established the Fitewerari to train male youth 14 to 16 years old and females of all ages. They found that training the adult females separate from adult males helped in both groups overcoming the traditional gender roles they had been inculcated with. The youth did not have these challenges, at least not to the same degree.
“In addition to literacy education, political and military training, and running their daily affairs, they participate in production, adhering to the EPLF’s correct revolutionary principle of ‘integrating education with production.’ They practice criticism and self-criticism to rectify mistakes, develop work and strengthen comradely solidarity. Upon finishing training, they are assigned to the different EPLF units and departments to carry on the struggle on all fronts.”(8)
Much has been put into the idea that a humyn’s prefrontal cortex is growing rapidly up until about age 25. The implication being that you can’t quite trust the judgement of those under 25. But this is only one data point, of a biological phenomenon we still barely understand. And along with this data point comes some implications in how younger people are willing to go against the status quo and can change their ways faster. We look to history, to see the transformative power of youth movements, rather than follow current trends in biological determinism based in preliminary studies of the brain.
Towards a World Without Oppression
When Maoists talk about gender, we are talking about a system of power in the realm of leisure time; the patriarchy. In that system, youth are generally part of the gender-oppressed. Though in the imperialist countries, they are likely part of a gender aristocracy, a child aristocracy, particularly those who have access to the idealized carefree childhood.
Similar to the wimmin in bourgeois society, the bourgeois children are relegated outside of labor and exclusively to leisure time. This leisure time is meanwhile structured to serve the pleasure of the man and the interests of capitalism overall. These groups being relegated to leisure time reinforces the divide between leisure time and labor time in society mentioned above. This is one reason why it is hard to imagine undoing gender hierarchy without first undoing capitalism, which would eliminate the sharp divide between labor time and leisure time. Through this process, gender will cease to be so separate from class struggle as it is in the bourgeoisified First World countries. Then our lives as individuals will be more complete, as will our communities.
Youth liberation is part of and dependent on the struggle to end capitalism and imperialism. Youth don’t need more paternalism, they need a supportive village to learn from and the freedom to self-actualize themselves without the fetters of oppression that shape our lives today.
Anti-imperialists watching the Horn of Africa have sounded the alarm that Amerikans are scheming to further their exploitation of Ethiopia. In May, United States Agency of International Development (USAID) Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance head Sarah Charles spoke to the U.$. Congress about how the Ethiopian government and other armed forces were restricting the access of Amerikan staff and equipment in the country.(1) Ten days before the 21 June 2021 elections in Ethiopia, the U.$. State Department issued a statement expressing “grave” concern about the conditions of the elections and said they were ready to “help Ethiopia address these challenges” in order to cast doubt on election results.(2)
Many concerned about the talk coming from the U.$. government refer to Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria as warnings of what could happen in Ethiopia. Amerikan troops left the infamous sprawling Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan on 2 July 2021, allowing looters to enter the grounds the following day.(3) In 2001, the U.$. overthrew the Taliban-ruled government of Afghanistan. Twenty years later, the Taliban are poised to regain control of the country following the longest war in U.$. history. All peace-loving people have an interest in preventing another one of these long, drawn out wars that have become the norm for U.$. imperialism as it struggles to dominate the rest of the world.
U.$. imperialists have already begun waging warfare in the form of economic sanctions against both Ethiopia and Eritrea. Meanwhile, they continue to push for access by USAID and its affiliated NGOs to meddle in African affairs. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front(TPLF) launched attacks on the Ethiopian armed forces back in November 2020, which began the war that seems to have reached a stopping point this July and has been used by the Amerikans as a reason to get involved. The TPLF led the Ethiopian government until 2018 when the TPLF president resigned due to popular pressure. In addition to domestic abuses, they led Ethiopia in a war for territory against Eritrea during that time. Eritrea has made peace with the new Ethiopian government led by Abiy Ahmed and sided with Ethiopia in the recent war against the TPLF.
Ethiopia is the 12th most populated country in the world, and the second most populated in Africa. In the 1970s, the Derg government led a quick, forced nationalization of the Ethiopian economy. Current President Abiy Ahmed has overseen the privatization and liberalizations of the economy, which began after 1991, when Ethiopia shifted from the Soviet Union to a U.$. client state. These moves by Abiy will increase foreign investment and involvement in Ethiopian industry. A 2018 plan by the Abiy-led government targeted 25% growth rates in manufacturing until 2025.(4) While falling short so far, this indicates their intentions to become Africa’s leading manufacturing hub. In other words, the Ethiopian masses still living in semi-feudal conditions are a potential source of a newly proletarianized population for imperialist corporations to extract surplus value from.
During the recent conflict, Abiy froze the assets of many TPLF associated companies with U.$. and other foreign investments, which may have concerned the Amerikans as well.
As part of their new plan to provide power for this growth in industry, Ethiopia has been operationalizing the new Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). On 6 July 2021, Ethiopia began the second stage of filling the dam. The Egyptian and Sudanese governments have been calling for U.N. intervention for fear of the impact on their water supplies. This will be the biggest hydroelectric project in Africa.(5) Egypt (run by U.$.-backed dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi) has indicated it would support intervention in Ethiopia to stop this project by saying all options are on the table. Egypt is one of the most important U.$. client states, historically falling in the top 3 receivers of military aid from the imperialists. The Trump administration had supported Egypt’s interests regarding the dam, and we expect U.$. support to continue.
Land-locked Ethiopia’s access to the Red Sea is through Eritrea or Djibouti. Djibouti is a small country between Eritrea and Somaliland. It is the home of AFRICOM, the United $tates military’s Africa Command, and a number of other imperialist militaries. These military bases provide 5% of Djibouti’s GDP. China has their only foreign military base in Djibouti, making it a potential location of conflict between the Amerikan and Chinese imperialists. This location is also important for access between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea including large movements of fossil fuels.
President Abiy has formed alliances with Eritrea and Somalia, countries the U.$. has used Ethiopia to destabilize in the past. This show of unity in the Horn of Africa could allow for greater serving of African interests, rather than Amerikan interests.
Strong Marxist History
National liberation struggles influenced by Marx, Lenin and Mao are central to the recent history of Ethiopia and Eritrea. In its early days, MIM often mentioned Eritrea as one of the locations of a liberatory people’s war in the 1980s. Current President of Eritrea, Isaias Afewerki, was one of the first members of the Eritrean Liberation Forces(ELF) to train in socialist China in 1967. He was later part of the leadership to form the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), which split from the ELF and combined the ELF’s strong nationalism with an explicit Marxist-Leninist line and the strategy of People’s War.(6)
In Ethiopia a series of Marxist-Leninist organizations emerged to challenge the feudal system of Haile Selassie. This led to the removal of Haile Selassie by his own military leaders in 1974, who formed the Derg government. The Derg undertook a massive nationalization campaign, labeling itself “Marxist-Leninist” and a socialist state in 1975. The Derg assigned head of state to U.$.-trained Mengistu Haile Mariam, but became an ally of the social-imperialist USSR. Their national-brougeois ideas fit nicely with the revisionist distortions of Soviet “Marxism-Leninism.”(7)
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front also began in the revolutionary period of the 1960s. By the late 1970s it was waging guerilla war against the Derg, under the leadership of the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray. At this time there was a split in the revolutionary movement of Ethiopia around the question of secession, with the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front leading the call for the right to self-determination of Eritrea independent of Ethiopia. Others saw secessionist movements in Ethiopia as linked to the reactionary regionalism of feudalism, and a division of the peasant masses.(8)
In 1991, MIM Notes celebrated the overthrow of the “social-fascist Mengistu regime” by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front(EPRDF) as well as the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front(EPLF), which abstained from the provisional government of Ethiopia opting for independence instead. They noted, “MIM doesn’t have much information about the”revolutionary programs" of the EPRDF, so we must watch and let the practice of both the EPRDF and EPLF speak for itself.“(9) Yet, MIM Notes had already quoted the New York Times under the heading”Victories Betrayed":
"The best insurance against another hard-line Marxist regime in Ethiopia appears to be the presence in Ethiopia immediately after the EPRDF’s victory, of an Amerikan, Paul B. Henze.
“Henze, the station chief of the Central Intelligence Agency at the United States Embassy in Addis Ababa from 1969 to 1972, was invited to the capital as a personal guest of President Meles. He spent five weeks in Ethiopia advising Meles and was upbeat when he left. ‘Meles is pragmatic,’ Henze says. ‘He and his colleagues are not bothering with ideological matters. Ethiopia has a good chance of becoming a productive country.’”(10)
Meles Zenawi was a member of the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray before becoming the first president of Ethiopia under the EPRDF government. As the CIA agent predicted, rather than struggling against differences between classes and nationalities in Ethiopia, the TPLF used its power to dominate the government at the expense of other nationalities and regions, and it soon became a pawn of U.$. imperialism in its maneuvering for power. As a result, by 1998, Meles(TPLF)-led Ethiopia had invaded Isaias(EPLF)-led Eritrea. It appears that both organizations abandoned their Marxist-Leninist lines prior to the overthrow of the Derg and their seizing of state power as part of the process of forming the united front against the Derg. This indicates that there were right-opportunist, liquidationist errors within the leadership of both movements that allowed them to put the liberation struggle and overthrow of the Derg above and in place of the struggle for socialism and a dictatorship of the proletariat. They did not heed the lessons of Mao’s China on how to keep proletarian leadership within a united front of class interests against imperialism. This led to reactionary bourgeois nationalism to play the leading role in these countries, despite the promising Marxist origins of this shift in power. The result gives credence to the warnings from those Marxists who argued against regionalism and secession and opposed the politics of the earlier ELF and original TPLF.
The Organization for African Unity, started by leaders like Kwame Nkrumah and Haile Selassie, also took up a line that it was against the interests of the people of Africa to begin dismantling the states that were amalgamations of peoples imposed by the colonial powers. History has proven this strategy to be effective in preventing divisions among the oppressed. Nkrumah had hoped for the OAU to become a federal government uniting all of Africa, but that strategy did not win out.
At the same time, Maoists recognize the right to self-determination of all nations. And the liberation movement in Eritrea held much promise leading up to liberation. Eritrea also differed from other regions in Ethiopia in that it was previously a separately administered state under Italian colonial occupation. Today, Eritrea remains the only country in Africa without AFRICOM presence, leading to much derision from the United $tates and Europe over the years. They took pride in their non-aligned stance in a world divided by the United $tates and the social imperialist Soviet Union. In 1984, Isaias Afewerki also declared they had no links or support from China. They did not take a position on whether China was still socialist at the time. Isaias did look at Cuba as an example of what happens when you become a client state of the Soviet Union. Isaias claimed the Cubans disagreed with USSR policy in Ethiopia and Eritrea, yet Cuban troops operated in Derg-ruled Ethiopia on behalf of Soviet interests in the 1980s.(11)
While Eritrea has a history of independence and remaining politically neutral, they have recently provided support for the U.$./Saudi war on Yemen that has led to a massive loss of humyn life since 2015. This was likely motivated by financial gain.(12) In the 1980s, South Yemen was in solidarity with the Eritrean liberation struggle despite opposition by the imperialist Soviet Union. Like Cuba, South Yemen took on the form of “Marxist-Leninist” state years after its liberation under the influence of the Soviet Union. Like the Cubans, they seemed to recognize the righteousness of the Eritrean liberation struggle. Today, we cannot view the Eritrean leadership as serving real self-determination when they are being pitted against Yemen by the imperialists. Ultimately, it was the abandonment of proletarian politics that led Eritrean leadership to side with imperialism in the Middle East.
While revisionism seems to have thwarted the popular revolutionary forces in the Horn of Africa in the late 20th century, the proletarian, revolutionary line is no stranger to the people of the region. This is further evidenced by President Abiy having to specifically address and critique Marx, Lenin and Mao in his recent book.(13) It is only through the unified struggle of all African people that the current violence, death and starvation can be properly ended. U.$. and other imperialist involvement will continue to pit Africans against Africans and other oppressed people.
Our Role in the Horn of Africa
In April 2018, Abiy Ahmed of the Oromo Democratic Party was elected Prime Minister of the EPRDF government of Ethiopia. This marked the end of TPLF leadership in the EPRDF, which was replaced by the Prosperity Party coalition in November 2019, excluding TPLF. After his confirmation, Abiy quickly established peace with Eritrea, still headed by Isaias Afewerki. This was a historic peace agreement, returning land to Eritrea that the TPLF had been occupying, signalling unity in the region against the U.$.-backed TPLF. Eritrea and Ethiopia have remained united in the war that began in November 2020 with a TPLF attack on Ethiopian forces. Until the people of the region can mount proletarian-led struggles for power again, the Eritrean-Ethiopian alliance remains important for strengthening the region against further meddling by foreign imperialism.
Our role in all of this is determined by the imperial nature of the United $tates government. Like all people in the world, it is our duty to build towards a dictatorship of the proletariat in our own backyard. But we have the added duty of countering the imperial machinations of our current government.
We should expose the imperialist nature of State Department agencies like USAID that want to present themselves as humanitarian organizations. While President Trump celebrated the Ethiopia and Eritrea peace deal, the Biden administration has brought those favoring intervention in the Horn of Africa back into the White House.
Toward the end of his presidency, Barack Obama appointed Gayle Smith to Administer USAID. Gayle Smith was first employed by USAID in 1994. She had lived in EPLF-run areas dating back to the 1970’s, where she was a “journalist” working undercover for the CIA. She later spent time embedded with the TPLF where she mentored Meles Zenawi, who would go on to wage decades of war against the EPLF.(14) Another close confidant of Meles was Susan Rice, who was national security advisor to Barack Obama.(13) And as we mentioned above, Meles had open relations with local CIA agents from the very beginning of his presidency.
In 2021, Biden has appointed Samantha Power to head USAID. Samantha Power had succeeded Susan Rice as Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations after being mentored by both Rice and Obama. Rice was involved in the violent separation of South Sudan from Sudan and lied about mass rapes to justify the invasion of Libya. Rice and Power worked with Hillary Clinton to greenlight the invasion of that killed Muammar Gaddafi, which Clinton later laughed about on television.
In 2013, Power led the charge within the Obama administration to bomb Syria, which Rice came around to support. Power’s book A Problem From Hell justifies intervention against genocide. She used this mission statement of hers to justify bombing Syria and Libya, and now stands behind it to intervene and defend the TPLF.(15) We oppose the continued expansion of U.$. troops in Africa since President Bush started AFRICOM in 2008. U.$. support for the TPLF clearly aims to divide Africans so that they can be better controlled for the benefit of imperialist-country corporations.