The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Got $20? Slip it in an envelope and send to POB 40799 SF, CA 94140. Help cover printing costs. help out
[United Front] [Mental Health] [ULK Issue 19]
expand

The Subjection of the Incarcerated

I read in the September/October 2010 issue, an article written by a prisoner in the Pennsylvania structure. He said, "[guys in this jail] are only concerned with BET, sports, 40 cent ice cream tickets and who's sucking whose dick... they don't stand up for shit except count time."

I believe these statements are very correct. Not only for the Pennsylvania structures, but all penal structures throughout the United $tates. I've read every single article in that issue by many different prisoners throughout these structures. I can relate to every last one of them, and I'm pretty sure that all prisoners within the system can relate to every single article just the same.

These structures differ only so slightly, only by name, location and modeled design, but their inner mechanisms pretty much work the same way. Everyone complains of the disunity and betrayal between their fellow prisoners. Noone wants to stand up against the powerful structure that has the ability to deploy swarms of guards equipped with body armor shields and pepper spray to counter any resistance from its 'subjects.' Even though we outnumber them, in the end, they still seem to come out on top. They seem unstoppable, victorious, and mighty. Prisoners give these "warriors" seemingly honorable names such as "The Goon Squad", "The Turtles," "The Team," "The Run Down Boys", and "The Squad."

Riots and uprisings are quickly squashed with no positive results, other than more lockdowns, revocation of good time and parole, restrictions on telephones and visitations and all other privileges of the prisoners that were provided by their "structure." I relate and share in the suffering and pains of every one of my comrades.

Psychology

But do you know why there is so much disunity between prisoners? Do you understand how the human mind works? Do you understand what I mean by the term structure? Do you know how dangerous and manipulative your institutional psychologist or "psych" could really be? Do you know why all modern prisoners must be built and structured into many individual pods? Do you know what your mind frame is being subjected to, by the master psychologists and anthropologists who designed and masterminded the inner workings and mechanics that make these structures work so differently from those of the 70s and 80s?

In the world of psychology, there's a basic and very fundamental term known as "Classical Conditioning." Classical Conditioning means any type of learning through which an organism learns to associate one event or object within the environment to which the organism or person responds with another. For example: when we see or smell delicious food we are tempted to eat, or feel hungry. Or when we see a very attractive person, we become sexually aroused, thanks to certain hormones that are being secreted within our bodies.

These natural responses to events or objects in our environment are our Classical Conditioning. It is in our nature to respond in this way to these types of stimuli. (Ivan Pavlov 1849-1936, Conditioned Reflexes: An investigation of the physiological activity of the cerebral cortex.) [ULK Editor: Classical Conditioning is actually the replacement of the natural occurring stimulus (like the smell of food) with an unrelated stimulus (like the ringing of a bell). Pavlov famously made dogs salivate with this method by ringing a bell. The idea that anything that triggers a physiological response is "natural" is often used to imply that humyns are hard wired to respond this way. On the contrary, most, if not all, of our sexual arousal is triggered by socially conditioned responses (see Operant Conditioning below). A scientific approach would be to overthrow the patriarchy and then see what triggers sexual arousal in humyns. Things that trigger sexual arousal under communism and under the patriarchy would be good candidates for "hard wired" responses. Similarly, the smell of certain fast food might make some Amerikanized humyns salivate while making other people nauseous.]

The next most basic and fundamental term in the world of psychology is known as "Operant Conditioning." Operant Conditioning means a type of learning in which the consequences of behavior are manipulated so as to increase or decrease the frequency of an existing response or to shape an entirely new response. For example, in order to be paroled and released back into society, you must respond with good behavior throughout your incarceration. Or, if you break the law, the response of the controlling authorities will be to convict you and then send you to prison.

The most notable researcher of Operant Conditioning is a psychologist by the name of B.F. Skinner. In his book, "Beyond Freedom and Dignity" (1971) Skinner quotes "free will is a myth and a person's behavior is always shaped and controlled by others - parents, teachers, peers, advertising and television." In this book, Skinner argues that society must systematically shape the behavior of their members for the larger good.

Now that we are familiar with the terms Classical and Operant Conditioning, we will lean more towards the Operant Conditioning within the walls of these structures because Operant Conditioning deals strictly with the manipulation of human behavior.

Operant Conditioning in Prisons

As of right now, I'm confined to solitary confinement, in a single cell for 23 hours a day for a total of 570 days. My original time was 90 days for a "shank" or "shaped weapon" that was allegedly found in my cell during a shake down at a time when we were having a lot of stabbings within our structure. When they brought me down to the hole, they tried to give me a cellmate, but I refused. Due to this refusal, I was issued a ticket, which was then reviewed by a hearing examiner, who gave me an extra 30 days in the hole for "refusing to obey a direct order." Every day, the guards would order me to take a cellmate, but I refused. Within one month I totaled 570 days, and counting.

One must be thinking, why is he putting himself through all of this unnecessary punishment? Why don't he just take a cellmate and get out of the hole?

The truth is, I'm actually avoiding extra punishment, not physically but mentally. The hole is a behavior modification mechanism within the structure that employs a form of deprivation to manipulate human behavior. It is not meant for two human organisms to occupy for any period of time. But due to overcrowding in all of the Pennsylvania's structures, people are being forced to cell up and co-exist with each other under these harsh conditions. A man needs privacy and time to himself in order to cope in the best way he can during this time of extreme deprivation. But instead prisoners within my structure are forced into these conditions. Under these conditions cellmates are known to fight with each other for something as minor as using the bathroom at a certain time of night. Whereas in general population if the same two individuals were cellmates an unorthodox or out of timed bathroom break would never have been a problem.

After their fight these same two prisoners are then forced to kiss and make up and endure each other's differences as well as their deprivations. Under these conditions, stress and mental anguish are always present. This type of stress results in bad health and hair loss. It is much healthier to remain in solitary where one doesn't have to deal with the next man's deprivations as well as his own. I see and hear cellmates argue and fight each other every day from where I'm at. A lot of the cellmates do not get along and "pull stunts" to force the commanding shift officer to move them in with someone more suitable.

Another form of Operant Conditioning used to manipulate behavior employed by the penal system is food. Though food is a necessity for the human organism and is classified as Classical Conditioning, when used in behavior modification - it becomes operant. For example, in the hole, we get fed less portions of the meals than those in general population.

The food, that all of us prisoners consume is laced with monosodium glutamate (MSG). Our tongue has four distinct taste sensations: bitter, sweet, sour and salty. The fifth sensation is called the umanmi, which is triggered by the substance glutamate. When this fifth sensation is triggered by this glutamate substance, it stimulates the other four sensations on the tongue's taste buds, creating a strong urge for more glutamate substance. Try eating a handful of salt and vinegar potato chips and then bite into an apple. Which product will you crave more?

To supplement the effects of monosodium glutamate in the lunch and dinner meals, the penal system provides the prisoners with a commissary that has food available upon purchase in its inventory. The prisoners are now led to purchase items on commissary to supplement their chemically induced hunger at night after the prison feeds him/her their dinner. Ninety percent of the prisoners I know can't live without ramen noodles every night. So now the prisoner becomes dependent on the commissary.

Then, penal systems will provide the prisoner with privileges, but only if his behavior is in compliance with the rules. The prisoner is allowed to have a radio and a television set with cable in his cell. Then there are the phone calls, the visits, parole, the weight room and the yard. But let's go back to the television set. A TV is major time killer. You could do your entire bid in the cell just watching TV. The TV is a major stimulus if you want to control the weak prisoner. Most people in the hole say "I can't wait to get back out and watch TV., I've missed 3 episodes of Jersey Shore (or whatever program) already." Even I miss the television and a good honey bun every now and then.

The manipulation of Operant Conditioning can be so powerful, many prisoners take abuse from their structure's establishment in order that they may make parole and go home to their families. Within my structure, the prisoners are forced to take programs and work jobs that start at 19 cents an hour, otherwise they won't make parole. Would you stay in prison for 10 years, or adjust your behavior and go home within 5 or 4 1/4 on pre-release.

These individuals who are trying to go home, as well as the weak prisoners, are then placed within the same housing unit along with the strong, long term more militant prisoners - who, by the way happen to be our comrades in the struggle. With these different individuals with different goals in mind, any type of unity or grouping together for one common cause is gonna be difficult.

Whenever the penal system changes a policy that we are in opposition to, only a few will be able to stand up while the majority of these strategically placed so-called convicts will turn their backs and endure the abuse in order to be released from prison or maintain possession of their privileges.

We can't shut down the kitchens, because a majority of the prisoners who are working there are parole mandated. They would rather deal with the abuse and go home. Hunger strikes are iffy. A riot these days will consist of no more than 300 people, which is easily contained as soon as they seal off the individual pods or units and lock the prison structure down. Then they turn us against each other by offering the unfortunate and the "have nots" a radio or television set, in return for spying and telling on their comrades' movements.

The ones who designed the program structure, the parole structure, the commissary and privilege rights (the "brains") are the college educated psychologists who we will never see. They are the ones who created this form of behavior modification.

Because of this, a division is wedged in between our factions, causing a chain reaction of adversary and conflict amongst ourselves. The ones who have a little bit of money, shun and look down upon the one who is broke. Even if the one who doesn't have any money on his books had lived more prosperous in the streets. The young prisoners take our older comrades for granted because they are old. Thus creating a huge intellectual and traditional gap between the two.

Phillip Zimbardo is a psychologist most notable for his work on social roles. A social role, as defined by Zimbardo is a "socially defined behavior considered appropriate for individuals occupying certain positions within a given group."(P.G. Zimbardo, "Pathology of Imprisonment" (1972) 'Society,' 9, 4-8.) The Stanford Prison Experiment is an experiment in which Phillip Zimbardo simulated a prison experience. College students were randomly assigned to be either guards or prisoners. The guards, wearing uniform and carrying small clubs, strictly enforced harsh rules. The prisoners were stripped naked, searched and deloused. Then they were given prison uniforms, assigned numbers, and locked away in small bare cells. The guards quickly adapted to their new role, some even to the point of becoming heartless and sadistic. One guard remembered forcing prisoners to clean toilets with their bare hands. And the prisoners began to act debased and subservient. The role playing became too real - so much so that the experiment had to be ended in only 6 days.

That was just an experiment, play acting. But you see once an individual becomes wrapped up in a certain social role how far it can lead. Zimbardo conducted this experiment back in 1972, but we are in the real thing today. Once these guys adapt to certain roles and behaviors, the result is what we see being acted out today.

One day, a guard burnt one of our comrades for a meal right here in the hole. Only 7 of us held our food trays and refused to return them in protest of the injustice that was carried out. Those that gave their tray back all stated that they didn't want to get a ticket, that they were trying to get out of the hole as soon as possible.

So, what are we left with? The answer is simple - it's knowledge. My comrades, prison is a mental struggle, it always was. We must evolve mentally. Study psychology, get good at it. Study political science, get good at it. Study anthropology, get good at it. We must evolve and turn our cells into think tanks. Learn and understand how the penal system structure controls and manipulates human behavior.

Stop taking psychological medication in any form, be it a sleep inducer or antidepressant. For when you are released you will be subjected to withdrawals whenever deprived which may lead you into narcotic abuse. If you can't sleep, read and learn meditation and breathing exercises, heal yourself.

If you're depressed, meditation and inner calmness works wonders on the mind. The structure is a very powerful establishment designed and put together by some very smart college educated veterans, who get paid a lot of money to make sure that the prisoners advances are easily thwarted.

When we are able to show and prove that our solution is better, the younger ones will follow and we will grow in numbers in time. For now, my comrades, we are all in the same boat. Let's not be upset with the younger ones or the ignorant who refuse to unite. The manipulators who control these structures have made sure that the consequences will outweigh the rewards by far.

The weight of the structure sits heavy on those who need to get home to their families. The younger ones are easily manipulated, just give them a television and some food, and the jail could burn to the ground for all they care. As long as the power don't shut off.

For the rest of us, my comrades, if we continue to apply ourselves and stick to our disciplines, in time we will grow in numbers. Understand the importance of the right knowledge for the right battle. This is a psychological war. Learn the fundamentals of psychology, please.

Prison today is more like a mental hospital. With the number of the mentally ill growing in numbers every year, psych meds dim the intelligence of the individual, making him/her slow as the years go by. Understand what you're really being subjected to within your structure. Learn to adapt and adjust, be independent.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This analysis of prisons using classical psychological tools is useful for revolutionaries because it helps to uncover the methods and goals of those who design and run the Amerikan criminal injustice system. This comrade is right that the system is built to discourage and prevent organizing and unity. It's not that prisoners who are passive are inherently evil, they are just doing what the system is pushing them to do, and resistance is no easy task. Similarly, brutal COs are not just evil individuals. They are playing a role like the students in the experiment. This role cannot be abolished until capitalism itself is abolished.

For our comrades who do stand up against all this, we must know that the struggle is long and difficult. But as this comrade points out, we will grow and unite others as we stick to our message and discipline. For more on MIM(Prisons)'s position on psychology, check out the magazine MIM Theory 9 or our article Mental Health: a Maoist Perspective.

chain
[United Front] [Organizing] [Gender] [ULK Issue 19]
expand

Call for More Gender Struggles in USW Work

In making a determination of what organizing strategy and tactical approach will be most effective in achieving the revolutionary goals of a political vanguard, we must first conduct a dialectical analysis of our strategic objectives. Thus, we begin our examination with an overall look at our political line. What are our general positions and our main objectives? Which of these should be given priority? What tactics will best advance the struggle for liberation, justice, and equality?

In the United $tates, the most oppressed groups are prisoners, First Nations, and sexual minorities/wimmin. Therefore, it is these specific groups to which I give priority and focus here. [We have excluded the author's analysis of First Nations to focus this article. - Editor] How can we better organize these groups? What tactics have worked in the past?

The Congress Report 2010 by MIM(Prisons) makes no mention of wimmin or LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual/Transgender, Queer) prisoners, or of issues and projects specifically affecting these groups.(1) As a transgender revolutionary feminist prisoner, and a USW comrade, I feel that the absence or exclusion of these oppressed groups from the discussion is of significant concern. Whenever MIM(Prisons) is confronted on the issue of gender, it merely refers to the old back issue of MIM Theory 2/3: Gender and Revolutionary Feminism. But what is being done now, today, in regards to gender oppression and the advancement of revolutionary feminism within the ranks of MIM(Prisons)?

The concept of principal contradiction comes from dialectical materialism, which says that everything can be divided into opposing forces.(2) The revolutionary feminist struggle against patriarchy is by no means secondary to the principal contradiction in the world today between imperialist countries and the oppressed nations they exploit. Sartre has observed that: "if the feminist struggle maintained its ties with the class struggle, it could shake a society in a way that would completely overturn it."(3)

The struggle for gender equality also includes transgender wimmin and other sexual minorities. The situation of transgender prisoners, particularly, is so vexing to prison administrators that the National Commission on Correctional Health Care has drafted a position statement titled "Transgender Health Care in Correctional Settings," which reads in part: "when determined to be medically necessary for a particular inmate, hormone therapy should be initiated and sex-reassignment surgery considered on a case-by-case basis."(4)

Transgender females, especially in prison, are often discriminated against and sexually abused in much the same way as biological wimmin, but far worse. Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) has introduced a much needed piece of legislation, the Prison Abuse Remedies Act (PARA), which would end the widespread impunity enjoyed by prison officials when inmates are raped on their watch. It would change the worst parts of the PLRA, which makes it virtually impossible for prison rape survivors to seek redress in court.(5) Attorney General Eric Holder and Justice Department officials are dragging their feet on implementation of the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission's recommended "Standards for the Prevention, Detection, Response, and Monitoring of Sexual Abuse in Detention," the deadline for which passed in June 2010.(6) In the meantime, more than 100,000 adults and youth continue to be sexually abused each year while imprisoned.(7)

In failing to discuss these issues, MIM(Prisons) has missed a great opportunity to revolutionize these oppressed groups and link their struggle to the overall anti-imperialist movement. This is a strategic and tactical mistake on our part, in my humble opinion.

Wimmin and the LGBTQ community are oppressed groups and potential revolutionary classes nearly on par with oppressed nations, particularly within the criminal "justice" system, and MIM(Prisons) must raise their level of importance on the list of priorities at least to the level of national liberation struggles and prisoners' struggle. This is in line with the Maoist theory of United Front and the expansion of the anti-imperialist struggle among lumpen organizations, as well as internationalist solidarity. Wimmin and Queers of the world, Unite!

Notes:
1. Under Lock & Key, September/October 2010, No. 16 (San Francisco; MIM Distributors, 2010)
2. See "Strategy and Tactics in the Belly of the Beast," ULK 13
3. Jean-Paul Sartre, "Simone de Beauvoir Interviews Sartre," Life/Situations: Essays written and spoken. (New York" Pantheon Books, 1977) p93-108.
4. See "Should State pay for convicts sex change?" T.I.P. Journal, Vol 10, no1, Spring 2010 (Wheat Ridge, CO: Gender Identity Center of Colorado, Inc., 2010), p3.
5. Lisa Stannow, "JDI Applauds Proposed Reforms," T.I.P. Journal, vol 10, no1, Spring 2010 (Wheat Ridge, CO: Gender Identity Center of Colorado, Inc., 2010), p.5.
6. Action Update, April 2010, Just Detention International, www.just-detention.org
7. Ibid.


PTT of MIM(Prisons) responds: In a discussion of what the principal contradiction is in the world today, and what role feminism plays in that contradiction, let's first clearly define what a "principal contradiction" is:

"There are many contradictions in the process of development of a complex thing, and one of them is necessarily the principal contradiction whose existence and development determine or influence the existence and development of the other contradictions." - Mao, "On Contradiction"

Ending oppression is our goal. The struggle towards this goal in our current society is our "complex thing." It has many contradictions which are interacting with each other throughout the course of its development (we say gender, class and nation are the main three). Determining which contradiction is principal in the world today gives us a guide for how to organize and what issues to organize around. We determine which is the principal contradiction using a materialist (based in material reality) analysis of history. The principal contradiction is principal (and not secondary) because of the way its development will impact the development of other contradictions. We do not choose it, it is shown to us in history.

Establishing a principal contradiction is not a matter of deciding which struggles most affect us on a persynal or subjective basis. The principal contradiction is not the most subjectively important contradiction; it is the one we need to focus on because history has shown that it will bring the best results. As sympathizers with all oppressed peoples in the world, including wimmin and LGBTQ people, we hope to reach communism as fast as possible to minimize humyn suffering. But based on our study and analysis, we say that nation, and not gender, is the principal contradiction at this time in history, and we need to organize to push the national contradiction forward.

For example, and contrary to what Queen Boudicca claims, oppressed nations are far more oppressed by the criminal injustice system than biological wimmin. In 2009, men were 14 times more likely to go to state or federal prison than wimmin, while Black men were 6.5%[this incorrectly read percent] times more likely than white men.(1) The gender gap is bigger than the national gap, but in favor of oppressing biological men. To argue that bio-wimmin are more oppressed you're gonna have to base your argument somewhere else.

Our comrade does present here examples of the unique oppression faced by wimmin and LGBTQ prisoners in the United $tates. Yet, the form of solutions proposed are reformist at best and at worst the demands of the gender privileged. We must not focus on these examples of oppression in isolation, as a replacement for a scientific analysis of how development of the gender contradiction will affect other contradictions (namely nation) and our overall goals, as Queen Boudicca does.

Historically laws against rape have expanded, not combatted, gender privilege. Similarly the development of leisure time related medicine has largely benefited the gender privileged at the expense of the oppressed. The use of drugs related to depression and mood is a means of adapting to an oppressive system, or being forced to submit as is more clear in the prison environment. That said, we would encourage comrades to utilize antidepressants as a last resort if they are unable to put in work without them. The initiation of hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery could play similar roles as psychological aids to cope in an oppressive world. But when we are considering strategic battles on behalf of the oppressed, shutting down control units, for example, will have a much bigger influence on mental health while also developing the anti-imperialist struggle for prisoners as a group.

Under capitalism and imperialism, it is impossible for us to determine whether hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgery are objectively medically necessary for all time or just useful as a crutch for people who are justifiably maladjusted to an imperialistic world. Sex has long been defined socially and not biologically for the humyn species. Under communism, when gender oppression is eradicated, and gender ceases to exist, will people still want to change their biology? These are questions we cannot answer until we get there. For now we encourage everyone who has a poor self-image and an unsatisfactory sex life to recognize these as products of capitalism and join the struggle toward world liberation.

There is a thorough analysis of how the gender struggle impacts our struggle for communism, and it is contained in the 208 page magazine titled MIM Theory 2/3: Gender and Revolutionary Feminism. While not new, it has a more updated assessment than Sartre, specifically in regards to the gender aristocracy. Queen Boudicca claims to have read and to uphold MT 2/3, but misses a main point that the struggles of First World wimmin generally lead to more national oppression here and throughout the world. Examples include the lynching of Black men as a trade for more gender privilege for white wimmin; the forced drug testing on Third World wimmin directly leading to an increase in the availability of birth control for First World wimmin; and the failed pseudo-feminist movement which has had no positive impact on the gender struggle for the majority of wimmin. It is true that we recommend MIM Theory 2/3 as the best starting point for why nation trumps gender as the principal contradiction.

Although nation is the principal contradiction in the world today, it still may be possible to organize wimmin and LGBTQ prisoners under the MIM umbrella against their own material interests as Amerikans. We believe that prisoners hold the most revolutionary potential within the United $tates, which is why we organize them. If Queen Boudicca is subjectively inspired to organize wimmin and LGBTQ prisoners specifically, then we would support h organizing these populations around MIM line. There are many roles to play in our struggle toward liberation and communism, and MIM(Prisons) can't fill them all. As a revolutionary feminist organization, MIM(Prisons) aims to end gender oppression as part of our struggle for communism, and we would welcome any group into the united front against imperialism that is willing to accept the political leadership of MIM Thought.

Queen Boudicca accuses MIM(Prisons) of not publishing articles about the issues she raises. Yet we have printed letters from this author in ULK, and dozens of other articles addressing gender issues from a uniquely Maoist perspective. In particular, our article from ULK 1 discusses how imprisonment rates of Black men make them more gender oppressed than white wimmin in the United $tates today. And ULK 6 is focused on gender and tackles everything from gay marriage to pornography to the effect of prisons on the family structure.

chain
[United Front] [Rhymes/Poetry] [ULK Issue 18]
expand

To Unite or Not to Unite, That is the Question


With whom shall we unite?
As Maoists,
and as materialists,
one focus in this imperialist country should be on the economic interest of its various segments in order to determine with whom we should or shouldn't fight.
Tactically speaking,
An enemy of my chief enemy is as fate would have it a friend to me.
Sometimes permanently,
many times temporarily,
it depends on their particular ideological and political stance you see.
The grave consequence of revisionism in the heart of imperialism is a subtle yet vicious schism between imperialist country so-called communist workers and the revolutionary practice of proletarian internationalism. Such division born of revisionism threatens the success of one revolutionary socialist mission. It puts us in a dire position which psycho-socially translates into an unhealthy state of nihilism and terminates any possibility of an anti-imperialist united front. It puts one's enemy forces in a position to win but to begin with as dialectics teaches, it is the internal contradictions within our own camp that is the determining factor in making our foes into the triumphant champs.
So these contradictions must be speedily resolved.
They must be solved and we must consciously involve ourselves in their resolution beyond the limited subjective confines of our egotistic idealistic minds.
In short order,
we must refine our scientific use of the materialist method of analysis if we are to successfully persist in the massive work of building an expanded revolutionary united front.

chain
[Economics] [Theory] [United Front] [ULK Issue 17]
expand

Lumpen United Front: Its Basis and Development

United Front in Prison

The basis for unity among lumpen is class. The lumpen are the disenfranchised who derive from the economically depressed areas - the Barrios and ghetto projects - and are for the most part oppressed nations people. The lumpen are known to the oppressor nation as the 'criminal element' which is code word for persyn of color. The lumpen usually come from a lumpen organization that the oppressors call a 'gang,' or survive as some type of parasitic hustler. Although we do make choices, often times in imperialist society our choice to engage in crime is a logical one due to the national oppression we endure.

As communists it is our job to fully understand the laws of social development, and the lumpen are an essential part of these laws today, especially here in the imperialist stronghold. In Marx’s theory of ‘social relations of production’ lies the question of ownership, that is what ‘class’ owns the tools and what ‘class’ uses the tools. In this imperialist society the lumpen neither own nor use the tools. We are excluded from production and live under the heel of capitalist relations of production. The propertied class has monopolized the productive forces. The lumpen play a crucial role in Amerika in the creation of new productive forces that will come into contradiction with the decaying social relations of production. The current economic crisis is helping to streamline this process.

The lumpen is a class, regardless of what nationality one comes from; we all have similar relations to the tools of society and the distribution of society’s wealth. It is a group that experiences the same oppression and is fighting the same imperialist monster.

It is understood that as national oppression exists it is thus only natural for there to also be national liberation struggles to combat the unevenness in this society, and for revolutionary national struggles to work to bring safety to the people who live in a constant police state in areas of the oppressed nations. This is the correct stance in the face of any oppression. But we can't get caught playing the same dog-eat-dog game that the imperialists play on us and our fellow lumpen. We need an Aztlán Liberation Front that is in unity with the lumpen.

The lumpen in Amerika must begin to realize that we are a class and lumpen fighting lumpen does nothing to liberate any oppressed nation. On the contrary, lumpen-on-lumpen crime will only strengthen the imperialist vice grip on our necks! This is why unity amongst the lumpen is the first step to liberation of all oppressed nations in the United $tates. We don't have to agree on everything, but we must have unity and work together with the full realization that we are up against not just the same monster but one that happens to run the world militarily.

It is essential for the lumpen to come together in a united front in order for liberation to ever be a reality on these shores. Without the critical element of the united front, liberation struggles of any kind are simply idle talk and will not produce. The function of the united front for the oppressed nations and ULK should be 1) to practice peoples' power within the prison system and thoroughly politicize the U.$. prison system, and 2) to practice peoples' power within the Barrios and ghetto projects out in society and thoroughly politicize these oppressed nation areas. These functions should be done with the idea of preparing these grounds for future insurrection.

Lumpen Unite with the International Proletariat!

The basis for unity between the lumpen and the international proletariat is again class-based. The lumpen are connected to the international proletariat by their common oppression by the imperialists and their popular resistance to this oppression. What we must keep in mind is the imperialists think and act on a global scale so we must do the same. Just as many have used the saying "don't show up at a gun battle with a knife," we don't want to show up with a "not in my backyard" mentality when the imperialists show up with an international colonization mentality. We must think of the big picture and on a grand scale of things. Of course we must first work in a particular area, as MIM(Prisons) works primarily with the prison population, to start from one area and eventually expand to include larger or multiple fronts of struggle. All our efforts should be with the intention of chipping away at imperialism.

Regardless of one's oppressed nation, it really is the same struggle against the same opponent. Currently this is seen unabashed by the imperialists' mega-prison system housing millions of Brown, Black, Red and Yellow people. It is seen in people of color hunted down in urban communities by the police and shot dead as if there were safaris in the inner cities. It is seen in the unequal treatment that has been festering in Amerika for over 500 years, the lynching of the body and the lynching of the mind. Therefore, it is not just understandable or justified but damn right necessary for these oppressed peoples to struggle for national liberation. Until New Democracy is achieved, as Mao spoke of, and we finally achieve equality for all in all aspects, the oppressed nations should continue to struggle for self-determination.

As communists we should always maintain focus on our goal of international communism rather than degenerating to simply Brown capitalism or Black capitalism, etc. This is why our unity must be with the international proletariat in mind as this will be our moral compass. Some may say or think "If I can liberate my people in this or that country why would I care about countries in another part of the world?" Well, as I've said before, we are all up against the same monster that cannot be defeated by one group of people, and even if one could somehow liberate one group of people, the imperialists worldwide would smash this isolated nation. We saw it happen in Grenada.

When Marx and Engels put together the theory of communism, it was with internationalism in mind as they saw even back then that the bourgeoisie would not sit back and allow the people to begin liberating themselves. We must always work in unity with the international proletariat in order to rise from lumpen to true revolutionary. Only then will we liberate our people.

La Lucha Continua!


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade did a good job of stressing the importance of internationalism in the united front, and in particular pointing out that the international proletariat must be our moral compass. The question we need to ask though is to what degree the imperialist country lumpen's interests are united with the international proletariat, and therefore how they fit into the united front as a class. What this comrade wrote about the need to support everyone's national liberation is true for any oppressed nation in the world, but we face particular challenges due to our material conditions.

MIM(Prisons) sees the lumpen in the United $tates as a bourgeoisified lumpen, in that the whole country benefits from imperialism in the form of basic needs like food, clean water, electricity, etc. as well as in the form of cheap consumer goods. The latter allows the lumpen to own small amounts of capital, creating a spectrum of wealth where a minority in the lumpen organizations are at the level of national bourgeoisie due to their relations to production, distribution and ownership. Even for the relatively poor majority of the lumpen class, a combination of state welfare and the drug game have allowed for access to the material benefits of imperialism the proletariat do not have.

We are watching closely the efforts of the white nation to take away welfare and local drug markets from the lumpen, as well as jobs from the undocumented. Even if these trends are successful, we see compradors among the lumpen and a popular desire for and belief in the Amerikan dream. While the lumpen are a class forced into criminality, there is a class consciousness and culture that derives from this criminality that is individualistic and parasitic. As this comrade alludes to, there is a transformation that must occur to replace the lumpen mentality (in particular its capitalistic elements) with a proletarian one. No national liberation struggles can succeed in this country without tackling this great challenge.

In addition, a growing lumpen class due to imperialist crisis will also touch the white nation. As we wrote about in ULK 14, a declassed white population is the makings of fascist foot soldiers. History has shown this to be the case for oppressor nations. So we agree with the author's alternating use of lumpen and oppressed nations in most cases, but disagree when s/he says the lumpen have the same interests regardless of nationality. Only if the oppressor nation lets go of its white privilege would this be true. This is an even stronger reason why a thesis that the lumpen in general in the U.$. are a progressive force does not hold true.

chain
[United Front]
expand

In Unity & Struggle: Why United Front?

Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the original Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, once taught that "the purpose of a vanguard group should be to raise the consciousness of the masses through
educational programs and certain physical activities the party will participate in."

MIM(Prisons) is actively involved, along with several groups and leaders, in the building of a United Front among lumpen in the U$ and has asked the questions, "what makes up the basis for unity among the lumpen?" and "what is the basis for unity between the lumpen and the international proletariat?"

I believe that the basis of unity among prisoners and the lumpen in general is our common oppression. We are all catching hell from a common enemy, that we all come from oppressive conditions - that your community and mine, suffer from the same symptoms caused by U$ imperialism - poverty, despair, mis-education in inferior schools, addictions of various sorts, pigs killing us, etc. This is the premise that I work from in trying to unite, educate and organize with prisoners.

The unity between the lumpen and the international proletariat should be based upon the fact that we all suffer under conditions created by our principal enemy: U$ imperialism. U$ imperialism and the political economy of capitalism are at the root of all the social problems that U$ lumpen and the international proletariat suffer from.

We seek to unite with all poor and oppressed nations and the people who are willing to unite with us around the primary goal of the destruction of U$ imperialism: our principal enemy. It matters not if one is socialist or communist at this time.

The United Front has been seen throughout history to be effective strategically and tactically in revolutionary struggles. Membership in a United Front does not mean that a group loses its independence to pursue its political objectives. It means that we all agree that we should work together against our principal enemy and work with each other on projects which push development of the struggle ahead.

Our analysis should include each of these forces able to reach consensus on the above questions. We should check thoroughly each proposal and the efforts put forth to realize them by the respective forces, the extent to which resources are acquired and how allocated, the level of priority given by each force to the realization of the effort.

Without a United Front our enemies will be able to continue to defeat us and repress our organizing activities. United, our work becomes that much more effective. The more groups involved principally, the stronger our movement will become and the greater our efforts will be in combating national oppression and imperialism.

Let us push forward the struggle by pushing forward the development of the united front. Without struggle, there is no progress.

chain
[Theory] [Economics] [United Front] [ULK Issue 17]
expand

Building United Front, Surrounded by Enemies: Case Study of the U.$. Housing Market Decline

foreclosed McMansion
Typical Amerikan homes provide luxury most people can only dream of, while home values far above the actual cost of materials and labor lace the owners' pockets with super-profits.

United Front is the theory of uniting different groups across class lines for a common goal or interest, while maintaining independence where those groups disagree. The application of united front theory is about recognizing different contradictions in society and utilizing them in the interests of the international proletariat. The primary united front is the Anti-Imperialist United Front, which is made up of the majority of the world's people whose material interests lie in defeating imperialism. This is a strategic united front based on the principal contradiction.

In this article we will address a couple of contemporary issues in the United $tates and analyze their potential for united front work. We'll see that many of the big conflicts in a First World country are between the enemy classes, but that does not always mean we sit on the sidelines. Some forms of united front are tactical and require fast action based on thorough knowledge. To successfully navigate the potential for united front in the First World that serves the interests of the Third World proletariat we must first have a correct analysis of our conditions. The first section of this article provides a quick background to get us started.

Land, Housing and the Settler Nation

One of the arguments made against the labor aristocracy thesis is that corporations have no interest in sacrificing profit to pay First World workers more, and there is no corporate conspiracy to enforce such a policy. This is based in the theory of free market capitalism, or only reading the beginning chapters of Marx's Capital and treating that as an accurate model of reality in all places for all time. As a class, capitalists do depend on the labor aristocracy, not just politically, but economically as consumers and cogs in their growing pyramid scheme of finance capital. And there is at least one place where the U.$. imperialists can exert their will as a class (more and more these days) - it's called the U.$. government. The promotion of home ownership by the feds is one of the biggest examples of the imperialists consciously building a labor aristocracy within the heart of the empire.

Home ownership has been a staple of Amerikan wealth since the settlers stole this land from the First Nations and built their homesteads on it. The net worth of Amerikan families compared to First Nations and those descended from slaves in the U.$. is one legacy of this form of primitive accumulation. While land ownership among the earliest European invaders was 100% (that's why they came to the Americas), by the 1775 War of Independence, land ownership was still at 70% for the Euro-Amerikan nation.(1) Arghiri Emmanuel pointed out that Amerikan wages were able to stay so high in this early period of capitalist development, even as land ownership ceased to be universal, because the abundant "free" land stolen from the First Nations provided a fallback plan for European settlers.(2) This primitive accumulation through genocide was the basis for wealth that the Amerikan labor aristocracy enjoyed as industrialization transformed more of the settlers into wage laborers.

Following the inter-imperialist struggles of WWI, the United $tates became the dominant imperialist power. The influx of wealth that came with this allowed for the integration of southern and eastern European immigrants into the white nation leading up to the Great Depression.(1) From 1900 to 1950, home ownership rates in the United $tates averaged about 45%, with the lowest rates in the Black Belt South and the highest in European dominated northwest states.(3) After the economic recovery that came with the spoils of WWII, the United $tates embarked on the suburbanization of Amerika with numerous incentives from the federal government to bring home ownership above 60% again.

Since 1960, home ownership has stayed above 60% for U.$. citizens as a whole.(4) This rate was above 70% for white Amerikans in recent years, but the census does not have comparable statistics by race going back very far. Blacks and Latinos are just under 50% for rates of home ownership, even though national oppression has ensured that they currently face foreclosure disproportionately.

Emmanuel's theories in Unequal Exchange demonstrate how the significantly higher incomes of people in the First World actually transfer wealth to the imperialist countries from the Third World, reinforcing their economic advantage. Similarly, the oppressor nation has equity and is able to increase wealth in ways that the internal semi-colonies have not been able to do despite access to exploiter level jobs. All of this fits with the general trend of capitalism, which is the accumulation of capital. The more you have, the more you tend to get.

Collapse of the U.$. Housing Market

The left wing of white nationalism (whether self-described anarchists, socialists, Maoists or Democrats) has been saying that the increase in home foreclosures is an indication of the heightening contradictions between the Amerikan proletariat and the capitalists. These people defend the stolen land that was the foundation of wealth for settler Amerika, and the modern home ownership pyramid scheme that is the foundation of the Amerikan dream today.

Not only have millions of people lost their homes to foreclosure in recent years, but fear-mongers point out that the “2008 sub-prime mortgage market resulted in the disappearance of $13 trillion in American household wealth between mid-2007 and March 2009... on average, U.S. households lost one quarter of their wealth in that period."(5) Such alarmists ignore that Amerikans gained $10 trillion from 2006 to 2007 to reach an all-time high, and that net worth of the country's citizens has generally gone up at increasing rates since WWII.(6) The bigger ups and downs in all financial markets are certainly signs of crisis, but to act like Amerikans are being sunk to Third World conditions in 2010 is ludicrous. If only these activists would cry so loud for those who really have had to live in Third World conditions for their whole lives and for generations!

Most, if not all, of the loss in Amerikans' net worth is accounted for by stock portfolios and values of homes (which are bought and sold like stocks these days); in other words losses in finance capital. Traditionally, the petty bourgeoisie in Marxism was not exploited, nor did it significantly exploit others. To claim that those who reap profits from investments of finance capital are anything less than petty bourgeoisie is a rejection of Marxist definitions. With home ownership around 68% in recent years, that is a solid two thirds of people in the United $tates who fall squarely into the category of petty bourgeoisie or higher, including 50% of Blacks and Latinos (minimum). This group is 210 million people, or only 3% of the world's population in 2010, yet they hold more net wealth than the total market capitalization of all publicly traded companies in the world.(7)

Our critics point to the great wealth inequalities within the United $tates as reason to organize Amerikans for revolution. So let's just look at the bottom 80% of Amerikans, who owned 15% (a mere scrap from the table if you will) of the net wealth in the United $tates in 2007 (and this was a 15-year low for them).(8) While their share has decreased a few percentage points since 1983, total net worth in the United $tates has increased by almost 5 times. Therefore the lowest 80% of Amerikans went from about $2.2 trillion in net worth in 1983 to almost $10 trillion in 2007. (Two trillion dollars could eliminate world hunger for the next 66 years, until 2076.(9)) "Middle class" Amerika has assets that are greater than the GDP of China,(10) the world's industrial powerhouse representing about 20% of the world's population. That's comparing just the Amerikan "middle class" and "poor" to the whole nation of China, including its well-developed capitalist class.

Since the proletariat, by definition, has negligible net worth in the form of assets, let's look at their income.(11) Income generally increases proportionately with net worth across the globe.(12) Almost half of the world's population lives on less than $1000 per year. That is 3.14 billion people living on less than $3 trillion in a year.(13) Now before we condemn Amerikans' huge assets, let's make sure that they just aren't better at saving and investing their money than the proletariat. In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifty percent accounted for only 7.2% of consumption.(13) A conservative estimate leaves us with Amerikans, on average, consuming at least 27 times the average persyn in the poorest half of the world.(14) So money management skills cannot explain Amerika's huge net worth.

A just, sustainable humyn society requires the Amerikan labor aristocracy to be brought down to consumer levels much closer to the Third World. But this little exercise demonstrates that this is far from happening, despite the alarmists' cries.

Ultimately, the contradiction we're describing is between the labor aristocracy and the imperialists. The imperialists, in particular finance capital, are a dynamic, opportunist class. In contrast, the labor aristocracy benefits from stability of the status quo. The finance capitalists were able to make quick profits by selling the labor aristocracy short, so Amerikans are pissed. While perhaps pushing the labor aristocracy towards fascism, the finance capitalists are also undercutting the consumerism of Amerikans that their system depends on so much. What we are witnessing is an internal contradiction in the imperialist system playing out. Both groups control trillions of dollars in super-profits from the Third World, and the Anti-Imperialist United Front has no interest in one of them getting more than the other. We need to keep sitting this one out.

Migration to the United $tates

As discussed above, high wages and ballooning housing values reinforce themselves in our current economic system, making the rich richer. However, neither could be maintained without erecting a border outside of which these two things cannot flow. Therefore, keeping wages and housing values high is directly linked to the battle over increasing repression of migrant laborers within U.$. borders. The contradiction in this struggle is between oppressed nations who are trying to gain access to jobs in the United $tates and the oppressor nation that is trying to keep them out. This challenge to imperialist country privilege indicates that the battle for migrant rights is part of the anti-imperialist struggle.

While Third World people and some Amerikan youth faced Amerikan labor aristocrats on the streets, it was the U.$. District Court that put in place an injunction on most of the provisions of Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 (SB1070), in light of a lawsuit filed by the U.$. Department of Justice (DOJ) against the state of Arizona. The DOJ held that immigration was under federal jurisdiction, and that they had a plan for the whole country to balance its various interests related to immigration that Arizona would not be allowed to mess up.

The interest of the bourgeois internationalists is in having free access to markets and labor, not to mention international relations. This camp includes the federal government and their finance capitalist backers as well as smaller businesses that only operate in the United $tates, but depend on migrant labor. Their conflict is with other bourgeois interests and the bourgeoisified majority of Amerikans whose position of privilege stems from the elitism of who is allowed to enter their fortress of jewels.

There is effectively a united front between the internationalism of the mass resistance to SB1070 on both sides of the Mexican border and the U.$. government acting on behalf of bourgeois internationalism. And for now, it is the imperialists who are really throwing a wrench in the works for Amerikans, even though the contradiction at its base is between oppressed nations and the oppressor nation.

A majority of Amerikans in a number of polls supported SB1070 or a similar law. The highest percentage listed in one article, 79%, did not agree that "illegal aliens are entitled to the same rights and basic freedoms as U.S. citizens."(15) This is the definition of Amerikan chauvinism. At best, one fifth of U.$. citizens don't think they deserve more than other humyn beings by virtue of being born in the United $tates. This is why we even keep an eye on the imperialists for glimmers of internationalism in the First World.

With Latinos, we can see how quickly this consciousness develops by tracking the percentage of coconuts in the population over time. A Latino Decisions poll found that 12% of second-generation Latino voters in Arizona supported SB1070. By the fourth generation it had increased to 30% supporting the coconut position.(16) Amerikanism is an insidious disease that has claimed significant portions of the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates.

Unite All Who Can Be United

While many dogmatists still criticize Mao for allying the Chinese Communists with the national bourgeoisie, we can take united front theory even further and come up with examples of progressive forces allying with the government of the imperialist superpower of the world against an oppressor nation. This goes to show that we cannot let ultra-left ideas of purity prevent us from allying with those who might help our cause.

The rightist errors in applying united front theory happen when we have incorrect lines elsewhere. Not recognizing a united front as working with an enemy class, or becoming convinced that other contradictions have been resolved, and not just pushed to a secondary position, are the main forms of rightism to guard against. Mao had to fight much rightism from other communists who thought the communists and national bourgeois forces should merge into one, where inevitably the reactionary bourgeoisie would lead because of their relative power. Rightism in the United $tates looks like people getting caught up with legislative battles over migrant rights. Without national liberation, there is no freedom for oppressed nations under imperialism. The imperialists will always oppose that, just as the Nationalists fought the Communists in civil war once the Japanese were forced out.

We do not seek unity for the sake of unity. We seek unity that utilizes all the forces possible to tackle the principal contradiction, or battles that push the principal contradiction forward. When we find strategic unity with others, the united front also provides a basis for unity-criticism-unity, which advances the struggle and deepens the unity of revolutionaries and all oppressed people for a better future.

chain