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[Theory] [Security] [ULK Issue 28]
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ULK 28: Editor's Note on Security and Correct Leadership

united we stand too

This issue is going to production on the heels of the first countrywide action engaged in by a yet-unknown number of members of the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP), representing many political, religious and lumpen organizations and hailing from the prison systems of Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, New York, California, Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania and the Federal system. Initially called for by UFPP signatory SAMAEL, MIM(Prisons) promoted the call for the Day of Solidarity on September 9 in our last issue of Under Lock & Key as something we felt embodied what the united front is about. In this issue we summarize what we know so far, but we expect to learn more in the coming weeks and will continue to report on this important action.

For our part, MIM(Prisons) made a strong effort back in July to directly contact all other prison rights organizations and activists on the outside to let them know about the Day of Solidarity. We also promoted it generally online and handed out fliers with the five principles of the UFPP on them at many events related to prisons and peace on the streets. Other media outlets that promoted the call included the San Francisco BayView Newspaper, anti-imperialism.com and NorthBay Uprising Radio (89.5 KZCT in Vallejo, CA), which did an extensive interview with a comrade about the day of solidarity, the united front and the prison struggle in general. Other articles in this issue discuss some of the repression faced by prisoners and MIM(Prisons) leading up to the action.

All that said, the primary focus of the day was the organizing of prisoners. To facilitate this we distributed updates to everyone involved about the plans of other groups participating, similar to what we did during the California strikes. One story we distributed from New York was from a handwritten kite a comrade passed to another brother at his facility: "Bro. - Please pay close attention to the article 'Call for Solidarity Demonstration September 9' on page 3. Let me know what you think. I've decided to fast on Sept 9th." The response was written on the same paper: "Yes I will fast on that day, it looks better when we all go to chow but we just don't eat. Thanks for that information." (This was what the 800 Attica comrades did on that day in 1971 in honor of George Jackson's murder.) The original organizers got this report and adjusted their own plans to go to chow and dispose of meals as outlined in their cheat sheet (see "Solidarity and Peace Demonstration Builds, Guards Retaliate"). This cheat sheet was passed on to the comrades in Florida whose report appears below, who also adopted the tactic:

On 9 September 2012, at Everglades Correctional Institution in Florida, individual members of The Blood Nation honored the soldiers of Attica by doing one or more of the following: fasting, boycotting the canteen/commissary, accepting chow hall trays and dumping them, and explaining why. Also participating individually were one or more members of the following groups (in alphabetical order): Black Gangsta Disciples, Crip Nation, Insane Gangsta Disciples, Almighty Latin King Queen Nation, Nation of Islam, Spanish Cobras, Shi'a Muslim Community, and Sufi Community. My apologies to anyone I missed. It was a small step at a spot with no history of unity, but even a single drop of water in a dry glass makes it wet. Respect to those who made the sacrifice, those who joined us midday, and those who expressed interest the day after. I'm as human as anyone, but let's TRY to remember who the enemy is!

Good work comrades! Seems like organizations in Florida are open to solidarity as another comrade from that state reports: "Being that today is September 9 and a day of solidarity and peace, all sorts of nations (organizations) got together here in the rec yard and had a jailhouse BBQ and lived in peace just for the day here at Cross City, Florida."

Many of our supporters are suffering in long-term isolation, so the opportunity for mass organizing is greatly limited. A report from Missouri read:

Today is September 9, 2012. My comrade (my celly) and I are participating in the mass stoppage of work and fast for our comrades who fell in Attica. Although we are in Ad-Seg we have chosen to sacrifice: no food, no [petty stuff], no arguing out the door, only working out four times for one hour each time, reading, studying and talking politics. For me fasting is something I do once a month, but today is the first time I've worked out during my fast. My comrade is pushing me and I'm not stopping. From midnight to midnight is how we're moving.

This white comrade also reported that he received ULK 27 announcing the Day of Solidarity, while his Black comrade's was censored. They report this is a common form of discrimination in Missouri.

Another great success occurred in Nevada where SAMAEL led the organizing of a good cross-section of prisoners representing about 30% of the population. Even if we get no other reports on the September 9 action, we'd say it was a success just from these examples. But we know from the list of states above that the day had much broader participation.

The progress represented by prisoners across the country acting in solidarity as a class took place in the context of the many other strikes and mass actions prisoners have led in the past year or more that have built off of each other as cipactli writes about in "Prisoner Uprisings Foretell Growing Movement". This progress is exciting on the subjective level. And we can look at periods of mass uprising to see what happens when times are "exciting." They tend to be crazy as well. People are confused, trying to figure things out and the enemy is working hard to confuse them more and divide them. So it is of the utmost importance that as the new prison movement emerges that we take time to study questions of security and correct leadership.

There is the question of security at the individual level, and how we judge someone by putting politics in command, as discussed by PTT in relation to Richard Aoki. In the belly of the beast, where there is so much wealth and privilege, security at the group level is very tied up with our class analysis. As our Nevada comrade points out in "Fighting Enemies in the Prison Movement", most people in this country will actively support imperialism without directly getting a paycheck for it, and this is true for a portion of the prison population as well.

One thing that sets communists apart from other revolutionary trends is our stress on the importance of correct ideological leadership. Putting politics in command can guide us in dealing with all challenges we face, not just security. We recognize that the truth will come from mass struggle, but that it will not always be recognized by the masses when they see it because everyone needs to learn to think in a scientific way first. In order to pick the best leadership, we must all be well-studied to think scientifically about both history and our current conditions. As we point out to the comrade who suspects we might be CIA, you should be able to judge the correctness of ULK and to struggle with us where you think we are wrong to decide whether the risk of subscribing is worth it.

Our comrade in BORO puts the September 9 Day of Solidarity in this context well when s/he writes: "Through the lens of a dialectical-materialist, we must see history as a never-ending stream of past events that gave and constantly give birth to present realities. This chain of historical events is constantly moving us forward into the ocean of endless possibilities. We must use this view of a 'living history' as a source of defining who we are and the direction we're heading as a people." (See "Black August and Bloody September: Stand Up and Remember on September 9.")

This September protest wasn't just to spend a day sitting quietly honoring the past; it was a time to learn from the past and apply lessons to address our current conditions. The day was a success, but it was only one step in developing a class-conscious prison movement that can change conditions. In the coming weeks, we look forward to hearing of more successes and accomplishments that organizers achieved on September 9.

We hope that some of the articles in this issue can push forward among the masses the question of recognizing correct leadership to avoid the traps of the state and its sympathizers. For those who want to learn, MIM(Prisons)'s Serve the People Free Political Literature to Prisoners Program and correspondence study groups operate year round, not just in August.

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[Theory] [Principal Contradiction] [ULK Issue 28]
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Olympics = Global Village = Globalization = Imperialism

global village is imperialism
The "diversity" of the Olympics highlights the unity of imperialist nations, while hiding their predatory role in other nations.
The 2012 London Olympics are almost upon us and the world waits, holds their breath even, in anticipation of this most glorious of events which will surely decide what country can lay claim to the best athletes bar none.

But take a closer look and you'll see that the Olympics are in all actuality nothing more than bourgeois propaganda; a multifaceted cultural and ideological weapon of the international bourgeoisie in which they pretend that the world isn't divided into oppressor and oppressed nations. Through the institution of the Olympics the international bourgeoisie seeks to make us believe that the entire humyn species is all living in harmony as equal members of one big happy family, and that the nations of the world co-exist peacefully as if all are members of one big "global village" with the exception of some "rogue states." Nothing however could be further form the truth! Part of that truth being that the Olympics are really just another synonym for this "global village" construct, a construct used to white-wash reality.

The term and concept of what the petty-bourgeoisie ideologues have deemed "global village" and what the big bourgeoisie have in turn labeled more correctly as "globalization" can be more appropriately elaborated and defined as "...a supra class, supranational and universalist process of irresistible all around homogenization of the world under the auspices of monopoly capitalism, through the multilateral agencies (United Nations (UN), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB/IBRD) and World Trade Organization (WTO)) and the multinational or transnational firms and banks."(1)

But this ain't no nit-wit critique of the process of globalization per the mythical "99%," who aren't 99% of anything but more like part of the top 13% of the richest people in the world!(2) No, this is a critique of the "global village" construct which has its origin rooted in petty-bourgeois ideology just like the "99%," and which is but a rephrasing of that same process of "globalization" from the international bourgeoisie, as if both the exploiters and exploited are all in the global struggle for humynity together! But we communists know this construct and its material reality by its original name: imperialism!

As previously stated, the Olympics don't just serve to gloss over national and class contradictions on a global scale. They also serve as an extension and propagation of bourgeois ideology a la "human nature," i.e. that always inherent drive to compete.

Indeed, the Olympics serve to keep both the masses of the world and the more progressive wing of the enemy population distracted from the harsh reality of imperialist society (as do professional sports in general). The reality is that the imperialists are on a global rampage in which they're voraciously and ruthlessly raping and plundering the oppressed people of the world and their national territories, i.e. Latin America, Africa and Asia (the Third World). The lie that is the concept of the "global village" exaggerates "...the coherence of the world capitalist system to the point of glossing over the distinction of national modes of production"(1) and its main proponents are in the oppressor states: the industrialized and ethnologically developed countries, the First World, principally the United $tates.

Furthermore, "globalization"/imperialism pretends that the dismantling of national barriers to the operation of capital markets and finance capital brings progress to the Third World or "developing economies" whilst the idealistic and naive petty-bourgeoisie of both the imperialist countries and the Third World believe it. But the truth of the matter is that the "...counterproductive character of neocolonialism is the result of imperialist financing for the overproduction of raw materials and some manufactures for the consumption of the capitalist countries and the upper classes in the underdeveloped countries since the 70s."(1)

On top of this, the popularization of the global village concept isn't just done by the bourgeoisie. This fake global concept is even propagated by so-called "communists" principally in the First World thru the guise of revisionist trickery!

On the one hand we have the barefaced bourgeoisie who uses these concepts to deny Lenin's formulation of imperialism and proletarian revolution, saying that it belongs to the past and that the current neocolonial system is a "post-imperialist phenomenon," as if imperialism and all its tools of oppression and exploitation have all but withered away!

On the other hand we have the so-called and sometimes self-proclaimed "Maoists" in the First World who are really nothing but crypto-Trotskyists that spread the false notion, correctly criticized by MIM, that "...the world proletarian revolution can only be the result of a simplified struggle between a globally united monopoly bourgeoisie and the world proletariat and that the total collapse of the unified imperialism is impending despite the current state of the subjective forces of the revolution in the world."(1)

We must take the time to study and analyze the world around us and its history thru the historical materialist perspective and from the point of view of the oppressed and exploited Third World masses. We need to look at the two great socialist projects of the 20th century. The first was born from the First World War and strong proletarian leadership, and the second was born of the Second World War and strong peasant backing which gave further credence and elaboration to the importance of national liberation and the correct theory that socialism can only be accomplished one country at a time, of which the establishment of the USSR should have proved to the muddle-headed. This study makes clear that the global village/globalization concept that the bourgeoisie uses to deceive the masses and the world is the same theory the revisionists use to accomplish the aims of their bourgeois brethren.

So when you're watching the Olympics this summer remember two things: 1) The world isn't one big happy family. It is divided into oppressor and oppressed nations. This is the principal contradiction on a world scale, while the fundamental contradiction on a world scale is the bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat. The Olympics are nothing but the vain attempts of the international bourgeoisie, and imperialist states to whom they are bound, to cover up national and class contradictions and to white-wash reality so that we will confuse the true prize of national liberation, self-determination and complete emancipation from the imperialists for gold medals. 2) Just as the global village construct of the petty-bourgeoisie that dominates that class is a myth and a lie, so is the global village thesis of the crypto-Trotskyists (simultaneous world revolution) which they've specifically tailored to their purposes. It is an ideological weapon of the revisionists used to fool the oppressed nations within U.$. borders into believing that we need not seek national liberation and self-determination for ourselves because according to them all nationalism is bourgeois in essence and "the whole world comes first!"

Lenin, Stalin and Mao all took clear positions on the national question which was liberty at its core; so why can't the First World "communists"? Ask yourself this, go into deep thought, study the question and you will be enlightened ten-fold.

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[Theory] [Organizing] [United Struggle from Within] [Congress Resolutions] [ULK Issue 27]
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Improving USW to Accommodate Emerging Prison Movement

United Struggle from Within
As we convene our third congress, we approach our five year anniversary as an organization. While members of MIM(Prisons) — and even more so USW — have been in the prison movement for longer, we find this an opportune milestone to reflect back on where the prison movement is at and how it has developed.

In 2011 a series of hunger strikes in California made a great impact countrywide. Many activists, from crypto-trots to anarchists to reformists, rallied around this movement and continue to focus on prison work as a result. While our predecessors in MIM saw the importance of the prison movement decades ago, their foresight is proving more true today as we begin to reach a critical mass of activity. It is now a hot issue within the left wing of white nationalism, which is significant because whites are not affected by the system extensively enough to call it a true material interest.

This gradual development has been the result of two things: agitation around the facts of the U.$. injustice system on the outside, and prisoner organizing on the inside, both of which MIM and USW have been diligently working on for decades. In the last year and a half, prisoner organizing came to a head with the Georgia strike and the California hunger strikes, which were both coordinated on a statewide level. While getting some mainstream and international attention, these events rang particularly loud among the imprisoned, with a series of similar actions still developing across the country (recently in Virginia, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, the federal supermax ADX, Limon in Colorado and a follow-up hunger strike in Georgia).

Meanwhile, the agitational side of things came to a bit of a head with the release of the book The New Jim Crow last year. This book has continued to get lots of play from many different sectors of the political spectrum. And while in most cases those promoting the book are amenable to the lackluster conclusions, the organization of these facts into a book stand for themselves. It requires a very biased viewpoint to read this book and then turn around and deny the national oppression faced by the internal semi-colonies through the U.$. injustice system. Therefore we think the overall effect of this book will be both progressive and significant, despite its limitations.

It is for these reasons that we see this as a moment to seize. When we started five years ago we had the great fortune of building on the legacy and existing prisoner support programs of MIM. The ideological foundation that MIM gave us allowed us to focus our energies on more practical questions of launching a new prison publication, building support programs for comrades that are released, developing correspondence political study programs, and launching a new website that features the most comprehensive information on censorship, mail rules, and abuses in prisons across this country.

With our infrastructure built and steadily running, we need to look at ways to take advantage of the relative consciousness of prisoners right now and the relative attention the U.$. population has on the prison system. We have always said that without prisoners organized there is no prison movement, so we see that as the principal prong of attack. Thus, we are taking steps to improve the structure of United Struggle from Within (USW), the mass organization for prisoners that was founded by MIM and is now led by MIM(Prisons). Building on suggestions from some leaders in USW, we have enacted a plan to form councils in states where there are multiple active USW cells. Below we further explain an organizational structure for our movement, so comrades know where they fit in and how they should be relating to others.

As we saw during the California strikes, censorship increases, as do other repressive measures, when organization expands. So as we step up our efforts, we can expect the state to step up theirs. We will need more support than ever from volunteers on the outside to do legal and agitational work to keep the state faithful to their own laws and regulations.

As big as those challenges are, the internal challenges will be even greater hurdles for us to jump in the coming years. The recent large mobilizations have begun to reveal what these challenges will be. And there is much work to be done to identify, analyze and work to resolve the contradictions within the prisoner population that allows for the current conditions where the state dictates how these vast populations of oppressed people interact with each other and live out their lives.

The prison movement that arose before the great prison boom that began in the 1980s was a product of the national liberation struggles occurring at the time. Today, the prison population is ten times as big, while the political leadership on the outside is scarce. The prison masses must guard against the great number of misleaders out there opportunistically grabbing on to the issue of the day to promote political goals that do not serve the oppressed people of the world. Prisoners may need to step up to play the leading role this time around, which will require looking inward. We must not only learn from the past, but also build independent education programs to develop the skills of comrades today to conduct their own analysis of the conditions that they face. On top of that we must promote and develop an internationalist worldview, to find answers and alliances in the oppressed nations around the world, and remove the blinders that keep us only focused on Amerika. There is no liberation to be found in Amerikanism. That Amerikans have created a prison system that dwarfs all others in humyn history is just one example of why.

So it is with cautious optimism that we approved the resolution below at our recent congress. We think this plan addresses proposals submitted by some USW leaders, and hope you all will work with us to make this an effective structure.

Congress Resolution on USW Structure

MIM(Prisons) is initiating the creation of statewide councils within United Struggle from Within (USW), the anti-imperialist mass organization for prisoners. A council will be sanctioned when two or more cells exist within a state that are recognized as active and abiding by the standards of USW. MIM(Prisons) will facilitate these councils, where the focus is on practical organizing around the needs of the imprisoned lumpen in that state. As the U.$. prison system is primarily organized by state, the councils will serve to develop and address the specific needs and conditions within each state.

In the case where cells have identities other than "USW" we do not require them to use that name. For example, the Black Order Revolutionary Organization, which self-identifies as a "New Afrikan revolutionary movement," may be invited to participate in a USW statewide council. While USW itself does not favor the struggles of any oppressed nation over another, as a movement we recognize the usefulness and importance of nation-specific organizing. In the prison environment there may be lines that cannot be crossed in current conditions which limit the membership of a group. As long as these cells exhibit true internationalism and anti-imperialism they may possess dual membership in USW by joining a statewide council.

united struggle from within structure

With this proposal we are expanding the structure of our movement. We recognize two main pillars to the ideological leadership of our movement at this time. One being the MIM(Prisons) cell, and the other being the Under Lock & Key writers group, which is made up of USW members and led by and facilitated by MIM(Prisons). The statewide councils should look to these two groups for ideological guidance in their organizing work, mainly through the pages of Under Lock & Key. In contrast, the councils' main function will be in practical work directly serving the interests of the imprisoned lumpen. They will serve to coordinate the organizing work of scattered USW cells in a more unified way across the state.

MIM(Prisons) will be initiating the California Council immediately, with others to follow as conditions allow.

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[Theory] [Economics] [Prison Labor] [Congress Resolutions] [ULK Issue 27]
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The Myth of the "Prison Industrial Complex"

myth of prison industrial complex

Many people are caught up in the line that millions are enslaved in this country, and that the main motivating factor behind the prison boom of recent decades is to put prisoners to work to make money for corporations or the government. MIM(Prisons) has clearly shown that U.S. prisons are not primarily (or even significantly) used to exploit labor, and that they are a great cost financially to the imperialists, not a source of profit.(1)

"Indeed, at peak use around 2002, fewer than 5,000 inmates were employed by private firms, amounting to one-quarter of one per cent of the carceral population. As for the roughly 8% of convicts who toil for state and federal industries under lock, they are 'employed' at a loss to correctional authorities in spite of massive subsidies, guaranteed sales to a captive market of public administrations, and exceedingly low wages (averaging well under a dollar an hour)."(2)

Instead, we argue that there is a system of population control (including all the elements of the international definition of genocide) that utilizes methods of torture on mostly New Afrikan and Latino men, with a hugely disproportionate representation of First Nation men as well, across this country on a daily basis. As the new prison movement grows and gains attention in the mainstream, it is of utmost importance that we maintain the focus on this truth and not let the white nationalists define what is ultimately a struggle of the oppressed nations.

To analyze why the term "prison industrial complex" ("PIC") is inaccurate and misleading, let's look at some common slogans of the social democrats, who dominate the white nationalist left. First let's address the slogan "Welfare not Warfare." This slogan is a false dichotomy, where the sloganeer lacks an understanding of imperialism and militarism. It is no coincidence that the biggest "welfare states" in the world today are imperialist countries. Imperialism brings home more profits by going to war to steal resources, discipline labor, and force economic policies and business contracts on other nations. And militarism is the cultural and political product of that fact. The "military industrial complex" was created when private industry teamed up with the U.$. government to meet their mutual interests as imperialists. Industry got the contracts from the government, with guaranteed profits built in, and the government got the weapons they needed to keep money flowing into the United $tates by oppressing other nations. This concentration of wealth produces the high wages and advanced infrastructure that the Amerikan people benefit from, not to mention the tax money that is made available for welfare programs. So it is ignorant for activists to claim that they are being impoverished by the imperialists' wars as is implied by the false dichotomy of welfare vs. warfare.

Another slogan of the social democrats which speaks to why they are so eager to condemn the "PIC" is "Schools not Jails." This slogan highlights that there is only so much tax money in a state available to fund either schools, jails, or something else. There is a limited amount of money because extracting more taxes would increase class conflict between the state and the labor aristocracy. This battle is real, and it is a battle between different public service unions of the labor aristocracy. The "Schools not Jails" slogan is the rallying cry of one side of that battle among the labor aristocrats.

Unlike militarism, there is not an imperialist profit interest behind favoring jails over schools. This is precisely why the concept of a "PIC" is a fantasy. While the U.$. economy would likely collapse without the spending that goes into weapons-related industries, Loïc Wacquant points out that the soft drink industry in the United $tates is almost twice as big as prison industries, and prison industries are a mere 0.5% of the gross domestic product.(2) Compared to the military industrial complex, which is 10% of U.$. GDP, the prison system is obviously not a "complex" combining state and private interests that cannot be dismantled without dire consequences to imperialism.(3) And of course, even those pushing the "PIC" line must admit that over 95% of prisons in this country are publicly owned and run.(4)

Federal agencies using the prison system to control social elements that they see as a threat to imperialism is the motivating factor for the injustice system, not an imperialist drive for profits. Yet the system is largely decentralized and built on the interests of the majority of Amerikans at the local level, and not just the labor unions and small businesses that benefit directly from spending on prisons. We would likely not have the imprisonment rates that we have today without pressure from the so-called "middle class."

Some in the white nationalist left at times appears to dissent from other Amerikans on the need for more prisons and more cops. At the root of both sides' line is the belief that the majority of Amerikans are exploited by the system, while the greedy corporations benefit. With this line, it is easy to accept that prisons are about profit, just like everything else, and the prison boom can be blamed on the corporations' greed.

tough on crime white vote

In reality the prison boom is directly related to the demands of the Amerikan people for "tough on crime" politicians. Amerikans have forced the criminal injustice system to become the tool of white hysteria. The imperialists have made great strides in integrating the internal semi-colonies financially, yet the white nation demands that these populations be controlled and excluded from their national heritage. There are many examples of the government trying to shut down prisons and other cost-saving measures that would have shrunk the prison system, where labor unions fought them tooth and nail.(1) It is this continued legacy of national oppression, exposed in great detail in the book The New Jim Crow, that is covered up by the term "Prison Industrial Complex." The cover-up continues no matter how much these pseudo-Marxists lament the great injustices suffered by Black and Brown people at the hands of the "PIC."

This unfortunate term has been popularized in the Amerikan left by a number of pseudo-Marxist theorists who are behind some of the popular prison activist groups on the outside. By explicitly rejecting this term, we are drawing a clear line between us and the organizations these activists are behind, many of whom we've worked with in one way or another. For the most part, the organizations themselves do not claim any Marxist influence or even a particular class analysis, but the leaders of these groups are very aware of where they disagree with MIM Thought. It is important that the masses are aware of this disagreement as well.

It is for these reasons that MIM(Prisons) passed the following policy at our 2012 congress:

The term "Prison Industrial Complex (PIC)" will not generally be used in Under Lock & Key because the term conflicts with MIM(Prisons)'s line on the economic and national make up of the U.$. prison system. It will only be printed in a context where the meaning of the term is stated by the author, and either criticized by them or by us.

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[Theory] [National Oppression] [New Afrikan Black Panther Party] [New Afrikan Maoist Party] [ULK Issue 26]
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A Critique of Rashid's Black Liberation in the 21st Century

Black Belt Aztlan First Nations
Concentrations of oppressed nations overlap with the Black Belt, Aztlán, First Nation reservations and urban centers.

This is a response to an article titled "Black Liberation in the 21st Century: A Revolutionary Reassessment of Black Nationalism," by the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter's Minister of Defense, Rashid. Rashid's article has been published in a number of places.

My writing will not analyze Black Nationalism per se, rather it aims to address the "national question" itself. My position comes from a Chicano perspective, which I hope adds to the theoretical sauce surrounding the idea of national liberation and the development of the oppressed nations ideologically, whether they be from the Brown, Black or Red Nations here in the United $tates. In the contemporary prisoner, one sees an awakening to truth and meaning amidst a state offensive to deprive millions of humyn dignity and freedom. The roundups, ICE raids and fascist laws (reinforced with putting the data of millions of oppressed across the U.$. into the state intelligence files preparing for future revolt and repression) has added to the swirl of these times for people to become politicized, and prisoners are no exception.

The struggle in the ideological arena is just as vital as that with the rifle, and perhaps more difficult. Out in society — where people have more social influences — ideas, experiences and thought can bring more diverse views into the sphere of theory. Often times the prison environment, in its concentrated form and social makeup, has more limited ideological influences. This is a trap that prisoners should guard against in developing a political line. There will always be ideological "yes people" in prisons, especially amongst one's own circle of friends or comrades. This could also be said of the limited contacts in the outside world that most prisoners have.

The "national question" is one that is not exclusive to the Black Nation; it is something that Raza and others are wrangling with as well. My critiques here are related to the national question in the United $tates in general, and not specific to the Black Belt Thesis (BBT) that Rashid addresses in his article.

In the section titled "The Black Belt Thesis and the New Class Configuration of the New Afrikan Nation," Rashid describes comrade J.V. Stalin on the national question as follows:

The [Black Belt Thesis] was based on comrade J.V. Stalin's analysis of the national question as essentially a peasant question. Unlike the analysis put forward by Lenin, and more fully developed by Mao, Stalin's analysis limited the national question to essentially a peasantry's struggle for the land they labored on geographically defined by their having a common language, history, culture and economic life together. Hence the slogan "Free the Land!" and "Land to the Tiller!"

Just to be clear, J.V. Stalin defined a "nation" as follows:

A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture."(1)

This definition continues to stand as what defines a nation today and to deny this is simply a deviation. Comrade Lenin was not alive to see the development of the anti-colonial struggles and thus in his view oppressed nations could not be victorious on their own accord, but Stalin taught us differently. At the same time Stalin also stated that should a people no longer meet any of these criteria of a nation then they are no longer a nation.

In this section, Rashid refers to a "Great Migration" of Blacks out of the rural south and across the United $tates, which he uses, or seems to use, as justification for not having "need of pursuing a struggle to achieve a New Afrikan nation state, we have achieved the historical results of bourgeois democracy..." Just because a people migrate across the continent does not negate a national territory so long as a large concentration remains in the national territory. For example, if the Mohawk nation continues to reside in the northeast but a significant portion of their population spread out "across America" and become urban dwellers, their nation remains in the Northeast no matter how much they wish to be Oregonians or Alaskans. But what really seemed grating in this section was the last paragraph, which reads:

To complete the liberal democratic revolution and move forward to socialist reconstruction the proletariat must lead the struggle which is stifled by the increasingly anti-democratic, fascistic and reactionary bourgeoisie. The bourgeois are no longer capable of playing a progressive role in history.

First, the proletariat in its original sense for the most part does not exist in the United $tates. In addition, the Trotskyite approach of relying on the Amerikan "working class" is a waste of time. Amerikan workers are not a revolutionary vehicle - they are not exploited when they are amongst the highest paid workers in the world. How can those seeking higher pay for more or bigger plasma TVs and SUVs be relied upon to give all that up for "socialist construction"? And my view does not come unsupported by the ideological framework that Rashid claims to represent. Engels wrote to Marx in 1858:

The English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie. For a nation which exploits the whole world this is of course to a certain extent justifiable.(2)

So even back in Marx and Engels's day the English proletariat was already bourgeoisified. Imperialism has developed far more since 1858, further concentrating the wealth disparity between the oppressor and oppressed nations globally.

In the section titled "The Revolutionary Advantages of Our Proletarian National Character," the idea is put forth of "building a multi-ethnic, multi-racial socialist America." Although I am not opposed to multi-ethnic organizing, I also don't negate the usefulness of single-nation parties. One has to analyze the concrete conditions in the United $tates. The historical development of the social forces may not agree with this approach, and just because it may have worked in some countries it may not apply to this country. It obviously didn't apply to South Africa, another settler state. In Azania the Pan Africanist Congress seemed to forward the struggle more than other groups, in particular the integrationist African National Congress that took power and changed little for Azanians. Huey Newton himself understood this, thus the Black Panther Party was a single nationality party, with internationalist politics. Of course, at some point things will change, but the advancement of imperialism and a long lineage of white supremacy and privilege remains a hurdle still too huge for real multi-ethnic organizing advancements at this time in the United $tates.

In the section "Separation, Integration or Revolution," what is put forward for liberation is to overthrow "imperialism and play a leading role in the global proletarian revolution and socialist reconstruction." This, Rashid states, is "our path to liberation." This smacks of First World chauvinism. The International Communist Movement (ICM) will always be led by the Third World proletariat. The ICM is dominated by the Third World and our voice in the First World is just that, a voice, that will help advance the global struggle, not lead. The idea of First World leadership of the ICM is classic Trotskyism.

In the section "Reassessing the National Liberation Question," in speaking of past national liberation struggles, Rashid points to them having an "unattainable" goal. Yet countries like Vietnam, northern Korea, as well as Cuba come to mind as being successful in their national liberation struggles. [China is the prime example of liberating itself from imperialism and capitalism through socialist revolution. Of course, Huey Newton himself eventually dismissed China's achieving of true national liberation in his theory of "intercommunalism" that the NABPP-PC upholds - Editor]

Rashid goes on to say, "Even if we did manage to reconstitute ourselves as a territorial nation in the "Black Belt," we would only join the ranks of imperialist dominated Third World nations — and with the imperialist U.S. right on our border." Here it seems the idealist proposition is being put forward that an oppressed nation could possibly liberate itself to the point of secession while U.$. imperialism is still breathing. So long as U.$. imperialism is still in power, no internal oppressed nation will emancipate itself. So the thought of the imperialists being on one's border will not be a problem as at that point in the struggle for national liberation imperialism will be on no one's border.

In this same section, Rashid quotes Amilcar Cabral, who posed the question of whether national liberation was an imperialist creation in many African countries. Now we should understand that the imperialists will use any country, ideology or leader if allowed (Ghadaffi found this out the hard way most recently) but we should not believe that the people are not smart enough to free themselves when oppressed. The white supremacists put forward a line that Jews are in an international conspiracy creating revolution and communism. These conspiracy theorists look for any reason to suggest that the people cannot come to the conclusion to decolonize themselves.

Later in this section the question is asked if the "proponents of the BBT expect whites in the 'Black Belt' to passively concede the territory and leave?"

I'm not a proponent of the Black Belt Thesis, but speaking in regard to national liberation I can answer this question quite clearly. As this writer alludes to, there may be a "white backlash." But in any national liberation struggle anywhere on the planet there is always a backlash from those whose interests are threatened. When the oppressed nations decide to liberate themselves in the United $tates the objective position of the reactionaries will be to fight to uphold their white privilege. This privilege relies heavily on the state and the culture of white supremacy in Amerika. So their choice will be to support the national liberation struggles, as real white revolutionaries will do, or to side with imperialism. But there will be no sympathy for oppressors in any national liberation struggle.

Asking the question of what do we expect whites to do is akin to asking the revolutionary post-Civil War, when many were cut off from parasitism, "well do you expect the people to stop exploiting 'their' field workers?" Do you expect Amerikan workers to stop being paid high wages gained through the exploitation of the Third World? Do you expect the pimp to stop pimping the prostitute? Do you expect the oppressor nation to give up their national privilege? To all of the above I say if it's what the people decide, then YES!

Real white comrades not only will support the oppressed to obtain liberation in a future revolution, but most do so in their work today, even though they are a small minority compared to the larger Amerikan population. By that time in the distant future hopefully more people will have been educated and converted.

It is the task of conscious prisoners to develop a political line that propels the imprisoned masses forward via concrete analysis, not just of prison conditions, but of conditions outside these concentration camps as well. Oppression in imperialism is a three-legged stool that includes class, nation and gender. Thus we must develop our political line according to these concrete conditions. Our line should be grounded in reality. Our society is still very much segregated along class and national lines, particularly in the fields of housing, education and freedom.

Indeed, over half the people living within two miles of a hazardous waste facility are Brown, Black or First Nations.(3) In many high schools in the inner city Brown and Black youth are forced to share one textbook for 3 or 4 students, while their parents are jailed when they attempt to enroll their children in "better off" schools which unsurprisingly are predominantly white.(4) The prisons are no different, nor the "justice system." Of the 700,000 who were reported to have been stopped and frisked in New York City last year, 87% were Latinos and Blacks even though whites make up 44% of New York City's population.

When we develop a political line we must challenge it on a materialist foundation in order to sharpen things up in a positive way, but it must not be detached from reality. Only in this way will we identify what is palpable in the realm of national liberation.

As Lenin said, "it is fine, it is necessary and important, to dream of another or radically different and better world — while at the same time we must infuse and inform our dreams with the most consistent, systematic and comprehensive scientific outlook and method, communism, and on that basis fight to bring those dreams into reality."


MIM(Prisons) adds: The original article by Rashid is in response to the New Afrikan Maoist Party and cites the Maoist Internationalist Movement as another party promoting the Black Belt Thesis. While MIM certainly never denounced the Black Belt Thesis, they recognized the crumbling material basis for seeing it through in the post-Comintern years that Rashid points to in his article. It is worth noting that more recent statistics show the New Afrikan population since 1990 has increased most in the South, where 55% of New Afrikans live today and that in the Black Belt states a much higher percentage of the population is New Afrikan than in the rest of the country.(5) MIM did publish an interesting discussion of the land question for New Afrika as an example of a two line struggle in 2004. Ultimately the land question must be determined by two conditions which we do not currently have: 1) a Black nation that has liberated itself from imperialism, and 2) a forum for negotiating land division in North America with other internal semi-colonies free from imperialist intervention.

In his article, Rashid responds to our critique of his liquidating the nationalist struggle in the book Defying the Tomb. In doing so he speaks of a Pan-Afrikan Nation, which is an oxymoron completely liquidating the meaning of both terms. Pan-Afrikanism is a recognition of the common interests of the various oppressed nations of Africa, often extended to the African diaspora. You cannot apply the Stalin quote given above to New Afrika and Pan Afrikanism and consistently call both a nation.

But ultimately, as the USW comrade criticizes above, the liquidationism is strongest in the NABPP-PC line on the progressive nature of the Amerikan nation. It is this dividing line that makes it impossible for our camps to see eye-to-eye and carry out a real two line struggle on the question of New Afrikan land.


1. JV Stalin, Marxism and the National Question, 1913 in Marxism and the National-Colonial Quesiton, Proletarian Publishers: San Francisco, p. 22. Available from MIM Distributors for $7.
2. VI Lenin, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, John Riddell ed., Lenin's Struggle for a Revolutionary International, Monad Press: New York, 1984, p.498.
3. Rebekah Cowell, "In Their Backyard", The Sun May 2012.
4. CNN January 26 2011 "Mom jailed for enrolling kids in wrong school district"
5. http://www.blackdemographics.com/population.html
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[National Oppression] [Theory] [International Connections] [New Afrikan Black Panther Party] [ULK Issue 26]
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Relevance of Nationalism to the Prison Movement

Oppressed Nations bring death to imperialism
Among those in the United $tates who have consistently upheld the right to self-determination of the internal semi-colonies, there has been some questioning of the MIM line that the principal contradiction within the United $tates is nation. With the degree of integration and buying off of the oppressed nations that has occurred since the Black/Brown/Red Power era some have questioned if the lumpen underclass are the only real revolutionary force left in the internal semi-colonies. Others have pointed to the level of wealth in the United $tates to dismiss the potential for national liberation struggles within U.$. borders without offering a new thesis on the principal contradiction. MIM(Prisons) has entertained the integration question and the possibility of a growing class contradiction across nation and will address both in more detail in an upcoming book.

In this issue of Under Lock & Key we feature a number of articles that demonstrate the dominant role that nationality plays in how our world develops and changes. The history of MIM's work with prisoners comes from its understanding of the principal contradiction in this country being between the oppressor white/Amerikan nation and the oppressed internal semi-colonies (New Afrika, Aztlán, Boricua, countless First Nations, etc.). It is through that work that it became clear that the quickly expanding prison system of the time was the front lines of the national struggle.

USW C-4 gets at this in h review of MIM Theory 11 where s/he discusses the need to launch "the new prison movement in connection with the national liberation struggles which have been repressed and stagnated by the oppressors with mass incarceration." Progress in our struggle against the injustice system is progress towards re-establishing the powerful national liberation struggles that it served to destroy in the first place. Any prison movement not based politically in the right to self-determination of the nations locked up cannot complete the process of ending the oppression that we are combatting in the United $tates.

MIM(Prisons) focuses our mission around the imprisoned lumpen in general whose material interests are united by class, even though the injustice system is primarily about national oppression. Within the imprisoned class, we see the white prison population having more to offer than the white population in general for revolutionary organizing. Even non-revolutionary white prisoners are potential allies in the material struggles that we should be taking up today around issues like censorship, long-term isolation, the right to associate/organize, access to educational programs, a meaningful grievance process and accountability of government employees in charge of over 2 million imprisoned lives. Just as we must be looking to recruit oppressed nation lumpen to the side of the world's people to prevent them from playing the role of the fascist foot soldier, this concern is even greater among the white lumpen and is a question we should take seriously as our comrade in Oregon discusses inside.

In this issue we have the typical reports from both Black and Latino comrades being labelled gang members and validated for their political and cultural beliefs. This is nothing less than institutionalized national oppression, which is at the heart of the proposed changes in the California validation system that are somehow supposed to be a response to the complaints of the thousands of prisoners who have been periodically going on food strike over the last year.

While we support the day-to-day struggles that unite as many prisoners as possible, we are clear that these are only short-term struggles and stepping stones to our greater goals. The most advanced work comrades can be doing is directly supporting and promoting revolutionary nationalism and communism within disciplined organizations based in scientific theory and practice. An example of a more advanced project is a current USW study cell that is developing educational and agitational materials around Chicano national liberation. Meanwhile, the United Front for Peace in Prisons, while focused on mass organizations, is laying the groundwork for the type of cross-nation unity that will be needed to implement the Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations required to truly end imperialist oppression and exploitation (see our 6 Points).

It is no coincidence that the word fascism comes up a number of times in this issue focused on national struggles. In terms of the principal contradiction between imperialist nations and the oppressed nations they exploit, fascism is the imperialist nation's reaction to successful struggles of the oppressed nations; when the oppressed have created a real crisis for imperialism; when Liberalism no longer works. While fascism is defined by imperialism, being guided by imperialist interests, it is the labor aristocracy in the imperialist countries that form the main force for fascism.(1) Again, this breaks down to the national question where oppressor nations and oppressed nations take up opposite sides of the principal contradiction that defines the United $tates as a phenomenon.

Rashid of the NABPP-PC suggests in his book Defying the Tomb, that "right-wing militias, survivalists and military hobbyists" are "potential allies" who "have a serious beef with imperialist monopoly capitalism." In contrast, we recognize that the principal contradiction that defines the imperialist system is between the imperialist nations and the oppressed nations they exploit. Amerikans calling for closed borders to preserve white power are the epitome of what imperialism is about, despite their rhetoric against the "bankers." It is the same rhetoric that was used to rally the struggling petty bourgeoisie around the Nazi party to preserve the German nation. It is the same rhetoric that makes the anti-globalization and "99%" movements potential breeding grounds for a new Amerikan fascism.

Recent events in Greece, France and elsewhere in Europe have shown this to be the case in other imperialist countries, which are also dependent on the exploitation of the Third World. While Greece, where the European crisis is currently centered, cannot be described as an imperialist power on its own, its close ties to Europe have the Greek people convinced that they can regain prosperity without overthrowing imperialism. Social democrats are gaining political power in the face of austerity measures across Europe, while fascist parties are also gaining popular support in those countries. Together they represent two sides of the same coin, struggling to maintain their nation's wealth at the expense of others, which is why the Comintern called the social democrats of their time "social fascists." Austerity measures are the problems of the labor aristocracy, not the proletariat who consistently must live in austere conditions until they throw the yoke of imperialism off of their necks.

The fragility of the European Union along national lines reinforces the truth of Stalin's definition of nation, and supports the thesis that bourgeois internationalism bringing peace to the world is a pipe dream, as MIM has pointed out.(2) On the contrary, the proletariat has an interest in true internationalism. For the oppressed nations in the United $tates bribery by the imperialists, both real and imagined, will create more barriers to unity of the oppressed. So we have our work cut out for us.

Looking to the Third World, the struggle of the Tuareg people in West Africa parallels in some ways the questions we face in the United States around Aztlán, the Black Belt and other national territories, in that their land does not correspond with the boundaries of the nation-state that they find themselves in as a result of their colonization. And the greater context of this struggle and the relation of the Tuareg people to Ghaddafi's Libya demonstrates the potentially progressive nature of the national bourgeoisie, as Ghaddafi was an enemy to U.$. imperialism primarily due to his efforts at supporting Pan-Afrikanism within a capitalist framework.

Nationalism of the oppressed is the antithesis to the imperialist system that depends on the control and exploitation of the oppressed. It is for that reason that nationalism in the Third World, as well as nationalism in the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates, are the primary focus of anti-imperialist organizing. As long as we have imperialism, we will have full prisons and trigger-happy police at home, and bloody wars and brutal exploitation abroad. Countering Amerikan nationalism with nationalism of the oppressed is the difference between entering a new period of fascism and liberating humynity from imperialism.

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[National Oppression] [Theory] [ULK Issue 26]
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Review: Amerikkkan Prisons on Trial - Guilty!

mim theory 11
It's not for nothing that MIM dubbed the Amerikkkan prison system "the primary tool of oppressor nation repression in the united $tate$," and a review of MIM Theory 11: Amerikkkan Prisons On Trial makes this point ever so clear. Though this particular MIM Theory journal is dated (1996), like all MTs its message is not. It still serves as a good introduction to the Amerikan injustice system just as Lenin's Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism continues to serve as an introductory foundation in political economy for those wanting to study the thinly veiled intricacies of modern-day imperialism. One read and you'll see why Amerika, that "shining city on a hill," is in all actuality the prisonhouse of nations.

MT 11 is a must-read, not just for the political- and class-conscious prisoner, but for all prisoners as a stepping stone on the road to liberation and sure footing to understanding the exact context of our imprisonment.

Beginning with the essay "Amerikan Fascism & Prisons," MIM lays out the only real fascist aspect in Amerikan society - the Amerikan prison system. This work is indeed of exceptional relevance as MIM points to the economic motivation behind fascism as well as to the white petit-bourgeois element that breathes life into this most barbaric expression of capitalist production and its anti-revolutionary mission statement.

The article "Capital & State Join Hands In Private Prisons" further elaborates on the thesis that fascism is not just alive and well within the Amerikkkan prison system, but that it has been expanding since the 1980s in the private prison phenomenon, which is but the melding of capital and the state in the growing war against the oppressed nations, with the prerequisite and additional benefit of continuing to win over the middle classes to their side by ensuring them an always available form of employment.

"Prison Labor: Profits, Slavery & the State" then explains how the possibility of open slavery can come back full force thru the institution of the prisons as it was once manifested pre-Civil War. This article also speaks of the important political functions the prison system serves repressing in the national liberation movements and the further indoctrination of the labor aristocracy with fascist ideology.

Nothing however drives home the colonial relation between Amerika and the oppressed nations like the articles "Political Prisoners Revisited," "Political Prisoners & the Anti-Imperialist Struggle" and "Who Are the Political Prisoners?"

"Political Prisoners Revisited" is a good example of the Maoist tenet of unity-criticism-unity in which MIM explains the basics of their line concerning prisoners in Amerika in a dialogue with the New Afrikan Independence Movement. MIM argues that the term "political prisoners" shouldn't just be reserved for individuals such as Mumia Abu-Jamal or Leonard Peltier, but is more appropriately and powerfully applied to all prisoners. All prisoners currently incarcerated under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie are rightly so political prisoners because the "laws" that we supposedly broke were laws specifically designed for the backing of the backward illegitimate political agenda of the superstructure and the settler state which it serves. To ignore or refute this point with respect to the entire imprisoned population and instead deflect the political aspect of this oppression to just a few individuals is not just a victory for the bourgeoisie but is itself bourgeois in essence!

"Political Prisoners & the Anti-Imperialist Struggle" centers on the antagonistic contradiction of Amerika vs. the oppressed nations that is reflected thru the prison system. It focuses on the material basis objectively present in the form of the gulag, and the material forces already present therein. MIM discusses the dire need for leadership to further help develop these potentially revolutionary forces to their logical conclusion, or in MIM's words: "to unite all who can be united to smash imperialism and all its tools of oppression..."

MIM understood the process of rapid radicalization of "common criminals" as a profoundly political one and in their agitation they emphasized that process as reflecting the material basis for revolution as does MIM(Prisons) and USW. Unity on this point is therefore essential to re-launching the new prison movement in connection with the national liberation struggles which have been repressed and stagnated by the oppressors with mass incarceration.

Finally, "Who Are the Political Prisoners?" is a New York prisoner's contribution and advancement to the MIM line on political prisoners in which s/he expounds MIM's line in detail and in such a way as to leave no doubt that the growth of the prison system within U.$. borders is not just a boil, but a cancer on the oppressed nation internal semi-colonies that needs to be mercilessly removed!

MT 11 also contains, among other things, an essay on Malcolm X's progressive development, a critique of Gandhi's so-called "non-violence" and pacifist strategy and tactics, as well as some good theoretical works and revolutionary poetry.

For all these reasons combined, MIM Theory 11: Amerikkkan Prisons on Trial gets four out of four red stars.

And so with that i end this review the same way the New York prisoner ended his article:

Death and Destruction to the U.$. Empire!
Birth and Construction to the Prison Revolutionary Movement!

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Book Review: The Essential Stalin

Lenin and Stalin

The Essential Stalin: Major Theoretical Writings, 1905-52
Edited with an introduction by Bruce Franklin

"…Stalin is clearly one of the three most important historical figures of our century, his thought and deeds still affecting our daily lives, considered by hundreds of millions today as one of the leading political theorists of any time, his very name a strongly emotional household name throughout the world." - Bruce Franklin

These above mentioned words are as true today as they were when they were first written 40 years ago. The importance and relevance of Stalin's great theoretical works were at the core of the international communist movement for damn near 90 years and should serve as a rock-hard foundation for any persyn serious about wanting to re-ignite the socialist fire that was ablaze for the greater part of the last century.

As successful as the imperialists have been in vilifying not just the world revolutionary movement but it's once main proponent, they can never completely succeed in wiping the memory or more importantly the teachings and practice of J.V. Stalin from the minds of countless people around the globe. Yet the imperialists and their quisling lackeys such as Bob Avakian of RCP=U$A fame continue to desiccate Josef Stalin be it by "new", "conclusive", "secret archive" evidence or by the "new synthesis" method of attack. Therefore it is the duty of all the real revolutionaries to defend and uphold the practice of Stalin not just because it is integral to the successful practice of revolution as the people of Korea, Vietnam and Peru can attest to but because to attack Stalin is to attack the theory of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao as well; and the only way of doing this is to (a) study Stalin's works and (b) put it into practice! and we will find that (c) without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement as practice gropes in the dark unless it's path is illuminated by the most advanced revolutionary theory.

In my mission to learn the science of revolution I requested "The Essential Stalin" from MIM Distributors and must say with great certainty that my grasp of Marxism-Leniism-Maoism has been increased ten-fold thanks to my acquiring and diligent study of this most valuable Marxist-Leninist weapon of liberation. From the most intriguing introduction which is packed with such hysterical data that reads like the most vivid novel to "Marxism and the National Question", J.V. Stalin's first major theoretical contribution to the oppressed people of the world and to which any self-proclaimed revolutionary nationalist would be remiss not to study, to the "Foundations of Leninism" in which Stalin always the teacher clearly lays out not just the hysterical roots of the first truly successful revolutionary ideology based on Marx & Engels formulations which led to the worlds first socialist society, but in which he clearly relayed to the Soviet Union that they would stay the course set by Lenin; to "Dialectical and Historical Materialism" in which he explained the rudiments of Marxist philosophy and which was once considered required reading for all members of the Chinese Communist Party or "Marxism and Linguistics" where Stalin in replying to young communists properly put forward the place of language in the revolutionary movement while simultaneously critiquing the dominant Soviet "authorities," i.e. revisionists, or "Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR", Stalin's criticism of "two extreme tendencies in Soviet political economy, mechanical determinism and voluntarism" which were propagated by the new bourgeois in the party who wished to cause the disappearing of man in socialist production.

Surely after leading this communist jewel you will find as did I why it was Mao himself who described Stalin as "the greatest genius of our time" and labeled himself as disciple of Stalin.

Studying Stalin however isn't always the easiest task and requires deep thought. Rest assured however that by completely immersing yourself in Stalin's work and undertaking a painstaking study of it you will be illuminated by the shining path put forward by comrade Stalin, and while he wasn't always the perfect communist for the Soviet Union, he was the best they had and as a result the International Communist Movement flourished.

Long Live Josef Stalin!

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Review: Monkey Smashes Heaven 1 & 2

monkey smashes heaven issue 2
Monkey Smashes Heaven 1 & 2
Leading Light Communist Organization

MIM(Prisons) has six cardinal principles, all of which we believe the Leading Light Communist Organization (LLCO) upholds to the degree that we consider them fraternal. As such, we distribute some of their better work, which is likely why you are reading this review. LLCO is one of very few who work within the legacy of the MIM to a significant degree.

This is our first review of the Leading Light Communist Organization by that name, but the theoretical journal Monkey Smashes Heaven predates the LLCO. We reviewed them in 2009 in Maoism Around Us and addressed them later that year in What is sectarianism?

The latter article criticized MSH's nihilist approach to the struggles that comrades from the Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika went through in their last days. Unfortunately, their sectarianism has only increased since forming LLCO. In their 10 criteria set forth in the beginning of MSH 1 for who they consider to be a communist, the number one point is you must uphold their ideology called "Maoism-Third Worldism", now "Leading Light Communism." This amounts to saying, "we see you as fraternal if you think exactly like us." Cardinal principles should be a handful of the most important issues of the day that define the communist movement. The expectation that the only correct political organizations are those that share identical ideologies leads quickly to the Trotskyist requirement that revolution must be led by a single global organization imposing its will on all countries.

As we addressed already in "Maoism Around Us", we do not recognize an advancement of revolutionary science beyond Maoism as MSH claims Leading Light Communism is. After reviewing MSH 1 and MSH 2, MIM(Prisons) still fails to see the unique contributions that MSH/LLCO claim to have made to constitute a new stage of revolutionary science. They state this repeatedly in their journals, without explaining what exactly distinguishes Leading Light Communism from Maoism.

The one partial explanation they do provide on p. 51 of MSH 1 is that they were the first to scientifically explain that there "is no significant revolutionary class or socioeconomic group in the First World." MIM was the first to put together a lot of the theories on the labor aristocracy into a coherent class analysis of the First World. Yet even they acknowledged that the main points were not new to Lenin, and even Engels had talked about the buying off of whole nations. LLCO has written some interesting new articles on the subject, but has not advanced the theoretical concepts in any way. Where LLCO disagrees with MIM is on the question of internal semi-colonies being potentially revolutionary in the First World. The buying off of internal semi-colonies was most thoroughly addressed in MIM's "On the Internal Class Structure of the Internal Semi-Colonies" and recognized as early as 1992 in MIM Theory 1. We have yet to see LLCO address this issue in any detail. We have yet to see them explain the revolutionary nationalism of just a couple generations ago and why it could not happen again, or even surpass previous experiences. They simply dismiss the possibility with no analysis or explanation.

While opportunistically presenting as the heir apparent to MIM on Wikipedia, they almost never cite MIM or use MIM language except to criticize MIM. In reading the first two print editions of their journal LLCO takes similar approaches to the theoretical contributions of Marx, Lenin and Mao. This takes their sectarianism to another level of knocking down all of their predecessors as inadequate in the face of their supposedly advanced analysis.

Finally, their sectarian thinking leads to a cultish approach to organizing, rather than teaching people how to think and solve problems. While always being sure to hype LLCO as the most advanced, they rarely explain why. It is the job of the vanguard to raise the scientific understanding of others through struggle, not to simply encourage them to follow the leading light.

We won't list all the things we agree with in the first two issues of MSH here. The articles from MSH that we choose to distribute in our own study packs can speak for themselves in how correct they are. We generally agree with the content of those articles except for the points above, and we distribute them because they add new insight into the topics of study.

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[National Oppression] [Theory] [ULK Issue 24]
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Book Review: The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow


The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander
2010, The New Press, New York

As a whole, this is a very useful book for anyone interested in understanding the criminal injustice system. It is an excellent aggregation of facts about every aspect of the system - incarceration, policing, the drug war, the courts - making a scientific case that this is really a system for social control of oppressed nations within U.$. borders. Where Alexander falls short is in her analysis of how this fits into society in the broader context. She doesn't actually name national oppression, though certainly this book is clear evidence for the existence of something more than just an attitude of racism. She doesn't take on the question of why Amerikan capitalism would want such an extensive system of prison social control. As a result, her solutions are reformist at best.

Prisons as a Tool of National Oppression

Starting with the history of Amerikan prisons, Alexander explains how the relatively low and stable incarceration rate in this country changed after the civil rights movement which the government labeled criminal and used as an excuse to "get tough on crime" and increase incarceration.(p. 41) It was actually the revolutionary nationalist movements of the 60s and 70s, most notably the Black Panther Party, which terrified the Amerikan government and led to mass incarceration, murder, brutality and infiltration to try to destroy these revolutionary groups. Alexander's failure to mention these movements is symptomatic of a missing piece throughout the book - an understanding of the importance of revolutionary nationalism.

This book does an excellent job exposing the war on drugs as a farce that is only really concerned with social control. Although studies show that the majority of drug users are white, 3/4 of people locked up for drug crimes are Black or Latino.(p. 96) Further, statistics show that violent crime rates are unrelated to imprisonment rates.(p. 99) So when people say they are locking up "criminals" what they mean is they are locking up people who Amerikan society has decided are "criminals" just because of their nation of birth.

To her credit, Alexander does call out Nixon and his cronies for their appeal to the white working class in the name of racism, under the guise of law and order, because this group felt their privileges were threatened.(p. 45) And she recognizes this underlying current of white support for the criminal injustice system for a variety of reasons related to what we call national privilege. But this book doesn't spend much time on the historical relations between the privileged white nation and the oppressed nations. J. Sakai's book Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat does a much better job of that.

Alexander argues that Amerikans, for the most part, oppose overt racial bias. But instead we have developed a culture of covert bias that substitutes words like "criminal" for "Black" and then discriminates freely. This bias is what fuels the unequal policing, sentencing rates, prison treatment, and life after release for Blacks and Latinos in Amerika. Studies have shown that Amerikans (both Black and white) when asked to identify or imagine a drug criminal overwhelmingly picture a Black person.(p. 104) So although this is statistically inaccurate (they should be picturing a white youth), this is the culture Amerika condones. Even this thin veil over outright racism is a relatively new development in Amerika's long history as a pioneer in the ideology of racism. (see Labor Aristocracy, Mass Base of Social Democracy by H.W. Edwards)

"More African American adults are under correctional control today - in prison or jail, on probation or parole - than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began."(p. 175) It is this national oppression that leads Alexander to draw the parallel that is the source of the book's title: prisons are the new Jim Crow. She recognizes that prisons are not slavery, but that instead prisons are a legal way to systematically oppress whole groups of people. While she focuses on Blacks in this book she does note that the same conditions apply to Latinos in this country.

The Role of the Police

Alexander addresses each aspect of the criminal injustice system, demonstrating how it has developed into a tool to lock up Black and Brown people. Starting with the police system she notes that the courts have virtually eliminated Fourth Amendment protections against random police searches, which has led to scatter shot searches. By sheer volume yield some arrests.(p. 67) These searches are done at the discretion of the police, who are free to discriminate in the neighborhoods they choose to terrorize. This discretion has led to systematic searches of people living in ghettos but no harassment of frat parties or suburban homes and schools where statistics show the cops would actually have an even better chance of finding drugs. In reality, when drug arrests increase it is not a sign of increased drug activity, just an increase in police activity.(p. 76)

Law enforcement agencies were encouraged to participate in the drug war with huge financial incentives from the federal government as well as equipment and training. This led to the militarization of the police in the 1990s.(p. 74) Federal funding is directly linked to the number of drug arrests that are made, and police were granted the right to keep cash and assets seized in the drug war.(p. 77) These two factors strongly rewarded police departments for their participation.

Asset seizure laws emphasize the lack of interest by the government and police in imprisoning drug dealers or kingpins, despite drug war propaganda claims to the contrary. Those with assets are allowed to buy their freedom while small time users with few assets to trade are subjected to lengthy prison terms. Alexander cites examples of payments of $50k cutting an average of 6.3 years from a sentence in Massachusetts.(p. 78)

Bias in the Courts

Taking on the court system, Alexander points out that most people are not represented by adequate legal council, if they have a lawyer at all, since the war on drugs has focused on poor people. And as a result, most people end up pleading out rather than going to trial. The prosecution is granted broad authority to charge people with whatever crimes they like, and so they can make the list of charges appear to carry a long sentence suggesting that someone would do well to accept a "lesser" plea bargained deal, even if the likelihood of getting a conviction on some of the charges is very low.

"The critical point is that thousands of people are swept into the criminal justice system every year pursuant to the drug war without much regard for their guilt or innocence. The police are allowed by the courts to conduct fishing expeditions for drugs on streets and freeways based on nothing more than a hunch. Homes may be searched for drugs based on a tip from an unreliable, confidential informant who is trading the information for money or to escape prison time. And once swept inside the system, people are often denied attorneys or meaningful representation and pressured into plea bargains by the threat of unbelievably harsh sentences - sentences for minor drug crimes that are higher than many countries impose on convicted murderers."(p. 88)

After allowing discretion in areas that ensure biased arrests, trials and sentences, the courts shut off any ability for people to challenge inherent racial bias in the system. The Supreme Court ruled that there must be overt statements by the prosecutor or jury to consider racial bias under the constitution. But prosecutorial discretion leads to disproportionate treatment of cases by race.

Further discretion in dismissing jurors, selective policing, and sentencing all lead to systematically different treatment for Blacks and Latinos relative to whites. This can be demonstrated easily enough with a look at the numbers. Sophisticated studies controlling for all other possible variables consistently show this bias. But a 2001 Supreme Court ruling determined that racial profiling cases can only be initiated by the government. "The legal rules adopted by the Supreme Court guarantee that those who find themselves locked up and permanently locked out due to the drug war are overwhelmingly black and brown."(p. 136)

Release from Prison but a Lifetime of Oppression

This book goes beyond the system of incarceration to look at the impact on prisoners who are released as well as on their families and communities. Alexander paints a picture that is fundamentally devastating to the Black community.

She outlines how housing discrimination against former felons prevents them from getting Section 8 housing when this is a group most likely to be in need of housing assistance. Public housing can reject applicants based on arrests even if there was no conviction. This lack of subsidized or publicly funded housing is compounded by the unavailability of jobs to people convicted of crimes, as a common question on job applications is used to reject these folks. "Nearly one-third of young black men in the United States today are out of work. The jobless rate for young black male dropouts, including those incarcerated, is a staggering 65 percent."(p. 149)

"Nationwide, nearly seven out of eight people living in high-poverty urban areas are members of a minority group."(p. 191) A standard condition of parole is a promise not to associate with felons, a virtual impossibility when released back into a community that is riddled with former felons.

"Today a criminal freed from prison has scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a freed slave or a black person living 'free' in Mississippi at the height of Jim Crow. Those released from prison on parole can be stopped and searched by the police for any reason - or no reason at all - and returned to prison for the most minor of infractions, such as failing to attend a meeting with a parole officer. Even when released from the system's formal control, the stigma of criminality lingers. Police supervision, monitoring, and harassment are facts of life not only for those labeled criminals, but for all those who 'look like' criminals. Lynch mobs may be long gone, but the threat of police violence is ever present...The 'whites only' signs may be gone, but new signs have gone up - notices placed in job applications, rental agreements, loan applications, forms for welfare benefits, school applications, and petitions for licenses, informing the general public that 'felons' are not wanted here. A criminal record today authorizes precisely the forms of discrimination we supposedly left behind - discrimination in employment, housing, education, public benefits, and jury service. Those labeled criminals can even be denied the right to vote."(p. 138)

Alexander devotes a number of pages to the issue of voting and the prohibition in all but two states on prisoners voting while incarcerated for a felony offense, and the further denial of the vote to prisoners released on parole. Some states even take away prisoners' right to vote for life. She is right that this is a fundamental point of disenfranchisement, but Alexander suggests that "a large number of close elections would have come out differently if felons had been allowed to vote..."(p. 156) This may be true, but those differences would not have had a significant impact on the politics in Amerika. This is because elections in an imperialist country are just an exercise in choosing between figureheads. The supposedly more liberal Democrats like Clinton and Obama were the ones who expanded the criminal injustice system the most. So a different imperialist winning an election would not change the system.

Oppressed Nation Culture

On the Amerikan culture and treatment of oppressed peoples Alexander asks: "...are we wiling to demonize a population, declare a war against them, and then stand back and heap shame and contempt upon them for failing to behave like model citizens while under attack?"(p. 165) She argues that the culture of the oppressed is an inevitable result of the conditions faced by the oppressed. And in fact the creation of lumpen organizations for support is a reasonable outcome.

"So herein lies the paradox and predicament of young black men labeled criminals. A war has been declared on them, and they have been rounded up for engaging in precisely the same crimes that go largely ignored in middle and upper class white communities - possession and sale of illegal drugs. For those residing in ghetto communities, employment is scarce - often nonexistent. Schools located in ghetto communities more closely resemble prisons than places of learning, creativity, or moral development. ...many fathers are in prison, and those who are 'free' bear the prison label. They are often unable to provide for, or meaningfully contribute to, a family. And we wonder, then, that many youth embrace their stigmatized identity as a means of survival in this new caste system? Should we be shocked when they turn to gangs or fellow inmates for support when no viable family support structure exists? After all, in many respects, they are simply doing what black people did during the Jim Crow era - they are turning to each other for support and solace in a society that despises them.

"Yet when these young people do what all severely stigmatized groups do - try to cope by turning to each other and embracing their stigma in a desperate effort to regain some measure of self esteem - we, as a society, heap more shame and contempt upon them. We tell them their friends are 'no good', that they will 'amount to nothing,' that they are 'wasting their lives,' and that 'they're nothing but criminals.' We condemn their baggy pants (a fashion trend that mimics prison-issue pants) and the music that glorifies a life many feel they cannot avoid. When we are done shaming them, we throw up our hands and then turn out backs as they are carted off to jail."(p167)

National Oppression

Alexander would do well to consider the difference between racism, an attitude, and national oppression, a system inherent to imperialist economics. Essentially she is describing national oppression when she talks about systematic racism. But by missing this key concept, Alexander is able to sidestep a discussion about national liberation from imperialism.

"When the system of mass incarceration collapses (and if history is any guide, it will), historians will undoubtedly look back and marvel that such an extraordinarily comprehensive system of racialized social control existed in the United States. How fascinating, they will likely say, that a drug war was waged almost exclusively against poor people of color - people already trapped in ghettos that lacked jobs and decent schools. They were rounded up by the millions, packed away in prisons, and when released they were stigmatized for life, denied the right to vote, and ushered into a world of discrimination. Legally barred from employment, housing, and welfare benefits - and saddled with thousands of dollars of debt - the people were shamed and condemned for failing to hold together their families. They were chastised for succumbing to depression and anger, and blamed for landing back in prison. Historians will likely wonder how we could describe the new caste system as a system of crime control, when it is difficult to imagine a system better designed to create - rather than prevent - crime."(p. 170)

Alexander does an excellent job describing the system of national oppression in the United $tates. She notes "One way of understanding our current system of mass incarceration is to think of it as a birdcage with a locked door. It is a set of structural arrangements that locks a racially distinct group into a subordinate political, social and economic position, effectively creating a second-class citizenship. Those trapped within the system are not merely disadvantaged, in the sense that they are competing on an unequal playing field or face additional hurdles to political or economic success; rather, the system itself is structured to lock them into a subordinate position."(p. 180)

The book explains that the arrest and lock up of a few whites is just part of the latest system of national oppression or "the New Jim Crow": "[T]he inclusion of some whites in the system of control is essential to preserving the image of a colorblind criminal justice system and maintaining our self-image as fair and unbiased people."(p. 199)

One interesting conclusion by Alexander is the potential for mass genocide inherent in the Amerikan prison system. There really is no need for the poor Black workers in factories in this country any longer so this population has truly become disposable and can be locked away en masse without any negative impact to the capitalists (in fact there are some positive impacts to these government subsidized industries).(p. 208) It's not a big leap from here to genocide.

Economics for Blacks have worsened even as they improved for whites. "As unemployment rates sank to historically low levels in the late 1990s for the general population, joblessness rates among non-college black men in their twenties rose to their highest levels ever, propelled by skyrocketing incarceration rates."(p. 216) She points out poverty and unemployment stats do not include people in prison. This could underestimate the true jobless rate by as much as 24% for less-educated black men.(p. 216)

Unfortunately, in her discussion of what she calls "structural racism" Alexander falls short. She recognizes white privilege and the reactionary attitudes of the white nation, acknowledging that "working class" whites support both current and past racism, but she does not investigate why this is so. Attempting to explain the systematic racism in Amerikan society Alexander ignores national oppression and ends up with a less than clear picture of the history and material basis of white nation privilege and oppressed nation oppression within U.$. borders. National oppression is the reason why these oppressive institutions of slavery, Jim Crow, and imprisonment keep coming back in different forms in the U.$., and national liberation is the only solution.

How to Change the System

Alexander highlights the economic consequences of cutting prisons which show the strong financial investment that Amerikans have overall in this system: "If four out of five people were released from prison, far more than a million people could lose their jobs."(p. 218) This estimation doesn't include the private sector: private prisons, manufacturers of police and guard weapons, etc.

To her credit, Alexander understands that small reformist attacks on the criminal injustice system won't put an end to the systematic oppression: "A civil war had to be waged to end slavery; a mass movement was necessary to bring a formal end to Jim Crow. Those who imagine that far less is required to dismantle mass incarceration and build a new, egalitarian racial consensus reflecting a compassionate rather than punitive impulse towards poor people of color fail to appreciate the distance between Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream and the ongoing racial nightmare for those locked up and locked out of American society."(p. 223)

The problem with this analysis is that it fails to extrapolate what's really necessary to make change sufficient to create an egalitarian society. In fact, these very examples demonstrate the ability of the Amerikan imperialists to adapt and change their approach to national oppression: slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration. Alexander seems to see this when she talks about what will happen if the movement to end mass incarceration doesn't address race: "Inevitably a new system of racialized social control will emerge - one that we cannot foresee, just as the current system of mass incarceration was not predicted by anyone thirty years ago."(p. 245) But she stops short of offering any useful solutions to "address race" in this fight.

Alexander argues that affirmative action and the token advancement of a few Blacks has served as a racial bribe rather than progress, getting them to abandon more radical change.(p. 232) She concludes that the Black middle class is a product of affirmative action and would disappear without it.(p. 234) "Whereas black success stories undermined the logic of Jim Crow, they actually reinforce the system of mass incarceration. Mass incarceration depends for its legitimacy on the widespread belief that all those who appear trapped at the bottom actually chose their fate."(p. 235)

This is a good point: successful reformism often ends with a few token bribes in an attempt to stop a movement from making greater demands. And this is not really success. But short of revolution, there is no way to successfully end national oppression. And so Alexander's book concludes on a weak note as she tries to effect a bold and radical tone and suggest drastic steps are needed but offers no concrete suggestions about what these steps should be. She ends up criticizing everything from affirmative action to Obama but then pulling back and apologizing for these same institutions and individuals. This is the hole that reformists are stuck in once they see the mess that is the imperialist Amerikan system.

It's not impossible to imagine circumstances under which the Amerikan imperialists would want to integrate the oppressed nations within U.$. borders into white nation privilege. This could be advantageous to keep the home country population entirely pacified and allow the imperialists to focus on plunder and terrorism in the Third World. But we would not consider this a success for the oppressed peoples of the world.

A progressive movement against national oppression within U.$. borders must fight alongside the oppressed nations of the world who face even worse conditions at the hands of Amerikan imperialism. These Third World peoples may not face mass incarceration, but they suffer from short lifespans due to hunger and preventable diseases as well as the ever-present threat of death at the hands of Amerikan militarism making the world safe for capitalist plunder.

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