Questions on Marx
1. How important is Karl Marx today?
Karl Marx is one of the greatest revolutionary thinkers of all time. He was the first in a chain of modern revolutionary scientists. Marx was one of the first to begin applying science, or science in a more modern, rigorous form, to the problem of ending all oppression, of making revolution, of reaching communism.
Marx was not the first to try to understand social transformation. Even Aristotle, one of the earliest scientists, sought to understand the processes by which one type of government degenerated into another. Others — Kant, Rousseau, even Hegel, many others — added to our understanding. However, Marx brought a scientific depth to the study of social transformation that had previously never existed. He qualitatively changed the way we look at societies forever. Marx showed society could be understood by looking at its productive forces and social relations. Social transformation, especially revolution, could be understood as the result of the contradictions, the social tensions, that arise between and within these areas. Maoists characterized this teaching as “revolution is a train on two tracks: productive forces and class struggle.” Marx also began to use mathematical models not only to understand the capitalist economy, as bourgeois economists had, but he used them to understand how capitalism generated revolution, capitalism’s own demise. Marx also introduced historicism to our understanding of the world. Marx showed how our ideas about ourselves, each other, our political ideologies, traditions, culture, all play a role in the class struggle, in social transformation. Our ideas about the world are, in a large part, a result of the way power is historically organized in society. For example, Marx famously wrote that the secret of the holy family is the earthly family. In other words, the key to understanding God is understanding our own fathers. We, as a society, project our own family structure onto the universe. We invent God. However, the invention comes to have a life of its own. Humanity forgets that it is the origin of divine authority. Humanity’s creation comes to compel humanity. It comes to reinforce those very patriarchal institutions that had a hand in creating it. These are some of his two greatest and lasting contributions. However, the most important contribution of Marx is the scientific core of his project. All of Marx’s individual predictions could turn out to be false, yet Marxism, as science, is still true. Real revolutionary science, real Marxism, Leading Light Communism, is not about any particular theory or prediction Marx made. When everything is stripped away, real Marxism, Leading Light Communism, is about one thing only: applying the most advanced science to the project of total liberation, ending all oppression, reaching Leading Light Communist.
2. Some people say to make revolution we need to go back to Marx. They say we need to forget Lenin, Mao, and others.. What do you think?
There are those who study Marx’s work the same way religious students memorize the Koran. They think that making revolution today is found hidden in his collected works. They believe that the answers to the questions revolutions face today are only found in books from the 1800s. They do not recognize the long history of proletarian revolution since Marx. They don’t recognize that the world today is not England in 1848. They do not recognize how imperialism has changed the world. For them, Marx is more like a religious figure with all the answers. Marxism for them is not science, but a collection of formulas to be memorized. These people are not Marxists. They are metaphysicians. They do not lead revolutions. Their metaphysics does not lead to power. Mao criticized this religious attitude as book worship.” Real Marxists, Leading Lights, understand that all science evolves, including revolutionary science. For real scientists, Marx is a good beginning, but to end up at Marx alone is a mistake. Marx is a stepping stone to Lenin to Mao to Leading Light Communism.
Would we take a contemporary physicist who only studied Newton to be truly scientific? Of course not. Newton’s physics was surpassed by Einstein and quantum physics. Someone who sought to address the contemporary problems in high physics but restricted himself to Newton would be considered a fool, a crackpot. This does not mean Newton’s work is not important. Of course it is. However, to solve the most difficult problems in the physical sciences requires the sophisticated tools of the most advanced contemporary physics. This does not mean we throw out Newton, but we must go beyond him just as we must go beyond Marx. Just as contemporary physics stands on the shoulders of giants like Einstein and Newton, so too does contemporary revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, stand on the shoulders of Marx, Lenin, Mao. Real science is always advancing, it is never frozen in time. To see all the world only through the lenses of Marx’s work is to abandon science for metaphysics, for religion. We must always push forward into the future. Recovering the real scientific core of Marxism, dropping the dogma, is central to Leading Light Communism.
3. Some people say a true Marxist society has never existed. What is your response?
There is the old joke about the person who supports socialism everywhere, except where it has existed. People can claim anything. Maoists used to speak of those who wave the red flag to oppose the red flag. There are plenty of people who claim to be Marxist, yet they reject the whole history of Marxist revolution. They support Marxism everywhere, except in the real world.
Lenin led a revolution that covered a sixth of the world’s land mass. His revolution involved a dozen nations and languages. The Bolshevik revolution spoke to the world. All over the world people looked to the Soviet Union. It was the first time the proletariat had a sustained hold on political power. Even though the great social experiment of the Soviet Union resulted in mistakes, it also resulted in many victories. Some idealist utopians criticize the Soviet Union because it was not perfect. Of course it was not perfect. It was the first time the proletariat had a real grip on power. The poor people, for the first time in history, were organizing society themselves. Even with no roadmap, look at all they accomplished. In a couple decades, the most backward part of Europe emerged as a modern, global superpower. They created a large scale planned economy for the first time. They empowered workers, poor farmers, women, oppressed nationalities. They created a new proletarian culture. They saved the world from Hitler’s fascist nightmare. Even so, socialism was reversed there. Mao too led a revolution that shook the world. A quarter of humanity stood up. They threw off the two mountains that weighed on the Chinese people: feudalism and imperialism. Then Mao led the masses in the attempt to reach higher levels of socialism. Mao’s revolution touched the lives of a quarter of all women on the planet. Women were led out of feudal bondage into a new world of equality. Feudalism was smashed for all Chinese people. Grassroots and workplace democracy flourished. China shed off its feudal past. It emerged as a world power. Just like in the Soviet Union, mistakes were made, but people mostly prospered. People did better. Public education, health care, literacy. Life expectancy doubled for both the Soviet and Chinese masses. Ordinary people were had real power for the first time. They were reorganizing society to create a better future for their children. People all over the world were inspired even though these great social experiments failed. Spin off revolutions and movements arose across the world. How can someone claim to be a revolutionary scientist yet reject every revolution that has ever happened?
Those who reject the this tradition of revolution have never had any success. Those who reject Lenin and revolutionary science have never made revolutionary anywhere. Think about it. They have not made revolution in a single country on the whole planet. They have not even come close. They claim to be revolutionaries, yet they have never made revolution. They claim to be scientists, yet they ignore the entire history of revolution. The reality is that such people teach the masses how to lose, not how to win.
The masses are being crushed. The masses are sick of failure. Leading Lights do not teach failure. We teach the masses how to win. To win, we need to learn from all those who came before us. Revolutionary science is about success, not failure. Leading Light Communism is about victory.
4. Some say that only workers or revolutionary workers can be communists. Is that true?
Of course not. Think about how silly that is. Marx himself was not a member of the industrial working class. Engels, in fact, was a member of the bourgeoisie. Neither Lenin, Mao, or Lin Biao were from the industrial working class. Che Guevara was not either. Most of the past Leading Lights, the great revolutionary leaders, were not from the industrial working class. Stalin was probably the closest to being an industrial worker. During his days as an industrial worker, he did union organizing for the Bolsheviks. Most Leading Lights come from the upper or middle strata or from mixed class backgrounds. The reason for this is that Leading Lights are conduits who bring science to the masses.. To do this, they must have one foot in the world of science, the world of intellectuals, education and privilege. To be in this world requires a lot of free time to study and pursue intellectual goals. This is a world that requires leisure time that poor peoples do not often have. Poor people have to spend all their time trying to survive. The poor spend much of their time keeping their families alive. In addition, the great leaders must have one foot in the world of the masses. They must have build trust with poor communities. This is so science can move through the leaders from the intellectual world to the world of the poor. And, in this process, the science is transformed into a weapon that the masses can use to understand their own exploitation and what must be done to liberate themselves.
With communist leadership workers can be revolutionary. Without communist leadership workers can sometimes be very reactionary. Many of Hitler’s supporters were industrial workers, for example. Like other classes, workers can be racist, sexist, and hold reactionary ideas. Workers, like other classes, pursue their short and middle-term class interest, which do not always align with revolution. They often seek only higher wages and reformist concessions from the capitalists, which is not always revolutionary. As Leading Lights like Engels and Lenin famously pointed out, the spontaneous struggles of the workers do not lead to revolution. Communist consciousness does not spontaneously arise on its own. Spontaneity only leads to reformism and defeat. Rather, the worker must have his eyes opened by revolutionary science. He must see through the illusions of the bourgeois world. Armed with revolutionary science, the worker slays all the illusions of the enemy. The worker must come to see that wage and reformist struggles are limited. The worker must come to see that he has the power to conquer the world. The worker then understands that his long-term interest is in revolution, not reform. He realizes that his deepest interest is in seizing power, creating a whole new world, creating Leading Light Communism. The worker realizes that spontaneous and reformist struggles are sometimes used to pacify him. The capitalists give the workers crumbs, yet the capitalists keep the cake. The worker comes to see how reformist unions sometimes work hand-in-hand with the capitalists. The worker comes to realize that reformist and spontaneous struggles should be tied to a deeper revolutionary plan. The worker comes to realize that short-term interests, wage and reformist struggles, must be linked to the long-term interest of reaching Leading Light Communism. If short-term struggles are not linked to the long-term struggle for communism, then the workers will never have real power.
It is science that opens the eyes of the workers. This science comes to the worker’s movement from outside. It enters the worker’s movement through Leading Lights, through revolutionary organization. The worker comes to realize that revolutionary leadership, Leading Light Communist leadership and organization, is absolutely necessary. The worker comes to recognize the limitations of his spontaneous and reformist practice. He comes to see that the whole cake can be his if he abandons workerist identity politics. He comes to see that the whole world can be his if he places politics, revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism, in command.
Real communists understand that politics must be in command, not identity. In fact, communism is about overcoming the limitations of the spontaneous worker’s movement and its leadership.
Anyone from any class can be a communist as long as they uphold the most advanced revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism and as long as they prove themselves through practice.
5. What did Marx mean when he wrote of the “fetish character” of the commodity?
Fetish character just means that even though the commodity, including its value, is created by human activity, people tend to view its existence and the laws that govern them as external, objective, independent of human existence. Thus the commodity is similar to God, for example. Humans create God. This is what Marx meant when he said the secret of the holy family is the earthly family. God is a kind of father figure we project onto the universe. Even though God’s origin can be traced to patriarchal social relations, humans tend to see God as something that is real and independent of human existence. God is, in reality, a social construct that comes to have power over human society. Similarly, commodities only have value because of the activity of humans, yet this fact is obscured to most people, just as God’s origin is obscured. Just as people come to impart power to God, they impart a kind of independent power to commodities and the laws that govern them even though both are really just social constructions.
Also, looking at the commodity, workers become alienated from the product of the labor, from the objects they created for the market. They see commodities as independent. The labor of the worker is forgotten as he becomes a slave to his own creation. Workers do not see that they are the origin of value and profit, not the capitalist. People see the laws of economics associated with commodities as eternal, unchanging, as part of the universe even though it is all a product of human activity. Thus they see capitalism as eternal, unchanging even though capitalism is really just a product of social activity that can be changed. People tend to see the laws of capitalism as eternal even though other systems existed before capitalism and other systems will exist after it. “Fetish character” is a kind of fake, false “objectivity” that we impart to the objects that we, as a society, create. Aristotle said, “man is a social animal.” Marx did great work studying this aspect of our character.
Part of the role of the revolutionary, the vanguard, the Leading Light, is to wake the masses up, to show them that all of society is their creation. This is the role of revolutionary science, Leading Light Communism. It is a sword that destroys all illusions. It shows the masses the truth. It says, “you are the creators! You are the masters of your own destiny! You have the real power if you take it! The future is yours!”
6. Why did Marx say “I am not a Marxist”?
It is in Engels’ work that the famous quote by Marx appears. In his quote, Marx was not repudiating his work. Rather, Marx was criticizing those in France who were calling themselves “Marxist.” Engels called them “so-called Marxists.” The statement is a criticism of revisionism. Marx’s point is that if these revisionists are Marxists, then I am not a Marxist, not a revisionist, not a counter-revolutionary. During the Cultural Revolution in China, revolutionaries warned of “those who waved the red flag to oppose the red flag.” Anyone can raise a red flag. Anyone can call themselves anything: “communist,” “socialist,” “Marxist,” “Maoist,” “revolutionary,” etc. Revolutionary rhetoric can be spouted by anyone. The enemy uses many disguises. This is why we cannot take anyone at face value. Who is and is not a true revolutionary, a Leading Light, is not measured by something as superficial as rhetoric. Image is not what matters. What matters is content. Grasp of revolutionary science is one measure. Politics in command. And, at least as important, is practice. Sacrifice matters. Loyalty matters. Discipline matters. Only those who are really willing to live and die for our future, for Global People’s War, for total liberation, are Leading Lights.
Today, we are attacked on many sides. State agents, who wear the mask of Marx, of Lenin, of Mao, attack the people’s movement. Fools, fakes who fly red flags, spread the most vicious lies about true revolutionaries. We must remember what the Chinese revolutionaries cautioned: “be careful not to board a pirate ship.” There are many false paths, but only one true path. Those who are truly serious about liberating our world will find their way to us. Those who are the most dedicated will find themselves marching with us. We have faith in the people.