The Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) recently stepped in(1) to defend Turning the Tide against our USW comrade's critiques.(2) We can appreciate the greater clarity and honesty in Rashid's piece compared to Michael Novick's, but still cannot forgive him for getting the first question of importance to communists wrong: who are our friends and who are our enemies? Like Jose Maria Sison and Bob Avakian, Rashid has long been exposed to MIM line and writing, and many attempts to struggle with him have been made. It does great damage to the International Communist Movement when these people become icons of "Maoism" in many peoples' eyes, while promoting chauvinistic lines on the role of the oppressor nations under imperialism.
Rashid opens his piece with the most common strawpersyn argument of the revisionists, that the MIM line is wrong because Marx and Lenin never abandoned organizing among Europeans and Amerikans. Rashid needs to be more specific if he's claiming there are groups that are refusing to work with white people or moving to the Third World to organize. While our work mostly targets prisoners, we target prisoners of all nationalities, and similarly our street work is not very nation-specific. The question we would ask instead of "should we organize Amerikans?", is, "what is going to achieve communism faster, organizing rich people around demands for more money, or organizing them around ideas of collective responsibility for equal distribution of humyn needs and ecological sustainability?"
Rashid's third paragraph includes some numbers and math and at first glance i thought it might have some concrete analysis. But alas, the numbers appear just for show as they are a) made up numbers, and b) reflecting the most simple calculation that Marx teaches us to define surplus value. To counter Rashid's empty numbers, let us repeat our most basic math example here. If Amerikans are exploited, then to end exploitation would mean they need to get paid more money. Dividing the global GDP by the number of full-time laborers gives an equitable distribution of income of around $10,000 per persyn per year.(3) To be fair, in Rashid's article he addresses this and quotes Marx to say that we cannot have an equitable distribution of income. In that quote from Wages, Price and Profit Marx was writing about capitalism, which is inherently exploitative. Our goal is communism, or "from each according to her ability, to each according to her need." But we're not there yet, Rashid might argue. OK fine, let's take Rashid's hypothetical McDonald's worker making $58 per 8 hour workday. If we assume 5 days a week and 50 weeks a year we get $14,500 per year. According to the World Bank, half of the world's people make less than $1,225 per year.(4) That report also showed that about 10% of Amerikans are in the world's richest 1% and that almost half of the richest 1% are Amerikans. So Rashid wants to argue that under capitalism it is just that the lowest paid Amerikans earn over 10 times more than half of the world's population because their labor is worth that much more? How is that? What Marx was talking about in Wages, Price and Profit was scientific: a strong persyn might be twice as productive as a weak one, or a specially trained persyn might add more value than an unskilled persyn. So Rashid wants to use this to justify paying anyone who was birthed as a U.$. citizen 10 to 25 times, or more, the average global rate of pay? We have no idea how Rashid justifies this disparity except through crass Amerikan chauvinism.
This empty rhetoric is not Marxism. It is ironic how today people will use this basic formulation for surplus value from Marx to claim people of such vastly different living conditions are in the same class. No one else in the world looks at the conditions in the United $tates and Haiti and thinks, "these countries should really unite to address their common plight." It is only pseudo-Marxists and anarchists who read a little Marx who can come up with such crap.
Rashid later establishes commonality across nations with the definition, "The proletariat simply is one who must sell her labor power to survive, which is as true for the Amerikan worker as it is for one in Haiti." We prefer Marx's definition that the proletariat are those who have nothing to lose but their chains. According to Rashid, we should determine whether someone is exploited based on different measuring sticks depending on what country they live in. Apparently, in the United $tates you must have a $20,000 car, a $200,000 home and hand-held computers for every family member over 5 in order "to survive." Whereas in other countries electricity and clean water are optional. More chauvinism.
Rashid continues discussing class definitions,
"For instance, if there's no [Euro-Amerikan] ('white') proletariat in the US, then there's also no New Afrikan/Black one. If a EA working in McDonalds isn't a proletarian, then neither is one of color. If there's no New Afrikan proletariat, then there's no New Afrikan lumpen proletariat either ("lumpen" literally means "broken"—if they were never of the proletariat, they could not become a 'broken' proletariat)."
Lumpen is usually translated as "rag." Even in the United $tates we have a population of people who live in rags, who have very little to lose. However, we completely agree with Rashid's logic here. And that is why MIM(Prisons) started using the term "First World lumpen" to distinguish from "lumpenproletariat." There is little connection between the lumpen in this country and a real proletariat, with the exceptions being within migrant populations and some second generation youth who form a bridge between Third World proletariat, First World semi-proletariat and First World lumpen classes. Rashid continues,
"Yet the VLA [vulgar labor aristocracy] proponents recognize New Afrikan prisoners as 'lumpen' who are potentially revolutionary. Which begs the question, why aren't they doing work within the oppressed New Afrikan communities where they're less apt to be censored, if indeed they compose a lumpen sector?"
This is directed at us, so we will answer: historical experience and limited resources. As our readers should know, we struggle to do the things we do to support prisoner education programs and organizing work. We do not have the resources right now to do any serious organizing outside of prisons. And we made the conscious decision of how we can best use our resources in no small part due to historical experience of our movement. In other words we go where there is interest in revolutionary politics. The margins, the weakest links in the system, that is where you focus your energy. Within the lumpen class, the imprisoned lumpen have a unique relationship to the system that results in a strong contradiction with that system. The imprisoned population could also be considered 100% lumpen, whereas less than 20% of the New Afrikan nation is lumpen, the rest being among various bourgeois classes, including the labor aristocracy.
"And if the lumpen can be redeemed, why not EA [Euro-Amerikan] workers?"
Again, look at history. Read J. Sakai's Settlers and read about the Black Panther Party. Today, look at the growing prison system and the regular murder of New Afrikan and other oppressed nation youth by the pigs. Look at where the contradictions and oppression are.
The only really interesting thing about this piece is that Rashid has further drawn a line between the MIM camp and the slew of anarchist and crypto-Trotskyist organizations who are still confused about where wealth comes from. They think people sitting at computers typing keys are exploited, and Rashid accuses our line of requiring "surplus value falling from the sky!" We already told you where the high wages in the imperialist countries came from, Rashid, the Third World proletariat! That is why the average Amerikan makes 25 times the average humyn, and why all Amerikans are in the top 13% in income globally. As the revisionists like to remind us, wealth disparity just keeps getting greater and greater under capitalism. The labor aristocracy today is like nothing that V.I. Lenin ever could have witnessed. We must learn from the methods of Marx and Lenin, not dogmatically repeat their analysis from previous eras to appease Amerikans.
The petit-bourgeoisie is not only the white nation people. Anyone who posses the ideological and social behaviors or the political views that are influenced by private property interests are in fact part of the petit-bourgeoisie. In Amerikkka those whose ideological principles are on this level are part of the oppressor nation. Many TTT constituents fail under these principles.
And as for the individual claiming to have been dropped by MIM(Prisons), it sounds like that person never was attempting to build. For those who want to attack an organization that has been staunch in true struggle and who's line is correct in many ways, needs to, as the komrade who address this issue said, investigate before hs/she has the right to speak. Komrade Soso did well in the response and TTT should engage in "righteous" criticism not some back door attack on MIM(Prisons).
MIM(Prisons) must keep their energy on educating those who want to learn. Let's not waste energy on fictitious attacks. MIM(Prisons) has been doing revolutionary work for many many years and has proven results. As said, history will tell.
MIM(Prisons) responds: We agree with this comrade that TTT demonstrates a petit-bourgeois political line, though we must be careful with our definitions of this term. We define the petit-bourgeoisie by their relations to the means of production, as an economic status, not just ideological principles. The fundamental point of debate with TTT is around the MIM(Prisons) scientific analysis of classes in imperialist countries, concluding that the vast majority of people in these countries are part of the petit-bourgeoisie. This is not because they have political views aligning with private property interests, but rather these views stem from their economic interests.
Reading the June issue of "The Rock," a recurring theme kept on popping up. That theme was the raising up of prisoners' consciousness. This is a very good thing as the majority of prisoners lack the consciousness and ideology of a revolutionary.
The demands being put out are good, but as a 23-year old prisoner I can't help but shout that the same demands we are asking for we already had, and more so, they shouldn't be privileges but rights! Fighting for positive reforms is good in itself, but one shouldn't miss the forest for the trees. It's said best by Lenin:
"People always were and always would be the foolish victims of deceit and self deceit in politics until they learn to discover the interest of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. The supporters of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realize that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is maintained by the forces of some ruling classes. And there is only one way of smashing the resistance of these classes, and that is to find, in the very society that surrounds us, and to enlighten and organize for the struggle, the forces which can, and owing to their social position, must constitute the power capable of sweeping away the old and creating the new."(1)
I quote this in length because it screams at me. "Owing to their social position", and what is our social position? Second, third class citizens? What's to keep prison 'gangs' form forming into political parties? Swapping our old ideas for new ones? To dismantle our old selves and transform into a force of change not only in prison but society at large?
We have the 'fuck you attitude,' we have brass, now the question is do we have the will to organize, agitate, analyze and act? To learn something you don't know is a difficult task, I could attest to that. Putting a burden on us (prisoners) more so is the culture we cultivate and the ideology that we act out. That is the coming up on people; robbing, selling drugs and trying to conquer every female we come across. The majority of the time when we do this we do it to people who are in our same "social position." They're in the pit just like us.
Good thing for us there's the ability in humans to change, whether it be consciously, mentally, spiritually or ideologically. The main thing though is to bring it into practice. Karl Marx observed that "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary it is their social being that determines their consciousness."(2) Again what is our "social being?" Bluntly, it's shit! We need only to look at the environment we grew up around. Liquor stores are in overstock, drugs are roaming freely, homes have no foundation or stability. most have grown accustomed to this way of life. With this deadly (literally) way of thinking, it ain't no surprise our consciousness is lacking in many areas of life.
There's a striking notion that says prisoners now-a-days lack the backbone their predecessors have. Sad to say this statement is slightly true. I have numerous books, but urban novels and novels period got a strong hold on my brethren. Many feel that there is no oppression, genocide or killing of our people and other acts of aggression from the government, but just as one sees a movie or TV show and can't see the camera, that doesn't mean it's not there.
Taking a passive or neutral stance is taking a stance on the side of the oppressor, it seems that you're OK with the status quo. Activity and agitation is taking the side of history as Marx viewed, "...freedom is the recognition of necessity. Necessity is blind only in so far as it's not understood."(3) As history shows times always change. We could look at it as it passes by, we could hop on board or we could go even further and build the vehicle of change, start it up and drive it. Closing my humble thoughts, I'll let Karl Marx do it, as he said it well: "There is no royal road to science [or learning] and only those who don't dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits."(4)
It should be very disturbing when young Latinos from so-called "War Zones", and Texas urban centers — infested with drugs, gangs, prostitutes, pimps, young men from broken homes, raised by the State, in foster care, or juvenile prisons — can look you in the face and speak with prestige about U.$. political systems and social institutions, giving the impression of "legitimacy" when referring to U.$. democracy, freedom, justice, and "social mobility".
This past week the local news station for the San Antonio area aired a special report about a strengthening Mexican economy. The report talked about Mexican consumption reaching levels unprecedented in history, Mexican buying power, and this consumption being fed by U.$. products and production. It included images of bourgeoisified Mexicans holding up a sign with an image of a U.$. flag that said "Made In The USA". This report aired as President Obama visited Mexico and Centro America. One Latino patriot started singing "I'm proud to be an American, Where at least I know I'm free," sparking heated debate across the viewing area.
Another moment of patriotic sentiment was recently expressed when an article was published in the San Antonio Express Newspaper. Ex-State Representative, and self-proclaimed "Hispanic," Henry Cisneros (D) revealed a "philanthropic and humanitarian aid" initiative for the State of Chiapas in Mexico, backed by U.$. financiers. The article stressed the extreme poverty and economic woes of the region. Mr. Cisneros was quick to exaggerate a connection between his own ethnic roots and the City of San Antonio, Texas, as a backdrop for the plan expected to build "international bridges" and raise the living standards of Mexico's "wretched." These "Mexican-Americans" I'm surrounded by were quick to point out the article as an indicator of U.$. international efforts at "nation building," and how our political system here in the States allowed a "Mexican-American" to become a representative not only for the "raza" in Texas, but all the way in Chiapas. What the article didn't mention, and nobody seemed to notice, is that Chiapas is partly under "rebel control." The EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) and the Mexican Federal Government are engaged in low-intensity warfare for the land, hearts, and loyalty of the citizens of Chiapas and most of Southern Mexico. Could it be that Mr. Cisneros is being used as a Brown face for U.$. imperialism? Could the U.$. humanitarian aid be a cover for undermining the insurgents' efforts to gain legitimacy by building infrastructure inside the barricaded "rebel zones" in Chiapas? Wake up people!!!
The strongest argument these Patriots have is: if our living standards are raised, buying capacity strengthened, and struggles of life eased, what's the problem? If a "Mexican-American" can be elected into office, representing Latinos locally and internationally, what is so wrong with our political and economic systems? They say we need more [email protected] in office, and that we need to exercise our rights to vote, and take advantage of every opportunity available, before we point the finger hollering "oppression!" That's the attitude of these fools.
I owe my political development to MIM(Prisons), but I'm just not advanced enough in my understanding of capitalism and imperialism to effectively challenge these views raised when I criticize U.$. domestic and foreign relations. When i speak about communism as an alternative, the programming is reflected by smart remarks about oppressive regimes that sprang up after communists seized power in countries like Cuba, Korea, and Vietnam. China is referenced as a communist system in their minds. The word communism raises so many fears and scares folks away. I don't know how to raise arguments to fight all the negative stigma surrounding communism. I don't know how to effectively strike at the image of legitimacy and prestige seated deep in the consciousness of these herd-minded sheeple (sheep-people). Lumpen prisoners need to understand where their real long-term interests are at. It's not with the maintenance of the Empire, or replacing the conservative white politician with a liberal Latin@. Please help!
MIM(Prisons) responds: First let us quickly address the title to this comrade's essay, as many throw around the term fascist in their letters to us, but we print it here in line with our very specific definition of the term (see our Fascism and Contemporary Economics study pack for more background info).(1) As we will explore more deeply in our forthcoming book on the First World lumpen class, the combination of wealth in this country and the precariousness of the lumpen class makes for a potentially radical, but potentially pro-capitalist, pro-exploitation political base that would team up with the most brutal imperialists. It is for this reason that we take seriously the task of reconnecting the lower class of the oppressed nations with their radical anti-imperialist histories and interests.
Ultimately communists are educators. Some who read Marx mechanically will say that communism is inevitable, period. However, Marx's theory that communism would replace capitalism was based in the idea that the masses of people would, for the first time in hystory, gain a scientific understanding of society and how to guide it to meet their needs. This requires a conscious effort of people to study, understand and teach others. Without that we remain trapped at the whims of social forces beyond our control, determined by a powerful elite who only teach us to be good consumers.
In the imperialist countries this is not just a question of "waking up" or educating people, as there is an economic interest in maintaining the system that gives us all the material wealth that we enjoy at the expense of the Third World. So we are focused on building minority movements while splitting the unity of those who would oppose a transformation of society to a more just and sustainable mode of production. When we have people sitting in prison so twisted in the head that they are singing patriotic songs about Amerika "where at least I know I'm free," we know we have room to expand our influence.
The question of how to reach these potential allies is of utmost importance to us. One piece to addressing this is training our existing allies theoretically. The forthcoming book, Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, will give comrades an example of how to push Maoism in the context of Aztlán. This will be especially helpful for those narrow nationalists who won't listen to you tell them how great China was under socialism. However, we must also study Chinese socialism, because they accomplished things no other society has to date; Chinese socialism led the way up until 1976. A new bourgeoisie rose to power within the "Communist Party," which remains the name of the capitalist leaders who have led China down a disastrous road for the last 37 years. We have many good books on China and MIM Theory 4: A Spiral Trajectory, which takes a look at some of the other socialist experiments of the past.
Of course, most will not jump right into theoretical study, which is why our education work requires agitational work. It is up to those of us with the theoretical knowledge and understanding to translate the most pressing contradictions in our society into simple, stand-alone ideas that can be repeated over and over to the masses in a way that will resonate, build understanding and support. The mission of Under Lock & Key is to be an agitational tool among the prison masses. This is where we try to put forth our theory in short pieces that will make people think critically and act.
While the majority of the world has a clear interest in ending imperialism, in the United $tates we have to be more creative. We focus on prisons and other state repression that seriously threatens a minority of people in this country. For the oppressed nations we can also draw connections to their people's histories and how imperialism impacts those places as this comrade did with Chiapas. And for the majority of Amerikans who aren't affected by those things, we still have the destruction of the environment and the never-ending threat of war that are inherent contradictions within capitalism, easily remedied by ending the profit motive. As long as we are guided by the correct theory, we can try all sorts of agitational tactics and test them in the real world. It is through this practice, and sharing our experiences with each other, that we can learn what works best.
The Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons (MIM(Prisons)), a communist organization in the United $tates which formed out of the legacy of the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM), announces support for and echoes the urgency of the main ideas in the below statement from the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM). In particular, we recognize the importance of fighting First Worldism, which incorrectly identifies the petty bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries as a part of the international proletariat. First Worldism has played an important role in undermining the building of socialism worldwide. A correct class analysis is critical to all successful revolutionary movements.
MIM(Prisons) refrains from being an outright signatory of this statement because of what it leaves out. In this dialogue within the International Communist Movement (ICM), we would add that we do not see the legacy of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) as a positive one. As the original MIM pointed out over the many years since the formation of the RIM, it was always a force for revisionism rather than a force for revolution. Revolutionary parties seeking to re-establish the RIM should take heed of the mistakes that were inherent in the RIM design and political line from the start. There is no value in resurrecting a revisionist organization.
Further, we challenge our comrades in Maoist organizations around the world to examine closely what Mao wrote back in 1943 on the question of dissolving the International. We do not believe that conditions have changed since that time so that a new International will be a positive development. Instead we uphold the original MIM position that "The world's communist parties should compare notes and sign joint declarations, but there are no situations where a party should submit to international discipline through a world party. Where various Maoist parties from different nationalities have the same goal, they will then coordinate their actions in joint struggle. This will occur in the case of the united states when several nationalities come to exert joint dictatorship over it. Of course there will be some form of temporary organizational discipline at international conferences, but such discipline should not extend to what gets done in the various countries by the various Maoist parties."("Resolutions on Vanguard Organizing." 1995 MIM Congress.)
From the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement [This letter has been co-signed by the Turkish group, İştirakî, and the pan-Indigenous web-project, Onkwehón:we Rising. To co-sign this important international document, email [email protected]]
A Letter to Maoist and Revolutionary Organizations
Recently the Communist Party of Italy (Maoist) called for the convening of an international meeting of Maoist organizations. This call comes some years after the RIM collapsed following the development of evident revisionism within two of its leading organizations, the RCP-USA and the UCPN.
Comrades! Let us carry out and celebrate the firm break with the revisionism emanating from the leadership of the RCP-USA and the UCPN. In doing so, let us reaffirm our defining points of unity based on the experience of class struggle and distilled into Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
All of history is the result of the development of the means of production and the struggle between classes over their ownership and use.
Under capitalism, labor is utilized for the sake of profit. Capital is accumulated surplus labor turned against the masses of workers.
That capitalist-imperialism entails the indirect and direct exploitation of the majority of people by dominant monopoly capital and reveals widening contradictions inherent in capitalism.
The only alternative to the continued barbarism of imperialism is the struggle for socialism and communism. Broadly speaking, people's wars and united fronts are the most immediate, reliable means to struggle for communism.
Socialism entails the forceful seizure of power by the proletariat. However, socialism is not the end of the struggle. Under socialism, the conditions exist for the development of a 'new bourgeoisie' which will seek to establish itself as a new ruling class. In order to counter this tendency, class struggle must be waged relentlessly under socialism through the development of communism.
These are points all Maoists can agree on. Yet these do not capture all significant features of today's world.
Comrades! A discourse and struggle over the nature of class under imperialism is sorely needed.
The Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement puts forward a line that includes the understanding that a majority section of the populations of imperialist countries are embourgeoisfied.
This embourgeoification often contours around national oppression cast in the history of colonialism and settler-colonialism. It is most wholly construed, however, as an ongoing global distinction between parasitic workers in imperialist core economies and exploited workers in the vast Third World periphery.
Though understandings of this split in the working class was popularized as the 'labor-aristocracy' by Lenin, the phenomenon itself was first noted by Friedrich Engels in a letter to Karl Marx:
"[T]he English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that the ultimate aim of this most bourgeois of all nations would appear to be the possession, alongside the bourgeoisie, of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat. In the case of a nation which exploits the entire world this is, of course, justified to some extent."
With some exceptions, Marxists have focused and debated primarily on the ideological effects of the controversial 'theory of the labor aristocracy.' Unfortunately, less attention has been paid to the economic dimensions of the 'labor aristocracy.'
Within the imperialist world-economy, First World workers (a minority of workers in the world) receive compensation which exceeds the monetary rate of the full value of labor. In effect, First World workers are a section of the petty-bourgeoisie due to the fact that they consume a greater portion of social labor than they concretely expend. This difference is made up with the super-exploitation of Third World workers. Because prices (including those of labor power) deviate from values, this allows First World firms to obtain profits at equivalent rates while still paying 'their' workers a wage above the full monetary rate of labor value. The First World workers' compensation above the monetary rate of the full labor value is also an investment, i.e., a structural means of by which surplus value is saturated and concentrated in the core at the expense of the periphery.
The structural elevation of First World workers also has strong implications for the struggle for communism.
One of the most dangerous and devastatingly popular misconceptions is that social and political reforms can raise the material standard of living for Third World workers up to the level enjoyed by First World workers.
The illusion that Third World peoples can 'catch up' with imperialist countries through various reforms is objectively aided by the common yet false First Worldist belief that First World workers are exploited as a class.
If, as the First Worldist line states, First Worlder workers have attained high wages through reformist class struggle and advanced technology, then Third World workers should be able to follow a similar route towards a capitalism modeled after 'advanced capitalist countries.' By claiming that a majority of First Worlders are exploited proletarians, First Worldism creates the illusion that all workers could create a similar deal for themselves without overturning capitalism. By obscuring the fundamental relationship between imperialist exploitation of Third World workers and embourgeoisfication of First World workers, First Worldism actually serves to hinder the tide of proletarian revolution internationally.
Another long-term implication of the global division of workers is the ecological consequences of the inflated petty-bourgeois lifestyles enjoyed by the world's richest 15-20%. First World workers currently consume and generate waste at a far greater rate than is ecologically sustainable. The First Worldist line, which effectively states First World workers should have even greater capacity to consume under a future socialism (that is, First Worldists believe First Worlders are entitled to an even greater share of social product than they currently receive), has obvious utopian qualities which can only misguide the proletariat over the long term.
It is safe to say that First Worldism is the root cause of the problems associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party-USA (RCP-USA) and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN).
The RCP-USA, desiring some positive significance to offset its terminal failure to organize what it sees as a U.S. proletariat, chose to intervene in various international issues. This typically occurred to the disservice of the proletarian struggle. Now the RCP-USA heavily promotes Bob Avakian and his 'New Synthesis.' This 'New Synthesis' is better described as an old bag of revisionisms. Today, the RCP-USA, Bob Avakian, and his revisionist 'New Synthesis' is a distraction from many of the important issues facing the international proletariat.
The UCPN has given up the path of global socialism and communism. It has instead sought to conciliate and collude with imperialism in hopes of achieving conditions for class-neutral development. It foolishly assumes monopoly capital will allow it [to] be anything but 'red' compradors or that Nepal will become anything other than a source of super-exploited labor. The UCPN has abrogated the task of constructing an independent economic base and socialist foreign policy. It has instead embarked hand-in-hand with monopoly capital on a path they wrongly believe will lead to progressive capitalist development.
Through the examples set forth by both the RCP-USA and the UCPN, it is evident how First Worldism corrupts even nominal Maoists into becoming promulgators of the most backwards revisionisms. The RCP-USA is deceptive and wrong in its claim that it is organizing a U.S. proletariat. In reality it wrecks the international communist movement for the sake of the U.S. petty-bourgeois masses. The UCPN, whose leadership falsely believes capitalist development will bring positive material effects for the masses of Nepal, has abandoned the struggle for socialism and communism. The RCP-USA claims to represent what it wrongly describes as an exploited U.S. proletariat. The UCPN takes great inspiration in the level of material wealth attained by what it wrongly assumes to be an exploited First World proletariat.
Comrades! Our analysis must start with the questions, "Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?" These questions must be answered foremost in the structural sense (i.e., how do groups fundamentally relate to the process of capital accumulation), secondly in the historical sense (i.e., what can history tell us about such class divisions and their implications for today), and lastly in a political sense, (i.e., given what we know about the complex nature of class structures of modern imperialism, how can we best organize class alliances so as to advance the revolutionary interests of the proletariat at large).
First Worldism is a fatal flaw. It is both a hegemonic narrative within the 'left' and a trademark of reformism, revisionism, and chauvinism. Unfortunately, First Worldism is all-too-common within international Maoism.
Comrades! The consistent struggle against First Worldism is an extension of the communist struggle against both social chauvinism and the theory of the productive forces. As such, it is the duty of all genuine Communists to struggle against First Worldism.
Comrades! First Worldism has already done enough damage to our forces internationally. Now is the time to struggle against First Worldism and decisively break with the errors of the past.
The importance of knowing "who are our enemies" and "who are our friends" never goes away. Instead, those who fail in these understandings are prone to wider deviations. Gone unchecked, First Worldism sets back the struggle for communism.
Comrades! We hope the topics of class under imperialism and the necessity of the struggle against First Worldism come up as specific points of future discussion within and between Maoist organizations. The raising of these questions and the firm refutation of First Worldism will mark a qualitative advance for international communism.
In the April 2013 issue of Turning the Tide (TTT), the editor, MN (who we assume is Michael Novick, the author of the original article in question), responded to a letter that a United Struggle from Within comrade wrote criticizing an article in the previous TTT issue which misrepresented the MIM political line in a critique of MIM(Prisons). The editor claims that they are happy that this article provoked quite a few responses and that they want to promote debate because "this is a contradiction among the people." This is a correct attitude, which unfortunately is not backed up by the TTT editor's response, which is embarrassing in its blatant misrepresentation and misinformation about the MIM line. It is very difficult to carry out debate to resolve contradictions among the people, if the people involved are not serious about political study.
The first critique the editor makes of the MIM line this time around is "in its staunch defense of the significance of the contradiction between oppressor and oppressed nations, and its doctrinaire reliance on its version of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, it petrifies all other contradictions and the flow of history." The MIM line in question, which MIM(Prisons) upholds, holds that the oppressor vs. oppressed nations contradiction is principal at this point in history, but not that it will always be so. And further, the MIM line puts much work into illuminating the gender and class contradictions. In fact, it has pushed forward the political understanding of class more than any other contemporary revolutionary organization by noting that the changing class nature of the imperialist country population has resulted in a primarily petty bourgeois population. The TTT editor writes about workers: "we have stakes and ties in the very system that oppresses and exploits us" a line s/he claims comes from Lenin, denying that anything might have changed since Lenin's day. On this point it is actually TTT that is dogmatic in its view of contradictions and the flow of history by refusing to study the true nature of the imperialist country working class.
The TTT editor goes on to misrepresent the MIM line writing "...by classifying all working people within the US as 'oppressor nation petty-bourgeois labor aristocrats' [MIM] disarms those who have the capacity to break both their chains and their identification with and links to the Empire." This is such a blatant mistake we have to assume TTT has not bothered to read any of the MIM theory on nation. MIM line is very clear that "oppressor nation petty-bourgeois" are just that: white nation people. There is also a sizable oppressed nation petty-bourgeois population within U.$. borders, and we see their class interest as tied with imperialism, but we identify their national interests as anti-imperialist. And this national contradiction is internal to imperialism.
Finally the TTT editor goes into some convolutions to try to explain how the majority of the U.$. population is exploited but maybe just not super-exploited because "no private employer hires a worker unless they're pretty damn sure the work that worker does will make the boss more money than the boss has to pay for the work." By this definition, we can assume that the top layers of management of huge corporations are exploited in their six figure salaries (or even 7 figure salaries!). TTT doesn't even attempt to make a scientific analysis of where to draw the line on who is exploited, and since MIM(Prisons) and MIM before us has done extensive work on this we will not bother to explain it again here. We refer serious readers to our publications on the labor aristocracy.
In the contortions to justify calling the Amerikan population exploited, the TTT editor asks "If the domestic population is totally bribed and benefiting from Empire to the exclusion of any contradiction" then why are gulags necessary? That's a fine straw-persyn argument, but it's not a line that MIM(Prisons) takes. We have written extensively about the role of prisons in the U.$. population as a tool of social control of the oppressed nations, highlighting internal contradictions that include nation among others. Again, it seems TTT has not bothered to read even the single-page description of MIM(Prisons) that we publish in every issue of Under Lock & Key.
The TTT editor concludes by asking a myriad of very good questions about nations and their inter-relations, all of which the MIM line has addressed in a consistent way, and for the most part a way that it seems the TTT editor would agree with, if s/he had bothered to read up on that line. The supposed rigid and dogmatic line of MIM/MIM(Prisons) is all in the heads of the TTT writers and editors who seem to think our line comes from just a few slogans. We agree that "Revolutionary strategy must be based on a concrete analysis of concrete conditions, not arbitrary, fixed categories, to determine friends and enemies." And we challenge TTT to take up this concrete analysis. Read our work on the labor aristocracy and on nations, and tell us specifically where you find our concrete analysis lacking or in error. We welcome such dialogue, but the revolutionary movement doesn't have time for slander and false accusations in the guise of political debate.
The last point we will make here is related to a letter TTT published in this same issue, from a prisoner who goes by "Ruin." Ruin wrote to say that s/he shares the TTT views about MIM(Prisons)'s ideological shortcomings and is upset because s/he was kicked out of our study group. We are happy that Ruin has found an organization with which s/he has unity. In fact in previous letters to h, where we pointed out our theoretical disagreements, we suggested other organizations that might be more closely aligned with h views. We run study groups for prisoners who want to work with MIM(Prisons) in both political study and organizing. We stand by the letter we sent to Ruin (which TTT printed) where we explain that it is not a good use of our time to include people in our advanced study groups who disagree with us on many fundamental issues. Ruin told us the first study group was a waste of h time, and that s/he doesn't agree with us on many things, so we're not even sure why Ruin would take issue with our decision that s/he should not continue into the advanced study group. We did not suggest that we would discontinue Ruin's free subscription to ULK or that we would stop responding to h letters, it was Ruin who chose to sever all ties and discussion with MIM(Prisons) after receiving our letter about the study group.
Criticism is hard to take, but it is something we in the revolutionary movement must handle in a direct manner, without letting persynal feelings get in the way. It is also important to know when two lines have diverged significantly enough that those lines should be in separate organizations. History will tell which political line is correct.
"The vanguard is quite simply the most advanced proletarian, the most scientifically correct element of society that actually exists." - MIM Theory 6
I am bringing this topic to the front lines within ULK, so that every prisoner can be appraised of the significance of a revolutionary vanguard. A comrade asked in ULK 29: "Does anyone know the function of a vanguard: how one is built and how it can be effectively employed?"
Within U.$. borders there have been genuine communist parties, and doing a little studying on communist movements will tell you that since Lenin ushered in a new era with the October 1917 revolution in Russia, many communist parties throughout the world proclaimed themselves to be the vanguards in their respective nations. Within U.$. borders we had the CP-USA in the 30s and 40s, while in 1962 PLP ushered itself in as the new vanguard after CP-USA fell into revisionism. Then the Black Panther Party (BPP) came on the scene in 1966 and "became the greatest vanguard party in north American history before being smashed."
Each party aforementioned had the potential to bringing a revolution if circumstances were present. Typically a vanguard would be found in a communist party who has the most correct interpretation of the concrete reality of its nation, and the proletarian ideology to take the path required to attain the ultimate goal of each and every proletarian party, the seizure of power for the proletariat. Of course, this isn't a matter that is handled with spontaneity, putschist revolts, etc. A vanguard party focuses on organizing the masses, as no revolution is capable of success without the masses and their support. As Chairman Mao Zedong once clearly put it:
"if there is to be a revolution, there must be a revolutionary party. Without a revolutionary party, without a party built on the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory and in the Marxist-Leninist revolutionary style it is impossible to lead the working class and the broad masses of the people to defeat imperialism and its running dogs."
Furthermore he expresses the following:
"the correctness or otherwise of the ideological and political line decides everything. When the party's line is correct, we have everything. If we lack men then we will have them, if we lack guns we will find them, if we don't have power, we will conquer it, if the line is incorrect, we will lose what we have conquered."
Putting emphasis on a party's political line is what will develop the party and the masses to spark a revolution. One cannot put too much importance or sole reliance on a party being the vanguard as some fall into revisionism and once that occurs it is left to other parties or cell movements to lead the masses. For instance, behind these walls, especially in California, there is no political party organizing prisoners. The closest thing to it is United Struggle from Within (USW) under MIM(Prisons)'s leadership. Although scattered in various prisons and/or blocks, each USW comrade has the potential to organize and politicize other prisoners.
There's no doubt that USW is the pathway and the first step to uniting prisoners i.e. the lumpen into a class. As noted in ULK 29: "A class is defined by it's material conditions, specifically in relation to production and distribution, and each class has an ideology that arises from those conditions." And we must recognize that ideology should be the main factor that unites, otherwise we would just be eclectic and crippled amongst political issues. Every prisoner should strive to get acquainted with Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, we must be up on the theories of Marx, Lenin and Mao Zedong and then contribute our revolutionary knowledge to the application of our current circumstances. Every prisoner interested in revolutionary politics should do revolutionary work.
On the basis of building or employing a vanguard, I will leave that to MIM(Prisons) to enlighten us, and I suggest for further reading on this prisoners should check out V.I. Lenin's "What is to be Done".
MIM(Prisons) adds: We point people to the essay Maoism Around Us for more history on the development of MIM and MIM(Prisons). At this point we do not see MIM(Prisons) as a vanguard party, but we recognize the need to develop such a party within U.$. borders at some point in the future. We have laid out the five principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP) to unite all who can be united at the mass level in U.$. prisons as we see this as our key strategic goal at this time. Where advanced elements exist, inside or outside of prison, we promote organizing local cells that have similar standards to a vanguard party, but maintain organizational independence from other cells to promote better security and self-reliance. As this comrade says, we should stress developing ideological unity at this stage.
[Below we have excerpted sections from a letter by a USW comrade sent to Turning the Tide. While the comrade does a good job responding to this gross misrepresentation of MIM line, we have added comments in brackets to clarify a few points.]
I was surprised by your latest issue of Turning the Tide (TTT). More specifically, Michael Novick's article entitled "PART's Perspective: On Contradiction and the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People." Quite a brazen title by the way, as the point of the original essay penned by Mao was to point out the correct way for the Chinese Communist Party to help resolve contradictions among the people, and between the party and the people in light of the incidents in Hungary; as well as a critique of Stalin's shortcomings with that matter and to help forge unity with the masses.
I'll just give you a review of the entire article, in which Mr. Novick attempts to illuminate the prisyn masses with regards to the differences between TTT's political line and that of the MIM camp currently represented by MIM(Prisons), United Struggle from Within (a MIM(Prisons)-led anti-imperialist mass organization for prisyners), the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement and the Leading Light Communist Organization.
To begin with, i hold MIM(Prisons) in very high regard, not just because they hold the correct political line on everything politically meaningful under the sun, but because i owe my own political development to them.
My first point of contention with Mr. Novick's article is when he erroneously makes the statement that MIM's position concerning the labor aristocracy is that it is a permanent labor aristocracy. That is a false statement. MIM has never made the statement that the Amerikan labor aristocracy is a permanent labor aristocracy. Not only is that statement metaphysical and anti-dialectical but in complete contradistinction to the hystorical process and MIM line. Yes, the so-called Amerikan "worker" is indeed part of the labor aristocracy, and not proletarian as revisionists of varying stripes would contend. The Amerikan "worker" forms a part of the labor aristocracy; a sub-stratum of the petty bourgeoisie. Whenever they addressed this issue MIM continuously made it a point to say that the imperialist country working classes were (and still are) a pro-imperialist labor aristocracy at this time. Furthermore, the concept of the labor aristocracy goes all the way back to Engels when he described to Marx how the English proletariat was becoming more and more bourgeois. Lenin, as well as other Bolsheviks, also formulated on what basis this labor aristocracy was formed, which is of course super-profits stolen from the colonies. It seems to me however that those who continue to negate the existence of a labor aristocracy, and instead dogmatically cling to the hope of an Amerikan proletariat, do so either out of sheer ignorance or, more dangerously, for the purpose of revisionism. To continue to advocate this false thesis in the imperialist countries is to, as a "logical conclusion," advocate for multi-national/class unity in the fashion of Trotsky and his successors, i.e. the erroneous line that leads one to lean on and wait for the white working class to wake up and come to the oppressed nations' rescue.
Novick is also incorrect in his statement that "MIM sees women and prisoners as elements of US society where there is prospect for revolutionary development." Well, half wrong anyway. The MIM never saw, nor does it today see, First World wimmin as elements of U.$. society in which there is any real group oppression to speak of which would provide a prospect for revolution. The MIM recognizes First World wimmin, primarily white wimmin, as gender-privileged. They are not at all part of the revolutionary vehicle precisely because being privileged economically (among other things) makes them gender privileged in relation to Third World wimmin. Or in MIM's own words: "After looking around MIM came to the conclusion that like First World labor, First World women are mainly oppressors, not oppressed people."
We must also disagree with Mr. Novick's assertion that exploitation exists within the First World outside the realm of commodity production in which waged labor "produces" surplus value. Exploitation is defined as producing something and not being paid for the value of what you produce.
[MIM(Prisons) interjects: MIM line has consistently held that the white nation is not economically exploited. Later this line was expanded to assert that there is no exploitation occurring in the United $tates except within migrant and prisoner populations. To talk about "exploitation" of the planet, as Novick does, is to redefine the term that we use in a Marxist context. He does this in order to falsely imply that we have no concern for ecological destruction, one of many examples where Novick is misleading to dirty our name.
Since our definitions of "exploitation" are so vastly different, it seems pointless to debate who is even exploited. However, what Novick is attacking is the line that the dominance of service workers in the First World is evidence of an exploitative relationship with the Third World. We say this because if you cut off the First World from the colonies they will not be able to produce for themselves what they need to survive, because they're mostly cops, politicians, paper shufflers, sales clerks, bartenders, etc. The opposing thesis is that Amerikan workers are so much more productive than Third World workers that the small productive sector can easily meet the needs of all Amerikans. This productivity also explains the vastly higher wages paid in this country according to this chauvinist view.]
Mr. Novick is further wrong in his contention that we, i.e. the MIM camp, "assume privilege and oppression are absolute phenomona, unchanging and mutually exclusive." Quite the contrary, as dialectical materialists we certainly know that nothing is absolute (except for the struggle of opposites) or unchanging, as motion itself is an expression of change and particular to the law of development. If such an absurdity of which Novick here speaks of were true then MIM(Prisons) wouldn't be taking the time to help develop the imprisyned lumpen of which the rest of society has long since cast off into the abyss.
We furthermore recognize that there is indeed an obvious intersection in nation and class contradictions within the United $tates. In a sense this is what MIM(Prisons)'s work is all about; working with the oppressed nation lumpen, in particular so that we may not only build towards liberating our people, but so that we may liberate our class. This will be our contribution to the International Communist Movement and oppressed people of the world. So, contrary to Novick's statements, we do in fact recognize and acknowledge that the interpenetration of opposites is particular to the law of development. However, there is a dialectical process, and as such a process of stages of which phenomena must go thru before change is complete; a lengthy process at that. Mutually exclusive phenomena do not just magically transcend from one stage to another. If only Mr. Novick would take the time to read MIM literature more carefully then he would know this.
The First and the Third World are currently locked in struggle. This struggle is representative of two mutually exclusive classes: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This is the fundamental contradiction on a world scale. Furthermore, this contradiction has manifested itself into antagonistic form, which has manifested into the principal contradiction on a world scale, which is oppressor versus the oppressed nations. Now, objectively speaking, what side of this contradiction are we on?
First World "workers" and Third World labor are two exclusive phenomena, not just because the former feeds off the latter, but because both hold two totally different positions with respect to the global relations of production and to the worldwide means of production as well. What Mr. Novick presupposes to explain with his chauvinist use of dialectics is that the First World labor aristocracy and Third World proletariat are essentially the same no matter the imperialist powers and the populations they serve. Mr. Novick says that privilege and oppression exist throughout class society, even among the exploited and oppressed, and that there is no perfectly oppressed class or sector whose hands are clean.
[MIM(Prisons) adds: We should point out that we see the oppressed nation lumpen in the United $tates as a middle force in that it has interests both opposed to and in support of imperialism. Novick seems to want to define everyone in this way, as potentially supporting or opposing imperialism. But we see the vast majority of Amerikans as clearly on the side of imperialism.
As our comrade points out, Novick throws around words like "dialectical" and "contradiction," while denying the very essence of a class analysis that is based in dialectical materialism. He asserts that it is absolutist to state that, overall, the labor aristocracy has a material interest in imperialism while the proletariat has interests opposed to it. This is consistent with the idealist view behind the strategy of groups like Anti-Racist Action who go out and confront the most overt racist elements of society. They attack racism, which is a symptom of national oppression that is at the core of the imperialist system. They focus on the realm of ideas, rather than making a materialist class analysis and getting at the root of the problem.
At the same time Novick is willing to identify enemy classes in the Third World, as in his discussion of South Africa. It seems he is selective in which classes get the benefit of the doubt.]
In addition to the above, Mr. Novick then uses the argument that there is currently a "class fall" being experienced by many in the United $tates and Europe, and that U.$. whites with less than a high school education are experiencing the loss of more than five years life expectancy is proof positive that the labor aristocracy is in all actuality going thru the re-proletarianization process. Funny, Trotsky had similar things to say during the Comintern of 1916 in his defense of Western Europe's newly rising labor aristocracy and his racist refusal that the revolutionary ebb was moving to the east. Unfortunate to say that we're not really surprised to hear such nonsense, as the TTT position on inter-communalism is the theory of Trotsky himself.
[MIM(Prisons) adds: Novick seems to slightly exaggerate a recent study that showed a 5-year decline in life expectancy for white wimmin without a high school diploma, but only a 3-year decline for men in that group. The average decline for all whites without a high school diploma was around 4 years.(2) Certainly a significant and unusual decline. But let's look at this population closer.
The percentage of "non-hispanic whites" without a high school diploma in 2012 was down to 7.5% according to the U.S. Census. In 1990, unfortunately, the census does not have this category. However, the percent of "whites" without a high school diploma was 21%. This percentage decreased to 12% for "whites" by 2012. This "whites" category includes many Latinos, who skew these numbers. We don't know if the paper in question addresses this issue because it is not available to read in the public domain. But any way you cut it, the white population without a high school diploma has shrunk quite a bit since 1990. That is no doubt partially due to that group being disproportionately elderly, as the older someone is the less education whites got when they were young.
As this group shrinks, it becomes more concentrated among the elderly and the very disadvantaged. It does not surprise us that the least educated 7.5% of white Amerikans face conditions that lead them to have declining life spans. The United $tates is a very individualistic society, leading to such great disparities that even in the richest country in the modern world there are whole populations that suffer great disadvantages. And as the article reporting on this study points out, there are epidemics of drug abuse and unhealthy eating in the United $tates that are correlated to low educational achievement.
The question is, are these 7.5% of white Amerikans a potentially revolutionary population? Others have tested this hypothesis, and the evidence seems to point to no. There is much more evidence that poor whites are the mass base for fascism. That's not to say that 7.5% or even 15% of whites couldn't support anti-imperialism. It's just not going to be that 7.5% that Novick refers to as evidence that whites are experiencing a "class fall" in the United $tates.]
Again, what Mr. Novick keeps willingly blinding himself to here is that there is a qualitative difference between the First World and the Third, not just in wage differentials, but living standards and government services, all of which are representative of real life material interests which chain the supposed First World "proletariat" to the imperialist fatherland. This is why a dialectical outlook, as well as a concrete class analysis, is of crucial importance to the revolutionary movement. Only by maintaining the first and conducting the second will we be able to discern real friend from real foe, something Novick and company are apparently unable to do and so have aligned with both nation and class enemies to the internal semi-colonies and Third World proletariat and peasantry.
The next paragraph in question is just so utterly ridiculous that i was initially taken slightly aback when reading it. Seriously, "MIM isolates prisons from the social contradictions they enforce"?! Please, Mr. Novick or any other associate of TTT, if you're gonna go into the "differences" between the MIM camp and yourselves, do us all a favor and inform yourselves properly on that which you seek to criticize. It's just so hard for me to believe that someone as politically educated as Mr. Novick professes to be (or should be, rather) is going about spewing straight up lies.
The Maoist Internationalist Movement and its spin-off organization have long since held that the massive Amerikkkan prisyn system largely developed as a form of social control to maintain in check the superfluous lumpen populations of the Black, Brown and First Nations following the failed national liberation struggles of the 60s and 70s. What Novick is saying is nothing but BS! MIM(Prisons) is the only organization in the United $tates that is actively working to politically develop the oppressed nation lumpen so that we may become the subjective motivating force for the liberation and self-determination of the oppressed internal semi-colonies that are New Afrika, Aztlán, Boriqua and the various First Nations that are corralled onto the reservations! They, and they alone, have been doing this for many years now. And where, pray tell, has the rest of the Amerikan left been in the middle of all this? As Mao taught us, there must be a constant leadership with the masses in an endless spiral of perceptual knowledge to rational knowledge and revolutionary practice, so on and so forth. Or simply put, "from the masses to the masses."
Another outright lie presented by Novick is his statement that MIM's view obscures class and colonial contradictions in the U.$. Likewise, Novick's statement that U.$. society is turning into a carceral state is itself misleading in more than one way. Ironically enough, this sweet one-liner itself obscures class and colonial contradictions by making it sound as if we're all in this together (read, white, Black, Brown etc. "working class" unite!) Trust us, for those of us from barrios and ghettos of Amerika, the prisyn-like methods of daily life are nothing new. Furthermore, they don't represent any "new stage in the basic colonial nature of the state and society" but are instead a part of the foundational building blocks of Amerika and the white settler-state that has made its home here; they are essential to the imperialists and we resent the fact that Mr. Novick wants us to believe that the white settler is somehow now on the receiving end of this oppression.
As if all this wasn't enough, Novick once again shows us his Trotskyist colors when he criticizes "cross-class" alliances, in particular the United Front method of organization. You know, the same method that brought us such victories as the defeat of fascism in WWII and the liberation of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Leave it to the Trotskyists to damn to hell all unholy alliances not deemed morally pure enough for their pie in the sky ideals. Furthermore, Novick makes it appear as if the struggle in South Africa was a People's War waged for national liberation, somehow influenced by MIM. The disaster in South Africa had nothing to do with a communist-vanguard-led United Front, but rather, everything to do with its lack thereof.
[MIM(Prisons) adds: As we wrote in ULK 30: Ironically, MIM was on the front line of the movement in the U.$. in the 1980s supporting the revolutionary forces in South Africa that opposed the neo-colonial solution.]
Please refrain from making such false remarks about MIM, cause they ain't gone nowhere but to the belly of the beast from where they'll help destroy Amerikan imperialism.
Long Live the Legacies of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao! Long Live MIM!
MIM(Prisons) concludes: Of the sections we left out, there were some accusations that would not be principled to make in a public forum like ULK. But we must agree with the USW comrade that Novick deliberately misrepresented MIM line in this article in order to attack our movement. MIM has never feared criticism, and that has not changed. If Novick had actually addressed something that we wrote or published, rather than these straw men and lies, then we could all learn from such an exchange. Instead Novick has muddied the water. And that does not serve the anti-imperialist movement, whatever your political line.
Years ago we lamented the inability of many of our readers to distinguish our line from those of other "radical" and even reformist organizations of all sorts. This is knowledge that the masses must have at some level before we can build a strong movement. We're glad to hear that someone wrote to Turning the Tide to ask how they differ from MIM, but as we can see, that is not always the most fruitful approach. Comrades should be studying literature from various sources, especially sources that they think sound good to them. You should compare and contrast these sources to better understand their differences. MIM(Prisons) is very clear what our dividing line points are, but most groups aren't so clear. And they can often be deceptive. If you want our perspective on a certain organization, go ahead and ask. We do have reviews of a number of them. One thing that the original MIM published and promoted widely was a pamphlet entitled, "What's Your Line?" which identified the various political lines in the communist movement and what groups fell into what categories. To expand that project to the prison movement and the contemporary organizations that exist today would be a great step in expanding everyone's understanding of politics and where they stand. So we encourage comrades to send in their reviews and struggles like this that they have with other groups so that we can expand these resources in the future.
Consolidating our forces becomes an important task when we must prepare for a struggle. Right now in California prisoners are gearing up for a second round of struggle against the SHU and related issues prisoners face there. Since 2011, USW leaders have been doing what they can to consolidate the prisoner rights movement there, under torturous conditions of isolation and targeted censorship and repression.
Recently it was brought to our attention that Michael Novick of Anti-Racist Action addressed MIM in an issue of Turning the Tide focused on a consolidation around a new group in alliance with the Black Riders Liberation Party. Drawing out our line differences is part of consolidating progressive forces around one line or another. Before getting to that, let me address an effort to consolidate our support base for Under Lock & Key.
Become a ULK Sustainer
Having passed our five year anniversary of publishing Under Lock & Key we recognize the importance of revolutionary institutions that are reliable and sustainable. In those five years we have never missed a deadline, and ULK currently comes out like clockwork every 2 months, representing the voice of the anti-imperialist movement in U.$. prisons. A small minority of you have been right there with us providing regular reports, articles, poetry, art and finances for Under Lock & Key. Without your support we could not be that voice.
While we have a writers group, a poetry group and an artist group that prisoners can join to become regular contributors, we have not had a funders group. Well, that has changed. And we encourage all readers who think ULK is important to join the funders group. As we all know, prisoners are a unique group of people in this country who sometimes don't have access to any money. But everyone should be able to find a way to contribute to Under Lock & Key, and sending regular funds is one way to do so. Like our other groups, those who are regular contributors will get priority for free books and other support.
Here's how the funder group will work. To join, write to us and make your pledge, and whether you will pay it in stamps or in checks. A pledge should be the amount you will contribute to each issue of ULK, which comes out every 2 months. It costs us approximately $1 to get each prisoner a copy of ULK. Therefore to just cover your own issue you should pledge $1 per issue or $0.50 per month.
So when should you send your donation in? For those who pay in stamps you can send them in any time that works for you, but at least once every 2 months to be an active sustainer. For those who pay by check or money order, please remember that WE CANNOT ACCEPT CHECKS MADE OUT TO MIM. We will send you information on how to donate once you pledge. If you have the option, send stamps as they can be applied most directly to our work. Of course, outside supporters can also become financial sustainers. Email [email protected] to make your pledge.
We will record what you pay and track whether we meet our pledge goals for 2013. We'll also be able to see whether we can increase our pledges over the years to come, which we will include in our annual reports that come out each summer.
Battle for Humyn Rights in California Regrouping
Cipactli gives us a breakdown of the latest in the battle for humyn rights in California prisons on in h article in this issue. Leading up to July 8, 2013, the call was made for comrades in different sectors of the California prison system to draft up their own list of demands. MIM(Prisons) has been working with the USW California Council to develop a list of demands that embody what we feel are minimal requirements to meet basic humyn rights for prisoners in California. Fundamental to that is abolishing the use of long-term isolation as well as punishment of people for their national, cultural and political associations.
As one comrade in SHU wrote,
Although I support the original five demands and will continue to do so along with any future demands for justice. I felt the need to add to the dialogue... What I noticed from the five demands and many other proposals being kicked around is the absence of the very core of our oppression - the SHU itself. What we have learned since the initial strike was that many civil rights groups and people around the world see the SHU itself as torture. All or most of what is being asked for i.e. contact visits, phone calls, cellies etc. can be granted were it not for SHU. Even things like validation and debriefing become easier to combat when the SHU is out of the picture. So it is the SHU itself that becomes the kernel of our oppression in regards to the prison movement in general and the current struggle we are facing in Pelican Bay. This is why any proposals should have at the forefront the demand to close the SHUs!
We can't afford for prisoners to sacrifice their lives [on a path that lacks philosophical/scientific understanding]. We're pursuing what is essentially a tactical issue of reforming the validation process as if it were a strategic resolution to abolishing social-extermination of indefinite isolation. This is not a complex issue to understand, and it requires a minimal amount of study at most to understand that the validation process is secondary and is a policy external to the existence of the isolation facilities. It's not difficult to comprehend that external influences create the conditions for change but real qualitative change comes from within, and to render the validation process, program failure, the new step down program, etc., obsolete, and end indefinite isolation, requires an internal transformation of the isolation facilities (SHU and Ad-Seg) themselves. Otherwise, in practice, social extermination retains continuity under a new external label.
For decades now, MIM, and now MIM(Prisons), and many other groups have agitated around a campaign to Shut Down the Control Units in the U.$. As forces regroup around this struggle in California following the intense struggles in 2011, we are working to consolidate around a clear position on these issues for those who are in alliance with the movements for national liberation and against imperialism, and not interested in just playing games of back and forth with the various Departments of Corrections.
The broader group of USW comrades in California will have a chance to review and comment on the our draft list of demands soon. Once finalized, we will be enlisting you to promote and agitate around these demands.
We didn't have time or space to address Novick in full here. But many of you have seen his article in the latest Turning the Tide, so we want to address it briefly. First let's make some factual corrections. 1) MIM Thought has always put youth as the progressive force in the gender contradiction in the imperialist countries, not wimmin. 2) While exploitation does only occur at the point of commodity production according to Marx, MIM Thought draws lines of class primarily along access to wealth not what sector one works in. Novick's statement is confusing the explanation that certain nations must be exploiters to be dominated by service workers with our definition of the proletariat. 3) Later he accuses MIM of supporting neo-colonialism in South Africa, when ironically, MIM was on the front line of the movement in the U.$. in the 1980s supporting the revolutionary forces in South Africa that opposed the neo-colonial solution. He does so to take a stab at Mao's United Front theory.
As to the line offered in that article, we are proven correct in drawing a parallel between Novick and the RCP=U$A line on class and nation in a critique written by the Black Order Revolutionary Organization in 2011. Comrades can read the commentary on the murder of Sunando Sen in this issue, and our recent review of Bromma's Exodus and Reconstruction (which has not been published in ULK) to get our line on nation in a neo-colonial world. Novick's position is presented as the line of inter-communalism "in an era when the nation-state... has become obsolete." MIM(Prisons) has long been skeptical of inter-communalism (originally proposed by Huey P. Newton in the early 1970s). This presentation by Novick shows how "inter-communalist" ideology can lead to class collaborationism by ignoring the principal contradiction between oppressor nations and exploited nations. We expect to address these issues more in the future.
As editor, I lament the lack of international news in this issue of ULK. But we did not want another one to go by without printing our review of Zak Cope's new book on the labor aristocracy. This review does provide us with an outline of a theoretical framework for understanding global imperialism. It is also relevant to this issue of ULK in that it directly addresses the question of consolidating our forces ideologically, with what is the most important dividing line question of our time and place.
While we still struggle to push the MIM line on the labor aristocracy, MIM(Prisons) is going deeper to look at the oppressed nations in the United $tates to have a better analysis for our work. Soso's article on affirmative action is a piece of our developing line on this analysis that we will be releasing for peer review next month, and to the public in the not too distant future.
MIM(Prisons) is also delving into a new project this month that we hope will expand our abilities to promote education and theoretical development among the prison masses. And this is the heart of our consolidation work. Consolidate means to bring together, but it also means to discard the unwanted as well as to strengthen. We like this word because it embodies the Maoist principles of one divides into two as well as unity-struggle-unity. In both cases we advance by pushing political struggle forward, rather than being Liberal in an attempt to preserve unity. Even at the level of the United Front, where unity is less tight than at the level of the cadre organization, we must hold to certain principles for the United Front to be meaningful and strong.
I agree with the broad definition of political prisoners as announced in MIM Theory 11: Amerikan Prisons on Trial (article "Political Prisoners Revisited") precisely because courts are maintained as a tool of political oppression and inseparable from political oppression. Thus the political component is inseparable from those who become further oppressed by imprisonment. The hierarchy of society, cops, courts and state is one of a functioning cadre in this country.
I also understand the distinctions this comrade makes between inmates, convicts and the rest — an inmate is the prison version of the "sleeping masses," but whether or not these people recognize their oppression does not determine whether they are oppressed. And we can't forget that distinctions such as inmate, convict, POW, PPOW, PP, PS, GP are meaningless outside of the prison context, rendering these issues inapplicable to society.
In terms of the bigger fight for prison revolutionaries, these labels are also somewhat moot outside of a strategic context as well; everyone will get the benefits brought about by revolutionary action or they will simply be "washed away when the dam breaks."
What was missed is part of a larger problem (largely analytical). Whether one is or is not a political prisoner speaks directly to the conditions which led to one becoming a member of their class (under the broad definition), but not the class perception and what it means, nor what to do as a member of that class. The political conditions of our confinement being a given, our focus, especially insofar as making revolution is concerned, should not be on whether or not one is a political prisoner, but rather if one, as a prisoner, is political (i.e. moved to political action). If we must distinguish between members of the same class (i.e. prisoners), and to a certain extent we must in order to accurately assess conditions on the ground, then let it be a functional distinction which advances the revolution as a whole.
Subcategories of class must be used in such a way that it produces knowledge, not conjecture. Even an "inmate" can be turned to use. Further, people change and there's no way to know the moment of awakening of political consciousness in others without objective observation. By assigning static labels and categories, we limit our objectivity.
I wholeheartedly agree with this comrade: there are many tactics which can be tailored to circumstance but the labor of these tactics is necessarily dispersed to many people of differing skill sets and levels of political awareness; some are dupes, others are not, some are soldiers, others are tacticians and printers.
Finally, I believe a common mistake we all make as revolutionaries is to become solipsistic. We forget that not everyone wants change or revolution; some are satisfied with their condition. In prison or out, this distinguishes one as counter-revolutionary. This distinction is functional and applies to society without getting bogged down in specific labels. It is part of the equation we must, as revolutionaries, deal with, but in the end, revolution depends on maximizing our resources, exploiting the weaknesses of our enemy and most important, unification of the people.