by Web Minister December, 2002
MIM's movie reviews receive heavy readership relative to other parts of the web page. There is a lot of talk about how MIM comes up with these reviews including the occasional humor involved. In one word, "materialism" is our philosophy guiding production of MIM reviews.
We also receive more than a few letters misunderstanding practices in Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's China in these matters. Recently I received two letters based on a misunderstanding of some mainstream journalist anti-communist propaganda both alleging there were a total of 8 approved works of literature in all of Mao's China.* That brings us to the question of "control" and state repression of the arts.
1. Fascism, reaction--intolerant
violence that can never bring about social
2. Liberalism--the philosophy of tolerance and individual liberties.
3. Right-opportunism--Liberalism practiced by those claiming to be communists, not Liberals.
4. Ultra-leftism--the philosophy of intolerant repression practiced by those claiming to be communists but which actually targets communist and progressive trends.
5. Subjectivism--celebration of one's own tastes and opinions without consideration how they were produced or are harmful to society in general.
6. Sectarianism--placing one's own organizational efforts above the good of the whole society.
7. Progressive--characterized by advance toward social harmony, peace and improved humyn capabilities, what tends to abolish class, gender and national oppression.
Liberalism is what Amerikkkans learn in civics classes in elementary school--that the u$A is a "free country" and that we should "tolerate" other opinions and expressions at least to the point of not banning them. We at MIM often find ourselves defending Liberalism against fascism while attacking it for our own reasons.
When it comes to writing our own movie, music and book reviews, defending Liberalism is not our main goal. In fact we seek Liberal-free reviews. In today's political world, we often unite with Liberals who are an increasingly rare breed in the imperialist countries, but it is not the same thing as being Liberal ourselves.
Our critics would say we seek too much "control" over other people's thoughts. We say such control is not a crime in a world where there is still starvation, war and homelessness-- things MIM calls "antagonistic contradictions." Obviously there needs to be more control of a peace and harmony generating kind, a progressive kind of control. After there is no more needless violence in the world, then we can co-exist with Liberalism fine, and the meaning of being Liberal will change in any case.
The Liberals say "you have a right to be wrong," but MIM says not when it comes to life-and-death questions affecting others. There is no place for "opinions" other than the scientifically correct ones when it comes to everything from airplane pilot training to feeding the people. Driving instructors would not be allowed to teach that red is go and green is stop. So it is that the bourgeoisie seeks to convince us that there is a science of particle physics but not starvation prevention. Forcing an individual in a nuclear power plant into exposure to nuclear radiation or preventing a pilot from safely landing a plane might result in prison sentences, with testimony on how radiation causes death or how an obstreperous passenger was out of line, but denying the causes of exposure to starvation may lead to a literature prize. Exposing a whole city to a risk of nuclear radiation will result in job promotions and the possibility of a special-interests supported political career.
The most common mistake in our cultural review work is "right opportunism," which means that the Maoist party itself falls into Liberalism, just tolerating cultural works which are going to cause needless violence. "Right opportunism" could be called "let it slide" ideology. Right opportunists underestimate how much change we can bring about at any given moment. In fact, it is natural to have a bias toward reviewing positive works while ignoring the most rotten. That in itself is a kind of right-opportunism. Having the energy to review all culture is part of opposing right-opportunism and it means unleashing the proletariat to do the job--a vital question of leadership.
Often times, right-opportunists seek to compensate with ultra-leftism and vice-versa. Too lazy to struggle with something? Just ban it. So it is right-opportunism can lead to ultra-leftism. Of course, plenty of progressive accomplishments get lost in the shuffle.
When anti-communist propagandists write about us communists, they accuse us of what we would call the "ultra-left" error. They say we would lay waste to all culture leaving only a handful of approved state-sponsored works of culture. The anti-communist propagandist often has a profound desire to believe that what happened in Mao's Cultural Revolution for instance was a simple banning and smashing of everything. They twist the facts to suit their Liberal, anti-communist cause.
Of course, when ultra-leftists destroy everything, they also destroy what is progressive. The net result is the same as right-opportunism--making the life of the capitalist system or attempts at capitalist restoration in a socialist country easier. In fact, when the communists make real head-way, the Liberals inevitably team up with the ultra-leftists to destroy the good communist progress.
In real life, there are very few ultra-leftists, and mostly they exist in the world of anti- communist propaganda. On the other hand, they do exert influence within the communist party, even while they are not common amongst the masses, except as passing fads.
Whether they know it or not, ultra-leftists are often religious in inclination or believe that underlying conditions of society are quite advanced, so that everything can be destroyed and the people will still be fine. In the case of intellectuals, they may mistake their own existence for that of the people. While some individual intellectuals might be OK if almost all culture were smashed, the people will not be. Ultra-leftists overestimate how much progress can be made at a given moment.
Steering and materialism
Mao was the "helmsman," because he was steering his country between right-opportunism and ultra- leftism via his party. On the ultra-left side, some reviewers will pick apart a progressive work, because of minor flaws in the work. The fact is that right now most culture is bourgeois. Thus to have any culture, we have to accept and promote some with flaws. On the other hand, we cannot tolerate all flaws either.
MIM's strategic goal for the superstructure
MIM's strategic goal for movies, music and books is to write a scientific review of each existing work in the whole world. Ideally, the party would re-issue every existing book with an introductory chapter criticizing its flaws and extolling its virtues. This would do the most to promote "free discussion," but it requires the energy that only the proletarian class possesses. It is one task of ours to unleash the energy and scientific advancement necessary to review all existing written works at the highest scientific level possible. The better we do in unleashing proletarian energy, the easier it will be to have "free discussion."
The ultra-left view would be to ban everything immediately upon coming to state power and then start producing cultural works from scratch with a view to generating pure proletarian culture. This view ignores the progressive culture that existed prior to socialist revolution and it clears the way for the masses to demand a restoration of capitalism in the name of getting some culture back. That's not to mention that it leaves the old ideas holding back society unrefuted and festering.
When it comes to music and movies, the performance of these arts makes the idea of the introductory chapter in a book impractical. A large portion of the performing arts should be simply banned. Banning too little is right-opportunism and banning too much is ultra-leftism.
We say this fully well knowing that some of our own favorite cultural works will be banned. A lot of songs like "Brown Sugar" by the Rolling Stones are hugely popular but also hugely backward. The ability to ban songs like "Brown Sugar" that are well-liked by progressive and reactionary alike depends crucially on having existing or new culture that is equally popular. The Russians under Lenin had some success with this problem by taking popular songs and changing the lyrics and contexts. We need to change a lot of lyrics in pop music and reissue it as unchanged as possible. Likewise with some movies and theater, we need to reissue/recycle popular works. A failure to reissue popular cultural works on a speedy and approximate basis will lead to right-opportunist and ultra-left deviations and a mixed-up clamour for the total abandonment of the struggle. In reissuing cultural works, we should follow the practice of successive reiterations, which means that speed is important and holding up works that have been vastly improved but not perfected is an ultra-left error.
The actual production of such art should grant the freedom to err to the "frontline" cultural workers, which means those who do the first drafts of movies and songs to be recycled. In the "dictatorship of the proletariat," artistic workers even of the most political sort can freeze up when overly hounded. Poor "frontline" workers should be removed from their jobs and the resources given to others who would do a better job. They should not be imprisoned, because the history of art production indicates that the state can crush artistic work. It can be both a problem of talent and politics. The solution is to grant the "frontline" workers the freedom to err while giving others oversight authority and responsibility for not issuing egregious errors such as would damage inter-ethnic relations. Oversight workers should be altruistic party members willing to go to prison/re-education camp for failure. These oversight workers should also have oversight assistants who are also free from any threat of imprisonment. Hopefully with the combined efforts of good "frontline" workers and oversight assistants, no horribly misogynist, racist or chauvinist work will see the light of day under socialist auspices and no oversight party members will end up in prison or re-education camp. "Frontline" cultural workers should be judged for their speed and artistry while oversight authorities should be judged by preventing embarrassing errors. All of this depends on getting the recycling started with a correct review of the work to begin with. Such a correct review in turn depends on having an accurate understanding of the weaknesses and extent of the prevailing backward culture--an idea of just how much has to be improved and how little it would take to improve the average culture. If we have an inaccurate and incomplete understanding of the existing culture, we won't be able to evaluate cultural production by the party or under socialism. We will be blaming cultural workers for backwardness inherited from the old society, so writing those reviews of the old society now is crucial both for the struggle now and the future socialist culture. We at MIM do not seek to struggle in culture for absolute principles so much as to improve continuously the culture relative to what it was. That's what we emphasize to be the kernel of our materialist approach.
How can you say progressives like some culture and still ban it?
See the definition of subjectivism. People can scientifically recognize that they like something that is not good for society or the future. For example, millions of parents like smoking, but they know that it is no good for their children. These smoking parents have conquered subjectivism.
Likewise, we, progressives and the society as a whole like the most misogynist music there is and pay billions for it while still imagining that the society can do better. It's a matter of being objective about ourselves.
What is progressive?
What is progressive is a matter of study. There is no easy answer, but we have defined it above as that tending to abolish gender, nation and class oppression. Typically, what happens is that a backward cultural work has some aspect that hooks the people's tastes. Cigarette ads are only the most obvious aspect of culture this way. MIM will only succeed in transforming the culture when the people decide to support MIM in abolishing even cultural works that we all currently like. We can alter the tastes of those who are adults today, but even moreso children can grow up in a world without songs and movies glorifying gratuitous violence.
Who decides what is progressive?
The party does in light of knowledge of the people. In situations where the party has succeeded in bringing to the fore the opinions of the exploited (not the majority population of the imperialist countries), those views will help sort out the banning and promotion process.
The sooner we arrive at a world with no premature deaths from war, starvation, disease, homelessness etc., the sooner the practice of banning will become superfluous. MIM has its priorities straight and urges Liberals to give up their views given the current global emergency. We call the stage when banning cultural works is necessary because of the existing emergency status of socially-caused violence the "dictatorship of the proletariat."
The MIM would not be able to come to power without the support of the people, a profound support given how powerful the existing state is. There is nothing saying that the people cannot choose to put someone in power who will decide what is progressive and what is not. Likewise, as Mao tried to instruct in the Cultural Revolution, there is nothing stopping the people from overthrowing that which they do not like. Hence, by putting MIM in power, it is the people who ultimately decided what is progressive. We communists always fight for the interests of the oppressed nations, genders and classes, whether we are in the majority or not.
What is sectarian?
A sectarian approach to culture reviews might be to support only that culture generated by party- created organs, even when the party has no state power or resources of that magnitude! Underlying such an approach might be the "local control" and petty-bourgeois view that says large-scale culture production is inherently oppressive.
The imperialists today have managed to create a culture that often addresses large portions of the whole world. Thus singer Michael Jackson can be heard by people globally. We should not mistake large-scale culture production for imperialism.
For actual social harmony and peace to exist, people must be able to feel each other's presence concretely. Shared cultural experience is one aspect of unity.
In fact, it is only after a large number of people have had a common cultural experience that is progressive that small numbers of small independent producers can have progressive impact. The contrary view rejecting Stalin led to the ethnic cleansing in ex-Yugoslavia and the rest of territory ranging from Estonia to Azerbaijan.
Guidelines for MIM reviews
1. When MIM disapproves of a movie or song today, even in today's politically backward conditions, it means that that work is especially backward and will only look more so if the political situation advances enough to put MIM in power. Hence, when we disapprove of something we mean to ban it upon seizure of state power. Reviewers should keep that in mind and avoid a strictly academic or review- for-its-own-sake approach. It means keeping in mind what the masses will turn to instead if we ban a particular cultural work.
2. Reviewers should criticize all reactionary aspects of a cultural work, but they should indicate whether or not the work is progressive overall, again so the party can promote the progressive and reject the backwards.
3. If the reviewer can suggest alterations that would redeem the cultural work in question, that is best. There is as of now a terrible shortage of revolutionary culture.
4. The party has yet to approve a specific percentage of films and music that it believes should be banned. This will be a task of a future party congress. Judging from reviews done so far, I would guesstimate it appears that MIM would ban 95% of existing performing arts culture. To prepare for such a party congress decision, all people can undertake the same exercise. The next time in the video store, make a judgement what portion of movies can be banned with no one missing them or with society being improved. We invite public input. Send a message to [email protected] on your opinion of what percentage of movies or songs should be banned in their current form.
5. Don't forget to include concrete details like year produced, title, length in time, movie G-PG-R-X rating etc. in your individual reviews.
*A number of Western writers recently misunderstood the situation of one opera production unit in China as representing all of China's arts. There was a heated debate in China over the number of works Jiang Qing of the "Gang of Four" turned out, with the revisionists saying it was too few. This debate drew historical attention from the outside world, but it was misunderstood, and in some cases, consciously distorted. The Western onlookers correctly understood that the critics of Jiang Qing were closer to their Liberal views and sided with the revisionists such as Deng Xiaoping. Unfortunately, many onlookers on this debate within China mistook what was being said to mean that there were only a handful of operas or plays in all of China and MIM receives letters to this effect thanks to anti- communist propaganda. Nonetheless, the stereotype of a country with only a handful of approved works is useful as one extreme possibility and point of reference in discussion. Among other things, the critics do not understand that the masses continued to produce their own works of art during the Cultural Revolution, and having only so many works authorized by the party's top opera production unit did not mean there were only that handful of works in the whole country. Instead, there was an argument over what the central state organs should put their resources into airing.
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