Rules of the road

Kasama

On the Shelf

« Dare to Struggle: A report from the SDS National Convention | Main | Up on the Mountain, Down on the Ground »

August 12, 2007

Comments

independentmaoist

A few posts ago, Chris wrote: "The question I have is what the actual material basis of revisionism is? Is it location within particular sectors of the economy, particular strata within the party/state, or is it more elementary, that is to say in the basic relationship of the party/state to the masses? If the argument is that it is the former, what sort of empirical studies have been done of the political orientation of party/state personnel that supports this claim? "

I think it's BOTH in the sense that the emergence of new bourgeois elements is rooted in the contradictory nature of socialist society itself, which includes great differences between mental and manual labor, the differences between people in leading positions in the state and party and the masses of working people, and many other class-based inequalities inherited from the old society and continually regenerated in socialist society (which is why they have to be restricted step by step and eventually eliminated on the socialist road to communism). This question is addressed in a paper by the MLM Revolutionary Study Group, "Evaluating the Cultural Revolution in China and its Legacy for the Future" (pp. 21-23):

"Mao’s analysis led to the path-breaking understanding that, beyond the remnants of the old exploiting classes, the contradictions in socialist society itself give rise to new bourgeois elements, which can coalesce into a new bourgeoisie. This understanding was described by William Hinton based on his experience with the Chinese Revolution.

"Socialism must be regarded as a transition from capitalism to communism (or in the case of China from new democracy to communism). As such it bears within it many contradictions, many inequalities that cannot be done away with overnight or even in the course of several years or several decades. These inequalities are inherited from the old society, such things as pay differentials between skilled and unskilled work and between mental and manual work, such things as the differences between the economic, educational, and cultural opportunities available in the city and in the countryside. As long as these inequalities exist they generate privilege, individualism, careerism and bourgeois ideology…. They can and do create new bourgeois individuals who gather as a new privileged elite and ultimately as a new exploiting class. Thus socialism can be peacefully transformed back into capitalism."

Thus the birthmarks of the old society continue to be reproduced in new configurations in socialist society. There are still substantial disparities in decision making power, wealth (varying salaries and living conditions) and access to social resources such as education, culture and information. This is the material basis for the development of new bourgeois forces in socialist society and within the Communist Party itself.....

In a country advancing on the socialist road, the Communist Party is the leading force in the state owned and collectively owned enterprises, and in the government at all levels. The decisive debates and struggle over economic development, foreign policy, education, culture and the direction of society as a whole take place in the party. Therefore, newly arisen bourgeois forces group themselves and aspire to high positions in the party.

The bourgeoisie in the party is in a position to advocate and implement policies that can, if not checked, pull the country off the socialist road. These revisionist policies defend and widen differences in wealth, decision making power and other social resources, and appeal to narrow self-interest, thereby creating a base of support among more privileged strata such as government administrators, managers, technicians and intellectuals.

Bourgeois elements in the party also promote political passivity and fight tooth and nail against campaigns that mobilize the masses of people to more directly and consciously determine the overall direction of socialist society. They assert that the class struggle is over both inside the party and in society as a whole, and that the main task is economic development of the productive forces. They then claim that revolutionary politics stands in the way of achieving these economic goals.

Thus, what defines the bourgeoisie in the party, as a class, is their concentration in leading positions in the party and a consolidated revisionist political line that has developed in opposition to a revolutionary line. If they are able to unite around a common political program and implement this program in significant sections of the government, the economy, the educational system, the armed forces and, most importantly throughout the party itself, they may be able to seize power and set up a new form of capitalism with socialist trappings. Hence, Maoists refer to this new bourgeoisie in the party as “capitalist roaders.”

This 85 page paper is posted at www.mlgrsg.com. It has a great deal of detail about how the political struggle between revolutionary and revisionist lines and policies played out during the Cultural Revolution in factories, farm collectives, schools, medical clinics, the theatre, etc., and refers to many in-depth empirical studies of these events.

ShineThePath

Few things...I am not acting in bad faith at all, I just want to get to the kernel of this like everyone else.

Here are my concerns, R.John, you repeatedly say that this document purposely fudges Mao's actual thesis on revisionisms' rise in the USSR. But I like to precisely know how? The CPC and Mao himself did not name the USSR a "state-capitalist" state until the early mid 60s', and while attacking Khruschev's revisionism, they did not cool relations and maintained an open dialog and hope for Khruschev's revisionism to be overthrown.

Mao himself didn't even start commenting on Khruschev's revisionism until 1957, he supported the Soviet Union's crack down on the Budapest uprisings after the 20th Congress speech was widely known, and even commented to early to the PLA (Party of Labor of Albania...which was the earliest to rebuff Khruschev on his speech)that they thought Khruschev's speech was right.

Is it not wise to say that Mao and the CPC was proceeding in the same way the "Mensheviks" were doing so? Cautiously analyzing the situation of a fraternal party rather than jumping to conclusions based on a speech. The 20th Congress was an Event, it marked in many ways the consolidation of revisionist forces within the CPSU, but that can only be realized after a "preponderence of the evidence."

I think the question comes down to, were the revolutionary Marxist-Leninists beaten by the 20th Congress. I just don't think so, is it not the Politburo crisis that properly is the defear of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in the USSR? How can it be the 20th Congress, when Khruschev was trying to be replaced by the Politburo to which he was subject to for precisely the reasons of the 20th Congress and his utter liberalism?

r. john

Over the last week, I have been reading this paper by the MLM Revolutionary Study Group, "Evaluating the Cultural Revolution in China and its Legacy for the Future."

And i agree with IM's assessment that

"It has a great deal of detail about how the political struggle between revolutionary and revisionist lines and policies played out during the Cultural Revolution in factories, farm collectives, schools, medical clinics, the theatre, etc., and refers to many in-depth empirical studies of these events."

And studying a paper like that would be a good starting point for hiking up the level of discussion even further. As JB noted: to wage a counteroffensive against the anti-communist verdicts, we really do need a scientific ass essment of the both previous socialist revolutions, and popular ways of presenting that broadly to a new generation.

When that discussion happens, I would have things to say about the MLMRSG document -- but I certainly think it is a contribution toward what we need.

zerohour

To go bakc to an earlier point, r. john said: "And there is also the constant phenom of the masses rising to struggle, confronting their tormentors, seeking philosophy and politics for liberation (and conversely, for consolation)." Yes, and I think we need more study of this phenomenon.

I am not raising an argument to displace the leading role of a party in the revolutionary process, just trying to flesh out a framework which includes the masses in the making of ideology, not simply receptacles of it. I understand why we must fight for a view from the top in this period with the prevalence of reductive localism among the left. At the same time, we need to have a strong account of localized struggles and their interrelations with struggles at the top. Focusing on the "primary contradiction" is too static, we need to be looking at emerging contradictions as well.

It's all well and fine to refer to The People for broader theoretical reasons, but we need to also talk about...the people.

Class struggle won't be exclusively decided "in the street" but that is one place it gets expressed. Why leave it out of the picture?

The failure of revolutionary politics to achieve cohesion among the masses outside of Party mobilization might be a key part of how the Chinese Revolution can be reversed the way it was. For now, we've only been concentrating on the Party's role, but what about the masses? To say they were mobilized under different lines re-raises the question I asked: are the masses just passively waiting to be mobilized from elsewhere? Is it possible they mobilized THEMSELVES under different lines? If so, why? Understanding this part of it is crucial for revolutionary strategy.

r. John

STP writes: "I am not acting in bad faith at all, I just want to get to the kernel of this like everyone else."

Hehe. STP, you force me (yet again) to start by saying you are misrepresenting what was said. No one suggested that YOU acted in bad faith.

Please read JB's words again:

"Friend STP... Slow up and try to assume the good faith of people talking. I've seen you snap off a few times here on the wrong tangent, not just today you know."

We are patiently struggling with you to actually deal with people's real arguments.

* * * * * * * *
STP, I believe you raise some important questions that I think we need to engage around.

STP: "you repeatedly say that this document purposely fudges Mao's actual thesis on revisionisms' rise in the USSR. But I like to precisely know how?"

Mao’s thesis was both important and typically pithy: “the rise to power of revisionism is the rise of the bourgeoisie.” (This concentrated summation of Mao’s theoretical conclusions after the Soviet experience is generally dated August 1964.)

And what I (and others) have pointed out is that the Declaration claims to uphold Mao while clearly OBSCURING the actual line issues on this key issue.

To repeat: the Declaration separates the rise of revisionism from the "full restoration" of capitalism. And, as part of that: it situates the emergence of revisionism fundamentally in the ideological corrosion of the “bureaucrats” (and plops in the cherished formulation of the German signatory party MLPD, that the core problem is “the petty bourgeois mode of thinking”).
To give the full formulation from the Declaration:
“Hankering for personal privileges, nepotism, careerism, abuse of power, enrichment and other forms of self-interest, those afflicted with the petty bourgeois mode of thinking gain the upper hand among the leading functionaries in the party, state, economy and cultural institutions and give rise to modern revisionism as bourgeois ideology and as platform for bourgeois policies.”
It is a thesis sharply opposed to the analysis of Mao (and the Four) -- which stresses ( a ) that there are profoundly material causes within socialism itself -- in the persistence of capitalist relations, bourgeois right, and commodity exchange – and ( b ) that these things lead to the emergence of a new bourgeoisie (not a petty bourgeoisie!) based on those contradictions within socialist society.

There is a struggle over roads in society – over whether the society will become capitalist or communist. And it is a struggle between representatives of opposing classes: the proletariat and the new bourgeoisie.

Revisionism is not (fundamentally) the corruption or laxness or greedyness of “the bureaucrats.” Or rooted in the rise of “petty bourgeois modes of thinking.” (though such phenomena exist, obviously).

As Mao said: you are fighting, but you don’t know where the enemy is. And in fact, this MLPD thesis has far more in common with the other well known workerist theories (theories that also talk of corrupt “bureaucracy” infecting the “workers state”) than it has with MLM.

The formulations injected here, as I said, are familiar – and part of the larger, extreme and rather notorious “workerist” economism of the MLPD.

This party has long situated the solution to socialism’s problems in the “proletarianization” of the whole population and the government cadre in both lifestyle and ideology – rather than, as Mao did, in the defeat of the bourgeois headquarters, the communist transformation of worldview, and the successive restriction of bourgeois right through the development of “socialist new things.”

* * * * * *

To step back a bit:

The restoration of capitalism is a world-historic problem. It has proven much more of a problem than anyone anticipated (prior to 1956). And in fact, the whole first wave of socialist revolutions (Russia and China in particular) has now been reversed.

We not only have no socialist countries left, we have a quite generalized (and incorrect) social verdict weighing against our efforts: i.e. that communism itself “failed,” and that socialism proved worse than capitalism.

So we need to analyze why restoration happened (and why it was met with some mix of popular paralysis and even some popular support).

And we need to posit how we can “do better” – who would give us a hearing if we didn’t do this soberly, honestly, systematically, fearlessly and creatively?

And there is raging controversy in the ICM (loosely speaking) over how to do this and over whether to do this.

Let me be crude for a second (the characterizations that follow are very loose descriptions of far more complex positions):

One question on the table is whether the developments that characterize Maoism are simply enough to solve the problems facing the people of the world.

Some say they are, and imply that a new synthesis (new leaps) beyond Mao is NOT urgently needed in communist theory.

For example, in the Worker 10, Ajith of the CPI (ML) Naxalbari argues that the key leap that needs to be made by communists is from Mao Tsetung Thought to Maoism, i.e. that the key task is “establishing Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM) as the commander and guide of world proletarian revolution.”

This is a view that corresponds with the outlook of supporters of the Peruvian PCP who also use this formulation, and it was even briefly adopted by the RIM at one point in 1993. (http://www.csrp.org/rim/longlivemlm.htm)

Ajith quotes a PCP document to the effect that, “...it is vital and urgent to analyze Maoism again, aiming to define more and better its content and meaning, guided by the judgment that to hoist, defend and apply Maoism is the essence of the struggle between Marxism and revisionism in the present." (nota bene: in the present!)
(http://nepal.singlespark.org/?id=worker10xx)

Ajith puts forward an essentially religious view of doctrine – i.e. that new ideas must be measured against existing understandings of MLM (as opposed to also measuring MLM itself critically against reality and new ideas):

“New, deeper, advanced grasp of existing theories can emerge. New concepts can be developed. Whether this is so, must be judged principally on the basis of MLM.... If the lessons of a particular revolution stand the test of MLM, if they show a new way of knowing and doing, then those lessons must necessarily be upheld and applied.”

There is a similarity between this view and Lin Biao’s formulation that Mao’s contributions are the “acme of Marxism-Leninism” – i.e. that MLM is not a synthesis representing our current best understandings, but instead something ultimate and final.

This view exists in contrast to a view that says there is an urgent need to take a leap beyond Maoism based on both defense of Maoism’s advances and new creative work. I.e. that it is necessary to critically study the world experience with socialist transition so far to do so (something Avakian stresses) and that it is necessary to develop new innovations in the course of living class struggle to uncover new scientific universalities (something the CPNM stresses).

In light of this major controversy in the ICM, you can see and evaluate the stand taken by this Declaration:

“Comrade Mao has bequeathed to us a legacy with which we can combat and defeat modern revisionism and with which we can revive and further develop the forces of socialism.”

Here they come down on the side of “sufficient.”

And then later in the same declaration, they say:
“It is not enough to defend Marxism-Leninism and Maoism in order to generate a new upswing in the struggle for genuine socialism. The international Marxist-Leninist and working class movement must draw the lessons from the defeat of socialism by revisionism and from the successes of the 50 years of struggle against revisionism.”

Here they come down on the side of “drawing lessons” – but then specifically do NOT upholding Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (i.e. defend Maoism as a major historic leap in communist theory).

* * * * *

At the same time, all the various forces in the ICM put forward their views on how to solve the problems of restoration.

Again to be crude:

The Peruvian party, through Gonzalo, promoted a rather grim view of “continuing peoples war until communism.” This view envisions more and more waves of cultural revolutions to communism, with the added theoretical thesis that society as a whole needed to be “militarized” in concentric circles etc.

For example: “President Gonzalo set forth the militarization of the Communist Parties and the concentric building of the three instruments. The militarization of the Communist Parties is the political directive with a strategic content, since it is ‘the set of transformations, changes and readjustments it need to lead the People's War as the main form of struggle that will generate the new State.’ Therefore, the militarization of the Communist Parties is the key for the democratic revolution, the socialist revolution and the cultural revolutions.”
(“Line Of Construction Of The Three Instruments Of The Revolution” http://www.blythe.org/peru-pcp/docs_en/instrume.htm)

Several other parties have suggested that the key is more “mass supervision” and formal structures through which such supervision happens. The Nepal Maoists have shaken things up by saying this needs to take the form of contested elections with a system of competitive parties.

The CPIM suggest that this take forms of a commune or soviet system of councils with a full ability to recall representatives – the familiar “State and Revolution” model – that Mao specifically said was too weak to be a model for China (in the controversies over the declaration of the Shangahi commune).

The recent works of RCP’s Avakian can be seen as polemics over these views.

He argues that the key is finding new ways to broadly raise the consciousness of the masses of people to overcome the mental-manual contradiction, and enable them to carry out and defend socialist advances under the leadership of the vanguard.

For this he suggests a prominent and protected place for society’s intellectuals and scientists within the revolutionary process, a conscious encouragement of ferment and dissent within socialism, a socialist rule of law and constitutionality that provides protections, and contested elections at various levels that cannot, however, challenge the overall leading role of the party or the overall nature of society. (He calls his thesis “solid core with a lot of elasticity”, and it is seen as a “cardinal question” for his party).

We can situate the MLPD view in this debate: the MLPD (and some others) have situated the solution in “proletarianization” -- targeted policing and transformation of the “bureaucracy,” the proletarianization of society’s ideas and lifestyles, and the overcoming of “petty bourgeois modes of thought.”

I think it is worth thinking through the difference between this concept of “proletarianization”– with the concept that seeks the raising consciousness (including of the workers) to a communist scientific outlook, and that seeks the abolition of classes (including the working class).

Is our goal to make everyone a worker or to eliminate classes and class distinctions? And is the latter (proletarianization) really the road to the former (abolition of classes, including the proletariat)?

The chorus words of the Internationale ends in Pottier’s original French with the words: “ L'Internationale sera le genre humain “ – i.e. in English: “The internationale shall be the human race.”

But some people have rewritten them to say “The international working class shall be the human race.”

What is the difference in worldview between those two approaches?

r. John

tip to those who find these exchanges too long:

Wanna skip one post? Skip this one.

This post deals with some decidedly secondary issues raised by STP.

* * * * *

STP writes:

“The CPC and Mao himself did not name the USSR a ‘state-capitalist’ state until the early mid 60s', and while attacking Khruschev's revisionism, they did not cool relations and maintained an open dialog and hope for Khruschev's revisionism to be overthrown. Mao himself didn't even start commenting on Khruschev's revisionism until 1957, he supported the Soviet Union's crack down on the Budapest uprisings after the 20th Congress speech was widely known, and even commented to early to the PLA (Party of Labor of Albania...which was the earliest to rebuff Khruschev on his speech)that they thought Khruschev's speech was right.”

It would take some work to unravel this fully, but here are some initial responses:

First, the Soviet restoration was the first time this had happened. It took two intertwined processes to reach a public verdict: First, Mao leading the theoretical work had to reach a conclusion about what was happening, which required real investigation into the changes in Soviet society – and which proceeded intensely from 1956 on. Second, he had to win his own party to an embrace of his analysis, which was explosively controversial since (as we all know) powerful forces in his party were themselves “on the capitalist road.” Significant parts of his party NEVER accepted Mao’s thesis (and Lin Biao is only the most clear example).

Second, the relations between the CPSU and the CPC were hardly “open dialogue.” The Soviet Union harshly withdrew aid and technical support, plunging major parts of the Chinese economy into crisis.

There were intense polemics going on (behind closed doors) between the parties.

There was, in fact, a break that had not been public – and a crude attempt to overthrow Mao by plunging China into disaster.

When Khrushchev was overthrown, a Chinese delegation went to investigate the new leadership. These were (after all) the relations between two major states, and this process of revisionism-in-power was a new one, and so they were obviously going to investigate.

The question of who had “hope” is another matter.

Third: The question of the Hungarian events is far more complex than you suggest.

The Chinese criticized the Soviets for their treatment of the eastern European countries (and China) after World War 2, and they then criticized the Krushchev revisionists for unleashing old reactionary forces in places like Hungary, and then criticized them for vacillating in the face of a reactionary pro-western uprising.

And all this happened before and during 1956, when the Chinese party had not yet summed up, or struggled through, what was happening in the USSR. Mao’s whole approach of “hundred flowers” and his great work on “Correct Handling of Contradictions among the People” are a major answer to the Hungarian events (and to the whole Soviet experience to that point.)

So yes it is correct, as STP says, to “Cautiously analyzing the situation of a fraternal party rather than jumping to conclusions based on a speech. The 20th Congress was an Event, it marked in many ways the consolidation of revisionist forces within the CPSU, but that can only be realized after a ‘preponderence of the evidence.’"

I won’t nit pick about the issue of “preponderance” (already discussed in an early post on the difference between science and empiricism) – but yes, when confronted with a new, world-historic phenomenon, one never before seen, it takes a protracted and complex process to unfold a correct verdict and a public struggle (which basically took Mao’s forces from 1956 to 1963, and which involved some false starts and transitional positions.)

And this is especially true when the verdict affects the relations of the two largest socialist countries – with a complex of economic and international ties.

* * * * *

But then STP deduces from all this a defense (!) of the pro-Deng Three-Worlders who *upheld* the 1976 coup.

STP writes; “Is it not wise to say that Mao and the CPC was proceeding in the same way the ‘Mensheviks’ were doing so?”

Uh, no, brother.

First of all, the Menshevik position was not cautious withholding of verdicts or make careful scientific analysis of evidence.

They leapt (rather quickly and aggressively) toward a verdict. There was nothing (zero!) scientific about their approach.

The winds were shifting in China, and for them it was a no-brainer – Go with the winning side!

The Mensheviks fought for a whateverism of a particularly craven and threadbare kind.

Just compare the documents from those times.

And second, (unlike Mao) they did not “end up with a correct position” at the end of their “process.” (No small difference!)

Their method was a rush to judgment IN FAVOR OF the greatest setback in the history of humanity.

Third: by 1976, communists did not actually need the same long empiricist process of investigation to understand what is happening.

Capitalist restoration of this kind was by then precisely NOT a new and uncharted phenomenon. By then we had twenty years of Mao’s theoretical work, and ten years of cultural revolution. By then, an analysis of such things was FUNDAMENTAL to what defined many of us as Maoists, and correctly so.

The forces in motion in China had made their stands clear – Mao’s analysis of Teng’s modernization was known. The Four had been warning over and over that there was real danger of a decisive battle (though the denial among Maoists in china and around the world was palpable).

During and after the coup, the Four understood far better than Molotov what was happening – and two of them took a clear and historic stand in the face of their accusers in their 1980 trial (again: unlike Molotov).

An analogy:

The first time a kid in Afghanistan picks up a U.S. anti-personnel explosive disguised as a food packette, the maiming is a tragedy. But the second time one of these devices appears in the village, there is quite a different basis for people to grasp what they are seeing – if the necessary summation work has been done and fought through.

It is empiricism to think you “start from scratch” with each manifestation of a known phenomenon – or that you have to have “all the facts in” to reach a verdict.

This would be a complete denial of science.

In short, the world communist movement had a whole different basis to understand what this coup meant – thanks precisely to Mao and his work. (Though the correct and scientific conclusions still had to be drawn, and then fought for.)

And more: There was a powerful pragmatism in the Deng politics, a view of “white cat, black cat, what does it matter as long as it catches mice.”

That pragmatism fit these Mensheviks (as it was said at the time) "like a glove."

They weren’t JUST whateverists. They actively loved the cynicism and pragmatism oozing out of the Dengists. They welcomed it. They were so so eager to drop all the constraints and headaches of dealing with all the Marxist concerns about communism and consciousness and revolutionary strategy (which they dismissed as “yack, yack.”)

And that black cat/white cat pragmatism and cynicism is the vibe I still get from these folks today -- long after all kinds of other Maoist and Marxist pretenses have worn down in groups like FRSO (refoundation).

I’ll stop there.

* * * * * *

STP writes:

“I think the question comes down to, were the revolutionary Marxist-Leninists beaten by the 20th Congress. I just don't think so, is it not the Politburo crisis that properly is the defeat of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in the USSR? How can it be the 20th Congress, when Khruschev was trying to be replaced by the Politburo to which he was subject to for precisely the reasons of the 20th Congress and his utter liberalism?”

Well we can go back and forth on this particular side issue. and I'm not sure I want to.

At the 20th congress Krushchev “came out of his bag” and established his theses as the line of the party (and the ICM) – and was upheld.

It was the decisive moment.

He faced challenges later in the Politbureau, and they were beaten back. I.e. the line of the 20th congress continued to be upheld.

However, STP: while we may disagree (for the moment) on these particular historical minutiae (i.e. 1956 vs. 1957) – this not the key question IMHO.

I believe we are agreeing on the cardinal issue here: that the “rise of revisionism to power is the rise to power of the bourgeoisie.” And that this took place in the key line struggles in the leadership of the party during the mid 1950s (not in the transition from Gobachev-to-Yeltsin (after the August 1991 attempt at a military coup or in the 1965 Kosigin changes in planning indices).

r. John

zerohour writes: "Class struggle won't be exclusively decided "in the street" but that is one place it gets expressed. Why leave it out of the picture?"

One shouldn't leave it out of the picture.

That was exactly one of the main differences between Mao's approach to defeating revisionism and the approach of Stalin (or Hoxha).

Mao fought to "expose our dark side openly and from below" and then mobilize the masses of people to criticize and change things.

To say that the struggle between classes is focused (and decided) at the heights of society is not in any way to diminish the importance of the masses in that process (or in history overall).

The fact that this is continually misunderstood is part of the political landscape and the grip that a certain kind of mechanical populism (and "bottom up" conception) has among honest new revolutionaries.

pekingman

I find this dialog very informative. I can agree with most of r. john’s points. I think Chris’ question were on the mark: “ What strikes me in all this is the demobilization of the masses after 1968. If the most important battles are all taking place at the commanding heights, aren't the prospects for proletarian power (and therefore socialism) already essentially doomed? It seems here that the classic problem of the party substituting for the proletariat and the leadership substituting for the party can't help but set the stage for the restoration of capitalism.”
To take up r. john’s challenge posted August 14, 2007 at 01:16 PM:
“The struggle isn’t concentrated at the heights of power because someone substituted for someone. It is concentrated there because the issue of ‘advance to communism or not’ is a matter of what OVERALL policies and lines are carried out through the society (led by the party and the state).
If you think these problems can be settled at the plant level, or at the street demo level, or in classrooms – and if you think they can be solved by ‘mobilization’ apart from the struggles in the party -- then you need to explain how.”
I will post some of my thoughts on this.
I think the missing piece for preventing the capitalist restoration under socialism is the continuation of the independent mass organization. Had they been allowed to continue in China after 1968, had the new ones allowed to form in later periods, the working class would not have been so disarmed as they were when Deng come to power. The struggle was left to be concentrated on the top precisely because the independent mass organizations were banned after 1968. The CCP was not prepared to tackle the complexities of having many independent mass organizations within socialist China. It posted great challenges to the role of the Party in such a situation. There were many other reasons for why they were banned, the danger of an all-out civil war being a real one. But with nearly 30 years of hindsight, it was clearly a mistake in my view. An article on this topic at a greater length can be found at: http://www.chinastudygroup.org/index.php?action=front2&type=view&id=171

pekingman

My last link to the article by Fred Engst titled "Mass Organizations and Socialism in China" was garbled. It should be
http://www.chinastudygroup.org/index.php?action=front2&type=view&id=171
You can also google it with "Fred Engst independent mass organization" to find the link.

zerohour

r. john says: "Mao fought to "expose our dark side openly and from below" and then mobilize the masses of people to criticize and change things.

To say that the struggle between classes is focused (and decided) at the heights of society is not in any way to diminish the importance of the masses in that process (or in history overall).

The fact that this is continually misunderstood is part of the political landscape and the grip that a certain kind of mechanical populism (and "bottom up" conception) has among honest new revolutionaries."

I think you miss my point. It's one thing to give lip service to the role of the masses. It's another to actually take it seriously enough to investigate it from all ends. All Marxist investigation of the Cultural Revolution [that I've seen] has focused on the Party with the masses' role limited to being mobilized by the CCP. None of your posts contradicts this or offers concrete examples of mass activity.

I am arguing that recent Marxist thought has been marred by a mechanical top-down analysis. The masses are referred to, but are never portrayed as active agents - until the Party calls.

To say that class struggle occurs at the top does not diminish the role of the masses - I agree with you there. However, the failure to really look at the role of the masses does speak volumes.

What would you think if everyone simply said that class struggle occurs in the Party and then provided no concrete study of it? How much weight would you give their words?

"History from below" is a case of bending the stick backwards to correct a long-standing practice of ignoring that history. In the hands of postmodernism, it is a mechanical populism. The fact that postmodernism gained any traction at all on the left is partially a reflection of the Marxist failure to be sufficiently dialectical. We've been focusing too much at the top, while they at the bottom.

JB

So, zerohour, the only way something could be "below" is by lacking a coherent, political center?

That's what it seems like. If the GPCR lacked the "below" compontent, which I don't think it (essentially) did, then what could possibly be "from below"? It would seem only something that was hostile to the party as a whole and to it's revolutionary headquarters.

That's what I think R.John was saying to you, and in that, as with much of what he's writing here, I agree.

The Shanghai cultural revolution is a good place to begin a discussion of that tension. Mao, and others, didn't believe they could dispense with the state and discouraged the formation of a Commune there. I have heard several critics point to the pull-back of the revolutionary forces there, specifically, as the place where the "most advanced" elements were chastened, and the withdrawl of popular participation in the GPCR began.

Further investigation is needed, though much of the historical material is available.

-----
Post-modernism "triumphed" because revolutions were defeated, not because of a supposed (truly non-existent) Marxist fixation on "the top".

zerohour

JB says: "So, zerohour, the only way something could be "below" is by lacking a coherent, political center?

That's what it seems like. If the GPCR lacked the "below" compontent, which I don't think it (essentially) did, then what could possibly be "from below"? It would seem only something that was hostile to the party as a whole and to it's revolutionary headquarters."

I didn't say or imply either.

I wasn't characterizing the GPCR at all, but rather questioning the questions we're asking. I'm asking why we haven't studied the GPCR more extensively from below, not that there wasn't a "below" or that it lacked a "center." I am not liquidating the role of the state, but asking people to refocus from the other side. What were the masses doing while the Party was not mobilizing them? What does this say about the Party's success in politicizing civil society? I can't believe Marxists don't think these question are important.

As for postmodernism, you missed the qualifier "partially." There a a few key features in its rise to prominence but I didn't want to go off on a tangent about it.

JB

Fair enough.

It might be worth putting up a bibliography of studies on the GPCR.

Not widely studied, but there is much out there. Any suggestions?

r. John

yes, JB... to all of that.

* * * * *

zerohour, I'm just not sure what you are describing.

And it is not my experience that Maoism (historically in practice, or as a set of theoretical concepts) disregards the conscious initiative of the people -- or reduces their action to "mobilizations after party calls."

On the contrary!

Let's just take one specific example from culture (which may help us flush out the issues):

Let's take the dynamics of class struggle portrayed in "Breaking with Old Ideas" the movie.

The masses throughout this film are largely "on their own" -- working things through with their own head, together with the local communists who are also struggling to grasp what things mean, and where different lines are going.

Yes Principal Lung was assigned by the party. Yes, the school itself was part of a national initiative "called" into being by the Maoist center.

There is lots of back and forth between the larger class struggle in society (and in the party), and the struggle "on the ground."

And (as I pointed out above) the victory (temporary victory) of the revolutionary forces was not settled in this remote, rural backwoods community college, but was hammered home when Mao lit the sky and fought through a verdict on a national scale.

Is this kind of dynamic wrong? Does it denigrate the activism of the masses? Or is it materialist?

* * * * * *

I used to laugh the first times I saw my first book on Tachai, and there was a picture with Mao with a caption that said:

"On this spot, Mao said 'Peoples communes are fine.'"

I thought "How silly to treat such a statement with reverence." I thought "what a sad example of the banality of the cult of personality." (Yes I did!)

But only later did I understand that the people's communes were a creation "from below" and that they had been dissed and forbidden and harassed by party authorities. And that Mao had gone out to learn from the masses, and then (with typical courage) had come out with his blunt conclusion "Peoples communes are fine" and thrown it in the faces of the revisionists.

No wonder the people of Tachai marked that event with celebration!

* * * * *

Another dialectic:

From the podium of Tienanmen in 1949, Mao Tsetung announced "The Chinese people have stood up."

the event was a historic change in the status of China's people, but it was marked and accomplished by the Red Army marching to power.

That is the mediation by which the people acted and won. And it required quite brilliant, farsighted communist leadership by Mao.

is it wrong for the chinese people to answer Mao's ringing announcement by answering" "Mao, our emancipator!"

Should we get a patronizing look on our faces and say to those people, "No, no, Mao didn't emancipate you. You did it yourselves! You and all the other little people acting together."

* * * *

Or take the slogan "The people united will never be defeated."

Could that possibly be true?

Or is it (at base) a falsehood -- because the people cannot be "united" in a metaphysical way, and because they could still be defeated if they were.

Where is are the decisive question of line, program, tactics, strategy, and, yes, heroes and great leaders -- in that mindnumbingly silly slogan?


* * * * *

The idea that the red guards were merely "mobilizations" of inert masses responding to "calls" -- would defy reality. This struggle truly was "high and wild" -- out of control much of the time, where things were thrashed out at all levels (from top to bottom, in a complex interrelationship.)

Where is this cartoon communist view expressed (where the masses are supposedly treated as as inert, obedient respondees to mobilization from the heights.)

I am not aware of seeing this view (though the old Albanian slogan "the masses make history and the party makes them conscious" comes close in their typical dogmato-revisionist style).

* * * * *

Zero writes: "History from below" is a case of bending the stick backwards to correct a long-standing practice of ignoring that history. In the hands of postmodernism, it is a mechanical populism."

1) School me with examples of where that history is ignored. Who are we talking about here?

2) How does positing a populist "history from below" correct anything?

3) "In the hands of postmodernism, it is a mechanical populism."

Nah dude, in ANYONES HANDS (from ISO to post modernism, to leo huberman, to other worshipers of everyday life and spontaneity and the supposed "independence" of mass organizations. In all of those forms, it is mechanical populism.

It is not a corrective. It is not SOMETMES mechanical. It is a wrong conception.

* * * *

Now there is the talk of opposing the "great man theory of history."

Ok, but I think this phrase should not be repeated as if we all know what is being discussed, or as if we all agree to oppose such a thing.

What is this "great man theory of history" exactly?

The crude bourgeois histories that treat the middle ages as a history of court intrigues?

Is Han Suyin's "Wind in the Tower" an example of the "great man theory" of Chinese history?

Is it wrong for Marx to write "the 18th Brumiare of Louis Napoleon" -- as if the head of the french government was a player in human events?

Is it part of this supposedly false "great man theory" to posit that individuals can sometimes play a crucial role? Or that historic events often hinge on the decisions and actions "at the top"?

Is the idea of "the heights of power being the decisive arena" inherently an expression of this "great man theory" (to be suspected and rejected apriori as being methodologically tainted)?

I pose these questions because I really want to dig into them. And because I'd love to help uproot the rather ingrained populism (and influence of democracy illusions) that always is quite endemic in the U.S., including and even especially in radical U.S. circles. (Imagine, that old tiresome and infuriating slogan of "participatory democracy" has actually been hauled out again, and is treated seriously by some!)

How actually does history work?

And through what mediations and living contradictions do politics actually operate, and do the interests of different classes actually get fought out?

r. John

I wrote and posted this last comment before seeing Zerohour's remarks.

Perhaps i too am misunderstanding his point. If so, sorry.

But I do think the issue involved in the overestimation of the "below" and the spontaneous, and the supposedly "independent" -- need some exploration.

bibliography

Responding to JB's call for bibliography suggestions: there's a list of books and some historical material here.

repeater

For discussion:

Alain Badiou, The Cultural Revolution: The Last Revolution?

http://positions.dukejournals.org/cgi/reprint/13/3/481

Also, The Conclusive Scene, by Alessandro Russo:

http://positions.dukejournals.org/cgi/reprint/13/3/535

I also recommend Hinton's 100 Days War, which is included in the above biblio.

independentmaoist

Here's an updated list of the signatories of the Declaration, which includes a statement by the MLM Revolutionary Study Group of the areas in which it disagrees with the Declaration.

SIGNATORIES [In alphabetical order (English) by country]:

Afghanistan - Marxist-Leninist Organization of Afghanistan
Argentina - Revolutionary Communist Party of Argentina*
Belarus - Revolutionary Communist Group ‘Red Wedge’
Bolivia - Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) of Bolivia
Brazil - Communist Party of Brazil (Red Fraction)
Colombia - Colombia Communist Party - Maoist
Germany - Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany
Greece - Communist Party of Greece-ML
Greece - Communist Organization of Greece
India - Communist Party of India (Maoist)**
Indonesia - Communist League of Indonesia
Iran - Ranjbaran
Italy - Committee to Support Resistance - for Communism (CARC)
Luxembourg - Communist Organization of Luxemburg
Moldova - Maoist Anti-Imperialist Circle
Netherlands - Group of Marxist-Leninists / Rode Morgen
Panama - Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) of Panama
Peru - Communist Party of Peru (ML)
Philippines - Communist Party of the Philippines***
Russia - Russian Maoist Party
South Africa - Communist Party of South Africa (ML)
Turkey - Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist-Leninist (TKP/ML)
United States - MLM Revolutionary Study Group****
Uruguay - Revolutionary Communist Party of Uruguay

(Note: Any signatory may qualify its agreement on any point in this declaration with an annotation.)

*Revolutionary Communist Party of Argentina considers: (1) that the bourgeoisie seized power in China during the 12th Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in December 1978 rather than in 1976 (see 1st paragraph); and (2) that China today is an imperialist country (see 15th paragraph).

**Communist Party of India (Maoist) stresses that China has completely tied itself to the policy of imperialist globalization pushed by the US and other imperialist powers (see 15th paragraph).

***Communist Party of the Philippines regards the Communist Party of China (CPC) as the Marxist-Leninist center of the international communist movement in the period after the Communist Party of the Soviet Union became revisionist and before the CPC itself became revisionist (see 5th paragraph).

****MLM Revolutionary Study Group (United States) regards the final goal to be communism worldwide -- not socialism, which is the transitional period between capitalism and communism (See paragraph 24). Also, during this transitional period, the enemy of the dictatorship of the proletariat is the new bourgeoisie, which arises from the contradictions of socialism and is concentrated by those in party leadership who are taking the capitalist road (old habits and petty bourgeois thinking among the masses are utilized by this new bourgeoisie, but such features are not the cause of revisionism) (See paragraphs 6 and 7). And MLM RSG regards the "rise to power of revisionism as the rise of the bourgeoisie" and the defeat of the proletariat -- not as the beginning of capitalist restoration in a corrupted socialist state. (See paragraphs 2, 4, 8, and 10).

r. john

At the risk of stating the obvious:

The addendum of the MLM Revolutionary Study Group (U.S.) raises a number of extremely important issues in regard to the declaration -- and does so by upholding Mao's theory of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat (and the important related verdicts Mao fought for in the realm of theory.)

Lialayalurn

A documentary movie, 'Emmanuel's Gift' will be will be shown in Japanese theatres in June, 2007. The Movie is documentary movie on a young man named ... ,gift differing gift groomsmen poker ,anniversary gift idea twentieth wedding Our baby gifts are beautiful baby accessories, grooming items, baby albums and frames and much more. For the food gift baskets we use only gourmet gift ... It is a statement of the obvious—both trite and troublesome—to acknowledge that most children today generally receive more than they need at Christmas, ... ,appropriate get gift well keys online gift shop ,cash gift wordings Holiday Gift Baskets as well as Christmas Gift Baskets for every one with ... We have picked the right baskets gift for you which we think you will like it. ... Goode shows how a child's dreams unfold over the years; explains the buildingblocks of esteem, expression, and empowerment; and shows parents how to ... ,gift bag wholesalers http://new-yar-links.0catch.com/48.html monogrammed gifts for men
,gifts2cuba Does your holiday shopping list include someone who would love something natural? Something healthy? Something locally made? In a world full of plastics, ... Personalized baby gift baskets and gift sets. Welcome baby with any of these baby gift baskets or gift sets. ,company gift promo http://new-yar-links.0catch.com/36.html gift head lion ,day gift mother perfect Find pictures, preview and more for Emmanuel's Gift (2005) on Yahoo! Kids Movies.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Hot Shots