Less work for the same pay

Less work for the same paydsc01966

(llco.org)

An experiment is afoot in First World, in social-democratic Sweden: less work, same pay:

“Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, will begin its experiment with six-hour working days this summer, hopefully proving that the shorter work hours can make up for what they lose in time with more efficient work.

If the plan goes well, it could spread across the Swedish civil society, but some lucky Gothenburg residents are already living the dream. Last week, Agence France-Presse spoke to a mechanic in the city who was working a six-hour day. ‘My friends hate me. Most of them think because I work six hours, I shouldn’t be paid for eight,’ Robert Nilsson explained.” (1)

The Third World and First World should not be conceived as rigid categories. Rather, they are poles in a continuum. Very wealthy populations like those of Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Japan, etc. are more stereotypically First World whereas poorer populations like the majority in India, Bangladesh, Haiti, etc. are more stereotypically Third World. Other countries, perhaps the populations of the Balkans or Chile, fall closer to the middle of the continuum. The following list compares the annual hours worked per worker for 2012. The list is not clear whether it is counting just waged and salaried employees or others. Our guess is the list probably counts wage earners and possibly salaried employees only, not peasants who work their own land and other kinds of laborers, for example. Unfortunately, those countries that are most Third World are not represented on the list. Even so, the list of annual hours actually worked per worker for 2012 is informative:

“Mexico  2,225.66
Greece 2,033.96
Chile 2,029
Russian Federation 1,982
Poland 1,929
Israel 1,910
Estonia 1,889
Hungary 1,888.45
Turkey 1,855.058
Czech Republic 1,800.231
United States 1,789.922
Slovak Republic 1,785
OECD countries 1,765.488
Italy 1,752
Japan 1,745.201
New Zealand 1,739
Australia  1,728
Canada 1,710
Iceland 1,706.1
Austria 1,699
Portugal 1,691
Spain 1,686
Finland 1,672
United Kingdom 1,654
Slovenia 1,640
Sweden 1,621
Luxembourg 1,609
Belgium 1,574
Denmark 1,545.95
Ireland 1,529
France 1,479
Norway 1,419.7
Germany 1,396.6
Netherlands 1,381
6 hour work day 1,332″ (2)

Even though there are exceptions in the list, in general, the poorer countries are clustered toward the top, followed by wealthier countries in the middle and bottom. Mexico, with one of the poorer populations on the abbreviated list, falls somewhere between the poor extreme of the Third World and the middle of the continuum between Third World and First World. It is important to point out that Mexico is one of the wealthier counties of the Third World. Even though this is the case,  Mexico is probably has the poorest population of all the countries on the above list. Of those countries on the above list, Mexico is at the top, its laborers working the most. Of those countries on the list, other poorer countries are clustered at the top list. If the list were to include other, poorer Third World economies with industry, it is almost certain those workers would work even more hours than Mexican workers and much more hours than the wealthier First World countries. Obviously just looking at hours worked gives a very incomplete view of the Third World. The Third World also contains huge populations that exist in dire poverty that have been rendered unproductive by the system: some slum populations, some landless rural populations, refugees, etc. These populations are not represented in the list. Even so, the list tends to confirm that when Third World people can work, they work for longer doing harder work, under worse conditions, for less pay. Almost always, their work is more physically demanding than First World labor.

In terms of the distribution of hours amongst the wealthier countries, the reason that some poorer First World economies like Portugal work less than the United States is probably accounted for by different cultural norms, the existence of European social-democracy, type of economy, etc. In any case, Sweden’s experiment of  shortening the work week without lower pay is yet another indicator of the great difference between quality of life between the First World and Third World. There are other ways that the amount of work has been shortened in countries like the United States that are not accounted for on the list. For example, in many cases, some populations of the United States are entering the work force later due to the lengthening of adolescence, extending higher education, etc. It is no accident that there was great growth in leisure culture and adolescence following World War 2 as the United States emerged as the leader of the Western imperialists. Many have observed the lax attitude toward work of “generation x,y, and z.” “Thirty is the new twenty” is a popular characterization of this extension of adolescence that, in some cases, acts as a kind of extension of years spent consuming without working, similar to retirement but prior to entering the workforce full time. Again, this does not characterize every American, but it does characterize a significant part of the population. By contrast, Third World workers tend to enter the workforce younger and they do not typically receive retirement. This kind of contrast is not reflected by simply looking at hours worked per year by country. In reality, the disparity in activity is probably much greater for a regularly employed worker in the Third World compared to the First World.

This experiment is an example of how social peace is bought in the First World at the expense of denying increased quality of life to the Third World. It is a sign of what Lenin called “the seal of parasitism” for the First World. That the First World can afford such compromise between its strata shows the different strata of the First World are not antagonistic. Those who work in the First World have far more in common with those above them than with those below them in terms of lifestyle, culture, and class interest. In general, compromise and unity is how different First World strata relate. This is in sharp contrast to how the First World deals with the antagonistic poorer populations of the Third World. This is also reflected in the general lack of revolutionary activity in the First World compared to the Third World. The reactionary nature of the First World even infects those who claim to be leftists. They “wave the red flag to oppose it.” Some First Worldist anarchists seek to preserve their First World lifestyles while “abolishing work” entirely. How this could be achieved without continued imposition of suffering on the Third World is not explained by these social-imperialists. Similarly other First Worldists seek to increase First World consumption at the expense of the masses in the Third World.

The global economy is a game that distributes quality of life. It is a game with winner and losers. Those in the First World are winners for the most part. The masses in the Third World lose under capitalism-imperialism. The First World is populated by class enemies for the most part. The real revolutionary populations are the masses of the Third World, the Proletarian World. Leading Light is the voice of the poor. Leading Light is the sword and shield of the poor. It is the duty of every Leading Light to dedicate everything, to sacrifice everything, to live and die for the people. Serve the people. We fight for our future. Our day is coming.

Notes

1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/06/02/how-great-would-swedens-proposed-six-hour-workday-be-this-great/
2. ibid.

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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

Bangladesh is in chains, literally

Bangladesh is in chains, literallyChild working in a brick crushing factory in Bangladesh

(llco.org)

In his Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx wrote that the proletariat had nothing to lose but their chains. Marx was speaking figuratively. By the time Marx wrote, Europe had mostly abolished slavery, at least officially. Marx was speaking to the wage slavery of the free laborer, who nonetheless suffered intense poverty in the Europe of the past just as free laborers suffer today in the Third World. In our land, our people suffer not just from “wage slavery” of the free laborer, but also slavery in its most vicious and barbaric form still exists even though it is now the twenty-first century. And it is only getting worse with the globalization of capitalism. Slavery, human trafficking, in Bangladesh is now tightly bound to the global market.

In 2012, it was estimated that between 330,000 and 360,000 of our brothers and sisters are enslaved. Bangladesh was tenth on a list that ranked the countries in which slavery was practiced.  Slavery has historically been concentrated in the countryside, where semi-feudal conditions and traditions are strongest. Much of the land and power in the countryside is held by landlords. The masses are so poor that we live on a razor’s edge. Many of our families live under constant threat that we will lose everything. Many of our families have already lost everything. We are driven off the land. We are hungry. We are sick. We fall into debt that we can never escape from. Ourselves and our children become slaves to the local landlords, userers, capitalists, and criminal organizations. Many flee to the city for a better life only to be met with dissappointment. There the feudal barbarism mingles and mixes with the cruety of liberal capitalism. The innocent suffer the most. Our children are turned into beasts of burden by the overlords of the country and city. Or women and daughters are stolen and placed into bondage by sex traffickers. Their bodies are sometimes exported to be consumed on the global market. The bodies of our people are just another commodity to the empire:

“She comes into the room swaddled in a red sari, carrying big premature black bags under her eyes. She tells her story in a slow, halting mumble. Sufia grew up in a village near Khulna in the south-west of Bangladesh. Her parents were farmers; she was one of eight children. ‘My parents couldn’t afford to look after me,’ she says. ‘We didn’t have enough money for food.’  And so came the lie. When Sufia was 14, a female neighbor came to her parents and said she could find her a good job in Calcutta as a housemaid. She would live well; she would learn English; she would have a well-fed future. ‘I was so excited,’ Sufia says.  ‘But as soon as we arrived in Calcutta I knew something was wrong,’ she says. ‘I didn’t know what a brothel was, but I could see the house she took me to was a bad house, where the women wore small clothes and lots of bad men were coming in and out.’ The neighbour was handed 50,000 takka – around £500 – for Sufia, and then she told her to do what she was told and disappeared.”

Another story:

“‘Jesse used to tell me that she had bought me as a slave at Tk 40,000 from Monira and Joyati, and therefore, I have to work for free,’ Bedena said.   The couple used to torture her by spraying hot water on her body, stabbing her with hot kitchen knives, and beating her up with sticks and rolling pins, alleged Bedena.   Jesse as usual tortured her Tuesday morning on the pretext that Bedena could not prepare breakfast in time, leaving her unconscious.    She discovered herself in the bathroom after regaining her consciousness.”

And:

“In the face of acute poverty, his father, a farmer, sent him at this early age to the capital to work as a domestic help, said Mohammad Sadek Ali, a cousin of the boy. Another cousin Yasmin brought him along from Kishoreganj to Dhaka city around two and a half months ago and arranged a job for him at a house in Mohammadpur near the mosque.

‘The people at the house where I worked fed me once a day. I was given some rice in the morning and that was it,’…

Masum’s body was scarred all over. Deep purple welts were seen on his back that is already crisscrossed by old scars.  He said he had been hit on the head with a rod and that the scars were from the injuries when the homemaker had flogged him with a bundle of wires.  A black blister was seen on his left elbow. ‘She burnt me here with a hot iron spoon,’ Masum said.  His cousin sister rescued him on Friday as she discovered him in this appalling state.

The child said he had to sleep inside the bathroom. ‘The floor used to be wet.’  He used to do the laundry, drag mattresses up to the rooftop to put them out in the sun and sweep and mop the floor.”

And:

“The exploitative practices centring Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia constitute nothing other than human trafficking; the governments of Bangladesh and Malaysia have not been able to protect the workers’ rights, said Irene Fernandez, a veteran migrants’ rights activist of Malaysia.

When they brought workers in surplus numbers to Malaysia, they were only interested in making fast cash. The outsourcing companies told Bangladeshi job brokers ‘you pay me 500 ringgit per worker and find jobs for them and do whatever’. So, Bangladeshi job brokers then bought the workers from the outsourcing companies, and literally made them slaves. The brokers then told the workers ‘you go and work, I will give you food and lodging’. And the workers were put to work for two, three, or four months.”

The First World is happy with slavery of our people. They do not have to feel or see our pain. They are pleased with the cheap goods that fill their homes. The global corporations say that it is good for business to keep the population controlled. Our sweat and tears fuels the prosperity of their empire. The corrupt politicians do not care about our pain. Their ears do not hear our cries, but only the orders of their imperial masters who pay them well to keep us in chains. The Islamists do not care about the poor, they declare slavery is acceptable in their twisted minds. They would have us be slaves to their barbaric caliph who feeds on the blood of the people. The feudalists and local capitalists do not care, they are the ones who hold the whip for the empire. The liberal NGOs use our pain to extend capitalist control over our lives.

We have nothing to lose but our chains. We say “no.” No to slavery, poverty, hunger, violence, disease, ignorance, cruelty. We are the ones who create the wealth. We are the ones who work. We are the ones who grow the food. We are the vast majority. They need us. We do not need them. We can have the power if we have the courage. We say “yes.” Yes to liberty, land, homes, prosperity, health, jobs, education, dignity. Today we planting seeds in ourselves, in our families, in our communities. Total liberation, total revolution, for our children and their children. We will harvest a revolution, a better world. The future is our’s. One fight. One land. One people. One organization. One leadership. One truth. One Leading Light.

Sources

http://www.irinnews.org/report/85617/bangladesh-the-modern-face-of-slavery

Bangladesh

http://gvnet.com/humantrafficking/Bangladesh.htm

http://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2013/10/18/bangladesh-10th-on-slavery-list

Turning Money into Rebellion edited by Gabriel Kuhn part 3

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

(llco.org)

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

Sino-Soviet split

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

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

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

Also:

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

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

More on the United Front

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

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

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

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

Looking back and forward

The M-KA interviewees reflect on their practice:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zapatistas or Leading Light?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The level of the science

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

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

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

Turning Money into Rebellion edited by Gabriel Kuhn reviewed part 2

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

(llco.org)

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

Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science, not adventurism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science, not identity politics

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

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

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

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

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

Science, not romanticism

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

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

Furthermore:

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

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

Science, not First Worldist national liberation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Soviet Women, Traditionalism, Revisionism

Soviet Women, Traditionalism, RevisionismBigWoman

(llco.org)

These comments are a reaction to Gail Warshofsky Lapidus’ “Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social Change.” Much of Lapidus’ essay covers the same ground as these other  works: Wendy Goldman’s Women at the Gates, Sheila Fritzpatrick’s Everyday Stalinism, and Hiroaki Kuromiya’s Stalin’s Industrial Revolution.  What is refreshing about these authors, even though they are not communists, they approach the Stalinist era in a reasonable, less sensationalist way. Their work is rigorous and detailed, using a broad range of primary sources, including the Soviet archives. They also address the complexity of the Stalin era. They do not see the Stalin regime as a monolith. They do not embrace the totalitarian paradigm so popular in anti-communist propaganda. They also don’t fall for the “Stalin as madman” view that is so popular in the work of Daniel Pipes, Robert Conquest, and the Trotskyists. One good thing about this short essay is that it covers some of World War 2 and post-World War 2 periods. In the end, the analysis sees the Stalin regime as a contradictory mix of radical social revolution and traditionalist authority. There is some truth that the Stalin era involved this complexity, and the regime fell into old ways despite its revolutionary pretense. Even so, the analysis fails to look at just how difficult social revolution is. The revolution was encircled, all the capitalist empires sought to snuff it out. Nazi Germany invaded, killing 27 million Soviet citizens. Internal enemies confronted the regime. At the same time, the regime was trying to erase thousands of years of reactionary social programming. There were bound to be complicated, difficult contradictions. This is part of the revolutionary process. Although her analysis is very detailed, she looks at the regime through idealist lenses. She does not take into account that revolutions are born in blood, that terror and authority are necessary components of survival. Forward motion, twists and turns, backward slides, all happen. Although she avoids the worst elements of anarchist and Trotskyist “madman Stalin” narratives, her conclusions are not all that different from the “deformed workers’ state” formulation of the Trotskyists. One wonders what, given Stalin’s situation and the level of revolutionary science at the time, what a non-deformed workers’ state would look. What would a non-deformed workers’ state would look like given the incredible pressures placed against the regime by internal enemies and imperialist encirclement, including the Nazi’s bloodbath? There is a lack of reality to her ultimate conclusions despite the details of her work.

Feminists in the 1920s discussed the liberation of women primarily in terms of “byt” or lifestyle. This means liberating woman from the drudgery of housework and the patriarchal family. Some of these goals sounded far fetched in the 1920s, but they were realized to some extent during Stalin’s era, especially during the Five Year Plans from 1928 to 1937, not because of the struggle against patriarchy as patriarchy. What ultimately doomed the opponents of women’s liberation was that their sexist policies were incompatible with the needs of production, of the Five Year Plans. The Five Year plans involved massive industrialization. By November of 1939, roughly two years after the Second Five Year Plan, women accounted for 41.6 of the work force. And this percentage is even greater in heavy industry. (1) This was in sharp contrast to pre-revolutionary times when women’s participation was much less.  Not only did women enter the workforce in record numbers in the Stalin era, but ghettoization of women’s work was struggled against, sometimes this struggle was successful, other times it failed. Between 1930 and 1937, percentage-wise, the largest influx of women was into construction, a traditionally male field. (2) Interestingly, “[t]he reception of women in traditional male fields was hostile… although this was less often the case in the Eastern region of the USSR where the demand for new laborers was particularly great and where the absence of entrenched male traditions permitted more flexible hiring practices.” (3) Within the top levels of the Party, Stalin represent the faction that pushed against those, especially the unions, who wanted to restrict union membership, including the power and benefits that went with it, to the traditional or “pure proletarian” who happened to be Russian, male, and urban. Unions also pushed for the restricting of hiring practices. This had the objective effect of keeping women, ex-peasants, the de-classed, and non-Russians unemployed. It kept them out of the good union jobs. The unions and  leaders like Tomsky sought to keep power in the hands of the “pure proletarians,” the Russian, urban men, who were the vast majority in the unions, but did not represent the majority in Soviet society. Those who opposed the unions also pushed for the employment of youth alongside women, non-Russians, and the de-classed. (4) Generally, it was less the fight against patriarchy per se that justified these policies that sought to bring women and youth into the workforce than concerns with production. Economic reasons were given in support of the liberation of women against its opponents. Economic realities necessitated a larger workforce. Stalin recognized this. Women, non-Russians, the de-classed, and youth ultimately won their struggle to enter the labor force thanks to Stalin.

Construction sites, whole cities, popped up over night. Industrialization brought women and others into the workforce. Collectivization was required to feed the new workforce. This massive development allowed for more communalization from the ground-up since in many of these new industrial centers, there was not entrenched traditionalist opposition. So, the state’s production policies ended up addressing many of the concerns of the feminists who wanted to revolutionize daily life in the domestic sphere through communalization. Collectivization in the countryside meant women were allowed to migrate to the cities to become employed. Collectivization also had big implications for women who remained in the countryside. It destroyed the old peasant economy, which empowered patriarchs. It took the means and organization of production out of the hands of the patriarchal family. The traditional domestic sphere suffered a huge blow because collective farms had communal facilities: kitchens, laundries, childcare, etc. Women were employed and lived in the collective farms where there was substantially less traditional oppression in the domestic sphere. Production demands required women, children, and also some of the de-classed be educated. Socialization now happened outside of the old patriarchal family and church. Women now had autonomy and freedom of movement for the first time since the new economy gave them a means to exist apart from the husbands. (5) Thus divorce became a more realistic option for wives.

“The forced collectivization of agriculture, with its stunning impact on authority and social relationships in the rural milieu, and massive entry of women into the industrial labor force during the 1930s, a process given still further impetus by the outbreak of World War II, were central features in this social transformation with the vast expansion of educational opportunities. The spread of networks of institutions for the education and care of children, and enactment of protective labor legislation and social programs designed to ensure the compatibility of women’s domestic responsibilities with industrial employment. These changes reverberated across the whole range of social institutions including the family itself.” (6)

Anna Louise Strong, a famous communist writer, describes the complexity of the struggle in the Soviet frontiers:

“The change in women’s status was one of the important social changes in all parts of the USSR. The Revolution gave women legal and political equality: industrialization provided the economic base in equal pay. But in every village women still had to fight the habits of centuries. News came of one village in Siberia, for instance, where, after the collective farms gave women their independent incomes, the wives ‘called a strike’ against wife-beating and smashed that time-honored custom in a week.

‘The men all jeered at the first woman we elected to our village soviet,’ a village president told me, ‘but at the next election we elected six women and now it is we who laugh.’ I met twenty of these women presidents of villages in 1928 on a train in Siberia, bound for a Women’s Congress in Moscow. For most it was their first trip by train and only one had ever been out of Siberia. They had been invited to Moscow ‘to advise the government’ on the demands of women; their counties elected them to go.

The toughest fight of all for women’s freedom was in Central Asia. Here, women were chattels, sold in early marriage and never thereafter seen in public without the hideous ‘paranja,’ a long black veil of woven horsehair which covered the entire face, hindering breathing and vision. Tradition gave husbands the right to kill wives for unveiling; the mullahs — Moslem priests supported this by religion. Russian women brought the first message of freedom; they set up child welfare clinics where native women unveiled in each other’s presence. Here, the rights of women and the evils of the veil were discussed. The Communist Party brought pressure on its members to permit their wives to unveil.

When I first visited Tashkent, in 1928, a conference of Communist women was announcing: ‘Our members in backward villages are being violated, tortured and murdered. But this year we must finish the hideous veil; this must be the historic year.’ Shocking incidents gave point to this resolution. A girl from a Tashkent school gave her vacation to agitating for women’s rights in her home village. Her dismembered body was sent back to school in a cart bearing the words: ‘That for your women’s freedom.’ Another woman had refused the attentions of a landlord and married a Communist peasant; a gang of eighteen men, stirred up by the landlord, violated her in the eighth month of pregnancy and threw her body in the river.

Poems were written by women to express their struggle. When Zulfia Khan, a fighter for freedom, was burned alive by the mullahs, the women of her village wrote a lament:

‘O, woman, the world will not forget your fight for freedom!
Your flame — let them not think that it consumed you.
The flame in which you burned is a torch in our hands.’

The citadel of orthodox oppression was ‘Holy Bokhara.’ Here, a dramatic unveiling was organized. Word was spread that ‘something spectacular’ would occur on International Women’s Day, March 8. Mass meetings of women were held in many parts of the city on that day, and women speakers urged that everyone ‘unveil all at once.’ Women then marched to the platform, tossed their veils before the speakers and went to parade the streets. Tribunes had been set up where government leaders greeted the women. Other women joined the parade from their homes and tossed their veils to the tribunes. That parade broke the veil tradition in Holy Bokhara. Many women, of course, donned veils again before facing their angry husbands. But the veil from that time on appeared less and less.

Soviet power used many weapons for the freeing of women. Education, propaganda, law all had their place. Big public trials were held of husbands who murdered wives; the pressure of the new propaganda confirmed judges who gave the death sentence for what old custom had not considered crime. The most important weapon for freeing women was, as in Russia proper, the new industrialization.

I visited a new silk mill in Old Bokhara. Its director, a pale, exhausted man, driving without sleep to build a new industry, told me the mill was not expected to be profitable for a long time. ‘We are training village women into a new staff for future silk mills of Turkestan. Our mill is the consciously applied force which broke the veiling of women; we demand that women unveil in the mill.’

Girl textile workers wrote songs on the new meaning of life when they exchanged the veil for the Russian head-dress, the kerchief.

‘When I took the road to the factory
I found there a new kerchief,
A red kerchief, a silk kerchief,
Bought with my own hand’s labor!
The roar of the factory is in me.
It gives me rhythm.
it gives me energy.’” (7)

World War 2 also changed the situation for women. The war further brought women into the workforce. Men were mobilized into the military. Thus women often filled the need of production, as they did in other countries. In 1945, women were 56 percent of the workforce. One important criticism of Wendy Goldman’s Women at the Gates is that she writes as though women’s struggles were going on in a vacuum, so she seems to find fault with Stalin for not going far enough and directing more energy to communalization. Lapidus’ also points out that communalization of domestic sphere did not keep pace with industrialization in general. (8) But again, this can be partially explained because of the massive amount of resources needed for World War 2. This is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. It is impressive is how the Soviet Union pushed forward considering the dangerous military situation that existed. However, during and war and after, the specific issues of women would get a lower priority. The war effort, then efforts to rebuild, trumped social revolution.

Throughout the Stalin period, before and after the war, Soviet economists studied the benefits of communalization in great detail. They came to the conclusions that it was necessary for a rationally organized economy. Yet those forces opposed to the collective economy blamed women for economic problems and the feeling of social chaos and instability of this revolutionary period. Later, “Measures designed to protect and give more freedom to women were whittled away.” (9) Unfortunately, her essay barely scratches the surface of this opposition to women’s liberation. It fails to ask, when, where and who. Goldman’s book answers these questions much better, especially outlining the conflict between the unions and those associated with the women’s organizations, and the struggle of both of these trends with Stalin. Stalin ended up more on the feminist side, but primarily for productionist reasons. The only opposition covered in Lapidus’ essay is that of male managers and engineers in the later Stalin period, presumably after World War 2.

Even though much progress was made for women in the Stalin era, new and old forms of patriarchy emerged. In the earlier part of the industrialization under Stalin, managers were on the side of giving women more opportunities generally because there were labor shortages. The shortages were so great that managers went around the labor rolls and official channels to an underground market of people looking for work. These people were often women who could not get on the labor roles for various reasons. The unions fought to keep them off, the unions were trying to protect the privileges of the traditional “pure proletarian,” the traditional Russian, male worker. Chaos spread through the planned economy. There was both a labor shortage and high unemployment at the same time because industrialization created a need for more laborers but the unions created obstructions to keep women, ex-peasants, non-Russians, etc. unemployed. As the economy changes, so too did opposition to women’s liberation. According to Lapidus, the managers and engineers became part of the conservative trend. Although Lapidus doesn’t say, this was probably after the second Five Year Plan, and later, after World War 2, when the was more wealth and consumer goods. This more affluent group now wanted their wives at home.

It is well known that the regime produced a great deal of art promoting the new status of women. Women tractor drivers, for example, became a cliche in Stalin-era art. This art was especially associated with the Five Year Plans. This progressive art was not the only art. Especially after World War 2, another art emerged that promoted the idea that women should be good workers and good, traditional wives. Lapidus writes, “the ranks of proletarian heroines were now joined by the wives of the new Soviet elite of managers, praised not for heroic feats of production but for introducing civilization to the lives of men by planting flowers outside power stations, sewing linen, and opening fashion studios.” (10)  One example is a fictional account of a female heroine that meets a fictional Stalin:

“‘Our feminine hearts are overflowing with emotions,’ she said, ‘and of these love is paramount. Yet, a wife should also be a happy mother and create a serene home atmosphere, without however, abandoning work for the common welfare. She should know how to combine all these things while matching her husband’s performance on the job.’

‘Right,’ said Stalin.” (11)

Another example is Marya by Georgii Medynsky, a story that criticizes the effects of women’s liberation:

“He was used to being boss in his house. He used to walk along the villages with an unhurried step holding his head high and proud.. And, she moves about, gives orders… And, the more she grows, the smaller he gets… And, it seems she needs her husband and then again it seems she does not. ” (12)

In this story, the struggle for power ends with Marya being criticized by a Party secretary for her misuse of power rather than the Party encouraging her independence. After World War 2, a genre about overambitious heroines who neglect their husbands and children develops. (13)

It seems that the Stalin era was not consistent toward women. In the earlier period, women were liberated from much traditional oppression in order to fill the needs to economic development. However, especially later, after World War 2, the Party and state promoted the idea of limiting women to the traditional domestic sphere as necessary to socialism. The patriarchal family was now seen as a microcosm of socialist society as a whole. Stalin’s cult of personality often portrayed him as a kind of father figure. No doubt this fed the conservative trend.

This conservative trend in Soviet society continued. Delinquency was tied to a breakdown of the family. Homosexuality was criminalized. Housework, criticized by Lenin, was now extolled. Low birthrates were linked to instability in the family. Motherhood was now romanticized. And, after World War 2, this romantization was connected to the desire to replenish those who had died. Abortion was outlawed even though studies showed that banning abortion does not raise birthrates in the long term. (14)

Trotskyists often like to pinpoint the conservative turn to the early years of Stalin’s regime. One thing they point to is the strengthening of the marriage laws during the heavy industrialization period. The real story is that there was grassroots support from women to strengthen these laws. This is described in Sheila Fritzpatrick’s Everyday Stalinism. The massive industrialization allowed laborers to move from town to town. New cities and construction sites popped up overnight. This meant that husbands could easily abandon their families or avoid paying child support. There was so much mobility of the population that the state could not keep track of individuals and their obligations. Initially, the Party was resistant to strengthening the marriage laws that would make it harder to divorce because their heads were filled with bourgeois notions inherited from Western European feminism. However, the women’s organizations eventually educated the Party that stronger laws were required to address the phenomenon of Soviet deadbeat dads. This particular change in policy is really not indicative of the conservative turn.

Different people locate the conservative turn in Soviet society to different years. The Trotskyists claim that the conservative turn occurs with the death of Lenin in 1924. Some Trotskyists even claim that the revolution was totally lost at that point. The Trotskyist view is contradicted by the amazing accomplishments of the Stalin era, including the huge progress for women that mostly happened in the early and middle years of the Stalin era. Others pinpoint the conservative turn to the assassination of Sergei Kirov in December of 1934. This led to a rise in terror and the police state. Others located the conservative turn with the need to draw on nationalism and traditionalism as a tool in the fight against the Nazi invasion. Perhaps the rebuilding of society after World War 2 and the growth of consumerism in peacetime also contributed to the slide rightward. Of these views, the Trotskyist one is the least supported by the facts. There are always political and social struggles during socialist construction. The Stalin era had its conflicts. When exactly, Soviet society began to slide back toward capitalism is an open question. However, regression on women’s issues along with the promotion of traditionalism surely aided counter-revolution. Uprooting thousands of years of reactionary patriarchy is no easy task. Only the power of the people led by the most advanced revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, will liberate women and men once and for all.

Notes

1. Lapidus, Gail Warshofsky.  “Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social Change” in  Stalinism edited by David Hoffman. Blackwell Publishing, UK:2003. p.  220
2. ibid. p. 200
3. ibid. p. 220
4. ibid. p. 219
5. ibid. p. 217
6. ibid. p. 217
7. Strong, Anna Louise. Women in The Stalin Era http://www.northstarcompass.org/nsc9903/women.htm
8. Lapidus, Gail Warshofsky.  “Women in Soviet Society: Equality, Development, and Social Change” in  Stalinism edited by David Hoffman. Blackwell Publishing, UK:2003. p. 225
9. ibid. p. 218
10. ibid. p. 229
11.  ibid. p. 230
12.  ibid. p. 234
13.  ibid. p. 234
14. ibid. p. 229

A tale of two communes

A tale of two communes e13-569-300x217

(llco.org)

“Dear, Leading Light,

I really appreciate how LLCO is offering a fresh interpretation of the 20th century communist movement. This is exactly what we need for the movement to go forward.

One question, though – given that Mao was so supportive of the spontaneously formed Henan Commune in the Great Leap Forward, why do you think he rejected the spontaneously formed Shanghai Commune in the Cultural Revolution? I always felt that the Shanghai Commune offered a real possibility for the rhetoric of the Cultural Revolution to be materialized, and am not sure why Mao opposed it, other than his vague explanation that the Chinese masses still needed to have the Party in command. But if the Henan Commune was decentralized, wouldn’t that be an example of top-down Party control being lessened? Was Mao in 1967 was less trusting of the masses than he was in 1957?”

Thank you for your kind words.

The Shanghai Commune was the beginning of the power seizure phase of the Cultural Revolution. The power seizure phase took off in the beginning of 1967. It spread across China. Prior to that, the focus of the Cultural Revolution was not on physically deposing top revisionists and their institutions of power. Prior to that, the struggles followed the pattern of more traditional Party-led campaigns and also struggles in the cultural realm. The struggle in Shanghai was of a very different kind where the masses physically deposed the revisionists from their positions in authority through mass actions that were not controlled by the Party nor totally controlled by the Maoists in power. In Shanghai, mass organizations of workers and students wrestled control of power from traditional institutions. They fought the institutional power of the local Party, and they fought each other. This is the “seizure of power by proletarian revolutionaries” mentioned in the famous 16 points in August of 1966.

Powerful mass organizations deposed the revisionist Shanghai Party bosses. They were toppled and a Shanghai People’s Commune was declared in February of 1967. The rhetoric of the mass organizations stated that their commune was to be modeled on that of the Paris Commune. The Shanghai communards aspired to transform their revolt into reaching a qualitatively higher stage of socialism, actually realizing the communist ideal. However, the Shanghai Commune only lasted a month. Zhang Chunqiao was sent in by Mao to consolidate the Maoist gains, to move power away from spontaneous mass movements to a regular bureaucracy based on power sharing in a Three-in-one committee. Some of the mass organizations had had played main roles in toppling the Old Power opposed what they saw as hijacking their movement by Zhang Chunqiao and the organizations he supported. The Regiments and Third Workers Headquarters being the most significant opposition. These organizations feared that the mass movements would be sidelined, as they later were. These organizations became the targets of the “Working class in command” campaign, the campaign to purify the class ranks, and the attacks on alleged the May 16th Corps conspiracy. The “ultra-left” line was favored for a time by both Chen Boda and Jiang Qing, the head and deputy head of the Cultural Revolution Small Group. Chen Boda’s “Support the Left but not the Factions,” Jiang Qing’s calls to “Defend With Force,” or calls to extend the power seizures into the PLA, etc. were calls to continue the class struggle as 1967 went on. Mao famously criticized Wang Li, the hero of Wuhan, in connection to this. Mao said he wanted class struggle, not civil war. As soon as Mao signaled his opposition to the escalation of the mass movement, continuing the chaos, all the top Maoists distanced themselves from their previous rhetoric. Mao thought the power seizures could not go on endlessly, but the gains had to be consolidated. Shanghai was the earliest example of this pattern that would later happen in much of China. Mao favored a consolidation that returned the influence of the Communist Party bureaucracy. Lin Biao, for example, was associated with elevating the New Power of the PLA as the mass movements were ended. Chen Boda and Jiang Qing, along with Wang Li, Qi Benyu, and Guan Feng, were associated with wanting to push the mass movements forward, although they backed away from that as they saw Mao shifting his attitude toward the mass movements.

The early communes of the Great Leap were a bit different. They had high aspirations just as the Shanghai communards did. They both saw the commune form as a bridge to real existing communism. However, the forms were different. The rural communes of the Great Leap were not a result of power struggles to topple revisionists in power. They were more connected to production and economic prosperity, as well as social experiment. They were not seen as smashing the bureaucracy. The rural communes of Great Leap did aim to increase mass participation, but they did not seek to replace the Party bureaucracy even though some of the bureaucracy opposed them. It is hard to know what kind of form the Shanghai mass movements would have settled on had they been left alone. It is hard to know how they would have organized power and production since the Shanghai Commune did not last long. There were attempts at various times to push for urban people’s communes during both the Great Leap and Cultural Revolution. Zhang Chunqiao and Chen Boda were both associated with this line, which was later seen as an “ultra left,” “left in form, right in essence” kind of line. Interestingly, Zhang Chunqiao later criticized the very “wind of communization” that he himself had participated in originally, but then turned against. This was part of the effort by the leftover Maoist left of the 1970s to distance themselves from their previous lines as they saw the writing on the wall as Mao continued to shift right.

There is not an obvious contradiction in Mao’s support of Great Leap rural communes and his opposition to Cultural Revolution efforts to create permanent, mass movement-based Paris commune-type forms. Around this time, some of the mass movements made calls for a single commune for all of China. Mao was right in recognizing the problematic nature of such calls. It is much easier to make anarchist rhetoric than to make anarchism a reality. Mao had good reason to tone down the mass movements. The movements were engaged in violent sectarianism against each other. The mass movements sometimes created so much chaos as to hurt China’s ability to defend itself from imperialism. In one incident, the mass movements armed themselves by raiding a train full of internationalist military aid going to Vietnam. University classes were ended. In some provinces, socialist planning had broken down due to the chaos. Free markets and production were returning because of the loss of bureaucratic control. The movements were discrediting the Cultural Revolution among many ordinary people.

Both Mao and Lin Biao favored consolidation. Zhang Chunqiao’s “Working Class in Command” was part of an effort to impose discipline on red guards using work teams. Ironically, the Maoists had earlier denounced Liu Shaoqi for his attempt to control the movement with work teams. “Purify the class ranks” and the campaign against the May 16th Corps conspiracy were also used. Lin Biao used the PLA to impose discipline too. Briefly, there was another line to oppose this consolidation, but it was defeated. The form that was settled on, and supported by Mao, was the Three-in-one committees. These were suppose to represent the Party, army, and mass movements. However, the mass movements tended to get sidelined in the process.  The reality is that consolidation had to happen. Revolution is not a process of victory after victory, ever increasing the tempo of advance. Revolution is a wave-like process of advance followed by consolidation followed by greater advance. Mao himself said China needed many cultural revolutions to reach communism. The reason that the Cultural Revolution failed to stop the restoration of capitalism was not that the mass movements were ended or that they failed to let the Paris Commune form arise. The reason it failed was that the reorganization of power was not radical enough, the Party was not purged thoroughly enough nor were the institutions reorganized thoroughly enough. The PLA, which had developed a kind of dual power, was better suited to carry the revolution forward. Furthermore, once the Maoists lost control of the PLA with the purge of Lin Biao, another cultural revolution was off the table. Lin Biao’s PLA was a pretorian guard around the Maoists and their mass movements. They kept the authorities from cracking down until Mao turned on the mass movements. The PLA created a protective bubble around the mass movements. Once Lin Biao was gone, once Maoists lost control of the gun, another mass movement could not happen. Furthermore, the Maoists still did not recognize the full effects of productionism and the connected problems of the police paradigm and suppression of intellectual discourse. They had a primitive understanding of socialism and human nature. Although their experiments at fighting counter-revolution were an advance over Soviet ones, the Maoist approach to understanding and fighting counter-revolution were still too primitive.

Today, we are at an impasse. The last great waves have been defeated. Only fragments remain. We must ask Lenin’s question again: what is to be done? We know the endgame of Marxism-Leninism. We know the endgame of Maoism. If we are to win, we have to take revolution forward. We have to advance and elevate the science. This is what Leading Light Communism is. Leading Light Communism is an all-round, all-powerful elevation of revolutionary science in all its aspects. Only the leading light of true science can pierce the midnight of capitalism and all its horrors. There is a way out of the barbarity. We have the science, the organization, the leadership to really win. One Earth. One people. One organization. One leadership. One future. One Leading Light.

Early GPCR, the rise of New Power and new ideology Part 4

Seas are rising, Clouds and Waters RagingChinese-Red-Guard-with-Red-book

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Begins,  Maoist China from 1958 to May 16, 1966

Read Part 1 here: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-1/

Part 2: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-2/

Part 3: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-3/

Part 4: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-4/

Part 5: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-5/

Part 6: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-6/

Part 7: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-7/

Part 8: http://llco.org/early-gpcr-the-rise-of-new-power-and-new-ideology-part-8/

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Revolutionizing the People’s Liberation Army: Ideological Revolution, New Power, Shifting Vanguard

Peng Dehuai and Revisionism

As the Great Leap Forward ran into difficulties, one of its biggest critics was Defense Minister Peng Dehuai. He came forward to criticize its policies as petty-bourgeois, ultra-left fanaticism run amok. Peng Dehuai largely agreed with the Soviet criticism of Maoist economic policies. Since at least the death of Stalin in 1953, the Soviet Union had been moving toward more liberal economic policies. The Soviet Union had been downplaying ideology, class struggle, social experiment, and the idea of actually reaching real communism for a long time. The Soviet Union began reversing many of the gains of socialism,  including the introduction of traditionalism in culture, a technocratic style of governance, and a capitalist approach in economics. (1) At the Twentieth Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in February, 1956, Nikita Khrushchev said:

“Because not all as yet realize fully the practical consequences resulting from the cult of the individual, [or] the great harm caused by violation of the principle of collective Party direction and by the accumulation of immense and limitless power in the hands of one person, the Central Committee considers it absolutely necessary to make material pertaining to this matter available to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Allow me first of all to remind you how severely the classics of Marxism-Leninism denounced every manifestation of the cult of the individual.” (2)

De-Stalinization in the Soviet Union was a package of policies. Criticizing the cult of personality was a big part of this package. At the same time that the Soviet revisionists were criticizing the cult, so too was Peng Dehuai. (3) As a result of the political struggles about the failures of Great Leap, even though Mao and the Maoists would lose control of the day-to-day running of the Communist Party and state, they scored a key victory. They were able to remove Defense Minister Peng Dehuai from power in 1959. Mao-loyalist Lin Biao replaced him as Defense Minister, as head of the military. Lin Biao and his military would come to play a key role in the Maoist return to power during the Cultural Revolution.

This was in the climate when Soviet and Chinese relations had soured. At the time, the revisionist Soviet Union was advancing an idea of coexistence with the imperialists. The Soviet Union sought and end to revolutionary confrontation with imperialism. The Soviets had given up on global revolution. As the Maoists were talking more and more about the importance of class struggle, the Soviet revisionists favored peaceful competition and debate between opposed social systems and classes, between capitalism and socialism. (4) It was in this context that the Soviets tried to extend their power over China. When the Soviets wanted China to cede Naval ports to its fleet, Mao described his response:

“‘Suppose I give you the whole China coast and all our ports?’ Mao paused, waiting to deliver the punch line. ‘Khrushchev just looked at me puzzled and then he said: ‘But if you do that, then what will you do’ And I said: ‘Me? Oh, I would just go back to Yanan and be a guerrilla leader again and organize guerrilla warfare. But I just want to remind you that historically we Chinese have always driven aggressors into the sea, and we will drive you into the sea as well.’” (5)

Anti-Khrushchev jokes were told in China:

“[A man is] is sentenced to ten years and two days for running through the streets shouting ‘Khrushchev is an idiot!’ Why such a bizarre sentence? the prisoner asked. ‘Two days for slandering our leader, and ten years for revealing state secrets’ replies the judge.” (6)

Thus both the Soviet revisionists and then Defense Minister Peng Dehuai adopted a capitulatory, social-democratic tone. More and more, Maoists perceived this as a struggle between revolution versus counter-revolution, socialism versus capitalism. Parallels between Khrushchev’s and Peng Dehuai’s politics were not just limited to economics and leadership, but similarities also extended to military policies. Peng Dehuai’s economic views were parallel to his military views. Peng Dehuai was part of the trend to move the military away from its revolutionary roots towards becoming a fighting force in the mold of imperialist armies. Peng Dehuai moved the military towards professionalization, specialization, and over-reliance on technology. In itself modernization is not objectionable, but the revisionists depoliticized the military, turning it into a traditional, professional military cut off from the masses. The revisionists sought a military that did not involve itself in wider society, production, politics, or culture. This was opposed by the Maoists within the military led by Lin Biao, “China’s greatest general” and Mao loyalist.

Lin Biao and His Army as Model for Society

Karl Marx emphasized the importance of the monopolization of systematic violence as a key aspect of the state. In emphasizing the state as the monopolization of sanctioned violence, Marxists have often described the state as “armed bodies of men.” The Maoists stressed the importance of the army to the revolution by calling it “a pillar of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” Lin Biao would call the army under his leadership as an “unbending pillar.” (7) Lin Biao’s promotion to Defense Minister in 1959, replacing Peng Dehuai, resulted in a revolution within the military. Maoists had always emphasized that their military was made up of peasants and workers, even though they acknowledged the need for a division of labor between those in the military and those who are not. However,  the Maoists favored an approach of integrating the military as much as possible with the masses. On one side, civilians were mobilized into work brigades and militias organized for production, but also for national defense. On the other side, Lin Biao would further integrate the military into civilian areas of society like production, cultural, and education. This was part of the Maoist emphasis on people power, but it was also seen as a way to prevent the military from becoming disconnected and above the people. Maoists held that the military ought aid in production and other areas of life, especially when it is not at war. Soldiers ought work alongside the masses, especially in the fields. Involving the military with the masses is a way to lessen contradictions that arise from the division of labor between the military and people. In traditional societies, the military becomes cut off and disconnected from the people. The military often becomes part of a ruling caste or subservient to a ruling caste that is over and above the people. Traditional militaries are tools of oppression. Maoists worried that separation of the military from the people under socialism would aid counter-revolution and the restoration of capitalism. A military disconnected from the masses would become a new capitalist class or become subservient to one. Thus replacing Peng Dehuai with Lin Biao as Defense Minister was a key victory for the Maoists and their fight to prevent counter-revolution. Interestingly, this was the second time Peng Dehuai had been replaced by Lin Biao. Earlier, in 1946, Mao had assigned Lin Biao to replace Peng Dehuai as General Secretary of the Party Committee in the Northeast. (8)  Lin Biao’s prestige as a military genius, war hero, and “China’s greatest general” added to the popularity of the Maoist cause. Among the Chinese revolutionaries, only Mao himself played a more significant role than Lin Biao in the Chinese revolution. Lin Biao and his military would play a key role in the struggle for state power between communists and capitalists. Lin Biao’s policies put the military on a Maoist footing and also provided the Maoists an institutional base outside the Party and state to launch the Cultural Revolution.

As early as 1959, in his speech “March Ahead Under The Red Flag Of The Party’s General Line And Mao Zedong’s Military Thinking,” Lin Biao states:

“Either socialist or capitalist ideology must dominate the minds of people. Therefore, in the transition period, the struggle to enhance proletarian ideology and liquidate bourgeois ideology remains vital at all times in building up the army. The political and ideological struggle between the working class and the bourgeoisie rises and ebbs, rises again and ebbs again, like the tides; it is far from over to this day and will now end until class are finally and completely liquidated.” (8)

The Yanan era, after the Long March when Mao Zedong set up their base area, was seen as a heroic, almost mythological, golden age of the revolution. The Maoists of the Great Leap and Cultural Revolution sought a return to the Yanan spirit to keep the revolution alive. According to one historian, “The character of a People’s Army was re-established by altering the nature of its authority from authoritarian/hierarchical to democratic/communal.” (9) A guerrilla asceticism was promoted, a kind of barracks egalitarianism. Equality, democracy, and a spirit of altruism were promoted. Even before Lin Biao, a General Political Department directive in September 20, 1958 required every officer spend one month out of the year as an ordinary soldier. Many of the old guard opposed this move not only because it removed their privilege, but also made them venerable. Those with rank lacked standing once deprived of command. Lin Biao enforced this directive and expanded it. By February 1959, over 150,000 officers were reportedly doing their stints as privates. (10) Later, during the Cultural Revolution, this kind of rotation of authority would be enforced on all of society. Furthermore, in 1961, with the “Regulations Governing The People’s Liberation Army’s Work At The Communal Level,” Lin Biao called for the elimination of outward sign of rank within the military. Within a few years, ranks and insignias were abolished. (58) Generals and privates appeared as equals. Work became more evenly distributed throughout the military. One observer writes:

“No more ranks: generals would share the life of the common soldier and participate in the most menial tasks.” (11)

Connected to this egalitarian push was the introduction in 1960 of the Three-Eight work style, an approach to work dedicated to the people, a style of work that brought the military closer to the masses. (12)  This was described by the slogan “Three Sentences Eight Characters.” The “Three Sentences” advocated for a correct political orientation, hard work, and simple life, and flexibility in strategy and tactics. The “Eight Characters” represented the Chinese terms for unity, earnestness, energy and vitality. (13)

Like in its Yanan days, the military was to participate in other areas of social life. It was to become a production force. Troops were now to participate in economic construction when not fighting. They would work alongside peasants and workers, thus increasing the bond between the military and the masses. Lessening social divisions, including the division between between soldier and producer, is an important part of the withering away of the state. It is an important part of eliminating the traditional distinctions. It helps society move closer toward communism. Conscription was abolished in 1965 by Lin Biao, just ten years after it had been introduced by the old Defense Minister, Peng Dehuai. This further added to the Yanan spirit, further democratizing the military. (14) The professional officers saw their new Defense Minister’s romanticization of the guerrilla and his reforms as dangerous to their standing. They also saw them as dangerous to the country’s defense in the modern world.

In a major, early break with the revisionists, Lin Biao implemented his Four Firsts policy as part of the politicization of the military, returning the military to its Maoist roots. The Cultural Revolution slogan “politics in command,” which later became “Mao Zedong Thought in command,” originated out of this period of 1959 to 1960. The Four First policy stated:

“1) As between man and weapons give first place to man; 2) as between political and other work giving first place to political work; 3) as between ideological and routine tasks in political work, giving first place to ideological work; and 4) in ideological work as between ideas in books and living ideas currently in people’s minds, giving first place to living ideas currently in people’s minds.” (15)

In other words, Marxism was not a dogma, but a living science. The resolution also detailed how to educate the masses to make Party branches strong “bulwarks” for combat. Just like in the Yanan days, the military would be an instrument of learning, in addition to fighting. (16) (17) Lin Biao sought to transform the military, and later society as a whole,, into “a great school of Mao Zedong Thought.” (18) He emphasized the importance of politics, ideology, Mao’s thinking, in the day-to-day:

“We must emphasize politics. Our army is an army in the service of politics… and politics must guide the military and day-to-day work.” (19)

This campaign would shore up loyalty to the Maoist line within the military, especially among the rank and file. As the confrontation between the Maoists and revisionists approached, the rank-and-file troops, who were drawn mostly from the peasantry, would prove important allies to the Maoists.

At Lin Biao’s behest, the military’s General Political Department under general Xiao Hua edited and issued the famous “little red book” of Quotations of Chairman Mao Zedong to soldiers as part of politicization. Distributed to the army in 1964, this armed ordinary soldiers with a basic level of political education. The “little red book” would be issued with forwards and quotations from Lin Biao. In his famous forward, Lin Biao claimed that Mao’s theories represented a “new stage” of revolutionary science:

“Comrade Mao Zedong is the greatest Marxist-Leninist of our era. He has inherited, defended and developed Marxism-Leninism with genius, creatively and comprehensively and has brought it to a higher and completely new stage.” (20)

Lin Biao also wrote the introduction to the first edition of the four-volume Selected Works of Mao Zedong in 1960. In his introduction, Lin Biao states that the victory of the Chinese revolution is the victory of Mao Zedong Thought. (21)

Later, the “little red book” and the emphasis on intense study and application of Mao’s theories would go far beyond the army. Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong was distributed, with an introduction from Lin Biao, throughout society at the end of 1966 onward. (22) Red guards and rebel workers would wave their “little red books” as a sign of their revolutionary passion in the years to come. Even top leaders, from Jiang Qing to Zhou Enlai, were shown in the media waving the “little red book.”

This was one part of a broader effort by the Maoists to use the army as a vehicle to politicize broader society with a new communist way of living. As part of an attempt to create a new communist morality and new communist humanity, the military also promoted Mao’s “three standing articles,” later to be designated “the three constantly-read articles.” “Serve the People,” “In Memory of Norman Bethune,” and “The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains” were widely disseminated and read, first within the army, then more broadly. Lin Biao issued an instruction that these articles, stressing sacrifice, determination and proletarian morality, be “studied at all levels. We must apply what we study so as to revolutionize our thinking.” (23) The military placed great stress was placed on the importance of ideology in uniting the masses to reach communism:

“China is a great socialist state of the dictatorship of the proletariat and has a population of 700 million. It needs unified thinking, revolutionary thinking, correct thinking. That is Mao Zedong’s thinking. Only with this thinking can we maintain vigorous revolutionary enthusiasm and a firm and correct political orientation.” (24)

Lin Biao instructed:

“Read Chairman Mao’s works, listen to his words, do as he instructs and become a good soldier of Chairman Mao.” (25)

Just as the army as a whole was to be the model to inspire all of society, the army promoted exemplar companies and individuals for others to emulate. As part of this, the army, along with the Communist Youth League and the Chinese Trade Union, promoted the model-hero Lei Feng who aspired to “serve the people” and be the humble “bolt that never rusts.” Lei Feng was a bit different from Stakhanovite model heroes of the Soviet Union. Lei Feng was less concerned with excelling as a producer and more concerned with aiding his comrades, doing good deeds and heroic acts, and being reliable. (26) He was said to be a soldier from a poor family whose family had suffered terribly before liberation. He expressed his love of the revolution by answering the call of duty in humble ways. He died in his prime when a telephone pole fell on him while serving the people. Lei Feng and stories and sayings from his diary were promoted. (27)  The promotion of Lei Feng was part of the promotion of the guerrilla ethos, the long marcher, the Yanan spirit. The sacrificing, humble spirit of the soldier, the guerrilla, was the model for the new, socialist humanity. Passages from Lei Feng’s diary that emphasized that the whole of one’s life should be about liberation. Lei Feng stated, “Man is happiest when he contributes everything of himself to the cause of liberating humanity.” (28)  “I live so that others may live better.” He declared, “I will stop the enemies bullets with my body.” Films and art was made emulating Lei Feng and other PLA heroes. The media reported, “in the two years since Lei Feng died, his name has become a household word.” Lei Feng “attained immortality in the unlimited cause of service to the people.” (29) Lei Feng is only the best known of many model heroes. Lei Feng aspired to be “the bolt that never rusts.” Although altruistic and disciplined, Lei Feng was limited, too one-dimensional. Wang Jie, another model hero, appeared a year after Lei Feng. Wang Jie was presented as more sophisticated than Lei Feng. Whereas Lei Feng recalled his good deeds, Wang Jie analyzed his behavior using Maoist methods. Wang Jie’s attitude toward Mao Zedong Thought is not as emotional and simplistic as Lei Feng’s. As a character, Wang Jie is more conscious of his own remolding through experience and study.  Other army heroes, such as Ouyang Hai, made appearances also. (30)

The media also promoted model army companies like “the Good Eighth Company.” The Good Eight Company was ordered to guard Nanking Road in May 1949. The reactionaries had hoped that the people’s troops would secum to the city’s charms and vices. Where real bullets failed, the reactionaries hoped “sugar-coated bullets” would succeed in corrupting the company. After troops began to slip, the company’s instructor, Liu Renfu reportedly ordered the company to the Museum of the History of the Shanghai Working-Class Movement. He taught them about the long history of the anti-imperialists struggle, especially the May 30th Movement. He showed the troops how workers had shed their blood on the road they were to guard. Another soldier, mess officer Ge Shiqi, chose to volunteer his extra time to make repairs to company gear. Thus he saved the company money. Another officer Liu Yunyan wore his shoes three years, an example of frugality. “Small matters though these were, they were in the fine tradition of the proletariat — a tradition of plain living and hard struggle.” Company-commander Zhang Jibao responded to complaints about walking 10 kilometers a day: “the more often you walk it, the shorter it gets.” Instructor Zong Zhiliang gave his money to his family and bought a pencil: “With this pencil I shall learn to read and write in the army. You keep the rest of the money; you need it!” Instructor Wang Jingwen taught others to weave quilts. Private Wu Zailing seeing an old man with child who had lost his train fare decided to pay their way. Such model behavior was attributed to the high level of political education of the company.  (31)

“To fulfill this arduous task [building socialism], we need thousands upon thousands of outstanding ‘good eight companies,’ not only in the army, but also in all our factories, enterprises, People’s Communes, schools, government and people’s organizations.” (32)

The story of “the Good Eight Company” was dramatized in “On Guard Beneath Neon Lights,” which was a phenomenal stage success:

“It describes more than just a struggle between one P.L.A. company and a counter-revolutionary gang. It is a microcosm of the post-liberation struggle between the forces of the reactionary bourgeois ideas and the revolutionary proletarian outlook.” (33)

The army initiated and threw itself into the “mass upsurge in the creative study and application of Mao Zedong’s works, regarding Chairman Mao Zedong’s works as the highest instructions on all aspects of work of the whole army and putting Mao Zedong’s thinking in command of everything.” (34) A campaign to “Learn from the People’s Liberation Army” was promoted throughout society. The campaign for “the Creative Study and Application of Chairman Mao’s Works in the Liberation Army” increased:

“Under the personal leadership and continuous guidance of Comrade Lin Biao, and surrounded by his profound concern, the cadres and fighters of the whole army, in the course of struggle, study and apply what they study, and, in particular, make the utmost effort in application. Making ideological remolding and transformation of their world outlook the key link, they have raised their proletarian consciousness to an unprecedented level. Countless good people and good deeds have come to the fore; heroes and model persons keep emerging.”  (35)

Cult, Society, Army, Dual power

The Party had elevated Mao Zedong Thought and embraced a Mao cult for many decades, especially since the 1940s. (36) Mao portraits had been featured prominently since at least the Zunyi Conference in the mid-1930s. (37) The earliest usage of the term “Mao Zedong Thought” was in 1943. (38) As early as the Seventh Party Congress in 1945, Liu Shaoqi had exalted Mao. Mao himself is reported to have supported his elevation to cult object in November, 1956. In discussing the policy of “Walking on Two Legs” at the onset of the Great Leap, Mao said:

“What is wrong with worship? The truth is in our hands, why should we not worship it?… Each group must worship its leader, it cannot but worship its leader.”

According to Mao, this was the “correct cult of personality.” Ke Qingshi, Mayor of Shanghai, began promoting Mao. (39) At an enlarged meeting of the Central Military Committee on August 7, 1959, Liu Shaoqi again exalted Mao. (40) The cult of personality had a long history in the Party. However, Mao’s position had been reduced after the Great Leap. It was Lin Biao’s military that would elevate Mao’s image and spread Mao Zedong Thought to new heights in the following years. Mao’s theories and the cult became intertwined in the politicization of the military and society. Not only was there increased promotion of Maoist theories, but increased promotion of Mao and Lin Biao themselves. Mao began to be extolled as a genius on par with Marx and Lenin. Lin Biao played a key role, along with other Maoists, in the rise of Mao Zedong Thought, but also in the rise of the Mao cult. The Mao cult would reach epic proportions during the Cultural Revolution years. All the Maoists, but especially Lin Biao, had a big hand in this. It was also promoted by general Yang Chengwu who argued that Marxists had always recognized the genius of proletarian leaders like Mao. Lin Jie argued that the establishment of Mao’s absolute authority was necessary for the Party’s discipline. (41) He became notorious for over-the-top praise of Mao. At the most extreme, people were instructed to follow Mao’s instructions whether they understood them or not.

A cult around Lin Biao arose alongside the Mao cult, especially within the military. The cult was promoted especially by general Xiao Hua, a leftist, a Maoist and Lin Biao loyalist who would play a key role in turning the army into an independent Maoist bastion separate from the normal chains of Party authority. The army began referring to Lin Biao’s “leadership thought,” which obviously echoed “Mao Zedong Thought.” (42) People were instructed to learn from Mao’s strategic thinking, and Lin Biao’s tactical thinking. (43) Xiao Hua would advise, “We must all learn from Comrade Lin Biao.”(44) A book of Quotations from Lin Biao, echoing Mao’s “the little red book,” would be published up until the Defense Minister’s demise in 1971. (45) Lin Biao himself would be held up as a kind of model hero for the masses to emulate. In 1966, for example, Xiao Hua stated:

“Comrade Lin Biao has always implemented Mao Zedong’s Thought and carried out his correct line most faithfully, firmly and thoroughly. He is Chairman Mao’s closest comrade-in-arms, his best student and the best example in creatively studying and applying Chairman Mao’s works. We must all learn from Comrade Lin Biao.” (46)

Besides Mao himself, it was Lin Biao who personified the Cultural Revolution.

The cults of Mao and Lin Biao would later be used against the Party and state bureaucracies that had slid into revisionism. The cults created an alternative pole of authority. It gave people a simple, low-level ideological basis from which to launch attacks against the Party and state. This was part of the process of delegitimizing the old authority and creating a new one. This was matched by the push for independence from the old chains of command in which the old Party had authority. The General Political Department within the army had been restored. Although this Party-organization-within-the-PLA was officially dependent on the Party through the Military Commission of the Central Committee, the General Political Department extended its influence and grew independent of the Party bureaucracy. It would become an independent organ. Later, in 1966, at a national conference general Xiao Hua further broke the military from Party control:

“The system of dual leadership by the military command and the local Party committees — under the guidance of the Central Committee of the Party — must be enforced.”

This meant that the General Political Department made up of Lin Biao’s loyalists, which Lin Biao had been strengthening since he took over as Defense Minister, was ready to take over the job of the Communist Party bureaucracy within the army. Lin Biao’s Maoist base within the military was asserting its independence in preparation for the struggles against the Party and state bureaucracy to come. This was part of a dual power that was developing against the revisionist power in the Party and state machinery. (47) (48)

People’s War, Foreign Policy

Lin Biao’s Maoist emphasis also played a role in the international polemics raging since the Sino-Soviet split. The military’s ideological revolution would come to play a role in shaping revolutionary strategy globally, also in Chinese foreign policy. The Maoists presented themselves as an orthodoxy that was loyal to the revolutionary spirit of Marx and Lenin against revisionist capitulation of the Soviet Union and others. In the famous 1963 polemic, “More on the Differences Between Comrade Togliatti and Us in March,” Red Flag’s editorial department quoted Lenin:

“In every war, victory is conditioned in the final analysis by the spiritual state of those masses who shed their blood on the field of battle. This comprehension by the masses of the aims and reasons of the war has immense significance and guarantees victory.”  (49)

At the heart of Defense Minister Lin Biao’s efforts was a return to the roots of the Chinese revolution in people’s war. For Lin Biao, not only was remembering people’s war important for making revolution in China, but Lin Biao sought to spread people’s war globally, universally. Lin Biao’s approach was very different than the old Defense Minister Peng Dehuai. Peng Dehuai had recommended moving toward conventional war based on the Soviet example. He retained links to Moscow even as relations soured. Similarly, in 1965, Luo Ruiqing, who rose to become the Chief of the General Staff of the military after the purge of Peng Dehuai’s people, suggested a Sino-Soviet reconciliation against the United States in “The People Defeated Japanese Fascism and They Can Certainly Defeat US Imperialism Too.” Although Luo Ruiqing advocated people’s war, his concept was very different from Lin Biao’s. Luo Ruiqing saw people’s war as a defensive war to defeat imperialism’s attacks. By contrast, Lin Biao transformed people’s war into offensive war, a proactive, universal strategy to be implemented on the global level. In 1965, Lin Biao made his famous speech “Long Live the Victory of People’s War!” that would be the basis for Maoist revolutionary strategy globally during the Cultural Revolution:

“Taking the entire globe, if North America and Western Europe can be called ‘the cities of the world’, then Asia, Africa and Latin America constitute ‘the rural areas of the world’. Since World War II, the proletarian revolutionary movement has for various reasons been temporarily held back in the North American and West European capitalist countries, while the people’s revolutionary movement in Asia, Africa and Latin America has been growing vigorously. In a sense, the contemporary world revolution also presents a picture of the encirclement of cities by the rural areas. In the final analysis, the whole cause of world revolution hinges on the revolutionary struggles of the Asian, African and Latin American peoples who make up the overwhelming majority of the world’s population.” (50)

Defense Minister Lin Biao thus expanded Mao’s concept to the entire world. People war, on a global scale, was not just a way to defeat imperialism in China, but a way to make socialist and communist revolution for all of humanity. Thus Maoist thought was not merely applicable in China, but the entire world. Lin Biao transformed the army into a base for the most radical thinking on foreign policy. The Maoists not only revolutionized China, but also sought to spread their revolution globally through people’s war. At a time when the revisionist Soviet Union was declaring peaceful coexistence with imperialism, when the Soviet Union was abandoning its efforts to spread revolution, the Maoists, especially Lin Biao, took command of the world communist movement. The elevation of Mao Zedong Thought to a “new stage” of Marxism and the universalization of people’s war meant that the Maoists were declaring their role as vanguard of the international communist movement. Whether one upheld these ideas was the diving line between true communists and fakes. Thus Lin Biao further elevated Maoist thinking to ever new heights. (51) By contrast, the revisionists had no ambition to manage or ideologically influence a new communist movement globally. The revisionists had no such ambition to liberate humanity. For the revisionists, foreign communists were simply pawns to achieve nationalist foreign-policy goals.

Culture

In those years after the Great Leap and leading up to the Cultural Revolution period, the Maoists began shifting their focus to the cultural realm. Lin Biao and his military played a key vanguard role in this. Many previous Marxists viewed the superstructure, or culture, as merely a kind of reflection of the base. They tended to see culture as an epiphenomenon of economics.  It other words, economics determined or caused culture in a very strict sense, and not the other way around. Maoists questioned this reductionist model as too simplistic. Instead, Maoists saw culture as playing a much more important role in the direction of society. Maoists saw the relationship between base and superstructure, between economics and culture, as much more complex. Culture, in a sense, is society’s program. For thousands of years, people have been taught that some are better than others: rich better than the poor, whites better than blacks, men better than women, the old better than the young, etc. Culture has not only reflected unjust social division, but has had a role in creating and hardening those divisions. Thus culture is an important battlefield in the struggle for communism. If class war is not continually waged in the cultural field, reactionary ideas spread and harden. These reactionary ideas eventually help the rise of a new bourgeoisie; they help to reverse the revolution. In addition, reaching communism, ending all oppression, requires that the revolution become self-perpetuating without a division of labor that requires leadership distinct from the masses, whether it takes the form of  vanguard Party or state. To reach Leading Light Communism, the just organization of society has to become so entrenched in the people that sharing, altruism, and science become second nature in people. In other words, culture generally has to play the role currently played by vanguard organizations and revolutionary states. Maoists sought to advance in a real way toward communism. Thus Maoists were aware the importance of culture. This emphasis on culture was in contrast to the overemphasis on production found in the Soviet experience. This is part of why the Maoist revolution was an advance over the Soviet revolution.

The military would become a big part of the cultural preparations for the Maoist offensives of the Cultural Revolution period. On December 12, 1963, Mao wrote:

“Problems abound in all forms of art such as the drama, ballads, music, the fine arts, the dance, the cinema, poetry and literature; the people engaged in them are numerous; and in many departments very little has been achieved so far in socialist transformation. The ‘dead’ still dominate in many departments. What has been achieved in the cinema, new poetry, folk songs, the fine arts and the novel should not be underestimated, but there, too, there are quite a few problems. As for such departments as the drama the problems are even more serious. The social and economic base has changed, but the arts as part of the superstructure, which serve this base, still remain a serious problem. Hence we should proceed with investigation and study and attend to this matter in earnest. Isn’t it absurd that many Communists are enthusiastic about promoting feudal and capitalist art, but not socialist art?” (52)

This instruction along with Mao’s “Talks at the Yanan Forum on Literature and Art” would continue to be circulated up to and throughout the Cultural Revolution period. Mao further began to speak out against the “popes” of culture within the Party prior to the Cultural Revolution:

“They have acted as high and mighty bureaucrats, have not gone to the workers, peasants and soldiers and have not reflected the socialist revolution and socialist construction. In recent years, they have slid to the right down to the brink of revisionism.” (53)

An important part of revolution, of seizing power, is building public opinion. The military sought to popularize Mao’s works beyond itself. The military threw itself into mass campaigns to popularize Mao’s works. The military under Lin Biao’s direction would also help revolutionize the arts in the years leading up to the Cultural Revolution. This would further eliminate divisions of labor in society. Lin Biao would play a key role in elevating Mao’s wife Jiang Qing and her efforts to revolutionize culture. Lin Biao placed her in charge of cultural policy in the military. The military sponsored conferences on culture and the arts. Lin Biao instructed his troops to “listen to Jiang Qing in cultural matters.” Jiang Qing would become an unofficial minister of culture within the military. It is from this position, outside normal Party channels, that she would launch her revolution in the arts. Jiang Qing’s early conferences in art would be “entrusted” to her by Lin Biao.  Why it was “entrusted” to her by Lin Biao was something of a mystery at the time. Big struggles were coming in culture. And Lin Biao’s military was to play a key role. (54)

The revolution in the military affected everything from how power was distributed to culture to how to think about the world revolution. This is because the Defense Minister’s efforts were not simply about revolutionizing the army, but making the army a model of revolutionary society itself, of taking revolution beyond the military to the whole of society. People’s Daily on February 1, 1964 editorialized that “The Whole Country Must Learn From the PLA.” (55) Similar stories would echo throughout the early Cultural Revolution. The military was seen as a model, a school, a production and fighting force.  Social problems and production problems were to be seen in military terms. The Cultural Revolution itself would be seen as a kind of people’s war to reach communism. As the Cultural Revolution advanced, Defense Minister Lin Biao would later impose the army’s barracks egalitarianism, the Yanan-guerrilla ideal, fighter-educator-producer ideal, far beyond the military, but to society itself. Reaching communism required a society united by revolutionary science. At the time, this meant a society unified by Mao Zedong Thought.

Lin Biao’s Army’s Dual Power, New Power, New Ideology

The military, at least those parts loyal to Defense Minister Lin Biao, was the institutional base the Maoists used to launch their assault on the Party and state bureaucracy during the Cultural Revolution. Lin Biao’s military was a kind of red zone within political territory corrupted by revisionists. The Party, at least not at its top bureaucratic levels, no longer represented the vanguard. The vanguard role of preparing the masses ideologically and pulling society toward communism was more and more played by the military, and later, the Cultural Revolution Group, not the traditional Party. Dual power, New Power, alternative, parallel institutions were arising within the military to challenge the Party and state. The Army’s General Political Department disseminated Maoist ideology when the Party’s cultural elites and Propaganda Department were obstructing it. Similarly, the military’s media was at the forefront of spreading the Maoist line and vision. It was the military, not the Party and state bureaucracies, that had a vision of radical reorganization of society to reach communism. It was also the military, through Lin Biao’s “Long Live The Victory Of People’s War!,” that originated the most advanced thinking about how to spread the world revolution and what role China’s foreign policy should play in the process. In addition, the military’s institutions were displacing normal Party ones as the cultural vanguard through the work of Jiang Qing, who was working as a kind of cultural minister to the army. From this liberated institutional space, the Maoists would launch the Cultural Revolution. Maoist theory emphasizes the role of building public opinion in order to seize power. Not only was the military at the forefront of building public opinion, but it was at the forefront of building an alternative, parallel power to sideline the Party’s bureaucracy in order to implement the radical vision of the Maoists.

The role of Defense Minister Lin Biao and the military should not be underestimated in unleashing the Cultural Revolution. This is why some scholars have tried to characterize the Cultural Revolution itself as a struggle between coup and counter-coup. However, such a simple characterization is a mistake. The People’s Liberation Army was not a bourgeois military. It was an army of the people that aimed at revolution and communism. And the Cultural Revolution would unleash a huge mass movement that, along with the New Power within the army. This aimed at reaching communism. Not only did Lin Biao helped set the stage, he used the muscle of the military to create a protective bubble so that the mass movements could run their course. His Maoist praetorian guard held back, as best as they could, those who would suppress the chaos that would be unleashed by the red guards and rebel workers. As the mass movements ran their course, as the Party and state were torn apart, the army, “the pillar of the dictatorship of the proletariat” with its New Power would come to fill the power vacuum. This will be seen at the Ninth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in April of 1969 where the army was present in force, where Lin Biao was formally designated as the successor to Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Communist Party. There is no creation without destruction, and the People’s Liberation Army under Lin Biao would play a key role in both. As we march the glorious road to Leading Light Communism, we must study the works and practices of the Leading Lights of history, like Mao and Lin Biao, and today’s Leading Lights. The best way to honor past heroes is by telling their history honestly, which helps us push history forward. Serve the people truth, not fiction. Based on a higher synthesis of the past and present, the new Army of the Leading Light will destroy the darkness of oppression and ignorance.

Notes

 

  1. “Comments on Soviet Women, Traditionalism, Revisionism” (LLCO.ORG: July 28, 2014) http://llco.org/comments-on-soviet-women-traditionalism-revisionism/
  2. Khrushchev, Nikita “Speech to 20th Congress of the C.P.S.U.” (February 24-25, 1956) https://www.marxists.org/archive/khrushchev/1956/02/24.htm
  3. Jin Qui The Culture of Power (Stanford University Press, California, USA: 1999) pp. 19-20
  4. “Whence The Differences: A Reply To Thorez And Other Comrades” Beijing Review no. 9 (March 1, 1963) p. 99
  5. Rittenberg, Sidney and Bennett, Amanda The Man Who Stayed Behind  (Simon and Schuster, USA: 1993) p. 274
  6. ibid. 268
  7. Woodward, Dennis. “Political Power and Gun Barrels” in China: the Impact of the Cultural Revolution edited by Brugger, Bill (Harper & Row Publishers: USA:1978) p. 75
  8. Lin Biao “March Ahead Under The Red Flag Of The Party’s General Line And Mao Tse-tung’s Military Thinking” (Foreign Language Press, People’s Republic of China: 1959) p. 7
  9. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 37
  10. Joffe, Ellis “The Conflict Between Old And New In The Chinese Army” in China Under Mao: Politics Takes Command edited by MacFarquhar, Roderick (MIT Press, USA: 1966) p. 52
  11. Macciocchi, Maria Antonietta Daily Life In Revolutionary China (Monthly Review Press, New York, New York USA: 1972)  p. 84
  12. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 37
  13. Joffe, Ellis “The Conflict Between Old And New In The Chinese Army” in China Under Mao: Politics Takes Command edited by MacFarquhar, Roderick (MIT Press, USA: 1966) p. 52
  14. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977)  p. 38
  15. “Two Roads Defeated in the Cultural Revolution Part 2: Lin Biao’s Road” (LLCO, 2008)
  16. Jin Qui The Culture of Power (Stanford University Press, California, USA: 1999) p. 75
  17. Dietrich, Craig People’s China Third Edition (Oxford University Press, New York, New York USA: 1998) p. 172
  18. “In Resolute Response To Comrade Lin Piao’s Call, Carry To A New Stage The Mass Drive For Creatively Studying And Applying Chairman Mao’s Works” Beijing Review no. 42 (October 14, 1966) p.12
  19. Corr, Gerard H. The Chinese Red Army (Schocken Books, New York: 1974) p. 141
  20. Quotations From Chairman Mao Zedong. http://art-bin.com/art/omaotoc.html
  21. Jin Qui The Culture of Power (Stanford University Press, California, USA: 1999) pp. 74-75
  22. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p. 38
  23. “Comrade Lin Piao’s Call to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army: Carry the Mass Movement For The Creative Study and Application of Chairman Mao’s Works To A New Stage” Beijing Review no. 42 (October 14, 1966) p.7
  24. Milton, David and Nancy Dall The Wind Will Not Subside (Pantheon Books, USA: 1976) p. 118
  25. Uhalley, Stephen A History of the Chinese Communist Party (Hoover Pres) p.134
  26. Karol, K.S. The Second Chinese Revolution (Hill and Wang, USA: 1974) p. 114
  27. Dietrich, Craig, People’s China Third Edition (Oxford University Press, New York, New York USA: 1998) p. 167
  28. Goldman, Merle “The ‘Cultural Revolution’ of 1962 -64” in Ideology and Politics In Contemporary China edited by Johnson, Chalmers (University of Washington Press, USA: 1973) p. 249
  29. “Lei Feng” Beijing Review no. 11 (March 12, 1965) pp. 28-29
  30. Milton, David and Nancy Dall The Wind Will Not Subside (Pantheon Books, USA: 1976) pp. 88-89
  31. Kuo Ma-Hu “The Story of The ‘Good 8th Company’” Beijing Review no. 21 (May 24, 1963) pp. 24-26
  32. ibid.
  33. “On Guard Beneath Neon Lights” Beijing Review no. 20 (May 17, 1963) p. 27
  34. Milton, David and Nancy Dall The Wind Will Not Subside (Pantheon Books, USA: 1976) p. 117
  35. “New Upserg In The Creative Study And Application Of Chairman Mao’s Works In The Liberation Army” Beijing Review no. 42 (October 14, 1966)  p.13
  36. Wylie, Raymond F. The Emergence of Maoism (Standford University Press, USA:1980)
  37. Mittler, Barbara “Popular Propaganda: Art and Culture in Revolutionary China” http://www.amphilsoc.org/sites/default/files/proceedings/1520404.pdf p 478
  38. Kamphen, Thomas “Wang Jiaxing, Mao Zedong and the ‘Triumph of Mao Zedong Thought’ (1935-1945)” in Modern Asian Studies vol 3, no. 4 (Cambridge University Press: 1980) p. 720
  39. Dikotter, Frank Mao’s Great Famine (Walker Publishing Company, New York, USA: 2010) p. 19
  40. Jin Qui The Culture of Power (Stanford University Press, California, USA: 1999) p.19
  41. Young, Graham “Mao Zedong and Class Struggle in Socialist Society” in The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs no. 18(University of Chicago Press: July 1989) p. 65
  42. Lewis, John Wilson “China’s Secret Military Papers”  in China Under Mao: Politics Takes Command edited by MacFarquhar, Roderick (MIT Press, USA: 1966) p. 60
  43. Rittenberg, Sidney and Bennett, Amanda The Man Who Stayed Behind (Simon and Schuster, USA: 1993) p.285
  44. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise and Fall of Lin Piao (Avan Books. USA: 1977) p. 99
  45. Han Suyin Wind In The Tower (Little, Brown And Company, USA: 1976) p. 341
  46. “Comrade Lin Piao’s Call to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army: Carry the Mass Movement For The Creative Study and Application of Chairman Mao’s Works To A New Stage” Beijing Review no. 42 (October 14, 1966) p. 6
  47. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) pp. 35-38
  48. Corr, Gerard H. The Chinese Red Army (Schocken Books, New York: 1974) p. 148
  49. “More On The Differences Between Comrade Togliatti And Us” Beijing Review no . 10 and 11 (March 15, 1963) p. 25
  50. Lin Piao “Long Live The Victory Of People’s War! (Foreign Language Press, China)
  51. Domes, Jurgan The Internal Politics of China 1949-1972  (Praeger Publishers, USA: 1973) p. 153
  52. “Comrade Lin Piao’s Letter To Members Of The Standing Committee Of The Military Comission Of The Party Central Committee” Beijing Review no. 23 (June 2, 1967) p. 9
  53. Van Ginneken, Jaap The Rise And Fall Of Lin Piao (Avon Books, New York, New York, USA: 1977) p .44
  54. Ma Jisen The Cultural Revolution in the Foreign Ministry of China (Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong: 2004) p. 6
  55. “The Whole Country Must Learn From The PLA (Jen Min Jih Pao Editorial, Peking, February 1, 1964)” in Chinese Politics edited by Myers, James T., Domes, Jurgen, and von Groeling, Erik (University of South Carolina Press, USA: 1986) p. 95

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

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

(llco.org)  130228044456-bangladeshi-war-crimes-protests-story-top

On February 5, 2013, Bangladesh erupted. Protests began in the Shahbag neighborhood in the capital Dhaka, but quickly spread across the country. The protesters demanded justice for the genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity committed during the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971. The International Crimes Tribunal, which, despite its name is not a United Nations organization, is an organ of the state of Bangladesh, is charged with bringing those responsible to justice under the Bangladesh International Crimes Act of 1973. This is the catalyst that is bringing the masses of Bangladesh onto the streets. Recognizing the danger to the social order, the regime, some Islamists, and paramilitaries have beat and shot the protesters. Complex history and complex interests have led us to this point. Again, we must ask Lenin’s question: What is to be done?

Background

Prior to 1971, Bangladesh was internationally recognized as part of Pakistan; it was often referred to as “East Pakistan.” Even so, Bangladesh was a separate nation, part of the greater Bangla Zone, locked inside and oppressed by Pakistan. Bangladesh existed as a kind of colony within the semi-colonial, regional hegemon of greater Pakistan. Many of the land owners and capitalists of East Pakistan resided in West Pakistan or had close ties to the West. The majority of wealthy strata supported unity with Pakistan.  The majority of the middle and poorer strata experienced discrimination, second class citizenship, and loss of opportunity in the greater Pakistan dominated by Western Pakistan. Even though both regions had a majority that practiced Islam, there were ethnic and linguistic differences between West and East Pakistan. For example, Urdu was declared by Pakistan to be its only official language even though the majority in East Pakistan spoke Bangla, and many others spoke Punjabi. Many died protesting the linguistic discrimination. Several civilians lost their lives on February 21, 1952 when the Pakistani police cracked down on protesters. To this day, the day is remembered as Language Martyrs Day. Those in the East were excluded from many aspects of Pakistani society due to national chauvinism. While the West taxed and ruled the East, little was spent on infrastructure and development of the East. Even though Easterners constituted a majority of the country, those in the East were underrepresented in the Pakistani military, government, and other technical posts. The way elections were held in Pakistan sought to ensure that Easterners were underrepresented and kept out of power. Where there is oppression, there is social tension, there is resistance.

A political crisis occurred when the Eastern Awami League, despite the unfair electoral system, had a landslide victory in the elections of 1970. Under the constitution, the Awami League had the right to form a new government and select the Prime Minister. However, the Western economic and political establishment refused to go along with the vote. There had been a long history of the establishment refusing to cede political power to Easterners. The pro-Western Pakistani military establishment tightened its hold on the East. Between March 10th and 13th, Pakistan began increasing its troops and weaponry in the East. This would be followed by a brutal pacification effort against the East. In November of that year, the deadliest cyclone in history hit the East, killing an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people. The West intentionally let the East bleed by responding slowly with very weak relief efforts. A general strike and other acts of resistance would follow. It was in December that the Bangladesh Liberation War began.

On March 26th, 1971, the Mukti Bahini, the Liberation Army, was formed to resist the Western-imperialist backed genocide. Although the Soviets sought to use this to their advantage, the main danger to the world at the time was Western imperialism led by the United States or imperialism as a whole, not Soviet social-imperialism specifically. In the case of Bangladesh, class interest and national interest coincided as the national liberation movement gained traction among the masses. Three million died. Eight to ten million became refugees from the violence. Most of the violence was committed by the Pakistani military and their paramilitary supporters. Mass graves exist across Bangladesh where students, intellectuals, workers, peasants, anyone suspected of opposing the Pakistani establishment was murdered. There was a systematic effort to eliminate the intellectual and cultural elite of Bangladesh. Hindus and other minorities were especially targeted by the Pakistani military. An estimated 400,000 women were raped as part of the pacification efforts. Women students from Bangladesh were forced into brothels to serve the Pakistani military. Journalists were rounded up or deported to hide the extent of the atrocities. Yahya Khan, president of Pakistan, declared, “Kill three million of them, and the rest will eat out of our hand.”

The conflict took on an international dimension. The United States and Mao’s China aligned with the genocidal Pakistani regime. India and the Soviet Union aligned with the national liberation movement. Internal documents of the Nixon administration characterized events in Bangladesh as a “selective genocide,” yet the United States supported the Pakistani regime regardless. A high-ranking US official was quoted as saying, “It is the most incredible, calculated thing since the days of the Nazis in Poland.” China, as it slid into revisionism, also played a reactionary role. The revolutionary period in China was ending with the purging the radical left and rehabilitation of the revisionist right. Lin Biao was falling from power. China was beginning to align with the United States against the Soviet Union. In addition, China had historically been in conflicts with India. India also feared that the Bangla freedom movement would spill over into its own borders, where a significant Bangla-speaking population exists. India was already facing numerous peasant uprisings, including the continuation of the Spring Thunder Naxalite movement led by the Indian students of the writings of Mao and Lin Biao. After India intervened, the liberation war ended on December 3rd, 1971. An independent Bangladesh emerged. Bangladesh, already poor, was devastated. This was only made worse when in 1974, natural disasters and rising rice prices led to mass starvation across Bangladesh. The corruption of the new regime made things worse. An estimated 1.5 million people died as a result of the food crisis and epidemics: cholera, malaria, etc. Hit hardest were the poor: workers, peasants, lumpen. The United States saw this as an opportunity for revenge and cut off any aid to Bangladesh. The nominal reason was that Bangladesh traded with Cuba. The reality is that the United States helped to inflict genocide on Bangladesh because the regime would not fall into line with US-backed imperialism, because the regime tilted toward Soviet social-imperialism. By the time Bangladesh stopped jute trade with Cuba, the aid was too little, too late. The imperialists bled the masses.

The conflicts left deep wounds on Bengla society that have never healed. Many of the social and political conflicts were unresolved in the following decades. On December 24, 1971 Home minister of Bangladesh A. H. M. Qamaruzzaman said, “war criminals will not survive from the hands of law. Pakistani military personnel who were involved with killing and raping have to face tribunal.” In 1972, plans were announced to try to put one hundred top Pakistani military officers on charges of genocide. The Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order 1972 was enacted to put on trial only those Bangladeshis who had collaborated. However, over the years, the laws were modified to suit political agendas of the parties in power. For example, a general amnesty was issued in November of 1973 that granted amnesty to all except those found guilty of rape, murder, attempt of murder or arson. Yet in 1975, this amnesty was revoked. This pattern would continue until the present.

The International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 sought to expand prosecutions, irrespective of nationality, for war crimes and crimes against humanity, ‘‘violations of any humanitarian rules applicable in armed conflicts laid out in the Geneva Conventions of 1949’’ and ‘‘any other crimes under international law.” However, nothing came of this since Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated in 1975 by military officers who opposed his consolidation of power and his corruption, but also opposed his support of moderately socially progressive policies: moderate land reform, advancing the status of women, secularization of society against Islamization etc. It is reported that the CIA knew of the planned assassination against Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and did nothing to prevent it, perhaps even having a direct role in the plot. His regime fell in a military coup along with many of the policies associated with the Awami League regime. This assassination would throw Bangladesh into more chaos as a series of coups were unleashed. Some of the plotters of the assassination, after they had been overthrown by another coup, are reported to have taken refuge in Mao’s China, which had been quickly sliding into revisionism and aligning with the West since the decline, and ultimately death, of Lin Biao. The military ruled Bangladesh until 1990 when mass movements forced a return to civilian rule.

The Awami League came to power again in 2009 with the election of Sheikh Hasina against the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the main opposition, a coalition which includes Jamaat-e-Islami. Wounds were reopened when in 2009, the Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs of Bangladesh stated that Pakistanis would not be persecuted under the 1973 law. Thus those in Pakistan with much blood on their hands were given immunity. It was in December 2009 that Ghulam Azam, who had been collaborated with Pakistan, ascended to become chairman of Jamaat-e-Islami of Bangladesh. Many other collaborators found refuge within reactionary Islamist political parties known for stirring up sectarian violence against minorities. These parties often have deep ties to the security establishment in Bangladesh and to their counterparts in Pakistan.

Protests and counter-protests

Protests began in the Shahbag neighborhood of Dhaka on February 5th, 2013. The protesters had several immediate demands. They demanded the death sentence for those found guilty of war crimes by the International Crimes Tribunal. They demanded reversal of earlier verdicts in favor of capital punishment. Since then the protests have spread across the country with widening demands. Like other recent protests globally, social media, the internet, has played an important role. Events globally and in Bangladesh confirm Leading Light’s analysis that revolutions and social movements today have to break from past dogma to recognize new possibilities that technologies have opened up for both revolution and counter-revolution. In “New World, New Challenges, New Science,” Leading Light states:

“New technology and greater mobility open up new paths for revolution. Greater communication and mobility mean that revolutions may be increasingly dynamic in important ways. Subjective and objective conditions can change in explosive ways, very rapidly. Tempos can accelerate seemingly out of nowhere. Events in one location can quickly influence events and conditions around the world. Revolution will become more globalized in important ways. New technologies will have a profound  impact on how revolutions are made. New technologies will open up new possibilities during socialist construction.”

Even so, it is not just the mass movement that has quickly placed feet on the streets. So too have Jamaat-e-Islami and the security forces. Everyday more are shot and wounded. The streets are battlegrounds between protesters, counter-protesters, and security forces. At the beginning of March, 2013 the death toll stands at over 60. There will surely be more deaths on the horizon.

These protests occur on the heels of nationwide discontent and strikes over the factory fires that claimed hundreds of lives last year. They also occur on the heels of numerous natural disasters that have ravaged Bangladesh’s poor, with the ruling regime slow to react, if it reacts at all. All parties of the reactionary classes, whether they cast themselves as social-democrats, capitalist-modernizers, Islamists, socialists, communists, etc. are discredited in the eyes of the advanced segment of the masses, the Leading Lights of the Bangla Zone. Sheikh Hasin’s discredited regime faces a national election this year. Even though the protests have legitimate demands, the regime seeks to use the protests to deflect criticism of itself. The regime seeks to use the legitimate discontent of the masses as a pretext for the suppression of the opposition. Various revisionists have reportedly uncritically aligned with the state. The contradiction between the regime and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which includes Jamaat-e-Islami, is a contradiction amongst the enemies. Two manifestations of the Old Power are slugging it out while the masses bleed. Imperialists and the First World manipulate the situation to their own advantage.

Even so, there is an opportunity here to try to push the masses further toward real revolution, toward Leading Light Communism, the end of all oppression. Leading Lights must not tail the regime as many of the revisionists have. Leading Lights ought to use this opportunity to raise awareness amongst the masses of the larger problems facing society. Look at the big picture. Channel the anger of the masses against the collaborationists into anger directed against the whole system of Old Power, the whole of capitalism, imperialism, semi-feudalism, and all the horrors of the old system. The masses lose no matter which faction of the ruling class holds power. The problems of the Bangla Zone will not be solved through social-democratic reform. The nature of the Old Power is to preserve its rule in one way or another. Whether the Old Power wears a social democratic, Western face or an Islamist one, the masses lose. Although the protests will not lead to genuine revolution, Leading Lights can use this opportunity to educate, to train, to lead, to gain valuable experience. Mass movements of these kinds, where there is mass outrage, but genuine revolutionary infrastructure is lacking is all too common. Objective conditions — poverty, oppression, etc — are not enough to make revolution. Subjective conditions — the development of New Power, revolutionary political-military-cultural infrastructure, revolutionary consciousness, the genuine leadership of the Leading Light Communist Organization and the most advanced revolutionary science of Leading Light Communism — is also required. Seek to elevate the sites of the masses, while still keeping a realistic, scientific perspective. Scientific leadership is key.

Old Power versus New Power

Revolution is not achieved through compromise with the Old Power. The Old Power is there to serve the reactionary classes. The Old Power — the state, the civil and cultural institutions, the security-military apparatus, etc. — is a weapon only wielded by the reactionary classes. The state does not sit above class struggle, it is an instrument of class oppression. It is a means by which one class oppresses another. Revolution is not made by achieving piecemeal reforms within the Old Power. Revolution is made by sweeping away the Old Power, the old society. Revolution is a process of creating what Lenin called dual power, New Power that exists alongside the Old Power but, at the same time, contends against it. The New Power of the Leading Light is a shadow state, a shadow society, a shadow power, a shadow leadership that is largely clandestine until the time is right and it can emerge to openly contend with the Old Power through politico-military confrontation, through the global people’s war of the Leading Light. When the New Power of the Leading Light is strong enough to emerge in the open, red zones, base areas, will be established to go head-to-head in military confrontation with the forces of reaction. Mass movements like the protests in Bangladesh give us the opportunity to educate, train, recruit, gain experience. We should not dismiss them simply because the reactionary classes also strive to manipulate them. Rather, as much as possible, we should seek to lead. However, we should not lie to the masses. Even if this particular regime falls only to be replaced by another capitalist one due to the social unrest, we should always point out the limited nature of the protests and reforms generally.  We must be patient with the masses, but also firm in our resolve. We must not be afraid to lead, to be Leading Lights. While it is important to involve ourselves in mass movements, we must not liquidate into them. We must try to channel the masses in our direction. We must use these opportunities to expand our ranks. However, we cannot place our entire focus on the mass movement. We must continue the construction of the New Power of the Leading Light. We must hold firmly to the glorious strategic plan of the Leading Light. There will always be bumps in the road. There will always be twists, turns, surprises. We must continue on our course as laid out by the most advanced revolutionary science to date, Leading Light Communism. Patience. Loyalty. Discipline. Sacrifice. Leadership. Long live memory of the heroes of the Bangla Zone! Be the Leading Light! Follow the Leading Light! Long live the Leading Light! Our sun is rising. Our day is coming.

Sources

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangladesh_famine_of_1974
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_Bangladesh_atrocities#Operation_Searchlight
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangladesh_Liberation_War
4. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/28/bangladesh-death-sentence-deadly-protests
5. http://tribune.com.pk/story/515492/large-scale-protests-bangladesh-deploys-troops-as-protest-toll-hits-76/
6. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/04/world/asia/bangladesh-sees-deadly-day-as-protests-persist.html?_r=0
7. http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/03/04/bang-m04.html
8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh_Hasina
9. http://llco.org/184/
10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangladesh_Nationalist_Party

On Conscious Consumerism, Lifestylism: a letter from a reader

On Conscious Consumerism, Lifestylism: a letter from a reader

(llco.org)  fair-trade-label

“Dear Leading Light,

I am curious about the day to day life of a Leading Light Communist in the First World.

What do you think about  “conscious consumerism” and “fair Trade.” Is it bullshit?

Should we change our lifestyles? After all, corporate junk food and consumer goods, excess plastics, etc. all connect to human misery.

Most First World peoples have such an income to place them amongst the global bourgeoisie. In addition, it is from our incomes that the state receives its taxes to fund its war machine. Therefore, should we lower our income as a way to lessen the blood on our hands? Reduce our involvement in exploitation? Weaken the imperial state?

Thank you”

Thank you for writing.

“Conscious consumerism,” “fair trade,” etc. is the strategy that seeks to end exploitation by changing the purchasing patterns of First World peoples. The idea is that if enough First World people boycott corporate products, while at the same time purchasing products made in fairer ways, then a better world will come into being. In other words, First World people should boycott Folgers coffee, instead purchasing Starbucks’ “Fair Trade” or Zapatista coffee in hopes of reducing the exploitation in the world. The idea here is that First World people become “conscious consumers,” choosing to purchase commodities that have been produced in safer environments for workers, commodities where workers are paid a higher, fairer wage, etc.  The  idea is that First World people pay a bit more for Third World commodities produced in ways that involve less exploitation.

Let’s start with the more banal problems of such a strategy. There are problems of enforcement. Just because a product claims it is “fair trade” or “eco-friendly” does not mean that it is. There is no guarantee that the extra amount of money paid by the consumer actually reaches the producer. More importantly, we must recognize the limits that “conscious consumerism” has as a strategy for revolutionary change. It is rather naive to think that we can end imperialism by simply waking up First World people. It is in their First World interest to maintain their standard of living. Although there may be cases of individuals in the First World who are “conscious consumers” and engage in real solidarity with Third World people, for most, “conscious consumption” is merely a kind of feel good politics that distracts from real revolution.

“Conscious consumerism,” “lifestylism,” etc. can become an obstacle to the real struggle against imperialism. It is imperialism without imperialism. It gives the peoples of the First World yet another lifestyle option. They can largely maintain their First World lifestyle, but now they do not have to feel guilty about it because they buy Zapatista coffee. The First World liberal no longer has to deal with his own conscience, but above-and-beyond that, can boast at the cafe about how great they are for being so caring about Mother Earth since they purchased a Prius.  First World people should feel some sense of guilt for the tremendous suffering they are inflicting on the planet and its peoples through their standard of living, and the bombs and death squads that maintain it. Yet now they can have their cake and eat it too. They can have their imperial lifestyle while soothing their own conscience and stroking their own ego about how great they are for being “conscious consumers.” They can partake of empire while seeing themselves as resisting it.

The same can be said of the excessive focus on lifestyle amongst First World, liberal activists. Making oneself poor may alleviate your guilt about being in the “belly of the beast,” but is not a good strategy for real change. To have the option to make yourself poor, to slum away your 20s in collective houses, for example, is yet another lifestyle option that empire has provided. Real poverty is not something one chooses, it is something forced. “Conscious consumerism,” “lifestylism,” etc. are very individualist. The whole motivation behind such politics is not “how do we really make a change in the real world?” but rather “how do I wash my hands of my privilege?” Most often, it is not a genuine caring about others that motivates such politics, but a desire to be morally clean. In this way, such strategies have come to hinder the development of real anti-imperialism and real solidarity, which requires far more than liberals changing their coffee brand, or car type, or pronouns they use, or way they dress.. What is required is nothing less than dismantling the First World, the Global People’s War, creating and seizing power. The excessive focus on lifestyle becomes a way of avoiding activism focused on revolution, creating the organization capable of seizing power. Really making a difference means getting serious about revolution, putting ego aside. It means building the revolutionary organization capable of actually winning. To do so requires accepting discipline, accepting leadership, etc. Real revolutionary activism means using your privileged position in the First World to generate resources for the struggle for communism. Friedrich Engels used his privileged position to finance and help Karl Marx. Thus he helped contribute to the breakthrough that led to the great revolutions of the last century. Would our movement have been better served had he locked his fortune away and slummed around the bohemian set of his day? First World revolutionaries can do more to offset whatever war tax is taken by the state by donating on a regular basis to movement, to the Leading Light. Christians and Muslims tithe to their causes. So too must revolutionaries. Real revolutionary thinking and action is beyond most First World individuals though. For those in the First World, the key is to get over yourselves. It is not about you personally. It is about liberating the planet and her peoples, not about assuaging guilt and stroking ego. Get organized, use your privilege against the system. Make a sacrifice for the cause; donate. Many of us have dedicated decades of our lives to this, years of income. Talking the talk is not enough. Walk the walk.

To be a Leading Light is to be organized for total revolution under the leadership of the most advanced revolutionary organization and science. That understood, Leading Lights should strive to be healthy. They should live in ways that aid the movement. It is good for comrades and fellow travelers to make ourselves examples to be followed. In other words, in our personal lives, we should try to reflect the future we are trying to create without becoming smug bullies about it. We should show people how to live, not lecture about it. We should also be aware of the communities that we operate in. We should not be so inflexible in our personal lifestyle choices that we become ineffective in our communities. We should operate with a kind of “lifestyle mass line” that neither tails the masses nor runs too far ahead. We should be humble, helpful, kind  and respectful toward the people and the Earth. We should try to be egalitarian and altruistic in our daily interactions. At the same time that we serve the people, we must also lead. We must not be afraid to lead, educate, stand up to loud mouths and wreckers, etc. We should not be afraid to act against counter-revolutionaries when it is required.

Organization. Discipline. Loyalty. Leadership. Sacrifice. We need to make these words live if we are ever to really win. Red Salute! Long Live the Leading Light!