I am not a murderer
yet i am not free
I am not alone in this struggle
I'm not ever going to putt or give up
Like my blood kin have done
on themselves and me
I'm not racist, but I'm white
but I find no pride in the latter
or excuses in the former
I am not religious
Science has proven evolution
Therefore I'm atheist
What's your excuse?
I am not some scholar or martyr
Just a man skating on the edges of insanity
Because of my country
And its 'cruel world' hypocrisy
I'm the person lifting and dropping this pen
but these words aren't just mine
I am not alone in this emotion
going to accept this system
I'll fight it to my death (I swear!)
I am not you
I am not an Amerikkkan
And I will never ever be
[The motivation for the focus of this issue of Under Lock & Key was to better address the many interested readers who write us coming from a religious background. We also thought that our study pack on the topic could use some updating. And that is the planned outcome of putting this issue together. Therefore it was timely that we recently received an in-depth response to this study pack to spur discussion. One of the readings in the religion study pack is on the struggle of the Tibetan lamas who rose up against the oppressive rule of the Dalai Lama after socialism was established in China. This article begins with a response to that from Legion.]
In the excerpt from Chapter 10: Reform in a Major Monastery(1), I recognize the principal contradiction to be rebellion vs. religious thought (I define religions as a doctrine of ethics derived from "spookism"). When the lamas took the time to work out problem #13 (master their circumference/cipher, 360 degrees/120x3) they came to see the very nature of the Buddhist teachings and began active rebellion against the 10% ruling class. The elimination of classism liberated the poor righteous teachers from the bondage of captivity. When people use religion to secure position, all they do is promote imperialism/colonialism and economic oppression, which is very devastating to the humyn condition. With autonomy you have freedom to see the reality of your power. The feelings of the lamas is in line with the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) student enrollment #1, when you master your condition you become owner ruler sustainer, God of your universe.
The lamas also came to the reality that the only way they would find any peace or equality was to unify, arm themselves and defend their position in the face of the oppressor. And when the goal of peace was obtained they went about their lives, with the power of self-determination in the form of religious freedom.
The issue with the blind, deaf and dumb religious belief lies with the fact that traditions and institutional doctrine lead people towards the path of faith instead of scientific discovery. Dialectical materialism is based on history but whose history? The fact is that when technology is stolen and corrupted holes and cracks appear and when one discovers for self the answers become liberating in themselves. For example, ancient Egyptians perfected communism thousands of years before Marxism existed. Yet, through racism and colonialism the history was nearly erased from record books. But with the science beginning to catch up with the absolute truth we can begin to understand why the religious institutions gravitate towards oppression because with knowledge comes power and responsibility.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This analysis is a good example of how the Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE) evolved from indigenous New Afrikan liberation theology by rejecting religion and moving towards materialism. The rejection of faith in favor of scientific discovery puts the NGE ideology close to our own. However, as an amalgamation of ideas from different New Afrikan movements, we do find NGE literature to often refer to things that are not actually based in scientific discovery. An example is in the citing of Egypt as developing communism before Marxism existed. While primitive societies existed in communalist social structures, Egypt in the period mentioned had a highly developed society. And like all complex societies known to date, it had a hierarchical social structure. There is a tendency to rewrite history to paint the past of oppressed nations to be more noble. But this does a disservice to our understanding of how to actually build communism today.
Another feature of the existing religion study pack is a debate among a few members of the NGE, one of whom (Infidel) was in the process of leaving the organization for its promotion of imperialist views and idealism. One piece that particularly triggered Infidel to move away from the NGE was an article from The Five Percenter newspaper (2006) by the God Born King Allah on the relationship between those in prison and those on the outside. Below is a relevant excerpt from that article highlighted by Infidel.
"The fact that the father[sic] respected the American government is very important and he raised our Nation to do the same. The reality that the Father fought for this country in the Korean War showed that he was a true patriot... It showed that his love for the country of his birth outweighed any disappointment he may have had with the treatment his people suffered in the Jim Crow era that he came up in. ... Gods and Earths in the Armed services... are fighting to insure[sic] that people all over the planet can enjoy the Freedoms that their own Nation is still denied in America... the Father...must have seen how the religion of Islam and Muslims would become synonymous to terrorists posing a danger to America way back in 1964. His personal separation from religious Islam and Muslims as well the Nations[sic] separation from them as well in the past and present excludes us from being linked to any terrorist, Muslims or radical Islam, period."
Ey goes on to say the country of Afghanistan is responsible for 9/11. This same newspaper printed a statement calling on members to join the military in October 2001 because "we" were attacked.(2)
One NGE comrade in the study group counters that the article represented a few misguided members, taking a similar position to Legion below. However, we must note that the NGE is a mass organization and it does not have a defined political line. While not the focus of what Father Allah taught the Five Percenters, eir political views were in fact quite reactionary and pro-Amerikkkan in relation to international politics.(3) So as we work and build with the many Five Percenters who do take up an anti-imperialist stance, we think it would be a mistake to see the NGE as an organization made up of anti-imperialists at this time.
Legion responds to NGE debate: NGE have, according to the 8th degree of the 1-14, socialist political views. So, anyone claiming anything else should do the basic knowledge on anything before firing shots into a crowd. I have done the knowledge on United Struggle from Within (USW) principles and built with a few Gods along the way and point after point has a parallel with NGE science. Let's not forget NGE don't practice Islam as religion but as science; a science of everything in life. Religion tends to feed into the imperialistic trend of getting everything funneled to the top while everyone else works hard for nothing.
With regards to Infidel's commentary, I see no reason that one would be confused with comments made, unless it was made to agitate and stir up debate. NGE metaphysics is a philosophy that seeks to explain the nature of being (life) and reality (dialectical materialism). To call the allegorical nature of lessons sham science is false evidence appearing real based on, time after time "Western" science has proven that 1. the Blackman is God, and 2. that the nature of the oppressor is exactly how it's described in the lessons.
...If we take a look at the "Arab" movement vs. the NGE movement, you find mostly similarities. Let's be logical about it. Keep in mind, I make no apology for another man's statements. Just facts. NGE has been at the forefront of the Third World in America (prisons). MIM's focus is on prison. "Arabs" get labeled terrorists by the same people that lock up young Gods for borning knowledge. Plus, most overlook the fact that the father served before not after he came into the NOI.
...Infidel also states, "You claim to have 7.5 ounces of superior brain power (compared to the white man's 6 ounces. Please tell me you don't actually believe this, brother)..." Man is God, so God is Man, period. The 7 reps Man-God/God-Man, 5 reps Justice/Power. Therefore NGE does have manpower and the "white man" whom prior to 1492 did not exist (people were referred to as Irishman, Englishman, Dutchman, etc), created as an oppression tool this version of equality that only applied to the genocidal pilgrims who trekked across the Atlantic. The white man is only available on paper and as a mindstate. I know plenty of so-called Black men who are white as snow and vice versa. Black is dominant consciousness, white is weak consciousness.
...The focus would be very different if MIM(Prisons) and NGE knew each other in depth from inception. But, like many others before and to the present, most humyns get stuck on doctrine instead of looking at the bigger picture. Supreme Power Allah told me in civilization class people get so wrapped up in the designs of one tree, that they fail to recognize the forest. When you debate over small things, big things never become material. HC [the coordinator of the MIM-led study group] says, "such a persyn will not be able to be as effective fighting imperialism if they don't learn and apply the science of dialectical materialism." Once again I emphatically state, we focus on manifesting using metaphysics, or in layman's terms we make apparent to the senses reality and reality is the answer to the equation. Numbers and letters, formulas and theories are what? Science.
MIM(Prisons) responds: Legion is one of those comrades who have taken up anti-imperialism. By the time we heard from em, ey had already gained a good understanding of USW and the United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP). Not only that, but ey had put the UFPP into practice(4) applying the scientific method to the laboratory of the U.$. prison environment. This leads us to put more weight in eir words above, which we have a lot of unity with. In the last paragraph ey talks about finding common ground rather than dogmatically debating minutia to divide us. MIM(Prisons) hopes this issue of ULK in particular works at that common goal.
Legion uses metaphysics as a term analogous to science. Metaphysics can be used to mean different things, and we are not sure what its meaning is here for Legion. However, we typically use metaphysics to define a type of materialism that is antithetical to dialectical materialism. Where dialectics recognizes things as always changing, based on contradictions found within the thing, metaphysical materialism sees things as static, or even eternal. For example, a metaphysical position would be that humyns are greedy, while a dialectician might say that humyns in a certain time and place (ie. 20th century United $tates) have developed greedy tendencies on average.
Where we see metaphysical tendencies in the NGE lessons is in the meaning put into numbers and letters. As if the number 7 or 360 has eternal meaning and power and aren't just concepts created by the humyn brain.
Legion critiques Infidel for making literal readings of the NGE ideological foundations. We cannot speak to how they are more often interpreted. We like Legion's interpretation of them as metaphors that might fit in with Loco1's ideas on how religion is an important tool for the imprisoned lumpen.(5) However, we also know that things like the story of Yacub have been and continue to be interpreted as literal truths by many in different New Afrikan organizations. So we would not be so quick to dismiss Infidel's critique. The creeping of religious idealism into NGE ideology is also reflected in the following quote from Tupac Shakur when asked, 20 years ago, what religion ey follows:
"I talked to every god there was, in jail. I think that if you take one of the 'o's out of good, it's god, if you add a 'd' to evil it's the devil. I think some cool motherfuckers sat down a long time ago and said let's figure out a way that we can control motherfuckers, and that's what they came up with, is the Bible, woo woo. Because if God wrote the Bible, I'm sure there would have been a revised copy by now. You know what I mean? Because a lot of shit has changed.
"...I think heaven is just, when you sleep you sleep with a good conscience, you don't have nightmares. And hell is when you sleep, the last thing you see is all the fucked up things you did in your life. ...it's hell on earth because bullets burn. There's people that got burnt in fires... All that's here... Heaven is now, look, we sittin up here, big screen, this is heaven, for the moment. Know what I mean? Hell is jail, I seen that one. Trust me. This is what's real, and all that other shit is to control you.
"...I believe in God... It makes sense that if you good in your heart, then you're closer to God. But if you evil then you're close to the devil. That makes sense. I see that every day. All that other spooky shit don't make sense. And I don't even believe, I'm not dissin' it, but I don't even believe in the brothers, I was in jail with 'em and having conversations with brothers; 'I'm God, I'm God.' You God? open the gate for me. You know how far the sun is and how far the moon is, how the hell do I pop this fuckin' gate? And get me free up outta here. Then I'll be a Five Percenter for life! But, never seen it." (6)
Like Legion, Tupac calls for a materialist approach that works here in this world. His critiques of religion parallel those of the NGE in rejecting spookism but not the concept of God altogether. Yet, Pac also had criticism for the Five Percenters he encountered while in prison. Another way to put what he said is that combating idealism is more than just rejecting the God in the sky. Most of the idealist European philosophers that Lenin and Engels spent so much time critiquing did not believe in a God above.
Legion provides an interpretation of the 7.5 ounce brain that is not based in ideas of race or biology, but rather an analogy for the history of white nation oppression. This is an example of an interpretation that is friendly to our own. In fact, we'd point out that Irishmen existed as separate from the "Native" white nation in North America into the early 1900s. This interpretation of oppressors as evil, while rejecting racial categorizations, was put forth by Father Allah and even further back by other New Afrikan liberation theologists who strove to empower Black people, while rejecting a biological basis for race.(7)
Book Review: Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism Gilbert Achcar Haymarket Books 2013
In part one of this review i addressed the author's apparent disdain for the anti-imperialist Islamic movement. In this concluding article i will expose the author's First World chauvinism as being at the root of his reactionary perspective by explaining how he uses the Christian liberation vs. Islamic fundamentalist concept in religion and politics today from a Marxian perspective, so as to better prepare the reader for his ideas on "internationalism" and "ultra-nationalism" by which he really means revolutionary nationalism. As such, it would seem that the entire premise of this book was not intended as a supplemental analysis of anti-imperialist politics in the Middle East today, but so that the author can push his crypto-Trotskyist agenda. Crypto-Trotskyism is a term used to refer to organizations that exhibit Trotskyist tendencies, but which don’t admit to being Trotskyist. Most significantly they suffer from the same great nation chauvinism as the other Trots: over-emphasizing the role of the oppressor nation working classes, and under-emphasizing the role of liberation struggles of the oppressed nations.(1)
The author begins the final essay of this book titled "Marxism and Cosmopolitanism" by tracing the very hystory of the word cosmopolitanism. He discusses how it went thru many twists and turns, from its beginning in ancient Greek civilization thru the Middle Ages and up until today; at one point progressive, while regressive at another. Hence, we learn that the terms cosmopolitan and globalization are connected in this regard. We also learn that Marx and Engels shared Achcar's disdain at one point or another for any and all national movements, in particular for those centered in the capitalist periphery, preferring, instead to champion the cause of the global proletariat, which in their lifetimes meant focusing on European workers. As a result, Marx and Engels contributed to popularizing the concept of cosmopolitanism as interchangeable with international proletariat, which to many communists of the time was preferable to mentioning by name the plight of English or German workers because of the obvious connotations to nationalism. Such connotations were seen by most as giving legitimacy to nationalist struggles, which at the time were driven by the national bourgeoisie.
Within this context nationalism was viewed as backward and reactionary for the proletariat, as the national bourgeoisie was using this concept to their advantage by inciting the proletariat to kill and be killed by workers of other countries, for the bourgeoisie’s goal of world domination. The communists on the other hand rejected nationalism, considering themselves staunch internationalists; champions of the world proletariat, whose hystoric mission it was to usher in the socialist stage of communist development. This being the accepted theory of the time, well before Mao posited that in the age of imperialism, nationalism of the oppressed nations is internationalism.
All this is important to remember when assessing the text as it pertains to the whole reason why Achcar even wrote this book. More so, it is important to remember because in the following pages the author uses much of this information to attack the practice and political line of Joseph Stalin. And while it is undeniable that Marx and Engels at one point agreed with many of the ideas that Achcar propagates, it is also undeniable that as reality progressed, so did Marx and Engels' thinking, which is more than we can say for Mr. Achcar. So if we want to learn the genuine Marxist stance on nations and nationalism then we should not limit ourselves to what the founders of scientific socialism had to say on these topics early on in their revolutionary careers. Rather, we should study and learn what they advocated and stood for later in their lives once they became full-fledged Marxists. As such, the line that Achcar is pushing is a disingenuous one in which he proclaims that all nationalism, just like all variants of revolutionary Islam, are inherently bad, when in reality it is the nationalism of the oppressor nations and the Western privilege that comes with it that he upholds. As such, Gilbert Achcar should just come out and say what he really thinks; which is that the nationalism of the oppressed is what he believes to be backward and reactionary, while oppressor nation nationalism is inherently progressive due to its linkage to Europeans, their culture and tradition. Thus, just as the author correctly pointed out in "Religion and Politics today from a Marxian Perspective," that Islamic fundamentalism is a concept that can be divided into one that is collaborationist with Western interests and one that is hostile to Western interests, so is nationalism a concept that can be divided into one that is bourgeois and reactionary, and one that is revolutionary and forward looking.
"Cosmopolitanism" as Anathema: the Stalinist Perversion
Trotskyists of various stripes have always hated on Stalin for a multiplicity of reasons, primarily however for his theory of socialist development. As Stalin's line on socialist development progressed it eventually came to stand for the national liberation struggles of the oppressed nations, not only within Europe but outside the continent as well. He correctly saw the revolutionary character of the anti-imperialist movement in the colonies as both hostile to Western interests and potentially pro-Soviet. Trotsky on the other hand had nothing but contempt for Asians, Africans and [email protected] Americans, believing them too backward and weak to ever launch successful liberation struggles and/or engage in socialist construction absent the immediate help of the European working classes, a theory that was proven incorrect when an onslaught of colonial countries broke free of the imperialist framework following the end of World War II. And so it is within the context of "globalization" and anti-imperialist struggles in the 21st century that Gilbert Achcar now attempts to rehabilitate Trotsky's theory of the world revolution led by the so-called proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries vis-a-vis the rehabilitation of cosmopolitanism; vis-a-vis his criticisms of Joseph Stalin. To accomplish this however, Achcar must go in depth into the hystory of the Soviet Union, in particular into the propaganda campaigns against cosmopolitanism which Stalin had initiated at the end of World War II, as well as to the campaigns in favor of Soviet patriotism which Stalin also had initiated to prepare the Soviet masses for the Nazi invasion.
According to Mr. Achcar these campaigns were nothing more than a cover for Stalin's anti-Semitism. Yet interestingly enough, in making these accusations the author inadvertently puts forth a plausible explanation for the oppression of notable Jews during this period in the Soviet Union; thereby paving the way for a materialist explanation of these actions and the clearing of Stalin's name as far as anti-Semitism goes.
Achcar like so many anti-communists before him cannot contain his contempt for the progress made under Stalin and so he jumps on the bourgeois bandwagon of blaming Stalin for the so-called Jewish pogroms that were said to have taken place beginning in 1949 alongside the further elaboration and popularization of Soviet patriotism as a concept over that of cosmopolitanism. In addition, the author also contends that these campaigns were one and the same as the so-called anti-Marxist movement which supposedly took place during this period. What these campaigns actually represented however were struggles in the realm of ideas between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries battling for the "hearts and minds" of the Soviet masses, and indeed the future of the revolution.
According to Achcar, the cosmopolitans appear to have been something like a Trotskyist sect operating inside the USSR, who were agitating around the need for openness with the West and glorifying the West. Now remember, this is 1949 and the Cold War is cracking, all of the Soviet Union's wartime imperialist allies have retrained their guns on the communists. And although the author certainly doesn't say it, the Communist Party under Stalin certainly believed that these "cosmopolitans" were in the service of Amerikan imperialism carrying out intelligence gathering activities and engaging in building public opinion for counter-revolution and coup d'etat, just like the types of activities that CIA sponsored groups carry out in Third World countries with anti-western governments. It would seem then these cosmopolitans and other so-called "Marxists" were actually involved in sabotaging socialism from within with actions which thoroughly alarmed the Soviet government. But according to Achcar these were the real "Marxists," the real "internationalists" because they followed the teachings of the young Marx; but when did Marx ever speak of colluding against a socialist state?
Furthermore, the author states that in analyzing Stalin's anti-Semitism we cannot afford to begin in the post-war period, but must start with the publication of Marxism and the National Question, which Achcar describes as "a superficial and dogmatic essay on this most complex of questions."(2) Stalin denies the existence of a Jewish nation within Europe's borders, based on the Jewish people's lack of a common territory. Apparently Gilbert Achcar disagrees with the Marxist definition of nations preferring instead Otto Bauer's The Question of Nationalities and Social Democracy, which clearly defines Jews as a nation based solely on their "common cultures" by which they should really just say religion. The author further claims that it is in this hystorical period that Stalin began his first anti-Marxist campaigns in which he sought to squelch all opposition and secure his position of power. Achcar goes on to argue that Stalin's ideas on internationalism reflected only a narrow and selfish outlook which took into account only the internationalism of the "pan-Tsarist" Russia organization of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party when, in Marxism and the National Question, he mentioned the principle that the party strove to "unite locally the workers of all nationalities of Russia into single, integral collective bodies, to unite their collective bodies into a single party."(3) In defending this principle Achcar states, "Stalin launched a fierce attack on nationalism, putting Great Russian chauvinism on equal footing with the nationalism that was expanding among oppressed nationalities in the USSR - in a definitely non-Leninist fashion."(2) However, this is an extreme misrepresentation of Stalin's line on Achcar's part. Stalin criticized the national chauvinism that was beginning to develop among some of the more reactionary sectors of the oppressed nations in the Tsarist empire and certainly not the nationalism of the oppressed themselves. Apparently, the author believes that national chauvinism should only be criticized when it originates with the oppressors and by people of the offending nation themselves and not by anyone else. In other words, only Russians can criticize Great Russian chauvinism and only the oppressed nations can criticize any chauvinism that originates within their own nations. This is certainly an ironic point that those who have actually read Marxism and the National Question will note. But Stalin was right to criticize the chauvinism of the oppressed nations in the old Russian empire, especially when that chauvinism has the potential to foment violence amongst the oppressed. Chauvinism is chauvinism no matter who propagates it.
Later on Mr. Achcar comes out with an ass-backwards refutation of Stalin's theory of socialism in one country first, attempting to tie it back to Stalin's "anti-Semitism" (Achcar's term for his denial of a Jewish nation) and Soviet patriotism. The line goes as follows: "Socialism in one country: this theoretical innovation central to Stalinism actually laid the groundwork for a Soviet patriotism, coupled with a sui generis internationalism that amounted in fact to the internationalism of Soviet patriotism. Communist members of 'bourgeois nations' had a duty to identify with the thriving 'fatherland of socialism.' Indeed, their Soviet patriotic duty could very well have taken as its motto 'our country, right or wrong!'"(4)
The following paragraphs is where accusations of Jewish repression and anti-Marxism by Stalin really gets interesting.
To give some real context to these accusations, which Achcar himself provides, I will say that prior to the beginning of the Second World War an expansive campaign was begun in the Soviet Union to create and solidify a hegemonic Soviet patriotism for the explicit purpose of strengthening the bonds and common interests of the Soviet Republics against the impending threat of fascism. Stalin was well aware that not only the German fascists, but the soon to be imperialist allies were all working hard to divide the Soviet people from within on the basis of old national grievances which were common under the Tsar. And, as stated earlier, there were counter-revolutionaries inside the USSR consciously working against the Soviet masses. These were the cosmopolitans who by and large were composed of "real Marxists." The struggle between the two opposing forces is recounted and explained by Achcar:
"The patriotic mutation was brought to completion after the Soviet Union entered the Second World War, engaging in what the Stalinist regime called the 'Great Patriotic War.' This went along with the rehabilitation of the Greek Orthodox Church and the resurrection of Slavophilism. "Soviet Patriotism" became a highly praised virtue in the Soviet Union and in the world communist movement while Stalin's brand of 'internationalism' reached its logical conclusion in the 1943 dissolution of the Comintern.
“Soviet patriotism mutated into full-fledged chauvinism after Moscow emerged victorious from the war, especially when the Soviet Union faced renewed ostracism with the start of the Cold War. It is against this historical background that the campaign against 'cosmopolitanism' unfolded."(5)
We agree with the decision to disband the Comintern, which was done because
"it became increasingly clear that, to the extent that the internal as well as the international situation of individual countries became more complicated, the solution of the problems of the labor movement of each individual country through the medium of some international centre would meet with insuperable obstacles."(6)
Leszek Kolakowski is then cited favorably by Achcar as giving the Trotskyist perspective of these events:
"In 1949 the Soviet press launched a campaign against 'cosmopolitanism', a vice that was not defined but evidently entailed being anti-patriotic and glorifying the West. As the campaign developed, it was intimated more and more clearly that a cosmopolitan was much the same thing as a Jew. When individuals were pilloried and had previously borne Jewish sounding names, these were generally mentioned. 'Soviet patriotism' was indistinguishable from Russian chauvinism and became an official mania. Propaganda declared incessantly that all important technical inventions and discoveries had been made by Russians, and to mention foreigners in this context was to be guilty of cosmopolitanism and kowtowing to the West."(5)
Achcar then describes how, according to Isaac Deutscher, Stalin ordered a crackdown on Jews in the Soviet Union following "massive demonstrations of sympathy by Russian Jews who in 1948-49 greeted Golda Meir the first ambassador to Moscow of the newborn state of Israel..."(7)
According to Deutscher the crackdown was in response not only to this unauthorized public display of support by Soviet citizens, but because Israel "stunned" Stalin by siding with the West in the cold war. Yet the author would have us believe that "unauthorized public displays of support" for a foreign head of state invited to Russia by Stalin would take precedence in this "crackdown" over that of the machinations of cosmopolitans and their collusion with a tool of Western imperialism, as is the sub-text that lies hidden beneath these events. Indeed, just a paragraph down from this Achcar says that Soviet authorities began to close down Jewish theaters, periodicals and publishing houses while purging personnel and arresting various Rabbis and other Jewish public figures soon thereafter. But aren't these institutions that which have been traditionally used by the imperialists to agitate for counter-revolution in anti-imperialist nations? If Jewish pogroms really took place, then why is it that only certain people and institutions were being repressed and not Jewish people as a whole? Clearly these were political moves with a basis in national security that were happening and not oppression based on nationality (or religious beliefs) as Achcar would have us believe. As a matter of fact, when we turn the page of this book we find a much more coherent and realistic assessment of these campaigns as detailed by F. Chernov in his article: "Bourgeois Cosmopolitanism and it's reactionary role" as published and featured in Bolshevik, the theoretical and political magazine of the central committee of the All Union Communist Party (Bolshevik). It begins by reporting that Soviet newspapers
"unmasked an unpatriotic group of theatre critics of rootless cosmopolitans, who came out against Soviet patriotism, against the great cultural achievements of the Russian people and other people in our country."
Chernov's article then states:
"Cosmopolitanism is the negation of patriotism, its opposite. It advocates absolute apathy towards the fate of the Motherland. Cosmopolitanism denies the existence of any moral or civil obligations of people to their nation and Motherland..."
"Present day bourgeois cosmopolitanism with its call for the repudiation of national sovereignty, with its notions of 'one-world government,' the creation of the 'United States of Europe,' etc. is an ideological 'basis' and 'consecration' of the assembling under the aegis of American imperialism of the union of imperialists in the name of the struggle against the toiling masses, against the Soviet Union and peoples democracies, against the irresistible growth over the entire world of the forces of socialism and democracy.
"The party unmasked the anti-patriotic, bourgeois-cosmopolitan essence of servility before the capitalist West. It revealed that this cringing before foreign countries inevitably leads to national treason and betrayal of the interests of the Soviet people and the socialist fatherland. The unmasking of unpatriotic groups of bourgeois cosmopolitans, the struggle against the ideology of bourgeois cosmopolitanism, is a striking expression of the concern of the Bolshevik Party about the education of the toiling masses of our country in the spirit of life-giving, Soviet patriotism."(8)
This portion of the essay and the book then end with the statements that: "With the start of 'de-Stalinization' in Kruschev's Soviet Union, the eyes of many communists were opened; more accurately, their mouths were opened, as it is difficult to believe that they had not been aware of the realities they denounced when the green light finally came from Moscow..."(9)
"With the end of the Stalinist campaign, 'cosmopolitanism' faded away as a major issue in communist circles, as well as in the public debate in general..."(10)
Of course it did, but only because the cosmopolitans and other revisionists were now in power and the Soviet Union was starting on the capitalist road. The final pages of this book then shift back to Trotskyist political line as Gilbert Achcar outlines how Marx, Engels and Lenin thought cosmopolitanism, i.e. proletarian internationalism charts the course towards communism, i.e. "socialist globalization" and how national liberation struggles in the Third World "can fit perfectly in the cosmopolitan struggle for global transformation as necessary moments of this struggle, as components of the global struggle..."(11)
But when the oppressed nations finally rise up in revolt against imperialism these national liberation struggles won't just be "necessary moments" or "mere components" of the global struggle: but instead will mark the beginning of a long stage of socialist transition and development in which the people of Africa, Asia and [email protected] America will band together in a Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations against the former oppressing and exploiting nations.
In summation, the author opens this book with the chauvinist First World belief that Western domination of the world brought progress to the hordes of uncivilized savages and barbarians thru the spread of Christianity. Apparently, revolution, progress and development are phenomena inherent only to white people and deliverable in the future only thru a multi-nation working class approach, led of course by the workers of the core capitalist countries.
This is why he views with such disgust the success that revolutionary Islam is having in repelling Western forces, because in those movements he sees the reactionary and backward Islamic fundamentalists doing what he says they cannot; engage and win against the imperialists. Likewise, this is why he cannot stand Stalin and must tear him down, because in his practice and political line he sees the backward national liberation and self-determination movements of the oppressed nations as they came to fruition all throughout the 20th century by using revolutionary nationalism to establish socialism in their countries and then vigorously defending it. While the only thing that Trotskyists could do was complain and criticize that the Soviet Union was moving contrary to what the young Marx and Engels had envisioned in their early years. Such is the hallmark of Trotskyism which holds that socialism is impossible in countries of the Third World before the imperialist countries have had revolutions. Such is the hallmark of Trotskyism which needs but to depart from the reality of material conditions and enter the jungle of idealism to carry out the lofty goals of the white worker elite.
Book Review: Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism Gilbert Achcar Haymarket Books 2013
"Thus, as in all idealist interpretations of history, historical phenomena are fundamentally explained as cultural outcomes, as the results of the ideology upheld by their actors, in full disregard of the vast array of social, economic and political circumstances that led to the emergence and prevalence of this or that version of an ideology among particular social groups." (p. 77)
Not too long ago the author of this book appeared on the political news show Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. During this appearance Achcar made the statement that the people who are joining groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda in 2015 share the same socio-economic background and social alienation from the prevailing system as the people who joined the various Marxist-led movements in North Africa and the Middle East during that region's de-colonization process. The author went on to state that it was the oppressed classes' material existence under colonialism that pushed them towards the communist movement then, and that it is this new generation's similar oppression that has them taking up arms once again, and not some mistaken sense of cultural-religious doom at the hands of the Christian West, no matter what some within the revolutionary Islamist movement might subjectively think.(1) In other words, what we have been seeing happening today within the majority Muslim countries is not Muslim resistance to what some have erroneously labeled a "Holy War" or cultural imperialism as seen thru the rubric of globalization. Rather, what the author says we are seeing is nothing more than the continuation of the class struggle in its religious form. And while at first glance this might seem like a breath of fresh air within an atmosphere dominated by the imperialist media, upon closer inspection what the author puts forward in this book is in fact just a more detailed and eloquent version of Bob Avakian's proposition of the "theory of the two outmodeds"(2); a dogmatic and disingenuous, First Worldist, chauvinist re-phrasing of Engels' negation of the negation.(3)
This book is a collection of four essays which the author describes as a comparative Marxist assessment of the role of religion today, as well as of the continuing development of religious ideology within the class struggle. The author also attempts to provide the reader with a Marxist materialist assessment of Christian liberation theology and Islamic fundamentalism not only in regards to each other but with respect to bourgeois cosmopolitanism and "revolutionary internationalism." The focus of this review however will be on the first and last essays. Where the former offers an incisive look into the topics discussed above, the latter is an in depth and baseless attack of Stalin, in need of its own analysis which I will deal with in part 2 of this review. The following is part 1.
Religion and Politics Today from a Marxian Perspective
In this first essay Achcar introduces us to the general theme of the book: The chauvinist First World belief that Western domination of the world has brought not only progress to the Third World, but created a better overall society compared to what "Orientalism" had to offer. Orientalism is just old terminology used to describe everything east of Europe. It is also used to describe Middle Eastern and Asian societies prior to the rise of Western European colonialism, and liberation thereof. Lastly, the term and concept of Orientalism was also used to describe the re-emergence of Muslim dominance in politics and culture immediately preceding liberation in what we today call the Middle East.
Definitions aside, this book is very much inconsistent on a Marxian level as Achcar does a good job of advocating ideas long since refuted and proven incorrect by Marxist scientists, not only in the realm of theory, but in the social laboratory as well. Paradoxically however, this book has a strong dialectical thrust to it as the author uses dialectical analysis to both inform eir position and present eir thesis; yet ey fails to balance out this dialectical analysis with Marxist materialism, thus presenting us with subjective findings. Therefore, while the author takes a correct dialectical approach to the development of religion vis-a-vis the class struggle, Achcar simultaneously negates the reality of world politics in the "Orient" which of course leads em to the wrong conclusions.
This criticism of Achcar is also applicable to eir failure to locate and define the principal contradiction in the world once imperialism developed. Part and parcel to Achcar's biased position with respect to the progress of the West is eir comparison of Christian liberation theology to Islamic fundamentalism as a philosophy of praxis categorizing both as "combative ideologies arising out of the class struggle" but thru the dominant humyn ideology (religion). However, the author incorrectly posits that the former is inherently progressive due to its origins with the oppressed and poverty stricken followers of Jesus, while the latter is inherently backward and reactionary because of its early beginnings with the Arab merchant classes of proto-feudalism. By comparing these two religions Achcar tries to have us draw parallels between the "communistic tendencies" of early Christianity and the propertied character of early Islam, thereby attempting to produce a divergence in the reader's mind as to what is inherently progressive and what is not.
While an argument can be made to support the thesis of revolutionary Islam as the path forward for those Muslims oppressed by imperialism, less can be said of the social democratic turn that the proponents of Christian liberation theology have taken. Achcar attempts to frame the issue by hypothesizing that the world of today is the inevitable outcome of Christian liberation struggles in Medieval Europe which served as early models for bourgeois democracy through the equalization of power through armed struggle. To prove this the author finds it useful to point to various revolts and peasant struggles in the Middle Ages in which the class struggle began to take on religious overtones with the Protestant Reformation. Prior to this however, Achcar praises liberation theology as the embodiment of what ey refers to as the "elective affinity" in Christianity that can lead the world to communism. In other words, what Achcar is trying to say is that liberation theology is the positive aspect in Christianity which can also play the principal role in bridging together religion with the cause of communism. Furthermore, the author says that this elective affinity draws together the "legacy of original Christianity — a legacy that faded away, allowing Christianity to turn into the institutionalized ideology of social domination — and communistic utopianism."(p. 17)
When pointing out examples of more contemporary struggles the author states:
"It is this same elective affinity between original Christianity and communistic utopianism that explains why the worldwide wave of left-wing political radicalisation that started in the 1960s (not exactly religious times) could partly take on a Christian dimension - especially in Christian majority areas in 'peripheral' countries where the bulk of the people were poor and downtrodden..."(p. 23)
When speaking of Islam's "inherently" reactionary character today Achcar attributes it primarily to what ey describes as
"the tenacity of various survivals of pre-capitalist social formations in large areas of the regions concerned; the fact that Islam was from its inception very much a political and judicial system; the fact that Western colonial-capitalist powers did not want to upset the area's historical survivals and religious ideology, for they made use of them and were also keen on avoiding anything that would make it easier to stir up popular revolts against their domination; the fact that, nevertheless, the obvious contrast between the religion of the foreign colonial power and the locally prevailing religion made the latter a handy instrument for anti-colonial rebellion; the fact that the nationalist bourgeois and petit bourgeois rebellions against Western domination (and against the indigenous ruling classes upon which this domination relied) did not confront the religion of Islam, for the reason just given as well as out of sheer opportunism..."(p. 24)
The author then goes on to say that Islamic fundamentalism grew on the decomposing body of Arab nationalism, citing it as "a tremendously regressive historic turn"(p.25). In reality any ideology that is based on mysticism and idealism will never be enough to defeat imperialism once and for all whether that be Christian liberation theology or Islamic fundamentalism. That said, as materialists we must still make the assessment of what movement is currently doing the most to challenge imperialism today. Is it the Islamic fighters who are engaged in a series of anti-imperialist struggles? I am reminded of something the Maoist Internationalist Movement once said in an article on pan ideologies:
"The measure of any ethnic ideology is whether it focuses its fire on imperialism as the enemy. If the pan serves to fry imperialism then it is progressive. If the pan fries non-imperialist nations, then it is reactionary and should be thrown out."(4)
But things aren't always so clear cut as we might want them to be, which is probably why later in that same article MIM said:
"It is only the struggle against imperialism as defined by Lenin that can really bring global peace. Other wars can bring no net gains to the international proletariat, just more or less dead exploited people. The plunder of the imperialists is much greater than that conducted by any oppressed nation's neighbors."(4)
These statements are liberating because they free us from all the imperialist clap-trap about the evils of Islam. We are hence reminded that there is no evil above that of imperialism and so long as these movements keep their sights trained on the imperialists then they will remain "inherently" progressive.
On that same note, not everything in the book is bad, and we should at least give Achcar some credit for pointing out that even Islamic fundamentalism can be divided into separate entities, instead of simply painting all Islamic fighters with a single brush as most Western intellectuals tend to do:
"Thus two main brands of Islamic fundamentalism came to co-exist across the vast geographical spread of Muslim majority countries: one that is collaborationist with Western interests, and one that is hostile to Western interests. The stronghold of the former is the Saudi Kingdom, the most fundamental, obscurantist of all Islamic states. The stronghold of the anti-Western camp within Shi'ism is the Islamic Republic of Iran, while its present spearhead among the Sunnis is al-Qa'ida."(p. 25)
As student-practitioners of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism we would be wise to keep in mind that Marxist philosophy and methodology is based on the most radical rejections of philosophical idealism with emphasis on revolutionary practice. Therefore our criticisms of religion and religious ideology should remain within the scope of critiquing certain ideological props as used by the imperialists to justify and support capitalism-imperialism along with all of its oppressive structures which made up the world today, for the explicit purposes of changing the world today and certainly not to critique religious believers or religion per se. In addition, organizations like those coming out of Islamic fundamentalism should be viewed by revolutionaries as developing out of the principal contradiction filling the voids left by the Marxists and revolutionary nationalists when those movements were either smashed or capitulated. Rather than denigrating these combative ideologies the way that Achcar does, bemoaning the day that revolutionary Islam stepped in to fill Marxism's shoes, we should instead champion their victories against imperialism while simultaneously criticizing where they fail to represent the true interests of the Muslim people.
As Achcar correctly states, the hystory of Islam in combating Western interference in the Orient is but the natural dialectical progression of the anti-imperialist struggle absent a strong communist movement. However, it is Western nihilist politics in command which fails to appreciate the positive role that Islamic fundamentalism plays in the anti-imperialist fight. Much in the same way that Christian liberation theology did in countries like Nicaragua and El Salvador. While the author raises a lot of good points in this book ey still fails to arrive at the correct conclusions. Real internationalists will not hesitate to celebrate every blow struck against the imperialists when it comes from the oppressed, whereas First World chauvinists hiding under the cloak of communism will continuously cringe at the barbarity of the oppressed for fighting back the only way they can. Achcar admittedly criticizes Islam's inherently "reactionary" character while simultaneously putting forth the concept of "cosmopolitanism" under the guise of anti-Stalin vitriol and so-called "internationalism" reducing revolutionary nationalism as inherently reactionary much in the same way ey does Islam. These final topics will be dealt with at length upon the second half of this review.
by ULK Writers Study Group January 2016 permalinkMIM(Prisons) upholds nation as the principal contradiction in the United $tates at this time. In that contradiction we see the oppressed nations as the primary motive force for change. And within the oppressed nations in the United $tates we see the lumpen class as the greatest vehicle for revolution. In exploring this last point, we are interested in studying class contradictions and especially the class make-up and loyalties of the oppressed internal semi-colonies. In addition, in our prisoner support work we come across lumpen organizations that do not fall within a certain national alignment, leaving class as the common demoninator of those organizations.
This essay was written for the book on the lumpen class that MIM(Prisons) has been working on for a few years. We took a break to focus on putting out [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, and now that that book is published and distributed we are refocusing on our analysis of the lumpen class in the United $tates. We have already completed a draft of a chapter of the book, based on our economic research about the size and composition of the lumpen class. We are distributing this draft chapter as a pamphlet for feedback.
While analyzing economic statistics is a vital part of understanding the lumpen class, the next step is understanding how to influence the class, and hence the class consciousness.
We are publishing this essay in Under Lock & Key to spark discussion and ask for feedback. We want to know how you've seen individuals and groups develop lumpen class consciousness. We are especially interested in how lumpen organizations (parasitic or proletarian-minded) develop class consciousness amongst their membership. How does that class consciousness overlap, interact or even conflict with national consciousness? Please send your reports to Under Lock & Key so we can all learn and grow from your practice!
What is class consciousness?
Simply stated, consciousness is being aware and knowing what it is you are observing. When you eat you may be conscious of the chewing and swallowing. Many people eat without being aware of the act of eating – this is parallel to most people acting in a class's interests without being conscious of doing so; they just do what is good for them at the time. Consciousness of chewing does not automatically come with eating, and neither does consciousness of class position automatically come with belonging to a particular class.
The Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM) defines class consciousness as "The understanding by members of particular classes that they represent a certain class, that their class interests may intersect or oppose those of other classes, and of their agency when collectively organized for class struggle. Typically, class consciousness is used to describe the most broad, clearest perspective of either the proletariat, the bourgeoisie or their sub-classes."
Why do we study class consciousness among the lumpen?
We study class consciousness in an effort to shape the lumpen into an alliance with the international proletariat. Without class consciousness, the lumpen act in ways which strengthen the position of the bourgeoisie: by upholding bourgeois cultural propaganda (e.g. radio rap), participating in self-destruction of oppressed nations (e.g. by selling drugs or fomenting gang divisions), allying with Amerikkkans against the international proletariat for "patriotic" reasons, and the list goes on.
National oppression already leaves a persisting impression upon the consciousness of the lumpen of oppressed nations. All of the features of lumpen existence in the United $tates – police brutality, urban decay, limited job and education opportunities, mass incarceration, etc. – are features of national oppression. The elements of national oppression that lead the lumpen to the prison doors in the first place are then exaggerated once behind the razor wire. We would be in error to not appreciate that the lumpen has some intuitive grasp of their place in U.$. society. On some level people of the lumpen class realize they are disadvantaged.
Karl Marx said in 1847:
"Economic conditions had first transformed the mass of the people of the country into workers. The combination of capital has created for this mass a common situation, common interests. This mass is thus already a class as against capital, but not yet for itself. In the struggle, of which we have noted only a few phases, this mass becomes united, and constitutes itself as a class for itself. The interests it defends become class interests. But the struggle of class against class is a political struggle."(1)
In order for a lasting development to be realized in the lumpen, we need to do as Marx said and become a class "for itself" rather than a class blindly working for the bourgeoisie. Our work presently is in studying the contradictions today in our neighborhoods and cellblocks, and employing dialectical materialism to create short-range programs in order to push the people in the prisons, barrios, hoods and reservations forward to reach our long-term goals. We need cadre organizations, liberation schools, youth brigades and our own press. We need to develop alternative forms of power which rely on the people's independence outside of imperialism's sphere of influence. Time has proven that imperialism and the basic exploitative character of capitalism cannot be reformed nor can it be made to serve the interests of the people. It can only continue to engender war, poverty and untold strife at the expense of those neatly tucked away in the periphery.
In search of a better way, and in rejection of the comforts of imperialism and its blood money, we must choose which side of the struggle we are truly on. At any particular time lumpen, like all people, are either acting in the interests of the international proletariat or in the interests of imperialism. Most lumpen have no apparent probability of status advancement, so allying with the international proletariat is in the lumpen's class interests. But if socioeconomic factors were to change and the lumpen now see opportunity for status advancement, then being allied with the international proletariat becomes class suicide.
One socioeconomic factor to take into account is the national question, which is directly related to national oppression and not necessarily economic status. For instance, there are New Afrikan and [email protected] labor aristocrats whose economic interests are with imperialism. And white lumpen are generally allied with imperialism and the Amerikkkan nation, even though they are imprisoned or their communities are poisoned by mining refuse due to capitalism. Thus, one may be an oppressed New Afrikan labor aristocrat and while aligning with the international proletariat may be viewed in an economic sense as class suicide, in a social sense this alliance would actually improve the probability of status advancement overall and not necessarily be class suicide.
Lumpen unity and class consciousness in the U.$.
Speaking on the proletariat of his day, Marx pointed out that a common situation existed for the proletarians to unite under common interests. The same could be said about the Brown Berets and Black Panther Party during the 1960s and 70s. There existed a sharp level of oppression and police brutality within [email protected] communities, which inspired the Brown Berets to serve as protectors of their communities as well as reach out to those from other barrios, mainly lumpen, to join ranks with them by being productive forces for their people rather than common "gangsters."
The Black Panther Party (BPP) did a remarkable job building and developing class consciousness among the masses of the New Afrikan nation. The BPP was able to tie much-needed community programs to the stark material reality of New Afrika. Not only were the Panthers feeding the youth through the Free Breakfast Program, they educated the masses on their class position through this altruistic act. In one stroke they were able to secure the trust and gratitude of the people and illustrate the failures of the semi-colonial relationship in which the New Afrikan nation is ensnared.
There are glimmers of class consciousness in prison at times, but these episodes ebb and flow due to the bourgeois mindset of much of the prison population. Being raised in a First World country, we are influenced by its culture although it is not our own. As Mao said in eir essay "On Practice," "in class society everyone is a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with a brand of class." The assumption of inevitable imprisonment or death; the glorification of drug and pimp culture; hustling for individual gain while harming our kin; and nihilism are examples of lumpen culture under the influence of the bourgeoisie.
At times we may see prison uprisings, strikes, or other prison organizing across national lines, but these events don't usually remain intact for very long. This is because class consciousness does not develop spontaneously, rather it must be cultivated and spread through education and agitation. Only through the help of an educated cadre — both inside and outside prison walls — can class consciousness develop.
Present-day examples of class consciousness development in prison
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels said of class struggle for the workers, "The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the workers."(2) Marx and Engels understood that class struggle would continue so long as classes exist. They saw the union of the proletariat as the prize, not what concessions were gained from the ruling class per se.
Something similar was experienced with the California prison hunger/work strikes in recent years. The words of Marx and Engels were seen manifested, not in a "union of the workers" but in a union of the imprisoned lumpen. This union of lumpen produced the Agreement to End Hostilities. The real victory is in getting lumpen to see and experience that it is really us versus the pigs, and that a concrete force exists which oppresses ALL lumpen prisoners in some way. These are acts which cultivate an environment where class consciousness can grow; it creates a fertile ground for this process.
Within the environment of prison, lumpen organizations (LOs) are by far more structured and disciplined than they are on the streets. Despite the negative activity and values of parasitic LOs, there is reason to believe that they can operate to achieve revolutionary ends. Pick up any Under Lock & Key newsletter and one will find evidence of LOs working in prison to contribute to the anti-imperialist movement. So it isn't a far-fetched idea to use LOs as revolutionary vehicles in building consciousness among imprisoned lumpen.
Lumpen organizations already bring out a form of consciousness within their membership, meaning they instill pride within their own people. LOs in prison are often organized by "ethnicity," and in that sense they develop their national pride, identity and culture. Their consciousness as a subgroup is raised. This is not class consciousness, and most times not even national consciousness, but it's a start, and more it's a platform which can be used and highlighted. Most LOs already have an ideological indoctrination process in place for new recruits; adding class consciousness to this structured education shouldn't be much of a stretch.
Class consciousness will only develop so much within a LO just like a crocodile will only grow so much when confined to a small fish tank. If the LO is engaged in anti-people activities, it is prevented from advancing politically. The parasitic nature of a profit-driven LO will never allow true unbridled class consciousness to develop because to do so would change the fundamental purpose of that LO. This is why Growth is one of the 5 principles of the United Front for Peace in Prisons. Comrades must not be discouraged from growing from a parasitic lumpen actor to a class-conscious revolutionary lumpen actor.
Lumpen organizations and other subgroups can come together to become a whole and thus unite as a class, as did the proletariat in Marx and Engels's day, as did the Russian proletariat unite with the peasantry (uniting two classes) and how Mao Zedong united the peasantry in China upon common interests with the proletariat. When conditions in prison reach an intolerable level of suppression that affects all prisoners as a whole, we will begin to see each other as sharing the same interests of ending oppression behind the walls. Unfortunately this will not automatically make all prisoners come together in unity. Prison conditions alone aren't a sufficient factor to promote class consciousness amongst imprisoned lumpen.
Practical experience shows that the more repressive the situation people find themselves in, the more likely they are to challenge the situation and find ways to combat it. In some facilities, a wide range of reading material is permitted to be possessed by prisoners, and the pigs aren't readily looking for politically conscious leaders to repress and harass. At first glance it seems the freedom of movement and association would be a good environment to run political study groups and organize with each other. However, the flip side of having little repression is that many choose to spend more time chasing and idolizing bourgeois lifestyles; instead of picking up some political lit to read, they choose to discuss Nikki Minaj's ass on the VMAs.
How to organize
Class-conscious lumpen must lead
The job of class conscious prisoners is to not just understand that change and development is good and inevitable, but we need to find ways to translate this understanding to the broader lumpen masses, and as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is on the lumpen to look beyond the interests of our own to achieve a higher level of political consciousness, and it is on politically conscious prisoners to point out the cause of our problems as well as what's stopping all from uniting.
Organize around local experiences/conditions
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to awakening the imprisoned lumpen class. There are many different types of individuals and different backgrounds/histories and beliefs. And we organizers all have different strengths and operate in varying conditions. But in general, open lines of communication, dialogue, re-education, and finding common-ground causes to fight for helps the process.
What should be stressed as a development to higher consciousness is the injustices experienced in common. With this sense of having a common injustice done against us, we will be more susceptible to change. If there isn't a lot of immediate suffering to organize around, we can call on our common experiences prior to imprisonment. Even in relatively comfortable prison conditions, we can start by exploring how we came to imprisonment in the first place. The poor quality of teachers in our schools and mis-education given to us by the imperialists is by design.
We can then use these direct experiences to organize with others on practical projects – campaigns to improve our collective conditions of confinement, collective legal actions, appeals, literacy, etc. — and work to add to the preconditions of class consciousness in prisons. Attempts to integrate politics with a prison struggle will bring a higher level of class consciousness only if we can explain to others how it's not just an isolated struggle within prison we're all confronted with, but the infrastructure behind the prison industry itself, its society, the socio-economic relations, its effects on our interpersynal relationships and culture, and the world. When imprisoned lumpen begin to unite for common interests, then politically conscious prisoners should advocate for continued struggle. Once any concessions are granted, many tend to think "well, that's all we're going to get", or they see a tiny concession as a huge victory, and step back from organizing. This is a sign of a lack of class consciousness, and a lack of internationalism, that must be addressed by the prison movement leaders head on.
Build study groups
We can lead study groups on deeper topics, or open debates on anything as simple as a news report. Although this may be harder in isolation, it is usually still possible to share material with others in your pod or initiate discussions on the tier. Sharing your views and hearing others' can bring many together if a common objective is trying to be reached. It helps to build public opinion in opposition to the bourgeois media outlets. When there are one or two lumpen within every group agitating in this way, along with strong communication in other circles, sharing reading material and legal work, it all works to push their studying into actual work, and go from being spectators to actors in the process of transforming these dungeons and the imperialist system generally.
There are many topics to study to give a thorough understanding of our class position, including the works of Marx, Mao, Lenin, Engels and other communist revolutionaries before us. Political economy unlocks the mysteries of the origins and results of class struggle. The bourgeoisie (the owners of the means of production) and the proletariat (those who had nothing so must sell labor power) make up the principal contradiction in the realm of political economy. Understanding these classes, and all their sub-classes, requires one to perform a class analysis so that one understands where people stand on the economic totem pole, and determine where the social forces stand. Part of class consciousness is understanding who's on our side and who's trying to imprison, kill, and dismantle us.
If we were to utilize the tables out on the yards for educational-neutral grounds instead of real estate or casinos, a lot more will be susceptible to change their patterns. One table could be strictly legal work (grievances, lawsuits, etc.); one for help with reading, college and GED; one for addressing the daily issues so that nothing arises to blindside folks; one for political education, etc. These tables would be neutral ground for all nations, LOs, etc. to gain knowledge and put it to use. They would function simultaneously as Serve the People programs and political education meetings, building unity and transforming the lumpen into a class "for itself."
I just wanted to take advantage of this lull in the recent pain I've been struggling with, as much psychologically as physically. It should get better, relatively speaking, and pass. It usually does. The only thing that's truly effective is the pain medication I'm on, but I'm not in any position to request an increase. I've got a good doctor right now and he does what he can, of course within the restrictions imposed upon him that limit his abilities. It's really just so damn frustrating, not being able to identify the root of the pain. I can't help but genuinely wonder if I'd be subjected to this if I were not incarcerated and had good insurance and doctors?
You see, my doctor can only do so much here behind these walls for a number of reasons. Resources are practically non-existent and anything he wants to do, it's first scrutinized and questioned. And if it's okayed then he has to outsource it to an outside specialist and hospital. And quite often the specialists will either "shoot it down" or use it as an opportunity to run up a bill and bill it to the state. That is, they'll admit me for several days, or a week, run a load of expensive but pointless tests that they've run before. So I'm shackled to a bed and they always either discontinue, or significantly reduce my pain management to ineffective dosage.
So my doctor here is very limited in what he can do without ultimately risking his own employment. You push too hard to provide adequate health care to us animals and it won't be long before you're seeking employment elsewhere.
Philosophically, it's really an interesting dilemma. Especially for a Marxist, or one well acquainted with "the unification of opposites." As we know, the prison system as an appendage of the "state apparatus", is in its very essence, that is, by its "nature," an oppressive institution.
All doctors take a Hippocratic oath and although the oath is subjectively interpreted, the practice of medicine is objective, and the practice of medicine in its "essence" (nature) is irreconcilably opposed to the essence of the prison system and its very existence.
So any doctor employed by the state (prison) is in direct opposition to the very essence of its employers. This is an objective phenomenon that exists whether one is conscious of this inter-connection of opposing tendencies, or not.
Ultimately the doctor will either submit and capitulate to the interests, i.e. trajectory, of the state through a slow process of indoctrination that occurs both subtlety and conspicuously, consciously and subconsciously, as well as from their own experience that they will have with those prisoners around them. And this is the greatest influence on them. I have to admit that I have a tremendous amount of respect for those doctors that do last as long as some of them do when I see how some (most) of these "inmates" act. (notice my distinction of inmate vs. convict).
Anyway, my doctor is in a no-win position. He does what he can without jeopardizing his job security. And although you and I would without a second thought, push and fight until we were unemployed, in these circumstances we are in the minority.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This is just another example of how the oppressed struggle for day-to-day survival under capitalism, despite some principles like the Hippocratic oath. In every issue of ULK we print a statement discussing a better form of justice that will be implemented under the dictatorship of the proletariat. We often talk about Chinese prisons during the socialist period of 1949- 1976. The most in-depth reports we have of those conditions come from the former emperor and collaborator with the Japanese occupiers who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Chinese people, and two Amerikan students imprisoned for spying for their country.(1) Both stress the fair treatment they received, and being fed adequate food in times when food was not always in adequate supply for the whole population. Meanwhile, in the heart of excess, in the United $tates, we have prisoners suffering from lack of basic needs.
It is obvious that this system has no interest in serving the oppressed. But what might not be so obvious is how prisons can and have been used in states that are of and by the oppressed. While a socialist state will use force to repress those who attempt to restore exploitation and oppression, the goal is to build communism. Therefore everyone is to be included in the benefits of society, and even the former class enemies will be won over by fair and humane treatment while being struggled with politically. That is what it looks like to engage in a project to abolish class differences. The key difference is the class in charge. It is only when the proletariat seizes the state from bourgeois rule that we will see systems that truly serve all people. Until then such claims are just political sloganeering.
We are given shoes - and the cement to walk on jacket and pants - and the gum to chew on unwrap the plastic - open the box Let's see just how much money we can blow on socks symbols stitched outward - seams pink and frilly made in amerikkan sweatshops - made in Vichy Chile Teresa Marie is nine and has worked here years fifty cents a day for her blood sweat and tears she lives in a mud hut with her family's chickens and old rusty barrel - a couple flat rocks home sweet home - here's Teresa's kitchen her father shot by a U.$.-backed dictator her mother raped by a drunken U.$. soldier the baby's half white and starving to death fifty pennies a day - eight mouths - no milk left you walk into the store - air conditioned - complaining she walks in the mud shoeless - sharp rocks - daily you are proud as apple pie to be an amerikkkan she has nightmares: "U.$. soldiers are coming to get me" bigger fatter stitched corporate brand name socks skinnier jumpier malnourished children walking on rocks you're depressed - on medication but at least you don't stink powdered. deoderized - pampered. christianized you want Jesus to save you - LOL - ya right behind her hut in an old tree knot a penny a week out of the several she's got a smile lights her face as she turns to cook dinner her brother needs ammo - revolutionary clandestine U.$. pig killer
Let's talk about religion. Specifically, let's address the question of whether religion is or is not useful in the struggle against prisons and against imperialism.
Many of today's prison groups and lumpen organizations (LOs) are well rooted in religious ideas, theories and practices. For example, the Nation of Gods and Earths and the Rastafarians are both very influential among New Afrikan LOs. The LOs in prison have had experience in the areas of adopting certain religious values for the sake of defending themselves against total annihilation. Whether using religion, spirituality or faith as a conventional method to serve this goal for prisoners will bring about liberation faster than any other method will be determined by prisoners and prisoner-led efforts. [History has already proven dialectical materialism as an ideology to be far more effective at bringing about liberation than religion and faith, but we agree with testing it as a tactic in certain conditions as discussed below. - ULK Editor]
Prisons are a political effect of the bourgeois imperialist oppressive structure, which is determined to take more of the world's wealth and riches than it gives. Therefore prisons are political and produce political prisoners, as MIM(Prisons) holds: "...all prisoners are political prisoners because under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, all imprisonment is substantively political."
Prisoners begin to develop a consciousness of their environment by evaluating the material conditions they are in. Through a process of unity-criticism-unity they often transform themselves into the change they wish to see. This transformation often begins to manifest in individual decision-making skills. One begins to evaluate the pros and cons of indirect and direct action, to spread solutions to fellow prisoners' conflicts, and eventually one becomes sought out by the masses as a leader.
While the reality is that all prisoners are political, as we begin to develop our political consciousness we find that we are prohibited from being directly involved in the politics that we are subject to. When U.$. prisoners take that conscious state of mind to the level of organizing, campaigning and agitating, they become victims of laws criminalizing politicking in prisons. Many prisoners and LOs are well aware of this weapon of the snakes. Prisoners have little to no legal standing in the U.$. bourgeois injustice system to defend against the assaults on their humyn right to politically advocate and demonstrate their class interest as lumpen in the United $tates.
By law, according to the U.$. Constitutional standard, prisoners have a right to grieve conditions relative to the prison environment. They have the right to correspond with members of society, including the press. But when those of the prison population begin organizing the locals into group actions, they are labeled as security threat group leaders. Prisoners are incapable of putting forth a defense to these charges because by state standards their groups are un-sanctioned. Without a license we are prohibited from driving forward the people to a state of consciousness from where they may liberate themselves.
LOs don't register their groups with the state, they don't report their activities to the state, and the majority of LOs don't pay taxes on any income of the organization; all behaviors criminalized by the state. Essentially, prisoners being involved in a public manner in/with prison politics are whooped from the jump start.
It is therefore no coincidence that religious/spirituality groups that focus on the lumpen have become quite popular within U.$. prisons. They provide a more free outlet for expression and camaraderie. Of course, this has been a role played by religious organizations since the days of the Roman empire, when the church recruited the labor of those who had no legal warrant to sell their labor. This can lead to these religious bodies being a voice in service of the oppressed or to the religious body suppressing the desires of the oppressed to the benefit of the oppressor.
At different times religion has played different roles ideologically and politically. Many New Afrikan lumpen read in Dr. Suzar's Blacked Out Through Whitewash that:
"'Jesus, was the Panther? An original name for Jesus was... son of the Panther!' (Blavatsky: The Secret Doctrine).
"Even the Bible refers to him as 'the Lion of the tribe Juda.' (Rv. 5:5) 'Jesus in fact, was a Black nationalist freedom fighter... whose goals were to free the Black people of that day from the oppressive... White Roman power structure... and to build a Black nation.' (I Barashango)
"Schoenfield reports in The Passover Plot p 194: 'Galilee, were[sic] Jesus had lived... which was home of the Jewish resistance movement, suffered particularly. The Romans never ceased night and day to devastate... pillage [and kill].'
"In the Black Messiah p91, Rev. A.B. Cleage Jr. writes that Jesus was a revolutionary 'who was leading a [Black] nation into conflict against a [white] oppressor... It was necessary that he be crucified because he taught revolution.' Jesus stated, 'I have not come to send peace, but a sword.' (The Holy Bible - Mathew 101.34 - King James Version)"(1)
Depending on the leadership of the religious institutions and the cleverness of the lumpen, religion and politics can go hand-in-hand with one another. Devout members of the left will disagree and dogmatic rightists will call for a lynch mob. But at the end of the discussion the outcome is to be decided by those directly related to and at the source of the phenomenon.
It is the position held by MIM(Prisons) that i admire most:
"In some ways communism is the best way for religious people to uphold their beliefs and put an end to the evils of murder, rape, hunger and other miseries of humyns. Some argue that Jesus Christ must have been a communist because he gave to the poor."(2)
Many prisoners utilize liberation theology as a means to merge their political strengths with the legal warrant of the First Amendment right to freedom of religious exercise as the defense against political attacks from the police state.
The lumpen's religion is the exception to the world's norm of religion as representing the status quo. There are many prisoners who fall into the wash of all faiths, but there is a powerful source of prisoner liberation theologists at the forefront of the anti-imperialist prison movement too. It is possible that this very source is the face of the prison struggle for the age we are entering. Working smarter is working harder within the belly of the beast.
Prisoners should struggle to have their political interest respected by the state, but they should not concentrate more on convincing the police state that prisons are inappropriate, and the greatest crimes are being committed by themselves. They know this good and well already. LOs must concentrate on tactics that will forge united fronts capable of pushing the forces of history forward faster.
We conclude with a quote from Russian leader V.I. Lenin:
"We must not only admit workers who preserve their belief in God into the Social-Democratic Party, but must deliberately set out to recruit them; we are absolutely opposed to giving the slightest offense to their religious convictions, but we recruit in order to educate them in the spirit of our programme, and not in order to permit an active struggle against it."(3)
In response to the call to honor freedom fighters, it is an honor and pleasure to journal the commemoration of New Afrikan freedom fighter Amy Jacques Garvey.
So many today dismiss the Pan-Afrikan movement and its various bodies, both within and outside of U.$. prisons, as that of an unnecessary call and reference to an outdated idea. In the context of the proletarian political causes, it is often the ultra-leftist who has taken up this position.
However, in our attempts to fast forward the most correct methods of resolving contradictions, we acknowledge that they come in the form of class consciousness among nationalist leaders driven by internationalist struggles led by the proletariat. The Pan-Afrikan movement is one likely place where we find these elements.
Many prisoners are aware of the name Marcus Mosiah Garvey, but very few are familiar with Amy Jacques Garvey, the wife of Marcus Garvey and the bone and marrow of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Amy Garvey was a special person in the history of liberation struggles. Born 31 December 1895 in Kingston, Jamaica to a middle-upper class family, Amy Garvey was ahead of her time. Though "all identity is individual, there is no individual identity that is not historical or, in other words, constructed within a field of social values, norms of behavior and collective symbols."(1)
The mother of what author Ula Yvette Taylor coined "community feminism," Amy Garvey pressed the issue of lower class wimmin not only in serving their male counterparts, but also educating themselves to become political leaders in the nation. Today, lumpen wimmin of the internal semi-colonies still find themselves criticized for either being home-oriented or for sex. UNIA enjoyed support across gender and promoted equality of the sexes. Yet, in practice, this "community feminist" approach was a means of dealing with the expectations put on wimmin to be supporters of men while still being political leaders. While wimmin like Amy Garvey had to take on an unequal burden compared to their male counterparts, their actions served to break down the expectations of gendered roles, paving the way for others.
Amy Garvey empowered wimmin to confront racism, colonialism and imperialism, while contesting masculine dominance as well.(2) As she wrote, wimmin should use their "intelligence in a righteous cause" as they are needed to "fill the breach, and fight as never before, for the masses need intelligent dedicated leadership."(3)
Since the 1920s, Amy Jacques Garvey's organizing activities had sought to further the decolonization of West Afrikan nations as people of African descent endeavored to restructure their societies. The antecedents of these largely nationalist movements were well-established in Pan-Afrikan struggle that came into its own during the early 1940s, including the fifth Pan-Afrikan Congress. Meanwhile, other power shifts were occurring such as: the rise of the Soviet Union, liberation struggles in southeast Asia, the independence of China and the Asian-African Bandung Conference.(4) Indeed, within this political milieu, "West Afrikan nationalism and various brands of Pan-Africanism, could mix with everything from Fabian socialism to Marxism-Leninism."(5)
While engaging in the international arena, Amy Garvey also struggled against fellow comrades of the UNIA. She was well known for her refusal to hold her tongue on the contradictions that arose within, even at times writing critical positions of Marcus Garvey himself. It resembles so many of those within the belly of the beast babylon who struggle to liberate themselves in order to offer liberation to their people, only to be hushed by LO leadership.
Amy Garvey was from Jamaica and considered herself an Afrikan. She drove home the point that people of Afrikan descent in the United $tates (New Afrikans) and elsewhere were living as second-class citizens, largely as a result of economic oppression. Today we see the second-class citizenship that New Afrikans and [email protected] face as the biggest targets of social isolation by the U.$. prison system. The second class that the oppressed nations are being bred into today is what we call the First World lumpen class. In the imperialist countries, that is the class that has nothing to lose from a revolution except the very chains that bind them to a bourgeois system that doesn't serve them. "As the lumpen experience oppression first hand here in Amerika, we are in a position to spearhead the revolutionary vehicle within the U.$. borders."(6)
The 2015 release of [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán by a MIM(Prisons) study group introduces prisoners to the reality of their class identity with the lumpen of oppressed internal semi-colonies in North America.
"Kwame Nkrumah in his analysis of neo-colonialism in Africa defined it as: 'The essence of neo-colonialism is that the state which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside.' Nkrumah stressed the importance of dividing the oppressed into smaller groups as part of this process of preventing effective resistance to imperialism as had already occurred in China, Vietnam, Korea, Cuba and elsewhere."(7)
Amy Garvey too considered the likes of Kwame Nkrumah as her comrade, alongside of Nnamdi Azikiwe, W.E.B. DuBois and George Padmore, just to name a few. She was a disciplined, arduous scholar whose objective was to fold Garveyism into existing progressive organizations, thus uniting a divergent Pan-Afrikan world.
Many of the ideas that are circulated amongst the lumpen organizations within the belly of the beast babylon are grafted from the ideas of the peoples parties like the UNIA, whether they admit it or not. The proof is in the pudding. Amy Garvey showed that one could stand on two legs and not buckle under the pressure of integrationist culture.
Amy Garvey held Marcus Garvey up while he served his prison bid in Atlanta, and took the driver's seat of one of the world's most influential Negro organizations in its time when wimmin weren't expected to be political. It is so similar to the anti-imperialist prisoner movement; prisoners aren't expected to be political souljahs.
Death to babylon-imperialism!
MIM(Prisons) adds: MIM said that Pan-Afrikanism should be a strategic question, and is not worth splitting over.(8) They also said that Pan-Afrikanism has historically been the most progressive of the "pan" ideologies. Clearly that the Pan-Afrikan mission has yet to succeed in the dire need for effective revolutionary leadership is evident in the recent revelations that
"In 2014, the U.S. carried out 674 military activities across Africa, nearly two missions per day, an almost 300% jump in the number of annual operations, exercises, and military-to-military training activities since U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established in 2008."(9)
The imperialists continue to foment the tribal divisions across the African continent to wage proxy wars that amount to inter-proletarian killing on the ground. The overwhelming proletarian character of the populations in Africa gives Pan-Afrikanism its strong progressive character.