On 11 September 2021, Chairman Gonzalo has been reported to be dead by the Peruvian prison service and the Peruvian government.(1) The president of Peru, Pedro Castillo, has tweeted in regards to Gonzalo’s death:
“The terrorist ringleader Abimael Guzmán, responsible for the loss of countless lives of our compatriots, has died. Our stance of condemning terrorism is firm and unwavering.”
Born as Abimael Guzmán, Chairman Gonzalo was the leader of the Partido Comunista del Perú(PCP) also known as the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path in English). The PCP initiated People’s War in Peru in 1980, and waged a righteous struggle against the U.$.-backed regimes in Peru until the capture of its leadership in 1992. Arguably the first communist leader to explain Maoism as the next stage of communism, Gonzalo was instrumental in pushing these ideas within the international communist movement.
At age 86, Gonzalo had lived in complete isolation in a Peruvian prison for 29 years. Long-term solitary confinement is a form of torture used around the world to combat political dissent. It is used most extensively within the United $tates, where in recent years over 100,000 people languished in such conditions.
Religious Idealism Barks
Gonzalo was an infamous figure in Peruvian society. The revolutionary violence of the PCP sparked hostile reactions especially from the petty bourgeoisie, the middle-peasants, and the likes within Peru. One outspoken figure which repeated these sentiments condemning Gonzalo on his death day was Archbishop Eguren of the Catholic Church in Peru. During a mass on September 12, a day after Gonzalo’s death, Eguren said this referring to the Maoist ideology and the Maoists of Peru:
“Along with him fell the principal members of his communist, terrorist, genocidal, and murderous gang, which caused the massacres of entire communities of poor inhabitants of our Andes and jungle regions in the 1980s and 1990s.”(2)
The Archbishop continued:
“The day Guzmán was captured was also one year after the start of the campaign ‘Peace in Peru is well worth a Rosary.’ This campaign was conceived and promoted by Bishop Ricardo Durand Flórez S.J., a great Peruvian bishop who, throughout his life and ministry, worked hard for the poor according to the Gospel.”(3)
After condemning Marxism through the usual Christian idealism, Archbishop Eguren replaces the anti-capitalist vacuum with the Catholic church’s historical response to poverty and capitalist ills: distribution of wealth and charity to the poor. We Maoists do not believe in the metaphysical notion that “the poor will always be with us,” nor that walking across a homeless person on the street is a test by god to prove ourselves of our good heart and soul. We believe poverty – and the impoverished proletariat along with the rich bourgeoisie – comes out of material phenomena: rise of capitalism through revolution, class struggle, and change of production relations. Thus, the elimination of poverty and capitalist ills will be done through the proletarian revolution against capitalism, class struggle, and change of production relations as well; not through wealth redistribution nor through charity.
Along with condemning Marxism, Eguren used this chance to call for the elimination of the politicians and bureaucrats of the current Peruvian government who had historical ties to the Maoist movement:
“We Peruvians should not forget, for an instant what this intrinsically perverse ideology embodies, as well as the immense suffering it has caused in the recent history of our country, much less allow it today to be able to seize total power. Therefore: Mr. President, clean up your cabinet!”(4)
Chairman Gonzalo and the PCP’s legacy in Peru is often associated with the “violent left.” So it is appropriate that one of the most popular opportunist and reformist newsletters, Jacobin, condemned Gonzalo by saying that Peru’s left is finally free to “move forward.”(5)
In the article, “The Shining Path’s Abimael Guzmán Helped Keep Peru in the Past,” Jacobin news cited the Lucanamarca massacre and the violence of the PCP against the indigenous masses as one of the main arguments against the PCP. The Communist Party of Peru (PCP) has mentioned in eir writings the attacks against the masses by the masses, and how the state security used the differing class levels of the peasantry against itself (poor peasants, middle peasants, rich peasants). These tactics to divide the masses are used against the communists of India as well. In the remote and countryside regions under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (CPI-Maoist), the capitalist lapdogs in India find it much more useful to use local reactionaries against the guerrillas than using the army. If not the local police, it is the paramilitary organizations of rich peasants, middle peasants, lumpen-bourgeoisie, lumpen-proletariat, etc. that is attacking the Maoists. In Peru, the majority of the PCP guerrillas were indigenous themselves as the main population base in the communists’ base areas were indigenous.
When judging the legacy of a People’s War and a revolutionary party, communists should know when to throw away the baby with the bathwater and when to still keep it. Before the capitalist roaders overthrew socialism in the Soviet Union, many of the errors of what would become the capitalist line (commandism and economism) has been planted by Stalin as well and other comrades. This did not cause Mao to throw away Stalin’s legacy. In the same breath, when Fidel Castro liberated Cuba from imperialism and semi-feudalism, his merits were part of a worldwide movement for national liberation of the colonies at the time – it isn’t until Castro’s selling out of the entire island to the Soviet social-imperialists as a sugar factory that Maoists should throw Castro away.
Heavier Than Mount Tai
It is well within the realms of material reality that the PCP’s legacy among the general Peruvian society lies not only in the Peruvian comprador bourgeoisie who propagate the ideas of the PCP as bloodthirsty terrorists, but also within the bad lines and practices of the PCP as well. It is an often repeated idea we hear that if the revolution fails, it is the fault of the revolutionaries. In the same light, it’s the internal characteristics not the external of a communist movement that will ultimately decide its success and failures.
We must draw a clear line between us and those who condemn the PCP because they waged People’s War. Whatever internal contradictions led to the collapse of the Peruvian revolution, it was a shining example in theory by leading the world to the concrete ideas of Maoism and in practice in mobilizing the Peruvian people to control a majority of Peru before their fall.
Communists should learn their lessons from their errors in history. For the enemy to say, “Denounce Gonzalo!” is for them to also say “Don’t learn your lessons! Give up revolution!” Nevertheless, no matter what the Catholic idealists or the writers of Jacobin wish, the PCP and Chairman Gonzalo’s legacy will not go away as easily as they wish.
Long Live Chairman Gonzalo – Death Heavier than Mount Tai.
Notes1. RPP, September 11th, 2021, “Murió Abimael Guzmán, el sanguinario cabecilla del grupo terrorista Sendero Luminoso.”
2. David Ramos, September 13th, 2021, “Archbishop calls on Peruvian president to rid his administration of ties to Shining Path.” Catholic News Agency.
5. Miguel La Serna, September 15, 2021, “The Shining Path’s Abimael Guzmán Helped Keep Peru in the Past.” Jacobin.
by MIM(Prisons) August 2020 permalink A Critique of Maoist Reason J. Moufawad-Paul Foreign Languages Press 2020
A Critique of Maoist Reason serves as a follow up to Continuity and Rupture, as a way to both sum up the different trends in Maoist thought within occupied Turtle Island and to respond to the critiques of the earlier book. As the latest book gives a more proper address to MIM Thought, we thought it important to read and respond.
Again on Maoism-Third Worldism
In a recent interview, JMP flippantly rejects our complaint that MIM Thought was referred to as “Maoist Third Worldism” in Continuity and Rupture. To reiterate from our last review, this is an ahistoric application of the term. As we said in one of our founding documents, Maoism Around Us, we opposed the term for two reasons. The first is fundamental to the arguments made in Continuity and Rupture as to the path of development of revolutionary science. We argued that there could be no new stage without new practice that supersedes the past. MIM has never suggested such a thing, and the term was coined after the original MIM dissolved.
The second reason, that recent works by JMP and the online journal Struggle Sessions seem to take advantage of, is that by calling our line something other than Marxism-Leninism-Maoism you can otherize it and make it seem more fringe. This new book from JMP serves to place the RIM strain of “Maoism” as the most legit one, and paints MIM as a “shadow Maoism.”
A Falsifiable Thesis
Other than making some of the common arguments made against MIM’s thesis on the labor aristocracy, JMP’s philosophical argument against our line is that it is not falsifiable. This appears to be a tautological argument based in some of the lines shared by JMP and Struggle Sessions. Yet, it would be easy to falsify our thesis by organizing petty bourgeois First Worlders (who they call proletariat) to overthrow imperialism; the very thing such projects claim to be working towards. We’ll gladly follow the leadership of anyone who does this.
“What ultimately disqualifies MTW [Maoism-Third Worldism] from correctly representing Maoist reason is that it has no logical basis upon which to develop its theoretical insights. If there is no proletariat in the imperialist metropoles, and thus no proletarian movement, the first world third worldist cannot make a correct assessment of anything since it cannot practice the mass line. With no revolutionary masses in which to embed a revolutionary movement (because these revolutionary masses are elsewhere) how can it test its ideas, struggle with the masses, and thus develop theory through practice? Considering that MTW disagrees with the assessments of the most significant third world Maoist movements regarding the first world proletariat, it is not as if it is learning from the revolutionary masses it claims to valorize, either. Thus, even if MTW is correct it has no way of knowing it is correct, or developing a theory regarding its correctness, since it has no means of testing these ideas in practice. That is, MTW is not falsifiable and thus not scientific. And if it is not scientific then it is disqualified from Maoist reason.”(p.91)
JMP is saying that since MIM(Prisons) asserts that the First World has no masses to do mass line with, we cannot come to the correct position to guide communist practice.
Our claims however, are far from this. Our claim is that the masses here are a minority force: they are oppressed nation, they are migrants, they are prisoners, etc. We have been saying this for many years, yet JMP ignores this line and claims that we do not believe that anyone is oppressed in the First World. We don’t claim that there is no masses here, we claim that the constantly dying imperialist system needs to fall in order for proletarianization of the labor aristocracy to happen.
To support our claims we look at history, not just abstract economic models as JMP implies. It’s been over a hundred years since the first successful revolution leading to a dictatorship of the proletariat. Of all the efforts since then, that reached different levels of success, how many occurred in an imperialist country where most people own homes that value 6 digits in U.$. dollars, automobiles, have access to any food from around the world, not to mention unlimited clean water and practically uninterrupted electricity? Zero. So let’s flip the challenge on our comrades who believe that there is a majority proletariat in the First World and ask them to falsify our thesis by waging a revolution from within these countries. Because from where we’re standing, the historical evidence seems to be on our side so far.
Second, as the prison ministry (the most public cell representing MIM line at this time), we can say that developing mass line is central to what we do. A typical MIM(Prisons) cadre will interact with 100s of imprisoned lumpen a month. And we synthesize the best ideas through our newsletter and other work, providing ideological leadership for a prison movement that is true to anti-imperialism and the international proletariat. Our practice quickly dispenses with the premise that we cannot develop mass line in the United $tates.
Assuming that our critics cannot achieve a successful First World proletarian revolution, the question then becomes how will socialism come to countries like the United $tates? How will proletarianization of the labor aristocracy happen? Our movement has offered some theories on how that might transpire. And the future will either validate or falsify those theories. If there is a significant delinking of the exploited countries from the imperialist system before any revolutions happen in the core countries, then we must conclude that their thesis has been falsified. If revolutions in the core countries requires military support from the existing socialist countries to install a dictatorship of the proletariat in those core countries, then certainly we will have falsified their thesis.
These are some examples of how our line will either be validated or falsified in the future. It is a dogmatic position to put some universal model for how revolution must occur onto all countries.
It is circular logic to say that there must be a majority proletariat for revolutionary science to be applied, and revolutionary science is universal, therefore there must be a majority proletariat everywhere. It’s hard to see how JMP’s point can stand without this circular logic.
Drawing Class Lines
Unlike the other strands of “Maoism” criticized in the book, JMP is careful to recognize that MIM made real theoretical contributions and goes so far to say that it would be revisionism to deny that imperialism transfers wealth from some nations to others.
The question here is how do we draw lines between friends and enemies? Relatedly, we might ask when does quantitative change in the distribution of surplus value result in a qualitative change in class?
Mathematically, the switch from an exploited group to a net exploiter group is a qualitative change. However, the labor aristocracy is not generally defined as being net exploiters per se. And the workers are not conscious of when this theoretical point has been reached (as evidenced by JMP’s statement that workers in the United $tates are conscious of the belief that they are exploited, when in reality they are not). As we have argued elsewhere, while there are workers who are paid more than the value of their labor power in any country, it is a very different phenomenon in the Third World than in the First. And this is because class is colored by nation under imperialism. We see nation as the principal contradiction, representing the identity that is imperialism. So we find arguments against our global class analysis that do not address the national question to be lacking.
Let’s be clear, MIM’s third cardinal principle (MIM has long used 3 cardinal principles to distinguish its line from others calling themselves “communists”) is that “imperialism extracts super-profits from the Third World and in part uses this wealth to buy off whole populations of oppressor nation so-called workers. These so-called workers bought off by imperialism form a new petty-bourgeoisie called the labor aristocracy. These classes are not the principal vehicles to advance Maoism within those countries because their standard of living depend on imperialism.”
It is within imperialism that we find the qualitative difference that this labor aristocracy has with workers outside the imperialist core countries. It is not because First World people fought harder for higher wages, or First World companies are more democratic and offer higher wages, it’s not because white people are evil; it is the system of imperialism that puts some nations in a position of receiving surplus value and others of losing. Those who gain tend to support the system and those who lose tend to oppose it.
As an aside, settler-colonialism is one form of this, which defines occupied Turtle Island. While we welcome the surge in interest in dismantling settler-colonialism, we must recognize it as one form of imperialism. We find many who want to “de-colonize” without recognizing the global class structure for what it is. We also have those like JMP who acknowledge the economic structure of imperialism, but for some reason don’t think it changes who are our friends and who are our enemies.
While the academic economic models of Marxism may not inform the class consciousness of the labor aristocracy, relative deprivation does. And there is nothing that symbolizes that divide in relative wealth more than the imperialist country borders. Closing core country borders happens to be an issue that has garnered much support from the labor aristocracies of the United $tates and United Kingdom, as well as in France and Germany in recent years. Do Brexit and “Build the Wall” not symbolize enemy ideologies? Are the labor aristocracies of these countries wrong that open borders would prevent them from hoarding wealth in those countries? How does JMP reconcile this political reality with his dogmatic thesis of a revolutionary proletariat in the First World?
JMP asks, “is it implicitly”first worldist" to argue that there is a proletariat at the centres of capitalism and go out to organize, for example, miners around a communist ideology that is also anti-imperialist?"
Organizing miners in the First World against imperialism sounds great. But if you are arguing that they are the exploited proletariat who deserve more money, when they are actually benefiting from imperialist exploitation of the Third World, then you are not organizing against imperialism, are you? It just doesn’t follow that JMP sees the transfer of value in favor of a group from a system and then argues that that group is going to be opposed to that system. The question here isn’t primarily about who to organize, though certainly focusing on the right groups will get us further faster, but rather what to organize around that will push anti-imperialism forward. Perhaps the miners are allied with anti-imperialism for reasons external to income and raw value transfer, such as carbon emissions. To organize them around a radical transformation of our energy system being led by the international proletariat could be a form united front work, but not organizing the proletariat itself.
A Global Anti-Imperialist United Front
One thing we learn from this book is some of the differences between JMP and those who use the term “principally Maoism,” specifically the blog Struggle Sessions. Obviously one should read the latter’s writings to get their real views. However, one difference addressed is that the former sees the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) as the historical event that solidified Maoism, while the latter sees the Peruvian Communist Party as having done so alone and the RIM as a rightest deviation.
Our counter-history of Maoism was presented in our last response to JMP, where we get into the RIM in more depth and our arguments against the practice of forming a Communist International. While Struggle Sessions has some significant agreement with our critiques of the RIM and its role, they actively promote the formation of a new International, as does JMP. In this latest book, JMP concedes that the RCP=U$A sought to and to an extent did control the RIM. To be clear, we did not argue that other parties in the RIM did not have any independence or basis outside of the RIM, we specifically said not all members were revisionists. But those calling for U.$. intervention in Iran certainly were, and such a position should not be up for debate or tolerated among communists.
On page 86, JMP implies that MIM blames the RIM for the failure of the People’s War in Peru. That is not a position that we recall from MIM’s work at the time. Certainly they harshly criticized the RIM for its role in endangering the People’s War after the capture of Gonzalo. This was perhaps one of the most horrific actions in the RCP’s long history of anti-proletarian work, but JMP has nothing to say about it.
Our general complaint with the International model is that it tends to subsume one party under another. Mao fleshed out the theory and practice around the united front within China and learned through hard experience in relating to the Soviet Union, principles that we take to be universal, including the need for the leaders of each liberation movement to interpret their own conditions. To the extent that RIM was a think tank that allowed communists from around the world to come together and agree to the basic principles that defined the latest stage of revolutionary science, we would support such a project. MIM participated in such forums in its original form.
It was in the work of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that we saw the theory of the united front from Mao summed up and reproven in practice in their rectification campaign. This struggle waged in 1992 stressed the importance of the independence and leadership role of the proletarian party in the national liberation struggle. The decision of the CPP to not join the RIM reflects the recognition of the need for independence of each national struggle. This is a line point where we agree with the CPP against others in the international communist movement (ICM) who did join.
At the same time, MIM harshly criticized CPP complacency in pushing a revisionist class analysis within the United $tates. JMP argues that the global class analysis of MIM is rejected by all Third World communists of significance and this is evidence against our position. Yet, we have yet to see any analysis from any of these parties substantiating claims against MIM line; amounting to an argument from authority.
Because the Third World communist parties rightfully have more cred, many will presume they are right about this and follow their lead when they call for uniting the “working class” in North America and denying the national liberation struggles of the internal semi-colonies. The open and conscious rejection of MIP-Amerika’s analysis of its own country by certain Third World leaders, followed by their promotion of the integrationist line, was behind MIM’s decision to say that the global class analysis must be a dividing line question within the Maoist movement globally.
Without a communist international, comrades in the United $tates are free to combat incorrect lines being promoted from other countries and prove our line in practice. Despite whatever great accomplishments certain members of the RIM may have had, we think joining an international was a mistake, proven in practice once again, with the RCP=U$A-run CoRIM promoting revisionism at a crucial point in the history of People’s War in Peru.
MIM Thought also provides insights here beyond the general point of the need for independent development on the national level. An application of MIM Thought to parties in the Third World is that there’s more enemies than friends in the imperialist countries, and people from those countries should be treated as potential spies. PCP practice in expelling Non-Governmental Organizations from territories they controlled was in line with this.
Going back to the theoretical miner example above, we apply the theory of united front to unite all who can be united. And we can frame the global anti-imperialist united front within our global class analysis. We can look to the internal semi-colonies and the Third World diaspora as the most likely allies in the First World, without calling them proletariat. And we can win over sectors of the oppressor nation as well, just as in everything, 1 divides into 2. So we disagree with the implied criticism of our line that there is no real proletariat in the First World to mean there is no organizing against imperialism that can be done here. Certainly staying on the correct path will require an active eye on the Third World proletariat, which our movement has always stressed.
MIM(Prisons) continues to develop the mass line here in the belly of the beast. We continue to promote organizing against imperialism in a principled way that puts the interests of the exploited and oppressed at the forefront. And we challenge JMP, the supporters of eir line, Struggle Sessions or anyone else who thinks they can apply Maoism to occupied Turtle Island while ignoring that the vast majority of people here have a material interest in imperialism, to prove us wrong. Please, just don’t awaken the fascists in your attempt to do so, with your cries about the exploited Amerikan.
This is a question which all communists must ask themselves at one point or another of their revolutionary careers. Furthermore, it is a question which has essentially dominated the International Communist Movement (ICM) ever since that movement became a real contender on the world stage. Suffice to say that there has never in essence been a more important question to ask and correctly answer within the ICM itself other than patriotism or internationalism? That said, the concepts of patriotism and internationalism are not mutually exclusive phenomena forever separated by the same great impassable divide of ideological difference, rather, patriotism and internationalism as properly understood by communists are dialectically interconnected concepts that we must struggle to unite.
Sometimes general, sometimes particular, but always of universal importance, the concepts of patriotism and internationalism represent different aspects of the subjective forces whose task it is to carry out revolution both at home and abroad. Focus too much on one and you run the danger of making an ultra-left mistake. Focus too much on the other and you will not only be committing a tactical mistake, but will be guilty of committing a right opportunist error. What comrades must understand however is that pushing the revolutionary vehicle towards a bright communist future isn't necessarily about making the decision of patriotism or internationalism. It's about both. This is the topic which the following essay will attempt to explain. Thus in wars of national liberation patriotism is applied internationalism — but are there other ways for us to apply internationalism within nation-specific projects?
Contrary to how this quote has been narrowed down by some comrades, applied internationalism isn't only about each nation fighting their own battles and hoping that anti-imperialists from other nations will be astute enough to recognize the tactical opportunities of our fight and hence get in where they fit in. Internationalism is about extending our hands and providing assistance to our comrades whenever we can and offering lesser but equally important means of support when other avenues of help have been closed off to us.
Point in fact, MIM(Prisons) can't physically and persynally reach out to every prisoner on a one-on-one level. But it has a bi-monthly newsletter that goes out to the prison masses as well as a Free Books to Prisoner Program, a website created in part to help facilitate the needs of prisoners across the United $tates and document abuse. It runs study groups and most recently help put out [email protected] Power and the Struggle for Aztlán, a book that will help to build public opinion for revolution in North America by agitating in favor of the [email protected] masses. Not to mention the other nation-specific and internationalist projects which it has been responsible for spawning.
Another excellent but largely forgotten and ignored example of applied internationalism being practiced outside of a nation's own borders is how the Cuban masses under the leadership of Fidel Castro volunteered to cross the Atlantic to fight alongside the Angolan people in their struggle of national liberation against Portuguese and Amerikan imperialism. This act took place for a variety of reasons, but perhaps none more important than the sheer anger, disgust and solidarity which Cubans felt at the sight of imperialist bombs falling on Angolan heads. It could then be said that this sacrifice on behalf of the Cuban people marked a development as well as a leap in the revolutionary consciousness of the Cuban nation, both because they were willing to give up their lives in the service of another oppressed nation and because with their sacrifice they helped land such a strong and decisive blow against colonialism, while simultaneously helping to detach Angola from the imperialist framework. It could therefore be said that this action on behalf of the Cuban masses was equally, if not more significant than the Cuban revolution itself. This is just another reason why Cuba holds such a special place in the revolutionary hearts of oppressed people everywhere.
This now brings us to a recent debate initiated within the California Council concerning USW's potential contribution to a certain nationalist project, and a certain comrade's apprehensions/objections about the role of USW vis-a-vis the national liberation struggles of the oppressed internal nations, as well as the exertion of influence on USW by revolutionary nationalists operating within that organization. In eir argument the comrade in question took the position that no one nation should be forced to take part in another nation's struggles, citing that this would be tantamount to one nation co-opting others to do its job for them. That said, no nation should be allowed to control another nation's destiny or make decisions for other nations that are integral to the liberation of the latter as this would in effect mark the beginnings of a neo-colonial relation on a certain level. Furthermore, the comrade also made the statement that "USW is not one nation united, it's multi-national." Now this may be true, but the correct definition for USW is the following:
"USW is explicitly anti-imperialist in leading campaigns on behalf of prisoners in alliance with national liberation struggles in the United $tates and around the world. USW won't champion struggles which are not in the interests of the international proletariat. USW will also not choose one nation's struggles over other oppressed nations struggles."
And from the pamphlet The Fundamental Political Line of the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons:
"Rebuilding the anti-imperialist prison movement means uniting all who can be united around the common interests of the U.$. prison population in solidarity with the oppressed people of the Third World..."
So while we should definitely be in agreement that no nation should be forced to participate in another nation's struggles and that no one nation should be allowed to come up at the expense of another, this does not in any way mean that USW, or the California Council in particular, should be disallowed from initiating proposals and passing resolutions that will support and lend assistance to nations or nation-specific organizations represented within or outside of USW. The nation in question can either accept the assistance or not. This method of action and participation will ensure that USW retains its United Front mass organization character by preserving the unity and independence of all USW comrades and affiliated organizations. Indeed, USW, like all other organizations, has a dual character. Unlike most other organizations however USW's duality is complementary and it is not an antagonistic contradiction. While it is true that USW is a mass organization created to represent and fight for the common interests of all prisoners as a distinct social group, it is also a launch pad for the national liberation struggles of the oppressed internal nations in which comrades can cut their teeth thru revolutionary organizing, and from where they can then go on to initiate and lead national liberation struggles on behalf of their own respective nations.
This is what USW, as an anti-imperialist prisoner organization, should be about: the internationalism of prisoners breeding revolutionary nationalism, and revolutionary nationalist projects breeding internationalism amongst the prison masses. This requires more than each nation blindly going its own separate way. It requires unity of action and unity of discipline. As such, it would seem then that what we have here with the comrade in question may be a problem of perspective. What some might see as internationalism others might perceive as a contradiction. What some regard as mutual assistance others will call co-optation. For those of us having this problem of "perception" however, we would be wise to be cautious not to let our own love for our nations blind us to the plight of others, as sometimes what this fear of "co-optation" really translates to is our own fear or refusal to participate in another nation's struggles. Thus, we should be aware of how our own nation's struggles, as well as our failure to act on behalf of other nations, can affect the ICM, lest we degenerate to the level of narrow nationalism.
Since this question of whether or not USW should participate in a variety of nation-specific struggles seems to be one rooted in perception, let us take a closer look at the supposed pimping of nations that would take place if USW were to decide to work in the interests of a distinct national project. As has been the current practice thus far, nowhere at all has this resulted in one nation's struggle being taken up to the detriment of another. But let's just suppose that this is the case, then maybe ULK should just stop featuring articles that promote the struggle of one nation or another so that we may ensure that no comrades from any nation feel as if they're being pushed into the background, or that their nation-specific article is forced to share space on the pages of an internationalist forum that also represents one nation or another, lest these comrades begin to feel "co-opted."
Just because Mao Zedong said that in wars of national liberation the nationalism of the oppressed nations is applied internationalism, it does not justify our lack of adherence to other internationalist principles. This is a guiding line of real communism and should likewise be seen as a line of demarcation for all revolutionary nationalists claiming the mantles of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao. Applied internationalism is about more than just fighting your own nation's struggles and we should never forget that. To give an additional hystorical example, when Amerikan imperialism attacked Vietnam the People's Republic of China aided the Vietnamese by providing all types of supplies including food, money and intelligence. Most activists of the time believed this was not enough and that the Chinese should've provided troops as well. We wonder what the previously mentioned comrade would think about this? Perhaps ey would say it was too much and that the Chinese were already guilty of co-opting Vietnam's national liberation struggle and how dare anyone suggest that the Chinese become more involved? Of course, in a possible revolutionary future we can even envision a myriad of situations in which the internal semi-colonies will be forced to coordinate and work shoulder-to-shoulder to oust Amerikan imperialism from their territories. Or would this too be a case of one semi-colony co-opting the struggle of another?
The Palestinian campaign initiated by USW last year is yet another internationalist project that is now shadowed by question marks, at least according to that one comrade's perspective. Perhaps this was simply incorrect practice and "a waste of USW's time"? As previously stated, while we agree that no nation should be forced to contribute to another nation's struggles, we also believe that no comrade should feel as if they're being "forced" to participate in another nation's struggles. As such, maybe these type of people aren't so much for internationalism as they sometimes claim to be? Because Mao accomplished and wrote so much on the national liberation struggle of China many have erroneously come to believe that ey was a nationalist first and a Marxist-Leninist second; but this view is wrong. Mao loved eir nation but ey was a Marxist-Leninist first and foremost who recognized the liberation of China as only a small component in the global struggle for communism.
Choosing and deciding what internationalist struggles one can participate in besides those that are explicitly national liberationist exclusive to one's own is both a tactical and strategical question that is dictated by the struggles and conditions of the time. Lacking a clear and coherent reason why not to participate is indicative of a national chauvinist political line in command. The USW Palestine campaign was a fairly easy campaign to initiate due to the current stage of the struggle and most USW comrades' material conditions. Other struggles will take more time and consideration to implement, while some might be outright out of the question. Excluding the labor aristocracy, there is a reason why revolutionaries from Marx to Mao championed the slogan: "workers of all countries unite!"
We struggle for the liberation of all oppressed people or we don't struggle at all.
Book Review: Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism Gilbert Achcar Haymarket Books 2013
In part one of this review i addressed the author's apparent disdain for the anti-imperialist Islamic movement. In this concluding article i will expose the author's First World chauvinism as being at the root of his reactionary perspective by explaining how he uses the Christian liberation vs. Islamic fundamentalist concept in religion and politics today from a Marxian perspective, so as to better prepare the reader for his ideas on "internationalism" and "ultra-nationalism" by which he really means revolutionary nationalism. As such, it would seem that the entire premise of this book was not intended as a supplemental analysis of anti-imperialist politics in the Middle East today, but so that the author can push his crypto-Trotskyist agenda. Crypto-Trotskyism is a term used to refer to organizations that exhibit Trotskyist tendencies, but which don’t admit to being Trotskyist. Most significantly they suffer from the same great nation chauvinism as the other Trots: over-emphasizing the role of the oppressor nation working classes, and under-emphasizing the role of liberation struggles of the oppressed nations.(1)
The author begins the final essay of this book titled "Marxism and Cosmopolitanism" by tracing the very hystory of the word cosmopolitanism. He discusses how it went thru many twists and turns, from its beginning in ancient Greek civilization thru the Middle Ages and up until today; at one point progressive, while regressive at another. Hence, we learn that the terms cosmopolitan and globalization are connected in this regard. We also learn that Marx and Engels shared Achcar's disdain at one point or another for any and all national movements, in particular for those centered in the capitalist periphery, preferring, instead to champion the cause of the global proletariat, which in their lifetimes meant focusing on European workers. As a result, Marx and Engels contributed to popularizing the concept of cosmopolitanism as interchangeable with international proletariat, which to many communists of the time was preferable to mentioning by name the plight of English or German workers because of the obvious connotations to nationalism. Such connotations were seen by most as giving legitimacy to nationalist struggles, which at the time were driven by the national bourgeoisie.
Within this context nationalism was viewed as backward and reactionary for the proletariat, as the national bourgeoisie was using this concept to their advantage by inciting the proletariat to kill and be killed by workers of other countries, for the bourgeoisie’s goal of world domination. The communists on the other hand rejected nationalism, considering themselves staunch internationalists; champions of the world proletariat, whose hystoric mission it was to usher in the socialist stage of communist development. This being the accepted theory of the time, well before Mao posited that in the age of imperialism, nationalism of the oppressed nations is internationalism.
All this is important to remember when assessing the text as it pertains to the whole reason why Achcar even wrote this book. More so, it is important to remember because in the following pages the author uses much of this information to attack the practice and political line of Joseph Stalin. And while it is undeniable that Marx and Engels at one point agreed with many of the ideas that Achcar propagates, it is also undeniable that as reality progressed, so did Marx and Engels' thinking, which is more than we can say for Mr. Achcar. So if we want to learn the genuine Marxist stance on nations and nationalism then we should not limit ourselves to what the founders of scientific socialism had to say on these topics early on in their revolutionary careers. Rather, we should study and learn what they advocated and stood for later in their lives once they became full-fledged Marxists. As such, the line that Achcar is pushing is a disingenuous one in which he proclaims that all nationalism, just like all variants of revolutionary Islam, are inherently bad, when in reality it is the nationalism of the oppressor nations and the Western privilege that comes with it that he upholds. As such, Gilbert Achcar should just come out and say what he really thinks; which is that the nationalism of the oppressed is what he believes to be backward and reactionary, while oppressor nation nationalism is inherently progressive due to its linkage to Europeans, their culture and tradition. Thus, just as the author correctly pointed out in "Religion and Politics today from a Marxian Perspective," that Islamic fundamentalism is a concept that can be divided into one that is collaborationist with Western interests and one that is hostile to Western interests, so is nationalism a concept that can be divided into one that is bourgeois and reactionary, and one that is revolutionary and forward looking.
"Cosmopolitanism" as Anathema: the Stalinist Perversion
Trotskyists of various stripes have always hated on Stalin for a multiplicity of reasons, primarily however for his theory of socialist development. As Stalin's line on socialist development progressed it eventually came to stand for the national liberation struggles of the oppressed nations, not only within Europe but outside the continent as well. He correctly saw the revolutionary character of the anti-imperialist movement in the colonies as both hostile to Western interests and potentially pro-Soviet. Trotsky on the other hand had nothing but contempt for Asians, Africans and [email protected] Americans, believing them too backward and weak to ever launch successful liberation struggles and/or engage in socialist construction absent the immediate help of the European working classes, a theory that was proven incorrect when an onslaught of colonial countries broke free of the imperialist framework following the end of World War II. And so it is within the context of "globalization" and anti-imperialist struggles in the 21st century that Gilbert Achcar now attempts to rehabilitate Trotsky's theory of the world revolution led by the so-called proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries vis-a-vis the rehabilitation of cosmopolitanism; vis-a-vis his criticisms of Joseph Stalin. To accomplish this however, Achcar must go in depth into the hystory of the Soviet Union, in particular into the propaganda campaigns against cosmopolitanism which Stalin had initiated at the end of World War II, as well as to the campaigns in favor of Soviet patriotism which Stalin also had initiated to prepare the Soviet masses for the Nazi invasion.
According to Mr. Achcar these campaigns were nothing more than a cover for Stalin's anti-Semitism. Yet interestingly enough, in making these accusations the author inadvertently puts forth a plausible explanation for the oppression of notable Jews during this period in the Soviet Union; thereby paving the way for a materialist explanation of these actions and the clearing of Stalin's name as far as anti-Semitism goes.
Achcar like so many anti-communists before him cannot contain his contempt for the progress made under Stalin and so he jumps on the bourgeois bandwagon of blaming Stalin for the so-called Jewish pogroms that were said to have taken place beginning in 1949 alongside the further elaboration and popularization of Soviet patriotism as a concept over that of cosmopolitanism. In addition, the author also contends that these campaigns were one and the same as the so-called anti-Marxist movement which supposedly took place during this period. What these campaigns actually represented however were struggles in the realm of ideas between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries battling for the "hearts and minds" of the Soviet masses, and indeed the future of the revolution.
According to Achcar, the cosmopolitans appear to have been something like a Trotskyist sect operating inside the USSR, who were agitating around the need for openness with the West and glorifying the West. Now remember, this is 1949 and the Cold War is cracking, all of the Soviet Union's wartime imperialist allies have retrained their guns on the communists. And although the author certainly doesn't say it, the Communist Party under Stalin certainly believed that these "cosmopolitans" were in the service of Amerikan imperialism carrying out intelligence gathering activities and engaging in building public opinion for counter-revolution and coup d'etat, just like the types of activities that CIA sponsored groups carry out in Third World countries with anti-western governments. It would seem then these cosmopolitans and other so-called "Marxists" were actually involved in sabotaging socialism from within with actions which thoroughly alarmed the Soviet government. But according to Achcar these were the real "Marxists," the real "internationalists" because they followed the teachings of the young Marx; but when did Marx ever speak of colluding against a socialist state?
Furthermore, the author states that in analyzing Stalin's anti-Semitism we cannot afford to begin in the post-war period, but must start with the publication of Marxism and the National Question, which Achcar describes as "a superficial and dogmatic essay on this most complex of questions."(2) Stalin denies the existence of a Jewish nation within Europe's borders, based on the Jewish people's lack of a common territory. Apparently Gilbert Achcar disagrees with the Marxist definition of nations preferring instead Otto Bauer's The Question of Nationalities and Social Democracy, which clearly defines Jews as a nation based solely on their "common cultures" by which they should really just say religion. The author further claims that it is in this hystorical period that Stalin began his first anti-Marxist campaigns in which he sought to squelch all opposition and secure his position of power. Achcar goes on to argue that Stalin's ideas on internationalism reflected only a narrow and selfish outlook which took into account only the internationalism of the "pan-Tsarist" Russia organization of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party when, in Marxism and the National Question, he mentioned the principle that the party strove to "unite locally the workers of all nationalities of Russia into single, integral collective bodies, to unite their collective bodies into a single party."(3) In defending this principle Achcar states, "Stalin launched a fierce attack on nationalism, putting Great Russian chauvinism on equal footing with the nationalism that was expanding among oppressed nationalities in the USSR - in a definitely non-Leninist fashion."(2) However, this is an extreme misrepresentation of Stalin's line on Achcar's part. Stalin criticized the national chauvinism that was beginning to develop among some of the more reactionary sectors of the oppressed nations in the Tsarist empire and certainly not the nationalism of the oppressed themselves. Apparently, the author believes that national chauvinism should only be criticized when it originates with the oppressors and by people of the offending nation themselves and not by anyone else. In other words, only Russians can criticize Great Russian chauvinism and only the oppressed nations can criticize any chauvinism that originates within their own nations. This is certainly an ironic point that those who have actually read Marxism and the National Question will note. But Stalin was right to criticize the chauvinism of the oppressed nations in the old Russian empire, especially when that chauvinism has the potential to foment violence amongst the oppressed. Chauvinism is chauvinism no matter who propagates it.
Later on Mr. Achcar comes out with an ass-backwards refutation of Stalin's theory of socialism in one country first, attempting to tie it back to Stalin's "anti-Semitism" (Achcar's term for his denial of a Jewish nation) and Soviet patriotism. The line goes as follows: "Socialism in one country: this theoretical innovation central to Stalinism actually laid the groundwork for a Soviet patriotism, coupled with a sui generis internationalism that amounted in fact to the internationalism of Soviet patriotism. Communist members of 'bourgeois nations' had a duty to identify with the thriving 'fatherland of socialism.' Indeed, their Soviet patriotic duty could very well have taken as its motto 'our country, right or wrong!'"(4)
The following paragraphs is where accusations of Jewish repression and anti-Marxism by Stalin really gets interesting.
To give some real context to these accusations, which Achcar himself provides, I will say that prior to the beginning of the Second World War an expansive campaign was begun in the Soviet Union to create and solidify a hegemonic Soviet patriotism for the explicit purpose of strengthening the bonds and common interests of the Soviet Republics against the impending threat of fascism. Stalin was well aware that not only the German fascists, but the soon to be imperialist allies were all working hard to divide the Soviet people from within on the basis of old national grievances which were common under the Tsar. And, as stated earlier, there were counter-revolutionaries inside the USSR consciously working against the Soviet masses. These were the cosmopolitans who by and large were composed of "real Marxists." The struggle between the two opposing forces is recounted and explained by Achcar:
"The patriotic mutation was brought to completion after the Soviet Union entered the Second World War, engaging in what the Stalinist regime called the 'Great Patriotic War.' This went along with the rehabilitation of the Greek Orthodox Church and the resurrection of Slavophilism. "Soviet Patriotism" became a highly praised virtue in the Soviet Union and in the world communist movement while Stalin's brand of 'internationalism' reached its logical conclusion in the 1943 dissolution of the Comintern.
“Soviet patriotism mutated into full-fledged chauvinism after Moscow emerged victorious from the war, especially when the Soviet Union faced renewed ostracism with the start of the Cold War. It is against this historical background that the campaign against 'cosmopolitanism' unfolded."(5)
We agree with the decision to disband the Comintern, which was done because
"it became increasingly clear that, to the extent that the internal as well as the international situation of individual countries became more complicated, the solution of the problems of the labor movement of each individual country through the medium of some international centre would meet with insuperable obstacles."(6)
Leszek Kolakowski is then cited favorably by Achcar as giving the Trotskyist perspective of these events:
"In 1949 the Soviet press launched a campaign against 'cosmopolitanism', a vice that was not defined but evidently entailed being anti-patriotic and glorifying the West. As the campaign developed, it was intimated more and more clearly that a cosmopolitan was much the same thing as a Jew. When individuals were pilloried and had previously borne Jewish sounding names, these were generally mentioned. 'Soviet patriotism' was indistinguishable from Russian chauvinism and became an official mania. Propaganda declared incessantly that all important technical inventions and discoveries had been made by Russians, and to mention foreigners in this context was to be guilty of cosmopolitanism and kowtowing to the West."(5)
Achcar then describes how, according to Isaac Deutscher, Stalin ordered a crackdown on Jews in the Soviet Union following "massive demonstrations of sympathy by Russian Jews who in 1948-49 greeted Golda Meir the first ambassador to Moscow of the newborn state of Israel..."(7)
According to Deutscher the crackdown was in response not only to this unauthorized public display of support by Soviet citizens, but because Israel "stunned" Stalin by siding with the West in the cold war. Yet the author would have us believe that "unauthorized public displays of support" for a foreign head of state invited to Russia by Stalin would take precedence in this "crackdown" over that of the machinations of cosmopolitans and their collusion with a tool of Western imperialism, as is the sub-text that lies hidden beneath these events. Indeed, just a paragraph down from this Achcar says that Soviet authorities began to close down Jewish theaters, periodicals and publishing houses while purging personnel and arresting various Rabbis and other Jewish public figures soon thereafter. But aren't these institutions that which have been traditionally used by the imperialists to agitate for counter-revolution in anti-imperialist nations? If Jewish pogroms really took place, then why is it that only certain people and institutions were being repressed and not Jewish people as a whole? Clearly these were political moves with a basis in national security that were happening and not oppression based on nationality (or religious beliefs) as Achcar would have us believe. As a matter of fact, when we turn the page of this book we find a much more coherent and realistic assessment of these campaigns as detailed by F. Chernov in his article: "Bourgeois Cosmopolitanism and it's reactionary role" as published and featured in Bolshevik, the theoretical and political magazine of the central committee of the All Union Communist Party (Bolshevik). It begins by reporting that Soviet newspapers
"unmasked an unpatriotic group of theatre critics of rootless cosmopolitans, who came out against Soviet patriotism, against the great cultural achievements of the Russian people and other people in our country."
Chernov's article then states:
"Cosmopolitanism is the negation of patriotism, its opposite. It advocates absolute apathy towards the fate of the Motherland. Cosmopolitanism denies the existence of any moral or civil obligations of people to their nation and Motherland..."
"Present day bourgeois cosmopolitanism with its call for the repudiation of national sovereignty, with its notions of 'one-world government,' the creation of the 'United States of Europe,' etc. is an ideological 'basis' and 'consecration' of the assembling under the aegis of American imperialism of the union of imperialists in the name of the struggle against the toiling masses, against the Soviet Union and peoples democracies, against the irresistible growth over the entire world of the forces of socialism and democracy.
"The party unmasked the anti-patriotic, bourgeois-cosmopolitan essence of servility before the capitalist West. It revealed that this cringing before foreign countries inevitably leads to national treason and betrayal of the interests of the Soviet people and the socialist fatherland. The unmasking of unpatriotic groups of bourgeois cosmopolitans, the struggle against the ideology of bourgeois cosmopolitanism, is a striking expression of the concern of the Bolshevik Party about the education of the toiling masses of our country in the spirit of life-giving, Soviet patriotism."(8)
This portion of the essay and the book then end with the statements that: "With the start of 'de-Stalinization' in Kruschev's Soviet Union, the eyes of many communists were opened; more accurately, their mouths were opened, as it is difficult to believe that they had not been aware of the realities they denounced when the green light finally came from Moscow..."(9)
"With the end of the Stalinist campaign, 'cosmopolitanism' faded away as a major issue in communist circles, as well as in the public debate in general..."(10)
Of course it did, but only because the cosmopolitans and other revisionists were now in power and the Soviet Union was starting on the capitalist road. The final pages of this book then shift back to Trotskyist political line as Gilbert Achcar outlines how Marx, Engels and Lenin thought cosmopolitanism, i.e. proletarian internationalism charts the course towards communism, i.e. "socialist globalization" and how national liberation struggles in the Third World "can fit perfectly in the cosmopolitan struggle for global transformation as necessary moments of this struggle, as components of the global struggle..."(11)
But when the oppressed nations finally rise up in revolt against imperialism these national liberation struggles won't just be "necessary moments" or "mere components" of the global struggle: but instead will mark the beginning of a long stage of socialist transition and development in which the people of Africa, Asia and [email protected] America will band together in a Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Oppressed Nations against the former oppressing and exploiting nations.
In summation, the author opens this book with the chauvinist First World belief that Western domination of the world brought progress to the hordes of uncivilized savages and barbarians thru the spread of Christianity. Apparently, revolution, progress and development are phenomena inherent only to white people and deliverable in the future only thru a multi-nation working class approach, led of course by the workers of the core capitalist countries.
This is why he views with such disgust the success that revolutionary Islam is having in repelling Western forces, because in those movements he sees the reactionary and backward Islamic fundamentalists doing what he says they cannot; engage and win against the imperialists. Likewise, this is why he cannot stand Stalin and must tear him down, because in his practice and political line he sees the backward national liberation and self-determination movements of the oppressed nations as they came to fruition all throughout the 20th century by using revolutionary nationalism to establish socialism in their countries and then vigorously defending it. While the only thing that Trotskyists could do was complain and criticize that the Soviet Union was moving contrary to what the young Marx and Engels had envisioned in their early years. Such is the hallmark of Trotskyism which holds that socialism is impossible in countries of the Third World before the imperialist countries have had revolutions. Such is the hallmark of Trotskyism which needs but to depart from the reality of material conditions and enter the jungle of idealism to carry out the lofty goals of the white worker elite.
The Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons (MIM(Prisons)), a communist organization in the United $tates which formed out of the legacy of the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM), announces support for and echoes the urgency of the main ideas in the below statement from the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM). In particular, we recognize the importance of fighting First Worldism, which incorrectly identifies the petty bourgeoisie of the imperialist countries as a part of the international proletariat. First Worldism has played an important role in undermining the building of socialism worldwide. A correct class analysis is critical to all successful revolutionary movements.
MIM(Prisons) refrains from being an outright signatory of this statement because of what it leaves out. In this dialogue within the International Communist Movement (ICM), we would add that we do not see the legacy of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) as a positive one. As the original MIM pointed out over the many years since the formation of the RIM, it was always a force for revisionism rather than a force for revolution. Revolutionary parties seeking to re-establish the RIM should take heed of the mistakes that were inherent in the RIM design and political line from the start. There is no value in resurrecting a revisionist organization.
Further, we challenge our comrades in Maoist organizations around the world to examine closely what Mao wrote back in 1943 on the question of dissolving the International. We do not believe that conditions have changed since that time so that a new International will be a positive development. Instead we uphold the original MIM position that "The world's communist parties should compare notes and sign joint declarations, but there are no situations where a party should submit to international discipline through a world party. Where various Maoist parties from different nationalities have the same goal, they will then coordinate their actions in joint struggle. This will occur in the case of the united states when several nationalities come to exert joint dictatorship over it. Of course there will be some form of temporary organizational discipline at international conferences, but such discipline should not extend to what gets done in the various countries by the various Maoist parties."("Resolutions on Vanguard Organizing." 1995 MIM Congress.)
From the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement [This letter has been co-signed by the Turkish group, İştirakî, and the pan-Indigenous web-project, Onkwehón:we Rising. To co-sign this important international document, email [email protected]]
A Letter to Maoist and Revolutionary Organizations
Recently the Communist Party of Italy (Maoist) called for the convening of an international meeting of Maoist organizations. This call comes some years after the RIM collapsed following the development of evident revisionism within two of its leading organizations, the RCP-USA and the UCPN.
Comrades! Let us carry out and celebrate the firm break with the revisionism emanating from the leadership of the RCP-USA and the UCPN. In doing so, let us reaffirm our defining points of unity based on the experience of class struggle and distilled into Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
All of history is the result of the development of the means of production and the struggle between classes over their ownership and use.
Under capitalism, labor is utilized for the sake of profit. Capital is accumulated surplus labor turned against the masses of workers.
That capitalist-imperialism entails the indirect and direct exploitation of the majority of people by dominant monopoly capital and reveals widening contradictions inherent in capitalism.
The only alternative to the continued barbarism of imperialism is the struggle for socialism and communism. Broadly speaking, people's wars and united fronts are the most immediate, reliable means to struggle for communism.
Socialism entails the forceful seizure of power by the proletariat. However, socialism is not the end of the struggle. Under socialism, the conditions exist for the development of a 'new bourgeoisie' which will seek to establish itself as a new ruling class. In order to counter this tendency, class struggle must be waged relentlessly under socialism through the development of communism.
These are points all Maoists can agree on. Yet these do not capture all significant features of today's world.
Comrades! A discourse and struggle over the nature of class under imperialism is sorely needed.
The Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement puts forward a line that includes the understanding that a majority section of the populations of imperialist countries are embourgeoisfied.
This embourgeoification often contours around national oppression cast in the history of colonialism and settler-colonialism. It is most wholly construed, however, as an ongoing global distinction between parasitic workers in imperialist core economies and exploited workers in the vast Third World periphery.
Though understandings of this split in the working class was popularized as the 'labor-aristocracy' by Lenin, the phenomenon itself was first noted by Friedrich Engels in a letter to Karl Marx:
"[T]he English proletariat is actually becoming more and more bourgeois, so that the ultimate aim of this most bourgeois of all nations would appear to be the possession, alongside the bourgeoisie, of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat. In the case of a nation which exploits the entire world this is, of course, justified to some extent."
With some exceptions, Marxists have focused and debated primarily on the ideological effects of the controversial 'theory of the labor aristocracy.' Unfortunately, less attention has been paid to the economic dimensions of the 'labor aristocracy.'
Within the imperialist world-economy, First World workers (a minority of workers in the world) receive compensation which exceeds the monetary rate of the full value of labor. In effect, First World workers are a section of the petty-bourgeoisie due to the fact that they consume a greater portion of social labor than they concretely expend. This difference is made up with the super-exploitation of Third World workers. Because prices (including those of labor power) deviate from values, this allows First World firms to obtain profits at equivalent rates while still paying 'their' workers a wage above the full monetary rate of labor value. The First World workers' compensation above the monetary rate of the full labor value is also an investment, i.e., a structural means of by which surplus value is saturated and concentrated in the core at the expense of the periphery.
The structural elevation of First World workers also has strong implications for the struggle for communism.
One of the most dangerous and devastatingly popular misconceptions is that social and political reforms can raise the material standard of living for Third World workers up to the level enjoyed by First World workers.
The illusion that Third World peoples can 'catch up' with imperialist countries through various reforms is objectively aided by the common yet false First Worldist belief that First World workers are exploited as a class.
If, as the First Worldist line states, First Worlder workers have attained high wages through reformist class struggle and advanced technology, then Third World workers should be able to follow a similar route towards a capitalism modeled after 'advanced capitalist countries.' By claiming that a majority of First Worlders are exploited proletarians, First Worldism creates the illusion that all workers could create a similar deal for themselves without overturning capitalism. By obscuring the fundamental relationship between imperialist exploitation of Third World workers and embourgeoisfication of First World workers, First Worldism actually serves to hinder the tide of proletarian revolution internationally.
Another long-term implication of the global division of workers is the ecological consequences of the inflated petty-bourgeois lifestyles enjoyed by the world's richest 15-20%. First World workers currently consume and generate waste at a far greater rate than is ecologically sustainable. The First Worldist line, which effectively states First World workers should have even greater capacity to consume under a future socialism (that is, First Worldists believe First Worlders are entitled to an even greater share of social product than they currently receive), has obvious utopian qualities which can only misguide the proletariat over the long term.
It is safe to say that First Worldism is the root cause of the problems associated with the Revolutionary Communist Party-USA (RCP-USA) and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN).
The RCP-USA, desiring some positive significance to offset its terminal failure to organize what it sees as a U.S. proletariat, chose to intervene in various international issues. This typically occurred to the disservice of the proletarian struggle. Now the RCP-USA heavily promotes Bob Avakian and his 'New Synthesis.' This 'New Synthesis' is better described as an old bag of revisionisms. Today, the RCP-USA, Bob Avakian, and his revisionist 'New Synthesis' is a distraction from many of the important issues facing the international proletariat.
The UCPN has given up the path of global socialism and communism. It has instead sought to conciliate and collude with imperialism in hopes of achieving conditions for class-neutral development. It foolishly assumes monopoly capital will allow it [to] be anything but 'red' compradors or that Nepal will become anything other than a source of super-exploited labor. The UCPN has abrogated the task of constructing an independent economic base and socialist foreign policy. It has instead embarked hand-in-hand with monopoly capital on a path they wrongly believe will lead to progressive capitalist development.
Through the examples set forth by both the RCP-USA and the UCPN, it is evident how First Worldism corrupts even nominal Maoists into becoming promulgators of the most backwards revisionisms. The RCP-USA is deceptive and wrong in its claim that it is organizing a U.S. proletariat. In reality it wrecks the international communist movement for the sake of the U.S. petty-bourgeois masses. The UCPN, whose leadership falsely believes capitalist development will bring positive material effects for the masses of Nepal, has abandoned the struggle for socialism and communism. The RCP-USA claims to represent what it wrongly describes as an exploited U.S. proletariat. The UCPN takes great inspiration in the level of material wealth attained by what it wrongly assumes to be an exploited First World proletariat.
Comrades! Our analysis must start with the questions, "Who are our enemies? Who are our friends?" These questions must be answered foremost in the structural sense (i.e., how do groups fundamentally relate to the process of capital accumulation), secondly in the historical sense (i.e., what can history tell us about such class divisions and their implications for today), and lastly in a political sense, (i.e., given what we know about the complex nature of class structures of modern imperialism, how can we best organize class alliances so as to advance the revolutionary interests of the proletariat at large).
First Worldism is a fatal flaw. It is both a hegemonic narrative within the 'left' and a trademark of reformism, revisionism, and chauvinism. Unfortunately, First Worldism is all-too-common within international Maoism.
Comrades! The consistent struggle against First Worldism is an extension of the communist struggle against both social chauvinism and the theory of the productive forces. As such, it is the duty of all genuine Communists to struggle against First Worldism.
Comrades! First Worldism has already done enough damage to our forces internationally. Now is the time to struggle against First Worldism and decisively break with the errors of the past.
The importance of knowing "who are our enemies" and "who are our friends" never goes away. Instead, those who fail in these understandings are prone to wider deviations. Gone unchecked, First Worldism sets back the struggle for communism.
Comrades! We hope the topics of class under imperialism and the necessity of the struggle against First Worldism come up as specific points of future discussion within and between Maoist organizations. The raising of these questions and the firm refutation of First Worldism will mark a qualitative advance for international communism.