In Response to Mike Ely: The Elephant in the Room

The following article appeared on the Marxist-Leninist site -- in response to the piece  “Marxism is Not a Layer Cake.” The FRSO discussed below is the group associated with the newspaper "Fight Back."

by Professor Toad

 

First, I would like to clarify one point to avoid confusion. When the article Marxism is Not a Layer Cake was first posted, it was stated that it was a comment on the official Freedom Road Socialist Organization reading list. It has since been clarified that the reading list under discussion is not an official Freedom Road Socialist Organization list, but merely a study guide produced by a person who is a member of FRSO. Similarly, I am not writing this article on behalf of Freedom Road Socialist Organization. The editor of the Marxist-Leninist blog has, of course, had an opportunity to discuss it with me, and I have listened to his input, because he is a respected comrade. I have had some input from certain other comrades as well, in the US and abroad. But this article is solely my own responsibility.

Josh Sykes has asked me to say one thing on his behalf: He would like to extend a sincere thank you to Kasama for its solidarity in connection with the banning of Josh Sykes and several others from Facebook and the closing of the Free Ricardo Palmera Group.

To me, Kasama’s solidarity demonstrates that despite the important differences of principle between us, there is considerable common ground. The internet is not, of course, the real world. But within the confines of the limited importance of the internet, this struggle is important. The victories which have been won to date are meaningful, though, of course, the struggle continues.

Now, to business.

Revisionism and the Elephant

As I read this article, an image came into my mind. The image was of Mike Ely and a few others from Kasama sitting around a very sturdy table discussing the matter, perhaps over coffee or beer. On the table was a very large elephant. At one point Mike Ely referred in passing to “the so-called elephant in this room.” Otherwise the elephant was entirely ignored.

 

The elephant is, of course, revisionism.

By revisionism, I mean the promulgation of theories which claim to be Marxism but in fact have been stripped of their revolutionary character. Revisionism comes about because of the ideological pressure of the capitalists. Revisionism is a concept with which I am quite sure Mike Ely is very familiar. However, readers of his blog may not have a strong understanding of it.

People wishing to understand revisionism could do no better than to start with Lenin's article, Marxism and Revisionism. You can find it in the anti-revisionist section of the Marxist-Leninist Blog study guide.

Lenin explained the matter thus:

In the early days of Marxism, anti-Marxist socialists were very open about their opposition to Marx and applied arguments which rejected every aspect of Marx's methodology. But as the acceptance of Marxism grew, a change took place: The enemies of Marxism increasingly expressed their opposition to Marxism in subtle and dishonest ways. Rather than rejecting Marxism, they claimed to be simply updating it, making a few minor corrections, or what have you.

One famous "updater" of Marxism was Edward Bernstein. Bernstein supposedly used the Marxist method to explain that capitalism would result eventually in the workers getting the rights they wanted without so much as the need for a trade union.

Another famous revisionist was Karl Kautsky. Kautsky was at one time one of the most highly regarded Marxist theorists. After the Russian Revolution he explained – supposedly from a Marxist perspective – why the Bolsheviks were wrong to seize power, wrong to expropriate the wealthy peasants, wrong to fight the civil war against the capitalists, and wrong to suppress capitalists.

Nikita Khrushchev was another famous revisionist. Khrushchev was the premier of the Soviet Union between 1958 and 1964. Under his leadership, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union taught that peaceful coexistence was the main task of the international communist movement. Obviously, peaceful coexistence and revolution are not compatible.

Harry Haywood, in his article the Degeneration of the CPUSA in the 1950s, talks about revisionists in the Communist Party of the United States. Those revisionists, among other things, edited out of Marxism the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat and the basically class nature of the state. They did so supposedly because they did not feel they could explain that concept to their neighbors.

What do all of these revisionists have in common? That they take out the particularly revolutionary aspects of Marxism, and turn Marxism into something tame and harmless which is less threateninig to the capitalists.

Revisionism is the Ideological Pushback of the Capitalists

Galileo, Copernicus, Newton, and those who followed them developed a theory by which the motion of the planets was shown to obey certain natural laws. In time it was even shown that the planets themselves had a history and developed according to articulable laws.

 

Charles Darwin and those who followed him showed that the different types of animal had developed over time as a result of certain identifiable, material causes.

If one were to boil Marxism down to its core principles, one of the four or five last ones remaining would be this: That human ideas and human institutions develop over time according to certain real world causes. That is the simplest statement of dialectical, historical materialism as it applies to the social sciences. In particular we know that the class struggle is an enormous factor in the development of human ideas and institutions.

Marxism is the world outlook of the revolutionary proletariat. Revisionism is Marxism modified to remove its revolutionary content under pressure from the capitalists. This is a historically well-documented phenomenon. But in any case its existence is hardly surprising: It is a natural development of the class struggle.

Lenin said,

“There is a well-known saying that if geometrical axioms affected human interests attempts would certainly be made to refute them.”

Revisionism is precisely that: An attempt to refute perfectly correct aspects of Marxism because they affect particular human interests, specifically the interests of the capitalists.

 

The phenomenon of revisionism has close parallels in other sciences. The most obvious ones are in biology. There is no doubt of the fact of the evolution of the various species of life. The mechanism by which it took place is now reasonably well-known, although there is still more work to do. But an enormous number of people — by some counts more than half the U.S. population — refuse to accept evolution. Attempts are constantly being made to have other notions, such as creation science and intelligent design, taught alongside evolution in U.S. schools.

The reason for the widespread disbelief in evolution has very little to do with the way in which evolution is taught. We all know that it is fundamentally an ideological problem. People do not accept evolution not because it has been explained to them in a scholastic or religious way but because it does not fit into their religious worldviews.

Mike Ely points out quite correctly that Marxism was not well-understood in the early Soviet Union. He goes on to suggest that the reason for this failure of understanding was the manner in which it was taught. It is actually rather obvious that the general degree to which Marxism is still rejected is a result of ideology. Marxism is not widely accepted because the entrenched interests of the capitalists fight its acceptance. Teaching styles have little or nothing to do with it.

Revisionism and Tankies

It would be very useful in continuing this discussion to know exactly what elements in the works of Marx and Lenin Mike Ely particularly thinks are dated. Unfortunately, he is not direct enough in his article to tell us. But from the history of his exchanges with FRSO comrades, it appears that one particular Marxist idea with which Mike Ely disagrees is the dictatorship of the proletariat.

 

The discussions about the dictatorship of the proletariat which Mike Ely has had with FRSO members often take the form of Mike Ely condemning what he calls “tankies.” A tankie, according to Mike Ely, favors using tanks to suppress counter-revolutions, as in the case of Tiananmen Square.

The question of whether or not to use force when necessary to suppress counterrevolutionaries is the question of whether or not there should be a dictatorship of the proletariat. The dictatorship of the proletariat is precisely the Marxist doctrine which says that when the proletariat seizes power it must construct a working-class state which uses force to dismantle capitalist society, suppress counter-revolutionaries, and defend the gains of the revolution.

In Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx explained the dictatorship of the proletariat thus:

People in this conversation

  • Guest - eric ribellarsi

    Okay, I'll bite. I'm glad to see this engagement and would love to contribute my own thoughts to a process of line struggle.

    Professor Toad said:


    <blockquote>
    "At one point Mike Ely referred in passing to “the so-called elephant in this room.” Otherwise the elephant was entirely ignored. The elephant is, of course, revisionism."</blockquote>

    and

    <blockquote>"It seems to me that the most important difference between FRSO and Kasama in this discussion is this: FRSO accepts the existence of revisionism — that is an ideological pushback by capitalists which masquerades as Marxism — and the need to fight against revisionism. Kasama does not."</blockquote>


    I'll agree with the first quote. The elephant in the room was in fact revisionism. Although Mike Ely's piece was mainly correct, the only problem of the piece is that it concentrated too much on form, and less on the content of the study guide. Because, in fact, despite all of the slander of revisionism that Professor Toad uses, the content of that study guide was revisionist (even if it disguises this through dogmatism).

    Mike's critique of Marxism not being a layer cake is true, and that is worth discussing in a great detail. But the heart of the matter is that many of the layers of the cake that FRSO (Fight Back) constructs aren't even Marxist to being with. Why is it that we are supposed to believe the Mike Ely's dissusion of a process of "affirmation and negation" of past communist theories is revisionist, but yet, somehow the Chinese capitalist-roader Liu Shaoqi's <em>How to be a Good Communist</em> isn't?

    Is it really not true that there has been a problem in the way Marxism is approached? Do not many people approach Marxism as a religion? Why is it revisionism to criticize approaching Marxism like a religion, but somehow this bizarre repeated defense of the counter-revolutionary Deng Xiaoping regime and his Tiananmen Square massacre MUST be upheld?

    Is it not true that sometimes, certain contributions to the communist movement have turned into their opposites? Why should there not be a process of affirming and negating these works? What does it mean to read books like Ludo Martens "Another View of Stalin" which revise the history of Stalin to exist without any aspect of contradiction and portray him as infallible. Doesn't that play into dogmato-revisionist opposition to the much more radical and thoroughly revolutionary movement that later came in China?

    On another question, Professor Toad said:

    <blockquote>"We can see here then that the dictatorship of the proletariat is a Marxist principle which is still very important and clearly correct. Revolutionary governments should certainly pursue peaceful solutions to contradictions whenever possible. And it will not do to caricature this into a notion that there can be no free speech and no tolerance for dissent under socialism. But it is ultimately true that revolutionary governments which are not prepared to use force to defend themselves cannot survive. Yet the dictatorship of the proletariat appears to be one of the elements of Marxist theory which Mike Ely would like to see edited out of the reading list, and, more to the point, edited out of Marxism."</blockquote>

    Setting aside for a moment the method of ideological strawmen that Professor Toad is employing here regarding the dictatorship of the proletariat, it does seem that Professor Toad has a radically different understanding of that concept than I do. Why is it that most of Professor Toad's examples of the dictatorship of the proletariat are instances of military suppression under revisionist regimes? Why don't things like the Cultural Revolution in China, where a class of the oppressed rose up and overthrew a new emerging bourgeoisie right within the Communist Party itself (a bourgeoisie that FRSO(FB) has upheld and defended), appear in Professor Toad's list of examples of the dictatorship of the proletariat? It seems to me there is a real distrust and even disdain for the proletariat in this understanding of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

    A quote from comrade Mao comes to mind... <strong>"left in form, right in essence."</strong>

  • Guest - Nat W.

    Can someone (excuse my ignorance) point out where on this sight I can find a more detailed analysis of the idea of "affirmation and negation". I've heard this, and think it might help me understand better some of Mike E and Kasama's thinking. This is a helpful post Eric.

  • Guest - Nat W.

    It is clear to me from what I've read of Mike that he believes in fighting revisionism however sometimes his theoretical ponderings cover over this. While being able to learn from all the different currents of Marxist and communist thought, I wonder where we actually determine when it is necessary to combat revisionism when following Mike's theoretical method. I think Mike is saying there is a need to combat revisionism but whats the relationship to the method of engaging bushy communisms and other radical thought and demarcation with revisionism (and reformism)? Again I'd like to read more on "affirmation and negation" and maybe its already been touched on.

  • Guest - Jan Makandal

    I am using the posting of professor Toad to give my five cents worth in this debate. I could of use any previous post. My general tendency the response of professor Toad is to be placed in the same overall response not registering any objective advancement in the debate, not allowing theory to objectively advance in the interest of the only class capable to defeat capital: the PROLETARIAT. It is base, for me, in the same sterile debate plaguing the left for a long time. Transforming the contributions of previous revolutionaries, revolutionaries engaged in the mist of the Proletarian struggle, as simple scripture and a layer cake objectively handicapping the class to advance in its struggle to put capitalism/ imperialism to rest. It is not because we uphold as a statement, a saying such as the concept of proletarian dictatorship that we are automatically revolutionaries. Precursors of revisionism upheld this concept to make it become a bureaucratic concept serving the reconstruction of capitalism as we have seen in Russia and China, to cite these two only. The struggle of the proletariat and the masses under the leadership of the proletariat will demand of us that new effort are made in class struggle to redefine, to “proletarize” this concept or to come with a new one in order to define the historical role of the proletariat: to defeat capital and to construct a new society. The working class role is not to take, as is, the capitalist state apparatus and make it work in its interest but to destroy it taking into consideration the development of capitalism to its most advance mode of productions to a totally dependent, dominated capitalist mode of productions. It is important that we recognizes, the objective reality impose, that so far most revolutionaries experiences weren’t dictated only by ideological guidelines but a lot by necessities. The political line of the proletariat is not to find in theory the plan of political events but to have the means to understand these events, these necessities in order to actively define the means to face them...
    Dictatorship is not solely limited to superstructure dominantly the political system, structure and practice. Overall and concisely, it is the capacity of a class/ fraction to lead a society, with all its diversity under its leadership. Bourgeois dictatorship is the autonomous role of the bourgeoisie in a social formation, allowing the constant reproduction of the capitalist mode of productions and newly constructed capitalist mode of productions. A proletarian led social formation is to be realized through the most advance forms of democracy and democratic practices, base on the unity and alliance of the proletariat with other dominated classes under its leadership, addressing two dual complex realities the destruction of capitalist social relations and the emergence of new social relation for the abolition of classes. Only the working class, in any social formation, could lead society to achieve this historical task...

    One of the basic principle guiding revolutionary theoretical productions, at the level of social struggle, is the production of theory in order to give an interpretation or at least understand an objective reality and define the means to transform that objective reality. Theory cannot and should not be produce for the sake of theory but rather to define the tools necessary guiding our practice for radical transformation.
    We are in the period of imperialism and proletarian revolution. All stages in proletarian theory must correspond to a new stage of proletarian struggle internationally. It is certain, the Bolshevik revolution, the Chinese revolution, and the Vietnamese revolution are enclosed in a stage and the need to enter a new stage is present. We have enough elements in the struggle of the international proletariat to do so, but our experiences are limited, very limited. Much more needs to be accomplished by the international proletariat to really enter a new stage. One the important contradictions that new stage needs to overcome, is the constant search for an individual, a revolutionary militant to associate, as essential, with that stage. We almost had this with Gonzalo of Peru. The thought process of identifying an individual as representing a new stage is deeply flawed, presenting theoretical positions as dogma, enshrining the positive as well as the negative aspects of their contributions. This is completely anti proletarian if we take the Peruvian experience or Albania as example clearly a complete fabrication of petit bourgeois wild imagination and Gonzalo and Hoxa are proclaimed head stone by the petit bourgeoisie.

    It is important, from the conception of proletarian internationalism, to work, to develop theory from a collective conception, even if, at times, some ideas do originate from particular individuals. This individual origination is irrelevant, accidental, besides being historically determined by broader social forces. The collective development of proletarian revolutionary theory is what is correspondent to the class nature of the proletariat. This is what is correspondent to communism. We must overcome the form and limitations that all the previous stages took, that corresponded to previous levels of capitalism, and the form proletarian struggles took, and the maturity of these proletarian struggles. Even at the level spontaneous struggle, the proletariat tends to come with concept reflecting that inherent tendency of collective struggle: unions. But to keep adding head stone, to keep privatizing individual contribution, some very important contribution and self-proclaiming is anti proletarian and doesn’t reflect the development of capitalism. Marxist, Marxist- Leninism, Anarchism reflected a level of proletarian science historically determined by the development of capitalism. Our role is to collectivize these contributions, from the dialectic of specific to general/ general to specific and the philosophical principle of concrete analysis of a concrete reality to advance our theory for its ultimate goal to defeat capitalism…

    I agree to the concept Proletarian science is not a layer cake, an accumulation of scriptures ready to be implemented. I will also agree proletarian science can’t be taught in a classroom or in a study group totally isolated from a social practice. The deepening of proletarian science is dialectically related to the construction of different forms of proletarian organizations and the struggles of the masses, principally the working class, it bares down to the need of a political line. They are two components of proletarian science: Historical Materialism and dialectical materialist. The source of this science is the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and the masses. This theory, this philosophy is the revolutionary scientific guide of the proletariat to bury capital…

    Theory is to be validated. Theory outside the process of validation is a dogma and empirical. Theory is to be determined by practice. There is no emotion and specially no history in the production of theory. Theory is the interpretation given to a phenomenon, a complex reality. The objective of theory is not only to give the most advance interpretation but also to define the means to transform that reality. Proletarian theory is the materialistic interpretation of history, the theoretical platform of scientific socialism and communism…

    The problematic of sanctified our headstone is we tend to dogmatically defends them and opportunistically defend and repeat their errors. It objectively limit a critical approach needed to deepen proletarian theory. For me, Mao has a lot to do in the development in China now, Lenin as well for Russia. Not taking anything away from their valuables contributions but in order for our science to develop and consolidate we do need to be very intransigent in our critic of them… The elaboration of Lenin of State capitalism is erroneous and need to be combated, not defended. We do need to critically approach the errors committed in the constructions of socialism, not by dogmatically defends our head stone, the defense of the head stone is determined by a non proletarian class interest, but our objective should be to systematically, with intellectual integrity, look at reality with the objective to deepen proletarian science…

  • Guest - Tell No Lies

    There is much to respond to in this article which I think grossly mischaracterizes Mike's thinking on revision in general and on the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular. I'd like to take issue, however, with what probably seems like a tangential or even trivial point, but one that I think reveals how dogmatism disarms the revolutionary movement:

    <blockquote>The internet is not, of course, the real world.</blockquote>

    This is wrong. It is also a fundamentally conservative viewpoint. It is true that the internet is not the WHOLE real world, but its actually a pretty important part of the real world. In the U.S. it is, for example, larger than the radical left by a few orders of magnitude. Its where most people under 40 get their news and it is where people of every imaginable persuasion go most often to discuss politics. The digital divide notwithstanding, there are still far more oppressed nationality and working class people on the internet than are involved in all of the mass movements in the U.S. combined, even if you include the largely passive membership of most unions. And each year only sees more oppressed people online.

    I just spent a year in Chiapas. In 1994 the internet was province of a thin layer of academics and activists who nonetheless used it to enormous effect. Now internet cafes can be found in the most proletarian neighborhoods and access even reaches into many impoverished villages, Zapatista and otherwise. Most of the time spent online is spent the way it is everywhere else -- playing games, surfing porn and the like. But it is also how many people get their news and maintain contact with relations working in the U.S..

    All of which is to say that it is a critical space in which revolutionaries and revolutionary organizations should be building a robust and highly visible presence, and doing so should be prioritized in a way that, with a few exceptions, it has not been.

    Obviously there are many, many things that can't be done on the internet and building an online community of revolutionaries as Kasama is attempting to is not a substitute for all sorts of work that of necessity must occur in meat space. But the insistence that what happens on the internet is not happening in "the real world" reflects a sort of vulgar materialism that minimizes the importance of ideas and the struggles over ideas. It is, in short, of a piece with the positivism, determinism, and scientism that run through the supposedly "orthhodox" Marxism-Leninism reflected in this article.

    The simple fact is that every modern revolution, whether bourgeois or proletarian, has relied on the most advanced available mass communications technology of its day (print in France, Russia and China, radio in Algeria, etc...) to propagate its ideas and to draw large numbers of people into a world of ideas radically at odds with the dominant thinking of their respective societies. When this actually happens, when real and vibrant revolutionary movements actually gain traction among the people, there has always been a conflict with those who look to tidy verdicts derived from past experiences.

    There is no single capitalist ideological pushback within the revolutionary movement. There are many. The problem with how the concept of "revisionism" has come to be used is that it misapprehends the real complexity of how capitalism operates in the realm of ideology and instead frames the question in terms of the "revision" of supposedly established orthodoxy. This is essentially a religious and not a scientific outlook. It should hardly be surprising when it adopts a conservative view of the use by revolutionaries of new communications technologies.

  • Guest - balzac

    Following up on what Tell No Lies is saying, I recently took a course on communications technology in the global South and the most interesting text we read for it was called <i>Working-Class Network Society</i> by Jack Linchuan Qiu. The book's description, taken from the author/publisher's website (I do not have the mental energy right now to provide my own summary, as much as I would like to), is as follows:

    <i>The idea of the "digital divide," the great social division between information haves and have-nots, has dominated policy debates and scholarly analysis since the 1990s. In Working-Class Network Society, Jack Linchuan Qiu describes a more complex social and technological reality in a newly mobile, urbanizing China. Qiu argues that as inexpensive Internet and mobile phone services become available and are closely integrated with the everyday work and life of low-income communities, they provide a critical seedbed for the emergence of a new working class of "network labor" crucial to China's economic boom. Between the haves and have-nots, writes Qiu, are the information "have-less": migrants, laid-off workers, micro-entrepreneurs, retirees, youth, and others, increasingly connected by cybercafés, prepaid service, and used mobile phones. A process of class formation has begun that has important implications for working-class network society in China and beyond.

    Qiu brings class back into the scholarly discussion, not as a secondary factor but as an essential dimension in our understanding of communication technology as it is shaped in the vast, industrializing society of China. Basing his analysis on his more than five years of empirical research conducted in twenty cities, Qiu examines technology and class, networked connectivity and public policy, in the context of massive urban reforms that affect the new working class disproportionately. The transformation of Chinese society, writes Qiu, is emblematic of the new technosocial reality emerging in much of the Global South.</i>
    taken from: http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&amp;tid=11751

    There is a lot of nuance involved in considering the impact of IT stuff on the global South so I think it's easy for us to lump it into the "good" category (i.e. what's happened with the Zapatistas and now in Oaxaca, possibly Iran as well) and the "bad" category (access to technology falling along class lines, normalizing capitalist and/or consumerist relations, etc.) while I'd say that the vast majority seems to be pretty ambiguous - though I also think it's a myth that access to IT stuff falls largely along class lines in the global South, as lack of monopolies have led to extraordinarily cheap (and common) access to cell phones and net cafes among even sub-working class peoples. I wish I was saying this a bit clearer, have been a bit sick the last couple days, but I hope this adds something...

  • Guest - saoirse

    The comment TNL seizes on "The internet is not, of course, the real world" may be quite telling or it could be a throw away, flip comment or a declarative bomb thrown in the face of at leftist projects uniformly based on internet communication. I would have to ask the author of this comment for more information before making any judgement.

    I can say that I find the internet intensely liberty and alienating at the same time. For as long as I've know both FRSO's they've had a reputation for meat and potatoes socialist activism. What you did mattered more than what the newspaper you were hawking at a demo. Again going back 10-15 years, FRSO for many years didn't have a big publication Forward Motion came out sporadically. There internet presence was uneven and quirky and didn't focus on the issue of month approach of many left publication for the socialist worker to the revolutionary worker.

    Today things are decidedly different for both organizations. There is much more nuance and "meat" on both organizations websites, pamphlets and newspapers. Still both org's have maintained a rep for getting their hands dirty, working hard and doing. All of this is not a backhanded criticism of Kasama. It's not.

    TNL and some folks on Kasama seem to be mirroring some of the approach that STO had during the 70s party building period amongst ML organizing. I like and respect that approach. I too was influenced but STO's project and there deep commitment to developing revolutionary theory. Though it seems to me that both party building frenzy of the 70s and the attempt to re-concieve ML theory fell short. We've talked a lot about the former, maybe in the future we should dialogue more about the later.

    Ideally we could have a merger of the best of these two approaches. If we agree that that is what is needed. As it is I feel like there is a tremendous onesideness to TNL post about the internet. I am a mountain climber. this is my passion and current chosen profession. Climber's put a great emphasis on what you do. What you climb. Not simply the summits you bag and tally and brag about in magazines and the internet but how you accomplish your goals too.

    In the world of climbing the internet is a world many climbers shun completely. We avoid reading newspapers, blogging, reading websites and discussion boards. While other climbers have a more complicated relationship with the internet. For myself reading discussions about climbing is a profoundly alienating and surreal experience. For example an accident will happen at my local climbing area. I will be there. I will be a first responder and participate in the rescue. A week later I will read 1,000 postings on the internet about the accident and it will be filled with myth, distortions and lies. What am I to make of this? I was there. Yet all these folks are debating a fiction. This personal non-political experience has made me distrust the internet more than any posting on a political blog.

    But more importantly I have to say that Kasama is a potential political base area for me b/c it is having discussions like these. Engaging different approaches and trends. This discussion board brings together many political tendencies and trends and no issue is left in the closet. Every stone is being unturned. In this sense there is a profound challenge to the ML parties of old. There is a challenge to countries where 50 years ago we just didn't know what was happening in the streets in real time. People are finding "home's" on the internet where they can be anarchists and nationalists, appreciate trotsky and mao, celebrate queerness and s/m and still be communist revolutionaries. There is much potential ahead and we are just beginning our journey.

  • Guest - jp

    Saoirse,'Every stone is being unturned'is a great statement of purpose.

  • Guest - Joseph Ball

    The line propagated by the Freedom Road Socialist Organistion on the Tiananamen Square massacre defies all belief. If you look at their semi-official line on this 'Continuing The Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party' they attack the Cultural Revolution and uphold the suppressing of the Tiananmen Square protesters. Upholding China as socialist in 1989 and now is simply a delusional fantasy. I sometimes think that maybe since 1976 and certainly since 1989 communists have gone into a kind of fantasy world of denial. The Deng Xiaoping regime viciously attacked the great gains the Chinese workers and peasants had made, since 1949 and in an accelerated fashion during the GPCR. The GPCR is widely denigrated now, even by so-called Maoists like Bhattarai, but it led to the mass involvement of the proletariat and peasantry in the running of their own affairs, a huge campaign to diffuse culture among the ordinary people, a mass extension in educational facilities and a mass expansion in health care among ordinary Chinese people that saved a huge numbers of lives. All this was smashed by the Deng Xiaoping regime. Free health care ended, free education ended, the promotion of the model operas in the countryside was replaced by encouraging Chinese farmers to buy TVs where they are treated to an endless diet of government propaganda and mindless 'light entertainment' shit.

    Let's be clear about Tiananmen Square-it was a right-wing movement, like the 1989 events in Eastern Europe. The idea that it was some proletarian revolutionary struggle is another left-wing fantasy. If Minqi Li (one of the participants, now a supporter of Mao's ideas) is correct, then the student leaders of this movement were right-wing free marketeers who wanted to overthrow China's 'state capitalist' system and replace it with the free market. Apparently, they regarded the workers who joined them in the square with some contempt. If Minqi Li's account is true, then sadly it was not these bourgeois student leaders who mainly died in Deng's massacre but the workers who remained in the square after their 'leaders' had left. The workers had legitimate grievances and did not support the line of the student leaders. However, they had no developed line of their own for making socialist revolution.

  • Guest - nando

    Joseph Ball writes:

    <blockquote>"The line propagated by the Freedom Road Socialist Organistion on the Tiananamen Square massacre defies all belief."</blockquote>

    I don't agree with the FRSOML's defense of the capitalist roaders of China, or their support for the first significant mass resistance to their tightly repressive aparatus.

    But... I do want to register a real disagreement with Joseph Ball's method and assumptions: He always declares his own views are <em>obviously</em> true -- and that anyone who disagrees with him is out to lunch.

    In this case, Joseph Ball declares that it "defies all belief" that anyone can take a position opposed to his. Why? Are there not real reasons we should examine (respectfully)? Is the world so simple that your own views are obviously correct, and opposing views are obviously wrong?

    Even though I basically agree with many of his specific historical points above, there is something about the assumptions that i find viscerally wrong: we are seeking to solve difficult problems. We are trying to sort through an accumulated thicket of differences that have accumulated among communists. We are trying do evaluate widely differing views, summations and programs.

    The truth in almost call cases is <em>not</em> obvious -- the facts are often in dispute, the theoretical basis for summation is controversial, and we often need to be patient in developing a common language for engagement.

    This arrogant tone and simplistic posture is a familiar legacy of Comintern politics -- and we should not adopt it.

  • There are many things to say about this polemic, and the internet is (obviously) a secondary and side issue. But while i read what others are saying on the main issues, I would just like to comment on:

    <blockquote>"The internet is not, of course, the real world."</blockquote>

    This is basically wrong, and (frankly) feel like the prejudice of old people (sometimes justified by a particular stereotypical view of what kinds of engagement are "real.")

    First: there was a myth (promoted in the 1990s) that the Internet was a "cyberworld" that existed outside the "real world." And so people were able to "escape" to a fantasy world that had its own rules, but less "reality."

    In fact, the Internet is basically a modern technologial means of communications, data storage and interaction that is fully <em>part of the real world.</em>

    We would not call a library "not the real world" -- but the Internet is in many ways replacing libraries.

    We would not call a retail store "not the real world" -- and the Internet is becoming a major way things are bought and sold.

    We would not say "talking on the telephone is not the real world" -- so why are online forums, debates, communications "not the real world."

    saoirse says we have to hear what the author meant before responding. Well, I'm not responding to that author, but am responding to the rather constant drumbeat I have heard from all kinds of people (including most of the RCP leadership for years), that was suspicious of any online engagement.

    Some say "you can't organize online." Why not? In fact you can. (And have since Seattle's big protests.)

    Some say "you can't organize <em>communist</em> organization online -- because of security problems." But I have seen whole communist movements organized using telephones -- why is new technology inherently hostile to our interests?

    Some say "the internet is inherently middle class and privileged." This gives the conservatism a "class" tone -- but is similarly ill considered. First, the digital divide has broken down tremendously. Second the main divide has been literacy (always) and the same people (today) who have great trouble getting online, often (yesterday) had great trouble reading the printed commuist press. In fact, the emergence of digital media gives us a potential shot at <em>overcoming</em> the literate divide and creating outreach that can connect with people untrained in reading and writing. Third, many forms of communications start "privileged" -- including the printing press during the anti-medieval reformations and the Enlightenment. The use of the printing press (for vernacular bibles and then secular treaties) made all kinds of radical ideas much more broadly available in society -- including to people who had no access to the presses, or their printed material.

    For decades, the mass media have been increasingly monopolized, and radicals have been on the outside trying to "break in" -- to the arenas where they can be seen and heard by millions. This meant fighting to get "onto TV" and "into the movies" -- even if just for a few minutes.

    Suddenly this old structure of hegemony has cracked in new ways -- because non-standard channels of informaiton and news have opened up. We should not act like old people -- stuck in nineteenth century newspapers or mid-20th century assumptions about leaflets and wall posters.

    Communists in the U.S. did not succeed in taking advantage of radio (which the fascists in Europe exploited from the 1920s). communists did not use TV well (when it emerged in the 1950s), or even cable access (when it emerged decades later). We just were tailing all of that, passively and rather uncreatively. The mindset is still very "print and hand out" -- as if we are stuck in World War 1.

    Can't we snap out of that, and (for once!) get ahead of the curve, and be part of whats arising in the culture?

    The Internet is now fully integrated into "the real world" -- it is not some ethereal suspicious "cyberfantasy." It has changed how people read, communicate, learn, and organize. And if communists don't put themselves on the bleeding edge of these things -- it would be a tremendous waste of a great opportunity.

  • Guest - kuni Scott

    "Some say “the internet is inherently middle class and privileged.” This gives the conservatism a “class” tone — but is similarly ill considered. First, the digital divide has broken down tremendously"

    Could you possibly back up this statement....Are you looking at the world population as a whole?

  • Guest - balzac

    Kuni, I addressed that in my post (#6). I did not mean that there is not a high level of unevenness to the spread of access to internet/cellphones, but that the unevenness was more geographical than class-oriented (and I would also add that the geography of IT use does not fall along post-industrial/third-world, either).

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    I think we do best to consider the question of revisionism vs. Marxism today from the perspective of our own time and place, ie, from the perspective of solving the problems of building a revolutionary movement in the U.S.

    The main reason is simple. It's the one where we have at least some ability to do so, where we have some experience and practice.

    I think the question of China and its path is still open. In any case, I don't think we are in any position to establish definitive conclusions. For all the venom against Deng here, he remains, as best as we can tell, immensely popular even today among the broad masses in China, his policies have raised living standards on the whole, even with inequality, and vastly expanded the size of the Chinese working class itself through the development of China' productive forces.

    Marxists in China are still debating the GPCR, the Great Leap Forward and many other aspects of their history. They have a variety of views. It seems strange for us, who have no direct experience, to be urging definitive stands.

    By 1990, it was clear to me that there was a worldwide crisis in Marxism, meaning that everything about it was 'up in the air,' in need of re-examination, reformulation and refoundation. And that also includes 'what is revisionism' in our time.

    It goes deep. Even the notions of dialectical materialism need rethinking from the perspective of modern science today. History has shown a good deal of Lenin's 'Materialism and Empirio-Criticism to be off base. I could make a good argument that John Dewey's instrumental theory of truth is more in tune with modern science, and could serve as the dialectical materialism of our time, and would certainly serve us better than, say, some of Stalin's dogmas on science.

    Tiananmen was a complicated affair. At the time, I sided with the students and liked Zhao Ziyang's approach, seeing them as pro-democracy and patriotic on the whole. But Zhao was placed under house arrest and removed from power--in opposition to all the CCP's own party norms and rules, by the way--and others raised deeper questions about where the protests would end. Was there another way to handle it better? I frankly don't know. They were gaining support from some among the masses, but it was also clear they were also being opposed. 'Stability' was being held in high value among the people themselves, and still is in many ways, although the recent workers upsurge is a sign of change. Anyway, to learn a few things on the matter, take a look at 'Prisoner of State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang,' (Simon &amp; Schuster)

    In brief, we can study this, comment on it it, learn various things, and take a variety of stands. But I for one am in no position to declare that 'this is Marxism and that is revisionism' about the Chinese revolution today, and I frankly don't think many others here are either, despite their stands.

    One reason I think this is because we haven't even yet been able to agree on many core matters about our own country, or solve its problems. Take the dispute over Haywood. In the late 1950s, he argued against the CPUSA's 'into the mainstream, get behind the NAACP' line. He asserted a rebellion was brewing the the Deep South, and that it would take a revolutionary nationalist turn, and the party needed to be situated in the thick of it. At that time, I don't know of anyone who was a Marxist in our country who had a better approach, whatever you might think of his role and views in hindsight. Yet many here want to set him aside.


    Our own working class and oppressed communities today are being disarmed both politically and organizationally, even on simple tools like the ability to have trade unions or mass organization, and, frankly again, we have yet to even solve this problem.

    If you want to advance revolutionary theory, start by solving some problems, especially those right in front of us, then proceed outward and upward. That's my challenge to anti-revisionists and everyone else on the US left. The Chinese Marxists will do the summary of their own revolution, as will the Russians. I'll try to learn fro whatever they do along the way, but I'm not of the opinion that anything about the last 50 years is set in stone yet, if it ever is.

  • Guest - nando

    Kuni Scott asks about the digital divide.

    First, everything in our society is marked by the divisions of class, and by the North South divide on a world scale. This has a deep effect on who has access to communicatons and technolgy -- and how much they have access two.

    But, second, huge changes have been happening.

    Fifteen years ago, only half of people on earth had made a phone call, and half lived a hundred miles from the nearest telephone. I.e. the lack of infrastructure meant that people were not just out of commodity production but removed from key forms of communication. The cell phone (and an explosion of satellite phone use) has changed that greatly.

    Internet usage spread first (obviously) among those able to buy personal commuters and ISP service -- which meant that "the information superhighway don't run thru my 'hood." But that divide (which was extreme in 1995 has changed in many ways -- largely because of the cheapening of costs, but also because of the availability in schools. While the lack of access among the poor remains real, the percentages of peole online have grown steadily (here and internationally) and (in the U.S. the rates of growth have, understandably, been among previously bypassed sections, expecially poor youth.)

    No one argues that the "digital divide" has disappeared (or that it <em>can</em> disappear under capitalism)... any more than the emergence of printed material and newsprint meant that everyone in the world got books and newspapers.

    But the trends are rather remarkably steep, and the situation is far from static.

    Just to grab one set of stats:

    http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm

    WORLD TOTAL:

    360,985,492 used internet in the year 2000

    1,802,330,457 use internet by latest data

    This is 26.6 % of the population, and represents 400% growth in one decade.

    This remarkable increase is still skewed by imperialist lopsidedness, however the rates of growth are highest in somew of the least penetrated areas. And the penetration by internet has become substantial in a number of Third World regions (for example the penetration rate in Latin American and the Caribbean is 32%, while the world average is 26.6%)

  • Guest - nando

    here is a four year old article on the digital divide among African Americans:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/us/31divide.html


    as you can see the digital divide remained real and significant -- but the trend lines showed it narrowing.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    I worked for many years of the 'digital divide,' setting up some 25 community tech centers in Chicago, computer clubs in tough schools, training teachers, etc. I was with CTCNet nationally.

    Today the biggest problem, at least in the Global North, isn't access to computers and the internet. Instead it's knowledge about how to make the best use of it, both for developing your own options and working to change the world. Left to spontaneity, it largely becomes just a way of talking nasty to the opposite sex, playing games or watching porn.

  • Guest - land

    The internet is the real world. Which means that and more people are using the internet for communication, information and organizing. Theory is more accessible to people. If you want to know something you go to the internet. Everyone says that and everyone can figure out how to do it. I am not clear about the language accessibility.

    So how do we use this to bring into reality a revolutionary people?

  • Guest - worker antagonism

    ok so supporters of the current Chinese state which stands on the cutting edge of capitalist barbarism worldwide, and of Cuba ( currently beginning neo-liberal restructuring), are complaining about the revision of Marxism by the bourgeoisie, all due respect, but this is a little bit laughable.
    incidentally speaking from an anarchist perspective, I have always observed a big distinction between the Maoism which is oriented towards a understanding of the Cultural revolution as an epic moment in the history of the autonomy of the proletariat, and the tank fetishists who express solidarity with any "anti-imperialist" bureaucrat bourgeoisie they can find in the third world.

  • Guest - Otto

    I suppose someone has noticed that the Revisionism groups, governments, etc, do not actually call themselves Revisionism. That may be what they are, but I doubt if anyone in Cuba has described themselves that way.

  • Guest - nando

    WA writes:

    <blockquote>"[with] all due respect, but this is a little bit laughable."</blockquote>

    a) your remark is actually not "with all due respect."

    b) the views of other people are not laughable.

    c) if you want to engage anyone, it would help to make your arguments more substantively -- not simply declare your views are right and those of other people are a joke.

    I tend to agree with the points you seem to be making Worker Antagonism. I think there is a current among communists that has a streak of "wannabe tyrants" who think that problems can be solved by pointing weapons at anyone who challenges their plans (including whole sections of the people as necessary) -- and are not particularly bothered by the contradictions of that, or the outcome of protracted use of threat against the population.

    But it is true, nonetheless that the "tankie"arguments have seemed "militant" in some ways, to some people -- even it the cause for which they are militant is often a quite conservative, locked down and unliberated one.

    why don't you engage it?

    But if you want to engage, why not make respectful arguments, rather than mocking

  • Guest - Dave Palmer

    In response to Otto's point, I think Eduard Bernstein actually referred to himself as a revisionist, although I could be mistaken. Ever since then, "revisionist" has simply been a term of derision.

    A poorly-chosen one, I might add -- if Marxism is truly scientific, then why would revising it necessarily be a bad thing? This would only make sense if Marxism were a set of immutable, eternal truths -- certainly not something Marx ever claimed. So even adopting the word "revisionist" as an epithet is, in some way, revising Marx.

    (I'd like to say that this is an original insight of mine, but I may have heard it elsewhere, although I don't remember where).

    To the extent that Marxism is a living, scientific doctrine, it will necessarily undergo constant revision. The question should not be whether or not someone is revising Marxism (why shouldn't they?), but rather whether these revisions make sense, whether they fit with objective reality, etc.

    I think that Mike's tendency to diminish or even negate the importance of any twentieth-century socialist experience that happened to be on the Soviet side of the Sino-Soviet split is understandable in historical context, but unfortunate and wrong. I think it should be called what it is, not mis-named "revisionism."

    I also think that willfully ignoring the many negative aspects of the twentieth-century socialist experience -- based on the misconception that to fail to ignore these things would constitute "revisionism" and would objectively serve the needs of imperialism -- is perhaps an even bigger and more foolish mistake.

    None of the twentieth-century socialist revolutions was <i>fully</i> successful in achieving its goals (although some, like the Cuban revolution, are still works-in-progress). There were some major successes, and these should be recognized. There were also some colossal failures, and these should also be recognized and understood.

    What I value about Kasama is not Mike's individual politics, which I often don't agree with. What I value about Kasama is that it is a community of people who understand the practical importance of having a serious discussion about these questions.

  • Guest - mediated abstraction

    Reading this and some of the responses to Mike's criticism of the reading lists is pretty disheartening and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to have the entire point of the original post missed by so many. It seems like such an elementary point from an outsider's perspective:

    Why limit yourself to such a narrow cannon of "successful" (yes, these are scare quotes because it may come to a surprise to some people that despite some brief victories the experiences of revolutionary socialist projects of the 20th century were ultimately failures) revolutionaries while leaving out so many valuable works of the non-Stalinist left?

    Pannekoek, Bordiga, Goldman, Trotsky, and Luxemburg just to name a few were all major figures that played a massive role in the American and European revolutionary movements following the first world war. Their insights and struggles ought not to be overlooked simply because it falls outside of the Comintern's official line.

    Certainly nobody is arguing to replace or discard Engel's Anti-Duhring or Lenin's State and Revolution as recommended reading for someone trying to understand communist theory, that's never been brought up and is far from what I understand Mike is trying to say.

    The Kasama project has always been about regrouping and reconception of communist politics by breaking away from the suffocating and ineffective orthodoxies that plague the left.

    That involves a rigorous critical examination of theory and where that theory comes from. There's absolutely no reason to be defensive about this because honestly we've got very little to lose here despite what some self-appointed vanguards would have you believe.

    Does this mean "stripping the revolutionary character from Marxism"? I certainly don't think so, but good luck winning people over to your side while upholding Dengist China and the Tiananmen massacre as examples of what you'd like to do to society, be sure to say hi to the Larouche kids on the other street corner with their Obama=Hitler placards.

  • Guest - Jan Makandal

    Revisionism is not about Marx per se; it is not about betraying the ideal of any of the head stone. This is exactly one of the reasons of my insistence to reach a new stage. Revisionism is about class interest and class objective. Revisionism is an orientation [theory and political] in the name of proletarian interest but achieving the opposite. What was called in China the capitalist “roaders.”? Some theories developed by “our” head stone will lead to revisionism; the struggle of the proletariat did not reach a certain level of development to invalidate these theories at the time. In fact, the anti- revisionist struggle regress soon after the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and revisionism theories and politics [social practice and political line] developed in Europe with the rise of the social democracy in the upheaval periods of the late sixties.

    We need to reach a new stage, not connected to any head stone, but addressing real issues and bringing the debate to a new level where we are engaged in theoretical debate not in the defense of revolutionary proletarian intellectuals, but in ideas/theories giving a materialistic interpretation of the objective reality we are evolving in order to radically transform it.

    Proletarian theory is constantly in danger of a dual deviation in the theory and practice of proletarian struggle. These two deviations are right opportunism and left opportunism. It is important to struggle, equally, against these two deviations and to lay the groundwork for the manifestations of these deviations not to reproduce. The fight against these two deviations doesn’t put us in a middle between these two deviations but, simply put, the fight against these two deviations has allowed proletarian revolutionaries to develop a just political line from these three inseparables realities: the process of capitalist exploitation and the process of proletarian revolution and class struggle that prepares and accomplishes them.

    What makes revisionism inevitable, and even more inevitable nowadays, are its social roots in our times. We must recognize the unequal process of proletarization that always maintains a constantly growing petit bourgeoisie besides the working class. The ever-growing new fractions in the petit bourgeoisie are therefore not a temporary question but a permanent process. This permanent process will continue its effect even after proletarian led revolutions.
    The actual struggle between proletarian theory and revisionism, the continuation of class struggles in a proletarian led society does share the same basics. In all social formations, in their own specificity, we should consider a dual reality, an absolute relative permanent process, the constant process of proletarization of the petit bourgeoisie and the constant reconstitution of the petit bourgeoisie. Revisionism is the theoretical foundation of that petit bourgeoisie in the process of proletarization.

    Capitalism [theory and practice] was constructed in the struggle mainly against feudalism, except for American capitalism that did not have to confront feudalism at the level of their European counter parts. Proletarian theory is, as well, in the constant process of construction from militants directly participating in the struggles of the workers and outside these struggles, against capitalism. Dominantly, we are in a period of reflux, a stagnated period if you will due the low level of proletarian struggle giving an objective fertile ground to the development and consolidation of revisionism. Some proletarians revolutionaries left us with theories that are fertile ground for the development and consolidation of revisionism. For example, Chinese revolutionaries correctly confronted the determining role of the productive forces to the social relations in the construction of socialism.

    Our theoretical vision must be constructed as the science of the proletarian revolutionary movement. It should not be a pre-conceived science but rather a science determined by its materialism, a science in a constant and never ending process of validating it self thru the dialectic of unity and practice. What gives strength or regression to proletarian theory is its internal relation to dialectical philosophy and materialism, which depends the union of theory and practice.

    Finally, the theoretical deviations of proletarian theory are philosophical deviations realized on the field of knowledge that produce an effect on proletarian theories and at the same time on the working class movement

  • Guest - Markus

    Carl Davidson sounds like every opportunist i've met. "There is no truth", it sounds like.
    You write that Deng is popular. Thats no argument for a marxist.
    Eisenhover and Roosevelt are popular in the states I presume?
    Does this make them any less bourgeois?

    It should be clear to all that want to abolish capitalism, that China is capitalist.
    If you can't distinguish between friend and foe, between socialism and capitalism, you can't
    seriously preach the necessity of marxism, revolution and socialism/communism.

    Markus from Norway

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    Marxists would do well to assess popular consciousness as best they can in any country they are talking about to get an all-sided view. So the popularity of any figure is worth noting and taking into account. But you're correct in that it doesn't make them right or wrong or something in between. As for Deng's Marxism or lack of it, study his works and what they have produced overall. Make some evaluation, not just name calling.

    If you think I'm wrong about there being a new crisis in Marxism itself since 1990, make an argument.

    As for truth, I never made the claim you accuse me of. I affirmed John Dewey's instrumental theory of truth, that there are 'truths,' not 'Truth,' and that we expand them through social inquiry, scientific experiment, class struggle and the struggle for developing the productive forces. If you want to develop some truths, start with problems, do some inquiry and practice, and solve some problems--and seek it from facts in the course of practice. In the social and political sphere especially, we deal mainly with working hypotheses, and an open future, this many of our truths are subject to change and further development.

    In this case, the slogan attributed to Deng, 'Emancipate your minds, seek truth from facts,' is worth noting.

    I would also claim that the instrumental theory of truth is the approach most of today's scientists take when they are doing science. But I also think that revolutionary politics is both an art and a science, and is best approached with that in mind.

  • Guest - mediated abstraction

    After a little consideration, I'd like to retract that last little cheap shot in my comment as it's not principled. However, the author's defense of the Chinese state's response to the Tiananmen incident is just a little absurd to me. I think there's a really big difference in opinion between myself and the author over the concept of proletarian dictatorship. Can one honestly characterize the Chinese government at the time of the Tiananmen incident as a proletarian dictatorship? If it was, then what were the protests about? Surely not everyone there was part of some liberal plot to dismantle the state, they were largely working people and students that felt as though they had no representation and lacked access to any kind of political power. Don't confuse this with an expression of support for the protest movement, but consider the perspective of an individual swept up in the movement and their objective relationship with the decisionmaking apparatus of the state. Wouldn't you agree that there is at least a thread of legitimacy in their alienation regardless of your feelings about the more subversive motives of the protest movement?

    To what degree did the proletariat exercise dictatorship if hundreds of thousands of people are gathering in a protest movement over not having access to/influence over institutions of power? Is the role of the dictatorship of the proletariat simply a mechanism of accumulation and distribution while maintaining "stability" by shutting out or violently suppressing any dissent?

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    I think it would be rather idealist to hold that under the dictatorship of the proletariat in any country, let alone the largest in the world, that there will not be protests, strikes, and various political campaigns arising from among the people themselves, as well as from adversaries. Just because you've made revolution, you haven't brought Heaven to Earth nor turned men and women into angels. Class struggle continues, as do other forms of struggle over differences. For the most part, we would want to do our best to handle contradictions among the people, even when aimed at the government, in a non-antagonistic way. But sometimes, that's not possible. The devil, as always, is in the details.

  • Guest - Cultural Animal

    I would like to say that on a cultural level I think the splitting of Marxisms has a lot in common with the splitting of Protestantisms and in fact may very well be the same phenomenon. Both are responses to some eternal oppressive state of Europe.

  • Guest - worker antagonism

    @nando
    first of all my original comment was dismissive because i find it hard to take people who identify the power interests of imperialist factions with an emancipatory proletarian politics very seriously; and because these sorts of crude "anti-imperialist" and pro "really existing socialism" positions require IMO not only a lack of political and historical common sense, but an incredible callousness and disregard for human dignity.
    secondly you seem to identify those who support for example Deng's use of massive repressive violence against popular protest as communists who are merely misguided on a tactical level, i think that perspective is inadmissible for many reasons:
    1: the question is not if at certain historical conjuncture the use of repressive violence against certain parts of the population is legitimate, the question is who is carrying out this violence and for what purpose?
    in the case of Deng's repression the "who" in question was the Chinese bourgeoisie and the "purpose" was to stabilize their particular fascist model of capitalism against both popular unrest and a possible liberal transition along the lines of what was going on in the USSR at the time.
    to assert that state ownership of the means of production by a nominally "Marxist" bourgeoisie ( even one like that in the PRC which has been liquidating its state ownership as fast as possible), is somehow a "popular conquest" in and of itself, is sort of reminiscent of those Trot sects who still refuse to admit that Russia is capitalist.
    so in conclusion, yes i find the views of communists who support fascist repression against the exploited classes, and anoint a state which pumps money into the US military apparatus as "anti-imperialist" to indeed be laughable.

  • Guest - nando

    WA writes:

    <blockquote>"My original comment was dismissive because i find it hard to take people who identify the power interests of imperialist factions with an emancipatory proletarian politics very seriously."</blockquote>

    This is clear to me --- i.e. that you have trouble taking those views seriously.

    And I am arguing that you should take them seriously: they are influential, and it is far from obvious (to many many sincere people) what is wrong with those views.

    Most radical people can't articulate clearly what is wrong with those views. And are not familiar with the rich history of debate and collision over such theories (strategically uniting with a lesser evil to forward the revolution).

    When are we taking advantage of "contradictions among the enemy" (which we must)? How is that different from strategic alliances <em>with</em> our enemies?

    What is possible in the world to day (i.e. what should we settle for)? What is socialism anyway... ?

    These are all questions tied up with these questions -- and deeply engaging (and hopefully refuting in a convincing way!) views that trap people within the confines of capitalism, is valuable and necessary.

    So yes, I am aware that you have trouble taking them seriously, and I am argue that we must take them seriously, and engage substantively. Look at the political landscape (and the degree of support for the imperialist Democratic Party and its current leader Obama).

    In many ways, upholding the Kim Jung Il monarchy as "socialism," or defending the massacre of students by China's capitalist roaders is a self-isolating politics. It will never be influential, and is justifiably dismissed by many people. But if <em>we</em> can't make a clear, substantive and convincing <em>communist</em> argument around these views, then we have not clarified <em>our</em> communist politics in a way that can actually speak to many real questions on people's minds.

    How can we not work hard to engage it substantively?

  • Guest - land

    More and more people are coming to the Kasama site, I hear about it in different ways.

    I think it is because as Mike Ely said in the above post there is a constant and deeply thoughtful, respectful and convincing effort by Kasama to make the communist arguments around what the real questions are on people's minds.

    It is very challenging.

  • Guest - Andrei Kuznetsov

    As a person who is close to both the FRSO and Kasama, I'd like to say that I'd agree with this article if it wasn't directed at Kasama. What I mean is, I think that it is arguing a straw man when in fact Kasama has stood firmly against revisionism in the past:

    http://kasamaproject.org/2009/01/05/nando-historys-cruelty-towards-trotskyism/

    http://kasamaproject.org/2010/03/30/it-happens-communist-in-words-but-not-for-real-change/

    http://kasamaproject.org/2009/10/29/the-socialism-in-eastern-europe-the-socialism-of-obama/

    http://kasamaproject.org/2009/11/03/launched-encyclopedia-of-anti-revisionism-online/

    So while this is a great essay that could be used against liberal thinking, and although Mike and I don't always see eye-to-eye, to say that he- or the Kasama Project in general- rejects the idea of revisionism is a straw man and misses the point of the debate trying to be made here.

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