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October 09, 2007


r. john

as may be obvious, STP and I posted the last to comments at the same time. So my remarks above are written before reading STP's latest post.


I asked whether this characterized his view:

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

And in response STP asked a good question:

"First I have to ask what is the importance of Objective here rather than Subjective? This is not really clear to me."

Here is why: many of the forces sometimes nominated for "anti-imperialist" are OBVIOUSLY not consciously (i.e. subjectively) opposing imperialism (even as they oppose the U.S.) Look at Iran, which is obviously, not interested in opposing capitalism, or even (really) overturning the present world order of imperialism. Or look at other Islamic fundamentalists, or the Baathists in iraq.

This was also true of the earlier (original) promoters of these Three Worldists approaches: The Chinese foreign ministry imagined that people like the Shah or Ferdinand Marcos (dictators of Iran and Philippines) were objectively playing a progressive role because they were objectively opposing the "main danger on a world scale." (And while they subjectively were clearly stone-reactionary pro-capitalist fascists).

The theory of "international united front against the main danger" includes as a correlary that all kinds of forces (despite their political and ideogical nature) can play an "objectively" progressive role. And once government are included in this "international united front" -- then the fantasies get even more elaborate.

Also: I don't think China was right in the 1970s, to put "countries want independence" on a par with "nations want liberation." I think it was an error. And their examples were stuff like "Panama demands rights to more of its ocean shelf" or whatever.

But, setting that aside, their arguments (though wrong) made MORE sense in the context where a quarter of humanity was liberated, and there was a socialist China leading that "international united front." In other words, you could IMAGINE countries in the east asia region following china's lead (and in that sense, proletarian leadership).

I think it was wrong, but not silly.

but to apply the same theory now (when there is no socialist country) really has a very different degree of plausibility and very different results...

Because there is no socialist country with which an Iran can ally or allign. The talk of rallying to the iranian government on a patriotic basis -- cannot be a plan for proletarian leadership, but proletarian subordination to some of its most vicious enemies.

In some ways, the KMT in china had to deal with the fact that the Americans and Brits had an alliance with socialist USSR, and that provided a context for the KMT approach to Mao. But such things would go differently if there was no USSR, and there was no socialist country, and so on.

However I will State in such much as this reflects my views is that I do think there are States and political forces throughout the world who have 'anti-Imperialist' politics without being MLMists. The basis of that in my opinion is the subjective, the political basis, rather than something determined through economy (like Repeater is putting forward by speaking about Venezuelan trade).


oops. that last paragraph was not mine, but part of stp's post. sorry.

STP writes:

"However I will State in such much as this reflects my views is that I do think there are States and political forces throughout the world who have 'anti-Imperialist' politics without being MLMists. The basis of that in my opinion is the subjective, the political basis, rather than something determined through economy (like Repeater is putting forward by speaking about Venezuelan trade)."

Look, there is a difference between states and forces.

Obviously there are "anti-imperialist" forces around the world (the Sun Yat-sens etc.) -- often they become anti-imperialist (or are able to be anti-imperialist) because they operate in the context of a strong and growing communist movement. And often, without such a movement, they reveal that their program (in the absense of communists) falls into one or another form of accomodation with imperialism.

But if you run a state, you are operating within the world economy. You are enforcing imperialist relations (with your police, and army, and laws and trade agreements) -- you are PART of all that (or else you are NOT.)

Give me an example of one of these states that you think is anti-imperialist. And let's just look at its relations with imperialist. Not one with anti-imperialist rhetoric covering an oil economy.... or a sugar economy.... or a cocoa economy... or a cocaine economy.... But a state that is actually undermining imperialism (and not just opposing ONE of the imperialist powers, with the support of the others.)

Where is it?


I don't think the question of trade should be thrown out as if I'm trying to crudely reduce to Venezuela down to it's balance of trade. But the reality is that this balance of trade has very concrete effects on the internal situation in Venezuela.

It's not as if Chavez, by simply taking a subjectively "anti-imperialist" (only American imperialism mind you) stance, that we can then declare the Venezuelan state to be "anti-imperialist", or even against American imperialism. What does it mean when this state, which runs the primary source of capital in the country, has a leader who talks about moving away from dependence on the U.S. and towards more economic and cultural ties with other nations and states of the world, what does it mean when at the same time that this is subjectively being asserted, the economic and cultural ties with the U.S. are actually growing?

I think this assumed antagonism between Venezuela and the U.S. should not go uninterrogated. How antagonistic can it really be when the two countries are doing massive amounts of business at the same time.

And who is the antagonism directed against? The antagonism is directed against one internal power block in the country, that is, the Chavistas. While this is the overwhelming majority in the country as a whole, it does not mean that the state is not contested, or that, quite frankly, it is not fundamentally still the state of those people who oppose Chavez and are allied with U.S. interests.

Where exactly did this term "anti-imperialist state" come from? What does this even mean? RJ asks for examples of anti-imperialist states today, I would ask for examples of such states throughout history. Along with something a little deeper, in terms of definition, than whether they publicly criticize the U.S. After all, this would make Russia an anti-imperialist state.

r. john

i am not arguing that the trade balances should be "thrown out" as evidence, merely that they are not the heart of the matter.

If i understand you correctly, repeater, we are agreeing.

Again: imprialism is not a country it is a world system.

Hostility (however real) toward an imperialist country is not (itself) anti-imperialism -- and history is full of hostilities toward specific powers that involve no hostility (or weakening) of imperialism as a system.

There is (i believe) an under-appreciation of the degree to which opposing or weakening imperialism REQUIRES an approach of radical transformation of property relations.

Property relations are not just LEGAL property forms (whether private or nationalized, whether domectically or internationally owned) -- since the international trade repeater points to is itself a major component of the production relations of this global system. And the components of that trade (the pricing, financing, etc.) can condition the flow of surplus value and shape the decisions about economic development in ways as significant as formal "ownership."

Red Grapevine

Since this thread was a response to the PLP, anyone want to take this apart?


The ongoing debate on the Iraq resistance, Iran and the CPI (MLM) document is not only profound but also of great importance. Given the geo-political importance of West Asia, one of the hot beds of the world for a long time, the development and rise of genuine Maoist parties is the need of the hour, a genuine necessity of the struggling and oppressed masses there. A strong third pole, a Maoist pole in Iran, with a correct line and policy, will be a great ray of hope to the entire West Asia.

On whether the situation has changed form Mao’s time vis-à-vis imperialist aggression the CPI (MLM) document raises many doubts on various grounds. But it doesn’t answer them apart from raising the question. No where in the entire text do we see a clear analysis of how the situation has changed and why we cannot apply the Maoist thesis in this context. The ambiguity is well represented in the following quote.

“In any case, the aims of a resistance are decisive in determining its character. The resistance of forces such as the Taliban and supporters of Saddam is a reactionary resistance. Chiang Kai-shek’s resistance against Japan was based on the aims of US imperialists and his class interests of feudal compradors and not on the basis of the national and class interests of the Chinese people.”

What does this mean, that there is big difference between the aims of ‘reactionary’ resistance and Chiang Kai-shek’s resistance against Japan? The whole theory of Mao is being questioned. Mao was clear from the beginning about the class character of Chiang Kai-shek and the role he would play in the entire process. But he still went ahead with the UF so as to bring in all the forces against the principle enemy of the time and to establish the Communist Party as the genuine leader of the nation and the party of the masses, to win over a big section of national bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeois classes.

This is the key thing in the purpose to have an UF in the first place. And this will be the necessity in the eventuality of an US attack on Iran. This is precisely missed by the CPI (MLM). Mao didn’t view it narrowly in terms of ‘aims of resistance’ of Chiang Kai-shek, but clearly saw this as an opportunity to divide the KMT and its allies, in terms of intervening in the given situation and seizing the political initiative.

The bold demand to present the future of Iran in front of the masses that CPI (MLM) refers to will become one sided if the eventualities are not identified and the masses are not prepared for it well before hand. While presently the task is to concentrate on the fight against the IRI, it has to be linked to the preparation for a possible national war against US aggression that needs to include a perspective for a broad UF against the imperialist invader. In the wake of external attack, in order to seize initiative, determined resistance to the IRI’s anti Communist, anti progressive suppression campaign and an independent effort for armed resistance to the imperialist occupier, coupled with a call to the IRI forces for ending their internal suppression and making a broad national resistance possible, will be necessary. Given the present subjective strength of Maoists in Iran such a call linked with the bold demand of the future becomes all the more important when we remember that Mao called for the UF with KMT since 1930 but it was eventually clinched 7 years later, after the Sian incident. In the meantime he also carried out the fight against the KMT repression and exposed them. This was why the Sian incident took place. Mao succeeded in splitting the enemy. It is only the persistent struggle with IRI along with the option to form an UF that will actually reflect the maturity and consistency of the communist vanguard required to win over the confidence of the masses in that situation. It is only then that the much needed ‘a strong core with the necessary flexibility’ will be realised in the true sense.

In absence of a plan to form an UF including the IRI, this plan for 3rd pole smacks of ‘left’ sectarianism and is one-sided.

At the opposite end, all those who argue that once attacked the Maoists should immediately go for an UF with the IRI is another form of one-sidedness. It is subjugation and tailing the bourgeoisie and won’t make any breakthrough from the inherent weakness ailing the Communist Parties in the West Asia. The result will not be different from that of early 80’s. A correct policy of struggle linked with the flexibility to form an UF is necessary.

On Principal Contradiction: Of course there are various contradictions at play – but what is the principal one in Iraq today and in Iran if the US attacks. There is no point in counting all the other contradiction as Tom Doonan (Canada) does. Though he in a way opposes that the principle contradiction in the present world is between imperialism and the oppressed peoples and nations, he doesn’t state which the principle one is or if at all it is necessary to identify it. Questions are being raised whether this concept is necessary at all, as Lenin never felt the need to identify the principle contradiction. But then the level of development of science of Marxism was such, and everyone agrees that Mao’s contribution at the level of philosophy, especially in understanding contradictions, is as yet unsurpassable. Now that we have this weapon in our hand should we not adopt it to chart our way? Again though Lenin did not use the same terms, he came close to a similar evaluation. After the October Revolution he said that all the imperialist forces have joined hands to attack the only socialist state and that this was the determining factor in that world situation. What he was referring to was the principle contradiction in the changed situation.

R John has argued, “When DW says that the world today (as in Mao's time) has a principle contradiction -- this does not actually arise (I believe) from an analysis of the world of today. It arrives from an a priori assumption that "What Mao said about his world is true about our world." In other words, it is a proceeding in logical deduction from assumption, not proceeding in dialectical analysis from reality.”

Dialectical analysis, or for that matter any scientific analysis, is done with a conceptual framework. The question is whether the one developed by Mao is correct or not. That need not be the final word but we need to start from its high point, even to develop it further. RJ’s arguments are a good example of how the universality of MLM, its development by Mao, is negated in the name of a ‘scientific’, ‘realistic’ etc. analysis of the object!

On the Imperialist States vs. Islamic Fundamentalism contradiction: This is in the first place an irrational concept. The three major contradictions in the world refer to contradictions between material categories and not between a state and an ideology (Islamic fundamentalism is an ideology). Even if it is reframed as a contradiction between imperialists vs. Radical Islamic force, it becomes baseless as the there does not exist anything like a world Islamic force. (Even Doonan admits this and states ‘The common element of Islamism is its reactionary and stupid worldview.’) What exists is various organisations with their national flavours, based on their national particularities and divided on their nation based class interests. And so it just boils down to the contradictions covered in the four major contradictions.

On the class character of Islamic forces: First of all, branding all Islamic forces as fundamentalist is of no use. We must go into the precise nature of their ideology and also distinguish between different types of religious ideologies. Doonan says, “… it is important to dig into the line and policies of its promoters and the affects of the line and policies, rather than just the class origins of the people that make up the leadership of the movements. To do so negates the dynamic role of human consciousness and ideology – and replaces this with the crude mechanical view of ‘class instinct.’ ” (emphasis added) What is missed here is that, in a number of cases, fundamentalist movements are lead and based among petty bourgeoisie, peasantry included. Why is a class, which is potentially revolutionary in the new democratic stage, following a reactionary line? The analysis of this particularity is simply ignored by views that conclude that the fight is between two bunches of reactionaries (imperialists and fundamentalists); a conclusion arrived at by following the one-sided method of solely looking at the ‘line and policies’ and ignoring the class forces at play.

On imperialist economism: “The essence of imperialist economism is the denial of the right to self-determination.” (seen in Doonan’s post) Yes, that’s right. And that’s exactly what these friends do when they bring in the question of ‘genuine’ self-determination, meaning liberation from imperialism. The argument calling for supporting only ‘genuine’ self determination is precisely an example of arguing for the ‘economic “unachievability” of self-determination under imperialism’ criticised by Lenin as imperialist economism in his article, ‘A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism’ [CW, Vol.23]. It is necessary to uphold the resistance struggles of the masses, even in the absence of a genuine revolutionary force (even embryonic) in that country, while clearly showing the limitations as to why the existing leadership will not achieve the desired results. Remaining silent or criticising the struggles, on the plea that there are no genuine revolutionary forces, will only tend to support the imperialists. Even if the ‘desired self determination’ doesn’t take place, the real question will come to the fore in the long run and the people will rise again. Main question is when an imperialist power attacks a 3rd world country and the people are resisting, quite naturally led by some form of reactionary or a section of bourgeois democrats in the absence of a revolutionary force, where should we stand? What should be our stand with regard to the various national resistance struggles going on, like Kurdish, Kashmir, LTTE, Chechen, etc.

Doonan argues, “What will the ‘objective impact’ of a US defeat in Iraq be? It would certainly be a massive setback for US imperialism. Again, this is not the same as a massive setback for the imperialist system.” – no, but it would unravel all sorts of contradictions and forces, which could be turned towards propelling revolution, provided there is correct Maoist leadership. There is nothing inevitable about this. But denying or downplaying the real changes that would come up - in balance of forces, opportunities, challenges etc. - when the sole super power faces a ‘massive setback’, by arguing that the ‘imperialist system’ will still exist, has nothing scientific or objective in it. These precisely are some of the complexities that the Maoists will have to deal with.

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