I'm going to talk about subjectivism and its relationship to our communist goals by giving a bunch of examples of subjectivism--the belief that what one feels or likes is true or supreme. What's most important is not the individual evils of subjectivism, but understanding the overall approach that we as Maoist scientists apply to everything. We at MIM are not saying we have some long list of behaviors that we tack on to the end of the "Ten Commandments." It's not our point to bring attention to hypocrisy in individual behavior--and this is something that we from Christian, Jewish and Islamic cultures have to watch out for. (Buddhism has a little better intellectual material to work with on this question.) We Maoist scientists are interested in the underlying causes of behavior.
Anyone who thinks s/he does not have something that s/he likes that is tainted by oppression is just wrong. As Marx and Lenin warned us, even after overthrowing the social system of capitalism, its corpse would continue to rot among us. There is no way that revolutionaries arising from capitalist society can be instantly pure even after revolution. It's not a leap into Heaven. Communist purity is not going to happen in the lifetime of the revolutionaries who create the dictatorship of the proletariat unless lifetimes get a lot longer.
In all likelihood, the revolution will be successful only through the efforts of "hypocrites" envisioning future generations growing up with better social influences than they had. Understanding this is part of understanding materialism, as when Lenin said revolution is always made with the imperfect social material at hand, not by divine perfection of humyn consciousness first. When one critic said Mao sought "revolutionary immortality," he was not all wrong. Parents and teachers seek influence on future generations, and Mao simply took that to a whole larger level and asked to be remembered only as a teacher.
A persyn could not like a whole list of bad things that most other people have as vices, but even then there would have to be something. Everyone has a vice. No one is a 100% pure. Hence, MIM has acted to push aside the politics of putting lifestyle first. Whoever comes up with the idea that a party should set up a list of lifestyles to condone or not condone is setting up a huge Liberal fight to divide the party. We have to come up with a list of bad things, but our attack has to be on the causes, not the bearers of those bad lifestyles. With these warnings, I turn to several examples of subjectivism.
We've all seen the teenager lash into parents saying: "what do you mean I can't smoke? You smoke, you hypocrite!" So the truth is some parents smoke and forbid their children from smoking. Yet, this is an example of a pseudo-rebellion by the teenager, a rebellion on behalf of the right to make profits for the multinational tobacco companies.
More than in any country in the world at the moment, comrades in the united $tates will have to conquer subjectivism and still make revolution despite hypocritical feelings and behaviors. The smoking parent who cracks down on his or her children is right. It means this: "I know I have had my subjective feelings, my very emotions and psychology conditioned by the cigarette companies and I know I am addicted. However, I know that in a better world it would not be that way."
In contrast, when medical researchers discover that smoking is poisonous, principled Trotskyists such as the Spartacist League go so far to oppose "totalitarianism" that they will publicly defend the right to smoke in public (and thus contribute to the death of more people, both the smokers and those in contact with them). These Spartacist League members contribute to a rebellion against science and for bourgeois individualism and tobacco company profits. They take the subjective state of the smoker and "respect" it. That's part of their idea of "freedom" and "opposing totalitarianism."
When the all-round dictatorship of the proletariat led by us Maoists gets to power, the cigarette company executives who put those toxic chemicals in cigarettes and resisted medical science in the court system will be lined up and shot as a small repayment of their blood debt to millions killed by smoking. Those cigarette company executives who conquer subjectivism will know they should be shot to set a good example for the future.
The same is true of drug addiction. How many times have we seen established bourgeois people look down on heroin addicts. Oh how terrible to be in such a state of control by the drug, we hear. Yet most of these same people turn around and say that life is a short experience to enjoy as it is. They get their jollies from something else short-term and damaging to society in many cases.
The fact is that many heroin, cocaine and crack addicts will say that they have a profound experience of pleasure from their drugs. MIM has no need to deny such subjective statements. Post-modernists and bourgeois individualists need to deal with that--and we can't imagine how they do in their own twisted minds--but we at MIM say, "sure that feels good to you, but where did that desire for that kind of pleasure or pain-killing come from?" The answer is a combination of profiteering drug dealers and a corrupt government defending the profit-system leaving people alienated from their own lives.
III. Music and art
Music is another battleground against subjectivism. For some people, music is the highest motivation. For others it's a second or third place source of motivation. At MIM and its circles we've had more than one persyn have to get involved in throwing out reactionary music tapes, starting with Guns N'Roses. When we oppose Guns N'Roses and say most of it should be banned, it's not that we don't know we're going to be unpopular. We know it, because right now the bourgeoisie controls the superstructure and encourages everyone to be subjectivists and not unite on an objective basis to challenge bourgeois rule. Hell, our reviewer on our web page "likes" that Guns N'Roses, so how could we not know about the resistance we face right now. The question is do we wish we lived in a society where popular songs were not about sick people burying their girlfriends in their backyard. Do we wish we could get a rush like we get from Guns N'Roses but some other way. Again, for those conquering subjectivism and preparing the all-round dictatorship of the proletariat, the answer is "yes." We don't think it's necessary that music have that sick component, so we're for revolutionizing it.
Leon Trotsky said some good and bad things about art, but the bad things were mostly a concession to Liberalism and that is how Trotsky is known relative to Stalin and Mao. Trotsky did say this: "During the period of revolution, only that literature which promotes the consolidation of the workers in their struggle against the exploiters is necessary and progressive. Revolutionary literature cannot but be imbued with a spirit of social hatred, which is a creative historic factor in an epoch of proletarian dictatorship."(1) MIM is OK with that line from Trotsky, but we will note that he says revolutionary art is necessary and progressive, but he does not say the dictatorship of the proletariat is going to attack and ban reactionary art.
Then weaving in the concept of the party as the dictatorship of the proletariat the way Rosa Luxemburg did against Lenin, Trotsky said: "Art must make its own way and by its own means. The Marxian methods are not the same as the artistic. The party leads the proletariat but not the historic processes of history. There are domains in which the party leads, directly and imperatively. There are domains in which it only cooperates. There are, finally, domains in which it only orients itself. The domain of art is not one in which the party is called upon to command."(1)
Later, Trotsky would develop this line further to its logical conclusion and oppose the dictatorship of the proletariat as "totalitarian." "No less ruinous is the effect of the 'totalitarian' regime upon artistic literature. The struggle of tendencies and schools has been replaced by interpretation of the will of the leaders. There has been created for all groups a general compulsory organization, a kind of concentration camp of artistic literature."(2) The Cold War machine picked up and echoed every Trotsky criticism supporting subjectivism.
In his same major work Trotsky said about Stalin: "In the process of struggle against the party Opposition, the literary schools were strangled one after the other. It was not only a question of literature, either. The process of extermination took place in all ideological spheres, and it took place more decisively since it was more than half unconscious. The present ruling stratum considers itself called not only to control spiritual creation politically, but also to prescribe its roads of development. The method of command- without-appeal extends in like measure to the concentration camps, to scientific agriculture and to music. The central organ of the party prints anonymous directive editorials, having the character of military orders, in architecture, literature, dramatic art, the ballet, to say nothing of philosophy, natural science and history."(2)
Trotskyists of our day continue the theme that art and politics are separate and that barbarians fail to recognize why artistic subjectivity cannot be subject to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Bob Avakian said for example, "art plays a crucial role in precisely this--the forging of new outlooks. This is true whether the subject matter of art is explicitly political or not.
"It is not difficult to understand why there has been a historic tendency among Marxists to confound art with politics per se, and particularly with political agitation and propaganda."(3) So here Avakian defends art that is not explicitly political and creates the space for art for its own sake, and seeing art as apart from politics as Avakian's ideological ancestor Trotsky did. Art is not agitation, but the substance of artistic skill itself is subject to an all-round dictatorship of the proletariat or the bourgeoisie will rule.
What all Liberalism including Trotskyism has in common is the common attack that we Marxist scientists missed the point. For them, it's what people "like" or "don't like" and supposedly us square and retro communist scientists don't get it-- even when the MIM reviewer admits to liking Guns N'Roses. Resistance to MIM's music line is reminiscent of the same pseudo-rebellion by teenage wannabe smokers.
When we tell the Liberals there has to be a party or body of scientists deciding what is good or bad for society in terms of art and music, they say, "who are you to decide?" We should throw back in their face, "who are you to decide that mega-corporations should decide?" The whole question of "totalitarianism" is based on an illusion that someone is not deciding currently.
Our critics' approach denies that in science, someone always does decide. For that matter, Einstein's theory of relativity is not up for a vote based on what people "like." In economics, these same subjectivist people are apt to believe that they are really making individual decisions under capitalism when in reality it's the boardrooms of corporations, the Pentagon and the White House making the major decisions and letting individuals pick within their boundaries.
Now let's look at love. Many see it as the one refuge from corruption all around. Too many wimmin are looking for love only from lone individuals instead of the international proletariat. People in love hope they won't see their love stolen for a pack of cigarettes, a bit of crack, a man who has a higher paying job or a womyn with bigger breasts. Ah, but here is the sad part: for all the people who are looking at this question, "love" itself is usually thought of as a refuge of two people. Yet, where do all these challenges to love come from? People in love or pursuing love but who do not ask this question are already guilty of another kind of subjectivism. The sources of problems in love come from society. If we can question what is going on between two people we can also extend that to the question of love in the whole society.
For the sake of having a definition of romance culture we've said that sex is a component of romantic love. Going back hundreds of years poets and even preachers have said that womyn is a creation to remind men of God's power and what Heaven could be. Milton was even talking about the question of how men tempted by Satan would worship wimmin. While some people say it is music, some say the rush they got from a particular drug --probably even more men would say that there is nothing more subjectively profound than the experience of seeing naked wimmin and then having sex.
Again, whatever that portion of society is that would say some kind of sexual experience is the most profound emotion-stirring experience, MIM has no need to deny that it is true. Still the question even there --despite all the people saying it is "natural"-- whether it is 100% natural or if it is totally constructed by for-profit pornography or something else social, MIM would ask in whatever case whether it is good for wimmin and do we wish we lived in a society in which pornography was not such an overwhelming subjective experience for many men.
What heroin does to people is also "natural." It takes advantage of something in the humyn being's biological wiring. That does not mean it is necessary and good. We can conquer heroin and we should.
Just as "art for its own sake" is poison so to is "sex for its own sake" when raised against the party and the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the communist future they may be able to have both or maybe the very thought of both will disappear, but right now and for a foreseeable stage of time, the subjectivism of art or sex for its own sake is a weapon in the arsenal of the enemy.
We had a womyn quit the party's circles solely on the basis of the line that monogamy is second-best to asexuality. She claimed to agree with every other single line of the party, but wanted multiple partners. She asked us to change the line. The womyn recruiting her came back with this sad news to the party and pointed out, yeah, but if she would break with us "just for that," she could not have been serious about the rest. Indeed, that's how we look at it: the stands on perysnal subjective matters relative to the party often tell us a lot about ourselves and our overall line.
Supposing that for this womyn, the most profound subjective experience in life was having multiple sexual partners and that that was more profound than the subjective thrill of everything else MIM stood for, we might think that what MIM was doing to her with this monogamy line was "depressing." This is actually a very important point. The truth may hurt and be depressing. It does not mean we can afford to do without the truth of oppression and exploitation. We have always said that if people do not find the current reality depressing and hurtful, then there is something wrong with them. They need to be taken out of the "Matrix."
What is worse, of course, in theory the party can make mistakes and worsen that depression and hurt for some people. A comrade wanting multiple sex partners might think that having the line in her face all the time would make her a hypocrite, because she did not feel it emotionally. Yet it's guaranteed that we are all hypocrites, because the party can never be 100% in line with people subjectively.
Another troublesome issue is what to do with comrades when they fail in practice in their lifestyles. We're not going to get into all of it here, but merely avoiding MIM, because one line or even several would make someone a hypocrite subjectively speaking is wrong. It would be like the smoking parent who gave his/her kids cigarettes to avoid being a hypocrite.
Since the 1980s, we've had multiple comrades disappear out of embarassment over sex questions. We even had one comrade disappear for something no one was opposed to! In most cases, MIM does not cast people out of our circles for sexual practice out of synch with our line. What happens is people treat it like Christianity as if the lifestyle itself were the goal and since they failed the supposed goal, they should give up politics they imagine. This is wrong and we must fight to expunge Christian, Jewish and Islamic thinking on this from our circles by an active fight. And by the way, our challenge stands to any comrades who left in the midst of sexual embarassment to come back to party circles. Just send us a letter or even join our struggle anonymously as many do. The struggle against gender oppression does not advance by people giving up politics. If the People's Wars have to use bullets and bombs to feed, clothe and shelter the people, we in the imperialist countries can stand a little embarassment with each other over subjective trifles.
It could even be the case that what is hurtful for one persyn is uplifting for another because of how subjectivities are constructed currently. That's why Mao called it steering and they used that "helmsman" image in China. A party can never steer in such a way as not to depress someone just by the party's actions. Individualists can try to adjust everything in their private lives, but scientific bodies including vanguard parties have to take votes and go one way or another. Trotsky and the Liberals try to make it appear contrary, but it just isn't true. It is better to make decisions in the open through a vanguard party vote than by individuals in private life or corporate boardrooms.
It is well-known that MIM is willing to take "extreme" stands by u.$. public standards. We even appreciate some of what Gandhi said that first people ignore you; then they laugh at you; then they imprison you and then they join you. Black bourgeois Nelson Mandela even experienced the last part of this where the white rulers put him in prison and then decided capitalism will survive if it has a Black face leading it.
Countless opportunists have asked us why we are willing to take such a public opinion beating on our position that "all sex is rape." Of course we know it is unpopular. However, there are two kinds of unpopularity in politics relevant to MIM: 1) lost popularity because the road to communism is difficult 2) popularity lost because we surrendered our political credibility. No matter what anyone might say, the two reasons for surrendering popularity are not the same.
Anybody with the "all sex is rape" line is not going to be elected president of the united $tates any time soon. Reflexive and hardened reformists are going to dismiss us on that account alone. The truth is that it is much better to be an amorphous character that serves various corporate interests to win elections. For a Maoist party, the question is different, because we're not saying for the masses to abstain from sex as the solution to gender oppression. The masses can't abstain from their jobs and end exploitation either. We're saying that for party members, we expect them to put aside their persynal feelings about social behavior and dig to their causes. Otherwise, they can't join and have a vote on scientific matters. If people think sex in society in general is above the dictatorship of the proletariat, because s/he thinks it's the most profound and best subjective experience as is, then we don't want them in our party. We can't let anything get in the way of our mission to end oppression and exploitation.
If an "illegal alien" migrant farm-worker says he had a "nice day at work" picking oranges or tomatoes, OK, that's his subjectivity for the day. It does not mean he was not super-exploited, whether he thinks so or not. If someone experiences pleasure in sex, it does not mean there is no gender oppression interconnected with that. MIM is definitely going to lose some support for saying that, but so be it. We are communists and we only want people voting in our party who are going to put science of ending oppression above the subjective experiences of all kinds. The only proper way to oppose the party line is with evidence for entire groups of people, not by persynal experience alone. If someone wants to provide evidence that pornography improved the reading comprehension, vocabulary and grammar of both girls and boys exposed to pornography in high school--such being a fanciful assumption but raised for a point of principle-- then the party would have to consider that. The fact that pornography has completely taken over the last two generations of men in the united $tates and that men like it is not an argument against having no pornography corporations under socialism. That would be supporting the subjectivism of patriarchy.
When it comes to the party pointing the road to revolution, the task has to be conceived differently. The "all sex is rape" line lays it down hard and firmly, and to be blunt, especially for men who are hopping hot for sex, that there is nothing, nothing at all that MIM holds above analytical scrutiny. And when we get done taking down the profit system, it's going to be the same way: we're going to be there looking at what it takes to get done with battering, rape and even just hurt feelings, because Marx said that when the species takes over its destiny people will know not even to fall in love with the wrong persyn and thus avoid hurt feelings. Granted, that's a while down the line, but the point is that we communists are relentless in nailing down the underlying problems in society and moving forward to a happy and harmonious one.
Another one of those subjective areas is friends. Mao already addressed this in "Combat Liberalism." Who in the united $tates does not have high school classmates as friends that did not later go on to be police or serve in some country killing people? No, the point is not that 100% of the cops and military personnel we all have as neighbors in the u$a are "bad." Nonetheless, when it comes time for a communist party, we need to know that politics goes above those old classmates. The fact that we like our friends can be another source of reticence and paralysis on the behalf of revolutionaries, because we are the underdog and more often than not people will not be able to take their ordinary friends from apolitical circles and have things work out OK for revolutionary politics. So we have to be objective about the sources of some feelings around the u$a. As Sakai pointed out, it's virtually impossible to be white in Amerika and not know some police affiliated neighbor. Then when we consider the millions who have gone through the armed services, a picture adds up. People we knew as kids are now active agents of the state. That's not to say there is not revolutionary struggle in the Army. There most assuredly is. On the whole though, veterans of an undefeated imperialist military power are a negative political influence --something that even the bourgeois revolutionaries and veterans of 1776 recognized.
Many times MIM has been taken to task for its tone, many saying we are "infantile" or childish. This takes us to the next question--if you don't like liking some things produced by imperialism, what should we like instead? In the imperialist countries, but also in the Third World also at least partially dominated by the same imperialist superstructure, we grow up bombarded with false messages. Yes, it starts as a child.
Janet Jackson revealed her breast on TV during the football game called the Super Bowl. This outraged stable bourgeois family people every where and caused a furor of call-ins and letters, but a CNN poll also showed that Amerikans know that violence should be our first priority not porn. Where are all these parents complaining about the cartoons their kids watch on television and the video games they play, where living creatures and people easily get shot down 50 in a minute? What cave do they live in that they don't know about violence on television? Maybe in some countries Nipplegate would be the worst thing on TV. It's a sign of how screwed up things are that it's far, far from true in the united $tates. People who like certain cartoons and video games need to learn that the sources of that liking are profiteering militarists. MIM has pissed off countless teenagers for dissing their video games.
So what MIM does is substitute new emotions for old ones. We seek to get people to go back to the things they believed as children and make sure that they all make sense. Good and bad have been confounded such that people somehow hate it when someone "anti-patriotic" says that Iraqi people should not die for the gasoline in the SUV. The people saying these things often times have a seventh grade level education--and we are not even attacking them when we say that. We are pointing out that we in the imperialist countries--above all the u$a of course--can see that the emotions at the simplest levels are wrong. Speaking in an even tone and language fit for graduate school seminars is not going to help counteract basic brainwashing problems.
This is also related to the question of the stage of our revolution. It never does any good to avoid the truth except in tactical situations where the enemy is in hot pursuit. If a cop is chasing you down the alley and a senior citizen volunteers that you "went that way" when you really went this way, that's a good lie. On the other hand, we cannot lie about tone or exploitation issues in public.
When Mao said that "without a People's Army the people have nothing," he wasn't kidding. He also wasn't kidding when he said imperialist countries would have to go through long periods of time without armed struggle. In other words, he expected in ordinary times for people in the imperialist countries to have nothing. No armed struggle against imperialism, therefore, nothing.
So when people call us "childish," because we use a tone hostile to bourgeois ideology, we say "thank you, can I please have another." Children are oppressed and our greatest hope. We have a press here and the example of that in history is still Engels in Germany. It's an aim at some kind of influence. Because our press is not connected with our own armed struggle, wild success might attract a kind of diluting influence as seen in Engels's circles when he died. If our tone or the rareness of our line alienates some people, so be it. We have a number of problems in trying to have people associate anger with the appropriate targets.
It's important to understand that the white man in particular has no reference point as an animal putting his emotions in line with the international proletariat. We have no armed struggles to teach us the militant anger and determination that goes with opposing the enemy. If we do not use tone in the proper context, we are handing over the determination of anger, sadness and pleasure to the bourgeoisie. If we do use the proper tone in contexts that children may encounter, we may in fact teach those children something. If some people are too ideologically old to relearn when to be angry, sardonic, dismissive etc and when not to be, then we have to write them off.
To be continued in Part II