This is an archive of the former website of the Maoist Internationalist Movement, which was run by the now defunct Maoist Internationalist Party - Amerika. The MIM now consists of many independent cells, many of which have their own indendendent organs both online and off. MIM(Prisons) serves these documents as a service to and reference for the anti-imperialist movement worldwide.
Maoist Internationalist Movement

A bourgeois study of communist degeneration in the imperialist countries

The Appeals of Communism
by Gabriel A. Almond
Princeton University Press, 1954, pb. 415 pp.

With the goal of learning how to disrupt the communist movement, and funding from the Carnegie foundation and the backing of Princeton, Almond compiled a statistical study of 221 ex-communists in England, the united $tates, France and Italy and secretly referenced several psychiatrists claiming to have 35 ex-communist patients. This book came out over 50 years ago and it has two values to MIM: 1) it concerns real communists of the time. 2) the book is sufficiently old now that not many will take MIM's comments on the book persynally. Of Russian and Ukrainian descent, Almond himself died in 2003.

Psychiatry and gender

This particular book will go down in history mostly for the attempt at pop psychiatry, a pseudo-science, not for the longer chapters with tables on some rather dry questions, which we get into below. For example, we learn that one ex-comrade joined the communists as an outlet for promiscuity and resistance to parents. Another comrade ended up giving away information that resulted in the killing of an Italian fascist unit his father was in. Other comrades with so-called hostility neuroses found the communist parties ideal; although, Almond admits there is no one neurosis that underlies the communist movement.

According to Almond, hard-working leaders had their needs taken care of in the name of efficiency--clothing, cars, medical, dental etc.: "They also had special sexual privileges. As an English respondent said, 'There is a doctrine that the functioning of the party members--especially of the leaders--is of interest to everyone in the party, and therefore if anyone wants a girl, someone has to volunteer.'"(p. 153)

We should be clear that the advantage of this line is that it is ages-old. It may be resisted but resignation with regard to history has its weight. MIM is the only organization with a conscious line on this problem and more importantly it's the only party to put into practice a line exactly counter to it. We say that it is wrong to eroticize politics, which is after all a derivative of power and it is wrong to eroticize class consciousness given its uneven distribution at the moment. Because the MIM gender line is actually new in Amerikan communist history, it has encountered ferocious resistance.

In truth, in the imperialist countries, there has been a wide range of discipline levels and approaches to the gender question. Some reports from Almond indicate that the early Stalin era parties had some levels of discipline higher than MIM does. Others include the Popular Front period in which discipline disappeared completely. In any case, none actually had a theory to explain why the English example above is wrong, prior to MIM. Even the Black Panthers carried out something like the above, with even more justification given the security situation of armed struggle.

Almond's goal and bourgeois pluralism

From the beginning, Almond set about to find a gap between words and action with which to split the less committed from the communist movement. In this regard we have to admit that some of what he found is true. There are for example, those periods in history when communist organizations have recruited on an agitational basis. These comrades recruited on a more-or-less single-issue basis also drop out on the basis of new single issues that come along--no surprise.

From MIM's knowledge of the U.$. Communist Party, Almond's point there is true. Right into recent times, one tactic of the watered down parties is to recruit everyone who signs a single-issue petition. People who joined to get higher wages for their factory quit when Stalin signed a pact with Hitler in 1939. Still others quit over the Lysenko controversy and the Soviet campaign against "rootless cosmopolitans."(p. xiii)

MIM has stressed that the bourgeoisie consciously uses bourgeois pluralism to undermine the communist movement in the imperialist countries. This was stated on page 4 of Almond's book on how he contrasts communist commitments to Amerikan-style pluralist commitments: "In his political affiliations, his social relations, and his recreational life, he is not required to make binding commitments to exclusive ideals and obligations. Because the various associations and groupings compete with one another for his loyalty and adherence, there is a very real sense in which he is master. . . This is not intended to minimize the compulsive elemnts which are obviously present in American society, but rather to suggest that its real content of freedom derives from a pluralism of compulsions, a system which limits the impact of any particular compulsion, which offers escape and refuge, and which ensures a range of choice. . . and is the very flesh and blood of the Western heritage."(p. 4)

According to Almond, the communist militant is concerned only with power, because she assumes that seizure of power will achieve communist goals. MIM would say that is not a very productive part of the book by Almond, because concretely, there were revolutions in the Soviet Union, Albania and China by 1954 and Almond should have started an evaluation of whether there was evidence that Bolshevik seizure of power led to accomplishment of ideological goals and not just power for its own sake. In any case, anyone who thinks the charge of communists' pursuing power for its own sake is new can find it in Almond in 1954.

Wrong reasons for joining the party

Nonetheless, we can skip over that part of Almond and look at the data he presents. One discovery that is especially true in Amerika and England is that the persynal need of the middle-class to achieve intellectual mastery of the world around it was a big factor in drawing people to communism. Although over 90% of the ex-comrades considered ideology important, majorities of the middle-class also found that for strictly persynal reasons the confrontation with Marxism was internally clarifying.

Along these lines, Almond quoted Lenin and Stalin and how they may have unconsciously tapped into some middle-class needs: "'A man who is weak and vacillating on theoretical questions. . . such a man is not a revolutionist but a hopeless amateur.'" Stalin also said, "'The history of the Party further teaches us that a party of the working class cannot perform the role of leader of its class. . . unless it has mastered the advanced theory of the working class movement, the Marxist-Leninist theory.'"(pp. 33-4) We concur with Almond that a section of the petty-bourgeoisie grooves on that sort of statement for its own reasons. In our times, there are those who have come into lengthy contact with MIM and then left for academia or a new career. The attraction to MIM was on a weak basis, not on a sense of duty to the exploited and oppressed, a concept that we all must admit has proved lacking in the West while found in abundance in the Third World.

Oddly, we can also place MIM Notes in the same category as Almond's study of the Daily Worker. The Daily Worker was agitational and largely negating the legitimacy of the state and capitalist system. It made few great claims about the party. Likewise, we can say MIM Notes has similar goals.

Currently, MIM has identified weakness in its agitation work, but Almond talks about another problem in a different direction in a different time period. In MIM, we have the strongest propaganda but weaker agitation at the moment. The danger is that propaganda seeps into agitation. In Almond's study, agitation overstepped its bounds in the communist parties. Almond sought to take advantage of that in the following way:

"A person who has simply assimilated the pattern of political action represented in the American Daily Worker has no conception whatever of what the Communist movement really is. He has identified himself with a rather pallid champion of generalized virtue and has accepted a somewhat watered-down version of the Communist demonology.

"If we were to think of Communist ideology and propaganda in terms of religious theology, we would have to say that it is the hagiology--the doctrine of the 'saints'--which is the essentially esoteric doctrine. it is the 'true lives' of the saints, from which one can infer the principles of 'true saintliness,' which are completely concealed in the popular materials of the party. . . . The 'true doctrine of ends' is the denial of the validity of all goals save power in the period prior to the revolution." (pp. 93-4)

MIM would say that this is even more true than stated, because that is in fact how Westerners initially respond to communist agitation. The militant seems as some uncorrupted and fundamentalist Christian, because there is no reference point for scientific communism. When communism does not accord with Christianity and when recruits fail to advance in the study of scientific communism, they end up writing books like the Black Book of Communism, by ex-communists now receiving praise from the Catholic Church.

Only 27% of the respondents had read any Marx, Lenin or Stalin when they joined the party. The following was typical: "I didn't worry through the thick books on Marx. I joined the party when it moved a widow's evicted furniture back into her house. I thought it was right. that's why I joined."(p. 101)

MIM is saying that that model of agitation and action leading to party membership and driving forward the struggle may apply somewhat in the Third World. It is completely wrong for the imperialist countries, because we need to get past single issue movements and because we have many similar movements which are in fact parasitic. It is wrong to attempt to join MIM on that sort of agitational basis, but it is entirely correct to work in a mass organization, such as an anti-war group or fair trade organization without reading Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao.

According to Almond, people joined on single-issue bases, but also for persynal reasons. Among intellectuals and the ex-comrades as a whole, persynal reasons were more than doubly important for joining than the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao (MELSM). Small minorities knew of what Almond called the "esoterica."

To take advantage of that situation, Almond and others invented a story whereby the top leaders of the party pursue power for its own sake while the rank-and-file does not know. This has some surface plausibility, because the leaders actually do read MELSM works and this is an element of the unknown for the followers.

MIM has to admit that Almond's story rings true among those planted in the proletariat's ranks by the government. It is not true of the communist movement. There is no sense in which a real communist can be seen as more engaged in power struggle than the imperialists. Those who appear this way may in fact be agents of the state seeking to discredit the communist movement. People who want to see accomplishments of Maoist revolution can read about them in China. There is no need to enter the heads of party leaders.

Another reason that Almond found for joining communist parties in England and the United $tates was loneliness. MIM as the "lonely hearts club" is something we also have to shake off from time to time, so this also rings true. In France and Italy, churches and trade unions probably staved off the lonely, notso in the cultures of ultra-individualism.

So the important point that emerges in Almond's book is that the second-most important reason for joining the party is persynal in the imperialist countries, if we allow that situation to develop. Comrades will tend to agree with the contemporary campaigns and newspapers relating to their circumstances without ever reading the historical books. There were countless complaints about the books, study sessions and lectures in Almond's book from the ex-comrades.

Thus we have to understand that people find the party attractive perhaps for reasons the party did not intend. More people find it attractive for off-base reasons than for the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao--by far. To account for that, we also have to come up with a theory of repulsion, because we do not want people in the party for the wrong reasons and then quitting to degrade our security and writing the Black Book of Communism. The negative aspects of having members need to be fully understood. In contrast, the positive aspects of having agitational organizations that are not parties need to be better appreciated.

65% of the members of the French Communist Party were of the opinion that France should be neutral in a U.$-Soviet war. 76% joined the party to improve their own living conditions.(p. 109)

This is another important factor that MIM has already actively dealt with--the trade union bureaucracy. The leading reason for quitting was money conflicts. At this time, MIM has no professional bureaucracy. Almond shows us from yet another angle how that professional bureaucracy comes with serious drawbacks. MIM is not going to have the kind of degeneration seen in the Stalin-era parties, because we are not running trade unions, hiring activists and then watching it all fall apart when wages increase sufficiently through reforms. No doubt we have our own failings, just not that one.

So to return to the question of how pluralism is the weapon of choice against the communist parties, Almond recognized over 50 years ago that people join communist parties for reasons other than the right ones. He interviewed those who found it appalling to have their friendships limited to the party and who found it unhumyn to lose friendships with the people who quit the party. Here again the stress was on the voluntary and temporary character of bourgeois pluralism's commitments.

Some things haven't changed

One last point we see as the same is the standard of work. "'Anybody can be a leader if he is prepared to work like a slave. Leaders select themselves, not for intellect, but for beaver-like qualities.'"(p. 139) This came out especially among Amerikans and Brits.

One thing we would like to overcome though is the perception that intelligence and knowledge of theory do not matter. It's not hard to see how given a certain attitude in the communist movement, a Khruschev identifying himself as from a peasants' and workers' background strolled into power.

Almond found that one reason for the attractiveness of parties was the basic idea that work determines status and that there is money for those who slave away, regardless of communist knowledge or other qualities of leadership. This was connected up with the whole idea of running the trade unions and getting higher pay. It was a cohesive package. The problem with it as we saw with the self-liquidation of the party under Browder was that egalitarianism led to decline of theory, to the point where people forgot why they needed a party at all as opposed to hard work in trade unions. MIM is not going to have that combination of problems. We have evaded them.

What remains true is this: "One of the reasons that FBI agents were so successful in getting into responsible positions was that there was a constant shortage of willing workers in the American party."(p. 140) This is something MIM has not been able to change and it's especially true in England and the United $tates. It's also another reason we need to put down any stupid stories circulating about people prevented from becoming leaders in the U.$. and English communist parties. It's always just an excuse for lack of effort to blame those who are working. Almond's survey showed that even among ex-comrades, the situation was clear: there was no obstacle to becoming a communist leader except effort. Those who spread such stories aid the FBI in becoming a larger portion of our leadership. People who apply themselves consistently can ignore everything else going on, because sooner or later they will become scientific communist leaders.


Almond considered communism the greatest evil of the 20th century.(p. 370) For more than 50 years, the enemy has sought to create the impression of a gap between theory and action among communists--an idea of hypocrisy. MIM has cut them off at the pass by explaining we are not Christians or sub-reformists.

The enemy has long taken advantage of social divisions of no importance: "Almost half of the respondents described their problems of adjustment in the party in these terms. Middle-class party members often felt uncomfortable while working in the same cells with unemployed or foreign workmen. Working-class party members were repelled by the pedantry and intellectual gymnastics of the intellectuals, or the bohemianism of some of the middle-class members."(p. 306-7)

29% cited pressure on persynal relations as a reason for quitting. (p. 307) MIM would say this sort of wrong reason shows the comrade was never ready to die for the party to begin with: giving up friends was too much. To counteract this problem we have to cut recruiting, make use of repulsive forces to weed out the fakers and we have to set up appropriate places for the less committed to be active. Ultimately, in the imperialist countries, we are going to have to focus on quality, because quantity connected to exploitation is not to be found. Mass organizations will come and go, but we have some latitude of choice in what the dedicated comrades do.

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