Under Lock & Key has been the voice of the anti-imperialist movement within U.$. prisons for 11.5 years. This issue is going out one month later than our usual schedule, because it is the last issue of ULK in its current form.
ULK has been an exemplary independent institution of the oppressed in preparation to take state power. It's within these pages that United Struggle from Within — the anti-imperialist mass organization of current and former prisoners — developed and organized dozens of campaigns. Through ULK the United Front for Peace in Prisons was developed to stop violence in prisons that was not only keeping us divided, but also being used as an excuse for lockdowns and other repression. These are all examples of independent institutions of the oppressed, and it's fitting that this, ULK's final issue, is dedicated to this important topic.
An important lesson that comes from Lenin's book What is to be Done? is the importance of a movement's newspaper, to spread ideas and organize with others. Have no fear! Even though ULK is changing form, we're in no way stopping producing a newspaper. U.$. prisoners need a voice, and there's no one else making a newspaper like this, from a proletarian perspective. That will not be lost in this transition.
As we explained in ULK 64 we have a goal of producing a monthly newspaper. In our work towards that goal we are making some big changes to ULK.
We are extremely excited to be joining forces with the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM) in a consolidation of the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) into a single newspaper (name TBD). RAIM's portion of the newspaper will cover much more international news and analysis than is typically in the pages of ULK, which our readers have been asking for for years. We'll be decreasing our costs, and greatly increasing our distribution on the streets. This is all in preparation to produce the newsletter on a monthly schedule!
Our movement organ (newspaper) will continue to be fully independent. Meaning it is fully funded by the MIM cells, and costs are partially offset by donations we get from subscribers and people on the streets. There is no grant money or government support for this revolutionary work. We need our readers' continued support to make this possible — every donation you send helps us send more letters, educational material, and resources to our subscribers behind bars. And ultimately we will need your financial support to fund a monthly newsletter.
The beauty in being financially independent is that it gives us the freedom to be ideologically independent. We can say whatever it is that needs to be said. We can speak from a proletarian perspective, even if the vast majority of people in the First World find it upsetting. No one can pull the rug out from under us if we say something they don't like.
In this independence, we (the movement) have full responsibility for our successes and failures. If we can't recruit enough distributors — that's on us. If we can't get enough financial support — that's on us. If people don't want to contribute to the newspaper — again, on us. While taking on this responsibility might seem like a big burden to some, because they think they can sit back and let others make revolution for them, it's actually quite liberating. If we want it, we can make it. It's hard work, and it's possible. Nothing can hold us back. No strings attached.
"We" isn't just MIM(Prisons) and RAIM members; it's all of us in the anti-imperialist movement in the United $tates. This newspaper has been and will continue to be a voice for all our contributors. The artwork, poems, reports, and analysis that come from our subscribers behind bars are what make ULK actually "from under lock & key," and we will continue to rely on these invaluable contributions.
Making the newspaper is one thing, and making it an organ to advance our struggle against oppression is another. We request that each persyn reading this article send (at least) one letter to someone on the outside asking them to donate and/or commit to distributing the new newspaper. Our subscribers know the value of this newspaper even better than MIM(Prisons) does. You writing directly to your contacts will be more effective than anything we could say to ask them to get involved.
Your contacts' participation is a matter of you engaging them in the value of this newspaper and this work. ULK is more than just words on paper; it's more than just an outlet to vent. It's an independent institution for creating a world without oppression, which has a real impact on the lives of its subscribers and readers, and the world. Share with them what you have gotten out of reading ULK and participating in projects with MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within. Share how the United Front for Peace in Prisons has affected your day-to-day life, and how the articles in ULK have helped you in your time behind bars. Be direct and unwavering in your request for their participation. Worst case scenario is they say "no."
For donations, your contacts can send cash, stamps or blank money orders to the address on page 1, and every amount really does make a big difference! Being a distributor doesn't have to be any huge additional commitment, either. If your outside contact(s) can identify one place where they can put the new newspaper, we'll send them a stack to stick there each time a new issue comes out. Many places have free newspaper areas — coffee shops, libraries, laundromats, etc. Ask them to find one and commit. Then either send us their address so we can follow up, or ask them to write to us directly. The ripple effect of your one letter can have a huge impact on the anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist struggle toward communism.
The rest of these pages of ULK talk about other independent institutions of the oppressed, within the MIM and without, current and past. We'll apply lessons we've learned from history to our analysis of these institutions. We are proud that ULK and all our contributors have spent the last 11.5 years being among them. And we are looking forward to expanding in the new newsletter in 2020.
We continue to try to keep abreast of developments in relation the Non-Designated "Programming" Facilities (NDPFs). And while MIM(Prisons) and USW have seen this as a potential opportunity to push our campaign to breakdown divisions between G.P. and SNY, most of our readers have recognized the integration as an attempt to create violent situations by the state.(1) Below are some reports that we have received recently on how this is playing out on the ground.
"I am a G.P. prisoner and only want to finish my time with G.P. prisoners. My family feels the same. We are being forced to be put in bad situations where they now have used STG (Security Threat Group) status. On 15 February 2019 me and many others were not part of a riot at RJ Donovan in San Diego. We have been in Ad-Seg ever since; limited to $55 at the store, 1 hour behind the glass no contact visits, three hours every other day yard, every other day showers. Locked all day in a cell. No disrespect but my family wants me to program as a mainline G.P. prisoner and not abuse the system like EOPs or SNYs. They all have their own real problems that I would like to remain away from."
We're not sure what this persyn means by "abuse the system like EOPs or SNYs." But we will reiterate that we do not take sides here. We have very good comrades in all types of prisons in California, and there is all kinds of bullshit happening in all places, as comrades in this issue of ULK allude to. Last issue, we heard the other side of the coin where more conscious comrades are being sent to NDPFs as a form of punishment.(2) While many NDPFs are not succumbing to the inter-prisoner violence that everyone feared, conditions are still problematic, and "programming" is reportedly non-existent.
From California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility, a comrade reported on 1 May 2019:
"I was transferred from Centinela level 3 to SATF level 2 50/50 yard or so-called Non-Designated Program Facility (NDPF). Well, I will say the transition from SNY to an NDPF was an easy one here at SATF, but to call this a program facility is a stretch. They run a split tier type program, and night yard or dayroom is non-existent for the most part (on F yard, I don't know about the others). If they run program at all, it won't be until after 8pm to 9:15 with only 2 phones. It leaves only 8 sign up spots for 88 people so you can see the problem when you only get 3 night dayrooms a week. Prop. 57 said they were sending lifers to level 2 for more access to family and more program, well this isn't happening, not here anyway. Our MAC chairman just becomes a yes man to the free staff.(3) As you know, when you limit someone's family contact it causes stress and stress leads to violence. All of this is an easy fix but it doesn't seem to be going in that direction, not here anyway."
Finally, we heard reports on 15 August 2019 of a riot in Soledad State Prison in other press outlets. There were a reported 200 prisoners involved, 60 injured, and 8 had to be taken offsite for medical attention. Supporters in touch with prisoners at Soledad blame the practice of "gladiator fight" setups, where prisoners who are known to have beef are let out of their cell one-by-one to recreation. We have not read of Soledad being a NDPF, but we have never had much of a base there either.
As we approach September 9th, we reiterate the call for peace and reconciliation in California prisons. Though comrades will not get this issue of ULK until after September 9th, this struggle to weaken the biggest divide among the imprisoned lumpen in California continues. The Agreement to End Hostilities was a step in the right direction, and we must keep moving that way by including more sectors of the prison population into the United Front for Peace in Prisons.
At the latest Democratic Party debate among candidates for U.$. President, Tulsi Gabbard made headlines by appealing to emerging views on the criminal injustice system among younger Amerikans. Ey did so in attacks on former California District Attorney Kamala Harris. Gabbard focused on two issues of particular interest to the petty bourgeoisie: drug decriminalization and prison labor.
Senator Gabbard opened eir comments by expressing concerns for the "broken criminal justice system that is disproportionately, negatively impacting Black and Brown people all over this country." Ey went on to say that Harris "kept people beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California" and condemned Harris for imprisoning people for marijuana possession and then laughing when ey was asked if ey had ever smoked it.
The prison labor point was specifically about concerns Harris's office raised about losing firefighters if they complied with court orders to reduce the prison population.(1) The court had ruled that overcrowding in the state had led to cruel and unusual punishment. As we've established in our own surveys and research, most prison labor is for the state, and most of it is to maintain the prisons themselves. Fire fighters are the exception in terms of the important role their work plays in protecting humyn life, and no doubt Harris's legal team was playing that up at a time when wildfires were a major headline in California. But the fire fighters are typical in that they are not producing value or part of the profit-making of private corporations.
Prison labor (and the privatization of prisons) has been an ongoing issue of concern for Amerikans in the age of mass incarceration. MIM(Prisons) has long demonstrated that there is a myth that exploiting prison labor is a motivating force for mass incarceration in this country.(2) It is important to point out that the petty-bourgeois obsession with this myth is largely based in class interests. On the one hand there is a fear among the labor aristocracy about competition with prison labor resulting in lower wages and higher unemployment. This has been the major political barrier that explains why prison labor for profit is so rare in the United $tates. More generally, there is a contradiction between the petty bourgeoisie and the big bourgeoisie that causes the former to be skeptical and fearful of the latter, because the petty bourgeoisie favors small-scale capitalism. This results in a general sentiment against corporations profiting off prison labor, even without the direct concern of wages. In a recent campaign ad, Gabbard condemns private prisons for profiting off prisoners.
Drug decriminalization is also very popular among the Amerikan petty bourgeoisie, in particular the movement to decriminalize marijuana. In 2016, Pew Research found 57% of Amerikans supported legalization of marijuana compared to just 12% in 1969.(3) And the younger generations were more favorable of course. In this case, public opinion is based in class interests around economics and leisure time. While there is a financial interest in the booming legal economy of marijuana products for young Amerikans, the broader public opinion is based in leisure-time interests.
The movement to legalize weed will often give lip service to condemning the blatant racism in many U.$. drug sentencing laws, similar to Gabbard's opening statement against Harris's criminal injustice record (above). Yet the scale of your average weed festival/rally versus that of the size of your average protest against torture (of primarily New Afrikan and [email protected] men) tells a clearer story. These reformists for persynal freedoms of the petty bourgeois individual are not going to do anything about national oppression in the form of targetted arrests, sentencing, concentration camps and torture chambers that make up the U.$. criminal injustice system.
MIM has long used the "Willie Horton"-style of campaigning as an example of Amerikans support for national oppression, especially of New Afrikans.(5) While "tough-on-crime" politics is finally waning, we have yet to see whether Amerika can really start to decrease its prison population now that the infrastructure and economic self-interest has been built up around it.(6) Beyond that, the national question is only more at the forefront today, with Amerikans chanting "send them back" at a recent rally held by current President Trump, where they were calling for female Senators who are not white to be sent back to the countries their ancestors came from.
It is important to be aware of these shifts, as they may provide opportunities for the anti-imperialist prison movement. But there has been no change in the overall orientation of the Maoist Internationalist Movement that sees nation as the principal contradiction both internationally and within the United $tates. We continue to organize with the medium-term goals of building dual power and independent institutions of the oppressed and the long-term goal of national liberation and delinking from imperialism.
Scott Daniel Warren faces 20 years in prison for his volunteer work distributing food and water to migrants in Arizona. Warren works with the group No More Deaths to aid migrants crossing the border in the Arizona desert. For this work, and for providing a place for two men to sleep, Warren was charged with two counts of felony harboring and one count of felony conspiracy. Eir trial ended on June 11 with a hung jury.
Warren was arrested in January 2018 along with other No More Deaths volunteers. The arrests came just hours after the group released video of border patrol agents destroying jugs of water left in the desert for migrants. This case isn't closed yet; federal prosecutors may choose to retry Warren.
The Arizona desert is one of the deadliest places for migrants to cross the border due to the extreme heat. But people are forced to this area by the 1994 Clinton era "Prevention Through Deterrence" policy aimed at making border crossings more deadly. The idea was to force crossings over more hostile terrain, putting more lives in danger, to discourage migrants from attempting the journey. Metrics of the plan's success included "deaths of aliens." By that measure, the plan has been a success. The total number of people attempting the crossing has dropped but the odds of dying have gone way up.(1)
Hundreds of migrants are found dead every year. Trump's border policies are just a continuation of the anti-immigrant policies of all Amerikan imperialist administrations, including Obama. Closed borders maintain a cheap source of labor and natural resources for the imperialists. This preserves wealth for those within at the expense of poverty for those on the outside. Migrant deaths are just one result of these borders. Fighting the Trump border wall is a distraction from the real problem. Fight borders not walls. Open the borders; return the stolen wealth to occupied nations at home and around the world.
Transforming the gangster mentality into a revolutionary one is possible because they are two sides of a coin. As an intermediary class the lumpen can act out both bourgeois ethics (in the form of gangsterism) or proletarian ethics (as revolutionaries).
The lumpen implementation of bourgeois ethics is the gangster. The gangster in many ways imitates the most ruthless aspects of bourgeois behavior, allowing them to be potential tools of the imperialists. Yet there are aspects of the collective identity, the discipline, and perhaps most importantly the connection to an oppressed nation, that you see in both the gangster and the revolutionary. This is what distinguishes the lumpen organization (L.O.) from the criminal gangs made up of correctional officers and police departments.
The lumpen implementation of proletarian ethics is the revolutionary. The lumpen revolutionary may be more adventurous and tend more towards left errors than the proletariat. Regardless, choosing the proletarian road, means reforming oneself to take on proletarian morality. The collective action and rebelliousness of the lumpen organization must mature into pure dedication to the people and a strategic approach to protracted peoples' war against imperialism.
We discussed these two roads in our review of J. Sakai's "The Dangerous Class and Revolutionary Theory".(1) As we said then, there are two roads today, the communist and the capitalist. The capitalist is the old road, the decaying road.
So when comrades keep bringing up this question of "how do we overcome the gangster mentality," it is essentially a question of how do we move the lumpen off the old capitalist road and into building the new communist one.
Our critics might counter, "wait a minute, plenty of people give up a violent gang life without becoming proletarian revolutionaries." And they are correct. But this also has not put a dent in the presence of the gangster mentality in our society, has it? Individuals aging out of gangs and integrating into bourgeois society does nothing to combat gangsterism because the motivation, the causes are still there. Even those who reach out to dissuade youth from taking the same path only provide a band-aid. A class of people, excluded from the means of production and distribution, living in an economic system driven by profit, will keep reproducing the gangster mentality. Until we can replace capitalism with a system where everyone has a productive role to play and peoples' needs drive our society, instead of profit, only then can we truly overcome the gangster mentality.
A few years back, in ULK 51 a comrade summed up some discussion around this topic among USW comrades:
"Today's youth show the same apathy, indifference and nihilism as the youth of 1955. It was the civil rights movement that awoke the youth of that era. USW comrades struggled over what today can take the place of the civil rights movement. War, environment and imperialist expansion were three good starting points to organize around. We lumpen youth have more stake in the future environment and it is us who fight the wars. It helps to understand that those starving to death and suffering/dying from preventable diseases are our people. We must fulfill our destiny or betray it. All this nitpicking and betrayal between sets/sides contributes to humankind suffering. We must overcome this flaw.
"The principal enemy we must defeat is the glamorization of gangsterism. A revolutionary or a gangster? What are we? Can the two coexist in a persyn and still be progressive? Gangsterism plants fear by oppression, and revolutionaries are in struggle against oppression. This internecine violence we perpetrate between sets is what the pigs want us to do. They sold us this shit in Scarface and we've built on to it and made it our own. Overcoming the glamorization of gangsterism will take proletarian morality, conscious rap, exposing the downsides and ills of gangsterism, the glamorization of revolution, revolutionary culture, and possibly to redefine the word gangsta. Gangsters are parasites and revolutionaries are humankind's hope. It's as simple as that. We need to leave the lumpen mentality for a proletarian one. Many true revolutionaries were once gangsters. Gangsterism is a stage, basically.
"Self-respect, self-defense and self-determination define transitional qualities of a revolutionary. Bunchy Carter, Mutulu Shakur and Tupac all transcended the hood and grew into progressives. What we are seeking as USW is opening up the spaces for gangsters of all walks of life to enter the realm of anti-imperialism and begin a transformation of mind, actions and habits to develop into the model of a revolutionary gangsta with the capability of forwarding the cause of the people. We must understand our potential. It is us, we reading these ULKs, that hold imperialism in our fists. A real gangsta is one who has gone revolutionary and has kicked off all the strings of social control - mental illness, drugs, fantasy, despair, escapism, etc."(2)
A program for overcoming the gangster mentality involves a multi-pronged approach. We must expand and develop the membership of the vanguard cadre organizations. Simultaneously we must organize the lumpen masses around a minimal program of unity. As K.G. Supreme of USW stressed in an article on this topic, it is revolutionary nationalism and anti-imperialism that provides a viable group identity and movement to rival that of the current L.O.s that dominate the terrain.
"Cultural Freedom is the best weapon for defeating the gangster mentality. Cultural freedom that is geared in nationalist liberation of oppressed nations, and exploiter nation suicide for members of the euro-amerikan oppressor nation. As Marcus M. Garvey of the African nationalist organization, UNIAACL said, 'Power is the only argument that satisfies man.'"
And as Pilli discusses in "Love Your Varrio by Liberating Your People," we must embrace the oppressed people, communities and organizations. And we must encourage growth within them. Communists are not here to attack the gangsters or the addicts, that is what the bourgeois state does. We are here to guide others down the same path of education and growth that we have found.
United Struggle from Within has long put forth the slogan, "Unity from the inside out." This embodies the dialectical process of developing unity within one's own thinking so that one can better build unity with others; that an organization must struggle within its membership to build unity before it can unite with others in the nation; and that a nation must build unity before it can properly unite in its own interests with other oppressed nations.
"Unity-struggle-unity" is a related slogan that depicts how we should approach building unity among the people, addressing contradictions amongst the people. We can't be all unity, we must challenge, question and struggle. But we start and end with unity, so that we can grow in that direction.
"Each one, teach one" is a slogan that stresses the role of education, especially in these early stages. It also embodies the truth that we all have things to learn from each other. Education and learning are a central part of our program for building the cadre and the masses.
These slogans, and others, should be actively built around. Comrades should study and popularize the 5 points of the United Front for Peace. We should organize events and study programs around Black August, the Commemoration of the Plan de San Diego and the September 9th Day of Peace and Solidarity. MIM(Prisons)'s Free Books to Prisoners Program offers study materials around all of these topics. We also offer correspondence study courses, which all comrades wishing to work with USW should join. We offer a wide array of revolutionary literature for your own independent study and for prison-based study groups.
While uniting around study groups and education is important for building cadre, most people will only be able to unite with us around concrete battles. It is up to comrades on the ground to determine what winnable battles exist where you are. What are the masses' righteous demands and how can we mobilize them to achieve them? How can we build Serve the People programs locally by pooling resources and helping others out? It is in these concrete battles that we gain mass support, and we learn to organize, lead and challenge injustice.
We believe we have the correct theoretical basis and the framework of a program for this stage of the prison movement. But there is much to be done to experiment and learn from. As K.G. Supreme stresses, the lumpen masses must get deep into the gangster mentality, understand it so as to transform it.
"It is important, in defeating the gangster mentality, that those serious about raising the consciousness of the subjects of gangsterism, first come to terms with the mentality as a lifestyle from the vantage point of inside the mind of a first world gangster. Approaching the subject from any other angle would be an inferior method promised to fail in producing any significant impact in the social behavior of those that are the target. The investigation into this gangster mentality should be led by those who are infected with the mentality. This isn't to say petit bourgeoisie nationalist groups cannot support the leaderships of those struggling against the gangster mentality. It is to say that the petit bourgeoisie nationalist must not seek to dictate the leaderships that struggle to defeat the gangster mentality, as to not contaminate the nationalist liberation objective, spreading culture indifferent to the destructive culture, spread by the bourgeoisie.
"...As more and more ground level leaderships disconnect themselves with the lifestyles that encourages behavior motivated by the gangster mentality, there becomes a need to replace the un-natural behavior with disciplines motivated by reconnection with natural lifestyles that are in harmony with the growth and development of a parasite outkaste of society, matured into a productive component of the internationalist objective to end national oppression by the exploiting nations in independent nations. Only culture that promotes national liberation struggles, applying political methods in interest of the oppressed can be relied on to replace the mentality of gangsterism... Emotions do not dictate the course of action in gradual transformation from unconscious behavior to conscious population. Instead the culture of educating against defeatist mentality, borns the scientific approach of the analytical prisoner, who in turn of reversing the gangsterism pop culture for a popular culture of upliftment in nationalist liberation objectives that free the available remedies of exploited and nationally disadvantaged, free themselves. The key to defeating the gangster mentality is investments in engineering techniques that make anti-imperialist culture popular."
The declining rate of profit is an unavoidable problem under capitalism, and a move toward fascism among the imperialists is primarily a result of this declining rate of profit. Some could interpret this to mean that fascism is an inevitable outcome of late-stage imperialism. But fascism isn’t actually in the interests of most imperialists, if they can avoid it. And today, most are in denial that the declining rate of profit is even a problem. In the 1930s such illusions were smashed by the realities of the Great Depression. Since then, the imperialist countries have managed to put off any comparable economic collapses at home.
Barring such extreme conditions, most imperialists don’t want fascism. The protectionism and extreme militarism that come with fascism are bad for most capitalists’ profits. Militarism is good for increasing demand by destroying capital and infrastructure, and creating a market for very expensive military hardware. And some imperialists are just ideologically geared towards fascism for subjective reasons. But the problem is, imperialism is also bad for profits in that the rate of profit declines as capitalism advances. This is an inherent contradiction in capitalism. Profits come only from the exploitation of humyn labor. And so, as more efficient equipment is built, and worker productivity is increased, and automation is expanded, profit margins fall. Similarly, when the proletariat rises up, capitalist profits are also impacted. Both of these contradictions can push the imperialists towards fascism.
With the global markets entirely divided up under imperialism, there isn’t any easy way for the capitalists to increase their individual profits. Only with the destructiveness of world war and re-division of territories can this be changed.
While most imperialists do not favor fascism in their own countries under normal conditions, they do readily export it to the Third World to maintain imperialist interests there. The United $tates is the main force behind fascism in the Third World. These countries are not imperialist so they can not be fascist independently. However, their imperialist masters can and do impose fascism from the outside when they deem it necessary to retain control. We have seen this over and over. In Latin America, where the United $tates fears any sign of bourgeois nationalism, there is a particularly brutal history. Just two examples are seen in the coups to overthrow Allende in Chile and Arbenez in Guatemala. After the coups, the U.$.-backed replacement governments massacred supporters of the democratically-elected governments as well as other activists and communists.
We just got word that the Texas Department of Criminal inJustice (TDCJ) has denied delivery of the TDCJ Offender Grievance Manual to one of our subscribers in Texas. Not just at the unit level (we were not informed of the censorship at the unit level by Polunsky Unit mailroom staff, in direct contradiction to TDCJ's own policies)(1), but the Director's Review Committee even upheld the censorship of the grievance manual. The Director.
Well, what could possibly be the reason given for censoring TDCJ's own manual which was written for "offenders"? Couldn't tell you. All the notice says is it was "received in contradiction with BP-03.91, Uniform Offender Correspondence Rules." Don't forget, BP-03.91 doesn't just say that this item is denied delivery to this particular subscriber. It says that this item is banned in the entire state for all time. Just like [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, our "Defend the Legacy of the Black Panther Party" study pack, and multiple issues of Under Lock & Key (at least including Nos. 63, 57, 54, 51, 45, 35, 32, 28, and 27).
You might be wondering why MIM Distributors is sending in the grievance manual anyways. It's a TDCJ document, after all. And according to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, the grievance manual ought to be available to prisoners.(2) Well, in September 2014, a memo went out that removed the grievance manual from all TDCJ law libraries.(2) Why would they do this? Don't know, they didn't say. TDCJ's grievance system is notoriously ineffective and deliberately obstructive. And Texas is historically one of the worst states when it comes to brutal national oppression. Seems to be part of those overall patterns.
We did have a "victory," so minor that it's even embarrassing to use that word. The Director's Review Committee Decision Form actually listed the name of the item that they censored! Wow! We didn't have to go hunting around in the list of mail we sent to this subscriber, guessing which item was censored based on the date we mailed it out. This is often a very difficult detail to pin down, considering how much mail we send in and the weeks- and months-long delays in the TDCJ censorship procedures.
So, we've been protesting the ineffective grievance process in Texas for almost ten years. The grievance manual was hidden almost 5 years ago. And now we can't even mail in the grievance manual. We do plan to appeal this censorship to the Director's Review Committee, but often our letters to them go unanswered. In the short term, we need people (and lawyers!) in Texas to put pressure on TDCJ to stop obstructing prisoners' access to the grievance system. Ultimately we need to overthrow this totally bunk injustice system and the economic system it protects.
There was a significant increase in white supremacist activism in response to the election of President Obama. And another upswing around the election of President Trump. We see this as a cultural phenomena, as economic conditions for the Amerikan nation are not declining.(see economics article, this issue) These activists are not part of the imperialist government. We want to distinguish between fascism as state power, a terroristic dictatorship of imperialism, and the ideology of white supremacy and extreme national chauvinism. In this article we will look more closely at the latter phenomenon in Amerikan society. As revolutionaries we need to think about what the rise in white supremacy means and what we can do to fight for a scientific understanding of the equality of all nations.
Defining White Supremacy
The white supremacists often look to Nazi Germany as an ideal society, and promote white nationalism. We see these views in a range of right-wing organizations calling themselves neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalists, and some even calling themselves revolutionary anti-capitalists. We use the term fascist to identify these organizations as they all espouse the genocide of, or forcible separation of oppressed nations from Amerikan prosperity, as a way of promoting the superiority of white people within Amerika.
The vast majority of politics in the United $tates are white nationalist. We will use the term white supremacist here to refer to those who explicitly believe that white people are a separate race, and this racial category denotes inherent superiority.
White Supremacy Rising
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) monitors what they call "hate groups" and "hate crimes," releasing an annual summary report and keeping public dossiers of organizations and individuals on their website. The SPLC includes oppressed-nation nationalist organizations in this definition, including some revolutionary nationalist groups. In spite of this major ideological error, we can use their data to get a picture of what's going on.
In 2017, a post-Charlottesville Washington Post/ ABC News survey found that 9% of Americans (22 million people) thought it was fine to hold neo-Nazi or white supremacist views. And according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino, hate crimes in the six largest U.S. cities were up 20% from 2016.(1)
In 2017, in the early months of Trump's presidency, there was an upswing in white nationalist activism. Online organizations like the Daily Stormer and Stormfront saw dramatically increased interest (Daily Stormer: 2016 summer 140,000 views per month up to 750,000 in August 2017; Stormfront gained 30,000 new users between January and August 2017). This lines up with the SPLC findings that neo-Nazi groups grew 22% in 2017. At the same time they recorded a 20% increase in Black nationalist groups. The SPLC correctly identifies this as a reaction to rising white supremacy.(1) In 2018 the SPLC again reported an increase in white nationalist groups, up 50% from 2017. The previous all-time high number of "hate groups" identified by the SPLC was in 2011, shortly after Obama took office as President. 2018 marked the fourth year in a row of increased numbers of "hate groups" after a decline over the previous four-year period.(2)
Our observation of white supremacist activism affirms the SPLC statistics on the growing membership and popularity of these organizations. And we conclude that there is in fact a rising sentiment of Amerikan nationalism in this country. The conditions of the petty-bourgeoisie have not worsened, so this is not a response to declining economic status.(See: "Economic Update: Amerikans Prospering in 2019," this issue)
Culture Driving Reactionary Shift
Conditions for oppressed nations have changed over the past few decades. This is seen in laws preventing various forms of overt discrimination, affirmative action in college admission, and growing opportunities for petty bourgeois New Afrikan and [email protected] advancement. Further, culturally overt racism is considered unacceptable by a growing segment of the population. The white population in the United $tates will soon be less than 50% of the total. And Obama was elected president. While not truly impacting their economic situation, the culture created by these changes is seen as a threat by many in the white nation. The rise in white-supremacist sentiments is in part a response to a cultural phenomenon. Trump's campaign slogan has been understood by people on all sides to really mean "Make America White Again."
Along with the material shift in national makeup of the population has come phenomena in the culture that have made many young white males defensive, and wanting to retreat into that identity of being a white male. Bourgeois ideas of race, identity and individualism have shifted the legitimate critique of a white male power structure to one of micro-managing behaviors. The petty-bourgeois obsession with lifestyle politics and its unscientific distortions of the analysis of oppression made by revolutionaries has contributed to the recent popularity of white supremacist ideas, especially in online forums.
In research for eir book Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, Kathleen Belew found that throughout Amerikan history post-war periods corresponded with rises in white power vigilantism and radical violence more than other factors, such as immigration, economics, or political populism. In other words, the experiences of being an occupying force in the Third World brings people over to violent white supremacy. This is a validation of Zak Cope's thesis that white nationalism cannot be abolished within the imperialist system dominated by the United $tates. It may be tempered at home, in times of stability, among those who never think about the brutal slaughter their country is waging against people of the oppressed nations. But those doing that killing must come up with ideological justifications for their actions.
We've discussed previously that identifying as white is to identify as oppressor.(3) To deny this is to deny the structure of imperialism in the world today. It is the task of communists and progressives in European/Euro-settler countries to discourage people from identifying with white pride, and celebrating the genocidal, colonial, and settler behavior of eir respective nations. Currently, there is a growing population of young petty-bourgeois white men who feel persecuted in a racist and determinist way. The fact that the dominant ideology being presented against white supremacy is bourgeois identity politics has led to a heightening of conflict, without any real solutions on the table.
As contradictions heighten, people will pick sides. That is inevitable. But some of the contradictions that are feeding white nationalism in the United $tates should be avoidable. The lack of a scientific, internationalist voice in the mainstream dialogue is pushing this country in dangerous directions.
Labor Aristocracy and White Nationalism
The labor aristocracy, the class of people in imperialist countries who have been bought off with spoils of the exploitation of Third World peoples, is a critical group in our analysis of white supremacy and fascism within the United $tates. We distribute H.W. Edwards' book titled Labor Aristocracy: Mass Base of Social Democracy.(4) Yet, in 2005, MIM passed a resolution titled, "The labor aristocracy is the main force for fascism."(5) How can one class be the mass base for two different systems? Especially a petty-bourgeois class, which Marxism has seen as not having the strength to impose its will on other classes.
Really, social democracy and fascism are just two sides of the same coin. This was seen practically in 1930s Germany, where both forces vehemently opposed the communists. These systems align with both the left and right wings of white nationalism in the United $tates. The left wing struggles with the imperialists for more handouts, while the right struggles against the oppressed nations to extract more wealth, leading to outright theft and other forms of primitive accumulation. The majority petty-bourgeois classes in the imperialist countries may rally to the right for fascism because the falling rate of profit leads the imperialists to share less of the spoils of imperialism with this class. Social democracy is also a push for more sharing from the imperialists, even when conditions are not particularly getting worse. As such, the Amerikans rallying for more pay are reactionary nationalists, even if they disavow overt racism of the fascist type.
Some of the most radical elements of fascist mass organizations present themselves as anti-capitalist in these early stages, so it is not uncommon for people to mistake fascism for a movement of the petty-bourgeoisie to overthrow the bourgeoisie. The ascent of full-blown fascism is dependent on the ability to rally a relatively privileged homecountry working class to the cause of fascism. But fascism is inherently a movement for capitalism. The goal may be to put different people in power, but they are still the bourgeoisie once they take power, because they will have control of the means of production.
And in spite of the aspirations of some, the petty-bourgeoisie is not going to rally enough power to overthrow the imperialist bourgeoisie. At best, they can hope to embolden and support the wing of fascist imperialists in their battle against the democratic imperialists. This is the historic role of the petty bourgeoisie; they are not a decisive class in the capitalist system. This doesn't mean we should ignore them. As an imperialist country edges towards fascism, it is well worth the revolutionary's time to try to push the petty-bourgeoisie away from fascism. But we should do this with our eyes wide open, aware of their class interests and cultural influences.
Fight with Science
We are anti-imperialists first and foremost. Imperialism embodies the principal contradiction that must be resolved to move society forward the fastest. For some, anti-fascism is principal in their lives because white supremacists are actively targeting their bourgeois democratic rights. And in prisons, oppressed people find themselves having to deal with fascists in their daily lives, whether working for the state, as fellow prisoners, or both. As a matter of self-defense, obviously anti-fascism against non-state actors can become primary for some. But for our movement overall, as internationalists in the First World, anti-imperialism must be our priority.
In Germany leading up to Hitler and the Nazi party taking power, conditions for the German workers declined greatly. These workers were already part of the privileged class that we call labor aristocracy. But after World War I the German economy was devastated and the result was this severe decline in economic privileges. In spite of these conditions, the majority of German people did not rally against fascism. There was a relatively strong communist movement in Germany at the time, but even they could not win over the masses to the side of anti-fascism. The German communists made serious mistakes.(6) We must study those mistakes, but we also need to understand that we can't count on the proletarianization of the petty bourgeoisie pushing them to communism.
We need to work now to push the petty bourgeoisie in imperialist countries on the road towards revolutionary thought, even while recognizing that their class interests will keep the majority firmly in the imperialist camp. We are targeting the scientific non-voter: those who might be rallied to the scientific-sounding arguments of white supremacy, and who are pushed towards fascist ideology by all the idealism/metaphysics spouted by people claiming progressive politics.
As a group, the white nation is reactionary because their economic interests are tied up with imperialism, but this does not mean that all white individuals are reactionary, especially youth. And we want to push for accountability among the white nation. With this in mind, we see the need for a mass organization that will focus on targeting oppressor-nation audiences and directly working to prevent the rise of fascist ideology.
As an alternative to white supremacist views, there needs to be a culture of taking responsibility among the imperialist-country populations. We should be working hard to make imperialist-country populations take responsibility for what their nations have done and continue to do to oppressed nations around the world, perhaps in the form of calls for reparations. The goal is to increase scientific thinking, increase persynal responsibility for one's nation's behavior, and push the oppressor nation away from white supremacist views, toward action in the form of nation suicide.
The communists in Germany admonished their fellow Germans after World War II for not heeding their warning that a vote for Hitler was a vote for war. To date, the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) has never promoted one U.$. Presidential candidate over another. In some ways the last two presidents have been notable, as Barack Obama was the first not-white President, and Donald Trump has made some openly chauvinist statements and received support for them. Both elections elicited participation from those who may have been closer to the MIM position of “it’s all the same imperialist brutality” in previous elections.
During the 2012 presidential election in France, MIM talked about Jean-Marie Le Pen as part of the fascist camp. Ey was a far-right leader of the “National Rally” party. While Trump doesn’t lead any particular white supremacist organization, ey certainly makes clear eir support for such groups, and they reciprocate in kind. Trump is very open in promoting various forms of oppression, to the point of promoting terrorism against oppressed peoples.
There are examples of politicians openly supporting the ideologies of white supremacism and neo-nazism from both the Democrats and the Republicans and from the earliest beginnings of Amerikan politics. David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, is a modern example of this. A former Republican Louisiana State Representative, Duke was a candidate in the Democratic presidential primaries in 1988 and the Republican presidential primaries in 1992, showing how this ideology crosses party lines and infuses mainstream politics. In 2016, Duke celebrated the presidential victory of Donald Trump, and the vision of his chief advisor Steve Bannon. Bannon’s openly xenophobic and chauvinist Breitbart News Network contributed to Trump’s campaign success, building an alliance of “Alt-Right” forces behind the president. These were many of the same forces that would later lead the infamous march with tiki torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting Nazi slogans and starting street fights with counter-protestors. These are some of the highlights of the Trump presidency phenomenon that have rightly elicited discussions around whether fascism and white supremacy are seated in the highest office of the United $tates.
Yet we must remember that the history of Amerika is a history of white supremacy. The country was built on the genocide of indigenous people and the stealing of land and resources. Then came the enslavement, exploitation and mass slaughter of Africans. Later, the U.$. Constitution codified New Afrikans as inferior to whites. Former Senator, Vice President, and Secretary of War John C. Calhoun blocked the annexation of Mexico on the grounds that only white people could be free, writing “we have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race.”(1) This explains why Puerto Rico never became a state, why the First Nation state of Sequoyah was not accepted until it was subsumed into a white-dominated Oklahoma, and why the admission of Hawaii faced great resistance that was mitigated by accepting a predominantly white Alaska at the same time.(2)
In this article we offer our analysis of the difference between bourgeois democratic imperialism and fascist imperialism. And we will discuss some of the implications of a shift towards fascism for our organizing work. In “Fighting White Supremacy in Amerika” (this issue) we go deeper into the cultural shift towards increasing white supremacy and our thoughts on ways revolutionaries should respond. We hope this analysis helps others think scientifically about oppression and resistance and the best strategies for organizing in 2019.
What’s in a label? Should we call Trump fascist?
MIM(Prisons) leans towards caution in the use of the term fascist. First, we don’t want to oversell the distinction between the Trump government and the Obama government. Normalizing imperialism, as if it is progressive, or as if the Hillary Clinton brand would have been less viciously militaristic and brutal for the people of the Third World, is a dangerous outcome of this sort of distinction. And we don’t want to confuse people about the potential for progressive results from imperialist elections. We need to be clear that imperialism is brutal and murderous; it is not a kinder gentler condition entirely distinct from fascism. With integration, it is only in the last 50 years that Amerika has even begun to be conceived of as anything but a white settler nation, and the brutal history of that white settler nation is imperialism, but not fascism. We are entering a period where the majority of politically active people in this country have not lived in an openly racist political system for the first time in this country’s history.
Based on our analysis of the current stage of imperialism, and our caution using the term fascist, we don’t campaign against the Trump regime because it holds and acts on fascist ideology. We campaign against the U.$. imperialist government because it is imperialist and it is the enemy of the majority of the people in the world. We think that this is an important point to emphasize in our organizing today. We don’t want to campaign to change the president, and we don’t want to mislead people into thinking what we really need to do is get these fascists out of office. At this point, our other options of Mike Pence, Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton all have approximately the same enmity toward the Third World and oppressed peoples.
Sometimes we need to be alarmist about terms like fascism. Right now, we see the danger of misleading people on this strategic question to be the greater danger. In our work organizing the petty bourgeoisie towards socialism there might be a time when calling parts of the Amerikan government fascist will help to clarify the contradictions.
Imperialism is National Oppression
In recent years there has been a rise in white nationalism and white supremacy among Amerikans. (See: “Fighting White Supremacy in Amerika” this issue) We should not be surprised that racist ideas are growing again; society’s ideas reflect its structure. And the structure remains one of national oppression until imperialism is overthrown. It’s very hard to justify imperialism without a sense of superiority of some sort. There has to be some reason why virtually everyone in the United $tates is in the top 10% by income globally, and saying it’s because we steal wealth from the rest of the world doesn’t go over as easily as just claiming we’re more productive (read: superior).
Imperialism is the advanced stage of capitalism where a few powerful nations divide up and colonize the world for profit. It is manifested today most violently against Third World peoples who suffer under brutal dictatorships, which serve their Amerikan imperialist masters. These dictatorships ensure the United $tates access to cheap labor and raw materials.
“Whether it is Iraq, Afghanistan or the West Bank, it is clear that without openly adopting fascism, the essence of U.$. imperialism and its allies today is genocide and any tally of the victims of U.$. imperialism will show that it has implemented much more of Hitler’s genocidal plans than Hitler did.”(3)
Why Identify Fascism?
Imperialism is a global system of exploitation requiring war, forced starvation and murder through denial of medical care and other basic needs. Imperialism kills millions! Fascism is imperialism without the cover. Fascism is more overt. When the imperialists are forced to turn to fascism, we can win more of the middle forces to our side as they revile in disgust.
So we need to know when we are approaching fascism (and of course when we are in it) because our strategy and tactics will change to address this new situation. In both bourgeois democracy and fascism our overall orientation focused on overthrowing imperialism is the same. Yet we see two likely changes: 1. Our definition of who are our friends and who are our enemies will likely change as we make alliances with anti-fascists among the classes that are not anti-imperialist under bourgeois democracy. 2. Our organizing strategy and tactics will change to focus on the fight for democratic rights and defend the targets of fascist brutality.
“The difference between bourgeois democracy and fascism is a matter of quantitative changes leading to a qualitative change. The qualitative differences are relevant to us in terms of their effect on our policies towards non-proletarian classes.”(3)
The key is defining when that qualitative change takes place, so we can prevent it or, failing that, appropriately respond to it. And in anticipating the qualitative change we need to ask if we are currently seeing an increase in quantitative changes. In terms of sustained quantitative changes within U.$. borders, a few things might be happening that would be important to note. None of these are required for a shift to fascism, but they are still potential identifiers.
Declining economics of the majority, the petty bourgeoisie. As the petty-bourgeoisie loses the economic privileges that put them firmly in the supporting-imperialism camp, they will have more potential to embrace communism as being in their material interests. But they will also be more easily rallied to fascism as an ideology that demands those privileges as a birthright.
We might see increasing incidents of white supremacy as quantitative changes leading towards the qualitative change to fascism.
Heightened class struggle is a likely precursor to fascism. This presents such a risk to the imperialists that they use fascism to put down the struggle.
“Democratic” Imperialism or Fascist Imperialism
Communists define fascism as a form of imperialism. This is based in our study of the history of fascist systems. There are two forms of imperialism: “democratic” imperialism and fascist imperialism. Fascist imperialism is a dictatorship of the most extremely reactionary elements of finance capital. When talking about governments and countries, we do not use the term “fascist” unless they are imperialist (see our article “The Strategic Significance of Defining Fascism” for more on why this is important.(4)) The exception is that fascism can be imposed by an imperialist government from the outside through a puppet government. But the key point here is that fascism is imperialism. A fascist state power is a capitalist state power.
Including “imperialist” in our definition of fascist states excludes some countries and governments from the label, but it doesn’t help us identify what we should call “fascism.” Our most commonly-used reference on this comes from Dimitrov: Fascism is “the open terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”(5) The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is not open when the people are allowed redress, through the courts, etc. In the open terroristic dictatorship you stop raising money for legal fees, and start stockpiling supplies.
So what will fascism look like? Will we just know it when we see it? (See the article “(Mis)use of the fascist label in the United $tates” for more historical context on this question). Certainly the suspension of bourgeois democratic rights should be a sign that we are no longer in a bourgeois democracy. But sometimes this is insidious. Bourgeois democratic rights don’t exist for migrants. They are severely limited in oppressed nation communities with large lumpen populations. And many new laws, such as the Patriot Act, have been passed to limit civil liberties in recent decades. The Trump administration is continuing this trend, stepping up voter suppression while also attempting to add a census question about citizenship. But unlike these moves, which target the rights of oppressed-nation people, the fascist suspension of bourgeois democracy will be felt by all segments of society. In that sense we can ask ourselves, “is a white petty-bourgeois persyn likely to be killed or imprisoned just for advocating communism?” If the answer is “no,” bourgeois democratic rights are still in place.
The downloadable grievance petition for Arizona has been updated to include some more relevant addressees that were submitted by a comrade. Please download it here. Click the link below for more information on this campaign.