By Comrade Delphi
March 5, 2020
There’s a small town in western Indiana called Carlisle. A very small town. One of those places that once was probably a fairly successful agricultural community where, if you didn’t farm, you probably commuted to some automobile or steel plant and did pretty well for yourself. Of course, like so many other midwestern towns of its size that’s all gone now, well almost gone. You see, until recently there were at least two industries left in Carlisle, a giant hole in the ground called the Carlisle Mine and a high security prison—the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. And now there’s just the prison.
Carlisle is pretty isolated in all directions. About twenty miles north is Terre Haute (where incidentally there is another prison housing at least half of all federal death row inmates) and forty miles to the east is the city of Bloomington. In between is a patchwork of dilapitated Americana, complete with antique stores, the occasional middle school, and soy beans, corn, and more soy beans. The towns have names like Freelandville, commemorating the conquest of land whose Indigenous people’s culture has been transformed into the mascots of local football teams like that of the North Knox Warriors, a Native American in full headdress.
None of it really stands out as opposed to the rest of neo-liberal middle America until you pass the Carlisle Mine. The C.M. is a coal mine owned by Sunrise Coal, itself a subsidiary of Hallador Energy, a corporation with interests throughout the Midwest. It’s clear though, that Hallador put some of its own energy into convincing the people of Carlisle that the mine is part of their community. No doubt this is what led to the decision to place a large wooden sign that reads “WE BUILT THIS” at the entrance to the mine. It should read “WE BUILT THIS, BUT WE DON’T OWN IT!” Because Hallador announced on January 20th that it would be “idling” production and consequently laying off 90 full time employees.
The mine and the propaganda surrounding it play well into the settler-colonial fantasy indulged in by small town residents like those of Carlisle. The belief that prosperity is a right that simply belongs to them, ever since their ancestors stepped foot on their “free land.” But the U.S. settler colonial empire, despite its promises, cannot always guarantee prosperity so it must offer relative prosperity. That’s where the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility comes in. Just a few minutes drive from Carlisle Mine and the obvious landing spot for all those laid off workers.
The W.V.C.F. is a maximum security prison and contains the Security Control Unit, the tightest lock down unit in the state of Indiana. It is also the current location of many of Indiana’s highest profile political prisoners. This is where they are “disappeared”, where they are starved into submission with paltry meals labeled “not for human consumption”, and where they spend 23 and 1/2 hours a day without human contact. Their captors and torturers are the people of Carlisle and its surrounding settlements. Carlisle is nearly a 100% white settler community. The population of W.V.C.F. is decidedly not. They are from places like South Bend, Fort Wayne, Gary, and Indianapolis, captured colonials exiled to a remote rural slave camp to be the raw material of settler job security.
The class and national dynamic expressed by this shifting of “white working class” labor is the primary contradiction which determines the future of the revolutionary movement. Nearly without excepetion, for 500 years, white settler labor has been offered the choice between working class solidarity against capital or the safety of being paid overseers to the captive proletariat, and it has chosen the latter. The prisoncrats are well aware of this loyalty and accordingly, within a day of the announced “idling” of production at the Carisle Mine, a representative of the Indiana Department of Correction took to social media to promote the benefits that come with employment at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, including “retirement, paid holidays, vacation, sick and personal time and 100% job security.”
It is clear that the deindustrialization of the united states is an ongoing process, in which the search for superprofits drives capital export to the Global South. The value brought back to the imperialist center is then concentrated into maintaining the differentiation of the working class along national lines. The colonized workers increasingly find themselves reduced to a level of social death, wasting away in highly advanced cages like the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. On the other hand, a significant portion of the settler workers and petit-bourgeoisie can reliably expect to make their way as the managers of this modern order of incarceration. It will take much more than a general crisis to break the national solidarity of the settlers. It is a unity forged in centuries of blood and destruction. Even in the worst of times the settler worker has faith that the nation to which they have been loyal will see them through. It may mean wearing a badge and putting human beings in chains, but in America that’s just the price of paid vacation.
The revolutionary must not have false hope in the prospect of unprincipled unity. We cannot offer security to the most privileged working class on the planet, the u.s. settler. We can win the advanced and isolate the most reactionary, but the proletariat of the colonized nations—the ones wearing the chains, not those putting them on—are the main force for the struggle against American imperialism and capitalism. The W.V.C.F. represents in microcosm the struggle we face. No serious communist can confuse where a substantial percentage of our revolutionaries are. They are behind bars, but they are many, and with the unbreakable solidarity of a revolutionary Party, they will be an unstoppable force.