On 26 December 2022, the Unified Maoist International Conference (UMIC) announced the founding of the International Communist League (ICL). The organizations involved see the need to build a new communist international, building on the legacy of the Comintern and the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM). As we’ve explained elsewhere we disagree with the creation of a new communist international at this time.(1)
This new ICL is truer to the Comintern than the RIM was, but remains in the same outdated and revisionist global class analysis as RIM. The ICL statement clearly upholds MIM’s first 2 dividing line questions, while failing to address the third directly. MIM’s third point reads in part:
" 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 standards of living depend on imperialism."(2)
Arguably, this line was somewhat controversial in the mid-1980s, when MIM struggled against the RIM’s Revolutionary Communist Party(U$A) on this question. The ICL statement addresses the question in most depth with the following:
“The economic crisis in 2008 that began as a finance crisis in the USA was unloaded on the masses in the oppressed countries and even in the imperialist countries themselves. Thus it has stricken the proletariat of the imperialist countries, which instigated sharp struggles for the defense of the achievements they conquered throughout the 20th Century. The consequences of this crisis were not overcame, this is why the recovering of employment is at the expense of worse quality, lower wages and larger working day. The recovering is at the expense of increasing the over-exploitation of the class.”(3)
We have never heard of “over-exploitation” in the context of humyn labor before, so defining that term seems important here. The text is correct to recognize that the crisis of 2008 was mostly pushed off onto the oppressed countries. The rest is sufficiently vague, while touching on some common cries of the social fascists. There is no summation elsewhere in this wordy statement of the class (or nation or gender) alliances of the populations of the imperialist countries. We are left with the impression that they are allies, even if they suffer less than most. To uphold this revisionist class analysis in 2022 is to ignore some crucial lessons from the experience of the RIM itself.
While upholding the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR), this statement upholds the very ideas that the GPCR stood to combat – those of the Theory of the Productive Forces. It is inconsistent to deny the Theory of the Productive Forces and maintain that people in the top 10% global income bracket are the proletariat. Elsewhere we observe,
“Another lesson that MIM seemed to take from the great reversal in Peru, was the importance of having a correct global class analysis for Maoists everywhere. If a revolution based in the non-Spanish speaking indigenous peoples of the highlands of the Andes mountains and the Amazon rainforest is infiltrated by agents trained in the United $tates and divided by a magazine out of London, then we see the real material impacts of Third World communists seeing the people of the United $tates and Great Britain as 90% proletarian allies. Not to mention, to not understand the basic political economy of imperialism today is to lack a Marxist framework from which to change the world.”(4)
Our disagreement with the formation of an ICL itself is largely connected to our line on the labor aristocracy. But it also stands as its own point on strategy in our current conditions.
The RIM criticized Mao for not building a communist international. It seems the UMIC may agree with this critique based on their actions.
A difference in class/national interests between parties in the UMIC is one reason we believe it is a faulty strategy. At best, the oppressor nation parties will slow down the oppressed, at worse they will sabotage them. Another problem is the mixing of parties engaged in armed struggle with those that are not. This difference in strategic stage calls for different approaches based on different interests. Yet the statement announces that these parties are being held to democratic centralism with each other through the ICL.
Step Forward on Stalin
One point where we see the UMIC statement disagree with RIM, and in a good way, is in their assessment of Stalin during World War II and the overall theory and practice of the united front. Not only does the statement uphold the line of the Comintern during this period, it puts the blame squarely on the parties where revisionism took over. This is better than the RIM line (still upheld by many in the International Communist Movement (ICM) to this day), which criticizes the Comintern for rightism in its call for a united front against fascism. But MIM went even further than the UMIC in disagreeing with this critique of the Comintern to say that in countries like the United $tates there was no revolutionary path to take at the time. Even if the CP-U$A had a correct revolutionary line, there’s nothing they could have done that would have supported the USSR more than what they did, given their conditions. Those conditions being a base in the labor aristocracy.
The proliferation of statements and organizations upholding various tenants of Maoism offers some signs of Maoism being a living science that would-be revolutionaries are grappling with. Of course, the practice of People’s War does this a million times more.
Of all the controversies that have been taken up in the ICM in recent years, we have seen no public debate over the global class analysis. If you are operating in a Third World country and isolating yourself from the oppressor nations, then you could get very far without saying much on the topic of the labor aristocracy in the imperialist countries. But if you wish to engage in international conferences and you fail to recognize the class reality on the ground, you mislead and endanger the revolutionary movement.
A Note on Struggle Sessions
In our previous essay on this topic we criticized author Joshua Moufawad-Paul and the blog Struggle Sessions for advocating for a new International. On 2 January 2023, Struggle Sessions editor deleted all their articles and posted a declaration of the death of the project. This comes after a series of announcements and critiques coming from the former Committee for the Reconstitution of the Communist Party U$A (CRCPUSA), of which Struggle Sessions was an unofficial theoretical mouthpiece. We address some of the fallout from the collapse of the CRCPUSA in a separate article.
It is worth noting to our readers that the outlet publishing the statement of the UCIM discussed here is a political ally of the CRCPUSA and continues to support it as a project. They call themselves Communist International: Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Online Newspaper and are found at ci-ic.org.
A core aspect of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is the bond between theory and practice. For instance, there is a theoretical analysis of the labor aristocracy in the imperialist countries and the practical application of that theory is not organizing around labor aristocrat interests. There is a theoretical analysis of building independent institutions among the masses; and the practical application of that theory is building United Struggle Within grievance campaigns, building Maoist prison study groups, building peace between lumpen organizations through the United Front for Peace in Prisons, etc. There is a theoretical analysis of revolution; and the practical application of that theory is boycotting elections, refusing to use armed struggle as a bargain chip and instead see it as a necessity, etc. These are just some broad and simplified examples of the relationship between theory and practice to paint the picture. Incorrect practice and incorrect theories go hand in hand: one strengthens the existence of another.
The main purpose of this article is to start a series of articles akin to the “Ongoing Discussion on Organizing Strategy” series which started among USW comrades.(1) The series has been productive on maintaining a two-line struggle within the USW and the overall prison movement, and delves deep into the many questions raised in organizing behind bars. We hope to bring that energy of discussing strategy and tactics of Maoist organizing behind bars to that of political line both inside and outside U.$. prisons. These bad ideas aren’t dividing line questions (such as the labor aristocracy question or the class nature of the Chinese Communist Party in 2022) that MIM(Prisons) struggle with other communist organizations through polemics. Rather, these are day-to-day bad ideas and attitudes that many people take up within the communist movement (even good comrades). They enforce liberalism during line struggle, and stunt scientific thinking. Let’s begin.
1. Defending Revisionism Through One’s Laurels and Clout
One example of this was when Joma Sison repeatedly refused to acknowledge the national contradiction as principal in the United $tates, and communists refused and still refuse to criticize due to his historically integral role in the People’s War in the Philippines.(2) Communists don’t look at persynal laurels or prestige when it comes to criticism; everything and everyone that partakes in bad practice and bad beliefs is targetable for criticism. If the Sison defenders said “historically and currently, the United $tates’ principal contradiction has always been class and is currently class” then perhaps there will be more legitimacy for line struggle and discussion albeit it still being a chauvinist and revisionist take. However, what does Joma Sison being a historically great revolutionary leader that rectified the errors of the Communist Party of Philippines in the 60s-70s have to do with the fact that the current United $tates’ society has developed around the oppressed nations in a historical materialist manner?
Now if a former neo-nazi prisoner who joined the United Struggle Within brings up how the white workers are the masses, then bringing up his past identity as a neo-nazi would be more relevant in criticizing this individual comrade to the correct line from an incorrect one since his past practice as an Amerikan First World lumpen could influence his current politcs. Ultimately, bringing up his past errors (or victories even) is only a small part of criticizing the comrade, and ultimately it’s the combating of that idea and political practice that will be the final nail in the coffin of getting rid of that bad line from that comrade’s thinking and most importantly the overall movement. A part of this problem contains in identity politics, which leads to the next point.
2. Incorrect Handling of Identity Politics
Identity politics has been a hot topic among communists with some seeing it as non-antagonistic with Marxism and with many joining the conservative reactionary bandwagon of fascists ranting about “woke” culture and post-modernism. The classic Amerikan value of pragmatist empiricism (the idea of the only way to truly know anything is through directly experiencing it) is antithetical to Maoism, and it is our stance that post-modernism and identity politics can be looked at it the same or adjacent manner in terms of philosophy. The Maoist doctrine of cadres learning from practice and the masses learning revolution through waging revolution can become Amerikan pragmatism if we aren’t careful.
Today in 2022, this pragmatist empiricist idea is popular among the oppressed nations represented in popular day-to-day slogans such as “don’t speak over (insert a particular oppressed group)” and “stay in your lane” when a person not belonging to a certain social group (gender, religion, sexuality, nation, etc.) is talking about issues pertaining to said certain group since they don’t directly experience that group’s existence. Some revisionists see no problem with identity politics and post-modernism, and think that identity politics and post-modernism must be a good thing because the fascists are complaining about it and complaining about it must mean one is a fascist. Other revisionists have straight up adopted national chauvinism. When the masses criticize the communists with “a lot of communists are racist and don’t really care about black/brown/indigenous people” these chauvinists resort to taking up fascist talking points and attitudes against identity politics and post-modernism.
It is an important Maoist doctrine that post-modernism and pragmatist-empiricism are both unscientific capitalist garbage that poisons the masses. It is another Maoist doctrine that the masses under oppression will go to the current superstructure of the enemy (capitalist philosophies, capitalist institutions, the capitalist state, etc.) during times of oppression. When communists have failed the masses of the United $tates for 400 years by supporting the white workers and putting the national contradiction beneath white worker interests at best and attacking oppressed nation masses alongside the white workers at worst, then perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised when the oppressed nations go to classical Amerikan pragmatism and post-modernism of relying on lived experiences and changing discourse instead of dialectical materialist thinking and revolution. This is especially true for the case where the oppressed nations are majority labor aristocrat as well – the class where this ideology grows the most ferociously amongst.
One interesting thing we see as a Maoist prison cell is that identity politics tend to be less popular among prisoners which perhaps shows that the oppressed nation labor aristocracy might go for identity politics for its liberation far more than the oppressed nation lumpen who might go for conspiracy theories or capitalist boot-strap mentality which we see more popular among prisoners and less with the student activist types that concern themselves more with identity politics. This leads to the third point.
3. Hating the Masses for their Reactionary Ideas under Oppression
Identity politics isn’t the only bourgeois idea that the masses hold from the current capitalist superstructure. There are other ideas such as patriarchy, homophobia, pulling one-self up by the bootstraps, voting for the lesser evil, superstition, conspiracy theories, and religion just for starters. When the masses show these tendencies, many communists throw them into the enemy camp and treat them as if they were enemies. For example, a communist student activist type might walk up to a Black Hebrew Israelite and the topic of anti-semitism could pop up. The communist university student will call the Black Israelite a fascist for his views and say the Black Israelite should stay in his lane about Jewish issues. When Mao said that we want politics in command and political line is principal, he didn’t mean that our friends and enemies are determined by their personal beliefs (whether that be politics, religion, moral principles, cultural traditions, etc.). Mao didn’t say “any Chinese peasant who participates in foot binding should be ostracized from the movement.” And we can argue that foot binding is much more backwards and patriarchal than the common patriarchal/reactionary cultural values held by oppressed nations masses in 2022. In fact, Mao’s method of finding out who our friends and enemies were in China was by looking at a group of people’s relation to the means of production, relation to consumption, and relations to other classes; and through this method he concluded that the Chinese peasantry were friends not enemies despite binding women’s feet so they don’t run away from their husbands being a popular cultural trend among said class.
Let’s look at the New Afrikan labor aristocracy as an example. We can see that the class basically has access to the means of production through its citizen status much like the Amerikan workers in 2022 (dead labor of third world proletarians; higher wages gained through super-exploitation of Africa, Asia, and Latin America; ability to buy and invest in stocks; etc.) We can also look at how it consumes far more than the international proletariat of Africa, Asia, and Latin America; but consistently consume less than its Amerikan counterparts such as how New Afrikan labor aristocrats are disproportionately more likely to live under the country’s poverty line compared to Amerikan labor aristocrats. We can also find out how its relations to the Amerikan labor aristocrat are far more hostile than friendly as the poorer an Amerikan is the more likely they are to hold extreme chauvinsit views (i.e. rednecks).
However, as embourgeoisfication of the New Afrikan workers solidified during the later half of the 20th century, their relation to the migrant proletarians (and migrants in general) of the Third World became more hostile as well: previous contradictions which were relatively non-antagonistic such as that in relation to the Mexican/Nigerian/Caribbean migrants are more antagonistic in our current day. So with these factors in mind, we can argue that this class of people (yes that includes the Black Hebrew Israelite with anti-Semitic tendencies) have interests for revolution against Amerika but might be more reserved when it comes to internationalism and involving the class in it self with other nations’ liberations. This is compared to the Hindi proletariat who will be far less wishy washy as a class in involving themselves with the struggle of the Dravidian proletariat when reaching class consciousness. So in conclusion, with proper political organizing the New Afrikan labor aristocracy would be a friend of the revolution.
Instead of this method of finding out who our friends and enemies are, most communists consider friends as people who have the correct takes on an xyz issue most people don’t even care about and enemies as people who hold reactionary views. One source of this ideology is how Amerikan culture promotes individual thinking and behavior as the mover of history rather than class struggle. With this mindset, racism is a problem started by individual Amerikans thinking and behaving racist and will end when individual Amerikans cease thinking and behaving racist. The Maoist method on the other hand sees that racism is a problem that was brought to inception by remnants of feudal European aristocrats (a class of people) stealing this land at gunpoint and trickery from what would become the modern First Nations, and enslaving what would become modern New Afrikans and militaristically invading the Mexican nation’s land, solidifying what would become modern Chicanos all for the various Amerikan classes’ interests (whether that be the big capitalist class, the small business owning capitalist class, or even the common Amerikan worker).
The Maoist solution is for these national contradictions to be resolved through the oppressed nations overthrowing Amerika through revolution. These historical events of Amerikan land conquest, slavery, and genocide were also crucial in acting as primitive accumulation for global capitalism-imperialism in general not only for Amerika. There is no modern day $outh Korea, Japan, Au$trailia, I$rael, $audi Arabia, Kanada, and so on without Amerikan slavery, Amerikan land conquest, and Amerikan genocide. Therefore proletarian dictatorship must be established to resolve this contradiction as well as overthrow of Amerika. But because of individualist Amerikan culture, national chauvinism is something treated with tone and etiquette led by student youth tired of their parents’ old backwards ways. This leads to the fourth problem.
4. The Sub-Culture Problem
Many newer generation communists have begun their politics through the internet. The original MIM was one of the first communist parties to have a website and put credence in the importance of the internet. It certainly is a politically important tool if it’s a major way youth are becoming interested in Lenin, and how all the imperialist governments partake in it in different ways from the FBI surveilling political internet forums to the Chinese Communist Party banning entire social media outlets. However, what the old MIM didn’t predict is that communist groups on social media aren’t the ones that primarily influence kids to read Mao Zedong and study the Black Panthers. Communist groups are far outshadowed online by memes, twitch streamers, tik tok spheres, instagram pages, internet forums, and the likes when it comes to converting kids to communism than communist organization internet presence. This has given rise to the problem of communism becoming more akin to a sub-culture talked about on social media sites like twitter and reddit than a political movement. Different political stances from Maoism, Trotskyism, all the way to Stirnerite Anarchism cease to become guides to action, but a thing to put on your bio. Various people’s wars and nations at war become more akin to fandoms for TV shows to obsess and argue over rather than a movement to popularize and create awareness for. Political line ceases to become a belief and action that one takes, but a take one has so they can get on the algorithm. Line struggle turn into flame wars with no purpose of uniting with others, but exist only to express one’s individual self for the cathartic feeling of having the correct line.
In day-to-day real life, communism might be becoming less and less pariah’d in the eyes of the average Amerikan; but communism itself is becoming more and more revisionist, more and more toothless, more and more a pop culture joke, and more and more a harmless icon of a once revolutionary movement that became hijacked by the bourgeoisie after its death, as Lenin spoke of. We took 20 steps forward and a million steps back when it comes to fighting against anti-communist culture leftover from the red scare era. Turns out Amerikan individualism was far more of an obstacle in making Maoism popular than the legacy of McCarthyism.
We shouldn’t throw away the internet with the bathwater as it indeed took a certain part in making the oppressor nation Amerikan youth become interested in revolutionary politics, but we should also be acutely aware of the sub-culture problem. A single New Afrikan, [email protected], or Indigenous member of the masses understanding the Maoist concept of reform and revolution and practicing to boycott the elections while not calling themselves communist nor wearing red armbands is 100 times more valuable to us in spreading popular support against imperialism than 300 college students with a Stalin portrait in their dorm rooms who thinks the white worker is a friend.
Many of these problems can only really be solved through the development of our movement as a whole. Even writing and publishing this article in Under Lock & Key can only do so much. Our dedicated prisoner comrades who read this will certainly be influenced, and perhaps they will get more insight as to the problems of the “activist” scene that they will be adjacent with once they get out; but when it comes to student youth abandoning Liberalism or the masses on the street taking up scientific thinking, it is up for the MIM (and not just the prison ministry) to develop and go to the masses as Mao said. For our readers and supporters outside, we challenge them to set up geographical MIM cells or work with MIM(Prisons) to develop the modern MIM. For our readers and supporters inside, we list these problems of the movement to stay sharp and aware once they get released.
Notes: 1. starting in ULK 73, prisoners write in for a copy of the full series 2. MIM, Applied internationalism: The difference between Mao Zedong and Joma Sison. 3. Wiawimawo, January 2016, Islam a Liberation Theology, Under Lock & Key No. 48.
The task of a revolutionary, regardless of ones political/ideological or cultural leanings, is to make revolution. Revolution is all about change. The biggest change that a revolutionary must undertake is the equivalent to in the religion of Islam what is called Jihad. Jihad is not limited to what most Western religious enthusiasts have been led to believe, the meaning of Jihad goes much deeper than the concept of crusades or mere bombings. The biggest Jihad or battle that one can have is the battle for control over oneself.(als see MIM(Prisons)’s study pack on religion) To the revolutionary, this task is important because he/she has to become the change they wish to produce to the world.
A constant improving of one’s character with the righteousness of ideals that have went through the rigors of tests to be found or rather proved to be correct for the overall ordeal of advancement. Once again before this can be felt by the untapped but potential revolutionary or the dumb, deaf & blind brother/sister clinging to a culture intended to kill them, the revolutionary must make this change (revolution) within his/her own personal character. This is what should be used to provide an example for others of whom we are trying to reach. This also however leads us to the conclusion that people no matter the fact that we come from common ways of living & thinking, are still each different.
This statement doesn’t mean that I subscribe to individualism, because true revolutionaries think from the communal mindset. However, since we are far removed from that concept, we must find ways that are productive to lead one to the communal mindset that already exists in us naturally. The idea of individualism is one of the main obstacles to overall community change, because we’re not acting as organisms moving together for the betterment of the body (society). But that doesn’t mean that all aspects of individualism are wrong, for example, “each according to ability.” So while some may think of us all developing the mind of the commune will lead us all to thinking like the Borg from Star Trek (everyone thinking the same thing), I see it more like the Smurfs. Yes the Smurfs. They had a unified community, accompanied with everyone playing a specific role. This way shouldn’t just be relegated to one’s own political vanguard or the military brigade. We have to find some means of communicating these ideals to everyone. Since we all share a common enemy, all of our efforts have to revolve around crushing that threat.
If we relegate ourselves to constantly battling over which of the communal methods hold the stronger validity, we’ll all end up moving in our own directions & probably never initializing the changes that we are the basis of our citizenship within these groups. We’ll more than likely continue to develop the mentalities they would like for us to develop, which will ultimately reduce us to caricature. All opinions are not equal & there is such a thing as counter-productive revisionism. Our vanguard elements are going to have to develop the use of Democratic Centralism. This process however must be done without the bitterness & rancor that can only come from egoism. In fact egoism must be crushed, because great man personalities have no place in revolution. Revolution, whether politically or through armed struggle, is all about the altering of a society that is crushing the life force out of all of us, this is not an individual problem, once again it is communal!
Dialectical materialism is all about examining things within their total sequence & seeing the pros & cons in the struggles of the past. The obvious reason is to better equip ourselves from suffering the same fate as a result of the same failures of our previous brave brothers/sisters engaged at trying to crush the outside enemy culture & to utilize whatever methods may be useful to strengthen what we already have. A constant improvisation still needs to be done, but this doesn’t mean that we should stop studying people’s war. We have to study the principles of people’s war & learn to interpret them to fit our overall situation here. Most wars of liberation took place in the countryside of their respective lands. Our situation is different in that Amerikan settler-colonialism is modernized & at least 80-90% of Amerika is industrialized, so the nerve centers of this nation are indeed the cities. This means that hip shooting cops are all around us, thus making them easier to reach.
In the opening phases of our struggle for liberation, I feel just as Comrade Jackson felt, that the military proper must be kept hidden & separate from the political front. You see the role of a political revolutionary is totally different than the military who are engaged in armed struggle against macabre freaks. The guerrilla chief is tasked with communicating to his soldiers that they must protect their political peoples at their work. If we let our “voices” die to machine gun fire, no knock invasions, the anonymous tip, political incarceration & even the work of agent provocateurs & class defectors, then our dream of eventual freedom will more than likely die with those brave brothers/sisters. The guerrilla chief however must also have a thorough understanding of the true nature of fascism, the modern industrial state, the economic landscape etc. The reason is that if one group dies or is not as effective the guerrilla chief & his band of revolutionaries can still keep the revolution alive.
As of now our main problem is the fact that our vanguard & military groups have shifted their focus from revolution to clinging to the culture of anti-people crimes. The settler-colonial strategy is law & order which ultimately means prison – our tactic is perfect disorder which leads to the proletariat & the lumpen creating mass disorder to work against the beast (cops) & their vigilante supporters. In 1969, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover declared that “there will no longer be a Black Panther Party in the U.S.” The Black Panther Party was not the only revolutionary group & in spite of popular belief, they were not just a group working exclusively in the interest of Blacks. The Black Panther Party like almost every other revolutionary group, was a communist organization that utilized the principles they learned from successful communist victories, from examples such as Mao Zedong and his Red Book. They formed alliances with many other revolutionary groups and because the Black situation stood out more (& still does) they were thought to be the overall vanguard party to even other political & military vanguards. So the goal wasn’t to just fix conditions in the Black community. That was their primary objective, but they understood that if you just focused exclusively on the black conditions and fixing only our areas, we would have to ghettoize other segments of society that would equal Mexicans, [email protected], First Nations, etc.
To stop the progressive elements of unity among different cultural/revolutionary groups, the establishment caused the leaders of these groups to distrust their own members. This was done by the government from planting spies in these groups, along with wiretaps, surveillance, to out sending letters to leaders that were supposed to have come other leaders declaring war between the groups. The goals the establishment used largely worked and eventually several key leaders either went into hiding, left the country, or were even assassinated while the political prisoners suffered death legally and quasi-legally.
Of course progressive thinking was still held as an ideal in some people’s minds and this led to groups that eventually turned against the community even further by becoming gangs. Community Revolution in Progress became the goal for Raymond Washington and Stanley “Tookie” Williams or Brotherly Love Overriding Oppression & Destruction became the acronym for Blood. These were good ideas and could’ve worked if we had received the freedom first. The freedom I’m referring to must come first in the form of a free-dome because our situation was more psychological than physical. This means that our minds were created for the sole purpose of getting us to act against our even better interests. This shouldn’t be understated since the mindsets that we have now didn’t exist in communal Africa. These mindsets is what led us to industrializing this country which ultimately our labor was used as the down payment on the system of economics that determines one’s status in this country.
Without the mindsets that we adopted (through long usage) we would’ve long been better equipped at resisting. But since chattel slavery lasted for 400 years and we haven’t been free 200 years, how can we hope to win freedom, especially since once again we are still clinging to the ideas that created our mindsets in the first place? Since it is our design that gave beauty to the world, which should be easy to see since others are quick to pick up on our culture, even sometimes more readily than we are, we must go back to our own design. This could work for the betterment of not only us as a group however, this could be used as a basis to show others righteous examples that could ultimately lead to a change. But it must begin now. For us to delay what must be done today is like asking someone else to undertake to aid us in a liberation effort that must be engaged in by our own efforts.
Another problem working against us is our inability to understand the difference between reform and change. Largely the only righteous peoples who were working for us are the people who were attacked by the outside enemy culture. Anyone else was used because their stance wasn’t revolutionary. I’m not dismissing people like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks etc, but I know that the main reason why they are mentioned over people such as Malcolm X or Huey Newton is their view against the necessity not only of violence and the correct usage of armed struggle, but it also mainly rests with them telling us to escape from the culture that we embrace. Malcolm X’s image is only now used because at the end of his life he was said to have accepted whites. Part of that was true, but he never said they weren’t devils just because he converted to orthodox Islam. What he said was that in his view the devil (white man) could only be redeemed in his opinion through Islam because Christianity has not redeemed them from not only killing us, but also starting wars with other whites.
So people like Martin, through his practice of pacifism and his refusal to go against the culture of Amerikanism, resulted in him winning a few reforms which are only offered to us as tokens, these tokens however are not change. Change is why we are no longer looked at as second class citizens in a world where some are held above others based on racial & economic reasons. His Imperial Majesty who heavily inspired Bob Marley to later embrace Rastafarianism, said that “until the philosophy that the color of one’s skin is as less significant as the color of one’s eyes there will always be war.” The road to freedom means freedom, justice & equality for all regardless of one’s ethnicity, political views, religions, spirituality etc.
We will have this freedom even at the cost of total war. We come to the conclusion that violence to us may be the only recourse. This violence shouldn’t be tied to romanticism, it’s about us altering the conditions that are restricting our passage to freedom. I humbly and passionately respect all the sincere people who gave their life and ideas to produce men like me whose goal is to move further than when they left off and that’s even for those of whom I disagree with. I recognize that passion leads to different outcomes and different results, as long as they were intended to benefit us as a whole than whether I disagree or not I still have the fact that their life force was used to alter the conditions that is for the betterment of our lives as a whole. My stance as a whole is rooted around us globally enjoying freedom, justice & equality. I realize the imperial process is only complete if the parent imperial nation - USA - is strong so I’m all for bringing Amerika down to her knees. Anyone who sincerely has that as a goal I embrace, white or Black I embrace, but it must begin now.
Long Live Guerrilla Chief George Jackson!
Long Live All those Who Don’t Fear Freedom!
Plastick of MIM(Prisons) responds:This comrade here has given us a core learning element of leading the masses by example – a new socialist world and a new human being will have to constantly remove the old world’s reactionary culture and habits.
One thing this comrade has mentioned that we are in disagreement is in regards to fascism. Originally, the comrade has spoke of fascist Amerika which has been changed to settler-colonial Amerika by this responder. We define fascism as a new strategy by the bourgeois dictatorship when it can no longer rule the way it has ruled before. We believe that Amerika is likely to turn fascist through a political-economic crisis which is integral to capitalism-imperialism. However, we believe that the current state of methods such as police killings, imprisonment, and exploiting the majority of the world for superprofits and high level of consumption has always been the way that Amerika has ruled. When this social-democratic strategy of sharing the piece of the imperialist pie to the oppressor nation (Amerikans) ceases to work due to an ever deepening of the crisis, then fascism will indeed come. Up until now, Amerika has maintained relative strength, and Sun Tzu taught us to attack when the enemy is helpless.
Recently reformists have been hard at work to once more derail our movimiento and undermine the efforts of those striving for socialist revolution for Aztlán. This further highlights the slogan of the Republic of Aztlán(ROA), which is: “Ideology is key for Aztlán to be free.”
The last 5 years have witnessed Aztlán develop politically in many ways. We’ve seen the formulation and participation in political study groups by not just [email protected] political groups and orgs but by everyday raza with no political ties or limited consciousness. The now revived identification of REVOLUTIONARY NATIONALISM which so many have come to see as the most correct path to liberation for Aztlán. Revolutionary books and [email protected] revolutionary independent media have added to the momentum and organizations declaring their efforts to free Aztlán from the white settler colonial nation’s clutches. This of course is great and those who are politicized should nurture this in ways that they can to push the nation forward. Mao foresaw a new bourgeoisie developing even within the communist party based on observations of the Soviet Union. Mao recognized this force will work hard to take the people back down the capitalist road, as happened to Revolutionary Russia and Mao’s China. Similarly, we must recognize and weed out the bourgeoisie within our national liberation movement so it doesn’t stop us before we even get started.
Some have foreseen that within a matter of years [email protected] will be the majority of the U.$. population. This is not automatically a good thing. If capitalism wins the battle of ideas, [email protected] would simply be the majority reactionary force within the United Snakes, a bunch of brown capitalists. It becomes a great thing when we raise consciousness and have the largest politicized forces within the empire that can then affect revolution. Even within the movement itself it’s not a good thing if the movement produces a million brown Trots or liberal reformists, because these dead end politics would never acquire a socialist revolution which frees Aztlán.
This conversation is hard to grasp for those just entering the movement. To so many raza who have grown up under the white oppressor nation’s occupation, just hearing a group shout “Viva Aztlán!” is enough solace to the oppressed to seek out for hope. And as warming as words are from some of these liberals in revolutionary clothing the need for a correct political line is essential if we are to leave a lasting effect on today’s [email protected] Movement for the next generation.
When an organization talks about national liberation but openly promotes the idea of participating in bourgeois politics, affecting change via Amerikkka’s ballot box or even holding signs promoting Amerikkkan Presidential candidates, we should see that there’s nothing revolutionary about these particular groups. They are simply reformist at their core.
Those with revolution in their corazón can be easily duped into spending a life they believe is for La Causa only to be upholding the occupation and strengthening U.$. Imperialism.
An organization truly serving the raza would work hard at getting you to understand the illegality of the U.$. bourgeois political system not luring you deeper into it with dismissive arguments of “let’s be realistic on how we can affect change today”. Legitimizing the occupation by participating in it will not resolve the contradictions we face, rather it will only solidify our oppression.
Understanding ideology allows us to see that only those orgs that not just dismiss the colonial system but organizes outside of its influence are truly fighting for our liberation. Numbers do not equate correctness but political line does. Reformism wants to work within the colonial system and not overturn it, no matter how many times they shout “Viva La Raza”. And reformists at the end of the day are enemies of the people because they practice enemy politics.
“From an organizers perspective, [struggling for quality-of-life reforms such as increased phone access] are not battles which we can effectively push anti-imperialism forward, much less MLM…”
The author cites a failure to apply the materialist dialectic, or the ‘science’ behind scientific socialism, to the situation at hand. When viewed in isolation and out of its proper context, the conclusion that they have reached would certainly be a commonsense position to take. And as they write a little further on:
“How can we then deem that prison struggles aren’t aligned with anti-imperialism?”
Yet if the quote being critiqued were analyzed in its totality, we can begin to see more nuance and why such a statement was made in the first place. So to continue where the partial quote left off:
“…without veering into reformist practices of little tactical or strategic value. I am aware that arguments of principle can be mounted to the contrary, but absent a practicable, totalizing strategy for revolution domestically being put forward by an MLM organization that is actionable in the here-and-now, we cannot effectively utilize many of these prison struggles as a proper springboard to corresponding actions in other areas, actions which do not translate into long-term pacification which benefits their prison administration in an objective, cost-to-us, benefit-to-them analysis. If we cannot muster the resources and external manpower to mount a facility or state-specific campaign for a tactical reform to push our agenda and continually imprint firmly in the minds of all incarcerated that we have their best interests in mind, it may be advisable to abstain from participation lest credit for the reforms go elsewhere and become politically-neutered, or, worse yet, the system co-opts the struggle as its own and touts its successes (ie. The First-Step Act). Otherwise, we are gaining no more than sporadic traction amongst those we are attempting to revolutionize, and then only of a transient nature.” (emphasis added)
As mentioned earlier, there is a nuance to the position I have taken that is obscured in comrade Triumphant’s approach to mounting an argument on principle, and that in itself constitutes an incorrect and unscientific approach to proper discourse. Quoting someone out of context may buttress a particular argument or agenda, however arguments begin to lose their strength when quotations are re-situated in their proper place. You ask, ‘how can we then deem that prison struggles aren’t aligned with anti-imperialism?’, but who has or where has such a view been advocated in the first place for this allegation to be made? As you can see, the position put forth in the original commentary advocated not an abandonment of revolutionary struggle within prisons but rather its placement within a more explicitly revolutionary framework. Refining our approach does not imply an abandonment of all struggle just to focus on study.
It is agreed that the materialist dialectic can be applied in all manner of social phenomena, and the Amerikan injustice system and the struggle between prison staff and the captive population are no exception. But the real question is, should it be applied in this particular instance in the manner which the Team One Formation, K.A.G.E. Universal and others have done thus far – that is, pushing for minor reforms largely divorced from a wider revolutionary anti-imperialist agenda resulting in pacification once concessions are made? I would argue that advocating for these various minor reforms to address the prison masses immediate needs can be classified as (presupposing these formations desire revolution or claim communism as their goal) right opportunist deviations.
Right opportunism is an error in practice that occurs when an organization attempts to embed itself in the masses and in doing so gives up a clear revolutionary program in the interest of fighting for immediate demands. This leads to economism/workerism (or in this case ‘prisonerism’), which is the purview of reformism: solely focusing on economic demands (economism), or the demands of prisoners.
You write that “quality-of-life reforms are connected to the strategy of cadre development.” Now can experience be gained in how to train cadre and organize people while doing this? Sure, but similar things can be argued about improving one’s marksmanship and related skills acquired while employed as a cop too. While a rather extreme analogy, what I am getting at is that productive skills can technically be derived from incorrect practice. Yet the question for both scenarios remains the same: Is there a better methodological approach to training cadre?
It is a laudable desire to want to avoid being all ‘study’ and no struggle, but if ‘struggle’ leads a group to avoiding, obscuring or watering down their politics in order to attain their demands, then that is not getting us any closer to our desired results. As MIM(Prisons) notes:
“We can also say that only focusing on the reformist campaigns, without the larger goals, is not going to change anything in regards to ending oppression and injustice.”
It is encouraging to see that in consequence of previous organizing experience comrade Triumphant has pledged to focus on “reorganizing of the TX Team One under a clearer program and a better understanding of what our strategic and tactical goals are.” This statement also aligns with what this comrade wrote in the November 2020 USW organizing update in reference to the reformist practice of the Prisoner Human Rights Movement (PHRM):
“unless anti-imperialist, revolutionary nationalist and/or communists take hold of this movement and see it as a tactical operation instead of a be-all end-all and thereby re-center the movement, it may only further ‘Amerikanize’ the (only) vastly-proletarian revolutionary sector of society we have (lumpen in prison). That could occur if cats become pacified with all these tokens and reforms that have been struggled for.”
But just because we re-center a movement along these lines and dress future demands to the state in sufficiently ‘revolutionary’ language to avoid the perception of reformism does not mean that we are actually avoiding these same pitfalls.
Here I will argue that even with an explicitly revolutionary program guiding us in the struggle for tactical reforms, we can still be susceptible to a sort of unwitting crypto-reformism if our struggles are not chosen very carefully and with the correct tactical, strategic and narrative approach. In the original commentary I wrote that
“we should not be trying to ‘improve’ Amerikan prisons, much like we should not be attempting to cut a bigger portion of imperialist profits from Third World super-exploitation for the lower class, yet still relatively privileged, citizens of empire.”
This statement meshes with your desire not to have strictly-reformist campaigns “further ‘Amerikanize’ the (only) vastly-proletarian revolutionary sector of society we have.” Of course our current approach differs strategically from the reformists but, noble intentions aside, it is still having the same overall effect in practice: we are inadvertently pacifying individuals, making them complacent sleepwalkers again. You may probably think: ‘Bullshit. We are teaching the masses not to fall for any old reform, that these are ’tactical maneuvers’,etc. And you may very well be able to indoctrinate a core of cadre to hold strong to a political line which promotes this view. However, if we view matters through a historical lens, when concessions from the state were achieved via a revolutionary stage of struggle these victories largely blunted the sympathetic masses desire to seek further redress by way of revolutionary means. Whether that be (to cite a non-Maoist, yet anti-capitalist example) during the peak of IWW organizing a century ago, the transient successes of the anti-revisionist New Communist Movement era or our current campaigns to ‘Abolish the SHU’ and ‘Release the Kids in Kages.’ Our ‘successes’ end up serving as a pressure-release for many and creating a ‘kinder, gentler machine-gun hand’ for our opponents to use against us, akin to replacing the arrogance and political incorrectness of Trump for the soothing reassurances of Biden.
From the commentary of the same USW organizing update from November 2020, you write that
“from an anti-imperialist perspective, the PHRM is only a tactic, a means to an end. That end being, sharpening the contradiction between oppressed and oppressor nations, and advancing the oppressed aspect of that contradiction.”
But how do we really expect to sharpen the contradiction between oppressed and oppressor nations and advance the oppressed aspect of that contradiction if we are actively participating in the lowering or resolution of the contradictions which heightened tensions in the first place? There is a periodic ebb and flow of the revolutionary tide in this country; why do we by way of our current tactical, strategic and narrative approach inadvertently help turn an upswing into a downturn? Of course the inherent contradiction in (note:their) Amerikan society will never truly go away absent revolution, but we are in the meantime attempting to apply balm to their societal problems and in effect delay its arrival.
Circling back to the arguments put forth in ‘An Ongoing Discussion on Organizing Strategy’, you bring up a good question when you write that
“the real crux of the issue, as it pertains to linking a totalizing revolutionary strategy, lies in practical experience gained by the masses in asserting their collective power. For, how will we seize state power if the people lack the strategic confidence to assert their power?”
As my position does not advocate pushing for more quality-of-life reforms even if there happens to be some positive by-product in cadre development, my reply to this question is that we should re-orient our tactics, strategy and narrative approach to the masses by over-emphasizing self-reliance and independence-mastery on the road to communist revolution. Therefore we should largely abstain from trying to prevent erosions of their bourgeois legal rights such as affirmative action, LGBTQ rights, abortion access, etc. and, if we are to engage in any tactical reforms to begin with, instead focus on opposition to proposals to place limits on magazine capacity, bans on assault rifles and other perceived or actual threats to their 2nd Amendment and other measures which will aid in our ability to maneuver and take them down when the time comes. This of course does not mean that we don’t support LGBTQ rights or abortion access, but fighting for their (re:Amerika’s) civil liberties and other bourgeois rights keeps many, including some well-meaning comrades, from seeing the bigger picture: Let their country go to hell. The Amerikan government will not become any less imperialist by advocating for more rights for more people within U.S. borders and it is debatable that we are contributing to anything more than a temporary weakening of imperialism domestically. If anything we are contributing to its further consolidation under the guise of new exploiters with more varied genders, orientations and skin tones.
Our cadre and the masses will gain practical experience and strategic confidence in their power by continuing to focus on construction of independent institutions, not making demands of an illegitimate government to provide redress. In the prison context, I repeat: “if we are to engage in any prison organizing, then censorship battles concerning our political ideology, the UFPP and the Re-Lease on Life programs should take center stage… As for our comrades who do not have the luxury of a release date, or have sentences which essentially translate into the same, their best hope for release lies not in reforms but with an all-sided MLM revolutionary organization planning their release through eventual People’s War.”
Bypass the reforms which do not help us either strengthen our party/cell formations, build independent institutions for the people or hasten People’s War.
Say ‘NO’ to negotiations; focus on revolutionary-separation and self-determination.
Wiawimawo of MIM(Prisons) responds: I want to thank Triumphant and S. Xanastas for their thoughtful articulations on this topic. And i hope that printing these in ULK are helpful to others in thinking about how to organize effectively under the United Struggle from Within banner or on the streets.
In my many years of working on this project i would say this two-line struggle is really at the heart of what we do. Of course, how we walk the line between ultra-left and rightism is always at the heart of those deciding strategy for a communist movement. But these comrades address this question in our context today in the United $tates and in the context of organizing the First World lumpen and engaging in prison-based organizing.
In all contexts, going too far left means isolating ourselves from the masses and going too far right means tailing the masses and following them into dead ends. Therefore finding the correct path also requires determining who are the masses in our conditions. If we did not agree on who the masses are then we could not have this discussion in a meaningful way. Since we do agree, this is a two line struggle within our movement. With that frame I want to quickly address a couple points brought up here.
First, I think the strength in Triumphant’s argument is not in the skill-building of the individual cadre leaders as organizers, which arguably could be found elsewhere, but rather “in practical experience gained by the masses in asserting their collective power.” Triumphant also talks about the importance of the tactical battles in “increas[ing] the collective practical experience of contesting the state as a united body.”
S. Xanastas’ suggested program echoes closely to what Narobi Äntari’s calls for comrades to do upon release. And they echo much of MIM(Prisons) focus, especially in more recent years. Yet, i pose the question: can building the Re-Lease on Life and University of Maoist Thought programs mobilize and reach the masses in the same way as the campaigns making demands from the state?
And one final point, is that MIM always said the principal task was not just to build independent institutions of the oppressed, but also to build public opinion against imperialism. Isn’t a campaign exposing the widespread use of torture in U.$. prisons an undermining of U.$. imperialism regardless of the maneuvers the various states make to cut back on or hide their use of long-term isolation? Or should we focus solely on the Third World neo-colonies and expose U.$. meddling in Ethiopia, Cuba and Haiti?
The following is a response to some topics of debate within the article “Maoist Third Worldism: Responding to Criticism from a Reader” by Mazur of the blog Struggle Sessions. “Maoist” projects in the United States have put forth a number of lines in recent years as worthy of dividing over. In our mind, there is none more important than the class structure of this country. And if anyone wants to attempt a follow up to Mazur’s effort, we request they respond to Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997 by MC5, rather than some ideas in your head about what MIM Thought is.
Value and Price
Struggle Sessions asserts that the proponents of unequal exchange between imperialism and the oppressed nations (i.e.: finished goods and export commodities are unbalanced in such a way that the countries whose wealth is being extracted are given a raw deal) couch their views in part on a belief that the price of a given commodity is set as equal across different countries. To that allegation we reply: in what ‘Third Worldist’ publication has this been written? To my knowledge MIM has not claimed this, nor was this asserted by the earlier contributor. Cite your sources. Do not attempt to employ a selective choice of academics as a stand-in with an eye towards deceiving your online readership by purposefully distorting matters to the benefit of your dogmatic conception of economic affairs and reality. That is why it is easy for you to tear down your chosen academic-as-foil such as in your statement that:
Amin would later adopt this to equalize price levels so that a given use value costs the same in U.S. as it does in Guatemala. Before getting into this this is just not true anyways…
You perceive yourself as rather clever, don’t you. We wonder into what other topics of discussion you have inserted such imperious analysis and judgments which have also resorted to similar rhetorical deceptions and sleights-of-hand. Also, if our stance on unequal exchange was really a “less sophisticated version” as you claim, wouldn’t you just stick to picking apart that easier prey instead? So we see again that you, Mazur, have run into problems, problems concerning deceit and faulty logic in equal measure.
You are at least correct on one thing, and that is your statement that your academic could not stand the test of Marxism. So let’s drop any other “version that is worth using” and stick with Marxian economics. And by Marxian economics, we do not refer merely to its classical conception (it is worth noting that Marx claimed even he was not a Marxist, alluding to the fact that Marxism is a living science, ever changing and developing new insights, not static and impervious to advances in economic complexity over time); we also refer to its continuity within a Leninist framework in the era of imperialism, super-exploitation and the labor aristocracy, which Lenin gave clarity to and which MIM Thought has further expanded upon through materialist analysis.
You allege that in our analysis we deliberately ignore the labor theory of value. So, we will begin with Marx:
What, then, is the value of laboring power? Like that of every other commodity, its value is determined by the quantity of labor necessary to produce it. (1)
‘Value’ in its final form must correspond to the labor power embodied in a given commodity. Yet properly gauging this has become more complex under imperialism. The main way we have typically measured it is through its price, its exchange value. This follows what is termed the law of value, but, when commodities and the labor embodied in them (what is termed ‘dead labor’) are transferred from the developing peripheries to an imperialist nation via multinational corporations, the connection of value to its price is distorted to the point where the product (your banana) is finally placed in the produce section at an American supermarket, so much super-profits have accrued from not paying the Guatemalan workers the value of their labor that upon its sale there is enough excess profit for the United Fruit Co. to in turn bless its American management and warehouse employees with more than the value of their labor, in effect purchasing their allegiance to where they no longer have just their ‘chains’ to lose. They have become invested in the continuation of super-exploitation of the Guatemalan proletariat as have many additional Americans in their role as consumers, fresh off the job in your glorified manufacturing sector, who purchase the produce (yes, despite paying over its market value in Guatemala “and regular distribution and retail costs, the speculative costs of the money market, etc.”) and, being entitled to similar wage privileges, can also afford to have their money manager include shares of United Fruit in their investment portfolio, if they so choose. As for our plantation worker: “In Guatemala, where the minimum wage is roughly $11 a day” and workers “struggle to bring home even $220 a month” (2), they may not have the luxury of being able to afford the very product of their own toil without first considering whether it will cut into other essential purchases or payments owed, despite it selling for close to its actual value. The logic behind these processes are so elementary that all but those who are ‘so intelligent, they are stupid’ cannot fail to comprehend it. This is on display when you surprisingly acknowledge that this wealth transfer happens to the extent we describe, yet simultaneously are unable to understand or remain willfully ignorant of its far-reaching implications. You state:
“Because of capital export it does indeed follow that the U.S. is a net importer of commodities and that there is a stratum of monopoly capitalists who derive their profits solely from interest from their direct foreign investment that melts down to this strata …”
But, not to be deterred, you say that exploitation happens at the point of production and the lazy dogmatist in you resurfaces as you go on to state further:
“… but the U.S. is still the second largest manufacturer in the world, behind only China. This is something the ‘TWist’ does not want to recognize, that the class which has nothing to lose but its chains is concentrated in large numbers in the USA.”
Who is proletarian? Are they a revolutionary vehicle?
We are glad that we can agree that the proletariat is the class that has nothing to lose but its chains. But the relevance of manufacturing statistics we find confusing. Once again, you do not want to recognize the full extent of this wealth transfer, but this time as it plays out in the domestic manufacturing sector:
“They can’t compete with China in terms of labor. An American manufacturing employee makes an average of $26 an hour, while his or her Chinese counterpart makes only $5 an hour, according to the Reshoring Institute.”(3)
American manufacturing operations are still dependent on raw materials and parts with unpaid-for embodied labor within them that is obtained under a system of super-exploitation and shipped across borders for Amerikan workers to tinker with. This results in wages that are at least five times higher and above the value of their labor because there is enough money being made for the capitalists to both turn a profit and purchase their allegiance. When you deny the hidden transfer of value between national economies, perhaps it makes sense to estimate the size of the proletariat based on GDP numbers as Mazur does above. The United States being “the second largest manufacturer” only proves that a lot of value is being realized here, not where that value is coming from.
While, we do not recall anyone ever not recognizing that some Amerikan workers are employed in the manufacturing sector, the one thing we do not equate them with is being a part of the proletariat. Lenin reexamined the meaning of ‘proletarian’ in a more nuanced manner when he said:
“The Roman proletarian lived at the expense of society. Modern society lives at the expense of the modern proletarian. Marx specifically stressed this profound observation of Sismondi. Imperialism somewhat changes the situation.”(4)
The proletariat can most accurately be described as the social group that is the revolutionary vehicle. This does not mean that it is synonymous with the industrial working class for all times and contexts. Mao understood this when he harnessed the immense latent power of the Chinese peasantry, who at the time made up around 95% of the population. They became the revolutionary vehicle while the industrial workers, due in part to their marginal proportions, assumed more of an auxiliary role. Would you also embrace the lazy dogmatism of the Trotskyists who cling to their orthodoxy with a religious fervor and state that, because the peasantry is not the industrial working class, it cannot be capable of being the backbone of a revolution? History showed us otherwise, while you would have been as insistent as Chen Duxiu and got nothing accomplished. No, Mazur, in this matter you are much like the ‘Marxists’ who see Cuba or China as socialist. How so? Because you identify things based on their form rather than their substance. You have lost the ability (if you were ever able) of discerning who is revolutionary and who is not, who are our friends and who are likely to betray us to protect their stake in the system. You see occupations instead of workers economic co-optation within that occupation by way of a reactionary vested interest in their allegiance to empire and its spoils. This makes you no different than the ‘Communists’ of yesteryear who saw workers in hardhats attacking demonstrators protesting U.S. involvement in Vietnam as objectively revolutionary, or the socialist parties who supported their nations’ entrance into imperialist world wars as to the workers’ benefit at the munitions plants:
“Thus, on the outbreak of the imperialist war in 1914 the parties of the social-traitors in all countries, when they supported the bourgeoisie of their ‘own’ countries, always and consistently explained that they were acting in accordance with the will of the working class. But they forgot that, even if that were true, it must be the task of the proletarian party in such a state of affairs to come out against the sentiments of the majority of the workers and, in defiance of them, to represent the historical interests of the proletariat.”(5)
This is why when you say that our line leads one to the inevitable conclusion that the working class in the U.S. and other imperialist countries are the main exploiting class of the people of the world and that “this would make the task of Communists to divide and discourage the just rebellion of the masses,” we would concur, save for the whole bit of rhetorical flourish about it being a ‘just rebellion.’
But you continue harping on that the imperialist working class faces, in your words:
“… exploitation in many forms, with work speed-ups, greater temporary contracts, de-skilling, through greater constant capital being introduced and wage depression.”
Clearly such things applied to even an exploiter working class would still benefit the capitalists. We do not claim that these workers are insulated from unfair working conditions despite benefiting from their relationship with imperialism, as they remain the subordinate partner in this role. But we do not go so far as to label it ‘exploitation,’ because being ‘exploited’ is a very precise Marxist term. We would like to make clear that this does not mean that by extension we believe that no one faces conditions of exploitation within the imperialist centers, nor do we “contend that there is no proletariat to organize in the imperialist countries.” The previous ‘TWist’ contributor also did not claim this. They criticized you for arguing “that the labor aristocracy is not the majority class in the first world” (emphasis ours). MIM(Prisons) has this to say:
“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 [our critics] ignore this line and claim that we do not believe that anyone is oppressed in the First World. We don’t claim that there are no masses here, we claim that the constantly dying imperialist system needs to fall in order for proletarianization of the labor aristocracy to happen.”(6)
We can look to segments of the internal semi-colonies including the over 500 Indigenous nations on the continent, sectors of the Third World diaspora including the so-called ‘illegal’ migrant workers residing within imperialist borders, the revolutionary youth and intellectuals, and the revolutionized lumpen and prison populations as wellsprings for our revolutionary mass base in this country. But you would, again, looking at form rather than substance, likely scoff at this and act like we are just going to accept and network with these groups uncritically as we encounter them and not pursue their further proletarianization. This is not the case. We also express with a higher degree of actual confidence and certainty that the above-mentioned groups have a greater interest in seeing the tables turned in this country, and turned violently, than your bourgeoisified working classes you seek to lose yourselves in.
And note: it is at this point that, having just detailed our position clearly and corrected the record, we will formally ask you to cease claiming that we believe that there are no proletarians or masses within the imperialist centers to practice the mass line with. Quote us correctly. Honesty may not come naturally to you, but those who stumble across this blog page deserve a truthful and accurate representation of views other than your own. You can only deceive the masses for so long before they find out and call you on your bullshit. On a related note, it is amusing (while incorrect) that you paint proponents of the labor aristocracy-maturation line as “largely abstentionists from revolutionary practice” when we can observe the prison ministry of the MIM testing its ideas, struggling with the imprisoned masses and developing theory through practice. Providing this leadership and developing new cadre in the prisons while retaining fidelity to anti-imperialism and the international proletariat is a verifiable practice of theirs. On the other hand, it remains to be seen how you and your lazy dogmatist cohorts will translate such fine rhetoric as “recogniz[ing] the importance of organizing the proletariat [in the manufacturing sectors] as a vital trench, to defeat imperialism’s political influence through the labor aristocracy among the proletariat” into concrete policies and actions.
Role of Consumption in Determining Our Friends
You are quick to dismiss arguments about Amerikan access to wealth by saying that as real Marxists we know that exploitation happens at the point of production,
“We see then that exploitation does not happen at the level of circulation. It happens at production as will be explained further below.”
Yet we do not argue that the proletariat is being exploited at the supermarket. Rather we are saying that surplus value is calculated by the simple arithmetic of subtracting value received by the worker from the value added by the worker. Therefore, increasing value received has the potential of creating a negative value on the right-hand side of that equation; surplus value can be negative. Of course this can only be true for a subset of so-called workers or capital would cease to circulate.
You take another grain of truth from Marx and extrapolate it inappropriately in your sentence:
“For TWists who distort Marxism, the greater amount of use values a wage can command=the lesser degree of exploitation of a waged worker.”
Marx’s model predicts an increase in use values becoming available to the proletariat, and even becoming part of the value of labor (the basic cost of survival). An example of this would be that by 2018, 83% of adults in Third World countries had a cell phone.(7) Banking and other services are often only available in remote regions via cell phone. Therefore, having a cell phone in general would not be a good indicator of the degree of exploitation someone faced in 2018. Whereas in 1990, it was a good indicator that you were not exploited.
“Pure and simple, a temp worker at a plastic shop earning 25,000 in the USA doesn’t exploit anyone, while a food production small business owner in Managua who earns less than 25,000 who has employees who earn less than what he does exploits – exploitation requires a position of ownership and control over the means of production.”
While 86% of adults in Kenya have a cell phone (less than half of those have smart phones), the average consumption of the poorest 20% of Amerikans is about 10 times that of the average Kenyan.(8) What economic logic would Struggle Sessions use to justify enjoying use values an order of magnitude greater than those in the Third World, while maintaining that both groups are exploited proletarians with nothing to lose but their chains? Here you argue that an Amerikan making more money than a Nicaraguan has more revolutionary potential. What happened to “nothing to lose but their chains”?
Another metric provided at the website above is the number of Big Mac’s a McDonald’s worker can buy with one hour of wages in 2007. An Amerikan working at McDonald’s at that time could buy 6 times as many Big Macs as an Indian working the same job.(8) Will Struggle Sessions argue that the Amerikan is more productive flipping burgers? Not to mention the fact that most Amerikans are now engaged in service work like this where the possibility for great increases in productivity don’t even exist as they do in manufacturing.
From there we must ask, what systems of militarism, war, borders and financial manipulations must be maintained to keep that differential between the Amerikan McDonald’s worker and the Indian one? And how does Struggle Sessions propose we can organize these Amerikan McDonald’s workers to oppose militarism, war, borders and international finance manipulating the economies of the Third World?
Pray tell, comrade, how are you going to combat the siren song of the labor aristocracy in their workplaces, especially when you fail to even properly recognize who is and isn’t a part of the labor aristocracy? And we ask, are you going to offer less opportunities to fight for ill-gotten spoils of imperialism? No, that won’t do it, no. So not only are you going to 1) hop into the ‘trench’ of worker privilege, valiantly protecting and further fattening the bloated hourly earnings of production workers, their pension plans and paid-vacation leave; but 2) you are going to attempt to convince them that they should want to overthrow the government and corporations which supply their cushy material existence; following that up by 3) asking them to be on board with a future reduction in pay and standard of living to pursue the objective of an equal global distribution of wealth and reparations to the Global South; and 4) all the while being supportive of a proposal for a demilitarized, open border with Mexico so that the working classes of all nations can pursue better employment opportunities?
Mazur, we can’t even say that we wish you luck (and certainly not on the first point); just that it’ll be the workers themselves, not their employers or security, picking you up and throwing you out of the factory floor and onto your ass. But go ahead and falsify our thesis and you will effectively accomplish what no amount of keyboard clattering on your part can do at present. That is essentially what it comes down to. Show us. Moreover, do so without inadvertently activating social-fascism.
Applying Marxism to Our Conditions
In the 100-odd years since the first successful revolution leading to a dictatorship of the proletariat, none have occurred in an imperialist country with the industrial working classes as the revolutionary vehicle. You acknowledge we are right in pointing this out. Yet you still cannot comprehend the full gravity of the labor aristocracy maturation-line to know that the reasons that you cite for this failure (fascism, revisionism) are intrinsically tied up with a failure on the part of Communist organizations to determine the true extent of the rot and subsequently to cease catering to the labor aristocracy’s demands altogether. The problem lies in part with the fact that you believe (as if it were still the second decade of the last century, not the current one) that:
“The reality is such a condition for labor aristocracy is rooted fundamentally in the opportunist political leadership of sections of organized labor, courting favor with U.S. imperialism in competition on a world scale. It was never defined, by Lenin, Mao or any other past revolutionary movement from among the oppressed nations and proletariat, as a strata that encapsulated the entirety of the working class (white or otherwise) of the ‘First World.’”
Lazy dogmatism rears its head once more when you go referencing the classics without taking into account the particular dynamics of our ever deeper progression into the imperialist era and our unique geographic location within it. Chairman Gonzalo had something to say about people doing just that while expounding on the need to better understand Maoism and struggle for its supremacy. In our quest to promote a better understanding of the full implications of the labor aristocracy maturation-line and the necessity to struggle for that line over the ossified views of our erring Maoist fellow travelers, we will quote him at length (we feel that, if nothing else gets their attention perhaps quoting him will be the spark necessary to get the ‘Principally Maoists’ to correct their thinking on the matter):
“In order to better understand Maoism and the necessity to struggle for it, let us remember Lenin. He taught us that as the revolution advanced in the East it expressed specific conditions that, while they did not negate principles or laws, were new situations that Marxism could not ignore, upon the risk of putting the revolution in danger of defeat. Notwithstanding the uproar against what is new by pedantic and bookish intellectuals, who are stuffed with liberalism and false Marxism, the only just and correct thing to do is to apply Marxism to the concrete conditions and to solve the new situations and problems that every revolution necessarily faces. In the face of the horrified and pharisaic ‘defenses of the ideology, the class, and of the people’ that revisionists, opportunists, and renegades proclaim, or the furious attacks against Marxism by brutalized academicians and hacks of the old order who are debased by the rotten bourgeois ideology and blindly defend the old society on which they are parasites. Lenin also said clearly that the revolution in the East would present new and great surprises to the greater amazement of the worshipers of following only the well-trodden paths who are incapable of seeing the new; and, as we all know, he trusted the Eastern comrades to resolve the problems that Marxism had not yet resolved.”(9) (emphasis ours)
We would add to Gonzalo’s statement that Lenin would have also trusted the imperialist nation comrades to resolve the problems that Marxism-Leninism had only begun to address and solve, and to not mechanically parrot their words on the scope and potential solutions to problems which in their time were but saplings compared to the broader trunks and deeper roots which we must now contend with, axe in hand. The labor aristocracy maturation-line, flowing from Lenin’s analysis of the split in the working class movement in the early 20th century with its antecedents in Marx and Engels’ analysis of the English working class in the 19th century, contends that this split has only continued and with minimal interruption for the past 100 years in the imperialist centers, absorbing whole sectors of the working classes, bribed now in a thousand more ways than before. It was impossible for Marx, Engels and Lenin to examine and address these issues as well as we can today, because they were a relatively new development at the time. We, however, now have the extensive benefit of hindsight, history and statistics not available then. Yet Lenin did direct our attention to its creeping progression:
“The longer bourgeois democracy has prevailed in a country, the more complete and well established it is, the more successful have the bourgeoisie of that country been in getting into those leading positions people who are reared in bourgeois democracy, saturated in its attitudes and prejudice, and very frequently bribed by it, whether directly or indirectly.”(10)
Mao also spoke on this subject:
“In the various nations of the West there is a great obstacle to carrying through any revolution and construction movement, i.e., the poisons of the bourgeoisie are so powerful that they have penetrated each and every corner. While our bourgeoisie has had, after all, only three generations, those of England and France have had a 250-300 year history of development, and their ideology and modus operandi have influenced all aspects and strata of their societies. Thus the English working class follows the Labour Party, not the Communist Party.”(11)
Because of this, Mao went on to disagree with Lenin:
“Lenin says, ‘the transition from capitalist to socialism will be more difficult for a country the more backward it is.’ This would seem incorrect today.”(12)
We can no longer point to just ‘the opportunist political leadership of sections of organized labor’ and call them the whole of the labor aristocracy. They now represent a class of workers who have become bourgeois in outlook and have only grown exponentially over time. At what point do you realize and accept that the imperialist nation industrial working classes and service sectors are no longer a viable revolutionary vehicle for Maoism, and that we must focus our organizing in areas separate from these? At what point do things finally begin to click into place for you, or are you allowing your pride and dogmatic rote-learning to blind you to the reality which screams for recognition? If for whatever reason hearing this message from us in particular is just too much to stomach, then we recommend the book Labor Aristocracy: Mass Base of Social Democracy by H.W. Edwards for more detailed analysis. We encourage everyone with an inquiring mind to not just take our word for it – examine our references and arrive at the necessary conclusions on this important subject matter. Do not allow idealism or lazy dogmatism to cloud your judgment any longer to the futility of throwing yourself against the wall of the labor aristocracy in your organizing efforts.
There are two final matters we would like to address. The first is that it is said we have come by our views through and subsequent traffic in “petty-bourgeois empiricism-posing-as-analysis,” to which we reply:
“The lazy dogmatists actually see no real role for science in agitations. In response to Mao’s proof that line is decisive, they accept at face value the revisionist slander that calls Mao idealist. By downplaying science, they pave the way for fascism, which consciously relies on mysticism for victory in people’s hearts. They imagine that being good Maoists means being idealist, not practitioners of the science of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.”(13)
By criticizing our use of statistics, percentages and numbers, you are by extension leveling your criticism at Lenin:
“Lenin used many more such statistics, including Tsarist statistics and criticized those who would not make much use of them.”(14)
Our critics don’t like it when we use basic addition and subtraction to show that their math doesn’t add up.(15) We must remind our readers of this line:
“For TWists who distort Marxism, the greater amount of use values a wage can command=the lesser degree of exploitation of a waged worker.”
Does that mean you believe the inverse? As First Worldists you believe that material wealth can increase infinitely without disqualifying one from being exploited? Must we bring up the old NFL player example and ask if they have nothing to lose but their chains? And to pivot to our final topic, Colin Kaepernick was protesting the murder of young Black men in the streets by the state, not wages or working conditions. Same reason cities burned across the country last year, and the same reason they’ve burned almost every other time in the last 60 years.
We find your agnosticism on the national question problematic, “In regards to the white nation, we [Struggle Sessions] have not taken a formal position on this.” First we are in the era of imperialism, which is defined by the contradiction between nations. To not be able to address the national question in one’s own country is to fail to address the whole of modern political economy. Second, the question of first importance is who are our friends, and who are our enemies. To not have a line on the nature of the euro-Amerikan nation, while having a very well worked out line on military strategy in the United $tates (a line we know is dear to the hearts of Struggle Sessions authors), is a dangerous example of putting the cart before the horse.
To address the question as you raise it, we will begin by saying that U.S. imperialism is a multinational project in two respects. The first pertains specifically to the makeup of the Euro-Amerikan oppressor nation, and the second in the national-patriotic sense with the inclusion of token elements of the New Afrikan and [email protected] bourgeoisie in leadership positions both in business and government and the participation of their respective labor aristocracies in the plunder of the Global South. But our focus is in addressing the seeming paradox of the Euro-Amerikan Nation, and whether it is myth or fact. You state that:
“In this case they are lumping a bunch of languages, cultures, regions and psychologies into one nation. For instance the psychological makeup of Jews, Slavs, Irish and Anglo Americans are not the same, and their languages are often different, too.”
The Euro-Amerikan Nation (or ‘white’ nation in more simplified terms) has historically assumed the role of dominant oppressing force since the founding of the United States. Being ‘white’ in America is not only so much a matter of genealogy and physiognomy as it is one of hierarchy, both in terms of class and nation. We agree that these people were something else before they were ‘white’ or Euro-Amerikan – Corsican, Welsh, Jewish, German etc. Yet through a common historical bond rooted in violence, rape and looting of labor and land, began a process of washing the disparate tribes white, a belief in being ‘white,’ becoming a unified, melded nation in the patriotic and national sense. In the United States, the separate Irish, Anglo, Polish, etc. immigrant nationalities of old are now mostly forgotten ‘dead nations,’ with forgotten mother tongues, blended beyond recall save in surname or remnant cultural practice seldom exercised in day-to-day existence. They have transformed themselves over the generations into a single unit sharing a common culture, language (English), economy (within the borders of the U.S. excluding most other nations) and territorial cohesion (again, much of North America). Your denial of this could only be justified by some racial theory of bloodline.
For you to say that ‘there is no common economy, there is no common language, there is no geographic territory, and so on’ is an ahistorical delusion that serves no purpose whatsoever. By denying this, it would seem that by extension you would also deny the same ‘nation’ status for the ‘Black’ or New Afrikan Nation, and furthermore any right to their own self-determination because ‘at best’ you see several nations that, through participation in the brutal receiving end of the settler project in the past, were able to achieve uneven status and integration into ‘blackness.’ (Mazur links to a now official paper by Struggle Sessions that addresses the intersection of so-called “race” and class in relation to New Afrika. For now, we will present MIM Theory 7 as a counter to that piece.)
The Great Migration of Black sharecroppers to the industrial north and west in the early to mid 20th century dispersed the population of the Black Belt south throughout the modern colonial borders of the United States. Nonetheless, New Afrikans constitute a nation as a result of the historical (forced) melding of different cultures, languages and psychologies into a new and unique shared culture, language and segments of territory. It is our hope to one day see the will of the New Afrikan Nation expressed in a plebiscite on self-determination. Perhaps Mazur & Co. will be on the right side of history when this occurs.
One final note, we are in agreement with the statement that:
“‘Privilege’ itself, as well as the absence of national oppression, does not in any way actually prevent those with a relative ‘privilege’ from facing oppression and exploitation as well.”
The white youth, intellectuals and revolutionized white lumpen and prisoners have an interest in revolution as traitors to their class and nation. We do not overextend our analysis to exclude these potential allies in our struggle.
Notes: 1. Karl Marx, “Labouring Power,” Value, Price and Profit, Martino Fine Books, 2017 p. 39. 2. Lauren Villagran, “A Desperate Quest for American Dream Denied,” USA Today, December 23, 2020. 3. Michael Braga, “Manufacturers Facing Hurdles in Return to US,” USA Today, December 22, 2020. It should be noted that back in 2018, hourly earnings for production workers were pegged at $22.71 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Thus a steady increase has occurred in 2 years’ time rather than a trend towards wage suppression as our labor-aristocratic Maoists allege. 4. V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism,” Lenin’s Struggle for a Revolutionary International: Documents 1907-1916, John Riddell, ed. New York: Monad Press, 1984 p. 497. 5. Jane Degras, ed. The Communist International: 1919-1943 Documents, London: Frank Cass & Co., 1971 Vol. 1, p. 129 (hereafter Degras) 6. MIM (Prisons), “A Falsifiable Thesis,” Who’s Got Something to Prove, JMP?, August 2020. www.prisoncensorship.info 7. Laura Silver, 5 February 2019, Smartphone Ownership Is Growing Rapidly Around the World, but Not Always Equally, Pew Research Center. 8. https://www.justfacts.com/income_wealth_poverty#international 9. Communist Party of Peru, “Introduction”, Fundamental Documents. 10. Degras, Vol. 1, p. 119. 11. Mao Tsetung, A Critique of Soviet Economics New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977 p. 50. 12. Ibid. 13. MIM Theory Number 10, “Lessons From the Comintern: Continuities in Method and Theory, Changes in Theory and Conditions”, Coming to Grips with the Labor Aristocracy, 1996. p. 22. View PDF at www.prisoncensorship.info 14. Ibid., p. 42. See Lenin’s “Statistics and Sociology,” Collected Works, Vol. 23. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964. p. 271. For Mao talking about dogmatist lazybones, see Mao Tse-Tung, “On Contradiction,” Four Essays on Philosophy. Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1968 p. 37. 15. MC5, 1997, Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997, part C.5..
MIM(Prisons) submitted this response to Struggle Sessions. While no response has been received yet, we cannot expect from them in days, what took us many months. However, we have already received some astute responses from others that we are including here.
ADDENDUM 1: A comment on ‘Mazur’s’ understanding of unequal exchange
The theory of unequal exchange of Samir Amin is one thing, the theory of Arghiri Emmanuel is another. I do not know if MIM ever commented on the distinction between the two theories (perhaps for political purposes given the overwhelming First Worldist hysteria surrounding it), but the theory of unequal exchange ‘in the strict sense’ as based on global wage differentials is what MIM (and also Cope’s 2012 book) have always made reference to; ‘Imperialism and its Class Structure in 1997’ makes explicit reference to wage differentials in Section A Chapter 5-6 and Section C Chapter 5. This theory does not depend upon either differing organic compositions or differing productivities within the same branch of trade. And Emmanuel’s criticism of the doctrine of comparative advantage does not depend upon a criticism of the quantity theory of money, as he implies in quite literally one of the first paragraphs of the Introduction. The reference to declining terms of trade in Emmanuel has absolutely nothing to do with the distinction between primary and non-primary commodities (explicitly contrary to the Prebisch–Singer hypothesis), but rather with the wages in the two sectors. Let us note one more error on the part of Mazur before we get around to explaining where the error arises.
“If there are the same prices and the wages in the U.S. are higher, and capital goods costs the same, then the cost price of any given commodity would be higher in the U.S. This means (since the price of the finished commodity is the same) that the rate of profit would be lower in the U.S., so no transfer would even take place.”
Let’s start from the basics. Ricardo’s theory of comparative costs represents a “special” case where the labor theory of value is invalidated. The labor theory does not govern prices at an international level, Ricardo states, because profits cannot equalize. Profits may equalize within nations because capital is mobile, but it cannot equalize between nations where capital is immobile as such immobility results in specialization and therewith the governing of comparative as opposed to absolute cost. Wages do not enter into Ricardo’s equation because he operated under the assumption that wages tended towards the subsistence level because of the Malthusian law of population. (In other words, Ricardo takes equal wages as a given.)
Marx overthrew the Malthusian “iron law of wages” and this fact is the starting point for Emmanuel. What Emmanuel emphasizes is a world where capital is mobile, and therefore profits do indeed tend towards an equality, but where the Marxian law of exogenous wages rules. Why does this matter? Because labor is not mobile, and because wages in the First World are in fact higher without being subject to the discipline of equalization, wages are the only ‘independent variable’ governing global prices of production. It is no argument against Emmanuel to claim that he abandons the labor theory of value, because in the real world market prices fluctuate around not values but rather prices of production. Perhaps Mazur missed the publication of Volume Three of Capital, but Emmanuel had not. Hence “factor rewards” (namely wages) are not given by prices, but rather prices are given by “factor rewards” (in neoclassical parlance). Emmanuel therefore inverts the logic of Hecksher-Ohlin-Samuelson: prices do not determine wages, but rather wages prices. This is Emmanuel avec Marx.
The products of industries employing workers at low wages, therefore, have relatively low prices, and those which employ workers at high wages have relatively high prices. This is precisely the point of Emmanuel’s argument — because we are dealing with different commodities being exchanged. Critics of Emmanuel imagine that they are intelligent in coming to the profound conclusion that high wages translate into a lower rate of surplus-value and therefore profit. Emmanuel does not deny this; he instead shows that with an equalizing profit rate the surplus-value of the Third World is transferred to the First World because products of low prices are exchanged for products of high prices. It’s really quite that simple. And to repeat ourselves for the tenth time, the prices are high and low because of differing wages. To believe otherwise is nothing more than marginalism. Emmanuel’s argument is not, in fact, that unequal exchange is preferable to lower wages in the First World from the viewpoint of the capitalist; it is only that the lack of wage equalization partially compensates the drop in the rate of profit.
No child, us Third Worldists do not argue that super-profits originate in circulation (a libel of Bettelheim), but rather in the super-exploitation of the Third World proletariat. If they were not super-exploited, if the rate of surplus-value was not in fact higher, there would not have been enough surplus-value to transfer and either First World wages or capitalism itself would have had to collapse.
Mazur writes that:
“Because the organic composition of capital has allowed much more surplus value to actually be generated, we see then that the rate of exploitation is often higher in spite of wage increases.”
Imagine such crass physicalism coming from an avowed defender of the labor theory. Capital with a higher organic composition does not allow “more surplus-value to actually be generated”. It quite literally implies less variable capital (relative to its size) and therefore less surplus-value because constant capital does not contribute an iota of surplus-value. Mazur wants us to believe that because capital-intensity is usually higher in the First World, this axiomatically makes First World workers more “productive” of surplus-value. First Worldists have never proven labor intensity is higher in the First World, which is what this claim necessitates demonstrating. We have already seen that this does not put a dent into Emmanuel’s theory, and Emmanuel explicitly (and consequently) asserts that, e.g., First World primary producers (Australian coal, Canadian timber, etc.) still benefit from unequal exchange. But this is of course a mirage, and as soon as the parasitism of the labor aristocracy confronts the “Marxist” defender of the labor theory of value, they turn into John Bates Clark and want us to believe that wages are governed by labor’s marginal productivity.
I could continue, and I would like to defend Sakai from the virulence he has been subjected to, but I will leave that to someone perhaps more competent than myself.
ADDENDUM 2: On Appalachia
loop-3: Given that MIM(Prisons) has no materialist analysis of the region, and certainly no experience organizing within it, it is unclear why you now incorrectly say that
“Poor whites in Appalachia… have an interest in revolution as traitors to their class and nation. We do not overextend our analysis to exclude these potential allies in our struggle.”
This is a striking political regression. The actual Maoist Internationalist Movement had a far more correct position on this. According to MC5,
"Often times we Marxists are told that we should go organize the Appalachian poor for their economic demands. Duncan gives us some up-to-date evidence on why that is a silly idea. Between 1980 and 1990, Blackwell county shrunk in population by 12%. That is the real social movement of Appalachia. Yes, there is a shortage of jobs, so people move. That is why there is no class solidarity or class consciousness that arises in Appalachia, no matter how many Marxists bang their heads on the wall there. To the extent that Marxists do influence or awaken anyone, they simply move or succeed in their middle-class ambitions. We do not need Marxism for that and hence we find the subject matter of Duncan’s book boring. It is about how to integrate people into middle-class life. There is no other possibility when poverty is only in isolated pockets and not a generalized economic condition within a country’s borders…
"Even if Appalachia had closed borders, it would only then be equivalent to some of the poorer European countries. At $15,321, central Appalachia’s median income would still be more than 10 times higher than that of the median for the international proletariat. Between 1980 and 1990 meanwhile, Gray Mountain’s income literally doubled.
"Both the Mississippi Delta and central Appalachia are shrinking in population. Already in 1980, the two infamously poor regions combined had only a population of 1.8 million in a country of 226.5 million with open borders internally. In other words, they are less than one percent of the population and it was ridiculous to expect any class formation there. By 1990, the two regions combined shrunk to less than 1.7 million, or less than the number of people in prison today.
“The trillions in super-profits sucked out of the Third World make it possible for whole countries to be rich like the United $tates. Although inequalities continue to exist within the United $tates, they are not nearly as central or as important to Marxists as those on a global scale.”
In addition, MIM Theory 1, in the article “Pittston Strike Shows Depth of White Working Class Alliance,” favorably quotes from this section of J. Sakai’s Settlers on this issue:
"Despite the 60 years of repeated radical organizing drives [in Appalachia] there has been, in fact, zero revolutionary progress among the mining communities. Despite the history of bloody union battles, class consciousness has never moved beyond an embryonic form, at best. There is no indigenous [here, Sakai is referring to regional whites] revolutionary activity - none - or traditions. Loyalty to U.S. imperialism and hatred of the colonial peoples is very intense. We can see a derailment of the connection between simple exploitation and class consciousness…
"This points out the fact that what is poverty-stricken about settlers is their culture.
“The Euro-Amerikan coal miners are just concentrating on ‘getting theirs’ while it lasts. In the settler tradition it’s ‘every man for himself’. They have no class goals or even community goals, just private goals involving private income and private consumerism. Meanwhile, the local N&W land manager says that they do have future plans for Appalachia: ‘We don’t intend to walk off and leave this land to the Indians’. Of that we can be certain.”
MIM(Prisons) respond: We thank loop-3 for pointing this out and include eir well-cited argument here. And we have removed the clause “poor whites in Appalachia” from that sentence as it was misleading as if the class interests of that population somehow make them more likely allies than anyone else in the white nation. We must be cautious and clear when trying to organize Amerikans around their own interests. While virtually everyone has some interests opposed to imperialism, and anyone can end up a victim of the system, white Amerikans must go against their class and nation (and gender) interests to ally with the international proletariat and the communist project, as S. Xanastas correctly pointed out in that paragraph.
White youth have more gender interest in revolution and are less bought into their class and nation. White lumpen arguably have some class interest different than other Amerikans. What is more clear is that white lumpen will more often take an interest in revolutionary politics when they are surrounded by oppressed nations in prison or part of multi-national lumpen organizations. As for the intellectuals mentioned, they do not have different interests so much as a different view of the world. So it is in these groups that we see the greatest percentage of exceptions to the rule – those who are willing to go against their own class and nation interests and side against U.$. imperialism.
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.
In a New Year’s statement for 2020, llco.org stated:
“While we have much to celebrate, we also mourn the loss of a once dear comrade, who passed away earlier this year. Prairie Fire, who was integral to crafting our theory and authored many of our earlier articles, lost his battle with drug addiction this past April. Although he was expelled from our ranks in 2016, we still recognize and honor the important role he played in the formative years of our Organization.”
2019 was certainly a year of loss and transformation for the Maoist movement in the United $tates.(1) While the Leading Light Communist Organization abandoned Maoism as such for its own self-aggrandizing brand shortly after forming, comrade Prairie Fire was someone who we had great unity with over the years. While our knowledge of eir work is somewhat limited, ey was someone who dedicated eir life to building a revolutionary movement.
Prairie Fire spent some time working with the Revolutionary Communist Party (USA) before being won over by the MIM critiques of the RCP=U$A brand of revisionism. Prairie Fire, having been a student of Avakian’s work, wrote some biting critiques of Avakian’s writings for MIM.(2) In its later years, MIM came to promote the It’s Right to Rebel (IRTR) online discussion forum as a place for Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League comrades to organize. Prairie Fire was a lead figure in the IRTR project ideologically and work-wise. MC5, later revealed as Henry Park, would come to consider the IRTR a failure and proof that you cannot out-number the fascists and cops on a public internet forum.
Not long after the IRTR experiment had begun, the original MIM Comrades cell dissolved and the etext.org MIM website was left in the hands of lead theoretician Henry Park. By this time MIM had dropped most of the infrastructure related to the prison ministry into the hands of comrades who would come to form MIM(Prisons). One of those founding comrades came from IRTR.
Once Henry Park was on eir own, eir writings became more erratic, accusatory and difficult to decipher. It was at this time that Prairie Fire began leading the call to disassociate from MIM. Another key point of struggle was MC5’s continued promotion of Mousnonya as the MIM Art Minister. MC5’s failure to denounce Mousnonya, who participated in IRTR, was very concerning for the core membership of IRTR. Comrades could not understand the free reign of creative license that seemed to be allowed to Mousnonya, whose content was inconsistent in its political message. While IRTR was condemned as a failure, swimming with fascists, MC5 hinted at other reasons for the Mousnonya relationship, but we don’t know what those were. Unfortunately, Mousnonya videos are still prominent on YouTube’s search when looking for MIM content.
Most of IRTR’s core membership followed Prairie Fire in denouncing Henry Park as having lost it and went off to form Monkey Smashes Heaven (MSH) and associated projects. These projects eventually put out the Sunrise Statement declaring “Maoism Third-Worldism” as a new, higher stage of historical materialism, intentionally distancing themselves from MIM Thought. Comrades who formed MIM(Prisons) at that same time stood by the MIM legacy and the writings of Henry Park until eir early death in 2011.(3) We put online and continue to host the latest version of the MIM etext.org site that we had a copy of before it was shut down.
At the same time that IRTR was operating, the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement arose in Denver, organizing in alliance with MIM around support for Ward Churchill in eir fight for academic freedom, and anti-war and anti-militarism. As MSH wanted to to go beyond online media and art projects, it morphed into an aspiring vanguard organization called the Leading Light Communist Organization. This group was active in Denver and included 2 comrades from RAIM-Denver on the central committee, with the intent of using the RAIM name and formation as the LLCO-led mass organization.
While MIM(Prisons) criticized the idea that there was a new stage of revolutionary science beyond Maoism, we saw the MSH alliance (and later LLCO) to generally uphold the MIM cardinal principles, even as they continued to find more aspects of MIM Thought and writings that they disagreed with. As the primary theoretician behind LLCO, we know Prairie Fire was a lead force in this continuous distancing from MIM.
Some time after forming LLCO, Prairie Fire decided that eir ideas had again become so distinct that they constituted a new ideology, called “Leading Light Communism.” Without discussion with other central committee members, LLCO abandoned “Maoism Third-Worldism” for “Leading Light Communism” as it continued to move its rhetoric in a direction that MIM(Prisons) found to be sectarian and dogmatic.(4) RAIM comrades in LLCO made a similar assessment, and soon split with LLCO, which in turn denounced RAIM as wreckers. At this point RAIM became a collective focused on a news blog at anti-imperialism.com without a clearly defined ideology. Over the years RAIM would go back to the “Maoist Third-Worldism” identity.
As membership changed, RAIM began to come around to the MIM(Prisons) position on a new stage of revolutionary science. In its last years, RAIM was in regular discussions with MIM(Prisons), regarding plans to launch joint projects under the MIM name. As RAIM has since been dissolved, comrades who have followed the MIM(Prisons) and RAIM legacies continue to work towards a reconsolidation of the MIM.
After a struggle with LLCO over its gender analysis in 2014,(5) MIM(Prisons) paid little attention to LLCO as practical alliance had reached an impasse. While the nature of its activity was unclear to us, it seemed focused on leading struggles in the Third World. Essentially, it had gone full circle due to seeing the center of world revolution in the Third World, and it had taken up a Trotskyist strategy of leading Third World organizing from the First World. Prairie Fire had gone back to the ways of Bob Avakian.
According to the recent statement from LLCO, Prairie Fire was expelled from the organization in 2016 for drug use. It was around this time that Prairie Fire reached out to us to notify us that LLCO had been usurped by enemies, and ey was regrouping around a formation called “the Founders.” That was the last we heard from Prairie Fire.
As our movement is in a period of great transition and transformation, we wanted to take this opportunity to document some of this history now that people have passed and organizations have dissolved.
We also wanted to comment on Prairie Fire’s passing because we saw em as a fellow traveler, despite our differences over the years. While eir practice was not really known to us in much detail, we had respect for eir ideas and eir efforts. Certainly more than most organizations out there. So it is sad that we learn of eir passing.
It is also sad when we hear that a comrade had succumbed to drug addiction. Developing healthy lives in this sick system is a challenge, to say the least. That is why we have comrades currently developing a program for those dealing with addiction and other challenges related to being healthy in an imperialist society that we are struggling against. And we welcome help and input from comrades on this project, as we strive to Serve the People in addressing the effects of this society on the individual. The transformation of the individual is only actualized in the individual contributing to the transformation of society.
We post the images of Prairie Fire above to commemorate and remember em. Yet it is not because of eir appearance or life story that we are writing on eir death. We are critical of eir efforts to build a cult of persynality around emself. Promoting eir image and eir persynal history is promoting pre-scientific thinking. We must be real with the people. We must strike a balance between those who see themselves as great, and make great statements, and those who shy from the vanguard role and deny revolutionary truths. We must be clear and honest about what we know, and what we are doing, and what we don’t know, and what we are not accomplishing.
At times it seemed that Prairie Fire was always striving to distinguish emself as having done something new and different, falling into the trap of post-modernism that ey emself condemned. We are not in revolutionary times. We can not have the impact or discover the truths that Mao or Lenin did in our current conditions. We mustn’t strive to be the next Mao or Lenin. We must strive to be humble, dedicated servants of the people; always struggling and striving in the direction of revolutionary transformation of society, as so many millions of people who came before us have done. We are a part of something great. We are doing great things. There is nothing great about us as individuals.
Prairie Fire was a leader. Overall ey led people in the right direction, though at times ey led people away from MIM Thought. We should strive to unite with all who are in agreement with MIM’s three cardinal principles. These are what distinguish us as Maoists, that are moving in the overall direction toward a world without oppression.
Continuity and Rupture: Philosophy in Maoist Terrain J. Moufawad-Paul Zero Books 2016
Abbreviations JMP = J. Moufawad-Paul CPC = Communist Party of China MZT = Mao Zedong Thought MLM = Marxism-Leninism-Maoism ML = Marxism-Leninism MIM = Maoist Internationalist Movement PCP = Communist Party of Peru RCP,USA or RCP=U$A = Revolutionary Communist Party, USA RIM(MIM) = Revolutionary Internationalist Movement that later became the Maoist Internationalist Movement RIM(RCP) or RIM = Revolutionary Internationalist Movement that was a sort of international led in practice by the RCP CoRIM = Committee for RIM, the leadership of the international RIM, primarily run by the RCP AWTW = A World To Win, magazine published by the CoRIM GPCR = Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution PPW = Protracted People’s War ICM = International Communist Movement, or the collection of communist organizations across the world
This book purports to be a philosophical exposition into the terrain of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, a science that has been forged in revolutionary practice. And as it’s title aptly describes, it focuses on the dialectical relationship between continuity and rupture in the development of humyn knowledge through the scientific method. A method which can be applied to society just as it can to oceans or plants. The author counters those who deny this.
Continuity and Rupture is a useful book for understanding the how and why behind how Maoism came to be. But we recommend reading the book with this review to get an alternate history of Maoism in the First World, as well as some strong caveats on the political line presented as Maoism in this book. The biggest issue we will take up in this review is the uncritical presentation of the RCP=U$A-led Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM). The development of Maoism within occupied turtle island can be seen to have started with the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (BPP), but to really be consolidated as “Maoism-qua-Maoism” by the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM) beginning in 1983. MIM’s development of Maoism was explicitly a criticism of and rejection of RCP=U$A politics. It is problematic that this book leaves the RCP=U$A in the position of the prominent Maoist organization in this country as Maoism was being consolidated as an ideology, when that organization struggled against Maoism the whole time and only claimed the label for a period when it served to maintain their influence within the RIM.
In addition to providing a counter-narrative, albeit North America-centric, we will address a number of points where JMP emself seems to lean towards positions of the RCP=U$A and away from the Maoist position.
Maoism as Maoism Rupture
Much of this book deals with the distinguishing of Maoism from Mao Zedong Thought. What distinguishes a ‘Thought’ from an ‘ism’ is that a ‘Thought’ is applying revolutionary science to local conditions and drawing specific conclusions. When a ‘Thought’ develops understanding that is universally applicable to communists everywhere, that is beyond the previous level of scientific understanding of how to build socialism, it becomes an ‘ism’.
Applying the concept of ‘continuity and rupture’ to historical materialism, the author makes the somewhat controversial assertion that the rupture that established Maoism as a new theoretical stage occurred in 1993. This is controversial because the term “Maoism” existed and was used to describe movements long before then. Our own movement took up the name the “Maoist Internationalist Movement” in 1984. Though the author points out that it is quite common for a scientific term to emerge before its concept is developed.(p.18) The author succinctly distinguishes the earlier and later uses of Maoism:
“Maoism, then, is not simply an addition to Marxism-Leninism (as it was generally understood prior to 1988 under the rubric of Mao Zedong Thought), but a theoretical development of the science that sums up its continuity in the formula Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.”(p.23)
Before this time, the author argues that “Maoism” was a word to describe those who looked to China for leadership, and recognized the revisionism of the Soviet Union. It was the historical overlap of these two phenomenon that made this such a heady time for communists. They were simultaneously experiencing the fall of the first great socialist experience, while watching a second great revolution critique that downfall and surpass it by learning from it. As JMP argues, it is these great events that allowed the theory of historical materialism to develop and be synthesized by those who lived through and attempted to build on them.
JMP goes on to say that the GPCR itself was not enough to forge Maoism as Maoism, but it was the People’s War in Peru that made this a possibility. It is unclear why the Peruvians would be in a unique situation compared to other revolutionary movements of their time. For any of us to move forward, and incorporate the lessons of what China did, we would have to come to some conclusions about what Maoism is. We have no reason to believe that MIM founders relied on the PCP to come to the same major conclusions on what the correct lessons were. We see MIM actively struggling to defend the main points of Maoism in its struggles with the RCP=U$A before and after founding MIM. And many others grasped the significance of both the GPCR and the coup in China in which the capitalist roaders took power, which are central to distinguishing Maoism as a new stage and to distinguishing those who understand it.
“And though, in 1981, these same Peruvian revolutionaries began to think of the possibility of Maoism (in a document entitled Towards Maoism), it was not until they had reached the apex of their revolutionary movement that they declared the ‘universal validity’ of Maoism as a ‘third stage’ of revolutionary science. Hence the supposedly controversial claim that Maoism did not exist before 1988: it did not exist as a properly coherent theoretical terrain.”(p.xviii)
At times it seems JMP is arguing that a stage can only be summed up after moving on to the next stage. For instance ey argues that Leninism was only summed up by the Chinese Maoists, and now Maoism was only summed up by the Communist Party of Peru (PCP). Or at the very least it can’t be summed up without the practical application in a protracted revolutionary struggle that at least approaches taking state power.
“The overall point, here, is that revolutionary theory develops through class revolution, specifically through world-historical revolution, and that there have only been three world-historical communist revolutions.”(p16) and “…the Chinese Revolution was the first Marxist-Leninist revolution because the Communist Party of China under Mao was operationalizing (and theorizing) Leninism.”(p29) and so “The new theoretical terrain emerges when this struggle passes beyond the limits of the previous terrain and begins to produce a new stage of struggles according to its assessment, synthesis, and decision of universality.”(p30)
This gets to shaky ground when JMP argues that the apex of the PCP struggle was achieved prior to establishing socialism in Peru but still asserting that new theoretical terrain can only emerge when the struggle begins to produce a new stage of struggle. The PCP certainly contributed significantly to the ICM in both the practical fight in Peru and the ideological exposition and defense of Maoism in the global movement. But we do not see the PCP as having produced a new stage of struggle, past the limits of the previous terrain. The practice that revealed the validity of Mao’s theories was that of the Chinese people, not the Peruvians.
JMP admits, “Obviously there are other interpretations of Maoism that do not declare fidelity to this historical narrative”.(p.2) And ey later cites MIM as one example of this. We provide our historical narrative in this review. But one of the reasons given by JMP for choosing the RIM(RCP) story over MIM is that MIM is made up of “organizations based at the centers of capitalism, specifically the U.$.”(p.47-48), while going on to say that MIM would not disagree with the PCP conception of Maoism as a new ism. Calling an idea “white” or “First Worldist” can be a shortcut for explaining ideological differences, but JMP is not drawing ideological differences here. This line of thought is a divergence from the scientific method ey prevents throughout this book.
JMP on MIM
JMP’s coverage of MIM Thought in this book is limited to one footnote. As mentioned above, it is a footnote where ey seems to acknowledge MIM as one of the exceptions, one of the other examples of Maoism as Maoism and not just Mao Zedong Thought, that was separate from the RIM(RCP). Ey acknowledges MIM’s rejection of the RIM “experience,” as we explain briefly below. Ey correctly goes on to say that MIM’s Maoism would not disagree with the PCP Maoism adopted by the RIM.
What we take issue with in this footnote is JMP’s branding of MIM Thought as “Maoism Third-Worldism.” This term was coined in the Sunrise Statement published in 2007, after the original MIM had collapsed, 24 years after its founding. For our part, MIM(Prisons) rejected the term Maoism Third-Worldism, while generally allying ideologically with those taking it up. We, agreeing with JMP, said that there could be no higher stage of revolutionary science without a practice that surpasses socialist China during the GPCR. We asserted that the question of exploiter vs. exploited countries was just basic Marxist economics, and not new theory. And we warned our comrades of ceding the terrain of Maoism to the revisionists.
Below we have produced a timeline of events related to both the use of the term “Maoism” and the ideological development of the MIM and the PCP. Later we will go deeper into some of the ways MIM addressed things that JMP leaves as open questions for the movement.
We are not claiming that the below represents all the Maoist forces, rather we are putting MIM history into the context of the history that JMP upholds as defining Maoism for us. We also start with some notes from China on the formulation of Maoism as a higher stage of revolutionary science. In one PCP document online(1) the authors say that they were waiting for the Chinese to declare and define Maoism, but once the coup took place in 1976, then the Peruvians saw it as their task to take on.(2)
The point of all of this is not to say “we were the first,” or to fight over what year Maoism was established as we know it today. It is to challenge a narrative that puts the RIM and the RCP=U$A at the center of this development, when both organizations were dripping with revisionism. That’s not to imply that all parties in the RIM were revisionists. But it is clear that the PCP put out all the documents listed below and struggled to get the RIM to accept their line on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism over many years. JMP does not state that the RIM improved on the existing definition coming from the PCP, but that RIM forced its meaning by adopting the statement. From here, we don’t see the great importance of that adoption. What is clear, is that the development of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in occupied Turtle Island took the form of a rejection of and struggle against the RCP=U$A, and the RIM that it led.
Another date worth mentioning is 1956, which is when the bourgeoisie within the party took the USSR down the capitalist road to the point of causing a rift in the ICM. This provided the conditions that allowed for the lessons that defined Maoism as a higher level of understanding of how to proceed towards communism. MIM founders said you cannot talk about Maoism prior to this event. And in 1956, the Chinese, led by Mao, began addressing the question of the bourgeoisie within the party that develops under the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is at the core of what Maoism teaches us about pushing socialism to new, higher levels than we’ve reached so far.
By 1969, the CPC was still using the term Mao Zedong Thought for reasons of internal political struggle, yet they were applying the principles of MZT externally, implying that it had universal application and was really an ‘ism.’
A U.$.-centered Timeline of ‘Maoism’
1938 - Chen Boda and others began pushing the study of Mao’s writings(3)
1945 - VII Congress agreed that the CPC was guided by Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought(3)
1948 - Wu Yuzhang used “Maoism” in a draft speech instead of MZT - Mao said ridiculous(3)
1955 - Mao again opposed “Maoism” adoption among intellectual conference(3)
1956 - Kruschev denounces Stalin, Mao’s critique of bourgeoisie in CPSU and theory of productive forces begins, addressing questions that Lenin never faced (MIM said can’t talk about Maoism before this)(3)
1966 - Lin Biao says Mao has elevated Marxism-Leninism to a new stage(3)
launching of Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) in China
Gonzalo’s Red Faction within PCP took up Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought(4)
1969 - 9th Party Congress in China - difference between MZT and Maoism a formality, as Deng and Liu Shaoqi resisted “Maoism” as a new stage, the CPC began applying MZT to global situations/outside China(3)
1969 - PCP took up Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, with reconstitution under leadership of Gonzalo(4)
1976 - PCP denounced coup in China and declared “To be a Marxist is to adhere to Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse-tung Thought.”, later indicating that they were waiting for Maoists in China to declare “Maoism” before this(2)
1979 - PCP: “Uphold, defend, and apply Marxism-Leninsm-Mao Zedong Thought!”(4)
1980 - PCP launched People’s War with slogan “Uphold, defend, and apply Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism!” - only ones defending Maoism as such(4)
1980 - RCP, USA get 13 communist parties to sign statement upholding Marxism-Leninism
MIM predecessor RADACADS is working/struggling with RCP,USA over questions of Maoism (dates unknown, pre-1983)
1981 - PCP: “Towards Maoism!”(4)
1982 - PCP “took Maoism as an integral part and superior development of the ideology of the international proletariat”(4)
1983 - RIM(MIM) founded as Maoist group in response to RCP,USA failure to take up or uphold Maoism, founding document “Manifesto on the International Situation and Revolution” discusses Mao, the GPCR and the Third World War(5)
1983 - RCP went to PCP with ML statement from 1980 and PCP rejected it because it failed to uphold Maoism.(2)
RCP was agnostic over who better Mao or Lenin w/ RIM(MIM), upholding theory of productive forces and did not understand that a new bourgeoisie formed within the Chinese CP(7)
1984 - RIM(RCP) founded among groups RCP brought together in 1980, this time upholding Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought(2)
1984 - RIM(MIM) became MIM, stating “RCP consciously stole the RIM name for its international mutual aid society”
by this time MIM was distributing pamphlets on the guerilla war in Peru
1986 - PCP responds to RIM founding statement on MLMZT and becomes a participant(6)
MIM puts out a theory piece on the PCP that addresses Gonzalo’s line on the militarization of the party, while it is agnostic on this line it calls out RCP,USA leader Avakian for rejecting it as well as rejecting the lessons of the GPCR as universal (MIM Theory 2 (old school))
1987 - “MIM made the question of the non-revolutionary, bourgeoisified white working class a dividing line question in practice for U.S.-based Maoists.” and began distributing J. Sakai and H.W. Edwards books(7)
MIM releases “Third Draft of Criticism of the RCP” exposing RCP revisionism and stating that “the RCP has yet to concretely show what it is that is concretely happening in China in our own lifetimes.”
1988 - JMP claims Maoism begins to exist here, this is the year the PCP released their Fundamental Documents with the most in-depth definition of Maoism in relation to philosophy, political economy and scientific socialism
1990 - “MIM formed a Central Committee with supervisory powers over the various branches and empowered by the membership to run the day-to-day work such as the party’s monthly newspaper MIM Notes” and put out What is MIM? and most of the content therein
1990 or 1991 - line on non-revolutionary labor aristocracy majority appears as 3rd Cardinal Principle in MIM Notes
1992 - Gonzalo captured
MIM concludes that RCP,USA is revisionist party(7)
1993 - RIM releases statement upholding Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (AWTW #20 1995), correcting 1984 statement as being “incomplete”, recognizes bourgeoisie within party
1996 - RCP,USA first public response to MIM via CoRIM/AWTW
1997 - MIM response to RCP,USA - continue to condemn their seeing question of ending armed struggle as a “two line struggle”, their putting campaign to save Gonzalo over People’s War, criticize the international in general, and recognize that CoRIM is RCP,USA(8)
2002 - MIM declared 3rd Cardinal Principle applies to Third World comrades as well
2006 - cell of remaining original MIM Comrades disbands/website & MIM Notes cease
2007 - MIM(Prisons) forms
sunrise statement released – declaring Maoism Third Worldism a new theoretical development (orgs separate from MIM/MIM(Prisons))
The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement
Stalin and Mao both justified the dissolution of the Third International (Comintern) by stating a Comintern was only appropriate for simpler times. (9) The history of the Chinese revolution and its relationship to the USSR proved the correctness of Stalin’s decision to dissolve the Comintern in recognition of the uneven development of nations in their path towards socialism and the need for each nation to forge that path for themselves. Neither of them get into the details of what makes the relationships between countries so much more complicated by the 1940s. However, we can insert the ideas of theorists like Walter Rodney and Samir Amin to explain that most countries are actually underdeveloped to enable the development of the imperialist economies as one good reason.
The question of the role of European countries vs. colonial countries was one of great concern to the Bolsheviks leading up to and throughout their time in power. And while their ideas varied at different times, ultimately the theories of Lenin and Stalin around nation proved correct and important to the colonial countries. Trotsky, meanwhile, continued to look to Europe, and was so stuck on a revolution happening in Europe right away that he gave up on his own revolution in Russia. This idea remains with Trotsky’s followers today and meshes well with the national chauvinism of the oppressor nations.
Given the above, we must question whether the idea of a communist international fits into Maoism today. JMP actually states “that it is false internationalism to establish an international communist party.”(p.239) Yet ey upholds the RIM experience, that MIM saw as an incorrect practice. The USSR dominated the Third International as a large socialist entity with state power. The RIM was dominated by the RCP=U$A by virtue of its resources from being in an exploiter country. While both power dynamics proved undesirable, the USSR had certainly earned their leadership role. At the same time the influence and power of the Comintern was much greater than the RIM.
As MIM began to reach outside of U.$. borders it came to define itself as
“the collection of existing or emerging Maoist internationalist parties in the English-speaking imperialist countries and their English-speaking internal semi-colonies, as well as the existing or emerging Maoist Internationalist parties in Belgium, France and Quebec and the existing or emerging Spanish-speaking Maoist Internationalist parties of Aztlán, Puerto Rico and other territories of the U.$. Empire.”
While we currently have no parties in our movement, we still do not claim to provide organizational leadership outside of imperialist countries. That is not to say MIM does not involve itself in struggles in the Third World, as was clear in its work in combating the Committee of the RIM’s (CoRIM) efforts to slander the People’s War in Peru.
If the RIM were a group of parties coming together to define Maoism, that might be a fine project. But the truth is that the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) had already defined Maoism and had to push the rest of the RIM to accept it. With the capture of the PCP leadership, the CoRIM went on to promote the idea that there was a two-line struggle over peace negotiations within the PCP, and that Gonzalo had authored a peace letter. Not only is the idea of disarming the communist party the literal definition of revisionism, there is probably no party to date that has made this more clear than the PCP of the 1980s. For years MIM published articles exposing this wrecking work, led by the RCP=U$A, as working right into the hand of the CIA/Fujimori regime.
Putting that atrocious activity aside for a moment, JMP’s treatment of the RIM as a monolithic whole acts as a way to sneak in the obviously revisionist RCP=U$A. RCP revisionism is spelled out clearly in the original MIM comrades’ writings from its very founding to its very last days. Even many former RIMers have critiqued the RCP’s role in hindsight, though this was not until after the RCP had openly rejected Maoism again. JMP alludes to the RCP=U$A and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) as examples of Maoists gone revisionists. Yet both of these organizations were criticized as Trostkyist prior to the RIM statement on Maoism.(10) Certainly revisionism will emerge from the genuinely Maoist movement, but these examples just serve to include revisionists in the genuine ICM.
Just as the RCP=U$A used its resources to have undue influence in the ICM, the PCP’s real street cred served to legitimize the RCP=U$A on its home turf once the PCP joined the RIM. While the RCP=U$A long ago removed itself from the milieu of “Maoism” and its influence has waned greatly (the RIM having faded away), this action by the PCP had lasting negative impacts on the development of Maoism and revolution in the United $tates.
To identify Maoism as a new stage, JMP identifies several universally applicable advances on Marxism-Leninism. Ey distinguishes between those elements that primarily define Maoism, and elements of revolutionary theory that, while advances of Maoism, are not universal aspects applicable in every context.
“Maoism is universally applicable because: class struggle continues under the dictatorship of the proletariat (socialism is a class society), the revolutionary party must also become a mass party and renew itself by being held to account by those it claims to represent (the mass-line), the struggle between the revolutionary and revisionist political lines will happen within the revolutionary party itself, and that the strategy of people’s war rather than unqualified insurrection is the strategy for making revolution. To these insights we can add: a further elaboration of the theory of base-superstructure where it is understood that, while the economic base might be determinate in the last instance, it is also true that this last instance might never arrive (a point made by Althusser, following Marx and Engels) and thus we can conceive of instances where the superstructure may determine and/or obstruct the base; the theory of New Democratic Revolution, which applies universally to the particular instances of global peripheries (universal in the sense that it applies to every so-called ‘third-world’ context) and explains, for the first time in history, how regions that are not capitalist by themselves and yet are still locked within a system of capitalist exploitation (that is, regions that are the victims of imperialism) can make socialism; and a further anti-colonial development of ‘the national question’…”(p15)
MIM’s founding documents in 1983 contain the first three points, as they voiced support for PPW in Peru. So it seems that MIM had grasped the universal points of Maoism as defined by JMP before 1988.
“Maoism, which has been promoted as a new theoretical stage of revolutionary communism, is not primarily defined by the theory of New Democracy since a new stage of communism should exhibit universal aspects that are applicable in every particular context.”(p248)
We agree with many of JMP’s universals about Maoism. But we would argue that points like New Democracy do not need to apply universally to all contexts to be universally true. The universality of a political line is found in its correctness for the phenomenon to which it applies. Imperialism is a contradiction of imperialists versus oppressed nations. Just as there is no imperialism without national oppression, there is no imperialism where New Democracy does not apply.
Our difference from JMP on this may also stem from eir different understanding of what New Democracy is. Ey repeatedly stresses that New Democracy is necessary to develop the productive forces within a semi-feudal country as a prerequisite to socialism. On the contrary, New Democracy was an answer to and rejection of the old line that leaned heavily on the Theory of Productive Forces. This line was common among the Bolsheviks, and never really fully grappled with until the Chinese did so.
“Revolutionary movements at the center of global capitalism (that is, movements that manifest within completed capitalist modes of production) will not pursue New Democracy since the problem New Democracy is meant to address has nothing to do with the capitalist mode of production where the economic infrastructure necessary for building socialism already exists.” JMP goes so far as to say, “…the fact that there is no significant peasantry or a national bourgeoisie with some sort of”revolutionary quality" at the centers of capitalism means that the entire possibility of New Democracy in these regions is patently absurd."(p.244)
It is certainly true that the French, for example, do not need to wage a New Democratic struggle. Yet, it is a surprising line to see from someone living within occupied Turtle Island, where the national question of the internal semi-colonies is so prominent. The New Democratic revolution in China was all about uniting the nation against foreign occupation to regain the sovereignty of their territory and the self-determination of China. It is the semi-colonial character, rather than the semi-feudal, that is warranting a New Democratic revolution. Mao did not mention the development of the productive forces in eir essay “On New Democracy.” Ey does talk about developing capitalism, but not as a prerequisite for socialism. Rather it is speaking to the national ambitions of the bourgeois forces at the time. In that essay ey alludes to the conditions of the development of capitalism in China allowing for the May 4th Movement to develop as it did in 1919. And ey is clear that the era of New Democracy only emerged with the October Revolution that marked the establishment of the first dictatorship of the proletariat. This was because the contradictions within imperialism as well as the subjective development of the first socialist state, meant that bourgeois revolution had become impotent and irrelevant.
JMP’s idea that the productive forces are not developed enough today just isn’t true. What happened is they were developed off the sweat and blood of the oppressed nations and put in the exploiter countries to benefit others. Certainly the question of economic development after liberation for the under-developed nations is one of importance. But the Chinese proved that this internal economic development does not need to preclude the march towards socialism. Mao butted heads with Stalin on this very question within China, and Mao was proven correct.
In occupied Turtle Island, it is MIM line that plebiscites must be held within the internal semi-colonies to determine the path they take after revolution, and that such plebiscites require full independence to be a true representation of the will of each nation.(11) Such a New Democratic stage would be even more abbreviated here, again because it will be a political question and not an economic one.
Strategy of Protracted People’s War
JMP places a lot of emphasis on strategy. A party is not Maoist, ey argues, if that party is not engaged in the strategy of making revolution. This is a fair point when we consider the importance of tying theory with practice. Sitting behind a book or computer or desk and theorizing about revolution does not make for a revolutionary party. But we would replace “strategy” with “practice” in eir argument. We can disagree on the best strategy, which should come from our political line. But whatever line and strategy we adopt must still be put into practice. Results come only from actions, and we can only test our analysis by putting it into practice and witnessing the results.
When JMP argues that the strategy of Protracted People’s War (PPW) is universal, we counter that this is only true in the sense that we can describe New Democracy as universal. Elements of PPW are certainly universal, but we have no peasantry nor a proletariat of significant size in imperialist countries in which to base this PPW. “Here also is a theoretical gauge for those organizations who would now name themselves Maoist: if they are not actively attempting to pursue revolution, to strategize a method based on their particular contexts for overcoming capitalism, then it does not appear as if the name, due to its concept, should logically apply.”(p180)
Of course we agree with JMPs focus on criticizing reformism and spontaneous insurrection via union organizing. But ey does not address those of us who see socialism most likely being imposed from the outside in this country. If revolution breaks out at the weakest links first, won’t it break out in the heart of imperialism last? And at that point, how will revolution occur in a country of former exploiters and oppressors surrounded by a socialist world? There is work to be done in the First World to combat and undermine imperialism, and prepare the people of those countries for socialism the best we can. MIM also said from its very beginning that armed struggle becomes a reality within the United $tates as it becomes militarily over-extended. But the form that such a revolution will take is far less clear than what we can generalize from history for the Third World periphery.
To the extent that there is a two-line struggle within Maoism around the question of the universality of PPW, there is a two-line struggle around revolutionary strategy in the First World. JMP poses the debate as one of insurrection vs. PPW. But in searching out positions in this debate we did not see anyone claiming Maoism and also arguing that insurrection is somehow more appropriate for the First World. Those who have objected to the JMP/PCP line on PPW seem to lack any acknowledgement of the different class structures within the imperialist core countries. They might mention conditions not being ripe, but the implication is that they will ripen and there is a mass base to take up the struggle. For MIM, this is a question of cardinal principles that distinguishes Maoists from others. To try to talk about PPW in the First World while not having a materialist understanding of the class structure is a backwards approach.
We can argue that both New Democracy and Protracted People’s War are certainly important parts of Maoism, but are also continuities with Leninism. In other words, the development of these concepts by Mao and the Chinese people would not necessarily warrant the consolidation of a new “ism”, a new stage of revolutionary science. It is MIM’s first 2 cardinal principles, which defined our movement since 1983, that really distinguish Maoism as a rupture from previous practice in building socialism.
Class and the Party of a New Type
While we disagree with JMP on the class composition of the First World, eir discussions of class in relation to the vanguard party we found quite useful. Working in a very wealthy and privileged country, we often encounter people who are unsure of their role and right to lead. We also encounter many oppressed nationals who don’t trust white people, and wimmin who don’t trust men. In other words, we encounter identity politics. Chapter 3 was a well-done and sobering response to such takes.
JMP addresses the question of how an outsider could provide the proletariat with the truth,
“How can this party be aware of proletarian politics if it comes from outside? Because this is the politics derived from a scientific assessment of history and society that permits us to understand the meaning of”proletariat" as a social class. It is also a politics that, in its clearest expression, has learned from the history of class struggle, particularly the two great world-historical revolutions in Russia and China, and so can bring the memory of revolution to those who have been taught to forget."(p.122)
Ey addresses the contradiction of the more privileged being the first to make the analysis of one’s society that is necessary to build a vanguard party: “If the most oppressed and exploited remained incapable of making the same analyses then counter-revolution would remain a significant danger.” (p.119)
“the party of the new type is that party, then, that keeps leadership structures, and thus the unity of theory and practice, but understands such leadership as one that will also be led by the masses, seeks to transform everyone in society into leaders, and thus has its”top-down" aspect balanced by a “bottom-up” conception of organization." (p.202)
Where We Are In the History of Theory
In JMP’s timeline and understanding of the relationship between theory and practice, we are currently in a stage of distinguishing Maoism, and elucidating its meaning. The lines have been drawn, but are still poorly understood as Maoism has not risen to prominence since the fall of Chinese socialism. Though it remains one of the most active bases of anti-imperialist practice, and certainly the most active within the broader collection of those identifying as communists. As we have stated before, JMP agrees that to go beyond Maoism theoretically requires a practice that goes beyond China. In our founding documents, MIM(Prisons) applied this criticism to things like “The New Synthesis,” “Maoism Third Worldism” and later “Leading Light Communism.”
JMP presents our current state in an inspirational way, saying that other radical theories (for example, Foucault’s) filled the space as Marxism-Leninism was in retreat, but that those theories have now shown their short-comings, while Maoism is being consolidated and maturing.
On the constructive side of this development, JMP proposes that Maoism, unlike Marxism-Leninism, has the capacity to address the issues that these other theories tried to address, and obviously do it better. This is one place where the lack of discussion around MIM Thought really jumps out. We don’t know how much and what MIM writings JMP has read, but ey has read some. MIM Thought provided communists with a new framework around gender that offers explanations to so much of the milieu around that topic that often trips people up.
MIM Thought Ahead of the Curve
While MIM Thought’s most important tenant is the raising of the labor aristocracy in the imperialist metropole question to a dividing line question, this line is very much a continuity with Marxism dating back to Marx and Engels themselves. In contrast, MIM’s gender line is only present in tiny breadcrumbs in the past. And in reading “Clarity on what gender is” by MC5, you can see it addressing some of the very things Foucault addressed in eir The History of Sexuality. MC5 echoes (or perhaps accepts) Foucault’s history that says sex, through sexuality, ceased being about controlling labor power (or biopower as Foucault called it) and became a self-affirming value of the bourgeoisie in the 20th century. This timeline might correspond to when we see the popularization of the gender aristocracy among the general populace of the imperialist metropole – which has today spread even further throughout the world through the U.$.-dominated superstructure (culture). MIM, like Foucault, addressed the lack of revolutionary content of the so-called “sexual revolution.” MIM even finds health status to be central to gender today, something Foucault discussed in the modern bourgeois thinking around sex and biology related to the vigor and hegemony of their class.
MIM, however, poses some materialist explanations for the evolution of gender through history, unlike Foucault, who only tells us how the ideas around sex evolved within different institutions of power over time. And unlike most “Marxist” attempts at discussing gender and sex, MIM very intentionally looked for what gender was, independent of class and nation. MIM addresses issues of alimony, high paid prostitution, celebrity rape cases, patriarchy within homosexual relationships and other hot-button issues in the realm of gender in the contemporary imperialist society. In doing so they always clearly distinguished their line from that of the Liberals, post-modernists, and class reductionists.
So when JMP makes a call for Maoism to address oppression related to sex, race, disability, etc, we wonder why ey poses this as if it is a task that is yet to be begun. We believe MIM Thought has provided much insight and guidance in these realms already that should be enough to counter almost any of the talking points from the alt-right to the post-modern radicals.
Applying MLM/MIM Thought
And so we end with some ideas of where our ideological struggle must continue today. We must continue to distinguish ourselves along lines of the fundamentals of Maoism and the application of MIM Thought to our current conditions simultaneously. We must draw hard lines between us and the revisionists, while offering better explanations than the Liberals and post-modernists. In doing so, we will court the scientific thinkers who abstain from bourgeois politics with disgust. And by employing the mass line to continuously improve our understanding and analysis, we can mobilize all who stand against oppression in these imperialist countries.
This is a quick response to Rashid's recent response to us titled, "MIM (Prisons) Preaches Logic but Practices Petty Bourgeois Opportunism (2016)." Rashid is the Minister of Defense of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter, which we have a history of both work and struggle with. While we appreciate the time ey has put into responding to us, we continue to find eir responses to be largely unhelpful. Here we give some comments on this document, section-by-section. It won't be too useful until you've at least read Rashid's latest article, but you should probably also read 100 Reasons Why Rashid Needs to STFU About MIM(Prisons), which is a line-by-line response to Rashid's essay "MIM or MLM?". In Rashid's article above ey says ey is only responding to our article Study Logic, Don't End Up Like Rashid. The section headers below all come from Rashid's latest polemic.
We Got MIMP’s Line All Wrong
If you read our full response you'd see examples of this, for example Rashid wrote:
"MIMP maintains the position that there is no First World proletariat as one of their 'cardinal points' and declares anyone who even 'consciously disagrees' with it their enemy.(1)16 Which is problematic and anti-Maoist on several points. First it demonstrates that MIMP determines friends and enemies not by class but rather by one’s willingness to blindly and uncritically accept whatever they say. And not only must one not speak out in disagreement, they must not even disagree in conscious thought. Even the liberal bourgeois doesn’t take thought policing this far! The U.S. constitution is even interpreted by its bourgeois courts to protect one from punishment for their beliefs(2). We need only go as far as the quote at the beginning of this article to see that Maoists don’t repress contrary views, not even those of actual enemies and reactionaries(3). But MIMP opened their polemic contending that they 'cannot forgive'(3) us for daring to disagree with their class analysis of Amerika and VLA line. But let’s look at the PB.
And we responded previously:
MIM(Prisons): 1. No, this is a lie. See the note number 16, and please tell us where is the word “enemy.” Rashid is looking at the criteria to join the United Struggle from Within, and extrapolating that to who we consider enemies. 2. Whoa, MIM(Prisons) is PUNISHING people for their beliefs? That's amazing! Maybe instead of punishing prisoners we should start punishing the mailroom staff who censor our materials for being “gang related.” Or maybe we should start punishing the cops who shoot oppressed nation people dead in the streets. To say we have the power to punish anyone is ridiculous. This is liberal anti-communist propaganda. 3. Did we hurt your feelings? What is the punishment we are exacting on you?
Not mentioning "USW" doesn't mean you didn't confuse aspects of USW with our study courses. And again, you misstated MIM(Prisons)'s line as well. You go on in your latest essay,
"They implicitly admit [that their membership is petty-bourgeois, white, Amerikan settlers], but accuse us of playing identity politics for bringing it up, which is odd and hypocritical; since it is they who charge this group to be enemies..."
That would only be hypocritical if we subscribed to identity politics and didn't understand statistics, neither of which are true. So yeah, you're still playing into identity politics with this very statement, and you don't understand how we look at things differently.
"MIMP then argues that we shouldn’t base the correctness or incorrectness of a position on who stated it. Curiously — and again self-contradictorily — their entire polemic from title to text emphasizes 'Rashid' as who said this and that..."
Uh yeah, you wrote the article we were criticizing. We didn't say it was right or wrong based on who you are or whether you were right or wrong in the past, as you imply that we should do later in your article. Your attempts to prove your grasp of logic here are not panning out too well.
The rest of this section cites old Marxist texts in an attempt to refute our line. We already addressed this as dogmatic and non-dialectical. If you are as familiar with our work as you claim, you'll know that we have plenty of quotes on our side too.
Are We Fishing for Information on MIMP’s Members?
There's some good counter examples to critique our position on security brought up here. But since Rashid approaches this from a completely antithetical class analysis of our conditions, there is no point in having a debate with em on this topic. Of course Rashid would propose an organizing strategy that is the same as those who were successful in revolutionary situations because ey believes we are in a potentially revolutionary situation in the United $tates.
"The masses’ right to know those who presume to lead them and represent their interests, and to supervise them is a 'people’s tactic.' Hiding from the people while claiming to represent their interests without their say so and supervision is an elitist 'pig tactic.' Especially, as MIMP doesn’t dispute that it’s absurd and an insult to the people’s intelligence for them to act as if they believe that the pigs don’t know who they are."
We must ask Rashid, "right to know" what? Most of our work is quite public, and we get so much feedback from the masses on it that we struggle to keep up with it all. But Rashid seems to feel that they need to know what we look like, where we live, what TV shows we watch, in order to fully judge us as leaders. Our position is the complete opposite, that we must train the masses to judge people on political practice and line, and to ignore those other things. Those other things are what lead people to be seduced by misleadership for subjective reasons.
And we've addressed the "pigs already know everything" line as being incorrect elsewhere. In short, they don't know everything, so them knowing something is not a reason to disregard security. Second, if you're good at security, the pigs that know stuff are not the kind of pigs that are going to attack you until you start to wield some real power.
Do We Know MIMP’s Political Line?
Are we still fighting over the "rags" line? All we did is state that we thought "lumpen" usually translated to "rags" and not to "broken" as Rashid claimed. Nowhere do we put that forth as our definition of lumpenproletariat. We stand by the article in question addressing the labor aristocracy as being more correct than Rashid in defining proletariat, when we quoted Marx as calling them those "who have nothing to lose but their chains."
It's funny that Rashid wants to keep claiming that we have not printed eir articles in our newsletter. Yet ey has not shown us any newsletter where ey has printed our articles. And we'd wager that we've distributed more copies of their previous article "MIM or MLM?" (with our comments inserted) than the NABPP-PC has distributed of that same article.
MIMP’s Mass Work... Or Lack Thereof
We could hypothesize that we do more mass work than the NABPP-PC based on our having members in the free world. But we don't really know their practice in all that detail. So we don't talk shit about it. And again, we don't even agree on a definition of the masses, so what's the point of debating who does more "mass work"?
First of all, people change, that's dialectics. Their politics change. You could be a great Maoist theoretician and then start promoting all kinds of revisionism. It happens. It is metaphysics, and promoting a cult of persynality to argue otherwise. Secondly, the study pack on Dialectical Materialism by Rashid that we've distributed in the past was a basic overview of the topic. It does not demonstrate an application of dialectical materialism in analyzing the real world. As far as the praise ey pulls from our review of Defying the Tomb, it should be noted that the following paragraph reads:
"Rashid's book is also worth studying alongside this review to better distinguish the revisionist line of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party - Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC) with the MIM line. While claiming to represent a dialectal materialist assessment of the world we live in, the camp that includes the NABPP-PC, and Tom Big Warrior's (TBW) Red Heart Warrior Society have dogmatically stuck to positions on the oppression and exploitation of Amerikans that have no basis in reality. We will take some space to address this question at the end, as it has not been thoroughly addressed in public to our knowledge."
We wrote that five years ago, and it has been even longer that we have openly considered the NABPP-PC to be revisionist. So our more recent critiques of Rashid's writings are consistent with our long-held position on their work. With this latest essay it seems maybe we were wrong that Rashid wasn't familiar enough with our work to write eir previous critiques, ey just insists on misrepresenting us and then calling us opportunists when we only agree with some of the things ey has said.
We opened this can of worms of critiquing each others' methods with the idea that we'd use it as a teaching moment for our readers. And studying logic is certainly useful. But going back and forth about how the other side is illogical maybe isn't. The main issue here, the dividing line question between MIM(Prisons) and the NABPP-PC is the labor aristocracy question. And we've given up debating that point with them unless they put forth an actual analysis of real world economics, and not dogmatism. So if you want to understand our line there, don't spend your time studying these articles, instead check out our resources on the labor aristocracy. Or, if you're looking for some lighter reading on the topic, MIM's white proletarian myths page is a good place to start.