On the recent criticisms of northern Korea’s atomic tests

On the recent criticisms of northern Korea’s atomic tests

(llco.org)

It is reported that northern Korea has tested another atomic weapon. According to northern Korea, the device tested was a hydrogen bomb, a fusion bomb that is an advance over their fission ones. However, much doubt has been expressed over northern Korea’s claim to have detonated a true hydrogen bomb. Many international experts believe that the recent explosion was too small to have been true hydrogen bomb. Instead, many speculate that the recent explosion was a simple fission device or a fission device with fusion elements. In any case, northern Korea has been condemned by the forces of Empire.

Leading the criticism of northern Korea is the United States, a country that has been perpetually at war since its birth, a country currently estimated to have 1,900 active warheads. Since its beginning, the United States was at war with its indigenous neighbors. Nearly a whole continent of indigenous peoples were annihilated. And its tradition of war and genocide has continued into this century: world wars, millions killed in the Korean war, millions killed in Vietnam and Indochina, millions killed in the recent, ongoing wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Only one country has ever used nuclear weapons on humans. At the end of World War 2, in August 1949, the United States dropped two nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs killed an estimated 129,000 to 250,000 people, mostly civilians. This is the only time nuclear devices have been used in the course of war. According to the United States, the use of atomic weapons was necessary to secure Japan’s surrender. However, Japan had already expressed their desire to surrender before the weapons were used. It is far more likely the weapons were used to test them in a real war scenario. It is also likely the weapons were dropped as a warning directed to a potentially expansionist Soviet Union. As it turns out, the bombing of the two cities was unnecessary from a military standpoint.

The Japanese were not the only victims of nuclear weapons.  After the United States forcefully moved the indigenous population of the Bikini Atoll, the United States detonated 23 warheads on there between 1946 and 1958. Many of the indigenous families were moved to Rongerik Atoll and Kili Island, which proved unable to sustain the population. Starvation resulted. Even though the indigenous families were promised that they would be able to return safely to the Bikini Atoll, the nuclear tests made the islands uninhabitable. In its quest for creating ever greater weapons of mass destruction, the United States committed genocide against this small part of the world. To add insult to injury, the degenerate marketers of Empire attached the word “bikini” to fleshy female bathing suits meant to create a sexual sensation. Thus the word “bikini” entered the public lexicon as the genocide itself was largely forgotten.

As expected, all the junior partners in Empire, all with oceans of blood on their hands, echoed the criticism of northern Korea. This included: Russia with 1,780 active warheads, the United Kingdom with 150, France with 290, China, among others. Israel, a country perpetually at war with its neighbors and involved in ongoing genocide of Palestine, is estimated to have between 40 and 600 warheads.

This world is upside down. There is a reason that northern Korea is denounced, while the biggest war criminals, who are armed with far more nuclear weapons, are largely ignored. States like northern Korea and Iran, despite their relatively peaceful histories, are attacked for developing nuclear technology because doing so increases their independence. If countries like northern Korea and Iran develop nuclear weaponry, not only does it increase their defensive capabilities, but it sets important precedents. Developing nuclear weapons is an important way for Third World peoples to reach independence. Empire knows this, which is why Empire is moving against northern Korea and Iran. Leading Lights and good people everywhere stand by the right of Third World peoples, including northern Korea and Iran, to stand up against Empire. We absolutely defend the right of northern Korea and Iran to arm themselves with nuclear technology.

Source

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_states_with_nuclear_weapons

Book review: The Cleanest Race (2010) by B. R. Myers

Book review: The Cleanest Race (2010) by B. R. MyersThe-Cleanest-Race-9781933633916

(llco.org)

The Cleanest Race (2010) is a must read for those trying to understand northern Korea. Ultimately, the book aims to influence US policy toward northern Korea in order to further imperialist ends. In that sense, it is a book by the enemy for the enemy. Even so, the book represents a real, very rigorous attempt to get to the bottom of how northern Korean society thinks. The book is cutting-edge thinking from the CIA wing of US imperialism, from liberal imperialism. For Leading Lights and anti-imperialists, the book is worth reading because it is important to know thy enemies and to know thy friends. The enemy is not all thumbs. The book is an example of contemporary literary and cultural analysis in service to imperialist policy makers. Even if the outlook of the book is fundamentally imperialist, even if it is organized around a set of imperialist questions, the book, in many respects, demonstrates an understanding of northern Korean ideology that is far more advanced than those orthodox “Marxist-Leninists” who defend northern Korea as their own. The book confirms the Leading Light’s position on northern Korea: Though it should be defended from imperialist attack, northern Korea is not a communist-led society, it is not socialist. Northern Korea’s regime is a monarchy that serves  one segment of the national bourgeoisie. Power there passes from father (or parent — more on this later) to son. The Cleanest Race shows that, even though it is a monarchy, the regime has some unique and surprising features that do not easily fit with preconceived notions. The book seeks to refute the cliches that northern Korea is “the last Stalinist state” or that it is a Confucian, patriarchal despotism. According to the author, northern Korea is unlike the Soviet regimes of Eastern Europe. Instead the book claims that northern Korea’s ideology is a racial one much more akin to the fascist states of World War 2. Although the author may overstate his case on some points, the book itself is an important piece of a puzzle. It increases our understanding of how northern Koreans see the world and how some of their more enlightened, liberal adversaries are coming to understand them.

Imperialists don’t get it, neither do orthodox “Marxist-Leninists”…

In the tradition of liberal imperialism, the author dispels the crudest lies about the northern state. The author  makes the point that the regime is, despite crude Western propaganda, a genuinely popular one. The sensationalist accounts promoted by the southern Korean regime, of dissidents who hire themselves out to the Western propaganda apparatus,  and other reactionaries, are dismissed by the author. The author admits that the regime is a plainly popular one; it had mass support even in the crisis years of the famine. Even so, external realities are slowly pushing the regime closer toward a legitimacy crisis:

“What is more, this ideology has generally enjoyed the support of the North Korean people through good times and bad. Even today, with a rival state thriving next door, the regime is able to maintain public stability without a ubiquitous police presence or a fortified northern border. Sensationalist American accounts of the ‘underground railroad’ helping North Korean ‘refugees’ make it through China to the free world gloss over the fact that about half of these economic migrants—for that is what most of them are —voluntarily return to their homeland. The rest remain fervent admirers of Kim Il Sung if not of his son. Though we must never forget the men, women and children languishing in Yodŏk and other prison camps, we cannot keep carrying on as if the dictatorship did not enjoy a significant degree of mass support. How significant? Enough to make the regime desperate to hold on to it. I intend to argue, however, that this support cannot be sustained for long, because what the masses are taught—especially in regard to South Korean public opinion—is coming increasingly into conflict with what they know to be true. It is the regime’s awareness of a pending legitimacy crisis, not a fear of attack from without, which makes it behave ever more provocatively on the world stage.”

The author describes migrants from northern Korea:

“Even among the few North Koreans who have left the country and stayed out, a heartfelt admiration for the Great Leader is mainstream. (I personally know migrants who still cannot talk of him without tearing up.”

In place of cliches, the book asks imperialist policy makers to take a new look at their subject matter. The author observes that the Western world is not interested in ideology. True enough. Americans know as much about Islamism after 9/11 than they did before it. Even with the 9/11 attacks, policy makers believe that the end of history is at hand and that the age of the big idea is over. Western liberalism is, so the story goes, the highest form of society. The ideology, the personality cult, in the view of many, could be nothing but a cynical tool used by the northern regime to create obedience. Northern Korean leaders could not actually believe such nonsense. The idea that ideology does not matter, that the northern Korean ideology is patently absurd, is a big obstacle in understanding the regime. Liberals believe that ideology must be epiphenomenal. Nothing so absurd as northern Korean ideology could influence its state’s decisions on the world stage. A similar criticism could be made of those “on the left” who advocate on behalf of the northern Korean regime. While the Pyongyang watchers put too little emphasis on ideology, the collection of Korean Friendship circles, internet Juche-ists, friendly leftist scholars, and others put too much emphasis on the regime’s official statements of ideology, its statements about the so-called “Juche Idea” and its statements crafted for an external readership. Just as the imperialists get it wrong when it comes to northern Korean ideology, so do many of those who elevate the obtuse speeches or works of Kim Il-Sung as the leading ideology of the regime. Just as those who dismiss the role of ideology will never understand the logic of the regime either will those who take the regime’s proclamations about “Juche” at their word. Juche, according to the author, is, at best, window dressing. To understand the regime and society it is necessary to dig deeper:

“Unfortunately a lack of relevant expertise has never prevented observers from mischaracterizing North Korean ideology to the general public. They call the regime ‘hard-line communist’ or ‘Stalinist,’ despite its explicit racial theorizing, its strident acclamation of Koreans as the world’s ‘cleanest’ or ‘purest’ race. They describe it as a Confucian patriarchy, despite its maternal authority figures, or as a country obsessed with self-reliance, though it has depended on outside aid for over sixty years. By far the most common mistake, however, has been the projection of Western or South Korean values and common sense onto the North Koreans. For example: Having been bombed flat by the Americans in the 1950s, the DPRK must be fearful for its security, ergo it must want the normalization of relations with Washington…. In this book, therefore, I aim to explain North Korea’s dominant ideology or worldview—I use the words interchangeably—and to show how far removed it is from communism, Confucianism and the show-window doctrine of Juche Thought. Far from complex, it can be summarized in a single sentence: The Korean people are too pure blooded, and therefore too virtuous, to survive in this evil world without a great parental leader. More must be added perhaps, if only to explain that ‘therefore’ to an American reader, but not much more of importance. I need hardly point out that if such a race-based worldview is to be situated on our conventional left-right spectrum, it makes more sense to posit it on the extreme right than on the far left. Indeed, the similarity to the worldview of fascist Japan is striking. I do not, however, intend to label North Korea as fascist, a term too vague to be much use. It is enough for me to make clear that the country has always been, at the very least, ideologically closer to America’s adversaries in World War II than to communist China and Eastern Europe. This truth alone, if properly grasped, will not only help the West to understand the loyalty shown to the DPRK by its chronically impoverished citizens, but also to understand why the West’s policy of pursuing late Cold War-type solutions to the nuclear problem is doomed to fail.”

Just as “Marxism-Leninism” and Confucianism are neither northern Korea’s real ideology,  Juche or “self-reliance” isn’t.  Despite proclamations of the regime to the contrary, despite much pomp, Juche is not its real ideology. Juche is described correctly as a “sham” doctrine by the author. The works of Juche, the writings of Kim Il-Sung, are convoluted, repetitive, and banal. Despite official praise of the works to the skies, the works are filled with little that is original. And what is true in the works are banalities repeated in better style by many others throughout history:

“The official worldview is not set out coherently in the leaders’ writings. These are more often praised than read. So-called Juche Thought functions at most as an imposing row of book-spines, a prop in the personality cult. (A good way to embarrass one’s minders in the DPRK is to ask them to explain it.) Unlike Soviet citizens under Stalin, or Chinese under Mao, North Koreans learn more about their leaders than from them.”

The propagandists of the regime are very good at their jobs, the clumsy thoughts and prose found in the works of Juche are not meant to be read seriously. They are to be admired from afar, proof that Kim Il-Sung is a great thinker, just like Mao. This is by design. In addition, the Northern Korean Central News Agency’s English-language press releases do not represent the worldview of the regime either. According to the author, domestic propaganda aimed at northern Koreans differs significantly from the image that is projected worldwide:

“Too many observers wrongly assume that the (North) Korean Central News Agency’s English-language releases reflect the same sort of propaganda that the home audience gets. In fact there are significant differences. For example, where the DPRK presents itself to the outside world as a misunderstood country seeking integration into the international community, it presents itself to its own citizens (as I will show later) as a rogue state that breaks agreements with impunity, dictates conditions to groveling U.N. officials, and keeps its enemies in constant fear of ballistic retribution. Generally speaking the following rule of thumb applies: the less accessible a propaganda outlet is to the outside world, the blunter and more belligerent it will be in its expression of the racist orthodoxy.”

According to the author, there is a big disconnect between what the regime projects and its deeper ideology. In order to understand the regime and its ideology, it is necessary to go beyond the clumsy banalities found in the works of Kim Il-Sung and the official press releases meant for the outside world. It is necessary to look at the propaganda diet that northern Koreans are actually fed. It is necessary to look at the history of those ideas in northern Korea. This is the key to understanding northern Korea, according to the author.

Imperial Japanese origins of northern Korean ideology

According to the author, Korea has a long history of xenophobia. Even so, Korean nationalism is more recent. Koreans historically saw themselves as part of the edge of the great Chinese cultural realm. This state of affairs existed for many centuries. This began to change when, in 1905, the Japanese established a protectorate over the peninsula. Annexation followed in 1910. Patriotic opposition grew toward the Japanese conquest until on March 1, 1919 in Seoul, Korean nationalists read a declaration of independence. A nation-wide Korean uprising was followed by a brutal crackdown by the Japanese. The mess caused the Japanese to reevaluate their strategy. The Japanese decided to change their game plan to avoid further rebellions. Rather than fight Korean nationalism, they would now try to cultivate it. They would promote Korean nationalism within the context of Korean-Japanese unity. The new message was: Koreans should be proud to be Korean, as Koreans are part of the greater Japanese people. The Japanese now promoted Korean-language media outlets. The Korean-language media spread the message of Korean-Japanese unity. Korean intellectuals and celebrities promoted the Japanese message that “Interior [Japan] and Korea as one body.” The Japanese co-opted Korean patriotism by asserting that Koreans and Japanese shared the same ancient racial progenitor. The peoples were part of the same ancient family, the same ancient bloodline. As early as the 1920s, the Korean upper and middle classes and celebrities were speaking Japanese fluently. Marriages between Koreans and their Japanese colonizers were socially accepted, such a marriage was “perhaps even a mark of distinction.”

“But even while these writers glorified the emperor, they urged their countrymen to cherish their Koreanness. In romance novels frail Japanese women fell in love with strong Korean men, much as they still do in South Korean films and dramas. Illustrations in newspapers and magazines showed girls in traditional hanbok costume waving the Japanese flag, and Confucian gentlemen in horsehair hats standing proudly by their newly recruited sons. The regime stimulated pride in ‘peninsular’ history for imperial ends, encouraging Koreans to reclaim their ancient territory by settling in Manchuria. One writer invoked the elite hwarang soldiers of the Silla dynasty to whip up fighting spirit. Another called on young men to ‘demonstrate the loyalty of a Japanese citizen and the spirit of a son of Korea’ by volunteering to fight in the ‘holy war’ against the Yankees. As the historian Cho Kwan-ja has remarked, these collaborators regarded themselves as ‘pro-Japanese [Korean] nationalists.’”

At first, the author informs, there were some nationalist efforts to resist the Japanese co-opt of Korean nationalism. Nationalist writers revived interest in the legend of Tan’gun, the mostly forgotten progenitor of the uniquely Korean people described in works dating from 1284. Tan’gun established a Korean bloodline distinct from that of the Japanese in the eyes of the nationalists. One writer pointed to Mount Paektu, a volcanic mountain on the Chinese border, as Tan’gun’s birthplace. Even though the nationalists were trying to oppose Japan, this Korean ideology was a carbon copy of the Japanese one. Tan’gun replaced the ancient Japanese emperors. Mount Paektu replaced Mount Fiji. By the 1930s, however, the ideological resistance to the Japanese had mostly crumbled among the nationalists. When dissidents were rounded up in the early 1930s, most did an about face. Whether they had been communists, nationalists or libertarians, the author states, most began to support the pro-Japanese order. Even though the middle and upper classes, intellectuals and celebrities, supported the Japanese war as part of the same Korean-Japanese racial team, little of this propaganda reached the illiterate lower classes. As World War 2 progressed, the burden fell heaviest on the poor as Japanese demands for soldiers, workers, prostitutes, etc. increased. Even near the end of the war, Korean papers wrote: “If our destiny is thwarted in this war… it would be a tragedy for all mankind.. We must win.”

The US dropped two atomic weapon in the summer of 1945. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians died in this warcrime. The Japanese empire stood defeated. The Soviets occupied the northern part of Korea. The Soviets set out to create a Soviet-friendly people’s democracy similar to the states of Eastern Europe that had been liberated by the Red Army. However, unlike other places, according to the author, little effort was made at decolonization of hearts and minds by the Soviet or American authorities. The persecution of collaborators, the author informs, was greatly exaggerated by later accounts:

“Contrary to South Korean left-wing myth, which the American historian Bruce Cumings has done much to nurture, almost all intellectuals who moved to Pyongyang after liberation had collaborated with the Japanese to some degree. Several who had done so with special enthusiasm, like the novelist Kim Sa-ryang, had been virtually run out of Seoul. The North was more and not less hospitable to such collaborators. As a history book published in the DPRK in 1981 puts it, ‘the Great Leader Kim Il Sung refuted the mistaken tendency to doubt or ostracize people just because they … had worked for Japanese institutions in the past.’ Kim’s own brother, it is worth remembering, had interpreted for Japanese troops in China.”

Collaborators were mostly welcomed back into the post-war fold. The author informs that the post-war regimes needed them. After all, the Soviet effort to build a people’s democracy in the north was hindered by the lack of a left-leaning population, especially a left-leaning intelligencia. Prior to the Soviet occupation, the north of the country was a haven of conservatives and Christians. The Soviets moved quickly to install the Workers’ Party into leadership, transferring ownership of the media outlets in 1945. The Soviets sought to establish the legitimacy of their order in the peninsula at a mass rally on October 14, 1945:

“Among the Koreans who took the podium that day was Kim Il Sung, a Pyongyang-born thirty-three-year-old who had attained the rank of captain in the Red Army. Although Kim had sat out the Pacific War in the USSR, he had earlier fought against the Japanese as a commander in Mao Zedong’s army, acquiring brief renown in 1937 for an attack on an imperial outpost just south of the Yalu River. For better or worse Kim was the closest thing to a resistance fighter the Koreans had. He is said to have wanted a military career, but the Soviets, finding no more appropriate person to work with, persuaded him to assume leadership of the new state. Yet Kim was by far the least educated of all the leaders in the socialist world. His spotty schooling had ended at seventeen, and although he had spent a year at an infantry officer school in the USSR, it is unlikely that he understood enough Russian to grasp anything theoretical. None of his writings evinces an understanding of Marx. Equally ignorant of communist ideology were the guerilla comrades who comprised the core of Kim’s power base. Andrei Lankov, a prominent Korea researcher, has written that ‘with the exception of the Soviet Koreans, no top cadres had undergone training in … Marxism- Leninism.’ It is no wonder that instead of guiding the cultural scene in ideological matters the party allowed itself to be guided by it.”

It would not be until 1948 that the Workers’ Party received its own crash course in Marxism-Leninism. In the meantime, artists, writers, and intellectuals, many of whom had been collaborators, were expected generate support among the masses for the new regime. The cultural elite fell back into what it knew. Their work bore similarities with the racial outlook that existed when the Japanese occupied the country, albeit with some important differences:

“Having been ushered by the Japanese into the world’s purest race, the Koreans in 1945 simply kicked the Japanese out of it. The legend of the ancient racial progenitor Tan’gun, which Korean nationalists had failed to popularize during the 1920s, came almost overnight to be regarded as historical truth. Japanese symbols were transposed into Korean ones. Mount Paektu, hitherto known only as the peninsula’s highest peak, suddenly attained a Fuji-like, sacral status as the presumed place of Tan’gun’s birth. Much of the Japanese version of Korean history—from its blanket condemnation of Chinese influence to its canards about murderous Yankee missionaries—was carried over whole.”

Unlike other racial ideologies, the northern Korean racial purity and moral superiority did not necessarily translate into superiority in other areas:

“No physical superiority over other races is claimed. Propaganda freely acknowledges, for example, that Americans are much taller. Nor is superior intelligence asserted with any real conviction, though Kim Jong Il has described Koreans as ‘sensible’ and ‘prudent,’ and propaganda acclaims the will power they show in the face of adversity. To be uniquely virtuous in an evil world but not uniquely cunning or strong is to be as vulnerable as a child, and indeed, history books convey the image of a perennial child-nation on the world stage, wanting only to be left in peace yet subjected to endless abuse and contamination from outsiders. Films and novels routinely show invaders mistreating Korean children.”

Greater racial and moral purity does not translate into greater material wealth. As the information wall between the North and South has weakened, the author states that it is common knowledge in northern Korea that southerners are wealthier in material terms. According to the author, the northern regime does not derive its legitimacy from the level of consumption it provides. The author informs that the drastic drop in consumption following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the famine of the 1990s did not drastically affect the stability of the regime as some Pyongyang watchers anticipated. With a rival regime in the south able to provide its population with greater consumption, the northern regime, less able to provide, will, according to the author, fall back on its racial ideology to justify its existence and its claims to military prowess. Getting aid from the West was only a side benefit to displays of northern military strength in recent years. The more important reason for the displays was to prop up the regime’s legitimacy at home.

The Korean racial ideology from which the regime derives its legitimacy is very different than the racialism of  the Japanese occupation. Gone is the tone of a regime bent on conquest and the subjugation of  others. Although there is a kind of wish-fulfillment depicted in posters of northern Korean soldiers and missiles obliterating the US.

“This racialism is utterly irreconcilable with Marx and Lenin; not for nothing was the DPRK almost as isolated from the rest of the East Bloc as it still is from the West. But while drawing a clear line between North Korean ideology and communism, we should not overlook that which distinguishes the former from Japanese and (even more so) German fascism. The Text has never proposed the invasion of so much as an inch of non-Korean territory, let alone the permanent subjugation of foreign peoples. This is not to say that it does not propose military action against the US either as a pre- emptive strike or as revenge for past crimes. (I have already mentioned the wish-fulfilling posters of the US Capitol being blown to pieces.) But this is not the same as wanting to re-shape the world. Where the Nazis considered the Aryans physically and intellectually superior to all other races, and the Japanese regarded their moral superiority as having protected them throughout history, the Koreans believe that their childlike purity renders them so vulnerable to the outside world that they need a Parent Leader to survive. Such a worldview naturally precludes dreams of a colonizing or imperialist nature.”

The author states that purity of the Korean blood does not, according to the ideology, allow the northern Koreans to be world conquerers as the Japanese imagined themselves to be. Rather, their pure blood has historically made them victims until the arrival of the Leader and his protective embrace. According to the author, the propagandists portray Koreans as innocent and childlike in a world of monsters. Their purity was a weakness in the hostile sea of the less pure. There racial virtue had made them too pure for the world until the Leader’s arrival:

“The new racial self-image manifested itself clearly in stories of Soviet-Korean friendship written and published in the late 1940s. Writers depicted ailing men and women being carried to hospitals on the backs of Russian nurses and female doctors. Lest anyone miss the symbolism, the heroines were explicitly compared to mothers, the locals to children… The genre was evidently meant to flatter the Soviets with the implication of faithful subservience, and at the same time to plead for motherly protection of a race too pure to survive on its own. These tales should not, however, be misread as asserting the moral equality (let alone superiority) of the Russian people… so it is that only the child race is inherently virtuous; foreigners can at best do the occasional good deed.”

The author continues:

“Like the blood-based Japanese nationalism of the colonial era, the new Korean nationalism went hand in hand with the slavish imitation of foreign models and an often contemptuous indifference to indigenous traditions. In his speechifying Kim declared servile tribute to the USSR’s ‘superior’ culture. Literary critics  tossed around Soviet catchwords—“typicality,” and so on—in an effort to cut down their rivals on the cultural scene. University students scrambled to learn Russian, the new linguistic ticket to social status.”

To appease the Soviets, the regime would project Soviet-style “Marxism-Leninism” as needed. And, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the regime has dropped mention of “Marxism-Leninism” for the most part if not entirely. Neither the works of Marx or Lenin are allowed to be read without special permission. Similarly, the author states, Juche is just another face projected, often, for external consumption. The actual ideology that governs the regime’s domestic propaganda machine is a racial one that has little to do with real Marxism. If the author is correct, then Pyongyang watchers and Korea’s self-styled orthodox “Marxist-Leninist” friends are both wrong. If the author is right, then  — surprise, surprise — then the ones who have the best understanding of the regime in its own terms  are the weird circles of internet fascists, third positions, nationalists, and video game enthusiasts. This is not to say northern Korea is fascist, it isn’t. It is a bourgeois-nationalist state in the Third World that has come into conflict with imperialism, especially US imperialism. It is a society that has suffered terribly under the jackboot of the United States. The author makes a compelling case that imperial Japan’s fascist ideology has been transformed, modified in many ways,  in Korean hands into a tool that, at least at times, has served to resist American, Western, and Soviet fascism and imperialism albeit in limited ways. Whereas the Japanese regime a century ago used the dualism of racial purity versus impurity, cleanliness versus filth, toward imperial ends, northern Korea does so to thwart the efforts of northern Korea’s imperialist enemies.

A tale of two Great Marshals…

Kim Il-Sung, according to the author, took on many of the characteristics of the Japanese emperor. Just as Hirohito was depicted in white clothing, symbolizing racial purity, so is Kim Il-Sung. Just as Hirohito was depicted against a backdrop of white mountains and pure snow, so is Kim Il-Sung. Just as Hirohito is depicted on a white horse, so too is Kim Il-Sung. Later, Kim Jong-Il would be depicted in many similar ways. Even Pyongyang itself is a white city filled with white plazas and marble. Kim Il-Sung was dubbed “the Great Marshal,” the exact title used by Korean collaborators to designate Hirohito in the war years.

Kim Il-Sung’s biography was rewritten. Instead of living in the Soviet Union, he was now depicted as spending the Pacific War years fighting from a secret base on Mount Paektu, the birthplace of Tan’gun, mythological progenitor of the Korean race. Contrary to popular belief, Koreans had not always venerated the peak. The author states that veneration of Mount Paektu began in the 1940s in the north and decades later in southern Korea. Kim Jong-Il’s biography, as heir to the Great Leader, would be re-written also. He was now born, like Tan’gun, on Mount Paektu though he was really born in the Soviet Union. Later, the regime would claim to have excavated the tomb of Tan’gun outside Pyongyang, furthering establishing a link to the ancient racial progenitor. “As one propagandist recently put it, Kim Il Sung is ‘the symbol of the homeland.’”

The author informs that the cult in northern Korea differs significantly from Marxist cults. It has far more in common with fascist cults of personality. Stalin and Mao were both depicted as teachers. Marxist authority was, at least to a large degree, depicted as derived from their mastery of revolutionary science. The cult of the Kims, by contrast, derives from their embodiment of ethnic virtues: Kim “is the most naïve, spontaneous, loving, and pure Korean—the most Korean Korean—who ever lived.”

According to the author, the regime’s propagandists, in accord with the racial view, stress that the Leader’s virtues are inborn rather than acquired. They do this by stressing his impeccable lineage. Kim Il-Sung’s grandfather is said to have led a famous attack on a US warship in 1866. His father Kim Hyŏng-Jik is portrayed as a resistance fighter, even if enthusiasm for him is somewhat lacking. The invented link to the legendary Tan’gun, his birthplace on Mount Paektu, and resting place at Pyongyang are also significant. The young portrayals of the Leader’s virtue also underscore that his traits are innate and, ultimately, racial. This lineage is also carried by Kim Jong-Il and, now, Kim Jong-un.

“A wall poster photographed in September 2009 bears the lyrics of the song under a legend congratulating the masses on being blessed not just with the General, but with ‘the young General Kim Jong Un’ as well. The latter, whose title is written with a different Korean word for general (taejang) than the one applied to his father (changgun), is described as carrying on both the ‘bloodline of Man’gyŏngdae,’ i.e. of Kim Il Sung’s birthplace, and ‘the bloodline of Mount Paektu,’ i.e. the birthplace of Kim Jong Il. This roundabout way of indicating his parentage seems to reflect the regime’s sense of awkwardness in celebrating someone whose very existence was kept secret for so long. The song itself, with its puerile onomatopoeic refrain, adds nothing to our knowledge of the young man.”

The Leaders, beginning with Kim Il-Sung, are presented as ideal types, according to the author, of a child race. This runs into problems with depicting the Leader as, well, uh, as a leader:

“One may well ask how a leader can pose as the embodiment of naivety on the one hand and a brilliant strategist and revolutionary on the other. In the 1940s and 1950s writers made ludicrous efforts to explain away this contradiction, claiming, among other things, that Kim’s best ideas came to him in his sleep. The propaganda apparatus soon realized it would be better simply to divert public attention elsewhere. While the leader’s genius and invincibility on the battlefield are accorded all due praise, only his ethnic virtues— his naivety, his purity, his spontaneity and solicitude—are constantly shown in action.”

This is also why, according to the author, the regime cannot be considered a patriarchal Confucian one. Even though the Korean race is portrayed as a child too innocent for the world, the Leader is portrayed not so much as a father figure, but as a motherly figure in many instances. According to the author, the motherly wins out over the fatherly qualities in northern Korean ideology, especially when depicting the Leader.

Motherland, Mother Party, Mother,  child race

The author argues that the cult of the Leader, so central to the regime, is not a cult of the father, but a cult of the parent where the maternal is emphasized more then the paternal. For domestic consumption, “Motherland” is preferred over “Fatherland.” Kim Jong-Il himself stated: “The homeland is everyone’s mother … [from whose] bosom all true life and happiness springs.” A mythological Mother Korea, informs the author, plays an important role in the ideology. It was on this peninsula that, thousands of years ago, one of the first distinct races, the Koreans emerged. Tan’gun later arrived to create the Korea nation with Pyongyang as his capital. Over the hundreds of years since, Korea had been subjected to invading forces, Chinese, Japanese, American. Even so, northern Korean purity survives intact, according to the state mythology. It is only when a great leader emerges that the innocence and purity of the race becomes a source of strength in this narrative. Since the arrival of the Kim dynasty, northern Koreans can be free to indulge their childlike instincts. They can  be Korean  in peace.

Similarly,  the Workers’ Party of Korea is referred to in maternal terms. The Rodong sinmun newspaper explained the metaphor in 2003:

“The Great Ruler Comrade Kim Jong Il has remarked, ‘Building the party into a mother party means that just as a mother deeply loves her children and cares warmly for them, so must the party take responsibility for the fate of the people, looking after them even in the smallest matters, and become a true guide and protector of the masses.’”

The following is an excerpt from “Mother” (Ǒmŏni), one of the country’s best-known poems:

“Ah, Korean Workers’ Party
At whose breast only
My life begins and ends;
Be I buried in the ground or strewn to the wind
I remain your son, and again return to your breast!
Entrusting my body to your affectionate gaze,
Your loving outstretched hand,
I will forever cry out in the voice of a child,
Mother! I can’t live without Mother!”

Just as there is the Motherland, and the Mother Party, there is the Mother herself, as leader. In depictions of his guerrilla days, the young Kim Il-Sung is not pictured in combat. Instead, his motherly qualities are emphasized. Kim Il-Sung is depicted as plump. He usually “appears between battles, fussing cheerfully over his soldiers’ food and well being.” Even his wife, Kim Chong-Suk is depicted in a more martial role in her position as bodyguard. He, unlike Lenin, Stalin and Mao, does not personify the triumph of intellect and will over the instincts. Kim Il-Sung did not need to pose as an ascetic or intellectual. Motherly qualities have been even more emphasized in the depictions of Kim Jong-Il. The Leader’s designation is pointedly androgynous. He is mostly referred to by the hermaphroditic designation “parent,” as in “Parent Leader” (ŏbŏi suryŏng).  Even so, his maternal qualities are always at the fore, according to the author. His maternal side is praised far more often. Kim Jong-Il himself has long said that the key to his father’s success was his motherly qualities, which had manifested “even in his teenage years.”

This motherly side is often depicted in how Kim Il-Sung approaches problems:

“Indeed, the Leader’s published remarks are always trite: ‘Rainbow trout is a good fish, tasty and nutritious.’ Foreigners who mock these platitudes fail to realize that the content of Kim’s guidance is not as important as the time and effort he takes to administer it. (In many pictures of these visits, he is merely listening with a smile.) After all, to impart consciousness and discipline to the child race would be to make it less pure and childlike, which must never happen. Nor could Kim pose as an educator or disciplinarian without seeming an imperfect embodiment of Koreanness. In short stories, the emotional climax comes after Kim’s breezy solution of the problem, usually in a scene in which he fusses over someone in the adoring throng who looks cold or tired. It is this loving attentiveness on the part of the world’s busiest man that moves the characters to tears, and is meant to make the reader cry too. Even when Kim is referred to as Father Leader (abŏji suryŏng), therefore, there is nothing Confucian or patriarchal about him. In a short story called “Father,” for example, he neither exercises authority nor imparts wisdom, but rushes an injured child to hospital. The official encyclopedia praises the story in maternal terms, describing “the Great General as the loving parent who holds and nurtures all Korean children at his breast.”

His motherly breast is a recurring theme in northern Korean art and literature. Depictions in art often exaggerate the size of his chest to make him, physically, more woman-like. Northern Korean soldiers and children are depicted burying their faces in his breast. His face too is depicted soft, pale, and woman-like. “In one illustration he is tucking children into bed. The title of another, “The Parent Leader General Kim Il Sung Holding the Children of Mt. Ma’an to his Breast,” speaks for itself.” The first verse of a northern Korean children’s song:

“The Leader came all the way to the sentry post
And held us affectionately to his bosom
So happy about the warm love he bestowed on us
We buried our faces in his bosom
Ah! He is our parent! Ah! A son in his embrace Is happy always, everywhere!”

Depictions of the masses as forever infantile alongside depictions of the Leader as an intuitive caregiver has little in common with the official ideologies and state-promoted myths that existed in true communist-led regimes. Although the care-giver aspect may exist to various degrees in Marxist cults, the masses are regard as the true heroes and leaders, not as children.  The reality of northern Korea’s ideology is also very different than what is professed, in a very poor style, by the sham ideology of Juche.

The author speculates that this may protect the regime:

“This has much to do with the far greater psychological appeal of nationalism itself, but Kim Il Sung’s peculiarly androgynous or hermaphroditic image also seems to exert a far more emotional attraction than any of the unambiguously paternal leaders of Eastern Europe were able to… This may explain why Jesus and Buddha are far more feminine and maternal figures in the popular imagination than in the original scriptures of Christianity and Buddhism. The North Koreans’ race theory gives them extra reason to want a leader who is both mother enough to indulge their unique childlikeness and father enough to protect them from the evil world… Interestingly enough, the absence of a patriarchal authority figure may also have helped the regime preserve stability by depriving people of a target to rebel against. C. Fred Alford has written, ‘In ‘society without the father’ … everything just is, nature-like in its givenness, so that it does not even occur to one to rebel, just as one does not rebel against the mist.’ Perhaps it is no wonder that the propaganda apparatus decided to make the country’s next leader even more of a mother than Kim Il Sung had been.”

In a patriarchal world, it may be more difficult for the masses to direct their displeasure at an androgynous or even motherly leader than a fatherly one. In such a world, it is harder to think of a mother as an adversary, especially a worthy adversary. There may be a tendency to write off the problems of the regime as beyond mother’s control. Mom cannot be blamed after all. The “que sera sera”-style  comments of Kim Jong-Il only reinforce the author’s point.

The Cultural Revolution in China

People all over the world were looking toward China for inspiration. A quarter of humanity was standing up to embark on a radical social course to try to eliminate all oppression, end all exploitation, end all class, to reach communism. The Cultural Revolution was a storm. Chinese students began criticizing Kim Il-Sung as a revisionist just across the border. The northern regime sought to protect itself.  Propagandists in northern Korea further inflated the cult to out pace Mao’s. Northern Korea sought to insulate itself from any potential storms inspired by China. Mao, of course, had a much more genuinely impressive resume than Kim Il-Sung:

“The personality cult also played a vital role in garnering support for the regime. With the young Kim Jong Il at its helm, the propaganda apparatus made sure that the cult kept pace with its Chinese counterpart. Mao’s renown as a poet, for example, inspired the DPRK’s cultural apparatus to ‘revive’ revolutionary plays, hitherto unmentioned, which Kim Il Sung had allegedly written during his youth. It was also ‘remembered’ that in the 1930s the General had taken his partisans on an Arduous March every bit as heroic as Mao’s Long March. And if Mao had routed the Japanese without foreign help, then by golly, so had Kim. This last claim necessitated the withdrawal of countless reference works and school books that had paid fawning tribute to the Soviet Red Army.”

It was in this context that the sham of Juche was born. One of Kim Il-Sung’s advisers, a self-styled philosopher named Kwang Chang-yop, persuaded the leader to entrust him the task of creating a philosophy. In September, 1972, Juche was revealed to Japanese journalists:

“Establishing the subject/juche means approaching revolution and construction with the attitude of a revolution and construction with the attitude of a master. Because the masses are the master of revolution and construction, they must assume a master’s attitude in regard to revolution and construction. A master’s attitude is expressed in an independent position and a creative position. Revolution and construction are endeavors for the sake of the masses, and endeavors that the masses themselves must carry out. Therefore, in reshaping nature and society an independent position and a creative position are called for.”

The author comments:

“Only when talking of Juche Thought does the regime express itself in this peculiar style, which is far too repetitive and dull not to be so by design. It recalls a college student trying both to stretch a term paper to a respectable length and to discourage anyone from reading it through. Far more concise and stirring language is used to espouse the true ruling ideology of paranoid nationalism. Though Juche Thought is enshrined in the constitution as one of the country’s guiding principles, the regime has never shown any indication of subscribing to its universal-humanist bromides: ‘man is the master of all things,’ ‘people are born with creativity and autonomy,’ etc. I do not mean to imply that if an ideology is not lived up to, it is ipso facto a sham. (Judged by that standard, no ideology will ‘scape whipping.) But Juche is not even professed in earnest, and no wonder; its central notion of the masses’ mastery of their fate runs counter to the sacrosanct notion of a uniquely vulnerable child race in the Leader’s protective care. Koreans must thank him, after all, even for what they earn by their own labor.”

The author continues:

“The pseudo-doctrine of Juche continues to serve its purpose all the same. It enables the regime to lionize Kim Il Sung as a great thinker, provides an impressive label for whatever policies it considers expedient, and prevents dissidents from judging policy on the government’s own ostensible terms. Just as importantly, it decoys outsiders away from the true dominant ideology. Instead of an implacably xenophobic, race-based worldview derived largely from fascist Japanese myth, the world sees a reassuringly dull state-nationalism conceived by post-colonial Koreans, rooted in humanist nationalism conceived by post-colonial Koreans, rooted in humanist principles, and evincing an understandable if unfortunate preoccupation with autonomy and self-reliance.”

Mao was a genuine man of the people. Mao was a genuine intellect. It was said of Mao that, while not a technical thinker, he is a deep thinker. People all over the world who seek a revolutionary, new world, read Mao’s works, looking to the questions and approaches found in them. By contrast, Juche was not designed to be read, but designed to convince — by way of book spines and verbosity — the childlike population of the regime (and naive onlookers) that its leader was as great as Mao. In part, this is the origin of the sham of Juche.

In orientalist style, enemies and friends alike stand stupefied before Juche:

“But how could foreign scholars read the English-language versions of the official Juche discourse without realizing how empty it is? One answer is that by the time those texts started appearing in the 1970s, North Korea’s allegiance to the mysterious doctrine was already accepted overseas as fact. Another answer is that the very incoherence, dullness and evasiveness of Juche convey to the postmodern Western reader an impressive difficulty. Now this, he thinks, is what an ideology should look like, as opposed to the race-based nationalism espoused in the DPRK’s schoolbooks, films and paintings, which is too crude and direct to be taken seriously. Even scholars aware of the triteness of the Juche discourse assume there has to be more to it than meets the eye. The historian Bruce Cumings, in apologetic desperation, concludes that it is ‘inaccessible to the non-Korean.’ As if North Koreans were not as baffled by it as everyone else! The regime’s decision not to publish a comprehensive Juche treatise under Kim Il Sung’s name turns out to have been a stroke of genius. Whatever one reads, one is always left thinking the profound stuff must be somewhere else.”

The emperor has no clothes.

Despite superficial similarities, the Maoist outlook in China was very different than that of the northern Korean regime. Both regimes put on extravagant displays that involved masses of people. Both regimes elevated personality cults. While both emphasize collectivism, the collectivism are of two very different varieties. Even in those years where the personality cult was the greatest in China, the collectivism was never a kind of narrow, racial nationalism witnessed in northern Korea. The Chinese leadership made an effort to show China’s ethnic diversity. Mao and the Chinese leadership took a humble stance toward their foreign guests. Mao would extend his hand to the smallest of communist parties in the world. Just as Black-leader Robert F. Williams was honored by standing alongside with Mao and Lin Biao from Tiananmen, the Chinese leaders were also honored to have met the emissary of North American revolution. The Chinese press was very worldly, always emphasizing the importance of struggles all over the world. By contrast, the northern Korean regime often portrays foreigners as coming to pay tribute to the Leader. The Maoist personality cult was much more in the Marxist tradition of leader as teacher. Mao himself once remarked that he only wanted to be remembered as a teacher. The goal of communists is to raise the people up, to elevate the best in them, to help them become capable of leading. Eliminating the division of labor between leadership and led is an important part of reaching classless society. By contrast, the northern Korean cult is there to protect the purity and innocence of a child race. The Marxist personality cult seeks to empower the masses to make them masters of their own destiny, the northern Korean cult, says the author, seeks to preserve their ethnic identity as an innocent, child race. The author comments:

“Believing that ‘the people is an eternal child,’ as the French revolutionary Saint-Just famously remarked, Lenin saw the communist party’s raison d’être in forcing it to grow up. The Soviet party posed as an educating father, as did the dictator who so famously talked of the need to “re-engineer” the human soul. A leading American scholar of Stalinist culture has shown that the so- called spontaneity-consciousness dialectic forms the master plot of socialist realist fiction. Nikolai Ostrovsky’s How the Steel Was Tempered (Kak zakalyalas’ stal’, 1936), for example, tells how a party cadre, armed with the teachings of Lenin and Stalin, educates a headstrong youth into a politically conscious ‘positive hero.’

In contrast, the DPRK’s propaganda is notably averse to scenes of intellectual discipline. Because Koreans are born pure and selfless, they can and should heed their instincts. Often they are shown breaking out of intellectual constraints in a mad spree of violence against the foreign or land-owning enemy. Cadres are expected to nurture, not teach, and bookworms are negative characters. In short: where Stalinism put the intellect over the instincts, North Korean culture does the opposite. When a sympathetic British documentary about life in the DPRK entitled A State of Mind (2004) was shown in Pyongyang, the authorities changed the title to ‘Maŭm ŭi nara’” or The Country of Heart.”

Rather than seeking to overcome the contradiction, the division of labor, between between leader and led, northern Korea propaganda codifies the importance of the leader over the masses. Even at the highest point of Mao’s cult, there was the promotion of the theories of Maoism that spoke of overcoming traditional divisions between intellectual and manual labor, between cadre and masses, between leader and led. Even at the height of the cult in China, the Maoists sought to remain in touch with the masses through calls for “big debates” and “mass line.”

“The following excerpt, which is strikingly reminiscent of the imagery of Japanese wartime propaganda, puts the cult of the ‘military-first’ leader in a nutshell.

Held together not by a mere bond between a leader and his warriors but by the family tie between a mother and her children, who share the same blood and breath, Korea will prosper forever. Let the imperialist enemies come at us with their nuclear weapons, for there is no power on earth that can defeat our strength and love and the power of our belief, which thanks to the blood bond between mother and child create a fortress of bond between mother and child create a fortress of single-heartedness. Our Great Mother, General Kim Jong Il”

Again:

“An enormous sign held up in a recent parade, footage of which was shown on the television news in 2009 whenever ‘The Song of General Kim Jong Il’ was played, bore the slogan, ‘We Cannot Live Away From His Breast.’

This is no empty rhetoric; the masses are reminded with increasing frequency that because the nation cannot survive without the leader who constitutes both its heart and its head, they must be ready to die to defend him. As if the logic were not in itself reminiscent of fascist Japan, the regime makes increasingly bold use of the very same terms—such as “resolve to die” (kyŏlsa) and “human bombs” (yukt’an)—that were so common in imperial Japanese and colonial Korean propaganda during the Pacific War. In the summer of 2009 the evening news periodically played a stirring anthem entitled “We Will Give Our Lives to Defend the Head of the Revolution.” The text runs, “Ten million will become as guns and bombs … to give one’s life for the General is a soldier’s greatest honor.”

The people are there for the leader, not the other way around. Such sentiments are more inline with Hirohito’s cult than Mao’s or Stalin’s or Lenin’s.

The Cultural Revolution was unleashed in China in order to further propel society toward communism. According to Mao, antagonistic contradictions continue to exist throughout the socialist period. Therefore, it is necessary to continually make revolution. Otherwise society slides back toward capitalism. Communist art of the Maoist era sought to depict these life-and-death struggles within society in very exaggerated, vivid ways. The art and outlook in northern Korea is fundamentally different than the communist view. Although northern Korean art depicts conflict with the outside world, especially the US, it downplays conflict within northern Korea. Although some minor conflicts are portrayed in northern Korean art, they are not seen as antagonistic ones.

“While the party does not explicitly deny the existence of conflict inside the republic, it contends that conflict is not ‘typical’ of North Korean life and therefore unworthy of depiction. There are few of the harsh clashes between rural and urban values, older and younger generations, chauvinist husbands and progressive wives, etc, that were so common in Soviet propaganda.”

Communists aim at communism. The northern Korean regime does not. The northern regime depicts itself as having already reached a harmonious state where class is dissolved into racial unity.

Depiction of foreigners

The racial ideology is revealed in the regime’s depiction of foreigners. There is little effort to depict proletarian internationalism in Korean propaganda. During the Korean War, Americans as a whole are condemned. Little effort is made to distinguish between the US government and its citizens as both the Soviet Union and China did, rightly or wrongly. There is little effort to draw the kind of distinctions the Soviets did when they, rightly or wrongly, distinguished between the Nazi state and the average German. No effort was made to distinguish between the US state and women and children, for example. Even if the demarcation between friends and enemies regarding the First World may be slightly more correct than that of First Worldists who failed to recognize the bourgeois nature of First World peoples as a whole, the northern Korean demarcation is made for all the wrong reasons. In this sense, it can be compared to some Islamists that point their spear at the West as a whole. During the Korean War, some northern writers celebrated abuses heaped on captured prisoners of war. The Caucasian features were depicted in racist, exaggerated ways in the northern Korean press. One author asserted that such features reflected an inner “idiotization.” They are also portrayed as stinky and unkempt. Americans are sometimes depicted with Caucasian and African features to get across the point that the American bloodline is polluted.

“While the Text strongly implies that all foreigners are inferior, and occasionally criticizes the Jews’ influence on world affairs, it subjects only the Japanese and Americans to routine vituperation. As might be expected, the ‘Japs’ (oenom) feature mainly in accounts of the colonial era. In contrast to Soviet depictions of the Germans in World War II, the Text does not distinguish between colonial-era Japanese according to class; all are inherently rapacious. It follows that they have no right to humane treatment. In this scene from a classic novel of the 1950s, one of Kim Il Sung’s guerrillas exacts retribution on an unarmed prisoner.”

And:

“Like the ‘Japs,’ the Yankees are condemned as an inherently evil race that can never change, a race with which Koreans must forever be on hostile terms. Readers should therefore not be misled by the Marxist jargon so common in the KCNA’s English-language rhetoric. In propaganda meant only for the domestic audience, the terms ‘US imperialism’ (mije) and ‘America’ (miguk) are used interchangeably, and Americans referred to routinely as ‘nom’ or bastards. In a recent picture printed in the monthly art magazine, a child with a toy machine gun stands before a battered snowman. The caption reads, ‘The American bastard I killed.’ The DPRK’s dictionaries and schoolbooks encourage citizens to speak of Yankees as having ‘muzzles,’ ‘snouts’ and ‘paws’; as ‘croaking’ instead of ‘dying,’ and so on.”

Racial animalization of other peoples has a long history. Historically, the imperialists have been experts at it. Some might argue that such racist and nationalist hate is justified or acceptable given the history of imperialist aggression against Korea. To a limited extent this would be true, hating the enemy is better than capitulating to him. However, such a tone that plays to the lowest instincts of the masses is hardly compatible with trying to reach communism in the longterm. While hate can be the beginning of liberation, it cannot be the end. Such small-minded racism and nationalism when put toward the anti-imperialist struggle quickly reveals its limits. Such a racial outlook not only makes racial enemies of the imperialists, but all outsiders. The regime’s allies and other oppressed peoples become racial enemies too. Even during the Korean War, northern Koreans regarded their Chinese allies with hostility. This disdain for friendly foreigners is depicted in the culture, according to the author:

“Typical of the disdain shown even to the friendliest foreigners is a panoramic painting of a procession of exultant visitors to 1989’s Pyongyang World Youth Games. Whatever direction they happen to be looking in, their faces are all partly obscured by a sinister shadow. A fat Caucasian woman wears a low-cut blouse, while a few African women sport what appear to be halter-tops: even in today’s DPRK such clothing is considered indecent. Here and there, unsavory-looking men show long sideburns and denim, more signs of Western decadence. The only well-groomed and attractive person in view, and the only one whose face is evenly lit, is the Korean guide—a girl, naturally—who leads the way in traditional dress. There are no Koreans in the procession proper; the pure race must be kept apart. On the rare occasions in the Text when foreigners and locals meet, the former employ highly respectful, sometimes obsequious Korean, while the latter respond informally as if to subordinates. Real fraternity between the pure and the impure is impossible; the DPRK’s so-called Friendship Museum contains only gifts given by foreigners— ‘offered up,’ as the Text always puts it— to the Leaders.”

This was reported by diplomats too:

“East European diplomats had, however, already begun reporting home about the xenophobia in Pyongyang. Some were cursed and pelted with rocks by children on the street. Koreans who had married Europeans were pressured to divorce or banished from the capital. (Internally the East German embassy compared these practices to Nazi Germany.) One Soviet wife of a Korean citizen was beaten unconscious by provincial police when she attempted to travel to Pyongyang. In 1965, the Cuban ambassador to the DPRK, a black man, was squiring his wife and some Cuban doctors around the city when locals surrounded their car, pounding it and shouting racial epithets. Police called to the scene had to beat the mob back with truncheons. ‘The level of training of the masses is extremely low,’ a high-ranking official later told the shaken diplomat. ‘They cannot distinguish between friends and foes.’ This was precisely the mindset that the regime sought to instill.”

As late as 2006, a northern Korean general criticized the southern regime for welcoming an American football star, only one of whose parents had been Korean. The southern delegate had mentioned that people in his half of the peninsula were now marrying those from other countries. The northern general responded: “Our nation has always considered its pure lineage to be of great importance… I am concerned that our singularity will disappear.” When the southerner rebutted him that such miscegenation was merely a “drop of ink in the Han River,” the northern general stated that “since ancient times our land has been one of abundant natural beauty. Not even one drop of ink must be allowed.”

Only a few weeks earlier, similar views were echoed in the northern media:

“Mono-ethnicity [tanilsŏng] is something that our nation and no other on earth can pride itself on … There is no suppressing the nation’s shame and anger at the talk of ‘a multi-ethnic, multi-racial society’… which would dilute even the bloodline of our people.”

Along with the such racist depictions, homosexuality too is attacked as a distinctly American or Western perversion. Stories based on the capture of the USS Pueblo in 1968 contrast the purity of the Koreans to the depraved Americans. One retelling of story:

“One crew member, it is claimed, felt so disillusioned by the incestuous goings on in his family that he ‘began sleeping with whatever women came his way. Tiring of that, he became gay.’ The Text regards homosexuality as a characteristically American ‘perversion.’ Here one of the Pueblo’s crew pleads for the right to indulge it in captivity.

‘Captain, sir, homosexuality is how I fulfill myself as a person. Since it does no harm to your esteemed government or esteemed nation, it is unfair for Jonathan and me to be prevented from doing something that is part of our private life.’

[The North Korean soldier responds,] ‘This is the territory of our republic, where people enjoy lives befitting human beings. On this soil none of that sort of activity will be tolerated.’”

According to the author, one of the regime’s main anti-American books, The Jackals (1951), continues to be published to this day. Its story of American missionaries injecting Korean children with malicious germs has far more in common with fascist propaganda than propaganda of Marxist regimes. It seems less designed to raise the understanding of the masses about the real enemy, about power or class. Instead it seems closer to anti-Semitic tales about Jews who eat babies during the witching hour. The author remarks that the book, as popular as it is, has “one obvious root in nineteenth-century peasant rumor and another in fascist Japan’s anti-Christianity campaign.”

The book is an important piece of a larger puzzle

For a long time, efforts have been made by the northern regime to liberalize aspects of its economy. There have even been attempts at creating Special Economic Zones. The northern Korean website even boasts of the “lowest labor costs in Asia.” Chinese capitalists are heavily invested there.

“Nor did they consider their entrepreneurial activities to be at odds with the official ideology. ‘Making money is patriotic’ was said to be a popular if informal slogan. In short, the spread of capitalism did not appear to be eroding support for the regime.”

The author points out that exposure to more and more Western culture may not lead to a quick downfall of the regime as the imperialists hope. He makes the point that the fascist regimes of World War 2 that had based themselves on race incorporated many of the consumer goods, styles and fashions from more liberal societies. Whatever the future of the regime, the author makes the point that it will not commit suicide. To abandon its ideology and military means doing just that. The regime needs to maintain some reason for its existence vis-a-vis the South.

Leading Lights have long recognized that the northern Korean state is not socialist. It is not heading toward communism, it is not communist-led. The book implies that northern Korean was never socialist. Its Party and state were never communist-led, according to the author. Rather, from the beginning, the state was a regime of patriotic-national development that legitimated itself using the idea, language, cultural forms of a Korean-version of Japanese-fascist ideology. It is not as simple as all this. Of course there is more to the story. In order to prop themselves up, the regime wedded itself to its powerful socialist neighbors: the Soviet Union and China. When those neighbors went revisionist, northern Korea continued to maintain the relationships. As a result of the years of interaction with the socialist camp, no doubt, northern Korea adopted some of the models, some of the language, and ritual of their neighbors, even if it was often superficial. As the new century progresses, northern Korea mentions “socialism” less and less. Despite its talk about self-sufficiency, northern Korea makes unequal deals with its capitalist Chinese neighbors. Northern Korea long received aid from the Soviets until the demise of the Soviet Bloc. Northern Korea has strong-armed much aid out of the United States, becoming one of the top aid recipients at times. At the same time, northern Korea has continued to build up its military program, especially its nuclear and missile capabilities. The regime makes defiant shows to drum up domestic support, but also to keep the imperialists negotiating. The regime has come into numerous conflicts with the US over its military. Although the regime produces vivid propaganda posters, a favorite of the state’s internet groupies, video-game enthusiasts, and nostalgists, its anti-imperialist practice lags behind other states like Iran and Venezuela that are more engaged with the world. Northern Korea is not at the forefront in the construction of institutions like ALBA to challenge First World hegemony in the global market. Northern Korea is not fanning up regional Bolivarian or Islamist movements to weaken imperialism’s hold over its neighbors. There is no northern Korean-aligned Hezbollah or Hamas. Although northern Korea has reportedly sold its ballistic technology to other oppressed countries, the racial and xenophobic nature of the regime tends to run counter to such internationalist sentiments. In this sense, northern Korean, in its best moments, should be seen as junior, lesser partner in the united front. Northern Korea should be defended against imperialism, yet we do not do anyone any favors by removing our brains and pretending northern Korea is a good society or even “the last Stalinist state.” It isn’t. One doesn’t build convincing anti-interventionist solidarity by slobbering all over internet forums in praise of northern Korean leaders or by pretending Juche is some deep idea when it plainly isn’t. Pretending northern Korea is a workers’ paradise is absurd. The KFA can’t even convince its own tourists of this, it sure isn’t going to convince anyone else. Such cheerleading does not help the Korean people. (1)

Real solidarity involves building a credible anti-interventionist movement. It involves educating people around the history of US imperialism in Asia, and Korea. It means exposing real warcrimes and atrocities committed by Americans and other imperialists, not adopting the internal language of a monarchy that whips up anti-Americanism with ghoulish tales of Christian missionaries. Real solidarity means building anti-interventionist alliances with humanists, people of good conscience and other bourgeois liberals. Real solidarity means defending the regime in a way that does not lie to the global proletariat. Despite what the weird circles of self-styled internet Juche-ists, third positionists, fascists, nationalists, nostalgists, “Marxist-Leninists” and video game enthusiasts who latch onto northern Korea think, nobody, except Koreans, outside those circles will ever be inspired by the regime. And Koreans are inspired by it for many of the wrong reasons, as the author demonstrates. The global proletariat may lag, but it does not lag that much. You will not con your way to revolution on the back of the Kim dynasty or other crackpotism. Proletarian revolutions are not con games. Real revolutions are the result of proletarian social forces armed with the highest revolutionary science, organization, and leadership in command. The people’s movement may be in disarray, revisionism is widespread, but the situation is not to the point where northern Korea’s ideology will ever be confused with genuine liberation by the broad masses globally. In this time of confusion, it is absolutely necessary for real communists, Leading Lights, to come forward, to blaze a trail, to lead. It is imperative that people understand the real revolutionary science, organization, and leadership from the shams out there. Leading Lights do not tail. Fight  for Leading Light science, organization, and leadership within in the united front. Uphold the broad united front against imperialism! Hold the Red Flag high!

Notes

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-43MB5_QKQ

To see a video lecture by the author visit here: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/292562-1

B. R. Myers youtube interview: The Myth of Juche

B. R. Myers youtube interview: The Myth of Juche

(llco.org)

B. R. Myer’s The Cleanest Race traced the origin of the northern Korean state and its ideology to Japanese fascism. In his latest interview, B. R. Meyers continues debunking the claim that northern Korea is a far-left state. Even though northern Korea ended up allied to the Soviet Union and China, even though Kim il-sung had been involved in the anti-imperialist struggle, those who constructed the ideology of the northern Korean state borrowed heavily from Japanese fascism. Even the word “Juche” itself, claims Myers, is from the Japanese.

Northern Korea is not and has never been a socialist society. It has always been an ultra-nationalist state that has projected a socialist message when it is useful. According to Myers, the propaganda that is created for domestic consumption in northern Korea is very different from the more socialist-sounding propaganda that is exported. Looking at the origin of Juche reveals what its purpose is. Myers states:

“To understand the fraudulence of Juche, you have to walk yourself back through the Juche story… and you can tell me how plausible it sounds, OK? Kim il-sung waits until 1955 to declare the ideology that has been guiding him since his guerrilla years. Does he do this at a Party congress? No. He does this at a relatively undistinguished gathering of propagandists. And the declaration of the ideology doesn’t even take up the whole speech, just the first half of it. The speech doesn’t mention self-reliance nor does it criticize the USSR. In fact, Kim il-sung tells his listeners that loving the USSR is just as good as loving Korea. And yet somehow it manages to be an anti-Soviet declaration of self-reliance. And even more magically, just by using the word ‘Juche’ in its usual Korean sense of the acting subject or main actor, Kim somehow turns it into a uniquely North Korean coining that must be left untranslated in English with a capital ‘J’ if possible. That is not where the strangeness ends, strangely enough, Kim does not revisit the topic of Juche at any length until 1965. So he didn’t even mention it again until 1960. And he didn’t revisit it at any length until 1965 when he happens to be in Indonesia. OK, then in 1972, Juche ideology was dramatically redefined into a human-oriented “man is the master of all things” ideology. But this was done in a manifesto delivered to Japanese journalists. So they got it before Kim il-sung’s own people did… Yet, according to Bruce Cummings…, Juche thought is only fully accessible to the Korean mind. Ok, I could go on and on… But I think you’re getting the idea here.” (1)

There is no question that northern Korea must be defended from imperialist attack. However, defending it from imperialist attack does not require misrepresenting the class nature of northern Korea. It is our duty to the proletariat to tell it the truth. There are no revolutionary societies today. Initiating the next great wave of revolution will not come about by opportunistically cobbling together the fragments of the past, cobbling together the dogmatic Marxist-Leninists and Maoists. And it certainly won’t be made by relying on northern Korean ultra-nationalism posing as socialism. Real revolutionary waves have always come about by elevating and advancing the science. The revolutionary wave that began in 1917 was not merely a product of repeating the past in dogmatized form. Gramsci, called the Bolshevik revolution a revolt against past Marxism. Similarly, the Maoist wave did not merely repeat 1917. Rather, revolutionary waves are made by advancing science. Learning from the past and then going forward with new ideas adapted for today’s reality. Those who look to northern Korea for direction are not even looking to past socialist dogma, they are looking to past ultra-nationalist dogma packaged to look like socialism. Leading Light is about science, pure and simple. The light of true science will guide the masses to the future.

Notes

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aepwppHT6Fc#t=1017

* Also see video of B. R. Myers speaking on The Cleanest Race http://www.c-span.org/video/?292562-1/book-discussion-cleanest-race

** Also see our review of B. R. Myers on The Cleanest Race http://llco.org/book-review-the-cleanest-race-2010-by-b-r-myers/

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Summations, questions, answers

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Summations, questions, answers: a short lesson on revolutionary history

(llco.org)

Science prevents us from rowing in circles

“If a revolution is not going forward toward communism, it is going backward toward reaction. When a revolution ceases to move forward, when there is no more forward momentum, then the new bourgeoisie have seized power, the proletarian line, communist science, is no longer in command. Revisionism is then victorious.” – Leading Light

“Greats have come before us. We must learn from them. We must absorb their lessons. We are a link in a long chain of heroes and martyrs. We must rise to the occasion. Shine brightly. Head up. Follow the Leading Light. Be the Leading Light.” – Leading Light

Joseph Stalin once stated incorrectly that the proletariat will eventually row the boat to the shore of communism with or without communist leadership. This kind of statement is an expression of a very teleological and metaphysical conception of progress and revolution. However, when we look at the past, we see that socialism did exist in the Soviet Union and China, yet it has been lost. What is to prevent the proletariat, the revolution, from rowing their boat in circles forever? This is why it is important to understand that Marxism is one thing and one thing only: revolutionary science. The most advanced form of revolutionary science is the new breakthrough of all-powerful, awesome Leading Light Communism. Science learns. Even though socialism has been lost everywhere, the knowledge of that experience survives in the form of the highest stage of revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism. Even though we lost the Soviet Union, China and other other progressive experiments, Leading Light Communism has preserved the lessons of the revolutionary experience of the last century. The next time we take power, the proletariat will be able to march further toward communism. This is one reason it is so important to struggle against revisionism, especially First Worldism. This is why it is so important to elevate the highest revolutionary science. The last two  big, sustained revolutionary waves were defeated. The Bolshevik revolution was defeated after World War 2 and the Maoist revolution in China was defeated in the 1970s. We stand like Lenin before 1917. There are no socialist states. We stand before the next upsurge, the next wave of revolution. We need to continue the breakthrough of the Leading Light. If we do not understand history, we will be condemned to repeat it because we will face many of the same issues that past revolutionaries faced. We will face many of the same difficulties and problems. We must adapt, learn, find new solutions, and go further. Leading Light Communism upholds what was correct about past revolutions, but drops what was wrong. Leading Light looks backward, but also forward. All Leading Lights should familiarize themselves with history. This is not the last word, but it is the beginning of knowledge.

Our journey

Bolshevik wave in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe

The Soviet Union and those revolutions and movements that flowed from it represent the first great wave of truly sustained revolution into socialism and toward communism. The Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, along with other forces helped overthrow the corrupt, Czarist monarchy. They then overthrew the social-democratic, social-imperialist regime of Alexander Kerensky. Soviet socialism’s birth can be said to be “Red October” of 1917. This revolution occurred during a capitalist crisis, in the middle of World War 1. German forces  had invaded part of the Russian empire on the “Eastern Front.” After deposing the reactionary Czar and social-democrats from state power, the communists had to fight to survive. The reactionary forces regrouped and launched a civil war (1917 to 1923) against the new socialist regime. The imperialists invaded parts of the country to aid the reactionary “white” armies. The Red Army, with the power of the people, beat back the reactionary forces. However, the country was left in ruin. World War 1, the revolutionary insurrection,  and the civil war had taken their toll. In addition, the reactionaries forces made a conscious effort to loot, plunder, and destroy the country’s wealth and productive forces. Reactionaries consciously sought to destroy the country rather than allow the revolution to succeed.

The Bolsheviks inherited a devastated country. They were surrounded on all sides. In order to rebuild the country, Vladimir Lenin implemented the New Economic Policy, which lasted from 1921 to 1928. This was a limited retreat from communist ideals. It was a policy that allowed  limited markets and small-scale, private production alongside socialization of major industry. However, problems arose. New capitalist groups were forming. Grain was being exported and sold on international markets while the cities went hungry. In addition, there was not enough grain being sent to the cities to go forward with industrialization. Originally, the Soviets hoped their revolution would spark a worldwide revolution. When the Soviet revolution did not immediately spread, some advocated capitulation to capitalism. By contrast, Joseph Stalin, following Lenin, advocated going forward to build “socialism in one country” instead of capitulating. As a result of the push to construct socialism, agriculture was collectivized. Stalin famously said that they would be crushed by the imperialists if the Soviet Union did not go forward to modernize. The grain crisis and the problem of modernization were solved together. The First Five Year Plan, a massive plan to rapidly industrialize, was implemented. This involved a massive social dislocation. In the countryside, the remaining capitalists and rich peasants resisted. They slaughtered their animals and destroyed fields rather than hand them to the collectives. They sabotaged production. They physically fought against the communists. The result of this struggle was crisis and death. Eventually, collectivization was completed. Industrialization rapidly advanced. However, the process could be harsh at times. The human toll was high. Mao Zedong later criticized Stalin’s approach as too hard on the peasants. However, it is hard to see how Stalin could have done otherwise. Domestic enemies within. Imperialists and fascists waiting to invade. Stalin needed to industrialize rapidly to give the Soviet Union the ability to defend itself. The Red Army needed tanks and arms. Tanks require industry. In order to create industry, they needed austerity measures. When the Nazis invaded, Stalin was proven right. Over 27 million Soviet peoples died as a result of the terrible war. The Nazis planned to exterminate and enslave all the Soviet peoples in order to clear land for their racist, fascist empire. Stalin’s regime, and the austerity and sacrifice that it entailed, saved the Soviet peoples and the world from fascism. Sometimes there is no perfect choice. Stalin represents the hard choice. He did what was necessary to survive.

The Soviet Union emerged victorious from World War 2. The Red Army had liberated most of Eastern Europe from fascism. “People’s Democracies” were established in most of Eastern Europe. Germany was divided. Eastern Germany became a client state of the Soviet Union. Stalin had spread the Soviet reach far beyond “one country” by the end of the war. However, even though the Soviet Union had been devastated again by a world war, it emerged as a modern superpower. Under the leadership of Lenin, then Stalin, the country went from a backwater with feudal characteristics, with little industrialization, to being a modern, industrial, atomic superpower with a healthy standard of living. Socialism had created public education for all, literacy, doubled life expectancy, gave women political rights, gave workers and the poor political power, gave power to national populations that had been traditionally discriminated against and oppressed. All of this social revolution and technological revolution was carried out in a crisis situation, under very harsh conditions. It was carried out during and in the middle of two of the worst wars the world had ever seen. It took the West about 200 years to industrialize and emerge as major powers. The West’s development was accomplished, in part, by plundering indigenous civilizations and enslaving Africans. By contrast, the Soviet Union developed into a modern power in only a few decades without plundering or exploiting any other countries as the imperialists had. And the Soviets accomplished this while they were under siege on all sides by imperialists and fascists. All in all, socialism proved a better modernizer than capitalism.

Even with all these accomplishments, Soviet socialism did not last. Social revolution had to be scaled back in order to wage war. Survival during the war meant that social experiment and revolution was pulled back. This turn continued through reconstruction after World War 2 up until Stalin’s death in 1953. Many mark the death of Stalin in 1953 or the rise of Khrushchev in 1956 as the final blow to Soviet socialism. Others trace it to the end of the World War 2. The exact date is not important. It was in this general period that the Soviet revolution stagnated and failed to reinvent itself to advance. It began to revert to state capitalism and social imperialism. Stalin’s support of Zionist Israel in 1947 is an example of the Soviet Union no longer behaving as a revolutionary state, but as a self-serving one. Although Stalin backed the Zionists in an effort to set up another “people’s democracy” that would break up the imperial encirclement on the Soviet southern flank, such a move reflects a lack of trust in the Arab masses to depose imperialism and the lackey, comprador Arab regimes by themselves. Trying to establish a settler, puppet state on Arab land is a betrayal of the Arab peoples and the proletariat. Even so, Stalin is still seen as a great hero in the ex-Soviet countries. Even so, Stalin was a communist leader.

The Soviet approach to socialism was influenced by the Theory of Productive Forces. It overemphasized the role of technology. It tended to see society as a kind of machine to be organized according to a strict central plan. This approach was too “top-down” and vertical. This machine paradigm tends to discount spontaneity, locality, and the human factor. Along with this, they failed to understand the problem of counter-revolution scientifically. They saw the problem through the police paradigm. When the system ran into problems, they did not blame the social machine. The problem wasn’t socialism as a transition, but, rather, the problem, in their view, came from outside. They saw preventing counter-revolution as mainly an issue of better policing. They saw problems as the result of old class enemies, agents and wreckers. They failed to fully understand that society should not be organized as a machine. They failed to realize that socialism itself, as a transitional period,  generates new inequalities in privilege. These inequalities can crystallize and result in the emergence of a new bourgeoisie that will turn back socialism. This new bourgeoisie came into being before the Soviet system could reinvent itself and correct these problems. The Maoist model and the Cultural Revolution in China was an attempt to reinvent socialism to avoid these problems. After World War 2, the Soviet Union began behaving as an imperialist power to an extent. In the post-Stalin era, all hope was lost. The Soviet Union had become just another capitalist and imperialist power. However, before its degeneration, the Soviet Union had inspired the world. It was a red beacon of hope to the oppressed everywhere.

How long did the Soviet Union’s revolutionary phase last?

It began in October, 1917. Its end can be marked around the end of World War 2, Stalin’s death in 1953, or the consolidation of Khrushchev’s power in 1956. Basically, we can say the revolutionary period was the Lenin and most or all of the Stalin era.

What were Soviet socialism’s accomplishments?

1. The first proletarian state. Lenin said that without state power, all is illusion. For the first time in history our class was able to consolidate its hold on state power. Rather than being a tool of the reactionaries to oppress the people, the state was used to suppress the counter-revolutionaries and advance the revolution. From the commanding heights of state power, we were able to begin to remake all of society.

2. First successful planned economy. The Soviet Union was the first attempt by the proletariat to create an economy organized to serve the people. It was the first attempt to create an economy where the oppressed were not at the mercy of cold market forces. The proletariat and the oppressed escaped the anarchy of production that is capitalism. Instead, production was brought under the control of the state and the party of the proletariat.

3. Great leap. Under proletarian leadership, the Soviet Union went from an undeveloped backwater to a modern superpower able to challenge imperialism on the world stage. Under the Czar, only a few cities were industrialized. Under the leadership of our class, a whole country was modernized. Even the atom was conquered. The Soviet Union became the second most powerful country on Earth.

4. Defeat of fascism. During World War 2, the Soviet peoples suffered over 27 million deaths, more casualties than all other countries combined. The Great Patriotic War against fascism was a people’s war against fascism. It was the Soviet people who were the front line fighters in this struggle against Adolf Hitler and his vile racist ideology. Had the Soviet Union not existed, Hitler’s troops would have marched to the Pacific ocean. They would have won World War 2 and done to Eastern Europe and Asia what the United States did to its Indigenous peoples. In fact, Hitler took the genocide and “Manifest Destiny” carried out by the United States as his model. The Soviet Union, its Red Army, our Party led by Stalin, stopped Hitler’s genocidal armies in their tracks.

5. New proletarian culture. The old culture was one that promoted racism, chauvinism, sexism, privileges, and inequality. For the first time in history, the oppressed and exploited were in control of art and media. A new proletarian culture was born to promote the values of peace, equality and self-determination. Our art and our song were seen and heard across the world.

6. Advancing and spreading revolutionary science. The Bolshevik revolution advanced our understanding of revolutionary science. It was out of the Bolshevik revolutionary experience that Lenin developed his theory of the state, of dual power, of the vanguard party, of the self-determination of nations. Lenin’s contributions have become a key part of Marxism today,  Leading Light Communism. A country spanning one sixth of the world’s land mass was now liberated, serving as a base area to spread our science and revolution around the world. It was through the Bolshevik experience that Marxism became Marxism-Leninism. Revolutionary science was advanced to a whole new stage. Marxism-Leninism was the second stage of revolutionary science. The revolution spread revolutionary science across the globe; it spread Marxism-Leninism.

7. A higher standard of living. Soviet peoples lived under terrible conditions under the Czarist empire.  Terrible starvation. Terrible poverty. Terrible oppression. Under the socialist regime, the standard of living  increased. Although there were some problems, eventually the food problem was solved. Everyone had food, shelter, and healthcare. Everyone received the right to an education. The Soviet Union went from a backwater to being a modern, atomic power. Life expectancy doubled. Child mortality rates fell. The Soviet people were grateful to socialism, and to their leaders, especially Lenin and Stalin, for the improvements in their everyday life. Even today, opinion polls consistently rank Lenin and Stalin as two of historic leaders most admired in Russia.

The Soviet Union was not perfect. Our revolution in the Soviet Union was lost to counter-revolution. A new capitalist class emerged and reversed our great accomplishments; they finally  consolidated their counter-revolution after World War 2. All was not lost. The first great wave of sustained revolution inspired a second. Under Maoist leadership, the Chinese revolution advanced even further. We must learn and improve on the past, so we can do better next time. Even with its errors, the Soviet experience has much to teach us today.

What were the problems of Soviet socialism?

There were several interconnected problems. Soviet socialism was too influenced by the Theory of Productive Forces. It put too much emphasis on the role of technology in creating socialism. Along with this, economic development and society itself was seen through a kind of machine paradigm. When problems occurred, it was not the fault of the model, but too often attributed to foreign agents and wreckers. Thus they tended to see problems, including the problem of counter-revolution, through the police paradigm rather than a material, structural paradigm or power paradigm. The result was a Soviet regime that erred on the side of commandism at times. It was too commandist, especially with regard to the peasants. A large police and prison apparatus emerged. These features affected the whole tone of the regime. The regime was also workerist. It failed to adequately understand other forms of oppression. Soviet socialism failed to fully understand the relationship between humanity and the ecosystem scientifically. Many of these criticisms were made by the Maoists who later tried to correct these tendencies during their own socialist experiment. However, the Maoists did not go far enough in their critiques. They ended up repeating some of the errors. This summation of the Soviet experience is one of the advances of the Leading Light. Another error was that they never broke with First Worldism. This deformed their socialism by measuring it against the imperialist, Western economies. Leading Light Communism has repudiated and corrected this error.

Did the Bolsheviks and Stalin kill millions?

Anti-communists make all kinds of outrageous claims about the deaths caused by communism. There is no consensus on the number. Estimates vary greatly. Many did surely die in the Soviet experiment unnecessarily — social experiments are not perfect, errors get made.  It is very difficult to say how many of these deaths were avoidable or unavoidable. However, almost all of those who died unnecessarily would have been victims of famine. Famines existed long before the Bolsheviks. Deaths were not intentional. In fact, the Bolshevik intention was to increase life, not exterminate it. We need to look at the good along with the bad. Life expectancy was doubled. The child-mortality rate dropped. Literacy spread. Women and workers gained power over their lives.  Stalin’s regime was far from the ideal in terms of its harshness. At the same time, it was that quality that produced the organization, discipline, and ideological unity to defeat the Nazis. And the Nazi’s stated goal was to enslave and exterminate all of the Soviet peoples. Stalin’s regime foiled the fascist plan. Overall, the Soviet peoples did far better under socialism than capitalism.

We have to remember that capitalism kills far more than socialism ever did. Looting of the Americas greased the wheels of early capitalism. Genocide and plunder of the Americas helped kickstart capitalism. An entire continent was exterminated. Millions of Africans were killed and enslaved in plantations resembling concentration camps. Even today, capitalism kills millions every year around the world in the poor countries. American imperialism wages wars all over the globe. Capitalism is leading us toward an ecological catastrophe that will kill everyone. The victims of capitalism are far greater. Socialism and communism are the only real solutions. To not fight for socialism and communism perpetuates the current murderous system.

What about the Gulag?

Not all prisons were gulags in the Soviet Union. Gulags were camps in the Soviet Union for hardened criminals (rapists, murderers, etc.) and hardened political enemies (spies, saboteurs, fascists, etc.). They were camps where people were forced to do hard labor under difficult conditions. In certain periods and locations, mortality rates in the camps were especially high. Living conditions in the camps got worse as conditions worsened for society as a whole. Prisoners in gulags were hit hard by famines in the country and by World War 2. The limited resources were directed to those who were laboring outside in the factories and fields  or to the front lines.

The gulags were another symptom of the same harshness and commandism of the Stalin era. Although we should not overstate the horrors of the gulag, we should not dismiss them either. The Maoist approach in China was one that put much more emphasis on ideological education through labor and less emphasis on  squeezing labor out of prisoners. We should, as much as possible, find ways of winning over and neutralizing class enemies so that we do not have to rely on incarceration.

Let’s look at this in perspective. The United States incarcerates more people than the Soviet Union or China. And, the United States also forces them to work. In addition, non-whites are disproportionately incarcerated in the United States. In addition, within the imperial system, prisons exist, forced labor exists, which is far worse than the gulags. The US economy was built on the extermination of indigenous peoples and on the slavery of Africans. Slavery was not abolished in the US economy, it was just moved halfway around the world to Third World factories where child and slave labor produces goods for First World costumers. These prisons, plantations, and factories are part of what keeps the current, capitalist system operating. Many of the criticisms of the Soviet system are hypocritical. However, we should avoid this error, of harshness and commandism, in the future.

What about the purges?

The role of the Communist Party is to guide society to communism. If there is a line within the Communist Party that is leading society back to capitalism, then it should be eliminated. Either the line should be corrected or the faction should be purged. If a group within the Communist Party is destroying the revolution from within, then it has to be rectified or purged — they should be kicked out. Purging, when done correctly, strengthens the Communist Party.

The Soviets over-relied on purges as a way to fight counter-revolution. By contrast, Maoists adopted a more  “bottom up,” mass approach. Maoists encouraged more education, debate, mass mobilization, and reform through labor. Maoists always gave people who had made mistakes more chances if they came to admit and understand their mistakes.  Purging should be one tool in the tool box. It should be used as a last resort. Correction through education is always preferable. Purging is not the only way to address the problem of counter-revolution.

What about the “Moscow Trials”?

The Moscow Trials were a series of show trials in the Soviet Union during the 1930s that were used for propaganda purposes. Many powerful leaders fell in these high-profile trials, including Bukharin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev. The trails were the outcome of a bloody power struggle between  the Communist Party represented by Stalin and their opponents. While many of the fallen leaders were guilty of various crimes, the sensational claims of the trials seem far-fetched to many. Some of the confessions were probably based on coercion of the defendants. These kinds of trials are a symptom of the police paradigm approach to line struggle and counter-revolution. The revisionists in China later tried the Maoists in a show trial.

What about the Hitler-Stalin Pact?

As World War 2 approached, the Soviets had tried to make an alliance with the West against Hitler early on. The West refused. Stalin knew the Nazis were going to go to war. The question was whether they would go west or east first. Stalin needed time to build up his industry, his tank and arms production. Stalin entered into a temporary pact with Hitler as a tactical move to get the Nazis to attack the West first. This gave Stalin more time to build up his defenses. Stalin made the hard choice needed to win. The Soviet forces did the bulk of the fighting against the Nazis. The Soviet Union saved the world from fascist night.

What about Stalin’s support for Israel?

Stalin extended military and diplomatic aid to the Zionist occupation of Palestine immediately after World War 2. Stalin did this in hopes of creating a refuge for a people who had suffered greatly in fascist Europe. Stalin also hoped to establish an Israeli state that was aligned with the Soviet Union; he hoped to create a “people’s democracy” as in Eastern Europe. It should be remembered that, at the time, the Zionist movement was led by many people who identified as leftists and socialists. Stalin wanted to use a Jewish state as a way to undermine British imperialism in the Middle East and on the Soviet southern flank. The British were allied with the Arab comprador classes at the time. The imperialists were actively fighting the Zionists, so the Soviets embraced them. As it turns out, Stalin’s support for Israel was a big error. Israel ends up being the backbone of imperialist control of the Middle East.

We should be critical of Stalin’s support for Israel. Israel’s move into the imperialist camp was entirely predictable. Israel was, after all, founded on a racial, settlerist ideology. It was a state created by stealing the land of the native inhabitants of the land, both Arab and Jew. Stalin’s support for Israel reflects a shift in Soviet politics. Rather than having faith in the revolutionary Arab masses, rather than supporting the masses, Stalin relied on geopolitics. The imperial, national interests of the Soviet Union seemed to be determining policy, not the interests of the global masses as a whole. Stalin’s decision to support Israel did tremendous damage to the revolutionary movement in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Support for Israel is part of the shift by the Soviets toward social-imperialism. It reflects growing revisionism amongst the Soviet leadership.

What about Trofim Lysenko?

Lysenko was a Soviet biologist who rejected Darwinism. It is widely held today that he was a hack whose ideas were advanced for their political merit within Soviet biology, not their scientific merit. Pseudo-science can exist in socialism just as it does in capitalism. All things considered, there is probably more pseudo-science passing itself off as legitimate under capitalism than there was under socialism. Capitalism promotes all kinds of ridiculous pseudo-science: astrology, phrenology, pop psychology, numerology, and on and on. In any case, Lysenko’s rise represents a real problem. Let’s look at the context though. Lysenko adopted a kind of Lamarckianism in biology that opposed Charles Darwin’s theories. Darwinism, at the time, was associated with racism and imperialism. It was associated closely with fascism and the rise of the Nazis. It was associated with “Social Darwinism” and racist eugenics. The Soviets sought another alternative that was politically compatible with socialism and communism. Unfortunately, the Soviets threw out the baby with the bathwater. The problem wasn’t Darwinism, but the reactionary political forces who were appropriating it. Karl Marx was a fan of Darwin. In other words, although Darwinism was true, it was being misused to justify the worst forms of racism and genocide at the time. The Soviets made a mistake, but an understandable one.

What about Stalin’s cult?

The times required strong leadership. People admire strong leaders. While elevating individual leaders runs contrary to the ultimate goals of communism, it is necessary to elevate outstanding leaders under certain circumstances. People project their hopes and dreams onto leaders.  Leaders can empower. Focus on the leader is a pre-scientific way of showing support for socialism by the masses. The rule with any cult is that if the cult is helping the revolution go forward, it is a good thing. If it is hindering it, it is a bad thing. The cult of Stalin was part of forging discipline in society. This discipline was necessary to carry out development at a breakneck pace and it was necessary in order to defeat the fascists. There is nothing wrong with elevating outstanding people who make outstanding contributions.

Criticism of the cult was a tool used by the revisionists to implement a capitalist overhaul of the system. We should try to elevate as many leaders as possible. We should not be afraid to give credit where credit is due. Great revolutionary heroes, great revolutionary leaders, great revolutionary geniuses deserve praise. Nobody is perfect. Even our best have flaws. We are works in progress. However, we should not be afraid to extol and emulate the best among our ranks. Today, the Leading Light represents our best.

We should also point out that it is better for people to latch onto a communist leader than a Paris Hilton or Obama. Capitalism produces cults of personality that are totally destructive. Far better to latch onto a leader who is leading us to communism than a party girl or imperialist war criminal.

What about abortion?

Abortion was outlawed in the Soviet Union in the Stalin era. This is for several reasons. First off, they had population issues. They expected a cycle of world wars to continue, as it did when the Nazis invaded. They needed population to fight Nazi Germany. They later needed to replace the 27 million who were killed as a result of the World War 2. Plus they expected more wars. Secondly, at the time, we have to remember that abortion was associated with racist eugenics. It was associated with national oppression and racism. Historically, the medical and political establishment used abortion to lower birth rates of oppressed peoples. Margaret Sanger, a famous bourgeois-feminist advocate for abortion, for example, used to go on speaking tours with racist ideologues and eugenicists. Bourgeois feminism has often been a tool used by imperialism against the most oppressed and the revolution. Abortionists advocated its practice as a way to reduce the Black, Indigenous, Latino, and other populations deemed undesirable in the United States. Russia was historically a racist and chauvinist empire. Stalin was from a people who had been historically oppressed by the Russian empire. Abortion was seen as a tool of national oppression at the time. Even today, abortion is used as a tool to lower birthrates of oppressed peoples — especially in parts of the Third World.  Thirdly, Soviet socialism lagged on certain gender issues. Leading Light Communism addresses this lag. The Leading Light supports the right to abortion in general, but Leading Light also recognizes how abortion can be used as a weapon of genocide. Leading Light recognizes there might be times when it is correct to oppose abortion.

What about homosexuality?

Homosexuality was originally legalized in the Soviet Union under Lenin. The Soviet Union was originally one of the most advanced states in its outlook toward queers. However, they later re-criminalized homosexuality under Stalin’s regime. Homosexuality was incorrectly associated exclusively with bourgeois decadence and fascism. It was perceived as part of Western cultural corruption. It was seen as  the concern of a very bourgeois, individualistic, and privileged strata. Homosexual culture was seen as decadent, individualistic, self-centered and contrary to the collectivist values of the revolution. The criminalization of homosexuality in Stalin’s Soviet Union was a mistake. Elsewhere in the world, however, the Communist movement was a refuge for homosexuals. For example, it is well-known that the Communist Party USA, in its revolutionary days, was a safe haven for queers. Many homosexual artists flocked to communist fronts at the height of the Communist Party’s influence in the United States.

Communists of the past did not address gender and sexuality adequately. There was the problem of guilt by association. Bourgeois feminists and gender activists have positioned themselves as part of the imperialist system and set themselves up against the most oppressed. Bourgeois  feminists and gender activists represent some of the most privileged strata globally. They have often attacked the revolutionary movement   while pretending to be progressive. Past communists mistakenly threw out the baby with the bathwater. However, some of the predecessor movements to Leading Light were on the forefront of the queer rights struggle. Leading Light stands for the rights of all. Leading Light repudiates the mistakes of the past by communists regarding gender and sexuality. Leading Light says nobody is free until everyone is free.

We also have to realize that all sexuality in the First World is marked by class. First World gender and sexual struggles usually take on imperialist forms. Heterosexuals and queers in the First World want more life options often at the expense of others in the Third World. Even though we should support the rights of all, we need to understand that gender and sexual struggles in the First World can adversely affect Third World peoples, including Third World queers and women. We need to be aware of this. The link between feminist, gender and sexual movements in the First World and imperialism is not simply the overactive imagination of communists.

Maoist wave in China

The Maoist revolution in China was part of the second great wave of sustained revolution. This revolutionary wave occurred during an economic crisis and after World War 2. The European imperialist powers had weakened each other by going to war with each other. This created an opening for making revolution in the colonies and neocolonies. National liberation movements seeking independence from European and American imperialism popped up all over the world. Often, social revolution, including communist-led social revolution, piggybacked on top of these national liberation movements. Of all of these, the Maoist revolution in China was the most significant. It involved a quarter of the world’s population. And its social revolution was the most radical. The Maoists sought to reorganize society at the deepest levels in order to actually reach communism. The Maoist revolution in China was a long and bloody one with many twists and turns. It lasted over half a century. At its peak, during the Cultural Revolutionary years, the Maoist revolution represented the furthest advance toward communism in human history.

In the early part of the twentieth century, China was in chaos. Semi-feudalism was the dominant mode of production. Poverty was everywhere. The majority of Chinese were destitute, impoverished peasants. Slavery was still practiced. Many Chinese lived as European serfs once had. Famines were common. Epidemics swept the country. There was little or no healthcare for the majority of Chinese. Women were treated as property. Women’s feet were often crippled in order to make them more easily controlled by men. China was in a dark age. China’s coast had been carved up by competing imperialist powers who had occupied its ports. The central government was weak. Warlords and opium traffickers were in constant civil war with each other. The imperialists fueled these wars in order to divide and conquer. In 1937, imperial Japan invaded and occupied China. The Chinese communists were attacked on all sides. They were attacked by the anti-communist state. They were attacked by the warlords and feudalists. They were attacked by the imperialists, especially the Japanese. It was by taking up the national banner that the communists were able to rally the people to their cause. The communists raised the national banner against the “two mountains” of imperialism and feudalism. The communists organized a people’s army and seized power in the countryside. They created New Power. They created their own society and state in the remote countrysides and mountains. They created red zones, base areas. The communists fought the imperialists. They fought the feudal warlords. The communists carried out land reform.  They began the liberation of women. They carried out New Democratic revolution, the first stage of China’s revolution. They created a new system everywhere they went. They slowly expanded their New Power. The people’s war went from the countryside to surround China’s cities. It was in 1949 that the communists drove the imperialists and their lackeys from the mainland. It was on October 1st, 1949 that Mao declared “China has stood up” at Tiananmen. Mao declared the birth of the People’s Republic of China.

China’s revolution went through many phases. The first phase was the New Democratic revolution. This phase aimed at getting rid of the “two mountains” of feudalism and imperialism. It focused on land reform, national development, national unity, creating a functioning society, creating the beginnings of  democratic control, creating a central state, beginning the liberation of women, public education, healthcare, literacy, etc. Limited capitalism, as a method of national development, still existed during New Democracy. The New Democratic Revolution laid the groundwork for further, socialist social transformation. The New Democratic Revolution began to phase into socialist construction after 1949, into the 1950s. Socialist construction meant even greater collectivization of the productive forces. It meant collectivizing agriculture and industry. It meant putting the workers in command. It meant creating more and more revolutionary culture in place of old culture. It means more class struggle. It means trying to move toward communism. The two major efforts at trying to push to a higher level of socialism were the Great Leap and the Cultural Revolution.

The Maoists sought to reorganize Chinese society at the deepest level. They saw the mistakes that the Soviets had made by putting too much emphasis on technology, the productive forces. Maoists saw revolution as a train on two tracks: development of the productive forces and reorganization of power. Of these, the latter was principal for the Maoists. They adopted a more “bottom up,” people-power approach. They sought to unleash the masses to build socialism by using mass campaigns and mass line. The Maoist model was one that allowed for more mass spontaneity and more creativity. They sought to reorganize all of society into people’s communes. These communes would be the basic unit of society, eventually replacing the central state apparatus. These communes were to be as self-sufficient and as sustainable as possible. They would produce their own food and they would have their own industry. Housework and traditional women’s work was to be phased out. For example, the people’s communes sought to have  community meals in public dining halls, thus shifting “women’s work” onto the collective. In the communes, people strove to be equals. Even most teens could participate politically in communes.  Thus the communes sought to encourage youth liberation and youth participation in politics. Later, during the Cultural Revolution, even young teens and children participated in politics at various levels. Education was combined with work in the communes just as the People’s Liberation Army combined its training with economic work and ideological work. These communes were created during the Great Leap, but they ran into problems due to opposition, sabotage and mismanagement. A food crisis resulted from human errors and natural disasters. This resulted in a temporary defeat for the Maoists.  After the Great Leap, Maoist power waned. A new capitalist class, a revisionist group, began to rise to displace the Maoists. They sought to reverse socialist construction and dismantle the people’s communes. As a result, the Maoists launched the Cultural Revolution in 1965. Mao’s general Lin Biao took control of the People’s Liberation Army and turned it into a bastion of communist thought. Lin Biao advocated a worldwide people’s war from the global countryside to surround the global cities, from poor to rich countries. Mao then called on the students to rise up and rebel against their teachers and overthrow those in the Communist Party and state who were betraying the revolution. Red guard students and rebel workers took to the streets. They took over whole cities. They formed huge armies to protect socialism. For a moment, they were able to consolidate socialist power at even a higher level with the help of Lin Biao’s People’s Liberation Army. The communes were defended. More collectivization occurred. A whole new culture of revolution was promoted. Big philosophical debates were carried out in the streets and in the media. All of society was aspiring to reach communism. Unfortunately, it did not last. Mao shifted rightward and allowed the revisionists to launch their offensive against the left. Mao, who was old and sick, began slipping ever rightward. The revisionists struck back hard. The revisionists were able to kill and discredit Lin Biao, who had been the voice and face of the Cultural Revolution and people’s war. The revisionists seized command of the People’s Liberation Army. Throughout the 1970s, Mao presided over a regime that systematically moved toward the restoration of capitalism. The regime in the 1970s even began aligning with the United States in world affairs. Mao hoped to have a negotiated settlement between the revisionists and the remaining Maoists, but the revisionists were easily able to sweep away the remaining Maoists, the so-called “Gang of Four,” shortly after Mao died in September of 1976.

Today’s capitalism in China was born when the right and revisionists struck against Lin Biao. Today’s China is thoroughly capitalist. The economies of China and the Unites States are intertwined. The China of today puts its children in sweatshops to produce toys for children in the United States. It guns down its striking workers so that value continues to flow out of China to the United States and the First World. It guns down its students who stand up to question its course. The Chinese state is an integral part of Empire. The so-called Chinese Communist Party recently made a pronouncement that it is no longer a “revolutionary party,” but a “ruling party.” Mao said that it will take many revolutions to reach communism in China. He is correct. China needs revolution today. China needs Leading Light Communism.

Why did Mao zig-zag at the end of his life?

Mao did not always uphold the revolutionary line in his last years. Even though he was a great revolutionary, even Mao began to slip into revisionism at times. This is why it is important to understand the importance of line. We need to follow revolutionary science, not simply a leader. Some leaders can come to embody revolutionary science in a concentrated way, but as soon as they deviate, they must be called out. Even Mao should have been called out when he rehabilitated Deng Xiaoping, for example.  We should also take into account that Mao was old. He was showing signs of deterioration. He should have considered stepping down earlier. Ultimately, we should focus on broader questions of social forces instead of individual leaders. Even though great leaders emerge who play pivotal roles, we always need to have an eye on the social forces. The defeat of the Chinese revolution cannot simply be that Mao turned rightward in the 1970s. Mao would not have been able to do that if the social forces weren’t there pulling him in that direction. The defeat cannot simply be that Mao died in 1976. The reasons for the defeat of the Chinese revolution are deeper than any individual.

What were the accomplishments of the Maoist revolution?

There were many accomplishments of the Maoist revolution in China. Think about it: A quarter of the world’s population was mobilized to build a new world. The Maoist revolution was vast and profound. The Maoist revolution sought to reorganize all of society to root out all oppression and exploitation, to actually reach communism. It was the greatest feminist movement of all time. A quarter of the world’s women stood up to say “we will no longer be property!” Patriarchal, feudal relations were ended across a quarter of the world. Even with the food crisis during the Great Leap, China solved its food problem overall. China went from a country with regular famines to a country that could feed itself. An illiterate population became literate. Life expectancy doubled. The infant-mortality rate declined. China became strong. Like the Soviet Union before it, China went from a feudal state to a modern atomic power. A whole new culture was developed. Egalitarianism was promoted. Altruism,  “serve the people,” was promoted. New socialist art and culture emerged to replace the old, reactionary art. The Chinese matched the accomplishments of the Soviets, but went even further. They created a more advanced model of socialism that was more mass oriented and “bottom up.” They sought to begin phasing out the state in order to actually reach communism. They began to understand the nature of counter-revolution and the need for continuous cultural revolution to fight it. The Chinese revolution went further than all previous attempts to reach communism.

What about Mao’s violence?

Revolution is no dinner party. Revolutions are acts of violence. To deny this is to deny revolution. The system is far more violent than revolution. We always have to remember this. The violence of the revolution pales in comparison to the violence of capitalism and imperialism. Mao said we wage war to end war. However, Mao also said that heads are not like leeks; when you cut them off, they do not grow back. Maoists have always tried to avoid bloodshed when possible. Instead, Maoists have emphasized persuasion and education of enemies. While there were executions, the Maoist regime tried to avoid violence by the state against its enemies. Most of the Maoist violence that did occur was spontaneous, Jacobin violence by red guard youth and rebel workers against gangs of revisionists. They had running-street battles with each other. However, the Maoists were often on the receiving end of the violence. Maoists were often the ones being put down by the revisionist wing of the security forces and local revisionist Party bosses. For example, according to one scholar, most of the deaths during the Cultural Revolution were Maoist red guards themselves. As a rule, Maoists avoid violence. As Mao said, we wage war to end war. Leading Lights use persuasion and education as much as possible.

Did Mao kill millions? What about the famine?

Anti-communists claim that Mao killed millions. Most of the deaths attributed to Mao by anti-communists are deaths that resulted from the food crisis that occurred during the Great Leap. These critics ignore the fact that Mao doubled life expectancy. They ignore that, despite the single food crisis, famines were ended under Mao’s reign. They also fail to compare it to famines that occur under capitalism. They also fail to look at the context or details. China had always had periodic famines. Mao put an end to that, even though a food crisis occurred during the Great Leap. Under Mao, China finally solved its food problem. All of this is ignored by anti-communists. There was a food crisis during the Great Leap that in all probability killed some. The estimates of deaths are all over the place — some high, some low. Many of the numbers are pulled out of thin air. Whatever the numbers, remember that China accounted for a quarter of the world’s population at the time, probably over 800 million. A quarter of the world’s population lived in China. There are no accurate records from the time. The archives of the Communist Party were altered several times to suit political agendas. So nobody really knows how many died. Some people claim that there was a food crisis, but no real famine. Others claim there was a famine, but they disagree on its size. The famous Black revolutionary and communist W.E.B. Dubois reported not seeing famine conditions when he toured China. Joshua Horn, who lived there, reported seeing no famine. However, China is a big place. And there are many, many accounts that confirm the crisis. The revisionists and the anti-communists have an interest in exaggerating the deaths in order to smear the communist project. We need to be very cautious here. The anti-communists have a long track record of lying and exaggeration. Even so, we can say “where there is smoke, there is probably fire.” We do not deny that there was a great food crisis during the Great Leap that probably killed many. The crisis was big enough to seriously reduce Mao’s position in the leadership. However, the question is what caused the crisis. The crisis was not mainly caused by communist policies, although there was mismanagement — sometimes extreme mismanagement. There were terrible natural disasters in that period that significantly affected the food supply. There was sabotage. A US embargo meant China could not purchase grain from abroad. Also, the Soviets, in a conscious wrecking effort, withdrew their aid, thereby leaving projects stagnant and in disarray across China. The egalitarian policies saved lives overall, in the long-term. However, there was extreme mismanagement in cases. Maoists ended up saying the crisis was 70 percent natural disasters and 30 percent human error.

What we have to keep in mind is that these deaths were unintentional. They resulted from a crisis in the food supply. All over the world far more people die from the US-dominated capitalist-imperialist system than ever died from the crisis years during the Great Leap. The Maoists tried to save people, but they failed. They made mistakes in an effort to liberate. By contrast, the capitalist system itself is designed to starve millions every year. Every year, millions starve due to capitalism. There is always a crisis with the capitalist food supply. The capitalist system kills far more and there is no end in sight to the horror. We have to remember that revolution, deeply reorganizing society, is very difficult. We will not get everything right. The key is recognizing our errors and learning from them. The first big Maoist push toward communism, the Great Leap, ran into difficulties. The second push, the Cultural Revolution, went much better. During the second big Maoist push, the Cultural Revolution, there was no food crisis. In fact, those years were some of the most productive. The point is that socialism may not be perfect, but because it is scientific, it learns. And even socialism’s errors are better than capitalism’s “successes.”

What about the backyard furnaces?

During the Great Leap, small steel blast furnaces were constructed in the backyards of the people’s communes. They used local materials in an attempt to produce steel. When they could not access iron ore, they melted down  tools to make steel. However, because of poor technique, the steel was mostly useless. This resulted in a loss of capital due to poor planning and implementation. This instance is often held up as an example of lofty socialist goals leading to ruin. The reality is that the entire program was not a disaster. The results varied from region to region. In some places, the steel was usable. The results were mixed.

The backyard furnaces were an effort to substitute large-scale industry concentrated in industrial centers with small and medium-sized industry distributed more evenly across the countryside. Traditionally, in China, the cities enjoyed a privileged status over the countryside. In many ways, the cities were parasitic centers of management and export. These were efforts to breakdown the traditional division between the countryside and city. In many other instances shifting production from large industrial centers to smaller and medium-sized industrial sites in the countryside proved a success. The overall strategy, especially in other industries, was successful even if the effort to relocate steel production failed. Anti-communists fail to see the forest for the trees. The critique of the backyard furnaces is a case of what Mao called “one finger against the many.”

What about the sparrows?

Today, it is commonplace for the bourgeoisie to mock anti-pest campaigns in China. The biggest target is the anti-sparrow campaign during the Great Leap Forward. In fact, the anti-sparrow campaign is rightly criticized. It backfired and resulted in very bad consequences because people did not adequately understand the role the sparrow played in the ecology. Sparrows killed pests that attacked crops. Lowering the numbers of sparrows hurt agricultural production. The anti-sparrow campaign is an example of poor planning and over-enthusiasm. However, we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Mistakes will always be made on the long road to communism. To expect no mistakes is utopian. Unlike other pest campaigns, the anti-sparrow campaign was not scientific. It is wrong to dismiss the Maoist approach, to dismiss mass mobilizations, because of mistakes and excesses. The anti-snail fever campaign, for example, was another anti-pest campaign that greatly benefited the Chinese people. Snail fever is one of the world’s greatest scourges. At the time of the campaign, it affected 250 million people, almost all in the Third World. As late as 1955, there were 50 million sufferers in China alone. Among parasitic diseases in tropical and sub-tropical regions, it ranks only behind malaria it terms of socioeconomic and health importance. Even today it affects 200 million. Twenty thousand die from snail fever every year. Twenty million suffer serious consequences from the disease. An estimated 600 million people worldwide are at risk from the disease. China’s socialism launched a war against this scourge. Snail fever was all but eliminated in much of China. The Communists claimed an 85% to 95% cure rate among afflicted people. The disease was all but wiped out in areas that had been previously afflicted on an epidemic scale. The Communist Party declared that it could “cure what the powers above have failed to do.” However, when capitalism returned to China so too did schistosomiasis. Today, the epidemic is back. And, with global warming it could be worse than ever. The point is that the anti-sparrows campaign is not representative of the Maoist approach or even the anti-pest campaigns in general. It was a mistake that better science did correct. Leading Light Communism puts much more emphasis on the importance of ecology.

What about re-education? What about persecution of intellectuals?

For thousands of years, people have been taught that some are better than others. Inequality, hierarchy and privilege is ingrained in the culture. We all need ideological remolding. We are all works in progress. Nobody is perfect. We need the help of our comrades to perfect ourselves in order to better serve the people. However, some people will need more remolding than others. Communists, especially in China, always prefer using education and persuasion on people, even on class enemies and counter-revolutionaries. The Maoists tried to find the good in people, even in class enemies. The Maoists gave enemies a chance to redeem themselves.

Traditionally, in China, intellectuals were servants of the system. They were mostly a parasitic strata that served as functionaries of the feudalists and imperialists. Intellectuals thought of themselves as better than the people. Traditionally, intellectual work was valued over physical work. The communists in China sent many intellectuals, including Communist Party functionaries and state bureaucrats, to the countryside and factories to experience what real work was like. This was a method to fight corruption. They believed that if intellectuals, functionaries, and bureaucrats experienced life alongside the masses, then they would be less inclined to exploit and oppress them. In addition, the communists tried to promote the masses into positions of authority and into intellectual work. This was part of an effort to breakdown the traditional division between mental and manual labor. It was an effort to breakdown traditional hierarchy. Of course, many intellectuals opposed the attack on their traditional privilege. When the communist revolution was defeated, they wrote “horror stories” about how they were made to labor alongside the masses.

Maoist efforts to equalize society were a positive thing. Intellectual strata and technocrats should not exist over and above the masses. They should labor alongside them. Even leaders, even great leaders, should get their hands dirty. There is nothing wrong with education and re-education. Education is inherently good. We need to create as many educated leaders as possible. We need an educated population to reach communism. In China, in the revolutionary period, they spoke of society being a school of revolution. Leading Light Communism will transform all of society into a school of revolutionary science. We should aspire to this ideal.

What about the cult of Mao?

Mao was a great leader. Mao was the greatest revolutionary of the last wave of revolution. People project their hopes and dreams onto leaders. The focus on the leader is a pre-scientific way of showing support for socialism by the masses. The rule with any cult is that if the cult is helping the revolution go forward, it is a good thing. If it is hindering it, it is a bad thing. Mao’s cult was mostly used in progressive ways, as a way to unify the people against imperialism and as a battering ram against the revisionists who wanted to restore capitalism. The cult was used as a way for the masses to knock down those with bureaucratic power. The cult was used against the revisionists concentrated in the Party and state apparatus.

Criticism of the cult was a tool used by the revisionists to implement a capitalist overhaul of the system. We should try to elevate as many leaders as possible. We should not be afraid to give credit where credit is due. Nobody is perfect. We are all works in progress. However, we should not be afraid to extol and emulate the best among our ranks. Great revolutionary heroes, great revolutionary leaders, great revolutionary geniuses deserve praise. They should be emulated. In these dark times, we are filled with  joy and hope since Leading Lights have risen to guide humanity back to the path of communism, to guide humanity out of the external night of exploitation and oppression. Great leadership, Leading Lights, are precious.

Why are they all dressed the same?

The Zhongshan suit (also known as “the Mao suit”) was not required dress. People embraced it as a style of dress because it reflected the spartan, egalitarian ideals of the revolution. Traditional Chinese society was a feudal one where dress reflected social rank. The Mao suit eliminated signs of outward difference. It also eliminated some of the traditional gender distinctions reflected in dress. Lin Biao eliminated outward displays of rank from the People’s Liberation Army. This was an effort to extend the revolution’s ideals even into the realm of dress. In a society  where great social hierarchies were reflected in dress, it makes perfect sense for revolutionaries to want to overcome those by adopting such an egalitarian style. As the revolution became more and more openly capitalist in the 1980s, the Mao suit fell from favor. Revolutions of the future may generate their own styles of dress that are very different from the past. We do not have to be limited by the past.

What about art and literature?

The Maoist regime tried to encourage those who produced art and literature to serve the people. Art, literature, and other culture is part of social programing. In China, traditional culture was used to justify gross inequalities within society. The traditional art served feudalism and imperialism. It taught the poor that they were not as good as the rich. It taught the rich that they were better than the poor. It encouraged racism by Han Chinese against other nationalities in China. It encouraged the oppression of women and the young. Lives are lost. People starve. People are enslaved because of inequality and the culture that encourages it. Artists who encourage injustice and inequality are not innocent victims. To really transform society, it is necessary to transform the social programming of people. It is necessary to transform culture. This was a big part of the Maoist Cultural Revolution. The Maoists sought to revolutionize the whole way people looked at the world. They encouraged the masses to take to the streets to strike out against those who were oppressing them. Some artists and intellectuals were made to answer before the oppressed. Some were made to labor with the peasants to experience what life was like for those they had oppressed. Revolutions are messy. Sometimes the Maoists and the masses overreacted. However,  their overall effort to make art serve the people was a righteous struggle.

In addition, there was another problem. The old culture, the old art forms, which were based on oppression had developed over thousands of years. The Maoist revolution was trying to replace all that social programming in a relatively short period. The Maoists tried to preserve as much of the old art as possible by “making the old serve the new.” However, much of it was too reactionary, classist, racist, sexist, etc. A void was left in the culture. This void had to be filled in a relatively short period. This is why  much of the communist art of this era, while very creative and stunning, sometimes looks the same. They were trying to replace thousands of years of reactionary art in a few decades.

What about Tibet?

Prior to the revolution, Tibet was a terrible place. It was a theocracy ruled by the Dalai Lama and an elite class of feudalist priests. Women were denied rights. Slavery was still permitted. Most of the people were impoverished. The monasteries, run by priests, owned all the land. The vast majority toiled away, barely surviving. When Mao led the revolution in China, Tibetan serfs and slaves began to rise up against their overlords. The Tibetan revolutionaries invited China to intervene to aid their struggle for equality and dignity. The Maoist revolution in Tibet brought social welfare, literacy, healthcare, modernization, political power for the poor, rights for women, the end of slavery, etc. Mao tried to strike a balance between allowing Tibet autonomy and allowing the social revolution to continue. The Dalai Lama and the old overlords wanted to turn back the clock. They opposed the Tibetan people. They opposed Chinese involvement. They even initiated a CIA-funded guerrilla war against the people and their Chinese allies. They based themselves in India, even enslaving local Indian peasants to work for their military efforts. The Dalai Lama’s CIA-backed forces were easily defeated. At times, the Maoists went too far in Tibet. And, under Deng Xiaoping, the Han Chinese began to colonize Tibet. Even so, the Tibetan revolution with Chinese help was a good thing for the Tibetan people. Whether or not the Tibet remains part of China today is something for Chinese and Tibetan Leading Lights to decide.

What were the problems of the Maoist revolution? Why did it fail?

If a revolution is not going forward to communism, then it is going backward toward the restoration of the reactionary social order: capitalism. If a revolution does not continually revolutionize culture and power, if it does not continually eliminate inequalities, then those reactionary ideas spread, inequalities solidify, a new ruling class, a new bourgeoisie arises and reverses the revolution. A new bourgeoisie rose within the organs of power in China because the revolution failed to continue to move forward. It failed to reinvent itself. It failed to stay creative. It stagnated. Unless inequality, privilege and hierarchy are continually reduced, revolutions reverse. Unless revolutions continue to reinvent themselves, stay creative, they perish. Part of this was connected to a return to overemphasis on the role of the productive forces. After the height of the Maoist period, the height of the Cultural Revolution years from 1965 to 1971, the revolution compromised and stagnated. The revisionists returned, in practice, back to the productionism — even though they continued to push Maoist rhetoric. They began tacitly adopting the Theory of Productive Forces again. They began reversing the Maoist gains in domestic policy. They ceased social experiment and ceased mobilizing the masses. They also began moving into the orbit of the imperialists as they began to de-emphasize power struggle and the masses in the 1970s. They began to put narrow Chinese interest above the global proletariat. They began to put nationalism above internationalism. They began to cut deals with the imperialists. In the end, the imperialists had the last laugh.

First Worldism also contributed to the reversal. Like the Soviet revolution, the Maoists never fully broke from the Theory of Productive Forces. They continued to measure socialism against the imperialist countries to an extent. Because they failed to see the true nature of the global class structure, they continued to aspire to surpass the West on the West’s terms. At times, they measured socialism against the imperialist countries because they failed to realize that the First World no longer contained a proletariat. They failed to realize that the West’s continued wealth was wholly dependent on continued imperialism, not on exploitation of Western workers. Thus it created an unattainable bar for socialism in the Third World to match. Thus capitalism became to look attractive to some. In addition, even though they critiqued the police paradigm in some ways, in other ways they never fully broke from it. Their practice lagged. They failed to carry the Cultural Revolution all the way through to the end. They failed to put the most advanced line fully in command of the revolution. Their understanding of the interaction between humans and the environment was inadequate. Their understanding of gender and other forms of oppression lagged. Their vision of communism and their science was not as advanced as the Leading Light’s. There were other errors also. They failed to reinvent the revolution, to continue the forward motion, to push the revolutionary wave forward on the global level as Lin Biao had advocated. They failed to stay creative. We must not repeat their errors.

A note on past revolution  and the environment

Past socialist experiments were not green enough. They sometimes saw nature as something to be conquered. In this respect, they inherited capitalist notions about modernization and the conquest of nature. Science now tells us that our planet is not an endless reservoir of resources. We must design a system that works with nature. We must see ourselves as part of nature, not something above it.

In the past, revolutionaries did not fully understand the role that environmental revolution played in socialist construction. Socialist societies have a mixed record on the environment. Socialist societies had successes as well as failures. Like capitalism, past attempts at socialism were dominated by a productionist outlook that pitted humanity against nature. This outlook saw greater and greater production, and the domination of nature, as the key to human happiness. This outlook is connected to the revisionist Theory of Productive Forces that sees socialism as mainly a matter of development of productive forces, particularly, advances in technology. The Theory of Productive Forces is also the theory behind First Worldism, the various theories that claim that there is a First World proletariat. Leading Light Communism rejects the Theory of Productive Forces, including the view that human happiness is connected to dominating the natural world. Instead, Leading Light Communism understands human society as a part of the natural world, not something that is separate, above and opposed to nature. Leading Light Communism understands that protecting natural systems, sustaining the natural world, will be a part of any future socialist construction. The dictatorship of the proletariat involves sustainable development, and protecting and preserving nature. After all, the survival of the human species, including the proletariat itself, is linked to sustaining our environment.

Leadership and misleadership

Revolutions happen in waves. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels lived as the modern communist movement was just beginning, mostly in the mid and late 1800s. At that time, Europe was filled with social contradictions waiting to explode. Cities erupted in revolution. The Paris Commune of 1871 is the best known. It was the first time the proletariat seized power, although it was not really sustained. It only lasted about two months. Marx and Engels were the first to really apply the methods of science in a rigorous way to the task of revolution and reaching communism. Many others around the same time rejected their scientific approach. There were utopians, anarchists, and social democrats competing to lead the movement for social justice. The next major breakthrough occurred with the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 led by Lenin. This revolution was the first sustained, prolonged attempt to reach communism. Lenin studied past attempts at revolution. He studied the works of Marx and Engels. He adapted and went beyond their work. He studied the Paris Commune. Lenin’s scientific work led him to guide the first sustained revolution that aimed  for communism, the Soviet Union in its revolutionary phase. Other revolutions flowed from this one. Like  in Marx’s day,  some had rejected Marx, in Lenin’s day, some misleaders rejected Lenin’s course. They rejected the best science of the time, which was represented by the Marxist tradition as advanced by Lenin. Some of these misleaders became social democrats and social imperialists of various stripes, including Trotskyists and Khrushchevites. While, the Soviet revolution, Soviet socialism, began to decline after World War 2, capitalism was being restored there, especially after Stalin’s death.  Even so, World War 2 had weakened the imperialist system. A wave of national liberation and anti-imperialist movements had begun to sweep the world. Often social revolution, including communist-led revolutions, piggybacked on top of nationalist and anti-imperialist struggles. The most significant of these social revolutions was the Maoist revolution in China that encompassed almost a quarter of the world’s population. The People’s Republic of China was declared in 1949. This revolution went through many twists and turns. Just as in the Soviet Union, a new capitalist class arose within the state and ruling party in China. This new class of exploiters sought to reverse the revolution. The Maoists launched several offensives to try to eliminate the new exploiters and to take society even further toward communism. The most significant was the Cultural Revolution period, whose peak was from 1965 to 1971. Even though the Maoists sought to go further toward communism, they were defeated. Capitalism was restored. There is no socialism now. The last waves of revolution have ended, but a new wave is growing on the horizon. The Leading Light has elevated revolutionary science to a whole new stage in order to initiate the global people’s war to advance all the way to communism. The Leading Light points the way forward, to create the next great wave.

The history of the modern revolutionary movement is a long and complex one. Many great and important leaders have emerged from these struggles. These leaders, in one way or another, have come to represent the exploited and oppressed. They have been theorists who have helped the oppressed understand their world in order to change it. They have been women and men of action who have stepped up to put their lives on the line, to lead. They have embodied the hopes and dreams of the wretched and downtrodden. They were some of the best, the shining stars, the Leading Lights of their times. They sacrificed for a better day. On the other hand, there are also those who have emerged from within our movements who have, whether consciously or not, betrayed it in very destructive ways. These misleaders were people who did not just deviate, but turned into counter-revolutionaries. Just as there were great leaders, there have been great misleaders who have emerged within the movement. These are revisionists of various stripes. These misleaders may have been people of good conscience or they may have been liars, but they delivered and continue to deliver terrible blows to the oppressed in the name of revolution and progress. Some misleaders have played  a more mixed role, playing a progressive role at certain times and a reactionary role at other times. Others are completely reactionary. Others are petty egoists and wreckers. To make revolution today, it is important to know this history. We must not repeat the errors of the past. Knowledge is power.

This history mostly focuses on the development of revolutionary science from Marx’s day to the Soviet revolutionary wave to the Maoist revolution. Although other, more limited social revolutions have occurred, the Soviet and Chinese represent the most important ones. Just as they opened up new stages in the history of revolution, so to does the global revolution of the Leading Light.

Leaders in the revolutionary tradition

Who were Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels?

Karl Marx (May 5th, 1818 to 14 March 1883) and  Friedrich Engels (November 28th, 1820 to August 5th, 1895) were both born in Germany, but lived in many countries throughout their lives. They were authors who collaborated on many works of philosophy, history and political economy. Most importantly, they were revolutionaries and the founders of “scientific communism.” They were the first to apply the methods of science to the project of reaching communism, total liberation. They wrote in the nineteenth century. They witnessed the rise of early capitalism. They examined how capitalism arose from feudalism. And they understood how capitalism was crisis ridden, that capitalism generated its own contradictions that would, eventually, lead to revolution, socialism, and communism. They began to understand how scientific laws govern society, social change and history. They experienced the early revolutionary movements against capitalism, including the Paris Commune of 1871, which Marx identified as the first instance of proletarian New Power. They advanced important theories of social transformation, value production, exploitation, alienation, class and revolution.

Marx wrote that the point of intellectual work is not simply to interpret the world, but to change it. Not only were they theorists, but also revolutionary organizers. They participated in the revolutionary movement of their day. They participated in the First International founded in 1864.  They understood that communist revolution is an internationalist revolution. They are giants. More than any other figures, they founded the modern revolutionary tradition.

Who was Lenin?

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was born in Russia on April 22nd, 1870. He died of natural causes on January 21st, 1924. In 1917, he led what was to become the first sustained socialist revolution, the Bolshevik revolution that created the Soviet Union. He expanded on Marx and Engels’ theories. At the time, revisionist social democrats had twisted Marx. The social democrats at the time advocated reformism, not revolution. Lenin  criticized these revisionists. Lenin said capitalism could not be reformed into its opposite. Capitalism must be destroyed. The old state, the Old Power, must be destroyed. Lenin supported revolution as the principal means of reorganizing society, not gradual, social evolution and reform. New Power must be created in its place. One of his main theoretical achievements was that he began to explain the rise of imperialism and how imperialism had transformed capitalism and the worker’s movement of his day. He saw that revolution would first happen in the weak links of the imperialist system, not the more modernized countries of Western Europe. He began to speak of a growing labor aristocracy in imperialist countries.  Lenin began to see that many workers in the imperialist countries had ceased to be proletarian. They ceased to be revolutionary. Instead, many were counter-revolutionary due to super-profits received by imperialism. His main contribution, however, was in practice. He advanced theories of communist organizing, the vanguard, democratic centralism, the party, dual power (i.e. New Power) and the state. He led the Soviet Union through a reconstruction period after 1917. The Soviet Union had been devastated from World War 1, imperialist incursions, famine, revolution and civil war. He led the first revolution that aimed for communism that really had a chance of winning. The Soviet Union became a beacon of hope to all the world’s peoples.

Who was Stalin?

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was born on December 18th, 1878 in Georgia, which was an oppressed nation within the Czarist empire at the time. He died on March  5th, 1953. Some people suspect that he was poisoned by his enemies. Stalin was a man of action. In his early years, he was a Robin Hood figure. He robbed banks to fund the revolution. Stalin was a union organizer and Communist Party leader. He wrote many articles which popularized the ideas of Marx and Lenin throughout the world. Stalin was a man of his times. It was under Stalin that the Soviet Union modernized at an incredible pace to become a modern superpower. Under Lenin’s, then Stalin’s, leadership, the Soviet Union went from a broken society to becoming one of the most powerful, healthy countries on Earth. At the same time, Stalin’s regime was heavy handed and ruthless because that is what the times called for. Hard times call for hard measures. Stalin represents the hard choice. He made the choices necessary to defeat the imperialists, especially the fascists. Had Stalin not gone forward as he did to build socialism in the Soviet Union, “in one country,” it is likely that Hitler would have won World War 2. Stalin’s rapid industrialization, with the austerity measures and social dislocation that resulted, was necessary so that the Soviet Union would have the resources, the weaponry, and the ideological unity to defeat the fascists. World War 2 claimed the lives of 27 million Soviet people. This number would have surely been higher without Stalin. Stalin came to represent the revolutionary anti-fascist movement globally. Even though Stalin existed in difficult times, he still still carried out social revolution. This social revolution included the emancipation of Soviet women. He fought against national chauvinism and Russo-centrism. Those who criticize Stalin need to ask themselves: what  would they  have done in his place? Enemies within. Fascists and imperialist invasions. Backward industry. A devastated economy. Surrounded on all sides. As Mao pointed out, Stalin made mistakes. Some of his mistakes included his conception of counter-revolution. Stalin saw the problem of counter-revolution through a police paradigm instead of the power paradigm. He overestimated the effects of agents and wreckers and underestimated the role of social forces in causing counter-revolution. Preventing counter-revolution is not simply a matter of better policing. His errors include his methods for dealing with counter-revolution, overestimation of the importance of the productive forces, putting narrow Soviet interest above the proletariat in foreign policy. As with all things, uphold the good, toss the bad. It is politically irresponsible to simply dismiss the Stalin era as one big mistake as anti-communists do.

Who was Mao?

Mao Zedong was born in China on December 26th, 1893. He died on September 9th, 1976. Mao was, in some ways, the greatest revolutionary leader of the past. Mao’s revolution was vast, encompassing a quarter of the world’s population. In October, 1949, Mao declared that China had stood up. A quarter of the world’s population, for a moment, dared to attempt to find a way out of the madness of feudalism, capitalism, and imperialism. Mao’s revolution ended poverty. Mao sought to reach communism, to end all oppression and exploitation. Mao was the greatest feminist of all time. A quarter of the world’s women went from existing in feudalist patriarchy to having real political power. He led the New Democratic revolution against imperialism and feudalism in China. The two mountains were lifted off of the backs of a quarter of humanity. Later, he led the Chinese masses to socialist construction. Hundreds of millions of peasants and workers gained political power and a real say over their world. Mao learned much from the shortcomings of previous revolutions. He saw how the Soviet Union had deteriorated into another capitalist empire.  He foresaw that capitalism would be restored in China as it had in the Soviet Union after Stalin. Mao studied the counter-revolution there. In an effort to prevent counter-revolution and move closer to communism, Mao helped initiate the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Mao sought to unleashed the creative energy of the masses to try to create a new model of socialist transformation. During the Cultural Revolution, Mao helped initiate mass movements to attempt to reach communism. Later, Mao would turn against those very forces he had unleashed. Even so, Mao expanded Marxism to a new stage. He advanced theories of New Democracy, People’s War, the United Front, Mass Line, new economic development, and, most importantly, Cultural Revolution.

Who was Lin Biao?

Lin Biao was born on December 5th, 1907. He died on September 13th, 1971. Lin Biao played an important role in the people’s war that liberated China from the imperialists and their agents. He came to be known as “China’s greatest general,” Mao’s “closest comrade-in-arms,” and Mao’s “best student.” He, along with Chen Boda, systematized Maoism as a new stage of revolutionary science. Lin Biao popularized the idea that Mao’s theories constituted a new stage of Marxism. Many of the key documents of Maoism were attributed to him, such as Long Live the Victory of People’s War! and the Report to the Ninth National Congress of the Communist Party of China. He was one of the main Maoist leaders during the Cultural Revolution. He pushed for Maoist economic policies, collectivization, and a barracks-style egalitarianism. He placed great emphasis on the transformation of culture and the creation of a new socialist humanity. All of society was seen as a school of revolutionary science. Lin Biao’s ideal socialist man was, in many ways, exemplified by the guerrilla fighter or the people’s warrior. He pushed for an international line that advocated international people’s war that advanced from the global countryside to the global city, from the Third World to the First World. He saw both the Western and Eastern bloc imperialists colluding against the Third World. Lin Biao, whose base was the central military, tried to knock down Zhou Enlai and the “adverse current” made up some of the provincial military, which, in some places,  was dominated by revisionists and rightists.  He had a falling out with Mao when Mao shifted to the right in both domestic and foreign policy. He was accused of plotting a coup against Mao. He died under mysterious circumstances. No real evidence was ever presented against him. He was framed as part of the police narrative of the Chinese state. The coup story is part of a police narrative to justify the purge of the Maoist left.

Who was Chen Boda?

Chen Boda was born in 1904 and died on September 20th, 1989. He was an academic and intellectual. He participated in academic debates in literature and history in his early political life. Eventually, he became Mao’s personal secretary and research assistant. He was one of those who advocated moving away from the dogmatic version of “Marxism” coming from Moscow at the time. Along with Mao, he was a major intellectual in the Communist Party who advocated the “Sinification” of Marxism, the adaptation of Marxism to Chinese conditions. He published the first collection of Mao’s writings as part of an official Communist Party history in 1937. He was one of the main architects of what would eventually become known as “Mao Zedong Thought” or, later, Maoism. He was one of the first to systematize Mao’s theories. His book Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese Revolution is an important step toward the development of Maoism. Later, Lin Biao would declare that Mao’s theories represented a whole new stage in the development of Marxism.  Chen Boda was one of the main architects of the Maoist aspects of the Great Leap. He also headed up the Maoist Cultural Revolution Group that was charged with leading the Cultural Revolution. During the peak of the Cultural Revolution, the Cultural Revolution Group became the top arbitrer of power alongside Lin Biao’s People’s Liberation Army and Mao himself. He represented a line that advocated Maoist economic policies, especially communization. And he represented a line that advocated Jacobin, anarchistic mass action against the institutions of governance in order to solve the problems of bureaucratization, corruption, bourgeoisification and counter-revolution within the Party and state. He represented that trend in the Cultural Revolution that sought to unleash the masses as a solution to the problems facing the revolution. He was allied with Lin Biao against Zhou Enlai. Chen Boda also came into conflict with Zhang Chunqiao (a member of the “Gang of Four”) who had allied with the rightists and revisionists to remove him. His younger associates — Wang Li, Qi Benyu, and Guan Feng — had fallen at the end of 1967 and in 1968 as a purge of the so-called ultra-left. He fell in 1970 and was imprisoned. As an extended part of the same series of purges, Lin Biao would also fall in 1971. The post-Mao regime charged him with being a member of both the Lin Biao and Gang of Four cliques.

Who were Wang Li, Qi Benyu, and Guan Feng?

Wang Li, Qi Benyu, Guan Feng were a group of young radical Maoists in Beijing around Chen Boda and Jiang Qing. They represented the so-called “ultra-left” of the Maoist Cultural Revolution Group. They tended to support Lin Biao and attack Zhou Enlai.  Zhou Enlai represented the rightwing and revisionists. Wang Li, Qi Benyu, and Guan Feng also had conflicts with  some members of the Shanghai group that would come to be known as the “Gang of Four.”  Wang Li, Qi Benyu, and Guan Feng were part of the trend that sought to solve the problem of counter-revolution and revisionism by unleashing the masses, by unleashing a Jacobin “bottom-up” purge. They represented the more anarchic and Jacobin tendency of the Cultural Revolution. They represented the more spontaneous side of the Cultural Revolution. They fell from power at the end of 1967 and into 1968 as the red guard movement was ended. Their line was opposed not only by the right and revisionists, but also by other Maoists  as “too left”  at times.

Who were the so-called “Gang of Four”?

The Gang of Four were Maoist radicals from Shanghai who rose to national politics during the Cultural Revolution. They became the main Maoist opposition after the fall of  Chen Boda’s group from 1967 to 1970 and Lin Biao in 1971. They were the last remaining top leaders of the Maoist left to fall. Jiang Qing (March 20th, 1914 – May 14th, 1991), Mao’s last wife, wielded the most power among the Four. She initiated the cultural battles against  conservative art. She revolutionized Peking Opera and other art forms.  Zhang Chunqiao (1917- April 21, 2005), Yao Wenyuan (1931- December 23rd, 2005), and Wang Hongwen (1935 – August 3, 1992) were other top Maoists after the fall of Lin Biao in 1971.They survived the purge of Maoists that resulted in Lin Biao and Chen Boda’s fall. They survived by opportunistically allying with the rightists and revisionists. Even so, it cannot be denied that they led the opposition to Deng Xiaoping in Mao’s last years. After Mao died in September 9th, 1976, the Gang was soon routed by a revisionist alliance of Hua Guofeng’s and Deng Xiaoping’s forces. The Four had little support among the masses at the  time they fell. They also had little institutional support. After the fall of Lin Biao and the restoration of the rightists and revisionists, the Four had only remained in power due to Mao’s prestige. As soon as Mao died, the Four were easily swept away by their enemies. They were imprisoned by the post-Mao regime.

Where does the Leading Light stand in relation to this history?

Leading Light Communist Organization (LLCO) has elevated revolutionary science to a whole new level. The Leading Light Commander Prairie Fire has advanced new theories of epistemology, aesthetics, history, Global Class Analysis, new theories of exploitation, the proletariat, New Power and Global People’s War. Leading Light has expanded the understanding of the transitional period to communism, of New Democracy, socialism and New Socialism. The Leading Light has studied the past and summed up and advanced that history. Leading Light has established a new scientific basis for revolution. As science, Leading Light Communism embraces what works and tosses what does not work. Leading Light has purged what remained of metaphysics in Marxism. We must study the past so that we can go further toward communism next time. The Leading Light has expanded our understandings of epistemology and revolution as science. The Leading Light is re-organizing the international communist movement along true, elevated scientific lines to initiate the next great wave of communist revolution. Under the leadership of Commander Prairie Fire and others, Leading Light has created a global organization, a global New Power, and the Global People’s War, a new way of fighting, to go all the way to true communism, Leading Light Communism. Leading Light has planted the seeds of a New Power in Asia. From there, we will conquer power. There is no area of theory that Leading Light has not advanced. In both theory and practice, Leading Light has reached new heights. To explain the full extent of our advance requires far more space than we have here. All true communists today are Leading Light Communists.  All-powerful, awesome Leading Light Communism is the future. Our banner will be at the head of the next great wave of revolution.

Misleaders

What about anarchists?

Anarchists have opposed scientific leadership of the revolutionary movement in various ways since Marx’s day. Their impact has been mixed. Historically, anarchists and communists have the same goal, but they differ on how to get there. There is a Leading Light saying: communists are anarchists with a plan. Anarchists often claim to oppose state power in general. But, they, like communists, usually agree with some kind of organized New Power when pressed. Anarchists are usually very vague about the shape it takes. They usually desire a more disorganized type of New Power. Their rhetoric often rejects any kind of transition period from capitalism to communism. They often reject scientific planning for emotion and intuition. They have sometimes, out of desperation and lack of strategic planning, turned to random, petty, pathetic acts of violence, which are mostly ignored by everyone but themselves. Many anarchists consider the breaking of windows a heroic act.  In these regards, they are infantile and utopian. They often want to go too far, too fast. They are irresponsible and unaccountable. Historically, they have not accomplished much. They have usually sat on the sidelines criticizing those forces that are more effective, including proletarian, communist forces and anti-imperialist forces. However, Lenin once wrote that he would rather ally with the anarchists than the revisionist social-democrats, the liberals of his day.

Today, anarchists are a mixed bag. There are First Worldist anarchists who narrowly emphasize “the workers.” There are First Worldists who fail to understand the reactionary nature of the First World as a whole.  There are those anarchists who emphasize community building and mutual aid. There are anarchists who emphasize returning to nature and tribalism. Even though many profess anarchism, most practice a kind of movementarianism that is indistinguishable from the First Worldist social-democratic forces around them. Many practice a paralyzing and unscientific identity politics as an incorrect answer to chauvinism. Some are more concerned with their personal lifestyles than with changing the world. Their politics come from a very privileged place where they are not accountable to the masses. Their politics tends to be individualist and egotistical at times — more than other trends. Anarchists are unable to understand the balance of social forces scientifically. So, they are unable to prioritize struggles. They fail to understand the need to unite against imperialism. They often do not uphold the united front. They are often anti-theoretical; they often demand blind action. Their politics are often based on emotion and individualism. Green and primitivist anarchists have some unity with the Leading Light on the critique of the global capitalist system, especially First World consumption. Some of them may be important allies in the First World. Some of them may be more open to advancing to Leading Light consciousness. Other anarchist trends tend to be First Worldist. Even so, many anarchists can still be good allies and friends at the level of front work, at the tactical level, and on the streets.

What about other utopians?

Anarchists are not the only utopians. There are plenty of people who have imagined a radically better world, but have proposed no serious way to get there. They refuse to address the issues of power and transition. They refuse to look at social forces. These utopians are a mixed bunch. There are technological utopians who imagine a world where all problems are simply solved by increasing the level of technology without concern for ideology, culture or reorganization of power. “Robots will save the day” is their mantra. This is a primitive version of the Theory of Productive Forces. There are also primitivist utopians, including some anarchists, who think that all problems are solved by returning to the ways of earlier, “primitive” societies. These people rarely state how the transitions are supposed to happen except in the vaguest ways. “Raising consciousness,” “education,” until reaching “a critical mass,” etc. are their empty mantras. They tend to have the Christian outlook that everyone can be reached so long as they hear the “Good News.”  Other utopians cease to focus on the world at all, they instead focus on simply creating their own little utopia in the here-and-now through co-ops and communes of various kinds — often based on and situated within the imperialist economy. “Tune in, turn on, drop out.” When it really comes down to it, these efforts do little to change anything by themselves. Endless feel-good  “community building,” without tying it to the global struggle,  is their manta.

What about social democrats? liberals? Democrats? the Labor Party?

Social democrats have various faces. Some advocate very mild social democracy; others advocate more extensive social democracy. Some call themselves socialist or democratic socialist. Some even call themselves communist. Some call themselves anarchists. Some call themselves liberals. Some call themselves Democrats. Some call themselves the Labor Party.  Social democrats think that capitalism can be gradually reformed toward so-called “socialism” (by which they mean welfare-state capitalism). Most think that the system can be transformed into their conceptions of “socialism” through legal means. Although most social democrats advocate legal means, some do not — armed revisionism in the Third World, for example. Social democrats are not out to reach communism. They want limited reform, a welfare state, a social safety net, some protections for the lower strata, etc.  In the First World, social democracy takes an imperialist form. They often support imperialism when it benefits their own populations at the expense of others. In the Third World, the patriotic pole of the national bourgeoisie can take on a social-democratic face as part of an alliance with the lower classes against imperialism and its comprador agents.

Around the time of World War 1, the social democrats of the various imperial countries voted to support the imperialist war. They reasoned that a victory for their country would help their people, their nation’s workers. In this respect, they were not unlike the Nazi regime in Germany that sought to benefit the German people as a whole, including the workers by plundering others through genocide and war. Similarly, social democrats in the First World often support imperialism against the Third World because it helps the people of the First World. They advocate for their imperialist populations at the expense of the vast majority of humanity. Almost all social democrats are First Worldist. Lenin opposed the social democrats in the Second International. Lenin refused to support imperialist war. Lenin advocated on behalf of the global proletariat, not the population of a single country or group of imperialist countries. Lenin held that those in imperialist countries ought work for the defeat of their own countries in order to transform such a defeat into a revolutionary situation, i.e. revolutionary defeatism. The split between the revolutionary Marxists, best represented by Lenin, and the social democrats was one of the major historic battles between revolution and revisionism. Lenin advocated a revolutionary road to power. The social democrats of his time advocated reformism.

Who was Leon Trotsky? Who are the Trotskyists?

Leon Trotsky sought to lead the Soviet Union after the death of Lenin. He challenged Stalin’s leadership after Lenin’s death. He went into exile after he was defeated politically. He was later assassinated, probably by those loyal to Stalin. He came to be seen as a traitor because, as World War 2 approached,  he saw Stalin as the main danger in the world, not fascism. Thus Trotsky sought to destabilize the Soviet Union as it prepared for war against fascism. He toyed with the idea of using World War 2 to lift himself to power, which would have meant a de facto alliance with the Nazis. He was politically irresponsible. He urged his followers to oppose Stalin on the eve of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. In a time when it the world needed unity against fascism, Trotsky urged division. He became a wrecker and counter-revolutionary. He often sat on the sidelines sniping at those who were working to build the Soviet Union. Trotsky worked with imperialists against the communist movement. His followers sought to work with the imperialists to hunt down communists loyal to the Soviet Union. George Orwell, who was associated with Trotskyist tendencies, for example, snitched out communists to the British police. Trotsky changed positions many times during his lifetime. Trotsky was a big advocate of the Theory of Productive Forces, the idea that economic development is the main task to achieving socialism and communism. He was very metaphysical and teleological in his approach to revolutionary change. He thought that before socialist revolution could occur, capitalist society patterned on Western Europe had to already exist. Thus when revolution happened in the “backward” “weak link” of Russia, a problem was raised by Trotsky: how to go forward? Trotsky veered between poles. Sometimes he thought revolution could not go forward — that a gradualist social-democratic approach is the best that could be achieved in such an undeveloped country. Other times, he thought that because the Soviet Union was so backward, the best option was to go full-speed ahead, forcing austerity on the population and compelling development through militarization of all of society. At times, Trotsky advocated a more forceful and “top-down” approach than Stalin. Trotsky was, at times, for development at bayonet point. Thus Trotskyist criticisms of Stalin as an autocrat smack of hypocrisy.

There is also his Theory of Permanent Revolution. This was a theory that entailed the following: a revolution in a less developed  country (like  the Soviet Union) could only succeed if it spread into a more developed one (like Germany). Once a revolution occurred in Germany, the German revolution could then help the Soviet peoples overcome their backwardness. So the theory goes. Thus, for Trotsky, the key revolution is the revolution in the imperialist and more modern  countries, not in the colonies and less modern  of the time. Also, Trotsky, contrary to Lenin, predicted the world revolution would move toward the West. Lenin said the center of world revolution was heading eastward. Lenin proved to be correct. The next round of revolutions happened in the colonies, not the imperialist homelands. Trotsky’s theories are extreme First Worldism for various reasons. First, Trotskyists often rely on an outlook that simply assumes the First World is “more developed” and the Third World is “less developed.” The reality is that in today’s world both the First World and Third World are mal-developed. The First World has, in many places, become de-industrialized. So, it remains to be seen how the First World could simply come to the rescue of the Third World. Today the productive forces are more concentrated in the Third World, not the First World. Second, it also remains to be seen how First World revolution could come about first since the populations there have no material interest in socialism, at least not in the short and mid-term. Third, Trotskyists tend to be very Euro-centric. They tend to write off anti-imperialist struggles and progressive movements in the Third World as unimportant while elevating social-democratic and social-imperialist struggles of First World populations. Some Trotskyists openly support imperialism because they see imperialism as a modernizing force in the world. They think the imperialists help the poor peoples by modernizing them, thereby paving the way for the make-believe Trotskyist revolution. This is why some Trotskyists became neo-conservatives who supported US wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Many Trotskyists support efforts by the imperialists to depose the Islamic Republic of Iran. Trotskyists today are a mixed bunch. Some Trotskyists stick more to the letter of Trotsky’s works. Others are barely indistinguishable from run-of-the-mill social democrats and liberals. Other crypto-Trotskyists uphold Trotsky’s theories while claiming not to do so. All Trotskyists are social-imperialist and First Worldist.

Many people embrace Trotsky because the incorrectly perceive him as a kinder, gentler, more democratic option than Stalin. The reality was very different. Even though criticisms of Soviet socialism can be made, as they were by Maoists, it is incorrect to see Trotskyism as the solution.

Who are other “Marxists”?

There are many claiming to uphold one form of Marxism or another. Some even claim Lenin or Mao. Those who hold First Worldist ideologies are moribund today, even if they uphold some aspects of the revolutionary tradition. At one point, some of these ideologies were leading the communist movement. Those who uphold these ideologies today are dogmatic fragments and echoes of the last great waves of revolution. Today, they have been surpassed by Leading Light Communism. While those holding these ideologies sometimes play a progressive role in the anti-imperialist struggle, just as other social democrats in the Third World can, these ideologies are not the ideological vanguard of the world communist movement. They are not the basis for the re-constitution of the communist movement nor for initiating the next great wave of revolution. They are ideological relics, even though they may sometimes have fighting strength. These movements still uncritically uphold the dogma of First Worldism. If a movement cannot understand the basic social dynamics shaping the world, then it will not have the scientific ability to advance us to communism. Those holding these kinds of ideologies have internalized many important lessons of the past. In some respect, they are more advanced than other misleaders. However, because they have not understood the advances of revolutionary science, of Leading Light Communism, they remain dogmatically frozen in the past. The Leading Light is the way forward.

Who was Nikita Khrushchev?

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev was born on April 15th, 1894 and died on September 11th, 1971. After Stalin’s death, a power struggle ensued. Khrushchev was a revisionist, a social-imperialist, and new bourgeois who came to power in a coup against Lavrentiy Beria, who many also consider a revisionist, on June 26th, 1953. Beria was an important police and intelligence chief under Stalin. He had consolidated power after Stalin’s death for a brief time. Beria was arrested at night by military men loyal to Khrushchev. Beria was then shot. Khrushchev had consolidated his position by 1956. It was during Khrushchev’s reign that it became very obvious that the Soviet Union had ceased being revolutionary. It was during this period that the Soviet Union openly acted like a big imperialist power. Khrushchev advocated the doctrine of “peaceful coexistence” with the Western imperialists. This doctrine divided the world into spheres of influence: the Western Bloc and Eastern Bloc. Both the Western imperialists headed by the USA and the social imperialists headed by the Soviet revisionists worked together against the rising masses of the Third World. The Soviet Union advocated Moscow-centered economic policies within its sphere. They made their satellite countries and allies dependent on them just as Western imperialists did with their colonies and neocolonies. Khrushchev advocated a return to market mechanisms over collectivization. He favored technocracy over mass struggles and mass line. In addition, Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s legacy at the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. While Stalin had made real errors, Khrushchev’s denunciation was a mix of lies, liberalism and anti-communism. Khrushchev’s regime pushed aside and deposed the remaining Stalinists. Mao criticized these turns. Mao came to the conclusion that a new bourgeoisie had arisen in the Soviet Union. Mao’s conclusion was that the Soviet Union under Khrushchev had become capitalist and social-imperialist: socialism in words, imperialism in deeds. Many people mark the end of socialism in the Soviet Union with the consolidation of Khrushchev’s power in 1956. However, others mark it with the death of Stalin in 1953. Others think that the fall of Soviet socialism, the end of the social revolution’s progress, can be traced  to the latter years of Stalin’s regime. In any case, Khrushchev was seen as too weak for some of his generals. Khrushchev was deposed by another group of revisionists led by Leonid Brezhnev in 1964. The Soviet Union was thoroughly revisionist, capitalist and imperialist during and after Khrushchev’s regime.

The so-called international communist movement split during Khrushchev’s regime. Most groups slavishly followed Moscow. These groups mostly morphed into social-democratic, revisionist groups, although some remained armed. In the United States, these forces integrated into the leftwing of the Democratic Party. They continued to take orders from Moscow until  the collapse of the Soviet state. However, an “anti-revisionist” movement arose to oppose the direction of the revisionist Soviet Union. These organizations often affiliated with Mao’s China or Hoxha’s Albania. They often called themselves “Marxist-Leninists” or followers of “Marxist-Leninist Mao Zedong Thought” or “Marxist-Leninist-Maoists.” Some advocated Mao-inspired lines. Other advocated  “back to Stalin” and “Marxist-Leninist” approaches. This split between China and the Soviet revisionists is sometimes called the “Sino-Soviet split.” Today, the only real communism is Leading Light Communism.

Who was Leonid Brezhnev?

Leonid Brezhnev (December 19th, 1906 – November 10th, 1982) came to power in the Soviet Union after Khrushchev. He was a social-imperialist, new capitalist, and revisionist. He pushed to expand Soviet military power and influence. He was more aggressive in his policies against the Western imperialists, but also toward the Third World. Today there are some that exist in the political space of “Brezhnev.” These revisionist forces are usually good at opposing Western imperialism, but turn a blind eye to other imperialism. They uncritically tail after anti-Western regimes; they even call them “socialist.”

Who was Mikhail Gorbachev?

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (born March 2nd, 1931) was a social-imperialist, revisionist, and new capitalist. He was a follower of Khrushchev. Gorbachev was the person who presided over the official dismantling of Soviet state capitalism. Soviet socialism had been dead for decades. However, Gorbachev finally tossed the red flag. The Russia that emerged is an openly imperialist and capitalist one. He is still involved in social-democratic politics in Russia today.

Who was Liu Shaoqi?

Liu Shaoqi (November 24th, 1898 – November 12th, 1969) became a senior, revisionist leader within the Chinese communist movement, eventually becoming the Chinese head of state. He came into opposition with the Maoists during the Great Leap from 1958 to 1962. He opposed the efforts to communize, revolutionize culture, unleash the masses, eliminate material incentive,  eliminate the distinction between urban and rural, eliminate the distinction between intellectual and material labor, and so on. He opposed the Maoist attempts to move further toward communism during the Great Leap. After the problems of the Great Leap, his faction ascended while the Maoist faction waned in influence. Liu Shaoqi favored gradualism, use of market mechanisms, material incentives, emphasis on technological development over class struggle. He favored bureaucracy and technocracy over revolution.  Implicitly, Liu Shaoqi favored the reversal of socialism and restoration of capitalism. He was one of the proponents of the Theory of the Productive Forces, a theory that advocates technological development and technical expertise over re-organization of social forces and culture.  The Maoists saw him as “China’s Khrushchev,” “the top capitalist roader,” “a new bourgeoisie,” etc. The Maoists launched the Cultural Revolution to oppose the restoration of capitalism and to advance further toward communism. Liu Shaoqi was deposed in 1967, but his followers were able to regroup. After Lin Biao fell in 1971, Liu Shaoqi’s followers made a big comeback, which Mao enabled. Even though Liu Shaoqi died in 1969, his followers, led by Deng Xiaoping, were triumphant. They fully restored capitalism. Liu Shaoqi is the grandfather of the current capitalist system in China.  Liu Shaoqi was a revisionist and new bourgeoisie.

Who was Zhou Enlai?

Zhou Enlai (March 8th, 1898 – January 8th, 1976) was a rightest turned revisionist who remained loyal to Mao while at the same time protecting and enabling those who opposed the Maoist policies of the Cultural Revolution. He represented the right and revisionist wings of the Communist Party of China. His power was based in the institutions of the state, especially the Foreign Ministry and those parts of the People’s Liberation Army that opposed Lin Biao and the Cultural Revolution. He was part of the alliance that knocked down the red-guard leftwing and Lin Biao’s  People’s Liberation Army leftwing. He helped elevate Deng Xiaoping and his allies back into power in the 1970s. He also helped orchestrate China’s shift toward the West in the 1970s. Unlike Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, Zhou Enlai managed to stay in power throughout the entire last decade of Mao’s life. Mao never worked to depose Zhou Enlai.

Who was Deng Xiaoping?

Deng Xiaoping (August 22nd, 1904 – February 19, 1997) was part of Liu Shaoqi’s revisionist faction of the Communist Party of China. Deng Xiaoping emerged as the leader of the most counter-revolutionary wing of the Chinese Communist Party after Liu Shaoqi’s death. He was an important top leader under Liu Shaoqi. During the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping was identified as the second top capitalist roader. Mao  undermined Deng Xiaoping at times, but always intervened to protect him from being fully purged. In the 1970s, he led the most rightwing and revisionist grouping against the severely-weakened leftover Maoists known as the “Gang of Four.” After Mao’s death in 1976, the revisionists, Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping, orchestrated the arrest and imprisonment of the leftover Maoists. Deng Xiaoping then orchestrated the marginalization of Hua Guofeng. Deng Xiaoping became top leader in the late 1970s. He denounced the Cultural Revolution and Maoist economics. While still recognizing Mao as a national hero and military leader, he rejected Mao’s radicalism. Deng Xiaoping was an advocate of the Theory of the Productive Forces like Liu Shaoqi. He advocated a reversal of collectivization and a return to free markets. He also advocated an alliance with the West against the Soviet Union. It was under Deng Xiaoping that Liu Shaoqi’s plans were implemented. Socialism was dismantled. Capitalism went full speed ahead. China’s capitalism is Deng Xiaoping’s baby. Deng Xiaoping was a revisionist and new bourgeoisie.

Who was Hua Guofeng?

Hua Guofeng (February 16th, 1921 – August 20th, 2008) was a rightest turned revisionist and new bourgeoisie who briefly ruled as China’s top leader after Mao’s death in 1976. As Mao aged, a successor was needed. In Mao’s last years, a power struggle was brewing between the Gang of Four and the followers of Deng Xiaoping. Hua Guofeng was chosen by Mao as a compromise candidate. He, along with Deng Xiaoping’s forces, deposed the Gang of Four quickly after Mao’s death. Then Hua Guofeng was quickly outmaneuvered by Deng Xiaoping. During his short reign, Hua Guofeng advocated a return to retrograde, Soviet-style economics. Hua Guofeng’s policies were dropped in favor of Deng Xiaoping’s free market ones.

What about other progressive movements, other social experiments, and historical figures?

There have been many social experiments, social revolutions, in the past century, especially after World War 2. There were many Eastern European “people’s democracies” that were put into power with the help of the Soviet Red Army. There were many national liberation struggles, many claiming to be socialist. Many of these struggles were progressive in some respects, even though they were not always properly socialist or communist led. Beside genuine communist movements, this century has seen anti-imperialist movements that were very diverse: Pan-Arabist, Pan-Africanist, Bolivarian, Islamist, and some revisionists. Note that this doesn’t mean all forces claiming these titles were or are anti-imperialist. When these forces are progressive, most of these forces represent an alliance of some part of the national bourgeoisie with the lower classes against other segments of the bourgeoisie, feudalists or imperialists. Most of these movements had a progressive element, even if they were not truly communist. Often, these are regimes of national development, social-democratic reform, and limited anti-imperialism. We cannot go through every movement and leader in the world here. However, we will focus on the more influential ones.

What about nationalists? National liberation?

Not all patriotism is the same. Patriotism of the oppressor is different than patriotism of the oppressed. Patriotism of imperialist countries is fascistic. Patriotism of the oppressed countries and nations is often a righteous expression of national liberation struggles. Supporting anti-imperialist, national-liberation struggles is part of upholding the broad united front against imperialism. However, national liberation by itself leads only back to imperialism. The only way to end imperialism once and for all is to defeat capitalism. The only way to defeat capitalism is with Leading Light Communism. National liberation struggles rose especially after World War 2, when European empires had weakened. Today, the age of national liberation is over. It is the era of global and Third World unity, Leading Light Communism. Leading Light Communism will create the ideological unity to make revolution in the coming epoch. Although, in some cases, national liberation can merge with Leading Light Communism.

Who is Ho Chi Minh? What about the Vietnamese revolution?

Ho Chi Minh (May 19th, 1890 to September 2nd, 1969) was the leader of the Vietnamese independence movement from 1941 onward. He led the Democratic Republic of Vietnam established in 1945. His forces defeated the French Union in 1954 at Đien Biên Phu France was forced to give up its empire in Southeast Asia. The Geneva Accords partitioned the country. Ho led the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the northern part of the country. The United States and other imperialists established a client state in the southern part of Vietnam. According to the accords, there was to be an election to reunify the country in 1956, but the imperialist-backed regime rejected it because most voters would have favored Ho in an election. A war of national liberation against imperialism followed. China and the Soviet Union supported the North. The United States and other imperialists supported the South. The United States invaded and occupied the South to prop up the unpopular regime there. In total, 3,403,100 United States military personnel served in the Southeast Asia theater (Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea, and Thailand) over the course of the conflict. Against overwhelming technological superiority, the Vietnamese were able to defeat the imperialists and liberate their country. People power won out. The cost was high. Millions unnecessarily died from the conflict in Southeast Asia. “Uncle Ho” became a symbol of the righteous struggle against imperialism worldwide. However, the revolution in Vietnam was stillborn. Even though they defeated the Western imperialists, they came into a close relationship with the Soviet imperialists. Ho represented a more radical, communist, Maoist-leaning line in the Party. Ho’s more radical policies got sidelined by Le Duan’s revisionist group. Le Duan was a big proponent of the Theory of Productive Forces. This thwarted communist social revolution. Advancing the productive forces became the main aim to the detriment of social revolution. The regime also sought to establish its own dominance over the old French colonies in Indochina. Vietnam exerted influence over Laos and invaded and set up a client state in Kampuchea in 1978. The regime in Vietnam today is revisionist and capitalist and has integrated itself into the global economy. Even though the struggle of the Vietnamese people was heroic, the regime was neither communist-led nor socialist for very long after victory if at all. The regime was not out to reach communism, but, rather, like other leftist, anti-imperialist, patriotic-bourgeois regimes sought to establish a course of national development and negotiate a better partnership with imperialists (Soviet and later Western) to this end. At the same time, the regime carried out important democratic reforms, including education, social-democratic reform, the liberation of women, etc.

Who was Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge? What about Cambodia/Kampuchea?

Pol Pot (May 19th, 1925 to April 15th, 1998) was the leader of the “Khmer Rouge” from 1963 until shortly before his death in 1998. He led the forces that ousted the imperialists from Kampuchea (Cambodia). He was leader of Democratic Kampuchea from 1976 to 1979, when his regime was ended by the invasion by Vietnam. Pol Pot’s forces ousted the imperialists out of Kampuchea. Then the Vietnamese invaded and deposed the Khmer Rouge in 1979. The Khmer Rouge continued to wage a guerrilla war, sometimes with American support, after they were ousted. In 1991, the pro-Vietnamese Kampuchean state and the rebel alliance, which included the Khmer Rouge, signed a treaty calling for elections and disarmament. However, conflict resumed. Factional strife led to Pol Pot’s arrest and trial by the Khmer Rouge. His former followers turned on him. He died under house arrest.

The history of Kampuchea is a bloody one. Like much of the Third World, Kampuchea was ravaged by a century of colonialism. It was and continues to be mal-developed. Extreme poverty was imposed on its people. This poverty was enforced with bayonets, bullets and bombs. Colonialism was replaced by neocolonialism in Kampuchea after World War 2. Direct imperialist rule was replaced by indirect rule. For a time, Norodom Sihanouk and more patriotic elements held power and tried to prevent the United States from using Kampuchean territory against Vietnam during the Vietnam war. For this, the United States deposed his regime and installed the puppet regime of Lon Nol. The United States began bombing Kampuchea “back to the stone age” when president Richard Nixon expanded the Vietnam War into Kampuchea. The carpet bombing of Kampuchea’s countryside caused massive death on a genocidal scale. It caused a major refugee crisis. It caused massive starvation and shortages as peasants were forced to cease producing and flee to cities to survive. The brutality of the imperialist policies led the people to flock to the Khmer Rouge who were waging a guerrilla struggle against Lon Nol and the imperialists. The Khmer Rouge were able to seize power fully in 1975.

The country they inherited had been ravaged by a century of imperialist exploitation. It was ravaged by the bombings and social dislocation caused by the United States. They inherited a country on the verge of total famine and social collapse in many areas. United States intelligence agencies predicted that no matter who came to power in the chaos that millions would die. Pol Pot led the Khmer Rouge in an attempt to make some social revolution in the middle of a massive crisis. They dislodged the genocidal regime of the imperialists. The Khmer Rouge regime was a harsh and commandist one. Millions died. These deaths were mainly a result of imperialism and its aftereffects. But the  Khmer Rouge regime’s actions and mismanagement also contributed to the crisis. Sometimes, the Khmer Rouge claimed to be communist, even embracing communist slogans. Other times, they said they were not communist. They simply claimed to be nationalists. Their attempts to reorganize society were very radical in some respects, but not based on revolutionary science. They veered toward utopianism and narrow nationalism.  They were erratic.  They made alliances with all kinds of forces, including the United States after they were dislodged by the Vietnamese. They took up various ideological banners and slogans in a superficial way in an attempt to find patrons. They allied with the Chinese and United States in the 1970s in the geopolitical struggle against the Soviet imperialists and Vietnam. Even as the United States was funneling aid to the Khmer Rouge, the bourgeois media often sought to use the Khmer Rouge as way to try to discredit communism. Even though they were not real communists, their rhetoric emphasized the need for self-sufficiency. Yet they sought patronage from those who would offer it.

By the time they took power, the wave of social revolutions and national liberation that followed World War 2 was ending. The Khmer Rouge can be seen as the tail end or aftereffect of that wave of revolution that was best represented by the Maoists in China. The Khmer Rouge came to power as the Maoist revolution was ending China. They were more associated with the geopolitical outlook of the Chinese revisionists, not the global people’s war outlook of Lin Biao and the Maoists. The rise of the Khmer Rouge can be understood as the rise of various popular classes, not led by communist science, trying to find aid from a recently Maoist, now revisionist China in order to prop their regime up in an extreme crisis situation.

Who was Fidel Castro? What about the Cuban revolution?

Fidel Castro (born August 13th, 1926) is the leader of the Cuban revolution and continues to play an important role in Cuba’s affairs today. On the whole, he was a Cuban patriot and anti-imperialist who led Cuba’s struggle against United States imperialism. Although, at times, he capitulated to Soviet, and later, European imperialisms. He and a small group of guerrillas, the 26th of July Movement, finally toppled the corrupt, imperialist-backed Batista dictatorship in January of 1959. Castro’s regime began to implement social-democratic reforms. They also continued to heroically fight off United States aggression, such as the attempted invasion at the Bay of Pigs. In response, the United States tried to isolate and destabilize Cuba’s power and economy. The United States placed an embargo on the island country that continues to this day.  Rather than building up an independent country, the Cuban regime turned toward the Soviet imperialists. They integrated themselves into the Soviet “international socialist [sic.] division of labor.” Sugar remained king in Cuba as in days when Western imperialism dominated the island. Thus the Cuban economy once again became dependent on imperialists. Even so, the regime always remained more independent than other Soviet-backed regimes during the Cold War. At times, they even went against the wishes of their Soviet patrons. Che Guevara opposed the drift in Cuba toward the Soviet imperialists.

Cuba was never socialist in a real sense. Cuba was never really aiming for communism. Fidel Castro himself has said he is not a communist. He has said the “age of armed struggle is over in Latin America.” He was also critical of the militancy of the Maoist movement, which represented the communist movement at the time.  Even though he was not a communist, he often represented the patriotic, progressive wing of the national bourgeoisie in Cuba. As the national bourgeoisie often does in the Third World, he sometimes veered toward the comprador pole, sometimes toward the more patriotic. Sometimes he was very progressive, even adopting Marxist rhetoric. He enacted many good programs that benefited Cubans. The Cuban healthcare system is known to be one of the best. However, other times, he was comprador to the Soviet imperialists. At times, Castro was their willing servant.

The Cuban revolution has been in decline for a long time. They want to integrate back into the capitalist world system. They have been dismantling their public sector in favor of markets. However, the United States and the Cuban fascists in Miami still have a grudge against Castro. Eventually, the Cuban regime will  dismantle what remains of its social-democratic and nationalist power. The imperialists will open up the world market to the Cuban regime. The regime is already trying to move into Europe’s orbit. Castro’s death will most likely allow Cuba to reconcile fully with the United States and imperialism generally.

Power in Cuba has passed along familial lines. As Fidel has become too old to rule, power has passed to his brother. This kind of monarchical, nepotistic transfer of power is typical of other revisionist regimes.

Who is “Che” Guevara?

Ernesto “Che” Guevara (June 14th, 1928 to October 9th, 1967) was originally from Argentina. He became a Latin American freedom fighter, an anti-imperialist and communist. He was trained as a medical doctor. He traveled Latin America as a medical student. He was radicalized by his travels. He witnessed the CIA overthrow of the social-democratic regime of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala. He met Raul and Fidel Castro in Mexico. He joined the 26th of July Movement and became a prominent figure of the Cuban revolution. Although the Cuban revolution was not communist, it was still an important anti-imperialist and democratic revolution. For a time, Che became a top leader in Cuba. However, he wanted to see the anti-imperialist movement spread. He famously called for “two, three, many Vietnams” against imperialism. With Cuban support, he fought in the Congo against imperialism for a time. He returned to Cuba to regroup. His final expedition was to Bolivia. Che was going to use Bolivia as a starting  point for a war of liberation for all of Latin America against imperialism, especially US imperialism. Che organized a small guerrilla force in Bolivia. The Soviet imperialists and their revisionist clients in Bolivia worked to sabotage him. After many defeats, he was surrounded, captured, and executed on CIA orders. Che became a famous symbol of revolutionary struggle around the world. Che was a prolific writer, although his writings are not nearly as deep as those of Marx, Lenin or Mao. Che is known mostly as a man of action and for his bravery. Che straddled the split between the Maoists and the Soviet revisionists, although he expressed more sympathy for the Maoists. His writings are more consistent with the Maoist trend than with the revisionists of his day.  He died before the Cultural Revolution. However, Che once stated that the Chinese had a higher degree of socialist morality. He leaned toward China. Che has come to be associated with the erroneous military strategy of focoism — a military strategy that overemphasizes the role of small bands of guerrillas as opposed to one that emphasizes the construction of New Power. Focoism is rejected by Leading Lights. Leading Lights advocate Global People’s War. Even so, Che was a heroic communist who lived and died for the people.

Who was Kim Il-sung? What about Juche? What about Korea?

Kim Il-sung (April 15th, 1912 to July 8th, 1994) was an anti-imperialist fighter who came to lead the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or “North Korea.” He was a guerrilla fighter against Japanese imperialism in the 1930s. He worked inside the Communist Party of China in those years. His military prowess gained him notoriety. He also worked with the Soviet Red Army when it drove the Japanese out of northern Korea. After World War 2, before elections could be held across Korea, the imperialist-backed regime in southern Korea canceled them and founded the imperialist-backed Republic of Korea. Kim would come to head the northern Korean state, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Provocations continued between the two states. Hostilities broke out again. This civil war and anti-imperialist, national liberation struggle became known as the “Korean War.” It lasted from June 25th, 1950 to the armistice signing on July 27th, 1953. Northern Korean forces would have won, but the imperialists invaded and turned back the Northern armies. The Soviets provided aid to northern Korea. The Chinese put troops on the ground to counter the imperialists. Eventually an armistice was signed. Millions died and the country remained divided by the imperialists.

Kim tried not take sides in the split between the Soviet imperialists and the Maoists in China. Kim opportunistically straddled the division. His government sought aid from both the Soviet imperialists and Chinese. Over time, the regime dropped its pretense of Marxism, instead publicly endorsing Kim’s ideology of Juche, self-reliance, as the nominal state ideology. Juche blended bourgeois and nationalist notions  of social unity with traditional ones. However, Juche is not the real ideology of the northern Korean state. Juche is just a prop in the personality cult. It is window dressing. The real ideology is ultra-nationalism with racial tendencies. Kim and his male heirs have the role of patriarchs/matriarchs of the nation-family. The northern Korean ideology is traditionalist and rightwing, influenced by the very Japanese fascism that Kim fought. Power in Korea transfers from father to son. Power is inherited through Kim’s bloodline.

The Maoist students criticized Kim as a revisionist during the Cultural Revolution. They criticized his regime for its failure to launch its own Cultural Revolution against the bureaucracy, against the new bourgeoisie. The regime is stagnant. Although the regime has a red flag, the regime can be characterized, at best, as nationalist, but not socialist.

Who was Enver Hoxha? What about Albania under Hoxha?

Enver Hoxha (October 16th, 1908 to April 11th, 1985) was, at least for a time, a communist and anti-fascist fighter. Hoxha was one of the seven members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Albania, later named the “Albanian Party of Labor,” founded in 1941. When the Nazis and their allies occupied and controlled Albania, Hoxha and his party fought for national liberation against the fascists. Hoxha fought as a partisan against the Nazis and their allies throughout World War 2. Unlike “people’s democracies” of Eastern Europe, Albania was not  directly liberated by the Soviet forces, but rather by the partisans. Hoxha and his party came to lead Albania after World War 2. Hoxha modeled Albania on the Stalin-era Soviet Union. When Khrushchev openly broke with Stalin, Hoxha, like Mao, broke with the Soviets. Hoxha also criticized Soviet attempts to make Albania a dependent colony. Like Mao, Hoxha exposed the rise of Soviet social imperialism, revisionism, and capitalist restoration. Unlike Mao, the critique by Hoxha and his followers remained superficial. Instead of analyzing the material reasons for the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union, Hoxha and his followers said the problem was that the Soviets had deviated from Stalin and failed to purge more people. Thus the answer, in the view of the Hoxhaists, was eternal return to Stalin and more purges. Hoxhaists see the world through the police paradigm. The Hoxhaist answer to counter-revolution is to elevate a dogmatized form of Stalin-era Marxist-Leninism to the level of religion. They are stuck in the past. By contrast, the Maoists began to look at the question scientifically. Rather than returning to the past, the Maoists of that era looked forward. They advocated class struggle, continuing the revolution, mass line and cultural revolution. The Maoists expanded the science of revolution. When Mao was alive, Hoxha allied with the Maoists. However, it was an alliance of convenience against the Soviet imperialists more than one of ideological unity. When he received aid from the Chinese, he opportunistically embraced them. After the revisionists in China began cutting support to Albania, Hoxha revealed that he thought the Maoists had been revisionists all along. After Hoxha’s death, Albania quickly began reversing its Stalin era policies. It began to integrate back into global capitalism.

Without constant innovation and revolution, capitalism is restored. Hoxha’s regime, even though part of or allied with the socialist bloc, did not show any dynamism. And once the Maoists had elevated the science, those who did not go forward with them became retrograde from the standpoint of reaching communism. If you are not going to communism, you can only be leading back to capitalism or other reactionary social systems. Hoxha’s regime stayed true to a course that had already been shown not to lead to communism on its own. He did not innovate as the Maoists did. At one point, Hoxha and his movement can be seen as proletarian, when they are pushing forward against the Nazis and when they are going forward. At a certain point though, we can see the regime as  simply representing  popular classes, but not proletarian-led nor communist-led, of Europe’s poorer areas, resisting both the Western and Soviet imperialists, but not really advancing to communism.

Other questions about leadership

Why aren’t there more women communist leaders in our history?

The communist movement has always been at the forefront in the struggle for women’s liberation. This draws many people, both women and men, who are interested in gender equality into our ranks. Mothers and daughters have been revolutionaries alongside fathers and sons. Women have fought on the front lines during the Paris Commune, during the Soviet revolution, the Maoist revolution in China, and many others. In the Soviet Union, women entered the workforce and gained the possibility of autonomy from their husbands for the first time. They made efforts to communize the domestic sphere. Women entered areas of work traditionally dominated by men. Whole genres of Soviet film glamorized tough women, women tractor drivers or partisans,  for example. Maoists in China followed the Soviet example, even going further at times. Maoists in China raised the slogan “women hold up half the sky.” The Maoist revolution was the greatest feminist movement of all time. A quarter of the world’s women went from being slaves to having power and rights. In a society marked by the profound inequalities of Chinese feudalism, Maoists raised the revolutionary slogan “men and women are the same! Whatever men can do women can do!” Traditional Chinese society, with its brutalization of women, was smashed. Brutal practices such as foot-binding were ended. A quarter of the world’s women gained power for the first time. Jiang Qing, a woman, ascended to almost lead China itself. Anti-communist propaganda has always accused communists of creating “dangerous women” or “terrorist women.”

There are many great communist and anti-imperialist women, including great communist intellectuals and leaders who were women. In the 1970s, as Mao degenerated, Jiang Qing was the best leader the communist movement had. Karl Marx’s wife, Jenny Marx, was a theorist in her own right who Leading Light has quoted. Although many of her theories were incorrect, Rosa Luxemberg stood with Lenin on some issues against the revisionist social democrats. Although incorrect on much, she was a first-class theorist in her day. Nadya Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife, was one of his trusted advisers, one of the most admired “Old Bolsheviks” and a revolutionary in her own right. She was a founder of Soviet education system. Clara Zetkin was a great revolutionary, communist, and feminist. Alexandra Kollontai was another famous communist and feminist. In World War 2, there were many Soviet war heroes who were women. They were snipers, pilots, and partisans. In the last fifty years, some of the leading anti-imperialists and communists have been women. Edith Lagos was a 19 year old young woman who led a raid on a prison in Peru. Leila Khaled was a Palestinian anti-imperialist who led several high-profile attacks against Zionism and imperialism. The most advanced revolutionary organizations of today have always had women in their leadership. Some of the Leading Light’s most advanced leaders are women. Great women are emerging as Leading Lights. This is their time to boldly step forward and shine. To list all the outstanding women leaders of the revolutionary tradition would simply take too long. It is time for women to step up and lead the communist movement. Hold aloft the banner of the Leading Light. Women hold up half the sky!

Even so, we do recognize that many of the greatest leaders of the past were disproportionately men. Marx, Lenin, and Mao are examples. The reason for this is patriarchy, gender oppression. Gender oppression has created a  situation where men are given the opportunity to advance and lead in ways that are more difficult for women. The playing field is not level. This is an empirical fact about our world that we are trying to change. In any case, we will take all great leaders, men and women. In fact, many of the brightest Leading Lights today are women. Leading Light is brining forward new, women leaders and warriors. Eventually, all women and men in the communist future will be Leading Lights. Everyone will be equal and great. There is a revolutionary saying: “Unleash the fury of women as a mighty force of revolution!”

Why are so many of the great leaders of the past from intellectual, non-proletarian backgrounds?

This is because science arises among the leisure classes. Many of the greatest leaders of the past were people who had a foot in both worlds. They had a foot in the world of the bourgeois intelligentsia  and a foot in the world of the people. They became conduits for science to reach the people. It was through them that the methods of science, the tools of science, could be handed to the people to be wielded as weapons for revolution. Great leaders are conduits, but they also transform. Through their person, through their work, bourgeois science gets transformed into revolutionary, proletarian science. Today, this is the role of the Leading Light.

Does the true communist, Leading Light, movement have women leaders today?

Our ranks are filled with great leaders, Leading Lights, who happen to be women. Great leaders are emerging, brothers and sisters, from every part of our planet. Like seek out like. Greats seek out out greats. Leading Light is an organization that is bringing forward a new type of great leadership, genius warriors who give everything for the cause. Great sisters are coming forward to take their rightful place in our history. We welcome them with open arms. Women and men, sisters and brothers, wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, uphold the sky together.