On healthcare and barefoot doctors


On healthcare and barefoot doctors


The following is an mainstream, bourgeois article from National Public Radio on socialist China’s barefoot doctors. The barefoot doctors were part of socialist China’s alternative approach to medicine. The program sought to provide basic health care to the Chinese masses. Under previous regimes, the vast majority in China had little access to health care. Because of programs and campaigns such as this one, China’s life expectancy doubled while the Communists were in power from 1949 to the 1970s. However, socialism in China was reversed in the 1970s. Today, China is thoroughly capitalist. And, its masses have suffered as a result. Nonetheless, it is important to learn for the successes and failures of past revolutionary movements.

In previous years there has been debate over whether or not to enact health care reform in the United States. The Democratic Party, led by Obama, seeks something close to universal coverage for people in the United States. The Republicans are doing what they can to block the reform. The Republicans seek to keep health care as it is, in the private sector. Even though communists seek health care for all. Under a socialism and communism, health care is a right for all. Everyone deserves a decent life.  Even so,  it is important to connect the dots. The First World does not exist in a vacuum. It  should be pointed out that  if social democratic-type gains are made, they will be paid for by the Third World. Third World peoples, largely without health care, will be paying for health care reform in the United States. People in the United States already, under their current system, have more health care than most people in the world. People in the United States, with their wealth and privilege, already consume way more than their share of the global social product. The real tragedy is that billions of people in the Third World have almost no health care at all. While the liberals, and liberals wearing Marxist masks, concern themselves with increasing the standard of living for First World peoples, Leading Light Communists seek a radical reorganization of the world economy that serves the majority of humanity. Leading Light Communists recognize that by raising the standard of living for First World peoples, one generally lowers the standard of living for the vast majority in the Third World. The wealth it takes to raise First World peoples up has to come from somewhere. Leading Light Communists seek to increase access to health care for the proletariat and its allies in the Third World before they seek to increase health care for the wealthy First World populations. With this goal in mind, China’s experiment with barefoot doctors is especially important. It is a model that relied on people power more than capital. The model pioneered by the Maoists is one that can be applied across the Third World. It is a model that serves the people.

Article follows:

“Health for the Masses: China’s ‘Barefoot Doctors’
by Vikki Valentine

When doctors and money are in short in supply, how does a government provide health care for its people? Brenda Wilson has reported that at a time when they’re needed most, physicians and nurses from developing countries are being recruited away in large numbers by Western countries. This shortage — for example, one doctor for every 10,000 people in Kenya — is complicating the fight against AIDS and other diseases.

On the eve of the 1949 Communist Revolution, China found itself in a situation similar to that faced by African countries today. China had estimated that there were about 40,000 physicians trained in Western and Soviet medicine in the country, serving a population of 540 million people. Worse yet, most of these physicians worked in large cities; 80 percent of the population were rural peasants.

‘Big Belly’ and the Communist Party

Ten million of these peasants suffered from “big belly” — the peasant name for schistosomiasis. The disease is caused by a worm living in snails found in swamps and rivers. Peasants catch the parasite while wading in water; once inside the body, the worm mates in blood vessels, and released eggs travel throughout the body, particularly to the intestines, bladder and liver. It’s the body’s immune reaction that causes the disease’s symptoms, such as seizures and the characteristic swollen belly. Chronic cases risk permanent damage to organs such as the liver, intestines and lungs.

A major platform of the Communist Party was a revolution in agriculture. A “Great Leap Forward” was needed in China. But Party leaders, including Chairman Mao Zedong, knew that improving the health of peasants was integral to increasing agricultural production.

What followed was a backlash against Western-style “elite” medicine. The “bourgeois” policies of “self-interested” physicians who only treated rare and difficult diseases were denounced as “disregarding the masses.”

Chairman Mao’s Snail

One of the Party’s first steps in medical reform called for massive campaigns against infectious disease. Thousands of workers were trained and sent out into the countryside to examine and treat peasants, and organize sanitation campaigns.

Health teams claimed to have examined 2.8 million peasants in 1958, the first year of the schistosomiasis program. (One team claimed examining 1,200 patients in a single day.) Some 67 million latrines were reportedly built or repaired, and over the next few years, hundreds of thousands of peasants were set to work day and night, drying out swamps and building drainage ditches to get rid of the snail’s habitat. Party workers claimed schistosomiasis cure rates of 85 to 95 percent in some areas, and that the disease had been wiped out in more than half of previously endemic areas along the Yangtze River.

Chairman Mao was impressed, and the Party became fond of declaring that it could “cure what the powers above have failed to do.”

But Mao’s revolution was struggling, and in 1965, with his launch of the Cultural Revolution, he expanded the idea of health for the masses beyond infectious disease. Mao ordered, “In health and medical work, put the stress on rural areas.” With that, China’s cadre of “barefoot doctors” was born.

A Peasant Medical Force

Thousands of peasants — men and women who were mostly in their 20s and already had some general education — were selected for an intensive three- to six-month course in medical training. They were instructed in anatomy, bacteriology, diagnosing disease, acupuncture, prescribing traditional and Western medicines, birth control and maternal and infant care.

The barefoot doctors continued their farming work in the commune fields, working alongside their comrades. Their proximity also made them readily available to help those in need. They provided basic health care: first aid, immunizations against diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough and measles, and health education. They taught hygiene as basic as washing hands before eating and after using latrines. Illnesses beyond their training, the barefoot doctors referred on to physicians at commune health centers.

Ten years after the Cultural Revolution, there were an estimated 1 million barefoot doctors in China. Looking back, however, gauging the program’s success is complicated.

A Model for Rural Health Care?

In the 1970s, the World Health Organization and leaders in some developing countries — even the Soviet Union — began to consider China’s program as an alternate model to Western-style health care. They were looking for inexpensive ways to deliver health care to rural populations; China had seemed to set up a successful model.

But the barefoot doctors program largely fell apart in the 1980s and ’90s: The central government provided less financial support for the program, and the country’s emerging free-market system began forcing farmers to pay for their health care. The World Health Organization recently ranked China as fourth-worst out of 190 countries for equality of health care. Yet 40 years after the program began, the program still holds allure, and lessons, for health officials around the world looking for a solution for inadequate rural health care.

Some of the claims made about the program’s successes weren’t always backed up by data. On a visit in 1972, American doctor Victor Sidel admitted it was hard to measure the quality of the program. Nonetheless, Sidel praised it for supplying health care where previously there had been none; he also singled out the barefoot doctors themselves for their role as patient advocates.

There is also agreement outside of China that the country did go much further than other countries of comparable wealth in reducing infectious diseases, such as polio, smallpox and schistosomiasis, writes historian John Farley in his book, “Bilharzia: A History of Tropical Medicine.”

Farley also relates the observations of Dr. Paul Bausch, of Stanford University, who made a visit to China in 1984. Bausch reported back that there indeed had been a 90 percent reduction of schistosomiasis in some regions. Overall, according to Bausch, cases were down from 10 million people 30 years earlier to 2.4 million, with most cases being mild.

The barefoot doctors, and their predecessors, had in fact, as the Communist Party claimed, turned “snail-infected swamps into ‘rivers of happiness.’”

“Third Worldism,” epistemology, art, socialism

“Third Worldism,” epistemology, art, socialismhqdefault


1. It is always an honor to speak with you. Many people identify you as a “Third Worldist,” one term that is floating around is “Maoist.” Do you apply these to yourself?

Do we uphold a revolutionary theory and practice that emphasizes the poorest people, those who suffer the most, the exploited and oppressed, in a word, the Third World? Obviously, yes. Probably the most famous line from Karl Marx is when he states, “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” If we are honest, we have to admit that people in the First World, generally speaking, have far more to lose than their chains. They have the whole consumerist lifestyle of the First World. They have the comfort of living in prosperous, stable, modern First World societies. If we applied Marx’s criteria honestly, wouldn’t he too be described as a Third Worldist? After all, on the whole, where are the people who have nothing but their labor to sell reside? Where do those who “have nothing to lose but their chains” live? Today, they live, almost exclusively, in what people describe as the Third World. Do we acknowledge the contributions past revolution geniuses? Karl Marx was a Leading Light. Yes. Vladimir Lenin was a Leading Light. Yes. Mao Zedong was a Leading Light. Yes. Just like any real scientist should, we take what is good and toss the bad in all things, including the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist tradition. However, labels can obscure some important things. These labels make it sound as though what we are is just old dogma with a Third Worldist twist. This is not the case at all. What we’re doing is much more profound. What we are doing is unprecedented. Leading Light Communism is far more advanced that anything that has come before. From the standpoint of making revolution, nothing is greater than all-powerful, awesome, glorious Leading Light Communism.

Let’s put this into context. Here’s a little history. It is funny to think that in April of 1969, Lin Biao, Mao’s greatest general, closest comrade-in-arms, chosen successor, heir apparent announced “revolution is the main trend in the world today” at the Ninth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. During the Cultural Revolution, and here I mean the real Cultural Revolution from 1965 to 1969 or 1971 at the latest, the people’s war line really held that humanity was so close to worldwide victory that Lin Biao went so far as to say Mao Zedong’s theories constituted a new stage of final confrontation between the people’s forces and capitalism, Mao Zedong Thought was Marxism for the current epoch, when capitalism was heading for worldwide collapse, and socialism for worldwide victory. Part of this outlook is to see global empire as teetering. Everyone was commanded to push the system over. Thus the will to launch people’s war was seen as one of the main ways we distinguish between real Marxism versus revisionism. We agree with Lin Biao on this. There is a widespread phenomenon of First World yappers pimping off people’s wars but not lifting a finger to actually help. We call them “cowardly lions.” It is a major form of revisionism today. So during the Cultural Revolution, Lin Biao and those supporting people’s war were calling for forces in every corner of the world to launch revolutionary wars immediately in order to topple imperialism. This is not unlike Che’s call to the tricontinental: “two, three, many Vietnams.” The idea is that because imperialism had become so bogged down, so weakened, a mass offensive by people in every corner of the world could topple it. Obviously, things didn’t work out this way. And this support for people’s war cost the Chinese. The Chinese were openly calling for the overthrow of almost every regime in the world, both East and West. It meant diplomatic isolation. How things have changed today.

Obviously, as things progressed from the 1960s into the 1970s, the Chinese were very wrong about the strength and resilience of empire. Mao and the rightwing of the Chinese Communist Party began to move China into an alignment with the West in the 1970s. Lin Biao, the major voice for the people’s war line, was almost certainly murdered in 1971. The Chinese state of the 1970s began to downplay people’s war and move more toward traditional diplomacy and reconciliation. It is a bit ironic too since Mao, in part at least, justified his original break with the Soviet revisionists based on his rejection of the revisionist line of “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism. Well, Mao’s foreign policy of the 1970s toward the West was not unlike Khrushchev’s. Just as the Soviet Union and the West had jointly sold out Latin America, so too the Chinese now jointly worked with the West. Perhaps one of the most famous cases is that China was the first regime to recognize Pinochet’s bloody coup. I recall reading that the Chinese embassy, unlike others, shut its doors to students, workers, and activists seeking sanctuary from the deathsquads in Chile. Bangladesh is another example. Mao allied with Pakistan and the West, even as Pakistan waged a systematic genocide there. These are some of the blemishes on Mao’s record. Now, of course, Mao was one of the greatest revolutionaries, Leading Lights, of all time, but we have to be honest here.

In any case, my point is to say things have changed so much. Things look very different. Today, the revolutionary movement is at an impasse. There are no socialist states. Soviet socialism fell even before the final collapse of the Soviet Union. And China began to slide into capitalism in the 1970s. Today, China is the workforce that produces all the goodies, all the consumer products, for the United States and much of the First World. China’s workforce is an exploited proletariat serving First World appetites.  So bad are things that not long ago, book after book was published on the “pax Americana,” “the global, liberal victory,” “the end of history,” “the end of the age of the big idea,” “the death of communism,” and so on.

Our outlook is just not some slightly tweaked Maoism. The problems of the revisionist movement, including Maoism, are much deeper than their political economy. First Worldism, the belief that the First World contains a significant proletariat, that it is revolutionary, is a symptom of a deeper problem. Similarly, continuing to wrap oneself in the vocabulary, icons, and symbols of the past, the Maoist era, the Soviet era, stems from this same problem. Accusations of “tankyism” are traded back and forth between dogmatists. There is a lack of scientific thinking, not just at the peripheries of these movements, but also at the cores. This is reflected in the way they do political economy, yes. But it is also reflected in the way they approach history. This is reflected in their lack of deep cultural analysis, their inability to speak intelligently on art and aesthetics. It is reflected in their blissful ignorance of the incredible advances of the ongoing scientific revolution, discoveries in brain and cognitive science, the green revolution in agriculture, the new discoveries in biology, physics, information technology, and so on.

It is rather funny to me that many dogmatists think that they are so advanced scientifically because they embrace dialectical materialism, yet for them, Lenin was the last word on agitation and propaganda, as though modern marketing, which draws of a large body of psychological research, has nothing to say to revolution. No wonder so many lefty trends are getting beaten by Islam. There is also an impasse in military thinking, which is why the Maoist model isn’t working as it once did even though there are a few movements here and there that have run out of steam, stalemated, or on their last leg. None are really winning or even advancing. This all stems from a deeper epistemological issue. It stems from dogmatism. It stems from lack of innovation, lack of genuine science, lack of adaptation. The world changes, so must we if we are to really win. For some people, preservation of dogma is more important than victory. For some people preservation of their orthodox “communist” identity is more important than the people. For us, it is different. We absolutely reject all dogma. Leading Light Communism is all about science.

We cannot stress this enough. Leading Light Communism is not just about political economy. It is about a complete revolution in all areas of revolutionary science. Our knife cuts much deeper than just economics. Leading Light Communism is about putting the revolutionary movement — in all its aspects — on an elevated scientific footing. This is why we say we have one leader: the Leading Light of truth. This is also why we are having discussions about how to craft a proper low science openly. In addition to high science, all revolutions have used low science. We are the first, as far as I am aware, to speak completely openly about the myth making, to invite those who are capable into a broad public discussion of the topic, rather than just constructing the low science behind closed doors. Ironically, we have been accused of being “cultist” for popularizing a discussion that has mostly been kept secret. If anything, we are the ones explaining to the masses how these things work, and asking them to engage in their own liberation in that sphere. Others pretend the problem of motivating and simultaneously elevating a population can be mocked away, or others are ostriches who put their head in the sand. What do they have to show for their approaches? In any case, the new breakthrough of the Leading Light is so profound in its simplicity and depth. We are about really winning, really putting science in command.  We are elevating the science at all levels, yet  are doing so in a way that preserves the revolutionary heart of Marxism. We are really talking about creating a new stage of revolutionary science, arming with masses with the best ideological tools available, the best weapons,  in order to make revolution, to reach Leading Light Communism.

There is a difference between the First World and Third World here too. Many in the Third World have not yet made contact with the Leading Light. If a man is dying of thirst and all he has is dirty water, he will drink it. However, if given the pure water alongside the dirty, he will choose the pure, unless there is something else in play. In time, the pure water will flow everywhere.

We have already won the ideological battle. It is lonely at the top. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, you need very long legs to jump from peak to peak. The Bolshevik revolution was a peak. The Maoist revolution was peak. So, here we are, at the beginning of the next wave, at another peak. Most do not have those kinds of legs. Most people are still in the past, in a valley working their way to the next peak. Looking down on the ideological dessert, and it is barren. The battle at the level of high science is won. Sure, there are still mopping up operations. Unlike so many of the hypocrites in the revisionist left, we really do put politics in command.

2. “Politics in command” comes from the Chinese revolution? Can you explain a little about “Politics in command?”

Yes. Mao famously stated:

“The correctness or otherwise of the ideological and political line decides everything. When the Party’s line is correct, then everything will come its way. If it has no followers, then it can have followers; if it has no guns, then it can have guns; if it has no political power, then it can have political power. If its line is not correct, even what it has it loses.”

Revolution is not just some blind endeavor. it is not an accident. Joseph Stalin once said that the people will row the boat to the shores of communism, with or without leadership. Some believe our victory is somehow woven into the fabric of nature itself, that our victory is contained in the deterministic motion of atoms, that it is inevitable. This is often associated with productionist and technological-determinist tendencies that ended up serving counter-revolution. Some tendencies saw communism as inevitable, no matter what. They thought that the advance of science and technological progress would simply serve up prosperity without conscious intervention by revolutionary leadership, without conscious, constant, continuous efforts to direct the revolutionizing of power and culture. Historically speaking, these two tendencies fought it out as a battle between counter-revolution are revolution. China’s Cultural Revolution is a good example of this fight between communists and the new capitalist class. Revolution is not inevitable, nor is it served up by technology alone. Revolution is something that is achieved by a very specific course of action. Ideology is absolutely necessary. Revolutionary science is necessary. Politics is necessary. Leadership is necessary. Without leadership, without science, without the politics of truth, our boat will row forever in circles. Great leadership of the people armed with all-powerful, awesome, glorious Leading Light Communism  is required for to realize our great destiny. We are a movement of the best of the best, warrior geniuses from every corner of the Earth. Together, we are the sword of destiny on Earth to rid the world of all suffering, exploitation, oppression, poverty, rape.

Specifically, “Politics in command” is a slogan that arises in the army during Lin Biao’s “Four First” policy to turn the army into a school of Mao Thought and model for all of society. Those policies were implemented right after the fall of Peng Dehuai around the end of the Great Leap. Remember that Lin Biao was one of the few who rallied to Mao’s defense at the Lushan conference when Mao came under criticism for the errors of the Great Leap. Lin Biao had said the problems of the Great Leap resulted from not adhering closely enough to Mao’s thoughts. Lin Biao would come to be the main spokesman and embodiment of Maoism during the Cultural Revolution. He was the high priest of the Mao cult while also being depicted as the great warrior: Mao’s best student, Mao’s closest comrade in arms, China’s greatest genius general, Mao’s hand-picked successor.

There is a vagueness in the expression, so it was later changed. Think about it. Now, politics is always in a command in a sense. Think of the person who works harder in order to buy more consumer products. In such a case, politics is indeed in command of his actions, albeit the politics are of a stupid, un-revolutionary variety. Politics is not always revolutionary politics. For this reason, as time went on, when the slogan continued to be popularized as part of the effort to popularize Lin Biao and his army, but the slogan was changed to “Mao Zedong Thought in command!”

Today, communists say “science in command!” or “Leading Light in command!” This means that we must put aside individualism, ego, petty distractions, dogma. Don’t get caught up in petty drama. Don’t let anyone bait us. The yappers will yap. The liars will lie. They literally do not matter. We know who we are. We know our hearts are pure. The great breakthrough has been made, revolutionary science has advanced and continues to do so under the banner of the Leading Light. It doesn’t matter that these ideas happen to be articulated by myself. The point is they are here now. The masses deserve the best. No weapon is more powerful than the Leading Light of truth. Back in It’s Right To Rebel (IRTR) days, the Central Committee declared that the principal task was to spread the high science globally, especially the Third World. Well, that is exactly what Leading Light has done with almost no support from our critics and with inept wrecking campaigns. One wonders how much they have done to advance concrete struggle?

3. You have criticized dogma. Can you elaborate a little? What makes one theory more scientific or better than another? What makes Leading Light better than dialectics, for example?

One metaphysical misconception that many have is that truth is “out there” in some ultimate, spooky sense. According to such a view, the job of science to codify or match itself up with the world itself. On this view, an ideal science would be the one that replicated or reflected so-called “the book of nature” perfectly. On this model, a good theory is one that reflects nature as closely as possible, one that replicates truth in an ultimate sense. This is a view of truth, theory, and science shared by numerous different philosophic traditions, including the dialectics found in the revolutionary tradition. According to this dogma, dialectics is a kind of foundational super science. Particular scientific claims, theories, or disciplines are correct insofar as they are extensions of dialectics, which purports to correspond to the way the world really is, purports to be a kind of “book of nature.”

Such a view is silly for a couple reasons. Firstly, what an impoverished “book of nature,” a handful of vague descriptions or laws. It should be rather obvious that all the diverse sciences do not reduce to nor depend on dialectics. Physicists, biologists, linguists, hydrologists, chemists, all get along fine without reading Georg Hegel. When you are very ill, you do not usually ask your physician if he understands Hegel’s Logic before accepting his medical advice. If you were suffering from a tumor, who would you trust to deal with it, the surgeon who has years of medical school or the literary critic who has mastered Hegel? Those who practice science are able to do their work blissfully ignorant of Hegel. This should tell us that there is something fishy about the self-important claims of dialectics.

Secondly, numerous inaccurate conceptions, about theories, science, language, and truth underlie such a model. Dialectics does not correspond to nature for the simple reason that no theories do. Here, I mean in the “book of nature” sense. Theories, science, are not about matching up a collection of claims with the world. Theories are tools. It does not make sense to ask if a saw is true in some ultimate sense. It does not make sense to ask if a screwdriver matches up more with the “book of nature” than the hammer. Theories are tools to manipulate the world, not get us in touch with the world behind the world. Although Marx did not fully realize this, perhaps he began to move in this direction when with his comment that philosophers have only interpreted the world, but the point is to change it. We do not need to understand truth as correspondence with some objective fact nor as cohering with some super science that does so. Instead, we should understand truth in a more contingent, an intersubjective sense. When we say a particular theory is better than another, we are saying it is a better tool than its competitor. And, science is a set of lingusitic and, sometimes, non linguistic tools that are distinguished from other tools, say the creation of poetry or literature, because science is about prediction and explanation. This can even apply to literary criticism.

A science of literature, even revolutionary science of literature, is possible. Probably the best place to jump into this high-level discussion are authors like Aristotle, Northrop Fry, maybe  Georg Lukacs, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, maybe even Stanley Cavell, Paul de Man, or Julia Kristeva. We should not limit ourselves to what should now be seen as low-level Maoist discussions during the Cultural Revolution. A good dose of modernism, formalism, textualism, New Criticism plus people who who have a complex understanding of how cultural objects work in the power struggle, not the cartoonish Maoist polemics criticizing all art for not living up to the clarity of Maoist allegories, which are not unlike medieval morality tales. Although Maoist polemics might be a good start, they are a terrible place to end up. I’m not saying I agree with all these critics on everything. I’m just saying that might be a place to look for understanding literature. There are other tools out there besides science.

In terms of self expression, science may not be as useful as poetry or art. In any case, dialectics is not science for the same reason poetry isn’t. Dialectics does not predict nor does it really explain in an informative manner. Then there is Richard Rorty. He was a champion of postmodernism and liberalism. He pushed the idea that discourse was so contingent that there is no point in making any complex moral or political appeals. He once stated he would have been happy with Hegel had Hegel remained with the space of the Phenomenology of Spirit, avoiding the more metaphysical drive of the Logic. He would have been happier with Hegel had Hegel simply remained an ironist who only claimed to be expressing himself, not out to describe the real world behind the world. Lucky our choice is not simply between postmodern yapperism and metaphysical yapperism, between postmodern liberalism and metaphysical pseudo-revolutionism.

Just as other sciences are tools, so too is revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism. This is why we call Leading Light Communism a weapon that must be placed into the hands of the oppressed. Leading Light Communism is a package of scientific advances in numerous areas. Leading Light Communism predicts and explains social motion today far better than any of its competitors. It better predicts and explains the past, present, and future. It is fine to say Leading Light Communism is about truth, but “truth” understood in a more contingent, although just as compelling manner. This is not unlike how Immanuel Kant understood that our knowledge about the world was mediated by epistemic conditions. Think Kant’s forms of intuitions and transcendental categories, or how early Hegel, Marx, or Nietzsche understood that historical context affected our experience of the world, or Sigmund Freud’s view of the unconscious. This is a point about language too. Although there is a lot to be said for what we are discovering about language through brain and cognitive science and through Noam Chomsky’s “Cartesian linguistics” respectively. There is also another dimension of language, Ludwig Wittgenstein explored  how our view of the world was tied to language games. There is also J. L. Austin,  language understood as speech acts, whose determination as unhappy or happy, is very much dependent on wider social expectations and practices. This doesn’t degrade truth or claims to truth, it just puts them in a context. Phenomenologically speaking, truth is still experienced as compelling as it ever was, but that doesn’t mean it must be taken on its “own” terms so to speak. In this respect, both Edmund Husserl’s and Rene Descartes’ privileging of special access of the meditating subject to truth and the claims such a subject makes are exactly wrong. Rather, truth is something that only makes sense in reference to ourselves, our communities, goals. Revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, is about developing tools that predict and explain in order to save the world, to end all oppression, to create a healthy, heroic, fun, flourishing society that exists in harmony with the Earth. All-powerful, awesome, glorious Leading Light Communism is about forging the ideological weapons for the poor, the workers, the farmers, the intellectuals, the ordinary people so that we can conquer the future that the capitalists have stolen from us. Our future is our own, for our children, for our children’s children.

4. You talk about truth being intersubjective, contingent, and so on. Are there times when truths collide?

Of course. This makes for great art. Some of the best art is art that straddles, problematizes, or moves between worlds, so to speak. Ludwig von Beethoven is an example of a person with one foot in the world of the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and another in the world of Richard Wagner. William Shakespeare too is a kind of collision of our contemporary era with the past. He was very ahead of his times, so to speak.

Sophocles’ Antigone is a great example. It is a conflict between two worldviews, two moral codes, two societies. On the one side, there is Antigone, who has to burry her fallen brother’s body because it is commanded by the moral law as she experiences it. Such a law is experienced as demanding obedience from Antigone. She is obliged to bury her brother. At the same time, Creon, the ruler of the city and her uncle, declares he not be given the burial rights, that he be left to rot, because her brother had died betraying the city. You have a collision of two moral orders, the morality of the family and clan versus the morality of the city. Sophocles does a wonderful job of portraying the phenomenology of obligation in the character of Antigone. She is so compelled to bury her brother that she faces death herself at the hands of Creon. Similarly, Creon is willing to kill Antigone, his own blood, to protect the city. At the same time, both their actions are portrayed as very much connected to their individual position within a wider community. For Antigone, it is her family or clan. For Creon, it is the city. The text documents a clash of values that must have happened in numerous societies over and over as they transformed from clan and family based to more cosmopolitan, city and state, orders.

Although the idea of the social contract is as least as old as Plato’s Republic, where it is rejected by Socrates, its rise to prominence at the beginning of capitalism is very much connected to the bourgeoisie. Contracting is part of bourgeois life. The projection of the social contract onto universe, onto history, as a way by which to legitimate, to measure, the status quo is very much part of the ideology of ascending capitalism, the rising bourgeoisie as it battles against other reactionary social classes, especially those of  leftover from the feudal era. Today, the bourgeoisie does not bother justifying itself this way. As Vladimir Lenin pointed out, the bourgeoisie is no longer playing a progressive role. Capitalism is now decadent, in decline. The capitalists do not feel the need to justify their order by reference to such complex ideological constructs. Capitalism is just a given, human nature. The capitalist ideology today when compared to the Enlightenment is the difference between the ascending bourgeoisie and decadent bourgeoisie. It is the difference between Beethoven and Beyonce. It is the difference between Rousseau and Cheetos.

On another point, it is a misconception that the high art of the past, the high art of the earlier bourgeoisie, is the main form of capitalist art today. Classical music, for example, is not the music of the capitalism or even the capitalist overlords. Ordinary pop is the music of capitalism. Classical music is similar to modernist art in this respect. It is not easily understood. It usually requires more education to develop an appreciation for it. It is an art that requires thinking, which is something that is required as the bourgeoisie ascends, as the bourgeoisie challenged the old, traditionalist order. Today, the main form of capitalist culture is an art that requires very little effort by its listeners and viewers. Pop art. Advertising. Capitalism in decline is not about thinking. Heroic reorganization of the social order no longer occupies the bourgeoisie or its culture today. Rather, it is about consuming and not asking why. Thus art that provokes people to think, even if its origin is itself the bourgeoisie of the past, ends up being a kind of resistance against the dominant culture. This is something that Adorno saw, but the point really goes back to Kant in some ways.

At the height of the Cultural Revolution, Maoists criticized art that did not put class struggle and revolutionary themes to the forefront. The Maoist art was very similar to medieval allegories, morality tales with no ambiguity. The good characters were all good, representing the proletarian line. The bad characters were all bad. Maoists openly argued against what they called “middle characters.” Everything was very clear. Even the lighting in Jiang Qing’s model operas reflected this. The hero was fully illuminated, the light source was not directly on the villain, making him shady, literally. Maoist art sought to replace much of the old art that was deemed reactionary. Even though some of the Maoist art was genuinely good, much of it looks cliche because they were trying to fill the cultural void that was left when they got rid of much the old culture. A few decades of artistic production was trying to fill the a void that had been filled by art produced over thousands of years. Also denounced in this period was art for art’s sake, including formalism. It was denounced because it did not overtly represent class struggle. And this was equated with not aiding the class struggle. The Maoist view is incorrect.

The mistake is in thinking that art for art’s sake, formalism, has no class content or that it has reactionary class content. Art for art’s sake, formalism, experimentation often serves the proletariat. Think of it as akin to scientific discovery. Formalist art helps us discover new ways that the proletariat can express itself. It creates new genres that can then be filled with more overt proletarian content. Experiment is what created all the great genres of art and music. If only capitalist societies engage in such experiment that produces new genre, socialism will look boring, unexciting, a drab world where art is not much different from a political lecture. Do we really want a socialism that lacks all color, that lacks all cultural diversity? A socialism that only can express itself in the most one-dimensional, didactic way will not carry us over to Leading Light Communism. We need a culture that provokes the masses to think, not just absorb. The brains of the masses should not be seen as empty vessels that we pour culture into. Rather, we need a culture that provokes the masses to become actors themselves, and to do this, we need an art that is difficult, that requires thought. We need an art that challenges people to think in new ways. It is a mistake to think formalism is necessarily tied to empty gestures in support of the capitalist status quo. The experience of art should elevate the viewer, or in the case of music, the listener. Thus formalism, art for art’s sake, can serve proletarian ends even if its themes are not explicitly political. This is a kind of view sometimes associated with Kant, among others. Maoists may have criticized Confucianism. Although their art portrayed activity on the part of the masses, the didacticism of their style still encouraged that mental passivity in some ways.

In any case, my point is that collisions happen in all kinds of way all the time. Right now, a higher level of revolutionary science has articulated itself. It is called “Leading Light Communism.” It is a package of scientific discoveries in all areas of revolutionary science. It is an all-round, all-powerful, awesome, glorious advance over everything that has come before. What we are doing is unprecedented and dangerous, which is why there has been so much push back not only from the capitalists, but also from their useful idiots, the revisionist blockheads, identity politicians, dogmatists.

5. You spoke of a socialism that embraces artistic discovery in the same way it should it should embrace scientific discovery. What other virtues are bound up with Leading Light Communism?

A new take on a very old question. For many philosophers the question of the good city was very much tied to the question of the good man. From Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, and even Marx, the city was reflected in the man and vice versa. Probably the most famous example here is Plato’s Republic. But, Marx also sees how capitalism alienates people from their labor, from their world, from themselves. For Marx, overcoming that alienation was part of the revolutionary project. To get things right required changing both the experience of the self and the experience of the broader society.

In Phaedrus, Socrates famously uses the allegory to the chariot to describe the tripartite nature of the soul. The chariot is driven by two horses. Then there is the black horse. It represents the crass appetites, material gain. There is the white horse, it represents “thymos,” sometimes translated as “spiritedness.” This white horse is recognition, victory. Then there is the charioteer, reason or wisdom. Plato uses this metaphor to describe the human soul. Human souls are conflicted, but in each individual a different aspect of the soul wins out. So, in the Republic, Plato divided humanity into different types of people: the bronze souls, the silver souls, the gold souls. We don’t need to buy into Plato’s concept of class or even his particular interpretation of the good city to understand that different values or desires drive different societies. Marxists have long understood that capitalist societies produce certain kinds of souls, a certain sets of values, certain ways of looking at the self and world. Maoists even used to say that not having revolutionary politics was like not having a soul.

Today’s liberal capitalism is not only a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, but its whole culture reflects the limited outlook, the dulled ambition, the crass consumerism of the bourgeoisie. It’s not even traditionalist fascism of the past. The white horse, the thymos, the ambition, the desire for recognition, that drives warrior classes in earlier societies, has been tamed, channeled into safe directions. A whole host of fantasy lives is provided to occupy one’s leisure time. All kinds of identities, sub-cultures, fantasies. Herbert Marcuse, borrowing from Martin Heidegger, talked about the rise of techne weighing down on the individual, turning him into a one-dimensional cog in the modern social machine. Capitalism may be a society of cogs, but in the First World, the cogs are bombarded with entertainment, disco lights, toys, fashion, pop music. They are provided with all kinds fantasies to keep them occupied,  substitutes so that thymos is not realized in a way that threatens the system. They can play wizards in a coven. They can act a Civil War general.  They can be a rampaging barbarian in a video game. This taming also affects those who claim to be revolutionaries in the First World. They can even play Bolshevik or Maoist. All kinds of diversionary pseudo-radical politics channel individuals in safe directions: revisionism, lifestylism, anarchism, and identify politics. The quest for truth and artistic creation becomes just part fantasy play and the exchange of the all-mighty dollar. It becomes just another stage provided by capitalist culture where expression can work itself out in a safe manner. In the Manifesto, Marx wrote that capitalist exchange undermines all traditional relationships, even religion and the family. Capitalism profanes everything holy. The crass consumerism and banality of the dark horse drives the souls of the First World.

Contrast the crass consumption and banality of the First World to that of socialism. In socialism, Thymos was channeled in a positive direction, was a part of those great social experiments. Men and women were heroic warriors. For example, a big part of the whole Maoist model, at least as conceived by Lin Biao, was to have all of society “learn from the People’s Liberation Army,” to have all of society embody the ethos of the people’s warrior. Duty, heroism, sacrifice, honor, loyalty were portrayed in the revolutionary images. Ordinary men and women as heroes, but also as men and women. Past socialism did not fail to elevate thymos, its failure was to truly elevate science alongside it in a real way. We see this failure in many places. For example, Soviet socialism rejected natural selection, embracing Lysenko’s Lamarckian foolishness. With almost no debate, Maoists rejected sensible environmental and population planning as “Malthusian.” All kinds of mistakes were made when science was pushed aside for dogma with a scientific pretense fueled by thymos. Leading Light Communism is about promoting and elevating thymos, the white horse, but with science truly in command, as charioteer. Humanity will flourish when science is truly in command, and when the individual is allowed a certain amount of freedom, fun, pleasure, but without the unsustainable, consumption of capitalism. The scientist, the philosopher, the warrior, the worker, the farmer, the caregiver, the artist and musician, the dancer must all be allowed to flourish. Only a truly scientific socialism with a rich, experimental culture  will be able to elevate people to cross the bridge to Leading Light Communism.

The capitalist soul is shared by most First World activists, even those who consider themselves revolutionary or radical. And, here, identity politics is part of the First Worldist, liberal package. You have a First World activist culture that claims to be anti-capitalist, but stamps out real leadership. Anyone who is capable who sticks up their head is immediately shouted down and called out. These First Worldists share the same liberal revulsion for thymos. Now, granted, the objective conditions for revolution do not exist in the First World. Obviously, we know this. We have explained this again and again. Even so, more progress ought be possible. C. S. Lewis stated, in a very different context:

“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue… We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Although it would never get to first base, imagine what the revolution of these First World activists would look like. It would be the socialism of dunces and cowards. If somehow it were to succeed, think of the kind of society it would produce: a socialism of dunces without aspiration or real intellect. It would be a socialism that reflected their empty souls. It would lower the bar just as today’s capitalist society does. Real revolution is not made by destroying what is the best in people. It is not made by knocking great people down. It is made by raising people up, including the brightest lights. The goal is not to get rid of leadership, or simply to declare everyone a leader by fiat, but rather to make everyone capable of truly being a leader. The goal is not to get rid of genius, but to acknowledge it, and to produce as many geniuses as possible. Real socialism is about creating a society where the conditions are in place to allow as many people to flourish, to become great, as possible. Theirs is the fake socialism of fools, which despite its rhetoric promotes the same stupefying soul as capitalism. By contrast, ours is a revolution of genius, of heroism, of creativity, of proletarian and military discipline and sacrifice. We are Leading Lights.

Jackal bites jackal

Jackal  bites jackalBangladesh-Jamaat-leader-sentenced-to-death


Recently, the leader of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, Motiur Rahman Nizami was sentenced to hang by the neck until death. He was sentenced by a special tribunal that hears unresolved cases connected to the war of liberation that technically ended on December 3, 1971. This has caused much controversy. Many have feared a new round of bloodshed in response. The Islamists will use the ruling in an attempt to rally their forces in support of dark-age barbarism. The Awami League will use any chaos to further increase their dictatorship. The empire will support both jackals against the people. A land that is wounded is more easily controlled.

Our land continues to bleed

It is important to understand our history in order to know our present. Prior to liberation, Bangladesh existed as an internal colony of Pakistan, which was also a kind of semi-colony of the Western imperialists. Thus Bangladesh was a colony or a colony so to speak. The capitalists and landlords who had the power and wealth were concentrated in Pakistan. They maintained their brutal exploitation through terror, often enforced by the most backward, feudal segments of the population. Often Islamic organizations were enlisted to terrorize the masses. Our struggle for independence came at a great price.  It is hard to know the exact number of people who died in the genocidal conflict. According to some estimates, up to three million died from indiscriminate killings. Students, activists, ordinary workers and peasants were rounded up and murdered in an attempt to break the will of the masses. At the behest of Pakistan, the Al-Shams and Al-Badr forces  attempted to wipe out the intelligencia, to erase the best minds of our country. Just days before their surrender, the Pakistan Army and Razakar militia picked up engineers, physicians, professors, and writers in Dhaka, leaving over a hundred bodies in a mass grave. Many mass graves dot the landscape even today, leftovers from the war. Hundreds of thousands of our mothers, sisters, and daughters were raped as part of Pakistan’s pacification efforts. Another ten million people are estimated to have fled from their homeland as refugees. Many more died as a result of purposeful sabotaging of relief efforts during the 1970 cyclone by Pakistan and the West. Many more died as a result of the economic disruptions of the war. Journalists and writers were murdered systematically in order to hide the brutality from the world. Yahya Khan, president of Pakistan, declared, “Kill three million of them, and the rest will eat out of our hand.” Both the West and China supported the brutal attacks on the people. Recent declassified documents reveal that the United States’ State Department referred to the movement to crush Bangladesh as a “selective genocide” in its internal discussions. Henry Kissinger, who was meeting with Mao at the time, compared the Bangladeshi leadership to another thorn in his side, Salvador Allende of Chile. Later, Allende would be brutally ousted by US-backed forces. In both cases, China lent its moral support to the Western imperialists and their allies. China was one of the first states to recognize the Pinochet regime. China also vetoed Bangladesh’s application to the United Nations on January 25, 1972. Sadly, Mao began pushing China rightward, against his own revolution. China’s alignment with imperialism occurred after the September 1971 fall of Lin Biao, who had been the main representative of the strategy of supporting wars of liberation. It was Lin Biao said:

“The struggles waged by the different peoples against U.S. imperialism reinforce each other and merge into a torrential world-wide tide of opposition to U.S. imperialism. The more successful the development of people’s war in a given region, the larger the number of U.S. imperialist forces that can be pinned down and depleted there. When the U.S. aggressors are hard pressed in one place, they have no alternative but to loosen their grip on others. Therefore, the conditions become more favourable for the people elsewhere to wage struggles against U.S. imperialism and its lackeys.

Everything is divisible. And so is this colossus of U.S. imperialism. It can be split up and defeated. The peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America and other regions can destroy it piece by piece, some striking at its head and others at its feet. That is why the greatest fear of U.S. imperialism is that people’s wars will be launched in different parts of the world, and particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and why it regards people’s war as a mortal danger.”


“In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.”

Unfortunately, after Lin Biao fell, China moved rightward, abandoning the revolutionary road domestically and internationally throughout the 1970s. Even though Mao had been a great revolution, he began to make big mistakes. Much of the world watched as our land bled. And our wounds are still open today. Just as many of the big imperialists that supported the killing of our people go free, just as many with blood on their hands in Pakistan continue to walk the streets,  so too do many of their collaborators, their running dogs in Bangladesh go free. Some of the biggest traitors who terrorized our people then continue to terrorize our people now. Just as the Islamists worked to enslave our people then, they continue to do so today.

Jackal vs Jackal

Ever since it was established, the tribunal has not represented the people, but rather the political winds. It is not a tool of real justice, but a tool by which one jackal bites another. On the one side, there is the Awami League, which has long since sold out its original principles. First it sold out to the Indians and Soviets, now it sells out to India and the West. First it sold our people to the Indian and Soviet bureaucrats, now it sells us to the neo-liberal capitalists of India and the West. They work with the semi-feudal landlords On the other side, there is Jamaat-e-Islami and other Islamists, who would also enslave our people to the capitalists, semi-feudal landlords, and mullahs of Pakistan. These are the same hypocrite mullahs who say “death to the West!,” as they take money from empire, especially through the Gulf Arab states and CIA. These are the mullahs who enslave our sisters and daughters like cattle. These are the mullahs who beat their own families into submission. These are the “moral” God men who threaten people with beheadings and rape in this world and threaten eternal torment in the next. They would like to see us all return to dark-age barbarism in order to weaken our country so it is more easily stolen from our children by the empire. The Awami League uses the trials as a way to shift attention away from its own corruption and betrayals, to shift attention onto the crimes of the Islamists. Jamaat-e-Islami uses the tribunal to play the victim, to shift attention onto the Awami League.

There will be no healing of old wounds until there is real justice.  The law of empire will not stop the imperialist. The law of capitalism will not stop the capitalist. The law of medievalism will not stop feudalist. The system will never fundamentally hold itself accountable. All those who have committed crimes against the masses must answer, but they must answer before the masses. All the running dogs, all the jackals of empire and barbarism, must face the people. The Islamists are guilty. The Awami League is guilty. The entire system is guilty. The Old Power has no solutions, it is a rotten to the core. It must be swept away. They must all answer for their crimes.

We see through the lies of the system. Real justice is within ourselves.  There is no greater warrior than the worker, the farmer, the intellectual who fights for people, for the land, for our future. There is no greater weapon that the sword of truth, revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism.  We all have a duty to build a better world, a New Power of the Leading Light. We fight for our children, their children, for our brothers and sisters, for our mothers and fathers. We fight for each other. Our future is our own.


On the protests in Bangladesh: What is to be done?

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein reviewed by Prairie Fire200px-Shock_doctrine_cover


The Shock Doctrine (2007) by Naomi Klein was a New York Times bestseller that appeared in 2007 at the height of the wave of public anger toward the George W. Bush administration in the United States. It was one of many books that made the rounds amongst outraged liberals in those years. In many ways, reading the book years after its original popularity allows us to absorb its claims without seeing them in the context of the left Democratic Party’s “anybody but Bush” political campaign. The book documents the evolution of what the author terms “disaster capitalism” from the classrooms of the University of Chicago to Pinochet’s stadiums-turned-death camps to the restoration of capitalism in China to the fall of the Soviet bloc to the compromises the African National Congress made in South Africa to the Green Zone in Iraq to the economic reforms enacted during the tsunamis in Asia and hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Even though the book is, ultimately, First Worldist, it contains important insights that help our understanding of neoliberalism and the new forms that imperialism has taken since the fall of socialism and the fall of the Soviet revisionist bloc. Klein holds that because of the radical, extreme nature of neoliberal economics, policy makers have come to understand that in order to impose such extreme, neoliberal reforms, populations have to be shocked, stunned, de-patterned as victims of electro-shock therapy are. Such is the only way to get populations to go along with reforms that are in opposition to their interests. Shock and awe crisis combined with radical, capitalist reform is the hallmarks of the emerging neoliberal corporate order. So argues Klein.

Intellectual origin of neoliberalism

A forerunner of the Chicago school was the Austrian school. Austrian school economics is represented best by Friedrich Hayek who also had taught in Chicago for a time in the 1950s. The immediate intellectual origin of the neoliberal economics is the University of Chicago, but it really is just a continuation of the Austrian tradition. The University of Chicago school of economics of the 1950s, Milton Friedman and his students, has been mythologized in the media and intellectual imagination. Their radical brand of capitalism appeared when real socialism was reaching its height, with Stalin’s victory in World War 2 and Mao’s victory in China. This was a time, after the Marshal Plan, when European social democracy was seen as the kinder, gentler future of imperialism for Europe, North America, Japan, and Oceania. This was a time when anti-colonial, patriotic nationalist regimes sought to develop their countries with large state sectors and large welfare programs. Among liberals, social democrats, and nationalists, Keynesianism ruled the roost. The economic battle on the world scene was largely between Stalinist and Maoist economics versus Keynesianism and social democracy. It was in this climate that Milton Friedman played the capitalist rebel. Contrary to popular opinion at the time, Friedman echoed Hayek, arguing that free markets were true freedom. Hayek, Friedman’s personal guru, argued that any state intervention in the market, be it Marxist or Keynesianism, was a “road to serfdom.” (pp. 66-67) State involvement in the market inevitably lead to a kind of feudalism that reduced the bulk of humanity to unfree paupers who toil for their state overlords. For Friedman, free markets solve all economic problems. Markets create freedom and abundance — never mind the ugly realities of capitalism in the real world or the problems of sustainability. For the neoliberals, all problems are a result of interference, hindrance of the free market. Contrary to the consensus at the time, they argued that the invisible hand must be freed to solve all problems:

“Friedman dreamed of de-patterning societies, of returning them to a state of pure capitalism, cleansed of all interruptions — government regulations, trade barriers and entrenched interests… Friedman believed that when the economy is highly distorted, the only way to reach that prelapsarian state was to deliberately inflict painful shocks: only ‘bitter medicine’ could clear those distortions and bad patterns.” (p. 60)

The advocacy of unbridled, unregulated, anti-state capitalism had been largely discredited not only in socialist regimes, but in both the post-colonial Third World and in the social-democratic First World ever since the Great Depression. The neoliberals needed an intellectual revolution; they needed to gain credibility by building public opinion for their views among intellectuals. Such pro-corporate views could not be sold to intellectuals or even politicians unless they found an academic advocate. Arguments by corporate robber barons to enrich themselves would fall on deaf ears. The corporations needed a champion who could convincingly argue for a return to unregulated capitalism, a return to a mythological capitalism, a time before the rise of socialism, before the state capitalism of the social democracies, social imperialists, and welfare states. Milton Friedman and his students fit the bill:

“The enormous benefit of having corporate views funneled through academic, or quasi-academic, institutions not only kept the Chicago school flush with donations, but, in short order, spawned the global network of right-wing think tanks that would churn out the counterrevolution’s foot soldiers worldwide.” (p. 68)

A new generation of radical capitalist ideologues and policy makers was born. The new wave posed as the radical, rebel capitalist among the evil, status quo statists. Anti-communism. Anti-social democracy. Reverse the new deal. Privatize everything. These young turks would come to dominate economic thinking in the capitalist world. They would preside over coups, depressions, wars, and other catastrophes over the next few decades. They would preside over whole new wave of imperialist terror against the world. They would preside over and profit from disasters in both the Third and First Worlds.

Disaster as opportunity

Marxists have often seen crisis as an opportunity that can create the conditions for revolution. However, crisis is not only a gift to the revolutionary forces, it can be used as a way to restructure society by others also. Fascists used economic crisis to catapult themselves to power. Now, it was time for the neoliberals:

“Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.” (p. 174)

Crisis situations are ones in which people are willing to experiment with new policies, are willing to accept radical solutions, both left and right, as necessary, even inevitable. Chicago School economists called this “the crisis hypothesis.” Not only did Chicago School economists create the policies to implement in times of crisis, but they participated in the generation of crisis themselves by closely collaborating with the imperialist militaries and their proxy dictatorships, but also by their role advising and working for transnational corporations and in the global financial institutions like the World Bank and IMF. Later, the “crisis hypothesis” would inform the U.S. military policy of “Shock and Awe” that was first advanced in the mid-1990s, but formed the basis of the military and economic strategy used against the people of Iraq in 2003. In the 1996 paper that articulated the concept. The paper states that an invading force should “seize control of the environment and paralyze or so overload an adversary’s perceptions and understanding of events so that the enemy would be incapable of resistance.” (p. 184) Disasters, be they a result of war, economy, or nature, are opportunities, according to the neoliberals. An overwhelming crisis can be used to shove any radical reform on a people incapable of mounting resistance.

Indonesia’s shock, a forerunner for the neoliberal counter-revolution

During World War 2, the old imperialist powers of Europe had annihilated each other. The old empires of Europe — England, France, Germany, and others — were no longer able to hold onto their colonies. European powers were forced out of the Third World. Sometimes they were forced out to as communist-led revolutions swept places like China. They were also forced out of other parts of the Third World as the patriotic bourgeoisie seized power and sought to implement economic reform that favored national development. Mao freed a quarter of the world from the “two mountains” of feudalism and imperialism. Ho Chi Minh sought to do the same in Vietnam. Mossadegh in Iran, Gaddafi in Libya, Nasser in Egypt, Arbenz in Guatemala, Sukarno in Indonesia, and many others across the Third World sought to implement limited reform that would reduce the imperialist hold on their economies. Their reforms pursued developmental strategies that increased the state sector, often at the expense of imperialists and transnational corporations. Washington fought back with economic terrorism, bombings, wars, coups and death squads. In 1954, Mossadegh was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup in Iran. He was replaced by the brutal Shah, a friend of the West. Again, in 1954, the CIA came to the rescue of the United Fruit Company in Guatemala. The CIA disposed of the Arbenz regime that had dared to move toward land reform. This happened over and over, in country after country. Indonesia was to be a battle ground.

Indonesia was one of the first experiments in using shock therapy to restructure an economy, although not along strictly neoliberal lines. Prior to the pro-Western restructuring, Sukarno’s regime in Indonesia was a nationalist one that sought a course independent of both the Western and Soviet imperialists. The regime was one of national development and social democracy that made concessions to poor peoples and their organizations, including the powerful, Maoist-Influenced Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). A high-level CIA directive sought to “liquidate President Sukarno, depending upon the situation and available opportunities.” (p. 81) After several false starts, the CIA’s goal was accomplished by a military coup in October of 1965. The military, led by general Suharto, began a bloody campaign to eliminate the left. Death squads went from door to door, from village to village, torturing and executing anyone suspected of being sympathetic to communism. Educated people, teachers, students, worker and peasant organizers, human rights activists, nationalists, social democrats and communists were murdered by the new regime with the blessing and support of the CIA. Within one month, at least a half million people were killed, “massacred by the hundreds of  thousands,” according to Time magazine.  “Travelers from those areas tell of small rivers and streams that have been literally clogged with bodies; river transportation has at places been impeded.” (p. 82)

Indonesia’s economy was then restructured to serve the West. This restructuring was planned by a group of intellectuals funded by the Ford Foundation. This group was called “the Berkley Mafia” in the press and in intellectual circles. They were Indonesian students who studied at Berkley as part of Ford Foundation funded program. When they returned home, they founded a Western-style economics department at the University of Indonesia’s Faculty of Economics. John Howard, then Director of Ford’s International Training and Research program states, “Ford felt it was training the guys who would be leading the country when Sukarno got out.” (p. 83)

The Berkley Mafia got to work. They recorded lectures on economics for the generals. They personally tutored general Suharto, who was reported to have been attentive, closely taking notes. They filled important positions in the new regime. They became the new economic technocrats. They made Indonesia friendly to foreign capital. “They passed laws allowing foreign companies to own 100 percent of these resources [food, basics, oil and mineral wealth], handed out ‘tax holidays,’ and within two years, Indonesia’s natural wealth — copper, nickel, hardwood, rubber and oil — was being divided up among the largest mining and energy companies in the world.” (pp. 83-84) Even though the Berkley Mafia were less explicitly ideological, even though they were not as anti-state as future neoliberals, the parallels with later neoliberals, such as the “Chicago Boys” in Latin America, would be striking. (p. 84)

“Suharto… had shown that if massive repression was used preemptively, the country would go into a kind of shock and resistance could be wiped out before it even took place. His use of terror was so merciless, so far beyond even the worst expectations, that a people who only weeks earlier had been collectively striving to assert their country’s independence were now sufficiently terrorized that they ceded total control to Suharto and his henchmen. Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations manager during the years of the coup, said Indonesia was a ‘model operation… You can trace back all major, bloody events run from Washington to the way Suharto came to power. The success of that meant that it would be repeated, again and again.”’ (p. 85)

It was the Indonesia experience of mass terrorism against the populace that would interest the architects of the neoliberal, orchestrated disasters and counter-revolutions to come.

Latin America, the real beginning

Even though there were forerunners like Indonesia, it was in the southern cone of Latin America that the Chicago school would get its big break. It was in 1953, that Adbion Patterson, director of the U.S. International Cooperation Administration in Chile, the agency later would become part of the infamous USAID, met with Theodore W. Shultz, chairman of the Department of Economic at the University of Chicago. USAID is known as being part of the “carrot” side of the United States’ “carrot and stick” foreign policy. USAID tries to project a more humane face for U.S. imperialism. USAID is known to collaborate with the CIA, death squads, and dictators across the Third World. The neoliberals came to the conclusion that Latin America was in a life-and-death struggle with Marxism. They began a collaboration to recreate the Chicago school in Chile, to create cohorts of capitalist intellectuals to save the continent. Similar to the creation of the Berkley Mafia in Indonesia, they created exchange programs between the Chicago School and universities in Chile. Because of lack of interest at more the prestigious campuses of Chile, they decided to create and finance a whole new school of economics at Chile’s Catholic University, a lesser institution. This was paid for by foundations and U.S. tax dollars. The student ideologues were described as “more Friedmanite than Friedman himself.” “Los Chicago Boys” would become the ideological vanguard of the coming neoliberal revolution that would begin in Chile.  (pp. 72-74)

By 1968, 20 percent of U.S. foreign investment was tied up in Latin America. There were 5,436 U.S. subsidiaries in the region. In previous decades, over a billion dollars was invested in Chile’s mining industries by U.S. corporations. Chileans saw few benefits. Following the typical pattern, value and resources left Chile at an astonishing rate. 7.2 billion in Chilean mining dollars ended up in pockets in the United States. (p. 78) In the early 1970s, Salvador Allende sought to reform the Chilean economy, which was dominated by foreign-owned corporations. Fearing that Allende would set a regional example, the U.S. state and corporations began waging a covert war to destabilize the economy and the Allende regime. When the U.S. State Department, CIA, and corporations failed to muscle Allende to reverse course early on, they began implementing a plan to overthrow him. (pp. 78-80)

“The other 9/11” occurred on September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet launched a coup d’etat. Allende’s civilian defense leagues were no match for Pinochet’s military and police. Pinochet described his coup as a “war.” Allende was killed. The Presidential Palace was in flames. The Allende government was imprisoned. In the days that followed, 13,500 civilians were rounded up. They were sent to the National Stadium, which was turned into a torture center and death camp. Thousands were tortured and killed. 80,000 imprisoned. 200,000 escaped the country for political reasons. (pp. 93-95) Books by Marx, Freud, and Neruda were burned. Chilean society was thrown into disarray.

The Chicago Boys saw their chance. “To us, it was a revolution,” one recalled. The capitalist intellectuals went into action. Pinochet knew nothing about economics, which allowed the Chicago Boys free reign to push through drastic reforms very quickly. As blood flowed in the streets, the Chicago Boys rushed to put together a statement, a program, that advocated privatization, deregulation, and cuts to social spending. With military approval, the Chicago Boys got the right-wing newspaper El Mercurio to print a long document that came to be known as “The Brick.” By noon, on September 12, 1973, government workers had the plan on their desks. The plan heavily resembled Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom. To implement their radical agenda, they no longer needed to win anyone’s approval except a handful of military men. They could impose their ideas at gunpoint. Several of the Chicago Boys were named advisers to the dictatorship. (pp. 94-96)

A year after the coup, inflation reached 375 percent. This was the highest rate in the world, double that of the rate under Allende. The markets were flooded with cheap imports, putting local manufactures out of business. Unemployment hit record levels as hundreds of thousands lost manufacturing and public-sector jobs. In that first year, domestic industrialists began to resist the Chicago Boys, whose policies were only benefiting foreign importers, financiers and compradors. The National Association of Manufactures declared that the experiment of the Chicago Boys was “one of the greatest failures of our economic history.” (p. 97) Feeling the experiment in jeopardy, Friedman himself arrived. He was treated like a rock star by the dictator-controlled press. Friedman advised that the dictatorship was off to a good start, but to really succeed, Pinochet had to go further. Friedman said “shock treatment is the only medicine.” Friedman promised an economic miracle. Inflation could be ended and unemployment brought under control. All problems could be solved. However, it was necessary to act quickly, gradualism was not an option. More radical solutions were needed. Pinochet, reportedly, liked the ring of “shock treatment.” With a Chicago Boy newly appointed as Pinochet’s economic minister, they went forward with more neoliberal reforms. Public spending was cut by 27 percent in 1975. By 1980, public spending was half of what it was under Allende. Five hundred state-owned companies and banks were privatized. Some were almost given away. More trade barriers were removed. 177,000 industrial jobs were lost in the decade since the coup. The manufacturing sector shrank, returning to pre-World War 2 levels. Seventy five percent of a family’s income went to bread alone. Milk and bus fare were now luxuries for many. Chile’s economy was in ruin. The Chicago Boys and the dictator had taken Chile into a deep recession. (pp. 99-102)

In 1982, the economy got worse. The situation was to bad that Pinochet broke with the Chicago Boys out of necessity. He returned to Allende-type nationalization of major industries. The Chicago Boys were fired from influential government posts. Several came under investigation for profiteering and corruption. What prevented total collapse was that Pinochet never nationalized Codelco, the major copper company that generated 85 percent of Chile’s export revenues. Even in the worst period of neoliberal reform, the regime still had a revenue stream from copper profits. (p. 104) It was only in 1988 that the Chilean economy began to rapidly grow. The growth occurred only after 45 percent of the population had been forced under the poverty line by neoliberal policies. Neoliberals often point to the “Chilean miracle” as an example of the success of their policies. However, the “Chilean miracle” is a myth. The Chilean economy began to bounce back rapidly only after being first destroyed by neoliberal policies. The recovery happened by abandoning neoliberal policies, not because of them. And, even then, the recovery was uneven. In 2007, Chile was one of the most unequal societies in the world. The top ten percent saw their incomes rise 83 percent. Out of 123 countries counted by the United Nations, Chile ranked 116 in terms of inequality. (p. 105) In Chile, the “shock therapy” amounted to the rapid plunder of state assets. There was a massive redistribution of value from the middle and poor classes to the bourgeois classes, especially the compradors and the imperialists. The reality is that what developed was far from the free-market utopia of academics. The vision of Friedman and the Chicago Boys was made possible by a U.S.-sponsored police state that exterminated all opposition. The rapid economic hardships combined with the terror campaign waged by the state were a key part of subduing the Chilean people and expediting the neoliberal reform.

Klein describes the Pinochet dictatorship that streamlined the neoliberal “shock therapy”:

“Corporatism, or ‘corporativism,’ originally referred to Mussolini’s model of a police state run as an alliance of the three major power sources in society — government, businesses and trade unions — all collaborating to guarantee order in the name of nationalism. What Chile pioneered under Pinochet was an evolution of corporatism:  a mutually supporting alliance between a police state and large corporations, joining forces to wage all-out war on the third power sector — the workers — thereby drastically increasing the alliance’s share of the national wealth.” (p. 105)

While not meaning to, Klein has made an important observation. Despite anti-fascist propaganda at the time, in some fascist states, the workers — for example, in Germany — were not always on the receiving end of state violence or economic terrorism. The fascist state in Germany saw itself as above class, not unlike social-democratic regimes have since Lenin’s time. Although the fascist state served corporate and banking interests, it also sought to accommodate the bourgeoisified, German worker. It did this through social-democratic reform and also by redistribution of wealth from conquered peoples to Germans. Thus the state sought to deliver a higher standard of living to Germans, including German workers at the expense of other peoples. Not so in Chile. As a Third World country, fascism doesn’t typically seek an alliance with its own proletarian workers, at least not in the long term. Fascism, as Georg Dimitrov, theorist of Stalin’s Comintern around World War 2, put it, is “the open terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital.” However, fascism, in a Third World country like Chile, does not really seek any real alliance with the workers. Fascism does not seek to benefit the workers so much as cannibalize workers in the interests of local compradors and imperialists. Police, military and paramilitary terror facilitates the transfer of value from the poor and workers to compradors: generals, police, state bureaucrats, corrupt officials, middlemen for the imperialists, landed and other oligarchs, etc.  State and extra-state terror facilitate the transfer of value to the imperialists: multi-national corporations, financial institutions, global entities and bureaucracies, imperialist states and populations, etc. Pinochet’s regime subdued the Chilean workers. It did not court them.

The “shock therapy” that occurred in Chile happened elsewhere in Latin America, but with variations. When Pinochet took power in Chile in 1973, Brazil was already under the jackboot of a military junta. In the Brazilian junta, Friedman’s students held key posts. At the height of the junta’s brutality, Friedman traveled to Brazil to declare the neoliberal experiment there “a miracle.” External debt in Brazil would go from 3 billion to 103 billion. In Argentina in 1976, a military junta seized power. The Chicago Boys occupied positions in the military government: secretary of finance, president of the central bank and research director for the Treasury Department of the Finance Ministry, and other lesser posts. Although the neoliberal reform did not go as far there, state-ownership of the oil sector and social security survived, the neoliberal reforms were enough to push the middle classes into the poverty. Argentina’s external debt grew from 7.9 billion to 45 billion after the coup. Uruguay was also ruled by the military with similar results. The external debt doubled.  Arnold Harberger and Larry Sjaastad and their team, along with Chicago graduates from Argentina, Chile, and Brazil were tasked with reforming Uruguay’s tax and commercial policy. Similarly, in Bolivia, the unemployment rate increased dramatically. Real wages were reduced by 60 percent. Per capita income dropped from $845 to $789 two years later. Shanty towns and tent cities multiplied as people lost their land and homes. At the same time, Bolivians eligible for social security dropped by 61 percent. The majorities grew poor. A few grew wealthier. Countries that had previously had enjoyed a higher standard of living through economies with large national sectors and active state intervention were turned into Washington-backed neoliberal experiments accompanied by state and economic terror to pacify the populations. Henry Kissinger, who has been indicted for his role in these murderous regimes, was pleased with the neoliberal shock. Friedman and the Chicago Boys provided the ideological cover. Dictators, CIA, death squads, murderous police and military terrorized populations into submission. The juntas of the region cooperated in hunting down refugees and dissent. Through Operation Condor, the juntas and the U.S. intelligence and military shared information to hunt down, torture and kill opposition and perceived opposition. U.S. military and intelligence provided extensive training, even going so far as to produce torture manuals. Klein points out that Condor foreshadowed the system of secret prisons and “extraordinary rendition” that has developed today. Condor and the murderous suppression of dissent and resistance across the region was packaged as a “war on terror” in its day. (pp. 106-112) (pp. 185-186) (p. 196) Countries were subdued by military terror and economic strangulation under the cover of so-called anti-terrorism.

Eastern Bloc

Similar neoliberal restructurings occurred with the fall of the Soviet Bloc. Although the Soviet Bloc had long ceased to be socialist nor were the regimes there led by communists, the fall of the state-heavy regimes there was helped along and planned by neoliberals. As many of the Eastern European regimes reached a breaking point, those who had originally advocated Western European-style social democracy were either transformed or outmaneuvered by neoliberals. In the case of Poland, Solidarity took power from the Soviet-backed regime. Solidarity transformed itself from a trade union movement into one that advocated neoliberal “solutions.” In Poland, when Solidarity gained power, they now had to come up with the funds to pay the state apparatus, including the police. The IMF originally allowed the Polish economy to fall in the face of a debt crisis. The Unites States made statements that it expected the new regime to make good on its payments. The United States offered very little relief to the crumbling economy. In the face of an economic meltdown due to debt, the Polish regime turned to the Chicago School economists.  Jeffery Sachs dubbed “the Indiana Jones of Economics,” adviser to the Bolivian military regime, now advised the Solidarity regime. The Polish regime adopted what was known as “the Sachs Plan” or “shock therapy.” It was only after the regime adopted the plan that the IMF agreed to provide loans. Poland was strong-armed into accepting the emerging neoliberal consensus. (pp. 221-233) It caused a  depression in Poland. There was a 30 percent reduction in industrial production in the first two years. Unemployment skyrocketed, reacting a quarter of the population in some places. (pp. 241-243) Eventually, there was a backlash in Poland. Solidarity was defeated at the ballot box. (pp. 242-243) Similarly, Gorbachev in the Soviet Union originally advocated Western-style social democracy but was displaced by the more neoliberal-friendly Yeltsin. Like elsewhere, ideological and technical help was provided for the neoliberal transformation of the economy:

“To provide ideological and technical backup for Yeltsin’s Chicago Boys, the U.S. government funded its own transition experts whose jobs ranged from writing privatization decrees, to launching a New York-style stock exchange, to designing a Russian mutual fund market. In the fall of 1992, USAID awarded a $2.1 million contract to the Harvard Institute for International Development, which sent teams of young lawyers and economists to shadow the Gaidar team. In May, 1995, Harvard named Sachs director of the Harvard Institute for International Development, which meant that he played two roles in Russia’s reform period: he began as a freelance adviser to Yeltsin, then moved on to overseeing Harvard’s large Russia outpost, funded by the U.S. government.” (p. 281)

What followed was a massive selling of state assets, especially to foreign corporations and corrupt bureaucrats. The public assets were sold off at rock bottom, undervalued prices.

“Forty percent of an oil company comparable in size to France’s Total was sold for $88 million (Total’s sales in 2006 were $193 billion.). Norilsk Nickel, which produced a fifth of the world’s nickel, was sold for $170 million — even though its profits alone soon reached $1.5 billion annually. The massive oil company Yukos, which controls more oil than Kuwait, was sold for $309 million; it now earns more than $3 billion in revenue a year…” (p. 293)

The average Russian consumed 40 percent less in 1992 than 1991. There was a drop in the standard of living. (p. 283) A massive transfer of wealth occurred. Like in Latin America, the economic masterminds of the process often got a piece of the action, selling influence and profiting off of the plunder of the public sector. Enormous profits were moved offshore at the rate of 2 billion dollars a month. A new oligarchy of new millionaires and billionaires arose from the bureaucrats and their advisers that oversaw the process. (p. 291) So much so that the regimes of the post-Soviet Bloc were often described as kleptocracies. This pattern was repeated again and again in Eastern Europe and ex-Soviet bloc.

China, the restoration of capitalism on overdrive

Deng Xiaoping, one of the main architect of China’s counter-revolution and restoration of capitalism, was a big supporter of moving toward a neoliberal, corporate-based economy. In the 1980s, the Chinese regime invited Friedman to tutor hundreds of top-level civil servants, professors and Party economists in the wonders of the free market. Friedman spoke to audiences in Beijing and Shanghai. Deng sought to open up China’s economy, but also maintain the regime’s monopoly on political power. Klein describes the model in China as something close to Pinochet’s Chile. And this was acceptable to Friedman, for whom political freedom is the same as so-called economic freedom, free markets. In 1983, Deng opened the country up to foreign investment. He reduced protections for workers. He created a new 400,000-person People’s Armed Police charged with quashing all signs of “economic crimes.” Prices soared when prices ceased to be regulated. Job security was eliminated. Unemployment rose. Inequalities increased. Dissent grew. Klein suggests that this was the catalyst for the 1989 protests that were crushed by the Chinese state. But the violent suppression of the protests at Tiananmen threw the country into a shock that allowed Deng Xiaoping to go even further.  (pp. 232-239) Five days after the violence, Deng Xiaoping stated:

“Perhaps this bad thing will enable us to go ahead with reform and the open-door policy at a more steady, better, even a faster pace…” (p. 238)

The crackdown paved the way for reorganizing China’s economy along neoliberal lines. Klein characterizes Deng’s philosophy as “Friedmanism without the freedom.” (p. 293) Klein continues:

“It was this wave of reforms that turned China into the sweatshop of the world, the preferred location for contract factories for virtually every multinational on the planet. No country offered more lucrative conditions than China: low taxes and tariffs, corruptible officials and, most of all, a plentiful low-wage workforce that, for many years, would be unwilling to risk demanding decent salaries or the most basic workplace protections for fear of the most violent reprisals.” (p. 239)

For the Chicago School, China is a success. China is now the sweatshop of the First World, producing cheap goods for the populations of the United States. Along with the imperialists, the new bourgeoisie within the Chinese ruling party benefited:

“For foreign investors and the party, it has been a win-win arrangement. According to a 2006 study, 90 percent of China’s billionaires are the children of Communist Party [sic.] officials. Roughly twenty-nine hundred of these party scions — known as ‘the princelings’ — control $260 billion.” (p. 240)

The conflicts within China’s ruling elite today reflect a conflict between a more globalist, comprador-oriented bourgeoisie and a more patriotic bourgeoisie that seeks to retain China’s independence vis a vis the Western-dominated global market and the neoliberal consensus. Although neither pole within China’s elite is revolutionary, it is the more nationalist wing of the bourgeoisie that resists the extension of Western power in the Middle East and Africa. With the global markets in crisis, the nationalist wing of China’s elites have been able to assert themselves.

U.S. policy makers seek to remake the Middle East using Iraq as a model

The imperialists had similar plans for the Middle East and Islamic world. After the First Gulf War between the United States and Iraq, Saddam Hussein retained power in Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s regime was a Baathist one where the state managed much of the economy. It had a large public sector, nationalized industries, a large welfare state. Even though the regime was not truly socialist, it promoted a socialist rhetoric at time. It also promoted nationalism, even though the regime often compromised with the imperialists. Like most regimes in the Third World, the Iraqi regime was a regime ruled by the national bourgeoisie. The national bourgeoisie in the Third World has a patriotic pole that favors independence and development. The national bourgeoisie also has a comprador pole that favors accommodation with imperialism and maldevelopment. The regime in Iraq veered between these two poles. At times, the regime was mainly comprador. At other times, especially after coming into conflict with the United States, the regime was forced to take on more patriotic policies in opposition to the United States. After the First Gulf War, the Iraqi state was severely weakened, but continued to exert control of much of the national economy. The imperialists plundered and exploited Iraq after the First Gulf War through sanctions and reparations after that war ended in 1991. However, with Saddam still in power, they were unable to completely restructure the economy along neoliberal lines. So, their victory in Iraq was incomplete. The events of September 11 gave the imperialists their excuse. Not only could they finish the job in Iraq, Iraq could also serve as a regional example in the Middle East and Islamic world much as Pinochet’s Chile had in Latin America. To this end, Bush II would wage Gulf War II beginning in 2012, a war and occupation that continues to this day. Policy makers and economists had big plans for the post-Saddam Iraq:

“Since the entire Arab world could not be conquered all at once, a single country needed to serve as the catalyst. The U.S. would invade that country and turn it into, as Thomas Friedman, chief media proselytizer of the theory, put it, ‘a different model in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world,’ one that would set off a series of democratic/neoliberal waves through. Josh Muravchik, an American Enterprise Institute pundit, forecast a ‘tsunami across the Islamic world” in Tehran and Baghdad,’ while the arch-conservative Michael Ledeen, an adviser to the Bush administration, described the goal as ‘a war to remake the world.’” (p. 415)

From the beginning, Gulf War II was not simply about Iraq, but a new Middle East and, ultimately, a new world:

“[T]he architects of the invasion had unleashed ferocious violence because they could not crack open the closed economies of the Middle East by peaceful means, that the level of terror was proportional to what was at stake.” (p. 414)

The stakes were big, not just Iraq, but the world. The future of the world was at stake. The neoliberals saw it as  a war of civilizations, a war between two ways of life. Friedman wrote, “We are not doing nation-building in Iraq. We are doing nation-creating.” (p. 417) The Middle East was to be cleaned of terrorists and radicals. Shortly after declaring the fighting over in Iraq, Georg W. Bush announced plans for the “establishment of a U.S.-Middle East free-trade area within a decade.” (p. 416) A giant free-trade zone was planned. (p. 415) This was seen as a unified project to “bring democracy” to the Middle East, and the world. In reality, the “democracy” and “freedom” that neoliberalism brought was only for corporations and Western contractors.

The war planners and neoliberals ran into a problem: Iraq is not a blank slate. Iraq’s civilization is an ancient and rich one. Its popular culture is fiercely proud and anti-imperialist. It had a deep history of Arab nationalism. In addition, the majority of the adult male population had military training. (p. 417) Whole cultures would have to be uprooted to create a neoliberal-capitalist utopia in the region. In order to create the blank slate, a new type of war was to be waged. Donald Rumsfeld promoted a Pentagon-research paper, Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance. (p. 416) The paper prides itself on not merely targeting the enemy military, but “society writ large.” Fear on unprecedented scales is a key component of the theory. (p. 420) Like shock therapy, the goal is “rendering the adversary completely impotent.” (p. 421) A society is completely erased in order to be rebuilt. “Shock and Awe” states:

“In crude terms, Rapid Dominance would seize control of the environment and paralyze or so overload an adversary’s perceptions and underlying understanding of events.” (p. 421)


“With a far larger canvas, that was the invasion and occupation strategy for Iraq. The architects of the war surveyed the global arsenal of shock tactics and decided to go with all of them — blitzkrieg military bombardment supplemented with elaborate psychological operations, followed up with the fastest and most sweeping political and economic shock therapy program attempted anywhere, backed up, if there was any resistance, by rounding up those who resisted and subjugating them to ‘gloves-off’ abuse.” (p. 419)

Iraq was a great experiment in this mass terror for months. The citizens of Baghdad were subject to sensory depravation on a mass scale:

“…real-time manipulation of sense and inputs… literally ‘turning on and off’ the ‘lights’ that enable any potential aggressor to see or appreciate the conditions and events concerning his forces sand ultimately, his society… depriving the enemy, in specific areas, of the ability to communicate, observe.” (pp. 421-423)

Not only did the bombing terrorize the population, it helped erase Iraq’s cultural history:

“The hundreds of looters who smashed ancient ceramics, stripped display cases and pocketed gold and other antiquities, from the National Museum of Iraq pillaged nothing less than records of the first human society,” reported the Los Angeles Times. (p. 425) “Gone are 80 percent of the museum’s 170,000 priceless objects.”  (p. 425)


“The national library, which contained copies of every book and doctoral thesis ever published in Iraq, was a blackened ruin. Thousand-year-old illuminated Korans had disappeared from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which was left a burned-out shell. ‘Our national heritage is lost,’ pronounced a Baghdad high-school teacher. A local merchant said of the museum, ‘It was the soul of Iraq. If the museum doesn’t recover the looted treasures, I will feel like a part of my own soul has been stolen.’” (p. 425)


“The Baghdad International Airport was completely trashed by soldiers, who according to Time, smashed furniture and then moved on to the commercial jets on the runway: ‘U.S. soldiers looking for comfortable seats and souvenirs ripped out many of the planes’ fittings, slashed seats, damaged cockpit equipment and popped out every windshield.’ The result was an estimated $100 million worth of damage to Iraq’s national airline — which was one of the first assets to be put on the auction block in an early and contentious partial privatization.” (p. 426)

U.S. troops failed to prevent the looting in most cases. In some cases, troops even joined in. The behavior of U.S. troops mimicked the behavior of the Nazi troops who personally plundered the countries they occupied in World War 2. Despite the danger, it was a bonanza for U.S. troops. Not only could they walk away with Iraq’s wealth in hand, life in the Green Zone was fun and luxurious compared to the surrounding war zone. It was a kind of Disneyland island for the troops and contractors:

“Baghdad’s Green Zone is the starkest example of this world order. It has its own electrical grid, its own phone and sewage systems, its own oil supply and its own state-of-the-art hospital with pristine operating theaters — all protected by five-meter-thick walls. It feels oddly, like a giant fortified Carnival Cruise Ship parked in the middle of a sea of violence and despair, the boiling Red Zone that is Iraq. If you can get on board, there are poolside drinks, bad Hollywood movies and Nautilus machines. If you are not among the chosen, you can get yourself shot by standing too close to the wall.” (pp. 522-523)

The bombing and looting also helped sweep away the old state institutions. Reagan-era bureaucrat and senior economic advisor to Paul Bremer, Peter McPherson was a true Chicago School believer. He did not mind the plunder of the public sector, especially the public education system. The looting of state property did not bother him. He referred to the pillage of the public sector as “shrinkage.” Thus the massive loss of state assets into private pockets was by design, all the better to create a clean slate for nation building. (p. 427) Iraq’s public education system, the best in the region with 89 percent of Iraqis literate, a number higher than much of the United States, was lost within weeks. (p. 428) This was all part of the plan:

“It’s hard to believe — but then again, that was pretty much Washington’s game plan for Iraq: shock and terrorize the entire country, deliberately ruin its infrastructure, do nothing while its culture and history are ransacked, then make it all okay with an unlimited supply of cheap household appliances and imported junk food. In Iraq, this cycle of culture erasing and culture replacing was not theoretical; it all unfolded in a matter of weeks.” (p. 429)

Neoliberals gloated over their new power. Joe Allbraugh, Bush’s ex-FEMA director, remarked that “One well-stocked 7-Eleven could knock out 30 Iraqi stores; a Wal-Mart could take over the country.” (p. 430) Iraq’s large state firms, or what was left of them, were sold off, two thirds of the employees lost their jobs to make the companies attractive to Western capital. (p. 446) Iraq was flooded by foreign goods. Foreigners bought up factories for very little. (p. 445) Just as Pinochet slashed 25 percent of state employees, so did the imperial occupation de-Baathify the Iraqi state and economy. (p. 444) However, it was not smooth sailing for the neoliberal invaders.

“As is now well known, nothing about Bush’s anti-Marshall Plan went as intended. Iraqis did not see the corporate reconstruction as ‘a gift’; most saw it as a modernized form of pillage, and U.S. corporations didn’t wow anyone with their speed and efficiency; instead they have managed to turn the word ‘reconstruction’ into as one Iraqi engineer put it, ‘a joke that nobody laughs at.’” (p. 442)

The people of Iraq saw their standard of living fall dramatically while foreign contractors and corporations cashed in. Sectarian gangs and death squads roamed the streets. Ethnic and religious conflict tore the country apart. The post-Saddam regime was corrupt and not in control of the country. National liberation, Islamist, and sectarian forces all fought for power. As chaos reigned, it was a free-for-all for foreign corporations who plundered and exploited the economy. The chaos of Iraq, according to Klein, was created by the careful and faithful application of Chicago School ideology. (p. 444)

Natural disasters: Sri Lanka and New Orleans

It is not only coups and wars that can provide the chaos and shock necessary to implement neoliberal restructuring of economies. In recent decades, neoliberals have used the trauma and social dislocation caused by natural disasters to implement their economic vision. 2004 and 2005 were great back-to-back years for neoliberals, but terrible years for humanity. The Asian tsunami and hurricane Katrina devastated populations on two sides of the planet. In December 26, 2004, Sri Lanka was hit by a tsunami that claimed the lives of a quarter million people and left 2.5 million homeless throughout the region. (p. 488)  Prior to the disaster, there was a neoliberal plan called Regaining Sri Lanka.

“Like all such shock therapy plans, Regaining Sri Lanka [the World Bank approved plan] demanded many sacrifice  in the name of kick-starting rapid economic growth. Millions of people would have to leave traditional villages to free up the beaches for tourists and the land for resorts and highways.” (p. 497)

It was defeated at the polls by a “center-left” coalition, but after the tsunami, all bets were off. (p. 498) The tsunami accomplished what could not be done through ordinary channels. It cleared the beach; it created a clean slate sought after by neoliberal reformers. No people, no problem.

“When the tsunami came, it did what the fire couldn’t; it cleared the beach completely. Every single fragile structure was washed away — every boat, every fishing hut, as well as every tourist cabana and bungalow. In a community of only 4,000, about 350 were killed, most of them… who make their living from the sea. And yet, underneath the rubble and the carnage was what the tourism industry had been angling for all along — a pristine beach, scrubbed clean of all the messy signs of people working, a vacation Eden. It was the same up and down the coast: once the rubble was cleared away, what was left was… paradise.

When the emergency subsided and fishing families returned to the spots where their homes once stood, they were greeted by police who forbade them to rebuild. ‘New rules,’ they were told — no homes on the beach, and everything had to be at least two hundred meters back from the high-water mark… The beaches were off-limits.” (p. 490)

Armies of NGOs poured in to keep the lid on social discontent as the neoliberals sold off the beaches to the tourist industry. (p. 494) This would not be the first or last time that natural disasters would create the stage for the radical capitalist reformers. Similarly, the Maldives used the tsunami to clear out its poor people. (pp. 504-506) Earlier, in 1988, Central America was hit by Hurricane Mitch. Water and landslides killed over 9,000 people in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Whole villages were destroyed. With its population in shock, Honduras used the opportunity to push through privatization laws that sold off its airports, seaports and highways and fast-tracked plans to privatize its telephone company, the national electric company, and parts of its water sector. Protections on land were overturned, making it easier for foreign capitalists to buy and push out local and smaller farmers. Environmental standards were lowered. People were evicted from their homes to make way for foreign-owned mines. Similarly, Guatemala used the opportunity to sell off its phone company and Nicaragua sold off its electric company. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund strong-armed Nicaragua by making 4.4 billion in debt relief tied to the implementation of neoliberal policies. (p. 500) “Destruction carries with it an opportunity for foreign investment,” announced Guatemala’s foreign minister on a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos in 1999.

Even people in the United States were not immune to natural disasters or the neoliberal ambulance chasers. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit. Parts of New Orleans was flooded. Images of families, usually from the poorer  and Blacker areas, stranded on roofs were broadcast on TV. Black refugees from the disaster were described and treated by the racist authorities as “looters” and criminals. Over 1,800 people died. There was an estimated 81 billion dollars in property damage. Americans witnessed on their TVs a refugee crisis at home. The football stadium, the Superdome, became a giant refugee camp. The disaster was one of the greatest in the history of the United States. In a propaganda move, even Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro offered help to a hapless United States. The weak state proved itself completely incapable of responding to the disaster.

“There was a brief window of two or three weeks when it seemed that the drowning of New Orleans would provoke a crisis of economic logic that had greatly exacerbated the human disaster with its relentless attack on the public sphere. ‘The storm exposed the consequences of neoliberalism’s lies and mystifications, in a single locale and all at once,’ wrote the political scientist and New Orleans native Adolph Reed Jr. The facts of the exposure are well known — from the levees that failed, to the fact that the city’s idea of disaster preparedness was passing out DVDs telling people that if a hurricane came, they should get out of town.” (p. 516)

In the previous year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had turned down a request by the State of Louisiana to develop a contingency plan in case of a hurricane.

“Just as the U.S. occupation authority in Iraq turned out to be an empty shell, when Katrina hit, so did the U.S. federal government at home. In fact, it was so thoroughly absent that FEMA could not seem to locate the New Orleans superdome, where twenty-three thousand people were stranded without food or water, despite the fact that the world media had ben there for days.” (p. 517)

Baghdad’s Green Zone was recreated in New Orleans:

“Within weeks, the Gulf Coast became a domestic laboratory for the same kind of government-run-by-contractors that had been pioneered in Iraq. The companies that snatched up the biggest contracts were the familiar Baghdad gang: Halliburton’s KBR unit had a $60 million gig to reconstruct military bases along the coast. Blackwater was hired to protect FEMA employees from looters. Parsons, infamous for its sloppy Iraq work, was brought in for a major bridge project in Mississippi. Flour, Shaw, Bechtel, CH2M Hill — all top contractors in Iraq — were hired by the government to provide mobile homes to evacuees just ten days after the levees broke. Their contracts ended up totaling $3.4 billion, no open bidding required.” (p. 519)

The American population was getting a taste, albeit a small one, of what its government and corporations were dishing out across the Third World. Even populations in the United States, which are generally some of the most advantaged and wealthiest in the world, were hit by neoliberal policies. Attacks on the disadvantaged were being carried out under the name of relief both abroad and in the United States. (p. 522)

In most places, despite attempts to quash resistance, these neoliberal attacks did not go unanswered. Across the Third World, progressive forces mobilized against the imperialists and their agents. They recognized that their interests were fundamentally opposed to the policies being foisted upon them. In Latin America, the dictatorships  were always challenged by an array of forces, including armed guerrillas. Today’s resurgence of the nationalist left in Latin America can be seen as a response to the failure of neoliberalism. The Iraqi population, both Sunni and Shia, responded to defend themselves from the imperialist occupiers. This kind of resistance was not witnessed among people in the United States. Even with the decline of the traditional social-safety net and economic decline, most Americans, even those most victimized by the system, still identify with the system itself. They still correctly see themselves as having more to lose by opposing the system than by supporting it. What Katrina showed is that even in the face of a huge crisis and failed state, that most Americans will still side with their system. Even the small and marginal populist movements within the United States, like Occupy, framed their opposition to neoliberalism mostly within the capitalist-imperialist framework. Rather than rejecting Americanism, capitalism, imperialism and First Worldism, Occupiers framed their demands as a way to save America, as a return to a capitalism uncorrupted by corporations and cronyism, as a return to a happier time, the era of the Democratic Party of FDR. Anti-imperialism is mostly an afterthought, if that, among U.S. populists. Only handfuls framed their dissent as an opposition to capitalism, inequality, and unsustainability as such. Most frame their opposition as an attempt to preserve their First World privilege, not reject it.


George W. Bush’s administration represented the continuing privatization of the public sector in the United States. The elimination of and contracting out of state services had been a trend long before the administration of George W. Bush. Both the Republican and Democratic Party since Reagan had supported the downsizing of the public sector. Clinton’s administration, like George Bush’s before him, embraced the corporatization of the public sector. However, it was under the administration of George W. Bush that the downsizing was elevated to a matter of principle. Bush II corporatism went back to his days as governor of Texas. George W. Bush in his prior role as governor of Texas did not distinguish himself in too many ways. According to Klein:

“[T]here was one area in which he excelled: parceling out to private interests the various functions of government he was elected to run — especially security related functions, a preview of the privatized War on Terror he would soon unleash. Under his watch, the number of private prisons in Texas grew from twenty-six to forty-two, prompting The American Prospect magazine to call Bush’s Texas ‘the world capital of the private-prison industry.’” (p. 371)

Similarly, top Bush Jr. appointees were drawn from circles of neoliberal ideologues and the corporate world. Donald Rumsfeld when he was appointed Secretary of Defense under Bush Jr had a personal fortune of over 250 million dollars. He spent decades in top positions of multi-national corporations. He had a personal relationship with Milton Friedman, who he considered a friend and teacher. Rumsfeld saw himself as representing the new economy and new neoliberal state. The neoliberals were on a mission and so was Rumsfeld. He was a man on a mission to reinvent the Pentagon and modern warfare. He would head up a controversial program to cut and slash the public sector within the military. He did not cut the military budget though. Under Bush Jr., it increased significantly. However, he headed up a program to hollow out the military, to contract out as much military work as possible. Bush Jr. said of his defense secretary, “Don’s work in these areas did not often make the headlines. But the reforms that set in motion — that he has set in motion — are historic.” (p. 358) Klein describes the neoliberalization of the state:

“During the 1990s, many companies that had traditionally manufactured their own products and maintained large, stable workforces embraced what became known as the Nike model: don’t own any factories, produce your own products through an intricate web of contractors and subcontractors, and pour your resources into design and marketing. Other companies opted for the alternative, Microsoft model: maintain a tight control center of shareholder/employees who perform the company’s ‘core competency’ and outsource everything else to temps, from running the mailroom to writing code. Some called companies that underwent these radical restructurings ‘hollow corporations’ because they were mostly form, with little tangible content left over.” (p. 359)

She continues:

“Rumsfeld saw the army shedding large numbers of full-time troops in favor of a small core of staffers propped up by cheaper temporary soldiers from the Reserve and National Guard. Meanwhile, contractors from companies such as Blackwater and Halliburton would perform duties ranging from high-risk chauffeuring to prisoner interrogation to catering to health care. And where corporations poured their savings on labor into design and marketing, Rumsfeld would spend his savings from fewer troops and tanks on the latest satellite and nanotechnology from the private sector.” (p. 360)

Milton Friedman had always been disappointed that Ronald Reagan had not chosen Rumsfeld for the Vice Presidency. Like other members of Bush Jr.’s administration, Vice President Dick Cheney was a champion of neoliberal reform:

“Dick Cheney, a protégé of Rumsfeld’s in the Ford administration, has also built a fortune based on the profitable prospect of a grim future, though where Rumsfeld saw a boom in plagues, Cheney was banking on the future of war. As secretary of defense under Bush Sr., Cheney scaled down the number of active troops and dramatically increased reliance on private contractors. He contracted Brown & Root, the engineering division of the Houston-based multinational Halliburton, to identify tasks being performed by U.S. troops that could be taken over by the private sector for a profit. Not surprisingly, Halliburton identified all kinds of jobs that the private sector could perform, and those findings led to a bold new Pentagon contract: the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or LOGCAP. The Pentagon was notorious for its multi-billion-dollar contracts with weapons manufactures, but this was something new: not supplying the military with gear but serving as manager for its operations.” (p. 367)

Cheney was very connected to Halliburton. During the Clinton administration, Cheney was head of Halliburton. Under his leadership, Halliburton sought to transform the nature of war along neoliberal lines. Halliburton would provide all the infrastructure of war. The Pentagon need only supply bodies, the troops.

“The result, first on display in the Balkans, was a kind of McMilitary experience in which deploying abroad resembled a heavily armed and perilous package vacation. ‘The first person to greet our soldiers as they arrive in the Balkans and the last to wave goodbye is one of our employees,’ a Halliburton spokesperson explained, making the company’s staff sound more like cruise directors than army logistics coordinators. That was the Halliburton difference: Cheney saw no reason why war shouldn’t be a thriving part of America’s highly profitable service economy — invasion with a simple.

In the Balkans, where Clinton deployed nineteen thousand soldiers, U.S. bases sprang up as mini Halliburton cities: neat, gated suburbs, built and run entirely by the company. And Halliburton was committed to providing the troops with all the comforts of home, including fast-food outlets, supermarkets, movie theaters and high-tech gyms. Some senior officers wondered what the strip-malling of the military would do to troop discipline — but they too were enjoying the perks. ‘Everything with Halliburton was gold-plated,’ one told me. ‘So we weren’t complaining.’” (pp. 368-369)

Cheney’s family was involved in the selling off of the public sector. His wife, Lynne, was earning from stock options from her work as a board member of Lockheed Martin, which in the mid-nineties, began taking over the information technology divisions of the U.S. government, including running its computer systems and data management. (pp. 369-370) The Bush Jr. administration’s selling off of the state would get a new boost with the events of 9/11.

The events of 9/11 was a shock that allowed the Bush jr. administration, and later Obama’s, to streamline the corporatization of society. The population demanded a response, the neoliberals answered. They had long planned the neoliberal reorganization of the world economies. They had long planned for a war against Iraq. Now, they were able to go forward with little opposition at home. The United States had lost its Cold War opponents. Now,  the United States had a new enemy. It was fighting a new, endless, open-ended “War on Terror.” It was this war that would be used to justify neoliberal restructuring in the United States and abroad.

“Although the stated goal was fighting terrorism, the effect was the creation of the disaster capitalism complex — a full-fledged new economy in homeland security, privatized war and disaster reconstruction tasked with nothing less than building and running a privatized security state, both at home and abroad. The economic stimulus of this sweeping initiative proved enough to pick up the slack where globalization and the dot-com booms had left off. Just as the Internet had launched the dot-com bubble, 9/11 launched the disaster capitalism bubble.” (p. 377)

This resulted in a corporate free for all:

“That was the business prospectus that the Bush administration put before corporate America after September 11. The revenue stream was a seemingly bottomless supply of tax dollars to be funneled from the Pentagon ($270 billion a year to private contractors, a $137 billion increase since Bush took office); U.S. intelligence agencies ($42 billion a year to contractors for outsourced intelligence, more than double 1995 levels); and the newest arrival, the Department of Homeland Security. Between September 11, 2001 and 2006, the Department of Homeland Security handed out $130 billion to private contractors — money that was not in the economy before and that is more than the GDP of Chile or the Czech Republic. In 2003, the Bush administration spent $327 billion to private companies — nearly 40 cents of every discretionary dollar.” (p. 380)

Billions of dollars was spent on new security cameras. 4.2 million security cameras were installed in Britain, one per every 14 people; 30 million in the United States. New software and technologies, such as facial recognition were developed and purchased. Snooping boomed: wiretapping, phone logs, financial records, mail, internet, and cameras. New information technology developed. New security systems. Prisons were expanded or adapted to suit the needs of this new war. The most famous is the Guantanamo maximum-security prison. (pp. 382-384) This boom had a special effect on the Mexican border. The border became even further militarized as a result of the war on terror. More security, more cameras, more personnel, more fencing. Today, even drones are used by the United States to monitor unauthorized crossings. More and more jobs in security, prisons, and policing. And the United States turned to Israel, who had already been waging their war on terror for decades. The same technologies used against the Arab populations there were adapted for use by the United States. The United States would copy Israeli’s cutting-edge methods and technologies of oppression. “[B]ig business and big government [are] combining their formidable powers to regulate and control the citizenry.” (p. 388)

Power, not intelligent design

The instability and chaos of today has been good for business, at least some business. This has always been true to some extent within the capitalist system. War profiteering is an ancient enterprise. However, because some disasters have been so big as to threaten the whole system, the capitalists put in place stabilizing institutions. World War 1 was part of a world crisis that opened up the possibility of the Bolshevik revolution and the first sustained wave of proletarian revolution. Similarly, the Maoist revolution in China and the other social revolutions that piggybacked on anti-imperialist struggles occurred in the context of a world system weakened by both the Great Depression and World War 2. Since that time, capitalists and imperialist states sought to create ways to stabilize the system. The growth of the UN and other global institutions after World War 2 was part of this effort. Globalization, the growth of transnational corporations, transnational capital, NGOs, charities, and other intuitions etc. also was thought to help prevent chaos. Stability was seen as profitable for the most part. Not so for the neoliberals:

“For decades, the conventional wisdom was that generalized mayhem was a drain on the global economy. Individual shocks and crises could be harnessed as leverage to force open new markets, of course, but after the initial shock had done its work, relative peace and stability were required for sustained economic growth. That was the accepted explanation for why the nineties had been such prosperous years: with the Cold War over, economies were liberated to concentrate on trade and investment, and as countries became more enmeshed and interdependent, they were far less likely to bomb each other.” (p. 536)

So dramatic has the disaster profiteering been today that conspiracy theories dominate public discourse as never before:

“The recent spate of disasters has translated into such spectacular profits that many people around the world have come to the same conclusion: the rich and powerful must be deliberately causing the catastrophes so that they can exploit them. In July 2006, a national poll of U.S. residents found that more than a third of respondents believed that the government had a hand in the 9/11 attacks or took no action to stop them ‘because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.’ Similar suspicions dog most of the catastrophes of recent years. In Louisiana in the aftermath of Katrina, the shelters were alive with rumors that the levees hadn’t broken but had been covertly blown up in order ‘to destroy the black part of town and keep the white part dry,’ as the Nation of Islam’s leader Louis Farrakhan, suggested. In Sri Lanka I often heard that the tsunami had been caused by underwater explosions detonated by the United States so that it could send troops into Southeast Asia and take full control over the region’s economies…The truth is at once less sinister and more dangerous. An economic system that requires constant growth, while bucking almost all serious attempts at environmental regulation, generates a steady stream of disasters all on its own, whether military, ecological or financial. The appetite for easy, short-term profits offered by purely speculative investment has turned the stock, currency and real estate markets into crisis-creation machines, as the Asian financial crisis, the Mexican peso crisis and the dot-com collapse all demonstrate. Our common addiction to dirty, nonrenewable energy sources keeps other kinds of emergencies coming: natural disasters (up 430 percent since 1975) and wars waged for control over scarce resources (not just Iraq and Afghanistan but lower-intensity conflicts such as those that rage in Nigeria, Colombia and Sudan), which in turn create terrorist blowback…” (p. 539)

It is true that those with power sometimes consciously create disasters and exploit them, as in the case of Chile or Indonesia. However, the popular idea that there is one over-arching plot is inaccurate and counter-productive. Many conspiracy theories parallel the Christian outlook of so-called “intelligent design.” Christians often will see the patterns in nature, then they conclude that such a natural order must be the work of a creator. In 1802, the theologian William Paley argued that because a watch contains order that is a result of a designer so too nature’s order must be the result of God. Christians, extrapolating on Aristotle, argued that animals and plants were perfectly fit to their environments and each other. Thus, they argued, there must be intelligence behind it all. As early as David Hume, writing in the mid-1700s, intelligent design was challenged. Hume argued that order in nature can be a result of simple processes. This can be seen in snowflake formation or crystal generation. This idea would be confirmed later in biology with the publication On the Origin of Species in 1859. Charles Darwin showed how order could arise in species from simple, natural processes over great periods of time, creating the illusion of intelligent design. The order found in animal and plant kingdoms is a result of natural selection over millions of years.

Just as Christians see patterns in nature, conspiracy theorists see patterns in society and events. Both look for a non-existent single creator, a God or Illuminati, to explain the world or society. Such a view is inaccurate and unscientific. Karl Marx, the founder of revolutionary science, admired the work of Charles Darwin. Just as Darwin showed how evolution in nature results form wholly natural laws, so did Marx show how the order and evolution of society can be explained similarly, by material laws. Instead of looking for a master conspiracy or master plotter, revolutionary scientists examine the social forces and systems that produce such events. Even if an Illuminati, a master plotter, did exist, its members’ actions would still be largely determined over the long-term by their position in the power structure, by class, gender, national, etc. interests. In other words, even if there were an Illuminati, explanations that referred to individual plotters would be largely superfluous to scientific explanation of society. In addition, such conspiracy-theory approaches are disempowering. They encourage the masses to look at revolution and social change through a police paradigm instead of a power paradigm. Even if one knew who the make-believe Illuminati were, it is not as though one could go arrest and put them on trial. Instead, such theories mystify power and make the masses powerless victims of an all-powerful plot. By contrast, the power paradigm teaches the masses to apply revolutionary science, to unite the social forces necessary for revolution, to build New Power, to seize power, to create a new mode of production, to redesign all of society in order to reach Leading Light Communism, the end all systematic oppression.

The principal contradiction

The Shock Doctrine is well worth reading. Klein’s book is full of detailed information about neoliberalism and its disasters. It convincingly argues that the neoliberalism has features and implications that differ from other configurations of capitalism. Neoliberal restructuring, whether in the First or Third World, is a kind of radical act that is bound up with disaster and crisis. Klein argues that few have escaped negative consequences of the shift from traditional Keynesian capitalism and social democracy to neoliberalism. Third World and Second World peoples have suffered under terrible radical-capitalist economic policies implemented at bayonet point in places like Indonesia, Chile, in parts of the old Eastern Bloc, China and elsewhere. First World peoples have suffered too, as their social-democratic programs have been ended, as their welfare states have been downsized, as their public sector has been sold off, as their infrastructure deteriorates. If Klein were to name a principal contradiction in the world, it would be the contradiction between neoliberalism versus Keynesianism, the corporatist state versus the social-democratic one. Klein’s politics foreshadow the Occupy movement’s populism and social-democratic reformism. Klein’s outlook corresponds to the politics that views the world as one where corporate elites and their allies rule over the global population, the one percent versus the 99. Whereas it is true that neoliberal policies since the 1990s have, at times, resulted in a fall in the standard of living for populations in the United States, the loss of privilege that neoliberalism inflicts on First World peoples is nothing compared to the pain and death inflicted on Third World peoples. On the whole, whether under traditional Keynesianism or neoliberalism, First World populations receive far more than a fair share of the global social product while Third World populations receive less. The First World standard of living is not even sustainable, to maintain it is incompatible with socialism and communism. The vast majority of humanity is exploited along with future generations and the Earth to maintain the First World standard of living. This is true under neoliberalism and social democracy. Whether corporations are at the head or state bureaucracies, First World populations mostly benefit from the continued existence of capitalism. Third World populations, by contrast, have a more immediate interest in the radical reorganization of society along egalitarian and sustainable lines in order to reach Leading Light Communism, the end of all systematic oppression. Klein’s outlook assumes a unity that simply does not exist between First World and Third World populations against corporations. By adopting such an outlook, her politics does not just misunderstand the balance of forces globally, her politics panders to First World populism, liberalism, social-democratic imperialism. Although she would surely count herself an anti-imperialist in most cases, such politics puts opposition to imperialism on the back burner while stroking populism that seeks to preserve and increase First World privilege, which is based on imperialist exploitation of the Third World. In the United States, it ends up ultimately channeling energy into the Democratic Party, which is the only reformist game in town for social democrats. They end up providing grassroots cover for imperialist war in exchange for domestic reform. This can end up fanning up the flames of fascism and social fascism. Klein also overlooks the possibility that neoliberal restructuring may, as some of its proponents claim, be necessary to maintain First World privilege, that old-style social-democratic imperialism is no longer viable. This is the case in parts of Eastern Europe where standards of living have, in some cases, gone up due to integration into Western imperialism despite neoliberal conditions placed upon their economies. Neoliberal restructuring in the First World may be part of a package that, in the long term, benefits First World peoples even if it subjects them to a loss of privilege. Klein is blind to these possibilities. The reality is that, on the whole, First World peoples, when push comes to shove, will align with their own system be it Keynesian or neoliberal against Third World peoples. Even if neoliberalism ends up reducing the privileges of First World populations, it does not do so to such an extent that they break left toward proletarian internationalism en masse. First World populations have more unity with their own bosses than they do with workers, peasants and lumpen in the Third World. This is one reason that the principal contradiction is the First World versus the Third World. For this reason, the principal form of revolutionary resistance is not networks of social-justice movements and street protests in the First World, but anti-imperialist and Leading Light people’s wars in the Third World. Although Klein’s book is useful in explaining the neoliberal turn amongst imperialists, it falls far short of revolutionary science, of Leading Light Communism.


Klein, Naomi, The Shock Doctrine (Picador,USA:2007)


Excerpt from Malcolm Caldwell on wealth and people’s war

Excerpt from Malcolm Caldwell on wealth and people’s warcambodia


Malcolm Caldwell is most known for his mysterious death in 1978 while in the care of the Pol Pot regime. He was one of the few Westerners granted access to Democratic Kampuchea. Caldwell was even granted an interview with Pol Pot. However, the night following the interview, Caldwell was shot without explanation. Some have speculated the regime killed Caldwell. Others speculate that it was the Vietnamese or another anti-Pol Pot group. Other journalists touring with Caldwell were left untouched.  In 1969, roughly a decade before his strange death, Caldwell touched on some topics that are of interest to Leading Lights. Caldwell writes:

“Material abundance is not achievable on a world-wide scale, since there are important objective limitations in the way of real resources. [14] Early socialists – and even a surprising number of contemporary socialists – overlook these, and tend to imagine that, somehow, high living standards in material terms can gradually be extended from the rich classes in the rich countries to all peoples in all countries! Such is not the case. On the contrary, sooner or later living standards in the rich countries must fall.” (1)

In the above passage, Caldwell makes a key distinction between utopian and scientific socialism. Utopian First Worldists imagine that there is no contradiction between First World workers and Third World workers. Utopians believe that everyone can have a First World standard of living. Thus,  utopians claim that both First World workers and Third World workers can unite for global socialism. This view is utopian because it is not based on reality, rather it is an expression of what the utopian wishes reality to be. By contrast the scientific socialist examines the actual gaps between the rich and poor countries and looks at what material configurations are possible. (2) And, as anyone who looks at the sheer magnitude of the gaps between the exploiter and exploited countries knows, there is simply no way to do away with the inequalities between countries without significantly lowering the standard of living in the imperialist ones. Since the First World standard of living is based on imperialism, it is impossible to extend it to the vast majority. Also, the First World standard of living is materially, ecologically unsustainable. Thus, it makes no sense that socialism would maintain First World excess anywhere. For these reasons, it is obvious that the class interests of First World peoples is to continue to support imperialism and continue to oppose socialism. And, again and again, the history of the First World politics confirms this pattern. The only place where First World peoples rise up to overthrow capitalism is in the fantasies of First Worldist utopians.

Caldwell, by contrast, had a proto-Leading Light outlook:

“…one must say something of revolutionary prospects. Surveying the world today, it seems to me very clear that Lin Piao’s perspective conforms more closely to reality than that of traditional Trotskyism or mechanical Europocentric pseudo-Marxism. In his well known work Long Live the Victory of People’s War! Lin Piao envisages a global repetition of the drama of the Chinese revolution – that is, the isolation of the ‘urban’ (i.e. industrialised) areas of the world in a sea of rural revolution as a prelude to the collapse of the former. Now of course this must be interpreted more generously than literally. More and more, politics in the West will be the politics of reaction to events and initiatives elsewhere – in the tricontinents. This is already apparent, in marked contrast to the decades when Western initiatives shaped the entire world. [29] The crises of the imperialist powers may provoke reactive internal dissension and even civil disturbance, but the causes will ultimately have to be sought in the seething world of the peasant poor. Certainly this bears more relation to reality than the idea, noted above, of an apathetic peasant poor awaiting salvation from revolutionary (and, note, white) industrial workers! Much comfort was taken by mechanistic Marxists from the abortive French ‘revolution’ of 1968. In fact, this was the graveyard of their ideas, since the workers were readily bought off by application of blatant labourism.”(3)

Caldwell, unlike the relics with tunnel vision from the 1960s and 1970s, correctly saw Paris, 1968 for what it was: a dramatic example of how the First World working class can be blatantly bought-off. It showed how First World workers raise the red flag only to increase their bargaining position vis a vis the system, not to really make revolution.  Caldwell correctly saw that revolution is made by those who have a material interest in socialism. It is not made by those whose class interests align with imperialism. Thus, the heart of the revolution is found in the Third, not the First World. Thus the shape of revolution, the forms of resistance, will be principally drawn from the Third World, not First World experience. This is why the role of the peasantry is so important. This is why Lin Biao universalized Mao’s conception of people’s war. The proletarian revolution should be seen as a global people’s war that advances from the Third World to the First World, where the global countryside surrounds the global cities.





What is revisionism?

What is revisionism?maomask


Some people falsely think that revisionism is to deviate from an orthodoxy, to “revise” a tradition. This is an incorrect view of what revisionism is in a Marxist context. We should not treat Marxist writers the same way that Medieval Church scholars treated Aristotle. Mao was right when he said we must oppose book worship. We should not quote the classics of Marxism in the same way that Jesuits quote the Bible.  Real Marxism, Leading Light Communism, is not a dogma, it is simply revolutionary science. Marxism is simply applying science to the task of total liberation, to the task of reaching Leading Light Communism. Like any science, revolutionary science evolves over time. If any deviation from Marx’s original works were revisionism, then everything published after Marx’s lifetime would be revisionist. This is not the case. So what  is revisionism?

Revisionism does not mean simply to “revise” Marxist works. Sometimes we need to “revise” in order to advance science. Some “revising” is good. Marxism requires us to deviate from the revolutionary classics sometimes. Revisionism is something very different. Revisionism is to revise the revolutionary heart out of Marxism. Revisionists are those who turn revolutionary science into its opposite. It is putting a “Marxist” face on counter-revolution and oppression. Revisionists “wave the red flag to oppose the red flag.” There are different kinds of revisionism. They often overlap and imply each other. Here are some of the main forms of revisionism:

1. Reformism. Reformists often say that we do not need revolution. They say that the system can be gradually reformed. They think that we can reach socialism (and communism) through legal and parliamentary means. They do not see the current state as an instrument of reactionary class rule. They see it as a semi-neutral or independent agent that stands above class struggle. According to this view, the reactionary state can be contested; the reactionary state can be a place where class antagonisms can be negotiated. The people’s forces can gradually extend their influence over the state through legal means, according to this view. They believe that the people’s forces can get elected, lobby, etc. This is related to the view that communist consciousness evolves spontaneously from economist struggles for things like better wages. This gradualism and evolutionism was held by the revisionists of the Second International. Sometimes these forces are referred to as “social democrats.”

Lenin sharply criticized these revisionists. Lenin advanced another view of the state. Lenin advanced the view that the state is not neutral. It is always a dictatorship of one class against another. The state is always an agent of repression. It cannot be captured in its current form by the revolutionary forces. It cannot be wrangled away from the forces of reaction. There is the parable of the man who drops his bag of gold into the oceans and dives in after the gold. He drowns. Did he own the gold or  did the gold own him? Such is the nature of the reactionary state. Those revolutionaries who try to enter the state only end up  getting captured in the process. They do not capture the state, the state captures them. Rather, the old state must be smashed. A dual power must be built within society to contest with the old power.  A New Power must be built from the ground up. A New Power must be built up to replace the Old Power. This New Power is the order of the proletariat. To embrace reformism is to deny the New Power.

2. Social imperialism/social fascism. There are those who claim to be Marxist, yet they advocate imperialism. They wrap their imperialism in a red flag. The original social imperialists were the social democrats of the Second International. The German and French social democrats supported the war efforts of their imperialist homelands in World War 1. They reasoned that a victory in the war would benefit their homeland’s workers. These nationalists sought to advance their population’s interests with the spoils of imperial conquest. The revisionists placed their own peoples, their own workers, ahead of the global proletariat. These social democrats were narrowly nationalist. By contrast, Lenin was internationalist. Lenin advocated the policy of “revolutionary defeatism” for imperialist countries. Lenin sought the defeat of his own country, the Czarist empire, in the hope that a defeat for his imperialist homeland could lead to a revolutionary situation. Contrary to Lenin, the revisionists of the Second International were the social imperialists and social fascists of their day. They were socialist in name, but in reality, they were imperialists and fascists.

Other kinds of socialism imperialism have existed. For example, the Soviet Union stopped moving forward toward communism in the mid-twentieth century. The Soviet bureaucracy became a new capitalist class. They began implementing capitalist policies. Even though they claimed to be socialist, they acted like a big imperialist power. They exploited other peoples. They imposed their own colonial order across parts of the Third World. Like the imperialists before, the USSR and the Western imperialists divided up the world into “spheres of influence.” Both imperialist blocs, the West and East bloc, worked together to control the Third World. The imperialists as a whole reconfigured the world economy to the benefit of the imperialists at the expense of the Third World. The USSR carried out its imperialist ambitions under a red flag.

3. First Worldism. First Worldism is a widespread variant of social imperialism. First Worldism is a form of revisionism that claims that there exists a significant social base for revolution in the First World or that there exists widespread, significant exploitation in the First World. First Worldism recognizes various enemy classes of the First World as progressive. Some First Worldism claims that the wage-earning and working bourgeoisie (the “labor aristocracy” or so-called workers) in the First World is exploited and potentially revolutionary. Other First Worldism claims that the lumpen bourgeoisie in the First World is so oppressed that it constitutes a stand-in proletariat. Other First Worldism claims that the majority of non-Whites in North America are a stand-in proletariat. Other First Worldism claims that women, youth, or homosexuals in the First World are a stand-in proletariat. Other First Worldists say they will create a “social base” in the First World, as though one can, without state power, simply will a revolutionary agent into being. All of these social groups are, on the whole, enemies of the Third World majority. To advocate on their behalf along economic and gender lines is, on the whole, reactionary. First Worldists, whether they know it or not, end up supporting imperialism against the Third World to one degree or another.

4. The Theory of the Productive Forces. This revisionism downplays the need for class struggle in the revolutionary process. Instead, this revisionism sees development of technology as the main key to creating a better world. This view overemphasizes technology’s role in the revolutionary process. It sometimes acts as though technological development will serve up communism. These revisionists set the goal wrong. Instead of setting the goal as the end of oppression, they see creating a bountiful society filled with consumer goods as the goal. Third World socialism will not measure up to First World capitalism in terms of creating a consumer society because socialism is based on sustainability and not based on imperialism. When Third World socialism fails to measure up to First World capitalism in terms of creating a consumer society, these revisionists argue that socialism itself should be rejected. They dangle the carrot of consumer society in front of the masses to encourage reactionary thinking. This is related to economism.

5. Failure to go all the way to Leading Light Communism. Some revisionists say that we do not need to go all the way to communism. This revisionism is one that downplays the need to continue class struggle under socialism. These revisionists say that class struggle simply dies out under socialism. They do not see socialism as a transition to communism. Rather, they see socialism simply as nationalization of industry and a welfare state. By contrast, communists of Mao’s era held that if one isn’t advancing to communism, then the revolution will slide back into capitalism. If one doesn’t continue to push forward, counter-revolution will defeat the revolution. Inequalities left over from the old society and new inequalities will solidify and a new capitalist class will arise within the organs of power. Reactionary ideas spread, reversing revolution. This is why Mao said, “Never forget class struggle!” Revolutionary struggle must continually be waged against inequality and reactionary culture, otherwise a new bourgeoisie will arise and reverse the revolution. This is “continuing the revolution under the New Power of the proletariat.”

This list is not exhaustive. It only covers some of the bigger forms of revisionism. There are many other forms. These revisionisms are almost always intertwined. They usually imply each other. To embrace one is to embrace the others. When it comes down to it, all revisionism is simply denial of the most advanced revolutionary science, all-powerful, awesome Leading Light Communism. The only anti-revisionism today is real revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism. Remember, past revolutions were defeated from within. Leading Light Communism is our sword and out shield against all enemies.

The other 9/11

The other 9/11, brief thoughts on Chile, America and Chinapinochet2

by Prairie Fire


9/11 is a day that will live in infamy, but not because of the attacks on the US that killed over 3,000 people. It is less well known is that September 11th is the anniversary of the overthrow of the elected government of Salvador Allende by general Augusto Pinochet’s CIA-backed forces in Chile. The coup in Chile led to a bloody US-sponsored dictatorship that lasted from 1973 until, roughly, 1990. Like the Pinochet period, the post-Pinochet period is characterized by comprador politics. However, comprador rule in Chile today is not as heavy handed, crass and overt as it was under Pinochet. Certainly more people died at the hands of Pinochet, as a result of US policy in Chile, than died in the attacks against the US in 2001. Certainly more died at the hands of the brutal military and police dictatorship, died at the hands of death squads, and died by the structural violence of capitalism-imperialism than died in the New York attacks. Yet Americans get teary eyed over the latter, not the former. America’s reaction to 9/11, once again reflects that Americans, generally speaking, do not value the lives of people in the Third World. The coup in Chile was just one more crime in a century of crimes perpetuated against the peoples of Latin America and the Third World by the US. The death toll of US imperialism runs into the billions. By comparison, the few thousand who died in the 2001 attacks are a drop in the ocean.

Even though the government of Salvador Allende leaned toward the Soviet Union, having pro-Soviet regimes in Latin America was preferable to the traditional domination by Western imperialism, especially US imperialism. In addition, some of the Soviet-leaning forces in Latin America had a popular and progressive character. Since Europe destroyed itself in World War 2, Europe could no longer hold onto its colonies in the Third World. The US largely took over the management of Europe’s colonies. Thus the old European colonialism was replaced by US neocolonialism. The US reached such imperial heights that nearly the entire US population, including the US working class, became exploiters of the Third World. For almost all of the post-World War 2 period, overall Soviet strength never really matched US strength.

At the time of the 1973 coup in Chile, China was headed down the road of restoring capitalism. When Mao was moving toward the US and meeting with Henry Kissinger, Lin Biao’s generals were turning up the rhetorical heat on the US. Thus there seems to have been  a two-line struggle within the Chinese Communist Party. Lin Biao’s policy dominated the Communist Party from 1965 to 1970. Lin Biao’s policy of fighting imperialism as a whole and supporting national liberation struggles began being criticized in Zhou Enlai’s Foreign Ministry as ultra-left. What replaced Lin Biao’s line was an incorrect line that targeted the Soviet Union as the supposed main threat to the world. The new line mainly sought allies against the Soviet Union amongst the comprador states of the Third World as opposed to national liberation and revolutionary forces. Thus China moved away from supporting local people’s war as part of a global people’s war. Even worse, the new line identified Europe and other Western imperialists as potential allies, middle forces, in China’s struggle against the Soviet Union. And, eventually, the US itself became a de facto ally of China — although this fact was left unspoken, even if it was hinted at, in the Chinese press. This new line was reflected in China’s response to Chile’s 9/11. China went from being a base area of the global people’s war in the late 1960s to being one of the first regimes to recognize the CIA-backed Pinochet dictatorship. China’s new line had devastating effects on the proletarian movement worldwide, sending the world revolution into confusion and demoralization. Ironically, one of the reasons that China broke from Khrushchev decades earlier was that Khrushchev was too pro-US. And, decades later, the China of the post-Lin Biao period would become even more accommodating to Western imperialism. The architects of this new Mao-supported line had been people like Chen Yi and Deng Xiaoping, both capitalist roaders. Anti-Maoists like Deng would complete the restoration of capitalism after Mao’s death and the defeat of the Gang of Four in 1976. It is a failing of the Maoist movement that it never had the political courage to confront the errors of the Mao era, including the errors of Mao and the errors surrounding the power struggles involving Lin Biao. The communist movement still has lessons to be learned from the other 9/11.

On counter-revolution: Just pointing to revisionists is not enough

On counter-revolution: Just pointing to revisionists is not enoughMetrocon_2010_RAVE__2__by_Sherikra


Someone writes:

“Dear Leading Light,

LLCO has not responded convincingly to the causes behind the degeneration of the Chinese and Russian Revolutions. Just pointing to ‘revisionists’ is not enough (and analysis based on individual personality traits is hardly systemic or materialist). In any case, if revisionists can infiltrate into power with such apparent ease (escaping from the eyes of, Lenin, Stalin and Mao), then who could detect them and how?”

I agree 100 percent about your comments on the lack of adequate explanation of the failure of past socialism within the revisionist literature.

Leading Light has not provided a simple answer to this issue, although we have suggested some things in our various history articles. Our answers are far better than what others have said on the topic, especially Maoists. In general, I think that the models of socialism were primitive in many ways. I think that past socialism often had an oversimplified view of human need and what a good life is. Socialism was good at meeting survival needs. It was good at basic education, low-science ideological education, but it failed at meeting other needs. Humans need more than having their basic needs met and getting ideological education. They need to express themselves creatively — sometimes in ways that aren’t overtly political. They need fun. They need pleasure. “All struggle, all the time” is not sustainable. Past socialism was not able to compete with the West in this regard, which is why you got some of the youth fleeing socialism for the West. They want more out of life. I would like a socialism where the youth of the West flee to join us in our egalitarian, communal, vibrant, colorful, artistic, political, scientific, fun experiment. I am a big fan of people’s war. In fact, I think those who are unwilling to support people’s war are revisionist. Those who talk about people’s war but do not throw down or help are Do Nothingist and First Worldist yappers whatever they claim about themselves. Willingness to pick up the gun or help those who do are some marks of real communists. However, as much as I advocate a warrior spirit, I recognize the militant guerrilla ethos of socialism is a two-edge sword. The ethic of sacrifice, altruism, anti-consumerism is great, but people do not want to live like guerrilla fighters all the time. They need other metaphors by which to evaluate and identify themselves with. I led the charge to rehabilitate Lin Biao. Even so, I admit that we need more than simply “barracks egalitarianism,” which is a term I have used to describe the Lin Biao trend, which was really the only Maoist trend with an articulate program for transforming the Cultural Revolution into something permanent. I was listening to interviews with ex-Maoist red guards. The same Maoist youth who were rising up in 1967 were, by 1976, coming out to support Zhou Enlai. They were disenchanted with constant Maoist calls for mobilization, especially with little results to show for them by the end. I got the sense there was a kind of collective burn out there.

Although political debate happened, it usually occurred at a very low-science level in those years. We need to be honest about this. What passes for Maoism is not high theory. It is mostly low science based on some very profound truths. Don’t believe me? Read Beijing Review from the Cultural Revolution era. The standard method of argument is argument from authority. Mao said such and such. Lenin said this. Marx said that. This isn’t true of every aspect of every polemic, but it is very pervasive. And if this is the debate China was projecting to the world in Beijing Review, imagine how low level the debate must have been on the streets. Science and intellectual debate was stifled in very unhealthy ways. For example, even mentioning that family planning might be good could get one labeled as a Malthusian because Mao once said a big population meant big strength. Similarly, Chinese environmentalists were suppressed with little debate. It is good to have debates at all levels, but it seems as though there was a big stifling of debate at the higher level. And yes, Maoism gave a voice to many who never had one. But I think it is too bad that this opening up of society had to come at such a high price. I think we can find a better way. Among other factors, this low level of discourse created a system that was weak and did over-rely on a very low-science loyalty to this or that leader. This is why the fall of a single leader could result in such a seismic shift in the system.

There are many other issues. Although the Maoists broke in theory with past methods, in reality the break was not as great in practice. Yes there were mass mobilizations and the New Power that arose in the People’s Liberation Army, but there was also a lot of police suppression, police method, police narrative and falsifications, lack of due process, brute force happening. At their best, the Maoists wanted a more structural and ideological analysis of counter-revolution, a more structural and ideological method of preventing it, in reality, they used the old methods probably as much as the new methods, often mixing them together. In practice, the Maoist break was not always as great as one would hope. I think there is a disconnect between how Maoist intellectuals frame the Cultural Revolution and the reality on the ground. This is also true of the rejection of the Theory of the Productive Forces and economism. In theory, the Maoists, at their best moments, rejected economism outright, but on the ground there was always a heavy economist trend and attempt to “catch up” with the imperialist West. This is also connected to First Worldism. This isn’t to deny what is innovative in Maoism, the Maoist approach was very innovative at its best moments even if the real history is a mixed bag.

I see revolution as a big experiment. I see communism as a regulative ideal that we aim for. Our first really sustained experiment in the Soviet Union was defeated. But, we learn from that just as any scientist should learn from a past experiment. Our next laboratory for revolution, trying to reach that ideal of communism, was Maoist China. We learned some more things here. Cancer isn’t going to be cured after two single experiments, well, neither will the cancer of exploitation and oppression be cured so easily. We are going up against thousands of years of entrenched structural inequality and social programing. The key is to keep advancing the experiment, to keep moving forward, toward that ideal of Leading Light Communism. Real science isn’t discouraged by failure because there is something to learn even in failure. Science doesn’t give up if it gets something wrong the first time. Fight, fight, and fight some more. Experiment, experiment, experiment some more. Learn, learn, learn. This is the correct attitude toward these issues. Lin Biao said revolution was a train on two tracks, class struggle and development of the productive forces. The word has changed greatly. Imagine trying to a run people’s commune with a hundred thousand people with only pen and paper. Now, we have information technology, the green agricultural revolution, 3D printers. In addition, we know a lot more about class struggle now. Both the technology of the productive forces and technology of class struggle have advanced by leaps and bounds since then. I could say a lot more on this, but there are certain things that must remain secret for now. Deep politics must stay somewhat deep, underground. This is what Leading Light Communism is about: Not just talking about science, actually doing it. Innovation. Advancing the science. Taking it to the next level. Walking the walk.

What I say here is not some definitive answer. I mean to suggest lines of thought and investigation for the future, a kind of research project. What we must absolutely avoid is falling into dogma and stale formulations, Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, or whatever. Such dogma just doesn’t have credibility. We have to really elevate the science. And create new forms of lower science also. Leading Light Communism is making the real breakthroughs.

Serve the people truth or fiction?

Serve the people truth or fiction?truth-or-lie-166ab0


In recent discussion, we contrasted science versus apolegetics in dealing with history. Stalin was used as an example. A familiar voice objected to our discussion. He roars:

“There is nothing original in noting the USSR’s initial support of Israel as primarily geo-political. Of course it was a mistake, but hindsight is always 20/20.

The USSR aided Israel during the Nakba, but did they ever aid the Euro-Settlers before that? No. However, the Nazis did, as documented extensively by the Jewish Trotskyist Lenni Brenner. There wasn’t anything like the Transfer Agreement between the USSR and the Euro-Settlers in Palestine as there was between Nazi Germany and proto-Israel. Even when the USSR was officially supporting Israel, it was still a crime for Soviet Jews to emigrate there. This is a result of the consistent position maintained since pre-revolutionary days by the Bolsheviks, that Jews ARE NOT A NATION.

It is interesting, though, that LLCO is now willing to say the USSR was imperialist even before Stalin died. I suppose trying to convince the Oppressed Nations of the world that their nationalism isn’t “applied internationalism” leads one to such absurdities.”

Leading Light Commander PF responds:

Thank you for your instructive comment.

Right off the bat, the whole tone of your comment is strange to us. It is as though you think that questioning one aspect of the Stalin era is somehow a big betrayal of socialism or Stalin. It is also odd to us that you seem to think that it is a defense of Stalin to put forward the equivalent of “well, he wasn’t as bad as the Nazis!” as you do. Yes, you are right, Stalin’s foreign policy was not nearly as bad as the German fascist one. Stalin’s policy, obviously, was not as bad as numerous policies of imperialist powers. In fact, numerous other imperialist powers were not as bad as the Nazis. It is interesting to us that you think saying as much is a defense of Stalin and socialism. It is interesting to us that you hold socialism in such high regard that you set your expectations for it so low. We hold socialism and our leaders to a higher standard than you do. We expect more from our socialism and leaders than just being better than Hitler. Your comment is an example of what I was trying to say in the post. Apologetics, historical narratives based around personality cults, leads to absurdities.

The Soviet line on the Jewish question is interesting. As you said, the stated line was that the Jews were not a nation. Yet then there is the de jure recognition of Israel, which was done for geopolitical reasons, but nonetheless legitimates the idea that the Jews are a nation. There is the creation of the Jewish Autonomous Zone within the Soviet Union. And Jews, especially Soviet Jews, were encouraged to migrate there, although few took up the offer. In any case, as it seems we both agree, the Soviet support for Israel was mostly for geopolitical considerations.

Saying “hindsight is 20/20” does not excuse all political errors. Do not apologists for US atrocities, for the institution of slavery, for example, make a similar excuses? Or imagine someone who said “Yes, Khrushchev made errors, Deng Xiaoping made errors, Gorbachev made errors, but hindsight is 20/20!” Is this a serious defense of their policies? There are numerous kinds of errors, often overlapping in various ways. There are ones that are reasonable given what was known at the time. There are ones that are unreasonable given what was known at the time. There are errors that emerge from bad empirical evidence with socialist thinking. There are errors that emerge from capitalist thinking, but with good or bad empirical data. There are rightist errors that still fall within the revolutionary camp, then there are revisionist errors. There are leftist errors that still fall within the revolutionary camp, then there are revisionist errors. There are errors that are “left in form, right in essence.” There are errors that have their origin in reactionary mentality and character. There are errors that we should take responsibility for as inheritors of the revolutionary tradition. There are errors that are not our’s, that we do not take responsibility for. All movements that claim to be Marxist acknowledge these kinds of distinctions. They just draw the lines differently. For example, Trotskyists don’t feel obliged to justify the policies of the Stalin era, extreme orthodox Marxist-Leninists don’t feel obliged to justify the policies of the Maoist era, Maoists don’t feel obliged to justify the policies of Deng Xiaoping. Maoists, for example, see Deng Xiaoping’s policies not as socialism in error, but as revisionism, as capitalism. We agree that the policy to support Israel was an error, the question is what kind of error.

We are interested science, not dogma. Those who approach history not as truth, but as a kind of story to elevate or denigrate this or that leader, are not doing science. Their approach to history is the Great Man Theory that Marx criticized long ago. It is a product of lingering personality cults. God may be dead, but the smell of the corpse lingers. Similarly, cults of personality outlive the leaders they idolize. The apologetics that pass for history within the revolutionary movement are really just a kind of cult-of-personality myth making. Whether or not it is worthwhile to make revolution does not depend, for us, on whether Stalin or Mao may have made revisionist turns in the end. The necessity of total liberation for humanity is something we live and die for, regardless of whether Soviet regime made a nationalist and traditionalist turn during World War 2 that they never emerged from. The moral command to “serve the people” flows in our veins whether or not Mao went bad in the 1970s. Our first love is the masses and the land, not any single individual, even a Stalin or Mao. We tell the masses the truth because we really do believe the Maoist slogan that “the masses are the real heroes” and “the masses are the motive forces in history.” We also love the great leaders, geniuses, warriors, Leading Lights that the struggle has produced. However, when the latter begins to conflict with the former, we will always choose the masses, the land, the truth over the myth making, even if the latter is well-intentioned. A true friend is an honest one.

The Leading Light’s line is not that the Soviet Union did or did not become imperialist before Stalin died. The Leading Light does not have a “line” on every little historical detail. Leading Light unites around a general line. Our line is that the Soviet Union began to shift toward capitalism and imperialism sometime during or in the immediate decade following World War 2. Just as we say China restored capitalism sometime in the 1970s. Again, we do not structure our historical narrative around the demands of the personality cult. For us, it is fine to say Mao was one of the greatest revolutionaries of all time, but also made major errors, including revisionist and capitalist ones. We are about genuine science, not the pretense of science. With all things, we uphold the good and toss the bad. Humans are flesh and blood. Humans are not perfect. Humans make mistakes. Our supreme leader is no human, but truth, as best as it can be known through science.

Your infantile remark about oppressed nations is barely worth my time. How exactly does questioning Stalin’s policy, adopted for geopolitical reasons, of supporting, albeit only for a short time, a Euro-invasion of Palestine lead to the conclusion that national liberation of oppressed nations is not applied internationalism? What is the chain of inferences, as you see them? If you can’t explain yourself, then that says a lot about where you are coming from. Your remark is just another example of how some people are not interested in the truth. Our line has always been the same: we support whatever path leads to Leading Light Communism, total liberation, the end of all oppression. Our first loyalty is to the masses and the Earth, not to nations of any kind. If national liberation is the best way to achieve that, then we support it. If there is a better strategy, then we support that. However, we do not elevate nationalism to level of principle. There is a big difference between communists who have, at times, adopted nationalism as a means to an end and nationalists who have, at times, adopted communism as a means to an end. As it happens, neither Mao nor Stalin were nationalists in the sense that national liberation movements in the United States are. Both led multi-national revolutions that encompassed dozens of oppressed nations. The Bolshevik revolution was a revolution spread over much of the old Russian empire, which was called “the prison house of nations.” The Maoist revolution spread over a vast territory that corresponded with the previous Chinese imperial dynasties. Both revolutions sought to create transnational red identity to replace the more nationalist and localist identities. At the same time, the hope was to forge this identity as gently as possible. Unfortunately, things did not always work out that way. For example, Stalin and Mirsaid Sultan-Galiev came into conflict over this. Sultan-Galiev seemed to see Stalin’s line as really just a manifestation of Russian chauvinism toward oppressed nationalities. Stalin was probably correct to oppose Sultan-Galiev. Sultan-Galiev was accused of nationalism and arrested. Whatever one thinks about Sultan-Galiev’s claims, Stalin’s regime later did turn toward resurrecting Russian nationalism as a way to fight the Nazis in World War 2. This surely carried over into the post-war period. In China, the Cultural Revolution was often accused of trampling the sensibilities of the smaller nations. This is why Maoist policies were sometimes wrongly seen as being Han chauvinist. The reality is that they weren’t really Han chauvinist even if they did trample on national traditions at times. Afterall, the Maoist attitude toward Han traditionalism could be very negative also, maybe even more so. Mao was steeped in China’s classics, but Mao had great disdain for oppressive traditionalism. Mao jokingly compared himself to the Qin emperor who buried the Confucian scholars alive. During the Cultural Revolution, the grave of Confucius was dug up by Red Guards. In India, there is also a debate. Some Maoists push for a pan-Indian revolution that calls for subsuming smaller national struggles with it. The CPI (Maoist) holds this line. Other Maoists, like the “Third Central Committee,” have accused the CPI (Maoist) of Brahmin chauvinism against the Dalits. They see the Brahmin caste as akin to an oppressor nation occupying a Dalit oppressed nation. Dalit Voice used to carry articles comparing Brahmin occupation of India to white occupation of North America or Jewish occupation of Palestine.Thus they attack the UCP Nepal (Maoist) and CPI (Maoist) as Brahmin-led on the basis of identity politics. I think this simplistic way of describing India and North America is problematic.

Leading Light has always supported the united front against imperialism. We support people’s movements, even if they are led by erroneous ideas. This goes for the country-wide liberation movements in the Third World. It also goes for the narrower national movements you find among First World oppressed nations or communities, when those struggles are progressive. Even so, we do not see these types of struggles as the vanguard. Just as capitalism has been globalizing, so too is resistance to it. Narrow struggles are not at the forefront of the anti-imperial struggle. Today, more internationalist movements are contending to make their impact, sometimes they are progressive and anti-imperialist, sometimes they are just another face of imperialism. For example, some pan-Indigenists ended up on the side of imperialism against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Some pan-Islamists end up on the side of imperialism today. Even so, these ideologies, like Bolivarianism, like pan-Africanism, and others are having more of an impact within the anti-imperialist struggle than narrow nationalism or even country-wide nationalism. Leading Light calls for a Global People’s War. One people. One earth. One fight.

Book review of Joshua S. Horn’s Away With All Pests

Book review of Joshua S. Horn’s Away With All Pests by Prairie Fireleap-1


As a Western surgeon who lived in revolutionary China from 1954 to 1969, comparisons with Norman Bethune, the famed Canadian doctor who gave his life for revolution, are inevitable. Those that Dr. Joshua S. Horn encountered, to his embarrassment, often made the comparison to Bethune, the foreign martyr who was immortalized in one of the “three most constantly read articles,” in Mao Zedong’s “Serve The People.” Despite his reluctance to accept this praise, the comparison is apt. Like Bethune, Horn gave up much of his privilege to put his skills at the disposal of the Chinese Communist Party. (1) Horn embodies the spirit of internationalism and the Maoist principal of serving the people. Horn’s book, Away With All Pests is an important first-hand account of some of the most important social experiments in both Chinese and world history. He witnessed the tremendous breakthroughs of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Horn is a witness to the advances in society, especially in heath care, due to Maoism. His life is an important example of how someone from the First World can contribute to the proletarian revolution even though there is no proletariat in the First World itself.

Horn’s first encounter with China was in the 1930s:

“The beggars. The swarms of beggars of all ages, whole and diseased, vociferous and silent, hopeful and hopeless, blind and seeing. All having in common their poverty, their degradation.

The prostitutes. The smart ones in the foreign concessions with make-up, high-heeled shoes and skin-tight dresses slit to the thigh. The cheap ones in the sailors’ districts, unkempt, raucous, brazen. The Child prostitutes. The two frightened, bewildered little girls dragged along, one in each hand, by their owner who offered them singly or together for fifty cents an hour.

The poverty. The rows of matsheds where hundreds of thousands lived and died. The hunger-swollen bellies. The rummaging in garbage bins for possible scraps of food.” (2)

Horn describes a China humiliated, carved up and occupied:

“Imperialism. Shanghai, the greatest city of a sovereign country, with warships of every country moored in her main artery, their sailors roaming the streets at will, a law unto themselves. The city was sliced up into the International and French concessions, both enjoying exterritoriality… The police officers were foreigners and the ordinary Chinese policemen under their command wore foreign-type uniforms. I went to the British bank on the waterfront to cash a cheque for £10. A huge, imposing building with granite pillars with flights of marble steps. At the top, bearded Sikhs holding rifles with fixed bayonets guarded great bronze doors… a Chinese peddler sneaked past, hoping to sell his cigarettes inside. The Sikh spotted him, thrust a rifle butt viciously into his loins, and kicked him down the marble stairs. ‘Sorry, sir,’ he explained, ‘they think they own the place!’

The Chinese certainly owned Shanghai, but they would not take possession for another twelve years.” (3)

Things were very different when Horn returned. Horn describes the great contrast between then and his present day:

“The children. I can do no better than quote a Canadian hotelier who lived in pre-Liberation Shanghai for more than twenty years and who, on return visit in 1965, recalled the familiar sights of old Shanghai:

‘I searched for scurvy-headed children. Lice-ridden children. Children with inflamed red eyes. Children with bleeding gums. Children with distended stomachs and spindly arms and legs. I searched the sidewalks day and night for children who had been purposely deformed by beggars. Beggars who would leech on to any well-dressed passer-by to blackmail sympathy and offerings, by pretending the hideous looking child was their own.

I looked for children covered with horrible sores upon which flies feasted. I looked for children having a bowel movement, which, after much strain, would only eject tapeworms.

I looked for child slaves in alleyway factories. Children who worked twelve hours a day, literally chained to small press punches. Children who, if they lost a finger, or worse, often were cast away into the streets to beg and forage in garbage bins for future subsistence.’

In 1965 he searched without finding, but in the 1930s there was no need to search far for such sights were everywhere to be seen.” (4)

Horn describes China under the communists:

“The adults dressed in an austere uniformity which led me into many perplexities for I often could not tell if I was talking to a cook or professor… The women, for so long oppressed and despised, now showing their new found freedom in the dignity of their every movement… The children, full of fun, over-brimming with joy. It is rare to see children fight or cry in Peking and even rarer to see them scolded or hit… On the streets, a complete absence of beggars, vagrants, teddy-boys and prostitutes. In the shops, fixed prices, no persuasion, scrupulous honesty and no bartering. What a contrast with Shanghai 1937!” (5)

What Horn witnessed was one fourth of the world’s population working together to build a new world. Poverty still existed, but not as before. China was no longer humiliated, as Mao famously said, China had stood up. Hundreds of millions of people had thrown in their lot with revolution, willing to destroy the old order, to follow the lead of the Communist Party in the radical transformation of every aspect of life. Horn reports on the revolutionary transformation of medical practice.

In the old order, few had access to healthcare. Healthcare was largely reserved for the wealthy, the capitalists and landlords. The vast majority suffered in silence:

“Poverty and ignorance were reflected in a complete lack of sanitation as a result of which fly and water-borne diseases such as typhoid, cholera, dysentery, took a heavy toll. Worm infestation was practically universal, for untreated people lived on the fringe of starvation and this so lowered their resistance to disease that epidemics carried off thousands every year. The average life expectancy in China was stated to be about twenty-eight years. Reliable health statistics for pre-Liberation China are hard to come by but conservative estimates put the crude death rate in time of peace at between thirty and forty per thousand and the infantile mortality rate at between 160 and 170 per thousand live births. The plight of the women and children was bad beyond description. The men had to have what grain there was, to give them strength to work in the fields. The women, especially those who stayed at home to look after the children, ate only thin gruel, grass and leaves. They were so ill-nourished that by the time they reached middle age, they were toothless and decrepit. Many adolescent girls, lacking calcium and vitamin D, developed softening and narrowing of the pelvic bones, so that normal childbirth became either impossible or so dangerous that six to eight per cent of all deaths among women were due to childbirth. Babies were breast-fed for three or four years, and also resulted in child child malnutrition and such vitamin deficiency diseases as rickets and scurvy. There were no preventive inoculations against infectious diseases, and from time to time epidemics of smallpox, diphtheria, whooping cough and meningitis swept through the countryside with devastating results. Lice and poverty went hand in hand, and with them louse-borne diseases such as typhus fever. Military occupation and the licentiousness of the landlords and local gentry spread venereal diseases among the people and no treatment was available. The prevalence of tuberculosis can be gaged from the fact that in 1946 sixty per cent of all applicants for student visas for study abroad were found to be suffering from this disease.” (6)


“I also saw many old, neglected cases of which I had no previous experience. They were a legacy from the almost total medical neglect of the labouring people before Liberation. I saw dislocations of the hip, elbow and shoulder which had remained unreduced for ten years and more; fractures that had united in positions of extreme deformity or had not united at all; joints that had become stiff as a result of no treatment or bad treatment; tuberculosis of bones and joints that had been allowed to run riot. I saw patients who had lost limbs years before and had made their own artificial limbs because none was forthcoming from any other source. I saw a youth whose penis had been chopped off by a landlord because his father couldn’t pay rent. I saw a girl from Inner Mongolia who hadn’t been able to sit or squat since childhood because of scarring of the buttocks due to a burn.

I the old days, these patients had no hope of getting treatment.” (7)

Maoists say that “the masses are the true makers of history.” Maoists place a great emphasis on the energy and creativity of ordinary people. Maoists in China unleashed the power of the masses to remake all of society. Just as the People’s Liberation Army, under the leadership of Lin Biao, put people power at its center, so too Jiang Qing created a people-centered Opera. Similarly, the healthcare system was transformed on a Maoist basis. Power was put in the hands of the people to better serve the people. Healthcare was transformed from a privilege to a basic right.

One of the main tasks of the revolution was taking healthcare, once a privilege reserved only for the wealthy, to China’s poor, especially in the countryside. Prior to the revolution the vast majority of those living in China’s countryside, almost a quarter of the world’s population, lacked access to any healthcare at all. Bringing healthcare to almost a quarter of the world’s population is one of the great achievements of the Chinese revolution. Throughout the revolution, more and more people gained access to better and better healthcare. Life expectancy was doubled. Infant mortality greatly reduced. People led healthier, longer lives.

One way that this was accomplished was through the health teams. As part of the effort to break down the distinction between town and countryside, and also as part of the effort to bring care to those in need, mobile medical teams were organized and sent to the countryside. At the onset of the Cultural Revolution, Horn reports that one third of the hospital staff at his Beijing hospital were always in the countryside as part of a team on a rotation basis. Mobile teams were sent out to the poorest areas, where they were needed most. Thus people were not forced to seek out care, care was brought to them. The team that Horn referred to was made up of 80,000 people who worked among twelve people’s communes in the countryside. These teams were divided into smaller brigades. These brigades maintain many smaller clinics. Doctors and medical personnel were sent out from these clinics into the local areas and remote villages to administer healthcare. Different kinds of groups were sent where they were needed most. In addition to medical groups, there were ones that focus on dental and birth control. Some groups specialized in one affliction and were sent to areas affected by that affliction, including very remote areas. “Most villages can only be reached on foot or by riding donkeys over stony paths.” Reversing traditional medical elitism, the medical personnel usually either lived together in peasant cottages or they lived with the peasants in their homes in the villages. Healthcare was no longer a luxury. Doctors and their patients now live and work side by side. (8)

Since the Rural Reconstruction Movement in the 1930s, the Chinese Communist Party has pioneered the use of peasant doctors. Horn gives us first hand account of what have become popularly known as “barefoot doctors.” Where Horn worked, thirty-two production brigades held a meeting to select candidates for medical training. Those youths who had shown intelligence and an altruistic spirit were selected. These youths would be given a kind of abbreviated training in basic medicine. They would also be given training in the most common ailments and diseases encountered in the countryside. These barefoot doctors then stream out among the countryside. Periodically, they would return for greater formal medical training. Mobil teams also trained sanitary workers and midwives. They too raised the health of the rural community. The intention was not merely to impart medical knowledge to these youths, but to create a new kind of socialist-minded rural health worker who would retain the closest links with the peasants and who would remain permanently in the countryside. The barefoot doctor movement is an example of the Maoist belief in people power, that people are the most important resource. The masses contain tremendous creative potential that just needs to be harnessed and unlocked. If given a chance, people can solve their own problems. Horn witnessed the success of this approach first hand.  (9)

One way that people power is unleashed is through mass mobilizations. Maoism places great emphasis on mass mobilizations as a way to solve problems. During the two peaks of Chinese socialism, the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, the power of the masses was unleashed as never before. The true power of the masses was demonstrated by the campaign against schistosomiasis or “snail fever.” Snail fever is one of the world’s greatest scourges. When Horn was writing, it affected 250 million people, almost all in the Third World. As late as 1955, there were 50 million sufferers in China alone. Among parasitic diseases in tropical and sub-tropical regions, it ranks only behind malaria it terms of socioeconomic and health importance. Even today it affects 200 million. Twenty thousand die from snail fever every year. Twenty million suffer serious consequences from the disease. An estimated 600 million people worldwide are at risk from the disease. China’s socialism launched a war against this scourge. To mobilize the peasantry in a war against the snails that carried the disease, the Maoists used the mass line:

“The first concept rests on the conviction that the ordinary people possess great strength and wisdom and that when their initiative is given full play they can accomplish miracles; that the art of leadership is to learn from the masses, to refine and systematize their experience and, on this basis, to decide on policy.

To mobilize the peasantry against the snails, it was first necessary to explain to them the nature of the illness which has plagued them for so long and for this purpose lecturers, film shows, posters, radio-talks were employed. When the peasants came to understand the nature of the enemy, they themselves worked out methods of defeating it.

Twice a year, in March and August, the entire population in county after county, supplemented by voluntary labour of all available armymen, students, teachers and office workers, turned out to drain the rivers and ditches, dig away and bury their banks and temp down the buried earth.” (10)


“In between large-scale campaigns, regular anti-snail patrols are maintained by trained snail-spotters who cruise along the rivers in canoes, scrutinizing the banks for snails… I asked a leader of the team, a young woman who had herself suffered from schistosomiasis, whether she found the work boring. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘It can be very boring and trying. On hot days I get scorched and my head aches. Mosquitoes buzz around and under bridges, and in the dark places where we have to search most carefully, there are all sorts of creepy-crawly things. The children, too, used to annoy us. At first they didn’t understand what we were doing and they used to walk along the bank laughing at us asking why we didn’t do proper work like other grown-ups instead of playing in boats all day. I sometimes felt like asking to be transferred to agricultural work, but then I remembered how I had felt when I suffered from schistosomiasis as a child and I decided to carry on with this work, for a long-time if necessary. We asked some children to come with us in the canoe and after they experienced the discomforts themselves, they soon stopped jeering at us.” (11)

Through the people-centered approach, snail fever was all but eliminated in much of China. The Communists claimed an 85% to 95% cure rate among afflicted people. The disease was all but wiped out in areas that had been previously afflicted on an epidemic scale. The Communist Party declared that it could “cure what the powers above have failed to do.” (12)

Today, it is commonplace for the bourgeoisie to mock anti-pest campaigns in China. The biggest target is the anti-sparrow campaign during the Great Leap Forward. In fact, the anti-sparrow campaign is rightly criticized. It backfired and resulted in very bad consequences because people did not adequately understand the role the sparrow played in the ecology. Sparrows killed pests that attacked crops. Lowering the numbers of sparrows hurt agricultural production. The anti-sparrow campaign is an example of poor planning and overenthusiasm. However, we should not throw out the baby with the bath water. Mistakes will always be made on the long road to communism. To expect no mistakes is utopian. Unlike other pest campaigns, the anti-sparrow campaign was not scientific. It is wrong to dismiss the people-centered approach, to dismiss mass mobilizations, because of mistakes and excesses. The anti-snail campaign greatly benefited the Chinese people. However, when capitalism returned to China so too did schistosomiasis. Today, the epidemic is back. And, with global warming it could be worse than ever.

Other innovations advanced China’s healthcare. When the revolution came to power across the country, two kinds of medicine existed in China. There were the traditionalists who had refined their knowledge of herbal remedies and folk techniques over centuries. There was also the more modern approach that drew on biological science and high technology.  Within a year of liberation the slogan was raised to “Unite all medical workers, young and old, of the traditional and Western schools, and organize a solid united front to strive for the development of people’s health work.” (13) In order to better serve the people, the Party sought to overcome the traditional antagonism between traditional and modern medicine. The Party realized that it would be foolish to simply disregard traditional knowledge gathered over centuries simply because it was different. If folk techniques work, then they are valuable. Likewise one could not ignore the tremendous advances in medical knowledge coming from the West. Instead, what works in folk medicine should be preserved and combined with the modern.

Horn describes the successful treatment of a torn knee ligament using a combination of technique. The Western approach is to immobilize the whole limb with a plaster cast. However, this approach has the disadvantage that as swelling goes down in the cast, the ligament can heal with the knee in a lightly knock-kneed position.

“The method that we finally decided to use combined the principles of Chinese traditional medicine and modern surgery. Chinese traditional doctors believe that controlled movements do not interfere with the healing of torn tissues or broken bones but, on the contrary, promote healing. We therefore neither immobilized the knew nor operated on it, but used a method of splinting which guaranteed that knock-knee deformity could not develop and which permitted the patient to exercise the knee while the ligament healed.” (14)

Horn reports that the such approaches led to many such successes.

The Maoist road to development is based on class struggle, unleashing the masses. It was this approach that took a backward, undeveloped country that had been carved up and occupied by imperialists and turned it into a modern socialist state able to compete with the imperialists in the area of science.  People power was the force that allowed China to launch satellites, conquer the atom and be the first to synthesize insulin. Horn’s book stands as a refutation of the Theory of Productive Forces that downplays class struggle and people power.

The battle between socialism and capitalism, between revolution and counter-revolution, was of life and death. Even though socialism was defeated in China in the 1970s, the memory of socialism still inspires. Horn was witness to the amazing accomplishments of the Chinese people, of Maoism, and the Cultural Revolution. Horn writes:

“The Cultural Revolution is a culmination of this struggle for the future of China. In a very real sense, it is also a struggle for the future of mankind… For nearly fifty years Mao Tse-tung has led the Chinese revolution with a brilliance which incontrovertibly establishes him as the outstanding genius of our age. I regard the Cultural Revolution as his crowning achievement… As Vice-Chairman Lin Piao has put it, the losses of the Cultural Revolution have been tiny; the gains vast.” (15)

Our goal is communism, the end of all oppression. There will be many twists and turns on this red road. Errors will be made as they were in both the Soviet Union in its socialist period until the counter-revolution in the 1950s and China until its counter-revolution in the 1970s. Today, we stand on the edge of the next great wave of revolution. Horn witnessed the amazing power of Maoism to change thew world. Today, Leading Light Communism will take us even further.


1. Horn, Joshua S., Away with All Pests, Monthly Review Press, New York, USA: 1969. p. 34
2. Horn, ibid. pp 18-19
3. Horn, ibid. p 2
4. Horn, ibid. pp. 18-19
5. Horn, ibid. p. 31
6. Horn, ibid. p. 123
7. Horn, ibid. p. 30
8. Horn, ibid. p. 129
9. Horn, ibid. pp. 135-136
10. Horn, ibid.  p. 94-97
11. Horn, ibid. p. 98
12. MSH on healthcare, NPR on barefoot doctors, Monkey Smashes Heaven, February 21, 2010
13, Horn, ibid. p. 76
14. Horn, ibid. p. 45
15. Horn, ibid. p. 178