Yoda’s Lessons

Yoda’s Lessons

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In the Star Wars movies, the force is a bunch of hocus pocus combined with cheesy mysticism. However, in that fictional world, it was the force that gave the jedi his power. Revolutionary science is a real life version of the force for those seeking to destroy imperialism and fight for total liberation. In The Empire Strikes Back (directed by George Lucas), Yoda, again and again, stopped the impetuous and unprepared Luke from going against the Empire too early. He stressed to Luke that he had to learn the force and train before going off to battle the dark side. This is an important lesson that Leading Lights appreciate. Before we go out and try to confront the system head-on, we have to have a good grasp of revolutionary science.

Practicing revolutionary science means that we have to analyze our situation, the objective conditions, so as to not charge headstrong into a battle that can’t be won at present. There are those who, like Luke, desire to rush into battle no matter what. They think anything is possible, if they give their all. This is a hallmark of the politics of emotionalism. Then, when they lose, they get discouraged and give up altogether. These forces make the error of setting their sights too high or too low because they don’t have a good grasp of what is possible nor do they have scientific patience. They think in terms of all or nothing. Focoism, the politics associated with Che Guevara, tends to downplay the role of analysis and theory. Rather than having a protracted view of struggle based on a scientific assessment of possibilities, focoists tend to throw themselves into battle and hope things will somehow work out. Launching armed struggle in the First World in the near future is a catastrophic error; it is absolutely suicidal and only brings repression.

Another error is “movementarianism.” These people have a narrow view that does not see beyond what is in front of them at the moment. They throw themselves into whatever struggles happen to be before their eyes. Rather than understanding any broader picture, they just think that if everyone just threw themselves into issue organizing, then everything will work out. Because they don’t have revolutionary science, these people can’t see the possibility of anything like real revolutionary work. They tend to end up in reformism and working for social-fascism on behalf of the labor aristocracy. Even if their “heart is in the right place,” they can’t see how their organizing is reactionary or whether they are working cross-purposes.

Think of the confused Trotskyist who says that we ought support “our” troops one day. Then, the next day, he says we ought support the Iraqis. And, when Muddlehead is confronted about the contradiction of his two assertions, what is the poor Trotskyist to do? Flip a coin? “Heads – I support America, tails, Iraq?“ Read tea leaves? This is a real world problem about not having class analysis and revolutionary science. Another example, Muddlehead goes around spouting that the Americans deserve a bigger piece of the pie without realizing that he is fanning the same fascist fire as Pat Buchanan and Lou Dobbs. Because Leading Lights have revolutionary science, we know that we clearly stand with those fighting the America as a whole, including the American so-called working class. Because Leading Lights have revolutionary science and political courage, we don’t sit on the fence. Leading Lights can clearly answer: who are our enemies and who are our friends?

As Yoda told Luke, before we rush into battle, we have to educate ourselves and make sure we have a grip on revolutionary science. Narrow empiricism and narrow pragmatism, going off unprepared, all lead to despair and pessimism. Without a scientific understanding, the enemy can seem invincible. Do not presume the enemy to be invincible. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Seeing only the power of the enemy’s military machine, for example, but not its weakness goes against revolutionary science. Revolutionaries, as Mao said, are optimists.

Suggested readings: Combat Liberalism by Mao Zedong, On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party by Mao Zedong

Summing up “Black Lives Matter” and the rebellions against police terror in the USA

Summing up Ferguson USABuyjzAxCUAENMa6

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On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri, USA, a suburb of St. Louis. The evidence suggests that the shooting was unwarranted and, in part, racially motivated. As a result, protests occurred throughout the United States highlighting the problem of police brutality  and racism. In Ferguson itself, protests have been continuous since the shooting. A militarized police department occupied the streets there, occasionally harassing and arresting protesters in the mostly Black community. And, after the grand jury chose not to indict Darren Wilson, riots broke out. This resulted in many arrests and much damage to property. Cars and businesses were seen burning in the media. On social media, a new phrase began to find its way across peoples profile pages: “Black Lives Matter”, which then became a loose network of activists across the US seeking to end police terror of Black communities in the United States. While the phrase “Black Lives Matter” was originally coined during the acquittal of self-styled “neighborhood watchman” George Zimmerman in his trial for the murder of 17-year old Black youth Trayvon Martin, the phrase didn’t become widely used until the death of Mike Brown at the hands of Darren Wilson.

It goes without saying the the resistance to police should be supported and strengthened. It goes without saying that national oppression and police terror must be opposed by any means necessary. Those who stood up and spoke up against injustice deserve support. We salute all those who took to the streets against injustice. Leading Light has advanced the line of “resistance in the First World; revolution in the Third World.” Standing against the police terror, white supremacy, and internal colonialism certainly counts as resistance. Even so, we must be materialists about the facts on the ground.

Some First Worldists see the events of Ferguson as heralding some great, new wave of discontent that can be channeled into First World revolution. They embrace ridiculous rhetoric about the Ferguson riot being a people’s war or the beginnings of a new anarchist world. There is even a meme floating around that borrows an image of an Irish Republican woman with a gun that states “arms up, shoot back.” Even with virtually the entire “far-left” of the United States focused on Ferguson, sending activists, etc., it is significant to note that the reports of shots fired on police from the resistance in the past couple years has been few and far between. This is in a country where firearms are legal and easy to acquire. There is a big reality gap between “far-left” rhetoric of First Worldists and conditions on the ground. Ferguson is not the Third World. It is not even Northern Ireland, as the meme suggests. There also is a big reality gap between the rhetoric of the First Worldist “far left” and what they are really prepared to do. This kind of over-the-top rhetoric, guerrilla pornography, might have some limited use at the level of low science, it may work to recruit the unadvanced, but we should not mistake this kind of myth making for reality.

Police terror and mass incarceration exists, and the most directly affected have been overwhelmingly Black and Brown people. National oppression is still an issue in the United States, although the contradiction between the white nation and these internal colonies is not nearly as acute as it once was. As scientific revolutionaries, we have to understand long-term trends, not get swept up in what happens to be in front of us at a given moment. There are very real, material reasons that national liberationist politics do not resonate in the United States nearly as much as they once did. The long-term trend is toward integrating the African diaspora of the United States into a multi-national First World. National oppression will continue within the First World. Every so often, these colonial contradictions may even lead to rebellion and resistance. However, the contradictions are not so great that they will lead to revolution at present. Nor are the contradictions within the First World so great that they can sustain a people’s war. To think as much is simply delusional utopianism.

All things being equal, having people resist the system inside the United States is better than having them not resist. This is true even if the First Worldists doing the resisting are delusional about the revolutionary possibilities within the heart of empire. For those who are not particularly advanced, this kind of resistance can be a healthy way to learn. It can also be a learning moment for others about what is possible at present. Resistance is a good thing. Even so, the most advanced, should not lose sight of the real task. The Global People’s War of the Leading Light will not emerge from within the First World. Our people are the real proletariat, the masses of the Third World. Our duty is to the global poor. Those who are advanced enough to be channeled into real revolutionary work should not get distracted from the main task, even as we offer our material support for such resistance within the United States. We must concentrate our forces against the weakest links of the imperial system. This means our battle is principally in the Third World.

Our future is our own. Long live the Great Strategic Plan! Follow the Leading Light! Be the Leading Light! Long live the Leading Light! Our sun is rising. Our day has come.

Summing up "Black Lives Matter" and the rebellions against police terror in the USA

Summing up Ferguson USABuyjzAxCUAENMa6

(llco.org)

On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri, USA, a suburb of St. Louis. The evidence suggests that the shooting was unwarranted and, in part, racially motivated. As a result, protests occurred throughout the United States highlighting the problem of police brutality  and racism. In Ferguson itself, protests have been continuous since the shooting. A militarized police department occupied the streets there, occasionally harassing and arresting protesters in the mostly Black community. And, after the grand jury chose not to indict Darren Wilson, riots broke out. This resulted in many arrests and much damage to property. Cars and businesses were seen burning in the media. On social media, a new phrase began to find its way across peoples profile pages: “Black Lives Matter”, which then became a loose network of activists across the US seeking to end police terror of Black communities in the United States. While the phrase “Black Lives Matter” was originally coined during the acquittal of self-styled “neighborhood watchman” George Zimmerman in his trial for the murder of 17-year old Black youth Trayvon Martin, the phrase didn’t become widely used until the death of Mike Brown at the hands of Darren Wilson.

It goes without saying the the resistance to police should be supported and strengthened. It goes without saying that national oppression and police terror must be opposed by any means necessary. Those who stood up and spoke up against injustice deserve support. We salute all those who took to the streets against injustice. Leading Light has advanced the line of “resistance in the First World; revolution in the Third World.” Standing against the police terror, white supremacy, and internal colonialism certainly counts as resistance. Even so, we must be materialists about the facts on the ground.

Some First Worldists see the events of Ferguson as heralding some great, new wave of discontent that can be channeled into First World revolution. They embrace ridiculous rhetoric about the Ferguson riot being a people’s war or the beginnings of a new anarchist world. There is even a meme floating around that borrows an image of an Irish Republican woman with a gun that states “arms up, shoot back.” Even with virtually the entire “far-left” of the United States focused on Ferguson, sending activists, etc., it is significant to note that the reports of shots fired on police from the resistance in the past couple years has been few and far between. This is in a country where firearms are legal and easy to acquire. There is a big reality gap between “far-left” rhetoric of First Worldists and conditions on the ground. Ferguson is not the Third World. It is not even Northern Ireland, as the meme suggests. There also is a big reality gap between the rhetoric of the First Worldist “far left” and what they are really prepared to do. This kind of over-the-top rhetoric, guerrilla pornography, might have some limited use at the level of low science, it may work to recruit the unadvanced, but we should not mistake this kind of myth making for reality.

Police terror and mass incarceration exists, and the most directly affected have been overwhelmingly Black and Brown people. National oppression is still an issue in the United States, although the contradiction between the white nation and these internal colonies is not nearly as acute as it once was. As scientific revolutionaries, we have to understand long-term trends, not get swept up in what happens to be in front of us at a given moment. There are very real, material reasons that national liberationist politics do not resonate in the United States nearly as much as they once did. The long-term trend is toward integrating the African diaspora of the United States into a multi-national First World. National oppression will continue within the First World. Every so often, these colonial contradictions may even lead to rebellion and resistance. However, the contradictions are not so great that they will lead to revolution at present. Nor are the contradictions within the First World so great that they can sustain a people’s war. To think as much is simply delusional utopianism.

All things being equal, having people resist the system inside the United States is better than having them not resist. This is true even if the First Worldists doing the resisting are delusional about the revolutionary possibilities within the heart of empire. For those who are not particularly advanced, this kind of resistance can be a healthy way to learn. It can also be a learning moment for others about what is possible at present. Resistance is a good thing. Even so, the most advanced, should not lose sight of the real task. The Global People’s War of the Leading Light will not emerge from within the First World. Our people are the real proletariat, the masses of the Third World. Our duty is to the global poor. Those who are advanced enough to be channeled into real revolutionary work should not get distracted from the main task, even as we offer our material support for such resistance within the United States. We must concentrate our forces against the weakest links of the imperial system. This means our battle is principally in the Third World.

Our future is our own. Long live the Great Strategic Plan! Follow the Leading Light! Be the Leading Light! Long live the Leading Light! Our sun is rising. Our day has come.

Turning Money into Rebellion edited by Gabriel Kuhn part 3

Turning Money into Rebellion edited by Gabriel Kuhn part 3KUF_Plakat-212x300

(llco.org)

Turning Money into Rebellion: The Unlikely Story of Denmark’s Revolutionary Bank Robbers (Kreplebebad, 2014) edited by Gabriel Kuhn documents the story of one of the most interesting revolutionary trends to emerge from the First World. It is the story of Mao-friendly, modern-day Robin Hoods from Denmark, the so-called “Blekingegade Group.” This trend began in 1963 as the Kommunistisk Arbejdskreds (KAK). Later, in 1978, it split into two groups. One retaining the original name. The other became the Manifest-Kommunistisk Arbejdsgruppe (M-KA). What made this trend unique was that it saw revolution in the West, including Denmark, as hopeless at present because the workers were simply too comfortable to support revolution. So, this trend saw it as their proletarian duty to support Third World liberation movements by providing material aid. They ended up financing the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to the tune of millions of dollars through bank robberies. Once the split happened in 1978, the KAK regressed toward typical, traditional solidarity, symbolic activism. The M-KA continued their illegal work providing material aid. It is the latter group that the book focuses on. In the previous parts of this review, the focus was on political economy and practice. In this final part, there are some final reflections on the M-KA and their own summations of their work.

Sino-Soviet split

The KAK had originally taken the Chinese side of the Sino-Soviet split. However, the KAK broke off the relationship with Beijing in 1968. They protested to the Chinese that their coverage of the First World was grossly inaccurate. The Chinese Communist Party continued to churn out First Worldist articles that overestimated the revolutionary potential in the First World despite the KAK’s objections. The KAK originally took its analysis very seriously. After the 1978 split between the KAK and the M-KA, the KAK patched up relations with Beijing. The KAK became a Danish mouthpiece of the Chinese state after 1978. Even though Mao was dead and the Gang of Four were arrested by 1978, even though China was now reversing its revolution and aligning with the Western imperialists more than ever, the KAK submitted to their leadership of the internationalist communist movement. The M-KA did not follow the KAK’s lead. Even though the M-KA was sympathetic to the Cultural Revolution and the Maoist domestic policy, the M-KA were always critical of the rightward turn in Chinese foreign policy in the 1970s:

“Jan: Ideologically, we found ourselves in a dilemma. We did see that the Cultural Revolution in China as a positive attempt to revise communism, but China was no ally in the support of liberation movements. In that respect, the progressive force was the Soviet Union, It had an objective interest in the liberation movements’ success and in the global expansion of socialism. Its leaders also chose their allies wisely. Their criteria were  very similar to ours: they were looking for socialist movements with popular support. The Chinese leadership, on the other hand, was so hostile toward the Soviet Union that it basically supported anyone who shared that sentiment. China developed ties to the most obscure political groups, and its foreign policy began to border on the absurd. In Angola, for example, they supported UNITA and worked alongside the CIA.

Torkil: In the late 1970s and early 1980s, China held the position that the Soviet Union was the most dangerous of all imperialist powers, and they encouraged the liberation movements to side with Western European nations and the U.S. As Jan said, it all became petty grotesque, and it also changed the perception of China among many liberation movements and their allies. KAK was far from the only organization that had a falling-out with the CPC around that time. If you go back to the early 1970, the PFLP was very pro-Chinese and hugely inspired by Mao’s guerrilla strategies. They were not very close to the Soviet Union. All this would change in the next decade.” (106-107)

Also:

“Torkil: …What I said before concerned exclusively the Soviet Union’s foreign policy — and even there, we would have wanted the Soviet government to be more radical and stronger in its support of Third World liberation movements. Regarding the country’s political and economic system, we had no sympathies at all. In the so-called ‘real socialism,’ a ‘democratic economy’ meant ‘nationalization,’ which, in turn, meant the state apparatus owned all the means of production. However, just because the state owns the means of production, the mode of production doesn’t necessarily change. The mode of production in the Soviet Union was very similar to capitalist ones, and sometimes worse. Look at Volkseigener Betriebe, the so-called ‘publicly owned companies,’ in the former East Germany: people never felt they were really in charge. It was the state that was in charge, and the people were not the state. The planned economy of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies was not democratic but very hierarchical. That is why the Soviet Union was never a model for us. However, it was a tactical ally in the support of liberation movements. One must not forget that the simple existence of the Soviet Union as a global superpower was very important to them, It created a space for them to be active. Had it not be for the Soviet Union, the U.S. might have used nuclear weapons to wipe out the Vietnamese resistance. Without the international balance of power guaranteed by the Soviet Union — also with regard to armament — things would have looked very different.” (105-106)

The fall of the Soviet Union, even though it had long gone off the rails, even though it was revisionist and social-imperialist since around the end of World War 2, was a setback for many liberation forces. Heightened contradictions between the imperialists gave liberation movements and independent, progressive regimes room to maneuver, to play one imperialist against another, to play East against West. With the fall of the Soviet empire, the armies of Western empire got a boost. Western imperialism had a freer hand to exploit and control the Third World. The fall of the Soviet Union created more global, transnational imperial unity. The fall of the Soviet Union was a further step in the emergence of a transnational First World empire. The Maoists, even outside China, had seen the Soviet Union as the main imperialist threat in the 1970s. They celebrated its fall in 1990s. Yet that fall had terrible repercussions of liberation struggles around the world. Numerous popular struggles folded or sued for peace as a result. This is something many contemporary Maoists have not come to terms with honestly.

More on the United Front

The M-KA had correct intuitions about the limits of nationalism. For revolutionaries, national liberation is merely a means to a greater end, not an end in itself. It is a means toward achieving socialism and communism. Similarly, anti-imperialism is not an end in itself, but a means for revolution:

“Torkil: For us, there has never been any valid anti-imperialism without a socialist base. We have always been primarily socialists. Anti-imperialism is important as a means to strengthen socialism, and it  doesn’t serve that purpose, it is not relevant for us. The principle of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is way too simple — and dangerous.” (164)

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is usually associated with the tactic of the United Front. The idea is that one should strive to unite as many forces as possible against the main enemy at any given moment. Smaller enemies ought put aside their differences to unite against the main oppressor. Interestingly, the M-KA seem to bend to the United Front when it came to the Soviet Bloc. They considered the Soviet Bloc a partner in the United Front against imperialism. At the same time, they seem to simply dismiss the idea that the Islamic Republic of Iran or other Islamists could be partners in some contexts. “The religious regimes that claim anti-imperialist values have not liberated anyone.” (164) The PFLP that the M-KA supported, for example, has accepted Hamas as a legitimate part of their broader struggle. The Palestinian struggle has received aid not simply from the Soviet Union, but also Iran and the Gulf states. The PFLP has received aid from very reactionary regimes at times. It is odd that the M-KA don’t apply their argument consistently. They themselves acknowledged the Soviet Union could be worse than the liberal capitalist regimes, but it was still a tactical ally. No so with Iran.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” can quickly become inadequate in practice. There are multiple layers of alliances, some are apparent, but others hidden. Alliances can shift rapidly, which makes applying such a principle difficult or impossible in practice at times. There are also considerations about who is the main enemy in the long term versus the main enemy immediately. Even if the United Front is not perfect, one should nonetheless strive to make it a reality. Revolutionaries of the past have had to make all kinds of unsavory tactical alliances to win. There is nothing special about religious forces that make them unworthy of tactical alliances. Remember, the United Front is for our benefit first and foremost, not theirs. Has the Islamic Republic of Iran murdered leftists? Yes, but so had the Soviet Union. At the same time, the Islamic Republic is in the crosshairs of the First World, of imperialism, of Israel, of the Gulf states. The situation here is somewhat similar to the revisionist-era Soviet Union, although Iran is not imperialist on anywhere near the scale the revisionist-era Soviet Union was. Iran is more of a regional hegemon than an imperialist. The revisionist-era Soviet Union had snuffed out revolution inside and outside its borders. It had snuffed out revolutionary energy in many of those forces and regimes it controlled. Yet, despite its terrible policies, the Soviet Union played a progressive geopolitical role sometimes. Similarly, Iran is extending support to Hezbollah, the Palestinians, and fighting the Gulf states, Israel, and sometimes the West. The bigger problem in the “left” in the First World is not one of making unwise tactical alliances, but rather the bigger problem with “left” forces is the rejection the United Front. Those who reject the United Front often  end up as useful idiots for neoliberal efforts at regime change, for imperialist attacks on the Third World. There are plenty of First World “left” forces who have allied with imperialism, who supported imperialist intervention to further regime change in places like Zimbabwe, Libya, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, etc. Neoliberalism has its origin in Trotskyism and social democracy in the service of empire. Even Maoists have ended up serving neoliberalism. Once the United Front is rejected, it is easily to slide into social imperialism.

Looking back and forward

The M-KA interviewees reflect on their practice:

“Torkil: Marxism in general has underestimated capitalism’s ability to adapt and transform. Since the days of Marx, capitalism’s ‘final crisis’ has been announced many times. It was no different than during the 1970s.

Second, I think the imperialist powers have learned a lot from the war of the era. The U.S. has changed its tactics since Vietnam and has confronted liberation movements much more effectively since…

Third, I think we overestimated the socialist element in the liberation movements, especially in its relation to the national element. Many of the movements were deeply nationalistic, but wore socialist colors. Not to be misunderstood: they weren’t consciously deceiving, and the socialist attire wasn’t fake, the socialist convictions just didn’t run very deep. Socialism promised a better life and it gave people hope. But it wasn’t at the core of the struggle, and national liberation rarely led to social liberation.

Fourth, I think we believed too strongly in the possibility of ‘delinking’, that is, of a nation being able to detach itself from the global economic system and introducing a socialist economy within the framework of a liberated nation state. This is a much more daunting task than we thought…

Fifth, whatever one’s opinion of the Soviet Union, its demise also meant the disappearance of the strategically most important counterpower to the U.S. No matter how you want to look at it, this was a strong blow to socialism.” (162-163)

On all these important points, the Leading Light is in agreement. Capitalism has proven very resilient. It should not be underestimated. Just as capitalism refines its science of oppression, so we advance our science of liberation, of Leading Light Communism. A transnational, global empire has emerged, the First World. Just as capitalism is globalizing, so too must resistance to it. Leading Light emerges to lead the transnational Global People’s War against Empire. The future is ours.

Zapatistas or Leading Light?

Further highlighting the contrast between the M-KA and Leading Light Communism are the M-KA interviewees’ comments on the future. When asked about movements today that are contributing positive, new visions, that might point the way forward, the M-KA interviewees identified the Zapatista movement of southern Mexico:

“Torkil: I think the Zapatistas provide an example. They are expressing socialist ideas in a new language. They are also anti-imperialists, although this might be anti-imperialism 2.0. In any case, the perspective of their struggle is global, not national.

We can see similar tendencies in many struggles, addressing everything from privatization to copyright issues to the ‘discursive struggles’ that Foucault has written about. Of course there are important struggles happening on the governmental and institutional level, but there are many small struggles in everyday life that concern very basic questions about what is good and bad, right and wrong, and so forth. All of them include the potential to strengthen socialist ideals. Here, too, the Zapatistas are a good example. They have a Foucauldian understanding of power: the micro level is very important; they don’t have power concentrated in institutions.” (174-175)

It may be true that the Zapatistas are not simply nationalists, especially Mexican nationalist. They are focused on their local communities with less emphasis on Mexico as a whole. It may be true they have raised awareness of their struggle to an international audience very successfully. They are very worldly in their outlook. However,  the M-KA interviewee has a mistaken view about their potential as revolutionary or anti-imperialist force.

As it happens, this reviewer worked, albeit briefly, with the Zapatista National Liberation Front (FZLN) and Indigenous National Congress (CNI) in Mexico in the mid-1990s. Although the Zapatistas were very worldly, they had lowered sites of what was possible. When I was there, the Zapatistas and allied institutions seemed unwilling to seriously ally themselves to other militant struggles in Mexico for fear of tainting their image. The Zapatistas were deeply rooted in a social base in Chiapas. However, outside Chiapas, they played to the Mexican social-democratic and liberal bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. They also directed their message to Western liberals in North America and Europe. Marcos t-shirts were as popular as Che ones. Rage Against the Machine used an image of the Zapatistas on one of their albums. The Zapatistas were part of the people’s struggle, but they were always armed reformists. The Zapatistas themselves denied they sought state power on numerous occasions. They were very successful at appealing to the social-democrats and liberals in Mexico and abroad. They very consciously erected a personality cult around the romantic figure of subcomandante Marcos. Marcos was playing for the cameras when he shared a meal with Danielle Mitterrand in 1996. In typical Marcos style, he handed the former first lady of the French social-democratic, imperialist state a rose. “Madame, I am but a paper knight and all I can offer you is a paper rose.” They did not seek power by uniting popular classes across Mexico through a people’s war. Rather, a large part of their strategy seemed to be aimed at garnering sympathy with social-democrats and liberals in Mexico and abroad. They hoped these forces would pressure the Mexican regime into granting greater rights to Mayan and indigenous communities. To appeal to the conscience of imperialists and social-democrats is not a realistic nor sustainable anti-imperialist strategy. Whatever ideological rhetoric is used to justify this orientation, it is an orientation that is very much idealist. It fails to recognize that revolutionary social change is not made by appealing to the mercy of the exploiter. Revolutionary social change is made by broadly mobilizing the masses, by forming New Power, by people’s war, by putting revolutionary science in command. Maoists were fond of saying “the masses are the real heroes” and “the masses are the motive force in history.”

Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano was an important candidate for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), a social-democratic, liberal bourgeois party in Mexico. In the context of Cardenas’ election bid for mayor (head of government) of the Federal District (“Mexico City”) in 1997, the Zapatistas had distanced themselves even further from revolution. They had distanced themselves from groups like the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) and even broad mass organizations that had suffered repression like the Broad Front for the Construction of a National Liberation Movement – Organization of the Peasants of the South Mountains (FAC-MLN-OCSS), victims of the Aguas Blancas massacre in 1995. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had ruled Mexico for 80 years at the time, but was feeling pressure to step down. It began looking like the PRI would turn over power to the social-democratic “left,” the PRD, at the country-wide, national level. Eventually, they handed power to the National Action Party (PAN), a neoliberal party to their right. In any case, La Jornada and liberal media were happy to juxtapose the “good guerrilla” of the Zapatistas to the “bad guerrilla” of the EPR and others. Sometimes the EPR were falsely called “the Mexican Shining Path” in an effort to malign them in the media. As it happens, the EPR had little to do with hard Maoism or the Communist Party of Peru. The EPR was a more traditional, nominally Marxist, guerrilla organization. The liberal media, through its speculations, seemed to be advocating a reconciliation and negotiated settlement between the Zapatistas and the Mexican state upon a PRD takeover at the country-wide level, which never happened. The Zapatistas presented themselves as cultured, literary, worldly, kind and gentle poets. They presented themselves as people the establishment could do business with, not as sectarian ideologues. However, their politics were localism combine with appeals to be saved by the liberal establishment. We should have no illusions that their path is a dead end.

I worked the entrance to the second CNI. The CNI was an organization allied with the Zapatistas, a coalition in which they played a leading role. I volunteered as a security guard at the CNI at the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH) in DF. When the FAC-MLN-OCSS approached the CNI, it seemed they were given the cold shoulder at the time. I know because I had been to the FAC-MLN-OCSS congress in defense of indigenous communities as a representative, part of a delegation, of the ENAH-CNI coordinadora. In addition, those of us wearing the purple security badges were instructed to not allow the Maoists or anarchists into the ENAH compound, not to allow them to agitate inside. Yet we were instructed to allow representatives from traditional parties like the PRI and PRD. At that time, the Zapatistas, although taking up arms and having deep connections to their own communities, seemed like liberal sectarians that was more interested in building alliances with the social-democratic establishment than with other militant peasant and worker organizations.

The Zapatistas were not offering a new vision of socialism. Rather, they were offering social-democratic reform, albeit in a ski-masked. pipe-smoking poetic form. At the time, one of the EPR commanders rebuked the poetry-writing subcomandante of the Zapatistas for what he perceived as their lack of seriousness. Alluding to Clausewitz, the EPR stated, “poetry is not war by other means.” Shortly following this, there were defections back and forth between the two organizations. I have not followed the twists and turns of the Zapatistas in the many years since then. Time flies. However, nothing I have seen in the media to make me reevaluate my assessment. The Zapatistas, for a time, became the darlings of the college and hipster activists in North America and Europe. All stripes of First World activists projected their politics onto the Zapatistas. To the anarchists, they were the living example proving anarchism can work. For  the Chicanos, they were a proud example of la Raza. For the less-rigid Maoists, the Zapatistas had so mastered the mass line, they were real Maoists even if they didn’t recognize it themselves. No doubt, there were even Trotskyists who saw the second coming of the man who organized the Red Army in the pipe-smoking masked man. Marcos himself joked about how people projected their aspirations onto their movement. I wonder if that is not what is happening with the M-KA interviewees. The Leading Light had not emerged in the 1990s. The “far left” was a bleak place indeed. It was a landscape of dogma and liberalism. In such a circumstance, the Zapatistas gave many people hope. Many people, who should have known better, did not examine the movement closely. Many people let their fantasies get the better of them. It is important to look beneath surfaces when examining movements. This is not to say the Zapatistas are not part of the United Front. They are part of the broad United Front. However, they are not offering a new “vision of socialism” nor “anti-imperialism 2.0.”

The level of the science

I discovered an archive of the KAK and the M-KA’s works online.* Although this trend hit upon many correct ideas about imperialism, the class structure, and practice for First World revolutionaries, the documents in the archive were relatively primitive when compared to the Leading Light. Although the M-KA was probably one of the most advanced groups to have emerged from the First World, they never advanced science in the all-round way that Leading Light has. Their lack of all-round scientific development was one the reasons they were not so much a communist vanguard. They seem more like a disciplined, independent support network for others who were leading struggles. The M-KA never merged with its Third World allies to become part of a global organization. Instead, they gave money at those who had a broad similarity with their vision. The PFLP fit the bill, even though the PFLP did not share their Third Worldist political economy necessarily. By contrast, Leading Light thinks the problem the world faces is much deeper. It is not just First World anti-imperialists who must ask “what is to be done?” So too must Third World forces. The worldwide revolutionary movement is at an impasse. The last great waves of revolution are defeated. What remains are dying fragments of the past. More money will not be the deciding factor reversing this trend. More than a vague leftist vision is needed to initiate the next great wave of revolution. What is needed is to adapt and update the science of revolution to today’s conditions. Just as Marx advanced the ideas he inherited, just as Lenin advanced Marx, just as Mao advanced Lenin, revolutionaries today must advance even further. The story of the KAK and the M-KA only highlight just how important our Leading Light work is. It shows how unprecedented and groundbreaking Leading Light Communism is. What we have is precious. We are writing a new chapter is the history of the world. We invite those individuals from the KAK and the M-KA and their circles to join us. We invite those inspired by their heroism to join us. Let your next chapter be our next chapter. You took a first step in the right direction. Now, take another. Pick up the sword again; pick up all-powerful Leading Light Communism. We have a world to win, together.

Kuhn, Gabriel. Turning Money Into Rebellion (Kersplebedeb, 2014)

* An archive of writings this trend can be found here: http://snylterstaten.dk/

Turning Money into Rebellion edited by Gabriel Kuhn reviewed part 2

Turning Money into Rebellion edited by Gabriel Kuhn reviewed part 29_turning_money_in_the_strangest_places_crop

(llco.org)

Turning Money into Rebellion: The Unlikely Story of Denmark’s Revolutionary Bank Robbers (Kreplebedab, 2014) is a great book every anti-imperialist and revolutionary in the First World should read. The book tells the story and thinking of the so-called Danish “Blekingegade Group,” the Mao-friendly Kommunistisk Arbejdskreds (KAK), founded in 1963, which later split with one part forming the Manifest-Kommunistisk Arbejdsgruppe (M-KA) in 1978. The book’s emphasis is the evolution of the latter group. The book documents the story and thinking of a trend that held that revolution in the First World was not currently possible, so they believed it was their duty to materially aid Third World liberation struggles. They raised the slogan “solidarity is something you can hold in your hands.”

Practice

Just as this trend’s political economy was far more advanced than most of their contemporaries, so too was their practice. Although the KAK’s and M-KA’s practices would eventually differ after their split in 1978, they held a similar view on political economy.  An earlier KAK document expresses a very important line of thought that is echoed in our own movement. A 1975 document from the KAK states:

“[It] cannot, in KAK’s view, be a task for revolutionaries today to inspire or to take the lead in the economic or trade union struggle of the [First World] working class. Such a struggle in the present situation has not, and cannot have the remotest connection with a struggle for socialism.

On this front it must be considered a far more correct task to inform the working-class (today one large labour aristocracy) that a new economic development which puts an end to the parasitism and plunder of the Western Hemisphere, ought be welcomed and, if possible, helped along. At the same time, one must understand quite clearly that it is only this very new economic development — whatever form it might take — that can convince the working-class of this fact. A parasitic, embourgeoisified labour aristocracy cannot be transformed into a revolutionary proletariat through speeches and articles. It still has to undergo a ‘hard castigation through crisis’, to use Engels’ expression, before it can contribute anything of value.” (192)

First World revolutionaries must avoid falling into the trap of economism because such struggles are won only at the expense of the Third World masses. Such struggles only deepen the stake of First World workers in the capitalist-imperialist system. They only push First World workers further toward social-democratic reformism. Such struggles only increase the bribe First World workers receive at the expense of the Third World masses. The economic struggle of First World workers is really just a form of social imperialism, imperialism with a red mask. In place of traditional activism, the KAK, and later the M-KA, created new kinds of revolutionary practice that are more compatible with the realities of global class. The KAK’s practices were both legal and illegal. The KAK organized and participated in traditional solidarity activism, which is mostly ineffectual and symbolic. For example, the KAK organized one of the earliest protests in Europe against US aggression in Vietnam. The KAK also organized study groups, published materials, and agitated against imperialism. However, this wasn’t enough: “Expressing solidarity is nice. But if it never translates into anything concrete, its powers are limited.” (131)

The KAK took their solidarity to the next level. They set up various charities to generate money and items such as clothing that could be useful for Third World peoples and movements. The KAK also participated in militant protests and small actions in the First World,  which, according to interviewees, was more about training for further clandestine activism than anything else. Around 1972 to 1975, security was tightened up as the KAK began more serious clandestine, illegal work. The KAK, later, the M-KA, moved up to bank robberies as their main form of fundraising. The money raised both legally and illegally went to numerous liberation struggles in the Third World: the MPLA in Angola, the FRELIMO in Mozambique, PFLOAG in Oman, ZANU in Zimbabwe, perhaps others. However, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) received the majority of their support. Anyone can claim to offer moral support. Anyone can talk the talk. What made the KAK and the M-KA unique amongst First World groups is that they walked the walk. They supported Third World liberation struggles materially. Sometimes the Third World movements were unaware of the illegal origins of the financial support:

“Jan: One could say that we had three different ways of supporting movements: some we supported legally through Toj til Afrika; some we supported illegally; some we supported both legally and — to a smaller degree — illegally, but without telling them. The PFLP knew what we were doing, but none of the other movements did. ZANU, for example, got resources that we acquired illegally, but they were unaware of it. Many liberation movements were infiltrated by intelligence services, we did not want to take any risks.” (108)

After the KAK and the M-KA split in 1978, the KAK seemed to backtrack. The KAK took up the line that they would prepare the way for a future revolution when conditions changed in Denmark. From the book, one gets the sense they shifted their efforts back toward traditional activism. This is not unlike the Maoists and anti-imperialists in North America who avoid economist activism while they cheerlead Third World struggles. Such Maoists claim to be “hastening [the development of] and awaiting” a future time when conditions change in favor of First World revolution. Whatever their Third Worldist rhetoric, the KAK’s later practice does not seem fundamentally different from any number of European and North American First Worldist groups. The M-KA, by contrast, emphasized the clandestine work, using mostly illegal means to provide logistical support for Third World forces, especially the PFLP. Although they considered other activities to raise money, including kidnapping and fraud, they focused on bank robbery. At one point, the M-KA opened a legal cafe, which did not make money. Their non-profit, legal clothing programs faltered also. Their ability to recycle old clothing to the Third World diminished as hipsters began buying vintage clothing. People chose to sell their old clothing, not donate it anymore. Their clothing collections ended in 1986. (138) Leading Light has advocated numerous ways to make money in the First World: “cults, businesses, mafias, non-profits, whatever works.” Some of these were not explored by the M-KA. Illegal activity is a good way to go, but one wonders if the M-KA explored legal options thoroughly enough.

Science, not adventurism

Despite sensationalist accounts about a suppose “terror network” in the bourgeois press, neither the KAK nor the M-KA had significant relationships with other First World urban-guerrilla movements. One reason they distanced themselves from groups like the RAF or the Red Brigades had to do with security. Logistical support for Third World liberation was simply too important to risk exposure by associating with infantile, emotionalist focoism or rioting. They went so far as to request the PFLP make sure other European militants had little knowledge or interaction with their work. They made sure to keep their practice invisible by avoiding the European urban-guerrilla groups.

Ideology also kept them apart from such movements. Such urban guerrilla groups still saw the First World workers as a part of revolution. Such groups did not have a realistic picture of European society:

“We never shared the RAF’s analysis that West Germany was a fascist state with a democratic facade. Furthermore, the RAF wanted to support the struggle in the Third World by building an anti-imperialist front in Western Europe. We considered this utterly impossible.” (44)

Similar groups to the RAF existed, albeit on a smaller scale, in the USA. The Weather Underground Organization (WUO) never was really Third Worldist. Sometimes they looked with skepticism on white workers, but they still looked for a First World “stand-in proletariat” in the youth and non-whites. Other times, the WUO took a more classical First Worldist workerist line, especially around the time of their Hard Times conference. Whatever the rhetoric of most First World “anti-imperialist” groups, their practice remains very much First World oriented, mostly resulting in completely inept politics. An irony is that despite the greater rhetorical emphasis on anti-imperialism, some of today’s so-called “anti-imperialist” groups often objectively aid Third World struggles less than more overtly First Worldist counterparts. The M-KA compares their criticism of focoism in Europe to similar criticisms of the WUO:

“Trokil: …In many ways, the LSM’s critique of the WU resembles our critique of the RAF. We also saw them as comrades and supported their actions against imperialism and its institutions. But we felt they had a wrong analysis of the political and economic conditions and therefore a wrong revolutionary program.” (126)

It is important to understand that the M-KA did not choose their path out of some emotional need. They did not choose their illegal course because it was romantic. They chose the illegal path because it made sense:

“Jan: Well, the facts are very clear. The maximum amount of money we were able to legally raise in a year was about half a million crowns — and this required the very dedicated and time-consuming work of dozens of people. This didn’t even compare to what we could make illegally. I really can’t see how we could have secured the funds we did with legal means.” (132)

In this respect, their activities can be distinguished from the numerous urban guerrilla groups that engaged in armed struggle with no hope of victory in the First World. The path of the early KAK and later M-KA was not chosen out of guilt or emotional need, but was the product of scientific calculus. Thus they should not be criticized as adventurous or focoist.

Science, not identity politics

The M-KA were selective about who received their support. They directed their support to those groups with a similar political vision. What drew them to the PFLP, for example, was the PFLP’s  vision of a socialist society, not their nationalism. Yet they maintained their independence, never becoming a PFLP cell. They were not under PFLP discipline and did not always share their emphasis:

“We did not primarily support the PFLP because it wanted to establish a Palestinian nation state, but because the PFLP envisioned a socialist society in the Arab world and because it had an explicitly internationalist outlook.” (47)

Having a mass base was also important to the M-KA, which is why they did not look favorably on Wadi Haddad’s sensational actions, even when he remained part of the PFLP. They were critical of his hijackings, which they saw as actions detached from the masses in Palestine. When offered, they chose not to participate in such adventurism. In addition, they directed their support to where it would matter most:

“Torkil: Another aspect that was important was the degree of support that a particular movement already had. One of the organizations that we supported, the PFLOAG/PFLO in Oman, was small and did not get much outside support, so for them a million Danish crowns really made a difference. This was not necessarily the case for organizations like the ANC in South Africa.” (108)

Thus they directed their material support to smaller movements whose armed struggle was just beginning. They correctly recognized that you get more “bang for your buck” by supporting movements in their nascent years. Established movements tend to have already secured significant, stable revenue streams. More established organizations have solved these logistical issues to the point that they do not need help.

Science, not romanticism

Some have falsely accused these movements of romanticizing Third World liberation struggles. The M-KA interviewees respond:

“Jan: When you are twenty years old, it is easy to see yourself as a heroic freedom fighter in the Third World. But those glorious images quickly fade once you really see the reality of the liberation struggle. Besides, the more we got to know liberation movements, the more we also got to understand that there was no lack of manpower. In the 1970s, millions of people were ready to die for socialism. There were many Europeans ready to join the PFLP. That’s why providing money seemed more useful to us. And I’m sure the liberation movements, too. They wanted ten million crowns more than a few extra fighters. The only exceptions were people with special skills…” (127)

Furthermore:

“Torkil: …Once you were in close contact with liberation movements, there was little space for romanticization. The cynicism of realpolitik was very tangible, and you were constantly forced to compromise. We certainly did not live under the illusion that we were working with saints.” (130)

There is a big difference between how people’s war is conceived in the abstract, especially amongst First World “far-left” activists, and the reality of people’s war. There is a big difference between talking about revolution and actually making it. There is a whole milieu of activists in the First World who romanticize people’s war, especially its Maoist variety. However, when confronted by the real deal, they do everything they can to sabotage it because they do not recognize it for what it is. This is part of a broader problem in the First World. There is a relatively high degree of ideological literacy of sorts amongst activists, yet First World activists are completely removed from a real social base. So, you have these people with highly developed dogmas running around with no conception or knowledge of what real revolution is or entails. They end up intervening in struggles they do not understand, usually in a wrecking capacity. Cowardly lions pimp off the very movements they unknowingly attack, but they are too stupid to even realize it. The M-KA’s reality based politics puts most of today’s “anti-imperialists” to shame.

Science, not First Worldist national liberation

Leading Light sometimes refers to Pantherism as one of the last bastions of First Worldism. What we mean by this is that once someone realizes that working people in the First World are not a proletariat, not a revolutionary agent, they often begin grasping at straws in desperation. They begin looking for a “stand-in proletariat.” Sometimes they look to the youth of the First World. Sometimes they look to the lumpen. Sometimes they look to migrants. Sometimes they look to non-white populations and the nationalist movements that seek to lead them. In the USA, the latter is associated with Pantherism.

“Jan: Of course we were aware that the conditions in North America were different from those in Denmark and the rest of Europe. Racism and the oppression and exploitation of the indigenous population played a different role. That’s why we saw revolutionary potential in the struggle of the Black Panthers. We hadn’t really researched the status and support they had in the black community, but they were certainly more interesting to us than white movements competing in revolutionary phraseology.” (124-125)

The reality is that, like the white population, the black population in the United States was not a social base for revolution at the time. It is easier to see how one could misjudge the situation in the 1970s. Whatever social base once existed amongst these populations, today, it should be obvious that there is no significant proletariat in the United States, white, black, or otherwise. Although the state played a role in smashing national liberation movements, changing social conditions were even a bigger factor in their demise. Just as white workers entered the ranks of the global bourgeoisie, so too have black and other populations for the most part. The M-KA also understood that in those communities where national consciousness was more a reality, indigenous nations, for example, those populations were simply too small to achieve revolution under present circumstances. At some level, the M-KA seemed to have realized that focusing on national liberation within the borders of the USA was misguided:

“Jan: …At the same time, we didn’t have the impression that the revolutionary potential of the North American movements were on par with the struggle in Angola or Mozambique. That was also true for the indigenous resistance. It seemed unlikely to us that the American Indian Movement would be able to start a revolution. It had very little support from the American working class. Of course we were in solidarity with their struggle, but mainly we saw it as a tragic one. It seemed similar to the situation in Greenland, which we also analyzed. We published articles about Greenland in Ungkommunisten, but we didn’t see much revolutionary potential there either. In the U.S., the brutal state repression of both the American Indian Movement and the Panthers seemed to confirm our analysis. Both movements were crushed by the authorities, also because they simply didn’t have the support that would have been needed to withstand the attacks.” (124-125)

For the most part, national liberation is a pipe dream in the United States. The overall tendency is toward integration of non-white populations. The United States has emerged into a multi-racial empire that is playing a key role in an emerging multi-racial, transnational First World, a kind of global empire. Some nationalists are fond of misquoting Mao as saying “national liberation is applied internationalism.” Mao did not advocated independent, single national struggles as the Patherist groups do. Mao advocated a pan-Chinese struggle that involved many nations against imperialism. And Mao was always an enemy of traditionalist national culture, unlike cultural nationalist groups. Patriotism of oppressed countries may have been applied internationalism during the decolonial struggle, but things have changed. The old formulation of oppressor versus oppressed nation no longer applies as it once did. Today, just as imperialism is globalizing, so too must resistance to it. Turning inward to nation or community will only undermine the struggle against imperialism. Leading Light Communism, its Global People’s War to liberate humanity and the Earth, is applied internationalism.

There is plenty of fake solidarity in the First World. Plenty of cowardly lions proclaim themselves ready to die for the revolution, but few will donate anything or put in any real work. These people are no more communist or anti-imperialist than a Civil War reenactor is General Lee. It is important to dispel confusion caused by these clowns amongst genuine people’s forces in the Third World. by contrast, the “Blekingegade Group” were true lions. Let’s hope that through story of the “Blekingegade Group” some First World activists will begin to awake. Let us hope that people in the First World will begin to understand that they too can play a progressive role instead of just spinning their wheels.  Let’s hope people stop yapping and start acting. The Leading Light shines the way forward. The future awaits.

Kuhn, Gabriel. Turning Money Into Rebellion (Kersplebedeb, 2014)

Turning Money Into Rebellion edited by Gabriel Kuhn reviewed part 1

Turning Money Into Rebellion edited by Gabriel Kuhn reviewed part 1detail_634_turning_money_into_rebellion

(llco.org)

Turning Money Into Rebellion: The Unlikely Story of Denmark’s Revolutionary Bank Robbers (Kersplebedeb, 2014) is a wake-up call for the legions of wannabe anti-imperialists and Marxists who populate the First World so-called “left” today. It is a collection of documents that chart the development of those revolutionaries who would later be known in the mainstream press as the “Blekingegade Group.” These Robin Hoods from the First World turned to illegal activities, especially bank robbing, in order to fund liberation struggles in the Third World to the tune of millions of dollars. Their presence was mostly unknown until their arrest in 1989 revealed the extent of their activities, which had been very successful and gone largely unnoticed. Law enforcement and the bourgeois media sensationalized and embellished the story for their own purposes. Wild tales of a dark, seedy world of international terrorism keep European audiences reading after their arrest. One of the goals of the book is to dispel many misconceptions about the group in the popular imagination. The interviewees tell their story in a matter-of-fact, non-sensationalized way. The articles and interviews come off as honest, even self-critical at times. There seems to be little myth making here. When we were asked to review this work, we agreed mostly to be nice. After all, a million tasks cry out to be done, and a million more. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the book. We thank the individual who gave us this additional burden. We had known about this group before, our German website contains several articles that mention them.  What we did not know was just how sophisticated this group was. There are obvious parallels between our work and theirs. When compared to the rest of the so-called “left” in the First World, our work may seem very similar to theirs. However, big differences exist also, and we should not lose sight of these. Importantly, unlike the trends that would lead to the Blekingegade Group, the Leading Light was formed through the convergence of several trends in many countries. Thus Leading Light’s history and approach are a little more complex. The Blekingegade Group was a First World group committed to aiding the Third World. The Leading Light, by contrast, is an international group that operates primarily in the Third World, but also in the First World. Even so, reading the words of the interviewees generated a sense of deja vu for some of our First World cadre. It was not only Blekingegade Group’s broad analysis and practical orientation that seem too familiar, but even very specific and technical points raised in the interviews. The Leading Light is in full agreement that talk is cheap, to quote the Blekingegade Group, real “solidarity is something you can hold in your hands.” Like echoes like. Like finds like, even if it is decades later. You are shining stars in the midnight of the First World so-called “left.” Respect, brothers and sisters.

Quick history and timeline

The “Blekingegade Group” is a media name for an organization that traces its origins back decades to the Kommunistisk Arbejdskreds (KAK). The KAK’s history goes back to 1963 when Gotfed Appel, a charismatic literary historian, was banned from the Communist Party of Denmark, a Moscow-loyal, revisionist party, for his sympathy with China. Gotfed Appel and others went on to form the KAK, which soon became recognized as fraternal by the Chinese Communist Party. The KAK worked closely with the Chinese embassy in Copenhagen. The KAK participated in traditional activism, including some of the first anti-Vietnam war protests. They founded a publishing house and newspaper. The KAK published and distributed copies Mao’s “little red book.” One thing that set them apart from the rest of the left was Gotfed Appel’s “parasite state theory,” the belief that the Western working class was not a revolutionary agent. As a result, the group focused on solidarity efforts, both legal and illegal activism, to aid Third World liberation movements. The KAK was serious enough about its analysis that it broke off relations with Beijing in 1968 when the Chinese communists continued to misjudge the situation in the First World. A decade later, in 1978, the KAK split when an anti-sexism campaign ran amok through the organization. According to the interviewees, the campaign was used opportunistically by Gotfed Appel’s leadership to silence others. (133) A new group critical of the old leadership was born: the Manifest-Kommunistisk Arbejdsgruppe (M-KA). After the split, the KAK continued to recognize the lack of revolutionary potential in the First World. The KAK moved away from active solidarity. They adopted the line that they would prepare the way for a future when conditions for proletarian revolution in Denmark would change in their favor. Whatever their Third Worldist pretense, the KAK returned to more traditional First Worldist activism, abandoning clandestine work for the most part. Also, the KAK patched things up with Beijing, even following the twists and turns of Chinese foreign policy even as China aligned with the Western imperialists. Predictably, the KAK’s influence waned. The M-KA moved in a more scientific, creative and less dogmatic direction. Although the M-KA continued some legal fundraising efforts, their illegal activities, especially bank robbing, became their focus. They mostly stayed off the radar of authorities and the First World “left.” The M-KA became a very capable, clandestine organization that raised lots of money for Third World liberation, especially the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). They were finally arrested in 1998 when they were discovered by accident. It is this latter group, the M-KA, that was mostly sensationalized as “Blekingegade Group.”

Parasite state theory and imperialism

Lenin taught that without theory, practice is blind. The practice of this trend was very much connected to their Third Worldism, which was very advanced at the time. Their theory was originally developed in the 1960s by Gotfed Appel. According to their “parasite state theory,” the First World working class was not an ally of the Third World proletariat and the fight for socialism at the present time. (4) This concept was very familiar, although usually poorly articulated, during the de-colonial struggles before and after World War 2. As early as 1933, Even Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, wrote:

“It is said that capitalism managed to prolong its life to our day because of a factor which perhaps Marx did not fully consider. This was the exploitation of colonial empires by the industrial countries of the West. This gave fresh life and prosperity to it, at the expense, of course, of the poor countries so exploited.” (30)

Julius K. Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania, similarly stated:

“The only difference between the two situations is that the beneficiaries in the international situation now are the national economies of the rich nations — which includes the working class of those nations. And disagreements of the spoils, which used to exist between members of the capitalist class in the nineteenth century, are now represented by disagreement about the division of the spoils between workers and capitalists in the rich economies.” (31)

Others voiced similar sentiments. Although somewhat ambiguous, there was Che Guevara’s famous call for “many Vietnams.” There was also Lin Biao’s 1960s conception of the global countryside encircling the global city. Even Engels discussed that the whole of England, including its working class, was becoming bourgeois on the backs of its colonies. These kinds of ideas were somewhat popular in the 1960s and 1970s as anti-colonial struggles raged and as China sought to revitalize socialism through its Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Even though many expressed similar views, especially outside the West, few advanced the idea as forcefully as the KAK. Later, even fewer would add the scientific depth of the M-KA as they incorporated Arghiri Emmanuel’s theories of unequal exchange to Gotfed Appel’s. Today, Leading Light has advanced political economy even further.

The KAK did see the First World working class as exploited, but the class was bribed at the same time. This bribe made it so the First World workers had more in common with the imperialists than they did with Third World workers. In 1975, the KAK explained:

“[T]he working class in the developed countries of Western Europe and North America occupies a two-fold position. It is at one and the same time exploited (in so far as it produces surplus value) and bribed (in so far as its standard of living and hence its economic — and cultural — needs and its ‘trade union’ demands are based on decades of sharing in the imperialist world’s former colonial, now ‘neo-colonial’ plunder). Furthermore, the bribery factor is today the dominant factor of the two.

This bribery should not be understood in such a way that one can actually calculate how large a part of of the wage-packet’s contents is payment for the value of labour, and how large a part is bribery. It should be understood as meaning that the whole of the imperialist world’s economic, industrial, technical, cultural and social development in the last analysis is based upon robbery and plunder in the former colonies and dependent countries, now the ‘Third World’.” (191)

Thus the KAK’s view was a bit different than our own. The KAK’s description of First World laborers as exploited, but bribed and non-revolutionary is needlessly confusing. Our view is that, generally speaking, First World populations should not be considered exploited. Contrary to the KAK, we believe there are approaches to the question that can quantify the degree of parasitism, the size of the bribe, so to speak. Although their terminology is different, the KAK’s view, as articulated here, is not unlike the concept of net-exploitation found in our own tradition. The KAK’s main points of reference were the classic works of Marx, Lenin, and Mao, especially Lenin’s Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism. Although the KAK was describing an important phenomenon, their approach seems limited and dogmatic. After their split, the M-KA would deepen the analysis by breaking from the KAK’s orthodoxy:

“Jan: KAK’s reference points were always the classical texts of Marxism-Leninism. As far as imperialism was concerned, everything circled around Lenin’s text. This didn’t even change when our empirical studies in the 1970s showed that this analysis was no longer applicable: Lenin’s theories on monopolization, finance capital, foreign direct investments, etc., could no longer explain the enormous gaps in wealth. But it needed KAK’s demise and the founding of M-KA for us to be able to improve our analysis.

Torkil: It’s actually amazing that such a short and somewhat muddled text, written hastily in a Swiss library with limited access to source material, could be regarded as the ne plus ultra in the Marxist analysis of imperialism for over half a century. It really shows the position that Lenin had within the left and the power of Soviet propaganda.” (102)

One-time M-KA members explain just how different production is now than in the past:

“Torkil: If we take the purchasing power of Copenhagen with its one million inhabitants, then it equals the purchasing power of Tanzania with forty-six million people. Neoliberalism allows you to move production to where wages are low and then ship the products to where purchasing power is high. That way you profit on both ends. You can send a design for a Nike sneaker as a PDF to Vietnam, where you get the sneakers produced for next to nothing before moving them in modern containers to the U.S., where you can sell them for a multiple of the production costs. Making profit has never been easier. Once you have functioning logistics, modern technology, and safe transport, you are set. In the metropole, production is no longer key — what counts is design and marketing. The technologies are very different to the 1970s, but they perpetuate and even strengthen, the same patterns of exploitation. At the time, we spoke of ‘parasite states.’ Today, we might want to speak of ‘producer states’ and ‘consumer states.’” (167-168)

This foreshadows our own analysis. Despite pretenses of being led by scientific ideology, the so-called “left” is mired in dogma. This is true of almost every movement claiming to be revolutionary in both the First and Third World. What exists are not movements genuinely led by revolutionary science, but movements led by vulgarized, dogmatized ideologies of past revolutions. These movements fail to understand that the world has changed greatly since 1949, even more so since 1917. Revisionism, the abandonment of real revolutionary science, has led the so-called “left” into insignificance and irrelevance. The M-KA embraced a more advanced political economy in its effort to understand global class. They embraced more advanced understanding of imperialism. And they embraced a more advanced practice than other First World movements at the time. Like ourselves, the M-KA rejected dogmatic orthodoxy of First Worldism without falling into liberalism and wishy-washy movementarianism. In their context, they avoided both the dogmatism and liberalism that are so prevalent in the First World so-called “left.” The M-KA continue to maintain their correct orientation toward the Third World even to this day. One interviewee states:

“Torkil: …Despite the anti-imperialist liberation struggles disappearing in the 1980s, the main contradiction in the world remains the one between the rich capitalist countries in the North and the exploited countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Future anti-imperialist struggle is inevitable.” (181)

Leading Light has pointed out that at least until the end of World War 2, Lenin’s understanding of imperialism was more correct than others. At the time, it was more correct than Kautsky’s theory of ultra-imperialism. The world did enter a cycle of world wars as imperialists vied with each other for the colonial world. However, world wars threatened the capitalist system as a whole. The first world war weakened capitalism so much that proletarian revolution rose to power in the old Russian empire. The second world war saw the rise of Maoist China. So weakened were the old empires that a massive de-colonial movement swept the world as European empires were no longer able to hold onto their colonies. The system as a whole was so threatened that measures were taken to avoid future world wars. Globalization moved forward. International institutions were created to resolve or minimize conflicts.  Imperial cultures mixed with each other. Transnational Non-Governmental Organizations emerged. Economies were integrated. Capital became more and more transnational. Corporations and other capitalist entities were no longer loyal to this or that single country. Rather, a transnational First World empire begins to emerge that exploits the masses across the Third World. To understand this ongoing process, it is necessary to go beyond the dogma of the past.

The science of oppression is constantly advancing. The oppressors recruit some of the best and the brightest to populate a network of intelligence  and military agencies, think tanks, academic departments, and legislatures. In order to beat the oppressor, to make revolution, it is necessary to advance revolutionary science to ever new heights. Old dogma won’t cut it. Although the M-KA’s political economy, in some respects,  anticipates the rise of Leading Light Communism, it is important to understand that the problem facing the revolutionary movement is not so simple. It is not as though Maoism or national liberation plus Third Worldist political economy is the solution. The current impasse of the revolutionary movement stems from a much deeper epistemological problem, from lack of advanced scientific leadership, from dogmatism. The problem, and solution, is much bigger than political economy. The question of “what is to be done?” must not simply be asked by First World comrades, but also Third World comrades. Although delivering real support to this or that people’s struggles is truly honorable, more money alone is not going to tip the fundamental balance. The key to victory is revolutionary genius, all-round, all-encompassing, all-powerful scientific advance: Leading Light Communism. One people. One Earth. One Global People’s War. One organization. One leadership. Leading Light.

Kuhn, Gabriel. Turning Money Into Rebellion (Kersplebedeb, 2014)

Interview: Origins

OriginsQuestions

(llco.org)

Recently, we received questions about the origin of Leading Light Communist Organization (LLCO). Usually, we have been secretive about our origins, but we decided to open up a bit on these questions. So, I gave an interview. What is reveled here is a very abbreviated version of our history in North America. This history is not complete out of respect for certain individuals. We would love to write a more inclusive history. This is the history of our North American movement as I remember it:

1. Some people connect Leading Light in North America to the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM). MIM was a shadowy and secretive organization that is still a mystery to many. When did you first encounter the MIM?

It was probably the early 1990s, long before my experiences in Latin America or my It’s Right To Rebel (IRTR) experience. Although I do not consider myself a Maoist now, in the early 1990s I was consolidating my identity as a Maoist. I first picked up MIM’s paper, MIM Notes, at a local info shop. I began reading both Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) and MIM literature. What I read interested me. So I wrote to MIM. They began sending me free bundles of MIM Notes. I would place them around town. Eventually, MIM requested I prove that I was actually distributing the papers. I wasn’t sure what they meant, perhaps I was suppose to take pictures of where I was placing the papers. I did not own a camera. I protested. They were not very friendly. That was that. The paper bundles stopped coming. This was probably my first rocky experience with MIM, something that would be repeated over the years. I continued to read all kinds of revolutionary literature over the years, including MIM’s. I never identified as a MIM cadre or as upholding MIM Thought.

2. You have a lot of experience with MIM, more than most. You described your experience as “rocky.” What are some of your criticisms of MIM?

Most people who have been around know my view on MIM. I have numerous criticisms, which I don’t have time to get into all of them. These criticisms evolved over a long period of time. Here are a few.

First Worldism. MIM’s tailing of nationalism, identity politics, their residual First Worldism and First Worldist practice, are the biggest problems.

MIM’s security cult. MIM used to mock the Revolutionary Communist Party’s (RCP USA) personality cult around Bob Avakian, but MIM had its own “security cult.” Security was used by MIM to stifle discussion the same way that RCP did with its personality cult. MIM created a sense that it was always under attack. If a group is under attack, then it is not the time to nitpick or question the leadership. Well, MIM was always under attack. Dealing with MIM always felt like walking on eggshells. This internal culture did not seem very positive to me.

MIM’s dogma. MIM’s history work is a good example. MIM even praises RCP’s hackish book Mao Makes Five. MIM and RCP shared the same method of the Stalinists regarding history. The method is not to look at history objectively and then create a narrative. Rather, their method is to create a historical narrative to defend nearly everything Stalin and Mao ever did by cherry-picking data. It was actually my work investigating the Lin Biao affair (we were the first to rehabilitate him, in the IRTR period) that led to my disgust at MIM’s shoddy work. I also saw that MIM’s defense of dialectics was nothing but dogma. Their political economy was based dogmatically and almost solely on  the labor theory of value and the distinction between productive and unproductive labor. When MIM did really get creative, like with their gender work, aspects of their creative developments were very wrong in various obvious and off-putting ways.

MIM’s ground game and their rejection of party building. MIM hated RCP so much that they went on and on about how party building was “cult building” when there was no real social base for a strong party. This had all kinds of weird implications. Like MIM seemed to put little effort into recruiting. MIM used to say the principal task was agitation, not party building. I later criticized the traditional MIM line during the early Leading Light days. I would write that “you can agitate more with 100 people than 10 people.”  I would later claim that even if one thought the principal task was agitation, organization building will lead to the ability to produce more agitation. Plus, people drop out if you are not constantly recruiting. MIM’s anti-party building and anti-recruiting orientation seemed to inevitably lead to it being just Henry Park (MIM3, MC3) by himself and a couple mostly independent projects like the Prison Ministry. Plus, there is another issue. MIM was so eager to strike a blow against RCP, and the cult critique was an easy target, that they failed to see what RCP was doing right. RCP is very good at creating organization in a way MIM never was. If there isn’t a social base in the First World, why not build a cult, a gang? If there is no social base, then you need a glue to hold together anything beyond a dozen intellectuals or so. You need to mitigate the reactionary social forces through heavy discipline and loyalty. I pushed the line: “why not build a cult? a business? a gang? a mafia? anything effective to aid the Global People’s War?” The MIM and post-MIM folk were still too stuck in intellectualism and First Worldist conceptions of activism to support the implications of such a bold idea. From my perspective, it seemed like they were more into polemical blogging, a little agitation, and very small forays into traditional First Worldist activism. I wanted to develop something more real. This is why I don’t really care when the MIM or post-MIM people attack Leading Light as “cultism” or “gangsterism.” The implications of what I was saying was too much for many to handle even if they agreed me. It takes a certain kind of daring to follow through on what I was implying. I am not sure, but I think some agreed with me but could not hack it.

Also, there seemed to be a huge lack of “common sense” with MIM. They weren’t good at relating to people, lacked charisma. And they did not understand that presentation matters, image matters. They did not understand the importance of leadership in a concrete way, one of the fundamental lessons of Marxist thought,

There is so much to say here. It would take me awhile to develop something like a paper on this stuff. I am also mixing together MIM itself with the post-MIM  folk a bit on some of this. In any case, these are the main things that come to mind at the moment. I don’t really care to publish some kind of big formal critique of MIM. Why? I don’t care. Not really trying to recruit out of their circles. I don’t think they attract the kind of people we need as recruits, soldiers. Someone mocked me as “general PF” elsewhere. Exactly. There is a lot of truth there. Plus, I am not out to wreck whatever the MIM Thought school has going on at this point. I don’t see a polemical back and forth as useful because we are not looking to recruit them. Plus, those who need to know already know the differences. Honestly, those remnants of MIM need to abandon their dogma and individualism. They need to drop their ego to dedicate themselves to real revolution. They need to follow the Leading Light, pure and simple.

3. You mentioned another group called “It’s Right to Rebel” (IRTR)? Again, this is a history that few people know. It is important to hear the truth about these movements since they did play a role in the past. 

IRTR was a think thank, mostly in North America, that was loosely tied to MIM, although there was no organizational link or centralism. I was its founder and chairman, Serve The People its vice-chairman and co-founder. Myself and Serve The People met in a discussion. I proposed we found a new Maoist think tank to hash out ideological issues. I can’t speak for the other original leaders, but there was myself, MIM folk, and someone who worked with the Indian Maoists in the original group. Interestingly, the person from India is the one who made the monetary contribution resulting in many of the Beijing Review PDFs floating around the internet. Kind of funny, resources moving from the Third World to the First World in that case. In any case, over time, the leadership became mostly myself, who came from a different trend, but had always read both RIM and MIM stuff, and people who were more exclusively partisans of MIM. The Indian comrade was split off by a police plot, or what we thought was one at the time. Over time, IRTR would come into various strange conflicts with the MIM’s chair because of various things, sometimes they were based on political line, or security, or just reflected MIM’s “degeneration,” increased paranoia. I was at one point accused of being part of some kind of assassination plot. The level of paranoia just got out of hand. I began pushing for distance from MIM. Some agreed, some didn’t. Eventually IRTR split, but most of the people formed a secret committee, which was really just the IRTR leadership minus the two biggest MIM partisans. A bunch of new projects were set up and coordinated by this committee. These new projects includes what was at that time the web journal Monkey Smashes Heaven, Proletarian Productions/Shubel Morgan videos, bringing together some offline efforts, etc. I believe this was the first time the term “Maoist-Third Worldist” was used to refer to the new line we were creating. In terms of articles, it was 90% my work. However, the old IRTR posts were a collective project, myself and Serve the People were the two biggest contributors. I could mention many other comrades who participated a lot in the forums and leadership, but I will let them come forward on their own if they want to. Also, Shubel Morgan did outstanding video work. At this point there was a leadership committee that led several projects. Nick Brown was an independent personality who was a one-man show called Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Information Network (RAIIN). At that point, RAIIN met us offline in Denver, which is my home town. Certain conditions had to be hashed out before we would work with Nick, who was at that point working with someone we believed to be a police agent who was wrecking efforts to support the Indian Maoists. After Nick agreed to sever his relation with this suspicious individual, Nick was brought into our circles as a leader of the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement – Denver. The secret committee was still the leadership of the movement as a whole. Then people from my Denver circle and people elsewhere officially formed the first group calling itself “Leading Light Communist Organization” (LLCO). Some in the group wanted to call it “Maoist-Third Worldist Organization,” which I very much opposed.  I had also opposed the original term, “Maoism-Third Worldism,” but went along with the majority of the leadership on it since we did not have an alternative at the time. The term “Leading Light Communism” would later be coined by myself, but actually went back to a phrase used by Serve The People who had referred to the great past communist leaders as “Leading Lights.” Serve The People was probably the first in our circles to use the term “Leading Lights,” but the term actually goes back at least to old Soviet literature that referred to Lenin in such terms.  I was named chairman of the first LLCO. Think of this as LLCO version 1.0. RAIM was to be its front group, but Nick wasn’t operating under discipline. We were really nice about it though. Gave him a month or so to decide to leave or make a self-criticism and stay, we said we would allow him to retain the name and webpage. It was the most gentle, friendly split in history, considering what we received in return. LLCO 1.0 would retain other RAIM chapters at that point, but eventually RAIM would be phased out and replaced by other fronts. Almost all the original MIM folk and newer leaders were kicked out or left LLCO 1 over the next year or so. Eventually, LLCO bent more and more to my ideas and “the Great Strategic Plan.” Some people left. Some stayed. Many more joined up. This is really the period of LLCO 2.0, which is really more of a second version of what I had going on in the late-1990s as part of a fully clandestine organization in the southwestern United States and north Mexico that was smashed by the state. The way I see it, which is not the only way, is that Leading Light Communism is more the culmination of my mid-1990s to 2000s work than a growth out of MIM Thought. Although it is undeniable that the dialogue with MIM Thought in the IRTR period very much sharpened and refined Leading Light Communism. Internally, the shift from LLCO 1.0 to LLCO 2.0 was referred to as “the New Turn,” which meant a reevaluation and development of the political line, reevaluation of the tone and style, and reevaluation of tactics and strategy. I could go on and on. For example, there was one split from a Denver IRTR spinoff called RedSol that went focoist and is doing 13 years in prison. The MIM people weren’t even aware of the RedSol incident until much later, but that was a split from the remnants of a politicized “mafia” or “gang,” a tendency within IRTR.

The original IRTR had 2 or 3 main tendencies in the very early days depending on how you look at it. There were the remnants of the leadership of a politicized “gang” that was fully clandestine as a political organization, but not on the streets of Albuquerque, El Paso and Juarez, Santa Fe, and to a lesser and briefer period, Denver. It was not a literal “street gang.” The literal “street gangs” were more like the crews at the lower levels. Certain rackets within certain territory were controlled and defended, until the state stepped in. The state smashed this group, the top leadership got away. On a side note, one of the crew leaders ended up getting a life sentence, but that was for related activities after the organization was smashed. The origin of this organization goes back very loosely to a dissident Senderista group in Mexico, and an attempt to aid them that failed. Then there was a tendency of MIM partisans who were mostly intellectuals, less action oriented. There was a more orthodox Maoist who, if I recall, worked with the main Indian Naxal group but accepted the Third Worldist political economy. She was split off, drifted away. We concluded she was split off by a police plot involving another Indian who was sabotaging solidarity work and slandering the CP India (Maoist). As time went on, the trends never really meshed exactly together. My sense is that although I was the official chair and pushed things forward, the MIM folk always were dragging their heals. To me, they did not have enough vision or boldness. On the whole, they did not put in much work. They also had not built any infrastructure or recruited anyone offline yet nonetheless they were very represented in the leadership. Ever ask yourselves why Denver has so many of us? Well, we built infrastructure, recruited on the streets. It is my home town. Eventually the official leadership committee of LLCO 1.0 simply became a nominal leadership group since the organization was so lopsidedly based in Denver. More and more the official leadership committee became merely a council of advisers. The real leadership was shifted onto the Denver organization, which was doing most of the heavy lifting. My sense is that the old leadership was not satisfied in this new role and drifted away for the most part. As the MIM folk left, nothing was really effected. On the whole, they did not put in a lot of work. A couple of them wrote a few things here and there. But, I produced 90 percent of the articles, in addition to organizing the ground game with the help of the rest of the Denver leadership. There were exceptions, of course, like Shubel Morgan who was the Minister of Art. A few new outstanding Leading Light leaders emerged, let’s call them M, K, and E. If any of these or other people want to be credited in this history, I will add their contributions in. Newer people entered who had little previous connection with either trend. Some went in a MIM Thought direction over time. Others gravitated more toward Leading Light Communism. LLCO 1.0 was a transitional form that still had both tendencies. As time went on, LLCO moved more and more in my direction toward Leading Light Communism. LLCO 2 was born. There is a long history here. This is just a broad outline. And remember, this is just the story of North America, not our international movement.

4. That is a lot of information. There is a lot of ground to cover. Can you give us a time line?

I am terrible with dates, but I consulted with another one of the top leaders from that period. The “gang” period was probably from 1997 to 2002, although there was a short revival of this work in the IRTR period, probably around 2007, but it was in no way sanctioned by IRTR. An effort was made to reconnect with Latin American comrades by traveling to Mexico. It was local IRTR participants who sought to go another direction. Later, there was the focoist deviation that resulted in 13 years of prison for one comrade. IRTR was probably from 2005 to 2008. The secret committee, post-IRTR period was probably from 2008 to 2010. Anticipating the vote to dissolve IRTR, our journal, Monkey Smashes Heaven’s webpage was already up a week before IRTR officially dissolved. Comrade Shubel Morgan set up his web page shortly after IRTR dissolved. We encountered Nick, who was going by “RAIIN,” sometime in this period. RAIM-D was set up somewhere around this period, later changing its name to “RAIM.” LLCO 1.0 was founded in 2010, basically taking the role of the secret committee of the remaining IRTR comrades that led the movement as a whole plus some new Denver comrades and a few others. It was agreed that all of the organizations and projects fell under LLCO 1.0′s authority at that point. RAIM-D eventually left and was phased out, but LLCO 1.0 retained RAIM as a whole, which was mostly Seattle and Toronto chapters, maybe one other effort. LLCO 1.0 phased out all of RAIM to avoid confusion with RAIM-D, but also because we thought other fronts would serve us better. In addition, Nick, who had be kicked out, was creating confusion, hurting our reputation. Somewhere in the next year or two, “the New Turn” occurred and there was a leadership shift. LLCO 2.0 emerged. This was maybe between 2011 and 2012.

At this point, we are kind of in a LLCO 3.0 period where most of our work is directed internationally. Eventually, the story of our international work will be told, as will the story of the mid-1990s to early 2000s period.

5.  What do you think of the IRTR experience?

I now consider the bending of IRTR to MIM’s ideas and whims to have been a big mistake. In the beginning, I was as guilty as the MIM partisans as far as this was concerned. However, I always had serious doubts about the direction. Over time, I was the first of the leadership group to begin pushing for distance from MIM. I consider the experience as a whole valuable in some ways, but the politics of that period were very dogmatic and destructive. At the time, I had a lot to learn though. I had the basic idea of what would become Leading Light Communism as early as the mid-1990s, but this idea was very rough. The IRTR experience and encounter with MIM folk really caused me to sharpen up and deepen my thinking. But I began seeing the very deep flaws in their thinking. And eventually I was able to articulate those flaws from the standpoint of a more advanced science, the emerging Leading Light Communism. Leading Light Communism can perhaps be seen as the result of a kind of Socratic dialogue between what I was doing in the mid-1990s to early 2000s and MIM Thought, but with the former being the main thing.

6. Lots of this is secret or hidden history because these are clandestine movements. The real revolutionary movement is clandestine. What do you think of flying the red flag openly?

If your conception of activism is First World bound, I don’t even see why you need an openly communist party. You might need a cult to organize people effectively, but why a *communist* cult? Just build any old cult and direct people into anti-war, anti-militarism, and other progressive activism. It seems like if your conception of activism remains in the First World, flying a communist flag will only hurt your efforts to be effective at aiding Third World struggles in an objective way. I just don’t see the point of the red flag where there is no social base if your conception of activism is traditional stuff. All it will do is undermine your effectiveness. This is why LLCO hid the red flag when we set up various fronts in the First World. MIM expressed this truth sometimes, but they just couldn’t follow through because, in the end, it seemed like they were intellectuals who had invested too much in their identity as Maoists. LLCO is openly communist, but that is because we are trying to build stuff in the Third World.

7. What do you think of “better fewer, but better,” quality over quantity?

Sure, quality over quantity. We are in agreement there. But what is quality? If you are trying to create a circle of intellectuals to push back against bourgeois ideology, then you will recruit intellectuals, probably from the First World mostly. Quality will mean academic and cultural intelligence, ability to write, uphold the line, etc. If you are into selling papers on college campuses, doing traditional FWist activism, protests, then willingness to do day-in-day-out stuff matters more. Charisma and people skills matter more in the latter than the former, for example. If you have LLCO’s “deep politics,” then other qualities matter: discipline, loyalty, never snitching, willingness to fight and sacrifice. Having a coward’s heart doesn’t really matter if all you do is sling papers or blog. We developed different versions of Leading Light Communism, we call it “high science” and “low science.” There are lots of people who have the lion’s heart, sense of duty, and daringness to think big, but they might not be intellectuals, they don’t care a rat’s ass about the labor theory of value but are willing to die to bring about a better world. Not everyone in Mao’s People’s Liberation Army could read Marx. That doesn’t mean they can’t be organized around a lower version of the science. Think of Plato’s “noble lie” here. Sendero used to say “we carry our lives on our finger tips.” This means, they are willing to sacrifice their lives, money, everything at anytime when called to do so. Well, that is more the kind of quality we are looking for. We’re the real thing.

8. What do you think about inter-imperialist rivalry?

Vladimir Lenin, the great Soviet leader, was correct in his day, inter-imperialist contradictions were growing and this led to a cycle of world wars. Karl Kautsky was wrong then. However, today, the overall trend has been toward globalization and a lessening of these rivalries, even with the very tiny blips on the radar between Russia and the West. There was a time when these contradictions were so great that the world lived on the brink of nuclear annihilation, proxy wars were fought all over the Third World. This was in my lifetime. These small, recent flareups between Russia and the West do not signal some big return to the past, the overall trend has clearly been toward a kind of global system of imperialism. It is kind of like how Lin Biao wrote of how imperialism and social-imperialism still contended, but overall had reached reconciliation in their joint exploitation of the global countryside as a whole. Another person had mentioned Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s work in this discussion. What is good in Hardt and Negri is not unique to them. There are some things they get right, even if their work is First Worldist and also marred in silly, post-modernist jargon. For example, their comments about the expansion and globalization of the non-profit industrial complex as an expanding means of control at the grassroots level, taking some of the role of the old welfare state, is worth mentioning. What is wrong about the Hardt-Negri line is that they see an evening out between the First World and Third World. They are right about globalization, but wrong on this. The Bourgeois World and Proletarian World are still preserved as transnational spheres.

This is one of the reasons LLCO is more internationalist, or, although i hate this term, “pan-Third Worldist.” Others with similar views, MIM Thought (and this includes what is called “Maoism-Third Worldism” now), are more into national liberation, tailing nationalism, pan-nationalism, identity politics, third positionism. This is an important distinction that is not always seen by those looking that these lines. This is one of the big differences between MIM Thought and Leading Light Communism, although there are many others. It also explains our different strategic orientation. MIM Thought, Pantherism 2.0, left Third Positionism still focus on the oppressed nations of the First World, whereas LLCO is about creating organizations in the Third World, initiating Global People’s War. LLCO does not write off resistance in the First World entirely, but the main emphasis has to be on Global People’s War. When First Worldist practice (even with Third Worldist pretenses) begins diverting resources from the main struggle, then it becomes a big problem. Also, globalization is why we see more movements that are not merely nationalist, but trans-nationalist: Islamism (when it does confront imperialism), Bolivarianism, Pan-Africanism. We see less and less localism in anti-imperialist movements because just as imperialism is globalizing, so is resistance to it, albeit at a slower pace. Leading Light is ahead of the curve, which is what a vanguard does.

9. You’ve had an amazing life as a revolutionary. Few really dedicate themselves as you have. You have seen so much. What do you consider the high points of the work over the years?

I consider the high points of the political work to be the mid-1990s to early 2000s period and what is going on right now. I think that we are better positioned than we have been in a long time. Things are golden. The future is bright. The sun is rising. Our day is coming.

10. Do you have anything more to add?

There is so much to say. Really this is just a small portion of a long history. Huge parts were left out, especially the story of our international movement. I have no bitterness toward those who have fallen away. They were all good people for the most part. I just hope they are still fighting the good fight. Do Nothingism is not an option given the horrors of this world. Surrender is never an option. Better to die on one’s feet than live on one’s knees. My door is always open to those who willing to really make revolution, those who are really willing to sacrifice, those who “carry their lives on their finger tips.”

Out of the shadows into the sun

Out of the shadows into the sunAL03

an interview with Leading Light Commander Prairie Fire

(llco.org)

1. Thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions. We admire your work very much. We admire all the Leading Lights. Leading Light Communist Organization is the only organization that is bringing forward new ideas to make revolution in the real world. It is exciting to finally meet you, Leading Light Commander. I know you have many names, but we’ll refer to you as “Prairie Fire.” Can you briefly discuss the problem as you see it? What is wrong with the world?

We live in a world of great poverty, great misery, great suffering, great cruelty. The scale of violence inflicted against humanity and the Earth is unprecedented. Global Empire, the Bourgeois World, the First World, is stealing our future and the future of the planet itself. Half the world lives and dies on less than 3 dollars a day. 800 million people do not have access to safe water. For hundreds of millions of people just getting by, just finding safe water, is a life and death, and daily, struggle. Every year, millions of lives are cut short due to structural poverty, lack of healthcare, lack of food or safe water, toxic environments. Endless wars, assassinations, drone strikes, bombings, death-squad terror. Suffering and cruelty are everywhere. Our people are destroyed. Our common home, the Earth, is destroyed. If we do not act, there will be nothing left, no future for our children and their children. We must fight back. Our children deserve better. We deserve better. But we should not strike out in blind rage. If we are to really win, we need more than just a revolutionary body, but also a mind. We must be guided by the Leading Light of truth, by revolutionary science. Without theory, practice is blind. Leading Light Communism is the only way forward.

2. It is hard to think about just how terrible it all is. It makes me want to cry sometimes. So few voices are speaking truth about just how bad it is. I don’t want to live in a nightmare. I want a good life. What is your goal? What kind of world do you want?

The last waves of revolution were defeated. We do not need to repeat the past. We do not go forward by cobbling together the fragments of the past. We must understand the past, learn from the past, but we must go beyond it. The next wave of revolution is made by boldly striking out, casting aside dogma, by putting the most advanced revolutionary science, all-powerful Leading Light Communism, in command. This means we must break every chain that holds us prisoner. Whether we are bound with one or a hundred chains, we are still chained to the wall. We must break the chains of class, racism, chauvinism, sexism, and every other chain. No one is free until everyone is free. Our war is on the old ways, the Old Power. We declare total war on the First World, on Empire.

We demand nothing less than a whole new world, a world without poverty, without suffering, without cruelty, without war, without hunger, without chauvinism, without rape. We demand a world of equality, a world of peace, a world of justice. Happiness. Joy. Serve the people. Imagine true freedom where we can be our best selves. Imagine a world where we were secure in the knowledge that our children will prosper, that the Earth would bloom again. Imagine all of humanity united in a common purpose, on a great adventure. Imagine if we could start over, to redesign society for the benefit of all, according to the best, revolutionary science. Instead of a society that promotes the worst in humanity, crass consumerism, pettiness, greed, cruelty. Imagine a society that cultivated the best in humanity: heroism, courage, bravery, sharing, caring, creativity. Imagine a society that promotes the best of the worker, the farmer, the builder, warrior, the nurturer, the scientist, the poet, the artist and musician, the philosopher. This is our future, our destiny, all-powerful Leading Light Communism.

3. That is a lot to take in. Lots of people know there is something wrong, but they don’t know how to change it. Who is on our side in this fight? Where will our forces come from? Who will make revolution? Some people will oppose us, right?

“Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?” The great revolutionary Mao Zedong, who led a mighty revolution that liberated a quarter of the world’s population in China, called this the “first question of revolution.” Unfortunately, Mao’s revolution, like the Bolshevik one before him, was defeated, but there still is so much to learn from those experiences. Even though China and Russia are capitalist now, let’s ask Mao’s question. If we are really to make revolution, we have to understand who has an interest in preserving the system, the status quo, and who does not. We also have to know which social forces, which classes, which groups, can be aligned, mobilized, against the system. Today, capitalism is a world system, Empire is global. We must apply class analysis not just to our own societies, not just to our communities or neighborhoods, but we must apply it on the global scale. To understand the part, we must understand the whole. To understand the local, we must understand the global. This is today’s reality.

In the nineteenth century, when Karl Marx looked at the world around him, European society was entering a new, dynamic era. The scientific and technological revolution was radically transforming life. Peasants were driven from their land, transformed into workers. The beginning of modern production. The factory system was born. Industrialism.  Marx saw a polarization happening in society.  On the one side were the capitalists, those who owned the means of production, the wealthy, the factory owners replacing the old feudal aristocracies. A new ruling class was replacing the old one. On the other side were those with nothing to lose but their chains. He called this new revolutionary class “the proletariat.” Now in his day, the proletariat, the revolutionary class, was made up of the industrial workers who owned nothing, people pushed off the land and transformed into workers who had only their labor to sell. All of society was changing. Capitalism was prone to crisis and instability. The old clan structures, the family, and traditional stabilizing institutions were breaking down. The old rural-based society and its traditions were dying. A new urban, cosmopolitan culture was rising. Marx believed that this struggle between the capitalists and workers, the haves and the have nots, would lead to real revolution, a fundamental reorganization of society according to egalitarian, communist, scientific principles.

This is how Marx saw the world, almost two centuries ago. Our world is much different today. It’s not all about Europe, or even mostly about Europe. In fact, the last century of revolution has taught us that revolution will happen in the weakest links of the system, on the edges of global economic power. Lenin’s prediction that the storm center of world revolution moving eastward came to past. Mao spoke of the east wind prevailing over the west wind. Today, the entire world economy is a single entity. Understanding the question of friends and enemies, Mao’s first question requires a class analysis that is truly global. It is not just First World capitalists who are reactionary enemies, but most people in the First World. Ordinary people in the First World have far more to lose than their chains. They have wealth, privileges, houses, cars, electronics, security, leisure, opportunities, mobility. They have access to capital. They have social wealth, infrastructure, land, modern institutions. Ordinary people in the First World do not have a class interest in revolution.

People in the First World are far too comfortable to make revolution. Revolution means risking your possessions and way of life. Revolution means risking death, and the death of family and children. People in the First World, including workers, have far more to lose than their chains. Even the poorest people in the wealthy countries do not make revolution because they are too insignificant, numerically too small and dispersed. And there is enough opportunity and class mobility that they do not feel revolution is the smartest way forward for them. They never form the requisite class consciousness, the revolutionary way of thinking. No matter what we do and say, people in the First World are not a revolutionary social base. No matter how hard we try, they will not make revolution. Facts are stubborn things.

Wealthy people in the Third World who ally with the First World, who are part of Empire, also have a real stake in the system. They are part of the First World, its agents. They stab their homelands in the back. They steal the resources and wealth of the Third World for the First World. They too are our enemies.

Who are our friends then? Who are the real proletariat today? Mao said “serve the people.” But, who are our people? Marx wrote that capitalism would create greater and greater misery for the vast majority. People would be pushed and pushed ever down, until they only had one way out, to cast off their chains through revolution.  Revolution is the hope of the hopeless. Our real friends are the the vast majority, the ordinary, the working, the farming, the homeless, the small owners, the slum dwellers, the poor peoples in the Third World. These are the people who are being smashed down. These are the suffering masses who have nothing to lose but their chains. Our world is the Proletarian World, the Third World, and its allies. Imagine our people sweeping the whole system away, starting over. Today, this is the principal contradiction in our world: The global rich versus the global poor, the Bourgeois World versus the Proletarian World, the First World versus the Third World. This is what we must understand to really win.

4. Revolution is what we need, but does it have to be violent. Can’t we just vote? What do you think about elections?

There is the story of the man on a ship who has a purse full of gold. He accidentally drops his purse overboard. He dives in after it. He drowns. When his body floats back up. We ask: “Did he own the gold or did the gold own he?”

This is how the reactionary state works. We may pursue change by petitioning the government or by participating in elections. Reform. We may even think we are making progress. Perhaps we even get elected. Perhaps we get some power. But this is the question: “What kind of power are we acquiring?” We are not building revolutionary power, we are instead partaking of the Old Power, the old system, the old society. Even if it looks like we are gaining influence through reform, through parliament, through elections, we are really losing. We are being co-opted. Even though it may seem like we own the system, really, by giving us power and influence, the system is owning us. Like the gold that pulls the man into the water to drown him, the system pulls revolutionaries into reform in order to drown the revolution. Many people never learn. They will stupidly chase after the gold, drowning with a big-fat grin on their face. This is what Lenin pointed out.

Revolution is not a matter of simply taking over the old system and bending it to our will. Rather, revolution is about sweeping away the old society, the Old Power. It is about building a totally new society, a New Power. The revolutionary process is one where two sets of institutions and ideas battle it out. Revolution is a process of constructing a dual power, a New Power, against the Old Power. The old state, the old institutions, the old culture, the old ways of thinking, all are the Old Power. The New Power is made up of new institutions: new ways to resolve conflict, to govern communities, to educate, to build public opinion and shape culture, to defend the people, to coordinate the revolution, etc. The New Power is a whole network of institutions, a kind of revolutionary shadow state that exists beneath the surface, among the people. The New Power is the people’s army, the people’s fronts, the people’s courts, the people’s schools, the people’s media, the people’s culture, the vast body of revolution. And, leading it all is the Leading Light, the brain that controls the vast body of revolution, the party of a new type. And, when the time is right, the New Power fully emerges as the Old Power is knocked down, filling the vacuum. This is a key part of the revolutionary process.

Lenin taught that the old state is not some neutral ground where the bourgeoisie and proletariat can resolve their differences. Rather, the old state is fundamentally reactionary. It is a tool of reactionary class rule through and through. The idea that we can capture this tool and use it for our own ends is foolish. The old state cannot be a tool of revolution. We cannot reform our way to revolution. Revolution is a deep, fundamental reorganization of all of society, it means disempowering the reactionary classes. It means empowering the revolutionary classes. The reactionary classes will never give us power and turn over their state, their weapon. They will never commit class suicide. Revolution is simply incompatible with the old state, the Old Power. We must write off elections and reformism from the strategic standpoint. “Revolution” means real revolution, warts and all.

Does this mean that we cannot make limited use of the old state, reforms, elections? From a tactical standpoint, it is acceptable to use the tools of the Old Power against itself so long as we understand that elections and reform are very limited tactics, not roads to revolution. For example, in some cases, it is acceptable to participate in an election, not because we believe we can win, but in order to use the election campaign as a way to draw attention to ourselves, as a way to agitate. In some circumstances, it is acceptable to participate in elections as part of an effort to block the rise of feudal, fascistic, militaristic, fundamentalist religious, or dictatorial forces. In other words, if rightist, militarist, fascist forces might win an election, and if these forces promise to wipe out oppositional forces, to silence all dissent, then we should use every tool in the toolbox to oppose them. Because if these fascist forces win, it will make it very difficult to organize the masses for revolution, for Global People’s War. If this is the case, although participating in elections will not bring revolution, it can help prevent the rise of deadly forces. There might be other times when we insert ourselves into local reform campaigns or elections not because it is a path to revolution, but because it is a way to recruit or gain resources. There may be organizational or logistical reasons for tactical manipulation of reformist and electoral campaigns. Think of it this way: Strategically, reform is never a path to power. But, tactically, reform can be an option. “Strategically, never! Tactically, maybe!” We have to always remember that there is only one path to revolution: the Global People’s War, the New Power, the Leading Light.

5. That makes a lot of sense. So many groups end up selling out when they begin to work with the system. They always claim to still be fighting for revolution, but the reality is they give up slowly. You mentioned war. What are your feelings on violence and war?

The great Prussian military thinker Carl von Clausewitz famously said “war is politics by other means.” Our struggle is a class struggle, the poor against the wealthy. The politics of the poor are absolutely antagonistic to the politics of the wealthy. Our interests are absolutely opposed to each other. Thus there can be no real, lasting reconciliation between us and them. We will not allow them to continue to impose all the horrors of this system upon us. We say “no!” to poverty, to terror, to genocide, to cruelty, to suffering, to toxic and unhealthy environments, to starvation, to rape, to corruption, to the endless indignities we endure. And they will always respond with their own “no!” whenever we reach for power. They will always fight tooth-and-nail for the horrific status quo. They will never give up their power and wealth. War between the poor and the wealthy is the inevitable, normal state of capitalism.

There is a difference though. We agree with Mao when he said we make war to end war. We wage war to end injustice. We wage war to give everyone a prosperous, secure, happy life. We fight to save the Earth, our common home. We fight for our future, for the future of our children. They fight to continue the madness. They fight for a corrupt, stupid, cruel, unjust order. They fight for death. We fight for life. They fight for themselves. We fight for the people.

Is the military struggle our only weapon? Of course not. To emphasize only the military aspect of our revolution, our Global People’s War, is a big error. It is an error criticized by Mao during his own people’s war. It is an error sometimes associated with focoism and adventurism. Our struggle is complex. The military struggle of the People’s Army of the Leading Light must be integrated with deep political education. The military struggle must be integrated with other aspects of the New Power of the Leading Light: people’s committees, people’s courts, people’s schools, people’s culture, etc. This vast network of struggles, both military and nonmilitary, must be coordinated by the Leading Light to achieve victory, total revolution. This means that military struggle, violence, is only one aspect of revolution. The most advanced revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, is an all-powerful, all-round, awesome strategy. Leading Light Communism is indeed a sword and shield, but much more. It is also the body and mind to wield them. It is only real path to really winning. And it is about winning. To paraphrase Lenin: “Without power, all is illusion.”

6. You mentioned the Earth. Past revolutions did not treat the environmental well. Leading Light Communism is something very new though. What about the environment?

Our home, the Earth, is being destroyed. The forests, the lungs of the planet, are being burned. Whole areas, mountain tops, turned to ugly scars. Dead zones in the oceans threaten the entire food chain, including humanity. A continent-sized lake of toxic plastic exists in the Pacific ocean, destroying animal and plant life. Global warming is raising the temperature across the planet, causing water to rise, causing drought and famine, causing natural disasters. Whole countries, like Bangladesh, are threatened with ruin. Imagine the refugee crisis, imagine the death toll, imagine the toll on public health, imagine the harm inflicted on the ecosystem, if Bangladesh were flooded by rising water. Whole island chains may soon disappear. Many people do not realize just how bad the situation is. They dismiss the scientific consensus. Or they simply refuse to acknowledge any problems that do not affect them. Or they only look at their daily lives, not how their actions may affect their children, future generations. Many people do not realize that we are in the middle of another mass extinction. Just as the dinosaurs were wiped out, animal and plant life is going through another mass extinction. It is so bad that if humanity does not wake up, there will be no future left for anyone.

And for what? All of this destruction so the First World can consume more. Capitalism says “buy, buy, buy!” “Consume, consume, consume!” “Waste, waste, waste!” Capitalism is a beast that consumes natural resources and shits out its ugly consumer culture. Not only does it endlessly consume the physical world, but it also consumes beauty itself, replacing it with vulgarity. Capitalism is irrational from the standpoint of human need. It is organized to serve profit, not people nor the Earth. Capitalism cares nothing about the future, nothing about future generations. It is the Third World masses that pay, are starved, so the First World can grow fat. Humanity is walking a razor’s edge. Leading Light Communism, by contrast, calls us to live according to our best selves: help each other, share with each other, sacrifice, be honorable, create, seek truth, and protect nature. Leading Light is about a sustainable, balanced approach to development and nature. We must be guardians of the Earth, of the seas, forests, skies, plants, animals that sustain us all. Serving the people also means serving the Earth.

7. You spoke of the importance of science. There are a lot of attacks on science today. What about religion? Do you oppose religion?

Religion plays many roles in society. It is part of the way those in power and other reactionaries justify their attacks on the masses. All kinds of cruelties are inflicted against the masses by the wealthy and powerful in the name of religion. Yet we must also remember Karl Marx’s famous words from A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right:

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

The masses turn to religion because of oppression. They turn to religion as an escape, for comfort. Since this world is so filled with horrors, they seek solace in the thought of an afterlife where things are better. Since justice escapes them in this world, they hope for divine justice, a day of judgement or karma. One of the pleasures of Christian heaven, at least as it is portrayed in literature, is that those in heaven get to watch the suffering of those in hell, those who harmed them in this life. Thus heaven has a sadistic, petty component. Truth can be hard to handle, so people seek comfort in shadows and illusion. People have always looked to myth. Myths, religion, is also part of cultural and community identity. We must approach this issue in a humble, understanding way. We do not want to trample on identity, culture, tradition as imperialists often do.

Marx famously wrote that the secret of the holy family is the earthly family. In other words, our religious conceptions, our God or gods, are really just mental, cultural constructs. We project social relations that we encounter in our daily life, the father of the patriarchal family, onto the universe. God is a kind of father figure to his children, humanity, his creation. After we project this onto the universe, we then begin to order our lives according to our own creation, but we fail to recognize this projection as our own. It comes to have a kind of cultural life, a kind of perceived objectivity, beyond ourselves. In a sense, religion is a collection of illusions, but also more than mere illusions. Because man is a social animal, as Aristotle famously wrote, because of the collectivity of human life, because of culture, these illusions become a force in the world and in history. But ultimately, religion is false. To continue to be motivated by it, to continue to explain the world by reference to it, is deeply incompatible with science. And since our goal is to liberate humanity and the Earth through empowering the masses with revolutionary science, religion is, in the final analysis, an obstacle to this goal.

The revolution, at the level of leadership, has to be organized according to the most advanced science. And, as Leading Light Communists, our goal is to empower the masses to lead themselves, to give the people the tools they need to understand their world and change it. This means we have to continuously strive to elevate people, to advance them, to educate them, to always try to bring more people into the leadership, to the Leading Light.

What will society look like as we transition to Leading Light Communism? Revolutionary society will be officially secular, but tolerant of the diverse beliefs of many faiths so long as they do not hurt anyone directly. The contradiction between revolutionary-scientific leadership and the religious masses should be treated as non-antagonistic. Those who are religious and try to help the masses should be treated as friends of the revolution. Tolerance and gentle education should be the order of the day. It is more important to expose those who use God as a way to oppress people than to expose God himself. However, there are some instances when the threat from reactionaries, capitalists, feudalists, fascists with religious ideology is so great that we must suppress them and their fascist beliefs. Those who pervert the best in religion, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., in order to oppress and exploit the masses should be seen as enemies. To those religious friends of the people, we extend the open hand. To those religious enemies of the people, we raise a clenched fist.

We must all remember that not every individual is at the same place on the learning curve. People have different experiences. We must always be humble. We must always use the mass line. Revolution, leading prisoners out of Plato’s cave, out of the world of shadow and illusion, takes time. It is a protracted struggle. It is part of our long march

8. Your message is so important. The future really does hang in the balance. It is frightening, the place we find ourselves as a species. It does lift my spirits to know there are real leadership out there. But are you hopeful about the future?

Revolutionaries are optimists. A great storm is gathering. Crisis after crisis. Poverty. Endless wars. Ecological catastrophe.  People have been asleep a long time, since the last wave of revolution was defeated. The people have one eye open. They are beginning to awaken once more. We must open both their eyes with science, with hope, with vision, with a real alternative, one that is based on the truth of past revolutions, but integrates the most advanced science of today, all-powerful, awesome Leading Light Communism. We lead the poor people, the exploited workers, the ordinary farmers, the landless, the slum dwellers and homeless, the small owners, all who truly suffer the worst of this world. They are us. We are them. United in suffering, united in hope, united by our future, shared destiny, the Leading Light.

Those in power will fight us. To the arrogant, we say: “all that you are, all that you represent, all that you honor will be swept away by our mighty storm. From great chaos, the world can be reborn. There is great potential in those who have seen the reality of this system, who have looked it in the eye, who have endured the worst and survived. And we have endured. We have survived. What does not kill us, makes us stronger. For there is a power in the people that you will never understand, but you will come to know it. We promise you, we will bring it to you, one way or another. You are facing a people, a spirit, you have never seen before.”

Armed with the best, most advanced revolutionary science, all-powerful, awesome Leading Light Communism, we are guiding our friends, the masses, our people into tomorrow. We declare total war on the Old Power, all the poverty, suffering, cruelty, and pain. A New Power of the Leading Light, of peace, prosperity, happiness, justice, heroism, creativity, sharing is rising like the dawn pierces the night. We carry the future on our finger tips. Our future is our own. We will never stop fighting until we win. Fight, fight, fight, until total victory, total liberation, until Leading Light Communism, until we know once and for all that our children have a future, that the Earth will bloom again. This is our great destiny, and we are its walking martyrs. As the Vietnamese poet and revolutionary Ho Chi Minh wrote:

“Everything changes, the wheel
of the law turns without pause.
After the rain, good weather.”

The storm will get much worse before it gets better. It will get much darker before the dawn. But it will not last forever. It will get better. This is the time of heroes. Our sun is rising. Our day is coming.

“All the birds sing at once.
Men and animals rise up reborn.
What could be more natural?
After sorrow comes joy.”

MUST READ: Tasks, deviations, corrections, an interview with Leading Light Commander Prairie Fire

MUST READ: Tasks, deviations, corrections, an interview with Leading0013729e47710f5a58fb18-300x205 Light Commander Prairie Fire

(llco.org)

1. Presently, what stage of struggle is Leading Light at?

In terms of high science, we can declare absolute victory over all competitors. There are no more real two-line struggles with dogmatic relics. All ideological competitors are dead at the level of high science. There is no more real debate with the First Worldists, Trotskyists, Marxist-Leninists, Maoists. There is only education. We should extend a hand to those stuck in dogma. We should try to help them out, but we do not bend to them. To do so is what Mao himself would call the unprincipled peace of liberalism. Without Leading Light, without genuine science,  they have no future. The sooner they see this the better. They will fall into the dustbin of history or they will come to us on our terms. There may be a little intellectual mopping up to be done, but that is all. Our competition is not the dogmatic relics, but liberalism, neo-fascism, and Islamism, and there is significant overlap within our opposition. The global masses have their organization, leadership, vanguard, Leading Light.

In terms of low science, we need more work. We are pushing out in many bold directions. We have pulled diverse influences together from the Marxist tradition, but also from others. Much of low science is about touching the heart. This is an area where traditional Marxism is very much lacking. We have spoken of the importance of the spirit of the people’s warrior, of the people’s artist, the caregiver. We have discussed of the importance of reverence toward the Earth. We promoted the spirit of caring, sacrifice, serve the people. We have raised the importance of family and the future of our children. There are many dogmatic relics out there who can only copy the low science of the old Chinese Maoists, even though their own leadership is seriously lacking. There is a Chinese Maoist saying, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear.” The Mexicans say, “you can’t polish a turd.” There are lots of people putting a crown on dogma and giving a scepter to mediocrity. This is the kind of thing you get when the revolutionary movement is at such a low point. People grasp at straws. It’s natural. They think they can fake it into making it. Faking it only goes so far. Real revolution is led by the most advanced scientific core, Leading Light Communism. There are plenty of cheerleaders who turn themselves into useful idiots in the process. It is good to support the broad anti-imperialist united front against imperialism. However, we should not lie to the proletariat. We must put the most advanced revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, in their hands. We must understand that both high science and low science are weapons. We must master both. Serve the people truth, not fiction.

In terms of organization, it is no secret we are in something akin to what Maoists sometimes call the period of strategic defensive. We are at the beginning. The scientific breakthrough has been made. It’s all about implementation in a real way. We have done exactly as we promised. We have elevated the science. We have created a global movement. Everything we have promised has come to pass. The seeds we planted years ago are beginning to bloom, but we are at a very dangerous, critical period. It is about establishing the logistical capacity capable of making real gains. There is a Leading Light saying:

“It does not matter how much chess strategy you know if you have no board and pieces.”

At this stage of development, there is an apt saying:

“Kids study tactics, amateurs study strategy, professionals study logistics.”

We have the best long game. We have the Great Strategic Plan. We have the leadership. We have warriors. What we need a serious attention to logistics. If we can solve the logistical issues, we will be at a qualitatively higher level within a year. We are so close, yet so far, which can be very frustrating.  Destiny calls louder and louder every day. We need to bring some of the dreamers back to Earth. And we need to get those around us who do not yet get it to realize that real heroism can be as simple as donating. We can make revolution a reality, but that means we have to all focus on logistics, which is not always the most romantic part of struggle. This isn’t a joke or some con. If you want elevated science, a real breakthrough in how revolution is understood, here it is on a silver platter. If you really want Global People’s War, here is is on a silver platter. This is the time that people really need to just “fanshen,” get your heads on straight. We have done all the hard work, we have sacrificed a lot. For our First World skeptics, you need to check your egos. Our door is open.

2. Can you say more tactics, strategy, logistics?

At any given point, a different aspect of the practice of Global People’s War will take precedence. A focus on tactics, perfecting the techniques of the battlefield, is appropriate once a certain scientific and organizational level has been achieved only. If you do not have Leading Light, strategic leadership, if you do not have logistical sophistication to sustain a real movement, then focusing on the tactical aspect, romanticizing the gun, is a mistake.

There are a lot of focoists and anarchists posing as communists today. A handful of people get together, usually students, run out and take some selfies with guns, do some street theater with berets or guns, or some armed propaganda. This is fine, but this kind of thing has no future. It has little to do with either orthodox Maoist people’s war nor does it have anything to do with the Global People’s War of the Leading Light. Mao himself criticized this kind of adventurist outlook in On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party. Mao criticized the petty-bourgeois mentality that leads to adventurism. It is also very dangerous to real movements and the masses. Real armed struggle is not a game.

People need to be less concerned with their ego, their emotional needs. People should not be so concerned with establishing their credibility by brandishing arms prematurely. If you are impressed by a few students in masks holding weapons, then you are easily impressed. People should not run off into suicidal conflicts with the state because they feel some need to prove themselves. Pulling our guns too early is a sign of weakness, not strength. It is a sign of petty-bourgeois instability, lack of proletarian discipline, lack of mass line, lack of the long game, lack of revolutionary science. It says something very sad about the state of people’s movement. It says something about just how weak First World movement is that it can be so easily impressed. It stands to reason that this kind of armed theater pops up in the First World given the lack of a real proletariat to temper petty-bourgeois and bourgeois emotionalism. But it also pops up in the Third World, which is unfortunate. There is a petty-bourgeois mentality, among many Leninist and Maoist dogmatists, that we just need to memorize some slogans, remember some formulas, then go get some guns. It’s all amature hour. Small criminal organizations, cartels, for example, can field a stronger army than most so-called revolutionaries. They have a better mass line too. They often lift their people out of poverty more effectively. These small sects are too busy trying to establish their credibility vis-a-vis other student organizations to notice that the angry poor are flocking to criminal organizations, and the criminal organizations often project a populist, left character. They are the real competition, not the collections of tiny, bickering left sects. Similarly, the Islamists are the real competition on the street level, not tiny little left sects busy trying to impress each other with slogans and guns.

Romanticization is a part of low science. It is needed for a real revolutionary movement, but it is a big mistake to romanticize the gun prematurely, and it is always a mistake to romanticize dead dogma. To romanticize the gun prematurely or to romanticize it to such an extent that it interferes with actually winning is a big focoist, adventurist error. Often the focoist trend will eschew science as “mere intellectualism.” They do not understand the need for genuine scientific leadership. They do not understand Mao himself was a big critic of the low-political level of petty-bourgeois, militarist adventurists.

We need to cultivate scientific, Leading Light leadership. We need leaders who are less concerned with their reputations in the short term. We need leaders who understand the long game requires real science, not dogma. People’s war is not an adventure, it is a social process involving millions. Global People’s War involves billions. The low-level of development of revolution has a lot to do with lack of science and a lot to do with dogma and emotionalism.

Right now, the global revolution is at a point where logistics matters more than any other factor. The scientific breakthrough has been made. Tactical sophistication will come in time, but the movement will not grow without developing sophisticated logistical networks. A modern people’s war will not sustain itself merely by plucking apples off trees. We’re talking about real Global People’s War, not guerrilla porno of the focoist or anarchist variety. The most heroic thing that a comrade can do is generate resources, even if it means simple donations. The people who donate seriously are really some of our first heroes. Everything flows from them. Those who talk about fighting, but don’t donate, are loudmouths. The people who solve our logistics issues are the leaders of the future, it is that simple. They are the ones who walk the walk. They are the ones we all can learn from.

3. What are some of the anti-imperialist and revolutionary movement?

At the global level, there are several problems:

Firstly, people need to get beyond dogma. They need to put all-powerful Leading Light Communism in command. Put away bourgeois mentalities that romanticize dogma and orthodoxy. We have the most advanced revolutionary science. We need to be fearlessly and ruthlessly scientific. Truth is on our side. Truth is the most powerful weapon.

Secondly, people need to stop romanticizing the gun prematurely. We need to shut the door on the focoist, adventurist mentality. Selfies with guns does not make a revolution. A few armed propaganda actions does not impress the masses. People need to channel their energy into logistical support for the organization, the Great Strategic Plan of the Leading Light. This means everyone needs to generate resources for the organization and its Global People’s War. These are the heroes of our movement. Everything from here until our victory will be part of a chain of causality that is made possible by those who generate resources, those who solve the logistical issues. Those who are giving financially are the real heroes.

Thirdly, people need to be willing to organize in fronts with the same passion they put toward pure Leading Light work. We need really throw ourselves into  recruiting through fronts, not simply recruiting out of the pre-existing “far left.” Fronts are one of the main pillars of logistics.

Fourthly, discipline needs to be increased. All comrades need to be consistently working on projects and generating resources. All comrades need to be constantly educating themselves and others. We all need to be pulling the revolution forward. Ego has to be eliminated. We need to forge a mighty unity. We need to all play our part. We need to be our best selves. We need to do our duty without complaint. Everything for the people, the Global People’s War, the organization, the leadership, the Leading Light.

Fifthly, security needs to be increased. We have been attacked on several fronts. We need to tighten up our security. We need to increase our vigilance. Except for a few chosen representatives, we are a clandestine organization at the global level.

Sixthly, taking initiative is important. If you are not being utilized to the best of your ability then it is your responsibility to tell the leadership so that you can better serve the people. Do not sit quietly by. Speak up.

Seventh, don’t worry about the criticism from dogmatic relics. They do not matter. Do not try to impress the legions of cowardly lions who claim to support revolution, yet do not donate a dime. Do not worry about criticism from circles of First Worldists, students, hipsters, etc., people who have no mass base. Their politics is disconnected from reality. These are clowns who are willing to try to sabotage Third World anti-imperialist struggles in order to gain credibility in small internet cliques. These are First World clowns who claim run-of-the-mill student and hipster activism is waging people’s war in the First World. These are groups that think fighting for First Worldist economism and identity politics as important as liberating the Third World from the clutches of imperialism. Do not get baited into their fantasies. Let the yappers yap. Soar above them.

4. You place a great deal of emphasis on finances, why is this?

Look at the progress we have made recently. We are flooded with interest from the proletariat. We are training people abroad, setting up schools, bases. We are on the verge of emerging onto the global level. We have laid the groundwork. It really just requires financial, logistical support. If we can secure this, we will be able to advance the quality of our work by leaps. We are about to see something very inspiring and beautiful emerge. This is going to be like nothing we have seen before, but we need people to listen to what we are saying and act accordingly. I don’t know else to say it. This is the time. We need you. We can all do something very great together.

5. You’ve spoken of “the long game.” What do you mean?

Leading Light is playing the long game. We are making moves that will only make sense looking back from 5 years, ten years, decades, from now. We are on a whole other level. We are playing for the big victory. This is part of what vanguard consciousness is. It is seeing beyond others. It is playing on a whole other level. It is to be commanded as if by destiny. We do not need to worry about small bends in the road. We do not need to worry about the ups and downs of the dogmatic relics. Everything is converging in a way that will be very good for us. What is important is that we stay steady. We all have strategic confidence. We rally to the leadership and the Great Strategic Plan of the Leading Light. Keep your eye on the prize.

6. What do you say to those who accuse Leading Light of cultism and gangsterism?

Look at the culture of the system: Liberalism, fascism, feudalism. What we offer is a genuine alternative. We offer a way of thinking, a way of life that is genuinely liberating. We say that truth matters. We say science matters. We say it is important to live for, to die for, to serve the people. Sharing, caring, nurturing is important. Family and community matter. We stand for real freedom, creativity, justice, prosperity, equality, happiness, joy. We are warriors. I will give my life for all my brothers and sisters. Your suffering is my suffering. Nobody is free until we all are free. We truly want a peaceful world for our children. We cherish the Earth, our common home, as part of our family. We also believe in leadership, organization, loyalty, sacrifice. This may seem otherworldly or “culty,” but this is how we are. We do not think we are the problem, the problem is Empire. The problem is liberalism, fascism, medievalism.  We live in a world where millions of people, our brothers and sisters, our children, die every year from wars, hunger, unnecessary disease, unclean water, lack of healthcare, crushing poverty. We live in a world where poor peoples are treated like trash. We live in a world where many women are treated like slaves. We proudly admit that we do not think as the system does. We are the most down-to-earth, honest, critical, scientifically-minded, sacrificing, courageous, loyal people I have ever met. We are not the problem, the system is.

The same elites and their agents call us “gangsters” and “mafia.” This is a system that has created more economic inequality than ever. The rich get richer. The poor are thrown away. They own everything. We own nothing. They buy and sell the people like animals. They kill the poor in their endless wars. We are the poor, the exploited workers, farmers, small owners, slum dwellers. We want everyone to live a good life. We are fighting for the vast majority of humanity. We pick up the gun to put down the gun. They only fight for themselves, for the First World and their allies. They fight for the elites. They kill for profit. Who are the real “gangsters”? Who are the real “mafia”? The elites, the Empire, their agents are always going to slander the people’s movement. We must remember what Mao said: “To be attacked is a good thing.” They would not attack us if we were not making progress. They would not attack us if we were not threatening their world order.

To Empire we say: Call us what you want. Do your best. We are not afraid. You are fighting a spirit, a people, an organization, a leadership you have never faced before. This is a new kind of revolution. Global People’s War is coming. This is our time, our future, our destiny.

7. Any words for those who want to help?

Put aside all the lies. Put aside all the gossip. Ignore the slander of the state and its agents. You have a chance to be part of something very new. It doesn’t matter where you are from, what language you speak, what you look like, the color of your skin, your religion. What matters is your heart. The color of your spirit, red.

This is why we shout: Those who have eyes, see. Those who have ears, listen. Those who have minds, think. We need your help, now. Our hand is open, take it. It is your future too.

Book Review: Running on Emptiness by John Zerzan (Feral House, 2002)

Book Review: Running on Emptiness by John Zerzan (Feral House, 2002)

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John Zerzan has been one of the more popular anarchist writers of the past two decades. He is considered one of the main theorists of anarcho-primitivism or green anarchism. His neo-Luddite politics have come to be  associated with the 1999 WTO protests a.k.a. “the battle of seattle,” “radical” environmentalism, and the unabomber. Running on Emptiness (Feral House, 2002) is an anthology of essays and interviews by Zerzan. The essays and interviews cover a diverse range of topics, from the origin of culture and oppression to abstract expressionism to Star Trek.

Zerzan’s revolution

According to Zerzan, for most of its pre-history, humanity existed in a golden age free from oppression.  (68) Then, humanity’s original sin, symbolic thought or “culture,” enters the picture.  Humanity’s battle with culture began sometime in prehistory, the earliest cave art is dated from roughly 30,000 years ago. (5) Around 10,000 years ago, “culture triumphed with domestication [of crops and animals].” (5,15) From there, humanity’s fall from Eden snowballed into society as a full-blown technological hell. And, just on the horizon, even greater nightmares await us with the further loss of humanity to the machine through robotics and cyborg technologies. “Progress has meant the looming specter of the complete dehumanization of the individual and the catastrophe of ecological collapse.” (79)  The solution is to return to the ways of the past. So says Zerzan.

Many of the ideas in Running on Emptiness are drawn from Frankfurt School authors, especially the analysis of alienation, time, art, culture, etc.  However, Zerzan also draws on a wide variety of other sources from philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, literary criticism, etc.  Zerzan often makes wild claims with cherry-picked, little, or no evidence. For example, Zerzan causally mentions supposed super powers that humankind has lost in the modern world: super health, super vision, super hearing, and telepathy. Zerzan’s revolution would probably be objectionable even to many of his fellow anarchists. Zerzan longs for a world without literacy (10), without language and “verbal communication [which] is part of the movement away from face-to-face social reality” (10), without art, “there would be no need of art in a disalienated world” (11), without time  (17-41, 75), without agriculture or technology. Zerzan quotes approvingly of James Shreeve who fantasizes about the Neanderthal’s supposed harmonious relationship with the world:

“… where the modern’s gods might inhabit the land, the buffalo or the blade of grass, the Neanderthal’s spirit was the animal or the grass blade, the thing and its soul perceived as a single vital force, with no need to distinguish them with separate names. Similarly, the absence of artistic expression does not preclude the apprehension of what is artful about the world. Neanderthals did not paint their caves with the images of animals. But perhaps they had no need to distill life into representations, because its essences were already revealed to their senses. The sight of a running herd was enough to inspire a surging sense of beauty. They had no drums or bone flutes, but they could listen to the booming rhythms of the wind, the earth, and each other’s heart beats, and be transported.” (2-3)

Zerzan’s First Worldism

Although Zerzan does recognize that some humans benefit from oppressing others, he draws the line between oppressor and oppressed incorrectly. Zerzan writes, “Just as Freud predicted that the fullness of civilization would mean universal neurotic unhappiness, anti-civilization currents are growing in response to the psychic immiseration that envelops us.”  (1) In this Mercusean-type argument, everyone is an oppressed cog in the system, opening up the possibility of universal, human revolution; the system has dehumanized us all, therefore a radical, humanist revolution is possible. Implicit, although not always clearly stated in Zerzan’s book, is the claim that everyone or virtually everyone has an interest in destroying and radically re-making contemporary society. Such a belief is far off the mark. In reality, most First Worlders benefit from the way things are and have little interest in returning to Zerzan’s imagined  Neanderthal-like way of life. Most Third Worlders do have an interest in changing the status quo, but not in the way that anarcho-primitivists like Zerzan  imagine. The history of revolution of the past century has disproven First Worldism and confirmed Lenin’s prediction that the East, or more broadly, the Third World, has become the center of gravity of the world revolution. Against Zerzan’s First Worldist orientation, there are many examples where social revolution has been unleashed as part of Third World, national liberation struggles: China, Vietnam, Albania, Korea, etc. There are no significant First World, social revolutions. Thus confirming Leading Light Communism.

This First Worldism of anarcho-primitivism is also reflected in its view of imperialism and national liberation. Imperialism is barely mentioned in Zerzan’s work. In Zerzan’s criticism of “anarchist” Noam Chomsky, Zerzan expresses disdain for Chomsky’s focus on imperialism in Chomsky’s political works. (140-141) Theresa Kintz, author of the introduction to Running on Emptiness, explains the anarcho-primitivist view of imperialist wars against the Third World:

“Interestingly, heads of states are referring to what is going on as a ‘clash of civilizations’ — how true, for a change. The regimes currently challenging the West’s supremacy are authoritarian entities no less civilized than capitalist America.. It’s been going on like this for thousands of years. Even a cursory overview of history shows that as long as civilizations have existed they’ve made war on each other –always have, always will.” (xii)

The anarcho-primitivist view equates Third World national resistance with Amerikan aggression. For anarcho-primitivists, Palestinian resistance is equated with Israeli occupation. Just like other First Worldist utopians, anarcho-primitivists see imperialism and forces of national liberation as two sides of the same coin.

It is no surprise that Zerzan’s work says little of interest to Third World peoples who are the main force for social revolution in our epoch. Solutions to problems of poverty in the Third World such as land reform and development are absent from his work. Zerzan preaches the rejection of science and technology. Technology itself is evil in the anarcho-primitivist view. Yet peoples of the Third World are very aware that science and technology are necessary for liberation and development. Such naïveté is itself typical of First World utopians.

On post-modernism

Running throughout Zerzan’s essays is a critique of post-modernism as an intellectual sham that serves the system. Zerzan writes:

“PM abandons the ‘arrogance’ of trying to figure out the origins, logic, causality, or structure of the world we live in. Instead, postmodernists focus on surfaces, fragments, margins. Reality is too shifting, complex, indeterminate to decipher or judge… Meaning and value are old fashioned illusions, and so is the practice of writing with clarity.” (165-166)

Of the anarchist Hakim Bey, Zerzan writes:

“Bey’s method is as appalling a his claims to truthfulness, and essentially conforms to textbook postmodernism. Aestheticism plus knownothingness is the PM formula; cynical as to the possibility of meaning, allergic to analysis, hooked on trendy word-play.. A point of view that tries to be consistent, well-researched tentative exploration is deemed [by Bey]] absolutist, rigid, aggressive, the product of a ‘presumptive vanguard of the pure.’” (145)

Zerzan’s critique of post-modernism is for the most part correct. However, it is not clear how Zerzan sustains such a critique  since it isn’t clear that he accepts science. Marxism, by contrast, rejects post-modernism and embraces science.

Real environmentalism

Zerzan’s worries about ecological catastrophe are justified.

“A hyper-technologicalized capitalism is steadily effacing the living texture of existence, as the world’s biggest die-off in 50 million years proceeds apace: 50,000 plant and animal species disappear each year.” (120)

However, Zerzan’s anarcho-primitivist solution in Running On Emptiness is a fantasy land. Rather, Leading Light Communists are the real environmentalists. It is only by resolving the principal contradiction between imperialism and the exploited nations in our favor that we can move to resolve other contradictions. The struggle against imperialism by the exploited nations is the only struggle that can unleash the social energy to make social revolution and environmental revolution possible. The anti-imperialist struggle is the key that unlocks other struggles. This has been shown over and over again in the last half-century of revolution. However, successful social revolutionaries like the Bolsheviks or the Maoists are lumped together with fascists by Zerzan. (86) Thus, Zerzan, like the failed anarchist tradition itself, fantasizes about a non-existent anarchist revolution while rejecting real resistance in the Third World and criticizing the workers and peasants who actually seized power and carried out socialist construction.  One wonders why Zerzan takes pot shots at the Bolsheviks while embracing twentieth century anarchism. Surely Zerzan would have equally rejected the social revolution carried out by anarchists in the Spanish civil war or Russian revolution had such ever materialized. After all, the vision of social revolution of  the anarchists of Spain or Russia surely had more in common with that of the  Bolsheviks than with Zerzan’s Neanderthal utopia.  The sense of this collection of essays is that anything short of rejecting civilization itself does not count. Zerzan’s work suffers, albeit to the most  extreme degree, from the same problems that the anarchist tradition has always faced: lack of science, utopianism, no track record of achieving human liberation on any significant scale, etc.