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October 09, 2007



Yes, Mao was correct. Next question!

Red Heretic

Yeah but the problem here is that this author is deceitfully trying to use Mao's line on national liberation to be applied to reactionary forces who are in fact not a break with imperialism, like the Islamic Republic of Iran... and the pretending as if those who uphold Mao's line, are somehow in contradiction with it.

It's a really dishonest title for this article.


RH, are you saying that Chiang Kaishek and his KMT represented a break with imperialism?


"hoping to revive the popular sentiments of the time of the war with Iraq, but it seems to have had no luck in this regard. When talking about the Iran-Iraq war, most people conclude, “We were deceived.”"

They're goddamn right they were!

If accurate, I find their analysis of the sentiments of the Iranian masses to be quite promising in one sense. The problem of course, is how to change cynicism (comrades I know who have travelled to Iran have had similar observations about popular feelings there) into hope and commitment to action.

So that's the question I'd want to see any revolutionaries asking, and these seem to be, more or less.

"The communists should create a third pole by relying on their closest allied forces that will represent the interests of the majority of the people and work to build a pole that has influence and authority over a vast section of the people."

Well, yeah, that's just a restatement of the typical assessment of the problem. Whether the typical assessment is sufficient or not, that's still not an answer to HOW yet. "closest allied forces that will represent", what's that?

Oh, good a section on "How" comes around. "Our party as a communist party should play a key role in forming such a strong core." Right, okay, can we stop restating the problem and get to some actual strategy, or tactics?

"Without forming such a level of unity [with leftist forces]...". Okay, can restating a problem as apparently pathetically endemic in Iran as the parts of the first world most of us are in. Okay, so they are chosing a leftist united front strategy, again pretty typical. But HOW do you do this, and it is it really enough anyway?

"Ultimately the third pole, in our view and in fact, is a new political power, one opposed to the old system and its effort to renovate itself."

Okay, good, a three way fight analysis, I like where they're coming from, but, man can't they be more concise? Maybe it's the translation.

"They should distinguish between the different forces resisting the imperialists, and take a position in a way that would help the forming of a revolutionary resistance (not a reactionary resistance) against the imperialists."

This is getting better. That's not obvious to all first world leftists, it's basically the position you see at places like, I think it makes sense---but the question is still what this means, what intervention actually does this.

That's for us to figure out though, not Iranian revolutionaries (although they might have some useful insight).

Big L

"RH, are you saying that Chiang Kaishek and his KMT represented a break with imperialism?"

This is my question - I mean, I'm down with Mao, but it seems like this strategy only worked in China. Everywhere else when people took similar positions it wound up killing the struggle (or at least those communists who were struggling.)


On the question of the "how", I wholeheartedly agree. It's great, and very important, to have an analysis and critique of different forces. But HOW is it we are going to move forward? And by we I mean people in this country of course (I'm sure the Iranians are trying to figure it out themselves.)


LS – Was Mao correct about capitalist roaders and the restoration of capitalism in China?

Or ought we "support" the sweatshop regime of Beijing because they still keep Mao's picture up (while keeping his books out of print)?

1920 Revolution Brigades statement

Off topic interlude: there's an interesting statement from the '1920 Revolution Brigades', a group that is part of the Iraqi resistance, here. Now back to our regularly scheduled discussion...

Red Heretic

"RH, are you saying that Chiang Kaishek and his KMT represented a break with imperialism?"

Well I think it was more complex than that, and I don't know that I could really do justice to an analysis of the KMT. The KMT was an extremely complex and contradictory force. I do, however, believe the KMT was worlds apart from the IRI, with it's nationalist character, as limited as that is.

My point regarding Iran is that this regime is not at all "anti-imperialist" and does not represent national liberation as the title of this article insinuates. The IRI wants a better deal with imperialism. It wants more money for the oil it sells on the world imperialist market, and it wants more "say so" in it's relations of exploitation with the US imperialists.

r. john

The brevity and content of Leftspot's opening comment raises a methodological set of questions I want to discuss.

Please note: I am critiquing views that are powerfully represented among communists, but do not necessarily assume that these specific views are Leftspot's.

* * * * * * *

Can we understand what communists (and the masses) should do in Iran, today, in the context of a possible U.S. attack, SIMPLY by rereading what Mao wrote on wars of national liberation in the 1940s?

Look at the implication that IF mao was right back then, then (QED?) we should know what to do, vis-a-vis the theocracy of bloody mullahs now.

Setting aside the SPECIFIC controversy (over the Iranian party's conclusions).... adopting or accepting THIS method would leave us hopelessly unable to understand or change anything.

* * * * * *

For one thing, such a method:

a) greatly overestimates the power of analogy and universality. And it denies particularity of contradiction in a profound way. (If something was correct in china seventy years ago, then something similar must be correct in iran now.)

b) It strips Mao's analysis and method of its real dynamism and dialectics. A correct, specific verdict becomes a formula. Mao's living creative thought process gets replaced by a process that is willing to see Marxism as pat, tidy and finished.

c) It denies (in a way that is both blind and unjustified) that the world has changed in important ways.

First, lets look at the kinds of questions this kind of method poses:

Are the Iranian mullahs comparable to the KMT? Is the U.S. domination of Iran (now or threatened) comparable with the Japanese armed occupation of China? Is the potential for a national united front (between an independent Communist army and the KMT in china)comparable to the potential for a country where the communist forces have less influence and independent power? Is the opposition to Japan in an inter-imperialist war, comparable to opposing the single hyperpower (the U.S.) in our world today?

Or to put it another way: can we make an analysis by debating the degrees of applicable analogy? And what is the method behind such rickety analogy?

Does the world really justify this faith in "typical motion" and echoing relevance?

Is the U.S. really awaiting a replay of the October Revolution, starting with replay of the Finland Station?

There is something profoundly dogmatic, formulaic, quasi-religious and deeply unscientific about the whole set of assumptions.

And the currents of Maoism who remain marked by that inability to even THINK about real problems (in real time!) ... will never escape self-delusional sandboxes, where they dress up in past glories and imagine themselves as past emancipators.

* * * * * *

Let's step back further:

Revolution in the nineteenth century (roughly from 1848 to 1920) starts with the exhaustion of the bourgeoisie's revolutionary efforts, and marked by the European industrial proletariat breaking loose from the anti-feudal coalition and carving a path toward an alternative society.

Revolution in the twentieth century starts with the exhaustion of proletarian revolution in Europe, and is marked by the anti-colonial revolutions breaking loose from old traditionalist resistances, and carving various paths toward an alternative society.

The revolution in the twenty-first century starts after the first wave of socialist revolutions have exhausted themselves in capitalist restoration.

And it is marked by the emergence of an urbanized planet of slums with highly interconnected productive circuits and information -- and by the profound questions about the very possibility of alternative society.

What makes anyone think that we can take Mao's SPECIFIC strategic and tactical decisions from 1940s, and hoist them onto an oil producing country in the middle of the war on terror?

* * * * * * *

Was Mao right about national liberation? I tend to think so. Mainly right at least.

But it is what we should DRAW FROM THAT which is the question.

Should we apply his creative method, or hoist his specific verdict?

* * * * * *

I have more to say (as you might imagine) -- but lets eat the meal one bite at a time.


I appreciate r. john's comments, and fully agree that it's better to 'apply Mao's creative method than to hoist his specific verdict'. My initial curt comment was intended to being jokingly flip. (But I do agree with the verdict!)

r. john

cool. And like you, Leftspot, i do "agree with the verdict" for china, for 1940s, for the world wracked by anti-colonial uprising amid an interimperialist world war marked by the existance of a powerful socialist state.

But don't be so quick and epigrammatic: what do you think about the "hoistability" of such verdicts from then til now? As if these were case studies in a seamless body of legal precedence.

How DO we "know the world to change the world"?

Ira Wechsler

Yes you idiots, communist must be the best Nationalists, not the Internationalists they should be. No the laboring class do not understand the class struggle they are too ignorant. We must disguise the proletarian revolution as a national revolution. To that end never mention the fight for communism. We will disguise so well that those who dare to call for communist revolution will be called ultra Left and smashed just as our great floater on the Yangtze River
smashed Shang Wu Lien, the Left of the Cultural Revolution in Shanghai.
You pathetic pretenders to the word communist revolutionaries are the agents of the capitalist class within the proletarian movement. Vile scum.


Ayatollah Wechsler returns...


BTW, Wechsler why haven't you PLers abolished imperialism yet? You must not want it badly enough! Are are you being paid to divert the working class? Hmmmm......


RJ, I think you're aiming your arrow at the wrong target here. On the question of Iran, the main problem in the ICM right now is not dogmatism but ultraleftism. Now as in Mao's day, there is a principal contradiction and a need to build a united front accordingly. This is in contrast to the traditional Trotskyist position (now held by many claiming MLM) that calls for fighting simultaneously on multiple fronts while calling for a "third way".

Vile Scum, JB

The proletariat does not abide sarcasm, comrade Wechsler.


DW – and are not the Trotskyites now pushing for the denial of any honest discussion of Hezbollah, Iran or any force in conflict, for now, with US imperialism?

Or, to look it another way – if communists in Iran or elsewhere don't fight under their own banner, then they are subordinating themselves in fact to one or another of these reactionary forces.

After all, when Mao led the Chinese communists into some sort of unity with the KMT against the Japanese... HE HAD AN ARMY.

Previous attempts (under the advice of the Soviet Union) led to the death of thousands in 1927.

This isn't all academic.

It's also worth noting that this religious fundamentalism is not a universal feature of the world, it is not the only thing going on. Avakian just wrote a piece on fundamentalism and sort of glosses over how much it's not actually happening.

There is cultural chauvinism in Europe, but it's largely post-Christian. Italians are not returning to the church in droves. The Spanish who used to be among the most religious people in the world are on a steady decline. In Latin America there is no theocracy on the horizon.

The quest for a "third way" is a funny thing: if you don't make the world you want, it ain't gonna happen. Imperialism is the main and defining contradiction in the world – but the terrain of it is not so simple.

We can't just invert the manichean fear politics of the neocons.

Fredy Perlman

I think its largely a continuing appeal of idiocy.

That being said sometimes nationalism has to be defined. If you look at the Mapuches or other similar examples for instance the idea of nationalist is largely conected to local autonomous self-organization and is devoid of statist politics.

Overall however the the class warriors of the 3rd international(reductionism asside)we're right to see it for the bullshit it is. Contemporary South Africa or Zimbabwe are shining examples of the intellectual bankruptcy of national(statist usually) liberation. Give the lady some credit, she hangs around better concepts.

Red Heretic

Ira reminds me of the Spartacist League. So she's PL though?



Depends which Trotskyists. One of the worst legacies of Stalin and the Comintern is that its method of struggling against Trotskyism was unsuccessful in inocculating future generations of communists. The orthodox Trots do not hold the line you describe. Think Ira W. or Spartacist League instead--the line that all nationalism is reactionary and all red involvement in national united fronts is class collaborationist treason. The point is not the lineage or semiotics of a group, but the line--in this case the line of attacking all enemies simultaneously and without attention to the distinction between principal and secondary contradictions. This is all the more true when one enemy (the main enemy, for those who make such distinctions) is the sole superpower and one's own forces are weak.

The idea that reds in Iran are too weak to use united front tactics successfully does not make sense when stacked up against the idea that they are strong enough to successfully fight two enemies simultaneously.

You raise a good point about the overestimation of fundamentalism's role in the world. The principal contradiction remains imperialism vs. the oppressed nations and peoples of the world. It is not between McWorld and Jihad. All the more reason to reject the line that puts the struggle against US imperialism on the same footing as the struggle against the IRI.

R. John

DW: I'm not sure I know what you meant, and certainly not sure I agree. So lets break down your comments.

I think we can get into the issues of methodology i'm trying to excavate.

DW: "RJ, I think you're aiming your arrow at the wrong target here. On the question of Iran, the main problem in the ICM right now is not dogmatism but ultraleftism."

Well, that is a verdict without argumentation. I don't know what "the main problem" on "the question of Iran." Is there a single "main problem"? Is there a single "question of Iran"? Is there always a "main problem in the ICM"? Should we always focus on an alleged "main problem" when making analyses?

I suspect we should start with reality for making our analysis, not our estimation of the subjective "lay of the land" within the ICM (however we may variously define THAT).

I also don't subscribe to the theory of "main danger within our movement" (or conversely I don't subscribe to Stalin's view of either "the main danger is the error you are not guarding against" or that the main focus is the "conciliators" of the main danger within the movement.)

There are several theories here, but what they have in common is that they see "truth as an organizing principle" -- i.e. they stress those aspects of reality that seem unappreciated by this or that perceived error.

No. We need to make an all-sided estimate of reality (or as all-sided as our "relative truths" can be). And then on the basis of THAT, we need to perceive what various various class forces and various communists (of various shades) are seeing and saying. And doing.

Do you see the methodological difference (and the related assumptions of what we are even trying to do when we talk about "the question of Iran")?

DW writes: "Now as in Mao's day, there is a principal contradiction and a need to build a united front accordingly."

Really? Says who? How do you know?
On what basis do you say that is always true?

Why isn't the contradiction between imperialism (globally) and oppressed people globally?

more to come.

This is in contrast to the traditional Trotskyist position (now held by many claiming MLM) that calls for fighting simultaneously on multiple fronts while calling for a "third way".

r. john

These are not rhetorical questions I'm asking DW. I am actually asking to hear how DW justifies (undergirds) the series of assertions made.

The only real justification for those assertions that was actually given was the lat sentence:

DW writes regarding his/her assertions (and presumably his/her method:

"This is in contrast to the traditional Trotskyist position (now held by many claiming MLM) that calls for fighting simultaneously on multiple fronts while calling for a 'third way.'"

Let's break that down methodologically.

I read this claim like this:

"Your position sounds to me like classic trotskyism. Classic trotskyism is wrong, so you are wrong. My position sounds to me like what Mao said. Mao was right, so I am likely to be right."

And it is wrong, methodologically and even historically.

(After all, historically, Lenin and the Bolsheviks did not assume there was a "principle contradiction on the world" -- meaning one block that was the "main danger" -- and they did not assume there was a world united front against that main danger. In their own way they had a version of what you call "fighting simultaneously on multiple fronts while calling for a third way." Right?

But let's focus on the methodological point (i.e. the dogmatism and rather profoundly schematic approach to analysis.)

A close comrade sent me the following quote (from Engel's critique of Eugen Duhring):

"This is only giving a new twist to the old favourite ideological method, also known as the a priori method, which consists in ascertaining the properties of an object, by logical deduction from the concept of the object, instead of from the object itself. First the concept of the object is fabricated from the object; then the spit is turned round, and the object is measured by its reflexion, the concept. The object is then to conform to the concept, not the concept to the object.... The philosophy of reality, therefore, proves here again to be pure ideology, the deduction of reality not from itself but from a concept."

I assume most readers can see how this is relevent: Mao made an analysis of the object (the world in his time of world war and revolution in the 1940s). This is a concept based on the object.

Now that concept is lifted, and the "object" of today (i.e. our current reality) is not analyzed IN ITS OWN RIGHT, but simply measured against that concept -- in an apriori way.

When DW says that the world today (as in Mao's time) has a principle contradiction -- this does not actually arise (I believe) from an analysis of the world of today. It arrives from an a priori assumption that "What Mao said about his world is true about our world." In other words, it is a proceeding in logical deduction from assumption, not proceeding in dialectical analysis from reality.

That at least is widely done, by communists today, and it is completely worthless is sorting out what to do. No one will get anywhere, ever, with that method.

Of course, I may be misreading DW's particular analysis. So I am interested in hearing DW's response.

r. john

I read this post with interest on the Maoist Revolution group. And thought that x-posting it here would have value.

* * * * * * * *

';Islamism, Inevitabalism, and Economism' - 'the nature of the Islami
[this is x-posed from Maoist Revolution List]
We, a circle of revolutionaries in Canada , have been following the email exchanges on the nature of the Islamic resistance with great interest. The following is our contribution to the discussion.

1. What Lenin really said...

Some have tried to answer the question by referencing past revolutionaries, with mixed results. For example, Harry Powell cites Stalin’s evaluation of movements based on their ‘objective impact’ on the situation. He calls this the Leninist approach to the problem.

First, we need to have a scientific approach to all political questions. Remembrances of the past are not sufficient on their own for charting a course in the present nor in the future. We should guard carefully against taking a religious and dogmatic attitude where some questions are completely ‘settled.’

Second, Stalin’s summation of Lenin in Foundations leaves out much of Lenin’s nuance and complexity in approaching the national question. Lenin made several points that he said should guide people’s approach to the situation in the more backward countries:

[F]irst, that all Communist parties must assist the bourgeois-democratic liberation movement in these countries... ;
second, the need for a struggle against the clergy and other influential reactionary and medieval elements in backward countries;

third, the need to combat Pan-Islamism and similar trends, which strive to combine the liberation movement against European and American imperialism with an attempt to strengthen the positions of the khans, landowners, mullahs, etc.;
fourth, the need, in backward countries, to give special support to the peasant movement against the landowners, against landed proprietorship, and against all manifestations or survivals of feudalism..;

fifth, the need for a determined struggle against attempts to give a communist colouring to bourgeois-democratic liberation trends in the backward countries; the Communist International should support bourgeois-democratic national movements in colonial and backward countries only on condition that, in these countries, the elements of future proletarian parties, which will be communist not only in name, are brought together and trained to understand their special tasks, i.e., those of the struggle against the bourgeois-democratic movements within their own nations. The Communist International must enter into a temporary alliance with bourgeois democracy in the colonial and backward countries, but should not merge with it, and should under all circumstances uphold the independence of the proletarian movement even if it is in its most embryonic form;....[emphasis ours][A]

In another place he emphasized further that ‘we, as Communists, should and will support bourgeois-liberatio n movements in the colonies only when they are genuinely revolutionary, and when their exponents do not hinder our work of educating and organising in a revolutionary spirit the peasantry and the masses of the exploited.’[B]

Now, the point here, to borrow from the Swedish punk band The Hives, is not to engage in a sort of ‘dead quote Olympics.’ But it is useful to look at Lenin’s method here in dealing with the problem. For Lenin, the goal (communism) guides the approach. Positions stand or fall with how they relate to the ultimate goal of liberated, classless society. Also, Lenin, as indicated elsewhere in his writings on the National Question, sees the struggle for national liberation as being linked to the proletarian revolution, where each pole must reinforce the other. He also sees the national struggle as being bound up with the struggle for democracy – so that national movements should be supported when they are fighting for basic democratic advances against the forces of feudalism and parochialism.

So, when we want to analyze the ‘objective impact’ of the (post?) modern Islamist resistance movements, we would do well to keep in mind the rich, complex, multi-faceted, and often highly contradictory nature of said impact.

2. Principal contradiction

Another approach is to analyze the Islamist movements through the lens of ‘principal world contradiction.’ It is stated that the principal contradiction in the world today (the contradiction that drives and acts as the biggest influence on determining the nature of other contradictions) is the contraction between imperialism and the oppressed countries.

Does this capture the current situation in all its complexity? First of all, we should guard against a view that because Mao (40 years ago) pointed out four key contradictions, that therefore these are the only contradictions that stand for all time.

Second, the Iraq war represents both a contradiction between an imperialist country and an oppressed country (in a direct, military, sense) but also reflects the contradiction between imperialists, as the US is driven to carve out spheres of domination(centered in this case around the strategic resource of oil) as a defence against potential rivals. And further, it has intensified a new contradiction which does not fit easily into any pre-conceived category, that of between certain imperialist states and Islamic fundamentalism.

As the current worldwide discussion shows, the Islamic upsurge is complex, and cannot be narrowly reduced simply to an aspect of the contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed countries. To do so places the phenomena on an ill-fitting procrustean bed where theoretical categories are given priority over reality itself.

One weakness here is that so far from what we have seen the principal world contradiction has only been declared or even just assumed to be true (presumably because ‘most of the world’s Maoists uphold it’?), but has not been sufficiently argued for. We ourselves are unsure on this matter, and we encourage other comrades to expand their arguments on this – both to decide if the formulation is true or not, and if the very framework most correctly describes the current period of upheaval.

3. Genuine self-determination

Some will argue that the Islamic upsurge is dealing objective blows against imperialism. It is true that it in some areas it is striking real blows against certain imperialists, but whether it is weakening the system of imperialism itself is another matter. As the Iranian comrades have pointed out in recent email exchanges, Islamists in power are more than capable of serving and propping up imperialism.

What would be striking blows against imperialism in a country like Afghanistan ? Countries faced with the task of building a society that doesn’t strengthen or get subordinated in the web of imperialist economic relations have to do several things. First of all, they need to arouse and organize the masses as deeply as possible. This means bringing as many people as possible into political life, men and women, from all national and religious groupings. It means training people in a scientific outlook, so that they can understand and fight for their deeper interests with the most correct possible understanding of how the world actually works. It means relying on the masses to transform their conditions and leading them to liberate themselves from the sorts of shackles that prevent them from escaping dependence and domination – things like feudalism, patriarchy, obscurantism, and illiteracy. It means taking steps to answer the pressing demands of the masses so that they will defend the anti-imperialist movement when it comes under attack. This can translate into land for the landless, or simply something like a woman under fundamentalism or a Dalit under the caste system for the first time in their lives being treated with dignity and as a human being.

Without these basic steps, a society will be unable to build a self-reliant economy not dependent on imperialist expertise and capital. It will not have the cultural level to act as a bulwark against imperialism and will remain open to various types of manipulation. And, without basic progressive changes in the society, the masses will be unwilling (and unable) to defend the society against new attacks or challenges. In other words, you will end up with the old relations of imperialist domination in place.

The essence of imperialist economism is the denial of the right to self-determination. It is not imperialist economism to criticize those who are ‘in denial’ by thinking that every ideology and political line has a chance at genuine self-determination – and therefore prettifies various forces that have no chance at achieving this, and actually hold the process back.

4. Inevitable advances?

What will the ‘objective impact’ of a US defeat in Iraq be? It would certainly be a massive setback for US imperialism. Again, this is not the same as a massive setback for the imperialist system. Many possible outcomes are possible. It is not the case that a setback for an imperialist leads automatically to advances and victories for the people’s struggles. For example, the Vietnamese people defeated American imperialism in 1975, but have we forgotten what happened in 1976? Unfortunately for us, the world revolution does not advance in such an inevitable and unconscious way. There are numerous factors that come into play that could lead to things like the strengthening of other imperialists or reactionary countries, the entrenchment in power of demon-haunted misogynists, decades of fratricide, etc.
The key element that is missing from the discussion here is the role of the subjective forces. If there is to be a positive outcome, there needs to be an organized ‘third pole’ aside from the Islamists and the imperialists. This pole needs to have the highest interests of the masses in mind. This need for this third force, which is quite urgent, is precisely what is denied by the slogan ‘support [the Islamists] first, criticize second.” – which instead can only lead to an indefinite subordination of the struggle under reactionary leadership.

5. Scientific Analysis

The Islamists upsurge cannot be reduced to a single class impulse. It has a different class characters in different countries. In Afghanistan it seems largely feudal-based, whereas in Iran it is the weapon mainly of bureaucrat capitalists and compradors. In Iraq , there are many different trends, some who focus on opposing the occupation while others attack other Iraqi forces to manoeuvre for a greater share of power in the new puppet regime. Some, like al-Sadr’s Mahdi army, flip between the two positions depending on the situation. The common element of Islamism is its reactionary and stupid worldview.

A quick point to make though, is that in analyzing the phenomena, it is important to dig into the line and policies of its promoters, and the affects of the line and policies, rather than just the class origins of the people that make up the leadership of the movements. To do so negates the dynamic role of human consciousness and ideology – and replaces this with the crude mechanical view of ‘class instinct.’

If a scientific appraisal of the Islamic forces and their impact leads to a moral repugnance, then so be it. Stoning women to death who are accused of adultery is morally repugnant. Moreover, we believe that the sense of outrage many of the masses have towards Islamic abuses should be united with – rather than ceding that terrain to the imperialists to gain political support for their crimes. It should be shown that the rise of these religious reactionaries is in many ways a creation of the imperialists themselves, as is the political polarization that has emphasized these forces over more progressive elements. It should also be exposed that the biggest proponents of Islamism in central and west Asia are also none other than the imperialists – after all, who created the Islamic republics of Afghanistan and Iraq ?

6. Worshipping not Allah, but spontaneity

Determinist and class-reductionist views are also linked to the economism at the core of the positions that uphold the Islamists as ‘progressive.’ The heart of economism is the worship of spontaneity that undercuts or downplays the importance of the development of consciousness of the masses and the primacy of line. Typically, economists promote subservience to the economic struggle based on the assertion that the masses, in struggling for basic ‘day-to-day’ demands, will encounter the unmovable obstacles placed by the system against the achievement of these demands. Then, spontaneously, even ‘naturally’, the masses will then see the need for revolution to smash through these obstacles. In reality – and a century of class struggle can attest to this – what actually happens with this strategy is not the development of revolutionary class consciousness among the masses, but rather the training of the masses in a reformist outlook, as well as their organization in reformist groups that are unable and unwilling to make revolution.

Today, we are seeing a ‘left’ variant on ‘classical’ economism that worships spontaneity in a new form. Just look at the following example: ‘The [Islamic] upsurge is bound to raise the anti-imperialist democratic consciousness among the Muslim masses and bring them closer with all other secular, progressive and revolutionary forces.’ No. It isn’t ‘bound’ to do anything of the sort. For this to happen there needs to be active ‘secular, progressive and revolutionary forces’ who can divert the spontaneous activity of the masses away from the mullahs who believe that communists are kafirs (infidels) who should be put to death!


A: Lenin, “Preliminary Draft of These On the National and Colonial Questions” in: Lenin On the National and Colonial Questions: Three Articles. (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1975) pp. 26-27.

B: Lenin, “The Report of the Commission On the National and Colonial Questions” in: Lenin On the National and Colonial Questions: Three Articles (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1975) p. 33.



You are right that my statement that the world today has a principal contradiction does not arise from an analysis of the world of today (though I think such analysis confirms it). Instead, my statement arises from an analysis of contradiction. Not my own analysis, but Mao’s “On Contradiction,” which in my opinion, contrary to opinions expressed in some posts on this blog, has not been superseded. E.g., there is contradiction in all things, and in every given time and place there is a principal contradiction which determines and influences the other contradictions.

I think reasonable Maoists can differ about what the principal contradiction is in any given time and/or place, but I hope we can at least agree that there is such a thing as a principal contradiction. And while we should not “always” focus on the main problem when making analyses, we should not treat all contradictions as being equal, let alone treating the secondary as though it were principal. We should distinguish between the principal and the secondary contradictions, and pay special attention to grasping the principal one.

In other words, I didn’t take issue with your anti-dogmatist argument, but found its placement on this thread to elevate (what I see as) the secondary over the principal.

My purpose in raising the question of orthodox Trotskyism was not to accuse you of it. I don’t think your comments (in which you upheld national liberation) were Trotskyist, but I do think you were giving Trotskyism a bit of a free ride by aiming your rhetorical arrow in the opposite direction. You were hitting a real enemy, but a secondary one.

Re. the Bolsheviks, it wasn’t for nothing that Lenin was accused of being a German spy/saboteur. Aside from the sealed boxcar, Lenin shut down Trotsky’s efforts to prolong the war with Germany. Lenin sought to avoid fighting on all fronts simultaneously.

I’m not sure what you mean when you ask, “Why isn't the contradiction between imperialism (globally) and oppressed people globally?” Are you drawing a distinction between that formulation and “the contradiction between imperialism (principally U.S. imperialism) and the oppressed nations and peoples”? If so, what is the distinction you are trying to draw? I believe that the latter is the principal contradiction in the world today, and I am not sure that the former is significantly different. But for the purposes of this thread, I am less interested in arguing about what the principal contradiction is than in whether it is. The ultraleft line says there is none, or if there is, we should act as if there isn’t.


comrade DW,

I think its dogmatic to assert that there is only one principle contradiction. Why can't there be more than one? In a era as complex as this one, where imperialism has intensified with its wars to control the middle east and it exporting jobs at a faster pace than ever, and exploiting workers all over the world in ever more brutal fashions, I don't think anyone can nail down a single: "principle contradiction"


"I appreciate r. john's comments, and fully agree that it's better to 'apply Mao's creative method than to hoist his specific verdict'."


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