Loren Goldner's 'bare-bones history' of Maoism.
Note to the Reader: The following was written at the request of a west coast comrade after he attended the August 2012 “Everything for Everyone” conference in Seattle, at which many members of the “soft Maoist” Kasama current were present. It is a bare-bones history of Maoism which does not bring to bear a full “left communist” viewpoint, leaving out for the example the sharp debates on possible alliances with the “nationalist bourgeoisie” in the colonial and semi-colonial world at the first three congresses of the Communist International. It was written primarily to provide a critical-historical background on Maoism for a young generation of militants who might be just discovering it. —LG.
Maoism was part of a broader movement in the twentieth century of what might be called “bourgeois revolutions with red flags,” as in Vietnam or North Korea.
To understand this, it is important to see that Maoism was one important result of the defeat of the world revolutionary wave in 30 countries (including China itself) which occurred in the years after World War I. The major defeat was in Germany (1918–1921), followed by the defeat of the Russian Revolution (1921 and thereafter), culminating in Stalinism.
Maoism is a variant of Stalinism.1
The first phase of this defeat, where Mao and China are concerned, took place in the years 1925–1927, during which the small but very strategically located Chinese working class was increasingly radicalized in a wave of strikes. This defeat closed the 1917–1927 cycle of post–World War I worker struggles, which included (in addition to Germany and Russia) mass strikes in Britain, workers councils in northern Italy, vast ferment and strikes in Spain, the “rice riots” in Japan, a general strike in Seattle, and many other confrontations.
By 1925–1927, Stalin controlled the Communist Third International (Comintern). From the beginning of the 1920s, Russian advisors worked closely with the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) of the bourgeois revolutionary Sun Yat-sen, (leader of the 1911 overthrow of the Manchu dynasty) and with the small but important Chinese Communist Party (CCP), founded in 1921.
The Third International provided political and military aid to the KMT, which was taken over by Chiang kai-shek (future dictator of Taiwan after 1949); the Comintern in the early to mid-1920s viewed the KMT as a “progressive anti-imperialist” force. Many Chinese Communists actually joined the KMT in these years, some secretly, some openly.
Soviet foreign policy in the mid-1920s involved an internal faction fight between Stalin and Trotsky. Trotsky's policy (whatever its flaws, and there were many) was for world revolution as the only solution to the isolation of the Soviet Union. Stalin replied with the slogan “Socialism in One Country,” an aberration unheard of until that time in the internationalist Marxist tradition. Stalin in this period was allied with the right opposition leader Nikolai Bukharin against Trotsky; Soviet and Third International policy reflected this alliance in a “right turn” to strong support for bourgeois nationalism abroad. Chiang kai-shek himself was an honorary member of the Third International Executive Board in this period. The Third International advocated strong support for Chiang's KMT in its campaign against the “warlords” closely allied with the landowning gentry.
It is important to understand that in these same years, Mao Zedong (who was not yet the central leader of the party) criticized this policy from the right, advocating an even closer alliance between the CCP and the KMT.
In the spring of 1927, Chiang kai-shek turned against the CCP and the radicalized working class, massacring thousands of workers and CCP militants in Shanghai and Canton (now known in the West by its actual Chinese name Guangzhou), who had been completely disarmed by the Comintern's support for the KMT.2 This massacre ended the CCP's relationship with the Chinese working class and opened the way for Mao to rise to top leadership by the early 1930s.
The next phase of the CCP was the so-called “Third Period” of the Comintern, which was launched in part in response to the debacle in China. In the Soviet Union, Stalin turned on the Bukharinist “right” (there was in reality no one more reactionary than Stalin) after having finished off the Trotskyist left.3 The Third Period, which lasted from 1928 to 1934, was a period of “ultra-left” adventurism around the world. In China as well as in a number of other colonial and semi-colonial countries, the Third Period involved the slogan of “soviets everywhere.” Not a bad slogan in itself, but its practical, voluntarist implementation was a series of disastrous, isolated uprisings in China and Vietnam in 1930 which were totally out of synch with local conditions, and which led to bloody defeats everywhere.
It was in the recovery from these defeats that Mao became the top leader of the CCP, and began the “Long March” to Yan'an (in remote northwestern China) which became a central Maoist myth, and reoriented the CCP to the Chinese peasantry, a much more numerous social class but not, in Marxist terms, a revolutionary class4 (though it could be an ally of the working-class revolution, as in Russia during the 1917–1921 Civil War).
Japan had invaded Manchuria (northeast China) in 1931 and the CCP from then until the Japanese defeat at the end of World War II was involved in a three-way struggle with the KMT and the Japanese.
After the Third Period policy led to the triumph of Hitler in Germany (where the Communist Party had attacked the “social fascist” Social Democrats, not the Nazis, as the “main enemy,” and even worked with the Nazis against the Social Democrats in strikes), the Comintern in 1935 shifted its line again to the “Popular Front,” which meant alliances with “bourgeois democratic” forces against fascism. Throughout the colonial and semi-colonial world, the Communist Parties completely dropped their previous anti-colonial struggle and threw themselves into support for the Western bourgeois democracies. In Vietnam and Algeria, for example, they supported the “democratic” French colonial power. In Spain, they uncritically supported the Republic in the Spanish Revolution and Civil War, during which they helped the Republic crush the anarchists (who had two million members), the independent left POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista, a “centrist” party denounced at the time as “Trotskyist”) and the Trotskyists themselves. These latter forces had taken over the factories in northeastern Spain and established agrarian communes in the countryside. The Republic and the Communists crushed them all, and then lost the Civil War to Franco.
In China, the Popular Front meant, for the CCP, supporting Chiang kai-shek (who, it will be recalled, had massacred thousands of workers eight years earlier) against Japan.
In the Yan'an refuge of the CCP in these years and through World War II, Mao consolidated his control over the party. His notorious hatchet man Kang Sheng helped him root out any opposition or potential rivals with slanderous rumors, show trials and executions. One memorable case was that of Wang Shiwei. He was a committed Communist and had translated parts of Marx's Capital into Chinese. Mao and Kang set him up and put him through several show trials, breaking him and driving him out of the party. (He was finally executed when the CCP left Yan'an in 1947 in the last phase of the civil war against Chiang kai-shek.)
Mao's peasant army conquered all of China by 1949. The Chinese working class, which had been the party's base until 1927, played absolutely no role in this supposed “socialist revolution.” The one-time “progressive nationalist” Kuomintang was totally discredited as it became the party of the landed gentry, full of corruption, responsible for runaway inflation, and commanded by officers more interested in enriching themselves than fighting either the Japanese (before 1945) or the CCP.
The first phase of Mao's rule was from 1949 to 1957. He made no secret of the fact that the new regime was based on the “bloc of four classes” and was carrying out a bourgeois nationalist revolution. It was essentially the program of the bourgeois nationalist Sun Yat-Sen from 25 years earlier. The corrupt landowning gentry was expropriated and eliminated.
But it is important to remember that “land to the peasants” and the expropriation of the pre-capitalist landholders are the bourgeois revolution, as they have been since the French Revolution of 1789. The regime for this reason was genuinely popular and many overseas Chinese who were not Communists returned to help rebuild the country. Some “progressive capitalists” were retained to continue running their factories. After the chaos of the previous 30 years, this stabilization was a breath of fresh air. The People's Liberation Army also intervened in the Korean War to help Kim il-sung fight the United States and the United Nations forces. But it is also important not to lose sight of the fact that the Korean War was part of a war between the two Cold War blocs, and that what Kim implemented in North Korea after 1953 was another Stalinist “bourgeois revolution with red flags” based on land to the peasants. (North Korea went on to become the first proletarian hereditary monarchy, now in its third incarnation.)
We also have to see the Chinese Revolution in international context. Stalinism (and Maoism is, as mentioned earlier, a variant of Stalinism) emerged from World War II stronger than ever, having appropriated all of eastern Europe, winning in China, on its way to power in (North) Korea and Vietnam, and had huge prestige in struggles around the colonial and semi-colonial world (which was renamed the Third World as the Cold War divided the globe into two antagonistic blocs centered on the United States and the Soviet Union).
There is no question that Mao and the CCP were somewhat independent of Stalin and the Soviet Union. They were their own type of Stalinists. They were also a million miles from the power of soviets and workers' councils that had initially characterized the Russian and German Revolutions, on which basis the Comintern was originally founded in 1919. That is a thorny question that is too complex to be unraveled here. But from 1949 until the Sino-Soviet split in 1960, the Soviet Union sent thousands of technicians and advisors to China, and trained thousands more Chinese cadre in Soviet universities and institutes, as had been the case since the 1920s. The “model” established in power in the 1950s was essentially the Soviet model, adapted to a country with an even more overwhelming peasant majority than was the case in Russia.
World Stalinism was rocked in 1956 by a series of events: the Hungarian Revolution, in which the working class again established workers' councils before it was crushed by Russian intervention; the Polish “October,” in which a worker revolt brought to power a “reformed” Stalinist leadership. These uprisings were preceded by Khruschev's speech to the twentieth Congress of world Communist Parties, in which he revealed many of Stalin's crimes, including the massacre of between five to ten million peasants during the collectivizations of the early 1930s. There were many crimes he did not mention, since he was too implicated in them, and the purpose of his speech was to salvage the Stalinist bureaucracy while disavowing Stalin himself. This was the beginning of “peaceful co-existence” between the Soviet bloc and the West, but the revelations of Stalin's crimes and the worker revolts in eastern Europe (following the 1953 worker uprising in East Germany) were the beginning of the end of the Stalinist myth. Bitterly disillusioned militants all over the world walked out of Communist Parties, after finding out that they had devoted decades of their lives to a lie.
Khruschev's 1956 speech is often referred to by later Maoists as the triumph of “revisionism” in the Soviet Union. The word “revisionism” is itself ideology run amok, since the main thing that was being “revised” was Stalinist terror, which the Maoists and Marxist-Leninists by implication consider to be the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” There were between 10 and 20 million people in forced labor camps in the Soviet Union in 1956, and presumably their release (for those who survived years of slave labor, often at the Arctic Circle) was part of “revisionism.” For the Maoists, the Khruschev speech is often also identified with the “restoration of capitalism,” showing how superficial their “Marxism” is, with the existence of capitalism being based not on any analysis of real social relationships but on the ideology of this or that leader.
Khruschev's speech was not well received by Mao and the leaders of the CCP, whose own regimented rule of China was becoming increasingly unpopular.5 Thus the regime launched a new phase, called the “Hundred Flowers” campaign, in which the “bourgeois intellectuals” who had rallied to the regime, recoiling from the brutality of the KMT, were invited to “let a hundred flowers bloom” and openly voice their criticisms.
The outpouring of criticism was of such an unexpected volume that it was quickly shut down by Mao and the CCP, who began to characterize the Hundred Flowers campaign as “letting the snakes out of their holes” in order to “smash” them once and for all. Many critics were arrested and sent off to forced labor camps.
Internationally, however, Maoism began to become an international tendency, becoming attractive to some people who had left the pro-Soviet Communist Parties after Khrushchev's speech. This was a hard-core ultra-Stalinist minority (who felt, for example, that their own country's CP had not supported the Soviet invasion to crush the Hungarian Revolution forcefully enough). By the early 1960s, in the United States, Europe and around the Third World, these currents would become the “Marxist-Leninist” parties aligned with China against both the United States and Soviet “social imperialism.”
In China itself, the regime needed to shift gears after the disaster of the Hundred Flowers period. There was growing tension at the top levels of the CCP between Mao and the more Soviet-influenced technocratic bureaucrats, who were focused on building up heavy industry. This was the factional situation that led to the “Cultural Revolution” that erupted in 1965.
Therefore Mao launched the country in 1958 on the so-called “Great Leap Forward,” in which Soviet-style heavy industry was to be replaced by enlisting peasants in small industrial “backyard” production everywhere. The peasants were forced into the “People's Communes” and set to work to catch up with the economic level of the capitalist West in 10–15 years. Everywhere pots, pans and utensils as well as family heirlooms were melted down for backyard small kilns to produce steel, at killing paces of work. The result was a huge drain of peasant labor away from raising crops, leading to famine by 1960–1961 in which an estimated 10–20 million people starved to death.6
The debacle of the Great Leap Forward was also a terrible blow to Mao's standing within the CCP. It represented an extreme form of the kind of voluntarism, at the expense of real material conditions, which had always characterized Mao's thinking, as summed up in his famous line about “painting portraits on the blank page of the people” (some Marxist!).7 The Soviet-influenced technocrats around Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping basically kicked Mao upstairs into a symbolic figurehead, too important to purge outright but stripped of all real power. Thus the battle lines were drawn for what became, a few years later, the “Cultural Revolution.”
The “Cultural Revolution” was Mao's attempt at a comeback.8 It was a factional struggle at the top level of the CCP in which millions of university and high school students were mobilized everywhere to attack “revisionism” and return Mao to real power. But this factional struggle, and the previous marginalization of Mao that lay behind it, was hardly advertised as the real reason for this process in which tens of thousands of people were killed and millions of lives were wrecked.9 China was thrown into ideology run amok on a scale arguably even greater than under Stalin at the peak of his power. Millions of educated people suspected of “revisionism” (or merely the victims of some personal feud), including technicians and scientists, were sent off to the countryside (“rustification”) to “learn from the peasants,” which in reality involved them in crushing forced labor in which many were worked to death. “Politics was in command,” with party ideologues and not surgeons, in charge of medical operations in Chinese hospitals—with predictable consequences. Schools were closed for three years in the cities—though not in the countryside (19660–1969)—while young people from universities and high schools ran around the country humiliating and sometimes killing people designated by the Maoist faction as a “revisionist” and a “Liu Shaoqi capitalist roader” (Liu Shaoqi himself died of illness in prison). The economy was wrecked. In 1978, when Deng Xiaoping (who also performed hard rural labor during these years) returned to power, Chinese agricultural production per capita was no higher than it had been in 1949.
In such a situation, where revisionist rule was to be replaced by “people's power,” things got out of hand with some currents who took Mao's slogan “It is right to rebel” a bit too far, and began to question the whole nature of CCP rule since 1949. In these cases, as in the “Shanghai Commune” of early 1967, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) had to step in against an independent formation that included radicalized workers. The PLA was in fact one of the main “winners” of the Cultural Revolution, for its role in stamping out currents that became a third force against both the “capitalist roaders” and the Maoists.
(During all this, Kang Sheng, the hatchet man of Yan'an, returned to power and helped vilify, oust and sometimes execute Mao's factional opponents, as he had done the first time around.)
Perhaps the most interesting case of things “going too far,” along with the brief Shanghai Commune, before the army marched in, was the Shengwulian current in Mao's own Hunan province. There, workers and students who had gone through the whole process produced a series of documents that became famous throughout China, analyzing the country as being under the control of a “new bureaucratic ruling class.” While the Shengwulian militants disguised their viewpoint with bows to the “thought of Mao tse-tung” and “Marxism-Leninism,” their texts were read throughout China, and at the top levels of the party itself, where they were clearly recognized for what they were: a fundamental challenge to both factions in power. They were mercilessly crushed.10
Further interesting critiques to emerge from the years of the Cultural Revolution were those written by Yu Luoke, at the time an apprentice worker and, later, the manifesto of Wei Jingsheng, a 28-year-old electrician at the Beijing Zoo on the “Democracy Wall” in Beijing in 1978. Yu's text was, like Shengwulian's, diffused and read all over China. It was a critique of the Cultural Revolution's “bloodline” definition of “class” by family background and political reliability, rather than by one's relationship to the means of production. Yu was executed for his troubles in 1970. The Democracy Wall, which was supposed to accompany Deng Xiaoping's return to power, also got out of hand and was suppressed in 1979.
Mao's faction re-emerged triumphant by 1969. This included his wife, Jiang Qing, and three other co-factioneers who would be arrested and deposed as the “Gang of Four”11 shortly after Mao's death in 1976.12 This victory, it is often overlooked, coincided with the beginning of Mao's quiet outreach to the United States as a counterweight to the Soviet Union. There was active but local combat between Chinese and Soviet forces along their mutual border in 1969 and, as a result, Mao banned all transit of Soviet material support to North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, a ban which remained in effect until the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Mao received US President Nixon in Beijing in early 1972, while the United States was raining bombs on North Vietnam.
This turn was hardly the first instance of a conservative foreign policy at the expense of movements and countries outside China. Already in 1965, the Chinese regime, based on its prestige as the center of “Marxist-Leninist” opposition to Soviet “revisionism” after the Sino-Soviet split, had encouraged the powerful Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) into a close alliance with Indonesia's populist-nationalist leader, Sukarno. It was an exact repeat of the CCP's alliance with Chiang kai-shek in 1927, and it ended the same way, in a bloodbath in which 600,000 PKI members and sympathizers were killed in fall 1965 in a military coup, planned with the help of US advisers and academics. Beijing said nothing about the massacre until 1967 (when it complained that the Chinese embassy in Jakarta had been stoned during the events). In 1971, China also openly applauded the bloody suppression of the Trotskyist student movement in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In the same year, it supported (together with the United States and against Soviet ally India), Pakistani dictator Yaya Khan, who oversaw massive repression in Bangladesh when that country (previously part of Pakistan) declared independence.
In 1971, another bizarre turn in domestic policy also took place, echoing Mao's fascination with ancient dynastic court intrigue. Up to that point, Lin Biao had been openly designated as Mao's successor. The Maoist press abroad, as well as the French intelligentsia which at the time was decidedly pro-Maoist, trumpeted the same line. Suddenly Lin Biao disappeared from public view, and in late 1971 it was learned that he, too, supposedly Mao's closest confidant for years, had been a capitalist roader and a deep-cover KMT agent all along. According to the official story, Lin had commandeered a military plane and fled toward the Soviet border; the plane had crashed in Mongolia, killing him and all aboard.13 For months, western Maoists denounced this account, published in the world press, as a pure bourgeois fabrication, including what Simon Leys characterized as the “most important pro-Maoist daily newspaper in the West,” the very high tone Le Monde (Paris), whose Beijing correspondent was a Maoist devotee. Then, when the Chinese government itself confirmed the story, the Western Maoists turned on a dime and howled with the wolves against Lin Biao. Simon Leys remarked that these fervent believers had transformed the old Chinese proverb “Don't beat a dog after it has fallen into the water” into “Don't beat a dog until it has fallen into the water.”
This was merely the beginning of the bizarre turn of Maoist world strategy and Chinese foreign policy. The “main enemy” and “greater danger” was no longer the world imperialism centered in the United States, but Soviet “social imperialism.” Thus, when US-backed Augusto Pinochet overthrew the Chilean government of Salvador Allende in 1973, China immediately recognized Pinochet and hailed the coup. When South African troops invaded Angola in 1975 after Angolan independence under the pro-Soviet MPLA, China backed South Africa. During the Portuguese Revolution of 1974–75, the Maoist forces there reached out to the far right. Maoist currents throughout western Europe called for the strengthening of NATO against the Soviet threat. China supported Philippine dictator Fernando Marcos in his attempt to crush the Maoist guerrilla movements in that country.
Maoism had had a certain serious impact on New Left forces in the West in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Unraveling the factional differences among these groups would take us too far afield, and most of them had faded away by the 1980s. But “Maoism,” as interpreted in different ways, was important in Germany, Italy, France and the United States. Some groups, such as the ultra-Stalinist Progressive Labor Party in the United States, saw the writing on the wall as early as 1969 and broke with China in that year. Most of these groups were characterized by Stalinist thuggery against opponents, and occasionally among themselves.14 Their influence was as diffuse as it was pernicious; ca. 1975, there were hundreds of “Marxist-Leninist” study groups around the United States, and hundreds of cadre had entered the factories to organize the working class. By the mid-1970s, three main Maoist groups had emerged as dominant in the US left: the Revolutionary Union (RU) under Bob Avakian (later renamed the RCP), the October League (OL) under Mike Klonsky, and the Communist Labor Party (CLP). To really understand some of the differences between them, one needed to know their relationship to the old “revisionist” Communist Party USA. The more moderate groups, such as the October League, hearkened back to Earl Browder's leadership during the Popular Front years. More hard-line groups, such as the CLP, looked to the more openly Stalinist William Z. Foster. These and other smaller groups fought ideological battles over the proper attitude to take toward Enver Hoxha's Albania, which for some (after China's pro-US turn) remained, for them, the sole truly “Marxist-Leninist” country in the world. One small group trumpeted the “Three 3's: Third International/Third Period/Third World.”
In Germany, New Left Maoism was on the ascendant after 1968, a process which it gingerly termed the “positive overcoming of the anti-authoritarian movement” of that year. A major current was the KPD (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands), which fought against the much larger DKP (Deutsche Kommunistische Partei, the pro-Soviet party, which itself still barely accounted for 1 percent of the vote in German elections). Out of the KPD came a multitude of smaller “K-Gruppen,” with poetic names such as KPD-ML Rote Heimat (Red Homeland, with distinct populist overtones of “soil”). Only the DKP had any influence in the working class, with its infiltration of the trade unions; it was content to sit back after 1972 when the Social Democratic government of Willy Brandt issued its “radical decree” and came down hard on the K-Gruppen, much as the Italian Communist Party (PCI), with 25 percent of the vote in the 1976 elections, not only sat back while the Italian government criminalized the entire far left as “terrorists”; it actively helped the government in the suppression of the far left after the Red Brigades kidnapped and executed the right-wing politician Aldo Moro in spring 1978, as he was on his way to sign the “historical compromise” which would have allowed the PCI to join the Christian Democrats in a grand coalition.
In France, Maoism never had the clout of the much larger main Trotskyist parties (Lutte Ouvriere, the Ligue Communiste Revolutionaire and the Organisation Communiste Internationaliste, all of which are still around today, in the latter two cases under different names). Most of the Maoist “Marxist-Leninist” groups had been discredited by their manipulative role during the May–June 1968 general strike, such as one which marched to the barricades on the night of the most serious street fighting (pitting thousands of people against thousands of cops), announced that the whole thing was a government provocation, and urged everyone to go home, as they themselves proceeded to do. But in the spring of 1970, one small ultra-Stalinist and ultra-militant Maoist group, the Gauche Proletarienne (Proletarian Left), momentarily recruited Jean-Paul Sartre to its defense when the government banned it, following some spectacular militant interventions around the country. Sartre, who had over the previous 20 years been successively pro-Soviet, pro-Cuba and then pro-China, saved the GP from extinction, but it collapsed of its own ideological frenzy shortly thereafter. (It notably produced two particularly cretinous neo-liberal ideologues after 1977, Bernard-Henry Levi and Andre Glucksmann, as well as Serge July, editor-in-chief of the now very respectable daily Liberation, which began as the newspaper of the GP.) Former French Maoists turned up in the strangest places, such as Roland Castro, a fire-eating Maoist in 1968, who became an intimate of Socialist President Francois Mitterand, and was appointed to a leading technocratic position.
Maoism in Britain again had next to no influence, whereas both the Trotskyist Socialist Labor League (SLL) and the IS (later SWP), at their 1970s peaks, had thousands of members and a serious presence in the working class.
In Japan, finally, the most advanced capitalist country in Asia, Maoism (as in Britain and in France), had no chance against the large, sophisticated New Left groups in the militant Zengakuren, which not only had no time for Maoism but not even for Trotskyism, and which characterized both the Soviet Union and China as “state capitalist.” (Only the small underground, pro-North Korean “Red Army” could in any way have been characterized as Maoist.)
In 1976, as mentioned earlier, the Maoist Gang of Four, who up to Mao's death had been at the pinnacle of state power, were arrested, jailed and never heard from again, as the “revisionists” headed by Deng Xiaoping returned to power and prepared to launch China on the road to “market socialism,” or “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” beginning in 1978.
This bizarre ideological period finally ended in 1978–79, when China, now firmly an ally of the United States, attacked Vietnam and was rudely pushed back by the Vietnamese army under General Giap (of Dien Bien Phu fame). Vietnam, still allied with the Soviet Union, had occupied Cambodia to oust the pro-Maoist Khmer Rouge, who had taken over the country in 1975 and who went on to kill upward of one million people. In response to China's attack on Vietnam, the Soviet Union threatened to attack China. For any remaining Western Maoists at this point, the consternation was palpable.
As elsewhere in different forms, the Maoists in the United States did not go quietly into that dark night. Many of those who went into industry or otherwise colonized working-class communities rose to positions of influence in the trade union bureaucracy, such as Bill Fletcher of the Freedom Road group, who was briefly a top aide to John Sweeney when the latter took over the AFL-CIO in 1995. Mike Klonsky of the October League traveled to China in 1976 to be anointed as the official liaison to the Chinese regime after the fall of the Gang of Four, but that did not prevent the OL from fading away. The RCP sent colonizers to West Virginia mining towns, where they were involved in some wildcat strikes (some of those strikes, however, were against teaching Darwin in the schools). The RCP also supported ROAR, the racist anti-busing coalition, during the crisis in Boston in 1975. Bob Avakian, in 1978, with four other RCP members, rushed the podium when Deng Xiaoping appeared at a press conference in Washington with Jimmy Carter to consummate the US-China alliance; they were charged with multiple felonies and Avakian remains in exile in Paris to this day. In 1984 and 1988,15 Maoists of different stripes were deeply involved in Jesse Jackson's run for the presidency, giving rise in 1984 after Jackson lost out to the “Marxist-Leninists for Mondale” phenomenon.
Members of the Communist Workers Party (CWP) suffered a worse fate, when in 1979 members of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina (where they had organized in several textile towns) fired on their rally, killing five of them. But during Occupy Oakland in the fall of 2011, it emerged that no less than Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, as well as some of her key advisors, and high-level members of the Alameda County Labor Council, were former members of the selfsame CWP.
More recently, former members of the RCP who had their fill of Avakian's cult of personality formed the Kasama network, which now has a much larger, if more diffuse influence, at least on the internet.
On a world scale, Maoists recently joined a coalition government in Nepal, and various groups, some reaching back to the 1960s or even earlier, continue to be active in the Philippines. The Indian Naxalites, who were stone Maoists in the 1970s before they were crushed by Indira Gandhi, have made something of a comeback in poor rural areas. The Shining Path group in Peru, which was similarly crushed by Fujimori, has made a steady comeback there, openly referring to such groups as the Cambodian Khmer Rouge as a model.
To conclude, it is important to consider the post-1978 fate of Maoism in China itself.
For the regime which, since 1978, has overseen nearly 35 years of virtually uninterrupted and unprecedented economic growth, averaging close to 10 percent per year over decades, with the methods of “market socialism,” Mao Zedong remains an indispensable icon of the ruling ideology. In officialese, Mao was “70 percent right and 30 percent wrong.” The “wrong” part usually means the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, although serious discussion and research on those events remains largely if not wholly taboo.
As a result, a rose-tinted nostalgic view of Maoism and the Cultural Revolution has become de rigeur in the so-called Chinese New Left.16 There have even been echoes of Maoism in the recent fall of top-level bureaucrat Bo Xilai, former strongman of Chongqing with a decidedly populist style which led some of his opponents to warn of the dangers of a “new Cultural Revolution.” Given the impossibility, in China, of frank public discussion of the entirety of Mao's years in power (and before), and the small fragments of information available to the young generations about those years, it is hardly surprising that currents opposing the appalling spread of social inequality and insecurity since 1978 would turn back to that mythical past. This hardly makes such a turn less reactionary and dangerous. Everything that happened after 1978 had its origins in the nature of the regime before 1978. There was no “counter-revolution,” still less a transformation of the previously existing social relations of production. Once again, Maoism reveals its highly idealist and voluntarist conception of politics by a focus on the ideology of top leaders, as it previously did with Khruschev's 1956 speech and thaw. China from 1949 to 1978 was preparing the China of 1978 to the present. Even those pointing to the “shattering of the iron rice bowl,” the No. 1 ideological underpinning of the old regime, ignore the practice of significant casualized labor in the industrial centers in the 1950s and 1960s. Until a true “new left” in China seriously rethinks the place of Maoism in the larger context of the history of the Marxist movement, and particularly its origins in Stalinism and not in the true, defeated world proletarian moment of 1917–1921, it is doomed to reproduce, in China as in different parts of the developing world, either grotesque copies of Maoism's periodic ultra-Stalinism (as in Peru) or to be the force that prepares the coming of “market socialism” by destroying the pre-capitalist forms of agriculture and engaging in forced, autarchic industrialization until Western, or Japanese and Korean, or (why not?) Chinese capital17 arrives to allow the full emergence of capitalism.
Originally posted: October 15, 2012 at Insurgent Notes
- 1The term “Stalinism” is used here throughout to describe a new form of class rule by a bureaucratic elite that, in different times and different situations, fought against pre-capitalist social formations (as in China) or against Western capitalism. Some, myself included, see Stalinism as “state capitalism”; a smaller number, influenced by the theory of Max Schactman, see it as “bureaucratic collectivism.” Orthodox Trotskyists call Stalinist regimes “deformed workers' states”; the Bordigists simply call it “capitalism.” Marxist-Leninists see such regimes as…socialism. This is a huge debate which has taken place ever since the 1920s but one could do worse than read Walter Daum's The Life and Death of Stalinism, which, while defending a variant of the Trotskyist view, argues that the Soviet Union and all its “offspring” were state capitalist. Outside those countries where a Stalinist regime has state power, I use the term “Stalinist” to describe those forces which are fighting to establish one, or apologists for one or another version of “real existing socialism.”
- 2All this is recounted in detail in Harold Isaac's book The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution, first published in 1934 and republished many times since. Readers should be cautioned that Isaacs, a Trotskyist when he wrote the book, later became a “State Department socialist” and toned down the book with each reprint, but later editions still tell the essential story.
- 3These three factions arose after Lenin's death in 1924: the Trotskyist left advocating export of the revolution and an intense industrialization policy based on strong extraction of a surplus from the peasantry; Bukharin argued for “socialism at a snail's pace” with a much laxer attitude toward petty producer capitalism by the peasants, and Stalin “wavering” in between. On this, see the review of the book of John Marot in the current issue of IN.
- 4To put it in a nutshell: the historical trajectory of peasants under pre-capitalist conditions has shown itself in most cases to be toward private small-plot cultivation. In such conditions, as in Russia, they can be the allies of a proletarian revolution, in which the “democratic tasks” of socialist revolution by the workers combine with those of the bourgeois revolution (land to the peasants). There is a bourgeois mode of production (capitalism), there is a transition to the communist mode of production in which the working class is the ruling class (socialism); there is no “peasant mode of production,” which limits the historical role of peasants to being allies of one dominant class or another.
- 5See for example Ygael Gluckstein's early book Mao's China (1955), particularly the chapter entitled “The Regimentation of the Working Class.” Gluckstein (who later became better known under his pseudonym Tony Cliff, leader of the British International Socialists and then renamed the Socialist Workers' Party) was the first person to systematically analyze China as a form of state capitalism.
- 6Some estimates run as high as 35 million. Past a certain point, the exact figures are not so important as the unmitigated disaster caused by the policy.
- 7Apparently neither Mao nor any other member of the CCP had read Marx at the time of its founding in 1921. They emerged out of the many ideological influences current in East Asia before World War I: socialism (vaguely understood), anarchism, Tolstoyan pacificism, and Henry Georgism, among others. “Voluntarism” as the term is used here refers to such episodes as the Great Leap Forward, or the (above-mentioned) characterization of the Soviet bloc as “capitalist” based on Khruschev's speech, or the (more idealist) definition of class in the Cultural Revolution not by an individual's relation to the means of production but by their family background or “revisionist” ideas. For background on the voluntarist ideologies current at the time of the founding of the CCP, cf. Maurice Meisner, Li ta-chao and the Origins of Chinese Marxism; on Mao's voluntarism inherited from his early reading of Kant, cf. Frederic Wakeman, History and will: Philosophical Perspectives of Mao Tse-tung's Thought
- 8The most important analysis of the Cultural Revolution in these terms is Simon Leys's Chairman Mao's New Clothes, published in French in 1969 and translated into English a few years later. Leys also wrote brilliant books on the cultural desert created by Maoism in power, both before and after the Cultural Revolution: Chinese Shadows, The Burning Forest, and Broken Images. His work is required reading for anyone nostalgic for the Cultural Revolution today.
- 9Some flavor of these events is described by the liberal academic Song Yongyi. His book on the massacres of the Cultural Revolution is unfortunately only in French and in Chinese. He also edited an Encyclopedia of the Cultural Revolution which is dry and academic.
- 10For Shengwulian's most important statement (1968) see their text “Whither China?”
- 11The Gang of Four came to be seen as the leaders of the Cultural Revolution towards its end. The original central organ that was directing things both openly and behind the scenes was comprised of 10 people. Among these were Kang Sheng, Chen Boda, Jiang Qing, Yao Wenyuan, Wang Li and others.
- 12Once again, the books of Simon Leys, cited above, are all beautiful portraits of the ideological and cultural climate in China up to 1976. One curious book, to be read with caution but useful nonetheless, is by Dr. Li Zhisui, The Private Life of Chairman Mao (1994). Li was Mao's personal physician from 1956 to 1976 and lived most of those years in the elite Beijing compound with other top party personnel, and traveled with Mao wherever he went. The English translation of the book was greeted with media-driven sensationalist focus on accounts of Mao's voracious sexual appetite for beautiful young women, which actually makes up a minor theme. Its real interest is the portrait of the comings and goings of the top CCP leaderships during the last 20 years of Mao's life, their rises and their downfalls. It also recounts Mao's deep reading in Chinese dynastic history, the so-called “24 dynastic histories” covering the years 221 BC–1644 AD. Mao's fascination was above all with court intrigue. According to Li, he had the greatest admiration for some of the “most ruthless and cruel” emperors, such as Qin Shihuangdi (221–206 BC), who founded the short-lived Qin dynasty. Qin ordered the infamous “Burning of the Books” and executed many Confucian scholars (p. 122). Another favorite was the Emperor Sui Yangdi (604–618), who ordered the building of the Grand Canal by massive conscripted labor, during which thousands died.
- 13But another account surfaced, of which an English translation was published in 1983: Yao Ming-Le, The Conspiracy and Death of Lin Biao. It purports to be a pseudonymous account written by a high-ranking CCP member who was assigned to develop the cover story of Lin's flight and death. According to Yao, a struggle to the death between Mao and Lin had been underway, and Lin was plotting a coup to overthrow and kill Mao. The plot was discovered, and Lin Biao was arrested and executed. No less a skeptic of sources coming out of China than Simon Leys, in his book The Burning Forest, argues that Yao's account agrees with other known facts
- 14For a full account, see Max Elbaum's book Revolution in the Air, which purports to see these groups as the “best and the brightest” to emerge from the American 60s. For a short course, see my polemical review of Elbaum, “Didn't See The Same Movie.”
- 15This foray into Democratic Party politics is enthusiastically recounted in Max Elbaum's book cited above.
- 16See the article of Lance Carter on the Chinese New Left in Insurgent Notes No. 1.
- 17Chinese investment in Africa in recent years, aimed first of all at the procurement of raw materials, has taken on serious dimensions; already some African leaders are warning of a “new colonialism.” On the level of high comedy, Western leaders have the effrontery to solemnly warn China “not to exploit Africa's natural resources.”
"KPD-ML Rote Heimat" ...
"KPD-ML Rote Heimat" ... never heard of it
and also the rest of stuff about German Maoism only reveals that the author knows very little on that specific topic
Quote: In Germany, New Left
the KPD/AO, founded in 1970, it was probably only the third or fourth largest Maoist group
wrong, the only major splits from the KPD/AO was around the time of its dissolution in 1980, some of the founding members of the KPD/ML and the KABD (today MLPD) came out of the "old" pro-Soviet KPD which in its vast majority became the DKP in 1968 a 'KPD-ML Rote Heimat' (if it ever existed) must have been a minuscule group, like the KPD/AO, most of the K-Gruppen emerged out of the student movement (local brnches of the German SDS becoming the cores of different ML orgs) and other social movements
wrong again, groups like two strongest Maoist orgs, KBW and KB and also the KPD/ML-Roter Morgen and the KABD/MLPD were serious rivals of the DKP in quite a lot number of factories and drew many of their members from the post-1968 "apprentices' rebellion"
wrong again, the majority of victims of the "radical decree" were members of the DKP or its front organizations
We'll have to confirm these
We'll have to confirm these corrections. In the meantime, what did you think of the substance of the article?
the stuff on China is ok
the stuff on China is ok
FWITW and FYI......This is a
FWITW and FYI......This is a pretty interesting & informative book by A. Belden Fields, Trotskyism and Maoism: Theory and Practice in France and the United States, Autonomedia, Brooklyn 1988.
Yeah, it isn't bad although
Yeah, it isn't bad although it is never clear how the author articles his understanding of Marxism relative to Trotskyism or Maoism.
automattick wrote: Yeah, it
Sorry, educate me here. As I'm not a marxist, I just gathered that the author was sorta ultra-left marxist. It's more an impression (and maybe cause of the publisher).
I thought the book was decent. And, lots of the descriptions, etc seemed to conform with my living observations of large swathes of the period in question.
You're on Libcom, surely
You're on Libcom, surely there must be enough materials for you here to read about Marxism. I will say that Goldner's critique is relevant more for today than the book in which you referred to a few posts ago.
automattick wrote: You're on
OK, I don't read most of the marxist stuff here. But you implied something and I was curious as to what you were implying. Like yoiu have some idea of his marxism. So, my impression of what I read is just that.
Considering the book ended sometime in the 1980s, I thought was a decent enough book for the period it covered. To each their own.
Quote: Maoism in Britain
The IS were, I think, as much predominantly student-based as the SWP still are. I don't think SWP have ever claimed over 4,000 for what is a very transient membership, and SLP would've probably been considerably less. So neither group, with probably only a few thousand members between them, could ever really be said to have any "serious presence in the working class" in the UK - most of the w/c probably not being aware of their existence. The only group of that time to the left of the Labour Party one might possibly describe that way would be the old CP, which did have long-term strongholds in a few industrial working class communities (eg Welsh & Scots miners, print) and which held a power within some union bureaucracies far disproportionate to its quite low level of Party membership. But even the old CP never had anything remotely close to the influence of the larger CPs of Western Europe, eg France, Italy etc - which was a genuinely "serious presence in the working class".
I thought it would've made sense for LG to say a bit more in the article about the Nepali maoists, seeing as this has been the main focus of western maoists in recent years.
Yeah he could also added a
Yeah he could also added a bit more about Maoism in India and the Philippines, as in both countries it did gain popular support in certain areas.
From a quick skim read (and plse correct me if i missed something) but i think the article did not really capture why maoism (in both party and non-party forms - it wasn't all about forming Maoist parties) was trendy in some left wing circles in high income countries amongst in the 60s and 70s - eg. the whole 'serve the poor' religious moralism, 'direct action Maoism' (eg. attempts to organise unofficial strikes), the whole fervour around people taking trips to China and coming back with stories of a paradise, the image that the Maoists were 'more anarchist than the anarchists' (according to an old anarchist i asked about this) with their militantism, direct action, anti-bureaucracy etc thing, the belief that they were anti-Stalinists and had a classless and anti-bureaucratic society, and esp. the belief that Maoism was an authentic third world revolutionary 'anti-imperialst' movement. No doubt Loren knows this, but thoiught i would add it. (in NZ Maoists are still around, and were the biggest current on the radical left in the 1960s and 1970s if not 1980s, and even today are a part of NZ biggest radical leftist party - with a shockingly massive memership of 20-30-40!!)
I think this quote from Simon Leys sums up the fashion for Maoism in the 1960s and 1970s. He says the fashion for Mao was
And their enthusiasm made them overlook a whole lot of other things as well...
I think if you go back a few years to the time of their 'rank and file' groups, the SWP certainly had more influence within the working class than it has today. "Serious presence" would be perhaps stretching it though.
We were talking about producing a pamphlet on Maoism when I was in the ICC. The ICC had groups in four of the countries that the Maoists call the "big five", and we were going to focus a section on each of them plus the US as an example of Maoism in the West, and some historical stuff. It got pulled though.
Skraeling wrote: I think
typically mordant prose from leys, i always enjoyed reading him
i know it is fun to make fun
i know it is fun to make fun of the IST currents usually cause of their student base, but are not students working class? (not all obviously, but...)
also i've definitely at least seen generations of the ISO to have fairly working class composition. depends on if you are talking about marxist class analysis or sociological...or do you mean have a concentration in the labor unions?
if not a hegemony within the class though surely hegemony in the revolutionary left.
@ sabotage;'Student' is no
@ sabotage;'Student' is no more a definition of class than 'schoolchild' is. Most of the upper and ruling class were students at some point - did they suddenly become working class during their studies? That doesn't make any sense to me, unless one is trying to obscure some truth about class society. We were also talking about the 70s when far less working class people went into higher education.
But we are talking above of the old UK International Socialists, not ISO or IST.
Yes, they did have some factory branches etc for a few years in the 70s and rank'n'file activity for a while. But it was a bit of a flash in the pan, didn't really grow deep roots and soon disappeared - in contrast to the CP, which retained such industrial influences for most of the 20thC. So, yes, I think it's stretching it way too far.
@ Skraeling; the Leys quote describing 60s & 70s Western pro-maoists could just as easily describe the recent attitude of the Kasama/revleft maoists relationship to Nepal. Except 'Prachanda Path's' present non-revolutionary bourgeois character is now so blatant that they've all gone deafeningly silent.
you wanna critique of Maoism.
you wanna critique of Maoism. read Sohn Rethel's book on epistemology -- his shortcomings in an otherwise outstanding critique of value is illluminating
How's Sal, Dean?
How's Sal, Dean?
Quote: Kasama/revleft maoists
To be fair to Kasama they and their sister sites have been moving away from Prachanda to supporting either the Maoist breakaway and or Maoist affiliated actions and groups in Nepal.
Reddebrek wrote: To be fair
The politics of the other factions in Nepal are narrowly nationalistic, federalist, opportunist and/or Stalinist. For years Kasama-ites were the most uncritical supporters of Prachanda & his Party - even as all the facts and developments were making obvious their predictable accommodation with mainstream bourgeois politics. "To be fair", anyone who pointed this out was subjected to disinformation, lame excuses, distortions and sometimes personal slander by Kasama-ites and their revleft pro-maoist pals. They've only "been moving away" from supporting Prachanda & co, not thru any independently-made conclusions or insights, but because the Baidya faction have split from Prachanda's Party - their illusions as to the possibility of success for Baidya are as much fantasy as the ones they once had in the mother Party. Baidya & co can be romanticised from afar as more radical as he has, for now, rejected parliamentarism (having been out-manouevred in that arena) - the same parliamentarism which, until recently, was stoutly defended by him and by all Western pro-maoists loyal to the Nepali Party 'revolutionary' line.
Their softer Stalinism remains useless as an analytical tool for explaining such developments; after being slavishly hailed as those 'torch-bearers of the world's exploited masses' etc Prachanda and his 'Path' dogma led them to becoming, apparently almost overnight, counter-revolutionary 'revisionists'. None of which even really touches on the bourgeois conception of social change held by Nepali Maoists and their romanticising Western devotees. See linked articles below;
I started writing a response
I started writing a response to both this and the response of "NPC" from Kasama ("The Historical Failures of Maoism"), but decided not to devote so much time to that - partly because I generally agree with Goldner's overall political argument (so debating might seem pedantic, or like I'm trying to defend Maoism). Maybe after NPC/ Kasama complete the longer piece they're working on I'll write something more formal.
For now I’ll just direct people to my 2010 article “A Commune in Sichuan?” – a review of the book “Red Earth” where I reflected on some of these questions in relation to more recent scholarship (and my own interviews with peasants who lived through the Mao era), and came up with some different answers than those in either Goldner’s piece or NPC’s response. It’s way too long, so you might want to skip down to the conclusion, “What Could Have Been Done Differently…?”
Also see this Libcom thread where I argue that Mao-era China was not “capitalist” but something we might call “developmental proto-capitalism” (or simply “socialism”) since the law of value was operating only indirectly via the “law of development” driven by military competition with properly capitalist states such as the US (In “A Commune in Sichuan” I refine this and talk about other factors…)
Here are some notes I wrote after reading Goldner’s article and NPC’s response:
(1) not really “capitalist” (see above)
(2) Peasantry – not necessarily “non-revolutionary,” examples: many pre-capitalist peasant rebellions in Europe and China, including communistic tendencies as in the German Peasants War, the Diggers, and also in capitalist contexts – 1917 Russia and Ukraine, 1936 Spain, the Zapatistas – in all cases some peasants took active role in collectivizing land, forming federations of co-ops, etc., not simply fighting for bourgeois measures.
(3) Great Leap Forward – more complicated (see “Commune in Sichuan”)
(4) The “Cultural Revolution” didn’t really “wreck” the economy – and that is why it was not a rev! The strikes and unrest of 1966 to 1967 did lead to a slowing of economic growth – which is why Mao et al suppressed it and called for “promoting production (while) grasping revolution,” and rejecting the workers’ concerns as “economistic.”
(5) Agricultural productivity DID increase (especially per unit land, but also per labor-hour – especially when “modern scientific inputs” finally became available in the 1970s) – see figures from my article. And if there had been no increase in productivity, how could it be considered “bourgeois rev” – an unsuccessful bourgeois rev?
(6) ‘There was no “counter-revolution,” still less a transformation of the previously existing social relations of production.’ I agree there was no “counter-revolution,” but I would say there was a transformation – namely a privatization of bureaucratic power, the commoditization of labor-power (in the Mao era workers and peasants were more not really free to choose their own jobs), marketization of social relations (in the Mao era money couldn’t buy much – you got necessities such as housing in kind or with ration tickets from your “work unit”; or if you were a peasant you produced things for yourself – after 1958 through the mediation of the “commune” or “production team”). But it is true that most of the new capitalists that emerged from this transformation were the relatives and cronies of the same Mao-era bureaucrats…
In response to NPC’s critique of Goldner:
I don’t think any “communization” occurred during the Mao era. During the GLF and in the “people’s commune” system in general I think it’s more helpful to say that some “communistic” elements emerged but were warped by their subordination to a system whose primary function was surplus-value extraction. In the CR the situation was different: whereas the communistic elements of the GLF/people’s commune system I think mainly came from the actual desire for something like communism shared by both some peasants and some party leaders (wrongly believed to go hand in hand with a rapid increase in “development of the forces of production” and increased extraction of surplus-value), in the CR the most communistic tendencies were mainly not intended by the central maoist leaders – it was more a matter of proletarians (and to some extent peasants) taking advantage of the opportunity to push their own “economistic” demands that threatened the system (mainly through strikes), and inspired a small amount of “ultra-left” theory that pointed toward something like communization. LG seems confused here to say the CR “wrecked the economy” – this seems to repeat the narrative shared by Dengists and liberals. One thing Yiching emphasizes is how the central maoist leaders used the need to restore economic growth as an excuse to put workers back to work and supress street fighting, etc. – the slogan (from the original 16 points) was “promote production (while) embracing revolution.” I suspect LG is able to make this mistake b/c of his own productivism (and what Théorie Commuiste calls “programmatism”) – he thinks of communist rev as involving a continuation of economic growth under workers control, rather than the destruction of the economy as such.
But here I also disagree with NPC, in that I think the closest the CR got to communization was these two rudimentary elements: (1) strikes and disruption of the economy (especially the shanghai general strike in december 1966), and (2) the mere ideas being proposed by groups like shengwulian, but not acted upon (they didn’t get a chance to act on them, and it may have already been too late anyway). Yiching basically argues that the “shanghai commune” was already a compromise between the striking workers and the maoist leaders who wanted to restore order. Yes it was later also suppressed and reorganized into a “3-in-1 revolutionary committee” where the party and military had more control over it, but the “commune” itself was already the first step toward recuperation.
Later there were things like weapons seizures in Wuhan, but my understanding is that this was mainly about factional struggles among the various rebel groups that had “seized power” (with military backing – so it was really just the spectacle of power). They wanted weapons so they could more effectively kill the other faction leaders and hold onto the illusion of power themselves, not so they could transform the system. In other words, most of this was about political rev (coup d’etat) not social rev.
I recently talked to a former CR rebel in Chongqing and he re-emphasized this to me, since already at that time he was beginning to critique the other rebels (including his own faction) for not recognizing the diff between political and social rev, but he said no one agreed with him. Much later he learned about the ultra-left currents and basically agreed with them (although he became a liberal – as did most of the ultra-leftists).
Given that wall of text much
Given that wall of text much of it apropos nothing at all I see your quite touchy about this a pity your lecturing someone who A: doesn't hold any of the positions your attacking and B: couldn't care less either way.
"The politics of the other factions in Nepal are narrowly nationalistic, federalist, opportunist and/or Stalinist. "
Show me were I indicated otherwise or made any value judgement whatsoever about any of them.
"For years Kasama-ites were the most uncritical supporters of Prachanda & his Party"
I know this and said as much in my comment "have been moving away " is a bit of a clue that they've been moving about for sometime.
"even as all the facts and developments were making obvious their predictable accommodation with mainstream bourgeois politics." I very much doubt they are the only people in history to make such a mistake.
"anyone who pointed this out was subjected to disinformation, lame excuses, distortions and sometimes personal slander by Kasama-ites and their revleft pro-maoist pals."
Speaking from personal experience are we? What does this actually have to do with anything I wonder? Rudeness and childish behaviour isn't a unique phenomenon on the internet. They aren't the only people to resort to bitterness when defending something they've invested a lot of time in, I really don't see why you brought this up it reads like a personal gripe against a userbase, which seems a bit off topic for a theory article, are you trying to say that because they're arseholes we don't have to bother being accurate in our criticism or analysis of them?
"They've only "been moving away" from supporting Prachanda & co, not thru any independently-made conclusions or insights, but because the Baidya faction have split from Prachanda's Party - "
A: You admit that they have been moving away from Prachanda yes? so your "Deafeningly silent" statement is incorrect.
B: How exactly are you using the word Independently? Unless Baidya is actively controlling them or made them some kind of deal then yes the switching of support regardless of reason was independently made.
"their illusions as to the possibility of success for Baidya are as much fantasy as the ones they once had in the mother Party."
More confirmation that they have in fact changed there position good to see.
"Their softer Stalinism remains useless as an analytical tool for explaining such developments; after being slavishly hailed as those 'torch-bearers of the world's exploited masses' etc Prachanda and his 'Path' dogma led them to becoming, apparently almost overnight, counter-revolutionary 'revisionists'. None of which even really touches on the bourgeois conception of social change held by Nepali Maoists and their romanticising Western devotees. See linked articles below; "
Well no actually I won't see those articles below because I've both already read them and know they have nothing to do with my comment. It really is quite curious how common this practice of seeing something that isn't actually there is on this site. I simply pointed out that they had changed there position making your comment outdated, thats it so you can spare me the value inferences on your part. In a roundabout way you've actually admitted this is true so why you felt the need to bury that admission with tons and tons of superfluous reasons why you don't like those guys eludes me. You may call it a nitpick (I'm surprised you didn't given your views on the subject) but it is quite important, criticising some one or a group for something they've done in the past has its place but acting like they're doing it this very second doesn't. All you do is make yourself look outdated and give them an excuse to ignore you.
Quote: Maoism in Britain
but where it did show it had a pernicious influence- 1970s in Glasgow young working class militants diverted into playing soldiers and getting hefty jail sentences for half baked guerilla adventures, thuggish enforcement of party discipline that bound people into party activities through fear and extortion of funds from supporters beyond their ability to pay.
In the prisons they lied to and flattered long term prisoners- creating an illusion that they had an organisation on the outside that could support them in prison insurrections on the inside.
If you want a look at a parallel universe then take a squatch at : http://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.firstwave/index.htm#wps
reddebrek wrote: Given that
My "wall of text" is little more than a couple of paragraphs - much less than your angry reply which looks about 3x the length; so perhaps it's you, though claiming you "couldn't care less either way", who looks a little "touchy". In any case it wasn't meant as a personal criticism (never mind a "lecture"!), but a more general informative contribution to the discussion - so I don't really know why the antagonistic response. Maybe it's sparked cos you have friends among or sympathies for Kasama, I don't know (or care).
No need, as I didn't accuse you of such things - but it's the nature of net threads that, in the space of one post, a poster can reply to an individual and can also, with other comments, contribute info/opinion applicable to, and addressed to, the wider discussion on the thread.
Yes, and those others who criticised supporting Nepali Maoism were treated similarly. Eg, old revleft threads are full of it. But nothing necessarily wrong with personal experience as either a way of learning or a motive, surely?
The article above this thread is about the historical appeal of Maoism - which includes the western pro-maoists' romanticising of faraway struggles and periodic quick about-face changes of political lines in typical Stalinist fashion, as pointed out in the LG article. I pointed out that this behaviour had continued in the relation between western pro-maoists and Nepal - that seems relevant to me. And the nature of some of their responses to criticism is always worth being aware of and can also be seen as part of a Stalinist-type continuum. It was clear from some of the debates and articles that many pro-maoists knew little or nothing about Nepal but what they'd been told by Maoists and their supporters and that most of them were simply toeing the Party line, disinterested in developing any of their own understanding or broadening their knowledge. Again, a continuum with Bolshevik conceptions of slavish Party line-ism - which, where it exists, is worthy of critique.
Perhaps, to avoid such hairsplitting, I should've said "Except 'Prachanda Path's' present non-revolutionary bourgeois character is now so blatant that they've all gone deafeningly silent ON THIS PARTICULAR SUBJECT." But it should be clear from the context, by "silent" I meant they've become oddly quiet (ie, no substantial critique/historical explanation) on many of the things they once so loudly defended - parliamentarism, denial of strike bans, massive parliamentary salaries, Prachanda Path being the great revolutionary theory of 21stC etc (especially when compared to the many heated articles & threads they wrote to defend their former positions) - declaring it all as simply being due to some ahistorical textbook 'revisionism'. So I don't see any contradiction in saying they've been quiet about that and that they've also simply moved their allegiances to the Baidya faction. That seems a case of you seeing some contradiction "that isn't actually there". Eg, until recently parts of revleft were constantly full of uncritical triumphalism by Nepali Maoist supporters - but now they are generally "deafeningly silent".
If they've just transferred the same kind of romanticising allegiance and narrow Party line-type obedience to Baidya's faction then imo they are carrying on the same errors. If anything is "outdated", it's that. But I'm happy to be ignored by pro-maoists, I've had enough of their attention.
"My "wall of text" is little
"My "wall of text" is little more than a couple of paragraphs" in reply to a two line comment...
"much less than your angry reply which looks about 3x the length" Which was a reply to your much longer comment dealing with it point by point bit of a false comparison. In fact given that your comment is longer then mine I could easily throw your words right back at you; still this comment will probably be even longer so I won't.
so perhaps it's you, though claiming you "couldn't care less either way", who looks a little "touchy"." Yes because as we all know writing a comment on the internet is an arduous task that takes up an entire day and a lot of energy.
"so I don't really know why the antagonistic response." So disagreement = antagonism does it? Thanks for letting me know., I'll make sure to be sunshine and smiles from now on.
"Maybe it's sparked cos you have friends among or sympathies for Kasama," Very conspiratorial of you, good to see your keeping a level head. "I don't know (or care)." Yeah I'd believe you don't care if you hadn't stated in the very same paragraph that commenting=caring so I guess you do actually care.
"but it's the nature of net threads that, in the space of one post, a poster can reply to an individual and can also, with other comments, contribute info/opinion applicable to, and addressed to, the wider discussion on the thread. "
Indeed, however it is also the nature of the English language that when you quote someone in a conversation and then use their words to make a point; especially a contrary one you are making it a direct reply or rebuttal. So if you do wish to make it a general point you have to make it clear where the response ends (which you did not) and the general commentary begins otherwise your building a strawman which is the textual equivalent of putting words in someone else's mouth, whether you meant to or not is actually irrelevant since the other person can't read your thoughts.
"quick about-face changes of political lines in typical Stalinist fashion, as pointed out in the LG article. I pointed out that this behaviour had continued in the relation between western pro-maoists and Nepal - that seems relevant to me." Well then with respect that isn't what you were doing at all. You weren't talking about there changes of opinion there, you were complaining about there behaviour in regards to their original position. You made no comment on there "about-face changes" because they hadn't made any changes at the time, you were just listing of rudeness and childish behaviour which is why I don't see the relevance of it here.
"And the nature of some of their responses to criticism is always worth being aware of and can also be seen as part of a Stalinist-type continuum." My apologies, I wasn't aware that being thick headed and insulting people telling you things you don't like was a purely ideological phenomenon. I guess Stalin must be the hero of 90% of thirteen year olds. Sorry mate but that isn't ideological if it is anything at all it would be tactical and the thing about tactics is that anyone regardless of ideas and experience can use them so long as they are physically capable. All you've said so far is that a certain group of internet based guys get really arsey and immature when someone starts questioning and challenging something they hold quite dear to them. If you can explain why that's a Maoist exclusive trait that somehow became globally popular then fine I'll take back what I said till then I still don't see what the point of it was.
"Perhaps, to avoid such hairsplitting, I should've said "Except 'Prachanda Path's' present non-revolutionary bourgeois character is now so blatant that they've all gone deafeningly silent ON THIS PARTICULAR SUBJECT."
Except that still isn't true though is it. In addition to shifting support to another guy whom currently rejects most of Prachanda's positions which implies that they by extension they have also come to a similar change (but we'll see how long that lasts) they have also posted articles that criticise Prachanda's group, not that many especially compared to their large number of positive pieces, but they do exist I've read a couple, which is why your "deafeningly silent" is not only incorrect but also problematic if it appeared in an actual criticism or analysis.
Its a very old trick to take one flaw in an argument and use association to undermine the entire argument being presented. If for example there was an article on Kasama, or Nepalese Maoists and their support in the West and the author made a similar criticism, all Kasama would have to do is quote that particular part and link a couple of articles where they did actually say something and then say the author didn't do the research and thus doesn't know what he's talking about. Judging by some of your comments you apparently don't care if this happens, if that's the case then why even bother? The point of an article is to expand knowledge by popularising their findings with an audience, however if the one part of the audience can discredit the article all your doing is preaching to the converted.
"I meant they've become oddly quiet (ie, no substantial critique/historical explanation)" Unfortunately your splitting hairs again what do you mean by substantial? I'm not being nitpicky here that term means different things to different people. I personally agree with you but unless they did absolutely nothing there's no way to prove that, its the same problem worded differently.
"So I don't see any contradiction in saying they've been quiet about that and that they've also simply moved their allegiances to the Baidya faction." Except you didn't say that, at first and the second comment was quite confusing it read far more like a description of a conspiracy of controlled actions. I do agree that some of them are more interesting in having hero's and mentors to copy rather then objective analysis though so I'm happy to wrap this up.
"That seems a case of you seeing some contradiction "that isn't actually there"." No that's a case of you not being very good at communicating a point, just look at your comments each one changes what you actually said from "silent" to "silent plus switching support" to "switching support and not doing enough in my opinion to account for the original error".
"Eg, until recently parts of revleft were constantly full of uncritical triumphalism by Nepali Maoist supporters - but now they are generally "deafeningly silent"."
Your example is as poor as your attempt at wit. I don't know anything about Revleft and never spoke about it in any of my comments and so gave you no reason to think otherwise. So that example doesn't reflect upon me at all, perhaps you saw something that wasn't there. The closest I ever got was questioning your criticism of both sites forum etiquette, I also see that you've now change your point a fourth time by adding a qualifier of "generally" there.
"If anything is "outdated", it's that." Be that as it may it doesn't change your own antiquated criticism. There's a difference between criticising past and present actions and the underlying ideas and behaviour cultivated that drives them. You originally didn't do the latter in the point I contested, still nice to see you've come around in part.
"But I'm happy to be ignored by pro-maoists, I've had enough of their attention." If that truly is the case then what exactly is the point of your continued criticism? Criticism without purpose is nothing more then moaning, which can be fun and therapeutic but doesn't lead to constructive actions.
brekk wrote: Red
Then you're clearly all mixed up - I made no comment here "dealing with it point by point". I think you're confusing the post below mine - which is by the poster called husunzi (with the 'weirdest boner' pic) - and thinking it's a continuation of my post. So your ranting is, for the most part, not even directed at the right person. And you try to criticise me for not being precise enough with language.... Duh. Regardless, I find little interesting or substantial in your rant other than attempted hairsplitting and point-scoring.
Not everything is about you. But just cos something isn't about you doesn't mean it can't be mentioned or isn't relevant. But if you don't know about the several heated debates on revleft about Nepal - some of which are linked to in the articles you say you've read - then you probably haven't seen the pro-maoists at their arrogant worst or seen the contrast between their loud triumphalist heyday and their quietness now.
But this is an odd question;
So those who criticised the Bolsheviks in the Russian revolution or in Spain 1936 (not that I'm implying that Nepal has anything like the same historical importance) - unless those critics were directing their critique at the Bolsheviks and trying to influence them, there was no value in what they said or usefulness to anyone else in their critique? I disagree with that logic applied to past or present, in fact some of those critiques still have a certain usefulness today.
But this is all really derailing from the more interesting topic of the article above.
For Alfred Sohn-Rethel - who
For Alfred Sohn-Rethel - who famously resisted the Nazis and worked with the German Frankfurt school, but by the 1960s came to identify with Mao's China, the social synthesis in capitalism is undertaken by commodity exchange. For Robert Kurz it is not made by exchange, but by value itself. For the latter, the essential determination under capitalism is value.
Sohn Rethel, Intellectual and Manual Labour (London 1978)
"Then you're clearly all
"Then you're clearly all mixed up -" No mate you are I was clearly referring to my own post explaining why your snide little remark about our comment lengths doesn't really gel.
"I think you're confusing the post below mine - which is by the poster called husunzi (with the 'weirdest boner' pic)" No I'm not, and it is quite obvious that I am not, this smacks of a childish attempt to duck responsibility.
"So your ranting is, for the most part, not even directed at the right person." Ranting hey? And to think you accused me of being the angry one. You know I was originally being flippant with my "touched a nerve" remark but given the tone of your following comments I see it had a lot of truth to it. I mean not only have you seen fit to repeatedly accuse me of anger and antagonism, being a kasamite, and ranting even after you grudgingly conceded that I had a point.
"And you try to criticise me for not being precise enough with language.... Duh" Indeed I do and your latest comment is a perfect example of why that criticism is valid. Perhaps you should try heeding my advice rather than waste your time trying to one up me in word play.
"Regardless, I find little interesting or substantial in your rant other than attempted hairsplitting and point-scoring." Funny I can easily say the same thing to you, your constant changing of tune and common personal remarks in place of a rebuttal are testament to that.
"Not everything is about you. " Yeah I knew you'd pull this one, sorry mate but that really doesn't work here. Lets have a look at what you actually said shall we
"That seems a case of you seeing some contradiction "that isn't actually there". Eg, until recently parts of revleft were constantly full of uncritical triumphalism by Nepali Maoist supporters - but now they are generally "deafeningly silent".
You directly accused me of "seeing things that aren't there" then used revleft as an example to substantiate the point. It was clearly directed at me and if it wasn't then your English simply isn't very good. Here's how its supposed to work, you make a point then in order to substantiate your point you provide evidence, guess what an example is, that's right a form of evidence, which means the evidence is attached to your point. Since your point was directly personally towards me that means so is your evidence, so then if your point is questioning my judgement (which you did) then your evidence should support that. So how does a forum that I don't go on and did not make a judgement upon affect my judgement? The answer is it doesn't, but then silly me I forgot your direct quoting of me and snide personal remark have nothing at all to do with me.
"- some of which are linked to in the articles you say you've read -" Oh, so you have seen those articles too have you? So your original error has no excuse beyond your laziness and desire to point score, good to see another roundabout admission from you.
"then you probably haven't seen the pro-maoists at their arrogant worst" Maybe I have maybe I haven't is that the worst they can be or can they top that I don't know. However I've reread our little conversation and its interesting but you seem to demonstrate most of the behaviours you criticise them for, ignorance, slander and insults lets see shall we.
"anyone who pointed this out was subjected to disinformation, lame excuses, distortions and sometimes personal slander by Kasama-ites and their revleft pro-maoist pals."
Other then disinformation as I don't believe you intentionally tried to mislead you've done the lot, perhaps someone's been fighting monsters for too long?
"unless those critics were directing their critique at the Bolsheviks and trying to influence them, there was no value in what they said or usefulness to anyone else in their critique?"
If that critique is based on flawed and/or outdated information then yes there is no value beyond group satisfaction at slagging off another group. Exactly who do you help by given them an easily rebuffed argument? In fact I'm very glad you picked the examples you did, one of if not the most important reason the Bolsheviks and the groups whom emulated them were practically immune to attacks from the left was because the arguments against them were dominated by Capitalist nations and supporters whom weren't fussed about objectivity and honesty. This was so pervasive that an source of information critical of the USSR could be written off as part of the same web of lies and the question became a simple pro or anti choice.
And once again I point out that isn't entirely what you were doing. Your criticism contained a flaw I attempted to correct that flaw and gave you reason as to why you should. You then came up with a childish "i don't care attitude" to which I asked if that were true since you know you claim commenting equals caring what exactly you hoped to gain then. I see you haven't answered that and have tried to shift the conversation away from it.
"But this is all really derailing from the more interesting topic of the article above."
Indeed it is perhaps you should of thought of that before you tried covering your arse for a simple correction. I'm happy (I'm sorry I mean angry) to wrap this up at any time its you whose kept this thing going as long as it has.
Well you can certainly churn
Well you can certainly churn it out, but ... you remain confused. You said you were replying to my "much longer comment dealing with it point by point" - so where is that comment? Not on this thread.
"Well you can certainly churn
"Well you can certainly churn it out, but ... you remain confused." Sadly no you are still the one whose confused, or dishonest or simply thick the evidence could go either way really.
" so where is that comment? Not on this thread. " Then you need to get your eyes checked its the very first reply you made to me. My wording may have been ambiguous but it certainly wasn't vague enough to cause you this much confusion shall I break this one down for you as well? Very well then here's what I actually said
"Which was a reply to your much longer comment dealing with it point by point bit of a false comparison. In fact given that your comment is longer then mine I could easily throw your words right back at you; still this comment will probably be even longer so I won't."
Is that clearer, to be even more exact you were trying to be clever by throwing my "wall of text" comment back at me. I simply pointed out why that doesn't wash given that you somehow managed to take a simple two line comment into a seizable vehicle to unload your personal frustration, while I took on said comment on a point by point basis. There does that make everything nice and simple for you? I noticed something about your replies, you often quote a small piece of text then pretend to be confused, when in fact the full passage makes my meaning much clearer.
Oh and before I go I'd just like to point out that even if you did somehow fail to understand my meaning originally by attempting to drag this out for as long as you have you are pretty much guilty of hair splitting... Committing the same acts that you accuse others of is something of habit with you huh? Perhaps you should get that checked out before you start wagging the finger at others.
I suggest you try some
I suggest you try some English comprehension lessons and a course in anger management. Also stop taking yourself so seriously and get a sense of humour. And try to be more interesting.
Tart wrote: Quote: Maoism in
Persisting in the face of every difficulty
In 1979 was formed our new party, a glorious victory.
Sorry to change the subject
Sorry to change the subject from Maoism in the UK, but some readers might be interested in the debate about "really existing" Maoism in China: I reposted excerpts from the three-way exchange between Goldner, NPC from Red Spark, and myself here:
One interesting response is from Lang Yan:
iexist wrote: Quote: wrong
a widespread unrest among young (15-20 years old) workers, especially among those in apprenticeships which were in Germany back then quite harsh, especially in small and medium businesses: spending 2-3 years with very very little or even no pay, authoritarian and paternalistic regime by the employer/mentor, loads of additional duties beside work, often crappy training where only a fraction of the time was used to teach you something useful for the profession, you're supposed to learn. Ignited through the student movement in 1967, there was first a widespread participation of apprentices and other young workers in students demonstrations, than in late 1968/69 a series of strikes, demonstrations, etc. by apprentices, themselves, also leading to self-organized structures, both inside and outside the unions. After the most urgent demands (on pay, labour rights, etc.) had been met, the movement ebbed down was partly incorporated into the unions, more radical groups often aligned themselves to groups of the left or became the core of newly-emerging orgs (the "spirit" of the movement was exceptionally influential inside the KB, the least dogmatic ML group in Germany whose core became politicised in the apprentices movement)
My favourite critique of
My favourite critique of Maoism was on some London demo in the late 1980s. A motley bunch of Anarchist Communist Federation and Direct Action Movement people were marching near to the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement contingent. The RIM megaphone was belting out the most tedious, mind-numbing Maoist shite imaginable; shite which was then being parroted verbatim by the RIM faithful, who all sounded about as enthusiastic about it as Marvin the Paranoid Android. We were taking the piss relentlessly out of this but it didn't seem to be having much effect. Finally, we all lauched into "Chairman Mao's a wanker... na na na na!" to the tune of "Let's all do the conga". Worked a fucking treat and they were not at all happy :D
when the RIM held a rally in
when the RIM held a rally in honour of the Shining Path's Presidente Gonzalo in the early 1990ies on a square in Berlin-Kreuzberg, someone constantly played very loud the awful song Speedy Gonzales by Pat Boone from his balcony
Oh, how we laughed!
Oh, how we laughed! :D
Serge Forward wrote: Marvin
are they by any chance related?