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Notes on today’s Maoists who uphold Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge

Notes on today’s Maoists who uphold Pol Pot and the Khmer RougeMTIwNjA4NjMzOTQzOTgzNjI4

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The Communist Party of India (Maoist) is one of many democratic, progressive, anti-imperialist, groups fighting the Indian state, a part of the global empire. They are one of many movements fighting for the liberation of the poor in the second most populous country on Earth. They are a movement that deserves our critical support even though, as of today, their organization has refused to give up the dogmatism of the past. One example of this dogmatism is their continued embrace of the Khmer Rouge as the last genuine communist movement with state power.  And, for Maoists, upholding Mao’s theories is the dividing line between Marxism versus revisionism. So, since, according to the CPI (Maoist), only fellow Maoists are communists in the present era, it stands to reason they also regard the Khmer Rouge of the past and Democratic Kampuchea as Maoist. Around 2002, the Communist Party of India (Maoist) highlights the Khmer Rouge in key documents, including their basic course on Maoism for their cadre:

“After the death of Mao in 1976, the capitalist roaders who had remained in the party staged a coup under the leadership of the arch revisionist Deng Tsiao-ping and took over the control of the party under the nominal leadership of Hua Kuo-feng, a so-called centrist. As Mao had often taught, with political control going over to the hands of the revisionists the socialist base had gone out of the hands of the proletariat. At the same time the leadership of the Albanian Party of Labour switched over to an opportunist line attacking Mao Tse-tung Thought and projecting Mao as a petty bourgeois revolutionary. Though the Khmer Rouge continued to hold power in Kampuchea they were waging a constant struggle against the internal and external enemies of the Revolution and were yet to emerge from the economic ravages of war and consolidate their rule when they were defeated by the Soviet backed Vietnamese Army.” (1)

According to the CPI (Maoist), the Khmer Rouge were the last remaining communist organization with state power:

“The mid-70s saw the final overthrow of many long standing colonial regimes after long guerrilla wars. Thus the US and their puppets were thrown out of Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos in 1975. In Africa the republics of Mozambique, Angola, Ethiopia, Congo, and Benin were formed in this period. However most of these countries were taken over by puppets or satellites of the new imperialism – Soviet social imperialism. A prominent exception was Kampuchea, where genuine communist revolutionaries – the Khmer Rouge – remained independent until invaded in 1978 by Vietnam on the behest of the Soviet imperialists.” (2)

On the anniversary of Mao’s birthday, December 26,  2006, the Central Committee of the CPI (Maoist) further stated at an international conference:

“Many communist movements were ruthlessly crushed as in Kampuchea. Now, after over 150 years of the communist movement we can count the number of genuine communist movements with some mass base on our finger-tips. ” (3)

Furthermore, according to some of their critics, People’s War Group,  the main predecessor group of the CPI (Maoist), did not just praise the Khmer Rouge in print, but distributed Pol Pot badges. Thus they promoted Pol Pot’s cult of personality.  An editorial in Dalit Voice reports:

“If DV can also get hold of the erstwhile PWG’s literature boasting of how it distributed Pol Pot badges, our savarna maoists (in this context, a reference to the CPI (Maoist) and its predecessors – ed.) will be totally exposed globally.” (4)

The CPI (Maoist) are not the only Maoists who express for their admiration of the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge are popular amongst some of the smaller Gonzaloist and Gonzaloist-influenced sects. For example, a Panamanian Gonzaloist-influenced blog reproduces a document that states:

“The experience of the Khmer Rouge revolution is unprecedented and it shows that young people can also do great revolutions and these are not huge heritage of countries or world leaders. There are also ‘small’ leaders who acquire greatness but their victories pretend to be ignored and maligned worse.” (5)

The Panamian blog reproduce a video entitled “Kampuchea :Honor and glory to the beloved Comrade Pol Pot, a communist steel and his gift to his beloved Kampuchean people!”  (6)  Brazilian Gonzaloists also celebrate Pol Pot:

“Today, we celebrate the 87th birth anniversary of the historic cambodian communist leader, Comrade Pol Pot (1925-1998).” (7)

Thus there is a strange convergence of opinion on this point between the CPI (Maoist), some Gonzaloist and Gonzaloist-influenced sects, and the imperialist media. The former praise the Khmer Rouge as “communist.” At the same time, the imperialists pin the “Maoist” and “communist” label on the Khmer Rouge as a way to taint Maoism and communism as a whole. For example, the reactionary media used to refer to the Communist Party of Peru as “the Khmer Rouge of Latin America.”

Several points must be made:

1. Imperialism, not the Khmer Rouge, was the main perpetrator of violence against the peoples of Kampuchea. More bombs were dropped on Indochina during the years of the Vietnam War than were dropped in every country in World War 2. The violence inflicted by imperialism on the peoples of Kampuchea, Vietnam, and Laos reached genocidal levels. Millions were killed by the imperialists. By 1975, already an estimated 10% of the Kampuchean population– 600,000 had died as a result of the Vietnam War. (8) When the Khmer Rouge took power in April in 1975, the country had been devastated. The cities had swelled from refugees fleeing the bombing of the countryside. Food production was disrupted. The Khmer Rouge inherited a crisis situation where they had to attempt social transformation in a country that was ruined and in a country that was under constant threat by imperialists. We must never forget that imperialism caused the most harm to the Kampuchean people, not the Khmer Rouge.

2. The Khmer Rouge were an extremely opportunist movement. They only claimed to be “Maoist” after Mao had died. And they only claimed to be “Maoist” to get aid from the post-Mao, revisionist regime in China. In fact, the Khmer Rouge did not claim to be Maoist in their internal documents or to their domestic audience. Furthermore, the Khmer Rouge denounced the “Gang of Four,” arguably the last remaining leftists in the Chinese Communist Party, as “counter-revolutionary.” Furthermore, the Khmer Rouge praised the revisionist leadership of Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping in an effort to secure support. (9)

3. Despite their rhetoric of independence and self reliance, the Khmer Rouge always aligned politically with whatever forces would give them aid. This opportunism led them into supporting the revisionists in China when the Chinese were giving them support. Later, this opportunism led them into an alliance with Western imperialism. The United States delivered aid to the Khmer Rouge and other anti-Vietnamese and anti-Soviet forces after the Khmer Rouge were driven from power in 1979. It was the United States that was instrumental in keeping The Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea, which included the Khmer Rouge, as the official representative of Kampuchea at the United Nations up until 1993. As part of their opportunism, the Khmer Rouge quickly dropped the communist label after they were deposed in 1979. In his last interview before his death, Pol Pot was honest about his disregard for communism:

“When I die, my only wish is that Cambodia remain Cambodia and belong to the West. It is over for communism, and I want to stress that… When I say Cambodia {should} be part of the West, I mean that if you belong to the West, at least there is no fascist regime.” (10)

The reality is that the Khmer Rouge were never a real communist organization. Rather, they were a nationalist organization that opportunistically used communist rhetoric and symbols to secure aid. And, when China no longer cared about communist rhetoric, the Khmer Rouge dropped the communist rhetoric altogether in an attempt to befriend Western imperialism, especially the United States.

4. The way that the Khmer Rouge understood socialist construction was not unlike some of the Chinese revisionists. They placed extreme emphasis on economic development carried out by a terrorized, disciplined, and docile population. They embraced a version of the revisionist Theory of the Productive Forces, which overemphasizes economic and technological development at the expense of class struggle. They embraced crackpot schemes to propel Kampuchea forward that ended in disaster. Although their developmental schemes failed miserably, their model put development and economic prosperity at the forefront, not class struggle that would prepare the masses for taking power.

Even though they used rhetoric from China to describe their model, they modified Chinese slogans to suggest their approach would outdo even the Chinese. Thus they claimed to outdo the Chinese “Great Leap Forward” with their own Khmer “Super Great Leap Forward.” They claimed that their Khmer revolution was unprecedented. There is an underlying nationalist chauvinism in this bombast, in their false claim to have outdone previous revolutions, especially the revolutions of their Chinese, Maoist neighbors. Thus like many other movements nationalism accompanied developmentalism at the expense of revolution.

5. The communist movement had always placed great emphasis on ideological education. This was especially true of Mao’s revolution, which elevated the importance of ideology to a whole new level. Ideological education is one of the main forms of class struggle. However, not all ideological education is the same. At its best moments, the Chinese Maoist efforts of ideological remolding were ones that actively involved the population. The masses were not simply told what was right and wrong. Rather, the masses were motivated to actively question many aspects of the system. Top leaders, even President Liu Shaoqi, were forced to answer questions before the masses during the Cultural Revolution. Big debates on the nature of the revolution, history, aesthetics, and other topics were published in the Chinese press. The Chinese masses were encouraged to discuss and debate the issues. Although the Chinese experience was not perfect, at its best moments, it promoted Socratic questioning, open and free criticism, and science over the blind obedience of Confucianism. Along with this, the Chinese Communist Party was patient with masses. The Communist Party of China criticized the errors of commandism and Confucianism, both of which denied the ability of the masses to think for themselves and lead themselves. In its best moments, the Chinese Communist Party recognized that it was necessary to understand that to transform the masses, it is necessary to take a gradualist approach. This principle is also behind the Maoist leadership method of mass line. Communist leadership must be humble and patient enough to meet the masses where they are. Only by coming to the masses with patience and humility can the trust of the masses be won so that the masses become open to transformation by communist leadership. This principle is also behind the gradualist approach of Maoist collectivization of agriculture, which happened in stages: New Democracy, collectives, then People’s Communes. This is part of the meaning behind the most famous Maoist slogan: “Serve the people.”

By contrast, in an effort to outdo the Chinese and previous revolutions, to re-establish a golden age of Khmer greatness, the Khmer Rouge did away with Maoist gradualism. The most infamous practice of the Khmer Rouge was the emptying of cities. Whole populations of cities were labeled as “new people,” and treated like class enemies. They were stripped of their possessions and marched from the cities to the countryside where they labored at bayonet point. Violence and control of the food supply were two ways they motivated the population. One Khmer Rouge slogan stated: “Hunger is the most effective disease.” (11) The Khmer Rouge were also known to persecute minorities. The Khmer Rouge seemed more interested in obedience than transformation of the population to prepare it for active leadership. This is reflected in the Khmer Rouge’s descriptions of themselves. Even after they had taken power, the Khmer Rouge, for a long time, did not even tell the population that they claimed to be a communist party. Instead, they referred to themselves simply as “Angkar” or “Organization.” Also, they described themselves as omniscient, invincible, immortal. This high-handedness  is reflected in some of their slogans:

“Let Angkar pour truth into your head.”

“Angkar has [the many] eyes of the pineapple.”

The Khmer Rouge’s attitude toward dissent was much different than Mao’s. The Chinese Cultural Revolutionaries emphasized “big debates,” protests, power seizures, criticism, etc. By contrast, the Khmer Rouge looked on dissent very critically:

“You can arrest someone by mistake; never release him by mistake.”

“Better to kill an innocent by mistake than spare an enemy by mistake.”

The terroristic aspect of the Khmer Rouge is reflected in several slogans that threaten death upon the population:

“He who protests is an enemy; he who opposes is a corpse.”

“If someone is very hungry, the Angkar will take him where he will be stuffed with food.”

“If you wish to live exactly as you please, the Angkar will put aside a small piece of land for you.”

“No gain in keeping, no loss in weeding out,” (also rendered: “To destroy you is no loss, to preserve you is no gain.” – ed)  (12)

Think of how different the Khmer Rouge’s approach is to Mao’s approach. Written in April, 1956, Mao’s “Ten Major Relationships” was produced amid reports of excessive executions during the Stalin era in the Soviet Union:

“We must keep up the policy which we started in Yenan: ‘No executions and few arrests’. There are some whom we do not execute, not because they have done nothing to deserve death, but because killing them would bring no advantage, whereas sparing their lives would. What harm is there in not executing people? Those amenable to labour reform should go and do labour reform, so that rubbish can be transformed in something useful.

Besides, people’s heads are not like leeks. When you cut them off, they will not grow again. If you cut off a head wrongly, there is no way of rectifying the mistake even if you want to.

If government departments were to adopt a policy of no executions in their work of suppressing counter-revolutionaries, this still would not prevent us from taking counter-revolution seriously. Moreover it would ensure that we would not make mistakes, or if we did they could be corrected. This would calm many people.

If we do not execute people, we must feed them. So we should give all counter-revolutionaries way out of their impasse. This will be helpful to the people’s cause and to our image abroad.

The suppression of counter-revolution still requires a long period of hard work. None of us may relax our efforts.” (13)

This injunction by Mao against summary executions reflects how the Chinese revolutionaries emphasized the importance of “uniting all who could be united,” “big debates,” mass line, populism, patience and humility when dealing with not only the masses, but even many enemies.

Serve the people truth, not falsehood

In the 1970s, during and after Mao’s death, the Chinese press referred to the Khmer Rouge in glowing terms. However, the Chinese press referred to numerous states and movements in a similar way. For example, numerous Eastern European and national liberation movements were labeled “socialist” by the Chinese even though such regimes and movements would not be considered as such by Maoist nor Leading Light standards. When examined closely, the Khmer Rouge has never deserved the label. Just as there are communist movements that have adopted national liberation as a means of advancing communism, there are also nationalist movements that have adopted communist rhetoric and policies as a way to gain support in the pursuit of purely nationalist goals. The Khmer Rouge are the latter, not the former. Although the Khmer Rouge was once an anti-imperialist movement that drove the United States out of Kampuchea, like other narrowly nationalist movements, they later opportunistically aligned with the imperialists and revisionist anti-communists when it suited their purposes.

It is important today to come to terms with the real history of revolutionary and national liberation movements. Just because a movement claims to be “revolutionary” or “communist” does not make it true. There is a long history of movements that “wave the red flag to oppose the red flag.” Revolutionaries in China used to warn: “Be careful not to board a pirate ship.” Just because Beijing Review in the 1970s identified the Khmer Rouge in such a way does not mean they were. If today’s Maoist movement is ever going to advance scientifically, then it must deal honestly with history. One of the irony of ironies is that many of the same Maoists who uphold Pol Pot denounce Lin Biao as a Confucian and authoritarian with no real evidence at all. Such dogmatism would be funny if it weren’t so sad, if lives were not on the line.

Mao himself noted the importance of the correct, scientific line:

“The correctness or otherwise of the ideological and political line decides everything. When the Party’s line is correct, then everything will come its way. If it has no followers, then it can have followers; if it has no guns, then it can have guns; if it has no political power, then it can have political power. If its line is not correct, even what it has it may lose. The line is a net rope. When it is pulled, the whole net opens out.” (14)

The correct, scientific line is the key to victory. The incorrect line only leads to defeat. It is a sign of the weakness of the Maoist movement today that even though they claim to be scientific and materialist, the reality is that they are dogmatic, metaphysical, idealists that share much in common with religious sects. The dogmatic embrace of the Khmer Rouge by a Maoist organization so prestigious as the CPI (Maoist) reflects the sad state of affairs. Thus the claim by Maoism that it is the highest stage of revolutionary theory rings hallow today. Of today’s Maoist bombast, perhaps Mao would repeat his famous words: “It is an empty drum that beats the loudest.”

We can do better. If we are to initiate the next great wave of revolution, it is necessary to articulate a truly liberating vision of the future. It is also necessary that our vision of the future be based on genuine science, not old dogma. Those who uphold the Khmer Rouge today set themselves at odds with the advances of revolutionary science. We hope that those Maoists who continue to uphold the Khmer Rouge correct their line on this and other questions. We encourage the remnants of the Maoist movement to advance to the next, highest level of revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism. The masses deserve the best.

Notes

  1. https://ajadhind.wordpress.com/marxism-leninism-maoism-basic-course/
  2. ibid.
  3. The Worker, #11, July 2007, pp. 39-47. http://www.bannedthought.net/India/CPI-Maoist-Docs/Nepal/CPIM-Paper2007W11.htm
  4. http://naxalrevolution.blogspot.com/2006/10/dalit-voice-naxalism-gets-complicated.html
  5. http://nuevademocraciapanama.blogspot.com/2010/11/kampuchea-democratica.html
  6. http://nuevademocraciapanama.blogspot.com/2015/04/kampuchea-honor-y-gloria-al-querido.html
  7. http://nuevademocraciapanama.blogspot.com/2012/05/blog-grande-dazibao-quando-os.html
  8. www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/faq/polpot2.html
  9. ibid.
  10. http://natethayer.typepad.com/blog/2011/10/second-thoughts-for-pol-pot-fallen-tyrant-defends-his-brutal-regime-but-now-wants-cambodia-tied-to-west-the-washington-pos.html#sthash.ZS5DE2zj.dpuf
  11. Locard, Henri. Pol Pot’s Little Red Book: The Sayings of Angkar. Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai, 2004
  12. ibid.
  13. Mao Zedong, “On Ten Major Relationships,” April 1956
  14. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-9/mswv9_88.htm

Leading Light – Simple Talking Points to use with other people’s forces

Leading Light – Simple Talking Points to use with other people’s forcessunshine-500536_600x400

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This is a collection of talking points to introduce Leading Light Communism to other people’s forces that may not understand the truth of what we are saying yet. We must always express these points in a humble and friendly, never arrogant way. Let them come to us at their own pace. These people have their own long tradition of serving the people. We must be respectful of this, but also critical in a friendly way. A true friend is an honest friend. Education takes time. Relationships and trust take time. We are planting seeds.

1. If we want to win, we need to think and act in new ways.

The world revolution is at a low point. The last great wave of revolution, the Maoist revolution in China, peaked around 1969. The world has changed greatly in the half century since that time. The way out of the current impasse of decline and stagnation of the revolutionary movement is to further develop revolutionary science and new, advanced practices. It is necessary to acknowledge the contributions of past Leading Lights like Marx, Lenin, and Mao. However, to remain stagnant, to remain in the past, is to have already lost, already been defeated. The capitalists are always advancing their science of oppression. We must do the same. This is what Leading Light Communism is about.

2. The world has changed, the whole First World, Bourgeois World is the enemy.

The First World and its class allies are the Bourgeois World. The Bourgeois World as a whole is the class enemy. The Bourgeois World as a whole must be opposed. We must not be deceived into thinking we have class unity with any segment of the Bourgeois World. A few anomalies may exist in the First World who will be friends, but they are a small handful, few and far between. There is simply no significant proletariat amongst the Bourgeois World. The Bourgeois World must be written off.

3. The Third World, the Proletarian World, is the storm center of the world revolution.

The exploited and oppressed classes of the Third World are our friends, our social base. Oppressed peasants, landless peoples, tribal peoples who suffer oppression, the slum dwelling poor and workers of the Third World and their allies are the sea in which we swim. We are the poor, the exploited, the oppressed, those whose voice has been silenced. These are our sisters and brothers, our people. The Proletarian World will rise up like a mighty storm against the Bourgeois World and all its allies. All reaction, all oppression, all exploitation — imperialism, capitalism, semi-feudalism, patriarchy, etc. — will be washed away. The Bourgeois World will be dismantled through Global People’s War.

4.  Third World, Proletarian World, has changed. We must adapt.

We must also understand that the Third World and its allies, the Proletarian World, has changed. The world is not the same as Mao’s day. We cannot rely on dogmatic strategies of the past. For the first time in history, more people live in cities than in the countryside. There is a New Proletariat that is rising amongst the poorest peoples in the global slum of the Third World. Global People’s War must be adapted to account for this new rising class. People’s war should not be conceived as a linear process from the countryside to the city anymore. Instead, we need to adapt more sophisticated strategies that match today’s economic realities. This includes adapting transitional forms like New Democracy and New Socialism to the urban context. This means adapting New Power and the Red Zone to this new context. This is not to discount the countryside, the country side will still play an important, key strategic role, but its logistical importance may even be more important.

5. We advocate Global People’s War, an internationalist and total people’s war using old and new methods, against the Bourgeois World.

Global People’s War is total war. It is a people’s war without borders. It is people’s war of many fronts in many countries, speaking many languages, with only one flag. We must not be limited by traditional conceptions of war. No option should be taken off the table. We must use every tool in the tool box against the enemy. Long term, protracted efforts to weaken the logistics of the Bourgeois World while increasing our strength are especially important. We must develop midterm, longterm, and inter-generational strategies to disrupt and destroy the Bourgeois World and its system of global imperialism. We must update our science and technology of war.

6. We call for a new internationalism; we cannot rely on enemy help.

We should not count or rely on intra-imperialist conflict. The overall trend has been toward a system of global imperialism, the global domination of the Bourgeois World as a whole. This situation is similar to how Lin Biao said imperialism and social-imperialism still had contradictions, but that they had reached reconciliation overall in their joint exploitation of the global countryside. Just as global capitalism has globalized, so must resistance to it.

7. Arise, people’s warriors everywhere. Think globally. Act globally.

People’s warriors of all nationalities, colors, languages, etc. are welcome in our ranks. We call on people’s warriors everywhere to join the struggle in whatever capacity they can. We must concentrate the maximum amount of force against the weakest points of global imperialism, against the Bourgeois World. Do not spin your wheels where victory is not possible. Direct energy to where it matters.

8. Spread the word.

We must be innovative and daring, ideologically and in practice. To break the decline and stagnation of the world revolution, we must reevaluate all aspects of ideology and practice from the standpoint of the most advanced science. We must adapt or perish. This is the nature of scientific and revolutionary advance. We must uphold the advances of Leading Lights of the past like Marx, Lenin, Mao, but also the advances of today. We must strive to elevate to bring all people’s forces, friends of the people, to the new science.

9. We fight for Leading Light Communism.

We fight to end all oppression, all exploitation. We fight for total liberation. We do not intend to merely recreate past models of socialism. We must innovate. We must take revolution, take socialism, to a whole new level. New technologies exist. Sustainability is key. New advanced revolutionary science exists. New methods exist to really make total communism, Leading Light Communism a realistic, achievable goal.  Just as the Maoist revolution advanced beyond the Bolshevik one, we too must advance.

10. Our sun is rising. Our day is coming.

This is the beginning of the new wave of proletarian, communist revolution. We must not hesitate.  We must have the courage to embrace it, to fight, to live and die, for total liberation, for Leading Light Communism. Surrender is not an option. Stagnation in not an option. Daring. Courage. Loyalty. Discipline. Sacrifice. We must carry our lives on our fingertips, be willing to give everything when called to do so. We must stand shoulder to shoulder as sister and brother, as comrades-in-arms. We must always help each other when we stumble. Pick ourselves up when we have fallen. Never betray. Never cower. Never give up. Our hearts are the deepest red. Our example will shine like the sun shattering the midnight of exploitation and suffering. We must be the sword of history.  We serve the people. And this is greatness.

Follow the Leading Light. Be the Leading Light. Long Live the Leading Light. Our sun is rising.
 Our day is coming.

Comments on the evolution of empire

Comments on the evolution of empireus-imperialism-latuff-latin-america-racism

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Empire is constantly evolving to thwart the people’s movement. Imperialism has changed significantly since its beginning. The period of traditional colonialism during which the imperial powers literally occupied colonial lands mostly came to a close around the end of World War 2. The shattered empires of Europe could no longer occupy vast lands around the world. Their weakened armies could not match the people’s movements and decolonial struggles that emerged. Decolonization did not mean real independence for most former colonies. Even though former colonies were granted formal independence, real power was held by the imperialists. The United States emerged as the main leader of the Western imperialists. The nature of the Soviet Union also changed in the last decade of Stalin’s life. Like all major socialist revolutions, the Soviet Union wasn’t defeated by invasion by imperialists, but by the internal enemy, by revisionism. The revisionist Soviet Union emerged as another imperial bloc, but one that opposed the West. These two imperial blocs contended for power over the countries of the Proletarian World. Both created vast neocolonial empires that channeled resources and labor from the neocolonies to themselves. The entire Proletarian World became a battleground between these two imperial blocs. All the world was threatened with nuclear destruction by the power struggle between the Western and Soviet imperialists.

Today, empire is changing again. Just as the revolutionary movement learns from our past, just as revolutionary science evolves, the forces of reaction also learn. Even though there remain some conflicts in the world between powerful countries, these conflicts will not result or even risk world war. The cycle of world wars predicted by Lenin’s generation is over. Both world wars so weakened the capitalist system that proletarian revolution was able to erupt on a massive scale. During the first world war, the Bolshevik revolution created a wave of liberation that would not only spread throughout the old Czarist empire, but also into Eastern Europe, even Germany. Not long after World War 2, China, a quarter of the world’s population, raised the red flag. Although defeated now, at the time, these waves of revolution shook the capitalist system to its core. The capitalists do not want a repeat of the past. Thus the capitalist system has evolved. International institutions have arisen to mediate conflicts. National capitalism is surpassed by transnational capitalism. The global capitalist class is less and less tied to particular countries, rather they’ve become more and more transnational. The capitalists have a mutual interest in jointly exploiting the Proletarian World in a way that does not lead to intra-imperialist war. Thus the economies of the bourgeois countries are more and more intertwined with each other such that intra-imperialist wars do not make economic sense. At the same time, the Bourgeois World, the wealthy imperialist bloc, is penetrating and controlling the Proletarian World in ever new ways. Transnational corporations play a bigger and bigger role in today’s economy and politics. There is an increased overlap between big corporations and government.  As governments have downsized, corporations have been charged with managing those sectors of society once under the state’s control, or in other cases, corporations have been charged with the sell-off of massive state sectors as economies of weaker countries are forced to restructure by their creditors, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc. At the same time, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have an increased role as the traditional state has declined. The network of NGOs taking on the role of social services, population management, etc. are beholden to global interests, not to the communities they serve. They too are part of the new globalized, neoliberal face of empire.

Two antagonistic worlds have emerged, the Bourgeois World versus the Proletarian World. Contradictions within the Bourgeois World are becoming less and less antagonistic. Power and wealth are becoming more and more socialized. Social divisions have become less and less relevant in the Bourgeois World. The Bourgeois World is a world of comfort. The Proletarian World, by contrast, is a world of poverty, hunger, environmental devastation, instability, etc. The contradictions between the rich and the poor, between those who hold political and economic power and those who do not, is sharper than ever in the Proletarian World. The gap between the rich and poor grows.  The dogma of the past is not enough to win. Ideology is a weapon. If we are to really win, we must develop ever more advanced revolutionary science to place into the arms of the masses. With all our hearts we follow the Leading Light of the most advanced science applied to the task of reaching real communism.

We are the organization of the global poor, exploited, truly oppressed and their real allies. We are the organization of the true proletarians, the Proletarian World, who “have nothing to lose but their chains.” We have a world to win.

Comments on Labor Theory of Value, Productive Labor, Method, Orthodoxy, MIM

Comments on Labor Theory of Value, Productive Labor, Method, Orthodoxy, MIMbook

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The following discussion is taken from our discussion on mass line, lumpen organizing in the First World, etc. (1)  The comments are slightly edited:

“2001 MIM Congress: Again on the subject of the ‘masses’ in the imperialist countries by MC5, April 19, 2001

Most calling themselves ‘Marxist’ continue to misapply Marxism to today’s conditions. There are opportunists changing the definition of “proletariat” and abandoning the labor theory of value–usually without explicitly saying so. There are also dogmatists who quote from Lenin more than 75 years ago in Russia on conditions in imperialist countries today, when Lenin himself never quoted someone from 75 years prior to him on conditions in Russia in his day.

One of the trickiest forms of opportunism and dogmatism stems from the concept of the ‘masses.’ Many opportunists use this word to turn Mao into a bourgeois democratic populist. Others use it to justify failing to analyze conditions of today, since the masses everywhere must be revolutionary and exploited forever, or so the dogmatist reasons, and so we do not even have to apply the definition of ‘masses’ today.

In contrast, MIM has said that in the imperialist countries, the population cannot be the principal source of rational knowledge of proletarian politics. This should be obvious from the lack of socialist history or revolutionary class struggle in the imperialist countries. Nonetheless, MIM finds itself having to defend itself against those who do not know how carefully Marx, Lenin and Mao defined the words ‘proletariat’ and ‘masses and how they used them in their context. In particular, there are no timeless ‘tactics’ that apply to the ‘masses’ for all times and places. In this essay, we will distinguish between ‘population’ and ‘masses.’

It is not a mistake that a more ‘top-down’ approach to rational-knowledge is more necessary the higher the percentage of parasites in a population. That is only another way of saying that when behind enemy lines, we communists do not simply ape the enemy in all ways. We are not fish in the sea seeking to blend in with the enemy population when we are behind enemy lines.

Historically, in Mao’s China, there were people who did have to work behind enemy lines, to fight the Japanese or Chiang Kai-shek. There were two main communist complaints about those people who worked behind enemy lines. First, of course, was that such people became so muted that they became indistinguishable from the enemy, the basic problem of working behind enemy lines. (See for example, Mao’s 1944 essay, ‘Our Study and the Current Conditions’)Secondly was that once victorious in revolution, the communists who worked behind enemy lines continued to use the same methods they used when behind enemy lines–excessive conspiracy, lack of reliance on the population and even a lack of outspokennness.

In explaining the Bolshevik differences with Menshevism, Lenin says that worker ‘masses’ are only in the ‘thousands’ in ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.’ In fact, Lenin says that in the beginning of the revolutionary movement, the reference point of the struggle in the use of the word ‘masses’ is only a few thousand people! The following very long quote from a Comintern speech at the Third Congress addressing many imperialist country comrades mentions all the key issues:

‘We must prepare for dictatorship, and this consists in combating such phrases and such amendments. (Laughter.) Throughout, our theses speak of the masses. But, comrades, we need to understand what is meant by masses. The German Communist Workers’ Party, the Left-wing comrades, misuse this word. But Comrade Terracini, too, and all those who have signed these amendments, do not know how the word ‘masses’ should be read.

‘I have been speaking too long as it is; hence I wish to say only a few words about the concept of ‘masses’. It is one that changes in accordance with the changes in the nature of the struggle. At the beginning of the struggle it took only a few thousand genuinely revolutionary workers to warrant talk of the masses. If the party succeeds in drawing into the struggle not only its own members, if it also succeeds in arousing non-party people, it is well on the way to winning the masses. During our revolutions there were instances when several thousand workers represented the masses. In the history of our movement, and of our struggle against the Mensheviks, you will find many examples where several thousand workers in a town were enough to give a clearly mass character to the movement. You have a mass when several thousand non-party workers, who usually live a philistine life and drag out a miserable existence, and who have never heard anything about politics, begin to act in a revolutionary way. If the movement spreads and intensifies, it gradually develops into a real revolution. We saw this in 1905 and 1917 during three revolutions, and you too will have to go through all this. When the revolution has been sufficiently prepared, the concept ‘masses’ becomes different: several thousand workers no longer constitute the masses. This word begins to denote something else. The concept of ‘masses’ undergoes a change so that it implies the majority, and not simply a majority of the workers alone, but the majority of all the exploited. Any other kind of interpretation is impermissible for a revolutionary, and any other sense of the word becomes incomprehensible. It is possible that even a small party, the British or American party, for example, after it has thoroughly studied the course of political development and become acquainted with the life and customs of the non party masses, will at a favourable moment evoke a revolutionary movement (Comrade Radek has pointed to the miners’ strike as a good example[135]). You will have a mass movement if such a party comes forward with its slogans at such a moment and succeeds in getting millions of workers to follow it. I would not altogether deny that a revolution can be started by a very small party and brought to a victorious conclusion. But one must have a knowledge of the methods by which the masses can be won over. For this thoroughgoing preparation of revolution is essential. But here you have comrades coming forward with the assertion that we should immediately give up the demand for ‘big’ masses.

‘They must be challenged. Without thoroughgoing preparation you will not achieve victory in any country. Quite a small party is sufficient to lead the masses. At certain times there is no necessity for big organisations.

‘But to win, we must have the sympathy of the masses. An absolute majority is not always essential; but what is essential to win and retain power is not only the majority of the working class — I use the term ‘working class’ in its West-European sense, i.e., in the sense of the industrial proletariat — but also the majority of the working and exploited rural population. Have you thought about this?’

Historically as a concrete reference point, in 1894, Lenin was giving tactical respect to an enemy that had no army but commanded a few thousand readers and some libraries! Lenin said, ‘However, it should not be forgotten that these slanderers command all the material means for the most widespread propaganda of their slanders. They possess a magazine with a circulation of several thousand; they have reading-rooms and libraries at their disposal.’ (‘What the ‘Friends of the People’ Are and How They Fight the Social-Democrats’)

Concretely, MIM is fortunate to have Lenin’s writings to know that MIM does indeed surpass Lenin at his earliest stages organizationally, while we too would have to give tactical respect to the type of enemy that faced Lenin in 1894. While Lenin in his day and MIP-Amerika both have large territories to cover, MIM today distributes articles in the five and six digits every month just on its web site alone. Lenin did not have this and his newspaper in the early 1890s was not physically superior to MIM’s in quantity; although we may certainly surmise that his literature gathered greater passion from the population, and perhaps more people handed his newspapers on than MIP-Amerika’s, thus meaning more readers per newspaper. Furthermore, MIM’s prison struggle and prison readership alone is reminiscent of Lenin’s reference point of a few thousand people in early stages of struggle. Hence, anyone comparing MIM with Lenin on the ‘masse’” and finding MIM lacking just did not read Lenin very carefully.

Lenin remembered bitterly in his ‘Lecture on the 1905 Revolution,’ the ‘reformists’ who called him ‘sectarian’ for having only a few hundred organizers and a few thousand people as a reference point. The Liberal leader Struve led the attack along these lines; yet today, people continue to attack MIM along the exact same lines. Lenin stood his ground and believed even such a small element constituted ‘revolutionary people.’

Even in 1915, two years before the revolution, Lenin says he only had 40,000 subscribers. He made a point of saying that the tzar could repress 5 or 10 times that number and still the 40,000 would not be annihilated in influence. (‘What has been revealed by the trial of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Duma Group’)

MIM points to Lenin’s precise conception of masses to refute those trying to pull us in a bourgeois populist direction about what our real political roots are and how science is actually applied. It goes without saying that a party of millions can address hundreds of millions of people, but at earlier stages of revolutionary development the word ‘masses’ can be demagogy, a kind of god that supports nihilism or reformism.

Somehow, with the international proletariat’s luck in drawing enemies in imperialist countries, the Trotskyists and crypto- Trotskyists such as Avakian criticizing us ‘Lin Biaoists’ manage to foul up the word ‘masses’ from another angle, by denigrating the exploited and oppressed masses of the Third World. Against these Trotskyists, the term ‘masses’ must be defended. On the other hand, within the imperialist countries we get the social-democrats and other left-wing elements of parasitism trying to have us worship the enemy population as ‘masses.’ Both ultra-purist Trotskyists and reformist left-wing elements of parasitism use the term ‘masses’ only to denigrate the Third World oppressed and exploited while glorifying the labor aristocracy.

Mensheviks have made too much of Lenin’s and Stalin’s relative distrust of the population compared with Mao’s. Lenin said in ‘What Is To Be Done?’ that Russia was a ‘politically enslaved state, in which nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand of the population are corrupted to the marrow of their bones by political subservience.’ For this reason, he thought it might be defensible to have a communist party which commanded loyalty and obedience to itself instead of the state. Thus, some Mensheviks think that for Lenin to say what he did about the labor aristocracy is not surprising, while Mao was more friendly to the ‘masses,’ which includes the labor aristocracy by this line of Menshevik reasoning.

Yet, we must remember that Lenin lived in a semi-imperialist country, one that had ‘Great Power’ status at the time Lenin lived. Mao lived in a country that once had “Great Power” status but was in fact super- exploited and oppressed. Hence, we can say Mao was correct to have more reliance on the population of China than we have on the population of the United $tates or Lenin had in Russia’s population.

This is to leave aside the fact that Mao was careful in defining the word ‘masses.’ When he says ‘mass line,’ it is not an excuse for spontaneity or bourgeois democratic prejudice. Mao’s ‘mass line’ is universally correct, but only if it is universally correctly defined and applied.

Here in the imperialist countries we often fail from step one–defining friends and enemies based on the appropriation of surplus-labor, which is the connection between Marx’s Das Kapital and the political theories of Lenin and Mao. Political theorizing and strategizing in a void without Marx’s labor theory of value is rank opportunism, creating a bourgeois political philosophy of a pre-scientific sort, whether or not it is in the guise of Marxism. There is no meaning to political steering or tactics without the labor theory of value, so any discussion of ‘ultraleft’ or ‘right opportunism’ is completely sterile without an understanding of concrete conditions first. There is nothing permanently politically ultraleft or right opportunist without first defining classes and hence friends and enemies.

Mao himself defined the classes in Chinese society, and specifically Chinese society, in order to define ‘friend’ and ‘enemy.’ In his ‘Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society’ in 1926, Mao talks about many things that are specific to China and even more things that are specific only to semi-colonial and semi- feudal countries. He did not talk about all masses in all countries being the same at all times.

Even in the essay ‘On New Democracy,’ which is not relevant for imperialist country oppressor nations, Mao said, ‘No sooner had the strength of the proletariat and of the peasant and other petty bourgeois masses brought the revolution of 1927 to victory than the capitalist class, headed by the big bourgeoisie, kicked the masses aside, seized the fruits of the revolution, formed a counter-revolutionary alliance with imperialism and the feudal forces, and strained themselves to the limit in a war of ‘Communist suppression’ for ten years.’ Here, Mao contrasted the masses and the enemy. Most references to the ‘masses’ by Lenin, Stalin and Mao speak of ‘exploited,’ ‘toiling,’ ‘working’ or ‘oppressed’ masses–not masses that include substantial enemy sections.

During the Cultural Revolution in China, the ‘Little Red Book’ said the following: ‘The broad masses of the workers, peasants and soldiers and the broad ranks of the revolutionary cadres and the intellectuals should really master Mao Tse-tung’s thought.’ Again, we do not hear the term ‘masses’ used to refer to enemies.

In another context, in his essay, ‘Speeches at a National Party Conference’ in 1955, Mao said, ‘We often say that we should not become conceited because we have done well in our work and that we comrades should remain modest and learn from the advanced countries, from the masses and from each other so as to make fewer mistakes.’ Again, as MIM has always said, there is a distinction to be drawn here. Mao did not lump ‘the advanced countries’ with ‘masses’ here. Let’s also keep in mind he could have said, ‘learn from the masses of the advanced countries’ and he did not. It’s not so simple. There are things to learn from enemies, but we do not refer to it as part of the ‘mass line,’ with ‘from the masses’ and ‘to the masses.’

In truth, if once in a while, ‘masses’ referred to people that included enemies it would not be so bad–if the enemy component of ‘masses’ is the minority. Such was the case in times during the war against Japan led by Mao. Both Mao and Chiang Kai-shek spoke of the ‘entire nation’ opposing Japan–and for a decisive period of time the conflict with Japanese imperialism was the principal contradiction for the Chinese Revolution. Yet, contrary to the image some would like to foist concerning Mao, Mao was even more precise than just counting a few enemies as ‘masses.’

In ‘Is Yugoslavia a Socialist Country?’ Mao said in 1963 what he would later say about the USSR. Some people do not realize that Mao never counted the ‘labor aristocracy’ as anything but enemy: ‘It shows us that not only is it possible for a working-class party to fall under the control of a labour aristocracy, degenerate into a bourgeois party and become a flunkey of imperialism before it seizes power.’ Furthermore, Mao said, ‘Old-line revisionism arose as a result of the imperialist policy of buying over and fostering a labour aristocracy. Modern revisionism has arisen in the same way. Sparing no cost, imperialism has now extended the scope of its operations and is buying over leading groups in socialist countries and pursues through them its desired policy of ‘peaceful evolution.” Hence, Mao always said the question of labor aristocracy is linked to the question of the restoration of capitalism. For a supposed Maoist to ignore the ‘labor aristocracy’ of the imperialist countries is revisionism. For people to talk about upholding the Cultural Revolution and opposing Soviet revisionism without opposing the labor aristocracy as enemy is just pure hogwash.

In this regard, we must note the revisionist efforts of many to smuggle the labor aristocracy into the ‘masses,’ and then the ‘mass line,’ as an excuse for tailing parasitic demands by the imperialist country parasites. MIM follows the ‘mass line,’ but the population does not get to define whether or not it is ‘masses’ or not. MIM uses the definition of ‘proletariat’ and ‘masses’ laid down since Marx and Lenin. Belonging to the ‘masses’ or the ‘proletariat’ is not a question of self-identification. We do not mean conditions are the same as in the days of Marx and Lenin, but it does mean we have no reason to change the very definition of these words, since capitalism and semi-feudalism continue to dominate the world. People who believe MIM is wrong are free to argue that the proletariat of 2001 is less relevant than in 1901, but our critics should not be allowed to change the definition of proletariat and ‘masses’ to include a majority of enemies.” (2)

I do not have time to give a full analysis of every quote in the document. The document seems to have some problems and muddle even though I obviously support the overall sentiment. Some issues though:

In the beginning, the document alludes to MIM’s use of their version of the labor theory of value to paint large segments of the First World as parasitic. The same theory ends up painting large segments of the Third World that do not technically produce value as also parasitic. It seems to me that MIM was so out to prove the First World as parasitic using a certain kind of orthodoxy that they did not look at the implications of that analysis on the class structure of the Third World. Are the rising slum dwelling classes of the Third World also parasitic because they do not create value? Are refugee populations dependent on aid parasitic? Are Palestinians? Landless, declassed ex-peasants? There are also cases where productive laborers in some Third World countries form a relatively privileged sector that will not be the leading force of the revolutionary movement. MIM used to represent its views as orthodox on this topic, but MIM usually forgets to add that Marx assumed commodities are traded for equivalents in order to show that the origin of profit was from unpaid work. If you throw out this assumption, then it kind of undermines Marx’s whole argument for unpaid labor being the source of profit. You don’t need the idea of unpaid labor as a source of profit if you throw out the assumption that commodities trade at their values. And if you don’t throw out that assumption, you are kind of stuck with accepting that First World productive workers are exploited. Or, you have to throw out the orthodoxy and move toward a concept of net-exploitation as myself, Serve The People, Rebel1 explored in the IRTR period. Or, you have to set a bar for exploitation by assigning a full value of labor ala comrade Serve the People, something Marx himself opposed in at least one place — although I don’t have the reference off hand. Or you move in directions I have suggested in numerous articles, abandoning the labor theory of value altogether. IRTR and LLCO explored these directions in order to address some of this. I will also add that I am not saying there might not be uses for the labor theory of value, I am just saying is that it is not without problems and it is not a dividing line between Marxism and revisionism.

My point is that the appeal to orthodoxy (sometimes false orthodoxy) that pervades the document is not only the wrong way to go, but it also misrepresents. For example, it says that Mao defined words like “proletariat” and “masses” in their contexts, when everyone knows Mao and Maoist publications made numerous references to the “proletariat” and “masses” in the First World. MIM often invented all kinds of strange arguments to try to explain away these famous quotes by Mao. My personal favorite MIM argument was when MIM said Mao’s First Worldism was an innocent mistake because Mao did not have experience with the First World, as though the leader of a state that ruled over a quarter of the world’s people was living in a cave with no intelligence on the First World, as though Mao was totally dependent on First World micro-sects for his information on the First World. Any quick look to Beijing Review reveals how disingenuous MIM’s claim was. MIM had access to Beijing Review, but they used to cherry pick and selectively quote articles to make it appear as though Maoist China was more Third Worldist than it was. However, if you actually read the magazines, you will find First Worldism pervasive in Chinese Maoist literature. MIM was counting on people not having access to the original magazines, so they misrepresented the contents. This is just one thing that popped out immediately as problematic. I do not have time to examine every single quote in the article in context or look up quotes by the same authors that may suggest other things. The bigger issue is the methodological problem in part of the document. It seeks to pile up quotes as a way of increasing the legitimacy of its claims. And, in an attempt to do this, it misrepresents things on at least the occasion of Mao. Perhaps it misrepresents elsewhere, I don’t know. The method of seeking to represent oneself as the orthodoxy, misrepresent history, cherry pick, selectively quote, etc. is not a scientific one. It is fine to quote previous communists, it is good to supply information, but there is a kind of appeal to authority going on here too.

MC5 seems to make a good point about how as the level of parasitism increases, so too does the need for a “top-down” approach. I agree with the sentiment here, but not the literal claim. If MIM’s political economy is taken literally, large segments of the poorest sections of the Third World are also parasitic since they consume value, but do not produce it. Do we require a “top-down” approach with them too? Obviously not. Again, this is a matter of MIM painting with too big a brush. In their attempt to paint the First World as parasitic, they failed to look at the implications of their arguments as they applied to Third World populations. I think a better way to say this is simply to say the higher standard of living of a  population, the more of a “top-down” approach is needed.

I like MC5’s line when he discusses the revisionist attempts “to smuggle the labor aristocracy into the ‘masses,’ and then the ‘mass line,’ as an excuse for tailing parasitic demands by the imperialist country parasites.” I am not completely comfortable with the wording, but the assertion is correct. However, then I wonder why MIM focused on the First World oppressed nations? Why did MIM stick to the dogmatic formulation that the principal contradiction is between imperialism versus oppressed nations? It seems like MIM, with its intellectual emphasis on the First World lower strata and oppressed nations, is guilty of exactly what MC5 claims the revisionists do. The conclusion of a more consistent political economy, such as our own, is that the principal contradiction is between the First World versus Third World, the Bourgeois World versus Proletarian World, Exploiter World versus Exploited World. This is the muddle that seemed to pervade in MIM. They had one foot in Third Worldism and one foot in First Worldism with First Worldist practice, tailing of national liberation, pantherism, gender spellings, etc.

Again, I do not have time to give a full analysis of the document. It allowed us to demarcate some differences between MIM Thought and Leading Light Communism. However, these are just a couple of the differences between MIM Thought and Leading Light Communism. Leading Light Communism is a whole package of scientific advances that span everything from epistemology to political economy to history to “deep politics,” etc. Leading Light Communism is the future.
Notes

1. http://llco.org/no-magic-key-to-unlock-the-first-world-mass-line-or-otherwise/
2. http://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/wim/cong/onmasses01.html

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Settlerism, Global Empire, and American opinions about Gaza

Settlerism, Global Empire, and American opinions about Gaza

(llco.org)

A new poll by the Pew Research Center was released on US opinion about the conflict in Gaza. The results were interesting. Only a quarter, 1 out of every 4, Americans believes that Israel had gone “too far.” The figure is basically unchanged since 2006 when Israel invaded Lebanon in its war against Hezbollah. This seems to indicate that much of the pro-Palestinian activism over the last decade has done little to shift US public opinion broadly. Even though it seems like there is more opposition to Israel’s actions now, this is probably more the result of a shift in the opinions of the elite, journalists, etc., not a shift at the grassroots. This may suggest agitation and propaganda aimed at First World media makers, intellectuals, and policy makers is more effective than aiming at the grassroots. The poll also suggest that youth and people who identified as Democrats are more evenly divided on the issue:

“Democrats split almost evenly on which side bore the greater responsibility for the current violence, with 29% blaming Hamas and 26% Israel and 18% citing both.”

“Among those who identify as liberal Democrats, 44% said Israel’s actions have been excessive, while 33% said they had been about right and 7% said they had not gone far enough. Among conservative Republicans, only 10% said Israel had gone too far, 51% said its actions had been about right, and 21% said Israel had not gone far enough.”

What is especially interesting is that 22 percent of whites responded that Israel had gone too far. And  36 percent of Blacks and 35 percent of Latinos responded similarly. The African diaspora and Spanish-speaking populations in the US were better on the question of opposition Israel’s genocide, but not that much better.

There is a myth amongst one segment of the First Worldist left that understanding the origins of the United States as a “settler society” is the most important aspect in understanding the United States today. The idea is that leftover social divisions from the origin of the United States as a settler society still run so deep that they are the key to making revolution today. This is connected to the view that the United States is a white apartheid state, that a white nation rules over all the others in the same way apartheid South Africa ruled over its African population or the same way Israel occupies Palestine. Revolution, according to this myth, is a matter of encouraging national liberation amongst the non-white “internal semi-colonies” or “captive nations” in order to topple the white nation. It is true that the United States originated as a European-settler invasion of North America, and it is true that white supremacy and its terror still afflicts the captive nations within the United States, as mass incarceration rates and police repression of Black and Brown people clearly indicate. What is not true is that this is the main thing in understanding US social dynamics, including the lack of revolutionary potential in United States or the First World generally. And it is also not true that national liberation of internal semi-colonies within US borders is playing or will likely play a significant role in the defeat of capitalism and imperialism under current conditions. It may be useful for traditional activists to agitate as through these myths are accurate, but the advanced will recognize that this kind of rhetoric is, at best, a “noble lie,” a front for more serious revolutionary work. At worst, the rhetoric is simply delusion or a front for opportunist gain or police work of various kinds. This kind of analysis, if taken seriously, is one of the last bastions of First Worldism.

These myth makers correctly point out proletarian consciousness does not exist amongst white laborers because they are not a proletariat. What they fail to point out is that national consciousness barely exists amongst most of the populations of the internal semi-colonies, and proletarian consciousness does not exist. Here it is important to point out that differences do exist amongst non-white populations. For example, national consciousness is much more a reality amongst many indigenous peoples than those of the African diaspora in the United States, where it is negligible. National consciousness remains more in force amongst the migrant Mexican population than the Chicano population, where it is also negligible. It is a kind of chauvinist outlook that reduces the diverse situations of non-white populations to a single analysis of internal semi-colonies as “people of color”. It is a kind of chauvinism, naivety, or both that fails to recognize the contradictions between various non-white populations, which, in everyday life, can be experienced more sharply than the conflict with the white population. Such an analysis is often more rooted in white guilt and the projection of a romanticized “other” than reality. Someone recently joked that such an analysis amongst white “anti-imperialists” is the revolutionary equivalent of “the magical negro” in film and literature who saves the day. (2) (3)

The poll numbers suggest that there is slightly more solidarity expressed by those in the African diaspora than whites in the US regarding Palestine. The Latino populations in the US also shows slightly greater solidarity. However, the degree of solidarity shown in the poll is not that much greater among the non-whites than the whites. One would expect it to be much greater if the myths were accurate. One would expect a much greater degree of solidarity if the relationship of non-whites to whites in the United States was basically the same as the relationship of Palestinians to Israelis. The poll numbers indicate self-identification as a “Democrat” and “liberal Democrat”  are far better predictors of opposition to Israel’s actions than “race” or “nation” in these cases. Youth is also a better indicator than “race.” The reason so many Americans, white and non-white, support Israel is because they perceive it is in their imperial interest to do so.

The reality is that the United States has integrated many diverse populations into its multi-racial, multi-national society. There is a long history of this. At one point, Jews were migrants at the bottom of US society. Irish migrants too experienced terrible racism. So did other populations. These populations first “became white,” then they were allowed a privileged position within US empire. Some claim this transformation is seen in language itself. Some historians claim that the word “honkey” was originally a derogatory term for Hungarians and Eastern Europeans generally, who were not seen as properly white. Today, the term is aimed at whites generally. However, to share in the spoils of empire today, it is not necessary for a population to become white. Today, Asian populations within the United States have a higher per capita income than whites yet are still not perceived as fully white in the same way Irish-Americans are, for example. The people of the indigenous nations (latino and non-latino alike) and the African diaspora within the US, for the most part, share the spoils of empire, without being perceived as fully white. White national consciousness does not have anything like the power or influence it once did over white society. There is a residual idea of “race” that exists. This is based on phenotypical differences, stereotypes, some cultural differences, history, and speaking styles. Social and economic position still play a role, but not the role they once did. The United States has integrated many of its non-white populations into its multi-racial, imperial society. However, not every population has been equally integrated, which is why national consciousness amongst the Lakotah, for example, is greater than national consciousness amongst Chicanos or those of African descent. This is an ongoing process. And there is no guarantee every population will be integrated this way. For example, will the United States be able to absorb the massive migrant populations from Latin America? In any case, it is the massive exploitation of the Third World that allows for the integration of these populations into the United States and into the First World generally.

This process of the United States emerging as a multi-national empire should also be seen alongside the United States playing a leading role in an emerging multi-racial, trans-national First World, a kind of global empire. In any case, the old formulation of oppressor verses oppressed nation inherited from national liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s does not apply as it once did. Instead, what is happening is the development of a global imperial system, but at the same time the First and Third Worlds are still preserved, even if the borders of these spheres do not always correspond to the the borders of countries.  Just as imperialism is globalizing, so too is resistance to it. As the Bourgeois World continues its barbarous brutality, the Proletarian World responds with new methods of resistance. Armed with all-powerful Leading Light Communism, the Proletarian World is beginning to organize a Global People’s War to liberate humanity and the Earth. Our sun is rising. Our day is coming.

Notes

1. http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-israel-hamas-poll-20140728-story.html

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_Negro

On definition mongering

On definition mongeringBible-

(llco.org)

“Whatever is written in a book is right — such is still the mentality of culturally backward Chinese peasants. Strangely enough, within the Communist Party there are also people who always say in a discussion, ‘Show me where it’s written in the book.’ When we say that a directive of a higher organ of leadership is correct, that is not just because it comes from ‘a higher organ of leadership’ but because its contents conform with both the objective and subjective circumstances of the struggle and meet its requirements. It is quite wrong to take a formalistic attitude and blindly carry out directives without discussing and examining them in the light of actual conditions simply because they come from a higher organ. It is the mischief done by this formalism which explains why the line and tactics of the Party do not take deeper root among the masses. To carry out a directive of a higher organ blindly, and seemingly without any disagreement, is not really to carry it out but is the most artful way of opposing or sabotaging it.

The method of studying the social sciences exclusively from the book is likewise extremely dangerous and may even lead one onto the road of counter-revolution. Clear proof of this is provided by the fact that whole batches of Chinese Communists who confined themselves to books in their study of the social sciences have turned into counter-revolutionaries. When we say Marxism is correct, it is certainly not because Marx was a ‘prophet’ but because his theory has been proved correct in our practice and in our struggle. We need Marxism in our struggle. In our acceptance of his theory no such formalisation of mystical notion as that of ‘prophecy’ ever enters our minds. Many who have read Marxist books have become renegades from the revolution, whereas illiterate workers often grasp Marxism very well. Of course we should study Marxist books, but this study must be integrated with our country’s actual conditions. We need books, but we must overcome book worship, which is divorced from the actual situation.

How can we overcome book worship? The only way is to investigate the actual situation.” — Mao Zedong, Oppose Book Worship

The following quotes from a recent discussion. We have not quoted everything that was said. And we have corrected a few typos and slightly edited the text in a couple places for clarification. Those who want to read the original can go here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/263895233629245/820818457936917/

The discussion went in various directions, and we did not bother answering everything that was raised because much of it is available online and has been discussed a dozen times in our literature. The main point of contention was that we were not using words exactly as Marx did. We run into this kind of ‘definition mongering’ a lot. So here are some of our responses:

“Science is not some metaphysics derived from eternal definitions.”

“Just because someone earns a wage or salary does not make them proletarian as a revolutionary agent. Marx identified the concept of proletarian as a revolutionary agent with workers because it looked like society was polarizing into ‘two great camps.’ Well, it didn’t work out that way. Not all workers are the same. Some workers in the First World have more access to capital than Third World capitalists. To look at revolution in 2014 with analytic categories from 1848 is really out of touch. The world is a lot more complicated.”

“I am more interested in truth and revolution, not what Marx said. Lots of people can quote the Bible too, so what? As I said, Marx’s class analysis, which looked good in his day, is not good enough to explain the contemporary world. Who says being white renders them not proletarian? We don’t. As I already said, blacks and chicanos aren’t, generally speaking, proletarian either.”

“I find your approach silly. You are willing to admit that these First World workers are ‘net-exploiters’ (we just say exploiters), yet you want to call them ‘proletarians.’ Well, if they are exploiters, then they appropriate ill-gotten value just as the bourgeoisie do. The fact that they appropriate in a way that superficially looks like they themselves suffer exploitation is besides the point. They are getting more than their share of the pie. At that point, what good does it do to retain an archaic definition of ‘proletarian’ as though there is a common interest shared by exploiter workers in the First World and exploited workers (and peoples)  in the Third World?”

“LLCO is not Marxist first. We are revolutionary scientists first and foremost. We apply the best scientific methods to reach communism, ending all oppression. Marx happened to be the best revolutionary scientist in his day. The most advanced physicists today abandon the literal letter of Newton, but they still stand on his shoulders. To be a Marxist in any other sense is just religion.”

“It’s all about the question of power. ‘Philosophers have heretofore interpreted the world, the point is TO CHANGE IT.’ Marx’s theories were not to be taken as ‘just so’ stories, neat stories about how stuff gets made. They were to provide tools of analysis to make revolution, a guide to action. Marx’s genius was that he saw economic misery in front of him and came up with mathematical models to quantify exploitation in order to better understand how to make revolution. A theory of exploitation is not just some abstract thing, it should help us answer Mao’s first question: ‘Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?’ It should identify the revolutionary agent, what we call ’the proletariat,’ which is not simply wage earners. In fact, simple standard of living charts can better predict where socialist revolutions will occur than whether such and such country has x amount of wage earners.”

“[Sarcasm intended] Marx defined ‘exploitation’ in such a such a way. Nobody else can use the word except as he did. Newton defined ‘space’ in such and such a way, who is this Einstein upstart? How dare he use the word incorrectly, even if advances the science!”

“We are concerned with giving a better revolutionary science to the masses, not quibbling over words with ‘the rest of the left.’”

“If you want to show why your framework predicts and explains alignment of social groups better than mine, fine. That is a discussion worth having. I really could care less about arguing about definitions. Scientific terms evolve all the time. If you don’t know this, you simply are unfamiliar with the history of science. Revolutionary science is the same way.”

“Marx was the best thing in his day. I don’t think it is very good now for understanding social alignments or interests. I don’t know why you are so fixated on this issue. It would seem kind of obvious to most people that knowledge in every field has advanced in the past 200 years. It would be odd if that were not the case with political economy. Although if you are applying a political economy from 150-200 years ago to today, well, you probably aren’t really doing real political economy, but something like those guys who interpret current events into Bible prophecies.”

“I really think this discussion is not worth having. I am being totally honest when I say this kind of definition mongering doesn’t interest me. As far as why Marx shows up at all in our work, well that should be obvious. When advances are made in science, these advances are not born in one fell swoop. The new ideas often cast themselves in language of previous ones. Plus, not everything about Marx is outdated. Marx was a genius. You should be able to answer this stuff yourself. Newton’s concept of space was not curved. Thus he had a concept of gravity that was not as connected to space, and certainly not its curvature. Space is now seen as curved by objects, which allows a theory of space to account for the ‘gravitational effect’ without gravity as a force. Newton was still a genius nonetheless. And current physics stands on his shoulders. As for Marx, I did not say he never made any logical arguments, but it would be silly to think Marx’s whole work was some kind of giant valid syllogism. Even Marx himself would admit this. Dialectics, right? Marx came up with a collection of interrelated theories that were the best thing going at the time for predicting and explaining the socio-economic life. However, not only has revolutionary science advanced, socio-economic life has changed in many ways today. We use what is good and toss the bad.”

“As I already said, Marxism is not about some ‘just so’ story for the sake of it. It is a set of descriptions to better understand socioeconomic relations to better predict and explain the world for making revolution. It is a set of categories to predict and explain social alignments in order to better change the world. Sorry if this offends people, but I really do think that only very stupid people and very dogmatic people at this point believe there is some kind of underlying unity and interests between workers making 500$/year and others making 60,000$/year. It just isn’t the case. You can think anything you want, but nobody really believes this outside a few dogmatic sects that have driven the left into irrelevance and intellectuals who, although literate, have little connection to reality. You can say ‘well, Marx said there is an underlying interest and it is called proletarian!’ And I will respond as I have, with a big ‘who cares?’ Marx thought the world was polarizing into two great camps of exploited and exploiters, he identified these groups as capitalists and workers, bourgeoisie and proletarians. Marx thought workers everywhere were being pushed down to a point where they would become revolutionary. The world has not divided this way, although it looked as much at the time. The world has not evolved in a way that pushed down all workers to the point of rebellion. In fact, work in the First World is one way the system distributes global surpluses. Work has become one way in which exploitation occurs because some First World workers receive super-wages well above what they should receive at the expense of the Third World. Work in some contexts is a way by which some workers appropriate the value of others in the Third World, much the same as capitalists siphon off surpluses. Even later in life, Engels noticed the way things were heading and began to question this way of looking at things, which is why he speaking of ‘bourgeois proletarians.’ Later, others, began speaking of ‘labor aristocracies.’ Today, we count First World workers as part of the global bourgeoisie, generally speaking. If the way you are talking about the world doesn’t line up with reality, you are free to go on talking that way. Plenty of people talk nonsense all the time. But, as I said, so what?”

Turning Money Into Rebellion edited by Gabriel Kuhn reviewed part 1

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

(llco.org)

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

Quick history and timeline

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

Parasite state theory and imperialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Third Worldism,” epistemology, art, socialism

“Third Worldism,” epistemology, art, socialismhqdefault

(llco.org)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. Mao famously stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions about Maoism and Leading Light Communism

Questions about Maoism and Leading Light CommunismLL_x_1

(llco.org)

We recently received some questions about the relationship of Leading Light Communism to Maoism.

1. LLCO’s concept of the Third World is the same of chairman Mao?

No. The Leading Light’s “Global Class Analysis” is totally different from Mao’s “Theory of Three Worlds.” Let’s look at the differences.

Mao Zedong upheld a “Theory of Three Worlds” in the 1970s. Mao reportedly said the “First World” was made up of the United States and the Soviet Union. The “Second World” was made up of the smaller imperialists like European countries, Japan, Australia, etc. The “Third World” was made up of the poorer countries. Mao’s conception was one based on the nationalist, geopolitical needs of China, not on proletarian science. Mao’s theory was invented after the fact to justify China’s increasingly narrow-nationalist foreign policy in the 1970s. In any case, according to the Maoist approach, the main thing that determined one world from another was military power, geopolitical aggressiveness, etc. So, even though European imperialist countries had a higher standard of living than the Soviet Union, the smaller, militarily weaker, European imperialists were part of Mao’s “Second World.” By contrast, Leading Light looks at the world from the standpoint of what Mao called “the first question of revolution”: “Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?” We look at the world, not from the standpoint of nationalism and foreign policy, but from the standpoint of the question of class, from the standpoint of the proletariat. Our Global Class Analysis looks at the world from the standpoint of aligning social forces in order to make revolution to eliminate all exploitation and oppression, to reach true freedom, Leading Light Communism. Thus we divide human society into “worlds” based on standard of living. Those zones, countries, geographic areas whose populations have the poorest standard of living are the most Third World. Those zones, countries, geographic areas whose populations have the wealthiest standard of living are the most First World. We can see society as divided into a continuum, one pole represents the higher standard of living, the First World. The Third World, the lower standard of living, is another pole. The “Second World” pole between the two. Although we do not often talk about the “Second World,” it can be seen as those countries concentrated in the middle in terms of standard of living.

[First World] -S-U——————–P-R- [“Second World”] —————-M———–B- [Third World]

On this model, a country like Switzerland, “S,” with a higher standard of living, falls closer to the extreme end of the First World than the United States, “U.” A country like Portugal, “P,” falls on the First World side, but closer to the middle. Russia, “R,” also, falls somewhere closer to the middle. Similarly Bangladesh, “B,” has a poorer population than Mexico, “M.” On this model, wealthy Gulf countries fall on the First World side also. This model can also be applied within individual countries. For example, there are First World neighborhoods and areas in Third World countries that have a much higher standard of living. Similarly, there are some pockets of the First World within Third World countries.

We can also use this model to predict the rise of fascism. Traditionalist fascism is much more likely to take hold in First World countries with a lower standard of living, for example Greece or Russia. Wealthier First World countries tend to adopt a more liberal outlook. The closer a country is to the Third World pole, the greater the social base, the potential, for revolution. Similarly, the higher the standard of living that exists, the more First World a country is, the smaller the proletarian class, the bigger the bourgeoisie. Thus we say there is no significant proletariat in the First World. We must write off the First World populations because they have a bigger interest in preserving and advancing their position in the system than in destroying the system itself. First World peoples have far, far more to lose than their chains. They have their whole consumerist, comfortable, bourgeois standard of living to lose. The true proletariat has nothing to lose but its chains. Again and again, we see the bourgeois populations of the First World oppose revolution and anti-imperialist struggles. Revolution proceeds from the Third World pole to the “Second World” pole to the First World pole.

2. Why we must to defeat the First World?

Long ago, Maoists in China understood that class had changed since Karl Marx’s day. For example, Maoists in China spoke of the “new bourgeoisie” that arose within the Communist Party itself. Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping were part of this new bourgeoisie, yet did they personally own factories as the traditional bourgeoisie of the England of Marx’s day? Could Liu Shaoqi personally give away China’s productive power to his friends or children? No. The new bourgeoisie in the Soviet Union and China was not the traditionalist bourgeoisie of Marx. The new bourgeoisie was a bureaucratic, technocratic class that collectively owned China’s wealth. This new bourgeoisie was led by reactionary ideology. And the new bourgeoisie used their position to further take power from the masses and concentrate it in their own hands. The point here is that Maoists long ago recognized that new class formations had arisen that Marx had not fully anticipated. The working bourgeoisie of the First World may work, but that does not mean they are exploited. They have such a high standard of living, they benefit so much from Empire, that they have no interest in overthrowing it. Friedrich Engels wrote long ago of how the entire population of England was becoming bourgeois on the back of the exploitation of India.  Vladimir Lenin long ago wrote of the “labor aristocracy.” Lin Biao too spoke of a “global countryside” that opposed a “global city.” All of these writers were pointing to the fact that class was changing. Just as the Maoists had identified a new bourgeoisie in their midst, these authors were identifying another new bourgeoisie arising in the imperial and wealthy countries, in what would become the First World. Leading Light builds on these ideas and advances them to a whole new scientific level.

Maoists during the Cultural Revolution emphasized the importance of  Lenin’s observation that “Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” Long ago, Maoists in China understood that the defeat of the bourgeoisie is key to advancing to communism. They emphasized the necessity of the “all-round Dictatorship of the Proletariat over the bourgeoisie.” Maoists in China were not just talking about Marx’s traditional bourgeoisie, but also the new bourgeoisie that arises inside the Communist Party itself. Similarly, we too much extend our recognition of class struggle to all-round Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Real Marxism has always demanded defeat of the bourgeoisie. And today, this means defeat of this new bourgeoisie, the Bourgeois World, the First World itself. Just as this was a dividing line between real Marxism and revisionism in the past, it is a dividing line between real Marxism and revisionism today. We must defeat the bourgeoisie, not compromise with it. Thus we must reject the revisionism poison of Karl Kautsky, Nikita Khrushchev, Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, and the First Worldists. Just as the Maoists in China raised the understanding of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat to a whole new level, so too does Leading Light Communism advance this aspect of revolutionary science.

3. You said that you have some comrades in the First World, what is the function of the comrades in the First World?

Leading Light Communism aims at total victory through Global People’s War that is truly global. All Leading Lights, no matter what their origin or location, are our brothers and sisters. There is a long tradition of exceptional individuals from the bourgeoisie who break from their class background. The most famous example is Freidrich Engels himself, who not only provided resources so that Marx could survive, but  Engels was a revolutionary scientist in his own right. Leading Light is a movement for all real revolutionaries.

Leading Light raises the slogan “Revolution in the Third World, Resistance in the First World.” First World comrades have a duty to do everything they can to support the Global People’s War of the Leading Light, especially in the Third World. They also have a duty to create resistance in the First World. They have a duty to gain resources. They have a duty to undermine the Empire. They have a duty to subvert and weaken the First World. First World comrades have the same duty to serve the people, to live and die for the people, as Third World comrades. We do not abandon revolution in the First World, we just recognize that it is not possible in the foreseeable future. To conquer the First World, we must first liberate the Third World. Thus, as Lin Biao said, the world revolution proceeds from the global countryside to the global city.

4. The indigenous, black, and other ethnic minorities in the First World are enemy of Third World?

It is important to realize that not all minorities/nationalities are the same. For example, Asians within the United States have higher incomes than whites. And, the Asian community is not homogeneous. There are Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Laotians, Hmong, Filipinos, Malaysians, Indonesians, Koreans, and many other Asian populations in the United States. There are great differences that exist. For example, Japanese will be richer than Laotians. Similarly, there is a great many differences between the many indigenous peoples. There are also differences between black communities. Some black communities are much better off than others. Similarly, this is true of Chicanos, Mexicans, and other Latinos. Cubans are better off than Salvadorans in the United States. There a great many differences between different populations. And there is variety within the populations. Even though there is great variation, on the whole, most of these populations are part of the First World. Even though their standard of living is often less than the white population in the United States, it is still First World. On the whole, these are still First World populations. Even so, there are some Third World pockets within First World countries. Some indigenous populations in the United States, and some aboriginal populations in Australia, can be considered Third World. There are small pockets of very poor white people also. However, all these populations tend to be too small, fragmented, isolated, and dynamic to serve as reliable social bases for revolution. There might be some exceptions, but this is the general rule. Leading Light’s line is not that there is no proletariat in the First World countries. Rather, we say, there is no significant proletariat in the First World countries.

This does not mean that there aren’t great injustices that occur within these and other populations inside First World countries. It does not mean that we should not be outraged at injustice. However, we are not liberals. We are revolutionaries. Our job is to make revolution. And, whether we like it or not, the pockets of genuinely exploited, poor, Third World communities, in the First World do not add up to a significant social base capable of making revolution.

5. Do you see Lin Biao as greater than Mao Zedong?

Rather than look at the individuals, we should look at the political lines. Politics in command, not individuality. In some cases, Lin Biao’s line was better than Mao Zedong’s. Lin Biao challenged Mao’s turn to the right, including his alignment with Western imperialism in the 1970s. In the 1960s, Mao criticized Nitka Khrushchev for his line of “peaceful coexistence” with the imperialists. By the 1970s, Mao himself had moved into alignment with the Western imperialists. Just as the Soviets, Mao was putting national interest above the interest of the international proletariat. This was part of the conservative turn in the 1970s in China. Mao favored a China-centered geopolitics in the 1970s. Lin Biao favored an emphasis on aiding people’s wars and anti-imperialist struggles. Lin Biao favored people’s war; Mao favored national interest. Furthermore, Lin Biao correctly emphasized that global revolution would proceed from the “global countryside” to the “global city.” Lin Biao also wanted to continue to radicalize the Cultural Revolution after 1969, Mao moved to bring back many of the rightists and revisionists that had fallen. Lin Biao pushed left after 1969; Mao pushed right. On these points, Lin Biao was better than Mao. However, overall, Mao was a more important figure than Lin Biao. It was Mao, not Lin Biao, who guided the Chinese revolution. It was Mao who is the most important ideological author of the Chinese revolution and the Maoist wave of revolutions. Lin Biao is a Leading Light, but Lenin and Mao are the two brightest Leading Lights of twentieth century revolution. Think about it: Mao was the leader of a proletarian revolution that encompassed a quarter of humanity. His star shines very, very bright.

Our first duty is to revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, not the legacies of individual leaders. All of these Leading Lights of the past – Marx, Lenin, Mao Zedong, Lin Biao, etc. – were great heroes, leaders, servants of the people. They embodied some of the best in humanity. They embodied our best selves, our best aspirations. However, history did not stop when Mao died. Science continues to develop. Today, we have developed the science of revolution to a whole new stage in order to initiate the next great wave of revolution. Just as Lenin advanced Marx,  Mao advanced Lenin, we advance them all. Leading Light Communism is the future.

6. You claim Leading Light Communism is the highest stage of revolutionary science. What is the difference between Leading Light Communism and the classical Marxism-Leninism-Maoism?

Leading Light Communism is an all-round advance of revolutionary science. Leading Light Communism has advanced every area of revolutionary science. It is not possible to list all the advances of Leading Light Communism here. Instead, we will focus on some key advances:

Leading Light Communism integrates the most advanced discoveries of today to create a genuinely scientific epistemology, an epistemology that integrates the best aspects of Marxist materialism with contemporary advances in logic, linguistics, cognitive science and neurology, and statistical analysis. Great advances are happening in all these areas of knowledge, if Marxism does not adapt, then it might as well be frozen metaphysics. Science did not freeze when Mao died in 1976. The capitalists are constantly advancing the science of oppression, if we do not counter their advances, we will always lose. We must wage a tit-for-tat struggle against the capitalists by advancing the science of revolution, Leading Light Communism. This idea is at the heart of advancing science to a whole new stage.

Leading Light advances political economy to a whole new stage. Leading Light a new theory of Global Class Analysis that reveals how class works on the global level today. Global Class Analysis tells us that the social base for revolution exists almost exclusively in Third World. No significant proletariat exists in the First World. Leading Light shows how the the modern bourgeoisie and proletariat has changed. Not only are the new forms of the bourgeoisie that have arisen in the First Word, but Leading Light also emphasizes the growing importance of shifting demographics in the Third World.

Leading Light advances our understanding of gender. Leading Light shows how just as Empire has changed class dynamics, it also changes gender dynamics. First World people as a whole are granted more life options at the expense of Third World people. This is true for men and women. First World women have won more and more access to the traditional privileges of First World men. This is part of the growth of liberalism and social democracy in the First World. However, we have to ask, who pays for this? Third World women often experience the worst forms of patriarchal oppression. Patriarchy in the Third World is used as a way to enforce horrible forms of gender apartheid. Patriarchy, especially in semi-feudal forms, is used to exploit and control women in the Third World. So, we have a situation where First World women are gaining more and more First World privilege, more and more life options, on the backs of continued imperialist and semi-feudal, patriarchal oppression of Third World men and women. This creates a situation where First World women do not have a common gender interest with Third World women. First World women may want gender equality with First World men, but the lifestyles of both First World men and women requires the continued existence of patriarchal, semi-feudal barbarism imposed on Third World women. Thus Third World men and women have far more common interest, both class and gender, than either has with First World men and women.

Leading Light has further advanced revolutionary military science. Revolution in the contemporary world is a matter of developing the Global People’s War of the Leading Light, a people’s war on a global scale by the Proletarian World against the Bourgeois World. This is a total war, a war against the First World as a whole, against First World civilization itself. It demands new forms of people’s war, advanced theory and practice. The shifting demographics, the rise of the slum, has deep implications for waging people’s war. The rise of the slum dwelling classes in the Third World means that future revolutions cannot be thought of simply in terms of countryside and city, but must be thought of also in terms of the growing role of slums. Information technology, psychological warfare, the rise of airpower, satellites, robotics, etc. will play greater roles in future conflicts. New technologies and approaches must be integrated into contemporary strategies in order to win. The revolutionary law of people power is still fundamental, but people power, to win, must be focused in ever more concentrated, advanced ways to win. “Without theory, practice is blind.”

Leading Light further advances our understanding of the history of revolution, counter-revolution, and socialist construction. Leading Light advances the understanding of the rise of revisionism and capitalist restoration to a whole new level. Leading Light shows how the Theory of the Productive Forces, the police paradigm, and certain conceptions of human good are interlinked. Although both the Soviet Union and Maoist China, in the revolutionary phases, were shining examples, they were flawed in important ways. Leading Light offers the most advanced account of the shortcomings of previous waves of revolution. This gives us important knowledge about how to do better next time.

Leading Light also advances the Marxist understanding of ecology. Leading Light shows how past Marxism failed to understand the importance of nature. For example, nature plays an important role in political economy. One way to further underscore the parasitism of the First World as a whole is to look at consumption patterns. The First World is simply not sustainable. First World consumption levels, the First World lifestyle, is killing the planet, our common home. First World consumption is a threat to the global ecosystem itself and a threat to the continued existence of all life, including the proletariat. Thus it is an important part of any future revolution to put care and defense of nature at the forefront. The New Power of the Proletariat must take a fundamentally different approach to nature than the reactionaries who threaten us all with extinction. Past socialism failed in significant ways in this regard, Leading Light says that the most advanced ecological science is an important, key part of the most advanced proletarian science today, Leading Light Communism.

Leading Light offers a new, advanced scientific vision of revolutionary construction. We are trying to eliminate thousands years of oppressive social organization and social programming. For thousands of years, power, economy, and culture have been organized in terribly oppressive ways. Marx described his project as scientific socialism and communism, applying the best science to the task of ending all oppression. Thus past revolutions need to be viewed as scientific experiment. Just as the Bolsheviks advanced over Marx and earlier attempts to reach communism, the Maoists advanced on the Bolsheviks. Similarly, real revolutionary scientists recognize that we need to advance over Mao’s revolution. If Mao had gotten everything right, he would have won. Socialism would still exist in China today if the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist tradition alone was the answer. Since the restoration of capitalism in China, the world has changed in important ways. We must learn from the greats who came before, but we must go forward. We must always recognize we stand on the shoulders of giants, but we have a duty to the masses the arm them with the most advanced revolutionary science. Anything short of this is treason.

Leading Light Communism has made advances in numerous other areas: high and low science, aesthetics, Cultural Revolution, United Front, New Power, and on and on. Leading Light Communism is a real advance, it is not just empty rhetoric, sloganeering, cultism. The scientific advances are so numerous and deep that it is not possible to articulate them in such a short format. The Leading Light has elevated every aspect of revolutionary science to a new stage. Leading Lights are not Avakianists who offer nothing but eclecticism and empty rhetoric. Leading Lights are not Prachandists who use the cover of innovation to revise the revolutionary heart out of Marxism. Leading Light is not empty cultism, sloganistic bombast. This is a genuine scientific advance that preserves and elevates the best in Maoism – Cultural Revolution, People’s War, New Power – but takes it all to a qualitatively new level.

There is a way forward. True Marxists, true Leninists, true Maoists are not metaphysicians with frozen dogmas. True Marxists, Leninists, Maoists are revolutionary scientists. To be a real Maoist today requires going beyond Mao. This is what science demands. Being a Maoist always meant adherence to the most advanced revolutionary science, not the letter of Mao’s work. Real Maoism is science, not religion posing as science. Thus it is the duty of all real Maoists to go beyond Mao, to adopt the most advanced revolutionary science today. And this means upholding Leading Light Communism.

Smashing idols

Smashing idolsAbraham_Idols

(llco.org)

The Old Testament states:

“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (1)

The critique of pagan idolatry is held to be so important that it is the first commandment received by Moses in the Old Testament of Judaism and Christianity. The god of the “peoples of the Book,” of Jews and Christians, is also the god of Muslims. He is a jealous god who does not like competition, be it in the form of other gods or science. Islam has its origins in earlier Middle Eastern monotheism. From its religious relatives, Islam inherits the rejection of pagan idolatry. The rejection of pagan idolatry was central to Islam from the beginning and continues to be central today. For example, today, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) has demolished graves and shrines in the name of opposing idolatry. Such actions also serve their political agenda of stroking up sectarian conflicts, especially between Sunni and Shia. It was even reported that some members of the Islamic State proclaimed that if they conquered Mecca, they would demolish the Kaaba in order to put an end to the “worship of stones,” although this report has not been verified. (2) Similarly, Islamic radicals distance themselves from secular nationalism, which they see as a way of elevating the nation as as a kind of idol. This is similar to how  some Christian sects refuse to salute the US flag. This line of thought is not new.

The Kaaba in Mecca traditionally housed many of the pagan-Arab religious idols prior to the rise of Islam. Prophet Muhammad made an enemy of many in Mecca when he sought to have the Kaaba dedicated only to the worship of Allah, not the various pagan gods whose images were housed within it. The Quraysh began fighting with the Islamic community over the issue. This resulted in Muhammad’s migration, hijra, to Medina in 622 AD. Years later, Muhammad returned after the Muslims had defeated their Meccan opponents around 630. When they returned to the Kaaba, they removed the pagan idols, although allowed the black stone to remain. This is reported in the Hadith literature:

“When Allah’s Apostle arrived in Mecca, he refused to enter the Ka’ba while there were idols in it. So he ordered that they be taken out. The pictures of the (Prophets) Ibrahim and Ishmael, holding arrows of divination in their hands, were carried out. The Prophet said, ‘May Allah ruin them (i.e. the nonbelievers) for they knew very well that they (i.e. Ibrahim and Ishmael) never drew lots by these (divination arrows).’ Then the Prophet entered the Ka’ba and said. ‘Allahu Akbar’ in all its directions and came out and not offer any prayer therein.” (3)

According to Islam, Muhammad’s confrontation with pagan idols is only the last in a chain of numerous previous prophets who had done the same. One of the more interesting criticisms of idolatry is found in the Koran’s story of Prophet Ibrahim addressing silent pagan idols:

“He sneaked into the temple of their gods and addressed them: ‘Why don’t you eat from these offerings before you? What is the matter with you that you don’t even speak?’ Then he fell upon them, smiting them with his right hand. The people came running to the scene. ‘Would you worship that which you have carved with your own hands…’”  (4)

Silence in the face of Ibrahim’s questions lead to his rejection of the pagan idols. However, what should be obvious is just as the pagan idols do not eat food, Allah doesn’t order pizza either. Nor does Allah really speak. Why should lack of consumption of food be proof enough for Ibrahim to doubt the pagan idols, but not Allah? A materialist criticism is begun in this example, but then, instead of following the argument to its reasonable conclusion that no gods exist, Ibrahim does not apply the same criticisms to his own beliefs. The failure to follow through on the materialist critique, to apply it consistently, is seen in the example of Prophet Hud also:

“‘O my people! Why do you worship stone statues that you have made yourselves? These idols cannot give you anything or take anything away from you. You are clever people, why are doing  something so foolish? Your Lord is only One, and He alone should be worshipped…” (5)

Idols are not only made from stone and earth, they also exist in the mind. The idols of stone and earth are far easier to topple that those in the mind. The most important building block of any idol are social relationships from which they originate and serve. Karl Marx stated that the secret of the holy family is the earthly family. God as creator, as father, of the universe is really a kind of social construct. It is a projection of human relationships onto the universe. Even though God’s origin is human, many fail to recognize God’s social origin. People are thus compelled by the very idol they themselves, as a society, have created. From the standpoint of truth, worshiping one idol, even if it exists only in the realm of ideas, is not fundamentally different from worshiping many idols of stone and mud. Like most religions, Islam subjects those gods that are not its own to a limited materialist critique. Islam begins a materialist analysis of pagan idols by tracing their origin to human agency, but fails to extend the materialist critique to its own idol, Allah. There is no reason to believe that the metaphysical and religious realms exist on their own. They are a product of our own activity, what Marx called “self alienation”:

“But that the secular basis detaches itself from itself and establishes itself as an independent realm in the clouds can only be explained by the cleavages and self-contradictions within this secular basis. The latter must, therefore, in itself be both understood in its contradiction and revolutionized in practice. Thus, for instance, after the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must then itself be destroyed in theory and in practice.” (6)

Since the origin of the religious realm is our alienation from the processes of the minds and societies that create such a realm, overcoming the religious is a process of overcoming self alienation. Knowledge of society and self though science is the key to getting beyond the religious and other metaphysical outlooks. Marxists call tracing our conceptions of the world, including religious ideas and other ideologies, to their origins in class society “historical materialism.” By the time of Islam’s rise, Christianity had moved beyond its humble origins as a small sect of Judaism to become the official ideology of the Roman and post-Roman world. By the time of the rise of Islam in the 600s, Christianity had become the state religion of some of the Arab world’s most powerful neighbors. It was the state ideology in the what remained of the Western Roman world, but more importantly, of the Eastern Roman, the Byzantine, empire. The other major superpower near the Arab world was the Persian empire with its own religion, Zoroastrianism. Just as neighboring superpowers used their religions as an imperial glue, so too did the emerging Arab empire, what would become the Umayyad and other caliphates, have Islam. Islam, from its beginning, was very much tied to a very human political order. Just as the Vedic doctrines, karma, etc. of are used to justify the caste system of the Indian society, so too is the divine used to justify gender-caste system in Islam. Judaism, Christianity, even Buddhism, are similar in this respect. All religions arise from the contradictions of their society and serve a role in the power struggle. It is important to understand the process by which religious and other illusions arise. However, even though historical materialism is extremely important, science has developed other important tools that give insights into the origin of religion.

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Today, cognitive blindSpot768x1024
and neuro science are also providing important epistemological insights into how people learn, how and why they develop and hold onto mistaken ideas, etc. This is not just to make the obvious point that schizophrenics who hear voices are not altogether unlike some accounts of allegedly hearing the divine. Nor is this to repeat that Muhammad receiving the Koran was accompanied by symptoms of epilepsy. Even the Catholic Church goes out of its way to consult psychologists before it performs exorcisms, thus, despite themselves, pointing to the similarities between demon possession and mental illness. The epistemological implications of contemporary cognitive and neuro science are much deeper. For example, the great philosopher and proto-cognitive scientist Immanuel Kant believed that the mind structured our experience of the world, our phenomenological field. Our minds and brains organize information a certain way. Kant called space and time “forms of intuition.” According to Kant, “transcendental categories” like that of cause and effect also structure the way information is organized and processed by our minds. For Kant, the forms of intuition and transcendental categories structure our experience of the world and place limits on how we know and what we can know. For Kant, the experience of space, especially what we perceive as the external world beyond our mind, was structured according to the laws of Euclidean geometry. Thus, according to such a view, there is a “transcendental” (or biological) fetter on the ability to conceive that two parallel lines can intersect. Such an idea was held to be as contradictory as the notion that a square triangle could exist. Thus Kant understood space as Isaac Newton did. However, in 1919, Arthur Eddington’s famous photographs during a solar eclipse showed that even lines of light bend.  Physics has since recognized that space itself is curved by mass, which accounts for the gravitational effect. It may be difficult for us to wrap our heads around the idea because our brains seem to be hardwired to navigate the macroscopic world of ordinary, daily life. And, in our ordinary, daily life the world appears to us as macroscopic objects moving in a Euclidean field. However, the general rules that work well enough in ordinary circumstances break down in other circumstances. For example, they break down when examining subatomic particles. There are other examples of “mistakes” that we do not readily see. Even though we have blind spots in our vision, we do not see them without prompting. Another example: We may think we see color in our full visual field, but we really do not see color in our peripheral vision. This is why a person will not guess beyond the margin of error when trying to determine the color of random playing cards when displayed in her peripheral vision as she stares straight ahead. Another example: Our perception of temperature changes on our skin does not correspond to actual changes in a one-to-one way. Pain may work in a similar way, after a certain threshold is reached, additional infliction of violence may not be accompanied by additional experience of pain.

We know that the body is hardwired to fool itself in some contexts. Even though much of Sigmund Freud’s work is problematic, his conception of the power of the unconscious over our lives suggests this kind of conclusion. Others, most famously, Ludwig Wittgenstein, have shown that how we express claims, how human language itself, is prone to generating pseudo-problems and false conceptions about the world. Similar to Kant’s rejection of many traditional philosophic problems as a result of epistemologically overreaching, Wittgenstein showed how certain seemingly intractable philosophic questions were tied to the way language works. It is surely the case that the mistaken conceptions of the world, including religious ones, are a result of culture and power in human society, as Marx held. However, it is also surely the case that our neurology plays a role in why we make the mistakes we do. In Marx’s day, cognitive and neuro science had not advanced enough to provide much insight into the origin of religion. However, today we know much more about how the mind and brain work. Even so, even the best critique alone will not get society as a whole beyond idolatry, beyond the religious. As Marx wrote, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” (7) To to get beyond the realm of illusion, including the religious, once and for all, requires a reorganization of society led by the most advanced science, Leading Light Communism, in order to eliminate all the social inequalities that generate ignorance and illusion. Truth and practice are hammers that not only smash pagan gods, but all gods, including the god of Ibrahim and Muhammad. Lenin stated that there is nothing as radical as reality itself. Revolution is the doorway from the illusory to the real. Leading Light Communism is the way out of Plato’s cave, from the shadows to the light.

Notes

1. New American Standard Bible. Exodus 20:4. http://biblehub.com/exodus/20-4.htm

2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/01/isis-destroy-kaaba-mecca_n_5547635.html

3. Sahih Al-Bukhari.  Book 59, Hadith 584 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaaba

4. Quran Sura 37: 91-95 http://www.alim.org/library/quran/surah/english/37/MAL#sthash.UqLhDKdN.dpuf

5. http://jafariaschool.org/assets/notes/Class7_Tarikh.pdf

6. Marx, Karl. Theses On Feuerbach. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/theses.htm

7. ibid.