by a South Carolina prisoner February 2015 permalink
The trademark Oscar is one of a group of statuettes awarded annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for achievement in motion picture production and performance. Lately there has been a lot of buzz about the Oscar nominations, and the lack thereof when it comes to the oppressed nations. The CBS morning news, Access Hollywood, and other TV programs have made mention of the "whiteness" of this year's acting nominees for the Oscars.
It was said on the CBS morning news that the panel that has the responsibility of deciding who to nominate for an Oscar is 94% white male. Personally, I don't see why there's such a "buzz", because hystorically we know that this nation is controlled and dominated by white male imperialists who do not have the oppressed nations' best interest at heart. After all, the "Oscar" is a gold statue of a white man; the gold representing capitalism and the exploitation of the people, and the white man of course representing colonialism and imperialism at its core.
People are complaining that the top honors of the Oscars have been whitewashed. But the Oscars have not been whitewashed — they've been white all the time. The Oscars were not created to honor or acknowledge the artistic endeavors of the oppressed nations. People in the hoods, ghettos, and barrios know this, and thus, don't give a damn about the Oscars.
In Webster's unabridged dictionary, the definition for Academy Award is: "an annual award given to a performer, director, technician, etc., of the motion picture industry for superior achievement in a specific category: judged by the voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and symbolized by the presentation of an Oscar.”
The key phrase in the above definition is "superior achievement." Traditionally and hystorically in this genocidal nation that we call Amerikkka, the lumpen and oppressed nations have never been given credit or even acknowledged as having any "superior achievement." And the fact that the imperialists hold themselves to be "superior" is at the root of white supremacy in this country.
Therefore, how could it be a surprise that none of the 20 acting nominees for the 2015 Oscar nominations were people from the oppressed nations? I suppose what is even more important, is why should it matter? We (oppressed nations) should not look for acceptance or confirmation from the oppressor nations to validate our achievements and success.
As long as Amerikkka is dominated by an imperialistic economic system, and the injustice, racism, and oppression that come with it, she will never be color-blind. We know and understand that the Oscars do not reflect the true demographic of Amerikkka. Amerikkka is in a state of constant browning, and in a just society, this would be reflected in nominations of any kind.
However, it is clear that we do not live in a just society and we must view this lack of diversity in the nominations accordingly. In a socialist or communist society, the disparities we see today would not exist, and one reason would be because there would be no golden white man representing superior achievement. We also know and understand that the entire Hollywood apparatus is owned and controlled by those who hold capitalist values close to heart. We look forward to the day when people are recognized for their achievements in service of the people, and not the capitalists.
The imperialists use media outlets to promote their agenda, not ours. Television (tell-lie-vision) and movies are two of the most effective tools that the imperialists use to indoctrinate, brainwash and control us. Therefore, when they don't nominate oppressed nation people for their token awards, that simply means that oppressed nation people are not embarking upon the kind of artistic endeavors that their oppressors want them to — and that is a good thing. To hell with the powers that be! Damn them and Oscar!
As for me, I say we've been doing too much damn acting anyway — it's time to start doing some real revolutionary work. Power to the people who stand up, act out, and act up in the interest of freedom, justice, and equality.
MIM(Prisons) adds: This writer is correct that the Amerikan entertainment industry only represents the imperialist segment of society. Hollywood's main ambition is to create culture that perpetuates imperialist values, and makes all the woes that are an inherent part of this economic system palletable to as many people as possible.
The exclusion of oppressed nation culture from the Academy Awards is only one reason why reforms to the imperialist system is not where we should focus our creative energies. Instead of grooming revolutionaries to seek acceptance in bourgeois cultural institutions, we need to be creating alternative culture, controlled by revolutionaries.
This is one reason why we are pushing a revolutionary art project through which prisoner artists can create art that serves the people's struggles and share it with others. Besides creating art for the pages of Under Lock & Key and our other publications, we are distributing greeting cards, bookmarks, mini posters, and coloring book pages that spread the incredible art of the Strugglen Artists Association contributors. If you want to contribute original artwork to this project, or help distribute the materials to others, get in touch!
Che Guevara, A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson Grove Press Books 1997
From de-classed aristocrat, to social vagabond, to communist revolutionary and legend, Che Guevara, A Revolutionary Life takes us from Che's early beginning as a sickly kid with a tremendous appetite for reading to his miserable last days in the Bolivian mountains trying to spark a revolution. As far as biographies of political figures go this one is truly exceptional as Jon Lee Anderson does an outstanding job of focusing this book not on Che the individual but on Che the devoted servant of the people. There are just so many aspects and stages of Che's life which this book covers that I already know I won't have enough space to cover it all. Therefore I will stick to covering not so much what we already know about Che but what hasn't yet been fully understood about him.
With that said, let us travel back in time to Argentina circa World War II, a country caught between Amerikan imperialism and a rising fascist influence. Ernesto "Che" Guevara was first turned on to politics as a young child through his friendships with several other children whose parents were Spanish migrants fleeing the Spanish Civil War. Che's family was also apparently very active in Argentina's petty bourgeois political circles. As a result of all these factors Che soon became semi-political himself, proudly joining the youth wing of Accion Argentina (Argentine Action), a pro-Allied solidarity group.(p. 23) However, he wouldn't really begin developing a critical view of the world until his teenage years when he was shaped further by the political turmoil in his own country as well as by his Spanish émigré friends who had a measurable influence in his life. Years later they would all belong to local anti-fascist youth cells formed by Argentine students organizing against the militant youth wing of the pro-Nazi Alianza Libertadora Nacionalista (National Liberation Alliance).(p. 33) Besides this political organizing the rest of Che's high school years were spent devouring every book he could get his hands on, including Karl Marx's Das Kapital. Che later revealed to his second wife years later that at the time of reading Das Kapital he couldn't understand a thing. Of course this would all change.
After graduating from high school he began to study philosophy, both inside and outside of college. He took engineering classes and enrolled in medical school. He also became fascinated with psychology. It was during this time that he began studying Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. Yet during this time and the year that followed he continued to avoid any serious political participation. Paradoxically, however friends and family remember that Che began to debate politics with different organizations as well as with his family who were all very political, as if he was beginning to put his reading to the test.(p. 50)
During one of these discussions Che made his first anti-imperialist condemnation of the United $tates, accusing them of having imperial designs in Korea.(p. 50) It was not until his trips up and down South and Central America that Che Guevara would start to become radicalized. And it wasn't books that did it, but "the injustice of the lives of the socially marginalized people he had befriended along his journeys."(p. 63) It was also during this time that Che's criticism and hatred for the United $tates began to grow, as now more than at any prior time in his life he was convinced that it was Amerikan imperialism that was the root cause of all of [email protected] America's problems.(p. 63)
Through subsequent trips up and down the Americas Che met various Marxist intellectuals he had a high opinion of because they were "revolutionary."(p. 118) In addition, he began to openly identify with a political cause, aligning himself and working within the leftist government of Arbenz in Guatemala. Also, very interesting to note that during this time Che began an ambitious project to write what would have been his first book titled The Role of the Doctor in Latin America(p. 135), a project he would unfortunately never finish due to his preoccupation with other revolutionary activities. A shame too as the ideas outlined for his book apparently dealt with the role of doctors during times of revolution, and one can't help but draw parallels with Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth written after, but around the same period of revolutionary upsurge in the Third World. Wretched not only deals with the anti-colonial struggle in Africa, but the role of the revolutionary psychiatrist.
As part of his preparation for this book, Che found it necessary "to take his knowledge of Marxism further, as he deepened his struggle of Marx, Engels, Lenin and the Peruvian Jose Carlos Marategui"(p. 136) founder of the Peruvian Communist Party which decades later would develop the Maoist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). He also discovered Mao Zedong and read about the Chinese communist revolution, ascertaining that their road to socialism had been different than the Soviet Union's.(p. 136) Guevara's resolve as a revolutionary would only become steeled in the ensuing chaos that followed the CIA-backed coup against the Arbenz government. This is also when the CIA first took notice of Che starting "one of the thickest (files) in the CIA's global records."(p. 159)
After Guatemala, Che fled to Mexico where his political destiny would become sealed after meeting the leaders of the July 26th Movement after their failed focoist attack on a Cuban military base. The leaders were Fidel and Raul Castro. Soon thereafter, the trio, along with a band of other Cuban exiles, left Mexico and began their historic guerrilla war against the Batista dictatorship. Their point of unification was that "Batista was little more than a pimp, selling off their country to degenerate foreigners..."(p. 170) But physical training and marksmanship wasn't enough for Che in preparation to liberate Cuba. Confident that the revolution would succeed, Che intensified "his study of economics, he embarked on a cram course of books by Adam Smith, Keynes and other economists, boned up on Mao and Soviet texts..."(p. 189) Once in the Sierra Maestra Che kept up his studies as he wanted to have a firm grasp of political and economic theory.(p. 189)
After exhibiting exemplary fighting and leadership skills Fidel made Che his "chief of staff." After the guerrilla victory, and among many other accomplishments and activities, Che concentrated on consolidating the initial revolutionary power base — the new Cuban military. Like Mao, Che sought to "raise the cultural level of the army." In addition to basic literacy and education, the new military academy under Che was designed to impart political awareness to the troops.(p. 384) He even helped start Verde Olivio (Olive Green), a newspaper for the revolutionary armed forces.(p. 385)
Che was also made President of Cuba's National Bank. Indeed, Che Guevara was fully immersed in trying to build up Cuba's independent socialist economy. He recognized that in order to completely liberate itself from imperialist dependency, the Cuban economy would have to break free from the sugar industry which subsumed Cuba, turning it into a one-crop fiefdom. Cuba would also have to industrialize. Che was also for agrarian reform believing that the peasants who worked the land should have more control and reap more from it. Fidel had similar ideas on agrarian reform but not as far reaching as Che's. As a matter of fact, a thorn of contention between Che and Fidel was Che's strong belief that in order to succeed as a free and independent socialist state, Cuba would have to develop its own productive forces and should bow to no one, while Fidel preferred to play various imperialist powers off of one another in order to receive assistance in modernization and military equipment. And while Che would ultimately, though not always, come to echo Fidel's line on modernization, this seemed to be more because of Che's position as a head of state and diplomat.
To Che's credit however he was the principal architect in designing Cuba's economy and re-arranging the military prior to the Soviet Union's involvement on the island. Many just don't realize how much influence and power Che had in Cuba and that the creation of the many progressive institutions in Cuba can be directly attributed to Che's influence on Fidel and Raul. And while Fidel would name Raul as his political successor, it was Che that many noted as Fidel's true right-hand man despite his not even being a native Cuban.
One also gets the sense from reading this book that after the initial seizure of power, and as the political situation worsened for Cuba on an international level, Fidel trusted no one else in certain situations and so he ceded many matters of domestic and foreign policy to Che who had a better grasp of political economy, diplomacy and military affairs. This was the period in which the USSR, which had already taken the capitalist road, began to take notice of Che, not only because of his influence, but because of his strong peasant leanings and independent initiative, for which they would begin labeling him pejoratively as a "radical Maoist." Che denied being a Maoist, but actions speak louder than words.
According to this book Che made two major criticisms of the Chinese Communist Party. The first was in accusing China of playing hardball with their rice for sugar assistance, accusing China of trying to starve Cuba. The second criticism was in berating China for not doing more to aid the Vietnamese in their struggle against Amerikan imperialism. Besides these criticisms it was very well known that Che had a high degree of unity with China which he very much revered for having a "higher socialist morality" than the Soviets, who he would increasingly and with frequency severely criticize over the remainder of his life. Among other things Che criticized the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for their bourgeois lifestyles which he witnessed first hand. More importantly, he later publicly condemned the Soviet Union for what he deemed collusion against Cuba with the United $tates. Later Che would hold up China's socialist revolution "as an example that has revealed a new road for the Americas."(p. 490) Furthermore, after returning from one of his trips to China, Che was "invigorated" with a new sense and deepened understanding of socialism, replicating some of China's volunteer work brigades. He called these programs "emulacion comunista" (communist emulation).(p. 503)
Nearing his departure from Cuba for the last time Che began two more books which like Role of the Doctor he never finished: Philosophical Notes and Economic Notes. The latter being an extended critique of the Soviet Manual of Political Economy. On the eve of his final trek into the Bolivian mountains he sent an outline of the text to the budgetary finance system (BFS) for review indicating that he was ready to put his anti-Soviet line on political economy into practice (Guevara was the head of the BFS). According to the author, what Che had in mind was "a new manual on political economy better applied to modern times, for use by developing nations and revolutionary societies in the Third World."(p. 696) Furthermore, according to Anderson who interviewed former members of the BFS who read Che's critique, Che wrote in the manual that the USSR and the Eastern Bloc were doomed to return to capitalism if they didn't reform their economies."(p. 697) Apparently these documents were left to a comrade who never found the time to push for publication in the increasingly social imperialist dominated Cuba. Today they remain in Cuba locked away along with other of Che's documents, which Fidel deemed too sensitive to publish.(p. 697)
In the end and throughout his career it is very well known that Che was a focoist and was killed because of his ultra-left and idealized version of what a popular war looked like. Yet I was surprised to find out that Che's war strategy for [email protected] America was somewhat similar to Mao Zedong and Lin Bao's conception of global "Peoples War" for the Third World. As Che pointed out in Guerrilla Warfare: A Method, the liberation of the Americas from Amerikan hegemony could only come about through a virtual united front of guerrilla and other peasant forces that would use the Andean mountains which stretch from the top of South America to the bottom as a series of revolutionary base areas which they would use to attack the cities and urban zones of [email protected] American countries, slowly but surely wresting control of one country after another until all of [email protected] America was free. This is akin to the village-encircle-city strategy of Lin and Mao.
The story of Che Guevara and his iconic image has not yet been forgotten by revolutionaries today, as it continues to inspire us in our own struggles. It is truly a pity that Che succumbed to his focoist beliefs. His story should not only serve as an example as to the type of revolutionaries we should aspire to become, but should also serve as an example of what can happen if we pick up the gun too soon. Focoism has taken away too many good comrades, and in Che Guevara it took away a great comrade! Let it not take one more. So on this day the forty-seventh anniversary of the death of Che Guevara, (9 October 2014) and the day commemorating and honoring Che, "The Day of the Heroic Guerrilla" (8 October 2014) let us raise the red banner of revolution just as Che continuously raised it and died holding it. Let us raise the red banner for the proletariat, for our lumpen and for our nations! Let us be like Che! Seremos Como el Che!
The Cristal Experiment: A Chicano Struggle for Community Control by Armando Navarro 377 pages University of Wisconsin Press 1998
This book discusses two occasions where [email protected] struggled to control local politics. The first occasion was in 1963 at a time when the "Civil Rights Movement" was in full swing and the second was in 1970 when the slogan "Chicano Power" was popular. The "Cristal Experiment" occurred in Cristal City, Texas. "Cristal" was the Spanish name that [email protected] gave to this city. There were different methods employed in the struggle for community control. What was interesting in the 1963 struggle was that it highlighted the class struggle within Aztlan. When the [email protected] candidates were campaigning, the [email protected] middle class did not take part, or if they did vote they voted for the white politician. So here was a situation where [email protected] from the barrios were for the first time attempting to take community control and control the city council and yet the Chicano petty bourgeoisie sided with the oppressor. This is a lesson for those seeking real transformation that goes deeper than reforms: if the petty bourgeoisie are in a similar future position, many would side with the oppressors because their class interests are firmly in imperialism's pocket.
There was also a distinction in the two "electoral revolts" in that the 1963 struggle was spearheaded by the Chicano leader Juan Cornejo who, with an 8th grade education, mostly used his local popularity. His goals were to get elected and help Raza, but this struggle was limited and reformist at best. The second "electoral revolt" was spearheaded by the politically conscious Jose Angel Guitierrez who, at the time of the 1970 struggle for community control, was studying for his doctoral degree in political science.
Guitierrez displays some of his erroneous ideology when he likens colonialism to communism. Specifically he is quoted by the author as stating: "colonialism is there in South Texas and it's comparable to some of the stable dictatorships of Latin America such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic and pre-Castro Cuba... That's what we're trying to fight because colonialism, like communism, is the control of many by a few."(p. 75)
This comparison highlights the fact that although Gutierrez was an anti-colonialist, in many ways he took on colonial beliefs when it came to external belief systems outside of U.$. academia. He displays the effects of U.S. Anti-communist propaganda where the ridiculous notion is put forward that colonialism and communism are seen as the same. If Guitierrez had done as much studying of communism as he did of Amerikan political science he would have learned that communism is a stage of social development where there is no more "control" of one group over another. Communism has never been reached yet in the world, although there have been socialist governments throughout the years. But his comment defines not only his thought – because he was a leading factor of the struggle for community control in Cristal – but that of La Raza Unida Party (RUP) and what was being pushed in 1970 during this "electoral revolt." It was reformist at heart and did not strive to overthrow U.$. imperialism or capitalism per se. It appeared to be fine with capitalism so long as brown dollars stayed in brown hands. This is bourgeois nationalism; a dead end which merely replaces a white exploiter with a brown one.
There were some positive aspects to [email protected] taking control of Cristal's city politics. One example that was subjectively pleasing was when in 1971 the city's exclusively white country club was shut down by the [email protected] city council citing discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights act. When the white country club members won in court, however the city then exercised eminent domain to confiscate the land of the country club and convert it to public housing among other things. This is something that [email protected] have been dealing with since 1836 in Texas, and 1848 throughout Aztlan, when our nation became occupied by Amerika, only it was [email protected] always struggling against the city. So it was pleasing to see [email protected] acquiring small forms of justice, if only temporarily.
I did enjoy the change in curriculum that occurred as a result of the RUP's "peaceful revolution." Full [email protected] studies were incorporated into the school curriculum, things like history, politics, and art were all [email protected] or taught from the [email protected] experience. Even the music used by the high school band was changed to include corridos and ranchera music. In this way the schools were guiding the youth toward the [email protected] nation, rather than away from the nation as it is today in Amerikan schools. The author describes how the band members would, in formation, use a clenched fist salute. Football players in the high school would also raise a clenched fist whenever they scored a touchdown.(p. 232) The youth were being revolutionized.
The way the author sums up 1980 could be describing 2014 when he said: "The bottom line was that in 1980 Mexicanos still suffered an internal-colonial status dependent on state and federal mechanisms, which were controlled by whites. The Mexicano community essentially was left to fend for itself. People were increasingly alienated, disorganized, and lacking leadership." Although today's conditions still have the [email protected] nation existing as an internal semi-colony and the mechanisms Navarro discusses are controlled by Amerikans, I don't believe simply putting [email protected] in control of U.$. "mechanisms" will solve things. Socialism which puts people before profits will be what helps resolve our situation.
Today Cristal has been left to the capitalist wolves. As of 1990, 40% of the homes in Cristal did not have proper plumbing, almost half of the population was on food stamps, and [email protected] studies was replaced with "American studies."
The author makes clear that [email protected] exist as an internal colony and that we do need to pick up where the past [email protected] movement left off. He says we need a new movement and I agree. Let us begin to rebuild the [email protected] nation in our quest for independence. But this will take more than creating community control within U.$. imperialism; it means smashing capitalism-imperialism and replacing it with socialism. Only then can we be free.
A few months back a damning article was posted on anti-imperialism.com about Western media propaganda. The article written by Alyx Mayer is a materialist dissection of journalistic attacks on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The analysis given in the article debunks the many rumors and other propaganda we're all acquainted with, such as the mass choreographed wailing at Kim Jong Il's funeral out of fear of reprisals, a universal male haircut like that of Kim Jong Un's, or a famous singer being executed by a firing squad, are just a few of many that we have heard broadcast on major media networks.(1)
More recently, the DPRK propaganda campaign has become a top story in the U.$. media as a group called Guardians Of Peace (GOP), who the FBI accused of being from the DPRK, made public a massive amount of data from Sony computers including emails, movie scripts, videos and persynal information. Sony was scheduled to release a comedy by Seth Rogen called The Interview this month that was a blatant anti-DPRK propaganda piece. Some of the emails leaked reveal that the U.$. State Department and the RAND Corporation think tank advised Sony on the content of the film, and appear to endorse the assassination of Kim Jong Un as the best way to enforce the regime change they desire in the northern Korean peninsula.(2) DPRK officials had already declared the movie "an act of war" this summer because it depicts the CIA hiring assassins to kill their head of state, Kim Jong Un. The United $tates has been behind the assassination of heads-of-state in Iraq and Libya, and the overthrow of a handful of other governments in just the last few years. We can't imagine any other interpretation of this movie coming out of the U.$. corporate media. Still, Amerikan patriot Seth Rogen, producer of the movie, said it shows "how crazy North Korea is." Crazy-jacketing has been an unfortunately effective tactic for imperialist propaganda, often utilizing cultural differences to tap into the racist ideologies of the oppressor nations.
A recent GOP statement read,
"We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places 'The Interview' be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to. Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made. The world will be full of fear. Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you'd better leave.)
"Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment. All the world will denounce the SONY."(2)
Theaters responded by saying they will not screen the film, leading to Sony temporarily cancelling the release of The Interview. But the backlash has been large, with the majority view in U.$. media, social and corporate, being that Sony punked out. The message is construed as a demand for integrity of artistic expression. But materialists acknowledge that all art has political content, while the bourgeoisie works to obscure this fact. They then use the idea of artistic integrity when it works in their favor, as in this case. The focus on artistic integrity over political content meshes well with the individualism of bourgeois ideology. Overall, this has demonstrated the success of the anti-DPRK propaganda machine among Amerikans' consciousness, despite the utter lack of integrity in claims made against the DPRK as exposed by Alyx's article.
It comes as nothing new that western journalism completely distorts the truth. It deceives its own population by slandering other nations' governments it does not have under its influence. The United $tates does this to serve its own interests, that is to create a favorable image both domestically and internationally.
Hypocrisy is one of the many faces of U.$. imperialism. U.$. laws prohibit the media or journalists from reporting anything that's slanderous (not true), but it seems this is only pertaining to slander against itself. Alyx Mayer explained it clearly:
"As long as you're writing about the DPRK you have a license to print anything. What already frighteningly little journalistic integrity the bourgeois media can be said to possess is nowhere to be found on matters concerning this country. DPRK bashing is assured to drag in the page views and advertising revenue. ... Let this be a case study on the lengths that imperialist media will go to slander its enemies."
The latest drama around The Interview is certainly bringing in the page views and advertising revenue.
While The Interview is given a pass by many because it's supposed to be an outlandish comedy, the anti-DPRK propaganda is connected at all levels of the media. Within the first week of September, PBS network ran an hour-long documentary focusing on images smuggled out of northern Korea porporting to expose what life is "really" like in this isolated region. They show images of homeless children rummaging through garbage looking for food, and stores filled with products (sodas, bras and other clothing) for display only and not for sale. It gives an image of DPRK propaganda controlling their citizens' all around lives without any room for freedom of thought or choice. One can only guess where exactly DPRK citizens do get their livelihood materials if the warehouses they showed weren't selling products. Images of blackmarkets were shown where people can buy foreign DVDs, flashdrives filled with banned movies and TV shows at local flea markets, but is this the only place where the masses shop? An elite circle is said to be living in the nation's capital for which a nicely dressed female in traditional Asian clothing gets into an imported expensive car and even her chauffeur is well dressed but nothing else is said about this elite clique. This documentary is mostly put together by defectors and viewers can see the clear distinction they are trying to portray within DPRK society. A tier system of homeless children starving while an elite wealthy clique drives around in wealthy imported cars while warehouses of abundant drinks and clothing aren't accessible to the population. Now if that is the message they are trying to convey, then why not do a documentary in the United $tates or any other First World country that doesn't have international embargos? Or do one comparing the people who make computers in Asia and those who use them in the United $tates and Europe?
The documentary includes lengthy interviews with defectors from DPRK living in Seoul (the capital of the portion of Korea that has been occupied by U.$. imperialism for over half a century). One defector, a middle aged man, claims to have been held prisoner under suspicion of being a spy. He claims that he was beaten and tortured while captive. He said a wooden stick or plank was placed behind his knees and was forced to sit down, every time they did this to him he would hear his knee caps crack. Now wouldn't this be physically damaging? I would assume that those noises would be indications of broken knee caps and yet this man was without crutches or a cane. He was completely independently mobile. He even said soon after his release from prison (after no evidence of him spying were found) he fled DPRK soon afterwards. Another defector, a female in her early 20s, claimed her father got her whole family out of northern Korea because he wanted a better life for them to grow up without being controlled. She eventually joined a TV show in southern Korea, the content of which is a combination of a talent show and speaking out against DPRK. "All within this show are DPRK defector youth" slandering their former homeland for the benefits of being on TV and joining the ranks of the bourgeoisie, a TV program probably sponsored by the Republic of Korea government in the south. Bourgeois perspectives can only fool other bourgeoisie and those that are ignorant.
We revolutionaries have a weapon to guard against such superficial propaganda, and that is our world outlook. How we read and interpret the world is based on dialectical and historical materialism. Let us take a good analytical look at what is being reported in today's media. Even books that are being put out with a little political content must be compared to facts. The bourgeoisie has the habit of reporting certain international stories without facts on nations they oppose, whether it's DPRK, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela or any Middle Eastern country not in cahoots with U.$. imperialism. But like Marx said in 1867,
"Every opinion based on scientific criticism I welcome. As to prejudices of so-called public opinion, now as aforetime the maxim of great Florentine is mine: Segui il tuo corso, e lascia dir le genti. (Follow your own course, and let people talk)."(3)
Propaganda and criticism have always been bourgeois tools aiming to demonize the proletarian ideology. But as Lenin said,
"The Marxian doctrine is omnipotent because it is true. It is complete and harmonious, and provides men with an integral world conception which is irreconcilable with any form of superstition, reaction or defense of bourgeois oppression."(4)
It is the bourgeois media's purpose to vilify anything that threatens their domination; facts are unimportant with its propaganda. It is a fact that police in the United $tates can murder Black people with impunity, while Black people who defend themselves will be punished severely. Similarly, Amerikans defend their right to threaten the lives of heads of state while simultaneously justifying war because other countries feel threatened by Amerikan posturing. There are objective inequalities in these examples that the bourgeoisie attempts to hide, but that are not lost on the masses. As materialists we must take these reports on DPRK, or anything in general, with a scientific microscope, let us draw distinctions on the bourgeois perspective and our own.
"Draw two lines of distinction. First, between revolution and counter revolution... Secondly, within the revolutionary ranks, it is necessary to make a clear distinction between right and wrong, between achievements and shortcomings... To draw these distinctions well, careful study and analysis are of course necessary. Our attitude towards every person and every matter should be one of analysis and study."(5)
Independent proletarian news outlets are necessary to raise class consciousness in our society but also expose everything corrupt and illegal, of U.$. imperialism, with scientific criticism.
Party People Written by Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, Steven Sapp, and William Ruiz a.k.a. Ninja Directed and Developed by Liesl Tommy Berkeley Repertory Theater 24 October 2014 - 16 November 2014, extended to 30 November 2014
"Party People" is a play about the Black Panther Party and Young Lords Party showing this month in Berkeley, California. The play was extended two weeks and has been a destination for many school field trips. Well-patroned, and intellectually accessible via the entertainment medium, "Party People" might well be the number one cultural piece shaping the understanding of the Black Panther Party (BPP) and Young Lords Party (YLP) in the Bay Area today. This is a major problem.
The premise of the play revolves around two young men planning and then actualizing a gallery event to commemorate the legacy of the Black Panther Party and Young Lords Party. Malik (a Panther cub whose father is locked up) and Jimmy (whose uncle was a Young Lord) invite several former party members to their gallery opening, and thus it doubles as a reunion of the rank and file. The play takes you through the day-of preparations for the event, which the party members help with, and through the event itself, which is attended by party members, an FBI informant, and the wife of a dead cop. Dialogue centers around the inter-persynal conflicts between party members and between generations, with conservatively half of the 2 hours and 35 minutes spent yelling and in-fighting between party members, and with their offspring.
The main downfall of revolutionary struggles of the 1960s was a lack of deep political education. Whether at the level of the masses, rank and file, or party leaders, a lack of political education allows political movements to be co-opted, infiltrated, and run into the ground by enemy line. In its heyday, the BPP grew so rapidly that much of the new membership did not have a deep understanding of why they did what they did. The play itself doesn't say that political consciousness needs to be raised, but it is a strong testament to that need. Unfortunately, neither does it contribute to that political education, which is likely due to the exact thing i am criticizing. "Party People" would have you believe the main legacies of the BPP and YLP were in creating exciting memories, and setting models for government programs. In "explaining" the origin of the BPP, the cast breaks into song: all it took to get it off the ground was shotguns, grits, and gravy.
Omar X is one of the more intriguing characters in the play. He operates more on intellect than emotions, and has an air of self-discipline and militancy. Omar enters the play as a self-appointed protector of the Black Panther legacy. He approaches Malik and Jimmy prior to the gallery opening, very skeptical of what they are going to say and how they might twist the history. Finally giving his approval to the art project, Omar by proxy grants legitimacy to the play itself. In real life, former Black Panthers Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins also both gave their seal of approval.(1) The People's Minister of Information JR Valrey, an outspoken member of today's generation of Black media who promotes the Panthers as an example to be followed, was more critical.(2)
The open brutality of pigs on party members is only given cursory examination, primarily through dialogue. Yet there is a graphic scene where Omar is tortured by several fellow Panthers, led by an FBI infiltrator. Recollecting this event in the gallery, 50 years later, Omar's comrades are still telling him "You were so outspoken and critical! Why didn't you just follow orders! We just did what we were told!" with remorse. It is apalling that in 50 years of reflection, these characters haven't figured out that dissent and criticism should be encouraged in the party, and that the real error here was that they themselves were "just" following orders. Again, the problem goes back to political development, whereas the play would have you believe that this brutality was just an unavoidable outcome of this type of organizing work.
Learning directly from the downfall of the Black Panther Party and COINTELPRO operations, rather than quash dissent, we would encourage political organizations to practice democratic centralism. Resolving contradictions through debate is the only way we can grow as political organizations. But instead of airing our dirty laundry for every infiltrator or wannabe cop to take advantage, as was common in the 60s, we take a democratic vote within the organization and then uphold the party line in public, while continuing to debate behind closed doors as needed.
Democratic centralism is also closely related to the mass line. Developing mass line happens when the party refines and promotes the best ideas from the masses, making the party their voice. The masses would include people who are workers in the party-led programs, but who have not yet reached a level of understanding and participation to join the party. One of the contradictions within the Panthers was that they had new people become party members, but then excluded them from the decision-making process. There was not a transparent decision-making process with a defined group of people. This led the rank and file to believe they should just do what Huey or Eldridge said, as was depicted in the play.
Security practices are again thrown out the window in Omar's criticism of Malik and Jimmy's stage names (MK Ultra and Primo, respectively). Omar says they should put their real names on their project, because aren't they proud of their work? Don't they want to be accountable to what potential lies they are about to disseminate? Is this just a game to them? Are they "really" revolutionaries if they are "hiding" behind their stage names? On the other hand, we strongly encourage revolutionaries inside the belly of the beast to protect their identities from the state. We forgive the BPP for making this error at the time, but Omar should have figured it out by now.
Enthusiasm is given to the question of gender and blaming of wimmin for the downfall of the parties. The dialogue states that all the men were on drugs or locked up or dead, so of course wimmin had to lead. But then when the parties dissintegrated, the wimmin were blamed. "Pussy killed the party!" is a sexually-choreographed song performed by the female cast, criticizing the machisimo and male chauvinism in both the BPP and YLP. But little if any mention is given to the female-focused programs of the Young Lords to curb forced sterilization and provide access to abortion for Boriqua wimmin. Selectively applying hindsight, "Party People" disregards the fact that these revolutionary organizations were the vanguard of proletarian feminist organizing in their day.(3)
At the gallery during the reunion, a white womyn demands attention for an emphatic monologue about her husband, a cop who was killed in a shootout with the Panthers. Subjectively i found this monologue to be too damn long and the response to be too damn weak. For the hundreds of times the word "fuck" is thrown around in this play, i half expected the Panther's response to this accusation that he had killed the cop to be "fuck your pig husband." Instead he calmly explains that he did not kill the cop and that he was imprisoned 25 years for a murder he did not commit, washing his persynal hands of the "crime." He then goes and sits down and everyone takes a pause to feel sad. This was a perfect opportunity to educate the audience on casualties of war and group political action. Instead the playwright chose to build empathy for our oppressors.
One of the most glaringly offensive themes in this play is the integrationist line slipped in subtly throughout, and hammered home thoroughly in the final blast of energy. A source of pride for the former party members is that their programs still live on today. No mention is made of the state co-opting these programs, such as free breakfast at school, in an effort to make the party seem obsolete. Feeding kids before school is of almost no cost to Amerikkka, and it's worth it if it convolutes the need for revolutionary independence. While focusing a lot on the free breakfast program, not once is it mentioned that these kids were also receiving a political education while they ate. Lack of political education is cause and consequence of these errors of the play.
The question comes up of what today's [petty-bourgeois] youth should do to push the struggle forward. What role do they have to play? What direction should they take? If I were a high school student watching this play, asking myself the same questions, i would not have left the theater with any better answers than i came in with, and i don't know that i would have gone forward looking to the Panthers or Young Lords for direction. Sadly, these organizations did give us direction, but in "Party People" it is altogether discarded.
On the topic of youth, there are three characters who are representative of the offspring of the parties: Malik, Jimmy, and Clara. Malik spends a lot of time trying to dress and speak like a Panther, but not a lot of time with his nose in books. Clara's parents are both dead, and although her tia tries to explain the importance of her parents' political devotion, Clara resents the YLP for stealing them from her. Clara wants to go to college and get a good job so she can "join the 1%." This "discussion" of the "1%" is the closest the play gets to an examination of class, unlike the BPP and YLP who had thorough, international class analyses.(4)
With all the examination of the contradictions between the different generations, and the time (yet not necessarily depth) given to Fred Hampton's murder by the pigs, Fred Hampton, Jr. is not mentioned one time in the play. Nowhere do they talk about the revolutionary organizing of Chairman Fred, Jr. in Chicago, Illinois with the Prisoners of Conscience Committee. You might not even leave the play knowing that Fred Hampton had a child. Considering the youth are looking for direction, and have all these feelings about their parents and relatives abandoning them for the revolution, why wasn't Fred, Jr. given a primary role in this play? Upholding his political work as an example might have put a lot of anxieties to rest.
Social-media-as-activism is correctly and thoroughly criticized (one of the few positive elements). Instead, a resolution to the youth's dysphoria and lack of direction is offered in a final rap by Primo, which highlights conditions of the oppressed nations inside United $tates borders. But he ephasizes that "I am Amerikan! We are all Amerikan!" over and over and over again, really sucking the audience in on this one. The closing message of the play was decidedly not, "I am Boriqua! You are New Afrikan! Amerikans, commit nation suicide! And let's destroy Amerikkkan imperialism for the benefit of all the world's oppressed peoples!!"
Modern lumpen organizations are mentioned briefly as part of the fallout of the parties. In its lack of direction, "Party People" does not uphold these organizations as holding potential for revolutionary change. Again another great educational opportunity missed. As a supplement, i would recommend the documentary Bastards of the Party (2005). This film details the development of the Bloods and Crips, from self-defense groups, through the Slausons, into the Panthers, and to today. In this film, the Watts Truce in Los Angeles in 1992 is focused on, and serves as an excellent model of the positive impact lumpen organizations can have on reducing in-fighting in oppressed nation communities and building power independent from the oppressor government.
It is evident from "Party People" that the petty bourgeoisie doesn't have much of a role to play in our current revolutionary organizing. Until they give up their attachments to the material spoils of imperialism, they will keep producing confused representations of proletarian struggle. I would advise today's youth, especially those who feel disheartened by this play, to read up on the real history of BPP and Young Lords,(5) and contact us to get involved in political organizing work to end oppression for all the world's people!
"Mao's conviction that Chinese culture was a great perhaps a unique historical achievement strengthened his sentiment of national pride. On the other hand, his explicit aim was to enrich Marxism with ideas and values drawn from the nation's past, and thereby render it more potent as an agent of revolutionary transformation, and ultimately wersternization, not to replace it with some kind of neo-traditionalism in Marxist dress." - Stuart Schram
The sinifaction of Marxism is the adaptation and application of Marxism to Chinese conditions. That was the beginning of Mao Zedong thought, and that was the basis upon which Mao Zedong sought to not only liberate China from feudalist, comprador and imperialist control, but upon which he advanced Marxism-Leninism to the third and most advanced stage of revolutionary science. When traditional Marxists who saw no revolutionary potential past Europe and Amerika regarded Mao as "a mere peasant chief with little knowledge of Marxism", what they were really expressing was their doubt in the Chinese peoples' ability to wage class struggle because they were supposedly "backward" and hence uncivilized, even though Chinese society goes back thousands of years. When Japanese imperialism landed in China, renamed it Manchuria and claimed it as their own, Mao challenged and successfully annihilated that claim. National liberation for self-determination, that is what Mao correctly perceived as his hystoric task to push China forward in the Chinese peoples' struggle for national dignity. That was Mao's hystoric duty as a revolutionary. What will ours be? For revolutionary-nationalists from the [email protected] nation it is the adaptation and application of Maoism to [email protected] conditions.
"In essence, sinifaction involved for Mao three dimensions or aspects: communication, conditions and culture. The first of these is the clearest and least controversial. In calling for a new and vital Chinese style and manner, pleasing to the eye and to the ear of the Chinese common people, Mao was making the valid but previously neglected point, that if Marxism is to be understood and accepted by any non-European country it must be presented in language which is intelligible to them and in terms relevant to their own problems. But how, in Mao's view, was the reception of Marxism in China determined by mentality (or culture), and experience (or concrete circumstances)? Above all, how were both the culture of the Chinese people, and the conditions in which they lived, to be shaped by the new revolutionary power set up in 1949? ... Mao sought to define and follow a Chinese road to socialism. In pursuing this aim, he unquestionably took Marxism as his guide...as well as seeking inspiration, as he had advocated in 1938, from the lessons and the values of Chinese history."
The adaptation and application of Maoism to [email protected] conditions therefore does not at all negate our hystory or reality, rather it affirms it and demands that we are reckoned with. Mao said that Marxism is a general truth with universal application and the science of practice which has now been summed up in hystory proved him right. So now that we know the power of revolutionary science that is Marxism-Leniinism-Maoism works, the question moved from what form of struggle does [email protected] national liberation take, to how do we begin to implement it? How do we adapt and apply Maoism to prison conditions, and then how do we apply this new understanding to the barrio. What does a [email protected] communist vanguard organization look like behind prison walls? What does it look like on the street?
These are all questions that can only be asked and answered by [email protected] in the process of the struggle.
The [email protected] nation is currently at a critical juncture in its extensive hystory. We are beginning to reach a point in which we will either cast our lot with the rest of Latin America, wage our struggle for national liberation and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Third World, or we will perish along with imperialism. As before, so today the choice is ours. Will we continue to send our sons and daughters to die in the periphery for a flag and land that isn't theirs, or will we prime them to fight imperialism and liberate Aztlán? We have the revolutionary imperative. Patria o muerte!
The Communist Necessity by J. Moufawad-Paul Kersplebedeb 2014 Available for $10 from AK Press, 674-A 23rd St, Oakland CA 94612
This new book from J. Moufawad-Paul provides a good argument against reactionary trends in the First World activist movement over the past few decades, specifically tearing down the misleading ideologies that have moved away from communism and promote instead a mishmash of liberal theories claiming to offer new improved solutions to oppression. It comes mainly from an academic perspective, and as such takes on many minor trends in political theory that are likely unknown to many activist readers. But the main thrust, against what Moufawad-Paul calls movementism, is correct and a valuable addition to the summary of the recent past of political organizing and discussion of the way forward. Unfortunately, in illuminating the need for communist theory and scientific analysis Moufawad-Paul misses a crucial theoretical point on the petty bourgeois status of the First World. As such, his conclusions about the correct tasks for communists to take up are misleading.
Incorrect Line on the Labor Aristocracy
Moufawad-Paul does point out errors of those who have tried to take up communist organizing within unions: "Instead, those of us who have attempted to find our communist way within union spaces.... Bogged down by collective agreements so that our activism becomes the management of union survival; fighting for a union leadership that is only marginally left in essence..."(p136) But then he goes on to uphold the demands of unions without distinguishing between those representing the proletarian workers and those representing the petty bourgeoisie: "Immediate economic demands, of course, are not insignificant. We have to put food on the table and pay the bills,; we want job security and benefits. Solidarity amongst workers is laudable, and it would be a mistake to oppose unions and union drives because they are not as revolutionary as a communist party."(p137) Readers of MIM(Prisons) literature know that we have many books and articles detailing the calculations demonstrating First World workers income putting them squarely in the group of non-exploited owners of wealth who we call the petty bourgeoisie.
Moufawad-Paul concludes: "To reject economism, to recognize that trade-unions, particularly at the centres of capitalism, may not be our primary spaces of organization should not produce a knee-jerk anti-unionism, no different in practice than the conservative hatred of unions; rather, it should cause us to recognize the necessity of focusing our organizational energies elsewhere."(p137) This is a rather unscientific and wishy washy conclusion from an author who otherwise upholds revolutionary science to tear down many other incorrect theories. In fact it is only in the last pages of the book, in the "Coda" that Moufawad-Paul even attempts to take on this question of a "working class" in the First World and distinguish it from workers in the Third World:
"From its very emergence, capitalism has waged war upon humanity and the earth. The communist necessity radiates from this eternal war: capitalism's intrinsic brutality produces an understanding that its limits must be transgressed, just as it produces its own grave-diggers. How can we be its grave-diggers, though, when we refuse to recognize the necessity of making communism concretely, deferring its arrival to the distant future? One answer to this problem is that those of us at the centres of capitalism are no longer the primary grave-diggers.
"The permanent war capitalism wages upon entire populations is a war that is viscerally experienced by those who live at the global peripheries. Lenin once argued that revolutions tend to erupt at the 'weakest links,' those over-exploited regions where the contradictions of capitalism are clear. Thus, it should be no surprise that communism remains a necessity in these spaces — it is at the peripheries we discover people's wars. Conversely, opportunism festers at the global centres, these imperialist metropoles where large sections of the working-class have been pacified, muting contradictions and preventing entire populations from understanding the necessity of communism. Capitalism is not as much of a nightmare, here; it is a delirium, a fever dream."(p158)
But even while recognizing the pacification of "large sections of the working-class" in imperialist countries, Moufawad-Paul fails to undertake any scientific analysis of how large these sections are, or what exactly it means to be pacified. It sounds as though they still need to be woken from their "fever dream" to fight for communism. But these workers will be ardent anti-communists if we appeal to their economic interests. They have not just been pacified, they have been bought off with wealth stolen from the Third World, and as with the fascist workers in Germany under Hitler, they will fight to the death to defend their wealth and power over oppressed nations.
It is trade unions of these people benefiting from exploitation who Moufawad-Paul extols the readers not to reject with "a knee-jerk anti-unionism, no different in practice than the conservative hatred of unions." But in fact if he studied the economics of wealth with the same scientific passion he brings to the topic of communist theory overall, Moufawad-Paul would see that workers in imperialist countries have been bought over to the petty bourgeois class, and opposing their unionism is not knee-jerk at all.
Movementism and Fear of Communism
The bulk of this book is devoted to a critique of movementism: "the assumption that specific social movements, sometimes divided along lines of identity or interest, could reach a critical mass and together, without any of that Leninist nonsense, end capitalism."(p9)
This movementism is seen in protests that have been held up throughout the First World activist circles as the way to defeat capitalism: "Before this farce, the coordinating committee of the 2010 demonstrations would absurdly maintain, on multiple email list-serves, that we were winning, and yet it could never explain what it meant by 'we' nor did its claim about 'winning' make very much sense when it was patently clear that a victory against the G20 would have to be more than a weekend of protests. Had we truly reached a point where victory was nothing more than a successful demonstration, where we simply succeeded in defending the liberal right to assembly?"(p9-10)
Further, the movementists, and other similar self-proclaimed leftists of the recent past demonstrate an aversion to communism, though sometimes shrouding themselves in communist rhetoric: "All of this new talk about communism that avoids the necessity of actually bringing communism into being demonstrates a fear of the very name communism."(p29) He points out that this is manifested in practice: "The Arab Spring, Occupy, the next uprising: why do we look to these examples as expressions of communism instead of looking to those movements organized militantly under a communist ideology, that are making more coherent and revolutionary demands?"(p30)
Moufawad-Paul correctly analyzes the roots of the support for "insurrections" in the Third World rather than the actual communist revolutions. Real revolutions can have setbacks and fail to seize state power: "The lingering fascination with the EZLN, for example, is telling: There is a reason that the Zapatistas have received sainthood while the Sendero Luminoso has not. The latter's aborted people's war placed it firmly in the realm of failure; the former, in refusing to attempt a seizure of state power."(p46)
In another correct critique of these activists that MIM has made for years, Moufawad-Paul points out the problem with communists joining non-communist organizations and attempting to take over leadership: "...Occupied Wallstreet Journal refuses to communicate anything openly communist and yet is being edited by known communists..."(p50) Essentially these communists have to water down their own politics for the sake of the group, and they are doing nothing to promote the correct line more broadly.
Ultimately Moufawad-Paul sums up the anti-commnunism: "Even before this collapse it was often the hallmark of supposedly 'critical' marxism in the first world, perhaps due to the influence of trotskyism, to denounce every real world socialism as stalinist, authoritarian, totalitarian. Since the reification of anti-communist triumphalism this denunciation has achieved hegemony; it is the position to which would-be marxist academics gravitate and accept as common sense, an unquestioned dogma. Hence, we are presented with a constellation of attempts to reboot communism by calling it something different, by making its past either taboo or meaningless..."(p69)
And he cautions us that while some are now returning to communism in name, they are still lacking a materialist analysis of communist practice that is needed to bring about revolution: "Despite the return to the name of communism, this new utopianism, due to its emergence in the heart of left-wing academia and petty-bourgeois student movements, has absorbed the post-modern fear of those who speak of a communist necessity — the fear of that which is totalizing and thus totalitarian. The failure to develop any concrete strategy of overthrowing capitalism, instead of being treated as a serious deficiency, is apprehended as a strength: the movement can be all things for all people, everything for everyone, everywhere and nowhere..."(p151)
Moufawad-Paul correctly notes that for many academics and other petty bourgeois advocates of these new theories, the fear of communism is actually based in a fear of their own material position being challenged: "Here is a terrible notion, one that we avoid whenever we embrace those theories that justify our class privilege: we will more than likely be sent down to the countryside, whatever this figurative 'countryside' happens to be; we too will have to be reeducated. Most of us are terrified by this possibility, disgusted by the necessity of rectification, of being dragged down."(p96)
Sectarianism vs. Principled Differences
Moufawad-Paul includes some good discussion of the failure of movementist doctrine around so-called anti-sectarianism: "But the charge of sectarianism is leveled at every and any organization that dares to question the fundamental movementist doctrine."(p53) As he explains, "But principled political difference by itself does not amount to sectarianism, though it is often treated as such by those who would judge any moment of principled difference as sectarian heresy....Maintaining a principled political difference is itself a necessity, part of developing a movement capable of drawing demarcating lines, and even those who would endorse movementism have to do so if they are to also maintain their anti-capitalism."(p55)
The failure of coalition politics is summed up well: "When a variety of organizations with competing ideologies and strategies are gathered together under one banner, the only theoretical unity that can be achieved is the most vague anti-capitalism. Since revolutionary strategy is derived from revolutionary unity, the vagueness of theory produces a vagueness in practice: tailism, neo-reformism, nebulous movementism."(p129) This underscores why MIM(Prisons) promotes the United Front over coalition politics. In the United Front we have clear proletarian leadership but we do not ask organizations to compromise their own political line for that of the UF. A principled UF comes together around clear and concise points of unity while maintaining their independence in other areas. A good example of this is the United Front for Peace in Prisons.
The Need for Communism
Moufawad-Paul includes a good discussion of the need for real communist ideology, rooted in historical materialism and focused on what we need to do today rather than just building academic careers by talking about theories. "If anything, these movements, whatever their short-comings, should remind us of the importance of communism and its necessity; we should not hide from these failures, attempt to side-step them by a vague rearticulation of the terminology, or refuse to grasp that they were also successes. If we are to learn from the past through the lens of the necessity of making revolution, then we need to do so with an honesty that treats the practice of making communism as an historical argument."(p29)
He encourages the readers: "To speak of communism as a necessity, then, is to focus on the concrete world and ask what steps are necessary to make it a reality."(p31) And the way to figure out what steps are necessary is revolutionary science:
"Why then is historical materialism a revolutionary science? Because the historical/social explanation of historical/social phenomena is the very mechanism of class struggle, of revolution. And this scientific hypothesis is that which is capable of demystifying the whole of history and myriad societies, a way in which to gauge any and every social struggle capable of producing historical change.
"Hence, without a scientific understanding of social struggle we are incapable of recognizing when and where failed theories manifest. The physicist has no problem banning Newtonian speculation to the past where it belongs; s/he possesses a method of assessment based on the development of a specific scientific terrain. If we resist a similar scientific engagement with social struggle we have no method of making sense of the ways in which revolutionary hypotheses have been dis-proven in the historical crucible due to historical 'experiments' of class struggle."(p43)
Overall The Communist Necessity adds some much needed revolutionary scientific analysis to "leftist" activism and theories of the recent past. It is unfortunate that Moufawad-Paul did not apply this same scientific rigor to his analysis of classes. Only with both elements firmly understood will we be prepared to do our part to support the communist struggles of the oppressed world wide.
Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village William Hinton University of California Press, 1966
The word "Fanshen" was coined during the Chinese Revolution. It means, literally,
"[T]o turn the body', or "to turn over." To China's hundreds of millions of landless and land-poor peasants it meant to stand up, to throw off the landlord yoke, to gain land, stock, implements, and houses. But it meant much more than this. It meant to throw off superstition and study science ... [to] learn to read, to cease considering women as chattels and establish equality between the sexes, to do away with appointed village magistrates and replace them with elected councils.(1)
And that is precisely what Fanshen chronicles. It is written from the personal experiences and extensive notes gathered by William Hinton himself while in the Liberated Area village of Changchuang (Long Bow), Lucheng County, Shanshi Province, China, during the spring and summer of 1948. Long Bow sat on the edge of an area surrounded but never conquered by the Japanese. It was one of the few villages which the Japanese invaders occupied and fortified. This Japanese occupation (1938-1945) ended when Long Bow was liberated by the Eighth Route Army and the Peoples Militia of Lucheng County on August 14, 1945.
Hinton wend to China as a tractor technician with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and was sent to the communist-led area of South Hopie to supervise a project there. When UNRRA closed down in the fall of 1947, Hinton accepted an invitation from Northern University to teach English in South Shansi. Hinton relates that Northern University was a guerrilla institution in Kao Settlement that moved according to the dictates of war and that life at the University was not much better than village life. As examples he states that the University only served boiled millet (a grass grown for its edible white seeds) and was never warmed by scarce firewood.
Fanshen is foremost about land reform in rural China. To fully appreciate the enormity of this land reform, Hinton provides plenty of background information on the revolutionary upheaval that led up to it, as well as the traditional society which brought on and was transformed by revolution. From the British-imposed First Opium War of 1840 and the Second Opium War of 1856-1860, to the 1899 imperial rescript granting Catholic bishops equal rank with provincial governors which led to the 1900 Boxer Rebellion, to the Amerikan backing of the Nationalist Government of Chiang Kai-shek, Fanshen supplies the reader with plenty of pertinent hystorical dialectic facts. No punches are pulled in the especially provcative documentation of Amerikan interloping. From General Marshall's mission in China to the lend-lease program that gave the Nationalist Government over $600 million between Victory over Japan Day and the end of July, I was left wondering who left the hystory books I had read in school incomplete. There are plenty of footnotes recalling Amerikan troop involvement in China well after the Japanese surrendered. Nuggets such as;
Of numerous attacks in Eastern Shantung the most widely known were the one by U.S. warships on Langnuankou and Hsiali Island, Mouping county, on August 28, 1947, and one by U.S. forces in conjunction with Kumintang troops on Wanglintao Village, north of Chino County, on December 25, 1947.(2)
left me scratching my head and hungry for more. I was not let down. It is interesting to note that this is the time period that Hinton joined Northern University.
Fanshen does not neglect the environmental conditions of so vast a country as China. Without knowing the violence and extremes of the seasons, the living conditions of such an agrarian society could not truly be put into context. Drought followed by famine, followed by peasant-dwelling-destroying monsoons are a way of life for the Chinese peasants, and Hinton documents these ordeals with great clarity, even experiencing a flash flood and violent localized hailstorm first-hand while in Long Bow.
Once the hystorical context is set, Hinton wastes no time in drawing you into the consciousness of Long Bow. He begins this phenomenal feat with the Japanese invasion of Long Bow in the summer of 1938. With great skill he documents what village life was like for the peasants through their own words. He continues this painstaking documentation of events, using thousands of interviews, from the period of liberation when the cadres took over until the arrival of the work teams (1945-1948).
The Draft Agrarian Law was announced to the world on December 28, 1947, three days after the joint U.$./Kuomintang military assault on Wanglintao Village. The Draft Law was to serve as a yardstick by which to measure theand movements, as well as to measure the political position and consciousness of everyone who opted for progress and a new democratic China. Many questions had to be answered, such as: Had the land been equally divided? Had the poor peasants and hired laborers taken control of village affairs? If not, why not? Politically, the main question was, on which side do you stand? I was so drawn in by Hinton's prose that I was just as shocked as the villagers to find that the majority of the cadres carrying out the reforms of the Communist Party, sometimes to extremes, were not even Party members. This was but one of many surprises to come.
So, in 1948 the Communist Party organized work teams made up of local and district cadres and students and intellectuals in all the Liberated Areas sending them to key representative villages throughout their respective regions to check on the status of the land reform movement. These work teams, made up of groups of 10 or 12 people each, then went out to survey the true conditions of the peasant population and carry the land reform through to completion.
It was during the assignment of Northern University students and intellectuals to work teams that Hinton requested of University President Fan Wen-lan to be allowed to "join one of the work teams, at least as an observer, and learn first hand what the land reform is all about." Three days later permission was granted to join the work team in Long Bow. He was assigned a young woman instructor, Ch'i Yun, to act as an interpreter. Long Bow was chosen because it was the nearest to Kao Settlement, approximately one mile to the south. This way Hinton and Ch'i Yun could return to the University each evening. On March 6, 1948, the two set off for the first of many trips into Long Bow to begin documenting the long process of getting to know its people, their hystory, their progress, their mistakes, and the complexity of their current problems. Then, in early May 1948, Northern University moved 300 miles away; however, Hinton and Ch'i Yun stayed in Long Bow to continue their work alongside the other work team cadres.
Fanshen thoroughly documents the individual stepwise movements, e.g., the Anti-Traitor Movement (ending 1945), the Settling Accounts Movement (January 1946 - February 1946), the Hide-the-Grain movement (fall of 1946), and the Wash-the-Face movement (spring 1947) that were necessary for the land reform in Long Bow. The mistakes made by the cadres and peasants alike during these movements are laid bare and analyzed. By doing this the reader gains a richer appreciation of the struggle for a true democracy. One of the largest myths of Maoism is that Chairman Mao, via the Chinese Communist Party, ruled China as a totalitarian. Hinton thoroughly debunks this myth as he documents his first-hand experiences of the true democratic election process in Long Bow.
The writing style of Hinton's Fanshen is transcendental. It puts the reader into the mind, i.e. the political consciousness, of the cadres and peasants themselves. My political consciousness developed right along with theirs. Hinton's documentation of the self- and mutual criticism done during village meetings had me identifying with those being criticized. I found myself connecting with them, at times thinking that I would have done the same in those circumstances. Nothing is held back from the reader during these sessions; the selling of female children, the indifference to starvation during the famine years, the beatings, and the violent oppression. At times I rooted for the peasants as they beat a landlord to death during a Settling-of-Accounts, only to be corrected in this error of thinking by Mao's own words a few chapters later.
Fanshen ends by Hinton summing up the progress as of 1949:
Land reform, by creating basic equality among rural producers, only presented the producers with a choice of roads: private enterprise on the land leading to capitalism, or collective enterprise on the land leading to socialism...
Land reform had broken the patriarchal rigidity of the family by granting property rights to women. With property of their own they [are] able to struggle effectively for equal rights...
One had only to think of such problems as illiteracy, the almost complete absence of medical care, and the primitive methods of cultivation still in use, to realize what a long road lay ahead for the village and its people before they could claim full citizenship in the twentieth century.(3)
This is a fitting ending as it is also a new beginning. Once a people organize and gain a political consciousness they can then unite in struggle to break the chains of oppression and write their own future.
Fanshen is a work of literary genius. Hinton does not just write about events as a passive observer, he vicariously brings the reader into the time and space of rural China, circa 1948, to live them. By the time you finish reading Fanshen your own hystorical views and political consciousness will be impacted. Through the various movements, some correct and some incorrect, you will pick up on the subtleties of how and why communism can work, the mistakes that doom it, and the consciousness of the people needed to support it. I have been greatly moved by Hinton's work and feel the Western world owes Hinton a debt of gratitude for his sacrifice in documenting land reform in Long Bow Village and bringing us his first-hand account.
Although the World Cup has been over for some time I feel compelled to comment on Mexico's national team.
When Mexico beat Croatia to make it to the round of 16 there were "disturbances" in Los Angeles. As Los Angeles has a high concentration of people who see themselves as Mexicans and not Amerikans, this goes to show that there is a separate, oppressed nation in the United $tates.
But this disturbance alone doesn't prove this. As J. Stalin said, "A nation is formed only as a result of lengthy and systematic intercourse, as a result of the fact that people live together from generation to generation. But people cannot live together for lengthy periods unless they have a common territory."
Mexicans in the United $tates, and especially in California, are distinct from Amerikans as well as from their relatives in Mexico. As Latinos are becoming the largest population in the United $tates it's even more important that a national party be formed to better serve the Latino nation, as the United $tates is incapable and incompetent to serve the needs of the Latino people in North America.
MIM(Prisons) adds: We agree with this comrade that there is a separate nation within U.$. borders that is comprised of the primarily indigenous people of what was northern Mexico, and includes many descended from immigrants from Latin America as well. Though it is far more complicated than just some World Cup festivities, this comrade is correct that we can see evidence of the separate nation in many areas of culture. We have come to call this nation the [email protected] nation, and this is the subject of a book that is scheduled to be released at the end of 2014: Chicano Power and the Struggle for Aztlán. Write to us to get on the list for a copy of this important book.