There’s been a substantial amount of reports on increases in depression and mental health disorders in the United $tates due to the shelter-in-place orders. In September, Time Magazine cited a study that showed severe depression being reported by 5.1% of people, up from 0.7% before the pandemic. The common explanation for this increase is social isolation combined with uncertainty and fear. Yet we have a prison system that regularly uses more extreme forms of social isolation (for example no internet, and being locked down in a literal cage), uncertainty and fear and people often look at the people in these prisons as being mentally ill. In reality, we are seeing a massive experiment on the larger society that shows this is how most people react in the conditions we face in prison. So what does it mean to be mentally ill, if this is socially induced?
It means this place will drive you crazy. If not by having hardly any contact with the opposite sex, then by isolation in a small cell (including being allowed 3 showers a week and an hour of recreation outside your cell 5 days a week). This is not normal and causes abnormal effects.
As you sit in your dwelling long enough you become a different person. You may find yourself venting or doing things you normally wouldn’t do, like burning down your cell or town.
A person may go a period of time without speaking. An elderly self-disciplined person may stay quiet, longing, but when one does break their silence they will talk for an hour or two until they burn themselves out. This will usually occur once a day in conditions where there’s only one person to talk to, as it is an HCON (high) Control Purpose.
Others began to talk to spirits and demons. In some cases, this is stimulated by them making up stuff in their mind, but there are also diagnosed paranoid prisoners who scream every time the light cuts on and they open their eyes. They also fight demons.
Solitary confinement can also lead to suicide, as an escape. There have been people committing reactionary suicide, like Biscuit from the movie Life, when he ran across the gun line because he “couldn’t go on living.” Psychologists don’t even bother to get to know who you are or talk you through your problems. They either give you some drugs to experiment with or decline to help you altogether. They are unconcerned that abused children are liable to grow up with an attachment disorder which doesn’t necessarily require medication but does require TLC, which a half-dozen psychiatrists can’t provide for the 1200 prisoners here.
On Segregation we receive even less communication with our families who can provide that loving sanctuary and keep us sane, because we have no phone and only one non-contact visit a month (we should be able to receive more TV visits).
Our families mail is sometimes held for a month after it arrives at the prison. This creates depression by worrying about our families and why they haven’t written over the holidays, to later find out devastating news from our loved ones. Talk about fear and uncertainty.
Some people become anti-social in solitary confinement for different reasons. One reason may be that after so much chaos and falling out with people around them in distress, they began to fall back from everyone.
Others find themselves through self-discipline and block out all other worldly distractions to work on their goals.
Some stressed adolescents in solitary confinement turn towards music as escape and begin to sing lyrics at the top of their lungs, others find refuge and entertainment in woofing. With all this racket going on in Restrictive Housing, it will drive a perfectly sane person insane and into an insomniac.
At Polk Correctional Institution in North Carolina on supermax (or HCON, High Risk Security) we don’t go outside because the officials will trash your cell, steal your property, fully restrain you with your hands behind your back connected to chains around your waist, and leave you in a recreation cage with giant brown recluse spiders, all to deter you from going outside again. Similar tactics are practices here at Central Prison.
The air in the building is insufficient for a human being to breathe at times and I’ve experienced shortness of breath. Compare that to wearing a mask that you can easily remove if you choose.
Comrades at that camp have developed bone marrow cancer, and there is probably cause to expect that this cancer may have been caused by the contaminated water they were working in. There was also strong gasoline type chemicals in the food that was being served at the time.
Right now at Central Prison our lunch consists of one bologna and cheese sandwich, 2 crackers and a 2oz (1/4 cup) of fruit with a juice packet every day. Dinner’s no better, and staff will fight and curse you if you speak out, because they have PTSD and other disorders themselves from war, childhood and other experiences. In this way, mental health patients (the staff) are responsibly for the well-being of other mental health patients.
There’s a mental health program called T.D.U. for patients on RHCP (Restrictive Housing Control Purposes) that they can send you to where you can slowly earn privileges like television, canteen, phone, being allowed to come out of your cell, but they never send any New Afrikans to the programs.
By contrast, RHCP pods have 16 cells each, and I have never seen more than 5 non-color people at a time in any pod. At HCON there are four blocks each with two tiers that hold 12 cells each. I have never witnessed more than 2 non-color people on any tier at a time during the 2 years I spent there.
If a non-colored comrade gets in a scuffle on the yard at Central Prison, they may receive a week or two in segregation, but a negro will receive 12-18 months on RHCP. Right now, we are receiving more time at Central Prison on RHCP than prisoners at Polk CI on HCON who spend only 10 months on HCON, but after they do their HCON at Polk CI, Polk may hold them for 6-12 months on RHCP.
Some people haven’t been guilty of any charges to be placed on RHCP or HCON, so Classification will lie and forge paperwork (no due process). They are con artists who don’t follow their own laws.
The ill-treatment we receive from the institution only creates more PTSD and brings unnecessary bad energy towards people. Workers should be focused on taking care of their families and not risking their lives to oppress others for no gain, but of their master’s amusement.
This room becomes our life. At Polk CI on HCON our cells have showers with food being delivered to their doors, and some guys never want to leave. Some people aren’t going home and to some poor men on the street, incarceration provides 3 meals a day. In the County jail I’ve seen people live in the hole and refuse to leave on numerous occasions.
Solitary confinement is the only place I’ve seen a man smear shit everywhere including his face, and eat shit sandwiches. Tell me this is normal and something you see people do. Thankfully they finally sent this particular prisoner to the mental hospital where he may get some help (and not get thrown in a cage for sleeping in some bushes on public property because he’s a poor New Afrikan man who was stripped of his assets).
Comrades, we are not ourselves behind the door, so I’ll leave you with the words a knowledgeable man left with me:
The following is a response to some topics of debate within the article “Maoist Third Worldism: Responding to Criticism from a Reader” by Mazur of the blog Struggle Sessions. “Maoist” projects in the United States have put forth a number of lines in recent years as worthy of dividing over. In our mind, there is none more important than the class structure of this country. And if anyone wants to attempt a follow up to Mazur’s effort, we request they respond to Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997 by MC5, rather than some ideas in your head about what MIM Thought is.
Value and Price
Struggle Sessions asserts that the proponents of unequal exchange between imperialism and the oppressed nations (i.e.: finished goods and export commodities are unbalanced in such a way that the countries whose wealth is being extracted are given a raw deal) couch their views in part on a belief that the price of a given commodity is set as equal across different countries. To that allegation we reply: in what ‘Third Worldist’ publication has this been written? To my knowledge MIM has not claimed this, nor was this asserted by the earlier contributor. Cite your sources. Do not attempt to employ a selective choice of academics as a stand-in with an eye towards deceiving your online readership by purposefully distorting matters to the benefit of your dogmatic conception of economic affairs and reality. That is why it is easy for you to tear down your chosen academic-as-foil such as in your statement that:
Amin would later adopt this to equalize price levels so that a given use value costs the same in U.S. as it does in Guatemala. Before getting into this this is just not true anyways…
You perceive yourself as rather clever, don’t you. We wonder into what other topics of discussion you have inserted such imperious analysis and judgments which have also resorted to similar rhetorical deceptions and sleights-of-hand. Also, if our stance on unequal exchange was really a “less sophisticated version” as you claim, wouldn’t you just stick to picking apart that easier prey instead? So we see again that you, Mazur, have run into problems, problems concerning deceit and faulty logic in equal measure.
You are at least correct on one thing, and that is your statement that your academic could not stand the test of Marxism. So let’s drop any other “version that is worth using” and stick with Marxian economics. And by Marxian economics, we do not refer merely to its classical conception (it is worth noting that Marx claimed even he was not a Marxist, alluding to the fact that Marxism is a living science, ever changing and developing new insights, not static and impervious to advances in economic complexity over time); we also refer to its continuity within a Leninist framework in the era of imperialism, super-exploitation and the labor aristocracy, which Lenin gave clarity to and which MIM Thought has further expanded upon through materialist analysis.
You allege that in our analysis we deliberately ignore the labor theory of value. So, we will begin with Marx:
What, then, is the value of laboring power? Like that of every other commodity, its value is determined by the quantity of labor necessary to produce it. (1)
‘Value’ in its final form must correspond to the labor power embodied in a given commodity. Yet properly gauging this has become more complex under imperialism. The main way we have typically measured it is through its price, its exchange value. This follows what is termed the law of value, but, when commodities and the labor embodied in them (what is termed ‘dead labor’) are transferred from the developing peripheries to an imperialist nation via multinational corporations, the connection of value to its price is distorted to the point where the product (your banana) is finally placed in the produce section at an American supermarket, so much super-profits have accrued from not paying the Guatemalan workers the value of their labor that upon its sale there is enough excess profit for the United Fruit Co. to in turn bless its American management and warehouse employees with more than the value of their labor, in effect purchasing their allegiance to where they no longer have just their ‘chains’ to lose. They have become invested in the continuation of super-exploitation of the Guatemalan proletariat as have many additional Americans in their role as consumers, fresh off the job in your glorified manufacturing sector, who purchase the produce (yes, despite paying over its market value in Guatemala “and regular distribution and retail costs, the speculative costs of the money market, etc.”) and, being entitled to similar wage privileges, can also afford to have their money manager include shares of United Fruit in their investment portfolio, if they so choose. As for our plantation worker: “In Guatemala, where the minimum wage is roughly $11 a day” and workers “struggle to bring home even $220 a month” (2), they may not have the luxury of being able to afford the very product of their own toil without first considering whether it will cut into other essential purchases or payments owed, despite it selling for close to its actual value. The logic behind these processes are so elementary that all but those who are ‘so intelligent, they are stupid’ cannot fail to comprehend it. This is on display when you surprisingly acknowledge that this wealth transfer happens to the extent we describe, yet simultaneously are unable to understand or remain willfully ignorant of its far-reaching implications. You state:
“Because of capital export it does indeed follow that the U.S. is a net importer of commodities and that there is a stratum of monopoly capitalists who derive their profits solely from interest from their direct foreign investment that melts down to this strata …”
But, not to be deterred, you say that exploitation happens at the point of production and the lazy dogmatist in you resurfaces as you go on to state further:
“… but the U.S. is still the second largest manufacturer in the world, behind only China. This is something the ‘TWist’ does not want to recognize, that the class which has nothing to lose but its chains is concentrated in large numbers in the USA.”
Who is proletarian? Are they a revolutionary vehicle?
We are glad that we can agree that the proletariat is the class that has nothing to lose but its chains. But the relevance of manufacturing statistics we find confusing. Once again, you do not want to recognize the full extent of this wealth transfer, but this time as it plays out in the domestic manufacturing sector:
“They can’t compete with China in terms of labor. An American manufacturing employee makes an average of $26 an hour, while his or her Chinese counterpart makes only $5 an hour, according to the Reshoring Institute.”(3)
American manufacturing operations are still dependent on raw materials and parts with unpaid-for embodied labor within them that is obtained under a system of super-exploitation and shipped across borders for Amerikan workers to tinker with. This results in wages that are at least five times higher and above the value of their labor because there is enough money being made for the capitalists to both turn a profit and purchase their allegiance. When you deny the hidden transfer of value between national economies, perhaps it makes sense to estimate the size of the proletariat based on GDP numbers as Mazur does above. The United States being “the second largest manufacturer” only proves that a lot of value is being realized here, not where that value is coming from.
While, we do not recall anyone ever not recognizing that some Amerikan workers are employed in the manufacturing sector, the one thing we do not equate them with is being a part of the proletariat. Lenin reexamined the meaning of ‘proletarian’ in a more nuanced manner when he said:
“The Roman proletarian lived at the expense of society. Modern society lives at the expense of the modern proletarian. Marx specifically stressed this profound observation of Sismondi. Imperialism somewhat changes the situation.”(4)
The proletariat can most accurately be described as the social group that is the revolutionary vehicle. This does not mean that it is synonymous with the industrial working class for all times and contexts. Mao understood this when he harnessed the immense latent power of the Chinese peasantry, who at the time made up around 95% of the population. They became the revolutionary vehicle while the industrial workers, due in part to their marginal proportions, assumed more of an auxiliary role. Would you also embrace the lazy dogmatism of the Trotskyists who cling to their orthodoxy with a religious fervor and state that, because the peasantry is not the industrial working class, it cannot be capable of being the backbone of a revolution? History showed us otherwise, while you would have been as insistent as Chen Duxiu and got nothing accomplished. No, Mazur, in this matter you are much like the ‘Marxists’ who see Cuba or China as socialist. How so? Because you identify things based on their form rather than their substance. You have lost the ability (if you were ever able) of discerning who is revolutionary and who is not, who are our friends and who are likely to betray us to protect their stake in the system. You see occupations instead of workers economic co-optation within that occupation by way of a reactionary vested interest in their allegiance to empire and its spoils. This makes you no different than the ‘Communists’ of yesteryear who saw workers in hardhats attacking demonstrators protesting U.S. involvement in Vietnam as objectively revolutionary, or the socialist parties who supported their nations’ entrance into imperialist world wars as to the workers’ benefit at the munitions plants:
“Thus, on the outbreak of the imperialist war in 1914 the parties of the social-traitors in all countries, when they supported the bourgeoisie of their ‘own’ countries, always and consistently explained that they were acting in accordance with the will of the working class. But they forgot that, even if that were true, it must be the task of the proletarian party in such a state of affairs to come out against the sentiments of the majority of the workers and, in defiance of them, to represent the historical interests of the proletariat.”(5)
This is why when you say that our line leads one to the inevitable conclusion that the working class in the U.S. and other imperialist countries are the main exploiting class of the people of the world and that “this would make the task of Communists to divide and discourage the just rebellion of the masses,” we would concur, save for the whole bit of rhetorical flourish about it being a ‘just rebellion.’
But you continue harping on that the imperialist working class faces, in your words:
“… exploitation in many forms, with work speed-ups, greater temporary contracts, de-skilling, through greater constant capital being introduced and wage depression.”
Clearly such things applied to even an exploiter working class would still benefit the capitalists. We do not claim that these workers are insulated from unfair working conditions despite benefiting from their relationship with imperialism, as they remain the subordinate partner in this role. But we do not go so far as to label it ‘exploitation,’ because being ‘exploited’ is a very precise Marxist term. We would like to make clear that this does not mean that by extension we believe that no one faces conditions of exploitation within the imperialist centers, nor do we “contend that there is no proletariat to organize in the imperialist countries.” The previous ‘TWist’ contributor also did not claim this. They criticized you for arguing “that the labor aristocracy is not the majority class in the first world” (emphasis ours). MIM(Prisons) has this to say:
“Our claims, however, are far from this. Our claim is that the masses here are a minority force: they are oppressed nation, they are migrants, they are prisoners, etc. We have been saying this for many years, yet [our critics] ignore this line and claim that we do not believe that anyone is oppressed in the First World. We don’t claim that there are no masses here, we claim that the constantly dying imperialist system needs to fall in order for proletarianization of the labor aristocracy to happen.”(6)
We can look to segments of the internal semi-colonies including the over 500 Indigenous nations on the continent, sectors of the Third World diaspora including the so-called ‘illegal’ migrant workers residing within imperialist borders, the revolutionary youth and intellectuals, and the revolutionized lumpen and prison populations as wellsprings for our revolutionary mass base in this country. But you would, again, looking at form rather than substance, likely scoff at this and act like we are just going to accept and network with these groups uncritically as we encounter them and not pursue their further proletarianization. This is not the case. We also express with a higher degree of actual confidence and certainty that the above-mentioned groups have a greater interest in seeing the tables turned in this country, and turned violently, than your bourgeoisified working classes you seek to lose yourselves in.
And note: it is at this point that, having just detailed our position clearly and corrected the record, we will formally ask you to cease claiming that we believe that there are no proletarians or masses within the imperialist centers to practice the mass line with. Quote us correctly. Honesty may not come naturally to you, but those who stumble across this blog page deserve a truthful and accurate representation of views other than your own. You can only deceive the masses for so long before they find out and call you on your bullshit. On a related note, it is amusing (while incorrect) that you paint proponents of the labor aristocracy-maturation line as “largely abstentionists from revolutionary practice” when we can observe the prison ministry of the MIM testing its ideas, struggling with the imprisoned masses and developing theory through practice. Providing this leadership and developing new cadre in the prisons while retaining fidelity to anti-imperialism and the international proletariat is a verifiable practice of theirs. On the other hand, it remains to be seen how you and your lazy dogmatist cohorts will translate such fine rhetoric as “recogniz[ing] the importance of organizing the proletariat [in the manufacturing sectors] as a vital trench, to defeat imperialism’s political influence through the labor aristocracy among the proletariat” into concrete policies and actions.
Role of Consumption in Determining Our Friends
You are quick to dismiss arguments about Amerikan access to wealth by saying that as real Marxists we know that exploitation happens at the point of production,
“We see then that exploitation does not happen at the level of circulation. It happens at production as will be explained further below.”
Yet we do not argue that the proletariat is being exploited at the supermarket. Rather we are saying that surplus value is calculated by the simple arithmetic of subtracting value received by the worker from the value added by the worker. Therefore, increasing value received has the potential of creating a negative value on the right-hand side of that equation; surplus value can be negative. Of course this can only be true for a subset of so-called workers or capital would cease to circulate.
You take another grain of truth from Marx and extrapolate it inappropriately in your sentence:
“For TWists who distort Marxism, the greater amount of use values a wage can command=the lesser degree of exploitation of a waged worker.”
Marx’s model predicts an increase in use values becoming available to the proletariat, and even becoming part of the value of labor (the basic cost of survival). An example of this would be that by 2018, 83% of adults in Third World countries had a cell phone.(7) Banking and other services are often only available in remote regions via cell phone. Therefore, having a cell phone in general would not be a good indicator of the degree of exploitation someone faced in 2018. Whereas in 1990, it was a good indicator that you were not exploited.
“Pure and simple, a temp worker at a plastic shop earning 25,000 in the USA doesn’t exploit anyone, while a food production small business owner in Managua who earns less than 25,000 who has employees who earn less than what he does exploits – exploitation requires a position of ownership and control over the means of production.”
While 86% of adults in Kenya have a cell phone (less than half of those have smart phones), the average consumption of the poorest 20% of Amerikans is about 10 times that of the average Kenyan.(8) What economic logic would Struggle Sessions use to justify enjoying use values an order of magnitude greater than those in the Third World, while maintaining that both groups are exploited proletarians with nothing to lose but their chains? Here you argue that an Amerikan making more money than a Nicaraguan has more revolutionary potential. What happened to “nothing to lose but their chains”?
Another metric provided at the website above is the number of Big Mac’s a McDonald’s worker can buy with one hour of wages in 2007. An Amerikan working at McDonald’s at that time could buy 6 times as many Big Macs as an Indian working the same job.(8) Will Struggle Sessions argue that the Amerikan is more productive flipping burgers? Not to mention the fact that most Amerikans are now engaged in service work like this where the possibility for great increases in productivity don’t even exist as they do in manufacturing.
From there we must ask, what systems of militarism, war, borders and financial manipulations must be maintained to keep that differential between the Amerikan McDonald’s worker and the Indian one? And how does Struggle Sessions propose we can organize these Amerikan McDonald’s workers to oppose militarism, war, borders and international finance manipulating the economies of the Third World?
Pray tell, comrade, how are you going to combat the siren song of the labor aristocracy in their workplaces, especially when you fail to even properly recognize who is and isn’t a part of the labor aristocracy? And we ask, are you going to offer less opportunities to fight for ill-gotten spoils of imperialism? No, that won’t do it, no. So not only are you going to 1) hop into the ‘trench’ of worker privilege, valiantly protecting and further fattening the bloated hourly earnings of production workers, their pension plans and paid-vacation leave; but 2) you are going to attempt to convince them that they should want to overthrow the government and corporations which supply their cushy material existence; following that up by 3) asking them to be on board with a future reduction in pay and standard of living to pursue the objective of an equal global distribution of wealth and reparations to the Global South; and 4) all the while being supportive of a proposal for a demilitarized, open border with Mexico so that the working classes of all nations can pursue better employment opportunities?
Mazur, we can’t even say that we wish you luck (and certainly not on the first point); just that it’ll be the workers themselves, not their employers or security, picking you up and throwing you out of the factory floor and onto your ass. But go ahead and falsify our thesis and you will effectively accomplish what no amount of keyboard clattering on your part can do at present. That is essentially what it comes down to. Show us. Moreover, do so without inadvertently activating social-fascism.
Applying Marxism to Our Conditions
In the 100-odd years since the first successful revolution leading to a dictatorship of the proletariat, none have occurred in an imperialist country with the industrial working classes as the revolutionary vehicle. You acknowledge we are right in pointing this out. Yet you still cannot comprehend the full gravity of the labor aristocracy maturation-line to know that the reasons that you cite for this failure (fascism, revisionism) are intrinsically tied up with a failure on the part of Communist organizations to determine the true extent of the rot and subsequently to cease catering to the labor aristocracy’s demands altogether. The problem lies in part with the fact that you believe (as if it were still the second decade of the last century, not the current one) that:
“The reality is such a condition for labor aristocracy is rooted fundamentally in the opportunist political leadership of sections of organized labor, courting favor with U.S. imperialism in competition on a world scale. It was never defined, by Lenin, Mao or any other past revolutionary movement from among the oppressed nations and proletariat, as a strata that encapsulated the entirety of the working class (white or otherwise) of the ‘First World.’”
Lazy dogmatism rears its head once more when you go referencing the classics without taking into account the particular dynamics of our ever deeper progression into the imperialist era and our unique geographic location within it. Chairman Gonzalo had something to say about people doing just that while expounding on the need to better understand Maoism and struggle for its supremacy. In our quest to promote a better understanding of the full implications of the labor aristocracy maturation-line and the necessity to struggle for that line over the ossified views of our erring Maoist fellow travelers, we will quote him at length (we feel that, if nothing else gets their attention perhaps quoting him will be the spark necessary to get the ‘Principally Maoists’ to correct their thinking on the matter):
“In order to better understand Maoism and the necessity to struggle for it, let us remember Lenin. He taught us that as the revolution advanced in the East it expressed specific conditions that, while they did not negate principles or laws, were new situations that Marxism could not ignore, upon the risk of putting the revolution in danger of defeat. Notwithstanding the uproar against what is new by pedantic and bookish intellectuals, who are stuffed with liberalism and false Marxism, the only just and correct thing to do is to apply Marxism to the concrete conditions and to solve the new situations and problems that every revolution necessarily faces. In the face of the horrified and pharisaic ‘defenses of the ideology, the class, and of the people’ that revisionists, opportunists, and renegades proclaim, or the furious attacks against Marxism by brutalized academicians and hacks of the old order who are debased by the rotten bourgeois ideology and blindly defend the old society on which they are parasites. Lenin also said clearly that the revolution in the East would present new and great surprises to the greater amazement of the worshipers of following only the well-trodden paths who are incapable of seeing the new; and, as we all know, he trusted the Eastern comrades to resolve the problems that Marxism had not yet resolved.”(9) (emphasis ours)
We would add to Gonzalo’s statement that Lenin would have also trusted the imperialist nation comrades to resolve the problems that Marxism-Leninism had only begun to address and solve, and to not mechanically parrot their words on the scope and potential solutions to problems which in their time were but saplings compared to the broader trunks and deeper roots which we must now contend with, axe in hand. The labor aristocracy maturation-line, flowing from Lenin’s analysis of the split in the working class movement in the early 20th century with its antecedents in Marx and Engels’ analysis of the English working class in the 19th century, contends that this split has only continued and with minimal interruption for the past 100 years in the imperialist centers, absorbing whole sectors of the working classes, bribed now in a thousand more ways than before. It was impossible for Marx, Engels and Lenin to examine and address these issues as well as we can today, because they were a relatively new development at the time. We, however, now have the extensive benefit of hindsight, history and statistics not available then. Yet Lenin did direct our attention to its creeping progression:
“The longer bourgeois democracy has prevailed in a country, the more complete and well established it is, the more successful have the bourgeoisie of that country been in getting into those leading positions people who are reared in bourgeois democracy, saturated in its attitudes and prejudice, and very frequently bribed by it, whether directly or indirectly.”(10)
Mao also spoke on this subject:
“In the various nations of the West there is a great obstacle to carrying through any revolution and construction movement, i.e., the poisons of the bourgeoisie are so powerful that they have penetrated each and every corner. While our bourgeoisie has had, after all, only three generations, those of England and France have had a 250-300 year history of development, and their ideology and modus operandi have influenced all aspects and strata of their societies. Thus the English working class follows the Labour Party, not the Communist Party.”(11)
Because of this, Mao went on to disagree with Lenin:
“Lenin says, ‘the transition from capitalist to socialism will be more difficult for a country the more backward it is.’ This would seem incorrect today.”(12)
We can no longer point to just ‘the opportunist political leadership of sections of organized labor’ and call them the whole of the labor aristocracy. They now represent a class of workers who have become bourgeois in outlook and have only grown exponentially over time. At what point do you realize and accept that the imperialist nation industrial working classes and service sectors are no longer a viable revolutionary vehicle for Maoism, and that we must focus our organizing in areas separate from these? At what point do things finally begin to click into place for you, or are you allowing your pride and dogmatic rote-learning to blind you to the reality which screams for recognition? If for whatever reason hearing this message from us in particular is just too much to stomach, then we recommend the book Labor Aristocracy: Mass Base of Social Democracy by H.W. Edwards for more detailed analysis. We encourage everyone with an inquiring mind to not just take our word for it – examine our references and arrive at the necessary conclusions on this important subject matter. Do not allow idealism or lazy dogmatism to cloud your judgment any longer to the futility of throwing yourself against the wall of the labor aristocracy in your organizing efforts.
There are two final matters we would like to address. The first is that it is said we have come by our views through and subsequent traffic in “petty-bourgeois empiricism-posing-as-analysis,” to which we reply:
“The lazy dogmatists actually see no real role for science in agitations. In response to Mao’s proof that line is decisive, they accept at face value the revisionist slander that calls Mao idealist. By downplaying science, they pave the way for fascism, which consciously relies on mysticism for victory in people’s hearts. They imagine that being good Maoists means being idealist, not practitioners of the science of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.”(13)
By criticizing our use of statistics, percentages and numbers, you are by extension leveling your criticism at Lenin:
“Lenin used many more such statistics, including Tsarist statistics and criticized those who would not make much use of them.”(14)
Our critics don’t like it when we use basic addition and subtraction to show that their math doesn’t add up.(15) We must remind our readers of this line:
“For TWists who distort Marxism, the greater amount of use values a wage can command=the lesser degree of exploitation of a waged worker.”
Does that mean you believe the inverse? As First Worldists you believe that material wealth can increase infinitely without disqualifying one from being exploited? Must we bring up the old NFL player example and ask if they have nothing to lose but their chains? And to pivot to our final topic, Colin Kaepernick was protesting the murder of young Black men in the streets by the state, not wages or working conditions. Same reason cities burned across the country last year, and the same reason they’ve burned almost every other time in the last 60 years.
We find your agnosticism on the national question problematic, “In regards to the white nation, we [Struggle Sessions] have not taken a formal position on this.” First we are in the era of imperialism, which is defined by the contradiction between nations. To not be able to address the national question in one’s own country is to fail to address the whole of modern political economy. Second, the question of first importance is who are our friends, and who are our enemies. To not have a line on the nature of the euro-Amerikan nation, while having a very well worked out line on military strategy in the United $tates (a line we know is dear to the hearts of Struggle Sessions authors), is a dangerous example of putting the cart before the horse.
To address the question as you raise it, we will begin by saying that U.S. imperialism is a multinational project in two respects. The first pertains specifically to the makeup of the Euro-AmeriKan oppressor nation, and the second in the national-patriotic sense with the inclusion of token elements of the New Afrikan and [email protected] bourgeoisie in leadership positions both in business and government and the participation of their respective labor aristocracies in the plunder of the Global South. But our focus is in addressing the seeming paradox of the Euro-Amerikan Nation, and whether it is myth or fact. You state that:
“In this case they are lumping a bunch of languages, cultures, regions and psychologies into one nation. For instance the psychological makeup of Jews, Slavs, Irish and Anglo Americans are not the same, and their languages are often different, too.”
The Euro-Amerikan Nation (or ‘white’ nation in more simplified terms) has historically assumed the role of dominant oppressing force since the founding of the United States. Being ‘white’ in America is not only so much a matter of genealogy and physiognomy as it is one of hierarchy, both in terms of class and nation. We agree that these people were something else before they were ‘white’ or Euro-Amerikan – Corsican, Welsh, Jewish, German etc. Yet through a common historical bond rooted in violence, rape and looting of labor and land, began a process of washing the disparate tribes white, a belief in being ‘white,’ becoming a unified, melded nation in the patriotic and national sense. In the United States, the separate Irish, Anglo, Polish, etc. immigrant nationalities of old are now mostly forgotten ‘dead nations,’ with forgotten mother tongues, blended beyond recall save in surname or remnant cultural practice seldom exercised in day-to-day existence. They have transformed themselves over the generations into a single unit sharing a common culture, language (English), economy (within the borders of the U.S. excluding most other nations) and territorial cohesion (again, much of North America). Your denial of this could only be justified by some racial theory of bloodline.
For you to say that ‘there is no common economy, there is no common language, there is no geographic territory, and so on’ is an ahistorical delusion that serves no purpose whatsoever. By denying this, it would seem that by extension you would also deny the same ‘nation’ status for the ‘Black’ or New Afrikan Nation, and furthermore any right to their own self-determination because ‘at best’ you see several nations that, through participation in the brutal receiving end of the settler project in the past, were able to achieve uneven status and integration into ‘blackness.’ (Mazur links to a now official paper by Struggle Sessions that addresses the intersection of so-called “race” and class in relation to New Afrika. For now, we will present MIM Theory 7 as a counter to that piece.)
The Great Migration of Black sharecroppers to the industrial north and west in the early to mid 20th century dispersed the population of the Black Belt south throughout the modern colonial borders of the United States. Nonetheless, New Afrikans constitute a nation as a result of the historical (forced) melding of different cultures, languages and psychologies into a new and unique shared culture, language and segments of territory. It is our hope to one day see the will of the New Afrikan Nation expressed in a plebiscite on self-determination. Perhaps Mazur & Co. will be on the right side of history when this occurs.
One final note, we are in agreement with the statement that:
“‘Privilege’ itself, as well as the absence of national oppression, does not in any way actually prevent those with a relative ‘privilege’ from facing oppression and exploitation as well.”
The white youth, intellectuals and revolutionized white lumpen and prisoners have an interest in revolution as traitors to their class and nation. We do not overextend our analysis to exclude these potential allies in our struggle.
Notes: 1. Karl Marx, “Labouring Power,” Value, Price and Profit, Martino Fine Books, 2017 p. 39. 2. Lauren Villagran, “A Desperate Quest for American Dream Denied,” USA Today, December 23, 2020. 3. Michael Braga, “Manufacturers Facing Hurdles in Return to US,” USA Today, December 22, 2020. It should be noted that back in 2018, hourly earnings for production workers were pegged at $22.71 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Thus a steady increase has occurred in 2 years’ time rather than a trend towards wage suppression as our labor-aristocratic Maoists allege. 4. V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism,” Lenin’s Struggle for a Revolutionary International: Documents 1907-1916, John Riddell, ed. New York: Monad Press, 1984 p. 497. 5. Jane Degras, ed. The Communist International: 1919-1943 Documents, London: Frank Cass & Co., 1971 Vol. 1, p. 129 (hereafter Degras) 6. MIM (Prisons), “A Falsifiable Thesis,” Who’s Got Something to Prove, JMP?, August 2020. www.prisoncensorship.info 7. Laura Silver, 5 February 2019, Smartphone Ownership Is Growing Rapidly Around the World, but Not Always Equally, Pew Research Center. 8. https://www.justfacts.com/income_wealth_poverty#international 9. Communist Party of Peru, “Introduction”, Fundamental Documents. 10. Degras, Vol. 1, p. 119. 11. Mao Tsetung, A Critique of Soviet Economics New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977 p. 50. 12. Ibid. 13. MIM Theory Number 10, “Lessons From the Comintern: Continuities in Method and Theory, Changes in Theory and Conditions”, Coming to Grips with the Labor Aristocracy, 1996. p. 22. View PDF at www.prisoncensorship.info 14. Ibid., p. 42. See Lenin’s “Statistics and Sociology,” Collected Works, Vol. 23. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964. p. 271. For Mao talking about dogmatist lazybones, see Mao Tse-Tung, “On Contradiction,” Four Essays on Philosophy. Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1968 p. 37. 15. MC5, 1997, Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997, part C.5..
MIM(Prisons) submitted this response to Struggle Sessions. While no response has been received yet, we cannot expect from them in days, what took us many months. However, we have already received some astute responses from others that we are including here.
ADDENDUM 1: A comment on ‘Mazur’s’ understanding of unequal exchange
The theory of unequal exchange of Samir Amin is one thing, the theory of Arghiri Emmanuel is another. I do not know if MIM ever commented on the distinction between the two theories (perhaps for political purposes given the overwhelming First Worldist hysteria surrounding it), but the theory of unequal exchange ‘in the strict sense’ as based on global wage differentials is what MIM (and also Cope’s 2012 book) have always made reference to; ‘Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997’ makes explicit reference to wage differentials in Section A Chapter 5-6 and Section C Chapter 5. This theory does not depend upon either differing organic compositions or differing productivities within the same branch of trade. And Emmanuel’s criticism of the doctrine of comparative advantage does not depend upon a criticism of the quantity theory of money, as he implies in quite literally one of the first paragraphs of the Introduction. The reference to declining terms of trade in Emmanuel has absolutely nothing to do with the distinction between primary and non-primary commodities (explicitly contrary to the Prebisch–Singer hypothesis), but rather with the wages in the two sectors. Let us note one more error on the part of Mazur before we get around to explaining where the error arises.
“If there are the same prices and the wages in the U.S. are higher, and capital goods costs the same, then the cost price of any given commodity would be higher in the U.S. This means (since the price of the finished commodity is the same) that the rate of profit would be lower in the U.S., so no transfer would even take place.”
Let’s start from the basics. Ricardo’s theory of comparative costs represents a “special” case where the labor theory of value is invalidated. The labor theory does not govern prices at an international level, Ricardo states, because profits cannot equalize. Profits may equalize within nations because capital is mobile, but it cannot equalize between nations where capital is immobile as such immobility results in specialization and therewith the governing of comparative as opposed to absolute cost. Wages do not enter into Ricardo’s equation because he operated under the assumption that wages tended towards the subsistence level because of the Malthusian law of population. (In other words, Ricardo takes equal wages as a given.)
Marx overthrew the Malthusian “iron law of wages” and this fact is the starting point for Emmanuel. What Emmanuel emphasizes is a world where capital is mobile, and therefore profits do indeed tend towards an equality, but where the Marxian law of exogenous wages rules. Why does this matter? Because labor is not mobile, and because wages in the First World are in fact higher without being subject to the discipline of equalization, wages are the only ‘independent variable’ governing global prices of production. It is no argument against Emmanuel to claim that he abandons the labor theory of value, because in the real world market prices fluctuate around not values but rather prices of production. Perhaps Mazur missed the publication of Volume Three of Capital, but Emmanuel had not. Hence “factor rewards” (namely wages) are not given by prices, but rather prices are given by “factor rewards” (in neoclassical parlance). Emmanuel therefore inverts the logic of Hecksher-Ohlin-Samuelson: prices do not determine wages, but rather wages prices. This is Emmanuel avec Marx.
The products of industries employing workers at low wages, therefore, have relatively low prices, and those which employ workers at high wages have relatively high prices. This is precisely the point of Emmanuel’s argument — because we are dealing with different commodities being exchanged. Critics of Emmanuel imagine that they are intelligent in coming to the profound conclusion that high wages translate into a lower rate of surplus-value and therefore profit. Emmanuel does not deny this; he instead shows that with an equalizing profit rate the surplus-value of the Third World is transferred to the First World because products of low prices are exchanged for products of high prices. It’s really quite that simple. And to repeat ourselves for the tenth time, the prices are high and low because of differing wages. To believe otherwise is nothing more than marginalism. Emmanuel’s argument is not, in fact, that unequal exchange is preferable to lower wages in the First World from the viewpoint of the capitalist; it is only that the lack of wage equalization partially compensates the drop in the rate of profit.
No child, us Third Worldists do not argue that super-profits originate in circulation (a libel of Bettelheim), but rather in the super-exploitation of the Third World proletariat. If they were not super-exploited, if the rate of surplus-value was not in fact higher, there would not have been enough surplus-value to transfer and either First World wages or capitalism itself would have had to collapse.
Mazur writes that:
“Because the organic composition of capital has allowed much more surplus value to actually be generated, we see then that the rate of exploitation is often higher in spite of wage increases.”
Imagine such crass physicalism coming from an avowed defender of the labor theory. Capital with a higher organic composition does not allow “more surplus-value to actually be generated”. It quite literally implies less variable capital (relative to its size) and therefore less surplus-value because constant capital does not contribute an iota of surplus-value. Mazur wants us to believe that because capital-intensity is usually higher in the First World, this axiomatically makes First World workers more “productive” of surplus-value. First Worldists have never proven labor intensity is higher in the First World, which is what this claim necessitates demonstrating. We have already seen that this does not put a dent into Emmanuel’s theory, and Emmanuel explicitly (and consequently) asserts that, e.g., First World primary producers (Australian coal, Canadian timber, etc.) still benefit from unequal exchange. But this is of course a mirage, and as soon as the parasitism of the labor aristocracy confronts the “Marxist” defender of the labor theory of value, they turn into John Bates Clark and want us to believe that wages are governed by labor’s marginal productivity.
I could continue, and I would like to defend Sakai from the virulence he has been subjected to, but I will leave that to someone perhaps more competent than myself.
ADDENDUM 2: On Appalachia
loop-3: Given that MIM(Prisons) has no materialist analysis of the region, and certainly no experience organizing within it, it is unclear why you now incorrectly say that
“Poor whites in Appalachia… have an interest in revolution as traitors to their class and nation. We do not overextend our analysis to exclude these potential allies in our struggle.”
This is a striking political regression. The actual Maoist Internationalist Movement had a far more correct position on this. According to MC5,
"Often times we Marxists are told that we should go organize the Appalachian poor for their economic demands. Duncan gives us some up-to-date evidence on why that is a silly idea. Between 1980 and 1990, Blackwell county shrunk in population by 12%. That is the real social movement of Appalachia. Yes, there is a shortage of jobs, so people move. That is why there is no class solidarity or class consciousness that arises in Appalachia, no matter how many Marxists bang their heads on the wall there. To the extent that Marxists do influence or awaken anyone, they simply move or succeed in their middle-class ambitions. We do not need Marxism for that and hence we find the subject matter of Duncan’s book boring. It is about how to integrate people into middle-class life. There is no other possibility when poverty is only in isolated pockets and not a generalized economic condition within a country’s borders…
"Even if Appalachia had closed borders, it would only then be equivalent to some of the poorer European countries. At $15,321, central Appalachia’s median income would still be more than 10 times higher than that of the median for the international proletariat. Between 1980 and 1990 meanwhile, Gray Mountain’s income literally doubled.
"Both the Mississippi Delta and central Appalachia are shrinking in population. Already in 1980, the two infamously poor regions combined had only a population of 1.8 million in a country of 226.5 million with open borders internally. In other words, they are less than one percent of the population and it was ridiculous to expect any class formation there. By 1990, the two regions combined shrunk to less than 1.7 million, or less than the number of people in prison today.
“The trillions in super-profits sucked out of the Third World make it possible for whole countries to be rich like the United $tates. Although inequalities continue to exist within the United $tates, they are not nearly as central or as important to Marxists as those on a global scale.”
In addition, MIM Theory 1, in the article “Pittston Strike Shows Depth of White Working Class Alliance,” favorably quotes from this section of J. Sakai’s Settlers on this issue:
"Despite the 60 years of repeated radical organizing drives [in Appalachia] there has been, in fact, zero revolutionary progress among the mining communities. Despite the history of bloody union battles, class consciousness has never moved beyond an embryonic form, at best. There is no indigenous [here, Sakai is referring to regional whites] revolutionary activity - none - or traditions. Loyalty to U.S. imperialism and hatred of the colonial peoples is very intense. We can see a derailment of the connection between simple exploitation and class consciousness…
"This points out the fact that what is poverty-stricken about settlers is their culture.
“The Euro-Amerikan coal miners are just concentrating on ‘getting theirs’ while it lasts. In the settler tradition it’s ‘every man for himself’. They have no class goals or even community goals, just private goals involving private income and private consumerism. Meanwhile, the local N&W land manager says that they do have future plans for Appalachia: ‘We don’t intend to walk off and leave this land to the Indians’. Of that we can be certain.”
MIM(Prisons) respond: We thank loop-3 for pointing this out and include eir well-cited argument here. And we have removed the clause “poor whites in Appalachia” from that sentence as it was misleading as if the class interests of that population somehow make them more likely allies than anyone else in the white nation. We must be cautious and clear when trying to organize Amerikans around their own interests. While virtually everyone has some interests opposed to imperialism, and anyone can end up a victim of the system, white Amerikans must go against their class and nation (and gender) interests to ally with the international proletariat and the communist project, as S. Xanastas correctly pointed out in that paragraph.
White youth have more gender interest in revolution and are less bought into their class and nation. White lumpen arguably have some class interest different than other Amerikans. What is more clear is that white lumpen will more often take an interest in revolutionary politics when they are surrounded by oppressed nations in prison or part of multi-national lumpen organizations. As for the intellectuals mentioned, they do not have different interests so much as a different view of the world. So it is in these groups that we see the greatest percentage of exceptions to the rule – those who are willing to go against their own class and nation interests and side against U.$. imperialism.
In the wake of the aborted insurrection on the U.S. Capitol building by supporters of the president in which 5 people were killed, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP.) is bracing for further unrest in the lead-up to the official transfer of power from one faction of the bourgeois dictatorship to another by preemptively locking down the entire federal prison population from the 16th until at least the 21st of January. This follows reports of the mobilization of 26,000 of their National Guardsmen to secure their nation’s capitol to prevent any further disturbances – such is the fear within the American government of the potency of their own Commander-In-Chief’s populist proto-fascism on his largely white, working class base.
This fear is also evident by the level of appeasement and overall reconciliatiatory nature of the brief memo from M.O. Carvajal, the director of the FBOP, who attempts to express his sympathies for the impact of the sudden lockdown measures by stating:
“I know this is frustrating for all of you. I understand this decision directly impacts each of you, as well as your loved ones, and is made with considerable thought in regards to current national events. We must ensure the safety and security of everyone in the BOP. We will continue to monitor events carefully and will adjust operations accordingly as the situation continues to evolve.”
Carvajal then proceeds to effusively thank us for our patience, promising to facilitate opportunities for contact with the outside world:
“Communication with your families is important; thus, you will be provided limited access to phones and email to ensure you can remain in touch. I thank each of you for your understanding and cooperation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. It has made a difference during this difficult time and your patience and understanding is appreciated. Please continue to communicate with staff and share your concerns. I remain committed to doing everything I can to help keep all of you healthy and safe. Thank you.”
All of the above is in contrast to the comparatively blunt warning and punitive lockdown measures initiated during the protests for social justice and against national oppression after the murder of George Floyd by the repressive forces of the state. As reported in ULK 71, an F.B.O.P. memo from that time period cautioned:
As you are aware, our nation is facing difficult times as emotions run high and peaceful protests have turned into violently charged demonstrations. In an effort to maintain the safety and security of the institution, a lockdown has been initiated. This lockdown is not punitive … However, we are committed to preventing any time of disruption from occurring, and I strongly emphasize any type of violent behavior will never be accepted or tolerated at this facility.
The FBOP. response in both of these instances, while equally punitive in nature, do reveal a notable contrast in narrative approach: when it is the just rebellion of the oppressed New Afrikan masses and their allies in the streets, the prison administration is sure to mention that they will brook no dissent; yet when it is the oppressor nation’s own privileged population’s turn to become unruly on openly conspiratorial or seditious grounds, the prison population’s “understanding is appreciated” for such an inconvenience.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Much has been made about the contrast in police response at the Capitol compared to the uprisings of youth and oppressed nations over the previous summer. The idea that New Afrikans, First Nations, [email protected] and often the Third World diaspora have a second-class citizenship in the United $tates has become more obvious in the popular dialogue. More obvious than any other time for the post civil rights era generations.
As we said in our original article on the Capitol siege, it’s been hundreds of years now of oppressed people trying to be equal with euro-Amerikans and they are still fighting each other over it. To continue down the path of integration is a fools errand. It’s been tried, the oppressed have bent over backwards to appease the white folk, but they will not concede equal rights and treatment. It is only in the struggle for independence that the oppressed can achieve true democracy and self-determination.
Up until 12 December 2020, the day we as Mexicans celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, we had been very fortunate here at California Medical Facility - Vacaville (CMF). That morning I came out at 0500 hrs, for my insulin and it didn’t take long to notice the change, the C.O.’s and nursing staff wearing not just masks, which had become the norm by this time, but wearing face shields and PPE also. Then later that evening when I came out my cell at 1705 hrs. for my insulin C.O. White informed us that someone in T-wing had tested positive for the virus. By 2015 hrs. two more men went down with COVID.
Then came the push to once again take our CPAP breathing machines, and the night of the 13th they came in the middle of the night with their Gestapo tactics to take our breathing machines and most of us resisted and did not have to surrender our DME’s. Then came the threats of 115’s but they had a problem and that was how to justify level II prisoners in Unit IV insulation single cells which is where they put us after we fought to get our CPAP’s back – a fight that MIM was instrumental in our being able to get our DME’s back the first time.
Then they sent a Sgt. to explain: either we surrender our power cords to our CPAP’s or they would cell extract us and thereby confiscate our power cords. So we complied under duress to the confiscation of our DME power cords. This as almost daily they tested us for COVID and constant temperature checks at our cell doors as time after time we were slammed down in our cells. On 15 December, they pulled out 18 more prisoners with COVID, by the 18th we had at least 35 men down with the virus in T-wing and we are hearing this is the same throughout the institution. And the same across the street at Solano State prison, surging. By Christmas T-wing had become like a ghost tier, not many men left. And for those of us left breakfast and dinner meals were coming in brown paper bags, though I must say Christmas dinner was the BEST I have had in years to keep it real. On 27 December, C.O. Smith was telling us that we had 200 prisoners hospitalized and a hundred plus C.O.’s with the virus. My son who is in the hole at Corcoran State Prison tells me that it was surging where he is at as well. He himself got the virus, thank God he is young and healthy and was able to pull through though still feeling some effects of the virus.
On 6 January, while Trump supporters were engaging in acts of insurrection, I am happy to report that I did receive the Coronavirus vaccine. The institution is telling our families that they are returning our DME power cords, however I can tell you I have not seen it, but I can only speak of what is happening here in T-wing as we are still on “modified program” here at CMF at the time of this writing.
Even with my release date approaching, the spread of COVID-19 in prisons means that there remains the very real possibility that not only myself, but many others may not make it out of here alive.
The outside public may raise an eyebrow at this statement, and to an extent I understand why. Their reaction might be, ‘Do the crime, do the time – along with everything that comes with it.’ Granted, prison isn’t intended to be a steel and concrete paradise. From the moment you wake up to the time you close your eyes you can expect to be perpetually stressed, depressed, anxious, isolated – a whole range of negative emotions. But does that mean that we should be subject to a form of roulette that could be tantamount to a death sentence?
Most casual readers of articles concerning incarceration in the U.S. are aware that there is an overcrowding issue in their jails and prisons. The facility where I am housed is no exception. FCI Petersburg Medium has a population of 1,500 spread among three buildings containing twelve housing units of 120 men each. We are housed two, sometimes four to a cell about the size of a handicapped parking space, with a toilet and a sink thrown in. Remaining socially distant is out of the question. Despite the feeling of sitting on a powder keg, prison strangely felt like a sort of protective bubble from the effects of the pandemic raging unchecked on the outside. I never would have perceived it in that manner before.
In mid-September 2020, the first cases were reported in the building furthest from ours. There was a heightened tension in knowing it had finally arrived, yet it was still this nebulous thing that felt like a problem of the outside world. The outer defenses had been breached, but some of us are still safe. We wonder at the fate of the others – who has it? How many? Did they recover or not? Official answers are few, and it seems deliberately so. They do not want to create a panic, so rumors abound.
We immediately enter into a lockdown period, meaning complete cell confinement save for a ten-minute shower three times a week. This experience is psychologically taxing, however it is a reasonable precaution. I am struck by the fact that during this period, none of us are tested for symptoms despite a memo proclaiming daily testing. This is a disaster in the making, but with protocol typically disregarded by staff in day-to-day operations, it does not come as much of a surprise. After fifteen days, we are allowed a degree of freedom once more, to collect our meals, to venture outside … with a sense of foreboding. I found myself wondering, ‘is it too soon?’
Eight days later, on the 6th of October, more cases were reported, this time in the building next to ours. Still a separate place, but nearer now. The feeling it evokes could be compared to hiding from someone with no possibility of escape, and being able to hear each footfall resonating ever louder as they close in… it is unnerving. The protective bubble has turned into its opposite, and we are trapped. We are immediately placed back on lockdown. I didn’t have a chance to let anyone know why I won’t be calling anymore, so I hope they will infer the reason why and not be overly alarmed. Thoughts such as ‘Am I still being thought of? Do they care?’ become amplified, as anyone who has experienced being alone with your thoughts in isolation knows it can be challenging at times. I begin mentally preparing for the days ahead. I look forward to any word from the outside.
Twenty days in, and suddenly, voices emanate from the ventilation system: In the unit above ours, we are informed that someone is showing symptoms. It is here. They have moved the affected person to a separate cell for monitoring, but it is still in the same unit. We all continue to breathe in and share the same recycled air. Is there nothing else that can be done? There is less talking now. My cellmate and I cover up the vent as a precaution, but it does not block out the sound of muffled coughing that has now begun in earnest somewhere above us. I don’t know what will come next, but I’ve prepared for all eventualities.
As Revolutionaries and Communists, we must organize and agitate our fellow captives to demand that our health, safety and human rights be respected by the prison and medical staff. A tall order, knowing that our oppressors are here merely to collect a paycheck and the additional hazard pay that has undoubtedly accompanied these lockdown measures, but a just fight during these trying times.
I have enclosed a bulletin that has been enforced on us here at Federal Correctional Institution - Manchester. I don’t think it’s legal but have no way to find out either way. So I’m reaching out for any help in this matter. This is not Federal Bureau of Prisons policy, only here and by this warden.
The bulletin reads in part:
“Effective February 8, 2021, the following procedures will be implemented for ordering any book. There will be a book”catalog“, placed in Education. The catalog will be the only vendor authorized… any books ordered through any other vendor or purchased by family members will not be accepted into the facility.”
MIM(Prisons) responds: The Human Rights Defense Center (Prison Legal News) already fought them on this and won 2 years ago. They will be contacting the counsel representing the prison to put a stop to this again.
The oppressor continues to break their own laws to prevent the oppressed from accessing information. The other issue we are having at this same facility is a restriction to only 5 one-sided pieces of paper per envelope. This prevents comrades there from receiving any of our resource guides or study assignments. If you have any information to provide on either of these issues please get in touch so we can hold them accountable.
Internationalism - A policy of cooperation among nations, esp. in politics and economy. (Webster’s New Basic Dictionary)
Internationalism is the basis of building a United Front with all concerning the same political & ideological line that is relevant to the People; social, political, military, and economic needs to produce equality, independence and land. Internationalism is mainly pushed to build a strategy within theory & practice against the oppressor and to stretch its resources of economics, military and allies out to the point of weakness to either attack or defend in order to control and secure its power.
If everyone is on the same accord politically & ideologically within a true socialist/communist aspect, while really practicing the theories and strategies given through history and philosophy within their conditions NOW to further design solutions in socialist/communist theory & practice to accommodate betterment of our existence through the stages to lead to the weakness of capitalism/imperialism nationally (locally & regionally) & internationally (other countries).
When we tend to practice nationalism in an aspect of Mao [editor: revolutionary nationalism] it shows a sense of commonality to others that are nationally oppressed and helps them understand the true scientific socialist way/dialectical materialist way. This observation is a common point of the same struggles against capitalism/imperialism oppressors where the oppressed is just of different nationalities but concerns the same fight of human rights being violated socially, politically, militarily & economically. That’s why internationalism is a bridge to a strenuous fight towards ending capitalism/imperialism and also helping with resources needed to continue our survival now, during, and after the time is here, seized and power is taken to rebuild land, necessities and socialist government structure until a communist way of life can be obtained.
Once the capitalist/imperialist oppressors and its allies have been stretched over the world, thinning out it’s security & structure, then would be a time to take action militarily due to no proper defense system. It is our job to ensure that the People everywhere are at a conscious state at that time through revolutionary stages to properly prepare & plan it’s strategic tactics within a People’s War.
This is a galvanizing poetic call 2 action, The Soledad Comrade, George Jackson, Once declared: “capitalism is the enemy,” Meaning: you and me, The common man and woman of poverty, Are more family than enemy, Because we are poor, Fighting a common enemy of imperial elite capitalism, Not 2 allude 2 the day 2 day, Systemic Amerikkkan racism, There’s truly no time, For us 2 be killing and fighting each other, When in arms together, We are sista and brotha, Therefore we must come together, In a clenched fist alliance, A peaceful defiant display, Of unity and excellence, Unite or die, Is a true rallying cry, Wherefore, we must join forces, And overthrow the corrupt, racist, imperialist, Capitalist Amerikkkan government, Ergo, the clenched fist alliance, A resolute display of resistance, And defiance, There’s no time 2 pray, March and cry, It’s either unite or die, Truly, unity is the most dominant, In the face of all inequality, We are living in a truly, Provocative span of time, So what is it going 2 be, Unite or die, And commit 2 memory: “Capitalism is the enemy.” We must unite or die.
I am a citizen of Colombia. In 1993, I was sentenced to a 45 year prison term, here in Texas. I was to serve 22 1/2 years before I would be eligible for parole. While serving my time, I was summoned to an immigration court, where an ICE judge informed me that upon release from the custody of TDCJ, I was to be transferred to an immigration facility where I would await deportation.
On 25 March 2016 parole denied my release for these reasons:
The record indicated that the offender has repeatedly committed criminal episodes that indicate a predisposition to commit criminal acts upon release.
The record indicates the instant offense has elements of brutality, violence, assaultive behavior, or conscious selection of victims vulnerability indicating a conscious disregard for the lives, safety, or property of others such that offender poses a continuing threat to public safety. (3 year set off after serving 22 1/2 years)
On 14 May 2019 set-off again, for the same reasons. (3 year set-off). I committed a crime when I was 21 years old. I’ve been in prison for the past 27 years, where I’ve never had a single altercation. In 2007, while taking my GED a new law was passed, prohibiting prisoners with immigration detainers from participating in school activities; I was kicked out of school. (parole uses me not having a GED against me each time I come up for parole). I’ve taken Bridges to Life, Voyager, Peer to Peer, Job Skills, Over Comers, Tutoring, and at the moment I’m finishing Cognitive Intervention. My last infraction (case) was in 2014, six years ago.
The parole board here in Texas has its own agenda as far as who will be released and who won’t. When a prisoner comes up for parole, the prisoner can’t speak on his own behalf. No type of evaluation is conducted to see if the prisoner is ready for society. It’s all done through paper work. The board members review each folder for no more than 3 minutes and come to a decision. How can a proper review be done in 3 minutes? At the moment I’m on my second three year set-off. I am being set off for the same reasons over and over again. How can I be a continuing threat to public safety, if I’m not even going to be in the United States?
How can the parole board state that I’m a violent person? In 27 years of being in a violent environment such as prison, I’ve not even had a single fight. I have no type of violent infractions (cases) towards prisoners nor officers. That itself should show a pattern of change. There’s a lot of prisoners (who will be deported) being held in Texas prisons, under numerous set-offs, because we have no voice out there and the state can abuse its power and claim we’re not ready for society or we’re being rehabilitated, but what the public doesn’t know is that there is no rehabilitation here, there’s more drugs and corruption in this place than out there. The only reason we’re being kept is for the federal funds these prisons receive.
I humbly request that our comrades at MIM please help spread the word about the injustice that the parole board and its associates commit against prisoners who will be deported and have no voice to help them out there. I thank you very much for your attention to my letter. God bless each of you.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Concentration camps for migrants without U.$. citizenship are the one sector of the Amerikan prison system where private prisons have been widely used. This puts another level of financial incentive into the criminal injustice system as this comrade points out. In a system built on profit, and not people, there will always be injustice.
Meanwhile, the lack of rehabilitation is not unique to migrant camps. At this stage, we build or Serve the People Re-Lease on Life program to help our comrades transitioning out of prisons. But for many, like this comrade, they just aren’t getting out because of financial incentives, and the need to control oppressed people to prevent social change.
In every issue of ULK we indicate our alternative to this system (see p.2). We propose a system where the real criminals are imprisoned; the people who have stolen thousands of lives by locking up hard working people, or bombing their homelands. And a system where everyone has access to all the resources they need for rehabilitation. Even those outside of prison need to transform themselves for a new world based on a common humynity. We are all shaped by the current system. Check out Prisoners of Liberation by Allyn and Adele Rickett for a glimpse at what socialist prisons can be like. ($5 stamps/cash or work trade from MIM Distributors)
In early June, a book arrived here at this facility that was intended as a birthday gift from my family. The day the book arrived I asked the property officers if I had received any books and they responded “No,” despite the fact that my sister confirmed that the book had arrived. When I informed the staff that I had gotten my family to track the package the staff acted even more standoffish, dismissive and suspicious. I suspected this type of behavior from the staff was due to the very controversial information contained in the book, but still, knowing my rights and also the purpose of the First Amendment I would not tolerate it without taking necessary legal action.
Almost ten days after the book had arrived the only thing I was given was a ‘Notification of Publication Disapproval Form’ that was signed by the Warden. But I was told the book wasn’t here, correct?
The Warden, property office and mailroom clerk all stated falsely that the book contained “material that promoted violence, terrorism or criminal activity that violated state & federal guidelines.” I know this is not even remotely the case, being that I actually read the book in 2014 prior to my incarceration. Knowing this I was highly offended & saw the property officer’s actions and reasons for violating my First Amendment rights as not only an attempt to impede on my freedom of speech but also as an insult to my intelligence. The definition of ‘promote’ is ‘to advocate’ so I forced the staff to prove, legally, that this book, entitled The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders ‘promoted’ or ‘advocated’ ‘violent acts’ or ‘terrorism.’ Close examination of this book will prove anything but that.
The book actually promotes the opposite – principles almost identical with those of the United Struggle from Within and MIM(Prisons). It promotes Peace, Unity & Solidarity between tribes, gangs and lumpen organizations. And it also depicts the violent, cold-blooded & terrorist acts committed by the FBI, the CIA & local police forces in Amerikkka. We call this domestic, or, homegrown terrorism, used to reinforce the fascist policies of the capitalist social order.
My first action to get my book was to file informal complaints & grievances for violation of my First Amendment rights as well as Operating Procedures code 803.2 on the rights of prisoners receiving publications. Operating Procedure 803.2 clearly states that if the Warden or property officer found something ‘questionable’ about any publication or literature sent to an inmate then the inmate is to be notified and consulted before the officer in charge of passing out property takes further action. Then the inmate is given three options:
Have the book sent home.
Have the book sent to the Publication Review Committee.
Have the book destroyed.
The primary issue is that I wasn’t allowed the liberty to explain to the staff what the book was really about & that I never gave them the consent to hold or send the book to the Publication Review Committee (or ‘PRC’), as they claimed they had done. So, in fact, code 803.2 was violated by the property officer and the warden who signed the Publication Disapproval form which lacked my signature of consent.
This is a perfect example of fascist style censorship and violation of First Amendment rights within the Virginia Department of Corrections (D.O.C.). As Operating Procedures Code 803.2 states, “Offenders at D.O.C. institutions should be allowed to subscribe to, order, and receive publications direct from any vendor – so long as the publication does not pose a threat to the security, discipline and good order of the facility and it is not determined detrimental to offender rehabilitation.” As I mentioned earlier, Potash’s book would reveal to the reader that it actually promotes peace, unity & solidarity between tribes, gangs and lumpen organizations (very similar to the Maoist-promoted United Front for Peace in Prisons policies).
I also talked to an institutional lawyer who was very helpful & who also agreed with me 100% concerning the book. He looked up the title of the book while I was on the phone with him and he quickly observed, in his own words, that this was a very “historical” and “political” work. Policy 803.2 clearly states “educational and historic publications are not detrimental to offender rehabilitation” and that when it comes to disapproval of literature, “this criterion shall not be used to exclude publications that describe such [violent] acts in the context of a story or moral teaching unless the description of such acts is the primary purpose of the publication. No publication generally recognized as having literary value should be excluded under this criterion.”
Point of fact, the so called ‘violent acts’ or ‘terrorist acts’ that the property officer tried to use to keep me from getting this book are actually committed by none other than Law Enforcement and also covertly ‘promoted’ by the intelligence community who controls the mainstream media and who work in collusion with the local police who, as we observe on the daily news, continue to beat, shoot and murder innocent men, women and children, which can only be described as very ‘violent’ and ‘terrorist’ acts.
After constant confrontation & inquiry the staff finally gave me my book on 3 September 2020, but still tried to use psychological manipulation to make it seem as if I were the one who had done something wrong. They said I had ‘raised hell’ and caused a lot of trouble about the book when all they had to do was give the book to me to avoid all this.
On John Potash’s The FBI War on Tupac Shakur & Black Leaders
The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders was written by an activist and investigative journalist John Potash. He describes and documents historic events in comparison with more current events and describes, using documents & eye-witness accounts, how the U.S. intelligence & FBI target, assassinate, harass and imprison all individuals & organizations (Black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American) that ‘promoted’ & practiced ideas that were contrary to mainstream capitalist & fascist indoctrination that challenged the social order and the establishment’s chokehold on 90% of the world’s resources.
J. Edgar Hoover (former director of the FBI) once stated that the FBI must “stop the rise of a black messiah or anyone who could radicalize the civil rights movement”, “by any means necessary.” Meaning harassment, imprisonment and trumped up charges, destruction of public image or assassination. There are countless leaders; Black, white, Latino & Native American who met this messianic description and all of them fell under the cruel fate of COINTELPRO – including Mutulu Shakur, Afeni Shakur, Tupac Amarau Shakur and many of his relatives.
Potash describes Mutulu, Tupac & Afeni’s efforts to create peace between the Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, Black P. Stone Rangers, Latin Kings & Young Lords and also to convert them into political organizations that would serve the communities that they exist in. This program is a direct influence of Huey P. Newton & Bobby Seale’s strategy that was used to create the Brown Berets, Chinese Red Guard and the Young Lords.
Potash also details the predatory and very cold blooded nature of the ‘Far Right’ neo-conservative, fascist & capitalist powers in the U.$. and how the intelligence community utilizes informants and undercover agents to harass, spy on, falsely accuse, set up, imprison & assassinate leftist revolutionaries or any musician, actor or politician as well as business person associated with revolutionary organizations or movements, that promote peace & unity rather than violence.
After reading & examining closely, for the second time after seven years, I feel an obligation to quote and cite John Potash’s work as well as all the revolutionaries he worked with before and after this book’s publication.
In Chapter 21 (pp. 101-104) Potash describes what is called ‘Penal Coercion’, which is a way to break down certain prisoners psychologically, physically & spiritually.
“They found that the U.S. Department of Corrections had a ‘Special Services Division’ to carry out operations on prisoners. Researchers working from divergent groups, such as the Bureau of Prisons and Amnesty International, described several particular prison tactics as akin to both torture and brainwashing and referred to them as ‘penal coercion’.”
“A 1983 Amnesty International report on torture presented CIA-designed techniques outlined in Biderman’s Chart of Coercion – 8 general penal coercion methods prison officials used to psychologically tear down individuals in order to manipulate them. These methods are isolation, monopolization of perception, induced debility, threats, occasional indulgences, demonstrating omnipotence, degradation, and enforcing trivial demands.”
One of the most tragic & ironic cases of this is that of Afeni Shakur’s son – Tupac Amaru Shakur. Tupac was targeted the same way his mother was – five assassination attempts, constant harassment from so-called law enforcement and incarceration under false charges. He was practically sentenced to ‘Death Row’ for his revolutionary work, forcing him, after FBI ‘penal coercion’ into a corner after which he finally gave in and went against his better judgement and signed with Suge Knight on Death Row Records, a label whose symbol & trademark was a man sitting in an electric chair. This label promoted drugs, sex, violence and ignorance and no higher social causes whatsoever – going against all Tupac & his family of activists stood for. Potash writes, “Tupac’s jail conditions also helped influence Tupac to finally sign with Death Row Records.”
“Tupac finally stopped rejecting Time Warner’s request to sign with its subsidiary, Death Row. Tupac had spent 10 months in jail. The appeals court refused Tupac’s 1.3 million bail offer for those many months that he waited for his appeal trial, but within days of Tupac’s September 1995 signing with Death Row Records, the Court of Appeals accepted virtually that same bail offer and released Tupac.”
“…Years of accumulated evidence supports that the FBI orchestrated the murder of rap icon Tupac Shakur, and that they used similar tactics to murder other leftist black leaders. Thousands of pages of U.S. intelligence documents reveal how the FBI and other intelligence agencies have waged a war on black leaders. The U.S. Intelligence targeting of Tupac and his Shakur family provides a window into intelligence targeting of leftist black leaders from 1965-2005. U.S. Intelligence (Defense, CIA, FBI and police intelligence) historically opposed leftists – those working to make changes in society to gain more equitable sharing of wealth and resources. The CIA’s leadership, the directors of intelligence agencies until 2001, were comprised of the wealthiest American families. Their founders also saved thousands of Nazis [after the end of WW2] and put them to work on intelligence projects.”
So be watchful of all correctional officers, deputies, staff and prisoners because the capitalists of the ‘criminal culture’ that is fueled by drugs, sex and violence has captivated the minds of the 85% (majority of oppressed masses). And they have no real loyalty to any higher social causes and they will sacrifice anyone, and anybody, to keep whatever they gained from capitalist society and for whatever material or position they are trying to acquire. No matter how low they are on the pyramid, as Paulo Freire writes, “the oppressed class subconsciously emulates, imitates and identifies with their oppressors.”
All conscious, political & revolutionary prisoners, within and without, in prison & at home; the intelligence community has perfected the art of utilizing the informant and the undercover agent for decades and has been proven to be their most valuable asset, used to assassinate (as in the case of the late Nipsey Hustle PBUH) and bring down countless revolutionaries. Be wary of all people (inmates and staff) who become super defensive and ultra-sensitive when you are critical about the current social order and the establishment. Most likely they are either active agents, informants or have friends & family members who work for Law Enforcement, the CIA, FBI, or U.$. Military – three institutions that are interlocked in the same criminal network.
All of our great leaders and revolutionaries; Black, white, Latino, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern or Native American, have all pointed to the same facts and for this, like Tupac Amaru Shakur, Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Clarence 13X, Marcus Garvey, George Jackson and Geronimo Pratt, they were harassed, imprisoned unjustly, or assassinated for it. Peace be upon them, for they are the true prophets and messengers of this age, and it is only men & women like them who will lead us into the new age of Revolutionary Transcendence.