ULK37: Using Our Money Wisely
In the richest country in the world, access to wealth and material goods can be a relative strength we have compared to most of the rest of the world, namely the global proletariat we aim to represent. We must consider what the best tactics are to leverage wealth to support our goals. Yet, we must not fetishize money or technology as panaceas to all our problems. We know people are decisive in social change. How we get money is mostly a tactical question. How we use it or campaign around financial issues is generally a strategic one.
We have at least one USW comrade in California who has been pushing the prison movement in that state to take up a boycott tactic to push the demands to end torture and group punishment. Prisoners in Virginia report of money taken from their accounts, decreased wages and have launched a fast to protest the extortion of Keefe Commissary. Also in this issue, Loco1 offers an alternative tactic on how to relate to commissary. And one comrade in Texas offers up a different sort of [url=https://www.prisoncensorship.info/article/fighting-the-system-appealing-the-100-medical-co-pay-in-texa/boycott tactic around medical co-pays that could help focus our resources.(see p.X)
We say these questions are tactical, meaning they will vary from time to time or place to place. One tactic may work well in one prison, or under certain conditions, which won't work well in another circumstance. There are strategic considerations which serve as general guidelines for all of us and can help us make our tactical decisions. One stratetic orientation we hold is to not fetishize money, and remember that the people must change the system. An example of how this strategic orientation helps us choose tactics is in deciding whether we should spend more time and energy raising money, or writing letters to prisoners and developing study groups. If we believed money were decisive, we would spend more time fundraising or working at bourgeois jobs to pad our "revolutionary" bank account.
The concept of the "almighty dollar" leads the consumer class that dominates this country to see consuming as their means of expressing their political beliefs, and their main tool for promoting the world they want to see. Consumer politics are very popular in our bourgeois society, and these boil down to individual/lifestyle politics. Vegans may feel better about themselves because they know their nutritional sustenance doesn't rely on the abuse and murder of any non-humyn animal. But veganism itself doesn't challenge the capitalist system that makes factory farming profitable in the first place. Capitalists don't care what industry their money is in so long as they are drawing a profit. And no matter how many "fair trade", "local" or "ethical" products one purchases, capitalism relies on humyn exploitation to function. We can't buy our way out of imperialism itself.
Boycotts can easily fall into the realm of individual/lifestyle politics. Without a strong political movement with clear demands at the head of a boycott (i.e. the campaign to divest from Israel), our consumption habits will do nothing to change the structural problems of imperialism. Boycotting the commissary as an individual is just like choosing veganism. It may make you feel better about the role you are directly playing, but it doesn't actually have an impact on the prison system. This is partially because your individual $40 per month is a drop in the bucket of the prison budget, and also because, like the capitalists, it's only a matter of policy change to ensure prisons are extorting the balance they desire from prisoners. If they can't get it from you via commissary, then they'll instill an exorbitant medical co-pay, or financial penalties for disciplinary infractions. If you keep your bank account empty to avoid these fees, they limit indigent envelopes and postage to limit your contact to the outside world.
That doesn't mean you should pour your money down the drain or that there is no use for money in our revolutionary movement. But we have to be realistic about the impact our money is making. Spending $40 on mail-order fiction books rather than at commissary has no real political impact. But sending $40 to MIM(Prisons) allows us to send ULK to forty subscribers. This money allows us to send study group mail to eighty participants! That's enough to cover an entire level 1 study group! Send us $40 twice and you can cover the printing and postage of a whole introductory study group, both levels. This is a good demonstration of the political impact money can have on our ability to build up people's political understanding, without worshiping money as the be all and end all of our political work.
Any reader of ULK should be familiar with our line on the inflated minimum wage in imperialist countries. In line with our criticism of lifestyle politics above, we don't say Amerikans should refuse to be paid more than $2.50 per hour as an act of solidarity with Third World workers. Instead we say revolutionary comrades should funnel as much money as they can into the anti-imperialist movement. Get raises and make bigger donations, but don't waste all your time in your bourgeois job!
Prisoners and migrant workers differ from the rest of this country in that there is a progressive aspect to their struggles for higher wages. The proletarians currently on hunger strike in an ICE detention center in Washington have pushed internationalist demands to the front of their struggle. While they ask for higher wages and better conditions in the private prison they are being held, their primary demand is an end to deportations from the United $tates. Facing deportation themselves, these prisoners have a different class perspective than the vast majority in this country.
In an article titled "Sending a Donation is Contraband" from ULK 25, a comrade relates being prevented from sending MIM(Prisons) a donation to the overall political repression and censorship by the prisoncrats. In a bizarre interpretation of California's mail policies, CDCR effectively and illegally prevented this subscriber from exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. Similarly, in the last issue of ULK, another comrade in California explains the direct connection between a stamp drive for the SF BayView, a New Afrikan nationalist newspaper, and the pigs' mass disallowing of stamps and increased terrorist activities in San Quentin State Prison. The state has an interest in preventing any growth of the anti-imperialist movement, no matter how small.
Naturally it is among the most oppressed that we find the greatest support for anti-imperialism. Thus, campaigns for a few more $0.49 stamps for indigent prisoners in Texas are of vital importance. Such a concern is unfathomable to the vast majority in the imperialist countries. Cutting postage stamps and radio service are not only tactics to further deteriorate the mental health of prisoners, but are also attempts at political repression under the thinly veiled guise of budget cuts. Here we see the oppressor using economic tactics to reach their political goals. While the material basis of what we're fighting for is in the people, we must be smart about finance and other material resources to end hunger, war and oppression as soon as possible.