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[Revolutionary History] [National Oppression] [International Connections] [Security] [Theory] [ULK Issue 83]
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ULK 83: Prison Is War

Prison is War

The theme of this issue of Under Lock & Key was inspired by recent essays and interviews by Orisanmi Burton, previewing material from eir upcoming book: Tip of the Spear: Black Radicalism, Prison Repression, and the Long Attica Revolt. Comrades in MIM(Prisons) and United Struggle from Within (USW) have been studying Burton’s work. Though we have not had the opportunity to read the book yet, which comes out end of October 2023, we like a lot of the ideas ey has presented so far and the overall thesis that prisons are war.

As we go to press the genocidal war on Palestine is heating up. We have reports inside on Congo, El Salvador, Ukraine and Niger; and we don’t even touch on Guatemala or Haiti. History has shown that as war heightens internationally, war often heightens against the oppressed nations within the empire as well.

In this issue we have reports of political repression as war in U.$. prisons. We also feature articles from comrades who organized around, and reflected on the Attica rebellion and Black August. This is the history that Burton analyzes in eir work, exposing the state’s efforts to suppress the prison movement and how both sides were operating on a war footing. For over a decade readers of ULK have commemorated the beginning of Attica on September 9th with a Day of Peace and Solidarity, as part of the campaign to build the United Front for Peace in Prisons. But how do we get to peace when we find ourselves the targets of the oppressor’s war?

Burton pushes back against some Liberal/reformist lines that have been advanced onto the prison movement to oppose the line of liberation. Burton’s ideas harken back to V.I. Lenin, recognizing prisons as a repressive arm of the state, and the state being a tool of oppression and warfare by one class over another. War is one form of political struggle, and a very important one at that.

It is this framework that we have used to push back against “abolitionism.” Our organization emerged from the struggle to abolish control units, a form of prisons that is torture and inhumane. We see the abolition of control units as a winnable, if difficult, battle under bourgeois rule. In a socialist state, where the proletariat rules over the former bourgeoisie, we certainly won’t have such torture cells anymore; but the abolition of prisons altogether is a vision for the distant future. We find it questionable that Burton frames revolutionary communist martyrs like George Jackson as an “abolitionist”.

Where we have more unity is when Burton takes issue with building the prison movement around the legalist struggle to amend the 13th Amendment of the U.$. Constitution that abolishes slavery except for the convicted felon. Burton points out the history of Liberal thought in justifying enslavement of those captured in just wars. As most in this country see the United $tates as a valid project, it could follow logically that it is just to enslave the conquered indigenous and New Afrikan nations, as well as nations outside the United $tates borders. We see how settlers in Amerika and I$rael are now justifying all sorts of genocidal atrocities against Palestine.

The challenge we have repeatedly made to the campaign to amend the 13th Ammendment is how this contributes to liberating oppressed people? How does it build power for oppressed people?

In one essay Burton draws connections to how the state was handling the war against the Vietnamese people at the same time as the war against New Afrika at home.(1) We have a draft paper out on the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement that discusses the counter-insurgency in Peru, and how the fascist U.$.-Fujimori regime locked communist leader Comrade Gonzalo in an underground isolation cell and then used confusion around political line to crush the People’s War in that country. In Under Lock & Key 47, we reprinted an in-depth analysis of the use of long-term solitary confinement against the revolutionary movement in Turkey and the use of hunger strikes to struggle against it from 2000-2007. All of these historical examples, including to some extent New Afrika in the 1970s, involved an armed conflict on both sides. Today, in the United $tates, we do not have those conditions. However, we can look to the national liberation struggle in Palestine, and the connection to the prison movement there as a modern-day example.

Burton spends time exposing the politics of the federal counter-insurgency program PRISACTS. And one of the things we learn is that PRISACTS is officially short-lived as the counter-insurgency intelligence role is taught to and passed on to the state institutions. We see this today, especially in the handling of censorship of letters and reading materials we send to and receive from prisoners. We see the intentional targeting of these materials for their political content, and not for any promotion of violence or illegal activity. Our comrades inside face more serious consequences of brutality, isolation and torture in retaliation for attempts to organize others for basic issues of living conditions and law violations.

The arrest of Duane “Keffe D” Davis for involvement in the murder of Tupac Shakur has also been in the news this month. Keffe D is a known informant who confessed to driving his nephew to murder Tupac years ago in exchange for the dropping of a life sentence for an unrelated charge. Author John Potash notes that there were many attempted assassinations of Tupac prior to his death, at least one that involved the NYPD Street Crimes Unit. This unit was launched following the supposed “end” of COINTELPRO.(2) This directly parallels what we see with the “end” of PRISACTS and the passing of intelligence operations on to state pigs.

As we’ve discussed in drawing lessons from the repression of Stop Cop City, we need to take serious strategic precautions in how we organize. We must recognize the war being waged on us. If we treat this as something that can be fixed once people see what’s going on, or once we get the right courts or authorities to get involved, we will never accomplish anything. And as always we must put politics in command. There is an active intelligence counter-insurgency being waged against USW and the prison movement in general, and the best weapon we have is grasping, implementing and judging political line.

Prison is War is not just a topic for ULK, it is a political line and analysis. We welcome your future reports, articles and artwork exposing the ways this war is happening in prisons today.

Notes: 1. Burton, Orisanmi (2023).“Targeting Revolutionaries: The Birth of the Carceral Warfare Project, 1970-1978.” Radical History Review. Vol. 146.
2. John Potash on I Mix What I Like, 16 October 2023. (author of “The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders”)

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[Theory]
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On Primitive Communism and Capitalist Individualism

“You must teach that socialism-communalism is as old as man; that its principles formed the basis of mostly all the East Afrikan cultures (there was no way to denote possession in the original East Afrikan tongues). The only independent Afrikan societies today are socialistic. Those which allowed capitalism to remain are still neo-colonies. Any Black who would defend an Afrikan military dictatorship is as much a fascist as Hoover.”

  • George Jackson

No one in history ever possessed a greater skill set for individual survival than the primitive hunter-gatherer warrior, yet ey was a deeply committed communalist who put the interest of eir tribe, eir village, and eir extended family above his own. The warrior believed that eir life was not eir own, but belonged to the people; and ey considered it a great honor to live a life of service to the people and if need be to sacrifice eir life in their defense. This is the warrior’s ethics, and it doesn’t matter which group on which continent we are talking about because such are the roots of humyn social evolution.

There have always been individuals, and in a sense there has always been individualism, but it wasn’t always regarded as a virtue. In primitive societies, it was seen as dishonorable – like lying or cowardice. There were few things that could get one thrown out of the collective and be made an outcast. Rampant individualism was one. To be cast out was worse than a sentence of death. We are social beings, and it is in society that we find fulfillment of any emotional needs. In prison, when the kaptors want to try to break us, they put us in solitary confinement.

Capitalism promotes individualism because everyone is set in competition with everyone else. People must compete for jobs, promotions, and for status. Every capitalist is in competition with every other capitalist. That’s why it is called a “rat race.” People suffer from “alienation” and seek some substitute for tribal belonging. People will join gangs and kill or be killed just to have this sense of belonging. Is joining the marines any different? People become ardent sports fans to have some group identity and wear their team’s colors and share their glory. Belonging is a need under capitalism: everything is commodified.

Bourgeois critics often make the charge that socialism sacrifices the interest of the individual for the collective; but are the individual and the collective really in contradiction? This is what Stalin had to say in his interview with H.G. Wells in 1934:

“There is no, nor should there be, irreconcilable contrast between the individual and the collective, between the individual person and the interests of the collective. There should be no such contrast because collectivism/socialism does not deny but combines individual interests with the interests of the collective. Socialism cannot abstract itself from individual interests. Socialist society alone can most fully satisfy these personal interests. More than that, socialist society alone can firmly safeguard the interests of the individual. In this sense, there is no irreconcilable contrast between individualism and socialism.”

Unless the individual’s interest is to do harm to the collective, to exploit its members for personal gain, or subvert its freedom, it is in the collective interests to give full play to the individual’s initiative and creativity. Mao’s famous call for individual freedom of expression in the arts of science was in contrast to certain dogmatic and bureaucratic tendencies that has arisen in Russia and China:

“The policy of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend is designed to promote the flourishing of the arts and the progress of science.”

Some would later complain bitterly that Mao had lured them into a trap when they were subsequently criticized for their ideas. But freedom of expression is not freedom from criticism. Ey never said to let the poisonous weed to bloom.

The democratic method is to allow people to speak their minds, but this is a two-way street. Others have the right to disagree and criticize you as well. The collective interest will best be served when people are above board and say what they think, at the risk that it will be picked apart and rejected by others and even ridiculed as rubbish by the majority. No one is obligated to tell you your opinions are great. On the other hand, your opinion might find favor and change everyone’s views for the better. That is the risk of free expression. New ideas always start with someone who thinks for themselves and may not at first be popular or well accepted.

In this way a revolutionary organization/collective pursues its inner collective democracy while maintaining unity in action. There is a time for free discussion and time for united action and this is the basis of democratic revolutionary praxis. The collective protects the rights of the individual who serves the interests of the collective.

The comrades of your collective should be like your family – even closer than that. Your very lives may depend on each other. The comrades will each have different strengths and weaknesses and should complement each other using their own strengths to help the others transform their weaknesses into strengths. Comrades should not be competitive with one another. Recognition and advancement are fine, but one should be happy to serve in whatever capacity the collective feels would be best. It is all about what we can accomplish together – whether one is high or low in rank is insignificant. To be a comrade is important.

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[Legal] [Theory] [ULK Issue 82]
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Law and the Courts of Late

The Supreme Court of the United $tates (SCOTU$) has been busy this past year. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade still fresh in the public consciousness, the last month has seen the demise of student loan relief and affirmative action.

None of these rulings are of grave interest to Maoists on Occupied Turtle Island. College is seldom in reach for the lumpen and proletariat of this continent, and affirmative action in universities (especially Harvard, the topic of this case) concerns the comprador classes of the oppressed nations more than it does the masses. Despite its faux celebration of diversity, the 15% “African-American” portion of Harvard’s student population is anything but representational. The interesting aspect of these rulings, insofar as they exist, is how the rulings relate to the broader Amerikan assimilation strategy of the oppressed nations. The rulings may indicate a more general wavering of assimilation as a strategy for semi-colonial management or that the strategy has been sufficiently completed such that it may begin gradual discontinuation. There is also the strong possibility that we are witnessing the legal expression of the reactionary wing of social-fascist hegemony overpowering its liberal elements.

Though the material impact of these rulings on Maoist organizing are not terribly significant (especially within prisons), the spree of rulings serve as an opportunity to reflect on the nature and purpose of law in bourgeois society. We’ll take the time here to briefly glance over the persynal ideologies and behaviors of two of the more noteworthy SCOTU$ members, use these to reflect on the liberal worldview of law more generally, then transition to a materialist explanation of law and justice. Let’s begin with some words from Chief Justice Roberts.

In a September interview with Colorado Springs 10th Circuit judges, 2022, Roberts described the “gut wrenching” experience of his daily commute to the Supreme Court. Following a draft opinion leak that revealed the Court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade, the building had been surrounded by a staff of guards and newly-erected barricades. This change was to the discomfort of Roberts and his colleagues, who shared stake in the tale that their careers were in justice, and not law. After lamenting the oppressive arm of the state’s failure to keep an appropriate distance from him, Roberts spent the majority of the remaining interview pearl-clutching over the public’s lack of faith in the Court’s independence from politics. He painted a troubling tale of what Amerika would look like if the courts were just a piece of political machinery like Congress of the Presidency. His persistence in the apolitical nature of SCOTU$ was unwavering.

Since then, details have come to light concerning the life of another member of the Court, longest-serving Judge Clarence Thomas, a man who shares in Roberts’ conviction of the apolitical nature of the Courts. To describe the findings of investigators who began breaking stories in April of this year as aspects of Thomas’ persynal life is misleading. We don’t believe there’s anything persynal about them. Of particular note in the latest news splash was Thomas’ close relationship with prominent Republican financier Harlan Crow, a collector of Nazi memorabilia and real-estate mogul of $29 billion in assets. Though Thomas forgot to put them on his financial records, flight records reveal he has enjoyed over two decades of apolitical weekly summer visits to Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks, vacations on Crow’s superyacht, and flights on Global 5000 jets. Thomas’ grandnephew also enjoyed the generous patronage of Crow, who had paid his way through private boarding school. In 2005, a case involving Trammell Crow Residential Co. found itself before the Supreme Court. The company was being sued $25 million for (allegedly) using copywritten building designs. The order by the court denying the petition to hear the case consisted of a single sentence. Thomas did not recuse himself from the ruling.

This brings us to the fable we are told of the nature of law in the liberal world order. When we think of law, we are often brought to conjure images of court debates, evidence inquiry, or statuettes of scale-holding, blindfolded wimmin dressed in Graeco-Roman garb. These images are designed to have us associate law with the long history of philosophic investigation into the matter, of which there are over two millennia of content. More specifically, we are meant to sympathize with the enlightenment-era revival of these ideas, lest we think in units of cities and societies, as Socrates or Plato would have us do, rather than individuals, like Kant and the liberal framework he filtered these discussions through. But any talk of justice or morality is incomplete without discussing how these ideas change (or, much more likely, reinforce) the way humyn beings relate to each other in society. Indeed, it should tell us something that Amerikan conventions of justice derive from the social traditions of ancient Greek Hoplite classes. That is to say, the quarter of Greek society (in the case of Athens, the most “equalitarian” example one could choose from) that sat atop a social pyramid of slaves. Though the law did not extend agency to these lower classes, it was very concerned with them.

mis-justice lynching continues

Only the wretchedly naive buy into the Court’s mythos of impartiality. In part, this is due simply to how unsubtle they are about this reality. The Supreme Court, for instance, is known for its habit of pre-planning sessions to throw a few bones to liberalism before saving the announcement of profoundly reactionary rulings for the end (this particular session was no exception: loan relief and affirmative action were taken to roost only after the entre of indigenous adoption and limitations on gerrymandering). Though intentions don’t matter in politics as they are speculative and unknowable to anyone but the subject, the behavior of the Court in these matters is apparent; they are deeply concerned with their relation to partisan politics and structure their role in the state apparatus around this reality.

But all this is to miss the main essence of the bourgeois fiction about legal justice. The ideology of Roberts, and bourgeois dictatorship in general, insists on an illusion that neither the Greeks nor Kant were ever under the spell of. We find justice and law proposed to us as a single concept, yet the two are barely related. The illusion of the synonymity of justice and law depends on the thinker approaching law from an individualist perspective. It may, for instance, feel like justice when someone who starts a petty fight on the street gets charged, but law is not manufactured on the individual level; as policy, it is a society-wide institution and serves a society-wide function. Law serves a far more critical function than social conventions of justice. When you think of Lady Justice, do you recall that she carries a sword in her right hand?

Despite their ideological pretenses, the courts admit this distinction between law and justice in their united front of “originalist” interpretation. When interrogation of the practical effects of their decisions prevent the Justices from waxing over the moralist namesake of their title, the oft heard defense for their ultra-reaction is that their job is not to make ethical decisions, but to interpret the constitution as it was written. Even the antipode of this wing who believe the constitution is a “living document” work within the same framework: the text will give us the answers and it is therein that law will be made.

To posit legal interpretation as an objective endeavor (sometimes referred to as “textualist reading”) is a difficult argument to take seriously, despite two centuries of top Amerikan legal minds insisting that we do so. Indeed, “objective law” is an oxymoron. The Maoist understanding of legality is much less fanciful: law is the codification of social relations. Under capitalism, that means the writing down of acceptable parameters for ownership and exchange in such a way as to ensure the maintenance and expansion of current (capitalist) relations. This can be seen in the early history of law, which followed, in all its independent developments, agriculture – the great first-permitter of primitive accumulation.

The primary development that brings law into being is the social invention of the concept of ownership. This concept of ownership comes about necessarily in pairing with general law. Let’s look at law in its cell form to elaborate this point. Say I am a wheat farmer who labors to produce 20lb of grain. With bourgeois consciousness, I conceptualize this process as myself putting active labor into seed and soil, and seeing (throughout a growing season) that labor be embodied into a crop. Of note here is that I am not my labor. I made my labor, but it is not me. Instead, my labor has been embodied in the crop. This embodiment Marxists call value. However, at this stage, my labor embodied in the crop is only potential value. Value, for Marxists, is a social phenomenon. See, if I were the only person on Earth, objective determinations of value would be impossible as I could subjectively declare the worth of anything around me without challenge. As a farmer in a capitalist economy, however, I do not plant crops because I find wheat persynally valuable. No, I make it so I can sell it on the market. In this process of (market) exchange, the potential value of my product becomes realized value. For the value of my product to realize its value, it must be desired by another persyn who wants to impose their will on the product to the exclusion of others, including myself. This is a fancy way of saying that the buyer wants to be able to eat the grain or bake it into a cake without having to share it between now and then. Here enters the social concept of ownership. When I bring my wheat to market, I have a social right to it and become a social subject. When someone else wants to buy it, they are also a social subject, and if we agree to exchange, the social concept of ownership for the wheat transfers to them. In short: (i) I own the wheat, (ii) I sell them the wheat, (iii) now they own the wheat. When enough members of an ownership class get together and create a society-wide, binding contract to enforce their ownership over objects, that contract becomes law, and the apparatus that enforces this ownership code becomes the state. Wheat is an apt example because agricultural goods formed the foundations of the first states, ruled by land-owning classes.

In the second chapter of Volume 1 of Capital, Marx tells this very narrative (though in denser terminology),

“It is plain that commodities cannot go to market and make exchanges of their own account. We must, therefore, have recourse to their guardians, who are also their owners … In order that these objects may enter into relation with each other as commodities, their guardians must place themselves in relation to one another, as persons whose will resides in those objects, and must behave in such a way that each does not appropriate the commodity of the other, and part with his own, except by means of an act done by mutual consent. They must therefore, mutually recognize in each other the rights of private proprietors. This juridical relation, which thus expresses itself in a contract, whether such contract be part of a developed legal system or not, is a relation between two wills”.

From this humble origin, it may be seen that law is not derived from moral notions. The two are only related insofar as they are like products formed to justify the same class society. Worse, law in our time is inherently unjust, as it is no more than an appendage of the apparatus of the Amerikan state (or Amerikan imperialism when imposed on the world at large). Law is the codified will of a state, itself the guarantor of relations of production and exchange. As such, there are no prisoners who are not political prisoners. But law is not the frontline of class struggle.

Class domination, in both its organized and unorganized form, is much broader than what is officially enshrined by any wing of state power. Beyond mere law, the dominion of this regime is expressed in the dependence of the government on banks, capitalist, labor-aristocratic groupings, the persynal connections of state apparatchiks with the ruling class (a la Thomas), and the semi-colonial management of the oppressed nations. None of these relations have any official codification in law. Nevertheless, it is on legal grounds that bourgeois society protects itself in the continuation and expansion of these horrific realities. State authority, that special force separated from society we know all too well, may bridge the gaps on its own. Bourgeois law need not directly sanction bourgeois right, imperialism, and national supremacy. Indeed, it would be against ruling-class interest to be so explicit. Bourgeois law need only provide the framework to get these tasks done, the state will pick up the slack.

With this origin and purpose of law in mind, considering SCOTU$ as a non-ideological institution becomes as absurd as Justice Roberts’ faint of heart over what the outcome of his job looks like to the portions of humynity who live below the steps of the ornate buildings he spends his life sheltered within. For the masses, the juxtaposition of Hellenic architecture and barbed wire is so far from “gut wrenching” that it’s almost cliche. There is no more fitting a place for riot gear and sandbags than the courts, except perhaps Wall Street and Southern Manhattan.

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[Organizing] [Theory] [ULK Issue 82]
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Criticism & Self-Criticism

criticism and self-criticism

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” -Lao Tzu

The practice of criticism and self-criticism is an essential component of a revolutionary organization. It is more intensely so inside a party based upon democratic centralism and the application of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. Indeed, the very life of the party depends upon it. Life is a struggle and the ideological-political life of the party depends upon active, integral, ideological-political struggle. It won’t do to let things slide for the sake of friendship or to “keep the peace”. This is how little differences grow into big ones and disagreements turn into splits.

As Mao cautioned:

“I hope that you will practice Marxism and not revisionism; that you will unite and not split; that you will be sincere and open and not resort to plotting and conspiracy. The correctness or otherwise of the ideological and political line decides everything. When the Party’s line is correct, then everything will come its way. If it has no followers, then it can have followers; if it has no guns, then it can have guns; if it has no political power, then it can have political power. If its line is not correct, even what it has it may lose. The line is a net rope. When it is pulled, the whole net opens out.” -Talks With Responsible Comrades At Various Places During Provincial Tour, 1971

We must bear in mind that there are:

“Two types of social contradictions - those between ourselves and the enemy and those among the people themselves [that] confront us. The two are totally different in their nature.” (On The Correct Handling of Contradictions Among The People, February 27, 1957)

It won’t do to confuse one for the other.

“To criticize the people’s short-comings is necessary . . . but in doing so we must truly take the stand of the people and speak out of whole-hearted eagerness to protect and educate them. To treat komrades like enemies is to go over to the stand of the enemy.” (Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art, May 1942)

Criticism and self-criticism can be “toxic” if it is not done properly. Our aim must be constructive and not to shame any komrades or ourselves. Some people chronically “beat themselves up” over their shortcomings, thinking that will correct their unwanted behavior. often times, they grew up in an abusive parenting situation and thus think this is normal, but it is not. This type of self-criticism only undermines self-esteem. Criticism can be a form of bullying, of mental and psychological abuse. What we want to nurture is constructive criticism that is an expression of Panther Love and true komradeship. We all have issues of bourgeois ideology and it could not be otherwise. We grew up in the sewer of capitalist-imperialism, how could we not need scrubbing?

We not only grew up in it but we still live in it. How could we be sparkling clean? We need to help each other to scrub the parts we cannot reach, to see the filth we cannot see. Sometimes it is hard to see where we are in error or we’ve become “nose blind” to our own smell. Our egos can get in the way. If we have an exaggerated estimation of ourselves, where is the incentive to grow and to become better revolutionaries? Likewise, if we underestimate ourselves, we may need positive feedback from our komrades to build our self-confidence and appreciate our worth to the struggle.

Every komrade should be part of a revolutionary collective, a basic unit of the party. This is imperative to have the benefits of collective wisdom. Our collective is our family, our closest komrades. You don’t want your closest komrades to “look up to you” but to see you as an equal. You want them to understand your strengths and weaknesses and to be there to check you when you need checking, and give you a push when you need pushing, and to catch you when you fall. Every komrade is a work in progress and we must be constantly building each other up and struggling to make each other the best we can be.

We are not “carbon copies” of one another, our struggles are complimentary. Collectively we are stronger than our individual strength. Teamwork makes us each more powerful and competent. It minimizes our individual shortcomings and makes us wiser and more capable. A team of horses or oxen can pull more weight for longer than each can individually. The party is stronger than many times its number of individuals acting on their own judgment and initiative. The base of this strength is the basic unit of the Party and its democratic centralism. At each level there are committees up to the central committees and at each level we must practice criticism and self-criticism and work together to achieve collective wisdom and cheeks and balances.


MIM(Prisons) adds: While we do not have a party at this time, these same principles should still be applied at the local cell level. This is why we have said a cell should have at least 3 members to function in a healthy way.

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[Economics] [First World Lumpen] [Struggle] [Theory] [Culture] [ULK Issue 79]
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Conquering My Demons

“(We) MIM Should not excuse behaviors that could have been avoided with asexuality. It must weigh the costs of being non-sexual.” - MIM Theory 2/3

Transforming the criminal mentality into a revolutionary one means also fully confronting bourgeois culture, morality and its justification for the existing society, i.e. bourgeois rule. This bourgeois mentality also includes things that aren’t necessarily “criminal” but definitely constitute crimes against others and from a proletarian perspective and for our aims is at the very least counter-productive if not counter revolutionary. Sadly, as Wiawimawo stated, due to us being products of this decadent society we all enter the Revolution with some amount of sickness. Some suffer from drug addictions, some selfishness and extreme individualism, others idealism, patriarchy or even out right misogyny, e.g. “Fuck a Bitch” or other forms of sexism. Most “criminal” lumpen glorify gangsterism and are quite infatuated with gang culture even when pretending to be about unifying the block…. But regardless, we all enter the revolutionary process with ways of the “old society” especially since it hasn’t gone anywhere.

The above quote is from a Comrade who ultimately died due to a lifetime battle with drugs. Yet this is a quite Revolutionary and apt quote and this comrade’s life is also apt for this discussion as it shows no matter how advanced we become and even how authentic our walk, we will always be confronted not only with the broader bourgeois society and its fucked up music, culture, morals, world out-look etc etc ad nauseam. We still are likely to have to confront and check our own bourgeois demons. But the above quote could be applicable to revolutionary Walkin’ in general if any of our behaviors could be avoided simply by avoiding self-indulgence if our goal is truly revolution then we should practice abstinence in that regard whenever possible.

I personally have never came to jail sober and have done all manner of anti-social behavior “under the influence” since I’ve been in prison I’ve yet to get drunk. For me this was so stark it was no choice at all. Additionally other counter-productive behaviors were also not so difficult for me to conquer or at least consciously struggle against. Yet for all my talk I was quite chauvinistic and I’d say misogynistic in actual practice and this is something I’ve struggled with since I was in elementary.

There was a time when I rationalized my misogynistic behavior – I’ve now come to believe this had a lot to do with my inability to conduct consistent communist practice – however, I’m now quite clear that this is simply lumpen and its kissing cousin petty bourgeois personification and practice and furthermore serves only to strengthen counter revolution.

I am not too hard on myself for this late transformation however – every single day in this decadent society we have to swallow, weigh, witness or consciously wrestle with all manner of bourgeois bullshit. Life may be good but this world is truly a nightmare. In these death camps, in a real concentration camp, in slave quarters, in an immigration caravan, in dark alleys and hallways thrash out this imperialist dominated world what people must go through especially when there’s no real struggle to resist and defeat this oppression (as proven by amerikkka’s nuclear bombs) even shadows get burnt… yes shadows were literally burnt into the ground.

Yet I’m now quite clear on my need to confront this as it is simply another tool the state can use to divide, dismiss or exploit real revolutionary work. This always makes me think of focoism, its attraction is “to go out on a high note”… I understand this quite well. I also think this is why lumpen and petty bourgeois youth in the semi-colonies often have a hard time with revolutionary ideas, party’s and practices as all they know is immediate release, this in addition, is why so many Rev’s succumb to self-obsession or self indulgence’s. But once I accepted this is simply lumpen/petty bourgeois bullshit behavior it was easier for me to confront it as any good homie, friend and especially “comrade” should know s/he is not only a reflection of the community, party, professed ideas etc he/r can also undermine, expose or bring harm to he/r person, community, or just their ideas which for a revolutionary communist must be unacceptable.

I speak in general terms because specific failures, flaws, addictions or internalized petty bourgeois (wanna be big bourgeois) bullshit isn’t new to the movement and once I realized how destructive (counter-revolutionary in fact) my failure to totally transform and practice my all too parroted “self discipline” – something as stated I’m quite adamant about “Walkin my walk”… Yet I gave the enemies a free tool to use against me and against us – again I do know why for some focoism is a “natural release”… working w/ ideas and for “long-term goals” especially in isolation of an active movement has been the death of many good Rads and whole collectives especially where self-discipline requires we police things that we once considered quite natural or even which is common practice for others but the state has made it taboo for us.

I read an article in The Abolitionist (Summer 2022) where a captive was released and days later his parole agent came to place an electronic monitor on his ankle which he knew would be a condition of parole, but still days later after she placed the “E.M.” on him she called and explained he will be allowed out the house 6:00am-10:00am and this should be plenty of time “For you to handle your business”. I couldn’t help but think how after 10:00 it would be unlawful to walk to the corner store or park, to go to school, work, to date, build community ties etc etc and how his actions will be a reflection of larger class forces and struggles where if he failed it would set back the opportunity for someone else to be released on “E.M.” supervision and to succeed he would need all the self-discipline in the world not to look out the window at 11 see a friend or interesting person come outside to talk and walk with them to the corner…I imagine all the lawful things a Jew in Nazi Germany or slave in amerikkka was forbidden.

Amerikkka exploits and sanctions the world so its unlawful to aid Cuba, to encourage oppressed people to keep their resources for themselves, to disrupt military supply chains or even expose what the government is doing to the public. On 22 August 2022, KPFA Radio’s “Letters and Politics” had a canadian Marxist scholar on who the host asked “isn’t it an advancement that we have a better life thanks to capitalism?” (this was the gist) The Marxist scholar replied “Yes”(even under the new mode of production we don’t want to lose those “freedoms”) and conceded this as advancement. Yet I contend both the host and this Rad suffered from self-deception. I think Huey’s “intercommunal” line was bullshit – to say nations don’t exist – but capitalism has infact now transferred and transposed the class struggle from core countries to exploited countries largely on the global south so whole countries live the bourgeois life to one degree or another, and the proletariat is now largely confined to their own powerless “nations.”

So for so many others they make do with left over bourgeois scraps. I saw a documentary a while back about how the U.$. was sending its plastic and metal scraps to the Third World as part of its neo-liberal deals with them – just as now Biden can promise less greenhouse gas from U.$ corporations “in amerikkka” but will never say they can’t offset this by reckless disregard for the oppressed nations. Part of the question to the canadian Marxist was also a statement that slavery is no more “thanks to capitalism” to which the Marxist agreed, hence his statement we don’t want to lose those “freedoms” but slavery very much exists outside of the “shiny city on the hill”, outside the gate they root through U.$ trash like pigs looking for mushrooms, women still are very much oppressed and yes slavery, I repeat, still exists. Yet they’re always judged by the standards of the exploiters and defenders of the city gates who gladly lower the drawbridge for the returning army with its war booty.

I stopped drinking because I get drunk and have no inhibitions, no fear and no rationalizations. Likewise I wrestled with self-indulgences “because they were denied” and I too have absolutely no respect for the enemy. Even when drunk I’ve never intentionally hurt anyone I loved, never fought my friends, never stole from loved ones etc, but not so for a perceived enemy, or if I felt I deserved something, or revenge was called for. All this was obviously before I became a revcom. But I know where it all came from and what it represents, its lumpen/petty bourgeois sentiments struggling with social, dictates that “I’m nothing,”“We’re nothing,”“You can’t have,” “You don’t deserve,” etc etc. But I know, because I couldn’t control it, I’d have to leave it alone. So now I’ve arrived rather late, at a similar conclusion of another thing I must deny myself due to how it can never be a resolvable contradiction (for me). I think it was jesus who said (according to grandma’s bible) that if your right eye causes you to sin cast it out. If a revolutionary could paint the mystical soul it would be a macabre creature… stitched and resewn on wings, scars, busted knuckles etc etc.

I am quite clear on a few things and the utter failure of capitalism-imperialism and its rule is one of those things that I have much clarity on. Will I slip up? will it be as easy as alcohol for me? will the enemy be able to conspire against me? will there ever be any normalcy in my life? will it always be ad hoc salvaging? will revcoms ever beat back lumpen/petty bourgeois culture and ideas to be the undisputed voice for the semi-colonies? I may never know these things we may not like all the answers to those things, but I’m quite sure there’s millions of people who like me will never forgive this system for what not only it’s done to the world or ourselves but the choices and contradictions we’ve been forced to wrestle with due to its rule and its utter disregard for our humanity will never be forgiven and whose dogged focus is to bring about a Revolutionary Communist World.

Amerikkkan media feels compelled to state each and every time election talk is brought up that it’s the “Big lie” to claim it was stolen and to be unequivocal about Putin and Russia’s invasion as to the cause of the war in Ukraine and to be clear on the need to support Ukraine’s effort to win the war, it makes sure it always says it was a coup attempt on Jan 6 and that Amerikkka is a democracy. All this because truth is important. One of my favorites is Ben Fletcher who is a petty bourgeois radical who says it’s right to defend Ukraine simply because its unlawful. I wish I could search his writings talks etc but I’d wager dollars to donuts he has never said arms should be shipped to Palestine to defend against or push out Israeli troops, not even New Afrikans should arm themselves to fight back when pigs kill us nor although he says he said it was wrong to invade Iraq etc I’d bet he never said Iraqi’s should be aided to kill U.$. troops or he or any “leftist” in KKKville should support the counter-insurgency I’d bet had he and his ilk done so it would’ve had an effect on secular forces so now only Islamists are given a voice and many even long for the klan to return.

The labor aristocracy and other layers of the bourgeois here are quite in lock step. The only questions are which bourgeois party will win elections or steal them. We are looking at fascist forces, wars, possible world wars, environmental devastation, national oppression and we daily witness the consequences of what having a shining city on a hill entails and what it forces on others to do to survive not being a part of the in crowd, but this is no one’s concern and misleaders like the media or “Labor Leader” Ben Fletcher can only parrot Democratic or anti-Republican talkin’ points and even so called communists or at least “Marxists” can not see beyond bourgeois horizons.

For these reasons we must shore-up our ranks and connect with the broader proletariat movement. As its quite clear we will be in the wilderness for sometime, only practice and work will forge us ahead and conquer our bourgeois and lumpen demons. We can not be idle, not in prison, not school houses, not under capitalism-imperialism. They’re not idle. Steel sharpens steel. Proletariat morals and practice forever taken to a new level. These last paragraphs are not a mis-step; I contend we defeat our demons when we keep bourgeois morality clearly juxtaposed to proletariat morality and ideology. They currently are running laps around us here in amerikkka. Most people can conceive of “the end of the world” but can’t conceive of a New World with new social relations and a new mode of production that they themselves must work for and this is our failure to own.

Yet in this answer we can show a new type of Revcom responsive to the extensive body of work of real Maoism and revolutionary practice. Unbroken macabre spirits on display and in motion will never win over someone like Ben Fletcher the Mis-leader, nor bourgeois media but we can clearly show the dividing line between bourgeois (lumpen included) and revolutionary-proletariat-feminist-nationalists. This could be quite a powerful thing, and because there’s larger forces at work, if nothing else, self-discipline and revolutionary “consistent” practice at the very least may deny the enemy another victory.

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[Theory] [Polemics] [Idealism/Religion] [ULK Issue 79]
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Some Discussions on Bad Ideas Pt. 1

A core aspect of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the bond between theory and practice. For instance, there is a theoretical analysis of the labor aristocracy in the imperialist countries and the practical application of that theory is not organizing around labor aristocrat interests. There is a theoretical analysis of building independent institutions among the masses; and the practical application of that theory is building United Struggle Within grievance campaigns, building Maoist prison study groups, building peace between lumpen organizations through the United Front for Peace in Prisons, etc. There is a theoretical analysis of revolution; and the practical application of that theory is boycotting elections, refusing to use armed struggle as a bargain chip and instead see it as a necessity, etc. These are just some broad and simplified examples of the relationship between theory and practice to paint the picture. Incorrect practice and incorrect theories go hand in hand: one strengthens the existence of another.

The main purpose of this article is to start a series of articles akin to the “Ongoing Discussion on Organizing Strategy” series which started among USW comrades.(1) The series has been productive on maintaining a two-line struggle within the USW and the overall prison movement, and delves deep into the many questions raised in organizing behind bars. We hope to bring that energy of discussing strategy and tactics of Maoist organizing behind bars to that of political line both inside and outside U.$. prisons. These bad ideas aren’t dividing line questions (such as the labor aristocracy question or the class nature of the Chinese Communist Party in 2022) that MIM(Prisons) struggle with other communist organizations through polemics. Rather, these are day-to-day bad ideas and attitudes that many people take up within the communist movement (even good comrades). They enforce liberalism during line struggle, and stunt scientific thinking. Let’s begin.

1. Defending Revisionism Through One’s Laurels and Clout

One example of this was when Joma Sison repeatedly refused to acknowledge the national contradiction as principal in the United $tates, and communists refused and still refuse to criticize due to his historically integral role in the People’s War in the Philippines.(2) Communists don’t look at persynal laurels or prestige when it comes to criticism; everything and everyone that partakes in bad practice and bad beliefs is targetable for criticism. If the Sison defenders said “historically and currently, the United $tates’ principal contradiction has always been class and is currently class” then perhaps there will be more legitimacy for line struggle and discussion albeit it still being a chauvinist and revisionist take. However, what does Joma Sison being a historically great revolutionary leader that rectified the errors of the Communist Party of Philippines in the 60s-70s have to do with the fact that the current United $tates’ society has developed around the oppressed nations in a historical materialist manner?

Now if a former neo-nazi prisoner who joined the United Struggle Within brings up how the white workers are the masses, then bringing up his past identity as a neo-nazi would be more relevant in criticizing this individual comrade to the correct line from an incorrect one since his past practice as an Amerikan First World lumpen could influence his current politcs. Ultimately, bringing up his past errors (or victories even) is only a small part of criticizing the comrade, and ultimately it’s the combating of that idea and political practice that will be the final nail in the coffin of getting rid of that bad line from that comrade’s thinking and most importantly the overall movement. A part of this problem contains in identity politics, which leads to the next point.

2. Incorrect Handling of Identity Politics

Identity politics has been a hot topic among communists with some seeing it as non-antagonistic with Marxism and with many joining the conservative reactionary bandwagon of fascists ranting about “woke” culture and post-modernism. The classic Amerikan value of pragmatist empiricism (the idea of the only way to truly know anything is through directly experiencing it) is antithetical to Maoism, and it is our stance that post-modernism and identity politics can be looked at it the same or adjacent manner in terms of philosophy. The Maoist doctrine of cadres learning from practice and the masses learning revolution through waging revolution can become Amerikan pragmatism if we aren’t careful.

Today in 2022, this pragmatist empiricist idea is popular among the oppressed nations represented in popular day-to-day slogans such as “don’t speak over (insert a particular oppressed group)” and “stay in your lane” when a person not belonging to a certain social group (gender, religion, sexuality, nation, etc.) is talking about issues pertaining to said certain group since they don’t directly experience that group’s existence. Some revisionists see no problem with identity politics and post-modernism, and think that identity politics and post-modernism must be a good thing because the fascists are complaining about it and complaining about it must mean one is a fascist. Other revisionists have straight up adopted national chauvinism. When the masses criticize the communists with “a lot of communists are racist and don’t really care about black/brown/indigenous people” these chauvinists resort to taking up fascist talking points and attitudes against identity politics and post-modernism.

It is an important Maoist doctrine that post-modernism and pragmatist-empiricism are both unscientific capitalist garbage that poisons the masses. It is another Maoist doctrine that the masses under oppression will go to the current superstructure of the enemy (capitalist philosophies, capitalist institutions, the capitalist state, etc.) during times of oppression. When communists have failed the masses of the United $tates for 400 years by supporting the white workers and putting the national contradiction beneath white worker interests at best and attacking oppressed nation masses alongside the white workers at worst, then perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when the oppressed nations go to classical Amerikan pragmatism and post-modernism of relying on lived experiences and changing discourse instead of dialectical materialist thinking and revolution. This is especially true for the case where the oppressed nations are majority labor aristocrat as well – the class where this ideology grows the most ferociously amongst.

The communists have failed in Afghanistan with Soviet revisionism, so the Afghan masses went to the existing superstructures within the semi-colonial, semi-feudal nation such as Jihad instead of people’s war. Instead of lambasting the Afghan (or in this case the Chicano, First Nations, and New Afrikan) masses, perhaps communists should get their heads out of their asses, and try to appreciate why Jihad/pragmatist-empiricism as an idea (despite its reactionary content) is so popular among the masses in the first place.(3)

One interesting thing we see as a Maoist prison cell is that identity politics tend to be less popular among prisoners which perhaps shows that the oppressed nation labor aristocracy might go for identity politics for its liberation far more than the oppressed nation lumpen who might go for conspiracy theories or capitalist boot-strap mentality which we see more popular among prisoners and less with the student activist types that concern themselves more with identity politics. This leads to the third point.

3. Hating the Masses for their Reactionary Ideas under Oppression

Identity politics isn’t the only bourgeois idea that the masses hold from the current capitalist superstructure. There are other ideas such as patriarchy, homophobia, pulling one-self up by the bootstraps, voting for the lesser evil, superstition, conspiracy theories, and religion just for starters. When the masses show these tendencies, many communists throw them into the enemy camp and treat them as if they were enemies. For example, a communist student activist type might walk up to a Black Hebrew Israelite and the topic of anti-semitism could pop up. The communist university student will call the Black Israelite a fascist for his views and say the Black Israelite should stay in his lane about Jewish issues. When Mao said that we want politics in command and political line is principal, he didn’t mean that our friends and enemies are determined by their personal beliefs (whether that be politics, religion, moral principles, cultural traditions, etc.). Mao didn’t say “any Chinese peasant who participates in foot binding should be ostracized from the movement.” And we can argue that foot binding is much more backwards and patriarchal than the common patriarchal/reactionary cultural values held by oppressed nations masses in 2022. In fact, Mao’s method of finding out who our friends and enemies were in China was by looking at a group of people’s relation to the means of production, relation to consumption, and relations to other classes; and through this method he concluded that the Chinese peasantry were friends not enemies despite binding women’s feet so they don’t run away from their husbands being a popular cultural trend among said class.

Let’s look at the New Afrikan labor aristocracy as an example. We can see that the class basically has access to the means of production through its citizen status much like the Amerikan workers in 2022 (dead labor of third world proletarians; higher wages gained through super-exploitation of Africa, Asia, and Latin America; ability to buy and invest in stocks; etc.) We can also look at how it consumes far more than the international proletariat of Africa, Asia, and Latin America; but consistently consume less than its Amerikan counterparts such as how New Afrikan labor aristocrats are disproportionately more likely to live under the country’s poverty line compared to Amerikan labor aristocrats. We can also find out how its relations to the Amerikan labor aristocrat are far more hostile than friendly as the poorer an Amerikan is the more likely they are to hold extreme chauvinsit views (i.e. rednecks).

However, as embourgeoisfication of the New Afrikan workers solidified during the later half of the 20th century, their relation to the migrant proletarians (and migrants in general) of the Third World became more hostile as well: previous contradictions which were relatively non-antagonistic such as that in relation to the Mexican/Nigerian/Caribbean migrants are more antagonistic in our current day. So with these factors in mind, we can argue that this class of people (yes that includes the Black Hebrew Israelite with anti-Semitic tendencies) have interests for revolution against Amerika but might be more reserved when it comes to internationalism and involving the class in it self with other nations’ liberations. This is compared to the Hindi proletariat who will be far less wishy washy as a class in involving themselves with the struggle of the Dravidian proletariat when reaching class consciousness. So in conclusion, with proper political organizing the New Afrikan labor aristocracy would be a friend of the revolution.

Instead of this method of finding out who our friends and enemies are, most communists consider friends as people who have the correct takes on an xyz issue most people don’t even care about and enemies as people who hold reactionary views. One source of this ideology is how Amerikan culture promotes individual thinking and behavior as the mover of history rather than class struggle. With this mindset, racism is a problem started by individual Amerikans thinking and behaving racist and will end when individual Amerikans cease thinking and behaving racist. The Maoist method on the other hand sees that racism is a problem that was brought to inception by remnants of feudal European aristocrats (a class of people) stealing this land at gunpoint and trickery from what would become the modern First Nations, and enslaving what would become modern New Afrikans and militaristically invading the Mexican nation’s land, solidifying what would become modern Chicanos all for the various Amerikan classes’ interests (whether that be the big capitalist class, the small business owning capitalist class, or even the common Amerikan worker).

The Maoist solution is for these national contradictions to be resolved through the oppressed nations overthrowing Amerika through revolution. These historical events of Amerikan land conquest, slavery, and genocide were also crucial in acting as primitive accumulation for global capitalism-imperialism in general not only for Amerika. There is no modern day $outh Korea, Japan, Au$trailia, I$rael, $audi Arabia, Kanada, and so on without Amerikan slavery, Amerikan land conquest, and Amerikan genocide. Therefore proletarian dictatorship must be established to resolve this contradiction as well as overthrow of Amerika. But because of individualist Amerikan culture, national chauvinism is something treated with tone and etiquette led by student youth tired of their parents’ old backwards ways. This leads to the fourth problem.

4. The Sub-Culture Problem

Many newer generation communists have begun their politics through the internet. The original MIM was one of the first communist parties to have a website and put credence in the importance of the internet. It certainly is a politically important tool if it’s a major way youth are becoming interested in Lenin, and how all the imperialist governments partake in it in different ways from the FBI surveilling political internet forums to the Chinese Communist Party banning entire social media outlets. However, what the old MIM didn’t predict is that communist groups on social media aren’t the ones that primarily influence kids to read Mao Zedong and study the Black Panthers. Communist groups are far outshadowed online by memes, twitch streamers, tik tok spheres, instagram pages, internet forums, and the likes when it comes to converting kids to communism than communist organization internet presence. This has given rise to the problem of communism becoming more akin to a sub-culture talked about on social media sites like twitter and reddit than a political movement. Different political stances from Maoism, Trotskyism, all the way to Stirnerite Anarchism cease to become guides to action, but a thing to put on your bio. Various people’s wars and nations at war become more akin to fandoms for TV shows to obsess and argue over rather than a movement to popularize and create awareness for. Political line ceases to become a belief and action that one takes, but a take one has so they can get on the algorithm. Line struggle turn into flame wars with no purpose of uniting with others, but exist only to express one’s individual self for the cathartic feeling of having the correct line.

In day-to-day real life, communism might be becoming less and less pariah’d in the eyes of the average Amerikan; but communism itself is becoming more and more revisionist, more and more toothless, more and more a pop culture joke, and more and more a harmless icon of a once revolutionary movement that became hijacked by the bourgeoisie after its death, as Lenin spoke of. We took 20 steps forward and a million steps back when it comes to fighting against anti-communist culture leftover from the red scare era. Turns out Amerikan individualism was far more of an obstacle in making Maoism popular than the legacy of McCarthyism.

We shouldn’t throw away the internet with the bathwater as it indeed took a certain part in making the oppressor nation Amerikan youth become interested in revolutionary politics, but we should also be acutely aware of the sub-culture problem. A single New Afrikan, Chican@, or Indigenous member of the masses understanding the Maoist concept of reform and revolution and practicing to boycott the elections while not calling themselves communist nor wearing red armbands is 100 times more valuable to us in spreading popular support against imperialism than 300 college students with a Stalin portrait in their dorm rooms who thinks the white worker is a friend.

Conclusion

Many of these problems can only really be solved through the development of our movement as a whole. Even writing and publishing this article in Under Lock & Key can only do so much. Our dedicated prisoner comrades who read this will certainly be influenced, and perhaps they will get more insight as to the problems of the “activist” scene that they will be adjacent with once they get out; but when it comes to student youth abandoning Liberalism or the masses on the street taking up scientific thinking, it is up for the MIM (and not just the prison ministry) to develop and go to the masses as Mao said. For our readers and supporters outside, we challenge them to set up geographical MIM cells or work with MIM(Prisons) to develop the modern MIM. For our readers and supporters inside, we list these problems of the movement to stay sharp and aware once they get released.

Notes:
1. starting in ULK 73, prisoners write in for a copy of the full series
2. MIM, Applied internationalism: The difference between Mao Zedong and Joma Sison.
3. Wiawimawo, January 2016, Islam a Liberation Theology, Under Lock & Key No. 48.

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[Theory] [Idealism/Religion] [Education] [ULK Issue 79]
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Are Ideas in a Book Materialist?

learning from experience
This drawing is a response to one of the questions from our intro study program on the materialist method of knowledge
[Responding to “What did you disagree with?” when studying “Where Do Correct Ideas Come From?”]

I disagreed with the basis of idealism not being action. To think is action. Thought can be provoked by stimuli collected by the body’s sensors, which is more reactionary. Or you can create a thought or an idea, but this is action. Mental action nonetheless but action all-in-all. And it must be understood physical action comes from mental action. As I write this I understand the materialist method is physical action. Well I guess I don’t have a disagreement but rather a question, is ideas placed on paper in book format considered materialism?


Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: As comrade Melo X explains, we can have thoughts that are reactions to physical stimuli, or we can create thoughts. But this “creation” of thoughts is also a response to the physical world. What we might call reason, abstracts concepts based on our experience with real phenomena, or physical things we can interact with.

“the faculty of understanding is not a ‘thing in and of itself,’ because it becomes real only in contact with some object.”(1)

Dietzgen explained how the idealists see the mind as separate from the sense perceptions of the material world. So Melo X is correct to see the unity between them. The comrade also distinguishes creating thoughts from more passive perception. This realization demonstrates the role of reason in developing scientific understanding from our perception of the physical world around us.

We also agree that our thoughts impact our actions. Hence we stress class consciousness as an educational process that is a product of our interactions with the class system.

So, are ideas in a book part of the materialist method? Well, it depends on what ideas. A book can promote contemplative reasoning. Bourgeois books will promote bourgeois thinking that harbors much idealistic reasoning in order to deny the contradictions inherent to the capitalist system. All that said, 99% of our materialist understanding of the world is based in history, and therefore must come from books (or other historical record). If we discarded books in our scientific pursuits we could not continue to build on the knowledge of the past, but would be stuck relearning the same things with each generation.

It is a crass form of materialism that says everything must come from persynal experience and direct interaction with the physical world. Rather we must learn from the actions of the people who came before us, and as we develop new theories they must be tested by us in practice through action and not just tested in our contemplative, subjective minds. Another way to look at this is that books are recorded practice and direct experiences of other people. Frederick Douglas’ writings are from eir practice with chattel slavery, and Lenin’s writings are from eir practice with the first proletarian revolution. When we say that all knowledge is 99% history, we’re not saying we should spend all our time learning using books but to see it as a starting point so we can make new practice in the future.

Notes:
1. Joseph Dietzgen, The Nature of Human Brain Work: An Introduction to Dialectics, PM Press, 2010, p.58.

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[Economics] [Principal Contradiction] [U.S. Imperialism] [Africa] [Theory] [ULK Issue 79]
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A Look At the People's Struggle In Ghana: How Capitalism Exploits

“We can’t afford rent and we’re sleeping outside. The youths are jobless” -Yaw Barimah, Ghanaian taxidriver

In late June 2022, street protests erupted in Ghana’s capital city, Accra. The above quote matches the general feel and demands of the masses who took to the streets. Most lay persons are aware of the current effects of inflation on the daily lives of the average people. Many of us have not made the necessary connection that such inflation and other tricks capitalists use to increase the amount of surplus value extracted from the populace, are inherently apart of the internal dynamics of capitalism itself. Our failure to understand this brings our protests, and dissent to a screeching halt once the point of economic reformism is reached.

In countries dominated under imperialist neo-colonialism, such as Ghana, the weight of economic exploitation is maximized. As conditions sharpen, the exploited classes of Ghana are beginning to stir. On July 4th four teacher’s unions went on strike in opposition to the neo-colonial government’s refusal to pay ‘cost-of-living allowances’ of at least 20% of their wages.

The government holds the position that due to ‘Annual inflation’ now reaching 27.6% and the accompanied reduction in value of the Cedi(1), they’re unable to pay this allowance. The system of imperialism works in a way that parasitic countries like amerika hold economic hegemony over Third World countries like Ghana. This allows for the U.$. currency, the dollar, to dictate the value of the national currencies of Third World countries. What this means for the Ghanaian and other Third World workers is that because their wages are paid in money, the national currency, the amount of their pay, although the same on paper, is devalued along with national currency.

Month-on-Month inflation rates for the Cedi

So the exploitation of the Ghanaian worker has intensified. Their labor is still required to be done at the same rate, same hours labored, same amount of labor, and same wage paid. What has changed is the value of their labor power; with inflation, the amount of cedi it takes to maintain the worker’s needs is greater. Yet wages have not increased, or not increased as much.

To allow the common people to overstand our common interest in overthrowing capitalist dictatorship it is necessary to understand and breakdown plainly, the inner-working of capitalism and how it effects the lives of the people.

In Ghana, as described above, and many other places around the world right now, the mechanism being used by capitalist exploiters is the depression of wages. This generally occurs when the wages of the worker are below the value of their labor power. Labor power here means human work, the sum total of a person’s physical and mental effort.(2) Labor power is the primary factor in society’s production. Uniquely however, only in capitalist society is labor power a commodity.

The process of commodification of labor power manifests itself in two conditions: (1) The worker is ‘free’ in that they can ‘choose’ to sell their labor as a commodity. (2) The worker owns nothing aside from their labor power (what the mind/body can produce). They have no means of productions, or means of living and must sell their labor power to live.

Therefore, what we know as ‘employment’ in the capitalist economy consists of capitalists buying the labor power of the laborer and converting them into hired slaves.

The exploitation of workers is examined by the advent of surplus value. The degree of exploitation is examined by the rate of surplus value. The capitalist devises ways to maximize this rate of surplus value, which brings me back to depression and deduction of wages.

To comprehend wages, we must first overstand that wages are a ‘disguise’. They are a way to fool the people into thinking they’re getting equal value for their labor.

Marx said, “wages are not what they appear to be. They are not the value or price of labor, but a disguised form of the value or price of labor power.”(3) Therefore the capitalists notion that they pay the worker the price of their labor is completely fabricated.

A key in understanding political economy is to comprehend the distinction between labor and labor power. Under capitalism what the worker is selling isn’t labor, but is labor power, which is capable of being commodified, while the former (labor) isn’t.

The next logical question is why? why is labor not a commodity? Commodities exist in their final state prior to being sold, labor doesn’t. Also commodities are exchanged for equal value, according to the law of value. Therefore if labor was a commodity the capitalist should pay the full value created by labor, which would eliminate surplus value (the source of profit), which would eliminate capitalism.

If labor was a commodity, it would have value and that value would be determined by the amount of embodied labor. This can’t happen. How can the value of a phenomenon be determined by the value of itself?

What labor is is the process of labor power. Therefore the wage paid to the laborer is equal to the value of the labor power. In other words, it is the amount required to keep the proletariat as a class alive and working – that is the value of labor power. Whatever extra the worker’s labor power produces above the value of labor power (the wage paid to keep the proletariat alive) is called surplus value and it is what is ‘exploited’ by the capitalist. The wage itself is the chain that binds the exploiter to the exploited. The revolutionary demand must be to abolish the wage system.

The term ‘cost of living allowance’, caused me to think of our need to overstand where the idea of ‘cost of living’ or ‘standard of living’ has its roots.

We begin by concluding that these are two distinctive wages. In the political economy of capitalism, there are nominal wages and there are real wages. Nominal wages are expressed by the wage payment of money.

In our quest to find the ‘cost of living’, we can’t use nominal wages as representation. The cost of living will only be reflected by the amount of means of livelihood which can be bought by the money wage (nominal wage). What the nominal wage can purchase is the cost/standard of living and is called real wages.

Declining value of Ghana’s cedi priced in U.$. dollars

What is taking place in Ghana is that there is a contradiction between the nominal and real wages. The nominal wage is being held in place, while the real wage is in a downward trend, a decline.

“When the purchasing power of money declines and the prices of the means of livelihood go up, the same amount of the nominal wage can only be exchanged for a smaller amount of means of livelihood. Then the real wage falls. Sometimes even if the nominal wage goes up a bit, but less than the increase in prices of the means of livelihood, the real wage will still decline.”(4)

This is essentially what we observe playing out in real time in Ghana and elsewhere. As the above quote alludes to, simple economic reforms like increase in wage will not end this phenomenon, the elimination of surplus value is the only solution. The bourgeoisie will always use the tools of inflation, price increases and rent increases to increase the contradiction between the nominal wage (money paid) and the real wage (what can be bought) to increase the rate of surplus value accumulation (the exploitation of the people).

In conclusion, I want to point out that while the protests organized by Arise Ghana and the work strike by the four teacher’s unions are significant struggles for the daily hurdles of life for the Ghanaian people, the people must be made to distinguish between the causes and effects of economic hardship. When a sick person has a cold and a running nose, they don’t merely get a tissue for the nose without curing the cold itself. The people exploited by imperialism must synthesize the economic and political struggles.

Closing with a word from Marx,

“The working class should not forget: in this daily struggle they are only opposing the effect, but not the cause that produces this effect; they are only delaying the downward trend, not changing the direction of the trend; they are only suppressing the symptom, not curing the disease.”(5)

DOWN WITH CAPITALIST-IMPERIALISM!!!

Notes:
(1) The Cedi is the national currency of Ghana.
(2) Fundamentals of Political Economy, edited by George C. Wang,;Chapt.4,pg.59
(3)K.Marx,Critique of the Gotha Program,selected work of Marx &Engels Vol.3
(4)Fundamentals of Political Economy,chapt.4,pg72
(5)K.Marx, Wages,Prices and Profit, Selected Works of Marx &Engels, Vol.2

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Tasks of the Revolutionary

The task of a revolutionary, regardless of ones political/ideological or cultural leanings, is to make revolution. Revolution is all about change. The biggest change that a revolutionary must undertake is the equivalent to in the religion of Islam what is called Jihad. Jihad is not limited to what most Western religious enthusiasts have been led to believe, the meaning of Jihad goes much deeper than the concept of crusades or mere bombings. The biggest Jihad or battle that one can have is the battle for control over oneself.(als see MIM(Prisons)’s study pack on religion) To the revolutionary, this task is important because he/she has to become the change they wish to produce to the world.

A constant improving of one’s character with the righteousness of ideals that have went through the rigors of tests to be found or rather proved to be correct for the overall ordeal of advancement. Once again before this can be felt by the untapped but potential revolutionary or the dumb, deaf & blind brother/sister clinging to a culture intended to kill them, the revolutionary must make this change (revolution) within his/her own personal character. This is what should be used to provide an example for others of whom we are trying to reach. This also however leads us to the conclusion that people no matter the fact that we come from common ways of living & thinking, are still each different.

This statement doesn’t mean that I subscribe to individualism, because true revolutionaries think from the communal mindset. However, since we are far removed from that concept, we must find ways that are productive to lead one to the communal mindset that already exists in us naturally. The idea of individualism is one of the main obstacles to overall community change, because we’re not acting as organisms moving together for the betterment of the body (society). But that doesn’t mean that all aspects of individualism are wrong, for example, “each according to ability.” So while some may think of us all developing the mind of the commune will lead us all to thinking like the Borg from Star Trek (everyone thinking the same thing), I see it more like the Smurfs. Yes the Smurfs. They had a unified community, accompanied with everyone playing a specific role. This way shouldn’t just be relegated to one’s own political vanguard or the military brigade. We have to find some means of communicating these ideals to everyone. Since we all share a common enemy, all of our efforts have to revolve around crushing that threat.

If we relegate ourselves to constantly battling over which of the communal methods hold the stronger validity, we’ll all end up moving in our own directions & probably never initializing the changes that we are the basis of our citizenship within these groups. We’ll more than likely continue to develop the mentalities they would like for us to develop, which will ultimately reduce us to caricature. All opinions are not equal & there is such a thing as counter-productive revisionism. Our vanguard elements are going to have to develop the use of Democratic Centralism. This process however must be done without the bitterness & rancor that can only come from egoism. In fact egoism must be crushed, because great man personalities have no place in revolution. Revolution, whether politically or through armed struggle, is all about the altering of a society that is crushing the life force out of all of us, this is not an individual problem, once again it is communal!

Dialectical materialism is all about examining things within their total sequence & seeing the pros & cons in the struggles of the past. The obvious reason is to better equip ourselves from suffering the same fate as a result of the same failures of our previous brave brothers/sisters engaged at trying to crush the outside enemy culture & to utilize whatever methods may be useful to strengthen what we already have. A constant improvisation still needs to be done, but this doesn’t mean that we should stop studying people’s war. We have to study the principles of people’s war & learn to interpret them to fit our overall situation here. Most wars of liberation took place in the countryside of their respective lands. Our situation is different in that Amerikan settler-colonialism is modernized & at least 80-90% of Amerika is industrialized, so the nerve centers of this nation are indeed the cities. This means that hip shooting cops are all around us, thus making them easier to reach.

In the opening phases of our struggle for liberation, I feel just as Comrade Jackson felt, that the military proper must be kept hidden & separate from the political front. You see the role of a political revolutionary is totally different than the military who are engaged in armed struggle against macabre freaks. The guerrilla chief is tasked with communicating to his soldiers that they must protect their political peoples at their work. If we let our “voices” die to machine gun fire, no knock invasions, the anonymous tip, political incarceration & even the work of agent provocateurs & class defectors, then our dream of eventual freedom will more than likely die with those brave brothers/sisters. The guerrilla chief however must also have a thorough understanding of the true nature of fascism, the modern industrial state, the economic landscape etc. The reason is that if one group dies or is not as effective the guerrilla chief & his band of revolutionaries can still keep the revolution alive.

As of now our main problem is the fact that our vanguard & military groups have shifted their focus from revolution to clinging to the culture of anti-people crimes. The settler-colonial strategy is law & order which ultimately means prison – our tactic is perfect disorder which leads to the proletariat & the lumpen creating mass disorder to work against the beast (cops) & their vigilante supporters. In 1969, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover declared that “there will no longer be a Black Panther Party in the U.S.” The Black Panther Party was not the only revolutionary group & in spite of popular belief, they were not just a group working exclusively in the interest of Blacks. The Black Panther Party like almost every other revolutionary group, was a communist organization that utilized the principles they learned from successful communist victories, from examples such as Mao Zedong and his Red Book. They formed alliances with many other revolutionary groups and because the Black situation stood out more (& still does) they were thought to be the overall vanguard party to even other political & military vanguards. So the goal wasn’t to just fix conditions in the Black community. That was their primary objective, but they understood that if you just focused exclusively on the black conditions and fixing only our areas, we would have to ghettoize other segments of society that would equal Mexicans, Chican@s, First Nations, etc.

To stop the progressive elements of unity among different cultural/revolutionary groups, the establishment caused the leaders of these groups to distrust their own members. This was done by the government from planting spies in these groups, along with wiretaps, surveillance, to out sending letters to leaders that were supposed to have come other leaders declaring war between the groups. The goals the establishment used largely worked and eventually several key leaders either went into hiding, left the country, or were even assassinated while the political prisoners suffered death legally and quasi-legally.

Of course progressive thinking was still held as an ideal in some people’s minds and this led to groups that eventually turned against the community even further by becoming gangs. Community Revolution in Progress became the goal for Raymond Washington and Stanley “Tookie” Williams or Brotherly Love Overriding Oppression & Destruction became the acronym for Blood. These were good ideas and could’ve worked if we had received the freedom first. The freedom I’m referring to must come first in the form of a free-dome because our situation was more psychological than physical. This means that our minds were created for the sole purpose of getting us to act against our even better interests. This shouldn’t be understated since the mindsets that we have now didn’t exist in communal Africa. These mindsets is what led us to industrializing this country which ultimately our labor was used as the down payment on the system of economics that determines one’s status in this country.

Without the mindsets that we adopted (through long usage) we would’ve long been better equipped at resisting. But since chattel slavery lasted for 400 years and we haven’t been free 200 years, how can we hope to win freedom, especially since once again we are still clinging to the ideas that created our mindsets in the first place? Since it is our design that gave beauty to the world, which should be easy to see since others are quick to pick up on our culture, even sometimes more readily than we are, we must go back to our own design. This could work for the betterment of not only us as a group however, this could be used as a basis to show others righteous examples that could ultimately lead to a change. But it must begin now. For us to delay what must be done today is like asking someone else to undertake to aid us in a liberation effort that must be engaged in by our own efforts.

Another problem working against us is our inability to understand the difference between reform and change. Largely the only righteous peoples who were working for us are the people who were attacked by the outside enemy culture. Anyone else was used because their stance wasn’t revolutionary. I’m not dismissing people like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks etc, but I know that the main reason why they are mentioned over people such as Malcolm X or Huey Newton is their view against the necessity not only of violence and the correct usage of armed struggle, but it also mainly rests with them telling us to escape from the culture that we embrace. Malcolm X’s image is only now used because at the end of his life he was said to have accepted whites. Part of that was true, but he never said they weren’t devils just because he converted to orthodox Islam. What he said was that in his view the devil (white man) could only be redeemed in his opinion through Islam because Christianity has not redeemed them from not only killing us, but also starting wars with other whites.

So people like Martin, through his practice of pacifism and his refusal to go against the culture of Amerikanism, resulted in him winning a few reforms which are only offered to us as tokens, these tokens however are not change. Change is why we are no longer looked at as second class citizens in a world where some are held above others based on racial & economic reasons. His Imperial Majesty who heavily inspired Bob Marley to later embrace Rastafarianism, said that “until the philosophy that the color of one’s skin is as less significant as the color of one’s eyes there will always be war.” The road to freedom means freedom, justice & equality for all regardless of one’s ethnicity, political views, religions, spirituality etc.

We will have this freedom even at the cost of total war. We come to the conclusion that violence to us may be the only recourse. This violence shouldn’t be tied to romanticism, it’s about us altering the conditions that are restricting our passage to freedom. I humbly and passionately respect all the sincere people who gave their life and ideas to produce men like me whose goal is to move further than when they left off and that’s even for those of whom I disagree with. I recognize that passion leads to different outcomes and different results, as long as they were intended to benefit us as a whole than whether I disagree or not I still have the fact that their life force was used to alter the conditions that is for the betterment of our lives as a whole. My stance as a whole is rooted around us globally enjoying freedom, justice & equality. I realize the imperial process is only complete if the parent imperial nation - USA - is strong so I’m all for bringing Amerika down to her knees. Anyone who sincerely has that as a goal I embrace, white or Black I embrace, but it must begin now.

Long Live Guerrilla Chief George Jackson!

Long Live All those Who Don’t Fear Freedom!


Plastick of MIM(Prisons) responds:This comrade here has given us a core learning element of leading the masses by example – a new socialist world and a new human being will have to constantly remove the old world’s reactionary culture and habits.

One thing this comrade has mentioned that we are in disagreement is in regards to fascism. Originally, the comrade has spoke of fascist Amerika which has been changed to settler-colonial Amerika by this responder. We define fascism as a new strategy by the bourgeois dictatorship when it can no longer rule the way it has ruled before. We believe that Amerika is likely to turn fascist through a political-economic crisis which is integral to capitalism-imperialism. However, we believe that the current state of methods such as police killings, imprisonment, and exploiting the majority of the world for superprofits and high level of consumption has always been the way that Amerika has ruled. When this social-democratic strategy of sharing the piece of the imperialist pie to the oppressor nation (Amerikans) ceases to work due to an ever deepening of the crisis, then fascism will indeed come. Up until now, Amerika has maintained relative strength, and Sun Tzu taught us to attack when the enemy is helpless.

Long Live George Jackson!

Long Live All those Who Don’t Fear Freedom!

Plastick

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An Ongoing Discussion On Organizing Strategy Pt.4

Analysis based in dialectical materialism

Within the prison movement there is much talk about ‘political education’ and ‘raising consciousness’. Truthfully, even when We reflect on recent and distant episodes in Our collective struggles against the bourgeoisie, many of us often lament upon the fact that a key ingredient that has always been lacking from Our movements, parties, organizations, and the unorganized masses, is the lack of a systemic and organized framework to political education. Assata Shakur expressed her criticism of the Black Panther Party for the same reason. Veterans of the Chican@ movement i’ve spoke with have expressed the same criticisms, stating that had more deliberate, organized approaches been given back in the days it may have progressively altered the cultural nationalist tendencies of the movement towards a revolutionary nationalist praxis. Yet and still, today We’re still stressing, and rightly so, the paramount importance of political education. However, the question has become, must become, what is political education, how do we apply it, and why is it so important?

Political education takes many forms, and phases, and the correct application of it, or what is paramount for a persyn to know is dependent upon the conditions one finds themselves in. Thus i begin with Fanon,

“It is commonly thought with criminal flippancy that to politicize the masses means from time to time haranguing them with a major political speech…But political education means opening up the mind, awakening the mind, and introducing it to the world…To politicize the masses is not and cannot be to make a political speech. It means driving home to the masses that everything depends on them, that if we stagnate the fault is theirs, and that if we progress, they too are responsible, that there is no demiurge, no illustrious man taking responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people and the magic lies in their hands and their hands alone.” (1)

Now as i was saying conditions will determine quite alot. So it is the line of USW, and many others, that amerika is a settler-neo colonial imperialist empire, and as such holds actual nations of people subjugated, meaning their/our self-development is thwarted, within its borders as well as in the Third World.

Hystory indicated that this line is right and exact. When We recall the process of how amerika was established we understand that it (nation of euro amerikan settlers) settled upon this land, removed, and committed genocide against the native nations of people, some of which are still among us today. So those (the indigenous) are just one group of nations within the borders of amerika, which We call the First Nations. Of course We all know about the forced migration of millions of Africans, and We know they underwent slavery at the hands of those same settlers, as did some Natives. What We often fail to analyze is that slavery, is only an economic system, it is a mode of producing social value, however, to describe the plight of the African people in amerika by mere economic lingo alone is highly insufficient. What is the term that would encapsulate the experience of the economic exploitation, social and political repression that the African people in amerika eventually triumphed over? Slavery? No, servitude? No. That one word which encapsulates that struggle is COLONIALISM.

Well, what the heck is colonialism? Quoting from the Black Liberation Army Political Dictionary;

Colonialism - foreign domination of a country or a people, where the economic, political and military structure is controlled and run by the occupying force. (2)

So African people residing in the United $tates are not merely the offspring of enslaved people, but a colonized people, and because of that diametrically opposed nature of a colonized people to its colonizer, the African people residing in amerika developed organically into a nation, that is a people distinct from the settler by its culture, its language, its land, and thus We call this nation today New Afrika, but others call it Black Amerika, or Black nation, or a host of other titles. No matter the title New Afrikan people are deep down aware that they’re distinct and separate, but the reality of a nation within an empire doesn’t register to some, to most, after a substantial time frame of this reality being obscured from the public consciousness.

Having roots in, but eventually developing distinct from the First Nations, there is the Chican@, and Puerto Rican nations/colonies. Overtime all these domestic colonies subjugated by the settler amerikan empire have developed thru struggle, and have reached a new and different phase of colonialism, called neo-colonialism, which can be characterized by the power structure now formally allowing representatives of these oppressed peoples to integrate into the economic, political and military structures, and in many ways act as a buffer between the ruling class and the masses of neo-colonized people.

This brings me back to Our discussion on organizing, and political education. See, depending on what We organizing for, one will require different political understanding. Fanon says,

“A political informed [person in a colonial situation] is someone who knows that a local dispute is not a crucial confrontation between [them] and [the system]”

“It is the repeated demonstrations for their rights and the repeated labor disputes that politicize the masses.” (3)

So basically what Frantz Fanon is saying here is that first one must understand they are indeed colonized, and this understanding disallows them from settling for any ol’ concession that can come from a ‘local dispute’. And here when he says local, We can put it in Our immediate context and understand it to mean, ‘prison struggles’.

What does this mean? It essentially means that We utilize, and in fact manufacture these ‘repeated demonstrations for their/our rights’ as a means to politicize the masses. However, if We are organizing the masses utilizing such demonstration alone We run into a few pitfalls. The one which i’ll deal with here can be understood by the old saying, “Be careful what you ask for you just might get it.” So in Our context, in the prison movement, what happens to the momentum of the masses, of the people as a whole if We as organizers manufacture a or a few demonstrations and the administration actually concedes? If the masses don’t understand the complexity of Our situation, that We’re colonized, dehumanized, an alienated sub-class, the dregs of the society, and that not only must these realities change, We must change within Ourselves, and We must take part in changing these realities, then the masses the people will quit the struggle after what they’ve perceived to be success, and they’ll resume their normal ways of existence. This pattern is counter-productive to the cause of revolution. We must at all times possible keep the masses active, and that activity pertaining to the struggle. Fanon said, “The colonized subject is at constant risk of being disarmed by any sort of concession.”(4)

So an understanding of what Our issues are, colonialism, neo-colonialism or racism, or individual wrong decision making, will determine the strategies and tactics We take moving forward. If We begin Our study of literature proceeding from the perspective that We’re colonized nations of people, We study how anti-colonial struggles have developed, failed and triumphed around the world. Furthermore We realize that unless an action fundamentally eradicates Our colonial existence than it is only a reform and does not solve Our fundamental problem(s) which stem from Our thwarted development under neo-colonialism. Thus We don’t even seek certain reforms, or concessions, and the ones We do are to advance Our strategic goal.

The question now becomes again HOW to maintain the masses attention before, during, and after demonstrations? The answer leads us to ORGANIZATION. Those who have a study level of political vision must take the initiative in forming real organized organizations. Within these organizations leaders should allow for activities to be carried out by the rank & file and must be sure that activities assigned to a comrade are in alignment with the talents, interests, and abilities of said comrade. In this way one keeps the masses involved and engaged. If able weekly or bi-weekly meetings should be established. Minutes should be kept of the meetings, meaning, write down what you’re doing, what you’re talking about, what are the plans going forward, etc. At said meetings each comrade should have a progress report, which entails what they’ve been doing since the previous meeting.

If a comrade can draw, they should be assigned something to draw. If a comrade can write, they should be assigned something to write. If a comrade has a typewrite they should be tasked with typing up the documents of the group. In fact it is good to take up one project that the entire collective can attribute to. Say a pamphlet, of course you need writers, We need art work, and We’ll need a typist, We’ll need some donations of stamps to circulate it to publishers, and in this way every one not only feels involved, but more importantly feels that immeasurable feeling of accomplishment. In understanding the complexities of Our class (lumpen) We must understand a lot of us have not accomplished much of anything in the way of real world accomplishments. A lot of us have been caged, stagnated in a state of arrested development, since Our pre-teen and teen years, and thus are persynally under-developed in many ways. This feeling of accomplishment motivates and inspires one to continue to chase that good feeling, and particularly when the feeling is derived from doing something productive, it overtime alters a persyn internally, and this is what We, as revolutionaries especially within the lumpen class want most.

Organizations in their many varieties are the vehicles of the people and their struggle. Vanguard elements must seek to organize all aspects of the people’s struggle, all aspects of the people’s lives under their leadership and influence. This doesn’t mean everyone has to or will be a member of a particular leading organizational body. What it means is that organization must make itself seen & heard & felt in each aspect of the people’s lives. The musician they listen to should be expressing some theme derived from the organization. The farmer should have the organization’s line on collectivizing agriculture and land. The prisoner and their family should know that the prisoner, if deemed capable can/will have a place of refuge, work, and re-humanization with the organization. The womyn must know she has a group trustworthy and capable to care for her kids collectively, and ensure her access to safe abortion if necessary. Those in the LGBTQ community must feel at one with the organization, enabled and empowered.

In a nutshell the proper organization will galvanize the popular masses of the people, educating and organizing the most capable from every and all sectors, and from there synthesize the aspirations, and ambitions of the people’s struggle with practical and concrete measures to realize these objectives.

With the formation of Texas T.E.A.M.O.N.E., the Texas USW re-branded, We have formed the vehicle for the Texas prisoner’s struggle. We have thus far established multiple wings which can/will be used to activate the stored away genius of the masses. We have the legal wing for those writ-writing jailhouse lawyers, a space for like minded cats to put their heads together to attack certain aspects of the system that can help us better build the movement. We have established, in its early stages, a wimmins & LGBTQ wing, which is again an avenue for certain people to step up and utilize what they already know how to do, in concert with the rest of the organized body to get what We want. We’ve established the Worker’s wing a lane where people around the state can collectively struggle for worker’s rights, and incorporate those struggles with the others and in combination gain bigger gains…We’ve established and/or influenced the establishment of numerous committees with the members therein playing roles in the ‘wings’ mentioned above. In all this We’ve done well in applying lessons learned from MIM(Prisons), and some of Our own experiences, thus synthesizing theory & practice.

It must be said however that We have made many mistakes. We began organizing as Fanon said, around demonstrations. We learned in practice, some of us without ever having read Fanon, that the masses, and Ourselves could easily get complacent after concessions are made. The mistake came by not initially focusing on ideo-theoretical questions. We had to learn that the truth of the matter that prior to any organization the people in question must sit down and individually intake information, after a certain amount of information has been accumulated they must come together and discuss their findings and thoughts, establish their points of unity, modes of organization, and other such matters. Of course this isn’t to say that all organizations come together like this. Many take on a more spontaneous approach to development and this approach is observed in their style of work.

The re-occurring theme will always be political education, the need for it will never cease, and the need to bring all the people to an active level of consciousness, that is a level where they can be/are active in the struggle.

In Our campaign to end RHU, it was selectively chosen for a multitude of reasons. One of which is to show & prove We can shut it down if & when We organize Ourselves and the people correctly. Because of conditions that prevail in long-term isolation, many of the most radical and politically astute people are in or have been in long-term isolation, if We could multiply those types of elements, and then get them out on the pop city We can make conditions more conductive to politicizing more and more prisoners sending more and more of these to the outside. To illustrate the contradiction that despite the various levels of illegality present within the solitary confinement apparatus, it still continues, and yet We’re the so-called criminals. There is of course the fact that if We can eliminate the punitive answer for dissent then We leave the enemy with little recourse once Our collective resistance picks up. In this way We take a tool out of their tool kit. However, the underlying goal is simply to shut seg down, what if they just capitulated and gave us what We wanted? What becomes of the struggle then? IF that was Our actual GOAL and not a MEANS TO AN END, then Our entire struggle would have been defeated, at least temporarily, not by bullets, or bombs, but by sugar-coated bullets, by concessions, by reforms, which weaken the intensity of contradictions rather than increase them. Mastering this delicate balance will determine the successes and failures of Our organizing methods.

“At first disconcerted, they then realize the need to explain and ensure the colonized’s consciousness does not get bogged down. In the meantime the war goes on, the enemy organizes itself, gathers strength and preempts the strategy of the colonized. The struggle for national liberation is not a question of bridging the gap in one giant stride. The epic is played out on a difficult, day-to-day basis and the suffering endured far exceeds that of the colonial period. Down in the towns the colonists have apparently changed. Our people are happier. They are respected. A daily routine sets in, and the colonized engaged in struggle, the people who must continue to give it their support, cannot afford to give in. They must not think the objective has already been achieved. When the actual objectives of the struggle are described, they must not think they are impossible. Once again, clarification is needed and the people have to realize where they are going and how to get there. The war is not one battle but a succession of local struggles, none of which, in fact, is decisive.” (5)

An Ongoing Discussion

We’ve picked this discussion back up, as some of us felt that somethings were still left unsaid or unclear.

We’ve articulated previously that one’s method to organization is logically dependent upon one’s goals, and also one’s circumstances or conditions. It is Our view that the conditions and circumstances being what they currently are in North amerika, the lumpen-prisoner class is a highly dynamic entity. This class, Our class is also a vacillating class, meaning its members can be like see-saws, moving from one side (revolutionary) to another (reactionary) as their emotions and whims take them. However, We assert that the other classes of North amerika have become so bourgeoisified that the social vehicles for social revolution are so slim to none that the last objectively repressed class in amerika, the class that still has little to no stake in the bourgeois democracy, is the lumpen.

We’ve reached this conclusion by analyzing the social forces and classes within North amerikan society. Observing their material benefits of being cozied up to their bourgeoisie. We’ve observed how and why social movements only advance so far, being largely unwilling, or sometimes unable to carry the struggle to higher levels, due to a certain level of comfort in the status quo. And We logically look to Our own class and see that these factors, though still present are vastly diminished. Therefore, arriving at this class analysis We say that it is most conductive to Our goal of social revolution to invest time and resources into the lumpen in order to politicize them, and that investment should be in proportion to the classes potential to lean towards a revolutionary line and practice.

Now We reach the basic question, how do we maximize the dynamic potential of this vacillating lumpen class? How do We ensure that the majority of lumpen are progressive, neutral, or all the way revolutionary and not objective enemies of the people? The answer again points to ORGANIZATION. The only way to maximize the people’s initiative in general and the lumpen in particular is to formulate them into tightly organized units/groups. The lumpen struggle is a class struggle, and thus We must organize the First World Lumpen on a class basis.

What does this mean, what does this look like? What is a class? There is often mention of the prisoner class, or a particular class of prisoners. However, very rarely do comrades utilize class in a Communist framework.

A ‘Class’ 1) shares a common position in their relation to the means of production; common economic conditions, relative to their labor and appropriation of the social surplus; 2) that they must share a separate way of life and cultural existence; 3) that they must share a set of interests which are antagonistic to other classes; 4) that they must share a set of social relations,;i.e. a sense of unity which extends beyond local boundaries, and constitutes a national bond; 5) that they must share a corresponding collective consciousness of themselves as a ‘class’, and; 6) they must create their own political organizations, and pursue their interests as a ‘class’ (6)

We must also clarify that Marx differentiated between a ‘class in itself’ and a ‘class for itself’. The difference between the two can be summarized by saying that a class in itself simply shares a common economic position but lacks the other listed criteria. Whereas a class for itself is an entity fully organized and meeting all listed criteria.

Therefore, what We are saying here is that We must organize in a manner that will bring the lumpen from the level of class in itself, to the elevated level of a class for itself. Our organization should be modeled in a way to obtain the collective mobility, ingenuity, and potential of the lumpen as a whole. We must ‘nationalize’ these structures, meaning expand them state-to-state, with each one developing its own relative strength locally.

The next question is how do We get there? How do we reach this point of mass participation and organization? We’ll quote Fanon here:

“The duty of a leadership is to have the masses on their side. Any commitment, however, presupposes awareness and understanding of the mission to be accomplished, in short a rational analysis, no matter how embryonic.” (7)

Here he stresses the basic conscious political education of the people. We continue:

“The people should not be mesmerized, swayed by emotion or confusion. Only [under-developed people] led by a revolutionary elite emanating from the people can today empower the masses to step out onto the stage of history.” (8)

I’ve put the above in bold to illuminate certain mistakes We often make. We often capitulate to the weaknesses of the masses in Our good intended desire to win them over. One of the weaknesses of this sort is the masses never-ending desire to be entertained. This desire almost always precedes from a desire to escape reality, and when done too much establishes a state of complacency with oppression and exploitation and undermines revolutionary or productive/progressive activity. When We reach out to the masses We often make the mistake of trying to move them into immediate action with a fiery speech, with the showing of the video of the latest police killing, or whatever We believe may move them. Although We have good intentions this method has hystorically proven inadequate for carrying out revolution. Instead, because it relies on emotions, which fluctuate, the activity it renders, if it renders activity at all, is necessarily fluctuating, and vacillating.

We can see this in real time if We observe the ebbs and flows of social movements in North amerika. George Floyd’s taped murder shook people emotionally. It awakened pent up anger and frustration from many sectors. People took that, and nothing else, no political education, no political organization, no political vision, only anger and frustration into their protests, and rebellions, and uprisings. Soon, the only people left in the streets were politicized people. Anarchists, Socialists, Abolitionists, and this sort. The masses however, had long since retreated back into the comforts of their amerikan life of escape, and leisure, isolating what was then allowed to be percieved as extremist/terrorist elements.

This what Fanon calls the ‘weakness of spontaneity’ showed its face. We must learn from this. In the quote above the ‘under-developed people’ are those masses of North amerikans. They reside in the land of excess, material excess, but the land of political sleep-walkers. These are the people Fanon says must be led by a REVOLUTIONARY elite. Now what does he mean by this? Because of the under-developed state of the people’s sociopolitical consciousness, those cadre elements who’ve struggled to grasp the complex concepts of political-economy, and revolutionary theory, although not desiring to be perceived as an elite, meaning above the rest, they actually do represent a higher stage of development, and in that context ONLY are they ‘elite’. The key phrase of the quote is the necessity that these ‘elite’ emanate from the people, meaning they must be one of their own, or perceived as such. The cadre-organizer must take care to balance its level of understanding with the level of the masses. There will be a contradiction between these masses and the politicized persyn, there should be, but this should not be an antagonistic contradiction. The people should be able to look to you for example, not look at you in disdain. As one might do to someone who thinks their shit don’t stink. Now we move to exactly HOW does these cadres, EMPOWER THE MASSES,

“…On the condition that We vigorously and decisively reject the formation of a national bourgeoisie, a caste of privileged individuals. To politicize the masses is to make the nation (or class) in its totality a reality for every citizen. To make the experience of the nation (or class) the experience of every citizen.” (9)

“Only the massive commitment by men and wimmin to judicious and productive tasks gives form and substance to this consciousness.” (10)

“No leader, whatever their worth, can replace the will of the people, and the national government, before concerning itself with international prestige, must first restore dignity to all citizens, furnish their minds, fill their eyes with human things and develop a human landscape for the sake of its enlightened and sovereign inhabitants.” (11)

It is Our intention as USW leaders in Texas, as Tx T.E.A.M.O.N.E. cadre, to have Our organization act as a vehicle to organize and mobilize and educate the masses of lumpen in North amerika. We hope you will be inspired to join us.

Sources:

1) Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon, pg.138, chapt.3

2) Black Liberation Army Political Dictionary, pg.4

3) Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon, pg.63 chapt.2

4) ibid, pg.90, chapt.2

5) ibid, pg.90, chapt.2

6) see; Karl Marx, The 18th Brumaire; also Karl Marx, The Holy Family;also, Meditations On Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, James Yaki Sayles, pg. 286

7) Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon, pg.140, chapt.3

8) ibid

9) ibid

10) ibid, pg.144, chapt.3

11) ibid

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