14 August 2015 — The long-awaited autobiographical story of NWA, Straight Outta Compton (2015), hit theaters tonight. The action-packed movie glorifies the evolution, and quick dispersal of what they billed as "the world's most dangerous group." While this was part of their hype, there was certainly some truth to the image NWA portrayed and the long-term impact that they had on music and culture in the United $tates. Produced by Ice Cube, with help from Dr. Dre and Tomica Woods-Wright (widow of Eazy-E), the film portrays the history of NWA through their eyes. While generally an accurate history, there are artistic liberties taken in the portrayal of certain events and what is left out.
A key theme of the film is the role of police brutality in shaping the experience of New Afrikans in Compton, particularly young males. There are multiple run-ins with police brutality depicted, and attention is given to the infamous beating of Rodney King by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), and the subsequent riots in Los Angeles that deeply affected all members of NWA. The strong anti-cop message of the movie will resonate with audiences who have been unable to avoid discussion of police murders of New Afrikans over the last year or so. As such, the movie will have a positive impact of pushing forward the contradiction between oppressed nations and the armed forces that occupy their neighborhoods.
Every New Afrikan rebellion in the past year has been triggered by police murders. Murders and attacks on New Afrikans by whites and their police have always been the most common trigger of rebellions since Black ghettos have existed.(1) This was true in the 1960s when the Black Panthers rose to prominence, it was true in the early 1990s after NWA rose to fame, and it's true today when "Black Lives Matter" is a daily topic on corporate and other media. This national contradiction, and how it is experienced in the ghetto, is portrayed in the film by the fact that there are no positive roles played by white characters.
A secondary theme, that surrounded a number of high-profile groups/rappers of the time, was the question of freedom of speech. NWA was part of a musical trend that brought condemnation from the White House and the birth of the "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" warning sticker. Ice Cube does a good job of portraying his character as righteous and politically astute, though he self-admittedly embellished from how events truly occurred.(2) We see the strong political stances Ice Cube took in his music after he left NWA, yet, only a glimpse. They do a montage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, but don't touch on Cube's extensive commentary before and after the riots through his music.
They also curiously leave out any mention of Dre's public feud with Eazy-E after Dre left Ruthless Records, though they do spend time on Ice Cube's feuds with Ruthless.
The movie concludes by glamorizing Dre's rise to fame and independence, after being screwed by Jerry Heller (and Eazy-E) while with NWA, and then by Suge Knight for The Chronic album. They portray his success in guiding new artists like Eminem and 50 Cent to successful careers and his marketing of Beats headphones, which were purchased by Apple, Inc. Ice Cube's great success as an actor and producer are also featured, as are a memorializing of Eazy-E and updates on DJ Yella and MC Ren.
While this ending is a logical wrap up of the story of these five artists and where they are today, the focus on the individuals leaves out much of their real legacy. NWA was part of a cultural shift. Like all historical events, what they did represented much bigger forces in society. The character of Ice Cube recognizes this in a press interview in the film when he says they didn't start a riot at a Detroit show, they were just representing the feelings of the youth of the day. As was stressed in that interview, and throughout their careers, NWA members were just reporters speaking on what they were experiencing. And it was an experience that until then was unknown to a majority of Amerikans. Today that experience has become popularized. It is both glamorized and feared, but it has become a prominent part of the Amerikan consciousness thanks to voices like NWA.
While reality rap has been used (and misconstrued) to reinforce racism by many, the real transformatative impact it has had is in bringing this reality to the forefront so that it could no longer be ignored by Amerikans. Again, this pushed the national contradiction in the United $tates, by making all people face reality and take positions on it.
One problem with the movie is the way it leaves the rebelliousness of NWA as something from the past, that has evolved into successful business sense. NWA was one of a number of greatly influential artists at the time that shaped the future of hip hop. When gangsta rap was breaking out, you had real voices leading the charge. Since then it has been reeled in, and there is generally a dichotomy between the studio garbage that gets corporate play and the countless popular artists who have taken rap to higher levels both artistically and ideologically. Today there is a greater breadth of politically astute artists who are quite influential, despite lacking access to the corporate outlets. A montage of the countless "fuck da police"-inspired songs that have been produced since NWA would be a better recognition of their legacy today, than the focus on mainstream success and lives of some of the individual members.
While being a longer movie, Straight Outta Compton seemed to end quickly. There are plenty of exciting musical moments to make NWA fans nod their heads, plenty of fight scenes, if you're into that, and many rebellious statements made by members of NWA that should make you smile. We look forward to the even longer director's cut, which promises to get deeper into some points that are only hinted at in the theatrical release.(3)
The vast majority of the governments in the world lack popular support because they serve the oppressive interests of U.$./European/Japanese imperialism. Popular elections in Palestine (for Hamas) and Honduras (for Zelaya) have been rejected by the United $tates, who put their chosen leaders in power. Meanwhile, Afghanistan and Iraq are the most hypocritical examples of U.$. "democracy building." A decade of military occupation, with all the murders, secret prisons and torture that entails, and even the imperialists can't claim any victory. Iraq has split into multiple states, all of which are engaged in an ongoing hot war. And a recent U.$. government audit of the $1 billion dollars spent in Afghanistan over 10 years concludes that they have been largely unsuccessful in establishing "the rule of law," not to mention "democracy."(1)
Of course, that's not to say that certain imperialist interests have not been served in these projects. A destabilized Third World nation is certainly better than a unified one, because the inherent interests of the Third World are opposed to those of the imperialist nations. Any successful organization of Third World nations to serve their own interests is a blow against imperialism. And the ongoing wars grease the gears of the military industrial complex.
Looking at the Middle East, West Africa or Central America, we cannot say that the oppressed nations are winning. But the objective conditions for successful resistance are certainly there and developing. Our strategic confidence in the victory of the proletarian nations over the imperialist nations comes from these objective conditions, principally that the proletariat nations far outnumber the imperialist ones.
Honduras: Mass Protests and Collective Farming
10 July 2015 — tens of thousands of Hondurans marched in the capital of Tegucigalpa with torches held high to call for the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.(2) These protests have been going strong for seven weeks, and they are the continuation of a six-year struggle against the forces behind a coup d'etat backed by the United $tates in 2009.
In this same period a movement to seize land by collectives of campesinos has been ongoing. These collectives are highly organized and participate politically in the national assemblies behind the mass protests. In the countryside, these collectives have provided improved housing, education and pay for their members. They are class conscious, and addressing gender contradictions as well. The documentary Resistencia (2015) shows the regular harassment and assassinations these collectives face.(3) One community had all their houses bulldozed while attending a rally in Tegucigalpa, yet they pull together and rebuild, as one campesino says, because they have nowhere else to go. While some collectives seem to have armed guards, generally they depend on non-violent resistence at this time.
The United $tates recently deployed 280 Marines to Central America, with most going to Honduras as part of their ongoing militarization of the country in face of this continued mass resistance.(2) Meanwhile, many of the top military personnel who are allied with the large landowners in Honduras have been trained in the terrorist training camp known as the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.(3) For decades, graduates of this school have carried out the most atrocious and brutal military campaigns in Central America on behalf of U.$. interests. Today, Honduras is considered the murder capital of the world.
Imperialists Slaughter Yemenis in Desperation
The United $tates has been waging low-intensity warfare in Yemen since shortly after 11 September 2001. In that time they have carried out over 100 drone strikes in the country.(4) In mid-May of 2015, U.$. troops and ambassadors were pulled out of the country following a popular insurgency that threw out the U.$. puppet regime of Abdedrabbo Mansour Hadi in late March. Hadi has since remained outside of Yemen with no sign that he will be able to return.
Since the removal of Hadi, an intensified bombing campaign in Yemen has been described as a "Saudi-led" effort, yet U.$. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken is behind the coordination center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and the United $tates expedited weapons deliveries to their ally who they've already provided with a strong, modernized military.
On 6 July 2015 over 30 civilians were killed when invaders shot a missile into a small market in the village of Al Joob. Other recent strikes in the region killed 30 in Hajjah, and 45 just north of Aden.(5) "In addition to some 3,000 Yemenis killed since March, the war has also left 14,000 wounded and displaced more than a million people, according to the [United Nations]."(6) Close to 13 million are lacking food due to the war and the blocking of shipments into Yemen by the imperialist-led coalition. Meanwhile preventable diseases like dengue, malaria and typhoid are spreading.(6)
Like the people of Honduras, these horrific conditions leave the people of Yemen with no choice but to keep fighting. In April, "19 Yemeni political parties and associations rejected the UN Resolution 2216 [an attempt to appease the resistance], stating that it encourages terrorist expansion, intervenes in Yemen's sovereign affairs, violates the right of self-defense by the Yemeni people and emphasized the associations' support of the Yemeni Army."(7) In June, Najran tribes, in a Saudi border region, declared war against the Saudi regime because of the Saudis killing innocent people. This occurred after the House of Saud attempted to bribe tribal leaders to support their war efforts in Yemen.(8)
Yemen's relationship to Saudi Arabia is similar to those of Mexico and Central America to the United $tates. Yemen was once a nominally socialist state after a Marxist-inspired national liberation army took control after British colonialism ended in the region. So like Central America, Yemen is no stranger to socialism and Marxism. Yet, while militarily conditions are more advanced throughout the Middle East, we do not see the class-conscious subjective political forces that exist in places like Honduras.
Yemen risks falling into inter-proletarian conflict as has been ongoing in Syria and Iraq. Yet, reports from the ground indicate a strong recognition that the ultimate blame for their plight falls on the United $tates (this is true in Honduras as well). Chaos does bring opportunity for the objective forces of proletarian class interest to rise to prominence. While conditions are dire in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, they lend themselves to building dual power and ultimately delinking from imperialism, which is what the oppressed nations must do to improve their conditions. While there are multiple competing powers in Syria and Iraq right now, no sustainable dual power can develop that is not built on the class unity of the exploited classes as exists in Honduras. At the same time, dual power must be defended, and the imperialists will always respond to efforts at delinking with military intervention. It is this military power that is lacking in Honduras to make their collectivization efforts sustainable.
These are just some of the hotly contested areas of the world today. The battle is between the imperialists and the exploited majority. While the imperialists are the dominant force today, the exploited majority are the rising aspect of this contradiction. As they rise in more regions of the world, they undercut capitalist profits and imperialist militaries become overextended. That is how the exploited majority will become victors and gain control over their own destiny.
Over four years ago I wrote an article looking at the sudden decline in the U.$. housing market.(1) Many Amerikan nationalists were looking at the household wealth numbers at that time and lamenting the steep drop off from 2008 to 2010. I pointed out that 2007 was an all-time high for wealth owned by Amerikan households, and compared their vast wealth to the poverty of the majority of the world's people from various angles. Well, in late 2014 a new report on global wealth was released by Credit Suisse, and guess what? Overall household wealth in the United $tates is back to an all-time high. In fact, it hit an all-time high in 2012 and has continued to increase. Turns out the financial crisis wasn't a crisis for Amerikans after all.
Despite the rhetoric of the social fascists, conditions in the United $tates have remained quite luxurious following the 2008 economic crisis. How is this possible? For one there is a nice cushion of wealth to fall back on in hard times. According to the report by Credit Suisse, about a third of the world's household wealth belongs to Amerikans.(2) So if everyone's wealth was reduced proportionately during crisis, Amerikans would fair better than almost everyone else in the world. But that's only scratching the surface, as it turns out wealth did not go down proportionately.
In a comparison of wealth growth by regions since 2000, Credit Suisse show the data with current as well as constant exchange rates. This demonstrates the impact that exchange rates have on wealth by region. Exchange rates are connected to mechanisms of unequal exchange, where value is transferred in a hidden way in the process of international trade. Exchange rates are also manipulated intentionally by the finance capitalists and their institutions (such as the IMF). In both cases, this can result in great transfers of wealth to the countries that control the markets, which is most often led by the United $tates. What the two data show is that the depreciation of currency in the Third World against the U.$. dollar accounted for much of the decrease in wealth during 2008. In other words, currency exchange rates provided a cushion to the economic crisis centered in the United $tates by pushing much of that crisis to the Third World. Africa is the only region to have not recovered to its pre-2008 wealth levels, but it would have done so if not for currency depreciation. In other words, as bubbles popped in the U.$. financial markets, wealth was being slowly pumped back in from the Third World via changes in currency exchange rates and unequal exchange of goods.
This is why we call for international exchange rates based on a fixed basket of goods, to put an end to this form of wealth transfer under imperialism. This is also why the U.$. imperialists were worried about Saddam Hussein ceasing to use the U.$. dollar as the standard currency for oil sales in Iraq.
While a much smaller factor in all this, it is also worth noting that the internal semi-colonies took on more of the wealth loss (proportionally) than the white nation in the United $tates. From 2007 to 2013, the median New Afrikan and Raza household wealth both decreased by 42%, compared to white household wealth which was only down 26% over that period.(4)
How did we bounce back?
The Credit Suisse report notes that the strong growth in household wealth in the United $tates following the decline in 2008 did not accompany a similar increase in income rates. If Amerikan household wealth bounced back on its own then we'd expect to see people making more income from their increased work and productivity. But this was not the case. So did this wealth just fall from the sky? No, it turns out this Amerikan prosperity comes from the invisible transfer of wealth from the Third World to the First World that MIM's critics have been denying the existence of for decades.
Before the wealth-transfer-deniers stop reading in disgust, let me acknowledge a couple things. The increase in household wealth from 2013 to 2014 was mostly due to "market capitalization" as opposed to housing prices and exchange rates (three important factors affecting short-term shifts in wealth according to Credit Suisse). While a larger number of the U.$. population is active shareholders than most countries, this would still indicate that the increase largely favored the wealthier within the rich countries. Exchange rates affect everyone in a country, and rising housing prices help the home owners (over 64% of people in the United $tates) accumulate wealth without having to work. (Homeownership has dropped significantly since 2005 when it was almost 70%, disproportionately affecting oppressed nations who on average have much less wealth than white Amerikans.(5)) "Market capitalization" benefits those in finance capital (including most retirement investments that are quite common in the United $tates), and would lead us to infer that while wealth in the United $tates has exceeded pre-2008 levels, it is less equally distributed than it was then.
Another indication of this skew in wealth distribution is that the high ratio of wealth to income in the United $tates in recent years is approaching the level of the Great Depression. This, of course, is one of the inherent contradictions of capitalism that Marx described in great detail: wealth tends to accumulate in the hands of the few, but this creates problems for circulation of capital, which the whole system is dependent on. So Amerikans are not in the clear; rather we would expect actual serious economic hardship in the near future.
Looking internationally, Credit Suisse shows median household wealth to be about the same in 2014 as it was in 2008, with peaks in 2007 and 2010. Meanwhile the top 10% has increased its wealth since 2008 and the top 1% even moreso. So the distribution of wealth is getting more uneven. The only problem for the argument of our Amerikan nationalists is that the majority of Amerikans are in that top 10%.
Amerikans Are Rich
One of the basic rules of captitalism, taught to us by Karl Marx, is that capital tends to accumulate. As I discussed in "Building United Front, Surrounded by Enemies", others have also shown how wealth in general tends to accumulate even for wage earners. In other words, the richer you are the faster your wealth grows. So yes, the 1% in the United $tates is getting richer faster than the other 99%. But those 99% of Amerikans (on average) are still getting richer as the majority of the world does not. The current balance of wealth shows that the difference between nations is more meaningful than the difference within nations.
Let us indulge in some more numbers given to us from the Credit Suisse report, which looks at household wealth across the whole world. The net worth per adult has reached a new high of an average of 56,000 U.$. dollars (USD) worldwide. The median wealth per adult in the United $tates and Germany are just below this level at US 54,000 and USD 53,000. The median is, of course, a much better indicator of the typical than the average (which was USD 348,000 in the United $tates). While your typical Amerikan or German has the amount of wealth one would expect if distribution were equal globally, your typical African or South Asian has wealth that is around 2% of that. (USD 679 in Africa, and USD 1,006 in India)
The number of people in this lower group is highlighted by the estimate that having USD 3,650 of wealth puts one in the top 50% of wealth holders worldwide. Again, if we distributed the wealth equally today, that point would be USD 56,000. But there are so many people with wealth below USD 3,650 that that is the level for the typical persyn (or median) in the entire world.
For Europe and North America combined, the best estimate given for the imperialist countries, 64% of adults are in the top 10% by wealth. It should be noted that the richest 10% of adults own 87% of global wealth. In contrast, 70% of the world's people own less than 3% of the world's wealth, averaging less than USD 10,000 per adult.
In the past we've cited numbers based on income that give similar results, and actually put all employed Amerikans in the top 13% richest by income, with the vast majority being in the top 10%. Wealth will always be more concentrated than income, because people can have incomes without ever accumulating wealth. Incomes are generally necessary in capitalist society, while wealth is not. In contrast to people who have nothing to lose but their chains (because they own no wealth), the majority of white Amerikans have wealth that is much greater than their annual income, which is quite high to begin with.
U.$. Internal Semi-Colonies
Of course, there are a number of nations within the United $tates, and New Afrikan and Raza median wealth is far below their median income, which is already less than white Amerikans. Recent numbers from Pew Research Center give median household wealth of white Amerikans at $141,900 in 2013. New Afrikan households, meanwhile, come in at $11,000, with the gap between Raza househoulds has been more consistent, as Raza median household wealth was $13,700 for 2013. One factor for the widening gaps is that white households are much more likely to own stocks (and remember that market capitalization was high from 2013 to 2014). Another factor is that oppressed nation home ownership decreased 6.5%, compared to white ownership, which only fell 2% between 2010 and 2013.(4) Wealth per adult for New Afrikans and Raza in the United $tates was not readily available for a direct comparison to the international figures in the Credit Suisse report. But it is clear that the median wealth per adult would be well above the global median of USD 3,650. In other words, the typical New Afrikan or Raza in the United $tates has more wealth than over 50% of the world's population. And if you look at income, they're doing even better.
Imperialists Power and Wealth
China's increase in millionaires, massive growth in middle income populations, and resilience against currency depreciation depicted by Credit Suisse all point to its emergence as a center of finance capital. Yet, over 90% of the millionaires in the world today are in the traditional imperialist countries, with the United $tates leading the way with 41%. While Japan used to compete in this category, in 2014 the U$A stands far above the rest with more than 4 times the number of millionaires in Japan. Of those with wealth greater than USD 50 million, 49% are U.$. citizens, with China as the very distant second in this category. Later this report predicts China will overtake Japan as second wealthiest economy by 2019.
On balance, global wealth increases. Wealth is a product of labor, and so as more people are born and work, and a certain portion of the value they create is accumulated (as machines, buildings, infrastructure, etc) rather than consumed (as food, clothes, electronics, etc) the total wealth of the world grows. War and other disasters can destroy accumulated wealth. The Credit Suisse report goes back to 2000, and shows total wealth more than doubling since then. An increasing rate of wealth accumulation would be expected as the forces of production advance with a growing population. Potentially more people working and doing so more efficiently would create greater wealth. However, our analysis predicts that the expansion of production under capitalism has already peaked some time ago. Credit Suisse subtracts out the effect of population growth and still comes up with a 77% increase in wealth over that period. Why so much?
Marx described different economic systems as being defined by a contradiction between the forces of production and the relations of production. When a new organization of labor is first introduced it would increase the forces of production (it brings new ways of doing things so that more work can be done with the same number of resources as before). Eventually, under any class system, the relations of production begin to drag down this progress. As class contradictions increase, so does the contradiction between relations of production and forces of production. So, while capitalism brought a great boom in production a hundred years ago, the limits of expansion are being met and contradictions, such as the ones that triggered the crisis of 2008, are limiting its progressive elements. What all the discussion around 2008 brought to light was the elaborate schemes that had evolved within finance capital markets in recent decades to create and circulate wealth. When they "create" wealth it is usually by expanding credit. So this is not real wealth creation, as when people transform their labor into wealth by constructing a building. As wealth in the form of credit expands faster than wealth in the form of real goods, you get problems where the credit can't be paid off. The "bubbles" that are blamed for such crisis are also behind the steep increase in overall wealth since 2000 shown in this report.
In summary, global wealth dropped a lot in 2007 and has bounced back bigger than ever a few years later. Marx predicted higher highs and lower lows in the economy as contradictions heightened. Therefore we expect volatility to increase as finance capital dominates the economy more and more, and for there to be bigger drops in wealth that impact the imperialist countries more because there is not enough cushion next time.
Amerikans get more stuff
In my previous article on U.$. wealth I made sure to discuss the consumption rates of Amerikans as well, to show that this isn't just academic number crunching and to combat those who argue that it's just a higher cost of living here that explains our higher incomes. Actually Amerikans get to consume a lot more stuff than other people, to the detriment of the health of our planet. One more recent example of this was the response to lower gasoline prices for Amerikans thanks to a market working in their favor. In November 2014, four out of the top five selling vehicles were gas guzzling trucks or SUVs. Demand for two of these gas guzzlers was up 9.6% in November, compared to an overall increase of 1.3% in car sales.(6) As the capitalists produce the most inefficient vehicles they can get away with to keep consumption rates up, Amerikans jump right on board as soon as they get a little relief at the gas pump. Who cares about global warming when you can afford to blast your air conditioner all day long anyway? While Amerikans enjoy lifestyles far beyond what most people can dream of, their bourgeois individualism reaks havoc on the balance of ecological systems that all life depends on. This is another major contradiction threatening the stability of the current socio-economic system.
The economic system is tied to social factors like war and the impacts of ecological destruction. All of these factors interact with each other, putting imperialism in an ever more precarious situation. It is the task of the proletariat and their allies to understand these dynamics and harness the social forces at play to address these contradictions by putting an end to the chaotic system of imperialism and building a new socialist world system in the interests of all.
In their response to us, (see "Who has happy sex?"), the Leading Light Communist Organization (LLCO) questioned some accusations we made about their organization contributing to wrecking work aimed at the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM).(1) The author is either unaware of, or being dishonest about, the history of their organization. Prairie Fire was highlighted in a recent interview at llco.org retelling h young adulthood, so certainly s/he can recall what h comrades were printing about MIM a handful of years ago. They participated in a long-standing campaign to paint MIM as crazy wackos as the original MIM comrades suffered the crushing defeat of every aspect of their work. We condemned the Monkey Smashes Heaven (MSH) website for this at the time, but did not call it wrecking work.(2) To accuse us of escaping "the crazy town hotel" because of our critique of the gender aristocracy is not just unprincipled, but once again echoing the imperialists who try to paint radical critiques of the status quo as the work of wackos.(4) And we don't see a reason to give them a pass this time. We're concluding here that this is an ongoing problem within their organization. This should have been obvious from our previous article(3), but we felt we should clarify our point here if LLCO is going to accuse us of spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt in what they refer to as a "phony setup," while their comrade accuses us of trying to deflect criticism. If we were afraid of criticism why did we publish an article linking to LLCO's criticism of our line?
Liberalism is Liberalism
Liberalism puts individual liberty and choice at the forefront. It is not concerned with groups and systems.
Liberalism equates happy sex with consensual sex. MIM Thought does not.
We never said happy sex doesn't exist. Rather, the main point of our article was that the gender aristocracy is very happy with its sex. We go on to argue that the happy sex of the gender aristocracy presents a challenge to our efforts to organize them against imperialism.
We also say that the struggle to have "good sex" is lifestyle politics and that it supports the pseudo-feminists' (read pro-patriarchy) agenda. Rather than "good" or "happy," a more precise criteria to debate would be "consensual sex." And we say there is no such thing under patriarchy. LLCO broadens this assertion to accuse us of saying consensual sex has never existed for all of humyn history. But patriarchy has not existed forever, so we do not agree that our line implies that "consensual, happy sex has never existed." More importantly, the theoretical existence of happy sex is not important to us in the struggle to end oppression.
LLCO doesn't like the examples we listed in our last article, condemning them with their own hypothetical example that is essentially the same, proving our point that power and sex are intimately tied up (pun intended). Rather than measuring individuals' power differentials to determine which one of them is the rapist (and implicitly then which persyn should be ostracized, imprisoned, or we don't now what because LLCO hasn't told us), maybe LLCO can speak to the problem that patriarchal society has conditioned females for centuries to enjoy sex as an oppressed gender as part of the process of producing male pleasure. Such systematic problems of power are not considered by the Liberal who is assured by the individuals involved explicitly saying the word "yes" and having fuzzy feelings inside while doing it.
Since their last post, LLCO stepped up their artwork from "Make Love Not War" to "Keep Calm and Have Good Sex." It's hard to believe they still don't get it when they caricature their own line with such blatant sexual Liberalism. Rather, it seems quite clear that they do intend to promote sexual Liberalism and call it proletarian feminism.
Biological Determinism and the Self
Liberalism, as an ideology, was a progressive force in a certain period of humyn history. Around the turn of the twentieth century theorists discussing sex used animal behavior to argue against the Christian ideas of the "natural order" ordained by God. But today people read too much into Darwin's Theory of Evolution, using it to validate their own experiences of pleasure. The biological imperative to reproduce and feelings of pleasure are not one in the same. So it has little meaning in this debate to say, "Sexuality is normal behavior for any complex species." We would like to see some evidence that, "Most people desire a sexual life even in the context of oppression." For the gender aristocracy, this is apparent, but the gender aristocracy is not most people. More clearly, we'd like to see evidence that most people experience the kind of pleasure from sex that the gender aristocracy does. As an aside, the assertion that "[m]ost people do not desire to be raped" is a tautology when you define rape as something that the average persyn does not desire.(4)
With the advance of the productive forces, widespread leisure societies developed for the first time in history. Members of those societies are much more gender privileged than the rest of the world, and the evolution of pleasure around sex is very tied up with the development of that power differential and an obsession with pornography that came with it. There are many nations that remain resistant to the pornography of the leisure societies, yet the imperialists use it as a tool to divide those nations. MIM saw pornography as any cultural propaganda that props up the leisure lifestyles of the bourgeois classes. LLCO's recent articles on rape and gender oppression can easily be categorized as part of the patriarchal pornography machine.
While our critic refers to biological determinism rather than sociology to explain sexual pleasure, both explanations imply greater forces are at play than the choices of two individuals. Yet, LLCO thinks our line denies humyn agency. Against this, we already said that we cannot go around telling people how to have sex in a way that they can avoid rape. Anyone who does this is being dishonest. That does not mean that proletarian morality has ceased to exist. It just means there is no magic combination of individual actions that can get you out of the patriarchy. While we must operate within the limits of the material reality we find ourselves in, we still get to make a choice of what to do at every moment of our lives. Pretending happy fucking is the same thing as sex without patriarchal influence is ridiculous.
In their discussion of Descartes, LLCO argues that we are idealists for daring to envision a world without oppression, where there would be no coercion in sexual relations. We call that being communists.
Answering some more questions from LLCO
LLCO claims there is another hole in our logic by asking, "How are all these systems of oppression reduced to a single measure whereby we can determined[sic] rapist and victim?" We already stated in our article, we don't care. We are not trying to answer the pornographic questions that they pose in their response, we are trying to convince people that patriarchy needs to be overthrown!
LLCO tells you to "[t]hink about how silly this is for a moment. MIM implies that you cannot both have a plan to eliminate individual cases of rape as part of a broader, revolutionary plan change society fundamentally."(1)
No, we said you should act scientifically. In other words be aware of the outcome of your actions. The LLCO/Liberal line means more Black males in prison and more Amerikans happy with the status quo. Maybe this is their strategy to strengthen the national contradiction in the United $tates. But no, there is no mention of principal contradiction, or overthrowing imperialism or patriarchy in their response. The whole content of the article could have been written by the Democratic Party if one just cut out the words "Leading Light Communism."
We also addressed this in the article they are critiquing when we wrote: "And we agree that under the dictatorship of the proletariat the masses will pick out these unreformable enemies for serious punishment. Yet, the majority of people who took up practices of capitalism or of the patriarchy will be reformed."
"Thus, for MIM, everyone who has ever had sex has been involved, one way or another, in rape. Every great communist leader has been a rapist or a victim of rape, or both. MIM even named their movement after someone who they see as a rapist. Mao was reported to be sexually vigorous. According to MIM, all sexually-active people of Third World and First World are rapists or victims, or both. All children from happy homes, from loving couples, are really products of rape."
Hey, we'll one up you there. Being asexual doesn't eliminate gender power either. The gender power that you hold is inherent in a patriarchal society regardless of who you fuck and how.
Perhaps LLCO should disavow Lin Biao because he did not come from a proletarian or peasant background. Lin was not from the oppressed classes. Neither were plenty of other great communist leaders, and we would assume the same for plenty of LLCO folks who are First World residents. People are a product of their birth circumstances and the society into which they are born. We don't judge individuals for this, we judge them for their political line and practice. Apparently LLCO can stomach this when it comes to class but not when it comes to gender.
Pushing the debate forward
LLCO correctly argued that the slogan "all property is theft" ... "can undermine the people's struggle under certain conditions." They then imply that the same is true for "all sex is rape." Okay, but what are those situations? Because we're saying "all sex is rape" is a powerful anti-Liberal slogan right now in the First World and we don't see it undermining the struggle to liberate the majority of the world's people.
Since we both seem to think the other is talking past us, here are our suggestions for points we'd like to see LLCO address to make this debate worthwhile going forward:
In what actual conditions do you see "all sex is rape" sloganeering as reinforcing bourgeois or patriarchal interests? and how?
Or the other side of that question, where do you see "you can have good, consensual sex" being used to effectively challenge the patriarchy or imperialism or working in the interests of the oppressed masses in general?
Until they can do this, we don't see how their arguments are based in any attempts to overthrow patriarchy (which would be implied by their claim to uphold proletarian feminism). It all comes across as a defense of sex because they know sex makes people happy. While clarity may be lacking on both sides, it is at least clear that we hold opposite views on this issue.
The Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) needs more activists focused on gender. MIM had a rich history in work around gender. Today a gender-focused MIM cell could do a lot to advance the struggle in the First World. For the majority of people in the richest countries, class is not an issue that will gain us much traction. But these leisure societies, dominated by gender oppressors, are concerned with the realm of leisure time where there are battles to be fought. Yet almost no one is drawing hard lines in the gender struggle today. Even some who give lip service to the need to divide the oppressor nations maintain a class reductionist line that prevents them from taking up revolutionary positions on gender.
Importance of the Gender Aristocracy
MIM sketched out the gender hierarchy as shown in the diagram below, with biological males above biological females, but with the whole First World far above the whole Third World. The line between men (gender oppressors) and wimmin (gender oppressed) is between Third World biological males (bio-males) and Third World bio-females. In this simplified model, the Third World is majority wimmin and the whole world is majority men.(1)
Near the top we see a small portion of the bio-females in the world are men of relatively high gender privilege. The term gender aristocracy was coined to account for this group of people who are often viewed as part of the gender oppressed, but are actually allied with the patriarchy.
MIM line distinguishes class and gender as class being defined by the relations of production and distribution, and gender defined as relations during leisure time. Largely due to their class position, the petty bourgeoisie, which makes up the vast majority in the First World, have a lot of leisure time and our culture in the United $tates is therefore very leisure oriented. Many of the things that are prominent and important in the lives of the gender aristocracy are not so for the majority of the world.
While MIM got a lot of push back on the labor aristocracy line, this came mostly from the dogmatic white nationalist left. The average Amerikan didn't get upset until MIM criticized their video games and explained how all sex is rape. These are things that are very important to the lives and pleasure of the imperialist country petty bourgeoisie. Knowing this is helpful in our agitational work. Our principal task overall is to create public opinion and independent institutions of the oppressed to seize power. In the First World, dominated by the oppressor nations and oppressor gender, this requires dividing the oppressor in an effort to break off allies. Even if we can't recruit whole segments of the oppressor groups, dividing them over issues of importance to the proletariat is a useful strategy.
While we say First World people are men in the gender hierarchy, unlike economic exploitation, anyone can be the target of gender oppression. Even First World bio-males are raped or killed for reasons related to gender and leisure time. This does not make them of the oppressed gender, but it does make such extreme forms of gender oppression a reality in the lives of the First World. In addition, the exploiter classes can benefit from the labor of others without ever having to use force themselves to extract that value, yet gender relations are something we all experience. As a result, even in the First World some people come to see the negative aspects of the patriarchy, with or without first-hand experience of extreme gender oppression, because of the very persynal and alienating emotional experiences they have.
A small minority in the First World will join the proletarian forces due to their own experiences with gender oppression. So it is important for there to be an alternative to the pro-patriarchy Liberalism of the gender aristocracy as a way to split off sections of the gender-obsessed leisure class. Below we take on one example of the gender aristocracy line in an effort to reassert an alternative.
Comments on the LLCO
We are using an article posted by the Leading Light Communist Organization (LLCO) as an example below. But before getting into the theoretical debate, we feel compelled to address the unprincipled approach of this organization. The article in question demonstrates a pattern of nihilism and bad-mouthing by LLCO that is akin to wrecking work.
LLCO was born in a struggle to separate itself from MIM, which had recently dissolved. Two of the main ways they did this was by bad-mouthing MIM and dividing on gender. The gender divide amounts to nihilism because they tear down the advances MIM made in building a materialist line on gender, but put nothing in its place but the Liberal pseudo-feminism of the past. Humyn knowledge and theory is always advancing; to tear down advanced ideas without replacing them with better ones is reactionary.
In the piece in question one of the logical fallacies they use is ad hominem attacks on people who acknowledge that all sex is rape by using meaningless buzzwords. Even worse, they go on to claim that those that take this position might be crazy and out of touch. This is a common attack used by the imperialists to ostracize radical thinkers. It is not a productive way to engage a developed political line that has been clearly spelled out for over two decades.
"All Sex is Rape" Needs a Comeback
Where LLCO actually engages the theory of whether all sex is rape under the patriarchy, we get a typical critique:
"Setting the bar for what counts as consent impossibly high obliterates the distinction between, for example, a wife initiating sex on her husband's birthday and the case of a masked man with a knife at a girl's throat forcing sex. To set the bar so high is completely at odds with what most people think, including rape victims themselves. Most victims themselves intuitively recognize the difference between consensual sex and rape."(2)
This is completely backwards. We do not have a problem of the masses confusing a womyn being compelled to have sex with a man because the patriarchal society tells her that is her duty on his birthday, and a womyn being compelled to have sex with a man because he is holding a knife to her throat and threatening to kill her. Rather, we have a problem of people not understanding that we need a revolutionary overthrow of patriarchy and a subsequent upheaval and reeducation of current humyn relations in order to end rape in both cases.
Furthermore, it is Liberalism to rely on the subjective "i'll know it when i see it" argument to define rape. This is exactly what MIM argued against when developing their line on gender. When an Amerikan judge hears a case of rape charged against a New Afrikan male by a white female, we can accurately predict the outcome of the judge's "intuition." When the roles are reversed, so is the verdict. And we only pick that as an easy example; we don't have to involve nation at all. It is quite common for Amerikan females to admit to themselves that they had been raped, months or years after the incident. What it takes is a social process, where rape is defined in a way that matches her experience. This social definition changes through time and space. And those who recognize this tend to gravitate towards the MIM line on rape.
The gender aristocracy is very concerned with distinguishing between rape and good sex, because good sex is the premise of their very existence as gender oppressors. For the gender aristocracy the bio-male provides safe/respectful good sex and the bio-female provides good sex in the form of a respectable/chaste partner. "Good sex" helps to distinguish and justify the existence of the gender aristocracy. Good sex is also a central source of pleasure for the gender aristocracy, to which they have very strong emotional attachments.
But the opponents to the MIM line on rape cannot explain away power differentials that are inherent in the patriarchy. They have no appropriate label for the sex that a womyn has with a man because she feels trapped in her marriage and unable to leave because of financial dependence. Or for the sex a womyn has with her girlfriend who is also her professor and in control of her grade at University. Or for the sex that a prisoner has with another prisoner because he needs the protection he knows he will get from someone who is physically stronger and respected. There are clear elements of power in all of these relationships. These are pretty obvious examples, but it's impossible to have a sexual relationship in capitalism under the patriarchy that does not have power differences, whether they be economic, physical, social, work, academic or some other aspect of power. This is not something we can just work around to create perfectly equal relationships, because our relationships don't exist outside of a social context.
One assumption of our critics is that rape cannot be pleasurable to both parties. We disagree with this definition of rape, and believe that power play is very tied up with pleasure in leisure time, to the point that a coercive sex act can be pleasurable to all involved. We expect this is more common among the gender privileged.
Another theme throughout the LLCO piece is the question of how we are going to determine who the "rapists" are that need to be punished if we are all rapists? This is combined with taking offense at being implicitly called a rapist.
The gender aristocracy cares about labeling and punishing rapists, again, because it distinguishes their good sex from others' bad sex. It is an exertion of their gender privilege. That is why most people in prison for rape in the United $tates are bio-males from the oppressed nations, and the dominant discussions about rape in the imperialist media are about places like India, Iraq, Mali or Nigeria.
LLCO accuses our line of discrediting anti-rape activists. MIM has been discrediting pseudo-feminism in the form of rape crisis centers for decades. Amerikan anti-rape activists take up the very line that we are critiquing, so this is almost a tautological critique by LLCO. Even in regards to struggles initiated by Third World wimmin, they are often corralled into a Liberal approach to gender oppression when not in the context of a strong proletarian movement. The imperialist media and those pseudo-feminists pushing an agenda of "international sisterhood" help make sure of this. This is an example of gender oppression and enforcing the patriarchy across borders using the gender aristocracy to sell it to the oppressed.
In general, we are not interested in finding the "real rapists" as we don't believe there is such a thing. Rape is a product of patriarchy — that is the essence of our line that all sex is rape. Imprisoning, beating or killing rapists will not reduce gender oppression in the context of a patriarchal society. Yet this is the only solution that is even vaguely implied in LLCO's critique.
Of course there are those who take the logic of the patriarchy to the extreme, just as there are those who take the logic of capitalism to the extreme. And we agree that under the dictatorship of the proletariat the masses will pick out these unreformable enemies for serious punishment. Yet, the majority of people who took up practices of capitalism or of the patriarchy will be reformed. This does not mean these people never exploited, stole from or sexually coerced another persyn before.
Today is another story. We adamantly oppose the criminal injustice system as a tool for policing sexual practices, just as we oppose it in general as a tool of social control to protect imperialism and the patriarchy. Therefore we find this desire to identify rapists to be a reactionary one.
Pushing for Gender Suicide
The problem with the ideology of the gender aristocracy is that their attachment to "happy sex" and the importance that most of them put on it will put them at odds with revolutionary attacks on the patriarchy. This is the practical side of "all sex is rape" as a tool to defang the gender aristocracy who will side with the imperialists on gender alone. If our critics get sad when we question the consensualness of their sex that is a good thing, because it challenges their attachments to the status quo. Truly radical changes must take place in our sex lives, our gender relations and our leisure time in general. The less resistance there is to this the better.
The Liberal argument is that by policing individual behaviors you can avoid being raped or raping someone else. This is just factually untrue. Yes, we need to transform the way people interact as part of the overthrow of patriarchy, but because gender relations operate at a group level, policing individual behaviors alone is just another form of lifestyle politics.
Just as all Amerikans must come to terms with their status as exploiters, and must view themselves as reforming criminals, gender oppressors must come to terms with the ever-presence of rape in the behaviors that they get much subjective pleasure from. Until they do, they will not be able to take on or genuinely interact with a proletarian line on gender.
Warmongering propaganda is at high levels in the United $tates, as it seems no positive lessons were taken from September 11, 2001. It took about a decade for Amerikans to lose interest in the U.$. occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. This contributed to almost two-thirds of Amerikans opposing Obama's push to invade Syria less than a year ago. Yet already, about two-thirds of the population now agrees with Obama that they would rather control the government in Syria than keep Amerikan journalists' heads attached to their bodies.
Militarism is driven by an economic system that is built around arms production and requires war to keep up demand. Arms shipments have increased recently to I$rael, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq where the U.$. has resumed bombing campaigns that are destroying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of American military equipment now in the hands of the Islamic State. Every strike made by either side in that war is a boon to Amerikan business.
Meanwhile, Russia has been clear that they will not let Ukraine join NATO. The United $tates and Russia are the two biggest nuclear powers in the world. Yet Obama is pushing to have Ukraine join NATO, and Amerikan anti-Russian sentiment is on the rise in support of him. Open conflict with Russia would greatly increase the already unacceptable risk of nuclear catostrophe due to militarism.
The last 15 years have proven that U.$. militarism cannot be stopped by the Amerikan anti-war movement. Rather, revolutionaries in the United $tates must focus on pushing the national liberation struggles of the internal semi-colonies in solidarity with the Third World. Campaigns like the one in support of Palestine by California prisoners are good for building anti-militarism in the United $tates.
Currently the media and Western politicians are promoting the line that the Islamic State is the biggest threat to peace globally. They are way off the mark. That role has long remained in the hands of the United $tates and its military industrial complex.
In our review of Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), we drew parallels to the Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972) from the original series. The final episode (Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973)) of the original series takes place hundreds of years after apes have risen to power and gives an interesting take on the dictatorship of the proletariat as apes rule benevolently over humyns and strive for a peaceful society. The latest, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) is more of a Conquest part two in terms of the timeline, but takes on many of the themes of Battle.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place a mere ten years after Rise, featuring many of the same ape characters. In those ten years, humyns had been virtually wiped out by a virus that was a product of testing done on the apes and infighting that resulted from the crisis. In the meantime, the apes that fled to Marin, California have built a home there, and other species have made a miraculous recovery in the absence of humyns.
The theme that Dawn shares with Battle is the apes realizing they are no better than humyns when it comes to war and violence. This is a positive lesson in historical materialism that looks at the social causes of war, conflict and change in general. It makes sense that as apes develop a more advanced society with language, buildings, fire and larger populations, that similar social phenomenon will come into play as we have in humyn society.
In Battle this was a nice lesson as it came after hundreds of years of dictatorship of apes over humyns, at which point one would expect a sense of commonality (internationalism if you will) to have developed. What is less believable in that movie is that after all that time there would be a vengeful element, which is played off as an almost genetic/racial thing particular to the gorillas. In the most recent movie we would expect much desire for vengeance against humyns, as these were the very same apes that were raised in prisons and experimented on by humyns before the revolution in which they freed themselves.
The new series has not yet reached the point of dictatorship of ape over humyn, only separate settlements that are now engaging in war with each other. Both sides have their militarists. The ape is motivated by vengeance from the torture he endured, while the humyn has a sense of purpose in returning humyns to their rightful place as dominant. A looming oppressor consciousness persists among the humyns despite their fall from grace. Though the main material force pushing them into conflict in the first place is the need for the hydro power that is within ape territory. No doubt, the justification of genocide for natural resources is still deep in these Amerikans' way of thinking.
Dawn does offer us some underlying political lessons. Caesar, who led the revolution in the previous movie as the only ape who knew how to speak, is now the established leader. All apes have developed some ability to speak (and at least the younger ones are learning to write), and they are able to communicate even more complex ideas through sign language. The mantra "ape shall not kill ape" is a direct throwback to Battle, that is repeated throughout this latest movie. This format is similar to short sayings from Mao that the Communist Party of China promoted under socialism to imbue the people with a new collective consciousness. It was necessary in a society with very limited literacy. Like Mao, Caesar is reified. At the same time, as Caesar disappears from the scene, it is clear that there is a core of apes who followed Caesar's ideas, and not just him as an individual. And there is a sense that the whole population has some grasp of these ideas, again similar to socialist China. But when a usurper seizes power, the masses follow him with little resistance. Like the Gang of Four in China, those perceived to be loyal to Caesar's ideas are imprisoned.
There is a strong theme of the nuclear family in this movie, at times saying that family is more important than the greater people. While Caesar learns to not idealistically trust all apes, he thankfully does not turn inward to his nuclear family as many do when they feel betrayed by larger organizations or society as a whole. Family is the hideaway of the coward, often the patriarch, who feels they can have greater control there. But revolutionaries strive to transform society by the power of scientific understanding. Like the last movie, the apes show heroic revolutionary sacrifice in their struggle for the greater good for all apes and the society that they have built. While they face internal contradictions based on the harm that oppression has stamped on their psyches, they have done much to build a promising society.
In our review of the previous movie we talked much about the integration struggle, with the apes rejecting that road. The ending of this movie leaves the protagonists from each species hoping for a collaborative effort, but seeing that it is impossible at this time. Caesar in particular seems keen at recognizing the material forces at play and the impossibility of collaboration with the humyns as a whole despite the friends he has among them. Similarly in our world, while there are certainly genuine revolutionary forces among the oppressor nations, we should not be fooled into interpreting that to mean that the oppressor nations as groups are ready for peaceful coexistence.
It is the contradictions that humyns face between their weakened state and their desire to have the material benefits of the past that is the biggest threat to the apes in this movie, and seemingly in the next one to come. We hope that the apes learned valuable lessons from this latest struggle that they can consciously consolidate into their ideology as a society as they move forward in their struggle against oppression and to end war.
The Worker Elite: Notes on the "Labor Aristocracy" by Bromma Kersplebedeb, 2014
Available for $10 + shipping/handling from: kersplebedeb CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne Montreal, Quebec Canada H3W 3H8
As with our previous review of Bromma's writings, we find h new book to be a good read, based in an analysis that is close to our own. Yet, once again we find h putting class as principal and mentioning gender as an important component of class. In contrast, MIM(Prisons) sees the principal contradiction under imperialism as being along the lines of nation, in particular between the imperialist nations that exploit and those nations that are exploited. While all three strands interact with each other, we see gender as its own strand of oppression, distinct from class. While Bromma has much to say on class that is agreeable, one thread that emerges in this text that we take issue with is that of the First World labor aristocracy losing out due to "globalization."
Bromma opens with some definitions and a valid criticism of the term "working class." While using many Marxist terms, h connection to a Marxist framework is not made clear. S/he consciously writes about the "worker elite," while disposing of the term "labor aristocracy" with no explanation. In the opening s/he rhetorically asks whether the "working class" includes all wage earners, or all manual laborers. While dismissing the term "working class" as too general, Bromma does not address these questions in h discussion of the worker elite. Yet, throughout the book s/he addresses various forms of productive labor in h examples of worker elite. S/he says that the worker elite is just one of many groups that make up the so-called "middle class." But it is not clear how Bromma distinguishes the worker elite from the other middle classes, except that they are found in "working class jobs." Halfway through the book it is mentioned that s/he does not consider "professionals, shopkeepers, administrators, small farmers, businesspeople, intellectuals, etc." to be workers.(p.32)
We prefer the term "labor aristocracy" over "worker elite," and we may use it more broadly than Bromma's worker elite in that the type of work is not so important so much as the pay and benefits. Bromma, while putting the worker elite in the "middle class," simultaneously puts it into the "working class" along with the proletariat and the lumpen working class. We put the labor aristocracy in the First World within the petty bourgeoisie, which may be a rough equivalent of what Bromma calls the "middle class." Of course, the petty bourgeoisie has historically been looked at as a wavering force between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Yet, in the case of the oppressor nation labor aristocracy, they have proven to be a solidly pro-imperialist class. This analysis, central to MIM Thought, is particular to the imperialist countries.
Despite these questions and confusions, overall we agree with the global class analysis as it is presented in the beginning of this book in terms of who are our friends and who are our enemies.
One good point made throughout this book is the idea that the "worker elite" is not defined merely by an income cut off. While not denying the central role of income, Bromma defines this class position as a whole package of benefits, material (health care, infrastructure), social (family life, leisure activities) and political (lack of repression, voice in politics). At one point s/he brings up the migrant farm workers in the U.$., who can earn similar amounts to the autoworkers in Mexico who s/he argues make up an established worker elite. In contrast, the migrant farm workers suffer the abuses of the proletariat at the bottom rung of U.$. society, and in reality many make far less than Mexican autoworkers. We agree with Bromma's implication here that the migrant workers make up a proletarian class within the United $tates.
While criticizing previous attempts to set an "exploitation line" in income, Bromma brings in PPP to improve this analysis. The book provides a helpful table of the income levels in Purchasing Power Parities (PPP) for various groups. PPP defines income levels relative to a basket of goods to account for varying prices across countries/regions. Bromma concludes that "a global middle class annual income probably starts somewhere between PPP $10,000 and $15,000", meaning that a single worker (man) could comfortably support a family on this amount. This is similar to the estimates others have done and we have used elsewhere.
One of the key characteristics of this income level is that they have gone beyond covering basic needs and become consumers. Bromma lists one of the three main roles of the worker elite as being a consumer class. This is something we have stressed when people ask incredulously why the capitalists would pay people more than the value that they are producing. Bromma cites a source discussing the Chinese planned capitalist economy and how they have goals for expanding their consumer class as they recognize that their increasing production will soon not be absorbed by consumption abroad. This is typical capitalist logic. Rather than seeing what the Chinese people need, and produce based on those needs as they did under a socialist planned economy, today they first produce a lot of the most profitable goods and then try to find (or create) a market to sell them to.
Where we disagree greatest with this book is that it takes up a line akin to Huey P. Newton's intercommunalism theory, later named globalization theory in Amerikan academia. It claims a trend towards equalization of classes internationally, reducing the national contradictions that defined the 20th century. Bromma provides little evidence of this happening besides anecdotal examples of jobs moving oversees. Yet s/he claims, "Among 'white' workers, real wages are stagnant, unemployment is high, unions are dwindling, and social benefits and protective regulations are evaporating."(p.43) These are all common cries of white nationalists that the MIM camp and others have been debating for decades.(1) The fact that wages are not going up as fast as inflation has little importance to the consumer class who knows that their wealth is far above the world's majority and whose buying power has increased greatly in recent decades.(2) Unemployment in the United $tates averaged 5.9% in April 2014 when this book came out, which means the white unemployment rate was even lower than that.(3) That is on the low side of average over the last 40 years and there is no upward trend in unemployment in the United $tates, so that claim is just factually incorrect. High unemployment rates would be 35% in Afghanistan, or 46% in Nepal. The author implies that unions are smaller because of some kind of violent repression, rather than because of structural changes in the economy and the privileged conditions of the labor aristocracy.
The strongest evidence given for a rise in the worker elite is in China. One report cited claims that China is rivaling the U.$. to have the largest "middle class" soon.(p.38) Yet this middle class is not as wealthy as the Amerikan one, and is currently only 12-15% of the population.(p.32) It's important to distinguish that China is an emerging imperialist power, not just any old Third World country. Another example given is Brazil, which also has a growing finance capital export sector according to this book, a defining characteristic of imperialism. The importance of nation in the imperialist system is therefore demonstrated here in the rise of the labor aristocracy in these countries. And it should be noted that there is a finite amount of labor power to exploit in the world. The surplus value that Chinese and Brazilian finance capital is finding abroad, and using partly to fund their own emerging consumer classes, will eat into the surplus value currently taken in by the First World countries. In this way we see imperialist competition, and of course proletarian revolution, playing bigger roles in threatening the current privileges of the First World, rather than the globalization of finance capital that Bromma points to.
As Zak Cope wrote in a recent paper, "Understanding how the 'labour aristocracy' is formed means understanding imperialism, and conversely."(4) It is not the U.$. imperialists building up the labor aristocracy in China and Brazil. South Korea, another country discussed, is another story, that benefits as a token of U.$. imperialism in a half-century long battle against the Korean peoples' struggle for independence from imperialism and exploitation. While Bromma brings together some interesting information, we don't agree with h conclusion that imperialism is "gradually detaching itself from the model of privileged 'home countries' altogether."(p.40) We would interpret it as evidence of emerging imperialist nations and existing powers imposing strategic influence. Cope, building on Arghiri Emmanuel's work, discusses the dialectical relationship between increasing wages and increasing the productive forces within a nation.(2,5) Applying their theories, for Chinese finance capital to lead China to become a powerful imperialist country, we would expect to see the development of a labor aristocracy there as Bromma indicates is happening. This is a distinct phenomenon from the imperialists buying off sections of workers in other countries to divide the proletariat. That's not to say this does not happen, but we would expect to see this on a more tactical level that would not produce large shifts in the global balance of forces.
Finance capital wants to be free to dominate the whole world. As such it appears to be transnational. Yet, it requires a home base, a state, with strong military might to back it up. How else could it keep accumulating all the wealth around the world as the majority of the people suffer? Chinese finance capital is at a disadvantage, as it must fight much harder than the more established imperialist powers to get what it perceives to be its fair share. And while its development is due in no small part to cooperation with Amerikan finance capital, this is secondary to their competitive relationship. This is why we see Amerika in both China's and Russia's back yards making territorial threats in recent days (in the South China Sea and Ukraine respectively). At first, just getting access to Chinese labor after crushing socialism in 1976 was a great boon to the Amerikan imperialists. But they are not going to stop there. Russia and China encompass a vast segment of the globe where the Amerikans and their partners do not have control. As Lenin said one hundred years ago, imperialism marks the age of a divided world based on monopolies. Those divisions will shift, but throughout this period the whole world will be divided between different imperialist camps (and socialist camps as they emerge). And as Cope stresses, this leads to a divided "international working class."
While there is probably a labor aristocracy in all countries, its role and importance varies greatly. MIM line on the labor aristocracy has been developed for the imperialist countries, where the labor aristocracy encompasses the wage-earning citizens as a whole. While the term may appropriately be used in Third World countries, we would not equate the two groups. The wage earners of the world have been so divided that MIM began referring to those in the First World as so-called "workers." So we do not put the labor aristocracy of the First World within the proletarian class as Bromma does.
We caution against going too far with applying our class definitions and analysis globally. In recent years, we have distinguished the First World lumpen class from that of the lumpen-proletariat of the Third World. In defining the lumpen, Bromma "includes working class people recruited into the repressive apparatus of the state — police, informants, prison guards, career soldiers, mercenaries, etc."(p.5) This statement rings more true in the Third World, yet even there a government job would by definition exclude you from being in the lumpen-proletariat. In the imperialist countries, police, prison guards, military and any other government employee are clearly members of the labor aristocracy. This is a point we will explore in much greater detail in future work.
The principal contradiction within imperialism is between exploiter and exploited nations. Arghiri Emmanuel wrote about the national interest, criticizing those who still view nationalism as a bourgeois phenomenon as stuck in the past. After WWII the world saw nationalism rise as an anti-colonial force. In Algeria, Emmanuel points out, the national bourgeoisie and Algerian labor aristocracy had nothing to lose in the independence struggle as long as it did not go socialist. In contrast, it was the French settlers in Algeria that violently opposed the liberation struggle as they had everything to lose.(6) In other words there was a qualitative difference between the Algerian labor aristocracy and the French settler labor aristocracy.
It is the responsibility of people on the ground to do a concrete analysis of their own conditions. We've already mentioned our use of the term "First World lumpen" to distinguish it from the lumpen of the Third World, which is a subclass of the proletariat. To an extent, all classes are different between the First and Third World. We rarely talk of the labor aristocracy in the Third World, because globally it is insignificant. It is up to comrades in Third World nations to assess the labor aristocracy in their country, which in many cases will not be made up of net-exploiters. Bromma highlights examples of exploiter workers in Mexico and South Korea. These are interesting exceptions to the rule that should be acknowledged and assessed, but we think Bromma goes too far in generalizing these examples as signs of a shift in the overall global class structure. While we consider Mexico to be a Third World exploited nation, it is a relatively wealthy country that Cope includes on the exploiter side, based on OECD data, in his major calculations.
Everything will not always fit into neat little boxes. But the scientific method is based on applying empirically tested laws, generalizations, percentages and probability. The world is not simple. In order to change it we must understand it the best we can. To understand it we must both base ourselves in the laws proven by those who came before us and assess the changes in our current situation to adjust our analysis accordingly.
Amerikans must condemn their government's meddling in Russia's backyard. Backing fascist political parties with nuclear ambitions on the border of Russia is a recipe for death and disaster.(1) Bloodshed has already increased as a result of imperialism's maneuvers as dozens have died in clashes between protestors/opposition forces and Ukrainian security forces controlled by the parties that came to power in the February coup d'etat (the second U.$.-backed coup in Ukraine in 10 years). Interestingly, we have not heard John Kerry call for sanctions against the new Ukraine government as we did last fall when the previous government roughed up protestors, once again exposing his hypocrisy (not to apologize for the now deposed Yanukovic regime, which later killed dozens of protestors in the streets of Kiev). Europeans should be even more worried about the violence being fomented in Ukraine. While the EU hopes to benefit from U.$. militarism in the form of trade relations with Ukraine, that same militarism could bring war to their region.
While statements from president Vladimir Putin on 7 May 2014 indicated a cooling off of Russian rhetoric in the conflict, talk of Ukraine joining NATO is a major threat to Russian security. Amerikan foreign policy experts, including Henry Kissinger, have condemned the idea of pulling Ukraine into NATO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed at the end of WWII as a military pact between countries opposed to the then communist Soviet Union. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, NATO has been creeping into Eastern Europe, towards Russia.
The calming words from Putin indicate that the very limited Western sanctions succeeded in not fanning the flames of inter-imperialist rivalry too high. By targetting individuals, the United $tates and Germany avoided the types of trade barriers that led to open wars between the imperialist countries in the early 20th century. And while Russian financial markets have declined in the face of this threat, the hit remains moderate.
Another reason to worry is that the U.$.-backed regime has significant participation from far right fascist parties. It is ironic that fascism finds some of its broadest support today in the very peoples who destroyed fascism in the Soviet Union's great patriotic war against Germany in the 1940s. But our understanding of fascism explains why this is so. Fascism is led by an imperialist class that feels its existence is threatened and/or aspires to surge ahead of other imperialist powers, and its mass support is among the labor aristocracy who wants their nation to rise and reap more superprofits at the expense of other countries (see our fascism study pack). Russia remains an imperialist power at odds with the West that cannot provide the same benefits to its people as countries like the United $tates and those in Western Europe. While Ukraine is not an imperialist country, there is a small class of finance capitalists backing the fascist upsurge within the current regime. The fascists are mobilizing within the national guard and are behind the recent murders of local police and civilians in the east where opposition to the new regime is strong.
With all the aid and loans being offered to Ukraine from the West, we know that large chunks of money given in the past has gone to various political parties, "election reform," and media outlets(2); something worth keeping in mind when trying to parse out what is going on during political turmoil in client states. USAID, often marketed by the government as a humanitarian agency, is behind much of this political funding and campaigning. The United $tates and Germany are adament that the planned presidential election must go ahead on May 25 as they work behind the scenes to ensure its results.
U.$. militarism, which is defined by the Amerikan economy being dependent on war and military production, must be put to an end to stop the unneccessary killings such as those in Ukraine recently and in so many other parts of the world. USAID must be exposed and opposed as a tool opposing the self-determination of other peoples around the world. The anti-Russian sentiments rising among Amerikans and the support that Putin is getting in Russia do not bode well for preventing further conflict if the imperialists decide to step it up a notch. This is a warning for us to strengthen the movement against U.$. militarism.
A new report from Global Witness documents over 900 assassinations of people protecting the environment and rights to land in the last decade.(1) And this is just the ones they could find information on, meaning the real number is higher. Of course, none of those killed were from the First World. The big countries in the report were Brazil (448), Honduras (109), Philippines (67), Peru (58) and Colombia (52). The killers have been prosecuted in only 6 of the 908 cases. The report also suggests that this is a growing phenomenon, which seems plausible given the heightening contradictions between the demands of capitalist production and the capacity of the natural world to maintain the balance of systems that are necessary to sustain life as we know it.
In the past, some have painted environmentalism as a concern of the First World. However, this has never really been true, as it is the most oppressed people who have suffered and struggled against the most extreme man-made disasters. And the threat that their struggles pose to the capitalists' interests is highlighted by this list of assassinations; people who were mostly killed in cold blood, a fate those in the oppressor nations know nothing about.
There is a concentration of murders in the tropical countries, where vast rain forests with some of the greatest biodiversity on the planet are making what could be their final stand. Long a source of natural resources, in recent decades these forests have been leveled at an increasing rate that cannot be sustained. In such cases there is a clear connection between protecting the ecological functioning of a region and the national liberation struggle tied to land. These "untamed" lands are often the homes of peoples who have not fully been assimilated into the global capitalist economy. Often private property and land deeds do not exist in these areas, attracting the brutality of the exploiters. The people struggling to exist on these lands have a completely different perspective on what land ownership and stewardship mean.
Many of the reports of these assassinations can be discouraging, when we see vocal leaders of small indigenous groups gunned down by paid assassins of the capitalists and no one is held accountable. But this war does have two sides. In many of the hotspots in this report there are strong organizations that have mobilized indigenous people to defend their lands. One of those examples has made some headlines recently in the Philippines. The revolutionary forces in the Philippines have called for a ban on logging because it has impoverished the indigenous people and peasantry, making them susceptible to environmental disasters as we saw last November with typhoon Yolanda. The New People's Army (NPA) is exerting dual power in putting this ban into effect by engaging in gun battles and arresting members of the military of the U.$. puppet regime that defend the logging companies.(2) In a separate campaign the NPA recently stormed Apex Mining Company, torching their equipment.(3) This is one of many mining companies they have targeted due to the destruction they wreak on indigenous lands and humyn health. This connection between the struggles of the indigenous people and peasantry, the environment and land is nothing new for the Communist Party of the Philippines as was documented in the decades old film Green Guerrillas.
While most pronounced in the Third World, ecological destruction threatens all humyn life and continues to be a growing rallying point for progressive forces in the First World as well. Maoists must tie this work to a realistic class analysis and link the struggle to protect our environment to the struggle for national liberation of the oppressed. A true revolutionary ecology must engage the workings of a system that has assassinated well over 900 innocent people for trying to protect the world that we all live in.