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March 05, 2007



Crews tear down the Youth House

Christopher Day

I'd like to take issue with Burningman's comment that "When radicals gave up on a better world, they settled for a better apartment."

Of course there is an element of truth in this, but it disregards the vitality of these sorts of centers as bases from which all sorts struggles were waged. To say that people who carved out these spaces had "given up on a better world" is too simplistic. People found ways to fight within particular contexts. The fight for a better world can't be won in one fell swoop, at least not yet. It always involves fights for more limited gains -- whether thats the right to try to build socialism in a desperately poor corner of the world like Nepal or the attempt to defend autonomous spaces in the metropolii. And these fights are always waged by alliances of forces with their eyes on different things -- from improving their own immediate material conditions to emancipation of all humanity. We are (hopefully) coming out of multi-decade period of retreat in which everybody made their compromises. Some settled into defensive battles of spaces claimed in earlier struggles. Some completely abandoned any larger perspective. Others embraced the sectarian comforts of apocalyptic self-certainty. We should be critical of the legacies of each of these choices insofar as they constitute obstacle to moving forward today but also attentive to their respective roles in keeping the struggle and its collective memory alive.

While I appreciate the importance of arguing for a perspective that takes changing the whole world as its goal, I think its a mistake to characterize the outlook of complex struggles like that of the European autonomists crudely as refusing to do so.

There are a lot of folks out there who do take a truly world-encompassing perspective. And this certainly includes many of the autonomists. No single group or trend has a monopoly on this, though some are clearer than others. I'm not arguing here against fighting out the real differences that exist here -- I have big criticisms of the best of the autonomists. But its just wrong to say they settled for a better apartment.


Well... it is true in some fundamental ways, ways that this movement may not conceive of itself but that are nonetheless true. I also wrote a bit more after I got home...

I am a great admirer of these squats and districts, as I was of the closest thing the USA had to it in the pre-Giuliani Lower East Side. They have the feel of rebellion, of autonomy – it influenced me a lot, particularly my genuine respect for people in resitance and the power of it.

What is "autonomism"? Not just the ultra-left authors and articulators, but as a social space that has manifested as differently as Kruetzberg and Chiapas.

What does it mean that they claim "autonomy" in the midst of Scandanavia, perhaps the most regulated societies on earth?

Or, just as I respect what is "horizonatal" in the movements of say Argentina, it's the adding of the "ism" that defines the limit. Autonomism. The limit of autonomy, which America's obsession with "my property" has frankly spoiled me on, is just not enough. It is opting out, carving a niche even if that's not the intention – expand or die, be a catalyst or a kaleidescope.

In Madrid I wandered through Laboratorio 3, a liberated school building that served as a movement "social center" in the heart of the city, in a largely immigrant neighborhood.

The bartender was a German, and most of the inhabitants were of a similar trans-European squatter culture. They were gearing up for a national general strike called by the socialist unions, ran a theater and seemed to have not insignificant support from the surrounding community. They were available for people to run classes and hold meetings.

Wouldn't it be great if New York had something like that? (Read Seth Tobocman's account "War in the Neighborhood" for our best local effort along those lines... it's historically accurate graphic novel of the ABC center seizure.)

It's not by accident I included Rovics reporting as the main body – it captures what has been so inspiring about these centers, and what we can definitely learn from them in a practical sense.

If I were in Denmark right now, I'd be in jail for defending that center. Unity and struggle.

Beyond my criticism of autonomism, I want to repeat how important insurgent social centers can be. They are one model of "base areas" for urbanized, tightly regulated social environments where we have no "hills" to run to.


The revolution we are working at needs to be BOTH a revolution in human consciousness and relations AND a revolutionary uprising against the status quo. Either one without the other is either pointless drop-out-itis OR doomed to both failure and thuggery.

Every approach has it's weakness. It's a dialectic, right? You pick any approach at all, we can (if we are good enough at our analysis) identify the weakness(es), risk(s), and potential pitfall(s) of that approach. That an approach has a weakness doesn't doom it, all approaches do. The question is how to resolve the risk and move to another level.

Yes, without a doubt, that was (and is?) a time of weakness for revolutionaries. Yes, let's not over-romantisize weakness. But you do what you can with what you've got. I want to value the attempt to build a culture of resistance the that autonomen was. Building a culture of resistance and liberation and autonomy IS a very valuable thing, notwithstanding that to do so you have to face the risk of "drop out culture."


This is the crux of Jed's critique of anarchism (loosely defined, or at least of autonomism, or, better yet, non-revolutionary leftism) and as such, it's extremely useful to have it stated so clearly in this post:

"With that in mind: Either we fight for the world, or fight for our own turf. They are not the same thing. There is no as autonomy in this world and there never will be. The retreat into socio-political ghettos in Europe was a surrender to the permanence of the capitalist (welfare) state while playing at war against it. It is people in their millions who will take down European capitalism. In the difference between the suburban riots in France last year and the subcultural resistance of the long-waned autonomous scene – we can see the outlines of new European left that no longer sees itself flowering in the cracks and margins – but which pushes to the very centers of power through the rebellion of working people and their allies, both native born and immigrant."

If I had more time this morning, I'd engage with it. As of now, I'm filing it away for engagement another time. It's a shame Jed and I have such totally divergent political views ... we get along so well otherwise. ;)

So, more to come.



Articulated better or worse, that is my critique of non-revolutionary leftism – or at least my observation. The critique is in dissatisfaction with the intertias of "sub-reformism" among radicals.

Or, as it was put a century and a half ago, against "critical criticism".

While this is is a pole among radicals – it is not and never will be among millions, let alone billions. Forget the world!

There is instead a related tendency – towards identity politics (or "striving") and the grabbing of a piece. See the disintigration of multi-ethnic states and subordination of different peoples under the rule of "their" own "leaders". Or the machinations of Nation of Islam-style "do for self".

It's all over – and so long as these aspectual, reformist, where's mine ideologies predominate, the ruling class rules and we get ruled.

Run out to the country and become an organic farmer. Fast forward a couple decades and you're a supplier for Whole Foods...

Or looked at from another direction, we can resist forever (and capitalism will figure out how to profit from even that) so long as their dictatorship remains untouched. That means the politics of work and ownership, governance and life even among those who carry no affinity for a new way.

We don't just need to transform ourselves, though we do. Civil rights wasn't just something African-Americans "developed" among themselves – at some point, very quickly, they had to come into conflict with the guaranteurs of white supremacy and defeat them.

Winning reforms (the right to vote, legal desegregation, "citizenship") was important and a real breakthrough – but have civil rights transfered into human rights, let alone emancipation?

I think no. I think Bruce Smolka was the cop in NYC who both ran the racist and murderous Street Crimes Unit and under protest was transfered when the SCU was disbanded to where... to supressing protest and the autonomy of Critical Mass.

The state and ruling class it serves are continuous without being overthrown and broken.

In the case of autonomous zones – are they "base areas" in the sense of an outward orientation, or are they "safe spaces" where the like minded can gather in comfort?

While they often begin and conceive of themselves as the former, they often end up as the latter.

Maoists have a developed strategy of developing revolutionary base areas in the course of guerrilla war. These allows for the political development of local populations, including political, social and economic transformation before country-wide seizure of power. This was described in fascinating detail in two key books on China: Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China and William Hinton's Fanshen.

That we haven't found the way to do this in highly regulated capitalist countries, where dissent is commodified and there is little "hiding room" from a near omnipresent state.

If the construction of autonomy supports a larger revolutionary process – then of course all support is due. But too often autonomy is fetishized into autonomism and defines its own limits far more ably than the state could impose.

Chuck Morse

Jed, I think you raise some legitimate concerns, but you’re wrong to suggest that the autonomist movement was merely a retreat. The squats in Europe and the US became hotbeds of radical activity during their heyday and made significant contributions to the anti-nuclear movement, the environmental movement, the women’s movement, and anti-racist activism generally. You should study it a bit: after all, the Maoist record on these things—particularly the first three—is pretty dismal.

You say that the squats will never mobilize millions. Well, that’s not the point, and even their most uncritical advocates see them as just one part of a larger movement for social change. The squatters’ movement was a pertinent intervention for its time, when the dominant form of urban development reduced whole neighborhoods to piles of rubble. Yes, circumstances have changed and the movement has faded, but dismissing it as a retreat doesn’t make any sense.

For anyone who would like to genuinely study the movement, I would recommend The Subversion of Politics by Georgy Katsiaficas (AK Press)


That book is an excellent suggestion, properly titled: The Subversion of Politics Among Those So Inclined. Because as the Danish state just demonstrated, you can ignore it – but it doesn't have to ignore you.

Regarding Maoism and women's liberation: I don't think you have any idea what you're talking about.

Regarding the anti-nuclear movement: how did that work out? Indian Point is powering my computer as I type right now and the US is threatening Iran with nuclear weapons every single day.

Regarding the environmental movement: this was indeed something not understood very well by socialist countries. The wasteland of the Aral Sea, for example – or the toxification of China. There was a belief that the natural world was a resource haven, not something we live in tandem with that everybody was wrong on – and that we can learn from critically. I think we have, which might be an intersting thread... what of the "forces of production" and the idea that just making "more" means making better?

Speaking personally, I worked for Greenpeace for two years (as a donor developer) until I became politically unable to work for them in the run-up to the 1992 elections and their tacit support of Clinton/Gore and some union-busting on their part.

But the underlying issue, which comes up again and again isn't the particularities of these movements, but what their goals are and to what extent they can be successful on their own terms.

Chuck and Chris are right that my sketch didn't do justice to the European autonomists, but I maintain that they don't do justice to themselves!

It wasn't "merely" a retreat – but over time the "expand or die" maxim is correct. When the issue became "defense of autonomy", however powerful, they (conceptually) separated from the larger society in which they are inexorably enmeshed and the intrinsic subcultural tendencies were reinforced until they became dominant.

Look at the footage of the protests. It is monocultural. That doesn't mean they are bad or "wrong." It means they have defined their own limit. That's all I'm saying. And in that way, they can't win anything more than the "temporary autonomous zone" that Hakim "man/boy love" Bey valorized in his rightly famous essay of the same name.

In other words, autonomism didn't subvert politics in any real sense beyond the subcultures it articulated. It removed, over time, a significant layer of revolutionary activists from the very goal of overthrowing the ruling class and politically organizing the broad masses of people beyond those with these subcultural affinities.

In my own case, I share many of those affinities. But! To put a point on it, I'm not surprised that the Youth House's kitchen was vegan.

In terms of reading... I'd recommend a couple more books.

Antonio Negri's Books For Burning, recently issued by Verso Press, and again Seth Tobocman's War in the Neighborhood. For New York (and American) readers, Seth's book gives an intimate portrait of a sustained struggle for "space" – including the dispair, madness and refusal to surrender that defined the Lower East Side squatter scene.

To understand autonomy, let's understand who it appeals to, what it actually constructs and what we can learn from it both in the positive and negative sense.

Yes! Make change in our lives and establish non-sectarian centers of social life, political struggle and resistance.

No! Let's not limit this to voluntary affinity or our own personal choices.

Expand or die: base areas not autonomy. Revolution, not subculture.

Chuck Morse

Jed, I'd assume that you regard anything less than a Maoist vanguard party as a retreat or compromise. I strongly disagree with that perspective.


"Look at the footage of the protests. It is monocultural. That doesn't mean they are bad or "wrong." It means they have defined their own limit. That's all I'm saying. And in that way, they can't win anything more than the "temporary autonomous zone" that Hakim "man/boy love" Bey valorized in his rightly famous essay of the same name."

The simple fact that the objective revolution fetishists don't want to mention is that 'the people' define the limits ultimately. If you look at European countries there is a tacit level of charm towards revolutionary movements however as long as 'the people' want to talk about them in the comfort of their bourgeois existence the prevailing order goes on. The simply fact is the vanguard types ignore the role of peoples will in all of this. The rulling class does not exist as an automaton but exists through the Danes own will to power. As long as you have those who on a personal level believe in law and order and other old civilized spooks you will have the discourse that busts up the Ungdomshusets. You cannot ultimately control what people do but you can control what you do and those who you find affinity with. The fact is human agency is not a homogenous entity but a fairly nebulous set of desires. You can never really hope to turn that into some abstract mass, it doesn't happen.

For those of us who see revolution as an ongoing everyday process, the end of ungdomshuset simply represents another begining.


That's funny, Chuck – I disagree with that kind of ideologism, too. I don't think liberation is a zero sum game.

One thing I will say for autonomism is that it ADMITS AND CELEBRATES the concession I discuss by treating "power" as an ahistorical quality that one either sadomasochistically covets or dispenses with altogether through upholding "autonomy" as a value in and of itself.

In a country where the mantra of white supremacy has been "states rights", it shouldn't be any surprise that I'm skeptical of treating autonomy as a value in its own right, let alone one by which to define and organize a liberated society.

This talk of concession is not something I'm making up. I was just re-reading RJ Mancini's interesting exposition on the Zapatista "Sixth". Socialism is equated, as always (though somewhat agnosticallY) as "discredited" and tyranical, and the politics of affinity and autonomy advanced without serious interogation into why it doesn't happen. It is through definition by acceptance and promotion of anti-communist narrative that the incoherence of various anti-authoritarian narratives is made. The result is anti-politics, intended or otherwise.

You know who wants autonomy from the "state"? – The neoliberal order. They want civil society (meaning not just book clubs and churches, but commerce!) to be free from any democratic, popular oversight. That mechanism of oversight (call it dicatatorship) is the state.

In the hands of the proletariat and their political representatives it means BREAKING the social and economic power of the bourgeoisie – something autonomism explicitly rejects. Not me saying they reject it! That's the point. Autonomy. NOT a dictatorship of the proletariat, let alone something so "limiting" as a proletarian movement.

Take it up with them. Being a careful observer doesn't make me doctrinaire or narrow. I've spent years of my life in and around such culture of resistance spatial movements and helped to build them. I know the dialect. What I refuse to do is just wave my hand at the philosophy's inconsistencies and self-contradictions.

And yes, it is revolutionary communism that can free this world, not alone or in opposition to other liberation currents – but in synthesizing what is best in them and helping back them up with power. What autonomism sees as narrow is in fact broad and must involve social rebellion in all the ways particular to our time.

For a recent example, see how the CPN-M is building a federated, democratic country – or trying like hell to do so. See what obstacles they are encountering, in the form of politicians who equate their own patronage with "democracy" and foreign powers who keep the menace of F-16s in the air.

Maoists don't seek monolithic states, they don't build monolithic parties. They seek to make possible the active participation of oppressed people in the administration and governance of all society, something impossible under the dicatorship of the bourgeoisie.

Youth House got torn down. The Lower East Side got gentrified. Argentina didn't get "que se vayan todos" – they got Kirshner. Governments change, the class dictatorship is the same.

Question for Chuck – why do you think we both support APPO in Mexico? Or, what in Maoism do you think upholds something like that?


"Or looked at from another direction, we can resist forever (and capitalism will figure out how to profit from even that) so long as their dictatorship remains untouched."

Sure. But we can't touch their dictatorship without resisting.

"We don't just need to transform ourselves, though we do."

Exactly. We need to do both. Some focus too much on one, some focus too much on the other. It's not enough to identify the _weakness_ of an approach (The weakness of the autonomen is a failure to directly challenge the state). Every single approach has a weakness. Including your own-- so far-- or else we'd be there already, no? The question is how to identify the strengths and minimize the weaknesses, how to combine approaches to harmonically maximize strengths and avoid pitfalls.

"Civil rights wasn't just something African-Americans "developed" among themselves – at some point, very quickly, they had to come into conflict with the guaranteurs of white supremacy and defeat them."

The autonomen _thought_ they were building a conflict with capitalism, but they were in fact, in retrospect, wrong. Why were they wrong? You can say "because they should have done it my way," but your way hasn't been right (yet) either.

The Weather Underground _thought_ they were building a conflict with capitalism too, but they too were wrong. (Although they _appeared_ to be taking considerably more personal risk than the typical autonomen. But risk alone isn't to be valorized. And in the end, they could 'come in from the cold' just like the autonomen can.)

Desire alone to have good outcome is not enough, not on YOUR part either. These are tough problems.

The BPP thought they were building a conflict with capitalism and white supremacy... maybe they were and they just lost the conflict? But I don't think that's it entirely either. All of these people lost the conflict in the end, they just lost it in differnet ways. They all struggled, as we continue to.


Too bad nobody was selling Bob Avakian DVDs and handing out green placards there in Copenhagen.

Christopher Day

I want to take up a comment that Chuck made and that Jed responded to above.

Chuck said "The squats in Europe and the US became hotbeds of radical activity during their heyday and made significant contributions to the anti-nuclear movement, the environmental movement, the women’s movement, and anti-racist activism generally. You should study it a bit: after all, the Maoist record on these things—particularly the first three—is pretty dismal."

Jed responded "Regarding Maoism and women's liberation: I don't think you have any idea what you're talking about."

In Chuck's defense I think its fair to say that at the high-tide of Maoism in the U.S. in the 1970s that most of the Maoist parties had pretty shabby relations with the women's liberation movement. The Maoists participated in the fight for reproductive rights, and there were certainly internal struggles against male chauvinism in probably every group (with presumably uneven results). But there was also a generally contemptuous attitude towards a broad swath of struggle that was tarred as "bourgeois feminism." This was not unconnected to the even worse attitude towards GLBT liberation struggles.

In retrospect we should see the errors that were committed and we can strive to learn from them. But it seems to me that what Chuck wants to do here is to act like nothing has happened since then. Look, things develop unevenly. The efforts to build a new communist movement in the US in the 1970s were plagued with all the dogmatism and lunacy one might expect when groups composed mainly of recently radicalized students attempt to implant themselves in the working class with precious little historical experience at their disposal. One form of that was the embrace of frankly conservative attitudes on gender and sexuality under the banner of "proletarian morality."

But Jed's response goes to a deeper point. What is Maoism can't simply be grasped by looking at the behavior of tiny groups trying to make a go of it under the extremely adverse conditiosn that have existed in the U.S..

I would be very hard pressed to identify a more sweeping transformation of the conditions of a larger number of women than what occurred in China as a result of the revolution led by Mao Ze Dong. In fact I don't think it can be done. And I think we should not underestimate what that example meant not just in China but for women around the world, including in the U.S..

There were many factors that contributed to the appearance of the womens liberation movement in the U.S. in the 1960s. One that I think has recieved little attention has been the ideological contest with the Soviet Union and then China that exposed the profound limits on womens freedom in liberal capitalist Western democracies. Most folks understand that the U.S. ruling class was compelled to support civil rights for Black folks in part because of the ideological contest occurring in the Third World. There has been less attention to how this also fueled the women's liberation struggle.

The anti-communist ideology in the U.S. is so dense that many sincere progressives and radicals are completely unaware of how the Russian and Chinese Revolutions shook up traditions and assumptions around the world in ways that unleashed all sorts of struggles that may not themselves have been under communist leadership. And of course many of the communists who did play leading roles in the early Gay and women's movements were compelled to hide their communism. This was the case, for eaxmple, with both Betty Friedan and Harry Hay.


Chris – I'd argue that the women's libeartion movement was not defined by Radical Feminism, and that the conflict of revolutionary women involved in building the communist movement with that particular trend is a misreading on then and now.

Built into the "movement-centered" model is that any identity movement is more "authentic" than those movements which have a partisan goal.

Of course, this meant things like Susan Brownmiller going at it with black nationalists – as if either of those trends represented the means by which the groups they (essentialized and) spoke for would achieve liberation.

Thousands of women in the women's liberation movement didn't go through the radical feminist (essentialized) mill, any more than Weatherman represented "white anti-racism."

So I'm directly disagreeing with Chuck's assessment.

The best of the women's liberation movement became communists. They made a class conscious decision to fight for all humanity's liberation, rejected campaigning for the ERA and blaming men as men for the condition of patriarchy.

Was that the dominant position? No, it's wasn't. But as with all movements, with socialism off the table it developed in two directions: towards feminist autonomy models (short-lived, no doubt) and liberal/legal solutions and orientation.

With these two poles defining each other within "feminism" as feminism, neither felt the need to engage (in a practical way) the revolutionary critique that sees patriarchy, white supremacy and capitialism as mutually reinforcing systems of oppression.

No doubt many individual activists did – but as movements they did not.


Regarding Chris's note on the conservative (franky bourgeois) moralistic notions of the early Maoist movement, I totally agree. It was terrible, but not nearly as universal as made out to be.

The communists I know from that era have a wide variety of morality on sexual questions, though one thing stands out: they viewed sexual questions, including morality, primarily through the lens of women's liberation – stated as such – and not to find some new means of subordinating them.

The practice of groups varied widely. Some kids I went to high school had a step-dad who was a honcho in a nominally Maoist group who was a wife-beater. His party covered it up and wrote her off as crazy. That was shocking to me.

My experience in RCP circles was that women were over-repesented in leadership, that they led by line and not because of internal affirmative action – but from a deap seated communist morality of gender equality. Some people married, some did not. But predatory sexual behavior, abuse or casual chauvinism were not tolerated.

Some people found that problematic, most more libertarian folks.

But as a whole, the RCP has consistenly dedicated itself to fighting for women's right to public life and leadership as part of (and in many ways the measure of) the liberation movement.

It wasn't just China's "change of sky"... or Edith Lagos in Ayacucho, Peru leading jail breaks and writing poetry... or the currently inspiring women's liberation movement in South Asia. It is everywhere Maoism has developed one of the KEY differences.

After all, looking around more than a few leftists have been treating Islamic fundamentalism as a "liberation" movement because it is partially in conflict with immediate US goals.

The RCP was criticized fairly sharply in some quarters for supporting the Iranian women-led Karzar movement against gender apartheid and theocracy. After all, wasn't that "handing ammunition to the imperialists"?

No, no it isn't. Communism isn't just an anti-imperialist movement.

When Avakian writes about the "Three Alternative Worlds" – this is the rub between the revisionist model of "books and dentures" as defining socialism as a developed welfare state and the revolutionary communist vision of a world where the oppressed come into the ownership and administration of all society.

It's the difference between demanding "stable families" with "role models" and such, and seeing agency and conscious participation as the goal.

So yeah, I totally take issue with Chuck equating women's liberation with the Radical Feminist movement – because it's not true. To the extent it was true, it was a problem. Liberation isn't the sum total of myriad identity movements all (magically) getting their piece.... which is why that discussion gets brought in here.

The logic of "space" is consistent, if incoherent.


And speaking of lunacy: nothing the revolutionary communists did, however problematic, compares with those who went on to support the Democratic Party. Nothing.

Maybe it takes a degree of madness to believe people can overthrow this monster.

But it's beyond crazy to support the party that developed and used nuclear weapons, who conducted the genocide in Indochina and who've treated Israel as a gospel.

Who then have the nerve to speak of the people and what they need.

So let's keep the "lunacy" in perspective when we're discussing the most advanced section of the movement that saw through the insanity of everyday life.

Chuck Morse

Jed, I didn’t (as you allege) equate “women's liberation with the Radical Feminist movement.” You’re attributing things to me that didn’t say.

With respect to the question at hand, your party (the RCP) and your movement (Maoism) urged people to heed conventional sexual norms at a time when women around the country were actively mobilized against them (i.e., during the highpoint of the women’s liberation movement). The RCP in particular and Maoists in general played a reactionary role at a pivotal moment in American history. Sorry, but the historical record is unambiguous.

To evoke the Shining Path as a counter-example is absurd. You allege that Maoists “make possible the active participation of oppressed people in the administration and governance of all society” and yet celebrate a group that murdered peasants activists who refused to follow its orders. ... Wow. You’ve outdone yourself.

Christopher Day


Sendero is not a model of a revolutionary movement that I particularly uphold. Their commandism and militarism led them into a logic that went from murderous sectarianism to capitulation. I think Jed understands this. But it isn't the whole picture. Sendero enjoyed massive popular support in spite of their (IMHO criminal) errors because they really did challenge both the racist oppression of the indigenous population and the subordiantion of women. Polls taken by bourgeois polling firms found that 25% of Peruvians sympathized with Sendero. They squandered this support by pursuing the line that they did, but we should resist the temptation to regurgitate the one-dimensional represenation of them that was so aggressively promoted by the capitalist media and the (shamefully) "respectable" left. This is particularly important when we are trying to understand what their contribution was or wasn't to the struggle for women's liberation.

Finally, guerrilla armies kill their political rivals. Sometimes they kill people they shouldn't or get a little bloodthirsty. The Spanish anarchists did it. The Zapatistas did it. There are a couple incidents in the history of the EZLN that the apologists for the Mexican state have tried to use to discredit them. I'd like to think the Zapatista's international supporters rejected these attempts because they understand the inherent contradictions of waging war to liberate people, but the truth is that they are mainly unaware of the charges because they don't bother to read what their opponents write and/or are completely uncritical in their readings of what the Z have to say about themselves. This is good for the Zapatistas I suppose, but its bad for the development of the critical thinking skills of the anti-capitalist left that so admires the Z. And in the long run it could come at a price when the Z fail to behave like saints.

If the conflict in Chiapas becomes a shooting war again, the Zapatistas are going to have to deal with a complex array of more and less independent campesino formations some of which will be collaborating with forces trying to kill them. The leadership of the paramilitaries that terrorized Zapatista communities in the late 90s included no small number of school teachers and one-time "independent campesino leaders." These things can be messy. So I'm not going to abandon them if they make some mistakes and kill some people that from the comfort of Brooklyn I might not think they should.

I'm not saying that the Zapatistas committed anything like the errors that Sendero did in this respect (they've committed their own kind of errors), but that we should be very careful about repeating simplistic characterizations of complex phenomena. In short it is very possible for a group to both sincerely strive to “make possible the active participation of oppressed people in the administration and governance of all society” and also kill "peasants activists who refuse to follow its orders."

Chuck Morse


Sure, the Zapatistas (and Spanish anarchists) committed errors and people died that should not have. Yes, accidents happen, especially in a guerrilla war. However, the Shinning Path set out to exterminate its political rivals. This was not an accident, but rather policy. That's very different.

It is rather Orwellian for Jed call for “the active participation of oppressed people in the administration and governance of all society” while celebrating the Shining Path (and a tradition that celebrates Stalin).


Good luck getting Chuck to "resist the temptation", Chris. Why should he? The anarchist political identity only makes sense when the capitalist party line on socialism is taken as gospel. "Everybody" knows that the sun only shines in the Free World... They call Chavez a tyrant for winning elections and delivering the goods for his people. Imagine if Venezuela actually moved to socialism?

No doubt every person who died of old age would be counted as a "victim"... and Chuck would pass it along.

It was rather Orwellian of Orwell to decry totalitarianism while serving as a snitch. The world is full of ironies.

When did you become a pacifist?

The Communist Party of Peru did not have a policy of massacres. They didn't. They did have a policy of killing people who snitched and also those who joined "ronda" paramilitary death squads... made up of peasants who "didn't follow orders" from the PCP, but certainly followed orders from the military defending the grotesque regime that is still ruling Peru. That's what happens in civil wars.

You think Franco's troops were all bourgeois? Or that thousands of priests, nuns and other Catholics weren't "slaughtered" by the anarchists? 6,000+ is the count I saw. Not soldiers. Priests and nuns.

Were those acceptable killings because the Catholic hierachy (and body) collaborated with Franco?

I'd say yes, yes they were. But for you force is reserved for those with the correct vocabulary, and for the millions who have fought against capitalism with the tumerity to do more than lose (and cry betrayal) you have nothing but scorn.

Imagine: the anarchists of Spain tried to burn down the architectural wonder of Barcelona, La Sangrada Familia cathedral because it was a reactionary monument. Arsonists burned the architectural drawings.

Does that mean you are for terror-mob censorship of religious freedom and avantgarde artistic expression? Turning your own method on yourself, obviously you would be.

Anarchism, a philosophy known for promoting bombing, arson and assassination with no concept of "rights" for the accused. A small group meets, decrees and executes – calling it "propaganda of the deed" when the act is written in blood.

Don't cry tyranny to me when anarchism is all about the right of the self-appointed to impose their ideas on others without the recourse of any right of appeal or even organizational accountability.

Most Maoists I know are critical of the PCP, for militarism, sectarianism and (get ready!) the authoritarianism of their "jefatura" political line. Maoists are not critical of the PCP for making revolution, or defending themselves against death squads and snitches.

What do you think popular armies should do when their comrades are arrested, tortured and killed because a known person snitched on them?

How do you think paramilitaries should be dealt with?


Yes. Edith Lagos was a hero, who, as is so often the case with your startlingly shallow anti-communism here displayed, I suspect you know literally nothing about.

A school teacher and commander of the first Ayacucho brigades, she was killed after two separate prison escapes. She was mourned by half the capital city of her district, then under martial law, when she was killed in cold blood in the early 80s.

Maybe the PCP was doing something more than "massacring peasants" – at least every serious assessment of them said so, some of which I have linked on this site. Liberals hated them with a passion. Liberals are the ones who dropped nukes on Japan, carried Jim Crow and launched the genocide in Vietnam to stop those "Stalinists" from coming to power.

"The Shinning Path set out to exterminate its political rivals."

That is an outright lie.

Christopher Day


Jed is right that your arguments are boiler-plate anti-communism. There is a wide range of views here on both Sendero and Stalin. What there isn't is a willingness to uncritically swallow the popular wisdom without chewing. So please take the time to chew.

Chuck is an idiot.

Chuck Morse


Instead of just declaring that my comments are “boiler plate anti-communism”--which is as silly as it is untrue--why don't you explain where you differ from me? Make an argument and back it up with logic and/or facts. Then we can have a discussion.

Christopher Day


Sweeping one-sentence declarations that assume the demonic character of Sendero or whoever aren't a serious starting point for an argument. But they ARE "boiler-plate anti-communism" in the sense that they are as devoid of content as they are utterly predictable. They suggest no depth of knowledge about Sendero beyond what any casual reader of the New York Times might have acquired. I don't claim much more expertise except enough additional reading to realize the complete inadequacy of the NYT version.

In a discussion of the Maoist contribution to women's liberation, Jed invoked the (impressive) accomplishments of a Sendero woman and you went into anti-communist auto-pilot. There isn't really anything to argue with.

Chuck Morse

Hi Chris,

Well, that’s at least kind of a reply, but I think you’ve misread my comments. I challenged Jed’s suggestion that the Shining Path made “possible the active participation of oppressed people in the administration and governance of all society” (as you will recall, this began as a broader discussion of strategies for social change).

The truth is that the Shining Path tolerated no power other than its own in its zones of influence (which, of course, it aggressively sought to expand). It was not the "oppressed people" who called the shots, but the party. Do you disagree?

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