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

2002 MIM Congress

"On socialist synthesis"

by PIRAO chief

Last year, I told the Congress about the labor bureaucratic attitude that raised itself in our own party. MIM has said it has no labor bureaucrats. It remains a fundamental fact of the economic life of the party that members and supporters cough up the dough for the publications and other activities. We do not want to deal with the problem of having labor bureaucrats and their influence, unless someone wants to give a very large chunk of money with the instruction to speed things up and there is no choice in speeding up our work.

The most ironic example from the last Congress was the womyn who refused a PIRAO assignment after agreeing to take it on, only to get laid off on her alternative course of economic activity. It raised an interesting question about how the proletariat or non-proletariat views the question of risk. This year, I come before the congress to say that the question of "risk" needs to be addressed and repaired in the proletarian view of politics.

This year we had a senior comrade quit, and I think it is no accident that it was in the midst of a dispute over implementation of new technology. As PIRAO summed up previously, PIRAO's first campaign failed in the overall while providing great lessons. Last year PIRAO spent time regrouping and launching smaller "tactical offensives" liable to quick completion.

The comrade who degenerated had a history of Buddhism--wishing accomplishment through purely ideological means. The comrade often refused party advice to take up technological work. Of course, today, it becomes very difficult to write or distribute a leaflet without using technology and of course those with bourgeois engineering backgrounds are at an advantage. Thus, MIM has its own micro-level problems of Red versus expert, seen ever since Trotsky retained the Tzarist army officers willing to serve in order to have their expertise in the Russian civil war after 1917. It would be hard to imagine this recently degenerated comrade in 1917 working with non-communist officers.

This year, PIRAO got involved with overhauling several aspects of the party's infrastructure and this created some disruption in how things are done, of course. Ironically our latest degenerate suggested one such overhaul and then blamed PIRAO for carrying it out, complaining simultaneously that it was "worth it," but still complaining bitterly about it and then quitting. We are talking about implementing changes that could have been implemented years ago, and could have been implemented had any of two or three party leaders set their minds to the changes years ago. No doubt there would be those who would prefer to blame PIRAO for disruption, but the real lesson of the past year is that I did not have a sufficient grasp on the day-to-day affairs and did not step on enough toes or I would have disrupted things a lot more a lot earlier. I am happy to report that PIRAO accomplished some major overhauls since September 11th which have improved operational efficiency.

Another smaller example with a happier ending was the case of changing a particular MIM business relationship. This relationship was no longer efficient for MIM and PIRAO cut it. We then had a complaint from a comrade who wanted to do things exactly as they were done in the past in the old economic relationship. This was potentially another example of the relationship between disruption and efficiency. Fortunately, we were able to create a situation where the comrade did not have to change anything in his or her technological routine in the new business relationship, but the question remains what would have happened if technological change had been required.

We in MIM have been studying the aftermath of Hitler in eastern Germany. There we found that even though there were no exploiters, the workers resisted piece- rate work and Taylorism as they arose out of ruinous World War II. The labor productivity of workers in Germany did not increase enough to advance living standards up to western German standards as a result.

It's one thing to oppose Taylorism for good reasons and another for the reasons after World War II in eastern Germany. The German workers proved resistant to change and summoned their social-democratic traditions before 1933 in Germany to justify their lack of effort, "work-to-rule" and the like, even when there were no exploiters. Contrary to demonstrating what "proletarian" means, this is an example where proletarian consciousness had not penetrated the recently war- wracked German people who were also just recently following Hitler with great enthusiasm.

MIM's line has no sympathy with the eastern German workers' position, because people within imperialist countries are fundamentally exploiters and we do not want to hear their complaints about the party working them too hard or even "exploiting" them as some labor bureaucrats have always argued. While some so- called socialist groups organize strikes against non-profit institutions as if they were just another capitalist organization where wages should be higher instead of producing higher benefits for clients, we at MIM are appalled that parasitism even applies in public service organizations.

The invasion of eastern Germany definitely had drawbacks. Had the German communists engaged in building their own successful revolution, they would have had to defeat much conservatism in the ranks of the workers' movement before the communists seized power in order to succeed. Instead, the revolution appeared on a silver platter delivered by the Red Army and the Germans knew only the social- democratic alternative they believed in prior to Hitler.

Rather than follow in the European tradition where the intellectuals always ask "why is there no socialist party in the United $tates," we will turn around the question: why does European social-democracy continue its pernicious influence when Third World social-democrats have been massacred by French social- democratic regimes (as in Vietnam) not to mention U.$.-backed fascist regimes and when communist movements such as the Black Panther Party-led movement were more popular than anything social-democratic in U.$. history? Why do these semi- informed intellectuals and their labor bureaucratic brethren count Western Europe more than U.$. history? Why are they the civilized model for Third World comrades to follow? Amerikkkan politics has too many flaws to mention in passing, but communism's strength relative to social-democracy has never been one of them. Relative to Europeans, when Amerikkkans do move, they do not get stuck in social-democracy as often.

The reason for that is that the individualist impulse in Amerikkka and the anarchist movement as well are both more friendly to risk than stifling social- democracy seen at its height in Germany for instance. The communist movement has not been thorough in Amerikkka because of the settler economic situation here, but Amerikkkans in the 1930s Communist Party, the Black Panther Party and the SDS of the late 1960s-- people in their millions--at least briefly passed right over social-democracy and it is a good thing.

Hence, we have to define that word "proletarian." The aspect of "proletarian" that continues to be valid in all traditions since the 1800s is a pursuit of humyn-needs first. To MIM this does not mean featherbedding under socialism and undercutting the working-class's living standards. It means that no one should starve, suffer a lack of basic medicine or go without clothing--and in fact such a proletarian demand is essential to peace. The basic needs and the proletarian thrust toward them should be preserved in our understanding of proletarian class consciousness.

The idea that imperialist country "workers" will not work to give reparations to the people they formerly exploited is not part of proletarian class consciousness. Unwillingness to adopt technological change in volunteer activities or under socialism is also not proletarian.

In contrast, the entrepreneur in capitalism--the persyn involved in starting up a company--such a persyn has a better grip on risk questions than many people in our own party-affiliated organizations. The socialist synthesis does not include the view of "proletarian" handed down from ugly European social-democratic traditions. There is nothing "conservative" about socialism or the proletariat's interests. Even conserving this planet's environment and humyn species is a matter of adopting thorough changes.

What the entrepreneurial class lacks is any sense of when risk runs into increasing the likelihood of war. It does not trouble these people that arms companies are run for profit for example. They do not worry that a free market and money also allow drug dealers to pursue their dreams. The entrepreneurial class does not bother to draw social connections or follow social causation to the logical end. That is why proletarian science is necessary to end war and environmental degradation.

At the same time, the entrepreneur knows that profit comes from disruption and risk. This is a positive characteristic of the entrepreneur--whatever anti- conservative thrust the class may possess. Entrepreneurs are talking about change to benefit themselves, but much of the reasoning they use also applies to improving society.

Just as the baby of science cannot be thrown out with the bathwater of imperialist production, we cannot abandon concepts of risk, innovation and disruption just because in the past the capitalists always used them to get themselves into world wars. In fact, the proletariat will never vanquish the bourgeoisie simply from reciting the hierarchy of humyn needs over and over again. There must be a sense in which the proletarian rulers are more efficient than the bourgeois rulers. Proletarian rulers must do more to unleash a correct understanding of probability and risk than previous rulers.

Even the investment banker working in the "venture capital" area is more correct than a featherbedding labor bureaucrat. Such a venture capitalist will be willing to lose all his or her money in 99 investments if the 100th investment more than makes up for the first 99. That is to say, the investment banker may not know which business will truly succeed. There are only hunches and analyses, but if profits are up after 100 investments, that is what counts. Proletarian leaders must use a similar approach, but they must also see to it that no one has an interest in lobbying for a war for instance so that some investments turn out well. Because the individual investor has a persynal stake in his or her investments, s/he or will never be as objective with regard to society's interests as the proletarian leader can be. This is also an important reason that the capitalist ruling class can be defeated by the international proletariat.

There are some things where risks should be minimized. There should be no tolerance of risk of nuclear war, which is why capitalism and its aggressive "greed" must come to an end. We spend so much time pointing out the disaster of such nuclear war or the environmental degradation going on, but we should not conclude that it is never correct to take the 100 rolls of the dice approach. Quite the contrary, the 100 rolls of the dice approach is a necessary approach to much party work. Lazy right opportunists will find the struggle "not worth it" and lazy ultra-leftists will discount it. (Of course amongst comrades working "full time" for the revolution, the question is which of the millions of battles to fight they should fight.)

If the party needs staples for its leaflet, it may have to send out 10 emails or letters to find the least expensive supplier. The labor bureaucrat does not ask the question and will not send out the 10 letters. Then when the comrade and campaign in question have no money, the same labor bureaucrat will conclude nothing can be done about it. Often we will hear this justified something along the lines of only fighting winnable battles, so just because some suppliers of the revolution will not reply at all, we hear that we should not try at all. This is not a mistake that an entrepreneur or venture capitalist would make unless s/he had already taken all risks necessary.

When Huey Newton arranged an armed escort for Betty Shabazz, he knew he was taking risks in a particularly Amerikkkan way, typical of the Western shoot-out. He faced down cops talking about reaching for their guns. He was correct to do so, because it was legal and because cops needed to have some reality pounded into them. Later when Eldridge Cleaver only wanted the work of attending potential shoot-outs, Newton criticized him for not taking up the steady work of writing for the newspaper. Cleaver only wanted to work on certain risks, but he belonged in our camp at that time, because he showed that he was willing to take some risks.

Can we picture a social-democrat or labor bureaucrat picking up a gun like Huey Newton did, even if it is totally legal? Of course not. Such humyn material would more likely come up with some reasons why we can't even disrupt the people who xerox our flyers. They would be there concerned about the feelings of the union workers we no longer employ to xerox our flyers and coming up with other justifications for why they feel "screwed" by change. For these people we have a solution--the Workers World Party or the AFL- CIA.

According to George Jackson it was easiest to recruit from the upper-ranks of the petty-bourgeoisie. The real reason for that experience of George Jackson is the lack of proletariat in both the white and Black nations. Given a choice amongst parasitic classes, one reason that Jackson experienced what he did is that upper-ranks of the petty-bourgeoisie have economic experience of risk in addition to its boredom with the trappings of parasitism that the lower petty- bourgeoisie feels close to losing. The socialist synthesis requires taking the sense of humyn needs that the European proletariat articulated in social- democratic and Marxist traditions; it also needs a sense of when to get into shoot-outs, something the Amerikkkan lumpen has some experience with and finally it needs the sense of everyday risk and innovation that the upper petty- bourgeoisie and entrepreneurial class often has, just without any sense in regard to ending world war and environmental degradation. The goals have to be proletarian, but the experience that helps people work for the revolution comes from many different places. In fact, even exploited people who act in conservative, self-satisfied ways in volunteer organizations or socialist countries--such people are not representative of proletarian class consciousness. In fact, where labor bureaucratic tides arise, the people themselves bolt for the most individualistic and reckless capitalism they can find. The irony is that these same labor aristocrats and labor bureaucrats who have a conservative outlook on their own lives look to other people--the capitalist class--to supply that which they know they lack, a sense of risk coupled with leadership.

Before there was George Jackson to say that the upper middle-class was the best we could do in North Amerika, outsiders were looking at the communist movement and telling us that we were choking our own movement. In the pre-scientific camp, the anarchists told us we choked the movement and caused revolutions to degenerate, but the anarchists said that of everyone, and hence we did not and do not take them seriously. Of course, if someone makes the prediction of bureaucracy and degeneration often enough, sometimes that prediction will turn out correct by sheer luck. Since the anarchists applied their corruption charge to anyone who holds power, the anarchist critique applied always and hence never. It is a sterile, pre-scientific criticism.

In contrast, the bourgeois sociologists belonging in Max Weber's school of thought such as Robert Michels (1876-1936) tried to tell the communists with a more scientific basis that our efforts were doomed and not worth much bloodshed. Michels was a member of the German Social-Democratic Party and he found himself impressed with how leaders have to adapt to their circumstances. Weber himself allowed that occasional "charismatic leaders" could shake things up and bring about change, but on the whole the march of history was one of bureaucracy and procedures.

Could the charismatic leader bring about a completely rationalized communism? The growth of bureaucracy and scientific specialization seemed to be one reason a state could never disappear; hence the sociologists in the Weberian tradition posed potentially scientific questions to us communists.

Ahmad Sadri's book Max Weber's Sociology of Intellectuals is an example of a Weberian book talking to us Marxist scientists directly. MIM has no professional revolutionaries. No one is on payroll, but we must address Sadri who directly criticized Marxist professional revolutionaries. According to Sadri, such professional revolutionaries, who are typically intellectuals thus far in history, such professionals have a self-interest as a group themselves. That self-interest is separate from that of the workers. In a typical post- modern move, Sadri asks who formulated Marx's question of the emancipation of the workers.(p. 36) Sadri implies that it is the intellectuals who raise the question and hence there is something invalid about it. Like typical post- modernists, Sadri says who is saying something is more important than the substance of the question at hand.

MIM has no professional revolutionaries, but it is not for the reason that Sadri gives regarding "who" raises certain scientific issues regarding the workers' future. We do not care who raises the question: it could be a space alien set to destroy us all with one blast of a proverbial Death Star. The question still requires scientific discussion, not an identity politics response. We are not avoiding professional revolutionaries because their self-interests invalidate certain scientific questions. The questions can never be invalidated by anyone's identity.

At the same time, we do have to admit that Marxist science has to apply even to social groups that the Marxist party creates--on a large scale in history as in countries like Germany or on a small scale as in the United $tates since the 1930s. Sadri explained Weber's position this way: "Those who lived 'off' Social Democracy, from innkeepers whose establishments are patronized by radicals, to university professors, editors, party officials, etc., would not abandon their vested interests for the sake of revolutionary believers and their beliefs. . . . 'Nothing is further from the thoughts of this class than solidarity with the proletariat, they are much more concerned with increasing the gap between the proletariat and themselves.'"(p. 90)

Weber contributed to spawning post-modernism, but he himself drew distinctions amongst social groups for scientific purposes. For example, according to him, professional political activists were generally people who used their brains to accomplish their ends; however, amongst these people Weber distinguished between intellectuals and intelligentsia. According to Weber, the intelligentsia naturally equated its own self-interests with its political work and was not troubled by questions it did not raise with itself. In contrast, Weber said that intellectuals were capable of distinguishing between the self-interest of activist social groups and their original goals.

Considering that Weber himself held a bleak view of the future, we did not find his sweeping critique of professional revolutionaries persuasive coming from him. In other words, such a critique could not lead an activist toward sitting in the backyard while waiting for the nukes to drop all around. Here Weber is guilty of the kind of intellectual nihilism that he himself criticized, so we are not going to accept the whole picture from Weber just because he happens to be right about parts of it. The fact that he distinguished amongst social groups he had more and less hope with we find to have scientific value. Whether it is simply a question of intellectual sweep like Weber says or something else, we were already warned by Lenin about what labor bureaucrats would do to our movement.

We took what Weber observed in social-democracy of his day as confirmation of what we see today. At PIRAO we have seen many of the most radical youth dream about receiving parasitic jobs from non-profit foundations, unions or NGOs, oblivious to where the money would come from or what class. We've also had more than one senior comrade suggest that s/he should not only be paid for being revolutionary, but be paid more than what s/he would obtain in other careers possible. It has been common amongst such labor bureaucrats not "to trust" the party unless it vastly outbids the bourgeoisie. This applies to people who in their political work would be denouncing the labor aristocracy and super-profits by day only to propose that the party is "screwing them" for making them do "shit work" and not paying them more than what the ordinary bourgeoisie would pay. The traitor character "Mr. Reagan" from the "Matrix" movie comes to mind.

Not to worry, what Weber said is true, but we won't give up. We took all such signs as signs of political degeneration and we sought another way to do it. If the whole revolution has to be conducted by amateurs, we are sure Lenin in Heaven will forgive us if we actually get it done and we had no choice. If Weber turns out to be right and "charismatic leaders" are what we need, we will do like Morpheus in "The Matrix," get on a submarine and search for "The One." The proletariat is not conservative and does not get tired.

Socialism is a synthesis in which the proletariat dominates. However it does not mean that 100% of what the proletariat used to be like is appropriate for socialism. The oppressed class also has a partial expression in the new synthesis. Under capitalism, workers in imperialist countries took an especially parasitic approach and even some exploited workers saw no reason to work hard for capitalists. When there are no exploiters, this attitude is no longer appropriate. In both the scientific socialist movement and socialism, the proletariat will have to lead on questions of risk that they used to leave to bankers, insurance companies and other capitalists.

Note: Ahmad Sadri, Max Weber's Sociology of Intellectuals (Oxford University Press, 1992).

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