Marx & Engels On Colonies, Industrial Monopoly, & The Working Class Movement
originally compiled by the Communist Working Circle, 1972
with a new introduction by Zak Cope & Torkil Lauesen
Available for $10 + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb
CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne
This book is a reprint of a 1972 study pack by the Communist Working Circle, which contains quotes from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels on the question of the split between workers in the imperialist countries and the colonized nations. The book opens with a foreword by the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement and an extensive introduction by Zak Cope & Torkil Lauesen explaining transfer of wealth from colonies to Britain.
The introduction is really the heart of the small book. It takes the outline laid out by the Marx and Engels quotes and fills it out with a detailed historical treatment of the subject. The authors focus on the periods contemporary to and discussed by Marx and Engels. And they make some important conclusions, including that England was dominated by the labor aristocracy by the 1850s. This is a key point, when all too often the question of the labor aristocracy is treated as an open debate over
150 years later.
One topic that Marx and Engels touch on in many of the selections is England's relationship to Ireland. This was a factor for Marx in eir understanding of the English workers growing allegiance to capitalism. While we often treat settler nations like Amerika and Australia as distinct phenomenon, what we gather from Marx and Engels's descriptions is that the attitudes of the English were/are not very different. The English built a very similar consciousness in relation to Ireland, India and countless other colonized peoples.
MIM(Prisons) recommends this book as part of the still-growing cannon on this important topic. While we consider Zak Cope's Divided World, Divided Class a must-read, this may be a more digestible piece to start with for those shy about thick economic texts. This book is available to prisoners for $6 or work trade from MIM Distributors, and we plan to conduct a study group on it in the near future.
Is China an Imperialist Country? considerations and evidence
by N.B. Turner, et al.
Available for $17 + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
This article began as a book review of Is China an Imperialist Country?. However, I was spurred to complete this review after witnessing a surge in pro-China posts and sentiment on the /r/communism subreddit, an online forum that MIM(Prisons) participates in. It is strange to us that this question is gaining traction in a communist forum. How could anyone be confused between such opposite economic systems? Yet, this is not the first time that this question has been asked about a capitalist country; the Soviet Union being the first.
Mao Zedong warned that China would likely become a social fascist state if the revisionists seized power in their country as they had in the Soviet Union after Stalin's death. While the question of whether the revisionists have seized power in China was settled for Maoists decades ago, other self-proclaimed "communists" still refer to China as socialist, or a "deformed workers' state," even as the imperialists have largely recognized that China has taken up capitalism.
In this book, N.B. Turner does address the revisionists who believe China is still a socialist country in a footnote.(1) Ey notes that most of them base their position on the strength of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in China. This is a common argument we've seen as well. And the obvious refutation is: socialism is not defined as a state-run economy, at least not by Marxists. SOEs in China operate based on a profit motive. China now boasts 319 billionaires, second only to the United $tates, while beggars walk the streets clinging to passerbys. How could it be that a country that had kicked the imperialists out, removed the capitalists and landlords from power, and enacted full employment came to this? And how could these conditions still be on the socialist road to communism?
Recent conditions did not come out of nowhere. By the 1980s, Beijing Review was boasting about the existence of millionaires in China, promoting the concept of wage differentials.(2) There are two bourgeois rights that allow for exploitation: the right to private property and the right to pay according to work. While the defenders of Deng Xiaoping argue that private property does not exist in China today, thus "proving" its socialist nature, they give a nod to Deng's policies on wage differentials; something struggled against strongly during the Mao era.
Turner quotes Lenin from Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism: "If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism."(3) And what are most SOEs but monopolies?
Is China a Socialist Country?
The question of Chinese socialism is a question our movement came to terms with in its very beginning. MIM took up the anti-revisionist line, as stated in the first cardinal
"MIM holds that after the proletariat seizes power in socialist revolution, the potential exists for capitalist restoration under the leadership of a new bourgeoisie within the communist party itself. In the case of the USSR, the bourgeoisie seized power after the death of Stalin in 1953; in China, it was after Mao's death and the overthrow of the 'Gang of Four' in 1976."
We'll get more into why we believe this below. For now we must stress that this is the point where we split from those claiming to be communists who say China is a socialist country. It is also a point
where we have great unity with Turner's book.
Who Thinks China is Socialist?
Those who believe China is socialist allude to a conspiracy to paint China as a capitalist country by the Western media and by white people. This is an odd claim, as we have spent most of our time struggling over Chinese history explaining that China is no longer communist, and that what happened during the socialist period of 1949 - 1976 is what we uphold. We see some racist undertones in the condemnations of what happened in that period in China. It seems those holding the above position are taking a valid critique for one period in China and just mechanically applying it to Western commentators who point out the obvious. We think it is instructive that "by 1978, when Deng Xiaoping
changed course, the whole Western establishment lined up in support. The experts quickly concluded, over Chinese protests, that the new course represented reform 'capitalist style.'"(4) The imperialists do not support socialism and pretend that it is capitalism, rather they saw Deng's "reforms" for what they were.
TeleSur is one party that takes a position today upholding China as an ally of the oppressed nations. TeleSur is a TV station based in Venezuela, and funded by Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Uruguay and Nicaragua. Venezuela is another state capitalist country that presents itself as "socialist", so it has a self-interest in stroking China's image in this regard. One recent opinion piece described China as "committed to socialism and Marxism." It acknowledges problems of inequality in Chinese society are a product of the "economic reforms." Yet the author relies on citations on economic success and profitability as indications that China is still on the socialist road.(5)
As students of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, we recognize that socialism is defined by class struggle. In fairness, the TeleSur opinion piece acknowledges this and claims that class struggle continues in China today. But the reality that the state sometimes imprisons its billionaires does not change the fact that this once socialist society, which guaranteed basic needs to all, now has billionaires. Billionaires can only exist by exploiting people; a lot! Fifty years ago China had eliminated the influence of open capitalists on the economy, while allowing those who allied with the national interest to continue to earn income from their investments. In other words they were being phased out. Some major changes had to take place to get to where China is today with 319 billionaires.
Fidel Castro is cited as upholding today's President of China, Xi Jinping, as one of the "most capable revolutionary leaders." Castro also alluded to China as a counterbalance to U.$. imperialism for the Third World. China being a counter-balance to the United $tates does not make it socialist or even non-imperialist. China has been upholding its non-interventionist line for decades to gain the trust of the world. But it is outgrowing its ability to do that, as it admits in its own military white papers described by Turner.(6) This is one indication that it is in fact an imperialist country, with a need to export finance capital and dump overproduced commodities in foreign markets.
"The Myth of Chinese Capitalism"
Another oft-cited article by proponents of a socialist China in 2017 is "The Myth of Chinese Capitalism" by Jeff Brown.(7) Curiously, Brown volunteers the information that China's Gini coefficient, a measure of a country's internal inequality between rich and poor, went from 0.16 in 1978 to 0.37 in 2015 (similar to the United $tates' 0.41). Brown offers no explanation as to how this stark increase in inequality could occur in what ey calls a socialist country. In fact, Brown offers little analysis of the political economy of China, preferring to quote Deng Xiaoping and the Chinese Constitution as proof of China's socialist character, followed by stats on the success of Chinese corporations in making profits in the capitalist economic system.
Brown claims that Deng's policies were just re-branded policies of the Mao era. A mere months after the counter-revolutionary coup in China in 1976, the China Study Group wrote,
"The line put forward by the Chinese Communist Party and the Peking Review before the purge and that put forward by the CCP and the Peking Review after the purge are completely different and opposite lines. Superficially they may appear similar because the new leaders use many of the same words and slogans that were used before in order to facilitate the changeover. But they have torn the heart out of the slogans, made them into hollow words and are exposing more clearly with every new issue the true nature of their line."(8)
Yet, 40 years later, fans of China would have us believe that empty rhetoric about "Marxism applied to Chinese conditions" are a reason to take interest in the economic policies of Xi Jinping.
Brown seems to think the debate is whether China is economically successful or not according to bourgeois standards. As such ey offers the following tidbits:
"A number of [SOEs] are selling a portion of their ownership to the public, by listing shares on Chinese stock markets, keeping the vast majority of ownership in government hands, usually up to a 70% government-30% stock split. This sort of shareholder accountability has improved the performance of China's SOEs,
which is Baba Beijing's goal."
"[O]ther SOEs are being consolidated to become planet conquering giants"
"How profitable are China's government owned corporations? Last year, China's 12 biggest SOEs on the Global 500 list made a combined total profit of US$201 billion."
So selling stocks, massive profits and giant corporations conquering the world are the "socialist" principles being celebrated by Brown, and those who cite em.
The Coup of 1976
What all these apologists for Chinese capitalism ignore is the fact that there was a coup in China in 1976 that involved a seizure of state apparati, a seizure of the media (as alluded to above) and the imprisonment of high officials in the Maoist camp (the so-called "Gang of Four").(9) People in the resistance were executed for organizing and distributing literature.(10) There were arrests and executions across the country, in seemingly large numbers. Throughout 1977 a mass purge of the party may have removed as many as a third of its members.(11) The armed struggle and repression in 1976 seems to have involved more violence than the Cultural Revolution, but this is swept under the rug by pro-capitalists. In addition, the violence in both cases was largely committed by the capitalist-roaders. While a violent counterrevolution was not necessary to restore capitalism in the Soviet Union, it did
occur in China following Mao Zedong's death.
At the time of Mao's death, Deng was the primary target of criticism for not recognizing the bourgeoisie in the Party. Hua Guofeng, who jailed the Gang of Four and seized chairmanship after Mao's death, continued this criticism of Deng at first, only to restore all his powers less
than sixteen months after they were removed by the Maoist government.(12)
The Western media regularly demonizes China for its records on humyn rights and free speech. Yet, this is not without reason. By the 1978 Constitution, the so-called CCP had removed the four measures of democracy guaranteed to the people in the 1975 Constitution: "Speaking out freely, airing views fully, holding great debates and writing big character posters are new forms of carrying on socialist revolution created by the masses of the people. The state shall ensure to the masses the right to use these forms."(13)
This anti-democratic trend has continued over the last forty years, from jail sentences for big character posters in the 1980s and the Tianamen Square massacre in 1989 to the imprisonment of bloggers in the 2010s. While supporters of Xi Jinping have celebrated his recent call for more Marxism in schools, The Wall Street Journal reports that this is not in the spirit of Mao:
"Students at Sun Yat-sen University in southern China arrived this year to find new instructions affixed to classroom walls telling them not to criticize party leadership; their professors were advised to do the same... An associate professor at an elite Beijing university said he was told he was rejected for promotion because of social-media posts that were critical of China's political system. 'Now I don't speak much online,' he said."(14)
Scramble for Africa
What about abroad? Is China a friend of the oppressed? Turner points out that China's Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Africa is significant, though a tiny piece of China's overall FDI. First we must ask, why is China engaged in FDI in the first place? Lenin's third of five points defining imperialism is, "The export of capital, which has become extremely important, as distinguished from the export of commodities."(15) A couple chapters before talking about Africa, Turner shows that China has the fastest growing FDI of any imperialist or "sub-imperialist" country starting around 2005.(16) Even the SOEs are involved in this investment, accounting for 87% of China's FDI in Latin America.(17) This drive to export capital, which repatriates profits to China, is a key characteristic of an imperialist country.
In 2010, China invited South Africa to join the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and now South Africa) of imperialist/aspiring imperialist countries. This was a strategic decision by China, as South Africa was chosen over many larger economies. "In 2007... the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (now the world's largest company) bought a multi-billion-dollar stake in the South African Standard Bank, which has an extensive branch network across the continent." Shoprite is another South African corporation that spans the continent, which China has invested in. In Zambia, almost all the products in Shoprite are Chinese or South African.(18)
The other side of this equation indicating the role of China in Africa is the resistance. "Chinese nationals have become the number one kidnapping target for terrorist and rebel groups in Africa, and Chinese facilities are valuable targets of sabotage." China is also working with the likes of Amerikan mercenary Erik Prince to avoid direct military intervention abroad. "In 2006, a Zambian minister wept when she saw the environment in which workers toiled at the Chinese-owned Collum Coal Mine. Four years later, eleven employees were shot at the site while protesting working conditions."(19) While China's influence is seen as positive by a majority of people in many African countries,(20) this is largely due to historical support given to African nations struggling for self-determination. The examples above demonstrate the irreconcilable contradiction developing within Chinese imperialism with its client nations.
Chinese President Xi Jinping talks often of the importance of "Marxism" to China, of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and of "market socialism." Xi's defenders in communist subreddits cite Lenin and the New Economic Policy (NEP) of the Soviet Union to peg our position as anti-Lenin. There's a reason we call ourselves Maoists, and not Leninists. The battle against the theory of the productive forces, and the form it took in the mass mobilization of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution is core to how we define Maoism as a higher stage of revolutionary science than Leninism. The Bolsheviks tended toward upholding the theory of the productive forces, though you can find plenty in Lenin's to oppose it as well. Regardless, Lenin believed in learning from history. We'd say Maoists are the real Leninists.
Lenin's NEP came in the post-war years, a few years after the proletariat seized power in Russia. The argument was that capitalist markets and investment were needed to get the economic ball rolling
again. But China in 1978 was in no such situation. It was rising on a quarter century of economic growth and radical reorganization of the economy that unleashed productive forces that were the envy of the rest of the underdeveloped nations. Imposing capitalist market economics on China's socialist economy in 1978 was moving backwards. And while economic growth continued and arguably increased, social indicators like unemployment, the condition of wimmin, mental health and crime all
The line of the theory of the productive forces is openly embraced by some Dengists
defending "market socialism." One of the most in-depth defenses of China as communist appearing on /r/communism reads:
"Deng Xiaoping and his faction had to address the deeper Marxist problem: that the transition from a rural/peasant political economy to modern industrial socialism was difficult, if not impossible, without the intervening stage of industrial capitalism... First, Chinese market socialism is a method of resolving the primary contradiction facing socialist construction in China: backwards
So, our self-described communist detractors openly embrace the lines of Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi, thereby rejecting the Maoist line and the Cultural Revolution.
Resilience to Crisis
During the revolution, China was no stranger to economic crisis. From the time the war against Japan began in 1937 to victory in 1949, goods that cost 1 yuan had risen to the price of 8,500,000,000,000 yuan!(22) Controlling inflation was an immediate task of the Chinese Communist
Party after seizing state power. "On June 10, 1949 the Stock Exchange — that centre of crime located in downtown Shanghai — was ordered to close down and 238 leading speculators were arrested and indicted."(23) Shanghai Stock Exchange was re-established again in 1990. It is currently the 5th largest exchange, but was 2nd for a brief frenzy prior to the 2008 global crash.(24)
The eclectic U.$.-based Troskyite organization Workers
World Party (WW) used the 2008 crisis to argue that China was more socialist than capitalist.(25) The export-dependent economy of China took a strong blow in 2008. WW points to the subsequent investment in construction as being a major offset to unemployment. They conclude that, "The socialist component of the economic foundation is dominant at the present." Yet they see the leadership of Xi Jinping as further opening up China to imperialist manipulation, unlike other groups discussed above.
Turner addresses the "ghost cities" built in recent years in China as examples of the anarchy of production under capitalism. Sure they were state planned, but they were not planned to meet humyn need, hence they remain largely empty years after construction. To call this socialism, one must call The New Deal in the United $tates socialism.
Marx explained why crisis was inevitable under capitalism, and why it would only get worse with time as accumulation grew, distribution became more uneven, and overproduction occurred more quickly. Socialism eliminates these contradictions, with time. It does so by eliminating the anarchy of production as well as speculation. After closing the Stock Exchange the communists eliminated all other currencies, replacing them with one state-controlled currency, the Renminbi, or the people's
currency. Prices for goods as well as foreign currencies were set by the state. They focused on developing and regulating production to keep the balance of goods and money, rather than producing more currency, as the capitalist countries do.(26)
When the value of your stock market triples and then gets cut back to its original price in the span of a few years, you do not have a socialist-run economy.(27) To go further, when you have a stock market,
you do not have a socialist economy.
Turner addresses the recent crisis and China's resiliency, pointing out that it recently started from a point of zero debt, internally and externally, thanks to financial policy during the socialist era.(28)
China paid off all external debt by 1964.(29) This has allowed China to expand its credit/debt load in recent decades to degrees that the other imperialist countries no longer have the capacity to do. This includes investing in building whole cities that sit empty.(30)
What is Socialism?
So, if socialism isn't increasing profits and growing GDP with state-owned enterprises, what the heck is it? The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) was the pinnacle of socialist achievement; that is another one of MIM's three main points. No one has argued that the Cultural Revolution has continued or was revived post-1976. In fact, the Dengists consistently deny that there are any capitalists in the party to criticize, as they claim "market socialism" denies the capitalists any power over the economy. This is the exact line that got Deng kicked out of the CCP before Mao died. Without class struggle, we do not have socialism, until all classes have been abolished in humyn society. Class struggle is about the transformation of society into new forms of organization that can someday lead us to a communist future.
"A fundamental axiom of Maoist thought is that public ownership is only a technical condition for solving the problems of Chinese society. In a deeper sense, the goal of Chinese socialism involves vast changes in human nature, in the way people relate to each other, to their work, and to society. The struggle to change material conditions, even in the most immediate sense, requires the struggle to change people, just as the struggle to change people depends on the ability to change the conditions under which men live and work. Mao differs from the Russians, and Liu Shao-chi's group, in believing that these changes are simultaneous, not sequential. Concrete goals and human goals are separable only on paper — in practice they are the same. Once the basic essentials of food, clothing, and shelter for all have been achieved, it is not necessary to wait for higher productivity levels to be reached before attempting socialist ways of life." (31)
Yet the Dengists defend the "economic reforms" (read: counter-revolution) after Mao's death as necessary for expanding production, as a prerequisite to building socialism.
"The fact that China is a socialist society makes it necessary to isolate and discuss carefully the processes at work in the three different forms of ownership: state, communal, and cooperative."(32)
The Dengists talk much of state ownership, but what of communes and cooperatives? Well, they were dismantled in the privatization of the 1980s. Dengists cry that there is no private land ownership in China, and that is a sign that the people own the land. It was. In the 1950s land was redistributed to peasants, which they later pooled into cooperatives, unleashing the productive forces of the peasantry. Over time this collective ownership was accepted as public ownership, and with Deng's "reforms" each peasant got a renewable right to use small plots for a limited number of years. The commune was broken up and the immediate effects on agriculture and the environment were negative.(33)
Overall Turner does a good job upholding the line on what is socialism and what is not. This book serves as a very accessible report on why China is an imperialist country based in Leninist theory. The one place we take issue with Turner is in a discussion of some of the strategic implications of this in the introduction. Ey makes an argument against those who would support forces fighting U.$. imperialism, even when they are backed by other imperialist powers. One immediately thinks of Russia's support for Syria, which foiled the Amerikan plans for regime change against the Assad government. Turner writes, "Lenin and the Bolshevik Party... argued for 'revolutionary defeatism' toward all imperialist and reactionary powers as the only stance for revolutionaries."(34) But what is this "and reactionary powers" that Turner throws in? In the article, "The Defeat of One's Own Government in the Imperialist War," by "imperialist war" Lenin meant inter-imperialist war, not an imperialist invasion of a country in the periphery.
In that article Lenin praised the line that "During a reactionary war a revolutionary class cannot but desire the defeat of its government." He writes, "that in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government." While Lenin emphasizes all here, in response to Turner, we'd emphasize imperialist. Elsewhere Lenin specifies "belligerent countries" as the target of this line. So while it is clear that Lenin was not
referring to Syria being invaded by the United $tates as a time that the proletariat must call for defeat of the government of their country, it seems that Turner is saying this.
We agree with other strategic conclusions of this book. China seems to be moving towards consolidating its sphere of influence, which could lead to consolidation of the world into two blocks once again. While this is a dangerous situation, with the threat of nuclear war, it is also a situation that has proven to create opportunities for the proletariat. Overall, the development and change of the current system works in the favor of the proletariat of the oppressed nations; time is on our side. As China tries to maintain its image as a "socialist" benefactor, the United $tates will feel more pressure to make concessions to the oppressed and hold back its own imperialist arrogance.
In 1986, Henry Park hoped that the CCP would repudiate Marxism soon, writing, "It
is far better for the CCP to denounce Marx (and Mao) as a dead dog than for the CCP to discredit socialism with the double-talk required to defend its capitalist social revolution."(35) Still hasn't happened, and it's not just the ignorant Amerikan who is fooled. Those buying into the 40-year Chinese charade contribute to the continued discrediting of socialism, especially as this "socialist" country becomes more aggressive in international affairs.
[We recommend Is China an Imperialist Country? as the best resource we know on this topic. As for the question of Chinese socialism being overthrown, please refer to the references below. We highly recommend The Chinese Road to Socialism for an explanation of what socialism looks like and why the GPCR was the furthest advancement of socialism so far.]
U.$. imperialist leaders and their labor aristocracy supporters like to criticize other countries for their tight control of the media and other avenues of speech. For instance, many have heard the myths about communist China forcing everyone to think and speak alike. In reality, these stories are a form of censorship of the truth in the United $tates. In China under Mao the government encouraged people to put up posters debating every aspect of political life, to criticize their leaders, and to engage in debate at work and at home. This was an important part of the Cultural Revoluion in China. There are a number of books available in this country that give a truthful account, but far more money is put into anti-communist propaganda books. Here in Amerika free speech is reserved for those with money and power.
In prisons in particular we see so much censorship, especially targetting those who are politically conscious and fighting for their rights. Fighting for our First Amendment right to free speech is a battle that MIM(Prisons) and many prisoners waste a lot of time and money on. For us this is perhaps the most fundamental of requirements for our organizing work. There are prisoners, and some entire prisons (and sometimes entire states) that are denied all mail from MIM(Prisons). This means we can't send in educational material, or study courses, or even supply a guide to fighting censorship. Many prisons regularly censor ULK claiming that the news and information printed within is a "threat to security." For them, printing the truth about what goes on behind bars is dangerous. But if we had the resources to take these cases to court we believe we could win in many cases.
Denying prisoners mail is condemning some people to no contact with the outside world. To highlight this, and the ridiculous and illegal reasons that prisons use to justify this censorship, we will periodically print a summary of some recent censorship incidents in ULK.
We hope that lawyers, paralegals, and those with some legal knowledge will be inspired to get involved and help us with these censorship battles, both behind bars and on the streets. For the full list of censorship incidents, along with copies of appeals and letters from the prison, check out our censorship reporting webpage.
North Carolina fears ULK promotes insurrection
Doug Pardue, Chair of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety's (NCDPS) Publication Review Committee (PRC) censored ULK 55, for the article "Regarding Daily Body Searches", stating that it "promotes insurrection." After appealing this censorship, Director of Rehabilitative Programs and Services upheld the decision citing these lines:
"Persynally I believe that we should shut down all movement but still go to Yard, programs and accept our food. Just make the pigs do all the work... the only way we know how to deal with an opposition is thru the motion of our resistance."
Ms. Sullivan writes, "These statements could possibly lead to insurrection which is a violation of our policy on publications." Apparently insurrection is a passive activity, and peaceful protest is a threat to institutional safety. Kind of ironic from a state that has a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. inscribed with the following words:
..."AFRICAN-AMERICANS AND FAIR MINDED PEOPLE OF ALL RACES, ENGAGED IN MASSIVE CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE SERVED NOTICE ON THE NATION AND THE WORLD THAT THEY WOULD NO LONGER TOLERATE THE ABUSES OF AMERICAN RACISM. THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT HERALDED A NEW ERA IN OUR COLLECTIVE RESOLVE TO ADHERE TO THE PRINCIPLES OF 'LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL'...
Still can't stay true to MLK's message in 2017.
Last year, NCPDS censored ULK 53 for the control unit survey. This was even more surprising. Upon our appeal, Nicole E. Sullivan, Director of Rehabilitative Programs and Services upheld the decision, writing:
"[T]he issue lies in the first sentence of the article which describes Control Units in inflammatory language equating them with political repression and torture. Control Units are not used in that manner in our facilities. Such language can encourage insurrection and disorder. Therefore the original decision is to withhold delivery is affirmed."
Ms. Sullivan ruled no free speech for MIM(Prisons) because any critique of eir agency's practices might cause an insurrection.
Just recently, one comrade who had ULK 55 censored and received our appeal letter responded:
"The NCPDS is quick to make any kind of negative judgment against prisoners. A man can say 'boo' and they feel threatened. I would like to know how they can even mention this material being against the prisoners' rehabilitation, where there is no such thing as rehabilitation in the department of NCPDS anymore. If a prisoner gets any rehabilitation, he gets it on his own.
"All the classes that might have been helpful with getting prisoners any rehabilitation have been closed down. More than that, most of the time after completing the class, proof of graduation completion certificates aren't worth the paper they are written on.
"I totally agree with the analysis of the appeal letter."
Missouri bans ULK
A subscriber at Jefferson City Correctional Center forwarded a copy of eir censorship notification for ULK 56. This comrade believes the state has banned all ULK although no formal notification has been given to either recipients or MIM(Prisons). The case manager for the prison refused to give this prisoner a grievance to file so ey could not even fight the ruling.
"The Censorship Committee has reviewed materials sent to you. Pursuant to our review of this material, we conclude that the security of this institution will be at risk if the material is delivered to you within this institution because the material:
1. constitutes a threat to the security, good order or discipline of the institution;
2. may facilitate or encourage criminal activity; or
3. may interfere with the rehabilitation of an offender
"Additional comments: contains articles that could constitute a safety and security risk."
Virginia DOC denies ULK 55 for lots of reasons but nothing specific
The Virginia DOC at least followed their rules in informing MIM(Prisons) that our publication was denied. Although the letter was sent months after this issue of ULK was mailed to subscribers. And still they claim we get only 15 days to appeal!
"You are hereby advised that the following issue(s) of publication(s) sent to an offender of the Virginia Department of Corrections have been disapproved for delivery to offenders of the Department:
Under Lock & Key March/April 2017 No. 55 page 5, front cover
for the following reasons:
D. Material, documents, or photographs that emphasize depictions or promotions of violence, disorder, insurrection, terrorist, or criminal activity in violation of state or federal laws or the violation of the Offender Disciplinary Procedure.
F. Material that depicts, describes, or promotes gang bylaws, initiations, organizational structure, codes, or other gang-related activity or association."
Hamilton CI in Florida censors guide to fighting censorship
In clear proof that Florida isn't reading the mail they censor, on July 20 we got a censorship notification from the Florida DOC along with the letter back that they had denied. This letter is our guide to fighting censorship in prisons. It contains information about regulations and laws, and how to appeal censorship. It's quite a stretch to consider any of the below reasons applicable to this document. More likely the mailroom is now just censoring all of our mail for these reasons.
"Your correspondence is being returned for the following reason(s):
"Otherwise presents a threat to the security, order, or rehabilitative objectives of the Correctional System, or to the safety of any person.
"Depicts, describes or encourages activities which may lead to the use of physical violence or group disruption.
"Encourages or instructs in the commission of criminal activity."
ULK 57 banned from Pennsylvania prisons for "advocating solidarity"
Apparently Pennsylvania considers any unity among prisoners to be dangerous. And so they banned all Pennsylvania prisoners from receiving ULK 57 because it "advocates solidarity." The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines solidarity as "unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on community of interests, objectives, and standards." Perhaps Pennsylvania hopes to keep prisoners distracted fighting one another rather than united against the abuse of the injustice system.
"Please be advised that the following publication has been denied to all inmates housed in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections:
"Under Lock & Key, #57, July/August 2017.
"The publication was denied for the following reasons:
"Information on page 11 advocates solidarity."
Pennsylvania denies ULK for article about PA prisons
"The following publication addressed to you has been reviewed and found unacceptable for the reason(s), indicated below, based on the criteria set forth in the DC-ADM 803 'Inmate Mail and Incoming Publications' policy Section 3.E.3.
Name of publication: Under Lock & Key – July/August 2017
b. security issues
"(4) Racially inflammatory material or material that could cause a threat to the inmate, staff, or facility security;
page number(s) 21, 24.
Brief description: States that 'the strip searches in the PA DOC are only for harassment purposes and we the people need to learn to fight and take a stand against the "pigs" in the prisons' referring to the correctional officers."
Illinois claims ULK is on Disapproved Publication List
Denying ULK 56 , the Illinois DOC offered only this justification to the prisoner's appeal: "Based upon this review, the following action is recommended: Denial – The publication is listed on the Disapproved Publication List."
Georgia censors ULK for being "reading material"
ULK 56 was sent back to us with a rejection form. The reason for rejection: "Other: reading Material (denied by legal in Atlanta)".
Washington rejects ULK 57 for article by prisoners
Washington DOC sent us individual rejection slips for at least ten prisoners, all claiming that ULK 57 violates law, policy, code or rules. Rather than give specifics, they offered several rather vague reasons as justification including info on STGs, overthrowing the government, and articles by other prisoners in other facilities. It's pretty hard to fight such general claims. And in fact most of ULK is written by prisoners, but that's not a legal justification for censorship.
"Reason 8. Contains plans for activity that violates state/federal law, the Washington Administrative Code, Department policy, and/or local facility rules.
"Comments/other reasons: 8. contains security threat group information and threat to penological object on overthrowing the government page 3, 11, and 13. A lot of articles that other offenders from other facilities."
Illinois returns study group lesson unopened
A letter sent to an Illinois prisoner was returned to us, unopened with the reason "unapproved correspondence." The envelope contained a 4 page intro to MIM(Prisons) and an invitation to our mail-based study group with the first reading and questions attached. How could Illinois know this was not approved if they didn't bother to open the letter to look at the contents?
9 September 2017 marked the sixth annual Day of Peace and Solidarity in prisons across the United $tates. On this day we commemorated the anniversary of the Attica uprising, drawing attention to abuse of prisoners across the country through peaceful protests, unity events, and educational work. This demonstration was initiated in 2012 by an organization participating in United Struggle for Peace in Prisons and has been taken up as an annual UFPP event, with people participating in prisons across the country. Here we print the initial reports received in time for this issue of ULK, and we look forward to expanding on this report in the next ULK. So if you haven't yet sent in your report, there's still time!
In these initial reports we see an array of actions taken, based on what was appropriate for local conditions. Some focused on spreading revolutionary education. Others worked hard to build unity between beefing sets. And some took this opportunity to initiate individual actions to demand basic rights they are due according to laws and regulations. We applaud all who participate din the September 9 solidarity demonstration. Now let's build on these actions every day: peace between prisoners, unity against the injustice system!
East Arkansas Regional Unit
I am fasting today and sharing with my new neighbor a couple issues of Under Lock & Key and explaining to him why I'm fasting today. The imperialists have their "Memorial Day," "Indpenedence Day," and "Veterans Day." We have our Day of Peace and Solidarity and I hope to learn to honor all the fallen comrades who died with a vision of freedom for all political prisoners by doing what I can to bring this vision to fruition.
Texas Darrington Unit
September 9 United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) is being participated by hispanics, Blacks and caucasian individuals. We will fast from 12:00am Saturday until Sunday 12:00am. The goal is to uphold the five Principles of UFPP and since my people in population, they will talk to other individuals about the movement. As of me, my participation in Ad-Seg I squash all beef with hispanics, Blacks and caucasians I'm beefing with, which is probably everybody here. I called peace and unity but sorry to say still there isn't any unity so I just have to roll with the peace.
California High Desert State Prison
James Baldwin: "To act is to be committed and to be committed is to be in danger."
To all comrades and allies in the struggle, Abolitionists From Within (AFW) is back for the third year at HDSP this 9 September 2017 day and weusi agosti. AFW have taken many setbacks but continue to build peace and solidarity behind enemy lines to commemorate the anniversary of the Attica uprising and to draw attention to the abuse of prisoners. We organize in opposition to the oppressive and exploitative dominant culture of Amerikan kapitalist society. AFW will continue to press no matter the circumstances.
To my comrades back on C-yard, the struggle continues. Brothas continue to speak peace and engage in solidarity and put petty differences to the side and past beefs ya dig! Here on D-yard in solidarity I fast all day, help one of the Raza comrades with his legal work, share work with my celly, and continue to build out on the yard even though I'm no longer with my brotha. You know it "can't stop, won't stop."
I do my best to lead by example to end prisoner-on-prisoner hostilities regardless of set, race, religion or other division, and needless conflict within the U.S. prison environment. A 24 hour action, a little sacrifice by the comrades to reflect on the anniversary of the Attica uprising and all the faceless (Hugo) brotha and sista that have sacrificed before us, behind enemy lines.
Revolutionary salute to my new family USW leadership working to educate the lumpen class. It's not easy, all of us are in a war against something in ourselves that's pulling us to do the right or wrong thing. Trying to conquer the weaker part of ourselves behind enemy line. I encourage you comrades to continue the struggle and hope we all learned something from this September 9. Comrades I have been influenced and inspired by you all and by the work and revolutionary practice of comrades in our struggle for peace in solidarity. The real Black communist guerrillas steer clear of reactionaries, agent provocateurs and parasitical leaders whose only aim is to sell out the young comrades. These saboteurs are very detrimental to our struggle for freedom, justice and equality and to peace behind enemy lines. Emancipate yourselves from the shackles of capitalism, comrades.
Nevada High Desert State Prison
Today, September 9, we had a number of comrades that were going to not eat today, and we have collected about 40 issues of ULK between us all, and we were just going to pass them out to everyone. And then on tier and yard we had planned on making a show of a study group. But a pig was stabbed here 2 weeks ago. He died yesterday, and today we are locked down. So, we are going to proceed with our plan once we are off lockdown. We also have a couple comrades that are focusing solely on the New Afrikans in an attempt to get the MIM(Prisons) address in their hands!
Arizona Central Unit
I am commencing a hunger strike on 9/9/2017, to continue until the below issues are resolved. These issues are regarding equal treatment, retaliation, legal rights, First Amendment rights, staff misconduct and conditions of confinement. List of Hunger Strike Resolutions:
Allow me to resume taking my paralegal correspondence course
Rescind the ban on all my incoming magazines and books.
Give me my TV from property office
Give me my prescription eyeglasses from property
Allow me to receive sunglasses in accordance with my Special Needs Order
Remove me from Protective Custody (PC) status
Provide me unfettered access to grievance forms
Provide me with regularly scheduled legal calls to my attorneys
Conduct legal box exchanges in accordance with policy.
Allow me to do book exchanges with my personal books in property.
Georgia Valdosta Unit
This last report is from 2016 but got to us late due to mail delays and issues on both ends.
My apologies for the delay. I had to fight for my right to live. As I went back to court to fight for my freedom from these imperialistic $nakes, my lit of September 9 was left behind. But I enforced what I had to memory into action. From Sept 8, 2016 at 11:58 I began my solidarity & commemoration for the fallen leaders before me. Needless to say I was on lock down and wasn't able to move among my fellow comrades to spread the little knowledge I acquired thus far. So I fasted and talked in the vent to my neighbor and enlightened him on the occasion and the movement to educate each other no matter of race, color or gang membership.
As the breakfast came the officers was dumbfounded that I gently pushed my tray back out the flap and stated "In memory of my fallen brothers at Attica." I then proceeded to get up and walk to the back of my cell and did pushups and jumping jax for endurance. Lunch & Dinner also to show the pigs that where ever we, "us" soldiers of the struggle go, our principles of peace, unity, growth, internationalism and independence is in us.
When I came back to my concentration KKKamp one of the comrades filled me in on the movement of the day of 9th when I was gone. They're the young generation so the physical aggression was there. And I'm honored to say none of my comrades was harmed in their display of that day.
This is the third movie in a new trilogy based off the original 5-film series. Like Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2010), War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) makes many references to the original series. It does a lot to set up for the scenario in the original second film, Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970). However, the ending seems to crush that possibility. There is a fourth film being planned for the new series, and it is not clear what the scenario will be.
This new series lacks some of the scifi complexities of the original that dealt with space and time travel and mutations and evolution. So far the new series has covered a modest 15 years, in one world, and is a pretty straight forward story of struggle and war between humyns and apes whose brains evolved due to a brain-enhancing virus developed to cure Alzheimer's disease in humyns.
In Beneath (1970), the humyn civilization is built around a worship of nuclear weapons and the film is a righteous critique of nukes. In War (2017), the humyns are led by a messianic colonel who blames the man-made viruses for their plight. This leads to an anti-science position that puts these humyns at war with another faction who want to find a medical cure to the plague striking humyns. In the case of nuclear weapons we can say that humyns are taking technological advances into a dangerous direction that threatens all life on Earth. But this new Planet of the Apes series leaves us with the message that we should fear medical advancements. Under capitalism, such fear has a material basis because profits over people can lead to technological disasters in all fields. But in this post-apocalyptic world, there does not seem to be a functioning capitalist economy. So the message amounts to a religious movement calling for a cleansing, and opposing attempts at solutions in medical science. This feeds into the fear-mongering of fascist-leaning religious cults, unlike the original series that critiqued genocidal militarism.
In this movie, Koba haunts Caesar, both in dream-like visions and in the ongoing war that he started with the humyns. The mantra of "Ape shall not kill ape" is brought back by Koba in one vision, after Caesar kills a traitor who gave up Caesar's location in an attempt to save himself, leading to the murder of Caesar's wife and older son. Revenge for this event serves as Caesar's motivation through most of this film. When they encounter the traitor at an enemy camp he attempts to notify the humyns of their presence, endangering Caesar's life a second time. While Caesar is very merciful, he cannot abide to absolutes like "Ape shall not kill ape" and still serve the masses of apes at the same time. We later learn that the seemingly ruthless humyn Colonel has also made sacrifices for the greater good of humyns. The Colonel even offers Caesar lessons in not letting his emotions and drive for revenge guide him. This is one positive message of the film, which ends with Caesar returning to the struggle for all apes that he was so dedicated to in the last two films.
One of the new characters introduced in this third film is a goofy source of slap-stick humor. While this may be seen as a desperate attempt to liven up the series, perhaps it is a throwback to the third film in the original series, Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), which has a whimsical feel to it that is inconsistent with the two films before and after it. The comic relief character does play an important role in letting us know that more supersmart apes exist in the world. While he got audience laughs, the only funny part about this character in this reviewer's opinion was how the producers introduced the name of the young humyn who joins the ape leadership on their revenge mission. This young humyn is an interesting look at what we could call national or species suicide. She gives the "Apes United Are Strong" salute before playing a crucial role in breaking them free. At one point she asks the orangutan Maurice, "Me? Ape?". Maurice answers by saying her name. A sort of non-answer that seems to say no, but you are one of us. The examples of apes working for the humyns, and this humyn being part of the apes is a blow against identity politics. An individual's politics and the role they play in the world is not defined by what group they were born into, even though we can analyze about groups and their roles and positions in society.
On the other side, there are many traitors working for the humyns who were called "donkeys" and treated as servants, while being forced to commit much of the brutality against captive apes to prove their loyalty. This type of mentality is so well-established today that no force is needed to get Black and Brown pigs to be more brutal than their white counterparts. One of the traitors who beats and abuses Caesar when he enters the work camp comes to his aid at the very end. This comes after we see Caesar act in a firm and principled way in front of the traitor throughout the film. This is not just a nice, fictional story. In his autobiography, set mostly in the first wave of the U.$. prison movement, Black Panther Eddie Conway demonstrates that being politically consistent and being a leader does impact people in ways you may not realize for some time. And that people will come through for the movement when you don't expect it if you set a good example as a leader.
There is something unbelievable in the way the modern Planet of the Apes films combines the lumbering ape-suited actors, with the scenes of tracking humyns and searching in close combat situations. The idealized images of military and SWAT operations we're so used to in movies today just don't accommodate the clumsy movements of the apes. The more primitive scenes of war in the original series are actually more congruent and believable.
Overall, there was some good character development in War (2017) that demonstrated some useful lessons for political struggle. Like the other films in this new series there is more of a focus on fast-paced battle scenes than in the original series. And like the others in this new series, it loses some of the more radically progressive aspects of the earlier version. Despite that, the focus on prison struggles, like in Rise (2010), will probably preclude this movie from being screened in U.$. prisons. We are still holding out to see whether the makers of the new series will delve into the subject of the dictatorship of the proletariat, as did the last two films of the original series.
Recently, comrades held in Administrative Segregation Units (ASU) at Folsom State Prison stepped up the battle against long-term isolation. On 25 May they began a hunger strike to protest the extreme social isolation faced there. ASU is just one more form of control unit, or long-term isolation in California prisons. At Folsom prisoners protested the lack of TVs, pull up bars, education, and social and rehabilitative programs. Outside supporters held a rally in Sacramento.
CDCR responded to the strike by transferring a number of perceived leaders of this campaign a few days in. On 19 June 2017 the strike was suspended.(1) But comrades remain steadfast and call on anyone in an ASU in California to file 602 grievances if they are facing similar conditions of extreme isolation to continue to push this campaign forward.
The various categorizations of long-term isolation units in California are a legal loophole that limited the scope of recent reforms related to Security Housing Units at Pelican Bay, which were already weak to begin with.(2) Meanwhile, at Pelican Bay on 24 May 2017 a fight between prisoners and guards was reported that ended with guards shooting five prisoners.(3) We do not have updated information on their conditions.
On June 13, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) released an Amerikan student, Otto Warmbier, who was imprisoned there for 15 months. The student came home in a coma and died a few days later. According to Korean officials, Warmbier had been in a coma since shortly after his arrest due to complications from botulism, a condition that can be contracted from contaminated food, soil or water. It's likely that the imprisonment of Warmbier was just a political move by the DPRK government. He was convicted of stealing a propaganda poster.
What is unusual about Warmbier is that he was a young, well-off white guy, enjoying the privilege of his Amerikan citizenship and wealth by going on a fun adventure to visit north Korea. Amerika mostly targets lumpen from oppressed nations and non-citizens for imprisonment, as well as people who take up the fight against imperialism. So in this country Warmbier would be very unlikely to end up in prison.
In a parallel to this case in Korea, Amerikan prisons hold many non-citizens(9), especially from Mexico and Central America, locked up for small or bogus charges. If not for conditions caused by imperialism, these people want to go home to their country and families. Some don't speak English and so can't even fight for their rights. Some were railroaded into pleading guilty without really understanding the trial. And some of these prisoners will end up seriously ill or even die due to conditions in Amerikan prisons.(10)
We don't hold out hope that the white nationalists will offer a criticism of the "brutality of the Amerikan regime" for all these crimes against prisoners held behind bars in this country. It should be an embarrassment to Amerikans that the United $tates locks up people at a rate higher than any other country in the world. But this system of social control is swept under the rug, while appologists for imperialism hypocritically criticize the DPRK (and other countries) for their treatment of one Amerikan prisoner.
MIM(Prisons) struggles for an end to a system where prisons are places where people suffer and die premature deaths.
In late May, prisoners in several Wisconsin prisons renewed the hunger strike against torture in that state's prisons. In addition to arbitrarily long terms in solitary confinement, the prisons are not following their own rules about things like required time out of cell.(1) We are awaiting more news of the action from our comrades in Wisconsin.
In 2016 Wisconsin prisoners staged a hunger strike protesting long-term solitary confinement practices in that state. This strike started June 10 and went for several months and involved force feeding of some participants. You can read the history here and here. The administration punished the protesters but did nothing to modify their solitary confinement policies which included arbitrarily and poorly defined offenses leading to long sentences in isolation.
The 2016 petition from striking prisoners at Waupun is printed below:
Dying to Live
Human rights fight at Waupun Correctional Institution starting June 10, 2016. Prisoners in Waupun's solitary confinement will start No Food & Water humanitarian demand from Wisconsin Department of Corrections officials.
The why: In the state of Wisconsin hundreds of prisoners are in the long term solitary confinement units a.k.a. Administrative Confinement (AC). Some been in this status from 18 to 20 years.
The Problem: The United Nations, several states, and even President Obama have come out against this kind of confinement citing the torturous effect it has on prisoners.
The Objective: Stop the torturous use long-term solitary confinement (AC) by:
Placing a legislative cap on the use of long term solitary confinement (AC)
DOC and Wisconsin legislators adoption/compliance of the UN Mandela rules on the use of solitary confinement(5)
Oversight board/committee independent of DOC to stop abuse and overclassification of prisoners to "short" and "long" term solitary confinement.
Immediate transition and release to a less restrictive housing of prisoners who been on the long term solitary confinement units for more than a year in the Wisconsin DOC
Proper mental health facilities and treatment of "short" and "long" term solitary confinement prisoners
An immediate FBI investigation to the secret Asklepieion* program the DOC is currently operating at Columbia Correctional Institution (CCI) to break any prisoner who the DOC considers a threat to their regimen
How you can help
Call Governor Scott Walker's office and tell him to reform the long-term solitary confinement units in the Wisconsin DOC and to stop the secret Asklepieion program at once. The number to call is 608-266-1212.
Call the DOC central office and demand that all 6 humanitarian demands for this hunger strike be met and demand an explanation as to why they are operating a torture program. The number to call is 608-240-5000.
Call the media and demand that they do an independent investigation on the secret Asklepieion program operating at Columbia Correctional Institution, and cover this hunger strike.
Call the FBI building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and demand that they investigate the secret Asklepieion torture program being run at CCI. The phone number to call is 414-276-4684.
Call Columbia Correctional Institution and tell them you are aware of their secret torture program. Harass them! 608-742-9100.
Join in on the hunger strike and post it on the net. Convince others to join as well.
25 May 2017 - Actions in cities around the world were taken today to mark 40 days since 1500 Palestinian political prisoners have been living on salt and water alone to protest the conditions of their confinement. The message at these rallies made clear connections between the struggle against long-term solitary confinement, detention without trial, lack of health care and restrictions on contact with families and the broader anti-colonial struggle. At a local demonstration, this connection was also made to struggles here on occupied Turtle Island.
Signs reading "Palestine Will Be Free" and "Withhold Aid to Israel" lined the sidewalk in front of the Israeli consulate as Aarab Barghouti, the son of political prisoner Marwan Barghouti, spoke to the crowd in San Francisco. Aarab spoke of not being able to enter Jerusalem, the city where ey was born. Aarab told of eir sister visiting their father to plead that ey not risk eir health in a hunger strike. But Marwan Barghouti responded that, "I'm doing this because I haven't been able to touch any of you for 15 years. I'm doing this because we have more than 5000 Palestinian prisoners who haven't been charged or had their day in court."
The participants this correspondent spoke with were all quick to speak of colonialism and the seizure of land when asked why so many Palestinians languished in Israeli jails. They spoke of the one-sided violence and the resistance that Palestinians made to it that led to their imprisonment. Everyone knew that the United $tates is the biggest prison state in the world today. But when asked why, only half (of a small sample size) made the same connections to land grab and national oppression in this country. Others spoke of the "Prison Industrial Complex", free labor, profits, outdated laws and a system that works against the poor. This correspondent pointed out that MIM(Prisons) has research on their website debunking some of the common ideas held about the "PIC," and for-profit prisons in the United $tates.
The relative silence around the colonial question here on occupied Turtle Island is somewhat understandable. We do not have an apartheid state like Israel has in the occupied territories of Palestine. The internal semi-colonies here have democratic rights for the most part, and integration has progressed in many ways. Meanwhile, the struggle for land is only popular among indigenous people on the reservations that are isolated enclaves on this vast land.
Nonetheless, MIM(Prisons) was not the only group trying to make the connection. One speaker opened with, "Here on Ohlone Nation, we stand on stolen land and we stand in solidarity with another indigenous nation." The representative of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center mentioned ICE detainees currently on hunger strike and prisoners in California who recently went on hunger strike for similar conditions. A speaker from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) talked about the leading example the Palestinian prisoners were making in solidarity with all those fighting colonialism. Ey went on to say, "We hope the movement on this territory can take direction and inspiration from those imprisoned here for political and social crimes."
One protestor told this correspondent that they'd been fighting in solidarity with the liberation of Palestinians since 1967. This persyn was one who saw prisons in the United $tates being used for the same purposes as they are used in I$rael. Ey told a story of meeting some young Israelis:
"I was in Brazil four years ago, on a bus, and there was a group of young Israelis who recently completed their military service. I had on this bracelet, which says 'Free Gaza.' So we started talking, and they were freaked out, meeting a U.S. citizen [saying these things]. They were arguing, well, we didn't do anything to the Palestinians that the Amerikans didn't do to Native Americans and Blacks. As if that was a justification."
Young Israelis see the connection and so should we. Another persyn we spoke to pointed out how Israelis train the NYPD. So it goes both ways. But the United $tates is the imperialist power and I$rael would not exist without its decades of patronage. The liberation of Palestine remains at the forefront of the struggle for national liberation of all oppressed nations today because of the blatant lack of democratic rights and self-determination. Just as the recent hunger strike finds its strength and base in a strong national liberation movement, the prison movement in the United $tates last peaked when Black, [email protected], Puerto Rican and Indigenous liberation movements reached a peak some 50 years ago. Without making these connections again, today's growing prison movement will fizzle out in reformism and false promises.
Many attending the protest were interested to check out Under Lock & Key, and were inspired to hear about the USW petition campaign to oppose the Israeli bombing campaign in August 2014. In turn, our movement should find inspiration in the heroic strike going on in Israeli prisons today, and the continued struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom from settler occupation.
UPDATE: As this article was being reviewed by our editor news broke that the strike had ended and a settlement reached after more than 800 prisoners didn't eat for 40 days. The terms of the agreement with the Israeli state are many, and full details have not been released. They include many improvements to family contact and visitations, access to educational materials, medical conditions for the sick, access to better foods and cooking, better sports equipment and addressing high temperatures and overcrowding. In addition, a prisoners' committee has been established, providing a mechanism for addressing future issues. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network released the following statement:
"On this occasion of the prisoners’ victory, we know that there is a long struggle to come, for liberation for the prisoners and liberation for Palestine. We urge all of the Palestinian communities, supporters of Palestine and social justice organizers who took to the streets, drank salt water, engaged in hunger strikes, expressed their solidarity and organized across borders and walls to celebrate the victory of the prisoners with events and actions on 4-6 June, in Celebrations of Dignity and Victory.
"In these celebrations, we will recognize the power of the Palestinian people to defeat the occupier and the colonizer, honor the prisoners and their steadfastness, and emphasize the ongoing struggle. These celebrations are an occasion to escalate our demands for Palestinian freedom – for the liberation of Palestinian prisoners, the Palestinian people, and the entire land of Palestine."(1)
In Mao’s essay "On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People," (27 February 1957) ey wrote of melding practice with criticism and discussion in order for our movement and the masses to grow to greater understanding, unity, and strength. The essay explains, when struggling over disagreements amongst political allies (friends), to start from a place of unity, struggle through discussion, and come away with greater unity. For short, we call this unity-criticism-unity. In this issue of Under Lock & Key we explore how this method applies to the prison environment. How can unity-criticism-unity help counter the typically hyper-violent method of handling disagreement in prisons?
"The only way to settle questions of an ideological nature or controversial issues among the people is by the democratic method, the method of discussion, criticism, persuasion and education, and not by the method of coercion or repression." - Mao Tse-Tung, ibid.
There are often situations behind bars that require first identifying who are our friends and then we can apply unity-criticism-unity among those people.
A comrade in California reported in ULK 55 about eir long struggle to build unity across different organizations in the yard at California Correctional Institution (CCI), leading up to a banquet with various lumpen orgs participating.(1) This was done through discussion and peaceful struggle, maintained even through some violent episodes. This is a good example of identifying friends even among those who may initially be unfriendly, and patiently working to build unity.
An organizer in South Carolina reported in ULK 53 on eir work fighting lumpen-on-lumpen violence by holding classes to educate the youth on what it means to have unity.(2) Educational classes are a good form of criticism of political line that doesn't involve attacking individuals' views directly, sometimes making it easier for people to accept the criticism and come to see why they are wrong. This holds true for both leaders and class participants. No one person has all correct knowledge in educational classes. Leaders should also be open to learning new things from participants.
It's not always easy to see someone as a political friend when you've had past beef with them. In "Building Unity Through ULK" (in this issue) there is a report from Arkansas about how two prisoners overcame past differences through political unity. And the article "From Cop to Anti-Imperialist" shows us the sometimes fluid nature of identifying our friends. Someone who was an enemy of the people while working for the police force has been won over to the side of revolution through circumstances in eir life that put them in the camp of the oppressed.
Finally, the public debate we are having with Zero, continued in this issue of ULK, is an example of building unity while engaging in political struggle. One which we hope to build on as we further our alliance with Zero and others.
Contradictions with enemies vs. contradictions among the people
"Since they are different in nature, the contradictions between ourselves and the enemy and the contradictions among the people must be resolved by different methods. To put it briefly, the former entail drawing a clear distinction between ourselves and the enemy, and the latter entail drawing a clear distinction between right and wrong." - Mao Tse-Tung, ibid.
First we must distinguish between contradictions with the enemy and contradictions among the people. In contradictions with the enemy, such as with the prison COs, or with the Amerikan imperialist government, we are not seeking unity and we should be clear and straightforward in our statements about them. Criticism of enemies is important because it keeps the revolutionary movement on point. We do this when we identify all the candidates in the imperialist elections as part of the imperialist system. We also do this when we call out white supremacists behind bars collaborating with the COs to attack New Afrikans.
In contradictions among the people, on the other hand, Mao wrote: "the essential thing is to start from the desire for unity. For without this desire for unity, the struggle, once begun, is certain to throw things into confusion and get out of hand." This is the opposite of how we deal with contradictions with our enemies. When we run into problems with people who should be our allies, we need to start from this desire for unity.
Contradictions with our comrades, including disagreements within our organizations, should be approached from a position of unity-criticism-unity. In practice this means starting from the understanding of where we have unity, and that our criticism of one another's line and practice is always with the goal of building even greater unity.
We should not just throw out criticisms for the sake of making someone look bad or tearing them down. Criticism must always be with the goal of building greater unity. Sometimes we will not come to agreement over the criticism, but we can at least come to better understanding of our disagreements. Perhaps we can agree on a way to test which position is correct, or further research we need to do, or maybe we will agree that the criticism is not significant enough to lead to a split as our areas of agreement are far more significant.
Who are "the people"?
The people are those who we should be approaching as friends, not enemies. Mao wrote: "The concept of 'the people' varies in content in different countries and in different periods of history in a given country." In revolutionary China, Mao was talking about contradictions among those who supported and were served by the revolution in China. The identification of the people in revolutionary China was relatively straightforward as it encompassed the vast majority of the population.
Identifying who are "the people" in imperialist countries, where we're surrounded by enemies of the international proletariat, is a more difficult question. Broadly, the people include those whose class, nation or gender interests are counter to imperialism, as well as all people who take up anti-imperialist organizing. More specifically, within the United $tates, the people whose class, nation and/or gender interests makes them potential allies includes:
1. Oppressed nation lumpen
2. The very small proletarian class (mostly migrant workers)
3. Petty-bourgeoisie from the oppressed nations
4. Youth of all nations, particularly students
5. Others who are marginalized by imperialism and the patriarchy (i.e. queer and trans folk)
Many of these people could be happily integrated into imperialism, but we should still approach them with a goal of building unity and not as enemies. For the most part however, when we talk about contradictions among the people, we're talking about contradictions with those who are already on the side of the oppressed — either due to circumstances or because they have consciously taken up the cause of the oppressed — not those who are actively supporting imperialism.
Distinguishing enemy lines from enemies
When looking at contradictions among the people it is important to distinguish enemy lines from enemies. We're all going to take up incorrect ideas and practices some of the time. That doesn't make us into enemies, even if the line we take up turns out to be pro-imperialist. Learning from our mistakes is part of being a revolutionary. Our job is to help our comrades identify their mistakes, and to be open to hearing from others when they point out our mistakes.
In the essay under discussion, Mao asked "how should our people judge whether a person's words and deeds are right or wrong?" In response ey laid out six criteria that applied to a country that was already socialist. We have modified these slightly below to apply to our current conditions.
1. Words and deeds should help to unite, and not divide, oppressed people of all nationalities
2. They should be beneficial, and not harmful, to anti-imperialist struggle
3. They should help to consolidate, and not undermine or weaken, the people's revolutionary organizations
4. They should help consolidate, and not undermine or weaken, democratic centralism
5. They should help to strengthen, and not shake off or weaken, communist leadership
6. They should be beneficial, and not harmful, to international socialist unity and the unity of the peace-loving people of the world.
The first three points apply to all anti-imperialists, and we would propose them as good criteria to use for all people who are building united fronts. The last three are specific to communists who are actively fighting for socialist revolution. Communists should apply all six points to our practice.
These six points and the strategy of unity-criticism-unity should be at the forefront as we refocus energies on building alliances and a united Maoist movement here on occupied Turtle Island. The USW Council is also in the process of putting unity-criticism-unity into practice to reach out across the prison movement to consolidate forces friendly to anti-imperialism and national liberation. We will continue to report back on these efforts in future issues of Under Lock & Key.