Rules of the road

Kasama

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October 09, 2007

Comments

LS

It seems we all agree that what's most important is to uphold Mao's method, not necessarily whatever verdict Mao came to in a specific historical time and place (though he was much more often right than wrong on his specific verdicts!).

Mao's creative method is based on the Marxist theory of knowledge and laid out in 'On Contradiction' and many other key documents.

Mao was very clear in arguing that at any point in time there is always a principle contradiction, and every contradiction has a principal aspect. At the same time the principal contradiction and the principal aspect of a contradiction can (and does) change.

It is precisely the effort to correctly identify what is principal and act accordingly in a complex situation full of many contradictions that is the essence of applying Marxist theory to practice. Talking about all the various contradictions without trying to identify what's principal and act on it is the method of academic Marxism. Figuring out what's principal at any point in time and acting on it is the method of Marxists who want to make revolution.

Christopher Day

Mid-Term Exam for Marxists (academic and otherwise):

1. Identify the principal contradiction and its principal aspect in this "three-way fight."

http://youtube.com/watch?v=LU8DDYz68kM

r. john

One point:

We can agree that , at the highest level of abstraction, that the universe can be seen as an infinite and dynamic interplay of material contradictions. We can even agree that in the tensions of opposites, one aspect of every contradiction is (at any given point) dominant and determining (for that given moment).

But I don't think that gives you a particular analysis of the world in this moment.

It is a methodology based on deep insights into the dynamic motion of our universe. Mao's essay is one that (at this point in history) is still among the most advanced articulations of that methodology. Personally, i think that Mao's actual historical practice, on the canvas of history, is a laboratory of dialectics and a schoolroom of dialectics that is an even more and nuanced developed school of dialectics than his essay -- if you know what i mean.

But none of that gives you an analysis. What is the "principal contradiction" -- well, that is a question sandwiched between two other questions:

* what are the key contradictions operating on a world scale (from which we might tease out a principal contradiction)?

* What would having and identifying a principal contradiction mean for the analysis and actions of those who have identified it? How do we "act on it" (as LS calls it)?

Neither of those questions can be answered with a priori formulations. Neither of them are settled somewhere by someone. Nor can they be in advance.

There is a related question about universality and particularlity: Do you really think that you can speak on what communists IN IRAN should be doing based on a quick gloss of what you deduce to be "the principal contradiction" in the world? Is the world that simple that you can have opinions about the agonizing choices of revolutionary strategy in a distant place that is writhing under the crosshairs -- based on what? Based on a quick read of Mao's philosophical essays and a loose sense that the U.S. is running rough-shod over the world? That's all you need?!

I'm not an "identity politics" nut who says "you can't speak until you lived it." But (!) as a materialist I do believe "no investigation, no right to speak." How much investigation does someone need (and what kind of investigation) to arrive at a sense of the correct strategy for a country? How do we answer that, using what "Mao's method"?

Did Mao think the masterminds in Moscow could know Chinese conditions well enough (based on their particular and fiercely held sense of "principal contradiction" on a world scale) to dictate tactics and strategy in China?

Can you build a major dam with a spatula and only a rough hand-drawn sketch of the terrain?

* * * * * *

A second point:

LS writes: "It seems we all agree that what's most important is to uphold Mao's method..."

I am an enthusiastic Red Book waving Maoist. And on that basis, i find that sentence to be a paradox. And I certainly DON'T agree.

Because i believe Mao's method would never assert that the most important thing is upholding someone's method, even his own, as some kind of permanent universal truth. (If you get what I'm saying.)

In the GPCR there was struggle to uphold Mao's method as a truly central issue. Over two decades after Mao's death, there was acute struggle among nominal Maoists over whether Maoism (as opposed to Stalin's line or social democracy or Lin Biao) should be the ideology of Maoists.

But is that a permanent truth? Is Mao (as Lin Biao insisted) really the "acme" or "pinnacle" of Marxism? Is Mao not contradictory too, and do those contradictions not develop over time (with new practice, new summation and a new world)?

Some thoughts:

* The most important thing is to "know the world to change the world." We proceed from reality, not conception.

* Only relative knowledge is possible, since we are limited in our cognitive abilitis, since the world is infinite, and since the dynamics of the world are infinitely complex. So "knowing the world" means knowing it as correctly and as deeply as possible.

* Part of being scientific about this process is realizing that our own theoretical tools can repeatedly confront us as limitations -- that we need to have a marxist approach to marxism, a critical approach to our critical theory.

* To be specific, one of the sharpest controversies in the communist movement today is this: Is the work of Mao, is the body of theory and methodology CURRENTLY embodied in Maoism SUFFICIENT for the tasks of the next wave of revolution?

Having FOUGHT to defend, uphold, and apply Maoism -- having insisted correctly that it is a huge leap over the Marxism that was there before (including specificially Comintern Marxism-Leninism)... the question still remains: is it now sufficient?

* It is because i think that it is NOT sufficient (because I think new breaks then leaps are needed in theory and summation) that the phrase "most important is to uphold Mao's method" makes me stop and comment.

* I think that the PARTICULAR method running through much of this whole thread is "part of the problem, not part of the solution."

I.e. that we assume (a priori) that our inherited marxism is simply correct. That our task becomes simply to apply it. That our grasp of that previous Marxism becomes reduced to a few simple and remembered formulas or phrases. And that a whole discussion can therefore go down, with very little reference to the actual living "object" under analysis.

None of this is "simply" true -- the world is not simple. It is a set of writhing contradictions. In fact the fight for necessary complexity (both in our thinking and in our theory) is a big part of our challenge here.

So all of that gives me a feeling of irony since the whole appeal to "Mao's method" is very opposed to "Mao's method" (especially when you look at the canvas of his work, not just this or that formula in an essay.)

In other words, if you want to really apply Mao's method, and if you further was to apply a method that incorporates and builds on the best in Mao's method, you need to be both more critically alert to the limitations of your own method, and much more acutely focused on the many, dynamic, changed and very real contradictions you are supposedly speaking about.

[IN my next posts, I will focus more on applying some of my own advice: I.e. talking about the real contradictions in this world, why the "4 contradictions" really don't apply, the possibility of a "period of transition" and the problems with the strategic plans for a single world united front against one imperialist or another, and a little on the history of the Iranian communist movement and its previous conceptions of united front withthe islamists etc. But those will probably be in days. And some thoughts about what a communist analysis of this moment might look like.]

ShineThePath

Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) and in the approach of someone like Red Heretic (who here and else where begs us to answer the question how are these forces liberatory). Simply put, what is lacking in their understanding is the conditions for the political practice of Lenin or Mao which isn't formulaic or linear. Mao Zedong's thought on the question of National Liberation is quite frankly this approach toward China in the midst of a world wide inter-Imperialist struggle.

As the author of this rebuttal rightfully points out, Mao Zedong never had it in mind that the Chinese Communist Party take a mere subordinate position to the de facto national state led by the KMT who were resisting Japan. Mao, who is keeping his eye on the prize, is dealing with the question of what is Communist practice under the conditions of an Imperialist onslaught on the people? How do you continue the revolutionary struggle within the national liberation struggle? What is key here is Mao's political practice informed by his understanding of the overdeterminacy of the contradictions in China. He approaches it with a new praxis of sorts in his essay "On Contradiction," and particularly his understanding of what he calls the Principle Contradiction. Mao with a thorough Marxist class analysis understanding of China seems to me understands it can only be the Socialist road that can liberate it as a nation from its status as a semi-colonial nation, and liberate its people from the feudal conditions and culture. For Mao, the fundamental contradiction remains the system of Capital and its developing global form. However Mao is no Spanish Anarchist fool, the Japanese Imperialist invasion of China is a suspension in the progressive course of the development of Chinese history, that is it wasn't a happening that took place in the course of the class struggle in China, it didn't come from the internal but from the external and it was an immediacy of Japanese Imperialists in Nanking murdering and torturing men, and raping women, then torturing them and murdering them too. The development of the class struggle in its internal place is itself in some sense suspended

However I hardly think this point Red Heretic or the CPI (MLM) will disagree on. But when we apply such a method to political practice in Iran, the tables seem to turn for them. Islamists are nothing put puppets of some form of US Imperialism, just like the Shah. They might not know it yet, but they have always been the dupes of US Capital. I will have to repeat something I have had said previously on this site, on Sunsara Taylor's debate with the ISO hacks. The approach that treats Islamists and states in the Third world as mere lackeys is erroneous and a part of a method that the ICM needs to get away from. The Iranian state is simply not in its essential quality, just a lackey of this or that Imperialist. They themselves are political agents, contingent in making history as we know it.

As the author of the rebuttal pointed out, the CPI (MLM) considers the IRI to be Imperialist pawns and collaborators, but yet it is this very Imperialism now that wants to replace them. The contradiction (logically of course), if they were such pawns what is the need to replace them? The relation between US Imperialism and the IRI is an antagonistic one, between an Imperialist power which wishes to build a hegemonic empire and a nation that wants sovereignty.

Whatever to the old truth “Countries want Independence, Nations want Liberation, People want Revolution?”

r. john

I welcome that we are going past the formulas to the thing.

shinethepath "As the author of the rebuttal pointed out, the CPI (MLM) considers the IRI to be Imperialist pawns and collaborators, but yet it is this very Imperialism now that wants to replace them."

Yes. They can be part of a comprador bourgeois class and yet have contradictions with a particular imperialism. They can be (as a class, and as a social formation) deeply integrated into, dependent on, and dominated by imperialist world market relations -- and yet have contradictoins with a particular imperialism over particular things.

Diem was a crude agent of U.S. imprialism and was removed by assassination. (Crude in a way that the Iranians never were.)

Noriega was a paid agent of U.S. imperialism (and of the Bush family and the CIA in particular) and was removed by war. (Paid in a way that the Iranians never were.)

And so on and so on.

STP writes: "The contradiction (logically of course), if they were such pawns what is the need to replace them?"

Well the contradiction is not simply understood by logic. But by investigation. By the fact that a theocratic regime in Iran is not in the interests of U.S. imperialism (because of its need to stabilize southern Lebanon and southern Iraq). And that is because politics is a real tapestry of complex mediations -- of parties and religions and inter-country relations and movements and programs. It is not just a matter of "they are the imperialists over there, and those are their pawns over here."

STP writes: "The relation between US Imperialism and the IRI is an antagonistic one, between an imperialist power which wishes to build a hegemonic empire and a nation that wants sovereignty."

What kind of "sovereignty" can the masters of an oil economy "want"? What is our class analysis of that -- of their interests and modalities?

Their capitalist class nature is to subordinate their nation to imperialism in fundamental ways, while bartering for terms of exchange (oil prices, domestic cultural independence etc.)

This is part of how the world has changed: it is not the semi-colonial and colonial world of pre-WW2. The U.S. may have an empire, but it will never be an empire in the way the British colonial empire was. The U.S. refined neo-colonialism in a world where the old colonial empires were disintegrating -- that was part of the U.S. rise to global power (in which the U.S. promoted its own particular favored forms of domination.)

The development has gone further: even the old neocolonial arrangements (a la Nicaragua, or Guatamala) have been superceded. There are medium sized economies (Argentina, Iran, South Africa) that have weight on a world scale, and armies and regional influence of their own -- EVEN WHILE THEY ARE (OVERALL) STILL DOMINATED BY IMPERIALISM.

Do we have room in our analysis for those facts? For those developments? Or must we still act like Iran is must be either a banana republic or a "nation fighting for sovereignty"? Are those the only two choices?

STP writes: "Whatever to the old truth: Countries want Independence, Nations want Liberation, People want Revolution?”

That is worth breaking down.

You call it an "old truth" -- well was it ever true?

I think, and many Maoists then thought, that slogan was always wrong. It was tied to the overall rightism of Three Worldism, and was a favorite among the rising Dengists (in china and in parties like the CPML in the U.S.)

The way it made distinctions between "countries wanting independence" and "nationals wanting liberation" -- that put revolution (i.e. national liberation) on a par with the attempts of compradors to win concessions from imperialism. As a force in the world.

It also confused (and conflated) the internationalist support for revolution with the state policies of the Chinese state. And put the diplomatic offensives of the Chinese state (which included fascists like the Shah and Marcos) on a par with support for the Vietnamese. This slogan (in the hands of those who followed Mao) soon paved the way for promoting regional alliances with reactionary "anti-Soviet" governments OVER internationalist support for revolution.

So (imho) that old slogan is not an old truth.

On another level, is it simply true that "People want revolution."

It may have been true in the late 1960s and early 1970s, that there was a huge upsurge of revolutionary sentiment, and that national liberation struggles were at a high tide, and that (seen from the Chinese foreign ministries desires) the various gripes of various neocolonial governments could be seen as demands for "independence."

But is THAT flawed slogan from THAT particular moment in the worlds history suddenly supposed to be come a GENERAL LAW -- one that is assumed to be true then, and assumed to be true now?

ShineThePath

I think I shall proceed from my statement of the "old truth" in that Slogan. I put this slogan forward precisely as bait because I know there is a general trend now to see this slogan as a "Dengist" stance rather than a Maoist one. I couldn't further disagree. While I do think fundamentally the centrist and Dengist use of 'Three Worlds Theory' was a line of consolidation for revisionism and for an abhorent line on relations to the revolutionary movement throughout the world, we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water and consider what distinguished the Maoist trend from the likes of Trotskyites and the PLP. The right for self-determination of nations isn't a call for the end of revolutionary struggle in nations, but the revolutionary struggle of oppressed peoples of the semi-colonial world must liberate its nation. It is the very qualification for the road to communism.

What makes this true is not the fact that it was utter by Mao or the line of Bandung or Three Worlds, but rather it is particular movement in world history that is in its general the Maoist analysis of the masses making history, and that it is right to rebel. And still this trend of struggle of oppressed peoples in exploited nations continues.

R.John, my point is fundamentally that what the state of Iran at this current juncture represents the line of a National Bourgeoisie, and that the very contradictions that reveal itself in the Iranian State [which the CPI (MLM) was pointing to]. There is certainly no homogenous class of any sort, but from what I can identify coming out of the Iranian state, what we have is a determined Iranian state willing to be antagonistic toward US Imperialism. The question of whether or not the Iranian state is a part of the Imperialist system seems to me to piss the point of Global Capitalism, and that the analysis of them being just compradors wanting more cash for Oil confuses the matter more.

What is precisely a National Bourgeoisie and a Comprador Bourgeoisie? These are two lines and trends coming from the Bourgeois class of semi-colonial status, one which bows down and operates with aggressive Imperialist domination and undermining of national soveriegnty and self-determination. The other acts in the general interest of the class in in its general national character to act

R.John:
"Their capitalist class nature is to subordinate their nation to imperialism in fundamental ways, while bartering for terms of exchange (oil prices, domestic cultural independence etc.)"

The question becomes quite frankly what is the "National" Bourgeoisie in an Imperialist context. Is the basis for being National Bourgeois to accept a Communist Platform? The National Bourgeoisie, where it exists, will always remain in the confines of the Imperialist system...it is the necessity of engaging in the globalized Capitalist world and the contradiction, their impossibility, to fully liberate people from the yolk of Imperialism. For example, Hugo Chavez, as in the Raymond Lotta article points out the very fact that he has no destroyed the chains of Imperialist relations to his country; however he has taken a particular line that is not represented by the 'comprador' Bourgeoisie. We should however not get caught up in the personalities of who is doing what, but particularly how the actions of these states manifest themselves in ways which are in accordance to the class interest of the Bourgeoisie in the national context. Your examples of Noriega and Diem suffer precisely from this problem of having no contextualization, National Bourgeois state can become comprador, and a comprador state can take on the line of the national bourgeoisie.

If we look throughout the semi-colonial world this seems to be the case. The KMT became comprador to US and German Imperialism, but line struggle was had (and Chiang Kaishek was threaten with death) and it became a political force of the Chinese bourgeois resistance to Japanese Imperialism.

On the question of who is whose pawns, I am not arguing for such a position and I am actually arguing against it. It is the position I feel Red Heretic and the CPI (MLM) is actually taking. I am arguing however that the historical antagonisms and(more importantly) the current contradictions between US Imperialist project of creating hegemonic power in the Middle East and the IRI's interest make it impossible for it to be proxy state for US Imperialism.

ShineThePath

To refine my point on the National Bourgeoisie. Things must come a head these days, in places such as South Africa or Argentina, as you have mentioned. Is it possible for us to have a 5th star for them any longer? I think there have been too many serious developments in the Imperialist global economy for us to consider the National Bourgeoisie a "revolutionary class" in the same sense as we once did. However in the context of brutal US Imperialism threatening it in a real sense with an external eruption into its place, into its affairs, it does in fact play a role that is at least progressive for the Communist.

However I don't think National Bourgeois line can be united under the line of Communists for Revolutionary liberation of People in most contexts, especially in places such as Argentina, South Africa, and Iran.

r. john

Shine the Path is right to raise the question of the national bourgeoisie. I appreciate that. I’d like to make some comments on his points.

First national liberation (the actual liberation of oppressed nations) can only happen as part of the world proletarian revolutionary movement – i.e. it can only happen under the leadership of the proletariat as the first step of a socialist transition to communism.

Does the resistance to imperialism by reactionary governments help develop the struggle toward national liberation? There is not any inherent or automatic answer to that. That is a matter for specific investigation and analysis.

If someone was to say “Nations have a right to self-determination, so when a government upholds national rights it has justice on its side” – well, that is to proceed in an idealist and dogmatic way. It writes concrete conditions, classes, class struggle and revolution out of the picture (i.e. out of the consideration).

So let’s look at classes for a moment.

What is the national bourgeoisie? What is the comprador bourgeoisie? What is bureaucrat capitalism?

Shine the path writes: “What is precisely a National Bourgeoisie and a Comprador Bourgeoisie? These are two lines and trends coming from the Bourgeois class of semi-colonial status, one which bows down and operates with aggressive Imperialist domination and undermining of national soveriegnty and self-determination. The other acts in the general interest of the class in in its general national character to act…. my point is fundamentally that what the state of Iran at this current juncture represents the line of a National Bourgeoisie, and that the very contradictions that reveal itself in the Iranian State [which the CPI (MLM) was pointing to].”

This is wrong at many levels.

The capitalist classes in the third world are highly fractured, and have gone through a whole process of development (including since Mao’s days over 60 years ago!) One reason for the fracturing is that there are strata of the national bourgeoisie that are attempting to produce for a national market, and are constantly being shattered and driven down by imperialism (including by the cheapness of foreign commodities.) This contrasts greatly with the “comprador bourgeosie” which are capitalist strata generated by the process of extraction of surplus value by imperialist corporations and interests – i.e. they are the facilitators of extraction. One other development of modern imperialism is the emergence of powerful and wealthy “bureaucrat capitalist strata” – who have turned the third world states into the means of siphoning off vast amounts of surplus value, as they facilitate the plunder of their people. Marcos comes to mind as an outstanding example of a bureaucrat capitalist. Chiang Kaishek was also after he emerged to power in the wake of the Sun Yat Sen revolution. And the modern Chinese ruling class is an example of how comprador and bureaucratic bourgeois strata (and functions) interpenentrate.

What was the national bourgeoisie in China that Mao sought to unite with? There was a stratum of capitalists (for example in meat slaughtering, or food processing) who were not tied up directly with imperialism, and who were more suppressed than built up by the encroachments of imperialism. They were by far the most numerous sections of the capitalist class, and by far the most weak.

One example: After the liberation, the revolution only confiscated the capitalist property of imperialist corporations and known traitors – and they created the initial state sector from such confiscations. I have read that this state sector, from the beginning, encompassed 80 percent of Chinese manufacturing. In other words, the “national bourgeoisie” (which was not touched, in the main) was heavily confined within the smallest enterprises – often little more than artisan shops employing a handful of employees, or some middle firms serving a domestic market.

And the "national bourgeoisie" was not simply that sociological class -- but also consisted of the intellectuals and political formations that in outlook and program corresponded to the conflicted position and sharp contradictions of that national bourgeois stratum.

And, perhaps it needs to be said: the development of capitalism has further weakened the national bourgeoisie of the world. In the communist manifesto, marx writes that commodies are the cannon that shoot down the Chinese walls. He means that the cheap cloth of England (for example) shattered domestic economies of a country like India, ruining countess thousands of artisans. Step by step, modern industry has produced commodities with great economies of scale, creating circuits of production and exchange that bind the world in vast loops. Look at the Chinese-made English-printed t-shirts on crowds of kids in Africa – the ruining of domestic clothing production was long ago a done deal.

New work has to be done on the new class stratifications and the implications for politics.

But to think, as some do, that we can take Mao’s analysis of 1940s china, and his assessment of the Chinese national bourgeoisie’s anti-colonial potential – and just apply those verdicts AS FORMULAS to the world today, is trying to bypass precisely the work needed to make a real analysis.

Iran is not “semi-colonial.” I am not even sure that neocolonial applies any longer. These are countries dominated by imperialism – through the mechanisms of world finance and commodity markets and direct imperialist investment and military pressure – but these countries and this domination is very different in its character than previous forms in earlier times. A fresh class analysis is needed.

To imagine as STP does, that the Iranian mullahs are representatives of the national bourgeoisie seems particularly way off to me. But I am open to hearing the analysis and conclusions of others.

r. john

STP writes: "National Bourgeois state can become comprador, and a comprador state can take on the line of the national bourgeoisie. If we look throughout the semi-colonial world this seems to be the case. The KMT became comprador to US and German Imperialism, but line struggle was had (and Chiang Kaishek was threaten with death) and it became a political force of the Chinese bourgeois resistance to Japanese Imperialism."

This is creative, but I don't think it is quite true.

I think that Mao made an alliance with that section of the domestic reationaries allied with the U.S.

When the CCP made an alliance with the KMT -- that did not mean that the KMT suddenly changed its class character!

(The CPUSA at that time faced many members shocked that the USSR made a non-aggression pact with the fascist Germany government. I have heard many ex-cpers explain that they were just told that Germany had changed its character, and was no longer fascist! Talk about idealism! And self-serving political truth!)

NO -- the alliance between CCP and KMT was inconceivable without the larger international configureation that included the U.S.-Britain-USSR alliance.

And that is part of the problem with peole that assume "when third world capitalists confront U.S imperialism, that makes them possible or necessary allies of the oppressed."

Let's look at two things:
the experience in china and the experience in Iran.

Experience in China:

Mao was able to make a broad anti-japanese united front (a HIGHLY unstable and often broken one) because (a) he had an army and a mini-state in Yenan, (b) the KMT was dependent on the U.S., (c) this war was not just an "invasion of China by Japan" but took place as a sub-war of an international inter-imperialist war, so that the U.S. and British imperialists pressured the KMT to make accomodations (while the USSR pressured Mao to make compromises too!)

the KMT did not suddenly become "progressive." Their class character did not change. But the larger configuration of events made it possible for mao to focus on "one enemy at a time."

The left wing of the KMT "came over" (or at least part of them did) and became (formally) part of the new Chinese government. They were sometimes called representatives of the "national bourgeoisie" -- but the class character and history of several of their leading figures was pretty indistinguishable from the rest of the KMT (note the Sung Sisters!) But their program was very different from the Taiwan-headed KMT... they took a side with the liberation of their nation (not with the side of imperialism).

anyway...

In Iran:

When the Mullahs came to power (and I'm simplifying here), the U.S> pretty quickly unleashed Iraq to wage war on them (destabilize the country militarily and trigger a pro-u.s. regime change.)

This was objectively a war launched by imperialism, armed by imperialism etc. And Iran was objectively protecting its national soverignty (under the leadership of the mullahs).

And the communists of Iran (particularly the sarbararen) sought to participate in that war -- objectively allying with the new government (and objectively fighting under its leadership)....

It is a complex story.... with attempts at forming communist units, or communist led kurdish forces for the war.

But the short story is that the mullahs ruthlessly and relentlessly hunted down the reds to kill them.

This attempt at a "united front" to defend the country (and in some ways to defend the barely completed revolution against the shah) ended in a disaster -- in part because it was sought without the communists having an independent basis (army or even fully developed party). And because their class analysis of the mullahs was wrong (naive and related to the one we are struggling over here.)


LeftyHenry

"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."

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a country which is resisting Imperialism. It is uniting with other anti-imperialist countries, it is denying the US access to plunder its resources. Yes, it holds reactionary views on Woman and Gay people. But that's because its still a bourgeois capitalist state, but at least it is resisting imperialism. This weakens the impeiralist system.

LeftyHenry

A country like Venezuela is under immense pressure when it tries to build socialism because imperialism is so strong in the current era. However, because of resistance to imperialism from other countries, it is able to begin to do that: Chavez was able to turn a country which had been completely tied to US oil, into one that has become more and more independent.

r. john

which are these "other anti-imperialist" countries?

What makes them and Iran "anti-imperialist"?

ShineThePath

I don't think in anyway that proceeding on the value of the right of national self-determination of oppressed peoples' is necessarily dogmatic nor Idealist. It is 'just' not because there is just a mere category of the 'just' that corresponds to right of national self-determination, but rather is a part of the processual path toward Socialism when the masses make history. I think there is a real grounding for this, that even with the great developments in Imperialist global capitalism, it is still a part of the procession of the “right to rebel” against the reactionary contradictions which prevent peoples' power across the world.

On the national and comprador Bourgeoisie, I proceed on this question on the line of politics of each. Proceeding from the basis that the 'fractured' Bourgeois classes are fractured along the lines of their social basis seems to have a manifold of errors in its approach that ignores the political contingency of nationalist resistance toward Imperialist hegemony. The class basis I believe you, R.John, give is more or less in my opinion a class of small proprietors, the petite-bourgeoisie of China rather than a real class that is the “National Bourgeois.” I am of the opinion that the national Bourgeoisie is rather the political consciousness and political formation, organizations, to such a political consciousness that is the general historical consciousness of the national character of the development of Capitalism in semi-colonial nations. The fracture between the Bourgeois classes in these nations along the lines takes on the character of the political line of a 'national' bourgeois class interested in a protectorate stance of the domestic economy or a 'comprador' bourgeoisie which has the interest of facilitating the conditions for the progressive flow of capital and commodities and the integration of economies on the basis of the neo-liberal vision of a restructured global economy.

But the global economic restructuring and integration of economies is done on the lines of the existing relations of exploiter and exploited nations, on the basis of Imperialism. It is the realization of global monopoly capitalism's dominance and power, and the basis for such power remains situated on the power of Imperialist states and their dominance over spheres of political influence. Further the conditions for the development of 'productive forces' in places such as the Philippines have developed along the lines of this relation of power amongst nations. We can though certainly agree R.John, that the developments of what is termed “neo-liberal” capitalism and the process of “globalization” needs a new thorough analysis; however I contend that even with my inklings and little understanding of this process, that it is still an Imperialist process that is being undertaken, and that the relations of exploited and exploiter nations exists in the form of relations of powers between states. This is why Professor Sison for example still contends that a nation like the Philippines is still a semi-colonial nation, and the class analysis done in his book “Philippine Society and Revolution” remains relevant.

On the question of the transformation of politics and lines within Bourgeois states', I can't think we can be dogmatic about this, and I don't believe what I am saying is quite frankly Idealist. I rather think what I am saying is trying to understand the contingency of states, the development of politics, and the fractures within the Bourgeoisie in semi-colonial nations.

Chen Duxiu

Does having your natural resources exploited by multinational corporations and your market flooded by cheap goods produced overseas make you a semi-colonial nation?

If so then the United States itself is semi-colonial!

The era of colonialism is over. Trying to cram todays world into these crusty old frameworks left over from past eras doesn't do any good.

ShineThePath

R.John, you ask a good question of LeftyHenry, and I think it warrants an anwser from him and his basis for what makes a State an anti-Imperialist state. I too have been struggling over this question, and it is particularly something I am struggling over...specifically what is our attitude toward countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, and others.

I'll write about this a bit later.

ShineThePath

Chen Duxiui, try reading what I wrote. I am not arguing for that. However that argument you're making is essentially one that accepts the Empire thesis of Multinational corporations reshaping the world, without the power and order of the relations of States. It is semi-colonialism because of such relations, because of the inability for the people of these nations to have the right to determine what is happening.

repeater

Left Henry wrote:

"A country like Venezuela is under immense pressure when it tries to build socialism because imperialism is so strong in the current era. However, because of resistance to imperialism from other countries, it is able to begin to do that: Chavez was able to turn a country which had been completely tied to US oil, into one that has become more and more independent."

On what basis are you saying that Venezuela is becoming more independent? I believe that economic data shows them becoming more dependent in the current period, that is, trade between them and the U.S. has increased massively. The diversification of trade with China, Iran and Russia is tentative at best, and at any rate it is not "anti-imperialist" to switch trading partners to another block of nations with a clear imperial agenda.

ShineThePath

Repeater, can you tell me what quite frankly is an "Anti-Imperialist" state, and how in the relations of a interdependent global economy one can do without the "Imperial Agenda" of certain Imperialists? Lets consider for example the place of Nepal in this global order, in a serious way, the CPN (M) has put forward they will indeed be a part of this very interplay between States, including Imperialist ones.

I would contend though however that the CPN (M) will be doing this on an "anti-Imperialist" basis and political will, if they maintain a revolutionary line. We can't be simply dogmatic and reductionist about this, how do we expect any rational development of Socialism in the 21st Century if we are to repeat certain tendencies which were problematic of the 20th. Specifically the line that advocated a complete "independence" of economy and development of nations, is this still realistic today?

Further let me ask, what does the Venezuelan state do about its petroleum industry? What do you expect it to do? This is not to defend Chavez; however I have yet to here from any Maoists about what line should be taken.

zerohour

Shine as far as Chavez I think you are starting with the wrong question. By asking what he should do, you are accepting the limitations of his line. Within those limitations, it could be argued that he is doing the best he can.

But how would a revolutionary line be expressed? What if someone started by relying on the masses FIRST, and institutional power later?

The question in Venezuela, as in Nepal, Iran, etc., remains what is to be done?, not what is a specific political power to do?

I don't have answers either, but we first have to stop romanticizing different political forces out there just because there is a paucity of good revolutionary examples to draw from.

repeater

STP:

Asking complete independence is a standard which i have not put forward. I have simply stated that they are not moving in the direction of independence vis a vis U.S. imperialism (this fact is attested to by the widely known growth in trade between Venezuela and the U.S.). And that if independence from imperialism itself is a goal, then you cannot achieve it by simply diversifying your balance of trade with other imperialist forces. If you disagree on whether 1) Venezuela has not developed more economic independence vis a vis the U.S., or 2) that independence from the U.S., when based primarily upon making deals with other imperialists, is not independence from imperialism itself, then please explain.

I cannot tell you what an "anti-imperialist state" is. Left Henry and yourself are using that term in this discussion, why don't you elaborate, especially if you think Venezuela and Iran are "anti-imperialist states", or "anti-imperialist countries" as Left Henry calls them. I will say this much, a revolutionary society will not have shopping malls with Hooters restaurants in them, as Venezuela does.

Perhaps that's ultra left of me, but I can't understand how such a situation wouldn't defeat the purpose of an "anti-imperialist state", assuming there is some connection between anti-imperialism and revolution. At any rate, the juxtaposition of this reality (of shopping malls and Hooters restaurants), with the rhetoric of Chavez, and the reality of his social programs, is the essence of the "XXIst Century Socialism" being developed in Venezuela.

you write: "Further let me ask, what does the Venezuelan state do about its petroleum industry?"

You should ask the Venezuelans, not me. The fact of the matter is that trade between the U.S. and Venezuela has increased. The basis of this increase has come from the increased buying power of oil, and thus greater imports of consumer goods. The import of goods from the U.S is comprised of everything from basic foods to breast implants, and is heavily structured by U.S. financing. How can you argue that there is more independence from the U.S. when trade has increased not decreased?

The simple fact is that Left Henry made a claim which is false. That is what is problematic here. The various presentations of Venezuelan reality, and the arguments to be made in favor of the process there, should be based on what is actually happening in Venezuela, not on myth.

Your desire to argue around the edges of the simple fact that Left Henry has distorted the reality of the situation in Venezuela in order to back up a larger set of misconceptions using categorical logic based upon the term "anti- imperialist", simply helps to propagate such falsities.

As for Nepal, who here, or anywhere, has misrepresented the the situation there with regards to imperialist entanglement? No one, to my knowledge, has made the claim that Nepal is an "anti-imperialist state", nor have they made any claims regarding their relative independence from U.S. imperialism, or any other imperialism. This whole set of categories that Left Henry has produced, and which you have taken up in a knee-jerk fashion, is completely unrelated to reality.

you write: "however I have yet to here from any Maoists about what line should be taken."

Maybe you've confused me with someone else, but I don't think it is the place of U.S. Maoists to be defining the correct line for revolution in Venezuela. My point boils down to a simple observation of fact, Venezuela is not more independent from the U.S., if we take economic data as our basis for deciding this question. And my question to Left Henry was whether he had some other basis for saying what he said, or frankly, whether he had any basis aside from a sloppily thrown together narrative of "anti-imperialist countries".

r. john

i think that is central to the issue here.

there is a view that some governments (which are objectively capitalist governments of various complexions) are "objectively anti-imperialist."

And people upholding that view should articulate and defend it.

My observation is that their thinking comes in various flavors:

a) they think that these governments are "objectively" fighting "the main enemy" -- so that whatever their goals and motives they are "objetively" doing good -- even if they are opposing one imperialism with the backing and support of other major imperialisms.

b) they think that when capitalist resource-producing countries (including oil companies like Iran , Libya and Venezuela, or sugar countries like Cuba once was) fight over the terms of sale of their commodity within the world market, this is "independence" and "anti-imperialist." And relatedly, they think that when some of the surplus value (from those commodities) gets diverted to social welfare (as it was in Cuba or Venezuela, or as it is in Saudi Arabia for example) then this is somehow "socialist."

c) and they think that the demands of capitalist governments are somehow "national self-determination" -- as if those governments speak for either the will or the interests of their people.

d) they equate national independence with national liberation (or at least confuse the two) and don't quite appreciate how only the revolutionary communist movement can lead national liberation in the world today (and that even the rev com movement faces real unsolved problems in leading and consolidating national liberation.)

I listed that a, b, and c to help folks formulate their views....

Am i expressing it right?

* * * * *

If national liberation is not linked to the revolutionary transformation of the production relations... then it won't be lasting or really liberation.

Mao said "only socialism can free china" -- and that is actually what national liberation means.

After World War 1, the struggles of oppressed nations for liberation from imperialism became a powerful current within the larger world historic movement for communism. It became "one of the streams." That is because only the proletariat can (under the conditions of the world today) lead a real struggle to break with imperialist domination -- so that the proletarian forces (i.e. the communists) have taken on the uncompleted tasks of the bourgeois democratic movement -- i e anti-feudal agrarian revolution and the revolutionary struggle for genuine national independence.

I think that oppressed countries have basic rights to "national sovereignty" (i.e. not to be bullied like Cuba or occupied like Iraq). But that doesn't mean that Baathist demands are "self determination."

And i think we have to freshly examine what "national liberation" means in a world where there are no longer colonial empires, where feudal remnants are shrinking faster than the polar icecaps, and where the planet is becoming highly urbanized, and (finally) where the circuits of international exchange and production are changing the degree to which there are national markets.

There still are national social formations -- this is not a single world plundered by transnationals.... but there is change and transformation going on... and it does affect rev strategy.

We can't assume that "national liberation" as conceived 40 or 60 years ago is simply the same now... Or that (for example) the Nepalis can simply liberate their country and then pull up behind drawbridges and wait for new revolutions.

these are real contradictions.

LeftyHenry

"which are these "other anti-imperialist" countries? What makes them and Iran "anti-imperialist"?"

Any country which speaks out against imperialism, and acts out against it by nationalizing resources so that the imperialists are not able to plunder their markets. I think there are countries which are anti-imperialist to different degrees.

"On what basis are you saying that Venezuela is becoming more independent? I believe that economic data shows them becoming more dependent in the current period, that is, trade between them and the U.S. has increased massively."

On the contrary, it has been halved. Venezuela was completely dominated by US oil companies before Chavez. Now it is a leading figure in the vanguard of Anti-Imperialism in Latin America; ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America including Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Ecuador and I think Bolivia. Basically the only social trading bloc. Unlike US trade blocs based on capitalist relations and exploitation, ALBA attempts to spread its goals of literacy and healthcare throughout Latin America.

"they think that when capitalist resource-producing countries (including oil companies like Iran , Libya and Venezuela, or sugar countries like Cuba once was) fight over the terms of sale of their commodity within the world market, this is "independence" and "anti-imperialist." And relatedly, they think that when some of the surplus value (from those commodities) gets diverted to social welfare (as it was in Cuba or Venezuela, or as it is in Saudi Arabia for example) then this is somehow "socialist.""

This is a grand distortion. Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran have taken control of their means of production. Putting in the surplus value in the hands of the people to benefit the people rather than capitalist rapists. It is not the social programs in Venezuela and Cuba that are the only reason that Venezuela is on the socialist road and that Cuba is socialist. If that was socialism than FDR would be taking the US down a socialist road when in reality he was ebbing the class struggle and saving capitalism. What separates Venezuela and Cuba is the fact that the Cuban and Venezuelan people excercise control of the means of production. Through the CDRs in Cuba and the Community Councils and Bolivarian Circles. There is also the fact that the state and its institutions are under working class control. millions of Cubans and Venezuelans are armed and organized into militias which act as the army reserves. The army is increasingly preparing for an imperial invasion. Venezuela still has a long way to go but this is a social revolution and you are siding with imperialism.

" I will say this much, a revolutionary society will not have shopping malls with Hooters restaurants in them, as Venezuela does."

No doubt Venezuela is not socialist yet, The hooters are definately a reflection of the bourgeois still being a force in Venezuela, but to claim that because Venezuela has hooters it is not in the midst of a revolution is fucking upsurd. It ignores the massive changes that have taken place for the working class. The arming of the working class, the new socialist curriculum, the now universal health, education systems put into place, state grocery stores which sell food at mass subsidies.

The fact of the matter is that there is still a bourgeois in Venezuela, and Venezuela still has some ties to imperialism, but it is resisting imperialism more and more everyday, and it is challenging the bourgeois more and more everyday. As the billboards go up proclaiming "Patria, Socialism o Muerte", there remains a final clash to be had in Venezuela between the bourgeois and the working class. No bourgeois has been driven from power peacefully, and we have seen the beginings of their resistance with the 2002 coup, but they still have power -- something that is threatened and won't exsist for long.

repeater

No, trade has increases between the U.S. and Venezuela. Here is the trade balance for 1998 http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c3070.html#1998

and here for 2006 http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c3070.html#2006

You don't know what you're taking about. The "nationalizations" are only partial. The government is using future expected profits to finance its MAJORITY control over the oil production in the country, which is still done through foreign financing and petroleum companies, even if these companies take a smaller portion of the profits. Look at the PDVSA website.

ShineThePath

Repeater, you're completely having a knee-jerk reaction to what I am asking. The question of whether or not "trade increases" between certain States doesn't seem to me to be quite a good way of understanding what is occuring within the dynamics of that nation, and what suits the needs of a National Bourgeois class within the very confines of the neo-liberal system in which Chavez is working with. This is ultimately the question, how can states be "anti-Imperialist" ones precisely in these new global phenomenas. It is in my opinion the political, and not the determination of the economic that determines this.

Even with Chavez and Venezuela increasing its trade with the US, the relation between the Venezeulan state and Chavez (which I think has a National Bourgeois line, whereas perhaps LeftyHenry gives it a Socialist one) and the US is an antagonistic one on the basis of the changing relationship between US Imperialism and Venezeula.


R.John, I think your formulation is off and is not what I am putting forward at the very least. What I am not arguing for here is not at all A, B, C, or D and these can be used as Strawman, perhaps these are LeftyHenry's and the line of the PSL, but they are certainly not mine.

Lets examine A first.

"they think that these governments are 'objectively' fighting 'the main enemy' -- so that whatever their goals and motives they are 'objetively' doing good -- even if they are opposing one imperialism with the backing and support of other major imperialisms."

First I have to ask what is the importance of Objective here rather than Subjective? This is not really clear to me. However I will State in such much as this reflects my views is that I do think there are States and political forces throughout the world who have 'anti-Imperialist' politics without being MLMists. The basis of that in my opinion is the subjective, the political basis, rather than something determined through economy (like Repeater is putting forward by speaking about Venezuelan trade).

To reformulate A)

For B), "they think that when capitalist resource-producing countries (including oil companies like Iran , Libya and Venezuela, or sugar countries like Cuba once was) fight over the terms of sale of their commodity within the world market, this is 'independence' and 'anti-imperialist.' And relatedly, they think that when some of the surplus value (from those commodities) gets diverted to social welfare (as it was in Cuba or Venezuela, or as it is in Saudi Arabia for example) then this is somehow 'socialist.'"

Perhaps a PSL line, but not my own. But this surely raises some questions straight up of all commodity exchange. Firstly, it is completely wrong to assert that Socialist countries don't do quite exactly some of this. Socialist countries never stopped Commodity production, and never stopped trading relations with other nations. One can safely assume then that on such a basis that the exchange produced surplus value in which the resulting accumulation of Capital through exchange realized was diversified back into the economy. This is more the case with the USSR during NEP and China than under the concentrated re-shaping of the economy under Stalin; however it always took a 'secondary' character of the economy, but wasn't unknown.

But I have never concluded such activity of re-investment of Capital back into the means of production or into social benefits for people is in itself "socialist" (it does play a role in an actual existing socialist state though), and this is precisely why I don't think Chavez is a Socialist. Politics is primary, and so when Zerohour says I am asking the "wrong question," I think he is missing the fact from the very start I am assuming the Bourgeois character of the Venzeulan state. The question however is not settled though by shifting it to a question of the "reliance on the masses" since that is giving no political anwser to a question of the practice of our politics. What are we relying on the masses to do? The question comes down to that, how can you possibly practice commodity production and its exchange, especially in foriegn relations without realizing the resulting exploitation of labor and its resulting accumulation of Capital? Specifically these questions are more relevant to isolated states and nations with a lack of diversed national Industry such as Venezeula, Cuba, or Nepal.

However considering that, the backfield furnaces weren't such a big success in China either.

Lets though take a look at something at concern here which is the question of the role of the State in the market. I would think if a State is playing such a role as to be demanding MORE for its commodity on a global market and opening it to all possible buyers on that Market, that is indeed what is the character of the line of a National Bourgeoisie. That is quite frankly it. And usually such a line and character for semi-colonial nations takes on an anatgonistic character to those Imperialist powers which originally dominated it.

I never said the line of the National Bourgeoisie in command has any liberating politics in content for the people, but indeed does so for the national character of a Bourgeois class and the development of it in a country.

On C, "and they think that the demands of capitalist governments are somehow 'national self-determination' -- as if those governments speak for either the will or the interests of their people."

This is confusing the matter and just rather neglecting the question of the class epoch and its dictatorship of a State. In a Bourgeois state, if that state speaks and acts on the political line that reflects the processual development of the national character of Bourgeois relations, then it is the "self-determination" of a Bourgeois class and by proxy the nation.

D, "they equate national independence with national liberation (or at least confuse the two) and don't quite appreciate how only the revolutionary communist movement can lead national liberation in the world today (and that even the rev com movement faces real unsolved problems in leading and consolidating national liberation.)"

There is a couple of things that need to be said here on the subject.

It seems to me there is a Dogmatic insistence that only Communist politics can do it rather than a real developed understanding on how it is done. I have to just ask, well what about the Irish Republican struggle? The struggle of Iraqis' today? Or better yet...what about the French Resistance to Nazi Germany? There are real particular contradictions that only a "Communist" force can lead National Liberation struggles...particularly since sometimes they just don't, and the result for some others is National Liberation.

Lenin in his theses on National Liberation and "self-determination" identified the movement and struggle with the development of the conditions for a nation-state on a democratic bourgeois scale. Lenin was also thinking in its particular Imperialist contradictions, understanding that these bourgeois democratic movements, in so much as they represented the birth of the national character of their Bourgeois class, were in themselves not going to lead to socialist revolution. However, Communists are Internationalists, and as such are anti-Imperialists.

Lenin:
"Socialists must not only demand the unconditional and immediate liberation of the colonies without compensation—and this demand in its political expression signifies nothing more nor less than the recognition of the right to self-determination—but must render determined support to the more revolutionary elements in the bourgeois-democratic movements for national liberation in these countries and assist their rebellion—and if need be, their revolutionary war—against the imperialist powers that oppress them."

There is surely though, R.John, a reality to the fact that there is a paradox. The National Bourgeoisie, being they are a Bourgeois class, can't create liberation for the people. Further it does not have the capacity to break Imperialism. Communism is the only political project that can break the chains of Imperialism; however this being said...Communism isn't the guarantee of National Liberation, this requires a protracted struggle in the revolution of oppressed people to overcome such relations and our role as internationalists to be a part of that process. We have to learn from particularly embarrasing historical moments in our history, whether its Stalin's expelusion of whole communities or the real world implications of Three Worlds' Theory in practice.


r. john

I think we have some of the correct questions on the table, but are not clamping down on them:

Imperialism is a world system, not a single power with its capital in DC.

It is not irrelevent if U.S./Venezuelan trade is increading -- since that may burst some particularly fragile bubbles.

But even if trade was declining, even if Venezuela made itself "the oil producer for the third world economies" -- that would not (in any way) mean that Venezuela (as an economy, but more importantly as a social formation) was any more or less embedded (ensnared, integrated into, subordinated to) the global imperialist social and production relations.

The idea that demanding a higher price, or shifting your selection of customers is any break with imperialism would be (if someone were to suggest it) a rather naive notion of independence. And represents incredibly sights (lowered from goals that matter to goals that don't).

Since when is "nationalization" automatically equivalent to ownership by the people?

So the issue is not "are the nationalizations partial or total." The issue is "what class actually rules the state"?

In fact, the core and bases of the emergence of bureaucrat capitalism on a world scale is precisely the thirdworld nationalization of key resources (and other forms of state control over international trade.) After all, how can the bureaucrat capitalists "siphon off" surplus value (from the exploitaiton of their people) if they don't "intrude" somehow forcefully in the extractive process (and I mean the process of extracting surplus value, not the physical export of coffee, bananas, oil or whatever.)

Imperialism is quite compatable with national ownership of major third world industries.

I read that (for example) in Peru (under the military dictatorship of the 1970s) there was more state ownership than in revisionist Poland. (And if that particular reference proves to have been exaggerated, there are a hundred other indesputable examples that will make the same point.)

The slippery insertion of "neo-liberal" into political discussions is often rooted in a profound MIS-understanding of the issues at hand. On one hand, privatization (as a process, an idea, a demand) is a form through which oppressed countries are more intensely squeezed by their oppressors. But that is a specific and historically determined program. There is nothing inherently more suitable for imperialism about privatization than nationalization. The imperialist system is quite capable of dealing with, and using, and even embracing the nationalization of third world economies (at various times). And then at others, when there is a sharp process of rationalization, there are specific reasons for demanding a breaking up of old formations and structures, and the rapid restructuring and rationalization of the processes of extraction.

We are not (as FRSO's new document, for example seems claims) ina world where neo-liberalism is the problem. And we are not in a world where (as LH seems to suggest) state nationalization is the answer.

Both of those views actually mistake the surface for the essense -- and both leave the real dynamics of imperialism out of the picture.

The enemy of humanity is imperialism (seen as the latest incarnation of the capitalist class relations) and class society generally.

The U.S. is a prominent oppressors (obviously). But to make it "the main enemy" in any programatic way (in a world without even a socialist country to group disparate forces around itself) is really to "carry water" for all the many reactonary and imperialist opponents that inevitably get churned up by the actions of the U.S.

Imperialism by its nature divides into to. Class society by its nature is splintered by conflicts between reactionary forces.

It is not true that the defining contradiction of the world is U.S. imperialism versus everyone else -- or that we can therefore find (or invent) ways that the "everyone else" is somehow objectively anti-imperialist.

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