The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Got legal skills? Help out with writing letters to appeal censorship of MIM Distributors by prison staff. help out
Could not find requested file
chain
[Palestine] [Gender] [ULK Issue 84]
expand

I$raeli Propaganda Capitalizes on Gender Hierarchy

Shani Louk selfie
Shani Louk was one of the I$raelis killed on October 7th
that had glamorous photos spread across the media

18 January 2024 – Today, The Guardian published an article claiming to have evidence of rape of I$raelis during the October 7th attack led by Hamas.(1) However, much of the evidence they provide is the same evidence provided by The New York Times in a similar article from December that has been largely debunked by The Electronic Intifada, citing lack of real evidence, claims that have been countered by the relatives of one alleged victim, and exposing a prime “witness” for being Zionist a operative who has given inconsistent accounts of what ey says ey saw.(2)

I$rael, U.$. and British propaganda have been weaponizing gender to maintain support for the ongoing slaughter of Palestinians of all ages and genders. This has been their playbook against the Muslim world for decades, and against oppressed nations for centuries. It is a common tool of war to demonize and dehumanize the enemy to build support for violence.

Because Hamas attacked civilians, including a rave full of young, beautiful people, the images of young, mostly European, wimmin have been at the forefront of the media since October 7th. Not only are I$raeli wimmin portrayed very differently than Palestinian wimmin in the propaganda war, they benefit from a pornographic culture that values their appearance over that of other peoples of the world. This gives them real gender power, and gives their images real currency in the propaganda war.

One of those kidnapped from the rave was the daughter of a billionaire who built his wealth on the occupation of Palestine. The BBC strangely titled their article on him, “Eyal Waldman: Israeli tech billionaire hopes for peace despite daughter’s killing.” In the article, Waldman seeths about eliminating those who did the attack and even all of Hamas.(3)

More recently, The Daily Mail featured an “exclusive” on “The faces of the girls STILL being held by Hamas”. The tabloid style of The Daily Mail is based on using images of the grotesque and the sexy to capture attention. Stories such as this have allowed them to feature both side-by-side.

While at least one order of magnitude more Palestinian young wimmin have been murdered (not to mention injured, starved, sickened) by I$rael since October 7th, it is the faces of Euro-I$raelis that we see in British and U.$. media. Of course this can be explained by imperialist geo-political interests in the region. But this is also because sex sells, and young European wimmin are sexy.

MIM gave us the theory of the gender aristocracy to better understand this dynamic, and how it affects who are our friends and who are our enemies. The gender aristocracy are the wimmin (and the sexual minorities, etc) who benefit from and support the patriarchy despite having the biological characteristics that traditionally put people in the gender oppressed group under patriarchy. Like the labor aristocracy, the gender aristocracy expanded and transformed in the era of imperialism.

MIM Thought points to the material basis of gender in health status, and the gender aristocracy operating often as a subset of national oppression. So the young, healthy, strong, beautiful people are the ones with gender privilege. Tie that with oppressor nation status, and you have a group of people who have the dual characteristics of being highly valued as well as considered worthy of protection.

Under patriarchal thinking, the defiling of the nation’s wimmin is often a higher offense than killing them. So when we compare the capture of dozens of young Euro-I$raeli wimmin (some who have been murdered) to the murder of tens of thousands of Palestinians, there is just no comparison in the eyes of the oppressor. They will happily kill thousands of more Palestinian men, wimmin and children as revenge for this ultimate sin.

Even in death we see the privilege and power of the gender aristocracy whose pictures are spread around and mourned in the oppressor nations, while the Palestinian wimmin die nameless and faceless.

We’ve also seen Jewish student groups in the United $tates using signs in support of LGBTQ people in their counter protests to those opposing the war on Palestine. This is another example of trying to unite the oppressor nations around gender issues against the oppressed nations that has been used against the Arab world for decades.

Despite these efforts, a November Gallup poll showed that Amerikan wimmin were less supportive of I$rael’s war than men (44% vs 59%). Bigger gaps were seen by age and nation, however. For age support was 30% for 18 to 34 year olds, 50% for 35 to 54, and 63% for 55 and older. Many have commented on the different views of I$rael by age and historical context. But youth interests always differ from the rest, and we see this contradiction as the principal contradiction within the Amerikan nation. Within the United $tates we see the principal contradiction as that between the Amerikan nation and the oppressed nations. This is reflected in 61% white support for I$raeli war, and 30% support from the oppressed nations in the poll.(5)

The current upsurge of youth and oppressed nations in response to the genocide in Gaza is heartening. We must work to organize these forces into sustainable anti-imperialist organizations. The primary way to do this is in the battle of ideas and combatting the trickery the imperialists use to try to win them back over to the side of the oppressor.

Notes:
1. Betham McKernan, 18 Jan 2024, Evidence points to systematic use of rape and sexual violence by Hamas in 7 October attacks, The Guardian.
2. Ali Abunima, 9 January 2024, NY Times “investigation” of mass rape by Hamas falls apart, The Electronic Intifada.
3. Orla Guerin, 12 December 2023, Eyal Waldman: Israeli tech billionaire hopes for peace despite daughter’s killing, BBC News.
4. Natalie Lisbona, 7 January 2024, The Daily Mail, The faces of the girls STILL being held by Hamas as their families make a desperate plea for their release three months after they were captured.
5. Lydia Saad, 30 November 2023, Americans Back Israel’s Military Action in Gaza by 50% to 45%, Gallup.

chain
[Drugs] [Afghanistan] [China] [Independent Institutions] [Iraq] [ULK Issue 84]
expand

If the Taliban Can Do It, So Can We

The Taliban retook power in Afghanistan after the U.$. retreat in August 2021.(1) In April 2022, the Taliban once again instituted a ban on poppy cultivation, and by December 2023 they had reduced production by 95%. Most global poppy cultivation now takes place in unstable regions of Myanmar.(2) The Taliban banned opium production with similar results in 2000, but when the United $tates invaded Afghanistan in 2001, they saw to it that opium production was restored and there were continued increases up until last year. As a very poor country, poppy production is a significant cash crop for Afghan farmers. Still the Taliban has been able to enforce the ban, while working with farmers to grow alternative crops. The United $tates says they spent $8 billion trying to eradicate poppy during their rule over the country from 2001 to 2018.(2)

opium production by year in afghanistan

Afghanistan has been negotiating agricultural deals with China since the Taliban regained power in 2021, and are scheduled to begin shipping large exports of produce to China this month [December 2023]. Afghanistan has attended China’s recent Belt and Road Forum, with China becoming Afghanistan’s second biggest trade partner after neighboring Pakistan.(3) This growing export of raw materials has come with far greater imports of products from social-imperialist China, that will feed a relationship of unequal exchange leading to wealth transfer out of Afghanistan. But in the short-term it is helping provide economic options other than exporting opium to Europe, where Afghanistan had provided 95% of the black market supply.(4)

While the United $tates invaded Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 attacks, by 2003 they had begun a full-scale invasion of Iraq using 9/11 as a cover once again. Iraq had also had a culture and tradition that made drug use relatively uncommon. This began to change since the overthrow of the Ba’ath Party in 2003, with sharp increases in crystal meth and the stimulant Captagon documented since 2017.(5) It’s also interesting to note that besides U.$. oil interests, Amerikans were concerned with the ruling Ba’ath Party’s support of certain militant groups in Palestine.

Of course a better example of eliminating opium is China, where the masses were the victims of British Opium War. The Taliban isn’t fighting addiction so much as they are trying to shift agricultural production in a way that is challenging the incomes of poor farmers. The Chinese Communist Party (CPC) gives us a better model than the Taliban of how to fight addiction by empowering the masses through socialism from 1949-1976. We wrote about this in Issue 59 on drugs:

“Richard Fortmann did a direct comparison of the United $tates in 1952 (which had 60,000 opioid addicts) and revolutionary China (which started with millions in 1949).(9) Despite being the richest country in the world, unscathed by the war, with an unparalleled health-care system, addicts in the United $tates increased over the following two decades. Whereas China, a horribly poor country coming out of decades of civil war, with 100s of years of opium abuse plaguing its people, had eliminated the problem by 1953.(9) Fortmann pointed to the politics behind the Chinese success:

“If the average drug addiction expert in the United States were shown a description of the treatment modalities used by the Chinese after 1949 in their anti-opium campaign, his/her probable response would be to say that we are already doing these things in the United States, plus much more. And s/he would be right.”(9)

“About one third of addicts went cold turkey after the revolution, with the more standard detox treatment taking 12 days to complete. How could they be so successful so fast? What the above comparison is missing is what happened in China in the greater social context. The Chinese were a people in the process of liberating themselves, and becoming a new, socialist people. The struggle to give up opium was just one aspect of a nationwide movement to destroy remnants of the oppressive past. Meanwhile the people were being called on and challenged in all sorts of new ways to engage in building the new society.”(6)

Here we see the United $tates failing where socialist China succeeded, using the exact same tools! These historical examples demonstrate that the principal contradiction behind the drug epidemic is found within the structure of society and not with specific treatment techniques. China was also a divided, drug-ravaged population coming into the war of liberation, proving how a new culture can be built and a people can rise above addiction.

But wait, the Taliban and the CPC both had state power when they eliminated drugs. True. And the people in state power in the United $tates are not interested in empowering the people. Instead, they continue to allow the free flow of drugs into even the most controlled environments. On the road to state power, the CPC built dual power, by developing liberated zones in China where they could begin to experiment with the policies and practices of building socialism, including the elimination of drug use.

U.$. prisons are very different conditions than the Chinese countryside. And communists are far from state power in this country. But comrades must use the materialist method to develop strategies for building forms of dual power and transforming the culture of the oppressed to fight drug addiction. The Revolutionary 12 Steps that we published last year is one tool for that, but the real challenge is putting programs into practice. We must build independent institutions of the oppressed that combat addiction by empowering people in a greater liberation struggle. It is the plague of hopelessness that is truly killing us.

NOTES:
1. Plastick, October 2021, Whither Afghanistan?, Under Lock & Key Issue 75.
2. CBS News, 12 December 2023, Myanmar overtakes Afghanistan as the world’s biggest opium producer, U.N. says.
3. Ralph Jennings and Mandy Zuo, 7 November 2023, CIIE: China, Afghanistan cultivate deeper ties with agriculture deals, South China Morning Post.
4. BBC News, 25 August 2021, Afghanistan: How much opium is produced and what’s the Taliban’s record?
5. Jamal Muzil, May 2023, Substance abuse in Iraq, Quantifying the Picture, Journal of Population Therapeutics and Clinical Pharmacology 30(12):302-313.
6. Wiawimawo, November 2017, Opioids on the Rise Again Under Imperialism, Under Lock & Key Issue 59.

chain
[Palestine] [Elections] [Fascism] [ULK Issue 84]
expand

Genocide Joe Compares Trump to Hitler

Trump Parrots Hitler

The Biden/Harris campaign released the above image criticizing some language coming from recent Donald Trump campaign speeches for the 2024 U.$. Presidential election. Meanwhile Trump continues to lead by a landslide for the Republican ticket, which is not surprising, as Hitler viewed the Amerikan project with envy.

The United $tates has been milking it’s alliance with the Soviet Union to fight fascism for over 75 years now. If it were not for the sacrifices of the Soviet people, over 20 million of whom died in the war fighting fascism, and if it were not for the strategic leadership of the Comintern in building alliances with some imperialist powers to fight others, we might not have had 75 years of self-righteousness to have leaned on by U.$. leaders.

Usually U.$. officials would raise the “Hitler” comparisons when it was time to expand imperialist wars against another Third World country, such as Iraq or Panama. But today the leading Democratic presidential candidate is using it against the leading Republican candidate at the same time that the Democrat is facing legal charges for enabling genocide emself. It seems the mask is coming off.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a complaint in federal court in November on behalf of Palestinians that is seeking recognition of the ongoing genocide in Palestine and the requirement for President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to do all they can to prevent Israel’s genocidal acts.(1)

While the occupation of Palestine by I$rael and their imposition of an apartheid state has long been genocidal, the war has reached unprecedented levels since the Hamas-led attack against I$rael on 7 October 2023. By mid-December, a whopping 85% of the population of Gaza has been displaced from their homes and 1% of the population has been killed by the I$raeli onslaught. At least 8 of the murdered and around 100 of those injured were at the hands of “civilian” settlers.(2) Large numbers of the displaced have no access to food or clean water.

Genocide Joe is Funding Israeli War Crimes

Whether the Amerikan courts will recognize what is happening to the Palestinians in Gaza as genocide is questionable according to legal experts. But legal filings continue to be submitted to bolster the case.

The “We Declare Genocide” tribunal held within U.$. borders last year already found the United $tates guilty of genocide against the internal semi-colonies who are facing an ongoing low-intensity warfare.(3) Of course, this finding does not have official legal standing by the United $tates government itself. The CCR suit is attempting to get that for Palestine, and further brings attention to the genocidal acts of U.$. imperialism around the globe.

The United $tates has single-handedly prevented the United Nations Security Council from implementing a ceasefire in Palestine. The United $tates picks and chooses who is allowed to commit war crimes and who is not, and the UN is toothless to stop it.

During the second inter-imperialist war, the United $tates was in a position to play the good guy because of rival interests with the fascist countries and the opportunity it allowed them to exert power over Europe as a whole. I$rael on the other hand is the #1 U.$. client state, receiving far more funding from the Amerikans than any other country since World War II. As Biden said, if I$rael didn’t already exist they would have to create it. This puts the U.$. in a position where it is impossible for them to oppose the genocide in Gaza.

The settler state is by definition a genocidal state. Stalin helped give the United $tates a fig leaf to cover that legacy in the form of supporting the Soviet defeat of Hitler. That fig leaf is drying up and falling off. And the legitimacy of U.$.-run international institutions like the UN and the United $tates itself are coming more and more into question by global public opinion.

Notes:
1. Center for Constitutional Rights Press Release, 23 December 2023, New Filings in Gaza Genocide Lawsuit: Palestinians Refute Biden Admin Arguments That Court Cannot Review Its Role in Furthering Israel’s Genocide
2. Anna Lekas Miller, 23 December 2023, ‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ Day 78: UNSC resolution criticized as ‘meaningless,’ hundreds of thousands evacuate central Gaza, Mondoweiss.
3.Triumphant, January 2022, We Still Charge Genocide: Will The Real New Afrikans Please Stand Up!, Under Lock & Key 76

chain
[Iran] [Independent Institutions] [Control Units] [California] [ULK Issue 83]
expand

NPR Ignores Torture in United $tates

Yesterday, National Public Radio (NPR) aired an interview with a former prisoner in Iran to discuss the recent release of 5 Amerikan citizens from an Iranian prison. The focus was on the horrible effects of solitary confinement and how to adapt to being back in society.

In our 2008 survey of long-term solitary confinement in the United $tates, we found that there were over 90,000 people suffering in those conditions. It is strange for the NPR story to not have mentioned this problem at home as well, or how the oppressed people in this country fair after years in torture cells. The NPR report spoke of “death chambers” in the Iranian prison, yet the United $tates has electric and now injection chairs with viewing areas and what they call “death row” in prisons across this country (though only about a dozen states are actively murdering prisoners in recent years).

The United $tates has long had the highest imprisonment rate across the world. They even boasted a higher imprisonment rate of Black people than the internationally condemned apartheid regime in South Africa.

The one-sided depiction of prisons and solitary confinement in Iran on NPR revealed a strong bias in their reporting. Yet what was most shocking to learn was that these people coming out of Iranian prisons were being offered what sounded like a fully immersive program through the U.$. military for dealing with the mental anguish of being in long-term solitary confinement.

Really? Yet every year we have comrades who are released from the same conditions in this country with nothing but a parole officer watching over them, often sabotaging their efforts to maintain a job and build a new life. Tens of thousands of people every year are released from long-term solitary in the United $tates, either into general population prisons or to the streets, with no concern for their mental well-being from the state. Who the U.$. imperialists offer mental health services to is a political decision, and it is our politics that guide us to offer help to those the imperialists will not.

As of last week, the California Mandela Act (AB 280) passed a supermajority in the state house and senate, heading next to the desk of Governor Newsom. Newsom vetoed the Mandela Act just one year ago. An aspiring presidential candidate, Newsom is likely to reject the calls from the state legislator to stop this torture again. This is over a decade after the historic California hunger strikes that called for an end to long-term solitary confinement, leading to the 2015 Ashker vs. CDCR settlement where those sacrifices led only to individuals being released from the SHU, leaving the institution in place. [UPDATE: The bill has been stalled to negotiate with the Governor and will not be passed in 2023.]

For comrades currently suffering in torture cells in U.$. prisons, you can write to us for back issues of Under Lock & Key on solitary and materials from the American Friends Service Committee on dealing with isolation. For comrades who are getting out, who have spent long periods in solitary, our Re-Lease on Life Program attempts to offer mentoring, guidance and political engagement to ease the transition back into society. Meanwhile, we encourage everyone to get involved in the struggle to abolish long-term solitary confinement in this country completely.

Because over 100,000 people face torture in solitary in the United $tates every year with no imperialist Army programs for rehabilitation offered afterwards, we must develop independent institutions of the oppressed to address this material need among the oppressed masses in this country.

chain
[Black Lives Matter] [Civil Liberties] [Street Gangs/Lumpen Orgs] [Police Brutality] [ULK Issue 83]
expand

RICO Act Tool of Political Warfare

stop cop city - drop charges

In the last month we have seen the state of Georgia bring RICO Act charges against Rudy Giuliani and others who worked with Donald Trump to steal the 2020 U.$. presidential election, as well as activists who were doing things as simple as handing out fliers opposing the construction of Cop City in Atlanta.

The Federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was enacted in 1970 as a tool to charge people with crimes when they were having other people do their dirty work for them. Each crime charged under RICO can add years to ones prison sentence. The Georgia RICO Act of 1980 covers more crimes than the federal version. The Georgia Act makes Racketeering a felony in the state.(1) Historically, we have had multiple readers who were victims of RICO Act charges brought during the Giuliani years in New York City, and more recently in the Atlanta area, for their leadership roles in lumpen organizations, the more typical target of RICO.

Rudy Giuliani earned fame as a federal prosecutor for getting Mafia bosses in New York City convicted on RICO Act charges. He then used his reputation to become a “tough-on-crime” mayor of New York City known for “cleaning up” the city. It was during Giuliani’s time as Mayor of NYC that the infamous case was brought against King Blood (aka Luis Felipe) under the RICO Act. King Blood was charged for murders committed while ey was already in prison and received the inhumane and unprecedented sentence of life in solitary confinement. All of King Blood’s First Amendment rights to communication were denied, allowing only communication with eir lawyer and immediate family. This was not typically something a judge could sentence, but was justified via the racketeering statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3582(d).(2) Decades later, King Blood still sits in a torture cage in ADX Florence, isolated from the world. While the RICO charges against Giuliani may provide some cathartic humor, the 79-year-old will not be facing anything like King Blood is doing.

Weeks following the Georgia RICO Act charges against Trump, Giuliani, et al., another set of RICO Act charges (and domestic terrorism charges) were made against 61 activists involved in opposing the construction of Cop City in Atlanta. This is a continuation of the state’s warfare against Stop Cop City, including the ludicrous money laundering charges brought against bail support fundraisers we reported on in the last issue of ULK.(3) In the recent RICO indictment, the date of the murder of George Floyd (25 May 2020) is cited as the beginning of the investigations around the so-called “racketeering.” In other words, the state was trumping up these charges against activists before there was a Stop Cop City movement. This is not about stopping any criminal conspiracy, it is about repressing any opposition to the use of lethal police force against New Afrika and oppressed people in general. It is a defense of the state’s right to wage violent war against New Afrika.

In a recent article, a comrade laid out the political nature of the law, debunking the myth that laws were developed as a way to impose morality or address inherent problems in society.(4) Rather law stemmed from the need to manage the division of humyns into classes. With Trump/Giuliani, we see the RICO Act law being used by the bourgeoisie to discipline other bourgeoisie who are threatening the image of bourgeois democracy. And in the case of the 61 activists they are using the same law to discipline youth and oppressed nations who are opposing more violent forms of state discipline.

When we go up against the courts, the police, or even the politicians, we must be prepared for war. The cops murdering us in cold blood is war. The courts and prisons putting us in torture cells for years is war. City governments in Atlanta and San Pablo, California funding cop cities where pigs can play war games is war. These more obvious forms of war, are part of political struggle. There are no rights, only power struggles. To engage in power struggles, requires giving the war two sides.

^*Notes:
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_RICO_(Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations)_Act
2. Prison Legal News, 15 March 1999, Judicial Sentence of Life in Solitary Upheld.
3. A comrade, July 2023, “Law and the Courts of Late”, Under Lock & Key No. 82.
4. A comrade of Anti-Imperialist Prisoner Support, July 2023 “Atlanta Criminalizes Protest Against Cop City”, Under Lock & Key No. 82.*^

chain
[Racism] [Principal Contradiction] [National Liberation] [ULK Issue 82]
expand

Affirmative Action Policies Never Addressed the National Question

For all it’s self-proclaimed enlightened ways, U.$. imperialism continues to uphold the myth of race in everything it does. Enter the Supreme Court with their historic decision to end affirmative action in higher education. While the “race-conscious” policy did benefit (some in the) oppressed nations, the framework of race, created by the oppressor, continues to setback the progress of the oppressed.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority position, “Many universities have for too long… concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin… Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”

We are not in the game of integrating oppressed people into the oppressor nation, but affirmative action based on “race” did prove an effective way to do that. Ending it will mean less oppressed nation people in higher education as recent history in California has shown.(1)

However, the racial statistics used to tout the success of affirmative action can be misleading. Because “race” and not income, or zip code, or cultural background are used in many of these statistics, what looks like perfect representation by skin color may be doing nothing to benefit the New Afrikan masses. Extrapolating from some broad statistics, one author estimates that maybe 7 or 8 of 154 “Black” freshman (5%) at Harvard in 2020 were from families defined in the U.$. as impoverished. Whereas, in the general population, 30% of New Afrikan youth are from impoverished households. This article also cites anecdotes saying the vast majority of black faces at Harvard are from bourgeois African families or had one Euro-Amerikan parent. Again, indicating affirmative action was not really benefiting the New Afrikan nation at Harvard anyway.(2)

The passage of the U.$. Civil Rights Act in 1964, which preceded the “affirmative action” practices we know today, was a comprehensive act to outlaw discrimination in what had been a segregated country. This was not just a result of the organizing of the oppressed within U.$. borders, but the pressure from the Soviet Union (though at that time they’d taken up the capitalist road) and China and the broader national liberation movement taking place across Africa, Asia and Latin America. And while progressive changes took place in the United $tates in the 1960s it did not quell the upsurge of national liberation struggles within U.$. borders because it never addressed the national question like the Soviet Union and China did. Rather it continued to institutionalize the concept of race through the new civil rights laws being passed.

By never addressing the national question, things like affirmative action, or Under Lock & Key can be attacked by the imperialist state as “racist.” To the imperialists the oppressed nations don’t exist, so when we talk about New Afrikans or Chican@s or Euro-Amerikans, they censor our literature for “racism.”

We must identify the principal contradiction to keep our eyes on the prize and not get distracted into dead-end politics. The principal contradiction we see under imperialism is nation, as well within the United $tates we say it is nation. This does not mean everyone from an oppressed nation is an ally. We must think in terms of percentages, not in black and white.

In discussing racism in political repression, Triumphant talks about the neo-colonial era. And we echo this sentiment that “skinfolk ain’t necessarily kinfolk.” That Black bourgeoisie are often playing significant enemy roles, in defense of U.$. imperialism.

However, just because neo-colonialism exists, it does not mean that nation is erased and class is all that matters. Neo-colonialism is still national oppression, it’s just a smarter form.

In reality, not seeing race at all is impossible for us in this racist society. Even when speaking of nations, we use phenotypes to classify people; we are still stuck in this model handed down by the European settlers who created “whiteness.” We must develop a political analysis to guide us that is beyond the myth of race and bloodlines, that instead operates in the material reality of nation, which J.V. Stalin defined as " a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make up manifested in a community of culture."

Comrade USW36 wrote on this topic:

i too, no longer use “Black” and “White” to define people. i’m a “New Afrikan”, Black is “created” by European settlers to enforce their new “white” identity rule. i hope all Rev Nats study Fanon (and Yaki’s “Meditations”), New Afrika, Native Amerika, and New Aztlan can be freed. We can be united and create a true North Amerikan Revolutionary Nationalist United Front to decolonize and delink from this imperialist juggernaut. Black and White identities won’t help us free any of the NA nations (i’d like also to salute New Asian Pacific Islanders).

If Amerika is the “prison house of nations”, if our aim is to weaken it from the inside, if revolutionary nationalism is viable then this isn’t just a path for New Afrikans it’s for us all, even European-settlers if they commit class-suicide. New Afrika isn’t just descendants of Afrika. It’s a scattered and potentially solidified nation with all sorts of “ethnicities”, and too, anyone can be a New Afrikan; shaming people ’cause they’re not “Black” enough or not at all is bourgeois bullshit. Someone like the Euro-Amerikan teacher Rachel Dolezal shouldn’t have been discarded like trash if she lied about her ethnicity; that could be corrected by self-criticism but if she consciously was willing to fight for the liberation of “New Afrika” then she’s a “New Afrikan” it’s that fucken simple. But we all need to wrestle with these contradictions here in the heart of empire.


A better example than Rachel Dolezal is Yuri Kochiyama, who was actually a citizen of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA), joining at its founding in 1968 along with a 17 year-old Mutulu Shakur. Kochiyama was a close comrade of el Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X when they met). As a child of Japanese descent she spent years in a U.$. concentration camp during WWII. The RNA continues to serve as a model for how to address oppression from within the empire. Armed with Maoism, revolutionary nationalism within the belly of the beast can lead us to a world with out racism.

Notes:
1. Nina Totenberg, 29 June 2023, Supreme Court guts affirmative action, effectively ending race-conscious admissions, NPR.
2. Bertrand Cooper, 19 June 2023, The Failure of Affirmative Action, The Atlantic.

chain
[Economics] [Prison Labor] [China] [ULK Issue 81]
expand

Inflation: Commissary Prices and Bank Failures

For many months we’ve been hearing some grumblings from our readers about sky-rocketing commissary prices. Last issue we put out a call for more reports on this price inflation. But this inflation is not unique to prisons, and in recent weeks we’ve seen its impacts on the imperialists with a number of banks in the United $tates and Switzerland failing.

The cycles of boom and bust, which lead to instability, are inherent to capitalism and how it works. While the imperialists have adapted in many ways to keep things going, they can never solve these problems or prevent these cycles.

Commissary prices

One comrade wrote in to report on the different pay rates in Pennsylvania prisons ranging from 19 cents to 51 cents per hour. Ey wrote to say,

“since the prices of commissary has gone up due to inflation I think that all prisoners with jobs should be given pay rate raises to help with the new higher costs of living in the prison population. It is much harder to keep up with the financial strain. …I know that out in society whenever the cost of living goes up due to inflation so does our income and of course I am referring to low-income people – people on Social Security Income (SSI) or Social Security(SS) or struggling on Welfare. Well in prisons we don’t make anywhere near what is made on SSI or SS or even Welfare for that matter.”

A comrade from Utah wrote:

"At the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis President Trump warned us against price gouging but that never stopped the jail system. The criminal injustice system put people in jail for stealing but then they turn around and steal from the same people they accuse of stealing. County jails are full of homeless people, drug addicts and indigent people who have limited means or no family or friend to help provide those means, yet the canteen prices for commissary are outrageous. These same products can be bought at the Dollar store.

"For example, items such as V05 shampoo, which you can purchase at the dollar store for $1.25, commissary price is $3.99. One ramen noodle can be purchased for $0.25 at the store, will cost you $1.19 in commissary. Also a 10 pack of SweetNLow costs $0.99. For generic denture glue it’s $7 in commissary compared to $1.25 at the Dollar store. The list goes on and on. Is that not price gouging?

“Prisoners are forced to accept it. They have no choice. They have to pay it or go without. Hygiene and medications they desperately need. My question to you – how do we change this and stop jails from stealing from prisoners?”

Price gouging or extortion is common in U.$. prisons where the state allows private companies to come in and prey on prisoners and their families with legally enforce monopoly pricing systems.

A comrade in New York responded to our call with some of the price increases seen there since July 2022.

itemJuly pricenew price
syrup$2.45$2.75
cold cuts$0.75$0.85
chips$1.02$1.18
onions$1.45$1.85
graham crackers$1.96$2.33

Most price increases in New York seemed to be in the 10 to 20% range. As a member of the Incarcerated Individual Liaison Committee, this comrade wrote the Deputy Superintendent about the troubles they were having with getting items on the commissary list. They responded in September 2022,

“The commissary contract allows the vendor to bid items and the price is allowed to rise (or fall) based on the real world. They are not required to lose money. Our stocking situation reflects the real world supply chain issues and inflation.”

The comrade told us,

“the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision has raised the commissary buy limit from $75.00 to $90.00 to compensate for the inflation and changes to the package from home/vendor program that was implemented last year (2022).”

Unlike in the free world, not only do prisoners face limits on how much they can earn but also on how much they can spend.

Inflation is Real

Above, the NYSDOCS refers to the “real world” as being the cause of the rising prices in commissary. The fact of the matter is that inflation rates in the United $tates have been higher than we’ve seen in many decades for everyone. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) in December 2021 had increased 7% year-over-year, and in December 2022 it was 6.5%. That means over two years the inflation rate is around 15% for all consumer goods. In this context, the price increases in New York commissaries look pretty typical for the economy overall. That does not mean that this is inevitable, it is only inevitable in the type of economy we live in.

And it is only if we are slaves to the capitalist market forces that we must accept these price increases on necessities for some of the poorest people in this country. Even capitalist countries use subsidies to alter the market.

Socialist China had no inflation

The Communist Party of China seized state power in 1949 after over two decades of people’s war waged against the imperialists and their Chinese lackies among the comprador bourgeoisie and landlord classes. Immediately following liberation there were speculators

“still trying to manipulate prices and stirring up waves in the economy… who ignored the repeated warnings of the People’s Government, gold and silver prices kept soaring, pushing up all other prices. So on 10 June 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. The 1,800 gold and silver coin peddlers were released on the spot after being enjoined to lead a more honest life. At one stroke, the headquarters of speculation vanished forever from Shanghai.”(1)

Unfortunately that last statement proved untrue, as the Shanghai Stock Exchange was re-established on 26 November 1990, following over a decade of capitalist restoration in China.(2) This is why China has it’s own economic woes today. But for a quarter century, China had no inflation.

During the socialist period of 1949-1976, the Communist Party never resorted to bank-note issue as a solution for fiscal problems, relying on raising production and practicing economy instead.(3) This remained true through the Korean War and periods of famine in the 1950s.(4) During the Covid-19 lockdown period the capitalist economy suffered greatly because it cannot adapt to decreases in production. The solution in the imperialist countries was for central banks to print a lot of money and give it to the capitalists as well as their labor aristocracy, to keep consumption up and prevent economic collapse. The solution to the bank collapses in recent weeks has been similar, providing more liquidity from the U.$. Federal Reserve on loan to banks that can’t cover their balance sheets.

The communist approach in China was the opposite. Rather than putting as much money out into the world as needed, and encouraging banks to loan more than they have, the Communist Party forced banks to hold most of their currency, forced agencies to keep most of their money in the banks and prohibited securities, bonds, precious metal trade and foreign currency. Remember, mortgage-backed securities were at the center of the last recession in 2008. Today we are seeing a similar crisis in high-risk loans for automobiles in the United $tates that happened for home loans in 2008.

Bond prices are at the heart of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and others. Socialist China didn’t issue bonds, because they didn’t take on federal debt.

Prior to liberation, in 1935-37, the Chinese currency was pegged to the USD. As a result, when inflation spiked in the United $tates, that inflation was amplified in China. In ULK 79 we discussed the current inflation crisis in Ghana. Because Ghana does not control its currency and does not keep out foreign currency and speculators, their currency (the Cedi) is manipulated by the imperialists. This is true across the Third World, where inflation will continue to be felt much more harshly than it is for us here in the belly of the beast.

stacks of money due to inflation pre revolution in China

The other problem in countries like Ghana is the foreign debt. Inflation is playing a big role here, as the USD becomes more expensive compared to local currencies, larger and larger portions of the money supplies in exploited countries are going to pay the same interest rates on loans from the imperialists. Debt forgiveness in these countries needs to occur to protect the lives of millions threatened with starvation today.

According to the World Food Program, “An expected 345.2 million people [are] projected to be food insecure in 2023 – more than double the number in 2020.”(5) The recent increase in famine is mainly in the poorest, exploited countries, and triggered by a combination of inflation, war and climate change.

We know there is enough food in the world to feed everyone. The problem is capitalism cannot be efficient enough to distribute it to places where super-exploitation occurs. And super-exploitation is necessary to maintain profit rates. Without positive profit rates, capitalism grinds to a halt.

When socialist China had actual shortages in essentials, they would ration them instead of increasing prices and making the problem worse. Then they would focus on increasing production of those essentials (rather than decreasing production like the capitalists do when there’s no profits to be had).(6) Contrast this with prisoners (and everyone else) in the United $tates who are now paying higher prices for food and other essentials because the commissary is operated on the capitalist market. The anarchy of production under capitalism means we constantly have too much or too little of various goods as individuals decide what to produce based on their own profit interests. And this is particularly noticeable when the economy starts to slow down or shows volatility as it has been lately.

Chinese production could focus on meeting need during socialist years

Socialist China focused on production to manage and drive the economy, whereas imperialist United $tates focuses on money supply to do so. In socialist China the banks were merely a tool to manage and allocate resources to manage production for the people’s needs.

Why Banks are failing

As mentioned above, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) had a big problem due to the value of its federal bonds dropping in value. They had bought the bonds when interest rates were much lower, so as the Fed continues to increase interest rates these old bonds drop in value. They cannot cash in the bonds until their term is due and they can only sell them at a loss. Some big players began pulling their money out of the bank, perhaps related to this knowledge. Soon SVB could not cover the deposits they owed people. The U.$. government has stepped in to cover it, and now the FDIC is covering infinite deposits if your bank fails, instead of the previous limit of $250,000. This is another sign of the willingness of the imperialists to throw newly printed cash at the problem.

One interesting point here is that federal bonds are a “safe” investment. SVB didn’t fail because of garbage mortgage-backed securities as happened in 2008. So the financial system is failing firms that play it safe this time around. In addition, according to the FDIC, SVB was not in the worst situation.(7) In other words, other banks in the United $tates have worse balance sheets than SVB and will fail if there is a run on their money. “The total unrealised losses sitting on the books of all banks is currently $620bn, or 2.7% of US GDP.”(7)

The biggest failure this year, at the time of this writing, was the 165 year-old bank Credit Suisse. Meanwhile the market is jittery around many large imperialist banks with stock prices seeing big dips and credit default swaps (CDS) spiking in price. CDSs going up means other institutions are not confident these banks can pay off their debts and are charging more to insure bonds from these banks. The differing interests of these major financial institutions are beginning to show on the markets as they bet against each other.

Conclusion

Prisoners are on some of the most fixed budgets of any population in this country. In order to get their basic needs related to nutrition, hygiene and outside contact, prisons need to increase pay rates and limits on how much money prisoners can spend and receive from the outside. In some states these reforms have already occurred, and this is in the interests of the commissary companies, which the prison systems want to keep satisfied.

The solution to the bigger economic contradictions playing out now is obviously replacing capitalism with socialism. The report from socialist China cited above succinctly explains why this is the case. Capitalism doesn’t just put profit over the need of people and life on this planet, capitalism actually requires profit to function. When profits dry up, as we’re seeing some evidence of right now, capitalism can’t produce what people need. Of course, we’re also seeing various forms of state intervention to ensure that this does not happen by providing more money and creating profitable situations using the central banks. But these contradictions continue to exist, and different interests are acting in anarchic ways, so that state intervention cannot always work as it does in a socialist economy.

Notes:
1. Peng Kuang-hsi, 1976, Why China Has No Inflation, Foreign Languages Press:Peking, p.23-24.
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_Stock_Exchange
3. Peng, p.28.
4. Peng, p.30.
5. World Food Programme, “2023: Another Year of Extreme Jeopardy for those Struggling to Feed their Families.”
6. Peng, p.37
7. Michael Roberts, 21 March 2023, “Bank Busts and Regulation”, The Next Recession.

chain
[Censorship] [Political Repression] [Florida State Prison] [Pendleton Correctional Facility] [Florida] [Indiana] [Arizona] [ULK Issue 80]
expand

Woke Prison Officials See Racism Everywhere

The imperialists are crying “racism” to repress prisoner organizing, censoring mail
and punishing those who boycott their patriotic holidays.

Lately there has been a rash of woke mail room staff and prison officials who seem to be able to find “racism” everywhere they look. Under Lock & Key has been censored by a number of these activist employees of the state in Arizona, Indiana and Florida. This is very odd, as most of our readers know we rarely even mention the concept of race as we maintain that it is not a biologically valid concept, so clearly we do not believe or promote ideas of racism or racial superiority. But these snowflakes are just looking for reasons to be offended and use the state to crush free speech and association of the oppressed.

The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry - Office of Publication Review gave as one of their reasons for censoring Under Lock & Key 78 as:

“7.2.8 Content that is oriented toward and/or promotes racism and/or religious oppression and the superiority of one race/religion/political group over another, and/or the degradation of one race/religion/political group by another.”

“…The pages identified containing such content are throughout, including, but not limited to, pages 1, 2, 4, 9, 16.”

Page 2 is the same in every issue of Under Lock & Key and is an explanation of what MIM(Prisons) is and how our programs work. We do not promote racism or even discuss race on that page. Page 1, 4 and 9 contain reports on the struggle of Texas prisoners against oppression, and page 16 lists ongoing campaigns, including the one in Texas. It is confusing why Arizona is so worried about this campaign in Texas, and why they would call it “racist.” However, it did advocate boycotting the Juneteenth holiday, which triggered prison staff in Texas to get very repressive.

On 21 November 2022, staff member Chambers of the Indiana Department of Corrections censored Under Lock & Key 79 at Pendleton Correctional Facility. Pendleton has been censoring all mail from MIM Distributors for the last year for spurious reasons. Snowflake Chambers was offended by the spelling of Amerikkka with 3 K’s and decided to label it Security Threat Group material.

Security Threat Group (STG) can be used to prevent materials from entering the prison that facilitate illegal activities by a criminal group (STG). STG cannot be used as an excuse to censor people for their political beliefs. It is our belief that Amerikkka is a white supremacist nation and therefore we spell it with 3 K’s to criticize it as such. This is political speech, and it is legal in the U.S.A.

Florida State Prison (FSP) also deemed Under Lock & Key 79 to be “racist” among other things, on 2 December 2022. We really must go through their reasoning point-by-point for censoring this newspaper as it is quite revealing.

They objected to “Obtaining Copy of Lawsuit on TX Mail Policy BP-03.91” because “our inmates might try this”! The article is literally just telling people where to write and how much to pay to get a copy of a pending lawsuit around Texas mail policies. At this point it seems they’re just rubbing it in our faces to use the most illegal reasons they can to censor us.

FSP employee J.M. Clillen (sp?) goes on to cite “Alabama Prisoners Demand Freedom” because “talking about living conditions”. So that’s illegal now? If we talk about conditions in prisons all of a sudden we’re “racists”?

The one article Clillen cites that does not have a reason with it is “Free Palestine - Join the BDS Movement.” This couldn’t possibly be a threat to security at FSP, and is clearly just demonstrating their support for the Zionist (racist?) state of I$rael.

Finally we get to the “racist” claim, which was made against the article “Conquering My Demons” on page 13. This article is a self-criticism by a USW comrade regarding eir past substance use and misogyny, and a call for all of us to become new, better people. It discusses the resistance of oppressed nations against the imperialists – which is our best guess as to why they labelled it “racist.” Oh, and it also spells Amerikkka with 3 K’s. That’s not racism idiot, that’s a critique of racism.

There are no rights, only power struggles. And it is the oppressed and powerless who are denied rights by the powerful in this racist woke imperialist country.

chain
[Economics] [U.S. Imperialism] [ULK Issue 79]
expand

Global Recession Threatens the Global Proletariat

It seems unanimous that 2023 will be a year of recession. A recent report from the United Nations Committee on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) opens up with:

"The world is headed towards a global recession and prolonged stagnation unless we quickly change the current policy course of monetary and fiscal tightening in advanced economies.

“Supply-side shocks, waning consumer and investor confidence and the war in Ukraine have provoked a global slowdown and triggered inflationary pressures.”(1)

Before talking more about the report, let’s start with some basics. Recession is something that is unique to capitalism. It is a product of capitalism’s inherent contradictions. In previous economic systems, problems of getting resources to people were caused by things like plagues, floods, droughts and war. All things that we are still familiar with today. But there is no other economics system where people go hungry because of “market forces” preventing adequate production and distribution. This happens at all times in capitalism, but it will be affecting broader swaths of the population as we go into recession.

While the pandemic was not the cause of current imbalances, it certainly helped exacerbate them. Because we live in a service economy, Amerikans had a hard time spending all their money when things were shut down. They’re used to regular entertainment, movies, costly sporting events and clubs, having people prepare food for them and the infamous getting their hair done which they cried for during the early lockdowns. Having all that cash on hand, they turned to purchasing goods, which were harder to get due to supply chains slowing down. As the U.$. government continued to roll out benefits to Amerikans they wanted to buy more things and there were less things available to buy. Companies selling things increased prices, and the pressure for inflation began.

The ability to keep printing dollars (in the forms of COVID relief money and low interest loans) is backed by the fact that the dollar is the dominant currency for international trade. And this is backed by U.$. dominance of international monetary organizations and U.$. militarism shaping the world economy in its image.

Increasing Dollar Power

In 2022, the U.$. Federal Reserve got serious about addressing inflation as it began to surpass 8% year-over-year (when they’d like it closer to 2%). In recent months, the Fed has continued to increase the interest rates by .75% at each meeting they have every 4 to 6 weeks. They have indicated that they plan to continue to do so to bring down wages and inflation. One of the goals of the Fed here is to increase unemployment and cool down the job market by making it more expensive for companies to borrow money. Recently Amerikans have had their pick of jobs with many opportunities to increase their incomes. Under capitalism, this is somehow a bad thing. Contrast this with the MIM Platform for a socialist dictatorship of the proletariat, which guarantees employment (as well as free day care, medical care, public transport and college education).

The UNCTAD report highlights the even greater negative impacts of raising interest rates in the United $tates on the Third World proletariat. Yet, UNCTAD’s calls for, “Central banks in developed economies to revert course and avoid the temptation to try to bring down prices by relying on ever higher interest rates.” seems to be a pipe dream at this point. As we discussed in our recent article on the war in Ukraine, the U.$. dollar is the reserve currency, which means what the U.$. Fed does has huge implications for money everywhere.(2) And other imperialist countries have filed suit by increasing interest rates to protect their own currencies from more extreme devaluation. The British pound just hit it’s all-time low exchange rate to the dollar, putting them almost at 1-to-1.

While Amerikans complain about oil prices rising from inflation, war and supply chain issues, OPEC has announced it is cutting production, which will increase global oil prices. This is not helping the cause of the Fed and the U.$. government trying to mitigate inflation for Amerikans.

Relatedly, Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries the UNCTAD forecasts to exceed “normal” pre-COVID GDP trends next year. However, President Biden is striking back at Saudi Arabia threatening to cut off arms sales to the country saying their leadership role in OPEC is aiding Russia, who has been engaged in a proxy war with the United $tates for more than half a year now. Again, we are seeing increasing divisions among the global powers. Similar to the divisions that precluded WWI and WWII as discussed by author Richard Krooth.

In our review of Arms & Empire in ULK 78 we quoted Krooth’s explanation of the role of the strong dollar in bringing on the Great Depression:

“…making it the hardest currency in the world, pushing up its value vis-a-vis other currencies, but also making it inaccessible to nations that otherwise would have purchased from America. When other nations could not obtain dollars by exports to the U.S., obviously they could import nothing at all. And so U.S. exports tended to fall and had to be replaced with bilateral trade agreements. Up went U.S. unemployment when markets fell away and bilateral trade could not replace them. Then down came the dollar, the U.S. devaluing in 1933 in an attempt to stimulate the exports again. But, alas, it was too late. The depression was on, production was down, America was spreading crisis to Europe!” (p.119)

While Europe is not quite in the rough shape it was at that time, de-industrialization has been the trend, as Amerikan’s have had more and more say in how their economies are structured. As we discussed in our recent article on Ukraine, the Amerikans have been conspiring to prevent a close relationship between Germany and Russia. Now it seems that the sabotage attack on the Nordstream 2 pipeline that was built to pipe gas from Russia to Germany is a continuation of those efforts by the Amerikans.

Economic Policy and Economic Systems

The UNCTAD report makes a number of recommendations to mitigate the impacts of the coming recession on the exploited Third World nations of the world, who of course will suffer the most. Again, these problems are inherent to capitalism and cannot ultimately be avoided without replacing it with a socialist economy. However, there are economic policies that can improve, or even save, the lives of millions of people today under capitalism. But they would need to be a bit more radical than those suggested by UNCTAD.

The MIM Platform includes two policies to be enforced by international banking authorities under capitalism:

  1. Elimination of international currency exchange rate fixing by governments.
  2. Tying of exchange rates to a standard basket of goods.

The UNCTAD report points out exchange rate depreciation in just six months this year for a number of exploited countries:

Sri Lanka77.8%
Ghana32.1%
Sudan29.7%
Egypt19.8%
Haiti15.6%

In the current system, when the currency in Sri Lanka depreciates by 77.8% that means that day-to-day expenses for the proletariat of Sri Lanka are probably about doubled. If exchange rates were tied to a standard basket of goods, then this would no longer be the case. Prices of things like food and fuel would be stabilized across the globe in local prices. The impact on the imperialist system on the people of Ghana is explained in more depth in our accompanying article.

Importantly, the above two demands by the MIM Platform would affect the ability to pay off foreign debts as well. The UNCTAD report lists the percent of government revenues spent on external debt in a number of countries:

Somalia96.8%
Sri Lanka58.8%
Dominican Republic20.4%
Ghana28%
Jamaica26.4%

How the heck can a state spend 97% of its revenue on debts to finance capital (or even 25% for that matter) and ever be able to provide for and serve the people of that country? Exchange rates cannot fix these huge problems, which require debt forgiveness. But the current system of exchange rates does make these debt payments increase as exchange rates worsen as is happening now with a strengthening dollar (as most debts are held in dollars). Overall, the percentage of state revenue spent on servicing debts across the Third World has doubled over the last decade according to this UNCTAD report. As surplus value extraction becomes more difficult, interest payments on debt becomes a larger part of the net flow of wealth from the exploited nations to the imperialist countries.

There seems to be no momentum for MIM’s proposed radical changes among the international bourgeoisie at this time, which means the economy will continue to tighten and shrink. And under capitalism that means people will suffer and die. The system is madness. If production of goods ceases to be profitable, production ceases, it does not matter how many people are in need of those goods. But one of the inherent contradictions within capitalism is that the tendency to compete and increase production constantly undercuts the rate of surplus value extraction. As a result profits are always (generally) becoming harder to come by. The introduction of the Chinese proletariat back into the imperialist economy after 1976, but especially in the 1990s, by the capitalists who run that country brought a breath of fresh air to imperialism with a huge, new source of surplus value. By 2008, the rates of profit had once again become harder to maintain, and today those contradictions are playing out in the form of hot wars, trade wars, currency wars and realignments of major powers.

Notes: 1. United Nations Trade and Development Report 2022.
2. MIM(Prisons), April 2022, Ukraine: Imperialism in Crisis, Under Lock & Key 77.

chain
Go to Page 1 [2]
Index of Articles