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[Theory] [Economics] [United Front] [ULK Issue 17]
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Building United Front, Surrounded by Enemies: Case Study of the U.$. Housing Market Decline

foreclosed McMansion
Typical Amerikan homes provide luxury most people can only dream of, while home values far above the actual cost of materials and labor lace the owners' pockets with super-profits.

United Front is the theory of uniting different groups across class lines for a common goal or interest, while maintaining independence where those groups disagree. The application of united front theory is about recognizing different contradictions in society and utilizing them in the interests of the international proletariat. The primary united front is the Anti-Imperialist United Front, which is made up of the majority of the world's people whose material interests lie in defeating imperialism. This is a strategic united front based on the principal contradiction.

In this article we will address a couple of contemporary issues in the United $tates and analyze their potential for united front work. We'll see that many of the big conflicts in a First World country are between the enemy classes, but that does not always mean we sit on the sidelines. Some forms of united front are tactical and require fast action based on thorough knowledge. To successfully navigate the potential for united front in the First World that serves the interests of the Third World proletariat we must first have a correct analysis of our conditions. The first section of this article provides a quick background to get us started.

Land, Housing and the Settler Nation

One of the arguments made against the labor aristocracy thesis is that corporations have no interest in sacrificing profit to pay First World workers more, and there is no corporate conspiracy to enforce such a policy. This is based in the theory of free market capitalism, or only reading the beginning chapters of Marx's Capital and treating that as an accurate model of reality in all places for all time. As a class, capitalists do depend on the labor aristocracy, not just politically, but economically as consumers and cogs in their growing pyramid scheme of finance capital. And there is at least one place where the U.$. imperialists can exert their will as a class (more and more these days) - it's called the U.$. government. The promotion of home ownership by the feds is one of the biggest examples of the imperialists consciously building a labor aristocracy within the heart of the empire.

Home ownership has been a staple of Amerikan wealth since the settlers stole this land from the First Nations and built their homesteads on it. The net worth of Amerikan families compared to First Nations and those descended from slaves in the U.$. is one legacy of this form of primitive accumulation. While land ownership among the earliest European invaders was 100% (that's why they came to the Americas), by the 1775 War of Independence, land ownership was still at 70% for the Euro-Amerikan nation.(1) Arghiri Emmanuel pointed out that Amerikan wages were able to stay so high in this early period of capitalist development, even as land ownership ceased to be universal, because the abundant "free" land stolen from the First Nations provided a fallback plan for European settlers.(2) This primitive accumulation through genocide was the basis for wealth that the Amerikan labor aristocracy enjoyed as industrialization transformed more of the settlers into wage laborers.

Following the inter-imperialist struggles of WWI, the United $tates became the dominant imperialist power. The influx of wealth that came with this allowed for the integration of southern and eastern European immigrants into the white nation leading up to the Great Depression.(1) From 1900 to 1950, home ownership rates in the United $tates averaged about 45%, with the lowest rates in the Black Belt South and the highest in European dominated northwest states.(3) After the economic recovery that came with the spoils of WWII, the United $tates embarked on the suburbanization of Amerika with numerous incentives from the federal government to bring home ownership above 60% again.

Since 1960, home ownership has stayed above 60% for U.$. citizens as a whole.(4) This rate was above 70% for white Amerikans in recent years, but the census does not have comparable statistics by race going back very far. Blacks and Latinos are just under 50% for rates of home ownership, even though national oppression has ensured that they currently face foreclosure disproportionately.

Emmanuel's theories in Unequal Exchange demonstrate how the significantly higher incomes of people in the First World actually transfer wealth to the imperialist countries from the Third World, reinforcing their economic advantage. Similarly, the oppressor nation has equity and is able to increase wealth in ways that the internal semi-colonies have not been able to do despite access to exploiter level jobs. All of this fits with the general trend of capitalism, which is the accumulation of capital. The more you have, the more you tend to get.

Collapse of the U.$. Housing Market

The left wing of white nationalism (whether self-described anarchists, socialists, Maoists or Democrats) has been saying that the increase in home foreclosures is an indication of the heightening contradictions between the Amerikan proletariat and the capitalists. These people defend the stolen land that was the foundation of wealth for settler Amerika, and the modern home ownership pyramid scheme that is the foundation of the Amerikan dream today.

Not only have millions of people lost their homes to foreclosure in recent years, but fear-mongers point out that the “2008 sub-prime mortgage market resulted in the disappearance of $13 trillion in American household wealth between mid-2007 and March 2009... on average, U.S. households lost one quarter of their wealth in that period."(5) Such alarmists ignore that Amerikans gained $10 trillion from 2006 to 2007 to reach an all-time high, and that net worth of the country's citizens has generally gone up at increasing rates since WWII.(6) The bigger ups and downs in all financial markets are certainly signs of crisis, but to act like Amerikans are being sunk to Third World conditions in 2010 is ludicrous. If only these activists would cry so loud for those who really have had to live in Third World conditions for their whole lives and for generations!

Most, if not all, of the loss in Amerikans' net worth is accounted for by stock portfolios and values of homes (which are bought and sold like stocks these days); in other words losses in finance capital. Traditionally, the petty bourgeoisie in Marxism was not exploited, nor did it significantly exploit others. To claim that those who reap profits from investments of finance capital are anything less than petty bourgeoisie is a rejection of Marxist definitions. With home ownership around 68% in recent years, that is a solid two thirds of people in the United $tates who fall squarely into the category of petty bourgeoisie or higher, including 50% of Blacks and Latinos (minimum). This group is 210 million people, or only 3% of the world's population in 2010, yet they hold more net wealth than the total market capitalization of all publicly traded companies in the world.(7)

Our critics point to the great wealth inequalities within the United $tates as reason to organize Amerikans for revolution. So let's just look at the bottom 80% of Amerikans, who owned 15% (a mere scrap from the table if you will) of the net wealth in the United $tates in 2007 (and this was a 15-year low for them).(8) While their share has decreased a few percentage points since 1983, total net worth in the United $tates has increased by almost 5 times. Therefore the lowest 80% of Amerikans went from about $2.2 trillion in net worth in 1983 to almost $10 trillion in 2007. (Two trillion dollars could eliminate world hunger for the next 66 years, until 2076.(9)) "Middle class" Amerika has assets that are greater than the GDP of China,(10) the world's industrial powerhouse representing about 20% of the world's population. That's comparing just the Amerikan "middle class" and "poor" to the whole nation of China, including its well-developed capitalist class.

Since the proletariat, by definition, has negligible net worth in the form of assets, let's look at their income.(11) Income generally increases proportionately with net worth across the globe.(12) Almost half of the world's population lives on less than $1000 per year. That is 3.14 billion people living on less than $3 trillion in a year.(13) Now before we condemn Amerikans' huge assets, let's make sure that they just aren't better at saving and investing their money than the proletariat. In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifty percent accounted for only 7.2% of consumption.(13) A conservative estimate leaves us with Amerikans, on average, consuming at least 27 times the average persyn in the poorest half of the world.(14) So money management skills cannot explain Amerika's huge net worth.

A just, sustainable humyn society requires the Amerikan labor aristocracy to be brought down to consumer levels much closer to the Third World. But this little exercise demonstrates that this is far from happening, despite the alarmists' cries.

Ultimately, the contradiction we're describing is between the labor aristocracy and the imperialists. The imperialists, in particular finance capital, are a dynamic, opportunist class. In contrast, the labor aristocracy benefits from stability of the status quo. The finance capitalists were able to make quick profits by selling the labor aristocracy short, so Amerikans are pissed. While perhaps pushing the labor aristocracy towards fascism, the finance capitalists are also undercutting the consumerism of Amerikans that their system depends on so much. What we are witnessing is an internal contradiction in the imperialist system playing out. Both groups control trillions of dollars in super-profits from the Third World, and the Anti-Imperialist United Front has no interest in one of them getting more than the other. We need to keep sitting this one out.

Migration to the United $tates

As discussed above, high wages and ballooning housing values reinforce themselves in our current economic system, making the rich richer. However, neither could be maintained without erecting a border outside of which these two things cannot flow. Therefore, keeping wages and housing values high is directly linked to the battle over increasing repression of migrant laborers within U.$. borders. The contradiction in this struggle is between oppressed nations who are trying to gain access to jobs in the United $tates and the oppressor nation that is trying to keep them out. This challenge to imperialist country privilege indicates that the battle for migrant rights is part of the anti-imperialist struggle.

While Third World people and some Amerikan youth faced Amerikan labor aristocrats on the streets, it was the U.$. District Court that put in place an injunction on most of the provisions of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 (SB1070), in light of a lawsuit filed by the U.$. Department of Justice (DOJ) against the state of Arizona. The DOJ held that immigration was under federal jurisdiction, and that they had a plan for the whole country to balance its various interests related to immigration that Arizona would not be allowed to mess up.

The interest of the bourgeois internationalists is in having free access to markets and labor, not to mention international relations. This camp includes the federal government and their finance capitalist backers as well as smaller businesses that only operate in the United $tates, but depend on migrant labor. Their conflict is with other bourgeois interests and the bourgeoisified majority of Amerikans whose position of privilege stems from the elitism of who is allowed to enter their fortress of jewels.

There is effectively a united front between the internationalism of the mass resistance to SB1070 on both sides of the Mexican border and the U.$. government acting on behalf of bourgeois internationalism. And for now, it is the imperialists who are really throwing a wrench in the works for Amerikans, even though the contradiction at its base is between oppressed nations and the oppressor nation.

A majority of Amerikans in a number of polls supported SB1070 or a similar law. The highest percentage listed in one article, 79%, did not agree that "illegal aliens are entitled to the same rights and basic freedoms as U.S. citizens."(15) This is the definition of Amerikan chauvinism. At best, one fifth of U.$. citizens don't think they deserve more than other humyn beings by virtue of being born in the United $tates. This is why we even keep an eye on the imperialists for glimmers of internationalism in the First World.

With Latinos, we can see how quickly this consciousness develops by tracking the percentage of coconuts in the population over time. A Latino Decisions poll found that 12% of second-generation Latino voters in Arizona supported SB1070. By the fourth generation it had increased to 30% supporting the coconut position.(16) Amerikanism is an insidious disease that has claimed significant portions of the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates.

Unite All Who Can Be United

While many dogmatists still criticize Mao for allying the Chinese Communists with the national bourgeoisie, we can take united front theory even further and come up with examples of progressive forces allying with the government of the imperialist superpower of the world against an oppressor nation. This goes to show that we cannot let ultra-left ideas of purity prevent us from allying with those who might help our cause.

The rightist errors in applying united front theory happen when we have incorrect lines elsewhere. Not recognizing a united front as working with an enemy class, or becoming convinced that other contradictions have been resolved, and not just pushed to a secondary position, are the main forms of rightism to guard against. Mao had to fight much rightism from other communists who thought the communists and national bourgeois forces should merge into one, where inevitably the reactionary bourgeoisie would lead because of their relative power. Rightism in the United $tates looks like people getting caught up with legislative battles over migrant rights. Without national liberation, there is no freedom for oppressed nations under imperialism. The imperialists will always oppose that, just as the Nationalists fought the Communists in civil war once the Japanese were forced out.

We do not seek unity for the sake of unity. We seek unity that utilizes all the forces possible to tackle the principal contradiction, or battles that push the principal contradiction forward. When we find strategic unity with others, the united front also provides a basis for unity-criticism-unity, which advances the struggle and deepens the unity of revolutionaries and all oppressed people for a better future.

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[Theory] [ULK Issue 12]
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Revisiting RCP Revisionism

Revolution #183 : Special Issue on Prisons and Prisoners in the U.S.
November 15, 2009
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA


Calling me an African-American
like everything is fair again, shit
Devil, you got to get the shit right, I'm Black
Blacker than a trillion midnights
—Ice Cube from the song When Will They Shoot?

Many years ago MIM had disregarded the so-called "Revolutionary Communist Party, USA" (rcp=u$a) after it repeatedly served as a mouthpiece for the CIA in relation to People's War in Peru, the invasion of Iraq, and supporting regime change in Iran.(1) Our predecessors had spent decades drawing sharp lines between the Maoist line and rcp=u$a's revisionism. In recent years, Monkey Smashes Heaven has continuously exposed the rcp=u$a's phony Maoism. To date we have not spent too much time on the subject except in some discussions of Iran and a high level document entitled "Maoism Around Us" that was not printed in Under Lock & Key. We believed there was no reason to prioritize doing much more when so much was already out there on the subject that we could point to.

However, the fact remains that most of our readers do not have access to the internet, and therefore will only be aware of this longstanding battle against revisionism if they have been reading MIM Notes or MIM Theory for some time. This month the rcp=u$a published an issue of their newspaper dedicated to the topic of u.$. prisons. This caught our eye, and reiterated the need for MIM(Prisons) to continue to draw the line between Maoism and revisionism.

Many comrades write in praising the virtues of Maoism and we take this as a sign that we are doing something right in connecting the struggles of the oppressed in this country to an ever developing proletarian ideology. But we must be real, only a handful of our readers are seriously grappling with the questions facing Maoism today. And those that cannot distinguish Maoism from the right opportunism of groups like the rcp=u$a have not yet grasped it.(2) So let us begin.

"African Americans"

Did they say "African Americans"? Following the Black Power movement of the 60's there have been debates among revolutionaries between the terms Black Nation and New Afrikan Nation. But the rcp=u$a is still writing about "African Americans."

What's wrong with this terminology? Well, nothing really if you believe that Black people are amerikans as rcp=u$a does. Some have suggested the term African Amerikan for our enemies of African descent; another term for Uncle Toms. You see, to Maoists, amerikans are oppressors. To be amerikan is to be the enemy of the proletariat and the struggle of all oppressed people. Rcp=u$a in contrast calls for the leadership of the multinational labor aristocracy to lead the revolution in the u.$.

We must acknowledge that the rcp=u$a came out in support of (actually it was more like giving permission to) an independent Black state in their Draft Program. They did so, while maintaining that the "other" oppressed nations in the u.$. must be part of their "multinational proletariat."(3) In other words, they were offering a special neo-colonial deal to the Black nation.

One letter writer in this issue addresses the rcp=u$a's predecessor, the Revolutionary Union, in their handling of the question of the Black Nation:


From the beginning, the RU’s scientific attitude impressed me. The RU’s analysis of the Black national question stood out from that of other organizations. My friend and I had read Lenin’s and Stalin’s writings on the national question, and like many people in the movement at the time, we were pretty sure that Black people in the U.S. were a nation. However, we didn’t have a very deep understanding. The lines of groups like the Black Workers Congress and the Communist League either proceeded from the point of view of the Black nation itself rather than from the international proletariat, or were bizarre attempts to shoehorn the Black national question into Stalin’s definition of a nation with little or no “concrete analysis of concrete conditions.” The RU came at this question scientifically. Guided by the principles of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, it analyzed the history of Black people in the U.S. from slavery, through Reconstruction, and on through the great migration to the cities in the 20th century, and developed not only a scientific explanation of this question, but a program for the revolutionary movement and for the future socialist society."

We quote at length here so as to capture the full content of the writer's point. She writes in typical rcp=u$a style, hyping up the "analysis" and "science" without actually giving you an analysis. She implies criticisms of Stalin, but offers no explanation of the alternative.

On this topic, in their title article rcp=u$a writes:

"The concept of the targeting of Black people and Native Americans as a 'pariah class,' dating back to the early days of the U.S., and the overall way in which white supremacy has served to blunt class-consciousness in the U.S. since then, has been drawn on and further developed by Bob Avakian in the important work, Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy."

They pick up the tactics of the white communist movement dating back to at least the 1930's of talking hard about the special oppression of Black people, while pulling them away from developing an independent movement for self-determination. Maoists have long upheld the thesis developed in the book Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat that there is no progressive class-consciousness among amerikans.

Letters from Prisoners

The rcp=u$a prints a number of letters from prisoners and former prisoners in this issue. They have a disclaimer saying that the views in the letters are not those of Revolution, yet fail to criticize anything in them. This is a textbook example of rcp=u$a liberalism in practice right in their so-called Maoist newspaper that is supposedly providing the great leadership of Bob Avakian that we all need in order to get free. They regularly use the "masses" to say stuff that they don't want to take responsibility for.

One example of this is the prisoner who mentions, "The so called 'Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo' that called for the theft of half of Mexican land." As referenced above, the rcp=u$a has refused to acknowledge the right of Mexicans and their descendants to independence in Aztlán. But they like to print stuff like this to give the impression that they do in order to lure revolutionary nationalists into their ranks.

Rcp=u$a gives lip-service to the principal contradiction under imperialism being between nations, but their revisionism is exposed in their applications. Another example is plain as day in a discussion of Islam:

"When I first tried to understand what Bob Avakian was talking about with the two outmoded ideologies and systems, Islamic Fundamentalism and Imperialism, I said "Damn!" this is something. And Islamic Fundamentalism, I really didn't understand what that was until I started reading Revolution. The oppression of women, backward ideas, fighting to go back not forward, reading what was in the paper really helped me. This is not a national liberation struggle or something good. It's not part of any solution for humanity. And, imperialism is not only no better, it's even worse. We need to put communism and real revolution on the map. This is something way different from Imperialism and Islamic Fundamentalism. Where are you going to find out about this, not in the Daily News or the New York Times, or these other movement newspapers. People, and not just people locked up, need Revolution and Avakian's leadership. I felt I can explain it to people. It's clearer now."

Uh, what? Actually, The New York Times is all over this shit painting Islam as a threat to feminism everywhere. Where are you going to find out about this? How about from Condoleeza Rices' speeches when she was head of the State Department? They were given at the same time that the rcp=u$a was pushing the same line of woman's liberation through regime change in Iran by organizing marches and rallies across the u.$.

Or you could go to frontpagemag.com and read fascist David Horowitz who fought it out with Bob Avakian over who was going to control the discussion of "Islamo-Fascism." Horowitz has an out for using this term, he doesn't claim Maoism so he can define fascism however he likes. As Maoists, MIM agreed with Dimitrov that fascism is "the open terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and the most imperialist elements of finance capital." There are no imperialist Muslim countries, thus, no fascist Muslim countries.

As mentioned above, not all of our readers get Maoism right, but we don't print their letters uncorrected. One letter printed in Revolution #183 claims that after reading the newspaper for awhile, "I began to see that this capitalist-imperialist system is fundamentally based on the exploitation and oppression of the vast majority of humanity at the hands of the few within the ruling class who own and control the means of production." Not surprisingly, readers of Revolution come away with the white nationalist dogma that in the u.$. we are all united against the handful of rich who run the world, and rcp=u$a concurs.

The same writer stressed that the fight for abortion rights are vital. An accompanying article in this issue on the Stupak-Pitts Amendment reads: "This devastating development has shocked and angered many who put their hopes in the Obama presidency to bring change from years of war, repression and Christian fundamentalist onslaught and who now feel thrown under the bus instead." Thrown under the bus by whom, RCP? If anyone was deceived, it was by the so-called Maoist party that campaigned to get Obama elected to combat the rise of the bogeyman of "Christian Fascism!"

The gender aristocracy rallying to protect their rights to sexual pleasure and promiscuity is not exactly a battle for the international proletariat. But right opportunism says to let the gender aristocracy set our gender line so that we can be more popular. This approach to gender was so disgustingly obvious in rcp=u$a's approach to homosexuality. As long as gay rights was a minority issue they promoted homophobic literature targeting queers for their sexuality while promoting sexual liberalism for heterosexuals. It wasn't until after the issue began to strike a popular chord, and discrimination against gays became unacceptable that rcp=u$a followed suit. Nice "vanguard."

Back in the day, MIM promoted the sterilization of all men in order to eliminate abortion while avoiding the obvious campaign of the anti-abortion movement to control the sexuality of wimmin. While rcp=u$a debated with the Christian right about how they like their wimmin (liberated vs. barefoot and pregnant), MIM took a shot at male supremacy. More importantly today, the pro-choice movement has dovetailed nicely with the pro-war movement targeting countries that oppose abortion and sexual liberalism. But rcp=u$a has harped against Iran for years, promoting the overthrow of the anti-amerikan government there, so this is not a contradiction for them.

One more interesting note on the gender question: The rcp=u$a article reads: "If the Senate passes a health care bill that effectively prohibits abortion, women will be cast back to the days when only the very rich could determine the course of the rest of their lives." In other words, wimmin would be coerced into having sex that leads to pregnancy. MIM has long said that all sex is rape, and this is probably the closest the sexual liberals at rcp=u$a have come to recognizing this. The problem is that they deny the existence of the gender aristocracy and the reproductive health benefits that it receives by virtue of living in the First World. Even in cases of unplanned sex, birth control is accessible after the fact without abortion. So the rcp=u$a rhetoric is just another example of their exaggerated demagoguery.

A final letter writer catches them up with a direct quote from "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," another self-congratulatory rallying cry from the rcp=u$a. "For a revolution, there must be a revolutionary people among all sections of society but with its deepest base among those who catch hell every day under this system." No, the revolutionary people are found among the exploited and oppressed and we don't need the exploiters and oppressors to join us before we can be successful.

Whether Barack Obama or Bob Avakian, persynality cults have no progressive role to play in the First World today. The oppressed need to move beyond trying to pick the right candidate to vote for.

Amerikans Need to be Imprisoned

Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is what constitutes the most profound difference between the Marxist and the ordinary petty (as well as big) bourgeois.
- from "Lenin on the Struggle Against Revisionism", p.31


... right up to the very wholesale deportation or internment of the most dangerous and stubborn exploiters - putting them under strict surveillance in order to combat inevitable attempts to resist and to restore capitalist slavery - only such measures can ensure the real subordination of the whole class of exploiters.
-from "Lenin on the Struggle Against Revisionism", p.41

Regarding our lines on prisons in general, the rcp=u$a supports a line that political prisoners make up a small portion of the population and focus on the cases of Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier as examples. MIM's line has been that all prisoners are political. In other words, the system is set up to control certain populations, while the real criminals that are murdering people en masse make fat paychecks and live free. This issue of Revolution on prisons by a self-proclaimed communist group leaves out what their approach to prisons would be (they mention the need for an "earth-shaking revolution"). They sidestep the two line struggle within the Maoist movement between mass re-education camps in the First World and a dispersal method of sending the former exploiters to the global countryside as they did on a smaller scale within China. This discussion would be too scary for their populist amerikan readership.

As revolution will come to the heart of imperialism last, MIM has long discussed the Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations over the oppressor nations as we work to break down the backwards ways of our imperialist past. The rcp=u$a, like all white nationalist so-called communists, sees no reason for such a dictatorship.

In the system that communists are fighting for, much of the First World will face potential prison time in order to right the centuries of injustices that this system is built on. Prisons will serve to develop productive members of a society that serves people's need, rather than as a warehouse of torture and wasted lives.

Covering for the bourgeoisie

Practice has shown that the active people in the working-class movement who adhere to the opportunist trend are better defenders of the bourgeoisie, than the bourgeoisie itself. Without their leadership of the workers, the bourgeoisie could not have remained in power.
- from "Lenin on the Struggle Against Revisionism", p.74

While we have no exploited working-class movement in the imperialist countries to speak of, this quote from Lenin still rings true in terms of the usefulness of what he calls "bourgeois socialism" in neutralizing those who want an end to oppression. During the Bush Jr. regime the rcp=u$a were constantly crying that "christian fascism" was taking over the country. They led the "World Can't Wait to Throw Out the Bush Regime" campaign, which was the radical wing of a many year long campaign to get Obama into office. Rcp=u$a of course would never openly support Obama as that would totally discredit them as communists. But they do openly support the 90% of the u.$. population that they claim have an interest in socialism.

As the radical branch of the Democrats, rcp=u$a works to unite these same people for their own interests. When they see their interests in a neo-colonial u.$. president who will expand the occupation and slaughter in Central Asia for amerikan economic interests, the rcp=u$a balks and pretends that the people are confused. This is all part of their game to maintain their radical facade to continue to be an effective recruiter of youth for the Democratic Party.

In 1902, VI Lenin published "What is to be Done?", which set the theoretical stage for the split of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party into the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks were the communists led by Lenin who eventually led the successful revolution of 1917. In "What is to be Done?", Lenin opens up by criticizing one of the Menshevik tendencies for right opportunism and economism.(4) He describes how he had to expand the essay to deal with all aspects of a group that wasn't even speaking the same language and often playing both sides of an issue. This is a great description of the rcp=u$a's approach to theory. Of course, rcp=u$a economism takes on a whole new meaning among the exploiter nation in this country, where economic demands actually mean increased exploitation of the proletariat.

History of Struggle vs. Revisionism

While Maoists effectively split from Avakian's revisionism in the 1980's, our conditions leave us at a disadvantage compared to Lenin in that many still see the rcp=u$a as representing Maoism because their populist politics gives them a greater public face in many areas (inside u.$. prisons is one exception to this).

Despite volumes of criticisms of the rcp=u$a's revisionism from the left, they have publicly responded to the Maoist Internationalist Movement only once. It was in 1994 to respond to a paper presented by MIM at a conference, "it argued that white workers as an economic-social grouping in the United States are not exploited, are part of the process of exploitation of the workers of the Third World and have no revolutionary interests. This is a wrong and counterrevolutionary idea." Clear as day, right? Too bad, the rcp=u$a back tracks on this line and implies certain things about the white nation more in line with MIM when it is dealing with the oppressed. The RCP's fear of Maoism comes through in their discussion of supermax prisons where they cite vague statistics, but fail to reference the most thoroughly documented list of control units on the internet because it is produced by comrades affiliated with MIM(Prisons).

Combating revisionism is usually a frustrating task that eats up time that could be spent building the movement. While we hope to not have to spend much time on this particular group in the near future, we know that the struggle against revisionism is continuous. And ultimately it is one part of building a strong movement.


notes:
(1) See the archive of the Crypto-Trotskyists page from etext
(2) While Lenin warned that there is no shortcut to identifying revisionism, MonkeySmashesHeaven has a pretty good cheat sheet for our times. see: Clues to help you find out if someone is a revisionist
(3) 2001 MIM Congress. Resolution on the "Draft Programme of the 'Revolutionary Communist Party, USA' May 2001"
(4) For a full discussion of "right" and "left" errors see MIM Theory 5: A Diet for a Small Red Planet.

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[Civil Liberties] [Political Repression] [ULK Issue 10]
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Hip Hop in the Scopes of the State

Show them as scurrilous and depraved... Have members arrested on marijuana charges. Investigate personal conflicts or animosities between them. Send articles to the newspapers showing their depravity. Use narcotics and free sex to entrap... Obtain specimens of their handwriting. Provoke target groups into rivalries that may result in death. - FBI COINTELPRO tactics documented to be used against political musicians(1)

I hold that it is bad as far as we are concerned if a person, a political party, an army or a school is not attacked by the enemy, for in that case it would definitely mean that we have sunk to the level of the enemy. It is good if we are attacked by the enemy, since it proves that we have drawn a clear line of demarcation between the enemy and ourselves. - Mao Zedong. To Be Attacked by the Enemy Is Not a Bad Thing but a Good Thing (May 26, 1939)

Public Enemy in the scope

One indication of the revolutionary potential of hip hop is the bourgeois state's reaction to it. Just this summer, police arrested Paradise Gray of X-clan, and the Zulu Nation, which played a big role in shaping hip hop in its earlier years. Gray was arrested while he was filming a demonstration against gentrification. (2) Paralleling some of Tupac's efforts discussed below, Gray is currently working with 1Hood to promote peace among the oppressed nation youth in Pittsburgh, PA. There's nothing the government fears more than for the oppressed to stop killing themselves and each other.

While the popular culture likes to see Reality Rap, now known as Gangsta Rap, as the beginning of the ultimate corruption of hip hop, the truth is that pioneers Ice-T, NWA and Tupac were unabashedly opposed to the state and received a lot of heat for it. Their shows were canceled, their records delayed, their songs were censored and they faced constant surveillance and regular harassment.

While the forms of art that originated in hip hop culture have been greatly co-opted through the corporate media to serve the state itself, the potential threat of a culture that keeps strong roots in the oppressed nations remains. John Potash put out a detailed documentation of the history of the state's use of COINTELPRO against musicians, connecting it to operations against revolutionaries who preceded and often inspired them. He describes how the NYPD formed the first rap unit with COINTELPRO training, and then went on to train other metropolitan cops around the country. His book centers around the life and murder of Tupac Shakur.

Tupac Shakur's step-father was former Black Liberation Army and revolutionary physician, turned prisoner of war, Mutulu Shakur. He was one of a number of influential elders in Tupac's life as he grew up that were part of the Black Power movement. In his meetings with Tupac he says that he pushed Tupac to question and define this Thug Life thing, which they eventually did together in a 26 point code that was accepted by Bloods and Crips (and later others) at the 1992 peace summit in Los Angeles. (3) This led to a major counterintelligence operation targeting those involved, including Mutulu who has been caged in a federal control unit ever since.

Sanyika Shakur, a former Crip leader, was one who was inspired to support these efforts. He was also targeted for isolation in the California prison system where he currently sits (such peacemakers are the so-called "worst of the worst" that fill these torture cells). As he pointed out, the government had reason to be concerned about these efforts to unite Black and Latino youth as the street organizations in South Central were recruiting more young people each year than the four armed forces of the united $tates combined. (4)

John Potash's detailed research into 2pac and other musicians and Black leaders, show clear connections between government black operations and the repression of those who mobilized oppressed people. The primary role that Tupac played in the "East vs. West" feud in the hip hop scene was ironic after his work to unite warring sets in Los Angeles. But Potash paints a picture of state-led manipulation that led Tupac to play into their plans.

Potash traces the use of sex and drugs to manipulate both activists and musicians as described in the FBI document quoted above. The sexual assault charges brought against Tupac were one example of this. (5) Death Row Records, who he paints as an FBI front, kept 2pac swimming in alcohol and weed, like the FBI did to his mother when he was a kid using a drug dealer who got close to her. Death Row even turned Dr. Dre, who once rapped "yo I don't smoke weed or sess cause it's known to give a brother brain damage", into a giant weed ad with his debut solo album, "The Chronic." In the decade that followed, regular marijuana use increased significantly among Black and Latino youth, with greater disabling addiction problems, perhaps do to increased potency of the drug. (6) Today, weed and alcohol are constantly praised by rappers.

In his last days, Pac was sober, reading Mao and talking about uniting Blacks across the country. He was soon killed and no one was charged with the murder even though he was being closely watched by multiple state agencies at the time, just as Biggie was at the time of his death.

A big lesson to take from "The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders" is that the government has a strategy for neutralizing potential leaders that they use over and over. To counter this, activists need to be aware of the strategies and develop strategies to counter them. As an individual Tupac was easily manipulated, but even a disciplined party like the Black Panthers was manipulated into a similar East vs. West coast division that could have been avoided. In both cases, the FBI took advantage of internal contradictions among the people involved. So, while studying FBI tactics is a useful way to defend ourselves, more importantly we must put politics in command to make a movement that is difficult to knock off course.

notes: (1) Potash, John. The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders. Progressive Left Press, Baltimore. 1997. p.56. (available from AK Press)
(2) http://hiphopandpolitics.wordpress.com/2009/07/17/first-wise-intelligent-now-hip-hop-pioneer-paradise-of-x-clan-get-arrested-on-trumped-up-charges/
(3) Potash. p. 63.
(4) Shakur, Sanyika. Monster. Grove Press, New York. 1993.
(5) see Communist Opinion on the Kobe Bryant Case for more on the ridiculousness of such lynching campaigns
(6) Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States. The Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 291 No. 17, May 5, 2004.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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Pulse of the People Sounds Like Revolution

dead prez
Hosted by DJ Green Lantern
Turn Off The Radio Vol. 3: Pulse of the People
June 2009


Almost everyone who wrote in complaining about the state of hip hop cited dead prez as the exception. Taking off where 2pac left off with Thug Life, dead prez has popularized a more consistent and developed code under their slogan of Revolutionary But Gangsta. The RBG mentality comes out on this tape in their refrain, "All the G's I know is part of the revolution." While not quite gaining the popularity of 2pac, the generation of rappers just coming up is full of youth who developed their consciousness listening to dead prez albums. We think that's a good thing for the future of hip hop culture.

MIM has thoroughly reviewed dpz's earlier work, and this mixtape follows in that tradition; strong revolutionary music. The sound of Pulse is a little different than the past, with more of a rock & roll element in a lot of the samples used. This brings us to one of the other elements of hip hop: DJing. The fact that DJ Green Lantern hosted this mixtape added to the anticipation for many.

The MC talks, so it is easy to analyze the content of what they say. Graffiti, while not as popular as rapping, is similarly easy to assess for content. But dancing and making beats are more abstract arts. Some argue that music with no lyrics, dancing and even many visual arts have no political content.

As MIM wrote in MIM Theory 13:

Mao explained that all classes in all class societies have both artistic and political criteria by which they judge art - and all classes put the political criteria first. This the bourgeoisie will never admit, but it is constantly shutting out, censoring and destroying proletarian art no matter how high the artistic merit or quality.(1)

Green Lantern is interesting as a DJ who put out this latest dpz mixtape as well as Immortal Technique's highly recommended record The Third World. Before that he put out the Bin Laden single with Tech and earlier this year released a track on the Oscar Grant shooting and riots. All of these works combined demonstrate that yes, a DJ's work is political. As an artistically superior DJ and producer, who worked with such popular MC's as Eminem, Jay-Z and Nas, Green Lantern adds the artistic quality to the political line, to create a superior revolutionary culture. Without DJ's like Green Lantern the "conscious" music never gains mass appeal.

The DJ has quietly become more and more prominent both alongside and independent from MC's. Green Lantern is a good example of this with his work on video games, which now have their own soundtracks, and his own radio show. While this reviewer isn't familiar with all of these works to speak on Green Lantern's career as a whole, he clearly doesn't work exclusively on revolutionary projects. While Nas's Nigger Tape was a confusing mix of reverence for both the Black Panthers and Barack Obama, Green also worked on a mixtape that was expressly dedicated to getting Obama elected.

On that note, we can say that dead prez is the vanguard here, pushing Green Lantern to do more revolutionary projects. To their credit, dpz has always got the principal contradiction correct, and never wavered. This tape is no exception with lyrics like:

"That's why ain't nothin' patriotic in me
For their system my heart is empty"

and

"I don't represent the red white and blue
I cut the head off the devil and I throw it at you."

The latter line is from Afrika Hot!, which is both the dance hit on this release and also one of the more revolutionary tracks lyrically. The overall message of Pan-Afrikanism and Third World unity in this song is right on. But when groups like the African People's Socialist Party, who Stic Man and M-1 used to work with, go so far as to build an African Socialist International, with leadership based in the united $tates, we think that contradicts the lessons we have learned from previous attempts at communist internationals. Despite their relative oppression, New Afrikans are a separate nation, with a much more privileged class position than the many nations of Africa and should not be guiding struggle on the continent.

For the most part we were ambivalent towards dead prez's dealing with gender and sex in the past, but gave them a much higher rating than the average hip hop artist. In the final track on Pulse, My Dirty Valentine, they get into their fantasies and desires that eroticize power and rape. While MIM(Prisons) opposes sexual liberalism, we also do not try to police people's bedrooms in our efforts to overthrow the patriarchy. But by rapping about these things, dead prez is telling their listeners what is sexy, and art does influence real life.

Overall, dead prez not only provides the critique, but they also provide a method for finding solutions, the dialectical materialist approach to the world. As they mature politically, these themes seem to have become more prominent in their music. The back to back songs Refuse To Lose and Life Goes On are good examples of their inspirational and educational approach, rather than just beating their listeners in the head with rhetoric.

"Many days didn't know what to do/ but we survive/ Every struggle is a test/ a lesson/ You just gotta figure out how to overcome and catch the blessing/ They want us to turn to dope and lose all hope/ spirit broke and confused/ But I refuse to lose/ Through fear/ through pain/ through loss/ I can't stop/ won't stop/ 'til we make it to the tip top/ This is hip hop"

"If you ain't happy make a change then/ If what you're doing ain't working/ it might be time to change plans/ You're looking at a changed man/ from where I used to be/ It's no fear/ I ain't going nowhere/ so get used to me."

"You can make a choice now how you wanna live/ You can be negative/ You can be positive/ But either one is up to you/ It's your prerogative/ It's not what happens to us/ It's how we handle what happens/ The ups and downs in life give us understanding and balance."

And remember, Turn off the Radio! Turn off that Bullshit!

Notes: (1) Chinese Art in Revolution. MIM Theory 13: Culture in Revolution. 1997. p.30.


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[Legal] [ULK Issue 13]
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Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A.

Jailhouse Lawyers book cover
Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A.
Mumia Abu-Jamal
City Lights Books, 2009.

Many prison activists focus their ire on the 13th Amendment, which proclaims slavery to be legal for the convicted felon. While we support economic struggles of u.$. prisoners, we do not see this law as deserving particular focus in the struggle to end the injustice system. A law that might better be a strategic focus for anti-imperialists and other progressive forces is the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), passed much more recently, in 1996, by then-President Bill Clinton.

The PLRA has significantly hampered the ability of prisoners to combat the injustices they face on a daily basis, effectively delegating them as second class citizens in the eyes of the courts. In what he says is the first book on the subject, Mumia Abu Jamal’s Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A. accurately places the PLRA in historical context as modern day Black Codes, keeping the oppressed in their place.

This week, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation went so far as to cite the PLRA in claiming that federal orders to decrease the prison population by 40,000 people in California to relieve the current tortuous conditions are illegal.

Class action suits for humyn rights were an integral part of the prison movement of the 1960s and ’70s. The PLRA has greatly changed the context for such struggle.

Mumia reinforces how much the state fears legal struggle by citing an interesting study that showed jailhouse lawyers to be the most punished population in u.$. prisons; followed by Blacks, the mentally ill, gang members and political prisoners (in that order). Though we often stress the repression of oppressed nations, politically active and other organized prisoners, we have seen over and over people being punished for filing complaints and lawsuits against their abusers. The Illinois Supermax, Tamms, brags of holding the most litigious prisoners in the state.

Mumia opens Jailhouse Lawyers with a story that paints the clear picture that there are no rights, only power struggles. While being interviewed by Mumia, Delbert Africa describes prisoners spending all their time reading law books, fighting their own cases, and then going literally crazy when they lose. Why? “They go crazy becuz, Mu, they really believe in the System, and this System always betray those that believe in it! That’s what drive them out they minds, they cain’t handle that.”

Mumia minces no words, and is clear that getting a fair hearing by the imperialist system is a joke, particularly for the oppressed nations. For the most part he condemns street lawyers for their failure to effectively defend prisoners and soon-to-be prisoners.

In the conclusion, Mumia points out that jailhouse lawyers can also help prop up the system by providing the illusion of justice to the outside and as a pressure release for those on the inside. As a result, things like the PLRA, and rules forbidding prisoners to help each other serve to heighten the contradiction between the oppressed and the state within the u.$. prison system.

He goes on to quote former political prisoner Ed Mead about the need for organizing to go beyond the very limited scope of legal work. That is why MIM(Prisons) is working to build legal campaigns and a new Serve the People program run by jailhouse lawyers within the context of our greater organizing work. In fact, the right to organize in itself is a legal battle that our movement has been and will continue to be heavily involved in. As Mead says, “It used to be against the law for workers to combine, to organize, to unionize, and workers just went ahead and did it. And that’s how they won their rights. And that’s the same with prisoners.”

Overall, Jailhouse Lawyers is well-researched and an easy read, exemplifying Mumia’s journalistic skills. MIM(Prisons) recommends this book, particularly for the analysis of the law provided by Mumia with thorough historical examples. Such an analysis is crucial for anyone who wants to effectively battle the injustice system on its terms.

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[Culture] [ULK Issue 10]
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The Hate U Gave Lil' Infants Fucks Everyone

THUG LIFE
T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E.
Sankyika Shakur
Grove Press, 2008.

This novel by former Eight Tray Gangsta Crip, current New Afrikan Revolutionary and captive of California's Security Housing Units promotes peace, unity and discipline among the lumpen of the oppressed nations. As such, we rate this book positively as a cultural work. The story weaves the THUG LIFE code promoted by Tupac and Mutulu Shakur throughout. In this reviewer's limited exposure to the collection of fiction branded as "street lit" and marketed mostly to younger New Afrikans, we see this as a superior example. A thorough analysis of this genre might parallel our discussion of hip hop music in a lot of ways.

The bulk of the story is gangster, but lessons and gems are peppered throughout. In the context of the ongoing conflict between the gangs of Los Angeles, the author introduces principles of dialectical development, though he doesn't develop them very extensively. Cultural references to revolutionary music and movies are also dropped in the story in a way that may promote further investigation by readers who are attracted to the overall gangster story. A comrade and obvious admirer of Tupac Shakur, Sanyika seems to take a similar approach in his writing that Pac took in his music.

In one of the tensest moments of the book, Shakur paints a picture of a disciplined unit of gangsters awaiting a raid, "These bangers had grown fed up with police tactics of intimidation, false arrests, no-knock raids, and summary executions that always seemed to accompany their public 'protect and serve' image. They had made a pact to stand and fight when confronted without an escape route."

Following another police raid, this time of the main character Lapeace's apartment, we briefly meet Mrs. Delaney, founder of the Black Scouts Youth Brigade, who gives us a lesson in security: "what I do ain't no secret, it's just nobody's business but my own."

Later, Sekou, Lapeace's road dog, promotes scientific thinking and attacks identity politics, "I could care less who speaks the truth, I want to hear it." This is in reference to the Tupac character named Askari Shakur. Interestingly, characters in the book regularly listen to Tupac songs, while this character, Askari Shakur, is used as a stand in for Tupac in the Las Vegas beef that ends in his fatal shooting.

Throughout the book there is a theme of Lapeace searching for a family legacy of revolutionary resistance that he knows little about. Meeting Askari Shakur really encourages this desire for him, but the relationship is cut short by Askari's assassination. This story line is typical of New Afrikans as a whole who are very ignorant of the struggles lived by their parents just a generation before. In ULK 9, a comrade told a story very similar to Lapeace's. His mother was in the Black Panthers, resulting in their home being raided regularly as a child. But until her death, he thought she was just a criminal gangster.

The THUG LIFE code is a step. Gangsters living by the code aren't gonna get us free. Really, gangsters aren't gonna get us free, period. Not until they start transforming into something other than gangsters. Many lumpen organizations have a parallel analysis of the development of their members that start in the criminal mentality and transition to a more conscious one, in some cases the ultimate stage being promoted is of a revolutionary nationalist nature. To different degrees they promote trading in lumpen individualism for identifying with one's people, or the people. The problem with these programs is that they are usually presented in a way that is limited by individualism itself. As if each member must go thru these stages. If everyone's development is the same then we never advance. How we advance as a group is that each generation takes the lessons of the previous generations and builds on them, not making the same mistakes.

By erasing revolutionary history of the oppressed, the government has done much to set back progress. As the lumpen stand in a state of ignorance and criminality, they can only progress as a group through revolutionary nationalism and proletarian internationalism. The progression from nihilistic gang-banging to a code of conduct like THUG LIFE is just one small step, one that has not yet been taken up by the group.

One of the main roles of culture is to create idealized images that represent something that the people can relate to and emulate. Lapeace seems to be a character that merges the author's past with his present in a way that idealizes the best of the gangster culture. Recognizing the stage we are in is part of a materialist approach to change and to culture. Lapeace is a positive image at this stage of the struggle. And a code of conduct like THUG LIFE is an important stepping stone to where we ultimately need to get.

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