Maoism and the American left?

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Oct 22 2016 18:30
Maoism and the American left?

Trying to figure out what accounts for the continued appeal of Maoism among the American left.

The United States is a developed industrialized country with no peasantry so what could possibly be the appeal of a movement traditionally focused primarily both upon the peasantry as a revolutionary agent and upon achieving rapid industrialization in the post-revolutionary period? I can understand the appeal that Maoism might have in industrially undeveloped countries such as Nepal; but in a major industrial city in the United States?

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Oct 22 2016 20:42

Redundant post deleted.

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Oct 22 2016 20:11

in the '60s-70s period Maoism entered the picture due to both anti-imperialism among student anti-war movement and racially defined movements with a nationalist cast, like August 29th Movement, and I Wor Kuen. Analogies were made in which racial minorities were seen as "internal colonies". But this trend eventually faded into non-profits oriented to specific reform campaigns but with a few groups surviving as identifying with the statist, vanguardist politics of the post-World War 2 "Communist camp", such as Freedom Road. The newer generation just seem to be sort of generic Marxist-Leninists, advocates for some narrowly defined state socialist politics with a vanguard role for students of Marxist-Leninist ideas.

Tom Henry
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Oct 23 2016 06:18

See this on Libcom by Yiching Wu:
[url=Cultural Revolution at the Margins]https://libcom.org/files/Yiching%20Wu-The%20Cultural%20Revolution%20at%2...(2014).pdf[/url]

Yiching Wu’s has written an interesting ‘subaltern’ history of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and in the quotes below demonstrates that for Maoists the most important event of the sixties was the Cultural Revolution - not May 1968, or even the release of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Quote:
In the late 1960s, China’s Cultural Revolution generated worldwide interest
and excitement. For many, the Cultural Revolution— its violence and cult
fundamentalism notwithstanding— was a radical political event embodying
a wellspring of revolt and new forms of collectivity that disrupted dominant
political structures.1 A symbol of revolutionary vision untarnished by
bureaucratized Soviet socialism, Mao’s continuous revolution seemed to
have tackled boldly the problem of how, after the revolution, the people
collectively could secure and further advance the revolutionary cause. Attempting
a “revolutionary reactivation of the Paris Commune,” wrote Alain
Badiou, arguably the most important living French philosopher today, the
Cultural Revolution marked the “ideological opposition between creative
revolutionary Marxism and retrograde statism” and constituted “the only
true political creation of the sixties and seventies.”2 Maoism, in the words
of Fredric Jameson, was “the richest of all the greatest new ideologies of the
60s,” and the Cultural Revolution marked the late 1960s as a political moment
of “universal liberation, a global unbinding of energies.” The figure of
Mao and the Cultural Revolution, for Jameson, “evokes the emergence of a
genuine mass democracy from the breakup of the older feudal and village
structures, and from the therapeutic dissolution of the habits of those structures
in cultural revolutions.”3 In the radical political milieu of the late
1960s and early 1970s, China’s Cultural Revolution seemed to support
the belief of many left-wing intellectuals that revolutions not only are necessary
but also can be genuinely revolutionary.

Quote:
Footnote: 3: Fredric Jameson, The Ideologies of Theory: Essays, 1971– 1986, vol. 2 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988), 188, 207.
In another example, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri contend that China’s Cultural Revolution answered “the desire for more democratic forms of or ga ni za tion and autonomy
from centralized military and political control.” “The image of China thus
served as an alternative to the Soviet model and the various Communist parties
that followed the Soviet line, but it also posed the notion of a full and free
engagement of the masses with no centralized control.” Michael Hardt and
Antonio Negri, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (New
York: Penguin Press, 2004), 76– 77.

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Oct 23 2016 07:50

Along with what everyone else has said, the inexplicable, enduring appeal of the romantic myth of Che is an important aspect of Maoism's continuing influence, at least in the US.

As syndicalistcat wrote above, Maoism was highly influential amongst the Black Liberation movement. Specifically, the Black Panthers' Maoism helps lend credibility to the ideology, in that many today continue to view the Panthers as heros and martyrs. That they were incredibly brave, brutally repressed, and actually did some good has blinded many so-called anarchists to their abysmal, counter-revolutionary politics.

In another thread a couple weeks ago, Chilli Sauce wrote about the disturbing amount of social democracy just under the surface of many in the States who describe themselves as anarchists. That's very true, but I'd argue that there's a not insignificant amount of Maoism there too, thrown in for good measure.

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Oct 23 2016 11:58

I think modern leftism (e.g. American/British campus SJW-culture), with its focus on identity, traces back to the American New Left and the social/political movements of that era (anti-revisionism, Maoism, third worldism, black power, women's liberation, later, the so-called New Communist Movement etc.), which went from being (at least, nominally) "against the system" in the 1960s and 1970s to becoming 'the system' by the 1980s and 1990s. Nowadays, its easy for the likes of Obama or Clinton, or the Ford Foundation to co-opt these kinds of partial/reformist struggles into their own political agenda (which is why I no longer support them).

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Oct 24 2016 03:14

Re: the Cultural Revolution. Maoists in the USA actually split over this. Only some Maoists romanticize the Cultural Revolution. Simon Leys wrote a book debunking the Cultural Revolution, the Emperor's New Clothes. What he shows there is that culture was just accidental because Mao, when he was kicked out of power in late' 50s, was given nominal control over the cultural sphere. what the Cultural Revolution was all about was the Mao faction's effort to get itself back into power at the head of the state. It was ultimately a power struggle between bureucratic factions & youth were being manipulated for this purpose. the RCP split over the Cultural Revolution with the majority going with the "Gang of Four" and the romanticized view while the RCP's trade union activists went with Revolutionary Workers HQ (which became Freedom Road). They were pro-China. Freedom Road more recently for example had a position in support of the FARC's guerrillaist war in Colombia.

I don't think Maoism has had any influence on anarchists as far as I can see, contrary to what someone above wrote. There has been some influence of racial autonomy politics or identity politics but this has a different source in USA. Not Maoism.

Tom Henry
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Oct 24 2016 08:13

Interesting information. I am also intrigued by the worship of Guevara in the US. This appears to be closely tied to the worship of Paulo Freire. Freire’s contribution to colonisation is intelligently analysed in this book, Re-Thinking Freire, edited by Chet Bowers and Frédérique Apffel-Marglin:

https://ecoed.wikispaces.com/file/view/C.+A.+Bowers,+Frdrique+Apffel-Marglin,+Frederique+Apffel-Marglin,+Chet+A.+Bowers+Re-Thinking+Freire+Globalization+and+the+Environmental+Crisis+Sociocultural,+Political,+and+Historical+Studies+in+Educatio+2004.pdf

This chapter is particularly interesting:

http://la.utexas.edu/users/hcleaver/330T/350kPEEEstevaVsFreiretable.pdf

as is this other piece by Bowers:

http://www.cabowers.net/pdf/Transformative%20theorist-Commons.pdf

Slavoj Zizek sings the praises of Che Guevara in his book, Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. Zizek also identifies himself as a Leninist:

http://www.newstatesman.com/ideas/2009/11/381-382-interview-obama-theory

Zizek works closely with Alain Badiou the French philosopher and Maoist.

One possibly interesting thing is that while it may be true that Maoism has not influenced Anarchism directly, the two strands may be coming together in the form of the Maoist insistence on, as Badiou put it in 2010, “a politics without party”. This politics affirms the obsolescence of the notion of the transitional state, just as the communisers from Theorie Communiste have also argued and extended with their notion that programmatism (the old workers’ movement) is also obsolete. Of course, what the Maoists and the communisers (the ultra-left) are now arguing is what Bakunin and the anarchists of the First International were arguing in their warning that seizing the state would be counter-productive, and the pursuit of communism through the Chambers of Labour (workers’ councils) was the more appropriate strategy (see Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice). As Badiou now insists, while the Bolshevik Party made ‘victorious insurrection’ possible it was “incommensurable to the tasks of the transition to communism” (Theory of the Subject, 2009).

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Oct 24 2016 09:45

stuff which I posted on a previous thread on the topic:

Quote:
Max Elbaum in his study on the New Communist Movement distinguished three different approaches of political activists in the USA during the sixties why they aligned themselves with "People's China" a) identification with the the chinese polemic on the general line and rejection of the "soviet" peaceful co-existance stuff - which attracted especially older non-white working class members of the CPUSA; b) identification with the third world liberationist approach outlined e.g. in Lin Biao's "long live victory in people's war" crap pamphlet which was popular among the anti-vietnam war movement and younger "people of color" and c) the impact (better misconception) of the cultural revolution of 1966-etc. among anti-authoritarian students

fnbrilll
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Oct 24 2016 11:29

Also many of the CPUSA's leading african-american members found themselves in the "anti-revisionist" camp in the 1950s. This led to larger groups in those communities inclined to Maoism.

fnbrilll
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Oct 24 2016 11:31

Also opportunistic fund raising:

Quote:
"I think we were about five months old, and one day Huey had an idea how we could raise some money. And what happens here is that Huey calls up and says, 'How much money have you got?' I say, 'I don't know; a hundred or so dollars.' He says, 'Come on over. I know how we can raise some money to pay some rent and buy some more shotguns.' And so I picked him up [and he] says, 'Let's go a place called the China Bookstore.' When we got there, this particular bookstore sold all kinds of publications from China, Hong Kong, Red China, whatever, OK? Taiwan, whoever. And he says, 'The Red Book,' he says, 'do you remember seeing ...?' I says, 'I remember seeing something about Mao Tse-tung,' I said, 'I saw it two or three times, and millions of people were holding this little red book up telling the thoughts of Chairman Mao Tse-tung.' He says, 'I just found out we could get these things here for 25 cents.' And he says, 'I'm sure we could sell them at the University of California, Berkeley, for a buck.' ...

"So I says, 'OK, [Huey],' I says, 'let's get a couple of hundred books.' So we got a couple of hundred books ... and went to this gate at the University of California, at Berkeley: 'Get your red book, the thoughts of Chairman Mao Tse-tung! One buck!' They went like hot cakes. I'm talking about in a matter of an hour all 200 or so books were gone. We jumped in the car, ran back, got some more books, came back up, sold a couple of hundred more, ran and bought a shotgun, went and paid some phone bills, paid the rent up. And this was like, now, we had not read this book. I mean, the next thing you know, we're selling books [right and left]. ... We were busy selling the book for the dollars to get our rent, to buy more shotguns, to buy more books for the reading list for the party members that we had going."

- Bobby Seale, 1996

Tom Henry
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Oct 24 2016 12:00

Ent's link to the 'previous thread', about the nature and influence of Big Flame in the UK, is really interesting.

petey
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Oct 24 2016 12:37

ran and bought a shotgun, went and paid some phone bills, paid the rent up.

priorities

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Oct 24 2016 13:26
fnbrilll wrote:
Also many of the CPUSA's leading african-american members found themselves in the "anti-revisionist" camp in the 1950s. This led to larger groups in those communities inclined to Maoism.

e.g. the Provisional Organizing Committee to Reconstitute a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party in the United States (POC) which had its core among black steel workers and miners in Pennsylvania and Puertorican port workers in NY and also counted Harry Haywood and Nelson Peery among its members (plus also Noel Ignatiev and Theodore W. Allen)

fnbrilll
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Oct 24 2016 16:55

#14

Yes. A bunch of the national "New Communist Movement" groupings came from those contact networks but not directly from POC.

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Oct 29 2016 02:04

there is certainly a rise in popularity with various strata of poc and queer youth

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Oct 29 2016 12:18
klas batalo wrote:
there is certainly a rise in popularity with various strata of poc and queer youth

Earlier this year I had submitted a post here to inquire about the Kentucky Workers League and a member of the League posted in reply:

Quote:
I'd say the stronger tendency amongst a lot of the core-members is Maoist (and the organization is heavily influenced by Black Panther politics and tactics) but the organization itself is largely non-sectarian and makes room for broad anti-capitalist leanings (I tend towards anarcho-communism).

So it does seem that you may be correct about there being a rise in Maoism's popularity, at least among certain strata. Also, I think it possible that some of these who embrace Maoism in America do so more out of a sense that it offers them a methodology to organize around rather then out any kind of strict adherence to classical Maoist strategies involving peasants and such. Although given the Black Panther influences these might well see in the lumpen class a "first-world" substitute for the peasantry.

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Nov 6 2016 09:50

Isn't part of the apeal of Maoism the fact that it is vanguardist. Maoists can put themselves in the position where they are the ones with the correct ideas who will become the leaders. I think the idea of fighting an insurgency also appeals to certain types and I think that those types are probably more present in the US than the UK for example.

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Nov 6 2016 17:04

I think that's a good point--no need to do the long, difficult task of patiently organizing in your workplace when you can just kick it off all on your own.