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March 09, 2006


G. Frohman

Lurigancho, I was under the general impression that the ILPS was 1) mainly for mass organizations, not parties, and 2) pretty broadly open to various progressive forces. If PSL has become the main US force involved in it, I would think that this is mainly PSL's doing rather than the CPP's. Maybe you have info I don't.

"shhh," if you want to debate any points I made, maybe you can put forward your views in a serious and principled way, rather than making snotty comments.

the burningman

Uh, demanding copyright on the name "John" is almost funny.

Esoteric and referential names are encouraged to avoid these kinds of confusion.


Regarding the proposed "agency" thread: I have a confession to make. I've long been sketching notes on a longer piece about this exact idea. Unfortunately, it is beyond my capacity thus far. The blog is secretly a way I'm teasing out a number of issues inolved in it -- so this is in fact a covert ideological laboratory.

That said, since it's an ongoing discussion in aspect, perhaps I should throw something together in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I've taken Christopher Day's comment on Gramsci and featured it. The post should be up now: Why Gramsci Is Important.

That's a start.

the burningman

Modest as it is, today is the first "1,000 hit" day for the Red Flags site. That's still relatively small, but considering the level of debate -- I'm tickled.

In fact, when I first started this, that was the outside goal. I guess it's just a beginning. (1,000 users a day... now that's goal!)

Along those lines: I encourage regular posters to spread word about this site to listserves, open-publishing sites and among friends via email.


2.5 links FYI:

Guidelines on International Relations of the Communist Party of the Philippines (1994):;page=01

An example (from 1998) of another type of international relations work conducted by the CPP:

Thano Maceo Paris

I think that this is a great discussion that develops some of themes and issues taken up in the thread on Setting The Record Straight. There are many different things that I would like to respond here so I'm going to try and keep my comments specific. If I were to stake out my political position here I would say that I take the points made by Burningman, Lurigancho, and Chris Day ast starting points but would go much further than any of them in the direction that they are indicating.

This solidarity statement by the CPP with the Workers Party of North Korea is more than diplomacy. The idea itself that diplomacy and alliances are as 'surface' an issue as G Frohman indicates is itself wrong. It's not just a question of the CPP building a military-security alliance with North Korea in a post-revolutionary Philippines, it's about what model of socialism and political blocks they are building unity and ties with. This is a major question in looking at the history of "really existing socialism". Revolutionaries need to study it a hell of alot harder than they have.

I have alot of respect for the movement in the Philippines and have participated in solidarity activities with it in the past and believe in the responsibility to defend them from US imperialism. Despite this I believe that this statement belies a very deep contradiction in the political practice of the CPP.

Jed/Burningman mentioned the Rectification movement that was launched by the CPP in the late 80's and early 90's. This CPP "reaffirmed" it's analysis that capitalism had been restored in the USSR after the USSR fell. It raised criticisms of the market reforms in China and Vietnam but did not stake out a clear position that these societies were no longer socialist. If you read back issues of AWTW where excerpts from Reaffirm Our Basic Principles are printed you'll see that the criticism of China is fairly muted and soft pedaled. I think that one of the most telling facts concerning this is that they defended the crackdown on Tiennamen square in 1989. They identified the protestors with western liberalization of the economy and the trend in China represented by the market reforms and saw the crackdown as a bulwark against this. At the time that the CPP took this position the rectification movement had already been launched. Since that time they have not to my knowledge in Ang Bayan, Liberation International, or any press or public statement come out in clear defense of the powerful working class and peasant resistance that is building in China in opposition to privatization, ecological destruction, and bureaucratic corruption.

It also needs to be understood that the political changes in the
line of the CPP that took place in the 80's were not accompanied by a split at the time that they were taking place. It was only around '91-'92 when Reaffirm is put out that you get the expulsion of the 'Rejectionists' or RJs. If anyone on this list cares to check out the book The Philippine Revolution: The Leaders' Perspective by Jose Maria Sison and Rainer Werning you'll see that Sison affirms that he is willing to have bilateral relations with the CPSU and East bloc. He also says that he believes alot of water has passed under the bridge
since the Chinese polemics "On the General Line..." etc. He states fairly openly that he is open to the CPSU having rectified some of its past political practice etc and even expresses an open attitude toward detente and perestroika.

This kind of opportunism /dishonesty on an international level found expression in the internal life of the CPP when Sison, Liwanag and those who pushed Reaffirm decided after the fall of the wall and other important domestic events to blame that line on other leaders and sections of the CPP. The fact is that the party leadership as a whole bore responsability for that line, not just one section of it.

Instead of actually grappling with the full implications of what a real thorough going critique of really exiting socialism in the USSR would have meant in terms of political practice they used it in an opportunistic and shallow fashion to settle petty scores.

It's hard to get into everything here but this had a relationship with trying to stifle real debate and critical thinking that was starting to emerge in their ranks following the crisi of socialism (not before it). It also had to with certain people washing their hands of a horrible incident that happened in the party, the anti-deep penetration agent campaigns where 100's and maybe more CPP cadres were tortured, some killed for falsely being enemy agents. The leadership tried to tie this incident and the international political line questions together and use them against people who were challenging their leadership. Again the party leadership as a whole, and also the Phillipine security forces who launched this psywar campaign, bore responsibility for this but it was used in an opportunistic way to settle scores and guard position and leadership in a narrow way.

One other interesting tidbit here is that in the book Red Revolution by Greg Jones there is mention made of North Korean attempts to aid the CPP.

It always suprises me how someone as intelligent as Jed will make sharp criticisms of the DPRK on this or of the RCP around their concept of leadership but almost completely lets the personality cult around Mao pass with out comment or similar analysis. William Hinton talks about Mao having used ancient Chinese feudal traditions and family lineages in a wrong way as part of his overall leadership method in the book Shenfan. If you go back and look at the origins of the GPCR
you'll see that it was also tied to a crackdown of any kind of criticism of Mao in general even as it launched criticism of nearly everything else. Obviously there is a key contradiction here. If you think those North Korean flicks are freaky I encourage you to check out the GPCR flick Breaking With Old Ideas where people are singing about Mao as the briht sun and doing whatever the party says.

A key point on this is that Mao consolidated a significant part of this leadership method before he seized state power, I think basically after the long march.
Not after he was dead like Lenin under Stalin. I think that this is a wrong lesson Mao learned from Stalin and the ICM of that time.

I'll write more later. Thanks for a great discussion!


I think this is an interesting take on the personality cult. It comes from Badiou's "The Cultural Revolution: The Last Revolution?"

What would be interesting is to tease out the similarities and differences between the various personality cults.

The Cult of Personality

We know that the cult of Mao has taken truly extraordinary forms during the Cultural Revolution. There were not only the giant statues, The Little Red Book, the constant invocation, in any circumstance, of the Chairman,
the hymns for the “Great Helmsman,” but there was also a widespread and unprecedented one-sidedness to the references, as though Mao’s writings and speeches could suffice for all occasions, even when it is a question of growing tomatoes or deciding the use (or not) of a piano in symphonic orchestras.8 It is striking to see that the most violent rebel groups, those who break the most with the bureaucratic order, are also the ones who push this aspect of the situation the furthest. In particular, they are the ones who
launched the formula of “the absolute authority of Mao Zedong thought” and who declared the need to submit oneself to this thought even without understanding it. Such statements, we must confess, are purely and simply obscurantist.

We should add that, since all the factions and organizations that are at loggerheads with each other claim Mao’s thought for them, the expression, which is capable of designating orientations that are totally contradictory, ends up losing all meaningfulness, except for an overly abundant use of citations
of which the exegesis is in a state of constant flux.

I would nonetheless like to make a few remarks in passing. On the one hand, this kind of devotion, as well as the conflict of interpretations, are totally commonplace in established religions, including among us, without their being considered a pathology, quite the contrary—the great monotheisms remain sacred cows in this regard. In comparison with the services
rendered to our countries by any of the characters, whether fictive or ecclesiastical,
in the recent history of these monotheisms, though, Mao has certainly been of an infinitely greater service to his people, whom he liberated simultaneously from the Japanese invasion, from the rampant colonialism of “Western” powers, from the feudalism in the countryside, and from precapitalist looting. On the other hand, the sacralization, even in terms of
the biography, of great artists is also a recurring feature of our “cultural” practice. We give importance to the dry-cleaning bills of this or that poet.
If politics is, as I think, a procedure of truth, just as poetry indeed can be one, then it is neither more nor less inept to sacralize political creators
than it is to sacralize artistic creators. Perhaps less so, all things considered, because political creation is probably rarer, certainly more risky, and it is more immediately addressed to all, and in a singular way to all those—like the Chinese peasants and workers before 1949—whom the powers that be
generally consider to be nonexistent.

All this by no means frees us from the obligation to illuminate the peculiar phenomenon of the political cult, which is an invariant feature of communist states and parties, brought to the point of paroxysm in the Cultural Revolution.

From a general point of view, the “cult of personality” is tied to the thesis according to which the party, as representative of the working class, is the hegemonic source of politics, the mandatory guardian of the correct
line. As it was said in the thirties, “the party is always right.” The problem is that nothing can come and guarantee such a representation, nor such a
hyperbolic certainty as to the source of rationality. By way of a substitute form such a guarantee, it thus becomes crucial for there to be a representation of the representation, one that would be a singularity, legitimated precisely by its singularity alone. Finally, one person, a single body, comes to stand for
this superior guarantee, in the classical aesthetic form of genius. It is also curious, by the way, to see that, trained as we are in the theory of genius in
the realm of art, we should take such strong offense at it when it emerges in the order of politics. For the communist parties, between the twenties and sixties, personal genius is only the incarnation, the fixed point, of the doubtful representative capacity of the party. It is easier to believe in the rectitude
and the intellectual force of a distant and solitary man than in the truth and purity of an apparatus whose local petty chiefs are well known.

In China the question is even more complicated. Indeed, during the Cultural Revolution, Mao incarnates not so much the party’s representative capacity as that which discerns and struggles against the threatening
“revisionism” within the party itself. He is the one who says, or lets it be said in his name, that the bourgeoisie is politically active within the Communist Party. He is also the one who encourages the rebels, who spreads the slogan “it is just to revolt” and encourages troubles, at the very moment
when he is being canonized as the party’s chairman. In this regard, there are moments when for the revolutionary masses he is less the guarantee of the really existing party than the incarnation, all by himself, of a proletarian party that is still to come. He is somewhat like a revenge of singularity on representation.

Ultimately, we should maintain that “Mao” is a name that is intrinsically contradictory in the field of revolutionary politics. On the one hand, it is the supreme name of the party-state, its undeniable chairman, he who, as military leader and founder of the regime, holds the historical legitimacy of the
Communist Party. On the other hand, “Mao” is the name of that which, in the party, cannot be reduced to the state’s bureaucracy. This is obviously the
case in terms of the calls to revolt sent out to the youth and the workers. But it is also true within the structure of legitimacy of the party itself. Indeed, it is often by way of decisions that temporarily are minoritarian, or even dissident,
that Mao has assured the continuation of this utterly unique political experience of the Chinese communists between 1920 and the moment of victory in the forties (suspicion with regard to the Soviet counselors, abandonment of the model of insurrection, “encirclement of the cities by the countryside,” absolute priority to the mass line, etc.). In all aspects, “Mao”
is the name of a paradox: the rebel in power, the dialectician put to the test by the continuing needs of “development,” the emblem of the party-state in
search of its overcoming, the military chief preaching disobedience to the authorities. . . .9 This is what has given to his “cult” a frenetic appearance, because subjectively he accumulated the accord given to the stately pomp of the Stalinist type, together with the enthusiasm of the entire revolutionary youth for the old rebel who cannot be satisfied by the existing state of affairs
and who wants to move on in the march to real communism. “Mao” was the name for the “construction of socialism” but also for its destruction.

In the end, the Cultural Revolution, even in its very impasse, bears witness to the impossibility truly and globally to free politics from the framework of the party-state that imprisons it. It marks an irreplaceable experience of
saturation, because a violent will to find a new political path, to relaunch the revolution, and to find new forms of the workers’ struggle under the formal
conditions of socialism ended in failure when confronted with the necessary maintenance, for reasons of public order and the refusal of civil war, of the
general frame of the party-state.

We know today that all emancipatory politics must put an end to the model of the party, or of multiple parties, in order to affirm a politics “without
party,” and yet at the same time without lapsing in the figure of anarchism, which has never been anything else than the vain critique, or the double, or the shadow, of the communist parties, just as the black flag is only
the double or the shadow of the red flag.

However, our debt to the Cultural Revolution remains enormous. Because, tied to this grandiose and courageous saturation of the motif of the party, as the contemporary of what clearly appears today as the last revolution that was still attached to the motif of classes and of the class struggle, our
Maoism will have been the experience and the name of a capital transition. And without this transition, or there where nobody is loyal to it, there is

the burningman

that's all fascinating... until this: "e know today that all emancipatory politics must put an end to the model of the party, or of multiple parties, in order to affirm a politics “without party,” and yet at the same time without lapsing in the figure of anarchism, which has never been anything else than the vain critique, or the double, or the shadow, of the communist parties, just as the black flag is only the double or the shadow of the red flag."

Digging at anarchism as such in now way dodges the anarchism of the statement, nor its plain wrongness.

We don't "all know" anything.

But that is a fascinating comment, both from Repeater and Thano.

Spade a spade

With no personal hostility, I note that Left Spot includes the full gamit of revisionist parties and sites... Workers World, the Becker Brothers (PSL), and the CPUSA. Articles by Bob Wing, ML Today, the PFLP, FARC, the CP of Denmark, etc.

No surprise Left Spot is soft on Kim Jong Il. It's a universal policy -- there are those who think THAT is the basis of unity, even if they'd like anti-revisionists to temper their "ultraleft" enthusiasm and dissolve the MLM pole into the rest of that.

This, unbelievably, in the name of anti-dogmatism.

Come on, bro. That's not going to happen and if it does, it wouldn't be any good. Look at Slovo's SACP. Look what they've become in power becasue they are applying the line they've always had minus the resistance shroud.

Spade a spade

I meant Left Spot does that on their blog aggregator, not so much in this discussion.

I suspect s/he's in his later years, so I'll cut him some slack. When I see young people trying to keep lies and illusions alive, it's more often ignorance than misunderstanding.

Police states and their apologists, real apologetics and denial, have nothing to do with socialism but the vocabulary.



The point you draw out is rhetorically flashy, but really has more to do with the larger thesis of his lecture than it has to do with the points he makes about personality cults.

Christopher Day

I found the Badiou comment on affirming "politics 'without party'" enigmatic as well, but before we just decide he's full of shit, perhaps we should ask what he is trying to get at. The Leninist-style vanguard party has been the only political form able to carry the revolutionary process to a certain point, and for that reason it must be our starting point. But is also the case that its capacity to deliver on that promise seems to be in decline and the only places where it has the kind of traction it once had are in the most economically underdeveloped corners of the planet -- still largely agrarian societies with semi-feudal agrarian class relations. These conditions, much more widespread half a century ago, no longer characterize much of the global South which is undergoing major structural changes, not the least of which is massive urbanization. Elsewhere, this kind of politics has not been able to field the forces needed to really challenge imperialism. This is most clearly the case in the imperialist countries of course but also in most of what we used to call the Third World. Contrary to many pronouncements on the subject, the Leninist party is not a trans-historical universal organizational form. It is a form developed under particular conditions that proved to have broader spatio-temporal applications. But the world has changed a lot since then. No satisfactory alternative form has yet been developed, but that doesn't mean there isn't a need.


"Spade a spade" doesn't like the links on my blog. Well, burningman links to the ISO's theoretical journal, the Trot/anarcho amalgamation Left Turn, the liberal rag the Nation, among others. Does that make this blog beyond the pale? Are you advocating that there is only one legit left source of info on the web?

This thread was getting more interesting and getting deeper into important questions like if/how the law of value operates in a socialist society. Can we keep the discussion on that level so we can all learn something, and not get worked up about what links people have on their blog and trying to guess people's age?

Thano Maceo Paris

I just wanted to add one another comment here. This past Feb 21st marked the anniversary of Malcom X's assasination. Malcom refused to allow people coming to hear him speak to be searched for weapons because he didn't want to make the basic people feel uncomfortable, or criminalized the way that they do in so many other parts of their lives.

I have so much respect and admiration for Malcom for his example for the overall leadership method that this attitude represents. Malcom lived by this and practiced this even though it cost him his life. He could have chosen to model himself on the leadership method of Elijah Muhammad but he refused that path.

I think that it's that kind of revolutionary example that cannot be gunned down and murdered no matter how powerful the weapon.

I have alot of respect for Mao and I consider him one of my teachers. I want to be clear that I in no way see Mao as equivalent to Kim Il Jong. Mao's contributions to the revolutionary movement, Marxist theory and the Chinese people went way beyond that. The crucial thing is that I don't let that blind me tothe fact that a significant part of what Mao has to offer as a teacher are some extremely powerful negative lessons about how not to organize a post revolutionary society among other things. Like I said I look to Mao as a teacher and a revolutionary activist and I engage him on those terms-*not as a deity or God*

I have known some very serious and hardcore revolutionaries in my life who decided to "switch teams". It's the type of humility that I've mentioned here with respect to Malcom that prevented those who chose to avoid such temptations to stay on the revolutionary road. It's that attitude and stand that will keep
us from 'losing' our leaders and visionaries (to themselves and their own egos) not hero worship, and religiosity.

I want to make clear that I don't say this to dis the RCP which is an organization I have real respect for at the same time that I have serious differences with them. I'm not one for 30/70 type ratios and I frankly don't think they do justice to summing up historical periods but I want to say that I am a member of a revolutionary organization and the way in which Mao handled internal party democracy--at the Lushan conference and in other places--would not be tolerated in our ranks--up to and including expulsion. I don't care how brilliant or dedicated you are-and Mao was much more than both of those things--wrong is wrong and there is no excuse. I uphold and defend that standard and I think it's critically important that more revolutionary minded activists check themselves on this.

Thanks again to Jed and others for a great discussion.

the burningman

...and I link to LeftSpot exactly because there are discussions that need to be had and, frankly, it's often hard to do that on a principled basis with all the bad habits, baggage, resentments, and negativity built up through decades of failure.

Somebody said practice counts, and I've been in the same organization with our friend LeftSpot and was honored to work in the same orbit. He taught me a lot, even if I disagree (pretty sharply) with some of the places he's gone.

We're all real people here.

So, while I agree with the poitical sentiment regarding "blurring the line" between revisionism and communism -- and approach that issue with a fundamentally different conceptual framework than Left Spot -- I'm interested in what EXACTLY those lines of dispute are.

Ideas are not our identities, and to the extent they are we have departed from a scientific, materialist approach.

So let's be cool and all dish aside, keep this on the level of line and tendency. Thanks.

Regarding my links: The ISR is a good magazine. I worked briefly on LeftTurn (in a production capacity) and even contributed a piece. I read more broadly than I link, and encourage everyone involved in the movement to try and find at least an hour a day to read. If you don't know other lines, you ultimately don't even know your own.

So let's dig into like comrades trying to serve the people.

Christopher Day

The first thing is to be good at learning.

Most people who join a revolutionary organization (or as the Sparts like to say "an ostensibly revolutionary organization" join the first one they meet). Thats no big deal in a country with one big revolutionary party and a few little sects. But in a country like the U.S., where there are dozens of groups ranging in (real) membership from half a dozen to somehwere shy of a thousand, it means that the particular "line" that many are defending has more to do with what city they live in or who happened to be selling newspapers at the first demo they attended. Some folks shop around and some others switch organizations because they are persuaded that one line is superior to another. But most folks who stick around stick with the comrades they bonded with when they first decided they were revs.

This is the real life terrain on which our earnest line struggles actually take place. What this says to me is that we need to try on a little humility. None of our groups (and I'm not even in one) has achieved the kind of critical mass neccesary to be sufficiently rooted in all the places a party needs to be rooted to develop a correct line about what it will take to make revolution in the Fucking USA.

For all the talk of a science of revolution there is too little appreciation of the scale of investigation and practice neccesary to actually get a proper hold on a system like the one we are up against. That doesn't mean we can't say anything or that there isn't value in struggling over line. It just means we need to do so with some perspective on what can be accomplished given the present fragmentation and puny size of revolutionary forces in this country.

There is a lot to be gained by promoting a style of genuinely comradely struggle and willingness to learn across organizational and trend lines. Its not easy, especially given the frankly macho polemical style pioneered by the founding fathers of the ICM and eagerly taken up by subsequent generations.

While I like the variety of perspectives represented here, it could be a whole lot broader. A smart well-behaved Trot or two, a couple of the better anarchists, and a few revolutionary nationalists all willing to seriously engage would make this site much more valuable as a place where we all get challenged to deepen our politics. Burningman is absolutely right when he says that "if you don't know other lines, you ultimately don't even know your own."

friend of a friend


the burningman

If the first thing is to be good at learning, the second is to be good at teaching.

Christopher's note about how people come to join and support revolutionary parties is true... but.

I think there's two points to make about talking politics:

1) Arguing ideas is not about poaching members/supporters -- but coming to the best understanding we can of the world as it is, and as we'd like it. We can actually engage in discussions that change people's thinking for the better -- and that they take wherever they are.

2) Too much humility is a vice. Unlike Chris, I think that tough argumentation isn't common enough. Has anyone else encountered the various Marcos-inflected "world with room for many worlds" style of thinking that basically retreats into subjective idealism? I have. Buckets of it.

If you argue an idea, for sake of this argument a true one, how often is that reduced to "your opinion," as if all ideas were opinions and should be granted respect just because someone believes it?

For anyone who knows me in all three dimensions, I suspect chuckles right about here. But...


Speaking of well-behaved Trots, the Lenin's Tomb blog has all the witty erudition you'd expect from a London-based Trot blogger. Generally high-level discussion, broad participation, more-or-less within its trend.

Sid & Nancy's Block Party

Which is another way of saying that the world is full of people of principle who's principles are not the same.

An understanding that makes general benevolence a lot easier.

Then begs the question of principle regarding a Marxist-Leninist group deeply influenced by Maoism that upholds North Korea as a Marxist-Leninist state that is socialist. These are their stated goals, so do they actually have disagreements?

By what means are these distinctions made to the members of the CPP who are being trained as a liberation movement?

The birthday statement is an ideological document. One person above says that we should look at their practice. This is definitely an ideological practice. It's not good, and all the more pernicious for the overall positivity of the People's War in the Philippines.

MLM is revolutionary communist ideology for revolutionary communist tasks. Calling on comrades around the world to represent the best, and struggle for the best is not dogmatic.

We have to do better. This movement contains wisdom and human technologies that can help free the world. There is nothing "real" about realpolitik. We don't need the cynicism of the enemy that mollifies the masses. We need to challenge cynicism and be lofty.

It's the only realistic thing to do. As people, but also as movements.

Better, stronger, smarter and tougher in our collectivity that as the mere sum of our parts.

North Korea is a monster created not just by imperialism and war, but also through fundamentally wrong lines taking institutional hold in a party that monopolizes all public life.


Even though the discussion on this thread has moved on from "the illness in north Korea,"
I would like to second the efforts of Chris and others to direct folks to Bruce Cummings' works and the 2 volume RCP set on the nature of the Soviet Union.

Overall, the discussion has suffered from a lack of historical understanding and serious investigation
prior to drawing "conclusive" conclusions on the nature of the DPRK. Some of the issues that need to be looked at more deeply:

(1) The years between liberation from the Japanese imperialists (1945) and the massive US invasion (1950) were little time for the Korean Workers Party and the forces it led to make the transition from new democracy to socialism from the bottom up, as was successfully done in China. After the systematic destruction of the north Korean economic base during the war, the DPRK had to rebuild on a forced march with reliance on Soviet and Chinese aid.

(2) The "militarization" of north Korea has to be understood in this context. Since the armistice in 1953, the DPRK has been under constant military threat by the US (US nukes and troops in south Korea, nuclear armed subs off the coast). The DPRK's nuclear weapons program must be understood in this light. This has distorted economic development and certainly distorted social relations in ways that need to be looked at. This problem has been faced by every socialist country to date.

(3) US military pressure and economic embargo have been major reasons for the continuing low standard of living of the masses of north Koreans. In the 90s, this was magnified by successive years of drought, producing widespread famine. This led to increased reliance on energy supplies and food from the new capitalist rulers of China.

(4) These objective conditions have played in role in the perpetuation of semi-feudal traditions and culture, including the top levels of the party and goverenment.

(5) As for the debate on this thread whether north Korea is socialist or not, take a step back in history and theory. Kim Il Sung/Kim Il Jong's views of socialism are much more similar to those of Stalin than Mao by denying the persistence of class struggle under socialism, on the existence of a "monolithic party," on seeing the main threat to socialism as external. Thus Kim Il Sung's parting of ways with Mao during the Cultural Revolution. The same bourgeois forces, especially in the top levels of the communist party, that Mao was confronting were certainly at work in the Korean party. The experience of the 20th century suggests that non-recognition of the inner contradictions of socialist society leads to the development of new bourgeois forces, who can restore capitalism peacefully. So some study of these issues is necessary.

(6) Socialism must be seen as a transitional period between capitalism and communism, not a fixed location. Thus the concept of a "socialist road"--the road towards communism--and whether a society is on it, may be useful. Many inequalities inherited from capitalist society continue to exist after liberation--wage inequalities, difference in education and technical expertise, the gap between rural areas and more developed urban centers. One way of determining whether the DPRK has been on the socialist road is to what degree this inequalities are being restricted, or are being expanded. Another way of putting it is whether the operation of the law of value is being restricted step by step, or expanded. Much more investigation is needed here about how this applies to the DPRK.

(7) What is the significance of the "special economic zones" being set up along the Chinese border; of Kim Il Jong's recent trip to study Chinese hybrid state capitalism and private enterprise, fueled by foreign investment; Pyongyang's significantly higher standard of living than the rest of the country; the availability of the Internet only to top level government officials and academics noticed by recent visitors; little evidence that working people are mobilized to increase their mastery of affairs of state and society as a whole (the less quantifiable, but all important agency question).

(8) Finally, whether the DPRK is socialist/on the socialist road has everything to do with the nature of the north Korean state, especially its leading party. Its ideology and political line cannot be dismissed as separate from the nature of the production relations in society. Even when mocking, the posts on this list have correctly pointed out that Kim Il Sung/Jong Ideology is not scientific Marxism and is diametrically opposed to the great leaps in understanding socialist society and the difficult struggle to stay on the road to classless society.

This, like many other questions coming up on this thread, is a big job, and will take many heads to solve. Remember that this is an international, not an internal, discussion

Jaroslav O.

Thanks for this news/commentary, burningman. But I'm not in the least surprised by this shit. And that's not from anecdotes or hearsay, rather only because I'm a frequent reader of "Ang Bayan". There are big examples like this now and then. There are also smaller things (like whenever talking about US movement, only mentioning ANSWER & the like). And there are glaring omissions, even in important (and long) documents, especially on atheism/religion and women's oppression.

Large sections of people in the Philippines are right to participate in the PW there, I'd still call it a just struggle & all that. But the same can be said of VietNam PW way back when. And that party had a crappy line, which led to a crappy society, & millions of Vietnamese people who have a distorted view of what socialism is & isn't.

Anyway I could go on but I'll stop now.

(PS. I've not read all the comments on this article by the way so I won't respond...)


I agree with independentmaoist that we need to understand things and investigate a lot more.

North Korea has formally the same setup as China did (actually with more specific recall rights than China did under the Maoist constitution) obviously proves that Maoism is correct in observing "democracy" alone is not an end, but a means to end - and the dialectic between form and content.

North Korea obviously (I hope for everyone!) is not a socialist society, and lacks popular agency but actually has more formal democratic rights (at least on paper) than China did when it was socialist and actively empowering people.

I can find two legal parties in North Korea besides the leading Workers' Party, that being the Chondoist Chongu Party and Korean Social Democratic Party. Reports from many sources say it is only a formal mirage, and that these parties have no real influence on the decision making process.

a comment

it was said above:

"Overall, the discussion has suffered from a lack of historical understanding and serious investigation
prior to drawing 'conclusive' conclusions on the nature of the DPRK."

I don't agree. I think some clear and convincing arguments have been raised that make it quite clear that North Korea is not socialist.

And, in fact such conclusion have been drawn (conclusively) not just by us, but by the international communist movement over 35 years (since the GPCR). This is not a new question.

If it has becomme "a question" again, it is mainly because some forces want to want to dump the Maoist analysis of capitalist restoration, and with it all of Mao's most important theoretical contributions on the nature and dynamics of socialism. THIS attempt (and this alone) is really what makes North Korea "a question."

Mao said "the rise to power of revisionists is the rise to power of capitalists." And the attempt to deny that (the attempt to portray revisionists as "bad socialists, but socialists nonetheless") is a question of line, not a question of "how deep is the investigation into this particular society."


I'm interested in the reference by "a comment" to conclusions that the international communist movement has drawn about the DPRK, and of course the analysis on which it is based. I'm also interested in his or her understanding of how and when capitalist restoration took place in the DPRK. That could help move beyond assertion to deepen the discussion.


Thanks to independentmaoist for seriously engaging the question of north Korea and asking good and interesting questions.

I did a quick search on the site to see what the RCP or the RIM analysis of Korea is.

On the website I found only a few articles about Korea. One article, from A World to Win (, says that Korea *was* socialist but that it stopped being so at some unidentified point in time. Here's the relevant excerpt:

"History has demonstrated that the North Korean regime derailed from the socialist track long ago. In the great debate between socialist China and Soviet social-imperialism, the North Korean regime did not take the Maoist side; rather it adopted what it called the 'Juche idea,' which means self-reliance. Nevertheless, after the death of Mao Tsetung, North Korea mainly relied on the social- imperialist USSR. Now, it has been applying the same tactics of nuclear blackmailing, nuclear gambling and playing with nuclear bombs that Khrushchev developed after he restored capitalism in the USSR."

This is basically saying that because north Korea didn't take China's side in the "Great Debates", that it ceased being a socialist country. There's no assessment *at all* of Korean society – base or superstructure. It's just whether they lined up totally behind China or not. This says *nothing* about the relations of production or the law of value in north Korea.

Actually north Korea agreed with the thrust of China's criticisms of the revisionism of the CPSU leadership (and the USSR withdrew advisors from Korea as a result). But it's true, north Korea didn't line up down-the-line with China either.

The AWTW quote also says that because of the tactics that north Korea is allegedly using with the development of nuclear weapons, this is also cited as somehow evidence that north Korea is not socialist. (As if China did not also develop a nuclear weapons!)

Where is the Marxism in this analysis? I'd hope for something more concrete. Maybe someone here can get a bit deeper in this discussion.

Since the RIM line in this article is that north Korea was at one point a socialist country, when do they (or you, dear reader) think that changed – and did it change to capitalism or to feudalism or to slavery?

I'm just curious if anyone here (besides independentmaoist) has any analysis at all of north Korea's history, or if folks who say it's not socialist are entirely basing that on the "weirdness" factor but don't care to wade a little deeper into Korean history.

the burningman

I'm basing my analysis on the plain fact that Korea had a heritary succession. Period.

By every single account I've encountered in my entire life, North Korea is a horrorshow of forced obedience to a godking.

It's disgusting.

Does this speak to how rice is sold? No, it doesn't. But at face value the social structure is so abhorent to anyone who values the role of the people themselves -- it is a manifest truth that this is the opposite of what we should be seeking.

Asking around, the Cummings book seems to be the read, unless you think Dierdre Griswald's fiction from the pageants of Pyongyang as "reporting."

The same people who uphold North Korea also uphold Breznev, Teng and any piece of shit capitalist-roader who keeps a socialist semiotic REGARDLESS of the politic.

Opportunism is too kind a word for it. To refuse the distinction between revisionsism and communism is to accept the former in lieu of the latter.

And without picking on LeftSpot, I'd just note what it is he draws primary inspiration from and that the organization he supports upholds Breznev, the FARC, the CPN(M) and any group that puts up a red flag no matter what their actual politics or history... the ghost of Sam Marcy is casting a strange shadow.

LeftSpot: Why hasn't Freedom Road (Fight Back) merged with WWP or PSL? Just curious. The politics seem identical to me.

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