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March 11, 2006



sorry for the accidental repeats.


The notion of Marxism as science has been a great source of controversy inand out of the ICM and I doubt it will go away anytime soon.

It's true that real science is simply about prediction. If that were so, where would that leave natural sciences? Can physics predict when our sun will explode? Can biology predict when new species will arise and what they will be? No, science is also about explanation and causation. In the case of evolutionary biology that's pretty much what it does. The idea that 'science' guarantees absolute accuracy is wrong and shows a real ignorance of how science works. For centuries, scientists, including Isaac Newton, believed that light travelled through an invisible substance called 'aether' despite the lack of any supporting evidence. Finally, Einstein killed this theory by showing that light was both a particle and a wave and did not need this substance to carry it. Were all previous thinkers non-scientific? The history of science is fraught with both great achievement and error. Sometimes an idea once thought mistaken is revived with a new appreciation, like Einstein's gravitational constant.

It would be great to see Maoists enter the debates on the philosophy of science but we will have to do more than assert the scientific nature of Marxism. We'd have to be familiar with the different views on science [positivist, realist, conventionalist, etc.,] and be prepared to tackle them on some of these questions: Why is Marxism scientific? How do we define science? Why is it even important? Is it possible to apply scientific method to the study of societies? How is this related to natural science?

I am of the inclination that Marxism is scientific but there is still a need to further refine our understanding. Many social theorists have argued that Marxism is not scientific and have proposed alternatives [such as Anthony Giddens] that should not be taken lightly. Others have attempted to revise Marxism to make it more compatible with the methodological individualism that is so popular in mainstream social science thereby making it a non-Marxsism. This school of 'Rational Choice Marxism'has been soundly criticized by Ellen Meiksins Wood and Norman Geras. The Critical Realist school, led by Roy Bhasakar, has done some great work furthering the relationship between Marxism and science.

a comment: your point about me putting 'inevitability' in quotes and then implying something about my portrayl of Marx was...careless [I'm being generous]. First of all, I was clear that I did not have the quote at hand. Secondly, I stated over several posts that inevetiability was not the primary aspect of Marx's method so there was no need to speculate on my motives. You admitted that Marx had a tendency towards teleology and that's pretty much what I said. I just thought it was important to address because so many Marxists don't know how to deal with it, and would rather deny it instead.

By reviving the the debate on RCP's position and using the word 'apocalytpic' Christpher Day seems to be suggesting that RCP might rely on an undercurrent of inevtiability in its analysis. He even says that such a style could "seem to be used to shut down some critical reflection on the adequacy of the underlying analysis." What's the evidence for this statement of intent? If anything, RCP invites debate and criticism of its analysis. Here's some evidence for the onset of fascism: the Patriot Act, the Theory of the Unitary Executive, the legitimization of torture, the attacks on science and promotion of religious obscurantism, do I need to go on? There is an element of risk here that Chris is ignoring. The way he sees it, it is a matter of preparing the masses just in case or "when things don't unfold as suggested its difficult to consolidate whatever gains have been made either among the masses or in terms of developing cadre, who have been trained intensely in upholding the line but not so well in navigating the uncertainties when the line proves wrong." Day does not seem to believe that fascism is a likely possibiliity. I hope he's right, but if it becomes imminent, we won't get an e-mail. Some other things that could happen: the Bush regime might fall apart, Democratic liberals might reagin the initiative, the Iraqi occupation could take an even worse turn further isolating Bush, [add scenario here]. What I have not mentioned is what we should be doing. That's because our activiy should be based on how we assess the direction things are moving in. If we believe that the Bush regime has no plans to continue implementing its fascist program or that they will lose momentum, we should organize accordingly. However, how realistic is that? Can we afford to come back from further behind? Those of us who admire Rosa Luxemburg would do well to look at the history of pre-Nazi Germany to see the danger of only looking at the immediate future. Sure, many things could happen but what's more probable. Should we wait until the government loses coherence on its own? Fascism is not inevitable, but if anyone fails to see how more 'moderate' solutions are being rolled over, they wind up promoting something just as dangerous as passivity: confusion.

If you read him carefully, BA does not suggest that revolutionary situation was on the horizon. What he says is that we should make it so - that's a different kind of argument. The basic points are: the CF's are intent on re-shaping society in line with their interests and worldview; this requires a high degree of polarization in which they have the initiative; liberal reformism is unable and unwilling to stop it [Alito anyone?]; much of society is disgusted at the way things are heading; while there is demoralization, many people are getting active for the first time; there is a greater openness to radical and revolutionary viewpoints than pre-9/11; we must establish revolutionary communist politics as the most viable alternative to this state of affairs; I'm sure other could add to this but I believe those are the main points. Disagree? Fine, but put forth another analysis please.

Faithless Red, you say "No, of necessity a revolutionary movement or party needs to move Marxism from his more careful and cautious method into the realm of the IMMINENT, without which it has nothing to inspire the faithful." So you want to argue that revolutionary commmunism must be driven by inevitability or it does not even have the appeal of religious movements. This is not only cynical but insulting. What communism has to offer is a way for people to struggle to create our own future, not to realize a future that is somehow pre-ordained. Communists do not believe in the latter and to put this out to people is to lie about our beliefs and denigrate our own human potential.

There are at least two kinds of faith:blind and justified. Blind faith is that which persists regardless of evidence to the contrary. Justified faith is based on established, repeatable patterns and causal knowledge. Religion is driven by the former, science is driven by the latter. Scientists have faith that the world is knowable and we haven't exhausted our potential for knowledge. This is confirmed by the fact that we have continued to learn more things as time goes on, as well as developing the conceptual means to apprehend them. Faithless mentions "many movements, protests and projects, from anarchist to communist, collapse or peter out while still believing that revolution was just around the corner." Two things: since so many movements arise, this should be seen as evidence that people are constantly willing to envision and fight for a better life. Instead Faithless only sees an endless parade of failures. At the same time, I have a hard time believing that determinism was the main cause of all these movements' failures. Based on Faithless's post, it seems the determinism was more in his/her ideological need than in the movements.


In the second paragraph, when I said "It's true that..." I should have said, 'It's not true that..."

the unreal john

nick: "It is true that the RCP has never said that a revolutionary situation is immanent (or even on the horizon)."

If they truly said that then they would have to disband. What you mean is that the RCP never said that revolution was imminent. Note the "i" and look up the difference. It's important. Anyway, you're wrong. Many within the RCP did claim that revolution was nigh during the 1980s.


Even if RCP had always claimed that revolution was imminent - from 1975 until the 1980s: SO WHAT? Get over it.

They made a criticism of their previous approach in the Notes on Political Economy. More importantly, they are working on a more rigorous and open-ended methodology, and trying to find ways for broader participation in that process.

It seems that some people won't be satisfied with anything less than public self-flagellation.


Historical materialism, as its name implies, is best used as a tool for investigating and understanding history.

It works pretty good for understanding contemporary realities...though, of necessity, may miss "small things" that unexpectedly turn into "big things".

It's never been any good at predicting the future in useful detail...though it can give you a strong sense of "what to expect" when "all other things are equal".

Historical materialism is deterministic...and I've never understood why that bothered people so much. But it certainly does seem to "stick in people's throats".

I wonder if they ever consider what it would be like to live in a world that was utterly contingent...completely lacking in any sort of regularity or predictability?

I don't think they'd like it much. LOL!

Meanwhile, Professor Ollman's "case" for "dialectics" seems to rest on the contention that elements of the future can be seen in the present. I fail to see how this rather basic platitude can support the cumbersome apparatus of "dialectics" with its tortured verbal mechanisms.

Nor have I ever seen any correct conclusion of "dialectical" thinking that couldn't have been reached using ordinary pedestrian scientific logic and empirical observation.

In fact, I rather doubt that when Marx and Engels sat down to study and write about some subject of interest that they even bothered with "dialectics" at all. Instead, they followed the scientific conventions of their century...since, after all, they were writing for people who would hardly be content with flourishes of Hegelian rhetoric as a substitute for real knowledge.

Only in the last century could one hope to pass off nonsense as sense by invoking Marx's intellectual reputation and costuming that nonsense in "dialectical" babble.

May I commend to the reader this site...

It drives the wooden stake through Hegel's heart better than anything else I've ever come across.

Christopher Day

I appreciate the clarification on the RCP's views. I think a very good argument is made here for the neccessity of revolutionary work in non-revolutionary times to prepare people for the emergence of openings and to push the gestation of revolutionary possibilities.

The real question is what is good prepratory revolutionary work.

Aesthetics matter. The RCP has a style that can be frantic and, yes, apocalyptic. And I think that is an obstacle to thinking as clearly as possible. My reference to "canonical" was academic not religious, and was not a dig at Avakian but rather at the over-reliance on the Marx-Engels-Lenin_Stalin-Mao pantheon.


redstar2000 writes:

"Nor have I ever seen any correct conclusion of "dialectical" thinking that couldn't have been reached using ordinary pedestrian scientific logic and empirical observation."

Really? Are there other non- [or anti-] Marxisty works out there that provide the same insights as Capital? Please elaborate.

fellow traveler

leftclick: "Even if RCP had always claimed that revolution was imminent - from 1975 until the 1980s: SO WHAT? Get over it.
. . . It seems that some people won't be satisfied with anything less than public self-flagellation."

And what could be more Maoist than that, comrade? The ruling committee could wear dunce caps and read self-criticism under "big character" posters. I dig it. Such a display might even deflate the creepiness claim and inject a little aww shucks humor into an org with a bit of an image problem.

RedStar2000's link to inspired me to iterate a question about dialectics, DM and HM to those on this thread who are willing to defend the continuing value of these analyses (nick?). Can you point out any Marxist economist or thinkers who used these methods to warn of the restoration of capitalism in China and the USSR? I mean, in terms of world history and revolutionary potential, this is no small thing. Whether it is "predictive" or simply serious analysis, someone should have seen it coming, right?

OK, forget the past. What does dialectics, DM and HM have to tell us about what went wrong in communist political economies? As leftclick noted, Marx underestimated the potential for socialism to be rolled back, he thought, as Ollman states, that the contradictions within it would be resolved into the new form of communism. The dialectic would end. So how has the "science" or method been modified to account for this shortcoming? Ollman doesn't undertake this project, so much as restate its errors. Can anyone point some material out to me?


"Are there other non- [or anti-] Marxist works out there that provide the same insights as Capital? Please elaborate."

I believe you miss my point...which is that Marx could have written Capital and all of his other significant works even if he'd never heard of Hegel or "dialectics".

As he himself noted, he did not "discover" the existence of classes or class struggle. And there was ample empirical evidence to suggest the "laws" of capitalist "motion"...that's one of the reasons he spent so much time in the library of the British Museum.

What Marx really DID discover is the crucial DEPENDENCE of ALL cultural artifacts (including classes themselves) on HOW HUMANS MAKE THEIR LIVINGS.

To my knowledge, no one ever "saw" that before.

And, at least, it potentially tells us as much or more about human societies and human history as E = MCsquared tells us about the physical universe.

"Dialectics" played no role in Marx's discovery; it was an unfortunate accident that Marx grew up in a time and place when Hegel was "all the rage" and everyone "had" to be a "Hegelian". We can only WISH that Marx had been educated in France or England.

Had we been "lucky", then "dialectics" would be but a footnote in some tedious academic history of philosophy...which is where it will end up anyway.

After much fuss and fury.

the burningman

"All that is solid melts into air."

That was the original name for the blog (in my thick head).

But let me here mention Octavia Butler since we're on a kick to get beyond the 5 heads in our references. At the opening of Parable of the Sower, the basic gist of the new, post-religious philosophy that the central character is the leader/prophet of, says:

All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
Is Change.

Is Change.

In other words, the one constant is flux.

RedStar rejects the supposed flim-flam of dialectics for... positivism. Wow. That's a "clean break" with all of Hegel's bad writing (and clear thinking).

I posted this piece because I attended a class (on John Holloway) at New York's Brecht Forum a couple weeks back. I watched the professor/instructor struggle to explain what dialectics are without much success and he's a pretty bright guy.

It's not an easy idea, but it's not anything we want it to be. Dialectics is a method of analysis that has both ancient roots conceptually (in both eastern and western philosophical traditions) and that entered world consciousness anew with startling force through Hegel's Idealist writings and Marx's materialist turn.

Understanding dialectics is learning how to think.

(And LeftClick, you are right that some are satisfied with nothing less than "self-flagellation." What's funny is the insane standard the RCP is held up to on say, their 1980s positions, while prominent leaders of the, say, antiwar movement have positions upholding North Korea and, on the other hand (UFPJ's leadership) campaigned to "support the troops" and demanded sanctions on Iraq during the first Gulf War that killed hundreds of thousands of children. Self-criticism from THOSE quarters? I've never heard a fucking drop.

So let's get real real about self-criticism in the movement. Some struggle to understand WHY they do what they've done to do better in the future. Some just apply the same set of plays to any given reality and pretend the past doesn't exist (or the future).

Dialectics as a "motion" attempts to understand 1) tendency, 2) contradiction (relationship), 3) necessity, 4) "essence" in the sense that things are not always what they "appear", and 5) the DYNAMIC relationship between ideas and the objects of ideas... or is that ideas of objects?

Crazy stuff, I know. And a hell of a lot better than the kind of "data sheets" and atrocity lists that pass for analysis in the larger left and bourgeois science.

Of course RedStar rejects dialectics. He rejects the very idea of necessity.

Lexicon Luther

The imminent/immanent discussion is ironically enough crucial to these discussions.

There are those who see revolution as an infinitely retreating horizon, often very practical people, who even in their pragmatism become "religious."

Revolution is the answer to all problems, the big bang that never happens.

Revolutionary organizations form long before revolutions if they are to have a hope of effectively intervening in "natural" crises in ways that will push structural change.

So they uphold "revolutoinary work in non-revolutionary times," which is -- in countries where PW is not possible -- largely ideological/political work and not military.

That the RCP spent the 80s keeping a flame alive when most "Maoists" and other communists were busy campaigning for Jesse Jackson is hardly something to be ashamed of or apologize for.


The people who defined themselves as "reasonable" by distorting what the RCP was saying (until they actually believed their own shit) is shameful. That these same political forces fucking ABDICATED is now a plain fact.

The RCP's hard line in those years says much for why a communist movement even exists in this country.

Christopher Day

I've no desire to see self-flagellation on the part of the RCP. Serious self-criticism taken as a basis for really uprooting the problematic aspects of the RCP's line and culture, on the other hand, would be most welcome. And the low standards of line and conduct to which other forces on the left are commonly held is no reason to evade what real revolutionaries should never be ashamed to do.

I think preparing people for revolution is critical and I'm glad the RCP puts this at the center of their politics. Its why I'm so willing to engage them even though I think their actual approach is often bat-shit crazy. At least they understand the centrality of what Lukacs called the actuality of revolution in "Lenin, A Study on the Unity of his Thought."

Avakian's critique of inevitabilism is to be applauded. But what would be more valuable would be a thorough analysis of how inevitabilism has distorted and continues to distort the actual practice of the RCP.

Inevitabilism leads to a preoccupation with certain kinds of theoretical questions to the exclusion of others. A lot of energy is put into attempting to grasp the contradictory motion of global capitalism (its crises and the plans of the imperialists) in order to predict when and how the big cataclysm will come and less attention is paid to the difficult on-the-ground questions of transforming everyday struggles and forms of resistance that capitalism is constantly throwing up into real revolutionary challenges.

This lopsidedness, I would argue, is what led the RCP in the 1980s to focus on the (real) danger of world war, but to miss (for example) the ways that the AIDS crisis was radicalizing gay activism. The RCPs rotten line on homosexuality wasn't an accident. It had methodological roots that underpin other errors. The depreciation of struggles of cultural assertion or for sexual liberation and the failure to really appreciate their potential to animate the emergence of revolutionary subjectivities has isolated the RCP from huge areas of struggle in this society where a forthright revolutionary politics could have made big gains.

The RCP's politics have matured since then. But I think there is a real underestimation of the seriousness of their errors, and more importantly, what their roots were. And this underestimation runs the real risk of repeating those errors.

When I say the RCP has a taste for the apocalyptic I should be clear that so do I. And sometimes social reality IS apocalyptic. My concern with this is not that it leads to doing revolutionary work in non-revolutionary times, but rather that it seems to go hand in hand with not confronting some of the issues raised by a reading of Gramsci about the sources of the stability of the advanced capitalist societies and their ability to weather big upheavals. To thinking that by being bold one can just overcome those things. What Gramsci sought to understand was why, after the revolutionary upheavals unleashed by the World War, was capitalism able to re-establish hegemony everywhere except the Soviet Union? We could and should ask a similar question about 1968. I fully expect that we will encounter future moments of this sort and I believe that how we act in them will determine the fate of humanity. So yes we need to prepare people to act boldly in such moments, but that is not all. Revolutionaries also need to have deep roots among the people and longstanding involvement in their practical struggles and everyday lives in order to be able to effectively link them up in such moments.

In "Can We Really Win?" and in the long ass Avakian DVD, Bob distinguishes between two scenarios for revolution. In the third world it is the culmination of a protracted peoples war, while in the first it is likely to take the form of an insurrection followed by civil war. These two models are represented by the Chinese and Russian Revolutions respectively. Two models is better than one I suppose, but this strikes me as a serious failure to confront the fact that nothing like this has occurred in the advanced capitalist countries really since teh Paris Commune, and for the reasons Gramsci lays out, is not likely to go down like this.

I wish I had another coherent model to offer. I don't. But that doesn't mean one isn't desperately needed.

My gut tells me that Christian Fascism IS a big danger AND that we have entered a period preganant with possibilities for social explosions, but it also tells me that the analysis of the nature of that danger and those possibilities presented by the RCP is two-dimensional, it doesn't really get at the connection between everday life and the theocratic turn of a wing of imperialism. That said I'm fucking glad they are putting the questions on the table.

the burningman

I actually think the Paris Commune is the wrong place to go back to.

Spain, and the collapse of communist forces in Italy and France after WW2 is a much better place to get into the discussion of our society. As is the 1968 moment in the USA.

The question of "seeing the communist future in the capitalist present" is a hard fucking nut to crack here in the USA -- and one that we can thank Avakian banging on even if (even) he hasn't managed to open it yet.

That's the challenge. When we have advanced forces, and in this sense the RCP certainly functions as a vanguard, this in no way asserts that they (as currently constituted) can answer each and every question -- even the cardinal questions of strategy, orientation and implementation.

Revolutionary forces need to grow -- not just in sentiment, but capacity.

real john

let me play "cleaner" and deal with some misconceptions. And hopefully in the process,help us all get into teh lines that are contending.

first my alter ego(the "unrealjohn") wrote above: "you mean that the RCP never said that revolution was imminent. ... Anyway, you're wrong. Many within the RCP did claim that revolution was nigh during the 1980s."

No. In fact I am not wrong. This is a relatively simple matter of fact.

What they said was that there was real danger that world war was immanent. Infact, nick's quoting of a "saying" above (That "revolution is a long shot but the best shot") was put forward in THAT context. They did not think world war was a long shot, but did thing that revolution was.

And IN THAT CONTEXT they said it was important to persevere and step up revolutionary work. Which was all true.

This is easy to verify, read Avakian's underestimated "The Horrof of the End, or the End to the Horror" which was written then, and there are published collections of "war and revolution" articles which i have found, bought and read.

Also, notice the formulation of "fake john" that says: "Many within the RCP did claim that revolution was nigh during the 1980s." All of us know that this isn't the way it works. The RCP had a unified line, expressed by their paper, documents and chairman. You know that, and I know that. And a disciplined organization like them doesn't have "many" running around with a different line on such a key matter. Naw,we all know better.

Either it was the line of the RCP or it wasn't. And it wasn't.

As for apocalyptic, well as burningman says, capitalism IS sometimes apocalyptic, and it may be worth remembering how veryclose the world came to nuclear exchange in the mid-eightties, far closer than was publicly known at the time. It was apocalyptic, and the questionwas sharply posed "What are you gonna do about it?"

Some folded their tents. Some rallied behind Jackson, and let's not forget that some rallied behind Soviet social imperialism, and half-"hoped-expected" that the bloc hostilities would be channeled into a U.S.invasion of nicaragua, where they could have a vietnam-era redux.

Anyway,lets deal with the real lines of organizations.

Iunderstand why some said "If all you canbring up is a twenty-year old error on the estimation of world war, then you really ain't got much."

I feel you.

There are some positions of the RCP from that period that some "love to hate" -- including "Revolution in the 80s go for it!" and the refusal to adopt identity politics analysis on homosexuality.

As for self-criticism -- I just want to mention what hasn't been mentioned: Avakian says that the struggle over reductionism (in agonizing over what led to the mechanical thinking on world war) was an important basis for their break with related reductionist approach to homosexuality.And that both of these grappling deepened Avakian's determination to dig up the methodological and philosophicalerrors of the old communist movement -- to deepenwhat he calls his "epistemological break."

Sowhen someone says that there was no real or deep self-criticism over these issues, I stop, and in all honestly wonder "what the fuck are you thinking?" Is it that you just haven'et read these things (these are some difficult documents on Poleitical Economy, epistemology, the issues of sexuality, and Avakians conversations on philosophy with Martin).

Or is it that we have different assessment of what a deep self-criticism looks like.

Or to put it another more-pointed way: The Storm organization self-criticism circulated through CUNY circles, and the various Love and Rage summations too. Manypeople on this list have read them.

Self-cultivation, muddle, mutualmud-slinging, focus on aggregating the petty, avoidance of the cardinal, anyone?

Does anyone want to claim that these documents leave anyone in a position to tackle revolutoinary work with a higher understanding?

As someone said, has anyone done self-criticism like Avakian and his followers?


Now chris argues over and over again that there are issues of style that (for him) over shadow matters of line.

But we all know (including Chris) that there is really line at the heart of all this.

The issue of classless democracy is at the heart of it -- be cause Chris's politics require a specific relationship between the van and the masses, which is very different from the analysis of the RCP.

And the questionof "how to do revolutionary work"--whichwe allknow will boil down to work that is more "palpable and palatable." That's why the issues of "everyday life" keeps coming up. And that's why the "my mass line is a mirror for the masses, not a process of revolutoinary synthesis and communist leadership."

These things are all whole cloth-- they weave in and out. And they are a program for an approach to "work" that is (ultimately, in my humble opinion) NOT revolutionary (and here I am not talking about anyone's subjective INTENT, but objective "logic of the logic.")

Avakian had a great article: "Pay attention to the day to day concerns of the masses -- BUT DON'T OVER DO IT."

And the point was that there are concerns you have to pay attention to -- if Mao didn't worry about having salt for the peasants in the barricaded liberated zones, then they would not be able to live or support the revolution.

If the revolution doesn't feed the people of the big cities, how will the revolution hold problem? There are times when the problems of day to day life are crucial to the revolution. But that is exactly the point: there are times and ways when they are important TO THE REVOLUTION.

But in a profound sense, people (and especially the advancedand the communists) don't make revolution "to make a better life for ourselves and our children."

We make revolutoin for the future, and for humanityall over the world.

And if that breadth of mind is not our orientation, and if it is not fought for (among both communists and the masses) then again, there will not be a revolution, and if there is one we won't do any good with it.

If you train people (and especially in a country like this) to see politics through the eyes of their day to day lives (even if these lives ARE marked by real and severe impression)then the revolution will not be liberatory or communist.

The lives of the people have to improve throughthe revolution, including even economically for the people on the very bottom. And certainly society overall needs to be much better for the great majority -- in all the social relations that emerge.

But fundamentally communist revolution involves a great deal of sacrifice and visionary approach. Our revolution belongs to the people of the world, and their highest interests (not just the people in OUR immediate base, and their everyday lives).

See the difference?

The idea that "we need to pay more attention to everyday life" is a demand for more attention to bourgeois right (and it is tied to a political orientation toward "grassroots democracy" as the solution to everything.)

Important: It does not break from the whole framework of commodity exchange (including its political expression of "it is time for me/us to get my/our slice of life's pie!"

The difference between "all the way revolution" and "we are coming for what's ours" is profound -- and it is the contrast between proletarian revolution, and the "second model" (i.e. revisionism) that Avakian discussed
in Three Alternative Worlds.


here are some of their self-criticisms for those who DO want to read:

Notes on Political Economy:
Our Analysis of the 1980s, Issues of Methodology, and The Current World Situation

poster continued

Notes on Political Economy:
Our Analysis of the 1980s, Issues of Methodology, and The Current World Situation

On the Position on Homosexuality
in the New Draft Programme

And more on homosexuality -- there is a chapter in the "Conversations" book (which is not online)

(There are some earlier self criticisms:

one on the "boston bussing controversy" which appeared in revolution.

And a self-criticism of the article "second harvest" which deal with traditionalism among Native people.

Neither of these two are online. But I scrounged around and found old Revolution magazines to study them.

friend of a friend

Chris is pretty clear that he's discussing matters of line, not "style."


Things must have been going badly for burningman lately. I would never have expected him to admiringly quote some "post-religious" mystic who evidently believes in "prophetic leaders".

Is Bob Avakian a "Leader-Prophet"? LOL!

And then he asserts: "Understanding dialectics is learning how to think."

I guess so...if you want to think about mysticism, it's as good as anything else. Though, truth to say, it's customary to rely on revelation when dealing with such "lofty" concerns.

"Crazy stuff, I know."

It seems to arrive at that destination with regularity.

"Of course RedStar rejects dialectics. He rejects the very idea of necessity."

Sometimes I do; sometimes I don't.

I do advise folks to be WARY when someone invokes "necessity" to support their chosen political perspectives.

As in, for example, "we HAVE to support the Democratic Party in 2006 and 2008 OR ELSE bad things will happen." LOL!

The RCP's "World Can't Wait" is already drifting in that don't be shocked if "dialectics" is summoned up to defend such a position.

It wouldn't be the first time that's happened. LOL!

the burningman

I'm quoting a character in a novel.

You are one hard-headed fool. I'm not having a hard time at all, these have been interesting days and all and all I like my life.

World Can't Wait is not an owned entity. You can repeat internet chatter like it establishes facts all you want, but the world is lived in three dimensions, not one. Neither WCW nor the RCP is even close to drifting towards the Democrats. The RCP is challenging them for the thinking of progressive-minded people.

If you think that's funny, think about who you spend your time challenging and then take that for what it's worth.

I've watched you for some time. Bottom line? A troll with a library card (or at least an internet connection) who knows how to read subheads but not the subtext.

the burningman

My point being, I'm quoting a character who unlearns Christianity in a novel about the breakdown of Ameirca. I thought you'd have appreciated something like that.

Oh, she didn't just tell believers that they're stupid, your prefered form of attack.


redstar2000, if alternative to dialectics is an ignorant positivism, then we have nothing to worry about.

You should actually try reading some Karl Marx. Then you might see that he clearly acknowledges his debt to Hegel throughout his writings, all the way up to, and including the Postface to Capital. Hegel provided Marx with the means to understand the interrelations betwen different phenomena as well as their driving force of their motion: contradiction. Take this away and all you have are "facts." Science is not primarily about uncovering facts but about elaborating their true relations and dynamics. To demonstrate your point, you quote him saying that he did not discover classes or class struggle but did focus on the material basis of human life. None of these points confirm or refute dialectics at all. My poiint about Capital is still valid. No other thinker "using ordinary pedestrian scientific logic and empirical observation" has come up with anything like Capital. That's not because they didn't have the data, it's because they couldn't see how it all related. So, NO, Marx's work would not be the same without dialectics.

Your poke at burningman for quoting a "prophet" is both dishonest and reflecive of your dogmatism. burningman was quoting a fictional character from a novel by an author he admires. Are you saying that only atheist materialists can have any insight into the world? [I AM an atheist, btw] Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that "an injustice anywhere is and injustice everywhere." Should we reject that because he was a christian? Why not show Malcolm X the door as well?

To quote the insightful and often funny non-Marxist, Oscar Wilde: "All of us are in the gutter, some of us are looking at the stars." Others just deny they exist at all.


fellow traveller said: " Can you point out any Marxist economist or thinkers who used these methods to warn of the restoration of capitalism in China and the USSR? "


the unreal john

So Bizarro John, here's the challenge you assert, that the RCP did NOT preach that either war or revolution must take place : "No. In fact I am not wrong. This is a relatively simple matter of fact."

Check your facts, especially the Taking The Self-Criticism Further in Notes on Political Economy(Courtesy of poster)

"Something major had to give and change, and war was the most likely outcome of the contradictions that were converging. It is our sense that if a Gorbachev and what he had unleashed had not materialized, then war probably would have ensued. War, however, was not the only possible outcome. But we did not foresee any other possibility except revolution. The point of our self-criticism is that we should have. And the question is: why didn't we? . . . We veered in the direction of saying that when certain elements appear, war must take place."

What part of that "we did not foresee any other possibility except revolution" do you not understand? What part of "MUST TAKE PLACE" can you not comprehend? Don't tell me what I heard from the mouths of numerous RCP adherents in the 80's or what I've read during and after the fact. Res Ipsa Loquitor

Christopher Day

Real John characterizes my understaning of the mass line as "a mirror for the masses, not a process of revolutionary synthesis and communist leadership."

I've heard this here several times and its horseshit that serves to cover the RCPs repudiation in practice of the mass line (while upholding it in words).

Mao writes "Take the ideas of the masses and concentrate them, then go to the masses, persevere in the ideas and carry them through, so as to form correct ideas of leadership -- such is the basic method of leadership."

This is not holding a mirror up to masses, but neither is it holding a newspaper up to them (not that there isn't a place for newspapers). It does however recognize the masses as having important things to teach revolutionary leaders, and it puts what the masses know at the center of the process of leadership.

The point here is not that the masses don't need leaders and can understand everything they need to know based on their own spontaneous experience of everyday life. The point is that it is the totality of the lived experiences of the masses that constitutes the basis of social reality and that the experiences of the masses do give rise to "spontaneous" understandings of that social reality that contain not just the germs of revolutionary consciousness but also important concrete insights that may not be accessible to the minority of revolutionary leaders. These understandings co-exist with confused and backwards ideas, so there is a critical role for leadership in distillling these advanced ideas and synthesizing them with each other and with the whole body of already developed and tested revolutionary theory (which also it should be noted is the product of this process, whether carried out consciously or not).

The importance of this method of leadership can not be separated from what it is leadership towards, namely communism. And again we return to the central question of the development of popular agency. The point of the mass line is not simply to develop the most advanced analysis of the situation, but to develop the capacities of the masses to apprehend the revolutionary implications of their own experiences and in so doing to become something more than masses to be led, to become self-conscious agents in the revolutionary transformation of their world.

Now it is true that there are complications in all this that are thrown up by the kinds of consciousness that arise spontaneously from the social conditions inside an imperialist country as opposed to, say, pre-revolutionary China. (Here again is an important reason to read Gramsci.) The masses are not homogenous in their experience of social reality and the experiences of some produce spontaneous understandings that are better than others. It IS more difficult to apply this method in the heart of the beast. But that doesn't mean its not neccesary or that one can dispense with the sort of immersion in the lives of the masses that is neccesary to actually carrying it out. Because the lived experiences of the masses inside the United States are an important part of the totality of world capitalism and properly apprehending those distinctive features is critical to really making revolution in this country.

Are there dangers in all this? Absolutely. And obviously this is a method that can't just be applied by individuals, but demands a party (or something like one) able to concentrate the dispersed experiences of its members as leaders of mass struggles and to collectively distill and synthesize the advanced knowledge of the masses into a correct line. And thus our dispute returns to the question of whether such a party exists in the United States. Sadly I think it does not.

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