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Making communism more than a desire

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Making communism more than a desire

More on claims some make of having (and promoting) "the science of revolution":

Marxism (at its best) is scientific.

But there is not some "science of revolution" lying in the spoon drawer of sciences (along side the science of biology, and the science of evolution, and the science of physics.) That picture is a misunderstanding of science, and a misunderstanding of Marxism.

Historical materialism is the part of Marxism that aspires to a scientific approach to history and the liberatory potential within society... while dialectics (another part of Marxism) concerns philosophy and methodology, and while the larger world of communist works form (within Marxism) a kind of bulging tool-chest of experiences, political strategies and analyses.

I have often said that I think it is possible for communist thinking to be scientific -- but most that I have encountered is not.

In other words, far more often, a rather superficial set of tentative ideas, inherited formulas and pat schema are presented as "scientific" -- not because they are, but because that claim is legitimizing (read: dazzling) for those who encounter them. (And lets remember, many kinds of false ideas mascarade as "scientific" -- including scientology, quack medicine and creationism.)

Or, perhaps worse, what happens is that a genuinely profound body of political thinking (by someone like Marx or Mao) is presented as a tidy, pat, universal, proven, closed set of formulas (to be applied uncritically, out of context, without real engagement). That kind of thinking has nothing to do with science -- it is dogma packaged as a secular religion and marketed as science.

We need communist theory

Those making revolution need a creative, developing, open-ended theoretical framework. Otherwise they can't hope to go from marginal-to-contending in the crisis of real life.

Those trying to consolidate revolutions (after victories) often need to promote a popularization of their theory (actually a legitimizing doctrine) as part of replacing the verdicts, religions, and mental habits of the old society.

Several times in history, communists have codified their Marxism into a very coherent ideology. This was done by the German Social Democratic party before World War 1, but then (with full state resources) in  both the Soviet Union and Maoist China. And in those processes, theory was too often simplified, documented, and then promoted as a finished truth.

(I remember ordering with great excitement a book from Norman Bethune publishers in Canada, of a philosophical dictionary that was a french translation of a work written in China during the Cultural Revolution. But unlike some of the better works from China, this one was a tame, and orthodox collection of standard "classic" quotes -- with no examination, no description of how the Maoists were looking at some concepts critically, etc. It was safe (in the context of China), and outside of that context, it was itself  (despite the admitted brilliance of the actual quotes from Marx, or Lenin, or Mao) a case study in conservatism and non-critical thinking.

I understand why communist governing parties often did it. And (more important today) I understand why it is exciting for radicals  to stumble onto those highly dense constructs -- which seem to answer every question of life, science and revolution.

But my point is that this kind of codification contains a lot of illusion: The popularization of theory (even a correct, explanatory and powerful theory) is not the theory itself.

The presentation of a coherent doctrine often disguises (via its very coherence) the actual cracks, contradictions and controversies within ANY body of thought. And the formulas inherited from former periods of state power are  useful for many things ("Combat Liberalism!) -- but will not suffice us for our tasks on the level of strategy and preparation  (any more than high school physics enables you to build a suspension bridge).

We also need popularization of communist ideas

It is a contradiction: We do need rich and attractive popularization of a counter-narrative (to all the muck of capitalist and oppressive thinking). But often our body of thinking (codified as a doctrine of pat ideas) serves to lock down thinking, not open it up, especially among its core readers (i.e. the communists themselves).

People just coming to communism often have their minds blown in a good way by, say, "Foundations of Leninism." We actually need the cadre and activists of a revolutionary movement to be emboldened by their body of ideas -- unapologetic, coherent, prepared to do mental battle with all the lies and deadweight of an old society.

But if our thinking, as mature revolutionaries or as people creating a new movement, is confined to popularization of previous verdicts, it "turns into its opposite."

My belief is that if you teach the most radical thinking in the world, using quasi-religious methods (rote, formula, unassailable assumptions of truth), you will end up training people in religion, not radical thinking. I.e. despite its coloration, it will not be true, and it will not be effective in guiding a revolutionary process.

The main point of theory is not to popularize our ideas among the unconvinced. The main point of theory is to actually understand a dynamic world, so that we can change it in the ways we want.

Teaching communist methodology

So how do we teach a "science of revolution" in a way that is actually open-ended, scientific and revolutionary?

1) I think we need case studies and context: I.e. we should study previous victorious revolutions and critically examine :

  • What did people think?
  • how did they make difficult choices?
  • what did they do?
  • What did they disagree over?
  • What then emerged from their choices and actions?

We should also study defeated revolutionary attempts (KPD, NCM, Panthers, Vietnam, Cultural Revolution, Peru, etc.) so we avoid a typical motion approach (of assuming revolution happens when you get your ideas together).

2) I think we should have an approach to our own society that is deeply analytical -- proceeding (from our starting point) which is the actual world around us, not starting from ideological presumptions based on past truths. Proceeding from reality not from ideology (or our own previous verdicts) is crucial for a self-critical and developing body of thinking.

3) Our approach to larger abstractions (laws of motion, assumptions of commonality and principle) should borrow more from science and less from religion: we should see ourselves as having hypotheses that are standing for testing, application and confirmation. We should see the contradiction in our movement's previous verdicts and assumptions -- and should not casually or lightly assume they apply a century or two later.

Marx's Capital is a precious example of method.... while it is too often treated as a body of revealed truth.

4) We should expect our real world opportunities and openings to be disorienting: they will not present themselves in expected forms. They will not conform to our plans or assumptions. They will require learning and transformation -- from us too, not just from others. We need to appreciate contingency, not overestimate necessity (which means to soberly understand the limits of our own predictions).

* * * * * 

Nothing I'm saying is a degrading or disrespecting of Marxism or our past theoretical accomplishments (which are many and precious). On the contrary, it is part of the ongoing fight to rescue Marxism from the merely religious, and to rescue scientific thinking from the deadeningly dogmatic, and to generate a thinking project where we too often have leftist monasteries filled with group chanting.

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  • Guest - vsaluki

    "We actually need the cadre and activists of a revolutionary movement to be emboldened by their body of ideas -- unapologetic, coherent, prepared to do mental battle with all the lies and deadweight of an old society."

    The lies and dead weight of an old society are here. Are you ready to do mental battle?

    It seems that Marxists and communists spend the majority of their time ranting against the perceived evils of capitalism. In fact they place evils at the feet of capitalism that have nothing to do with capitalism. For example, commmunists love to point to racism in capitalist societies, even though racism has existed in all societies and all ideaologies for all of time. But Marxists want to claim that the very existence of an evil within a capitialist society are a condemnation of that societies ideaology. Along with that comes the implication that such a problem would never exists in a communist society. But there is no emperical evidence for such an idea.

    So, while communists mostly express themselves in terms of that which they hate - capitalism - they seem to spend very little time talking about or critically examining that which they love - Marxism. For them it seems like Marx is all about his intention. The utopian expressions about his love of freedom and humanity count for far more than the actual soundness of his ideas (and they are wholly unsound) or the emperical trials of his ideas, that have been incredible failures, as well as the cause of untold suffering and the death of tens of millions of human beings. The outcome of the communist experiments that have failed are simply swept under the rug with the explanation that they were not a true implementation of Marxism.

    So, while Marxism is only judged against its theoretical ideal, capitalism is judged only against the subset of negative outcomes that it has had in the real world. The hypocrisy of this approach is all the more astonishing when one sees how obvious it is that the disasterous emperical results that the world has had with communism are in fact bound to be the deterministic outcome of the ideaology as it is structured and defined. In other words, it doesn't matter who builds the building, it will always crumble because Marx's engineering is deeply flawed.

  • I agree, and have often argued, that Marxism is not a science (analogous to biology or geology) but at best a scientific approach to many facets of reality. Reasoning along the same lines, I don't see "evolution" as "a science" but as truth established scientifically (that is, through various sciences, including biology, genetics, paleontology, etc., that are open-ended and not rooted in credal formulations), rather like heliocentrism and the round earth concept are not "sciences" but facts accumulated through historical human endeavor---not convincing to everybody, but convincing to mentally stable reasonably educated people.

    The RCP is not the first organization to posture as "scientific" and to claim its analysis and strategy are scientific. Its claim to possess the "science of revolution" coupled with its incessant urging of people to "engage BA" strikes me as a little similar to the gnostic sects of Roman antiquity which claimed to have scientific knowledge (gnosis) and urged people to join their movements to gain it for themselves. Surely the activist selling papers on the street will do so more effectively fired up with the belief that they're in possession of special knowledge (the Word of BA, which typically they cannot persuasively distill but merely praise and recommend for private reading). But I wonder how many have ultimately realized that they don't have a "science" at their fingertips so much as a lot of dogma and formulas.

    Vsaluki (within his anticommunist rant) does make one valid point: communists have often unproblematically attributed miscellaneous evils to capitalism, insinuating that they are essential to its existence, when this this was not in fact the case. Racism was and could be been highly useful to some capitalists, for some reasons, in some places, over the several hundreds of years since the dawn of capitalism in Europe. But to postulate that it NEEDS racism (to divide the working class, to drive down wages, etc.) is not empiricism.

    The RCP went from castigating homosexuality as a symptom of "capitalist decadence" to attacking some U.S. forces as "Christian fascist" partly due to the latter's opposition to gay marriage. That is, they now imply that homophobia is useful if not integral to capitalist oppression. But there is no fundamental connection! The surprisingly rapid sea-change in opinion about gay rights over the last decade (in the US and globally), inclining even the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Karl Rove to concede that gay marriage is inevitable (or at least unwise to oppose), shows that gay sex poses no contradiction to the capitalist mode of production.

    We can say, both that the mode of production affects EVERYTHING in human society, and that the extent to which it does can be very minor. Engels somewhere says (something to the effect of) historical materialism cannot explain such things as the movements of the minuet or the shift in vowels in the German language and any attempt to do so in "class-struggle" terms is ridiculous.

    The association of racism, sexism, homophobia (as well as indifference and neglect of handicapped persons, the mentally ill and others) with capitalism requires concrete analysis. Of course there are links; capitalism is the framework within which it all takes place. But if we underestimate the capacity of the system to adjust, reforming itself as it is doing with regard to gay rights, and assume that in doing so it is only bending to popular struggle knowing that profits will decline or the capitalist class somehow suffer as a result, would be foolish.

    Half-baked thoughts before bed.

  • Guest - R. Fly, Esq.

    I understand Mike's points here but I think the way the argument is presented concedes way too much to anticommunists and their boring, ahistorical and flat-out wrong "God that failed" routine. Has communist thought suffered from dogmatism and exaggerated claims? Of course. No realm of thought has been free of these traits, even the hard sciences. But the comparison with religious mysticism/obscurantism is overdrawn. Communist thought has always taken as its starting point reality, whereas religion has done precisely the opposite. Reviving Cold War anticommunist cliches doesn't advance the struggle against dogmatism.

    The association of racism, sexism, homophobia (as well as indifference and neglect of handicapped persons, the mentally ill and others) with capitalism requires concrete analysis. Of course there are links; capitalism is the framework within which it all takes place. But if we underestimate the capacity of the system to adjust, reforming itself as it is doing with regard to gay rights, and assume that in doing so it is only bending to popular struggle knowing that profits will decline or the capitalist class somehow suffer as a result, would be foolish.


    I don't think anyone reading this underestimates the capacity of the system to adjust. The question is why does it adjust? Is it due to spontaneous changes in the realm of ideas or are there deeper causes underlying the adjustment? It's true that we want to avoid a mechanical approach to the superstructure, but if important changes in mass consciousness and bourgeois policy are not driven in the final instance by the needs of capital and the class struggle, then what are they driven by?

    There is no metaphysical connection between racism, sexism, homophobia and capitalism, but as you point out, there is a strong historical connection between these forms of reaction and bourgeois strategy as it relates to the needs of capital. Given this why should we doubt that there are materialist factors prompting a change in mass consciousness and bourgeois policy today?

    I guess I'm not exactly sure what you're after here, Gary. If it's that we should be less mechanical then I'm with you. But if its that ideas around race and sex and gender are fundamentally independent from the material foundations of society then I think that that's idealism. You say capitalism is the "framework in which it all takes place", which strikes me as a much too weak formulation, almost as if capitalism were just kind of in the background, providing the scenery and maybe influencing ideas on the margins. This doesn't comport with my experience and understanding of reality. All the time I'm struck by just how deeply the realm of ideas bears the imprint of the machinery of this system.

    I think we should also keep in mind that one of the main strategies of the bourgeoisie today is to sever the relationship in the ideological realm between racism, sexism, homophobia, and capitalism, to pretend that these oppressions are "independent" phenomena taking place strictly in the realm of (bourgeois) morality. What this "independent" perspective leads to is bourgeois identity politics, which does nothing to threaten the power of capital and the ultimate logic of which is the Marikana massacre.

  • Guest - vsaluki

    Gary, I assume that you are bringing up the RCP because they, in particular, have wrapped themselves in a grab bag of holier-than-thou causes that have very little, if anything, to do with historical materialism or a revolution of the proletariat. The point in doing so, of course, is to gain power and leverage by being seen as the supporters of the oppressed. And making a direct connection between capitalism and any and all evils also serves the cause in that it allows them to say, "See how bad it is. That is why you need communism". And while the RPC may have focused quite heavily on such an approach, it is a widely used tactic by Marxists everywhere. But if you look at the communist societies that have existed, there is no shortage of sexism, racism and homophobia. Was half of Lenin's staff or Stalin's staff or Mao's staff female? I'm talking about the people with real power, of course. And look at the environmentalism of current western Marxists. But if you look at the places where the Marxists were and are in power, they could care less about the environment. After the Berlin wall fell we discovered that much of Eastern Europe was an ecological nightmare. And China today is deteriorating the health of its workers worse that virtually any capitalist society. So a very good case can be made that all of the nobel causes of western Marxists are no more that pretensions that are made for the sake of gaining power. Then, once that power has been gained, these things will disappear into the dust bin as major areas of concern.

    But getting back to the RCP for a moment, I have no real interests in how the various groups of Marxists distinguish themselves. It makes no difference to me if Trotsky thought that the revolution must be international and if Stalin thought that it could be country based. There is really no point debating the quality of the branches when the trunk and root of the tree are rotten. My point is that the base concepts put forth by Marx are deeply flawed and so the trimmings make no difference. I'm going to wrap up this post and start another later today on the idea of historical materialism. It's as close as Marx ever got to developing a good idea, but even it had a host of problems.

    Comment last edited on about 1 year ago by Mike Ely
  • Guest - vsaluki

    So, is historical materialism scientific? And is it correct? The process of science would require that emperical evidence be gathered and that a theory to explain that evidence be formulated. I think that we can give Marx credit for doing that. But the first question might be to see if other theories could also be formulated to fit the historical evidence. I think that they certaily could. For example, I could say that history is moved forward as a result of mankind's endless need to procreate - to get laid. Or I could take a Nietzschean approach and claim that history is moved by man's will to power. Or I could claim that history is moved forward by the ideas and inventions that are produced by a miniscule percentage of the totality of mankind. By selectively emphasizing certain aspects of history and downplaying others I could probabably make a good case for any of those other theories. Did Marx do that or did he really extract the important essence of what moves history. The proof is in the pudding. In order to be scientific, a theory must have predictive value and the theory must gain credibility or be disproved based on how well it can predict. Shaping the theory to already known and passed data is relatively easy. So how did Marx do in the area of scientific prediction. I would say that he failed completely.

    His theory says that the communist revolution must be the outcome of inexorable and deterministic forces involving known stages of economic evolution. The communist revolution, therefore, would be the result of capitalism playing itself out. In other words, under the labor theory of value and using Marx's theory of crisis, capitalism must evolve to the point where profit is diminished to almost nothing due to competition. Businesses go broke, people are put out of work, the unemployed labor force puts more downward pressure on wages and the whole thing crumbles and sets the stage for the next cycle in the evolution of history - communism.

    So how does that align with what happend. Well, the revolution did not come to economies in the advanced stages of capitalism, it came to mostly agrarian societies that had never gone through a cycle of capitalist development and failure. And the societies that did have advanced stages of capitalism never reached a point of nonprofitability for business and they never crumbled and had communist revolutions. Furthermore, the whole idea of an inexorable economic patter was proven false in that Marx undermined his own theory. The major change to communism that Marx predicted did not come about as a result of determinist economic patterns, but rather it came about as a result of a man made ideology - namely Marx's own.

  • Guest - vsaluki

    Okay, let's take a look at the way that Marx parses humanity. It's simple! There are the worker and the capitalists. The workers sell their own labor in order to receive the money they need to survive. The capitalist lives off the labor of others. Since there are always more workers than needed, the surplus workers looking for employment drive wages down to the subsistence level. The image that this yields is one of workers who live in shabby one room apartments with just barely enough resources to feed and cloth themselves. The capitalists spend the day lounging by the pools of their multi million dollar homes sipping mint juleps and talking about how lazy the working class is. The society is structured in its government and institutions to preserve this state of injustice. The image is designed to rouse the anger and hatred of the workers and send them to the barricades with their red flags and their guns.

    But let's look at the reality. Company A hires a new CEO at a salary of 2 million per year. The CEO is selling his labor to the capitalists, so, by definition, he is a worker. Now the poor guy has to get by on a miserable 2 million of "subsistence" pay. Let's now try a doctor or a lawyer. Both have their own practices where they are the owners of the means of production. But they are also workers in the business and their labor is paid for by the clients, not the capitalists. In any case, they are both workers and capitalists. So what does that do to Marx' nice divisions. In fact, this model fits mom and pop stores, restaurants, garages, tea shops, laundry services, etc. etc. of all kinds all over the country. There the owners of the means of production are also part or all of the work force. So how does that fit in with Marx' model? In a communist state all of these little outfits where the capitalist is also the worker the state would take away their little shops and turn them into only workers in those little shops.

    Now, let's look at the poor soul who does not own any part of a business. His labor is a pure act of exploitation - right. But even that guy is putting some of his earnings into a retirement account. That retirement account is managed by a mutual fund. In the mutual fund that workers retirement saving are, in fact, capital. The objective being to grow the workers retirement fund as much as possible so that on retirement he will get more back than he put in. So it turns out that most workers are, at least a little bit, capitalists. Or if you don't want to give them that name, you still have to say that they benefit from capitalist exploitation.

    Now, let's look at the exploitation part of the equation. The worker works, for example, 8 hours per day, but he produces enough to pay for his salary in only 4. The rest is surplus and becomes an element in the equation for his level of exploitation. But the "surplus" portion is also used to pay for materials, new equipment, research, transportation, etc. What really matter here is not what Marx counts as surplus, because most of those costs would also exist in a communist society. What should count in the exploitation equation is profits and only profits. That is the part that the capitalist can take away and use to build his mansions and pay for his mint juleps. Well, it turns out that the average profit of a company in the US is 6%. That is not a huge exploitation percentage. Furthermore, in a communist society, due to its inefficiency, a worker is likely to get less for the same amount of work, even when the exploitation percentage is zero.

    But let's also look at the idea of a subsistence wage. Apparently this is a variable number that can change with time and place. So, if in the US a subsistence wage includes enough money to buy a three bedroom house, two cars, three televisions, two computers, a couple of cell phones, two dogs, a cat, a yard and a barbque grill; then who cares. If that is the subsistence wage, then the question is "So what?". Psychology studies have shown that beyond around 30,000 per year, more income has little effect on happiness. Of course it is possible for an individual to make themselves unhappy by dwelling in envy. But that is really their own issue.

    In any case, it appears that the clear and simplistic division that Marx makes between the worker and the capitalist is a distinction that has little real value in real life. The reality is that a very high percentage of people are both and that the movement between being one type and being the other is not only possible, but common. On top of that the image that Marx portrays of being downtrodden simply because one is a worker is also a fantasy.

  • Red Fly, Esq.:

    Thanks for your comments above. No time to systematically address them right now, but some comments.

    You ask “if important changes in mass consciousness and bourgeois policy are not driven in the final instance by the needs of capital and class struggle, then what are they driven by?”

    Let me rephrase this as an assertion: “All important changes in the way people think and the way the ruling class operates under capitalism are in the final analysis driven by the capitalists’ needs and by the struggle between them and the masses.” Isn’t this your position? If so, it is too sweeping. It is a statement of dogma.

    You state that there is “no metaphysical connection” between racism, sexism, homophobia and capitalism. I agree. (I don’t believe in metaphysical connections, period!)

    You state that there is “a strong historical connection between these forms of reaction and bourgeois strategy as it relates to capital” and (given that) “why should we doubt that there are materialist factors prompting a change in mass consciousness and bourgeois policy today?”

    I do not doubt (and can’t imagine how any Marxist would) that material factors prompt changes in consciousness (and I’d add that changes in consciousness themselves can become material forces). That is not the issue for me. The issue is sloppy, dogmatic, historicist thinking, and the attempt to reduce complex phenomena to “progressive” or “reactionary” in relation to a crude notion of inevitable stages of history. (I am not imputing this to you but recalling years of reading nonsense in but Soviet and PRC publications denouncing as “reactionary” and counterrevolutionary everything from the thoughts of Confucius to the music of Beethoven to rock n’ roll to homosexuality…as though these were all historical artifacts rooted in the evils of slavery, serfdom and wage-labor.)

    You refer to racism, sexism, and homophobia as “forms of reaction” by the bourgeoisie as these things “relate to capital.” (Very vague! There can be a huge and obvious relationship between these things and capitalism; some apparent significance; or significance so tenuous that it’s not worth pursuing. Engels ridiculed attempts to explain every imaginable historical phenomenon in terms of the class struggle. You use the phrase “in the final analysis” but sometimes in final analysis one doesn’t find clear causal connections. At that point the imputation of causality is as much a matter of faith as anything.)

    For example: the “changes in way people think” about homosexuality in this country have something, surely, to do with “the needs of capital” if only because they occur in a capitalist society. But have they been “driven” by those needs (as opposed to accommodating them, attempting to use and co-opt them)? How? Perhaps you could explain, concretely, rather than merely positing a principle.

    I don’t have a developed theory on the question, but it looks to me like there are a lot of factors involved here. Developments in science and medicine helped transform sexual behavior in the 1960s. Surely the profit motive generated the research that produced the pill. But I don’t think we can say that the bourgeoisie invented and peddled the pill because it, as a class, wanted women to be more liberated sexually in order to (say) better exploit them in the work force. The bourgeoisie was divided on the issue of the pill, to say nothing of legalized abortion, partly due to the influence of religion.

    (Well, religion itself, you might reply, is not an independent variable but merely the fruit of class society. But religion precedes class society, and while its evolutions reflect social transformations, they sometimes impact class as much as they are impacted. If one is studying the Protestant Reformation, for example, it is helpful to read Max Weber and R.H. Tawney alongside Marx and Engels; the former saw Protestantism as generating the “spirit of capitalism” and its worldly non-clerical “work ethic” while the latter saw changes in technology and class relations as the motor behind religious change. The former put ideas in charge, the latter material forces. But as Paul Sweeney wrote somewhere, in discussing the transition from feudalism to capitalism, the analyses are complementary rather than antagonistic. In any case, all kinds of contingent factors produce this or that sort of religion at any place and time.)

    Why is it that the many within the ruling class (however we might define that), like the Coors brewing family, bankroll anti-abortion and anti-gay groups? Is it because they see women’s and gay rights as anti-capitalist, threatening to their profits? Or because, in their heads (which are complex and internally contradictory as any of ours) adherence to religious ideas is as important as the strengthening of capitalism? Why do some people in the same class embrace and promote women’s and gay rights? What hand is “driving” them? Are there not many hands involved?

    Anyway, the “sexual revolution” affecting attitudes towards sex in general, demographics (producing “youth culture”), the Vietnam War (producing a general attitude of rebellion), mass movements for liberation inspiring women and TGLB people to demand equality all plainly contributed to the “important change” producing 9 US states with legal gay marriage and a majority nationally in favor as well as the president. The transformation of public opinion has been remarkable over the last decade. How have the capitalists’ needs driven this groundswell?

    You see homophobia as a form of “reaction,” by which I understand you to mean “backward-looking” or clinging to the antiquated in terms of a posited tendency in history towards universal liberation. If that’s the case, the “reaction” dates back in the west around 1600 years and began as a Christian reaction to pagan tolerance, with a Roman empire based on slavery both before and after the Christian triumph. Homophobia itself not only has nothing to do, as you say, “metaphysically” with homophobia, but it has little to do with the needs of capitalist profit at all.

    The only society on earth to develop a form of merchant capitalism comparable to that of early modern Europe, independently and without colonization or incorporation into the western-dominated world system, was Japan during the 17-18th centuries. In that society, homosexuality was not only tolerated but celebrated. Capitalism had something to do with it; existing traditions of monastic and samurai male homosexuality help inspire a new, bourgeois homosexuality centering around commercial sex and the kabuki theater. But it wasn’t a question of the ruling class engineering the evolution for some benefit for itself.

    You state that if I am saying) that “ideas about race and sex and gender are fundamentally independent from the material foundations of society then I think that’s idealism.”

    I’m not saying that. As a materialist I don’t think anything is “independent” from matter. I am saying that there are few phenomena created by humans that serve, and only can serve, one class during a certain period. Marx writes in the Grundrisse about the “unequal relation between the development of material production and art” and mentioning ancient Greece notes of art that “certain important forms of it are possible only at low stage of its development.” He adds that “the difficulty is not in grasping the idea that Greek art and epos are bound up with certain forms of social development. It lies rather in understanding why they still constitute for us a source of aesthetic enjoyment and in certain respects prevail as the standard and model beyond attainment.” And “The charm of their art for us does not conflict with the primitive character of the social order from which it had sprung. “

    In other words, the art of ancient slave society which one entertained slave owners continues to entertain people of different classes two millennia later. That is not a bad thing. Marx loved the works of Aeschylus. If he saw him as an exponent of the ideology of the Athenian slave-owning ruling class, he did not see him as (to use the term used in China at one point for Shakespeare) as a “noxious weed” representing an anti-people ruling class but as someone whose art whatever its class basis provides enjoyment to “us” today.

    You say that “One of the main strategies of the bourgeoisie today [all of them?] is to sever the relationship in the ideological realm between racism, sexism and homophobia and capitalism, to present that these oppressions are ‘independent’ phenomena taking place strictly in the realm of (bourgeois) morality.”

    I think that would be hard to prove. What examples do you have of members of the bourgeoisie trying to sever the relationship? Are you saying that (say), Obama in supporting gay marriage is somehow trying to hoodwink people into believing that there can be gay equality short of (genuine) socialism? That he’s doing so to throw cold water on the revolutionary movement, such as it is?

    What I see in the current moves towards gay marriage acceptance among the ruling class is a range of mostly liberal-democratic forces, globally, responding to (rather than driving) the increasing tolerance for homosexuality, partly from their own evolving convictions about the issue and (more) from political opportunism. Obama, British PM Cameron, French parliamentarians have all jumped on a bandwagon thinking they have more to gain than lose politically in doing so. To the extent that progress in gay rights enhances their power bases, it may be seen as strengthening capitalism. To the extent that it produces a backlash, it might weaken the system.

    It may be clear to you how this change is driven by capital. It isn’t to me.

  • I hope to respond to a number of points in this thread. And particularly appreciate the exchange between Red Fly and Gary.

    Let me start by drilling into the introductory remarks by Red Fly.

    "I understand Mike's points here but I think the way the argument is presented concedes way too much to anticommunists and their boring, ahistorical and flat-out wrong "God that failed" routine. Has communist thought suffered from dogmatism and exaggerated claims? Of course. No realm of thought has been free of these traits, even the hard sciences. But the comparison with religious mysticism/obscurantism is overdrawn. Communist thought has always taken as its starting point reality, whereas religion has done precisely the opposite. Reviving Cold War anticommunist cliches doesn't advance the struggle against dogmatism. "

    On the specific points:

    "I understand Mike's points here but I think the way the argument is presented concedes way too much to anticommunists and their boring, ahistorical and flat-out wrong "God that failed" routine."

    I respect your opiinion here, but I don't believe your criticism is correct. First, I am not arguing that communism is a god that failed -- and I make the point explicitly that this is not a rejection of Marxism or communist theory, or a call for something different. But I am making the point that things are often not what they seem.

    There is an instrumentalist value in claiming some tidy closed system of truth, and arguing that a particular political program will inevitably succeed -- it encouraged the weak and historically oppressed, it gives the power of hope. I understand why things are cloaked that way. But I think we need to have a candid discussion with ourselves. I am well aware that "Marxism consists of a thousand truths" (as Mao said).

    But I am also arguing that a great deal of bullshit has been smuggled in and painted with the word "science" -- and that often the concept "science" is understood scientifically (i.e. our communist ideas are not vetted as creatively or critically, by us, nearly the way actual scientific theses are engaged).

    And, really, any time we communists engage in serious self-criticism there are those (on the side of conservative orthodoxy) that argue the very process of such self criticism echos or benefits our enemies. All I can say is that the hour is late. We have been lax and reluctant in taking a Marxist approach to Marxism... meaning a ongoing necessarily-critical approach to critical theory.

    "Has communist thought suffered from dogmatism and exaggerated claims? Of course. No realm of thought has been free of these traits, even the hard sciences."

    I note our agreement here. But really the issue is not "have there been exaggerations?" since (as your sentence shows) that is true of any thought process. And so it reduces the issue to a banality.

    The issue i'm raising is whether we have a particular problem (now! us!) among communists... and that is the rise and consolidation of a particular legacy of uncritical dogmatism, and the habits of backward-looking orthodoxy. The view (drawn from the 1930s) that Marxism-Leninism had become "a science of revolution" is the exaggeration we are talking about... not some general question of "were there exaggerations."

    And let me be specific: Marxism was codified into a closed system in the 1930s. It was treated as a body of fixed and final truths... and it is constantly referred to that way. (As if a quote from Lenin solves a question with some kind of definitive way -- as if the communist verdict is "whatever lenin said" and so on.)

    That is the issue of exaggeration and science i'm raising....

    "But the comparison with religious mysticism/obscurantism is overdrawn."

    It is hard for me to grasp how anyone can write this. Especially because I think you are familiar with communist debates and discourse. And go look at ANY discourse among communists these days, and SOMEONE will aggressively project that logic. the method is indestinguishable from "The bible says it, I believe it, that settles it."

    The writing of Marx, Lenin, Mao, [add name here] are treated as prophetic revelations (not scientific hypothesis)... and merely referring to THEIR verdicts (out of context, without a critical evaluation) is often assumed to answer arguments, and establish authority.

    It is an uncritical and unscientific approach to a remarkably critical and often scientific body of theory.

    And I truly believe that if you teach great insights and creative critical analysis in a religious way, you have not taught (in the main) great insight or creative critical analysis, you have taught (and reenforced) religious thinking. In fact you have robbed people of the tools that are most precious in Marxism -- which have to do with method, not verdicts-made-formulas.

    "Communist thought has always taken as its starting point reality, whereas religion has done precisely the opposite."

    Well, help me with this. When some communists say "Revolution is the main trend in the world today" are they taking reality as their starting point? When people think that we should throw our forces into pulling trade unions to the left (in the U.S.), are they acting out of ideological assumptions, or are they taking reality as a starting point?

    When all kinds of small and isolated groups declare themselves to be "parties," and speak as if they are "the vanguard of the proletariat" (a class who they barely know, and who barely knows them), and so on.... are they taking reality as a starting point.

    Or (to take the more recent RCP as a negative example), when they declare that the fate of humanity hangs on whether Avakian gets the "appreciation" that he thinks he deserves... is that at all connected to reality? What is the starting point here?

    So here is the issue for me: Communists (of course) claim they are taking reality as their starting point. That is part of communist views and self-image. But as communists, we don't judge people by what they claim or what they believe about themselves. Scientology claims to take reality as its starting point. So does creationism. So does every pseudo-science.

    And in the world today, lots of religious (metaphysical, mystical, delusional) thinking takes a secular form -- i.e. it claims to be scientific, or realistic, or non-mystical etc.

    Unlike the "God that Failed" thesis -- i'm not saying that communist itself has been a deception. (That is true not merely because I claim it is so, but because it can be seen in both my arguments and my practice.) I'm saying that existing communist movements and currents divide into two -- and that among them, quasi-religious dogmatism (of a secular kind) is quite prominent, and (in the thinking of many people) is equated with Marxism. When we (patiently, repeatedly) argue for a rebooting of communist thinking (on an anti-dogmatic framework), and as we try to start (with whatever means are available, together with other) to sketch such a rebooting, some people clutch their closed systems and scream that the very process of critical analysis ("study critically, test independently") is itself reactionary.


    Well, all I can do is shrug, really. The dogmas have not done well. Communism has mentally lagged for far too long, as the world passes by. There is nothing (zero) to gain by resting content with what we have inherited. It is a basis (a kind of platform) for our work.... but it is inherently and glaringly insufficient for the work ahead. We need to do more than "apply" the details of closed systems.


    That is the approach I try to take in my parallel examination of the 1950s communist formulations of "four main contradictions on a world scale" (which itself is now limited in some obvious ways), and more the bizarre insistence by some that the world today is marked by the same "principal contradiction" as it was in 1960 or 1968 (when the Third World really was an unmistakable "storm center" of actual revolutions).

    Again, when people pretend that the Third World is still a storm center of revolutions shaking the world imperialist system, we can only ask them which revolutions (name them?) are they about that are emiting such power (sketch its influence?) that it is literally the "principal contradiction" (defining world events). And I ask you, don't you see precisely that such arguments take verdicts that were true (in the past, decades ago) and hold them aloft in a way that doesn't actually take reality as its starting point (or even show reality much respect at all)?

    We need to both adopt and adapt communism as a modern, connected, evolving, open system of revolutionary thinking and practice.

    Comment last edited on about 1 year ago by Mike Ely
  • Guest - Gary

    Oops! In my comment above,

    Homophobia itself not only has nothing to do, as you say, “metaphysically” with homophobia, but it has little to do with the needs of capitalist profit at all.

    SHOULD BE

    Homophobia itself not only has nothing to do, as you say, “metaphysically” with capitalism, but it has little to do with the needs of capitalist profit at all.

  • Guest - vsaluki

    Now that we have seen Marx' failure in his definition of historical materialism, let's have a look at the utopian society that Marx envisioned. Marx said that in a communist society man could hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, farm in the evening and criticize after dinner. Notice that he didn't say that man could work in a nail factory in the morning, in a roofing tile factory in the afternoon, and clean out the pig sty after dinner. Do those things not have to be done in a communist society? Of course they do. But Marx wanted to give people the absurd and romantic notion that communist society would set them free to be whatever they wanted to be whenever they wanted to be it. And so he drew flowery images that never could be realized in the real world. In Marx' communist world there would be a central planning committee that would decide what needed to be produced to meet the needs of all the people. Then, by some magic that he never explained, the individual desires to do certain kinds of labor would end up corresponding, on a large scale, with the requirements for labor set out by the central planning committee. Has anyone ever heard a more absurd notion. At least 80% of the work that must be done to give people what they need is work that no one wants to do - ever. Perhaps Marx never realized this because his profligate life style was supported by a sugar daddy - Friedrich Engels. Or lets take the position of a medical doctor. This is a job where one must train the first half of his life to gain competency. And after that, constant study is required to retain competency. Do we say to this man, "hey you don't have to be a laboring drudge all the time. You can leave your practice and go hunt and fish or maybe study birds in South America. It's your choice if you ever want to go back to being a doctor. And it makes no difference economically, because whatever you do you will get what you need, no more and no less." That should work out well. Let's take another approach. Let's say that a third of the work force wants to be musicians, regardless of talent, and another third wants to be landscape painters, regardless of talent. Then, according to Marx, the society owes them the opportunity to be what they want. Again, how does this merge with central planners who decide what must be produced, including how much music and art is produced. Of course it cannot. Marx has constructed an equation where the sides can never balance. So what happens?

    We have the central ideal of Marxism which is "From each according to his ability and to each according to his need". But the two things are executed independently. So a man is given what he needs. Then he is suppose to supply the work that is needed to meet the needs of the whole society. But after he is given what he needs and knowing that he cannot get more by working, what is his motivation for going to work? There is none. This means that the state must provide him with a motivation for going to work - and they do. They throw him in prison if he does not go and do the work that they assign him. The reality immediately diverges from Marx' promised ideal. So now the worker, instead of working for the capitalist, has simply become the slave of the state. He is controlled at the point of a gun by the communist party elite. No other way is possible, regardless of what Marx claims as his utopian ideals.

    Let's go one step further and look at the "to each according to his need" part of the formula. Who wants the state to tell them what they need? In real life, nobody does. I may only need a one room apartment in a concrete apartment block with shared kitchen and toilet. But that will never define the limits of what I want. For that matter, it doesn't define the limits of what 98% of the population will be satisfied with.

    Of course what Marx has defined requires a totalitarian police state to execute. This is essential and it is completely deterministic that it will happen in any communist society. First the communists must use violence to separate people from their property. Then they must use violence to get people to go to work. Then they must use violence to get people to accept that they are going to only be given what someone else decides that they need. And they must use violence to keep people from reacquiring property once it has been taken away from them. Of course keeping one party in power with no opportunity for the population to ever vote that party out of power also requires a police state.

    And this is why every communist state that has been tried has been a violent police state. It is not a failure in execution of Marx' concepts. It is a deterministic outcome of the attempt to implement Marx' concepts. As chairman Mao said, "Every communist must grasp the truth, political power grows out of the barrel of a gun". Mao made sure that no one interpreted this as a metaphor by filling mass graves with 35 million of his countrymen. Mao was one of Marx' best students and is greatly admired by most communists, despite his butchery.

    The claim that Marxism has never failed because real socialism has not yet been tried is a false claim. Real socialism has been tried in dozens of ways. It has been tried by nations with over a billion people and it has been tried by collectivist groups as small as a dozen people. In all cases, it has failed. And the failure is not in the execution, but in the engineering.

    Consider Marx' claim that social movements are the natural outcome of deterministic economic forces. If that were the case, then the socialist outcome that he proposes would not be effected by the personalities or ambitions or intention or intelligence of the people involved in making it happen. A socially deterministic outcome does not depend on having perfect people or even perfect leaders to make it happen. Because if that were the case then it could never happen. The claim that socialism has never been tried also contradicts Marx' assertion that it is socially inevitable.

    So, starvation, exile, enslavement, concentration camps, torture, show trials, purges, ethnic cleansing, liquidation of whole cultures, reeducation camps, propaganda, censorship, man made famine, secret police, firing squads, the killing fields and 100 million dead are all outcomes of the attempt to implement communism. They may not have been Marx' intention, but they were the natural and inevitable outcome of his ideology.

  • Guest - vsaluki

    "A standing army and police are the chief instruments of state power." - Lenin (1917)

    "A communist state can never be anything other than a totalitarian police state." - Vsaluki (2013)

  • Guest - vsaluki

    Ex French budget minister and socialist Jerome Cahuzac has been caught with a secret Swiss bank account. Cahuzac was a big supporter of the 75% tax for the most productive French. Apparenently his position was that the rich, excluding himself, should be taxed for the sake of forced equality. And so there is one more of the dozens of major problems with socialism and communism. Both depend heavily on the leaders of the state not being corrupt. Because if they are corrupt, the fact that they have far more power than any elected officials in a capitalist state means that they are able to do far more dammage.

  • Moderator note: We have not (so far) removed the anti-communist comments by Vsaluki. However, I want to note that it is our policy that this site is not for discussion with rightwingers and anticommunists. It is for discussion among revolutionaries. In general, our routine policy is to remove comments that are basically anti-socialist and anti-communist.

    To be clear: This is not because we don't think it is important to debate anti-communist ideas. It is just that we don't want to do it here, and because such comments hijack our threads and drag the discussion down.

    So, though Vsaluki has generally been respectful and substantive, and though we have "looked the other way" so far -- I just want to let everyone know that we are going to start enforcing our usual policy.

  • Guest - Vsaluki

    Mike Ely: "My belief is that if you teach the most radical thinking in the world, using quasi-religious methods (rote, formula, unassailable assumptions of truth)"

    So, if not here, then where? Where are the communists that are not singing for the choir? Where are the communists that believe that the support of their system involves more than just attacking other systems? Where are the communists that are ready to do more than propagate drive by attacks on capitalism when all forms of communism that have been tried do far worse and when anyone can see that it's built into the ideaology.

    Your note doesn't suprise me, Mike. I knew before I entered my first post that censorship was going to be the outcome here as it is and always must be for any communist entity.

  • Vsaluki:

    You may have noticed that no one has bothered to engage your comments. You may think they are incisive and profound. But we find them both banal and irrelevant. (I am continually amazed how rightwingers think they are intelligent, or assume their arguments are clever -- while the mass of humanity look at them and roll their eyes.)

    We have not censored you. And (frankly) your ideas surround us all... they are hegemonic and pervasive. You are echoing the ideas of the powerful and those who control the censorship.

    In other word, it is a bit perverse (in this society!) to claim that it is anti-communists who face censorship. I don't know if you have any idea what communists endure in the U.S. -- but the fact is this: It is communists who face censorship by anticommunists, NOT the other way around.

    You write:
    "Where are the communists that are not singing for the choir? "

    I'm not sure what you are talking about. there are numerous places in the world where communists are engaged in active revolutionary efforts (India, Nepal, Philippines, etc.) And really while communists there engage in debates with anticommunists, they also replace "the weapon of criticism" with "the criticism by weapons."

    Are you under the impression that communism is an armchair endeavor (of choirs and academics)? that would seem naive and antihistorical.

    As for this site: We have created a space for debate among revolutionaries and communists. We need a place where we discuss without the inanity or irritation of anti-communist nonsense. And we have (frankly) a right to discuss our politics without your disruption.

    I do think we can and should engage your backward and false ideas. And most of us do engage anti-communist ideas daily in many venues.

    However, I am asserting well-established and reasonable rules of this site. And we have been (as i'm sure you noticed) tolerant and patient. But we don't feel an obligation to instruct you. And we don't feel your argument are interesting enough, or thoughful enough to demand a response.

    In short: You have a million places to express backward, reactionary pro-capitalist ideas. Posted it here is trolling. Please stop. And if you don't stop, we will simply and quietly remove it.

    Hope that is clear. And reasonably respectful.

    Comment last edited on about 1 year ago by Mike Ely
  • Guest - R. Fly, Esq.

    It's true that we want to avoid a mechanical approach to the superstructure, but if important changes in mass consciousness and bourgeois policy are not driven in the final instance by the needs of capital and the class struggle, then what are they driven by?


    For example: the “changes in way people think” about homosexuality in this country have something, surely, to do with “the needs of capital” if only because they occur in a capitalist society. But have they been “driven” by those needs (as opposed to accommodating them, attempting to use and co-opt them)? How? Perhaps you could explain, concretely, rather than merely positing a principle.


    Is it possible to neatly separate accommodation and co-optation from the needs of capital? I don't think so.

    I never claimed that, in some narrow way, all ideas are driven by the need to maintain profits. I said they are driven in the final instance by the needs of capital and the class struggle. My view that the needs of capital and the class struggle serve as the driving force of ideas is not narrowly economistic. Capital's needs are also cultural. That doesn't necessarily mean these needs are narrow and conservative but what is required is a measure of recuperability. True cultural subversion usually threatens not the immediate needs but the long-term prospects of the system.

    Now, I do think their are bourgeois strategists that understand this, but the positing of a "bourgeois conspiracy" is not necessary. What matters is that the bourgeoisie gradually begins to adopt the culturally subversive ideas as their own. When that happens and when this becomes dominant, things are channeled in a safe, bourgeois direction, the direction of bourgeois consciousness, and the subversive piss is taken out of these ideas. For example, I don't think there was some vast conspiracy by the LGBT bourgeoisie to push marriage as THE issue for the movement in order to make LGBT people into more passive and accepting of this system as a whole. But when the bourgeoisie adopts something as its own it can't help but twist it into confines that legitimate and celebrate the class.

    I don’t have a developed theory on the question, but it looks to me like there are a lot of factors involved here. Developments in science and medicine helped transform sexual behavior in the 1960s. Surely the profit motive generated the research that produced the pill. But I don’t think we can say that the bourgeoisie invented and peddled the pill because it, as a class, wanted women to be more liberated sexually in order to (say) better exploit them in the work force. The bourgeoisie was divided on the issue of the pill, to say nothing of legalized abortion, partly due to the influence of religion.


    Again, you seem to want to attribute to me the vulgar view that every idea in bourgeois society is cooked up in some smoke-filled room. "Ah yes, I know how we will better hook them into the system...a little pill that offers up all the conveniences of male sexuality...mwah hah hah!"

    But the sexual revolution was of course in part a response to the stifling conformity of the early post-WWII era, which was in turn a cultural expression of the nascent Cold War, a conflict that I'm sure you'll agree was unambiguously driven by the cultural and economic needs of capital.

    Why is it that the many within the ruling class (however we might define that), like the Coors brewing family, bankroll anti-abortion and anti-gay groups? Is it because they see women’s and gay rights as anti-capitalist, threatening to their profits? Or because, in their heads (which are complex and internally contradictory as any of ours) adherence to religious ideas is as important as the strengthening of capitalism? Why do some people in the same class embrace and promote women’s and gay rights? What hand is “driving” them? Are there not many hands involved?


    In addition to what I said above about not holding to some narrowly conspiratorial view of the bourgeoisie's motivations, I'd also say that motivations and intentions are kind of beside the point here.

    Ask your average bourgeois and he'll tell you that does he what does out of love for family, country, humanity...blah blah blah. Now I do think there are some bourgeois strategists who do have a view towards the whole that is very cynically conscious of the need to maintain appearances of virtue, but I think for the most part the bourgeoisie believes in what it says. But I just don't find that compelling or persuasive. They're interested men no matter how noble they believe themselves to be. What is driving them, in the final instance, whatever their intentions, are there class interests. Now, these interests manifest in the realm of ideas differently, so that one section of the bourgeoisie might be for LGBT rights and another might be against them, but what you'll never find are large sections of the capitalist class promoting ideas that really rock the cultural foundations of bourgeois society.

    The transformation of public opinion has been remarkable over the last decade. How have the capitalists’ needs driven this groundswell?


    You yourself noted the storminess of the times in which the modern LGBT rights movement began. It was, in those days, a deeply subversive thing. In the last decade that deeply subversive quality has been lost. Why is that?

    In large part because it has been deeply bourgeoisified. Bourgeoisification means that under the sway of bourgeois leadership and cultural hegemony the previously subversive becomes increasingly acceptable, not only to the bourgeoisie, but to the larger society.

    Again, you're defining "capital's needs" much more narrowly than I intended, though I'm certainly willing to take the blame for not making clear from the outset that I believe that capital's needs require not only narrowly economic means but hegemonic cultural ones as well.

    Homophobia itself not only has nothing to do, as you say, “metaphysically” with homophobia, but it has little to do with the needs of capitalist profit at all.


    Your historical summary leads to a rather ahistorical conclusion. Regardless of the bourgeoisie's intentions, homophobia has in the past served the purpose of dividing the working class. So it clearly has had something to do with the needs of capitalist profit historically.

    You say that “One of the main strategies of the bourgeoisie today [all of them?] is to sever the relationship in the ideological realm between racism, sexism and homophobia and capitalism, to present that these oppressions are ‘independent’ phenomena taking place strictly in the realm of (bourgeois) morality.”

    I think that would be hard to prove. What examples do you have of members of the bourgeoisie trying to sever the relationship? Are you saying that (say), Obama in supporting gay marriage is somehow trying to hoodwink people into believing that there can be gay equality short of (genuine) socialism? That he’s doing so to throw cold water on the revolutionary movement, such as it is?


    I'm saying compradorism is one of the main trends in the world today.

    Ever watch MSNBC? 24/7 they promote bourgeois identity politics, i.e. an identity politics that uses the growing representation of oppressed identities within the bourgeoisie to promote their poisonous "American Dream" narrative about how far "we" have come, the "we" in this case being the promotion of a "diverse" crowd of bourgeois oppressors.

    I've written a little about this for the purpose self-clarification. Here's an example (quoting myself from a couple of months back):

    The full-court press is on at BSNBC. Bourgeois “diversity” is the opiate of the day. Charlie Rangel is outraged that no female was appointed to oversee the murder operations running out of the Pentagon. He desperately wanted a female member of the bourgeoisie to head up drone slaughter and imperial resource grabs. How progressive. How diverse. How open minded. How forward thinking.

    This is obviously part of a top-down information operation against the American peoples.

    This isn't tokenism that they're pushing though. Tokens aren't that useful. What they want is to cultivate an extremely loyal female, Black, Latino, etc. bourgeoisie, a layer better suited towards oppressing working class people of oppressed nationality and gender.

    Bourgeois diversity does nothing to threaten the money-power of the bourgeoisie. Which is precisely why it's promoted 24/7 at BSNBC/Comcast, an integral player in the manufacture of consent. It's the allure of progress dangled in front of everybody but gifted only to the few, the proud, the servile.


    As I said before, I do think there are bourgeois strategists that are very cognizant of what they're doing. Operation Mockingbird was a real, documented thing. But it's not necessary for most of them. Their natural outlook universalizes their experience so that for the bourgeoisie having a diverse group of oppressors really is a sign of how far we've come.

    Struggle has a social context and capital's needs aren't confined to its representatives' intentions or narrowly economic ends.

  • Guest - ab soul

    is there a condensed version or one in actual laymans english?

  • On the contrary, it is part of the ongoing fight to rescue Marxism from the merely religious, and to rescue scientific thinking from the deadeningly dogmatic, and to generate a thinking project where we too often have leftist monasteries filled with group chanting.


    This is what communists of today must do. I don't know if I agree with the way that Kasama has promoted it thus far or if I feel it has truly shaken off the weight of the past but the fact that this is a part of the conversation is encouraging.

  • I was argueing politics with a friend two weeks ago and he said he believed that marxist ideas led to people like Pol Pot. He said Marxism just seems to lead to tyrany and power abuses. Well if I believed that I woulnd't be a Marxist.
    I can easily question my own belief's in Marxism or Maoism, but I live under capitolism everyday of my life, and have for the overwhelming majority of my life and I have witnessed a nation of lies, discrimination, scapegoating gays, women who seek abortions, and poor people. I have met people from foreign third world countries, so I am familiar with our foreign policy lies.
    The anti-abortion people I battled with for almost 10 years, follwed a form of Christian facism (that's not an exageration-consider the term "Godarchy" or God rules us), they were aligned with the most right-wing conservative anti-worker politicians and they discriminated against non-Christians and Homosexuals. They often refered to us as "sodimites."
    So really--no link between discrimination, homophobia and other evils come from the capitolist system--riiiight!!! They look linked to me. I don't need an intelectual paper to tell me it ain't true.
    I drifted to Marxism realizing more and more--ANDDDD More that capitolism was not only a bad system, it keeps getting worse and there seems to be no end to how bad it will get.
    So it is either anarchy or Marxism. I really don't believe we can crush and replace this system without some type of structured rebelion and then a structured state to prevent the return of the scum we overthrew. We can debate Marxism and how it should work all we want--but for me there is no doubt we need it in some form or another. I may have doubts about what will work--but I have no doubts about what doesn't work and I live under that system and have observed it first hand.

  • I guess I could add that I spent some time in Nicragua and El Salvador so I got a chance to see the blatant lies about our foreign policies first hand. I also spent a day in Morrocco where I saw workers who lived on the job site in little tents. And our government only wants us to notice poor people when they live some where like North Korea.

  • I rally hate your new website; I can't find anything, and when i try to comment, I just get an "invalid token" error. I'm just trying this to se if it will work.

  • Regarding the invalid token error:

    We are working to solve it. In the meantime, if you receive this error, go back and refresh your browser. You should be logged in. Invalid Token occurs when someone attempts to log in while their computer is actually already logged in.

  • I don't know how it happened, but it worked this time

    Mike-
    I applaud your attempts to make Marxism more scientific, and get away from the dogmatic thinking that has plagued it for so many years. But i disagree with you about your analysis of vsaluki's comments; they are much more intelligent (even if wrong) than most of the anticommunist nonsense I run into. In fact, they make a very good basis for the discussion you want to encourage.
    I think you have allowed vsaluki to bait you entirely too much. He clearly wanted to see how far he could get, before he managed to goad you into a foolish response. And he succeeded. He made it appear that you can't answer his arguments, and that you just refuse to discuss matters because you can't disprove him. And you let him do that.
    I suspect that vsaluki is one of these people who were raised and educated in a "communist" regime, and has rebelled against the dogmas he was taught. I've run into them. You can learn a lot from them about what was wrong in "real existing socialism," as long as you don't think your job is to "instruct them".
    You obviously did not do a good job of directing this debate on kasama. Even though it is an open web site, where anyone can comment, and comments are not monitored. You might want to set up a system where objectional parts of comments are deleted e.g.: [insulting language removed] or [this comment broke the rules] as is done on many websites (e.g. BBC World News).
    Or you could ask questions asking the commentor to clarify something, or instruct the commentor to stick to a particular subject. Rather than let things get out of control to the point that you have to threaten to kick the commentor off the site.

  • If you mean my site, it is blog spot and has limitations. If I change adresses no one will find it.

  • Did not mean Otto's web site, as my next post shows. Sorry for the confusion.

  • I may have solved my problem posting comments on kasama. It appears if i sign in, I CANNOT post comments; but if i go direct.y to the web site without signing in, I can. WTF?

  • Here are some of my ideas on the issue of homosexuality and the changing attitudes to it. First, capitalists will use whatever opportunities they can find to enhance their profits. This includes divide and conquer tactics on the working class. But how can they effectively use discrimination against homosexuals to improve their exploitation of workers? It is often easy for homosexuals to hide their homosexuality. It's not like some person with a dark skin trying to pass as white. Also, rich people are just as likely as workers to have homosexual offspring, so if they discriminate, they will sometimes be discriminating against their own children, which obviously they won't want to do. The discrimination against homosexuals seems to come historically from parts of the Christian religion, especially the Catholic Church and some of the most old-fashioned sects. In my experience, it is strongest in the lower levels of the working class, with their traditionalist religious views. The capitalists are simply accomodating these views to placate and pacify those workers, and to avoid offending customers. Labor peace is good for business. In working for large corporations, I have found they don't care at all about workers' sexuality, as long as it doesn't cause conflict in the workplace.
    The decline in prejudice against homosexuals has come about from the rise of secular/scientific thinking as our society has become better educated and more advanced technologically, accompanied with a decline in religious extremism. Especially with the rise of more scientific views of sexual matters, and medical control of sexually transmitted diseases. The sudden rise of anti-homosexual attitudes when the HIV epidemic broke out is an interesting example of how that temporarily worked in reverse. There has also been a great advance in people's ideas of personal freedom, from women getting the right to vote, to the extension of the guarantees of the Bill of Rights to cover state actions, to the rise of labor unions and rights of workers, to the civil rights movement, etc. which has led to greater toleration of all kinds of differences.
    We need to take a wide, scientific view of things, and not try to make our Marxist/communist philosophy explain everything. It doesn't. There are plenty of materialist reasons for the great changes in the acceptance of homosexuality, but I don't think the worker-capitalist conflict had much to do with it in any direct sense.

  • As you point out many working people hold on to traditional religious views and that becomes a tool for capitalists their pundits and political party hacks to control them. I live in the Bible belt and I constantly here there is a Biblical economy and it just happens to serve the ruling classes and their agenda. The great thing about using religion is that no true believer can disagree with a "Jesus" inspired economy. That creates blind obedience. You're right that capitalist use the divide and conquer tactic. First it was black people, next gays, and since as you say, gays are getting more freedom and rights, scapegoating has turned to poor people who “leach off the system and drag all the hard working people down.”
    If you want to avoid the class struggles as a way of analysing today's discrimination and libertarian issues that’s your decision.
    As for me—I see the scum who run our city and state operating everyday and I can easily connect the dots on any given day. I like to place the blame where it belongs and the ruling class scumbags in this area are as transparent as glass.
    Marxist analysis may not always fit, but for me it does about 95% of the time. This is THEIR country and I just live in it. My vote means nothing here.

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