Militant Materialism or Textual Literalism? More Communist Debate on Atheism

These comments first appeared under the name Nando in Debate Among Atheists #1 and Debate Among Atheists #2. They argue for a militant materialism rooted in an understanding of how religion is lived in the real world, as opposed to RCP's strategy which is focused on exposing the irrationalities and horrors found in the Bible. The posts have been edited here.

by Nando

First, I think we should be militant materialists — in the sense that we uphold, promote and apply a worldview based on reality.

If oppressed people are going to change their conditions then on a very basic level they need to understand their world in a way that requires materialism. We need to “know things to change things” as our motto goes.

Second, I think that our tactics, how we “promote” our worldview, depends on who we are talking to, what the moment is, and what is going on in the larger society.

I certainly think it is appropriate (very important, really) to launch a counter-offensive when fundamentalists try to take evolution out of schools, and when a significant number of presidential candidates, and even the president himself, publicly say that they think religious myths should be taught to kids in science class.

I also think we should share our larger philosophical views (including atheism) with everyone, including progressive religious folks, as we go through political and social life. Encouraging that kind of ongoing open discussion over such crucial questions is the kind of movement (and society) we want.

Third, the heart of this debate, to me, raised by Bob Avakian’s abrasive anti-religious campaign and the 9 Letters critique of his view of religion, gets concentrated in the false dichotomies in the Observation piece: is true, then how we characterize people’s beliefs and their membership in churches, or their adherence to a religious identity varies — not because we are tailing them, but because our characterizations should flow from their actual nature (in both their particular and dynamic nature).

I think that religious views on the world represent the past, and atheist scientific views represent the future — in the sense that we can, and should, separate ethics from deism, and we can, and should, separate scientific explanations from mythology, and we can, and should, separate supportive social community from religious congregations.

People in this conversation

  • Guest - Nando

    hundredflowers: thanks for posting this.

  • Guest - Comments

    "In a strange way, such (more enlightened) currents of Christianity are often treated (by the RCP and Avakian) as somehow illegitimate, as just “buffet Christianity” — as if the fundamentalists, not the liberals, are at least consistent Christians."

    Hunderedflowers: Don't you mean "most consistent Christians"? Seems to me Avakian sees the fundamentalists as the ones conforming the type of literal bible-based religion he most targets (and that is easiest to target because of its lack of sophistication).

    Rather than acknowledging your point that there "are many different approaches to the Bible," and that liberal theologians "have a rich history of criticizing and even rewriting the Bible," Avakian dismisses the latter as "buffet Christians." He's saying they're not being consistent because they believe in the existence of God and maintain other core biblical beliefs while acknowledging the mythical character of much biblical narrative.

    He's basically saying that there are Christians who are 100% Christians (in his judgment, based on his wide knowledge of religion), who given their beliefs are drawn to "Christian fascism." And then there are those who are 90% or 75% or whatever because they pass up certain dishes offered at the church's smorgasbord. Given their beliefs, they aren't necessarily drawn to fascism but the effort to drawn them into radical opposition to Christian Fascism requires confronting them, demanding to know why, when they might be somewhat progressive, they don't go all the way and embrace atheism...and the RCP.

  • Guest - Nando

    I meant that they are "at least consistent Christians" (not that they are "THE least consistent Christians."

    In other words we agree, Comments.

    BA thinks the fundamentalists are the most consistent Christians, and the others are somehow flackey, inconsistent and clearly confused.

    This arises from his assumption that literalism on founding texts is necessary for clarity -- while in fact the religious experience of many liberal christians is not founded in that.

    And of course, ALL Christians are "buffet Christians" in the sense that Christianity is a huge, complex, self-contradicting array of views and rituals -- and it is impossible for anyone to accept it all. Everyone is forced to pick certain "traditions" (slices) of Christian belief and ritual (and forced to leave the rest untouched).

    And it has always struck me that his assumptions about Christianity is revealing about his general view toward texts -- and may reveal something about his assumptions about Marxist texts as well.

    V.I. broke the rules of the Marxist texts. They said that there was a certain level of productive forces necessary for the transition beyond capitalism. But he said "we don't know what that level is...." and proceeded to ignore those who said Russia was not ready. He was not about to allow the formal words and assumptions of his movement constrain what he saw as an experiment -- even if it involved a "leap into the dark" theoretically. In fact, all action (in the real world) requires some degree of "leap into the dark" exactly because of the relative nature of our knowledge, and the remarkably unpredictable ways that real life presents its dilemmas.

    I don't see why we should credit Christian fundamentalists for their fundamentalism. I don't see why we should assume this makes THEIR Christianity more consistent. It would be in fact to betray an affection for fundamentalism on our own part, and an embrace of that in them.

  • Guest - Comments

    Sorry, Nando; I misread the sentence I cited and so assumed there was a typo there. But indeed, we agree.

  • Guest - R

    Nando, I find your work to be very enriching, but I have some questions...

    I didn't really understand the statement .."but because our characterizations should flow from their actual nature (in both their particular and dynamic nature).". What is the particular and dynamic nature?

    Also, Avakian seems to continue to emphasize the importance of uniting with progressive aspects of religious people. IE Lehrner in Away With All Gods. In the statement, 'Heart of heartless world vs. religion being a shackle', the principle aspect is, as you said, needing to know things, to change things. But in an overall sense, the fundamental contradiction is capitalism, and the examples of Thomas Muncer were good, but i'm not sure Avakian would put religion as the principle aspect over feudalism/royal massacres of the peasants.

    Maybe you can elaborate on this more?

  • Guest - TellNoLies

    The fundamentalist insistence on biblical literalism is not just in opposition to "liberal Christianity" but to the approaches of the Catholic, Orthodox and other Christian churches. The belief in the absolute literal truth of every word in "the" bible is not, as many who hold it believe, the traditional view of Christainity that was subsequently challenged by liberals, but is rather itself a largely modern (early 19th century) and American theological innovation. Remeber that until Vatican II most Catholics heard mass in a language they didn´t even understand, hardly the mark of a religion that insists on faith in literalism. American liberal Christianity is indeed a response to the lunacies of fundamentalism, but at least on the particular question of literalism (if not others), its position is closer to the historical mainstream. Avakian concedes too much ground to the fundies when he dismisses non-literalists as "buffet Christians." The bible is a contradictory text(s. A buffet approach is inevitable. (Fundies are no less selective what they uphold in scripture than any other currents.)

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    For what it's worth, 'Good Christian' is what is called in philosophy 'an essentially contested concept.' There are others, but this is the example usually given. Roughly, it means to use the term, one has to define it, and for discourse to proceed, those discussing have to hold definitions in common since, other things being equal, no one's definition has a place of privilege.

    That means Avakian's use of the term is just a valid as the Pope's or Jesse Jackson's, but if he wants to use it, he has to do so in a community of discourse where his definition is shared. Unfortunately for him, most Christians don't hold to his view, and his polemics don't convince very many of them of very much.

    Like everything about humans, religion is going through vast changes on this planet in our lifetimes, with many particularities. Given the importance it plays in many people's lives, for better or worse, I think it's important for us to understand it, but Avakian doesn't help much.

    The major shift in the industrial world is the decline of sky-god faiths where the core value is submission, a feudal concept. The rising trend is faith based on self-cultivation or self-liberation, as in many new age trends, which is more in tune with capitalism and even socialism. Growing interest in Buddhism in the West is part of this, as is the spread of secular humanism. In the third world, we have a rise in Islam, which also penetrates into industrial areas via immigrant communities or the communities of oppressed nationalities. Both the Mormons and the Evangelicals also are on the rise in the third world, although the 'why' is rather different between the two.

    I'm a student of Zen, especially the socially engaged variety of Thich Nhat Hahn. Since breaking with Catholicism in my teenage years, I've looked to it, sometimes more, sometimes less, all my life. It's non-theistic, anti-dogmatic and I find much of its framework and teachings in tune with a new socialist order and how to be a good communist. Dia-Mat wasn't all that helpful, since my early infatuation with the Hegelian dialectic, even Marx's upside down version, I found too confining to explore the wonders of modern 20th and now 21st century science. But this is my choice; I know Christians, Moslems, Jews and nonbelievers who all make good communists--and bad communists, too, for that matter.

    Zen, frankly, helps me prepare for my death. But more than that, it helps me be a help to others who are dealing with death and other intense suffering. Not the only means, of course, but an important one, especially when wisdom and compassion as called for. Since these are not small problems, save, perhaps, for the young who don't think much about their mortality, religion is not going to go away anytime soon. I'd bet classes, states and nations fade from history first.

    So understand it, then use what is positive to mobilize against what is negative to solve the problems at hand. Defend the village atheist, for sure, and promote science over all ideology widely and militantly, but don't expect the whole village to become atheist anytime soon.

  • Guest - gangbox

    I feel that the RCP is right on the money about the atheism thing.

    Granted, Avakian's critique of Christianity in Away With All Gods is somewhat sloppy and weak

    Most glaringly, he focuses most of his attacks on the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants - which, while quite valid in a criticism of Orthodox Judaism, really ignores Jesus' New Covenant (the one that all Christians follow).

    The RCP also does have a somewhat ham-handed method of agitating for atheism.

    But... it is good that somebody is out there calling for atheism - especially the way the world is overrun with religious propaganda.

    This is true even on the left - unlike the 60's, where all Marxists (be they old line Stalinists, Trotskyists, Maoists, revolutionary nationalists or academic marxists) were united in militant atheism, no matter what their Grand Canyon-deep divisions were on everything else.

    Today that's not the case.

    For example, the Black Panthers back in the day were explicitly atheist - not so the "New Black Panther Party", who openly embrace religion and spirituality.

    So I have to applaud the Revolutionary Communist Party for holding up the banner of militant materialism - yes, they are far from perfect, but their hearts and minds are in the right place on this.

    Yes, workers seek solace in religion because the world is a horrible place to be a proletarian in (especially in this modern era of pandemics, 1 billion jobless and 2 billion trying to survive on $ 2 bucks a day or less).

    But, we have another message to those workers - mythical gods will not save you in the next world, but your revolutionary activism can save us all in this life.

    Communists, while always taking care to respect the feelings of believers, have absolutely no business pandering to religion.

    It leads us to bad nonrevolutionary and even counterrevolutionary places.

    Just look at Carl's post above, where he talks about how he embraces the idealist non theistic religious philosophy of Zen Buddhism, and explicitly rejects the dialectical and historical materialsm of Marxism Leninism.

    Davidson even claims that his particular brand of religion does a better job of explaining the world than Marxist philosophy.

    And that's exactly where you end up when you abandon Marxist athiesm, and instead pander to religion.

    Communists don't need to go there.

    Avakian's criticism of Christianity has some holes in it - but on the whole, I think it's a positive that the RCP decided to put that book out.

    Remember, there's plenty of athiest literature aimed at the middle class - it's about time somebody (in particular, somebodies who claim to be communist) promoted atheism among the working class.

    Finally, I note that Avakian is correct on one thing - the fundamentalsts (and the pre Vatican II Catholics, and their equivilents in the mainline Protestant, Morman and Eastern Orthodox worlds) are indeed the authentic Christians who uphold the New Covenant with Christ - not the cafeteria christians, who shrink from embracing the more brutal and medieval aspects of their faith.

  • Guest - Stanley W. Rogouski

    <i>Most glaringly, he focuses most of his attacks on the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants - which, while quite valid in a criticism of Orthodox Judaism, really ignores Jesus’ New Covenant (the one that all Christians follow).


    I noticed that same thing, especially about the article "God: The Original Fascist".

    How you can write a 5000 word attack on the first five books of the Old Testament and discuss in detail the justifications for ethnic cleansing (especially in passages like Deuteronomy 20) WITHOUT ONCE MENTIONING THE ISRAEL PALESTINE CONFLICT is a bit much.

    It says a lot about how the RCP soft peddles criticism of the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. And it lends a lot of credability to the (largely Trotskyist) idea that the RCP is a front for liberal Democrats.

    Attack evangelical Christians and soft peddle criticism of Israel? How Democratic Party friendly can you get?

    Also, you have to consider Paul's Epsistle to the Romans (which Avakian addresses in his talks but which the RCP's practical organizing tends to overlook).

    Playing "gotcha" with evangelicals by pointing out passages in the Mosaic Law (something I've seen RCP members do) by asking them things like "well you eat pork, don't you" isn't going to get through to anybody familiar with 2000 years of Christian theology.

  • Guest - Stanley W. Rogouski

    <i>Remember, there’s plenty of athiest literature aimed at the middle class - it’s about time somebody (in particular, somebodies who claim to be communist) promoted atheism among the working class.


    I think Greg really nails it here.

    From 2001 to about 2007, the right wing and the neoconservatives stole the critique of Islamic funamentalism from the left. I see that Hirsi Ali book on the front table of almost every bookstore I walk into.

    But largely unnoticed is how the right has stolen the idea of militant atheism (largely it seems due to Hitchens).

    But a militant atheist position that ALSO critiques the new Social Darwinism is badly, badly needed.

    Chris Hedges made an attempt to do it from a liberal Christian point of view. Unfortunately his book "I Do Not Believe in Atheists" is a magazine article inflated to book length and obscenely overpriced (close to 30 bucks).

  • Guest - Stanley W. Rogouski

    <i>Finally, I note that Avakian is correct on one thing - the fundamentalsts (and the pre Vatican II Catholics, and their equivilents in the mainline Protestant, Morman and Eastern Orthodox worlds) are indeed the authentic Christians who uphold the New Covenant with Christ - not the cafeteria christians, who shrink from embracing the more brutal and medieval aspects of their faith.


    Interestingly enough, the attack on the brutality of the Old Testament God goes back to the early Christians. I'm thinking specifically of Marcion (who wanted to chuck the whole thing).

    I won't link the Wikipedia entry because Moveable Type tends to relegate links to the spam filter.

  • Guest - N3wDay

    "Attack evangelical Christians and soft peddle criticism of Israel? How Democratic Party friendly can you get?"

    Maybe this was a tactical mistake contained within the book but I've read many articles in Revolution that are not by any means soft on Isreal.

  • Guest - Stanley W. Rogouski

    <i>Maybe this was a tactical mistake contained within the book but I’ve read many articles in Revolution that are not by any means soft on Isreal.


    I'm talking about the "God the Original Fascist" article, written, I think, in 2005, not the "Away with All Gods" book.

    Now admittedly, Evangelicals are a far, far larger and more important percentage of the American population than the fundamentalist Zionists who make up the settler movement in the West Bank and Gaza. And 2005 was during the first year after Bush's reelection and also the year of Terri Schiavo.

    But it would be hard to imagine discussing the conquest of Canaan in the books of Numbers and Joshua in the kind of detail that article did without mentioning the Israelis and Palestinians unless it was part of a conscious attempt to make the party line palatable to liberal Democrats.

    The articles in Revolution are mostly by Larry Everest. I'm not sure if he's written anything about "Christian Fascism" or not.

    Another interesting point is this.

    How is using the term "Christian Fascism" different from using the term "Islamic Fascism"? I'm guessing you can make a distinction between the two, between a fundamentalist Muslim political movement that's reactionary and anti-western vs. a fundamentalist Christian movement that's reactionary and anti-science but ALSO intricately bound up with the corporate rule of the United States.

    But I really haven't seen too many people do it.

    And isn't the term "Islamofascism" originally a Marxist term used to attack the American funding of the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan?

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    If you want to critique my views, 'Gangbox,' at least get them right.

    I made no claim that Zen replaces Dia-Mat. It treats some matters better, but my view is that the 20th and 21st Century instrumentalism of the pragmatist school, which reflects what modern sciences actually do when they're doing science, is the way to push back the veil of ignorance in the universe.

    One thing I like about the Zen teachers is the stand they take when science conflicts with one of their traditional teaching. They say uphold the science, and toss the old scripture in question.

    I look at Zen as largely a school of psycho-therapy, dealing with suffering, both on an individual and group level, as a supplement to political solutions, not as a substitute. They're very good at it. Even so, it's not for everyone, although it's open to anyone. Some find the practice of meditation too austere and difficult, and prefer a spirituality that's more spirited, as the the Black church. No matter. Nor do I have anything against the propagation of atheism. But I wouldn't expect it to become a majority viewpoint anytime soon, and certainly wouldn't split any people's organization over it, including the revolutionary party. So I wouldn't make it any sort of priority or requirement, but you're welcome to take a shot at it.

    On the last point, save for Enver Hoxa's party, I don't know of any party that required atheism as a condition of membership. And even though Hoxha thought Albania was almost completely atheist, shortly after his death, the Mosques were back in business again with many customers rather quickly.

  • Guest - gangbox


    Just to touch on my beliefs here quickly - when it comes to the treatment of psychic pain, psychological disorders and mental illness, I am a firm believer in modern Freudian psychoanalysis - in other words, materialist science, rather than idealist religion.

    I feel it's a whole lot healthier to get to the root of a mental problem (that is, the family, social and/or biological causes) with the intent of curing it, rather than using the crutch of spirituality as a way of making the pain bearable.

    On making Atheism a mandatory condition of membership, Lenin didn't requre atheism as a condition of RSDLP(B) or CPSU(B) membership.

    But, if a believer did join the party, they were expected to actively struggle for militant atheism, just like every other Communist - with the expectation that, by campaigning for atheism among the workers, the religious communists themselves would be won to abandoning idealist religious superstition for scientific atheist materialism.

    That later got watered down in the era of Stalin's Great Purge, and was wholly abandoned by the time of World War II.

    In modern day America, there are a number of Trotskyist groups that make that mandatory (League for the Revolutionary Party, Spartacist League, Bolshevik Tendency, Internationalist Group) and I doubt they are alone in having atheism as a membership requirement.

    Their thinking is since they are small pre-party cadre organizations, it is essential that all of their members have the highest level of political and ideological unity.

    Unlike Lenin, they don't have the luxury of having relatively large organizations, where a handfull of believers could be struggled with by a largely atheist organization.

    As I've said before, I believe that you can become a communist while you're still religious.

    But you will soon come to a turning point, where either you can be a consistent believer in idealistic religious superstition, or you can be a consistent communist.

    Of course, you can play a game of ideological mix-and-match - but in that case, you'd have the worst of both worlds... neither a good believer or a good communist!

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    Freudian psychoanalysis as materialist? I once did a paper on how Freud could be seen as scientific, if you stopped your science with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics model around the end the the 19th century, but hardly 'materialist'. Freud has his strong points, but George Herbert Mead's pragmatist school of social psychology gives far better grounding on the origin of consciousness and the self.

    I consider Albert Ellis's rational-emotive school (REBT) an advance on Freud, but that can also be seen as 'Zen Lite.'

    In brief, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss about 3000 years of thought and practice because it didn't fit a pigeon-hole of an upside down version of the Hegelian dialectic.

    Membership in a Leninist party, as I understand it, requires three things: general agreement with the most recent program, payment of dues or other forms of material support, and working collectively with others in an organized body of the party to carry out its work.

    Adherence to a single school of philosophical thought would doom your 'party' to be a small sect or cult forever, as the Trotskyist groups you mention demonstrate. You're welcome to take a shot at it, but I wouldn't waste ten seconds on it.

  • Guest - Linda D.

    Sorry to jump into this dialogue so late in the game--and admittedly haven't read all of the comments yet. But...

    I think the discussion of atheism being a requisite for joining some c. org., or even people who (maybe clandestinely) maintain certain religious/spiritual beliefs while being rev. minded, cannot be divorced from what is happening in THE world, or even in THEIR world. This isn't something that simply occurs in someone's head, or because some org. tells they have to be an atheist.

    I have been an atheist since I was 9 yrs. old and there were some important things happening in the world that brought me to that point. The tumultuous civil rights movement in the U.S. was in full play, even though I was still playing on the playground. But those involved were the people I identified with. And although many of those same people who were marching, being attacked and brutalized while their "eyes were watching god" (ala Zora Neale Hurston) as well as many thinking their strength and resistance came from their religious beliefs, I thought how can anyone believe in god or various personifications of god, in the midst of all this?

    A few years later, some grammar-school girlfriend talked me into attending Sunday school (or was it Saturday school?) at her "reformed" (and supposedly more "liberal") temple. I went once, and got into a huge argument with the teacher, who was preaching that the Jews were the chosen people. "No one is the chosen people," says I. "Problem is each religion thinks they're chosen people and their god "the" god...and BTW were you watching the news about Selma, Alabama..."

    The great irony was, at 12 I lived in Watts on and off for a year--the only white person but didn't even think about that, with the woman who had become my "adoptive" mother. She was religious and we went to her Baptist church every Sunday--she being fully aware that I wasn't a believer. But I went solely to listen to some great gospel music. And I think she went to church more for the social and communal aspects.

    Have said this before but it's something that always has stayed with me. When some people in the RU first went to revolutionary China, in the early 70s, one guy told the story of a woman he'd met who had been a devout Catholic. "So you're not a Catholic anymore?" And she replied, "I don't need to be..."

  • Guest - gangbox


    I'm not an expert on psychology, so I'm not going to debate you on that - although I have actually seen Freudian psychoanalysis work up close and personal, which is why I believe in it.

    In any case, I would hope that we can agree that <i>any</i> school of psychology based on science is far superior to any kind of idealist religious superstition, Zen Buddhist or otherwise.

    I will debate you on the leninist party thing, because I do have some expertese there.

    You say that <i>"Membership in a Leninist party, as I understand it, requires three things: general agreement with the most recent program, payment of dues or other forms of material support, and working collectively with others in an organized body of the party to carry out its work."</I>

    But the devil is in the details with that little paragraph.

    "General agreement with the most recent program" and "working collectively with others in an organized body of the party to carry out it's work" in my view (and in the view of Lenin, Bukharin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev ect - in other words, the folks that made Red October happen) presupposes <i>ideological agreement</i> with that program, and with the philosophy behind it.

    That is, if you support and actively carry out the theory and practice of a dialectical and historical materialist-based Marxist Leninist party, you really would have to be a Marxist Leninist who believes in dialectical and historical materialism.

    Which also pretty much means that you have to be an atheist too.

    You might not come into the party like that - but you would have to change into one at some point, otherwise you wouldn't be a really good communist.

    Beyond that, is it really healthy to say one thing in public and believe a whole other contradictory thing in private?

    It's not politically or psychologically healthy, and in a real way it's fundementally dishonest.

    Do you expect for the working class to take leadership from folks who publicly advocate for atheism as the way to go - but who privately go to mass every Sunday, or do their 5 prayers towards Mecca every day?

    The working class needs and deserves <i>honest</i> leaders - not two faced liars who say one thing and do another.

    The bourgeoisie can recruit on that basis to it's parties - and the petty bourgeois reformists can recruit to their parties on the same basis.

    We cannot - because without ideological unity, we cannot possibly lead the working class into a revolution, nor would we be able to successfully lead that revolution through the dictatorship of the proletariat, and then to socialism and then to full communism.

    Incidentally, none of this is a numbers game, because the truth is not based on a popularity contest.

    In Lenin's day, his views were always in a minority in the world socialist movement - and even within the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party itself.

    Most socialists in that era supported their own country's imperialism, were explicitly pro colonialist (and often openly racist in their support for White domination of the Third World) and at home were oriented towards the pro capitalist reformism of the petty bourgioisie and the labor aristocracy, rather than the obectively revolutionary needs of the poorest section of the workers.

    But just because their views were in the majority does not mean that they were right.

    Later on, the Third International was always far smaller than the old opportunist social chauvinist Second International.

    And once the Third International went bad, the Fourth International was far smaller than the Third.

    Right Opportunism and political support for the bourgeoisie has always been dominant in our movement - but just because the majority of marxists believe in it doesn't make it true or right.

    And the arguments of groups like the LRP,or the Sparts, or the BT or the Internationalists are not wrong just because very few people support them.

    By the same token, just because the majority of the world's working classes are believers in idealist religious superstition does not make it right.

    Remember, the bourgioisie's ideas are always going to be stronger than ours at the present time, simply because they rule. During and even long after the revolution, their ideas will still be dominant.

    If we want to be real communists worthy of the name, we have to tell the truth to the workers (and to our enemies, and to other classes) all the time, even when it would be more convenient to tell popular lies.

    We have to fight for the ideological interests of the working class - even whem most workers do not believe in those ideas (actually, that's <i>especially</i> when we have to fight for those ideas)!


    I too became an atheist as a child - but not for reasons as political as yours.

    When I was 8, my 11 year old brother and I simply decided that religious ideas were stupid, and we should renounce them.

    Of course, our parents were cafeteria christians (and our mother in particular mixed in a healthy dose of self help book pseudo 'buddhism' and fake 'hinduism' with her cafeteria christianity)

    Since our parents wern't ideologically committed to christianity anyway (and they had grown up with parents who were <i>real</i> christians who upheld <i>all</i> of the bible, even the reactionary parts), why should we even bother to be nominally christians?

    It's not like we ever even went to church anyway.

    So, I was an atheist long before I found Marxism at age 12.

    That's probably why I have such a hard time understanding and accepting folks who want to pollute the pure liberatory materialist ideas of their marxism with the idealist mental poison of relgious supersition.

  • Guest - Linda D.

    Thanks Gangbox for your more personal story and how you and your brother became atheists. I am curious however as to what was happening in the world when you came to this conclusion at such a young age, and if you think any of that had an impact on your thinking?

    You said to Carl: "Do you expect for the working class to take leadership from folks who publicly advocate for atheism as the way to go - but who privately go to mass every Sunday, or do their 5 prayers towards Mecca every day?

    "The working class needs and deserves honest leaders - not two faced liars who say one thing and do another."

    I couldn't agree with you more on the being honest part! But I kind of see things in reverse of what you said. Think more often than not, when various revolutionaries/communists are talking with the masses, they are not wearing their atheist sombrero but don same when they return to the confines of their group of fellow-non-believers. Think they are more afraid to be honest about their atheism -- at least in more private situations, even if they -- as a group, or as communists (and Marxism/Leninism/Maoism means you are an atheist) make some public proclamation.

    I live in an overwhelmingly and predominantly Catholic country (although there are some synagogues and mosques, even Christian fundamentalists). I have been to, too many for my taste, bautismos, confirmations, religious weddings that go on so long I'm suprised the couple hasn't filed for divorce by the end of ceremony, etc. etc. On every one of these occasions, and in more private discussions, everyone knows I'm an "ateo." (Some of my friends' parents even bless me as I'm leaving their abode--"Now Leeenda, I know you don't believe in this but...just to make sure you are safe on la caraterra...") Yeah right. And what I have found HERE more than not is that it's not that people are so wedded to their religion, certainly not institutionalized nor organized religion, but they were born into it and are not necessarily aware of even other denominations, let alone atheism. But here's the thing: amongst those people (some very political and radical), we have established some mutual respect...and what I always try and explain is not so much, yeah, I'm an atheist, but WHY. I haven't been crucified yet, nor do I think I will be.

    As part of that, think it wise for us to understand why so many people are religious (at least outwardly), or gravitate toward something as sinister as EST or Scientology.

  • Guest - N3wDay

    Side note:


    I am familiar with Scientology, but what is EST?

  • Guest - Linda D.

    Erhard Seminars Training, "an active participant in the "Human Potential" movement of the 70's" started by a guy named Werner Erhard.

    Sorry I can't put in the link on Wiki--but if you want to learn more look up Werner Erhard.

    "Mind dynamics," yada yada. You had to pay a fortune to find out how it worked or to go through the "seminar." Basically playing on people's real problems but if you just forked over X amount of bucks, you too could make all a-okay.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    Gangbox, you say, starting with a quote from me:

    <blockquote>“General agreement with the most recent program” and “working collectively with others in an organized body of the party to carry out it’s work” in my view (and in the view of Lenin, Bukharin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev ect - in other words, the folks that made Red October happen) presupposes ideological agreement with that program, and with the philosophy behind it.

    That is, if you support and actively carry out the theory and practice of a dialectical and historical materialist-based Marxist Leninist party, you really would have to be a Marxist Leninist who believes in dialectical and historical materialism.</blockquote>

    Sorry, but I don't think so.

    When you join a communist party, you agree to POLITICALLY support its program and generally agree with it, not IDEOLOGICALLY. How could it be otherwise? How do you test the 'ideology' of a new recruit, or any member, for that matter. I'd love to see it. The program is based on Marxist theory, at least as best as the leaders who drafted it can apply to the concrete conditions of their time and place, and always open to correcting mistakes and improvements. But among all the members of the party, especially if there is a lot of them, various schools of thought are always contending--some more clear, some more obscure--but always more than one. With living human beings, how could it be otherwise? Dialectical and historical materialism, or what claimed to be, was given a favored position in many parties, but I serious doubt that any communist party ever had more than a small minority of its members who could be called dialectical materialists in any basic way.

    The party is an instrument for waging class struggle, taking power, and establishing a new form of rule. If it gets bogged down in applying religious tests among its rank-and-file or even its leaders, you will either wreck it completely or it will never get off the ground. You can list all the old Bolsheviks you like, there was never a party of any significance like you describe. Perhaps Hoxha's or Kim Il Sung's, made such claims at some point, but I wouldn't take their assertions on this matter seriously.

    Religious leaders, institutions and the believers themselves should be assessed by the same standards as everyone else, ie, are they moving the struggle against the main danger of the day forward or not. People should be free to study and practice their faith, or the lack of one, as they see fit. Atheists should be free to propagate atheism, and everyone can discuss and argue about it until doomsday. Government, especially socialist government, should stay out of religion, unless it breaks the law. And religion should not be in the business of imposing its creed or coda on government.

    You're tilting at windmills if you think you can do things any other way.

    It's our task to oppose any religious bigotry or religious test for office, by keeping them separate and uniting both believers and non-believers among the masses, but upholding bot the freedom to practice religion and the freedom to ignore it.

    Otherwise there is no private sphere, no open civil society, and in the name of 'Dia-Mat,' you're repealed the Enlightenment and restored the coherence and totality of a feudal world order. And if you want to see what THAT looks like, take a gander at the DPRK and the fix it's in today.

  • Guest - gangbox


    I was 8 years old in 1976 - I lived in the kind of home where we watched the evening news every night, read the Daily News every day and my parents used to talk politics to us (they were "christian socialists", more-or-less, but never actually did any kind of activism around their political beliefs).

    From what I remember, 1976 was the year of the big Bicentenial celebration - sailing ships in New York Harbor on July 4th ect.

    The year before had been a bit more eventful.

    In 1975, America lost the Vietnam War, the City of New York was bankrupted because it guaranteed low interest loans to real estate developers and those loans went bad (the rosy dawn of Gentrification), those same developers put a good part of the city to the torch, burning down tenements in poor neighborhoods for the insurance

    I lived near some of those buildings - I lived on Healy Av in Far Rockaway, Queens - about 10 blocks away from a 4 mile long strip of rental houses that went up in flames at the hands of landlord-hired arsonists when I was 7.

    Also, I was an eyewitness to the crash of a jet airliner at Kennedy Airport - on June 24th, 1975 (my 7th birthday), at about 4 in the afternoon, I saw Eastern Airlines flight 66 crash at the foot of one of the runways at Kennedy Airport (that gave me a lifelong fear of flying that I still have to this day).

    But I don't think that any of that had an impact on me and my brother Chris becoming atheists.

    All of that - and the socialist filter that my parents viewed that through <i>did</i> affect how I saw the system and the world - that's why I became a communist at 12, and remain one to this day at age 40.

    Incidentally, I recently had a conversation with a lion of the 1960's revolutionary nationist left in New York City, one Jim Haughton (who was one of the leaders of the successful struggle to desegregate the construction unions in this city)

    He long ago renounced Maoism, and actually told me that <i>"when you get older, you'll give up on your antiquated marxism"</i>

    I told him that I was 40 years old and still a Marxist Leninist and that wasn't going to change any time soon, because Marxism Leninism and dialectical and historical materialism are true, and how many or how few people believe that is really irrelevant.

    Which brings me to the second part of this reply -


    You say that <i>"When you join a communist party, you agree to POLITICALLY support its program and generally agree with it, not IDEOLOGICALLY"</i>

    I think you're confusing communist parties with social democratic ones.

    Social democrats can hold any kind of ideological views they want - zionist, racist, religious, whatever - but still think of themselves as members of the party because they belong to a party club and the check for their dues didn't bounce.

    As communists, we hold ourselves to a higher standard.

    Basically, to be a communist, you have to be a Marxist Leninist who is committed to dialectical and historical materialsm.

    If you're not ideologically committed to communism, your political committment will be paper thin.

    Just refer to the early history of the Socialist Workers Party.

    One of the party's top leaders, and their main journalist, James Burnham, did not believe in dialectical and historical materialism.

    He taught idealist philosophy at City Colege of New York, and he was a committed believer in the idealist philosophy of pragmatism.

    He claimed, like you, that ideology didn't matter - what counted was his political support of the SWP.

    But, when a crisis came - in this case, the Nazi Soviet Pact, the USSR's invasion of Eastern Poland, Romanian Bessarabia, the Baltic States and Finland and the question of the SWP and the Fourth International's take on those questions, Burnham's lack of ideological committment to Marxism Leninism became a problem.

    He led a split in the SWP over that issue, helped found a rival party to the SWP, the Workers Party.

    But then, Burnham had a crisis of conscience.

    He realized that he could not present himself as a leader and public spokesman for an organization that purported to be communist if he himself was not a Marxist Leninist and did not believe in dialectical and historical materialism.

    So, he wrote a letter, publicly resigning from the Workers Party, and proclaiming that he was not, and never had been, a real communist precisely <i>because he did not believe in dialectical and historical materialism </i>

    You should go to and look up that article, entitled, simply enough <i>"Letter of Resignation of James Burnham from the Workers Party"</i> - you'll find it very interesting reading, especially because the Burnham of 1940 and the Carl Davidson of 2008 have very similar politics.

    Burnham ended up matching his politics with his ideology - he ended up as a neoconservative writer for William F. Buckley's <i>National Review</i>

    Politics and ideology go hand-in-hand, Carl.

    You might not join a communist party as a dialectical and historical materialist - but either you become one, or you end up not being a good communist.

  • Guest - Linda D.

    Hey Gangbox--your story, along with many stories in "the Naked City" is fascinating. Maybe one day we can put together a compilation of lots of these.

    Meanwhile am gonna be very unfair because am going to pose some questions and then won't be around for a while to see the answer. say:

    "I told him that I was 40 years old and still a Marxist Leninist and that wasn’t going to change any time soon, because Marxism Leninism and dialectical and historical materialism are true, and how many or how few people believe that is really irrelevant."

    Seems to me most people want "proof," or some kind of proof. (Just remembered a huge fight I had with an old friend who believed in god--"god is love" therefore I was supposed to be a believer. She asked me to prove that god doesn't exist, and I said, no think it is up to you to come up with some proof since you think god exists.)

    Anyway--Is it really irrelevant as to how many or how few people believe that M/L and DI-HI-MAT are true? Are we content to just say DI-Hi-Mat represents truth (to me you kind of make this an absolute)and that as we "reconceive and regroup" isn't even DHM subject to some rethinking?

    In your example of Burnham:
    "But, when a crisis came - in this case, the Nazi Soviet Pact, the USSR’s invasion of Eastern Poland, Romanian Bessarabia, the Baltic States and Finland and the question of the SWP and the Fourth International’s take on those questions, Burnham’s lack of ideological committment to Marxism Leninism became a problem."

    Well, I don't know Burnham personally, and the way he ended up--a writer for Wm. Buckley says something. We could also throw someone, in a roundabout way, like Jerry Rubin into that mix--but the examples you used as crisis to me were not so much a lack of ideological committment to Marxism/Leninism but some grave errors in polltical line by those who were seemingly more committed to ML. This caused great confusion and demoralization amongst very honest forces who had dedicated much of their lives to being communists. And there was little explanation of those crises from the various parties and organizations' leadership (am mainly thinking of the CPUSA), except some said, we are dialectical and historical materialists, and we've made a correct analysis, etc. Some who left these orgs. or parties went onto form new orgs. and parties. Some others tried to remain true to their "beliefs" and be involved in other movements, or making contributions on a more individual basis, and still others gave up altogether. As you well know, the RCP thinks it has a monopoly on the correct line, and consider--or at least used to consider--themselves the ultimate his. and dial. materialists. So if someone has differences with, or questions, or ultimately leaves the RCP does that mean that they are no longer communists? Think this is kind of a slippery slope.

  • Guest - entdinglichung

    identifying myself with a "critical and revolutionary marxist", my opinion is, that it always depends more on what you do and not on what you think/believe ... Burnham definitely broke in 1939/40 not only with dialectical thinking but with emancipatory politics and moved to the far right (while plagiarizing other (marxist and non-marxist) authors for his book "Managerial Revolution") ... it is interesting, that e.g. Karl Liebknecht, one of the two internationalist MPs (the other was Otto Rühle) who rebelled first against the German Socialists support of the war wasn't on a theoretical level a "100%-marxist", his philosophical and ethical thinking was also deeply rooted in neo-kantian idealist philosophy

    btw ... John Calvin was in some areas far more "progressive" than many of his orthodox followers today, he wrote somewhere in the 1550ies, that for understanding nature and the world, it is better to use scientific methods, because the bible does not say very much about these areas ... most orthodox calvinists today are highly selective in the interpretation of their "hero's" writings, generally looking for the stuff, which they think is usefull for justifying their ideology (predestination, killing of Michael Servetus)

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    Gangbox, you're welcome to assert whatever you want as your criteria for communist party membership. That's entirely up to you.

    You can assert my criterion as 'social democratic' till the cows come home, but there, you're just flat wrong. Lenin developed those three points in opposition to the social-democrats, who wanted a party that 'any striker' could join, regardless of whether they worked collectively in one of its units, affirmed the program, or paid dues.

    But in your requirements, you'd also have to exclude Karl Marx. Marx was opposed to all ideologies, which he saw as the ossified thought of the old order. He used the term main as a pejorative, and counterposed science to it.

    I know that's not how Stalin and Mao, and, to a degree, Lenin used the term 'ideology.' They used it differently in general, but that's another matter. I think it wise if we set aside all this 'bourgeois ideology' vs 'proletarian ideology' framework as the source of considerable dogmatism, and return to Marx's 'ideology' vs 'science' framework. And don't claim 'Dia-Mat' equals modern 21st century science, because it doesn't. You could make a case that it came close around the time of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but not today. And various 'Just So' stories that argue backwards showing certain new breakthroughs in science as 'upholding Dia-Mat' are about as useful as my arguing how they really 'uphold Buddhism', although I'd have a better case, even if it was pointless.

    But I'd still like to hear from you about any significant communist party that required one to be a dialectical and historical materialist as a condition of membership, or even as a standard soon after being a member. Small Trotskyist sects don't count. How would you handle it where the advanced workers are less than literate? Or simply have a piss-poor US high school education?

    Using science to push back ignorance is always desirable, and also a long-term process. Really decisive breakthroughs are made once a difference class shapes the educational system. But in the meantime, and to get to there, we use the class, and its fighters, that history has placed with us, not ones you'd like to invent. We work with them, learn with them, and learn from them, but not by putting up criteria that they become philosophers of the Dia-Mat variety first.

  • Guest - Nando

    I think many things have been covered here... and don't want to pretend to deal with most of them. Just a few points:

    1) I think Gangbox's comparison of Burnham with Davidson shows the problem with some kinds of "Marxism-Leninism" -- particularly the very mechanical kind that gangbox espouses. In this case, a rather superficial and mechanical use of analogy is used to imply necessary causality.

    Yes, it is true that Burnham didn't uphold dialectical materialism -- it is true that (if he never did) he was really not a marxist. (gangbox implies that the Workers Party upheld Marxism-Leninism which they didn't, but instead upheld a rather different ideology they called "Bolshevik-Leninism" and which we now call Trotskyism.

    Gangbox's quick equating of trotskyism with marxism-leninism throughout his analysis is another matter. His implication that Burnham could have been a "good communist," and his portrayal of the Workers Party and the "Fourth International" etc. is riddled with leaps and assumptions that are not (uh) lightly accepted. At some point we should discuss trotskyism in its own right, here. And particularly the "third camp" trotskyism that is most prominently represented now by the ISO in the U.S.

    For now, let me just suggest that the problem with Burnham's "third camp" Trotskyism is not that they had a chance to be "good communists" but made a wrong turn, but that (as a trend) it made no "distinction between Yenan and Sian" (as Mao put it) -- i.e. made no distinction between the camp of revolution and the camp of counterrevolution. So ultimately, Burnham (and the "third camp" schachtmanites generally) saw the Soviet Union as no better than Hitler. And using the "lesser evil" analysis (loosely analogous to the ones made elsewhere on this site to the lesser evil of a Barack Obama, by Keith, or the lesser evil of a U.S. overthrow of Saddam, by Patrick) Burnham came to believe that western liberal democracies were better than the so-called totalitarian powers. (If anyone reminds me of Burnham here, it is Patrick not Carl.)

    Burnham's political views were not some linear derivative or inevitable evolution of his philosophical pragmatism. It was conditioned by a whole larger political development among leftish intellectuals in the West (like Hannah Arendt etc.) who found intellectual justifications to "move their rifles from one shoulder to the other" -- i.e. go from an anti-fascist stance against Hitler, to an anti-communist stance against the USSR and the Chinese revolution.

    Philosophical pragmatism and political "anti-totalitarian theory" were refined and adapted to facilitate a rather sinister tailing of the geo-political shifts of U.S. imperialism's global antagonisms in the late 1940s.

    As it is sometimes said about brown-nosers on the factory floor, they were so closely attached to the rear end of the ruling class, that they could follow American foreign policy around the corner without getting their noses bent.

    Gangbox writes: <em>"Burnham ended up matching his politics with his ideology - he ended up as a neoconservative writer for William F. Buckley’s National Review. Politics and ideology go hand-in-hand, Carl."</em>

    Gangbox's implication here that there is some typical and natural pattern that goes from upholding pragmatism and then moving to rightwing politics is a micro-mini-example of the kind of overestimation of necessity that is now generally called "inevitabilism."

    And in this example, it takes a particular man's trajectory (Burnham) and implies that it is a form of "typical motion." And implies that Carl Davidson (who has moved from New Leftism, to a Three Worldist Marxism to pretty open liberalism here) should expect to move on to a ReaderDigest/CIA rightism. Nah.

    In fact, the history of pragmatism is rather more complex. For example, John Dewey had a large influence on the founding generation of revolutionaries in China (who in the early days were choosing between western style liberalism, soviet communism, and japanese forms of eastern industralizations). When the May 4th Movement erupted in china (the watershed cultural and political "event" of 1919 in which a whole generation of Chinese youth and intellectuals moved to a radical critique of the past) pragmatism and Marxism were both contending and intertwined in the mix. And quite a few people moved from a form of pragmatism to a form of marxism.

    Deng's famous formulation "black cat, white cat, who cares as long as it catches mice?" shows ways in which a whole slice of the Chinese revolutionary movement was always "bourgeois democrats" whose materialism was tinged with pragmatism. And it has always been my impression (correct me if i'm wrong) that this pragmatism was a unifying thread in the trajectory of "three worldists" like Carl Davidson. They could adopt and then shed a Marxism at various stages of development -- but it is their adaptation of various ideologies to their underlying pragmatic methods that always seemed the real governing unifier. Carl talks at various points about his history with Marxism, and Maoism, and even Pol Pot -- but as a close observer of Carl over many decades, I have to say that what always stood out about his views and politics was his (uh...) easy adaptation to currents of the moment, and his underlying (uh...) flexibility of principle. I was not surprised that he (and similar forces around the October League etc.) enthusiastically upheld Hua/Deng over Mao -- exactly because "black cat, white cat" was the clearest expression of their own politics and ideology (i.e. rampant pragmatism in a temporarily Maoist form).

    I don't intend this as a personal summation of either gangbox or Carl -- and i suspect they will have (various and justifiable) differences with my quick characterizations...

    But a debate between a mechanical materialism and a pragmatic view reveals (to me) two poles in this terrain that I try to avoid -- and the reasons I try to avoid them.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    I've always been a Marxist since I first read the Manifesto in 1962. What's varied over time is what might be put on the other side of the hyphen, 'Marxist-******.'

    Philosophically, after some detours, I've got both feet in the school of American pragmatism, which gets wiser the deeper I look into it. I'm quite assertive about it, but hardly dogmatic. (Good politics can flow from several philosophical schools.) I think it's the modern-day equivalent of Dia-Mat, the philosophy of cutting edge science. It's also a monist school of thought, which if you look deeper from a spiritual angle, you'll find the Zen school.

    You're right about Dewey and the May Fourth Movement. He was in Beijing at the time, a little-known fact. His politics suffered in other areas, though.

    I've never been a 'Pol Potist,' even though I defended him for a time when it was our line, unfortunately. The key to understanding Pol Pot is a deeper look at Rousseau vs Locke.

    On political economy, I'm grounded in Marx, Lenin and Bukharin, the latter of whom history has absolved over either Trotsky or Stalin. Today I would add Alvin Toffler, Paul Romer and other theorist of the information revolution.

    I admire all the old Chinese revolutionaries--Mao, Shao-chi, Deng and especially Chou En-lai in the last period. Maybe that's where your 'three-worldism' come in.

    On organizational matters, party and united front, I'm firmly rooted in Lenin, Gramsci, Dimitrov and Troung Chinh, although with the information revolution, they all need updating.

    But none of the old labels really apply, so I've invented my own, Cyber-Marxist, part of the school of market socialism.

    I hope my views have changed over 40 years, or I wouldn't have learned much. The label 'revisionist' doesn't bother me, since that's what I try to do, rescue Marxism AGAINST 20th century dogmatism, and FOR the realities of the 21st century. I certainly can't do it all, or even most of it, but I try to make a contribution where I can.

    I'm game for a philosophical defense of the American pragmatists, Pierce, James, Dewey and Mead, especially the last two, against their critics, Marxist or otherwise, anytime, even if their politics was hardly revolutionary.

  • Guest - Daniel

    Dear Comrades,

    As a one-time christian cultist (1971-1975), and later a “revolutionary worker” with the RCP, I am drawn to the polemics on religion tab on Kasama.

    On July 9, 2008, Carl Davidson wrote that he is “a student of Zen, especially the socially engaged variety of Thich Nhat Hahn. Since breaking with Catholicism in my teenage years, I’ve looked to it, sometimes more, sometimes less, all my life. It’s non-theistic, anti-dogmatic and I find much of its framework and teachings in tune with a new socialist order and how to be a good communist.”

    I, too, broke with Catholicism in my teen years and later ended up in a christian cult under the leadership of a perverse megalomaniac. My bad.

    Anyway, I’d like to share a Zen Koan:
    Not Far from Buddhahood
    A university student while visiting Gasan asked him: "Have you ever read the Christian Bible?"

    "No, read it to me," said Gasan.

    The student opened the Bible and read from St. Matthew:

    <blockquote>"And why take ye thought for rainment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these... Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself."</blockquote>

    Gasan said: "Whoever uttered those words I consider an enlightened man."

    The student continued reading:

    <blockquote>"Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened."</blockquote>

    Gasan remarked: "That is excellent. Whoever said that is not far from Buddhahood."

    Now, Buddhahood is NOT a bad thing. It is freedom. As well, the many Christians out there making revolution against drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the torture chambers, the School of the Americas, etc., and not merely pontificating and exacerbating the importance of the great leader, are NOT a bad thing. When one of us is in chains, none of us is free.
    Got me thinking about the hubris and inhumanity that seem to be part and parcel of BA’s new synthesis. And I went back and found this from the Peking Review, 51, Dec. 15, 1967 (

    <blockquote>“Chairman Mao teaches us time and again that ‘politics is the commander, the soul of everything,’ and that ‘not to have a correct political point of view is like having no soul.’ One's attitude towards Chairman Mao, towards Mao Tse-tung's thought and towards Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line is the most important of politics. In destroying self-interest and fostering devotion to the public interest, we must put politics to the fore, grasp this major aspect of political principle, and thoroughly eliminate all selfish bourgeois or petty-bourgeois ideas which hinder us from understanding and carrying out the instructions of the great leader Chairman Mao.”</blockquote>

    The “soul” of everything? Say what?

    I ain’t gonna pontificate, friends, but it needs to be said. I remember, back in 1988 in San Diego, passing out RWs that depicted Reagan, et al, as vampires.

    This from Michelle Belanger’s Psychic Vampire Codex, Section 11: <blockquote>“Dedicants are those individuals who have chosen to actively pursue what you have Awakened in them. Understand that they are dedicated not to you, but to themselves and to the pursuit of their individual path. You are but a guide and mentor, and while they will certainly share a special relationship with you, it is a relationship that will teach you as much as it teaches them.”</blockquote>

    She ends that section with the following poignant warning:

    <blockquote>“Never fail to cherish this bond, for it is one of the greatest strengths of our Family. And if you are irresponsible enough to abuse this connection, be forewarned that the great love your children hold for you can turn into a hatred that is just as far-reaching and deep.”</blockquote>

    En lucha,

  • Daniel: One of the challenges of discussion is finding a common language, and a common set of assumptions.

    What are you reading into Mao's metaphorical use of the word "soul" -- (I'm not sure what he said in chinese, since I imagine the concept "soul" is distinctive in a European and English language context).

    Are you implying that Mao is injecting a metaphysical religiousity by saying that "politics is the commander" and that it is the heart and animating spirit of our work?

    Are you asserting a connection between Mao's word choice and the sometimes crudely evangelical methods of the RCP?

    Forgive me but i also don't get your point about calling Reagan vampires. In some ways it is a dated metaphor. In the popular culture now, vampires are seen as sexy and persecuted -- not mainly as horrific monstrous bloodsuckers. So there is, to a new generation, something off and "old" about the RCP's references to capitalist vampires.

    But what is the point you are making?

  • Guest - Daniel

    Thank you Mike for your kind reply.
    A reply from anywhere nowadays is a huge thing, a sentient outreach to a sentient being. Please do excuse my clumsy way of forming thought patterns.
    I think, on the use of the word “soul,” and that “not to have a correct political point of view is like having no soul” … in light of, yes, the crudely evangelical methods of the RCP and the way sentient comrades are shucked aside as old robots when their “usefulness” has been utterly sucked out of them, their energy drained … it is not merely an injection of metaphysical religiosity, but also ingenuously dismissive of the human condition and human mental, physical and spiritual needs, however one chooses to define “spiritual.”
    Vampires can be found in different camps. They can indeed be both sexy and mighty damned wicked when they choose to suck you dry. I’ve had a lot of “jobs” in the capitalist world, and the energy that has been ripped out of me, and millions of workers, over the years will be replenished only through careful healing.
    And that’s fine, because we hold high the great hope for revolution in the very, very near future. We also must hold high the great hope that those whom we look to for revolutionary theory and leadership do, in fact, acknowledge the soul … of individuals and the masses.
    Hope this is a bit more clear.

  • Guest - Jonathan McCormack

    "Avakian often points out (correctly) that science can satisfy the human need for “awe and wonder.” Mike Ely said in Letter #4
    I disagree. Although coming from a psychoanalytic background I will mention the 'heretic' Jung, this type of Awe and Wonder must necessarily come from a non-rational (More properly s TRANS-rational) source from the unconscious so that meaning is created.
    Denying this need may lead people to deify some leader – who can say that hasn’t been a problem in Russia, North Korea, etc
    As for religion being the 'opium of the people' the same could be said of irrational love. Actually William Burroughs argued that Love was precisely the most powerful pain-killer known to man.
    As an Orthodox Christian I see no contradiction between my faith and my communism. It seems misguided to proselytize atheism, the church can be a friend to communism (obviously as well as an enemy) – look at the Liberation Theology of Latin America.
    Why even bring religion into it?
    Also, there are many leftist Christian groups fighting the Fascist Right Christians – Sojourners, Radical Jesus etc
    Incidentally, noone seems to have pointed out Bob Avakian’s real error in discussing religion, which many Kassama members seem to also indulge in.
    Bob Avakian confuses categories of knowledge. You can say “a flower is a plant” and this belongs to ‘positive knowledge’ since it is empirical. Another category of knowledge is to say “flowers are beautiful.” The fundamentalist Christian, confusing the two modes of knowing, might say it is a scientific FACT that flowers are pretty. Then Bob Avakian would come along and say, “We’ve dissected the flower and have found no ‘beauty cells’ or ‘beauty structures’, therefore flowers are not beautiful and furthermore beauty does not exist.” Both Bob Avakian and religious fundamentalists deny all modalities of knowing except for the scientific one and in so doing diminish what it means to be human.
    Slavoj Zizek :
    “Both liberal-skeptical cynics and fundamentalists share a basic underlying feature: the loss of the ability to believe, in the proper sense of the term. What is unthinkable for them is the groundless decision which installs every authentic belief, a decision which cannot be grounded in the chain of reasons, in positive knowledge. …the status of universal human rights is that of a pure belief: they cannot be grounded in our knowledge of human nature, they are an axiom posited by our decision. (The moment one tries to ground universal human rights in our knowledge of humanity, the inevitable conclusion will be that men are fundamentally different, that some have more dignity and wisdom than others.) At its most fundamental, authentic belief does not concern facts, but gives expression to an unconditional ethical commitment.
    For both liberal cynics and religious fundamentalists, religious statements are quasi-empirical statements of direct knowledge: fundamentalists accept them as such, while skeptical cynics mock them.
    … its [religious fundamentalism’s] true danger does not reside in the fact that it poses a threat to secular scientific knowledge, but in the fact that it poses a threat to authentic belief itself”
    In other words, by disregarding any symbolic mediation between humanity and a reality transcendent of logical apprehension both Bob Avakian and the Christian right are on the same team, since both equally undermine true belief and reject those more rarified modalities of understanding and being.
    ONEHUNDRED FLOWERS writes: “faith in God…IS objectively an idea not justified by evidence/reality” Actually, in proper dialectic fashion, there is a third category besides objective/subjective which is usually referred to as ‘Objective Subjectivity’ often used when describing why particles behave differently when observed in Quantum physics.

    It is THIS type of thinking that is the answer to Mike Ely’s question as to why there is little communist art/poetry.

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