I was just made aware of the passing of Shaka At-Thinnin via the Black August Organizing Committee, of which the comrade was a lead member of. We are losing a generation of New Afrikans right now. The ones who survived the most brutal oppression of the U.$. injustice system to live long lives.
Of course brutal oppression remains in the U.$. concentration camps to this day. The torture units that were developed in response to the resistance of brothers like Shaka are still in full operation across most of this country.
The comrades who started Black August responded to this repression with collective self-defense, an immense openness and love for the oppressed, and a sharp discipline. Discipline is one of the tenets of Black August. And it is one that i think we can all benefit from. It can be hard to impose strict discipline when it is not out of necessity or dire circumstances as it was for the founders. But studies have shown that the more you practice discipline the easier it becomes, in all aspects of your life. Little routines, little extra efforts, regaining little chunks of time to put it towards what you care about.
Struggling to spend a couple hours writing to prisoners, or handing out fliers, or studying political economy after working all day for exploiter wages is not as glorious as the struggles of some. Yet it is no less important. Shaka emself spent many evenings writing comrades inside after eir release from prison. I’ve had people come to me years later and tell me how a small action, a few words, or a magazine shared really impacted them. You will never know all the impacts you have if you put in work to reach others every day, every week, or even every month.
Shaka did not live to see the liberation of New Afrika, yet eir contribution was still great and continues to inspire us. When i was younger i had read George Jackson’s books, and knew the story of Jonathan Jackson, and studied the Attica rebellion. But it was only after meeting Shaka and Kumasi of the Black August Organizing Committee that I got a real understanding of what Black August was about, and what the New Afrikan resistance in California prisons at the time was like. Their work to preserve that history and share it with the world helps sustain the struggle into the future.
In my years in this movement i’ve had the privilege of meeting many elders of the generation of the Black Liberation Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Each one of them inspired me, even if our interactions were brief. What they’d been through and how they responded was a testament to the potential of struggle, and the strategic confidence that we hold in the oppressed majority of the world who have nothing to lose but their chains.
The world is in constant flux. People come, people go. Empires die. The climate changes. And through it all we know that the oppressed nations are the rising force in the imperialist world today. And that force will eventually seize power from the current oppressors and change the course of history.
Thank you for the book MIM Theory 2/3 on Gender and Revolutionary Feminism – this is exactly the kind of reading material I want and need.
I do want to briefly comment on a recurring phrase I see in some of your theory: “white worker”. Does this mean white collar worker as in labor aristocrat or is this a prejudice that labor aristocrats are white skin color? If you mean privileged as in white collar then why don’t you say collar?
I have not read much of the book yet, just a few pages. However, I can agree that much of the working class in amerika is labor aristocrat, where you lose me is that when I think of labor aristocrat I see a face like Eric Adams, the mayor of New York City, who is constantly calling for more police and more oppression.
Here in California we have a lot of Brown faces, perhaps 50% Brown. The point is whenever I talk to a Brown or Black person about socialism the response is mostly the same. Black & Brown people in amerika love their privilege, they enjoy exploiting 3rd world workers, there the labor aristocrat is Brown and Black in the face and white in the collar.
I think MIM Theory agrees with me that First World working class has no use for revolution and is impossible to recruit or even harmful to the movement, as bourgeoisie in any dictatorship of the proletariat is only there to revive capitalism. However, as MIM states the majority of First World working class is labor aristocrat, then I would assume MIM is considering the demographics of the First World as a whole and means “white collar worker” and not merely a racist jab of “white worker.” All of the cops here have Brown faces.
a California prisoner
Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: Sounds like we have a high level of unity on the class structure in this country, and the world. The truth is the analysis has evolved since the 1980s, when it was more reasonable to talk about a proletariat in the internal semi-colonies (by which we mean New Afrika, Boricua, Aztlan, and the First Nations). So back then writers like MIM and Sakai would talk about a Black or [email protected] proletariat, while seeing the white workers as an enemy class. And yes, by white we mean white people, though we use it to talk about nation, rather than race, which is a myth. Therefore today we’ll often use Amerikan instead. And many “non-white” people have integrated into Amerika today. Euro-Amerikan is a term for the oppressor nation, but white is still a valid term that is understood by the masses today.
In the introduction to our pamphlet, Who is the Lumpen in the United $tates, we wrote:
“If we fast forward from the time period discussed above to the 1980s we see the formation of the Maoist Internationalist Movement as well as a consolidation of theorists coming out of the legacy of the Black Liberation Army and probably the RYM as well. Both groups spoke widely of a Black or New Afrikan proletariat, which dominated the nation. MIM later moved away from this line and began entertaining Huey P. Newton’s prediction of mass lumpenization, at least in regard to the internal semi-colonies. Today we find ourselves in a position were we must draw a line between ourselves and those who speak of an exploited New Afrikan population. If the U.$. economy only existed within U.$. borders then we would have to conclude that the lower incomes received by the internal semi-colonies overall is the source of all capitalist wealth. But in today’s global economy, employed New Afrikans have incomes that are barely different from those of white Amerikans compared to the world’s majority, putting most in the top 10% by income.”
The above quote is referring to the MIM Congress resolution, On the internal class structures of the internal semi-colonies. Even since that was written we’ve seen the proliferation of what you talk about, [email protected] prison guards being the majority in much of Aztlan, and New Afrikan prison guards being the majority in many parts of the Black Belt. This of course varies by local demographics. Regardless, it makes one question whether there are even internal semi-colonies to speak of, or at what point we should stop speaking of them? The massive prison system in this country is one reason we do still speak of them.
So we agree with you that the term “white worker” has kind of lost its meaning today. However, we still see the principal contradiction in this country as nation. Despite the bourgeoisification and integration of sectors of the oppressed nations, and the subsequent division of those nations, we still see nationalism of the internal semi-colonies, if led by a proletarian line, as the most potent force against imperialism from within U.$. borders.
A couple more minor points. We’d probably say Eric Adams, and high ranking politicians like em, are solidly bourgeois. Whereas the labor aristocracy would be those Brown guards overseeing you. In addition, we do not use labor aristocracy and white collar synonymously either, as white collar work has always been petty bourgeois or at best semi-proletariat by Marxist standards. So the real controversial issue is to say there are “blue collar” workers who are not exploited.
Organizations for Whites
Another comrade wrote saying that ey had no organization to join because ey is white. They had mistakenly thought that we think people should only organize with their own nation. We do not take a hard line on this question. And it is obviously related to the above.
MIM(Prisons), USW and AIPS are all multinational. Yet in our understanding of nation as principal, it seems necessary for there to be nation-specific organizations to play that contradiction out between the oppressed and oppressor nations. We certainly have supported single-nation organizing, and in another resolution we put out, we cite that as one of the handful of legitimate reasons to start a new organization instead of joining MIM(Prisons) or USW.
But there may be situations where multinational organizing in this country is actually more effective. At this stage our numbers are so small that it should be strongly considered just out of necessity to begin building our infrastructure. And when single-nation organizations do exist, the united front exists for them to work with others outside their nation.
Printing Anarchist Content
Finally, we had a discussion with a comrade who submitted an article that was favorable or uncritical of anarchist organizing strategy. The comrade wanted to know why we asked em to change eir article, because we claim we will print articles form anarchist allies.
Just because we will print content from anarchists, even content we might have disagreements with, it doesn’t mean we always will. First, our goal is to win people over to the Maoist line. So if you submit something that disagrees with that, our first response will often be to struggle with you over that line with the goal of gaining a higher level of unity.
Now some comrades are avowed anarchists. For them we do not need to keep having the same debate. Nor do we need to have that debate in ULK. When we say we’ll print material from anarchists we’re talking about material that actually pushes the struggle forward. Not material that is debating issues we think were settled 100 years ago. This is similar to a critic complaining about us not printing eir piece in ULK when we responded, because we weren’t showing both sides of the debate over the labor aristocracy. Again, this is a debate that was settled decades ago.
On top of this there are many comrades and organizations we work with that aren’t in the camp of the international communist movement such as the Nation of Gods and Earths for one example. While many aspects of the Supreme Understanding taught by the NGE certainly goes against the Maoist worldview, we are able to find solidarity in practice and in a united front. We don’t necessarily have to battle out whether the Supreme Understanding or Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is correct in the newsletter. We encourage line struggle on the ground.
In summary, this is a Maoist newsletter, edited to represent the Maoist line. We get to pick and choose when to print stuff that disagrees with Maoism if we think it is useful to advancing the struggle. Sure we find it important for cadres to be able to commit to line struggle scientifically and principally, and communists in general should have the ability to look at sources that challanges their viewpoint and uphold their line while analyzing what’s wrong/correct during line struggle. There is infinite non-Maoist material out there; and we advise our readers and comrades to go to those materials if they want to see what our critics are saying. We certainly won’t expect our critics to use space in their newsletters publishing entire polemics that we wrote against them, nor would we say that’s unfair to us.
One thing we heard from those saddened by the police murder of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was that she didn’t get to have a childhood.(1) While nation is most certainly the primary factor that led to the cop, Nicholas Reardon, shooting Bryant, we think gender oppression, and in particular youth oppression, had a lot to do with Bryant ending up where she did on that fateful day.
When people speak of being able to have a childhood, we may think of a time of fun, carefree play, no work, no oppression, etc. Of course most people in the world don’t have much of a childhood in this sense. But in the United $tates many do. So already we see there is some hierarchy involved in this idea of having a childhood, at least under imperialism. We see this hierarchy as the realm of gender because it is a question of leisure time and not labor time, which is the subject of class (see Clarity on What Gender is). But there is also the question of why we must separate our lives into periods of fun and play and periods of work and oppression? And why do we have oppression at all? And how did work become a bad thing?
To answer these question briefly, the relations of production under capitalism are what alienates people from their labor today, so that they feel their labor time is not their time. But as “adults,” most must spend the majority of their waking hours in labor time. While some people want those like Bryant to have the purist, most care-free childhood as possible, we are working towards a whole life that is enjoyable and fulfilling. And we doubt that is possible without a healthy dose of productive labor. The exclusion of children from work for over 100 years in the United $tates has left them with no productive role to play in society, leading to alienation and lack of worth.(2) This alienation and lack of self-worth is reinforced by abuse, and leads to destructive behavior.
As Greyhound points out in eir article on Ma’Khia Bryant, the Soviet Union provided family for orphaned youth through the productive life of the commune. The communes did not work kids to the bone to squeeze out the maximum profits as the capitalists once did in the United $tates, and still do in most of the world. Below we look at some attempts by capitalist Amerika to provide for youth and why they cannot get at the source of youth oppression as well as socialist experiments that have.
Child Credits Pay the Patriarch
With sheltering-in-place during the pandemic and no in-persyn schooling for most children, the question of childcare has received much attention in the United $tates. The answer from the bourgeoisie came in the form of child credits. Amerikan families began receiving these payments in mid-July 2021, for a total of $3000-3600 per family over the next 6 months.
These credits are a market-based attempt to address the problem of adults in the nuclear family spending large sums of money to have their children cared for when they are working or otherwise occupied. These credits put more power in the hands of the adults who get the money over the lives of the children who qualify them for these payments. Money for those who struggle to make ends meet can certainly mean less stressful conditions for their children. The logic makes sense, it is just a backwards, half-ass approach. By the 1960s in socialist China, all children had guaranteed care that was collectively run and offered ways for youth to voice their concerns and avoid abusive situations. This was in a country where a decade or two earlier children were basically sold into slavery. This is the kind of radical change the youth need, that a profit-based system can’t provide.
Punishing Sex Offenders to Save the Family
It is very evident that affection, support and trust in our lives as young people have significant effects on our health throughout our lives.(3) Lack of positive social relationships and experiences has been linked to drug addiction and correlates strongly with imprisonment. Therefore this is a topic very dear to the hearts of many of our readers.
One way we see this manifest in a more reactionary politic of the imprisoned masses is in the strong, often violent attitudes towards sex offenders in prison culture. This sentiment exists outside prison of course, but became part of the prison culture because of the concentration of convicted sex offenders there. As we’ve addressed in the past, this reactionary politic is problematic on the one hand in that it is allowing the state to decide who our enemies are, that in many cases the actions that led to these cases are mild compared to many non-sex-offender charges and in some cases the people are completely innocent.(4) In the United $tates, white males and females, as a group, have treated the Black male as a sexual animal that must be controlled, sometimes by fake rape charges and imprisonment. In other words, some who are convicted as sex offenders are actually the victims of gender oppression, as well as national oppression.
A second reason we say the anti-sex offender politic is reactionary is that it doesn’t offer any real solutions to the problem of the sexual abuse of children. It is an example of why MIM always opposed the slogan “Think global, act local.” If you think globally about this problem of child abuse, and act locally by ostracizing or even attacking those you come in contact with who have (or who you believe have) abused children, you haven’t changed anything if the patriarchy remains. You can confirm this with crime statistics, or just the fact that we live in a society where we know this problem is still prevalent.
Addressing child abuse requires systemic change as the Chinese instituted during their experiment in socialism. Young people need a different system that supports them with things we know people need to grow up healthy; mentally and physically. These things can not be offered on conditions or the whims of one or two adults who control the child’s life. As they say, “it takes a village to raise a child.” And people who are serious about reducing child abuse need to work to build those villages and build them in ways that give young people full access to information, a wide variety of adult support people, including those in power, and access to other youth without the interference of adults. The village should also give repercussions to youth for “bad behavior.” These repercussions should be consistent in order to provide the youth with social guidance and never be used by individual adults to get what they want from children or to take out their frustrations from a bad day. The oversight of a more village-based model must prevent adults from doing such things.
What the bourgeoisie offers in place of the village is more cash to the patriarch. These cash incentives make single-parent homes more viable. But single-parent homes are some of the easiest places for adults to molest and abuse children.
The reactionary approach to child abuse (imprisonment and violence) also reinforces the patriarchy, where strong adult men must protect youth from other adult men by physical assault. One critique of this line points out how it views the rights of children the same as the rights of animals in that they must be granted and enforced from the outside.
“pseudo feminists… [accept a] zoological implication that child abuse is going to go on forever, as if… child abuse were inherent in the humyn species, and at the same time external to humyn social relations, like animals.”(5)
The Maoist counter-point then is that child abuse is a humyn relationship that is found within the patriarchal family structure. It is part of the central problem of oppression of groups of people by other groups that we aim to resolve through ongoing revolutionary struggle under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Rather than punishing sex offenders to save the family and “protect our children”, we must replace the nuclear family with communal child-rearing, and empower young people to criticize others in order to stop those who might try to abuse children.
Putting child care in the public sphere will do a lot to undermine the conditions of child abuse. But it does not eliminate the biases of the adult population, especially those that grew up in the old capitalist ways, from miseducating or mistreating youth as a group. And we know that institutional living like group homes and prisons, where many adults are involved in “care” for the youth, are rife with abuse. For these reasons youth must have ways of coming together as a group and voicing their interests as a group, even enforcing their interests as a group in contradiction to the adults that they depend on. l Ruth Sidel produced an in-depth report on Women and Childcare in China as well as in the Soviet Union and the kibbutz in I$rael. In one Chinese school, when asked what you’d do if you found a sick child on the street, a 6-year-old child responded: “i’d bring them medicine and water.” Sidel was surprised the child would not find an authority figure first.(6) What a striking difference in world views between socialist children and how most of us grew up in this country. These children still spent most of their days singing and playing and doing things that we all did in school. Yet, they were taught differently, taught to act and be self-empowered as soon as they were able to physically complete the tasks that might be demanded of them, like bringing another child water, or possibly organizing resistance to an abusive adult.
Some reading this will find the youth helping other youth not so strange because they raised their siblings at a young age. This is another way that peoples’ “childhoods are lost” in our culture; having to take care of other children as a child. It is not that care for those younger than you is inappropriate to carry out as a child, but that you need the support of a community to do so in a way that is not oppressive to your own life and most supportive to those you help care for.
According to the story from Ma’Khia Bryant’s grandmother, the conflict that had occurred among two groups of foster children was over perceived disrespect to the foster mother due to the lack of chores getting done. Most likely the situation was more complicated. But we see how there can be a disagreement over the labor responsibilities of members of a family that leads to violent conflict. This would be very unlikely when people have clear responsibilities, clear and consistent consequences that are enforced by the group for not meeting those responsibilities, and ways to communicate up front with both adults and youth about the roles and treatment of others.
The Roles of Youth in Society
In discussing Ma’khia Bryant’s childhood, we must address the fact that she was 16 years old when she was murdered by a cop because of this conflict. Other 16-year-olds in the area could have banded together to take revenge on Reardon for shooting her. Most members of the Black Panther Party joined in their teens. Bobby Hutton was murdered by the pigs emself at age 17 while on an armed patrol of the police. Sixteen is much more physically developed than six, and would mostly only be limited by legal restrictions like being able to drive or purchase fire arms.
Fifteen was the age when members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - Ejército del Pueblo(FARC-EP) could engage in armed actions.(7) As the struggle of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front(EPLF) advanced, they established the Fitewerari to train male youth 14 to 16 years old and females of all ages. They found that training the adult females separate from adult males helped in both groups overcoming the traditional gender roles they had been inculcated with. The youth did not have these challenges, at least not to the same degree.
“In addition to literacy education, political and military training, and running their daily affairs, they participate in production, adhering to the EPLF’s correct revolutionary principle of ‘integrating education with production.’ They practice criticism and self-criticism to rectify mistakes, develop work and strengthen comradely solidarity. Upon finishing training, they are assigned to the different EPLF units and departments to carry on the struggle on all fronts.”(8)
Much has been put into the idea that a humyn’s prefrontal cortex is growing rapidly up until about age 25. The implication being that you can’t quite trust the judgement of those under 25. But this is only one data point, of a biological phenomenon we still barely understand. And along with this data point comes some implications in how younger people are willing to go against the status quo and can change their ways faster. We look to history, to see the transformative power of youth movements, rather than follow current trends in biological determinism based in preliminary studies of the brain.
Towards a World Without Oppression
When Maoists talk about gender, we are talking about a system of power in the realm of leisure time; the patriarchy. In that system, youth are generally part of the gender-oppressed. Though in the imperialist countries, they are likely part of a gender aristocracy, a child aristocracy, particularly those who have access to the idealized carefree childhood.
Similar to the wimmin in bourgeois society, the bourgeois children are relegated outside of labor and exclusively to leisure time. This leisure time is meanwhile structured to serve the pleasure of the man and the interests of capitalism overall. These groups being relegated to leisure time reinforces the divide between leisure time and labor time in society mentioned above. This is one reason why it is hard to imagine undoing gender hierarchy without first undoing capitalism, which would eliminate the sharp divide between labor time and leisure time. Through this process, gender will cease to be so separate from class struggle as it is in the bourgeoisified First World countries. Then our lives as individuals will be more complete, as will our communities.
Youth liberation is part of and dependent on the struggle to end capitalism and imperialism. Youth don’t need more paternalism, they need a supportive village to learn from and the freedom to self-actualize themselves without the fetters of oppression that shape our lives today.
Anti-imperialists watching the Horn of Africa have sounded the alarm that Amerikans are scheming to further their exploitation of Ethiopia. In May, United States Agency of International Development (USAID) Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance head Sarah Charles spoke to the U.$. Congress about how the Ethiopian government and other armed forces were restricting the access of Amerikan staff and equipment in the country.(1) Ten days before the 21 June 2021 elections in Ethiopia, the U.$. State Department issued a statement expressing “grave” concern about the conditions of the elections and said they were ready to “help Ethiopia address these challenges” in order to cast doubt on election results.(2)
Many concerned about the talk coming from the U.$. government refer to Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and Syria as warnings of what could happen in Ethiopia. Amerikan troops left the infamous sprawling Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan on 2 July 2021, allowing looters to enter the grounds the following day.(3) In 2001, the U.$. overthrew the Taliban-ruled government of Afghanistan. Twenty years later, the Taliban are poised to regain control of the country following the longest war in U.$. history. All peace-loving people have an interest in preventing another one of these long, drawn out wars that have become the norm for U.$. imperialism as it struggles to dominate the rest of the world.
U.$. imperialists have already begun waging warfare in the form of economic sanctions against both Ethiopia and Eritrea. Meanwhile, they continue to push for access by USAID and its affiliated NGOs to meddle in African affairs. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front(TPLF) launched attacks on the Ethiopian armed forces back in November 2020, which began the war that seems to have reached a stopping point this July and has been used by the Amerikans as a reason to get involved. The TPLF led the Ethiopian government until 2018 when the TPLF president resigned due to popular pressure. In addition to domestic abuses, they led Ethiopia in a war for territory against Eritrea during that time. Eritrea has made peace with the new Ethiopian government led by Abiy Ahmed and sided with Ethiopia in the recent war against the TPLF.
Ethiopia is the 12th most populated country in the world, and the second most populated in Africa. In the 1970s, the Derg government led a quick, forced nationalization of the Ethiopian economy. Current President Abiy Ahmed has overseen the privatization and liberalizations of the economy, which began after 1991, when Ethiopia shifted from the Soviet Union to a U.$. client state. These moves by Abiy will increase foreign investment and involvement in Ethiopian industry. A 2018 plan by the Abiy-led government targeted 25% growth rates in manufacturing until 2025.(4) While falling short so far, this indicates their intentions to become Africa’s leading manufacturing hub. In other words, the Ethiopian masses still living in semi-feudal conditions are a potential source of a newly proletarianized population for imperialist corporations to extract surplus value from.
During the recent conflict, Abiy froze the assets of many TPLF associated companies with U.$. and other foreign investments, which may have concerned the Amerikans as well.
As part of their new plan to provide power for this growth in industry, Ethiopia has been operationalizing the new Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). On 6 July 2021, Ethiopia began the second stage of filling the dam. The Egyptian and Sudanese governments have been calling for U.N. intervention for fear of the impact on their water supplies. This will be the biggest hydroelectric project in Africa.(5) Egypt (run by U.$.-backed dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi) has indicated it would support intervention in Ethiopia to stop this project by saying all options are on the table. Egypt is one of the most important U.$. client states, historically falling in the top 3 receivers of military aid from the imperialists. The Trump administration had supported Egypt’s interests regarding the dam, and we expect U.$. support to continue.
Land-locked Ethiopia’s access to the Red Sea is through Eritrea or Djibouti. Djibouti is a small country between Eritrea and Somaliland. It is the home of AFRICOM, the United $tates military’s Africa Command, and a number of other imperialist militaries. These military bases provide 5% of Djibouti’s GDP. China has their only foreign military base in Djibouti, making it a potential location of conflict between the Amerikan and Chinese imperialists. This location is also important for access between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea including large movements of fossil fuels.
President Abiy has formed alliances with Eritrea and Somalia, countries the U.$. has used Ethiopia to destabilize in the past. This show of unity in the Horn of Africa could allow for greater serving of African interests, rather than Amerikan interests.
Strong Marxist History
National liberation struggles influenced by Marx, Lenin and Mao are central to the recent history of Ethiopia and Eritrea. In its early days, MIM often mentioned Eritrea as one of the locations of a liberatory people’s war in the 1980s. Current President of Eritrea, Isaias Afewerki, was one of the first members of the Eritrean Liberation Forces(ELF) to train in socialist China in 1967. He was later part of the leadership to form the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), which split from the ELF and combined the ELF’s strong nationalism with an explicit Marxist-Leninist line and the strategy of People’s War.(6)
In Ethiopia a series of Marxist-Leninist organizations emerged to challenge the feudal system of Haile Selassie. This led to the removal of Haile Selassie by his own military leaders in 1974, who formed the Derg government. The Derg undertook a massive nationalization campaign, labeling itself “Marxist-Leninist” and a socialist state in 1975. The Derg assigned head of state to U.$.-trained Mengistu Haile Mariam, but became an ally of the social-imperialist USSR. Their national-brougeois ideas fit nicely with the revisionist distortions of Soviet “Marxism-Leninism.”(7)
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front also began in the revolutionary period of the 1960s. By the late 1970s it was waging guerilla war against the Derg, under the leadership of the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray. At this time there was a split in the revolutionary movement of Ethiopia around the question of secession, with the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front leading the call for the right to self-determination of Eritrea independent of Ethiopia. Others saw secessionist movements in Ethiopia as linked to the reactionary regionalism of feudalism, and a division of the peasant masses.(8)
In 1991, MIM Notes celebrated the overthrow of the “social-fascist Mengistu regime” by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front(EPRDF) as well as the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front(EPLF), which abstained from the provisional government of Ethiopia opting for independence instead. They noted, “MIM doesn’t have much information about the”revolutionary programs" of the EPRDF, so we must watch and let the practice of both the EPRDF and EPLF speak for itself.“(9) Yet, MIM Notes had already quoted the New York Times under the heading”Victories Betrayed":
"The best insurance against another hard-line Marxist regime in Ethiopia appears to be the presence in Ethiopia immediately after the EPRDF’s victory, of an Amerikan, Paul B. Henze.
“Henze, the station chief of the Central Intelligence Agency at the United States Embassy in Addis Ababa from 1969 to 1972, was invited to the capital as a personal guest of President Meles. He spent five weeks in Ethiopia advising Meles and was upbeat when he left. ‘Meles is pragmatic,’ Henze says. ‘He and his colleagues are not bothering with ideological matters. Ethiopia has a good chance of becoming a productive country.’”(10)
Meles Zenawi was a member of the Marxist-Leninist League of Tigray before becoming the first president of Ethiopia under the EPRDF government. As the CIA agent predicted, rather than struggling against differences between classes and nationalities in Ethiopia, the TPLF used its power to dominate the government at the expense of other nationalities and regions, and it soon became a pawn of U.$. imperialism in its maneuvering for power. As a result, by 1998, Meles(TPLF)-led Ethiopia had invaded Isaias(EPLF)-led Eritrea. It appears that both organizations abandoned their Marxist-Leninist lines prior to the overthrow of the Derg and their seizing of state power as part of the process of forming the united front against the Derg. This indicates that there were right-opportunist, liquidationist errors within the leadership of both movements that allowed them to put the liberation struggle and overthrow of the Derg above and in place of the struggle for socialism and a dictatorship of the proletariat. They did not heed the lessons of Mao’s China on how to keep proletarian leadership within a united front of class interests against imperialism. This led to reactionary bourgeois nationalism to play the leading role in these countries, despite the promising Marxist origins of this shift in power. The result gives credence to the warnings from those Marxists who argued against regionalism and secession and opposed the politics of the earlier ELF and original TPLF.
The Organization for African Unity, started by leaders like Kwame Nkrumah and Haile Selassie, also took up a line that it was against the interests of the people of Africa to begin dismantling the states that were amalgamations of peoples imposed by the colonial powers. History has proven this strategy to be effective in preventing divisions among the oppressed. Nkrumah had hoped for the OAU to become a federal government uniting all of Africa, but that strategy did not win out.
At the same time, Maoists recognize the right to self-determination of all nations. And the liberation movement in Eritrea held much promise leading up to liberation. Eritrea also differed from other regions in Ethiopia in that it was previously a separately administered state under Italian colonial occupation. Today, Eritrea remains the only country in Africa without AFRICOM presence, leading to much derision from the United $tates and Europe over the years. They took pride in their non-aligned stance in a world divided by the United $tates and the social imperialist Soviet Union. In 1984, Isaias Afewerki also declared they had no links or support from China. They did not take a position on whether China was still socialist at the time. Isaias did look at Cuba as an example of what happens when you become a client state of the Soviet Union. Isaias claimed the Cubans disagreed with USSR policy in Ethiopia and Eritrea, yet Cuban troops operated in Derg-ruled Ethiopia on behalf of Soviet interests in the 1980s.(11)
While Eritrea has a history of independence and remaining politically neutral, they have recently provided support for the U.$./Saudi war on Yemen that has led to a massive loss of humyn life since 2015. This was likely motivated by financial gain.(12) In the 1980s, South Yemen was in solidarity with the Eritrean liberation struggle despite opposition by the imperialist Soviet Union. Like Cuba, South Yemen took on the form of “Marxist-Leninist” state years after its liberation under the influence of the Soviet Union. Like the Cubans, they seemed to recognize the righteousness of the Eritrean liberation struggle. Today, we cannot view the Eritrean leadership as serving real self-determination when they are being pitted against Yemen by the imperialists. Ultimately, it was the abandonment of proletarian politics that led Eritrean leadership to side with imperialism in the Middle East.
While revisionism seems to have thwarted the popular revolutionary forces in the Horn of Africa in the late 20th century, the proletarian, revolutionary line is no stranger to the people of the region. This is further evidenced by President Abiy having to specifically address and critique Marx, Lenin and Mao in his recent book.(13) It is only through the unified struggle of all African people that the current violence, death and starvation can be properly ended. U.$. and other imperialist involvement will continue to pit Africans against Africans and other oppressed people.
Our Role in the Horn of Africa
In April 2018, Abiy Ahmed of the Oromo Democratic Party was elected Prime Minister of the EPRDF government of Ethiopia. This marked the end of TPLF leadership in the EPRDF, which was replaced by the Prosperity Party coalition in November 2019, excluding TPLF. After his confirmation, Abiy quickly established peace with Eritrea, still headed by Isaias Afewerki. This was a historic peace agreement, returning land to Eritrea that the TPLF had been occupying, signalling unity in the region against the U.$.-backed TPLF. Eritrea and Ethiopia have remained united in the war that began in November 2020 with a TPLF attack on Ethiopian forces. Until the people of the region can mount proletarian-led struggles for power again, the Eritrean-Ethiopian alliance remains important for strengthening the region against further meddling by foreign imperialism.
Our role in all of this is determined by the imperial nature of the United $tates government. Like all people in the world, it is our duty to build towards a dictatorship of the proletariat in our own backyard. But we have the added duty of countering the imperial machinations of our current government.
We should expose the imperialist nature of State Department agencies like USAID that want to present themselves as humanitarian organizations. While President Trump celebrated the Ethiopia and Eritrea peace deal, the Biden administration has brought those favoring intervention in the Horn of Africa back into the White House.
Toward the end of his presidency, Barack Obama appointed Gayle Smith to Administer USAID. Gayle Smith was first employed by USAID in 1994. She had lived in EPLF-run areas dating back to the 1970’s, where she was a “journalist” working undercover for the CIA. She later spent time embedded with the TPLF where she mentored Meles Zenawi, who would go on to wage decades of war against the EPLF.(14) Another close confidant of Meles was Susan Rice, who was national security advisor to Barack Obama.(13) And as we mentioned above, Meles had open relations with local CIA agents from the very beginning of his presidency.
In 2021, Biden has appointed Samantha Power to head USAID. Samantha Power had succeeded Susan Rice as Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations after being mentored by both Rice and Obama. Rice was involved in the violent separation of South Sudan from Sudan and lied about mass rapes to justify the invasion of Libya. Rice and Power worked with Hillary Clinton to greenlight the invasion of that killed Muammar Gaddafi, which Clinton later laughed about on television.
In 2013, Power led the charge within the Obama administration to bomb Syria, which Rice came around to support. Power’s book A Problem From Hell justifies intervention against genocide. She used this mission statement of hers to justify bombing Syria and Libya, and now stands behind it to intervene and defend the TPLF.(15) We oppose the continued expansion of U.$. troops in Africa since President Bush started AFRICOM in 2008. U.$. support for the TPLF clearly aims to divide Africans so that they can be better controlled for the benefit of imperialist-country corporations.
There is zero question that Kansas is using prisoners for cheap labor and profiting tremendously from multi-year sentencing of first-time drug offenders like myself.
I “earn” sixty cents per day to perform a skilled labor sewing position full time. If I refuse to work I will receive a disciplinary work report resulting in my custody security level to rise.
There is a 30-person crew that works at the Kansas State Fairgrounds year round. These prisoners also receive 60 cents per day. The fairground complex could not operate without prison labor.
These jobs are not maintaining KDOC prisons. They are part of the state prison economy, for the profit of the state.
Also, this prison takes 50% of the earnings of all private industry job income prisoners earn. At the private industry jobs, prisoners make minimum wage ($7.25/hour). Incarcerating probation-eligible offenders to minimum-custody facilities to work is proof that in Kansas, exploiting prison labor is a motivating force for mass incarceration.
In almost every other state I would not have been sentenced to prison for possession of medical cannabis.
I understand the point of the article was to look at medium and long-term goals. As a non-violent, non-victim, first time drug offender I believe cannabis decriminalization is a goal worth pursuing. Thousands of people in Kansas have been incarcerated by a corrupt, prison labor motivated criminal justice system.
Is the author agreeing that non-violent, non-victim, first-time cannabis offenders should be working for 60 cents a day to assist the state economy and provide cheap labor for giant factory farms in Kansas? When I see corrupt judges play in to this state economy, there are no myths in my first-hand facts. If I am misinterpreting Wiawimawo’s writing, please clarify what the author intended.
Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: First, thanks for the details on how prison labor works where you are in Kansas. We regularly publish such reports on our website and use them to keep tabs on the realities of prison labor over time. You are our on the ground reporters for everything going on in U.$. koncentration kamps.
One thing you don’t specify is who you are making clothing for at your job. That is an important factor. Usually people are working on clothing and sheets and now face masks for other prisoners to use. That would be work for the prison system, not for profit. Similarly, running the fairgrounds is for the state. These are parallel to the examples of fire fighters given in my original article.
None of these jobs are making profits for anyone, which you seem to have confused. Multiple times you refer to Kansas as profiting from prisoners. States do not make profits. They have revenue and expenses, and they can run over budget if they want with expenses being greater than revenue by issuing bonds. Now the bourgeois definition of profit is netting more money coming in then you put out in expenditures. But even bourgeois economists do not use this terminology in regards to states. As Marxists, we define exploitation as paying workers less than the value that they produce and then selling the product (or service) to realize the full value. This is the source of wealth accumulation in capitalism.
Now to the prisoner sewing clothes for 60 cents a day, it matters little whether those clothes are to be used for state-issued use or sold in a store. So i can understand where you’re coming from. But if we want to explain how the prison system works in this country this becomes an important distinction. It is not profits for big businesses to accumulate capital that drives the system. It is a combination of financial self-interest of the people who work in these institutions, people who some would have us see as the oppressed proletariat themselves, and the broader interests of the oppressor nation to control the oppressed nations in this country. Through this control of the oppressed nations by Amerikans through criminalization and imprisonment, they can further gentrify the places oppressed nations reside and create further economic control for themselves. This is the heart of our analysis. And it is why we have a very different orientation than the petty bourgeoisie who is opposed to private prisons for profit and favor drug decriminalization as discussed in my original article.
“Is the author agreeing that non-violent, non-victim, first-time cannabis offenders should be working for 60 cents a day to assist the state economy and provide cheap labor for giant factory farms in Kansas?”
No, i do not argue that. We argue for more change, not less. We are not reformists, and we don’t think drug decriminalization in the United $tates will eliminate national oppression nor drug addiction. If done well, it could reduce these problems, and the specific expression of drug problems such as marijuana consumption. Therefore the reform is progressive, but it does not solve the problem of national oppression and the criminal drug economy. We have much better solutions for national oppression and drug addiction, and they certainly don’t include imprisoning people for victimless behavior. They do include eliminating profit motives in all aspects of our lives. In the meantime, we support an international minimum wage that would apply to prisoners.
A California Prisoner: The Covid and imperialism article in ULK 72 sparked my interest because I am already vaccinated and I had to ask myself why I, a prisoner, was vaccinated before tax payers? The answer was pretty simple logic. Prison is huge profit for California and the cash cow has been closed for Covid crisis, the sooner California can reopen the prisons, they can continue to rake in the profits they make from our suffering.
Wiawimawo responds: There was a significant effort in California by lawyers and activists to get prisoners to the top of the vaccination list. And this is at least part of the explanation as to why you got vaccinated early. It made sense from a public health standpoint, but this did not happen across the country because many Amerikans don’t care about prisoners’ lives.
It is not clear why you argue that profits dried up in prisons during the shelter-in-place, so i would need more information on that to respond. But as i explain above, states don’t profit from prisons. Prisons are a huge financial expense and do not create any economic value. Prison labor is one way to slightly reduce some of the expenses in running these prisons.(1)
All that said, i want to address this comrade’s talk about the “tax payers.” The vaccination campaign across the United $tates is being paid by the Federal government. The government has now passed a series of bills in the trillions of dollars to address the fallout from the pandemic. This is not “tax payer money.” They are just printing money, or creating money out of thin air to fund these programs. Since the dollar is the global currency, they can do this with some confidence that other countries and investors will buy up the bonds to cover the expense. It’s all funny money that we benefit from here in the United $tates, even those in prison benefit at times, thanks to our position as the premier imperialist power.
This is in stark contrast to countries like India and Brazil that are now being hit hard by the pandemic and the people are being offered little relief. One reason is that these countries can’t just print $1 trillion worth of their currency without causing massive inflation and damaging the conditions of the people more.
To the extent that it is “tax payers” who are helping to balance the budget deficit in the United $tates, we must also be clear where that money is coming from – the Third World proletariat. The above is just one demonstration of how value can flow from the periphery to the imperialist countries. This is reflected in the incomes of all U.$. citizens, who must give some of those super-profits to the state to keep the imperialist system running.
So let us not shed a tear for the poor “tax payer” in this country because California actually made some efforts to vaccinate people in a way that made sense in terms of promoting public health. There is no shortage of vaccines in the United $tates. In fact, we have far more than we need, while other countries have not even begun vaccinating their populations yet. If we were really working in the interests of public health, we would have a more equitable distribution of vaccines across the globe. We’d be prioritizing hotspots, which the United $tates is. And we’d be sharing the technology needed to make vaccines freely, releasing the intellectual property that is holding back progress in the fight against COVID-19. Failure to do so means that the virus will continue to evolve and likely continue to be a problem.
A New York prisoner: In response to ULK 72 (2021) article “Help Fund MIM(Prisons), Donate Now!”, I would like to offer a suggestion outside of charity from donations which seems to be a necessary form of income for the production, maintenance & shipment of ULK’s. What if MIM took some of its donations and invested them in the stock market? I know that seems pro-capitalist, but as the old adage goes you gotta fight “fire with fire.” Making a few short-term trades could possibly boost revenue for expenses (solely), and make donations a welcomed part of production but not so necessary. This would keep MIM’s line of no foreseeable future in capitalism by not becoming long-term investors in the stock market, but instead looking for quick returns in order to fund revolutionary work (i.e. short selling, which is basically betting against the U.S. market, which is still in some ways inherently communist behavior). I am enclosing an articled dated 11 January 2021, “Jay-Z Fund to Help Minority-owned Cannabis Businesses.” What do you think about this venture? I don’t really believe lumpen have the luxury of investing in non-essential production/consumption as cannabis right now, when they don’t even have land to cultivate on. But financial freedom is nonetheless a form of independence… so keep on keeping on Jay-Z!
Wiawimawo responds: First, we agree with using the oppressors’ tools against them, and have no moral qualms about the stock market. Proletarian morality means we do what will most benefit the liberation of the exploited and oppressed. Whether it is a wise investment is another question. Conventional wisdom is that it is a good long-term bet, but unpredictable in the short-term. As for shorting, well hedge fund Melvin Capital Management lost 53% in January in its infamous shorting of Gamestop.(2) They lost about $6 billion on that bet. That’s what the stock market is, gambling.
Now cannabis businesses, that might be a more sound investment. As the article points out, and as i discussed in my article on Tulsi Gabbard mentioned above, the legalization of weed has been a bonanza for white petty bourgeois interests trying to get small businesses up and running before the large corporations dominate the market. New Afrikans are under-represented in business ownership overall at just 10%, but in the states listed that number was 3-6% for cannabis businesses.(3) Jay-Z, and New York State are correctly recognizing this gap and trying to do something to not let it happen in New York.
What do we think about this? More equal opportunity for the petty bourgeoisie just reinforces imperialism. When it was illegal, oppressed people selling weed were targeted by the state and potential allies to the anti-imperialist movement. People running successful weed businesses aren’t likely to be our allies, regardless of their skin color.
The weed game is in a major transition. It is still in a semi-legal state, where the Feds could crack down on you (and they have). Getting access to loans and bank accounts can be difficult as a result. One group that is proving successful as early pioneers in the trade are former law enforcement. They are less likely to be targeted by the state than a former felon, and they have clout to deal with the pressures from extortion rackets and the lumpen organizations they are competing with. Therefore as revolutionaries, the weed business might be risky.
You suggest that we need to invest in stocks to free us from our reliance on donations. On the contrary, we are trying to become more reliant on donations so that our cadre don’t have to worry so much about funding everything ourselves, which we do by working or investing or whatever. Maybe some of us are investing in the stock market to fund this work, but that is not a reliable source of income. We want to be going strong when the market collapses again. And that is why we want to be reliant on the financial support of the masses. Only by relying on the people is our future secure.
As i said above, legalization of weed will not eliminate national oppression in the forms of cop killings and disproportionate imprisonment rates. It will make pacifying substances more readily available to the masses. And for better or for worse it will undercut the underground economy in favor of public tax revenue. And that is what this is about of course, it is providing tax revenue to maintain government funding at the local and state levels.
Until the import of weed is legalized by the feds, this shift of production to the United $tates will be undercutting a source of profits in the drug trade – the Third World farmer. Historically the farmers who grow and process weed are the ones being exploited in Third World countries. As production shifts to the First World, wages will have to increase to exploiter-level wages, with the possible exception of using migrant labor from the Third World. This means the profits must come from other sectors in the Third World instead, to pay the farmers, marketers, sales people and accountants in the First World running the new weed economy, as well as the state taxes. If the exploited weed farmers are eliminated, then the profits must now be squeezed from the banana farmers or copper miners, and all the other exploited workers of the Third World. This puts more pressure on the already dangerously low international rate of profit.
Finally, we agree with your point about land. Without land there is no power. National liberation means liberating the territory of the oppressed. Owning land as individuals is not it. Oppressed nations must control land as independent nations, and be able to defend that land. This is a central task of the New Democratic movement.
As the launch of a new Maoist Internationalist Movement newsletter was scheduled to occur in the next week or so, we are addressing in part the events of the last 6 weeks that have delayed this project indefinitely. There were a series of splits, degenerations and internal struggles within our movement that came to a head last month. We are still assessing where things will fall, as we work to keep the prison ministry projects operating.
On 10 December 2019, remaining members of the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement announced, “After nearly 13 years of existence, the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM) is no more. Contradicting lines and practical inadequacies have been allowed to fester to the point of intractability, resulting in several splits and the widespread abandonment of our organization.”(1)
RAIM was our primary partner in the planned newsletter. There have been promises of more thorough assessments of RAIM’s history and shortcomings, but the most detailed commentary right now is at the link in the notes below. One of the key things it highlights is the challenges of revolutionary organizations to engage in the practice that allows us to learn from and bind ourselves to the masses in real struggle while in a non-revolutionary situation. There is a challenge in distinguishing ourselves in action, not just words, from the countless non-profits, non-governmental organizations, liberal reform groups and other bourgeois institutions misdirecting energy and resources from the struggles of oppressed people in this country.
The announcement from RAIM was followed shortly by the sudden resignation by a cadre member of MIM(Prisons). This loss seems to echo some experiences coming out of the RAIM camp, and this article is an attempt to analyze it in terms of phenomena that stem from our conditions in particular and that we must try to combat.
In contrast to some other struggles that had happened within MIM(Prisons) and within RAIM, this comrade who left MIM(Prisons) said ey had no political disagreements and therefore there was nothing to discuss or struggle over. In eir resignation ey stated, “I’ve come around to the belief that the humyn race is likely doomed at its own hand.” Ey went on to say, “I don’t see a better political line out there, instead I see a problem with me and my First World conditions. I’m no longer able to rally the energy to continue contributing.”
For some of us, this is a hard position to understand. For some of us there is no life free of despair outside of a committed struggle for a world without oppression. However, we must understand that we live in a predominately petty bourgeois country, and what the class interests of that class is, and what its political outlook is. Only then can we understand and combat these types of conclusions.
On the one hand, it was mostly true that this comrade did not see a better political line. In fact, until eir last days with us ey was upholding that line in practice, even challenging others who were wavering in their own belief that Maoist organizing, in the form it took within our movement anyway, was the best way to struggle against oppression.
However, it was just a few weeks prior when i was editing an article this comrade had written reviewing the recent Terminator movie. In it ey had commented on capitalism marching towards the annihilation of nature and humyn life. I argued we should change the clause to “annihilation of the current balance of life on Earth that humyns depend on.” The “annihilation of nature” is such an absolute concept that i’m not sure humyns could be capable of such a thing if they tried. Even the elimination of humyn life is an extreme outcome.
This seemingly subtle change hints at an underlying line struggle that emerged as em leaving the movement completely because ey thought “the humyn race is likely doomed at its own hand.” This type of apocalyptic outlook is unfortunately common in our petty bourgeois culture. The petty bourgeoisie is a class whose purpose is based in consumption, leading to a different type of alienation than what Marx talked about (one that leads towards nihilism). And this is a truly First World problem that we should take seriously.
Whether it’s lifelong communists retreating to the comforts of a consumer life built on the exploitation of the Third World, or imperialist warhawks attempting to literally initiate a biblical rapture, First World nihilism is a threat to humyn life. Whether it will kill off all of the humyn race aside, we sure know it kills a lot of us, and it is happening every day as long as imperialism stays in place.
There are two main forms of political degeneration that we see. There are those that abandon attempts at change to take up a bourgeois position as this comrade did. Then there are those who sneak bourgeois politics into their practice. The more obvious examples of the latter are comrades leaving to join single-issue reformist groups. The more insidious are those who take up a revisionist, or non-revolutionary line that hides in Maoist clothing. Really there is only one form of political degeneration: it is the abandoning of proletarian politics for bourgeois politics in one form or another.
The fact that this comrade, who had served the people and upheld the proletarian line against attacks for so long, did not see eir decision as a disagreement in political line makes no sense. The MIM line is very clear that our strategic confidence comes from the 80% of the world’s people who have a material interest predominately opposed to imperialism. Mao Zedong said that the imperialists were paper tigers, and proved in practice what that meant; that they are dangerous on the surface, but will collapse in the face of organized peoples’ power. So clearly the comrade had disagreements with Maoist political line.
Apparently this comrade felt ey had made up eir mind and didn’t want to engage in struggle anymore. This reminds me of the many times people have told me they don’t listen to the news anymore because it just makes them depressed. And sure, I can relate to getting upset at times at things that I hear on the news. But most often I listen to the news with an open mind to understanding the world around me, the good and the bad. To stick one’s head in the sand is easier than looking for answers. But if you are just getting depressed every time you listen to the news, it is because you are not engaged in the process of transforming our reality and/or you think humynity is doomed and there are no answers to the massive problems we are facing. To believe there are no answers is metaphysical thinking – ideas that things just are the way they are, or maybe even that humyn nature is just bad. This is religious/idealist thinking. And it is strange to come from a comrade who spent many years railing against religious and idealist thinking and advocating Maoism based in a historical materialist analysis of history.
Knowing what this comrade knew, the lie ey told, perhaps to emself, about not disagreeing with us politically, can only be explained as an excuse to do what this persyn subjectively wanted to do. If ey was being honest with us ey might have said something like “i feel that my life will be happier, more fulfilling, more rewarding by abandoning the struggle against oppression and imperialism.” And i know what you’re thinking, what kind of sick mind could think that? Well, we are surrounded by sick minds, present company included. Here in the belly of the beast, to seek out and uphold a proletarian position takes real effort and fortitude. It is going against all we are taught. And that is why this struggle to transform society is dialectically a struggle to transform ourselves. All the self-help books and therapy sessions cannot transform us into the new socialist humyns we are striving to be. Only revolution can transform us to the point that we have eliminated this sickness.
Well, you say, aren’t we in the First World hopeless then, because revolution is so far off? For one, revolutions happen quickly. It is true that our movement has been saying for decades that we do not live in revolutionary conditions. But that could change in a matter of months. And for the oppressed, crisis is opportunity, not the individualist, nihilist fantasy of the zombie apocalypse or the end of humynity that the petty bourgeois culture prophesizes.
Secondly, we do not have to achieve a stateless communist utopia to begin to transform ourselves. In fact, we transform every day. It is up to us whether we are training our brains to become more responsive to capitalist advertising and consumption or training ourselves to better embody the proletarian line and morality that leads us to struggle every day. That struggle defines us. And it impacts those around us. And together we lay the groundwork for a better tomorrow. Tomorrow can be better, a step in the right direction, or not. It is in the act of making revolution that we can cure the disease that has infested all our minds, and the system that requires unnecessary death and suffering to grease its wheels.
The recent events have created a significant shake up in our plans. These were long-term plans that were closely reaching their due date. Needless to say the setbacks have brought temporary disappointment and discouragement. At the same time we have been striving for a new path, and this shake up can help us get there.
We have already begun to transform our reality in recent weeks as we develop relationships with a number of new comrades. Even here, in the heart of empire, we know the number of potential comrades out there vastly outnumber what we have managed to unite to date. And we know it is our responsibility to be effective at what we do, to inspire the masses to join our movement. It will take us some more months to get back up to speed. And we don’t foresee any newsletter coming out before that. But we are rebuilding. And we invite you to join us.
At the latest Democratic Party debate among candidates for U.$. President, Tulsi Gabbard made headlines by appealing to emerging views on the criminal injustice system among younger Amerikans. Ey did so in attacks on former California District Attorney Kamala Harris. Gabbard focused on two issues of particular interest to the petty bourgeoisie: drug decriminalization and prison labor.
Senator Gabbard opened eir comments by expressing concerns for the "broken criminal justice system that is disproportionately, negatively impacting Black and Brown people all over this country." Ey went on to say that Harris "kept people beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California" and condemned Harris for imprisoning people for marijuana possession and then laughing when ey was asked if ey had ever smoked it.
The prison labor point was specifically about concerns Harris's office raised about losing firefighters if they complied with court orders to reduce the prison population.(1) The court had ruled that overcrowding in the state had led to cruel and unusual punishment. As we've established in our own surveys and research, most prison labor is for the state, and most of it is to maintain the prisons themselves. Fire fighters are the exception in terms of the important role their work plays in protecting humyn life, and no doubt Harris's legal team was playing that up at a time when wildfires were a major headline in California. But the fire fighters are typical in that they are not producing value or part of the profit-making of private corporations.
Prison labor (and the privatization of prisons) has been an ongoing issue of concern for Amerikans in the age of mass incarceration. MIM(Prisons) has long demonstrated that there is a myth that exploiting prison labor is a motivating force for mass incarceration in this country.(2) It is important to point out that the petty-bourgeois obsession with this myth is largely based in class interests. On the one hand there is a fear among the labor aristocracy about competition with prison labor resulting in lower wages and higher unemployment. This has been the major political barrier that explains why prison labor for profit is so rare in the United $tates. More generally, there is a contradiction between the petty bourgeoisie and the big bourgeoisie that causes the former to be skeptical and fearful of the latter, because the petty bourgeoisie favors small-scale capitalism. This results in a general sentiment against corporations profiting off prison labor, even without the direct concern of wages. In a recent campaign ad, Gabbard condemns private prisons for profiting off prisoners.
Drug decriminalization is also very popular among the Amerikan petty bourgeoisie, in particular the movement to decriminalize marijuana. In 2016, Pew Research found 57% of Amerikans supported legalization of marijuana compared to just 12% in 1969.(3) And the younger generations were more favorable of course. In this case, public opinion is based in class interests around economics and leisure time. While there is a financial interest in the booming legal economy of marijuana products for young Amerikans, the broader public opinion is based in leisure-time interests.
The movement to legalize weed will often give lip service to condemning the blatant racism in many U.$. drug sentencing laws, similar to Gabbard's opening statement against Harris's criminal injustice record (above). Yet the scale of your average weed festival/rally versus that of the size of your average protest against torture (of primarily New Afrikan and [email protected] men) tells a clearer story. These reformists for persynal freedoms of the petty bourgeois individual are not going to do anything about national oppression in the form of targetted arrests, sentencing, concentration camps and torture chambers that make up the U.$. criminal injustice system.
MIM has long used the "Willie Horton"-style of campaigning as an example of Amerikans support for national oppression, especially of New Afrikans.(5) While "tough-on-crime" politics is finally waning, we have yet to see whether Amerika can really start to decrease its prison population now that the infrastructure and economic self-interest has been built up around it.(6) Beyond that, the national question is only more at the forefront today, with Amerikans chanting "send them back" at a recent rally held by current President Trump, where they were calling for female Senators who are not white to be sent back to the countries their ancestors came from.
It is important to be aware of these shifts, as they may provide opportunities for the anti-imperialist prison movement. But there has been no change in the overall orientation of the Maoist Internationalist Movement that sees nation as the principal contradiction both internationally and within the United $tates. We continue to organize with the medium-term goals of building dual power and independent institutions of the oppressed and the long-term goal of national liberation and delinking from imperialism.
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)