According to Mao, sectarianism is placing the organization's interests above those of the proletariat. In Volume III of the Selected Works, we find him saying: "the Communist Party is not a small sect or clique pursuing private ends."(1)
A large group pursuing private ends might be the whole bourgeoisie or the feudal landlord class, so a large group pursuing private interests is not sectarian. That's not the point of the word. Likewise, a small group may not be pursuing private interests. Mao's party also started small with two dozen people, but it was not automatically a sect because it was small.
Mao spoke of sectarianism within the party, but let's focus first on the relationship of the party to the masses. "Left" sectarians in the party break with the masses out of angry impatience on a question of principle, when there is unity of action to be had on other grounds. There is nothing wrong with being angry or struggling for principle. There is nothing in Mao's writings or any scientific commonsense that says struggling arduously for principle is wrong. Wrong only occurs when there is withdrawal of correct action on account of bitterness of struggle over principles. To take a small occurrence of sectarianism. If two people worked together, one party, one not, and the two put up posters for their J. Sakai study group on the nature of the white working class, and then they fight over anarchism and the non-party persyn abandons the Sakai project, then the non-party member is guilty of sectarianism which may be "left" sectarianism. If the party member abandons the work together, then the party member is also guilty of "left" sectarianism.
Some people take this issue a point further and say that we can predict the non-party masses will abandon the struggle if we Maoists raise scientific questions of principle. This of course becomes a great excuse for "right opportunism," popularity gained at the expense of direction. In the imperialist countries, MIM has already decided there is no way to act on the basis of this alleged causation of principled struggle leading to political inaction. We leave open in the Third World how to handle these questions. It would seem that even teaching "existentialism" in the Third World, if done so by party members could lead to progressive impact. Combining a discussion of individual motivations for action (existentialism) with scientific principles could be advantageous, because in the Third World, the basic masses have a self-interest in Maoism. Meanwhile, teaching existentialism in the imperialist countries probably backfires. Something similar to existentialism like the "satanist" movement is more harm than good to the extent that it causes "awakening" in a country of parasites. The satanist Usenet group is swarming with fascists.
MIM focuses on science and not motivations, why? MIM is confident that the motivations for revolution are there in the masses of people and that our Third World comrades will figure out whatever techniques are necessary to cause awakening. That is to say, without focus on right opportunist concerns of causation, we are confident that sufficient portions of the population will obtain the motivation to act. We are much more concerned that no one will point out the scientific direction necessary. Some who would be motivated to act find no powerful tools in their hand and thus do not act; even though so many revolutions happened in the past 100 years that really only a fool can now say revolution is impossible.
What usually gets ignored in discussion of sectarianism is that it is possible also to water down principle on behalf of organizational or private interests above those of the proletariat. Many are good at identifying "left" sectarianism but not right sectarianism. In fact, bourgeois sociologist Robert Michels(2) said we are doomed to fail, because our leaders will always hijack the party to gain respectability with the old ruling classes as soon as the movement gets anywhere. According to Michels, the return to oligarchy always starts with an attack on the need for theory. Looking at Green leader and Foreign Minister Fischer over in Germany, who did not condemn the bombing of Iraq this year, and who instead smiled in pictures with Colin Powell, we have to say Michels scored another point on us--since environmentalism and many original green principles in fact vaguely reflect proletarian interests at root.
The labor bureaucracy's takeover of "labor" parties in the West is a classic validation of Michels's idea. However, we at MIM have a different view, because we have seen in humyn history a predominance of "primitive communism," and class society is a relatively recent boil on the skin of the humyn race. Hence, we do not see an "Iron Law of Oligarchy."
Usually "right" sectarianism is just called "right opportunism." MIM has a few antidotes to this problem: 1) Changing distribution of the means of production is the best single antidote. If redistributed sufficiently both in ownership and control, it simply becomes impossible for labor bureaucracy classes to arise--communism itself in the distant future. 2) Aiming the class struggle at the labor bureaucracy and never separating from the interests of the most oppressed and exploited. Hence, MIM has "written off" the wage and salary demands of the middle-classes of imperialism as no longer having anything but reactionary significance. 3) Something Mao did to some extent at Yenan, but which Lenin warned would not always be possible--use of amateurs to run the party, reliance on volunteerism. As Michels and Mao both said, the danger to a party would be that it would take up full-time employees that would out-organize the rest of the party and then use the party for private interests. 4) Applying the leadership principle, something that Stalin had the most experience pioneering.
In the United $tates of today, PIRAO has identified the following operational means of identifying "private interests" that could cause the party to diverge from proletarian interests. 1) People paying the dues but not working full-time for the party are the principal bulwark against standard labor bureaucracy schemes. 2) People working full-time for the party but who are "house-husbands" or "housewives" are another good basis to oppose labor bureaucracy. The key is that these people have relatively secure financial support from outside the economy or momentum generated by the party. To the extent that this financial support is insecure, such full-time party workers will tend to go in the labor bureaucrat direction. On the other hand, such support requires a battle against machismo and pseudo-feminism that says it is not OK to support or to be supported by a spouse for the good of the revolution. Imperialist country people who stay at home can fill some economic roles that are useful and spend time on the cause. We can say this confidently when we compare this source of support with the idea of creating a labor bureaucracy based on labor unions, food co-ops etc.
Party leaders if left to themselves may tend rather easily toward routines that put a labor bureaucracy in place. The more successful the party, the more likely this is to occur. MIM is certainly successful enough and gets enough actual work done that MIM is in danger along these lines.
How does the labor bureaucracy actually adversely affect MIM? After all, does not MIM have it's third cardinal principle? The answer is this: the party can only have a momentum and related economy for the benefit of the international proletariat. Unfortunately, there is a question of "private interest" and hence sectarianism that arises. By adopting certain policies, the party can fulfill sectarian interests without meetings its obligations to the international proletariat. This is true within the party -- competition of locales -- and even more true on the international plane.
Some years ago, PIRAO set out to generate some momentum. Our first strategy attempted had two prongs, only one of which succeeded overall. We still lag in the full implementation of this idea. The other economic strategy did not work and PIRAO has phased it out.
If a billionaire did come forward and offer to fund MIM a labor bureaucracy, we would have to take up the offer remembering Lenin's example. Then we would have to be willing to sack its elements mercilessly as they diverged from proletarian interests. A Ross Perot (independent individual but not running for office) type benefactor is ideal, because the labor bureaucrats themselves will not feel they are working to gain votes or approval of many people to get money from the party.
Without exception in the past year, the PIRAO officers working on MIM's second prong strategy ended up class struggling against the party and the proletariat. One used the state against the party. Others flaked, one of them saying they did not see the big deal over making $20,000 for the proletariat.
The most successful officer by proletarian terms of the second prong of the PIRAO strategy was the one to use the state against the party, threatening the party with imprisonment for the officer's own cockeyed ideas. This persyn after initially swearing never to ask for support above a certain level, took up work. The key was that the initial work failed. The comrade was not able to expand the party's generated economy along proletarian bases. By the end, the army officer was consciously denying in principle a role for self-management. MIM's hopes to do without whole layers of parasitic management (thus creating business advantage) were dashed. Without exception, the MIM's army officers proved that in the current context, bourgeois managers are essential; even though there is no academic study that can prove any contribution by management as managers in business output.
In the past year, another officer demonstrated that the PIRAO's second prong was fatally flawed. Distrusting PIRAO leadership, the comrade bagged an economic opportunity with PIRAO after making promises to PIRAO. The rationale was that another opportunity was better; even though it could have waited at PIRAO's moment of dire need. As it turns out, the officer no sooner left PIRAO than s/he got laid off at the other opportunity, while the PIRAO project succeeded and could have funded the comrade had s/he been the one to do the work. Thus, even when PIRAO seemed to be showing signs of success strictly from a bourgeois point of view, our own officers failed to believe, and demanded bourgeois managers above them to make sure they succeeded. It is a case of a double standard: things that the officers would never think to do or think about a comfortable imperialist business they did think about PIRAO businesses.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of theoretical reasons why the above should not surprise us. Georg Lukacs in his book "History and Class Consciousness" said that in the Hungarian Revolution, the workers originally started on a roll and then started demanding bourgeois legality of themselves and became uncomfortable with their own rule. What Lukacs said applies even more forcefully to the people of the imperialist countries who somehow end up working with MIM. Swamped in labor aristocracy consciousness, the average imperialist country persyn has far to go before really seeing a need to go toe-to-toe with the imperialists instead of accepting their relatively more comfortable forms of rule. PIRAO has concluded that we have a very long history since the 1980s of failure with people who are told to be self-managed full-time party professionals.
PIRAO is now calling the second prong of its strategy since PIRAO's inception ultra-left. There was nothing to call ultra-left to speak of before, because the economics of the party before PIRAO were relatively straight-forward. After some practice and things to compare we can identify an ultra-left. Because we tried hard (but not with all the unity we should have had), we can say the approach is a failure.
Let us express the principle of the second prong that failed as clearly as we can: PIRAO cannot have lumpen or labor aristocracy people run business institutions taking advantage of ideological advantages while starting from a deficit of normal bourgeois business advantages--like having a billion dollars of capital. These institutions tend relentlessly toward the establishment of labor bureaucracies which pine for imperialist management. What is worse, we believe that had these institutions started with normal business origins, the labor bureaucracy still would have gradually snuffed out any possibility of proletarian content. It is more likely that if we won over an imperialist to our side like Lenin did, that imperialist could make some of us "partners" who would then give more to the struggle than the "labor bureaucracy" if one were created by the imperialists.
It is impossible to raise resources for the international proletariat with this sort of labor bureaucracy. They are like the strikers at the Modern Museum of Art or Oxfam or the Wobblies themselves striking against themselves. Not surprisingly, such institutions have proved that it is possible to start a struggle about apartheid for instance and have not one cent go to anyone but the white middle-class organizers, who nonetheless managed to water down the struggle for respectability. After a certain extent of class struggling against the party and PIRAO, the labor bureaucracy has proved that it would have been better to have these comrades take their own economic roots in imperialist-led institutions and support the cause of the international proletariat from there. It is not worth party or PIRAO resources to train people to abandon the cause--as often happened--or even to end up contributing nothing to the international proletariat in the best case scenario. The second prong of PIRAO's strategy is not a relative failure, but an absolute failure because it sucked in more resources than it generated. We feel free to abandon it for even the slightest alternative. It is important in measuring success or failure to compare with what would happen leaving comrades in a totally imperialist-led business or career. Some alienated youth in our circles would be slow to get started, but eventually they would get going in imperialist-led business institutions.
Let us end on a note of optimism: at least right now, PIRAO has succeeded in stepping up support for the international proletariat in the past year, just not for reasons connected to the second prong except to the extent that it was cut back. The first prong's point is still valid. The second prong of strategy is being replaced as we speak. Hopefully after a few years we can report on its successes.
1. Mao said the same thing in several places, but this exact reference can be found at http://www.marx2mao.org/Mao/SAR41.html MIM is willing to quote from this source of documents, because MIM has not put all documents on the Internet yet and because as far as we know this particular document has no fraud in it.
2. http://sites.netscape.net/immortalgodking/michels is an example of Michels explained. On science, spirituality, existentialism, sectarianism and leadership in the imperialist countries
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