Transforming the gangster mentality into a revolutionary one is possible because they are two sides of a coin. As an intermediary class the lumpen can act out both bourgeois ethics (in the form of gangsterism) or proletarian ethics (as revolutionaries).
The lumpen implementation of bourgeois ethics is the gangster. The gangster in many ways imitates the most ruthless aspects of bourgeois behavior, allowing them to be potential tools of the imperialists. Yet there are aspects of the collective identity, the discipline, and perhaps most importantly the connection to an oppressed nation, that you see in both the gangster and the revolutionary. This is what distinguishes the lumpen organization (L.O.) from the criminal gangs made up of correctional officers and police departments.
The lumpen implementation of proletarian ethics is the revolutionary. The lumpen revolutionary may be more adventurous and tend more towards left errors than the proletariat. Regardless, choosing the proletarian road, means reforming oneself to take on proletarian morality. The collective action and rebelliousness of the lumpen organization must mature into pure dedication to the people and a strategic approach to protracted peoples' war against imperialism.
We discussed these two roads in our review of J. Sakai's "The Dangerous Class and Revolutionary Theory".(1) As we said then, there are two roads today, the communist and the capitalist. The capitalist is the old road, the decaying road.
So when comrades keep bringing up this question of "how do we overcome the gangster mentality," it is essentially a question of how do we move the lumpen off the old capitalist road and into building the new communist one.
Our critics might counter, "wait a minute, plenty of people give up a violent gang life without becoming proletarian revolutionaries." And they are correct. But this also has not put a dent in the presence of the gangster mentality in our society, has it? Individuals aging out of gangs and integrating into bourgeois society does nothing to combat gangsterism because the motivation, the causes are still there. Even those who reach out to dissuade youth from taking the same path only provide a band-aid. A class of people, excluded from the means of production and distribution, living in an economic system driven by profit, will keep reproducing the gangster mentality. Until we can replace capitalism with a system where everyone has a productive role to play and peoples' needs drive our society, instead of profit, only then can we truly overcome the gangster mentality.
A few years back, in ULK 51 a comrade summed up some discussion around this topic among USW comrades:
"Today's youth show the same apathy, indifference and nihilism as the youth of 1955. It was the civil rights movement that awoke the youth of that era. USW comrades struggled over what today can take the place of the civil rights movement. War, environment and imperialist expansion were three good starting points to organize around. We lumpen youth have more stake in the future environment and it is us who fight the wars. It helps to understand that those starving to death and suffering/dying from preventable diseases are our people. We must fulfill our destiny or betray it. All this nitpicking and betrayal between sets/sides contributes to humankind suffering. We must overcome this flaw.
"The principal enemy we must defeat is the glamorization of gangsterism. A revolutionary or a gangster? What are we? Can the two coexist in a persyn and still be progressive? Gangsterism plants fear by oppression, and revolutionaries are in struggle against oppression. This internecine violence we perpetrate between sets is what the pigs want us to do. They sold us this shit in Scarface and we've built on to it and made it our own. Overcoming the glamorization of gangsterism will take proletarian morality, conscious rap, exposing the downsides and ills of gangsterism, the glamorization of revolution, revolutionary culture, and possibly to redefine the word gangsta. Gangsters are parasites and revolutionaries are humankind's hope. It's as simple as that. We need to leave the lumpen mentality for a proletarian one. Many true revolutionaries were once gangsters. Gangsterism is a stage, basically.
"Self-respect, self-defense and self-determination define transitional qualities of a revolutionary. Bunchy Carter, Mutulu Shakur and Tupac all transcended the hood and grew into progressives. What we are seeking as USW is opening up the spaces for gangsters of all walks of life to enter the realm of anti-imperialism and begin a transformation of mind, actions and habits to develop into the model of a revolutionary gangsta with the capability of forwarding the cause of the people. We must understand our potential. It is us, we reading these ULKs, that hold imperialism in our fists. A real gangsta is one who has gone revolutionary and has kicked off all the strings of social control - mental illness, drugs, fantasy, despair, escapism, etc."(2)
A program for overcoming the gangster mentality involves a multi-pronged approach. We must expand and develop the membership of the vanguard cadre organizations. Simultaneously we must organize the lumpen masses around a minimal program of unity. As K.G. Supreme of USW stressed in an article on this topic, it is revolutionary nationalism and anti-imperialism that provides a viable group identity and movement to rival that of the current L.O.s that dominate the terrain.
"Cultural Freedom is the best weapon for defeating the gangster mentality. Cultural freedom that is geared in nationalist liberation of oppressed nations, and exploiter nation suicide for members of the euro-amerikan oppressor nation. As Marcus M. Garvey of the African nationalist organization, UNIAACL said, 'Power is the only argument that satisfies man.'"
And as Pilli discusses in "Love Your Varrio by Liberating Your People," we must embrace the oppressed people, communities and organizations. And we must encourage growth within them. Communists are not here to attack the gangsters or the addicts, that is what the bourgeois state does. We are here to guide others down the same path of education and growth that we have found.
United Struggle from Within has long put forth the slogan, "Unity from the inside out." This embodies the dialectical process of developing unity within one's own thinking so that one can better build unity with others; that an organization must struggle within its membership to build unity before it can unite with others in the nation; and that a nation must build unity before it can properly unite in its own interests with other oppressed nations.
"Unity-struggle-unity" is a related slogan that depicts how we should approach building unity among the people, addressing contradictions amongst the people. We can't be all unity, we must challenge, question and struggle. But we start and end with unity, so that we can grow in that direction.
"Each one, teach one" is a slogan that stresses the role of education, especially in these early stages. It also embodies the truth that we all have things to learn from each other. Education and learning are a central part of our program for building the cadre and the masses.
These slogans, and others, should be actively built around. Comrades should study and popularize the 5 points of the United Front for Peace. We should organize events and study programs around Black August, the Commemoration of the Plan de San Diego and the September 9th Day of Peace and Solidarity. MIM(Prisons)'s Free Books to Prisoners Program offers study materials around all of these topics. We also offer correspondence study courses, which all comrades wishing to work with USW should join. We offer a wide array of revolutionary literature for your own independent study and for prison-based study groups.
While uniting around study groups and education is important for building cadre, most people will only be able to unite with us around concrete battles. It is up to comrades on the ground to determine what winnable battles exist where you are. What are the masses' righteous demands and how can we mobilize them to achieve them? How can we build Serve the People programs locally by pooling resources and helping others out? It is in these concrete battles that we gain mass support, and we learn to organize, lead and challenge injustice.
We believe we have the correct theoretical basis and the framework of a program for this stage of the prison movement. But there is much to be done to experiment and learn from. As K.G. Supreme stresses, the lumpen masses must get deep into the gangster mentality, understand it so as to transform it.
"It is important, in defeating the gangster mentality, that those serious about raising the consciousness of the subjects of gangsterism, first come to terms with the mentality as a lifestyle from the vantage point of inside the mind of a first world gangster. Approaching the subject from any other angle would be an inferior method promised to fail in producing any significant impact in the social behavior of those that are the target. The investigation into this gangster mentality should be led by those who are infected with the mentality. This isn't to say petit bourgeoisie nationalist groups cannot support the leaderships of those struggling against the gangster mentality. It is to say that the petit bourgeoisie nationalist must not seek to dictate the leaderships that struggle to defeat the gangster mentality, as to not contaminate the nationalist liberation objective, spreading culture indifferent to the destructive culture, spread by the bourgeoisie.
"...As more and more ground level leaderships disconnect themselves with the lifestyles that encourages behavior motivated by the gangster mentality, there becomes a need to replace the un-natural behavior with disciplines motivated by reconnection with natural lifestyles that are in harmony with the growth and development of a parasite outkaste of society, matured into a productive component of the internationalist objective to end national oppression by the exploiting nations in independent nations. Only culture that promotes national liberation struggles, applying political methods in interest of the oppressed can be relied on to replace the mentality of gangsterism... Emotions do not dictate the course of action in gradual transformation from unconscious behavior to conscious population. Instead the culture of educating against defeatist mentality, borns the scientific approach of the analytical prisoner, who in turn of reversing the gangsterism pop culture for a popular culture of upliftment in nationalist liberation objectives that free the available remedies of exploited and nationally disadvantaged, free themselves. The key to defeating the gangster mentality is investments in engineering techniques that make anti-imperialist culture popular."
Anti-imperialists got a little taste of good news from Trump last month when ey announced plans to pull troops out of Syria. Ey later backpedaled saying ey did not set a timeline for such a pull out. But Trump has long made comments indicating that the new focus of U.$. strategy will be to combat China and Russia. In other words, the war on oppressed nations, particularly in the middle east and north Africa, and euphemistically dubbed the "War on Terror," will no longer be the primary focus.
It has always been MIM line that we are in a period of World War III, that is a low intensity war by the imperialists against the oppressed nations. The hegemony of the United $tates allowed for this to be the focus in the decades following World War II. That hegemony is fading, and the emergence of a fourth world war, or a third inter-imperialist war is bubbling to the surface.
Of course, inter-imperialist war does not mean the oppressed nations get a reprieve from the needless brutality of capitalism, as inter-imperialist war is always about carving up the oppressed nations for their resources and markets. Enter "Prosper Africa", the plan announced by U.$. National Security Advisor John Bolton in December. Bolton stated, "America's vision for the region is one of independence, self-reliance and growth, not dependency, domination and debt."(1) This is a hypocritical jab at China, from the country who has done more to make Africa dependent and in debt in the last half-century than any other. At the same time the Trump administration is calling for more "honest" dealings with Africa, that recognize U.$. economic and political interests more openly.
The "Prosper Africa" plan coincides with Pentagon plans to reduce U.$. troops in Africa by 10%. Nothing close to our demands to shut down Africom, rather a subtle adjustment of current U.$. strategy. The immediate focus seems to be drawing hard lines in the sand of the African continent between those compliant with U.$. imperialism and those who are not.
In recent years, China has joined forces with other emerging imperialist or sub-imperialist nations with independent banking capital including Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa (BRICS). As a group, the BRICS countries have greatly increased trade with African countries over the last decade. Increases in trade on the whole is a benefit to the well-being of all peoples involved. While this trade provides outlets and opportunities for capital from countries with growing finance capital, the established imperialist powers (the United $tates and France) face a reduction in their access to markets and in their ability to strong arm the oppressed nations of the world into serving their interests. This threatens to contribute to economic crisis in the advanced imperialist economies, and trigger more militaristic and desperate actions politically.
The Trump administration has hinted at pulling support from United Nations (U.N.) "peacekeeping" missions in Africa. While opposing the U.N. garners support from white nationalists subscribing to isolationalism and Amerikkkan exceptionalism, the real motivation here is likely to reduce Chinese influence in the region. More than 2,500 Chinese troops are stationed in war zones created by U.$. and French imperialism in South Sudan, Liberia and Mali. China accounted for 1/5 of the U.N. troops pledged to operations in Africa in 2015.(2)
China established its first military base outside of China in 2017 at the strategic location of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. This is in line with a shift in Chinese foreign policy over the last decade from non-interference to "protecting our country's over-seas interests."(3) The United $tates, France and Japan are among the countries with existing bases in Djibouti, where the government depends on military leases as an important source of income.
The U.$.-backed coup and murder of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 helped break the continent's resistance to Africom. Up until then Africom had to operate out of Europe. With the pan-Africanist government in Libya out of the way, Africom was able to operate from within Africa for the first time. Now the United $tates has at least 46 military bases in Africa and close military relations with 53 out of the 54 African countries. Many countries have agreements to cede operational command of their militaries to Africom.(4)
While the coup in Libya was a victory for U.$. imperialism, it continues to be a disaster for Libyans, with repercussions for the whole region. The United $tates will have a much harder time stemming the still-expanding Chinese pole that challenges U.$. hegemony in Africa. As this contradiction threatens the world with inter-imperialist war, it offers opportunities for the oppressed to move independently as cracks widen in the imperialist system.
While we frequently discuss gender oppression in the pages of Under Lock & Key, most readers will notice a primary focus on national oppression. This is intentional, as we see the resolution of the national contradiction as the most successful path to ending all oppression at this stage. But for any of our readers who like our focus on nationalism, and have not taken the time to read MIM Theory 2/3: Gender and Revolutionary Feminism, i recommend you take a look. It is in MT2/3 that MIM really dissected the difference between class, nation and gender and justified its focus on nation. Don't just focus on nation because it's more important to you subjectively, understand why it is the top priority by reading MT 2/3.
All USW comrades should be working their way to the level 2 introductory study program offered by MIM(Prisons). We start level 1 studying the basics of scientific thinking. In level 2, we move on to study Fundamental Political Line of the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons, which gives a good overview of the 3 strands of oppression: class, nation and gender, and how they interact. This issue of Under Lock & Key is intended to supplement that theoretical material with some application to prison organizing and contemporary current events. (Let us know if you want to sign up for the study group.)
Academic Individualism vs. Revolutionary Science
Bourgeois individualism looks at race, class and gender as identities, which are seen as natural categories that exist within each individual. While proponents of identity politics generally recognize these concepts have evolved over time, they generally do not explain how or why. Dialectical materialists understand nation, class and gender as dualities that evolved as humyn society developed. Under capitalism, the class structure is defined by bourgeoisie exploiting proletarians. Class looked different under feudalism or primitive communist societies. One of the things Marx spent a lot of time doing is explaining how and why class evolved the way it did. Engels also gave us an analysis of the evolution of gender in The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State.
One self-described "Marxist-Feminist critique of Intersectionality Theory" points out that "theories of an 'interlocking matrix of oppressions,' simply create a list of naturalized identities, abstracted from their material and historical context."(1) They do not provide a framework for understanding how to overthrow the systems that are imposing oppression on people, because they do not explain their causes. This "Marxist" critic, however, falls into the class reductionist camp that believes all oppression is rooted in class.
The MIM line is not class reductionist, rather we reduce oppression to three main strands: nation, gender and class. This is still too limited for the identity politics crowd. But when we dive into other types of oppression that might be separate from nation, class and gender, we find that they always come back to one of those categories. And this clarity on the main strands of oppression allows us to develop a path to success, by building on the historical experience of others who have paved the way for our model.
While MIM is often associated with the class analysis of the First World labor aristocracy, this was nothing really new. What MIM did that still sets it apart from others, that we know of, is develop the first revolutionary theory on sexual privilege. The class-reductionism of the writer cited above is demonstrated in eir statement, "to be a 'woman' means to produce and reproduce a set of social relations through our labor, or self-activity."(2) MIM said that is class, but there is still something separate called gender. While class is how humyns relate in the production process, gender is how humyns relate in non-productive/leisure time. And while biological reproductive ability has historically shaped the divide between oppressor and oppressed in the realm of gender, we put the material basis today in health status.(3) This understanding is what allows us to see that things like age, disability, sexual preference and trans/cis gender status all fall in the gender strand of oppression.
Using "Feminism" to Bomb Nations
Militarism and imperialist invasion are antithetical to feminism. Yet the imperialists successfully use propaganda that they wrap in pseudo-feminism to promote the invasion of Third World countries again and again. Sorting out the strands of oppression is key to consistent anti-imperialism.
In MT 2/3, MIM condemned the pseudo-feminists by saying that "supporting women who go to the courts with rape charges is white supremacy."(4) A recent Human Rights Watch report discussing alleged widespread rape in the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK) is getting lots of traction in the Amerikkkan/Briti$h press.(5) This campaign to demonize the DPRK is just like the campaign to imprison New Afrikans, with potentially nuclear consequences. We have two leading imperialist nations who committed genocide against an oppressed nation touting information that is effectively pro-war propaganda for another invasion and mass slaughter of that oppressed nation.
If it is true that rape is as widespread in the DPRK as in the United $tates and Great Britain, then we also must ask what the situation of wimmin would have been in the DPRK today if it were not for the imperialist war and blockade on that country. In the 1950s, Korea was on a very similar path as China. Socialism in China did more for wimmin's liberation than bourgeois feminists ever have. They increased wimmin's participation in government, surpassing the United $tates, rapidly improved infant mortality rates, with Shanghai surpassing the rate of New York, and eliminated the use of wimmin's bodies in advertising and pornography.(6)
An activist who is focused solely on ending rape will not see this. Of course, a healthy dose of white nationalism helps one ignore the mass slaughter of men, wimmin and children in the name of wimmin's liberation. So the strands do interact.
Distracted Senate Hearings
Recently, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh went through a hearing before his appointment to assess accusations of sexual assault from his past. This was a spectacle, with the sexual content making it tantalizing to the public, rather than political content. Yes, the debate is about a lifetime appointment to a very high-powered position, that will affect the path of U.$. law. But there was no question of U.$. law favoring an end to war, oppression or the exploitation of the world's majority. Those who rallied against Kavanaugh were mostly caught up in Democratic Party politics, not actual feminism.
A quarter century ago, MIM was also disgusted by the hearings for Clarence Thomas to be appointed a Supreme Court Justice, that were dominated by questions about his sexual harassment of Anita Hill. Yet, this was an event that became quite divisive within MIM and eventually led to a consolidation of our movement's materialist gender line.(7) It was the intersection of nation with this display of gender oppression that made that case different from the Kavanaugh one, because Thomas and Hill are both New Afrikan. The minority line in this struggle was deemed the "pro-paternialism position."
The minority position was that MIM should stand with Anita Hill because she was the victim/oppressed. The line that won out was that Anita Hill was a petty-bourgeois cis-female in the First World, and was not helpless or at risk of starvation if she did not work for Clarence Thomas. While all MIM members would quickly jump on revisionists and pork-chop nationalists, paternalism led those holding the minority position to accept pseudo-feminism as something communists should stand by, because they pitied the female who faced situations like this.
Similarly today, with the Kavanaugh appointment, we should not let our subjective feelings about his treatment of wimmin confuse us into thinking those rallying against him represent feminism overall.
Bourgeois theories and identity politics
The paternalistic line brings us back to identity politics. A politic that says right and wrong can be determined by one's gender, "race" or other identity. The paternalist line will say things like only wimmin can be raped or New Afrikans can't "racially" oppress other people. In its extreme forms it justifies any action of members of the oppressed group.
Another form of identity politics is overdeterminism. The overdeterministic position is defined in our glossary as, "The idea that social processes are all connected and that all of the aspects of society cause each other, with none as the most important."(8) The overdeterminist will say "all oppressions are important so just work on your own. A parallel in anti-racism is that white people should get in touch with themselves first and work on their own racism."(9) Again this is all working from the framework of bourgeois individualism, which disempowers people from transforming the system.
There is a paralyzing effect of the bourgeois theories that try to persynalize struggles, and frame them in the question of "what's in it for me?" Communists have little concern for self when it comes to political questions. To be a communist is to give oneself to the people, and to struggle for that which will bring about a better future for all people the fastest. While humyn knowledge can never be purely objective, it is by applying the scientific method that we can be most objective and reach our goals the quickest.(10)
The Dangerous Class and Revolutionary Theory
Kersplebedeb Publishing, 2017
Available for $24.95 (USD) + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb
CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne
The bulk of this double book is looking at the limited and contradictory writings of Marx/Engels and Mao on the subject of the lumpen with greater historical context. MIM(Prisons) and others have analyzed their scattered quotes on the subject.(1) But Sakai’s effort here is focused on background research to understand what Marx, Engels and Mao were seeing and why they were saying what they were saying. In doing so, Sakai provides great practical insight into a topic that is central to our work; the full complexities of which have only begun to unfold.
Size and Significance
In the opening of the "Dangerous Class", Sakai states that "lumpen/proletarians are constantly being made in larger and larger numbers".(p.3) This follows a discussion of criminalized zones like the ghetto, rez or favela. This is a curious conclusion, as the ghettos and barrios of the United $tates are largely being dispersed rather than expanding. Certainly the rez is not expanding. Sakai does not provide numbers to substantiate these "larger and larger" lumpen populations today.
In our paper, Who is the Lumpen in the United $tates? we do run some census numbers that indicate an increase in the U.$. lumpen population from 1.5% of the total population in 1960 to over 10% in 2010. However, other methods led us to about 4% of the U.$. population today if you only look at oppressed nation lumpen, and 6 or 7% if you include whites.(1) This latter number is interestingly similar to what Marx estimated for revolutionary France (around 1850)(p.66), what Sakai estimates for Britain around 1800(p.112), and what Mao estimated for pre-revolutionary China.(p.119) Is 6% the magic number that indicates capitalism in crisis? The historical numbers for the United $tates (and elsewhere) are worthy of further investigation.
lumpen + destitute semi-proletariat (Colquhoun)
1850s France (Marx)
lumpen + destitute semi-proletariat
2010 United $tates (MIM(Prisons))
First Nations lumpen
New Afrikan lumpen
Raza lumpen + semi-proletariat
Alliances and Line
Certainly, at 6% or more, the lumpen is a significant force, but a force for what? In asking that question, we must frame the discussion with a Marxist analysis of capitalism as a contradiction between bourgeoisie and proletariat. There’s really just two sides here. So the question is which side do the lumpen fall on. The answer is: It depends.
One inspiring thing we learn in this book is that the lumpen made up the majority of the guerrillas led by Mao’s Chinese Communist Party at various times before liberation.(p.122) This shows us that the lumpen are potentially an important revolutionary force. However, that road was not smooth. On the contrary it was quite bloody, involving temporary alliances, sabotage and purges.(pp.201-210)
Sakai's first book spends more time on the French revolution and the obvious role the lumpen played on the side of repression. Marx's writings on these events at times treated the Bonaparte state as a lumpen state, independent of the capitalist class. This actually echoes some of Sakai’s writing on fascism and the role of the declassed. But as Sakai recognizes in this book, there was nothing about the Bonaparte government that was anti-capitalist, even if it challenged the existing capitalist class. In other words, the mobilized lumpen, have played a deciding role in revolutionary times, but that role is either led by bourgeois or proletarian ideology. And the outcome will be capitalism or socialism.
Defining the Lumpen, Again
Interestingly, Sakai does not address the First World class structure and how that impacts the lumpen in those countries. Our paper, Who is the Lumpen in the United $tates? explicitly addresses this question of the First World lumpen as distinct from the lumpen-proletariat. While MIM changed its line from the 1980s when it talked about significant proletariats within the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates, this author has not seen Sakai change eir line on this, which might explain eir discussion of a lumpen-proletariat here. Sakai's line becomes most problematic in eir grouping of imperialist-country mercenaries in the "lumpen". Ey curiously switches from "lumpen/proletariat" when discussing China, to "lumpen" when discussing imperialist-country mercenaries, but never draws a line saying these are very different things. In discussions with the editor, Sakai says the stick up kid and the cop aren't the same kind of lumpen.(p.132) Sure, we understand the analogy that cops are the biggest gang on the streets. But state employees making 5 or 6-digit incomes with full bennies do not fit our definition of lumpen being excluded from the capitalist economy, forced to find its own ways of skimming resources from that economy. The contradiction the state faces in funding its cops and soldiers to repress growing resistance is different from the contradiction it faces with the lumpen on the street threatening to undermine the state's authority.
Sakai dismisses the idea that the line demarking lumpen is the line of illegal vs. legal. In fact, the more established and lucrative the illegal operation of a lumpen org is, the more likely it is to be a partner with the imperialist state. That just makes sense.
The inclusion of cops and mercenaries in the lumpen fits with Sakai's approach to the lumpen as a catchall non-class. We do agree that the lumpen is a much more diverse class, lacking the common life experience and relationship to the world that the proletariat can unite around. But what's the use of talking about a group of people that includes Amerikan cops and Filipino garbage pickers? Our definitions must guide us towards models that reflect reality close enough that, when we act on the understanding the model gives us, things work out as the model predicts more often than not. Or more often than any other models. This is why, in our work on the First World lumpen in the United $tates, we excluded white people from the model by default. We did this despite knowing many white lumpen individuals who are comrades and don't fit the model.
How about L.O.s in the U.$.?
The analysis of the First World lumpen in this collection is a reprint of Sakai's 1976 essay on the Blackstone Rangers in Chicago. Sakai had referred to L.O.s becoming fascist organizations in New Afrikan communities in a previous work, and this seems to be eir basis for this claim.
While the essay condemns the Blackstone Rangers for being pliant tools of the Amerikan state, Sakai does differentiate the young foot soldiers (the majority of the org) from the Main 21 leadership. In fact, the only difference between the recruiting base for the Rangers and the Black Panthers seems to have been that the Rangers were focused on men. Anyway, what Sakai's case study demonstrates is the ability for the state to use lumpen gangs for its own ends by buying off the leadership. There is no reason to believe that if Jeff Fort had seen eye-to-eye with the Black Panthers politically that the youth who followed him would not have followed him down that road.
Essentially, what we can take from all this is that the lumpen is a wavering class. Meaning that we must understand the conditions of a given time and place to better understand their role. And as Sakai implies, they have the potential to play a much more devastating and reactionary role when conditions really start to deteriorate in the heart of the empire.
Relating this to our practice, Sakai discusses the need for revolutionaries to move in the realm of the illegal underground. This doesn't mean the underground economy is a location for great proletarian struggle. It can contain some of the most egregious dehumanizing aspects of the capitalist system. But it also serves as a crack in that very system.
As comrades pointed out in our survey of drug use and trade in U.$. prisons, the presence of drugs is accompanied by an absence of unity and struggle among the oppressed masses. Meanwhile effective organizing against drug use is greatly hampered by threats of violence from the money interests of lumpen organizations and state employees.(2) The drug trade brings out the individualist/parasitic tendencies of the lumpen. Our aim is to counter that with the collective self-interest of the lumpen. It is that self-interest that pushes oppressed nation youth to "gang up" in the first place, in a system that is stacked against them.
The revolutionary/anti-imperialist movement must be active and aggressive in allying with the First World lumpen today. We must be among the lumpen masses so that as contradictions heighten, oppressed nation youth have already been exposed to the benefits of collective organizing for self-determination. The national contradiction in occupied Turtle Island remains strong, and we are confident that the lumpen masses will choose a developed revolutionary movement over the reactionary state. Some of the bourgeois elements among the lumpen organizations will side with the oppressor, and with their backing can play a dominant role for some times and places. We must be a counter to this.
While Mao faced much different conditions than we face in the United $tates today, the story of alliances and betrayals during the Chinese revolution that Sakai weaves is probably a useful guide to what we might expect. Ey spends one chapter analyzing the Futian Incident, where "over 90 percent of the cadres in the southwestern Jiangxi area were killed, detained, or stopped work."(p.205) The whole 20th Army, which had evolved from the lumpen gang, Three Dots Society, was liquidated in this incident. It marked a turning point and led to a shift in the approach to the lumpen in the guerilla areas. While in earlier years, looting of the wealthy was more accepted within the ranks of guerrilla units, the focus on changing class attitudes became much greater.(p.208) This reflected the shift in the balance of forces; the development of contradictions.
Sakai concludes that the mass inclusion of lumpen forces in the guerrilla wars by the military leaders Mao Zedong and Chu Teh was a strategic success. That the lumpen played a decisive role, not just in battle, but in transforming themselves and society. We might view the Futian Incident, and other lesser internal struggles resulting in death penalties meted out, as inevitable growing pains of this lumpen/peasant guerilla war. Mao liked to quote Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz, in saying that war is different from all other humyn activity.
For now we are in a pre-war period in the United $tates, where the contradictions between the oppressed and oppressors are mostly fought out in the legal realms of public opinion battles, mass organizing and building institutions of the oppressed. Through these activities we demonstrate another way; an alternative to trying to get rich, disregarding others' lives, senseless violence, short-term highs and addiction. We demonstrate the power of the collective and the need for self-determination of all oppressed peoples. And we look to the First World lumpen to play a major role in this transformation of ourselves and society.
In my last article on China I rehashed the 40-year old argument that China abandoned the socialist road, with some updated facts and figures.(1) The article started as a review of the book Is China an Imperialist Country? by N.B. Turner, but left most of that question to be answered by Turner's book.
We did not publish that article to push some kind of struggle against Chinese imperialism. Rather, as we explained, it was an attack on the promotion of revisionism within the forum www.reddit.com/r/communism, and beyond. The forum's most-enforced rule is that only Marxists are allowed to post and participate in discussion there. Yet almost daily, posts building a persynality cult around Chinese President Xi Jinping, or promoting some supposed achievement of the Chinese government, are allowed and generally receive quick upvotes.
The title of our previous article asking is China in 2017 Socialist or Imperialist may be misunderstood to mean that China must be one or the other. This is not the case. Many countries are not socialist but are also not imperialist. In the case of China, however, it is still important (so many years after it abandoned socialism) to clarify that it is a capitalist country. And so our positive review of a book discussing Chinese imperialism, became a polemic against those arguing it is socialist.
One of the major contradictions in the imperialist era is the inter-imperialist contradiction. The United $tates is the dominant aspect of this contradiction as the main imperialist power in the world today. And currently Russia and China are growing imperialist powers on the other side of this inter-imperialist contradiction. Reading this contradiction as somehow representative of the class contradiction between bourgeoisie and proletariat or of the principal contradiction between oppressed nations and oppressor nations would be an error.
We have continued to uphold that China is a majority exploited country, and an oppressed nation.(2) But China is a big place. Its size is very much related to its position today as a rising imperialist power. And its size is what allows it to have this dual character of both a rising imperialist class and a majority proletariat and peasantry. Finally, its size is part of what has allowed an imperialist class to rise over a period of decades while insulating itself from conflict with the outside world — both with exploiter and exploited nations.
A major sign that a country is an exploiting country is the rise and subsequent dominance of a non-productive consumer class. At first, the Chinese capitalists depended on Western consumers to grease the wheels of their circulation of capital. While far from the majority, as in the United $tates and Europe, China has more recently begun intentionally developing a domestic consumer class.(3) This not only helps secure the circulation of capital, but begins to lay the groundwork for unequal exchange that would further favor China in its trade with other countries. Unequal exchange is a mechanism that benefits the rich First World nations, and marks a more advanced stage of imperialism than the initial stages of exporting capital to relieve the limitations of the nation-state on monopoly capitalism. As we stated in the article cited above, China's size here becomes a hindrance in that it cannot become a majority exploiter country, having 20% of the world's population, without first displacing the existing exploiter countries from that role. Of course, this will not stop them from trying and this will be a contradiction that plays out in China's interactions with the rest of the world and internally. At the same time with an existing "middle class" that is 12-15% of China's population, they are well on their way to building a consumer class that is equal in size to that of Amerika's.(3)
In our last article, we hint at emerging conflicts between China and some African nations. But the conflict that is more pressing is the fight for markets and trade dominance that it faces with the United $tates in the Pacific region and beyond. China remains, by far, the underdog in this contradiction, or the rising aspect. But again, its size is part of what gives it the ability to take positions independent of U.$. imperialism.
As we stated in our most recent article, this contradiction offers both danger and opportunity. We expect it to lead to more support for anti-imperialist forces as the imperialists try to undercut each other by backing their enemies. Then, as anti-imperialism strengthens, the imperialists will face more global public opinion problems in pursuing their goals of exploitation and domination. In other words, a rising imperialist China bodes well for the international proletariat. Not because China is a proletarian state, but because the era of U.$. hegemony must end for a new era of socialism to rise. We should be clear with people about the definitions of imperialism and socialism to make this point.
China's potential to play a progressive role in the world in coming years does not change the fact that the counter-revolution led by Deng Xiaoping dismantled the greatest achievement towards reaching communism so far in history. If we do not learn from that very painful setback, then we are not applying the scientific method and we will not even know what it is that we are fighting for. How and when socialism ended in China is a question that is fundamental to Maoism.
On 26 October 2017, U.$. President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. The declaration should lead to more federal funding for grants to combat opioid abuse.(1) As we explain below, this epidemic disproportionately affects euro-Amerikans. Trump linked his campaign to build a wall along the current Mexican border to the battle against this epidemic, despite the fact that prescription painkillers are at the root of it. This is consistent with the Amerikan government's solution for drug problems created by imperialism. For the crack epidemic of the 1980s Amerika responded with mass incarceration of New Afrikan men as the solution. As opioid addiction continues a steady rise, Trump offers further militarization of the border.
Opioids have been used by humyns for thousands of years both medicinally and recreationally, with many periods of epidemic addiction. Use began with opium from poppies. Morphine was isolated in 1806. By the early 1900s heroin was promoted as a cure for morphine addiction in the United $tates, before being made illegal in 1924. There was a lull in heroin use during the 1980s, when cocaine and crack overshadowed it. Various prescription pain killers began to come back into vogue in the 1990s
after the "Just Say No!" mentality was wearing off. Since then, use and abuse has been on a steady rise, feeding a new surge in the use of heroin as a cheaper alternative. This rise, in the economic centers of both the United $tates and China, is directly linked to capitalism.
While K2 is one dangerous substance plaguing U.$. prisons these days, partly due to its undetectability, opioids are by far the biggest killer in the United $tates, and we expect that is true in prisons as well. Drug overdoses surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United $tates in 2007 and has continued a steady rise ever since. The majority of these overdoses have been from opioids.(2)
While the increase in deaths from opioids has been strong across the United $tates, rates are significantly higher among whites, and even higher among First Nations. One reason that use rates are lower among New Afrikans and [email protected] is that it has been shown that doctors are more reluctant to prescribe opioids to them because they are viewed as more likely to become addicted, and Amerikan doctors see them as having a greater pain threshold.(3)
We did see some evidence of this trend in the results of our survey on the effects of drugs in U.$. prisons. The most popular answer to our question of whether certain groups did more drugs in prison than others was no, it affects everyone. But many clarified that there was a strong racial divide where New Afrikans preferred weed and K2, while whites and usually [email protected] went for heroin and/or meth. Some of these respondents said that New Afrikans did less drugs.(4) A couple said that New Afrikans used to do less drugs but now that's changing as addiction is spreading. In states where K2 has not hit yet (CA, GA, CO) it was common to hear that whites and "hispanics" (or in California, "southern" Mexicans) did more drugs. The pattern of New Afrikans preferring weed and K2 seemed common across the country, and could have implications for strategies combating drug use among New Afrikans compared to other groups. In particular, stressing that K2 is completely different and more dangerous than weed could be part of a harm reduction strategy focused on New Afrikans.
If prison staff were doing their jobs, then we would expect rates of both overdoses and use in general to be lower in prisons. But we know, and our survey confirmed, that this is not the case (78% of respondents mentioned staff being responsible for bringing in at least some of the drugs in their prison). In hindsight, it may have been useful to ask our readers what percentage of prisoners are users and addicts. Some of the estimates that were offered of the numbers using drugs in general were
20-30%, 90%, 75%, and many saying it had its grips on the whole population.
Deaths from opioids in the general U.$. population in 2015 was 10.5 per 100,000, double the rate in 2005.(5) This is higher than the rates in many state prison systems for overdoses from any drug, including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania that all reported average rates of 1 per 100,000 from 2001-2012. California was closer at 8 per 100,000 and Maryland exceeded the general population at 17 deaths from overdoses per 100,000 prisoners.(6) At the same time,
prison staff have been known to cover up deaths from overdoses, so those 1 per 100,000 rates may be falsified.
In our survey of ULK readers, we learned that Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, is quite popular in prisons (particularly in the northeast/midwestern states). Survey respondents mentioned it as often as weed as one of the most popular drugs, and more than heroin. Suboxone is actually used to treat heroin addiction. And while it is not supposed to be active like other opioids, it can lead to a high and be addictive. It is relatively safe, and will not generally lead to overdose until you combine it with other substances, which can lead to death.
Prescription drugs are not as common as other drugs in most prisons, according to our survey. Though in some cases they are available. We received a few responses from prisons where prescription drugs prescribed by the medical staff seemed to be the only thing going on the black market. Clearly there is variability by facility.
Two Paths to Recovery
The increases in opioid abuse in the United $tates has been staggering, and they cause a disproportionate amount of the deaths from drug overdoses. About 10% of opioid addicts worldwide are in the United $tates, despite only being less than 5% of the world's population.(7) At the same time, only about 1% of people in the United $tates are abusing opioids.(8) This is not the worst episode in U.$. history, and certainly not in world history.
Around 1914 there were 200,000 heroin addicts in the United $tates, or 2% of the population. In contrast, some numbers for opium addicts in China prior to liberation put the addiction rate as high as 20% of the population around 1900, and 10% by the 1930s. That's not to dismiss the seriousness of the problem in the United $tates, but to highlight the power of proletarian dictatorship, which eliminated drug addiction about 3 years after liberation.
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. There was so much that was more stimulating than opium to be doing with their time. Wimmin, who took up opium addiction in large numbers after being forced into prostitution in opium dens, were quickly gaining opportunities to engage at all levels of society. The poor, isolated peasants were now organized in collectives, working together to solve all kinds of problems related to food production, biology and social organization. The successful struggle against drug addiction in China was merely one impressive side effect of the revolutionizing of the whole society.
In contrast, in the capitalist countries, despair lurks behind every corner as someone struggles to stay clean. The approach has ranged from criminalization to medicalization of drug addiction as a disease. "Once an addict, always an addict", as they say. Always an individualist approach, ignoring the most important, social causes of the problem. That drug addiction is primarily a social disease was proven by the practice of the Chinese in the early 1950s, but Western "science" largely does not acknowledge the unquestionable results from that massive experiment.
It is also worth pointing out the correlation between drug abuse and addiction, and capitalist economics specifically. Whether it was colonial powers forcing opium on the Chinese masses who had nothing, in order to enslave them to their economic will, or it is modern Amerikan society indulging its alienation in the over-production of prescription pills from big pharmaceutical companies marketing medicine for a profit.
And now, opioid addiction is on the rise again in capitalist China after decades. A steady rise in drug-related arrests in China since 1990 are one indicator of the growing problem.(10) As more profits flowed into the country, so have more drugs, especially since the 1990s. We recently published a review of Is China an Imperialist Country?, where we lamented the loses suffered by the Chinese people since the counter-revolution in 1976. It goes to show that when you imitate the imperialists, and put advancing the productive forces and profits over serving the people, you invite in
all the social ills of imperialism.
In China drug addiction has now become something that people fear. Like it did with its economy, China has followed in the imperialists' footsteps in how it handles drug addiction. Chinese policy has begun treating addicts as patients that need to be cured to protect society. Rather than seeing those who give up drugs as having defeated the oppressor's ways, they are monitored by the state, lose social credibility, and have a hard time getting a job.(11) Under socialism, everyone had a job and no one needed recreational drugs to maintain themselves mentally. The path to combating drug addiction and abuse is well-established. Attempts under imperialism that don't involve liberatory politics of the oppressed have little to no effect.
For this issue of Under Lock & Key we took on the task of investigating the impacts of drugs and the drug trade on the prison movement. We ran a survey in the Jan/Feb 2017 and March/April 2017 issues of Under Lock &
Key. We received 62 completed surveys from our readers in U.$. prisons. We have incorporated the more interesting results in a series of articles in this issue. This article looks at the central question of the role of the drug trade inside and outside prisons and how to effectively organize among the lumpen in that context. In other articles we look more closely at the recent plague of K2 in U.$. prisons, and the latest rise
in opioid addiction and what socialism and capitalism have to offer us as solutions.
Bourgeois society blames the individual
Bourgeois society takes an individualistic view of the world. When it comes to drugs, the focus is on the individual: we talk about how they failed and succumbed to drugs because of their weakness or mistakes as an individual. While individuals must ultimately take responsibility for their actions, it is only by understanding society at a group level, using dialectical materialism to study the political economy of our world, that we can address problems on a scale that will make a real impact. Even at the individual level, it's more effective to help people make connections to the root causes of their problems (not supposed persynality flaws) and empower them to fight those causes if we want lasting change.
Much of our criminal injustice system is built on punishment and shaming of those who have been convicted. A proletarian approach to justice uses self-criticism to take accountability for one's actions, while studying political economy to understand why that path was even an option in the first place, and an attractive one at that.
In the essay "Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide", Cetewayo, a Black Panther leader, provides a good example of overcoming the conditions one is born into. Ey was addicted to heroin from age 13 to 18, before joining the Black Panther Party. Eir example stresses the importance of providing alternative outlets for oppressed nation youth. In some cases the mere existence of that alternative can change lives.
Drugs and the Principal Contradiction in Prison
MIM(Prisons) and leaders in the Countrywide Council of United Struggle from Within (Double C) have had many conversations about what the principal contradiction is within the prison population. MIM(Prisons) has put forth that the parasitic/individualistic versus self-sufficient/collective material interests of the lumpen class is the principal contradiction within the prison movement in the United $tates today. The drug problem in prisons relates directly to this contradiction. Those pursuing drugs and/or dealing are focused on their persynal interests, at the expense of others. The drug trade is inherently parasitic as it requires an addicted population to be profitable, and users are escaping the world for an individual high, rather than working to make the world better for themselves and others.
A Double C comrade from Arkansas explains this contradiction:
"Things have been slow motion here due to lockdown. Reason being too much violence across the prison. Some of this violence is due to the underground economy. Being submerged in a culture of consumerism which is not only an obstacle to our emancipation (mentally and physically) this self-destructive method of oppression is a big problem consuming the population. I've been in prisons where the market is not packed or heavily packed with drugz. It is in those yards that unity and productive lines are greatly practiced. The minute drugz become the leading item of consumption, shit breaks down, individualism sets in and all of the fucked up tendencies follow suit.
"I say 75% of the population in this yard is a consumer. About 5% have no self control, it's usually this percentage that ends up a 'debt' victim (since you owe $ you owe a clean up). Aggressor or not, consumerism is a plague that victimizes everyone one way or another. This consumerism only aids the pigz, rats, infiltrators, and oppressors in continuing with a banking concept of 'education/rehabilitation' and therefore domesticating the population.
"I mean the consequences and outcomes are not hidden, it is a constant display of what it is when you can't pay the IRS, so it is not as if people don't know. I've seen people slow down or stopped some old habits after experiencing/witnessing these beheadings. Shit, I just hit the yard because pigz were all inside the block searching and homeboy's puddles of blood were still on the yard."
Drugs and Violence
It is no secret that drugs and violence often go hand-in-hand. As the above comrade alludes to, this is often related to debts. But one of the things we learned from our recent survey of ULK readers is that in most prisons there is an inherent threat of violence towards people who might take up effective organizing against drugs.
A California comrade wrote,
"No one in prison is going to put their safety and security on the line over drugs. You have to understand that life has little value in prison. If you do anything to jeopardize an individual's ability to earn a living, it will cost you your life."
Another California comrade was more explicit,
"If you say anything about the drugs, cell phones, extortions, etc., whether if you're in the general population, or now, worse yet in 2017, SNY/Level IV, the correctional officers inform the key gang members that you're running your mouth. You either get hit immediately, or at the next prison. Although my safety is now at stake, by prisoners, it's being orchestrated by corrections higher-ups concocting the story."
This was in response to our survey question "Have you seen effective efforts by prisoners to organize against drug use and its effects? If so, please describe them." Not only were the responses largely adamant "no"s, the vast majority said it would be dangerous to do so. This was despite the fact that we did not ask whether it would be dangerous to do so. Therefore, we assume that more than 73% might say so if asked.
Some readers questioned what to do about staff involvement bringing drugs into the prisons. One writer from Pennsylvania said:
"It's hardly ever dry in Fayette and this institution is a big problem why. A lot of the staff bring it in. Then when someone goes in debt or does something they wouldn't normally do, they don't want to help you, if you ask for help. There's no unity anymore. Nobody fights or stands up for nothing. Everybody rather fight each other than the pigs. It would take a lot to make a change in the drug situation. Is it wrong to put the pigs out there for what they're doing? Would I be considered a snitch? I know there would be retaliation on me, maybe even a ass whoopin. I'm curious on your input on this."
If we look at the involvement of staff in bringing drugs into prisons, and the violence associated with the drug trade, we have to call bullshit when these very same institutions censor Under Lock & Key on the claim that it might incite violence. The system is complicit, and many staff actively participate, in the plague of drugs that is destroying the minds and bodies of the oppressed nation men and wimmin, while promoting individualistic money-seeking behavior that leads to brutal violence between the oppressed themselves.
Organizing in Prisons
While the reports responding to that question were mostly negative, and the situation seems dire, we do want to report on the positive things we heard. We heard about successful efforts by New Afrikans getting out of the SHU in California, some Muslim communities and the Nation of Gods and Earths. Some have been at this for over a decade. All of these programs seemed to be of limited scope, but it is good to know there are organizations providing an alternative.
In Arkansas, a comrade reports,
"For the mass majority of drug users and prisoners I have not seen any positive efforts to stop drug use and its effects. But for my affiliation, the ALKN, we have put the product of K2/deuce in law with heroin and its byproducts where no member should be in use of or make attempts to sell for profit or gain. If you do you will receive the consequences of the body who governs this affiliation and organization for lack of discipline and obedience to pollute your self/body and those around you who are the future and leaders of tomorrow's nations."
While practice varies among the many individuals at different stages in the organization, the Latin Kings/ALKQN has historically opposed the use of hard drugs amongst its members. Many in New York in the 1990s attributed their recovery from drug addiction to their participation in
There are some good examples of lumpen organizations engaging in what we might call policies of harm reduction. One comrade mentioned the 16 Laws and Policies of Chairman Larry Hoover as an example of effective organizing against drugs in eir prison. Lumpen leaders like Jeff Fort and Larry Hoover are where we see a national bourgeoisie with independent power in the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates. The proletarian organizations of the oppressed nations should work to unite with such forces before the imperialists corrupt them or force them into submission. In fact, the Black Panthers did just that, but failed to build long-term unity with the Black P. Stone Rangers largely due to state interference and repression.
On the other hand, in some states comrades reported that lumpen organizations are among the biggest benefactors from the drug trade. Some of the same names that are mentioned doing positive work are mentioned as being the problem elsewhere. This is partly explained by the largely unaffiliated franchise system that some of these names operate under. But it is also a demonstration of the principal contradiction mentioned above, which is present in the First World lumpen outside of prisons, too. There is a strong individualist/parasitic tendency combating with the reality that self-sufficiency and collective action best serve the oppressed nations. Too often these organizations are doing significant harm to individuals and the broader movement against the criminal injustice system, and can not be part of any progressive united front until they pull out of these anti-people activities.
The more economically entrenched an organization is in the drug trade, the more they are siding with the imperialists and against the people. But on the whole, the First World lumpen, particularly oppressed nation youth, have the self-interest and therefore the potential to side with their people and with the proletariat of the world.
As one Texas comrade commented:
"I must say that the survey opened a door on the issue about drugs within prison. After doing the survey I brought this up with a couple of people to see if we could organize a program to help people with a drug habit. I'm an ex-drug dealer with a life sentence. I can admit I was caught up with the corruption of the U.S. chasing the almighty dollar, not caring about anyone not even family. Coming to prison made me open my eyes. With the help of MIM and Under Lock & Key I've been learning the principles of the United Front and put them in my everyday speech and walk within this prison. The enemy understands that the pen is a powerful tool. Comrades don't trip on me like other organizations done when I let them know I'm a black Muslim who studied a lot of Mao Zedong.
Building Independent Institutions of the Oppressed
At least one respondent mentioned "prisoners giving up sources" (to the pigs to shut down people who are dealing) in response to the question about effective anti-drug organizing. From the responses shown below, it is clear that the state is not interested in effective anti-drug programming in prisons. This is an example of why we need independent institutions of the oppressed. We cannot expect the existing power structure to meet the health needs of the oppressed nation people suffering from an epidemic of drug abuse in U.$. prisons.
The Black Panthers faced similar conditions in the 1960s in the Black ghettos of the United $tates. As they wrote in Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide,
"It is also the practice of pig-police, especially narcotics agents, to seize a quantity of drugs from one dealer, arrest him, but only turn in a portion of the confiscated drugs for evidence. The rest is given to another dealer who sells it and gives a percentage of the profits to the narcotics agents. The pig-police also utilize informers who are dealers. In return for information, they receive immunity from arrest. The police cannot solve the problem, for they are a part of the problem."
Our survey showed significant abuse of Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. In the 1970s Methadone clinics, backed by the Rockefeller Program, became big in New York. The state even linked welfare benefits to these services. Yet, Mutulu Shakur says, "In New York City, 60 percent of the illegal drugs on the street during the early '70s was methadone. So we could not blame drug addiction at that time on Turkey or Afghanistan or the rest of that triangle."(2) Revolutionaries began to see this drug that was being used as treatment as breaking up the revolutionary movement and the community. Mitulu Shakur and others in the Lincoln Detox Center used acupuncture as a treatment for drug addiction. Lincoln Detox is an example of an independent institution developed by communists to combat drug addiction in the United $tates.
"[O]n November 10, 1970, a group of the Young Lords, a South Bronx anti-drug coalition, and members of the Health Revolutionary Unity Movement (a mass organization of health workers) with the support of the Lincoln Collective took over the Nurses' Residence building of Lincoln Hospital and established a drug treatment program called The People's Drug Program, which became known as Lincoln Detox Center."(3) Lincoln Detox was a program that was subsequently run by the Young Lords Party, Black Panthers that had survived the Panther 21 raid, the Republic of New Afrika, and White Lightning, a radical organization of white former drug addicts, until 1979 when a police raid forced the communists out of the hospital, removing the political content of the program.(4)
Young Lord Vicente "Panama" Alba was there from day one, and tells eir story of breaking free of addiction cold turkey to take up the call of the revolution. After sitting on the stoop watching NYPD officers selling heroin in eir neighborhood, and a few days after attending a Young Lords demonstration, Panama said, "Because of the way I felt that day, I told myself I couldn't continue to be a drug user. I couldn't be a heroin addict and a revolutionary, and I wanted to be a revolutionary. I made a decision to kick a dope habit."(3) This experience echoes that of millions of addicted Chinese who went cold turkey to take up building socialism in their country after 1949.
Mutulu Shakur describes how the Lincoln Detox Center took a political approach similar to the Chinese in combatting addiction, "This became a center for revolutionary, political change in the methodology and treatment modality of drug addiction because the method was not only medical but it was also political." Shakur was one of the clinic's members who visited socialist China in the 1970s to learn acupuncture techniques for treating addiction. He goes on to describe the program:
"So the Lincoln Detox became not only recognized by the community as a political formation but its work in developing and saving men and women of the third world inside of the oppressed communities, resuscitating these brothers and sisters and putting them into some form of healing process within the community we became a threat to the city of New York and consequently with the development of the barefoot doctor acupuncture cadre, we began to move around the country and educate various other communities instead of schools and orientations around acupuncture drug withdrawal and the strategy of methadone and the teaching the brothers and sisters the fundamentals of acupuncture to serious acupuncture, how it was used in the revolutionary context in China and in Vietnam and how we were able to use it in the South Bronx and our success."(2)
Dealing with the Dealers
Though the Black Panthers had organized the workers at Lincoln Hospital leading up to the takeover, by that time the New York chapter was already in decline due to repression and legal battles. While many BPP branches had to engage with drug cartels, the New York chapter stood out in their launching of heavily-armed raids on local dealers and dumping all of their heroin into the gutters. The New York Panthers faced unique circumstances in a city that contained half of the heroin addicts in the country, which was being supplied by la Cosa Nostra with help from the CIA. While there was mass support for the actions of the Panthers at first, state repression pushed the New York Panthers down an ultra-left path. The Panther 21 trial was a huge setback to their mass organizing, with 21 prominent Panthers being jailed and tried on trumped up terrorism charges. After they were all exonerated, the New York Panthers, siding ideologically with Eldridge Cleaver who was pushing an ultra-left line from exile in Algeria, made the transition to the underground. If they were going to be accused of bombings and shootings anyway, then they might as well actually do some, right?
These were the conditions under which the Black Liberation Army was formed. Though there was overlap between the BLA and those who led community projects like Lincoln Detox, the path of the underground guerrillas generally meant giving up the mass organizing in the community. Instead, raiding local drug dealers became a staple of theirs as a means of obtaining money. Money that essentially belonged to the NYPD, which was enabling those dealers and benefiting them financially. The former-Panthers-turned-BLA continued to destroy the dope they found, and punished the dealers they raided.
Again, we are confronted with this dual nature of the lumpen class. It would certainly be ultra-left to view all drug dealers as enemies to be attacked. It is also certainly clear that the CIA/Mafia/NYPD heroin trade in New York was an enemy that needed to be addressed. But how does the revolutionary movement interact with the criminal-minded LOs today? In its revolutionary transformation, China also had to deal with powerful criminal organizations. The Green Gang, which united the Shanghai Triads, significantly funded the Guomindang's rise to power, primarily through profits from opium sales. In the late 1940s they opened up negotiations with the Communist Party as the fate of China was becoming obvious. However, no agreement was reached, and the criminal organizations were quickly eliminated in mainland China after 1949. They took refuge in capitalist outposts like Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Chinatowns elsewhere in Asia and Europe. While heroin has returned to China, the gangs have not yet.(5)
While the contradiction between the communists and the drug gangs did come to a head, it was after defeating Japanese imperialism and after defeating the reactionary Guomindang government. And even then, most drug dealers were reformed and joined the building of a socialist society.
Many respondents to our survey sounded almost hopeless when it came to imagining a prison system without rampant drug addiction. But this hopelessness is not completely unfounded. As "Capitalism Plus Dope Equals Genocide", reads:
"The government is totally incapable of addressing itself to the true causes of drug addiction, for to do so would necessitate effecting a radical transformation of this society. The social consciousness of this society, the values, mores and traditions would have to be altered. And this would be impossible without totally changing the way in which the means of producing social wealth is owned and distributed. Only a
revolution can eliminate the plague."
To back up what the Panthers were saying here, we can look at socialist China and how they eliminated opium addiction in a few years, while heroin spread in the capitalist United $tates. The Chinese proved that this is a social issue and not primarily a biological/medical one. The communist approach differed greatly from the Guomindang in that addicts were not blamed or punished for their addiction. They were considered victims of foreign governments and other enemies of the people. Even many former dealers were reformed.(6) Although we don't have the state power now to implement broad policies like the Chinese Communist Party, we can help drug users focus on understanding the cause and consequences of their use in a social context. We need people to see how dope is harming not only themselves, but more generally their people, both inside and outside of prison. People start doing drugs because of problems in their lives that come from problems in capitalist society. Being in prison sucks, and dope helps people escape, even if it's fleeting. But this escape is counter productive. As so many writers in this issue of ULK have explained, it just serves the interests of the criminal injustice system. We can help people overcome addictions by giving them something else to focus on: the fight against the system that wants to keep them passive and addicted.
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.]
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.
Issue 55 of Under Lock & Key is taking a deeper look at building the United Front for Peace in Prisons at the margins. We've already spent a lot of space debating the role people on Special Needs Yards (SNY), especially in California. While that is an issue we will need to continue to address, here we focus first on white nationalist lumpen organizations, that are more likely to be on the mainline, and how anti-imperialists might relate to them. We also have a few pieces looking at the question of sex offenders who are generally seen as pariahs. That topic is a subset of the SNY discussion. In this article we will focus on the white nationalist question, and the question of oppressed nations allying with whites in general. In many cases handling this question properly will have a big impact on our success, because there are a lot of white people in prisons and many of them team up with white nationalist orgs.
So there are a few principles of dialectical materialism that we should apply in our analysis of groups which are often considered pariahs of the revolutionary movement: 1) dialectics differs from metaphysics in that metaphysics believes a thing has an essence; 2) dialectics in contrast sees everything as always being in a constant state of change; 3) and we can best understand that change by looking at the contradictions within that thing, while also considering the external contradictions that may influence it (them). To put it another way, no one is born a white supremacist or rapist, and just because someone's actions were that way in the past doesn't mean they have to be in the future.
What is White Nationalism?
Elsewhere in this issue we talk about white nationalism as an ideology that is a product of imperialism. Another point we must stress when talking about white nationalism is it is the majority ideology among the oppressor nation under imperialism. Most of this issue will be dealing with extreme examples found in imprisoned lumpen organizations. But there is a whole range of white nationalist ideologies, and the lumpen organizations are not necessarily the most extreme. Because the imprisoned lumpen are in the trenches, they must be more scientific than the more privileged wings of the white nationalist movement, and their motivations are often quite different.
In our current political climate in the United $tates, "white nationalism" is a hot topic. It is being used to criticize President Trump and those around em. But most of this criticism is coming from the perspective that former President Obama was not a white nationalist. The split between the left wing and right wing of white nationalism is about how to best manage the oppressed, even when that is not how they think about it. If we recognize that the current imperialist order is one that puts whites in a position of supremacy, then we must conclude that any position that works to preserve that system is white nationalist. Or we may say Amerikan nationalist to avoid confusion when its proponents do not appear white. But even though some internal semi-colony people are sitting at the table, globally, white supremacy in the form of Amerikan hegemony is alive and well.
Initially, the question of how and when to strategically ally with white nationalists is a broad one, as it refers to how we might ally with the majority of people in North America. But within that majority there are different classes and political tendencies. And white nationalist prisoners may be at the top of the list of likely allies from that group.
Another argument for the importance of working with the white lumpen is the Marxist analysis of the lumpen as a particularly dangerous, wavering class. If this country is heading in a more fascist direction, white nationalist lumpen youth and former military will be the first bases of recruitment for the fascists. This concern applies to the lumpen in general, but the national split makes it a harder sell for the internal semi-colonies to take up fascism. As always, our strategy is to win over all who can be won over, not to set false limitations based on identity politics or preconceived assumptions.
More so than former military, the white lumpen have connections to the struggles of the oppressed. And it is the massive prison system in this country that we can largely thank for that. The modern prison system is an inherent part of the modern ghetto, which has been lumpenized. While segregation is stronger today in many cases in the ghettos, it is weaker outside of the ghetto. This translates into a stronger class divide within the oppressed nations. The extent of this divide in the white nation is something that requires more research. But from the information we have, white prisoners are much, much more likely to integrate into petty-bourgeois society rather than be caught in a ghetto-like situation upon release. But as long as they remain in prison, whites do experience that ghetto life and the most brutal repression that we have in this country.
Young Patriots, White Lumpen Revolutionaries
One of the best examples we have of white lumpen youth forming an anti-imperialist organization was the Young Patriots Organization, which started in Chicago in the late 1960s. Soon the offshoot Young Patriots Party spread the movement to other parts of the United $tates. Their example demonstrated both the potential and limitations of such an organization. As long as there are pockets of whites that face similar conditions to the oppressed nations, as they do in prison, a revolutionary organization that can speak to and organize white lumpen will strengthen the cause of anti-imperialism. However, the Black Panthers, in particular Bob Lee and the leadership of Fred Hampton, played a very hands-on role in the development of the Young Patriots. In general history does not lead us to expect revolutionary white organizations with correct political lines to take hold in North America without good examples from the internal semi-colonies.
Even after becoming established, the Young Patriots were very limited by the reactionary nature of their own nation. The Patriot base was displaced southern whites who ended up in urban ghettos; a much smaller group, but parallel to the New Afrikans who made the Great Migration. When the Patriots returned to the south they were not received well. Two of the members were killed shortly after returning to the south, because of their organizing.(1) In other words, we are looking at exceptions to the rule where there are pockets of whites who are both separate from the oppressed nations but still living very similar lives and in proximity to them. When Peggy Terry of the Young Patriot-associated organization Jobs or Income Now (JOIN) ran for vice president, with Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver as the presidential candidate in 1968, they received a mere 28,000 votes in California. In contrast, the openly racist George Wallace campaign got 500,000 (almost exclusively white) votes.(2) And finally, for most of their existence the Patriots had more spies watching their organization than they had members.(3) This security issue is something others have pointed out with white nationalist lumpen organizations in prison that can be swimming with federal agents.
Often the Panther rhetoric spoke of the Young Patriots as representing "white power" in a way that was parallel to the Panthers' "Black Power" and Young Lords' "Brown Power". While we generally disagree with that line, the Panthers later called out all other white groups as "fascists" with the exception of the Patriots. The Patriot culture flew in the face of the rest of the white anti-war and student movements, including their confederate flag logo. We might draw a parallel to the Lucasville prison uprising in Ohio in 1993, where it is reported that swastikas, lightning bolts and words like "Supreme White Power" appeared alongside graffiti throughout the prison saying "Black and White Together" and "Convict unity."(4) These white identities, historically associated with power over New Afrikans were transformed in these unique circumstances.
Racism as a Tool of the Oppressor
MIM(Prisons) is cautious about presenting racism as merely a tool of the imperialists to divide "the people" as that is the line of the revisionists who claim that the majority of people in the imperialist countries are proletarians that must be united in their common class interest. As the practice of the Young Patriots demonstrated, this is not the case. However, in prisons is where we see the greatest potential for a class unity with whites that is progressive in the United $tates. And in prison, it is certainly true that racism is a tool that is actively used by the administration, even if often times white nationalists are too willing to play the role of keeping other prisoners in line for the state.
Of course, not all white prisoners are part of overtly racist lumpen organizations. Former-Black-Panther-turned-anarchist Lorenzo Komboa Ervin documented the history of the federal penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana, which was transformed from a completely Ku Klux Klan-dominated facility to one where New Afrikans built power in alliance with white prisoners. Ey argues that the anti-racist whites, often imprisoned for anti-war activities, were able to re-educate other white prisoners where non-white prisoners would not be able to.(5) This is an example of the importance of white-specific organizing, though not on the basis of an outward white nationalism.
We must reach people where they are at in a segregated society. We saw this with the Panthers in Chicago who were viewed with great skepticism by the white residents of Uptown, but were welcomed by the Young Patriot leadership. We saw this in Lucasville, where the New Afrikan leaders picked Aryan Brotherhood member George Skatze to stand with them as a representative of white prisoners because of eir history of settling disputes between whites and New Afrikans.
"At some point on this first day George saw a black inmate (Cecil Allen) talking through a bull horn to a small crowd of other prisoners. George went up to listen. To his surprise the man on the bull horn pointed to George and said, 'There's nobody going to be talking to you guys but me or this man right here,' meaning George Skatze."
Accepting their request for help, Skatze later "approached the whites, who were sitting in the bleachers. Putting his arm around a black inmate George said, 'If the guards come in here they're going to shoot us all, no matter what color we are.' We asked George who that black man was. He said, I don't know; I had never met him before."(6)
Veteran of the first wave of the California prison movement, Kumasi describes one scene in the late 1960s where hundreds of prisoners circled around the yard chanting, "Power to the people! Death to the pigs!" Approaching the group of white gangsters on the sidelines ey framed the situation as "are you going to be with us or with the pigs?" And since the reality reflected eir statement, they sure didn't want to be seen as siding with the pigs. As the whites started to join the ranks of the protestors, Kumasi grabbed one of their hands and raised it in the air as they faced the warden. In a segregated society this sort of representation of different nationalities can have powerful effects.
Kumasi has a number of stories about organizing across nationality. Similar to today, the California system was very segregated back then. Various white power and nazi gangs existed, as they do today. The united fronts Kumasi forged with these groups were not long-term and could be quite impulsive. It was really the strength of eir own organization that pushed others to come along. A justification of the line that building up one's own national unity helps build up the united front. Because the movement for change had reached such popularity and support among New Afrikans, it was easier to get the [email protected] to join up (who had not yet been divided between north and south).
A USW comrade has this to say about organizing in California today:
"There has been times when we've done alliances with white nationalist groups in prison. Any time we had a common goal, say shutting down SHUs, or removing informants off yard, assistance with legal work and what not.
"The only way for this to function is by creating a different set of politiks/policies than those used amongst the other LOs. As long as it does not interfere with the LOs' goals to end oppression. It is my opinion that even when dealing with oppressor nation LOs we must keep a move ready to be made once achieving certain goals due to the history the oppressor nation LOs have and because of their values as humans. We wouldn't like to see the LOs of the oppressed be set back a step or two after gaining ground. I think that even unity of some form can be achieved with pariahs — taking into account what they've done and what they are willing to do to not only redeem themselves but to benefit the struggle even at the cost of sacrifice. There is a place, space, form and energy for everyone in a struggle. It is our responsibility to organize, learn, and organize again."
What these histories demonstrate is that in cases where the white nationalists aren't completely in bed with the pigs, they tend to see themselves as prisoners and the pigs as their foes, like everyone else. And it is the unity around demands for all prisoners, ones that are nationality-neutral, that we will see opportunities for united front. So while national unity may need to come first, class unity will always be important in the prison movement.
White nationalism in general, whether of the left-wing or right-wing variety, is based in an alliance with imperialism. But there are examples in history of portions of the white population in the United $tates who may have overt racist overtones without the attachment to imperialism. Or at least with a mixed relationship to imperialism. And in many cases this racism is more motivated by fear of the other, or just self-protection than it is any deep investment in racist ideology itself. The AB comrade who wrote "The Enemy of my Enemy" seems to be an example of this white nationalism based in youthful ignorance. And the experience of the prison system has given em the opportunity to learn about the lives of the oppressed, and to live that life emself. George Skatze from Lucasville was also an example of this, someone who stood with New Afrikan prisoners and literally put eir life on the line in the struggle for prisoner rights and then later at the hands of the state when ey was one of the comrades who did not make a deal with the state to avoid death row as some of the charged prisoners did.
While others suggest we fight racism as a way to end oppression, we say to fight oppression to overcome racism. And in some cases oppression itself will overcome racism, by uniting those once divided by ideas of race. Our ideas are a product of our material conditions, and in participating in the transformation of our conditions our ideas change.