The deeply appreciated efforts of MIM inspire me to see with a different view the same circumstances. Let's look at the current election:
Both candidates have an utterly failed platform. The Amerikkkan elections are about Amerikkkan hegemony; keeping Amerikkka the richest and most militant/violent nation on earth.
There is no revolutionary voice or worthy candidate. Have we heard anyone say "All the wealth of the world belongs to all the people of the world?" That's the revolutionary voice.
Have we heard any candidate say "The goal of humynity, including politics, is to solve the problems of hunger, lack of shelter, cure diseases and end oppression across the globe. Politics is NOT meant to exploit people beyond national borders or to see that we have 'more and better.'" If you heard such a speech you heard a revolutionary voice.
Have you heard a candidate say "This is my plan to assist other nations to work in harmony with us to end world hunger, child mortality, lack of medicine and education, and dire poverty. Some candidates speak of the upper 1%, but I'm here to tell you that if you live in the United $tates you are the upper 13%. It's past time for us to see all people as our family. The Haitian in the slum is your sister, my sister. The Nepalese man living in the street is our father. The infant who died in Bangladesh from a treatable fever is our daughter, yes, one of us humyns."
When you hear that voice, then vote. Until then, ignore the candidates and work together for the day when your political power comes from the barrel of a gun.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade nicely summarizes where our priorities should be as world citizens: focused on ending oppression for people suffering under imperialism around the world. We know that the capitalists will not peacefully give up the power they use to generate great wealth from the majority of the world's people. In fact, even after a communist revolution that seizes the government for the interests of the world's oppressed, we can expect that the former bourgeoisie, and even some new bourgeois recruits, will attempt to take back their wealth and power and they will need to be kept down with force until they can be re-integrated as productive members of society.
We call this phase of the revolution the Dictatorship of the Proletariat because it still involves a government with power over people, but that government is acting in the interests of the proletariat, unlike our current government which is really a Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie. There will be a long period of socialism while we remould society and our culture to educate people in treating others humanely and working for the greater good rather than for individual gain at the expense of others. During this process we can expect to see a new bourgeoisie attempt to take power from the proletariat, as their goal and culture will not disappear overnight.
We learn much from looking at the histories of the Soviet Union and China under socialism, both about this bourgeois counterrevolution and the cultural revolutions necessary to build towards communism. In imperialist elections we recognize that changing the face of the government doesn't change the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and we stay focused insist on overthrowing this dictatorship rather than adjusting the makeup hiding its evil face.
This year's election reminds me of the 1980 Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter neo-conservative presidential campaign. We have Donald Trump, the competitive imperialist bizzness mogul. Now we must ask ourselves, since we have lesser of the two evils, what is it that we as a nation want as a leader? But I find myself not liking or feeding into the rhetoric of both candidates, Trump or Clinton. Hillary Clinton favors exploitation of Third World international proletariat. Both Trump and Clinton have no solutions for the oppressed nations here in the United $tates or abroad. As senator Sanders pointed out, Clinton is in the pockets of big bankers and Wall Street. And Trump seizes the opportunity to expand his ego and exploit more oppressed nations, by building casinos, resorts and handing out slave wages to the proletarians of that land.
But what are the solutions to our problems in this capitalistic culture? One solution which needs to be addressed is a separate party which would be for the people and by the people. We must not allow the media to downgrade socialism. Socialism and a socialist party in the United Snakes of America is a must. We have to overstand what socialism is and what it can do for oppressed nations here in America. Bringing equality to all people, and ending global imperialism. But this brings me to Bernie Sanders. His rhetoric of free education and universal health care sounds good, but if you are going to support socialist ideas, then you must go all the way and build a socialist party, and not allow the two party system of Amerikkka to stigmatize socialist views and its persistent hopefulness.
As long as the wings of establishment support imperialism we will never get close to fruition of socialism. But what really upsets me is that New Africans in America sell out to capitalistic rhetoric by upholding or embracing bourgeois cultural propaganda. This is why the title “lesser of two evils” is used for this essay on the awakening of the lumpen to class consciousness.
There are so many contradictions within Donald Trump's “Let's make America great again” slogan. First and foremost, we must overstand what made so-called Amerikkka great. Stealing land and demoralizing the First Nations. Denying them culture and their own way of life. Enslaving New Africans, or might I say oppression of all people of color who do not represent white supremacy. That Trump slogan alone is a subliminal white supremacist statement. Making those who support the labor aristocracy continue and support efforts to exploit the white lumpen and the people or nations of oppressed people of color. Creating more wars, and war on the revolutionaries who will stand up to imperialism. And I can’t forget about Hillary Clinton who will continue where her husband left off. She was a supporter of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton. And we have the nerve to say oh she's for New Africans. I must conclude that what we have in this election is lesser of the two evils, Trump vs. Hillary. Capitalism vs. mass incarceration.
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is on the right track in condemning the Amerikan election system as a tool to reinforce imperialist power. There is no choice for the truly oppressed and exploited of the world. In fact, the vast majority of those exploited by Amerikan imperialism aren't even eligible to vote in these elections because they aren't Amerikan citizens.
We agree that the lumpen should be paying attention to this election and using it to raise class consciousness, but we're not in agreement with the implication that Bernie Sanders represents socialist ideas. In fact, he is just the other side of the Donald Trump "Let's make America great again" coin. Both want to increase the wealth for the Amerikan labor aristocracy which can only come at the expense of the exploited Third World proletariat. Even if Sanders spreads those super profits around a bit more, that doesn't help the oppressed majority of the world. Sanders supports the same aggressive militarist international policies of all the other imperialist candidates: “We live in a dangerous world full of serious threats, perhaps none more so than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Qaeda. Senator Sanders is committed to keeping America safe, and pursuing those who would do Americans harm.”(1)
The problem isn't just that Sanders doesn't support an independent socialist party, the problem is that Sanders is muddying the word socialist, just like the "national socialists" (aka fascists) in Germany did in their day. This is not a word meant to ensure greater wealth for privileged nations at the expense of oppressed nations. And while it's possible Sanders could pursue a policy of greater advancement for the oppressed nations within U.$. borders, this would only serve to expand the ranks of the labor aristocracy on the backs of oppressed nations globally. We cannot support that sort of rhetoric.
MIM(Prisons) maintains that it is possible one day Amerika will fully integrate the oppressed New Afrikan, [email protected], Boriqua and First Nations like the Irish, Italians and others who initially faced oppression but later fully integrated into Amerikan society. This could even be done by shifting around some money from within imperialist Amerika. But judging from the popularity of the overtly fascist rallying cries from Trump and eir ilk, it seems more likely that national oppression abroad will continue to engender national oppression and racism at home.
This election is important for lumpen consciousness within Amerikan borders because it would be easy to be taken in by the Sanders rhetoric. Or to be frightened by the Trump rhetoric. And so be moved to rally around “the lesser of two evils” campaign to get on the streets working for the “Democratic Party.” But the lumpen class consciousness needs to be tied to internationalism. We need to diligently point out the suffering of the international proletariat at the hands of imperialism, which is the same oppressor keeping the lumpen down. The alliance should be between these two oppressed groups, against the imperialists. Not between the lumpen and the so-called left wing of the imperialists against the international proletariat. Our job as communists is to push the oppressed and exploited classes to the right side of this equation: the side of the world's oppressed.
When the Black Panther Party's Ten Point Program included: “We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like Black people, are being victimized by the White racist government of America” they were demonstrating this internationalist class consciousness, specifically in the context of the Vietnam War. This writer is correct that we will never get close to socialism within the imperialist establishment. But we disagree that there is actually a lesser of two evils in any imperialist election, or a choice between imperialism and mass incarceration. These things go hand in hand, and one side's rhetoric benefits some Amerikans more while the other side would benefit a slightly different group of Amerikans, while the white nation remains firmly in power, and the wealth continues to come from the exploited in the Third World.
[While MIM(Prisons) expressed cautious optimism following the election of Chokwe Lumumba, we questioned his electoral strategy and stressed a clearer definition of dual power (see ULK 33). Unfortunately, failure seems to have struck more suddenly than we could have expected. In the piece below, PTT of MIM(Prisons) has woven updates on the campaign in Jackson into excerpts from commentary by Loco1.]
On 22 April 2014, Chokwe Antar Lumumba lost the mayoral election in Jackson, Mississippi to Councilman Tony Yarber in a run-off. Chokwe Antar's father, Chokwe Lumumba, was inaugurated as the mayor of Jackson on 1 July 2013, and died 25 February 2014 from "heart failure." Since our last report, those close to Lumumba had indicated that an independent autopsy was going forward, but results, or information on whether an independent autopsy was conducted, are not readily available. In Under Lock & Key 37, we raised suspicion over the cause of the Mayor's death in a country where New Afrikan leaders are regularly murdered by the state with impunity.
As the electoral strategy of the former New Afrikan revolutionary ended prematurely, some comrades are raising the question of whether the nation would have really sown the seeds of progress for New Afrikan self-determination into the heart of Mississippi, had Mayor Lumumba or Chokwe Antar served the full term. We assert that when New Afrikans fail to realistically distinguish themselves from Afrikan-Amerikans, it is impossible to break from Black capitalism to form a new society centered around humyn need.
One limitation Mayor Lumumba's death raises in the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement's strategy of entering electoral politics is the vulnerability of elected candidates. Lumumba wanted to build a movement based in the people, but electoral politics necessitates focus on individuals as leaders and representatives of the masses. In the context of joining the Amerikan political machine, winning electoral campaigns amounts to putting a Black face on Amerikan capitalism. Before his death, Mayor Lumumba was planning to put $1.7 billion onto the streets of Jackson. "The intent is to improve the city’s infrastructure, support businesses and, in a first, rehab some Black neighborhoods."(1) A keen eye can see that building revolutionary education centers is not on the top of this list, if it's on there at all. We agree with Mr. Lumumba that the people are smart. But if they are fed a false idealism of an end to oppression under capitalism, then their opposition to the Amerikan imperialist global machine will be limited. In fact, it is more likely that their ties to Amerika will even be increased, as the benefits from the spoils of imperialism are redistributed in their favor. Without real people's control of wealth, that $1.7 billion raised by Mayor Lumumba is easily redirected by a suspicious death and a defeat in a run-off election.
The people of Jackson hope to continue building this movement for Black capitalism in their city, and Chokwe Anton invited all small business owners, enterpreneurs, prospective business owners, and people seeking new and innovative employment/ownership opportunities to attend the Jackson Rising conference that was held on May 2-4.(2) As communists, we are definitely seeking new and innovative employment/ownership opportunities! But as internationalists, we seek these opportunities for all the world's people. We don't want worker-owned cooperatives for ourselves built from wealth scraped off the backs of the Third World. We know truly innovative employment/ownership opportunities can't come without civil war and an overthrow of capitalism. Success in electoral politics can stifle progress in a revolutionary direction if politics aren't in command.
The late Mayor Lumumba is reported in an interview with the Nation of Islam in The Final Call newspaper as saying, “our predominately Black administrations can actually do better – to provide security to everybody, prosperity to everybody on a fair basis, and, of course, we're going to be vigilant against the cheaters – but we think we can do a better job. We're talking about the new society, the new way, and that's a lot of what New Afrika was about.” To claim that New Afrikans will do a better job at playing the Amerikan economic game amounts to Black chauvinism and racism. We are products of our society. What is it that New Afrikans can do better than whites: hate, steal, cheat, kill, lie, destroy and oppress? The U.$. President is Black and we still witness New Afrikan and [email protected] youth targeted by police for death in the United $tates. Working within electoral politics will do nothing to change Amerika's impact on the majority of the world's people. Mayor Lumumba stated “We are impressed with the need to protecting everyone's human rights.” But this can't be done when the nationalist leaders are so misdirected that they can't see that there is nothing in U.$. politicians' offices but documents with the names of the billions of humyn beings murdered as a result of foreign policy, or low-intensity warfare operations jumping off in the U.$. semi-colonies. The electoral struggle in Jackson highlights the differences between bourgeois nationalism and nationalism with proletarian ideology.
The U.$. internal semi-colonies' greatest connection to the reality of the global contradiction in relation to their own material condition is the lumpen, incarcerated and criminalized across the state. The lumpen are most capable for the vehicular mechanism for transforming the shift of imperialist control to proletarian control with real state power, by leading national liberation struggles to free us from Amerika. Lumpen hold no stake or stock in capitalism and have way more interest in abolishing its control over the people than the bourgeois nationalists. The Jackson Plan would like to turn all these lumpen into labor aristocrats rather than vehicles for overthrowing capitalism.
The lumpen, particularly prisoners, will have to understand that there is no future in placing higher values on profits than the welfare of humyn life/needs. The Amerikan pie has to be completely disposed of and the land redistributed fairly. Period. You get what you need. Nothing more, nothing less.
If we gonna move, let's move the world. Revolutionary nationalism, with a proletarian ideology, is the key to any oppressed nation's self-determination and self-governance, or simply put national independence. If New Afrikans are to have any chance at such, they will first have to separate themselves from Black Amerika and move to the tune of the proletariat. Chokwe Lumumba had a gift and will be missed dearly by all who value his mind, but he appeared better in his dashiki and afro. “Rather than going to church and yelling and screaming about it, rather than bad mouth the youth, my plan is to engage the youth,” quoting the former Mayor. This begs the question, how does this transpire from behind a desk that is responsible for the city's youth being carted away to prison and jail facilities?
8 March 2014, Jackson, MS — Today hundreds attended the funeral service for Mayor Chokwe Lumumba who died after just eight months in office. His son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, eulogized his father. He has also announced his plans to run in an April 8 election to replace his father as Mayor of Jackson.
Days before his death Chokwe was sick with a cold. On 25 February, he was pronounced dead of "natural causes," with local officials claiming it was heart failure. But family requests for an autopsy were denied. His family is working with the National Caucus of Black Lawyers to fund an independent autopsy. Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam has offered to put up the money for the autopsy.(1)
Chokwe Lumumba was a leading figure in the struggle for the liberation of New Afrika since the founding of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika in 1968. He went on to launch and work with organizations such as the New Afrikan Peoples' Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. As a lawyer he fought many historic cases for New Afrikan humyn rights in the United $tates. He represented Assata Shakur, Tupac Shakur and the Scott sisters, to name a few.
Many close to Lumumba are questioning his sudden death, following his election in a state with a long history of murdering New Afrikans. In our report on his election, we questioned his ability to build dual power in Mississippi in line with the New Afrikan Liberation Movement from within the city government. We pointed out that true dual power must have an independent base of force from which to defend itself. Only an independent autopsy can tell whether this was a case of political assassination, brutally proving that very point. Whatever the cause of death, it was quite untimely for such a leading national liberation figure who just won a major election. We will continue to watch the developments in Jackson where young New Afrikans must prove themselves as determined as Lumumba and so many others of his generation who fought for socialism and national independence for New Afrika.
After a year under the elected rule of President Mohamed Morsi, in June and July the Egyptian people once again took to the streets to protest a government that was not serving their interests. Back in 2011 the Egyptian people successfully took down Hosni Mubarak and forced the country's first elections for President. As we wrote at that time in ULK 19: "The Egyptian people forced President Mubarak out of the country, but accepted his replacement with the Supreme Council of the Military — essentially one military dictatorship was replaced by another. One of the key members of this Council is [Omar] Sueliman, the CIA point man in the country and head of the Egyptian general intelligence service. He ran secret prisons for the United $tates and persynally participated in the torturing of those prisoners." But the Egyptian people were not fooled, and they rightfully took to the streets to force further change this summer. Still, we do not see clear proletarian leadership of the protests, and instead the U.$.-funded military is again stepping in to claim the mantle and pretend to represent the people.
Morsi is widely considered "Egypt's first democratically elected president." Prior to the elections in 2012 the country was led by an elected parliament and an unelected President, Hosni Mubarak, a former general who took power after the assassination of his predecessor in 1981. But it's important to consider what "democratically elected" really means. Democratic elections presume that the people in a country have the ability to participate freely, without coercion, and that all candidates have equal access to the voting population. Most elections in the world today do not actually represent democracy. In many countries dominated by Amerikan imperialism, there are elections, but we do not call these democratic, because it is not possible for candidates without lots of money and the backing of one imperialist interest or another to win. When democracy gets out of imperialist control and an anti-imperialist candidate does participate and win, they better have military power to back them up or they will be quickly murdered or removed by military force (see "Allende in Chile" or "Lumumba in the Congo"). We should not just assume that people participating in a balloting exercise represents democracy for the people.
There are some key political reasons why Morsi won the presidential election in 2012. Representing the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi was well educated and spent several years getting a doctorate in the United $tates and teaching at University in the 1980s. He is certainly not one of the 40% of the Egyptian population living on less than $2 a day.(1) The Muslim Brotherhood has long been a well organized activist group, which despite being banned by the government from participating in Parliamentary elections was allowed to organize on the streets as a counterforce to progressive anti-imperialist parties that faced complete repression.(2) Demonstrating the advantage it had over other banned organizations, the Muslim Brotherhood put together the most effective electoral campaign after Mubarak fell. It is telling that the runoff in the presidential election was between Morsi and Ahmed Shafiz, the prime minister under Hosni Mubarak, and the vote was close. Essentially the election was between a representative of the status quo that had just been overthrown, and a candidate who promised to be different but represented a conservative religious organization.
The military has once again stepped in to the vacuum created by the mass protests demanding the removal of President Morsi, pretending to be defending the interests of the people. This position by the military is no surprise after Morsi, in August, stripped the military of any say in legislation and dismissed his defense minister. The military selected the leader of the Supreme Constitutional Court to serve as interim president after Morsi stepped down. Morsi still enjoys significant support among the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt who continue to take to the streets to demand that he be freed from military prison and returned to power.
The Egyptian military actually has a long history of institutional power. In 1981, after Mubarak took power, the military expanded with the help of Amerikan aid. This aid came as a sort of bribe, as up until the 1977 peace accord Egypt had been attempting to lead an Arab resistance to Israel's occupation of Palestine, a cause the people of Egypt continue to support to this day. Since then the military has remained one of the top receivers of U.$. military aid, second only to Israel itself, until 2001 when Afghanistan became the largest. The armed forces in Egypt used this economic power to take up significant economic endeavors entering into private business with factories, hotels and valuable real estate.(3) It is clever leadership that allows the military to divorce itself from failed leadership of Egypt time and again while acting behind the scenes to ensure that only those individuals they support, who will carry out their will, gain the presidency. This is not a democracy. And the leadership of the armed forces will continue to serve their Amerikan masters, not the will of the people, as General el-Sisi is once again claiming.
MIM(Prisons) supports the interests of the masses of Egyptian people as they ally with the interests of the world's majority who are exploited by imperialism. We praise their ongoing activism in taking to the streets when the government is not meeting their needs. But we can learn from history that deposing one figurehead does not make for revolutionary change. Fundamental change will require an overthrow of the entire political institution in Egypt that is dependent on U.$. imperialism. And while President Nasser offered an independent road for Egypt during the anti-colonial era following WWII, true independence requires the full mobilization and participation of the masses in creating a new system based on need and not profit.
It is a truth in humyn history that those with the guns and power will not voluntarily step aside, but they will make cosmetic changes to try to fool the masses into complacency. We call on the Egyptian people, who have repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice for the movement, not to be fooled and not to allow electoral politics to drain their momentum. The military is not on your side, and neither are any of the branches of the existing government. Seize the power you have demonstrated in the streets and build for fundamental, revolutionary change to a government that actually serves the people and not the elite.
Chokwe Lumumba — lawyer, activist, Vice President of the Republic of New Afrika, and cofounder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) — was elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi on 4 June 2013 with 87% of the votes. Accounting for 80% of the population, Jackson is the second Blackest city in the United $tates. Mississippi is the Blackest state with 35% of its voters being New Afrikan.(1)
Even though the rate of white voter turnout was more than twice that of New Afrikans, and some 90% of whites supported the other guy, Lumumba came out victorious.(1) All of these facts support the decision of the MXGM to focus on building a base of power within New Afrika in Jackson, Mississippi. However, elections themselves cannot be a tool for liberation or independence, and the only cases where MIM(Prisons) might promote them would be for tactical victories. This election was part of a strategic plan that MXGM released almost a year ago.
This plan states:
"The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) firmly believes that at this stage in the struggle for Black Liberation that the movement must be firmly committed to building and exercising what we have come to regard as 'dual power' — building autonomous power outside of the realm of the state (i.e. the government) in the form of People's Assemblies and engaging electoral politics on a limited scale with the express intent of building radical voting blocks and electing candidates drawn from the ranks of the Assemblies themselves."(2)
The idea of the oppressed nations building organizations that are independent of and not funded by the state can be a controversial issue in this country. While there is nothing illegal or inherently threatening about organizing independent from the state, Amerikans rely on repression in order to prevent the self-determination of the oppressed nations. If the oppressed nations are to break free from imperialism's choke hold, it will threaten the luxurious lifestyles of the average Joe the plumber who lives off the wealth of oppressed nations abroad. We saw one example of this mentality among Amerikans when recent issues of Under Lock & Key were censored in North Carolina specifically citing as the justification the fifth point of the United Front for Peace in Prisons — Independence.
While "independence" is a fairly broad term used to define a thing in relation to another thing, "dual power" has a much more specific meaning to Marxists. Independence on its own does not constitute the establishment of "dual power." When MXGM uses the term "dual power" they appear to really be talking about parallel strategies of community organizing and electoral politics.
The condition of dual power actually exists when there is an emerging state coming up against an existent, and dying state. This, of course, is the product of class struggle, the motive force of history. In discussing Engels' ideas in defining what state power is, Lenin wrote:
"What does this power mainly consist of? It consists of special bodies of armed men having prisons, etc., at their command. ... A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power."(3)
Dual, of course meaning two, would imply that you would have two different political structures with their own police, army and prisons, etc. in order to have dual power. Such a situation would mean that a civil war had begun. When Lenin first coined the term in 1917 he was speaking of the emerging Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies that would seize state power later that same year.(4) Certainly this is not the condition in Mississippi today.
MXGM recognizes their electoral efforts are limited, and considers them one pillar of their strategy of building political power in the region that is separate from their work to build autonomous structures (People's Assemblies).(2) But these People's Assemblies are not parallel to the Soviets in 1917 or the liberated zones in China in 1948 or even the countless regions in the world today where power is held by emerging states (see Palestine, India, Colombia, the Philippines, etc).
Within the context of oppressed nation territory, there is an argument to be made for engaging in electoral politics as a step towards building one's base. While the Lumumba campaign has a clear connection to revolutionary nationalism, it is not based in proletarian ideology. Revolutionary nationalism can come in different class forms. The lack of proletarian ideology leads them to succumb to populism. Populism threatens New Afrikan independence because of the economic pull of U.$. imperialism. With "economic development" as part of his political platform, it seems hard for Lumumba to avoid playing the role of bribing his own people with superprofits won from imperialism. This is one reason it is hard to justify supporting electoral work except to make tactical gains.
The MXGM economic program, the "third pillar" of their Jackson Plan, focuses on cooperative economics and building green economies. Such a strategy does not confront the structure of capitalism, but is a concession to petty bourgeois idealism. As long as capitalism exists people are either exploited or exploiters, so all efforts should be on exposing the need to end that system rather than white-washing it with co-ops and eco-friendly operations. There is no example in history of building new economic systems that effectively challenged capitalism without first establishing true dual power. Therefore if dual power is not feasible in our conditions, these economic strategies become reformist at best. We are better off struggling to maintain our political independence at this stage.
While running for and being elected Mayor limits Chokwe Lumumba politically, the public release of the Jackson-Kush Plan a year prior means that his landslide victory represents a majority of New Afrikans in Jackson who are at least open to the idea that political independence from Amerika is in the interests of their nation. Establishing that fact in the eyes of the New Afrikan masses is one small victory on the road to New Afrikan liberation. But electoral politics are a feeble bridge. The more people rely on it to reach liberation, the sooner it will fall out beneath them. Unless the bridge is strengthened with correct revolutionary theory, it will be doomed to leave the New Afrikan masses on the wrong side of history.
Lots of attention is being given to counting prisoners in the political arena, why?
Because census counts add prisoner population numbers to the community where the prison is located, more and more incarcerated inner city residents are being used to strengthen the economically weak areas of rural Amerika. More prisoners means more jobs, more government money and more political power.
Prisons, which were once eschewed have become a boom for many small towns. Cheap land and willing residents make these isolated communities the perfect location for this country's growing number of human warehouses.
Census numbers determine such things as highway funding, fire stations, hospitals, medicaid, foster care, rehab-services, schools and parks just to name a few. Most of these benefits will never be seen by prisoners. Prisoners are a lucrative commodity in the census game.
State officials are quick to cite the benefits of prisons in economically depressed communities. Government aid, indigent medical care, energy assistance, and revenue sharing are just a few of the selling points.
The majority of the nation's prison population is either Black or Latino. Locating these unwilling residents in a small, predominantly white towns fundamentally shifts the balance of political power through the redistricting process. It is not just federal money that follows us out of our community, it is political power as well.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This prison-based gerrymandering is a problem that has been extensively documented by the Prison Policy Institute who explain: "The Bureau counts incarcerated people as residents of the towns where they are confined, though they are barred from voting in 48 states and return to their homes after being released. The practice also defies most state constitutions and statutes, which explicitly state that incarceration does not change a residence."
Unlike the PPI, we don't prioritize the fight to change the Census Bureau policies. The push for reform is insidious in the implication that we can improve capitalist democracy to make elections and government programs actually serve the people. But this is a good example of the hidden forms of white power that are executed through the state to this day in 2013. While oppressed nations are disproportionately disenfranchised of the vote in Amerikan democracy, white communities use these prisoners to skew financial resources away from the oppressed nations to themselves. This, of course, is only possible because of national oppression earlier on in the process where law enforcement targets oppressed nation communities, while drug use in white communities goes on with little interference. Such types of oppression and manipulation are inherent in a capitalist system.
The president, commander-in-chief of the greatest empire on earth, the U$A, gave the yearly "state of the union" on February 12, 2013, as required by the U.$. constitution.
Funny thing is that while I sit in prison and know first hand that what he says is crap, I couldn't help laughing at the contradictions in his speech. Let's start off with this: "...kept the promises we made." Well, let's go to the obvious and talk how the U.$. broke most, actually all, of its treaties with the First Nations. They promised them a specific amount of land and agreed to leave them alone. But then the U.$. took more land thereby shrinking the "Reservations."
The pre$ident said this is the "greatest nation on earth." Third World nations and oppressed nations within the U.$. know this is BS. This nation was founded on genocide and continues its tradition of destruction and death with wars in the Middle East. Keep an eye out for the United $tates's next deployment of aggression and occupation on other nations or, as they say "humanitarian missions."
Obama talked about "Peoples' government." As a settler nation, this Euro-Amerikan population has no legitimacy to rule, govern or even be on this continent. This is not a government for all people, but a select few who rule over the rest, while buying off most Amerikans to complicity (i.e. the labor aristocracy).
Obama spoke about "respect[ing] the fundamental rights of people." If the United $tates had an ounce of respect for rights they wouldn't have the largest percentage of its population in prison of any country in the world; 2.3 million locked away, most Latino and Black. Singling out certain nationalities for imprisonment is not respect, but oppression. If the United $tates respected fundamental rights of people why did it invade Iraq? No proof of weapons of mass destruction were found. Why does it sanction torture? Why is the white nation in Amerika better off than the oppressed nations, not to mention Third World nations?
Finally Obama talked about "fundamental rights of democracy [and] the right to vote." He never mentioned anything about prisoners and how they can't vote. This is a clear example of a deliberate policy of outcasting certain people.
Obama's speech offers lip service to the ideas of equality and representative government, possibly tricking the colonized into thinking there is some hope of making this democracy work for them. But Amerika remains an imperialist nation whose wealth is built on the exploitation of the Third World peoples. Those who sweat and die to supply the cushy lives of Amerikan citizens do not get a vote in this "democracy."
In the shadow of the recent presidential election, MIM(Prisons) takes this opportunity to explain some of the many reasons we don't participate in elections under capitalism. We reiterate the MIM slogan: Don't Vote, Organize!
Granted, communists might participate in local elections when they find an opportunity to make change that will better facilitate their organizing work and goals, but these instances are few and far between. Consider someone running for City Council proposing to facilitate the distribution of free literature and posters in a city, while their opponent wants to outlaw the distribution of communist literature. We might join this battle on the side of the free speech advocate because it is very important that we have the opportunity to organize and educate people. Because the legal power of a City Council is pretty limited, these battles tend to be clear cut and we can support one candidate without jumping on the imperialist bandwagon.
In contrast, Congress and the President are fundamentally reactionary just by nature of their role in the capitalist system. It is their job to support and promote imperialist policies of global aggression.
Sure, there may be surface differences between imperialist candidates. One might deny the existence of global warming while the other offers platitudes about how we need to help the environment, but neither can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions because doing so threatens the profit system. Or one might advocate shipping all migrants back home, while the other wants to grant green cards to people already in the United $tates. That's something with a real immediate impact on the lives of the oppressed. But the U.$. has a long history of bringing in migrant labor and the kicking them out, particularly from Mexico. And ultimately, both of these candidates will have to support enforcing the imperialist borders, and exploiting cheap Mexican labor.
Even if we try to explain that we are only picking a candidate based on their position on one question, how do we justify giving support to someone who backs the existence of the prison system that locks up the most people per capita in the world? Or someone who supports invading Third World countries to ensure their puppet regimes are friendly to Amerikan capitalist interests?
There is no real choice under imperialism. The majority of the world's people suffer under the rule of Amerikan imperialism, but they don't get a vote in the elections. Amerika has streamlined the elections to just two parties, with very minimal differences between them. And the majority of the Amerikan people, bought off with imperialist superprofits given to them as a birthright, are perfectly fine with these "choices." Both candidates represent the material interests of Amerikan citizens. It is the imperialist system that ensures sufficient superprofits from exploitation of Third World people to keep the First World citizens so well off.
The election of President Obama four years ago should have been the best possible lesson for "anti-war" Amerikans. Many so-called progressives got behind the Obama campaign, excited to finally have a Black man in power, and believing the minimally progressive rhetoric they heard from Obama. But putting a Black face on imperialism didn't change imperialism. Before Obama was elected we wrote about his campaign as a good representative of imperialism in ULK 3. Under Obama, Amerika has continued its role as global oppressor, invading Third World countries to install or support U.$.-friendly governments, enforcing strict imperialist borders at home to keep out the oppressed, and maintaining the largest per capita prison population in the world.
The State of Puerto Rico
While we didn't campaign around any electoral politics this year, nor vote, the results can be interesting to us as the largest scale polling of the Amerikan population and its internal semi-colonies. While the exploited people of the world did not get to vote for the President of the Empire, historically oppressed nations with U.$. citizenship did. As we work to expand our analysis of the internal semi-colonies' relationships to imperialism, we can look at elections as a relative, if not absolute, measure of assimilation. The most explicit example of this came in the 2012 plebiscite on the status of Puerto Rico among Boricua voters.
While inconsistencies in the format of previous plebiscites make it hard to decipher trends with a cursory assessment, it does appear that a majority rejected the current commonwealth status of Puerto Rico for the first time. The government is counting the statehood option as the victor with a 61% majority of those choosing an alternative to the commonwealth status. But really, only 48% of those who voted chose statehood, with 26% of voters choosing sovereign free association and 4% choosing independence.(1) About 22% didn't select a new status. Since 46% voted to remain a commonwealth, it seems that many of them chose a new status as their second choice. Originally the two votes were to occur separately, which would make interpretation of the results easier.
The option of "sovereign free association" was new in this plebiscite, and seems to reflect the more bourgeois nationalist among the neo-colonialists. They want to have their cake and eat it too. They want more freedom to act independent of the U.$. while keeping the financial benefits of U.$. social services that they receive today as a commonwealth.
The 2012 plebiscite did have the largest turnout yet, with 79% participation.(2) This adds a little more weight to the small shift from a plurality favoring commonwealth to a plurality (at least) favoring statehood. At the time of the last plebiscite, in 1998, MIM reported strong assimilationism among the Boricua population due to economic interests tied to accessing the superprofits obtained by the U.$. from the Third World.(3) While MIM never believed that the meager 2-5% vote for independence was genuinely representative of the Boricua people, neither is true self-determination on the immediate horizon despite nationalist rhetoric from many political parties. A survey of the desires of Boricuas for self-determination is not valid until real self-determination is actually an option on the table. Unfortunately real self-determination won't be possible until Boricuas are organized against Amerika and its lackey leadership in their homeland.
Some have hypothesized that the economic downturn helped increase the statehood vote as Boricuas felt the crunch and wanted closer economic integration into the United $tates. This makes economic sense. So it'll take much more extreme crisis before economic demands become revolutionary for the internal semi-colonies of the United $tates.
Chicanos and New Afrikans Vote
Trends in Black voter participation in the last two presidential elections indicate that the neo-colonial effect is real as Blacks have come out at higher rates, with Black youth being the most active voter participants. While Latinos were also brought out by Obama in the last two elections, Latino youth voting and "civic engagement" has lagged behind Black and white youth, yet they were twice as likely to participate in a protest than their counterparts of other nations according to a 2008 report.(4) In 2008, Black voters closed the gap with white voter participation, which averaged around 10% in the previous five presidential elections. This year, Obama brought similar rates of Blacks to the polls. In the same period, Latinos and Asians have diverged from Blacks in their voter participation, who they have historically lagged behind already.(5) For Latinos this divergence corresponds to an increase in the percentage of people who are not citizens, and therefore can't vote. We do not have data showing whether the same is true for Asians. While the non-participation may be enforced, rather than by choice, the Pew Hispanic Center also found in a recent survey that most Latinos identify with their family's country of origin and not as Amerikans.(6) There is little doubt that the vast majority of Blacks identify as Amerikan. The connections that Latinos and Asians have to the Third World are a significant factor in their political consciousness and how they perceive the United $tates, their relationship to it, and their participation in it.
Similar to supporting someone for City Council, discussed above, propositions are another relatively clear-cut realm of elections where we may organize around a particular issue. To look at more concrete examples of how this usually plays out, we turn to two propositions this year that addressed California's prison population: Propositions 34 and 36. Proposition 34 was presented to abolish the death penalty, which sounds great at first. But in this case, death row prisoners actually recognized that the law was opposed to their interests in that it would prevent them from proving their innocence in court. They launched an active campaign to oppose Prop. 34 and it did fail. The weakness of the proposition was inherent to the limitations in the system to address justice in a real way.
Proposition 36 is a reform to the Three Strikes law, and it passed. MIM(Prisons) welcomes the prospect of less people going to prison in California, and supposedly even current prisoners being released earlier. Yet, Three Strikes itself still exists. The reform will right a few egregious wrongs, but leaves Three Strikes, not to mention the whole criminal injustice system, in place. Even abolishing Three Strikes altogether would be merely a quantitative change in the oppression meted out by the injustice system, without changing the substance of it at all. Prop. 36 was promoted by those who want to reduce state spending on prisons, and clearly promoted the use of Three Strikes for the majority of prisoners it has been applied to. To campaign for Prop. 36 was to promote this position or to say that this is the best we can hope for. It did not serve the interests of the prisoner class as a whole, but threw some carrots to a few.
Since there are only so many hours in the day, to spend them on organizing around these small changes means slightly less suffering in the short term, and much more suffering in the long term as imperialism marches on unchallenged. Reforms do play an important role while organizing in our current conditions, but we choose which reforms to support very carefully, weighing how they impact our organizing efforts against imperialism, what class interests they serve, and how they relate to real conditions on the ground.
Electoral Politics and Strategy
Our line is that imperialism cannot be reformed. Our strategy is to build institutions of the oppressed which are separate from imperialism in order to build up our own power, while agitating around issues that highlight the horrors of the imperialist system that exists. At times campaigning around an electoral campaign could be a useful tactic in that strategy. But strategically we are not trying to get elected in a popularity contest, or be on the winning team. We are struggling for liberation and an end to all oppression!
As M-1 of dead prez put it on Block Report Radio the morning after the recent "presidential selection": "I'm not thinking about today. And I'm not thinking about four years from now. And I'm not thinking about smoking marijuana. I'm thinking about 50 years from now being able to be the self-determining people who are raising a nation that's based in stability." Spoken like a true revolutionary, this is the type of thinking that we promote to develop an anti-imperialist political pole within the belly of the beast.
Telling people to vote for one imperialist candidate over another is suggesting that we can make significant change by working within the system. As we already explained, the scale of the election and the scale of the change is key: for a local city election the impact is much lower and our opportunity to actually explain to people why a particular local law is important to communist goals is much greater. But in a national election, telling people to support a candidate who is fundamentally pro-imperialist, both in words and deeds, is misleading.