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[Idealism/Religion] [Theory] [Middle East] [Principal Contradiction] [ULK Issue 48]
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Book Review: Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism (part 1 of 2)

Marxism Orientalism Cosmopolitanism


Book Review: Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism
Gilbert Achcar
Haymarket Books 2013

"Thus, as in all idealist interpretations of history, historical phenomena are fundamentally explained as cultural outcomes, as the results of the ideology upheld by their actors, in full disregard of the vast array of social, economic and political circumstances that led to the emergence and prevalence of this or that version of an ideology among particular social groups." (p. 77)

Not too long ago the author of this book appeared on the political news show Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. During this appearance Achcar made the statement that the people who are joining groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda in 2015 share the same socio-economic background and social alienation from the prevailing system as the people who joined the various Marxist-led movements in North Africa and the Middle East during that region's de-colonization process. The author went on to state that it was the oppressed classes' material existence under colonialism that pushed them towards the communist movement then, and that it is this new generation's similar oppression that has them taking up arms once again, and not some mistaken sense of cultural-religious doom at the hands of the Christian West, no matter what some within the revolutionary Islamist movement might subjectively think.(1) In other words, what we have been seeing happening today within the majority Muslim countries is not Muslim resistance to what some have erroneously labeled a "Holy War" or cultural imperialism as seen thru the rubric of globalization. Rather, what the author says we are seeing is nothing more than the continuation of the class struggle in its religious form. And while at first glance this might seem like a breath of fresh air within an atmosphere dominated by the imperialist media, upon closer inspection what the author puts forward in this book is in fact just a more detailed and eloquent version of Bob Avakian's proposition of the "theory of the two outmodeds"(2); a dogmatic and disingenuous, First Worldist, chauvinist re-phrasing of Engels' negation of the negation.(3)

This book is a collection of four essays which the author describes as a comparative Marxist assessment of the role of religion today, as well as of the continuing development of religious ideology within the class struggle. The author also attempts to provide the reader with a Marxist materialist assessment of Christian liberation theology and Islamic fundamentalism not only in regards to each other but with respect to bourgeois cosmopolitanism and "revolutionary internationalism." The focus of this review however will be on the first and last essays. Where the former offers an incisive look into the topics discussed above, the latter is an in depth and baseless attack of Stalin, in need of its own analysis which I will deal with in part 2 of this review. The following is part 1.

Religion and Politics Today from a Marxian Perspective

In this first essay Achcar introduces us to the general theme of the book: The chauvinist First World belief that Western domination of the world has brought not only progress to the Third World, but created a better overall society compared to what "Orientalism" had to offer. Orientalism is just old terminology used to describe everything east of Europe. It is also used to describe Middle Eastern and Asian societies prior to the rise of Western European colonialism, and liberation thereof. Lastly, the term and concept of Orientalism was also used to describe the re-emergence of Muslim dominance in politics and culture immediately preceding liberation in what we today call the Middle East.

Definitions aside, this book is very much inconsistent on a Marxian level as Achcar does a good job of advocating ideas long since refuted and proven incorrect by Marxist scientists, not only in the realm of theory, but in the social laboratory as well. Paradoxically however, this book has a strong dialectical thrust to it as the author uses dialectical analysis to both inform eir position and present eir thesis; yet ey fails to balance out this dialectical analysis with Marxist materialism, thus presenting us with subjective findings. Therefore, while the author takes a correct dialectical approach to the development of religion vis-a-vis the class struggle, Achcar simultaneously negates the reality of world politics in the "Orient" which of course leads em to the wrong conclusions.

This criticism of Achcar is also applicable to eir failure to locate and define the principal contradiction in the world once imperialism developed. Part and parcel to Achcar's biased position with respect to the progress of the West is eir comparison of Christian liberation theology to Islamic fundamentalism as a philosophy of praxis categorizing both as "combative ideologies arising out of the class struggle" but thru the dominant humyn ideology (religion). However, the author incorrectly posits that the former is inherently progressive due to its origins with the oppressed and poverty stricken followers of Jesus, while the latter is inherently backward and reactionary because of its early beginnings with the Arab merchant classes of proto-feudalism. By comparing these two religions Achcar tries to have us draw parallels between the "communistic tendencies" of early Christianity and the propertied character of early Islam, thereby attempting to produce a divergence in the reader's mind as to what is inherently progressive and what is not.

While an argument can be made to support the thesis of revolutionary Islam as the path forward for those Muslims oppressed by imperialism, less can be said of the social democratic turn that the proponents of Christian liberation theology have taken. Achcar attempts to frame the issue by hypothesizing that the world of today is the inevitable outcome of Christian liberation struggles in Medieval Europe which served as early models for bourgeois democracy through the equalization of power through armed struggle. To prove this the author finds it useful to point to various revolts and peasant struggles in the Middle Ages in which the class struggle began to take on religious overtones with the Protestant Reformation. Prior to this however, Achcar praises liberation theology as the embodiment of what ey refers to as the "elective affinity" in Christianity that can lead the world to communism. In other words, what Achcar is trying to say is that liberation theology is the positive aspect in Christianity which can also play the principal role in bridging together religion with the cause of communism. Furthermore, the author says that this elective affinity draws together the "legacy of original Christianity — a legacy that faded away, allowing Christianity to turn into the institutionalized ideology of social domination — and communistic utopianism."(p. 17)

When pointing out examples of more contemporary struggles the author states:

"It is this same elective affinity between original Christianity and communistic utopianism that explains why the worldwide wave of left-wing political radicalisation that started in the 1960s (not exactly religious times) could partly take on a Christian dimension - especially in Christian majority areas in 'peripheral' countries where the bulk of the people were poor and downtrodden..."(p. 23)

When speaking of Islam's "inherently" reactionary character today Achcar attributes it primarily to what ey describes as

"the tenacity of various survivals of pre-capitalist social formations in large areas of the regions concerned; the fact that Islam was from its inception very much a political and judicial system; the fact that Western colonial-capitalist powers did not want to upset the area's historical survivals and religious ideology, for they made use of them and were also keen on avoiding anything that would make it easier to stir up popular revolts against their domination; the fact that, nevertheless, the obvious contrast between the religion of the foreign colonial power and the locally prevailing religion made the latter a handy instrument for anti-colonial rebellion; the fact that the nationalist bourgeois and petit bourgeois rebellions against Western domination (and against the indigenous ruling classes upon which this domination relied) did not confront the religion of Islam, for the reason just given as well as out of sheer opportunism..."(p. 24)

The author then goes on to say that Islamic fundamentalism grew on the decomposing body of Arab nationalism, citing it as "a tremendously regressive historic turn"(p.25). In reality any ideology that is based on mysticism and idealism will never be enough to defeat imperialism once and for all whether that be Christian liberation theology or Islamic fundamentalism. That said, as materialists we must still make the assessment of what movement is currently doing the most to challenge imperialism today. Is it the Islamic fighters who are engaged in a series of anti-imperialist struggles? I am reminded of something the Maoist Internationalist Movement once said in an article on pan ideologies:

"The measure of any ethnic ideology is whether it focuses its fire on imperialism as the enemy. If the pan serves to fry imperialism then it is progressive. If the pan fries non-imperialist nations, then it is reactionary and should be thrown out."(4)

But things aren't always so clear cut as we might want them to be, which is probably why later in that same article MIM said:

"It is only the struggle against imperialism as defined by Lenin that can really bring global peace. Other wars can bring no net gains to the international proletariat, just more or less dead exploited people. The plunder of the imperialists is much greater than that conducted by any oppressed nation's neighbors."(4)
These statements are liberating because they free us from all the imperialist clap-trap about the evils of Islam. We are hence reminded that there is no evil above that of imperialism and so long as these movements keep their sights trained on the imperialists then they will remain "inherently" progressive.

On that same note, not everything in the book is bad, and we should at least give Achcar some credit for pointing out that even Islamic fundamentalism can be divided into separate entities, instead of simply painting all Islamic fighters with a single brush as most Western intellectuals tend to do:

"Thus two main brands of Islamic fundamentalism came to co-exist across the vast geographical spread of Muslim majority countries: one that is collaborationist with Western interests, and one that is hostile to Western interests. The stronghold of the former is the Saudi Kingdom, the most fundamental, obscurantist of all Islamic states. The stronghold of the anti-Western camp within Shi'ism is the Islamic Republic of Iran, while its present spearhead among the Sunnis is al-Qa'ida."(p. 25)

Conclusions

As student-practitioners of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism we would be wise to keep in mind that Marxist philosophy and methodology is based on the most radical rejections of philosophical idealism with emphasis on revolutionary practice. Therefore our criticisms of religion and religious ideology should remain within the scope of critiquing certain ideological props as used by the imperialists to justify and support capitalism-imperialism along with all of its oppressive structures which made up the world today, for the explicit purposes of changing the world today and certainly not to critique religious believers or religion per se. In addition, organizations like those coming out of Islamic fundamentalism should be viewed by revolutionaries as developing out of the principal contradiction filling the voids left by the Marxists and revolutionary nationalists when those movements were either smashed or capitulated. Rather than denigrating these combative ideologies the way that Achcar does, bemoaning the day that revolutionary Islam stepped in to fill Marxism's shoes, we should instead champion their victories against imperialism while simultaneously criticizing where they fail to represent the true interests of the Muslim people.

As Achcar correctly states, the hystory of Islam in combating Western interference in the Orient is but the natural dialectical progression of the anti-imperialist struggle absent a strong communist movement. However, it is Western nihilist politics in command which fails to appreciate the positive role that Islamic fundamentalism plays in the anti-imperialist fight. Much in the same way that Christian liberation theology did in countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador. While the author raises a lot of good points in this book ey still fails to arrive at the correct conclusions. Real internationalists will not hesitate to celebrate every blow struck against the imperialists when it comes from the oppressed, whereas First World chauvinists hiding under the cloak of communism will continuously cringe at the barbarity of the oppressed for fighting back the only way they can. Achcar admittedly criticizes Islam's inherently "reactionary" character while simultaneously putting forth the concept of "cosmopolitanism" under the guise of anti-Stalin vitriol and so-called "internationalism" reducing revolutionary nationalism as inherently reactionary much in the same way ey does Islam. These final topics will be dealt with at length upon the second half of this review.

Notes:
1. Throughout this review I have decided to use the terminology of revolutionary Islam or any variation thereof not only to denote the anti-imperialist character of various Islamic fundamentalist organizations, but to put forth a viable alternative to the negative connotations of the anti-imperialist Islamist movement that have been popularized by the western media.
2.The theory of the two outmodeds by the so-called Revolutionary Communist Party USA (rcp=U$A) is a Trotskyist conception conjured up in order to divert the masses of the world's oppressed people from the path of national revolutionary war against Western imperialism. While the theory of the two outmodeds correctly states that U.$. imperialism and the Islamic fundamentalist movement are two opposing forces in contradiction to each other, it simultaneously and erroneously states that the conflict that has developed out of this contradiction cannot be resolved in favor of the people of the Muslim majority countries absent the participation of a strong socialist movement that is exclusive of revolutionary Islam. Instead, what is needed, the revisionists say, is a socialistically pure revolutionary organizing on the part of the Muslim nation's communist party. Furthermore, according to this "theory," Islamic fundamentalism as an anti-imperialist force has only been able to develop in an Amerikan created vacuum as a negation to Amerikan imperialism, while Amerikan imperialism has likewise only been able to act as a negation to revolutionary Islam in the region. Therefore, the contradiction between U.$. imperialism and revolutionary Islam can only serve to negate each other in a purely mechanical way, with one backward and reactionary system stepping in to replace the other, along with the possible defeat of the other. Hence, the theory of "the two outmodeds."

In contrast, the dialectical materialist view recognizes important qualitative differences between the two forces. The pushing of neo-colonial forces out by revolutionary Islamic forces are victories for anti-colonialism, with meaningful implications for the future of the oppressed.

The backward and reactionary political line enjoins the oppressed Muslim masses and other people of the oppressed nations to work for and attempt to create a socialistically pure road to emancipation. It rejects Joseph Stalin's and Mao Zedong's concept of a national United Front between the various anti-imperialist forces of the oppressed nations. This is also a disagreement with MIM(Prisons)'s third cardinal principal supporting a united front with all who oppose imperialism. Not only do we see the opposing line as setting back our ability to succeed, but we see that it often leads to allying with imperialism as the rcp=U$A did in calling for the overthrow of the Iranian government, or more recently with the broad support among Amerikans for U.$. bombing of the Islamic State.

In addition, the theory of the two outmodeds is anti-dialectical because it ignores and runs counter to the current stage of the International Communist Movement (ICM), which is the anti-imperialist stage; the stage in which nations are liberated from the yoke and oppression of imperialism which then allows for them to tend towards socialist development and construction, as well as the Third World's struggle for New Democracy. Moreover, the theory of the two outmodeds represents just the latest manifestation of idealism and anti-Marxism in the ICM in general and the First World "communist" movement in particular, as it portrays the world revolutionary movement as developing in leaps and bounds and not in stages as Marxism correctly teaches. Above all, however, the theory of the two outmodeds if put into practice will actually promote metaphysics because it steers the masses away from the correct methods of organization as a national United Front between every viable member and organization of the nation, as the most effective way to defeat the imperialists and their running dogs.

As such, the rcp=U$A line on revolutionary Islam is the same as that of their line on revolutionary nationalism; it is backward and reactionary and it must be opposed. The struggle that revolutionary Islam is now waging against the West is objectively revolutionary in nature as their principal aim is to eject Western imperialism from sites they consider holy, ie. the Middle East, and to force the imperialists to overstretch themselves militarily. Therefore, to be against Islamic fundamentalism at this point in the anti-imperialist struggle, as the theory of the two outmodeds most certainly does, is to be against the world's oppressed people.

Stalin and Mao correctly taught us that there are only two sides in a battle and it is naive to think that we can defeat the imperialists without forming "un-holy" alliances with other anti-imperialist forces no matter what their strategical aims may be. Indeed, there is a reason why Maoists believe that a communist's stance on the principal contradiction is a dividing line question. Imperialist nations vs the oppressed nations: What side are you on?

3. Mao Zedong criticized this concept stating that "the negation of the negation does not exist at all" and that such a conceptual construct was really just a re-statement of the law of contradiction itself, and therefore not a useful tool in the science of dialectical materialism. Furthermore, within the context of the "two outmodeds" the negation of the negation is not only mechanical but promotes metaphysics.
4. Pan-Africanism, Pan-Arabism, Pan-Slavic and Turananian nationalism: Progressive or reactionary pans? Maoist Internationalist Movement, September 2003

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[Principal Contradiction] [Syria] [Middle East] [U.S. Imperialism] [ULK Issue 47]
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The Syrian Civil War: Inter-Imperialist Rivalry

The Syrian civil war, the biggest conflict in the Middle East if not the world, has many wondering what the outcome will be. The United $tates has backed a group in the Kurdish area that has called for the expulsion of Arabs (1) and has armed fundamentalist religious forces that threaten the Syrian government, headed by Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, the government-controlled capital of Syria, Damascus, has been a place where Muslims, Christians, and Jews are allowed to co-exist, united by the same desire to save their nation from the forces that be. The Syrian Constitution is based in the mission of Pan-Arabism and specifically prevents the formation of political parties "on the basis of religious, sectarian, tribal, regional, class-based, professional, or on discrimination based on gender, origin, race or color."(2)

The Assad government opposes becoming a puppet to U.$. imperialism and was never for the creation of I$rael and its occupation of Palestine. As history has shown, with a policy like that comes economic, if not military, aggression. The East and the West are in a tug-of-war over influence in the Middle East and it's only going to get worse. The so-called U.$.-type of "democracy" has proven again and again that it does not work; imperialist pseudo-democracy will not work in Syria just like it hasn't worked in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The pro-West bourgeois media claims Assad rules with an iron fist, but the West has backed the destruction of secularism and political pluralism in the region. Syria is more democratic than Saudi Arabia, a U.$. ally and the biggest dictatorship in the region. If the United $tates is really so concerned about iron fists, maybe the capitalists should look past the petroleum barrels and look at Saudi Arabia, the anti-democratic Sunni dictatorship that is nominally leading a repressive war in Yemen and was involved in the brutal repression of recent revolts in Bahrain.

For centuries Sunni influence has dominated the sectarian Muslim world, but now the table has turned and the Shia militias have taken up more territory than they've had in centuries, which has the Saudis in an ideological war with Iran. Assad is blamed for all the casualties in the war but even the foreign aggressors can't deny that it's their coalition planes dropping the barrel bombs on innocent civilians, threatening the Syrian government with war if they intervene.

The United $tates has spent $5 million on a Pentagon-sponsored training program to arm the Syrian opposition forces, but four years later there is still no success in their campaign. The Pentagon has admitted that the program was a failure. From the beginning of the war the U.$. State Department's policy towards Syria was "Assad must go now." But since it's looking like this is not going to happen any time soon Obama said Assad doesn't have to leave right away, there can be a transition of power. What bureaucratic bullshit.

All this has to do with Russia and Iran's strong presence in Syria and their strong stance on supporting Assad. The Iran-backed Shia militias are doing most of the fighting on Iraq's border with Syria, and they have made it clear that as soon as they've dealt with the Islamic State they're prepared to fight the real enemy: U.$. imperialism. Russia has recently opened up an airbase in western Syria, the biggest Russian base ever built outside the old Soviet territory. Just recently they've started conducting their own airstrikes against the Syrian opposition forces in eastern Syria, far from Islamic State-held territory.(5) Now the United $tates sees how determined Russia and Iran are in making sure the Syrian government doesn't collapse. Both sides are willing to sit down for talks on how to avoid each other on the battlefield but can't decide how the war should end. One thing is for sure: if Assad leaves, the war still won't end.

The real victims of this ideological, semi-colonial war are the innocent people of Syria. Since the beginning of the war, 250,000 people have died and more than 9 million people have left their homes. According to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 3,000 to 6,000 people leave Syria every day. So now because of the war the biggest refugee crisis since WWII is happening with no end in sight.

Other major casualties are happening among the Kurdish people, who have been fighting for freedom since before the war and have suffered much death and destruction because of the war. I'm not talking about the comprador landlord class that sold out to imperialism. I'm talking about the exploited who were suffering way before the war, and do not have interests aligned with imperialism, despite their misleaders.

As anti-imperialists we oppose U.$. aggression in Syria as well as anywhere in the world. Chairman Mao said "political power comes out of the barrel of a gun." So as long as there is exploitation there will always be war. As materialists we must use scientific theory to educate one another on the importance of solidarity with the Third World and opposition to the bourgeois warmongers.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This comrade is correct that our principal contribution here should be in making it hard for the United $tates to stay involved in Syria and elsewhere. And while we cannot determine the forces on the ground elsewhere, we can see who is in the anti-imperialist united front and who is with the imperialists. In that light, we have a couple comments related to some popular narratives on this conflict.

First, there is a myth promoted in the Western media that violence in the Middle East is due to centuries-old religious conflict. This myth paints the current war(s) in an ahistorical way; they have always existed, and may continue to exist unless the imperialists can somehow tame and modernize these backwards peoples.

The reality is that these are some of the most religiously diverse countries because they are close to the birthplaces of so many of the world's most popular religions. Countries like Iraq and Syria not only were quite diverse and harmonious, but were relatively well-developed; not the bombed-out desert caves we see in the media.

The narrative that focuses on religion does so to hide the real politics and economics behind the conflict. In particular, hiding imperialist meddling. It also attempts to convince the West, from atheist to Christian, of the barbarity of these "foreign" cultures. It is important to remember that the principal contradiction on the international scale is imperialism vs. the oppressed nations, and not between religions or genders.

Many have used the role of wimmin in the Islamic State in contrast to the Kurdish regions to justify support for the Kurds. As Frantz Fanon noted in his study of the Algerian revolution, the conditions of armed struggle forced the involvement of wimmin in military operations, regardless of cultural beliefs to the contrary. In other words, the national struggle, if genuinely aimed at liberation from imperialism, will force the gender contradiction forward with it. The converse is not true, which is how we know which contradiction should be prioritized. It is true that more wimmin holding guns can be a good sign of the progressiveness of the organization, but even in the Third World this is not always the case.

This leads us to another myth that we want to clarify for our readers, which is that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is a Marxist, or even a Maoist organization. While having Marxist-Leninist roots, the PKK fully capitulated to the Turkish state after the capture of their leader Abdullah Ocalan in a joint U.$.-Turkish operation in 1999. He officially changed the leading ideology of the PKK to a libertarian “Democratic Confederalism” in 2005. But as early as 1998 Ocalan was denouncing communism, and promoting the route of U.$. development for the oppressed nations.(6)

The PKK has its roots in Turkey, which has a long history of Maoist activity that continues to this day. Yet none of the Kurdish-controlled areas are currently run by anti-imperialist organizations. The U.$.-backed Erdogan regime in Turkey does have a complex relationship to the PKK and other Kurdish forces. While they have provided support to Kurds fighting the Islamic State, in recent months, they resumed violent attacks on the PKK within Turkey. For this reason and many others, the current alliance of Kurdish forces with the U.$. empire is not an optimistic choice for the Kurdish people.

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[Principal Contradiction] [National Oppression] [Police Brutality] [ULK Issue 44]
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Baltimore: Contradictions Heightening

bloods and crips unite for justice for Freddie Gray in Baltimore
In recent years we've seen the consolidation of the movement to end long-term isolation in U.$. prisons. This has been an issue the Maoist Internationalist Movement, and others, have focused on for decades because they determined that it was an important contradiction between the oppressors and the oppressed in the United $tates. It's taken some time, but that analysis seems to be proving true as the movement is gaining traction.

Another issue that we have reported on over the years has been that of police brutality, and in particular police killings. In recent years, this too has emerged as a flashpoint issue. After many incidents that provoked local and ongoing responses, Ferguson took it to another level, and now Baltimore has further pushed the issue and begun to draw lines in the sand.

Just as the state attacked the anti-SHU movement for being a bunch of gangbangers just looking out for themselves, the question of oppressed nation unity across lumpen organizations has come to the forefront in Ferguson and Baltimore. In Baltimore, the Nation of Islam held a press conference with members of Blood and Crip organizations that led to a lot of press coverage. During the uprising, those organizations were on the streets protecting New Afrikan-owned businesses and community members. As they attempted to show their ability to do for their community what the police claimed but failed to do, the state tried to paint them as a bunch of cop killers in the media.

A controversial hypothesis that we have put forth is that we should look to the oppressed nation lumpen and lumpen organizations to find a mass base for revolutionary organizing in the United $tates. We see the social forces involved in the struggles against long-term isolation and police killing as providing evidence in support of this hypothesis. We have looked at this question in depth and think there is enough evidence to support this as a valid scientific theory. One source of confirmation we get from this is the support we get from the oppressed nation lumpen. One comrade from Baltimore wrote to us further illuminating the connection between our prison work and the anti-police movement today:

"I am a former eminent member of the 5-Deuce Hoover Crips in the Northeast region of Baltimore city. Currently, I am serving out a long prison sentence in Maryland. I am writing to you in regards to the riots and the looting and the unorganized protest that took place 27 April 2015. I can't say that I'm surprised, nor can I say I seen it coming; but you must know that if the melee on April 27 didn't happen when it did, it still would have taken place somewhere further down the line. Do I condone the actions of misled, poorly-educated youth and mindless adults during the date of Freddie Gray's burial? No, I do not!

"I knew Freddie personally so know his death is agonizing and he'll be missed. It is such a crying shame it took the misplaced anger and rage of Baltimore's youth to get the governor, mayor, city's councilpeople, etc. off their hindparts to 'work actively' with the protestors and conduct an investigation of Freddie Gray's death. Every big shot wants to say how good of a city Baltimore is, yet the justice system is corrupt, and our 'city leaders' are corrupt...

"There is good in Balti but those ghettos around the realm of the city are truculent. Not because there's direct destruction, but because right now it is the blind leading the blind. Those same misled youth who rioted April 27 will soon grow to be adults who will be misleading the next generation. Baltimore city needs help, in its ghettos and its prisons. In short, legislation has to make some changes with its shielding of police who break the law and violate the rights of the civilians."

Certainly there is much to be done in all areas where there is mass opposition to police brutality. And we do not see any possible solution from a state whose interests the police are serving. The struggle to transform spontaneous uprisings into long-term organizing is one that the movement has faced for decades. The increase in frequency and size of such uprisings is the quantitative change in this contradiction between the oppressed nations and the imperialist state. The transformation from spontaneous to organized, concerted movements is the qualitative change that must happen to keep the struggle advancing. And the lumpen organizations themselves must transform in order to play an effective leadership role in that process.

Some in the oppressed nations are frustrated with the slow pace of change. No doubt there have been a lot of peace treaties and calls from lumpen organizations to be forces for the community that have not always panned out to be all that we had hoped for. But just as there were countless uprisings to overthrow slavery before enough quantitative change had occurred in society to be successful, we are now in a stage where we see many efforts to form national unity in New Afrika and to politicize lumpen organizations. These efforts are part of the quantitative change that has not yet made a qualitative leap to a new stage of struggle. This is a process that faces setbacks from state interference, but also responds to state interference with further radicalization and mobilization.

Another sign that the movement is advancing is that lines are being drawn between enemies and friends. It is becoming clear that many who claim to oppose racism and police brutality actually care more about private property and business as usual. So the progressive facade of these forces is being torn off as they come face-to-face with the unrefined reality of mass uprisings. But just as those false friends become alienated from the struggle against police killings, the masses who have a real interest in change will become energized by a movement as it becomes more real and relatable.

Becoming more real requires having an analysis of the situation that is based in materialism; that is real. The more our analysis reflects reality and is able to harness the forces of change that are present, the more support we will gain from those forces of change. Many people are still stuck in metaphysical ways of thinking. They think this is just the way things are and they will never change. Such people conclude that the best thing to do is to try to avoid conflict with the oppressor, keep your head down and just try to get by.

The dominant Amerikan analysis is also metaphysical and misleads the masses who might otherwise be supportive of dialectical materialist analysis. Racism is a metaphysical view of sociology. Using an individualist approach to sociological questions, or replacing psychology for sociology, is also metaphysical. Sociology studies groups of humyns and can be used to predict how they will behave; psychology studies individual humyns and attempts to predict how they will behave. The metaphysical line goes that there are bad cops and there are bad people who go to the protests. These bad people must be rooted out and punished. As sociologists, we disagree, as this does not address the source of the conflict.

The racist version is that these looters are thugs who have nothing to do with Gray. If we look at history, these types of occurrences in similar communities in the United $tates are almost always in the response to the killing of New Afrikans by the U.$. state. This would lead the scientific mind to develop a hypothesis that there is some connection between the two. To test this hypothesis we could search history for incidents when large groups of people loot stores when there wasn't a New Afrikan killed. If we find few-to-no examples of this, and find many examples of the first situation, we might raise our hypothesis to a theory, that can be used as a predictive tool.

In contrast, Amerikans say the people in Baltimore who looted stores are opportunists, using the protests as an excuse to act out their real goals. Like getting some free Doritos is a higher priority for them than getting justice for the countless New Afrikans who have faced abuse and murder under Amerikan occupation. Such a nihilistic view is almost laughable. But let's entertain it a little further. If we are to oppose this position, we should propose a better explanation for the behavior of many of the youth in Baltimore recently. As our comrade wrote, it is a blind leading the blind problem, but why is that? Are New Afrikans just not smart enough to figure out how to respond effectively? He further wrote:

"I am a 25 year old Black man who taught myself how to read while incarcerated. After being sent to prison a third time I learned my true calling. There's so much more to life, I am trying my hardest to be an activist behind the prison walls and when I make it out on the streets. I know first hand how it feels to be those Black children who've been mis-educated and unheard, so the only way to express your emotions is through lashing out because you don't know any other way. The police used to beat and harass me every single day because of my position in the Crips, because I wasn't properly educated, and because they had the power. I'm no saint, but a lot of things I went through and/or other Black children endured with police brutality often times was uncalled for.

"If the shoe was on the other foot and someone killed a police officer, there wouldn't be a waiting period or an investigation to lock the person up. The police might even go as far as persecution (execution style) of the person themselves. The video clips taken during the occurrence of Freddie Gray's death should render enough information for all of those cops involved to be taken into custody (without bail) until a trial date is arranged."

Let's analyze this a little further. We live in a capitalist society, where the primary motivator that keeps things moving is profit. Our country is an imperialist country, that has always used force to kill and steal from people to increase its wealth. When New Afrikans walk around with $ signs hanging from their necks, and big portraits of Benjamin Franklin on the back of their jeans, is there any doubt that they are reflecting the dominant ideology of capitalism? On the other hand, whenever a New Afrikan movement has arisen that promotes socialism, communism, cooperative economics or anything of the sort, they have faced repression. People who led New Afrikan youth against capitalism have been imprisoned and killed. Could these be explanations of why New Afrikan youth today are often caught up in fetishizing money and wealth? Because they've been terrorized into it? The individualist will pretend these things don't matter and that it's up to the individual to make the right decisions, even when the individual does not have all the information or knowledge they would need to do so because that information has been purposely and systematically kept from them. It amounts to blaming the victim.

Of course, a real Amerikan patriot supports the First Amendment, so they will say "I support the protesters, but I oppose the looters." The petty bourgeois class interest is not hard to see in this dominant narrative. People are literally putting more weight on private property than a New Afrikan's life. They might respond, that to put it such a way is a false dichotomy, because it was not a situation where we either break some windows and save Gray's life or let Gray die at the hands of police. But this again is based on their individualist worldview. In their view, each incident is unique and isolated between the individuals involved and must be assessed as such. There is no consideration of the possibility of the mass uprising in Baltimore leading to a surge in organizing, that then contributes to a new revolutionary movement that 30 years from now has put an end to imperialism in this country so that New Afrikans' lives are no longer threatened by police.

The more we look at the big picture, the worse things are for the defenders of capitalism. When we look at the big picture we see things like 80% of the world's people have a material interest opposed to capitalism because their basic needs are not being met. And that capitalism has only been around for a few hundred years, a blip on the timeline of humyn history. And that all systems change, all empires fall. This constant change is a part of the dialectical worldview.

Huey Newton on Power

This is why Mao talked about science being on the side of the oppressed. Injustice is an objective fact. And the solutions to the problems our society faces today are found in a thorough analysis of that society.

We commend our comrade from Baltimore for taking the journey of teaching himself to become an activist to serve the people. But how does one go about learning in an effective way? There is so much information out there, so many books and groups and so little time. Making effective use of the collective knowledge of humynkind requires using the correct scientific methods, and comparing different practices to see which ones have worked. We hope this issue of ULK gives our readers some guidance in this process of judging truth and knowledge. As always, we have study materials that go more deeply into this than we can here in ULK where we try to focus on news and agitation. Issue 45 of ULK will focus on the practical side of how to organize study groups in prison, and the question of how do we teach basic skills like literacy. We hope those of you with experience will contribute to that issue and help build the quantitative change that must come from the oppressed masses themselves for any systematic change to take place.

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[Principal Contradiction] [Economics] [China] [ULK Issue 40]
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Bromma's Worker Elite and the Global Class Analysis

MIM(Prisons) First World Class analysis
The above diagram summarizes MIM(Prisons)'s class analysis of the First World with relative flows of wealth and relative sizes of each class.

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.

global wealth flow

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.

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[Economics] [Theory] [Principal Contradiction]
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More on the Labor Aristocracy

divided world divided class
After taking some time off from writing insightful editorials from a first worldist perspective for Turning the Tide, A Journal of Inter-communal Solidarity, Michael Novick once again assumes the mantle of vociferous defender of the Amerikan labor aristocracy as revolutionary vehicle pre-eminent in his review of Divided World, Divided Class by Dr. Zak Cope. While we can appreciate his endorsement of this valuable text as "required reading for would-be revolutionaries," our differences are unfortunately as vast as the property-less petty-bourgeoisie is corrupt. The MIM camp recommends this book for its global class analsyis, based in Marxist economics, that explains the class divide between the First World core and the Third World periphery.

Interestingly, it has been noted that Turning The Tide has taken on something of a Third Worldist veneer ever since some searing criticisms of Novick and his assessment of the Maoist Internationalist Movement by a USW comrade last year.(2) Despite TTT's recent focus on the New Afrikan nation and their expressed support for the struggles of the oppressed worldwide, it is the underlying political line of Novick and company that we must really examine to see where we have unity. We understand that to the untrained eye, as well as to those new to revolutionary politics, the difference between the Maoist Internationalist Movement and the Amerikan left are less than apparent, so we will draw them out here for educational purposes as well as to defend against opportunists and social chauvinists of varying stripes; as without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.

Novick calls on fans of egalitarian politics to take up critical thinking when it comes to the topic of global political economy and the stratification of labor under capitalism. However, he attacks and undermines Marxist political-economic analysis, the most critical and on point analysis of capitalism itself, without proposing anything in its place. He does this in the first few paragraphs of his article when he states that Dr. Cope comes to his conclusion that the First World labor aristocracy is bought off via "underlying Marxist assumptions of the labor theory of value"(1) and "through sometimes hypothetical formulations of what the value and price of that value 'should' be..."(1) He then states that Cope says, "the only workers who are 'exploited' are those who directly produce 'surplus value' in agricultural and industrial production of commodities."(1) These lines imply a critique of Cope's (and Marx's) methods, but he does not say so outright or offer an alternative framework for such an analysis.(2) This is nihilism, and leads to subjectivism. Without an objective analysis as our guide we just let the masses do what feels right. We agree with Novick that to lame apologists of First World workers "Cope's book is a very difficult read..."(1), but not because of the so-called "long sections of abstract mathematical calculations"(1) as Mr. Novick puts it, rather because bitter pills are always hard to swallow.

For those who are unaware, Novick claims to use dialectical materialism as a tool to analyze social phenomenon, yet this has not led him to the conclusion that the principal contradiction in the United $tates, or the world for that matter, is imperialism vs. the oppressed nations. Instead, Novick believes that capitalism never developed past its competitive phase, therefore it is his assessment that the principal contradiction on a world scale is still that of the bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat, or rather one between the so-called 1% and supposed 99% — itself a non-sensical and anti-scientific assessment. As such, Novick doesn't believe that there are any oppressing or oppressed nations, only oppressed and oppressing classes; yet he denounces our "petrified defense of the principal contradiction."(3)

Michael Novick also complains that "Cope essentially liquidates or obliterates class contradictions within both core and peripheral states"(1), but what Cope really obliterates is the First World's romanticization of the labor aristocracy as anything but revolutionary with his scathing class analysis of First World workers. Novick also makes an empiricist error when he asserts that Dr. Cope's analysis is no good to us in the United $tates because "his orientation and experience is primarily European"(1) hence his "understanding of settler colonialism and the existence of oppressed and colonized peoples within so-called 'core' countries as the US, Canada, etc. is limited."(1) It is quite odd that Novick complains that Cope does not give us a complete class analysis of who are our friends and who are our enemies within the United $tates. Despite the fact that this book is about global imperialism, and written by a non-Amerikan, it spends a good amount of time explaining class and nation and the development of racism within the context of U.$. society, as it is today the heart of imperialism. Novick does not address the points made by Cope, only complains that it is too general. In addressing the discrimination and oppression faced by the disadvantaged in First World countries, Cope states that "economic betterment for people in the rich countries is today intrinsically dependent on imperialism."(4) And that's the rub right there. Whatever contradictions exist within imperialist society, apologists for the labor aristocracy like Novick must come to terms with that reality, or risk fanning the flames of militarism and even fascism.

A little further down Novick states that "classes and class relationships are based on material reality..."(1). This much is true, however, Novick takes us deeper into the jungle of idealism when he writes, "... but these are social phenomenon based on the element of consciousness and practice as well,"(1) emphasis on the element of consciousness. However, Marxist philosophy teaches us that in general it is social being that determines social consciousness, and not the other way around as Novick implies. He has a hard time reconciling the existence of revolutionaries in the United $tates and an analysis that labels the U.$. an exploiter country. For a dialectical materialist, this is no mystery. A more succinct explanation to the phenomenon and structure of class is given by Cope below:

"The term 'class' does not only refer to a social group's relation to the means of production - that is, to property ownership or it's absence and nor does it simply refer to any category relating purely to the technical division of labor at the societal or workplace level. Rather, class denotes a dynamic social relationship corresponding to the system of ownership, the organization of labour and the distribution of material wealth as mediated by ideological, cultural and political institutions and practices. Above all, class is the product of political practices, with the relationship between the state and class struggle revolving around the issue of class domination."(4)

Not surprisingly it is always the ideological that is principal in matters of revolution when it comes to Amerikan "left" circles. And with that Novick ends his weak attempt to disprove the scientifically proven correctness of Zak Cope's book. What then proceeds in his review is more existentialist questioning of both nation and class contradictions in the United $tates and the world when the answers are already readily apparent. Novick offers his persynal musings as proof positive to his readers that the class contradiction in the world is more important than the one of nation. But in order to deliver the people's consciousness you can't just answer the tough questions with more questions. Rather, you must deliver the people's consciousness with revolutionary practice summed up in rational knowledge; as without revolutionary practice theory is meaningless. As such, Novick inadvertently proves the principal contradiction correct with his confused explanation of class contradictions in Amerika.

Something else that was disappointing in his review of Divided World was the complete omission of Cope's thesis on how the First World petty-bourgeoisie, the labor aristocracy in particular, is a huge reservoir and potential breeding ground for fascism drawing from within the dispossessed petty-bourgeois class an army to smash the national liberation and socialist movements. This is odd since the majority of Anti-Racist Action's work has previously been fighting the various neo-Nazi organizations currently attempting to re-organize on a massive scale. Perhaps we can surmise that Novick saw something else in Cope's book that is damning and detrimental to First World "revolutionary and socialist" movements? Perhaps another bitter pill to swallow?

We highly recommend Divided World, Divided Class to up and coming revolutionaries and communist youth looking to get a firm grasp of First World labor and it's dialectical relation to the real proletariat centered in the periphery.(5) Divided World, Divided Class does an excellent job of explaining the parasitic nature, as well as the fascist tendencies of the First World labor aristocracy.


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[Economics] [Theory] [Principal Contradiction] [ULK Issue 32]
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MIM(Prisons) Responds to Turning the Tide Continuing Misrepresentation

In the April 2013 issue of Turning the Tide (TTT), the editor, MN (who we assume is Michael Novick, the author of the original article in question), responded to a letter that a United Struggle from Within comrade wrote criticizing an article in the previous TTT issue which misrepresented the MIM political line in a critique of MIM(Prisons). The editor claims that they are happy that this article provoked quite a few responses and that they want to promote debate because "this is a contradiction among the people." This is a correct attitude, which unfortunately is not backed up by the TTT editor's response, which is embarrassing in its blatant misrepresentation and misinformation about the MIM line. It is very difficult to carry out debate to resolve contradictions among the people, if the people involved are not serious about political study.

The first critique the editor makes of the MIM line this time around is "in its staunch defense of the significance of the contradiction between oppressor and oppressed nations, and its doctrinaire reliance on its version of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, it petrifies all other contradictions and the flow of history." The MIM line in question, which MIM(Prisons) upholds, holds that the oppressor vs. oppressed nations contradiction is principal at this point in history, but not that it will always be so. And further, the MIM line puts much work into illuminating the gender and class contradictions. In fact, it has pushed forward the political understanding of class more than any other contemporary revolutionary organization by noting that the changing class nature of the imperialist country population has resulted in a primarily petty bourgeois population. The TTT editor writes about workers: "we have stakes and ties in the very system that oppresses and exploits us" a line s/he claims comes from Lenin, denying that anything might have changed since Lenin's day. On this point it is actually TTT that is dogmatic in its view of contradictions and the flow of history by refusing to study the true nature of the imperialist country working class.

The TTT editor goes on to misrepresent the MIM line writing "...by classifying all working people within the US as 'oppressor nation petty-bourgeois labor aristocrats' [MIM] disarms those who have the capacity to break both their chains and their identification with and links to the Empire." This is such a blatant mistake we have to assume TTT has not bothered to read any of the MIM theory on nation. MIM line is very clear that "oppressor nation petty-bourgeois" are just that: white nation people. There is also a sizable oppressed nation petty-bourgeois population within U.$. borders, and we see their class interest as tied with imperialism, but we identify their national interests as anti-imperialist. And this national contradiction is internal to imperialism.

Finally the TTT editor goes into some convolutions to try to explain how the majority of the U.$. population is exploited but maybe just not super-exploited because "no private employer hires a worker unless they're pretty damn sure the work that worker does will make the boss more money than the boss has to pay for the work." By this definition, we can assume that the top layers of management of huge corporations are exploited in their six figure salaries (or even 7 figure salaries!). TTT doesn't even attempt to make a scientific analysis of where to draw the line on who is exploited, and since MIM(Prisons) and MIM before us has done extensive work on this we will not bother to explain it again here. We refer serious readers to our publications on the labor aristocracy.

In the contortions to justify calling the Amerikan population exploited, the TTT editor asks "If the domestic population is totally bribed and benefiting from Empire to the exclusion of any contradiction" then why are gulags necessary? That's a fine straw-persyn argument, but it's not a line that MIM(Prisons) takes. We have written extensively about the role of prisons in the U.$. population as a tool of social control of the oppressed nations, highlighting internal contradictions that include nation among others. Again, it seems TTT has not bothered to read even the single-page description of MIM(Prisons) that we publish in every issue of Under Lock & Key.

The TTT editor concludes by asking a myriad of very good questions about nations and their inter-relations, all of which the MIM line has addressed in a consistent way, and for the most part a way that it seems the TTT editor would agree with, if s/he had bothered to read up on that line. The supposed rigid and dogmatic line of MIM/MIM(Prisons) is all in the heads of the TTT writers and editors who seem to think our line comes from just a few slogans. We agree that "Revolutionary strategy must be based on a concrete analysis of concrete conditions, not arbitrary, fixed categories, to determine friends and enemies." And we challenge TTT to take up this concrete analysis. Read our work on the labor aristocracy and on nations, and tell us specifically where you find our concrete analysis lacking or in error. We welcome such dialogue, but the revolutionary movement doesn't have time for slander and false accusations in the guise of political debate.

The last point we will make here is related to a letter TTT published in this same issue, from a prisoner who goes by "Ruin." Ruin wrote to say that s/he shares the TTT views about MIM(Prisons)'s ideological shortcomings and is upset because s/he was kicked out of our study group. We are happy that Ruin has found an organization with which s/he has unity. In fact in previous letters to h, where we pointed out our theoretical disagreements, we suggested other organizations that might be more closely aligned with h views. We run study groups for prisoners who want to work with MIM(Prisons) in both political study and organizing. We stand by the letter we sent to Ruin (which TTT printed) where we explain that it is not a good use of our time to include people in our advanced study groups who disagree with us on many fundamental issues. Ruin told us the first study group was a waste of h time, and that s/he doesn't agree with us on many things, so we're not even sure why Ruin would take issue with our decision that s/he should not continue into the advanced study group. We did not suggest that we would discontinue Ruin's free subscription to ULK or that we would stop responding to h letters, it was Ruin who chose to sever all ties and discussion with MIM(Prisons) after receiving our letter about the study group.

Criticism is hard to take, but it is something we in the revolutionary movement must handle in a direct manner, without letting persynal feelings get in the way. It is also important to know when two lines have diverged significantly enough that those lines should be in separate organizations. History will tell which political line is correct.

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[Theory] [Principal Contradiction] [ULK Issue 31]
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Response to Turning the Tide's Misrepresentation of MIM

[Below we have excerpted sections from a letter by a USW comrade sent to Turning the Tide. While the comrade does a good job responding to this gross misrepresentation of MIM line, we have added comments in brackets to clarify a few points.]

I was surprised by your latest issue of Turning the Tide (TTT). More specifically, Michael Novick's article entitled "PART's Perspective: On Contradiction and the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People." Quite a brazen title by the way, as the point of the original essay penned by Mao was to point out the correct way for the Chinese Communist Party to help resolve contradictions among the people, and between the party and the people in light of the incidents in Hungary; as well as a critique of Stalin's shortcomings with that matter and to help forge unity with the masses.

I'll just give you a review of the entire article, in which Mr. Novick attempts to illuminate the prisyn masses with regards to the differences between TTT's political line and that of the MIM camp currently represented by MIM(Prisons), United Struggle from Within (a MIM(Prisons)-led anti-imperialist mass organization for prisyners), the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement and the Leading Light Communist Organization.

To begin with, i hold MIM(Prisons) in very high regard, not just because they hold the correct political line on everything politically meaningful under the sun, but because i owe my own political development to them.

My first point of contention with Mr. Novick's article is when he erroneously makes the statement that MIM's position concerning the labor aristocracy is that it is a permanent labor aristocracy. That is a false statement. MIM has never made the statement that the Amerikan labor aristocracy is a permanent labor aristocracy. Not only is that statement metaphysical and anti-dialectical but in complete contradistinction to the hystorical process and MIM line. Yes, the so-called Amerikan "worker" is indeed part of the labor aristocracy, and not proletarian as revisionists of varying stripes would contend. The Amerikan "worker" forms a part of the labor aristocracy; a sub-stratum of the petty bourgeoisie. Whenever they addressed this issue MIM continuously made it a point to say that the imperialist country working classes were (and still are) a pro-imperialist labor aristocracy at this time. Furthermore, the concept of the labor aristocracy goes all the way back to Engels when he described to Marx how the English proletariat was becoming more and more bourgeois. Lenin, as well as other Bolsheviks, also formulated on what basis this labor aristocracy was formed, which is of course super-profits stolen from the colonies. It seems to me however that those who continue to negate the existence of a labor aristocracy, and instead dogmatically cling to the hope of an Amerikan proletariat, do so either out of sheer ignorance or, more dangerously, for the purpose of revisionism. To continue to advocate this false thesis in the imperialist countries is to, as a "logical conclusion," advocate for multi-national/class unity in the fashion of Trotsky and his successors, i.e. the erroneous line that leads one to lean on and wait for the white working class to wake up and come to the oppressed nations' rescue.

Novick is also incorrect in his statement that "MIM sees women and prisoners as elements of US society where there is prospect for revolutionary development." Well, half wrong anyway. The MIM never saw, nor does it today see, First World wimmin as elements of U.$. society in which there is any real group oppression to speak of which would provide a prospect for revolution. The MIM recognizes First World wimmin, primarily white wimmin, as gender-privileged. They are not at all part of the revolutionary vehicle precisely because being privileged economically (among other things) makes them gender privileged in relation to Third World wimmin. Or in MIM's own words: "After looking around MIM came to the conclusion that like First World labor, First World women are mainly oppressors, not oppressed people."

We must also disagree with Mr. Novick's assertion that exploitation exists within the First World outside the realm of commodity production in which waged labor "produces" surplus value. Exploitation is defined as producing something and not being paid for the value of what you produce.

[MIM(Prisons) interjects: MIM line has consistently held that the white nation is not economically exploited. Later this line was expanded to assert that there is no exploitation occurring in the United $tates except within migrant and prisoner populations. To talk about "exploitation" of the planet, as Novick does, is to redefine the term that we use in a Marxist context. He does this in order to falsely imply that we have no concern for ecological destruction, one of many examples where Novick is misleading to dirty our name.

Since our definitions of "exploitation" are so vastly different, it seems pointless to debate who is even exploited. However, what Novick is attacking is the line that the dominance of service workers in the First World is evidence of an exploitative relationship with the Third World. We say this because if you cut off the First World from the colonies they will not be able to produce for themselves what they need to survive, because they're mostly cops, politicians, paper shufflers, sales clerks, bartenders, etc. The opposing thesis is that Amerikan workers are so much more productive than Third World workers that the small productive sector can easily meet the needs of all Amerikans. This productivity also explains the vastly higher wages paid in this country according to this chauvinist view.]

Mr. Novick is further wrong in his contention that we, i.e. the MIM camp, "assume privilege and oppression are absolute phenomona, unchanging and mutually exclusive." Quite the contrary, as dialectical materialists we certainly know that nothing is absolute (except for the struggle of opposites) or unchanging, as motion itself is an expression of change and particular to the law of development. If such an absurdity of which Novick here speaks of were true then MIM(Prisons) wouldn't be taking the time to help develop the imprisyned lumpen of which the rest of society has long since cast off into the abyss.

We furthermore recognize that there is indeed an obvious intersection in nation and class contradictions within the United $tates. In a sense this is what MIM(Prisons)'s work is all about; working with the oppressed nation lumpen, in particular so that we may not only build towards liberating our people, but so that we may liberate our class. This will be our contribution to the International Communist Movement and oppressed people of the world. So, contrary to Novick's statements, we do in fact recognize and acknowledge that the interpenetration of opposites is particular to the law of development. However, there is a dialectical process, and as such a process of stages of which phenomena must go thru before change is complete; a lengthy process at that. Mutually exclusive phenomena do not just magically transcend from one stage to another. If only Mr. Novick would take the time to read MIM literature more carefully then he would know this.

The First and the Third World are currently locked in struggle. This struggle is representative of two mutually exclusive classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This is the fundamental contradiction on a world scale. Furthermore, this contradiction has manifested itself into antagonistic form, which has manifested into the principal contradiction on a world scale, which is oppressor versus the oppressed nations. Now, objectively speaking, what side of this contradiction are we on?

First World "workers" and Third World labor are two exclusive phenomena, not just because the former feeds off the latter, but because both hold two totally different positions with respect to the global relations of production and to the worldwide means of production as well. What Mr. Novick presupposes to explain with his chauvinist use of dialectics is that the First World labor aristocracy and Third World proletariat are essentially the same no matter the imperialist powers and the populations they serve. Mr. Novick says that privilege and oppression exist throughout class society, even among the exploited and oppressed, and that there is no perfectly oppressed class or sector whose hands are clean.

[MIM(Prisons) adds: We should point out that we see the oppressed nation lumpen in the United $tates as a middle force in that it has interests both opposed to and in support of imperialism. Novick seems to want to define everyone in this way, as potentially supporting or opposing imperialism. But we see the vast majority of Amerikans as clearly on the side of imperialism.

As our comrade points out, Novick throws around words like "dialectical" and "contradiction," while denying the very essence of a class analysis that is based in dialectical materialism. He asserts that it is absolutist to state that, overall, the labor aristocracy has a material interest in imperialism while the proletariat has interests opposed to it. This is consistent with the idealist view behind the strategy of groups like Anti-Racist Action who go out and confront the most overt racist elements of society.

anti-fascist action
They attack racism, which is a symptom of national oppression that is at the core of the imperialist system. They focus on the realm of ideas, rather than making a materialist class analysis and getting at the root of the problem.

At the same time Novick is willing to identify enemy classes in the Third World, as in his discussion of South Africa. It seems he is selective in which classes get the benefit of the doubt.]

In addition to the above, Mr. Novick then uses the argument that there is currently a "class fall" being experienced by many in the United $tates and Europe, and that U.$. whites with less than a high school education are experiencing the loss of more than five years life expectancy is proof positive that the labor aristocracy is in all actuality going thru the re-proletarianization process. Funny, Trotsky had similar things to say during the Comintern of 1916 in his defense of Western Europe's newly rising labor aristocracy and his racist refusal that the revolutionary ebb was moving to the east. Unfortunate to say that we're not really surprised to hear such nonsense, as the TTT position on inter-communalism is the theory of Trotsky himself.

[MIM(Prisons) adds: Novick seems to slightly exaggerate a recent study that showed a 5-year decline in life expectancy for white wimmin without a high school diploma, but only a 3-year decline for men in that group. The average decline for all whites without a high school diploma was around 4 years.(2) Certainly a significant and unusual decline. But let's look at this population closer.

The percentage of "non-hispanic whites" without a high school diploma in 2012 was down to 7.5% according to the U.S. Census. In 1990, unfortunately, the census does not have this category. However, the percent of "whites" without a high school diploma was 21%. This percentage decreased to 12% for "whites" by 2012. This "whites" category includes many Latinos, who skew these numbers. We don't know if the paper in question addresses this issue because it is not available to read in the public domain. But any way you cut it, the white population without a high school diploma has shrunk quite a bit since 1990. That is no doubt partially due to that group being disproportionately elderly, as the older someone is the less education whites got when they were young.

As this group shrinks, it becomes more concentrated among the elderly and the very disadvantaged. It does not surprise us that the least educated 7.5% of white Amerikans face conditions that lead them to have declining life spans. The United $tates is a very individualistic society, leading to such great disparities that even in the richest country in the modern world there are whole populations that suffer great disadvantages. And as the article reporting on this study points out, there are epidemics of drug abuse and unhealthy eating in the United $tates that are correlated to low educational achievement.

The question is, are these 7.5% of white Amerikans a potentially revolutionary population? Others have tested this hypothesis, and the evidence seems to point to no. There is much more evidence that poor whites are the mass base for fascism. That's not to say that 7.5% or even 15% of whites couldn't support anti-imperialism. It's just not going to be that 7.5% that Novick refers to as evidence that whites are experiencing a "class fall" in the United $tates.]

Again, what Mr. Novick keeps willingly blinding himself to here is that there is a qualitative difference between the First World and the Third, not just in wage differentials, but living standards and government services, all of which are representative of real life material interests which chain the supposed First World "proletariat" to the imperialist fatherland. This is why a dialectical outlook, as well as a concrete class analysis, is of crucial importance to the revolutionary movement. Only by maintaining the first and conducting the second will we be able to discern real friend from real foe, something Novick and company are apparently unable to do and so have aligned with both nation and class enemies to the internal semi-colonies and Third World proletariat and peasantry.

The next paragraph in question is just so utterly ridiculous that i was initially taken slightly aback when reading it. Seriously, "MIM isolates prisons from the social contradictions they enforce"?! Please, Mr. Novick or any other associate of TTT, if you're gonna go into the "differences" between the MIM camp and yourselves, do us all a favor and inform yourselves properly on that which you seek to criticize. It's just so hard for me to believe that someone as politically educated as Mr. Novick professes to be (or should be, rather) is going about spewing straight up lies.

The Maoist Internationalist Movement and its spin-off organization have long since held that the massive Amerikkkan prisyn system largely developed as a form of social control to maintain in check the superfluous lumpen populations of the Black, Brown and First Nations following the failed national liberation struggles of the 60s and 70s. What Novick is saying is nothing but BS! MIM(Prisons) is the only organization in the United $tates that is actively working to politically develop the oppressed nation lumpen so that we may become the subjective motivating force for the liberation and self-determination of the oppressed internal semi-colonies that are New Afrika, Aztlán, Boriqua and the various First Nations that are corralled onto the reservations! They, and they alone, have been doing this for many years now. And where, pray tell, has the rest of the Amerikan left been in the middle of all this? As Mao taught us, there must be a constant leadership with the masses in an endless spiral of perceptual knowledge to rational knowledge and revolutionary practice, so on and so forth. Or simply put, "from the masses to the masses."

Another outright lie presented by Novick is his statement that MIM's view obscures class and colonial contradictions in the U.$. Likewise, Novick's statement that U.$. society is turning into a carceral state is itself misleading in more than one way. Ironically enough, this sweet one-liner itself obscures class and colonial contradictions by making it sound as if we're all in this together (read, white, Black, Brown etc. "working class" unite!) Trust us, for those of us from barrios and ghettos of Amerika, the prisyn-like methods of daily life are nothing new. Furthermore, they don't represent any "new stage in the basic colonial nature of the state and society" but are instead a part of the foundational building blocks of Amerika and the white settler-state that has made its home here; they are essential to the imperialists and we resent the fact that Mr. Novick wants us to believe that the white settler is somehow now on the receiving end of this oppression.

As if all this wasn't enough, Novick once again shows us his Trotskyist colors when he criticizes "cross-class" alliances, in particular the United Front method of organization. You know, the same method that brought us such victories as the defeat of fascism in WWII and the liberation of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Leave it to the Trotskyists to damn to hell all unholy alliances not deemed morally pure enough for their pie in the sky ideals. Furthermore, Novick makes it appear as if the struggle in South Africa was a People's War waged for national liberation, somehow influenced by MIM. The disaster in South Africa had nothing to do with a communist-vanguard-led United Front, but rather, everything to do with its lack thereof.

[MIM(Prisons) adds: As we wrote in ULK 30: Ironically, MIM was on the front line of the movement in the U.$. in the 1980s supporting the revolutionary forces in South Africa that opposed the neo-colonial solution.]

Please refrain from making such false remarks about MIM, cause they ain't gone nowhere but to the belly of the beast from where they'll help destroy Amerikan imperialism.

Long Live the Legacies of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao!
Long Live MIM!


MIM(Prisons) concludes: Of the sections we left out, there were some accusations that would not be principled to make in a public forum like ULK. But we must agree with the USW comrade that Novick deliberately misrepresented MIM line in this article in order to attack our movement. MIM has never feared criticism, and that has not changed. If Novick had actually addressed something that we wrote or published, rather than these straw men and lies, then we could all learn from such an exchange. Instead Novick has muddied the water. And that does not serve the anti-imperialist movement, whatever your political line.

Years ago we lamented the inability of many of our readers to distinguish our line from those of other "radical" and even reformist organizations of all sorts. This is knowledge that the masses must have at some level before we can build a strong movement. We're glad to hear that someone wrote to Turning the Tide to ask how they differ from MIM, but as we can see, that is not always the most fruitful approach. Comrades should be studying literature from various sources, especially sources that they think sound good to them. You should compare and contrast these sources to better understand their differences. MIM(Prisons) is very clear what our dividing line points are, but most groups aren't so clear. And they can often be deceptive. If you want our perspective on a certain organization, go ahead and ask. We do have reviews of a number of them. One thing that the original MIM published and promoted widely was a pamphlet entitled, "What's Your Line?" which identified the various political lines in the communist movement and what groups fell into what categories. To expand that project to the prison movement and the contemporary organizations that exist today would be a great step in expanding everyone's understanding of politics and where they stand. So we encourage comrades to send in their reviews and struggles like this that they have with other groups so that we can expand these resources in the future.

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[Organizing] [Theory] [Principal Contradiction] [ULK Issue 30]
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ULK30: Consolidating Forces for a New Year

Consolidating our forces becomes an important task when we must prepare for a struggle. Right now in California prisoners are gearing up for a second round of struggle against the SHU and related issues prisoners face there. Since 2011, USW leaders have been doing what they can to consolidate the prisoner rights movement there, under torturous conditions of isolation and targeted censorship and repression.

Recently it was brought to our attention that Michael Novick of Anti-Racist Action addressed MIM in an issue of Turning the Tide focused on a consolidation around a new group in alliance with the Black Riders Liberation Party. Drawing out our line differences is part of consolidating progressive forces around one line or another. Before getting to that, let me address an effort to consolidate our support base for Under Lock & Key.

Become a ULK Sustainer

Having passed our five year anniversary of publishing Under Lock & Key we recognize the importance of revolutionary institutions that are reliable and sustainable. In those five years we have never missed a deadline, and ULK currently comes out like clockwork every 2 months, representing the voice of the anti-imperialist movement in U.$. prisons. A small minority of you have been right there with us providing regular reports, articles, poetry, art and finances for Under Lock & Key. Without your support we could not be that voice.

While we have a writers group, a poetry group and an artist group that prisoners can join to become regular contributors, we have not had a funders group. Well, that has changed. And we encourage all readers who think ULK is important to join the funders group. As we all know, prisoners are a unique group of people in this country who sometimes don't have access to any money. But everyone should be able to find a way to contribute to Under Lock & Key, and sending regular funds is one way to do so. Like our other groups, those who are regular contributors will get priority for free books and other support.

Here's how the funder group will work. To join, write to us and make your pledge, and whether you will pay it in stamps or in checks. A pledge should be the amount you will contribute to each issue of ULK, which comes out every 2 months. It costs us approximately $1 to get each prisoner a copy of ULK. Therefore to just cover your own issue you should pledge $1 per issue or $0.50 per month.

So when should you send your donation in? For those who pay in stamps you can send them in any time that works for you, but at least once every 2 months to be an active sustainer. For those who pay by check or money order, please remember that WE CANNOT ACCEPT CHECKS MADE OUT TO MIM. We will send you information on how to donate once you pledge. If you have the option, send stamps as they can be applied most directly to our work. Of course, outside supporters can also become financial sustainers. Email mimprisons@lavabit.com to make your pledge.

We will record what you pay and track whether we meet our pledge goals for 2013. We'll also be able to see whether we can increase our pledges over the years to come, which we will include in our annual reports that come out each summer.

Battle for Humyn Rights in California Regrouping

Cipactli gives us a breakdown of the latest in the battle for humyn rights in California prisons on in h article in this issue. Leading up to July 8, 2013, the call was made for comrades in different sectors of the California prison system to draft up their own list of demands. MIM(Prisons) has been working with the USW California Council to develop a list of demands that embody what we feel are minimal requirements to meet basic humyn rights for prisoners in California. Fundamental to that is abolishing the use of long-term isolation as well as punishment of people for their national, cultural and political associations.

As one comrade in SHU wrote,

Although I support the original five demands and will continue to do so along with any future demands for justice. I felt the need to add to the dialogue... What I noticed from the five demands and many other proposals being kicked around is the absence of the very core of our oppression - the SHU itself. What we have learned since the initial strike was that many civil rights groups and people around the world see the SHU itself as torture. All or most of what is being asked for i.e. contact visits, phone calls, cellies etc. can be granted were it not for SHU. Even things like validation and debriefing become easier to combat when the SHU is out of the picture. So it is the SHU itself that becomes the kernel of our oppression in regards to the prison movement in general and the current struggle we are facing in Pelican Bay. This is why any proposals should have at the forefront the demand to close the SHUs!

And another,

We can't afford for prisoners to sacrifice their lives [on a path that lacks philosophical/scientific understanding]. We're pursuing what is essentially a tactical issue of reforming the validation process as if it were a strategic resolution to abolishing social-extermination of indefinite isolation. This is not a complex issue to understand, and it requires a minimal amount of study at most to understand that the validation process is secondary and is a policy external to the existence of the isolation facilities. It's not difficult to comprehend that external influences create the conditions for change but real qualitative change comes from within, and to render the validation process, program failure, the new step down program, etc., obsolete, and end indefinite isolation, requires an internal transformation of the isolation facilities (SHU and Ad-Seg) themselves. Otherwise, in practice, social extermination retains continuity under a new external label.

For decades now, MIM, and now MIM(Prisons), and many other groups have agitated around a campaign to Shut Down the Control Units in the U.$. As forces regroup around this struggle in California following the intense struggles in 2011, we are working to consolidate around a clear position on these issues for those who are in alliance with the movements for national liberation and against imperialism, and not interested in just playing games of back and forth with the various Departments of Corrections.

The broader group of USW comrades in California will have a chance to review and comment on the our draft list of demands soon. Once finalized, we will be enlisting you to promote and agitate around these demands.

Ideological Struggle

We didn't have time or space to address Novick in full here. But many of you have seen his article in the latest Turning the Tide, so we want to address it briefly. First let's make some factual corrections. 1) MIM Thought has always put youth as the progressive force in the gender contradiction in the imperialist countries, not wimmin. 2) While exploitation does only occur at the point of commodity production according to Marx, MIM Thought draws lines of class primarily along access to wealth not what sector one works in. Novick's statement is confusing the explanation that certain nations must be exploiters to be dominated by service workers with our definition of the proletariat. 3) Later he accuses MIM of supporting neo-colonialism in South Africa, when ironically, MIM was on the front line of the movement in the U.$. in the 1980s supporting the revolutionary forces in South Africa that opposed the neo-colonial solution. He does so to take a stab at Mao's United Front theory.

As to the line offered in that article, we are proven correct in drawing a parallel between Novick and the RCP=U$A line on class and nation in a critique written by the Black Order Revolutionary Organization in 2011. Comrades can read the commentary on the murder of Sunando Sen in this issue, and our recent review of Bromma's Exodus and Reconstruction (which has not been published in ULK) to get our line on nation in a neo-colonial world. Novick's position is presented as the line of inter-communalism "in an era when the nation-state... has become obsolete." MIM(Prisons) has long been skeptical of inter-communalism (originally proposed by Huey P. Newton in the early 1970s). This presentation by Novick shows how "inter-communalist" ideology can lead to class collaborationism by ignoring the principal contradiction between oppressor nations and exploited nations. We expect to address these issues more in the future.

In this issue, the broader topic of ideological struggle as part of consolidating our forces is expanded on in Ehecatl's article on the importance of study in this stage as the movement is beginning to grow.

As editor, I lament the lack of international news in this issue of ULK. But we did not want another one to go by without printing our review of Zak Cope's new book on the labor aristocracy. This review does provide us with an outline of a theoretical framework for understanding global imperialism. It is also relevant to this issue of ULK in that it directly addresses the question of consolidating our forces ideologically, with what is the most important dividing line question of our time and place.

While we still struggle to push the MIM line on the labor aristocracy, MIM(Prisons) is going deeper to look at the oppressed nations in the United $tates to have a better analysis for our work. Soso's article on affirmative action is a piece of our developing line on this analysis that we will be releasing for peer review next month, and to the public in the not too distant future.

MIM(Prisons) is also delving into a new project this month that we hope will expand our abilities to promote education and theoretical development among the prison masses. And this is the heart of our consolidation work. Consolidate means to bring together, but it also means to discard the unwanted as well as to strengthen. We like this word because it embodies the Maoist principles of one divides into two as well as unity-struggle-unity. In both cases we advance by pushing political struggle forward, rather than being Liberal in an attempt to preserve unity. Even at the level of the United Front, where unity is less tight than at the level of the cadre organization, we must hold to certain principles for the United Front to be meaningful and strong.

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[Theory] [Principal Contradiction] [Economics] [Gender]
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Separating the Strands: Comments on Bromma's "Exodus and Reconstruction"

exodus and reconstrustion
Exodus And Reconstruction: Working-Class Women at the Heart Of Globalization
by Bromma
Kersplebedeb, 2012

Available for $3 + shipping/handling from:
kersplebedeb
CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne
Montreal, Quebec
Canada
H3W 3H8

This zine is in the tradition of Night Vision by Butch Lee and Red Rover and other similar works from the same publisher on class, gender and nation. Exodus and Reconstruction: Working-Class Women at the Heart of Globalization is short and by necessity speaks in generalizations, some of which are more evidently true than others. It is definitely a worthwhile read for anyone serious about global class analysis.

The main thesis of the essay is that starting around the 1990s there has been a major upheaval of the countryside in the economic periphery that has particularly affected biological wimmin, pushing them to migrate and join the ranks of the urban proletariat. This reality has major implications for the trajectory of imperialism as well as class struggle. As the author points out, the backwards modes of production in much of the world has provided a ready source of surplus value (s) due to the low capital investment (c) and high labor component (v) of production, the latter of which is the source of all profit. The implication is that while providing a short-term benefit to imperialism by bringing these large populations online in industry, this is undercutting the rate of profit (expressed in the equation s/(c + v) ). Not only that, but the domestic and agricultural labor that often falls on the shoulders of wimmin is important in allowing for super-exploitation of the historically male workers by allowing the capitalists to pay less than they would need to pay single workers to feed, clothe and house themselves. Without the masses living in semi-feudal conditions, continued super-exploitation will threaten the reproduction of the proletariat. In other words, more people will die of starvation and lack of basic needs or wages will need to increase reducing the superprofits enjoyed by people in the First World.

Another component of this phenomenon not mentioned by Bromma is that a large portion of these workers being displaced from their land are from formerly socialist China which had protected its people from capitalist exploitation for decades. So in multiple ways, this is a new influx of surplus value into the global system that prevented larger crisis from the 1980s until recently.

The difference between MIM Thought and the ideology that is presented by Bromma, Lee, Rover and others, is primarily in what strands of oppression we recognize and how they separate out. Their line is a version of class reductionism wrapped in gender. While others in this camp (Sakai, Tani, Sera) focus on nation, they tend to agree with Bromma's ultra-left tendencies of putting class over nation. Their approach stems from a righteous criticism of the neo-colonialism that followed the national liberation struggles of the middle of the twentieth century. But we do not see new conditions that have nullified the Maoist theory of United Front between different class interests. It is true that anti-imperialism cannot succeed in liberating a nation, and will likely fall into old patriarchal ways, if there is not proletarian leadership of this United Front and Maoism has always recognized that. Yet Mao did not criticize Vietnamese revisionism during the U.$. invasion of southeast Asia to preserve the United Front.(1) For anti-imperialists in the militarist countries it is similarly important that we do not cheerlead the Condaleeza Rice/ Hillary Clinton gender line on occupied Afghanistan. This is an explicit application of putting nation as principal above gender. This does not mean that gender is not addressed until after the socialist revolution as the rightest class reductionists would say. Whether rightist or ultra-left, class reductionism divides the united front against imperialism.

While Bromma puts class above nation, h also fails to distinguish between gender and class as separate strands of oppression.(2) Specifically, h definition of what is exploited labor is too broad in that it mixes gender oppression with exploitation, based in class. The whole thesis wants to replace the proletariat with wimmin, and substantiate this through economics. While the "feminization" of work is a real phenomenon with real implications, it does not make class and gender interchangeable. And where this leads Bromma is to being very divisive within the exploited nations along class and gender lines.

MIM Thought recognizes two fundamental contradictions in humyn society, which divide along the lines of labor time (class) and leisure time (gender).(3) We also recognize a third strand of oppression, nation, which evolves from class and the globalization of capitalism. Bromma argues that wimmin provide most of the world's exploited labor, listing sweatshops, agricultural work, birthing and raising children, housework and caring for the sick and elderly. But working does not equal exploitation. Exploitation is where capitalists extract surplus value from the workers performing labor. There is no surplus value in caring for the elderly, for example. In the rich countries this is a service that one pays for but still there is no extraction of surplus value. The distinction between service work and productive work is based on whether surplus value is produced or not, not a moral judgement of whether the work is important. The economic fact is that no surplus value is exploited from a nurse working for a wage in the United $tates, just as it is not exploited from a peasant caring for her family members in the Third World. The Third World service workers are still part of the proletariat, the exploited class, but they serve a supporting role in the realization of surplus value in the service sector.

We think Bromma has reduced a diverse group of activities to exploited labor time. Caring for the sick and elderly has no value to capitalism, so there is no argument to be made for that being exploited labor. A certain amount of housework and child raising must be performed to reproduce the proletariat, so Marx would include this in the value of labor power. The actual birthing of children is something that falls in the realm of biology and not labor time. Economically, this would be something that the capitalist must pay for (i.e. proper nutrition and care for the pregnant womyn) rather than something that the capitalist gains surplus value from. While MIM dismissed much of the biological determinism based in child-birthing capability in gender oppression on the basis of modern technology and society, we would still put this in the gender realm and not class.(3)

In reducing all these activities to exploited labor, Bromma is overstating the importance of housewives as sources of wealth for capitalists. If anything the drive to move Third World wimmin into the industrial proletariat indicates that more value is gained from wimmin by having them play more traditional male roles in production in the short term, ignoring the medium-term problem that this undercuts super-exploitation as mentioned above.

The work of raising food and ensuring children survive are part of the reproduction of the proletariat, which under normal conditions is payed for by the capitalist through wages. When wages aren't high enough to feed a family and the womyn must do labor intensive food production to subsidize the capitalist's low wages, then we see super-exploitation of the proletariat, where the whole family unit is part of that class even if only the men go to the factories to work. So unremunerated labor within the proletariat, even if it is divided up along gender lines, is part of class. In extreme situations we might say that those forced to stay home and do all the housework are slaves if they can't leave. In other situations we might see a whole segment of peasants that are subsidizing a class of proletarian factory workers outside of the family structure. Bromma generally implies that gender is an antagonistic class contradiction. While there are contradictions there, h goes too far in dividing the exploited masses who have the same basic class interests opposing imperialism.

Like Bromma does, we too have addressed the situation we find ourselves in where more reactionary, criminal, religious and patriarchal groups are on the front lines of the anti-imperialist movement. Bromma explains this as a result of class and gender interests of these groups. An analysis that is parallel to our own of the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy. Yet we cannot ignore the brutal repression of communism and the promotion of ideologies like Islamic fundamentalism by the imperialists in shaping our current reality. Egypt is a prime example where brutal U.$. dictatorship repressed any socialist leaning political organizing for decades while allowing for the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood who then end up being the only viable option for a new government when the people decide the old puppet Mubarak needed to get out. The role of U.$. imperialism is principal here in forming the new puppet regime and not the class or gender interests of those who won the lottery of being chosen as the new puppets. You can find a minority in any social group who can be bought off to work against their own group without needing to explain it by class interests. On the other hand you have bin Laden's Al Qaeda, who also received CIA favoritism in opposing social-imperialism and communism, but remained a principled anti-imperialist force when the Amerikans took their stab at controlling the Middle East. The Bromma line would have us lump these groups together in the enemy camp of the bourgeoisie, while Maoists differentiate between the compradors in Egypt and the bourgeois nationalists who take up arms against the occupiers.

No movement is perfect. But Maoism did more to address gender oppression than any other humyn practice since the emergence of the patriarchy. Bromma fails to recognize these advancements in h condemnation of the national liberation struggles that degenerated into neo-colonial and patriarchal states. To fail to emulate and build upon the feminist practice of socialism is a great disservice to the cause of gender liberation.

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[Theory] [Economics] [Principal Contradiction] [ULK Issue 30]
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New Must-Read on the Labor Aristocracy

divided world divided class
Divided World Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism
by Zak Cope
Kersplebedeb, 2012

kersplebedeb
CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne
Montreal, Quebec
Canada
H3W 3H8


It is with great pleasure that we announce a new release that MIM(Prisons) is adding to the labor aristocracy section of our must-read list. Divided World Divided Class by Zak Cope contributes up-to-date economic analysis and new historical analysis to the MIM line on the labor aristocracy. I actually flipped through the bibliography before reading the book and was instantly intrigued at the works cited, which included all of the classic sources that MIM has discussed in the past as well as newer material MIM(Prisons) has been reviewing for our own work.

The Labor Aristocracy Canon

Before addressing this new book, let me first put it in the context of our existing must-read materials on the labor aristocracy, which has long been the issue that the Maoist Internationalist Movement differentiated itself on. MIM(Prisons) recently assembled an introductory study pack on this topic, featuring material from MIM Theory 1: A White Proletariat? (1992) and Monkey Smashes Heaven #1 (2011). We still recommend this pack as the starting point for most prisoners, as it is both cheaper to acquire and easier to understand than Cope's book and other material on the list.

Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat by J. Sakai is a classic book documenting the history of Amerika as an oppressor nation whose class nature has always been bourgeois. It is for those interested in Amerikan history in more detail, and particularly the history of the national contradiction in the United $tates. While acknowledging Sakai's thesis, Cope actually expands the analysis to a global scale, which leads to a greater focus on Britain in much of the book as the leading imperialist power, later surpassed by Amerika. This complete picture is developed by Cope in a theory-rich analysis, weaving many sources together to present his thesis. HW Edwards's Labor Aristocracy: Mass Base of Social Democracy is a less cohesive attempt at a similar approach that is almost half a century old. Edwards is wishy-washy on the role of First World "workers," where Cope is not. Edwards provides a number of good statistics and examples of his thesis, but it is presented in a more haphazard way. That said, Labor Aristocracy is still on our must-read list and we distribute it with a study guide.

MIM went back to the labor aristocracy question in MIM Theory 10: The Labor Aristocracy. This issue built on MT 1 some, but primarily focuses on an in-depth look at the global class analysis under imperialism by the COMINTERN. The importance of this issue during WWII is often overlooked, and this essay gets deep into the two-line struggle within the communist movement at the time. We have a study pack on this piece as well.

The last work that we include in the canon is Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997(ICS) by MC5 of the Maoist Internationalist Movement. This book is most similar to Cope's work, with Cope seeming to borrow specific ideas and sources without ever acknowledging MC5's work. Since Cope is very generous in acknowledging ideas he got from others, one suspects that there is a political motivation behind ignoring the number one proponent of the position he is trying to defend in his book. We think MC5 would see Cope's work as a compliment and a step forward for the scientific analysis, particularly since Cope does not bring in anything to oppose the MIM line or to confuse the issue. Cope's book is very well researched and put together as an original work, and we have no interest in defending intellectual property.

The major new contribution in Cope's book is the historical analysis of the labor aristocracy in the context of the global system of imperialism. He also does some original calculations to measure superexploitation. His analysis of class, nation and modern events is all found in contemporary Maoism. Cope seems to be walking a line of upholding MIM Thought, while not dirtying his reputation with the MIM name. This is seen in his discussion of nationalism, which is often a dividing line between MIM Thought and the social democrats of academia. Cope gives a very agreeable definition of nation, and even more importantly, an analysis of its role and importance in the imperialist system related to class divisions. Yet, he fails to cite Stalin in doing so, while Maoists are honest about Stalin's contributions on the national question. So what we have is an excellent book on the labor aristocracy that avoids other issues that are difficult for the left-wing white nationalists to handle. In a way, this sanitized version of what is already a very bitter pill for readers in the First World may be useful to make this theory more available in an academic context. But no serious communist can just ignore important questions around Stalin and even the smaller, yet groundbreaking work of MIM itself.

MC5 or Cope?

For the rest of this review I will discuss Divided World in relation to Imperialism and its Class Structure (ICS) as they are parallel works. The above-mentioned sanitizing is evident in the two books' different approaches and definitions. Both attempt to present the basics, before getting into some intense analysis later on. Yet Cope sticks to discussing mostly Marx, with a healthy dose of Lenin's theory of imperialism without too much mention of the Soviet Union, while MC5 cites the practice of Stalin and Mao as leaders of socialist countries, as well as the contemporary pseudo-Maoists. It is a connection to communist practice that makes ICS the better book politically.

Cope's work, by default, has the benefit of having more recent statistics to use in part II for his economic analysis, though his approach is very different from MC5's anyway. Part III, which focuses on debunking the myths promoted by the pseudo-Marxist apologists for high wages in the First World, also has fresh statistics to use. MC5 addresses many ideological opponents throughout h book, but Cope's approach leaves us with a more concise reference in the way it lists the main myths promoted by our opponents and then knocks them down with basic facts.

MC5 spends more time addressing the ideas of specific authors who oppose the MIM thesis, while Cope tends to stick to the general arguments except when addressing authors such as Emmanuel who is an early trail-blazer of MIM Thought, but said some things that Cope correctly criticizes. Overall this provides for a more readable book, as the reader can get lost trying to figure out what position MC5 is arguing against when s/he refers to authors the reader has not read.

The model of imperialism that you get from each book is basically the same. Both address unequal exchange and capital export as mechanisms for transferring wealth to the First World. Both stress the structural basis of these mechanisms in militarized borders, death squads, monopoly and much higher concentrations of capital in the First World due to primitive accumulation and reinforced by the mechanisms of continued superexploitation.

While both authors take us through a series of numbers and calculations to estimate the transfer of value in imperialism, MC5 does so in a way that makes the class structure arguments more clearly. By focusing on the proportions, MC5 leaves the revisionists looking silly trying to explain how greater production per wage dollar in the Third World coexists with supposedly lower rates of exploitation in the Third World. Or how the larger unproductive sector in the First World can make similar wages to the productive sector, while the productive sector in the First World allegedly produces all the value to pay both sectors, and profit rates and capital concentration between sectors remain equal. Or if they acknowledge a great transfer of wealth from the Third World to the First World, and it is not going to 99% of the population as they claim, why is it not showing up in capital accumulation in those countries? As MC5 points out, remembering these structural questions is more important than the numbers.

Cope takes a numbers approach that ends with a transfer of $6.5 trillion from the non-OECD countries to the OECD in 2009 when OECD profits were $6.8 trillion. This leaves a small margin of theoretical exploitation of the First World. He points out that using these numbers gives $500 of profits per year per OECD worker compared to $18,571 per non-OECD worker. So even that is pretty damning. But he goes on to explain why the idea that OECD workers are exploited at all is pretty ridiculous by talking about the percentage of unproductive labor in the First World, an idea that MC5 stresses. Both authors make assumptions in their calculations that are very generous to the First Worldist line, yet come up with numbers showing huge transfers of wealth from the Third World to the First World "workers." Cope even uses OECD membership as the dividing line, leading him to include countries like Mexico on the exploiter side of the calculation. MC5, while a little less orthodox in h calculations, came up with $6.8 trillion in superprofits going to the non-capitalist class in the First World in 1993 (compared to Cope's $0.3 trillion in surplus being exploited from them in 2009). As both authors point out, they make the best of data that is not designed to answer these kinds of questions as they try to tease out hidden transfers of value.

Implications to our Practice

If Cope's book helps bring acceptance to the reality of the labor aristocracy in economic terms, there is still a major battle over what it all means for revolutionaries. In MIM's decades of struggle with the revisionists on this question we have already seen parties move away from a flat out rejection of the labor aristocracy thesis. Cope's conclusions on the labor aristocracy and fascism are well within the lines of MIM Thought. But already Cope's conclusions have been criticized:

As mentioned in an earlier post, this kind of "third worldism" represents the very chauvinism it claims to reject. To accept that there is no point in making revolution at the centres of capitalism, and thus to wait for the peripheries to make revolution for all of us, is to abdicate revolutionary responsibility—it is to demand that people living in the most exploited social contexts (as Cope's theory proves) should do the revolutionary work for the rest of us. (2)

Some see MIM Thought as ultra-leftist, and just plain old depressing for its lack of populism. Practitioners of revolutionary science do not get depressed when reality does not correspond to their wishes, but are inspired by the power of the scientific method to understand and shape phenomenon. But there is truth in this critique of Cope's book due to its disconnection from practice. A seemingly intentional approach to appeal to academia has the result of tending towards defeatism.

When it comes to practice in the United $tates, the question of the internal semi-colonies has always been primary for the revolutionary struggle. Yet today, there is a much greater level of integration. Cope's conclusions have some interesting implications for this question. On the one hand there is no anti-imperialist class struggle here "since economic betterment for people in the rich countries is today intrinsically dependent on imperialism". (Cope, p. 304) Yet assimilation is still prevented by the need for white supremacism to rally Amerikans around defending imperialist oppression of other peoples. Since national oppression will always translate into some relative economic disadvantage, we may be witnessing the closest real world example of national oppression that is independent of class. And Cope argues that this will continue within U.$. borders because you can't educate racism away, you must destroy the social relations that create it. (Cope, p. 6)

While Cope is explicitly non-partisan, MC5 provides a bit more guidance in terms of what this all means for imposing a dictatorship of the proletariat in a majority exploiter country, and how class struggle will be affected after that dictatorship is imposed. MIM also gives the explicit instruction that we do not support inter-imperialist rivalry or protectionism. This becomes a bigger challenge to promote and enforce among our allies in the united front against imperialism. Certainly, promoting these books and other literature on the topic is one part of that battle, but we will need other approaches to reach the masses who are taken in by the social democrats who dominate our political arena as well as their own potential material interests.

As long as would-be anti-imperialists in the First World ignore the labor aristocracy question, they will keep banging their heads against brick walls. It is only by accepting and studying it that we can begin to make breakthroughs, and this is even true, though less immediately so, in the Third World as Cope acknowledges (Cope, p. 214). Despite works dating back over a hundred years discussing this theory of class under imperialism, we are in the early stages of applying it to the polarized conditions of advanced imperialism with the environmental crisis and other contradictions that it brings with it.

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