In 2017, MIM(Prisons) published Under Lock & Key #59 (ULK) which focused on the impact drugs have on the prison movement. ULK #59 was particularly significant to our cause, given the fact that drugs play a central role in preventing the lumpen from developing into a revolutionary force inside U.$. prisons. As various comrades attested to in that issue, drugs are poisons that eat away any potential unity of the oppressed, by fostering violence amongst the imprisoned lumpen, and the bourgeoisification of those involved in the trade. Also, discussed in ULK #59 was the scourge of the synthetic cannibinoid K2 and the rise of opioid use in prisons at the time. Since then, another opioid has gained popularity behind prison walls, mostly because of its availability; Suboxone.
In 2020, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation(CDCR) introduced Suboxone to its 33 prisons as part of its Integrated Substance Use Disorder Treatment(ISUDT). Suboxone is a medication used to treat opioid addiction, specifically in the detox and withdrawal stages of care. According to the San Quentin News, “ISUDT is touted as the largest in-prison medically assisted treatment program in the nation.”(1) CDCR credits Suboxone with a sharp decline in overdose deaths in its prisons since its introduction. But is there more than meets the eye to this apparent miracle drug?
What is Suboxone?
Suboxone is a combination medication containing buprenorphine and naloxone.(2) Suboxone is derived from opium, and was supposedly intended to be a less addictive alternative to methodone, morphine, and oxycodone.(3) Though viewed as a safe alternative to other drugs, Suboxone can still be deadly when taken intravenously or in combination with other drugs and alcohol. Other side effects are:
* cardiac arrhythmia* irregular blood pressure* respiratory issues* liver and kidney problems* constipation* urinary retention* sweating* short term memory issues* difficulty thinking clearly and focusing* impaired coordination* headache* nausea and vomiting* sedation (4)
Where Did Suboxone Come From?
Suboxone was developed in the 1970s by Reckitt Benckiser, a Briti$h company at the behest of the Amerikan government. At the time, the United $tates was searching for a “less addictive” alternative for patients with opioid use disorder. After Suboxone was created, Reckitt Benckiser shipped the drug to the United $tates narcotic farm in Lexington, Kentucky to be tested on detoxified addicts. The farm was also a prison and treatment facility as well as the site of the U.$. government’s Addiction Research Center.
It was at the Addiction Research Center that the government discovered just how addictive Suboxone could be, yet it was still marketed as a useful tool to combat addiction. Originally the doctors prescribing the drug had to hold special licenses and undergo special training. However, the government loosened its restrictions in response to the number of opioid associated deaths. Since then, Suboxone has raked in billions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies and millions more for the addiction treatment sector that sprang up in its wake.(5) Yet, there have been 100,000 overdose deaths attributed to opioids in the last 12 months.(6) Those same doctors trained by the government have also been found to be some of the most unscrupulous predators around.(7) As such, it was perplexing to many that the CDCR would provide such a highly addictive drug with such potential for abuse at a time when most prison addicts had already detoxed and gone through withdrawals, thanks to the statewide prison lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drugs are Chemical Weapons
The use of drugs as part of a larger strategy of unconventional warfare dates back to the 16th century when Europeans created the drug trade to finance the expansion of their empires and the rise of industrial capitalism.(8) One of the most infamous examples of this was the Briti$h East India Company’s use of opium to subdue China and bring it into its sphere of influence by creating a nation of addicts. While the Portuguese and Dutch were the first to popularize opium smoking in China, it was the Briti$h who took full advantage of this. When the Chinese realized what was happening, they attempted to ban all foreign ships from entry and close their ports. The Briti$h claimed the Chinese were blocking their access to Chinese markets, and used this as a pretext to launch the first of two opium wars. By 1900, 27% of all adult males in China were addicted to smoking opium and China was forced to cede Hong Kong to the Briti$h.(9) This chapter in Chinese history marked the beginning of what Mao Zedong called China’s dark night of slavery to the west.
It was around this same time that alcohol was used by Amerikkkans to facilitate the genocide of First Nations people and the theft of their land. This period also marks the first recorded use of biological weapons, when the U.$. Army used smallpox infected blankets to decimate natives and clear the land for white settlers. Together, these acts of savagery resulted in the extermination of 98% of people indigenous to what is today the United $tates and the worst genocide in humyn hystory.(10) Events similar to these played out in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.(11)
During the 20th century, the Briti$h and Amerikkkan imperialists developed more sophisticated means with which to subdue the oppressed nations. Project MK-Ultra is one such example. Project MK-Ultra was initiated by the CIA in the 1950s along with the Briti$h MI6, their sometimes collaborators. This top secret project involved using drugs and the media to attack and discredit Amerika’s political enemies.
Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), or just simply “acid” for short, became the drug of choice for the CIA at this time. LSD was created by Albert Hoffman, a Nazi collaborator working for the Swiss IG Farben. Starting in the 1950s, the CIA began producing their own acid in “tonnage quantities” after asking pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly to synthesize Hoffman’s formula. This was part of the CIA’s larger plan to dose the water supply of the Soviet Union. The CIA knew for themselves the effects of LSD as they tested the drugs on prisoners at the same facility in Lexington, Kentucky that Suboxone was tested at twenty years later! Here, prisoners were kept tripping for 77 days straight as part of Project Artichoke which was one of many programs under the umbrella of Project MK-Ultra.(12)
The connection between the development of Suboxone, the CIA and Acid’s early days are alarming given the fact that Suboxone was introduced to California prisons at a time of heightened political consciousness amongst prisoners, an economic recession, a rise in white nationalism, Black Lives Matter protests, a statewide no visiting lockdown, and the ten-year anniversary of prison hunger strikes that rocked CDCR and produced ripple effects across Amerikkka’s gulags. Thus, it was certainly in the interests of the imperialists to suppress the germs of any potential organizing amongst the oppressed lumpen.
And although the CIA’s plans with respect to the Soviet Union never came to fruition, they did use LSD to attack the political enemies of the Amerikan bourgeoisie. Outspoken college professors critical of the U.$., political activists, communists, government whistle-blowers and their families all fell victim to LSD and were publicly discredited.(13)
As the anti-imperialist movement gained traction both outside and inside of U.$. borders, the use of LSD and other chemical weapons was expanded. Throughout the 1970s heroin became part and parcel to the fight against New Afrikan, Chican@, and First Nations national liberation movements. Asian-produced opium also became critical to U.$. imperialism’s war against Vietnam. Drug money was used to help facilitate the creation of Taiwan as a U.$. ally against Maoist China prior to these events.(14) Methadone too was linked to the opioid problem in New York City in the 1970s. Methadone as “maintenance treatment” for heroin addicts was funded by the Rockefeller Program.(15) The Rockefellers have also been implicated in Nazi atrocities, the red scare media campaigns, and CIA operations.
The 1980s brought us the Iran-Contra scandal responsible for the introduction of crack-cocaine into the ghettos and barrios of the United $tates. Again, the CIA was found to be at the heart of these dirty wars which involved the use of Iranian money to buy Amerikan guns. Money from the Iranians was then use to buy cocaine from Colombia for sale in the United $tates. Amerikan drug money was then re-circulated to fund counter-revolutionaries in Nicaragua fighting the leftist Sandinistas.(17)
More recently, Operation Fast and Furious made international headlines when the CIA was exposed for selling firearms to Mexican cartels as a means of keeping the Mexican government destabilized and the Mexican people from fighting their oppressors. The last thing the U.$. wants is for a neo-colonial country on their doorstep to turn independent and determine their own destinies.
The Problem as We Understand It
If the imperialists really wanted to they could shut down the drug trade, but that runs counter to their interests. Addiction defines capitalist society. Addiction lies at the center of supply and demand economics and is what drives the anarchy of production. From cell phones, to soap operas, to opioids and methamphetamines, everyone living in a capitalist society is addicted to something. Addiction in capitalist society is encouraged as a means to realizing profit; but also as a way to keep people in general, and the masses in particular, distracted and unable to rise up against oppression. Nowhere is this seen better than in the recent hystory of the oppressed nations.
In a critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Karl Marx explained how religion had hystorically been urged to drug people much in the same ways the bourgeois uses actual drugs today:
“Religious suffering is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”(18)
Marx was writing at a time of the industrial revolution when the “miracle” of capitalism was creating advancements in humyn hystory never before seen. However, it was also creating grinding oppression and poverty previously unknown. Capitalism also promoted ideas of individualism, self-centeredness, greed, and exceptionalism, some of the worst qualities in humyn behavior, and expanding them to include entire populations, most pointedly in the labor aristocracy. All this combined led to lives full of misery and desperation for the masses. Lives in which the only solace was that of an afterlife. And while religion continues to act as a smokescreen in the oppression of the masses, the use of drugs has proved indispensable.
Today the root causes of oppression can be better traced to nation, class, and gender contradictions which have completely warped the way people interact on both a macro and micro level. The root causes of addiction are much the same.
In regards to religious suffering, Marx knew better than to simply call for the abolition of religion. Instead, he realized that it was the conditions that led to religious suffering themselves that needed to be abolished. Otherwise, some other new feel good belief would come to fill the void left by religion, and the oppressive system itself would remain in its place:
“The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their conditions is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusion. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”(19)
In other words, religion sanctified capitalism and helped make it tolerable for the oppressed. Drugs play a similar role in today’s culture. If one is high all the time than ey does not think about the many years ey have to spend in prison. One does not have to deal with the fact that ey made a decision that impacted countless lives because of eir parasitic behavior. The use of drugs allows one to cope with the impact nation, class, and gender contradictions have had on em through intergenerational trauma, all the while keeping them unable to understand how the three strands of oppression manifest through that trauma.
We encourage people to get drug free and stay that way, but this requires more than the status quo in addiction treatment, which only teaches how to better cope with the trauma of imperialism. We encourage comrades to go further and destroy the conditions that require illusions. We encourage comrades to take up revolution.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We will be doing a follow-up on this article with the results of our second survey on drugs in prisons found in ULK 75. We are still collecting and aggregating your responses. It’s not too late if you have not responded yet.
We know the state is opposed to our efforts to expose and combat the plague of drug addiction among imprisoned lumpen. Branchville Correctional Facility in Indiana censored ULK 75 citing:
“denied based on the article about Suboxone, and the common drug slang terms and sale information used in one of the articles. The items in the article violate IDOC/BCF policies.”
Notes:  San Quentin News, September 2021, Pg. 8.  5 Myths About Using Suboxone, Peter Greenspan MD, October 7, 2021  Extended Suboxone Treatment Substantially Improves Outcomes for Opioid Addicted Youth, November 4, 2008  Suboxone vs Methodone: Positives and Negatives, Avatar, May 21, 2021  Addiction Treatment with a Dark Side, New York Times, 2013  Amanpour & Co, PBS, December 7, 2021  Addiction Treatment with a Dark Side, New York Times, 2013  Drugs As Weapons Against Us: The CIA’s Murderous Targeting of SDS, Panthers, Hendrix, Lennon, Cobain, Tupac, and Other Activists, John L. Potash, Trine Day LLC, 2015, Pg 7-9  Ibid, pg 10  J. Sakai, 1989, Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat, 3rd Edition, Morningstar Press, p. 7. Sakai cites 200-300,000 native people remaining by 1900, of an estimated 10 million people before colonization.  Drugs as Weapons Against Us, Pg 10  Ibid, Pg 29-30  Ibid, Pg 31-36  Ibid, Pg 45-51  Under Lock & Key, Issue 59, Pg 5, 2017  Drugs as Weapons Against Us, Pg 13-14  Ibid, Pg 279-285  Karl Marx, 1843, Introduction to “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.”  A Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Karl Marx
The most recent killing of U.$. troops in Afghanistan on 26 August 2021 marks the deadliest day in over a decade for the imperialists in that country. It also makes two points quite clear. First, the once reviled Taliban has negotiated a deal with the United $tates in which they regained control of their country in exchange for cooperation against organizations like ISIS(K) who’ve claimed responsibility for the attack. The explosion took the lives of thirteen U.$. soldiers.
ISIS(K) is just one of over twenty armed groups in Afghanistan that pose a threat to Taliban rule. However, the main incentive for the Taliban’s allegiance to U.$. imperialism seems to be the Afghan economy which the Taliban inherited once the “democratically elected” government of Afghanistan realized that U.$. imperialism would no longer prop them up.(1)
Second, Chican@s continue to account for a substantial portion of Amerikan occupation forces in the Third World. Statistics in recent years have shown Chican@s continue to be a growing source of foot soldiers for the Amerikans.
The attack on U.$. troops came just three days before the fifty-first anniversary of the hystoric Chican@ Moratorium. Contrary to what various sell outs, integrationists and those who’ve simply been kept in ignorance have to say about the matter, the moratorium was not about civil rights or equality. Rather, the moratorium was an exercise in power by Raza who attempted to deprive the imperialists of Chican@ troops in their war of colonization and attrition in Vietnam.(2) Thus, it is both heartbreaking and sickening to see that so many years after the last real upsurge against U.$. imperialism in the semi-colonies, Chican@s continue to sacrifice and be sacrificed for the oppressor nation. If Chican@s are to live and die for a cause then it should be for Aztlán, the international proletariat and socialism. August 26 was yet another example of what happens when we fail to organize the oppressed – the imperialists organize them for us.
While four of the thirteen soldiers killed at the Afghanistan International Airport that day were Chican@s born and raised in occupied Aztlán, it should be noted that at least two other fatalities had Spanish surnames.(3) That said, it is still important to note that the attack was a blow against U.$. imperialism by anti-imperialists in the region, and for that we should be appreciative, not horrified. Our sympathies should be with the Afghan family who lost their lives in the U.$. retaliation drone strike and the rest of the victims of the ISIS(K) who were caught in the crossfire on August 26. Chican@s or not, those U.$. soldiers chose their own destiny when they decided it was okay to travel halfway around the world to further oppress an already oppressed population.
It is not far-fetched to envision a reality in which Chican@ youth strive to live and die for Aztlán liberated and free. The development of material conditions will be crucial in this regard, but it will be the struggle of revolutionaries and the masses of turned up youth that will be principal. We should not let the fact that Amerika’s longest war has come to an end deter us from the urgency of organizing the oppressed nations for liberation and against U.$. militarism. “Raza Si, Guerra No!” should be one of many political slogans that we champion in the bi-polar world that is life under imperialism, as Amerikkka’s designs on the African continent promise to become an even bloodier killing field in the years to come.
Notes: 1. The PBS News Hour, 27 August 2021. 2. A MIM(Prisons) study group, 2015, Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. (available to prisoners for $10) 3. KTLA 5 News, 27 August 2021.
The year 2020 was hectic and alarming to say the least. From Pre$ident Donald Chump’s outrageous attempts to wrestle power away from the traditional bourgeoisie, to COVID-19, which threw the entire world for a loop and tragically ended the lives of over a million people, mostly in the Third World. The year 2020 has been one in which the already ugly face of imperialism has been peeled back far enough to where even first worlders could catch a glimpse of what’s hidden underneath.
The depravity of Amerikkkans’ twisted desires for a return to a social order in which Amerikkka is clearly and definitively on top has been on full display for the world to see. From the extra-judicial killing of New Afrikans and other oppressed nation people by law enforcement, to the lynching of New Afrikans in liberal Los Angeles County, Califaztlán; the principal contradiction of Amerikkka vs the oppressed nations remains the existential threat to the people of the internal semi-colonies. As such, what has been made clear to revolutionaries from the oppressed nations is the urgent need to organize the Chican@, New Afrikan, and First Nations along communist lines. One of the few organizations in the United $tates attempting to do this is the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons (MIM Prisons).
As is already widely known by U.$. prisoners, a U.$. federal court has ruled that prisoners cannot be excluded from applying for and receiving economic relief under the CARES Act. This decision allowed for thousands of captives to receive $1,200 stimulus checks with more already on the way.
As an anti-imperialist who’s worked with MIM(Prisons) for almost two decades I have requested and received a plethora of study materials from them, most free of charge. In 2015, MIM(Prisons) released Chican@ Power and the Struggle For Aztlán, which focuses on the hystory, present, and future struggles of the Chican@ nation from a Maoist perspective. This project was very expensive and pushed back the release of MIM(Prisons) own contemporary text, The Lumpen Handbook.
MIM(Prisons) is not a huge organization, nor do they have the big name recognition which other more amorphous groups with opportunist politics do. What they do have, however, is a correct political line for the liberation of the internal semi-colonies and a communist cadre committed to serving the imprisoned masses. So if you believe in struggling for an Aztlán libre then one thing you can do at this time is send a donation to MIM(Prisons). Sending money to them will help fund not only the next issue of Under Lock and Key, but the free Books to Prisoners program. If you believe that Black Lives Matter, then donate to MIM(Prisons) and continue funding the education of revolutionaries behind prison walls.
Let us then take this opportunity to contribute to the anti-imperialist movement to end the oppression and exploitation of the oppressed nations by U.$. imperialism by giving something back to MIM(Prisons) after they’ve spent years giving us so much.
[NOTE: For ways to donate, please see our get involved page. We are working on a second printing of Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, if you want to pre-order a copy just let us know when you send your donation of $20 or more.]
(1) In the second paragraph of this article, the author states that Sex Offenders(S.O.s) constitute a more dangerous element than murderers "because S.O.s often have more victims, and many of those victims become sexual predators, creating one long line of victimization."
As to your first point that S.O.s constitute a more dangerous element in comparison to murderers, I think your reasoning here is purely subjective as well as characteristic of the lumpen mindset both inside and outside of prisons, which the criminal lumpen vies to minimize their own parasitic and anti-people behavior. This way the lumpen can say "I may be a thief, but at least I'm not a pedophile." "I may be a gang member, but at least I'm not a rapist, etc." It is a notion that's caught up in all kinds of hypocritical bourgeois standards of honor, integrity and other nonsense. It's bourgeois moralization.
(2) In the second paragraph the author states: "Contrarily, sexual predators affect the entire societal composition. They perpetuate crimes against the males and females, provoking deep burrowing psychological problems and turn many victims into victimizers...The difference is not in the severity of the anti-proletariat crime, but in the after effects."
And murderers and other criminals don't have the same or worse effects on society? All victims of crime and violence will develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to varying degrees. The psychological and emotional trauma that a victim of a robbery and the survivor of a sexual assault suffer can be very similar. The same goes for the friends and family of murder victims. And while it is true that some (I don't know about many) survivors of sexual abuse do turn into perpetrators of those same crimes, the same can be said of victims and survivors of other crimes, i.e. domestic violence, verbal abuse, and yes, murder! Just look at the factors that go into perpetuating gang violence.
That said, there is one huge difference when it comes to murder, sexual abuse, and their after effects. Whenever there is sexual abuse and violence victims are able to move forward and heal from their physical, emotional and psychological wounds if they receive the proper care and attention. When someone is killed, however, there is no rectifying the act. There is no coming back.
(3) In the fifth paragraph you state: "...murder is more of a one-two punch knock out, where sexual deprivation is twelve rounds of abuse...Most murderers are not serial killers..."
According to Webster's New World Dictionary, serial is defined as "appearing in a series of continuous parts at regular intervals." By this definition, then, and in conjunction with your reasoning, many gang members can be defined as serial killers.
(4) In the eighth paragraph, you state that: "...rehabilitating sexual predators can be made on an individual basis by revolutionaries who are able to see past the label prejudice though their efforts, if conducted scientifically, a systematic method can emerge for once the revolutionary is successful...sex crimes will be a problem for capitalism, socialism, or communism. Revolutionaries will have to address the problem sooner or later."
On this we agree, revolutionaries will have to address this problem sooner or later so why not get past the idealist rhetoric, which you inadvertently espouse, and begin dealing with it now by moving beyond lumpen rationalizations on the matter. Comrades should learn to understand that under the current power structure, all sex is rape and that sex criminals cannot be rehabilitated only revolutionized. This means that you cannot rehabilitate someone into a system that has gender oppression and rape built right into it. Therefore, comrades should learn all about gender oppression and the patriarchy and how the patriarchy not only informs what gender oppression is, but defines it.
I only wanted to comment that the ghettos and barrios are not only being dispensed but shifted. The Antelope Valley, High Dessert and other under-developed regions in Southern California are good examples of this trend. Over the past 10-15 years, there has been a slow but steady trickling out of Chican@s and New Afrikans from the wider Los Angeles area and into places like Lancaster, Palmdale, Mojave, California City due to gentrification.
Also, in relation to your article on Sakai's book, what's the status of the MIM(Prisons) Lumpen Handbook?
MIM(Prisons) responds: We published what was intended to be one chapter of a book on the First World lumpen as Who is the Lumpen in the United $tates. Prior to that we put efforts into the book Chican@ Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. Current research efforts are aimed at summing up the final results of our updated survey on prison labor in the United $tates. We will be publishing this final report along with a larger collection of writings on the economics of prisons in the United $tates. So that's something to look out for in 2019.
The Lumpen Handbook was envisioned to address more topics related to organizing the lumpen class in a revolutionary way in the United $tates today. We have not had the capacity to carry out that project to the scope originally envisioned, but this issue of ULK (68) is an example of our efforts to continue to tackle that topic.
We also have notes to develop into a Selected Works of the Maoist Internationalist Movement (1983-2008) book; another project we would like to see to fruition if we can garner more support for our existing work in the coming years.
[Editor's note: This review of Grit follows on several articles printed in ULK 63 about the book and lessons we can glean for our organizing. This comrade offers a more in-depth review of some of the practical uses for our work, but also some criticisms of the politics of the book. We encourage readers to check out ULK 63 for more on organizing theory and practice.]
I really like this book, not just because I found lots of useful tactics and strategies for pursuing my own personal goals in life, but because I was able to see that I've already been putting many of the author's suggestions into practice, both in my capacity as a revolutionary and as someone pursuing a particular goal: my freedom. Therefore, in writing this review, I have not only tried to sum up the tactics and strategies I found most useful, but those which others might find use for as well. However, this review is not without criticism.
The author of this book, Angela Duckworth, is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and she wrote this book to make one basic statement: success in any endeavor is dependent on the amount of time, hard work, determination, and effort that someone puts into something.
Now this concept might not seem so special or even new to someone, but to a dialectical materialist, it speaks power to truth in that it demolishes certain idealist and metaphysical notions about what it means to be gifted and blessed in bourgeois society. Of course, as a dialectical materialist, I also understand that this book must be viewed with a critical eye, as it contains both positive and negative aspects.
Professor Duckworth makes it a point to begin eir book by explaining that lofty-minded individuals aren't usually the type of people to accomplish much of anything. Rather, it's those with a "never give up" attitude that will reach a marked level of success. Professor Duckworth also successfully argues against the myth that the only thing that matters is "talent." Instead she says a bigger factor is developed skill, which is the result of consistent and continuous practice. From a Maoist perspective this means that it is people who take a materialist approach to life and who understand the dialectical interplay between people and people, and between people and their surroundings, that will go the furthest the fastest.
In addition, the author puts forward organizational guidelines that are useful to just about anyone, even the imprisoned lumpen. How prisoners decide to exercise the professor's tools is entirely up to them. We would hope however, that USW members and other allies participating in the United Front for Peace in Prisons would use the lessons in Grit to further the anti-imperialist prison movement, as what they essentially amount to is the piecemeal approach to struggle.
So what does it take to develop grit as the author defines it? The following are just some of the book's pointers that I could relate to and I'm sure you can too:
Having direction as well as determination.
Doing more of what you are determined to do and doing it longer equals grit.
Learn from your mistakes.
Grit is more about stamina than intensity ("Grit is not just working incredibly hard, it's loyalty").
Do things better than they have ever been done before.
Goals are essential to strategizing long term, and you must also have lots of short-term goals along the way.
Having goal conflicts can be healthy: what may at one given moment seem contradictory may in fact be complementary.
Don't be intimidated by challenges or being surrounded by people who are more advanced or developed. This can only help you grow.
Overextending yourself is integral toward growth, it's what helps you develop. Also, repetitive diligence cultivates.
Daily discipline as perseverance helps you to zero in on your weaknesses.
Passion is a must!
Go easy on newcomers.
Look for quality over quantity when measuring growth.
What we do has to matter to other people.
Have a top level goal.
Maintain a growth mindset.
Don't be afraid to ask for help!
Following through is the single best predictor of grit.
Getting back up after you've been kicked down is generally reflective of grit. When you don't, your efforts plummet to a zero. As a consequence, your skill stops improving and you stop producing anything with whatever skill you have.
So now that we've looked at tools for overall improvement, growth and development let's look at some specific tips on how to add a little more intensity to our routines and organizational skill set. The author talks about something she calls "deliberate practice." Deliberate practice is a technique or range of techniques that people across different professions use to become masters in their fields. Whether someone is a spelling bee champ, professional basketball player, or computer programmer, all these people have one thing in common: deliberate practice. I include the message here because it can be useful to revolutionaries. Simply put, deliberate practice is all about becoming an expert at something. Deliberate practice is the essence of grit:
Wanting to develop.
Not just more time on task, but better time on task.
Focusing on improving your weaknesses; intentionally seeking out challenges you can't yet meet.
Practicing alone, logging more hours than with others.
Seeking negative feedback for the purposes of improving your craft.
Then focus in on the specific weaknesses and drill them relentlessly.
Don't be afraid to experiment if you find yourself getting stuck or even if you're not. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone even if you're already doing good. Who knows, you might do better.
Now, at the beginning of this review, I said this book was not beyond criticism. So here are some problems I found with Grit.
To begin with, the author caters to the idealist Amerikan ideology of "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" and failing to take into account the structural oppression faced by the internal semi-colonies in the United $tates. Furthermore, most of the author's case studies, those who she refers to as "paragons of grit," come from privileged backgrounds and their success in life can be easily linked to the surroundings in which they were allowed to develop their skills to their fullest potentials. Compare this to the experience of the oppressed nations: the lumpen in particular who exist along the margins of society, or the Chican@ semi-proletariat who must struggle in order to meet its basic needs. Therefore, all is not simply a matter of will and determination for the oppressed as we might be led to believe. There are a variety of social factors in place which the oppressed must contend with in the grind of daily life.
Another problem I have with this book is where the author makes the statement that it generally takes up to 10,000 hours or 10 years of practice for someone to become an expert in their field. The author bases this hypothesis on data she's gathered in preparation for eir book. This inherent flaw in the professor's work is exactly the type of problem that comes from applying bourgeois psychology and sociological methods according to bourgeois standards within a narrow strip of bourgeois society. This was something of a turn off to me as I grappled with the concepts from a revolutionary perspective. I can imagine how discouraging it can be for our young comrades or those otherwise new to the struggle to read that it takes 10 years to become an expert in something, especially when they come to us eager to put in work. I wonder if I, myself, would have continued engaging Maoism if I would have heard or read this book when I was a newcomer? I would like to think that I had enough grit to not listen to the naysayers and instead keep on pushing, but I just don't know.
Maoist China also grappled with similar questions during the Great Leap Forward (1959-61) and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Beginning with the Great Leap Forward, there were those in the Communist Party, as well as in the economic sector, who advocated an "expert in command" approach to work and politics. The people pushing this line believed that only those with years of study or practice in China's greatest institutions or in the West's most prestigious universities were qualified to lead the country towards socialism. Most of these people would turn out to be enemies of the revolution and ultimately responsible for putting China back on the capitalist road.
On the other side of the discussion where the Maoists who advocated the slogan "red and expert" to emphasize the importance of revolutionary will and determination over that of expertise. In other words, it was more important to pay attention to the masses motivation of serving the people according to revolutionary principles than to the bourgeois commandist approach of top down leadership and authoritarianism that was the essence of "experts in command." Furthermore, the Maoists understood that to overly emphasize a reliance on the bourgeois methods of organization for the purposes of efficiency and profit was not only to widen the gap between leaders and led, but to return to the status quo prior to the revolution. What's more, those calling for expert in command were also criticized for their stress on theory over practice and adoption of foreign methods of organization over that of self-reliance and independence. As such, the Maoists opted to popularize the slogan "red and expert" as they believed this represented a more balanced approach to political, cultural, economic, and social development. To the Maoists, there was nothing wrong with wanting to become expert so long as the concept wasn't separated from the needs of the people or the causes of the revolution.
Partly as a response to the struggles gripping China during the time, but more so as an attempt to meet Chinese needs, the Communist Party initiated the "sent down educated youth" and "going down to the countryside and settling with the peasants" campaigns in which thousands of high school and university age students were sent on a volunteer basis to China's rural area to help educate peasants. The students lived and toiled with the peasants for months and years so that they would not only learn to empathize with the country's most downtrodden, but so that the revolutionary will and resolve of the privileged urban youth could be strengthened. Part of the students' mission was to build the schools in the countryside and teach the peasants how to read and write as well to help advance the peasants' farming techniques according to what the youth had learned in the cities. While these students may not have been "experts" in the professional sense, they did more to improve the living conditions of the peasants than most professionals did criticizing this program from the sidelines.(1)
The barefoot doctors program is another Maoist success story which even Fidel Castro's Cuba came to emulate. The majority of China's population were peasants and had virtually zero access to modern medical care. To address this problem, peasants were given a few years training in basic medical care, and sent to work in China's rural area. Again, the focus here was not on expertise, but on practice and revolutionary will for the sake of progress not perfection. While those trained certainly were not expert medical doctors, they were of more use to the peasants than the witch doctors and shamans they were accustomed to.
While Grit offers a lot of useful information for comrades with little organizational experience, we should keep in mind that much of what we communists consider correct methods of practice has already been summed up as rational knowledge by the revolutionary movements before us. Bourgeois psychology can be useful, but history and practice are our best teachers. Look to the past and analyze the present to correctly infer the future.
As Mao Zedong Stated: "Marxists hold that man's social practice alone is the criterion of the truth of his knowledge of the external world."(2)
MIM(Prisons) responds: Throughout the book, Duckworth focuses on high-performance bourgeois heroes and institutions, in order to address the question of "what makes them the best at what they do?" In answering this question, the author does briefly acknowledge that access to resources can play a decisive role in one's success in a particular field. That might mean having money to pay for pool access to become a great swimmer. In another way, access to resources might boil down to the semi-random luck of having a decent (or crap) coach in public school sports. Of course there are socio-economic reasons why good coaches are at certain schools and not others, and why some schools have sports at all and others don't — and those are reasons linked to the three strands of oppression.
Duckworth's analysis of how we (as outsiders) can influence someone's internal grit underlined how big of an influence one persyn or experience can have on someone else's passion and perseverence. For example, we don't need material resources to change our attitude and behavior to a "growth mindset." And, while a broader culture of grit is certainly preferable, we can still make a big impact as single organizers — in many of eir examples, the paragons of grit cited one or two key people in their lives who played a major part in their success. And ULK's contributors' persynal histories in "Ongoing Discussion of Recruiting Best Practices" confirms this.
Duckworth's analysis on this topic is outlined in "Part 3: Growing Grit from the Outside In," and MIM(Prisons) has been discussing this section at length to improve our own practices. We have an extremely limited ability to organize and influence people — we are only struggling with our subscribers through the mail, which comes with many unique challenges. Our subscribers have access to very little resources, and we can't buy them the world. But if we can make even our limited contact more effective — through our study, execution, experimentation, and the feedback we receive — we believe we can still make a big impact. Duckworth helped build my confidence that even though i'm only one organizer, and i'm not really that talented at it to begin with, my efforts still matter a lot.
While Duckworth does good to knock down the idols of talent, ey replaces them with the hardworking individual, rather than the knowledge of the collective, and group problem solving. The group is acknowledged as one thing that can help you as an individual become great, in eir discussion of the "culture of grit." The examples from China that Ehecatl brings up emphasizes that our goal is not to be great as individuals, but to serve the people by bringing together different sources of knowledge, to see a problem from all sides, and to engage the masses in conquering it.
In a related point, Ehecatl says that we need to "do things better than they have ever been done before." I'm not sure of the deeper meaning behind this point, and it's one that i think could be read in a discouraging way. We certainly should aim to do things better than we have ever done them. But if we know we can't do them better than everyone ever, then should we give up? No, we should still try, because "effort counts twice" and the more we try, the better we'll get at it.(3) And, even if we're not the best ever, we can still have a huge impact. Like Ehecatl writes above, we don't need to clock 10,000 hours before we can make big contributions.
To deepen your own understanding of the principles in Grit, get a copy to study it yourself. Get Grit from MIM(Prisons) for $10 or equivalent work-trade.
During the summer of 2018, the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) attempted to initiate a radical new policy to re-integrate General Population (GP) and Sensitive Needs Yards (SNY) prisoners throughout the state. These two populations have been separated for decades, but are now living together in what they are calling Non-Designated Programming Facilities (NDPFs).
SNYs were first created in the late 1990s to provide safe housing for prisoners convicted as sex offenders and other prisoners who had fallen out of favor with prison gangs. This population exploded during the early 2000s, when the CDCR began to ease housing restrictions and criteria on SNYs.
In 2015, the office of the Governor of the state of California, Jerry Brown, authored the document "The Governor's Plan: The Future of California Prisons" in which they published the rising costs and administrative difficulties related to operating SNYs. It was within this document that the questions of how to stem the growing need for SNY, and possibly re-integrate GP and SNY, was first asked. In 2016, a "SNY Summit" was held by CDCR officials and so it seems that NDPFs developed from both the Governor's Plan and the SNY Summit.
According to a CDCR memorandum titled "Amended Non-Designated Programming Facilities Expansion for 2018," additional NDPFs were to be created out of existing GP and SNY. The stated purpose for this expansion was to "...expand positive programming to all inmates who want it." The NDPF expansion was scheduled to take place as early as September 2018 at two different institutions with more to follow in the months ahead.
The official list of NDPFs is relatively short, and only reflects NDPFs affecting level 1, 2 and 3 prisoners at this time. However, MIM(Prisons) has been receiving a lot of contradictory information on this issue from prisoners, much of which can be attributed to rumors from both pigs and prisoners. Therefore it is difficult for us to assess the situation and sum up matters. Naturally these developments have prisoners on both sides of the fence worked up and full of anxiety.
The forceful integration of GP and SNY prisoners poses obvious concerns for the safety and security of everyone involved. As dialectical materialists, the left-wing of United Struggle from Within (USW) understands that change cannot be forced from the outside to the inside within this particular situation. Rather, unity can only develop from the inside to the out, which is why we are against NDPFs. Re-integration of SNY and GP is something that can only work once prisoners themselves settle the disputes and resolve the contradictions that led to the need for prisoners to de-link from the rest of the prisoner population and seek the protection of the state to begin with.
Contradictions amongst the people must be peacefully resolved amongst the people; there's no other way around this. Until this happens, the new prison movement will remain divided and unable to unite along true anti-imperialist lines. It is for this very reason that we continue to uphold and promote the correct aspects of the Agreement to End Hostilities (AEH), which was developed by prisoners themselves. In the AEH we see an end to the large scale prisoner violence that racked California prisons for decades. We also see a possibility for the re-emergence of revolutionary nationalism amongst the oppressed nation lumpen of Aztlán, New Afrika and the First Nations.
The AEH is a foundation for the movement, but movements are not built on foundations alone; for this we need brick, mortar and other materials. Likewise the building blocks to the new prison movement will need the contributions and participation of as many of California's prisoners as possible if the signatories to the AEH really wanna live up to the revolutionary ideals which they profess and which so many claim to be instilled in the AEH, lest the AEH be but a hollow shell.
No doubt that the AEH was hystoric, progressive and even revolutionary six years ago, but the time has come to amend the document. All language excluding SNY prisoners from the peace process and casting SNY as enemies should be revisited if prisoners from the Short Corridor Collective and Representative Body are truly interested in taking the AEH to the next level.
For more information on re-integration and NDPFs contact Julie Garry Captain Population Management Unit (916) 323-3659.
19 October 2018 — One week to the day of the Dia de la Raza celebrations in Mexico, a caravan of three to four thousand migrant men, wimmin and children (forming part of what's been dubbed the Central American Exodus) stormed the Mexico-Guatemala border at the southern Mexico State of Chiapas demanding passage through Mexico on their way to the United $tates. The migrants had spent the previous seven days walking from Honduras, where the caravan originated, through Guatemala, where they grew in numbers as Guatemalans joined the procession. Upon arriving at the Mexico-Guatemala border, the migrants were stopped by an assortment of Mexican Armed Forces equipped with riot gear, armored vehicles and Amerikan-supplied Blackhawk helicopters. The neo-colonial government of Mexico was acting on orders of U.$. Pre$ident Donald Trump who had issued the threat of economic sanctions against Mexico and warned of sending troops to the joint U.$.-Mexico border if Mexico didn't stop the caravan from reaching the United $tates. Similar orders were given to Honduras and Guatemala, who initially ignored the command. As a result, Pre$ident Trump has warned of cutting off economic aid to the recalcitrant countries.(1)
Hungry, thirsty, tired, and now frustrated, the caravan broke through the border fence and began flooding into Mexico where Mexican forces fired teargas and resorted to the use of their batons on the migrants in an attempt to push the caravan back. While some migrants began throwing rocks at the police, the event reached a focal point when various young men began climbing the gates of the bridge where they were held and began to jump into the shallow Suchiate river below. After unsuccessfully trying to dissuade people from jumping, a reporter present at the event asked the question, "why jump?" One migrant responded that he was doing it for his children, and while he didn't want to die, the risk was worth it if only he could provide for his family. Others stated that they would rather die than return to the crushing poverty and pervasive gang violence that awaits them back home. "We only want to work," other migrants stated. When it was all over one child was reported to have died from teargas inhalation.(2)
Unfortunately, the assaults on the caravan did not end there. Forty-eight hours after being stopped at Suchiate, about half of the caravan was eventually admitted into Mexico while 2,000 opted to board buses heading back to Honduras. On 22 October, the remaining members of the caravan along with additional Central American refugees already in Chiapas came together, after which their numbers swelled to 7,000 to 8,000 strong. This included the 2,000 children in their midst, along with the migrants' rights organization Pueblo Sin Fronteras. Members of the caravan made a public plea to the United Nations to declare the Central American Exodus a humanitarian crisis. They ask the U.N. to intervene and send envoys and a military escort to monitor the caravan's journey through Mexico which they referred to as a "Corridor of Death." Representatives of the group accused the Mexican government of perpetuating human rights abuses against them. They claimed that wimmin had been raped and children stolen. They also spoke of children in the caravan suddenly traveling alone because their parents had disappeared.(3)
Meanwhile, further south in the hemisphere, actor Angelina Jolie, who is a special ambassador for the U.N. Human Rights Commission for refugees, traveled to Peru to call attention to the "humanitarian crisis" that is currently playing out in neighboring Venezuela where inflation and food shortages have led to mass migrations into Peru, Brazil, and Colombia.(4) The migrations out of Venezuela have been extensively covered by the Amerikan media, along with increasingly hostile rhetoric from politicians to topple the government of Nicolas Maduro, which has stood against imperialist control of the country. In comparison, the plight of the Honduran caravan has barely been given any attention by English language broadcasts except in its influence on the mid-term elections here in the United $tates. Could this be because the Venezuelan government has been a thorn in the side of U.$. imperialism for the last 20 years while the combined governments of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras have been faithful, if reluctant, servants of that same imperialist power?
Since 2005 the official number of refugees in the world has climbed from 8.7 million to 214.4 million in 2014.(5) However, since the very definition and criteria for refugee status is set by the imperialists themselves, and hence politically motivated, we're sure the real number is way higher. For example, according to the U.N., Honduras isn't even considered a country of origin for refugees. Neither is Mexico, and yet the majority of people migrating to the United $tates come from Mexico and certainly the people of Honduras and Guatemala are fleeing conditions comparably worse than the recent crisis in Venezuela.(6)
As of 2014, there were 11.2 million undocumented migrants in the U.$.; 67% came from Mexico and Central America. Of these 11.2 million migrants, 72% live in four of the 10 states with the largest undocumented populations. Of these 10 states, four are Aztlán i.e., California, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada.(7) Statistics also show that migrants from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador will integrate into Aztlán and their children will assimilate into the Chican@ nation.(8)
As the principal contradiction in the world (imperialism vs. the oppressed nations, principally U.$. imperialism) continues to develop, and crisis heightens, we can expect to see more of these mass exoduses in the not-too-distant future. Already, there are reports of another caravan leaving Honduras of at least 1,000 strong. Surely to Amerikans this must seem like a nightmare come true, literally thousands of Third World refugees banging at the gates of their imperialist citadel. As tragic as all of this seems it is but a glimpse of how the Third World masses will finally rise up, and in their desperation, put an end to imperialism once and for all. Oddly enough, revolutionary forces in Mexico have yet to make an appearance and lend a helping hand to the caravan while ordinary working people have already stepped up to lend their assistance. How will Chican@s respond? That is left to be seen.
MIM(Prisons) adds: The U.$. National Endowment for Democracy was involved in both the 2009 coup to overthrow Zelaya in Honduras and 2002 coup to overthrow Chavez in Venezuela (later reversed). Hillary Clinton infamously helped orchestrate the coup in Honduras as well. Since then murderous generals trained by the U.$. School of the Amerikkkas have terrorized the population, killing indigenous people, peasants and environmental activists. The U.$. has established a large military presence in Honduras since the coup, backing the robbing of land from poor indigenous peasants and peasants of African descent.(9)
Looking at the penal code for what has been codified as sexual assault by the criminal injustice system reveals a variety of different offenses, from various misdemeanors to serious felony violations. In the United $tates those accused of committing such heinous acts are considered to be the lowest of the low and prisons are no different. This essay attempts to address the topics of sex offenders within prison society and their relevance to the prison movement.
In attempting to write something on these topics I was forced to keep coming back to two main points of discussion: (1) the contradiction of unity vs. divisions within the prison movement itself, and (2) the all sex is rape line as popularized by the Maoist Internationalist Movement. The strength of my argument stems from both of these points.
What is the Prison Movement?
Before moving forward it is necessary for me to explain what we are trying to build unity around. The prison movement is defined by the various movements, organizations and individuals who are at this time struggling against the very many different faces of the Amerikkkan injustice system. Whether these struggles take place in Georgia, California, Texas, Pennsylvania or any other corner of the U.$. empire is not of much importance. What is important, however, is the fact that those organizations and individuals are currently playing a progressive and potentially revolutionary role in attacking Amerikkka's oppressive prison system.
In one state's prisons or jails the struggle might take the shape of a grievance campaign, or other group actions aimed to abolish the forced labor of prisoners. These movements tend to be led by an array of lumpen organizations. Some are revolutionary, some are not. Some are narrowly reformist in nature and will go no further than the winning of concessions. Others remain stuck in the bourgeois mindset of individualism while deceptively using a revolutionary rhetoric to attain their goals.
However, despite their separate objectives they are each in their own way taking collective action when possible to challenge their oppressive conditions. Furthermore, these movements, organizations and individuals, when taken as a whole, represent an awakening in the political and revolutionary consciousness of prisoners not seen since the last round of national liberation struggles of the internal semi-colonies. Those are the progressive qualities of the new prison movement.
The negative and reactionary aspects of the prison movement are characterized by the fact that many of these lumpen organizations still operate along traditional lines. Most continue to participate in a parasitic economy and carry out anti-people activity that is detrimental to the very people they claim to represent. In relation to the essay, most of these movements and organizations also have policies that exclude those the imperialist state has labelled "sex offenders," But can these movements and organizations really afford to adhere to these state-initiated divisions? What are the ramifications to all this?
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the number of registered sex offenders in the United $tates for 2012 was 747,408, with the largest numbers in California, Texas and Florida.(1) Consequently, these are also three of the biggest prison states.
All Sex is Rape!
In the 1990s, the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) became infamous amongst the Amerikan left for two reasons. The first was its class analysis, which said that Amerikkkan workers were not exploited, but instead formed a labor aristocracy due to the fact that they were being paid more than the value of their labor. Amerikkkans were therefore to be considered parasites on the Third World proletariat & peasantry, as well as enemies of Third World socialist movements.
The second reason was upholding the political line of First World pseudo-feminist Catherine MacKinnon, who said that there was no real difference between what the accused rapist does and what most men call sex, but never go to jail for. MacKinnon put forth the theory that under a system of patriarchy (which we live under) all sexual relations revolve around unequal power relations between those gendered men and those gendered wimmin. As such, people can never truly consent to sex. From this MIM drew the logical conclusion: all sex is rape.(2)
This line is not just radical, but revolutionary for its indictment of patriarchy and implication of the injustice system. MIM developed the all sex is rape line even further when it explained the relevance of rape accusations from Amerikkan wimmin against New Afrikan men and the hystorical relation between the lynching of New Afrikans by Amerikkkan lynch mobs during Jim Crow. Even in the 1990s when MIM looked at the statistics for rape accusations and convictions, it was able to deduce that New Afrikans were still being nationally oppressed by white wimmin in alliance with their white brethren.(3)
That said, this doesn't mean that violent and pervasive acts aren't committed against people who are gender oppressed in our society. Rather, I am drawing attention to the fact that Amerikan society eroticizes power differentials, and the media sexualizes children, yet they both pretend to abhor both. Regardless of who has done what we must not lose sight of what should be our main focus: uniting against the imperialist state, the number one enemy of the oppressed nations.
It is no secret that to call someone a "sex offender" in prison is to subject that persyn to violence and possibly death. Furthermore, it is a hystorical fact that pigs have used sex offender accusations as a way to discredit leading voices amongst the oppressed or simply to have prisoners target someone they have a persynal vendetta against. We must resist these COINTELPRO tactics and continue to unite and consolidate our forces, as to participate in these self-inflicted lynchings is just another way the pigs get us to do their dirty work for them.
In carrying out self-criticism, Mao Zedong said that there had been too many executions during China's Cultural Revolution. In particular, ey stated that while it may be justified to execute a murderer or someone who blows up a factory, it may also be justified not to execute some of these same people. Mao suggested that those who were willing should go and perform some productive labor so that both society could gain something positive and the persyn in question could be reformed.(4)
Maoists believe that problems amongst the people should be handled peacefully among the people and thru the methods of discussion and debate. Most prisoners are locked up exactly because they engaged in some type of anti-people activity at one point or another of their lives. Should these actions define prisoners? According to MIM Thought, all U.$. citizens will be viewed as reforming criminals by the Third World socialist movement under the Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations (JDPON). The First World lumpen will be no exception regardless of crime of choice.
Ten Men Dead: the story of the 1981 Irish hunger strike
Atlantic Monthly Press 1987
This book chronicles the period and events in Northern Ireland leading up to when nine members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and one member of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) starved to death while on hunger strike inside Northern Ireland's notorious Long Kesh prison. While reading this book one may be tempted to draw parallels between the actions of imprisoned Irish nationalists and the actions carried out by prisoners in California who protested the use of solitary confinement and indeterminate sentences in the state's infamous Security Housing Units (SHU) in 2011 and 2013. However, there were qualitative differences between these two movements. Whereas one was revolutionary nationalist in nature and sought to ultimately eject British imperialism by linking the struggle behind prison walls to that of every oppressed Irish national on the streets, the other was of a reformist character and has lent itself to the preservation of the status quo; AmeriKKKa vs the oppressed nations. [Today, the hunger strikes by Palestinians in I$raeli prisons are similar in nature to the Irish strike. - editor]
While the British first invaded and began to colonize Ireland in the year 1171, the focus of this book is on more contemporary times so we'll start there. Having failed to wipe out Irish nationalism thru sheer military might the British government sought to switch strategy, and in 1972 initiated a new method of oppression called "normalization". Normalization was the policy devised to crush the IRA and other Irish nationalists by criminalizing the struggle for national liberation & self-determination. As such, normalization was also termed "criminalization". Criminalization required a four prong attack on the Irish people:
First local police and British occupation forces would cease to refer to the IRA and other Irish nationalist groups as political organizations with a political mandate. Instead Irish revolutionaries would begin to be labeled as "thugs", "criminals" and "terrorists".
Second, criminalization would entail eliminating juries and diluting the rule of evidence in IRA and INLA trials to make it easier to obtain convictions. As can be expected the number of prisoners sentenced in Northern Ireland spiked from 745 in 1972 to 2,300 in 1979.(pg 19)
Third, criminalization required that Britain begin to pull its troops from Northern Ireland delegating national oppression to local police with special military and counter-intelligence training, thereby giving the public the impression that fighting the IRA was a law and order issue and not a war.
Finally, the linchpin towards normalizing Britain's 800 year oppression of Ireland would be the repealing of Irish political prisoner status known as "special category": special category was granted to captured IRA and INLA members. Prisoners granted special category were given preferential treatment. More importantly, however, from the IRA point of view the fact that special category existed was an admission of sorts that British occupation of Ireland was something to be contested, even by the Brits.
As in any struggle, the 1981 hunger strike didn't simply develop overnight, rather it was the product of a series of protests almost a decade in the making. When Britain announced an end to special category status in 1976, prisoners immediately got to work. For Irish revolutionaries the fact that they had been captured didn't mean the war had ended. Instead prisoners viewed Long Kesh as just another front line in the war for national liberation.
The struggle to re-instate special category was first sparked 16 September 1976, when a fight between guards and a prisoner broke out after the prisoner refused to put on a prison uniform while being admitted into the general population following a conviction on a terrorism charge. Prior to 1 March 1976, there was no such thing as terrorism charges being applied to Irish revolutionaries. Once in prison, IRA and INLA members were segregated from the general population. They were also allowed to wear their own clothes. Soon other IRA & INLA members began to refuse to wear prison uniforms which marked them as criminals. As a reaction to this resistance administration then refused to clothe prisoners who refused to comply leaving them confined naked in their cells 24 hours a day with only blankets to cover themselves.(pg 16) The "blanket" protest had officially begun.
Two years later, the "no wash" protest was initiated when special category prisoners were given one towel to wear around their waist on their visits to the bathroom while being denied a second towel for their faces. Rather than continue to be humiliated in this way prisoners refused going to the bathroom facilities all-together and were given chamber pots for use in their cells. Fights with guards soon followed however when guards refused to empty the chamber pots. These events then led to the "dirty" protest in which prisoners began throwing the contents of the pots out of their cells thru windows and tray slots. After windows and tray slots were covered prisoners began "pouring urine out the cracks and dispensing excrement by smearing it on the wall."(pg 17)
Wimmin also participated in the dirty protest after thirty-two prisoners at a Northern Ireland wimmin's jail were beaten by male and femals guards in a pre-meditated attack after prisoners attempted to defend themselves during a search. The search was for IRA military uniforms which the wimmin had worn in a defiant para-military parade held in violation of jail rules.(pg 20)
Afterwards prisoners began to organize more effectively when IRA leaders began to arrive in Long Kesh. In 1979 efforts by prison administrators to isolate IRA leadership backfired when top IRA figures were transferred to H Block 6. According to the author it was the equivalent of setting up an "officers training academy" inside the prison, as prisoners began to further develop "a philosophical and strategic approach" to Irish national liberation. (pg 18) Nine months later administration became alarmed with how prisoners had taken control of their new social conditions. They soon split up the "academy", but not before prisoners began to discuss hunger striking to protest normalization and an end to special category. However, outside IRA leadership was opposed to a hunger strike by prisoners on the grounds that the IRA's limited resources would be better spent on the military campaign against Britain instead of on building public opinion on behalf of the hunger strikers.(pg 21)
After much discussion the IRA Army Council and Sinn Fein the political wing of the IRA gave the go-ahead for prisoners to begin a ten man hunger strike to the death if their demands weren't met. However, the hunger strikers were prohibited from making any explicit references towards the re-instatement of special category or normalization in order to give the government some room to compromise. Instead the protest would officially be known as the struggle for the "five demands".(pg 27) The five demands the prisoners put forth were: "the right to wear their own clothing; the right to refrain from prison work; the right to have free association with other prisoners (a right implying freedom to separate from other paramilitary groups); the right to organize recreation and leisure activity — with one letter, parcel and visit allowed per week; and the right to have remission lost, as a result of the blanket protest restored. A suggestion that demands for the reform of the Diplock court system — the system of trial without jury and related dilutions of the rule of evidence — be included was vetoed by the external leadership as being too ambitious."(pg 27)
For the government to give in to the prisoners' demands from the IRA point of view would have meant a de-facto re-implementation of special category and a step towards repealing criminalization. Criminalization was turning out to be a very effective public opinion/smear campaign against the IRA and was having a real effect on how Irish Catholics were viewing the IRA:
"The phasing out of special category status in 1975 was an integral part of a new security strategy developed by a high powered government think-tank — which included representatives of the army, police and the counter-intelligence agency MI5 — in an attempt to break the IRA and end the fighting in Ireland. Known as the "criminalization" or "normalization" policy it was essentially an attempt to separate the Republican guerrillas from their host population, the Catholics; depriving the fish of their water to echo Mao Tse-Tung's famous dictum."(pg 15)
Once the decision to hunger strike was made it was decided that only ten of the most dedicated volunteers would be chosen being that they would be hunger striking to the death if the government refused to meet their demands. Leading the strike would be a young revolutionary named Bobby Sands. Sands was one of those "young Turks" deemed to be responsible for the "Marxist strain" that seemed to be spreading in the IRA at the time. At age of 19, Sands was made an officer in the Provisional IRA commanding one of the huts in Cage 11 where he was housed. According to the author, Sands "showed himself to be a prolific as well as a politicized writer: He read voraciously — his favorites including Frantz Fanon, Camilo Torres, Che Guevara, Amilcar Cabral, George Jackson and of Irish writers, Connolly, Pearce and Mellows — keeping a fat growing pile of exercise books full of political analysis, quotations and notes. He was planning to write a book with it all, but they were destroyed in 1974 when the IRA in the compound burnt their huts in a dispute with the administration over rights and privileges."(pg 43)
Sands also contributed articles to the Sinn Fein newspaper Republican News, which he was able to smuggle out of the prison thru the use of couriers.(pg 46) Something else that was relevant about Sands, and which is worth noting here, is that he showed the correct attitude with comrades when it came to discussing revolutionary politics. Sands would push his comrades hard on the topic of political study. Whenever he lent someone a book he'd question them on what they'd learned, and if he didn't think they'd seriously absorbed the material then he'd insist they read it again.
When Sands first arrived in Long Kesh he was sent to a segregated area called the "Cages". The Cages was where IRA, INLA and other nationalists were sent to prior to the 1 March 1976 cut-off date for special category. Because the IRA as a organization never developed or held to one particular ideology that they believed or upheld to liberate Ireland meant that there existed different cliques and factions within the IRA that believed that different roads would lead to Irish liberation. This had a huge impact on the IRA and surely contributed to many of the set-backs and stagnations in the national liberation movement there. One example of this was how the younger prisoners housed in Cage 11 were looked down upon and called "renegades" by the older, more conservative "veterans" of the IRA who were housed in Cage 10 due to Cage 11's belief in a socialist road to liberation. The veterans in Cage 10 despised Marxism so much that they went so far as to stage book burnings of such works as Marx's Capital, The Communist Manifesto and The Thought of Mao Zedong. Cage 10 outranked the younger Cage 11 and considered ordering them to stand down after word spread that the Cage 11 presented a series of lectures called Celtic Communism.(pg 42) No doubt, that prior to these lectures the speakers in Cage 11 studied On the Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State by Freidrich Engels, which is a revolutionary study from a dialectical materialist standpoint of how property relations and the patriarchy influenced and shaped humyn society from the primitive stage of humyn development to civilization.
The struggle for the five demands would rage for six months while the British government publicly refused to negotiate with "criminals" and "terrorists". Behind closed doors however was a different story as the government reluctantly began to give in on the demands after public opinion began to shift in favor of the hunger strikers. International pressure also became a strong factor as one country after another openly condemned the Brits. Also, Guerrilla attacks and bombings on British occupation forces were not only sustained during this period but were stepped up. The five demands were finally met, but not until six months had elapsed and the last of the hunger strikers had died of starvation-related health complications. On 5 May 1981 Bobby Sands was the first to expire, but not before managing to become an elected member of the British Parliament, a seat he won while in prison for an attempted bombing.(pg 39) 30,000 people voted for Sands, thereby dispelling the government lie that the IRA had no support in Northern Ireland.(pg 332)
Conclusions and Analysis
Unfortunately, the author doesn't tell us what happened next, even though six years had elapsed from the time of the hunger strike to when the book was written. A new updated edition of this book would be great to explain how Ireland's national liberation struggle has played out. According to MIM Theory 7: Proletarian Feminist Revolutionary Nationalism, printed in 1995, the Irish struggle had greatly degenerated as IRA leaders began to opt more and more for the ballot over the bullet. The belief that bourgeoisie democracy and/or the imperialists will ever consent to the people coming to power, or give up peacefully thru a vote, the territories they have stolen and occupy is a pipedream. Bobby Sands being put up as a candidate representing South Tyrone Ireland in the British Parliament was only intended as a move to agitate around the five demands and no one ever really thought he'd win, not in the beginning anyways.(pg 72) That said, it seems that Sands' victory spurned on those within the IRA who were already looking to put down the gun in favor of taking up electoral politics. But as MIM Thought has continuously re-iterated: the oppressed nations will never be free to control their destiny so long as the imperialists hold a gun to their heads.
Maoists understand that there can be no peace so long as the imperialists hold power, therefore the only solution for the oppressed nations is to take up armed struggle once the conditions are finally right. Instead of looking to put more people from the oppressed nations into the imperialist power-structure, Chican@s, New Afrikans, Boriqua and First Nation people should be working to establish a United Front to liberate their nations and towards the Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations.
Revolutionaries should always strive to push for the best possible deal for the people without selling out the masses or trading out our socialist principles. That is the excellent and heroic thing about what the hunger strikers in Long Kesh did, even when the movement began pressuring them to quit the hunger strike or settle for one or two of the demands instead of the five they refused to budge. In the words of Bobby Sands:
"They wont break me because the desire for freedom, and the freedom of the Irish people, is in my heart. The day will dawn when all the people of Ireland will have the desire for freedom to show. It is then we'll see the rising of the moon."(pg 73)
The peddling of multi-culturalism, the temporary success of globalization following the temporary defeats of socialism and revolutionary nationalist movements as well as the election of Obomber have created the notion that the struggle of the oppressed nations are irrelevant. Even back in 1986 the author of this book was pandering this idea when he said that the 1981 hunger strike "belongs more to humanity than to a limited Nationalist cause, no matter how ancient ... "(pg 333)
The reality of national oppression however contradicts the author's idealism, this is why the Black Lives Matter movement is so threatening to AmeriKKKans and why it has slapped post-modernism in its face, because it dredged up a reality they once thought distant and better left repressed — best to pretend like genocide, slavery and annexation never took place. Most importantly, however, because it signals the contradiction coming to a resolution and the smashing of empire. What the oppressed nations need are more national liberation movements, not less.
Another point worth drawing attention to is the false distinction the IRA made between political prisoners and "common criminals". We believe that is a bourgeoisie distinction and one that sets back both the prison movement and national liberation as they are inter-related. MIM Thought has consistently held that all prisoners under this system are political exactly because the system is political. One need only to look at mass incarceration in the United $tates and its many similarities to the criminalization policy that helped derail the IRA at a time when it was at its peak.
China’s Urban Villagers: Changing Life in a Beijing Suburb by Norman Chance Thomson Custom Publishing, Second Edition 2002
“Thus it is not surprising that an important theme expressed by the suburban Chinese described in the concluding chapter of this book is resistance – not in direct opposition to socialism per se but against a government and party that in recent times chose to put its own interest ahead of those of the Chinese people. In the early years of the People’s Republic, the Communist party was the major force leading the struggle for economic improvement, enhanced social equality, and greater political empowerment of its predominantly peasant population. But the protest movement of May and June 1989, supported by thousands of Chinese from all walks of life demonstrated to everyone that the party and government no longer had a mandate of leadership. What the future holds for China remains to be seen. But the lessons of the recent past, from which much can be learned, are there for all to see.” - Norman Chance
China’s Urban Villagers is a book about peasants on the edge of modernization. This book discusses in part how peasants made great strides in the construction of socialism, attained a life free from hunger, oppression and exploitation, and then lost it all. In particular this book chronicles the story of Half Moon Village, a small peasant village which used to be located on the outskirts of Beijing on land which prior to liberation was known as a “vast wasteland” but which following socialist revolution was transformed through the peoples collective strength into Red Flag commune, one of China’s largest communes.
The author wrote the first edition of this book based on data originally gathered on his third trip to China in 1979. However, the author also references material collected from earlier trips to China in 1972 and 78. He was also assisted in collecting information for the first edition as well as the second edition to this book in 1984 and 1989 by his wife Nancy Chance and by Fred Engst, the son of Joan Hinton, sister of William Hinton. Within the preface to this book Norman Chance explains his decision to publish the second edition (of which this review covers) so as to put into perspective his previous experiences in China, both during and after the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) as well as his time in Red Flag in light of the repression at Tiananmen which followed capitalist restoration.
The preface to Urban Villagers began with the author discussing how he was initially impressed with the Chinese success upon his first visit to China during the GPCR commenting that: “Many people, including myself, were impressed with Mao Zedong’s strategy of reducing economic inequalities through the immense collective effort of the people.”
Yet he immediately follows up this statement by saying that in retrospect this prior assessment was incorrect due to the fact that he later came to believe that we was never really allowed to actually observe socialist China’s failures in agriculture and industrialization, only its successes. This is an erroneous analysis which effectively amounts to a “Potemkin Village” thesis in which the author implied that everything that was good about China was false and everything that was bad about it was instantly authenticated. This is a contradictory stance on behalf of the author, not because he changed his position after leaving China, but because all throughout the book he finds it useful to compare and contrast what he saw and wrote about China in 1972 and 1976 with the changes he observed in 1979, all the while claiming to uphold the conditions of the Chinese people as being qualitatively better in 1972 and 76, while still stating that what he saw in those first two trips wasn’t really real after all – either conditions were better in 1972 and 76 or they were not, you can’t have it both ways. Indeed, even in Chapter 9, “A Decade of Change”, added to this second edition using data from the years 1987-89, the author comes to the conclusion that social conditions had drastically changed in China since 1979. In particular he refers to “class polarization the breaking up of communal peasant land into individual holdings and the rising rate of inflation and exploitation.”
Norman Chance was one of the first cultural anthropologists to be allowed into China between the years 1952-1972 as anthropology as a branch of the social sciences was discredited in the Peoples Republic following the socialist stage of the Chinese revolution (1). He was invited to visit China in 1972 as part of an educational delegation during the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution. Professor Chance was asked to give a lecture at the Beijing Institute of Minorities titled “Minority Life in America.” No doubt the communist party invited this Western academic not only as part of a mutual exchange of ideas, but so as to expose the Chinese people to reactionary ideologies so that they may learn from them and be better prepared to combat them. Upon reflecting on his visit to China, Mr. Chance commented on “how different were our perspectives on the relationship between minority and majority nationalities.” (p XV)
It would have been helpful if the author would’ve spoken more on this last point so that we could’ve learned about the structural relationship between the majority Han nationality and minority nationalities in China. For example, the contradiction of nation (Amerikkkka vs the oppressed nations) is principal here in the United $tates. How did similar contradictions get resolved in the PRC? In particular how were these contradictions further elaborated and worked on during the GPCR?
“Apart from their other characteristics, the outstanding thing about China’s 600 million people is that they are ‘poor and blank’. This may seem a bad thing, but in reality it is a good thing. Poverty gives rise to the desire for change, the desire for action and the desire for revolution. On a blank sheet of paper free form any mark, the freshest and most beautiful characters can be written the freshest and most beautiful pictures can be painted.” - Mao Zedong, Introducing A Cooperative, 1958
To understand how Red Flag commune and Half Moon Village came to be developed we must first understand China’s need to raise the quality of life for its majority peasant population. As in any other society quality of life is first measured by the country’s ability to meet its citizen’s basic needs. First among these needs being the government’s ability to feed, clothe and house its citizens. After providing a summary of China’s national liberation and socialist revolution struggles the author dives right into some of the major social issues facing the People’s Republic in the early 1950s’ primarily how does a country of 600 million paupers who are stuck in medieval culture and a feudal economy pull themselves into the 20th century? Chance acknowledges the feat with which China was forced to contend at this critical juncture in its hystory as nearly insurmountable.
Indeed, if China had remained a colony or neo-colony of this or that imperialist empire as say a country like India was at the time and continues as today, then it would have proved insurmountable. As hystory has proven however the Chinese people, with the guidance of Chairman Mao and the Communist Party, were able to lift the mountains of feudalism and imperialism off their backs, and in doing so cleared the way for socialism and communist development to begin.
When learning about socialist experiments of the past it is always common to hear intellectuals and sophists alike speak of the contradiction of a supposed “humyn nature” that will always prevent us from building a society free of poverty, hunger, exploitation and war. And as most academics writing on the subject, Chance does not miss the opportunity of raising the specter of humyn nature. Where Chance departs from this common bourgeois narrative is when he frames the issue of greed and selfishness as originating in the culture prevalent at the time:
“Underlying these conflicts is a fundamental problem in the building of a socialist society – the issue of human nature. If greediness is at the heart of human nature, then the whole idea of socialism is nothing more than a utopia. If on the other hand, human nature involves a dialectical tension between self-interest and social interests, then self-interest can become secondary to the interests of the larger group. Anthropological studies of various societies demonstrate that pure greediness in human behavior is deviant indeed. Rather, individual motivation is strongly shaped by the social and cultural environment. If greed is encouraged and rewarded, it would be considered foolish not to act in a similar fashion. By contrast, if friends and associates strive to act in a helpful, cooperative manner, selfish actions on the part of an individual would likely lead that person to feel ashamed. Even within the competitive, individualistic orientation of Western society, one regularly finds selfless actions by individuals who are willing to risk their personal security for a given cause. Thus in discussing greed and selfishness, the question is not human nature but rather the dominant behavior expected in normal circumstances.” (p7-8)
What’s more the Chinese masses were able to transform their country from the “sick man of Asia” into a strong socialist power in the span of only twenty years. They were able to accomplish this not by force but by persuasion. Compare this to India which started ahead of China, had a higher life expectancy and had a higher per capita than China. It was also 75% peasant like China. Yet China surpassed India in all these areas within one generation – so much for the comparison between socialism and capitalism.(2)
“Our task is to build islands of socialism in a vast sea of individual farming. We are the ones who will have to show the way for the whole country.”(3)
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was able to spearhead the collectivization of agriculture thru their successful mobilization of peasants first into mutual aid teams, then low level elementary agricultural cooperatives.(p4-5) These APC’s were comprised of “20 or more households which pooled their labor, land and small tools for the common benefit.”(p4) These cooperatives not only helped peasants survive, but begin to spurn on the economy in the countryside. With time and success the APC’s began to grow as peasants eagerly joined. According to Chance the only people who hesitated or refused were the “well to do” peasants who saw an end to their standard of living come with the rise of the APCs. At first the government let these rich and middle peasants abstain from joining until of course their abstinence became a hindrance to social development. It was at this time that the Communist Party under the leadership of Chairman Mao “opted for a acceleration of rural collectivization – a Socialist upsurge in the countryside – in which mutual aid teams and low-level co-operatives were to be combined into larger, more advanced units.”(p6) These APCs were but preludes to the Great Leap Forward 1958-1960. The Great Leap Forward was China’s attempt to catch up with the imperialist countries by building up China’s ability to produce grain and steel. Experimentation in farming, animal husbandry and other associated activity were in fact the earliest models in innovation from which experience and rationale knowledge were garnered for and summed up for further practice and experimentation in the city environment. Once the Great Leap forward began the APCs quickly ran their course and became outmoded. The APCs then gave way to the commune movement in the countryside in which the most advanced APCs were consolidated into 42,000 communes.(p8)
In it’s early developmental stages one of the fundamental political lines in the Chinese countryside was to “rely on the poor peasants, unite with the middle peasants, isolate the rich peasants and overthrow the landlords and wipe out feudalism.”(p39) Having put this political line into practice the land was re-distributed “according to the number of persons in the family and the quality of the soil.”(p39) Landlords were treated thusly: their house, animals and tools were divided among everyone. As for the rich peasants the policy was to let them keep whatever they were able to work themselves. Because most peasants were not used to having so much land and were accustomed to only working on small individual plots much land and crops went to waste. After having had time to accumulate and process experience and practice from this the peasants of Half Moon were well on their way to conquering this new social environment. Half Moon as so many other villages within Red Flag became responsible for growing rice, wheat, corn and a variety of vegetables, as well as raising chickens and pigs.(p29-30) On the question of forced collectivization, two old peasants known to have lived in the area of Red Flag prior to redistribution had “nothing to say.” The author insinuates the peasants were afraid to speak out against land distribution and collectivization for fear of reprisals from the government. However, this insinuation is unfounded due to the fact that (1) the peasants interviewed clearly voiced their support for Red Flag commune and the CCP remembering the “bitter years” before revolution, and (2) this interview was conducted in 1979 at a time that collectivization and other socialist policies originally began under Mao were being dismantled throughout China in favor of for-profit enterprise.
Education in the Peoples Republic
Education in the area of Half Moon Village lept from “fairly small” between the decade of the 1950s to the early 1970s when it then spiked to over 90 percent by 1979.(p91) These are surprising numbers for a Third World country, yet it is only another impressive indicator that only a country under socialist construction is truly serving the people. In visiting some of Half Moon’s primary schools Professor Chance found that even in 1979, three years after the capitalist roaders rise to power, certain socialist values were still being upheld in China’s education system even as others were being negated. One example of this could be seen in how peasant children were imbued with a sense of proletarian morality by being taken out of school and into the fields on a daily basis so that they could watch their parents and neighbors work. Children would also be put to work alongside the village engaging in light duty. The children’s work consisted of “husking small ears of corn left behind by their parents… Such activities not only instilled in the student the value of hard work, but also emphasized the importance of being thrifty with what one produced.”(p93)
In another example, the author describes how individualism was still being struggled against at the basic level of education:
“Students continually learned proper behavior from teachers, parents, textbooks, radio, newspapers and television. In all these instances they were encouraged to help each other, care for each other and take each other’s happiness as their own. In contrast activities that caused embarrassment or remarks that emphasized a negative attribute were discouraged. Envision for example, a Chinese child’s participation in a game like musical chairs. In an American school such a game encourages children to be competitive and to look out for themselves. But to young Chinese, the negative aspect was much more noticeable. That is, losers become objects of attention because they had lost their place – and therefore ‘face.’ In China, winning was fun too. But it should not be achieved at the expense of causing someone embarrassment. In all kinds of daily activity, including study as well as games, Chinese children were regularly reminded that they must work hard and be sensitive to the needs of others for only through such effort would their own lives become truly meaningful…”(p94)
Even groups like China’s Young Pioneers, a group similar to the Boy Scouts, taught their members to engage in pro-social activities such as cleaning streets, assisting the elderly and aiding teachers as opposed to the leisure activities which the Boy Scout movement largely concerns itself within the United $tates.
Of course, not everyone in Half Moon was of the same mind politically. One school administrator spoke ill of education in China during the Great Proletarian Revolution (GPCR):
“Education is improving now… Before (meaning during the decade of the Cultural Revolution) the children had no discipline. They didn’t behave properly and couldn’t learn anything. Now that is all changed. We have ten rules and regulations for behavior, and they have settled down. Now they are learning very well.”(p97)
As previously stated, it is logical that this school administrator would consider educational policies a disaster during the GPCR quite simply because his own power and prestige were challenged and negated by revolutionary students. In addition the author also states:
“Both primary and secondary education had expanded significantly throughout the commune by the early 1970s. Much of this activity, closely linked to the educational policies of the Cultural Revolution, emphasized the importance of utilizing local initiative. And indeed many villages had established new primary (and junior middle) schools by using local people and urban-trained”educated youth" to staff them. Wages for these new teachers were largely paid by the villagers themselves, through brigade-based work points. To obtain additional teachers for the new facilities, villages had reduced the earlier system of six-year primary schools to five years – justification for the step being summed up in the slogan “less but better.”
“This dramatic educational effort put forward during the Cultural Revolution brought the benefits of expanded primary and secondary education to many commune youth – a real achievement, given the large increase in population between 1950 and the 1970s. Yet it did so at the expense of improving educational quality. The local primary school director was obviously identifying with the quality side of this equation.”(p98)
Indeed, no period in the hystory of revolutionary China is more despised or has been more besmirched by the enemy classes as that of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. During the GPCR the bourgeoisie witnessed how the masses armed with Maoist philosophy opened up a new offensive against traitorous, revisionist and bureaucratic elements within the CCP itself, and attempts at the restoration of capitalism. This new offensive took the form of criticisms of bourgeois morals, values and ideals. Though seemingly innocent from a first worldist perspective such as our own, if left unchallenged within socialist society these morals, values and ideals become like a virus or disease in the body of socialism. When left untreated they will fester and wreak havoc on their socialist host, interrupting normal function with the very real potential to cause death.
Beginning in 1966 all established facets of life were forced to justify their existence within the new society or risk being relegated to the museum of antiquities. No more would an “experts in command” line be tolerated, in Chinese society whether in enterprise or education. No more would patriarchal rule be considered the natural order of things. Confucianism outside the temple of worship would be forced to contend with scientific method – all reactionary cultural products would be grappled with, criticized and torn asunder. In their place proletarian morality would be erected both as a guide and bulwark to the cause of socialism and the masses.
Later, on pg99 Norman Chance talks about how middle school students began to drop out and how most cases were related in one way or another to economic problems in the countryside. Chance explains that although “80% of all primary school graduates in the commune began middle school less than 30% finished. Of those who did, almost none entered higher education.” Both the “failing” grades and new economic downturn can probably be linked to the restoration of capitalism.
Portrait of An Educated Youth
In socialist China education went beyond the enclosure of the classroom, as society as a whole was treated as a laboratory where people could discuss, debate, experiment and learn from others, not just experts in command. An excellent example of this could be seen in the “sent down educated youth” program which started in the mid 1950s but increased from the early 1960s to 1966 and then “dramatically from 1968-1976 before finally being concluded in late 1979” (p101). During the Cultural Revolution in times of intense political struggle in the country school was suspended so that students could struggle over the issues of the day and have a say in which direction China would go. This is more than can be said of the Amerikan public school system where rote memorization is popularized and children are expected to parrot what they heard and read and punished for leaving school to challenge government policies.
In this section we are introduced to Zhang Yanzi, a young tractor driver in Red Flag who chose to speak to Chance about her experience in the “Going to the Countryside and Settling Down with the Peasants” campaign. Zhang Yanzi recounted how after graduating from middle school she volunteered to go live with the peasants working first at a state farm as an agricultural worker then as a primary school teacher. She was only 16 years old when she took up a teaching position. She admitted to having her reservations about teaching because her parents were school teachers in Beijing and had been criticized by the masses during the Cultural Revolution.(p103) After requesting to be transferred from her teaching position, she ended up working with livestock and later attained a position as a cook.(p103) Zhang finally became a tractor driver in 1976 and was transferred to Red Flag in 1977.(p103)
She spoke about how initially there was great unity between the peasants and the sent down educated youth. This unity however soon began to dissolve after what Zhang describes as “political factionalism” began to develop amongst the older cadre in the commune. Another problem Zhang brought up was that there wasn’t enough concern given to the educated youths’ political development.(p104) It seems that much of what Zhang speaks about was happening in post-Mao China (1977) and it’s somewhat hard to decipher what experiences happened when. For instance, on page 104 she speaks about how enthused at first she was about choosing to go work and live with the peasants in 1966. She speaks about how it was all done on a volunteer basis:
“In the beginning, no pressure was put on anyone to go. It was all on a volunteer basis. Each individual had to pass the ‘Three OKs.’ One was from the actual student, one from the family, and one from the school. If there was any disagreement, then the person wouldn’t go. Even if you hesitated just before climbing on the train you could stay. But we didn’t do that. We were all very enthusiastic.”(p103-104)
In the next two paragraphs however Zhang speaks about how “later the policy was changed” and that families with more than “three educated children had to send two of them to the countryside” and if they didn’t then the parents would be forced to attend study groups and if the parents still didn’t agree then the “neighborhood committees would come out to the street and beat big gongs, hang up ‘big character posters,’ and use other propaganda to persuade you to let your children go.”
Because the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was exactly that, a revolution in culture, it meant that the masses for the first time anywhere in hystory were given free reign to not only grapple and struggle with ideas but to engage in open debate publicly and at the grassroots level without government interference. This is the true meaning of democracy – and so long as violence wasn’t used the masses were left to reach their own conclusions and express themselves freely. It is as Lin Bao correctly stated. “…the mass revolutionary movement is naturally correct; for among the masses, right and left wing deviationist groups may exist, but the main current of the mass movement always corresponds to the development of that society involved and is always correct.”(4)
Critics of the Cultural Revolution, in particular, intellectuals like to portray the GPCR as some kind of punishment for the petty-bourgeois classes in which they were made to endure mental and physical torture at the hands of the Communist Party and hateful peasants. But Zhang who originally lived in Beijing and whose parents were both teachers, paints a much different picture. Admittedly enough, Zhang has her own disagreements with various CCP policies during and after the Cultural Revolution but commune living was not one of them:
“We all ate together in the public dining halls, with some of the older workers. Even though conditions were bad (speaking of the living conditions of the peasants and the weather) they took pretty good care of us, giving us easier jobs and better housing.”(p104)
In that same paragraph Zhang also says that in fact it was the sent down youth who, after a while, began to talk down to and abuse the peasants calling them “country bumpkins,” “dirty” and “uncultured.” She also says that in “units where there were few educated youth, the work was done better, but where they were the majority, the problems became severe.”
The most severe problem to occur at Red Flag during the time Zhang reflects on is an instance in which a corrupt high ranking cadre was discovered to be molesting young girls. This official was said to be virtually untouchable within Red Flag, until the People’s Liberation Army caught wind of these abuses, entered the commune, began an investigation, arrested the official and subsequently executed him. Afterward the situation got better. (p104-105)
All in all, Zhang’s biggest criticism of the GPCR is that there could’ve been more mechanization in Red Flag and that because of the lack thereof much of the commune’s potential in agriculture went to waste. She thought that the sent down educated youth program was sound because it “enabled them (urban youth) to learn more about the good qualities of the peasants and also some production skills.”(p105) Zhang also addresses the bureaucracy. This will however be addressed in the upcoming sections.
In this portion of the book the author focuses on how collectivization and land reform affected the family structure and the patriarchy in Half Moon Village. From control over the fields, tools and animals to wimmin’s empowerment both in the home and the local and central government.
According to the author the focus of this attack in Red Flag was on “Feudal backward patriarchal thinking.”(p130) Although the GPCR was the most progressive social event in world hystory we should not be mistaken to think that the Cultural Revolution simply went on unimpeded.
From a mother-in-law’s perceived rule in the family to the bureaucratic apparatus there were a variety of social forces opposed to true revolutionary change, even in Red Flag.
The Changing Status of Women
Before the start of the GPCR wimmin’s existence in rural China was largely devoted to serving the male’s side of the family according to what was known as the “three obediences and four virtues.” These required a woman to first follow the lead of her father, then her husbands, and on her husband’s death, her son, and to be “virtuous in morality, proper speech, modesty and diligent work.”(p134)
One peasant womyn recounts her experience to the author explaining how prior to the revolution she was given away as a child bride, beaten, starved and made to engage in forced labor at the hands of her husband and her husband’s family. After 1949 however the Communist Party began the arduous task of doing away with the old system thru the enactment of wimmin’s rights in a country where wimmin were by and large still considered property according to the old kinship system. Beginning with the Marriage Law of 1950, which required free choice in marriage by both partners, guaranteed monogamy, and establishing the right of women to work, and obtain a divorce without necessarily losing their children. This law when combined with the Land Reform Movement Act, which gave women the right to own land in their own name, did much to challenge the most repressive features of the old family system.(p137)
Social relations in Red Flag during the 1950s, 60s and 70s reveal a complex effort by the CP to simultaneously transform China economically and liberate wimmin. Because capitalism developed under congealed patriarchal social conditions, and ideology arises out of the superstructure, this means that even in a socialist society the ideology of the oppressor does not dissipate overnight. Rather, a cultural revolution must be set into effect so that the masses and society as a whole can learn to struggle against backward, reactionary and oppressive thinking. Therefore it should not be surprising to find out that when wimmin first attempted to assert their rights in the new society there were some who did not approve and attempted to put wimmin “back in their place.” To some, especially idealists, this will seem difficult to understand, but revolution is never easy and at root requires scientifically guided struggle at all levels of society. And so to many Western academics and so-called “observers” it would’ve seemed that wimmin’s rights were being subsumed into the wider socialist (and male dominated) framework. But before we get too discouraged with China’s inability to meet our idealistic standards, we should remember that revolutionary struggle always requires determining and working to resolve the principal contradiction, to which all other contradictions become temporarily relegated. This is different than subsuming which requires the glossing over of contradictions or cooptation. It would therefore seem that this is also how the Communist Party saw it. Therefore they could enact land reform, marriage laws and divorce laws which recognized wimmin’s democratic rights, but they also had to be aware of the fact that land reform, agriculture and industry were of the highest priority during this period. If China was unable to develop its productive forces in conjunction with changing social relations then all would be lost. Yes land reform was enacted, and yes wimmin were finally given democratic and bourgeois liberal rights which in semi-feudalist society were revolutionary. But socialist revolution proceeds in stages and it is ultra-left to believe that the patriarchy would not put up a fight and that some concessions would not have to temporarily be made. Ultimately this is why cultural revolution is necessary, to criticize and build public opinion against the old ruling class in preparation for the following stage of revolution.
Even with such reactionary ideas still being propagated wimmin’s conditions were elevated exponentially. Testament to this being the fact that in 1978, 3,037 young wimmin students were enrolled in junior middle school in Red Flag compared to 3,202 males, while 1,035 wimmin were enrolled in senior middle school compared to 859 males in Red Flag.(p101) “In 1977, there had been six women members, out of a village total of fifteen members, of whom one had been the party secretary.”(p44) In addition, let us not forget Jiang Qing, great revolutionary leader who helped spark the GPCR, one of the most influential and powerful people in China; neither should we forget the countless other revolutionary wimmin of China who without their participation in revolutionary struggle China’s liberation would not have been possible. With the restoration of capitalism however, most of the progress made in the arena of wimmin’s rights were reversed or negated with the exception of some democratic rights which mostly the petty-bourgeoisie and the bourgeois classes who reside in the urban centers are still privy to. China’s countryside however has seen a resurgence in female slavery since the restoration of capitalism.(5)
Among other reversals in socialism which the author documents is a perversion of China’s barefoot doctor’s program which the social fascists used to depopulate the masses. Here the author speaks about how barefoot doctors and wimmin’s federations “introduced system of material incentives to reduce births, pregnant Half Moon peasant women at that time could receive five yuan in cash and have several days off from work if they agreed to abort their unborn child. Counseling women on such matters was the responsibility of the local women’s federation. Technical medical questions were handled by barefoot doctors in consultation with the federation.”(p142)
“Becoming Rich is Fine” and A Decade of Change
These are the concluding chapters in China’s Urban Villagers and they are very interesting as well as disappointing in the fact that they really document China’s about face in building socialism. Perhaps they can be both summed up in Xiao Cai’s (a young wimmin in charge of foreign affairs at Red Flag) statement to professor Chance: “you know, it’s all right to become rich… I mean that individuals and families can work hard for their own benefit. If they make money at it, that’s fine. They won’t be criticized any more for being selfish.”(p151)
Emphasis on getting rich came thru the “Four Modernizations” campaign which emphasized developing the productive forces while negating production relations in the economy and social relations in society. In popularizing this campaign the revisionists stated that “collective effort must be linked to individual initiative” and that the GPCR “was an appalling disaster.”(p152) These criticisms expressed the class outlook of the bourgeoisie in the party and their attempts to convince the broad masses that “the political extremism of the Cultural Revolution” offered a “simplistic notion of capitalism” and “unfairly labeled people as capitalist roaders.”(p152) The outcome being “a large decrease in individual and household sideline activities, to the detriment of China’s overall economic development.”(p152)
In reality however, nothing could be further from the truth. While the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution were not without their mistakes, both the GLF and GPCR marked profound shifts in both the development of socialism as well as the overall development of the humyn social relations not seen since the development of classes themselves. Furthermore, the GLF and GPCR offered the masses insight into the unraveling of contradictions on a hystoric level. Thru participation in the Great Leap the masses learned what it was to engage in industrial production as well as how to innovate traditional farming techniques by utilizing collective effort in combination with proletarian thinking.(3) By their participation in the GPCR the revolutionary masses learned what it was to both gain unprecedented insight into the advance towards communism and the unraveling of contradictions prevalent in socialist society. Thru this experimentation the masses contributed not only to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as the science of revolution, but to the development of rational knowledge as well.
Other reversals in socialism in Red Flag were made apparent when officials in Beijing issued an order to China’s commune to “de-collectivize” the land and privatize most plots. Opposition to this privatization was fairly strong in Red Flag even though its residents weren’t as politically educated as others, they still clung to the memory of the hardships common in the countryside before the revolution. In particular they were well aware that it was only thru collective strength and revolutionary leadership that they were able to overcome such difficulties. Thus, they began to openly fear class polarization as they rightly began to recognize that some peoples “rice bowls” had gotten bigger than others. Especially when it came to party officials.
As time went on, many in Red Flag began to get a new understanding of what Mao spoke about before his death concerning the revisionists and the return to capitalism.
By the mid-1980s exploitation in China had returned full-force and no-one could deny or claim ignorance to what was happening except for perhaps the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie. As a part of the so-called “responsibility system” initiated under the traitor Deng Xiaoping “separate households and even individuals, could contract with production teams and brigades to produce their grain, vegetables, and other agricultural goods on specific plots of brigade land divided up for that purpose.”(p161) The inevitable result of all this was that migrant peasant workers began to be sought out to work Half Moon’s individually owned plots. The result? Deplorable oppressive conditions for hundreds of thousands of peasants from poorer regions of China who began arriving in Beijing’s agricultural suburbs:
“It looks like a prison labor camp to me” commented one visitor on seeing Half Moon’s migrant worker dormitories “After spending all day in the fields these poor peasants return to their dorms in the evening only to be doled out a bare minimum of food – lots of grains but not many vegetables. Once the harvest is over, they are paid a small wage by the manager and then head back to Henan, Hebei, or whatever province they came from. It’s highly exploitative.”(p166)
Due to a return to capitalism by 1985, China was again forced to import grain, something unheard of since the natural catastrophes that occurred towards the end of the Great Leap Forward. During this time corrupt party officials’ greed reached new heights as they enriched themselves at the expense of the masses thru their manipulation of the national economy and exploitation of workers and peasants thru their access and control of the means of production. Some of the frustration of the people was captured in an interview of a party member by professor Chance in 1988. Although the quote is much too lengthy to feature here the party member was very critical of the capitalist roaders. This is part of what he had to say:
“Some people feel the nature of the party and the state has changed. The change first appeared in the late 1960s and 1970s when the power and authority, rather than representing the interests of the people came to represent those in power. This process took some time to unfold. But now it is quite clear what Mao meant when he warned us about the danger of capitalist roaders…. You don’t know how hard it was for us to figure out what was going on. Mao tried time and time again to weed out the capitalist roaders, but still he failed. Now people don’t know what to do…. Since Mao came along many years ago and saved China from the mess it was in, someone else will come along someday and save us from the mess we are in today…”(p173)
In fact, contrary to what this “Communist” Party member has to say, many of the problems with the bourgeoisie in the party first surfaced during the Great Leap forward 1958-1961 and were illuminated for us by Mao and his followers prior to the Cultural Revolution. In fact, during the Great Leap Forward political struggles and factionalism were already taking place in China’s factories and industrial centers between those wishing to keep expert-in-command and those wanting the masses to take the lead in production. Furthermore, this party member is in error when he places Mao as a great individual whose responsibility it was to save China. Yes Mao was a great revolutionary leader, but he would’ve been the first to point out that the masses were responsible for controlling their own destiny. Afterall this is why the GPCR was initiated.
The student movement at Tiananmen Square is also addressed in which the author chronicles the events leading up to the political repression and massacre of the students. The demands of the protesters ranged from a return to socialism to freedom of the press and a desire to turn to Western style capitalism and democracy. The revisionist CCP, fearing an uprising by the masses, ordered the People’s Liberation Army to fire on the protesters. On 3 June 1989, 8,000 troops, tanks and armored personnel carriers entered the outskirts of Tienanmen and began firing on protesters and city residents alike. Discussion in Half Moon over the protests and political repression and Tiananmen brought mixed reviews.
“Based on their past knowledge and experience, most villagers found it inconceivable that the PLA would fire on the protesters. Even during the height of the Cultural Revolution, the army had gone unarmed into the colleges and universities, where the worst fighting had occurred. But when several factory workers reported that the army had fired on crowds at street corners, the tenor of the conversation began to change.”(p182)
Close enough to Beijing to have participated in the rebellion (and indeed some Red Flag students and other villagers did participate), Half Moon residents were brought under investigation by authorities. Most were eventually cleared.
In short, contradictions in China since the return of capitalism have once again created the conditions for a new revolutionary upsurge. With China’s economic emulation of the so-called “economic miracles” of the South-East: Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong (also knowns as the “Four Tigers” or the “Four Dragons”) contradictions in China have once again created the conditions for a new revolutionary upsurge. In relation to this point the author ends this book with the following:
“Implicit in this proposal is the assumption that by emphasizing privatization and a market driven economy, China too can achieve a similar prosperity. However, those four nations that were able to break out of Third World poverty were small, were on the Asian periphery, and were the beneficiaries of two large Asian wars financed by America. There is little reason to assume that a market-driven economic system will enable China to repeat the process. Much more probable is a return to a neo-colonial status with small islands of prosperity and corruption on the coasts and with stagnation in the hinterland – a sure formula for future revolutionary upheavals.”(p187)